ENDTIME ISSUES No 85: VIOLENCE IN THE KORAN AND THE BIBLE
Samuele Bacchiocchi, Ph. D., Retired Professor of Theology,
The last ENDTIME ISSUES newsletter (No. 84) on "The Agenda of
Islam" generated a flood of responses, which surpassed my
fondest expectations. The vast majority of the messages were
positive, expressing appreciation especially for the insights
into Islam's religious/political agenda. Some of the messages
came from Christians suffering intolerance and suppression in
dominant Moslem countries.
Several messages, however, were rather critical of Prof.
Moshe Sharon's evaluation of Islam as a militant religion,
committed to conquer the world, ideologically, if not
militarily. Some of these writers are Arab-Christians who have
lived in moderate Moslem countries like Lebanon. They maintain
that the moderate Muslims they have known over the years are a
peace-loving people, who strongly condemn the recent acts of
terrorism. In their view Islam is a religion of peace-not of
My response is that a distinction must be made between the
Moslem people in general and the Islam's teachings in particular.
The same applies for any religion. For example, the vast
majority of Catholics reject their church teachings on the
suppression of "heretics," abortion, divorce, birth control,
celibacy, and women ordination. But their rejection of such
teachings does not alter their church position, because the
Catholic Church, like Islam, is not a democratic institution
which reflects the thinking of the laity. Rather, both
institutions are governed by the autocratic authority of their
Many Muslims know very little about the teachings of their
sacred book, the Koran. Some of them have lived for years in
Western democratic countries, and have embraced religious
tolerance as a basic human value. Consequently they openly
reject the use of violence and warfare to promote the faith and
rule of Islam. Since September 11, they have been telling the
world that Islam is a religion of peace that condemns the
killing of people. But does this propaganda reflect the
teachings of Islam or adopted Western values?
The media and our politicians have accepted the sanitized
version of Islam. We are told that Muslims who commit terroristic
acts are twisting the teaching of the Koran. We are reassured
that we are not at war with Islam because there is nothing in the
teachings of the Koran that condones the senseless destruction of
innocent lives by suicide bombers. And truly, there are many
Muslims in America and around the world who deplore these
In his article "In the Beginning There Were the Holy Books,"
published in Newsweek (February 11, 2002), Kenneth L. Woodward
writes: "Since September 11, brave voices scattered across the
Middle East have condemned the terroristic acts of killing
civilians and judged suicide bombing contrary to the teaching of
the Koran" (p. 57).
The objective of this essay is to determine if indeed the
brave Muslim voices who condemn the use of violence to promote
Islam, are expressing the teachings of the Koran or their adopted
Western values of religious tolerance. In other words, we want
to find out if Islam is a religion of peace that condemns the
killing of people, or a religion of war that sanctions the
killing of those who are perceived to be the enemies of Islam
Stories of Violence in the Bible
Some people attempt to exonerate the recent acts of violence
by appealing to the stories of violence in the Bible. Some
subscribers to our newsletter wrote to me arguing that the
recent acts of violence in the name of Allah against the
"infidels" hostile to Islam, are not different than the use of
violence by ancient Israel or by Medieval church leaders. In
these instances violence was used to kill people perceived to be
God's enemies. Woodward himself in Newsweek appeals to the
stories of violence in the Bible, saying:
"The Bible, too, has its stories of violence in the name of the
Lord. The God of the early Biblical books is fierce indeed in his
support of the Israelites warriors, drowning enemies in the sea"
The argument that the violence in the Koran is not different
from the violence we find in the Bible, is widely used to
exonerate the recent acts of violence. For example, in another
article published by Newsweek and entitled "Why They Hate Us:
The roots of Islamic Rage-and What We Can Do About it," Muslim
scholar Fareed Zakaria writes: "The historian Paul Johnson has
argued that Islam is intrinsically an intolerant and violent
religion. Other scholars have disagreed, pointing out that Islam
condemns the slaughter of innocents and prohibits suicide.
Nothing will be solved by searching for 'true Islam' or quoting
the Qur'an. The Qur'an is a vast, vague book, filled with poetry
and contradictions (much like the Bible).
You can find in it condemnations of war and incitements to
struggle, beautiful expressions of tolerance and stern pictures
against unbelievers. Quotations from it usually tell us more
about the person who selected the passages than about Islam.
Every religion is compatible with the best and the worst of
humankind. Through its long history, Christianity has supported
inquisitions and anti-Semitism, but also human rights and social
Is this a fair assessment of the teachings of the Koran and
of the Bible? Are the teachings of the Bible on the use of
violence no different from those of the Koran? Does the Koran
teach peace and war, tolerance and intolerance at the same time?
To find an answer to these question, I spent considerable time
reading the teachings of Islam regarding the use of violence, as
found in the Koran and the Hadith. The latter is the collection
of the traditions regarding the teachings of Muhammad passed on
through reliable sources. The nine volumes collection by
Al-Bukhari is regarded as the most authoritative.
In this newsletter I will attempt to present a brief summary
of what I have learned about violence in the Koran as compared to
the teachings of the Bible. This report is based on the study of
selected significant books and articles. There is a considerable
amount of literature dealing with violence in the Koran and the
Bible. At the James White library of Andrews University I found a
listing of over 2000 publications dealing with different aspect
of Islam. A thorough study of Islam's faith and practices would
take months or even years to complete. In the 150 hours I devoted
to the preparation of this essay, I could only read some of
significant studies which I believe shed light on the terroristic
acts of violence we are witnessing today.
The intent of this essay is to help all peace-loving people
around the world, including peace-loving Muslims, to better
understand what is motivating some Moslem men and women to cause
unspeakable harm to innocent people, including themselves, by
blowing themselves up with explosives in public places. How can
sensible people choose to turn their bodies into weapons to
destroy many innocent people? This is the question that is
troubling many thinking persons today. We shall seek for an
answer by examining the teachings of Islam from its primary
sources, the Koran and Hadith (the collection of Muhammad's
teachings). We want to ascertain whether the Koran teaches devout
Muslims to advance the cause of Allah by peaceful persuasion or
by violent warfare.
This is a sad time for peace-loving people around the world
who wonder what motivates Moslem terrorists to blow themselves up
with explosives in public places in order to kill the largest
possible number of innocent people. The impetus for such heinous
crimes must be very powerful. The fear of these senseless acts
of terrorism has changed our lives forever.
In seeking to find a solution to the problem of Moslem
terrorism, it is important to understand what motivates these
people to engage in this frightening self-destruction. We are
told by many moderate Muslims and political leaders that Islam is
a religion of peace and it does not allow the killing of innocent
people. The deplorable terroristic acts we have witnessed in
recent months are supposed to be condemned by the teachings of
It is not my intent to judge Islam as a violent religion on
the basis of some terroristic acts done by those who claim to
follow its teachings. The same must be said of Christianity. We
cannot conclude that Christianity teaches violence because of the
violent crusades some Christians have waged in the past against
Moslem, Jews, and so-called "heretics." Such a method of
interpretation is wrong, because not all who claim to act in the
name of their religion are necessarily following its teachings.
