Understanding Islam: Why Islam is so Anti-Christian
….”by far the most resistant of all non-Christian religions”
…”the most difficult fields in all the world”
….”the two countries [Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia] are by far more antagonistic to the Gospel than other ….[ ] nations.”
…“it outdoes all other religions in the world by the strength with which it lays hold on its followers.”
… I am convinced that it is not the religious side of […..] that holds its followers in an iron grip, but rather the cultural and the community side.
Just who and what are the quotes above referring to? The authors are describing what they see as common themes when Islam, especially when its orthodox form encounters the Gospel. What they are describing is what we might call the “allergic reaction” of Islam to Christ and Christianity. That is to say, like the person who has an allergy to cats, the presence of a cat will cause various reactions including itchy skin, a runny nose, or sensitive eyes.
The purpose of this paper is to explore whether this perceived reaction is accurate, whether it is unique to Islam, and whether it has a single or multiple causes.
The first area we will investigate is the global pressure put on Christ-followers, and will observe that Islam is a subset of this.
“And I will put enmity…”
After the rebellion of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, God detailed a number of consequences that humans would endure for their sin. These included death, working with sweaty exhaustion, pain in childbirth, and power struggles even in marriage. As well the sneaky snake, the Devil would have his head crushed and God said that He would put animosity between the offspring of the serpent and those of the woman. This animosity found its place in the plan to kill all of the Israelite children by Pharaoh, the plan to kill all the Jews by Haman at the time of Esther, and to kill the child Jesus at the time of Herod. It is seen in Revelation 12 as a war between the Church and those who do not believe in Christ.
Thus globally speaking, those who are not in Christ will have what we might call an “autoimmune rejection system” of those who are in Christ, and this started as early as Genesis 3: 14-19 and will continue to the end of time. In this case, Islam is no different than any other non-Christ trusting religion.
“People loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.”
The Gospel of John uses the images of light and darkness to describe the coming of Jesus the True Light and the reaction of those who are living in darkness. He contrasts those who “love the darkness” with those who “hate the light.” (John 3: 19-21) Thus anyone who is part of spiritual darkness (cf. Ephesians 5:8) has an allergic reaction to the light of Christ. This would encompass all non-Christian religions including Islam.
What makes Islam different in its response to Christ-worshippers?
As we have seen, a few authors assert that Islam is unique in its allergic reaction to Christianity [we use this term not to define Christendom, but the group of people who submit to, worship and follow the example of Christ]. This author would agree with that premise, however with the caution that Islam cannot be seen as a monolithic entity, and with each adherent of Islam behaving the same throughout the world. The quasi-animistic tribesman in Guinea Bissau, will behave rather differently than the Wahabi fundamentalist living in Saudi Arabia, as will the upwardly mobile secular Malaysian behave quite differently than the radicalized youngster from a wealthy Western home en-route to fight the jihad in Syria.
Globally speaking, however, there are a number of items common to Islamic history that all of the above Muslims would agree with, even though they might consider how to express them as a part of their Muslim faith, rather differently.
a.) Islam as the youngest and the oldest religion.
Islam came on the scene later than Christianity and Judaism, and is said to have eclipsed them, and not only that, to have corrected them, as since the time of the prophets, they had deviated from the true path. Thus Islam sees itself as the corrector of the two other deviant monotheistic faiths. For the “corrector” to be “corrected” by the Gospel, thus constitutes an affront.
The stance of Islam, when presented with the Gospel, then is like a person being offered all the benefits of a 1960 Volkswagen [i.e. the Gospel], when one is driving a 2014 BMW with traction control, GPS and a turbo-charged engine [i.e. Islam]. In the Islamic mind, the person offering the Volkswagen is a blind fool.
b.) Islam as the superior religion.
According to the Qur’an Muslims are said to be the “best of people” (Qur’an 3:110) and that theirs is the best of religions, especially as they consider that Muhammad was the best and final prophet. This sense of superiority comes from the idea, not of grateful thankfulness for having been saved from being rebels consigned to damnation, but from the idea that the Muslim has somehow been chosen by Allah, and thus is a better person than others.
The stance of Islam can been seen in a courtroom where a person from the “superior religion” can serve as a witness for a marriage of a Christian, but the Christian as a member of the “inferior religion” cannot serve as a witness for the Muslim.
Thus for the member of the “inferior religion” to come with a call for repentance, and for bowing the knee to the what they call the prophet of the Most High (Luke 1:76) is looked on as sheer arrogance.
c.) Islam as the successful religion.
…”come to prayer, come to success…” so calls out the muezzin from the mosque. Muslims are called the “successful ones” (Q. 23:1,2) and by implication, then those who are not are called losers. [Arabic khāsirīna (active participle 37x in the Qur’an). For the Muslim who sees his religion as successful, also in the fact that it is a religion that seems eminently practical, it would seem to be most ludicrous to do what Moses did as recorded in the book of Hebrews, namely to throw in his lot with a bunch of slaves who were humiliated and so suffer „the reproach of Christ“ (Hebrews 11:23-28). The Frenchman, Blaise Pascal in his Penséescaptured it well: „Muhammad took the way of human success, Jesus Christ took the way of defeat.“ This fleshes itself out in the political world, where usefully the religion of Islam can be used to gain political power.
d.) Islam as the pinnacle of group solidarity.
