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20 May, 2006
I received the following query from a Christian:
In MANY Christian churches today, there is a belief among Christians that Muslims love us, and respect us as Christians. I here many prominent evangelical leaders in our pulpits proclaim that Islam is our friend, and that the Koran teaches that both Christians and Muslims will be saved and be in heaven together. On top of this, many (I mean a lot) of Christians believe that Muslims respect the Bible, and Jesus, and that Islam wants to be by our side as Christians loving us as we love them. I personally believe this is crap. The thing is though I do not know the Koran. What does Islam REALLY teach about Christianity?
I am personally a humanist freethinker. I have no affiliation with any religion. I will address this query for the sake of divulging the truth only. I will address it in a comprehensive way so as to show how Christianity had influenced Muhammad's mission and the Islamic theology and how the attitude of Muhammad and tone of Islam changed (towards the Christians) along the way as Islam became increasingly firm-footed.
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Let me start with how the 8th century Christian theologian John of Damascus (d. 749 AD) had defined Islam. According to him, Muhammad's religion was an errant form of Christianity. Muhammad, he wrote, 'having happened upon the Old and the New Testaments, in all likelihood through an Arian monk, organized his new sect' [Bethmann E, Bridge to Islam, 1953, p17]. German Philosopher Nicholas of Cusa [d. 1464], in his analysis of the Koran, found in it a strand of Nestorianism, a form of Christianity widely diffused in the Middle East during the early Christian centuries.
Indeed, Islamic literatures affirm Muhammad's first close contact with Christianity through a Nestorian monk, named Bahira, whom he had met on his journey with a trade caravan to Syria at the age of 24. It is said that Bahira was highly impressed by Muhammad's interest in religious discussions and is claimed to have seen a coming prophet in him as the Muslim legends go. He is said to have had communicated certain Christian doctrines, religious laws and had recited inspired Biblical passages to him - which Muhammad was to embody in the Koran, so that the Arab gets acquainted with the concept of one true god (oneness of god). Islamic chronicles cite Muhammad's continued meeting with Christian monks on business trips to Northern Arabia, Palestine and Syria. Among the persons, he met were the monks Sarjis (Sergius or Sarkis, also known as Bahira), Jirjis (Georgius) and Nastur (Nestor).
There is a great body of Islamic literature that overwhelming suggests that Muhammad had been familiarized with both the Christian and Jewish scriptures and was inspired by the concept of "oneness of god" as taught in these religions. His first wife Khadija, his companion for 24 years, had a strong Christian links since her cousin Nofal ibn Warraka was a Christian, who had translated a portion of the gospels in Arabic. Nofal ibn Warraka was the second person, after Khadija to affirm Muhammad's divine communication with Gabriel and strongly encouraged him to launch his religion although he himself never converted to Islam and died a Christian. Zayid ibn Harith, whom Muhammad had adopted as his son long before his preaching mission, was a Christian whom Khadija had bought as a slave.
Muslim commentator Husayn said the prophet was in the habit of going every evening to a certain Christian and listening to the Torah and Injil (gospels). Literatures say that Nofal and Khadija used to introduce Muhammad to Christian monks, who lived around Mecca. One such person was Addas, a Christian monk from Nineveh, who had settled in Mecca. Khadija brought Muhammad to Addas who, in a long conversation, had explained the significance of the angel Gabriel as transmitter of the divine message to Prophets.
One Tamim al-Dari was a Christian who is said to have had influenced Muhammad's eschatological ideas. Kayis, of the Abdul Kayis tribe, was a Christian whose house Muhammad used to frequent. Jabra, a young Greek Christian and a sword-cutter by profession, had settled in Mecca. He was well-versed in the Torah and teachings of Jesus and Muhammad used to frequent his house. Abu Takhiba was also a Greek Christian and Muhammad used to frequent his house. Abu Rokaya, of the Christian Tamim tribe, was known for the purity of his life. His devotion to religion and selflessness had earned him the "monk of the people" title. Muhammad had associated with him and at later time, he had become a Muslim. Some Rahman of Yamama was believed by Muhammad's contemporaries to have given him some Christian ideas. Ibn Ishak confirms that Muhammad had contacts with certain Rahman of Yamama.
Manichean Influence: Manichaeism, a heretic Christian sect, founded by Mani (d. 276) of Ectaba, was flourishing in Hira, Mesopotamia at the time of Muhammad. Since, Mecca had a flourishing trade and commerce with Hira, ideas of Manichaeism must have been known in Mecca. Mani used to claim that he was the Paraclete whom Jesus had promised, that he was the last and the final prophet in prophetic succession, that he received his revelation from the divine creator and that Jesus was not crucified but another person was put in his place. All these fundamentals of Manichaeism seem to have had influenced Muhammad and these ideas have found prominent place in the foundation of Islam.
