What the Qur'an Really Says About Violence
Since the 9/11 attacks and the continuing terrorism carried out by Muslims worldwide, Muslims living in the West have made considerable effort to portray Islam as a peaceful religion. They argue that the Muslim terrorists have "hijacked" Islam, i.e. that they are not behaving as true Muslims, and are committing acts condemned by Islamic teachings. They further state that the violent verses in the Quran are defensive and that the Quran needs to be understood in its proper context to in order to realize that Islam is truly a peaceful religion.
One such Muslim apologist is Hesham A. Hassaballa, regularly featured on Beliefnet. He wrote an article entitled, "What the Quran Really Says About Violence", which was published on Beliefnet on 23 August 2002:http://www.beliefnet.com/story/111/story_11172_1.html
After reading his article it was obvious that the readers won’t have a true understanding of what the Quran really says about violence. Instead they will only know Hassaballa’s opinion, an opinion that is unsupported by historical references and devoid of actual context. In fact, Hassaballa commits the very mistakes and errors that he accuses others of committing.
I am going to examine his article, break it down into a number of points, and discuss some of his errors. This article is long and I’ll have it posted as a series. I’ve taken the liberty to correct some of his spelling errors. My quotations of Hassaballa's work will be in blue color text, and quoted references will be in bold green text.
I challenge you, the reader, to search out the Islamic references that I quote. Do your own research and study, think for yourself, and draw your own conclusions. Don’t let anyone do your thinking for you on such a crucial issue.If Islam is indeed a religion of aggressive violence then all non-Muslim peoples have reason to be concerned.
As a prelude, pause, take a second, and have a look around the entire world. Wherever you have a critical mass of Muslims living in a non-Muslim area you have Islamic violence. Buddhists in Thailand, Hindus in India, Christians in Pakistan, Nigeria, and Indonesia, animists in Sudan, Jews in Israel, atheists in France and Turkey, people in North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia, whites, blacks, browns, etc., have all been murdered by devout Muslims. Islamic terrorism is here on a worldwide scale and it does not discriminate on the basis of race, nationality, or religion. No non-Muslims have been spared from Muhammad’s sword, the sword of Islam.
UNDERSTANDING THE QURAN
The Quran says many things about many issues. Many verses are intended for specific people, specific events, specific periods of time, etc, and are not intended to be universally applied, nor are they universal declarations. If you want to understand the Quran you’ll have to know not only the context of the verse, but also its application, chronological setting, and "continued validity". Otherwise anyone can quote the Quran out of context to prove their point.
I used the term, "continued validity" because the Quran has a peculiar doctrine of self cancellation, or "abrogation". This means that certain Quranic verses cancel out, or abrogate, other Quranic verses. Many times over a simple 23 year period, Muhammad’s "Allah" changed His mind, and changed the rules of the game. Hence what Muhammad spoke in the 15th year as the Quran may have been cancelled out by what he spoke in the 21st year. Christians and Jews should not approach the study of the Quran as they do their own Scriptures because its theological paradigm is not the same.
The Encyclopedia of Islam states on abrogation:
"Rather than attempting to explain away the inconsistencies in passages giving regulations for the Muslim community, Kuran scholars and jurists came to acknowledge the differences, while arguing that the latest verse on any subject "abrogated" all earlier verses that contradicted it. A classic example involves the Kuranic teaching or regulation on drinking wine, where V, 90, which has a strong statement against the practice, came to be interpreted as a prohibition, abrogating II, 219, and IV, 43, which appear to allow it". Encyclopaedia of Islam, published by Brill, Leiden, The Netherlands. 
Therefore in order to understand what the Quran really teaches about violence, one must know whether or not the verses in question have been abrogated. If they have been abrogated then their continued validity and application is null and void.
I want to examine and discuss not only the specific contexts of the Quran’s passages; I also want to show you Muhammad’s actions. Did Muhammad act in an aggressive, violent way against non-Muslims? I’m going to draw upon an incident near the end of Muhammad’s life that will show exactly which Quranic injunctions concerning violence he believed to be from Allah, and applicable, for himself and today’s Muslims. Remember, actions speak louder than words.
EXAMINATION OF HASSABALLA’S ARTICLE
I’ll discuss some of Hassaballa’s premises then break it down into a series of points. He’s made a lot of errors: he’s gotten his Islamic history wrong, left out vital information, confused different Arab tribes in different geographical areas, and failed to provide any contextual information. I’m going to try to provide you with brief, but sufficient, contextual detail to enable you to understand what the Quran really teaches about violence.
Hassaballa lays his groundwork for discussion and understanding:
For there to be any semblance of an intelligent and scholarly analysis of verses of the Qur'an, a full understanding of the Arabic language along with understanding of the context of the verses in question is an essential prerequisite.
I agree that we must know the context of the Quran’s verses in order to understand the Quran. But I disagree that a person must be fluent in Quranic Arabic in order to have this understanding. People are able to understand the Quran and its contexts by reading what qualified Quranic scholars, Muslim or otherwise, have written in their own languages. I now consider myself to be fluent in English, al-humdulilah! There are many publications written by many Quranic scholars and published in English, and other languages, that enable me, you, and others, to understand the Quran.
Specifically, there are many verses in the Quran, corroborating material in the Traditions (Hadith), Muhammad’s biographical information, (Sira), and Islamic scholar’s commentary, (Tafsir), all available in English, that enable us to study, understand, and draw logical conclusions on what the Quran teaches about violence. I will be using and documenting these references in my critique, so that you may be able to verify my statements and position.
Hassaballa’s flawed assumption:
Neither Islam's conservative critics, nor the "scholars" and "experts" they read and quote from in their writings, possess such knowledge. What they do is misquote, mistranslate, or quote Qur'anic verses out of context and use those misquotations as evidence for their claims. These tactics violate every rule of Scriptural Exegesis 101.
This assumption is bad because Hassaballa does not know the capabilities of the "scholars" conservative critics quote. I will quote from several recognized Muslim scholars.
