Miroslav Volf: Duped Christian, Shallow Theologian, Different Gods
“Actions speak louder than words.” A man’s actions tell us what he truly believes and what principles he lives by. If he is a man of faith his actions tell us about his God’s nature. Bear this in mind because later on I’ll ask you to evaluate a man’s words and actions and what they say about his God.
Miroslav Volf is a celebrated Episcopalian theologian who has published works on a variety of topics. I know of him for arguing passionately that Christians and Muslims worship the same God.
He inserted himself into the controversy at Wheaton College and accused their leadership of bigotry because they disciplined a professor who asserted that Christians and Muslims worship the same God. That action touched a sore spot in his personal theology and he attacked them. You can read his criticisms of Wheaton here: Anti-Muslim Bigotry
Wheaton is a private Christian college and they have the right to set their standards. You might disagree with their theological positions but implying that they are bigots is dirty and ugly. In the light of Christ’s command to love one another Volf’s “bigotry” slur is un-Christian.
I have no affiliation with Wheaton. I know some good brothers who are graduates but that’s it. I’m not interested in defending them so much as I am interested in countering the “same God” nonsense that Volf and others foist upon the church. To that end I purchased a used copy of his book, “Allah: A Christian Response”1 to understand his argument fully.
The book is well written and the Christian theological work fine, but his Islamic work proves he was incapable of making a strong argument based on the Islamic source materials. Much of his argument is based on a document written in 2007 by a group of “Islamic scholars” called “A Common Word.”2 They wrote it ostensibly to build a bridge of understanding between Christians and Muslims. However, they also wrote it for a naïve and ignorant Western audience as a way to ameliorate their fears and doubts about Islam and to present Islam in a more humane light. Events since its writing in 2007 continue to undermine their claim that Islam is a religion of peace and love. It is also notable that since 2007 there are fewer Muslim “scholars” attempting to write such deceptive documents.
I’m going to highlight key errors in his book and show his argument stands on a false premise. Further, I will show you, by using his own standards, that Muslims and Christians do not worship the same God. Perhaps it is bold of me to criticize an award-winning, hyped theologian, but I believe I’m on firm footing. Plus, I do not buy into the “groupie” style that Christianity has borrowed from the world. “Superstars” in Christianity rarely are. All of us make mistakes, all of us have feet of clay, all of us sin.
NOTE: All bold and underline are mine.
NOTE: I will at times refer to Islam’s God as “Allah” and Christianity’s God as “God” to differentiate between the two Gods. I am aware that Allah means God. At times I will refer to both of them as God in a general sense.
VOLF’S INTRODUCTORY POINTS
He identifies the argument clearly. Note that he states that the Quran is the Islamic reference, and his evaluation rests upon the Gods being “sufficiently similar”:
“The issue is, rather, this: Is the object of Christians’ and Muslims’ faith and love the same? (p33)
“Instead, our task must be to find out whether the Gods that are worshipped are the same God. … Each has to decide the question by examining what they believe to be the revelation of God. So for Christians the question is this: is the God whose final self-expression is found in the life and teachings of Jesus Christ the same God as the God of the Qur’an? Much rides on the answer to this question! (p36)
“Hence we need a third approach. It consists in comparing the content of what Christians and Muslims say about God and determining whether the descriptions of God are sufficiently similar for us to claim that they speak of the same object when they refer to God. In the subsequent chapters I argue that this indeed is the case.” (p89)
Volf’s “sufficiently similar” is a subjective standard. Like beauty, it is in the eyes of the beholder. We’ll examine his argument for “sufficiently similar” and see how high or how low, his standard is.
Volf states his goal clearly:
“The goal of this book is to explore how Christian and Muslim convictions about God bear on their ability to live together well in a single world. It is a book about God and this world, not a book about God and the world to come; it is primarily about socially relevant knowledge of God, not about saving knowledge of God.” (p12, 13)
He claims to be an impartial judge, one that is seeking the truth:
“I want the truth, not politically expedient or ideologically “correct” positions. And, as a follower of Christ, I want the truth seen with the eyes of inviting and reconciling love, not the truth born of cold indifference or simmering hatred. In this book, I apply lessons I learned living under Communist rule during the Cold War to relations between Christians and Muslims today.” (p16)
“I want the truth.” Lots of people say that. How much do they really want it? How much does they labor to uncover it? How open is/are their minds to accept the evidence that goes against encrusted positions and a “same God” stereotype?
He also highlights the ramifications of having the same, or different, Gods:
“For monotheists, to worship God means, among other things, to espouse a set of values about what ultimately matters in human life. To worship a different god is to espouse a different set of such values. A clash of gods is a clash of ultimate values.” (p7)
Also see his good comments on pages 8, 9, 35, and 190.
Volf lays down two guidelines that I agree with for evaluating and determining if the evidence shows yes or no:
1. To refer to the same object, descriptions of God need not be identical.
2. To refer to the same object, descriptions of God may not be radically different.” (p90, 91)
Again note that “radical” is also in the eyes of the beholder.
I appreciate all of Volf’s preceding comments. His thinking is logical and he sees things clearly. He understands the ramifications of having different Gods. If you’re not familiar with his background you should know that he comes from Yugoslavia, (he is Croatian), a country which no longer exists, because of the various religious-political ethnic conflicts. Muslims, Christian Catholics, and Christian Orthodox all waged war against each other. All sides committed atrocities and people from all sides suffered greatly. Therefore it is understandable, and admirable, that he wants to build bridges to peace between Christians and Muslims. All Christians should respect his motive to do so.