Nestorian Influence: Another highly puritanical Christian sect founded by Nestorius, the bishop of Constantinople, was also flourishing in Persia at the time and had reached Mecca during Muhammad's time. Muhammad's meetings with Nestorian monks have been mentioned already. Nestorians were very puritanical and extremely hateful of showing images of Jesus as well as the Crosses. Such ideas have found firm place in Islam, which was manifested recently in Muslims' violence world-wide, following the publications of Muhammad's images in a Danish paper.
Influence of Hermitic Christian Monks: The ascetic Christian monks of his time had also profoundly influenced Muhammad. According to both Islamic and pagan chroniclers, such monks had set up monastic communities across the Middle East along the roads of the desert of Egypt, Asia Minor, Syria, Palestine, Mesopotamia and Arabia, who used to give time to good works, acts of charities and care of the poor, the sick and the orphaned, the abandoned girls in particular. At night, the tired travelers and trade caravans would break their journeys at these monastic communities, where the hermits would assure welcome, shelter and hospitality to the wayfarers. Muhammad, having traveled extensively throughout the region for trades, must have been familiar with these monasteries and he himself must have enjoyed their hospitality. It had left such a positive effect on Muhammad that he gave their life-style a honorable recognition in the Koran:
* Spend your money for good: to help your parents, your family, orphans, wayfarers, and the needy. 2:215
* Be kind to parents, relatives, orphans, the needy, neighbors, and travelers. 4:36
Another major feature Muhammad had picked from the Christian monks is the prayer rituals. These monks used to practice complete chastity and had devoted themselves to prayer rituals multiple times a day. These rituals comprised of reverential postures: standing with palms together, bowing down, kneeling, and sitting on the heels. Muhammad clearly had copied this mode of prayer rituals into Islam. They would also engage in prayer rituals dead into the night believing that 'Prayer is better than sleep'. (Archer, CJ, Mystic Elements in Muhammed, 1924, p67]. The early morning Muslim call to prayer, which contains this sentence, seems to have been inserted from the ideas of the monks. So impressed was Muhammad by these monks' lifestyle, devotion to god, generosity and acts of charity that he honorably referred to these people in the following passages of the Koran:
".. among the 'people of the book' are upright folk who devote themselves to God during the night watches, and enjoin justice and do good works" [Q 3:109-110]
However, already married and engaged into a material life well before starting his messianic mission, he condemned the monastic life, which he termed an invention by the Christians [Q 57:27].
Othman ibn Huwayrith's effort to introduce Christianity in Mecca: Another person warrants mention here is Othman ibn Huwayrith, who was an influential leader in Mecca and a cousin of Muhammad's first wife, Khadija. Prophet's biographer Ibn Hisham relates that he was appalled at the idolatry in Ka'baa and went to the Byzantium court, where he was honorably received and was converted to Christianity. In 605, about 5 years before Muhammad's divine mission, he returned to Mecca and, on the strength of an imperial grant, laid claim on the Government of Mecca intending to reform the existing pagan religion. Opposed by the ruling Meccans, he fled to Syria - where the Meccans ultimately procured his assassination [Walker B, The Foundations of Islam, Rupa Press New Delhi, 2002, p66].
Monotheism: Islamic literatures and chronicles relate many other contacts and association of Muhammad with Christianity. Apart from this, there were numerous other contacts with the Jews, who were a more widespread and dominant people as compared to the Christians in the Arabian Peninsula. Contacts with the Jews increased dramatically after Muhammad's migration to Medina in 622 (12 year into his divine mission) where Jews were the dominant, influential and the richest community. However, careful analysis of these events would clearly suggest that Muhammad was deeply influenced by these prevailing religious communities worshipping a singular God. Growing up in the vicinity of Ka'baa - a centre for vibrant religious activities - Muhammad must have been deeply influenced by religious piety. His contacts and discussions with the Jewish and Christian priests in early youth might have inspired his mind with the concept of the unitary God. The concept of heaven and hell and the rigorous concept of God's Judgment in these religions, a concept unknown to the pagans of Mecca, must have equally filled his mind with fear. Huwayrith's mission to reform Meccan idolatry into Christianity (monotheism), only 5 years before Muhammad's own mission, must have had impacted his inspiration and resolve.
Sermon of Koss in Okaz fair: Muhammad is also known to have attended sermon in various annual fairs and market places. His encounter with Koss ibn Sayda requires a mention. Muslim tradition relates that some time before Muhammad's mission began, the bishop of Najran - Koss ibn Sayda of the Iyad tribe - preached in the marketplace of Okaz near Mecca. He spoke 'as though in ecstasy', chanting the rhymed prose (saj) commonly used by the poets of the day, in a style reminiscent of the early suras of the Koran.
It started, 'O Ye, people draw near
And hear, and fear.
Signs are read
Not to be gainsaid;
Stars that set and rise,
See that never dries
And roofed above, the skies.
On earth below that lies:
Rain is shed,
Plants are fed,
Male and female wed.
Time flying and time fled.
