The KKK and ISIS

The focus of this blog is predominately theological. Rarely do I delve into political topics. They are typically divisive, and often well-meaning Godly people legitimately differ on how to react to events of our day in ways that honor God. Yet I felt it necessary to make an exception given the vast array of misinformation and sloppy thinking that has accompanied recent events.

The following meme has been floating around the social media sites of late, and it’s a perfect example of how inverted thinking leads people to the wrong conclusion. The analogy goes that the KKK was a minority group who considered themselves Christians. ISIS is also a minority group that considers themselves Islamic. Since the KKK didn’t represent Christian tenets and ideals on any level, so too ISIS must not reflect Islamic theological views.

Most people read something like this, make a quick correlation, and move along. Particularly in the West where we value democracy so highly, we tend to have a social and cultural blind spot that majority opinion defines truth; that any splinter group could not truly represent the worldview that they themselves claim to uphold.

Many people spend their time invested in political arguments, attempting to thwart this misguided logic by pointing to actual numbers in order to prove a point. For example, regarding ISIS, the president of the United States said that “the overwhelming majority of Muslims reject this ideology.” [i] The exact number he threw out was 99.9%. [ii] However, thorough and respected surveys clearly show this statement to be patently false, as only 57% of Muslims, which is slightly more than half, had an unfavorable view of Al-Qaeda. [iii] But such political arguments sidestep the real issue of the different ways Jesus and Muhammad commanded their followers to behave and it is those teaching that must be explored.

It is true that the KKK uses the Bible in an attempt to justify its positions. Passages such as Exodus 33:16 and Deuteronomy 7:3 are used to condone their view forbidding interracial marriage. Obscure passages such as Genesis 9:25-26 are used to rationalize treating non-whites as inferior. They even use statements by Jesus Himself such as John 10:26-27 to promulgate anti-Semitic views. This seems quite bizarre since Jesus Himself was Jewish.

People hear this kind of talk, and often judge it based on their own internal feelings of indignation rather than seeking to understand how the Bible clearly refutes such mistaken interpretations of itself. Passages such as Galatians 3:28 clearly state there is no distinction between races. Ephesians 2:14-15 discusses how Jesus broke down the barrier between Jew and non-Jew in a way that superseded the Old Testament laws of separation. The entire chapter of Romans 11 points out the spiritual principle that Gentiles should be weary of considering themselves superior to Jews in any way whatsoever. Romans 11:17-18 specifically warns Gentiles against arrogantly assuming a higher status than Jews. Space does not allow for the inclusion of the staggering number of other passages that easily refute the Klan’s bizarre twist on Scripture. The bottom line, as stated by blogger Dianna Newman, is that

“when you turn to Christian scriptures, you don’t find Jesus telling people to lynch other people because they have more melanin in their skin.” [iv]

Yet what happens when we apply this same methodology to ISIS? The verses in the Qur’an which mandate jihad are not few and obscure. They are many and clear-cut.

[2.244] And fight in the way of Allah, and know that Allah is Hearing, Knowing.
[4.74] Therefore let those fight in the way of Allah, who sell this world’s life for the hereafter; and whoever fights in the way of Allah, then be he slain or be he victorious, We shall grant him a mighty reward.
[4.89] They desire that you should disbelieve as they have disbelieved, so that you might be (all) alike; therefore take not from among them friends until they fly (their homes) in Allah’s way; but if they turn back, then seize them and kill them wherever you find them, and take not from among them a friend or a helper.
[8.12] When your Lord revealed to the angels: I am with you, therefore make firm those who believe. I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them.

There are so many other verses in the Qur’an, but time and space runs short. The issue is that these are not obscure passages taken out of context. The Hadiths make it plain that jihad is a part of being a fully practicing Muslim. In Tabari 9:69, Muhammad said “Killing unbelievers is a small matter to us.” [v] Abu Huraira also reported as follows,

It has been narrated on the authority of Abu Huraira that the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) said: One who died but did not fight in the way of Allah nor did he express any desire (or determination) for Jihid died the death of a hypocrite. [vi]

There are many, many, more such passages. All of this is to say that when a comparison is made between the KKK and ISIS, what we find is that the two are exact opposites. The KKK takes the Bible out of context and uses it in a way to countermand and oppose Jesus’ actual teachings. In the case of ISIS, its members are following the teachings as plainly laid out in the Qur’an and Hadith. The KKK is not following Jesus, but ISIS is following Muhammad. The meme tries to equate these two institutions, when from a theological point of view, they couldn’t be more opposite. One doesn’t follow the religion it claims to follow; the other one does.

