Allegations of Violence

Introduction

It is alleged that several verses of the Holy Quran incite believers to commit violence against non-Muslims. Such verses are misused by extremists to commit acts of violence against non-Muslims. However, a holistic and consolidated study of these verses, the fundamental  Quranic teachings, and the historical narratives of the aggression of the opponents of Islam, clearly demonstrates that these wartime injunctions were defensive in nature. The conflicts occurred due to oppression of fundamental freedoms, including the freedom of conscience and practicing one’s religion of choice. Islamic teachings permit military engagement as a defense and protection of fundamental human freedoms.

2:245 - Fight In The Cause of Allah

“And fight in the cause of Allah and know that Allah is All Hearing, All Knowing.” (2:245)

This verse if oft highlighted by detractors without any context or backdrop as an instruction to fight disbelievers, in fact fighting is only sanctioned in defense and protection of fundamental freedoms.

3:152 - Strike Terror Into The Hearts of The Disbelievers

“We shall strike terror into the hearts of those who have disbelieved because they associate partners with Allah for which He has sent down no authority. Their abode is the Fire; and evil is the habitation of the wrongdoers.” (3:152)

Critics allege that “striking terror” is a justification for terrorist attacks committed by extremists, but this conclusion has no basis when looking at the actual meaning of the verse.

4:75 - Fight In The Cause of Allah For The Hereafter

“Let those then fight in the cause of Allah who would sell the present life for the Hereafter. And whoso fights in the cause of Allah, be he slain or be he victorious, We shall soon give him a great reward.” (4:75)

Critics allege that this verse encourages Muslims to commit violent acts by promising them a paradise in the Hereafter. However, a deeper reading of the context shows a much noble message being delivered.

4:96 - True Muslims Fight

“Those of the believers who sit still, excepting the disabled ones, and those who strive in the cause of Allah with their wealth and their persons, are not equal. Allah has exalted in rank those who strive with their wealth and their persons above those who sit still. And to each Allah has promised good. And Allah has exalted those who strive above those who sit still, by a great reward.” (4:96)

Critics allege that this verse proves jihad is only physical, but this is a superficial interpretation that is illogical when examining the actual words of the verse and its context.

4:105 - Always Pursue The Enemy (Non-Muslims)

“And slacken not in seeking these people. If you suffer, they too suffer as you suffer. But you hope from Allah what they hope not. And Allah is All-Knowing, Wise.” (4:105)

Critics say this verse calls for Muslims to be relentless with violence against the disbelievers, but a proper context reveals the legitimate situation of conflict they found themselves in.

5:34 - Crucify Those Who Wage War

“The reward of those who wage war against Allah and his Messenger and strive to create disorder in the land is only this that they be slain or crucified or their hands and their feet be cut off on alternate sides, or they be expelled from the land. That shall be a disgrace for them in this world and in the Hereafter they shall have a great punishment.” (5:34)

It is alleged this verse prescribes unusually cruel and barbaric punishments, but these are punishments for extreme subversion and there is the alternative of expulsion as an option.

8:40 - Keep Fighting Till Everyone Worships Only Allah

“And fight them until there is no persecution and religion is wholly for Allah. But if they desist then surely Allah is watchful of what they do.” (8:40)

Critics allege that this verse means Muslims should fight all others until everyone only worships Allah. However, a deeper examination will show that this allegation is entirely false.

8:57-66 - Strike Fear Into The Enemy of Allah

“Those with whom thou didst make a covenant; then they break their covenant every time, and they do not fear God. So, if thou catchest them in war, then by routing them strike fear in those that are behind them, that they may be admonished. And if thou fearest treachery from a people, throw back to them their covenant with equity. Surely, Allah loves not the treacherous. And let not those who disbelieve think that they have outstripped Us. Surely, they cannot frustrate God’s purpose. And make ready for them whatever you can of armed force and of mounted pickets at the frontier, whereby you may frighten the enemy of Allah and your enemy and others besides them whom you know not, but Allah knows them. And whatever you spend in the way of Allah, it shall be repaid to you in full and you shall not be wronged. And if they incline towards peace, incline thou also towards it, and put thy trust in Allah. Surely, it is He Who is All-Hearing, All-Knowing.” (8:57-66)

Critics allege that these verses point to a blind aggression against disbelievers. However, when looked at in closely, there are legitimate reasons for this call to fight.

