“There is also the superstition of the Ishmaelites which to this day prevails and keeps people in error, being a forerunner of the Antichrist…. From that time to the present a false prophet named Mohammed has appeared in their midst. This man, after having chanced upon the Old and New Testaments and likewise, it seems, having conversed with an Arian monk, devised his own heresy. Then, having insinuated himself into the good graces of the people by a show of seeming piety, he gave out that a certain book had been sent down to him from heaven. He had set down some ridiculous compositions in this book of his and he gave it to them as an object of veneration.”
-St. John Damascene (d. 749), Syrian Arab Catholic monk and scholar. Quoted from his book On Heresies under the section On the Heresy of the Ishmaelites (in The Fathers of the Church. Vol. 37. Translated by the Catholic University of America. CUA Press. 1958. Pages 153-160)
“We profess Christ to be truly God and your prophet to be a precursor of the Antichrist and other profane doctrine.”
-Sts. Habenitus, Jeremiah, Peter, Sabinian, Walabonsus, and Wistremundus (d. 851); forty-eight Christians were executed in Cordoba, Spain. Reported in the Memoriale Sanctorum in response to Spanish Umayyad Caliph ‘Abd Ar-Rahman II’s ministers that they convert to Islam on pain of death.
“On the other hand, those who founded sects committed to erroneous doctrines proceeded in a way that is opposite to this, the point is clear in the case of Muhammad. He 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. In all this, as is not unexpected, he was obeyed by carnal men. As for proofs of the truth of his doctrine, he brought forward only such as could be grasped by the natural ability of anyone with a very modest wisdom. Indeed, the truths that he taught he mingled with many fables and with doctrines of the greatest falsity. He did not bring forth any signs produced in a supernatural way, which alone fittingly gives witness to divine inspiration; for a visible action that can be only divine reveals an invisibly inspired teacher of truth. On the contrary, Muhammad said that he was sent in the power of his arms—which are signs not lacking even to robbers and tyrants.”
-St. Thomas Aquinas (d. 1274), Theologian and Doctor of the Church. Quoted from his De Rationibus Fidei Contra Saracenos, Graecos, et Armenos and translated from Fr. Damian Fehlner’s Aquinas on Reasons for the Faith: Against the Muslims, Greeks, and Armenians(Franciscans of the Immaculate. 2002.)
Even if all the things contained in his law were fables in philosophy and errors in theology, even for those who do not possess the light of reason, the very manners (Islam) teaches are from a school of vicious bestialities. (Muhammad) did not prove his new sect with any motive, having neither supernatural miracles nor natural reasons, but solely the force of arms, violence, fictions, lies, and carnal license. It remains an impious, blasphemous, vicious cult, an innovention of the devil, and the direct way into the fires of hell. It does not even merit the name of being called a religion.”
-St. Juan de Ribera (d.1611), Archbishop of Valencia, missionary to Spanish Muslims, and organizer of the Muslim expulsions of 1609 from Spain. Quoted in several locations from his 1599 Catechismo para la Instruccion de los Nuevos Convertidos de los Moros.
Eight hundred years ago St. Francis of Assisi set out to Dalmetia, Egypt, to evangelize the Muslims. He was inspired by God to preach the gospel to the sultan. He boldly, bravely, and unapologetically proposed the truths of the Catholic faith to him at great personal risk. He did so with respect – peacefully, humbly, without denigrating or attacking Islam, and with good will. In this sense, he is a good model for interreligious dialogue today. It is vital for Catholics to be able to talk with people of other faiths – to be able to share the gospel truth, to be able to listen respectfully, and to look for common ground.
St. Francis sought peace, yes – but not by means of political negotiations or a legal treaty or by compromising his faith in exchange for coexistence with Islam, but by converting the enemies of the faith to Christianity. He did not dialogue with the sultan with the limited aim of improving mutual understanding; he wanted to save the sultan’s soul by offering him the Good News, or to die a martyr’s death trying. And it was a reasonable expectation that he would be killed for his faith, since a fundamental doctrine of Islam both then and now is that Muslims are obliged to either kill, convert, or totally subject all non-Muslims to Islam.
As scholar Andrew Bieszad in What Did the Saints Say about Islam? says that it is obvious from these statements is that represent a very different view of Islam than we’ve heard from the Vatican in recent years. The recent dormancy of Islam has led many in this generation to believe precisely as Pope Francis does: that it is only Muslim extremists who pose a threat, and that the religion itself is more or less praiseworthy. The experiences of most of the saints throughout Church history, however, taught them the opposite — namely, that Islam and its practices are antithetical to the Catholic faith and those who seek to live it.