Answering Jihad: A Better Way Forward Book Summary

Title: Answering Jihad: A Better Way Forward
Author: Nabeel Qureshi

TLDR: This book tackles the sensitive topic of Jihad, exploring its historical roots within Islam while advocating for compassion towards Muslims. Qureshi, a former Muslim turned Christian, urges for truth and love as the foundation for understanding and countering radicalization.

Preface: A Better Way Forward

Nabeel Qureshi, an American-born Muslim turned Christian, expresses his initial reluctance to write a book about Jihad, recognizing the sensitive nature of the topic. However, the Paris attacks of November 2015, the Syrian refugee crisis, and the San Bernardino shootings in December 2015, propelled him to address the pressing issue of Islam’s relationship with peace and violence.

He highlights the stark polarization in public discourse – either dismissing violent jihad as irrelevant to Islam or viewing all Muslims as potential threats. Qureshi aims to bridge this gap by presenting a nuanced perspective that acknowledges the historical roots of violent jihad within Islam while advocating for compassionate engagement with Muslim neighbors.

Qureshi acknowledges his Christian faith but aims for objectivity in presenting information about jihad, focusing on historical evidence from the Quran and Muhammad’s life. He recognizes the diversity within Islam and the peacefulness of the majority of Muslims, stressing the importance of understanding their perspective and treating them with respect.

He ultimately proposes a way forward based on truth and compassion, suggesting open dialogue, understanding, and friendship as vital tools to counter the threat of radicalization and build bridges with Muslim communities.

Introduction: Understanding Jihad and Our Muslim Neighbors

Qureshi begins by narrating his personal journey as an American Muslim before the 9/11 attacks. He was raised in a patriotic Muslim family, taught that Islam was a religion of peace, and felt deeply connected to both his American identity and his Muslim faith.

The 9/11 attacks marked a turning point, forcing him to confront the reality of violent jihad for the first time. He began to question the peacefulness of Islam and delved into the Quran and Islamic history, discovering accounts of violence that conflicted with his upbringing. He realized that many Muslims, like himself, inherited their understanding of Islam without critically engaging with its foundational texts.

Qureshi’s exploration of the Quran and hadith led him to face a difficult truth: violence is woven into the very fabric of Islam’s origins, contradicting the notion of a purely peaceful religion. This revelation forced him to confront a crucial decision – apostasy, apathy, or radicalization.

Drawing from his own experience, Qureshi believes many Muslims today might be experiencing a similar awakening, leading them to the same crossroads he faced. He highlights the rise of radicalization among Western Muslims, leaving peaceful families bewildered.

He emphasizes the importance of understanding the factors that contribute to radicalization, particularly the role of foundational Islamic texts and the allure of an idealized Islamic past. He argues that acknowledging the violent elements within these texts is crucial to combat radicalization and protect both Muslims and non-Muslims from the tragic consequences of terrorism.

The introduction concludes by setting the stage for the book, outlining eighteen questions that people frequently ask him about Jihad. He proposes a path forward based on both truth and compassion, urging readers to approach the topic with open eyes and open hearts.

Part 1: The Origins of Jihad

Question 1: What Is Islam?

Qureshi begins by sharing his personal experience of Islam as an American Muslim, describing it as more than just a religion but a way of life encompassing faith, culture, worldview, and identity. He highlights the strong emphasis on spirituality, morality, community, and legal commandments based on the teachings of Muhammad.

He then moves to define Islam more objectively, arguing that a religion should be defined by its earliest distinguishing characteristics. For Islam, this boils down to the shahada, the proclamation that every Muslim recites to convert: “There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is his Messenger.”

Qureshi acknowledges the diversity in Islamic expression, influenced by geographical, cultural, and individual interpretations. He stresses the crucial distinction between Muslims and Islam, cautioning against assumptions that all Muslims believe or practice Islam in the same way.

The chapter concludes by reiterating that Islam is defined by obedience to Muhammad’s teachings and worship of Allah. While Qureshi’s own experience emphasized peace, understanding the true nature of Islam requires examining its teachings, not just the practices of individual Muslims.

Question 2: Is Islam “a Religion of Peace”?

Qureshi challenges the popular slogan “Islam is a religion of peace,” demonstrating its relatively recent origin and lack of grounding in Islamic scripture or traditions. He analyzes the etymology of the word “Islam,” revealing its connection to the concept of “surrender,” rather than peace in the absence of violence. He argues that the “peace” envisioned by the term is a peace obtained through submission, often under the threat of force.

