Former Muslims Testify About Islam/Program 3

By: Dr. Ergun Caner, Dr. Emir Caner; ©2003
Why Jesus Christ far exceeds Muhammad’s life in integrity, grace and wisdom?



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 have two former Muslims that are with us that came to know Christ. Their family disowned them. They went on in their education to get their doctorates, and now they are professors in Christian seminaries. They have written two best-selling books, and we’re answering, I think, the key question of our day: Is Islam a peaceful religion? And the way they’re answering that question is to look at a couple of areas: one is the life of Muhammad. Is he the example that we should follow?
What about the thousand years after Muhammad? How did people take his teachings and how did they live them out?
Then, third, we’re going to look at the Hadith (the Tradition), as well as the Qur’an. What do the verses actually say about jihad? So, this is crucial. In light of all that’s going on with the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, as well as what’s happened in the aftermath of the war in Iraq, the turmoil in the Arab world, what do 1.6 billion Muslims around the world hold to and believe?
So, this is crucial. And guys, we’re talking about the life of Muhammad, and last week we started and we want to get to the rest of his life. Emir, start us off.
Emir: Well, last week we discussed about his military adventures. I think this week we should start off more personally with Muhammad, who lost his father before his birth and was raised, really, after his grandfather died at the age of eight, that he was raised by his uncle.
But when you look at his family, you see something: that he was monogamous to his wife, Khadija, whom he was with. She was fifteen years his older, and when he was 50 years old, she was 65, she died. And that’s when he became the polygamous prophet, that is, he had eleven wives altogether, two concubines – one Jewish concubine and one Christian concubine by the name of Miryam. Probably the most controversial aspect of his life goes with his youngest wife, Aishah, who really becomes one of his successors, if you will, one of those who carries on the faith. She was six years old when they were engaged, and nine years old when he consummated the marriage with her. And this is given in their reports and their Hadith, Hadith, Volume 7, verse 64; and then is repeated in verse 65. And it’s narrated by none other than Aishah.
Ergun: This is important. We often hear this brought up, and especially in the American context, “Are you saying that he married a girl who was six?” And the answer is, “Yes.” I mean, Muslim scholars in repeating it back to us will say, “No. No. She was sixteen.” And we say, “Wait a minute. This is Aishah’s own words.” Hadith 7:64, repeated in verse 65, in al Bukhari’s Hadith, that she was six when he married her and he was 50; and nine when he consummated the marriage when he was 53.
Muslims will sometimes respond and say, “Yeah, but what about Mary?” Well, Mary wasn’t nine. She was at least old enough to conceive and carry a child to full term.
Now, you can chalk it up to culture. You can chalk it up to, “Oh, that was the day and the age.” If they want to do so, that’s fine. But we were simply pointing out historical fact, and the uproar was tumultuous. And we pointed out at the University of Georgia, the Islamic Department there, used a book that cited the exact same thing. It was no problem until it became part of the panoply of American discussion.
Ankerberg: Yeah. Let’s go back to this thing. Most Muslims are limited to four wives, right?
Emir: Surah 4:3.
Ankerberg: Okay. So how did Muhammad get permission to have more wives?
Emir: Well, Muhammad is the prophet. He’s the greatest of the prophets. As one of his biographers, modern-day biographers, Muhammad Haykal, says that he has the right because he is that final word from Allah. And not only that, but the Hadith even brings it further and Hadith says he has the sexual prowess of 30 men. They were very proud to know that Muhammad had more than four wives. He had every right and was a picture for what it was to be a true man in doing so.
Ergun: The Muslims will point out that Muhammad’s marriages were not just marriages of lust, but sometimes they were marriages of alliances, putting together tribes. Again, the point that they make about how Muhammad united the Arabian Peninsula, various tribes. This is something they do within Iraq today. There are so many tribes in Iraq, which it has only been a country since 1921. But Muhammad put together these tribes and sometimes by these marriages. He would marry someone from a tribe and thus they would unite under the auspice or aegis of the movement of Islam.
