The hoary slogan of “Islam is peace” has been drowned by bomb blasts amidst chants of “Allahu Akbar!” in Nigeria, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Central Africa and other parts of the world. For years, many people have argued that Islam is basically a good religion but has been hijacked by some “hot headed” radicals. Some Christians who have neither read the Quran nor the hadiths even assert that “Islam is peace because I have peaceful Muslim friends and neighbours!”
It must be noted however, that it is the examples and teachings of religion’s founder that determine whether these peaceful adherents are the norms or exceptions. So in order to answer that question, let’s take a brief look at the life of Muhammad and his teachings.
Muhammad began his Medinan career by attacking rich Meccan caravans passing near his base. The first 3 assaults failed while the fourth succeeded because his victims didn’t expect an ambush during Ramadan. Arab tribes refrained from aggression during their pagan “holy month,” but Muhammad received a “revelation” authorizing him to plunder and murder in Allah’s name (Q 2:217). It’s curious that the same Allah who commanded Muhammad to raid people didn’t teach him how to do it. He had to learn it by trial and error like any greenhorn thief.
On March 16, 624 near Badr, he led 300 warriors in a vicious attack against a large Meccan caravan protected by 800 men. At last, 40 Meccans were killed and 60 taken as prisoners. Only 14 Muslims died. Verses quickly “descended” to absolve his men of the murders: “Ye slew them not, but Allah slew them” (8:17). Muhammad proved his prophethood with the sword and sealed his apostleship with blood.
One of the Meccans captured at the battle of Badr was Al-Nadir – Muhammad’s enemy – who pleaded with his tribesmen, now Muslims to spare his life. (The Quraish tribe do not kill war captives) He was told that the tribe bonds are now broken by Islam and since he had ridiculed Muhammad years before, it’s payback time. After he was killed, Muhammad recited a verse to justify it: “It is not for any Prophet to have captives until he had made slaughter in the land” (Q 8:67).
Muhammad arrived at Medina a poor man, but within a few years, he and his gang became wealthy. Their wealth came by robbing and killing the Jews in Medina, causing the disappearance of the Jewish communities from Arabia. This genocide was also justified by some verses (Q 33:26-7).
Poets who criticized Muhammad were not spared – from Asma bint Merwan to Abu Afak, to Kab Al-Ashraf. Muhammad justified their assassination by reciting that all poets were “inspired by Satan” (26:221-7).
Some Muslims in Medina (who apparently didn’t agree with jihad) built a mosque and invited Muhammad to bless it. He burnt down this mosque and recited:
“As for those who put up a mosque by way of harming and disbelief, and to disunite the believers, and as an outpost for those who warred against Allah and his messenger aforetime … Allah bears witness that they are certainly liars. Never set foot in it” (9:107-108). This set a precedent for Muslims destroying mosques that they judge to have deviated into heresy.
Allah’s dogmas in the Quran are clear:
“Warfare is ordained for you, though it is hateful unto you; but it may happen that ye hate a thing which is good for you, and it may happen that ye love a thing which is bad for you. Allah knoweth, ye know not” (Sura 2:216).
“And slay them wherever ye find them, and drive them out of the places whence they drove you out, for persecution [of Muslims] is worse than slaughter [of non-Muslims] … but if desist, then lo! Allah is forgiving and merciful. And fight them until persecution is no more, and religion is for Allah.” (Sura 2:191-193)
“Soon shall We cast terror into the hearts of the Unbelievers, for that they joined companions with Allah, for which He had sent no authority” (Sura 3:151)
“Let those fight in the way of Allah who sell the life of this world for the other. Whoso fighteth in the way of Allah, be he slain or be he victorious, on him We shall bestow a vast reward.” (Sura 4:74)
“Those who believe do battle for the cause of Allah; and those who disbelieve do battle for the cause of idols. So fight the minions of the devil. Lo! the devil´s strategy is ever weak” (Sura 4:76)
“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.” (Sura 4:89)
“The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His messenger and strive to make mischief in the land is only this, that they should be murdered or crucified or their hands and their feet should be cut off on opposite sides or they should be imprisoned; this shall be as a disgrace for them in this world and in the hereafter they shall have a grievous chastisement.” (Sura 5:33)
“I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them.” (Sura 8:12)
“O ye who believe! When ye meet those who disbelieve in battle, turn not your backs to them. Whoso on that day turneth his back to them, unless maneuvering for battle or intent to join a company, he truly hath incurred wrath from Allah, and his habitation will be hell, a hapless journey’s end.” (Sura 8:15-16)
“And fight with them until there is no more persecution and religion should be only for Allah.” (Sura 8:39)
“If thou comest on them in war, deal with them so as to strike fear in those who are behind them, that haply they may remember” (Sura 8:57).
