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Perceived ‘Violent’ Verses in Holy Scriptures: A Qur’anic Perspective

By Ashfaque Syed, New Age Islam

09 April 2019


Many religious scriptures contain a few perceived ‘violent’ verses that, if read out of context and in isolation, can not only be misleading but also very dangerous if put into practice without comprehension. Proper comprehension of any religious text is highly dependent on interpretation by putting into perspective the context of the revelation (Asbab Al Nuzul).

This article deals with the interpretational issue surrounding the perceived ‘violent’ verses from the four major religions of the world; the three Abrahamic faiths (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) and Hinduism, with a primary focus on the Qur’an. While there are other scriptures that also contain similar verses; they are outside the scope of this article.

The Qur’an And Its Perceived ‘Violent’ Verses:

The two commonly quoted verses of the Qur’an notably (9:5; 9:29) are referenced and parallel is drawn with the texts of Judaism, Christianity and Hinduism. Muslim militants interpret these verses to justify killing of innocent lives, whereas the non-Muslim Islam-Bashers use such verses to label Islam as a religion of hate, violence and terror; their primary goal is to malign Islam, its Holy Book and the Prophet Muhammad (May Allah Bless him and grant him peace).

The Qur’an, In Surah (Chapter) Al-Tawbah (Repentance) States:

“But when the forbidden months are past, slay (faqtulu) the pagans/polytheists (Mushrikin) wherever you find them, and capture them, surround them, and lie in ambush for them in every conceivable place…..”(9:5)

“Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are)  of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya (local tax) with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.” (9:29)

Quoting verses out of context and in isolation from any religious scripture can be a grievous mistake. The Torah, Bible and Hindu Scriptures for example contain similar verses that if read in isolation and out of context can justify killing innocent lives (young or old men, women, and infants) suggesting that Judaism, Christianity and Hinduism are violent religions. Some verses are quoted below:

“But as for these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slaughter them before me”. Luke 19:27

“… but that whoever would not seek the Lord, the God of Israel, should be put to death, whether young or old, man or woman”. 2 Chronicles 15:12-13; also Deuteronomy 17:2-5

“With military weapons let us win the Earth, with them the battle, with cannon let us win the ease-loving army of our foes. War-like weapons destroy the ambitions of the foeman. Armed with the bow may we subdue all regions.” (Yajur Veda, Chapter 29 Verse 39, Tr. Devi Chand)

One would begin to wonder if these perceived’ violent’ verses motivate certain types of people to become militants and cause terror on earth; killing innocent lives. Nonetheless, the media and Islam Bashers are astonishingly silent about the existence of the above ‘violent’ verses; cherry-pick similar verses only from the Qur’an to promote hate and bigotry against Islam.

2 Qur’an Misunderstood And Misinformed

The Qur’an is set out as an oratorical discourse. God addresses the Prophet, the People of the Book (Christians and Jews), the disbelievers (who do not believe in the Oneness of God), and humankind (nas) in general. The tone and the contents of its stipulations, as in any oratorical speech, are conditioned by the immediate circumstances of the Prophet. Accordingly, many of its verses, especially those relating to armed struggle were specific to the context/reason for the revelation (azbab al-Nuzul).

Cherry-Picking Qur’anic verses to Promote Hate:

The Islamophobes who are bent on promoting hate against Islam, cherry-pick the perceived ‘violent’ verses from the Qur’an; ignoring what was stated in the preceding and proceeding verses. In the case of verse 9:5, they deliberately ignore verses 1 to 4 and 6 to7 of the same Sura 9 to promote their evil intentions. Surprisingly enough, they intentionally ignore biblical verses such as Luke 22:36, when Jesus encourages his disciples to sell their garments so that they can purchase swords, and Mathew verse 10:40 that says: “Do not think I come to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword”.

Historical Context Of The Revelation Of The Perceived ‘Violent’ Qur’anic Verses

The verse (9:5, 9:29) was revealed towards the closing years of the revelation (630-632). By this time a peace treaty was already signed with the pagan Arabs (628) that promised the Muslims peace after almost two decades of oppression and persecution. However, shortly after, the pagans broke the peace treaty (9:12) and attacked the Muslims (9:13).

The newly consolidated Muslim community needed clear strategic guidance as the Peace Treaty had failed to ensure their security and the survival of Islam was at stake. The clear guidance was revealed through verses 9:1 to 9:4 that instructed the oppressed and persecuted 3 Imagine the horrific Holocaust’ when Jews were persecuted and millions were killed! If Hitler and his comrades were not dealt with there would be no peace; persecution, injustice and oppression would have flourish. The Qur’an, thus, unequivocally declares:

“For if God had not enabled people to defend themselves against one another, monasteries and churches and synagogues and mosques—in which God’s name is abundantly extolled—would surely have been destroyed” (22:40).

Hence the command: “And slay them wherever ye catch them, and turn them out from where they have Turned you out; for tumult and oppression are worse than slaughter; but fight them not at the Sacred Mosque, unless they (first) fight you there; but if they fight you, slay them. Such is the reward of those who suppress faith” (2:191).

Some holistic message of the Qur’an relevant to this article:

The Qur’an acknowledges that some among the People of the Book are righteous and virtuous, and believe in One God and the Last Day (3:113-114, 3:199). It exhorts the Muslims not to debate with them except with wisdom and pleasant counselling (16:125, 29:46) and commands the Prophet to tell them that their God and our God is the same One God (29:46).

