Is Islam a violent religion?
Throughout history, we have seen devastating outcomes to large numbers of people due to the actions of others. The world has seen numerous lives unjustly taken; it seems that the war against each other because of race or beliefs is an ongoing one. Today Muslims face similar, if not the same, threats as did the Jews in the Holocaust and the African slaves beginning in the seventeenth century. A few extreme individuals that call themselves Muslims and commit acts of violence coupled with ignorance about what Islam is about have caused global hostility through the media towards true Muslims today when they are truly a peaceful nation.
The prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) was one of the most prestigious persons in history. He “was distinguished among his people for his modesty, virtuous behavior, and graceful manners” (Al-Mubarakpuri 82). He was the most honest, gentle-hearted, chaste and hospitable, and this was seen in his life even before he became the prophet of Allah being called “Al-Amin,” the trustworthy as a young man.
The depiction of Islam in the media is as a religion of violence, and the distorters of the religion usually quote the Quran to try to prove their point. From chapter 2, verse 191, they say: “And kill them wherever you find them”, but they take just a small piece of a verse from a long passage that deals with a specific incident. If one reads from the beginning of verse 190 it says:
And fight in the way of Allah those who fight you, but aggress not the limits. Truly, Allah likes not the aggressors. And kill them wherever you find them and turn them out from where they turn you out. And (mischief in the land) is worse than killing. And fight not with them at Al-Masjid, Al-Haram unless they (first) fight you there. But if they attack you, then kill them. Such is the recompense of the disbelievers.This was the first verse revealed about fighting to the Muslims (Ibn Kathir 527). To properly understand this, one must take a look at history.
Soon after the revelations started coming to the prophet (PBUH), a Meccan tribe called the Quraysh began violently persecuting the early Muslims for their faith. “The Muslims did not want to fight those who despised them or rejected Islam, for the Quran had ordered Muhammad to:
"Call to the path of your Lord with wisdom and goodly preaching, and dispute with them in the best way’ (Quran 16:125)”.The Quraysh raided their homes and forced them to leave their homeland as they must do so for the safety of their family; it was then that Allah revealed the verses mentioned above. According to Ibn Kathir, “Abu Al Aliyah said:
"This was the first verse about fighting that was revealed in Madinah. Ever since it was revealed, Allah’s messenger used to fight only those who fought him". He further stated that the statement, “And kill them wherever you find them” by itself is not plausible, but refers to “those who fight you,” and that would be the people who fight Islam and its people.
What Is Jihad?
In the present day, the connotation of the word jihad means a holy war by Muslims against the unbelievers, who may not have done any wrong to them. This is entirely false. In Islam: Opposing Viewpoints, Maulana Wahiduddin Khan describes the three aspects of Jihad:
- Jihad-e nafs, or the struggle against the baser self or the ego, against one’s passions and wrong desires and to remain steadfast in one’s commitment to lead the life that God wants for human beings.
- Jihad in the sense of striving, using peaceful means, to communicate God’s word to all of His slaves, inspired by a compassion and concern for others, even if this is not reciprocated. This is the great Jihad according to the Quran.
- The third form of jihad relates to confronting one’s foes and to remain firmly committed to the faith under all conditions. In the past, this form of jihad . . . was basically a peaceful action, and so remains even today. In this sense, jihad properly understood, is a peaceful struggle, not military or physical confrontation.
Even though the media has been on attack in recent years, they are not entirely to blame for this. There are some so called Muslims who are to blame for giving Islam a bad reputation, and the “scholars” who lead them also use the Qur’an to convince those who follow them to carry out the atrocities that they want them to. The most popular verse that they use is chapter 9, verse 36, “And fight against the disbelievers as they fight against you”. They use this to mean that if the unbelievers kill their innocent women and children then they also have the right to kill the innocent women and children of the unbelievers. If they bomb them, then they are allowed to bomb the unbelievers also, and since they do not have bombers to do the job, then it is okay to use suicide bombers. All these things are against the tenants of Islam. Islam prohibits fighting against those who are not combatants at war. It is forbidden to kill women and children; even the cutting down of trees is frowned upon if it serves no purpose in the war. Suicide is forbidden in Islam, and the vast majority of clerics believe that the person who commits suicide will not enter into paradise. How can a suicide bomber expect to get into heaven?
The Prophet said, “You will not enter Paradise until you believe, and you will not believe until you love one another. Shall I indicate to you something that will surely lead to your mutual love? Spread the greeting and spirit of peace between yourselves” (Shakir 152).Freedom of Religion:
Many people claim that Islam is a violent religion and that it was spread by the sword. This statement cannot be further from the truth. Islam is very clear on violence; not only is it prohibited to be aggressors, but the Qur’an says:
“There is no compulsion in religion” (Quran 2:256).That means that it is not allowed to force anyone to become Muslim. To be or not to be a Muslim is a choice we all are free to make. Islam means submission to the will of God; it also means peace. If we examine the cases of India and Europe, for example, we will become aware that Islam in all actuality was not spread by the sword.
