Robert Spencer: Answering an Islamic apologist (Part I), a post from with comments

It all started when Jihad Watch writer Hugh Fitzgerald offered 38 uncomfortable questions that could be used by those who encountered “I’m a Muslim — Ask Me Anything” Islamic apologists. Hugh then gave answers to the questions: 1-6; 7-10; 11-15; 16-23; 24-29; and 30-38.

Now a Muslim named Rizwan Khan, who is a member of the Ahmadiyya sect that claims to renounce violence and is violently persecuted as heretical by Sunni Muslims in Pakistan and Indonesia, and which energetically purveys deceptive Islamic apologetics designed to foster ignorance and complacency about the jihad threat in the West, has left a series of his own answers to Hugh’s questions in the comments section. Rather than leave them there unanswered, I decided to highlight them in a series of posts with answers of my own, to show you how slyly deceptive and dishonest Islamic apologists can be.

Several of the questions are poorly formed or based on unfounded assumption; nevertheless, here are brief answers to all of these questions:

1. What is the meaning of Jihad?
Jihad means to strive. The Quran describes only one form of Jihad as the “great Jihad”, which is the Jihad of explaining the message of the Quran. The Quran says, “So obey not the disbelievers and strive against them by means of it (the Qur’an) a great striving.” (25:53) All other forms of Jihad are lesser Jihad to this Great Jihad.
The only permission in the Quran for the lesser Jihad of fighting is in self defense: “Permission to fight is given to those against whom war is made, because they have been wronged” (22:40)

The Qur’an does indeed speak of a “great jihad”: Rizwan Khan doesn’t make it clear, but when the Qur’an refers to “a great striving,” the word used for striving is jihad. What is not in the Qur’an, contrary to his claim, is any statement to the effect that this “great jihad” consists wholly and solely of “explaining the message of the Qur’an.” The idea that the “great jihad” is spiritual or pedagogical comes from a hadith attributed to Muhammad, in which he referred to spiritual striving as the “greater jihad.” But this is a weak hadith, not found in any of the hadith collections that Islamic scholars consider to be the most reliable. What’s more, even if it is greater than the lesser jihad of warfare, the greater jihad does not cancel or abrogate the lesser jihad. Even Khan grants for fighting in self-defense. He disingenuously does not mention that the Qur’an also says: “And fight them until there is no fitnah and [until] the religion, all of it, is for Allah” (8:39). That is not self-defense; that’s a maximalist call for warfare until Islam establishes hegemony everywhere. Khan is, like virtually all Islamic apologists, is relying on the ignorance of the kuffar.

2. Why are Christians and Jews required to pay the Jizyah to Muslims?
Jizya only applies after fighting according to the Quran: “Fight those from among the People of the Book who believe not in Allah, nor in the Last Day, nor hold as unlawful what Allah and His Messenger have declared to be unlawful, nor follow the true religion, until they pay the tax with their own hand and acknowledge their subjection.” (9:29)
The only permission for fighting in the Quran is in self defense: “Permission to fight is given to those against whom war is made, because they have been wronged” (22:40)
Fighting can only happen is self defense. Jizya can only be paid by the aggressor after defeat in a war they initiated. This tax is reparations for the crime of initiating aggressive religious warfare.

Khan’s evidence for his point here contradicts the point he is trying to make. Qur’an 22:40 doesn’t say that permission to fight is granted only to those against whom war is made, and 9:29 tells Muslims to fight against people who don’t believe in or obey Allah and Muhammad — not people who don’t believe in or obey Allah and Muhammad who have attacked the Muslims, but simply those who are unbelievers. What’s more, throughout Islamic history, conquering Muslim armies imposed the jizya upon the conquered “People of the Book”; Khan’s contention that it was only “paid by the aggressor after defeat” is completely ahistorical.

