Subject: Christianity and Islam Part 8 – How We Treat Our Enemies
Matthew 5:44 “I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.”
On May 3rd Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi arrived at the Dallas-area community center wearing body armor and carrying assault rifles, with the goal to shoot as many people as possible. Just moments before both men were killed by Texas police in the shootout, Simpson tweeted, with the hashtag #texasattack, “May Allah accept us as mujahideen.”
A mujahideen is a term for one engaged in holy war (jihad) against the infidel (kafir). It was originally used for Muslim guerrilla warriors who fought the Soviets in Afghanistan. So both men thought of themselves as warriors engaged in jihad, fighting the infidel for the cause of Allah. But how could attacking innocent bystanders at an art exhibit in Texas have in common with attacking Soviet forces invading Afghanistan? Both events tie to the Islamic teaching that enemies of Allah and his prophet, Muhammad, deserve death. In the case of those at the art exhibit, the offense deserving death was mockery of Muhammad in art.
In their book ‘Unveiling Islam’, University professors Ergun and Emir Caner explain that “In the Quran and the Hadith, military warfare is an absolute necessity if Allah is to be praised and worshipped. The Quran declares expulsion or destruction of the infidel. Even a cursory reading of the Quran or the Hadith gives evidence of the call for the complete eradication of the nonbeliever: “If anyone desires a religion other than Islam, it will never be accepted of him.” (surah 3:85); “Seize them and slay them wherever you find them: and in any case take no friends or helpers from their ranks.” (surah 4:89); “For the unbelievers are open enemies to you.” (surah 4:101); “I will instill terror into the hearts of the unbelievers, smite ye above their necks and smite all their fingertips of them. It is not you who slew them; it was Allah.” (surah 8:13-17); “Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the last day.” (surah 9:29).
But what about Christian atrocities committed in the Crusades, in the name of Jesus Christ? Aren’t Christians as guilty of ‘holy war’ against the ‘infidels’ as Muslims? Professors Ergun and Emir Caner help answer this question: “The Crusades (1095-1291) arose because Christians adopted the Islamic doctrine of jihad, that is, holy war, and moved it to the center of their universe. Two centuries before the first official crusade, Pope Leo IV (847-855) promised the forgiveness of sin to anyone who fought against the infidels. Thus, Leo implanted jihad firmly into Western Christian thinking. John VIII (872-882) and other popes reassured believers in Christ of their eternal security if they were slain in warfare.”
As Christian philosopher Ravi Zacharias has often said when asked this same question, “Augustine once said, ‘One should not judge the merits of a worldview on the abuses committed by people claiming to follow it. One should always examine the character and the teaching of the one at the core of that worldview.’ And the main difference between how Christianity and Islam treat those who are enemies toward them is found when one compares and contrasts the character, actions and teachings of the founders of these two religious worldviews – Muhammad in Islam and Jesus Christ in Christianity.”
Muhammad, in both his life and his writings, affirmed jihad as a strategy for expanding the faith. Jesus did not. Throughout His ministry, Jesus brought a new commandment to bear on anyone claiming to be His follower. In Matthew 5:43-44, He first combines the Old Testament commandments of Leviticus 19:18 and Deuteronomy 23:3-6 and then replaces them with our verse for this week: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.”
So the significant difference between Muslims and Christians is not history but theology. Orthodox Christians are taught to live at peace by the living and written Word of God. Muslims are taught by the Quran and Allah’s messenger to ‘fight and slay the pagans wherever you find them’ (surah 9:5).
So in the holy war of the Crusades, Christians acted contrary to their Savior and His Word. Muslims fighting against pagans obey their prophet and his message. War is not a sidebar Islam’s history – it is the main vehicle for religious expansion. It is the Muslim duty to bring world peace by the sword. People today are familiar with the defensive Islam of the last 300 years, but it is the conquering Islam of the previous 1,000 years for the cause of Allah that has reemerged in the world today.