DOES THE QURAN DECREE VIOLENCE
AGAINST DISBELIEVERS AND INFIDELS?
The charge often levied against Islam is that the 'Muslim religion' preaches hate for all others and encourages violence against 'infidels' and sometimes the allegation is that the Quran in particular has many verses that incite this hatred and violence.
When we see the poor translations it is easy to see why this is the conclusion. However, even a good translation can give this impression when verses are read in isolation or some key words are defectively understood. So to understand the words proper, we must define the meanings according to the original text and not according ideas from the media or indeed stereotyped people.
There is no denying the fact that the Quran clearly states that 'disbelievers' should be dealt with strictly and that 'infidels' should be punished severely, if not killed. But until we understand what the disbeliever is rejecting and what the term infidel really means we cannot conclude that the Quranic decrees are unreasonably harsh or unjust. In fact the term infidel grossly skews its original meaning and taints the view.
At this juncture we must also ask the question:
Where in the Quran does it decree hatred of anyone or gratuitous violence?
Should we find no evidence that the Quran indeed decrees hatred of anyone or that violence of a gratuitous nature is being incited, then we have no right to malign the Quran.
The Quran never describes Islam as a religion but as a social system (Arabic: Deen-islam). From the same root as Islam we get the word muslim, i.e. the one who harmonises with the system. The Quran decrees believers to implement Absolute laws and Permanent values. Permanent values are the core principles that develop the human Self and progress mankind and society forward. These values are valid in all times and all places irrespective of tradition and culture. These tenets are expanded throughout the Quran and are summarised in Sura 2:177. This verse begins by pointing out that rituals are futile. This is because while rituals may give some satisfaction to the individual who carries them out, they do nothing to help in the challenges of life: hands that work are better than lips that pray. This also verse gives the most important principles of Deen-islam:
• Accountability; that is to take responsibility for your actions and the consequences it brings.
• Harnessing the forces of nature and managing the environment.
• To believe in the guidance of the Quran. Belief is impressing our Self with the divine blueprint. Actions are the manifestation of that belief and accountability is showing responsibility for our actions. So without true believe and conviction there will be no credible actions.
• To follow the messengers as role models (Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Mohammad etc) and by extension all good men and women whose action show that they have been enriched with Quranic values.
• To be benevolent and selflessly expend your money, despite your desire to hold on to it, and become the benefactors of society; to help your relatives, the orphans, the needy, the refugees and the destitute.
• To free the captives and the slaves, to observe your commitments and keep them pure, to keep your word whenever you make a promise, and to steadfastly persevere in the face of hardship and adversity.
Those people who apply these principles are, the Quran says, the truthful; these are the righteous. These are the muslim; those who harmonise with Deen-Islam. Therefore the person who does not believe in these values that develop the individual and progress society is a DISBELIEVER. The Quranic term is 'kafir' or one who denies or rejects.
While some people may reject God, only the corrupt will reject the need for order in society. The principle of accountability is the basis for any order in society; this also underpins social welfare, a crucial element in a balanced society. Other aspects such as fulfilling commitments and perseverance are also essential to a stable and progressive community.
Those who disbelieve in an ordered society displace peace and security. So how should these DISBELIEVERS be treated if not strictly?
In Britain we deal severely with those who disrupt our social peace - some are even issued with ASBO orders which can be given to ANYONE over the age of 12. In Scotland breach of the peace is a serious offence which can often result in a custodial sentence.
What about the Quran's decrees for dealing with infidels?
Poor translations of the Quran give distorted meanings that create wrong impressions about what it is saying. For example the words mushrik (sing) and mushrikeen (pl) are translated as pagans, infidels or idol worshipers and sometimes even as disbelievers.
In reality mushrikeen are those who commit treachery. Traditional translators usually say mushrikeen means 'idol worshippers'. But to translate the word 'mushrikeen' as idol-worshippers is like calling a gang of marauding Vikings a group of beach revellers.
Traitors are those who create fear and turmoil in society. So how should these TRAITORS be treated if not severely?
Until recently traitors (William Joyce 1945) in Britain were hanged. In January 2017 police stopped and shot dead a motorist on M62 in a pre-planned operation. He was alleged to have been involved in criminal activities. In 2016 the then British Prime Minister David Cameron ordered the killing of two British men in Syria who were perceived to be a threat. The British government is alleged to have had a shoot to kill policy regarding IRA terrorists. Recently in Manchester and London police killed some terrorists who were causing mayhem in the cities.
The Quran never decrees gratuitous violence; it decrees only just punishment and killing of those active in destroying the peace and security of a community - and not the killing of any disbelievers who do not actively fight against the believers.
