Interfaith · Islam

Why This Christian Is An “Islamic Apologist”

Leftist. Liberal. Progressive. Communist. People hurl these terms at me on an hourly basis via social media. They are overused and misused so much that they no longer have any meaning to me. I do not self-identify myself with any of these labels. Placing me into these categories is nonsense. I am none of these things, yet there is another term thrown at me that I actually relate to as a scholar, Christian and human being. The term is “Islamic apologist”.

Before I explain why I am an Islamic apologist, let us first take a deeper look into the word “apology”. The term comes from a Greek word apologia which basically means “to give a defense”. A classic case of apologetics is The Apology of Socrates by Plato, who presents the self-defense speech that Socrates made at his trial for allegedly corrupting the youth of Athens. Islamic apologetics is something like this example – basically, it is the science of giving a defense of Islam.

Our world is full with Islamophobes who bash the Quran and defame the legacy of Prophet Muhammad. They treat Islam as a monolith, call it evil, and defend the persecution and even killing of Muslims worldwide. The mission of an Islamic apologist is to combat Islamophobia and instead promote better understanding of – and love for – the Quran and the life of Prophet Muhammad. We might, then, define Islamic apologetics as follows:

The task of developing and sharing arguments for the truth and rationality of Islam to counteract falsehood and irrationality of Islamophobes with the aim of strengthening humanity.

Basically, being an “Islamic apologist” is simply presenting the truth about Islam to those who have preconceived judgments about Islam. There are two primary methods of Islamic apologetics. The first involves sharing passages of the Quran which give clear evidence that Islam stands for mercy, compassion and peace. The second involves shining light on the example of Muhammad to counteract Islamophobic rhetoric, particularly that he was a false prophet and, worse, an evil human being.

Probably the most powerful verse for Islamic apologetics is Quran 49:13, “O mankind! We created you from a male and a female and made you into nations and tribes that you may know each other, not that you may despise each other. Verily the most honored of you in the sight of God is he or she who is the most righteous of you”. This Quranic verse sends a crystal clear message of compassion and learning about others across cultural and religious lines. A second Quranic verse that is often ignored by Islamophobes is 2:256, “There is no compulsion in religion”. Islam promotes freedom of religion and freedom of conscience, which are two values fundamental to my own Christian faith.

If an Islamic apologist is someone who appreciates religious pluralism and diversity, as found in Islam, please, consider me an apologist. Reflect on the visit of the Christians of Najran to Medina in 631 AD, as I described in a Middle East Eye article:

Picture this. A Muslim leader reaches out to a group of Christians and invites them to his country. The Christians happily accept the invitation, while the Muslim leader prepares his people for their arrival. This is the first time the two communities have met in an official delegation. Matters of state, politics and religion are the topics of discussion. The two groups see eye-to-eye on most issues, but also agree to disagree on theological issues. If one phrase can best describe their meeting, it is “mutual respect”.

At the end of their talks, the Christians tell the Muslims, “It is time for us to pray”. The problem for the Christians is that there is no church nearby to worship. Instead of letting the Christians pray on the dirty street, the Muslim leader tells the Christians, “You are followers of the one true God, so please come pray inside my mosque. We are all brothers in humanity.” The Christians agree to use the “Islamic space” as their own. A bridge between these religious communities is made in the name of peace and goodwill.

This story is not some fairytale. It is a historical fact (I did, however, make-up quotes based on how the interaction might have played out). The Muslim leader of the story is Prophet Muhammad and the Christians are from Najran, or modern-day Yemen. The event happened in Medina in 631 AD. This moment in time represents one of the first examples of Muslim-Christian dialogue, but more importantly, one of the first acts of religious pluralism in Islamic history.

Unfortunately, Islamophobes completely neglect these stories and take Quranic passages out of context to claim that Muhammad persecuted the Christians in his midst. And, ironically, ISIS and their sympathizers carry out the same method as Islamophobes – they literally interpret Quranic verses without any sense of historical or contemporary context.

Claiming that Islam supports the demolition of churches, as Islamophobes claim, has no credibility in light of Prophet Muhammad’s covenants with Christians. In these treaties, Muhammad stated that Christians living within the realm of the Islamic state are granted freedom of religion and freedom of conscience. Going beyond religious tolerance, the Prophet advocated for religious pluralism. He commanded Muslims to engage in dialogue with Christians, and demanded they interact with them in a respectful and egalitarian way. I do not simply respect that. I love it.

An honest analysis of the Quran and Hadiths – as well as the Prophet’s covenants  – will show that Christians are indeed “People of the Book”. Islamic scripture proclaims that Christians have received revelation from God’s prophets and that they share commonalities with Muslims. The Quran states:

“Surely those who believe, and those who are Jews, and the Christians, and the Sabians – whoever believes in God and the Last Day and does good, they shall have their reward from their Lord. And there will be no fear for them, nor shall they grieve” (2:62, 5:69)

“… and near among them in love to the [Muslims] will you find those who say, ‘We are Christians’, because amongst these are men devoted to learning and men who have renounced the world, and they are not arrogant” (5:82).

