Does Allah Really Command Muslims To Kill Non-Muslims?
Recently at a meeting, I was given a copy of a pamphlet from the Islamic apologist group Sound Vision; you can find the pamphlet online here. And here is why the pamphlet is false and misleading:
Abdul Malik Mujahid’s Sound Vision pamphlet, “Does God Really Command Muslims to Kill Non-Muslims?,” is full of inaccuracies, distortions, and outright falsehoods, to the extent that it appears designed to mislead non-Muslims about the root causes of Islamic jihad violence within Islamic texts and teachings.
Terrorists abroad and Islamophobes at home are busy abusing Islam while building on each other’s hate. Both groups claim that God commands Muslims to kill non-Muslims wherever they find them.
The fact, however, is that a Muslim will be punished in this world under the law for killing someone. S/he will also be banished to Hellfire by God in the afterlife unless s/he repents, reinstates his or her faith, and lives a life of good deeds (Quran 25:68-70).
In reality, Qur’an 25:68-70 warns Muslims not to kill the soul which Allah has forbidden to be killed”; it does not contain any blanket prohibition on killing someone. The Qur’an also tells Muslims to “kill them wherever you find them” (2:191); again, “kill them wherever you find them” (4:89); and “kill the polytheists wherever you find them” (9:5). So clearly killing is permitted, and indeed, commanded, under certain circumstances.
Many of our neighbors are confused by the persistent propaganda by Islamophobes that it is not terrorists but “Islam itself” that is the problem.
They quote the Quran out of context to achieve this goal. In reality, Islamophobes represent a $200 million dollar-plus hate industry, which promotes such bigoted misrepresentations and smears against Islam and Muslims. Islamophobes are also given multiple platforms and mediums to state this nonsense, as well as countless online venues.
This is sheer fantasy and propaganda. There is no “hate industry” of “Islamophobes.” Those who call attention to the jihad threat have far less money and resources than those who oppose them, and far less media access as well.
The result is that hate, anger, and fear are rising in our nation. Gun purchases, hate groups, and the number of armed militias are at an all-time high. President Barack Obama received 400% more death threats than former President George W. Bush did, according to the Secret Service. This is partially because he is assumed to be a secret Muslim born in Kenya.
What connection does this claim have to whether or not the Qur’an teaches violence? None.
The Missing context of the accusations
Prophet Muhammad was a very peaceful man. He never hurt anyone, much less killed anyone. He lived simply, consuming less and sharing more, despite being married to one of the richest person in Mecca. God’s Peace & Blessings be upon him.
In reality, according to early Islamic records, Muhammad several times ordered the murders of people who have insulted him. According to his first biographer, the eighth century Muslim Ibn Ishaq, these included Abu Afak, who was over one hundred years old, and the poetess Asma bint Marwan. Abu Afak was killed in his sleep, in response to Muhammad’s question, “Who will avenge me on this scoundrel?” Similarly, Muhammad on another occasion cried out, “Will no one rid me of this daughter of Marwan?” One of his followers, Umayr ibn Adi, went to her house that night, where he found her sleeping next to her children. The youngest, a nursing babe, was in her arms. But that didn’t stop Umayr from murdering her and the baby as well. Muhammad commended him: “You have done a great service to Allah and His Messenger, Umayr!” (Ibn Ishaq, 674-676)
Muhammad also ordered the murder of the poet Ka’b bin Al-Ashraf. Muhammad asked: “Who is willing to kill Ka’b bin Al-Ashraf who has hurt Allah and His Apostle?” One of the Muslims, Muhammad bin Maslama answered, “O Allah’s Apostle! Would you like that I kill him?” When Muhammad said that he would, Muhammad bin Maslama said, “Then allow me to say a (false) thing (i.e. to deceive Kab).” Muhammad responded: “You may say it.” Muhammad bin Maslama duly lied to Ka’b, luring him into his trap, and murdered him. (Sahih Bukhari, volume 5, book 59, number 369)
