Friday, January 29, 2016

Islam - A religion for men - Men are superior

This is part of a larger series called "The Koran from a Christian perspective." You can find other posts in this series here.
One thing one quickly come away with when reading the Koran is how much of it is directed to men; how much of its promises, blessings, and privileges are directed at and reserved for men. It quickly becomes apparent that men are superior to women and, in many ways, women are no better than children and often are treated like property. The Koran teaches us that God created men to be superior to men.
"Men are the managers of the affairs of women [superior to women] for that God has preferred in bounty [gifted the] one of them over another [above the other], and for that they have expended of their property [on account of the outlay they make from their substance for them]." (Koran 4:38)
Here, Muhammad tells us that men are superior to women because God has created them superior, giving giftings to the man that are higher and superior to the giftings He gave to women. We certainly cannot deny that men and women are different; their physical and emotional makeup differs one from another. Men tend to be stronger physically than women and women tend to be stronger emotional than men and are often more caring, nurturing, and insightful then men. However, this does not make one superior, or better, than the other, it just makes them different. In the Jewish scriptures, when God is about to take the woman from the side of man, He says, "It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him." (Genesis 2:18) Here, the Hebrew word for "suitable" means one who can stand in front of, or opposite to. It is the picture of one who is not inferior of beneath the other but one who stands before another as their equal. This equality of Eve with Adam was also reflected in the words Adam spoke when he first saw Eve, "This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh." (Genesis 2:23) Adam saw her as his equal, as being his own bones and his flesh. He saw her not as his slave or possession but his companion and his equal.

The Koran also teaches us that men are superior to women because they provide financially for their sustenance. However, such a view demeans the value that a woman bring to a home, even if she is not working or contributing to the financial purse of the home. It is an affront to the the value of a good wife and mother to say that just because she does not provide financially, she is not as important as a man. Moreover, it doe not take into account the realities of toay when many women do work and contribute to the finances of the home. If a woman earns more than a man is she then to be considered superior to him? King Lemuel teaches us, "An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain." (Proverbs 31:10-11) A woman's value may not be financial, but it is nevertheless incalculable.

The Koran goes on to say that, in all things, and especially in a marriage, men are a step above women.
"Divorced women shall wait by themselves for three periods; and it is not lawful for them to hide what God has created in their wombs; if they believe in God and the Last Day. In such time their mates have better right to restore them, if they desire to set things right. Women have such honourable rights as obligations [and it is for the women to act as they (the husbands) act by them, in all fairness], but their men have a degree [step] above them; God is All-mighty, All-wise." (Koran 2:228)
However, the Christian scriptures teach us that, in Christ, all distinction of gender vanish. "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (Galatians 3:28) While the scriptures do teach that men are to be the "head" of the women, it is a headship of service as demonstrated by Jesus who is the "head" of the church. It says of Jesus' headship that, "Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her" (Ephesians 5:25) and "for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body." (Ephesians 5:29-30) Men may be the head of their wives but their wives are also as their flesh. Men are to view wives not as inferior but as themselves. "So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies." (Ephesians 5:28)

The Koran goes further to say that, as far as the law is concerned, one man is worth two women.
"And call in to witness two witnesses, men; or if the two be not men, then one man and two women, such witnesses as you approve of, that if one of the two women errs the other will remind her; and let the witnesses not refuse, whenever they are summoned." (Koran 2:282)
"If there be two sisters, they shall receive two-thirds of what he leaves; if there be brothers and sisters, the male shall receive the portion of two females." (Koran 4:174)
This is quite understandable in the context of the culture and society that Muhammad lived in, but Muhammad is claiming more than cultural authority, he is claiming that his teachings come directly from God. It is not Muhammad that is saying one man is worth two women, it is God! Peter teaches husbands to "show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered." (1 Peter 3:7) However, the Koran teaches great dishonor towards women. Women are worth less than a man, women's value in a marriage is less than a man, and women are lower in degree to men in the sight of God. Where is the honor here? God created us all alike. We are equal before Him and we are all honored by Him. The Koran brings women low but the true God in Heaven lifts them up and honors them equally with the rest of mankind.

More to come...
David Robison

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Islam - A religion of war - The Crusades

This is a continuation of a multi-post article. You can read the first post here and the previous post here. This is also part of a larger series called "The Koran from a Christian perspective." You can find other posts in this series here.
There are many similarities between the many wars of Muhammad and the Christian Crusades of the eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth centuries. During this time the imagination and zeal of European Christians were stoked against the suffering of Christians in Jerusalem and the hindering of Christian pilgrims attempting to visit the Holy Land by its Muslim occupiers. To liberate Jerusalem, rid it of pagan unbelievers, and to restore free access to the holy sites by pious pilgrims, several Roman Catholic popes of that ages called upon emperors, kings, and the faithful to join together in many crusades to free the place where Jesus one lived, died, and was buried. It is hard for us in this twenty-first century to understand and comprehend how thoroughly and rapidly "crusade fever" spread throughout Europe and captured the minds and hearts of Christians of that age. It was not only sanctioned by the popes but many a hermit made the crusades the topic of their preaching and aroused many a man, woman, and child to join the crusades. Philip Schaff describes the feeling in those days.
"Bernard of Clairvaux said, pagans must not be slain if they may by other means be prevented from oppressing the faithful. However, it is better they should be put to death than that the rod of the wicked should rest on the lot of the righteous. The righteous fear no sin in killing the enemy of Christ. Christ’s soldier can securely kill and more safely die. When he dies, it profits him; when he slays, it profits Christ. The Christian exults in the death of the pagan because Christ is glorified thereby. But when he himself is killed, he has reached his goal." (Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Volume V, Section 48)
In many ways, Muhammad felt the same way about Mecca as the Christians four hundred years later in Europe would feel about Jerusalem. Mecca contained the Kaaba, a cube-shaped "house" that housed a black stone that was believed to have fallen from heaven. The Kaaba was the center of worship by many people including Muslims. Muhammad saw it as a great sin by the Meccans in that they had expelled the Prophet and now they were preventing Muslims from worshiping at the Kaaba. Upon his expulsion, Muhammad was weak and could not mount much of a defense, but now that he was strong, he set his eyes on returning to defeat the Meccans and to free the Kaaba that the faithful might once again worship there.
"But if they break their oaths after their covenant [alliance] and thrust at [revile] your religion, then fight the leaders of unbelief; they have no sacred oaths; haply they will give over. Will you not fight a people [those Meccans] who broke their oaths and purposed to expel the Messenger [your Apostle], beginning the first time against you [and attacked you first]? Are you afraid of them? You would do better to be afraid of God, if you are believers." (Koran 9:12-13)
Muhammad renewed his ambition to retake Mecca and, in a revelation sent directly from Allah, called his follower to fight.
"Fight them [so make war with them], and God will chastise them at your hands and degrade them [put them to shame], and He will help you against them [give you victory over them], and bring healing to the breasts of a people who believe," (Koran 9:14)
Muhammad convinced his followers that it was God who stood ready to judge the Meccans and it was God who would bring them low before them and grant them victor over their enemies. In Muhammad's eyes, this fight was at the heart of what it meant to be Muslim. This fight was not just a fight for territory but for life eternal and for a place in Paradise. For a Muslim, it is better for them to fight and to abstain from war.
"O believers, what is amiss with you, that when it is said to you, 'Go [march] forth in the way of God,' you sink down heavily to the ground? Are you so content with this present life, rather than the world to come? Yet the enjoyment of this present life, compared with the world to come, is a little thing. If you go [march] not forth, He will chastise you with a painful chastisement, and instead of you He will substitute another people...Go [march] forth, light and heavy [armed]! Struggle [contend] in God's way with your possessions and your selves; that is better for you, did you know. " (Koran 9:38-39, 41)
As the Christian Crusades raged on for more than two centuries, there were voices that challenged the blind religious zeal of the day. In the crusades they saw not the triumph of Christianity but the triumph of the fleshly desires and the ambitions of men. Philip Schaff writes,
"Erasmus struck the right note and expressed the view of a later age. Writing at the very close of the Middle Ages making an appeal for the proclamation of the Gospel by preaching and speaking of wars against the Turks, he said, 'Truly, it is not meet to declare ourselves Christian men by killing very many but by saving very many, not if we send thousands of heathen people to hell, but if we make many infidels Christian; not if we cruelly curse and excommunicate, but if we with devout prayers and with our hearts desire their health, and pray unto God, to send them better minds.'" (Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Volume V, Section 58)
I do not draw upon the similarities of the Christian crusades and the Muslim wars to justify the one or to excuse the other but rather to condemn them both. Both proceeded not from the heart of God but from the carnal mind of men. However, there is one distinction between the two that must be brought to center stage, and that is that one was the enterprise of men while the other claimed to be the command of God. One was advanced by popes and monks while the other was proclaimed and commanded by the Prophet and Apostle of a new religion. One was added to the religion some thousand years latter while the other was institutionalized as part of that religion from the very beginning. One lasted for a few hundred years until the prevailing culture of Europe changed while the other has continued almost unabated for fourteen hundred years. The crusades remain a low point in Christian history and one which few, if any, Christians remain who would wish its return. However, one cannot escape the call to war and to fight that was recorded in the Koran (and in the Mother Book in heaven) that is still as valid today as it was when Muhammad wrote it. The crusades produced a people of war, but the Koran produces a religion of war.