3. Why does it say in the Qur’an that Muslims should not take Christians and Jews as friends, for they are friends only with each other?
This only applies to those disbelievers who make aggressive religious warfare against Muslims, not disbelievers who are peaceful. The Quran is clear in its commandment:
“Allah forbids you not, respecting those who have not fought against you on account of your religion, and who have not driven you forth from your homes, that you be kind to them and act equitably towards them; surely Allah loves those who are equitable.
Allah only forbids you, respecting those who have fought against you on account of your religion, and have driven you out of your homes, and have helped others in driving you out, that you make friends of them, and whosoever makes friends of them — it is these that are the transgressors.” (60:9-10)

Khan doesn’t mention Qur’an 5:51, which contains no caveats regarding aggression: “O you who have believed, do not take the Jews and the Christians as allies. They are allies of one another. And whoever is an ally to them among you – then indeed, he is of them. Indeed, Allah guides not the wrongdoing people.” The mainstream and renowned Qur’an commentator Ibn Kathir explains about this verse: “Allah forbids His believing servants from having Jews and Christians as friends, because they are the enemies of Islam and its people, may Allah curse them.” He says nothing about being kind to them if they aren’t aggressors.

4. It says in the Qur’an that “there is no compulsion in religion” (Qur’an 2.256). If there is no compulsion in religion, then why are people who leave Islam threatened with death?
Ask the people who make such threats, they are responsible for justifying their own actions. Islam is a religion. Religion is what is written in its scripture, which in Islam is the Quran and the authentic Ahadith that do not contradict the Quran.
As for apostasy, opponents of Islam usually misquote 4:90 in a misleading way by leaving out the words “until they emigrate”. The verse under question is: “They wish that you should disbelieve as they have disbelieved, so that you may become all alike. Take not, therefore, friends from among them, until they emigrate in the way of Allah. And if they turn away, then seize them and kill them wherever you find them; and take no friend nor helper from among them;” (4:90)
This verse refers to people who “turn away” after “they emigrate”. Emigration is moving from one territory to another territory and changing political alliance. The crime described in this verse is not religious apostasy, the crime is political treason. Treason during warfare is punishable by death.
The Quran rejects there being any worldly punishment for religious apostasy: “And obey Allah and obey the Messenger, and be on your guard. But if you turn away, then know that on Our Messenger lies only the clear conveyance of the Message.” (5:93), “[O Muhammad], Admonish, therefore, for you art but an admonisher; You are not a warden over them; But whoever turns away and disbelieves, Allah will punish him with the greatest punishment.” (88:22-25), “And if thy Lord had enforced His will, surely, all who are on the earth would have believed together. Wilt thou, then, force men to become believers?” (10:100), “There should be no compulsion in religion.” (2:257)
As for the Bible, it commands concerning apostates: “If your brother, the son of your mother, your son or your daughter, the wife of your bosom, or your friend who is as your own soul, secretly entices you, saying, ‘Let us go and serve other gods,’ which you have not known, neither you nor your fathers, of the gods of the people which are all around you, near to you or far off from you, from one end of the earth to the other end of the earth, you shall not consent to him or listen to him, nor shall your eye pity him, nor shall you spare him or conceal him; but you shall surely kill him; your hand shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the people. And you shall stone him with stones until he dies, because he sought to entice you away from the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage. So all Israel shall hear and fear, and not again do such wickedness as this among you.” (Deuteronomy 13:6-11)

(In more common numerations, the verse Khan refers to as 4:90 is 4:89, and 2:257 is 2:256.) Khan’s explanation of emigration is disingenuous in the extreme, as it completely ignores the fact that the verse doesn’t say simply “until they emigrate,” but “until they emigrate in the way of Allah,” that is, imitate Muhammad’s Hijra from Mecca to Medina and become Muslim. Then if they turn away after that, that is, leave the Muslims, they are to be killed. It is easy to see why this is a foundation of Islam’s death penalty for apostasy. The Qur’an verses Khan adduces to establish that the Qur’an rejects there being any worldly punishment for apostasy don’t actually say that there is no such punishment. And Khan says Islam consists of the Qur’an and the “authentic Ahadith that do not contradict the Qur’an,” but doesn’t mention the hadith from the collection that is considered most reliable by Muslims, and depicts Muhammad saying: “Whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him” (Bukhari 9.84.57). The death penalty for apostasy is part of Islamic law according to all the schools of Islamic jurisprudence. How did they all misunderstand that “no compulsion in religion” bit, if they really thought it allowed for the freedom of conscience? And his invocation of the Bible is just the common tu quoque fallacy: no Jews or Christians understand this verse to mean apostates today should be killed, but Khan won’t tell you that.

