Islam & Christianity: Christianity:
essential debate for the 21st century
Islam & Christianity: Christianity:
essential debate for the 21st century
The below guide can be downloaded as a PDF document here.
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Preface (by DP)
We have compiled this booklet as a form of appeal to the Church, in response to what we perceive as the growing influence of Islam on our society. We are not scholars or theologians – just a group of concerned individuals who have been looking into this subject over the past months and years. Given the danger posed to those who question Islam, our identities are protected; the author’s initials only are supplied at the start of each new article. In the current atmosphere of distrust of any criticism of Islamic ideology, the need has never been greater for understanding, education and debate on this issue. We believe the institution of the Church, as the stronghold and guardian of Christianity, has an essential role to play in this regard.
In these articles, an attempt has been made to reference Islamic scriptures rather than simply express opinion. In particular, the three main Islamic sources are drawn upon: the Qur’an; the Hadiths (a collection of the ‘traditions’ and deeds of Mohammed, including Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim. ‘Sahih’ means sound/reliable, so these are regarded as especially useful sources); and anecdotes from the Sira (the biography of Mohammed).
It is perhaps a sign of the times that we need to make the following statement: Our aim is to stimulate discussion, debate, and activity which is both legal and moral. We do not condone any form of attack against the Muslim community or support those who would seek to cause division in society. There is a world of difference between scrutinising a set of ideas and their impacts, and attacking an individual or group, and we hope you will understand that we are firmly placed in the former camp.
We hope you find the short essays in this booklet stimulating and informative.
Was Mohammed a Prophet? (by DP)
The central tenet of Islam is that there is only one God, whose name is Allah, and that Mohammed is his Messenger. This forms the Muslim article of faith, the Shahada, and is the most important of the Five Pillars of Islam.
Mohammed (570 – 632 AD), from the time of his first ‘revelation’, announced repeatedly that he was a prophet, and ‘the Messenger of Allah’. When asked ‘What is the best deed (on the part of the believer)?’, he replied, “To believe in Allah and His Apostle” (Sahih Bukhari 1: 2). During the first 13 years of his ‘ministry’ (in Mecca), few believed his claim to prophethood. The local Jewish and Christian communities were particularly unconvinced. With the ‘change of gear’ which came with the move to Medina and the acquisition of a militia, his claim was reinforced with violence. Anyone who denied his prophethood was killed – even those such as the poetess Asma, killed by one of Mohammed’s followers for having written satirical verses about him. Far from turning the other cheek, Mohammed’s critics were ruthlessly dealt with (please see the next article, ‘The Beautiful Pattern’, for more on this). Asma’s tribespeople were quick to convert on observing her fate and that of others who stood in the way of Islam.
It is a general condition of prophethood to perform miracles in order to confirm this status and convince the people. Mohammed cast himself in the role of the prophet in the Judaic tradition, claiming that he was the last in this line. Aware of this claim and the things attributed to those who had gone before, people around him asked him to provide ‘proof’ – basically, to do something wonderful and miraculous. His response was to insist his ‘revelations’ were more than enough: “What! Is it not enough for them that We have sent down upon thee the book that is recited to them?” (Qur’an 29:48). This is a rather circular argument: believe in these ‘revelations’ because they come from Allah, via me; and the proof of this authenticity, is the book itself! This answer also seems highly evasive – it is noteworthy that Mohammed does not make any mention of a miracle he has performed, when giving this defence.
Mohammed did, however, claim a particular miracle – that of the Night Journey, in which he was transported to Paradise to meet Allah and the prophets, on the back of the buraq, a magical winged creature. Unlike the miracles of Jesus, however, this miracle had no witnesses; it ‘took place’ at night, whilst everyone was asleep.
There is also a mention in the Qur’an of Mohammed having split the Moon in two (Qur’an 54:1). NASA has helpfully reported (Brad Bailey, 2010) that there is no scientific evidence that the Moon has ever split and re-formed. Furthermore, such a seismic astronomical event would have been observed and recorded around the world, whereas no mention is made of it in any sources outside of Islamic scriptures. It remains, however, a firm belief – including amongst highly educated Muslims.
A further ‘miracle’ is described: the blinding of Qurashite warriors when Mohammed threw dust in their faces, such that he could ‘disappear’ and escape their clutches. A prosaic mind might wonder whether this actually constituted a supernatural occurrence.
Though Mohammed insisted that he was the last in the line of Judaic prophets – God’s last word – it is striking how he adopted many of the pagan practices of the day. Mohammed remained illiterate throughout his life, and much of his theology was derived from a mix of stories heard in Mecca of Christ and the Judaic prophets (including the less orthodox versions), to which he added largely pagan forms of worship. He was born into the pagan Quraysh tribe, and the rituals of the Haj – the circling of the Kaaba (cube), the veneration of the Black Stone, and the Tawaf (running between the two Meccan hills of Marwah and Safa) – were all pagan Arab practices from the time. The Kaaba, in fact, was one of several such ‘cubes’ in Mecca, and was a site of worship and sacrifice. Mohammed’s father, Abdullah, narrowly escaped being sacrificed at the Kaaba as a child, 100 unfortunate camels being offered in his place. Islam thus appears to be a fusion – or con-fusion – of ideas from various sources.
It is often claimed that the Qur’an contains extraordinary scientific knowledge, way ahead of its time, and that this corroborates the claim that Mohammed had unique insight and wisdom. Unfortunately, no such prescience is shown. The Qur’an (18:83) describes how the Sun sets in a muddy puddle, and how ‘shooting stars’ are missiles, hurled by Allah at demons (37:6) in order to ‘repulse’ them. The Qur’anic Earth is flat (Qur’an 15:19), in accord with Bedouin belief at the time, but contrary to what the rest of the world knew from the time of Pythagoras onwards.
It seems Mohammed had a deeply ambivalent relationship with Judaism and Christianity. Modern-day Muslims, particularly in the West, assert a kinship of belief with ‘the People of the Book’ (Jews and Christians). This in itself ignores the importance placed on sacred texts by other faiths – such as on the Vedas and Gita by Hindus, on the Guru Granth Sahib by Sikhs, and the Sutras by Buddhists. It also assumes a parallel sanctity for the Bible and the Qur’an. Mohammed borrowed heavily from the Judaic tradition and used it to justify his role, asserting that he was fulfilling Jewish and Christian scriptures and that his ministry was “confirming that which was revealed before it” (Qur’an 2:97). He insisted on the validity and incorruptibility of the Judaeo-Christian scriptures as God’s revelation (Qur’an 5:47). The ‘People of the Book’ were to be allowed the option of living as dhimmis – second-class citizens who paid the Jizya tax and submitted to various other penalties in a Muslim state: “Fight those who believe not in Allah…even if they are of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission and feel themselves subdued” (Qur’an 9:29). This is in contrast with the ‘idolators’, whose lives were not to be spared if they refused to convert. And yet Mohammed appeared to develop a fierce hatred of the Jews, some of whom, he claimed, had been turned into ‘apes and pigs’ (Qur’an 7:166). It was for the ‘Children of Israel’ that the most appalling punishments were to be reserved – the amputation of limbs and crucifixion (Qur’an 5:33) – where they were found to ‘make mischief in the land’ and not comply with Islam. In a particularly chilling Hadith, Mohammed insists that every living Jew has to be exterminated before Judgement Day:
”The last hour will not come unless the Muslims fight against the Jews and the Muslims kill them until the Jews hide themselves behind a stone or a tree, and the stones betray them, saying ‘O Slave of Allah, there is a Jew hiding behind me! Come and kill him!’…” (Sahih Muslim Book 41).
Hell-fire was the fate of the Christians and the Jews (Qur’an 98:6), and even as he died, he cursed them as “the worst of creatures”. Confusingly, as well as affirming the inviolable nature of the scriptures, Mohammed also insisted they had in fact been corrupted and that, for example, Jesus did not die on the cross, but only a likeness of Him, substituted by God in His place (Qur’an 4:157). For him, Jesus was a prophet, and a Muslim one at that – He did not die on the Cross or rise from the dead – and it was a blasphemy to regard Him as divine.