Further, I want to ask a question: Is Hassaballa a qualified Quranic scholar? Being able to read Arabic does not qualify one as a Quranic scholar, just as being able to read Greek does not qualify one to be a New Testament scholar. What exactly are Hassaballa’s qualifications to teach the Quran? Is he is a graduate from Al-Azhar, with a PhD in Quranic studies? Or is he just a Muslim doctor who seeks to present a white-washed image of Islam to an unknowing American audience?
If Hassaballa is demanding that the critics quote from recognized scholars then we have the right to demand that Hassaballa be such a scholar to defend the Quran. I am only placing upon him what he places upon others.
THE CHALLENGE OF THE CONTEXT
Below, Hassaballa details his position on the context of 9:5
When the infamous "Verse of the Sword" is studied in its proper context, it becomes quite clear that the claim the Qur'an is violent is nothing more than smoke and mirrors.
The first question that must be asked is, "Where is Hassaballa getting this context that he references?" After all, if he is going to lecture us about context then he should provide them. What are they? Or is he just giving us his smoke and mirrors?
Hassaballa voices his opinion of Sura 9:5’s context but I want you to know upfront that he does not provide any references for his story. For all we know his version of the "context" could be a handy-dandy fairy-tale told to fool unknowing readers.
From here on out I am going to break down Hassaballa’s significant errors and use Islamic source materials, or quotes from recognized Islamic scholars, to support my case. I say let the early historical Islamic documents speak for themselves. I say let the great Islamic scholars lecture us and tell us what the Quran really says about violence.
The Meccans then turned to torture and repression of Muhammad and his companions to try to muffle his message, which was nothing more than the abandonment of the worship of idols for the worship of the One True God.
Hassaballa has omitted much detail here concerning the conflict between the Meccans and Muhammad. Hassaballa has tried to paint Muhammad as this poor, innocent, preacher who did nothing more than to call people to believe in one God. That is not the whole story. In fact Muhammad went to great trouble to ridicule the Pagan faiths. Below is a reference from the great Islamic historian Tabari. You can purchase his 39 volume set of History, of which 4 volumes (6 – 9) deal with Muhammad at Amazon.com.
"Abu Talib, your nephew has reviled our gods, denounced our religion, derided our traditional values and told us that our forefathers were misguided. Either curb his attacks on us or give us a free hand to deal with him for you are just as opposed to him as we are, and we will deal with him for you. Tabari, Vol 6, pages 93, 94, 
Muhammad went out of his way to mock and insult other people and their faiths. Understandably they were angry. These Pagans later asked Muhammad to stop with the insults and they would leave him alone. Muhammad refused. Muslims often claim that they do not like their religion insulted, yet Muhammad excelled in insulting other faiths.
Further, the Quran, and Islam’s message contains far more than a simple, "abandonment of the worship of idols for the worship of the One True God". The Quran is a long book and it contains many questionable and bizarre statements. If Muhammad were to have only preached belief in one God, and not ridiculed the Pagans, and not exalted himself as a prophet, and not uttered so many other statements, I doubt the Meccans would have moved against him. They would have viewed Muhammad as they viewed the Christians and Jews they knew.
After 10 years of hardship, the Meccans finally expelled the Prophet to Medina, a city 200 miles to the north. Since they could not kill him, this was the only thing the Meccans could do to stop the Prophet's message.
Hassaballa commits a significant error here. Here is a Muslim that is not familiar with the story of the Hijrah! The Meccans did not order Muhammad to leave Mecca, rather Muhammad ran for his life. Up to this point in history, Islam was very weak, and barely growing. For his 13 years of labor Muhammad had few converts.
And monotheism was well known in Mecca because there were many Jews and Christians living in the Saudi Peninsula. The Meccans were not worried so much about his message as much as they were offended by his insults. As a consequence the Muslims were persecuted severely by the Meccans.
For their safety Muhammad finally sent his people north to Medina to join with the Muslims already living there. This transition from Mecca to Medina is known as the "Hijrah". While this migration was transpiring the Meccans realized Muhammad was going to join another group of people to fight against them so they moved against Muhammad and intended to kill him. However Muhammad ran for his life and escaped by the skin of his teeth.
Here is a quote from Ibn Ishaq who was one of the earliest Muslim scholars. Ibn Ishaq wrote the "Sirat Rasulallah" which is the earliest extant biography of Muhammad’s life. It is available in English as, "The Life of Muhammad", translated by A. Guillaume, . It is also available at Amazon.com.
I quote from Guillaume’s book, page 221
After his companions had left, the apostle stayed in Mecca waiting for permission to migrate…
When the Quraysh saw that the apostle had a party and companions not of their tribe and outside their territory, and that his companions had migrated to join them, and knew that they had settled in a new home and had gained protectors, they feared that the apostle might join them, since they knew that he had decided to fight them.
It was not his message the Meccans were worried about, it was his commitment to violence.
There, the inhabitants of Medina accepted Islam, and it became the first Islamic city-state with the Prophet Muhammad as its spiritual and political leader.
There were many inhabitants of Medina that rejected Muhammad and the religion he created: Islam. Hassaballa has omitted a great amount of detail with respect to Muhammad in Medina, especially since we are talking about Islam and violence. It was in Medina that Muhammad became the blood-spilling, master of the beheadings. If you think that what the Muslims did to Paul Johnson, Daniel Pearl, and Nick Berg was bad, wait till you get a load of Muhammad in action! Heads rolled at his feet and he gave a hearty "Allah Akbar!"
When Muhammad arrived in Medina, there were some Medinan Muslims living there. However the majority of Medinans were not Muslim. There were large groups of Jews and Pagan Arabs in Medina who rejected Muhammad as a prophet and did not accept Islam. Over time, Muhammad persecuted the Jews and either drove them out of Medina, or killed them. He massacred some 800 men by beheading them and enslaved their women and children. You can read about it here:
In another early case Muhammad hated a group of Jews that rejected him and denied his claim of prophethood. So he dealt treacherously with them.