However, the Quran does not say that believers should be pacifists. It only decrees that believers must not aggress. but to defend yourself is not aggression. To help the vulnerable and oppressed is not aggression. To challenge those who create fear and turmoil is not aggression. And to call to account those who seek to destroy the peace and security of a community is not aggression. Peace at any price is no peace at all. Those who aggress must be taught lessons of good conduct. However, punishments should be meted out not by vigilantes, but by authorised officers of the law.
Now to comment on the specific verses that often cause concern:
[5:51] O you who believe, do not take certain Jews and Christians as allies; these are allies of one another. Those among you who ally themselves with these belong with them. God does not guide the transgressors.
NOTE: In the Quran Jews and Christians are not religious groups but communities from different backgrounds. Clearly what this verse says is that NOT ALL people can be trusted especially those who become allies against Quranic values.
Elsewhere (verses 5:5 & 2:62) we can see that other people including Jews and Christian are part of this wider community of believers. Also it was not until the 9th. century Islam came to be defined as a separate religion. Before this time all believers (Jews Christians, Sabians etc.) ate together, married amongst each other and in general lived in harmony.
[5:80] You see many of them allying themselves with those who disbelieve. Miserable indeed is what their hands have sent forth on behalf of their Self. God sees their guilt and consequently they will abide forever in retribution.
NOTE: Those who disbelieve in Quranic values are condemned. What else would you do with those who refuse to believe in harmonising society and threaten the peace and security of a community?
[3:10] Those who disbelieve will never be helped by their money nor by their children, against God. They will be fuel for hell.
NOTE: The value of an individual is determined by his own actions. A person raises his or her own value by the measure of their own endeavour - not by the amount of money they possess or the number of children they have. The hell is what they make for themselves by rejecting the values that enhance society.
[3:28] The believers never ally themselves with those who reject this guidance in preference to the believers. Whoever does this is displaced from God's System. Exempted are those who are forced to do this to safeguard themselves from persecution. God alerts you that you shall reverence Him alone. Accountability to Him is your ultimate conclusion.
NOTE: How can any decent law abiding person walk shoulder to shoulder with someone who rejects accountability and shirks responsibility - the very things that are the foundations to God's system? Anyone who rejects the Quranic values is not a good person to associate with.
[3:85] Anyone who seeks to follow other than Deen-Islam as a way of life, will never be accepted by Him, and in the life yet to come he will be among the losers.
NOTE: As explained earlier the Deen-Islam is based on values and laws that advance individuals and society, so if anyone wants to live by another system that is detriment to the development of the Self and regressive to society cannot be part of the higher order of life. Even in the UK we want to keep out the people who may be destructive to our society.
[3:118] O you who believe, don't take into confidence outsiders, who never cease to wish you harm; they even want to see you destroyed. Hatred flows out of their mouths and what they hide in their hearts is far worse. We thus clarify this guidance for you, if you understand.
NOTE: Those who do not want to be part of Deen-Islam cannot be privy to the security or the development plans of the society. To benefit you need also to be contributor and a believer in the social good of all concerned. How can those who do not believe be part of the system?
[9:23] O you who believe, do not ally yourselves even with your parents and your siblings, if they prefer rejecting this guidance over believing. Those among you who ally themselves with them are transgressing.
NOTE: Anyone who does not believe in Permanent values can be detrimental to society and this includes parents and siblings. But the Quran decrees that children should always treat their parents with due respect and never to speak to them harshly. See 17:22- 26.
[53:29] You shall disregard those who turn away from Our message and become preoccupied with this worldly life. [7:44] Those who are in harmony will call the dwellers of hell: "We have found our Sustainer's promise to be the truth, have you found your Sustainer's promise to be the truth?" They will say, "Yes." An announcer between them will proclaim: "God's condemnation has befallen the transgressors.
NOTE: These verses and other verses about disbelievers when understood in the light of information about who the disbelievers actually are can be seen why the Quran speaks disapprovingly about them.
In conclusion here are a few verses that show how traitors and enemies should be dealt with.
Please read ALL verses from 9:3 to 9:10 to get the complete picture and you will see that only the traitors who actively fight against the believers should be sought out and killed. But it is clear that the Quran decrees all treaties to be observed. Furthermore when the traitors cease their treachery, they are to be guaranteed safety and if they seek help, they must be given the aid they need.
Please also read verses 42:37-43. And the following verse speaks volumes:
[41:34] Not equal are the good response and the bad response. You shall resort with the best possible response. Thus, the one who used to be your enemy may become your close friend.