O mortals say,
Where are the tribes today
That once did disobey
The rules of goodness,
Where are they?
Verily doth Allah give
Light to those to seek to live
Koss then went on to preach about human frailties, the grace of God and the coming of Judgment day.
Muhammad, who was present, heard the sermon 'as though spellbound' and was deeply moved. This sermon agitated his mind and stirred his soul. Mutazili scholar Jahiz (d. 869) records a tradition about Muhammad himself recalling how vividly he remembered the scene, the man, the eloquent words and the persuasive message.
In later years, when a deputation from the Iyad tribe visited Mecca, Muhammad enquired about Koss, and was informed that he had died (c. 613). The Prophet spoke kindly of him as one, who had preached the 'true universal faith'!
In the Okaz fair, not only Christians but Jewish preachers would also deliver their sermons. Preachers of both religions would rail at the Arab tribes and spurn them for practicing idolatry and would warn them of the coming hellfire after death. Muhammad would go to the Okaz fair and listen to the sermons of the Jewish and Christian preachers every year. Despite the mutual hostility between the Jews and Christian, the similarity of these two religions in having a unitary God, a revealed divine book, both having a prophet of their own, both fervently denouncing the idolatry and the of course, the fear of coming hellfire in the sermons of the preachers would deeply stir the mind of young Muhammad.
Influence of the Hanifs: Apart form the Jewish and Christian thoughts, the prevailing pagan thoughts and rituals, the Persian Zoroastrian (Persi) religious thoughts and others popular legends and myths prevalent in the region during Muhammad's time, had influenced Muhammad and their codes and rituals were incorporated by Muhammad in his new religion. Indeed, alongside Jews and Christian, the Koran also mentions Sabians and Zoroastrians (Madjus) as the people of the book [Q 22:17]. The rituals of Hajj (great pilgrimage) was incorporated into Islam in to-to from the pagan practice of Mecca that used to take place in the Kaaba once every year.
Influence of one Zayid ibn Amr of the Hanif sect requires special mention. Hanif, a Syrian Christian loanword, meant one who had moved away from idolatry. During Muhammad's time, it was used to loosely refer to the monotheists, namely the Jews, Christians, Zoroastrians and Sabians. The term 'Hanif' more specifically used to refer to those who under the Jewish and Christian influence had moved away from paganism and was trying to reform the idolatry into monotheism. According to ibn Ishaq, the Hanifs believed that their fellow Arabs had drifted away from the religion of their father Abraham and indeed, they have no religion at all.
One such Hanif was Zayid ibn Amr. Amr was an uncle of Muhammad's close associate and Islam's second Caliph, Omar. He called himself a follower of Abraham's religion and used to write poetry expressing the heathenish practices of his tribe. He had condemned female infanticide and idolatry. Every year, he would spend the month of Ramadan in retirement in a cave in mount Hira.
In about 595, Muhammad (age 24-25), while on the way, met Zayid and conserved with him and offered him some flesh of animal sacrificed to idols, which he was carrying. Zayid refused the meat, scolded Muhammad for idolatry and rebuked him for eating flesh offered to pagan gods. Muhammad later had said, 'After that I never knowingly stroked one of the idols, nor did I sacrifice an animal to them.' Zayid used to sit in the courtyard of Kabaa and pray, 'O God, I do not know how you desire to be worshipped. If I knew, I will surely worship you.' Mocked by the people, he went to Syria and then to Iraq to question the Rabbis and monks. On his way back in 608, he was killed by bandits. He lies buried at the foot of Mount Hira.
It is clear that Muhammad was deeply influenced by Zayid, so much so that every elements of Zayid's doctrine was later copied and incorporated into Islam by Muhammad. Indeed, Muhammad at the beginning used to call the converts of his religion 'Hanif'. The prophet affirmed in the Koran that he was only preaching the original and pure religion (monotheism) of Abraham [Q 21:52], who was a Hanif [Q 16:21]. At a later verse, he introduced term 'Muslim' to define Abraham: 'He was a Hanif and an early Muslim [Q 3:60].
In his teachings, Muhammad had consigned all non-Muslims, including his immensely doting uncle Abu Talib and his own mother, to the fire of hell. But he made an exception by invoking the God's mercy on Zayid. The Prophet said of him, 'On the last day, Zayid will rise again, a community in himself. He is one of those destined for paradise. I have seen him there.' This clearly points to the towering influence Zayid (Hanifs) had on the ideology of Muhammad.
Christian thoughts in Islam
There is body of evidence which suggests that alongside the Jewish thoughts, contacts with the Christian thoughts and individuals have thoroughly inspired him towards starting the mission for preaching a monotheistic religion amongst the idolatrous pagans of Mecca. Not only that, he had copied many of the concepts of Christianity in the Koran as divine revelation from Allah. He had also virtually copied the existing style of prayer rituals of the Christian monks. During the fifth year of his mission, Muhammad sent a number of his followers into exile in Abyssinia fearing reprisals from the Meccans, who were honorably received and protected by the Christian king. This event also created a highly favorable impression in Muhammad about the Christians. In the early phase of his mission in Mecca and early days in Medina, he had accorded a very high position to the Christians in his preaching.