Qureshi then turns to the Quran and Muhammad’s life, highlighting the undeniable presence of violence within both. He details the numerous battles and raids initiated by Muhammad, often justified and glorified within the Quran itself. This historical record undermines the claim that Islam has always been historically peaceful.

He explores the two main interpretations offered by Muslims who insist on calling Islam a “religion of peace” – the spiritual sense of inner peace through submission to Allah and the idealized view of peace as the ultimate goal of Islam despite its historical use of violence.

Qureshi criticizes Western media and leaders who repeatedly proclaim Islam’s peacefulness in response to terrorist attacks, viewing these proclamations as ineffective propaganda that diminishes the real threat of violent jihad.

The chapter concludes by urging a more honest and thoughtful approach to understanding Islam. While spiritual and idealized interpretations of peace within Islam are valid, they cannot erase the historical reality of violence embedded in its foundations. Acknowledging this truth is crucial to addressing the roots of radicalization and fostering genuine understanding between Muslims and non-Muslims.

Question 3: What Is Jihad?

Qureshi dives into the concept of Jihad, exploring the various interpretations and applications of the term. He critiques the simplistic Western definition of “Islamic holy war,” highlighting its misleading connotations associated with the Christian Crusades. He proposes a more nuanced understanding of Jihad as “warfare with spiritual significance,” reflecting the term’s historical evolution.

He traces the development of the doctrine of Jihad from its Quranic origins, where it can denote both a spiritual and a physical struggle. Qureshi clarifies that despite some apologist claims, the Quran clearly uses the term in reference to violent struggle, particularly in passages discussing warfare.

He discusses the hadith, where Jihad is predominantly portrayed as a violent physical struggle, solidified by its frequent use during the era of Islamic conquests. Qureshi highlights the systematic development of Jihad into a codified doctrine of warfare during the classical era of Islamic jurisprudence, outlining conditions, rules of conduct, and justifications for engaging in war.

Despite these rules, Qureshi acknowledges the historical inconsistencies in their application, citing examples of non-combatant slaughter and Muslim-on-Muslim violence.

He tackles the common claim of the “greater Jihad” and the “lesser Jihad,” arguing that the hadith tradition portraying spiritual struggle as superior to physical fighting contradicts both the Quran and the larger body of Islamic tradition.

Finally, he touches upon the Quranic command to use terror and spread fear among Allah’s enemies, noting its historical precedent in Muhammad’s life and its potential implications for contemporary justifications of terrorism.

The chapter concludes by emphasizing that while the word “Jihad” can encompass spiritual striving, its primary meaning and historical use within Islamic tradition involves physical struggle for spiritual purposes.

Question 4: Is Jihad in the Quran and the Life of Muhammad?

Qureshi sets the stage by explaining the average Muslim’s limited engagement with the Quran and hadith, often relying on interpretations provided by imams and elders without directly studying the foundational texts themselves. He emphasizes the language barrier faced by non-Arab Muslims and the historical lack of access to readily available translations and resources.

He then delves into the life of Muhammad, relying on Islamic tradition as presented in the Quran and hadith. Qureshi acknowledges the scholarly debates surrounding the historical reliability of these sources but focuses on understanding Muhammad through the lens of Muslim tradition.

He chronicles Muhammad’s life, starting with his early Meccan years focused on monotheism, social justice, and peaceful interaction with other monotheists. He then details the escalating violence that marked Muhammad’s later years in Medina, beginning with raids and culminating in major battles.

Qureshi analyzes specific battles, highlighting the offensive nature of many, including the Nakhla raid and the Battle of Badr. He emphasizes the Quranic justifications for these attacks, including the assertion that preventing people from embracing Islam is worse than slaughtering them during a sacred truce.

He explores the complex and varied nature of Quranic verses, showcasing passages that command both peace and violence, often juxtaposed within the same chapters. He stresses the importance of understanding the historical context of each revelation, arguing that isolating individual verses can lead to misleading conclusions.

The chapter culminates with an analysis of Surah 9, chronologically the last major chapter of the Quran. This surah, known as “the Disavowal,” commands Muslims to break treaties with polytheists, subjugate Jews and Christians, and fight to establish Islam as the dominant faith. It offers a stark contrast to earlier peaceful verses, solidifying the trajectory of violence within Islam’s foundational teachings.

Qureshi concludes by asserting that the Quran and the traditions of Muhammad’s life clearly endorse violent and offensive jihad. He acknowledges that many Muslims today do not live according to these teachings, paving the way for the next question: what is sharia?

Question 5: What Is Sharia?