Muhammad also personally beheaded the men of the Jewish Qurayzah tribe. “Then they [the Jewish Qurayzah tribe]surrendered, and the apostle [Muhammad] confined them in Medina in the quarter of d. al-Harith, a woman of B. Al-Najjar. Then the apostle went out to the market of Medina (which is still its market today) and dug trenches in it. Then he sent for them and struck off their heads in those trenches as they were brought out to him in batches. Among them was the enemy of Allah Huyayy b. Akhtab and Ka’b b. Asad their chief. There were 600 or 700 in all, though some put the figure as high as 800 or 900.” (Ibn Ishaq 690)
When the Muslims attacked the Jews at the Arabian oasis of Khaybar, a Jewish leader of Khaybar, Kinana bin al-Rabi, was brought before Muhammad; Kinana was supposed to have been entrusted with the treasure of one of the Jewish tribes of Arabia, the Banu Nadir. Kinana denied knowing where this treasure was, but Muhammad pressed him: “Do you know that if we find you have it I shall kill you?” Kinana said yes, that he did know that. Some of the treasure was found. To find the rest, Muhammad gave orders concerning Kinana: “Torture him until you extract what he has.” One of the Muslims built a fire on Kinana’s chest, but Kinana would not give up his secret. When he was at the point of death, one of the Muslims beheaded him. (Ibn Ishaq 511-515)
Pre-Islamic Arabia was caught up in a vicious cycle of war and revenge. Prophet Muhammad launched a non-violent peace movement in the early 7th century A.D., to end precisely the cycle of war, revenge, and terrorism we see today.
In reality, Muhammad’s movement was hardly non-violent, as shown above. He told the Quraysh, the pagan Arabs of Mecca who rejected his claim to be a prophet, “I bring you slaughter.” (Ibn Ishaq 131)
His vision was to bring humanity together with belief in One God and one humanity. He required a belief in all of the Prophets of God and revealed Scriptures. He wanted people to be forgiving and merciful to each other and all creatures on earth.
Contrast that claim with these statements of Muhammad, as reported in hadith (reports of Muhammad’s words and deeds) collections that Muslims consider authentic:
“I have been made victorious through terror.” (Sahih Bukhari 4:52.220)
“Fight against those who disbelieve in Allah. Make a holy war…When you meet your enemies who are polytheists, invite them to three courses of action. If they respond to any one of these you also accept it and withhold yourself from doing them any harm. Invite them to (accept) Islam; if they respond to you, accept it from them and desist from fighting against them…. If they refuse to accept Islam, demand from them the Jizya. If they agree to pay, accept it from them and hold off your hands. If they refuse to pay the tax, seek Allah’s help and fight them.” (Sahih Muslim 4294)
“I have been commanded to fight against people so long as they do not declare that there is no god but Allah, and he who professed it was guaranteed the protection of his property and life on my behalf except for the right affairs rest with Allah.” (Sahih Muslim 30)
“May Allah curse the Jews and Christians for they built the places of worship at the graves of their Prophets.” (Sahih Bukhari 1.8.427)
Through a peaceful coalition of tribes he achieved victory by an ingenious campaign of non-violence. When he died in 632, he had brought peace to war-torn Arabia.
In reality, Muhammad subdued Arabia by force. Ibn Ishaq notes that “the apostle took part personally in twenty-seven…raids” (Ibn Ishaq 659-660).
He wanted to achieve all of that just by preaching, which he did for 13 years in Mecca. However, he and his followers were abused and tortured. He himself survived several assassination attempts. His surviving followers narrowly escaped extermination at the hands of the powerful tribal lords of Mecca.
In reality, a Muslim killed one of the Quraysh, beginning the hostilities between the two (Ibn Ishaq 118).
The Prophet’s response to this oppression was to find peace elsewhere. Upon his encouragement, a majority of Muslims migrated to a Christian land where a just king ruled across the Red Sea in Africa.