VOLF’S ARGUMENT: Nicolas and Luther
In the first 76 pages Volf quotes previous Christian theologians, Nicolas of Cusa, and Martin Luther, and uses their arguments in support of his.
Nicolas’s argument, as Volf presented it, is a simple and patronizing argument based on tailored semantics and narrow interpretations. Nicolas recognized that the Quran’s statements about Christianity’s God are incorrect, or misinterpreted, or both. He argued that what the Quran condemns about Christianity worshipping three separate Gods Christianity also condemns. Nicolas then explained the accurate Christian position that is contrary to what Muhammad thought and taught.
That argument fails both to understand the Islamic perspective fully and to take it seriously. It failed to build bridges and gain traction then just as Christians who use similar arguments today fail. Muhammad’s objections to and rejections of non-negotiable Christian theological tenets: God the Father, Jesus’s Sonship, and Christ’s deity, etc. are more broad-based than what Nicolas’s technical nit-picking argument addresses. Nicolas made valid points but they were limited in scope. Of course the Quran gets Christian theology wrong! (If God were behind the Quran the least He would have done was to get Christian theology correct!) However the basis of Islam’s rejection stands upon more than a few sloppy and inaccurate Quranic verses. For example, read the 5:72-77 passage. Here is verse 75:
The Messiah, son of Mary, was no other than a messenger, messengers (the like of whom) had passed away before him. And his mother was a saintly woman. And they both used to eat (earthly) food. See how We make the revelations clear for them, and see how they are turned away! 5:75
Its denial of Christ’s Sonship and deity are strong and clear: “Jesus was nothing more than a man”, i.e. He was not the Son of God, He was not God incarnate. No semantic wrangling is going to make it otherwise. Christians are obligated to treat other people’s Scriptures honestly, with integrity, so let’s not kid ourselves that playing with semantics is somehow going to make Muslims see the light and admit that Muhammad misunderstood Christian theology.
On the other hand, if you take Nicolas’s and Volf’s argument at face value then it means that Muhammad did misunderstand Allah. Did Muhammad fail to understand Allah’s technicalities because Allah communicated poorly?
Nicolas’s argument is not a sufficient way to build a common understanding. Why not state the truth simply: Islam rejects Christ’s divinity and Sonship based upon the Quran, the hadith, and Muhammad’s teachings and actions. You can read in Guillaume’s “The Life of Muhammad”3 from page 270 on, the details of how thoroughly Muhammad rejected any notion of Christianity’s triune God, Christ’s Sonship, and Christ’s divinity. Muhammad’s rejection was no technical formality, rather it was “Hell no! Jesus is NOT the Son of God in any way, shape, or form!”
I am not familiar enough with Luther’s writings on Islam to know if Volf represented Luther accurately. So I will not attempt to address them.
VOLF’S ARGUMENT: SUFFICIENT SIMILARITY
Volf then argues that if both faiths have a common God then their primary doctrines should have “sufficient similarity” (p89). He does not say that they are the same religion, he does not say that they cannot have differences, he says that their primary doctrines should be similar enough that they reflect the same source. If they come from the same source then these two faiths worship the same God.
In my own words, perhaps an analogy to Volf’s argument is to think of a father writing two letters at different times, one to an adult son, another to one of his young children. He’ll give them similar instructions for an overall approach to life but there will be different commands and instructions per their individual needs.
On page 97 Volf begins to lay the foundation of his argument. He identifies 3 god-traits that both Christianity and Islam have in common: only one God, almighty Creator, and God as incomparable to all else. Volf then states that he believes that this simple argument is persuasive, at least for starters.
That argument, one that has such a low bar for claiming “similar” for a single God, is certainly not in any way persuasive to me. Nor should it be to you. There are many monotheistic faiths. With such a low bar you can make an argument that they all worship the same God.
On the other hand, if you take Muhammad’s cultural context into account, you can easily understand why his God, and Judaism’s and Christianity’s God, are similar. Muhammad grew up in a primarily pagan area but Christianity and Judaism were well known. When Muhammad was still young he interacted with Christian monks, and later in life his cousin-in-law was reputed to be a Christian scholar! When you take into account the framework of the Quran it is evident that Muhammad had some contact and familiarity with Jews and Christians (more so later in his life). Since Muhammad fashioned a monotheistic faith after the pattern of Judaism and Christianity I would certainly expect him to borrow from Christianity and Judaism as he constructed Islam. Corresponding to Muhammad’s lack of knowledge and theological understanding, his construction, the Quran, expresses a jumbled and confused mix of references from the Old and New Testaments, the Mishnah, New Testament Apocrypha, and Paganism. This is exactly what you would expect to find from a person with limited knowledge and understanding constructing a religion based on other faiths and second hand stories.
In the next several pages Volf lists a couple more traits these Gods have in common and up to this point I agree generally with the “similar God” points he’s made. His standard is low but the comparisons are accurate. Islam’s and Christianity’s Gods have common traits. So do Presidents Barak Obama and Vladimir Putin. But somehow I don’t think Volf would argue they are the same. Why not? Both are men, both are leaders of powerful countries, both are unique, and both have incredible power at their fingertips. Surely that is sufficient similarity?
VOLF’S BROKEN ARGUMENT
Now we come to his argument’s hard failure. On page 104 he argues that God’s two most important commands are:
1) to love God completely,
2) to love your neighbor as yourself
He states that these are common to both faiths. This point is foundational to Volf’s argument.
