(Continued from page 431)
Following Muhammad's Example
'Jesus, too, speaks of Violence and Swords!?'
After Muhammad's death, Abu Bakr (632-634) became the first caliph. But Umar (634-644) succeeded him after two years, and spread Islam in most of the Middle East, including Arabia, Iraq, Persia, Syria and Egypt, by conquering with the sword. Umar was replaced by Uthman (644-656), who governed for some twelve years during the peak of the Islamic expansion into Armenia, Cyprus and North Africa.
A series of uprisings began during Uthman's rule, and a new period of schisms and civil wars started with his murder. Ali (656-661), who was the cousin and son-in-law of the prophet Muhammad, succeeded him and became the fourth and last of the al-Khulafa al-Rashidoon (the rightly guided caliphs). Ali inherited the political and religious repercussions of Uthman's murder. After a series of civil rebellions, Ali was killed with a poisoned sword by a member of the dissenting Kharijite sect, which had seceded from Ali's ranks.
So, when you reference the use of violence as '... Crusade-like ...' you are showing your anti-Christian bias. As we have pointed out, the Roman Catholic church does not preach a Biblical Jesus or Biblical Gospel and is therefore a cult and, far from being a source of genuine Christian teaching. History shows that it was Rome that initiated the 'Crusades' and we can agree that it was certainly no better than Islam. But a more correct term would be Islamic Jihad-like, since that violent method clearly came about 450 years before the first Papal Crusade!
JESUS WARNED THAT THOSE WHO ACCEPTED HIM WOULD SUFFER PERSECUTION AND VIOLENCE FROM OTHERS
You write: 'I will tell you that Jesus too speaks of violence and swords because as much as there is love in God, there is equally anger towards mankind. So when Islam speaks of violence, it is not uncommon or unjustified. You've obviously read the old testament and there is quite a great deal of violence there as well.'
TCE: Your inference is that Jesus spoke approvingly of 'violence and swords' in some way. This is utter nonsense and it is easy to prove from the context of His Words that He warned about those who would use violence and 'swords' against his disciples - and what they would need in the world.
Perhaps you have never looked carefully at the life of Muhammad. It is not by accident that the sword (or purported sword) of Muhammad [Topkapi Sarayi (Palace), the legendary home of the Ottoman sultans, houses the sword in 'The Prophet's Relics Room']. There are also wide reports - approvingly spoken of on many pro-Islamic web-sites - of a total of nine swords which belonged to Islam's prophet. Notice immediately that, by contrast, there is absolutely no evidence that Jesus ever had any kind of sword that could be displayed. And, in fact, we have clear Biblical evidence that He would never have required the use of a sword during His ministry on earth (see below)! But we have the clear Islamic historical record that Muhammad personally led 66 military campaigns. He attacked caravans and innocent Jewish encampments. Many innocent men, women, and children were slaughtered. In order to determine whether or not "Islam is a religion of peace/no more violent than Judaism/Christianity" we should consider the historical record to find what the likely response would be of those attacked by Muhammad's army, e.g.:
the people of the seventh-century Quaraysh caravans;
the Jews in and around Medina in approximately A.D. 620;
the inhabitants of Mecca in A.D. 622 (the first city overrun by Muslim armies);
We are used to Muslim's claiming that Muhammad was only "defending" himself. There may have been some situations in which this was the case, but did they come after he had first shown aggression to provoke retaliation? Certainly there were many more cases in which he attacked - often slyly and without warning.
When his Medina converts were unwilling to support his violent acts, Allah quickly revealed a verse to the prophet which commanded them to fight:
Fighting is prescribed for you, and ye dislike it. But it is possible that ye dislike a thing which is good for you, and that ye love a thing which is bad for you. But Allah knoweth, and ye know not (Sura 2:216).
With this command, and after several failed attempts, the first success came during Nov-Dec, 623 A.D., at Nakhla during the period of Orma (lesser pilgrimage) to Ka'ba (aka Kabah). In order to avoid alarming the approaching caravan, the Muslim raiders shaved their heads to give an impression that they were returning from the pilgrimage and could not be hostile. Once the caravan came with the reach, they fell upon it and killed one man, captured two, but one was able to flee. They returned to Medina with their booty and prisoners. However, it was the last day of Rajab - a sacred period in the Arabian custom during which fighting and violence were prohibited. This breach of a centuries-old sacred custom, which was devoutly respected by the people of entire Arabia, created a great dissatisfaction amongst the citizens of Medina including the Muslim converts. The Prophet initially tried to distance himself from the blood-bath but quickly retrieved the situation by quickly receiving a 'revelation of convenience' from Allah which justified this blood-shed during prohibited time:
They ask thee concerning fighting in the Prohibited Month. Say: "Fighting therein is a grave (offence); but graver is it in the sight of Allah to prevent access to the path of Allah, to deny Him, to prevent access to the Sacred Mosque, and drive out its members." Tumult and oppression are worse than slaughter. Nor will they cease fighting you until they turn you back from your faith if they can. And if any of you Turn back from their faith and die in unbelief, their works will bear no fruit in this life and in the Hereafter; they will be companions of the Fire and will abide therein (Sura 2:217).