Here is a quote of what Muhammad said to the Banu Qaynuqa Jews, from the Hadith collection of Sahih Muslim, . This collection is one of the highest esteemed collections of Islamic Hadith in Sunni Islam (85% of the world’s Muslims). You can find this collection here.
"I am preaching Allah’s word so accept Islam and be safe. Otherwise, the earth belongs to Allah and His apostle and I wish to expel you from Medina." (Paraphrase of Sahih Muslim, book 19, #4363).
Notice how Muhammad now claimed to own the whole world!
Muhammad waited for an excuse to attack these Jews. They fought and Muhammad besieged them. They negotiated and Muhammad said that he would allow them to leave Medina with what they could carry.However, Muhammad lied! Instead of letting them leave he tied them up and intended to massacre them. However, a Pagan leader named Ubay Salul, confronted Muhammad and made him stop before he could butcher the Banu Qaynuqa Jews. (This makes you wonder, why is a Pagan leader stopping the so-called prophet of Allah from his intended course of action. Additionally, isn’t it telling that the "Pagan" had a higher standard of morality then Muhammad?)
Below is a quote from Ibn Sa’d’s "Kitab al-Tabaqat al-Kabir" . This is another of one of the earliest extant biographies of Muhammad and other early Muslims. This is translated by Moinul Haq as "The Book of the Major Classes", and may be available here.
"They submitted to the orders of the apostle, that their property would be for the prophet while they would take their women and children with them. Then under his orders their hands were tied behind their backs ... Ibn Ubay had a talk with the apostle and entreated him (to release them) ... He abandoned the idea of their killing and ordered them to be banished from al-Madinah." Tabaqat Vol 2, p32, 33.abbed Muhammad...
The Messenger of God said, "Let me go!" – he was so angry that they could see shadows in his face (that is, his face colored). Then he said, "Damn you, let me go!" ... (Muhammad said) "They are yours."
The truth is that Muhammad gained rulership of Medina by force of arms. The last 10 years of his life were spent in Medina and the trail of blood behind him grew ever wider.
While in Medina, the Meccan Pagans did not relent in their hostilities against the Muslims.
Hassaballa has his facts backwards. It was Muhammad who initiated the hostilities. After Muhammad fled to Medina the Meccans stopped bothering with him. He had left Mecca and he was no longer their problem. Tabari says that it was Muhammad that began the hostilities with the Meccans by robbing trade caravans and murdering some attendants. Here is a quote from Tabari. The "incident" mentioned below is Muhammad’s attack upon and plunder of a trade caravan during a time of recognized and expected peace.
Tabari, volume 7, page 29:
This incident had provoked (a state of) war between the Messenger of God and Quraysh and was the beginning of the fighting in which they inflicted casualties upon one another…
Notice it was Muhammad, the thief, who started the conflict with the Meccans by attacking their trade caravans and not the other way around.
Now let’s take a deeper look into the Quran. Just before Muhammad ran away from Mecca he claimed to have received a "revelation" in which Allah told him to make war upon all non-Muslims. These specific verses are known as "The Order to Fight". From the Quran these are 22:39-41 and 2:193. 2:193 is the verse we want to focus on. The first 3 verses are primarily defensive in nature but the last verse allows aggression against all non-Muslims:
2:193. And fight them until there is no more Fitnah (disbelief and worshipping of others along with Allah) and (all and every kind of) worship is for Allah (Alone). But if they cease, let there be no transgression except against Az-Zâlimûn (the polytheists, and wrong-doers, etc.) The Noble Quran .
A commentary in detail about the Muslims in these verses is found in the Sirat Rasulallah. Quoting again from Guillaume’s "Life of Muhammad", page 213: (words in ( ) brackets are mine)
When they (the Muslims) are in the ascendant they will establish prayer, pay the poor-tax, enjoin kindness, and forbid iniquity, i.e., the prophet and his companions all of them." Then God sent down to him: "Fight them so that there be no more seduction," [b] i.e. until no believer is seduced from his religion. "And the religion is God's," i.e. until God alone is worshipped."
So, Muhammad claimed to receive from his God the command to fight non-Muslims, until "God alone is worshipped". These Quranic verses were not only for self defense, they also allowed aggressive violence, even terrorism, against non-Muslims.
Now, however, many surrounding tribes also became hostile to Islam and joined in the Meccans' fight.
This is another misleading statement. Arab society was "tribal" and at times they did fight amongst themselves. But, if any one group of people were considered violent, it was the Muslims. Why? Because it was Muhammad and the Muslims that broke a sacred trust amongst the Arabs and attacked, plundered, enslaved and murdered other Arabs during a time of year, (the "Sacred Months"), of recognized, and expected, peace among all Arab tribes.
As mentioned above, not long after Muhammad arrived in Medina he sent his men out to attack and plunder other people’s goods. However, among the Arabs in the area there were four months that were considered "sacred". It was during this time that no warfare was permitted. One of the reasons for this was to allow commerce so that the Arab people could have a livelihood.
However, during one of the sacred months, one of the Muslim’s raids, attacked a caravan and murdered a caravan attendant, stole the goods, and enslaved other attendants. This created an outcry among many Arabs, even amongst the Muslims! The Muslims were seen as villains for transgressing a sacred time. And how did Muhammad react when confronted with his crime? He claimed to get yet another "revelation" from Allah allowing him to make war upon, murder, enslave, and plunder non-Muslims. Here is the verse from the Quran:
Sura 2:216, 217.
216. Fighting is prescribed for you and ye dislike it. But it is possible that ye dislike a thing which is good for you and that ye love a thing which is bad for you. But Allah knoweth and ye know not.
217. They ask thee concerning fighting in the Prohibited Month. Say: "Fighting is a grave (offence); but graver is it in the sight of Allah to prevent access to the path of Allah to deny Him to prevent access to the Sacred Mosque and drive out its members. Tumult and oppression are worse than slaughter. Nor will they cease fighting you until they turn you back from your faith if they can. And if any of you turn back from their faith and die in unbelief their works will bear no fruit in this life and in the Hereafter; they will be Companions of the Fire and will abide therein.