We know they are primary Christian commands. But are both of them primary Islamic commands? I think the first command, to love God, is common to both faiths, but not so the second one.
For evidence Volf starts by quoting the “Common Word.” At first I thought it odd that he didn’t make his own argument based on the Quran. Remember, that was the standard he said should be used.
“In Islam, as in Christianity, love of God and love of neighbor are central, argue the signatories of the “Common Word.” Their point is not that Islam is no different from Christianity. They state explicitly that these two “are obviously different religions.” Their point is, rather, that the two greatest commandments “are an area of common ground and a link between the Qur’an, the Torah and the New Testament. (p29)
On p187 he repeats the point of one common God who commands to love their neighbor.
Note Volf’s emphasis: these two commandments are the “two greatest commandments.” If these are the two greatest commandments then it is reasonable to believe that the Scriptures of both faiths should contain many references to those commands.
But as he continues neither does his next evidence come from the Quran. Instead it comes from the hadith:
“Second, love of neighbor. Again according to the hadith, Muhammad said: “None of you has faith until you love for your neighbor what you love for yourself.” (27) (p29)
Volf’s note 27 references the hadith collection of Muslim ibn al-Hajjaj (Sahih Muslim).4 I was unfamiliar with how Volf referenced that specific hadith: “Kitab al-Iman, 67-1, hadith no. 45”, but I believe I found it, or its equivalent, in a few hadith. (Note, different translations or compilations of Muslim’s hadith collection may have formatted the numbering differently). Here they are below.
Book 1, Kitab al-Iman, Chapter 18
CONCERNING THE FACT THAT IT IS ONE OF THE CHARACTERISTICS OF IMAN THAT ONE SHOULD LIKE THE SAME THING FOR ONE'S BROTHER-IN-ISLAM AS ONE LIKES FOR ONE'S SELF
Book 1, Number 0072:
It is arrested on the authority of Anas b. Malik that the Prophet observed: one amongst you believes (truly) till one likes for his brother or for his neighbour that which he loves for himself.
Book 1, Number 0073:
It is narrated on the authority of Anas that the Prophet observed: By Him in whose Hand is my life, no, bondsman (truly) believes till he likes for his neighbour, or he (the Holy Prophet) said: for his brother, whatever he likes for himself.
Book 1, Kitab al-Iman, Chapter 23
CONCERNING THE FACT THAT NO ONE WILL ENTER PARADISE EXCEPT BELIEVERS, THAT LOVE FOR BELIEVERS IS (A CHARACTERISTIC FEATURE OF) FAITH AND GIVING CURRENCY TO (THE PRACTICE OF PAYING SALUTATION BY SAYING) AS-SALAMU ‘ALAIKUM) (PEACE BE UPON YOU) IS THE MEANS TO ACHIEVE IT (FAITH)
Book 1, Number 0096:
Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah observed: You shall not enter Paradise so long as you do not affirm belief (in all those things which are the articles of faith) and you will not believe as long as you do not love one another. Should I not direct you to a thing which, if you do, will foster love amongst you: (i. e.) give currency to (the practice of paying salutation to one another by saying) as-salamu alaikum.
Volf’s reference also cites Bukhari’s collection of hadith (Sahih Bukhari):5
“None of you has faith until you love for your brother what you love for yourself”
In my collection of Bukhari, (you may also be able to find both Bukhari’s and Muslim’s collections on the internet for free), I found:
(7) CHAPTER. To wish for one’s (Muslim) brother what one likes for one-self is a part of faith.
volume 1, number 12:
Narrated Anas: The Prophet said, "None of you will have faith till he wishes for his (Muslim) brother what he likes for himself."
The context of these commands is for Muslims to love fellow Muslims, not a non-Muslim. There is no command to love non-Muslims.
That’s basically all Volf presented as evidence for one of Islam’s “greatest commandments” and a mainstay of his argument. Please allow me to again point out that he did not cite the Quran. Neither did he bother to actually study his references because if he had he would have learned that when they are taken in context they imply the opposite of what he is arguing, i.e. that Muslims are not commanded to love non-Muslims.
THE COMMON WORD’S ARGUMENT
Since Volf did such a poor job we need to examine what the Common Word says about this “greatest commandment.” It cites a beautiful and poetic verse, actually one of my favorite verses, from the Quran.
It is not righteousness that ye turn your faces to the East and the West; but righteous is he who believeth in God and the Last Day and the angels and the Scripture and the prophets; and giveth wealth, for love of Him, to kinsfolk and to orphans and the needy and the wayfarer and to those who ask, and to set slaves free; and observeth proper worship and payeth the poor-due. And those who keep their treaty when they make one, and the patient in tribulation and adversity and time of stress. Such are they who are sincere. Such are the pious. (Al-Baqarah, 2:177) (p66)
Clearly this verse says for Muslims to love their families, care for orphans, the poor, and travelers. However I don’t see any real command to “love thy neighbor as thyself.” The slaves to be set free are slaves that the Muslims enslaved. That is like saying the Muslims should return some of the money they’ve stolen and plundered from non-Muslims. Nothing very virtuous there. But yes, I must agree that the “wayfarer” might be a non-Muslim.
And that is it! Out of the entire 114 chapters of the Quran they could only produce one generic verse! Why is that? If you look at their work on the command to “love God” they list about a dozen verses. Certainly many hadith could be added to the “love God” list as well. How do you explain the paucity of “love your neighbor as yourself” verses?