5. Why did the Ayatollah Khomeini lower the marriageable age of girls to 9?
Ask the Ayatollah Khomeini, he is responsible for justifying his own actions. Islam is a religion. Religion is what is written in its scripture, which in Islam is the Quran and the authentic Ahadith that do not contradict the Quran.
As for the age of Aisha, the fact is that no one knows how old anyone was in 7th century Arabia. Prophet Muhammad (sa) is the most important individual is Islamic history, and no one has a clear idea of how old he was. Sahih Bukhari narrates: “The Prophet (ﷺ) died when he was sixty three years old.” ( Sahih Muslim narrates: “Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) died when he had attained the age of sixty-five.”( Sahih Bukhari elsewhere narrates: “Allah took him (‎ﷺ) unto Him at the age of sixty” ( The reason no one knew anyone’s age in Arabia outside of vague estimates is because no calendar for measuring years was used in Arabia until after the Prophet Muhammad (sa) had passed away. If we do not even know how old the Prophet Muhammad (sa) was, anyone who asserts that he knows how old Aisha was has no concept of historical context.
The minimum age of marriage as established throughout human civilization and human nature is when a person reaches intellectual and physical maturity. This is also established in the Quran, which refers to the minimum age of marriage: “And prove the orphans until they attain the age of marriage; then, if you find in them sound judgment, deliver to them their property;” (4:7) “And come not near the property of the orphan, except in the best way, until he attains his maturity, and fulfil the covenant” (17:35) The Quran refers to the age of marriage as when individuals are intellectually mature enough to manage their own property and when they are physically mature.

Khan doesn’t mention any of this, but in reality, few things are more abundantly attested in Islamic law than the permissibility of child marriage. Islamic tradition records that Muhammad’s favorite wife, Aisha, was six when Muhammad wedded her and nine when he consummated the marriage: “The Prophet wrote the (marriage contract) with Aisha while she was six years old and consummated his marriage with her while she was nine years old and she remained with him for nine years (i.e. till his death)” (Bukhari 7.62.88). Another tradition has Aisha herself recount the scene: “The Prophet engaged me when I was a girl of six (years). We went to Medina and stayed at the home of Bani-al-Harith bin Khazraj. Then I got ill and my hair fell down. Later on my hair grew (again) and my mother, Um Ruman, came to me while I was playing in a swing with some of my girl friends. She called me, and I went to her, not knowing what she wanted to do to me. She caught me by the hand and made me stand at the door of the house. I was breathless then, and when my breathing became all right, she took some water and rubbed my face and head with it. Then she took me into the house. There in the house I saw some Ansari women who said, “Best wishes and Allah’s Blessing and a good luck.” Then she entrusted me to them and they prepared me (for the marriage). Unexpectedly Allah’s Apostle came to me in the forenoon and my mother handed me over to him, and at that time I was a girl of nine years of age.” (Bukhari 5.58.234).

The Qur’an also assumes that prepubescent girls will be married, as it specifies that its rules for divorce apply to”those who have not menstruated” (65:4).

6. What is the surest way for a Muslim to get to Heaven?
With belief and good works. The Quran repeatedly says, “And give glad tidings to those who believe and do good works, that for them are Gardens beneath which flow streams.” (2:26)

Khan doesn’t mention the only promise of Paradise in the Qur’an: “Indeed, Allah has purchased from the believers their lives and their properties, for that they will have Paradise. They fight in the cause of Allah, so they kill and are killed (9:111).

