More Questions About Islam [Full Article]

Is there no part of the Qur’an which modifies these violent texts in the way that we would say our New Testament modifies the Old Testament?
In fact the reverse is true. Suppose in our Bible the New Testament came first and the Old Testament came later, that would be the position in the Qur’an. All the peaceful passages that are enjoined on Muslims occur in the chapters written at Mecca. They are tolerant toward Jews and Christians. But when Muhammad gets to Medina and sets up his city/religious state, the tone towards other groups changes rapidly. The statements about slaying the pagans and killing the Jews and others occur there.
Now in Islamic interpretation, all passages that are revealed later take precedence over those revealed earlier. This is known as the ‘law of abrogation’. It means therefore that those passages that enjoin violence are actually the ones which are now acceptable.
What caused this change?
One needs to realise that at Mecca Muhammad is a despised prophet, he needs the help of all communities. But when he gets to Medina, he is now in the position of being a ruler, a legislator, a general. He has to further the Islamic community. For those who did not accept the new community – such as the Jews and Christians – it became highly dangerous, to the point of death.
Is it true that in Muslim countries Muslims who have converted to Christianity are not able to worship openly?
In Muslim countries where converts occur we need to remember the law of apostasy. In Saria, all four schools of Sunni law and Shi’i law teach that any adult male Muslim who rejects Islam, or becomes a Christian, commits the crime of high treason and that carries the death penalty. Some countries practise it – Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Qatar, Sudan – but where countries do not practise it it is often practised by the communities and families.
In most countries if the death penalty is not applied endemic discrimination and persecution and marginalisation occurs. There is no freedom within Islam. It does not confer all the civic liberties either on converts, or on historic Christian communities in their midst.

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This post has 10 Comments

  1. “Suppose in our Bible the New Testament came first and the Old Testament came later

    What real difference would this make? Does it matter that Israel had wars? All nations did and do. Yes, there were some of those nations who were under “the ban”–God commanded all inhabitants to be killed. But those were specific cities or city-states. That was never policy for every non-Israelite.

    In Islam it’s general policy to kill the infidel. That was never a command given to any Israelite, and certainly no Christian.

  2. Yeah, I was a little hesitant to put that part of the interview up there but I think it falls under the umbrella of progressive revelation.

    You make a great point that nation was commanded to kill nation. I think it should be noted because so many people will say that Christianity also advocates violence by virtue of it being in the Bible.

    This is where accurate interpretation across the timeline of God’s redemptive history guides us. We do not blush at the fact that judgment was meted out on wicked nations (Gen 15.16). Rather, we affirm the fact that Christianity is not bound up within an ethnic people, but is formed by people from everywhere who have been born anew.

    Yes, the commands were against nations, but it doesn’t negate the fact that non-Jews were killed. I do sympathize with you, though. The general teaching of “kill any infidel” is different that the OT ban.

    Does thaat make sense?

  3. The thing I find most disturbing about this is the source. No doubt Mr. Sookhdeo has credentials, but he’s far from a nuetral party here. You speak of accurate interpretation of the Christian faith; isn’t it only fair to give Islam the same benefit? If people want to know about Islam, why not ask a muslim theologian instead of a priest?

    How would you feel if I learned about Christianity from a Rabbi who was actively promoting Judaism? Would you consider this an “accurate interpretation”?

    As a note on this and any future comments of mine: I tried to write so that it didn’t sound hostile, but you can only get so much from the internet…hopefully no one will take it that way.

  4. Thanks Ryan for your comment. No hostility felt. I understand your apprehension to accept Sookhdeo’s comments. I was thinking about whether I should mention them or not. Obviously I decided I would for a couple of reasons:
    1) Although Sookhdeo is a Christian, I think we would do well to hear from him as a convert from Islam.
    2) Sookhdeo is explaining things as they accord to the teachings in the Qu’ran.
    3) You are right, I want to be fair. Related to 2 above, I think that Sookhdeo is merely explaining what the Qu’ran teaches. Although there is interpretation that he is doing, I think it is helpful to know that it seems to be in line with historic Muslim faith.
    4) I am not convinced that one needs to speak to a theologian of a particular religion to know what that religion teaches. From the news (and I am not indicating that I think all news is objective) it seems that Muslims would agree in large part with what Sookhdeo is saying.

    Does this make sense as to why I am posting this? Do you think it is viable?