In the Koran, God says to Jesus, "I will place those who follow thee above those who believe not, until the day of resurrection" [Q 3:48]. Koran also records that Christians are free from pride and most inclined to entertain feelings of friendship for Muslims [Q 5:85], which clearly referred to the Abyssinia king's hospitality of the Muslim exiles. Following his triumphant entry into Mecca in January 630, Muhammad ordered the destruction of the idols and erasure of the paintings from the walls and pillars. The effigies of Abraham and Ishmael were destroyed but he himself placed his hand over the picture of Mary and infant Jesus to protect it.
Muhammad did not only absorb Christian rituals and accorded high respect to Christianity, he also copied many passages from the Bible almost as such or with slight modifications. A subset of such instances are listed here:
'The righteous shall inherit the earth' [Q 21:105] was taken direct from the Bible [Ps 37:29]
A verse from Mark's Gospel reads: 'For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear and after that the full corn of the ear' [Mark 4:28]. The Koran renders it thus: 'They are the seeds that putteth forth its stalk, then straighten it and it growth in the ear and riseth upon its stem' [Q 48:29]
Jesus said, 'it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven' [Matt. 19:24]. According to the Koran, 'Heaven's gates shall not open to those who charge us with falsehood, nor shall they enter paradise until a camel passeth through the eye of a needle' [Q 7:38]
On the day of Judgment, 'the heavens shall roll together into a scroll' [Isa. 34.4]. Koran says, 'On that day will we roll up the heavens as one rolleth up written scrolls' [Q 21:104].
'Where two or three person meet together in my name, there am I in the midst of them [Matt. 18:20]. 'Three persons cannot meet together secretly but God is the fourth' [Q 58:8].
Bible says, 'There are many other things which Jesus did, which if written down, I suppose that even the world could not contain the book that should be written [John 21:25]. Koran says, 'If the seas were ink, it would be insufficient for the words of the Lord' [Q 18:109]
Not only parallel passages, the major terminology of Islam were also borrowed from those in Christian religious usage. Islam (also Muslim), having roots in the Semitic term 'SLM were in Christian religious usage to mean devotion to God. The term Koran originates from the Christian Aramaic term Kerana - then in usage to mean readings of the sacred texts in Church services. The word sura originates from the Aramaic Christian term sutra (portion of the scriptures) and the word aya (sign) were taken from the Christian usage. There are many other terms taken from the-then Christian religious usage.
Jesus and Bible in good light in the Koran
Koran has also accords honorable status to Jesus and Bible. It states that 'God sent Jesus as a sign of mercy for mankind [Q 19:21] and had planted mercy in the hearts of those who follow Jesus [Q 57:27]. Koran affirms the Gospel (Injil from Evangel) as a divine book which was given to Jesus [Q 57:27]. Koran confirms the Gospels as the guide to mankind [Q 3:2] which contains the truth [Q 9:112] and gives guidance and light [Q 5:50]. Koran also regards Virgin Mary (Maryam) as a highly esteemed woman. Having been chosen above all women of the world, she was purified by God [Q 3:37] and maintained in purity [Q 66:21]. God breathed His spirit into her womb, so the birth of Jesus was a creative act of God upon an immaculate virgin [Q 19:20] who kept her maidenhood [Q 21:19].
Condemning the Christian faith in the Koran
The prophet did not mention much about the Bible (Old and New Testaments) during the first five years of his preaching during which nearly 20 suras (out of total 114) were revealed. As he sent a group of Muslims to Christian Abyssinia for refuge where they received worm welcome, protection and generosity - his revelations started affirming and talking about the Bible - starting with the Old Testament and later the New Testament. This continued until some early period after his emigration to Medina. It is believed that after seeing no headway in getting the Mecca pagans flocking to his faith, he directed his attention to the Christians and Jews who might join his religion if affirmed their faith in his new religion. It also became a tactical necessity to keep the Christians of Abyssinia in friendly term who had shown great hospitality to the Muslim migrants. It is related that the Meccans had sent a deputation to the Abyssinia king to have the Muslim settlers expelled or deported to Mecca. They accused the Muslims of setting up a heretical sect. The King wanted a proof of their heresy before expelling them. When the Muslims were summoned to king's court and asked about their alleged heresy, the Muslims cleverly read out from the sura Maryam (Mary) that affirms the Christian faith. This pleased the king and the Muslims were not expelled as wished by the Mecca delegation.
