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Some Discussions about Qur’an, Violence and Fitnah

  by: : Prof. Dr. Ahmet Akgündüz

· Islam is the religion of tolerance
· Confuse of War-law with Peace-law is naturally not good
· Islam prohibits violence during wars; how can it then allow violence in normal times?
· Fitnah (=Instigation, Provocation, Testing and Unjust Persecution)
· All Religions Accept that there is the Hereafter and there is Eternal Punishment for Unbelievers

1. Islam is the religion of tolerance
Due to the accusations by certain politicians and circles that portray Islam as a religion promoting violence and terror, this subject became a hotly debated issue both in the Netherlands and across the world. Thus, currently some Muslims and non-Muslims rightfully have questions regarding this subject. Our role in this is to explain various parts of this issue, especially to Muslims.

Islam is the religion of tolerance. It holds the human soul in high esteem, and considers the attack against innocent human beings a grave sin, this is emphasized by the following Qur'anic verse: “... whoever kills a human being for other than manslaughter or corruption and mischief in the earth, it shall be as if he had killed all mankind, and whoever saves the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind. Our messengers came unto them of old with clear proofs (of Allah's Sovereignty), but afterwards lo! many of them became prodigals in the earth” (the Qur’an, 5: 32). In fact, Muslims serve for life, not for death. We must not forget what the Qur’an states: "Namely, that no bearer of burdens can bear the burden of another" (6: 164). There is a universal rule of law: No one can be punished without evidence. Another important rule: Freedom from guilt is principal, i.e. everybody is innocent unless the opposite is proved.

The basic approach of Islam can be summed up in the following way: Let us suppose that you were on a ship, or in a house, with nine innocent people and one criminal. If someone were to try to make the ship sink, or to set the house on fire, because of that criminal, you know how great a sinner he would be. You would cry out to the heavens against his sinfulness. Even if there were one innocent man and nine criminals aboard the ship, it would be against all rules of justice to sink it. We condemn these brutal and criminal acts, which are anathema to all human conventions and values and monotheist religions.

2. Confuse of War-law with Peace-law is naturally not good
A few years ago, I joined a conference in Twente University. One among the 600 listeners addressed me and claimed that Islam promotes violence and terror by citing the following verse: ‘,- fight ye the chiefs of Unfaith: for their oaths are nothing to them: that thus they may be restrained..’ I asked him to read the first part of the verse but he did not want to. I completed the verse: . ‘But if they violate their oaths after their covenant, and taunt you for your Faith,- ….’ (Qur’an Tawba, Verse 12). Currently some politicians most of those that attack Islam use this technique to attack Islam and distort the verses they refer to.

A more important point is this: As you know the laws of war and peace are separate in the legal system of each country. If you were to mix these laws up, you could even call the operations of Netherlands in Afghanistan and Turkey in Northern Iraq violence. In this same way, the fundamental building stone of Islamic law is Quran. Within Quran there are verses addressing the time of peace and there are those that are for the time of war. Some politicians make it look as if the verses regarding the time of war are general laws of Islam. It is true that there are 109 verses within Quran specifically targeted for the time of war. For example, verses that descended during the siege of Medina are among these.

“190. Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you, but do not transgress limits; for Allah loves not transgressors.

191. And slay them wherever ye catch them, and turn them out from where they have Turned you out; for provocation and tumult 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.

192. But if they cease, Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.

193. And fight them on until there is no more provocation or tumult, and there prevail justice and faith in Allah. But if they cease, Let there be no hostility except to those who practice oppression.” (2: 190-193).

Now if you were to read these verses and apply them to the time of peace, you would be making a mistake. Unfortunately an example of these mistakes was done by Washington Times writer Cal Thomas as he used only a part of the verse, “... slay them wherever ye catch them” to accuse Islam. It is true that there are 109 verses within Quran specifically targeted for the time of war. However, unless you know in what context and for what reason these verses were revealed to Prophet Mohammed, you cannot know the meaning. The verses that I have just quoted from Surah Baqarah will seem to be promoting violence unless the context of their use, defensive warfare, is also taken into account.

Unfortunately, some politicians around the world are ignorant about Qur’an and Islamic Law. They are distorting some verses relating to War Law as a violence event in the Qur’an. They are generalizing war rules for everything. We would like to explain some misused and distorted verses.