David Robison

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Islam - A religion of war - God favors the warrior

This is a continuation of a multi-post article. You can read the first post here and the previous post here. This is also part of a larger series called "The Koran from a Christian perspective." You can find other posts in this series here.
The Koran promises rewards for all believers and followers of Islam. However, for some classes of believers, and alternate way, or at least an enhanced means of finding rewards, are offered. In Islam, God does favor certain classes of believers over others.
"Not equal [treatment] is he among you who spent, and who fought before the victory; those are mightier [nobler] in rank [grade] than they who spent [contributed] and fought afterwards;" (Koran 57:10)
Those who fight, especially those who fight from the beginning when the risks and violence of war are at its peak, are preferred in the sight of God over those who either do not fight or only join the fight after victory becomes sure. The Koran even promises forgiveness and compassion for the warrior above that which He has for the common believer.
"But the believers, and those who emigrate and struggle in God's way [fight in the cause of God] -- those have hope of God's compassion" (Koran 2:215)
"Such believers as sit at home -- unless they have an injury -- are not the equals of those who struggle in the path of God with their possessions and their selves. God has preferred in rank those who struggle with their possessions and their selves over the ones who sit at home; yet to each God has promised the reward most fair; and God has preferred those who struggle over the ones who sit at home for the bounty of a mighty wage, in ranks standing before Him, forgiveness and mercy" (Koran 4:97)
I believe that this promise of absolution and the welcomed entrance into Paradise are what, at least in part, fuels some of the enthusiasm for Jihad and for some to end their own lives as suicide bombers and suicide fighters. For the Muslim, there is little assurance of their own salvation and little assurance of their certain place in paradise. How can a young man, with all the lusts and desires raging through his flesh, have certain hope of Paradise? How can one born in poverty who has no wealth to struggle with in the way of God find entrance into Paradise? One sure way is to die in battle and in the cause of God.
"And those who emigrated [fled their country], and were expelled from their habitations [quitted their homes], those who suffered hurt in My way, and fought, and were slain -- them I shall surely acquit of their evil deeds [blot out their sins], and I shall admit them to gardens underneath which rivers flow.'" (Koran 3:194)
To help those who have joined the fight, God does offer indulgences for those who fail at their religion during battle, not counting their failings against them.
"And when you are journeying in the land there is no fault in you that you shorten the prayer, if you fear the unbelievers may afflict you; the unbelievers are for you a manifest foe [infidels are your undoubted enemies]." (Koran 4:102)
However, there is no patience for cowards and those who seek to avoid battle and the hazards of war to which God has called all believer to.
"Hast thou not regarded those to whom it was said, 'Restrain your hands [awhile from war], and perform the prayer, and pay the alms'? Then, as soon as fighting is prescribed [commanded] for them, there is a party of them fearing the people as they would fear God, or with a greater fear, and they say, 'Our Lord, why hast thou prescribed fighting for us [commanded us war]? Why not defer us to a near term?'" (Koran 4:79)
"And when a sura is sent down, saying, 'Believe in God, and struggle [go forth to war] with His Messenger [Apostle],' the affluent among them ask leave of thee [demanded exemption], saying, 'Let us be with the tarries [those who sit at home].' They are well-pleased [content] to be with those [who stay] behind, and a seal has been set upon their hearts, so the they understand not. But Messenger [Apostle], and the believers with him, have struggled with their possessions [purse] and their selves [person], and those -- for them await the good things; those -- they are the prosperers [happy]." (Koran 9:87-89)
However, in the Christian scriptures we are taught that there is no class or distinction of rank among believers and before God. Paul tells us that, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (Galatians 3:28) The priest is not in rank higher than the laity, the pastor higher than the congregant. The Apostle is not above the servant nor the Prophet above the lowly intercessor. The rich are not favored more than the poor nor the widow above the prosperous. God sees everyone the same and they all find equal rank before Him. In this Gospel, the warrior is not above those who go not into battle. In fact, for some things, their doing is reserved for those who have not shed blood, even in a righteous and victorious war. When King David sought to build God a house, the Lord refused saying,
"You have shed much blood and have waged great wars; you shall not build a house to My name, because you have shed so much blood on the earth before Me. Behold, a son will be born to you, who shall be a man of rest; and I will give him rest from all his enemies on every side; for his name shall be Solomon, and I will give peace and quiet to Israel in his days. He shall build a house for My name, and he shall be My son and I will be his father; and I will establish the throne of his kingdom over Israel forever." (1 Chronicles 22:8-10)
Some deeds require blood-free hand. A truth that is quite different from the brand of truth espoused in the Koran.

God loves the warrior, but He does not love him any more than his brethren. God loves all and to all He graciously gives His favor and blessing. The true judgement of a believer is not in his courage and steadfastness in battle but in his courage and steadfastness in love. It is not our fierceness that will witness to the world our discipleship in Christ but our love for all, even the infidel. "By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13:35) Whether you are a warrior or not, God loves you just the same and He calls you to share that love with everyone around you.

More to come...
David Robison

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Islam - A religion of war - Encouragement to fight

This is a continuation of a multi-post article. You can read the first post here and the previous post here. This is also part of a larger series called "The Koran from a Christian perspective." You can find other posts in this series here.
The fight is prescribed to Muslims. Muslims are called to war. Repeatedly they are called by the Koran to engage in a struggle with unbelievers and to take the fight to them; to slay them and to cleanse their faith from the Earth.
"And fight the unbelievers totally even as they fight you totally [in al] and know that God is with the godfearing." (Koran 9:36)
"When you meet [encounter] the unbelievers [infidels], smite their necks [strike off their heads], then [till], when you have made wide [great] slaughter among them, tie fast the bonds [make fast the fetters]." (Koran 47:4)
Their fight is not towards some honorable or negotiated peace, it is a fight to eliminate the unbeliever from the Earth. It is a fight, not just to win, but to procure the slaughter of the infidels and the supremacy of Islam.
"It is not for any Prophet to have prisoners until he make wide slaughter in the land." (Koran 8:68)
However, such a war, such a slaughter, is a hard and distasteful business. It can be hard, even for the faithful, to remain firm to the end; firm until they have not only defeated them but have killed them.
"If they withdraw not from you, and offer you peace, and restrain their hands, take [seize] them, and slay them wherever you come on them; against them We have given you a clear authority [undoubted power]." (Koran 4:92)
"O believers, when you encounter the unbelievers marching to battle, turn not your backs to them. Whoso turns his back that day to them, unless withdrawing to fight again or removing to join another host, he is laden with the burden of God's anger, and his refuge is Gehenna -- an evil homecoming!" (Koran 8:15-16)
"Then, when the sacred months are drawn away, slay the idolaters wherever you find them, and take [seize] them, and confine [besiege] them, and lie in wait for them at every place of ambush. But if they repent [convert], and perform the prayer, and pay the alms, then let them go their way; God is All-forgiving, All-compassionate." (Koran 9:5)
Their goal is not peace but annihilation. When it is in their power to do so, they are not to offer peace but to press towards total and final victory.
"So do not faint [be not fainthearted] and call for peace [invite the infidels to peace]; [when] you shall be [have] the upper ones [hand], and God is with you, and will not deprive you of your works." (Koran 47:37)
To this end, the prophets and the Koran are given to encourage them in the fight; to strengthen them to complete what they've been called to; to keep their hands firm in the fight and their minds committed to the cause.
"O Prophet, urge on [stir up] the believers to fight. If there be twenty of you, patient men, they will overcome two hundred; if there be a hundred of you, they will overcome a thousand unbelievers, for they are a people who understand not." (Koran 8:66)
"So obey not the unbelievers [Give not way therefore to the infidels], but [by means of this Koran] struggle with them thereby mightily [strive against them with a mighty strife]." (Koran 25:54)
The prophet is to remind them to often make mention of God's name as it will encourage them and to know that, even if they are suffering in battle, it will be worse for the enemy.
"O believers, whensoever you encounter a host [troop], then stand firm, and remember [make mention of the name of] God frequently; haply so you will prosper. And obey God, and His Messenger, and do not quarrel together, and so lose heart, and your power [success] depart; and be patient; surely God is with the patient." (Koran 8:47-49)
"Faint not in seeking the heathen [slacken not in pursuit of the foe]; if you are suffering, they are also suffering as you are suffering, and you are hoping from God for that for which they cannot hope" (Koran 4:105)
As Christians, we too have our words of encouragement, but it's not the encouragement towards warfare, but towards "righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit." (Romans 14:17) Paul tells us to, "be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil." (Ephesians 6:10-11) Our preparation is not to fight but to stand firm and our fight is not against people but against the spiritual forces are war with us. Further Paul tells us to, "not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith." (Galatians 6:9-10) It's not for battle that our hearts need strengthening but for doing good to all people, especially the believers but also the infidels. Finally, he remind us "whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things." (Philippians 4:8) Certainly, war does not qualify as being among those things that are lovely, right, and pure.