Ankerberg: When you were Muslims yourselves, before you became Christians, and you knew this information, how did you process this in your mind about Muhammad?
Ergun: Well, we always saw him as the exemplar, Surah 33. We were taught that Muhammad was the greatest, the final, the supreme prophet. But even Muhammad himself as the greatest prophet did not know where he would go when he died. He says in Hadith 5 that, “I don’t know what Allah is going to do with me. Allah does what Allah does.”
And so you have this juxtaposition of, he’s the final revelation, the final mouthpiece of Allah; and then, on the other hand, he has no security. This is why Islam refers to salvation as the straight path. It calls us to the straight path. It calls us to the straight way because it is a journey. There is no such thing as a moment-in-time salvation in Islam, any more than there is a personal relationship with Allah. There is no such thing. What you have is a journey of daily encounter with evil and good; daily encounter with choices and consequences, and so you live in fear of the scales. But you also live with this thought that you stand in this stream, this long strand, this tradition of the straight path.
Ankerberg: Is it true that he said, Muhammad said, that he had special marriages – to Mary, to Miriam (sister of Moses). What was that all about?
Ergun: Well, he spoke of the visions. He would tell his wife, Aishah, who, by the way, even though Aishah was six when she was promised to Muhammad and nine when they were married, she became his greatest defender. She became a strong defender of Islam. But he would tell her often that in a dream, they are recorded in the Hadith for all to read, but that he had been married to Pharaoh’s family; he had been married to Moses’ family; he had been married to Mary.
Ankerberg: The mother of Jesus.
Ergun: Yeah.
Emir: And it goes further because it even says he speaks to the dead. And he said, the only difference is, they do not speak back. “I can hear them but you can’t hear them,” he says, “but they do not speak back to me.” And so you have this picture of divine revelations that go as far as to say, “I was married to Miriam.”
Ergun: It’s Rasul wahy. It’s revelations.
Ankerberg: Guys, there had to come a spot where the morality of Muhammad’s life struck you and you said, “He’s not the example to be followed.” I know this is very, very controversial. This is very, very touchy. But I mean, if you’re talking about truth, where did it strike you that this just was wrong?
Emir: There had to be a willingness. I mean, you could never say anything wrong about Muhammad. He was the final prophet. I would never have thought about saying anything bad about Muhammad or thinking anything bad about Muhammad. I mean, that would be to question Allah himself. And so when you come to the point where there are doubts, then you come to the point where you are willing to see Muhammad for who he truly was. He was a brilliant strategist. He was an excellent military man in his ways and his plottings and so forth. But when you look at Muhammad, he is still human. He’s still a man. He still has faults, many faults. I mean, he is a man that had some things, in which he was married only to one woman; he was a good demonstration during that time of what it was to be monogamous. But on the other hand, he speaks to a Persian poet after a battle, and during this time with the battle the Persian poet doesn’t do anything except write lyrics against him. Muhammad executes him. Before he executes him the poet says, “Well, what do I do if I’m dead? What will happen to my children?” And Muhammad’s answer is, “To hell’s fire go your children!” When you start pondering those things in your mind, all of a sudden Muhammad is much less the figure to be an example of your life; more to be pondered as a man who is only human. And he cannot give you a way in which to be saved. You must find someone who is. And then you have Jesus who is not a way, but the way, who is salvation.
Ergun: Muslims will quickly say they do not worship Muhammad, they worship Allah. And they will fight over this because of the American misconception. “So you guys worship Muhammad.” They will say, “No! Of course not! No, absolutely not. We do not worship a man.” There are no images; there are no icons in Islam. When Jesus returns, Isa returns in Islam, he does three things: He breaks all the crosses, kills all the swine, and then he kills all the Jews and the Christians who do not believe in Allah. Jesus is a man, a messenger, just a man. Muhammad was just a man. They worship Allah. However, Muhammad, as the final revelation, is very human. When they point to us and say, “Well, you worship… you follow Jesus who was just a man.” We say, “No. Jesus Christ is the God-Man. If He was just a man, He would point us to salvation, but Jesus Christ is our salvation. He is our life.” Christianity is Christomorphic. The more we become more like Jesus, we are sanctified in Him.
