Do murderous Muslims defy the true teaching of Islam?

The following is a response to an opinion piece published September 9, 2011 and published online. For background behind the comments below, please read the entire article here.

The writer makes a number of errors. He either is intentionally misleading those who know little about Islam, or he himself is ignorant of the historical roots of the Islamic faith and its authoritative documents, or perhaps he belongs to a reformist sect of Islam such as Ahmadiyya. In any case, his opinions expressed do not comport with the greatest majority of Muslim opinion worldwide.

Islam doesn’t condone any form of terrorism, and an honest study into the religion itself should solve the worries of those open-minded spectators.

Note the following verses, taken unedited from the Qur’an:

Sura 3:151 – We shall cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve because they ascribe unto Allah partners, for which no warrant hath been revealed. (Pickthal)

Sura 7:4 – How many a township have We destroyed! As a raid by night, or while they slept at noon, Our terror came unto them. (Pickthal)

Sura 8:12 – Remember thy Lord inspired the angels (with the message): “I am with you: give firmness to the Believers: I will instill terror into the hearts of the Unbelievers: smite ye above their necks and smite all their finger-tips off them.” (Ali)

Sura 8:60 – Against them make ready your strength to the utmost of your power, including steeds of war, to strike terror into (the hearts of) the enemies…

In the earliest biography of Muhammad’s life, Sirat Rasul Allah by Ibn Ishaq, we find more examples of either Muhammad using or Allah commanding terror as a tactic to force non-Muslims to accept and embrace Islam:

Then God said, ‘Then thy Lord revealed to the angels, I am with you so strengthen those that believe.’ i.e. help those that believe. ‘I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve, so strike off their heads and cut off all their fingers, because they opposed God and His apostle and he who opposes God and His apostle (will find) God severe in punishment.’ (p. 322)

Then God mentions the unbelievers and what they will meet when they die, and describes them, and tells His prophet about them until He says: ‘If you come upon them in war, deal with them so forcibly as to terrify those who follow them, haply they may take warning,’ i.e. make a severe example of them to those that come after, that haply they may understand. ‘And prepare what strength you can against them, and cavalry by which, you may strike terror into the enemy of God and your enemy’ as far as His words, ‘And whatever you spend in the way of God will be repaid to you: you will not be wronged,’ i.e. you will not lose your reward with God in the next life and a rapid recompense in this world. (p. 326)

Our attack upon God’s enemy cast terror among the Jews, and there was no Jew in Medina who did not fear for his life. (p. 368)

Many more quotes from Muhammad’s biography are available, but to quote them all here would belabor the point. Certainly, terrorism was a tactic used by Muhammad and endorsed by Allah.

…no matter how hard we try to defend these accusations made against the Quran, acts of violence continue to be done in the name of Islam. Many self-proclaiming Muslims in the world continue to behave ignorantly, claiming the faith of Islam as the reasoning for their absurd behaviors.

Ignorantly? Jihad is defined according to respected Islamic authorities as warfare against unbelievers with the goal of the advancement and spread of Islam, period. Participation in jihad is a requirement for every able bodied Muslim man, according to the following verses from the Qur’an:

Sura 2:216 –  “Jihad (holy fighting in Allah’s cause) is ordained for you (Muslims) though you dislike it…”

Sura 4:77 –  “Have you not seen those to whom it was said: Withhold your hands from fighting, perform the prayer and pay the zakat. But when orders for fighting were issued, a party of them feared men as they ought to have feared Allah. They say: ‘Our Lord, why have You ordained fighting for us, why have You made war compulsory?'”

Sura 9:38 –  “Believers, what is the matter with you, that when you are asked to march forth in the Cause of Allah (i.e., Jihad) you cling to the earth? Do you prefer the life of this world to the Hereafter? Unless you march, He will afflict and punish you with a painful torture, and put others in your place. ”

Several other passages say much the same thing: Sura 9:41, 9:81-84; 9:93-94; 48:11; 48:17. In the manual of Islamic law (sharia) we read the injunction concerning the verses above:  “these communications mean that the jihad, and rising up in arms in particular, is obligatory for all able-bodied believers…and no one is able to perform the duty for another.”[1]

After examining the evidence, once can hardly conclude that those who commit acts of terrorism or violence in the name of Islam do so out of ignorance.

One should know that the Quran doesn’t condone such understandings and promotes freedom of religion and peaceful co-existence of all humanity.

This claim can only be made by someone devoid of all historical knowledge of the treatment of non-Muslims in Islamic lands, from the time of Muhammad to the present. Author Bat Ye’or has written several books on the treatment of non-Muslims as second class citizens, called ‘dhimmi,’ at the hands of Muslim overlords. Dhimmis are required to pay a special protection tax (jizya) to their Muslim overlords in exchange for the privilege of remaining non-Muslim. While there have been isolated pockets of Muslims and non-Muslims living in peaceful coexistence, these are the exception rather than the rule.

