James M. Arlandson
Islamic terrorism may eventually be defeated in its large manifestations, like the one we saw on 9/11, but built into earliest Islam is an ultimate goal-what is it, according to the Quran, the Hadith (Muhammad's words and deeds outside of the Quran), and Muhammad's life?
Osama bin Laden and Abu-Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian who beheads innocent workers in Iraq, are open about this goal, as we see in these fatwas, statements, and interviews before and after 9/11.
In bin Laden's August 1996 fatwa declaring war against the US, he claims that Islamic revival is occurring around world, and especially around the Muslim world:
Under the present circumstances [of Zionist-Crusader aggressions], and under the banner of the blessed awakening which is sweeping the world in general and the Islamic world in particular, I meet with you today.
In March 1997 Peter Arnett interviews bin Laden, who says the goal of jihad is to exalt God's word (the Quran) to the heights, in other words, until the message of his Holy Book goes around the world.
For [subordination to the Jews and occupation of Arabia] and other acts of aggression and injustice, we have declared jihad against the US, because in our religion it is our duty to make jihad so that God's word is the one exalted to the heights and so that we drive the Americans away from all Muslim countries.
His absurd goal of driving out Americans from all Islamic lands has been answered here.
In May 1998 Jonathan Miller, then a reporter with ABC News, now a consultant on terrorism for Los Angeles, interviews bin Laden, who believes that he is a servant of Allah and that his primary mission is to spread by fighting the religion of light.
I am one of the servants of Allah. We do our duty of fighting for the sake of the religion of Allah. It is also our duty to send a call to all the people of the world to enjoy this great light and to embrace Islam and experience the happiness in Islam. Our primary mission is nothing but the furthering of this religion. ...
In November 2001, after 9/11, bin Laden allows an interview with Hamid Mir, the editor of an Arabic-language journal. The terrorist pulls back a little from his wish to slaughter innocent people, though he has said in numerous other statements and interviews that he is justified in doing so. His mission is to spread the Quran:
Hamid Mir: Can it be said that you are against the American government, not the American people?
Osama: Yes! We are carrying on the mission of our Prophet, Muhammad (peace be upon him). The mission is to spread the word of God, not to indulge [in] massacring people.
In December 2001 bin Laden records a video in which he and a sheikh extol the 9/11 attacks. He wants everyone to utter the first of the five pillars of Islam, a confession of faith that is the first step in accepting the "true religion," the one for which that bin Laden is fighting.
I was ordered to fight the people until they say there is no god but Allah, and his prophet Muhammad.
In the same video bin Laden reports that after the attacks many converted to Islam, and many others were at least curious about true Islam, possibly converting to it.
Some of them said that in Holland, at one of the centers, the number of people who accepted Islam during the days that followed the operations were more than the people who accepted Islam in the last eleven years. I heard someone on Islamic radio who owns a school in America say: "We don't have time to keep up with the demands of those who are asking about Islamic books to learn about Islam." This event made people think (about true Islam) which benefited Islam greatly.
On September 11, 2004, the three-year anniversary of 9/11, al-Zarqawi assumes that spreading Islam around the world is difficult, but that the holy warriors should not give up:
As for you, fighters who came from afar, by Allah, missions of da'wa [the propagation of Islam] have never been a road lined with roses and sweet basil; the price of da'wa missions is heavy, and the price of bringing principles to the land of reality is a lot of torn limbs and blood. The light of dawn shall not be lit in this darkness save by Jihad fighters and shahids.
Thus, in the words of these two visible terrorists the ultimate goal of Islam is to spread the message and ways of Allah around the world because Islam is the gift of God, the greatest seal and capstone of inferior Judaism and Christianity. How is this goal best manifested and carried out? In following the Quran and sharia (Islamic law), which expresses God's will and ways in a pristine form.
Ultimately, violent and non-violent radicals want religious world domination.
Where do bin Laden and al-Zarqawi get this goal of spreading Islam around the world? Out of thin air? Why do not Evangelical Christians use violence and other extreme means to spread their message? After all, Christ said to his disciples to go into all the world and preach the gospel (Matt 28:18-20). What is the difference between the two religions in their outlook and methods of promulgation?
As for Islam, the Quran states unequivocally the superiority and triumph of Islam over all religions in three different verses: 61:9, 48:28, and 9:33. These verses are found in the historical context of warfare and violence, so how can they fail to inspire violent fanatics?