Because of the three above factors, those who are part and parcel of Islam, consider it the greatest act of treachery to leave its fold. In the Muslim mind, the very question, „how can one consider leaving the community of the faithful?“ is unthinkable. Added to this, is that certain ethnic groups who consider themselves Muslim, link being part of the ethnic group to Islam. Thus it is said, „Once a Hwei-hwei (Muslim) always a Hwei-hwei (Muslim). For this reason a man who left Islam for Christianity was dubbed an „infidel“–literally without faith—and one who was an ingratiate [i.e. the literally meaning of the Arabic word ‚kufr‘] –simply put, one who was not thankful for all that his tribe had given him. He was disinherited, and effectively ostracized from his family. The Saudi who found the online poems of love to Jesus from his sister could not help but kill her, as she had broken the group solidarity.
e.) The Islamic law of apostasy as enforcing group solidarity.
When word got out about the fate of the young Saudi poetess, surely her peers who might have been attracted to Christianity would have thought twice about any further investigation. She had been killed when the Law of Apostasy, was literally applied, namely that “the apostate must die.” Some other countries find it more convenient to kill by ostracism, taking away the convert’s children,. separating them from the family, denying them a livelihood, or letting them rot in prison. All in all these are powerful disincentives to follow the living Jesus.
f.) The Islamic treatment of dimmis.
In lands subjugated by Islam, people had essentially four options ahead of them: flee, convert to Islam, be killed, or pay a tax called the jizyah as part of being a dimmi. The dimmi was to show due humiliation in front of his/her Muslim overlords, and the tax was a way of perpetuating this humiliation. In certain lands, Christians had to make hard decisions as to whether it would be more convenient to simply convert, than to endure this humiliation. The humiliated state of some Christians living in Muslim majority lands continues to this day and will make those Muslims who consider the claims of Christ, to think twice about accepting this lot in life.
g.) The Islamic reaction to Christ as the atoning Son of God.
The very mention of the above, instantly engages the ‘shirk’–unpardonable sin– machinery in motion in the Muslim mind. To associate a partner with Allah, as the sin of shirk does, is a recipe for hell. Yet, for the Christian, this is the recipe for salvation. Along with this comes the Islamic revulsion of the cross of Christ, which according to Muslim traditions will be destroyed at the end of time, ironically by Christ himself. Finally, as Samuel Zwemer, the missionary to the Middle East observed, “Muhammad is for all practical purposes the Muslim Christ. Islam is indeed the only anti-Christian religion…It takes issue in its attitude toward the Christ. By this it must stand or fall.”
Thus what the Christian Gospel asserts, is nothing less than blasphemy to the Muslim mind, and those who propagate it, nothing less than agents of treachery.
h.) The Islamic “Jesus” as a means to inoculate Muslims away from the Biblical Jesus
In the Gospels one reads about Judas who betrayed Jesus. With just enough knowledge of the patterns of movement of Jesus, he was able to use Jesus to his own ends. In a similar fashion, Muhammad knew enough about Jesus attempt to gain credibility with local Christians, while at the same time using Jesus to accomplish his own ends. Effectively the Islamic Jesus, known as ‘Isa has been reduced from the Biblical Kingly Saviour to a super-human fore-runner in the likes of John the Baptist for Muhammad.
i.) The Islamic appeal to the natural human state.
Whereas true Christianity demands the death of the old nature, the death of the love of power, the death of human carnality, and the death of any human credit for salvation, Islam allows these to live, as long as the confession of faith, the Shahadah is recited. Within the house of Islam, the African native can live with his polygamy, the animist can live with his spiritist objects, the man so predisposed can have a temporary marriage, and the one predisposed to rage can use the justification of a holy war to vent his fury. True Christianity is thus an affront to those who would have the semblance of being devoutly religious while at the same time being consummately ego-centered.
j.) Islamic inoculation against Gospel truths by constant repetition
Islam sees forgetfulness as one of the main weaknesses of humans and in Muslim majority countries, one encounters the sound of constant Qur’anic readings in schools, taxis, shops, and even now, on mobile phones. Devout Muslims read or recite the Qur’an as frequently as possible. The cumulative effect is an inoculation against the truths of the Gospel.
When the main Islamic prayer, the Al-Fātiḥah (Q. 1:1-7) is recited, Muslims ask that they do not be led down the wrong path. Those on this wrong path, according to the Islamic scholar Ibn Kathir, are Christians, who are also labelled as polytheists. In the Mohsin Khan rendition of the Qur’an a connection is made between avoiding this ‘polytheism’ and success: “Indeed whosoever purifies himself (by avoiding polytheism and accepting Islamic Monotheism) shall achieve success” (Q. 87:14).
k.) The Islamic notion that all things Western equal Christianity.
