Islam: Religion of Peace or Religion of War?

Four kinds of adherents comprise Islam as religion.

The silent majority are Pragmatists who want to live in security. Whatever objections they may have about Islamic violence, they don’t rock the boat.

The Reformers, a small and courageous minority, embrace an Islam of peace. They are natural allies of their fellow monotheists, Jews and Christians.

The Fundamentalists, one of the largest groups, eschew engagement with the world. They indict the moral bankruptcy of the West and want to see Islam restored to its glorious past. They may give sympathy and support to their passionate Jihadist brothers.

The Jihadists are Fundamentalists with firearms. They believe that all good Muslims must raise the sword and destroy Israel and the West.

Each of these groups—those who embrace dialogue with Christians and those who want to kill them—follow Muhammad’s teachings.

Islam is a religion of peace. It is a religion of war. Islam is, in some ways, two religions, divided by the two eras of Muhammad’s life.

In Mecca until age 52, the prophet tried to persuade Christians and Jews of the truth of Islam. When few converted, Muhammad moved to Medina and changed his tactics. Persuasion had produced little fruit. It was time for a new strategy: coercion. Christians and Jews became infidels to be converted through warfare.

The Qur’an—revelation to Muhammad from the angel Gabriel—reflects these two periods of his life. The angel’s words received in Mecca summon Muslims to enlightenment, while those he heard in Medina call for more strident behavior. All Muslims read the Qur’an, but they tend to read different parts.

Reformers  read the Mecca texts. Islam is a religion of peace, Jihad an internal struggle. Jews and Christians are converted through persuasion. Freedom, peace and enlightenment in a pluralistic society are valued.

The Fundamentalists and Jihadists read the Medina texts. Islam spreads by conquest. Non-Muslims are to be conquered and forced to choose from three options: become Muslims, submit to absolute Muslim rule and taxation, or be killed.

As for discrepancies in the Qur’an, “[W]hen there is a contradiction between verses in the Koran, the later verse supersedes the earlier verse.”[1] Since the Medina texts came later, they take priority. So, Jihadists have the edge. Conquest trumps persuasion.

Followers of Jesus Christ are called to be “as shrewd as serpents and as harmless as doves.” Toward  moderates we can be doves, winsomely engaging in dialogue with a view to upholding Christ as the unique Savior of the world. Towards all Muslims we are to demonstrate God’s love. There are growing numbers of stories where both Fundamentalists and Jihadists are transformed when confronted by  sacrificial love and service. As Jihadist form terror cells, Christians can form radical love cells to minister to the needs of their Muslim neighbors.

– Darrow Miller with Gary Brumbelow


[1]Ibn Warraq as quoted in Brigitte Gabriel, Because They Hate: A Survivor of Islamic Terror Warns America, (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2006), 152

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