Placed in chronological, not textual order, the three verses are analyzed according to a specific exegetical method. First, it is better to use Muslim translations, not western ones, in order to forestall the criticism of western bias.
Second, it is also crucial that we analyze the historical context and the literary context of each verse because other verses surrounding these three illuminate their meaning more clearly than the three verses standing in isolation. Taking the verses in context also prevents the standard, reflexive "out of context" defense from Muslim apologists.
Third, we interpret the import of the verses, keeping track of key words and clauses. Often we let Muslims, representing a range of views, though typically conservative, interpret their sacred text.
Fourth, at the end of the article we contrast the three Quranic verses with the Great Commission of Jesus at the end of the Gospel of Matthew (Matt. 28:18-20), where Jesus tells his followers to go into all of the world, preaching the gospel and teaching people the true God's truths. He does not tell them to pick up a sword to spread his message, unlike the life and example of Muhammad, who did use the sword to stab home his message.
Finally, in the conclusion, we examine some simple logic that eats away at the heart of these terrorists. Christianity is the biggest roadblock to the unlimited expansion of Islam.
The first step in our exegetical method is to use a reputable translation. The following translation is approved and funded by the Saudi Royal family; the parenthetical explanations are original:
61:9 He it is Who has sent His Messenger (Muhammad) with guidance and the religion of truth (Islamic monotheism) to make it victorious over all (other) religions even though the MushrikŻn (polytheists, pagans, idolaters, and disbelievers in the Oneness of Allah and His Messenger Muhammad) hate (it). (Hilali and Khan, The Noble Qur'an, Riyadh: Darussalam, 1996)
The word "religion" is really singular, and this translation by Majid Fakhry catches the meaning of the singular:
61:9 It is He Who has sent His Messenger forth with the guidance and the religion of truth, to make it triumph over every religion, even though the idolaters may be averse. (An Interpretation of the Quran, New York: NYUP, 2004)
It is unclear when exactly this verse was given in Muhammad's life, but according to Sayyid Abdul A'la Maududi, an Indo-Pakistani conservative who worked hard at establishing an anti-democratic Islamic government in Pakistan, in his commentary (The Meaning of the Qur'an, vol. 5, pp. 487-89), Sura 61:9 came down probably after the Battle of Uhud, which pitted the Muslims in Medina against the Meccans in March 625. The Muslims lost around seventy holy warriors; however, despite the defeat, Muhammad realized soon afterwards that he did not lose much prestige or even materiel, so he sent an expeditionary force to pursue the Meccans. This was important because Muhammad needed to show the surrounding tribes that he was still strong.
The historical context of 61:9, then, is battle and warfare. Since the Muslims did not lose anything substantial, the verse sounds a note of triumph, not defeat. Muhammad foresees Islam overtaking all religions, especially polytheism, the most prevalent competitor in the Arabian Peninsula in 625.
Furthermore, the verses just before 61:9-the literary context-show Muhammad putting words in Jesus' mouth. He allegedly prophesies the coming of a certain Ahmad, who is Muhammad (v. 6). However, this occurs only in the imagination of Muhammad, because Jesus never promised another prophet after him. (For more information on this false attribution to Jesus on foretelling Muhammad's arrival, go here and scroll down to Section B). In fact, he tells his followers to watch out for false prophets. Disbelievers then accuse Muhammad of sorcery, impute falsehood to Allah, and try to extinguish Allah's Lights, but Allah will get the best of them (vv. 7-8). Next, in the verses coming after our target verse, in an economic bargain Muhammad guarantees his martyrs in a holy war forgiveness of their sins and a place in Islamic heaven (vv. 10-12), see this article. Finally, Muhammad likens himself to Jesus who called his disciples to be his helpers. In the same way, Muhammad calls his followers to be his helpers. This call may come from the sting he feels from his minor defeat because he needs help, but perhaps not, because Muhammad is constantly ordering his Muslims to fall in line.
The literary context of Sura 61:9, then, shows Muhammad identifying with the two earlier founders of Judaism and Christianity. Jesus and Moses are depicted as confirming Muhammad's new religion, and he perfects theirs. Eventually, Islam will rise above them, all over the world.
The third step in our exegetical method is to interpret the verse, in this case, in three substeps.
