Question: Does the Qur'an really contain dozens of verses commanding violence?
The Quran contains dozens of verses that call Muslims to war with nonbelievers. Some are quite graphic, with commands to chop off heads and fingers, and kill the infidels wherever they may be hiding. Muslims who do not join the fight are called 'hypocrites' and warned that Allah will send them to Hell if they do not join the slaughter.
These verses are mostly open-ended, meaning that they are not embedded within historical context (as are nearly all of the Old Testament verses of violence). They are part of the eternal, unchanging word of Allah, and just as relevant or subjective as anything else in the Qur'an.
Unfortunately, there are few, if any, verses of tolerance and peace to abrogate or even balance out the many that call for nonbelievers to be fought and subdued until they either accept humiliation, convert to Islam, or are killed. This proclivity toward violence and Muhammad's own martial tradition have resulted in a trail of blood and bodies across world history.
Sura (2:191) - And slay them wherever ye find them, and drive them out of the places whence they drove you out, for persecution [of Muslims] is worse than slaughter [of non-believers]
Sura (2:244) - Then fight in the cause of Allah, and know that Allah Heareth and knoweth all things.
Sura (2:216) - 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.
Sura (3:56) - As to those who reject faith, I will punish them with terrible agony in this world and in the Hereafter, nor will they have anyone to help.
Sura (3:151) - "Soon shall We cast terror into the hearts of the Unbelievers, for that they joined companions with Allah, for which He had sent no authority." This speaks directly of killing Christians, since they believe in the Trinity (ie. what Muhammad incorrectly believed to be 'joining companions to Allah').
Sura (4:74) - Let those fight in the way of Allah who sell the life of this world for the other. Whoso fighteth in the way of Allah, be he slain or be he victorious, on him We shall bestow a vast reward.
Sura (4:76) - “Those who believe fight in the cause of Allah…”
Sura (4:89) - They but wish that ye should reject Faith, as they do, and thus be on the same footing (as they): But take not friends from their ranks until they flee in the way of Allah (From what is forbidden). But if they turn renegades, seize them and slay them wherever ye find them; and (in any case) take no friends or helpers from their ranks
Sura (4:95) - Not equal are those believers who sit (at home) and receive no hurt, and those who strive and fight in the cause of Allah with their goods and their persons. Allah hath granted a grade higher to those who strive and fight with their goods and persons than to those who sit (at home). Unto all (in Faith) Hath Allah promised good: But those who strive and fight Hath He distinguished above those who sit (at home) by a special reward,-
Sura (5:33) - The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His messenger and strive to make mischief in the land is only this, that they should be murdered or crucified or their hands and their feet should be cut off on opposite sides or they should be imprisoned; this shall be as a disgrace for them in this world, and in the hereafter they shall have a grievous chastisement
Sura (8:12) - I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them
Sura (8:15) - O ye who believe! When ye meet those who disbelieve in battle, turn not your backs to them. (16)Whoso on that day turneth his back to them, unless maneuvering for battle or intent to join a company, he truly hath incurred wrath from Allah, and his habitation will be hell, a hapless journey's end.
Sura (8:39) - And fight with them until there is no more persecution and religion should be only for Allah
Sura (8:57) - If thou comest on them in the war, deal with them so as to strike fear in those who are behind them, that haply they may remember.
Sura (8:59-60) - And let not those who disbelieve suppose that they can outstrip (Allah's Purpose). Lo! they cannot escape. Make ready for them all thou canst of (armed) force and of horses tethered, that thereby ye may dismay the enemy of Allah and your enemy
Sura (9:5) - So when the sacred months have passed away, then slay the idolaters wherever you find them, and take them captives and besiege them and lie in wait for them in every ambush, then if they repent and keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate, leave their way free to them
Sura (9:14) - Fight them, Allah will punish them by your hands and bring them to disgrace...
Sura (9:20) - Those who believe, and have left their homes and striven with their wealth and their lives in Allah's way are of much greater worth in Allah's sight. These are they who are triumphant. The "striving" spoken of here is Jihad.
Sura (9:29) - Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.
Sura (9:30) - And the Jews say: Ezra 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!