[ii] ibid
, p69
[vi] Sahih Muslim, Book 20, Number 4696

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The Place of Prominence

Often when I write these articles, I appreciate God all the more by seeing the contrasts with the god of Islam. One such example of this came about as I considered how Muhammad and Jesus interacted with those around them. Specifically, what were the expectations that were laid on those who lived their daily lives in close proximity with these two religious figures? What does the Qur’an teach regarding expected behaviors for those who were near to Muhammad, and how does that correspond to Biblical teachings?

Let’s start by examining how Muslims were told to treat Muhammad. Yet even before we do so, this must be put in proper perspective. The Qur’an typically speaks of broader issues regarding attitudes and beliefs, but it rarely details how Muslims are to enact and codify the laws given. For example, the Qur’an tells Muslims to prostrate themselves in prayer, but it doesn’t spell out how many times per day, what they are to say, or the order of prayer. These details are stipulated in the Hadiths. All this is to say that when the Qur’an makes special mention of particulars regarding behavior, it merits extra attention.

Given that, the Qur’an dives into an unusual level of specificity regarding how Muslims should behave around Muhammad. One of the things the Qur’an teaches is that Muslims are not allowed to leave Muhammad without explicitly asking permission first.

[24.62] Only those are believers who believe in Allah and His Apostle, and when they are with him on a momentous affair they go not away until they have asked his permission; surely they who ask your permission are they who believe in Allah and His Apostle; so when they ask your permission for some affair of theirs, give permission to whom you please of them and ask forgiveness for them from Allah; surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.

In this next verse, Muslims are specifically told not to linger too long in Muhamad’s house in order to avoid any extended conversation. Also, nobody is allowed to remarry his widows after his death.

[33.53] O you who believe! do not enter the houses of the Prophet unless permission is given to you for a meal, not waiting for its cooking being finished– but when you are invited, enter, and when you have taken the food, then disperse– not seeking to listen to talk; surely this gives the Prophet trouble, but he forbears from you, and Allah does not forbear from the truth And when you ask of them any goods, ask of them from behind a curtain; this is purer for your hearts and (for) their hearts; and it does not behoove you that you should give trouble to the Apostle of Allah, nor that you should marry his wives after him ever; surely this is grievous in the sight of Allah.

And finally, whenever in the company of Muhammad, people should speak in soft tones so that their good deeds won’t be debited from their account.

[49.2] O you who believe! do not raise your voices above the voice of the Prophet, and do not speak loud to him as you speak loud to one another, lest your deeds became null while you do not perceive.

When you put these all together, the resulting picture becomes quite clear. Muhammad was given the place of honor in whatever circumstance he was in. People were to give him extra respect as the prophet of Islam, and extra care was to be taken to show Muhammad’s elevated level amongst those around him.

Jesus warned about exalting oneself to a place of honor (Luke 14:8), the consequences of doing so, (Luke 14:11), and He warned others about following such people (Luke 20:46).

Alternatively, consider Jesus as He walked on this earth. As God Himself in the flesh, it didn’t matter who he was with. He was always the most important person in the room. No finite human could have anything to say of value in the sight of an infinite God. Yet Jesus, though deserving of all respect and worship, placed Himself in the position of servanthood (Mark 10:45). During a discussion regarding who was the greatest amongst them, Jesus declares that though it is Himself, yet He serves the disciples rather than claim the benefits of any high stature. From Luke 22:27

For who is greater, the one who reclines at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at the table? But I am among you as the one who serves.

And of course Jesus illustrates this truth even more pointedly as He washes the disciples’ feet (John 13:5). He doesn’t do this because clean feet are the key to godliness. Jesus tells the disciples that even though He is Lord, He takes the lowest position in order to illustrate concepts of humility and servanthood. In other words, He gives this example to illustrate how we are all to serve one another (John 13:15).

In Islam, Muhammad was given special privileges. In Christianity, Jesus came to serve others. Can the pattern of behaviors be any more dissimilar?