Yes, there are times that nations must go to war and, in that time, each one must make up our own mind as to if and how we will participate in our nation's call to arms, but as Christians we are call to a much higher and more noble cause; the cause of love and peace.

More to come...
David Robison

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Islam - A religion of war - The rewards of war

This is a continuation of a multi-post article. You can read the first post here and the previous post here. This is also part of a larger series called "The Koran from a Christian perspective." You can find other posts in this series here.
Muhammad claims justification for war from, not only the inspiration of the Koran, but also the Jewish scriptures.
"Hast thou not regarded the Council of the Children of Israel, after Moses, when they said to a Prophet of theirs, 'Raise up for us a king, and we will fight in God's way.' He said, 'Might it be that, if fighting is prescribed for you, you will not fight?' They said, 'Why should we not fight in God's way, who have been expelled from our habitations and our children?' Yet when fighting was prescribed for them, they turned their backs except a few of them; and God has knowledge of the evildoers." (Koran 2:247)
However, Muhammad's recollection of these events are not accurate. There was no promise of fighting for their king or fighting in the way of God, but a simple request, "Now appoint a king for us to judge us like all the nations." (1 Samuel 8:5) Samuel, at God's direction, warned the Israelites of the reality of having a king other than God, "He said, "This will be the procedure of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and place them for himself in his chariots and among his horsemen and they will run before his chariots. 12 "He will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and of fifties, and some to do his plowing and to reap his harvest and to make his weapons of war and equipment for his chariots." (1 Samuel 8:11-12) However, there was never any indication from God that their desire to fight was holy, no promise of reward for fighting, and no condemnation as evildoers if they failed to fight. However, the Koran contains many suras promising the rewards of war and the chastisement of those who refused to fight in the way of God.

Muhammad tells us that God uses war to test our faith and to distinguish the true believers from the hypocrites who believe only in times of peace.
"Then, when a clear [peremptory] sura is sent down [revealed], and therein fighting is mentioned [whose burden is war], thou seest those in whose hearts is sickness [diseased] looking at thee as one who swoons of death [on whom the shadows of death has fallen];" (Koran 47:22)
"And what visited you, the day the two hosts encountered, was by God's leave, and that He might know the believers; and that He might also know the hypocrites when it was said of them, 'Come now, fight in the way of God, or repel!' They said, 'If only we knew how to fight, we would follow you.'" (Koran 3:160)
Here, Muhammad is not talking about being tested by a war that has come upon us but rather by a war commanded by God that we should take up and execute in our faith and to prove our faith. Muhammad also tells us that, one of the best ways to learn religion, is by going forth in battle; the fight of war teaching us to be consistent, disciplined, and firm in our religious duties and faith.
"It is not for the believers to go forth totally [march forth all together to the wars]; but why should not a party of every section of them go forth, to become learned [instruct themselves] in religion, and to warn their people when they return to them, that haply they may beware?" (Koran 9:124)
Repeatedly, the Koran promises the blessings and rewards of war for those who faithfully fight.
"Make ready for them whatever force and strings of horses you can, to terrify thereby the enemy of God and your enemy, and others besides them that you know not; God knows them. And whatsoever you expend in the way of God shall be repaid you in full; you will not be wronged." (Koran 8:62)
"So let them fight in the way of God who sell the present life for the world to come; andwhosoever fights in the way of God and is slain, or conquers, We shall bring him a mighty wage." (Koran 4:76)
Here, Muhammad encourages us to fight with our own resources, to expend our wealth in the way of God, in hopes of a greater reward in the life to come. However, for those who refuse, turn back in fear, or desert the fray, there is the thread of a painful chastisement.
"Say to the Bedouins [Arabs of the desert ] who were left behind [took not the field]: 'You shall be called against a people possessed of great might' [mighty valor] to fight them, or they surrender [shall profess Islam]. If you obey, God will give you a goodly wage; but if you turn your backs, as you turned your backs before, He will chastise you with a painful chastisement.'" (Koran 48:16)
Such wording is often use in the Koran to refer to the punishment of those whose end is not to be found in Paradise. In fact, the Koran tells us that, when we expend our wealth fighting in the way of God, that it is God who is purchasing our temporal possessions as the price of our eternal bliss in Paradise; by spending our wealth in fighting we are buying Paradise.
"God has bought from the believers their selves and their possessions against the gift of Paradise; they fight in the way of God; they kill, and are killed; that is a promise binding upon God in the Torah, and the Gospel, and the Koran." (Koran 9:112)
Muhammad's claim that this love of war and the promised rewards of the fight are in some way consistent with the teachings of the Jewish and Christian scriptures shows his lack of understanding of these scriptures and what they teach. Nowhere does Jesus ever speak of temporal or carnal war as being a blessing, accruing benefits to our account, or as being prescribed and commanded by God. Our promise of eternal life comes not from war but from our faith in Jesus Christ, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life." (John 3:16) And our benefits, blessings, and rewards are not the result of expending our wealth in battle but from the quiet strength of faith and patience. "but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises." (Hebrews 6:12) Muhammad may have needed the threats and promises of war to build for himself an army, but God has no need of an army as He Himself is all powerful and all able to accomplish all that He intends. The Koran is a good news through war, but the Gospel is a good news through love; the love of God towards us and the love of God within us towards others.

More to come...
David Robison

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Islam - A religion of war - Called to fight

This is a continuation of a multi-post article. You can read the first post here and the previous post here. This is also part of a larger series called "The Koran from a Christian perspective." You can find other posts in this series here.
One of the great religious obligations of all Muslims is to fight; fight in the way of God, fight the enemies of God, and fight the infidels because of their faithlessness towards God. Over and over the Koran reminds us,
"The believers fight in the way [path] of God, and the unbelievers fight in the idols' way. Fight you therefore against the friends of Satan; surely the guile of Satan is ever feeble." (Koran 4:78)
There was a time when the followers of Muhammad had gone into battle and a great earthquake struck and many were scared. They asked leave to return to their homes to see to them and protect them, yet Muhammad, by divine revelation from Allah, reminded them,
"Yet they had made covenant with [pledged themselves to] God before that, that they would not turn their backs," (Koran 33:15)
To be a Muslim is to accept a covenant to fight when the prophet says to fight. All Muslims have made a covenant, by accepting their religion, to fight in the way of God whenever necessary and whenever called.

This battle that Muslims are committed to is not simply a battle against evil, nor is it a simple battle for lands and nations, but it is a battle to bring the entire world under the control and rule of Islam. Muslims are commanded to fight and wage war until all dissension of religion has been extinguished and the only religion left is Islam.
"Fight them, till there is no persecution and the religion is God's; then if they give over, there shall be no enmity save for evildoers." (Koran 2:189)
"Fight them, till there is no persecution [strife] and the religion is God's entirely; then if they give over, surely God sees the things they do; but if they turn away, know that God is your Protector -- an excellent Protector, an excellent Helper!" (Koran 8:40-41)
Fighting is at the heart of the religious life of Islam.
"Prescribed for you is fighting, though it be hateful to you. Yet it may happen that you will hate a thing which is better for you; and it may happen that you will love a thing which is worse for you; God knows, and you know not." (Koran 2:212)
The Koran teaches us that fighting is a good thing, that it is good for us. It is better to love fighting and hate pleasurable things than to hate fighting and desire what is pleasurable. Muhammad seems to believe that we hate fighting, not because we instinctively see its evils, but because we love the good, pleasurable, and simple life of ease. Far better to fight and struggle in the way of God than to sink into sin due to a love of the easy life. So important is fighting to the Islam faith that even during the sacred month of Ramadan, fighting is permitted.
"They will question thee concerning the holy month, and fighting in it. Say: 'Fighting in it is a heinous [bad] thing, but to bar [turn aside] from God's way, and disbelief in Him, and the Holy Mosque [Temple], and to expel [drive out] its people from it -- that is more heinous [worse] in God's sight; and persecution [civil strife] is more heinous [worse] than slaying [bloodshed].' They will not cease to fight with [war against] you, till they turn you from your religion, if they are able" (Koran 2:214)
This love of war contradicts everything Jesus came to teach us. When Jesus was about to be arrested in the garden, some sought to save him through violence by taking up the sword and fighting the soldiers. Jesus responded by saying, "Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword." (Matthew 26:52) And when asked by King Herod if He was a King He said,
"My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm." (John 18:36)
As believers, we are caught in a fight and a struggle against evil, both in this world and that evil which wages war within our flesh, but our struggle and our fight is not against people, nations, or other religions, rather it is against spiritual forces at work though they be invisible to our eyes.
"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places." (Ephesians 6:12)
We are called to a battle, but not an earthly battle. Unlike Muhammad, Jesus never taught us to fight and make war against nations and peoples until all are Christians, rather to fight against the spiritual forces that hold people in bondage to their blindness and sin. We fight for people, not against them. We fight to free them not to conform them. We fight for their blessing and not for their chastisement. We fight the good fight of faith not the carnal fight of war.

