Naseer Ahmed, New Age Islam
06 March 2019
article is an attempt to wean away classical Islamic scholarship from the
injustice they do to their religion by “(mis)interpreting” the Quran using
abrogated paradigms from the previous scriptures. This is an important issue, as ideologically
generated extremism in Islam, is a direct result of such
“(mis)interpretations”. All the
scriptures are from Allah, and there isn’t even an implied criticism of any
scriptures or the people following those scriptures. What makes one people
superior to another, is their adherence to moral principles and their
integrity, and not any real or imagined superiority of their religion or
scriptures. In this respect, many Muslims scholars have correctly remarked,
that Islam is to be found more among the Jews and the Christians than among
Muslims. This disclaimer is necessary to prevent those given to mischief to put
a different spin on this article. It is primarily directed at the Classical
Islamic scholars, who have failed to understand the Quran, and unwittingly contributed
to extremism among Muslims. It is to the credit of the Jews and the Christians
that they have dealt with the same problems much better.
my previous articles cited below, I had traced the development of religion from
the creation of Adam, to its perfection and completion with the Quran.
1. Was Allah Unjust
in Creating Adam and Favouring His Progeny Over All His Creation?
2. Understanding the
Religion of Allah through the Ages,
the new species that God created some seventy thousand years ago, which was
different from all previous creation in its cognitive abilities, was an arduous
task. Man’s unique cognitive abilities make him capable of both immense good
and immense evil. Religious morality is about making man choose good over evil.
Good comes from trust, faith, restraint, accommodation, forgiveness and concern
for others. Evil flows from distrust, lack of restraint, vindictiveness, and
selfishness. Distrust, killing pro-actively that which threatens, and
selfishness have been useful survival skills. Why would man then choose good or
evil? To be evil is therefore natural and to choose good is counter intuitive.
The task of religion was therefore to make man choose what is counter
intuitive. This could only be achieved through compulsion in religion.
man practiced religious morality, its usefulness and contribution to survival
and propagation of the species became evident in hindsight. Through shared
values from a common religion, man learnt to trust people beyond his immediate
family and clan and form larger groups of co-operating humans. The moral
principles from religion then guided our laws, political and economic systems.
Globalization has become possible only through trust in our legal, political
and economic systems.
compulsion was a necessary part of religion to begin with, it was necessary
that the Messengers of Allah or the Prophets had to be Kings and Rulers for
only a ruler could proclaim laws and ensure their compliance and punish for
contravention. Religion therefore commanded submission to the rulers.
Submission to Governing
1. Let everyone be subject to the governing
authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.
The authorities that exist have been established by God.
2. Consequently, whoever rebels
against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those
who do so will bring judgment on themselves.
3. For rulers hold no terror
for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from
fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended.
4. For the one in authority is
God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not
bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring
punishment on the wrongdoer.
5. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the
authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of
Civilizing New Nations
were sent to new nations not yet civilized by religion. At the end of the
mission, those who believed were saved and those who had rejected belief in
Allah were destroyed by an act of Allah. The examples are the people of Noah,
Salih, Hud and Shuaib and perhaps many more, but not mentioned in the Quran.
that went back to their evil ways were destroyed completely. The example in the
Quran is of the people of the Prophet Lut (AS) but the Old Testament is full of
such accounts. For example,
51:20 “You are my hammer and weapon of war: with you I break nations in pieces;
with you I destroy kingdoms.”
was speaking for God when he wrote that God uses other nations to be His
“hammer and weapon of war” and even though these nations are not God’s people,
He can still sovereignty use other pagan nations to do His work and that might
include war. In this verse, God is pronouncing judgment on Babylon and promises
Israel that they will be dealt justice “For Israel and Judah have not been
forsaken by their God, the Lord of hosts” (Jer 51:5).
20 contains Yahweh’s instructions about war. If a city does not accept Israel’s
offer of peace and open its gates, then “when the Lord your God delivers it
into your hand, put to the sword all the men in it” (verse13). With regard to
other cities, the command is (verse 16), “Do not leave anything that breathes.”
example, the walls of Jericho came
tumbling down, and then the Israelites “destroyed with the sword every living
thing in it – men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep, and donkeys” (Joshua
6:21). Or consider Joshua 11:20, “For it was the Lord himself who hardened
their hearts to wage war against Israel, so that he might destroy them totally,
exterminating them without mercy, as the Lord had commanded Moses.”
