Whenever we see of Islamic threats or Islamic violence in the world, it is quite fashionable to offer the retort, “Islam is a religion of peace…these are just fringe extremists.” While such a statement might have been partially true at the turn of the 20th century, such a statement doesn’t stand the test of history or proper study of Islamic history. I want to seek to show that at its root, Islam is not a religion of peace. When looking to modern attitudes and how such attitudes and actions coincide with the first 400 years of Islamic history – including that of their founder Muhammad – indicating that at its origin, Islam is not peaceful. However, I also want to add the caveat that Islam can be a peaceful religion, but the requirement would be for Muslims to drop a few of their beliefs in their religion. I will also explore Christianity to show that though violence has occurred within Christianity, such violence is inconsistent with Christianity. Christianity is truly a religion OF peace that, unfortunately, lost her way.
Let me preface everything by saying that I am not condemning all Muslims. Anecdotally speaking, I’ve never met a violent Muslim. In fact, I’ve gone to school with, worked with, and taught Muslims, all of who had knowledge that I was a Christian from a Jewish background. Not a single one of them were ever rude and, in fact, we got along extremely well. Likewise, in my study of philosophy I have a great respect and great appreciation for Islamic philosophers (specifically Ibn Sina and Al-Farabi). I’m not painting Islam with a broad brush and saying every adherent to Islam is a terrorist or a supporter of the more violent aspects of Islam. In America, I believe the vast majority of Muslims to be moderate to liberal in their Islamic practices, but it is their moderate and liberal beliefs that make them peaceful; that is to say, were they devout adherents to Islam and followed Islam to its logical end, I do not believe they could be peaceful.
As a note to the content of what is written – everything I say can be verified. I have attempted to offer links to the Qur’an and Hadith when appropriate, though it may not go to the specific passage, one can rely on these links to look up the passages I am referring to if one doubts that I am using them properly. This is a lengthy read and would probably be best split up into different posts if not for the fact that doing so would create a fragmented case. If this is too long for one read, feel free to bookmark this page and come back and read it. If you are like me, sometimes it is best to print off long articles and then read them at your own pace, marking where you last left off. However you do it, I would ask that you read this article (no matter what your current stance on Islam is) and consider what I have to say.
A Peaceful Religion
Before launching into making the case that Islam is not a religion of peace, I think it is helpful to understand that Islam has been peaceful and that Islam can be peaceful. Peace has been found in the past, either in how the non-Muslim populace was treated or how military opponents were treated after a battle. The great Saladin was known for showing mercy to his enemies. The Muslims also, in an attempt to stop the wars with Western Europe, made a peace treaty to allow religious pilgrims to visit Jerusalem, free of Islamic harassment.
In the modern age we can see how Islam can be peaceful. We can look to the modern state of Turkey and see that they have done all that they can to improve relations with the West. In the United States, Muslims blend in with most other Americans because they act like Americans; they are generally peaceful.
Much of the precedence for peace within Islam does come from its early history. Though we can read in the Qur’an and other sources about some of the violence in the early years of Islam, we also read about the compassion that was shown by the Muslim populace and by their prophet Muhammad.
One of the more notable examples of how Muslims lived at peace with Christians was with St. John of Damascus. John was made the chief counselor (protosymbulus) of Damascus by the Muslim caliph, even though John was a Christian and John called Islam the “forerunner to the Antichrist.” In spite of all of this, John was respected by the Muslim leaders.
Overall, the Islamic conquest of the Middle East didn’t eradicate Christians, but rather found ways to live with Christians. If one were to go to Syria today, one would find quite a few Christian churches and quite a few Christians.
The Qur’an itself teaches that Muslims are to look at Jews and Christians as equals, as people who worship Allah, though without knowledge:
- Be they Muslims, Jews, Christians, or Sabaeans,
- Those who believe in God and the Last Day
- And who do well
- Have their reward with their Lord.
