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The Qur'an: A Teacher of Violence?

Under category : Correcting Misunderstandings
7723 2009/05/31 2024/04/25
Article translated to : Español Nederlands

when we, muslims, state that islam is a religion of peace, we are not trying to prove something unreasonable or solve a crossword puzzle. rather, we are just stating a fact backed by clear-cut evidence and unquestionable proofs. even we don't need to state this fact, for islam, in itself, is self-explanatory in terms of its meaning, its noble teachings and the core of its message conveyed by all the prophets that allah sent to mankind.

indeed, hate is not good for any person. we, muslims, do not hate non-muslims, be they christians, jews, hindus, buddhist or followers of any religion or no religion. our religion does not allow killing any innocent person regardless of his or her religion. the life of all human beings is sacrosanct according to the teachings of the qur'an and the guidance of our blessed prophet muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him and upon all the prophets and messengers of allah).

about the prohibition of murder, the qur'an says:

( …take not life, which allah has made sacred, except by way of justice and law: thus does he command you, that you may learn wisdom. )  (al-an`am 6:151)

also almighty allah says in another qur'anic verse:

( nor take life, which allah has made sacred, except for just cause. and if anyone is slain wrongfully, we have given his heir authority (to demand qisas  or to forgive): but let him not exceed bounds in the matter of taking life; for he is helped (by the law) . )  (al-israa' 17:33)

according to the qur'an, killing any person without a just cause is as big a sin as killing the whole humanity, and saving the life of one person is as good a deed as saving the whole humanity; this is related in the following qur'anic verse that reads:  

[ on that account: we ordained for the children of israel that if any one slew a person - unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land - it would be as if he slew the whole people: and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people. then although there came to them our messengers with clear signs, yet, even after that, many of them continued to commit excesses in the land.(al-ma'idah 5:32)

then, how come the qur'an says,  (kill them wherever you find them… )  as it is mentioned in surah al-baqarah (2:191) and surah an-nisaa' (4:89)?! the answer is simple: one should read these verses in their textual and historical context. a person should read the whole verse, and it is better that he or she reads few verses before and few after. the proper context of the verse from surah al-baqarah is as follows:

( fight in the cause of allah those who fight you, but do not transgress limits; for allah loves not transgressors. and kill them wherever you 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, kill them. such is the reward of those who reject faith. but if they cease, allah is oft-forgiving, most merciful. and fight them on until there is no more tumult or oppression, and there prevail justice and faith in allah; but if they cease, let there be no hostility except to those who practice oppression. the prohibited month, for the prohibited month, and so for all things prohibited, there is the law of equality. if then any one transgresses the prohibition against you, transgress you likewise against him. but fear allah, and know that allah is with those who restrain themselves. )  (al-baqarah 2: 190-194)

also, what follows is the verse quoted from surah an-nisaa' within its proper context:

( they but wish that you should reject faith, as they do, and thus be on the same footing (as they): so take not friends from their ranks until they flee in the way of allah. but if they turn renegades, seize them and slay them wherever you find them; and (in any case) take no friends or helpers from their ranks. except those who join a group between whom and you there is a treaty (of peace), or those who approach you with hearts restraining them from fighting you as well as fighting their own people. if allah had pleased, he could have given them power over you, and they would have fought you: therefore if they withdraw from you but fight you not, and (instead) send you (guarantees of) peace, then allah has opened no way for you (to war against them). others you will find that wish to gain your confidence as well as that of their people: every time they are sent back to temptation, they succumb thereto; if they withdraw not from you nor give you (guarantees) of peace besides restraining their hands, seize them and slay them wherever you get them; in their case we have provided you with a clear argument against them. ]  (an-nisaa' 4: 89-91)

now, do these verses give a free permission to kill anyone anywhere?! these verses were revealed by allah the almighty to prophet muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) at the time when muslims were attacked by the pagans of makkah on a regular basis. they were frightening the muslim community of madinah. one may say, using the contemporary jargon, that there were constant terrorist attacks on madinah, and in this situation muslims were given permission to fight back the "terrorists". these verses are not a permission for "terrorism", but a warning against "terrorists". but even in these warnings, one can readily see how much restraint and care is emphasized.

it is important that we study the religious texts in their proper context. when these texts are not read in their proper textual and historical contexts, they can be easily manipulated and distorted. it is true that some muslims manipulate these verses for their own goals. but this is not only with islamic texts, it is also true with the texts of other religions. i can quote dozens of verses from the bible which seem very violent, if taken out from their historical context. these biblical texts have been used by many violent jewish and christian groups. crusaders used them against muslims and jews. nazis used them against jews. and recently, serbian christians used them against bosnian muslims. now, zionists are using them against palestinians on a daily basis.

let me mention just a few such verses from the old testament and new testament:

"when the lord your god brings you into the land where you are entering to possess it, and clears away many nations before you, the hittites and the girgashites and the amorites and the canaanites and the perizzites and the hivites and the jebusites, seven nations greater and stronger than you. and when the lord your god delivers them before you and you defeat them, then you shall utterly destroy them. you shall make no covenant with them and show no favor to them." (deutronomy 7:1-2)

"when you approach a city to fight against it, you shall offer it terms of peace. if it agrees to make peace with you and opens to you, then all the people who are found in it shall become your forced labor and shall serve you. however, if it does not make peace with you, but makes war against you, then you shall besiege it. when the lord your god gives it into your hand, you shall strike all the men in it with the edge of the sword. only the women and the children and the animals and all that is in the city, all its spoil, you shall take as booty for yourself; and you shall use the spoil of your enemies which the lord your god has given you… only in the cities of these peoples that the lord your god is giving you as an inheritance, you shall not leave alive anything that breathes." (deutronomy 20:10-17)

"now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known man intimately. but all the girls who have not known man intimately, spare for yourselves." (numbers 31:17-18)

even in the new testament, we read the following statement attributed to jesus, saying to his disciples:

"i tell you that to everyone who has, more shall be given, but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away. but these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slay them in my presence." (luke 19:26-27)

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