    Also, it was commented earlier that the Muslim faith is not monolithic. I know that there are many strands to the Muslim faith. I know there are liberals and radicals. What I find interesting about Sookhdeo’s comments is that they are explicating the Qu’ran and not the varied views of Muslims.

    If anyone thinks I could tweak my thinking in these areas, let me know in what ways…Thanks for the comments. Keep ’em coming. I think it is helpful to dialogue.

  5. It’s true that in secular Muslim states where Christianity is allowed, a Muslim converting to Christianity do face expulsion from family members and friends. I’m not an expert on Islam by any means but from my experience and friends who live overseas in these secular Muslim states, I’ve been able to get a better understanding on it.

    I visited an American friend living in an Arab state that’s friendly to the West. The big difference that I didn’t realize beforehand is that Christianity is an option (at least seen by men since we don’t want to get into a long discussion of predest:o) but Islam is not. This is b/c once you convert to Muslim, all your decendants will be Muslims. While we have convenant theology, it is not guaranteed that our kids will grow up and stay with the faith. However, a Muslim will always be a Muslim which is why it’s a disgrace to convert to something else.

    As with anything, there’s the radical, the moderate, and those that are in name only. Most people in the country I visited will say they are Muslims but the majority of them do not practice it just like many say they are Catholics or Christians when they go to church once or twice a year.

    As far as jihad goes, I think you can’t get around the fact that the Koran specifically states to kill all infidels. The radicals believe and act upon this. The moderates are probably somewhere in between, and the rest prob do not care.

    An interesting thing is that while Iran is ruled by Islamic laws, the majority of people want the country to be more open to the West. I’ve learned this from friends working with Iranian refugees in Europe. The problem is that its leadership is controlled by radicals. The reason its current president was elected was the election committees barred most moderate candidates from running.

    In Turkey, an interesting thing is that more Islamic politicians are being elected than before so that’s something to pay attention to.

    Even w/in Muslims in Iraq, you have the Sunnis and the Shiites. The Sunnis are secular b/c Sadaam was one but the Shiites are more radical.

    Anyway, that’s my understanding so I hope it helps.

  6. This goes back to what alex said a couple posts back but has anyone seen statistics about how the broad spectrum of different beliefs in Islam? What percentage of muslims are liberal?

  7. I have not seen statistics. Do you have those? But I am not speaking about commonly held beliefs as much as what the Qu’ran itself teaches. Looking at the broad spectrum within Christianity will not give you a clear picture of what Christianity is. This relates to what mercy now is saying about the disparity of belief within Islam. You have to go to the Bible and see what it teaches. This, I think, is what Sookhdeo is doing.

  8. From the article:
    Are you implying that there is a sense in which Islamic communities in the West wish to take control in the West?

    Yes I am. Islam is based on power. It does not separate the sacred from the secular, and it has never really had an understanding of being a minority. It must exist within a majority context.
    Scary as mosques are going up like crazy here. This is why Europe is beginning to shun Islam as it has seen the effects over there. It is the radicals that follow the Koran which means taking over power and imposing those powers on all.

  9. Can you be both a Muslim and a Texan? Apparently so… there are about 400,000 Muslims in Texas. Watch a video about it on

    According to them, Islam is the state’s fastest-growing religion. It’s also one of the smallest, but anytime we see a trend of converts away from Christianity, it should make us ask what they see in Islam that is missing from the Church.

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God’s Broad Shoulders

One of the fascinating aspects of my profession is that I come in contact with a lot of Christians who want to engage with their faith in a deep way. Rather than being content with showing up on Sunday or being CINO (Christian In Name Only), these folks want to understand the Bible better and tease out the implications for their lives.

On the flipside of this, many of these same people are afraid to engage with their doubts in a deep way. It’s almost as if, doubts and questions are treated from a distance–“I don’t struggle with this, but…”

The biggest breakthrough in my own journey of faith came through (and continues to come through) engaging my doubts and questions as my own. They are not theoretical. They are honest struggles: problem of evil is the perennial one. I was in the throes of one of these bouts several years ago when a friend told me, “God can handle your doubts.”

I have used this same bit of advice for my struggling friends and self. If truth is not relative. If God is truth. Your doubts and questions will not overthrow this objective, transcendent truth. It’s not as though you are the first to struggle with doubts and fears and pain. The heavens will not collapse under the weight of your doubts. You won’t come up with a question that will cause God to close up shop. You can honestly engage with your doubts and fears and pain and suffering without having to be quick to give the typical and trite answers to matters of faith.