The right method is to go back to the sources of Islam and
Christianity and see what they have to say about violence and
peaceful coexistence with people practicing other religions. This
is the procedure we shall follow by examining, first, what Islam
has to say about warfare, and then by comparing its teachings
with those of the Bible.
THE TEACHING OF ISLAM ABOUT JIHAD OR THE FIGHTING FOR THE CAUSE
Some scholars view as futile the attempt to define the
teaching of the Koran and the Hadith (collected teachings of
Muhammad) regarding the use of warfare to advance the cause of
Allah. The reason given by Moslem scholars like Fareed Zakaria,
in the article cited earlier, is that "The Qur'an is a vast,
vague book, filled with poetry and contradictions (much like the
Bible). You can find in it condemnations of war and incitements
to struggle, beautiful expressions of tolerance and stern
pictures against unbelievers."
Is it true that the Koran is a contradictory book that
condemns war on the one hand and commands warfare on the other
hand? The answer is "No!" We shall show below that the
contradictions in the Koran are resolved by recognizing
Muhammad's progressive teachings from peace to war during the
course of his life and experiences.
At the beginning of his mission, Muhammad urged his followers
to meet opposition with patience and persuasion. Scholars refer
to these texts of the Koran as "verses of forgiveness and
pardon." For example, the Koran says: "Invite (all) to the way of
thy Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue with them
in ways that are best and most gracious: for thy Lord knoweth
best, who have strayed from His path, and who receive guidance.
(16:125)." "Nor can goodness and evil be equal. Repel (evil)
with what is better (41:34)."
After consolidating his power, however, Muhammad explicitly
ordered the use of offensive warfare against unbelievers.
Scholars refer to these texts of the Koran as the "Sword
Verses." Here are two examples: "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 God knoweth, and ye know not (2:216)." "But when the
forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the pagans
wherever ye find them, and seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in
wait for them in every stratagem (of war); but if they repent,
and establish regular prayers and practice regular charity, then
open the way for them: for God is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful
The Resolution of the Contradiction
People like Fareed Zakaria cited earlier, maintain that the
contradiction between those texts advocating tolerance and those
urging warfare, simply reflect the contradictory nature of the
Koran, which is a "vague book, filled with poetry and
contradictions (much like the Bible)."
This simplistic explanation is rejected by Islamic scholars
who have examined the question closely. They have concluded that
the contradictory statements reflect the "progressive
revelation" that was tailored to fit Muhammad's circumstances.
In his book "Jihad: The Origin of Holy War in Islam" published by
Oxford University Press in 1999, Reuven Firestone, writes:
"Muslim scholars came to the conclusion that the scriptural
verses regarding war were revealed in direct relation to the
historic needs of Muhammad during his prophetic mission. At the
beginning of his prophetic career in Mecca when he was weak and
his followers few, the divine revelations encouraged avoidance of
"After the intense persecutions that caused Muhammad and his
followers to emigrate to Medina, however, they were given leave
to engage in defensive warfare. As the Muslim community grew in
strength, further revelations broadened the conditions under
which war could be waged, until it was concluded that war against
non-Muslims could be waged virtually at any time, without
pretext, and in any place" (p. 50).
In a 26 pages compelling paper on "Jihad: The Teaching of
Islam from Its Primary Sources: The Quran and Hadith," Richard
Bailey traces the evolution of the Koran's teaching from
tolerance to warfare through four stages. He provides an ample
documentation for each stage. For the purpose of this essay, I
will simply mention each stage, giving only few exemplary verses
from the Koran. I would be glad to email the complete paper to
anyone interested in this documentation.
Some readers may find this brief analysis of the evolution of
Muhammad's teachings on violence, rather boring. Please do not
give up. If you do, you will miss the second half of this study
where I compare the Koran with the Bible and offer a Christian
response to the problem of terrorism. You will find that the time
devoted to the reading this newsletter to be well-spent.
I have tried to simplify the subject, but reading Koran
verses can be tedious, because the structure of the sentences is
archaic, much like KJV. But, it is important to make the effort
to understand the development of Muhammad's teachings on
warfare, because this helps us understand why Muslims have used
in the past and are still using today armed conflicts to advance
the cause of Allah throughout the world. The references from the
Koran are given as Sura, which means chapter, followed by the
number of the verses.
Stage One: No Retaliation
When Muhammad began preaching Islam in 610 A. D. in Mecca,
his fellow tribesmen (Koreish) became increasingly hostile toward
him because of his condemnation of their idolatry. The chapters
(suras) of the Koran which originated during the 13 years
Muhammad continued to live in Mecca, contain no instruction about
fighting, in spite of the severe persecution suffered by his
small band of followers.
Simply because his few followers stood no chance to win in a
physical conflict. Thus it was a wise survival strategy to avoid
violent confrontations. Few verses will serve to illustrate this
In Sura 73:10,11 Muhammad urges his followers to be patient
toward those who deny the truth: "And have patience with what
they say, and leave them with noble (dignity). And leave me
(alone to deal with) those in possession of the good things of
life, who (yet) deny the truth, and bear with them for a little
In Sura 52:45,47,48 the prophet admonishes to leave the
unbelievers alone and to wait patiently for the Lord to punish
them: "So leave them alone until they encounter that day of
theirs, wherein they shall (perforce) swoon (with terror) ... And
verily, for those who do wrong, there is another punishment
besides this... Now await in patience the command of thy Lord,
for verily thou art in Our eyes."
Stage Two: Defensive Fighting is Permitted
On July 15, 622, the increasing opposition forced Muhammad
and his followers to flee from Mecca to Medina, a distance of 250
miles North. This is an important date, known as the Hegira,
because it marks the beginning of the Moslem calendar. In Medina
Muhammad was recognized as a prophet and was able to consolidate
his power.His followers began looting the Meccan caravans
passing through Medina.
This practice eventually led to several battles between the
Koreish tribes of Mecca and his followers.
Muhammad gained the first victory in the Battle of Badr in
624 with an army of 305, mostly citizens of Medina, over a
Koreish force twice as large. He conquered several Jewish and
Christian tribes and ordered and watch in person the massacred of
600 Jews in one day. It was at this time that Muhammad instructed
his followers to defend themselves by fighting and killing.
