Unfortunately, it is not at all uncommon to hear well known public speakers and writers proclaim that Islam is intrinsically hateful and violent; virtually “every page” of the Qur’an contains vicious hate speech against Christians and Jews and promotes violence against them. You hear this from such people as Robert Spencer, Pam Geller, Frank Gaffney, Walid Shoebat, Wafa Sultan, and Geert Wilders. Fox News loves to promote them. These people will even urge you to read the Qur’an for yourself and you’ll see that this is true.
I have to believe, though, that the only reason they are willing to urge people to read the Qur’an to check it out is that they are convinced that people will not do that. They’ll assume that it’s unnecessary; surely these respected people would not make such a claim if it wasn’t true! 🙄 Or else they assume (probably rightly, for the most part) that if anyone does “check it out”, they’ll only look up the particular verses the speaker may have referred to as “evidence” in order to verify the verses are there – but without taking the trouble to read the contexts and think about what it’s actually saying.
I know that in my own experience over the past year (and a little bit more) I have discovered that all one has to do is actually read the Qur’an to find out that the truth is exactly the opposite of what those anti-Islam propagandists say. Let’s ask a few questions and look at the response we get from the Qur’an.
Is the religion known as “Islam” the “only true religion”, so that adherents of any other religion must face the wrath of God and eternal hell? VERILY, those who have attained to faith [in this divine writ], as well as those who follow the Jewish faith, and the Christians, and the Sabians – all who believe in God and the Last Day and do righteous deeds – shall have their reward with their Sustainer; and no fear need they have, and neither shall they grieve (2:62, Muhammad Asad version). Jews, Christians, Sabians – in fact anybody who believes in God, the Last Day (accountability for our deeds before the judgment of God), and does good deeds – all of these enjoy God’s favor and will be rewarded by Him.
But what if Christians, Jews, or others don’t accept the religion of Islam as valid, and want to argue with Muslims? (16:125) CALL THOU [all mankind] unto thy Sustainer’s path with wisdom and goodly exhortation, and argue with them in the most kindly manner: for, behold, thy Sustainer knows best as to who strays from His path, and best knows He as to who are the right-guided. (126) Hence, if you have to respond to an attack [in argument], respond only to the extent of the attack leveled against you; but to bear yourselves with patience is indeed far better for [you, since God is with] those who are patient in adversity. (127) Endure, then, with patience [all that they who deny the truth may say] – always remembering that it is none but God who gives thee the strength to endure adversity – and do not grieve over them, and neither be distressed by the false arguments which they devise (16:125-127). Argue with kindness, be patient, and don’t get upset with them.
Hmmm. But what if those who disagree with you get rude and start ridiculing your religion? Well, one doesn’t need or want to try to be close friends and allies with them, or go to them for protection: O you who have attained to faith! Do not take for your friends such as mock at your faith and make a jest of it – be they from among those who have been vouchsafed revelation before your time, or [from among] those who deny the truth [of revelation as such] – but remain conscious of God, if you are [truly] believers (5:57). But one must still refrain from unjust and violent reactions, and always seek to act justly and righteously: …And never let your hatred of people who would bar you from the Inviolable House of Worship lead you into the sin of aggression: but rather help one another in furthering virtue and God-consciousness, and do not help one another in furthering evil and enmity; and remain conscious of God: for, behold, God is severe in retribution! … O YOU who have attained to faith! Be ever steadfast in your devotion to God, bearing witness to the truth in all equity; and never let hatred of anyone lead you into the sin of deviating from justice. Be just: this is closest to being God-conscious. And remain conscious of God: verily, God is aware of all that you do (5:2B and 8). At worst, simply leave them alone; and if you feel an urge to react in violent anger, return your consciousness to God and seek His aid in delivering you from this prompting from Satan (because that’s precisely what such an urge is): (7:199) MAKE due allowance for man’s nature, and enjoin the doing of what is right; and leave alone all those who choose to remain ignorant. (200) And if it should happen that a prompting from Satan stirs thee up [to blind anger], seek refuge with God: behold, He is all-hearing, all-knowing. (201)Verily, they who are conscious of God bethink themselves [of Him] whenever any dark suggestion from Satan touches them – whereupon, lo! they begin to see [things] clearly, (202) even though their [godless] brethren would [like to] draw them into error: and then they cannot fail [to do what is right] (7:199-202). (Interesting that the Qur’an specifically says not to follow the leading of those “brethren” who would encourage us to react to insults with violent anger and retribution. Those who are conscious of God don’t react in such a way; therefore, as Muhammad Asad properly interprets it, the violent people are godless. They’re definitely not “devout” practitioners of Islam, or “the REAL Muslims”.)