- They have nothing to fear,
- And they will not sorrow. (Surah: 2:62 and 5:69)
Likewise, in another passage,
- They say (to the Muslims): “Become Jews or become Christians and find the right way.” Answer them: “No. We follow the way of Abraham the upright, who was not an idolater.” Say: “We believe in God and what has been sent down to us, and what was given to Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and Jacob’s sons, and that which was given to Moses and Christ, and to (all) the (other) prophets by their Lord. We make no distinction among them, and we submit to God.” (2:135-136)
Muhammad and the other Muslims viewed Christians and Jews (at times) as fellow Muslims who had theological disagreements with other Muslims.
There are other instances within the Qur’an where Muslims are commanded to show respect to Jews, Christians, and their respective holy books as in the Islamic tradition, both are considered to come from the same background as Islam.
A Religion OF Peace?
With the above evidence showing that Islam can be peaceful, some might wonder why I do not consider it a religion of peace. After all, if such followers found peace with non-Muslims, certainly the ones who warred with non-Muslims, subjected them to torture, forced them to convert, and placed a stringent moral code on Muslim adherents must be extremist.
Unfortunately, when Islam has been peaceful in history has been the time when it has focused on one part of the Qur’an more than the other or was more cultural than religious. That is to say, Islam is most peaceful when the adherents are moderate to liberal in their following of Islam.
* Treatment of women in history, the Qur’an, and the Hadith
We can first look to the treatment of women within Islamic society, both within the Qur’an and Hadith and the first few hundred years of Islamic society. In the Qur’an, Surah 4:34 states:
“Men are the maintainers of women because Allah has made some of them to excel others and because they spend out of their property; the good women are therefore obedient, guarding the unseen as Allah has guarded; and (as to) those on whose part you fear desertion, admonish them, and leave them alone in the sleeping-places and beat them; then if they obey you, do not seek a way against them; surely Allah is High, Great.” (emphasis added)
It seems as though the Qur’an says that if a woman obeys her husband, he is not to beat her, however if she disobeys her husband then he should beat her until she is compliant. Though some might try to take an allegorical interpretation to the text, it doesn’t seem that Muhammad or early followers of Islam interpreted the passage allegorically. In the Hadith, Muslim 4:2127 says that Muhammad struck his favorite wife, Aisha, in the chest when she tried to leave the house. Bukhari 72:715 and Abu Dawud 2142 say that a husband can beat his wife for not submitting to his sexual desires (how bad she is beaten doesn’t matter, as the passage from Bukhari shows that the woman was infected from her beatings, yet Muhammad took no compassion on her) and that the husband doesn’t have to explain why he beats his wife.
The Qur’an and Hadith also encourage, albeit implicitly, the rape of women. Surah 24:4 and 24:13 teach that unless four men witnessed the rape, any accusation of rape by the woman is nothing more than a lie. It’s not that she lacks sufficient evidence, it’s that if Allah does not produce four male witnesses who are willing to testify on her behalf, then she is lying. Though there is no outright support of rape of Muslim women, the same cannot be said for non-Muslim women capture as the spoils of war. In Bukhari 34:432, when Muhammad’s men ask about coitus interuptus with their sex slaves (which would have been rape), Muhammad does not say, “Well, you shouldn’t be raping them,” but rather says that they shouldn’t engage in coitus interuptus because Allah has willed a soul into existence. In the Sahih Muslim 3371 points out that when the men became lonely during war because they didn’t have their wives with them, Muhammad allowed the men to rape the women they had captured. Of course, in re-reading Surah 24:4, we realize that the testimony is only required for Muslim women, not non-Muslim women; with them, as long as they are spoils of war, men can do whatever they want with them.
The reason for the poor treatment of women is that women are seen as being half the value of men (Surah 4:11). Surah 2:223 teaches that husbands can have their wives whenever the husband pleases and however the husband pleases, but such courtesy is not extended to the wife. All of this is because women are viewed as being created as lesser than man. While Genesis teaches that both men and women are created equally in God’s image and therefore beholden to the same rights, Islam teaches that women were created as less than men and that though they have rights, those rights are in a lesser degree to the right’s of men.
I added the quotes from the various teachings to show that before anyone says that I’m simply cherry-picking passages out of the Qur’an they must deal with the fact that Muhammad and his followers took the Surah’s concerning women to be literal. While one can say I’m misinterpreting such passages, the onus is on that person to explain how Muhammad, who dictated the Qur’an, misinterpreted words that were (supposedly) recited directly to him by Gabriel. This is not to say that all male Muslims beat their wives and rape Christian women, but instead that those who do engage in such activities are justified in doing so according to the Qur’an and early Islamic history.
