Former Muslims Testify About Islam/Program 2

By: Dr. Ergun Caner, Dr. Emir Caner; ©2003
Why Muhammad is not someone to be followed as the perfect example of obedience to God.



What evidence could cause devout Muslims today to leave Islam and embrace Christianity? Today on The John Ankerberg Show, two former Muslims tell why they turned away from Allah and placed their faith in Jesus Christ as God, knowing that their decision would cost them the love and acceptance of their family?

Dr. Emir Caner: And so I told my father, necessarily, Allah and Jehovah are not the same gods. I worship Jesus Christ now. And he told us to make a decision between our religion and him, or better said, between our Heavenly Father and our earthly father. So I got up and I left. He disowned us.

These two brothers went on to get their Ph.D.’s, and now Dr. Ergun Caner is Associate Professor of Theology and Church History at Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA, and Dr. Emir Caner is Assistant Professor of Church History at Southeastern Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, NC. In countries outside of America, if a Muslim leaves Islam and embraces Christianity, what consequences does he or she face?

Emir: In many of the countries, what happens is, on a Friday day, the Jumaa prayer, they will take you to the city square, they will bury you up to your waist in your burial cloth….The indictment is read that you have converted to Christianity, and then everyone picks up the stones and you are stoned to death in the city square–for the sole indictment of being a believer in Jesus Christ.

Everyone in the world should understand what the religion of Islam teaches 1.6 billion Muslims of what they must do to have any hope of going to Heaven; of how they are to treat Christians, Jews, and other unbelievers in Islamic countries; how women are to be treated; the role of Islamic leaders in government, and when Jihad, or Holy War, is justifiable.

Dr. Ergun Caner: If the numbers hold up right – and 16 percent of the Muslims worldwide believe that the bombing of the World Trade Towers was morally justifiable – if those numbers continue out, we’re talking about somewhere in the vicinity of 100 million Muslims who believe that jihadic acts are morally justified. And so you see that there is this divergence of opinion about jihad, but what we hear here in America, we have never heard anywhere else in the world. We’ve never heard certainly in our background that you would say jihad was only an internal struggle.

Today, we invite you to join us to hear two former Muslims talk about Islamic belief and practice on this edition of the John Ankerberg Show.