This chapter delves into the complexities of sharia, or Islamic law, and how it functions as a bridge between the foundational texts of Islam and the lived reality of Muslims. Qureshi begins by explaining the late development of written hadith collections, nearly a century after Muhammad’s death.

He describes the effort undertaken by Muslim scholars to sift through the vast number of circulating traditions and compile the most authentic accounts, resulting in the canonical hadith collections. These collections, particularly Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih al-Muslim, are revered by Sunni Muslims and contain dedicated sections on Jihad, offering further insight into Muhammad’s teachings on warfare.

Qureshi then defines sharia as the divinely ordained code of conduct for Muslims, outlining the process of Islamic jurisprudence, or ijtihad, by which Muslim jurists deduce and systematize Islamic law from the Quran, hadith, consensus of scholars (ijma), and analogical reasoning (qiyas).

He introduces the concept of abrogation, a key factor in sharia, where later Quranic revelations are believed to cancel or supersede earlier teachings. Qureshi illustrates the complexities of abrogation with the example of the “verse of stoning,” where a Quranic text is believed to be abrogated while the punishment for adultery remains unchanged.

He discusses the emergence of different schools of Islamic thought, reflecting disagreements among jurists on matters of sharia. These schools – Shafi, Maliki, Hanbali, Hanafi, and Shii – developed their own legal precedents and interpretations, leading to diverse expressions of Islam.

Qureshi highlights the role of Islamic authorities in interpreting sharia for the average Muslim, arguing that Islam does not promote individual interpretation of scripture but relies on the guidance of scholars and imams. This reliance on tradition allows for peaceful Muslims to coexist with the violent teachings found within the Quran and hadith, as long as their leaders do not emphasize those teachings.

The chapter concludes by emphasizing the tension between the violent aspects of Islamic foundations and the peaceful practices of many Muslims. He reiterates the importance of understanding the role of sharia in shaping Muslim beliefs and behaviors, recognizing its potential for both peaceful and violent applications.

Question 6: Was Islam Spread by the Sword?

Qureshi tackles the sensitive question of whether Islam was spread by the sword, presenting a nuanced answer. He explains the classical Islamic division of the world into Dar al-Islam (house of Islam), Dar al-Harb (house of war), and sometimes Dar al-Sulh (house of treaty). This framework shaped the Islamic approach to warfare and expansion.

He outlines the traditional process of Jihad: inviting people in Dar al-Harb to Islam, offering them the option to pay jizya (ransom tax) to become protected second-class citizens (dhimmis), and resorting to warfare only if both conversion and jizya were refused. While there may have been exceptions, forced conversion at sword-point was not the norm.

Qureshi emphasizes that the primary goal of Jihad was territorial expansion, not conversion. He acknowledges, however, that the conquests created conditions that facilitated conversion, as dhimmi status could be harsh and the jizya tax was often subject to arbitrary increases.

He discusses the Golden Age of Islam, a period of rapid expansion and intellectual flourishing often viewed with nostalgia by Muslims. This era, associated with the piety and obedience of the early Muslims (salaf), reinforces the belief that true adherence to Islam leads to dominance and prosperity.

Qureshi concludes by asserting that while Islam was not directly spread by forcing conversion at sword-point, the sword played a crucial role in facilitating its expansion. The conquests created a context where conversion was encouraged, and the idealized image of the Islamic Golden Age continues to inspire the aspirations of radical Muslims seeking to restore Islam to its perceived former glory.

Part 2: Jihad Today

Question 7: What Is Radical Islam?

Qureshi traces the development of radical Islam, starting with the frustration felt by some Muslims in the 18th century as they witnessed the West’s technological and economic progress. The colonial era further eroded Muslim dominance, challenging the Quranic promise of victory for those who strive for Allah.

He introduces Sayyid Qutb, a pivotal figure in the rise of radical Islam. Qutb, an Egyptian intellectual deeply influenced by his experiences in America, viewed Western society as materialistic, spiritually bankrupt, and existing in a state of jahiliyya (ignorance). He believed that Islam held the answer to the world’s problems but was not being practiced according to its original principles.

Qutb became a leading figure in the Muslim Brotherhood, advocating for a return to the pure Islam of the Quran and hadith. He argued that Muslim leaders had become apostates by adopting Western ideas and neglecting sharia. His imprisonment and execution under Gamal Abd al-Nasir’s regime further cemented his status as a martyr for true Islam.

