A Series of Answers to Common Questions

Sam Shamoun


Christians condemn the Quran and Islam for all the violence taught therein, but say nothing about all the OT brutalities such as God commanding the utter annihilation of the Amalekites, including women, children and animals. Why this inconsistency?


Trying to compare, or even justify, Islam’s brutality on the grounds that the Old Testament is just as brutal is a false analogy and unfounded for several reasons.

First, the wars and violence found within the OT are descriptive, not prescriptive. They are describing events as they occurred, commandments God had given a specific people for a specific purpose. These instructions are not prescriptions for followers today, which is unlike the Quran. The Islamic injunctions are binding on all Muslims for all times, making it mandatory that all the faithful wage war against the infidels till the end of the age.

Second, none of the OT wars were fought with the purpose of forcibly converting the pagans to the religion of Israel. God commanded these wars for the specific purpose of punishment and judgment, that the time had come for God to punish specific peoples for all of their atrocious acts and abominations, some of which included the following:

"The LORD said to Moses, ‘Speak to the Israelites and say to them: "I am the LORD your God. You must not do as they do in Egypt, where you used to live, and you must not do as they do in the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you. Do not follow their practices. You must obey my laws and be careful to follow my decrees. I am the LORD your God. Keep my decrees and laws, for the man who obeys them will live by them. I am the LORD. No one is to approach any close relative to have sexual relations. I am the LORD. Do not dishonor your father by having sexual relations with your mother. She is your mother; do not have relations with her. Do not have sexual relations with your father's wife; that would dishonor your father. Do not have sexual relations with your sister, either your father's daughter or your mother's daughter, whether she was born in the same home or elsewhere. Do not have sexual relations with your son's daughter or your daughter's daughter; that would dishonor you. Do not have sexual relations with the daughter of your father's wife, born to your father; she is your sister. Do not have sexual relations with your father's sister; she is your father's close relative. Do not have sexual relations with your mother's sister, because she is your mother's close relative. Do not dishonor your father's brother by approaching his wife to have sexual relations; she is your aunt. Do not have sexual relations with your daughter-in-law. She is your son's wife; do not have relations with her. Do not have sexual relations with your brother's wife; that would dishonor your brother. Do not have sexual relations with both a woman and her daughter. Do not have sexual relations with either her son's daughter or her daughter's daughter; they are her close relatives. That is wickedness. Do not take your wife's sister as a rival wife and have sexual relations with her while your wife is living. Do not approach a woman to have sexual relations during the uncleanness of her monthly period. Do not have sexual relations with your neighbor's wife and defile yourself with her. Do not give any of your children to be sacrificed to Molech, for you must not profane the name of your God. I am the LORD. Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable. Do not have sexual relations with an animal and defile yourself with it. A woman must not present herself to an animal to have sexual relations with it; that is a perversion. Do not defile yourselves in any of these ways, because this is how the nations that I am going to drive out before you became defiled. Even the land was defiled; so I punished it for its sin, and the land vomited out its inhabitants. But you must keep my decrees and my laws. The native-born and the aliens living among you must not do any of these detestable things, for all these things were done by the people who lived in the land before you, and the land became defiled. And if you defile the land, it will vomit you out as it vomited out the nations that were before you. Everyone who does any of these detestable things—such persons must be cut off from their people. Keep my requirements and do not follow any of the detestable customs that were practiced before you came and do not defile yourselves with them. I am the LORD your God."’" Leviticus 18:1-30

This, again, is unlike the Quran which commands Muslims to fight even those recognized as being people of revelation:

Fight those who do not believe in Allah, nor in the latter day, nor do they prohibit what Allah and His Apostle have prohibited, nor follow the religion of truth, out of those who have been given the Book, until they pay the tax in acknowledgment of superiority and they are in a state of subjection. S. 9:29 Shakir

Third, God had given these nations ample supernatural evidence of his existence and power:

"Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the LORD: ‘I will sing to the LORD, for he is highly exalted. The horse and its rider he has hurled into the sea. The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him. The LORD is a warrior; the LORD is his name. Pharaoh’s chariots and his army he has hurled into the sea. The best of Pharaoh's officers are drowned in the Red Sea. The deep waters have covered them; they sank to the depths like a stone. Your right hand, O LORD, was majestic in power. Your right hand, O LORD, shattered the enemy. In the greatness of your majesty you threw down those who opposed you. You unleashed your burning anger; it consumed them like stubble. By the blast of your nostrils the waters piled up. The surging waters stood firm like a wall; the deep waters congealed in the heart of the sea. The enemy boasted, "I will pursue, I will overtake them. I will divide the spoils; I will gorge myself on them. I will draw my sword and my hand will destroy them." But you blew with your breath, and the sea covered them. They sank like lead in the mighty waters. Who among the gods is like you, O LORD? Who is like you— majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders? You stretched out your right hand and the earth swallowed them. In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed. In your strength you will guide them to your holy dwelling. The nations will hear and tremble; anguish will grip the people of Philistia. The chiefs of Edom will be terrified, the leaders of Moab will be seized with trembling, the people of Canaan will melt away; terror and dread will fall upon them. By the power of your arm they will be as still as a stone— until your people pass by, O LORD, until the people you bought pass by. You will bring them in and plant them on the mountain of your inheritance— the place, O LORD, you made for your dwelling, the sanctuary, O Lord, your hands established. The LORD will reign for ever and ever.’" Exodus 15:1-18

"This very day I will begin to put the terror and fear of you on all the nations under heaven. They will hear reports of you and will tremble and be in anguish because of you." Deuteronomy 2:25

"Before the spies lay down for the night, she went up on the roof and said to them, ‘I know that the LORD has given this land to you and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you. We have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed. When we heard of it, our hearts melted and everyone's courage failed because of you, for the LORD your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.’" Joshua 2:8-11

"They said to him, ‘From a very distant country your servants have come, because of the name of the LORD your God. For we have heard a report of him, and all that he did in Egypt, and all that he did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon the king of Heshbon, and to Og king of Bashan, who lived in Ashtaroth. So our elders and all the inhabitants of our country said to us, "Take provisions in your hand for the journey and go to meet them and say to them, ‘We are your servants. Come now, make a covenant with us.’"’ … They answered Joshua, ‘Because it was told to your servants for a certainty that the LORD your God had commanded his servant Moses to give you all the land and to destroy all the inhabitants of the land from before you--so we feared greatly for our lives because of you and did this thing.’" Joshua 9:9-11, 24

The foregoing shows that the nations such as Egypt had been privy to the supernatural signs and wonders that God was performing. Yet instead of heeding these signs and repenting, many of them such as the Canaanites decided to remain obstinate in their unbelief and defy God by fighting against his covenant people. Thus, God was completely justified in demanding their complete annihilation in light of their willful disobedience and defiance.

Muhammad, on the other hand, failed to provide any supernatural verification for his prophetic claims and even contradicted the very standard which he himself claimed to be the Word of God, the Holy Bible. Hence, from a biblical perspective Muhammad was a false prophet that had to be rejected by true believers. He, therefore, had no right to impose his will and religion upon the masses of people in light of his failure to validate his prophetic aspirations.

Fourth, the Holy Bible teaches that all are born sinners which means that it is inevitable and inescapable for even children to grow up to be rebel sinners:

"The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain. So the LORD said, ‘I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth—men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air—for I am grieved that I have made them.’" Genesis 6:5-7

"Then Noah built an altar to the LORD and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it. The LORD smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: ‘Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done.’" Genesis 8:20-21

"When they sin against you—for there is no one who does not sin—and you become angry with them and give them over to the enemy, who takes them captive to his own land, far away or near;" 1 Kings 8:46

"Can a mortal be more righteous than God? Can a man be more pure than his Maker? If God places no trust in his servants, if he charges his angels with error, how much more those who live in houses of clay, whose foundations are in the dust, who are crushed more readily than a moth!" Job 4:17-19