Ankerberg: Talk about, more about jihad and he, Muhammad, was a strategist and he was a great commander, but he was also, for lack of a better word, very ruthless with some of the people that he conquered. What is some of the history on that?
Emir: Probably the greatest example would be of the Jews. After he conquered a city, he had 800 Jews in a trench outside the city in which he cut off their heads. This is important to understand because when the Crusades happened and the Christians did likewise, and they slaughtered 2,700 Muslims by the very exact same act of decapitation, they were pointing out what Muhammad did. Now, the sad part about that is that the Crusades were not Christian theology. What happened, when Pope Leo IV in 833 said, “If you go to war, then you’ll go to heaven” it was Islamic theology. And then 250 years later, they go to war. They all of a sudden remove Christian theology, take on Islamic theology. And the black eye of the last millennium, the Crusades from 1095 until 1291, is the very picture of what we shouldn’t do when Jesus in Matthew 13 says and gives a parable of wheat and tares, believers and unbelievers, and how you should handle them. The disciples say, Shouldn’t we rip up the unbelievers and remove them from this field which is the world?! And Jesus says, “No,” for two reasons. Number one, He says, “Only I have the right to do that.” He says, number two, if you try to rip up the tares, the unbelievers, you will also rip up the wheat with them.
Ankerberg: Ergun, I think it’s important to say that again, that if people do that in Christ’s name, they’re going against Him; whereas, on the other side, there would be a following of Muhammad’s example. Summarize that.
Ergun: Jesus Christ never called us, ever, to kill the infidel. The Crusades were a horrific, sinful, quite frankly, disgusting dark chapter in our history, because in so doing, we emulated those who were militarily genius, but spiritually empty. Christ didn’t call us to kill the infidel; Christ called us to love the infidel. We are to love our enemies. This is the mark of Christianity. By loving them, sometimes we would rather, as they said about the patristic fathers, we would rather have our own blood shed than to shed the blood of another.
Ankerberg: Yeah. We can use Jesus Christ to condemn the Crusades.
Emir: Yes. That is, we never react according to what others believe. We act according to what the Scripture says and when we take the Scripture literally, we will treat them with a neighbor’s love; that we’ll “do unto others as we would have them do to ourselves.” [Luke 6:31] When we go to war, as we had with Iraq, this is not a Christian army. There are Christians in the Army, but this is not Christianity versus Islam. This is not a religious war on our part, though in many a Muslim’s mind it is a religious war on their part. It is a confessional war that they’re trying to kill the infidel and slay the enemy wherever they find them.” But to us, this is a matter of peace. This is a matter of protecting our homeland. This is not a matter of converting them to Christianity.
Ankerberg: Why is it that they see everything that the West does or Europe does as being Christian ethics at work?
Ergun: Remember, we can’t watch the world through Western eyes. Anywhere else in the world, when you speak of a country or someone’s affiliation to a country, you’re speaking of their religion. When we would see Syria, they’re Alawite; Iraq, Shiite or Sunni but a Shiite majority, but at the time, a Sunni Baath Party leadership. When they see America, they do not see America, the great geo-political super-power or the only mega-power left; they see America, the defender of Zion; America, the Christian nation. For them, since February 23, 1998, the signing of the fatwa, this is not just a war, this is holy war, this is jihad. For us, we either stem it or ignore it. And if we ignore it, we become victims of it.
Ankerberg: Alright, we’re going to take a break and when we come back, we’re going to finish up on the life of Muhammad. We want to see how Muhammad treated women, what the Qur’an has to say. And so this is going to be very interesting. Please stick with us.

