This article is part 9 of LoonWatch’s Understanding Jihad Series. Please read my “disclaimer”, which explains my intentions behind writing this article: The Understanding Jihad Series: Is Islam More Likely Than Other Religions to Encourage Violence?
The anti-Muslim ideologues argue that the prophet of Islam was uniquely violent as compared to prophets of other religions, especially Judaism and Christianity; this is an argument furthered in chapter one of Robert Spencer’s book The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades). Further, they argue that the holy book of Islam is uniquely warlike as compared to scriptures of other faiths, especially the Bible; Spencer argues this in chapter two of his book.
These claims are not well-founded, and we’ve thoroughly refuted them (see parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 of the Understanding Jihad Series). Clearly, the Biblical prophets (Moses, Joshua, Samson, Saul, David, etc.) were more violent than the Prophet Muhammad; even Jesus, who promised to kill all his enemies, was no exception. Similarly, the Bible is more violent than the Quran.
There is one specific manner in which the Biblical prophets and the Bible are to be considered more violent than Muhammad and the Quran: they sanction(ed) the killing of innocent civilians: women and children. Worse yet, they sanction(ed) what can only be described as genocide. Nowhere in the Quran is targeting the life of a non-combatant, especially a woman or child, permitted; in fact, the Prophet Muhammad strictly forbade such a thing.
For all the obfuscation that the anti-Muslim polemicists will provide in response to this Series, keep this point in mind which cannot be reiterated enough: the most significant difference, and why the Biblical prophets and the Bible are to be considered more warlike than the Islamic prophet and holy book, is that they permit(ted) the killing of non-combatants, including women and children–even to the point of allowing genocide. The Islamophobes can copy-and-paste Quranic verses until they go blue in the face (even with the help of those ever so helpful ellipses), but they can never find a single verse in the Quran like that.
Do Muslims Worship the Same God as Jews and Christians?
In addition to Islam’s prophet and holy book, anti-Muslim ideologues (most of whom come from Judeo-Christian backgrounds) absolutely despise the God of Islam: Allah. Too ignorant to realize that the word Allah just means “God” in Arabic (or technically, The God) and that the Arabic version of the Bible uses the word “Allah” in it for the Judeo-Christian God–and too ignorant to realize that Jewish and Christian Arabs call their god “Allah”–the anti-Muslim ideologues unload all sorts of invective against Allah.
The anti-Muslim argument has two parts to it: (1) the God that Muslims worship is different than the God of the Jews and Christians; (2) this other, different pagan god is warlike, blood-thirsty, and brutal. In order to debunk this argument, therefore, it is important to refute each individual part. First, is the God of the Jews, Christians, and Muslims the same? Second, what are the characteristics of the Muslim God as compared to the Jewish and Christian God?
Do Muslims Worship Muhammad?
The idea that Muslims don’t worship the same god as Jews and Christians dates back to at least the time of the Crusades: Crusader lore had it that the Muslims were “pagans” and that they worshiped the Prophet Muhammad instead of God. In time, Muslims came to be known as Mahometans, and eventually Mohammedans. This misnomer was used by Orientalists, and continues to be employed by certain anti-Muslim elements today, including some Christians.
This is of course a fascinatingly ironic case of projection: by using this term, these anti-Muslim Christians are mocking Muslims for worshiping a man named Muhammad instead of God. After all, who but a primitive pagan would worship a man-god? Yet, in actuality it is the Christian community that worships a “man-god”: Jesus Christ.
If Muslims are to be considered pagans for worshiping a man named Muhammad, should Christians be considered pagans for worshiping Jesus? Even if Muhammad had claimed divinity, how would this have been any different from what Christians claim Jesus did? Ironically, the pejorative term “Mohammedan” is to Muhammad what “Christian” is to Christ.
In any case, Muhammad never claimed divinity nor have Muslims ever believed such a thing. In fact, the Quran instructed the Prophet Muhammad:
Say to them (O Muhammad): “I am only a human being like you. It is revealed to me that your God is One God. So let him who hopes to meet his Lord do good deeds and let him associate no one else in the worship of his Lord.” (Quran, 18:110)
The Quran categorically declared that “Muhammad is no more than an apostle” who can die or even be killed (Quran, 3:144). Indeed, when the Prophet Muhammad died, his successor Abu Bakr famously proclaimed:
Whoever worshiped Muhammad, let him know that Muhammad is dead. But whoever worshiped God (Allah), let him know that God (Allah) lives and does not die. (Sahih al-Bukhari, 2:333)
It has even been part of the Islamic tradition to prohibit all imagery of the Prophet in order to prevent Muhammad from being “idolized” as Jesus was by Christians. This precaution was based on the Prophet Muhammad’s fear of suffering a similar “fate” as Jesus. Not only does the Quran repeatedly criticize the Christians for deifying Jesus, but Muhammad explicitly warned his followers:
Do not exaggerate in praising me as the Christians praised the son of Mary (Jesus), for I am only a slave. So, call me the slave of God (Allah) and His Messenger. (Sahih al-Bukhari, 4:654)
It seems that Christians ought to be the absolute last people on earth to mock Muslims for worshiping Muhammad or calling them “Mohammedans.” But alas, we will see a recurring pattern here: Christians criticizing Muslims for something that is present even more so in their own religion.
In any case, the Quran repeatedly warns against worshiping anyone or anything besides God (Allah):
Say: “Truly my prayer and my worship, my life and my death are all for God (Allah) alone, the Lord of the worlds.” (Quran, 6:162)
It would be very difficult to construct a case that Muslims actively worship Muhammad. Unbelievably, however, this Crusader-era canard remains alive and well among some segments of anti-Muslim Christians. Sam Shamoun, an anti-Muslim Christian polemicist, insists that Muslims do in fact worship Muhammad. Shamoun uses several very weak arguments to “prove” this claim. Fortunately, his arguments have been refuted here by Muslim apologist Bassam Zawadi.
For our intents and purposes, whether Muslims worship Muhammad or not is largely a theological debate between Muslims and Christians, one which is hardly relevant to our website. However, it is relevant to us insofar as this claim is related to the “slur” of “Mohammedan”–an epithet which is used by many Islamophobes today. It is a vestige of age-old Western confusion about and propaganda against Islam, whereby Muslims are “Other-ized”: Muslims are understood as followers of some alien and strange faith, one which worships a man named Muhammad instead of God.
Lastly, the “Muslims worship Muhammad” canard, which has been used by Christians against Muslims for hundreds of years, gives us the proper backdrop to understand the “Muslims worship the moon-god” conspiracy theory, which has become very popular among Islamophobes today. The former Crusader-era canard has been repackaged in the form of the moon-god theory and is now being fed to the masses, once again serving to provide the propaganda needed to sustain our wars, our modern-day crusades against the Islamic world.
The Islamophobes “Other-ize” the god Muslims worship, comparing the “God of Love” supposedly found in the Judeo-Christian tradition with the “war and moon god” supposedly found in the religion of Islam. The stealthy tacking on of the word “war” to “moon god” makes the moon-god theory directly relevant to the topic of jihad. It is this “theory” that we turn our attention to next.