In the occasion of the Nigerian suicide bomber on West Jet airline from Amsterdam to Detroit
Does Islam really teach peace? This question came to me in the same day of the incident...
Q: Does Islam really teach peace? I am not a Muslim and I do not hate Muslims, but I read in the Qur’an verses like, "And slay them wherever you catch them.." (2:191) and "..But if they turn away, seize them and slay them wherever you find them; and (in any case) take no friends or helpers from their ranks." (4:89). How can a peaceful religion teach these things? How do you explain these verses. These quotations from your Holy Book do really make us very uneasy with your faith. I would appreciate your reply.
6: 151".. do not take the life God has made sacred, except by right. This is what He commands you to do: perhaps you will use your reason." And also;
17: 33 " Do not take life, which God has made sacred, except by right: if anyone is killed wrongfully, We have given authority to the defender of his rights, but he should not be excessive in taking life, for he is already aided [by God]."
However, my dear, your question is valid then how come the Qur'an says: "kill them wherever you find them..." as it is mentioned in 2:191 and 4:89. The answer is simple and that is you should read these verses in their textual and historical context. You should read the whole verse and it is better that you read few verses before and few after. Read the full text and see what is said: (al-Baqarah 2:190-194)
" Fight in God’s cause against those who fight you, but do not overstep the limits God does not love those who overstep the limits. 191 Kill them wherever you encounter them, and drive them out from where they drove you out, for persecution is more serious than killing. Do not fight them at the Sacred Mosque unless they fight you there. If they do fight you, kill them– this is what such disbelievers deserve– 192 but if they stop, then God is most forgiving and merciful. 193 Fight them until there is no more persecution, and worship is devoted to God. If they cease hostilities, there can be no [further] hostility, except towards aggressors. 194 A sacred month for a sacred month: violation of sanctity [calls for] fair retribution. So if anyone commits aggression against you, attack him as he attacked you, but be mindful of God, and know that He is with those who are mindful of Him."
For your second quotation also read the full text: (Al-Nisa' 4:89-91)
" They would dearly like you to reject faith, as they themselves have done, to be like them. So do not take them as allies until they migrate [to Medina] for God’s cause. If they turn [on you], then seize and kill them wherever you encounter them. Take none of them as an ally or supporter. 90 But as for those who seek refuge with people with whom you have a treaty, or who come over to you because their hearts shrink from fighting against you or against their own people, God could have given them power over you, and they would have fought you. So if they withdraw and do not fight you, and offer you peace, then God gives you no way against them. 91You will find others who wish to be safe from you, and from their own people, but whenever they are back in a situation where they are tempted [to fight you], they succumb to it. So if they neither withdraw, nor offer you peace, nor restrain themselves from fighting you, seize and kill them wherever you encounter them: We give you clear authority against such people. "
Now, do these verses give a free permission to kill anyone anywhere? These verses were revealed by Allah to Prophet Muhammad at the time when Muslims were attacked by the non-Muslims of Makkah on a regular basis. They were frightening the Muslim community of Madinah. One may say using the contemporary jargon that there were constant terrorist attacks on Madinah and in this situation Muslims were given permission to fight back the "terrorist". These verses are not a permission for "terrorism" but they are a warning against the "terrorists." But even in these warnings you can see how much restraint and care is emphasized.
It is important that we study the religious texts in their proper context. When these texts are not read in their proper textual and historical contexts they are manipulated and distorted. It is true that some Muslims manipulate these verses for their own goals. But this is not only with Islamic texts, it is also true with the texts of other religions. I can quote dozens of verses from the Bible which seem very violent, if taken out from their historical context. These Biblical texts have been used by many violent Jewish and Christian groups. Crusaders used them against Muslims and Jews. Nazis used them against Jews. Serbian Christians used them against Bosnian Muslims. Zionists are using them regularly against Palestinians.
