Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s decision Friday to convert Hagia Sophia, the foremost cathedral in Christendom for nearly 1,000 years, to a mosque has been condemned the world over, but it has also garnered applause from at least one Christian theologian, the liberal Anglican Giles Fraser, who joins the multitudes of other Christian leaders who believe that appeasement and self-abnegation, even unto utter self-destruction, is the way forward for the Church.
Fraser, who is, you will not be surprised to learn, a former columnist for the Guardian, said: “Now I am no particular fan of Turkish leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, but when it comes to his desire to return this once holy place back to a mosque, I cannot but applaud.” He even asserted that “Christians should be delighted” by this development, for “the curse of secularism will be lifted and this holy space will return once again to the praise of Almighty God. Allahu Akbar.”
Fraser can blithely scream “Allahu akbar” because he has no idea of the implications of the phrase. It does not mean “God is great,” its most common translation in the English-language media. It is, rather, the aggressive declaration that Allah and Islam are dominant over every other form of government, religion, law or ethic, which is why Islamic jihadists in the midst of killing infidels so often shout it.
One primary purpose of shouting it is to “strike terror in the hearts of the enemies of Allah.” Chief 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta made this explicit in his letter to himself before carrying out his jihad mission: “When the confrontation begins, strike like champions who do not want to go back to this world. Shout, ‘Allahu Akbar,’ because this strikes fear in the hearts of the non-believers.” This is why the Fort Hood jihad killer, Nidal Malik Hasan, shouted it as he shot thirteen Americans in November 2009, and why so many other jihadis have used it essentially as an announcement that non-Muslims are about to die.
But Fraser is not concerned about that, because he thinks his god is the same as the god of Islam in any case. “And to those Christians who believe that Muslims and Christians worship something different,” he says, “I offer no less an authority than the Pope himself. Ahead of his trip to Morocco last year, the Pope tweeted: ‘I am coming as a pilgrim of peace and fraternity. We Christians and Muslims believe in God, the Creator and the Merciful, who created people to live like brothers and sisters, respecting each other in their diversity, and helping one another in their needs.’”
Fraser adds: “This view goes back to the Second Vatican Council, where it was affirmed that Muslims, ‘together with us adore the one, merciful God.’”
Giles Fraser has offered an argument from authority, which is the weakest of all arguments: Christians and Muslims worship the same God because the Pope Francis and the Second Vatican Council say so. In reality, there are immediate and obvious differences: the Trinity, the crucifixion, and the divinity of Christ. Beyond that, Islam in its traditional theological formulations denies free will, the nature of good and evil, and the nature of the deity.
There are numerous passages of the Qur’an, as well as indications from Islamic tradition, to the effect that not only can no one believe in Allah except by his will, so also no one can disbelieve in him except by his active will. “And to whoever God assigns no light, no light has he” (24:40).
The issue of free will versus predestination has, of course, vexed Christians of various sects for centuries, as different biblical passages are given different weight in various traditions. Calvinism, of course, in its pure form is notorious for its doctrine of double predestination, the idea that God has destined people for hell as well as for salvation. But this position is largely unique to them in the Christian tradition, which generally holds that God desires all men and women to be saved, and gives them the means to attain this salvation. The idea that God would create men for hell is in total conflict with the proposition that God “desires all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4), and that he “takes no pleasure in the death of anyone” (Ezekiel 18:32).
Allah, by contrast, sends people to hell based not on their deeds, but solely upon his fiat: “And if we had willed, We could have given every soul its guidance, but the word from me will come into effect: I will surely fill hell with jinn and people all together” (Qur’an 32:13).
Another Qur’an passage adds: “We have created for hell many jinn and men: they have hearts, but do not understand with them; they have eyes, but do not perceive with them; they have ears, but they do not hear with them. They are like cattle; nay, rather they are further astray. Those — they are the heedless” (7:179).