Sura (9:38-39) - "O ye who believe! what is the matter with you, that, when ye are asked to go forth in the cause of Allah, ye cling heavily to the earth? Do ye prefer the life of this world to the Hereafter? But little is the comfort of this life, as compared with the Hereafter. Unless ye go forth, He will punish you with a grievous penalty, and put others in your place" This is a warning to those who refuse to fight, that they will be punished with Hell.
Sura (9:41) - Go forth, light-armed and heavy-armed, and strive with your wealth and your lives in the way of Allah! That is best for you if ye but knew
Sura (9:73) - O Prophet! strive hard against the unbelievers and the hypocrites and be unyielding to them; and their abode is hell, and evil is the destination
Sura (9:88) - But the Messenger, and those who believe with him, strive and fight with their wealth and their persons: for them are (all) good things: and it is they who will prosper.
Sura (9:111) - Allah hath purchased of the believers their persons and their goods; for theirs (in return) is the garden (of Paradise): they fight in His cause, and slay and are slain: a promise binding on Him in truth, through the Law, the Gospel, and the Qur'an: and who is more faithful to his covenant than Allah? then rejoice in the bargain which ye have concluded: that is the achievement supreme.
Sura (9:123) - O you who believe! fight those of the unbelievers who are near to you and let them find in you hardness
Sura (21:44) - We gave the good things of this life to these men and their fathers until the period grew long for them; See they not that We gradually reduce the land (in their control) from its outlying borders? Is it then they who will win?
Sura (25:52) - "Therefore listen not to the Unbelievers, but strive against them with the utmost strenuousness, with the (Qur'an)." "Strive against" is Jihad, obviously not in the personal context. It's also significant to point out that this is a Meccan verse.
Sura (47:4) - So when you meet in battle those who disbelieve, then smite the necks until when you have overcome them, then make (them) prisoners,
Sura (47:35) - Be not weary and faint-hearted, crying for peace, when ye should be uppermost: for Allah is with you,
Sura (48:17) - There is no blame for the blind, nor is there blame for the lame, nor is there blame for the sick (that they go not forth to war). And whoso obeyeth Allah and His messenger, He will make him enter Gardens underneath which rivers flow; and whoso turneth back, him will He punish with a painful doom.
Sura (48:29) - Muhammad is the messenger of Allah. And those with him are hard (ruthless) against the disbelievers and merciful among themselves
Sura (61:4) - Surely Allah loves those who fight in His way
Sura (61:10-12) - "O ye who believe! Shall I lead you to a bargain that will save you from a grievous Penalty?- That ye believe in Allah and His Messenger, and that ye strive (your utmost) in the Cause of Allah, with your property and your persons: That will be best for you, if ye but knew! He will forgive you your sins, and admit you to Gardens beneath which Rivers flow, and to beautiful mansions in Gardens of Eternity." This verse was given in battle. It uses the Arabic word, Jihad.
Sura (66:9) - O Prophet! Strive against the disbelievers and the hypocrites, and be stern with them. Hell will be their home, a hapless journey's end.
From the Hadith
Bukhari (52:177) - Allah's Apostle said, "The Hour will not be established until you fight with the Jews, and the stone behind which a Jew will be hiding will say. "O Muslim! There is a Jew hiding behind me, so kill him."
Bukhari (52:256) - The Prophet... was asked whether it was permissible to attack the pagan warriors at night with the probability of exposing their women and children to danger. The Prophet replied, "They (i.e. women and children) are from them (i.e. pagans)." In this command, Muhammad establishes that it is permissible to kill non-combatants in the process of killing a perceived enemy. This provides justification for the many Islamic terror bombings.
Abu Dawud (14:2526) - The Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) said: Three things are the roots of faith: to refrain from (killing) a person who utters, "There is no god but Allah" and not to declare him unbeliever whatever sin he commits, and not to excommunicate him from Islam for his any action; and jihad will be performed continuously since the day Allah sent me as a prophet until the day the last member of my community will fight with the Dajjal (Antichrist)
Abu Dawud (14:2527) - The Prophet said: Striving in the path of Allah (jihad) is incumbent on you along with every ruler, whether he is pious or impious
Muslim (1:33) - the Messenger of Allah said: I have been commanded to fight against people till they testify that there is no god but Allah, that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah
Bukhari (8:387) - Allah's Apostle said, "I have been ordered to fight the people till they say: 'None has the right to be worshipped but Allah
Muslim (1:149) - "Abu Dharr reported: I said: Messenger of Allah, which of the deeds is the best? He (the Holy Prophet) replied: Belief in Allah and Jihad in His cause..."