An example of this instruction is found in Sura 22:39-41
where permission is given to engage in defensive fighting : "To
those against whom war is made, permission is given (to fight),
because they are wronged, and verily, God is most powerful for
Again in Sura 22:58 rewards are promised to those who die in
jihad: "Those who leave their homes in the cause of God, and are
then slain or die, on them will God bestow verily a goodly
provision." The promise of paradise to those who die fighting
for Allah, has inspired countless Muslin through the centuries to
become martyrs for their faith. It is this promise that inspires
devout Muslims young men and women today to become suicide
bombers for the cause of Allah.
Stage Three: Defensive fighting is Commanded
A few months after granting permission to fight in self-defence,
Muhammad instructed his followers in making war as a religious
obligation. At first the enemies were the idol worshippers
of the Koreish tribe in Mecca, but later it included the Jews and
Christians who did not accept Muhammad as prophet.
This teaching is found in numerous verses of the Koran.
Richard Bailey lists 32 passages, annotating them with valuable
comments. For the sake of brevity I refer only to four of them.
In Sura 2:190 instruction is given to fight until persecution is
stopped and Islam is established: "Fight in the cause of God
those who fight you, but do not transgress limits; for God loveth
not transgressors. And slay them wherever ye catch them, and turn
them out from where they have turned you out; for tumult and
oppression are worse than slaughter."
In Sura 2:216 Muslims are commanded to fight for the cause of
Allah, even if they do not like, because Allah knows what is best
for them: "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 God knoweth, and
ye know not."
Statements such as these make it abundantly clear that for a
devout Muslims who follows the teachings of the Koran, fighting
to advance the cause of Islam is a divine obligation that can
hardly be ignored.
In Sura 8:12,13 Muslims are instructed to cut the necks and
fingers of those who opposed God and to never turn their back on
unbelievers: "Remember thy Lord inspired the angels (with the
message): 'I am with you: give firmness to the believers. I will
instill terror into the hearts of the unbelievers. Smite ye above
their necks and smite all their fingertips off them. This
because they contended against God and His Apostle. If any
contend against God and his Apostle, God is strict in punishment
... O ye who believe! When ye meet the unbelievers in hostile
array, never turn your backs to them. If any do turn his back to
them on such a day-unless it be in a stratagem of war, or to
retreat to a troop (of
his own) - he draws on himself the wrath of God, and his abode is
hell, - an evil refuge (indeed)! It is not ye who slew them; it
The instruction is clear. When in combat, there is no room
for second thought. Muslim soldiers are to finish the job by
smiting the head and cutting the fingers of their enemies. The
intent of these amputations was to make it impossible for the
victims ever to fight again.
Sura 61:4,11-13 teaches that God loves those who fight in His
cause with determination. He will give them victory, forgiveness
of sins and admission to the pleasure of paradise: "Truly God
loves those who fight in His cause in battle array, as if they
were a solid cemented structure ... that ye believe in God and
His Apostle, and that ye strive (your utmost) in the cause of
God, with your property and your persons. That will be best for
you, if ye but knew! He will forgive you your sins, and admit you
to gardens [Paradise] beneath which rivers flow, and to
beautiful mansions in gardens of eternity.
That is indeed the supreme achievement. And another (favor will
He bestow), which ye do love-help from God and a speedy victory.
So give the glad tidings to the believers."
One of the benefits of fighting for the cause of Islam is the
permission to take captured women as concubines, in addition to
several legitimate wives. Sura 33:50: says: "O Prophet! We have
made lawful to thee thy wives to whom thou hast paid their
dowers, and those whom thy right hand possesses out of the
prisoners of war whom God has assigned to thee ... For the
believers (at large), We know that We have appointed for them as
to their wives and the captives whom their right hands possess
..." The notion that God would assign captured women as
concubines to Muslim believers who fight for His cause, hardly
reflect high moral standards of the Islam faith. Polygamy and
servile concubinage have destroyed the dignity of women and the
beauty of the home. In this areas the infinite superiority of
Christianity is clearly evident.
By teaching that those who die fighting for the cause of
Allah will have their sins forgiven and are admitted into the
pleasure of Paradise, the Koran has inspired Muslims throughout
the centuries to fight unto death for the cause of Allah. Today
it is inspiring young Palestinians become suicide bombers. For
them a "martyr's death" is the surest and quickest way to a
better life of comforts, prosperity, and pleasures in Paradise.
"Suicide bombers" see themselves as carrying out the teaching of
the Koran, while serving their communities and acquiring
admission in paradise.
Sura 55:52-58 describes Paradise as a place where there
"will be fruits of every kind, two and two... They will recline
on carpets, whose inner linings will be of rich brocade. The
fruit of the gardens will be near (and easy to reach)... In them
will be (maidens), chaste, restraining their glances, whom no man
or Jinn before them has touched ... like unto rubies and coral."
The sensual element pollutes even Islam's vision of Paradise.
Believers are promised not only blooming gardens, abundant food,
fresh fountains, but also beautiful virgins. Seventy-two
beautiful virgins will be created for the enjoyment of the
meanest believer. A moment of pleasure will be prolonged a
thousand years. This pleasure-oriented Paradise differs
radically from the Biblical view of the world to come as this
planet earth restored to its original perfection for the
habitation of the redeemed who will engage in productive
activities and the elevating worship of God.
Stage Four: Offensive War is Commanded Against the Pagans,
Christians and Jews.
The final phase of Muhammad's teaching on warfare developed
after he conquered Mecca in 630 A. D. Most of the pagans living
in the city became Muslims. At that time Muhammad was able to
take over the city and cleanse the Ka'aba (sacred shrine) of some
360 idols resident there.
At this point it became evident to Muhammad that Jews and
Christians would not accept him as prophet, so they became part
of the list of Islam's enemies to be conquered. Thus, warfare
was no longer to be a defensive fighting, but an aggressive Jihad
against all unbelievers. This is the final teaching of the Koran
which is still in force today and has inspired the recent acts of
There are several texts commanding offensive warfare to kill
the pagans, Jews, and Christians. Among them Sura 9:5 stands out
for its explicit injunction to slay the infidels: "When the
forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the pagans
wherever ye find them, and seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in
wait for them in every stratagem (of war). But if they repent,
and establish regular prayers and practice regular charity
[become Moslem], then open the way for them." The best way for
people to save their lives, was by renouncing their religion and
adopting the Islam faith. In some instances conquered people
could save their lives by paying a heavy tribute and becoming
submissive to Muslim rulers.
In the same chapter, Sura 9:29-31, Muslims are commanded to
fight Jews and Christians until they are subdued. Those who
submitted themselves to Muslim rulers were to be subjected to a
The reason is because God's curse is upon them: "Fight those who
believe not in God nor 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 [Christians and Jews], until they pay the jizya [tribute]
with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued. The Jews
call Uzair [Ezra] a son of God, and the Christians call Christ
the Son of God ... God's curse be on them."