Qutb’s thought laid the foundation for radical Islam, emphasizing a revivalist approach based on a strict interpretation of the Quran and hadith. He advocated for a staged progression of Jihad, starting with peaceful proclamation and culminating in unending warfare against the non-Muslim world.

Qutb’s ideas resonated with growing disillusionment within the Arab world, particularly after the Six-Day War in 1967, which shattered hopes for Arab modernization. His writings inspired further radicalization, exemplified by the assassination of President Anwar al-Sadat in 1981.

Qureshi discusses Abd al-Salam Faraj, another key figure who built upon Qutb’s ideas. Faraj argued for the establishment of an Islamic state through jihad, rejecting Qutb’s emphasis on liberating the minds of non-Muslims and instead focusing on territorial conquest as a means to restore the caliphate.

This chapter explores the dangerous concept of takfir, the practice of declaring someone an infidel, intensified by Qutb and Faraj’s pronouncements of apostasy against Muslim leaders. Qureshi clarifies that takfir, rooted in the Quran’s condemnation of hypocrites, can serve as a religious justification for Muslim-on-Muslim violence.

He concludes by asserting that radical Islam was born from the perceived political and religious decline of the Muslim world, fueled by a yearning for a return to the Golden Age of Islam. It is driven by the belief that a strict adherence to the Quran and hadith is the key to restoring Islamic dominance and ushering in a new era of glory.

Question 8: Does Islam Need a Reformation?

Qureshi presents a provocative thesis: radical Islam is the Islamic reformation. He draws parallels between the Protestant Reformation’s attempt to shed centuries of Catholic tradition and return to biblical authority, and radical Islam’s desire to raze traditional interpretations of Islamic law and revert to the Quran and hadith.

He analyzes the open letter written by 120 Muslim scholars rebuking ISIS, highlighting the letter’s reliance on “Classical texts” and consensus while ISIS prioritizes the foundational texts. Qureshi uses the example of sex slavery, defended by ISIS through Quranic and hadith references, to illustrate the irrelevance of modern consensus to radical Muslims seeking to adhere to what they perceive as the original teachings of Islam.

He then explores progressive Islam, a movement seeking to reimagine Islam for the 21st century by shifting emphasis away from the literal interpretations of the Quran and hadith. He discusses the work of Fazlur Rahman, a Pakistani theologian who argued that many hadith reflect 9th-century practices rather than authentic teachings of Muhammad, and Ebrahim Moosa, a contemporary scholar advocating for a contextual understanding of Islam.

Qureshi acknowledges the challenges faced by progressive Muslims, who are often marginalized within their communities and struggle to gain widespread acceptance for their views. He argues that the Internet, while facilitating radicalization by making Islamic traditions readily available, also provides a platform for progressive Muslim voices.

The chapter concludes by highlighting the two distinct approaches to reforming Islam: radical Islam’s reformation seeks to return to the original teachings, while progressive Islam seeks to reinterpret and adapt the faith for a modern context. Qureshi believes the former is currently dominant due to its perceived authenticity and its resonance with a nostalgic yearning for the past.

Question 9: Who Are Al-Qaida, ISIS, and Boko Haram?

This chapter profiles three prominent radical Islamic groups – Al-Qaida, ISIS, and Boko Haram – exploring their origins, motivations, and relationship to Islam. Qureshi begins by examining Al-Qaida’s roots in the anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan during the 1980s, highlighting the US’s involvement in financing and training mujahideen fighters.

He introduces Osama bin Laden, Al-Qaida’s founder, emphasizing his religious motivations and his belief that fighting for Islam was his duty. Qureshi traces bin Laden’s intellectual development under the influence of Sayyid Qutb’s teachings, demonstrating the link between radical ideology and violent action.

Qureshi analyzes the emergence of ISIS from the ashes of Al-Qaida in Iraq, highlighting its initial focus on sectarian violence under Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. He details the group’s expansion into Syria, its eventual split from al-Qaida under Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and its dramatic conquest of territory in Iraq and Syria.

He discusses ISIS’s declaration of a caliphate, a symbolic move that resonated with radical Muslims and drew thousands of foreign fighters to their cause. He also touches upon the debate surrounding the use of the term “Daesh,” noting its satirical and provocative nature and the reasons for adopting it as an alternative to the legitimizing title “Islamic State.”

Qureshi then turns to Boko Haram, outlining its origins in Nigeria, its initial focus on opposing Western education, and the escalation of violence after a confrontation with police in 2009. He details the group’s brutality, exemplified by the kidnapping of schoolgirls in Chibok and its widespread massacres in 2015.

