The meaning of the Holy Qur'an

Critiquing Islam (I): Is Islam a Religion of Peace?

Now, I know that I stated in a previous post that I did not intend to delve into the in-depth issues of Islam which was true (for that post). Yet still, I find that what I have learnt about Islam in the course of my own study weighs heavily on my heart; as though I need to let it out.

Thus, here we are.

About some time ago, I was challenged by a Muslim friend of mine to be open to Islam; to study the Qur’an and see for myself why Islam was the true religion. I wasn’t as much interested since I only desired that my friend understand that Christianity was the true faith; which was biased and unfair on my part. I knew nothing of what my friend believed, yet, there I was sharing the gospel with him as a guise and without at least extending him the courtesy of understanding what he also believed. I repented of that madness and smugness!

Anyway, fast forward some one year later I decided to read the Qur’an and other established sources of Islam for myself.

Qur’an: a holy book or sacred text dictated by Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, over a period of 20 years and is regarded by Muslims as the infallible utterance of the Almighty.

Firstly, I would like to state in all honesty, that in writing this post, my intention is not to come off as a know-it-all about Islam. I haven’t done extensive study to the extent of quoting Quranic verses off the bat. Thus, the much that I have learnt is only what I desire to speak about.

Islam has the largest population of believers’ right after Christianity. And as a Christian, I am inclined to question why the huge number. What exactly is it about Islam should I know? Why are there so many followers and believers of Islam in the world today? What does Islam teach about a right relationship with God?

I was discussing with my brother on the topic just recently and noted to him that in truth, Muslims are far more devoted to their religion than many Christians.

One of the pillars of Islam according to the hadiths is almsgiving. Mainly because, involvement in many good deeds is one of the ways to obtain paradise. Take construction of the mosques for instance, mosque expenses are paid from waqf funds, that is, income generated from Islamic religious and public endowments. No offerings are taken in the mosques. There are numerous Muslims who are also known for dedicating much of their life-earned revenues to the aiding of construction of mosques; a vast contrast to Christianity to our disrepute. Why? As Christians we have stooped so low to the levels of begging, taking advantage of the poor, even engaging in blasphemous tactics to get people to donate or to give for ‘the cause for Christ.’

And I dare say, that from the surface, Islam would also be appealing to me; this, owing to the devotion I observe in Muslims (one of a fervent will, that I myself find astounding) for their beliefs, professions and duties. However! Yes! There is a however. When I began reading the Qur’an, I stumbled upon some several issues that were, and still are, impossible for me to reconcile. If these were issues pertaining to basic beliefs such as: who God is, who God has revealed Himself as, the way to worship God, how we can have a right relationship with God and the like, we would probably be having an entirely different conversation here.

So we begin.

Islam in its meaning, denotes- surrender or submission [to the will of Allah]. Surprisingly, it roots itself in the Bible in many aspects; particularly the Old Testament stories. However, the accounts of several Jewish prophets of God as narrated in the Bible- (specifically the Torah) differ greatly from how they are narrated in the Qur’an. There are several plot twists and modifications to the stories of Adam, Noah, Moses and Solomon etc., in the Qur’an of which, I do not desire to get into for this specific post.

Surahs:  Chapters of the Qur’an

Reading through several surahs of the Qur’an, something became extremely clear to me and that is: the Qur’an holds the position of unquestionable authority, in that, there is little room for disbelief, scepticism, unbelief and even questioning. This made me wonder how Muslims are able to critically wrestle with some of the issues I faced while reading both the Qur’an and the hadiths.

Hadiths: Records the words and deeds of Muhammad, the prophet of Islam and is viewed by Muslims as inspired. Next to the Qur’an, it is the most important part of Islamic law.

One issue I particularly found alarming and that is what I would like to write about today, is the issue of jihad. Now, this is not an “of course she had to go straight to the issue that reflects Islam in a contentious way.” None of that! The reason I decided to write about it is because, in all honesty, I was always convinced that Jihad was carried out by extremist or fascist Muslims who sought to distort Islam. And to add to that, I continually heard the phrase: “Islam is a religion of peace” from TV and other sources I cannot recall where exactly. Nevertheless, this is not me trying to demonstrate how Islam is all about wars and killings because even in the Bible, there is a considerable share of war and killings.

Jihad: An arabic word which means “struggle.”  Often referred to as “Holy War.”

I acknowledge that there have been killings perpetuated in the name of Jesus Christ by the church especially during the period of the middle ages. You only need to revisit history to understand what extremist Christians like the Christian crusaders did as retaliation against the expansion of Islam.