Ankerberg: Welcome to our program! We’ve got an exciting one for you today. Two former Muslims who became Christians. They were disowned by their family. They went on in their education to get their Ph.D.s and now they’re professors in two Christian seminaries.
We want to talk about all the things that are happening in the world. What do 1.6 billion Muslims believe? And in the aftermath of our war in Iraq and the struggles that are still going on there, the struggle between the Palestinians and the Israelis, the turmoil in the Arab world, we want to know how Muslims think. And there are really two key questions here in America, after the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in Washington, DC. How much of the fundamentalist Muslim actions are rooted in the teachings and practices of the Prophet Muhammad? And, are the violent jihads of our day sanctioned by the Qur’an?
Now, there has been a lot of commentary on that, and I want folks who know, who have been in Islam – we’ve got two Sunni Muslims here that have come to Christ, and I want them to tell us about this. And it’s not an easy answer that they’re giving. We’re going to divide this up into: What about the life of Muhammad? Is he an example that we should follow? Then we’re going to look at the thousand years after Muhammad, how were his teachings practiced by his followers? And third, we’re going to look at the Hadith, the Tradition, as well as the Qur’an, and we’re going to see what the verses actually say, so there should be no doubt.
And Emir, start us off. You’re a professor of church history, so this is your area: the life of Muhammad. Start us at the beginning. Why is this important for our audience to listen to?
Emir: Well, either Muhammad is someone to be followed and which 1.6 billion Muslims thereby do, the creed: I believe there is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is the prophet of Allah, so thereby he is the center of the equation there. He was born in 570 A.D. His father dies before he is born. His mother dies when he is six years old. His grandfather dies when he is eight years old, and then he is raised by his uncle. His tribe in which he is born is responsible for taking care of that Ka’aba, that stone there that has the idols in it, though Muhammad himself never practiced the pagan rituals of the Arabian Peninsula in his time.
Well, when Muhammad then becomes a man, he gets a job carrying a caravan for a woman he will then marry named Khadija. He crosses over to Damascus and back, and finally marries a woman who is fifteen years his older, this woman who has employed him, Khadija.
While he is married to Khadija and which he has married monogamously, does not have any other women besides her until she dies, he has his first revelation. In 610 AD, Muhammad is in a cave. He has what we would consider today an epileptic seizure. He is coming out foaming at the mouth. He comes home to his wife Khadija and says, “I have had a revelation but I am not sure if it’s divine or demonic.” And in the Hadith, volume 1 and verse 3, he explains this. And Khadija’s response to him is, “It is from Allah. It is divine.” And thereby, Muhammad finds a source of encouragement for his revelation. He then starts speaking more of these revelations over and over again, which the scribes write down for him, for the Muslims believe that Muhammad was illiterate. And as he’s writing down these revelations, this religion is established, Islam is established. 622, the Hegira, is one of the most important dates in Islamic history. When he travels to Medina and he takes over, that is, he creates the religion and they follow him, one of his first converts is Abu Bakr. And over the next ten years, Muhammad creates this Islamic religion until he dies in 632 AD.
Ankerberg: Okay. Two things I want to go back on. Number one is, you are citing primary sources. You’re not making this up. You’re not quoting other Christian authors. This is coming out of the primary sources.
Emir: That’s right. Out of the Hadith in which we have just spoken, but also his first and primary biographer, which is the most respected among Muslim scholars is a man by the name of Ibn Ishaq, and so from his source is where we see also much of Muhammad’s life and how he interacted with the people in the Arabian Peninsula. How he was a military leader, a spiritual leader, and a family leader, and all of his wives which he had and concubines which he had.
Ankerberg: Go back to this thing of his revelation, and he said that he thought he was possessed of the devil along the way. Why did he think that?
Ergun: Well, he did say that he was possessed of the devil. We wouldn’t go that far. We would say that he struggled with the question if whether this was demonic or divine. He’s having these intense visions. Khadija said he would roar like a camel and roll on the floor. Whatever this wahy is, whatever this revelation that he’s receiving, it was terrifying him. And so, as the Hadith begins, Bukhari’s Hadith begins, it says that he really struggles with the issue of where is this coming from? Once Khadija tells him, “No, no, no; these aren’t demonic, these are from a god named Allah,” Muhammad is the one who is receiving this final revelation – supposedly, alleged revelation. Muhammad is the one who says, Oh. Okay. Let us put this all together.
Many Christians are scared of reading the Qur’an, but Emir and I tell people all the time, “Get a Qur’an. Get a Qur’an.” Because you will find, amazingly, huge sections of the Bible lifted, shifted, redacted, changed substantially, and put to meet what we, you know, a Middle Eastern mind and put to meet a Middle Eastern desire to make Allah absolutely monotheistic. Tawhid it’s called in the Arabic, which means there’s only one God: one mind, one will. Trinity? “Say not trinity, desist from it for it is blasphemy.”
