Skip to main content

There is a lot of "misunderstanding" on account of Quranic verse "slay them wherever you catch them"

By Moin Qazi*
Islam is a massive faith with 1.6 billion followers spread across the Islamic world that stretches over 15,000 kilometers. A considerable section of the community lives as a minority community in many countries, battling issues of stereotyping, discrimination and identity. With the powerful influence of Islamophobic brigades, there has been a massive surge of hatred against Islam and its adherents. Muslims continue to be demonized and projected as uniformly fundamentalist, violent and anti-secular.
This powerfully flawed narrative and negative stereotyping continue to fuel Islam's distorted perceptions. This perception is not based on rigorous evidence but springs from intermittent reporting and speculation in the media. In a climate where Muslims are already feeling alienated and marginalized, it is unfair to mock and ridicule their religion and identity.
Islam, actually, is a religion of peace: That is its aim and goal. The Quran's powerful commandment should leave one in no doubt: "Whosoever killeth a human being for other than manslaughter or corruption in the earth, it shall be as though he had killed all of mankind, and whoso saveth the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind" (Q5:32).
The Quran, in its essence, promotes justice, peace and freedom. Compassion and kindness underpin its core message. To understand this, one has to read the entire Quran and not isolated verses. No verse in the Quran is a standalone commandment. Each not only has a bearing on the other but amplifies it too.
The voice of the text is the fruit of a dialogue. For some, the peace of God is through his sword; for others, it is found in his unbounded mercy. The entire paradigm is built around human interpretation. The pacifists and the terrorists read the same text but present fundamentally different interpretations. It is important to consider the reader and interpreter of the Quran.
The voice of the Quran heard by Islamic fundamentalists is not the same as the voice heard by progressive Muslims. It is essential that the entire verses of the Quran are read and understood in conjunction with each other. Reading and interpreting verses in isolation is a very incorrect way of engaging with the Quran. It would yield a meaning that conforms to your own worldview.
For example, the current modern definition of jihad is contrary to the linguistic meaning of the word, and also contrary to the beliefs of most Muslims who equate it with religious extremism. The word jihad stems from the Arabic root word J-H-D, which means "strive." Other words derived from this root include "effort," "labour" and "fatigue." Essentially, jihad is a struggle to stand by one's religion in the face of oppression and persecution. The effort may come in the form of fighting the evil in your own heart or standing up to a dictator.
The first time the word is used in the Quran, it signifies a "resistance to oppression" (Q25:26) that is spiritual and intellectual rather than militant. The moralist approach espouses jihad through conscience (jihad bin nafs) while a more radical wing advocates jihad through the sword (jihad bin saif). In mainstream Muslim tradition also, the greatest jihad was not warfare but reform of oneself and one's society. Prophet Muhammad explained that true jihad was an inner struggle against egotism. There is a lot of misunderstanding on account of this verse: "Slay them wherever you catch them" (Q2:191).
But who is this referring to? Who are "they" that this verse discusses? The "them" are those terrorists who persecuted and killed innocent people for their faith. Some verses are very often "snipped" out of context by mischief makers for inflaming emotions, fostering misunderstandings and perpetuating violence on all sides. Quran 3:8 preemptively calls out people who cherry-pick verses as "perverse" people, declaring, "...those in whose hearts is perversity seek discord and wrong interpretation of [the Quran]."
Islam does permit fighting but only in self-defense – in defense of religion, or on the part of those who have been expelled forcibly from their homes. The permission given in Q22:40-41 to fight was only given to "those against whom war is waged." At the same time, it also lays down strict rules which include prohibitions against harming civilians and against destroying crops, trees, and livestock. It is critical that we understand this critical dimension of Islam.
  • First, Muslims cannot preemptively initiate a war. They are only allowed to act in defense. War can be waged if there is a situation where defenseless people are under attack. A war is considered just when one party does not cease aggression in spite of a proposed truce. If the enemy inclines toward peace, Muslims have to follow suit: "But if they stop, God is most forgiving, most merciful" (Q2:192). Also read: "Now if they incline toward peace, then incline to it, and place your trust in God, for God is the all-hearing, the all-knowing" (Q8:61). 
  • Second, Muslims are not allowed to transgress divine injunctions: "fight for the cause of God, those who fight you, but do not transgress, for God does not love the transgressors." (Q2:190). 
  • Third, Muslims have to treat prisoners of war with honor. Prisoners have to be released after the war, either in exchange for Muslims captives or only as a favor. 
Historian Sir William Muir records how the Prophet Muhammad instructed his companions to treat prisoners of war. The refugees had houses of their own, received the prisoners with kindness and consideration. "Blessings on the men of Medina!" said one of them in later days: "They made us ride, while they themselves walked afoot; they gave us wheaten bread to eat when there was little of it, contenting themselves with dates."
Contrary to what some historians have portrayed, Islam did not impose itself by the sword. This has been emphatically made clear in the Quran: "There must be no coercion in matters of faith!" (Q2:256). In words quoted by Muhammad in one of his last public sermons, God tells all human beings, "O people! We have formed you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another" (Q49:13).
Moreover, Islamic wars weren't just to defend Muslims against persecution – but to defend Christians, Jews, and people of all faiths. All verses addressing fighting are preconditioned with rules of self-defense. The Quran says that "persecution is worse than slaughter" and "let there be no hostility except to those who practice oppression" (Q2:190-193).
On his victorious rerun to Mecca after 20 years, the Prophet Muhammad bore no animosity for the locals who had persecuted him and his band, forcing them to emigrate to Medina. He offered blanket forgiveness, the only condition being that Meccans accept universal freedom of conscience.
In keeping with this spirit of tolerance that Prophet Muhammad demonstrated during his lifetime, today's Muslim thinkers feel there exists no imperative to distance themselves from this tradition of mutual respect and peaceful coexistence. They are plumbing it to find resources to help them adapt to the modern world and to shape it on those lines.
Muslim religious scholars are exhuming and popularizing principles and practices that allowed Muslims in the past to coexist with others, in peace and on equal terms, regardless of creed and faith. They keep reminding themselves that the seventh-century Medina accepted Jews as equal members of the community (umma) under the Constitution of Medina drawn up by Prophet Muhammad in 622 AD.
Muslim reformers are returning to the foundational text, the Quran and its commentaries and other early sources of religion – authentic sayings of Prophet Muhammad, early historical chronicles - for seeking solutions in these troubled times. They are combing their literature for shedding better light on moral guidelines and ethical prescriptions.
There is no better testament to Prophet Muhammad's credo of tolerance and forgiveness than the attestation of non-Muslim historian Stanley Lane-Poole: "The day of Muhammad's greatest triumph over his enemies was also the day of his grandest victory over himself. He freely forgave the Quraysh all the years of sorrow and cruel scorn in which they had afflicted him and gave an amnesty to the whole population of Mecca."
---
Contact: moinqazi123@gmail.com