good was accomplished by all this annihilation? According to a Christian commentator,
(beginning of quote), “The spread of wickedness was so pervasive that
immorality, degradation, and barbarity invaded every facet of life. Children
were sacrificed to pagan gods. Male and female prostitution took place right in
the temple as part of the religious rites. Idol worship was rife and the
society wholly contaminated. This evil was contagious and God’s people were in
danger of being infected as well. God’s awesome judgement was finally
as it sounds to us today, this ruthless brand of warfare was not technically
"genocide." Not in the modern sense of the term. According to most
biblical scholars, it was actually an expression of God's judgment upon the
say this another way, it was neither Joshua nor Moses but the Lord Himself who
put the idolatrous nations of the Promised Land to the sword. This is perfectly
legitimate from a strictly theological point of view. After all, God is the One
who gives life. Accordingly, He also has the authority to take it away. His
sentence was simply carried out by the agency of His chosen people, Israel. To
quote one commentator, "The Canaanite civilization was so totally corrupt
that coexisting with them would have been a serious threat to the survival and
spiritual welfare of the Hebrew nation. Israel here is God's instrument of
judgment against those who refuse to honour Him." (End of quote)
Warfare after the Quran
there is seamless continuity in the moral and ethical principles through the
ages, the Quran makes a radical break from the previous scriptures as it
The justification for making war
The treatment of the vanquished people
Religious Wars Or Fighting In
The Cause Of Allah
All the verses relating to fighting in
the Quran, are for fighting in the cause of Allah. What is the meaning of
fighting in the cause of Allah? It means to end religious persecution and
oppression consisting of turning people out of their homes or places of worship
for no other reason except their faith or hindering them from practicing their
faith or torturing them for their faith. See verses 22:39, 40, 2:191 to 193,
2:217, 2:246, 4:75, 8:36-39. It also means to fight to defend any oppressed
people (4:74 and 4:75)
Who Are The People Against Whom
Fighting Is Ordained?
Fighting is not ordained against the
Muslims, Christians, Jews, polytheists, idolaters, atheists or person(s) of any
faith, but only against those who oppress other people for their faith no
matter what the faith professed by the oppressors and the oppressed may be.
Treatment of the Vanquished
The Meccan polytheists who had fought
the Prophet to annihilate him, Islam and the Muslims contravening a peace
treaty, were given four month amnesty during which they were free to move about
and migrate to a neighbouring country or accept Islam or be killed. No one was
killed and no one was enslaved. They either migrated or accepted Islam.
All other polytheists who may have
fought, but never contravening a treaty, had the right to retain their faith
and live in the new polity by becoming jiziya paying citizens. The jiziya was
levied only on males of military age and ability, and exempted them from
conscription. It was a tax for protecting citizens who were not required to take
up arms for the defence of the nation. No one was enslaved.
While in other battles, the Muslims
enslaved prisoners of war based on norms followed by the other side perhaps,
there is no verse in the Quran that calls for enslavement of any people for any
reason. The battles with their main enemy, the polytheists of Mecca, were
completely free from enslaving the prisoners of war. They were released on
payment of ransom and also without ransom if they could not afford it.
The Quran does not prescribe any
punishment for blasphemy and apostasy reinforcing the principle of “No
compulsion in religion”.
The punishment for an established case
of adultery with four eye-witness testimonies is reduced from stoning to death
in the previous scriptures to a hundred lashes.
What Is There
In the Previous Scriptures and Completely Passed Over In the Quran and
The Quran, no longer sanctions war
against any people for their beliefs and explicitly proclaims:
(2:256) Let there be
no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from Error
(109:6) To you (the
rejecter of Islam) be your religion and to me mine.
The Quran also announces that Muhammad
is the seal of the Prophets in verse 33:40 and with it an end to the revelations
from Allah and an end to the coming of further prophets or messengers of Allah.
It marks the culmination of the process of civilizing people through religion
and the verses cited above, recognize that the people have reached a level of
maturity when compulsion is no longer necessary, with the moral principles from
religion having permeated every society over the course of the previous seventy
In verse 2:106, Allah says that Allah
substitutes previous revelations by what is better, thus abrogating the
previous verses, and in verse 5:15 that many previous instructions are omitted
as these are no longer necessary. What we find omitted are verses related to
war in the previous scriptures. Verse 13:38 also informs us that the previous Books
were only for a period and not for all time. The Quran also says that the
earlier people were given only a portion of the Book (3:23, 5:3, 4:44,51,) and
not the complete Book and invites them to the Quran. All previous religions and
Scriptures were works in progress and the Scriptures valid only for a period.
The Quran is the final Book containing the “perfected and completed religion”.
Their Renaissance was greatly influenced
by Islam. The reaction to the excesses of the Church also made them reassess
the influence of Religion on every aspect of their lives including waging war.
We have seen how anachronistic the verses regarding war seem in the previous
scriptures, although these may have made good sense in the past. We have also
seen that Islam has a completely different way of fighting wars and dealing
with the vanquished based on its own scriptures, while paying obeisance to the
same God and recognizing all the Judeo-Christian prophets as their own. It is
not surprising therefore, that the war related verses in the earlier scriptures
that the Quran had abrogated some seven centuries earlier, the Christians now
decided were no longer relevant. Many of their criminal laws such as on
blasphemy and apostasy also belonged to the past and had no place once the
Quran had ruled that “there was to be no compulsion in religion” anymore.
