When Christians speak of violence in Islam

Battle of the FaithsThe recent bombing attacks in Boston have once again raised the cry across the internet, rehearsing the perceived violence of Islam.  In several recent discussions, Christians have repeated the mantra that the Qur’an is filled with commands to commit violence against non-Muslims.  Islam, they say, is an inherently bloodthirsty faith.  Commonly cited as empirical fact are screeds such as this one:  “The Quran contains at least 109 verses that call Muslims to war with nonbelievers for the sake of Islamic rule.”

It is important to note that these statements are made by people and on websites whose express purpose is to “expose” or “correct” the claim that Islam is a peaceful religion.  Frequently, such sites manifest considerable antipathy toward Islam and Muslims … for example the home page banner of the above-linked site describes Islam as “one really messed up religion.”  To put it kindly, the source of this purportedly-objective information is not remotely unbiased.

I propose an experiment for anyone interested:

  1. Find an atheist. Not just an unbeliever, but someone who really hates Jesus.
  2. Have that person start with the assumption that Christianity is a violent religion.
  3. Now have him go through the Bible looking for proof of his preconception about our violence.  Be sure he doesn’t overlook the places where “a man after God’s own heart” (1 Samuel 13.14) celebrates the orphaning and widowing of his enemies’ families (Psalm 109:8-10). Be sure he lingers over the various causes of stoning people to death, and the genocides of the Pentateuch and Judges.
  4. Check how many violent verses, from Genesis (or at least Exodus) to Revelation, your anti-theist finds.  Now convince him you worship a God of love and peace.

I hope you would object “but you have to understand the historical and literary context for those verses … progressive revelation, the nature of God revealed in Jesus Christ, old and new covenants, etc.  No one can fully understand those things who has not studied them in a perspective of submission to the God who inspired them.”  I agree.  This is a perfectly reasonable objection, whether you’re talking about the Bible or the Qur’an.  The fundamental truth is that it takes a person of faith to accurately interpret the texts of that faith.  If I want to know what the Bible means, I’ll ask a Christian, not a Muslim.  If I want to know what the Vedas mean, I’ll ask a Hindu.  If I want to know what the Qur’an means, I’ll ask a Muslim.

Furthermore, sola scriptura biblicist that I am, it is still true that to understand a faith or a “religion” (I really hate that word) requires more than merely dispassionate study of its texts (or even passionate study, for that matter).  Whatever one thinks of the thing called “Christianity,” one cannot really know it without interacting with a Christian–or many different Christians.  The community, the rituals, even some of the language, and yes–the sacred texts–are unintelligible without a knowledgeable insider to function as an interpreter.  If you don’t know any Christians, you don’t know Christianity.  If you don’t know any Muslims, you don’t know Islam (you may not, anyway, but I digress).

I am not suggesting there isn’t a whole lot of horrible violence committed by Muslims in the name of Islam.  There is.  One doesn’t have to be a Fox News devotee or a Limbaugh dittohead to see the headlines.  But when other Muslims I know and trust tell me that those violent, radical Muslims are abusing and even violating the Qur’an, I believe them.  Why do I believe them?  Because I have seen plenty of violent, radical Christians abusing and violating my own holy scriptures as a pretext to commit terrible acts … why should I expect it to be any different to other religions?  Satan corrupts everything.

We must oppose the bearing of false witness against our neighbors, and against those we style as our enemies.  But even that isn’t enough.  It grieves me deeply that when arguments such as the “109 violent verses” are used, they are usually in the context of opposing Muslims who are trying to make peace with us, or opposing Christians who are trying to make peace with Muslims.  This is not only tragic, it’s monumentally stupid.  If we have an ounce of self-preservation instinct at all, we should welcome anybody who extends an olive branch to anybody else.  To whatever extent any Muslim is a threat to me, it’s not the one who is preaching peace from the Qur’an who poses that threat.  We would also do well to remember that our Lord said “blessed are the peacemakers.”  He did not qualify that phrase with the adjective “Christian.”  Neither, I believe, should we.

43 thoughts on “When Christians speak of violence in Islam”

  1. Ryan

    Your thinking falls apart when we examine who the founder of their religion is. Mohammed was a pirate and a pedophile. He was a terrorist. In light of that truth, when we read the Koran and the promotion of violence against anyone who didn’t convert to Islam (or taxation, at the very least), no honest person can deny the fact that Islam is a brutal religion. Your friends who claim to be Muslim are not Muslims at all. They might pray and do the 5 pillars but their faith is no more genuine than someone who claims to be a Christian yet bears no fruit. In Islam, the fruit of the faith is violence. To deny that is to deny obvious truth and rewrite history.

    1. Dan Martin Post Author

      Ryan, you are missing the point. You, as an outsider to Islam, are “correcting” what Muslims say their faith teaches. Neither you nor I have any standing to deny that someone is a Muslim if they tell us they are. You are illustrating my argument precisely, in that as a person predisposed to oppose Islam, you presume to be a better interpreter of it than those in their own religion.

      Although I am going to leave your comment unedited, I would ask you and other commenters to refrain from using pejoratives like “pedophile” and “pirate” for Muhammad. The claim of pedophilia is made on the basis of Mohammad marrying a very young girl. While I certainly would not approve, most cultures 1500 years ago married girls off a lot younger than we do today. Standards have changed. But more to the point, your aspersions have no real bearing on whether Muslims today have a right to hold that their faith teaches peace.

      1. Tomori Pal

        And here is the difference between Islam and Christianity:
        Both religions have tried to conquer the entire world, in a peaceful way and by bloodshed as well.
        But the Christian conquest mainly stopped, thanks to the Enlightenment + French Revolution, and thanks to the improvements of European science. The Islamic conquest was temporarily stopped by the fall of the Ottoman Empire, but it has started again after the second world war, and Islam is getting stronger and stronger, very soon it will be the biggest religion on Earth, and they will take over West Europe as well.

        Both the Bible and the Quran has got violent passages against non-believers, still I think if we count how many percent of the Bible is against other religions, and how many percent of the Quran is against them, probably the Quran would have more.

        But I think the main difference is the example of Jesus Christ, and the example of Muhammad the Prophet.
        According to the moral standards of their own historical era, both of them were good guys, but
        according to our modern standards, Jesus is still a good guy, but Muhammad is someone like Adolf Hitler.
        The problem is that the Muslims today, they still get their moral values from a bad person who lived 1400 ago, and have to follow his teachings, if they want to be true Muslims.

        One day they will be the majority, and one day they will have many more Adolf Hitler like leaders again, and will start attacking the last remaining non-Muslims, as they do it at the very moment in Syria, after 1400 years.

        1. Dan Martin Post Author

          Perhaps … you do have some historical points here, though I might add that when Christianity was 1,400 years old, the Enlightenment, Renaissance, etc. had yet to happen. I hope we don’t have to wait another 200-300 years, but I believe Islam is on a track towards peace, and my evidence is the huge numbers of Muslims who don’t behave or believe as you describe. Don’t forget that radical Muslims kill vastly more other Muslims than they do Westerners/Christians.

          You are absolutely correct … if we compare the teachings and behavior of Jesus and Mohammad, I would vastly prefer that people follow the example of Jesus, completely apart from any issues of theology. I don’t think it’s fair to compare Mohammad to Hitler though … genocide was never part of his practice.

  2. Aaron

    As a Christian I would like to politely object to the line “Find an atheist. Not just an unbeliever, but someone who really hates Jesus.”

    I have a good friend who is an avowed atheist but he does not hate Jesus. He does not worship Jesus, but he doesn’t hate Him either.

    Otherwise, excellent article.

