Thomas Aquinas had one compliment for Mohammad and the spread of Islam. He wrote, “a shrewd decision on his part to forbid his followers to read the Old and New Testaments, lest these books convict him of falsity. It is thus clear that those who place any faith in his words believe foolishly.”
Far from flattering, Aquinas' diligent study of the religion during the 13th century should help us in the 21st century to understand the battle we have before us.
Mohammad, Aquinas wrote, “seduced the people by promises of carnal pleasure to which the concupiscence of the flesh goads us. His teaching also contained precepts that were in conformity with his promises, and he gave free rein to carnal pleasure.”
Such an offer, Aquinas contended, appealed to a certain type of person of limited virtue and wisdom.
Because of the weakness of Islam’s contentions, Aquinas argued, “no wise men, men trained in things divine and human, believed in him from the beginning.” Instead, those who believed in him “were brutal men and desert wanderers, utterly ignorant of all divine teaching, through whose numbers Muhammad forced others to become his followers by the violence of his arms.”
Conversely, the teachings of Jesus, were summed up in this statement found in Matthew 22:37-40, where Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” The virtues of goodness, truth and beauty are found in Jesus and his followers were meant to do as He did.
Islam’s violent methods of propagation were especially unconvincing to Aquinas, since he found that the use of such force does not prove the truth of one’s claims, and are the means typically used by evil men.
“Mohammad said that he was sent in the power of his arms,” Aquinas wrote, “which are signs not lacking even to robbers and tyrants.”
Jesus converted no man, but rather invited them to follow Him. He was crucified for mankind, where as Mohammad would kill those who would not convert. Jesus Himself said, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Most interestingly, when Aquinas was alive, Islam was not seen as a new religion, but rather a heresy of Christianity, as it drew so much upon the texts and beliefs of Christianity.
Aquinas wrote that Mohammed “perverts almost all the testimonies of the Old and New Testaments by making them into fabrications of his own, as can be seen by anyone who examines his law.”
According to the noted historian Hilaire Belloc, Islam “began as a heresy, not as a new religion. It was not a pagan contrast with the Church; it was not an alien enemy. It was a perversion of Christian doctrine. Its vitality and endurance soon gave it the appearance of a new religion, but those who were contemporary with its rise saw it for what it was—not a denial, but an adaptation and a misuse, of the Christian thing.”
Aquinas would be excoriated by today's intellectuals who would cry hate speech and Islamophobia. Yet he lived nearer the time of the inception of Islam, he read the writings of their philosophers and he thought deeply about the contrasting views of Christian faith found in the Bible and the forced Islamic conversion found at the edge of the sword, thus rendering his opinions trustworthy.
Interestingly, if one were to take Jesus' warnings, read the Islamic writers and study their followers, one may come to a similar conclusion as Aquinas. Jesus warned in the book of Matthew, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them.”
The most evident fruit of Islam today is found in ISIS and jihadist activity. Aquinas' words about Muhammad's followers, they “were brutal men and desert wanderers, utterly ignorant of all divine teaching, through whose numbers Muhammad forced others to become his followers by the violence of his arms” describes the face a radical Islam today.