Violence in Islam?
by M. Amir Ali, Ph.D.
Violence is the use of force to subdue others that may include killing. Violence may be morally legitimate in the eyes of a majority of people when killing animals and birds for self-protection or for food. However, in the religions of Jainism and some sects of Buddhism and Hinduism even killing of animals and insects is not legitimate.
At the human level, violence may be divided into three major types: (1) Violence committed by an army against another army; in this case it is called a battle or war, (2) Violence organized by the civilians against tyranny and oppression or to replace one political system with another; in this case the conflict may be called terrorism, civil war or a war of liberation or freedom, depending who is talking, and (3) Violence committed by individuals or a small group of people for personal gain or revenge; in this case it is called murder, robbery or vendetta, respectively.
Commonly, the meaning of the term Islam is given as peace and also submission. “Violence in Islam” is an oxymoron; a meaningless phrase. The contemporary Muslim world situation appears to make the question, “violence in Islam?”, a relevant one. Anti-Islam forces, such as, Christian Fundamentalists, Zionists of all colors and shades, Russians, Serbs, Hindu Fundamentalists and others love to refer to the cherry-picked Qur’an verses to point out that Islam means terrorism and violence, not peace. Unfortunately, the ignorant masses of the West have been raised since their school days in believing that Islam is terrorism and violence. In addition, the pro-Zionist media loves to please the masses through reinforcing this belief and for keeping Islam unpopular in the West in order to prevent its propagation. As the Zionists see that an increasing Muslim voting population in the West as a threat to the existence of the Israeli entity, they would rather eliminate the presence of Islam in the West, particularly, the U.S.
Since the 9-11 terror in New York, the most cited Qur’an verse is 9:5 in support of false allegation of murder of non-Muslims and forcing them to convert to Islam when they refuse. The meaning of this one verse may best be understood and appreciated when the reader has full background of the context of revelation and what the message was given as a whole. Surah (chapter) 9 has two names, At-Tauba and Al-Bara’, meaning the repentance and freedom from obligation (disavowal), respectively. Verses 1-37 of Surah 9 were revealed as a block and verses 1 to 16 make up the context of the verse 5. Let me quote the translation of all 16 verses from Zafar Ishaq Ansari’s Towards Understanding the Qur’an, Vol. 3, pp 187-195.
No Compulsion or Coercion 2:256. The Qur’an verses are clear in commanding the believes that there is no coercion or compulsion in Islam to convert. The history of 14 centuries is the proof that Muslims had no systematic compulsion to convert people to Islam. One verse translation is given below:
Muslims have honored this commandment and they have been careful in not forcing people to convert to Islam. The best examples are Spain, India, East Europe where Muslims entered with armies and conquered them yet these countries remained non-Muslim majority. On the other hand, in Sub-Sahara Africa, Indonesia and Malaysia where Islamic armies never entered, these countries became Muslim majority countries. In our time in the 21st century, no Muslim army has entered in North America or Europe yet millions of people are converting to Islam by their own will.
One of the principles of understanding the Qur’an is that a verse (ayah) should be read (a) in the context of the surrounding verses, not in isolation, (b) in the context of its revelation, which may be found in the Hadith collections, and (c) in the context of the whole Qur’an. A fourth requirement frequently presented is to see the words, terms and phrases used and as understood by the companions of the Prophet and following two generations (Salaf). It simply means reading various commentaries of the Qur’an of the classical period and finding how they understood and explained a given verse or a passage. Not knowing Arabic is not an excuse because in the 20th century a few commentaries of the Qur’an in English language have appeared and these writers have summed up the earlier commentators; some of them are Tafseer Ibn Katheer, Towards Understanding the Qur’an referred to above, Muhammad Asad and Abdullah Yusuf Ali. There are two translations and commentaries in the works, one by Dr. Irfan Ahmad Khan to be published from India and the other by Dr. Ahmad Zaki Hammad to be published from Al-Azhar University, Cairo, Egypt. Some parts of the both works have been published.
