Not on Your Life!
/ Oct 12, 2007
The Royal Aal Al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought in Jordan has issued a declaration signed by 138 Muslim scholars called “A Common Word Between Us and You” urging Christians to focus on similarities between Islam and Christianity as a means of achieving greater cooperation, understanding, and “interfaith dialogue.” (See www.acommonword.com.) The theme is taken from the Christian New Testament text in which Jesus commands his followers to love God and to love their neighbors as the two greatest commandments. The declaration asserts, “Islam and Christianity not only share the same Divine Origin and the same Abrahamic heritage, but the same two greatest commandments.” The document also cites quotations from the Torah to show similar common ground with Jews. (The fact that the Quran name-drops some characters and stories from the Bible does not make give it any commonality with the Judeo-Christian faiths, but that’s another essay in itself!)
What follows in this declaration is a lame attempt to demonstrate that Islam embraces the same two great commandments. As will be shown below, Islam actually stands for the opposite of these fundamental principles. The fact that 138 Muslims scholars must cite Christian principles in order to counteract the increasing apprehension about and aversion to Islamic doctrines (what they call “Islamophobia”) is in itself a testimony to the bankruptcy of Islam as a positive doctrine or belief.
Love of God
The relationship between man and God in Christianity is that of a son and a Father. The “Lord’s Prayer” begins with the words, “Our Father. . .” God has adopted his followers, and they not only love him, but they are his rightful heirs, entitled to all that He can provide. (See 1 John 4:1-20 and Romans 8:14-17)
On the other hand, the relationship between man and God in Islam is that of a slave and his master. Islam is about “surrendering” to God. (See Surahs 2:136 and 6:18) The “common word declaration” can cite only two instances where believers have “love for God” in Surah 2:165 and 3:31, but these instances are descriptive statements rather than commandments. Much more common is the commandment to “fear God,” as provided in Surahs 2:194, 9:36, 64:16, and elsewhere. To really appreciate the extent to which the fear of God is operative in Islam, readers should read Mohammed’s final sermon to his followers in which he commands his followers to fear God no less than eight times. (See al-Tabari’s History, Vol. VII, Paragraph 1258)
Throughout the “common word declaration” is a sub-text about God having no associates. This is really a thinly veiled denial that Jesus is the Son of God, the central tenant of Christianity. So any Christian who naively endorses this declaration is in effect ascribing to the Muslim beliefs that Jesus was just another prophet and that Jesus has no role in mankind’s salvation.
Love of Neighbor
The Christian’s love for his neighbor is legendary. In fact, the expression “Good Samaritan” is taken from Jesus’ parable about a despised minority Samaritan coming to the aid of a Jew who had been beaten and robbed on the road to Jericho. While the “common word declaration” quoted two Christian scriptures containing Jesus’ commandment to love one’s neighbor (Matthew 22:38-40 and Mark 12:29-31), the declaration carefully avoided the only citation that went on to define actually who is one’s neighbor. This is critical. One’s neighbor isn’t just someone of the same faith or community, but rather includes also those of differing races and religious beliefs. (See Luke 10:25-37) The point of the “Good Samaritan” story is that loving one’s neighbor for Christians means loving people regardless of their religion or race. When Indonesia and neighboring Muslim countries were struck by a tsunami in December, 2004, killing almost a quarter of a million people, the bulk of the relief aid came from Christian countries. Of the $4.8 billion pledged for relief, less than 4% of the pledges came from Muslim countries.
While Christians are taught to truly love their neighbors regardless of race or religious belief, the Quran commands Muslims to do just the opposite: “Believers, make war on the infidels who dwell around you. Deal firmly with them.” (Surah 9:123) “Believers, take neither Jews nor Christians as your friends.” (Surah 5:51) Similar commandments can be found in 3:28, 3:117, 4:138, 5:80, 58:14, and 60:13. There is clear a distinction in Islam between the treatment of unbelievers as opposed to fellow Muslims. Surah 48:29 says, “Mohammed is God’s apostle. Those who follow him are ruthless to the unbelievers but merciful to one another.”
The “common word declaration” could not cite a single verse from the Quran commanding Muslims to love their neighbors, but quoted a corrupted hadith collected by Bukhari which supposedly says, “None of you has faith until you love for your brother what you love for yourself.” Taken at face value, this statement isn’t about love of one’s neighbor as much as it is love for your neighbor what you would love for yourself. The closest actual Bukhari hadith is Vol. 1, Number 12, which says, “The Prophet said, "None of you will have faith till he wishes for his (Muslim) brother what he likes for himself." This hadith says nothing about love for one’s neighbor.
Finally, the declaration cites Surah 60:8 which contains a double negative – that Muslims are not forbidden to be kind and equitable to those who have not fought against Muslims or driven Muslims from their homes. Further, this verse contradicts the eight other verses cited above. It does little to convince non-Muslims that Muslims are sincere about developing a peaceful relationship between Muslims and Christians.
The “common word declaration” closes by resorting once again to a Christian principle: “Blessed are the peacemakers.” (Matthew 5:9) The signers of the declaration appeal to Christians, “Let us vie with each other only in righteousness and good works. Let us respect each other, be fair, just and kind to one another and live in sincere, peace, harmony and mutual goodwill.” This is a desirable objective to which all sincere Christians would ascribe, but it flies in the face of the nearly 10,000 individual acts of deadly Islamic terrorism that have been perpetrated since 9/11/01 (see www.thereligionofpeace.com.).
If Muslims want to cite Christian verses to promote love for God and love for neighbors, perhaps they should check out 1 John 4:20 which says, “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ but hates his brother, he is a liar. For he cannot love God, whom he has not seen, if he does not love his brother, whom he has seen.”
Rather than publishing declarations filled with half-truths and sanctimonious preaching, Muslims who sincerely want to live in a world of peace, harmony, and mutual goodwill should do the following: 1) specifically condemn by name and prosecute all acts and perpetrators of terrorism including “resistance,” 2) disavow all references in the Quran expressing enmity toward Christians and Jews, 3) extend to non-Muslims in Muslim countries the same freedoms of religious practice and preaching that are given to Muslims in Christian countries, and 4) embrace the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as applicable to all people, regardless of race or religious belief. Then there will be true peace, not Islamic “submission” peace.
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