Does Islam Teach Violence?

By Paul Salahuddin Armstrong
Co-Director, AOBM

A commentary and response to an article entitled, “Does the Koran Teach Violence” by Weylan Deaver.

“The New Testament teaches Christians are at war with evil. But Christians fight with spiritual (i.e. non-physical) weapons for a spiritual kingdom.”

As do Muslims… Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, stated, “the greatest jihad (which means struggle/striving) is with one’s self/ego”. If you read the Qur’an carefully, so many verses are asking the reader to ponder, to strive for spiritual correction in themselves, (cf. Holy Qur’an 2:177, 2:195, 2:203, 2:219, 2:238, 3:191, 10:5-6, 38:28 – there are many more, but I can’t list them all here).

“When it comes to our relationship to fellow men, the gospel teaches we are to be peacemakers, turning the other cheek when mistreated, not retaliating, but leaving vengeance to God.”

Islam likewise teaches this is the best way (cf. Holy Qur’an 2:224,) Prophet Muhammad himself said, “None of you truly believes until he desires for others that which he desires for himself” (40 Hadith of an-Nawawi 13). Clearly, no one in their right mind desires anything bad to happen to them, and we should therefore bear that in mind during our interactions with others. Even in 2:178, the verse highlights forgiveness is superior to seeking retribution.

“O YOU who have attained to faith! Just retribution is ordained for you in cases of killing: the free for the free, and the slave for the slave, and the woman for the woman…”
– i.e. an eye for an eye. However, the same verse goes on to say,

“…and if something [of his guilt] is remitted to a guilty person by his brother, this [remission] shall be adhered to with fairness, and restitution to his fellow-man shall be made in a goodly manner. This is an alleviation from your Sustainer, and an act of His grace…”
– i.e. a court ruling that the victim’s next of kin should receive compensation is better, this is certainly not a mandate for anyone to go and seek revenge. The same verse ends by saying,

“…And for him who, none the less, wilfully transgresses the bounds of what is right, there is grievous suffering in store:”
– which really highlights the point that justice should be carried out in a lenient and merciful manner, certainly not in the brutal way some of those who claim to advocate “Shariah” today have implied!

“That’s a far, far cry from advocating physical violence against the enemies of the church in the name of Christ. Anyone teaching or practicing physical violence in the name of Christ to further the religion of Christianity is, in fact, contradicting the New Testament.”

Like the Tealibans (Tea Partiers) and some crazy evangelical extremists perhaps? While Islam does advocate self-defence, it certainly does not encourage violence or nuking people! The Qur’an stresses the best way, is to work for peace and draw up treaties with your enemies to avoid open conflict (cf. Holy Qur’an 8:61). The Qur’an only permits a country (not terrorists) to defend itself against an aggressive violent state which hasn’t respected the treaties it has made. (cf. Holy Qur’an 8:56-58) That is in fact in opposition to terrorism, not supporting it in any way. Most people, even most Christians, would accept that a state must defend itself from foreign aggression, even though this is a most unpalatable aspect of the world in which we live.

“When it comes to the religion of Islam, there are, without question, many who advocate and practice physical violence against those they consider ‘infidels.”

This is sadly true, there are some extremists who advocate horrible things. Although, in this respect, Islam is no different from Christianity, or indeed many other religious and even some political groupings. Each has their extremist nutty fringe elements, who are themselves opposed by the majority. To single Islam out and imply it is somehow unique in this respect, is absolutely dishonest and a rather pathetic argument.

“Often, politically-correct (and ignorant) American politicians condemn terrorist atrocities, offering the explanation that Islam has been hijacked by radical extremists. But is that so? Consider several quotations from A. J. Arberry’s respected translation of the Koran (New York: Collier Books, 1955).”

While this might not sit well with some people, due in part to their own fierce beliefs, these politicians are correct; Islam or rather, the public image of Islam has been hijacked by radical extremists.

“And fight in the way of God with those who fight with you, but aggress not: God loves not the aggressors. And slay them wherever you come upon them” (from sura II). (2:190)

While on the one hand aggression seems discouraged, killing in the name of Allah is definitely okay: kill your enemy wherever you happen to find him. It makes the part about non-aggression seem a little hollow, doesn’t it?”

Muhammad Asad, in his commentary on verse 2:190 wrote the following:

This and the following verses lay down unequivocally that only self-defence (in the widest sense of the word) makes war permissible for Muslims. Most of the commentators agree in that the expression la ta’tadu signifies, in this context, “do not commit aggression”; while by al-mu’tadin “those who commit aggression” are meant. The defensive character of a fight “in God’s cause” – that is, in the cause of the ethical principles ordained by God – is, moreover, self-evident in the reference to “those who wage war against you”, and has been still further clarified in 22:39 – “permission [to fight] is given to those against whom war is being wrongfully waged” – which, according to all available Traditions, constitutes the earliest (and therefore fundamental) Qur’anic reference to the question of jihad, or holy war (see Tabari and Ibn Kathir in their commentaries on 22:39). That this early, fundamental principle of self-defence as the only possible justification of war has been maintained throughout the Qur’an is evident from 60:8, as well as from the concluding sentence of 4:91, both of which belong to a later period than the above verse.