They’re not there because that command is not a primary, or even a secondary, command. Lest you think I am short changing their references, check the link above to the Common Word. Don’t take my word for it. It’s possible that the current version of the Common Word found at that link is a revision of earlier versions which listed more “love thy neighbor as thyself” verses. But I kinda doubt it. The Common Word document contains a lot of lip service about loving others but it is very short on textual content.
Let’s approach this from another direction. Let’s take a look at some primary Islamic principles. For example let’s start with the “Five Pillars of Faith.
1) Faith in one God and Muhammad’s prophethood
3) Giving of alms
5) The pilgrimage to Mecca
There is nothing related to loving non-Muslims there.
Next, there is the “Seven Articles of Faith” (some scholars list only six). They are belief in:
1) one God
2) the angels
3) God’s revelations or God’s scriptural books
4) the messengers or prophets of God
5) the final judgment
6) God’s supreme will always being done
7) the final resurrection
There is nothing related to loving non-Muslims there either.
If “loving thy neighbor as thyself” were as important as Volf and the Common Word Muslims argue, perhaps we could find an Islamic “love chapter”? Or perhaps just a “love passage”? Or perhaps just one simple verse that says plainly, “love your non-Muslim neighbor as yourself?” Out of 114 chapters in a book that is about as large as the New Testament surely we could find something?
All you hear is the silence of the desert.
Muslims are required to believe in and submit to Allah and Muhammad. They are required to believe in and perform their religious precepts and tasks found in the five pillars of Islam and the seven articles of faith. None of them are “love your non-Muslim neighbor as yourself.”
THE DEVIL IS IN MUHAMMAD’S DETAILS
MUHAMMAD’S WORDS AND ACTIONS: NOT LOVING HIS NEIGHBORS
So what exactly did Muhammad and Allah command, and more importantly do, in relating to non-Muslims? What follows are many references found in the Quran, hadith, and sira.
THE BEST DEEDS
Muhammad was asked what the best deeds were. Here is his reply found in Bukhari:
Narrated Ibn Mas'ud:
A man asked the Prophet "What deeds are the best?" The Prophet said: (1) To perform the (daily compulsory) prayers at their (early) stated fixed times, (2) To be good and dutiful to one's own parents. (3) and to participate in Jihad in Allah's Cause."
I hope that by now all readers know that Muhammad was talking about physical war when he said “jihad.” If you are ignorant and disagree and believe that he meant “inner struggle” here then I encourage you to read Bukhari’s and Muslim’s chapters on jihad. They’re all about conducting war on non-Muslims.
With the recent massacre of gay men in Orlando I think the reader would be interested in knowing what Muhammad and Islam commands on killing them. These comes from the hadith collection of Abu Dawud, i.e. the Sunan of Abu Dawud:6
Narrated Abdullah ibn Abbas:
The Prophet said: If you find anyone doing as Lot's people did, kill the one who does it, and the one to whom it is done. (Volume 3, #4447 (English translation).
Ibn Abbas said:
“If a man who is not married is seized committing sodomy, he will be stoned to death" (Volume 3, #4448).
Certainly all readers know by now that throughout the Islamic world homosexuals are legally killed. It isn’t just ISIS or terrorists who murder homosexuals, it is also Islamic governments following Islamic law.
MAKE WAR ON CHRISTIANS AND JEWS
These verses actually kill two birds with one stone. They come from sura 9, the last chapter to be spoken by Muhammad. Here are 9:29, 30 from two translations.
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. 30) The Jews say Ezra is the son of God, while the Christians say the Messiah is the son of God. Such are their assertions, by which they imitate the infidels of old. God confound them! How perverse they are! (Dawood).7
29) 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. 30) The Jews say, ‘Ezra (Ozair) is a son of God’; and the Christians say, ‘The Messiah is a son of God.’ Such the sayings in their mouths! They resemble the saying of the Infidels of old! God do battle with them! How they are misguided! (Rodwell).8
Quoting from my article, Do Christians and Muslims Worship the Same God?,
Muhammad / Allah commands:
1) Make war against the Christians (and Jews) and kill them if they refuse to convert to Islam and 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’s (Muhammad’s) command to his followers was to make war not love. These commands were against Christians and Jews who were not at war with them. Instead the command was to subject them by force.
Additionally, you can see that Allah denounces Jesus as His Son. “God do battle with them!” There is no “sufficient similarity” with Allah denouncing Jesus as his Son. Instead we have a contradiction. Either Jesus is, or is not, the Son of God. I say He is, Muhammad said He isn’t. Talk to a knowledgeable Muslim if you don’t believe me. Throw all the technicalities you want at him (as Nicolas tried). See if it makes a difference.
MAKE WAR ON PAGANS AND IDOLATORS
Similar to 9:29 applied to Christians we have 9:5 applied to polytheists. Here is an in-depth article focusing primarily on that verse: The Verse of the Sword.
9:5 When the sacred months are over slay the idolaters wherever you find them. Arrest them, besiege them, and lie in ambush everywhere for them. If they repent and take to prayer and render the alms levy, allow them to go their way. God is forgiving and merciful.
Here are four observations:
1. Muhammad was the aggressor (9:2, 3, 5),
2. Muhammad was a truce breaker.
3. Muhammad used compulsion to force people to convert to Islam: 9:5, "…If they repent and take to prayer and render the alms levy, allow them to go their way".
4. Muhammad commanded murder and terrorism for Islam, 9:5, 6, "When the sacred months are over slay the idolaters wherever you find them. Arrest them, besiege them, and lie in ambush everywhere for them"
Once again you have Muhammad as a warmonger. Does this in any way reflect “love your neighbor as yourself”?
