The Crusades as They Were

There are two extremes when it comes to understanding the Crusades. One is to say that the Christians were completely unjustified to go to war with the peaceful Muslims living in the Middle East and the other is to say that the Crusades were merely a defensive war only waged after years of Muslim aggression. The reality is that horrible atrocities were committed by both sides and neither the Christians or the Muslims involved in the Crusades come out looking like heroes. Christian apologists will emphasize the atrocities committed by Muslims leading up to the Crusades while Muslim apologists will emphasize the atrocities committed by the Crusaders. The end result is that neither side presents an accurate picture of what happened because they are trying to make the other side look as bad as possible while neglecting to mention evidence that makes their side look just as bad.

The Myth of the Peaceful Muslims

It was the Muslims who started the fight between themselves and the Christians following Surah 9 to wage war on those who do not believe in the message of Islam. Muhammad personally executed hundreds of Jewish prisoners of war. His life of violence became the model for Muslims to follow and Islam spread rapidly throughout the Middle East in the seventh century. It was the Muslims who were the initial aggressors in the events leading up to the Crusades and that fact cannot be overstated enough. Islamic armies used mamluks or slave children who were prisoners of war forced to fight in combat against their own people. Non-Muslims had to either convert to Islam, die, or pay the oppressive tax known as the Jizya and live as second-class citizens. While there are many examples of Muslim atrocities committed against Christians, I will only mention one. In the 1268 Siege of Antioch, Sultan Baybars I burned many Christians to death inside the church after capturing the city. Thousands of innocent people were killed and many more were sold into slavery. By the time the Crusades started, almost two-thirds of the Christian world had been conquered by Muslims.

The Myth of the Noble Crusaders

In response to centuries of Muslim aggression, Pope Urban II called upon Christians to fight against the Turks promising plenary indulgences to whoever would answer the call to go to war. But on the way to the Crusades, many of the Crusaders murdered and plundered the Jewish communities of the Rhineland to pay for their Crusade to Jerusalem. When the Crusaders finally entered Jerusalem, they slaughtered thousands of innocent men, women, and children.

In the Third Crusade, after the siege of Acre, Richard the Lionheart executed over 2,700 Muslim prisoners of war in response to Saladin’s delays. The Fourth Crusade was not even directed at Muslim lands, but resulted in the Christian city of Constantinople being looted by the Crusaders. Other Crusades include the one launched against the Albigensians and other religious minorities. The religious inquisitions of Catholicism are an extension of this crusade mentality designed to convert pagans, Jews, and heretics by force and intimidation to their understanding of Christianity.

The difference between the two groups is that while the Muslims were imitating the example of Muhammad in waging warfare against those who do not believe (Surah 9:29), the Crusaders were not following the example of Jesus when they killed innocent people and prisoners of war.

The Origin of Rape as a Weapon in Islam

Last week I read an article depicting the horrible and barbaric practices of ISIS militants who use rape as a weapon against their enemies. Through human trafficking, sexual abuse, and violence, ISIS seeks to intimidate their opponents and strike fear in the hearts of anyone who would stand up to them. This is the essence of terrorism. The media’s perspective on these atrocities is that this practice is unique to ISIS and other terrorist organizations who do not represent true Islam which is peaceful and respects women.

But what if this practice of kidnapping and raping women is rooted in the life of Muhammad rather than being some aberration of Islamic theology? What if the terrorists are right that the Qur’an does permit them to carry out these heinous acts? What if the “peaceful Muslims” are actually bad Muslims who do not follow all the teachings of the Qur’an and the “terrorists” are good Muslims who represent historical Islam? Consider these examples from the life of Muhammad:

“I drove them along until I brought them to Abu Bakr who bestowed that girl upon me as a prize. So we arrived in Medina. I had not yet disrobed her when the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) met me in the street and said: ‘Give me that girl'” (Sahih Muslim book 19, chapter 14, section 4345).

“Abu Sa’id al-Khudri (Allah be pleased with him) reported that Allah’s Apostle (may peace be upon him) sent a small army. The rest of the hadith is the same except this that he said: Except what your right hands possess out of them are lawful for you; and he did not mention when their ‘idda period comes to an end.’ This hadith has been reported on the authority of AbuSa’id (al-Khudri) (Allah be pleased with him) through another chain of transmitters and the words are: They took captives (women) on the day of Autas who had their husbands. They were afraid (to have sexual intercourse with them) when this verse was revealed: And women already married except those whom you right hands posses” (Sahih Muslim book 8, chapter 29, section 3433).

In addition to the historical examples of both Muhammad himself taking female prisoners of war and his permission for others to do the same, the Qur’an gives Allah’s approval of the practice:

“O Prophet! We have made lawful to thee thy wives to whom thou hast paid their dowers; and those whom thy right hand possesses out of the prisoners of war whom Allah has assigned to thee; and daughters of thy paternal uncles and aunts, and daughters of thy maternal uncles and aunts, who migrated (from Makka) with thee; and any believing woman who dedicates her soul to the Prophet if the Prophet wishes to wed her; – this only for thee, and not for the Believers (at large); We know what We have appointed for them as to their wives and the captives whom their right hands possess; – in order that there should be no difficulty for thee. And Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful” (Surah 33:50).

