Death to Churches Under Islam: A Study of the Coptic Church


by OCP on May 1, 2013

in Featured News, News

1/5/13

Raymond Ibrahim

Christians throughout the Islamic world are under attack. Unlike Muslim attacks on Christians, which are regularly confused with a myriad of social factors, the ongoing attacks on Christian churches in the Muslim world are perhaps the most visible expression of Christian persecution under Islam. In churches, Christians throughout the Islamic world are simply being Christians—peacefully and apolitically worshipping their God. And yet modern day Muslim governments try to prevent them, Muslim mobs attack them, and Muslim jihadis massacre them.

To understand the nature of this perennial hostility, one must first examine Muslim doctrines concerning Christian churches; then look at how these teachings have manifested themselves in reality over the course of centuries; and finally look at how modern day attacks on Christian churches mirror the attacks of history, often in identical patterns. The continuity is undeniable.

Because tracing and documenting the treatment of churches across the thousands of miles of formerly Christian lands conquered by Islam is well beyond the purview of this study, a paradigm is needed. Accordingly, an examination of the treatment of Christian churches in Egypt suffices as a model for understanding the fate churches under Islamic dominion. Indeed, as one of the oldest and largest Muslim nations, with one of the oldest and largest Christian populations, Egypt is the ultimate paragon for understanding all aspects of Christianity under Islam, both past and present. [For a complete survey of the fate of Christians and their churches throughout the entire Muslim world, both past and present, see author’s new book, Crucified Again: Exposing Islam’s New War on Christians.]

Muslim Doctrine Concerning Churches

Christians throughout the Islamic world are under attack. Unlike Muslim attacks on Christians, which are regularly confused with a myriad of social factors, the ongoing attacks on Christian churches in the Muslim world are perhaps the most visible expression of Christian persecution under Islam. In churches, Christians throughout the Islamic world are simply being Christians—peacefully and apolitically worshipping their God. And yet modern day Muslim governments try to prevent them, Muslim mobs attack them, and Muslim jihadis massacre them.

To understand the nature of this perennial hostility, one must first examine Muslim doctrines concerning Christian churches; then look at how these teachings have manifested themselves in reality over the course of centuries; and finally look at how modern day attacks on Christian churches mirror the attacks of history, often in identical patterns. The continuity is undeniable.

Because tracing and documenting the treatment of churches across the thousands of miles of formerly Christian lands conquered by Islam is well beyond the purview of this study, a paradigm is needed. Accordingly, an examination of the treatment of Christian churches in Egypt suffices as a model for understanding the fate churches under Islamic dominion. Indeed, as one of the oldest and largest Muslim nations, with one of the oldest and largest Christian populations, Egypt is the ultimate paragon for understanding all aspects of Christianity under Islam, both past and present. [For a complete survey of the fate of Christians and their churches throughout the entire Muslim world, both past and present, see author’s new book, Crucified Again: Exposing Islam’s New War on Christians.]

Sharia law is draconian if not hostile to Christian worship. Consider the words of some of Islam’s most authoritative and classic jurists, the same ones revered today by Egypt’s Salafis. According to Ibn Qayyim author of the multivolume Rules for the Dhimmis, it is “obligatory” to destroy or convert into a mosque “every church” both old and new that exists on lands that were taken by Muslims through force, for they “breed corruption.” Even if Muslims are not sure whether one of “these things [churches] is old [pre-conquest] or new, it is better to err on the side of caution, treat it as new, and demolition it.”

Likewise, Ibn Taymiyya confirms that “the ulema of the Muslims from all four schools of law—Hanafi, Shafi’i, Maliki, Hanbali, and others, including al-Thawri, al-Layth, all the way back to the companions and the followers—are all agreed that if the imam destroys every church in lands taken by force, such as Egypt, Sudan, Iraq, Syria … this would not be deemed unjust of him,” adding that, if Christians resist, “they forfeit their covenant, their lives, and their possessions.” Elsewhere he writes, “Wherever Muslims live and have mosques, it is impermissible for any sign of infidelity to be present, churches or otherwise.”

Echoing the words of the jurists that the church is “worse than bars and brothels” and “houses of torment and fire,” in August 2009, Dar al-Ifta, an Al Azhar affiliate, issued a fatwa likening the building of a church to “a nightclub, a gambling casino, or building a barn for rearing pigs, cats or dogs.” In July 2012, Dr. Yassir al-Burhami, a prominent figure in Egypt’s Salafi movement, issued a fatwa forbidding Muslim taxi-drivers and bus-drivers from transporting Coptic Christian priests to their churches, which he depicted as “more forbidden than taking someone to a liquor bar.”

Regardless, one need only examine the Conditions of Omar—an influential document Muslims attribute to 7th century Caliph Omar, purportedly ratified with a conquered Christian community—to appreciate the plight of the church under Islam. Among other things, conquered Christians had to agree:

Not to build a church in our city… and not to repair those that fall in ruins or are in Muslim quarters;…. Not to clang our cymbals except lightly and from the innermost recesses of our churches; Not to display a cross on them [churches], nor raise our voices during prayer or readings in our churches anywhere near Muslims; Not to produce a cross or [Christian] book in the markets of the Muslims;…. [I]f we change or contradict these conditions imposed upon ourselves . . . we forfeit our dhimma [covenant], and we become liable to the same treatment you inflict upon the people who resist and cause sedition.

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Death to Churches Under Islam: A Study of the Coptic Church

 

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About Fr. Orthohippo

The blog of a retired Anglican priest (MSJ), his musings, journey, humor, wonderment, and comments on today's scene.
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