The Taliban’s sweeping takeover of Afghanistan is making headlines all over the world. We’ll look at America’s withdrawal decision through the lens of Scripture and Christian theology tomorrow. Let’s start with some background questions for today: What exactly are the Taliban? What is God’s opinion of them? How should we respond to them in light of the Bible?
Who exactly are the Taliban?
The origins of the Sunni Islamist group known as the “Taliban” (from the Pashto for “students”) were explained in my 2011 book Radical Islam: What You Need to Know. When two teenage girls were kidnapped and raped by followers of a warlord in Afghanistan in 1994, a group of 30 students joined their village cleric, Mullah Muhammad Omar, in rescuing the girls and hanging the group’s commander from a tank barrel, according to the most common explanation.
Their movement grew in strength and popularity, and they eventually won the support of religious parties in Pakistan.
Their enforcement of order and law was a welcome relief to the population in post-Soviet Afghanistan’s chaos. At the end of 1994, they conquered Kandahar, Afghanistan’s second-largest city. They took Kabul, the capital city, two years later. By 1998, they had taken over 90% of the country.
Soon after, it became clear that the Taliban would impose a puritanical version of Islam similar to Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabism. They gave Osama bin Laden safe haven and served as a crucial base for al-rise. Qaeda’s
They refused to expel bin Laden and stop supporting terrorism after 9/11. As a result, a US-led coalition invaded Afghanistan to depose the Taliban.
In January 2004, a new constitution was adopted, establishing parliamentary democracy. However, allegations of widespread corruption against the new government quickly surfaced and have persisted in the years since.
While the Afghan government developed a military force to prevent the return of al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations, US forces remained in the country. Over the course of two decades, more than 2,300 US military personnel have died in Afghanistan, with over 20,000 others injured.
Afghanistan’s ‘Islamic Emirate’
Following Presidents Obama and Trump’s announcements of troop reductions, Vice President Biden announced in April that the US would withdraw all of its troops from Afghanistan by September 11, 2021. As a result, the Taliban have intensified their military operations across the country in recent days.
They took control of Kabul, the Afghan capital, the day before yesterday. They plan to rename Afghanistan the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan” at a ceremony at the presidential palace.
They promise the country a new era of peace and normalcy, as well as amnesty for those who have fought them for the past two decades.
However, there are already signs of a return to the harsh version of Islam that Afghans were subjected to from 1996 to 2001, when the Taliban were ousted from power.
When they were in power in Afghanistan, they outlawed television, music, and cinema, as well as girls over the age of ten attending school. When women went outside, they had to wear the burqa and be accompanied by a male relative. Human rights and cultural abuses were accused of the Taliban, including the destruction of the famous Bamiyan Buddha statues in central Afghanistan.
There have been new reports of such atrocities. Taliban fighters went door to door in one province last month looking for people who had worked for the government, killing at least 27 civilians, wounding ten others, and looting homes, according to the semi-official Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission.
Taliban leaders in two provinces ordered religious leaders to provide them with a list of girls over 15 and widows under 45 for “marriage” with Taliban fighters in early July.
‘Its end is the path to death,’ says the narrator.
Deobandi theology is followed by the Taliban (named for a seminary founded in 1866 in the city of Deobond, India). All traditions and studies not directly related to the study of the Quran are excluded from this school. It opposes reinterpretation of Islamic precepts to accommodate changing times, and instead seeks to return to the “purity” of the Quran and Sunnah (practices of the Islamic prophet Muhammad).
According to this worldview, religious edicts have a divine source, making them more authoritative than humanitarian laws promoting individual liberty.
In this sense, the Taliban can be considered religious fanatics. While tribal and social issues have an impact on them, their fervent belief in religious legalism drives their desire to create a purified Islamic culture.
God’s Word is unequivocal: “There is a way that appears right to a man, but its end is death” (Proverbs 14:12). Satan has deceived the Taliban, as he has millions of other people who follow false religions, into believing that their religious zeal will save their souls.
The “thief” who “comes only to steal, kill, and destroy” has inspired the atrocities they have committed in the name of their religion (John 10:10). And the way they treat women is clearly against God’s will (cf. Galatians 3:28).
What should our reaction be?
Christians should pray for God’s protection for those who are threatened by the unfolding tragedy in Afghanistan during this spiritual conflict (Ephesians 6:12). We should also pray fervently for Taliban leaders and followers to have visions and dreams of Jesus, a miraculous phenomenon that is now reaching Muslims all over the world.
To that end, let us make Paul’s prayer for the Taliban our intercession: “My heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved.” Because I bear witness that they have a zeal for God, but it is not based on knowledge. Because they were ignorant of God’s righteousness and sought to establish their own, they refused to submit to God’s righteousness. For everyone who believes in Christ, the law has come to an end for righteousness” (Romans 10:1–4).
Consider the man who prayed it first if you have any doubts about God’s ability to answer such a prayer. If Saul the persecutor can become Paul the apostle, one thing is certain: it is never too early to give up on God.
Originally published at the Denison Forum