The Muslim caller to my radio program was upset. He was unhappy because I had implied that members of Al-Qaeda, and similar fundamentalist Muslim groups, were acting in accord with Islamic law and tradition. "No," he assured me, "That is not true. They are not true Muslims. True Muslims do not engage in violence. Islam is a religion of peace and the Prophet Muhammad was a man of peace."
Now that got me to thinking. On the one hand there are Muslims, such as my caller, who claim that Islam can coexist with peacefully with Christianity, Judaism, and the other religions of the world. On the other hand, there are other Muslims, such as the members of Al-Qaeda, who insist that Islam cannot coexist peacefully with any other religion. Yet, both sides claim to believe the same Qur'an and follow the same prophet. Obviously, then, their understanding and application of Islam must be radically different. So, how are we supposed to know the which group's right?
Maybe, what we need to do is compare each group's views and claims with their common holy book, the Qur'an. After all, that's basically what I suggest to those who want to determine which Christian church or denomination is right. I suggest they compare the views and claims of different churches and denominations with our Holy Book, the Bible. In fact, Isaiah 8:20 says, "To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them." Even Paul commended the Bereans in Acts 17:11 saying that they "...were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so."
Now, those who portray Islam as the Religion of Peace like to quote the Qur'an as much as those who claim Islam is the Religion of the Sword. The Religion of Peace proponents point out that the Qur'an says in 2:256, "There is no compulsion in religion." How then, they ask, can someone be forced to accept Islam? How can someone be forced to become a Muslim against their wishes? Muslims, Jews, and Christians, therefore, must be tolerant of one another and live together in peace. After all, the Qur'an says, "There is no compulsion in religion."
Unfortunately, these moderate, peace-loving Muslims, along with like-minded liberal Christians and the left-leaning western media, aren't telling us the rest of the verse. The full verse reads, "There is no compulsion in religion. Surely the right has become distinct from error; so whosoever refuses to be led by those who transgress and believes in ALLAH, has surely grasped a strong handle which knows no breaking. And ALLAH is All-Hearing. All-Knowing."
What this means is not that no one should be compelled to become a Muslim. What it actually means is that once someone rejects their false belief system and embraces Islam ("the right [Islam] has become distinct from error [Judaism, Christianity, Idolatry, etc.]"), they will have such a strong faith that they cannot be compelled to return to their previous unbelief ("whosoever refuses to be led by those who transgress and believes in ALLAH, has surely grasped a strong handle which knows no breaking.").
Another translation makes it even stronger: "There is no compulsion in religion. The right direction is henceforth distinct from error. And he who rejecteth false deities and believeth in Allah hath grasped a firm handhold which will never break. Allah is Hearer, Knower."
Furthermore, you only have to read a little further in the Qur'an to find in surrah, or chapter, 8 that, while the Qur'an teaches that Muslims cannot be compelled to leave Islam, Muslims are told to compel non-Muslims to embrace Islam. Verse 39 says, "And fight them until persecution is no more, and all religion is for Allah. But if they cease, then lo! Allah is Seer of what they do."
Consider Surrah 60:4 as well: "There is a goodly pattern for you in Abraham and those with him, when they told their folk: Lo! We are guiltless of you and all that ye worship beside Allah. We have done with you. And there hath arisen between us and you hostility and hate for ever until you believe in Allah only-save that which Abraham promised his father (when he said): I will ask forgiveness for thee, though I own nothing for thee from Allah-Our Lord! In Thee we put our trust, and unto Thee we turn repentant, and unto Thee is the journeying."
In both of 8:39 and 60:4, we have a commission to fight the unbelievers until they believe. Muslims are to fight until "all religion is for Allah" and all "believe in Allah only." This idea is reflected in 9:5, the infamous Verse of the Sword, which says, "Then, whenever the sacred months have passed, slay the idolaters wherever ye find them, and take them, and prepare for each ambush. But if they repent and pay to poor-due, then leave their way free. Lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful."
So much for no compulsion in religion!