However, after a few years of affirming the Christian faith in the Koran, the Christians (Jews, too) did not flock to his faith in great numbers. In stead, they started hassling Muhammad on the basis of many inaccuracies he had mentioned about their faith. After a few years in Medina, Muhammad's attitude towards the Christians started hardening. He now started accusing the Christians of misunderstanding or forgetting their scriptures [Q 5:17]. Out of his own misconception of the Trinity, he attacked: 'They surely are infidels who say that God is the third of the three' [Q 5:77] and 'Believe in one God and say not there are three Gods' [Q 4:169].
In line with the Jewish belief, Muhammad also now denied the divinity of Jesus and his incarnation. Jesus was not a son of God, for 'God begetteth not [Q 112:3]. 'It not proper for God that he should have a son' [Q 19:36]. 'It would be far from the glory of God to have a son' [Q 4:169]. Ibn Ishak relates a story of Muhammad rebuking two Christian divines about their belief that God has a son. When they asked back, "Who was his father, Muhammad?", he kept silent. Afterward, he received a few verses which say, 'God can create what he will. When he decrees a thing, he only says, "Be!", and it is' [Q 3:42].
Koran now calls down God's curses on those who say Christ is the son of God [Q 9:30]. Muhammad also denied Jesus' dying on the Cross. This idea was apparently taken from Manichaeism. Jesus was not crucified but another person in his likeness appeared on the Cross. During his apparent crucifixion, God took Jesus up to Himself [Q 4:156]. It should be understood here that if Jesus' dying a painful death on the Cross is denied, the Christian faith loses major part of its claimed greatness.
Hostility towards the Christians
Seeing no hope of getting the Christians into his faith and their repeated criticisms of Muhammad about his inaccuracies about the Christian faith, he no longer remained contended with simple condemnation of the many aspects of the Christian faith. The Christians priests who were preventing the Christians from joining Muhammad's mission are now condemned by Muhammad as greedy and devourer of people's wealth, which they do not spend in Allah's mission:
'O ye who believe! Lo! many of the (Jewish) rabbis and the (Christian) monks devour the wealth of mankind wantonly and debar (men) from the way of Allah. They who hoard up gold and silver and spend it not in the way of Allah, unto them give tidings (O Muhammad) of a painful doom..' [Q 9:34]
He now started condemning the Christian as perverts and disbelievers and set Allah against them in fighting [Q 9:30]. His attitude now became hostile and started inciting violence against all the Christian. He now received revelation:
'O believers, do not take the Jews and Christians as friends. If you take them as friends, you are surely one of them' [Q 5:56].
Again, 'Do not take those as allies those, who have received scriptures before you or who treat your religion as a joke and a game' [Q 5:62]
He now condemns the Christian to hell [Q 5:76], where, along with the polytheists, they will abide for ever [Q 98:5]. This time on, Muhammad's hostility towards the Christians were to be continued well into his dead-bed which need special mention.
The prophet was in severe pain and he was moaning aloud all night when Ayesha hoping to console the prophet told to Muhammad which he had used when others in pain, "O Prophet, if any of us had moaned like this, you would surely have reprimanded her". 'Yes,' he replied, 'but I burn with the fever-heat twice as strong'. Next morning the pain worsened and he almost became unconscious. Umm Salama, suggested giving him a concoction of Abyssinia recipe which she had learned while in exile there. Reviving from its effect, the Prophet became very suspicious of what he had been made to drink and forced all the women in the chamber to take the same medicine. In his presence, the medicine was poured in each woman's mouth.
This Abyssinia remedy lead conversation to Abyssinia itself. Two wives, Umm Salama and Umm Habiba - both having been exiles in that country - spoke of the beautiful cathedral of Maria there and the wonderful pictures on it walls. Overhearing this, an exasperated Muhammad cried out, "The Lord, destroy the Jews and Christians. Let the Lord's anger be kindled against them. Let there remain throughout Arabia no faith except Islam." This dying wish was to be carried out to conclusion by his immediate successors, notably Abu Bakr and Omar.
Missives and Expeditions against the Christians
In 628, Muhammad sent emissaries, proclaiming his prophethood, to far afield Arab states such as to the kings of Yamama, Oman and Bahrain and summoned them to embrace Islam. Response from Oman and Bahrain were non-committal. Hauda ibn Ali, the Christian head of Yamama, the most powerful man in Arabia, sought a share in his prophethood. On receiving the reply, Muhammad cursed him and he was to die after one year. Missives, demanding conversion, were also sent to foreign Christian rulers, Heraclius of Rome (Constantinople), Harith VII of Ghassan and the Christian Governor of Egypt. His missives at Rome and Ghassan was received with scorn and as emissary of a madman while the Roman Governor of Egypt returned a friendly reply with two beautiful slave girls (sisters) as gifts. Muhammad kept the younger and beautiful Maria, the Copt as his own slave.
In later years when Muslims achieved power, Muhammad launched campaigns against all the kings who rejected his missives but satisfied with the gift (Mary the Copt), he did not do the same against the Egyptian governor. In February 630, Muhammad sent a force under Amr ibn al-As to the Christian tribes of Oman, summoning the ruler to embrace Islam and pay taxes. Some tribes accepted Islam whilst others were forced to surrender half their land and property in order to keep their Christian faith.