GOD COMMANDED MUHAMMAD TO FIGHT OTHERS, NOT TO LOVE OTHERS
Allah gave specific commands to Muhammad. Let’s look at one of the more critical:
“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.”9
What did Muhammad say Allah commanded him to do?
Muhammad used torture to get what he wanted. When dealing with a person whom he believed had “wealth” but wouldn’t talk, Muhammad commanded his followers:
"Torture him until you extract what he has." So he kindled a fire with flint and steel on his chest until he was nearly dead.
Muhammad and the Death of Kinana
Now, when you read about ISIS torturing people you will understand that they are following Muhammad’s precedent.
Muhammad could tolerate some things but one thing he hated above all else was being criticized and having his claim of prophethood doubted or mocked. Those that did this often found themselves being on his personal hit list. Here are two of the many people Muhammad ordered to be murdered:
1) Abu Afak, a 120 year old Jewish man who criticized Muhammad:
The apostle said, "Who will deal with this rascal for me?" Whereupon Salim b. Umayr, brother of B. Amr b. Auf, one of the "weepers", went forth and killed him.
Muhammad and the Murder of Abu Afak
2) Asma bint Marwan, a mother of five children:
When the apostle heard what she had said he said, "Who will rid me of Marwan's daughter?" Umayr b. Adiy al-Khatmi who was with him heard him, and that very night he went to her house and killed her.
Muhammad and the Murder of Asma bint Marwan
When you see Muslims today carrying signs that say to kill those that insult Muhammad, or actually murdering critics, like Theo van Gogh, you’ll understand that they are only following Muhammad’s precedent.
MURDERING SLAVE GIRLS
When Muhammad lived in Mecca many people mocked his claim to prophethood. Three of them, Sarah, Fartana, and Qaribah, were slave girls who were probably forced to work as prostitutes. Years later when Muhammad returned to Mecca and conquered it he order that these three slave girls to be killed:
"The apostle of Allah entered through Adhakhir, [into Mecca], and prohibited fighting. He ordered six men and four women to be killed, they were (1) Ikrimah Ibn Abi Jahl, (2) Habbar Ibn al-Aswad, (3) Abd Allah Ibn Sa'd Ibn Abi Sarh, (4) Miqyas Ibn Sababah al-Laythi, (5) al-Huwayrith Ibn Nuqaydh, (6) Abd Abbah Ibn Hilal Ibn Khatal al-Adrami, (7) Hind Bint Utbah, (8) Sarah, the mawlat (enfranchised girl) of Amr Ibn Hashim, (9) Fartana and (10) Qaribah. Muhammad and the Meccan 10
This is the context: Muhammad returned to Mecca with a huge army and conquered it via intimidation. Some groups of Meccans fought the Muslims but they were few and were defeated. At this point in his life Muhammad reached a new pinnacle of power and glory. He has crushed his biggest enemies beneath his feet! What does he do next? He remembers the three slave girls who many years earlier mocked him and hurt his feelings. Now it’s his payback time and he orders their deaths. Does this sound like a loving man to you?
Muhammad had varying degrees of conflict with most non-Muslims including Jews and Christians. When he felt at odds with one group of Jews he ordered his followers to kill any of them they could, including defenseless civilians:
The apostle said, 'Kill any Jew that falls into your power.' Thereupon Muhayyisa b. Mas`ud leapt upon Ibn Sunayna, a Jewish merchant with whom they had social and business relations, and killed him. Huwayyisa was not a Muslim at the time though he was the elder brother. When Muhayyisa killed him Huwayyisa began to beat him, saying, 'You enemy of God, did you kill him when much of the fat on your belly comes from his wealth?' Muhayyisa answered, 'Had the one who ordered me to kill him ordered me to kill you I would have cut your head off.' The Death of Ibn Sunayna
In this case a shopkeeper who was a long-time friend to the Muslims was attacked without warning and butchered. Isn’t this exactly what many Muslims are doing today? The people who were murdered by the Muslims in San Bernardino, Orlando, and all over the world? The people in San Bernardino had given a baby shower for the Muslim woman and she repaid their kindness with bullets. That is Muhammad’s Islam.
RAPE OF FEMALE SLAVES
Attacking and enslaving others is legal in Islam. Muhammad attacked and enslaved thousands. He would distribute the females to his soldiers as their reward for fighting. Those female slaves were property and as such the Muslim men could use them for sex whenever they desired. If you are offended that ISIS rapes so many non-Muslim females then remember that Muhammad established it. In fact Muhammad had a slave that he used for sex because, as Tabari states, she was his “property.” Here is one account of Muslim soldiers raping slaves:
Abu Sirma said to Abu Said al Khudri: "O Abu Said, did you hear Allah's messenger mentioning about al-azl (coitus interruptus)?" He said, "Yes", and added: "We went out with Allah's messenger on the expedition to the Mustaliq and took captive some excellent Arab women; and we desired them for we were suffering from the absence of our wives, (but at the same time) we also desired ransom for them. So we decided to have sexual intercourse with them but by observing azl" (withdrawing the male sexual organ before emission of semen to avoid conception). But we said: "We are doing an act whereas Allah's messenger is amongst us; why not ask him?" So we asked Allah's messenger and he said: "It does not matter if you do not do it, for every soul that is to be born up to the Day of Resurrection will be born".
Muhammad and the Rape of the Female Slaves
Is raping slave women “loving” them?