As a bizarre, grandiose, and rather appalling cementing of his ‘claim’, Mohammed insisted that Mother Mary was actually one of his wives (though this one resided at a safe distance, in Paradise).
It is interesting to ponder what the Islamic scriptures tell us about Mohammed’s early spiritual experiences and the beginnings of his ‘ministry’. It is striking to discover that he himself was deeply distressed by the early experiences of ‘revelation’ – so much so that he sought, repeatedly, to end his own life. For some time, he believed that he was being possessed by an evil spirit – a condition he had observed with horror in other people and which he dreaded his tribespeople, the Quraysh, finding out about. He was terrified of these visitations, which sometimes would shake him bodily and cause him to ‘be stifled’, almost to the point of unconsciousness. It was to Jibril (Archangel Gabriel) that he eventually attributed these events, reassured by his first wife, Khadija, that he was not possessed – though Mohammed’s experiences could hardly have been more different to those of Mary and Elizabeth in the presence of Gabriel. It was also Jibril, he said, who stopped him from hurling himself from the top of mountains on numerous occasions. After a time, we are told in Sahih Bukhari 69:82, Mohammed would climb to the top of a mountain in order to alarm Jibril and jolt him into giving a revelation, if none had been forthcoming for a time.
It is noteworthy that Mohammed himself seemed to feel the need to repeatedly assert not just his prophethood, but that he wasn’t mad. There are numerous Qur’anic verses which basically state, ‘Mohammed is not a madman’ (for instance, Qur’an 7:184; 23:70; 34:46; 37:35; 52:29; 68:2; 81:22). This is not the place for psychological speculation as to what was happening in the mind of Mohammed that gave rise to these protests, but it is certainly not ‘prophet-like’ behaviour.
Mohammed insisted that God would not allow one of his prophets to come to harm and argued against Jesus’ crucifixion on this basis. Ironically enough, Mohammed himself died of poisoning (though it took a long time for him to finally succumb to it), after being given a leg of lamb prepared by a Jewish woman (Zaynab) whose husband, father and uncle had just been killed by Mohammed’s followers (Sahih Muslim 5430, and Ibn Sa’d).
Jesus said, “By their fruits shall you know them” (Matthew 7:16). The Gospels describe Jesus’ miracles, and how He healed and comforted. There do not seem to be any corresponding miracles in the life of Mohammed, and it is hard to see how Mohammed’s actions helped or healed. We have to consider whether Mohammed was one of the ‘false prophets’ warned of in Matthew. It is of note that early Christian sources paint a dim view of him. A Palestinian document from between 634 and 640 AD, called ‘Doctrina Jacobi nuper baptizati’, discusses Mohammed thus: "He is deceiving. For do prophets come with sword and chariot?, …[Y]ou will discover nothing true from the said prophet except human bloodshed". The Syrian saint, John of Damascus (c. 676-749 AD), who lived under the Caliphate, writes in the ‘Fount of Wisdom’ that Mohammed is a false prophet and an Anti-Christ. Most striking is the commentary of Thomas Aquinas on the subject, which is worth quoting at length:
"[Muhammad] seduced the people by promises of carnal pleasure… His teaching also contained precepts that were in conformity with his promises, and he gave free rein to carnal pleasure. In all this, as is not unexpected, he was obeyed by carnal men. As for proofs of the truth of his doctrine, he brought forward only such as could be grasped by the natural ability of anyone with a very modest wisdom... Nor do divine pronouncements on the part of preceding prophets offer him any witness. On the contrary, he perverts almost all the testimonies of the Old and New Testaments by making them into fabrications of his own, as can be seen by anyone who examines his law. It was, therefore, a shrewd decision on his part to forbid his followers to read the Old and New Testaments, lest these books convict him of falsity. It is thus clear that those who place any faith in his words believe foolishly.” (Summa Contra Gentiles, Book 1, Ch. 6)
The next article will discuss the behaviour of Mohammed in light of his claim to prophethood.
The Beautiful Pattern? (by DP)
There are a total of 89 Qur’anic verses in which Mohammed states that he is the perfect example for humanity: “You have indeed in the Messenger of Allah a beautiful pattern for those whose hope is in Allah…” (Qur’an 33:32). Mohammed is the sunnah – the example – which all believers are instructed to follow if they hope to gain Allah’s favour and be granted a place in Paradise. Aside from the small issue of this unabashed self-proclamation (the verses of the Qur’an were ‘revealed’ by Allah to Mohammed – who was illiterate – and written down by his scribe), there is the obvious issue of the character and behaviour of Mohammed, given this demand for imitation.
I will consider here several categories of Mohammed’s activity which seem particularly problematic from a moral perspective, picking out particular episodes to illustrate these.
“They who live by the sword shall die by the sword” (Matthew 26:52).
“I have been made victorious by terror” (Sahih Bukhari 4:52)
Our notions of holiness are bound intrinsically to peacefulness. Whereas most would agree that engaging in physical battle is sometimes a necessity (the most obvious example in modern times being the moral justification for WWII), most would agree that killing should only ever be a last resort. It is a shock to discover that Mohammed’s ‘ministry’ from the time he moved to Medina was characterised by physical conflict; in the last nine years of his life, he engaged in an extraordinary average of one campaign every six weeks. Apologists often claim that Mohammed’s acts of violence were always defensive; the reality seems to be quite the opposite. In Islam, there is no equivalent of the Golden Rule of Christianity (and other religions), and he showed no interest in (or knowledge of) the commandment “thou shalt not kill”.
Mohammed practised zero tolerance towards his enemies, when he was equipped to do so (following his move to Medina, where he assumed a political and military role). This included personally slaughtering people, including those who were unarmed. A clear example of this is the massacre of 600 Jewish boys and men of the Banu Qurayza tribe in the Medina marketplace following the tribe’s surrender to him (Sahih Bukhari 5: 59). Mohammed himself dug the trenches for the decapitated bodies to fall into and engaged in some of the slaughter. As a further obscenity, the young boys of the tribe were required to expose themselves so they could be inspected for signs of the onset of puberty; those who showed such signs were beheaded. Mohammed’s child-bride Aisha sat on a platform to watch this spectacle.
The last nine years of Mohammed’s ‘ministry’ were characterised by relentless violence. The campaigns against neighbouring tribes were so unremitting, in fact, that by the time of his death all of Arabia – which had previously been a mixture of Jewish, Christian, and pagan – was Muslim (the Jews of Medina, which comprised half of its population, had been ethnically cleansed by the time of his death). Mohammed encouraged his followers to use violence to overcome non-Muslims and to ensure the spread of the religion: “I will instil terror into the hearts of the Unbelievers: smite ye above their necks and smite all their fingertips off them” (Qur’an 8:12). Chapter Nine of the Qur’an is known as the most violent; here, Muslims are exhorted to “fight and slay the pagans wherever you find them…” (Qur’an 9:5). Sahih Bukhari describes how some of Mohammed’s followers had qualms about the sheer quantity of killing they were required to do, especially when this involved attacking communities at night, given that women and children would be harmed. Mohammed dismissed this reserve with, “They (the women and children) are from them”; the families of his enemies did not deserve consideration, and death was meted out to them too.
It is reported in Islamic scriptures that some converted to the religion because they marvelled at how others could kill for it without compunction.
The Sira (the biography of Mohammed) tells us that following the battle of Khaibar, a Jewish man called Kinana was tortured almost to the point of death on Mohammed’s command, in order to extract from him the whereabouts of buried treasure. Mohammed personally finished the job by decapitating Kinana, whose secret died with him. Mohammed then proceeded to ‘marry’ Kinana’s wife that same day (Sahih Bukhari 1: 8).
Killing other Muslims:
Signs of slackness in faith could be punished by death. One day, after the call to prayer went up, Mohammed noticed some of his followers hadn’t yet emerged from their homes. He set fire to the homes, with their occupants still within them. Even today, Muslims are known to attack each other for being ‘not Muslim enough’, or the wrong kind of Muslim.