Sura 5:36-38 prescribes four types of punishments for those
who oppose Allah and his prophet, Muhammad: "The punishment of
those who wage war against God and His Apostle, and strive with
might and main for mischief through the land is execution, or
crucifixion, or the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite
sides, or exile from the land. That is their disgrace in this
world, and a heavy punishment is theirs in the hereafter, except
for those who repent before they fall into your power. In that
case, know that God is oft-forgiving, most merciful. O ye who
believe! Do your duty to God. Seek the means of approach unto
Him, and strive with might and main in His cause, that ye may
The four types of punishments (cutting off the head,
crucifixion, maiming, or exile), which were to be applied
according to the circumstances, reveal the ruthless methods used
by Muslims invaders to advance their religion. Such methods stand
in stark contrast to the teachings of Jesus to win men and women
for the Kingdom of God by proclaiming the Good News of God's
saving grace through the atoning sacrifice of Christ.
The Teachings on Holy Warfare in Muhammad's Traditions ("Hadith")
The teachings of the Koran on the use of the sword to advance
the cause of Islam, are corroborated by the collections of
traditions ("Hadith") concerning the teaching of Muhammad. The
nine volumes by Iman Bukhari are generally regarded as the most
authentic of the Hadith literature. In volume 4 alone Richard
Bailey found 283 passages teaching holy warfare (Jihad) to
advance the cause of Islam.
For the sake of brevity I will quote only four of them.
Muhammad said, "A single endeavour (of fighting) in Allah's
cause in the forenoon or in the afternoon is better than the
world and whatever is in it" (4:50). Again he said, "Know that
Paradise is under the shades of swords." (4:73 ). For Muhammad
fighting for the cause of Allah was a way of life. He said, "My
livelihood is under the shade of my spear, and he who disobeys
my orders will be humiliated by paying Jizya" ( 4:162b).
The "Jizya" is the poll tax paid by subjugated peoples in
return for their right to exist. Muhammad said, "I have been
ordered to fight with the people till they say, 'None has the
right to be worshiped but Allah,' and whoever says, 'None has the
right to be worshiped but Allah,' his life and property will be
saved by me except for Islamic law, and his accounts will be with
Allah (either to punish him or to forgive him.)" (4:196 ). The
order is clear. Muslims had to fight people until they became
Scholarly Support for the Four Stages Evolution of Jihad.
We have briefly sketched the four stages evolution in Koran's
teaching on "holy war" (Jihad) from no retaliation, to
permissible defensive fighting, to obligatory defensive fighting,
and finally to offensive war at all times. Numerous scholars
recognize that this evolutionary teaching on the use of warfare
corresponds to the stages of development in Muhammad's thought
Two quotes from reputable sources suffices to prove this point.
The first quote is from Dr. Muhammad Muhsin Khan, the English
translator of Sahih Al-Bukhari's nine volume collection of the
traditions (Hadith) regarding the teachings of Muhammad. In his
introduction to these volumes, Dr. Muhsin Khan writes: "So at
first 'the fighting' was forbidden, then it was permitted and
after that it was made obligatory: (1) against those who start
'the fighting' against you (Muslims) ... (2) and against all
those who worship others along with Allah ..." (p. xxiv).
The second quote is from the article on "Jihad" found in the
Brill's Encyclopedia of Islam. The author writes: "The jihad is
a duty. This precept is laid down in all the sources. It is true
that there are to be found in the Kur'an divergent, and even
contradictory, texts. These are classified by the doctrine, apart
from certain variations of detail, into four successive
categories: those which enjoin pardon for offences and encourage
the invitation to Islam by peaceful persuasion; those which
enjoin fighting to ward off aggression; those which enjoin the
initiative in attack provided it is not within the four sacred
months; and those which enjoin the initiative in attack
absolutely, at all times and in all places."
The article continues, saying: "In sum, these differences
correspond to the stages in the development of Muhammad's thought
and to the modifications of policy resulting from particular
circumstances; the Meccan period during which Muhammad, in
general, confines himself to moral and religious teaching, and
the Medina period when, having become the leader of a
politico-religious community, he is able to undertake,
spontaneously, the struggle against those who do not wish to join
this community or submit to his authority. The doctrine holds
that the later texts abrogate the former contradictory texts ...
to such effect that only those of the last category remain
indubitably valid" (p.538).
The doctrine in question is known as "the law of abrogation"
which is accepted by Muslim scholars. According to this doctrine
the later "verses of the sword" superceded the earlier "verses of
forgiveness." This means that gradually Muhammad came to accept
the military Jihad as a legitimate and essential strategy to
promote the expansion of Islam. No matter what people may think,
Muhammad was not only a religious leaders, but also a military
commander who waged war against his enemies as soon he
consolidated his power and developed a fighting force.
Islam Expanded Through Warfare
A most compelling proof that Muhammad taught his followers to
advance the cause of Allah by the use of the sword, is provided
by the example of his immediate successors, known as Califs. They
followed his intense fanaticism in waging relentless wars of
conquests against Christians, Jews, and pagans. In a relatively
short time they carved an enormous empire for themselves. At the
height of their power, the Muslims' territories stretched from
northern Africa and southern Europe in the West to the borders
of modern India and China in the East. Their battle cry was:
"Before you is paradise, and behind you are death and hell."
Most of the people the Muslims conquered were nominal
Christians who surrendered their faith because they had lost the
vision of the Christian message and mission. A major reason is
that church leaders at this time were wasting their time fiercely
quarreling about metaphysical questions such as the divine/human
nature of Christ, rather than inspiring Christians to proclaim
the Gospel to the pagan nations. The first seven ecumenical
councils held between 325 and 787 A. D. were largely concerned
with the definitions of the nature and relationship between the
three Beings of the Godhead. Bitter battles were fought over
metaphysical questions that should be accepted as mystery. By
loosing their evangelistic vision, many Christians succumbed to
Islam, instead of bringing to the Muslims a saving knowledge of
During its first century of Islam's expansion from 632 to
732, Muhammad's successors subdued Egypt, Palestine, Syria, part
of Turkey (besieged Constantinople twice in 668 and 717), and all
the countries of northern Africa. In 711 they crossed from Africa
to Spain and crossed the Pyrenees into southern France. They
boasted that they would soon stable their horses in St. Peter's
cathedral in Rome. But in 732 the Frankish ruler Charles Martel
defeated then at the Battle of Tours and checked their progress
in the West.
In the East the Muslim conquest continued unabated. In the
ninth century they subdued Persia, Afghanistan, and a large part
of India. In the thirteenth century they conquered the Turks and
the Monguls. Bulgaria, Serbia, and parts of Hungary were soon to
follow. Finally in 1453 the city of Constantinople itself fell
into the hands of the Muslim Turks, who turned the magnificent
church of St.Sophia into a mosque where the Koran is read instead
of the Gospel. From Constantinople the Muslims spread panic in
Europe and threaten the German empire until they were finally
defeated at the gates of Vienna in 1683.