Although jihad doesn’t actually mean a crusader style “holy war” in the way we imagine in the West. The fact that some people see that is a testament to our own bloody history, rather than anything in Islam. We’ve subconsciously superimposed our own medieval concept of a crusade on Islam and Muslims and by making out Muslims are possessed of some crazy warmongering spirit, seek to make the West look rather benign in comparison! Whereas, the honest truth is all civilisations have foreign blood on their hands and this is not because of any particular Holy Book or religion. Men fight wars, not God, and often times not because of a belief in any particular deity or faith. Even the Crusades were fought as much for control of crucial trade routes as any religious concerns.

The Arabic word jihad can refer to any form of struggle, in a similar manner to the English word “fight”. You can fight, for instance, for human rights or to protect the environment, each of these is a jihad, requiring much effort and self sacrifice. Jihad when referring to warfare, according to the Holy Qur’an, refers to defensive war, a just war, fought to re-establish peace and security. As Abdullah Yusuf Ali wrote in his commentary on verse 2:190:

War is permissible in self-defence, and under well-defined limits. When undertaken, it must be pushed with vigour (but not relentlessly), but only to restore peace and freedom for the worship of God. In any case strict limits must not be transgressed: women, children, old and infirm men should not be molested, nor trees and crops cut down, nor peace withheld when the enemy comes to terms.

“’O believers, take not Jews and Christians as friends; they are friends of each other. Whoso of you makes them his friends is one of them’ (from sura V).

Whereas Jesus taught his followers to do good to enemies, the Koran forbids even friendship with Christians. A Muslim who befriends a Christian is, per Muhammad, as bad as a Christian (and Christians—as unbelievers—deserve to be slain).”

A more accurate translation of verse 5:51 is:

“O you who believe! Do not take Jews and Christians as your patrons/guardians (awliya). They are patrons/guardians of their own people. He among you who will turn to them for patronage is one of them. Verily Allah guides not a people unjust.”

In general, responsible Jews sponsor other Jews and responsible Christians try look after the needs of other Christians, so why shouldn’t Muslims take responsibility for other Muslims and support people of their own faith? This verse is not telling us to be against Jews or Christians, but it is telling us that we should be more responsible and take care of the needs of people within our own faith community and we must support each other. The verse is primarily encouraging Muslims to establish internal support networks and philanthropy within the Muslim community than about friendship. Elsewhere, the Holy Qur’an highlights the need for Muslims to give charity (zakat and sadaqah) in a more general sense as well, to anyone who is needy. (cf. Holy Qur’an 2:43, 2:83, 2:177, 2:271, 57:18, 76:8-9)

A little further on in surah 5, verse 57 clarifies the point about friendship:

“O you who have attained to faith! Do not take for your friends such as mock at your faith and make a jest of it – be they from among those who have been vouchsafed revelation before your time, or [from among] those who deny the truth [of revelation as such] – but remain conscious of God, if you are [truly] believers”

Which I’m sure is something most people would understand, irrespective of their faith. There is really no point hanging around anyone who just wants to poke fun at you, your beliefs and in so doing, your very integrity. Of what benefit would that be?

Verse 69 of the same surah, the Holy Qur’an states:

“Verily, those who have attained to faith [in this divine writ], as well as those who follow the Jewish faith, and the Sabians, and the Christians – all who believe in God and the Last Day and do righteous deeds – no fear need they have, and neither shall they grieve.”

Which is surely one of the most pluralistic verses found in any holy scripture, effectively implying that anyone who sincerely believes in God and lives their life in a good way, trying to help others along the way and contribute to making the world a better place, God will accept them.

In the Holy Qur’an 4:94, it is written:

“O you who have attained to faith, when you go forth [to war] in God’s cause, use your discernment, and do not – out of a desire for the fleeting gains of this worldly life – say unto anyone who offers you the greeting of peace, ‘Thou art not a believer’ [i.e. implying they are one of the enemy] for with God there are gains abundant. You, too, were once in the same condition – but God has been gracious unto you. Use, therefore, your discernment: verily, God is always aware of what you do.”

This verse absolutely forbids treating non-combatants as enemies and using their supposed unbelief as an excuse for attacking them. The key phrase “use your discernment” (tabayyanu) imposes on the believers a duty of making sure, in every case, whether the persons concerned are actively engaged in hostilities or not. The lives of civilians are to be protected, even during wartime when one state is at war with another, even if they are civilians of the enemy state.