First, we discuss the Arabic word for "triumph" or "victorious" or "prevail." The Arabic root, DH-h-r, means, among many things, "to become distinct, obvious, conspicuous, or manifest; to overcome; to ascend or to mount; to have the upper hand." This is the same word used in the next two sections: Suras 48:28 and 9:33, so our conclusions here apply to the next two sections.
Second, we briefly examine a rogue translation. Yusuf Ali's translation does not follow the normal sense when it says: "that he [Allah] may proclaim it over all religion." This wording makes it seem that Islam is spread by proclamation only, but the historical and literary contexts do not support this rendering. Neither do other translations. Besides the two cited above and Yusuf Ali's, other Muslim translations have the key clause, as follows:
"To show that it is above all [other] religions" (Haleem); "[He] will make it dominate" (Khalifa); "to raise it above all faiths" (Ahmed Ali); "He may make it prevail over all religions" (Maududi); "To make it victorious" (team of translators of Ibn Kathir); "to make it dominate over all other religions" (Mufti Muhammad Madani); "to prevail over all other religions" (Zafrulla Khan); "that He make it prevail over all [false] religion" (Asad, who adds "false," which is not in the original); "that He may make it conqueror" (Pickthall); "that He may make it overcome the religion, all of them" (Shakir)
So Yusuf Ali's translation that implies proclamation without physical jihad or fighting for Allah's cause receives no support. In fact, he translates Suras 9:33 and 48:28, the next two verses, as "to prevail it." Though awkwardly phrased, it is more accurate in the historical and literary contexts.
Third and finally, we let the two conservative scholars, Hilali and Khan, interpret 61:9 in a traditional way, citing Bukhari (810-870 AD), a scholar who collected the sayings and deeds of Muhammad in the Hadith. His collection is considered completely reliable and comes second in sacredness behind the Quran. Hilali and Khan connect this hadith to 61:9:
Allah's Messenger said: "By Him (Allah) in Whose Hand my soul is, surely the son of Mary [Isa (Jesus)] will shortly descend amongst you people (Muslims), and will judge mankind justly by the Law of the Quran (as a just ruler) and will break the Cross and kill pigs and abolish the Jizyah [a tax] ...." (Bukhari 3:2222)
Thus, Muslims believe that Christ will return as a Muslim of sorts, break the cross in a symbolic display to show Christians how wrong they are, and kill pigs, which are unclean animals to Muslims, but which Christians may eat. Indeed, Muslims believe that Christ did not actually die on the cross, but another man took his place. The odd belief of the non-death of Jesus on the cross has been refuted here.
Next, Hilali and Khan offer this warning to Christians, based on Bukhari's hadith:
[I]t is a severe warning to the Christians who claim to be the followers of Isa (Jesus) and he will break the Cross and kill the pigs, and he will abolish the Jizya (tax); and all mankind will be required to embrace Islam with no alternative.
Thus, Islam triumphs with no alternative, according to them. This excerpt from Hilali and Khan demonstrates only how Islam is a hodge-podge of religious ideas that Muhammad collected along the trade routes. He picked up such ideas like the Second Coming of Jesus and squeezed it into his Quran in a way that makes himself and his religion come out on top.
To conclude this section, we can draw these inferences from the verse, its historical and literary contexts, and its interpretation. (1) The triumph of Islam in Sura 61:9 comes in the context of warfare. Allah loves soldiers who line up in ranks, and Islam will triumph over all religions, but especially over the heresy of Christianity (as Muslims believe). (2) According to the literary context the Quran fabricates an untruth about Jesus. It says that he prophesies and approves of Muhammad. So the later prophet supercedes Jesus of Nazareth, whom Muslims regard as merely a prophet. (3) Jesus is coming again, as Christians believe, but he will be a leader of the Muslims and will break the cross. (4) How can Islamic terrorists not be inspired to fight Christians? Muhammad promises the triumph of Islam in the context of warfare and violence.
The translation that receives Saudi support has the following:
48:28 He it is Who has sent His Messenger (Muhammad) with guidance and the religion of truth (Islam), that He may make it (Islam) superior to all religions. And All-Sufficient is Allah as a Witness. (Hilali and Khan, parenthetical notes are theirs)
Fakhry, instead of "superior," uses "exalt it above":
48:28 It is He Who sent His Messenger with the guidance and the religion of truth, that He may exalt it above every other religion. Allah suffices as Witness.
