Quran Facts | 3:152 – Strike Terror Into The Hearts of Disbelievers
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3:152 – Strike Terror Into The Hearts of Disbelievers

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.

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)

 

Allegation

It is alleged that verse 3:152 encourages modern-day extremist acts known as terrorism. The verse speaks of striking ‘terror’ into the hearts of disbelievers.

 

Context

The aspect of striking terror (this word can also be translated as ‘awe’ or ‘fear’) in this verse cannot be reconciled with the modern-day events around terrorism with attacks upon unsuspecting and unarmed civilians. The verse speaks of a state of fear or terror of the disbelievers due to their belief in associating partners with God. Since the disbelievers’ faith in a multitude of Gods is intellectually and rationally weak, they have a lower level of strength of conviction causing them to be more fearful. In the language of the Quran, there are other instances where God refers to a condition of disbelievers or hypocrites such as in verse 2:8 where it states that “Allah has set a seal on their hearts…”. Even in that context it does not mean that God directly places seals on their hearts but the system of God is such that He has already set in motion all of the causes and effects and therefore when someone chooses ignorance it leads to further ignorance to the extent that their hearts become sealed in their conviction. Therefore, in such instances the implication is not that God Himself or by way of His system is against those who disbelieve, instead it means they have chosen disbelief and that disbelief has caused fear because of the doubt that exists in their hearts. Further, the verse speaks of God striking that fear due to their convictions, not humans or Muslims striking the fear.

 

Secondly, this verse is clearly known to be addressing a state of battle with armed fighting. This was known as the Battle of Uhud where the Muslims had to retreat from battle after an apparent victory due to discord in their command structure allowing the enemy to gain the upper hand. Verses 3:153-154 confirm this: And Allah had surely made good to you His promise when you were slaying and destroying them by His leave, until, when you became lax and disagreed among yourselves concerning the order and you disobeyed…when you were running away and looked not back at anyone while the Messenger was calling out to you from your rear, then He gave you a sorrow in recompense for a sorrow, that you might not grieve for what escaped you, nor for what befell you. And Allah is well aware of what you do.

 

Therefore, this verse is relating to strength through conviction in the right set of beliefs in the One God and the fundamental values of peace, freedom and equality in Islam versus a weaker belief in a multitude of Gods espoused by an oppressive regime that had unfairly attacked Muslims. The verse deals with wartime battle circumstance and has nothing to do with the modern concept of extremist terrorism which is in violation of the principles of Islam and Quran as detailed below in ‘Fundamental Teachings of Islam’.

 

From ‘Murder in the Name of Allah’ (p. 115-116) by Mirza Tahir Ahmad (4th Caliph of Ahmadiyya Muslim Community)

I am conscious of the fact that, strictly speaking, the word ‘terrorism’ applies to acts of terror, attempts to cause bomb explosions, and so on. But I do not believe that this is the only type of terrorism the world is suffering from. I believe that whenever repressive measures are taken by governments against their own countrymen to still the voice of disagreement, those measures too should be included within the term ‘terrorism’ and be as strongly and roundly condemned as any other form of terrorism. I consider all oppressive measures taken by governments against the left or right within their own countries as terrorism of the worst type. When acts of terrorism are directed against foreign governments and take the form of the use of explosives here and there, or the hijacking of planes, such events gain a great deal of attention. World opinion sympathizes with the victims of such callous terrorist acts, as indeed it should.

 

Such sympathies are not merely voiced, but are generally followed by constructive means to prevent and preempt such attempts in the future. However, what about those hundreds of thousands of people suffering under the stem and merciless hands of their own governments? Their cries of anguish are seldom heard outside. Their cries of protest are very often muffled by the application of strict measures of censorship. Even if philanthropic agencies like Amnesty International draw the attention of the world to such cruel acts of persecution, torture, and denial of human rights, such events are only mildly condemned, if at all, by world governments. More often than not, these are considered to be internal matters for the countries concerned. Instead of being described as acts of terrorism, they are widely mentioned as government efforts to suppress terrorism in these countries, and to establish peace, law and order.

 

I am quite convinced that in essence all restrictive and punitive measures taken by a government against its own people to suppress a popular movement or suspected opposition, more often than not, go beyond the limits of genuine legal measures and end up as brutal acts of violence designed to strike terror in the hearts of a dissatisfied section of their own people. Humanity has suffered far more through such acts of State terrorism than through all acts of sabotage or hijacking put together. As far as Islam is concerned, it categorically rejects and condemns every form of terrorism. It does not provide any cover or justification for any act of violence, be it committed by an individual, a group or a government.


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 and 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.