With this command, the fighting, killing and the booty were made halal. This blood-bath was also very meaningful for the Islamic faith, being the first raid which brought them booty (wealth) of which the Prophet kept a fifth as his share, the remainder being distributed amongst the raiders and the two prisoners being exchanged for ransoms.
We will, in time, consider in detail the difference between this Muslim action and subsequent covering 'revelation' with the way in which the God of the Bible dealt with king Saul's disobedience in 1 Samuel 13-16.
As we may have pointed out elsewhere, the September 11, 2001, attacks which killed more than 3,000 is the same number of Christians who are killed somewhere on the globe every 7 days! 160,000 Christians every year, or one person every 3 minutes, are killed simply for following Jesus. Many of those are killed in Muslim countries, due to Muslim laws, based on the Qur'an. No other major world religion has, as its written corpus, such clarion calls for the deaths of Jews and Christians.
In spite of Islamic violence, Christians are not to retaliate, although self-defence is proper if there is no other workable solution ('18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone' - Romans 12:18; cf. Hebrews 12:14). Briefly put, defending one's family, spiritual brothers and sisters, neighbour(s) - and even nation (under attack by a totalitarian aggressor seeking its destruction) is proper by the same token (Ephesians 5:25; Luke 10:27-37; Matthew 46-48):
Luke 10:27 So he answered and said, "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,' and 'your neighbour as yourself.'" 28 And He said to him, "You have answered rightly; do this and you will live." 29 But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbour?" 30 Then Jesus answered and said: "A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. 33 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, 'Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.' 36 So which of these three do you think was neighbour to him who fell among the thieves?" 37 And he said, "He who showed mercy on him." Then Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise."
Matthew 5:46 "For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 "If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 "Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Also note that Muslims harassed and threatened in the United States - and the West generally - are rarities and usually at the hands of contemporary pagans (see our section on the true spiritual state of the USA - as revealed by Barna's statistics). Mosques and Muslims are not targeted by orthodox Christians - and it is not even too common for Christians to evangelise ('witness') to Muslims - certainly in the UK! It is clearly wrong for Muslims to be harassed in non-Islamic countries - but it is equally wrong for Christians to be harassed in Muslim countries. Christians are called to be 'good neighbours' to Muslims - how can you love your neighbour as yourself if you offer him no assistance in emergency, or if he is under attack? To stand by, or walk away, would be similar to the ways of the Pharisees in Luke 10. If only Muslims always reciprocated.
We do wonder why Muslim organizations and leaders living in non-Islamic countries are relatively silent regarding the human rights violations - directed at Christians and other religions - that occur daily in Islamic nations. If Islam were truly a religion of peace, then non-Muslims held captive simply for differing religious beliefs would be released from Muslim jails, and government officials and religious leaders in Islamic countries would apologize for the Islamic persecution, incarceration, and imprisonment of Christians and those of other faiths!
It would not even be useful to argue, as some do, that the 'majority of Muslims are peaceful.' All the available evidence does not suggest that a "majority" (which would be approximately 600-700 million Muslims) is peaceful. Clearly there is a difference between "Muslims" and "Islam" and many Muslims, as individuals, are peaceful and peace loving. But that is not to say that Islam, as a religion, is inherently peaceful because, clearly, it is not. The evidence shows that, in most countries where Islam is in the majority, or striving to dominate the country (more than 90% of all armed struggles in the world today involve Islamic forces!), there is little 'peace' by the Western definition of the word. People of the West think of "peace" as more than the absence of war - it also involves freedom of conscience, freedom to make decisions, freedom of movement. To fundamentalist Islam, "peace" is the Muslim shari'a law ruling all the world and controlling all non-Muslims (as described earlier)! These are two very conflicting definitions of "peace."
By contrast, the truth is that Jesus warned that those who accepted Him would suffer persecution and violence from others - even from their own family - but His teaching and actions were always that peace and love were directed at others (yes, even enemies!). e.g.:
Matthew 10:21 "Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. 22 All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. 23 When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. I tell you the truth, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.
Matthew 10:34 "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn " `a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law - MT 10:36 a man's enemies will be the members of his own household.' MT 10:37 "Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38 and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. MT 10:40 "He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives the one who sent me. 41 Anyone who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet's reward, and anyone who receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man's reward. 42 And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward."