The Decline of the Muslim Power
At this time began the decline of the Muslim power with the
rise of European nations which gradually broke up and divided
among themselves much of the Muslim territory known as the
"Ottoman Empire." The development of strong European nations and
a powerful America, coupled with the aggressive missionary
movement of the 19th and 20th centuries, has created serious
problems for Muslims.
The political-religious Islam movement which during the Middle
Ages seemed destined to rule the world, has gradually been
humiliated by Western colonial powers which have divided much of
the Muslim territories among themselves. What ended the expansion
of Islam was not a change of beliefs, but the European military
Anger Driving Terrorism
The humiliation Muslims have experienced in the last two
centuries, is a contributing factor to the anger that is driving
terrorism today. In recent years Muslims have been humiliated
not only by the Jews in Palestine, but also by Christian Serbs in
Bosnia and Kosovo, by atheistic or Christian Russians in
Chechnya, and by Hindus in Kashmir and Pakistan.
It is hard for some Muslims to accept the shame of their
international failure. After being the superpowers for over a
thousands years, believing that Allah had empowered them to wipe
out Christians, Jews, pagans, and to rule the whole world, today
they find themselves governed politically or controlled
economically by nations made up mostly of "infidels." Many
Muslims are angered by the superior power of Western countries,
especially America, because they still believe in the superiority
of their religion and culture which they want to impose on the
rest of the world.
In his book "Jihad in Classical and Modern Islam" (Princeton
1996), Rudolf Peters, Professor of Islamic Law at the University
of Amsterdam, observes: "The crux of the doctrine is the
existence of one single Islamic state, ruling the entire umma
[Muslim community]. It is the duty of the umma to expand the
territory of this state in order to bring as many people under
its rule as possible. The ultimate aim is to expand the territory
of this state in order to bring the whole earth under the sway of
Islam and to extirpate unbelief" (p. 3).
The fact that the expansionistic vision of Islam to bring the
whole earth under its sway, has suffered constant set backs
during the past two centuries, and especially in recent years, is
inspiring some concerned Muslims to commit the terroristic acts
reported in the daily news. Their aim is to show that in spite of
their state of humiliation, Muslims are still capable of
terrorizing Western superpowers like America. This is another way
for them to show that Allah is still empowering them to
accomplish their mission.
Concerned Muslims want to punish America for her alleged
anti-Islam policies, by hitting the people in their "comfort
zone." This entails in forcing Americans to "pay more and play
less," by burdening them with billions of dollars of expenses to
fight terrorism at home and abroad, It also consists in
distressing Americans with the constant fear of unsuspected
attacks. By keeping Americans on the edge and thus undermine
their traditional sense of security. Many devout Moslems believe
that they are scoring a major victory for the cause of Islam.
They think that they are showing to the world that Allah has
empowered them to humiliate the most powerful nation, America.
For them this represents the triumph of Islam over Christianity.
The threat is heightened by the development of nuclear,
chemical, and biological weapons of mass destructions by such
Arab countries as Iraq, Iran, and Lybia. If a student at the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology could devise a nuclear bomb
in five weeks using published material available in a good
library, it is conceivable that these and other developing
countries could assemble thermonuclear weapons. When this
happens, even a small use of nuclear weapons by Muslim countries
committed to advance the cause of Allah by humiliating the
Christian superpowers, could degenerate into a major
international conflict which would bring ruin to all and
victory to none.
Is Islam a Peace-loving Religion?
The preceding survey of the teachings of the Koran and of
Muhammad's traditions (Habith) regarding warfare, discredits the
popular claim that Islam is a peace-loving, peace-preaching
There is no question that there are many peace-loving Muslims who
condemn the use of violence to promote their faith, but this can
hardly be said of the teachings of the Koran and Hadith.
To say that Islam is a religion of peace, means to ignore the
example and teachings of Muhammad. He fought all the pagans,
Jews, and Christians in Saudi Arabia, until he subdued them,
forcing them to accept Islam. What Muhammad did is reflected in
what he taught about fighting and slaying the infidels: "When
the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the pagans
wherever ye find them, and seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in
wait for them in every stratagem (of war). But if they repent,
and establish regular prayers and practice regular charity
[become Moslem], then open the way for them" (Sura 9:5).
The claim that Islam is a peace-loving religion, is openly
contradicted by the Koran that reads like a terrorist manifesto.
We must not be fooled by the speeches of Arab leaders who
condemn the acts of terrorism when their people are out in the
streets in a carnival-like atmosphere celebrating the carnage of
innocent people by suicide bombers.
Real peace with Muslims is impossible as long as they believe
in the example and teaching of Muhammad. For the Prophet peace
comes only through submission to Islam, which is the very meaning
of "Islam," namely, "submission." But the Islamic concept of
peace as a world dominated by Muslims is ultimately a mandate for
The challenge that we face today in seeking to establish
peaceful relations with the Moslem world, is to help our Muslims
friends understand the fundamental flaws of the teachings of the
Koran regarding the use of violence to advance the cause of
Allah. A religion that advocates engaging in "holy war" (Jihad)
to propagate its faith, is a repressive movement that violates
the fundamental human right to choose whom to worship. This
fundamental right is recognized and respected by the God of
biblical revelation who says:
"Choose ye this day whom you will serve" (Jos 24:15).
VIOLENCE IN THE BIBLE AND THE KORAN
This leads us to the discussion of violence in the Bible and
in the Koran. The debate over this question has intensified
after the events of September 11. Those who want to exonerate the
use of violence by Muslims, are quick to point out that
Christianity is not different, because the Bible and Christian
history are filled with violence. Earlier we cited Kenneth
Woodward who wrote in Newsweek:
"The Bible, too, has its stories of violence in the name of the
Lord. The God of the early Biblical books is fierce indeed in his
support of the Israelities warriors, drowning enemies in the sea"
(Newsweek, February 11, 2002, p. 53).
How can we respond to this popular argument that the violence
in the Koran is not different from the violence we find in the
Bible? For the sake of brevity I will limit my response to three
1) Christians Have no Biblical justification for Using Violence
in the Name of Christ
There is no question that Christians have used violence,
torture, and military crusades to destroy "infidels" and
"heretics," but those who committed these shameful acts,
betrayed the Person and teaching of Christ. They turned the
Christian church into a terroristic organization acting against
the teaching of Christ who condemned the use of violence as a
means to establish His Kingdom. He told Peter who cut off the ear
of the high priest's servant, "Put your sword back into its
place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword" (Matt
While Muhammad commanded his followers to fight pagans, Jews
and Christians until they were killed or subdued, Christ taught
His disciples to endure persecution and pray for the persecutors.
