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Islam: A Religion of Peace or Violence? The Evidence in Quran- Part 3

By Kaniz Fatma, New Age Islam

18 August 2018

The Quran, the fundamental source of Islam, universally aims at establishing peace and reconciliation in times of war. Yes, there took place war between early Muslims and Arab pagans, the war for which the Quran then guided the Muslims as to what they should and should not do.

We know that there are two types of war, which can also be seen today; one that incite acts of terrorism as being played by ISIS and other to stop acts of terrorism. After 12 years of consistent patience and tolerance, the early Muslims fought against acts of terrorism practiced by the Arab pagans to the extent of getting freedom for their religious practices and their lives. This is the truth supported by historical evidences. 

M.M. Pickthall, a great non-Muslim thinker who later embraced Islam and translated the Quran, puts it in the following words:

 “The Muslims are those who only fight “in the way of Allah” (as it is called in the Quran), that is, in self-defence or for the protection of the weak oppressed, or for the redress of wrongs. To wage aggressive war on people, simply on account of their religious opinions, is not allowed, nor can the term Jihad by any means be stretched to cloak such warfare. Jihad is “striving in the way of Allah” and the way of Allah, if we must seek a modern phrase to express it, is devotion to the cause of human progress. It is only a nation or community does grievous wrong to Muslims, attempting to exterminate or enslave them and extinguish truth by force of arms, that war against them is a duty for all Muslims” (M. M. Pickthall, The Cultural Side of Islam, p. 27, Islamic book Trust, India)

Some people always quote these verses of the Quran which say “kill them wherever you find them” (2:191) or “Kill the Mushrikin wherever you find them” (9:5)? But it is deplorable that they do not try to understand these verses in their essence. They simply take them, give a general application to them and try to incite Fasad (disorder) between Muslims and Mushrikin. This is definitely a matter of great condemnation.

When they read these verses 2:191 and 9:5, why do they not try to understand that they were meant for the context of war against the combatant Mushrikin who had aimed at depriving the basic rights of Muslims and also eliminating their existence? This becomes very clear when reading such verses in full context.

“And fight (in defence) in the cause of Allah against those who impose war on you. (Yes,) but do not exceed limits. Surely, Allah does not like those who exceed limits. And (during war) kill them (the aggressing and combating disbelievers) wherever you find them, and drive them out (through military operation by the state) from where they drove you out. And rousing mischief and disruption is a severer (crime) than killing. But do not fight against them in the proximity of the Sacred Mosque (Ka‘ba) unless they themselves fight there against you. Then if they attack you, kill them (in defence), for that is the right penalty of (such aggressing and combating) disbelievers. But if they desist, then surely Allah is Most Forgiving, Ever-Merciful. And keep fighting against them until the disruption and mischief is totally eliminated and the Deen (Religion) practically becomes subservient to Allah alone (i.e., the system of the protection of peace and human dignity is practically established). But if they desist, then offensive action is not permissible except against the wrongdoers (i.e., transgressors). A sacred month is the requital of a sacred month, and (other) sacred things also requite one another. So if someone wrongs you, you may also respond in kind but proportional to his offence. And fear Allah. And remember that Allah is with those who fear Him. And spend in the cause of Allah; and do not cast yourselves into destruction with your own hands; and adopt righteousness. Verily, Allah loves the righteous.” (Quran: 2:190 –195)

The confusion that is forcibly created in the Ayat of 2:191 will go away from our mind, if we read this ayat in full context, as quoted above.