He concludes by emphasizing the interconnectedness of these three groups, their shared adherence to radical interpretations of Islam, and their religiously motivated political aims. He criticizes attempts to dissociate these groups from Islam, arguing that such denials are either ignorant or disingenuous. He asserts that Al-Qaida, ISIS, and Boko Haram represent dynamic expressions of the modern Islamic reformation, drawing their legitimacy from the foundational texts of the faith.

Question 10: Who Are the True Muslims – Violent or Peaceful Muslims?

Qureshi tackles the question of who embodies “true Islam,” addressing the debate over whether violent or peaceful Muslims represent the authentic expression of the faith. He highlights the tension between the historically dominant acceptance of violence by Islamic scholars and the modern emphasis on Islam’s peacefulness, particularly by Western Muslims.

He criticizes the tendency among Muslims to pronounce takfir on each other, effectively excluding those who disagree with their interpretation. He notes the irony of Western Muslims invoking democracy to denounce radical Muslims who appeal to sharia, both vying for hegemonic control over the definition of Islam.

Qureshi argues that there is no doubt that Islamic terrorists are Muslims, fulfilling the core criteria of worshiping Allah, striving to follow Muhammad, and expressing concern for the ummah (global Muslim community).

He then examines whether peaceful Muslims can be considered “good Muslims” in light of the violent aspects of Islamic foundations. He acknowledges that Islam can be practiced peacefully, recognizing the role of tradition and religious authorities in shaping Muslim beliefs and behaviors. However, he argues that a strict adherence to the Quran and Muhammad’s life inevitably leads to a violent trajectory, forcing peaceful Muslims to either ignore or reinterpret significant portions of their faith’s history and teachings.

The chapter concludes by recognizing the diversity within Islam and the legitimacy of peaceful expressions of the faith. However, Qureshi stresses that a purely peaceful Islam requires a departure from its violent foundations, either through reinterpretations or selective ignorance of tradition. He cautions against simplistic pronouncements of who represents “true Islam,” urging instead for a nuanced understanding of the complex interplay between Islamic teachings and lived experiences.

Question 11: Why Are Muslims Being Radicalized?

Qureshi analyzes the factors driving Muslim radicalization, debunking the common assumption that poverty and lack of opportunity are primary motivators. He cites studies showing a positive correlation between education, socioeconomic status, and participation in radical groups.

He discusses the role of religious zeal, identity seeking, and a desire for purpose as key drivers, highlighting the allure of radical groups like ISIS who offer a sense of belonging, meaning, and a chance to make a difference. He also emphasizes the influence of the internet in providing direct access to radical propaganda and facilitating recruitment.

Qureshi analyzes ISIS’s recruitment techniques as revealed in their magazine, Dabiq, emphasizing their heavy reliance on the Quran and hadith to legitimize violence and present jihad as a religious duty. He showcases examples of ISIS justifying their brutality by directly quoting Muhammad’s actions as recorded in canonical hadith collections.

He highlights the internet’s role in empowering young Muslims to bypass traditional religious authorities and explore the foundational texts of Islam for themselves. This unprecedented access to information facilitates both radicalization and a broader reformation of Islam, as individuals engage with the original teachings without the filter of centuries-old interpretations.

Qureshi also explores the radicalization of women, noting their often higher education levels and a desire for freedom and agency within the restrictive confines of some Muslim societies. He discusses the allure of ISIS’s promises of choosing their own husbands and contributing to a revolutionary cause, while acknowledging the grim reality often faced by women within the Islamic State.

The chapter concludes by arguing that radicalization, while influenced by various factors, ultimately hinges on a conscious choice to adhere to a literal interpretation of the Quran and hadith. This choice is often fueled by a yearning for an idealized Islamic past and a desire to restore the faith to its perceived former glory, even at the cost of embracing violence.

Question 12: Are Muslims Trying to Take Over the West with Sharia?

Qureshi addresses the anxieties surrounding the potential implementation of sharia law in the West, highlighting the various interpretations of this fear. He dismisses the caricatured view of sharia replacing the US Constitution as unrealistic and implausible.

He then explores the more realistic concern that sharia principles might influence Western legal systems, citing the example of a New Jersey judge who denied a restraining order to a teenage girl because her Muslim husband’s actions, though constituting rape in American law, were permissible under sharia. This case fueled the movement for banning sharia in Oklahoma, a law ultimately blocked by the courts.

Qureshi expresses his own concerns about sharia’s potential impact on freedom of speech. He analyzes the historical basis for Islam’s intolerance of criticism towards Muhammad or Islam, citing examples from Muhammad’s life and the traditional teachings of the faith. He discusses the Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s (OIC) efforts to restrict free speech by lobbying against criticisms of Islam under the guise of combating “Islamophobia.”