    1. Dan Martin Post Author

      Aaron, I apologize if I was not clear enough. My second phrase was to delineate that an ordinary atheist would not be good enough for this experiment, because s/he wouldn’t meet the second criterion of hating Jesus. In point of fact I, too, have known more than a few open-minded, friendly atheists who could do a dispassionate read of our scriptures, but would not bring the level of opposition necessary to match conservative Christians’ hatred of Islam.

      In other words, I’m trying to help Christians to see that those who really despise our faith can misinterpret it … and that they’re doing the same thing to Muslims.

      1. Ethan

        An atheist cannot hate Jesus because an atheist believes that a god does not exist. Unless an atheist hates a long gone carpenter/self proclaimed prophet that lived 2000 years ago. Atheists have no part in discussions about aspects of religions because it would be completely irrelevant to their belief of unbelief. You can’t make the analogy atheist : christian beliefs and christians : muslim beliefs because atheists have no reason to despise Christianity like Christians have to despise Islam. Atheists can discuss the moral aspects of religions and all but essentially for atheists it would be like debating Disney or Dreamworks, Marvel or D.C., arguing over things that do not exist.

        1. Dan Martin Post Author

          Your statement “an atheist cannot hate Jesus” is perfectly logical, Ethan, but not empirically factual. There are plenty of atheists such as you describe … some of them quite good friends of mine … for whom an (to them) imaginary being can’t be an object of hatred. And perhaps it’s more accurate for many even of the anti-theists, to characterize them as hating religion more so than hating the divinity upon which a particular religion is based. But not for all. There are some who characterize themselves as atheists who, if you listen carefully to what they say, are quite directly hostile to the very deity they claim doesn’t exist.

          In either case, this is a bit of a tangent to the point of the article, which is that a hostile outsider is not qualified to accurately parse the scriptures of any religion, as some elements of those scriptures can only be interpreted from the context of faith.

  3. Jason

    Great thoughts man, let me make some remarks.

    I’d say, if you don’t know CHRIST, you don’t know Christianity. Not just if you don’t know any Christians. It’s not something you can really fully realize until the Holy Spirit is indwelling you, enabling you see with “spiritual eyes” as Paul talks about in 1 Corinthians.

    I see what you are saying about Islam, but keep in mind that Islam is NOT based on the unchanging promises and character of God. Their scriptures are VERY inconsistent. There are verses talking about how murder is a sin, and verses encouraging murder in the name of Allah. And yes these are taken in context. Islam is inspired by Satan himself, so it is no surprise that the same book purports peace and violence. Also, it’s no surprise that there are such wide rifts in Islam today. Muslims kill more muslims each year (on ground of heresy) than they do “infidels”. The majority of muslims are peaceful. But this does not mean that Islam teaches peace only. Mohammed established the religion on the shoulders of brutal conquest and atrocity in the name of Allah. Muslims is considered to have been without sin, and therefore muslims ought to model their lives after him. This in itself has further served to create the rifts we see today between muslims. Still, most muslims today do not hold to the more orthodox, “radical”, Islamic teachings of Mohammed’s day. Many muslims are illiterate, don’t know much about Islam to begin with, don’t even own a Quran, don’t speak Arabic, and only ever learn about Islam through their local Imam’s own biased opinions about the religion. There is no “Islamic Holy Spirit” guiding them to the truth about Allah. Their idea of what Islam is is very subjective, because Islam is not resting on the unchangeable, absolute truths of God. It’s created by Satan and by man, so it’s not inerrant, it’s not consistent, and it is impossible for one side to be completely right.

    So when your friends tell you that violent muslims are abusing and violating the Quran, they are right, and they are wrong. It depends on which muslims you ask. Islam is not the same between here and there. However Christ IS the same yesterday, today, and forever. Even if the church is split on issues, it’s not the same as muslims being split on issues. That’s because we worship the one unchangeable God who Himself will decide who is right and who is wrong.

    But right on. We need to be peacemakers. Sure some muslims are violent, some aren’t. We need to do all we can to reach both. I’ve been blessed to have lived in close proximity to Muslims, to have befriended them, to have learned from them, to have studied Islam much, and to have been to mosques to hear the Imam preach. Both in the USA and in West Africa. I only mention so you realize that I’m not making remarks blindly. I have a lot of personally experience interacting with muslims.

    1. Dan Martin Post Author

      Jason, thanks for the props, but I’ve got to take issue with several of your points. First, you start with the presupposition (which I share) of the truth of Jesus Christ, which allows you to interpret (or, an outsider would say, to gloss over) the inconsistencies in our own Scriptures. I’m telling you that you ought to extend the grace to Muslims, who presuppose the truth of their faith as surely as you do, that when they interpret their scriptures differently than an outsider (you) does, they have the same leg to stand on that you do in Christianity. At this level, the question of whether either Christianity or Islam is “true” or “false” is actually beside the point. You, and thousands of other Christians, are not being evenhanded or fair in your interpretation of their teachings.

      I reject your claim “Islam is inspired by Satan himself.” A good Christian missionary friend pointed out something very interesting to me once: “when someone turns a whole country from worshiping idols, to worshiping the God of Abraham, you call that man a prophet.” I think he was right. I do not agree with everything Mohammad taught about Jesus (though there are Muslim scholars that state the Qur’an is less open-and-shut about Jesus than traditional Islam). Anyone who denies Jesus died and rose again is wrong, in my book. But that is far different from saying the entire religion is “inspired by Satan.” I ask you to be more circumspect.

      You say “Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” I never said otherwise. Christianity, on the other hand, is not. Never confuse the two.

  4. Jason

    I meant to say, “Mohammed is considered to have been without sin.” Not “Muslims is considered to have been without sin.” Shoot. Anyways, just FYI

    1. Dan Martin Post Author

      I think even your corrected statement may need qualification. I’m not sure orthodox Muslims would consider it accurate. Not being one, I won’t say with certainty, but leave the question open.

  5. Fred Flintstone

    Your argument for the defense of Islam is fallacious. It’s true that anyone with an agenda can find wrong things in any religion. It is not true that all religions are the equally guilty, history notwithstanding. When we look across the spectrum of violence and terrorism in the world today, the % of Muslims involved–whether you classify them as extremists or fundamentalists or something else–is extremely high compared to the % of Christians involved in similar violence. Further, the % of Muslims involved in such violence who cite the Quran is also extremely high. You can find no such parallel among Christians. Sure there bad examples of adherents to any religion. But that fact does not make all other facts equal. You are whitewashing the truth. Both republicans and democrats, FOX news & NPR devotees, can all see that Islam has produced a disproportionally high number of terrorists–more than any other religion by far.
    Your blanket defense of Islam is illogical and unfortunate. It is your kind of political correctness that will forever delay a real solution to this increasing problem of ignoring the source of most terrorism–a set of beliefs that come from the same unfortunate religion–Islam. It is the seedbed not just for a few isolated nutcases but for scores of deeply twisted human beings who have decided it is their mission to wipe out all infidels, especially from the West, and especially from the U.S. To not see and acknowledge these simple, self-evident facts indicates a bias towards this religion that is deeply unsettling.

    1. Dan Martin Post Author

      FF, it’s clear we inhabit alternate universes, so I won’t presume that I can change your mind. However, I would caution you with your blanket statements — as an outsider to Islam and Muslim countries — about the proportion or number of people involved in terrorism. What is “terrorism” and what is “legitimate military operations” looks a whole lot different based on where you sit. To an Afghan or a northern Pakistani, US drone strikes (from their perspective, committed by Christians) are terrorist.

      I did not say all religions are equal; nor did I issue a “blanket defense of Islam.” Heck, the Muslims I know don’t issue a blanket defense of Islam … they, too, call out the violent among their numbers.

