Friday, May 24, 2013

Islam's 'Purpose Driven' Jihad, Part 4

Continued from Parts 2 & 3

IV. Theological Jihad

Our brief historical sketch gives us a framework in which to consider what I call Islam’s theological jihad against the Christian Church. 

The first observation we should make is that Church writers of the seventh and eighth centuries, including St John Damascene (†749), may have had an incomplete understanding of Islamic doctrine as we know it today. This may be attributed to their living in the very formative period of early Islam.  St. John was writing his critique of Islam before all the primary Muslim sources had yet been fully compiled. Still, St. John’s identification of Islam precisely as a heresy is a reliable guide, for it points to the direct challenges Islam makes against Orthodox Christian dogma. 

The Quran speaks directly against the Holy Trinity (4:173), denies that Jesus is the Son of God (5:19, 5:75,  9:30), teaches that Jesus was a created being like Adam (3:59, 5:78), and claims the crucifixion never happened (4:157), but that “they only thought they crucified him.” Although Islam claims to venerate Jesus as a prophet named ‘Isa’, this Isa is unrecognizable to a Christian who knows the Jesus of the Scriptures and of Church Tradition. The Isa of Islam is a “different Jesus” warned against by the Apostle Paul (2 Cor. 11:3-4).

Islam’s aversion to images is thought to have been one of the influences behind the iconoclast movement, thus generating extreme internal strife within the life of the Church in the eighth century under Leo III Isaurian. Whether or not this is so, it is certainly the case that wherever Islam had conquered a Christian land, the iconography was covered over or destroyed, and of course the crosses are broken off the churches. Indeed, this “breaking of the crosses” is a cornerstone of Islamic eschatology. In its end-times texts and traditions, Islam condemns Christianity by name, teaching that Isa is expected to return, but as a good Muslim, who will “break the cross, kill the swine” and establish the rule of Allah throughout the world (Hadith from Sunan Abu Dawud, Book of Battles, 37:4310).

Essentially, Islam teaches that Isa will destroy Christianity when he returns. 

Thus by its own texts, Islam reveals one of its purposes to be the destruction of Christianity, or more precisely, of the Church, for it is the communion of the faithful, the worshipping body of Christian believers, who are the target of Islam’s teachings and jihad. 

In a similar way, Islam teaches that Muhammad — not the Holy Spirit — is the one to come, prophesied by Jesus himself in John’s Gospel. The Islamic claim is that the Greek in Jn 14:16, 26 and Jn 16:7 should read Periklytos (“glorious,” or “praiseworthy,” in Arabic, “Ahmad,” a variant of “Muhammad”), not Parakletos (“Helper” or “Comforter”). Of course there is no manuscript evidence for such a claim; the teaching of the Church from the day of Pentecost forward, including references to the Holy Spirit in the Synoptic Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles, and the context of Jesus’ promise makes it clear such a claim is wholly invalid. Furthermore, manuscript evidence dating back to the second century consistently shows that the relevant passages in John read “Parakletos.” Yet the Muslim theological claim concerning alleged prophecies of Muhammad in the New Testament reveals another purpose of Islam, namely the supplanting of traditional Christian theology with Muhammad and his new teaching.

Over time, the Christian response to Islam became more thorough and sophisticated than the earlier polemics. St. Gregory Palamas is perhaps our finest example of Byzantine theological challenge to Islamic theology. His dialogues with his Muslim captors (ca. 1354) show him defending the mystical dogma of the Holy Trinity against the extreme monotheism of Islam, speaking of God, His Logos, and His Spirit. Using touchstones even from the Quran, combined with the Old and New Testaments, Gregory tried to lead his listeners to understanding of the True God, who cannot be without Wisdom (Logos) or Spirit. [1]

Interestingly, Gregory's lofty theological dialogues did not prevent him — even though he was being held captive by the Muslims and was thus in a most vulnerable position — from bluntly equating Islam’s spread by violence, the sword and bloodshed to proof of its falsity and the corrupt character of Muhammad: [2]

It is true that Muhammad started from the east and came to the west, as the sun travels from east to west. Nevertheless he came with war, knives, pillaging, forced enslavement, murders, and acts that are not from the good God but instigated by the chief manslayer, the devil.

What these few examples show us is that Islam’s purpose has been, from its very inception, to usurp and overthrow Christianity, in the temporal realm through war and conquest where possible, but also in the spiritual realm through proselytism and subversive and specious theological claims. 