More to come...
David Robison

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Islam - A religion of war - Whose your friend?

This is a continuation of a multi-post article. You can read the first post here and the previous post here. This is also part of a larger series called "The Koran from a Christian perspective." You can find other posts in this series here.
To Muhammad, it was him against the world. He had been forced to flea Mecca for the safety of Medina and he still smarted over the indignity of being forced out and having to flea for his beliefs and the revelations he credited to God. Muhammad saw the world as composed of those who were on his side and who were willing to help him and fight for him and those who were against him and seeking his destruction. This conflict he transferred from himself to God. Writing in the Koran, Muhammad wrote that his followers, and all true believers, should not be friends with unbelievers and with those who had not supported the prophet in his way. God was angry with these people and we should be too.
"O believers, take not for friends [enter not into amity with] a people against whom God is wrathful [angered]" (Koran 60:13)
While it's true that the scriptures teach us that, "God judgeth the righteous, and God is angry with the wicked every day." (Psalms 7:11 KJV) it is an anger of indignation for their deeds and impending judgement upon all sin. It's also, however, and anger that is pure and without any hint of darkness or evil intent. God is angry with the wicked, but He also loves them. The scriptures teach us that "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son." (John 3:16) This includes the wicked as well as the righteous. It also teaches us that, "He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous." (Matthew 5:45) God's love extends not just to the faithful and the believers but to the wicked and evil as well. This anger and love together was something that Muhammad could not understand and his anger towards those who would not join him lead to many a war and many a slaughter.

It appears that, at least for some of those who had come over to Muhammad's side, they still had loyalties and love for to families and peoples they left behind. However, Muhammad clearly warns them that, if they persist in their love and friendship for them, they would be among those who were ungodly, those who would not be victorious, and those who would be judged by God.
"Thou seest many of them making unbelievers [infidels] their friends… Yet had they believed in God and the Prophet and what has been sent down [the Koran] to him, they would not have taken them as friends; but many of them are ungodly." (Koran 5:83-84)
"Your friend is only God, and His Messenger, and the believers who perform the prayer and pay the alms, and bow them down. Whoso makes God his friend, and His Messenger, and the believers -- the party of God, they are the victors." (Koran 5:60-61)
"O believers, take not the unbelievers [infidels] as friends instead of the believers; or do you desire to give God over you a clear authority [right to punish you]?" (Koran 4:143)
It is clear that Muhammad saw love and friendship in the context of war and battle. Your friends and loved ones were those you fought with and defended while everyone else was your enemy. Loving your enemy was weakness when it came to battle. How could one fight and destroy their enemy, and God's enemy, if they secretly harbored love towards them.
"O believers, take not My enemy and your enemy for friends, offering them love [shewing them kindness], though they have disbelieved in the truth that has come to you, expelling [driven forth] the Messenger [Apostle] and you because you believe in God your Lord. If you go forth to struggle [fight] in My way and seek My good pleasure [desire to please me], secretly loving them [shewing them kindness], yet I know very well what you conceal and what you publish [discover]; and whosoever of you does that, has [already] gone astray from the right [even] way." (Koran 60:1)
Islam was at war with unbelievers and infidels and there was no place for love, kindness, or pity towards those whom God had given over to destruction.

As with most things, this anger and prohibition of friendship with unbelievers, grew over time as Muhammad's fortunes and powers grew. Originally, this command of non-friendship was directly solely against those who had expelled the prophet from Mecca.
"God only forbids you as to those who have fought [warred with] you in religion's cause [on account of your religion], and expelled you [driven you forth] from your habitations [homes], and have supported in your expulsion, that you should take them for friends. And whosoever takes them for friends, those -- they are the evildoers." (Koran 60:9)
Later, Muhammad taught them that, even for other Muslims that had not yet joined them, there was no duty on their part to be their friends.
"Those who believe, and have emigrated [fled their homes] and struggled with their possessions [spent their sustenance] and their selves in the way of God, and those who have given refuge [taken in the prophet] and help [him] -- those are friends one of another. And those who believe, but have not emigrated -- you have no duty of friendship towards them till they emigrate [fly their country]; yet if they ask you for help, for religion's sake, it is your duty to help them, except against a people between whom and you there is a compact [treaty]; and God sees the things you do." (Koran 8:73)
Even though they may have been Muslims, those who had not come over to their side to aid them in the conflict had no demand upon their friendship. Only those who were willing to support them in their wars and battles had earned their friendship and, if afterwords they should turn back and leave their aid, they were to be summarily killed for turning back.
"They wish that you should disbelieve as they disbelieve, and then you would be equal; therefore take not to yourselves friends of them, until they emigrate in the way of God; then, if they turn their backs, take them, and slay them wherever you find them." (Koran 4:91)
There are two exceptions to this prohibition of friendship. One is if you fear them, fear they might be ability to overcome you, and the other is if they have already made a compact with those with whom you too have a compact of peace.
"Let not the believers take the unbelievers [infidels] for friends, rather than the believers -- for whoso does that belongs not to God [has nothing to hope from God] in anything -- unless you have a fear of them." (Koran 3:27)
"They wish that you should disbelieve as they disbelieve, and then you would be equal; therefore take not to yourselves friends of them, until they emigrate in the way of God… take not to yourselves any one of them as friend or helper except those that betake themselves to a people who are joined with you by a compact, or come to you with breasts constricted from fighting with you or fighting their people." (Koran 4:91)
In the one case you must honor your commitment to those whom you have made a commitment and not fight against those they have extended peace to, and the other you must simply wait until you are strong enough not to fear and to overtake them.

The Koran views relationships through the lenses or war and invites us to hate those whom God hates. However, the scriptures show us all of mankind through the eyes of a loving Father and reminds us that "God is love." (1 John 4:8) and that He loves all that He has made. Instead of hate, the scriptures invite us to love those whom God loves, and this would include all of mankind. How much greater in this world is love over hate!

More to come...
David Robison

Friday, January 15, 2016

Islam - A religion of war - Hatred not love

This is a continuation of a multi-post article. You can read the first post here and the previous post here. This is also part of a larger series called "The Koran from a Christian perspective." You can find other posts in this series here.
The Koran pits believer against unbeliever. Instead of promoting the understanding of the universal brotherhood of all mankind, the Koran teaches an "us against them" theology.
"O believers, take not for your intimates outside yourselves such men spare nothing to ruin [corrupt] you; they yearn for you to suffer [for your ruin]. Hatred has already shown itself of their mouths, and what their breasts conceal is yet greater." (Koran 3:114)
The Koran teaches and fosters an attitude of contention and hostility between believers and infidels. Believers are not to befriend unbelievers and are to view them as their enemies and to contend harshly against them because of their unbelief  and infidelity.
"O believers, fight [wage war against] the unbelievers [infidels] who are near to you [your neighbor]; and let them find in you a harshness [rigorous]; and know that God is with the godfearing" (Koran 9:125)
"Muhammad is the Messenger [Apostle] of God, and those who are with him [his comrades] are hard [vehement] against the unbelievers [infidels], [but] merciful [full of tenderness] one to another." (Koran 48:29)
"O Prophet, struggle with [make war on] the unbelievers [infidels] and the hypocrites, and be thou harsh [rigorous] with them; their refuge shall be Gehenna [Hell] -- an evil homecoming!" (Koran 66:9)
The Koran teaches open hatred, anger, and violence against unbelievers. The Koran actually prohibits any sentiment of love towards unbelievers. They are the enemy and any love towards them is an offense and affront towards God.
"Thou shalt not find [that] any people who believe in God and the Last Day who are loving to anyone [love him] who opposes God and His Messenger [Apostle]," (Koran 58:22)
"You have had a good example in Abraham, and those with [who follow] him, when they said to their people, 'We are quit [are clear] of you and that you serve [worship], apart from God. We disbelieve in [renounce] you, and  between us and you enmity has shown itself [sprung up], and hatred for ever, until you believe in God alone." (Koran 60:4)
Instead of mercy and tenderness, Muhammad, as stated in the Koran, teaches us to actually look forward to the punishment and destruction of the unbelievers. Instead of desiring their salvation, Muhammad looks forward to their destruction.
"Say: 'Are you awaiting for aught to come to us but one of the two rewards most fair? We are awaiting in your case too, for God to visit you with [the affliction of ] chastisement from Him, or at our hands; so await; we are awaiting with you.'" (Koran 9:52)
All this stands in stark contrast to the words and teaching of Jesus, which the Koran claims to confirm and conform to. The truth is that we are all the same. Whether Jew, Christian, Muslim, or unbeliever, we are all sinners, we have all fallen short, and we are all in need of a savior.
"for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:22-23)
Sin is the one thing that unites us as one and makes us common in our need of salvation. How can we look with hatred and disdain on an unbeliever when we too were such as they? Their sin was also our sin, their unbelief was also our unbelief. Instead of hating them, God calls us to entreat them to become like us, not to justify our position and belief, but that they too might experience the love and mercy of God. Paul, in speaking of his unbelieving countrymen, said,
"I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh" (Romans 9:2-3)
These are not the words of a man who saw the unbelieving Jews as his enemy or as those to be rejected, despised, and fought against, but of one who loved the unbelievers and desired their genuine conversion for their sake and not his own. 