Comments

TRENDING

Economist-editor's allegations on Narmada defamatory, baseless: Medha Patkar

Counterview Desk  In a reply directly addressed to well-known economist, journalist and columnist Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar’s two articles in the Times of India (republished here and here ), calling them defamatory and wondering whether they were borne out of “ignorance or a conspiracy through political alliance”, Narmada Bachao Andolan leader Medha Pakar has said that the Narmada Sardar Saravar Project and the people's movement by adivasis, farmers, labourers, fish workers, potters and all the generations’ old communities from the river valley have suddenly come to be focused on, since the Gujarat elections are in the doorstep. She believes that while the “defamatory accusations with baseless conceptions such as ‘urban naxals’ are to be laughed at as the electoral strategic moves, one gets shocked to read the articles by a known old columnist like Swaminathan Ankalesaria Aiyar, published in a reputed daily like the Times of India." According to her, Aiyar’s two articl

Hindutva groups threat to peace, freedom: US diaspora groups tell FBI, other govt depts

By Our Representative  The Islamophobic and neo-Nazi ideology of Hindutva is a clear and present danger to peace and freedoms in the United States, a coalition of civil rights organizations told key officials of the U.S. Attorney General’s Office, the US Department of Justice (DOJ), and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) at a recent event in Edison, New Jersey. At the event titled United Against Hate, activists from American Muslims for Democracy (AMD), Hindus for Human Rights (HfHR) and Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC) made detailed presentations on this ideology of Hindu supremacism that is committing mass persecution of India’s Muslims and Christians and is rearing its ugly head in New Jersey as well as across the US. Attending the event were David S Leonardis, Special Investigator from the New Jersey Department of Law & Public Safety; Michael E Campion, Chief of the Civil Rights Division for the US Attorney General's Office; and Jonathan R Norbut of the U.S. Dep

Facing tough times, Rajasthan's Raika herders hold first-ever camel cheese festival

By Rosamma Thomas*  During the pandemic, the annual Pushkar camel fair in Rajasthan did not occur for fear of contagion; in 2022, it was called off again as lumpy skin disease affected cattle. At Sadri in Pali district, however, festivity continues – a two-day Camel Cheese Festival was held on November 23 and 24, 2022. Visitors spent time with the camel herds and their Raika, drank camel-milk tea with the herders and then returned to lunch at the Kumbhalgarh Camel Dairy, from where the Kumbhalgarh Fort is visible, to taste camel cheese. The Raika herders have been facing a tough time – camels are no longer used as much for transport or agriculture in Rajasthan. The animals have limited utility, but their milk is prized. Camel Charisma, the dairy at Kumbhalgarh, sends camel milk across the country to people who use it in therapy – for autistic children, improved blood sugar levels, or even to treat cancer. It is believed that the health benefits of the camel milk is because the animals

As polls approach, electorate 'failing to realise': Gujarat model is in a shambles

