By Aiman Reyaz, New Age Islam
08 July, 2014
Let me give some concrete examples of a number of compound mistakes in understanding the Quran. First of all, there is the all famous “Holy War”. There is absolutely no reference to holy war in the Quran, nor is the concept of it, according to the English Lexicon, which is a war, waged by one religion to the other. The term ‘Holy War’ is itself a contradiction, there is nothing “holy” about destruction, random killings, lootings, kidnappings etc. In fact, in the Quran, even in cases of legitimate self defence, war has been described as a hated act.
“Fighting has been enjoined upon you while it is hateful to you. “ (2:216)
Jihad has nothing to do whatsoever with indiscriminate violence and acts of terror against innocent people, whether they are fellow Muslims (those who do not subscribe to the extremist’s views), or violence against people of other faith communities.
Etymologically, the word ‘Jihad’ means to strive for something or to exert maximum effort. There is jihad against evil with oneself (it is self-purification); there is intellectual jihad to articulate the truth; there is financial jihad by paying charity to the needy, because God is the real owner of everything; there is also combative jihad, no doubt, but it is for legitimate self-defence and resistance of persistent and severe oppression.
If and only if just peace is not possible to attain by peaceful means can there be use of violence, even then there is a strict code of behaviour before, during and after the battle is over, which includes a lot of things, such as: abstaining from harming the non-combatants, abstaining from the torture of prisoners of war, refraining from harming even animals, trees etc except only when needed for food.
There is a common misconception that violence actually originates in the Quran itself, i.e., the Quran is the source of violence, because there are some verses in the Quran that say things like ‘kill the non-believers’, ‘strike the non-believers’ etc. The deliberate reason for misrepresenting these verses is obviously to malign Islam, but generally due to the mass media, many innocent people too have developed this attitude and think along the lines of Islam being an extreme religion. It is to be understood that these verses were not revealed in vacuum.
The Quran is an ‘inter-active’ scripture. It was revealed during a span of 23 years, guiding the community during various situations and various types of problems that they encountered. And as such the ignorance of the background behind these verses leads to a generalization that is very serious.
It is necessary to understand that these handful of verses were revealed in the context of fighting back against those who have been continually oppressing and slaughtering the tiny number of newly formed Muslim community. And how can one forget the betrayal by them during the famous Treaty of Hudaibiyyah where they killed Muslims treacherously. It is a war crime in today’s terms.
Of course when you meet such a group of people, who are betrayers and treacherous and they are after your blood, the only way to save yourself is to attack.
Sometimes it is not just the historical context that is forgotten even the textual context is forgotten. The Quran must be taken as a whole. Let me give an example, suppose the Quran generalises the killing of non-Muslims (which many try to prove), then why is it that the Quran allows a Muslim man to marry a believing Jew or a believing Christian woman? So a devout Muslim man at his first night after marrying her must chop off her head wherever he may find her- kitchen, living room, bed room.
This is the kind of logic that people miss. Cut and paste approach is applied to Quran- you take this line, chop off the rest and mix it with other line and present it to the world, without even giving the whole textual context, leave aside the historical context.
Another aspect is that there are multitudes of verses in the Quran that stand against this perverted kind of interpretation by generalization and not relating it to specific situations and actions of oppression and suppression of Muslims and they, in turn fight back- this fighting back is justice and it is desirable when they have to save their lives and the honour of their mothers, sisters, wives and daughters.
It is better to attain peace by non-violent method, but would you hymn about non-violence when the attacker is coming over to you with a sword in his hand and your head in his mind?
There are so many verses which speak of the compassionate treatment. How can we forget this mountain of verses which talk about peaceful coexistence which is there in the Quran and just focus on those contextual verses and generalize them?
I, however, firmly believe that no matter what we do, what we say, negative stereotyping of Muslims will not stop because so-called “extremely devout Muslims” are not stopping- they are not stopping planning, plotting, killing, kidnapping, raping non-Muslims. It is time “we” stopped.