What I have never  understood as a Christian however, is where these extremist Christians got these notions that Jesus exemplified war, hatred, force, murder, and such like things because there is not even a single verse in scripture where Jesus condoned fighting for the defence of His kingdom.

In fact, when Simon Peter, a beloved disciple of Jesus took up arms against the men who came to arrest Jesus in the dark of night at the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus said to him,

Matthew 26

52 Put your sword back in its place, “Jesus said to him, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.”

John 18

35 Pilate answered, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests delivered You to me; what have You done?”
36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.”

In matters faith, Jesus was categorical that if people were to believe in Him, it would have to arise from a personal conviction of the heart. This is because if God were to go against His own Word or even violate our free-will, then Christianity as a faith would be a sham since our professions would not be out of free-will.

The true and living God must remain faithful and consistent to His word and character. That is the only way we can differentiate between the true God and the false gods. And how can He do that? He must demonstrate that what He has revealed about Himself in Scripture is true and can be trusted. Hence: John 3:16.

John 3:16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

Romans 5

8 But God demonstrated His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

However, I discovered this was not the case in Islam. What I wrestled with the most while reading the Qur’an was: the cause for Jihad, the place of women, the toleration of domestic violence, sex slavery, and the eternal security of man (including his accountability to God). The latter issues, I intend to address on subsequent blog posts God willing.

The Cause for War

In some of the Surahs of the Qur’an I found a gentle appeal to embrace Islam as the better and true faith. However, as I progressed further to other chapters, I found violence advocated and even encouraged with the aim of converting unbelievers to Islam. “Why and how was that so?” Well, it is said that the gentle entreaty at beginning was attributed to by the challenges Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, faced on his mission as he tried to appeal to Jews and Christians to embrace Islam while in Mecca. At the beginning, Muhammad had hoped that both Jews and Christians would accept and validate his revelations. He often referred to both (Jews and Christians) as “people of the book,” hoping that they would authenticate his mission but it seems that that did not take place as he had hoped.

Later, however, Muhammad garnered a huge following after he left Mecca and settled in Medina; a following quite distinct from that of his earlier years in Mecca. Thus, the changes marked in the hostile chapters are those enunciated after, while in Medina. Just how true this is I do not know, but nevertheless it is not the issue at hand.

And I think this would be a good time to state: especially for atheists and agnostics’ sake. That Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, was indeed a man who lived 570 AD-632 AD. He was not a fictional character or a myth as many people tend to ascribe religious people to believing in mythical characters.

Moving on, the second Surah of the Qur’an, 2:256 states-

Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from error: whoever rejects evil and believes in God hath grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold that never breaks. And Allah heareth and knoweth all things.

Reading this at the very beginning, I came to the deduction that Islam in no way tolerated coercing people to accept the religion but respected free-will and personal choice.

Fast forward a few chapters later, I found a totally different approach. To my consternation, I found numerous verses advocating shunning, fighting and killing non-believers.

O ye who believe! Take not the Jews and the Christians for your friends and protectors: they are but friends and protectors to each other. And he amongst you that turns to them (for friendship) is of them. Verily God guideth not a people unjust.” Surah 5:51

“Remember your Lord inspired the angels (with the message): “I am with you: give firmness to the believers: I will instil terror into the hearts of unbelievers: smite ye above their necks and smite all their finger-tips off them.”” Surah 8:12

Fight those who believe not in God nor in the Last Day, Nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden By God and His Apostle, Nor Acknowledge the Religion of Truth, (even if they are) Of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.” Surah 9:29

Jizya: tax levied on non-Muslims by Islamic states.

“O ye who believe! Fight the Unbelievers who gird you about, and let them find firmness in you; and know that God is with those who fear him.” Surah 9:123

The Qur’an further states (note: I am quoting the verses in context, so as not to come off as distorting the text to suit my own agendas)—

O ye who believe! Do not be like the unbelievers, who say of their brothers when travelling through the earth or engaged in fighting: “if they had stayed with us (the believers), they would not have died or been killed.” This is so that God may make it a cause of sighs and regrets in their hearts. It is God that gives life and death, and God sees well that you do. And if ye are slain, or die, in the way of God, forgiveness and mercy from God are better than all they could amass. And if ye die, or are slain, Lo! It is unto God that ye are brought together.” Surah 3:156-157