* Treatment of non-believers in history, the Qur’an, and the Hadith
It is not just women who bear the brunt of Islamic violence, but also those who are not Muslim. The most violent treatment is for those who turn away from Islam; Surah 4:89 states that anyone who was Muslim, but turns away from the faith must be put to death. In fact, we know from Bukhari 52:260 that Muhammad told his followers to kill anyone who turned away from Islam. Bukhari actually records five instances where Muhammad either commanded that those who turn from Islam be killed or actually committed the murder himself. This is also why part of Islamic Law (Reliance on the Traveler 08.1) says that if a man is of age and sane and rejects Islam, he should be killed and the killers should suffer no ramifications.
Though Muslims had (and have) respect for Christians and Jews, such respect is only permissible so long as Christians and Jews pay a tax to the Islamic governments and submit to Islamic law, which requires that they also recognize that Allah is God (which means an abandoning of the Trinity for Christians; Surah 9:11 [and no, the “9.11” is not a myth, it’s actually in the Qur’an; it is quite the coincidence]). When we see Christians such as St. John of Damascus rising up in power, this often happened because a powerful caliph who non dared to challenge was generally moderate in his adherence to Islam. Were the caliph to be an adherent to Islam, John certainly would have been murdered. Muhammad even stated in Sahih Muslim 1:33 that he would fight and kill people until they confessed that Allah was God and that Muhammad was his messenger (which is the Muslim profession of faith, their equivalent of the “sinner’s prayer”). Bukhari 53:392 points out that Muhammad decided to go to a group of Jews and give them the option to convert to Islam or sell their property and leave. In Sahih Muslim 19:4366 Muhammad is said to have declared that he would chase all the Jews and Christians out of Arabia, which began in Mecca before Muhammad’s death (Surah 9:5) and concluded after his death.
Some might argue that such violence is not meant for today, but again, the problem is when we look at the Hadith we see that much of what Muhammad commanded occurred after he died (as well as during). There’s also nothing in the texts to indicate that such killing was to take place during a limited time or to a specific culture. In fact, the commands seem to appeal to all Muslims.
Another command that seems to transcend time is that Muslims are to be loyal to no government that is not under Sharia law. Surah 18:26 points out that Allah has only one way of government, that way of government being established in the Qur’an. In Surah 4:59 we read that Muslims are only to respect leaders that are from among themselves while outsides are not to be respected.
While the above is upsetting, we must wonder if we see a justification for suicide bombings, jihad, or the killing of cartoonists that lampoon Muhammad. Unfortunately, there is quite a bit of justification. Surah 33:61 points out that those who mock Allah or his messenger Muhammad are to be put to death in a fierce way. For those who think I might be misinterpreting this passage, let us not forget Ka’b bin al-Ashraf, a Jew who was murdered by followers of Muhammad after Muhammad called for his murder. What was al-Ashraf’s crime? He wrote a poem about Muslims and Muhammad that Muhammad found insulting (Bukhari 59:369). If I am misinterpreting the Qur’an, then so is Muhammad. For the Muslims who wish to say I am wrong, but who have high respect for Muhammad, they are left in a catch 22 in terms of piety; either they accept that Muhammad was justified in ordering murder (making modern day murder justifiable as it is prescribed to all Muslims in the Qur’an) or they must say that Muhammad was wrong and misinterpreted what he heard.
The idea of a “suicide bomber” is something that would be forbidden in Islam, but only because of the word “suicide.” Most Muslims who believe that such bombings are justified do not view these actions as “suicide,” but rather as dying in battle against the infidel. Such actions are commanded by both Allah and Muhammad. In Surah 4:74-78 indicates that all true believers will take up arms against those who are against Allah; those that die in such a struggle are given promises of a reward (Surah 9:111). Not all killing of disbelievers will end in death and, in fact, killing a disbeliever will not cause a believer to go to Hell (Muslim 20:4661-4662). However, Muhammad still encouraged his believers to die in battle, for it would bring about paradise (Muslim 20:4678-4683). All of this is important because, though suicide is forbidden in Islam (Bakhari 23:446), killing one’s self with the intention and effect of killing non-believers is viewed as martyrdom and not suicide. It is no different than one Muslim running into a crowd of soldiers knowing that he will be cut down. Muhammad encouraged such acts and did not view such acts as suicide.