9:5-6 - Kill The Idolaters Unless They Convert To Islam

“And when the forbidden months have passed, kill the idolaters wherever you find them and take them prisoners, and beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them at every place of ambush. But if they repent and observe Prayer and pay the Zakat, then leave their way free. Surely, Allah is Most Forgiving, Merciful. And if anyone of the idolaters asks protection of thee, grant him protection so they may hear the word of Allah; then convey him to his place of security. That is because they are a people who have no knowledge.” (9:5-6)

The allegation against verses 9:5-6 is that it calls for the wholesale killing of all idolaters unless they accept the religion of Islam, observing prayer and paying the Zakat (welfare tax). And, that protection should only be offered to those who convert to Islam. This allegation is wholly untrue.

9:14 - Allah Will Humiliate The Disbelievers

“Fight them, that Allah may punish them at your hands, and humiliate them, and help you to victory over them, and relieve the minds of a people who believe;” (9:14)

It is alleged that this verse promotes hatred, justification for violence and terrorist groups who advocate hatred and humiliation of non-Muslims. However, proper scrutiny reveals otherwise.

9:29 - Fight Christians and Jews

“Fight those from among the People of the Book who believe not in Allah, nor in the Last Day, nor hold as unlawful what Allah and His Messenger have declared to be unlawful, nor follow the true religion, until they pay the tax with their own hand and acknowledge their subjection.” (9:29)

It is alleged that this verse calls for Muslims to fight Jews and Christians who refuse to follow Islam and bring them under the subjection of Muslims.

9:111 - Allah Promises Fighters Will Be Rewarded With Paradise

Surely, Allah has purchased of the believers their persons and their property in return for the Garden they shall have; they fight in the cause of Allah, and they slay and are slain– a promise that He has made incumbent on Himself in the Torah, and the Gospel, and the Quran. And who is more faithful to His promise than Allah. Rejoice, then, in your bargain which you have made with Him; and that is which is the supreme triumph. (9:111)

Although critics say this verse encourages suicide attacks, this interpretation is quite baseless when looking at the exact meaning of the verse with an unbiased lens.

17:17 - Accept Islam Or Be Destroyed

“And when We intend to destroy a township, we address Our commandments to its rebellious people, but they transgress therein; so the sentence of punishment becomes due against it, and We destroy it with utter destruction.” (17:17)

Although this verse is misinterpreted to show that it sanctions Muslims to attack other nations or peoples, that is actually not the case here at all.

17:34 - Killing Disbelievers Is A Just Cause

“And kill not the soul which Allah has forbidden save for a just cause. And whoever is killed wrongfully, We have surely given his heir authority (to demand retaliation), but let him not exceed the (prescribed) bounds in slaying; for (therein) he is helped by law.” (17:34)

Some critics allege that this verse encourages Muslims to kill non-Muslims, but this verse isn’t even addressing a state of war.

33:61-62 - Seize The Accursed Hypocrites

“If the hypocrites, and those in whose heart is a disease, and those who cause agitation in the city, desist not, We shall surely give thee authority over them; then they will not dwell therein as thy neighbors, save for a little while.” (33:61-62)

It is alleged that these verses refer to all disbelievers as hypocrites and call for Muslims to dominate them. In fact, these verses refer to a specific tribe of Medina that was found in treason with the enemy.

61:5 - Unite Against The Disbelievers

“Verily, Allah loves those who fight in His cause arrayed in solid ranks, as though they were a strong structure cemented with molten lead.” (61:5)

To understand this verse requires a deeper look at the historical backdrop of the Muslims’ specific need and purpose for a strong and unified army.

Fundamental Teachings of Islam

The following verses of the Holy Quran clearly state that fighting is only permitted as a defensive recourse against oppression and that fundamental freedom of religion and conscience must be maintained at all times.