Silencing the Critics:
Those who criticised Mohammed paid the ultimate price. The Sira relates how the poetess Asma, who wrote satirical verses about him, was murdered in her sleep by his follower Umayr. Troubled by his crime, Umayr asked Mohammed if he would incur any consequences for what he had done; Mohammed replied “Two goats won’t butt their heads about her”.
Such violence became the cornerstone of Islam. Please see the article ‘The Religion of Peace?’ for a discussion of the violence central to Islam’s spread.
The Keeping of Slaves
“Do not lord it over one another, as the gentiles do…” (Matthew 20:25)
We know that Mohammed kept slaves. Islamic sources name 28 male slaves and 12 female slaves, and it is likely there were more. The female slaves are referred to in the Qur’an as “they whom your right hand possesses” (Qur’an 4:24) – and there is reference to his use of them for sex. His wife Hafsa discovered he was having relations with her maid, Mary (Maryah) the Coptic, for instance, and was urged not to tell this secret with the offer of bribes and a promise not to re-offend. (She was promised, for instance, that her father would be made the Caliph on Mohammed’s death.) The distressed Hafsa was unable to stay moot on the subject, however, telling Aisha, Mohammed’s child-bride, about this misdemeanour. This led to something of a ruckus, with Mohammed being estranged from his wives for 29 days (during which time the pain of the estrangement was soothed by the company of Mary the Coptic). His oath not to repeat the offence was subsequently broken, but a timely ‘revelation’ reassured him that, “Allah has already sanctioned a way for you (believers) to absolve yourselves of your oaths” (Qur’an 66:2). Furthermore, he was encouraged to allow himself the goodies presented to him by Allah rather than abide by his oaths: ““Oh Prophet! Why do you forbid for yourself that which Allah has allowed for you?” (Hadith 3959).
Sahih Muslim (Book 8) recounts how Mohammed countenanced the rape of captive women by his followers. In fact, he used the promise of sex slaves as well as material booty (see below) to attract followers. ISIS infamously lure men to their cause with the promise of perpetual sex in the Hereafter (as is promised to jihadis fighting ‘in the way of Allah’ in Islamic scriptures). Such reward for martyrdom includes those who have died in suicide attacks. The notion of houris who dispense endless sexual favours in the Hereafter was a Persian idea which Mohammed had evidently picked up on. Such orgiastic excesses are a world away from Christian ideas on Heaven.
The practice of ‘ISIS’ of taking sex slaves from among the Yazidis is in imitation of the early Islamic precedent of taking female captives.
As an interesting (but depressing) aside, Mohammed referred disparagingly to his Ethiopian slaves as ‘raisin heads’ (much is made of Mohammed’s ‘whiteness’ in Islamic sources, including Sahih Bukhari 63 and Sahih Muslim 6081 and 6071).
“Again, I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 19:24)
Mohammed was aware that prophets were not supposed to take booty and become wealthy. However, he was the exception: “The booty has been made lawful for me, yet it was not lawful for anyone else before me” (Sahih Bukhari 1: 7). He personally received a fifth of the ‘booty’ of all the raids and military campaigns engaged in by his followers (Qur’an 8:41), including those conducted against merchant caravans (he had previously been a superintendent of caravan trains, and knew the caravan routes well). The promise of the wealth flowing from these assaults on trade caravans must have been alluring: “Allah promises you much booty that you will capture….” (Qur’an 48:20); “Now enjoy what you have won, as lawful and good, and keep your duty to Allah” (Qur’an 8:69). The ‘booty’ in such cases would often involve slaves. Mohammed seemed to understand the ‘get rich quick’ appeal of conducting these raids and would sometimes bestow generous gifts as an added incentive to conversion: “I give to them so as to attract their hearts to Islam” (Sahih Bukhari 33: 44).
“Thou shalt not bear false witness” (The 8th commandment)
“Allah has already sanctioned a way for you (believers) to absolve yourselves of your oaths” (Quran 66:2)
The most often cited example of Mohammed’s breaking of oaths and treaties is that of the Treaty of Hudaibiya. This oath was taken by Mohammed when on a pilgrimage to Mecca with some of his followers, and his encountering of a group of Meccans who effectively barred his entry to the city. They reached a mutual agreement that any persons migrating to each other’s groups were to be returned, but this treaty was quickly reneged on. He also broke his oath to his wives Hafsa and Aisha to cease having relations with the slave Mary the Coptic (see below).
Abuse of women
“Your wives are a tilth (a patch of ground) for you; so go to your tilth when and how you will” (Qur’an 2:223)
“Women are the majority in hell, because they curse often, and are ungrateful, and are deficient in intelligence” (Sahih Bukhari 1:6:301)
There are Muslim apologists who claim that Mohammed was a feminist. Of all the claims made on his behalf, this surely is the most bizarre. A number of examples will be given here of how Mohammed seemed to treat women, and the legacy he passed on in this regard to his followers. The article Human Rights (and Islamic Wrongs) discusses how Sharia reflects Mohammed’s view that a woman’s testimony, and right to inherit, should be half that of a man. Mohammed helpfully explained that this is because of “the deficiency of a woman’s mind” and her moral inferiority (Sahih Bukhari 2658) – and also the fact that a man provides for a woman (an odd assertion, given that he himself was supported by his first wife, Khadija, who was a wealthy and successful businesswoman, over many years of preaching in Mecca).
The practise of polygamy:
Mohammed taught his male followers that they were allowed four wives each (Qur’an 4:3). He himself, however, had exemption from this limit on account of his special status: “this is only for you (Mohammed)…excluding the other believers” (Qur’an 33:50)). It is unknown what the actual number of wives was, but it is believed it was at least 11. When Mohammed became infatuated with his daughter-in-law Zaynab (who was married to his adopted son, Zayd), he received a ‘revelation’ that disregarding the taboo against such unions was in fact permissible for him. A way around the taboo was revealed – a total dissolution of the practice of adoption (a prohibition which still impacts the Islamic world today). On hearing this ‘revelation’, an apparently exasperated Aisha commented: “It seems Allah hastens to fulfil your desires” (Tabari 8:1).
The issue of polygamy raises some interesting questions. Given that nature causes half of all babies to be male, and half female, it stands to reason that the 1:1 ratio works best. Animal species in which one male has a number of female mates are characterised by violence and endless competition. If one man has four wives, there are clearly three men with no wife. The link between polygamy and violence is therefore obvious: the way for the disgruntled left-behind males to secure mates is through attacking other communities/groups/countries to find them. This is precisely what we find with the early Islamic state of Arabia, and in Islamic conquests down the centuries.
The marriage to Aisha:
Islamic sources are specific about the age of Aisha when the marriage contract with Mohammed was signed: she was six years old. We are also told that the marriage was consummated when Aisha was nine. Mohammed was a man in his 50s. However uncomfortable, we cannot avoid the obvious conclusions here – and the implications this precedent has had for Islam down the ages. The marriage of pre-pubescent girls is still in line with Islamic practice in a number of countries, and vigorously defended by Muslim clerics (Qur’an 65:4 discusses the protocols for divorcing pre-pubescent girls).
In a recent ruling, the European Court of Human Rights decided to uphold the conviction of an Austrian woman who had described Mohammed as a paedophile in seminars held in her home country. Her right to freedom of speech on this issue was trumped by the ‘religious feelings’ of the Muslim community.
There is a striking verse in Sahih Bukhari (58: 25) which describes Aisha protesting to Mohammed that the wives of believers are easy to spot, in that their skin is green, bringing before him evidence in the form of a victim of such domestic brutality. “I have not seen any women suffering as much as the wives of the believers”. Mohammed did not rebuke her abuser. Qur’an 4:34 stipulates that beating a ‘rebellious’ wife is acceptable practice – though, admittedly, it is the third option, after first trying 1) admonishments; 2) shunning her in bed.
Although there are verses which imply physical ‘chastisement’ should only be light, and not cause any actual damage, the question has to be asked: Why was the early Muslim community characterised by domestic violence?
