Divine Revenge? Islam and Khamenei’s False Doctrine of God

Divine Revenge? Islam and Khamenei’s False Doctrine of God January 4, 2016
Image: Flickr, Khamenei poster in Persepolis, by Nick Taylor, Creative Commons License, some changes made.
Image: Flickr, Khamenei poster in Persepolis, by Nick Taylor, Creative Commons License, some changes made.

Iran and Saudi Arabia cut diplomatic ties yesterday after a weekend of escalating violence. On Saturday, Saudi Arabia executed a popular Shiite cleric named Nimr al-Nimr, who angered the Saudi Royal Family by calling for their removal in 2011. The Saudi Royal Family claims that the execution was an act of national defense, because it accuses Iran of creating “terrorist cells” in Saudi Arabia.

In response to the execution, Iran requested that the Saudi ambassador condemn the execution. Saudi Arabia said, “Hey, two can play that game” and requested that the Iranian ambassador “vehemently object to Iran’s condemnation” of the execution.

Then Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, took to Twitter (as apparently you do when you are a supreme leader) to proclaim God’s vengeance! “Divine revenge will seize Saudi politicians.”

There is a definite pattern of revenge to this story, but it has nothing to do with God. As René Girard has taught us, revenge is human, not divine.

Girard claimed that humans are mimetic, and we are particularly mimetic when it comes to violence. In other words, humans imitate violent words and actions, passing them back and forth. But the violence escalates because each side in a conflict wants to deliver the final blow. In this sense, the Saudis and the Iranians are just like the majority of human beings. According to Girard, humans tend to believe that,

Only violence can put an end to violence, and that is why violence is self-propagating. Everyone wants to strike the last blow, and reprisal can thus follow reprisal without any true conclusion ever being reached. (Violence and the Sacred, 26)

Throughout his long career, Girard revealed the human aspect of violence. Like the Saudis and Iranians, it is we who condemn one another with escalating threats of condemnation and violence. According to Girard, violence is purely human.

Which means that God has nothing to do with violence or vengeance or revenge.

Girard was a Christian who claimed that the long trajectory of the Bible reveals the distinction between human violence and God’s nonviolent love. He challenged any notion that God is associated with violence. Girard only made a few comments about Islam during his career, but I’d like to show how the Islamic tradition offers a similar challenge to associating God with violence.

Because I want to be clear that I am not imposing my Christian theology onto Islam, I’ll tell you about Mouhanad Khorchide, professor of Islamic Religious Education at the University of Munster in Germany. As with the Bible, Khorchide knows that there are different images of God in the Qur’an. For him, the question is, “Which image of God are we talking about?” Khorchide says that some Muslims choose to believe that God is a dictator who acts like a violent tribal leader that cannot be challenged.

Political leaders, like the Ayatollah, promote this understanding of God because they view themselves as “shadows of God on earth.” Khorchide says, “This sends out an unequivocal message: anyone contradicting the ruler is also contradicting God.” This makes God into a tribal deity, who pits “us” against “them.”

Of course, one can read any holy book, including the Koran and the Bible, and find images of a violent tribal deity. But Khorchide asserts that the God of the Koran is not like that. “I have a different reading of the Koran. God is not an archaic tribal leader, he’s not a dictator. Of the book’s 114 suras, why do 113 of them begin with the phrase ‘In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful?’ There has to be a reason for this.”

The reason is that the God of the Koran is Grace and Mercy. For Khorchide, “The Koranic God presents himself as a loving God. That’s why the relationship between God and man is a bond of love similar to the one between a mother and a child.” The God of Grace and Mercy radically transforms the human understanding of God and violence.

Khorchide talks specifically about the Islamic concept of Hell. For many, Hell is the ultimate example of God’s violence and revenge. This is where evil doers will burn forever as a result of divine vengeance. But Khorchide states that idea is a complete misunderstanding of Islam’s view of Hell. “Hell is nothing other than the confrontation with one’s own transgressions. It’s not a punishment that comes from without.”

The Ayatollah is wrong to associate God with revenge. And so are we whenever we associate God with violence. The God of Islam has nothing to do with revenge. Rather, the God of Islam, the God of Mercy, wants us to stop the cycles of vengeance that threaten the future of our world. In fact, God wants us to transform our bitter enmity with friendship. As the Koran states that God’s goal for human relationships is reconciliation – “Good and evil cannot be equal, repel evil with what is better and your enemy will become as close as an old and valued friend” (41:34).

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  • cken

    Interesting both the Koran and the Bible have two images of God, and they seem to be parallel images between the two books.

  • Luigi Valentino

    The Islamic God is a corrupt dictator.
    You should be convicted of treason.
    I don’t understand how the United States or any Government allows
    The teachings of Islam. This is not a religion but a movement geared to overthrow every other religion and government it comes in contact with.
    Have you even read a Qur’an? If so, you must have some kind of learning disability if you think it’s ok to teach from it.

