Muhammad’s encounters with heretical Christian sects, and the lack of a Bible in Arabic in his lifetime, no doubt contributed to his faulty understanding of the Christian faith.
But two lesser-known teachings based on the Qur’an are equally disturbing. Christians should understand them in order to more effectively evangelize our Muslim friends.
“Taqiyya” is a doctrine of deception. It empowers Muslims to deny their faith or commit otherwise illegal or blasphemous acts while they are at risk of persecution. It was developed to protect Shi’ite Muslims, who usually were in the minority and under pressure from rival Sunnis.
For all practical purposes, however, the doctrine has been expanded to encourage any deceit that advances Islam. Qur’anic scholar Al-Tabari explains, “If you [Muslims] are under their [infidels’] authority, fearing for yourselves, behave loyally to them, with your tongue, while harboring inner animosity for them…. Allah has forbidden believers from being friendly or on intimate terms with the infidels in place of believers – except when infidels are above them [in authority].”
This helps explain the existence of “sleeper cells” in non-Muslim countries. Bent on the overthrow of the U.S., for example, some Muslims fully integrate into American culture, becoming our neighbors and friends – all the while plotting to kill us.
This is not to accuse all Muslims – or even most Muslims – of deceitfulness, but it warns us to be on guard against Muslims who, like false teachers in Christianity, are all too eager to tickle our ears as long as it advances their agenda.
In contrast, the Bible instructs Christians to be truthful at all times, even in the face of persecution, so that the name of Jesus – the Way, the Truth, and the Life – is honored. Paul exhorts Christians to “speak the truth, each one to his neighbor” (Eph. 4:25). Peter urges us to “put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and slander” (1 Peter 2:1).
And martyred saints in heaven are commended, not because they deceived others to save their own skin, but because “they did not love their lives in the face of death” (Rev. 12:11).
“Abrogation” involves the annulling of a former law by a new law (Sura 16:101). Therefore, the Qur’an, because it was written after the Bible, abrogates, or overrides, scripture – particularly where the Bible and the Qur’an contradict one another.
Interestingly, the doctrine of abrogation applies to the Qur’an itself, thus protecting the Qur’an from numerous contradictions. Since the Qur’an was recorded over many years, Muslims claim that passages written more recently abrogate previous passages.
Christian apologist Ron Rhodes writes, “What this means is that Allah is not bound to his revelations. If he wants, he is free to bring new revelation that contradicts former revelation. If need be, Allah is free to rescind earlier revelations and bring about entirely new and different ones.”
For example, early passages in the Qur’an ordered Muslims to pray toward Jerusalem. But after the Jews rejected Muhammad and his teachings, he received new revelation directing prayers toward Mecca. And while some Muslims today quote earlier passages in the Qur’an instructing them to treat Jews and Christians with respect, later passages promote violence against “infidels.” The law of abrogation requires that the later verses be obeyed.
In contrast, the Bible is unchanging because God is the same yesterday, today and forever. He is holy, not capricious. Further, the manuscript evidence clearly shows that the Bible we hold in our hands today is the same one the Holy Spirit breathed out in ancient times. It has not been corrupted, as Muslims claim.
Islam is a religion of conquest. Muslims are commanded to bring the whole world into submission to Allah by any means necessary – persuasion, compulsion, deceit, or violence. In contrast, Christianity is the true religion of peace, offering sinful people a restored relationship with their offended God through the sacrifice of His Son. God establishes His kingdom in the hearts of willing followers and forces no one to worship Him against their will.
Therefore, in sharing the gospel, Christians are never justified in acting deceitfully or violently.
This column first appeared June 18, 2013, in The Pathway, the news journal of the Missouri Baptist Convention.