THREATENING AND EXTORTING NON-MUSLIMS
Muhammad would tell Christians and Jews that they could either convert to Islam, pay an extortion tax, “jizyah,” or fight and if they lose they die and their women and children enslaved. Here is an account of how Muhammad threatened a small Christian town:
"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." Real Islam, Violence, and Sheila Musaji
Note that this event parallels Muhammad’s commands in Sura 9:29. Muhammad was threatening the Christians with death and slavery unless they converted to Islam or paid extortion (“tribute”, i.e. “jizyah” which was extorted from Jews and Christians).
MUHAMMAD’S LAST WORDS: CURSES
Just before he died Muhammad asked Allah to curse the Christians and the Jews:
"May Allah curse the Jews and Christians for they built the places of worship at the graves of the prophets."10
Jesus prayed for forgiveness for those that framed and killed Him. Muhammad called curses down upon those he hated.
All of these wicked deeds, and many more, are Islamic. All of them are tied to Muhammad. All of them were for Islam’s domain to spread.
One of the reasons Muslims were never really commanded to love non-Muslims is because the Muslims were commanded to attack and conquer them, and force Islam’s rule over those that refused to accept Islam. Attack and conquer, jihad, i.e. holy warfare, was the command towards non-Muslims. Within 100 years of Muhammad’s death the Muslims had carved out one of the largest empires of the world’s history, reaching from Spain to India. These were wars of conquest, not self-defense. Did love motivate these conquests?
EVALUATING THE DEEDS; EVALUATING THE GOD
At this article’s beginning I said that I would ask you to evaluate a man’s actions. What do Muhammad’s actions say? Do they indicate that he was commanded to love or to fight?
More importantly, what do these commands say about his God? Is he the same God that commanded His followers to love their neighbor?
These words and deeds that I presented above are not instances of “cherry-picking.” If you think otherwise let me challenge you to read Guillaume’s “Life of Muhammad” and once you get to where he finally had power, after he arrived in Medina, try to go 10 or so pages without encountering Muhammad’s words and deeds of hatred and violence.
Power corrupts. When Muhammad obtained power he murdered people.
When you evaluate the evidence based on Muhammad’s actions and teachings found in the Quran, hadith, and sira you can only draw one conclusion: loving non-Muslims was not Muhammad’s priority, forcing them to submit to Islam was. Muhammad’s mission was to spread the domain of Islam peaceably or by force. Tolerating and “loving his neighbor” was not acceptable if they did not fall under Islam’s rule.
AN IMPORTANT WORD ON SIMILARITIES
Sam Solomon, a scholar who actually knows about Islam, wrote a book addressing the “same God” topic: “Not the Same God.”11 Solomon makes a striking point:
By definition, even cleverly designed “similarities” stop short of true “same-ness”, as clearly demonstrated in the extreme physical “similarity” of a counterfeit bill2 and its original. A masterfully designed counterfeit bill may look precisely identical, and it even may get past any number of exchanges before it gets detected as fraudulent. But no one would be so foolish as to say, or even to think, “Well, it’s almost perfect, so what difference does it make?” No one would be foolishly bold as to make the argument of “sufficient similarity” in regard to currency. Yet in the realm of the spiritual such clear and rational standards are relaxed in the name of “tolerance for diversity”…”
Solomon hits home here: counterfeit is similar but false. People take their money seriously, shouldn’t Christians take their faith seriously?
I’ll bet Volf does not use his same low-bar “sufficiently similar” standard to make important decisions. Otherwise he’d confuse sulfuric acid with water, amanita mushrooms with white mushrooms, and President Obama with Putin. You would not want your doctor to be this incompetent, you would not want your car mechanic to be this inept, you would not want your financial advisor to be this ignorant, why then would you take the teaching of a sloppy theologian? Doesn’t your faith deserve a little more intelligence and precision?
KNOWLEDGE OF THE DETAILS: TAKE A CLOSER LOOK
We’ve seen actual details, Muhammad’s deeds and words, that demonstrate that “loving thy neighbor as thyself” is not an Islamic command. You have to do a little investigation to find these details. And therein lies Volf’s failure. His perspective is from a great distance. Perhaps he was unaware of these details. From his distant perspective the Gods look similar. If you were to see a crowd of men from a great distance the men would probably look alike. But when you zoomed in on their faces the details would enable you to distinguish one face from the other. Twins look identical from a distance but once you know the details of their faces you can tell them apart. In this same way when you know the characters of Allah and God you are able to make an intelligent and informed decision and state confidently that they are not the same God.
There is a professor, Dr. Benjamin Hegeman, who has actually studied and collected data on this topic. What he found was that the more informed a person is about the details of his faith, the less likely he is to believe that the two Gods are the same. Conversely if a person only knows a few aspects of his faith, the more likely he is to believe that the two Gods are the same. To that end he created a Venn diagram that depicts this state.
The concept of “Allah” existed long before Muhammad and Muhammad built upon that word. The diagram shows Muhammad’s Allah, i.e. Muhammad’s specific defining characteristics of Allah on the left, general beliefs about God that Christians and Muslims share are in the middle, and on the right are the defining characteristics of the God of the Christians.
This is a simplified and general diagram of how concepts of God overlap and differ depending on the knowledge-depth of the believer. Of course greater refinement can be added but its main point is that when one knows the details the contrasts become greater and contradictory on key points.