There is a common mistake in the academic approach of almost all who attack Islam: a reliance on the weakest sources in Islamic literature. In Islamic scripture, the Quran is the only book that has made a claim of absolute perfection. After the Quran, all authentic Ahadith and then narrations in Sirah that are not self-contradictory carry weight. If you cannot support your point without contradicting the Quran, then you don’t have much of a point.

Noted. See all the Qur’an passages I quote above that Khan ignores.

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  1. alidasays

    February 11, 2017 at 12:18 pm

    I don’t believe any muslim. I don’t care what sect of islam they follow. The koran is a sex death cult and should be illegal in the west. One can also apply this… By their fruits you shall know them. When I heard President Trump say last summer he didn’t think Islam liked him… that is when I made up my mind to vote for him. He also said he wouldn’t let everyone know exactly his thoughts or actions on certain points of politics because you never want to let the enemy know what you are thinking or what you are going to do. That made sense to me.

  2. Vicsays

    February 11, 2017 at 12:20 pm

    Thank you, Mr. Spencer, for your zeal and knowledge of Islam. Someone of your caliber, a respected and serious scholar, needs to come forth and expose the “moderate” highly interpreted views. You point out the nuances that make the rest of us trip and doubt. We welcome this debate! Between you and Hugh Fitzgerald, it makes this debate seem like a one-two punch or point-counterpoint. We are learning so much.

  3. ab brodysays

    February 11, 2017 at 12:28 pm

    In addition to the answer given to question nr. 1, I would like to report Fr Samir Khalil Samir’s comment on the subject . He states that the “great jihad-interpretation by no means is a classical , and a relatively recent one . It is an invention to make islam presentable , but I personally think muslims can sincerely believe in it if they make a choice for this interpretation out of moral grounds , or if they do not know better. He deals with the matter in one of the questions 18-35 of “the interviewbook “Islam and the West , 111 questions to SKSamir” . At least the first 100 pages are available in google.books . Here or elsewhere he produces quotes of islam scholars that prove his view. good survey of the book

  4. Angemonsays

    February 11, 2017 at 1:20 pm

    Now a Muslim named Rizwan Khan, who is a member of the Ahmadiyya sect that claims to renounce violence and is violently persecuted as heretical by Sunni Muslims in Pakistan and Indonesia, and which energetically purveys deceptive Islamic apologetics designed to foster ignorance and complacency about the jihad threat in the West, has left a series of his own answers to Hugh’s questions in the comments section.

    I imagine Mr. Fitzgerald wasn’t expecting this kind of bonus material when he made the list 🙂

  5. Westmansays

    February 11, 2017 at 1:30 pm

    Thanks to the past education here on JW of the Quran and Sunna, we see through Rizwan Khan’s Ahmadiyya distortions as quickly as we read them. It’s also obvious that the Ahmadiyya view can only be maintained by careful selection of Muslim works.

    The Ahmadiyya sect was created in the 1800’s following a “new” prophet, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, which is considered a sacrilege to mainstream Islam. Kwan’s sect is persecuted by mainstream Islam and does not respresent Islam, nor can his apologist writings be considered representative of true Islam. The world would be better off if Islam actually was like the Amadiyya.

    • Westmansays

      February 11, 2017 at 10:17 pm

      Or the Baha’i. So far the few “moderate” Muslim sects are persecuted and even killed in some countries for being, “apostates” – yet they try to speak up to justify the majority Muslims who persecute them. Sad.

  6. DFDsays

    February 11, 2017 at 2:07 pm

    Off Topic – NEED HELP

    As some of you are aware, I am writing on the upcoming civil wars. I came across an interesting subject, which is one of the arguments requiring inclusion, namely:

    “Will Europe Collapse Without Muslim Immigration?”

    Below are my thoughts thereto. Any comment, different ideas, opposing notions would be most welcomed. I don’t know much about the subject matter of population density, and everybody has to learn – I am no exception. I would therefore be most grateful for any contribution. All comments welcome, but please provide reasons for such. If you do find the time or have the inclination to do so, that is.

    Thank you

    On the contrary. The population decline currently experienced throughout the European world, that includes the US, Australia and other places, is not a bad thing at all.