“O Prophet, exhort the believers (Muslims) to fight…” (Sura 8:65).
“Lo! Allah loveth them who battle for His cause in ranks, as if they were a solid structure” (Sura 61:4).
In total, there are 100+ verses related to war in the Quran. Some Muslims try to evade these by saying: “These verses are only for the battlefield.” This argument is demonstrably false.
1. The Quranic war verses are explicitly offensive e.g
Q 4:77 “Have you not seen those to whom it was said: Withhold your hands, and keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate; but when fighting is prescribed for them, lo! a party of them fear men as they ought to have feared Allah, or (even) with a greater fear, and say: Our Lord! why hast Thou ordained fighting for us? Wherefore didst Thou not grant us a delay to a near end? Say: The provision of this world is short, and the hereafter is better for him who guards (against evil); and you shall not be wronged the husk of a date stone”
From this, it can be deduced that even Muhammad’s followers were initially reluctant to wage war against non-Muslims, but Muhammad convinced them to believe that this was Allah’s injuction which must be obeyed.
Q 47:4 “Now when ye meet those who disbelieve, smite their necks until when ye have slain them greatly, then make fast the bonds; then, thereafter let them off either freely or by ransom, until the war layeth down the burthens thereof. That ye shall do. And had Allah willed, He would have vindicated Himself against them, but He ordained fighting in order that He may prove you one by the other. And those who are slain in the way of Allah, He shall not send their works astray”
Some English translators have slotted in “in war” after “when ye meet those who disbelieve” to make it seem like defensive war, but such an effort lacks textual basis and is self-defeating. In this verse, we are told that if Allah willed, he could have fought his own enemies himself to defend his name, but he just choose to use human slaves for his nefarious works. That is a self-admission of how weak Allah is.
Q 9:41 “Go forth, light-armed and heavy-armed, and strive with your wealth and your lives in the way of Allah! That is best for you if ye but knew”
This is not self-defense but a call to offensive war.
Q 9:5 “Then, when the sacred months have passed, slay the idolaters wherever ye find them, and take them (captive), and besiege them, and prepare for them each ambush. But if they repent and establish worship and pay the poor-due, then leave their way free…”
This is indicting that unless the non-Muslims embrace Islam they are to be slain. Note also that the Arabic word “quateloo” which means “kill” was used here. Some English translators have censored the text to read: “Fight against the idolaters.”
2. From the contexts behind these verses, Muhammad and his army were the aggressors. They were the ones who initiated battles against non-Muslims. It is recorded that they fought a total of 63 battles with Muhammad personally leading 27 raids. Of all these wars, only two were defensive – the battle of Uhud and the battle of the Trench (or Confederates).
3. From an overall look of the Quran, it’s clear that the god of Islam relishes wanton destruction of lives and it is inconceivable that such a violent god would inspire a religion of peace.
4. The early Meccan verses which call for peace have been abrogated by the later verses of the sword. The earlier verses typify when Muslims are a minority while the latter exemplify when they become a majority. Therefore, Islam has a bifurcate form depending on its political or military strength in a geographical location.
The Quran says Muhammad is the “perfect example” for all Muslims and all Muslims who love Allah must follow him (33:21). Thus, true Muslims must fight as he fought, kill as he killed and take women captives as he did, otherwise they are hypocrites (munafiq). No rational mind should expect anything better from a billion people who not only take a terrorist as a role model, but also follow, condone and defend his crimes.
On the other hand Christians have a perfect example in Jesus Christ who told no lie nor murdered His critics (1Pet. 2:22-3). Those who follow Him act like Him and for a Muslim to truly follow Christ, he must reject Muhammad.