The idea of the dhimmi citizen stems directly from the Qur’an, where Sura 9:29 states, ” Fight those who believe not in God nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by God 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.”

There are many examples of Prophet Muhammad where he was ridiculed, spit on, laughed at, cursed and much more, but he handled these issues with the utmost kindness and respect.

While this is true, there are as many, if not more, examples where Muhammad took vengeance on those who mocked or ridiculed him. From biographer Ibn Ishaq:

A young girl named Sara was mercilessly trampled to her death by a mounted soldier dispatched by Muhammad after she insulted him. (p. 551)

A woman named Asma bint Marwan was brutally murdered with Muhammad’s full knowledge, again for writing poetry deriding Muhammad. Muhammad solicited from among his men for someone to kill her, and one of his men volunteered. When told of the murder the following morning, Muhammad said “two goats will not butt their heads over her death.” This woman left five sons as orphans.  According to other accounts of this same incident, the soldier who killed Asma first removed a suckling infant from her breast before plunging his sword into her.

Muhammad ordered the killing of a girl, Fartana, and her friend, for singing songs of satire about Muhammad. (p. 551)

Muhammad gave thanks to Allah when the head of Abu Jahl was delivered to him. Abu Jahl’s crime was mocking Ibn Mas’ud, one of Muhammad’s early followers. (p. 304)

One can hardly say that Muhammad exhibited kindness and respect even when mocked or ridiculed.

The Quran states, “If anyone slew a person unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land it would be as if he slew the whole humanity: and if anyone saved a life it would be as if he saved the life of the whole humanity” (Quran 5:32).

The author quotes this verse as if to say, “See, the Qur’an promotes peace and tolerance, and nowhere allows for the taking of innocent life.”

First, note that the verse is quoted incompletely. The complete verse says, “On that account: We ordained for the Children of Israel that if any one slew a person — unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land — it would be as if he slew the whole people: and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people. Then although there came to them Our apostles with clear signs, yet, even after that, many of them continued to commit excesses in the land.”

Note that this was an injunction to Jews – Children of Israel – and not to Muslims! Also notice that an exception exists, which the author conveniently left out. Notice the words “unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land.” The term “spreading mischief” has a very defined meaning in the Quran. Read on.

The author also fails to quote the very next verse, as most Muslims do likewise when quoting Sura 5:32. The next verse, Sura 5:33, states, ” The punishment of those who wage war against God and His Messenger, and strive with might and main for mischief through the land is: execution, or crucifixion, or the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides, or exile from the land: that is their disgrace in this world, and a heavy punishment is theirs in the Hereafter.” The key to understanding this verse lies in the definition of the word ‘mischief.’

The scholar Ibn Kathir defines what ‘mischief’ entails by a reference to Sura 13:25 where the word is again used. That verse says, “Those who break the covenant of Allah … and work mischief in the land, on this is the curse.” Ibn Kathir says “the covenant that these deviant people broke is Allah’s covenant with his creation, that is, to obey him and avoid the sins that he prohibited.” This verse “is about the disbelievers and hypocrites among the People of the Book” [Jews and Christians] who “broke the pledge that Allah took from them in the Tawrah [Torah] to follow Muhammad when he is sent as a prophet, and to believe in him, and in what he was sent with.”

In other words, spreading mischief is simply not accepting Muhammad as a prophet of Allah; disbelieving in Muhammad, especially if one is a Jew or Christian.

So even though verse 5:32 suggests the Quran speaks against the indiscriminate killing of anyone, verse 5:33 allows the amputation of hands and feet, or even crucifixion, of anyone who fails to recognize Muhammad as a prophet. Not only that, but the exception in verse 32 – “except those spreading mischief” – allows them to be killed for doing so. No compulsion in religion?

No Muslim should ever agree that it is OK to take an innocent life; to do so is only presenting a negative image of Islam.

Oh, but what defines who or what is ‘innocent’? Definitions are important in understanding what another person is communicating. According to a recent report published by the MEMRI, Christians and Jews are fundamentally not innocent because they have rejected Islam and Muhammad.

Don’t judge the religion of Islam based on the acts of a certain few, for they don’t justify the belief of the billions of peaceful Muslims in the world.

A religion is defined by neither the actions of a few, nor by the actions of the majority, but by the foundational texts of the religion and their interpretation by scholars of the religion. Religion is defined by an ideology, not by deeds. While there indeed may be millions of peaceful Muslims, we must ask “Are they peaceful because of Islam, or in spite of Islam?” When one looks closely at the complete picture, including the entirety of the Qur’an, the example of Muhammad, the interpretation of the Qur’an by accepted and authoritative scholars, one cannot conclude, as this author does, that Islam promotes solely peace and never condones acts of violence.