He himself found refuge and protection in a town almost 300 miles away. He declared that town a peace sanctuary where no one, not even a bird, can be hunted and no tree can be cut. It was a multi-tribal and multi-religious society.
For his peace sanctuary in the city of Madinah, the Prophet developed constitutional treaties with Muslims, Jews and other tribes of the town, declaring them together as “one people” with full freedom of religion, justice, and equality.
In reality, the Constitution of Medina is of doubtful authenticity: it is first mentioned only in Ibn Ishaq’s biography of Muhammad, which was written over 125 years after the accepted date for Muhammad’s death.
And unfortunately for Sound Vision, Ibn Ishaq also details what happened to three Jewish tribes of Arabia, the Banu Qurayzah, Banu Qaynuqa and Banu Nadir, after the Constitution of Medina. Muhammad exiled the Banu Qaynuqa and Banu Nadir, massacred the Banu Qurayza after they (understandably) made a pact with his enemies during the pagan Meccans’ siege of Medina, and then massacred the exiles at the Khaybar oasis, giving Muslims even today a bloodthirsty war chant: “Khaybar, Khaybar, O Jews, the army of Muhammad will return.”
Although Prophet Muhammad and his followers fled oppression in Mecca, they were not left to live peacefully in their peace sanctuary called Madinah. The Meccans, came attacking the nascent community.
The Right to self-defense in Islam
Due to the Prophet’s teachings of peace, Muslims did not want to fight back. This is where God chastises Muslims for their reluctance, for not defending their peace sanctuary, and commanded them to fight back. (Quran 2:216 & 4:75)
Discussing this verse out of context is like saying that the Bible calls for genocide. (1 Samuel 15:2-3)
Sound Vision is correct that jihad warfare was first revealed for defense, but fails to mention that offensive jihad is also commended. Ibn Ishaq explains the progression of Qur’anic revelation about warfare. First, he explains, Allah allowed Muslims to wage defensive warfare. But that was not Allah’s last word on the circumstances in which Muslims should fight. Ibn Ishaq explains offensive jihad by invoking a Qur’anic verse: “Then God sent down to him: ‘Fight them so that there be no more seduction,’ i.e. until no believer is seduced from his religion. ‘And the religion is God’s’, i.e. Until God alone is worshipped.” (Ibn Ishaq 314)
Supporting this is a Qur’an verse that Sound Vision doesn’t mention: “And fight them until there is no fitnah [mischief, disturbance, rebellion] and the religion, all of it, is for Allah.” (8:39)
Muslims did eventually abide by God’s command to defend their peace sanctuary. However, the total number of days involved in these defensive “wars” were six days. And the total number who died on both sides is less than 1,000.
Muslims were being physically attacked, tortured, harassed, and killed wherever they went. This is why God ordered them to engage in self-defense, saying, “Slay the enemies wherever you find them!” (Quran 4:89). Extremists like ISIS and Islamophobes selectively quote such verses without including God’s encouragement to peace, which almost always accompanies verses related to defensive fighting. Take the verse which immediately follows (Quran 4:89): “Thus, if they let you be, and do not make war on you, and offer you peace, God does not allow you to harm them.” (Quran 4:90)
The Tafsir al-Jalalayn, a mainstream Muslim commentary on the Qur’an, makes it clear that this refers only to unbelievers who submit to Islamic rule: “And so if they stay away from you and do not fight you, and offer you peace, reconciliation, that is, [if]they submit, then God does not allow you any way against them, [He does not allow you] a means to take them captive or to slay them.”
As Karen Armstrong has noted about the Quran:
…the only permissible war is one of self-defense. Muslims may not begin hostilities (2:190). Warfare is always evil, but sometimes you have to fight in order to avoid the kind of persecution that Mecca inflicted on the Muslims (2:191; 2:217). The Koran quotes the Torah, the Jewish scriptures, which permits people to retaliate eye for eye, tooth for tooth, but like the Gospels, the Koran suggests that it is meritorious to forgo revenge in a spirit of charity (5:45). Hostilities must be brought to an end as quickly as possible and must cease the minute the enemy sues for peace (2:192-3).