He critiques the vague definition of “Islamophobia,” often used to silence any and all criticism of Islam, regardless of its validity. He highlights the efforts of groups like CAIR (Council on American Islamic Relations), accused by the US Department of Justice of being the Muslim Brotherhood’s American arm, to restrict free speech by accusing critics of Islamophobia, even targeting moderate Muslims like Raheel Raza who speak out against radical Islam.

Qureshi discusses demographic trends and Raza’s categorization of radical Islam into three spheres: violent jihadists, Islamists who work within political systems to achieve Islamic dominance, and fundamentalists who support sharia law and other radical beliefs. He emphasizes the significant number of Muslims worldwide who support sharia governance and its associated punishments, even if their understanding of sharia might be romanticized.

The chapter concludes by answering the central question with a qualified “No, but…” He rejects the notion of a widespread conspiracy among Muslim immigrants to impose sharia on the West. However, he acknowledges the appeal of sharia and Islamic dominance among many Muslims, fueled by a yearning for the Golden Age of Islam.

He urges against fear and isolation, advocating instead for open engagement with Muslim immigrants, promoting understanding, friendship, and sharing of cultural values as a means to counter radicalization and foster peaceful coexistence.

Part 3: Jihad in Judeo-Christian Context

Question 13: Do Muslims and Christians Worship the Same God?

Qureshi opens by sharing an anecdote about a mistaken identity, drawing parallels to the current debate surrounding whether Muslims and Christians worship the same God. He recounts the Wheaton College controversy, where Professor Larycia Hawkins was placed on administrative leave for her public statements asserting that Muslims and Christians worship the same God.

He acknowledges the arguments for shared worship, highlighting the commonalities between the Islamic and Christian conceptions of God as the Creator, the recognition of biblical figures in the Quran, and the Quranic assertion that Muslims and Christians worship the same God.

However, Qureshi argues that the differences ultimately outweigh the similarities, moving beyond superficial overlap to essential characteristics that define God’s identity. He highlights three fundamental distinctions: Christians believe Jesus is God while Muslims reject this belief, Christians affirm God’s fatherhood while the Quran explicitly denies it, and Christians embrace the Trinity while Islam condemns it as shirk (associating partners with Allah).

He argues that the Islamic and Christian conceptions of God are fundamentally incompatible, particularly when considering the tripersonal nature of the Christian God and Islam’s adamant rejection of the Trinity. He concludes that these differences extend beyond details to core beliefs, leading him to the conviction that Muslims and Christians do not worship the same God.

Qureshi addresses the counterargument that Christians believe they worship the same God as Jews, even though Jews do not affirm the Trinity. He argues that the Trinity is an elaboration of Jewish theology, growing organically from pre-Christian Jewish beliefs, while Tawhid is a categorical rejection of the Trinity and other core Christian doctrines.

He concludes by asserting that while the question is complex, allowing for diverse perspectives, the essential characteristics of the Christian and Muslim conceptions of God are fundamentally different. He urges for respectful dialogue and understanding, recognizing that love for Muslims does not necessitate agreement on theological matters.

Question 14: Why Do Some Christians Call God “Allah”?

Qureshi examines the controversy surrounding Christians using the word “Allah” to refer to God, citing the example of the Malaysian Supreme Court ruling that prohibits Christians from using the term. He acknowledges the concerns about confusion and proselytization that fueled the ban, recognizing the sensitivity of religious identity in a predominantly Muslim context.

He analyzes the meaning of the Islamic phrase “Allahu Akbar,” often mistranslated as “God is great” but more accurately meaning “Allah is greater.” He explores the phrase’s historical use in both celebration and intimidation, suggesting its potential for conveying a sense of Islamic superiority over other faiths.

Qureshi clarifies that “Allah” can function as both a proper name for the Islamic God and a generic term for God in many Muslim-majority languages. He emphasizes the importance of context and linguistic nuances, suggesting that judging the proper use of the term should be secondary to focusing on meaningful conversations.

He concludes by advocating for tolerance and understanding, recognizing the fluid nature of language and the diverse ways in which the term “Allah” is employed. He encourages Christians to use the term if it fosters clarity or builds bridges of understanding but to remain sensitive to potential cultural sensitivities and avoid unnecessary criticism.

Question 15: How Does Jihad Compare with Old Testament Warfare?

