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What do the Taliban believe?

Robin Schumacher
Courtesy of Robin Schumacher

There are few people who would argue with the fact that, since 9/11, the Taliban have become synonymous with Islamic-based extremism and acts of terror. Waging convert-or-die campaigns, brutalizing their Muslim minorities, and burning young girls with acid for attending school have been usual and customary for the terror group.

With the recent meteoric fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban, fears of an “ISIS 3.0” are rising, with many asking questions about the global plans of the Taliban and what will happen next. Let’s take a quick look at how the Taliban formed, who they are, what they believe and why.

The beginnings

When Muhammad died in AD 632, a dispute raged over who would lead Islam. One side believed anyone could assume leadership whereas another side argued only someone from Muhammad’s family should rule.

The first group won out and were referenced as the Sunnis (followers of the way) with the other group being labeled Shiites (the party of Ali, a member of Muhammad’s family). From a national perspective, Saudi Arabia and Iran are the leading powers of the two branches of Islam, with the heart of Sunni Islam being Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam, and Iran being home to the Shiites.

The Taliban are Sunni Muslims and adherents to the Salafist doctrine, which looks back to the early years of Islam to understand how Muslims today should practice their faith. They reject any kind of religious innovation with one practical outworking of that being the implementation of Sharia (Islamic law).

Always remember that Islam, especially to groups like the Taliban, is more than a personal religion: it dictates the social and political culture as well. Of the three different Salafist categories (the quietists, activists and jihadists) the Taliban fall squarely into the third.

“Talib,” the singular form of Taliban, means “student,” especially a religious learner. The term references the role of their religious school in Pakistan, called a madrassa, that has helped shape the group. As for the teaching’s logical outworking, their use of violence has been on display for everyone to see, with Afghans, in particular, having experienced the group’s brutality firsthand.

Choosing which Islam to practice

In his excellent book, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, Nabeel Qureshi chronicles his conversion from Islam to Christianity. Qureshi’s story is a good example of how many Muslim families live and pass on their faith without gifting their offspring with AK-47s and training them to hate people, but rather wisely educating and loving them and teaching that Islam is a religion of peace.

Later in life, Qureshi began wrestling with verses from the Quran that prescribed violence against non-Muslims. Unlike the Bible where historical context can be used to interpret such things, Qureshi points out that attempting to use context and historical setting for interpreting verses in the Quran the same way is impossible.

Qureshi describes how this causes the great divide in Islam: “Through selective quotation, Muhammad becomes the picture-perfect prophet. ... If a Western Muslim wants to paint a peaceful portrait of Muhammad, all they have to do is quote peaceful hadith and verses of the Quran to the exclusion of the violent ones. If an Islamic extremist wants to mobilize his followers to acts of terrorism, he will quote the violent references, to the exclusion of the peaceful ones.”

This being true, there is no getting around the fact that Islam is logically inconsistent in what it teaches where peace and violence are concerned. This naturally leads to the worry of which side will ultimately rule in the Muslim world.

The Taliban’s view of Jesus

The Taliban, being Quran purists, will tell you things about Jesus that make him sound a lot like the Christ of the New Testament. They say Jesus was born of a virgin (Sura 3:47), proclaimed to be the Messiah (Sura 3:45), performed miracles (Sura 3:49), was confirmed to be righteous (Sura 6:85), sinless (Sura 3:46), had disciples (Sura 3:52-53), was sent with a Gospel (Sura 5:46), his words should be believed (Sura 4:171), was taken to Heaven by God (Sura 4:156-159), and will come again (Sura 3:55).

But they will also tell you that Jesus was created out of dust (Sura 3:59), is not the Son of God or God (Sura 4:171), was not crucified and did not die (Sura 4:157), was not resurrected (because he did not die), was not a Jew nor were his disciples (Sura 5:48, 53, 5:111), prophesied the coming of Muhammad (Sura 61:6), should not be worshipped (Sura 5:116), and will return, die and be judged (Sunan Abu Dawud Book 37, Number 4310).

Clearly, the Taliban’s Islamic Jesus is a fabrication and what the Apostle Paul calls “another Jesus” (2 Cor. 11:4).

Should we be afraid?

We are indebted to people like Qureshi who show us that Muslim families like his should worry no one. They have the right to take their Islamic beliefs and enter into dialogue with all other faiths and philosophies in the world’s marketplace of ideas, which, if you read Qureshi’s book, is all they ever did.

You and I should not be afraid of Muslim people, but we should very much be afraid of false teachings about God and Christ, which bring with it eternal consequences, and the violent prescriptive teaching found in Islamic texts that extremists carry out.

Winston Churchill said decades ago, “The empires of the future are the empires of the mind.” He meant that ideas have consequences; good ideas benefit society whereas bad ideas generate negative outcomes.

All people should be respected and each person is created equal, but we also must understand that not all ideas are. And when flawed ideas are combined with sinful hearts (Jer. 17:9), as is the case with the Taliban, the results are catastrophic. 

Robin Schumacher is an accomplished software executive and Christian apologist who has written many articles, authored and contributed to several Christian books, appeared on nationally syndicated radio programs, and presented at apologetic events. He holds a BS in Business, Master's in Christian apologetics and a Ph.D. in New Testament. His latest book is, A Confident Faith: Winning people to Christ with the apologetics of the Apostle Paul.

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