Does Islam Promote Violence?
We often hear Muslim Clerics and Scholars explaining the meaning of word ‘Islam’ as peace. Most of the time we are accused of misquoting verses of Quran and misunderstanding them, we are even asked by our politically correct leader to never use the word terrorism with Islam. But is it true that Islam doesn’t promote violence? Or it does? When I asked this simple question from my Muslim friends, they handed me a video lecture of famous Indian televangelist Dr. Zakir Naik, who explains in his video why Islam does not promote violence. Even after going through his video I am not satisfied, I am writing this article as an objection to his claims. Following are the transcripts of his lecture in red, with my reply.
Dr. Naik Said:- A few selected verses from the Qur’an are often misquoted to perpetuate the myth that Islam promotes violence, and exhorts its followers to kill those outside the pale of Islam.
My Reply:- Few years back I read a book entitled “164 Jihad verses in Quran” compiled by Yoel Natan, he enlisted only those verses from Quran which talks about killing, murder, jihad, raid, loot, expedition, fighting etc. Apart from Quran there are many Sahih Hadiths, which are canonical scripture of Islam, and in Hadith you will find commands of violence and fighting in good amount. So I guess Dr. Naik made a mistake by selecting the word ‘few’ for those verses from Quran which critics consider to promote violence.
Let’s leave the Quranic verses aside for time being, but how can we ignore what Muslims are doing today in world in name of Allah. I believe action speaks more than words, and they (Muslims) have proved it that something is wrong with Islamic teaching. They don’t even tolerate Muslims from other sect, then how come we expect them to show mercy of Non-Muslims?
About the allegation of misquotation I would say, that it’s hardly our mistake if we have misquoted any Quranic verse, as seldom you will find Quranic verses with context. Actually Quran only in some places gives its context of verses, still we are more sincere than Muslims in taking the Quranic verse in context, why I said so we will see it later in this article.
Dr. Naik Said:- . Verse from Surah Taubah
The following verse from Surah Taubah is very often quoted by critics of Islam, to show that Islam promotes violence, bloodshed and brutality:
“Kill the mushriqeen (pagans, polytheists, kuffar) where ever you find them.” [Al-Qur’an 9:5]
My Reply:- Yes, true the Quranic verse 9:5 and 9:29 are very often quoted, the complete verse reads:-
[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; surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.
Who will not say that Islam promotes violence, bloodshed, and brutality, after reading the above verse? The commands are crystal clear, and in above verse the author of Quran commands Muslims to kill Non-Muslims after the sacred months of Islam is passed. It further adds that if they (Non-Muslims) embrace Islam, then let them go free. Doesn’t it sound kind of dictatorship by an almighty? Well I still have to take this verse in context, or else Muslims will accuse me of misquoting the verse, but before let’s see what more Dr. Naik says.
Dr. Naik said:- . Context of verse is during battlefield
Critics of Islam actually quote this verse out of context. In order to understand the context, we need to read from verse 1 of this surah. It says that there was a peace treaty between the Muslims and the Mushriks (pagans) of Makkah. This treaty was violated by the Mushriks of Makkah. A period of four months was given to the Mushriks of Makkah to make amends. Otherwise war would be declared against them. Verse 5 of Surah Taubah says:
“But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the Pagans wherever ye find them, and seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war); but if they repent, and establish regular prayers and practice regular charity, then open the way for them: for Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” [Al-Qur’an 9:5]
This verse is quoted during a battle.
My Reply:- Above Dr. Naik easily claims that the context of verse is during battlefield, but we don’t see any evidence for his claim. Whereas most of the early scholars have different view about the very same verse.
Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi wrote: – A clear declaration was made that all the treaties with the mushriks were abolished and the Muslims would be released from the treaty obligations with them after a respite of four months.(vv. 1-3). This declaration was necessary for uprooting completely the system of life based on shirk and to make Arabia exclusively the center of Islam so that it should not in any way interfere with the spirit of Islam nor become an internal danger for it.
In his explanation of the verse 9:5 Ibn Kathir says:- (So when the Sacred Months have passed…), meaning, `Upon the end of the four months during which We prohibited you from fighting the idolaters and which is the grace period We gave them, then fight and kill the idolaters wherever you may find them.’ Allah’s statement next, (then fight the Mushrikin wherever you find them), means, on the earth in general, except for the Sacred Area,(and besiege them, and lie in wait for them in each and every ambush), do not wait until you find them. Rather, seek and besiege them in their areas and forts, gather intelligence about them in the various roads and fairways so that what is made wide looks ever smaller to them. This way, they will have no choice, but to die or embrace Islam.
These above explanations make the verse very clear, as it also proves that Dr. Naik is lying about the verse. This verse was revealed to prepare Muslims for Jihad against Non-Muslims, and to force all Arabs to embrace Islam.
Dr. Naik is certainly making an error by claiming that the peace treaty was violated by Non-Muslims, but in reality it is Muhammad himself who broke the treaty with Non-Muslims, it is clear from the very first verse of Quran Ch 9, which says:-
[This is a declaration of] disassociation, from Allah and His Messenger, to those with whom you had made a treaty among the polytheists.
Here we see Allah and his messenger are declaring the disassociation of the treaty with the polytheists, and it is not the other way round. The reason for this disassociation is correctly mentioned by Maududdi, as he says:-
This declaration was necessary for uprooting completely the system of life based on shirk and to make Arabia exclusively the center of Islam so that it should not in any way interfere with the spirit of Islam nor become an internal danger for it.