Qureshi tackles the common challenge that violence in the Old Testament justifies Islamic Jihad, arguing that a careful comparison reveals significant differences between the two. He emphasizes the importance of comparing like with like, recognizing the distinct genres within the Bible and avoiding conflating historical accounts of human violence with divinely commanded warfare.

He outlines a key distinction: Old Testament warfare, as exemplified by the conquest of Canaan, was predicated on waiting 400 years for the Amorites’ sin to reach its full measure, affording them ample time to repent. Jihad, on the other hand, is often justified by the beliefs of non-Muslims rather than their actions and does not necessitate any waiting period.

Qureshi highlights that Old Testament warfare was not about Jewish superiority but about God judging the sins of the Canaanites. He contrasts this with the Quranic portrayal of Muslims as the “best of people” and those who reject Islam as the “worst of creatures,” justifying jihad as a means to establish Islamic dominance.

He analyzes the distinct trajectories within Islam and Christianity. Jihad, commanded in the Quran and exemplified by Muhammad’s life, represents an ongoing struggle for dominance. Old Testament warfare, while recorded in Scripture, is not intended as a model for contemporary Christians, who follow Jesus’ example of grace and love.

The chapter concludes by emphasizing the different roles that violence plays within the theological frameworks of Islam and Christianity. Jihad, driven by a belief in Islamic superiority and culminating in the final commands of the Quran, represents a trajectory towards domination. Old Testament warfare, while historically significant, is ultimately a footnote in the Christian narrative, replaced by a trajectory towards grace and love exemplified by Jesus.

Question 16: What Does Jesus Teach About Violence?

Qureshi contrasts Jesus’ teachings with those of Moses and Muhammad, highlighting Jesus’ complete rejection of violence. He emphasizes that the Gospels depict Jesus never leading an army, never striking a man, and explicitly commanding his disciples to put away their swords.

He focuses on the Sermon on the Mount as the core of Jesus’ ethical teachings, showcasing its categorical rejection of violence, even in self-defense. He analyzes Jesus’ radical command to love one’s enemies, pray for them, and offer no resistance to evil, highlighting the contrast with the Quranic injunction against befriending Allah’s enemies.

Qureshi examines arguments that portray Jesus as a Zealot, refuting these claims by analyzing the relevant biblical passages in context. He addresses Matthew 10:34, where Jesus speaks of bringing a sword, clarifying that the verse refers to division within families, not physical warfare.

He analyzes Luke 19:27, where Jesus speaks of killing his enemies, explaining that the passage is a parable, not a literal command. He also examines Luke 22:36, where Jesus tells his disciples to buy swords, arguing that the Greek word used (machaira) refers to a multi-purpose tool, like a machete, rather than a weapon primarily for battle.

Finally, he analyzes the cleansing of the temple, the most seemingly violent act attributed to Jesus in the Gospels. Qureshi carefully examines the Greek syntax and the details of each account, concluding that Jesus expelled the moneychangers and merchants without resorting to violence against any person.

The chapter concludes by asserting that Jesus’ teachings offer no room for violence, advocating instead for a radical ethic of love, grace, and non-resistance. He acknowledges the challenging nature of this teaching but emphasizes its consistency with Jesus’ life and the core of Christian theology. Jesus, the ultimate example for Christians, was willing to die for his enemies, demonstrating a love that transcends self-preservation and offering a powerful alternative to the cycle of violence perpetuated by jihad.

Question 17: How Does Jihad Compare with the Crusades?

Qureshi directly addresses the common retort that the Crusades prove Christianity is as violent as Islam. He reiterates that, unlike jihad, the Crusades were not commanded by Jesus or grounded in Christian scripture. He argues that the Crusades represent a departure from the core teachings of Christianity, a historical anomaly rather than a reflection of the faith’s true nature.

He traces the development of the “just war” theory within Christianity, highlighting Augustine’s influence in the 4th and 5th centuries. Augustine argued that warfare could be permissible under very specific conditions, requiring penance and viewed as a necessary evil rather than a virtuous act.

Qureshi explains that it took over a thousand years for the concept of “holy war” to emerge within Christianity, long after the faith had been assimilated into the Roman Empire and influenced by its military culture. This stands in stark contrast to Islam, where the Quran and Muhammad himself teach that fighting for Allah can be a path to salvation.

He acknowledges the atrocities committed during the Crusades, citing examples like the slaughter of Jews in the Rhineland and the massacre of Muslims in Jerusalem. He denounces these actions unequivocally, emphasizing their disregard for human life, their demonization of other faiths, and their inconsistency with Jesus’ teachings.

