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

Green revolution "not sustainable", Bt cotton a failure in India: MS Swaminathan

Counterview Desk
In a recent paper in the journal “Current Science”, distinguished scientist PC Kesaven and his colleague MS Swaminathan, widely regarded as the father of the Green Revolution, have argued that Bt insecticidal cotton, widely regarded as the continuation of the Green Revolution, has been a failure in India and has not provided livelihood security for mainly resource-poor, small and marginal farmers.
Sharply taking on Green Revolution, the authors say, it has not been sustainable largely because of adverse environmental and social impacts, insisting on the need to move away from the simplistic output-yield paradigm that dominates much thinking. Seeking to address the concerns about local food security and sovereignty as well as on-farm and off-farm social and ecological issues associated with the Green Revolution, they argue in favour of what they call sustainable ‘Evergreen Revolution’, based on a ‘systems approach’ and ‘ecoagriculture’.
Pointing out that Evergreen Revol…

Rejoinder: Inescapable to have Central Water Commission as strong technical body in India

By BN Navalawala*
This is with reference to Counterview Blog (December 5, 2018), "Modi govt 'shelves' water reforms report, shows 'no interest' in its recommendations", below mentioned are my comments/observations thereon:
A committee was constituted under the Chairmanship of Dr. Mihir Shah, Former Member, Planning Commission, for restructuring of Central Water Commission (CWC) and Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) for optimal development of water resources in the country in the backdrop of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM).

Some Hindu bodies in US defending BJP-RSS' divisive, violent activities: Agnivesh

Counterview Desk Last week, Washington DC saw speakers at a religious freedom roundtable, chaired by the US Ambassador for Religious Freedom, Sam Brownback, express concern over "eroding" space for religious freedom in India. Dr Mike Ghouse, executive director, of the Center for Pluralism in Washington DC, referring to the roundtable, said in an email alert that Indian-Americans have "a moral duty to prevent India from being labeled as a Country of Particular Concern by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF)".

World Bank clarifies: Its 26th rank to India not for universal access to power but for ease of doing business

By Our Representative
In a major embarrassment to the Government of India, the World Bank has reportedly clarified that it has not ranked India 26th out of 130 countries for providing power to its population. The top international banker’s clarification comes following Union Power Minister Piyush Goyal’s claim that India has “improved to 26 position from 99” in access to electricity in just one year.

Preventing childhood deaths: India performs worse than Bangladesh, "equals" Pakistan

By Rajiv Shah
A just-released study, “The Pneumonia and Diarrhea Progress Report 2018”, prepared by the International Vaccine Access Centre (IVAC) at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, has identified India among 15 other countries which are still far off the mark in achieving the targets of the Global Action Plan for the Prevention of Pneumonia and Diarrhea (GAPPD).

India's rewritten textbooks talk of demerits of democracy, praise Hitler, underrate Mughals

Counterview Desk
A detailed, 3,800-word review of the books rewritten under directions of the BJP rulers across India since Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power in May 2014 has suggested that one of aims of the books is to instill a sense of doubt about India’s democratic polity among the country’s young minds. Reviewed in the prestigious US journal, “The New York Review of Books”, in its latest issue (December 6, 2018) by Alex Traub, the scrutiny insists, the effort has also been to paint Indian history from the angle of “Hindu triumphalism”, even as creating “Islamophobia”.

Govt of India "tarnishing" NGO reputation, dossier leaked selectively: Amnesty

Counterview Desk
Amnesty International India has said that a deliberate attempt is being made to tarnish its reputation by leaking a dossier, supposedly made by investigating agencies, to media without giving it access to any such information. The high profile NGO’s claim follows a Times Now report about proceedings launched by investigative agencies, including Enforcement Directorate (ED) against the rights body for “violations” of rules pertaining to overseas donations.

Four children die after poor UP Dalit, Muslim families forced to flee to forest area: PVCHR

Counterview Desk
Peoples’ Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR) has said that the forest department police’s crackdown, allegedly without any prior notice, on Dalit and Muslim households in Dakhin Tola, Churk Bazaar, Sonbhadra district, Uttar Pradesh, beating up “children and old people, women, and men in an inhuman way”, has led to “forced displacement, starvation and discrimination”. This has reportedly affected about 350 people.

Social workers, architects, students, historians, common people come together, protest "politics" of renaming Ahmedabad

By Nandini Oza*
No sooner did the BJP leaders of Gujarat announce the intention of changing the name of Ahmedabad to Karnavati just before Diwali, on November 7, 2018, many people’s mood changed from festivity to heated debate and furor across the state. For many of us, an online petition, initiated by Bandish Soparkar, on change.org protesting name change came to immediate rescue.

Vedanta is out but corporate loot continues in Odisha: Local activists tell NAPM yatra

By Our Representative
Lok Shakti Abhiyan leader Prafulla Samantara, winner of the Goldman Environmental (also known as Green Nobel) Prize in 2017, has regretted that though Sundergarh in Odisha, like other forest areas, is a fifth schedule area, where Forest Rights Act (FRA) and Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act (PESA) is applicable, but these laws are being “outrightly violated to facilitate corporate loot.”