As part of my Religions of the World class at Fuller Theological Seminary, I am focusing on understanding Islam. One of the books I am reading is Ayoub’s A Muslim View of Christianity. I’m in the early chapters, and I am fuming a bit, which knowing me, is expected when I hear a Muslim apologetic, especially when it is drawing comparisons between Mohammed and Jesus, or Islam’s abuses and those of the Christian Church, both Catholic and Protestant.
Here’s what the author claims, and what I think about it right now.
1. Islam is a Nomocracy, not a Theocracy
The author is not trying to avoid the unpopular term theocracy, but rather, is making a distinction between what Muslims see as the ultimate authority in their lives. A nomocracy is simply the rule of law – in their case, Sharia.
In his view, Islam as a community was formed by their book (Koran), while our community formed first, and the Church created the Book. So while a government based on Christianity would be based on human authority, an Islamic state would be based upon God’s authority as reflected in the perfect book (as opposed to our imperfect one).
Unfortunately, there are many problems with this assertion, and this use of language is in my opinion, sophistry.
a. Agreed – Islam is the Rule of Law
The problem with this use of the term is that it fails to distinguish between Natural Law jurisprudence and Revealed Law. In the west, when we appeal to rule of law, we are specifically referring to commonly held principles affirmed by reason and intuition, such as in the phrase:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal… ~ U.S. Constitution
But when a Muslim opines that Islam is therefore not theocratic, that is based on his false dichotomy of rule of written words given by god (Islam) v. rule of written words chosen by the Church, and so the Church is the ultimate arbiter of what is true instead of God (we’ll get to that contention in a minute).
b. Islam most certainly IS Theocratic
The actual definition of theocracy exactly matches how the Islamic state actually works, because you can be governed by the rule of religious law and have religious clerics holding state power.
- a form of government in which a country is ruled by religious leaders
- a country that is ruled by religious leaders
c. The Koran is not any more divine nor less humanly affected than the Bible
The author’s assumption that somehow Mohammed was inspired to write word for word scripture, while the Church’s choice of the Canon was not inspired is non-sensical. You can’t have it both ways. Either humans always insert fallibility, or they never do.
He may be referring to the Catholic practice of putting Church tradition and Papal decrees above the authority of the scripture, but of course, that hierarchy is denounced by the Reformers, whose cry regarding Christian authority was “Sola Biblia!”
Even worse, he may be under the many defensive and false assumptions regarding the writing, compilation, and transmission of the Koran, including:
- that the Koran was compiled before Mohammed’s death (it was probably not)
- that there are no textual variants in the Koranic manuscripts, (there are)
d. The author ignores the real assembling of the Koran and the destruction of variant manuscripts to form the appearance of one perfect delivered text.
As the Church assembled the Canon, Caliph Uthman compiled the Koran and had all other manuscripts BURNED so that there were less variants and one official copy.
If you have a good 90 minutes, you can watch James White debate Adnan Rashid on this topic.
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2. Howling Euphemisms: Mohammed’s “Expeditions”
In defending the humane nature of dhimmitude (a non-Muslim under Muslim rule who is ‘protected’ by the State and has to pay an extra tax for that, just like other Mafias do), the author totally misses the fact that the whole reason the people now need protection is that their land was forcibly conquered by nice Muslims who promised not to rape or kill children or old people in their conquest (not a defensive war at all).
He calls Mohammed’s conquests ‘expeditions.’ Yeah, and European colonization was for the good of the colonies too. Give it a rest.
3. Assuming Christianity and Islam have the same goals
I know that the author is trying to build bridges by outlining similarities, but sometimes, when he tries to put the two in parity, I am insulted to be compared to Islam’s false goodness and inner deception. The author writes:
Islam, like Christianity, is first and foremost a religious system, whose fundamental purpose is to reform society, to extirpate wrongdoing, oppression, and immorality. Its purpose is to establish God’s kingdom on earth. (p. 27)
a. Christianity is not foremost a religious system
In fact, he has gotten Christianity totally wrong, but placed Islam into the mass of works based, rules based religious systems. Christianity is foremost a container for the Good News that Jesus has overcome death for us, and in Him we can have eternal life. The Church community is a foretaste of the age to come, a community of those rescued from death.
Reforming society is a secondary effort of the Church, maybe even tertiary.
b. Christianity’s view of the coming Kingdom is very different
The Islamic view of heaven is arguably pre-occupied with pleasures, especially sex for men. The Christian view is one of peace and communion so advanced that marriage does not even make sense there.
c. Christianity’s means of spreading the Kingdom are world’s apart
Despite appealing to the lack of compulsion in religion (Q.2:256), such scriptures are soundly overruled by the abrogation of these during war (and Islam is always at war because it is always conquering), as well as the clearly articulated trifold choice of the conquered – convert, pay the jizya, or die.
Christianity is absolutely not spread by the sword.
4. Assuming the religious abuses of Islam and Christianity are similar
While it is true that both Islamic and Christian power structures get corrupted by humans with power. But appealing to the Crusades or the Inquisition is a worn out trope because these Christian conquests are very different from Islamic conquests, in that:
- The Crusades were not intended to spread Christianity, but to push back against 400 years of Muslim armed conquest as they approached Rome, the seat of the Church
- The Inquisition was the abuse of the corrupt Church by the King and Queen of Spain, not the demands of Jesus. Mohammed, by contrast, taught and modeled armed conquest.
I am still not a fan of Islam. I am really trying to be open minded, and my continued reading of this book while trying to understand is the best I can do right now. Perhaps the author will deal with these oversights. It’s gonna be a long 10 weeks.