1Those who reject God and hinder (men) from The Path of God, – Their deeds God will render astray (From their mark). 2But those who believe and work deeds of righteousness, and believe in the (Revelation) sent down to Muhammad – for it is the truth from their Lord, – He will remove from them Their ills and improve Their condition. 3This is because those who Reject God follow vanities, While those who believe follow the Truth from their Lord: Thus does God set forth For men their lessons By similitudes . 4Therefore, when you meet the unbelievers (in fight), smite at their necks; at length, when you have thoroughly subdued them, bind a bond firmly (on them): thereafter (is the time for) either generosity or ransom. Until the war lays downs its burdens. Thus (are you commanded): but if it had been God’s will, He could certainly have exacted retribution from them (Himself); but (He lets you fight) In order to test you, some with others. But those who are slain in the way of God– He will never let their deeds be lost.” Surah 47:1-4

I noticed in the parenthesis of verse four the emphasis of ‘in fight’, other translations ‘in battle’— yet no mention of believers who acted wickedly. Interestingly, I later came to understand that sin in Islam, is not regarded as dreadful as it is in the Bible. Provided one confesses their sin, Allah can forgive Muslims of almost every other sin including but not limited to sex slavery, rape, domestic violence, child sexual abuse aside from one – association of Allah to anything that can be equal to Allah or even deemed worthy of worship – a sin commonly known as shirk.

In addition, according to the hadith Sahih Al Bukhari (sayings of Muhammad), Muhammad encourages Muslims to practice Jihad — Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah’s Messenger was asked, “What is the best deed?” He replied, “To believe in Allah and His Apostle (Muhammad). The questioner then asked, “What is the next (in goodness)? He replied, “To participate in Jihad (religious fighting) in Allah’s cause.” “What is the next (in goodness)?” He replied, “To perform Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca) ‘Murbrur, (which is accepted by Allah’s pleasure only and not to show off and without committing a sin and in accordance with the traditions of the Prophet).” Al Bukhari 26

Moreover – Narrated Ibn ‘Umar: Allah’s Messenger said: “I have been ordered (by Allah) to fight against the people until they testify that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and that Muhammad is Allah’s Messenger, and offer the prayers perfectly and give obligatory charity, so if they perform that, then they save their lives and property from me except for Islamic laws and then their reckoning (accounts) will be done by Allah.” Al Bukhari 25

What about the penalty for leaving Islam?

Quoting Sahih Al Bukhari 6922 – Narrated Ikrima: Some Zanadiqa (atheists) were brought to Ali and he burnt them. The news of these event, reached Ibn ‘Abbas who said, “If I had been in his place, I would not have burnt them, as Allah’s Messenger forbade it, saying ‘Do not punish anybody with Allah’s punishment (fire). ‘I would have killed them according to the statement of Allah’s Messenger, ‘Whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him.’

I could go on but I desist.

Now, in all honesty, these verses clearly show that Jihad is not a cause taken by Muslim extremists but is a cause encouraged by Allah.

The two latter verses of the Qur’an quoted above, according to context, understanding and interpretation, indicate that the ONLY assurance for a Muslim to go to heaven is by fighting for the cause of spreading Islam and being martyred in the process.

Now, in no way am I trying to insinuate that Muslims are ticking time bombs so that we should be wary of them. There are millions of peaceful Muslims who try their best to live the best life possible— rejecting violence and hatred. And these Muslims are the ones I am writing to today; pleading with them to read their hadiths and Qur’an while seeking the face of God to reveal to them the truth.

These issues presented in the hadiths and the Qur’an cannot be simply explained away because even in their context, they are too hard to swallow.

My main concern and question regarding the cause for war, that is, Jihad, is: Is war justifiable just because somebody else professes a faith different from another person’s faith? And how does force help if the heart is not truly and honestly submitted to a belief? And if truly there is no compulsion in religion why the death penalty for those who choose to leave Islam?

I have Muslim friends who have argued with me saying, that there is just about as much bloodshed in the Bible – God ordering extermination of communities. Of which I do not refute. However, where they miss the point is – context. God has judged people in the Bible by ordering extermination of communities for causes of immorality and debauchery. Which I believe is fair. Take the Canaanites for instance; they worshipped Baal as their principal god and Ashtoreth, Baal’s wife- principal goddess. They were known for temple prostitution, sodomy, immoral indulgences such as holding extravagant orgies in their temples as customs of performing their religious duties and murdering their first-born children, as a sacrifice to their gods.