In the same month, a missive was sent to the Christian prince of Himyar, demanding submission to Islam and payment of required tithes, taxes and tributes. Those who refused would be regarded the enemies of Allah. In order to save lives, the prince allegedly replied back accepting the religion.
In October 630, Muhammad dared assembling of 30,000 horse and foot soldiers in ordered to launch an expedition against the Byzantine frontier of Syria to avenge the rejection of his missives by Heraclius two years earlier. Half way at Tabuk, Muhammad stopped and set up tents and sent out missives to various principalities to accept Islam or pay Jiziya taxes. Yohana (John) ibn Ruba, the Christian prince of the Ayal, made a treaty with Muhammad agreeing to pay Jizya as protection against attack on his people.
Muhammad halted at Tabuk for 20 days, when the army brought some neighboring territories into subjection. Muhammad now wished to reach into the heart of Syria to accomplish the main objective of his campaign. While he was making the preparations, he received intelligence on the preparedness of a massive Greek force and its assembly at the border to confront the Muslims. The report disheartened his troops, which forced Muhammad to go back to Madina without realizing his ardent desire.
While in Tabuk, Muhammad had sent Khalid Ibn Walid to the Oasis of Duma being ruled by the Christian Arab prince, Okaydir ibn Abdul Malik of the Kalb tribe. Okaydir was out on hunting with his brother when Khalid waylaid them, killed his brother and brought Okaydir to Medina as a prisoner. Muhammad forced him to convert to Islam and sign an agreement to pay customary taxes. After Muhammad's death, Okaydir revolted and Khalid returned to Duma, killed the prince and sacked his community.
The general manner of Muhammad's dealing with Christian groups is demonstrated by his handling of two tribes: one from the north and another from the South. In about February 631, an embassy from the important southern Christian tribe of Hanifa came to visit Muhammad in Medina. The details of the discussions are not clear. However, while returning Muhammad handed the envoys a vessel of water left from his ablution and ordered them, on their return, to tear down their churches, sprinkle the site with the water and build a mosque at it place (Muir, W, Life of Mohamet, 1912, p458]. A month later, an embassy, made up of partly Christians from tribe of Taghlib, wearing gold Crosses, paid a visit to Muhammad. They prophet signed an agreement with them whereupon they could keep their faith but could not baptize their children into the Christian faith whereby making their children a property of Islam.
On another notable occasion, a Christian delegation of 14 from Najran visited Muhammad in 631. They were lead by Abdul Masih of the Kinda tribe, Abu Haritha, bishop of the Bakr tribe and a representative of noble Dayan family. Muhammad recited from the Koran to them and they agreed that he had a message for his people. When pressed them to accept Islam, they declined. Much discussion and arguments followed on religious matter without reaching an agreement. Finally Muhammad suggested, 'Let us summon our families and curse on another, so that the curse of God will fall on the families of those who were lying' [Q 3:54]. The Christian refused to participate in such mean acts [Rhodinson, 1976, p271]. Before taking a leave, the Christians were assured by Muhammad that their practice of religion will not be molested and their lands and properties will not be confiscated. But later in the same year, Muhammad sent Khalid ibn Walid on an expedition to force the Najran tribe to convert to Islam for their safety. Knowing Khalid's reputation as a brutal murderer, some of them quickly submitted to Islam. However, more pressing battles on other fronts diverted Khalid's attention elsewhere and most the people of Najran remained Christian until Muhammad's death. However, Caliph Omar launched a new campaign to finish off the left-over Christians to fulfill the final wish of the Prophet. Under a fresh threat of attack and decimation, most of the Najran tribes submitted to Islam and in 635, Omar sent a large number of their prominent citizens, scholars and religious leaders to exile.
In the year 632, the prophet was in the preparation for an expedition when he suddenly fell sick from which he never recovered. As he had wished to cleanse the entire Arabia of any religion other than Islam in his death-bed, the responsibility fell upon the successive caliphs. Muslim armies set out to convert the whole of Arabia by force and soon turned attention to the Christian tribes of central Asia. Musaylima of Yamama, who allegedly under a revelation, pre-dating the start of Muhammad's mission, was preaching a mainly Christian religion. He was known to be very popular and his following was as strong as Muhammad's, although achieved by no force unlike Muhammad's. Abu Bakr sent a mission against Musaylima whose expanding popularity was threatening the nascent Islam. In the first battle of Yamama, Muslims were defeated by the followers of Musaylima. In the second battle in 634, Muslims suffered even worse defeat such that there was hardly any house in Medina where the sound of wailing was not heard. Importantly, 39 of Prophet's chief companions, including the best Koran rememberers, died in this battle. A few months later in 634, Abu Bakr turned to his most dreaded general Khalid ibn Walid and sent him with a large force to exterminate Musaylima. A fierce battle ensued at Akraba which famously became known as the garden of death. Musaylima was slain, ten thousand of his followers were massacred and the rest of the population were reduced to subjection and forcibly converted [Walker W, The Foundations of Islam, p209]. No significant Christian presence remained in Arabia thereafter.