The Qur’an has over 109 passages encouraging the followers of Islam to fight non-believers, with most of the passages having no cultural or historical context, meaning that those passages are still supposed to be followed. Many have been quoted here. But why would one be so devoted to the commands of the Qur’an that one would willingly die in “battle” against the infidels? Because to die in battle against the infidels will send a Muslims straight to paradise. The Qur’an teaches that everyone, including Muslims, will spend time in Hell, though Muslims will eventually be plucked out of Hell (Surah 19:70-72). However, those who die in battle against the non-believers will avoid Hell altogether and instead will wake up in paradise (Surah 3:169-172). Muhammad even taught that all the sins (with the exception of debt) were forgiven by Allah to Mujahideen, which means “Fighters for Allah” (Muslim 20:4646-4650). In fact, Muhammad boldly says that Gabriel taught him this teaching when the Qur’an was recited to him.
* The violence of Islam post-Muhammad
When we look to history, we find that Muslims kept to the teachings of their prophet. Muhammad died in 632AD, but the Islamic expansion continued well after his death. Here is a timeline of the Islamic conquest (all of these were invasions; none of this was done in self-defense):
- All of Arabia (modern day Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, and other Arabian nations) is conquered by Muhammad by the time of his death in 632AD
- Muslims begin to invade and fight the Sassanid Empire (Zoroastrian and not Muslim) in 633AD
- Syria in conquered in 637AD
- Armenia and Egypt fall in 639AD
- Muslim invasion of Afghanistan begins in 642AD (complete conversion and conquest did not occur until 1187)
- Muslims begin to invade the Indian subcontinent in 644AD (they succeed in taking the western part of the subcontinent – modern day Pakistan – but fail to take what is modern day India)
- Cyprus and Persia are captured in 654AD
- North Africa falls in 665AD
- Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul) is put under siege in 674AD and again in 717AD (it would eventually fall to the Muslim Turks in 1453 when it had all but been given up by the broke Byzantine Empire)
- The invasion of Nubia begins in 700AD
- The Moors invade Hispania (modern-day Spain) and kill off all the Visigoths in 711AD
- Invasions into Sicily and southern Italy begin in 831 and last until 902 (the Muslims would remain in control of Sicily until 1091)
From the time Muhammad died in 632AD to the time of the First Crusade (1096), Islam engaged in one of the most aggressive expansions since the Roman Empire. If one were to consider the land taken by Muslims to be an empire (though most don’t since there wasn’t a unifying government), it would have been, at the time, the biggest empire the world had ever seen, nearly triple what the Roman Empire was and double what Alexander’s empire was. All of this was not gained through missionary activities, through convincing people to convert, but rather through violence and war.
Muslims attempted to invade Europe on three fronts; the West through France, the East through the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantine Empire), and the South through Italy. The expansion into France took them as far as Tours, which is 239 kilometers (148 miles – roughly the distance from New York City to Atlantic City) away from Paris, which is in Northern France. Fortunately, Charles Martel stopped the Muslim invasion and pushed them back to modern-day Spain. Northern Spain wasn’t taken back until Charlemagne reclaimed it in 785 and 801, forming a barrier to prevent the Muslims from attempting to invade France again (all of Spain wasn’t liberated until 1492, when the Moors were finally ousted from Spain).
In the East, the Muslim invasion was stopped by a coalition force of the Eastern Roman Empire and the Bulgarian Empire in 718. The invasion of the Muslim Turks, however, would begin anew a century later would spread as far as Venice until the Ottoman Empire began its slow decline.
The invasion in the South was finally put down by Norman warriors in 1091. The Islamic invaders were finally ousted from Sicily and all of Europe (minus Southern Spain) was free from Muslim rule for the first time since the 7th century.