Supposing one is diagnosed with cancer and the doctor pronounces that if the tumor is not removed, death shall surely follow. The next cause of action to be taken must then be to remove the cancerous tumor before it spreads to other parts of the body and eventually lead to death.

God’s object, in the command to exterminate the Canaanites besides judgement on the Canaanites, was to keep Israel from idolatry and its shameful practices. The world did not know God and it was through Israel that Jesus Christ our Lord would come, revealing to us the nature of God, dying for our sins so that whoever would believe in Him would obtain eternal life (a free gift not earned by any works) and to give us purpose for our lives. If Israel fell into idolatry then there would cease to be any reason for its existence as a nation.

Yet, they fell into idolatry nonetheless. But God preserved them because of His mercy, love and faithfulness, and because, He had made a covenant with Abraham regarding establishing the nation of Israel— remaining faithful to His oath.

However, even though He preserved them, He judged them for following the practices of the Canaanites which constituted sacrificing their own babies as an offering to Baal. He did not try to play favorites with Israel. His Word was His bond, regardless of whoever was involved.

Jeremiah 7

1 The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying,
2 “Stand in the gate of the Lord’s house and proclaim there this word and say, ‘Hear the word of the Lord, all you of Judah, who enter by these gates to worship the Lord!'”
3 Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, “Amend your ways and your deeds, and I will let you dwell in this place.
4 Do not trust in deceptive words, saying, ‘This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord.’
5 For if you truly amend your ways and your deeds, if you truly practice justice between a man and his neighbor,
6 if you do not oppress the alien, the orphan, or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place, nor walk after other gods to your own ruin,
7 then I will let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers forever and ever.
8 “Behold, you are trusting in deceptive words to no avail.
9 Will you steal, murder, and commit adultery and swear falsely, and offer sacrifices to Baal and walk after other gods that you have not known,
10 then come and stand before Me in this house, which is called by My name, and say, ‘We are delivered!’-that you may do all these abominations?
11 Has this house, which is called by My name, become a den of robbers in your sight? Behold, I, even I, have seen it, ” declares the Lord.
12 “But go now to My place which was in Shiloh, where I made My name dwell at the first, and see what I did to it because of the wickedness of My people Israel.
13 And now, because you have done all these things,” declares the Lord, “and I spoke to you, rising up early and speaking, but you did not hear, and I called you but you did not answer,
14 therefore, I will do to the house which is called by My name, in which you trust, and to the place which I gave you and your fathers, as I did to Shiloh.
15 I will cast you out of My sight, as I have cast out all your brothers, all the offspring of Ephraim.
16 “As for you, do not pray for this people, and do not lift up cry or prayer for them, and do not intercede with Me; for I do not hear you. [God addressing Jeremiah]
17 Do you not see what they are doing in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem?
18 The children gather wood, and the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead dough to make cakes for the queen of heaven; and they pour out drink offerings to other gods in order to spite Me.
23 But this is what I commanded them, saying, ‘Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you will be My people; and you will walk in all the way which I command you, that it may be well with you.’
24 Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but walked in their own counsels and in the stubbornness of their evil heart, and went backward and not forward.
25 Since the day that your fathers came out of the land of Egypt until this day, I have sent you all My servants the prophets, daily rising early and sending them.
26 Yet they did not listen to Me or incline their ear, but stiffened their neck; they did more evil than their fathers.
27 “You shall speak all these words to them, but they will not listen to you; and you shall call to them, but they will not answer you.
30 For the sons of Judah have done that which is evil in My sight,” declares the Lord, “they have set their detestable things in the house which is called by My name, to defile it.
31 They have built the high places of Topheth, which is in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire, which I did not command, and it did not come into My mind.
32 “Therefore, behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when it will no longer be called Topheth, or the valley of the son of Hinnom, but the valley of the Slaughter; for they will bury in Topheth because there is no other place.
33 The dead bodies of this people will be food for the birds of the sky and for the beasts of the earth; and no one will frighten them away.
34 Then I will make to cease from the cities of Judah and from the streets of Jerusalem the voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride; for the land will become a ruin.

The God of the Bible is a Holy God and cannot tolerate sin! That is why there was no other way for man to be saved. All of humanity was heading for eternal death. But God in His love and mercy, somehow chose (in a way that astonishes me even to date), to step out of heaven (through the person of the Son), stripping Himself of all His glory and power – to be born as a man with no glory and honor, to live according to the standard He Himself had established, that is: perfection (which no man could attain). Then, to take upon Himself the penalty He had set for sin which was death, hell, and the grave so that whosoever would believe in Him would receive that righteousness which only He attained: perfection.

