As early as 1518, Dr. Martin Luther had identified the Islamic faith as the "scourge of God." For the rest of his life Luther believed that the Muslims were God's punishment upon a sinful Christendom who had, among other sins (ingratitude, toleration of wicked sects, worship of the god Mammon, drunkenness, greed, and the split of Christendom which had provoked His wrath), tolerated the papal abomination. They would function as Germany's schoolmaster who must correct and teach the German people to repent of their sins and to fear God.
By 1541, Luther's burning question for the German people is "how can God be patient any longer?" Just as God had punished the generation of Noah for its wickedness, God must now protect His honor and divinity by punishing the thankless and ungrateful German people.
The Origin and Nature of the Islamic Faith
Martin Luther, having spent the majority of his life lecturing on the Old Testament, derived his understanding of the origin and nature of Islam from Daniel 7 and Daniel's dream concerning the four beasts. In Daniel's vision, each beast represented a kingdom with the last beast signifying the Roman Empire.
In fulfillment of Daniel 7:20, Luther identified the origin of Islam with the small horn which had displaced the kingdoms of Egypt, Greece, and Asia and who makes war against God's people. The nature of the Islamic faith can be understood by the human eyes of the beast which represented Islam's sacred book, the Qur'an, containing only human wisdom. The mouth signified the many blasphemies that the prophet Muhammad uttered against the Christian faith.
In a letter to Nicholas Hausmann, Luther made the further identification of Gog with the Muslim and Magog with the pope, the former being the external or worldly enemy of God's people and the latter being the spiritual or ecclesiastical enemy of Christ and His Church. These two enemies of God, and of His people, possessed the same origin in time with the establishment of papal primacy to Boniface III in 606 A.D. by Phokes and with the appearance of the Muslims in 621-632 A.D.
Luther believed that the Islamic faith was a patchwork faith which had been "patched together out of the faith of the Jews, Christians, and the heathen" (PE 5:95). The chief theological errors of Islam manifested themselves in the following ways:
A FALSE SYSTEM OF RIGHTEOUSNESS
For Luther, it is foolish and unwise to place one's hope of salvation upon a religious system which had no calling or promise from God. Consequently, all of the Muslim's fasting, alms-giving, zeal, spirituality, and self-chosen worship count for nothing before God (LW 24:229).
The reason the Muslim engages in these labors, suggests Luther, is that his false understanding of God's nature and will leads him to view God as an angry God who must be won by humility, fasting, sacrifice and good works (LW 22:336). In doing so, he rejects the office of Christ (as Redeemer and Mediator) by his own labor to obtain a gracious God and constructs his own ladder to heaven (LW 22:334). As a result, the Muslim bears fruit that is natural and temporally good, but it is not Christian and everlasting since its source is not found in the true Vine who is Christ (LW 24:214).
In summary, the Islamic faith is simply that "if you are pious and just, and if you perform good works, you are saved" (LW 22:501). The prayer of the Muslim is "may God spare my life that I may atone for my sin" (LW 24:349). Thus, the Muslim possesses a false righteousness that strives to be holy, not through faith in the merits of Christ but through his own self-chosen works (LW 24:243) and to "do good according to the light and understanding of reason and to be saved in this way" (LW 24:372).
A FALSE SOURCE OF THEOLOGICAL KNOWLEDGE
The second major error of the Islamic faith is its refusal to remain with the simple Gospel but instead to create a new bible, the Qur'an (LW 24:9). Due to this false source of theological knowledge, a system of salvation was constructed that could be comprehended by and which conforms to unregenerate human reason (LW 22:301-302; LW 23:79). Consequently, the tenets of the Islamic faith are in marked contrast to the fundamental articles of the Christian faith (Trinity, Incarnation) which are beyond human reason (LW 22:302) and revealed from heaven by the Holy Spirit (PE 5:178-179).
A CHRISTOLOGICAL HERESY
According to Martin Luther, the chief strategy of Satan, and of all heresies, is to deny Christ's incarnation, rob humankind of God and His Word, and to fabricate a new god. This is the way the devil goes to work: "He attacks Christ with three storm-columns. One will not suffer Him to be God; the other will not suffer Him to be man; the third denies that He has merited salvation for us. Each of the three endeavors to destroy Christ...Surely all three parts must be believed, namely, that He is God, also, that He is man, and that He became such a man for us...If one small part is lacking, then all parts are lacking" (Bente 1965:14).