No Novelty in Islam
It should be clear now that all the existing religious thoughts and practices - Christianity, Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Hanif-ism, paganism, popular legends and myths - existing in the Arabia during the time of Muhammad had gotten their place in the religion of Islam, either as such or in slightly modified form. For example, the idolatrous rituals of Hajj (pilgrimage) of the pagans of Mecca, was incorporated into Islam almost as such. The rituals of sacrificing animals to idol gods on this occasion was also incorporated into Islam with the slight modification that instead of idol god, the same sacrifice was now made to an unseen god (Allah).
Indeed, Allah did not reveal or Muhammad did not create anything new in formulating the religion of Islam. Muhammad just assimilated existing ideas and incorporated them in his new religion. Famous authority on Islam Ignaz Goldziher writes: ".. Muhammad did not proclaim any new ideas. He did not enrich earlier conception of man's relation to the transcendental and infinite- The Arab prophet's (Muhammad's) message was an eclectic composite of religious ideas and regulations. The ideas were suggested to him by contacts, which had stirred him deeply, with Jewish, Christian and other elements." [Goldziher I, Introduction to Islamic Theology and Law. Trans. Andras & Ruth Hamori, Princeton, 1981, p4-5].
Ibn Warraq writes, "Muhammad was not an original thinker; he did not formulate any new ethical principles, but merely borrowed from the prevailing cultural milieu. The eclectic nature of Islam has been recognized for a long time. Even Muhammad knew Islam was not a new religion and the revelation contained in the Koran merely confirmed the already existing scriptures. The prophet always claimed affiliations with the great religions of the Jews, Christian and others." The lack of novelty in Islam was most categorically asserted by S Zwemer in saying that Islam "is not (even) an invention, but a concoction; there is nothing novel about it except the genius of Muhammad in mixing the old ingredients into a new panacea for human ills and forcing it down by means of the sword". [Zwemer S, Islam: A Challenge to Faith, New York, p24]
What Islam teaches about Christianity?
Christianity clearly had a profound influence on Muhammad and its ideas and principles were extensively incorporated in his alleged revelation as already discussed. Many moderate Muslims quickly recite such verses in order to show similarity or attract legitimacy and sympathy from the Western (Christian) people and society. However, it will be utterly foolish for the Christians to get carried away by such reference of recognition of their religion in Islam and embrace Islam as a sister religion. Lessons must be learned from history of Muhammad himself, who despite recognizing the Christian religion, had put the sword at the throat of the Christians of his time so much so that the sizable community of the Christian in the Arabian Peninsula was exterminated or forced to conversion within a few years of Muhammad's death. The teaching of Islam about Christianity should be discovered in Prophet's last wish in his dead-bed mentioned already, that is, exterminate the Jews and Christians from the Arab lands such that no other religions but Islam exist there.
Parallel should also be drawn from the experiences of Jews as well. Muhammad also recognized the Judaism as a parental religion to Islam and claimed that he was only affirming the Jewish faith. Koran states that the Torah enshrines the behests of God [Q 5:47] and is a perfect code for the righteous [Q 6:155] and that the Jews are 'privileged above all people' [Q 45:15]. Yet again, when the Jews did not accept Muhammad as their prophet but instead, taunted him for his preaching absurdity and inaccuracies about the Jewish religion, he put the Jews at the sword, too. Of the three most influential and affluent Jewish clans of Medina, the Banu Qaynuka and Banu Nadir were exiled whilst all of the 600-900 men of the Banu Quraiza clan were summarily slaughtered and thrown into a trench and the women and children were captured as captives and later sold as slaves. The homes, firms and properties of all the Jewish clans were confiscated as spoils of wars and distributed amongst the Jihadists - Muhammad himself grabbing a fifth of the share.
Other things Islam preaches about Christianity?
