I’ve written two articles recently about Islam. The first is an interview with an anonymous ex-Muslim friend of mine from Lansing, for which he later received death threats for. The second is an analysis of the Bible showing how the killing commands found in its Old Testament differ from the killing commands found in the Qur’an.
In this second article, I asked readers to send to me moderate Muslims’ response to radical Muslims such as ISIS and others; specifically their response to the texts in the Qur’an that these radical Muslims have been obeying to do their killings.
I was encouraged to have the “Open Letter to Al-Baghdadi” sent to me. Al-Baghdadi is the leader of ISIS and this open letter was written to him and the fighters and followers of ISIS in an attempt to show them that the Qur’an does not actually support the violence they are doing and that they need to stop. The letter is endorsed by the world’s top Islamic leaders & scholars, according to the website, 126 of which are listed at the end of letter, along with their titles. The letter has over 88,000 likes on Facebook and the website allows readers to join in endorsing the letter.
I read the entire letter and made notes throughout, which I will summarize in this blog post. If you’d like a copy of the original .pdf, you can download it here in English, with multiple languages available on the website. I encourage you to download the .pdf with my full commentary notes and highlights on it and use it to follow along as you read this blog post as I will be referencing page numbers and paragraphs from it.
Please note: My challenge to Muslims is to stay true to their holy book, the Qur’an. If you say the Qur’an is God’s holy authoritative book, and you say you believe it, then use it to come up with your arguments and explanations of why what ISIS is doing is wrong in the eyes of true Islam. It’s no different with the Bible. I’m not all that interested in someone’s opinion about their religion, Christianity included, for this is simply making God in our image. There are plenty of Christians out there who don’t believe the Bible is God’s word, but will tell you all about who they think God is, what he is like and how to be saved. What I’m interested in is what a religion’s holy book says about that religion. And if a person doesn’t line up with that holy book, they shouldn’t call themselves a follower of that religion. And this is quite relevant as this seems to be the primary divide and accusation between moderate Muslims and radical Muslims, for which the Open Letter was written to address.
My aim throughout my commentary on the Open Letter to Al-Baghdadi is to use the Qur’an itself to show how moderate Muslims are not following the Qur’an. I aim to show how their arguments in the letter prove they don’t actually believe in or follow the full Qur’an, even though they verbally say they do.
In the recent article I did about the killing commands in the Bible, I lay out with clarity how the Bible itself specifically explains in its own text that the killing commands within it are for a certain time and place and that they are now over. This is found with obvious clarity within the Bible, not from someone hundreds of years after the Bible or from someone modern day.
I also can’t emphasize enough how this Open Letter shows that moderate Muslims are really great people with great hearts. I have a ton in common with them when it comes to our morality, ethics and even beliefs. The irony of all of this is that the things they are trumpeting like love, mercy, and peace are all repeats of things Jesus already taught authoritatively on in the Bible. The things that they are speaking against like killing, violence, revenge, etc. are all things that Jesus spoke authoritatively against in the Bible. So what puzzles me is why these moderate Muslims continue to cling to being called “Muslim” and cling to saying the Qur’an is holy and authoritative and that Muhammad is the ultimate sacred prophet, when they clearly disagree with much of what Muhammad said and did, and with what the Qur’an teaches. I obviously agree with the moderate Muslims’ confrontation of ISIS’s evils. The point I am bringing out is that moderate Muslims should call themselves something else than “Muslim” if Muslim means they believe in the Qur’an. And yes, I hope that realizing this would indeed turn them to loving and following Jesus and the Bible instead, like many longtime Muslims are doing.
The Open Letter is 17 pages of pretty thick reading. This amount of content gave me a lot to respond to. My response is longer than what can be digested in one blog post so I will divide up my responses in segments, this being Part 1.