There is an entire Sura (Chapter 109) in the Qur’an addressed to disbelievers (Kuffar) that instructs Muslims to tell them:

“You shall have your religion and I shall have my religion”. It declares: “Let there be no compulsion in religion…” (2:256).

The Qur’an further attests to the universal brotherhood of humanity

“O mankind! We have created you male and female, and have made you into nations and tribes that ye may know one another. Behold! The noblest of you, in the sight of Allah, is the best in conduct… (49:13).

In light of above and many other relevant verses not listed here, it would be untenable to think that the same Qur’an would give permission to fight and kill the disbelievers simply because of their beliefs; and that too indiscriminately.


Message for the Muslims:

Now the question is, whether, on the basis of Qur’anic injunctions of the noted verses, the Muslim communities, who may feel oppressed and persecuted in any society or country, should take up arms against their perceived tormentors? The authors are in no position to answer this question in a direct way. However, they must remind such oppressed Muslims that the broader message of the Qur’an preaches patience in the face of adversity and persecution (2:155-157, 2:177), and respect for people of other faiths including the polytheists (4:94). The authors would also stress the Qur’an enjoins forgiveness (7:199, 45:14), and is replete with verses on mercy, compassion, good deeds, and intense striving (Jihadan Kabira) in the Qur’an’s way (25:52), which is not supportive of militancy as a means of countering tyranny. Possibly the oppressed Muslim communities could redeem their conditions and merit divine support for their causes by heeding the scores of verses bearing the philanthropic message of the Qur’an, rather than invoking its noted verses out of context and with blatant disregard to other facets of Qur’anic message. Needless to say that individuals and splinter groups must not take laws into their own hands.

The broader message of the Qur’an, therefore, permits use of force as a defensive measure, but in a controlled way, and that too, only after all peaceful gestures fail to avert hostility; at an individual level one is not expected to take laws in their own hands.

Message to the ‘Islam Bashers’ and the ‘Islamophobes’:

The ‘Islam Bashers’, and the Islamophobes are requested to not quote such verses out of context and in isolation to satisfy their evil desire to vilify the Islam’s Holy Book, its Prophet and Islam as a whole.

They are further reminded the Bible, Torah, and other Scriptures contain numerous perceived  4 ‘violent’ verses, if taken out of context, could justify the killing of innocent men, women and children, and their religions to be perceived as religions of torture, rape and carnage.

Final Note

The Qur’an being a Divine Book uses a straight and truthful diction. Relating to certain verses, its candidness may sound harsh and cruel to the present day reader who is accustomed to an artificially softened diction.

It must be noted the Qur’an and all of its statements and ordinances are mutually complementary and cannot, therefore, be correctly understood unless they are considered as parts of one integral whole. The perceived ‘violent’ verses must therefore be read and comprehended in the context of the revelation. In other words, the command to fight is relevant only in the event of aggression committed against the Muslim community or state, or in the presence of an unmistakable threat to its security.

The Qur’an and other Scriptures instruct people to reason with one another – contemplate over the following statements and see how similar they are, for after all, all revelations comes from the One and Only God:

“Come now, let us reason together,” says the Lord. (Isaiah 1:18) – Bible “Come together, talk together, Let our minds be in harmony…” (Rig Veda 10 - 191:2)

“Invite (all) to the way of thy Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious…. (Qur’an 16:125)

Closing remark:

“A fair assessment of historical evidence reveals that Christianity is a faith of Justice that cannot reasonably be considered blameworthy in and of itself for the Crusades, the Holocaust…, even though Christians committed those horrendous acts and many others. Similarly, a fair assessment of Islam reveals that it is equally a faith of Justice that cannot fairly be seen blameworthy in and of itself for … or

the ISIS atrocities…, even though Muslims committed those disgraceful deeds.” (Joel Hayward) Here are three quotes from the Abrahamic faiths that promote justice, love, and peace:

“It has been told thee, humankind, what is good, and what the Eternal asks of you: only to do justly, to love mercifully and to walk with integrity in the Presence of your Lord” (Micah 6:8).

“Love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18, Mathew 19:19).

The returning of evil done to them by others with something good to win over perceived enemies

“The good deed and the evil deed are not alike. Repel the evil deed with one which is better, then lo! he, between whom and thee there was enmity (will become) as though he was a bosom friend.”

(Quran 41:34).

One renowned Sufi; Rumi’s thoughts as quoted by (Sheikh Jamal Rahman):

“Any interpretation of the Qur’an depends on ones level of consciousness and intention. ‘A bee and wasp drink from the same flower, one produces nectar and the other, a sting.’ When one is troubled by the way the above verses could be interpreted, remember that the way of Islam is to produce nectar”.

 This can be achieved through unbiased and true understanding of religious text and reasoning with one another; as the Qur’an dictates –

 “Invite (all) to the way of thy Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious…. (Quran -16:125)

Related Articles:

Quoting Qur’an’s Fighting Verses In Isolation To Promote Violence Or Defame Islam Amounts To Treacherous Misrepresentation Of Its Message Of Peace And Reconciliation

Did War-related Madani Verses Abrogate Makki Verses in the Sense of Not Allowing Peaceful Coexistence between Muslims and Non-Muslims?

The Correct Understanding of the So Called ‘Sword’ Verses of Surah Taubah

The Principles of War from the Quran


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