One should note that the Muslims were not ousted from Italy until 1091, meaning that the Pope in Rome lived with the constant fear of Muslim conquest until 1091. Likewise, the Muslims had begun new attacks on the Eastern Roman Empire, causing Emperor Alexios I Komnenos to send envoys in 1095 to Pope Urban I asking for him to send aid (at the time there was no central leader in Europe, thus the Pope was often looked to as the political and religious leader). Pope Urban, fresh off watching the Muslims be chased out of Italy and fearing an eastern incursion, acquiesced Emperor Alexios and called for the First Crusade.
In stealing a page from the Qur’an, Pope Urban I declared that anyone who shed their blood in the fight against the Muslim invaders would have all their sins forgiven when they reached Heaven. For professional fighters in Europe who killed other Christians and thus faced Hell, this was an offer that could not be refused. For the Pope, his declaration was, in all probability, more pragmatic than truly theological. He needed to open up a new front in the war against the Muslim invaders. Militarily, it was a brilliant strategy because from 1097-1099, for the first time since Muhammad was defeated at the Battle of Badr (624AD) Muslims lost ground. The Crusaders took key cities such as Nicea (freeing up Constantinople from further attacks by Muslims), Antioch, and Jerusalem. The First Crusade put the Muslims on the defensive until about 1300, but even then their capacity for invasion was limited.
From about 1300 to 1657, the Islamic Ottoman Empire began to conquer Eastern Europe, until they were turned back at Venice and began a period of stagnation that would culminate in WWI, which led to the disbanding of the Ottoman Empire shortly after their defeat at the hands of the Allies.
I point out all this history to make a point; the Qur’an calls for conquest and killing of those who are not Muslims. Modern Muslim apologists, as well as many non-Muslims, attempt to say that such passages in the Qur’an are taken out of context. However, we see from both the Hadith, which records the actions of Muhammad, and Muslim history that such passages were supposed to be taken literally. The idea that such passages were metaphors didn’t come about until the 20th century! From 632 to 1096, Islam was on the offensive.
If the early years of Islam, including the years of Muhammad, were founded in warfare against the unbeliever, then how can we say that Islam is a religion of peace? To be a religion of peace its foundation must be a peaceful foundation, not one created at the tip of the sword. When looking at Islam’s history, its writings, and its prophet, it is impossible to say that Islam is a religion of peace.
The Violence of Christianity
In mentioning the Crusades above, though a brilliant military strategy, there is little justification for how the Christians acted within the Crusades. When they conquered a town, often times Jews, Muslims, and even fellow Christians were raped and/or murdered. A cynic could easily say, “Just as the Muslims found their justification in the Qur’an, the Crusaders found their justification in the Bible.” Such a cynic, however, would be drawing a false analogy.
For one, the idea that Christians were to lead an uprising and fight for their religion was completely alien to the Early Church. The Early Church read the same Old Testament the Crusaders did, but came to vastly different conclusions. The Early Church did not use the Old Testament as a justification to kill non-believers and in fact they were almost uniformly pacifists with few exceptions for violence (though there were exceptions, aggressive violence, or violence to expand the faith was always forbidden). The Old Testament conquests stand alone for a specific people at a specific time for a specific purpose. For a proper treatment on these passages and what they mean see two articles written by Dr. Paul Copan, “Is Yahweh a Moral Monster” and “Yahweh Wars and the Canaanites,” both featured in the peer-reviewed journal Philosophia Christi. Suffice it to say, the actions done in the Old Testament were done for different reasons than the actions we see in Islamic history and was limited to a specific people at a specific time, unlike the passages in the Qur’an.
Comparing Christianity and Islam – Who is for peace?
As I alluded to above, people often like to equivocate the violence of Islam with the violence of Christianity. If one points out the events of September 11, someone can respond, “Well that was in reaction to the Christian Crusade!” If one quotes from the Qur’an then one is met with a (mis)quote from the Bible. If we point to nutty things modern Muslims say we are met with quotes from Pat Robertson or other “Christian leaders.”
The best way to evaluate the two religions is to look at their religious writings and then see how the followers for the first 300 years followed these writings. We have seen what occurred with Islam – the Qur’an calls for violence and the first 300 years of Islam (and beyond) were founded in violence – and now we must look to Christianity.
