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...