Ankerberg: Is it true that on one occasion Muhammad said that he gave revelation, thought it was from God, found out that it wasn’t, changed it, and claimed that Satan had slipped the verse into the text? Is that true?
Ergun: Yeah, especially in our modern context, that’s The Satanic Verses. Salman Rushdie wrote a novel based on that entire concept. It’s from Surah 53, and Muhammad is dealing with the nature of, the attributes, communicable/non-communicable attributes of Allah, and he makes mention in verses 18, 19 and 20 that there’s other gods. And then he comes back and he changes it. Now, this is an interesting doctrine in Islam. It’s called abrogation, that is, earlier verses can be overridden by later verses, abrogated, because as he “fixes” Islamic teaching… you know, there are, if you read through the 114 chapters of the Qur’an, you will see some post-hejira, post-flight, and pre-flight. Post-Medina and pre-Medina. And they’re marked this way. They will often say, “Well, this was before the Flight” or “after the Flight.” This is the last ten years. Because the greatest growth in Islam was the last ten years of his life [622-632 AD].
Ankerberg: Give me an example of why that’s important.
Ergun: Because they say it fixes the Qur’an. Where there is something that is questionable, they say it’s “fixed” in the later versions.
Ankerberg: Did Muhammad do it or did they do it after Muhammad?
Emir: Well, I think Muhammad did it, that is, he grew, he matured, he was going… we can’t picture this as a faith which came from Allah to man. This is Muhammad, a false religion, that as he matures and it becomes the majority, then as a majority rule he can change his political shift. And all of a sudden, when he’s in the majority, he can say, “Slay the enemies wherever you find them.” Who are the enemies? “Those who do not believe in Allah nor the last day” (Surah 9:29). That “They are open enemies to you” (Surah 4). That “you should not take Jews or Christians as your friends or protectors” (Surah 5). And over and over again, those are abrogated from when he was a minority and had to be tolerant of others.
Ankerberg: Add to that, the fact of the scribe who wrote down what Allah said to Muhammad. He has told us that Muhammad on several occasions changed the very words Allah gave him and he left Islam as a result of that. Who was that scribe?
Ergun: Well, you have four actual instances where there is an abrogation that is a split. Today, the variant sects of Islam, Sunni, Shi’a, we will talk about them later, sometimes they will base the shift, or base their split on this abrogation, on this splitting. I will give you a good for instance. When you see a doctrine in Scripture or a teaching in Scripture in the Bible and it’s changed in the Qur’an, why is this? Well, we were taught in one of our celebrations, the EidsEid-Ul-Adha and Eid-Ul-Fitr – we were taught that Abraham goes to the top of the mount, sacrifice his son, last minute Allah provides a sacrifice. But it’s Ishmael. Now, we come to the Bible, Genesis 22, and we see, “Wait a minute! This was Isaac.” And so one of the revelations to us, one of the odd things to us was that 2200 years after Moses wrote it down and 2700 years after it actually took place, Muhammad changes the story. He misunderstands the Trinity (Surah 5:116). He says, “Do you think the Trinity is Allah…or God, and then Mary and Jesus their son?” You know? So you have this fundamental changing of doctrine as you read through. And you often hear the commentators say, “Ah, but this was a pre-Flight text that’s changed or abrogated in Surah so and so.”
Ankerberg: So in essence, you don’t have the sure words from Allah, as is claimed. You’ve got a man that is changing the revelation as it was come down and even the people inside the group knew this.
Emir: Well, they began to believe that Muhammad was even spoken of in the Bible. When Jesus speaks of a “Comforter,” John 14 and John 16, Muslims began to teach that He was speaking of not a parakletos but a periklutos. A misunderstanding on a word. That Jesus was speaking of the messenger. And that’s why the Sha’hada, the central confession of Islam, bismillah rahmani Rahim – there is only one God, Allah and Muhammad is his final prophet, his greatest prophet. And thus, the other prophets in Islam, Nooh (Noah), Baruch, even Jesus, you know, Ibrahim, Ishmael, all of them are good prophets. But they began to see Muhammad as the final, the greatest, the exemplar, as my brother cited from Surah 33. That he is the focus of Islamic teaching.
Emir: There’s a key, though. When you speak about revelation where it’s not just Jesus Christ versus Muhammad, but it is the very fact of the Bible versus the Qur’an, and which is the pure Word of God, and the Muslims have an inherent contradiction. They believe the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, were inspired and are now corrupt. That the Psalms were inspired and now corrupt, and the Injil, the Gospel, was inspired and is now corrupt. And then you could ask the Muslim the question: If God got it wrong in the Torah, we were able to pervert His Word; in the Psalms, we were able to pervert His Word, the Jews; the Christians were able to pervert His Word in the Injil, why in the world should we trust Allah when twice he has got it wrong?
Ankerberg: Yes. Alright, we’re going to take a break and when we come on back, we’re going to talk more about Muhammad. I want to talk about when he started raiding caravans for his own financial gain. Alright? And Allah gave him some revelation about jihad, where this all started. We’re going to talk about that when we come right back.