The Muslims believe, like their ancestor Nestorius, that Jesus was only Mary's son and not the Son of God (LW 22:351). They hold Christ to be an excellent prophet and a great man who preached to His own time and who completed His work before His death just like any other prophet. Christ, however, is not as great as Muhammad (LW 22:18; LW 23:82), who is to be worshipped and adored in Christ's stead (LW 22:137). Thus, the Muslims storm against the teaching of Christ as true God (LW 22:395) and refuse to accept the testimony of Jesus Himself and of the Holy Spirit (LW 23:377) that He is the true God and true man (LW 22:468; PE 5:94).
The real stumbling block for the Muslim is "acknowledging that Christ is the Son of God and His message is the Word of God" (LW 22:476) since it is the nature of all schismatic spirits to assert that Jesus' Word must be ignored and discarded (LW 23:357) and to sever and separate God, Christ and His Word from one another and debate about God (LW 24:67). As a result, the Muslim is not able to know God because he seeks to know Him without Christ (LW 24:23), the true path and ladder (LW 23:56). The Muslim, instead of finding God here on earth in the flesh of Christ (LW 23:117), searches in vain for God in heaven (LW 23:123; LW 23:170).
THE ISLAMIC FAITH DESTROYS TEMPORAL AUTHORITY
A final tenet of Islam which Luther condemns is its teaching about the proper role of government. The Muslim is not concerned, like other rulers, with the maintenance of peace, the protection of the good, and the punishment of the wicked but uses government, after he has murdered men's souls with his Qur'an, to murder their bodies (PE 5:96). By his lies, the Muslim seeks to "destroy the spiritual estate, murder the temporal, disregard for marriage the estate of matrimony" (PE 5:100).
Luther's Advice in Dealing with Islam
SIR CHRISTIAN -- THE FIRST MAN
The advice of Luther concerning the Islamic threat in Europe during the Sixteenth Century was not the crusades, for to advocate a Christian crusade against the Muslims was to mix spiritual authority with temporal authority. The consequences of such a mixture and a confusion of the two authorities would be to draw God's wrath and insure the success of Islam. Instead, the Muslims were to be fought spiritually by Christians with repentance, the amendment of one's life and with prayer.
In order to achieve this spiritual posture before God, Germany's pastors were to admonish the papists to stop blaspheming God and to admonish the ungrateful, wanton German people to improve their behavior, to honor God's Word and to call on God in prayer. Germany's pastors were to be God's prophetic voices, calling God's people back to Himself through genuine repentance, faith and prayer.
THE EMPEROR -- THE SECOND MAN
The second man whose place it was to fight against the Muslim was Emperor Charles. It was his office to war agains the Muslim because of their threats toward the Empire's subjects and the Empire itself. It was his duty, as a ruler appointed by God, to defend his own people and land (PE 5:102). If there was to be war against the Muslim, "it should be fought at the Emperor's command and under his banner, and in his name...[why?]...Because then everyone can assure his own conscience that he is obeying the ordinance of God, since we know that the emperor is our true overlord and head, and he who obeys him...obeys God also, while he who disobeys him disobeys God also" (PE 5:102-103).
Therefore, advises Luther, the emperor and the princes should be exhorted concerning their office and duty to God not to let their subjects be ruined, but rather to be reminded that Germany and its people are "given you and committed to you by God, that you may protect, rule, counsel, and help it, and you not only should, but must do this on pain of losing your soul's salvation and God's favor and grace" (PE 5:106).
Just as in the days of Noah, so also in Luther's life, people lived as Epicureans and skeptics. As a consequence of their thankless hearts, God was just in punishing Europe. The Muslims were simply God's scourge and schoolmaster, permitted by God to be the servant of the devil, who not only ruins land and people with the sword but also lays waste the Christian faith and our dear Lord Jesus Christ.
The consistent resolve and advice of Luther was to appeal to the two governments instituted by God, namely, spiritual and temporal authority. Sir Christian, as the body of Christ, was to fight with the Word of God, prayer and a reformed life. Then the Emperor was to carry out his office and defend his people and land. For "if our kings and princes were to agree, and stand by one another and help one another, and the Christian man were to pray for them, I should be undismayed and of good hope; the Muslim would leave his raging and find in Emperor Charles a man who was his equal" (PE 5:122).