“I shall cast into the unbelievers’ hearts terror; so smite above the necks, and smite every finger of them!” (from sura VIII).

Notice the word “terror,” as in “terror”-ist. The gospel of Christ is a message of peace, hope, and kindness. Granted, it has ample warnings of the coming Judgment, but God will take care of that after we leave earth. Muhammad’s is a message of terror and Muslims smiting unbelievers on earth. Huge difference.

The full verse 8:12 actually reads:

“Lo! Thy Sustainer inspired the angels [to convey this His message to the believers]: ‘I am with you!’ [And He commanded the angels:] ‘And give firmness unto those who have attained to faith [with these words from Me]: ‘I shall cast terror into the hearts of those who are bent on denying the truth; strike, then, their necks, [O believers,] and strike off every one of their finger-tips!’”

The verse is almost unique in being of only a few brutal verses in the whole of the Holy Qur’an, and is often raised in debates – a point which is important to make, considering the overall character and message of the Holy Qur’an, this verse is one of a very few exceptions rather than the norm. Why the dramatic break from the Holy Qur’an’s overriding theme of God’s endless mercy, grace, forgiveness and encouragement for people to read, reflect and enlighten themselves? When one understands the context in which this verse was revealed and to what it is actually referring, all becomes much clearer.

Unlike most of the Holy Qur’an, surahs (chapters) 8 and 9 deal predominantly with the subject of warfare. This in large part is because surah 8 was revealed just after the Battle of Badr. A key event in the history of Islam, as this was when a thousand strong, well equipped army was sent from Mecca to attack Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, and a far smaller army he led into battle, made up of only three hundred poorly armed men. The Muslims were however, victorious in this battle.

The fact that the word “terror” (when translated) is to be found in this verse is somewhat besides the point, as if we read the verse more carefully (and bearing in mind the correct context), we’ll see it is God who’s comforting the Muslims, by saying I’m with you in your time of need, when you’re vastly outnumbered and about to fight an enemy superior in terms of equipment as well as numbers. God is saying He will strike terror into the hearts of the enemies of Islam. The Qur’an is not commanding Muslims to do this! No, rather this is a supernatural, divine phenomenon, that took place during the Battle of Badr, ensuring victory for the Muslim army. Please note the Muslim army in this case, was actually the army of and defending the city state of Medina, not some uncivilised band of terrorists.

Al Qaeda type terrorists of our present time, are a completely different matter, they transgress the Holy Qur’an’s noble teachings, through attacking without warrant or provocation, defenceless civilians going about their normal day to day lives, women, children, Muslim shrines of various sects they disagree with and Christian churches, all of which are totally forbidden in the Holy Qur’an and by the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him.

In 628 AD, a delegation from St. Catherine’s Monastery came to Prophet Muhammed, peace be upon him, requesting his protection. He responded by granting them a charter of rights, which is reproduced below in its entirety. St. Catherine’s Monastery is located at the foot of Mt. Sinai and is the world’s oldest monastery. It possess a huge collection of Christian manuscripts, second only to the Vatican, and is a world heritage site, even boasting the oldest collection of Christian icons. Indeed, it is a treasure trove of Christian history, that has remained safe for 1400 years under Muslim protection.

The Promise to St. Catherine:

“This is a message from Muhammad ibn Abdullah, as a covenant to those who adopt Christianity, near and far, we are with them.

Verily I, the servants, the helpers, and my followers defend them, because Christians are my citizens; and by Allah! I hold out against anything that displeases them.

No compulsion is to be on them. Neither are their judges to be removed from their jobs nor their monks from their monasteries. No one is to destroy a house of their religion, to damage it, or to carry anything from it to the Muslims’ houses.

Should anyone take any of these, he would spoil God’s covenant and disobey His Prophet. Verily, they are my allies and have my secure charter against all that they hate.

No one is to force them to travel or to oblige them to fight. The Muslims are to fight for them. If a female Christian is married to a Muslim, it is not to take place without her approval. She is not to be prevented from visiting her church to pray. Their churches are to be respected. They are neither to be prevented from repairing them nor the sacredness of their covenants.

No one of the nation (Muslims) is to disobey the covenant till the Last Day (end of the world).”

The first and final sentences of this charter are critical, as they make the promise eternal and universal. Prophet Muhammed, peace be upon him, asserts that Muslims are with Christians near and far. Thus, totally rejecting any future attempts to limit the promise to St. Catherine alone. By commanding Muslims to obey it until the Day of Judgement, the charter again undermines any future attempts to revoke the privileges. These rights are inalienable. Prophet Muhammed declared Christians, all of them, as his allies and equated ill treatment of Christians with violating God’s covenant.