Christians and governmental authority and violence –
As I displayed earlier in the article, the Qur’an calls for Muslims to disobey any government that does not have Muslims as the leaders. Christians, especially as of late, have taken a similar stance at times. Often times Christians have spoken out against the government on non-moral issues, or fallen in line with a political party rather than following Scripture.
The Christians of the first three centuries, however, were quite different from the Christians today. They took to heart Christ’s words to render unto Caesar the things that were Caesar’s (Matthew 22:21). Paul also commands Christians to submit to the government, no matter the government’s religious make up, as God has put the government in place (Romans 13:1-7). Even Peter, in his epistle (1 Peter 2:13-14) calls for Christians to submit to any human institution of government. Though there are times for civil disobedience and there are some laws Christians must opposed and cannot follow, overall Christians are still supposed to respect the law of the land.
In the first 300 years of Christianity, Christians found that their beliefs were outlawed. They were told that if they would say “Caesar is Lord” then they could go on their way, however to do so would require them to deny Christ implicitly. Such a denial went against the law of God. Thus, they disobeyed, but respected the Roman government insofar as they recognized the consequences for their actions and submitted willingly to those consequences. In this, Christianity sought peace with the government and sought to influence the government through rational, non-violent methods.
Christians and women –
As seen, the Islamic view of women leaves much to be desired. Unfortunately, many Christians have devalued women, especially in the modern age. Some see women as having no place outside of the home while others take the Biblical commands for women to submit to their husbands as a sign that women are lesser than men. Even if they do not elucidate such views verbally, one can look to the actions of some Christian men and see that, by their actions, they treat women as lesser than men.
The Biblical view of men and women, however, is that men are incomplete without women and women are incomplete without men (Genesis 2:18-24). This is not to say one who is single is incomplete (for we find our ultimate completion in Christ), but rather that most men and most women are geared for each other. Though this implies certain roles for each gender, these roles do not indicate importance or value; under the Christian teaching, regardless of one’s role, all are equal in value (Galatians 3:26-28). Thus, an adult has a different role than a child, a role that comes with more authority, but such a role doesn’t mean that an adult has more worth than a child; the murder of a child is just as horrible as the murder of an adult (and in some ways it is worse since the child is more helpless than the adult).
In the New Testament we see Jesus interacting with women and healing them as much as He did men (c.f. Luke 12:10-13, Luke 8:1-3). Under Jewish Law, women were not qualified to be witnesses, yet this did not stop Jesus from appearing to women first after His resurrection (all the Gospels record that women were the first ones to see His resurrection). Christ’s high view of women is recognized when we realize that He gained His human nature from His mother Mary who was blessed among all women. It is no coincidence that God revealed to women first that He was sending redemption into the world (Luke 1:26-56, c.f. Genesis 3:15) and the first ones He revealed Himself to after His resurrection. God views women as equal to men and in Christianity women have played an invaluable role in God’s kingdom (most notably by bringing God into this world via the Incarnation). In Christianity women are to be respected as both being created in the image of God and by sharing flesh with Mary, who bore Christ.
The followers of Christ continued the tradition of treating women as equals (though with different roles). Acts 18:24-26 shows that a Christian couple, Priscilla and Aquila, counseled and discipled a new Christian convert. It shows that there was a partnership between the husband and wife, rather than a wife who was hidden behind a veil. 1 Corinthians 1:11 reports that a female owned a house that was being used as a church; this indicates that the early Church had no problem with women owning property or even with seeking their permission to use their homes as churches.
Whereas Islam allows husbands to have their way with their wives, regardless of the wife’s objection, Christianity teaches that husbands and wives are equal in sexuality and sexual demands. 1 Corinthians 7:1-5 states quite explicitly that just as the wife should not deny the husband, the husband should not deny the wife! The same command given to women is also given to men. Obviously when taken in the broader context of Scripture there are legitimate reasons for one partner to deny sex to the other partner, but it is quite interesting that Paul says that lacking a legitimate reason, sex should occur between husband and wife. Just as the wife’s body belongs to the husband, the husband’s body belongs to the wife, indicating quite a bit of equality between the two.
