Editor’s Note: I’m now writing the Islam worldview chapter for the new edition of Understanding the Times. Of the 10,000 words in this chapter (including footnotes), what sticks out the most is Christians’ breathtaking ignorance about Islam. We desperately need to understand this one central point:
When Allah created the world, Muslims say, our first parents were actually Muslim. Adam was even a prophet of Islam. Although Adam and Eve disobeyed Allah’s original prohibition and ate from the forbidden tree, their mistake (not sin) was quickly forgiven. And though their action resulted in the world not being as it should be (with humans rebelling against God), Allah’s intent ever since has been to bring the world back to the original state of Islam — the original state of submission to Allah.
Muslims believe every human being is born a Muslim in a state of submission to Allah. But from very young ages, we are led astray to worship false gods or to deny God altogether. It was up to the prophets of Allah to speak to the nations and correct these errors of belief and practice.
Because the world was created in submission to Allah and every human being is born a Muslim, to refuse to become a Muslim is rebellion against Allah. It is the obligation of Muslims to battle rebellion against God through jihad. Jihad has two facets. First, it is the battle against temptation and sin for the sake of developing virtue and self-control. In other words, it can imply battling one’s own rebellion. The second facet is the battle against any and all who oppose Islam.
Some call this second aspect of jihad “holy war.” As the famous Arab historian, Ibn Kjaldun (1333–1406) said, “In the Muslim community, the holy war is a religious duty, because of the universalism of the (Muslim) mission and (the obligation to) convert everybody to Islam either by persuasion or force.” 1 Fighting against non-Muslims is viewed not as an act of aggression but an act of restoration — the offering of Allah’s mercy to those willing to end their rebellious ways.
To Muslims, peace occurs when non-Muslims cease rebelling. The vision of Islamists is that one day Islam will establish peace by quashing such rebellion at a global level. If Islamists seem dismissive when accused of aggression, it is because they view jihad is merely a response to aggressive unbelief. They think, “You are the ones in rebellion against Allah. We are helping you be restored to him, as he commands, and as is best for you.” If we fail to grasp this key point, we will never understand what Muslims really mean when they say Islam is a religion of peace or that jihad is only defensive.
To the Muslim mind, any nation that refuses to permit Muslims to live as they please, and to adopt and propagate Islam, must be forced into submission for its own good and for the glory of God. When western nations refuse to establish Shari’ah law, for example, it is essentially a declaration of war, the only proper response to which is jihad.