Many in the West are perplexed by the fact that in spite of increasing waves of atrocities committed by radical Muslims around the world, the rest of the Muslim world has not risen up to put a stop to this trend. That’s not to say that individual Muslims and some Islamic authorities from time to time don’t issue statements condemning certain terrorist events and arguing that such horrific acts don’t represent true Islam, but where are the united and concerted efforts in the “moderate” Muslim world to stamp out the sources of such evil? And why, in the first place, do so many committed Muslims come to the conclusion that true Islam compels them to such violent mayhem in the name of Allah?
This is a complex topic, far too intricate to unpack in one blog post, so I will confine myself to what I believe to be primary among all the contributing factors: Islam’s view of human nature.
The Qur’an has no parallel to the biblical teaching that human beings are created “in the image and likeness of God” (see Genesis 1:26-27). For Jews and Christians, this understanding of human nature means that the welfare of all human beings is to be valued and cherished, because we all bear the stamp of God nature. So God said in Gen 9:6, “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for God made man in His own image.” In other words, the destruction of a human being requires the highest penalty, because God created the human race as the apple of His eye, bestowing upon us something not granted to any other creature, the reflection of His own nature.
Islam rejects this conception of “the image of God” in humanity, for fear that it might compete with the tawhid of Allah, the singular unity of Allah’s nature, and might lead to idolatry – humans might be inclined to worship the image within them rather than bowing unreservedly before the true God.
Since Allah has no equals, and is vitally concerned with the protection of his sovereignty and glory, one might be tempted to ask, “Then why did he create human beings in the first place?” The logical answer to this in Islamic theology is, “Allah established humanity to be a race of beings who voluntarily submit themselves to him as his slaves, thereby demonstrating to the rest of the universe that he alone is the Sovereign Master of all, whose will is to be obeyed in all things.
Hence, human beings are by nature slaves of Allah, and there are in the end only two kinds of human beings: obedient ones (Muslims, who have bowed the knee to Allah) and disobedient ones (infidels, who refuse to surrender their wills to Allah). Obedient slaves will be rewarded with paradise (Muslims hope), disobedient slaves will be punished with eternal torture. Since this is the way Allah views humans, this is the way that Muslims also are to view humans.
Such an understanding goes a long way to explaining why Islam inculcates a supremacist mentality among its adherents (“You are the best nation ever brought forth to men…” [Sura 3:110], and by contrast, “Surely the worst of beasts in God’s sight are the unbelievers, who will not believe…” [8:55]), and why it condones slavery (Muslims owning non-Muslims), as well as the rape of non-Muslim women who are taken as booty from the infidel world and made sex-slaves of their conquerors. Islam permits the torture of those who refuse to convert, when such torture serves to instill fear in other unbelievers leading to their acquiescing to the advance of the “one true religion.” Allah has instituted jihad (armed fighting) in his cause against the world of intransigent slaves (all the infidels) until they either surrender to Allah’s cause willingly, or are conquered and made into unwilling slaves or are exterminated and so turned over to Allah’s eternal vengeance.
If this indeed is the essential view of human nature within Islam, then it is not so surprising that little cry goes up from the Muslim world concerning all the atrocities committed against non-Muslims. After all, the unbelievers deserve whatever they get for opposing Allah – they are wretched, ungrateful slaves, and merit unrelenting punishment, both in eternity and in this life (if Allah is willing…). So, I would guess, most Muslims don’t object loudly to the manifold reports of vile treatment of non-Muslims because in their heart of hearts they believe that the kuffar (Arabic for those who repress/reject the truth of Islam) are only getting what they deserve. After all, slaves have no inherent rights but are subject to the will of their masters – and Allah has made it clear how he intends to treat disobedient slaves for all eternity. As a result, the “moderate” Muslim world shrugs its shoulders over what its more radical brothers are doing, and quickly turns its attention to other priorities.
But, someone may object, the fact is that radical Muslims are killing more fellow Muslims than infidels. How can this be justified? Why aren’t Muslims rising up en masse to condemn at least this wanton destruction of human lives? The answer to this is three-fold: 1) in fact, there is greater pushback from moderate Muslim leaders against radicals for killing fellow Muslims; Islam teaches that it is a grave sin for a Muslim to kill another Muslim; 2) those killing fellow Muslims do so after declaring takfir against them – that is, they argue that the targeted Muslims are not “true” Muslims, but have become apostates (kuffar) due to false beliefs, actions or inactions, and thus deserve death; 3) when innocent Muslims die in mass attacks, they are “collateral damage,” and their deaths are viewed as martyrdoms, so that they are guaranteed the eternal gardens Allah has prepared for his faithful slaves. By killing innocent Muslims unwittingly, the jihadis are actually doing the deceased a favor!
In the final analysis, human life has little intrinsic value within the worldview of Islam, because human beings are slaves by nature, and slaves have no rights to anything, including life. The only thing that matters is subservience to Allah – those displaying the submission Allah demands are accorded value in his eyes while those who refuse the mandated lifestyle are like chattel to be used or discarded according to his pleasure.
As history teaches us unrelentingly, beliefs have consequences. Those unwilling to stand for their beliefs will fall before those willing to fight for their own. The Church and those who enjoy Judeo-Christian values have a pressing choice to make: will we champion an understanding of human beings as made in the image and likeness of God, or will we fall before an understanding of humanity as slaves to be herded into ritualized obedience or hounded into extinction?
The choice is that stark, I believe.