The second ayat 9:5 similar to 2:191 is best interpreted by Dr. Abdul Haleem in these words;

“We must also comment on another verse much referred to but notoriously misinterpreted and taken out of context – that which became labelled as the ‘Sword verse’: “…Then when the sacred months have passed, slay the idolaters wherever you find them, take them and besiege them and prepare for them every ambush….” [9:5] The hostility and "bitter enmity" of the polytheists and their Fitna [persecution, 2:193; 8:39] of the Muslims grew so great that the unbelievers were determined to convert the Muslims back to paganism or finish them off. “They would persist in fighting you until they turn you back from your religion, if they could ….” [2:217]

"It was these hardened polytheists in Arabia, who would accept nothing other than the expulsion of the Muslims or their reversion to paganism, and who repeatedly broke their treaties, that the Muslims were ordered to treat in the same way - to fight them or expel them….Even with such an enemy Muslims were not simply ordered to pounce on them and reciprocate by breaking the treaty themselves; instead, an ultimatum was issued, giving the enemy notice, that after the four sacred months mentioned in 9:5 above, the Muslims would wage war on them. The main clause of the sentence "kill the polytheists" is singled out by some Western scholars to represent the Islamic attitude to war; even some Muslims take this view and allege that this verse abrogated other verses on war.

 This is pure fantasy, isolating and de-contextualising a small part of a sentence. The full picture is given in 9:1-15, which gives many reasons for the order to fight the polytheists. They continuously broke their agreements and aided others against the Muslims, they started hostilities against the Muslims, barred others from becoming Muslims, “expelled” Muslims from the Holy Mosque and even from their own homes. At least eight times the passage mentions their misdeeds against the Muslims.

Consistent with restrictions on war elsewhere in the Qur'an, the immediate context of this "Sword Verse" exempts such polytheists who do not break their agreements and who keep the peace with the Muslims [9:7]. It orders that those enemies seeking safe conduct should be protected and delivered to the place of safety they seek [9:6].

The whole of this context to v. 5, with all its restrictions, is ignored by those who simply isolate one part of a sentence to build their theory of war in Islam on what is termed "The Sword Verse" even when the sword’s word does not occur anywhere in the Qur'an”.  (Muhammad Abdul Haleem, “Understanding The Qur’an” {I.B. Tauris & Co Ltd 2005}, pp. 65-66, “Jihad: a war against all Non-Muslims or not? By Kevin Abdullah Kareem”) 

From the above quoted passages, we can reach right understanding of these verses 2:191 and 9:5. Further if all the Mushrikin had been meant in these verses, there would not have been the verses 9:6 and 9:7 and 60:8 which say,

“And if any of the idolaters seeks asylum with you, provide him with protection until he listens to the Words of Allah. Then escort him to his haven. This is because these people do not possess the knowledge (of the truth).” (9:6)

“(How) can there be a promise for the polytheists with Allah and His Messenger (blessings and peace be upon him) except for those with whom you have made a treaty near the Sacred Mosque (at al-Hudaybiyyah)? So as long as they remain true to (the treaty with) you, remain true to them. Surely, Allah loves those who fear Him.” (9:7)

“Allah does not forbid you to be good to them and treat them with equity and justice who did not fight against you on (the question of) Din (Religion), nor did they drive you out of your homes (i.e., homeland). Surely, Allah likes those who conduct themselves with equity and justice.” (60:8)

The verse 60:8, according to the accepted view of majority of scholars, is Muhkam and not abrogated. This verse encourages the Muslims not to treat all the people from among non-Muslims including Mushrikin and Kafirin as enemies. It means Allah does not forbid Muslims to be good to those non-Muslims including Mushrikin and Kafirin who really do not fight Muslims in matters of religion and live in peace and justice with Muslims. 

M.M. Pickthall, in his book “The Cultural Side of Islam”, says “in those passages of the Holy Quran which refer to warfare, the term Kafir is applied to the actual fighting enemies of Islam. It is not applicable to the non-Muslim as such, nor even to the Mushrik as such, as is proved by a reference to the famous Proclamation of Immunity (9:1-4) from obligation towards those faithless tribes of the Mushrikin who, after having made treaties with the Muslims, had repeatedly broken treaty and attacked them”.

Part 2 of the Article:

Islam: A Religion of Peace or Violence? The Evidence in Quran- Part 2


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