The Quran & "Real Islam"

Our current President is fond suggesting Islam is a religion that promotes peace (as did G. W. Bush). Others, including many in conservative evangelical and biblical fundamentalist circles, insist that “real” Islam, according to the Quran, etc., is inherently violent toward all who do not embrace its belief system.

So what does “real” Islam teach about peace, jihad, and other human-rights topics?

Americans—especially Christians—really ought to stop trying to answer this question. We should also stop making generalizations based on what we believe to be the correct the answer. Here’s why.

1. Policy Outcomes

The debate over what constitutes “real Islam” often occurs in the context of public policy. Donald Trump’s recent proposal of denying Muslims entry into the country (an idea Franklin Graham has also recommended) naturally prompts objections that “not all Muslims are …” and counterarguments of one sort or another.

But the truth is that excluding people from entry into the USA because of their religion would cross a line we have never crossed in our nation’s history—and also a line that 21st century Christians, of all people, ought to be deeply hesitant to cross. It doesn’t take much imagination to forsee a day when immigration policy based on a religious test morphs into legal precedent for other religion-based restrictions.

And the underlying reasoning is even uglier. It’s basically this: “We think religion A is about hatred and violence, therefore we are justified in taking legal action against all who espouse religion A.” Do we really want to go there? In today’s America, Christians with biblical views of sexual ethics and marriage are increasingly seen as extremist, hateful, and potentially violent.

But let’s shelve all that heavy stuff for now and just be the practically-minded Americans we all are. There can be no religion-based immigration exclusion for the simple reason that anybody can claim to believe anything, and those who do hold to beliefs that motivate them to sneak into a country to slaughter unsuspecting citizens can simply claim to be devotees of Konkokyo.

Is Islam a religion of peace? Is it a religion of inherent violence against all infidels? Even if we could answer these questions in some clear, persuasive way—which we can’t (see below)—public policy has nowhere to go with that information … not in the USA.

2. Persistent Variants

The question of what constitutes “real Islam” is pointless for another reason. Even if we insist all day that Islam is a religion of peace, individuals who believe mass murder is a component of their faith will continue to exist. By the same token, if we quote Quran (or the ahadith, teachings of Mullahs, etc.) all day to show that the book requires all “true” Muslims to kill infidels, the many Muslims who believe their faith rejects this sort of violence will also still exist.

So once again, the answer to the question changes nothing. The actual number of people who believe and act one way or believe and act in other ways is unaltered.

I’ve occasionally conversed with individuals who say there is no such thing as a peace-loving Muslim. But that sort of universal negative only needs one exception to disprove it. And I have met more than one Muslim who was as appalled as any Christian, or Buddhist, or Jew by the likes of Al Qaida and ISIS.

Islam is not monolithic. The terms Shiite, Sunni, Sufi, Wahabi, Salafi, and others come readily to mind. Yes, these variants of Islam overlap somewhat, and they’ll often set aside differences to oppose a common enemy, but often enough they have very different views on who should die for doing what, and how, and when.

How would most of us view the generalization that “Christianity is a religion of baby-baptizing?”

In addition to the ages-old Muslim sects, liberalized Islam thrives in various geographies as well. A Mosque president I interviewed was so liberal, he suggested that even I might be a Muslim since I believe in submission to God—and “there are many buses to Chicago” (maybe “many caravans to Mecca” would have been a better metaphor).

No matter how we choose to generalize, no matter what we decree to be authentic, both peaceful Islam and violent Islam exist.

3. Man-Made Religious Texts

Since Christians believe in the inerrancy and absolute authority of the Bible, we sometimes get to thinking that the “sacred texts” of other faiths are similarly definitive and binding. Many speak as though whatever the Quran “really” teaches, that’s what has Islam to be for all of time.

But if the Qur’an (and sunnah and ahadith) are simply human works, why should we discourage liberal Muslims from interpreting them in support of the “religion of peace” version of Islam? Why should we insist that the Islam of this or that phase of its history (or this or that portion of allegedly Islamic teaching) is what that religion has to be today, permanently?

Any man-made religion is free to define itself any way its adherents like—especially where their traditions are ambiguous. In other words, a constructed religion has no “true” or “genuine” in the sense that a revealed faith does.

Consequently, “What is true Islam?” is, from a Christian point of view, a meaningless question. True religion X is whatever those who follow it decide it is, and if those who follow it don’t agree on some aspects, no claim of authenticity on those points is ultimately any more or less valid than any other.

We could certainly argue that this or that belief or practice is more consistent with the teachings of the founder, but so what? See point 2.

4. Ministry Outcomes

Whether Islam is inherently peaceful, inherently murderous, or not “inherently” anything, the Christian response is essentially the same. None of the answers to these questions should change how we interact with people of Muslim conviction.

The Bible upholds the duty of governments to protect citizens, and the duty of individuals to protect themselves and their families. It also reveales that we must love our neighbors as ourselves, love our enemies, and return blessing for cursing. The church of Jesus Christ is tasked with teaching “all the world” the gospel of Jesus’ death and resurrection for sinners and availability of redemption through faith.

None of this changes based on whether the belief systems of those we encounter are inherently radical and violent or only aberrantly radical and violent.

The question of Islam’s “true nature” is an unhelpful distraction into the land of abstractions when we already have enough solid facts to guide domestic, foreign, and immigration policy. Peaceloving people are at war with an ideology, yes. But the ideology is well enough defined in terms of what it aims to do. And it has made that all too clear.

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There are 12 Comments

G. N. Barkman's picture

Thanks, Aaron for this helpful perspective.  It's given me some things to think about.