In drawing attention to this theological assault dating from Muhammad himself, we must take exception with the reassurance of Fr. Alexander Schmemann in The Historical Road of Eastern Orthodoxy, where he states that the Turkish yoke “was not a persecution of Christianity.” [3]  In the very next section, “Christians Under Turkish Rule,” Fr. Schmemann contradicts this assertion, describing the humiliating conditions in which the Church found herself. [4]

When we consider the strict limitations on exercise of the faith, and every facet of life as a Christian, we see that the Turkish domination was no less humiliating than the Arab yoke of eight centuries earlier in Syria, Palestine, Egypt and Spain. Bishop Kallistos Ware makes the same sort of puzzling, contradictory statements in The Orthodox Church, on the one hand stating that adapting to Turkish rule “was not an easy transition: but it was made less hard by the Turks themselves, who treated their Christian subjects with remarkable generosity,” [5] while lamenting just pages later of the Christians’ place of “guaranteed inferiority,” proceeding to enumerate the very principles of the humiliating dhimma contract dating back to Muhammad and Umar. [6]
Moving beyond the historical manifestations of Islamic treatment of Christians, we can cite mainstream Islamic teachings, which demonstrate that the schools of Islamic jurisprudence, institutes of Islamic learning such as Al Azhar University in Cairo, and classic manuals of Islamic practice, have codified Islam’s purpose driven jihad. 

For example, Islam’s opening prayer — offered seventeen times a day, thousands of times a year, by devout Muslims — specifically condemns Christians and Jews as under Allah’s wrath:

...Guide us in the straight path,the path of those whom Thou hast blessed,not of those against whom Thou art wrathfulnor of those who are astray.
Offered as a prayer to “the Master of the Day of Doom,” this first sura of the Koran, called al-Fatihah, ‘The Opening’, refers specifically in these its final two verses to the Christians and the Jews. In traditional Islamic teaching, Islam alone is “the straight path,” whereas:

“The two paths He described here are both misguided,” and that those “two paths are the paths of the Christians and Jews, a fact that the believer should beware of so that he avoids them. The path of the believers is knowledge of the truth and abiding by it. In comparison, the Jews abandoned practicing the religion, while the Christians lost the true knowledge. This is why ‘anger’ descended upon the Jews, while being described as ‘led astray’ is more appropriate of the Christians.” [7]
The doctrine of jihad commanded of Muslims is presented in this key passage from Reliance of the Traveller: [8]

Jihad means to war against non-Muslims, and is etymologically derived from the word mujahada signifying warfare to establish the religion. 
The scriptural basis for jihad, prior to scholarly consensus (def: b7) is such Koranic verses as: 
“Fighting is prescribed for you” (Koran 2:216); 
“Slay them wherever you find them” (Koran 4:89); 
“Fight the idolators utterly” (Koran 9:36); 
and such hadiths as the one related by Bukhari and Muslim that the Prophet said: 
“I have been commanded to fight people until they testify that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, and perform the prayer, and pay zakat. If they say it, they have saved their blood and possessions from me, except for the rights of Islam over them. And their final reckoning is with Allah”; 
and the hadith reported by Muslim, 
“To go forth in the morning or evening to fight in the path of Allah is better than the whole world and everything in it.” 
Jihad is a communal obligation. (o9.1) 
The caliph makes war upon Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians... until they become Muslim or else pay the non-Muslim poll tax. (o9.8) 
The caliph fights all other peoples until they become Muslim. (o9.9)

The call for Muslims to wage jihad is universal, though not all Muslims wage offensive jihad. Yet if they cannot do so, they are still enjoined to support jihad through other means, such as financial, material, or in their heart and through their prayers (the lesser jihad).

With the commandment to wage jihad, coupled with hatred and condemnation of Christians and Jews, being so deeply woven into Islam’s most sacred texts as to be essential components of the Muslim “spiritual DNA” if you will, one can see that the more pious and observant a Muslim becomes, and the more aware s/he is of what the commentators teach, the more likely s/he is to begin to embody the anti-Christian mindset and actions prescribed by Islam. This explains the historical survey offered above, and is in fact exactly what we are seeing all around the globe, as the jihadi spirit sweeps through the umma, the muslim community, awakening more and more to what their religion actually commands them to do.

To be continued . . .

[1] The Lives of the Pillars of Orthodoxy (Buena Vista Co: Holy Apostles Convent, 1990), 333-335.
[2] Patriarch Philotheos Kokkinos, The Life of Gregory Palamas, p. 371.
[3] Fr. Alexander Schmemann, The Historical Road of Eastern Orthodoxy (SVS Press, 1963), online edition, Chapter 5, The Dark Ages: Turkish Conquest, 268.
[4] Ibid, 270ff.
[5] Bishop Kallistos Ware, The Orthodox Church (New York: Penguin, 1997), Kindle Edition, 87.
[6] Ibid, 88.
[7] Classic Koranic commentator Ibn Kathir, Commentary on Koran 1:7, Vol 1, p 87.
[8] Ahmad ibn Naqib al-Misri, Reliance of the Traveller, A Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law. This Islamic manual, the English version of which is certified by Al Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt as conforming “to the practice and faith of the orthodox Sunni Community,” o9.0, o9.1, o9.8, o9.9