I will quote just a few verses from the Old Testament and New Testament on the same subject of your question:
In the Old Testament:
"When the LORD your God brings you into the land where you are entering to possess it, and clears away many nations before you, the Hittites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Canaanites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and stronger than you. And when the LORD your God delivers them before you and you defeat them, then you shall utterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them and show no favor to them. (Deuteronomy 7:1-2)
"When you approach a city to fight against it, you shall offer it terms of peace. If it agrees to make peace with you and opens to you, then all the people who are found in it shall become your forced labor and shall serve you. However, if it does not make peace with you, but makes war against you, then you shall besiege it. When the LORD your God gives it into your hand, you shall strike all the men in it with the edge of the sword. Only the women and the children and the animals and all that is in the city, all its spoil, you shall take as booty for yourself; and you shall use the spoil of your enemies which the LORD your God has given you... Only in the cities of these peoples that the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance, you shall not leave alive anything that breathes (Deuteronomy 20:10-17)
Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known man intimately. But all the girls who have not known man intimately, spare for yourselves. (Numbers 31:17-18)
In the new Testament:
"I tell you that to everyone who has, more shall be given, but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away. But these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slay them in my presence. (Luke 19:26-27)
For some reason, a number of people are looking into religion for answers, specifically Islam. Many people are turning to the Quran. Unfortunately, this has led many to misunderstand a number of verses about the Islamic conduct of war. Some of these verses that have often been quoted by non-Muslims to "prove" Islam promotes violence and bloodshed as the verses quoted above. Below is a clear explanation that can help clarify misconceptions.
The Historic Context and the Nature of the Holy Quran
The Holy Quran comprises of revelations from Allah to Prophet Muhammad over a period of twenty three years. The first 13 years of the prophethood of Muhammad were at his hometown of Makkah (Mecca), where he and his fellow Muslims were severely persecuted by the pagans of Makkah. During that time, Muslims were not ordered to fight back, but bear the persecutions. Finally, Prophet and his fellow Muslims emigrate to the city of Madinah, about 400 kilometers away.
This emigration, known as the Hijrah, marked the beginning of an Islamic society in Madinah, in which the Prophet became the head of the state. It was not long before the polytheists of Makkah marched towards Madinah to wage war against Muslims and destroy the Islamic state of Madinah. This battle is known as the Battle of Badr. The verses 2.190-2.194, above were perhaps the first injunctions from Allah to Muslims to prepare themselves for fighting. It was obviously a war in the defense of their homeland and their Faith.
In verse 2.190, Allah instructs Muslims to fight back, but not to transgress, and remain just even during the battle. "They are told that material interests should not be the motivation for their fighting, that they should not take up arms against those were not in opposition to the true faith, that they should not resort to unscrupulous methods or to the indiscriminate killing which characterized the other wars. The excesses alluded to in this verse are acts such as taking up arms against women and children, the old and the injured, mutilation of the dead bodies of the enemy, uncalled for devastation through the destruction of fields and livestock, and other similar acts of injustice and brutality.
The real intent of the verse is to stress that force should be used only when its use is unavoidable, and only to the extent that is absolutely necessary."
Allah, in whom the believers have faith, is forgiving and ready to pardon even the worst criminals and sinners after they have renounced their arrogant defiance towards Him. It is suggested that this attribute of Allah should be reflected in the behavior of the believers as well. Hence, whenever the believers have to resort to armed conflict, they should do so not for the sake of quenching their thirst for vengeance but in the just cause of their defense. Their conflict with any group should last only as long as that group is fighting them. As soon as it gives up this fight the hostility should cease.
It should be emphasized that so many revelations in the Holy Quran came down to provide guidance to Prophet Muhammad and the Muslims based on what they were confronting at that time. Therefore, it is important to understand and know the historic context of the revelations for a proper understanding of these verses.
The Prophet Muhammad, was the peace maker of his time. He endured torture, hunger and the killing of his loved ones by his enemies, but he remained a merciful person. In his most startling conquest of Makkah only four people died. In his 23 years of struggle for Islam, the total number of people who lost their lives from all sides was less than 2,000 (history records) in wars that were imposed on him and the Muslim community.