“Also (forbidden are) women already married, except those (captives and slaves) whom your right hands possess. Thus has Allah ordained for you. All others are lawful, provided you seek (them in marriage) with Mahr (bridal money given by the husband to his wife at the time of marriage) from your property, desiring chastity, not committing illegal sexual intercourse, so with those of whom you have enjoyed sexual relations, give them their Mahr as prescribed; but if after a Mahr is prescribed, you agree mutually (to give more), there is no sin on you. Surely, Allah is Ever All-Knowing, All-Wise” (Surah 4:24).

The depiction of the murder of Umm Qirfa by Zayd (Muhammad’s adoptive son) demonstrates the cruelty of ISIS is not unique to them, but began with Muhammad and his family:

“Allah’s Messenger sent Zayd to Wadi Qura, where he encountered the Banu Fazarah. Some of his Companions were killed, and Zayd was carried away wounded. Ward was slain by the Banu Badr. When Zayd returned, he vowed that no washing should touch his head until he had raided the Fazarah. After he recovered, Muhammad sent him with an army against the Fazarah settlement. He met them in Qura and inflicted casualties on them and took Umm Qirfah prisoner. He also took one of Umm’s daughters and Abdallah bin Mas’adah prisoner. Zyad bin Harithah ordered Qays to kill Umm, and he killed her cruelly. He tied each of her legs with a rope and tied the ropes to two camels, and they split her in two” (Tabari Vol. 8: page 96).

Muslim apologists will object to our rejection of Islam based on these passages by citing Deuteronomy 21:10-14 which describes God’s permission for the people of Israel to marry foreign widows whose husbands had been killed in battle. But Jesus in Matthew 19:8 says concerning the Mosaic laws of divorce, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.” The laws permitting divorce in the Old Testament do not reflect God’s original design for marriage. Deuteronomy 21:14 mentions God permitting divorce and therefore I would include verses 10-13 in with the permission to divorce as an accommodation to the sinful desires of fallen man rather than reflecting God’s original will for his people. God only allowed this because of the hardness of the people’s hearts and it has been abrogated through the New Covenant ministry of Christ. Another difference between Deuteronomy 21:10-14 and the Quran is that in the Quran many of the husbands were still alive. The passage in Deuteronomy is describing marriage while the Quran is permitting sexual relations outside of marriage. It must also be kept in mind that the military conquests of the Old Testament were limited in scope and duration. They were designed for a specific period of time to bring God’s judgment upon wicked civilizations and to drive out foreigners to make room for the people of God (Deut 18:10-12). This is in contrast to the open-ended nature of the calls for Jihad in Islam.

May these tragic stories cause us to pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ who are facing persecution in the Middle East. May we speak for those who have no voice but suffer in silence. May God break the teeth of the wicked and speed the day of Christ’s return. Whatever suffering we face as Christians in America for our faith does not compare with this.

The Bible and the Quran

The Quran says that Muslims must believe in that which was revealed beforehand to Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and the prophets (2:136). Muslims are those “who believe in that which has been revealed to you and that which was revealed before you” (2:4). Allah has revealed the Torah and Gospel to give guidance (3:3). The Torah and Gospel are revelations from Allah and Christians (the followers of the book) should look to them (5:46-48, 65-66). Muslims are even instructed to ask Christians about “the reminder” or gospel to discern what Allah’s will is (16:43-44; 21:7). Muslims, if they are consistent with the Quran, must believe not only what the Quran says, but also what the Torah and Gospels say too.  Because the Quran contradicts the Bible in numerous places, Muslims must say that those portions of the Scriptures which contradict the Quran are corrupt.

The New Testament, like the Quran, views the Torah as revelation from God. The God of the Old Testament is the same as the God of the New Testament. However, the god of the Quran is the false unitarian deity of the Quraysh tribe. Christians cannot accept the Quran because it is contrary to God’s previous revelation. Muhammad thought that the Bible agreed with what he believed but since he had probably never read it, he did not know that the Gospels teach that Jesus was crucified. He instead relied on poor second-hand information to determine what the Bible says. It is ironic that while he tells Christians they would follow him if they had read the Torah and Gospel, he is the one who is ignorant of Scripture. As a result, he badly misrepresents the teachings of the Bible and Christian doctrine. When Muslims came into contact with Christians who had read the Bible, they had to say that their Bible has been corrupted and that the Quran fixes these corruptions. The later and final revelation of the Quran fixes the corruptions of the earlier revelation. In the same way, Mormons claim that their Scriptures correct the textual corruptions of the Bible by restoring Christianity to its pure unadulterated form.

Both the Bible and Quran claim that they are without error. Surah 4:82 says that if the Quran is not from Allah, then people would have found many errors in it. The Quran claims that the Torah and Gospel are revelations from Allah and therefore they would have to be without error too. This puts Muslims in a difficult position because both the Bible and the Quran cannot be without error. There are dozens of significant differences between the Quran and the Bible that cannot be overlooked. The Quran’s teaching on the Bible can be used in sharing the gospel with Muslims by showing them that the Quran teaches that the Gospels are revelation from Allah and therefore they should read them. I could then ask them why they believe there are differences in the teachings of the Bible and the Quran. I would share with them the Bible’s good news of salvation while reminding them that if they want to be good Muslims they must believe what the Bible says. The Quran fails the test of Surah 16:44 because the Gospels makes it clear that Jesus was truly crucified for sinners.