One of the great Islamic scholars, Baidawi, commented on this verse:
In this case the more specific (that is, the prohibition against fighting during the month of Rajab) would be abrogated by the general (that is, the general command to kill the unbelievers).
Baidawi was a famous Quranic Exegete of the Shafi’i school of Islam. He was so esteemed that he is known as "The Judge" in reference to Quranic commentary. You can find his comments in Helmut Gätje’s book, "The Quran and its Exegesis", Oneworld, Oxford, England, 1997,  (at Amazon.com.
So Muhammad was saying that it was indeed allowable for the Muslims to make war upon non-Muslims, even during a time when the other Arab tribes were working together to live in peace.
Several battles were fought against the Muslims. These tribes also attempted to assassinate the Prophet on several occasions, as the Meccans tried a decade earlier.
Hassaballa may have lumped the actions of 8 years together in one statement. I prefer that we should focus on specific incidents and their respective contexts.
Since Hassaballa mentions assassinations, I think it fair to examine the assassinations Muhammad had carried out. Muhammad had many people murdered. For example, Muhammad had a 120 year old Jewish man, Abu Afak, assassinated simply because the man doubted Muhammad’s claim to prophethood.
Quoting from Guillaume’s "The Life of Muhammad", page 675:
"Who will deal with this rascal for me?"
During the night a Muslim murdered Abu Afak as he slept. Quoting from the Kitab al-Tabaqat al-Kabir, volume 2, page 32:
"... so he placed the sword on his liver and pressed it till it reached his bed."
You can read more about this murder here: http://www.answering-islam.org/Silas/abu-afak.htm
Not long thereafter Muhammad had a mother of 5 children assassinated for a similar reason. Her name was Asma. Some of her children were still in infancy. Muhammad asked his men to murder her. Quoting from "The Life of Muhammad", page 676:
"Who will rid me of Marwan’s daughter?"
During the night a Muslim crept into her home and stabbed her to death while she slept in bed with her children. Quoting from the Tabaqat, volume 2, page 31:
"He thrust his sword in her chest till it pierced up to her back. Then he offered the morning prayers with the prophet at al-Medina. The apostle of Allah said to him: "Have you slain the daughter of Marwan?" He said: "Yes.
You can read more about Asma’s murder here: http://www.answering-islam.org/Silas/asma.htm
Muhammad killed far more non-Muslims than his enemies killed Muslims. In Medina the Muslims took the place of the Meccans as the oppressors. And I want you to know that Muhammad had many other people murdered.
It is in this violent context that verse 9:5 was revealed. The commandment to "slay the Pagans wherever you find them" in verse 9:5 speaks of the hostile Arab tribes surrounding Medina. At every given chance, these tribes attacked the Muslims and killed as many of them as possible for no just cause.
Hassaballa is off target here. Hassaballa states that this verse was revealed in connection with Pagan Arab tribes surrounding Medina allying themselves with the Meccans to make war upon the Muslims. Again note that he has not provided any references.
For example, the chronology of this verse is mentioned in Yusuf Ali’s Quran, one of the more popular English Qurans. Ali states page 435, that verses 1-29 were revealed during the month of Shawwal, A.H. 9, and read by Ali out loud to the various pilgrims in Mecca two months later to give Muhammad’s new policy a wide hearing. Muhammad had conquered Mecca in A.H. 8, a full year prior.
But better detail is available from the early Muslim historians. They document the chronology and context behind verse 9:5. Quoting from Ibn Ishaq, pages 617 – 619: (The Quranic verses are in bold)
A discharge came down, permitting the breaking of the agreement between the apostle and the polytheists that none should be kept back from the temple when he came to it, and that none need fear during the sacred months. That there was a general agreement between him and the polytheists; meanwhile there were particular agreements between the apostle and the Arab tribes for specified terms. And there came down about it and about the disaffected who held back from him in the raid on Tabuk, and about what they said (revelations) in which God uncovered the secret thoughts of people who were dissembling. We know the names of some of them, of others we do not. He said  "A discharge from God and His apostle towards those polytheists with whom you made a treaty," i.e. those polytheists with whom you made a general agreement. "So travel through the land for four months and know that you cannot escape God and that God will put the unbelievers to shame. And a proclamation from God and His apostle to men on the day of the greater pilgrimage that God and His apostle are free from obligation to the polytheists," i.e., after this pilgrimage. So if you repent it will be better for you; and if you turn back know that you cannot escape God. Inform those who disbelieve, about a painful punishment except those polytheists with whom you have made a treaty," i.e. the special treaty for a specified term, "Since they have not come short in anything in regard to you and have not helped anyone against you. So fulfill your treaty with them to their allotted time. God loves the pious. And when the sacred months are passed, He means the four which he fixed as their time, "then kill the polytheists wherever you find them, and seize them and besiege them and lie in wait for them in every ambush. But if they repent and perform prayer and pay the poor-tax, then let them go their way. God is forgiving, merciful. If one of the polytheists, i.e. one of those whom I have ordered you to kill, asks your protection, give it him so that he may hear the word of God; then convey him to his place of safety. That is because they are a people who do not know."
Prior to this "revelation" of chapter 9, Muhammad had several different "agreements" with various Arab tribes. Some of these agreements were for a specified time. Others were general agreements allowing the Pagans to visit the Kaba (the large Pagan shrine in Mecca), and perform their religious rituals. Some of these tribes were peaceful with the Muslims. Allah gave Muhammad a "revelation" allowing him to break all these various agreements, either immediately, or later. Thereafter he would attack all Pagans following the four sacred months. He would keep those treaties that were for a specified time with tribes that were on friendly terms. However, once those times were complete, a state of war would be in place.
I want to present a series of quotes from a Quranic commentary, the "Tafsir of Ibn Kathir", volume 4, . Ibn Kathir was one of the greatest Islamic scholars of all time. His works are used throughout the Islamic world today. You can purchase his Tafsir here.
On verse 9:5, page 375: (words in ( ) brackets are mine).
