While Muslims in the West often emphasize their kinship with Christians (the Qur’an claims we believe in the same God, and trace our lineage, spiritually at least, back to the same forefather Abraham), at the same time Muslims in other parts of the world are targeting Christians for extinction. It’s no secret that in modern times Christians are the most persecuted religious group among all the world’s faiths, and that Muslims in particular are perpetrating the greatest horrors against them.
So why is there such disparity in the Muslim world toward Christians? And who are the true Muslims, the friendly or the ferocious?
As to the first question, the answer lies in the schizophrenic stance which the Qur’an takes toward Christians. Early in the career of Muhammad as a prophet, when in the first twelve years he had minimal success in attracting followers, he sought to enhance his stature as a monotheist among pagans by placing himself in the same religious stream as Christians and Jews, thereby bolstering his appeal. Hence his early “revelations” in the Qur’an contain some very positive statements concerning Christians (among others):
Lo! those who believe [i.e., Muslims], and those who are Jews, and Sabaeans, and Christians — whosoever believes in Allah and the Last Day and does what is right — there shall no fear come upon them, neither shall they grieve. — Sura 5:69 (see also 2:62)
Dispute not with the People of the Book [i.e., the Bible] save in the fairer manner, except for those of them that do wrong; and say, ‘We believe in what has been sent down to us, and what has been sent down to you; our God and your God is One, and to Him we have surrendered.’ — Sura 29:46
Thou wilt surely find the most hostile of men to the believers are the Jews and the idolaters; and thou wilt surely find the nearest of them in love to the believers are those who say ‘We are Christians’; that, because some of them are priests and monks, and they wax not proud…. — Sura 5:82
The Qur’an even portrays Allah as commanding his prophet to go to the people of the Book (Jews and Christians) if he has doubts about the content of the revelations Gabriel is passing on to him. Allah’s implication is that the prior revelation found in the biblical texts will confirm what Muhammad is receiving:
And if thou (Muhammad) art in doubt concerning that which We reveal unto thee, then question those who read the Scripture (that was) before thee. Verily the Truth from thy Lord hath come unto thee. So be not thou of the waverers. — Sura 10:94
However, as the Jewish and Christian tribes heard more of Muhammad’s recitations they grew more and more certain that his message was not in line with their Scriptures, and so they withdrew any pretense of support for his claims that he was a prophet in the same lineage as the biblical seers. This rejection increasingly angered Muhammad, and his “revelations” began to turn negative toward Jews and Christians as duplicitous and unbelieving. Their religions were now counterfeit, at enmity with the truth of Islam:
Whoso desires another religion than Islam, it shall not be accepted of him; in the next world he shall be among the losers.
The Jews call ‘Uzair a son of Allah, and the Christians call Christ the son of Allah. That is a saying from their mouth; (in this) they but imitate what the unbelievers of old used to say. Allah’s curse be on them: how they are deluded away from the Truth! — Sura 9:30
They are unbelievers who say, ‘God is the Messiah, Mary’s son.’ For the Messiah said, ‘Children of Israel, serve God, my Lord and your Lord. Verily whoso associates with God anything, God shall prohibit him entrance to Paradise, and his refuge shall be the Fire; and wrongdoers shall have no helpers.’ They are unbelievers who say, ‘God is the Third of Three. No god is there but One God. If they refrain not from what they say, there shall afflict those of them that disbelieve a painful chastisement. — Sura 5:72-73
The unbelievers of the People of the Book and the idolaters shall be in the Fire of Gehenna, therein dwelling forever; those are the worst of creatures. — Sura 98:6
Who are the “unbelievers of the People of the Book”? They are the Jews and Christians who refuse to embrace the claim that Muhammad is God’s true prophet to whom they owe full allegiance. They, together with all idolaters, are “the worst of creatures.”
In the span of little more than a decade, Allah’s tune has changed radically toward Christians, and not for the better (I’ll deal in my next blog with the even more vituperative and destructive language used of the Jews). Once nearest in love to Muslims, now orthodox Christians are classified as “the worst of creatures in hell.”
If Muslims adopt this mindset of their god, it will come as no surprise that they then are willing to treat Christians with contempt and hatred. After all, Allah commands such a response of his followers:
O believers, take not Jews and Christians as friends; they are friends of each other. Whoso of you makes them his friends is one of them. God guides not the people of the evildoers. — Sura 5:51
O believers, fight the unbelievers who are near to you; and let them find in you a harshness; and know that God is with the god-fearing. — Sura 9:123
Fight against such of those who have been given the Scripture as believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, and who forbid not that which Allah hath forbidden by His messenger, and who follow not the Religion of Truth, until they pay the tribute readily, being brought low. — Sura 9:29
According to the Qur’an, there is no hope of divine forgiveness for orthodox Christians because by embracing the claim that Jesus is God incarnate, we are guilty of Islam’s unforgivable sin — “shirk” — the association of anything in the creation with divinity. Allah may forgive any other sin, but this sin he will never pardon, according to Sura 4:119:
God will not forgive the sin of considering something equal to Him, but He may forgive the other sins of whomever He wants. One who considers anything equal to God has certainly gone far away from the right path.
Perhaps now it is easier to understand the wide disparity across the Muslim world regarding the appropriate treatment of Christians by Muslims. But both approaches can’t equally be right. It can’t be right to love and honor Christians, and at the same time hate and murder them. So how does a Muslim decide which path to follow?
Unfortunately, traditional Islam has opted to handle contradictions in the Qur’an by arguing in favor of progressive revelation. Thus, where one divine declaration clashes irresolvably with another, the later revelation trumps the earlier one (this is known in hermeneutics as the law of abrogation). Muslims committed to the traditional interpretations of their religion (particularly those most radically oriented to the Qur’an) will decide how to relate to Christians on the basis of the last revelations given on the subject. And the last revelations are the ones most virulent in their loathing against Christians. So which Muslims are acting most in concert with core Islam, the friendly or the ferocious?
The answer is overpoweringly obvious. And unless the small, moderate, Western Muslim faction is able somehow to steer the juggernaut house of Islam away from its fourteen century trajectory of anti-Christian enmity, the non-Muslim world will continue to be overpowered by beheadings, immolations, drownings, whippings, crucifixions and other horrors until the Christians are for all intents and purposes removed from Muslim lands. Then it will be time to go after the rest of the non-Muslim world, all for the glory of an insatiable Allah.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if moderate Muslims won the day in the world of Islam? One can always dream. But here’s a better dream. Wouldn’t it be truly wonderful if the Church around the world truly loved its neighbors and preached the gospel of salvation for all peoples? Wouldn’t it be fantastic if increasing millions of Muslims met the risen Christ and found their joy in spreading grace rather than gruesomeness?
That’s a dream worth pursuing. Indeed that’s the dream Jesus commands his disciples to pursue. So what’s stopping us?