Even in passages that make modern feminists cringe, such as Ephesians 5:22-24 that call for wives to submit to their husbands, a similar command is given to men. Just as Paul tells wives to submit to their husbands as the Church submits to Christ, Paul tells husbands to love their wives as Christ loves the Church (Ephesians 5:25-33). Though women are called to submit to their husbands (not because they are ontologically lower or unequal, but simply because of their purpose in life), men are called to love their wives as Christ loves the Church, or as the men love their own bodies. This is far more than a prohibition against beating one’s wife (though it certainly does prohibit one from doing that), but a call for husbands to sacrifice their lives for their wives. Paul is calling on husbands to put the needs of their wives first. This is truly revolutionary considering the context it was written in; in Rome, women were viewed as lesser than men and wives were no more than breeding factories that looked after the house. Paul, however, says that wives are to be loved, respected, and put first in the needs of the family. While Paul calls for wives to submit to the authority of the husband, he quickly turns around and tells the husbands to submit to the needs of the wife.
The Early Church also treated women with great respect. Paula, who was a friend of Jerome, was viewed as a scholar in her day. We can turn to St. Theodora, St. Helen, St. Prisca, the Blessed Virgin Mary, or thousands of other women to see that the Early Church revered women. They owned homes where Christians met for Church. They often led the charge in helping the poor and oppressed. And they faced persecution with such bravery that pagan Roman men were ashamed for themselves. In a way, during the years of persecution, women stood as the greatest testimony for Christ. It was one thing for a man to bravely face immanent death – though rare, Romans did see this happen every so often from non-Christians. But to see a woman bravely face death was unheard of and for many Romans this act convinced them that Christ was Lord.
Jesus vs Mohammad –
For those unconvinced that Christianity and Islam cannot be compared to each other – that the violent, women hating followers of Islam are consistently following the Qur’an while the violent, women hating followers of Christianity are inconsistent with the Bible – simply compare the lives of Jesus and Muhammad. We have already seen that Muhammad had to raise up an army to defeat those who persecuted him. Jesus also faced persecution, but how did He handle it?
When Jesus was asked where His kingdom was, He did not say “Jerusalem,” but rather that His kingdom was not of this world; if it were of this world, He could have raised an army and conquered all, but He chose not to (John 18:36). Whereas Muhammad has to raise up a human army, Christ could have called down twelve legions of angels (about 60,000 angels) to get Him off the cross and exact revenge upon those who put Him there (Matthew 26:53). But instead of calling down an army of angels, instead of sacking Jerusalem, instead of leading an army to conquer Rome – all of which He would have been justified in doing (unlike Muhammad) – He instead willingly went to the cross (Matthew 20:28) and then forgave his oppressors (Luke 24:34)!
My friend Peter Cox summed up the differences between Jesus and Muhammad best when he said, “Jesus gave His life so that even His enemies might be saved; Muhammad killed his enemies in cold blood.” Christ had the power to conquer the entire world, but chose not to. Instead, the One who deserved to be served and who had every right to conquer the world (as He created it) instead chose to become a servant and to die for the world (John 3:16).
By giving up His life and refusing to engage in violence and with Christ being the founder of Christianity, it can properly be said that Christianity is a religion of peace. For the Crusaders and those who followed, they created a bastardized version of Christianity, one that was incongruent with what Christ taught and the early Church practiced. The first 300 years of Islam were violent because Muslims conquered city after city and state after state as they were told to do by their prophet, written down in the Qur’an and the Hadith. The first 300 years of Christianity were also violent, but it was violent because Christians submitted to Christ and subsequently died for their submission. The first 300 years of Christianity lacked military conquest, but instead won over the hearts and minds of the Roman people by following the life example and words of their leader, Jesus who is the Christ.
Can We Work Together?
After looking at the history and texts from Christianity and Islam, we are left with the question of whether or not we can work together for peace and co-existence, even though this seems like an impasse. However, I do not believe that peace is impossible between Christians and Muslims. I do not believe that Muslims must continue their attempt to conquer the West or the rest of the world. I am not a Nihilist and therefore I have hope for a peaceful co-existence. But such a co-existence requires quite a bit of sacrifice, mostly on the part of the Muslims.