"But if they repent and perform the Salah, and give the Zakah, then leave their way free. Verily, Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful"Abu Bakr As-Siddiq used this and other honorable Ayat (verse or passage) as proof for fighting those who refrained from paying the Zakah. These Ayat allowed fighting people unless, and until, they embrace Islam and implement its ruling and obligations.
On verse 9:5, page 376:
So when the sacred months have passed… meaning, "Upon the end of the four months during which We prohibited you from fighting the idolators, and which is the grace period We gave them, then fight and kill the idolators wherever you may find them…On verse 9:5, page 377:
This honorable Ayah was called the Ayah of the Sword, about which Ad-Dahhak bin Muzahim said, "It abrogated every agreement of peace between the Prophet and any idolater, every treaty, and every term." Al-Awfi said that Ibn Abbas commented: "No idolater had any more treaty or promise of safety ever since Surah Bara’ah was revealed.
Sura 9:5 is not focused only on the Arab tribes surrounding Medina. Instead it deals with all non-Muslim Arab tribes with whom Muhammad had treaties or general agreements. This verse commands Muslims to make war upon non-Muslims.
Frequently, columnists and pundits who try to smear Islam quote verse 9:5 incompletely and out of context. The full verse reads as follows: "But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the Pagans wherever ye find them: seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war); but if they repent, establish regular prayers, and practice regular charity, then open the way for them: for God is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful."
If one wants to understand the context of a passage of the Quran one should read the entire passage and any supporting background information. This is where the biographical work of Ibn Ishaq and the historical work of Tabari come in. They detail the context or background for this passage’s "revelation"… We’ve just seen that it allowed Muhammad to break all treaties, even with peaceful tribes.
Now notice what these Pagans must do in order to be safe: repent, pray, give to religious charity. What Muhammad is saying in 9:5 is that these people must convert to Islam or be killed! That is why Ibn Kathir wrote:
Abu Bakr As-Siddiq used this and other honorable Ayat as proof for fighting those who refrained from paying the Zakah. These Ayat allowed fighting people unless, and until, they embrace Islam and implement its ruling and obligations.
If one reads on in the ninth chapter, the reasons for "slaying the Pagans" is clearly outlined: "Will ye not fight people who violated their oaths, plotted to expel the Messenger, and took the aggressive by being the first (to assault) you? Do ye fear them? Nay, it is God Whom ye should more justly fear, if ye believe!" (9:13) When sincere scholarship and exegesis is applied, it becomes quite clear that verse 9:5, and all others similar to it, is one of self-defense and not a carte blanche to kill all non-believers, as some would want us to believe.
Because Hassaballa has missed the context for this verse HE does not see that this passage is for both defensive and offensive measures. 9:5 is primarily offensive in nature. Note how the Muslims are told to wait before going on a campaign to attack the Pagans, (when the sacred months are over… then go!).
Take a look at the root of Muhammad’s faith regarding violence. From the Hadith of the Sunan of Abu Dawud, Book 14, Number 2635, :
Narrated Anas ibn Malik:
The Prophet said: I am commanded to fight with men till they testify that there is no god but Allah, and that Muhammad is His servant and His Apostle, face our qiblah, eat what we slaughter, and pray like us.
Muhammad believed that God had told him that to fight, (and kill), all non-Muslim peoples until they ceased in believing in other Gods, became Muslim, or paid extortion, (more on that later).
In fact, the principle of fighting in Islam is self-defensive: "To those against whom war is made, permission is given (to fight), because they are wronged; and verily, God is most powerful for their aid...If God did not defend one set of people by means of another, then monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques, in which the name of God is commemorated in abundant measure, would surely have been destroyed..." (22:39-40)
Hassaballa asserted at the beginning of his article that the context of a passage must be known in order to understand the Quran. I agree. But Hassaballa has disregarded the context of the passage he quotes, probably because he does not know it.
The verses Hassaballa quotes are part of the previously mentioned, "Order to Fight", which we have discussed. This order to fight is primarily defensive, but is also offensive. Again, here is where the context of the passage comes into play. The verse Hassaballa omitted from the chronological revelation is 2:193, and it commands Muhammad to fight non-Muslims until they cease from believing in Pagan Gods. The entire passage allows for defensive and offensive war against Pagans.
Further, there are later Quranic passages that command violence against all non-Muslims, whether they be Christian, Jew, Pagan, atheist, etc. More on this later.
In addition, when the enemy inclines toward peace, Muslims are commanded to cease hostilities: "But if the enemy incline towards peace, do thou (also) incline towards peace" (8:61).
Again no context references provided by Hassaballa. Most scholars say that chapter 8 of the Quran was spoken about the Battle of Badr, which occurred in 2 A.H. If this verse is about that battle, I’ll note that it was Muhammad that started the war with the Meccans by attacking and robbing their caravans. Doesn’t sound like someone was really interested in peace does it? I would think that the only reason Muhammad wanted to incline towards peace was when he felt he was outgunned.
Further, Muhammad instructed the Muslims to make war upon non-Muslims as discussed above and below.
Finally, when it came to war with the Muslims having the upper hand, this is what Muhammad commanded the Muslims to do:
Therefore do not falter or sue for peace when you have gained the upper hand. God is on your side and will not grudge you the reward of your labors. (47:35)
Muhammad was telling the Muslims to keep fighting their opponents and defeat them. That way they will be able to plunder their goods (the spoils of war were their "reward of your labors")
Then there is the issue of how the Qur'an treats Jews and Christians. Some have claimed that the Qur'an says Jews are consigned to "humiliation and wretchedness" (2:61), try to introduce corruption (5:64), have always been disobedient (5:78), and are enemies of God (2:97-98). When addressing verses that, on the surface, seem to be derogatory toward Jews, again, it is essential that the verses be placed in context (remember Scriptural Exegesis 101)….
When sincere scholarship and exegesis is applied to the Qur'an, it becomes a clear that the claim of the Qur'an's anti-Semitism is an absurd fallacy.
There are many verses in the Quran about Jews and Christians. Hassaballa is correct in saying that some of them are for specific people for a specific time, but others, conveniently omitted by Hassaballa, are to be applied to today’s Christians and Jews.