While the gospel of the Koran is a gospel of hatred and enmity, the Gospel of Jesus is a gospel of love. Jesus taught is to "love your neighbor as ourselves" (Mark 12:31) and to "love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" (Matthew 5:44) How superior is this gospel of love to the gospel of hate and anger found in the Koran!

More to come...
David Robison

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Islam - A religion of war - Vengeance, aggression, and retaliation

This is a continuation of a multi-post article. You can read the first post here. This is also part of a larger series called "The Koran from a Christian perspective." You can find other posts in this series here.
Islam is a religion that justifies aggression, retaliation, and vengeance towards those who have wronged us. Many sources have sighted that Islam is one of the fastest growing religions in US prisons. I believe this is the case, in part, because Islam is a religion that allows you to keep your anger and justifies your hatred and aggression towards others as a righteous act pleasing and permitted by God. I further believe that it is this same anger and hatred that fuels much of the conflict and terror perpetrated by Muslims around the world today.

The Koran establishes retaliation as a normal part of life for Muslims
"In [this law of] retaliation there is [security for] life for you, men possessed of minds [men of understanding]; haply you will be godfearing." (Koran 2:175)
Muhammad's understanding of the world was that, unless one stands up for themselves, they will be defeated, marginalized, or repressed. It is only by fighting back that one will obtain what life has for them. It is only by fighting back that they will come into their own. However, this stands in contrast to many of the great men of the scriptures. Consider David who, when presented with a chance to slay King Saul who was then attempting to kill him, he relented and did not take vengeance into his own hands.
"The men of David said to him, 'Behold, this is the day of which the Lord said to you, "Behold; I am about to give your enemy into your hand, and you shall do to him as it seems good to you..."' So he said to his men, 'Far be it from me because of the Lord that I should do this thing to my lord, the Lord's anointed, to stretch out my hand against him, since he is the Lord's anointed.'" (1 Samuel 24:4-6)
The Koran does allow for one to forgive another for a transgression, but this forgiveness is short lived and often conditional.
"O believers, prescribed for you is retaliation, touching the slain; freeman for freeman, slave for slave, female for female. But if aught is pardoned a man by his brother, let the pursuing be honourable, and let the payment be with kindliness. That is a lightening granted you by your Lord, and a mercy; and for him who commits aggression after that -- for him there awaits a painful chastisement." (Koran 2:174)
"If two parties of the believers [bodies of the faithful] fight [are at war], put things right [make peace] between them; then, if one of them is insolent against [wrong] the other, fight the insolent one [against that party which doth the wrong] till it reverts [comes back] to God's commandment [the precepts of God]." (Koran 49:9)
This is quite a change from Jesus' teaching on forgiveness. When Peter asked Jesus how often he should forgive his brother, even up to seven times a day, Jesus responded,
"I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven." (Matthew 18:22)
In Islam, retaliation is the provision of God for the redress of grievances and wrongs done. Wrongs are not adjudicated in court but settled directly between the parties involved even if it means resorting to violence.
"The holy month for the holy month; holy things demand retaliation. Whoso commits aggression against you, do you commit aggression against him like as he has committed against you, and fear you God, and know that God is with the godfearing." (Koran 2:190)
"Leave [a sanction] is given to those who fight [have taken up arms] because they were wronged [suffered outrage] -- surely God is able to help them -- who were expelled from their habitations [homes] without right [wrongfully], except that they say 'Our Lord is God.'" (Koran 22:40)
However, this stands in direct contrast to Jesus' words when He said,
"You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.'  But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also... You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, 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 causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous." (Matthew 5:38-40, 43-45)
Jesus does not call us to get even with our enemies but to love them and to show them kindness for, even God, shows kindness to the evil and hateful. However, Muhammad saw things differently. Instead of seeing a new commandment that we love each other, he sought to perpetuate the old commandment that we exact an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. In this he was not confirming what had been handed down from God before but contradicting the very will and word of God which He has spoken.

Instead of teaching peace, Muhammad's taught hurt people to hurt people back in the same way they themselves were hurt.
"All that; and whosoever chastises [makes exacting reprisals] after the manner that he was chastised [for injury done to him] and then again is oppressed [wronged], assuredly God will help him; surely God is All-pardoning, All-forgiving." (Koran 22:59)
"and who, when insolence visits [a wrong is done to] them, do help [redress] themselves – and the recompense of evil is evil the like of it [be only a like evil]." (Koran 42:38)
However, Paul clearly taught us,
"Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." (Romans 12:21)
The teachings of Muhammad are as far askew from the teachings of God as darkness is from light. In teaching us these things he was not teaching us the recitations of God but the anger of his own heart. What we hear in the Koran are not the suras of a loving God who loves everyone, even sinners, but the dark heart of an angry man bent on hurting those who had hurt him.

More to come...
David Robison

Monday, January 11, 2016

Islam - A religion of war - From peace to aggression

This article is also part of a larger series called "The Koran from a Christian perspective." You can find other posts in this series here.
The question I get most often when people find out I have been writing on the Koran is, "Is Islam really a religion of peace or is it a religion of war?" This question is a difficult one and, like most things in the Koran, presents not a simple straightforward answer. What compounds the problem is that, when asking this question, what most people really want to know is "Are Muslims a people of peace or a people of war?" This latter question I will leave for others to answer as it requires us to make distinctions between the various forms of Islam and the wide diversity of people who call themselves Muslim. Instead, we will look at what the Koran has to say for itself and what it defines for the Islam religion as it relates to this question.

We have seen before this important and famous quote from Muhammad.
"The sword, is the key of heaven and hell; a drop of blood shed in the cause of Allah, a night spent in arms, is of more avail than two months of fasting or prayer: whosoever falls in battle, his sins are forgiven, and at the day of judgment his limbs shall be supplied by the wings of angels and cherubim."
However, this sentiment represents an evolution in the life of Muhammad and in the development of Islam. Neither seems to have started out here but arrived at this position over time as their power, fortunes, and strength grew and matured. We read in the Koran,
"And obey not the unbelievers [infidels] and the hypocrites; heed not their hurt [yet abstain from injuring them], but put thy trust in God." (Koran 33:47)
While Muslims were not to follow the ways of the infidels and hypocrites, there were not to strike out against them or hurt them without provocation. Even if an unbeliever were to come to them for help, they were to aid them as a witness to their peaceful Muslim faith,
"And if any of the idolaters seeks of thee protection [asylum], grant him protection [asylum] till he hears the words of God; then do thou convey him to his place of security --that, because they are a people who do not know." (Koran 9:6)
When it came to war, their first thought was to be for peace not war.
"Make ready for them whatever force and strings of horses [strong squadrons] you can, to terrify thereby the enemy of God and your enemy, and others besides them that you know not; God knowsthem... And if they incline to peace, do thou incline to it; and put thy trust in God;" (Koran 8:62-63)
And when it did come to war, the Koran calls for restraint, especially in regards to the other duties of their religion.
"Let not detestation for a people who barred you from the Holy Mosque move you to commit aggression [lead you to transgression]." (Koran 5:3)
Here the transgression Muhammad is referring to is the making of war during the holy month of Ramadan. What is interesting in this last sura is the fact that Allah strives to restrain their outward actions while ignoring their inward hatred. Allah leaves the issue of their detestation for others unchallenged while Jesus spoke directly against harboring anger and hatred towards others.
"But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either." (Luke 6:27-29)
In many places where the Koran calls for war, it does so in the context of self protection; of protecting themselves, their property, and the land they occupied. However, in all these cases they are cautioned not to be the aggressor but the protectors of what God had given them.
"And fight in the way [cause] of God with those; who fight with you, but aggress not [commit not the injustice of attaching them first]: God loves not the aggressors [such injustice]. And slay them wherever you come upon them [wherever ye shall find them], and expel them from where they expelled you; persecution [civil discord] is more grievous than slaying [carnage]. But fight them not by the Holy Mosque until they should fight you there; then, if they fight you, slay them -- such is the recompense of unbelievers [the reward of the infidels]." (Koran 2:186-187)
One can understand a people defending themselves and their way of life and certainly we would not call a people not given to aggression a people of war. By these suras we would have to conclude that Islam is not a religion of war, but these suras do not tell the whole story nor are they consistent with the life of Muhammad that the past fourteen hundred years of Islamic aggression and conquest.