      Here’s the real deal. There are parts of Islam that teach violence, and they are a danger to us. There are parts of Islam that teach peace, and they are trying to make peace with us. If you reject the peacemakers out of hand, what’s gonna be left? You do the math. It’s really not that complicated.

  6. Mike

    Thank you for this article and your patient responses. As someone who has lived as a Christian missionary in a Muslim country for nearly 20 years, and someone who has studied Islam academically; I couldn’t agree more with what you have said.

    The insidious practice of “properly” interpreting the scriptures of the Other is terribly detrimental to both mutual understanding and the Message of Jesus Christ. This insidious practice can be found among both Christians and Muslims – many Muslim websites can also be found that interpret Christian scriptures in ways that we would find offensive.

    To me it seems that we desire to “essentialize” the Other, to attribute any conflicts or differences to that of our essence or being, rather than historical, social and political. When we are forced to look at these issues from historical, social, and political lenses, then we must confront the sins of our own traditions.

  7. Stephen G. Parker

    Dan – Since you have received a number of negative responses to this excellent article, let me throw in my “two cents worth” by commending you once again on your fairness, and your openness to the voice of the One no matter who the ‘messenger’ may be. Thank you for being willing to defend Islam and Muslims in general, despite what may appear to be some “ bad eggs” among them.

    As you may remember me saying previously, I began an ‘investigation’ into Islam a little over 3 years ago after reading one of the many anti-Muslim e-mails that circulate on the Internet. I quickly found that the Qur’an does not at all teach the “kill all infidels” doctrine of which it is accused. There is no question that the Qur’an permits fighting; but is always a defensive warfare after someone else first attacks the Muslim community – or fighting in defensive of a people who are crying out for help against a people who are oppressing them. And as soon as the oppressor or aggressor is willing to cease fighting, the Muslims are required to cease fighting also.

    Fighting is NEVER in order to compel people to convert to Islam (or pay a tax for the ‘privilege’ of not having to convert). Certainly if the opponent does convert, fighting ceases. But fighting also ceases if the unconverted simply desire to quit fighting. Those among the enemy who simply do not want to fight on either side are also to be given shelter in a safe place.

    Whatever may be said about the defensive fighting permitted in the Qur’an, there is simply nothing to compare with the “Old Testament” commands to kill everyone – old and young, male and female – and everything that breathes (with the possible exception of young girls who have never “known” a man)! I know that Christians have various ways of explaining such texts (or perhaps “explaining away”?). But the Qur’an just does not have any such texts in need of “explanations”. Always in both the immediate and wider contexts it is made clear that fighting is only against those who have attacked you; and only the fighters are to be fought in return. Those who are not involved in the fighting are to be left alone – or even to be conducted to a safe shelter.

    Regarding the Boston Marathon bombing, I firmly adhere to the position that a person is to be considered innocent until proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt. However our President and most U. S. citizens do not seem to agree with this any longer. President Obama, for instance, calls on citizens not to jump to conclusions concerning the MOTIVATIONS of the two brothers; but he is quite happy to have people ‘jump to conclusions’ about their GUILT. As soon as the Government, ‘Intelligence’ Agencies, and/or police ‘finger’ someone, that person is automatically accepted as guilty with no possibility of establishing ‘reasonable doubt’! 🙄

    This is illustrated by one of the “friends” of the younger brother who is still alive. He commented on how friendly and normal the accused brother had been both before and after the bombing – not giving any prior indication of violent tendencies, nor afterward acting in any way out of the ordinary. But instead of seeing this as providing ‘reasonable doubt’ to cause him to question whether the right person[s] had been been accused, he just assumed the guilt of his “friend” – and marveled at his nerve to return to the college campus and try to pretend he hadn’t done anything.

    This seems to be to be because many people seem to be able to hold two contradictory concepts equally balanced in their minds, and fully believe them both. In this case, the two concepts are:

    (1) When a politician’s lips are moving, you know he/she is lying;
    (2) Our Government wouldn’t lie to us about this; we’re the good guys!

    At any rate, so far I have not seen anything except ‘reasonable doubt’ as to the guilt of the accused brothers. The only ‘evidence’ produced is speculation, innuendo, ‘spin’, and accusation. Photos are produced of two people wearing back packs. Originally the two are identified as two completely unrelated people; then the identification was changed to the two brothers. It is not mentioned that many people were wearing similar back packs – including at least a couple of military men supposedly taking part in a ‘bomb training exercise’. After the bombing, there is a picture of one of those military men (or at least it sure appears to be one of them) no longer wearing that back pack. I wonder what happened to it?

    I believe the brothers were indeed set up by Government operatives who needed a couple of ‘radical’ Muslims to blame in order to renew (or keep alive) hatred for all things Muslim. Why, the older brother was so ‘radical’ that he prayed 5 times per day, didn’t drink alcoholic beverages, and was disturbed by the immorality of American culture! Horrors! He’s obviously a ‘radical terrorist’! He even had the unmitigated gall to dislike American foreign policy, and be angry over the way our wars against Muslim nations are ‘justified’ by the Bible! Gee whiz, what an evil guy!

    As to the reported chase and gun battles – if they really happened the way they are being reported (and there’s some reason to question that, also) – it is really quite understandable that the brothers would, in fearful desperation, shoot back at the police who were chasing and firing at them. When innocent people realize that they are being framed for a ‘terrorist’ event – and know that once the Government has set them up as the ‘fall guys’ they’ll never have a snowball’s chance in hell of proving their innocence or establishing reasonable doubt because the media are going to be inundated with ‘evidence’ of their guilt (and the guilt will be automatically assumed by most people) – I have no difficulty understanding that in hopeless despair they might do their best to escape, including shooting back at their attackers.

    But maybe I’m all wrong, and the brothers are guilty. I at least appreciate your ability to recognize that their actions don’t derive from Islam and its Qur’an. Thanks, Dan.

    1. Dan Martin Post Author

      Hey Stephen, thanks for your comments about the content of the Qur’an. Let me caution you, however, about your accusations of a government set-up. While it’s true that an individual should be presumed until proven guilty, I don’t see much difference between the right wing’s unquestioning accusation of the Zarnaev brothers, and your equally-unquestioning accusation of “the government.” Reckless innuendo is equally reckless on either side.

      And while I still entertain the possibility that more evidence will call into question some or all of the Zarnaevs’ guilt re: the bombing, I don’t think it’s wise, prudent, or even truthful to dismiss a running firefight with law enforcement quite as easily as you do. Many people accused of awful things run from police; far fewer try to shoot their way out of an arrest. Responding to law enforcement with force is, to me, admission of some sort of guilt, even if not for the crime being charged. I felt the same way about right-wing white Americans who shot at FBI and ATF agents, so this is not Islamophobia speaking.

      If you were to introduce your justification of caution, your perspective on reasonable doubt, but without wild counterbalancing accusations that are also speculation, I think your words about Islam and the Qur’an might carry a bit more weight.


  8. Stephen G. Parker

    I see that despite having read through my comment 3 or 4 times before submitting it, there are still a couple of ‘typos’ in it. In the second paragraph, there is a sentence that SHOULD read: “There is no question that the Qur’an permits fighting; but it [“it” was left out] is always a defensive warfare after someone else first attacks the Muslim community – or fighting in defense [instead of “defensive”] of a people who are crying out for help against a people who are oppressing them.” But I assume you figured that out anyhow.