The Tafsir al-Jalalayn says that 2:190 was abrogated by Qur’an 9:1, which voids every treaty between the Muslims and nonbelievers. Also, Armstrong doesn’t mention that 2:193 tells Muslims: “Fight them until there is no fitnah and worship is for Allah.” Fitnah is persecution or unrest. Ibn Ishaq explains that this means that Muslims must fight against unbelievers “until God alone is worshipped.” Another Muslim commentator on the Qur’an, Maulana Bulandshahri agrees: “The worst of sins are Infidelity (Kufr) and Polytheism (shirk) which constitute rebellion against Allah, The Creator. To eradicate these, Muslims are required to wage war until there exists none of it in the world, and the only religion is that of Allah.” That amounts to a declaration of perpetual war against all non-Muslim religions.
This is the story of Jihad, a noble concept of Islam: to strive for a purposeful life toward higher ideals of peace and justice.
Jihad has been twisted, misunderstood, and misused at the hands of the thugs called ISIS and bigots called Islamophobes.
After the Prophet’s death, many Muslims unfortunately abandoned his peace movement. They adopted the ways of the world, fighting for land and power. They built empires like everyone else. Many commandments of God were violated.
However, the excesses of those empires pale in comparison with the horror inflicted by modern nation-states, which gave us World War I, II and the Holocaust. The death toll in the millions, the widespread destruction of infrastructure, and the attacks on civilians continue to this day, not for religious ends, but for secular, economic, and political ones.
In reality, jihad warfare proceeded according to commands of the Qur’an and Muhammad, as delineated here, and caused the deaths of many millions in the 1,400-year history of Islam.
Why ISIS & the terrorists?
Given this context, we must ask: Why do “Islamic extremists” engage in suicide bombings and the massacre of innocent civilians? Far from being endorsed by the Islamic faith, these crimes are categorically forbidden. Although Muslims have no Pope, almost all scholars of Islam have repeatedly condemned these crimes, which violate Islam’s teachings. The number one victim of this mayhem are actually Muslims themselves. To understand this cycle of war and terrorism, one needs to read the Pentagon-funded research of Dr. Robert Pape, whose empirical study of terrorism and suicide bombing concludes that this phenomenon is motivated by politics and not religion.
Analyst Jonathan Fine noted in the Middle East Quarterly in 2008: “Despite the revisionism advanced by Pape and others, the fact remains that most suicide bombings since 1980 in the world in general and in the Middle East, in particular, are sponsored by Islamist and not secular terrorist groups. Pape avoids this conclusion by gerrymandering his data so that he does not need to include the significant numbers of suicide bombings conducted by Sunnis against Shi’a in Iraq.”
Though terrorism perpetrated by Muslims receives a disproportionate amount of attention from politicians and reporters, the reality is that right-wing extremists pose a much greater threat to people in the United States than terrorists connected to ISIS or similar organizations. As UNC Professor Charles Kurzman and Duke Professor David Schanzer explained last June in the New York Times, Islam-inspired terror attacks “accounted for 50 fatalities over the past 13 and a half years.” Meanwhile, “right-wing extremists averaged 337 attacks per year in the decade after 9/11, causing a total of 254 fatalities.”
This claim is based on a discredited study. Back in June 2015, the New America Foundation published a study that purported to demonstrate that “right-wing extremists” and “white supremacists” were a larger threat to the U.S. than Islamic jihadis. The study was obviously skewed, as it was based on the number of those killed by jihadis and by right-wing extremists since September 12, 2001, leaving out 9/11. If it had started one day earlier, its results would have been markedly different.
The study also ignored the many, many foiled jihad plots, and the fact that jihadis are part of an international movement that has killed many thousands of people, while right-wingers and white supremacists are not.
In sum, this Sound Vision pamphlet is clearly designed to mislead, not enlighten or clarify.
Article posted with permission from Robert Spencer