"Man born of woman is of few days and full of trouble. He springs up like a flower and withers away; like a fleeting shadow, he does not endure. Do you fix your eye on such a one? Will you bring him before you for judgment? Who can bring what is pure from the impure? No one! Man’s days are determined; you have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed." Job 14:1-5

"What is man, that he could be pure, or one born of woman, that he could be righteous? If God places no trust in his holy ones, if even the heavens are not pure in his eyes, how much less man, who is vile and corrupt, who drinks up evil like water!" Job 15:14-16

"How then can a man be righteous before God? How can one born of woman be pure? If even the moon is not bright and the stars are not pure in his eyes, how much less man, who is but a maggot— a son of man, who is only a worm!" Job 25:4-6

"Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me." Psalm 51:5

"Even from birth the wicked go astray; from the womb they are wayward and speak lies." Psalm 58:3

"Do not bring your servant into judgment, for no one living is righteous before you." Psalm 143:2

"Who can say, ‘I have kept my heart pure; I am clean and without sin’?" Proverbs 20:9

"There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins… This only have I found: God made mankind upright, but men have gone in search of many schemes." Ecclesiastes 7:20, 29

"This is the evil in everything that happens under the sun: The same destiny overtakes all. The hearts of men, moreover, are full of evil and there is madness in their hearts while they live, and afterward they join the dead." Ecclesiastes 9:3

"Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots? Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil." Jeremiah 13:23

"The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?" Jeremiah 17:9

The Canaanites themselves are proof of this theological truth:

"As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell on Abram. And behold, dreadful and great darkness fell upon him. Then the LORD said to Abram, ‘Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. As for yourself, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age. And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.’" Genesis 15:12-16

Notice that God tells Abraham that his seed will not enter the land until the Amorites have reached the full measure of their sins, which would take roughly four hundred years. This means that every new generation of Canaanites grew up to be just as wicked and evil as the generation before them, without anyone repenting of their sins, proving that even children are born sinful and grow up to be rebels.

The foregoing also shows the longsuffering endurance of God since he didn’t strike them down right away, but waited patiently for four hundreds after which his holiness demanded that such wickedness had to be punished. The sins of the Canaanites could not go unchecked.

Hence, from a biblical perspective God is even just in commanding the death of infants and children since even they will grow up to rebel and sin against their Maker. The only way they can avoid being rebel sinners is if God decides to show them mercy and grace. Yet God is not obligated to show mercy to anyone, but he is obligated to punish sinners if he is to remain just and holy. Thus, all persons deserve to be punished and no one deserves to be saved.

But glory be to his name, God has chosen to show mercy and bestow grace on those whom he freely chooses:

"If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared." Psalm 130:3-4

"And the LORD said, ‘I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion." Exodus 33:19

"It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: ‘I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.’ Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden." Romans 9:16-18

"As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus." Ephesians 2:1-7

Muslim theology, on the other hand, denies that man is born with a sinful nature. They claim that humans are born morally neutral, a position which backfires against Islam. After all, if humans are born morally innocent then why does the Quran teach that Allah wiped out entire places, villages, cities etc., such as Sodom and Gomorrah which definitely included children? (Cf. S. 26:105-190; this article contains a discussion of this issue.)

Fifth, God didn’t just fight for Israel but for other nations as well, and even forbade Israel from ever thinking of trying to fight these people in order to take their lands away:

"Then the LORD said to me, ‘You have been going about this mountain country long enough; turn northward. And command the people, You are about to pass through the territory of your brethren the sons of Esau, who live in Se'ir; and they will be afraid of you. So take good heed; do not contend with them; for I will not give you any of their land, no, not so much as for the sole of the foot to tread on, because I have given Mount Se'ir to Esau as a possession. You shall purchase food from them for money, that you may eat; and you shall also buy water of them for money, that you may drink. For the LORD your God has blessed you in all the work of your hands; he knows your going through this great wilderness; these forty years the LORD your God has been with you; you have lacked nothing. So we went on, away from our brethren the sons of Esau who live in Se'ir, away from the Arabah road from Elath and E'zion-ge'ber. And we turned and went in the direction of the wilderness of Moab. And the LORD said to me, ‘Do not harass Moab or contend with them in battle, for I will not give you any of their land for a possession, because I have given Ar to the sons of Lot for a possession.’ (The Emim formerly lived there, a people great and many, and tall as the Anakim; like the Anakim they are also known as Reph'aim, but the Moabites call them Emim. The Horites also lived in Se'ir formerly, but the sons of Esau dispossessed them, and destroyed them from before them, and settled in their stead; as Israel did to the land of their possession, which the LORD gave to them.) ‘Now rise up, and go over the brook Zered.’ So we went over the brook Zered. And the time from our leaving Ka'desh-bar'nea until we crossed the brook Zered was thirty-eight years, until the entire generation, that is, the men of war, had perished from the camp, as the LORD had sworn to them. For indeed the hand of the LORD was against them, to destroy them from the camp, until they had perished. So when all the men of war had perished and were dead from among the people, the LORD said to me, ‘This day you are to pass over the boundary of Moab at Ar; and when you approach the frontier of the sons of Ammon, do not harass them or contend with them, for I will not give you any of the land of the sons of Ammon as a possession, because I have given it to the sons of Lot for a possession.’ (That also is known as a land of Reph'aim; Reph'aim formerly lived there, but the Ammonites call them Zamzum'mim, a people great and many, and tall as the Anakim; but the LORD destroyed them before them; and they dispossessed them, and settled in their stead; as he did for the sons of Esau, who live in Se'ir, when he destroyed the Horites before them, and they dispossessed them, and settled in their stead even to this day. As for the Avvim, who lived in villages as far as Gaza, the Caph'torim, who came from Caphtor, destroyed them and settled in their stead.)" Deuteronomy 2:2-23

The above passage powerfully demonstrates how completely fair, loving and just the true God really is.

With the foregoing in mind we now turn our attention to God’s command to wipe out the Amalekites:

"Samuel said to Saul, ‘I am the one the LORD sent to anoint you king over his people Israel; so listen now to the message from the LORD. This is what the LORD Almighty says: "I will punish the Amalekites FOR WHAT THEY DID to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys."’ So Saul summoned the men and mustered them at Telaim—two hundred thousand foot soldiers and ten thousand men from Judah. Saul went to the city of Amalek and set an ambush in the ravine. Then he said to the Kenites, ‘Go away, leave the Amalekites so that I do not destroy you along with them; for you showed kindness to all the Israelites when they came up out of Egypt.’ So the Kenites moved away from the Amalekites." 1 Samuel 15:1-6

Note that the text gives the reason why God commanded the utter destruction of the Amalekites. The Amalekites had shown hostility to God’s covenant people, a point reiterated in the following texts:

"The Amalekites came AND ATTACKED the Israelites at Rephidim. Moses said to Joshua, ‘Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands.’ So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset. So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword. Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered and make sure that Joshua hears it, because I will completely blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.’ Moses built an altar and called it The LORD is my Banner. He said, ‘For hands were lifted up to the throne of the LORD. The LORD will be at war against the Amalekites from generation to generation.’" Exodus 17:8-16

"Remember what the Amalekites did to you along the way when you came out of Egypt. When you were weary and worn out, they met you on your journey and cut off all who were lagging behind; they had no fear of God. When the LORD your God gives you rest from all the enemies around you in the land he is giving you to possess as an inheritance, you shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven. Do not forget!" Deuteronomy 25:17-19

Once this passage is read in both its immediate and greater contexts we can now appreciate God’s reason for wanting to destroy them. In spite of the miracles and signs God had shown the peoples such as the Amalekites when he delivered Israel, the Amalekites still went up against Israel to harass them, which was nothing more than a willful act of defiance against the true God of all creation. Thus, God was thoroughly justified in demanding that this nation of willful sinners and idolaters be destroyed.

Further Reading


Follow-up: My answer to a Muslim response to the above.

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