The Islamic idea of separating Church and state, and the religious and the political is an alien concept. Yet in its interfaces with various empires called Christian, down to the colonial powers who, at times had missionaries as their representatives, right down to the exports from Hollywood, the “Christian” West has presented a very mixed message to Islam. The very Madonna of current musical fame, with the name of the pure virgin, exemplifies sexuality unfettered and her picture can be see on multiple minivans in a Muslim country. The Western technology which permits on-line video streaming has caused a Muslim country with one of the highest per-capita mosque buildings, to also be one of the highest per-capita users of pornography. This gives Islam a visceral love-hate relationship with the West.
l.) Islamic hardening due to inoculations of half-Gospel truths
The field of medicine has shown that low level doses of a disease can help the body to fight off a high level of the same disease, because the body has built up a resistance to the same. Doubtless there are cases where a superficial Gospel presentation has been made to a person unaware of the costs of following Jesus, and what is observed is a falling away and a return to Islam. In effect this person has been hardened to future presentations of the Gospel, mostly due to poor theology and poor methods of the Gospel presenter. In some cases, these have become the strongest foes of Christianity.
It is important to tease apart the global phenomenon of the animosity of those who are not in Christ against those in Christ, and those aspects unique to Islam. It is also important to acknowledge that in Islam’s interaction with so-called, and actual representatives of Christ throughout history, Islam has had occasion to become hardened to the Gospel.
However, as we have seen, there are areas intrinsic to Islam, that would constitute as the Dutch missiologist Hendrik Kraemer called it, a called a fortress composed of ” the religious, the cultural and the political.”
Continuing the analogy of the immune system, we see that when the body encounters an allergen, it goes to work very quickly. It will work to isolate the allergen, or it will cause a violent reaction so that the distance from the allergen is increased. In the case of the cat, the violent sneezing will cause on to distance themselves from the cat, or to find ways to isolate or even eliminate the cat.
In a similar fashion, one might say that Islam has its own immune system to the Gospel and those who follow it and propagate it. The true Gospel of Christ challenges Islam on every front, and so it reacts. In fact, one might even use the reaction of Islam to ascertain if this is an indicator whether or not the Gospel is true.
As much as it would appear that the components of the immune system of Islam above make it appear as an impregnable fortress, this is anything but the case, especially when Gospel truth is presented in the power of the Holy Spirit to the glory of God the Father. As Jesus said–and I paraphrase somewhat– “[The salvation that] appears to be a sheer impossibility, as far as humans are concerned, is totally possible with God” (Matthew 19:25-26, cf. Job 42:2).
For further reading in order of date:
- Samuel M. Zwemer. The Law of Apostasy in Islam: Answering the Question Why There are So Few Moslem Converts, and Giving Examples of Their Moral Courage and Martyrdom. (London, Edinburgh & New York: Marshall, 1924)
- ‘Orientalist’ [a.k.a. Arthur Jeffrey], “The Moslem Point of View” in The Moslem World, 26 no. 1 (January, 1936), pp. 25-41.
- Martin Goldsmith, “Community and controversy: key causes of Muslim resistance.” Missiology, 4 no 3 (Jl 1976), pp. 317-323.
- W.F. Armand Garon, “Hendrik Kraemer and the Mission to Islam,” (Diss: Phd. University of Ottawa, 1979), especially his chapter, “The Resistance of Islam to Evangelism” pages 241-281. Available on-line
- Don M. McCurry, “Resistance/Response Analysis of Muslim Peoples.” In The Gospel and Islam, ed. Don M. McCurry (Monrovia, Calif.: Mission Advanced Research and Communications Center, 1979), pp. 146-53. Available online
- Timothy C. Tennent, “Equipping Missionaries for the Resistant” pp. 221-231 in J. Dudley Woodberry. Reaching the Resistant: Barriers and Bridges for Mission. (Pasadena, Calif: William Carey Library, 1998). Tennent carefully distinguishes between cultural, theological, national or ethnic, and political resistance and offers some practical advice on how to address them.
- Sam Schlorff, “The Translational Model for Mission in Resistant Muslim Society: A Critique and an Alternative,” Missiology 28 no 3 (Jl 2000), pp. 305-328 Schlorff engages with the common mantra that “missionary extractionsim” is the cause of Islamic resistance to the Gospel, and demonstrates its fallacy.
- John Michael Morris, “An Evaluation of Gospel Receptivity with A View Toward Prioritizing the Engagement of Groups and Individuals for Evangelism and Church Planting” (Diss,: PhD, Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary, 2009), especially pages 71-81 on “Understanding Muslim Resistance to the Gospel.”
- Pieter Pikkert, “Protestant missionaries to the Middle East: ambassadors of Christ or culture?” (Diss.: PhD, University of South Africa, 2009). Pikkert identifies both Muslim intransigence and missionary mistakes. See pp. 260ff where he groups items “outside missionary control” and those “under missionary control”
* John Span has worked with his family in West Africa among an unreached ‚Fulani‘ people group for the last ten years. His mentors have challenged him to think theologically, especially in the area of missions to Muslims and he desires to inspire others to do the same. In the last year he has been a frequent contributor to the St. Francis Magazine. His Article above is re-posted from BIBLICAL MISSIOLOGY, April 28, 2014.