Although many modern Muslims, groomed with the Western secular education, readily brag about how Islam recognizes Christianity (Judaism, too) as a great religion, yet these dishonest hypocrites will surely hide a number of other verses in the Koran that are demeaning, hateful and even violence-inciting towards the Christians. Here are they:
1. Jews and Christians believe in idols and false deities.. 4:51
2. "Those (Christians and Jews) are they whom Allah hath cursed." 4:52
3. Allah has stirred up enmity and hatred among Christians. 5:14
4. Jews and Christians are losers. 5:53
5. Christians will be burned in the Fire. 5:72
6. Christians are wrong about the Trinity. For that they will have a painful doom. 5:73
7. Don't choose Jews, Christians, or disbelievers as guardians. 5:57
8. Don't take Jews or Christians for friends. If you do, then Allah will consider you to be one of them. 5:51
9. Christians and Jews are perverse. Allah himself fights against them. 9:30
10. Give tidings (O Muhammad) of a painful doom to the rich and greedy Christian monks and Jewish rabbis. 9:34
11. Jews and Christians are evil-livers. 5:59
12. Evil is the handiwork of the Jewish rabbis and Christian priests. 5:63
13. Christians and Jews must believe what Allah has revealed to Muhammad or Allah will turn them into apes, as he did the Sabbath-breakers. 4:47
14. Fight against Christians and Jews "until they pay the tribute readily, being brought low." 9:29
Although there is a kind of recognition of the Christianity (Judaism, too), being a religion of the same God, in Islam - the ultimate message in Islam is that 'Christianity is old and obsolete'. Islam is the finalized version of the religion of the same God, which all people of the world, including the Christian and Jews, must follow.
The old and obsolete Christianity is now a symbol of evil, Christians are evil people, Allah has cursed then and hellfire would be their eternal abode hereafter. However, Christians do not have a choice for them to make the hellfire their eternal abode and leave in peace in this world. They must follow the finalized religion of Allah or else Allah will, without failure, turned them into apes:
[Quran 4:47] O ye unto whom (Christian & Jews) the Scripture hath been given! Believe in what We have revealed confirming that which ye possess, before We destroy countenances so as to confound them, or curse them as We cursed the Sabbath-breakers (of old time). The commandment of Allah is always executed.
And again, Allah is just not happy with the punishment of transforming the Christians into apes. He now incite his followers (Muslims) to fight the Christians until they are subdued to a humiliating status (Dhimmi) and pay the poll-tax (Jizya) as punishment for the not accepting the command of Allah:
[Quran 9:29] Fight against such of those who have been given the Scripture (Christian & Jews) as believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, and forbid not that which Allah hath forbidden by His messenger, and follow not the Religion of Truth, until they pay the tribute readily, being brought low.
Whether one is a monotheistic Christian or Jew, or a polytheist or idolater - the ultimate message of Islam is the Islamic Shahada - the central creed of Islam, which says, "There is no God but Allah". Since, Allah is the absolute owner of everything in the Universe, everyone must submit to the final command of Allah, which is Islam - the final, complete and perfect code of life. Any code of life other than the Islamic one is neither approved nor accepted by Allah after sending down Islam. Those must be destroyed by whatsoever means. Muhammad had clearly spelled the verdict of Islam about Christianity as his last wish in death-bed through his order to exterminate the Jews and Christian from the Arabia. And the command was religiously and ruthlessly pursued.
The Christians of today must learn the lesson from the history. The Jews of Medina gave Muhammad shelter and support when he arrived there as a refugee with his small band of converts in 622 CE, because Muhammad was preaching a similar monotheistic religion (sister religion). Within 5-6 years, all the Jews of Medina were exterminated by Muhammad through mass slaughter (Quraiza), taking as captives or sending to exile. The Christians of Abyssinia (Ethiopia) gave Muhammad's converts shelter, support and protection when they sought refuge there as voluntary exiles in 615 CE. Here again, the Christian king showed sympathy to the Muslims, because of Muhammad's preaching a monotheistic sister religion, which recognized Christianity. And in time, Muslims turned the entire African continent into a giant slave-breeding farm so much so that Africa became synonymous with slavery - the price of which, the Blacks of Sudan (Darrfur) are paying even today at the hands of the Arab militias.
For the Christians of the West, there is history from which serious lessons to learn from. There is the Koran available in any library of the West and the message is very clear: Submit to the command of Allah (Islam) or else! And of course, there are live lessons to learn from your brother living in the Muslim countries like Egypt, Pakistan or Saudi Arabia where Christians live in complete subjugation as demanded in the Koran [Q 9:29]. There are only ~3% Muslims in Britain but their message to the Christian was made clear in the sermon of a prayer imam in Bradford (UK) who rejected all Gods other than Allah and termed the Christian doctrine of Trinity as "an extreme and absurd example of false divination of humans". He termed Britain a "sick and divided nation" and only the imposition of Islam can heal. "The implementation of Islam as a complete of code of life cannot be limited to the home and personal relationships. It is to be sought and achieved in the society as a whole". Government must be brought into line with what is appropriate for an Islamic state, not a secular state. Every Muslim must "extend the sphere of Islamic influence in the world." [Ibn Warraq, Why I am not a Muslim, p353]
These are indeed the message of the Koran. Allah himself says, "The commandment of Allah is always executed" [Q 4:47]. History tells us that his earthly soldiers (Muslims) have always responded to his commands with unfailing convictions. The lesson, signs and messages are all there to learn from. Those, who do not learn, do not deserve a respectable living. Islam (Koran) has promised the Christians of the world, a life of humiliation and dhimmitude [9:29], even if the Prophet's death-bed wish of outright extermination is ignored.