January 08, 2005

Muhammad (pbuh) #2

"Ok, why do people believe Mohammed is God's prophet if he in the beginning said all the people of the book (including Christians and Jews) were God's people capable of salvation, and shouldn't be killed, but later said all people who are not Muslim should be killed? Why is he considered a prophet if first he said that Islam is not compulsory, but later said to kill all the infidels."

This is a gross distortion of what the Qur'an actually says. Nowhere does the Qur'an say that all who are not Muslim (or all infidels) should be killed. What the Qur'an does say, for example, is:

"Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you, but do not transgress limits; for Allah loveth not transgressors. And slay them wherever ye catch them, and turn them out from where they have Turned you out; for tumult and oppression are worse than slaughter; but fight them not at the Sacred Mosque, unless they (first) fight you there; but if they fight you, slay them. Such is the reward of those who suppress faith." (2:190-1)

"Why should ye be divided into two parties about the Hypocrites? Allah hath upset them for their (evil) deeds. Would ye guide those whom Allah hath thrown out of the Way? For those whom Allah hath thrown out of the Way, never shalt thou find the Way. They but wish that ye should reject Faith, as they do, and thus be on the same footing (as they): But take not friends from their ranks until they flee in the way of Allah (From what is forbidden). But if they turn renegades, seize them and slay them wherever ye find them; and (in any case) take no friends or helpers from their ranks;- Except those who join a group between whom and you there is a treaty (of peace), or those who approach you with hearts restraining them from fighting you as well as fighting their own people. If Allah had pleased, He could have given them power over you, and they would have fought you: Therefore if they withdraw from you but fight you not, and (instead) send you (Guarantees of) peace, then Allah Hath opened no way for you (to war against them). Others you will find that wish to gain your confidence as well as that of their people: Every time they are sent back to temptation, they succumb thereto: if they withdraw not from you nor give you (guarantees) of peace besides restraining their hands, seize them and slay them wherever ye get them: In their case We have provided you with a clear argument against them." (4:88-91)

"But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the Pagans wherever ye find them, an seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war); but if they repent, and establish regular prayers and practise regular charity, then open the way for them: for Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful." (9:5)

Before I begin my analysis, we need to stress a point that most non-Muslims overlook when reading the Qur'an: the Qur'an frequently needs to be read in the light of its context. There are generalities in the Qur'an that have guided the lives of Muslims since its revelation, including the Muslims of today, but many verses are also best understood by examining the context of the verses, not only the literary context (what other verses precede and come after the verse in question), but the religious and - most importantly - the historical context as well.

In the first case (verses 2:190 and 2:191), we have a general commandment ("Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you,...). However, even this is limited ("...but do not transgress limits; for Allah loveth not transgressors.), the limits being such as if the enemy quits fighting, then the Muslims too should quit fighting as well. In the second verse, though, we find that the "them" in question are the Pagans of Makkah. This deduction is made from the phrase ("fight them not at the Sacred Mosque"), and is obvious to any who has studied early Islamic history.

In the second case, we find another verse that reads "seize them and slay them wherever ye find them", but the literary context shows that "they" is referring to the Hypocrites, a Medinan faction of pseudo-Muslims who came to naught before the Prophet's (pbuh) death. Likewise, in the third case, we are told directly that those whom should be slain were the Pagans of Makkah. This is not a general commandment to the Muslims of today that we should slay "pagans"; the verse is a time-specific commandment referring to a specific people (although the second half of the verse, "...but if they repent...", is a general commandment that could be applicable today).

There are other verses that refer to fighting, but these too need to be considered in the appropriate context. Like other religious books, the Qur'an is deep and subtle and requires more than a surface reading in order to understand it. Little effort put into understanding the Qur'an will result in little profit.

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