The excuse of context
The excuse of context is commonly made by apologists when discussing Mohammed’s behaviour: he lived in violent times; it was normal to marry children in those days, etc. Isn’t it a qualification for ‘prophethood’ or holiness, however, that the person rises above the norms and conditions of their time to set an example of something greater? Would we need to apply the ‘context’ excuse to the life of Christ? He too was living in violent times, but never resorted to violence. Women at the time had very low status and few rights; it was normal for rabbis, in fact, to shun them entirely – but He treated women as equal to men, befriending them and entering into dialogue with them ...
If we apply the advice ‘by their fruits shall ye know them’ to the behaviour of Mohammed, the implications are painfully obvious…
Islam & Jesus of Nazareth (by MD)
Islam = Qur’an + Mohammed.
In any exercise in ‘comparative religion’, it is important that no attempt is made to provide an ‘apologia’ on behalf of either of the ‘religions’ being considered. So, before attempting a comparison, we will look at three discrete areas
- The two men, Mohammed and Jesus, as historical figures: simply as ‘men’.
- The respective claims made for the two men, by believers, following their deaths.
- What Islam says about ‘Isa’.
Historically, little doubt remains that both Jesus and Mohammed were historical figures. It is thought that Jesus lived from around 3 BCE to 30 CE, or thereabouts. Of course, over the past 150 years, scholars in the West have been engaged in trying to assemble the ‘historical Jesus’ from the documents, written in faith, after his death (de-mythologisation). One of the finest recent summaries of this process has been that of Paula Fredriksen (1). Current scholarship seems polarised around two options. Either Jesus was a teacher of ethics; or else he was a thoroughgoing Jewish apocalyptic prophet, proclaiming God’s coming Kingdom. Whichever strand we follow, we are left wondering why so Jewish a figure should end up dying a Roman political death.
According to Islamic sources, Mohammed is believed to have lived between 570 and 632 CE. It was in 610 CE, during the month of Ramadan, that Mohammed was said to have held a conversation with the Archangel Gabriel, in a Meccan cave. Khadija, his first wife, aided his conviction that he was a prophet; and so, he set about proclaiming monotheism to the polytheistic Meccans. The rest of Mohammed’s biography may be learned from the various translations of the Sira.
Figures ‘Created’ by Believers?
What the confessing Church has to say about Jesus of Nazareth is the subject of the theological specialism called ‘Christology’. Very soon after the death of Jesus, credal statements were being made concerning his person. Scholars consider one of the earliest forms the basis of Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians, Chapter 2 verses 5 to 11 – which, if it does not directly attribute ‘divinity’ to Jesus, comes very close to doing so. What the Church cannot deny is that the transition of Jesus of Nazareth, from human teacher to the anticipated Messiah (Gk: Christos), and Third Person of the Trinity, was a ‘process’. It was a process which was quick off the ground, and saw the great Hebrew and Hellenistic titles which were a part of the religious discourse of the times being applied to Jesus, so that he became: The Word, Lord, Son of God, Messiah, Son of David, and Son of Man. All of these titles have their own histories; and, again Fredriksen provides a good summary. She envisages ‘the process’ whereby Jesus becomes ‘the Gospel’ and the object of worship as being completed by the end of the 1st Century CE.
What the followers of Islam teach about Mohammed is to be found in a trinity of literary sources: the Quran, Sira (biography of Mohammed) and Hadith (his traditions), these latter two forming the Sunna.
Of course, all are in Arabic; for a summary of Mohammed’s life and deeds, which uses the Islamic sources, but is translated from the Italian into English, the recent work of Mario Portella (2) is very informative. What is obvious, however, is that Mohammed should never be the object of Muslim worship. He remains an historical human being, and the Prophet of Islam.
Jesus in Islam
The Quran and the Hadith refer to Jesus as ‘Isa’; he features prominently in the Quran, where he is to be revered as a sinless prophet and worker of miracles. He is fully human, and there is no ‘divinity’ to him. Someone else was crucified in his place. The Christological title ‘Son of God’ is rejected as blasphemous; Islam is entirely fundamentalist, so the title may only be interpreted in a physical, non-ontological, sense. Thus, Muslims will not accept that there can be any ‘unity’ in a trinitarian godhead. Ironically, Muslims do accept the virgin birth of Jesus: something not all Christians accept.
In his contribution to the book edited by Perry Schmidt-Leukel and Lloyd Ridgeon (3), Martin Bauschke makes the following comment:
“dialogue between Christians and Muslims is sustainable only if it is acknowledged that God wanted both religions as authentic ways to salvation. God revealed himself to both, Jesus and Mohammed! The Eternal Word of God – as Christians believe – became flesh in Jesus Christ (incarnation) and – as Muslims believe – it became book as Quran (inlibration).”
However, is this claim entirely fair to Islam, bearing in mind the equation of which we need to be aware, and which heads this short chapter? Islam is not solely the Quran! Thus the appropriate comparison between Islam and Christianity is between the Quran/Mohammed and Jesus. This counters the objections of Muslim apologists, who prefer to see Mohammed omitted from the comparison (e.g.: Ataullah Siddiqui, in the same book).
And it is precisely when we include the life of the most perfect Muslim, the Prophet himself, that we encounter problems.
The American ‘Missionary to Islam’, Samuel Zwemer (1867-1952), adopted a confrontational stance toward Islam, using the teaching of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew: Chs 5, 6 & 7) in assessing the prophetic nature of Mohammed’s life (4). Zwemer asserted that the Sunna confirms that Mohammed may be viewed as having contradicted every aspect of Jesus’ teachings.
Today, it is far easier to act as if critics of Islam have a problem with Muslims as people, than it is to accept the uncomfortable truth that Islam is different from other religi
- Paula Fredriksen (2000) FROM JESUS TO CHRIST, Yale University Press
- Mario Alexis Portella (2018) ISLAM: RELIGION OF PEACE? The Violation of Natural Rights and Western Cover-up. Westbow Press.
- Perry Schmidt-Leukel and Lloyd Ridgeon (2007) ISLAM & INTER-FAITH RELATIONS: The Gerald Weisfeld Lectures 2006. SCM Press
Yohannes Bekele (2012) SAMUEL ZWEMER’S MISSIONARY STRATEGY TOWARDS ISLAM. Unpublished thesis for the Degree of MPhil, University of Birmingh
Islam & Homosexuality (by MD)
Islam = Qur’an + Mohammed.
In any discussions concerning Islam, it may be helpful to remember this simple formula. It is especially important in this issue because the Qur’an (literally, ‘breath of God’) alone, is not responsible for Muslim attitudes to homosexuality. If we are to account for the barbaric treatment of homosexual men in, for example, Iran or Saudi Arabia, then it is to the Hadiths and the Sharia (‘path’ or ‘way’) which derives from them, rather than to the Qur’an, that we need to turn. In the words of Peter Townsend:
Homosexuality is seen not only as morally reprehensible by Islamic law but as a very serious crime that should be severely punished. The four Sunni and the Shi’a legal schools differ in terms of the exact nature of this punishment, but none of them proposes a tolerant live and let live attitude. It is, in fact, difficult to see how devout Muslims could ever come to a place of acceptance and tolerance given the vigorously homophobic attitudes expressed in the Qur’an and hadiths.
(1, p 264)
This is, of course, very similar to the position taken by many fundamentalist Christians, who may cite the Epistles of Paul (e.g. 1 Cor: 6 v 9ff) in support of their stance. Who knows what might happen were such Christians to gain the upper hand in a Western legislature, once more – although the judicial killing of gay men in the name of the ‘Prince-of-Peace’ would be unlikely.
In June of 2016 Andrew McCarthy posted this photograph of five men, allegedly hanged for their homosexuality in Iran, to illustrate his article for The National Review, following the Muslim attack on a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. McCarthy’s point was to demonstrate that the inspiration to kill homosexuals stems directly from the Sharia and is not a ‘perversion’ of Islam on the part of ‘Islamic extremists’. The killing of homosexuals is Sharia law, not ISIS law. Whether actual, or ‘would-be’, Jihadis, such Muslims are motivated by Islamic supremacism: the belief that the Sharia, Islam’s ancient, totalitarian law, must be imposed on society.