Now, these same moderate, enlightened Muslims who claim that no one should be compelled to become a Muslim, also claim that Islam is a peaceful religion. They claim that it can peacefully coexist with other religions, including Christianity. Again, the statements of the moderates do not line up with the Qur'an.
Consider surrah 5:72-74, for instance: "They surely disbelieve who say: Lo! Allah is the Messiah, son of Mary...They surely disbelieve who say: Lo! Allah is the third of three…" In other words, if you believe John 1:14 ("And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.") and 1 John 5:7 ("For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one."), you are, according to the Qur'an, a "disbeliever."
So, just how does the Qur'an instruct Muslims to treat disbelievers? With love and respect? Offer them the right hand of fellowship and live in peace and harmony? Well, not quite… Here's a sampling:
And, just in case a Muslim desires to live in peace with the disbelievers, 2:216 says, "Warfare is ordained for you, though it is hateful unto you; but it may happen that ye hate a thing which is good for you, and it may happen that ye love a thing which is bad for you. Allah knoweth, ye know not."
What a contrast to the Bible! Christians are instructed somewhat differently in Matthew 5:44 to "...Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;". Similarly, in Luke 6:28, we are told to "Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you." Also, Romans 12:18 says, "If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men."
Again, the moderates fail to line up with the plain teachings of the Qur'an. Fundamentalist Muslims, on the other hand, embrace the intolerance of and violence to other religions found in the Qur'an. Osama bin Laden, for instance, claims in an essay entitled, "Moderate Islam Is a Prostration to the West," translated by Raymond Ibrahim in The Al Qaeda Reader (New York: Broadway Books, 2007), on page 53:
For it is, in fact, part of our religion to impose our particular beliefs upon others. Whoever doubts this, let him turn to the deeds of the Companions [of Muhammad] when they raided the lands of the Christians… [W]e are to force people by the power of the sword to [our] particular understanding...just like Allah commanded…
Ibrahim further quotes the Al Qaeda leader on pages 52-53 saying:
And the West's notions that Islam is a religion of jihad and enmity toward the religions of the infidels and the infidels themselves is an accurate and true depiction. So if the intellectuals wish to present a "moderate" and "balanced" way of life, it is first necessary to abolish Loyalty and Enmity, jihad, and especially Offensive Jihad...that is nothing less than a religion stripped of its reality.
You see, the leaders of Al Qaeda, and similar Islamic fundamentalist groups approach the Qur'an in essentially the same way fundamentalist Christians approach the Bible. Consequently, they believe that the Qur'an is the perfect, inerrant, inspired word of Allah and that it should be believed literally and followed implicitly. They believe that the Qur'an presents Islam as the one true religion and that all other religions as false. They believe that they are commanded by the Qur'an to defend Islam and to spread it to all the world, by force if necessary. Furthermore, they believe that those moderate Muslims who compromise, corrupt, and reinterpret the teachings of the Qur'an are not true Muslims.
Certainly, as a Christian fundamentalist, I can understand their rational. I can understand the fundamentalist Muslim's desire for all Muslims to uphold and defend the fundamental teachings of the Qur'an and their rejection of the compromises of moderate Muslims. I can understand why they believe Islam to be exclusive of all other religions and why they believe that moderate Muslims who claim otherwise are not true Muslims at all. After all, as a Christian fundamentalist, I hold similar views in regards to the Bible, Christianity, and liberal Christians.
Consequently, if I were a Muslim, and approached the Qur'an the same way that I approach the Bible, I would be a fundamentalist Muslim. And, I would join a fundamentalist group like Al Qaeda. After all, the Qur'an says in 4:95-96, "Those of the believers who sit still, other than those who have a (disabling) hurt, are not on an equality with those who strive in the way of Allah with their wealth and lives. Allah hath conferred on those who strive with their wealth and lives a rank above the sedentary. Unto each Allah has promised good, but He hath bestowed on those who strive a great reward above the sedentary; Degrees of rank from Him, and forgiveness and mercy…"
Thankfully, I've found something far better in the Bible: Jesus Christ and the precious gift of salvation through His blood.