“Then, when the sacred months are drawn away, slay the idolaters wherever you find them, and take them, and confine them, and lie in wait for them at every place of ambush. But if they repent, and perform the prayer, and pay the alms, then let them go their way” (from sura IX).

Again, more slaying of non-Muslims. It’s difficult to harmonize all the sanctioned smiting with not being an aggressor, but theological coherence and consistency are not Muhammadan hallmarks.

One of most misread and misunderstood verses in the whole scripture, verse 9:5 needs to be read in the context of the preceding two verses to be properly understood, together with the next verse:

(2) [Announce unto them:] “Go, then, [freely] about the earth for four months – but know that you can never elude God, and that, verily, God shall bring disgrace upon all who refuse to acknowledge the truth!”

(3) And a proclamation from God and His Apostle [is herewith made] unto all mankind on this day of the Greatest Pilgrimage: “God disavows all who ascribe divinity to aught beside Him, and [so does] His Apostle. Hence, if you repent, it shall be for your own good; and if you turn away, then know that you can never elude God!” And unto those who are bent on denying the truth give thou [O Prophet] the tiding of grievous chastisement.

(4) But excepted shall be – from among those who ascribe divinity to aught beside God – [people] with whom you [O believers] have made a covenant and who thereafter have in no wise failed to fulfil their obligations towards you, and neither have aided anyone against you: observe, then, your covenant with them until the end of the term agreed with them. Verily, God loves those who are conscious of Him.

(5) And so, when the sacred months are over, slay those who ascribe divinity to aught beside God wherever you may come upon them, and take them captive, and besiege them, and lie in wait for them at every conceivable place. Yet if they repent, and take to prayer, and render the purifying dues, let them go their way: for, behold. God is much-forgiving, a dispenser of grace.

(6) And if any of those who ascribe divinity to aught beside God seeks thy protection, grant him protection, so that he might [be able to] hear the word of God [from thee]; and thereupon convey him to a place where he can feel secure: this, because they [may be] people who [sin only because they] do not know [the truth].

– Holy Qur’an 9:2-6 (M. Asad)

Having presented the verse in context, we can now analyse it properly. Dr. Maher Hathout gives an explanation on the historical context of the verse:

This verse was revealed towards the end of the revelation period and relates to a limited context. Hostilities were frozen for a three-month period during which the Arabs pledged not to wage war. Prophet Muhammad was inspired to use this period to encourage the combatants to join the Muslim ranks or, if they chose, to leave the area that was under Muslims rule; however, if they were to resume hostilities, then the Muslims would fight back until victorious. One is inspired to note that even in this context of war, the verse concludes by emphasizing the divine attributes of mercy and forgiveness. To minimize hostilities, the Qur’an ordered Muslims to grant asylum to anyone, even an enemy, who sought refuge. Asylum would be granted according to the customs of chivalry; the person would be told the message of the Qur’an but not coerced into accepting that message. Thereafter, he or she would be escorted to safety regardless of his or her religion. (9:6). (Hathout, Jihad vs. Terrorism; US Multimedia Vera International, 2002, pp.52-53, emphasis added)

Therefore, this verse once again refers to those pagans who would continue to fight after the period of peace. It clearly commands the Muslims to protect those who seek peace and are non-combatants. It is a specific verse with a specific ruling and can in no way be applied to general situations. The command of the verse was only to be applied in the event of a battle. As the famous translator of the Holy Qur’an, Abdullah Yusuf Ali writes, “The emphasis is on the first clause: it is only when the four months of grace are past, and the other party show no sign of desisting from their treacherous design by right conduct, that the state of war supervenes – between Faith and Unfaith.”

“…the Christians say, ‘The Messiah is the Son of God.’ That is the utterance of their mouths, conforming with the unbelievers before them. God assail them! How they are perverted!” (from sura IX).

In the eyes of a Muslim, it is perversion to believe Jesus is truly the son of God. With a religion that far removed from Christ, it is no wonder Islam practices what it does. Jesus proved himself to be God’s son and died on the cross for every future Muslim some 600 years before Muhammad was even born. Millions today live in fear of speaking against Muhammad. In point of fact, Muhammad should have lived in fear of blaspheming Jesus Christ. One day, Muhammad, and all his followers, will be judged by the words of Christ (John 12:48).