[1] Al-Shafi’i’s al-Risala: Treatise on the Foundations of Islamic Jurisprudence, Majid Khadduri, translator (Cambridge, UK: Muslim Texts Society, 1987), 84. (emphasis mine)


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2 responses to “Do murderous Muslims defy the true teaching of Islam?”

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  1. Legal Research Jounal says:

    Salam: I would first like to thank you for clarifying somethings. However there are somethings I disagree. I believe over the centuries Islam has been cultured to the extreme point one personalizes it to ones ethnic group. Notwithstanding the way of Muhammad(Pbuh). Second Jihad means struggle in its Arabic content. Though the word Jihad is the struggle of one soul in the remembrance of Allah. When one has sincerely devoted his whole self to Allah absent any desire of all materialistic value. He then begins to outwardly struggle in relaying the message of Allah. Relaying this message begins to become direct conflict to all who opposes it, mainly Governments. It is then that the evil ones stratify in Suppressing it with violence. Allah has revealed; fight against those who fight against you. As the believer defense himself; Allah has promised that they will inherit the Land of the transgressor for purposes of establishing the way of life prescribed by the Creator of the Universe. As this has been noted, this is the way of true Jihad. Therefore, it wouldn’t be righteous to think, or be persuaded to think that Muslims have involved themselves in the murder of thousands pertaining to 911 without proper investigation by those who believe. For all the American Muslims as they prefer to be called, and all will be held accountable on the day of resurrection for such slander without credibility only the credibility of the ones who detest Islam. Qur’an 4:83.

  2. Joe says:

    Salaam and thank you for your response. I had difficulty following your thought, but allow me to clarify something you stated. It is true the word ‘jihad’ means simply ‘struggle’ but when used in the Qur’an and hadith, it almost always means fighting and warfare for the cause of Allah.

    The Encyclopedia of Islam says of the word jihad: “according to general doctrine and in historical tradition, the jihad consists of military action with the object of the expansion of Islam and, if need be, its defense.”

    Umdat al-Salik defines jihad as “means to war against non-Muslims, and is etymologically derived from mujahada, signifying warfare to establish the religion.”

    The Al-Muwatta of Imam Malik ibn Annas speaks of jihad strictly in terms of armed military conflict, and not always defensively but offensively as well.

    The hadith of al-Bukhari has commentary in the footnotes of the book of jihad which state, “Al-Jihad (Holy Fighting) in Allah’s cause (with full force of numbers and weaponry), is given the utmost importance in Islam, and is one of the pillars (on which it stands). By Jihad Islam is established, Allah’s Word is made superior, and His religion (Islam) is propagated.”

    In the majority of hadith, jihad is used in the sense of warfare, either defensively or offensively. Here are but a few quotes among dozens I could include here:

    Muslim :: Book 19 : Hadith 4347
    It has been narrated on the authority of Umar, who said: The properties abandoned by Banu Nadir were the ones which Allah bestowed upon His Apostle for which no expedition was undertaken either with cavalry or camelry. These properties were particularly meant for the Holy Prophet (may peace be upon him). He would meet the annual expenditure of his family from the income thereof, and would spend what remained for purchasing horses and weapons as preparation for Jihad.

    Question: Why would Muhammad purchase weapons for jihad?

    Bukhari :: Book 9 :: Volume 93 :: Hadith 555
    Narrated Abu Huraira:
    Allah’s Apostle said, “Allah guarantees (the person who carries out Jihad in His Cause and nothing compelled him to go out but Jihad in His Cause and the belief in His Word) that He will either admit him into Paradise (Martyrdom) or return him with reward or booty he has earned to his residence from where he went out.”

    Malik :: Book 9 : Hadith 9.18.56
    Yahya related to me from Malik from Sumayy, the mawla of Abu Bakr, that Abu Bakr ibn Abd ar-Rahman used to say, “Someone who goes to the mosque in the morning or the afternoon with no intention of going anywhere else, either to learn good or teach it, is like someone who does jihad in the way of Allah and returns with booty.”

    Muslim :: Book 19 : Hadith 4456
    Ibn Abbas wrote to him: You have written asking me whether the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) took women with him to participate in Jihad. He did take them to the battle and sometimes he fought along with them. They would treat the wounded and were given a reward from the booty, but he did not assign any regular share for them.

    As you can see, from a variety of sources of hadith, jihad is nearly synonymous with fighting, and none of these hadith suggest the fighting was strictly defensive. In fact, the footnotes in Bukhari state explicitly that jihad is for the expansion (offensive!!) of Islam.