Tabari 7:97 The morning after the murder of Ashraf, the Prophet declared, "Kill any Jew who falls under your power." Ashraf was a poet, killed by Muhammad's men because he insulted Islam. Here, Muhammad widens the scope of his orders to kill.
Ishaq: 327 “Allah said, ‘A prophet must slaughter before collecting captives. A slaughtered enemy is driven from the land. Muhammad, you craved the desires of this world, its goods and the ransom captives would bring. But Allah desires killing them to manifest the religion.’”
Other than the fact that Muslims haven't killed every non-Muslim under their domain, there is very little that they can point to as proof that theirs is a peaceful, tolerant religion. Few verses in the Qur'an can be construed to fit the contemporary virtues of religious tolerance and universal brotherhood, and those that do are earlier "Meccan" verses that are obviously abrogated by later ones.
Far from being mere theological construct, the violent verses of the Qur'an have played a key role in the many massacres in Muslim history, including the brutal slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Hindus for five centuries beginning around 1000 AD with Mahmud of Ghazni's bloody conquest. Buddhism was nearly wiped off the Indian subcontinent. Judaism nearly met the same fate in the Middle East as did Christianity, both there as well as across North Africa and parts of Europe, including Turkey. Zoroastrianism, the ancient religion of a proud Persian people is despised by Muslims and barely survives in modern Iran.
So ingrained is violence in the religion that Islam has never really stopped being at war, either with other religions or with itself.
Muhammad was a military leader, laying siege to towns, massacring the men, raping their women, enslaving their children, and taking what was once the property of others for his own. On several occasions he rejected offers of surrender from the besieged inhabitants and killed those whom he could take prisoner. He even inspired his followers to battle when they did not feel it was right to fight, threatening them with Hell if they did not, promising them slaves and booty if they did. Muhammad allowed his men to rape traumatized women captured in battle. Neither did he leave a clear line of succession, resulting in internal war after his death and a jagged schism that has left Shias and Sunnis at each others' throats to this day.
It is important to emphasize that Muslim armies waged aggressive campaigns, and it was the companions of Muhammad who made the most dramatic military gains in the decades following his death. The principle set in motion early on was that the civilian population of a town was to be destroyed (ie. men executed, women and children taken as slaves) if they defended themselves. Although modern Muslim apologists often claim that Islam only attacked in self-defense, this is not only an oxymoron, but it is flatly contradicted by the accounts of Muslim historians and others going back to the time of Muhammad.
The strangest and most untrue thing that can be said about Islam is that it is a Religion of Peace. If every standard by which the West is judged and condemned (slavery, imperialism, intolerance, women's rights, warfare...) were applied equally to Islam, the verdict would be absolutely devastating. Islam never gives up what it conquers, be it religion, culture, language or life. Neither does it make apologies or any real effort at moral progress. It is the least open to dialogue and the most self-absorbed. It is convinced of its own perfection, yet never open to critical examination.
This is what makes the verses of violence so dangerous. While Muslim terrorists take them as literally as anything else in the Qur'an, and understand that Islam is incomplete without Jihad, others do little to contradict them. Indeed, what do they have? Speaking of peace and love may win over the ignorant, but when every twelfth verse of Islam's holiest book either speaks to Allah's hatred for non-Muslims or calls for their death, forced conversion, or subjugation, it's little wonder that sympathy for terrorism runs as deeply as it does in the broader community - even if most Muslims personally prefer not to interpret their religion in this way.
In fact, many Muslims are simply unaware of the Qur'an's near absence of verses that preach non-violence. This is because their understanding of Islam comes from what they are taught by others. In the West, it is typical for Muslims to come to believe that their religion must be like Christianity - preaching the New Testament virtues of peace, love, and tolerance - because Muslims are taught that Islam is supposed to be superior in every way. They are somewhat surprised and embarrassed to learn that the evidence of the Qur'an and the bloody history of Islam are very much in contradiction to this.
For their part, Western liberals would do well not to sacrifice judgment and distinction on the altar of political correctness, or look for reasons to bring other religion down to the level of Islam merely to avoid the existential truth that this it is both different and dangerous.
There are just too many
Muslims who take the Qur'an literally... and too many others who couldn't
2006, 2007 TheReligionofPeace.com
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