Ankerberg: Alright, we’re back, and we’re talking with two former Muslims who became Christians. Their family disowned them. They went on and got their degrees. They’re professors in two different Christian seminaries. And in listening to or kind of playing back in our mind what we just said to you in the last segment, we’re not trying to be controversial. We’re just trying to lay out the facts, to be truthful with you. And yet, at the same time, many of you who are our Muslim friends that are listening to this, that may have upset you, and there are certain things that you probably are bringing back. Before we go on, let’s talk about those. Ergun, what would people be thinking?
Ergun: We were talking about the arguments that the Muslims would use back, talking points, so to speak. The first one, they would say, “You’re taking it out of context.” You know, “That was a different time and a different era.” Okay, perhaps; but if, then, Islam is not eternal, then Muhammad isn’t the exemplar. That he was the exemplar for his generation but not any further. And if you wanted to argue that, that is perhaps a valid argument.
Another group would come along and say, “Well, these boys were never true Muslims,” because in Islam, there is no such thing as a former Muslim. You were born a Muslim. Sha’hada is whispered in your ear by your father. They rub the date in your mouth, the fig in your mouth. There are protocols that are followed because you are born into an Islamic family and thus you are a Muslim. If anyone comes out, this is unheard of.
They will say we converted young. But we were no younger than Muhammad’s wives. You know? We were getting into college age.
Ankerberg: And they converted into Islam.
Ergun: Yes. We make no mistake about it when we debate and when we speak. We didn’t switch teams. I was saved. I didn’t go from worshiping one God to worshiping another God. I didn’t go from being religious to being religious. I went from idolatry to knowing the One true, living, sovereign, loving, intimate God. And this is fundamental. I am not a pluralist. I don’t think of myself as “religious” if by “religious” they mean clip-on ties and white socks and acting a certain way to earn the favor of God. I am a believer in Jesus Christ. What I do, I do because of His grace, not to earn it.
Ankerberg: Yeah. We’re going to have to have you guys back for another series of programs where we deal with the theological questions which are in your other book, More Than a Prophet. I’d really like to get to that. But we’ve got to finish up this one here on the life of Muhammad, and we’re to another controversial area of the role of women as presented in the Qur’an. What is it?
Emir: Probably the most explicit reference to women in the Qur’an is Surah 4:34, where there is an admonition: “What do you do with a wife in which you fear disloyalty?” And there’s a three-pronged way of dealing with her. First, you verbally admonish her. If that doesn’t work, it says, “You do not share your bed with her.” And third, it says in Arabic daraba, that is, you “beat her.” And in some translations, like in my English translation says, “lightly.” Or, “as a last resort” would be another interpretation of “beat her.” In any way when you’re dealing with it, it is still prescribed that you are allowed, you are permitted, to hit your wife if she, for example, commits adultery on you. And all of a sudden, a wife – this is not the view of the Scripture where you are to treat your wife “as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for her” [Eph. 5:25] – but you are really a disciplinarian of her, you’re a protector of her. You are almost her parent in a way.
Ergun: The Qur’an teaches the woman is your tilth, she is your property, that for which you are “tilling her soil,” so to speak.
Now, Muslims will quickly say – again, we’re trying to show both sides – Muslims will quickly say that Muhammad elevated women from where they were as property. Our point is, okay, fine. You have made them cherished property, but still property nonetheless.
The Hadith teaches, which my brother will cite in a minute, the Hadith teaches that a woman’s mind is deficient. That it takes the witness of two women to equal that of one man. Because of this, this has greatly affected us. Neither one of us got married until later because we wanted to be married as Christians, we wanted to be married as sanctified Christians and to hold our wives up as Christ holds up the Church.
Ankerberg: What does Surah 3:14 mean when it says, “Fair in the eyes of men is the love of things they covet: women and sons, heaped up hoards of gold and silver.” What does that mean?