Notice that He talks of his disciples losing their lives for accepting Him (never are they told to bring His kingdom with the sword!). And how 'a man's enemies will be the members of his own household.' Many Muslims who have become Christians have experienced this persecution and even been killed by their own families:
Mark 13:5 Jesus said to them: "Watch out that no one deceives you. 6 Many will come in my name, claiming, `I am he,' and will deceive many. 7 When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 8 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains. MK 13:9 "You must be on your guard. You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues. On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them. 10 And the gospel must first be preached to all nations. 11 Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit. MK 13:12 "Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. 13 All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.
The peace Jesus brings is for those who accept Him as Lord and Saviour - for those who reject Him will persecute Christians just as Jesus described (and just as Islam and the Roman Catholic Church has done):
Luke 12:49 "I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! 50 But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed! 51 Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. 52 From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. 53 They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law."
Exactly this has happened when a member of a family has accepted the Biblical Christ and their Muslim, Hindu, or Roman Catholic family (etc.!) have turned against them in hatred, even killing them:
John 14:25 "All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
John 16:31 "You believe at last!" Jesus answered. 32 "But a time is coming, and has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me. JN 16:33 "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."
Another reason we know Muhammad is not 'the Counsellor' (and even Muslims would have to admit that he was a sinner and never 'holy') is that he never brought 'peace' but a sword.
The following describes the peace that the gospel the apostles preached worldwide brings:
Acts 10:34 Then Peter began to speak: "I now realize how true it is that God does not show favouritism 35 but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right. 36 You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. 37 You know what has happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached - 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him. AC 10:39 "We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree, 40 but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. 41 He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen - by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. 43 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name." AC 10:44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. 45 The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. 46 For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God. Then Peter said, 47 "Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have." 48 So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.
In the Book of Romans, the apostle Paul explains the whole problem of sin, summarising the difference between the unsaved (all those who refuse to accept the Biblical Christ as Lord and Saviour) and try and make themselves righteous by keeping laws and regulations:
Romans 3:9 What shall we conclude then? Are we any better? Not at all! We have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin. Ro 3:10 As it is written: "There is no one righteous, not even one; RO 3:11 there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. RO 3:12 All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one." RO 3:13 "Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit." "The poison of vipers is on their lips." RO 3:14 "Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness." RO 3:15 "Their feet are swift to shed blood; RO 3:16 ruin and misery mark their ways, RO 3:17 and the way of peace they do not know." RO 3:18 "There is no fear of God before their eyes." RO 3:19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. 20 Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. RO 3:21 But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished - 26 he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.
Only those who have surrendered their whole life to the Lord Jesus Christ can know the peace of a Spirit-controlled life:
Romans 8:5 Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; 7 the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. 8 Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.
Jesus did not tell His followers to fight when the Roman invasion He prophesied came, but instructed them to 'flee':
Luke 21:20 "When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near. 21 Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those in the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city. 22 For this is the time of punishment in fulfillment of all that has been written. 23 How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! There will be great distress in the land and wrath against this people. 24 They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. … LK 21:34 "Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap. 35 For it will come upon all those who live on the face of the whole earth. 36 Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man."
The apostle Paul affirmed Jesus' teaching that His disciples had another way - the Jesus Way of laying down your life and suffering persecution rather than rely on violence, or retaliation:
Romans 8:31 What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all - how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died - more than that, who was raised to life - is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written: "For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered."
And, indeed, Islam has slaughtered Christians like sheep - all over the world!
Paul repeatedly makes the Jesus Way clear in the Book of Romans:
Romans 12:9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality. RO 12:14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. RO 12:17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. 20 On the contrary: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head." RO 12:21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
This is how Christians are to behave before authorities governing nations (and why the apostle Peter was wrong to strike the ear of Malchus (Matthew 26:51 - see later in more detail), not because it was self-defence, but because he was resisting the lawful authorities and God's will):
Romans 13:1 Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. 4 For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. RO 13:6 This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants, who give their full time to governing. 7 Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. RO 13:8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, "Do not commit adultery," "Do not murder," "Do not steal," "Do not covet," and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: "Love your neighbor as yourself." 10 Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. RO 13:11 And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. 12 The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. 14 Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.
When you refer to the Old Testament 'violence' you will never find God's people instructed to force their faith on others with the sword - the Book of Hebrews gives a brief summary of the range of difficulties the Hebrews encountered in their great journey of faith and overcame in the power of their God:
Hebrews 11:29 By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned. HEB 11:30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the people had marched around them for seven days. HEB 11:31 By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient. HEB 11:32 And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. 35 Women received back their dead, raised to life again. Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. 36 Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. 37 They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated - 38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground. HEB 11:39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. 40 God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.
(Continued on page 433)