We need to know which verses apply to today’s Christians and Jews. We need to hear what the great Islamic scholars taught about the Quranic position regarding the Christians and Jews. We need to see what Muhammad did with respect to those verses, i.e. what were his actions in dealing with the Christians and Jews once he had the power to dominate them. Did he honor them, or subject them brutally?
Let’s take a look at a specific Quranic injunction against Jews and Christians that is applicable now and to be obeyed by today’s Muslims.
The most vulgar of Quranic verses that instruct Muslims on how to deal with Jews and Christians is 9:29. Below are 2 different translations:
9:29 Fight against those who (1) believe not in Allah, (2) nor in the Last Day, (3) nor forbid that which has been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger (4) and those who acknowledge not the religion of truth (i.e. Islam) among the people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians), until they pay the Jizyah with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued. The Noble Quran.
9:29 Fight against such of those to whom the Scriptures were given as believe neither in God nor the Last Day, who do not forbid what God and His apostle have forbidden, and do not embrace the true Faith, until they pay tribute out of hand and are utterly subdued. N. J. Dawood .
Here Muhammad is commanding his followers to make war upon Christians and Jews unless they converted to Islam or paid extortion (this is jizyah).
Now let’s read what the great Islamic scholars say about this verse. Ibn Kathir’s Quranic commentary for verse 9:29, pages 405 – 409, states:Page 404:
The Order to fight People of the Scriptures until they give the Jizyah.Page 405
This honorable Ayah was revealed with the order to fight the People of the Book, after the Pagans were defeated, the people entered Allah’s religion in large numbers, and the Arabian Peninsula was secured under the Muslims’ control. Allah commanded His Messenger to fight the People of the Scriptures, Jews and Christians, on the ninth year of Hijrah, and he prepared his army to fight the Romans and called the people to Jihad announcing his intent and destination….
Paying Jizyah is a Sign of Kufr (Unbeliever) and Disgrace.
Allah said, until they pay the Jizyah, if they do not choose to embrace Islam, with willing submission, in defeat and subservience, and feel themselves subdued, disgraced, humiliated and belittled. Therefore, Muslims are not allowed to honor the people of Dhimmah or elevate them above Muslims, for they are miserable, disgraced and humiliated.
I don’t want you to miss it. Ibn Kathir, one of the greatest Muslim scholars ever, states that Christians and Jews that don’t embrace Islam are forced to submit in defeat, subservience, and feel themselves subdued, disgraced, humiliated and belittled. Muslims are not allowed to honor Christians and Jews, for they are miserable, disgraced, and humiliated.
A second reference for this verse comes from the "Reliance of the Traveler", page 559 . This book is not just a commentary; rather it is "A Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law." It is based upon the Shafi’i school of Islamic law. (There are four major schools of Islamic jurisprudence, the Shafi’i being the largest of them). The book represents not just the work of a single scholar, but rather "represents a large collectivity of scholars…." It is not just a simple Quranic commentary; rather it is a foundational theological textbook.
The Caliph makes war upon the Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians, provided he has first invited them to enter Islam in faith and practice, and if they will not, then invited them to enter the social order of Islam by paying the non-Muslim poll tax Jizya…in accordance with the word of Allah Most High:
"Fight those who do not believe in Allah and the Last Day and who forbid not what Allah and His messenger have forbidden – who do not practice the religion of truth, being of those who have been given the Book – until they pay the poll tax out of hand and are humbled." 9:29
The Caliph fights all other peoples until they become Muslim….
It sounds like to me that Islamic teaching oppresses the Christians and the Jews. It certainly doesn’t honor them. Look! The Muslims are to make war upon them, compel to convert to Islam, or pay extortion. I’d say that Hassaballa has presented us with a whitewashed account of how Islam denigrates non-Muslims, and he has presented us with his "absurd fallacy".
Now let’s bump this up a notch and observe Muhammad’s actions. Actions speak louder than words… so, what do Muhammad’s actions tell us?
MUHAMMAD’S ATTACK UPON TABUK AND DEALINGS WITH AYLAH
Muhammad had no intention of living peacefully, side by side with non-Muslims, even with those who were far from his community’s borders. Jews and Christians were to be given the option of converting to Islam, pay the extortion, or fight and die.
An account of this incident is given in this chapter.
The account describes that Muhammad heard the Romans were going to attack him. He marshaled 30,000 of his troops and they went north to the town of Tabuk to do battle with the Romans. However, upon arriving, they found that there was no threat at all. Instead Muhammad sent a detachment to Ayla, a small nearby Christian fishing village, to give them the afore mentioned options: convert, pay the extortion tax - jizya, or die. The Christian leader decided to pay the tribute.
I’ve extracted this excerpt from the webpage above.
"To John ibn Rabah and the Chiefs of Aylah. Peace be on you! I praise God for you, beside whom there is no Lord. I will not fight against you until I have written thus unto you. Believe, or else pay tribute. And be obedient unto the Lord and his Prophet, and the messengers of his Prophet. Honor them and clothe them with excellent vestments, not with inferior raiment. Specially clothe Zeid with excellent garments. As long as my messengers are pleased, so likewise am I. Ye know the tribute. If ye desire to have security by sea and by land, obey the Lord and his Apostle, and he will defend you from every claim, whether by Arab or foreigner, saving the claim of the Lord and his Apostle. But if ye oppose and displease them, I will not accept from you a single thing, until I have fought against you and taken captive your little ones and slain the elder.
Do you see how Muhammad’s threats to attack these people demonstrate his teachings in Sura 9:29? Make war upon the Christians and Jews, unless they convert or pay the extortion. Real Islam, i.e. Muhammad’s Islam, is clearly taught in the Quran and demonstrated by Muhammad’s actions and they speak loudly here. Committed near the end of his life, they portray what he wanted his followers to continue to do:attack and conquer non-Muslim people.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I’d view someone who threatens me with death, or coerces me to convert to his religion, or forces me to pay him extortion, as someone who "honors" me. Instead, I’d view him as a criminal.
