Is Islam war-like

Updated: 10/25/2022
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Perhaps the following article I wrote will help explain why I do not consider Islam war-like. After the tragedies of the 11th of September 2001 and the invasion of Iraq many people are arguing that the Qu'ran and Islam itself teaches that a state of endless war exists between Muslims and 'Infidels' (who are usually defined by these folk as being Christians and Jews.)

In support of their arguments they pull quotes from the Qu'ran which seem to support their position, but do they really?

In this article I want to show the deceitful way in which these folk argue, either out of ignorance on their part or from a desire to stir up hatred against folk.

This topic is huge and so I intend here to look at only ONE of the Qu'ranic verses these folk take out of context and it is my intention to place the verse back into context. And then to show, by commentary and quote from the Qu'ran itself, the poverty of the argument which declares that the Qu'ran does indeed teach endless war against unbelievers.

One of the Suras (chapters) of the Qu'ran which are often quoted is the following.

Sura 9:29-30 , "Make War on the Christians and the Jews...Do battle with them!" "Kill those who join other Gods with Allah wherever ye shall find them, and lay wait for them with every kind of ambush: but if they shall convert to Islam then let them go their way."

All of the chapters of the Qu'ran have a context which explains why they were revealed by Muhammad. Here is the context of Sura 9

This chapter of the Qu'ran deals with treaty obligations between the Muslims and the Arab idolaters and also talks about what the Muslims should do if attacked by the People of the Book. The Idolaters had repeatedly broken their treaties of peace with the Muslims and in this Sura they are told what the consequences will be to them for these acts. As well the Jews and Christians are warned of what will happen should they try to intervene in Muslim affairs (verses 29-30)

Now because it is verses 29-30 that are quoted, I add here a commentary by Maulana Muhammad Ali on those specific verses.

". . . 29a. The last word on the wars with the idolaters of Arabia having been said, this verse introduces the subject of fighting with the followers of the Book. . . . The Qu'ran neither required that the idolaters should be compelled to accept Islam, nor was it in any way its object to bring the Christians into subjection. On the other hand, the idolaters wanted to suppress Islam by the sword, and the Christians first moved themselves to bring Muslim Arabia under subjection. The fate of each was, therefore, according to what it intended for the Muslims. . . . It may also be added that the permission to fight, as given to the Muslims, is subject to the condition that the enemy should first take up the sword, Fight in the way of Allah against those who fight against you (2:190). . . The Holy Prophet never overstepped this limit, nor did his followers. He fought against the Arabs when they took up the sword to destroy the Muslims, and he led an expedition against the Christians when the Roman Empire first mobilised its forces with the object of subjugating the Muslims. And so scrupulous was he that, when he found that the enemy had not yet taken the initiative, he did not attack the Roman Empire, but returned without fighting. . . ."

So then let us look at this Sura with our new understanding of it's context . Note: (The [Shakir] is a reference to the person who translated this version into English.

[Shakir 9:1] (This is a declaration of) immunity by Allah and His Messenger towards those of the idolaters with whom you made an agreement. [9:2] So go about in the land for four months and know that you cannot weaken Allah and that Allah will bring disgrace to the unbelievers. [9:3] And an announcement from Allah and His Messenger to the people on the day of the greater pilgrimage that Allah and His Messenger are free from liability to the idolaters; therefore if you repent, it will be better for you, and if you turn back, then know that you will not weaken Allah; and announce painful punishment to those who disbelieve. [9:4] Except those of the idolaters with whom you made an agreement, then they have not failed you in anything and have not backed up any one against you, so fulfil their agreement to the end of their term; surely Allah loves those who are careful (of their duty).

[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. [9:6] And if one of the idolaters seek protection from you, grant him protection till he hears the word of Allah, then make him attain his place of safety; this is because they are a people who do not know.

[9:7] How can there be an agreement for the idolaters with Allah and with His Messenger; except those with whom you made an agreement at the Sacred Mosque? So as long as they are true to you, be true to them; surely Allah loves those who are careful (of their duty).[9:8] How (can it be)! while if they prevail against you, they would not pay regard in your case to ties of relationship, nor those of covenant; they please you with their mouths while their hearts do not consent; and most of them are transgressors. [9:9] They have taken a small price for the communications of Allah, so they turn away from His way; surely evil is it that they do. [9:10] They do not pay regard to ties of relationship nor those of covenant in the case of a believer; and these are they who go beyond the limits. [9:11] But if they repent and keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate, they are your brethren in faith; and We make the communications clear for a people who know. [ 9:12] And if they break their oaths after their agreement and (openly) revile your religion, then fight the leaders of unbelief - surely their oaths are nothing - so that they may desist.