Ankerberg: My guests are two former Muslims who became Christians. Their family disowned them. They went on and got their degrees and are now professors in Christian seminaries. They’ve written a couple of best-selling books and we’re talking about, How do you understand the Muslim mind? How do you understand what Islam holds? And these fellows used to profess this. They used to practice this. And we’re looking right now at the life of Muhammad. Is he the example that we should follow? And we’re up to the part in his life where he was asked to leave Mecca. Why was he asked to leave, and what happened then?
Emir: Well, he was asked to leave Mecca because they see it almost as a riot that he’s instigating. He’s a lunatic. He’s someone that should be exiled from Mecca and so he takes the hejira to Medina where he takes control and this really is the beginning of Islam in a very political way.
Ergun: Up until that point, there had only been two conversions: his wife, Khadija, and then Abu Bakr, the wealthy merchant who becomes his best friend. So, as he leaves and makes the pilgrimage or makes the journey and the Flight away, they’re really leaving as a minority. And it’s during those days were they able to write such things as, “There is no compulsion in religion” (Surah 2). And Muslims will quote this now. They will say, “Ah, see. It says in [Surah] 2:256, ‘There is no compulsion in religion.’” When they make it to Medina, and they become a majority, and the last ten years of Muhammad’s life they virtually overtake the Saudi Peninsula, well now the verses change. And so you see in 2:191 where it says, “Seize them and slay them where you find them.” And so what you see is this interesting play in Muhammad’s life whereby when they were a minority, there must be allowance for religious liberty. But when they become the majority, they still don’t believe that you can force faith, but then you see that, how do you deal with the infidel? You don’t convert the infidel, you conquer the infidel.
Ankerberg: Okay, he couldn’t persuade the people at Mecca when he was there. There were only two people that believe in him at that point. Why did the people at Mecca not believe him?
Emir: Well, they just saw him as a political tyrant, one who wanted to take over. You know, you have the tribal warfare that goes on within the Arabian Peninsula. And to the Medinans, when he comes up there, he is one that unifies. In fact, Muslims today, they say, “Look at Muhammad. He was able to unify a peninsula that was rocked with polytheistic faith and monotheistic faith, Christian, and Orthodox, and Jew and everything mixed in. And Muhammad was a unifier. And so to what he wasn’t in Mecca, he is in Medina. And then, by the end of his life in 632, he has really brought about an Arabian Peninsula which is Muslim. And to this day, Saudi Arabia will not allow anyone in there to have another religion outside of Islam.
Ankerberg: But also in Medina you said that he was out of a job because, what, his first wife died?
Emir: Yeah, so he has to find some finances for what will be jihad, this war that will follow. And so he raids the caravans, steals the loot and the booty that goes with it so that he can finance the war. He finds the wealth by justifying the thievery.
Ankerberg: Did Allah give him any verses to support the raids?
Ergun: The war booty. You will often hear the verses… the position is that jihad is passive. We fight back, and that is jihad. You will hear this even in our culture. American Muslims will say jihad is always passive. But Muhammad also built into the Qur’an, he had teachings whereby if you capture the war booty, then it is for the purpose of Allah’s work. It is for the purpose of the propagation. There’s a whole different set of protocols by which you live if you are in acts of jihad. Book 52, the entire book 52 of Bukhari’s Hadith is called Jihad: Fighting for Allah’s Cause. And so the entire chapter, the entire book, deals with that topic.
Ankerberg: What were some of the revelations he got from Allah supposedly at that time to back up his raids?
Emir: Well, Surah 9 really deals with it more than anyone else and also Surah 4. Surah 9, “Slay the enemies wherever you find them.” Well, who are these enemies? “There are those [verse 29] who do not believe in Allah nor the last day.” “They are [Surah 4, verse 101] those who are open enemies to them.” And jihad is specifically physical, military there, where in verse 95-96 says, the disabled cannot go, “But those who are healthy are required to go” (Surah 2:216). So, even when you play it out in history, you can see the booty-taking. The most prominent example of it is Saint Sophia’s Church there in Istanbul, Turkey, what used to be Constantinople. You put up four minarets and you make it the Blue Mosque. They take the church and make it for Allah’s sake.
Ankerberg: Now, even though he got some of these revelations from Allah that they should do jihad, physical warfare against whomever at that point, there were some people in Medina that still didn’t follow him. What was the revelation that came to Muhammad about what they were doing?
Emir: Well, because it’s required for them to fight, if they do not fight, it’s really with the infidels. It’s really heretics of the faith.
Ankerberg: He also tied this to their eternal security, didn’t he?
Emir: Yeah, if you are not willing to fight, then really, your destination is hell-fire.
Ergun: We hear this all the time on the news, whenever bin Laden comes on television, whenever there’s a recording released. You will hear him speak and the first group to whom he speaks is not necessarily the infidels or the Zionists or whatever they may call us. The first group to whom he speaks are those who have been obliged to holy war, fard ayn in Arabic. You have been fard ayn, you have been obliged. You have to go. That’s why Surah 2 says, you know, you don’t want to fight jihad, but it is good for you. You have been called to it. You have been obliged to it.