The second step is to discover the historical and literary contexts of the verse. The historical context of Sura 48 takes place during the Treaty of Hudaybiyah in 628. Muhammad has a dream (48:27), to take a pilgrimage to Mecca, but the Meccans block his way. After a standoff, both sides agreed to a treaty by which Muhammad negotiated, among other terms, the right to a pilgrimage to Mecca a year later in 629, which took place. This truce wins many new converts to Islam through peaceful means, not warfare, though a strong army always lurks in the background. Thus, Sura 48:28 indicates that Muhammad is so confident that he predicts that his religion would spread out beyond Arabia and be exalted above other religions.
However, warfare is near at hand in Sura 48, as usual in Muhammad's career and in Quranic verses, and this may contribute to his confidence. In 628, after the Treaty, Muhammad advances northwards and attacks the city of Khaybar, where a rich tribe of Jews is settled. He is anxious to defeat them because they were inciting enemies against him. But the Jews were inciting enemies against him because he had exiled the Jewish tribe of an-Nadir in 625. This is one more example of how the cycle of violence and revenge could go on and on in Arab culture; Muhammad the Allah-inspired prophet did not rise above this violent cycle, but skillfully used it to his advantage.
Be that as it may, Muhammad conquered the city and allowed the Jews to cultivate their land, but they had to turn over half the produce to the 1600 Muslims who fought and took part in the attempted pilgrimage in 628 that resulted in the Treaty. Indeed, the last line of Sura 48:27 reads: "and He also granted you a speedy triumph" (Haleem), and Fakhry in a footnote in his translation applies this "speedy triumph" to Khaybar.
The literary context is revealing, as well. Allah promises Muhammad and his fledgling religion more victories in Sura 48. For example, v. 22 says that if anyone fights with Muhammad, the enemy will turn his back and run, finding no protector or helper. Most importantly, vv. 24-26 predicts that the sacred Mosque (the Kabah shrine housing the sacred black stone in Mecca) has been granted to Muhammad even before he actually takes possession of it. Later, this will give Muhammad's followers permission to claim ownership over Jerusalem before they take possession of it, which will generate many problems, even today.
To interpret Sura 48:28, the third step in our exegetical method, we let a variety of Muslims explain the intent of the verse.
First, the key words "superior," "above," and "over," depending on the translation, echoes bin Laden's belief that he must fight until God's word is exalted to the heights (see his interview in March 1997, above). More specifically, he is referring to a hadith passage that says jihadists should fight to make Islam superior, and this hadith is based on these three verses analyzed in this article (Bukhari, vol. 4, no. 2810, in the Book of Jihad).
Second, the historical context and the overriding content of 48:28 spark a note of triumph in Yusuf Ali's brief comment on the verse. Says Yusuf Ali:
The divine disposition of events in the coming of Islam and its promulgation by the holy Prophet are themselves evidence of the truth of Islam and its all-reaching character; for there is nothing that it has not influenced.
This scholar, then, believes that the spread of Islam proves its truth-always a dubious inference.
Third, as usual, Maududi captures the hard truth of verses in the Quran. Islam will not be stuck in a box, but it will dominate all religions.
... The purpose of the Holy Prophet's appointment as a Prophet was not merely to preach this Religion, but to make it prevail over all others. In other words, he did not bring this Religion so that it might survive in a limited compartment of life which is allowed it by the dominant religion, while the rest of the spheres of life, by and large, should remain under the relentless control of some false religion. But he had brought it so that it should be the dominant Religion of life and any other religion should survive, if at all it survives, only within the limits in which it allows it to survive. (vol. 5, p. 66, note 51)
Behind the verbiage, this long excerpt says that accommodating Islam is impossible in the long run. Muslims believe that it best expresses the will of Allah, so it must prevail. If another religion survives (read: Christianity), then it does so "only within the limits in which [Islam] allows it to survive." Since Christianity is declining in Europe, the threat of an Islamic takeover is real, in the next five or more decades.
Fourth, when terrorists see Islam in recession compared with the West and Christianity, they take action to stop the American "Crusaders." This belief is drawn from early Islam and has triggered the terrorist attacks for the last twenty years, culminating in 9/11.