[9:13] What! will you not fight a people who broke their oaths and aimed at the expulsion of the Messenger, and they attacked you first; do you fear them? But Allah is most deserving that you should fear Him, if you are believers. [9:14] Fight them, Allah will punish them by your hands and bring them to disgrace, and assist you against them and heal the hearts of a believing people. [9:15] And remove the rage of their hearts; and Allah turns (mercifully) to whom He pleases, and Allah is Knowing, Wise. [9:16] What! do you think that you will be left alone while Allah has not yet known those of you who have struggled hard and have not taken any one as an adherent besides Allah and His Messenger and the believers; and Allah is aware of what you do.

[9:17] The idolaters have no right to visit the mosques of Allah while bearing witness to unbelief against themselves, these it is whose doings are null, and in the fire shall they abide. [9:18] Only he shall visit the mosques of Allah who believes in Allah and the latter day, and keeps up prayer and pays the poor-rate and fears none but Allah; so (as for) these, it may be that they are of the followers of the right course.

[9:19] What! do you make (one who undertakes) the giving of drink to the pilgrims and the guarding of the Sacred Mosque like him who believes in Allah and the latter day and strives hard in Allah's way? They are not equal with Allah; and Allah does not guide the unjust people. [9:20] Those who believed and fled (their homes), and strove hard in Allah's way with their property and their souls, are much higher in rank with Allah; and those are they who are the achievers (of their objects). [9:21] Their Lord gives them good news of mercy from Himself and (His) good pleasure and gardens, wherein lasting blessings shall be theirs; [ 9:22] Abiding therein for ever; surely Allah has a Mighty reward with Him.

[9:23] O you who believe! do not take your fathers and your brothers for guardians if they love unbelief more than belief; and whoever of you takes them for a guardian, these it is that are the unjust. [9:24] Say: If your fathers and your sons and your brethren and your mates and your kinsfolk and property which you have acquired, and the slackness of trade which you fear and dwellings which you like, are dearer to you than Allah and His Messenger and striving in His way, then wait till Allah brings about His command: and Allah does not guide the transgressing people.

[9:25] Certainly Allah helped you in many battlefields and on the day of Hunain, when your great numbers made you vain, but they availed you nothing and the earth became strait to you notwithstanding its spaciousness, then you turned back retreating. [9:26] Then Allah sent down His tranquillity upon His Messenger and upon the believers, and sent down hosts which you did not see, and chastised those who disbelieved, and that is the reward of the unbelievers. [9:27] Then will Allah after this turn (mercifully) to whom He pleases, and Allah is Forgiving, Merciful [9:28] O you who believe! the idolaters are nothing but unclean, so they shall not approach the Sacred Mosque after this year; and if you fear poverty then Allah will enrich you out of His grace if He please; surely Allah is Knowing Wise. [ 9:29] Fight those who do not believe in Allah, nor in the latter day, nor do they prohibit what Allah and His Messenger have prohibited, nor follow the religion of truth, out of those who have been given the Book, until they pay the tax in acknowledgment of superiority and they are in a state of subjection.

It is clear then that Sura 9 does not command unlimited war against Idolaters, Jews and Christians but rather allows for a limited, defensive war if & only if the Muslims are attacked.

Any verse in any Scripture can be taken out of context, can be used for the purposes of stirring up hatred and disdain against folk. As Christians we must be above that, we must deal with Muslims in the truth and we cannot do that if we are lifting verses from their sacred writings out of context in order to demonise them.

Paul in his letter to the Corinthians has this to say about the attitude we should have towards the Muslims (and indeed all others)

I Corinthians 13:1 - 8

1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become as sounding brass or a clashing cymbal. 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 And though I give away all my possessions to feed the poor, and though I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.

4 Love is patient, love is kind; love does not envy; love does not boast, is not arrogant; 5 does not behave disgracefully, does not seek its own, is not provoked to anger, thinks no evil; 6 does not rejoice over unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never fails

I pray that we will show forth this attitude in dealing with others, especially those others who share with us a faith in God.

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Q: Is Islam war-like
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