G. N. Barkman

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I've been wanting to get this one in writing for a while, but I have to thank Mr. Trump and Mr. Graham for finally getting me moving on it.

Need to do a followup peace on the questions we ought to be asking about Islam....  but I'm not sure there is really much to say on that. We already all know that it offers a false way of salvation by works.

I have to say, though, that the debate over whether Allah is the same God as the God of the Bible has left me scratching my head, too. It really doesn't matter whether you say "It's a different God" or you say "It's the same God but they have Him all wrong." I personally prefer the latter. We usually don't claim that the liberal mainline denominations or Christian spin-off faiths like the Quakers and Amish etc. worship a "different God." 

Or, to use a better parallel, we don't usually insist that the Unitarians worship a "different God." Rather, we say they have unbiblical/false teaching regarding God.

So why do we insist "Allah" is not God, essentially leaving Arabic speaking people with no word for God...  This does not seem like a sensible solution.

 

Rob Fall's picture

The best we can say about Allah is who the Koran and other Islamic texts describe is not the same person as the Scriptures reveal.

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I suppose we'd have to say the same about the "God" of Judaism, since they do not accept the Trinity or deity of Christ and hold to salvation by works? I guess I'd like to see more precision. Islam has an incorrect view of God's character as well as an incorrect view of the way of salvation.

I'd actually be more open to saying the Mormon God is "not the same person," since in their system, not only do you have salvation redefined, it's means defined as good work, God as non-trinitarian, but also their God is not truly transcendent. He is simply more evolved and one of many in his category.

I just don't get why there is so much passion against "Allah is God" vs. the "God" of other monotheistic faiths who we simply say have an incorrect view of God. It's a double standard.

Rob Fall's picture

I think it's a reaction to those who (Muslim and non-Muslim alike) say "Well, we worship the same God in different ways.  So, let's all sing kumbaya.  And every thing will be fine."

Aaron Blumer wrote:
SNIP

I just don't get why there is so much passion against "Allah is God" vs. the "God" of other monotheistic faiths who we simply say have an incorrect view of God. It's a double standard.

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Yes, there is in human nature the tendency to think "A is untrue therefore the opposite of A must be true." Binary thinking. In the long run, I don't think we do well to counter sloppy generalizations with sloppy generalizations.

We all have to shorthand the truth a good bit of the time, but when God is the topic (and an increasingly large segment of the world population as well), surely it's an occasion to slow down an be a bit more thorough. The battle of slogans and cliches probably helps no one.

Jim's picture

http://www.arabicbible.com/for-christians/1810-the-word-allah-and-islam....

Another:

http://www.equip.org/article/allah-does-not-belong-to-islam/

It is time for all of us, especially Christians, to exercise caution when it comes to attacking the term for God in a language foreign to most of us. No other term exists in Arabic for the God Christians claim to be the one, true God. Western Christians do not normally use Hebrew terms for God in their languages. They cannot expect Arab Christians to use any other term or word for theirs. Allah is equivalent to the English God, the French Dieu, or the Spanish Dios.

In a World magazine issue on terrorism and Islam, Marvin Olasky, editor, referred to Allah as not being the God of the Bible. He wrote, “Muslims say their God is all-wise and all-compassionate, but Allah merely displays man’s understanding of what wisdom and compassion are” (World, 27 October 2001). This statement causes confusion. To say rather that the Muslim concept of Allah differs from the Christian concept of Allah, in my opinion, would be helpful.

jreeseSr's picture

But I see this issue as a fundamentalist. The Muslim religion as a whole see the Quran s inspired and as a directive manual for action. As a believer in that teaching I would be led to one of two actions :

 1. The conversion of the infidels through infiltration of their culture.

 2. The irradiation of the infidel influence in Muslim countries to establish the Caliphate.

 

BTW  The United States Immigration policy "was to discriminate" on cultural and religious basis until revised in 1964(?) by a bill of Ted Kennedy. I dont have the exact policy at hand at the moment but can be found quite easily.

Jim

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

BTW  The United States Immigration policy "was to discriminate" on cultural and religious basis until revised in 1964(?) by a bill of Ted Kennedy. I dont have the exact policy at hand at the moment but can be found quite easily.

Thanks, Jim. That's an important point. I've never heard of this policy, but it doesn't sound incredible. If we did do that, it deflates my public policy "crossing a line" argument.

So I'll tune the argument a bit... A religious immigration test at this point in our history would, at the very least, be re-crossing a line we shouldn't have crossed in the past. And in this current anti-Christian trend, we should run the other way from anything that involves increased government action based on religious criteria.

jreeseSr's picture

    I do believe that immigration from Europe in the early years was a people wanting "inclusion" into the great smelting pot of peoples seeking a common culture of Liberty and opportunity. As history has taught us when you open the doors to cultures that systematically infiltrate with the purpose to recreate their culture in another land that is direct conflict with those values you have an invasion by a foreign power that will use the ballot to "fundamentally change" the host culture. As admitted in the Wikipedia article :

  Ted Kennedy, asserted that the bill would not affect America's demographic mix; these assertions would later prove grossly inaccurate.[5]

   As I see the family and church having the authority to seek like minded individuals for inclusion I see no conflict with our country having a similar goal. The same force that seeks destruction of the family and church through inclusion without discrimination are at work in our Govt. One has only to look to Persia or Rome to see those consequences.

Having said that I do not want a "religious test" because it would then be used to violate the family and church once a carnal govt gets started. 

 

Jim

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