A note on John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (KJV – emphasis added).

beget: Pronunciation:/bɪˈgɛt/

verb (begets, begetting; past begot /bɪˈgɒt/; past participle begotten /bɪˈgɒt(ə)n/)

1. (especially of a man) bring (a child) into existence by the process of reproduction: they hoped that the King might beget an heir by his new queen

2. cause; bring about: killings beget more killings

Source: Oxford English Dictionary:

The main reason Muslims question this point about the Christian belief of Jesus being the son of God, is not because we don’t believe in Jesus Christ. Indeed, to believe in Jesus and believe he was the Messiah/Masih translated as “Christ” is an article of faith in Islam. A person who doesn’t believe in Jesus is not a Muslim. Nor do we have a problem with the idea that we are all in a sense the spiritual children of God. However, the word “begotten” means something along the lines of “the product of sex”. Muslims believe God cannot be compared to anything in the creation or anything we can imagine, as stated in the Holy Bible, Exodus 20:1-4:

“And God spoke all these words: ‘I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.’” (NIV)

To suggest God is like the creation, is to imply God isn’t God. God can create anything He wants, He can cause a woman to become pregnant without any sexual act having taken place, as indeed most Muslims believe was the case for Lady Mary, mother of Jesus. Hence, “begotten” is either a bad translation of the original Greek text, or is an interpolation, as God does not need to “beget” or “sire”, but simply say “be” and whatever God wills, will happen. That is why God is God, no other can do this except God, for all other beings depend upon their Creator for everything.

Let’s not forget, Muslims are not unique in questioning this belief. One of the main theological debates between Judaism and Christianity is on this very point, and even various Christians have taken issue with it, especially Unitarians. So, it should hardly seem strange that Muslims would debate this matter too. Judaism today, is seen by many Christians as being the next religion closest to their beliefs, even though Jews do not believe Jesus was the son of God. When Islam holds a virtually identical theological notion of God as in Judaism and a very similar perception of the nature of prophet-hood, it’s surely illogical to accept the one as being close to Christianity and the other as being “a religion that far removed from Christ”.

Regarding Jesus’ words in John 12:48, “He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.” Muslims certainly do not reject Jesus. Indeed, Prophet Jesus is mentioned more times in the Holy Qur’an than Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon them. Muslims may hold a slightly different theological perspective on his mission, but even so, the same is true of many Christian denominations. That in itself is hardly a rejection, or if that were the case, most Christians would be regarded as rejecters!

Although, it must be acknowledged that even among the believers in a Loving God, there are also those who believe in a most vindictive god, one who’d condemn most people to hell, whatever their faith and no matter how kind and compassionately they lived their lives. Whereas in Islam, God is the most Merciful and most Kind. Muslims believe all those who believe in God and have even an atom’s weight of good in their heart will be saved, through the infinite grace, compassion and mercy of God.

Interesting how many people quote John 12:48, without it’s preceding two verses,

“I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness. And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world.” John 12:46-47

Or the following two verses,

“For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak. And I know that his commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto me, so I speak.” John 12:49-50

Where Jesus highlights the fact that his mission was not to judge people, but to help enlighten humanity, and where he emphasises that he was a prophet of God, “For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me”, that it was God who was inspiring Jesus with, “what I should say, and what I should speak”. God commanded Jesus to bring the good news of “life everlasting”, not the vindictive judgement posited by certain extremists today!

“O believers, fight the unbelievers who are near to you, and let them find in you a harshness” (from sura IX).

The quote is not complete or accurate, the verse properly reads, “O you who have attained to faith! Fight against those deniers of the truth who are near you, and let them find you adamant; and know that God is with those who are conscious of Him.” – Holy Qur’an 9:123

Or according to Abdullah Yusuf Ali’s translation, “O ye who believe! fight the unbelievers who gird you about and let them find firmness in you; and know that Allah is with those who fear him.”

Please note, the fighting aspect is only reserved for certain people here referred to as “deniers of the truth” or “unbelievers” and particular situations indicated by “who gird about you”, as Abdullah Yusuf Ali stated alongside his translation of the Holy Qur’an:

“When conflict becomes inevitable, the first thing is to clear our surroundings of all evil, for it is only evil that we can rightly fight. To evil we must put up a stout and stiff resistance. Mealy-mouthed compromises are not right for soldiers of truth and righteousness. They are often a compound of cowardice, weariness, greed, and corruptibility.” [Note – 1374]

Hence, the verse only applies to such situations where conflict becomes inevitable in order to ensure survival of a particular sovereign community. What would have happened if the United Kingdom and her allies hadn’t fought against the Nazis? What would have happened if they had lost their resolve and instead continued to compromise with Adolf Hitler – a man who like the Quraysh, respected no treaties?

They can’t help but be noticed, the complete opposite approaches to life found in the New Testament and the Koran. The former encourages gentleness (Gal. 5:23; 2 Tim. 2:25); the latter prescribes “harshness.” Jesus taught kindness and love toward enemies—not cutting off their heads.

