Do Christians and Muslims Worship the Same God? (Part 2)
Topic 1: The plan for the believers until the final judgment
This topic compares the Gods’ final injunctions for Their followers and contrasts Their character and divine will.
We’ll start by reviewing the Quran 9:29.1 In the Sura’s first few passages Allah commands the Muslims to extend Islam’s domain by persuasion or force. Chapter nine’s initial passage deals with ending the treaties Muhammad had with polytheists and thereafter making war upon them (refer to 9:5 - the Verse of the Sword2). Subsequently, Allah turned His attention towards the Christians and Jews. Here are two translations of 9:29:
Fight against such of those to whom the Scriptures were given as believe neither in God nor the last day, who do not forbid what God and his apostle have forbidden, and do not embrace the true faith, until they pay tribute out of hand and feel utterly subdued. (Dawood).
Make war upon such of those to whom the Scriptures have been given as believe not in God, nor in the last day, and who forbid not that which God and His Apostle have forbidden, and who profess not the profession of truth, until they pay tribute out of hand and they be humbled. (Rodwell).
Verse 9:29 was spoken by Muhammad about a year and a half before he died. Different Muslim scholars present differing chronological arrangements within chapter nine but they all agree that was the time frame when verse 29 was spoken. (Just like the Quran as a whole, this chapter itself is not necessarily arranged in chronological order.) Also, many Islamic scholars, Muslim and non-Muslim, agree that chapter 9 was the last or second-to-last chapter Muhammad spoke. Therefore, the commands in chapter 9, including 9:29, are final commands from Allah to the Muslims regarding their future ongoing relations with Jews and Christians. If you doubt that this Islamic subjection was the relational norm then do a quick study of how Muhammad, and the following Caliphs, acted against outlying communities and states of Christians and Jews, (as well as members of other faiths). Muslim historians detail how Muslim armies attacked, conquered, and subjected them. Within 100 years the Muslims had forcibly carved out one of the largest empires in human history stretching from Spain to China.
In 9:29 Allah commands the Muslims to subject the Christians and Jews by force if necessary. If the Christians and Jews did not want to convert to Islam they could remain true to their faiths if they paid extortion in a humiliated state. (This is called “tribute”, “jizya” in Arabic. If the Christians and Jews were unwilling to accept Islam’s rule over their lives and refused to pay the extortion then they would be fought against and killed. This extortion “jizya” came about when the Meccan polytheists complained to Muhammad that after converting to Islam they had to abandon their careers making idols and consequently had no income. Muhammad told the Muslims to take money from the Jews and Christians as a “compensation” (the root word for “jizya”) for their leaving of paganism.) In 9:29, Allah tells the Muslims to forcibly take money from the Jews and Christians as a “compensation.”3
9:29 presents Allah in action: Allah is commanding Muhammad and the Muslims to do his will and to fulfill his desires and intentions. Issuing this command tells us something about Allah’s final plans for his followers. They are to:
1) Make war against the Christians (and Jews) and kill them if they refuse to convert to Islam or refuse to pay extortion.
2) If they pay the extortion they are to be subjected and humiliated, and pay in a humiliated state (subdued, humbled, brought low).
Allah did not give Muhammad an option here, it was not an elective, it was a command. Muhammad didn’t get to say “I don’t like that command because it is cruel and unjust,” or, “That’s not the right thing to do.” These commands are from Allah and as such they were the right thing to do and they needed to be obeyed.
It is important to note that these commands were not abstract or foreign to Muhammad. Muhammad had already begun to subject Christians and extort them. One such example is his expedition to Tabuk and the subsequent subjection of the Christian town of Aylah and other local Christian communities.
The details are that Muhammad led a large force of Muslims north because he believed there was a Christian army near Tabuk that he wanted to fight. However, when he arrived there was no Christian army. Not far from Tabuk, was the small Christian fishing village of Aylah, a port at the head of the Red Sea. Different Muslim historians record similar details concerning the communication between Muhammad and the leaders of Aylah. In sum, Muhammad issued an injunction against the Christian village. Read it carefully and notice how it corresponds to 9:29
"To John ibn Rabah and the Chiefs of Aylah. Peace be on you! I praise God for you, beside whom there is no Lord. I will not fight against you until I have written thus unto you. Believe, or else pay tribute. And be obedient unto the Lord and his Prophet, and the messengers of his Prophet. Honour them and clothe them with excellent vestments, not with inferior raiment. Specially clothe Zeid with excellent garments. As long as my messengers are pleased, so likewise am I. Ye know the tribute. If ye desire to have security by sea and by land, obey the Lord and his Apostle, and he will defend you from every claim, whether by Arab or foreigner, saving the claim of the Lord and his Apostle. But if ye oppose and displease them, I will not accept from you a single thing, until I have fought against you and taken captive your little ones and slain the elder. For I am the Apostle of the Lord in truth. Believe in the Lord and in his Prophets, and in the Messiah, son of Mary; verily he is the Word of God: I believe in him that he was a messenger of God. Come then, before trouble reach you. I commend my messengers to you. Give to Harmala three measures of barley. And indeed Harmala hath interceded for you. As for me, if it were not for the Lord and for this (intercession), I would not have sent any message at all unto you, until ye had seen the army. But now, if ye obey my messengers, God will be your protector, and Mahomet, and whosoever belongeth unto him. Now my messengers are Sharahbil and Obey, and Harmala and Horeith ibn Zeid. Unto you is the guarantee of God and of Mahomet his Apostle, and peace be unto you if ye submit. And convey the people of Macna back to their land." (Page 188).
Here are the key points. Notice the correlation between the injunction and 9:29:
1. Muhammad told the Christians that they had to convert to Islam (believe), or “pay tribute.”
2. The Christian people were to obey Muhammad and please his emissaries. But if they displeased the emissaries Muhammad would: “not accept from you a single thing, until I have fought against you and taken captive your little ones and slain the elder.” (Rejecting the extortion would have displeased the emissaries).
By revealing 9:29 Allah codified Muhammad’s prior conduct and actions. Often Muhammad would do things and then later receive subsequent revelations from Allah justifying his previous actions or rulings.
Some Muslims today argue that violence was only to be used aggressively for a limited time during early Islam. But that is incorrect. Muhammad intended force to be used until the entire world was subjected to Islam.4
Muhammad declared that Allah commanded him to fight non-Muslims:
“I have been commanded to fight against people until they testify that there is no god but Allah, that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah, and they establish prayer, and pay the religious tax, and if they do it, their blood and property are guaranteed protection on my behalf except when justified by law, and their affairs rest with Allah.”5
Allah commanded Muhammad to fight men until they bend the knee to Islam. Take Allah at His word.
By examining 9:29 and taking into account its contexts, historical setting, and Muhammad’s words and deeds recorded by the Islamic source materials we can conclude that Allah commanded the Muslims to subject and oppress non-Muslims, including Jews and Christians, until the time of the final judgment.
Now we’ll contrast that with God’s statements, commands, and plans for the church, found in the New Testament. All quotations are from the New American Standard Bible.
In Matthew 24 the disciples asked Jesus what are the signs of the end times. Jesus answered and said,
“Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name. At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many.” Matthew 24:9-11
Similarly in Luke:
“But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and will persecute you, delivering you to the synagogues and prisons, bringing you before kings and governors for My name’s sake. It will lead to an opportunity for your testimony. So make up your minds not to prepare beforehand to defend yourselves; for I will give you utterance and wisdom which none of your opponents will be able to resist or refute. But you will be betrayed even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death, and you will be hated by all because of My name. Yet not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives. Luke 21:12-19
The Christians in Thessalonia suffered persecution:
… so that no one would be disturbed by these afflictions; for you yourselves know that we have been destined for this. For indeed when we were with you, we kept telling you in advance that we were going to suffer affliction; and so it came to pass, as you know. 1 Thessalonians 3:3-5
Paul repeats what Jesus told His disciples:
Now you followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, perseverance, persecutions, and sufferings, such as happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium and at Lystra; what persecutions I endured, and out of them all the Lord rescued me! Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. 2 Timothy 3:10-13
And in the last days persecution against the Christians would continue:
And he opened his mouth in blasphemies against God, to blaspheme His name and His tabernacle, that is, those who dwell in heaven. It was also given to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them, and authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation was given to him. All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain. If anyone has an ear, let him hear. If anyone is destined for captivity, to captivity he goes; if anyone kills with the sword, with the sword he must be killed. Here is the perseverance and the faith of the saints. Revelation 13:6-10
It is clear that God told His Christian followers that they were going to suffer persecution until Christ’s return or the end of the world. God did not tell the Christians to go out and conquer and persecute others. There are no verses in the New Testament that say or even imply, “Once you have enough men to fight go out and make Christianity the official religion” or “If you have the ability to use force to get people to convert, then do it.” No, instead God commanded them to go to all the world and preach the Gospel, love your neighbor, do good works, and endure the persecutions. Yes, throughout history there were times when sincere and devout Christians persecuted and oppressed non-Christians. But that was not the directive given by God. They were commanded to endure oppression, not to oppress.
If you are up to date with current events you’ll know that in this age the Muslims are the chief persecutors of Christians. A recent study by Open Doors ministry states that Muslim countries are the chief persecutors of Christians.6 Another recent study reported that 75 out of every 100 people killed due to religious hatred were Christian.7
It can be said clearly that today, the Muslims are fulfilling Allah’s command in 9:29 by killing and oppressing Christians, and that the Christians are fulfilling God’s commands by enduring Muslim oppression and persecution.
CONCLUSION ON THE PLAN FOR BELIEVERS
Allah commanded his followers to conquer, subject, and oppress non-Muslims, including Christians, throughout the world. God commanded His followers to love their neighbors as themselves and endure persecution until the end. These commands are polar opposites. They are mutually exclusive.
This isn’t a comparison of philosophical or theological “understandings” or “conceptions.” This isn’t a difference in a form of terminology, worship, or approach. Here, we have two living deities issuing opposite commands.
Their plans and their commands on how their followers are to conduct themselves are opposite. They contradict each other. A cannot be non-A. Therefore, they are not the same God.