The quotations here are from the Open Letter to Al-Bahgdadi. I chose to use this document to represent the moderate Muslim viewpoint as it is endorsed by the top Islamic scholars and theologians that moderate Muslims claim. If a Muslim reading this disagrees with any of my points, please simply show in the Qur’an where I am wrong and I will rewrite what I’ve written:
- Top of page 3: “The Prophet Muhammad’s being a mercy to all the worlds cannot possibly be conditional upon his having taken up the sword (at one point in time, for a particular reason and in a particular context).” –Yet they never show in the Qur’an where it says that Muhammad taking up his sword was for a particular reason in a particular context. Show me a chapter (Surah) and verse, not just a broad generalization you have created about these Qur’an examples of and commands to kill.
- Top of page 3, in Point #1: “With regards to Qur’anic exegesis… the methodology set forth by God in the Qur’an…is as follows: to consider everything that has been revealed relating to a particular question in its entirety, without depending on only parts of it, and then to judge–if one is qualified–based on all available scriptural sources…the ‘general’ has to be distinguished from the allegorical ones…there be a clear reason why one text should outweigh another.”
–What an objective reader of this Open Letter must realize is that saying “there be clear reason why one text should outweigh another” is the exact same thing as saying: “The Qur’an contradicts itself. There are some verses that command to kill and others that talk about peace and mercy, so we are going to arbitrarily tell you which ones to accept and which to reject.”
It is an outright rejection of the Qur’an, and they are admitting it. One must be “qualified” to make these rejections of the Qur’an, which obviously I’m not. Qualified for what though? Qualified to rationalize away what you call God’s word? At the end of the day, you are no longer following the Qur’an, you are simply following whomever this “Qualified Person” is.
So don’t call yourself a Muslim anymore, call yourself a follower of this “Qualified Person.” That is, if Muslims are people who follow the Qur’an, which to my understanding is what they are.
If someone can read, that should be qualification enough. One text should never “outweigh” another, not in the Qur’an or the Bible or any other holy book–unless the book explicitly says so, which the Qur’an does not. It might say some things are higher priorities than other things, but it never says the other things aren’t to be followed. If this were the case, why is the “lesser” text even there at all then? If this is the case, you could simply take anything in the Qur’an and have it be “outweighed” by something else in the Qur’an so you wouldn’t have to do it. Yes, we need to take things in context rather than plucking out verses or phrases of verses, which is one of the points made in Point #1 of the Open Letter. But the Open Letter is admitting to blatant contradictions in the Qur’an, which is very different than trying to take things within context of the rest of the text. The only explanation they give of which ones still apply and which ones don’t is to weigh them against which command is said most often in the Qur’an. So hypothetically if the Qur’an says to kill 20 times but it says to love 35 times, then the Qur’an says to love and no of course it doesn’t say to kill. No, that is not how reading God’s word works. What this is a direct denial and rejection of the verses of the Qur’an, the book Muslims say is holy and sacred and from God and 100% true.
In conclusion of Part 1 of my response to Open Letter to Al-Bahgdadi, it is clear that theologians who lived hundreds and hundreds of years after Muhammad and after the Qur’an have more authority than the Qur’an does. They, using their positions of leadership, are able to arbitrarily change the Qur’an to say what they want. If they don’t like how certain passages sound, they are able to create contingencies (that the Qur’an or Muhammad never state) about how those passages don’t apply anymore. Yet they continue to claim that Muhammad is holy and authoritative and the top prophet from God and that the Qur’an is God’s holy authoritative word.
And for the sake of constructive conversation, please do not say I have no right or credibility to respond to what the Qur’an says or the Open Letter to Al-Bahgdadi says since I am American, a Christian, a pastor, etc. and am not a scholar of Islam or the Qur’an. I am able to read and I read the Open Letter and I read the references to the Qur’an (which you can read in it’s entirety at Quran.com by the way) that they used, then I went and read the Qur’an itself. I explicitly only used the Qur’an to defend my responses. I will end by repeating a statement I made in my introduction:
I also can’t emphasize enough how this Open Letter shows that moderate Muslims are really great people with great hearts. I have a ton in common with them when it comes to our morality, ethics and even beliefs. The irony of all of this is that the things they are trumpeting like love, mercy, and peace are all repeats of things Jesus already taught authoritatively on in the Bible.