For example, in June 2002 al-Qaida spokesperson Suleiman Abu Gheith posted a three-part article "In the Shadow of the Lance" at the website Center for Islamic Research and Studies. He assumes that every man, especially a Muslim, should know that Islam is superior, and a Muslim should never accept humiliation. The Arabic-speaking world, "his nation," was created by Allah to stand at the center of leadership, hegemony, and rule over the world:
How can [the Muslim] possibly [accept humiliation and inferiority] when he knows that his nation was created to stand at the center of leadership, at the center of hegemony and rule, at the center of ability and sacrifice? How can [he] possibly [accept humiliation and inferiority] when he knows that the [divine] rule is that the entire earth must be subject to the religion of Allah - not to the East, not to the West - to no ideology and to no path except for the path of Allah? ...
So Abu Gheith believes in the inherent truth of Islam, so how can he accept its humiliation? Rather, the entire earth must be subjected to the religion of Allah, to the path of Allah, because it is superior over all cultures and religions in the East and the West.
To conclude this section, these data can be drawn from Sura 48:28 and its historical and literary contexts and interpretation: (1) The verse itself says that Islam would triumph over all other religions, notably polytheism, Judaism, and Christianity. Bin Laden and his spokesperson understands the import of this verse, and desperately wants this to occur, so he takes matters into his own hands and confronts the West, especially the US, which, in his mental world, is a new Crusader. (2) Even after the Treaty of Hudaybiyah Muhammad cannot give up violence, so he attacks a Jewish settlement in Khaybar. (3) Therefore, warfare is close at hand in Muhammad's prediction that Islam would be exalted above and over all other religions. Facts like these inspire terrorists and radicals to ensure the spread of Islam by whatever means possible.
Since this verse repeats the other two, we need use only one translation:
9:33 It is He Who has sent His Messenger (Muhammad) with guidance and the religion of truth, to make it superior over all religions, though the MushrikŻn (polytheists, pagans, idolaters, disbelievers in the Oneness of Allah) hate (it). (Hilali and Khan, parenthetical notes are theirs)
The historical context of Sura 9 occurs late in Muhammad's career, and scholars believe that this section where v. 33 is found reflects Muhammad's northward expansion-without real and material provocation, as reputable scholars agree, so Muhammad is acting aggressively. Specifically, in October to December 630, after the conquest of Mecca in January 630, Muhammad launches a Crusade to Tabuk, a city in the north of Saudi Arabia today, but in the seventh century it was under the control of northern tribes. "Crusade" is the right word, for early Muslim sources say the army had 30,000 men and 10,000 horsemen. On his way north, Muhammad extracts (or extorts) "agreements"-without provocation-from smaller Christian Arab tribes to pay the jizyah tax, instead of being attacked and killed. They also had the option to convert, but most do not and agree, rather, to pay the tax (see Sura 9:29, below). Once the Muslims reach Tabuk, however, the Byzantine army fails to materialize, so Muhammad and his large army return to their homes.
The verses around 9:33-the literary context-reveal an absolutist outlook, which terrorists and non-violent extremists are quick to pick up on. Because of Muhammad's northward gaze, the polemics against Christianity becomes harsher, as seen here:
9:29 Fight [q-t-l] against those who (1) believe not in Allah, (2) nor in the Last Day, (3) nor forbid that which has been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger (Muhammad), (4) and those who acknowledge not the religion of truth (i.e. Islam) among the people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians) until they pay the Jizyah with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued. (Hilali and Khan, parenthetical notes are theirs)
This verse, now famous or infamous, uses the verb qatala in its imperative form. The basic meaning of the root q-t-l signifies fighting, killing, warring and slaughtering, so Muhammad endorses violence. This verse also outlines four conditions for fighting, but we zero in on the fourth one. Muslims are commanded to fight against the Jews and Christians who do not acknowledge the religion of truth, Islam. The Christians and Jews must submit after battle or avoid battle by paying a special "protection" tax for the "privilege" of living under Islam, which was moving northward without provocation.
Next, Muhammad in the following verse curses Christians who say that the Messiah (no better than a prophet in Islam) is the Son of God:
9:30 ... [A]nd the Christians say: Messiah is the son of Allah. . . . Allah's Curse be on them, how they are deluded away from the truth! (Hilali and Khan)
Moreover, vv. 31-32 and 34 claim that Jews and Christians take false leaders to be their lords; that the Christians associate another god, Jesus, with Allah; and that Jews and Christians want to extinguish the light of Allah. Thus, Muhammad's tone and language against Christianity (and Judaism) become shrill.