As regards the phrase in 5:2B rendered by Muhammad Asad as never let your hatred of people who would bar you from the Inviolable House of Worship…, it appears that it is literally that ambiguous sort of expression that reads never let hatred of people who would bar you from the Inviolable House of Worship… That expression is capable of meaning either your hatred for such people, or their hatred for you. Yusuf Ali, for instance, renders it this way: let not the hatred of some people in (once) shutting you out of the Sacred Mosque lead you to transgression (and hostility on your part). He renders verse 8 as: let not the hatred of others to you make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice. In my estimation, it is Yusuf Ali who has captured the real meaning of this passage. The angel of God was not saying, through Muhammad, that it’s okay to hate such people so long as we don’t get violent with them; rather he was contrasting the hatred such people displayed with the proper reaction of the believers: help one another in furthering virtue and God-consciousness, and do not help one another in furthering evil and enmity.
But someone will say: “Aw, come on; you can’t convince me that Islam is a totally pacifist religion. I know that there are verses in the Qur’an commanding Muslims to fight unbelievers!” And that is quite correct; Islam is NOT a totally pacifist religion. There are certain very restricted circumstances in which Muslims are indeed permitted (or even commanded) to engage in armed fighting. After the Muslim believers, including Muhammad (PBUH), had left Mecca – where they were in the minority and being persecuted – and immigrated to Medina (which had invited them to come live there), many of the residents of Medina recognized the prophethood of Muhammad; most of the others at least saw in him a very wise and righteous man whose leadership could be trusted (even if they didn’t believe he was receiving revelations from God). An Islamic community was set up in which a covenant was established allowing for religious pluralism. Christians, Jews, and Muslims covenanted to live together in peace and protect each other under the leadership of Muhammad. In this situation, when someone outside the community (such as the unbelievers from Mecca) – or those who signed the Medina covenant and then violated the covenant provisions – attacked the Muslims (or anyone else under that covenant), the community was permitted to respond in mutual self defense against the attackers. (22:39) PERMISSION [to fight] is given to those against whom war is being wrongfully waged – and, verily, God has indeed the power to succour them – (40) those who have been driven from their homelands against all right for no other reason than their saying, “Our Sustainer is God!” For, if God had not enabled people to defend themselves against one another, [all] monasteries and churches and synagogues and mosques – in [all of] which God’s name is abundantly extolled – would surely have been destroyed [ere now]. And God will most certainly succour him who succours His cause: for, verily, God is most powerful, almighty (22:39, 40).
This was the very first revelation given to Muhammad permitting fighting, and it came sometime in the first 2 years after the immigration to Medina. Prior to that, the Muslim believers had indeed been totally pacifist – either enduring their persecution, or fleeing elsewhere. Some had gone to Abyssinia (present day Ethiopia) where Christianity was dominant. The Muslims were welcomed there and lived very peacefully with those Christians. After the immigration to Medina, though, there were a number of revelations given providing regulations concerning fighting. I have referred to several of these in my first article about Islam: Does Islam Proclaim That All Infidels Should Be Killed. Within these regulations, one can clearly see that in every case fighting is only permitted as self defense against those who attacked and persecuted the believers. It is strictly insisted though that fighting stops when the attackers desist from their aggression and seek peace. If any individuals among the attackers decide they no longer want anything to do with the fighting, the believers must give them protection. When the attackers desire peace, the believers must respond in peace also. I will just quote a number of these passages here, and you can observe from the phrases I have underlined and/or placed in bold print the correctness of what I have said.
[2:190] AND FIGHT in God’s cause against those who wage war against you, but do not commit aggression – for, verily, God does not love aggressors. [2:191] And slay them wherever you may come upon them, and drive them away from wherever they drove you away – for oppression is even worse than killing. And fight not against them near the Inviolable House of Worship unless they fight against you there first; but if they fight against you, slay them: such shall be the recompense of those who deny the truth. [2:192] But if they desist – behold, God is much-forgiving, a dispenser of grace. [2:193] Hence, fight against them until there is no more oppression and all worship is devoted to God alone; but if they desist, then all hostility shall cease, save against those who [willfully] do wrong. [2:194] Fight during the sacred months if you are attacked: for a violation of sanctity is [subject to the law of] just retribution. Thus, if anyone commits aggression against you, attack him just as he has attacked you – but remain conscious of God, and know that God is with those who are conscious of Him (2:190-194). The meaning of verse 193 would be that fighting should continue until the unbelievers (who were the aggressors) are willing to cease fighting the believers and freely allow the believers to practice their worship of the One God without hindrance. If the “pagan” unbelievers also convert and devote themselves to the One God, that is of course all that much better.