The Holy Qur’an and Holy Bible only seem to be opposition when quoted completely out of their proper contexts. In truth, the two scriptures teach people to be more conscious of God, humility, to treat others as they would prefer to be treated themselves, look after the interests of the less fortunate and to be honourable and decent human beings. On these points, virtually all Jews, Christians, Muslims and people of other faiths will agree.

“When you meet the unbelievers, smite their necks, then, when you have made wide slaughter among them, tie fast the bonds; then set them free, either by grace or ransom, till the war lays down its loads” (from sura XLVII).

If this is quoted in an attempt to demonstrate some brutality on the part of Islam or Muslims, it couldn’t have been quoted more out of context. The verse, when quoted in full, is actually remarkably humane for it’s time and calls for treatment of prisoners of war, not so different from the present rules advocated by the Geneva Convention.

“Now when you meet [in war] those who are bent on denying the truth, smite their necks until you overcome them fully, and then tighten their bonds; but thereafter [set them free,] either by an act of grace or against ransom, so that the burden of war may be lifted: thus [shall it be]. And [know that] had God so willed, He could indeed punish them [Himself]; but [He wills you to struggle] so as to test you [all] by means of one another. And as for those who are slain in God’s cause, never will He let their deeds go to waste” – Holy Qur’an 47:4

Please bear in mind, “smite their necks” is in reference to the battlefield. However, the verse then goes on to advocate the taking of prisoners, but treating them decently. If the object of this verse is to inspire people to kill, why suggest taking prisoners of war? Dead people can’t be detained! The verse then instructs us that after the battle, the prisoners are to be set free, either through an act of grace or by ransoming them. Very civilised behaviour in comparison to what was happening elsewhere during the 7th Century C.E.

More of the same: smiting and slaughter for unbelievers. Anyone who thinks the Koran does not teach violence ought to look again. American society will tolerate and warm up to Islam at its own peril. If their influence and respectability continue to grow on the world stage, is there any doubt that Muslims will increasingly enforce on unbelievers the kind of treatment the Koran demands? So, back to the question. Are Islamic terrorists simply radical people who have hijacked, twisted, perverted, misinterpreted the Koran to sanction violence? Or, are Islamic terrorists really the ones living up to what Islam has always taught?

“God is the Light of the heavens and the earth. The parable of His light is, as it were, that of a niche containing a lamp; the lamp is [enclosed] in glass, the glass [shining] like a radiant star: [a lamp] lit from a blessed tree -an olive-tree that is neither of the east nor of the west – the oil whereof [is so bright that it] would well-nigh give light [of itself] even though fire had not touched it: light upon light! God guides unto His light him that wills [to be guided]; and [to this end] God propounds parables unto men, since God [alone] has full knowledge of all things.” – Holy Qur’an 24:35

The Holy Qur’an enjoins tolerance, understanding, compassion and forgiveness upon people who embrace it’s message and strive to adhere to it’s teachings. Violence is shunned in Islam. While sometimes it is necessary for people to fight to defend their sovereign communities from external aggression, this is never something which should be enjoyed or encouraged, especially when it’s possible to resolve disputes utilising more civilised methods.

War should only ever be a last resort, ceasefires and peace treaties drawn up as soon as the aggressors begin to retreat. Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, demonstrated through his own example, even compromising on virtually every point to draw up the treaty of Hudaibiyah with leaders of Mecca. Yet, when asked, Muhammad highlighted that the treaty was the greatest victory, as it guaranteed 10 years of peace. Does this sound like a violent prophet or a bloodthirsty religion? One questions why anyone would try to portray a peaceful prophet and his spiritual path in such a manner? What is to be gained from it, do Islam’s detractors have something to lose from people at large seeing the true, peaceful, compassionate face of Islam and if so, what could that be?

Any book can be quoted out of context and contrary to what some would like to suggest, there is plenty of similar material to what they cite in the Holy Bible. When taken completely out of context, of course some of these verses sound terrible. Just like if someone were to go to a fairly uneducated religious person, and state that he’s an advanced species of primate, whose ancestors were more like monkeys; they would undoubtedly take offence!

Those who believe the Holy Qur’an is a book which teaches violence, conveniently ignore the fact that it is a book with what is really quite a balanced message. A book which places tremendous emphasis on learning, reflection and seeking the truth. The Holy Qur’an invites people to embrace virtue and conscious awareness, while strongly criticising ignorance, especially the indolent and hypocrites!

Over the past century, the popular image of Islam has been warped beyond all recognition. Islam is a faith centred on compassion, which leaves plenty of room for reason and scientific advancement. Through returning to the noble and sacred teachings of the Holy Qur’an, Muslims have a tremendous opportunity to rekindle their faith in an expression eminently suitable for our time, that inspires people to tackle the global challenges of our era, in partnership with everyone else in our human family.

