A Response to Ben Corey’s “5 Things I Wish Conservative Christians Understood About Islam”: Part 2

This 3-part article has been written by Dr. Fred Farrokh* as a response to Dr. Benjamin L. Corey’s Patheos blog“5 Things I Wish Conservative Christians Understood about Islam.” If you haven’t read that piece, we encourage you to do so! Part one of Fred’s response can be found here, and part three will be posted on Friday. 

3. Original: “Most Muslims do not view Christians or Jews as ‘infidels,’ nor are they instructed to kill us.”
Revision: “Most Muslims do not view Christians or Jews as ‘infidels,” even though the Qur’an’s clear instruction, and Muhammad’s clear example, is to fight against Christians and Jews to subdue them.”

Here Corey gives brief and unhelpful references to two Qur’anic phrases: ‘mushrikin’ (those who associated partners with Allah) and “Ahl al-Kitab” (“People of the Book”). Part of the confusion here is not only Corey’s but is based on inherent tension within the Qur’an itself. According to Sura 4:116, shirk, (associating partners with Allah), is the unpardonable sin in Islam. This is a clear denunciation of the Trinity. Sura 17:111 states that those who believe in the Son of God, Jesus, are guilty of shirk. Nevertheless, according to Shari’ah, Christians, and Jews, since they believe in God, may spare their own lives if they submit to Islamic rulers. Atheists and idol-worshippers are not afforded this option and must be killed if they will not submit to Muslim conquerors.
Corey further undercuts his argument by stating in his third point: “To act like the Quran teaches Muslims to slaughter all infidels today, would be the equivalent of saying that the Christian Bible commands us to slaughter and destroy anyone who is occupying the land of Israel, simply because we find that in the Old Testament.” The Old Testament wars of conquest were limited in time and geography, unlike the worldwide and unending Jihad initiated by Muhammad and his followers. The conquest of Canaan was delayed by over 400 years as God mercifully gave these peoples a chance to repent from the time of Abraham to the time of Joshua (Genesis 15:16). And I am unaware of Christians who are recommending the slaughter of people living in the land of Israel.

4. Original: “Killing innocent people, and being a suicide bomber, are both actions the Islamic religion forbids.”
Revision: “Some Muslims now challenge the Islamic teaching that forbids the killing of innocent people and suicide bombing.”

On this point, Corey is largely correct. Islam has historically forbidden suicide. It is unlikely Muhammad and the early jurists could have foreseen the types of bombs by which a jihadist could simultaneously kill himself and others. In ancient times, it was impossible to do this with swords and arrows. The teaching and trajectory of Islam, however, from its inception to the present, has been that the entire world should come into submission to Islam. (Sunnis hope it will be under their leadership, while Shi’ites hope it will be under theirs.) This has spawned an ends-justify-the-means mentality which has challenged the historic Islamic prohibition on suicide. Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of al-Qa’eda, provides justification for both killing of innocents and suicide bombing in the quote below.

“Zawahiri also alienated many of his remaining followers, who were alarmed both by the death of innocents and by the use of suicide bombers. These issues would always plague the conversation about the morality of global jihad. In responding to these objections, Zawahiri created the theoretical framework to justify the Islamabad [Egyptian Embassy] bombing and similar al-Qaeda attacks that followed.” “He explained that there were no innocents inside the embassy. Everyone who worked there, from the diplomats to the guards, was a supporter of the Egyptian regime, which had detained thousands of fundamentalists and blocked the rule of Islam. Those who carried out the duties of the government must shoulder responsibility for the crimes. No true Muslim could work for such a regime. In this, Zawahiri was repeating the takfir view that had been carried to its logical extreme in Algeria. Yes, he admitted, there might have been innocent victims—children, true believers—who also died, but Muslims are weak and their enemy is so powerful; in such an emergency, the rules against slaughter of innocents must be relaxed.” “The question of suicide was even more problematic. There is no theological support for such an action in Islam; indeed, it is expressly prohibited. “Do not kill yourselves,” the Quran states. The hadith, or sayings of the Prophet, are replete with instances in which Mohammed condemns the action. The specific punishment for the suicide is to burn in hell and to be forever dying by means of the same instrument that was used to take his life. Even when one of his bravest warriors was severely wounded in battle and hurled himself upon his own sword only to relieve his terrible suffering, Mohammed declared that he was damned.” “In defense of the bombing, Zawahiri had to overcome this profound (p. 219) taboo. The bombers who carried out the Islamabad operation, Zawahiri said, represent “a generation of mujahideen that has decided to sacrifice itself and its property in the cause of God. That is because the way of death and martyrdom is a weapon that tyrants and their helpers, who worship their salaries instead of God, do not have.” He compared them to the martyrs of early Christianity. The only example he could point to in Islamic tradition was that of a group of Muslims, early in the history of the faith, who were captured by ‘idolaters’ and forced to choose between recanting their religion or being killed by their captors. They chose to become martyrs to their beliefs.” **

Here Corey is generally correct in his understanding of Islamic theology. Again, most Muslims are hospitable and want Christian friends. Many Muslims living in the West have actually fled from the Jihadism and Islamic Law now expanding in the Middle East. Most would like nothing more than wholesome interaction with their Christian and Jewish friends and neighbors, and many are making tremendously positive contributions to the societies in which they now live.

To be continued…

*Fred Farrokh is an International Trainer with Global Initiative: Reaching Muslim Peoples. Dr. Farrokh has a Ph.D. in Intercultural Studies from Assemblies of God Theological Seminary, with a dissertation on Muslim Identity.

** From The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 by Lawrence Wright. 2006. Alfred A. Knopf, New York

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