Interview: Former Muslim Nabeel Qureshi on 'Is Islam a Religion of Peace?' (Part 2)

A person prays at the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Baitus-Salaam Mosque during an open mosque event at which members of the public are invited to see how Ahmadiyya Muslims pray, in Hawthorne, California December 18, 2015.
A person prays at the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Baitus-Salaam Mosque during an open mosque event at which members of the public are invited to see how Ahmadiyya Muslims pray, in Hawthorne, California December 18, 2015. | (Photo: REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni)

Many Christians are wondering whether Muslims and Christians worship the same God, after Wheaton College suspended a professor recently for making that claim and sparking a national debate. The professor, Dr. Larycia Hawkins of the political science department, is refusing to back down from her claim and some students and alumni are calling for her reinstatement. Meanwhile, others are thanking Wheaton for remaining a "Christian liberal arts college that is dedicated to sound theology."

In part one of my interview with former Muslim Nabeel Qureshi, he explains the theological problems with asserting that Muslims and Christians worship the same God. In part two, the itinerant speaker with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries discusses Islam's link to violence. He also discusses why Muslims today are especially open to the Gospel.

Julie Roys: Let's talk a little bit about terrorism and its link to Islam. On one hand, we hear President Obama saying that Islam is a religion of peace and that Islamic extremism represents only a tiny fraction of Muslims. On the other hand, I read a Pew poll that found that 63 million Muslims in 11 countries support ISIS. And, if you take into account all of those who are undecided about ISIS, the number grows to about 224 million. So, is Islam a religion of peace — or does it in fact promote violence?

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Nabeel Qureshi is the author of the new book 'Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus.'
Nabeel Qureshi is the author of the new book "Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus." | (Photo: McClure/Muntsinger)

Nabeel Qureshi: That is a question that requires defining our terms. How do we define Islam? . . . Do we define Islam how Muslims, people who self-proclaim as Muslims, how they practice Islam. ...? Is that what Islam is? Or, is Islam that which Muḥammad, the prophet of Islam, left before he died — that religion, that sociopolitical-religio system that Muhammad left? Is that Islam historically?

Now, people from more Protestant backgrounds tend to go back to the original. That's what we do with our faith. We want to go to the New Testament. We want to see what Jesus said and what the disciples say in the New Testament. . . . Perhaps because I'm a Protestant — I think Islam should be defined as that religion which Muhammad left . . . That is what Islam is.

If we understand that to be Islam, then there's no question that Islam has violence in its original form. Muhammad used violence to accomplish his ends. Now, I don't want to sound like this is Nabeel Qureshi making a judgment call. We can just quote the words of Muhammad. If we go to Sahih Bukhari, for example, this is the volume of Muhammad's traditions that is understood to be the most trustworthy . . . What (Muhammad) says is, "I have come to fight those who do not say, 'La ilaha illallah Muhammadur Rasulullah.'" In other words, "I have come to fight those who do not proclaim Islam, and if they do not say this, their persons and their property are not safe from me."

Very clearly, in the most trustworthy collection of traditions, he has come to fight non-Muslims. Until they become Muslim, their persons and their property are not safe from him. In Sahih Muslim, the next most trustworthy book, this is hadith number 30, he says, "I will expel all the Jews and Christians from the Arabian Peninsula and will not leave any but Muslims." . . .

If Muhammad is, according to these traditions, using violence to accomplish his ends, I simply cannot see how we can call it a religion of peace. . . .

Julie Roys: How many Muslims around the world practice and actually believe Islam in the way you just described, in its original form as Muhammad passed it down?

Nabeel Qureshi: A very astute question, Julie. When I was a Muslim, I didn't know any of this. I had been taught that Muhammad was the most peaceful man who ever lived. I had been taught that he would only defend the community. If he ever took to arms, it was just for self-defense — never offensively.

It wasn't until 9/11 happened that I was forced to deal with a whole group of Muslims who disagree, and I had to see why. It was when I started looking into the sources that I realized what the evidence said. I think in the West at least, the vast majority of Muslims do understand Islam to be religion of peace. When they say, "Islam is a religion of peace," they are simply saying what they've been taught, what they've understood, how they've known their religion from birth. And, so they believe it, just like I did.

I'm not sure that's the case for Muslims in the rest of the world. Honestly, when I've talked to people from Saudi, when I've talked to people from the Levant, I've asked them how they've understood Islam. Generally speaking, Muslims from those countries are okay with violence. They don't have the same issues that Westerners do, and they've understood that Islam has used violence.

We have to nuance our understanding of Muslims because they do range from California all the way to Indonesia. Muslims have different sorts of different understandings. In the West, I think they think Islam is peaceful. In the rest of the world, I think they know better.

When Muhammad first started preaching, he was preaching a message of peace. He had no battles, no wars for 13 years of his 23-year ministry. Once that 13th year hit, he fought battles every single year. The battles only increased, and so it starts peaceful and becomes violent. . . .

The final marching orders of Islam, chapter nine of the Quran, is the most violent chapter of the Quran. When you see, "Slay the infidel where you find them, lay siege to them and take them captive," that's chapter nine verse five. . . .

The most violent passages in the Quran are in the last chapter of the Quran. What does that tell you? That tells you that Islam went from peaceful to violent during the time of Muhammad. The last marching orders he gave his people were to spread Islam by the sword . . .

Julie Roys is a speaker, freelance journalist and blogger at She also is the host of a national radio program on the Moody Radio Network called, Up For Debate. Julie and her husband live in the Chicago suburbs and have three children

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