"Blessed are you when men revile you and utter all kinds of evil
against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your
reward is great in heaven . . . I say to you, Love your enemies
and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of
yourFather who is in heaven" (Matt 5:11-12, 44,45).
Muslims who use violence, warfare, and terrorism to advance
the cause of Allah, can legitimately claim to be following the
example and teachings of their prophet, Muhammad. He was both a
religious and political leader who fought until he subdued the
people of Mecca and the Christian and Jewish communities living
in Saudi Arabia. He taught: "Know that Paradise is under the
shades of swords." (4:73 )
But Christians who have resorted to violence to advance God's
Kingdom, cannot appeal to the teachings or example of Christ.
They have betrayed His teachings. Christ chose to be crucified
rather than to slay His enemies with the sheer power His spoken
word. He taught His followers to establish the Kingdom of God,
not through physical confrontation, but through the peaceful
proclamation of the saving grace of God.
Christianity turned the Roman world upside down during the
first three centuries by the sheer power of the grace of God
manifested in the loving and forgiving attitudes of Christians,
who were willing to suffer and die for their faith. By contrast,
Islam conquered much of the Roman world during the first century
of its expansion (632-732) by slaughtering a countless number of
innocent people and forcing their faith upon the survivors. What
a difference! Christ condemned the use of violence to promote
the Christian faith, while Muhammad commanded the use of the
sword to advance the cause of Islam.
2) The Extermination of the Canaanites Was a Divine Punishment
for their Wickedness.
Some appeal to passages found in the book of Joshua regarding
the extermination of various tribes living in Canaan, to argue
that the Bible is not different from the Koran in sanctioning a
"holy war" to promote the true worship of God. If this allegation
were true, then the teachings of the Bible on the use of violence
would be similar to those of the Koran.
The problem with this allegation is the failure to recognize
that the extermination of the various tribes living in Canaan was
a divine punishment for their wickedness, and not a method to
convert them to the religion of Israel. Dead people cannot change
their religion.. Like Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed because
their wickedness had reached the limits of God's mercy, so the
tribes living in Canaan were exterminated on account of their
Hundreds of years before the invasion of Canaan, God told
Abraham that his descendants would be sojourners in a foreign
land for "four hundred years" (Gen 15:13), before they could
settle in the land of Canaan. The reason given for this waiting
period is clearly stated: "for the iniquity of the Amorites is
not yet complete" (Gen 15:16). In other words, God was willing
to wait for several generations before exterminating the tribes
living in Canaan, because their wickedness had not yet reached
the limits of His mercy.
Later God warned the nation of Israel to be careful in not
repeating the sins of the Canaanites, otherwise they would suffer
a similar punishment. The warning was in vain. Eventually God
used the Assyrian and Babylonians as the instrument of His
justice to punish the people of Israel for their sinfulness, in
the same way as He had used Israel as an instrument of His
justice to purge the land of Canaan of its sinfulness.
There is a dramatic difference between the account of the
extermination of the Canaanites and the events of the early
history of Islam. The primary theme in the Biblical account is
that of God's holiness manifested in the punishment of
This theme is missing in the early accounts of Muhammad's raid
Instead, the primary motivation we constantly encounter in the
accounts of Muhammad's warfare is the spreading of the rule of
Islam by destroying and looting the enemies.
3) The Bible Does not Enjoin the Use of Warfare to Promote the
Worship of the True God.
Another important point to consider is that nowhere the Old
or New Testaments command God's people to attack pagan nations,
either in self-defence or as a way to promote the true worship of
God. The proclamation of salvation in the Bible is always by
witnessing and persuasion.
God placed Israel in the land of Canaan because of its
strategic location at the crossroads of the ancient world. The
Israelites were to be God's showcase to the ancient world,
especially to the merchants and armies crisscrossing Palestine.
This so-called "King's Highway" was an obligatory "interstate"
route for people who travelled from the South to North or from
the North to the South of the Middle East. God wanted to
establish His people at the hub of the ancient world for them to
be a light to the nations. "The Lord will establish you as a
people holy to himself, as he has sworn to you, if you keep the
commandments of the Lord your God, and walk in his ways. An all
the people of the earth shall see that you are called by the name
of the Lord; they shall be afraid of you" (Deut 28:9-10).
The Israelites were called to promote the true worship of
God, not by conquering nations through warfare, as enjoined in
the Koran, but by being a shining light to the world. "Arise and
shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has
risen upon you. . . . And the nations shall come to your light,
and the kings to the brightness of your rising" (Is 60:1, 2).
There was no need for the Israelites to promote their faith by
the sword, because God promised to fight for them and to bring
the nations to their door steps to learn about the true worship
of God (Zech 8:20-22).
The OT anticipation of the proclamation of salvation to all
the nations, becomes in the NT Christ's great commission to His
followers: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations" (Matt
28:19). This great commission is to be fulfilled, not by the use
of the sword, but by "teaching them to observe all that I have
commanded you" (Matt 28:20).
Islam is a Violent Religion
A comparison between the teaching of the Koran and that of
the Bible on the use of violence, shows the fundamental
difference that exists between Islam and Christianity. We have
found that Islam is a violent religion because the Koran teaches
holy warfare (Jihad) to force people to submit to its
religious/political system. A religion that resorts to violence
to force its teachings upon others, can hardly be called a
"religion," because a true religion presupposes reverence for God
and respect for fellow-beings. It would be more appropriate to
label violent religions as "terroristic organizations."
The designation of "terroristic organization" applies not
only to Islam, but also to Christian churches that became violent
during certain periods of the history. For example, during the
Middle Ages the Catholic Church became a formidable "terroristic
organization" that organized crusades to exterminate Muslims,
Jews, and so-called "heretics." The Catholic church terrorized
people in Western Europe, especially through the inquisition. The
latter was a travelling court that went from town to town seeking
out for "heretics" to interrogate, torture, and execute if they
did not abandon their beliefs.
Recently the Pope apologized for the unspeakable atrocities
committed by the Catholic church when it became a terroristic
organization committed to subdue Muslims, Jews, religious
dissidents, and Greek Orthodox Christians. We only wish that
Muslims religious leaders would follow the example of the Pope by
apologizing for the countless number of innocent people they
massacred during their millennium of territorial expansion. If
they truly believe that Islam is a peace-loving religion, then
they have a moral obligation to show their heartfelt sorrow for
slaughtering millions of innocent people who refused to submit to
the Islam faith and rule. They also should apologize for the
daily terroristic acts committed by Muslim suicide-bombers. They
should condemn these acts of violence as a betrayal of Islam. But
this is wishful thinking, because there are no indications that
such an apology and condemnation is forthcoming from Muslim
Today, May 28, 2002, a Fox News reporter said that during
the long months she has spent in the Middle East reporting the
current conflict, she has never heard a Muslim religious leader
condemning the killing of innocent people by suicide bombers. She
found it hard to comprehend why Muslim religious leaders do not
speak up, especially when suicide bombers kill mothers strolling
their your children on the street.