However, problems arise in a ‘Western’ society which believes laws should be moderated through reason, and Islam, which believes they ought to be based on revelation. Furthermore, whilst revisionist Islamic scholars are busy performing exactly the same ‘interpretive’ contortions in which the Christian churches have been indulging for the past half-century, the outcomes are just as negative (2) and, as Islamic scholars contrive ways of counting the number of angels able to dance on the head of a pin, homosexual men are being publicly hanged from scaffolding in Iran, being placed in pits so that huge, specially-constructed, walls of masonry may be collapsed on top of them, or thrown from high buildings (the preferred ISIS method).
Sample Texts: Islam’s Justification for Killing Homosexuals
The Qur’an 7:80. This is one of four occasions which recounts the story of Lut (Lot); each time the sin of the people of Lut’s city is identified as homosexuality, and they are destroyed by having fire and brimstone rained down on them.
Sahih Bukhari 7:72:774. Mohammed cursed effeminate men, and ordered that they be thrown out.
Abu Dawud 38:4447. The Prophet said: If you find anyone doing as Lut’s people did, kill the one who does it, and the one to whom it is done.
Abu Dawud 38:4448. If a man who is not married is seized committing sodomy, he will be stoned to death.
When one thinks of ‘law’ in Islamic States, the Sharia immediately springs to mind. However, it should be borne in mind that the Sharia is revealed law, and is both ‘religious’ and ‘political’. In our century, there are increasing calls for compliance with the Sharia throughout the West – and (make no mistake) this is a call for non-Muslims to comply with its terms, too. In Islam there is no recognition of ‘faith’ being a personal matter, such that ‘state’ and ‘mosque’ may be separated. The Sharia applies to everyone: Muslim and non-Muslim. Even if you are uninterested in Islam, Islam is very interested in you. You may encounter Muslims who claim that, compared with the 7th – 10th century standards in which it was created, the Sharia is now quite ‘moderate’. This is an example of Taqiyya (see elsewhere). The Sharia has remained unchanged since its creation, and homosexuals must be killed.
Many of its punishments are extremely harsh compared with contemporary Western standards, and the Sharia infringes:
- Modern principles of human rights
- Religious freedom and toleration
- The concept of equality of all before the law
These are the five principal areas where the Muslim Sharia is incompatible with modern standards of human rights:
- Punishments are often inhumanely cruel and barbaric.
- Discrimination on the basis of religion is fundamental within Islam, which must be dominant. This is just one of the areas where Islam is dualistic, with different laws dependent upon whether or not you are Muslim
- The treatment of Muslim ‘heretics’ and ‘apostates’. Both are subject to capital punishment. Western philosophical debates about the existence of God are unknown within Islam.
- Holy War (Jihad). More dualism. The world is divided into two areas…
- The House of Islam (Dar al-Islam)
- The House of War (Dar al-Harb) (the ‘non-Muslim’ part of the world)
It is a duty imposed on all Muslims to wage Jihad on the House of War, until Islam is imposed on everyone, and the non-Muslims are ‘subdued’. Once territory is ‘Muslim’, it remains ‘Muslim’ forever, and requires defending. Some would argue that Islam is indulging in a Jihad of stealth in our present time: moving huge numbers from Muslim lands into the West, in order to gain sufficient numbers to displace the indigenous populations, and subdue them for Islam. Muslim terrorists justify their atrocities by reference to the Sharia rules on Jihad.
- The status of women. Sharia discriminates on the basis of gender: men are superior to women. Segregation of the sexes is encouraged, as is the covering of the female head outside of the home. The taking of female sex-slaves is also encouraged, after the example of Mohammed.
Let us leave the final word on Islam and Homosexuality to Sheikh Yusuf al-Quaradawi (Sunni Islam’s leading Sharia Jurist), lest we be tempted to view the judicial killing of homosexuals to be a ‘perversion’ of Islam….
“We must be aware that in regulating the sexual drive Islam has prohibited not only illicit sexual relations and all that leads to them, but also the sexual deviation known as homosexuality. This perverted act is a reversal of the natural order, a corruption of man’s sexuality, and a crime against the rights of females. (The same applies equally to the case of lesbianism.)
The spread of this depraved practice in a society disrupts its natural life pattern and makes those who practise it slaves to their lusts, depriving them of decent taste, decent morals, and a decent manner of living.
Muslim jurists have held differing opinions concerning the punishment for this abominable practice. Should it be the same as the punishment for fornication, or should both the active and passive participants be put to death? While such punishments may seem cruel, they have been suggested to maintain the purity of the Islamic society and to keep it clean of perverted elements.”
Now where have we heard ‘purity’ language like that before?
- Peter Townsend (2014) QUESTIONING ISLAM: Tough Questions & Honest Answers about the Muslim Religion. Sydney, Australia
- M Alipour (2017) Essentialism and Islamic Theology of Homosexuality: A Critical Reflection on an Essentialist Epistemology toward Same-Sex Desires and Acts in Islam. Journal of Homosexuality, 64:14, 1930-1942
Islamic Rights, Western Wrongs (by DP)
One feature of Islam and Islamic societies that is strikingly different to how we operate in the West is the apparent absence of self-reflection. It is a sign of maturity at the individual level to reflect on one’s failings and past errors, to take responsibility for these, and to aim to learn from them. At the societal level, this is seen in cultures such as our own, where we feel and express remorse for our country’s past actions (an example might be our involvement in the trans-Atlantic slave trade or our colonialism). We recognise where we have ‘gone wrong’ and admit to it. It could even be said we’ve gone too far in this (see, for instance, Douglas Murray on the subject), such that the burden of our shame bears down on us, eroding our confidence, and in its worst forms, feeding a collective self-loathing.
It comes as a surprise, therefore, to find the glaring absence of such introspection in Islamic cultures. The assertion of ‘rightness’ can be so total, in fact, it can even extend to a prohibition, in some Muslim-majority countries, of any criticism of the nation and its actions, past or present. A notable example of this is Turkey (Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code makes it illegal to ‘insult’ the Turkish nation). Criticism or rejection of Islam itself is, of course, forbidden across the Islamic world: “Whoever discards his Islamic religion, then kill him” (Sahih Bukhari 4 :52).
Why is this difference an issue? Because a guilt-ridden mindset can make us overly accommodating and too ready to give ground. We see ourselves as oppressors and conquerors, mistakenly viewing other races simply as victims. Let’s consider briefly the issue of slavery as an example. Whilst we continue to squirm (quite rightly) over our role in the slave trade, we overlook – and even remain ignorant of – the much more substantial and enduring role played by Islamic slavers down the centuries. This included taking not only vast numbers of Africans, but white Europeans, with “…raids on coastal towns from Italy to the Netherlands, as far north as Iceland and in the eastern shores of the Mediterranean…” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barbary_slave_trade). So far as I am aware, no demands have yet been made of the Muslim world to apologise for the horrors of centuries of slavery. Muslim clerics, in fact, vigorously rejected calls for the abolition of slavery, insisting on its essential role in Muslim society (Sharia contains codes devoted to the keeping of slaves, and Mohammed is known to have kept at least 40 slaves). It is food for thought that it was the British who led the effort to end slavery in the Middle East: “In the early 20th century (post World War 1), slavery was gradually outlawed and suppressed in Muslim lands, largely due to pressure exerted by Western nations such as Britain and France. For example, Saudi Arabia and Yemen abolished slavery in 1962 under pressure from Britain” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islamic_views_on_slavery)
The emotive issue of the Crusades, and whether they represented Christian aggression or a response to four centuries of devastating Islamic attack on Christian territories, is another matter worthy of debate and reconsideration. In this matter too, it is clear that we are left with a feeling of our ‘wrongness’ and the ‘rightness’ of Islamic ‘victims’ – so much so that even displaying the St George’s flag, regarded by some as an emblem of the Crusades, can trigger outrage.
There is a grossly unequal playing field here. We are not suggesting that Britain should become bullish or arrogant, but that it should redress the balance a little by being firm and strong in its values and proud of the good it has achieved. We should certainly view with caution attempts to make us always ‘the baddy’. The weight of guilt and shame, and the sense of having to ‘make it up’ to the rest of the world, can do nothing to promote good judgement. It is time we shrugged off this heavy yoke and took a fresh look at Islamic ‘rights’ and western ‘wrongs’.