Weylan Deaver’s original article, “Does the Koran Teach Violence”:

Quotations from the Holy Qur’an are taken from Muhammad Asad’s translation, unless otherwise stated. Quotations from the Holy Bible are taken from the Authorised King James Version, except where stated.


6 Responses to Does Islam Teach Violence?

  1. Kallengar says:

    The later parts of the Koran incite the believer to violence against apostates and unbelievers and abrogate the early parts. The records left us by the hadiths and the Koran show Muhammed to be a serial rapist, a pedophile, a thief, a liar and a mass murderer who encouraged his followers to do the same. It is a matter of historical record. You close your eyes because you don’t want to believe it. It is a mystery to me as to why Sufis began to follow such a fraud. When I was in Istanbul, I went to Topkapi palace, where various swords of the so-called prophet and his followers were on public display……I do not think they were of purely decorative or symbolic value. I followed the sufi path for a while until I discovered the ugly facts about Islam and Muhammed. Now I am an atheist because my conscience does not permit me to believe in idle suppositions not backed by evidence and because my conscience would be troubled if I endorsed the lies, hypocrisies, deceptions, desire to manipulate and control, childish wish fulfilling irrationalities and outright violence inherent in most of the worlds religions. I despise those who advocate and practice violence and because of that I wish every trace of the sick cult of Islam could be wiped off the face of the earth forever. May relative Truth, relative Peace be with you, it is all we can ever hope for.

    • Thank you for your comments. The Holy Qur’an is interpreted differently by different groups. If a person wants to interpret a book, any book, in a violent manner, they will find things in it to support what they’re looking for, even if somewhat tenuous. Indeed, many conspiracy theories start out much that way, people looking for “facts” and connections which in many cases simply don’t exist, and where they do, often not because of any nefarious reason.

      When looked at overall, the Qur’an is not a violent book, nor does the argument about all the later verses being violent while earlier verses were peaceful, really hold true. We should also consider the first audience, and the geopolitical situation in the Middle Ages, a time of Saxons, Vikings and wars between Persia and Byzantium. In spite of the wars in recent times, most of us probably live in a far less violent world today, than people did back then. Still, Human Beings do unfortunately have violent tendencies… With all this going on in the background, it’s little wonder some mention of it is made in the Holy Qur’an and earlier literature of Islam, nor any surprise it affected early Muslims and impacted upon their lives and communities.

      Islam, especially Sufism, is about transcending our lower nature, education and developing peaceful societies, it’s fringe extremists who by and large turn to violence, not the majority. While I despise what they do, we see similar elements in every group of people, religious or otherwise. Atheists are not immune to violence themselves, Stalinist Russia and Maoist China, both atheistic regimes, each killed millions in the name of their political ideologies. Wishful thinking, hypocrisy and deception are certainly not limited to religious people, not that I’m suggesting for one moment that you personally or indeed many other atheists would have supported any of this.

      The Qur’an discusses Human nature, societies, and different aspects of life. The verses some cite as violent, are discussing how to deal with treacherous communities, who honour no treaties. Consider Nazi Germany, what would have been the outcome if the United Kingdom and her allies hadn’t taken a stand? A nation that honoured no treaties, felt it was their right to march into and annex other lands, who didn’t see any problem with committing acts of genocide on a vast scale… War is obviously a terrible thing to consider, never mind engage in, but what would have been the result if Winston Churchill hadn’t come along, and we instead continued the policy of appeasement? Something to consider…

  2. kallengar says:

    When I saw the following headline on AlJazeera’s website I thought that it was custom tailored for this discussion so as to illustrate an important point…..that even if you don’t think that violence is necessarily inherent in Islam, from a practical perspective nobody that believes the evidence of their senses can deny that it is endemic and that it is practiced or endorsed by many mainstream muslims at a level that is unmatched by followers of any other modern day religion. The other alternative is the laughable George Bush hypothesis that Islam is peaceful but has been hijacked by a few violent extremists. We will not make the issue go away by pretending it does not exist or by putting a novel spin on it. Anyway here is the headline, make of it what you will…………

    Bangladesh clashes rage over BLASPHEMY law
    At least 14 dead and dozens injured in battles in Dhaka streets between supporters of Hifazat-e-Islam and police.

    Well, at least this time the “mild disagreement” amongst the followers of the “religion of peace”, all in accordance with the righteous defense of their beliefs of course, is localized to Bangladesh. I suppose it takes a really important issue like the depiction of Muhammed in cartoons for them to riot and kill on a worldwide basis.

    I decided to keep posting on this issue because it is obviously very important for the future of world peace, and I am looking for an honest forum with a wide variety of viewpoints so that we can get these issues out in the open. I would also like to see other visitors to this website express their views, whatever they happen to be.