USING VOLF’S ARGUMENT
On page 113 Volf quotes Jesus talking about false prophets:
“You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. (Matt. 7:15-18)
Volf then goes on to say:
The deeds people do indicate the kind of people they are. Those same deeds also help identify the kind of God they worship.
I agree with Volf. Now consider Muhammad’s deeds:
- he ordered followers to attack non-Muslims
- he ordered Jews and Christians to be treated as 2nd class, humiliated people
- he had non-Muslim civilians murdered simply for criticizing him
- he enslaved non-Muslims
- he justified lying to further his cause
- he tortured people
- he allowed his soldiers to rape female slaves
- he threatened others with death and enslavement unless they paid extortion money
These were not a few aberrations. These actions were his lifestyle and that is bad fruit. That is evil fruit. What then do they say about the kind of God Muhammad worshipped? Is he the same God that Peter, John, and Paul worshipped?
By Volf’s own criteria his argument fails. Muhammad’s actions speak louder than, and contradict, Volf’s words.
Back in 2011 Volf was knowledgeable enough to know there was a strong vein of violence in Islam. But instead of searching for the truth of the details behind that violence he appeased himself by taking a Muslim cleric’s word at face value:
“The gist of his argument in response to critics of Islam was that violence in the Qur’an is always tied to a just cause. It is never indiscriminate and never directed against non-combatants, women, and children. (p127)
Based upon the examples I’ve provided, quoted from the Islamic source materials, this “cleric” is either lying, or ignorant. (I have to go with lying.) Muhammad directed violence against women and ordered the deaths of women and female slaves. His killing was also indiscriminate: “kill any Jew that falls into your power” and an innocent, unaware, shopkeeper was butchered by a Muslim. This delighted cleric duped Volf and pulled the wool over his willing eyes easily.
There are many more errors in Volf’s book such his statements on compulsion in Islam, his sloppiness in muddling Quran and hadith, and his inability to handle and evaluate Islam’s death sentence for apostates. I won’t address them.
FALSE DOCTRINE, SPIRITUAL MYIASIS, DECAY, AND DEATH
WHAT’S THE HARM? WHAT’S THE PROBLEM?
A fair question to ask is, “Why are you making such a big deal over a doctrine?” I make a big deal out of the “same God” issue for two reasons. 1) Key doctrine matters, and 2) more importantly, the health of the church matters. This concept of “same God” is crucial and I’m not sure Volf has thought through the repercussions of his argument and its negative effect on the church.
1) Key doctrine
Our doctrines and beliefs affect our life and actions. If we believe God has commanded an action we are more likely to perform that action, whether it is giving food to the hungry (as Christ commanded), or attacking non-Muslims (as Allah commanded). If Islam’s Allah is God the Father then Christians would be obligated to some degree to evaluate and implement Allah’s commands. Logically one could argue that the Quran’s commands supersede the New Testament’s commands because it is a later revelation of God’s word. For Christians, a fundamental starting point is that Christians need to know which God to worship and obey.
Further, God hates and denounces false doctrine. See Rev 2:6, 3:14, 15, 3:20. If Almighty God hates false doctrine shouldn’t we? Would anyone disagree with me that God hates a false doctrine that equates him to an artificial theological construct? Wouldn’t God judge a false prophet who said that God told him to make war on Christians who believe that Jesus is the Son of God? (Quran 9:29)
2) My primary concern however is for the spiritual health of the body of Christ.
I approach this topic in part based upon discussions and experiences I’ve had with Christians who were confused about Islam. They doubted their own faith, their experience, and their salvation. If the Quran is true then why wouldn’t Christians doubt that Jesus is the Son of God? I’ve been in conversations and I’ve received hundreds, if not over a thousand emails, from Christians who had to wrestle with the false doctrine of Islam and they thanked me for helping them. True Christian leaders should be concerned for the body of Christ and would not want to sicken them.
I love the body of Christ, I love my fellow Christians. I do not want to see them sick in faith and weak. Christians are the body of Christ. They are the bride of Christ. Who wants to see their bride sick, confused, and doubting? That is not why He gave us the Holy Spirit. We are to build up and edify each other. Why then would we introduce a false doctrine that weakens the church?
Volf damages the church by conflating Islam’s God with Christianity’s God. For him it’s just an academic question that if answered positively would lead to harmony between the two faiths. Yet I know from personal experience that that doctrine weakens the church.
Any Christian who takes his faith seriously could only say that Muhammad was a false prophet. Period.
A Bizarre Comment
On page 199 Volf makes a strange, almost bewildering, comment:
Now imagine that you ... believe that Muhammad was a prophet (not "the Seal fo the Prophets," but a prophet in the way in which we might designate Martin Luther King Jr. "a prophet").
Muhammad a prophet like Martin Luther King! Muhammad was the opposite of Martin Luther King! Is this Napoleon from Animal Farm speaking? Is the spirit of Baghdad Bob speaking through Volf? Or perhaps Volf could tell us when King married and had sex with a nine year old girl? Or when King asked his followers to murder people? Or when King let his followers attack and enslave people and rape the women because they were possessions?
Volf's comment here, and his casual approach to mixing and matching Islam with Christianity, displays an ambivalence, a carelessness, a disregard, towards the Christian faith.
Any Christian who takes his faith seriously could only say that Muhammad was a false prophet. Period.
Volf’s doctrine of both faiths worshipping the same God breeds confusion and doubt. Volf is planting a theological parasite, a myiasis, a maggot, into the body of Christ.