An Islamic apologist is not someone who says “I’m sorry”. Actually, it is the opposite. The word, as noted earlier, is taken from the Greek word apologia, meaning “a defense”. An apologist is someone who does not treat Islam as a monolith. An Islamic apologist is a person who argues in defense of human rights such as freedom of worship and freedom of speech. Millions and millions and millions of Muslims around the world stand for these two values. They defend these principles because their faith commands them too. How can you not defend that?

Finally, Islamic apologetics is a necessary aspect of the experience of being a human being. No matter what religion you come from, we are all commanded by the prophets before us to spread goodwill to our neighbors and strangers. That is the essence of being Muslim, that is the essence of being Christian, and that is most definitely the essence of being human. To that I say: Peace.

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14 thoughts on “Why This Christian Is An “Islamic Apologist”

  1. “Leftist. Liberal. Progressive. Communist. People hurl these terms at me on an hourly basis via social media. They are overused and misused so much that they no longer have any meaning to me.”

    Words have meanings and definitions. That’s the whole basis of language. There are dictionaries, both physical and digital. Heck, there are several on-line.

    “I do not self-identify myself with any of these labels.”

    So what? The question is not whether or not you self-identify with labels that, a couple of sentences ago, has no meaning to you, it’s whether or not they can accurately describe you.

    “Placing me into these categories is nonsense.”

    Not if they true.

    “I am none of these things,”

    You said those “things” had no meaning to you.

    “Before I explain why I am an Islamic apologist, let us first take a deeper look into the word “apology”.”

    Why not do that with the terms you claim to have lost their meaning to you?

    “The term comes from a Greek word apologia which basically means “to give a defense”. A classic case of apologetics is The Apology of Socrates by Plato, who presents the self-defense speech that Socrates made at his trial for allegedly corrupting the youth of Athens. Islamic apologetics is something like this example – basically, it is the science of giving a defense of Islam.”

    While it’s not a “science” – and claiming otherwise is simply stretching the definition of “science” to give islamic apologia a validity it does not have – it accurately describes you.

    “Our world is full with Islamophobes who bash the Quran and defame the legacy of Prophet Muhammad.”

    Since you went out of your way to explain what “apologia” is and the origins of the word, I’ll go out of my way to explain what “islamophobia” is and the origins of it. The short version is “a word created by fascists to manipulate morons”. The long version is that it was an invention of an islamic think-thank to link any criticism of islam with a “phobia” – a mental illness. As seen in this case. Is there any good reason to criticize the quran? No, it’s just that “islamophobes” bash it. What was the legacy of muhammad? Was it goo? Was it evil? I know it I don’t praise it I’ll be called “islamophobe”, regardless of how well researched and backed on islamic texts my assertion is.

    “They treat Islam as a monolith”

    Can you tell me which sects of islam don’t support death for apostasy and gays, and the subjugation of non-muslims as dhimmies, as stated in the quran and ahadith? That one sect considers Abu Bakr as the rightful successor while another stands by Ali makes little difference to me when both agree that I, as a non-muslim, need to convert, live as a dhimmi or die.

    “call it evil”

    What reasons do these alleged “islamophobes” have to call islam evil? Apparently none – they call islam evil and therefore they’re bad people. Well, not bad, just suffering from a mental illness – “islamophobia”.

    “and defend the persecution and even killing of Muslims worldwide.”

    Who defends this? I certainly don’t, and I would certainly be classified as as “islamophobe” because I point out that islamic orthodoxy mandates war against non-believers on grounds of their faith. Who is treating what as a monolith – the “islamophobes” with islam or the islamophobe-phobics with islamophobes?

    “Basically, being an “Islamic apologist” is simply presenting the truth about Islam to those who have preconceived judgments about Islam.”

    But you don’t do that. You don’t explain the islamic concept of abrogation., You don’t tell that sura 9 was the last major sura to be revealed. You don’t inform that sura 9 mandates muslims to wage war on non-muslims and lies about Christianity and Judaism.

    “There are two primary methods of Islamic apologetics. The first involves sharing passages of the Quran which give clear evidence that Islam stands for mercy, compassion and peace.”

    It also involves sweeping under the rug the passages of islam which mandate warfare against non-muslims.

    “Probably the most powerful verse for Islamic apologetics is Quran 49:13, “O mankind! We created you from a male and a female and made you into nations and tribes that you may know each other, not that you may despise each other. Verily the most honored of you in the sight of God is he or she who is the most righteous of you”. This Quranic verse sends a crystal clear message of compassion and learning about others across cultural and religious lines. A second Quranic verse that is often ignored by Islamophobes is 2:256, “There is no compulsion in religion”. Islam promotes freedom of religion and freedom of conscience, which are two values fundamental to my own Christian faith.”

    The most damning verses for islamic apologetics ate 5:33 – stating that those who oppose muhammad are to be crucified or have their hands and feet chopped on opposite ends – and 9:29-31, where is says that muslims are to wage war on Jews and Christians and justifies it by lying about Judaism and Christianity.

    “If an Islamic apologist is someone who appreciates religious pluralism and diversity, as found in Islam, please, consider me an apologist.”