I view Muhammad little different than:
|"You’re Gonna Pay For Protection" - Al Capone|
Muhammad was a religious criminal. He used religion to justify his crimes. Just as today’s Muslims justify their crimes under Islam, so Muhammad did the same. Muhammad is the terrorist’s example. They are only doing what he did.
Hassaballa is clearly wrong about Islam honoring Jews and Christians of today. Instead it denigrates them. Hassaballa’s imagination that the Quran honors Christians and Jews is the real "absurd fallacy"
I neither deny nor dismiss the existence of Muslims who use the Qur'an to justify their acts of terrorism and murder. These Muslims, like Islam's conservative critics, also misquote or quote the Qur'an out of context.
Isn’t it interesting that Hassaballa accuses others of not providing actual contexts while he himself never provides a single reference? I have quoted the Quran and other Islamic source materials, and I have provided the contexts and the references. Rather, it is the Muslim writers like Hassaballa who misquote the Quran out of context.
It is this fueling of hatred and intolerance against American Muslims that threatens to destroy the fabric of our nation's unity.
There cannot be national unity when Muslims are not committed to the nation! True Muslims follow Muhammad and are not committed to any nation; rather they are committed to the cause of Islam’s domination. Many Muslims in America have stated that they are not loyal to America but loyal only to their fellow Muslims. In this, they are telling the truth.
Take for example an Imam from one of the largest mosques in New York.
This Imam, Sheik Mohammad Al-Gamei’a, was proclaimed to be a moderate Muslim. He was involved in "interfaith-dialogs", he met with and prayed with leaders of other faiths, and he spoke against anti-Semitism and violence. He spoke just like Hassaballa and did a good job whitewashing the dark truth about Islam and fooling many prominent New Yorkers.
In late 2001 he left the country and went to Egypt. There he began to speak the truth of what he really thought. What do you imagine he said? You can read about him at this article:
Let me quote a portion of it:
The press is also starting to look into the Islamic Cultural Center in New York. Its erstwhile imam, Sheik Mohammad Al-Gamei'a, had been participating as a moderate in interfaith dialogue in the city. In the wake of Sept. 11, he decamped to Egypt, where, in an interview on an unofficial Web site of Al-Azhar University, he voiced the rankest sort of anti-Semitism, saying, among other things, that a Jewish conspiracy was behind the Sept. 11 atrocities.
There is another similar case like this going on in Ohio. The leader of one of the largest Mosques in Ohio has just been convicted of crimes. It seems that prior to becoming the mosque leader he was involved with many terrorist groups. He is on film for making statements to encourage the murder of Jewish people and he said that terrorism was his life. You can read the article here:
Below is a quote:
But it's not just the White House that has been taken in. In Cleveland, the head of the local Islamic Center, Fawaz Damra, was exposed recently for having called on fellow Palestinians in Chicago to donate money to Islamic Jihad, a terrorist group, this despite being the model of interfaith cooperation in Cleveland. Damra is well-known for inviting Jews to celebrate the end of Ramadan at his Islamic Center, but he has also been videotaped in 1991 asking a group to donate money to kill Jews. " Who will give $500?" he asks on the tape, to kill "12 Jews," whom he calls "the sons of monkeys and pigs."
Below is another article detailing this man’s vulgar speech:
Here is a quote:
"[Muslims should be] directing all rifles at the first and last enemy of the Islamic nation, and that is the sons of monkeys and pigs, the Jews," he told the audience.
Now then, does this Muslim have a precedent to follow from early Islam? You bet he does! Why did Damra say that Jews were descendants of pigs and apes? Because that is what the Quran teaches!
Muhammad spoke the Quranic verse below in reference to Jews:
5:60 Say: Shall I tell you who will receive a worse reward from God? Those whom God has cursed and with whom He has been angry, transforming them into apes and swine, and those who serve the devil. Worse is the plight of these and they have strayed farther from the right path.
In fact, Muhammad taught that Allah had turned Jews into pigs, apes, rats, and lizards! Yes, Muhammad was a bizarre man, with bizarre and denigrating beliefs. Read this article to see some of Muhammad’s weird beliefs: Muhammad and the Animals
Now, why did Mohammad Al-Gamei'a, betray those that trusted him and why did he proclaim terrorism? Because that is what the early Muslims did! During Muhammad’s time Muslims betrayed their friendships with a people who were their allies. For example, there were Muslims who were allies with the Jewish tribe of the Banu Qaynuqa. The Muslims attacked these people and told them:
"Hearts have changed. Islam has blotted all treaties out." "The Life of Muhammad", by Sir William Muir, chapter 13.
Later, Muhammad’s followers betrayed another group of people they had a covenant with, the Banu Nadhir tribe. Muhammad told them,
"Hearts have changed," he replied, "and Islam has wiped out the old covenants." From Tabari’s History, volume 7, page 158.
True Muslims will not be loyal to any non-Muslim society. Hassaballa isn’t worried about our nation’s fabric; he is worried about Islam being exposed for what it really is. If the early Muslims betrayed friends, so to will today’s Muslims. In fact, we’ve already seen it happen several times. How many more Muslim "Americans" will have to murder other Americans, before you figure this out? How many more violent crimes will "ordinary" Muslims need to commit before you realize, "hey, their religion really is about domination and violence"?
It would be foolish for Americans to trust true Muslims. Because they are committed to Islam, they cannot be loyal to America. They will not serve two masters. Unlike many other faiths, Islam is about domination over non-Muslims. That is why they cannot be loyal to a non-Islamic system.
It is not the critics that are fueling hatred, it is Islam. Islam teaches subjection and violence against non-Muslims. When the Quran commands Muslims to make war upon Christians and Jews unless they convert to Islam or pay an extortion tax, (jizyah), then it is Islam that is causing the harm. When the Quran commands Muslims to humiliate and subdue Jews and Christians, then it is Islam that is preaching bigotry and hatred. When Islam teaches betrayal of non-Muslims it is Islam that fuels the hatred.