Demographic Change (by HJ)
There will be fewer Christians in the UK than Muslims by the middle of this century, if current demographic changes continue. If these changes do continue, Muslims will also form around 80% of the overall population by the end of the century.
The data below is based on that published by the Office for National Statistics. The graph shown here is an extrapolation of census data for the whole of the UK. It makes its calculations based on the rate of population change between the 2001 and 2011 censuses. The Christian population of the UK is in steep decline: at the beginning of this century it constituted around three-quarters of the population, but by its end it is likely to be well below 10%. Clearly, Christianity has lost its appeal.
Meanwhile, Islam is going from strength to strength. If current trends continue, the Muslim population will be in the majority in the UK around the year 2070, and at around 80% by the end of the century.
There is no doubt about the fact that the transition of the UK to an Islamic state is going to be painful. Violence against non-Muslims is mandated in the Qur’an, and these verses are as valid today as when written 14 centuries ago, in that they have not been abrogated.
If this situation is to be reversed, then it must be reversed sooner rather than later. Preferably before the year 2030, and it cannot be later than the year 2040.
Religious Fundamentalism (by MD)
Islam = Qur’an + Mohammed
The term ‘fundamentalism’ originated within the context of Christianity during the nineteenth century. In his magnum opus on the subject, the late Oriel Professor in the Interpretation of Scripture at Oxford, James Barr, described the phenomenon in detail, and attributed to it the following characteristics:
- A strong emphasis on the inerrancy of the Bible
- A strong hostility to modern Theology and modern critical study of the Bible
- An assurance that those who do not share the fundamentalist’s religious viewpoint are not really ‘true’ Christians at all. (1)
Greater refinement is brought to bear by Küng and Moltmann, whose book presents fundamentalism as, above all, ‘oppositionalist’, tending to arise where its practitioners perceive a threat.
“Something or someone, be it modernity or modernism, secularization or the West, the infidel or the Great Satan, attacks their culture, their group, their very selves. The foe from without or the compromiser or traitor from within is perceived as fighting them. They fight back.” (2)
This quotation leads us neatly into Islamic fundamentalism: it must be borne in mind that the Islamic revelation is not a ‘person’ (as in Christianity, an incarnation) but a ‘book’ (inlibration). Here, we encounter a double problem in the doctrines of
DAWA (Qur’an 16:125) All Muslims are required to engage in Islamic outreach, known as ‘dawa’ (call or invitation). In dawa, non-Muslims are invited to accept Islam as the true and final religion.
TAQIYYA (Qur’an 3:28) Disinformation and deception in the cause of Islam. Considered as legitimate strategies, given that Allah himself is the finest deceiver (Qur’an 3:54, 8:30 & 10:21). The Hadiths define only three instances where lying is acceptable, and one of those is in war. Given that the relationship between the House of Islam and the House of War is one of permanent warfare, there is no reason for a non-Muslim to ever believe what they are told by a Muslim.
The implications of these twin doctrines are that the writings of Islamic teachers and apologists are always suspect. A fairly crass example is to be found in the book edited by Kung and Moltmann. Right at the start of his contribution, Elsayed Elshahed writes:
“The term ‘challenge’ contained in the title has aggressive overtones and in this context suggests a declaration of war on other religions by Islam, Islam claiming to have the leading position among the religions. History, at least, has shown that this claim, which any religion makes, may be realised in Islam exclusively with peaceful means. (3)
Elshahed then continues to cite verses from the Qur’an which are specifically applicable to relations with Jews and Christians, allowing him to conclude, “Accordingly the Qur’an expresses a readiness for peace and for dialogue with non-Muslims.” It should not be too difficult to look at the history of Islamic conquest to demonstrate how ridiculous this claim is; scholarly work which debunks such claims is readily available (4).
Possibly around the dreadful events we know as 9/11 in the United States, we began to hear of Islamic fundamentalists; though – as is the case with Christianity – there is an alternative form of Islam, a ‘non-fundamentalist’ Islam, which allows for such issues as history, context, or interpretation. This latter position is mistaken; although it is frequently put forward by Muslim apologists in their dawa (4). To establish the veracity of that claim, we need to look at Islam’s claims for the Qur’an.
Muslims believe that the Qur’an is the perfect direct word of Allah. Whilst Mohammed transmitted it, Muslims believe that its author is Allah. In a manner similar to the divine logos of Christianity, Muslims also claim that the Qur’an has always been with Allah, from before creation itself (Qur’an 85: 21-22). As is the case with Christian fundamentalists, Muslims believe the Qur’an is devoid of error, and perfect for all time, and in all circumstances. In Chapter 6 of his book ‘Questioning Islam’, Peter Townsend systematically demonstrates that not a single Muslim belief about the Qur’an can withstand critical scrutiny: from the reliability of its transmission, and the perfection of its Arabic, to its lack of contradiction. Let us take just one infamous example of a contradiction (because it is one of the first verses used by Muslims practising Dawa):
Qur’an: 2:256 “Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from Error”.
Qur’an: 8:39 “Make war on them until idolatry shall cease and (until) the religion, all of it, is for Allah.”
Muslims are, therefore, to fight to gain a religious objective, namely: to compel people to accept Allah’s religion. This flatly contradicts the claim that there is no compulsion in religion. There is a problem for Muslims today, seeking to subjugate the West to Islam. Its historical means (the practising of violent Jihad) are no longer open to it. Here, Patrick Sookhdeo (5) sounds a warning
“The advance of Islam within a society is very difficult to reverse by peaceful means. Islamists may utilise democratic methods to gain political power and then ban elections as un-Islamic. They may use freedom of speech to promote their viewpoint and then, having gained political power, pass laws to prohibit and criticism of what they are doing” (p 4)
- James Barr (1977) FUNDAMENTALISM, SCM Press
- Hans Küng & Jürgen Moltmann (1992) FUNDAMENTALISM AS AN ECUMENICAL CHALLENGE, SCM Press
- Elsayed Elshahed (1992) WHAT IS THE CHALLENGE OF CONTEMPORARY ISLAMIC FUNDAMENTALISM? In Küng & Moltmann, op cit.
- Darío Fernández-Morera (2016) THE MYTH OF THE ANDALUSIAN PARADISE, ISI Books, USA
- Patrick Sookhdeo (2014) DAWA: The Islamic Strategy for Reshaping the Modern World, Isaac Publishing
The Religion of Peace? (by DP)
We are told, repeatedly, that Islam is the religion of peace. George Bush said it. Barack Obama and Bill Clinton said it. Tony Blair, and our current PM Theresa May said it. But where is the evidence? We have seen that the teachings themselves do not promote peace, but explicitly demand the opposite – Jihad ‘in the way of Allah’. Mohammed preached that the best Muslim, and the one most favoured by Allah both in this world and the next, was the mujahideen – the one who engaged in physical fighting (Qur’an 4:95) (though other forms of jihad, such as that of giving money or writing to promote the cause, are also acceptable). The world is divided by Islam into Dar Al-Islam (the land of Islam) and Dar Al-Harboi (the land of the sword, or, basically, the rest of the world, which is yet to be overcome). This stark division makes it clear that the unequivocal aim is to bring about the worldwide Caliphate, wherein all are subdued and ‘submit’ to Islam (the root word of Islam is ‘Slm’, from which is derived ‘Aslama’ – to submit. It does not, as is commonly believed, mean ‘peace’). The late (but not great) Ayatollah Khomeini, a Muslim scholar of exceptionally high ranking, poured out his scorn at those who declared Islam to be peaceful. It is worth quoting him at length here:
“Those who know nothing of Islam pretend that Islam counsels against war. Those who say this are witless… Islam says “Whatever good there is exists thanks to the sword and in the shadow of the sword! The sword is the key to paradise, which can be opened only for holy warriors.” There are hundreds of other Koranic psalms and hadiths urging Muslims to value war and fight. Does all this mean that Islam is a religion that prevents men from waging war? I spit on the foolish souls that make such a claim.” (Ayatollah Khomeini, in ‘Islam is not a Religion of Pacifists’)
(photo credit: thereligionofpeace.com)
Mohammed, in his early, Meccan days (when his band of followers constituted a tiny minority needing to deflect attack by other groups), claimed that there should be ‘no compulsion in religion’ – but later insisted that the new religion be adopted, on pain of death. The penalty for leaving the faith was also death. The punishment for mocking him? Death, again (with repercussions for freedom of speech which are now exerting a tightening grip over western society). Plus an eternity in Hellfire.