Another aspect of understanding the Qur’an verses is the time frame for application of their meaning. A verse or a passage may have special meaning for a particular time of the revelation and it does not apply after the time has passed. Or a verse or a passage may also have a generalized meaning for all times to come since its revelation.
Those who quote Qur’an verses with the objective of criticizing it and Islam do not meet any of the above given requirements yet they interpret verses according to their whims and fancy. These people have no objectivity but malice and prejudice. Before I explain the above verses I would like to give a few definitions of some Qur’anic terms. The spellings of the following terms may vary from one writer to another when transliterated in a European language.
MUSLIMS: Those who believe in a Messenger / Prophet of Allah and follow his teachings; accordingly, followers of all prophets since the time of Abraham were Muslims, followers of Muhammad included.
MUNAFIQ (sing.): Technically a Munafiq is a Muslim but due to the absence of real faith in Islam, Allah considers him to be a hypocrite. Qur'an has hundreds of verses about Munafiqoon or Munafiqeen (case based plu.) because they are the cause of most danger to Islam and Muslims, much more than the worst non-Muslim enemies of Islam. This is true in our time also. All those "Muslims" who are helping the enemies of Islam for waging war on Islam and Muslim societies are certainly hypocrites.
BANI ISRAEL (YAHUD): All people who followed the Prophets from Moses to the last Prophet before Jesus.
NASARA: This term is used for Christians only. Some scholars think that the term is derived from Nazareth but others think that it is derived from the Arabic word for helper.
AHL AL-KITAB: this means people of the Book, Christians and Jews both or depending upon the context, Jews only or Christians only.
MUSHRIK (sing.) Mushrikoon or Mushrikeen (case based plural): This applies particularly to the idol worshippers of Arabia who lived at the time of the Prophet. Most of them converted to Islam but a few converted to Christianity; no more Mushrikoon are living in the Arabian Peninsula. In our time Hindu, Buddhists and any other people who worship an idol god would fall under this category.
KAAFIR (sing.) Kaafiroon or Kaafireen (plu.): These are non-Muslims who rejected Islam after knowing Islam from authentic sources. See Qur'an verses 2:6-7 about them. I would like to translate the term as "Islam-rejecters" but the ignorant translate it as "infidels". Unfortunately, ignorant translators use the term infidel for Mushrik as well as Kaafir whereas these are very different terms.
JAAHIL (sing.) Juhla or Jahiloon or Jahileen (plu.): Literally it means an ignorant person but as a Qur’anic term it means those ignorant people who are unaware of Islamic teachings and they didn’t have a chance to accept or reject Islam. Once a person rejects Islam after knowing its teachings from authentic sources, this person would be a Kaafir.
JIHAD. This term is frequently mistranslated as “holy war”. In Islam there is no such thing as holy war because all wars are filthy, however, some wars are unavoidable. The Christian term, “justifiable war” is also applied in Islam. Literally, Jihad means to strive or to struggle. For a better treatment of the topic see my article JIHAD EXPLAINED.
QITAL (HARB). Qital means a battle and Harb means war, which the terms to be used for real war and these two terms means battle and war.
WALI (sing.) Awlia’ (plu.): Commonly the term Wali is translated as “friend” that gives rise to misunderstanding about the message of the Qur’an. Depending upon the context it may mean a friend but more often it means a protector or protecting friend or an ally, which is a lot more than a simple friend.
In the above quoted passage of 9:1-16 in the verses 1,2,3,4,5,6 and 7 the term used is mushrikeen meaning this is not about any other people than the idolaters (mushrikeen) of Makkah. Another point to note is that the address is towards those who violated the peace treaty with the Prophet Muhammad. This theme repeats in all the verses up to 9:16. Naturally, Allah, in the Qur’an, is instructing the Prophet Muhammad to free himself from the peace treaty obligation, known as the Treaty of Hudaybiah; he made in the year 6 AH for a ten-year period. But the idolaters of Quraysh violated the treaty in the second year and raided a tribe who was an ally of the Prophet. The verse gives specific instruction to fight those who violated the treaty and killed allies of the Prophet. The meaning of the verse does not extend to other non-Muslims except under the exact similar conditions. Those who have never been allies of the Muslims have no treaty to violate. Islam prohibits aggression against those who have not attacked the Muslims. This point takes us to the verses 2:190-194.