It seems that Muhammad was influenced by Gnostic teachings that Jesus was not really crucified but only so in appearance. Surah 4:157 says, “They did not kill him nor did they crucify him, but it appeared to them so.” The Quran also refers to apocryphal accounts of Jesus such as when he made clay birds come alive from the Infancy Gospel of Thomas (5:110). The Quran was influenced by pagan practices, portions of the Old and New Testaments, Jewish myths, and other local Arabian myths about jinn and the evil eye. The Quran’s denial of the crucifixion is one of, if not the most obvious differences between the Bible and the Quran. The death and resurrection of Christ is the central theme of the New Testament but is explicitly denied by the Quran.

Muslims must claim that the gospels have been massively corrupted so that there is little resemblance between the New Testament today and the one in the 1st century. However, this argument is deeply flawed because Muhammad did not believe that the Gospels were corrupt in his day because he instructs both Christians and Muslims to look to them (5:68; 16:43-44; 21:7; 41:41). There are copies of the New Testament such as Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus which predate the Quran by three hundred years. This is an unanswerable argument against Islam which Muslims cannot answer. Understanding the textual criticism of the Bible is important for witnessing to Muslims because these issues will come up when Christians bring up what the Quran says about the New Testament.

The Quran has many things to say about Jesus that are in agreement with the New Testament. It claims that he was born of a virgin as the Bible does (19:20). He was sent by God and empowered by the Holy Spirit (2:87). He performed miracles (2:253). He ascended into heaven (3:55). He is a prophet from God (3:84). He is the Word of God (4:171). He will die and be raised again which possibly contradicts what the Quran said earlier in 4:157 (19:33). But the Quran’s version of Jesus is also strikingly different from the one in the New Testament. He does not die on a cross because that would be dishonorable for one of God’s prophets (4:157).

He is not God but only a prophet from Allah (5:72-76). To say that Jesus is God for a Muslim would be shirk or associating other partners with Allah. The birth account of Jesus in the Quran describes Mary as giving birth to Jesus under a palm tree in contrast to the Gospels (19:23). Muslims reject the title “Son of God” for Jesus because to say that Jesus is God’s Son would be to say that Allah would need to have a wife (6:101; 19:35; 72:3). Muhammad misunderstood Christianity’s claim that Jesus is God’s Son to be a literal physical relationship instead of an eternal relationship.

Discussing the Quran’s statements on Jesus is a good way to open dialogue with a Muslim and move to a presentation of the gospel. If Muslims can see that the Quran teaches that Jesus is the messenger of Allah, they should be open to reading the New Testament to see what Jesus says. Once they read the New Testament, they will see what a difference there is between his words and the Quran. I need to correct Muslims’ misunderstanding of the sonship of Christ by explaining that Christians do not believe that Mary is God’s wife resulting in the conception of Jesus. Muslims by and large do not understand the differences between Catholics and Protestants so I need to explain to Muslims that I do not pray to Mary or have statues.

There are similarities and major differences between the Quran’s teachings on Allah and the Bible’s teachings on God. Like the Bible, the Quran says that God is “compassionate and merciful” (1:1). These are key attributes of God for Muslims and are mentioned first in the Quran before any other. Islam is monotheistic like Christianity but it is Unitarian instead of Trinitarian. Allah shares in common with the God of the Bible attributes such as eternality, immutability, transcendence, omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence. Allah in the Quran is the creator of all things and the sole object of worship (6:102). I would argue that Muhammad’s formulation of Allah in the Quran is an attempt to take the moon god of the Quraysh tribe and morph him into his understanding of what the Bible says about God. The Quran explicitly denies the doctrine of the Trinity as Muhammad understood it. He accuses Christians of worshiping others beside Allah (3:64). He says, “Believe therefore in Allah and His messengers, and say not, Three. Desist, it is better for you; Allah is only one Allah; far be it from His glory that He should have a son” (4:171). Muhammad misunderstands the doctrine of the Trinity as tritheism involving God, Jesus, and Mary. Surah 5:116 describes a conversation between Allah and Jesus which demonstrates this, “And when Allah will say: O Isa son of Marium!  Did you say to men, take me and my mother for two gods besides Allah? He will say: Glory be to Thee, it did not befit me that I should say what I had no right to.” The Quran denies that God is our Father because this would imply that we are then literally his sons and daughters (6:101).

There are many clear differences between the teachings of the Bible and the Quran. Demonstrating these differences to Muslims is what I believe is the key to leading them out of Islam and to knowing the true Jesus of the Bible. While there are many more differences between the Quran and the Bible, I believe that the differences I have just listed are more than sufficient to prove that Islam is a false religion based on a man-centered pursuit to obtain paradise. May God show his people the folly of Islam and pray that Muslims would come to know the true God of Scripture who is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.