While Muhammad was weak and his numbers few, he spoke of peace and the peaceful coexistence of those who, while being infidels, were not antagonistic towards him. However, as his numbers grew and he became powerful and mighty, his words and actions changed. He became the man in the famous quite we sited earlier; the one who believed in the power of the sword to produce conversions, forgive sins, and accomplish the work of God. Philip Scahff describes the transition of Muhammad as follows,
"At first he proclaimed toleration: 'Let there be no compulsion in religion;' but afterwards he revealed the opposite principle that all unbelievers must be summoned to Islâm, tribute, or the sword. With an increasing army of his enthusiastic followers, he took the field against his enemies, gained in 624 his first victory over the Koreish with an army of 305 (mostly citizens of Medina) against a force twice as large, conquered several Jewish and Christian tribes, ordered and watched in person the massacre of six hundred Jews in one day, while their wives and children were sold into slavery (627), triumphantly entered Mecca (630), demolished the three hundred and sixty idols of the Kaaba, and became master of Arabia... The last chapter of the Koran commands the remorseless extermination of all idolaters in Arabia, unless they submit within four months." (Philip Scahff, History of the Christian Church, Vilume IV, Section 42)
Muhammad's change towards aggression is reflected in the Koran suras he write and it is to these suras that we must turn our attention to next.

More to come...
David Robison

Friday, January 08, 2016

Islam - A religion of intolerance - Christians are wrong

This is a continuation of a multi-post article. You can read the first post here. You can also read the previous post in this multi-post article here. This is also part of a larger series called "The Koran from a Christian perspective." You can find other posts in this series here.
In instructing Muslims to beware of Christians, Muhammad points out the many ways be believes Christians and Jews are wrong in their religion and in their approach to religious life. Here are some specific points of contention that Muhammad brings up in the Koran, many of which, as we shall see, were fair criticisms of Christianity in Muhammad's day.
"Say: 'Would you then dispute with us concerning [about] God, who is our Lord and your Lord? Our deeds belong to us, and to you belong your deeds; Him we serve sincerely [we are sincerely His]. Or do you say, "Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac and Jacob, and the Tribes -- they were Jews, or they were Christians"?' Say: 'Have you then greater knowledge, or God [who knoweth best, ye or God]? And who does greater evil than he who conceals a testimony [witness] received from God? And God is not heedless of the things you do.'" (Koran 2:133-134)
As religions calcify, they tend to view themselves as the owners of God and of religion. They are the ones who have a true revelation of God and they are the ones who know and worship the true God, All other religions serve a false god with false worship, service, and religion. We see this same attitude today among Christians when the question comes to, "Who is Allah?" Many view Muslims as serving a false God or another God that they serve. The thought is, "How can they serve the true God and not be part of our religion which is the true religion?"

The truth is that we do not own God but He owns us. He owns all of us regardless of our religion or beliefs. I believe that there are many who genuinely seek to serve and honor God in many different religions through out the world, although some do so in error and ignorance. I believe that many who worship Allah, do in fact worship our God as well, though perhaps not in knowledge or truth. The point is that we must never view ourselves as the limit of the knowledge of God or the reach of God and discount others simply because they are not of us.
"The Jews say, 'The Christians stand not on anything [lean on nothing]'; the Christians say, 'The Jews stand not on anything [on naught lean]'; yet they recite [both are readers of] the Book. So too the ignorant say the like of them. God shall decide between them on the Day of Resurrection touching their differences." (Koran 2:107)
It is easy to discount the ideas and beliefs of others who disagree with us. So much division has come within the Christian church over difference in doctrine and practice, even though we read the same Book and serve the same God. The issue is not that we have differences but how we handle those differences. Are we still willing to accept and identify with those who disagree with us or do we require conformity as the price of our fellowship? If we believe that there is only one God and that there is a universal desire for humans to know God then we should be able to find value in all people and in all honest religions, even though we might not agree with them or count them as right. The same could be said of Islam today with their many divisions and factions and their fighting among themselves..
"And they say, 'None shall enter Paradise except that they be Jews or Christians.' Such are their fancies [this is their wish]. Say: 'Produce your proof, if you speak truly.'" (Koran 2:105)
I sincerely believe that Jesus is the only way to heaven, but I also admit that in many of the lesser particulars I could be wrong. Sometimes we project a belief that, apart from us, there is no salvation. We make conformity to us, to our beliefs and practices, the price of true salvation and eternity with God. Religion becomes the saving force rather than God Himself. Again, the same critique could be levied against Islam of today.
"People of the Book! Why do you dispute concerning Abraham? The Torah [Law] was not sent down, neither the Gospel, but after him. What, have you no reason [do ye not then understand]? Ha, you are the ones who dispute on what you know; why then dispute you touching a matter of which you know not anything? God knows [has knowledge], and you know not [nothing]." (Koran 3:58-59)
As people, we have very short memories. For many of us, history is only a few decades old. We tend to view ancient history through the lenses of our recent history, seeing history as we tend to see the world today. As Christians we need to have a larger view of history and to remember that the faith we have received is the result of thousand years of revelation from God and service by men. Jesus told His disciples, "I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored and you have entered into their labor." (John 4:38) We too are sent into a world that has been prepared for us by others in hopes that we too will lay up additional preparations for those who follow. We must not discount what happens today just because it did not happen before nor force new ideas and practices to fit inside our own limited view of history.
"And when they were told, 'Believe in that God has sent down,' they said, 'We believe in what was sent down on us'; and they disbelieve in what is beyond that, yet it is the truth confirming what is with them." (Koran 2:85)
In the days of Muhammad, the Christian church, especially the church in the east, was stuck in history. Instead of looking forward to the new things God was doing, they focused on preserving what they had; that being their intricate doctrine, stale traditions, and layered hierarchy. This does not mean that we need fall prey to every new spiritual heresy or every flight of fancy, but neither can we assume that God will no longer surprise us with who He is and what He is doing. This does not mean that we should all embrace the revelation that Muhammad claims was from God, but neither should we close our minds and hearts in a false security that somehow we have it all and know it all. God is always doing a new thing; let us not miss it through our own complacency.
"They have taken their rabbis and their monks as lords apart from God, and the Messiah, Mary's son -- and they were commanded to serve but One God; there is no god but He; glory be to Him, above that they associate" (Koran 9:31)
One of the great things the Internet has brought to us is the idea of disintermediation, or the removal of the intermediary. The Koran places only the prophet between God and man while the scriptures provides mankind with direct access to God both in prayers and in hearing His voice. Jesus said, "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me" (John 10:27) However, the church in Muhammad's day, and even today, add layer upon layer of clergy to stand between the believer and God. Even today, in some churches, instead of  inviting people to seek God directly we instruct them to seek advice from a priest, ask prayer from a minister, and request a word from a prophet. In each case we are inserting men and women between the believer and God. This religious hierarchy obfuscates the true relationship between God and man that Jesus came to secure on our behalf.
"The Jews say, 'Ezra is the Son of God'; the Christians say, 'The Messiah is the Son of God.' That is the utterance of their mouths, conforming with the unbelievers before them [infidels of old]. God assail them! How they are perverted!" (Koran 9:30)
We will look at this criticism in full later on, but suffice it to say that this was a major objection for Muhammad and many Muslims today towards Christianity. For this criticism I say, "Guilty!" However, Muhammad's problem was his lack of understanding of what it meant to be the Son of God. Muhammad could only understand it in its natural meaning and was blind to its spiritual reality. Even today, Muslims view the idea of a Son of God only in its natural since; God taking a wife and having a family with sons and daughters. However, this is not at all what is meant by the term. The truth is that, even though we believe in the Son of God, we also believe Him to be God. We believe in one God who is also plural. The one God is also Father, Son, and Spirit. Three persons, one substance. We too, as Christians and Jews, all server one true and eternal God.

David Robison

Thursday, January 07, 2016

Islam - A religion of intolerance - Beware of Christians

This is a continuation of a multi-post article. You can read the first post here. You can also read the previous post in this multi-post article here. This is also part of a larger series called "The Koran from a Christian perspective." You can find other posts in this series here.
While the Koran is charitable to Christians in some of its writing, in other places it warns Muslims regarding, not just the Christian faith, but against Christians themselves.
"O believers, if you obey a sect of those who have been given the Book, they will turn you, after you have believed, into unbelievers." (Koran 3:95)
"Many of the People of the Book wish they might restore you as unbelievers, after you have believed, in the jealousy of their souls, after the truth has become clear to them; yet do you pardon and be forgiving, till God brings His command; truly God is powerful over everything." (Koran 2:103)
The Koran claims that Christian motives to convert Muslims are centered in jealousy; they are jealous of the truth the Muslims have and the fact that the world is turning to Islam instead of Christianity. Where they had once been the religion du jour, there is now a new religion and they are jealous of that fact. The Koran also warns Muslims that Christians will never accept them or be content with them unless they convert.
"Never will the Jews be satisfied with thee, neither the Christians, not till thou followest their religion." (Koran 2:114)
"Ha, there you are; you love them, and they love you not; you believe in the Book, all of it, and when they meet you they say, 'We believe,' but when they go privily, they bite at you their fingers, enraged." (Koran 3:115)
It is interesting to note that the same could be said today of many who claim to Muslim throughout the world and who insist on the conversion of others to Islam.