    How are non-muslim communities faring in the islamic world?

    “This story is not some fairytale. It is a historical fact”

    Citation needed.

    “(I did, however, make-up quotes based on how the interaction might have played out).”

    I’ll let that sink in.

    “The Muslim leader of the story is Prophet Muhammad”

    Citation needed.

    “This moment in time represents one of the first examples of Muslim-Christian dialogue, but more importantly, one of the first acts of religious pluralism in Islamic history.”

    You know that polytheists, Jews, Christians, Zoroastrians, etc. al lived in the Middle East before islam came into scene, right?

    “Unfortunately, Islamophobes completely neglect these stories and take Quranic passages out of context to claim that Muhammad persecuted the Christians in his midst.”

    I can’t speak for all these people you are treating as a monolith and as suffering of a mental illness. I can only speak for myself. I’m well aware of the islamic doctrine of “abrogation” – what was revealed later replaces what was revealed earlier. Well, it’s a bit more complicated than that because it depends on the context – muslims are the minority? Then the “you have your religion and I have mine” revelations apply. Muslims have the upper hand? Then 9:29 applies – fight them until they convert, pay the jizyiah or die. Anyway, as I was saying, I know the doctrine of abrogation. I know what islam’s endgame is, and it’s not an utopia of religious freedom where everyone is equal under the law. A cursory look at the islamic world more than proves this.

    “And, ironically, ISIS and their sympathizers carry out the same method as Islamophobes – they literally interpret Quranic verses without any sense of historical or contemporary context.”

    Again: “islamophobes” are not a monolith. Plus, the leader of ISIS has a phd on islamic studies. Their propaganda explains, in great detail, why the barbaric actions they carry out are, in fact, drenched in islamic orthodoxy. To compare “islamophobes” with ISIS is an egregious blow at the truth as it would be claiming that a police officer on the witness stand describing the crime he saw was, in fact, the perpetrator of said crime.

    “Claiming that Islam supports the demolition of churches, as Islamophobes claim, has no credibility in light of Prophet Muhammad’s covenants with Christians.”

    The pact of Umar states that Christians are not allowed to build new churches or repair old ones. I don’t know where you’re getting this idea about the “islamophobe” monolith making such a clam about demolishing churches . Citation needed. Oh, and this alleged convenant is of dubious historic authenticity.

    “An honest analysis of the Quran and Hadiths – as well as the Prophet’s covenants – will show that Christians are indeed “People of the Book”. Islamic scripture proclaims that Christians have received revelation from God’s prophets and that they share commonalities with Muslims.”

    An honest analysis of the quran ana ahadith would also involve explaining the concept of abrogation and look at the whole life and example of muhammad. An *honest* analysis, that is.

    For example, quran 5:51 states:

    O you who have believed, do not take the Jews and the Christians as allies. They are [in fact] allies of one another. And whoever is an ally to them among you – then indeed, he is [one] of them.

    And 3:28 states:

    Let not the believers take disbelievers for their friends in preference to believers. Whoso doeth that hath no connection with Allah unless (it be) that ye but guard yourselves against them, taking (as it were) security.

    Bukhari has Abu Ad-Darda saying “We smile in the face of some people although our hearts curse them’.

    “An Islamic apologist is a person who argues in defense of human rights such as freedom of worship and freedom of speech. Millions and millions and millions of Muslims around the world stand for these two values.”

    CItation needed.

    “Finally, Islamic apologetics is a necessary aspect of the experience of being a human being.”

    Really? Islam apologetics is a necessary aspect of the experience of being a human being? How about Christian apologetics – you know, your professed religion? How about Hinduism apologetics? Or Judaism apologetics? Perhaps Sikh? Buddhism? Why not Atheism while you’re at it? I guess I’m doomed not to live the experience of being a human being because Im against an ideology that would kill me for defending freedom of thought, freedom of religion, freedom of association, women’s rights, gay’s rights, the pursuit of science, etc.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Fairly comprehensive there Monkey Duster but let me just add one thought about 2:56. Taking it out of context the verse sounds pretty good but the very next verse says:

    “As for the unbelievers, their patrons are false gods, who lead them from light to darkness. They are the heirs of the Fire and shall abide in it for ever.”

    How is threatening people with eternal hellfire for not believing not compulsion?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Following on from that thought, 2:256 (not 2:56) and 2:257 are an example of the juxtaposition throughout the Koran, sometimes in the same verse, of fiercesome imprecations and benign assurances of tolerance and compassion. Those old enough to remember RD Laing will recognise the double-bind which, practised by authority figures, can lead to devastating results in young impressionable minds. Looking around the world at the trail of atrocities currently being perpetrated in the name of Islam, perhaps Laing’s insights could usefully be brought to bear on the situation. Perhaps Allah and Mohammed could benefit more from a stint of Laing’s existential analysis than necessarily partial apologetics.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Thanks a lot for this wonderful article! May God bless you and everyone else working for inter-community harmony!

    Like

  4. I am sure that anyone study islam fairly and indifferently will be Islamic apologist .
    Thank you for your rationality .

    Like

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