In Islamic theological history, a party known as the Qadariyya tried to advance the concept of individual free will. The pioneering Islamic scholar Ignaz Goldziher explains that the Qadaryya were protesting against “an unworthy conception of God,” and yet they “could not find a large body of supporters” among Muslims. Their opponents “battled them with the received interpretation of the sacred scriptures.” And won. Ultimately, Muslim authorities declared the concept of human free will to be heretical. A twelfth-century Muslim jurist, Ibn Abi Ya’la, fulminated that the Qadariyya wrongly “consider that they hold in their grasp the ability to do good and evil, avoid harm and obtain benefit, obey and disobey, and be guided or misguided. They claim that human beings retain full initiative, without any prior status within the will of Allah for their acts, nor even in His knowledge of them.” Even worse, “their doctrine is similar to that of Zoroastrians and Christians. It is the very root of heresy.”
The Christian concept that mankind’s alienation from God is manifested in an inclination toward sin is likewise alien to Islam. In Islam, although Adam and Eve begin in Paradise and are banished from it after their disobedience, and Satan vows to tempt the believers, ultimately even this is a manifestation of Allah’s active will. In the Qur’an, it is only Allah who inspires in the soul both “wickedness and righteousness” (91:8). The world-renowned Pakistani Muslim political leader and theologian Syed Abul Ala Maududi (1902-1979), who wrote a popular and influential commentary on the Qur’an, explains that this verse means that “the Creator has imbedded in man’s nature tendencies and inclinations towards both good and evil.”
That means that Allah is ultimately responsible not just for the soul’s inclination toward good, but for its inclination toward evil as well. In other words, in sharp contrast to the Christian understanding that evil is the rejection of God, in Islam God is the source of evil. This is worlds apart from the proposition that “God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all” (I John 1:5) — for to place evil in the soul, Allah must have it to give, which would be utterly impossible and absurd in the Christian conception, since evil is the absence of God.
Meanwhile, no limits can be placed upon the sovereignty of Allah, the absolute monarch. That includes ones that would naturally arise from his being always good and true. Allah, the Qur’an says twice, is the best of “schemers”: “And when those who disbelieved plotted against you to restrain you or kill you or evict you. But they scheme, and Allah schemes. And Allah is the best of schemers.” (8:30; cf. 3:54). In this “scheming,” Allah has no limitations whatsoever. Indeed, at one point the Qur’an excoriates the Jews for suggesting limits to God’s power. The passage is ambiguous, but its principal import is plain enough: They dared to say that there was something Allah could not do: “And the Jews say, ‘The hand of Allah is chained.’ Chained are their hands, and cursed are they for what they say. Rather, both his hands are extended; he spends however he wills” (5:64). Neither does he have any obligation to disclose any consistency or anything else in what he does: “He shall not be questioned as to what he does” (21:23).
What could the Jews have possibly meant, if any Jews ever said it at all? It is possible that they meant that God, being good, would be consistent, and would operate the universe according to consistent and observable laws. This would not have been so much a limitation on what God could do, but upon what he would do. This proposition of divine consistency was all-important for the development of scientific inquiry. “The rise of science,” observes social scientist Rodney Stark, “was not an extension of classical learning. It was the natural outgrowth of Christian doctrine: nature exists because it was created by God. In order to love and honor God, it is necessary to fully appreciate the wonders of his handiwork. Because God is perfect, that handiwork functions in accord with immutable principles. By the full use of our God-given powers of reason and observation, it ought to be possible to discover those principles.” That process of discovery became the foundation of modern science. “These were the crucial ideas,” says Stark, “that explain why science arose in Christian Europe and nowhere else.”
Indeed, for an Islamic culture to have affirmed that God’s creation operates according to immutable principles would have been nothing short of blasphemy. Allah’s hand is not chained by consistency or by anything else. Allah is absolutely free to do anything he wills to do, without any expectations or limitations deriving from logic, love, or anything else. This idea made sure that scientific exploration in the Islamic world would be stillborn.
As I noted in a statement to ChurchMilitant.com, All this and much more was known in the Christian world up until the 1960s. Vatican II’s affirmation that Muslims and Christians together worship the one God, and pointed omission of any discussion of what had led the two to be in conflict for 1,400 years, was a radical departure from the statements of many popes, as well as of saints and martyrs.
Useful Idiots such as Giles Fraser, who couch their capitulation in the guise of being broadminded, tolerant, and generous, will be the death of us.
Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch and a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. He is author of 21 books, including the New York Times bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. His latest book is Rating America’s Presidents: An America-First Look at Who Is Best, Who Is Overrated, and Who Was An Absolute Disaster. Follow him on Twitter here. Like him on Facebook here.