This historical and literary contexts, then, reveal a harsh outlook against Christianity, and Muhammad backs up his dark vision of the older religion with a Crusade against it. With this in mind, we let Muslims interpret Sura 9:33.
In the previous section (Sura 48:28), Maududi was quoted at length, so we do not need to do so again. We should note, though, that he says Islam must be "dominant over all other ways and systems of life"; it must not be "subordinate" to other systems. He also says that if a wrong way is "allowed to remain on the earth it should be tolerated only under its own protection by the payment of Jizya under the limits of the Divine System" (vol. 2, pp. 191-94, note 32). It is clear that Maududi connects 9:33, the verse of triumph, with 9:29, the verse of warfare against Jews and Christians, subjugation, and taxation. This implies that Christianity is the wrong way of life. Why would not Islamic terrorists fight against this (allegedly) false religion? They are merely following their prophet.
Mufti Muhammad Aashiq Illahi Muhajir Madani (hereafter Madani) in his ten-volume commentary on the Quran (Illuminating Discourses on the Noble Qur'an, Karachi: Zam Zam, 2003) says that the dominance of Islam has happened or will happen in three ways.
First, "Islam provides details for every facet of a person's life, while this is not found in any other religion" (vol. 4, p. 285). For him the essence of the Quran and hadith provides "a complete code of conduct." The claim that Islam controls every detail of a person's life is accurate, but is it good? Also, he says that Islam is unlike all other religions in this regard. This is true too, but is it good? These claims will be answered below, in the next section.
Second, according to Madani, this verse will be fulfilled when Jesus and the Mahdi (a messiah) returns and fills the world with justice. He then references the hadith that Hilali and Khan quote in the section on Sura 61:9, above. Muslims believe erroneously that Jesus will come back and break the cross.
Third and most importantly, Madani believes that Islamic dominance has taken place already when the Muslims waged jihad.
... [T]he Muslims attained political power over all the others by waging Jihaad. They fought for Allaah's pleasure and conquered nation after nation, including the superpowers of the Romans and the Persians. They remained dominant over large areas of Europe, Asia, and Africa for many centuries. (These were the only continents known then).
Even today the Muslims dominate large areas and will be able to dominate the rest if they unite, separate from the Kuffaar [Unbelievers] and wage Jihaad for Allah's pleasure. (vol. 4, p. 286)
With these words, Madani closely follows his prophet, who believed that military strength and political power is proof of divine endorsement. Madani says here that the early Muslims conquered the superpowers of their day. This is a veiled reference that Muslims today will be able to conquer the superpowers of their own times: the US, but also the European Union, India, China, and so on. No one should doubt that accommodation of Islam is impossible. If Muslims cannot conquer by force, they will conquer by gradual means. Islam expresses the will of Allah, so why would not Muslims desire to see it dominate the world, control the details of everyone's life, and provide a code of conduct?
Muhammad's conquests in real life and his Quranic vision of religious triumph work hand in glove. As his confidence grows, so does his far-reaching vision of the superiority of his religion. This echoes Suleiman Abu Gheith, spokesperson for al-Qaida, who asserts that many reasons ". . . inspire us with confidence in the triumph of our religion, our belief, and our faith." . . . The word "triumph" repeats the idea in Sura 9:33 that Islam will triumph over all religions.
We can conclude this section, as follows: (1) In Muhammad's day, the largest, most powerful competitor religion is Christianity, and as Muhammad confronts it in his Crusades, his rhetoric against it heats up. Islam is superior to Christianity and will prevail over it. He is leading his Muslim soldiers northward to expand the reach of Islam. Plainly said, this is a Muslim Crusade long before the European Crusades. (2) Warfare and violence form the context of 9:33, especially 9:29, which contains the word "fight," and is directed against those who do not believe in Allah, the End of Day, and Muhammad's declarations on clean and unclean things. But especially Muslims must fight against Jews and Christians who do not submit or pay a tax. Why would not terrorists be inspired by this command to fight and by the ensuing violence? (3) In this northward march, Muhammad is outlining policies that his armies of warriors must adopt and implement after he is gone (he dies in 632). From Quran 9:29, later conquering Muslims adopt this policy: People of the Book can fight and die or pay a "protection" tax or convert. In fact, the Muslims are so successful militarily that they conquer Jerusalem in 638, dragging this policy behind them.