By DN Rath*  Gujarat assembly elections, scheduled to be held on 1 and 5 December 2022, is viewed by many as dress rehearsal for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. When the suffering people have been pointing towards redressal of some local issues like absence of cleanliness, sewage problem, shortage of water supply, troubles created by stray cattle, insufficiency of streetlights, etc., it is evident that they are not fully aware that assembly elections are being fought on ideological standpoints and policy decisions. Nor is there the realisation that the state is in a shambles and the much-trumpeted ‘Gujarat model’ of development has proved to be a hoax. Like other states, the people of Gujarat are also back-broken by steep rise in prices to the tune of 400% in last 20 years. It is not that the government cannot control the spurt in prices if it so wants. Apart from the fact that price rise is an inevitability in a capitalist economy, artificial shortage triggered by massive hoarding, b

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Shedding Hindu-Hindi-Hindustan? New Modi-Shah love for Tamil Nadu 'ignores' Periyar

By Sandeep Pandey*   The Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) or the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) have long argued for ‘Hindu-Hindi-Hindustan’, which into recent years has translated into a crisper English expression: ‘One Nation-One Religion-One Language’. Given this backdrop, it is curious that the BJP government has organised the Kashi Tamil Sangamam in Varanasi, the Prime Minister’s constituency. Why did the BJP and RSS feel the need for such an event? All Narendra Modi events are highly publicised and have multiple political objectives. It is never an innocuous religious/cultural event as it may appear from the face of it. Afterall, RSS calls itself a cultural organisation, but has never ceased to surprise us with its political designs. Tamil Nadu has a long history of opposing imposition of Hindi by Union governments. Periyar EV Ramasamy had opposed the idea of compulsory teaching in Hindi as far back as in 1937. The 1960s witnessed violent protests against Hindi in which a number

BJP poll gimmick? Bilkis Bano rape case 'pardon' vs Rajiv assassins' release

By Sandeep Pandey*  Supreme Court has released six convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case. This was bound to happen as earlier AG Perarivalan was released in the same case, setting a precedent. Even though four of them are Sri Lankans but a popular Tamil sentiment favoured the release of these convicts which is why Tamil political parties supported this and resolutions were passed by different governments in Tamil Nadu to his effect.  Rajiv Gandhi paid the price of sending Indian Peace Keeping Force to Sri Lanka where it got entangled with Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and eventually the whole operation ended up is a fiasco.  However, most importantly Sonia and Priyanka Gandhi and probably Rahul too do not have any objections to the release of these convicts. In fact, Sonia Gandhi played an important role in getting the death sentence of the only lady among the convicts Nalini commuted to life term through the Tamil Nadu Governor. Priyanka visited Nalini in Vellore Jail and

GM mustard not swadeshi, it's a patent of MNC Bayer, GoI 'misleading' SC: Modi told

Counterview Desk  In a representation to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as many as 42 farmers’ organisations though their representatives , backed by senior scientists and experts, have said that the Government of India (GoI) should stop misleading the Supreme Court “with untrue and incorrect” statements on GM mustard. Insisting that India does not need unsafe GM mustard, in their representation, they urged the Supreme Court to order immediate uprooting of GM mustard crop in various locations. The representation comes even as a penal of experts, coming down heavily on the GoI for refusing to see how in less than a week’s time the pollen from GM mustard will “start contaminating” non-GM mustard fields with transgenes, including male sterility and herbicide tolerant traits. Alleging that the GoI is actively misleading the Supreme Court with untrue and incorrect statements on GM mustard, Kavitha Kuruganti of the Coalition for a GM-Free India said, “We can list at least five areas where Gov

Amit Shah accused of inciting communal passion: Demand to postpone Gujarat polls

Counterview Desk  In an email representation to the Election Commission of India (ECI), Dr EAS Sarma, former secretary to the Government of India, has objected to the statement reported to have been made by Union home minister Amit Shah, who allegedly justified the 2002 Gujarat riots stating that certain sections of people “taught a lesson” to the rioters. Noting that the statement, if correct, “in effect implies those other than the law enforcement authorities had taken law into their hands”, Sarma says, “Shah's statement needs to be viewed by the ECI in conjunction with the reported fact that it was the Union Home Ministry that cleared the release of the eleven rape convicts in the Bilkis Bano case, directly related to the infamous Godhra incidents in 2002, which triggered the shameful sequence of events that shook the nation's conscience.” According to Sarma, if the statement is true, “I am constrained to draw the inevitable inference that it would have already impacted th

Never-ending saga of sin tax: What if murder is taxed at Rs 1 crore, rape at Rs 5 crore?

By Moses Raj GS, Sangeetha Thomas*  What should have ended by June 30, 2022 as a 5 year experiment has resurfaced. The government has extended the levy of GST compensation cess by another 4 years till March 31, 2026. This cess, dubbed as the sin tax imposed on sin(ful) goods, is double the highest slab on indirect taxes. But only a few pay for it and the majority benefit, unendingly. The year 2017 is a landmark year for indirect taxes. With the grand idea of ‘One Nation, One Tax’ as a fiscal slogan subsuming all State based taxes such as octroi /entry tax, Value Added Tax (VAT), sales tax, taxes on lottery, betting and gambling, luxury tax, purchase tax, entertainment tax, property tax, professional tax and central sales tax into a single framework of Goods and Services Tax (GST) changed the contours of revenue collection. Complicating it further, India, with each State having its own size and revenue problems, has the most complex and highly centralised indirect tax structure in the w