In Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, Portia pleads with Shylock to show mercy to Antonio, who has defaulted on a loan and must pay with “a pound of flesh,” i.e., his life. Shylock wonders why he should be obligated to show mercy, to which Portia replies with these oft-quoted words:
The quality of mercy is not strain’d,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.
As gentle rain drops effortlessly from heaven upon the earth, so the quality of mercy is such that it is never forced, but flows freely from a heart of compassion. It blesses the giver in eliciting praise from observers; it blesses the receiver in conveying grace rather than judgment.
In the world of Islam, mercy is not a quality that flows effortlessly from heaven to earth. Though Allah is repeatedly described as “the Merciful, the Compassionate,” his mercy is wrapped within the mysterious clouds of his inscrutable will. Thus he guides whom he will to reward, and he misleads whom he will to destruction. Even the best of Muslims can have no assurance of Allah’s mercy. Muhammad himself anxiously importunes heaven that mercy might be shown to him on the Day of Judgment.
Rather than mercy, what seems to flow unrestrained from Islam’s heaven is terror, or at the very least the threat of terror. Allah accomplishes his purposes much more effectively through psychological and physical warfare than through love and gentleness. When Allah commands Muhammad to rally his followers to war against non-Muslims, and a number of Muslims shrink back from the prospect, Allah reveals that the furnaces of hell await those who shirk this divine duty. Enough said. When the non-Muslim peoples are not moved by threats from a god they do not believe in, Allah deputizes Muhammad to be his agent of terror so as to convince the recalcitrant to submit:
Remember thy Lord inspired the angels (with the message): “I am with you: give firmness to the Believers: I will instill terror into the hearts of the Unbelievers: smite ye above their necks and smite all their finger-tips off them.” This because they contended against Allah and His Messenger: If any contend against Allah and His Messenger, Allah is strict in punishment. (Sura 8:12-13)
Allah is serious about terrorizing his enemies, as numerous Quranic passages make clear:
Soon shall We cast terror into the hearts of the Unbelievers, for that they joined companions with Allah, for which He had sent no authority: their abode will be the Fire: And evil is the home of the wrong-doers! (Sura 3:151)
Let not the unbelievers think that they can get the better (of the godly): they will never frustrate (them). Against them make ready your strength to the utmost of your power, including steeds of war, to strike terror into (the hearts of) the enemies, of Allah and your enemies, and others besides, whom ye may not know, but whom Allah doth know. Whatever ye shall spend in the cause of Allah, shall be repaid unto you, and ye shall not be treated unjustly. (Sura 8:59-60)
And Allah turned back the Unbelievers for (all) their fury: no advantage did they gain; and enough is Allah for the believers in their fight. And Allah is full of Strength, able to enforce His Will. And those of the People of the Book who aided them – Allah did take them down from their strongholds and cast terror into their hearts. (So that) some ye slew, and some ye made prisoners. And He made you heirs of their lands, their houses, and their goods, and of a land which ye had not frequented (before). And Allah has power over all things. (Sura 33:25-27)
It is He Who got out the Unbelievers among the People of the Book from their homes at the first gathering (of the forces). Little did ye think that they would get out: And they thought that their fortresses would defend them from Allah! But the (Wrath of) Allah came to them from quarters from which they little expected (it), and cast terror into their hearts, so that they destroyed their dwellings by their own hands and the hands of the Believers, take warning, then, O ye with eyes (to see)! (Sura 59:2)
In the two most authoritative collections of traditions concerning Muhammad we find these words attributed to the prophet of Islam:
Narrated Abu Huraira:
Allah’s Apostle said, “I have been sent with the shortest expressions bearing the widest meanings, and I have been made victorious with terror, and while I was sleeping, the keys of the treasures of the world were brought to me and put in my hand.” Abu Huraira added: Allah’s Apostle has left the world and now you, people, are bringing out those treasures. (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 52, Number 220)
Abu Huraira reported that the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) said: I have been given superiority over the other prophets in six respects: I have been given words which are concise but comprehensive in meaning; I have been helped by terror (in the hearts of enemies): spoils have been made lawful to me: the earth has been made for me clean and a place of worship; I have been sent to all mankind and the line of prophets is closed with me. (Sahih Muslim, Book 004, Number 1062; see also 1063, 1066, 1067)
Are these statements from the Quran and Ahadith anomalies, unrelated to the essence of Islam? Unfortunately, no. The god of Islam repeatedly incites his followers to violence so as to spread his kingdom over all humanity. How else can one understand a comprehensive religious statement from the mouth of Allah such as, “It is not for any Prophet to have prisoners until he make wide slaughter in the land. You desire the chance goods of the present world, and God desires the world to come; and God is All-mighty, All-wise” (Sura 8:67; the title of this Quranic chapter is “The Spoils of War”)? Or Allah’s words to Muhammad’s followers: “Warfare is ordained for you, though it is hateful unto you; but it may happen that ye hate a thing which is good for you, and it may happen that ye love a thing which is bad for you. Allah knoweth, ye know not” (Sura 2:216)? Or Muhammad’s declaration in Bukhari (vol. 1, book 2, no. 24), “I have been ordered (by Allah) to fight against the people until they testify that none has the right to be worshiped but Allah and that Muhammad is Allah’s Apostle, and offer the prayers perfectly and give the obligatory charity, so if they perform that, then they save their lives and property from me…”?
Today’s ISIS radicals (as well as al-Shabaab, al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, Jabhat al-Nusra, Hezbollah, Hamas, Jaish e Muhammad, Lashkar e Taiba, and a growing host of others) rightly trace their barbarism back to the root teachings and actions of Muhammad, the mouthpiece of Allah. Their modus operandi is to strike terror into the heart of the non-Muslim world so as to advance the claims and control of core Islam over the entire globe.
But those who belong to Christ are not to fall prey to such strategies, nor to seek to utilize reciprocal strategies to terrorize the Muslim world. The apostle Paul reminds us that “…God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Tim 1:7). Our weapons against evil are more powerful than those of terror and compulsion. We wield the love of God in Christ, which overcomes evil and transforms fallen human hearts, as John reminds us: “Greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4). Or as Paul puts it, “Since God is for us, who can stand against us?” (Rom 8:31).
Recently I read of an East African missionary working among Muslim Somali refugees who one evening while making his dinner heard some sharp knocks on his door. Upon opening it, he was confronted by an imposing 65-year-old Somali imam demanding an answer: “Yes or no, Jesus’ blood paid for the sins of everyone in the world?” When the missionary said, “Yes,” the imam cried out, “You’re lying!” As it turned out, the imam was feeling the unbearable weight of his own sins, and believed he was beyond forgiveness. But when the missionary explained the gospel of God’s love in Jesus’ self-sacrifice, and the two prayed together, the imam was born again. Before he left the missionary that evening, he grasped his arm and said:
“When you look at me on the street, you see my Muslim hat and my beard, and you are afraid of me. And to tell you the truth, that is why we dress this way, to make you afraid of us. But you need to know — you need to know that inside we are empty. Don’t be afraid of us. We need the gospel.”
— David Garrison, A Wind in the House of Islam, p. 81
We have the gospel message. The hearts of Muslims are empty. Will we cower in fear and leave them in their destructive thrashings for meaning and purpose, or will we serve them in love, bringing to their lives the only remedy that can cure sin-sick souls? If we truly walk with Jesus, then we know indeed that the quality of mercy is not strained; it drops as gentle rain even among those breathing threats and murder against God’s people, as Saul the Pharisee once discovered! Let’s engage the Muslim world in the name of Jesus.