Why are Muslim religious leaders silent? Simply because they
believe that suicide bombers are "martyrs" who are acting in
accordance with the example and teachings of their prophet,
After all, he called upon his followers to " fight and slay the
pagans wherever ye find them, and seize them, beleaguer them, and
lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war)" (Sura 9:5).
Muhammad practiced what he preached. He waged war against
his enemies as soon as he consolidated his power in Medina. He
used the sword to force people to accept his religious and
political system. For Mohammed fighting was a way of practice his
religion: "My livelihood is under the shade of my spear, and he
who disobeys my orders will be humiliated by paying Jizya
[tribute]" (Hadith 4:162b).
A religion that uses violence to promote its beliefs and
practices, can hardly be considered as a peace-loving religion.
Christianity is a Peace-Loving Religion.
By contrast, Christianity is a peace-loving religion because
it is inspired by its founder, Jesus Christ, who did not force
people to submit to anything. He called upon people to
voluntary accept the Good News of His substitutionary death for
penitent sinner and the power of His transforming grace. He
taught His followers to "Love your enemies and pray for those who
persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in
heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and the good" (Matt
Christ is rightly called "THE PRINCE OF PEACE" (Is 9:6), because
he offers us PEACE WITH GOD by bearing the penalty of our
sins, PEACE WITH OURSELVES by offering us the power to overcome
sin in our life, and PEACE WITH PEOPLE by granting us the
capacity to love even those who hate us.
At Jesus' birth, the angels sang: "Glory to God in the
highest and on earth PEACE, GOOD WILL toward men (Luke 2:14).
Thirty three years later while dying He prayed for those who
mocked and crucified Him: "Father forgive them for they know not
what the do!" (Luke 13:34). And to all who trust in Him and
accept His gracious provision of salvation, Christ promises: "My
PEACE I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you.
Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid" (John
The peace that Christ offers is not territorial, but
internal. It is achieved not by making the whole world Muslim
through territorial expansion, but by experiencing the restful
assurance of divine forgiveness, protection, and salvation. It is
an internal peace that enables us to live in a trouble world
without letting our hearts be troubled or afraid. Ultimately,
this is the peace that every human being needs. The is the peace
that can help Muslims to live at peace with God, themselves, and
A CHRISTIAN RESPONSE TO ISLAM
What contributions can Christians make toward a resolution of
the threat of terrorism, sponsored by Muslim organizations? It
is naive to think that anyone can offer a magic solution to the
complex conflict between Islam and Christianity that has been
going on for the past 14 centuries? The most we can hope to
accomplish is to start a thinking process leading toward a
solution. With this in mind I am submitting three suggestions:
1) Christians Need to Understand the Root of Terrorism
To resolve the problem of terrorism, which is causing a
paralyzing fear in the American society and many Western
countries, besides costing billions of dollars to the
international community of nations, it is vitally important to
understand that the root of Muslim terrorism is theological, not
merely political or territorial.
By this I mean that the acts of terrorism we are witnessing daily
are inspired, not merely by the desire to get a larger share of
the land controlled by Israel, but by the clear teaching of the
Koran "to fight and slay" the infidels until the whole world is
under Islam's rule.
Keep in mind that 99.9 percent of the Middle East lands are
controlled by Muslim countries today. Only one-tenth of one
percent is controlled by Israel. The Muslims, whose original
homeland is Saudi Arabia, have succeeded through the centuries to
systematically subdued all the countries of the Middle East, by
practically uprooting all the Christians and Jews living there.
What this means is that the Arabs are not satisfied with the
99.9 percent of the Middle East lands they have occupied. They
are fighting for the one-tenth of one percent of the landmass
which is controlled by Israel. Will territorial concessions on
the part of Israel bring about a lasting peace? Absolutely not,
even if Palestinian received all the land they claims as theirs!
Why? Simply because history teaches us that no matter how much
territory the Muslims conquered, they still wanted more. What
has been true in the past, is still true today. The want all the
land of Israel.
Am I suggesting that Palestine does not belong to the
Palestinians? There is no question that the Palestinian have
theright to a homeland in Palestine, but they can hardly claim
that historically Palestine has been their own country, governed
by the Palestinians, with a distinct Palestinian culture and
language. The fact is that Palestinians are Arabs who have
occupied what in Bible times was known as the land of Canaan.
They are indistinguishable from Jordanians, Syrians, Saudies,
Lebanese, Iraquis, Iranians, etc.
Prior to the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, there was no serious
movement for a Palestinian homeland. The territories that Israel
captured during the Six-Day War, did not belong to Yasser Arafat
or the Palestinian Authorities, but to Jordan's King Hussein. It
is only after Israel won the war that these Arabs discovered
their national identity as Palestinians.
The truth is that term "Palestine" was coined, not by native
Arabs to designate their homeland, but by the Romans after they
captured Judea in 70 A. D. After committing genocide against
the Jews and smashing the Temple, the Romans decided that Judea
would no longer exist as the land of the Jews. To add insult to
injury they changed the name from Judea to Palestine, a name
derived from the Philistines-tribal people living in the southern
costal region and conquered by the Jews at the time of David.
Palestine as a State Never Existed.
What this means is that Palestine as a state with its own
language and culture, has never existed. Its territory has been
ruled alternatively by the Romans, Islamic and Christian
crusaders, the Ottoman Empire, and briefly by the British after
World War I. The British agreed to restore part of the land to
the Jewish people as their homeland.
From a historical perspective, the Jews have a 4,000-year-old
birthright to Palestine. It is the land of their religious,
ethnic, and historical roots. The fact that in the past they
were expelled from their homeland by Romans, Christians, and
Muslims, does not mean that they should be forced out of their
homeland again today!
After all, they have no other land which they can rightfully
claim as their homeland.
This is not the case with the Palestinians. From a historical
perspective they can legitimately claim several Arab countries as
their homeland, because that is where are found their religious,
cultural, ethnic, and linguistic roots.
Some try to prove the Muslim's roots in Palestine by
appealing to the Al Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock in
Jerusalem, which are popularly regarded as Islam's third most
holy sites. In my reading I found that the Koran says nothing
about Jerusalem. It mentions Mecca and Medina countless times,
but never mentions Jerusalem. In fact there are no historical
evidences to suggest Muhammad ever visited Jerusalem.