The cause for war in the Bible has never at any one point been due to unbelief because this touches on free-will which God Himself has granted each person. Every man has the power of choice. However, what God has done is to warn man that his choices have consequences and that He, as the sole judge of man will judge man according to his deeds and choices; whether in this life or in the resurrection – that final verdict will be up to Him.

There is an authority that God has limited man from having, that is, the authority to take judgement into our own hands especially in the face of evil, unfair treatment, persecution, and on matters regarding faith. God has instructed us in scripture to leave all unbelievers and evil doers in His hands.

Keeping in mind that if anyone rejects the true and the living God (who is loving, gracious, merciful and faithful), then he/she is prone to accepting any kind of evil; eventually falling into wickedness which leads to death.

1 Corinthians 4

1 Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.
2 In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy.
3 But to me it is a very small thing that I may be examined by you, or by any human court; in fact, I do not even examine myself.
4 For I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord.
5 Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God.

In conclusion to my very, very long post, what I come out with from the cause of war in Islam is firstly, that Jihad is in essence, the struggle for the cause of spreading Islam using all means available to Muslims including violence. And mostly, that Allah is a god who demands that men should die for him (according to what he has revealed about himself in the Qur’an and the Hadiths).

However, the true and living God demonstrated His love toward us in that, while we were yet sinners Jesus died for us. So that we would also die to the old man (selfish and sinful behaviors) and live as Jesus did, that is, the new man— by being born again of the Holy Spirit of God.

As I wrote in my previous post to any Muslim readers who find themselves here, “I am not asking you to forsake your religion on a whim and follow Jesus blindly because I wouldn’t even begin to fathom the cost paid for abandoning your religion to follow Jesus (seeing that Islam declares death to apostates). I am only pleading with you to seek God with a humble heart over these matters. To ask the living God who hears all prayers whether uttered loudly or silently, whispered or spoken in the heart, whether they be a Muslim’s, a Buddhist’s or a Christian’s to guide you to the truth. And He will surely do it. He has vowed it Himself in scripture and God is faithful – His word is His bond.”

To be noted all quotations cited on this post have been obtained only from Islamic trusted sources mainly: the Qur’an (The Meaning of the Holy Qur’an, translation- Abdullah Yusuf Ali) and the hadith (The Translation of the Meaning of Sahih Al Bukhari)

Thank you for reading!

Remember Jesus loves you for free.

Jesus said,

John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
Image Credit Sebastian Unrau on unsplah.com

Okay… Let’s just be honest, whenever most people hear anything about religion, their first reaction and instinct is probably to cringe or brush off the whole matter entirely.

Why? Most likely because it is a subject that is associated with extreme cases of fanaticism, it brings about a lot of conflicts and controversies, and even offends easily.

Religion is famously known for: manipulation, stagnation, repression, ignorance, bigotry and is too often a threat to liberty. And rightly so. I do agree. With that said, I recommend you to read two of my posts as well as encourage you to do a personal, extensive, and honest research on your own regarding this matter. Why?

As intellectuals (critical thinkers), I believe we owe it to ourselves to interrogate, examine, and ask hard questions regarding matters touching on faith rather than choosing to ignore them or even worse— follow blind faith. Click here for the first post.

Who speaks the truth with regards to a genuine, sincere and true relationship with God? Is it Buddha? Muhammad? Jesus? Zoroaster? Confucius? Joseph Smith? Guru Nanak? Krishna? Among others? Find out on this second post:

Why Jesus Stands Out

My heart overflows with a goodly matter; I speak the things which I have made touching the king: My tongue is the pen of a ready writer. Psalms 45:1

Thank you for reading this blog. Feel free to share it with others whenever and wherever.🙂

Comments

Simon
October 16, 2022 at 2:13 pm

That is true Muslim religion is a “blood sheding religion”. And i will say this they are just wasting their time,God is love God is nothing else and Love does everything right and does not encourage any wickedness.



October 17, 2022 at 8:46 am

Absolutely…God does not encourage wickedness at all. There is an totalitarian authority in the Qur’an that causes many Muslims not to be as objective when it comes to so many teachings in the Qur’an as I mentioned in all the three posts.

I only pray that God continues to work mightily in the church so that we can live out our faith boldly, and in a way that brings light to the darkness that is Islam.

Thanks for reading Simon and giving your insights.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *