Islam: At War with Christianity?
Many individual Muslims are good neighbors and good citizens, hoping only to "convert" unbelievers by their personal example. However, according to strict Islamic teaching, Muslims must make an effort to convert or subjugate unbelievers. What about those who will not convert to Islam? Regulations derived from the hadith—the purported sayings of Muhammad—require that unbelievers must be subjected to a special tax, forbidden from holding public office and restricted in their religious observances.
Sharia law, as practiced in several Muslim nations today, establishes dhimmi status for professing Christians and Jews living under Muslim rule. A dhimmi (literally "one whose responsibility has been taken away") gains certain rights not granted to Muslims—for example, the ability to eat pork and drink alcoholic beverages—but is restricted in the public display of his or her religion. Different Muslim scholars offer varying interpretations of the scope of dhimmitude, but in general the principle is to encourage conversions to Islam through the inconvenience of dhimmi status.
Islam has as its goal the total subjugation and conversion of conquered cultures. Modern Iran (ancient Persia) is a powerful testament to this fact. For more than a thousand years, Zoroastrianism was the dominant religion of ancient Persia, where it formed the basis not just of worship but of culture and public life. Yet, upon the arrival of Islam in about 635ad, Zoroastrians converted or fled en masse. Today, scarcely 20,000 Zoroastrians remain among Iran's population of more than 75 million.
Under the Ottoman Empire, which lasted into the early 20th century, millions of professing Christians and Jews lived as subjects under Muslim rule. With the British mandate taking over after World War I, the practice of non-Muslim religion across much of the Arab world became far freer than it had been for centuries, and a general trend of "Westernization" took hold in many areas formerly governed by strict Islamic jurisprudence. Now, however, that trend is being reversed. As the U.S. military, "draws down" in the Middle East, it is not surprising that groups such as the Taliban are rapidly replacing the U.S. military presence in those towns and villages with Sharia law (CNN.com, "Taliban back in town," June 22, 2011).
The Qur'an asserts that Muhammad came as an "apostle" to the "People of the Book" (primarily Jews and Christians). Most professing Jews and Christians, however, rejected Muhammad's new religion (Surah 5:19–32). Considering some of the key differences between Muslim teaching and the biblical account, this is not surprising. For example, the Qur'an asserts that it was by the angel Gabriel's decree, not through the Holy Spirit, that Jesus Christ was conceived in Mary's womb (Surah 19:19–21). Islam teaches that Christians blaspheme when they proclaim, "Christ is the Son of God" (Surah 5:72). As is written in Surah 112, and as was inscribed on the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem around 691–692ad, Islam says, "Praise be to God, who begets no son and has no partner… He does not beget, He is not begotten, and He has no peer." The Qur'an also teaches that Jesus did not endure crucifixion; instead, someone else supposedly took His place (Surah 4:157).
More than 90 verses in the Qur'an counsel war against the "unbelievers"—(e.g. Surahs 4:101; 5:51; 9:29), and prescribe execution, or crucifixion, or the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides, or exile for those who wage war against Muhammad and Allah (Surah 5:33). Interestingly, although the Qur'an asserts that Allah has the power to bring every person to salvation, he apparently chooses not to. Rather, his desire is, "I will fill hell with demons and men altogether" (Surah 32:13). Hell in Islam is an ever-burning fire in which the damned will spend eternity (Surah 5:36–37).
How does the Allah of Islam compare to the God of the Bible? The God of the Bible is constant and does not change (Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 13:8), unlike Allah who, according to the Qur'an, changes his revealed truths as he likes (Surah 2:106). The God of the Bible loved the world so much that He offered His only begotten Son, so that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16). His intent was not to condemn the world, but that through His Son, the world might be saved (v. 17).
Ultimately, the "Arab Spring" will not produce widespread "Western-friendly" democracy throughout the Mideast! Consider that, after 57 years in exile, the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood is now Egypt's "best organized political movement" (The New York Times, June 19, 2011). Months after Egypt's supposed move toward democracy, Egyptian "mobs" are attacking pro-democracy "liberal activists," while "hundreds of thousands of Islamists" are working toward "transforming Egypt into an Islamic state" (Wall Street Journal, August 2, 2011)! Although many do desire peace, a terrible conflict is brewing, and Muslim fundamentalism is spreading.
Jesus Christ warned that, at the end of the age, "nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom" (Matthew 24:7). Of course, this does not mean that all religious people will be at war. Not only are there nonviolent Muslims; true Christians are "peacemakers" (Matthew 5:9) who "pursue peace with all people" (Hebrews 12:14) and eschew hate and violence (Mark 10:19; James 2:11). Nevertheless, Scripture reveals that before Jesus Christ's return, there will be a final war between a "king of the South" (a leader of the Middle Eastern regions now primarily under the sway of Islam) and a false form of "Christianity" dominated by the "king of the North" and a blasphemous "Holy Roman Empire." Sadly and ironically, neither of these final religio-political powers will have the Truth on their side! Both will be wrong! Revelation 18:2 even condemns the final false-Christian system as "Babylon" and "a dwelling place of demons!" Even so, many misguided people will submit to this end-time Babylon, and will briefly prosper. Soon afterward, however, all who resist Christ will suffer wrath at His return (Revelation 16:2; 17:14). During that time, the Lord will preserve from harm a faithful "Philadelphian" remnant of His Church (Revelation 3:10), and Jesus' faithful disciples will rejoice, being reminded of Christ's promise that, "Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near" (Luke 21:28).
The ancient prophet Malachi warned that, just prior to the second coming of Jesus Christ, many will vainly practice false religion (Malachi 3:14). For those living in the Western "Christian" nations today, the biggest threat is not militant Islam—it is the acceptance and practice of a false Christianity! However, a small remnant of zealous true Christians will faithfully serve God, walking according to His laws, His statutes, His Sabbaths and all His commands. The Lord will "remember" these faithful Christians and will grant them eternal life in His everlasting Kingdom (vv. 16–17). At that wonderful future time, all "shall again discern between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve Him" (v. 18).