How then did Jerusalem become the third holiest site of
Islam? Largely as a result of a gratuitous interpretation of a
vague passage found in the seventeenth chapter (sura) of the
Koran, entitled "The Night Journey." It relates that in a dream
Muhammed was carried by night "from the sacred temple to the
temple that is most remote, whose precinct we have blessed, that
we might show him our signs...."
In the seventh century, some Muslims identified the "temple
that is most remote" as being the Mosque in Jerusalem. It is hard
to believe that Muhammad would be carried away in a dream to the
Mosque in Jerusalem that did not yet exist at the time of his
death in 632 A. D. By contrast, the Jews can trace their roots
in Jerusalem back to the days of Abraham (Gen 14:18).
Recently Arab leaders met in Beirut to find a solution to the
conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. They adopted the
proposal of the Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah to persuade Israel to
return certain territories to the Palestinians in exchange for
granting to the State of Israel the right to exist.
Why Arab Leaders Do Not Give Some of the Land to Palestinians?
What I find difficult to understand is why all these Arab
leaders who control 99.9 percent of the vast landmass of the
Middle East, and have incredible financial resources from oil
exports to the West, do not open the doors of their countries to
the relatively small Palestinian population of only 2,895,683
people, according to the 1997 census ? After all the
Palestinians are their own Arab brethren. They share the same
religious, ethnic, cultural, and linguistic heritage.
Why do Arab leaders prefer to finance refugee camps in the
West Banks rather than inviting Palestinians to settle in their
own countries? Why Arab countries don't follow the example of
America who has given asylum to persecuted people of all races
and creeds, including many Arabs? Why are Arab leaders more
interested to take away some land from Israel - an extremely
small country - than give some of their own land to their
Palestinian Muslim brethren?
I believe that answer is to be found in the call of the
Koran "to fight and slay" the infidels until the whole world is
under Islam's rule. For Arab leaders to offer asylum to their
Palestinian brethren, would mean to stop the ongoing conflict
with Israel - an enemy of Islam that must be ultimately driven
out of the land. By fueling the present conflict, especially
with financial subsidies to the families of suicide bombers, they
hope to achieve their objectives. What is at stake, then, is not
more land for the Palestinian, but total Muslim control of the
Some may feel that I am not fair to the Muslims. Let me
repeat the issue is not the Muslims people as such, most of whom
are peace-loving people whom I love and respect. Rather, the
issue is the teachings of the Koran which call for the
suppression and extermination of those who practice a different
religion. This is the root of the problem that needs to be
addressed by Christians and the international community of
Suicide bombers are inspired by the teaching of the Koran.
Muslim religious leaders indoctrinate young Arab men and women to
become martyrs by killing the enemies of Islam. They are told
that the Koran guarantees them the forgiveness of their sins and
admission into the pleasure of paradise. Such an appalling,
immoral, and senseless teaching is firing up poor young Muslim
men and women to become suicide bombers. By killing the enemies
of Islam, whether it be at the World Trade Towers in New York
City or in the shopping centers in Israel, they become
immortalized as martyrs for the cause of Islam who have gained
admission into the pleasure of Paradise.
2) Christians Need to Expose the Immorality of the Koran's
Teachings on the Use of Violence
To deal with the root problem of Muslim terrorism, it is
imperative to embark in a worldwide educational program designed
to expose the immorality of the teachings the Koran which calls
for the suppression and extermination of those who practice a
This strategy of exposing the immorality of the Koran's
teachings on the use of violence to advance the cause of Islam,
may not be politically correct. It can alienate moderate Moslems
living in the USA and overseas. But I am persuaded that the
truth that "hurts" is better than a lie that "soothes."
To minimize a backlash it is important to distinguish between
the teachings of Koran about the exterminations of the
"infidels," and the Moslem people themselves who ignore or openly
reject such teachings. The same principle applies to any
religion. For example, most Catholics know very little about the
historical teachings of their church regarding he suppression of
Most Catholics would be appalled to read what Thomas Aquinas,
the most influential Catholic theologian, teaches in his Summa
Theologica about the extermination of the "heretics." He wrote:
"With regard to heretics two points must be observed: one, on
their own side, the other, on the side of the church. On their
own side there is a sin, whereby they deserve not only to be
separated from the Church by excommunication, but also to be
severed from the world by death. For it is a much graver matter
to corrupt the faith which quickens the soul, than to forge
money, which supports the temporal life. Wherefore, if forger of
money and other evildoers are forthwith condemned to death by the
secular authority, much more reason is there for heretics, as
soon as they are convicted of heresy, to be not only
excommunicated but even put to death" (Question 11, Article 3).
This fundamental Catholic teachings that "heretics," if
they do not recant, must be not only excommunicated but also
exterminated, is found in numerous documents of the Inquisition.
When the immorality of such teachings are exposed, most Catholics
openly reject them, choosing instead to accept the teachings of
the Gospel to "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute
What is true for the Catholics is also true for the Muslims.
We need to help our Muslim friends understand that the teachings
of the Koran on the use of violence to advance the cause of
Islam, are immoral and to be condemned by all peace-loving
people. We need to help them understand that the sword of itself
never brings peace to the world. Above all, we need to help them
discover the beauty and power of the message of the Gospel-which
is a message of love and forgiveness, a message of peace through
internal transformation, rather than through external suppression
of enemies and territorial expansion.
3) Christians Need to Become Involved in Meeting the Needs of
Exposing the immorality of the teachings of the Koran on the
use of violence, is not enough. Actions speak louder than words.
Christian relief organizations need to become actively involved
in relieving the pain and suffering of Muslims living in
Christian relief centers need to be established where Muslims
are suffering today. Muslims need to see Christian love in
action. This should happen not only in the Palestinian refugee
camps, but also in Afghanistan - a country which has been
devastated by 22 years of fighting, three years of famine, and
five years of Taliban rule.
Christian relief and assistance in Afghanistan cannot stop at the
end of the military operations. The presence of dedicated
Christian doctors, nurses, social workers, teachers, and
technicians involved in developments programs, can go long way in
giving credibility to the Christian witness.
Ultimately the most compelling example of the difference
between the teaching of the Koran and that of the Bible on the
use of violence, is the unselfish and compassionate service
offered by dedicated Christians even to Muslim terrorists. The
manifestation of Christian love in action, has the potential for
changing the Muslim world today as it did change the Roman world
twenty centuries ago.
Dr. Samuele Bacchiocchi can be contacted at Biblical
Perspectives, 4990 Appian Way, Berrien Springs, Michigan 49103,
USA. Or Phone (616) 471-2915 Or Email at: SBacchiocchi@csi.com
Samuele Bacchiocchi, Ph. D.,
Retired Professor of Theology and Church History, Andrews
4990 Appian Way
Berrien Springs, MI 49103
Phone (616) 471-2915 Fax (616) 471-4013
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