Ankerberg: In fact, in that fatwa in 1998 [See appendix A.] that they signed that preceded the attacks on the World Trade Center as well as Pentagon, they actually quoted that. They also were quoting other verses from the Qur’an, basically…and the Hadith, saying that people in our country were obligated to go, to join up, to fight.
Ergun: The interesting thing is, the way they view American Muslims. You know, this is unbelievably difficult for the American Muslim because they’re in a catch- 22, a conundrum. If you denounce jihad, the worldwide Muslims who believe in jihad are now, you know, offended. If you stand with jihad, well you have a problem because you live in our country and we are the ones against whom they are fighting.
Ankerberg: Yeah, let’s turn that around. The way it’s being talked about in the press is basically that Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda are like the Ku Klux Klan to Christianity. Okay? What’s wrong with that thinking?
Ergun: Well, let’s first be very honest. When a Muslim brings this up or they bring up the Crusades and Inquisitions, let’s be very honest and say, “You’re absolutely right. Horrific things have been done in the name of Christianity; horrific things, absolutely abominable things! However, if someone takes a gun, climbs a tower and believes that he’s killing people in the name of Jesus Christ, he does so in defiance of the teachings of Jesus Christ. When a Muslim takes up arms, declares a fatwa, a legal opinion, goes to jihad, he does so in strict adherence to the life and example of Islam.
Ankerberg: Yeah, I think that’s important. The fact is that Jesus never uttered a command anyplace for us to go after somebody else.
Ergun: We’re not looking for the death of the infidel. We’re looking for their conversion. We’re not called to kill those who do not believe. We are called to love them. That’s the way we were loved. And this is what got to us in the Gospel of Christ in that we expected enmity. We walked into the churches expecting hatred, revenge, or retribution, or distaste at the very least. Instead, they loved us. And when we would ask them, “Why are you being so nice to us?” because the more vituperative, the more mean-spirited I was, the nicer they were. And they’d said, “Oh, well that’s simple. God commended His love toward us… while we were yet sinners Christ died for us” [Rom. 5:8]. And so, because of this, that’s why love knocks down so many doors. Love builds bridges that come into our lives that we weren’t expecting.
Ankerberg: Yeah. For the Muslim that’s here in America, okay, I think it’s important for us to realize the struggle that he does have in terms of people overseas quoting his holy book, and when they look at it, it’s in context, alright? So how do they get around that over here?
Ergun: Well, first off, there are sects of Islam. You’re asking two questions: 1) Is Islam peaceful? 2) Are there peaceful Muslims? Are there peaceful Muslims? There are many. There are certain sects dedicated to peace, such as the Sufi. That said, others will take it as a doctrine, as a teaching, as perhaps, their history. But from where we come, from our culture, it’s more than just doctrine. It’s ethic. It’s why you can see in Jerusalem a bombing at 8 a.m. and everybody is back to work at 2. We have learned to live with it. We, our culture, learned to live with acts of jihad on a daily basis. Here in America, it shocked us. Jihad was a wave of shock because we had never seen it come to our shores. The last time the American shores had been ever hit by a foreign power was the War of 1812, right? And so now, all of a sudden, it’s here. For the Muslims here in America, many of them were shocked by the bombings because they had learned to assimilate jihad as simply a doctrine to which we hold, maybe something that we can fund overseas. But now it was real because it was on our streets and in our towns and on our Towers.
Ankerberg: Alright. This goes back to them also following the example that Muhammad gave us through his own life, and we’ve only done the first part of his life. Next week we’re going to do Part 2. But summarize his life and compare that with Christ.
Emir: To be very explicit, the easiest example, the greatest demonstration is that Muhammad shed other people’s blood; Jesus shed His own. Muhammad’s life was complex. Muhammad’s life was something of depravity if we’ll look at it in one way or the other. There was fault because he was a mere man. But with Jesus Christ, especially as we look at the crucifixion and the resurrection: “I find no fault in Him.” [John 18:38] He can be Savior, He is Savior. And He’s not just a good Savior or a better Savior or best Savior. Jesus Christ came to be the only Savior. Whereas, Muhammad just claimed to be a messenger, Jesus Christ claimed to be Messiah, Savior, the Son of God and God the Son. And then He says, “That is the promise that if you believe that, you will have eternal life” (cf. 1 John 5:13).
Ankerberg: Alright, we’re just getting started on this conversation. It’s absolutely fascinating. Wait until you hear what they’re going to talk about next week. We’re going to talk about the last part of Muhammad’s life. We’re also then going into the thousand years of history after Muhammad. How did his followers take his information? How did they use it? What happened? And then we’re going to look at the Hadith and the Qur’an more explicitly concerning jihad. We’re answering this question: Is Islam a peaceful religion? And I hope that you’ll stick with us.

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