In the Koran's depiction of Christians and their zeal to convert others, it paints a picture of one whose desire for the conversion of others is anything but love. It depicts Christians as being enraged, jealous, and indifferent towards Muslims, Arabs in general, and their faith.
"Those unbelievers of the People of the Book and the idolaters wish not that any good should be sent down upon you from your Lord; but God singles out for His mercy whom He will; God is of bounty abounding." (Koran 2:99)
To be fair, this may well have been the nature of the Christians that Muhammad had come to know, but his claims are that this is the opinion of God, not his own.

Because of his views towards Christians, Muhammad, in the name of Allah, commands Muslims to avoid and disassociate with all Christians and Jews lest they too should become one like them.
"O believers, take not Jews and Christians as friends; they are friends of each other. Whoso of you makes them his friends is one of them. God guides not the people of the evildoers." (Koran 5:56)
"O believers, take not as your friends those of them, who were given the Book before you, and the unbelievers [infidels], who take your religion in mockery and as a sport." (Koran 5:62)
This stands in contrast to the teachings of Jesus and His Apostles who taught us to love all people.
"may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another, and for all people, just as we also do for you" (1 Thessalonians 3:12)
"So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith." (Galatians 6:10)
In the end, as Muhammad's negative view of Christianity deepened, the Koran ends up advocating full on war and oppression of Christians and Jews. Muhammad goes from respecting Christians to killing Christians.
"Fight [make war upon] those [to whom the scriptures have been given and] who believe not in God and the Last Day and do not forbid what God and His Messenger [Apostle] have forbidden -- such men as practise not [profess not a profession of] the religion of truth, being of those who have been given the Book -- until they pay the tribute out of hand and have been humbled." (Koran 9:29)
Such suras seem incongruous with previous suras that speak respectfully of Christians and Jews, but they are completely congruous with the life and history of Muhammad and the religion he founded.

More to come...
David Robison

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Islam - A religion of intolerance - An appeal to Christians

This is a continuation of a multi-post article. You can read the first post here. This is also part of a larger series called "The Koran from a Christian perspective." You can find other posts in this series here.
The Koran is not a book of blacks and whites but more often a study in varying shades of gray; allowing the reader to pick the attitude or sentiment that best suits themselves and their needs. We see this exemplified in what the Koran has to say regarding both Jews and Christians. In the life of Muhammad we see a pattern of great hostility towards Jews and Christians as many were killed and their nations conquered to pave the way for Muslim expansionism. We see the same hostility and aggression today by many who claim to be Muslims. However, the status of Christians, as explained in the Koran, is not quite so simple as "slay them wherever you find them." (Koran 4:91) It is hard to understand the Koran's exact position on Jews and Christians and which suras are contradictory and which have been abrogated. The Koran at times shows admiration for some Christians.
"Yet they are not all alike; some of the People of the Book are a nation upstanding [an upright folk], that recite God's signs in the watches of the night, bowing themselves [and adore], believing in God and in the Last Day, bidding to honour [justice] and forbidding dishonour [evil], vying one with the other in good works; those are of the righteous." (Koran 3:109-110)
However, while the Koran is at times charitable towards Christians, the same is not often said of Jews.
"Thou wilt surely find the most hostile [intense in hatred] of men to the believers are the Jews and the idolaters; and thou wilt surely find the nearest of them in love [affection] to the believers are those who say 'We are Christians'; that, because some of them are priests and monks, and they wax not proud; and when they hear what has been sent down to the Messenger, thou seest their eyes overflow with tears because of the truth they recognize. They say, 'Our Lord, we believe; so do Thou write us down among the witnesses." (Koran 5:85-86)
It appears that the Koran's view of Jews most closely mirrors Muhammad's experience with Jews. What is most interesting in this sura is that Muhammad claims that these sentiments are God's sentiments, not his own, and that they are recorded this way in the Arabic Mother Book in heaven.

Muhammad further teaches his followers to not be rude, aggressive, or argumentative towards Christians but to attempt to convince them and turn them towards Islam through persuasion rather than violence.
"Dispute not with the People of the Book save in the fairer manner [in kindly sort], except for those of them that do wrong [have dwelt wrongfully with you]" (Koran 29:45)
However, as we shall see, in other places, the Koran directly contradicts this sura in favor of the exclusion of Christians from any friendly affections and the abandonment of any noble persuasion in favor of violence.

The Koran clearly states that those who bear the name of Jew and Christian can be saved and can inherit paradise even though they never take the name of Muslim; even giving a special promise to the believers of the prophet Jesus
"Surely they that believe, and those of Jewry, and the Christians, and those Sabaeans, whoso believes in God and the Last Day, and works righteousness -- their wage awaits them with their Lord, and no fear shall be on them; neither shall they sorrow." (Koran 2:59)
"Jesus… I will set thy followers above the unbelievers till the Resurrection Day." (Koran 3:48)
Clearly, the Koran sees a level of kinship between the Christians and the Muslims; a kinship that is born out of a common faith they have inherited from Abraham. The Koran makes an appeal to Christians to realize that Muslims believe in the same things and the same Scriptures as we do and we ought not to see Muslims as being too different from ourselves.
"Say: 'We believe in God, and that which has been sent down on us, and sent down on Abraham and Ishmael, Isaac and Jacob, and the Tribes, and in that which was given to Moses and Jesus, and the Prophets, of their Lord; we make no division between any of them, and to Him we surrender.' " (Koran 3:38)
"and say, 'We believe in what has been sent down to us, and what has been sent down to you; our God and your God is One, and to Him we have surrendered [are self-surrendered].'" (Koran 29:45)
Furthermore, the prophet long foretold, and for which the Jews waited and watched, has come in the person of Muhammad. The Koran make an appeal for us to see this promise as fulfilled in Muhammad for both the Jew, the Christian, and for the Muslim. He is the fulfillment to our (the Jews and the Christians) promise.
"And when God took compact with the Prophets: 'That I have given you of Book and Wisdom; then there shall come to you a Messenger confirming what is with you -- you shall believe in him and you shall help him; do you agree?' He said. 'And do you take My load on you on that condition?' They said, 'We do agree.' God said, 'Bear witness so, and I shall be with you among the witnesses.' Then whosoever turns his back after that -- they are the ungodly." (Koran 3:75-76)
Based on this kinship of faith and the fulfillment of a common promise, the Koran appeals to Jews and Christians alike to become Muslims.
"Say: 'People of the Book! Come now to a word common between us and you, that we serve none but God, and that we associate not aught with Him, and do not some of us take others as Lords, apart from God.' And if they turn their backs, say: 'Bear witness that we are Muslims.'" (Koran 3:57)
However, what we are called to is not really a unity of faith, morality, and righteousness but a unity of conformity. Islam is very tolerant of those who wish to conform and become like them, but that tolerance quickly fades away when one refuses assimilation. This is true even of differing Muslim sects. We will look at this further in the next post.

More to come...
David Robison

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Islam - A religion of intolerance - No compulsion?

This article is also part of a larger series called "The Koran from a Christian perspective." You can find other posts in this series here.
The Koran was very much a living document as long as Muhammad was alive. The changes in its words and tenor tracked the changes that were happening in the prophet's life. As the prophet changed and encountered new life situations, so did his message change and develop. At the beginning of his writings he stated:
"[Let there be] No compulsion is there in religion" (Koran 2:257)
It was in this time that Muhammad still expected that the Christians and the Jews would see the truth of his new religion and flock to him in reverence and obedience. However, this was not to be the case. Neither the Jews nor the Christians welcomed his teachings and both rejected his book, the Koran. This left Muhammad rejected and slighted and, in his rejection, his writing changed to be ever more intolerant of all other religions outside of Islam. Philip Schaff notes the change from tolerance to intolerance in the life of Muhammad.
"At first he proclaimed toleration: 'Let there be no compulsion in religion;' but afterwards he revealed the opposite principle that all unbelievers must be summoned to Islâm, tribute, or the sword. With an increasing army of his enthusiastic followers, he took the field against his enemies, gained in 624 his first victory over the Koreish with an army of 305 (mostly citizens of Medina) against a force twice as large, conquered several Jewish and Christian tribes, ordered and watched in person the massacre of six hundred Jews in one day,156 while their wives and children were sold into slavery (627), triumphantly entered Mecca (630), demolished the three hundred and sixty idols of the Kaaba, and became master of Arabia. (Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Volume IV, Section 42)
Increasingly, Muhammad forwent persuasion as an attempt to convert followers for the more productive measures of the sword. Muhammad himself is quoted as saying,
"The sword is the key of heaven and hell; a drop of blood shed in the cause of Allah, a night spent in arms, is of more avail than two months of fasting or prayer: whosoever falls in battle, his sins are forgiven, and at the day of judgment his limbs shall be supplied by the wings of angels and cherubim."
By his death, intolerance was well ingrained in the scripture, religion, and culture of Islam.