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Who is Going Where?

In any religion, one of the fundamental issues is that of destiny. By this I mean what happens after we die? Do we go to be with God? If so, under what circumstances are we granted entrance into heaven? In a previous article, I contrasted what Islam taught about Muhammad and what Christianity taught about Jesus regarding their respective destinies. In this article, this issue will be probed even more fully.

In the Qur’an, the following verse tells Muhammad he should be uncertain regarding his future,

[46.9] Say: I am not the first of the apostles, and I do not know what will be done with me or with you: I do not follow anything but that which is revealed to me, and I am nothing but a plain warner.

The idea that Muhammad is unsure of his own salvation should and often does cause anxiety for Muslims who want to go to heaven in the afterlife. After all, if Muhammad himself couldn’t be certain of his eternal destiny, how much less hope is there for the average workaday Muslim. For this reason, many recent Islamic apologists restrict the interpretation of the passage above to refer to this life only. But such a limited interpretation disregards a variety of Islamic traditions. In Sahih Bukhari, the most trusted Hadith, one of the early Muslims was discussing whether her father would reside in heaven or Hell. Muhammad expressly stated that nobody could be certain of anyone’s final destination, even that of himself. Muhammad stated that “By Allah, though I am the Apostle of Allah, yet I do not know what Allah will do to me,”[i] This Hadith is reported through several chains of narration, so it’s authenticity is as strong as it gets.

Some Islamic commentators have tried to backpedal by saying that surely Muhammad must have known his own eternal destiny. They contrive a variety of arguments to put forth such a position. Yet viewing the Hadith forces them to admit the verse of the Qur’an cited earlier refers to things eternal rather than events of Muhammad’s life. As an example, in an attempt to explain away the troublesome ambiguities of Muhammad’s final destiny, Bassam Zawadi undermines his own arguments by offering these comments,

… it appears to me that the context of the hadeeth in Saheeh Bukhari makes it appear that the Prophet (peace be upon him) is speaking about how he doesn’t know what will happen to him in the Hereafter. [ii]

At best, Muhammad’s final destination is ambiguous when viewing it through the lens of Islamic theology. However, a careful and unbiased reading of all the relevant sources points to the likelihood that Muhammad had no assurance of salvation.

I have already contrasted this with what Jesus said about Himself (John 11:25) and where He was going (John 14:2-3, John 16:28). Yet as always, let’s go down the road less traveled. What does Islam teach about Jesus and His final destiny? Given that Muhammad’s eternal destiny is ambiguous, surely the same vagaries must exist within Islam with respect to Jesus as well.

The Qur’an has a number of passages which discuss Jesus. This first one says that Jesus is worthy of regard in the hereafter,

[3.45] When the angels said: O Marium, surely Allah gives you good news with a Word from Him (of one) whose name is the Messiah, Isa son of Marium, worthy of regard in this world and the hereafter and of those who are made near (to Allah).

One early Islamic commentator, ibn Kathir, even went so far as to interpret this verse to mean that Jesus will be so close to Allah as to intercede for His followers. Yet the Qur’an contains an even more explicit statement that Jesus is in paradise in the following verse,

[3.55] And when Allah said: O Isa, I am going to terminate the period of your stay (on earth) and cause you to ascend unto Me and purify you of those who disbelieve and make those who follow you above those who disbelieve to the day of resurrection; then to Me shall be your return, so l will decide between you concerning that in which you differed.

Here the Qur’an flatly states that when Jesus’ time on earth is finished, Allah will cause Jesus to ascend to heaven. There is no other way to read this and numerous Hadith back up this plain interpretation. No amount of verbal trickery can reinterpret this verse to mean anything other than what it says. While the fate of all Muslims and even that of Muhammad is in peril, the Qur’an itself makes it explicitly evident that Jesus’ final destination is known; He is in heaven with absolute certainty.

To recap, even the Islamic sources themselves are obscure at best regarding Muhammad’s destination, intimating that he cannot know where he would end up. Yet the very same sources testify that Jesus is in heaven! This should be an eye-opener. As a Muslim, which of these two that Islam calls prophets would you prefer to follow?

[i] Sahih Bukhari, Volume 5, Book 58, Number 266


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