In the verse 9:5 there is a mention of “Al-Ashhar ul-Hurum” meaning the months of prohibition, sometimes translated as sacred months, which are Rajab, Dhul Qe’dah, Dhul Hijjah and Muharram, the 7th, 11th, 12th and 1st months of the Arabic lunar calendar. The month of Rajab was reserved for Umrah or lesser Hajj and the other three months were considered the months for Hajj the greater pilgrimage to Makkah. During these months Arabs used to celebrate peace for the safety of the return travel to Makkah and any war or looting was considered prohibited. However, they found a back door to violate these months of safety and invented the custom of Nasi. Under this invention they could exchange a real prohibited month with another non-prohibited month and could go on looting and war and surprise the weaker travelers. Islam kept the custom of prohibited months but abrogated the custom of Nasi.
Qur’an verses 2:190-194. The translation of these verses is given below;
In the verses 190-191 given above it is obvious that Allah is commanding the Muslims, in the Qur’an, to fight against those who began the fight but do not do anything more than necessary to repel the attack because Allah does not like transgression, that is, going beyond one’s limits. The verse 192 puts further emphasis on driving the invaders out of your homes, your property and maybe out of your country to remove their occupation.
Verse 193 emphasizes that mischief and persecution is worse than killing, therefore, it is the responsibility of the Muslims to remove mischief and persecution and work to bring justice and equity according to the rules of Islam.
Verse 194 refers to the sacred or the months of prohibitions of war; the command is to honor the months but if the adversaries violate them the Muslims are allowed to respond in kind. Similarly, if the opponents attack, the Muslims are allowed to respond in kind but not to violate the limits or the use of excessive force. The use of excessive force is a pagan concept as the U.S. is doing in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Qur’an 5:33-34. Another verse that is frequently quoted for attacking the Qur’an is 5:33 but it should be read with 5:34. The translation is given below:
These two verses were revealed in response to the treatment of one or more “Muslims” who reverted back to his/their previous religion and became terrorists and highway robbers looting trade caravans. In addition they began encouraging the enemies of the Prophet Muhammad and Muslims to attack and destroy the city-state of Madinah. Allah’s order came to fight them and subdue them followed by killing or crucifying them or cutting hands and feet from opposite sides or imprisoning them. If they submit themselves before being subdued forcefully and ask for forgiveness then forgive them. Their asking forgiveness includes their voluntary returning to Islam. Obviously, these verses are not about non-Muslims or forcing them to convert to Islam.
Such a treatment will be meted out to all apostates who combine treason with apostasy. Also, the same fate is due to highway robbers and terrorists who commit heinous crimes after peace, justice and equity has been established under Islamic rule. In the absence of Islamic rule neither peace is possible nor justice and equity but a tyranny of one kind or the other. In the contemporary Muslim world (2004 CE) there is not a single “Islamic” country having Islamic rule but there are over fifty Muslim majority countries having tyrannical rules and most of them are puppets of either the European or American powers. Naturally, there is no peace, no justice and no equity but chaos, murder, persecution, exploitation, looting of the people’s money and tyranny. These countries are ruled by the criminals supported and protected by the enemies of Islam who are rulers in Europe and America.