Intolerance exists in many forms and to many degrees, not all of them wrong. Noting the vast number and diversity of religions we can conclude that not all of them can be correct. Their contradicting positions and teachings must mean that some are wrong as all cannot be simultaneously right. To believe in the rightness of one's religion may be viewed as intolerant, however that does not mean one's view is wrong. We would expect that one who truly believes what they believe would believe that it is true even if other religions contend it to be wrong. Jesus Himself said, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me." (John 14:6) And Paul taught is that, "there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:12) This is intolerant but it is an intolerance of faith, not of person.

Most religions also perform some form of intolerance when they exclude those whose heretical views would weaken, corrupt, or obfuscate the truth they seek hard to maintain and promote. In speaking of those who were repeatedly trying to reintroduce the Law into Christian worship, Paul says, "But we did not yield in subjection to them for even an hour, so that the truth of the gospel would remain with you." (Galatians 2:5) Similarly, in speaking of factious men and women, Paul said, "An heretical man after a first and second admonition have done with, knowing that such a one is perverted, and sins, being self-condemned." (Titus 3:10-11 Darby) This is intolerance, but it is an intolerance of mixture rather than an intolerance of person.

Both these forms of intolerance is expected when one believes in a truth that stands against competing and contrary truths around them. They are natural, normal, and to be expected. However, the intolerance we see in Islam is an intolerance of a different sort; it is an intolerance of person; an intolerance that cannot abide with one who disagrees; an intolerance that demands others to convert rather than persuades them of the truth. It is an intolerance that leads to the debasing, destruction, and even death of those who disagree. It is an intolerance that cannot be tolerated by others,

This kind of intolerance rejects all who differ and those who refuse to conform to your way of thinking, believing, or behaving. Consider what the Koran has to say regarding associating with Christians, Jews, and unbelievers.
"O believers, take not Jews and Christians as friends; they are friends of each other. Whoso of you makes them his friends is one of them. God guides not the people of the evildoers." (Koran 5:56)
"Your friend is only God, and His Messenger, and the believers who perform the prayer and pay the alms, and bow them down. Whoso makes God his friend, and His Messenger, and the believers -- the party of God, they are the victors." (Koran 5:60-61)
This attitude stands in stark contrast to Jesus who was "a friend of tax collectors and sinners!'" (Matthew 11:19) The Koran goes further to even command violence in the name of conversion and purging unbelievers from your midst.
"Fight [make war upon] those [to whom the scriptures have been given and] who believe not in God and the Last Day and do not forbid what God and His Messenger [Apostle] have forbidden -- such men as practise not [profess not a profession of] the religion of truth, being of those who have been given the Book -- until they pay the tribute out of hand and have been humbled." (Koran 9:29)
This too contrasts with Jesus attitudes when He would not let His disciples call fire down upon a Samaritan village for rejecting His, saying, "You do not know what kind of spirit you are of; for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them." (Luke 9:55-56)

This is not to say that other religions, from time to time, have not acted intolerant towards others. Even Augustine of Hippo once indicated that maybe conversion by force was preferable to letting people die in their sins and be sentenced to eternity in hell. 
"Augustine himself, who had previously consented only to spiritual measures against heretics, now advocated force, to bring them into the fellowship of the church, out of which there was no salvation. He appealed to the command in the parable of the supper, Luke, xiv. 23, to 'compel them to come in;' where, however, the 'compel' is evidently but a vivid hyperbole for the holy zeal in the conversion of the heathen, which we find, forexample, in the apostle Paul." (Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Volume IV, Section 70)
However, what is different with Islam is that its calls for intolerance are being made directly by their prophet whom the Koran calls the "Messenger [Apostle] of God, and the Seal of the Prophets" (Koran 33:40) and they are commanded in their sacred book of which the Koran says "it is in the Essence of the Book [a transcript of the archetypical Book], with [kept by] Us; sublime [lofty] indeed, wise [filled with wisdom]." (Koran 43:3) It is one thing for people of a religion to be intolerant, it is another for its prophets and scriptures to teach and command it. In this way, Islam is, in and of itself, is an intolerant religion irrespective of the beliefs and behaviors of its followers.

More to come...
David Robison

Saturday, January 02, 2016

Islam - A reset on religion - A new start for old religions

This is a continuation of a multi-post article. You can read the first post here and you can read the previous post here. This is also part of a larger series called "The Koran from a Christian perspective." You can find other posts in this series here.
The Koran at times seems inconsistent in its view of old religions, specifically religions decedent from Abraham. At times the Koran sees religions as progressive; each new religion bringing forth some new revelation regarding God, man, and man's responsibility towards God. Even Islam itself is progressive in its revelation with later revelations abrogating previous ones. With the passage of time, as mankind grows in their understanding of God, new revelation comes that is commensurate with mankind's new ability to understand and obey; at least that is Muhammad's view of religion.

However, in other places the Koran views each new religion as a fresh restart upon the old revelations. In this case, Christianity would be a new restart on Judaism; a fresh restart to try and achieve the original intent and true religion that God had intended for Judaism. Similarly, Islam would be a fresh start on Christianity; a new attempt to purify God's people and restore them back to a pure religion and understanding of God. The story is that God has sent His messengers to call men to a pure religion but men corrupted their religion and discarded their knowledge of God, so God sent new messengers to call men back to religion. With each new messenger there is a new attempt at a fresh restart at religion.

The Koran speaks thus regarding Christians and Christianity,
"People of the Book, now there has come to you Our Messenger [Apostle], making things clear to you, upon an interval between the Messengers [the cessation of Apostles] lest you should say, 'There has not come to us any bearer of good tidings, neither any warner. Indeed, there has come to you a bearer of good tidings and a warner; God is powerful over everything." (Koran 5:22)
It was Muhammad's belief that there would continue to be a string of apostles and prophets coming to mankind to clear up any misunderstandings and to "tweak" their religion as needed. However, if this is the case, we must ask ourselves two questions. First is, "Where is our messenger for today?" Did they stop with Muhammad? Some may say that there have been many Muslim warners and messengers since Muhammad but where is the one for us, for our own nation, and one speaking in our own language? While I certainly believe that God continues to send apostles and prophets, they are not in the like of Moses, Jesus, Paul, or even Muhammad. It does not seem to me that religion is that fluid that every few generations or every few hundreds of years we should expect another great prophet to set religion aright again. If this be the case, then perhaps all Muslims should become Mormons seeing that Joseph Smith claimed to be such a great prophet of God. Surly, however, I would expect them to disagree.

The second question we should ask ourselves is, "should we even be looking for anther prophet or messenger from God?" Jesus Himself warned us,
"Behold, I have told you in advance. So if they say to you, 'Behold, He is in the wilderness,' do not go out, or, 'Behold, He is in the inner rooms,' do not believe them." (Matthew 24:25-26)
"See to it that you are not misled; for many will come in My name, saying, 'I am He,' and, 'The time is near.' Do not go after them." (Luke 21:8)
Jesus told us that many would come claiming to be Him, to be the promised one, to being a savior, or even the prophet that was foretold but He strictly warned us not  to be deceived, to go out to them, or to follow them. Jesus clearly taught us not to expect another great prophet or another great restart on religion and this would include both Muhammad and Islam. Had Muhammad know and believed the words of Jesus, he would not have prophesied another testament or formed another religion; a testament and religion that Jesus specifically warned us against.

The Koran also claims to be an expanded guide to the words of Jesus and the teaching of the apostles thus clearing up issues that had troubled the church for centuries.
"People of the Book, now there has come to you Our Messenger [Apostle], making clear to you many things you have been concealing of the Book, and effacing [pass over] many things. There has come to you from God a light, and a Book Manifest [clear Book] whereby God guides whosoever follows His good pleasure in the ways of peace, and brings them forth from the shadows into the light by His leave; and He guides them to a straight path." (Koran 5:18)
However, it is one thing to offer commentary and clarification on what had been spoken before, but it is another thing to require belief, faith, agreement, and obedience to one's personal commentary or eplanation on previous revelations as a requirement for justification.
"O believers, believe in God and His Messenger [Apostle] and the Book He has sent down on His Messenger and the Book which He sent down before. Whoso disbelieves in God and His angels and His Books, and His Messengers [Apostles], and the Last Day, has surely gone astray into far error." (Koran 4:135)
However, John clearly teaches us that we have no need for another apostle, teacher, expainer, or warner of the truth.
"These things I have written to you concerning those who are trying to deceive you. As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him." (1 John 2:26-27)
As believers in Jesus Christ and as those in whom the Holy Spirit of God lives, we have no need for a new apostle, a new testament, a new religion, or a new teacher. We need not Muhammad nor Islam to find favor with God and to know Him, His way, and His will for our lives. Yes, there will always be things we don't understand and things in which Christians will disagree. However, most of these things are not essential to our daily lives or our walk with God. All we truly need and everything we must understand to walk with God, God has already revealed and, if in anything we fail to understand, His Holy Spirit is able to teach us and guide us into all truth. So what about Muhammad and Islam? Let us heed Jesus' words and leave them alone, not going out to them, and not following their lead.

David Robison