We therefore find the Christians and the
Jews pass over much of what is in their scriptures. Some of them try to explain
away these violent verses as metaphors and argue that these are not meant to be
taken literally while we know from history that these were followed in letter
and spirit. That they no longer follow what is abrogated by the Quran is good.
It is understandable that scriptures meant only for a period, become no longer
tenable when civilization advances. The followers of these previous
scriptures therefore find it impossible to take these seriously anymore. The
Islam of the Quran, coming as it is at the end of the revelatory process, is
both a “perfected and complete religion” and valid for all time. There is
nothing indefensible about making fighting oppression the only justifiable
cause for war and completely ruling out fighting against “disbelief” saying
“Let there be no compulsion in religion” and “To you (rejecter of Islam) be
your religion and to me mine”.
Classical Islamic Scholarship
The problem however is that classical
Islamic scholarship “interprets” the Quran using the Judeo-Christian paradigms
and extensively quotes verses from Deuteronomy to justify their
“interpretations”, rather than take the simple, straightforward meaning of the
Quran. In their thinking, there is seamless continuity from the past,
overlooking the fact that the Quran makes a radical break from the past and
there is nothing common between what was prescribed in the past and what the
Quran prescribes. How they get the whole story and plot wrong, is covered in my
of Getting the Story Right on the Divine Plan Allah
To know the extent to which
the paradigm of war in Deuteronomy is (mis)used by even the most moderate
scholar Javed Ghamidi, to “(mis)interpret” the Quran, read:
This is a new category of Muslims post
911. They are a confused lot. They have little direct knowledge and
understanding of the Quran and the previous Scriptures. They blindly repeat
what the moderate Judeo-Christian scholars say. Without doubt, taking the Old
Testament verses on war literally is no longer tenable and therefore literalism
and fundamentalism among the Christians and Jews are a grave problem. The
Muslim moderates parroting their Judeo-Christian counterparts, blame extremism
on literalism. The fact is that with the Quran, the “interpretations” based on
the paradigms of the past which the classical Islamic scholars make, is a huge
problem. Fundamentalism based on such “interpretations’ is problematic.
Literalism is however not the problem because Islam is literally and
fundamentally a religion of peace and has little in common with the previous
scriptures as it concerns war and the “other” or non-Muslim. This will be
evident to anyone who reads:
The Principles of War from the Quran
2. Allah Provides
A Level Playing Field To People of all Faiths
The Muslim moderates lacking knowledge and
understanding of the scriptures and of history, are Quixotic in their fight
with the “perfected and complete religion”. They make a fool of themselves with
the Muslims as well as with the non-Muslims. They have their own articles of
faith which have nothing to do with Islam and the Truth, but what will make
them acceptable in western society post 911.
is an Engineering graduate from IIT Kanpur and is an independent IT consultant
after having served in both the Public and Private sector in responsible
positions for over three decades. He is a frequent contributor to
New Age Islam, Islam Online, Islamic Website, African Muslim News, Arab World News, South Asia News, Indian Muslim News, World Muslim News, Women in
Islam, Islamic Feminism, Arab Women, Women In
Arab, Islamophobia in America, Muslim Women
in West, Islam Women and Feminism
Being deaf, dumb and blind, GM sb fails to see that a hypothesis is
presented with a challenge to the world to disprove it. What is required to
disprove the hypothesis is one counter example. If any other authority had said
the same thing, I would have quoted such authority and not proposed it as my
GM sb is simply not familiar with the scientific process to
prove/disprove a hypothesis. Else, he would not have asked such a stupid
question. When I presented it in scientific format as a Null Hypothesis in my
article: Theism Vs Atheism, it went beyond the
understanding of people, I therefore rewrote the article in layman's language:Science and Religion
The challenge was first posed in my article: Is There A Rational Basis For The Atheists To Oppose
Religion? as long back as March 2013
The article: Religion as a Civilizing Influence discusses the
difference between how morality is understood within religion and in
The reason why the same idea may not have
occurred to others before, is because to us, after 70,000 years of the
civilizing influence of Religion, what was counter intuitive to the earlier
people, has become self-evident. We therefore do not wonder at these principles
and take them for granted and simply as “common sense”. This is not true.
I have carefully studied the works of every philosopher who spoke about
morality. While the philosophers have defined what morality is, all of them have
singularly failed to generate moral and ethical precepts from these definitions.
Aquinas falls back on what he calls “self-evident” first principles which
derive from religion. Just notice Aquinas describing these as self-evident
which was anything but self-evident when religion first introduced these
principles. He however fails to recognize this fact, and it is this blindness
that has kept people from realizing the unique and distinctive contribution of
religion. Western Education, in any
case, and especially the Sciences including the social sciences, are heavily
slanted against religion, and once they consider the prophets as only philosophers,
there is no longer any need to make any
distinction between the contribution of religion and the contribution of the