Does the Bible Teach the Same Kind of 'Holy War' as the Quran?

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There is no denying that both the Bible and the Quran relate tales of violence. Both books have commands for the faithful to kill unbelievers (most notably Deuteronomy 7:1-5 in the Bible and Surah 9:5,19 in the Quran). Joshua, in fact, did enter the land of Canaan and wiped out many (but not all) of its inhabitants. But is this the exact same thing as the Quran’s numerous commands for Muslims to slay non-Muslims and/or subjugate them?


The “holy war” in the Bible is limited to only one set of passages in the Old Testament—those related to God’s commands to eliminate the Canaanites and their fellow pagans from the land of Israel. They were given the option to convert (as in the case of Rahab in Joshua 2:11) or they could leave the land and resettle elsewhere. God had already warned the Canaanites, who were notorious for burning babies alive in worship of Baal, that they had 400 years to repent of their crimes. And with the approach of the Israelite army, it is very likely that the women and children could have fled, leaving only the warriors to fight.

Nevertheless, God did not ever tell the Israelites to go conquer and take the land of the Egyptians or the Syrians or the Greeks or the Babylonians or anyone else. And they didn’t. Whatever you think of this bloody episode in the Bible, the biblical evidence is that this command to execute the Canaanite culture was limited only to that piece of geography and that particular time period. The Canaanites no longer exist, and the present-day government of Israel (the freest government in the Middle East) does not carry out these commands from the Law of Moses upon any of its inhabitants. And Christians have historically believed that the Law of Moses was completed at the cross, and its civil and ceremonial codes have been terminated for believers today (Galatians 3:24,25; Hebrews 7:11-25; 10:1-14).

However, the commands in the Quran to make war on all unbelievers have no “sunset clause.” All of these commands are open-ended. They are not limited in any way to any geographical boundaries or to a time period. They are for all faithful Muslims for all time.

See next page to read about the so-called peaceful and tolerant passages in the Quran.

But what about the peaceful and tolerant passages like Surah 2:256: “There shall be no compulsion in religion. True guidance is now distinct from error. He that renounces idol-worship and puts his faith in God shall grasp a firm handle that will never break.”

The Quran also teaches something called the “law of abrogation.” In Surah 2:106 it says, “If We abrogate a verse or cause it to be forgotten, We will replace it by a better one or one similar.” Surah 16:101 says, “When We change one verse for another (God knows best what He reveals), they say: ‘You are an imposter.'” Surah 13:39: “Every age has a term decreed. God abrogates and confirms what He pleases. His is the Eternal Decree.” This law of abrogation in the Quran teaches that the later revelation, if it contradicts an earlier revelation, must be obeyed in contrast to the earlier revelation. So, those few peaceful and tolerant passages in the Quran (which supposedly were given before Muhammed’s flight from Mecca) are now abrogated (annulled) and replaced with other, newer commands. And those commands are not so peaceful and tolerant.

It is clear from the Quran that Muslims are not allowed to make friends with unbelievers: “Believers, take neither the Jews nor the Christians for your friends. They are friends with one another. Whoever of you seeks their friendship shall become one of their number” (Surah 5:51). “Believers, do not seek the friendship of the infidels and those who were given the Book before you, who have made of your religion a jest and a diversion” (Surah 5:57).

See next page for some of the nearly 100 commands in the Quran that tell the faithful to make war on unbelievers.

Here are just a few of the nearly 100 commands in the Quran that tell the faithful to make war on the unbelievers that Muslims are not to have as friends:

Surah 9:5:  “When the sacred months are over slay the infidels wherever you find them. Arrest them, besiege them, and lie in ambush everywhere for them. If they repent and take to prayer and render the alms levy, allow them to go their way. God is forgiving and merciful.”
Surah 5:33:  “Those that make war against God and His apostle and spread disorder in the land shall be slain or crucified or have their hands and feet cut off on alternate sides, or be banished from the land.”
Surah 8:12:  “God revealed His will to the angels, saying: ‘I shall be with you. Give courage to the believers. I shall cast terror into the hearts of the infidels. Strike off their heads, strike off the very tips of their fingers!'”
Surah 8:40:  “Make war on them until idolatry shall cease and God’s religion shall reign supreme.”
Surah 8:74:  “Those that have embraced the Faith and fled their homes and fought for the cause of God, and those that have sheltered them and helped them—they are the true believers. Forgiveness and a gracious provision await them.”
Surah 9:29:  “Fight those who believe in neither God nor the Last Day, who do not forbid what God and His apostle have forbidden, and do not embrace the religion of truth, from among those who were given the Book, until they render the tribute, by hand, in abject submission.”


That is just a smattering of the multitude of verses in the Quran that teach that it is the obligation of all Muslims to wage war on all unbelievers throughout the world. Plenty of terrorist groups (and their supporters) take these commands literally and seriously—to wage warfare or “lawfare” in order to subjugate others to Sharia. On the other hand, there are no Jewish or Christian terrorist groups today who are trying to obey the commands in the Law of Moses to eliminate Canaanites from the land of promise. The two books are not teaching the same thing.



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