Flies will lay eggs on open wounds or vulnerable places on a body. Once hatched the maggots chew their way beyond the skin into the host’s body. Pain, sickness, infection, even death occur if untreated. The maggots grow inside the host while feeding on its tissue. This is known as myiasis. (Taken from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myiasis ).
Here’s a pic of a maggot inside a living cat.
By Uwe Gille - Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7929503
Isn’t this also one of the ways Satan attacks the church?
Volf’s false doctrine is maggot planted on the body of Christ. It is a deception that confuses Christians and undermines their faith. This is a deception that whitewashes Muhammad’s sins.
Look! Either the being that spoke to Muhammad is the same, exact, person that Christians worship, or it is not. Islam’s God is either totally the same God Christians worship or it is not. It’s a simple “Yes or No,” “100% or 0.0%” answer.
Take 1st Cor. 8:4-6 and 10:14-20 as your warning. Do not drink the cup of demons. You should reject Volf’s doctrine completely, comprehensively, and absolutely.
The body of Christ deserves better, it deserves our best. The body of Christ deserves to be fed with better food than Volf’s gruel of compromise and confusion.
I’ve shown that these Gods are radically different with respect to the command to “love thy neighbor as thyself.” They do not align with each other, they contradict each other. How much more radically different can you get?
Volf’s goal is noble and admirable but it should not be achieved by ignoring evidence, ignoring facts, and marching ignorantly towards a pre-determined ending. Volf dresses a wolf in sheep’s cloths. That does not make it a sheep. It will still kill you.
We all have pre-conceived ideas, encrusted positions, and strongly held beliefs. More so when taught to us by a cherished parent. In that light it is understandable that Volf clings to, and even advocates, the belief that both faiths worship the same God. Yet we as Christians are called by God to study His word, to seek the truth, and to think logically. We should go to where the evidence leads us.
Changing one’s mind can be difficult but it should not be impossible. A great example of changing one’s mind would be found in Anthony Flew. He was a champion of atheism but as he studied the details of biology he realized that it took far more faith to believe in random chance, i.e. dumb luck, than it took to believe in some type of God. So he became a deist. He knew it would be a decision that would be attacked and he would lose his prestige and fame. But he had the inner fortitude, the conviction, to do the right thing. And yes of course the atheists turned upon him with hatred and vengeance, but he said he had to go where the evidence led. If Anthony Flew could change his mind about atheism and sacrifice so much in following the evidence, shouldn’t Christians take their faith seriously enough, and have actual strength of conviction, to change their minds in believing that both Gods are one in the same?
Be clear in your understanding of these contradictions. These are not issues of “different understandings.” Nor are they issues of “incorrect knowledge.” These are issues of contradiction. One God commanded love thy neighbor, the other commanded war and conquest. One God said, “Yes! Jesus is my beloved Son!” the other god said, “Hell No! Jesus is not my Son!” These are not the same God.
Brethren, do not be deceived by this false doctrine. Do not conflate your God with Muhammad’s construct. Do not let the cup of demons be present on your communion table. Seek the Lord. Have the attitude “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection…, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
Jesus is the beloved Son of the Father. He is the Son of God.
2016, June 21
APPENDIX A: OTHER REFERENCES ON THE “SAME GOD” TOPIC.
A debate on this topic between Volf and Nabeel Qureshi:
A Jordanian Christian critiques Volf’s book:
Part 2 of my five part series on whether or not Christians and Muslims worship the same God:
APPENDIX B: IF ISLAM’S ALLAH IS NOT GOD THEN WHO IS HE/IT?
One question that comes up frequently in these discussions is “If Allah isn’t God, then who is he?” Christians have been troubled by this question and seemingly afraid to say, “He’s an idol.” I’ve always felt that an answer along that line was easy and logical to make. Christians should think clearly and be bolder.
Muhammad constructed his “Allah” from parts of Judaism, Christianity, Paganism, demonic influence, and his own ideas. Islam’s Allah is a metaphysical construct created by Muhammad. Call it an idol if you want. Some people are troubled that I include “demonic influence” in this construct. That characteristic is integral and unavoidable. Just start with Muhammad’s first encounter with that “spirit” in the cave. Following that Muhammad believed he had become demon possessed or had gone insane. That encounter left him depressed and suicidal for the next 2.5 years. That experience has no parallels in our Scriptures. Experiences with our God do not drive His believers into suicide attempts. (You can read more about that here: Mo’s suicide attempts)
The other aspect of the demonic component in Islam is that it contradicts every primary doctrine of Christianity except for “One God” and even then there is an infinite gulf between the trinity and Islam’s “tawhid.”
APPENDIX C: UNSIGNING THE COMMON WORD DOCUMENT
I had the chance to sign the Common Word document and I refused. I felt the Holy Spirit telling me “no!” and I knew intellectually / doctrinally that parts of it were deceptive if not outright lies.
I know that many prominent Christians have signed it. In general Christians are good people, not perfect, but people willing to lend a helping hand, and wanting to be perceived as good natured, peaceable, and willing to give others the benefit of the doubt. Some Christians have told them that the Common Word was sound and agreeable and in the interests of wanting to be friendly and “getting along” they signed it. They were duped into signing a deceptive document.
I would say to all Christians, “Don’t be duped into believing an Islamic falsehood.” If you have been duped into signing it I encourage you to get your signature removed. A number of Christians have had their signatures removed.
I will have to answer for my sins before Christ. I don’t want to have to answer to why I signed a document that confuses my God, a God I claim to know, with a false god. As John said:
And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life. Little children, guard yourselves from idols. 1 John 5:20, 21.