The Muslims ruled India for more than nine hundred years, yet the majority of its people remain Hindu. If Islam was a violent religion that was certainly spread by the sword within that time frame, the entirety of India would have been forced to become Muslim. In fact, Mohandas Karamchand Uttamchand Gandhi, a great statesman and pacifist of India, said"
"I became more than ever convinced that it was not the sword that won a place for Islam in those days in the scheme for life. It was the rigid simplicity, the utter self-effacement of the Prophet, the scrupulous regard for his pledges, his intense devotion to his friends and followers, his intrepidity, his fearlessness, his absolute trust in God and his own mission. These and not the sword carried everything before them and surmounted every trouble." ("Islam was spread by the sword - Myth")Islam in India was not spread by violence, but by traders who went there to do business.
In Europe, Islam was a conquering nation just as many European nations had been before it, and after, Islam was violently forced out of Spain. When Islam conquered Spain, Tariq ibn Ziyad offered that if anyone wanted to leave, they were free to do so, and those who stayed were welcome to keep their property, practice their religion, and be governed by their own rules and laws.
“After the Christians recaptured Spain, one of the great charges they brought against the Muslims was that Muslims were too tolerant in religion . . . this was indeed a great compliment paid unwittingly showing the tolerance practiced by Spanish Muslims” ("Islam was spread by the sword - Myth").Without a doubt sincere Muslims are passionate about their religion and they live by the words of the Qur’an and the practices of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). The Qur’an tells Muslims not to be aggressors, and at the same time it also tells them, “Do not oppress, but do not allow yourselves to be oppressed”. It also says:
“Believers are those whom when they are attacked are not cowed, but help to defend themselves” (Quran 42:39).Those people who would like to oppress Muslims will have a hard time in doing so as Muslims also believe that if they die defending what is rightfully theirs their reward is paradise. Allah also asks the believers in the Qur’an:
And why should you not fight in the cause of Allah (defend yourselves; help defend those who are oppressed) when there are those who, being weak, are ill treated (and oppressed) – men, women, and children whose cry is ‘Our Lord! Rescue us from this town, whose people are oppressors: and raise for us from thee one who will protect: and raise for us from thee one who will help.’ (Quran 4:75)It is in these contexts that Muslims are supposed to fight and in no other context. Those who do contradict the teachings of the Qur’an and the teachings of the Prophet (PBUH), and in the end they make all Muslims look like terrorists.
Deen Maraj, former Christian and Hindu and now Muslim for the past 33 years, says:
Fighting in Islam is reserved for defense of self, family, country, and other Muslims, and for any just cause where people are being oppressed. The Quran teaches us that oppression is wrong, so that we should not oppress, nor allow ourselves to be oppressed and further that we should try to help those who are oppressed whether Muslim or Non-Muslim. Just as Allah is compassionate and merciful, we as Muslims, are expected to be compassionate and merciful to our fellow human beings. Islam, therefore, does not permit the killing of non-combatants of war, only those who are physically involved . . . .Islam is one of the fastest growing religions in America, yet many people know little about Islam except for what they hear on the news (Statesmen 3). One should look into what Islam really means for their self and not believe that what they hear on the news represents Islam. They should go to a mosque, read Qur’an and hadiths [relations of the life of the Prophet (PBUH)], and if one has a question, ask it; there is a reason why there are these primary resources, so seek them out.
Ali bin Abi Talib, a companion of the Prophet (PBUH) said:
“Hate no one, no matter how much they’ve wronged you. Live humbly, no matter how wealthy you become. Think positively, no matter how hard life is. Give much, even if you’ve been given little. Keep in touch with the ones who have forgotten you, and forgive who has wronged you, and do not stop praying for the best for those you love” (Bukhari).
- Al-Almany, Mika'il. Ed. Sahih Bukhari. 1st ed. 2009. Web. 10 Apr. 2012.
- Al-Mubarakpuri, Safiur-Rahman. The Sealed Nectar. Rev. ed. Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: Darussalam, 2002. Print.
- Ali, Abdullah Yusuf, trans. The Quran: Translation. 15th U.S. ed. Elmhurst, NY: Tahrike Tarsile Qur'an, Inc., 2005. Print.
- Brown, Jonathan A.C. Muhammad: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford, NY: Oxford University Press, 2011. Print.
- Ibn Kathir, comp. Tafsir Ibn Kathir. 1st ed. Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: Darussalam, 2000. Print.
- "Islam was spread by the sword - Myth." Daily News (Colombo, Sri Lanka) 8 Oct. 2010. Web. 15 Apr. 2012.
- Khan, Maulana Wahiduddin. "The Islamic Doctrine of Jihad Does Not Advocate Violence." Islam: Opposing Viewpoints. Ed. David M. Haugen. Farmington Hills, MI: Greenhaven Press, 2009. Print.
- Maraj, Deen. Personal Interview. 15 Apr 2012.
- McCarthy, Andrew C.. "The Islamic Doctrine of Jihad Advocates Violence." Islam: Opposing Viewpoints. Ed. David M. Haugen. Farmington Hills, MI: Greenhaven Press, 2009. Print.
- Shakir, Zaid. "Muslims Must Promote Peace and Justice." Islam: Opposing Viewpoints. Ed. David M. Haugen. Farmington Hills, MI: Greenhaven Press, 2009. Print.
- Statesman, The Idaho. "What is Islam?." Idaho Statesman, The (Boise, ID). 7 Oct. 2001, Commentary: 11. Web. 15 Apr. 2012.
Farhanah Ali is 19 year old an young Muslim girl who is living in United States of America. She is currently an student. She has titles this article as "Islam – A Religion of Violence?"