Does the Quran Incite Violence? (continued)


It is alleged that several verses of the Holy Quran incite believers to commit violence against non-Muslims by way of aggression. However, a holistic and consolidated study of the verses and teachings of the Holy Quran and the historical narratives on the aggression of the opponents of Islam clearly demonstrates that these wartime injunctions were defensive in nature and the conflicts occurred due to oppression of fundamental freedoms including the freedom of conscience and practicing one’s religion of choice.


Allegation against verses 4:105 of Quran

[Quran 4:105] And slacken not in seeking these people. If you suffer, they too suffer even as you suffer. But you hope from Allah what they hope not. And Allah is All-Knowing, Wise.

The allegation against 4:105 is that it commands the Muslims to remain in pursuit of the disbelievers to eventually engage them in fighting and that it advocates ongoing violence against disbelievers. The Muslims would ‘hope’ for a reward for fighting disbelievers whereas the disbelievers will be denied any such reward.

The context of this verse is to fight with valor and determination during wartime against those who attacked and persecuted Muslims for the purpose of destroying Islam and the fundamental values of freedom and human rights enshrined in its teachings. By reading the verses before 4:105 (given below) one can readily establish that the context here is precautionary provisions for shortening prayers and praying in turns etc. during wartime when the enemy is in pursuit and may be nearby. The verses are also encouraging on the wartime Muslim soldiers not to dampen their spirits given the harsh conditions and environment as these affect the enemy too.

[4:102] And when you journey in the land, it shall be no sin on you to shorten the Prayer, if you fear that those who disbelieve may give you trouble. Verily, the disbelievers are an open enemy to you.

[4:103] And when thou art among them, and leadest the Prayer for them, let a party of them stand with thee and let them take their arms. And when they have performed their prostrations, let them go to your rear, and let another party, who have not yet prayed, come forward and pray with thee; and let them take their means of defense and their arms. The disbelievers wish that you be neglectful of your arms and your baggage that they may fall upon you at once. And it shall be no sin on you, if you are in trouble on account of rain or if you are sick, that you lay aside your arms. But you should always take your means of defense. Surely, Allah has prepared an humiliating punishment for the disbelievers.

[4:104] And when you have finished the Prayer, remember Allah while standing, and sitting, and lying on your sides. And when you are secure from danger, then observe Prayer in the prescribed form; verily Prayer is enjoined on the believers to be performed at fixed hours.

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

The verse stating that Muslims have a hope from Allah which disbelievers do not means that Muslims are engaged in a just fight to protect fundamental values and principles of freedom of conscience and the right to practice one’s religion. By believing they are fighting in a just war against the forces of oppression upon God’s command, they can hope for God’s help and reward, and gain the countenance of their Lord which is not a psychology the enemy would possess.



Relevance to Modern Times

There are several examples in modern history where war has been undertaken to protect fundamental human rights including freedom of conscience and religion. For example, in 1992, NATO intervened in Bosnia-Hercegovina due to human rights abuses as Muslims were being targeted and killed as part of genocide by a Serbian militia on the basis of their religion and ethnicity. The Second World War is also an event widely seen as undertaking war for a just cause in order to protect fundamental human rights and values.


Allegation against verses 5:34 of The Quran

[5:34] 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;

The allegation against this verse is that it permits the administering of severe, cruel and unusual punishments including crucifixion and mutilation to anyone who opposes Allah and His Messenger. Another allegation against this verse is that it promotes anti-Semitism given the narration of the previous verse 5:33.

Verse 5:34 is referring to those extreme cases of people who waged a war against Allah and His Messenger and strived to create disorder in the land. The Prophet Muhammad had forged a successful constitution and political platform in Medina that protected the freedom of conscience and equal rights under the law. However, certain forces and groups held enmity against Muhammad and the Muslims and sought to subvert and conspire against these fundamental ideals and commit treason against the state. The verse provides a number of punishments for such criminals ranging from expulsion from the land to crucifixion. The severity of the punishment would depend on the severity of the crime and circumstances. For example, during peacetime the authorities may deem expulsion as a satisfactory punishment for treason, but during wartime when sensitivities and defense become critical, the punishment for treason tends to be death.

However, it should be noted that cutting off limbs in the Quran has also been stated in a metaphorical sense to mean removing someone’s ability or means to do harm such as in chapter 111 of the Quran were perishing of hands of Abu-Lahab (an opponent of Islam) is clearly understood to mean the perishing of his means.

This thesis is affirmed by the previous verse 5:33– On account of this, We prescribed for the children of Israel that whosoever killed a person — unless it be for killing a person or for creating disorder in the land — it shall be as if he had killed all mankind; and whoso gave life to one, it shall be as if he had given life to all mankind. And Our Messengers came to them with clear Signs, yet even after that, many of them commit excesses in the land.

This verse clearly states that despite the moral teachings dispensed by prophets previously people still committed excesses and evils which is how verse 5:34 begins by ascribing punishment to those who oppose the Prophet Muhammad and his teachings by committing excesses. Neither there is anything anti-Semitic here nor are Jews specifically mentioned in 5:34— This is a universal principle.


Fundamental Teachings of Islam

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

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 Prophet Muhammad’s covenants to the Christians instructing Muslims to never attack Christians on the basis of religion or interference with their beliefs.

[22:40-41] 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.

Verse 8:40 below 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.

[8:40] 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.

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 no 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 one should still incline to it and put their trust in Allah.

[8:62-63] 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.

[49:10]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.

[2:194] 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.

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.

[36:59] ‘Peace’ — a word from the Merciful Lord.

[2:225] 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.

[5:17] 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.

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

[25:64] 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!’

[59:24] 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.

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.


Relevance to Modern Times

Elements of wartime conduct as are presented in verse 5:34 of The Quran such as the punishment of death for treason and seeking terms of peace where possible have remained as consistent practices throughout history and in current times. Punishments for treason can wary depending on circumstances. Most western penal codes allow for the death penalty to be issued for treason.

In the United States code 18 USC 2381 states, “whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.”

During wartime circumstances, such as given in these verses, the punishment is at times known as high-treason due to sensitivity from the war and usually carries the death penalty.

Capital punishments are still administered in many countries for murder and incidences of severe criminality.