    The Truth About Muslims And Islam

    20% of all Muslims in the United States today are radicalized Islam. These are the Muslims that will terrorize and kill without remorse. The other 80% of all Muslims CONDONE the acts of terrorism carried out by the heinous 20%.

    I knew nothing about Muslims or Islam before the San Bernadino massacre. I just thought Islam was another religion and Muslim was just another culture. I had no judgement. Then I decided to look into and research Islam. I was so ashamed that I had turned a blind eye to Islam for years!

    I read the entire Qur’an. The book written by Mohammad (actually dictated by Mohammad due to his illiteracy.) A paranoid schizophrenic hiding out in a bat cave had a vision of a reptile in human form speaking verbatim “the word of Allah to him.” Mohammad then immediately starts foaming at the mouth and having convulsions because he was just “touched by the Angel Gabriel,” according to his wife. When in all actuality this was a hallucination, seizure or even worse, a demonic possession.

    Mohammad then convinces a group of scholars, who should have known better, to write down his insane rants about how “Allah” said this and “Allah” said that. (The Qur’an) When all the while Mohammad was just spewing his perverse desires like child molestation, acts of terrorism, inhumanity and justified murder all in the name of “Allah.”

    Because of his paranoid ways, Mohammad feared no one would believe that HE was “Allah’s” chosen ONE. Because of this every other line of the Qur’an is “Mohammad is great” “Mohammad’s word is gold” “Mohammad can do no wrong.” He also had written on about every page of the Qur’an, “If you don’t believe all these words, Allah will make your life a living hell” AND “If you come across a nonbeliever, you are to terrorize and KILL them.

    Thus, Islam was born. You could say Mohammad was the L. Ron Hubbard of his time. Write a crazy book, then base a religion on it. However, (Scientology) “Dianetics” isn’t going to compel radical Scientologists to commit acts of terror and mass murder.

    Don’t even get me started about Shari’ah Law. I could write a book on that.

    So basically Islam (based on Muslims’ practice of the Qur’an) is a very dangerous Cult. Because most Muslims believe and practice the Qur’an verbatim, Islam should be illegal. All Muslims should be banned.

    Islam’s purpose is to terrorize and kill the nonbelievers, and world domination. READ A QUR’AN! They have been doing it for 1400 years. Today these Islamic Scum have conquered the Middle East. They have conquered Northwestern Africa. They have invaded Sweden, France and Germany. The rest of Europe is next…then North America. They must be stopped or we will be living in the “United Islamic States of America” with Shari’ah the law of the land by the year 2020! THIS IS NOT “Islamophobia.” This is the REAL Truth.

    DO NOT BE FOOLED! Islam is NOT a religion of peace. ALL Muslims have an agenda…Terrorize nonbelievers, and world domination. Educate yourself before you blindly trust your “peaceful” Muslim neighbor or the media.

    The ultimate non political correct solution to this mess before Islam takes over the United States…Burn every mosque to the ground. “Honor” kill every man, woman and child who are Islamic Muslims. (there will be collateral damage) It’s our only hope.

    This is not IslamoFAUXbia. This is the only solution these savages will comprehend. You can hate me all you want. You can call me a “Nazi Maffia BIGGOT.” You can un”friend” me on Facebook and Twitter. I do not care. There is no dealing with Muslims.

    There is no “Figuring what the hell is going on,” as Trump said. They have proven themselves to be enemies of Western Civilization and the freedoms it respects by joining a political ideology that seeks to destroy those freedoms and to make all subservient to Islam. Islam has as a fundamental goal…the imposition of Shari’ah law on everyone. This is against the Constitution. Implementing a law such as Shari’ah over the Constitution is an act of treason. Shari’ah law is against all of the freedoms Western Civilization and the United States cherishes and respects.

    Since Islam teaches that a Muslim should lie and break agreements with non muslims these people can not be trusted. They are the source of support for Islamic terrorists.

    “But there are ‘good’ Muslims,” you might say. Yes, these “good” Muslims are the ones that don’t say anything about the BAD Muslims building pipe bombs in their garages. The “good” Muslims also secretly find JOY and great PLEASURE in TERRORIST acts. All in the name of Allah.

    DO NOT BE FOOLED! Islam is NOT a religion of peace. ALL Muslims have an agenda…Terrorize nonbelievers, and world domination.

    The only solution is Muslim genocide. I know this sounds extremely harsh but we are dealing with extremists. We are on the brink of WWIII. We must not lose. We must do whatever it takes. We Must Win! WE WILL WIN!

  • ravitchn

    The Koran is as bad as the Bible as history. As religion they are very similar. But Christians and Jews have finally abandoned the bible in all but neme. Islam remains attached to its holy book and that is why it is dangerous and must be mistrusted until it goes through a process of reformation, secularization, and so on. This could take centuries, if it ever in fact happens. Don’t bet on it.

  • ravitchn

    What makes you think you know better than others what God is like? God is by definition unknowable. See Augustine.