Emir: Well, that is the picture of, she is part and parcel of his property. And it’s not to mean a property as we picture it, but in an Arabic term, property is those things which you cherish, which mean the most to you, which includes property, land, and so forth, gold and silver, but also your wife. And so to the Muslim, she says, “I don’t mind wearing the burqa, the niqab, because it shows that my husband is my protector. But we forget. The great difference in how we treat women as Christians and how Muslims treat women is, women in Christian faith are created imago dei, “in the image of God.” They are equal to us, though they may have different functions. And indeed, women in Christianity, they have the highest calling in life – to be a mother. Higher than any calling of a pastor or a missionary is this woman who gets to nurture and take care of this baby along with a man leading that household. So there’s a great, great discrepancy between the two.
Ankerberg: Ergun, in how many countries is sharia law followed? And talk about some of the laws that prohibit women from, well, looking directly into a man’s eyes. What’s going on there?
Ergun: Any country that calls itself an Islamic Republic operates by sharia law, that is, the laws of Islamic protocol and decorum and deportment; where the Hadith is, to use a better term, “the bill of rights.” You will have rules such as a woman’s covering. You have some cultures where they just wear the hijab which leaves the hands and the face exposed. There is the niqab which is the covering of the eye; the burqa, which is the full covering; the chador. You have this whole different set of rules. And because of these rules, the Taliban was able to say a woman should not be educated. So you had an entire generation of women who were not allowed to go to school because, again, it was seemingly extraneous to them. The countries of Islamic Republics, many women will say, “We feel so protected. We feel loved.” And there is now developing a feminist Islamic movement that reinterprets the Qur’an. Women are now, you know, you deal with nikaah, marriage, and talaaq, divorce. And you see that women have the right to divorce. This is new. In some cultures they would say that the woman does not have the right to divorce. All the husband has to do is to declare divorce three times – “I divorce you. I divorce you. I divorce you” – and it’s over.
Ankerberg: In Iraq, if it becomes a democracy that has religion tied to the state, will the sharia law be applied there? What do you think is going to happen?
Emir: Oh, there is no question they are fighting for sharia law, especially the Shiite, now that they are no longer oppressed and so many hundreds of thousands have been killed, along with the Kurds up to the north. They want sharia law. This to them is… freedom from oppression is to bring sharia law where the Christians are subjugated second-class citizens. We have seen this in so many countries around the world: the Sudan, across North Africa, the Middle East and countries like Saudi Arabia, the newest one being in Malaysia. Last year it became sharia law. The fight in Nigeria even now between the tribal lords which want sharia law, and a national government which does not. And so you see that sharia law, this militant Islam, if you will, is not digressing, is not being removed. It is absolutely on the rise.
Ergun: Even in our country, Turkey, this last November, the Islamic fundamentalist movement, which we call them purists there, those that believe in the purity of Islam, they came to power. Turkey has been the only secular state out of an Islamic worldview in history to follow the Ottoman Empire, Kemal Attaturk. It looks now that it’s going backward.
Ankerberg: Alright, summarize now. Our overall topic is: Is Islam a peaceful religion? We’re looking at, first of all, the life of Muhammad. We’ve had two weeks now on the life of Muhammad. Summarize that in relationship to that main question and just, is he the example we should follow?
Emir: That would have to be an unequivocal “No.” This is not to bash Muhammad but to remind the Muslim, you do not follow a mere man. You do not follow a man who calls himself the greatest of prophets with what his example was. Instead, if you’ll look to Jesus Christ as the only Savior, as the One who says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but by Me,” [John 14:6] then you’ll find an unconditional love, and undeserving grace, and an unending mercy. You’ll find peace and joy and mercy like you’ve never had before because you couldn’t. Not with the scales from Surah 17. Not with the lack of eternal security as Muhammad himself has, but instead, you find peace in Jesus Christ, in a relationship with God that will never end.
Ankerberg: Alright. We’re looking at the life of Muhammad. Next week, we’re going to start to look at the thousand years of history after Muhammad. How did his followers carry out his teachings? And then we’re going to look at the Hadith and we’re going to look at the Qur’an and verses regarding the jihad. And so I hope that you’ll stick with us.

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