The Great Commission: Matthew 28:18-20
We are now in a position to contrast Islam with another missionary religion, Christianity. The three analyzed verses in the Quran are found in the context of warfare. Even the Treaty of Hudaybiyah is soon followed by the conquest of Khaybar. On the other hand, Jesus in the last verses of the Gospel of Matthew speaks what is known as the Great Commission, in which he commissions his disciples to go into all the world and preach the gospel and make disciples. No physical violence is to be used in carrying out this mission. As usual with Muhammad, he vaguely borrows from Christianity and degrades its pure ideas into violence and military conquest.
Matthew 28:18-20, which Evangelicals take seriously, says:
28:18 Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
This passage can be contrasted with Quran 61:9, 48:28, and 9:33 in four ways.
First, in v. 18 Jesus exalts himself higher than any religious figure in the western religions, both Judaism and Islam-much higher than Muhammad. "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me." This verse, among many others, explains why Christians see Jesus as more than a prophet. Of course, Muslims always have an escape hatch from such claims in the New Testament: the Gospels have been corrupted. However, this can be denied by sound scholarship working on thousands manuscripts that can be cross-checked and compared so that they converge on a reliable New Testament. Textual criticism of the New Testament is sound. For more information go to this page and click on any of articles linked.
Second, Jesus does not announce the superiority of his new religion as exalted over and above all other religions, even though he knows that the greater Mediterranean world is filled with various religions-Greek and Roman culture penetrated into Israel. It is true that he wants his message to go out into all the world, and in this, Christianity conflicts with Islam. However, the tone and attitude in the Great Commission differs from the tone and attitude in the three Quranic verses. No talk of winning or superiority or prevailing or triumphing can be found in Matthew 28:18-20, especially not in a violent way.
Third, the historical and literary contexts in Matthew differ from that of the Quranic passages. Jesus' commissioning takes place after his Resurrection. In no way does warfare or conquest guide the Great Commission. Jesus never raised an army to conquer Jerusalem or anything else. He did not institute a policy that requires battle or "protection" tax or conversion. And for the first three centuries his disciples followed this guidance (Constantine comes in the fourth century). Christianity spread only by peaceful proclamation. In contrast, Muhammad guides his followers in warfare and conquest, and they follow him faithfully in this, for centuries. The world could have evaluated Islam more positively if it had progressed without violence. This contradicts the quotation of Madani in the previous section, Sura 9:33, where he says that Allah caused Islam to dominate the known world by waging jihad. However, for fair-minded people, this violence implies that Islam does not have an attractive message. This further implies that God has endorsed Christianity, not Islam, though these words may be difficult for Muslims to read.
Fourth and finally, Madani says in the previous section (Sura 9:33) that Islam provides the details for every facet of a person's life and that other religions do not do this. He assumes that this detailed control is positive. On the other hand, Jesus says in the Great Commission that his disciples should teach people to obey all that he commands. This brings us to one of the many differences between the two religions. The relationship between the Law (e.g. the Torah) and the gospel of Jesus Christ can be complicated if we explore it in depth, but such an exploration would exceed this article. However, a few words on this relationship are appropriate here.
Christianity does not emphasize the law because Jesus fulfills it in two ways (Matt. 5:17). First, his interpretation of it is final for Christians. For example, he says that we should not worry about the dietary rules because it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person (food), but what comes out of the mouth (words) that proceed from an evil heart (Matt. 15:10-20). So this part of the law of Moses has been spiritualized into the issue of the heart. Another example is the sacrifice of animals as a path to God. The four Gospels spend so much time on the suffering, crucifixion, and Resurrection of Jesus precisely because he is the ultimate and final and once-and-for-all sacrifice that takes away the sins of the world. So Jesus also fulfills this part of the law of Moses.
The second way that Jesus fulfills the law is his sinless life. He walked in perfect love for humanity, and the law of love is the culmination or summary of the entire law of Moses and the prophets. This is how Jesus boiled down the essence of the law. Specifically, after Jesus makes his Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem (Matt 21:1-11) in order to die there, not to conquer it, the Pharisees and Sadducees, two major religious and political groups in first-century Israel, put him to the test (21:23-27). He is questioned about political and religious matters, and he answers them successfully (22:15-33). Then, one of them, an expert in the law, tests him further.
