Zakir Naik is one of the most popular Islamic preachers and apologists in the world: his YouTube channel has 2.46 million subscribers, and copious videos explaining the clear truths of Islam, the limpid purity of the Qur’an, and abject falsity of Christianity and other religions. On Sunday, as the Good and Right-Thinking among us were celebrating the Pope’s lovefest with the Shi’ite leader Ayatollah Sistani in Iraq, Naik offered a cold dose of reality by affirming that every non-Muslim, no matter how righteous, even Mother Teresa, was roasting in hell for not accepting Islam. Many Christian sects also teach that nonbelievers will suffer in hellfire, but because of other elements of Islamic theology, Naik’s declaration had an ominous edge that the Christian groups’ teachings do not.
In no mood to engage in the “interfaith dialogue” niceties that are so fashionable, if utterly futile, these days, Naik tackled this issue head-on in a video entitled “Will Good Righteous Non-Muslims like Mother Teresa go to Hell?” He explained, according to OpIndia, that “there are four ways of going to Jannah (paradise). By the token of time, a man is in a state of loss except those who have Faith, those who are righteous, those who do Dawah and those who exhort people to do patience and perseverance. Minimum four criterias are required to go to Jannah.”
So what was Mother Teresa lacking? Naik elaborated: “For the sake of argument, let’s assume that Mother Teresa was righteous. In Islam, righteous includes a lot of things that I believe that Mother Teresa did not have. What about Imaan (Faith in Islam)? If she does Shirk (follow any religion other than Islam and thus prohibited).”
Shirk is the association of partners with Allah in worship, and in Islamic law, it is the worst sin of all. According to the Qur’an, the Christian idea that Jesus is the Son of God and the belief in the divinity of Christ in general is shirk. Committing it makes one an unbeliever (Qur’an 5:17) and places one under Allah’s curse (Qur’an 9:30). Naik cited Biblical texts, including statements of Jesus himself, that he claimed supported the Islamic view, and concluded: “So, according to Jesus Christ, Quran and the Bible, if anybody does Shirk, be it Mother Teresa or anyone else, they shall not enter Jannah.”
This is more than just religious triumphalism because of Islam’s doctrines regarding punishment of unbelievers not just in hell, but in this world as well. “As for those who disbelieve,” Allah declares in the Qur’an, “I will punish them with a heavy punishment in this world and the hereafter, and they will have no helpers” (3:56). How will the unbelievers be punished in this world? The believers will take care of that, as the Qur’an also says: “Fight them, and Allah will punish them by your hands, and he will lay them low and give you victory over them, and he will heal the hearts of people who are believers” (9:14).
If Muslims are called to fight against unbelievers so that Allah may punish them by their hands in this world, Naik is not just saying that all the other Christians will eventually join Mother Teresa in hell, but is indirectly exhorting Muslims to make sure they suffer in this world as well. This is not remotely farfetched, as Naik himself has been linked to jihad violence. NDTV reported in July 2016 that “days after 20 hostages were killed in a cafe in Dhaka, the Maharashtra government has begun an inquiry against controversial preacher Dr Zakir Naik, who has been accused of inspiring, through his speeches, the weekend’s deadly attack in Bangladesh in which 20 hostages were hacked to death. Bangladesh has said that Dr Naik, whose sermons on television and online draw large audiences across the world, inspired two of the seven young terrorists that opened fire on Friday night in a Dhaka cafe.” He is wanted in India on suspicion of funding jihad terror groups, and his TV channel is banned in India, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka.
Attempting in 2014 to dispel suspicions that he approved of jihad violence, Naik just made matters worse when he declared that “jihad is misunderstood by both Muslims and non-Muslims. Jihad means to strive and struggle to make the society better. The best form of Jihad is to strive and struggle against non-Muslims, using the teachings of the Quran; to the Prophet Peace Be Upon Him and the Almighty Allah, Islam means peace.” Well, peace with a twist: Naik added that “even in Islamic jihad, there are laid down rules and regulations as when and how to kill a person.”
Well, that’s just great. The Qur’an lays down one of those rules and regulations when it says, “When you meet the unbelievers, strike the necks” (Qur’an 47:4) – hence the popularity of beheading among jihad groups. All this makes clear that Naik, when he consigns Mother Teresa to the unquenchable fires of hell, is making much more than a chauvinistic theological observation. If law enforcement and intelligence officials in the West had even rudimentary knowledge of the motivating ideology behind jihad violence, they would understand the import of Naik’s words, and track his following in Europe and North America accordingly. But that would require us to have public officials who were actually committed to reality.
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.