Allah commands Muslims to complete the term of four months with them who are not deficient towards Muslims in any way. This he mentioned in Quran Ch 9 Verse 4:-
Excepted are those with whom you made a treaty among the polytheists and then they have not been deficient toward you in anything or supported anyone against you; so complete for them their treaty until their term [has ended]. Indeed, Allah loves the righteous [who fear Him].
And the very next verse commands Muslims to kill even those who were not deficient towards Muslims and supported no enemy of Muslims, so this alone clearly proves that Islam does promote violence, and the explanation given by Dr. Naik is full of errors and far from historical evidences.
Dr. Naik:- Example of war between America and Vietnam
We know that America was once at war with Vietnam. Suppose the President of America or the General of the American Army told the American soldiers during the war: “Wherever you find the Vietnamese, kill them”. Today if I say that the American President said, “Wherever you find the Vietnamese, kill them” without giving the context, I will make him sound like a butcher. But if I quote him in context, that he said it during a war, it will sound very logical, as he was trying to boost the morale of the American soldiers during the war.
My Reply:- Well Dr. Naik loves to brain wash his followers by giving irrelevant examples, and he cunningly quotes those example which may make Islam look a peaceful religion. The example which he quoted above is in no relation with the verse which we are discussing. As I demonstrated above that the verse was not revealed in relation of war like that of America and Vietnam, so his example is useless here. He should have better given example of Pakistan and India. We all know Pakistan is a heaven of Islamic terrorism, so what if the president of Pakistan tells Islamic terrorists “Kill all the Indians wherever you find and lie in wait of them.” This example would be more relevant than his example.
Dr Naik Said:- Verse 9:5 quoted to boost morale of Muslims during battle
Similarly in Surah Taubah chapter 9 verse 5 the Qur’an says, “Kill the Mushriks wherever you find them”, during a battle to boost the morale of the Muslim soldiers. What the Qur’an is telling Muslim soldiers is, don’t be afraid during battle; wherever you find the enemies kill them.
My Reply:- Yes, verse 9:5 was revealed to boost the morale of Muslims, but not during battlefield. Muslims were commanded to kill all the Non-Muslims of Arabia and fight with them until they die or embrace Islam, so were Muslims in state of war with all Non-Muslim? I believe no. I as said earlier this verse was revealed to make the whole of Arabia a perfect Dar-ul-Islam.
Dr Naik said: – . Shourie jumps from verse 5 to verse 7
Arun Shourie is one of the staunchest critics of Islam in India. He quotes the same verse, Surah Taubah chapter 9 verse 5 in his book ‘The World of Fatawas’, on page 572. After quoting verse 5 he jumps to verse 7 of Surah Taubah. Any sensible person will realize that he has skipped verse 6.
My Reply:- Its good that he jumped from verse 5 to 7, or else it would have made the meaning of the verse 5 more worst, and cruel. OK as you suggest that we should include verse 9:6 too, then sure, I’ll do it for you. Quran 9:6 says:-
And if any one of the polytheists seeks your protection, then grant him protection so that he may hear the words of Allah . Then deliver him to his place of safety. That is because they are a people who do not know.
To understand this verse we may rely on what most prominent Islamic scholars think about this verse, I believe it will not make the previous verse peaceful, but certainly it will make it look more violent. Ibn Kathir in his commentary says:-
These Ayat allowed fighting people unless, and until, they embrace Islam and implement its rulings and obligations. Allah mentioned the most important aspects of Islam here, including what is less important. Surely, the highest elements of Islam after the Two Testimonials, are the prayer, which is the right of Allah, the Exalted and Ever High, then the Zakah, which benefits the poor and needy. These are the most honorable acts that creatures perform, and this is why Allah often mentions the prayer and Zakah together. In the Two Sahihs, it is recorded that Ibn `Umar said that the Messenger of Allah said, These Ayat allowed fighting people unless, and until, they embrace Islam and implement its rulings and obligations.
He adds:- (And if anyone of the Mushrikin), whom you were commanded to fight and We allowed you their blood and property,’(seeks your protection), asked you for safe passage, then accept his request until he hears the Words of Allah, the Qur’an. Recite the Qur’an to him and mention a good part of the religion with which you establish Allah’s proof against him, The Ayah says, `We legislated giving such people safe passage so that they may learn about the religion of Allah, so that Allah’s call will spread among His servants. Ibn Abi Najih narrated that Mujahid said that this Ayah, “Refers to someone who comes to you to hear what you say and what was revealed to you (O Muhammad).Therefore, he is safe until he comes to you, hears Allah’s Words and then proceeds to the safe area where he came from.”
After reading the above explanation, in short we can say that Muslims in 9:5 are allowed to kill all Non-Muslims until they make Arabia a perfect Dar-ul-Islam. Muslims are allowed to fight until none has right to worship Allah alone. In between if any Non-Muslim seeks protection, i.e. if he agrees to embrace Islam, and do all that what Muslims do, is safe.
Now how this addition of verse 9:6 makes its previous verse peaceful? Still the outline is same, to kill Non-Muslims and keep fighting until they either die or embrace Islam. So in Dr. Naik’s words, any sensible person will realize that Islam does not promote violence.
Rest he talks about Quran 9:6, which I have already explained in above part. So by no means Islam can be said a religion of peace, and even the top scholars of Islam makes a number of mistakes and errors while trying to prove Islam to be religion of peace. Islam was, is and ever be the most intolerant religion, which always promotes violence.