22:35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" 37 Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' 40 All the law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."
Thus, Jesus does not reinstitute a new sacred law-sharia-that forbids or allows or commands this or that food or prayer method or forced fasts or animal sacrifice or pilgrimage to a city or shrine. Per contra, those two commandments that Jesus quoted summarize all of the Law and Prophets, and indeed are found in Leviticus 19:18 and Deuteronomy 6:5. This summary is repeated by the inspired Apostle Paul in Romans 13:10. "... Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore, love is the fulfillment of the law."
We now return to the Great Commission. Jesus gives the bare minimum of instructions. His missionaries are to preach, baptize, and make disciples so that new converts obey all that he commands. But, again, what about the clause "all that he commands"? We just saw in the Biblical excerpt (Matt. 22:35-40) that he boils down his commandments to these two: we should love God and love one another. This contrasts with Madani's belief that the best religion is one that controls every detail of one's life by means of religious law. Islamic sharia is not good, ultimately. Hence, why would the true God take gigantic steps backwards to the old law of Moses, which Muhammad recycles? Rather, Christians are guided by the Holy Spirit and the law of love.
Muhammad, on the other hand, in Suras 61:9, 48:28, and 9:33, proclaims that he has received from on high "true guidance" which is another way of saying the Quran, and it is filled with an old-new law of clean and unclean dietary restrictions, forced praying, forced pilgrimages, forced alms and fasts, and so on. For example, as we have already seen in Sura 9:29, one of the conditions that provoke warfare against Christians is their disobedience to what has been forbidden, like eating pork, to cite one example. But this is one of many aspects of sharia from which Christians have been set free.
Why have Christians been set free from onerous rules and regulations in their eternal trip to heaven? Christ's sacrifice on the cross makes them righteous before God and saves them from bondage. So we ask the question again: why, then, would Christians wish to submit-the key word in Islam-to a new law that Muhammad adapted from the old law (the Torah), 600 hundred years after Christ lived and spoke those words of love and instituted a New Covenant of the Spirit? Christians are commanded to go out into the world and preach the love of God to all nations, not to fight and conquer unbelievers in all nations, imposing a sharia or new-old law on them, which restricts people more than the Old Testament does.
Muhammad's expansionist vision for Islam is found in the context of warfare, not peace. He was a deformer of Christianity, not its reformer. To repeat, why would the true God backslide into violence and warfare six hundred years after Jesus showed us the gospel of love and grace? This gospel turned the world upside down without the sword. But Muhammad and his religion turned the world upside down, but only with a large army backing them up.
We began this article quoting terrorists. Their hysterical claims can be boiled down to this logic, based on Suras 61:9, 48:28, 9:3:
This logic embodies the terrible grievance that chafes at the heart of terrorists and non-violent fanatics.
Western civilization and Christianity, though not identical, create the negation in premise two, the not-B. Also, Hindus in northern India, bordering on Pakistan, and animists and Christians in Africa put up a roadblock against Islam, so they are being attacked and killed. Early Islam speaks almost exclusively of Christianity as the major roadblock to world submission and domination, and it is this widespread religion that Muhammad confronts in his later unprovoked northern military campaigns.
Therefore, for true Muslims, the West and Christianity must be brought down together. Earliest Islam inspires terrorists and extremists to triumph over the "Great Satan" and the "Abode of Unbelievers" in their false religion. They are inspired to effectuate the ultimate victory for Islam, the true religion, which includes waging jihad or qital in the example of their prophet.
Beyond the West, though, since all corners of the globe have some religion, Islam must now religiously dominate the world, which entails complete control over all aspects of society through sharia, with no distinction between mosque and state, between religion and civil liberties, and between imposing holiness from an antiquated and harsh sacred Book and law-the Quran and sharia-and choosing holiness from a relationship with a loving Father God-the Holy Spirit's work in the heart.
This article has a companion piece that may be read here.
Sometimes Muslim polemicists point out the wars in the Old Testament and the severe commands of God. But they have been explained and contrasted with Islamic wars in this article and this one. Besides, for Christians, Jesus Christ fulfills this area of the Old Testament and raises our vision to spiritual warfare, waged by preaching and praying, alone. He is our example to follow, and he did not wage military war on anyone, even though, as noted, he had at his disposal twelve legions of angels (Matthew 26:53). What Constantine and later Crusaders did is not foundational to Christianity.
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