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Oct 14 2016

Is Islam a “Religion of the Sword”? Part 2

quran-fight-those-who-fight-you

From the Web
Source: http://barakainstitute.org/articles/is-islam-a-religion-of-the-sword/

By Kabir Helminski and Hesham Hessaboula
(BARAKA Institute) January 30, 2015, See Part 1 of 3 HERE

Another set of verses seemingly declares that all non-believers are to be attacked and killed:

“And let them not think—those who are bent on denying the truth [i.e., unbelievers]—that they shall escape [God]: behold, they can never frustrate [His purpose]. 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” (8:59-60).

Once again, the textual context must be examined. These two verses refer to those who are in active hostility against the Muslim community. An examination of the verses that come before these elucidates this point:

“As for those with whom you have made a covenant, and who thereupon break their covenant on every occasion, not being conscious of God—if you 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; or, if you have reason to fear treachery from people [with whom you hast made a covenant], cast it back at them in an equitable manner: for, verily, God does not love the treacherous!” (8:56-59).

When read together, it is clear that 8:59-60 speak of those unbelievers who actively fight against the Muslims and break their covenants “every time.” Again, there is no general exhortation to fight and kill all non-Muslims.

In yet another set of verses, the Qur’an tells the believers to kill non-believers not once, but twice: “…seize them and slay them wherever you may find them” (4:89) and “…seize them and slay them whenever you come upon them: for it is against these that We have clearly empowered you [to make war]” (4:91). We deliberately quoted these two verses out of context to illustrate how deceitful and misleading such a practice is. Again, once the verses are understood in context, it is quite clear that theses verses tell the Muslims to fight only those who fight them. First of all, theses verses are part of a slightly longer passage that begins thusly:

“How, then, could you be of two minds about the hypocrites, seeing that God has disowned them because of their guilt? Do you, perchance, seek to guide those whom God has let go astray—when for him whom God lets go astray you can never find any way?” (4:88) 

The verse speaks of the “hypocrites,” which begs the question of who these “hypocrites” are. They are those Muslims who feigned outward acceptance of Islam, but secretly worked for the destruction of the Muslims. They constantly acted as a fifth column within the Muslim community in Medina. Chief among them, as we discussed earlier, was Abdullah ibn Ubay. This man worked continually to harm the Muslims. For example, on the way to the mountain of Uhud, where the second battle against the pagans in Mecca took place, Abdullah ibn Ubay told his followers to go back home because he did not think a battle was going to be waged. His followers, and some true believing Muslims, obeyed him, and the Muslim army was cut by two-thirds, from 1000 men to approximately 300. During this battle, the Prophet was severely wounded and was nearly killed by the Meccans.

Yet, despite their treachery, verses 4:89 and 4:91 do not call on the Prophet to “kill them all,” but only those who are in open hostility to him:

“They [the hypocrites] 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, seize them and slay them wherever you may find them. And do not take any of them for your ally or giver of succor” (4:89) [emphasis added]. 

Furthermore, 4:90 explains that if these hypocrites do not fight the Muslims, they are not to be harmed:

“Unless it be those that have ties with people to whom you yourselves are bound by a covenant, or such as come to you because their hearts shrink from [the thought of] making war either on you or on their own folk… 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.”

The same is true for the following verse 4:91:

“You will find others who would like to be safe from you as well as 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.” [emphasis added]

Yet again, the Qur’an says to fight only those who fight against the Muslims.

It should be quite obvious by now that there is a recurring theme in the above verses: fighting is only in self defense, and it is only against those who fight against the Muslims. Indeed, Islam is a religion that seeks to maximize peace and reconciliation. Yet, Islam is not a pacifist religion; it does accept the premise that, from time to time and as a last resort, arms must be taken up in a just war. If Muslims are fought against, Islam demands that they fight back. Hence, one will find very belligerent verses in the Qur’an, such as the ones I quoted above. But, as we mentioned, these verses exist in a context and are specific in their scope. They are not general exhortations to violence. The Qur’an is quite clear about this. The verses concerning fighting that were revealed soon after the Prophet arrived in Medina are self-defensive in nature: “Victims of aggression are given license [to fight] because they have been done injustice; and God is well able to help them” (22:39). Why was this permission granted? The Qur’an continues:

“[They are] those evicted from their homes without reason except that they say, ‘Our Sustainer is God’…” (22:40).

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