    It will force drastic modernization, that is automation and robotisation, of many or most industries and professions. New skills will have to be developed and acquired. Customization of a broad range of products will come to the fore, thus new types of artisans. Property prices will come down, so will rents, life becomes more affordable. Entire new disciplines will arise given these circumstances, thus an improvement in education will result.

    And finally, we all would have more space for ourselves. Looking after the ageing population will be costly, but necessary for obvious reasons. Besides, everybody grows old, the moment they are out of the womb. Also, an additional industry…

    In other words, the European peoples, and their descendants, would do what we were good at again and again in history: We’d progress!

    Instead of that we will have a civil war (or rather uncivil one) of very unpalatable proportion – or become slaves, dhimmies. And then sink into an Islamic hell hole. Which wont happen, so, civil war and then the above.

    One should also note that with a very low population base we produced and caused the modern world. We even conquered most of the world in addition to that… Population growth is only required for the manufacturers of Lego blocks, Barbie dolls, etc.

    • billybobsays

      February 11, 2017 at 5:49 pm

      The question “Will Europe Collapse Without Muslim Immigration?” is not the right question to ask.
      It should be “Will Europe Collapse Without Immigration?”, leaving “Muslim ” out of it. The reason to rephrase this question is because of the economic realities of declining birth rates, which you go on to discuss. Many arguments can be made in favour of immigration as a solution, but even if one is persuaded by such arguments, there is no reason to import Muslims. It should be possible to fill the void with non-Muslims.

      Now I will go on to make an argument if favour of encouraging (non-Muslim) immigration… It is because our economies depend on constant growth. An economy is a fragile thing, and all the Economists in the world still cannot guarantee that any given set of fiscal policies will guarantee economic success. Economies crash and die about as often as the flourish and prosper, and there seems to be only one thing that can give any confidence: constant growth. Once an economy stagnates, it is headed for recession, then depression. Of course we cannot sustain constant growth in the long run, so we do need to look at other options, as you do.

  7. Westcoastjohnnysays

    February 11, 2017 at 4:33 pm

    On the age of Aisha, the apologist assumes that if ages of persons in that era are not accurately known, then she must have been older than nine. Of course she could have been younger. Also, if she were, say, eleven years old, it wouldn`t change anything, it would still make Muhammad a terrible example for the world. Especially for girls.

  8. Mark Spahn (West Seneca, NY)says

    February 11, 2017 at 5:22 pm

    Khan refers to “the authentic Ahadith that do not contradict the Quran” (question 4) and “narrations in Sirah that are not self-contradictory” (question 6). So there are authentic hadiths that contradict the Quran? And self-contradictory Sirah passages? Examples, please.

  9. davejsays

    February 11, 2017 at 6:44 pm

    Life could be better with fewer people – wages would rise, housing costs would drop and traffic congestion would be alleviated. The relentless pressure to develop all the undeveloped land would ease.

    The 2 main reasons this is not considered an option are:

    1) Corporations depend on ever rising numbers of consumers to buy their products.

    2) The social security system needs more payers to support the retired.

    But the majority of Muslim immigrants will be a net drain on government resources and the money they spend on consumer products will come from the remaining taxpayers, so this is no answer at all.

  10. mortimersays

    February 11, 2017 at 9:08 pm

    Rizwan Khan’s sly tricks don’t get Islam off the hook.

    After Allah forbid KAFIRS from coming to the Kaaba, the Meccans asked Mohammed how he intended to replace the lost income from the pilgrimage trade.

    Mohammed came up with INSTANT REVELATIONS in Koran 9.29-33, promising to replace the pilgrimage income with EXTORTIONIST MONIES levied from Jews and Christians in Arabia who refused to join Islam.

    The early Medina government of Mohammed was based on theft and extortion of money, just like the Mafia that would raid cargo ships and airplanes as well as transport trucks.

    Mohammed ran a protection racket enforced by JIHAD to finance early Islam. As well, they profited by genocide which allowed them to seize property and enslave the women and children making enormous profits from the slave trade.