For one, Muslims must recognize that their religion does promote violence against non-Muslims and women. They must stop trying to re-interpret the Qur’an to be a peaceful book; the Hadith and first 300 years of Islamic interpretation and practice of the Qur’an prove that those who interpret the Qur’an to call for violence against women and non-Muslims have the correct interpretation. This means that Muslims who seek peace should denounce those parts of the Qur’an and instead embrace the more peaceful Surahs.
Secondly, Muslims (and for that matter, non-Muslims) must stop blaming the modern terroristic violence as retaliation for the Crusades. As proven, the Muslims were invading Europe and committing acts of terrorism long before the Crusades, so to say that the Crusades are somehow to blame for modern terrorism is dishonest; such acts would occur regardless of whether the Crusades had occurred or not. We must be intellectually honest with ourselves and admit that while the Crusades led to a tragic loss of human life, they were a response to Islamic invasions and were not unprovoked.
Third, Muslims need to do more to condemn the violent aspects of Islam seen throughout the world. Rather than try to cover up honor killings or hide the fact that Muslims who convert to Christianity face death, they should instead acknowledge that such practices occur regularly and subsequently condemn these practices.
Fourth, Muslims should attempt to get to know us in the West. This doesn’t really stand for American Muslims, but more for those in Europe and some in America who choose to live in their communities, ignoring those on the outside. When this is done it is quite easy to view all “outsiders” as non-human.
(Ultimately, the only way for a Muslim – or any human being – to find real peace is by entering into a relationship with Christ. However, since we know that not every Muslim will accept Christ, we must look at the issue more “pragmatically” and see a way to find peace with Muslims even if they don’t come to Christ).
For Christians, we need to realize that not all Muslims are violent, especially in America. There is nothing prohibiting us from befriending a Muslim or, at the very least, working with Muslims. We do share many common beliefs, especially in metaphysics and ethics, and because of this we can grow from interactions with each other. With Muslims who abandon the more violent aspects of their history and their Qur’an, we have a common bond when we stand with them against abortion and other social issues.
Secondly, we need to recognize that these Muslims, even the terrorists, are made in the image of God. Rather than supporting the whole-sale destruction of these people, we should be seeking peaceful alternatives when possible (though war is sometimes necessary). We need to be sending strong Christians into these countries to help lead the populace to Christ. Make no mistake; such an action will result in the brutalization and killing of many, many Christians. But Christ told us to expect such things, so why fear it? A populace dedicated to Christ is a populace that won’t want to strap a bomb to their children or fly planes into buildings; a populace decimated by war and Islamic ideology, however, has no value for human life.
Third, and final, we should love the Muslims. Rather than hating them for what they did on 9/11, or what they do on a daily basis, we should love them. We should realize that we are saved by the grace of God and that before we came to Christ, we too were enemies of God. While we may have not destroyed human life, we were living lives with as much opposition to Christ as Muslims do today. If our Muslim neighbor is hungry, we should feed him. If he is threatened or attacked, we should risk our life to save his. If he is naked, we should clothe him. If he needs shelter, we should provide it. In all that we do, we must display the love of Christ and abandon our hatred.
I would hope that at this point in the article, the reader would see a few key points:
- Not all Muslims are evil and violent – it is quite possible for Muslims to be very peaceful and forgo violence.
- While Islam can be peaceful, it is not a religion of peace. Its founder, Muhammad, increased Islam by conquest. This was written down in both the Qur’an and the Hadith and His followers also conquered many nations. It was not until recently that such passages in the Qur’an were viewed as a metaphor.
- Christians who engaged in violence in the Crusades were living lives that were inconsistent with the life of Christ and the life of the early Church.
- Christianity is a religion of peace as our founder, Jesus Christ, led a life of peace, taught that His followers should seek peace, and the early Church succeeded in seeking after peace (in that they didn’t commit violence even when violence was committed against them).
- Muslims and Christians can work together so long as Muslims recognize their violent past and repent of. Likewise, Christians should love Muslims and seek to help them however they can.
There are over one billion Muslims in the world today and that number is growing. It is my hope that these Muslims will accept a more peaceful way of life and abandon the violence of their prophet and their foundation.