    • Evidence of the senses, or media hype? If all the violent incidents caused by people from traditionally Christian backgrounds were documented and hyped up by the media, many people who don’t look deep enough into things would begin to consider Christianity a violent religion, would they not? The fact that many of these incidents are committed by nominal Christians, those belonging to some small unrepresentative cult, or even (to all intents and purposes) people who’ve abandoned Christian teaching altogether could be conveniently ignored by the media, and politicians who want to use these to further their own political agendas.

      The same process could be repeated with any religion, political or social group. The fact is, Islam and Muslims are currently being treated in this manner, and have been for some time. Give it another decade or so, the media and political class may grow weary of highlighting issues in connection with Muslims and move on to some other unsuspecting social group, religious or otherwise.

      Please note: I’m not covering up, or denying the very real issues that exist in the Middle East, Africa, Asia and elsewhere in the world. However, none of the ones I’ve looked into really had anything to do with Islam. Muslims may be involved, but the issues themselves are political, social and cultural etc. In many cases, problems caused from people ignoring central teachings of Islam, not because they’re living by them.

      If we take a good critical look at people of other faiths, or countries with traditionally Christian, Buddhist or other majorities, we find issues and problems with violence, abuse, paedophilia, sexual harassment, unfair discrimination, injustice etc. At the end of the day, irrespective of religious beliefs, we’re all human and our societies suffer from similar challenges. Indeed, too much emphasis on the ‘other’ is often indicative of not addressing issues closer to home… Surely, we should all concentrate on cleaning our own backyard before picking on the neighbours…

  3. Kallengar says:

    From Aljazeera:
    September 22, 2013
    Deadly blast at Baghdad funeral
    At least 16 killed after suicide bomber targeted mourners in predominantly Sunni Muslim district of Iraqi capital.
    A suicide bomber blew himself up at a funeral inside a tent filled with mourners in a predominantly Sunni Muslim district of Baghdad, killing at least 16 people, police and medical sources said.
    A further 35 people were wounded in the attack in Doura, which came a day after a triple bombing at a funeral in Baghdad’s Shia Muslim stronghold of Sadr City killed at least 85 people.

    Suicide Attack On Pakistani Church Kills 78 People
    September 22, 2013 1:48 PM
    PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) — A pair of suicide bombers blew themselves up amid hundreds of worshippers at a historic church in northwestern Pakistan on Sunday, killing 78 people in the deadliest-ever attack against the country’s Christian minority.

    A wing of the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the bombing, raising new questions about the government’s push to strike a peace deal with the militants to end a decade-long insurgency that has killed thousands of people.

    According to you, “Muslims may be involved, but the issues themselves are political, social and cultural.” Political? I don’t see the connection between politics and the news reports as quoted above. Cultural? Don’t see any connection either as different cultural groups are involved, whose only common denominator is Islam. I take most of these news reports from Aljazeera, not a news source that is generally regarded as being biased against Islam. Sensationalist? Maybe some of the stories have a sensationalist element but usually there is nothing particularly special about the stories. Variations on them appear in the press virtually every day. They are so common and we are so used to seeing them, that these days, most of the time people read the accounts and promptly forget about them. Where are the Jewish suicide bombers? The Buddhist suicide bombers? The Bahai suicide bombers? The Jain Suicide bombers? That would be real news. Is the press sensationalizing stories about Muslim violence and burying the rest on the last pages of their publications?

    • How can you not see a political connection? The leaders of terrorist groups desire power. Medieval popes and European monarchs, later the British Empire tried to justify their wars and empire building in the name of Christianity, due to the fact the majority of their subjects were of that religion. In the same way, leaders of predominantly Muslim nations and empires did the same, by trying to justify their activities in the name of Islam.

      Many terrorist and factional groups currently active are operating in predominantly Muslim regions, the only way they can make any attempt at justification for their atrocities is through trying to make some kind of connection with Islam, no matter how tenuous that may be or intellectually dishonest. Thus, anyone who insists these terrorists are Islamic, is actually helping their cause rather than that of normal Muslims who want nothing whatsoever to do with them. In the examples you cite, the vast majority of the victims are Muslims and the terrorists appear to be deliberately targeting Muslims. This is yet another indication this has nothing whatsoever to do with Islam; our religion stresses the sanctity of all life.

      If you research a little, you will find there have been terrorists from other religious backgrounds, some are even quite active today (goodness knows why they get little media coverage). Countries in North Africa, the Middle East and South Asia have been experiencing a lot of political turmoil in recent decades, thus it’s hardly surprising we see an increase in terrorism in these regions. Given time, these situations will hopefully be resolved leading to a more peaceful and secure status quo. However, similar events could kick off elsewhere in the future and then we may be hearing about terrorists with a different ideological basis. I pray not, but this seems to be the trend we see throughout history.

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