It has been estimated that the number of converts to Islam gained during the 13-year Meccan period was 150; contrast this with the 100,000 converts acquired in just nine years following the shift to aggressive jihad. Why, if the religion embodied truth, did it need to be underscored by such violence? During the nine-year Medinan period, Muslim military campaigns averaged out as one every six weeks. The three Jewish tribes of Medina were annihilated and the pagans and Christians subject to relentless attack. His companion Khalid invaded what is now Iraq and massacred the Jazima tribe by beheading them till, reputedly, a dry stream bed ran with blood. By the time of his death (through poisoning at the hands of Zaynab, a Jewish woman whose father, husband and uncle had just been killed by Muslims), Arabia had been subdued and Mohammed was beginning to make incursions into neighbouring Syria, attacking the Christians there.
The very day after Mohammed’s death, the Muslim world divided into two warring strands, split over who should be his successor and the Caliph (socio-political leader) of Arabia – by then an entirely Islamic state. Abu Bakr, whose successors are the Sunnis, stood on one side, and Ali, whose successors are Shia Muslims, stood on the other. (This split between Sunni and Shia still tears at the Islamic world to this day.) Abu Bakr, who was victorious in this dispute, and the subsequent Caliphs Umar, Uthman, and Ali, engaged in vigorous jihad, with military campaigns across the Middle East and North Africa – areas which were predominantly Christian.
The Not-So-Golden Age of Islam
As mentioned above, before he died, Mohammed had started to make incursions into neighbouring Syria, to fight the Christians there (as noted in the Sira). This set a precedent which was taken up by Abu Bakr, who captured Damascus, forcing the citizens to live as dhimmis (second-class citizens who paid the crippling jizya tax, lived under Sharia, and endured various other humiliations in return for their lives being spared). Abu Bakr also fought the ‘apostasy laws’ against those who had converted during Mohammed’s lifetime and thought they could quietly slip back to their original faith afterwards. Umar, who succeeded Abu Bakr as Caliph, conquered vast swathes of the Middle East, including Jerusalem. He also pushed across North Africa – a predominantly Christian area which had yielded Christian theologians such as St Cyprian (born circa 200 AD) and St Augustine of Hippo (early 5th century). Islam crushed the Church of Carthage and the Church of Alexandria, both of immense importance to early Christianity, destroying countless thousands of churches in what is now Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia. Within a mere 25 years of Mohammed’s death, most of what is now Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Arabia, Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Yemen had been conquered. Zoroastrian Persia was also subdued. Within a century, the Mediterranean countries had been hit, most infamously Christian Spain, which was invaded by Tariq in 711 AD (it took over 700 years to reclaim the country) and which became the centre of the Arab trade in European slaves. It was Charles Martel, in the Battle of Tours of 732 AD, who stemmed the Islamic incursion into Northern Europe, repelling the Muslim armies from France.
The 10th century saw the destruction of 30,000 churches in just Egypt and Syria alone; the 11th century saw the massacre of countless thousands of Jews throughout Africa and Spain.
One fact sums up the impact of these invasions on Christianity: two-thirds of the world’s Christian territory was overcome by Islam after Mohammed’s death. I would like to invite the reader to pause and consider this, for a few moments: the scale of this devastation and how differently the world might look if the Caliphate had never sprung into existence.
Meanwhile, to the East, Islam surged into the Indian subcontinent, with slaughter on a scale hard to comprehend. (The term ‘Hindukush’ means ‘massacre of the Hindus’.) Hindu temples were destroyed by the thousand, and Hindu statues and images smashed and laid on the ground, where Muslims could grind them underfoot. The scale of the devastation continued unabated for several centuries. Historian KS Lal calculated that a staggering 80 million Hindus were killed by Islamic forces between the 11th and 16th centuries. In just one day, in the period of history known as the ‘Golden Age of Islam’, Tamerlane slaughtered 90, 000 Hindus. By the 16th century, Indian women were practising ‘suttee’ (suicide) en masse, to avoid enslavement.
After his devastation of India, Tamerlane turned his attentions to the Nestorian and Jacobite Christian communities in Iraq (the influence of the Nestorian Christians was hitherto extensive, felt as far afield as the Emperor’s court in China). In the same century, Constantinople (Byzantium) finally falls (in 1453), after multiple attacks down the centuries by Muslim forces. It was, in fact, an appeal in the 11th century by the Byzantine Pope to the Pope of Rome for aid against this onslaught, as well as the relentless attacks on pilgrims to the Holy Land, that woke up a sleepy Christendom and sparked the first Crusade in 1095.
This is a history too massive for this short article, but hopefully something of the scale of 1400 years of jihad is conveyed by this selection of events. It is sobering to think that as recently as the 20th century, mass jihad was committed against Christians, when 1 – 1.5 million Armenians perished at the hands of Muslim Turks in an event which gave rise to the creation and first use of the term ‘genocide’.
One staggering statistic sums up the scale of the devastation: the Center for the Study of Political Islam has calculated that 270 million people have lost their lives to jihad since the time of Mohammed. The Muslim empires might have finally imploded, but the original teaching of jihad continues to drive countless acts of violence across the globe.
Human Rights (and Islamic Wrongs) (by HJ)
During World War II, the Allies adopted the ‘Four Freedoms’: freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from fear, and freedom from want. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), created in 1948, followed on from these. United Nations member states voted to adopt the Declaration, with some notable exceptions: Saudi Arabia, for instance, stated that the UDHR was contrary to Sharia. They were correct: it is contrary to Islamic laws and the teachings of the Qur'an.
The UDHR constituted an excellent first step; however, it brought with it some problems. Most notably, the clauses within it are presumed to be of equivalent significance. This is a problem in some cases, such as when religious freedom is deemed to be of equal significance as gender equality. The religion of Islam does not recognize gender equality. There is, therefore, a clear need for a hierarchy of rights.
The right to freedom of religion is most glaringly incompatible with other rights where that religion is Islam. Christianity has also fallen short – for example, by blatantly discriminating against homosexuals. The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), which entered into force in 1953, recognizes the problem in Article 9:
Freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance. Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs shall be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.
The ECHR also includes numerous Articles relating to the functioning of the European Court of Human Rights which will be irrelevant for the UK when it leaves the European Union. Unfortunately, the Court has seriously damaged its credibility in various cases. It has recently upheld an Austrian Court order, which de facto made it illegal to criticize Islam. In this case, an Austrian citizen was prosecuted for suggesting that Mohammed might be described as a paedophile for having had a very young wife. Aisha marred Mohammed when she was six years old, and the marriage was consummated when she was nine. The Court’s ruling has thereby made it illegal to criticize the morality of the behaviour of Mohammed. The right to freedom of expression was deemed subordinate to ‘religious feelings’ in this case.
It is clear that Human Rights cannot be secured while Islam is a powerful force. The coexistence of the two is not possible. Here are a few examples of where the Qur'an stands in opposition to Human Rights.
UDHR Article 1 states that we should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood. Islam, when it can, subjugates non-believers as second-class citizens who exist in a state of Dhimmitude and pay the Jizya tax as a sign of their inferiority. Qur'an 9:29 says: Fight against such of those who have been given the Scripture as believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, and forbid not that which Allah hath forbidden by His messenger, and follow not the Religion of Truth, until they pay the Jizya (tribute) readily, being brought low.
UDHR Article 2 states that everyone is entitled to these rights irrespective of who they are. In Islam, women are regarded as the property of men (either father or husband). The husband controls the wife and how many children she has. Qur'an 2:223 says: Your women are a tilth (a patch of ground) for you (to cultivate) so go to your tilth as ye will.