Qureshi contextualizes the Crusades, highlighting the centuries of Muslim conquests that preceded them. He argues that the Crusades were a belated and ultimately defensive response to the Islamic conquest of two-thirds of the Christian world, a reality often ignored in popular narratives.

He provides examples of brutality during Islamic conquests, demonstrating the hypocrisy of accusing Christianity of being uniquely violent. He cites accounts of Muslim armies slaughtering non-combatants and enslaving women and children, practices justified by the Quran and exemplified by Muhammad’s own actions.

The chapter concludes by condemning the Crusades, particularly their inhumane practices and their distortion of Jesus’ message of love and forgiveness. However, Qureshi stresses the significant time lag between Jesus’ teachings and the emergence of holy war within Christianity, demonstrating the Crusades’ status as a deviation from the faith’s core tenets.

He contrasts this with Islam, where holy war is embedded in the foundational texts and exemplified by the life of its founder. While the Crusades represent a historical anomaly for Christians, Jihad remains a potent and recurring theme throughout Islamic history, justified by scripture and tradition.

Question 18: What Does Jesus Have to Do with Jihad?

Qureshi explores the surprising prominence of Jesus within Islamic eschatology, highlighting Muslims’ belief in Jesus as a miracle-working prophet and the Messiah who will return at the end of days. He analyzes the Quranic passages that underlie these beliefs, particularly the assertion that Jesus did not die on the cross but was raised to heaven and will return to earth to initiate the latter days.

He examines the hadith traditions describing Jesus’ role in the end times, including his descent from heaven, his establishment of justice, his destruction of the cross and the killing of pigs, and his abolition of the jizya tax. He also discusses the common belief in a final battle between Jesus and the Dajjal (anti-Christ), where Jesus will fight alongside Muslims against the Romans and ultimately triumph.

Qureshi then contrasts the Islamic view of Jesus with the Christian understanding. He presents the gospel message of Jesus’ death for humanity’s sins, his resurrection as a victory over death, and the promise of eternal life for believers. He highlights the Christian emphasis on love, grace, and fearless living in the face of death, enabled by the security of salvation.

He shares stories of Christians who have answered Jihad with compassion, exemplifying Jesus’ teachings of self-sacrificial love. He recounts the story of Ronnie Smith, a Texan teacher killed in Benghazi while serving the Libyan people, Kenji Goto, a Japanese journalist beheaded by ISIS while attempting to rescue a friend, and the twenty-one Coptic Christians beheaded in Libya, whose families responded with forgiveness and unwavering faith.

These stories illustrate the transformative power of the gospel, enabling Christians to live and die with courage, love, and a lack of fear. Qureshi argues that the gospel message offers a compelling alternative to the cycle of violence and hatred perpetuated by jihad.

The chapter concludes by emphasizing the starkly different roles that Jesus plays within Islamic and Christian understandings of jihad. In Islam, Jesus is a warrior fighting for Muslims against their enemies. In Christianity, Jesus is the embodiment of love and grace, teaching his followers to answer violence with compassion and to embrace a life of self-sacrificial service, even in the face of death.

Conclusion: Answering Jihad

Qureshi summarizes the central arguments of the book, emphasizing the complex nature of Islam and the dangers of simplistic interpretations that either deny or exaggerate its link to violence. He reiterates that while peaceful Islam is a legitimate expression of the faith, it requires a departure from the violent trajectory embedded in its foundations.

He highlights the internet’s role in accelerating the polarization of Muslims, offering unprecedented access to Islamic traditions and facilitating both radicalization and a growing awareness of the faith’s violent origins. He argues that unless Islam is reimagined and emphasis is shifted away from the literal interpretations of the Quran and hadith, the threat of violent jihad will persist.

Qureshi proposes a way forward based on truth and compassion, advocating for engagement with Muslims, building friendships, and sharing cultural values as a means to counter radicalization and foster understanding. He rejects fear and violence as ineffective responses that only fuel the cycle of hatred and reinforce the justifications for jihad.

He suggests sharing alternative worldviews with Muslims, including the gospel message of Jesus’ love and grace. He argues that the gospel offers a compelling alternative to both radical Islam and secularism, providing a spiritually robust framework for answering violence with compassion and embracing a life of fearless love.

The conclusion ends by calling for a nuanced understanding of Islam, recognizing both the reality of violent jihad and the peaceful aspirations of the vast majority of Muslims. Qureshi advocates for proactive engagement based on truth and love, suggesting that genuine friendship and understanding offer the best hope for countering

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