A) Verse 47:4 “Therefore, when ye meet the Unbelievers (in fight), smite at their necks; At length, when ye have thoroughly subdued them, bind a bond firmly (on them): thereafter (is the time for) either generosity or ransom: Until the war lays down its burdens. Thus (are ye commanded): but if it had been Allah’s Will, He could certainly have exacted retribution from them (Himself); but (He lets you fight) in order to test you, some with others. But those who are slain in the Way of Allah,- He will never let their deeds be lost.” This verse is completely arranging war law. If you compare these rules with modern war law, you can find Qur’anic rules better and perfect. Other interpretations are absolutely is distortion.

B) Verse 8: 39: “And fight them on until there is no more tumult or oppression, and there prevail justice and faith in Allah altogether and everywhere; but if they cease, verily Allah doth see all that they do.” The name of this surah is the booty of war. Qur’an says in verse 8: 1: “They ask thee concerning (things taken as) spoils of war…” Even a child can understand that the Qur’an is arranging war rules; because after this verse Qur’an is arranging the rules relating the distribution of war booty.

C) Verse 8: 60: “Against them make ready your strength to the utmost of your power, including steeds of war, to strike terror into (the hearts of) the enemies, of Allah and your enemies, and others besides, whom ye may not know, but whom Allah doth know. Whatever ye shall spend in the cause of Allah, shall be repaid unto you, and ye shall not be treated unjustly.” If you consider all technology of weapons and war as a violence and fitnah, than the biggest fitnah and violence is the existence of USA and western states; because they preparing all weapon technology for the entire world. Qur’an is giving instructions for Muslims to prepare themselves for war. This verse is included in war law too. I wish that all Muslim countries would obey these instructions and become like western countries powerful.

D) Verse 4: 89: “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”. This is related to war law too. If anybody reads next verse, he or she can understand even if they are not expert in law, they would say this is valid for war not peace. Let us read next verse please “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….”

The distortion is not ethic, not humanistic and that insulting for sacred texts and that ignorance and immorality.

3. Islam prohibits violence during wars; how can it then allow violence in normal times?
The question of whether or not there is genocide or massacre or violence against human beings within Islamic texts and the existence of violence towards men can be explained by the limitations and acceptable conducts during the time of war.

A) Forbidden actions during the war: Killing through torture and atrocity; killing women who are not militaristically involved in war, children, slaves who are serving their masters, physically or mentally handicapped, old, sick and religious figures who have no interest in the world. However, if any of these join the war through their wealth or body, they can be killed.

Cutting body parts of humans and animals is also forbidden. Acting against treaties and cease-fires is forbidden. Forests and vegetation cannot be burned unless it is necessary. Prisoners of war cannot be killed, the heads and other body parts of the dead cannot be desecrated or cut. Especially fathers and other close relatives, traders and merchants who are not involved in the war cannot be killed. There are other forbidden actions for the time of war but we will stop here.

B) There are two types of actions that are forbidden in the time of peace but become acceptable in the time of war:

First type: these include actions that are permissible against the enemy. It is permissible to kill, injure, follow and take prisoners from enemy soldiers. Those who cannot be killed were previously mentioned. Due to Prophet Mohammed’s hadith, “War is deceit” it is permissible surprise and cheat the enemy with the purpose of inciting the enemy to make strategic mistakes. “Cold War” through propaganda is considered to be permissible as it is considered to be the prologue to wartime deceit. All kinds of weapons can be used. However, the use of poisonous weapons is condemned and rejected by Muslim jurists. Burning castles and drowning the enemy is also permissible. As was done in Badr war, water canals can be diverted and/or made unusable. Spies who pass information to the enemy are punished by death. In short, all actions except those that are specifically forbidden become permissible in the time of war. As an additional note, we should also state that naval and aerial warfare is acceptable.

Second type: these include actions that can be taken against enemy wealth. Islamic law, as a principal, outlaws the destruction of any natural or private property. However, exceptions can be made in the time of war if the destruction of buildings or trees becomes necessary.

It is impossible to think that a religion that has all these restrictions in place during war can promote or encourage violence, genocide, murder and massacres.