To say that the Quran has harsh things to say about disbelievers is true.
To say that the Quran decrees the killing of traitors is true.
But does this verse show that the Quran can incite gratuitous violence against anybody?
Furthermore when read knowing exactly what the disbelievers reject and what treachery the traitors commit, then every person who wants peace and security instead of fear and turmoil will agree that the Quran's decrees are just and true.
Rejecter/disbeliever: (Arabic: kafir. Derivatives kufr, kafiroon pl.) The word kafir and its derivatives appear 135 times and like many words in the Quran has many facets to it. The Arabic word kafir has simply been translated as 'disbeliever', but it really means much more than that. It means disbeliever or rejecter. The underlying meaning is one who covers the truth. The kaffir is a person who openly rejects, denies or conceals the truth, in this case the truth of this guidance.
The translated words still do not do justice to the original Arabic - because it does not convey what the kafir really rejects or disbelieves. So what does he actually reject? This rejection includes but is not limited to, the truth, justice, sincerity and the helping of the vulnerable. He rejects the Permanent Values and Absolute laws that progress individuals and societies. And most importantly he rejects accountability to his Self and ultimately to
An individual who openly refuses to accept the things that develop the human personality and rejects the Quran as the guidance to protect his or her Self from lasting harm, is a kafir. Furthermore, the rejection is in fact the refusal to accept values that advance society, the values that God decrees in the Quran. For example to fulfil one's commitments with sincerity, to advocate good and stop evil, strive against oppression and injustice, to promote fair trade and social welfare, to honour parents and to stop the killing of children and also the ultimate accountability to God.
These are just some of the values found in the Quran that, when applied, eradicate social ills in communities. It is these Permanent Values and Absolute Laws that move forward the procession of life, to develop society and one's Self and make it fit for the life yet to come. It is these values and laws the kafir, the disbeliever, rejects.
Who is a muslim?
A muslim is a person recognised by the high standards of probity he or she maintains. Conscientious people will recognise in the Quran the core values which can be defined as the Permanent Values. They may already live by these high standards and have exemplary characteristics even before they find the guidance of the Quran. They may in fact already be muslims, those who harmonise with Permanent Values, even though they are described, not as muslims, but by another equally appropriate term. See verses 28:50-53.
Islam: a state of peace and harmony. Muslim: one who creates peace by harmonising
with the permanent values and absolute laws as found in the Quran.
(islam, muslim: both from the root S'L'M)
So why believe in the Quran?
If a person already has his or her values aligned with the Quran, then why do they need to accept and follow the guidance in the Quran? While it may appear that an individual’s values are in agreement with the Quran, it is the Quran alone that consummates the complete Permanent Values and Absolute Laws that harmonise with God’s system, and provides them in a framework and in a way that a person may not be able to. This ensures that a full and complete calibration of values can take place. When asked how did they know that the messenger was sent by God, people said, the profound guidance he brought has made us believers. See verse 7:75.
Here are some verses mostly ignored by those who quote only the verses that show punishments or verses that speak disapprovingly of disbelievers, without saying why the disbelievers and indeed the traitors should be dealt with severely:
Tolerance treat each other well 17:53.
Debate in best manner 29:46; 42:37.
Invite with wisdom 16:125.
Disregard opposition in kind manner 73:10.
Don't berate other beliefs 6:108.
Freedom of belief 109:1-6; 18:29; 25:63.
Don't say you are not a believer to one who offers peace 4:94.
Show leniency 45:14.
Forgive, advocate tolerance 7:199.
Those who believe and then disbelieve 3:90; 4:137.
Respond to make friends of your enemies 41:34.
Respond with peace 8:61.
Friendship with disbelievers 60:8.
No compulsion in Deen-Islam 2:256; 4:137.
Disregard opposition in kind manner 73:10.
Kind words better than insult 2:263.
Treat all people amicably 2:83.
Better to pardon 42:40-43;
Racism, no basis 49:13.
Righteous seek protection when angered 42:37-43.
Suppress anger 3:134.
Only God can call to account 13:40.
Do not kill, except in justice 17:33.
Govern by consensus: 3:159; 42:38.
Blind obedience to authority forbidden 60:12
Aggression forbidden: maintain good will and tolerance, but not peace at any price: 4:89-91; 8:39; 8:58; 42:39; 42:41; 47:35.
REFER TO THE QURAN NME
1. Please read pages 632-635 for further and more detailed explanations of the words kafir and mushrikeen.
2. What is the difference between religion and Deen-islam? Please see page 8 of The Quran NME.
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