Want more? What does the Quran call today’s Christians and Jews? What does it ask God to do to them? Let’s see: Below are 3 translations of 9:30
009.030Look at the ugliness in this verse. 1) We hear Muhammad asking Allah to curse, fight, and destroy the Christians and Jews. 2) We hear Muhammad call the Christians and Jews deluded, perverse, and turned away.
YUSUFALI: The Jews call 'Uzair a son of Allah, and the Christians call Christ the son of Allah. That is a saying from their mouth; (in this) they but imitate what the unbelievers of old used to say. Allah's curse be on them: how they are deluded away from the Truth!
PICKTHALL: And the Jews say: Ezra is the son of Allah, and the Christians say: The Messiah is the son of Allah. That is their saying with their mouths. They imitate the saying of those who disbelieved of old. Allah (Himself) fighteth against them. How perverse are they!
SHAKIR: And the Jews say: Uzair is the son of Allah; and the Christians say: The Messiah is the son of Allah; these are the words of their mouths; they imitate the saying of those who disbelieved before; may Allah destroy them; how they are turned away!
Does that sound like respect and honor to you? It sounds like Muhammad hated the Christians and Jews because they rejected him as a false prophet.
The fabric of American society is built upon fidelity. Yet true Muslims cannot deliver this fidelity. Muhammad and his Muslims told the people they betrayed that their loyalty to Islam was greater than his loyalty to his fellow citizens. And take note, we have already seen several Muslim Americans betray their fellow Americans. Soon we will see more. It is now only a matter of time before Muslim car bombers begin their work here in America.
FINAL COMMENTS, CONCLUSION, AND CRITICISMS
I have several comments.
I challenge all Muslims to review the darkness in their faith. And I ask the Muslims, "If you truly seek peace amongst mankind, why do you follow a man who not only taught, but practiced warfare, oppression, discrimination, and humiliation of all non-Muslims?
Read the early Islamic writings for yourself. See the brutality and crimes Muhammad committed. And the early Muslims left a long trail of blood and destruction in their wake.
There are probably millions of wonderful, peaceful, Muslims in the world. This does not absolve their faith of the violence inherent in its core teaching. Real Islam, Muhammad’s Islam, is a poison in humanity’s soul.From Indonesia, to Thailand, the Philippines, to Afghanistan, to Iran, to Turkey, to Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Algeria… wherever you find real Islam, i.e. Muhammad’s Islam, you find atrocities and violence.
I invite Muslims to take a second look at Muhammad’s evil. I challenge them to compare Muhammad to Jesus. Jesus came to undo the works of Satan. Muhammad came to undo the work of Christ.
I say that Jesus came to bring us true life, and just as Jesus told the people of His time to put their faith in Him, so I invite Muslims to put their faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
CONCLUSION: MUHAMMAD AND THE QURAN JUDGED
I have presented the contexts of what the Quran really says about violence and shown that based upon the early Islamic source materials, the Quran, Traditions, (Hadith), and Muhammad’s Biographical records (Sira), teach that violence is to be used to spread Islam’s domain.
We have seen that from the time Muhammad fled to Medina, he murdered, robbed, enslaved, and assassinated, non-Muslims. This record is documented by the early Muslim writers and historians. We’ve read what some of the great Muslim scholars have written and they state that the Quran teaches, even commands, these violent acts. Enough with this false chant "Islam is peace." No! Islam is a religion of domination it has never been a religion of peace.
I have a criticism of Beliefnet. They have posted an inaccurate Muslim’s work as authentic teachings on Islam but they have not bothered to present the other side of the story. Why?
They have presented many pro and con articles on Christianity, even hosted a theological debate between a Christian, Ben Witherington, and non-Christian, Elaine Pagels. They’ve posted articles that criticize Christianity strongly. But Beliefnet remains silent when it comes to a simple article or discussion presenting the violent teachings of Islam. It chooses to allow its readers to wallow in the pit of ignorance.
Don’t depend on modern, Western Muslim writers, like Hassaballa, to tell you the truth: they hardly ever will. Rather, listen to the ex-Muslims who will tell you the truth:
When the Muslim terrorists begin to car bomb and terrorize here in America, Steve Waldman and Deborah Caldwell will bear responsibility because as writers on Islam, they’ve allowed their political or personal prejudices, to keep them silent and not tell Americans about Islam’s dark side. They’ve fed America and the West the bread of deception, leavened with the yeast of credulity, and seasoned with oblivion. The Muslim terrorists are dedicated, devout, and daring. They are rooted in the Quran and Muhammad’s lifestyle. Real Islam, Muhammad’s Islam, is a poison in humanity’s soul.
1) Encyclopadia of Islam, published by Brill, Leiden, Netherlands
2) al-Tabari, "The History of al-Tabari", (Ta'rikh al-rusul wa'l-muluk), State University of New York Press 1993
3) Guillaume, A., "The Life of Muhammad", a translation of Ibn Ishaq's "Sirat Rasul Allah", Oxford University Press, Karachi, Pakistan.
4) Muslim, A., "Sahih Muslim", translated by A. Sidiqqi, International Islamic Publishing House, Riyadh, KSA.
5) Ibn Sa'd, (d. 852 A.D.), "Kitab al-Tabaqat al-Kabir", (Book of the Major Classes), translated by S. Moinul Haq, Pakistan Historical Society.
6) The Noble Quran, translated by Dr. Muhammad Taqi-ud-Din Al-Hilali and Dr. Muhammad Muhsin Khan, published by Maktaba Dar-us-Salam, PO Box 21441, Riyadh 11475, Saudi Arabia, 1994
7) Gatje, Helmut, "The Quran and its Exegesis", Oneworld, Oxford, England, 1997
8) Ibn Kathir, "Tafsir of Ibn Kathir" published by Darussalam, New York, NY, 2000.
9) Abu Dawud, Suliman, "Sunan", al-Madina, New Delhi, 1985, translated by A. Hasan
10) Dawood, N. J., "The Koran", Penguin, London, England, 1995
11) al-Misri, Ahmad, "Reliance of the Traveler", (A Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law), translated by Nuh Ha Mim Keller, published by Amana publications, Beltsville, Maryland, USA 1991