Qur’an 4:74-76. These verses are part of the section 4:71-76 but I will skip first three verses, as they are simple to understand. The translation is given below:
The background of these verses is the Battle of Uhud that took place in the year 3 AH in the vicinity of Madinah. One year before the Battle of Uhud, the Makkan pagans had brought a well-equipped army of 1,000 in the with the plan of annihilating the Prophet and his followers. But the Prophet intercepted them 60 miles south of Madinah in the company of 313 companions; this was a very poorly equipped band of Muslims. The Prophet and his companions were victorious and all major leaders of the pagan Quraysh were killed and they lost 70 soldiers. The Makkans returned defeated but swore to come back to destroy the Prophet, his mission and his city-state of Madinah. In the following year, in 3 AH Makkans came back with a better equipped army of 3,000 and the Prophet was able to gather a band of only 700 and the battle took place near Madinah at the foot of Mt. Uhud. Both sides suffered heavy losses and there was no clear victory for either side. Makkans returned to Makkah without achieving their goal of annihilation of the Prophet and his mission, yet this emboldened the Makkans. This followed two years of hard persecution and torture of Muslims living outside of Madinah, whether in Makkah or in other villages where pagans ruled. Prophet Muhammad had to send intelligence and guard missions all around to find who was conspiring and who was planning another aggression against Madinah and the Muslims.
The verse 4:71-76 were revealed in the above given background and they should be understood within this context. The verse 4:71 instructs the Muslims to stay ready for defense because they may not know who and when will attack small city-state of Madinah. The verse 4:72-73 talks about the condition of hypocrites who do not want to fight because they love this worldly life more than the life of hereafter, however, they do want the war booty when victory comes. The verse 4:74 assures sincere Muslims that if they die in the battle they will surely enter paradise but if they come back victorious, that would be good for them, too. Either way whether they survive the war or die in the war, they are assured of great reward from Allah. The verse 4:75 motivates the Muslims to stand up to defeat the oppressors and tyrants who have no conscience but the greed of this world and power. The oppressed people cry for Allah’s help and it comes in the form of sincere Muslims who stand up in support of these people.
The verse 4:76 declares that sincere Muslims fight to make Allah’s rule supreme and to establish peace, justice and equity, whereas, those who fight for land, country, nationalism, patriotism, loot, murder, revenge, wealth and other worldly motives, fight for the Taghut, anyone other than Allah, that is, for the sake of the Satan. Those who fight for the sake of Satan, sometimes may appear to be winning in achieving their worldly goals but they are losers in the long term and certainly, in the life hereafter they will end up in the hell-fire.
It is obvious that Allah condemns aggression totally and condemns any war in pursuit of worldly reasons. Whereas Allah approves and motivates a war of defense and to protect the weak who are persecuted and oppressed. In this early 21st century there are hundreds of millions of Muslims who are oppressed and persecuted by the West and its agents as rulers of the Third World countries.
Qur’an 22:39-40. During the Prophet’s life in Makkah he was forbidden to respond to violent offenses against him or his followers. The command of Allah was to tie down their hands; it was total pacifism. The only thing his followers were allowed to do was to leave the town and take refuge in Habashah (Ethiopia). This restriction was lifted in Madinah when an Islamic city-state was established with its own free government under the Prophet, its own economy and volunteer defense forces. Order came in the following words in translation:
The meanings of these two verses are simple enough not requiring any explanation.
47:4-6. These verses were revealed shortly after the verses 22:39-40 given above lifting the ban on armed resistance against the invaders and aggressors.
Aggression against the Muslim society of Madinah was already in progress, therefore, further instructions were given regarding defensive strategy. Allah instructed the Muslims to stand firm and fight hard taking prisoners only when necessary. These prisoners may be forgiven and released or accept ransom and release them. Allah promised Paradise for those who defend their faith.
Friendship or protection?