4. Fitnah (=Instigation, Provocation, Testing and Unjust Persecution)
The meaning of the word fitnah, in Arabic, is “To burn ores that are extracted from the earth, like gold or silver, in order to separate the genuine from the sediment”. Quran calls separating the believers from non-believers, the auspicious from the aberrant and the good from the bad; and educating and testing and defining everyone’s real quality as fitnah. Therefore, the completely worldly life is a test and a fitnah. "Every soul shall have a taste of death: and We test you by evil and by good by way of trial. to Us must ye return." (Anbiya: 21:35); "I know not but that it may be a trial for you, and a grant of (worldly) livelihood (to you) for a time" [[Anbiya: 21:111]; "Do men think that they will be left alone on saying, "We believe", and that they will not be tested? We did test those before them, and Allah will certainly know those who are true from those who are false" [Ankakubt: 2, 3]; "Your riches and your children may be but a trial: but in the Presence of Allah, is the highest, Reward."[Teğabün: 15]

Apart from the general meaning of fitnah as a test, we will also look at its meaning of “act of malice, causing disorder and disturbing the public peace”. This is why God said in Quran: "..for provocation and instigation are worse than slaughter." (Al-Baqara: 2:191] "..And fight them on until there is no more provocation or instigation." Al-Baqara: 2:193]

Confusing people’s mind, causing them to act out of order and markedly unrestrained, and controversy were also considered as an act of malice. This ayat indicates this: " But those in whose hearts is perversity follow the part thereof that is allegorical, seeking discord, and searching for its hidden meanings, but no one knows its hidden meanings except Allah. "[Al-i İmran, 3: 7]

Fitnah, in another meaning, means being exploited by ill-intended rulers and being oppressed by them. They said: "In Allah do we put our trust. Our Lord! make us not a trial for those who practice oppression" [Yunus, 10: 85]

5. All Religions Accept that there is the Hereafter and there is Eternal Punishment for Unbelievers
Paul -- for instance -- says in the Letter to the Romans: "God has imprisoned men in their own disobedience only to show mercy to all mankind" (Rom. 11:32). In the "eternal punishment" (Matt. 25:46) of the Last Judgment the stress lies on the fact that this punishment is definitive, final, decisive for all eternity.

In Islam too, either reward or punishment awaits man at the end of the trial that is the life of this world. Those who engage in good deeds, and have faith in God, earn the good pleasure of God, and are rewarded with an eternal Paradise. The wicked, those who deny God and transgress His limits, however, deserve Hell, where they will encounter eternal punishment.

Some ignorant people reads some Qur’anic verses relating to eternal punishment and claims that the Qur’an contains violence against humanity. Like verse 4: 56 “Those who reject our Signs, We shall soon cast into the Fire: as often as their skins are roasted through, We shall change them for fresh skins, that they may taste the penalty: for Allah is Exalted in Power, Wise.” This is ignorance of all sacred books and insulting them. “Did you suppose that We created you for amusement and that you would not return to Us?” (Sura al-Muminun: 115).

According to Islam, there is no contradiction between the existence and ghastly torments of Hell, and infinite mercy, true justice, and wisdom with its balance and absence of waste. Indeed, mercy, justice, and wisdom require its existence. For to punish a tyrant who tramples the rights of a thousand innocents and to kill a savage animal that tears to pieces a hundred cowed animals, is for the oppressed a thousand fold mercy within justice. While to pardon the tyrant and leave the savage beast free, is for hundreds of wretches a hundredfold pitilessness in place of that single act of misplaced mercy.

Not to cast him into Hell would comprise innumerable instances of mercilessness to innumerable claimants whose rights had been transgressed, in place of a single misplaced act of mercy. Yes, if a worthless rebel who assaults the people says to the proud ruler of the place: “You can’t put me in prison!”, affronting his dignity, if there is not a prison in the town, the ruler will have one made just to throw the ill-mannered wretch into it.

In conclusion, those, who accuse Islam and Quran for being a book of violence or a religion of violence, either are out of their mind or ill intended or mis-educated. We have to answer them with knowledge and reason. Sometimes it is best to ignore them. Hence, the famous proverb: “If you threw a stone at every barking dog, there would be no stone left in the world.”