1) Conditions on permission to fight– must be defensive and to protect universal freedom of conscience

Permission to fight is given to those against whom war is made, because they have been wronged — and Allah indeed has power to help them. Those who have been driven out from their homes unjustly only because they said, ‘Our Lord is Allah’. And if Allah did not repel some men by means of others, there would surely have been pulled down cloisters and churches and synagogues and mosques, wherein the name of Allah is oft commemorated. And Allah will surely help one who helps Him. Allah is indeed Powerful, Mighty. (22:40-41)

The fundamental verses of the Quran (22:40-41) that permit Muslims to undertake military engagement clearly outline conditions which are defensive and where Muslims were being attacked and persecuted on the basis of their beliefs. Further, the verses clearly state that such undertaking must extend to a universal freedom of conscience where churches, cloisters and synagogues must be protected. This is also further validated by Holy Prophet Muhammad’s (on whom be peace) covenants with the Christians instructing Muslims to never attack Christians on the basis of religion or interference with their beliefs.

And fight them until there is no persecution and religion is wholly for Allah. But if they desist, then surely Allah is Watchful of what they do. (8:40)

Verse 8:40 above further endorses the principle that taking up an armed conflict must only be in context of protecting freedom of religion, and if the enemy desists then one should cease hostilities.

Some allegation narratives consider that ‘religion being wholly for Allah’ in this verse means that only Islam is to be enforced as a religion. However this allegation is negated by 22:40-41 above which clarifies that the principle of the Quran is freedom of religion and fighting is not permitted to enforce any one religion.

2) Peace and reconciliation with the enemy must be sought at all times

The Quran states that during wartime, seeking peace and reconciliation is a duty. This is emphasized to such a great degree that even if one fears that the enemy is seeking peace out of deception (as a strategy of war) one should still incline to it and put their trust in Allah (see 8:62-63 below).

And if they incline towards peace, incline thou also towards it, and put thy trust in Allah. Surely, it is He Who is All-Hearing, All-Knowing. And if they intend to deceive thee, then surely Allah is sufficient for thee. He it is Who has strengthened thee with His help and with the believers. (8:62-63)

And if two parties of believers fight against each other, make peace between them; then if after that one of them transgresses against the other, fight the party that transgresses until it returns to the command of Allah. Then if it returns, make peace between them with equity, and act justly. Verily, Allah loves the just. (49:10)

And fight them until there is no persecution, and religion is freely professed for Allah. But if they desist, then remember that no hostility is allowed except against the aggressors. (2:194)

3) Peace as a fundamental desired state of affairs in Quran

The term ‘Islam’ itself is derived from the root ‘Salema’ which means peace. The traditional greeting used by Muslims translated to ‘peace be with you’. Peace is a prominent theme in the Holy Quran and a fundamental desired state of affairs. Following are a few verses from the Holy Quran that illustrate the fundamental value of peace.

Peace on you-- a word of greeting from the Merciful Lord. (36:59)

And make not Allah a target for your oaths that you may thereby abstain from doing good and acting righteously and making peace between men. And Allah is All-Hearing, All-Knowing. (2:225)

Thereby does Allah guide those who seek His pleasure on the paths of peace, and leads them out of every kind of darkness into light by His will, and guides them to the right path. (5:17)

And Allah calls to the abode of peace, and guides whom He pleases to the straight path. (10:26)

And the servants of the Gracious God are those who walk on the earth in a dignified manner, and when the ignorant address them, they say, ‘Peace!’ (25:64)

He is Allah, and there is no God beside Him, the Sovereign, the Holy One, the Source of Peace, the Bestower of Security, the Protector, the Mighty, the Subduer, the Exalted. Holy is Allah far above that which they associate with Him. - (59:24)

4) There can be no compulsion in religion

The Holy Quran declares in 2:257 that there can be no compulsion in religion. The meaning of any given verse of the Holy Quran must comply with this rule. Therefore, any given verse of The Holy Quran addressing armed engagement cannot be taken to mean waging war on disbelievers or infidels on account of their beliefs. This negates the assertion that Quran sanctions violence against disbelievers.