Another Qur’an verse that is used for attack on Islam is 5:51, which may be translated as:
Frequently, the term wali is translated as “friend” and the meaning of the verse changes completely. When wali is translated to mean “friend” the verse appears to convey the message that Islam prohibits making friends from the Christians and the Jews. This belies the history of 13 centuries of Islam. From 638 to 1917 Muslims and Jews have been each others friends and sometimes protectors. During the period of the Inquisition in Spain, Muslims and Jews suffered together and protected each other. Whenever there were pogroms of the Jews in Europe, they fled to North African Muslim ruled countries or to the East where the Turks ruled and they found sympathy, friendship, welcome and rehabilitation. Similarly, Christians and Muslims have been living together in peace all over the Arab world, Turkey, Iran, Pakistan and other countries. One example of the Christian-Muslim harmony is that the Orthodox Church had its headquarter in Constantinople before 1453 when Muhammad II conquered it for the Ottoman Empire. Constantinople was the seat of the Orthodox Church and it remained throughout the Turkish rule and it continues to be the seat of the Orthodox Church. However, I consider the verse 5:51 a prophecy and a warning to the Muslims of the 20th century onward. European powers when they left the colonies they always gave upper hand to the non-Muslim minorities leaving Muslims weak; this was the situation in India, North Africa, Sub-Sahara Africa and other parts of the world. Arabs trusted the British that after defeat of the Turks, they will become independent but they were betrayed. Instead of independence of the Arabs, puppet monarchies and Israel were established on their lands. Betrayal and more betrayal, all around. Pakistan signed the Baghdad Pact (which was renamed as CENTO after the exit of Iraq from the treaty) and joined SEATO in the 1950s in support of the U.S. efforts against communism, allowed American bases on its land and became a nuclear target of the Soviet Union. On the contrary, the U.S. conspired with India against Pakistan. When India attacked Pakistan in 1965 and again in 1971, the U.S. betrayed and helped India for the breaking up of Pakistan. Secularism is paganism, when one trusts the secularists they experience betrayal just the way the Prophet faced betrayal of the pagans of Arabia 14 centuries ago.
The other side of the coin is with whom among non-Muslims are worthy of friendship? See the Qur’an verses 60:8-9:
The verses 60:8-9 were revealed in the background of the pagans of Makkah who had driven out the Prophet and his companions out and they took refuge in Madinah. Similar things were happening to many new Muslims who were being evicted by their own people on account of their new faith.
Should the Muslims trust pagans of the West? I think NOT! Pay heed to the Qur’an’s warning. Personally, I have no problem making friends, sympathizing with my neighbors and colleagues, having dinner with them, going on a picnic or camping with them. I have met a lot of very decent Christians and Jews and they are worthy of friendship and trust. The verse of the Qur’an 5:51 is not talking about friendship at a personal level but signing pacts at the national level. The experience of the Muslim countries during the last 90 years shows that the pagan secular nations of Jewish and Christian background are not worthy of trust. These nations will not miss any opportunity of betrayal for destroying Islam and Muslims.
The Toilet Paper of the West.
All Muslim puppet rulers of the West in the Muslim majority countries are actually traitors to their own people. These traitors work like toilet paper rolls or tissue paper well kept before use. Once toilet paper has been used for wiping the bottoms, it is flushed down the toilet. I have seen in Pakistan many such traitors have been flushed down the toilet; a few names are: Liaqat Ali Khan, Iskander Mirza, Gen. Ayub Khan, Gen. Yahya Khan, Gen. Ziaul Hal, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, Benazir Bhutto, Nawaz Shareef, Mujeebur Rahman and the next to be flushed is Gen. Pervez Musharraf. In other countries we find Shah of Iran, Saddam Hussein, Ahmad Chalabi; now waiting to be flushed down the toilet are Hamid Karzai, Iad Allawi, Ghazi Al-Yawar and a number of other puppets, dictators in the Muslim majority countries.
Conclusion. War in Islam was permitted to the Prophet Muhammad only after fifteen years of trying to live in peace against all aggression. Only when anti-Islam forces decided to totally annihilate Islam, were the Muslims permitted to fight back. The situation remains the same even in our time at the beginning of the 21st century CE. Over 50 years ago Muslims have been living as colonial subjects of the West for over two centuries. As they are coming out of the submissive posture of colonial days and desire to live according to Islamic principles, the West, led by the U.S., is trying to re-impose its hegemony over the Muslim world. The Muslims are left with no choice but fight back. The West must learn to let the Muslim world resolve her problems her own way rather than imposing her hegemony over the Muslims through puppets like Pervez Musharraf, Hosni Mubarak, Abdullah II of Jordan, Qaddafi and others.
I have discussed all the Qur’an verses about armed struggle against the enemies of Islam, but if there are any other attacks forward them to me to address them and write response. Please forward your comments and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
June 22, 2004