UDHR Article 3 states: “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.” Not in Islam. Qur'an 9:5: Then, when the sacred months have passed, slay the idolaters wherever ye find them, and take them (captive), and besiege them, and prepare for them each ambush. But if they repent and establish worship and pay the poor-due, then leave their way free.
UDHR Article 4 opposes slavery. Mohammed kept numerous slaves and saw no moral objection to doing so. The Qur'an allows a Muslim man to keep female captives as sex slaves. ISIS does so. Grooming gangs ‘own’ girls by hooking them on drink and drugs. Qur'an 4:24: And all married women (are forbidden unto you) save those (captives) whom your right hands possesses of those whom Allah has given thee as spoils of war…
UDHR Article 5 forbids cruel and inhuman punishment. Islam sanctions the cutting off of hands and feet on opposite sides. Qur'an 5:33: The only reward of those who make war upon Allah and His messenger and strive after corruption in the land will be that they will be killed or crucified, or have their hands and feet on alternate sides cut off, or will be expelled out of the land. Such will be their degradation in the world, and in the Hereafter theirs will be an awful doom.
UDHR Article 6 states: “Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.” Under Sharia, the testimony of a woman is half that of a man, as mandated by Mohammed, with grave consequences in terms of miscarriages of justice. For instance, a rapist can accuse his victim of seducing him, and be let off, while she is executed (sometimes by stoning) for adultery.
UDHR Article 7 states that all are equal before the law. Sharia decrees a woman’s inheritance is half that of a man. Sharia Councils in the UK have de facto jurisdiction regarding family matters and inheritance, in contravention of Human Rights. Qur'an 4:11: Allah chargeth you concerning (the provision for) your children: to the male the equivalent of the portion of two females, and if there be women more than two, then theirs is two-thirds of the inheritance, and if there be one (only) then the half.
UDHR Article 16: marriage cannot be coercive. In Muslim communities, there can be huge pressure to marry. As a related issue, marriage between first cousins is explicitly allowed in Islam and was approved by Mohammed. Its effects include producing 13 times the incidence of recessive genetic disorders in the Muslim community as in the non-Muslim population. Qur'an 33:50: … and the daughters of thine uncle on the father's side and the daughters of thine aunts on the father's side, and the daughters of thine uncle on the mother's side and the daughters of thine aunts on the mother's side…(are permitted to you).
UDHR Article 18 states that there must be freedom of religion and freedom to change religion. In Islam. there is the death penalty for apostasy, as stated numerous times in Islamic scripture. Hadith Sahih Bukhari (52:260): ...The Prophet said, 'If somebody (a Muslim) discards his religion, kill him.'
UDHR Article 19 states that we must have freedom of opinion and freedom to express this. Islam abjures freedom: witness the fatwa against Salman Rushdie. The attacks on Danish cartoonists effectively created the death penalty for blasphemy. The UK has barred Armenian-American scholar Robert Spencer from entering the country, breaching this Article – and this breach of human rights has been uncontested by Church or State.
To conclude, Islam is incompatible with Human Rights and democratic societies. Allah’s laws are regarded as superior to ‘man-made’ laws. Islam is seen to be contrary to public safety: killing infidels and apostates is mandated in the Qur'an. It contravenes public order: Muslims carrying placards in the UK which incite murder are free from arrest. Islam is contrary to health: marriage between first cousins is allowed in the Qur'an. Islam is contrary to morals: it is immoral to implement cruel and inhuman punishments such as cutting off hands and feet. Islam will utterly destroy our rights and freedoms when it is in a position to do so – in the latter half of this century, if demographic trends continue.
The Church and ‘Apostates’ (by DP)
This section poses a question: What can the Church do to help and support Islam’s apostates?
Islam teaches that those who leave the faith deserve not only the “painful doom” (Qur’an 3:90) of everlasting Hell-fire, but to be hastened towards it by being put to death: “Whoever discards his Islamic religion, then kill him” (Sahih Bukhari, 4: 52). In this, it stands in stark contrast to all other religions. Whilst this punishment may not be carried out in the West, those who leave Islam stand the risk of repeated death threats, or at least ostracism by friends, family and community. Even those who wish to reform Islam but who remain ‘believers’ – such as Maajid Nawaz, Imam Tawhidi, and Seyran Ates (a female Imam who founded Germany’s first ‘liberal mosque’) – live under the shadow of death threats.
As such, ‘apostates’ in this country and elsewhere are in peril, and in need not only of protection but support. What can and should the Church do to help them?
According to the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (www.ex-muslim.org.uk), there are many Muslims who want to turn away from Islam but who are too afraid to do so. It is hard for us to truly understand how this must feel; after all, a member of a Christian denomination who wants to go their own way will not run be running the risk of a lifetime of intimidation and threats. Whether a person rejects Islam to become an atheist, or because they want to adopt Christianity or another religion, they both need and deserve help. In threatening and abusing those who turn from it, Islam is acting like a bully – and no good ever came from appeasing bullies.
As a closely linked issue, the Archbishop of Canterbury spoke in December 2018 of the plight of Christians living in the Middle East – a beleaguered minority on the brink of ‘imminent extinction’, many of whom are obliged to live as dhimmis. The persecution of Christian woman Asia Bibi in Pakistan – kept in solitary confinement on death row for eight years for the crime of having drunk water from a beaker used by Muslim co-workers, and whose recent acquittal has sparked riots across the country – is a striking example of such intolerance.
So what can the Church do to work against this appalling situation and what is its duty to those persecuted for their Christian faith? And how can it extend itself towards apostates in this country? Given how incendiary it is nowadays to breath a word against ‘the Religion of Peace’, what can be done?
We hope the Church will be inspired to find some answers…
Parting Thoughts… (by DP)
To some, concerns about a possible ‘Islamic takeover’ in Britain’s future will seem paranoid, even delusional. It does indeed seem far-fetched – a bizarre fantasy perhaps, concocted by those who wish to stir hatred, fear and division against a collective ‘other’. As stated at the beginning of this booklet, such hostility is not our aim. But neither do we want to allow Islamic encroachments into the fabric of our society, the bit-by-bit erosion of the rights, freedoms, and traditions that we hold dear and for which many have died. This is still, fundamentally, a Christian country and it is Christian values that underpin our rights and values. We need the guardians of Christianity to be firm and confident. Endlessly giving ground – such as by allowing Islamic prayer in cathedrals and even giving approval (as did Dr Rowan Williams) for the introduction of Sharia into Britain – is hardly serving the flock.
For myself, when I began to investigate Islam, I had expected to find something which touched the soul, something numinous, some evidence of grace – but so far this hope has gone unmet. The teachings themselves seem to be nothing more than lists of rules and regulations, rewards and punishments, for the forming of the Islamic society and the treatment of the unbeliever. So many of these seem to run contrary to moral law and to be utterly divorced from any notion of justice. Wrapping around these pronouncements with epithets claiming the merciful and compassionate nature of a deity who seems anything but, does little to mitigate their harsh reality. Even Paradise seems to be little more than an extension of the reward system for those who affirm that Mohammed is special, and who are driven primarily by sensual, not spiritual, needs. This would not be the business of non-Muslims if Islam didn’t focus so obsessively on the detested unbeliever (this is, in fact, the subject of a staggering 64% of Qur’anic verses). Perhaps there is a possibility of reform – but to re-form means to go back to the foundations of a set of beliefs, and with Islam, the foundations are exactly where the problem lies.
These essays do not offer a solution. Perhaps, as a reader, you are formulating thoughts on this. Whether the Church could take a more active role in helping Muslims who want to leave the faith? Whether it might be appropriate to start acknowledging the devastating impact that Islam had on Christianity down the centuries and the very real threat it is now posing to our civic life and basic freedoms? Perhaps it is time to start speaking out about the shocking treatment of dhimmi Christians living in Muslim countries – particularly those countries to which we give generous aid packages?
We invite you to get informed, to take a look at this issue for yourselves, to consider what is happening right now, ‘on the ground’, and the direction in which things are moving. Follow that trajectory to its logical endpoints and take into account what the demographics are telling us – then think about whether that is the future you want your children to inherit. This issue is simply too grave to ignore.
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