    Islam’s extortion and slave rackets continued enriching the caliphate until less than 100 years ago.

  11. Palsays

    February 12, 2017 at 1:48 am

    Mr Robert Spencer, if it is not you, there is scarcely another one on this world to respond to that faithful Rizwan so professionally!!
    You should think to expand your team and your activity.
    We are not eternal, and other people should already stand next to you and after you that are exactly you.
    Fight with the world plague, called Islam, should never attenuate on its ideological front as well!!

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4 Responses to Robert Spencer: Answering an Islamic apologist (Part I), a post from with comments

  1. θ says:

    “Article says: “Indeed, Allah has purchased from the believers their lives and their properties, for that they will have Paradise. They fight in the cause of Allah, so they kill and are killed (9:111).”

    Tactic of truncating the Qur’anic verse is a typical misleading strategy of Non-Moslems. Does it mean Allah just buys the life of martyrs?
    Following verse (Q.9, v.112) says nothing at all about war, yet Allah buys the life of Moslems with His Paradise.
    Q.9, v.112. The repentant, the worshippers, the praisers, the travelers, those who bow and prostrate, those who enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong, and those who observe the limits Allah. And give good tidings to the believers.

    If all infidel nations agree to make the peace – meaning accepting Islam in the form of treaty – with the majority Moslem nations per Q.9, v.8-10, then there’s no argument for violent Jihad to proceed.
    Mostly today’s Non-Moslems have the respectable treaty with the Arab states.

    Islam confirms these Torah’s verses of proposing a peace treaty:
    Dt 20
    10 When thou comest nigh unto a city to fight against it, then proclaim peace unto it.11 And it shall be, if it make thee answer of peace, and open unto thee, then it shall be, that all the people that is found therein shall be tributaries unto thee, and they shall serve thee.

    In other words, the infidel state’s acceptance of Islam as the religion of peace is a sufficient reason to prohibit the violent Jihad activities against them.

    Moreover, Islam teaches that the foremost duty of Moslems in this temporal world is just doing and keeping the worship till the appointed Hereafter. Those who emerged on the earth (either Moslems and Non Moslems) could be counted as the lucky ones who haven’t gone astray, hence Allah doesn’t directly get involved to manage them in this world.

    Likewise, Jesus teaches similar remedy for the Problem of Evil, that God has a more higher priority to seek out those who went astray, hence we don’t see direct involvement of God on this earth.
    God leaves the world and prioritises to look for those souls in the realm of spirits who happen to get scattered and lost from the living folds.
    A chance to get a temporal life in this world is priceless and precious.
    Mt 18:12
    How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray?

  2. θ says:

    Just like the astronomers who seek for the alien life in outerspace, God also chooses to leave the world temporarily on purpose to seek and encourage the lost souls to return into the Goldilock Zone of the earth wherein the life can be sustained with proper temperatures, proper light, proper water, and proper ground to multiply.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Mt 18:12
    How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray?

    That just radicalises the concept of traditional Theodicy upside down, and make the Problem of Evil seem quite trivial.
    God’s absence of direct involvement on the earth is not something we should lament of, rather it gives somewhat a good news indirectly for all living humans that are folded together on the earth per Matthew 18:12.
    We are actually those ninety nine sheep whose shepherd needs to go into the mountains, cliffs and slopes temporarily looking for the lost sheep.
    Hence, we all are not categorised as “lost” as the one who went astray, nevertheless we may still be subjected to the plan of “Purgatory” of which at the end everyone could be foremost saved after tasting the penalty, or at least get commuted from the eternal punishment.

  4. Anonymous says:

    More so, Matthew 18:12 resets and adjusts the purpose of life of the believers. The aim of life is no longer to gain a yield set from beginning, but rather to enjoy and experience a freedom of infinite possibilities of goodness with the secured folds that God leaves while seeking out a lost sheep.
    Hence, the believer’s mentality is not anymore a result-based – for the foremost benefit has been attained as the folds – but merely a freedom-based. Obsession of result or yield just fades to be a trivial matter.

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