I shared this post about Islamic Jihad threatening to ignore its promises and commented that ‘Well – there’s a thing: Muslims can break their word when they feel like it. So they get to make agreements and then tear them up. And they pretend to be worshippers of the true God who made his agreement with Abraham to last for all time.’ In response a hospital chaplain replied ‘Bruce, beware of generalisations. Not all Muslims are like this. I work with Muslims every day. Do you?’
To this I responded:
‘No – but I have close friends who live in Jerusalem who are in the front line of Arab terrorism by the likes of Islamic Jihad and whose children are presently in the Israeli Army. This is a reminder of why pressurising Israel into an agreement with untrustworthy opponents should not happen. It’s not for us to judge them for being unwilling to take risks.’
‘But OK… I probably should have used the term Islamists, since Muslims in the UK claim to be better Muslims. Of course in choosing to do so, we are taking sides in the dispute within Islam as to who is a true Muslim!’
Which generated the reply:
‘It’s obvious who true Muslims are- people who love and worship their God, and who seek the welfare of the communities in which they are set without resorting to violence or manipulation. In the UK at least all the latest polls show that it is this kind of Islam that the majority of Muslims espouse.’
To which I answered:
NO NO NO. Sadly the history of Islam from the earliest days shows that it was a religious legitimation of Arab nationalism, with a dose of encouraging rape on the side. The pattern of ‘Razzia’ – legitimating unlimited raiding in order to soften up the next target for invasion clearly indicates this. The reality of the Prophet of Islam as a man who married many wives, including one at the age of 6 with whom the relationship was consummated at 9 is an acknowledged fact of Islam, though not one that is admitted with pressing hard. The fact that you want to affirm the version of Islam that fits your preference reflects cultural and spiritual imperialism, rejecting the alternative world view that the traditional Islam affirms because it doesn’t fit with what you want to believe that they believe. This is, of course, far more comfortable, It doesn’t make for a true analysis of what is ‘real’ Islam.’
It’s important to expand on that reply, because it combines two points about where we often fail to engage with other’s world view. Once we understand the issues, we are far better equipped to challenge non-Christian understandings.
What we want to believe
‘True Muslims are people… who seek the welfare of the communities in which they are set without resorting to violence or manipulation.’
How can anyone claim this? It’s to impose on a non-Christian faith a test for validity that is not necessarily a part of that faith. We want to do this – it makes it easier to assume that people are just like us. It comes from a theme in Christianity – that the Holy Spirit is at work in the non-Christians – but takes that to conclude that therefore other people WILL therefore want the best for all others. Yet the historic evidence is overwhelmingly against it; this year is the anniversary of WWII, which was largely as a result of German and Japanese ideologies that their races were better. But of course that belief also underlay the European empires that were built in the 18th and 19th century. I’m sure there were philanthropists amongst the colonialists – but I doubt it was many…
So what is being proclaimed here is a simplistic belief that people are basically nice, can be trusted and so we can assume that their religions will endorse that truth. This is the civil religion of the multi-culturalists of today. Sadly it is a false religion. To use it as a basis for deciding who the true worshippers of Allah is, is sheer cultural imperialism. Of course there will be Muslims who do hold these particular beliefs. But to argue that they are the ‘true’ Muslims won’t do.
What does the Qu’ran actually say?
Beyond this, we have to look at ‘true Islam’ is. The only way to do this is to return to the original sources, and the modern exponents of the faith. To provide a worked example of the issues, let’s look at behaviour of IS.
It is best to start with what the Qu’ran actually says:
And [also prohibited to you are all] married women except those your right hands possess. 4:24
And they who guard their private parts except from their wives or those their right hands possess, for indeed, they will not be blamed 23:5,6
And those who guard their private parts Except from their wives or those their right hands possess, for indeed, they are not to be blamed 70:35, 36
The issue is the meaning of the phrase ‘those their right hands possess’. There is little doubt that this refers to the status of those taken as a result of warfare. There is a Hadith (Sahih Muslim 8.3432) that indicates that the first of these was given in the aftermath of a battle when the victorious soldiers asked the Prophet whether they could rape wives as well as unmarried girls; this was his reply, giving clear permission to do so.
In this context the report in the the Guardian about how IS has established a ‘bureaucracy of rape’ merely means that IS is taking this part of the Qu’ran seriously. Whilst the Guardian may wish to claim that this is ‘widely refuted’, it is mainstream Islamic teaching since it is a Hadith.
Now no doubt many Muslims won’t have a clue about this; discovering it for himself was one of the things that pushed Nabeel Qureshi toward becoming a Christian, as he records powerfully in his book Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus. Born in an American Muslim home, he was a devout Muslim until a Christian friend loved and talked him into becoming a Christian. The book IS extraordinary; all the elements for effective evangelism are demonstrated: the Christian was deeply caring for his friend, he challenged him intellectually, but God was also active with dreams and minor miracles to impress him that He was real.
Listen to what Khomeni says
The founder and spiritual leader of the Iranian Islamic republic, Ayatollah Khomeni wrote:
‘Islam’s jihad is a struggle against idolatry, sexual deviation, plunder, repression, and cruelty. The war waged by [non-Islamic] conquerors, however, aims at promoting lust and animal pleasures. They care not if whole countries are wiped out and many families left homeless. But those who study jihad will understand why Islam wants to conquer the whole world. All the countries conquered by Islam or to be conquered in the future will be marked for everlasting salvation. For they shall live under [God’s law]…. Those who know nothing of Islam pretend that Islam counsels against war. Those [who say this] are witless.’1
As ever we need to ensure that we listen to the ideologues. It is tempting to assume that they don’t mean what they say, but the history of 20th century is full of the victims of those who fell for this idea. We would be wise to resist this, tempting as it is to believe that we can afford to ignore them.
I write as someone who has recently completed a module for my MA in Church History that looked at the disappearance of the church of Roman North Africa following the Islamic invasion. It is interesting to note that the final destruction of the church occurred when the Muslim ruler gave its members the choice of convert to Islam or die following battles with Roger of Sicily. NEVER let Muslims claim the moral high ground in being ‘tolerant’ whilst Christianity has been persecuting. Just ain’t so…
1 Barry M. Rubin and Judith Colp Rubin, eds. Anti-American terrorism and the Middle East: A documentary reader. (Oxford: OUP, 2004) 29.