  9. AvgSteve

    Dan, I’m not sure if your attempting to be an apologist, but your article is wrong. Christianity is solely a relationship with Christ and the belief that He is our Savior, the lamb of God. The ultimate and final sacrifice to pay the debt of man’s sin! That is about our salvation. Nothing in Jewsih or Christian doctrine promotes rape, slaughtering innocents or murder. Jews and Christians may have and will participate in terrible events, but none of their behavior is commanded by Old/New testament Doctrine. However, islam’s doctrine is one of violence, rape, torture, murder and required conversion, slavitude or death. Your response about young brides as contextual to the times is dead wrong when it comes to islam. Today muslims all over the world practice this behavior. It is much more common than uncommon! Until recently I worked with about 6 muslims. They were here working. They all had multiple wives and as they got older, their wives got much much much younger. But of course all their wives were back in their native lands. From time to time they would have to leave the US. They would come back and have more wives back home!

    1. Dan Martin Post Author

      Steve, you’re completely missing the point. Your explanation of Christianity would not be evident to a non-Christian (particularly one hostile to Christianity), and yet you presume to be a better interpreter of true Islam, than a faithful Muslim. I am not making an apologetic for Islam, but I am saying that a Muslim has better standing than you or I, to characterize Islam’s teachings.

  10. Rod

    I’ve heard it said that the writings in the Qur’an that are written later have more authority than the earlier writings. In the same way that Christians say that the New Testament carry more weight than the Old because of Jesus’s fulfillment of the Law. I heard that Mohammed originally was more peaceful in his methods but his later writings ,which many Muslims feel carry more weight, became more violent in nature. Is this true and what is your take on this?

    My other question is based on your statement that “a Muslim has better standing than you or I, to characterize Islam’s teachings”. Many once faithful Muslims that convert to Christianity have a pretty good understanding of the Quran’s teaching and what Muslims actually believe. Would you carry what they say with more weight? Some have a very cautious approach towards other Muslim’s even more so than you or I would have.

    1. Dan Martin Post Author

      To your first point, Rod, I have only heard the early/late writings argument made by Christians, so I do not know if any Muslims hold it to be valid. I do know Muslims have explained to me that those later violent commands are instructing self-defense and were from the context of Muhammad being under attack in Medina. They also have pointed out that the instructions are to desist fighting if the aggressor abandons the attack.

      As to your point of Christian ex-Muslims, I would only say that just as Christianity is not a monolithic thing where we all hold the same doctrines, neither is Islam. I have known ex-Muslims who are as hostile to that faith as other ex-Christians are to Christianity. They may have insight, and it may be colored with bitterness.

      Please remember…I did not say Islam is a religion of universal peace…in fact I acknowledged the reality of violent Muslims. What I did say, and I stand by it, is that there are other Muslims who are men and women of peace, who learned that way of peace from the Qur’an. I am merely defending these against accusations by Christians, that they’re either lying or false Muslims.

      Look up the “No True Scotsman” logical fallacy. It applies here.

  11. Thatch


    I wholly agree that one cannot simply read al-Quran and know its meaning. We should turn to those Islamic disciples, scholars, and writers who reveal its truths. Might I recommend you pick up Sahih Al-Bukhari? Volume 4 contains the book on Jihad. Let me know when you find the Western definition of Jihad anywhere in its pages. Second, I would recommend you read Sayyid Qutb. I’m sure that you will find all your answers there.


  12. Pingback: Immune to Evidence | The Weekly Sift

  13. Stephen G. Parker

    Concerning Rod’s first question, I think I can give an answer as one who is sympathetic to Islam – although I have not ‘officially’ nor fully embraced a ‘capital M’ Muslim position.

    I do not believe there is any Muslim who would say that the later portions of the Qur’an “have more authority” than earlier portions. It is all “the word of God’, and one part of God’s word cannot have “more authority” than another part.

    However some Muslims hold that in a handful of cases a later teaching of the Qur’an may ‘abrogate’ an earlier teaching. There are various reasons given for why God would find it necessary to abrogate any of the Qur’anic teachings. However, generally speaking those Muslims who hold to this teaching believe that only something like 3 to 5 verses of the Qur’an have been ‘abrogated’ by later verses; and none of the abrogated verses are ‘peaceful’ verses which were ‘abrogated’ by later ‘violent’ verses.

    Many Muslims, however, believe that the ‘abrogation’ taught by the Qur’an refers to the idea that the Qur’an abrogates some of the teachings of former (Jewish and Christian) revelations. These Muslims do not believe that any verses of the Qur’an abrogate other verses of the Qur’an. Just as the ‘New Testament’ writers claimed that the new ‘Christian’ revelation ‘fulfilled’ and ‘replaced’ certain portions of the ‘Old Testament’; so Muslims will believe that the ‘new revelation’ of the Qur’an replaces or abrogates some portions of the former revelations. This is the position I maintain regarding ‘abrogation’.

    It is quite true that the first permission given to the Muslim people to fight in self defense was at the time of the immigration from Mecca to Medina (something like 12 years after the first revelation of the Qur’an). Prior to that the Muslim people in Mecca would rival anyone in Christian history for non-resistance against persecution. The stories of the Muslim martyrs in Mecca are really quite heart rending (as are, of course, the stories of Christian martyrs).

    The reason for the difference between Mecca and Medina is, I believe, generally attributed to the idea that ‘the power of the sword’ is given to CIVIL GOVERNMENT (something which many Christians believe). In the “Mecca period’, the Muslim people were a small minority living under another government, and were not permitted to resist that government or the citizens of that government no matter how oppressive it was (or they were).

    The situation changed when the citizens of Medina not only invited Muhammad (peace to him and his family) and the Muslims to find refuge in their city, but asked Muhammad to assume civil leadership as a mediator between the various tribal factions which were warring with each other and threatening to tear Medina apart. Under the leadership of Muhammad, the community of Medina was able to unite and learn to live together in peace.

    Medina was actually a very interesting community under Muhammad. It was really a ‘Constitutional Republic’ or ‘Constitutional Confederacy’. Jews, Christians, and Muslims each – by law – maintained their own religious beliefs and practices, and operated under their own laws. Only if there was a conflict within the larger community requiring a centralized legal settlement was Muhammad called upon to mediate between the antagonists. Otherwise, Jews settled their own disputes, and Christians settled theirs. It was a true “separation of church and state”!

    Even in questions such as the punishment for adulterers, each group was expected to settle the matter on its own according to the laws given to them by God. An interesting situation is given in Sura (chapter) 5 of the Qur’an where the Jews came to Muhammad to act as judge concerning a case of adultery. The Jews knew that their Torah prescribed death for the adulterers, but they didn’t want to carry out that punishment. They thought that Muhammad would prescribe flogging rather than death.

    But a revelation was given to Muhammad saying something like: “Why do they come to you for judgment when they have their own Law which I have given them? Yet they don’t wish to abide by the Law I gave them!”. It was then spelled out in unmistakable terms that God had given each community its own Law, and each community should abide by that Law. If a person wished to live under the Law given to Muhammad, then he/she should embrace Islam. If he/she was not willing to do that, then he/she should submit to the Law of the community of which he was a member (Christian or Jewish, for instance).

    By the way, Sura 5 – in which that instruction is given – is among the very last revelations of the Qur’an (in the last year of Muhammad’s life). That sure doesn’t sound like the oppressive “convert or die” theology which many attribute to Islam!

    As to Rod’s second question, I believe Dan has given a good answer. One should perhaps give the same weight to the opinions of the Christian ex-Muslim concerning Islam, as one would give to the opinions of the Muslim ex-Christian concerning Christianity. There may be value in the ideas of each of them; but one’s ideas can become quickly distorted once one leaves a religion for whatever reason.

    I am a former orthodox Christian (of the Calvinistic/Reformed persuasion in the later years of my Christianity, though somewhat Arminian and Dispensationalist in the earlier years). I could do quite a job of “exposing” the ‘evils’ of orthodox Christianity; but I doubt that the fact that I “know what I’m talking about” having “once been one” would be very convincing to you.

    The same would be true for the Christian ex-Muslim. His current views of Islam may “tickle your ears”; but I expect a Muslim would find them to be quite distorted.

  14. Rod

    Thanks Steve for your answer. It was very informative. We have some friends who are Muslim. However we can’t really discuss things like this very well in any depth because of the language barrier.

  15. Nate

    Dan, this article was thoroughly appreciated. As an evangelical, I’ve been thoroughly embarrassed by the blatant libel promoted by some evangelicals against Islam. While doing relief work in Pakistan I encountered largely moderate Muslims who were hospitable and kind. Again, spending a summer in West Africa, I discovered that while a few converted Wahabi Muslims refused to associate with us, the vast majority of Muslims adhered to a social order which valued peace and social cohesion instead of “rape, slaughtering innocents or murder”. Is that fundamentally against the grain of good Qur’anic exegesis? The vast majority of Muslims say, “no”.

  16. frank 123

    To everyone that had made comments,this is my own whole truth, Islam was established by Muhammad and he claims that Jesus said someone is coming after him( Jesus Christ) to teach all truth. If that is so,,the teachings of Muhammad shouldn’t be different from that of Jesus-Christ since Muhammad is the last prophet. Then he (Muhammad) didn’t considered what happened to prophet and kings before Christ,they all died a natural death but only Christ was crucified. Muhammad should given a better teaching and greater miracles than Jesus Christ ghee the only miracle which Muhammad did was the Quran nothing more while believers in Christ are still doing God’s given miracles till tomorrow I’m different part of the world and at different time. Muhammad also said that Christ believer will triumph at the end in submission to God. Muslim need to study the gospels, acts of apostles, letters of Paul and book of revelation to understand Christ and the old testaments,. to understand the God of Abraham,isaac and jacob. /israel then Muslims now have to read Quran and hidith to make their final judgement.

    1. Dan Martin Post Author

      Frank, I think you’re off-topic here. This article did not intend to address whether Islam is “true” or not in the sense you are arguing. Honestly, it’s a bit beside the point. The point is that what people claim is “true” about Islam (i.e. that it’s a violent religion bent on destroying the rest of us) is usually based upon invalid and partial arguments, if not complete ignorance of Islam and Muslims.

      I would reinforce one point that you made, or I think you made, in your comments, and that is that “Muhammad also said that Christ believer will triumph at the end in submission to God.” While I’m not sure what you meant, it is in fact true that many Muslims believe, and some have shown me in the Qur’an, that Mohammad did say Christians who really are in submission to God should remain faithful to what they’ve learned of him, that Muslims and Christians should encourage each other in good works, and that in the end God will show all of us where we missed it. That’s a pretty healthy attitude, IMHO; one we would do well to adopt not only in relations between ourselves and Christians, but between different sorts of Christians.

  17. Ronald Nelson

    In Response to Dan Martin (April 25, 2013) concerning Violence in Islam

    Thank you for your article of April 25. I have many friends who are Muslim and I have lived in Muslim villages in Africa many times (about 14), and have never felt threatened.
    However, concerning Islam as a peaceful religion, there are a number of things to take into consideration:
    1) The Bible is a chronological book developed over more than 2000 years. In that period of time, there were many wars and Israel was even called on to exterminate certain peoples. But the culmination – the final development of all that preliminary process was the coming of Jesus, his ministry and teachings and His suffering, death and resurrection. So the definitive word for Christians is not in the order to Moses and his descendants to fight against certain peoples, but in the teachings and example and life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus.
    2) In contrast, the Qur’an is not a chronological book. The chapters in it are arranged according to length and it was all “revealed” to Muhammad during his lifetime. Along with the Qur’an, the Hadith (sayings and life of Muhammad) are also authoritative. For instance, the five times a day for prayer are prescribed in the Hadith and not in the Qur’an. So all of the Qur’an, as well as the life and sayings of Muhammad are prescriptive for Muslims.
    3) Jesus tells His followers: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Mat 5:44), And Paul, who had so much influence on the development of the faith, writes: “If your enemies are hungry, feed them..” (Rom 12:20).
    4) In contrast, the Qur’an says: “Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you..” (2:190) and
    “Fighting is prescribed upon you,,, (2:216) and
    “Fight them on until there is no more tumult or oppression… (8:39) and
    “O Prophet, rouse the believers to fight. (8:65) and
    “When the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the pagans wherever you find them…(9:5) and
    “Fight them and Allah will punish them by your hands…” (9:14) and
    “Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day…” (9:29) and
    “O you who believe, fight the unbelievers who surround you… (9:123)
    And in the eighth Hadith in the collection of Nawawii: “..the Apostle of God said: ‘I have been commanded to wage war on the people until they testify that there is only one God and that Muhammad is the Apostle of God…”
    And in Hadith 56:102 in Bukhari’s collection: “I have received the order to fight people until they say: ‘There is no other god but Allah”.
    And in Hadith 56:94 of Bukhari’s collection: “Fight the Jews to the point where if a Jew hides behind a rock, it will say, ‘O servant of God, there is a Jew hiding behind me, kill him.’”

    It is true that there are verses in the Qur’an such as 5:85 which says: “Nearest to the believers in love you will find those who say, ‘We are Christians’”…, and
    “Those who believe in the Qur’an and those who follow the Jewish scriptures and the Sabians and the Christians – any who believe in God and the Last Day and work righteousness, on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.” (concerning the final judgment) (5:69)
    So there is room for other than fighting those who are not Muslim. Thankfully, in spite of all the orders to fight, a good number of Muslims prefer not to fight. But how realistic is it to insist that Islam is a “peaceful” religion ? Nevertheless, it is incumbent on those who believe in Christ to seek peaceful and meaningful relations with those who follow Muhammad.

    1. Dan Martin Post Author

      Thanks for your comments, Nelson. I believe you are making a serious attempt to approach Islam in a measured way. However, you are essentially applying a Christian hermaneutic to Islam, and for that matter a hermaneutic that I believe leads to serious error in Christianity as well (by this I mean a hermaneutic of quoting a few verses without regard to their textual or historical context). According to Muslims and Christian scholars of Islam with whom I’ve discussed the matter, a number of the suras to which you allude, in which the prophet Mohammad commanded his followers to fight, the historical context was people who had already attacked them. Conversely they have also pointed me to places in the Qur’an in which the command is to leave off fighting as soon as the aggressor is willing to stop. They have further pointed out to me that the term translted “unbelievers” in the texts you quote above, is actually better translated “pagans” and refers to those who do not believe in Allah, the God of Abraham … in other words, the term does not encompass Jews or Christians who faithfully submit to God (and if you suggest that Allah is a different god, then I suggest this post for context).

      I caution you to recognize that nowhere in my original post did I argue that Islam is “a religion of peace.” To the contrary, I am calling out those Christians who insist that Islam is necessarily violent, and that any faithful Muslim is necessarily an enemy to Christians. You yourself have acknowledged that this extreme position is false, have you not?

      My point here, and one by which I firmly stand, is that Christians have no business “correcting” Muslims’ testimony of what their own faith teaches. I would add, beyond that, that despite your (quite correct) summary of the peaceful teachings of Jesus and the Apostle Paul, the fact remains that many who claim to follow Jesus have, in actual fact, been extremely violent in the name of, and under the banner of, their faith. However incorrect they may be in justifying such violence under the banner of Christ, they have frequently done so. The teachings of Jesus notwithstanding, Christianity has NOT earned a reputation as a peaceful religion either. This, we Christians would do well to acknowledge in grief and humility.

  18. Stephen G. Parker

    Hello again, Dan. I just can’t stop admiring your articles and comments! I find your last comment – to Ronald Nelson – to have been very thoughtfully and nicely written.

    I hope it won’t be out-of-place for me to make some comments regarding Ronald’s statements, to ‘amplify’ on your own response. In my own estimation, for what it’s worth, there are at least a couple of ‘problems’ with Ronald’s statements – besides the points which you made.

    (I also can’t seem to find a way to make my comments short. 🙄 I apologize for the length of this comment; if you wish not to print it, I will understand).

    (1) In order to understand Islam, one needs to realize that contrary to Ronald’s thinking, the Qur’an is not considered by Muslims to be a revelation which stands alone – non-‘chronological’. It is in fact an important part of the ‘chronological’ sequence of prophetic revelations, including Noah, Abraham and Lot, Isaac and Ishmael, Moses and Aaron, David and Solomon, John the Baptist and Jesus Christ (peace be with them all). While Christian teaching insists that Jesus Christ is the culmination of prophecy, “Muhammadan” Muslims believe that Muhammad (peace to him and his family) is the culmination of prophecy, the “final prophet”. They believe that both Jesus Christ and Muhammad were prophesied by the “Old Testament” prophets. And they believe that Jesus himself spoke of the coming of Muhammad. So while Christianity teaches that Jesus Christ culminates the prophetic sequence, and therefore his Gospel supersedes the Mosaic revelation where there are differences; the Qur’an teaches that Muhammad is the culmination of the sequence of prophets, and therefore his revelation supersedes anything coming beforehand (where there are differences).

    This sequential connection is also manifest in the fact that the Qur’an does not consider that “Islam” is something new, beginning with the Muhammadan revelation. All of the former prophets were prophets of Islam, and were themselves muslims; and all of their followers are considered muslims. A “muslim” is simply someone who submits to God, and consequently finds God’s peace.

    [I am not asking you to agree with this; it is only given by way of explanation of the viewpoint of those who follow the revelation given to Muhammad – peace to him and his family.]

    (2) Dan, your point is excellent about the need to place the little snippets quoted from the Qur’an (as well as the Bible) in their proper contexts. Fighting in the Qur’an is always defensive in nature. However, it is also true that the Qur’an is full of the same kind of exhortations to be patient and merciful toward one’s ‘enemies’, and to care for the hungry and those who are sojourners, etc., that you find in the Bible. Let me provide an example or two.

    In describing those believers who will receive God’s spiritual (as opposed to fleeting temporal) blessings 42:37-43 (Abdel Haleem version of the Qur’an) says they are those “(37) who shun great sins and gross indecencies; who forgive when they are angry; (38) respond to their Lord; keep up the prayer; conduct their affairs by mutual consultation; give to others out of what We have provided for them; (39) and defend themselves when they are oppressed. (40) Let harm be requited by equal harm, though anyone who forgives and puts things right will have his reward from God Himself – He does not like those who do wrong. (41) There is no cause to act against anyone who defends himself after being wronged, (42) but there is cause to act against those who oppress people and transgress in the land against all justice – they will have an agonizing torment – (43) though if a person is patient and forgives, this is one of the greatest things.”

    41:34-36 says this: “(34) Good and evil cannot be equal. [Prophet], repel evil with what is better and your enemy will become as close as an old and valued friend, (35) but only those who are steadfast in patience, only those who are blessed with great righteousness will attain to such goodness. (36) If a prompting from Satan should stir you, seek refuge with God: He is the All Hearing and the All Knowing.” Where verse 34 has “repel evil with what is better”, 13:22 speaks of the people of God as those “who repel evil with good”.

    Why, then, should it be difficult to think of Islam (or rather, the “Muhammadan” version of Islam) as a “religion of peace”? It calls on its followers to do exactly what the Bible advocates in such places as Psalm 34:14 {“Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it”) and Romans 12:17 and 18 (“Rom 12:17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. Rom 12:18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all”). It’s true that whereas the teaching of Jesus Christ (peace to him) called on believers to completely refrain from fighting, the teaching of Muhammad (peace to him and his family) finally permitted believers to defend themselves against attack, particularly as a community – though that permission came only after around 12 years of non-resistance against persecution in Mecca. Prior to that, Muhammad and the Muslim believers followed the teaching of Jesus concerning non-resistance and non-violence. Even with that permission, though, the “Muhammadan” teaching was that it is better to forgive and make peace.

    The proclamation of mercy and peace is not at all incompatible with the simultaneous preaching of ‘wrath’ and ‘judgment’ against those who are not willing to embrace and practice mercy and peace. “(Psalm 57:19) … ‘Peace, peace, to the far and to the near,’ says the LORD, ‘and I will heal him’. (20) But the wicked are like the tossing sea; for it cannot be quiet, and its waters toss up mire and dirt. (21) ‘There is no peace’, says my God, ‘for the wicked.’ ” Also consider Isaiah 61:1 and 2 – the famous passage beginning with “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me”, with verse 2 reading: “to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn.”

    When, according to Luke in Luke 4, Jesus quoted this passage (applying it to his ministry), he abruptly ended the quotation with “to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor”. Whatever may have been the significance, if any, of that abrupt ending to the quotation, it certainly did not mean that Jesus’ ministry did not include proclaiming “the day of vengeance of our God”. He and his cousin John “the Baptist” frequently proclaimed God’s judgment against the Jewish people in keeping with the former prophets (particularly Daniel in 9:24-27) – which judgment was fulfilled by the Roman army in A.D. 70.

    It may not have been the Christians who were the instruments of God’s judgment on the “Great Whore”, Jerusalem; but the New Testament consistently portrays the judgment not only as the working of God, but as being orchestrated and directed by Jesus Christ – the “Prince of Peace”! And when Revelation 19 portrays the destruction of the (Roman) “beast” and “the kings of the earth”, it is brought by the one who is “Faithful and True” and is called “the Word of God” – and the armies of heaven (rather than pagan ungodly armies like Babylon and Rome). No, warfare is not by itself inconsistent with a “religion of peace”.

    (I admit that Revelation is a very allegorical and spiritual book; and therefore the vivid imagery of Revelation 19, as with the rest of the book, may have a very symbolical spiritual meaning. Since the rider on the white horse conquers by means of the sword which proceeds from his mouth, this could refer to “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God”. The “armies of heaven” may refer to the Church, which even though living on earth, is nevertheless “seated with Christ in heavenly places”; and their conquest might be viewed as being accomplished by that same “sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God”. I suppose there may be some way to spiritualize all the vivid violent imagery of birds of the air eating the flesh of men, and kings of the earth calling for the mountains to fall on them to hide them from the wrath of God and his son. But the overall tone speaks of wrath and judgment, not mercy and conversion; and that is the way it seems to be generally interpreted in mainstream Christian eschatology – the “battle of Armegeddon”.)


    1. Dan Martin Post Author

      Hey Stephen, thanks as always for your perspective. I appreciate a lot of the detail you’ve offered here … and no need for shyness about the length of your comment.

      I would caution that where you appear — to me at least — to be drawing an equivalence between Biblical and Qur’anic teachings on violence, you are forgetting a key Biblical point, which is that God reserves the act of vengeance for himself … cf Rom. 12:19 and Deut. 32:35. Whatever my be true about the allegory of Revelation, the people of God are never to be the instrument of His retribution, which I believe is precisely why Jesus stopped his quoting of Isaiah where he did (see this post on Jubilee if you haven’t before). Jesus came along and turned expectations of Messiah on their heads, and quite frankly, Christians have missed some of that meaning as surely as Jews did in Jesus’ own day.

  19. Stephen G. Parker

    Peace and blessing to you Dan.

    You are quite correct in thinking that I was drawing at least a certain amount of equivalence between the teachings of the Bible and the Qur’an on violence. For instance, in the “Sermon on the Mount” Jesus (peace be with him) is reported to have said that while his listeners had heard the teaching “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”, he said to them: “Do not resist one who is evil. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also…” The equivalent of that is in the passage from Sura (chapter) 42 of the Qur’an which I quoted. Verse 40 says: “Let harm be requited by an equal harm” [“an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth”]; but this is immediately followed by “though anyone who forgives and puts things right will have his reward from God Himself”. Verse 41 then says that a person who defends himself against attack is not to be punished for doing so; but verse 43 again says “though if a person is patient and forgives, this is one of the greatest things”.

    “An eye for an eye” was intended as a limitation on both personal retaliation and judicial punishment: “thus far shall you go, and no farther”. You don’t kill a person for giving you a black eye or knocking out one of your teeth. The same is true of the Qur’anic statement that one may only requite harm done to oneself by means of an equal harm. When Jesus then gave his own teaching, it appears to me at least that he is saying “but let me tell you a better way”; it wasn’t necessarily a repudiation of the idea that if a person desires to retaliate against an attacker (or court systems seek to render judicial punishment), he should limit his response to an equivalent harm. Like the Qur’an, his meaning was that while such retaliation might be permissible, it is far better to “turn the other cheek” (“be patient and forgive”).

    That is how it appears to me; and I have read some “Muslim” interpreters who gave the same interpretation of Jesus’ statement. You, of course, may disagree with that perspective. It is obvious that there are some major differences in approach to understanding of the Bible between “Muslims” and Christians. I merely seek to point out how a follower of the revelation given to Muhammad (peace to him and his family) might view certain matters.

    Nevertheless, although I did point out this equivalence, I did not overlook or forget the difference that exists between Jesus’ teaching and that of Muhammad. Jesus DID teach that he was not, and is not, an ‘earthly’ king (although he IS ruler over the kings of the earth); and therefore his followers should not take up the sword in order to enthrone him. Jesus was not establishing an ‘earthly kingdom’ whose citizens would legitimately defend themselves against attack from other kingdoms, nations, or communities.

    The “Muslim” believer should have no problem with this. He should see no contradiction between this and the permission given through Muhammad for the “Muslim” community to fight those unbelieving communities who attacked them. The teaching of Muhammad was not a contradiction, but rather a FULFILLMENT of Jesus’ teaching (from the perspective of the Qur’an, at any rate). The Qur’an teaches that the ‘kingdom’ of Muhammad and the “Muslim” community was predicted by the Hebrew prophets and by Jesus Christ. “Muslims” will tend to see Muhammad and the “Muslim” people as the fulfillment, for instance, of the prophecy in Daniel of a 5th kingdom to follow the 4 kingdoms represented by Nebuchadnezzar’s dream statue. It is “Islam” which is the “stone cut out without hands” which topples and breaks in pieces the 4 other kingdoms during the final days of the 4th kingdom (Rome). Muhammad (from the “Muslim” perspective) is the “comforter/counselor/helper” promised by Jesus in John 15 who would “convict the world of judgment … because the ruler of this world is judged” (the equivalent of Daniel’s prediction that the stone would break the statue representing world governments into pieces).

    Through more than half of his ministry, Muhammad (peace to him and his family) and his followers followed the teaching of Jesus (peace to him) concerning not fighting, because it was still valid. It was only when Muhammad was invited by the people of Medina to assume civil leadership in their community that the permission was finally given for the believers to fight those who attacked them. The time had finally come for the “stone” to begin breaking in pieces other human governments and establish a godly kingdom on earth; or as Luke 20:18 records, it would break to pieces those who fall on it, and crush those on whom it falls.

    Again, these explanations are just that: explanations of how a “Muslim” will view fighting in relation to the teaching of the Prophet Jesus Christ (peace to him). Obviously this represents a major difference in perspective from a Christian viewpoint, and I do not expect you to accept it (though I would, of course, be pleased if upon due consideration, you did accept this viewpoint – 😀 ).

    One final comment: I do find it a bit disingenuous for the apostle Paul (and you) to appeal to the “vengeance is mine” statement in Deuteronomy 32:35 as a prohibition against the people of God avenging themselves. It is a certainty that it did not have that significance in Deuteronomy or anywhere else in the “Old Testament”. Rather, it is clearly the case that this was to be taken as a promise that God would grant his people victory over their enemies; they (and at times other nations) were to be the “tools” in God’s hands whereby He would achieve victory over His enemies. Who can imagine, in the face of the fighting of “the people of God” under Moses, Joshua, the Judges, Saul, David, the Persian Jews of Esther’s time, and the Maccabees, that “vengeance is mine” meant that God’s people should not do any fighting themselves? Was David violating God’s “vengeance is mine” statement in Deuteronomy when he killed Goliath? No, he was proving the TRUTH of that statement.

    And that is precisely how “Muslims” since the time of Muhammad view themselves, so far as fighting is concerned: as instruments in God’s hands whereby He achieves His ‘vengeance’ against ungodly nations. They fight at God’s command. But contrary to the vicious and disgusting tales in the “Old Testament”, they fight only against those who first attack them; and they repudiate the idea of killing non-combatants. The Qur’an never gives any command to kill everything that breathes – men, women, children, and animals. (Muslims believe that the “Old Testament” might properly be considered to be “historical fiction”. It is rooted in true historical events; but the scribes and elders who compiled it frequently grossly distorted the true “Law of God” and history, and in fact inserted complete fabrications at times. And then they made it even worse by their “traditions”, which we know today as the “Talmud”).

    Jesus did indeed tell his disciples not to pursue personal vengeance, but not because of Deut. 32:35. Rather it was because there is a “better way” (which the Qur’an also inculcates). And he taught that his kingdom was not ‘earthly’ – his followers would be scattered throughout the earth without themselves forming a distinct earthly kingdom – and therefore his followers should not try to establish Christ’s kingdom by force of arms. But there was in fact coming a kingdom which would fulfill Daniel’s prophecies, which would break in pieces and crush those who violently opposed it. When that time came, believers were given permission to fight.

    1. Dan Martin Post Author

      Stephen, I appreciate your engagement, but on this one I think I need to remind you to extend the same grace to Christians, that I advocated we Christians extend to Muslims in my original post. That is to say that there are things about the teachings of Jesus that only a follower of Jesus can fully interpret. When you bring a Muslim hermaneutic to the Bible you’re doing the same thing that my Christian friends do when they “prove” Islam is a violent religion, and with equal lack of foundation.

      You are right that there’s plenty of sanction for at least controlled violence in the Old Testament. You are incorrect, however, in suggesting that Jesus’ repudiation of violence was only for a time. Jesus’ kingdom was, and remains, “not of this world.” Jesus’ commands to love our enemies, not to return evil for evil, to go the second mile, etc., are just that … commands, not merely suggestions of a “better way.”

      You suggested that the Apostle Paul and I (and I’m rarely in that sort of company … lol) were being disingenuous in quoting Deuteronomy re: vengeance. I see your point but do not concede it. Paul was doing what any good Rabbi would do (and there’s lots of evidence throughout Scripture on this) of taking a statement from the Scriptures and giving it a new twist in the light of newer revelation (i.e. Jesus). That’s a hermaneutic I wouldn’t use … I’m not a trained Rabbi … but Paul was. Where Paul and I come down together is that we agree that Jesus’ standard did not leave room for even “justifiable” violence. This, by the way, was the consistent testimony of followers of Jesus, who died by the thousands in persecution, for the first three centuries of the Church. It was only in the co-option of the Church by the Empire that this teaching got lost … and it was well-and-truly lost by the seventh century when Mohammad was rightly calling out the church as corrupt. To this day, far too few Christians acknowledge the plain teaching of Jesus about violence. These teachings have never been rendered invalid, and if Mohammad said they were (and I’m only quoting you here; I do not know that he did), he was in this regard incorrect.

      Finally, never forget that while Muslims may in fact view themselves “as instruments in God’s hands whereby He achieves His ‘vengeance’ against ungodly nations” (your words), that’s exactly what Scripture teaches that Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon, and Sennacherib’s Assyria were. Not exactly a model I’d like to find myself following.


  20. Josh

    Dan, I find your post encouraging but also naive. I love Muslims, I genuinely do but that does not mean, the average Muslim you meet is well informed or theoligically and historically consistent with Islam as a belief system.

    I have talked to numerous Muslims, trained in Islamic Universities, recognised as teachers and they have no problem justifying violent jihad. Have you ever seen more liberal Muslims try and debate with more conservative Muslims in this area? It is a slaughter (pun slightly intended), the conservative view justifying violent jihad is water tight. The reason, not simply because it happened (that could be circumstantial) but because ALL early Islamic leaders also followed a singular mode of operation in regards to violence. The fact that conversion is illegal in all Middle Eastern Muslim countries and even ‘moderate’ states such as Malaysia should be some level of consistent cry.

    You don’t need to ask critics of the Quran and Hadith what they think. When you read the vast majority of Islamic Scholars in all major schools of Islamic thought, violent jihad (offensive not simply defensive) is embraced.

    1. Dan Martin Post Author

      Josh, I appreciate your comment but I think you’re missing the point. I do not for a moment deny that many Muslims use their faith, and their texts, to support violence. In the same way, I might add, though this blog contains several posts outlining my position that violence is unacceptable to the followers of Jesus (see the subject heading “War and Peace” in the topical index on the right side of this page), I freely admit many Christians now and historically have advocated violent action and justified it through their theology.

      So my point remains, and I encourage you to reread my post, that *some* Muslims, rather like some Christians, hold that they have learned nonviolence through Islam. They don’t claim all Muslims believe that way, any more than I make the same claim about Christianity. But when they do make such a claim, I hold that it ill suits Christians to presume they know better.

  21. Josh

    Dan – I think you miss my point. If you want to truly understand what Christianity has taught as prevailing viewpoints / doctrine you can easily find out such.

    You look at the central tenants and teachings.

    It is such a western individualism to think that an individual gets to shape a global faith community in their own opinion.

    We have distinct and specific creeds and historical scholars and teachers that are nearly universally accepted. The same is the case with Islam, if you want to find out what “Islam” teaches then you don’t ask just someone random but go to accepted scholars of Islam throughout the centuries.

    There are so called “Christians” that deny everything from the virgin birth and the physical resurrection of Jesus to the Trinity, the demonic and every central doctrine held in Christianity.

    Those that deny the teachings are not Christian.

    The simple reality is that they are off shoots from historical Christianity, the same is the case with those that deny the historical teachings of Islam. They may be ‘Christian’ in some sense of identity but have actually left the historical key creeds of the faith.

    It is correct that individual Muslims may not believe something (I read a report which stated 1/5 of Muslims in France are Atheist – put that together) but that does not make what they believe actually ‘Islam’.

    When you can cite an absolute denial of violent Jihad from a major Islamic Scholar I would pay attention, you can’t because Muhammad himself participated in such. What is disputed is WHY one can wage Violent jihad and What can be done. Given Islam’s history, alot was done under Muhammad and the early Caliphs. When a Muslim says ISIS is operating outside Islam (and maybe there are some elements of truth) one has to ask WHY? (especially in light of the fact that such has been done before and supported by the Hadith in particular)

    Islam is unlike Christianity in that we had a crucial shift from a civil/religious/political community (Israel) to a Spiritual Kingdom (the Church). Islam has reverted to a Civil/Religious/Political Kingdom.

    1. Dan Martin Post Author

      I still think you’re on the wrong argument, Josh. Go back, please, and read what I wrote. I have not said, nor do I believe, that Islam as a whole, now or historically, teaches peace. (Although I didn’t say so here, I have had several Muslim scholars tell me that it *does* teach non-aggression, however; these hold that the terrorist and aggressive violence of ISIS and Al-Qaeda are, in fact, anti-Islamic). This is completely not my point.

      What I’m getting at is far simpler: when someone reaches an olive branch out to you, the stupidest possible response is to say “no, your religion commands you to be violent toward me, therefore I won’t make peace with you.” And yet, this is exactly what I see American Christians doing. Quite frankly, I don’t care a whit whether Islam historically taught violence or not … if a Muslim man or woman of peace extends me the hand of peace, I’m gonna take it, I’m going to respond in love. If their tribe increases and leads to an evolution in Islamic perspective, that’s good for them, and it’s good for you and me. And if we say “no, we’re Christians, so I know you really hate us because that’s what Muslims do,” do you think it likely that they’ll maintain their posture of peace, or be driven toward the radicals?

      Now the reality is that there is actually quite a diversity of opinion in Islam, just as there is in Christianity. For an example of Muslims reaching out to make peace with Christians, we need look no further than A Common Word Between Us and You, a peacemaking overture of not one, but over a hundred Muslim scholars and theologians. These people are trying to make peace, and far too many Christians are rejecting it based upon precisely the sort of anti-Islamic bias you are promoting. Note very carefully, these folks are not papering over differences between Islam and Christianity; neither am I. They are saying that there are grounds in both our faiths, by which we can live in peace. I happen to agree.

      Finally, your statement about Christianity shifting “from a civil/religious/political community (Israel) to a Spiritual Kingdom (the Church)” deserves a great deal of unpacking on its own. For now I would simply say that far too many Christians still are neck-deep in civil and political behavior they have baptized in a Christian veneer, just as putative Christians in power have done since Constantine. I don’t think your dichotomy holds up to rigorous historical examination.

  22. Brandon

    I happened across this article and thought it was fantastic. The thing to me is that people have amnesia, and when we suggest that we cannot compare the violence in Christianity and Islam.. Lol crazy talk. The history of Christianity is riddled with violence..and when you consider the fact that terrorism depends on which side of the bomb you fall it becomes harder to determine what religion contributes to the most “terrorism”, people can say that Christianity is not engaged in these things anymore but the the most powerful military in the world right now, represents according to many in our leadership…a Judeo-Christian Nation…a Judeo-Christian Nation that is still conducting drone operations in the Arab world and beyond while accepting the collateral damage as tolerable…the evils in the Arab world were for the most part contained in the Arab world until the West decided we knew better for them…oil money and geopolitics..that’s ALL. terrorism has nothing to do Islam because if it did we wouldnt only be fighting the region where only 20% of the world’s Muslims live…why don’t they have a huge problem with ” terrorism ” in Australia when they live in such close proximity to the largest Muslim country in the world? I understand the point of your article I just needed to get that off my chest….because if 2 billion Christians are prone to violence because of what they believe.. The world as we know it would have been destroyed long ago…and I would say the same for 1.7 billion Muslims… One needs not even look at Scripture.. All he has to do is be unbiased and use common sense when looking at the condition of the world..and then look at the conflicts around religion in the world….and study them and the deeper you go the more you’ll see that these things aren’t about religion at all…they’re about individuals and power….and they hide behind religion

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