Go ahead, roll your burdens on God. He’s got broad shoulders.

Blow the Roof Off

Reading through Os Guiness’ new book, Fool’s Talk, for an Honors Seminar I’m leading on the art of persuasion. It is EXCELLENT.

I find that too many apologists take the defensive in explaining the Christian worldview. That has a place, but I would recommend that after you listen and listen and listen some more to the person you are engaging in dialogue, that you take the offensive. Of course, this is not being offensive, but taking the offense in showing the foolishness of the worldview. At some point the team has to score. If they only have defense, they will not score (okay, for the nay-sayers, the defense can score on a take-away…but even then there was an aggression to get the ball and not merely to prevent…BTW, prevent defense is such a great way to lose a ballgame, isn’t it?).

Here’s a juicy quote that I have underlined in the book:

From Jesus onward, the dynamic is crystal clear in Christian proclamation. “The tree is known by its fruit,” Jesus said–not by its seed (Mt. 12.33). If you had tried to persuade the prodigal son to return home the day he left home, would he have listened? If you had spoken to him the day he hit the pigsty, would you have needed to persuade him? Always “see where it leads to,” St. Augustine advised when dealing with false ideas. Follow it out to the “absolutely ruddy end,” C. S. Lewis remarked with characteristic Englishness. “Push them to the logic of their presuppositions,” Francis Schaeffer used to say. Too many varieties of unbelief are halfway houses. Too many unbelievers have not had the courage or the consistency to follow their thoughts all the way home –Fool’s Talk, p.118 (emphasis added)

Modern-day Power Encounters

I remember reading in my Perspectives Class on world mission a phenomenon called “power encounters” whereby a missionary would directly confront the idols of the day in some bombastic way to show the futility of such idols. For example, tearing down a totem pole or cutting down a tree (if these were the items of worship) in an area. While the confrontationalist in me loves the idea, I wonder how much was missed in these opportunities to really get to the heart of idolatry–namely, through teaching that idols are nothing (1Cor 8.4). Yet for those who worship an idol, it is very much a real thing.

I am currently reading Roland Allen’s formative text on mission, Missionary Methods: St. Paul’s or Ours, and have been immensely helped (in tandem with Lesslie Newbigin’s The Open Secret). Regarding the moral and social condition in which Paul preached, Allen makes this side comment:

Incidentally I should like to remark that in heathen lands it might still perhaps be the wiser course to preach constantly the supremacy of Christ over all things spiritual and material, than to deny or deride the very notion of these spirits. Some of our missionaries know, and it were well for others if they did know, that it is much easier to make a man hide from us his belief in devils than it is to eradicate the belief from his heart. By denying their existence or by scoffing at those who believe in them we do not help our converts to overcome them, but only to conceal their fears from us. By preaching the supremacy of Christ we give them a real antidote, we take them a real Saviour who helps them in their dark hours” (pp.28-29)

Allen brings balance. Too often preachers can assume they are preaching the supremacy of Christ, but they never pinpoint what exactly he is supreme over. Put another way, we preachers can preach rather generically. “Jesus is Lord over all!” We declare full throttle. Yet those listening have not been helped.

What is he supreme over?

He is supreme over your doubts of salvation. Your incessant anger. Your slavery to lust and pornography. Your boring and romantic-less marriage. Your bad parenting. Your disobedient children. Your greed. Your self-doubt. Your self-aggrandizement. Your obedient children. Your good parenting. Your healthy marriage. Your pure eyes. Your self-control.

He owns you. Therefore, the world doesn’t revolve around you anymore. Instead, he sets you free to think of others. Even more, he empowers you by his Spirit to think of other more highly than yourself. Your fears that you will be passed over for the job promotion. Your self-righteousness toward your unbelieving neighbor is set under his lordship in such a way that you no longer possess the answers, but are possessed by One who does. You cannot gloat that you understand the world en esse. Rather, you are saddened by the way the world actually is.

So, Christian, we need a modern-day power encounter. Not where we smash totems. But by understanding the world around us and helping others see our need for a Savior. We limp forward together. We bind up wounds together. We use the splint our arm is wrapped in to bind our neighbors’ arms. Thereby we see that instead of hiding the idol in shame, our neighbor is free to admit the idol and know that he will not be condemned but helped.