There was a ‘sacred tradition’ among the Arabs that fighting was not permitted near the “Inviolable House of Worship” (the Ka’ba in Mecca) and during 4 ‘sacred months’. But if the unbelievers violated even those sacred traditions which they themselves normally recognized, the believers were also released from obligation to observe the traditions. They were not under obligation to let themselves be killed by the aggressors who weren’t willing to honor those traditions.
[4:89] They would love to see you deny the truth even as they have denied it, so that you should be like them. Do not, therefore, take them for your allies until they forsake the domain of evil for the sake of God; and if they revert to [open] enmity, [that is, if – as in 2:190 – they wage war against you] seize them and slay them wherever you may find them. And do not take any of them for your ally or giver of succour, [4:90] unless it be such [of them] as have ties with people to whom you yourselves are bound by a covenant, or such as come unto you because their hearts shrink from [the thought of] making war either on you or on their own folk – although, if God had willed to make them stronger than you, they would certainly have made war on you. Thus, if they let you be, and do not make war on you, and offer you peace, God does not allow you to harm them. [4:91] You will find [that there are] others who would like to be safe from you as well as safe from their own folk, [but who,] whenever they are faced anew with temptation to evil, plunge into it headlong. Hence, if they do not let you be, and do not offer you peace, and do not stay their hands, seize them and slay them whenever you come upon them: for it is against these that We have clearly empowered you [to make war]. (4:89-91) Note that verse 90 says that those who do not wish to fight should be accepted as among the allies of the Muslims. A later revelation (in Sura 9) will specifically say that such people should be led to a place of safety where they will not be obliged to fight on either side, and where they will be safe from those on either side who are fighting.
[8:56] AS FOR THOSE with whom thou hast made a covenant, and who thereupon break their covenant on every occasion, not being conscious of God – [8:57] if thou find them at war [with you], make of them a fearsome example for those who follow them, so that they might take it to heart; [8:58] or, if thou hast reason to fear treachery from people [with whom thou hast made a covenant], cast it back at them in an equitable manner: for, verily, God does not love the treacherous! [8:59] And let them not think – those who are bent on denying the truth – that they shall escape [God]: behold, they can never frustrate [His purpose]. [8:60] Hence, make ready against them whatever force and war mounts you are able to muster, so that you might deter thereby the enemies of God, who are your enemies as well, and others besides them of whom you may be unaware, [but] of whom God is aware; and whatever you may expend in God’s cause shall be repaid to you in full, and you shall not be wronged. [8:61]BUT IF THEY INCLINE TO PEACE, INCLINE THOU TO IT AS WELL, and place thy trust in God: verily, He alone is all-hearing, all-knowing! (8:56-61) Verse 58 says that if a people treacherously violate the covenant of peace they have made with the Muslims, the Muslims are under no obligation to continue to honor the covenant themselves. They should – in a just manner – let the treacherous people know that the Muslims no longer recognize the covenant to be in effect. Someone may think that it would hardly be necessary to have a ‘revelation’ from God to let you know that you don’t have to honor a treaty when the other side has violated it. But the Muslims had – and have – an extremely high regard for covenants, treaties, and oaths. They cannot be easily rescinded. For those Muslims, without a revelation from God they would not be able to be sure that they were acting rightly and righteously if they failed to uphold their end of the bargain even in the face of the other party’s violation of the treaty. So the revelation was given, relieving their consciences on the matter.
I want to go into a bit more detail about the “infamous” Sura 9 – which is used perhaps more than any of the others to “prove” that Islam is a hateful and violent religion. Since that would overextend this article, though, I’ll post a separate article to discuss it. (I have discussed it somewhat in a previous article: Does Islam Proclaim That All Infidels Should Be Killed.) I should be able to show that Sura 9 says nothing that is more “violent” than the passages I have already discussed in this article.
This is true Islam. It says that God accepts everyone who believes in the One God and does good works. Arguments between various faiths are to be carried out with the utmost kindness, and ridicule is to be endured with patience. People of other religions should be treated with kindness. The only ones for whom this does not apply are those who wage war against you: (60:8) As for such [of the unbelievers] as do not fight against you on account of [your] faith, and neither drive you forth from your homelands, God does not forbid you to show them kindness and to behave towards them with full equity: for, verily, God loves those who act equitably.(60:9) God only forbids you to turn in friendship towards such as fight against you because of [your] faith, and drive you forth from your homelands, or aid [others] in driving you forth: and as for those [from among you] who turn towards them in friendship, it is they, they who are truly wrongdoers! (60:8-9) It is only those who fight against the Muslims who are subject to armed retaliation (under Governmental authority) by the Muslims. Anyone who acts differently is so far from being a “true and devout representative of Islam and the Qur’an”, that he is actually to be considered a godless hypocrite or apostate. Islam – and the Qur’an – is not responsible for terrorism; terrorists act in violation of Islam and the Qur’an.