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Clarifying Jihad in the Qur’an Using The Principle of Naskh


  By Ben Rast

  Contender Ministries


 Posted: November 17, 2003

“Islam is a religion of peace.”  That has been the motto repeated frequently by politicians, the media, and Islamic organizations on a frequent basis lately.  Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, many have tried to distance the peace-loving Muslims from those who commit terror by claiming that Islam really is a peaceful religion, and it has been “hijacked” by extremists who do not practice the true, peaceful teachings of the Qur’an.  But what is the truth?  Is Islam really a religion of peace?  What about all those verses in the Qur’an that speak of love and peace?  In this article – which will be a religious study rather than political – we’ll examine what the Qur’an says about love, peace, war, and jihad, and how these reconcile. 

We’ve received many emails from Muslims.  While some have been vitriolic and even threatening, the majority of the emails have been, at the very least, respectful and courteous.  These earnest and sincere Muslims point out that the Qur’an directs Muslims to be respectful toward “people of the Book” (Christians and Jews).  They’ll point out that the Qur’an teaches that there is no compulsion in Islam, and true Muslims are to act with love and respect for mankind.  They claim that Islamic terrorists have twisted the Qur’an to justify their evil acts.  They provide many examples from the Qur’an to back their claims.  Surah 2:62 says, “Verily! Those who believe and those who are Jews and Christians, and Sabians, whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day and do righteous good deeds shall have their reward with their Lord, on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.”  Surah 2:256 says that there is no compulsion in religion.  Indeed, there are at least 114 verses in the Qur’an that speak of love, peace, or forgiveness. 

Where then, is the justification for waging jihad?  What motivated the nineteen terrorists on 9/11?  What inspires the homicide bombers around the world?  Well, the answer to that is also found in the Qur’an, as well as the Hadiths (the recorded teachings of Muhammad).  While at least 114 verses speak of love or peace, sixty percent of the Qur’an deals in some fashion with jihad!  Surah 9:5 says, “Then when the Sacred Months have passed, then kill the Mushrikûn (those who join gods with God) wherever you find them, and capture them and besiege them, and prepare for them each and every ambush. But if they repent and perform As-Salât (prayers), and give Zakât (alms), then leave their way free. Verily, Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.”  This seems to contradict the verse that speaks of no religious compulsion in Islam. 

When the Qur’an speaks of “those who join gods with God,” it refers to the polytheists.  To Muslims, this includes Christians who believe in the Trinity.  The concept of the Trinity eludes most Muslims, who believe that Christians worship three separate gods, rather that one triune God.  Moreover, because of the reverence paid to Mary by many of those in the Middle East that Muslims know as Christians, most Muslims (Muhammad included) think the Trinity refers to God the Father, Jesus, and Mary.  So any time the Qur’an refers to polytheists, or “those who join gods with God,” it is referring to Christians as well. 

Surah 4:89 tells Muslims to not take Christians, Jews, or pagans as friends, and also orders the murder of those who depart from Islam: “They wish that you reject Faith, as they have rejected (Faith), and thus that you all become equal (like one another). So take not Auliyâ' (protectors or friends) from them, till they emigrate in the Way of Allah. But if they turn back (from Islam), take (hold) of them and kill them wherever you find them, and take neither Auliyâ' (protectors or friends) nor helpers from them.”  Surah 9:123 says, “O you who believe! Fight those of the disbelievers who are close to you, and let them find harshness in you, and know that Allah is with those who are the Al-Muttaqûn (the pious).”  The list goes on: 

And fight them until there is no more Fitnah (disbelief and polytheism: i.e. worshipping others besides Allah) and the religion (worship) will all be for Allah Alone [in the whole of the world]. But if they cease (worshipping others besides Allah), then certainly, Allah is All-Seer of what they do.” 8:39 

It is not for a Prophet that he should have prisoners of war (and free them with ransom) until he had made a great slaughter (among his enemies) in the land. You desire the good of this world (i.e. the money of ransom for freeing the captives), but Allah desires (for you) the Hereafter. And Allah is All-Mighty, All-Wise.” 8:67 

Fight against those who (1) believe not in Allah, (2) nor in the Last Day, (3) nor forbid that which has been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger (4) and those who acknowledge not the religion of truth (i.e. Islam) among the people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians), until they pay the Jizyah (tax) with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.” 9:29 

If I went on to cite all such verses from the Qur’an, this article would be almost as long as the Qur’an.  And that doesn’t even include the extra-Qur’anic teachings of Muhammad that are recorded in the Hadiths.  So the question arises, how does one reconcile the verses that command Muslims to wage jihad against infidels with the verses that speak of love, peace, and forgiveness?  How do we reconcile the teaching that there is no compulsion of religion in Islam, with the teaching that those who leave Islam must be killed, and Christians and Jews may escape death if they convert to Islam or pay the Jisyah?   

The answer to those questions is the principle of naskh.  In his book Islam and Terrorism, Dr. Mark Gabriel described naskh in this way, “Naskh is based on the fact that the Quran was revealed to Muhammad at different times over a period of about twenty-two years.  Some parts of the Quran came later, and some parts came earlier.  To solve a contradiction, they [Islamic scholars] decided that new revelations would override (nasikh) previous revelations.”[1] The disparity between the earlier writings of Muhammad and the later writings which took precedence can be understood by a brief examination of Muhammad’s life at that time.   

Muhammad began writing the Qur’an when he was living in Mecca.  At that time, his followers were a small minority there.  Muhammad committed himself to peaceful activities such as prayer, writing, and fasting.  His new doctrine of Islam was spreading slowly at that time, and wasn’t very popular with the local populace.  As a result, his Qur’anic writing put a kind, peaceful, and non-threatening face to Islam.  Muhammad spent several years in Mecca, but began to suffer persecution at the hands of his tribe.  The Quraysh tribe was the largest tribe in the area, and its leaders were unhappy that many in the tribe were departing from idol worship and adhering to this new religion Muhammad had started.  After failing to silence Muhammad with bribes, they persecuted him (even attempting to kill him), and ultimately caused him to flee Mecca.  Muhammad settled in the area of Medina, known in that day as Yathrib.   

In Medina, Muhammad faced less resistance, and his band of followers grew in number.  As his following swelled, his tone of peaceful co-existence began to change to one of preparation.  He was not simply enlarging a body of religious converts; he was raising an army.  He had not forgotten Mecca or the Quraysh tribe, and he had plans for them.  His followers multiplied to a number that was at first, influential.  Then they surpassed merely influential and became dominant.  Muhammad had his army.  His writings shifted from preparation to jihad.  He would now increase his following by conquest.  The sword replaced the pen as his means for proselytizing.  His army waged war on the “unbelievers,” and Muhammad personally led the charge in dozens of battles.  His revelations on jihad became bolder and more specific, and his religion became political as he sought to make the Arabian lands submit to Islam.   

With that history in mind, it is easier to understand that the portions of the Qur’an Muhammad wrote in Mecca have more of a “let’s get along” ring to them.  The portions he wrote in Medina, especially after he began his conquests, spoke more of forced conversion and spreading Islam through conquest (wars of jihad).  Using the principle of naskh, these later writings supercede any contradictory statements written earlier.   

Does the Qur’an speak of a religion of peace, love, and forgiveness?  It certainly does.  Does the Qur’an also speak of jihad and conquest against non-Muslims?  Yes, this is also true.  The mujahadeen (those who wage jihad) are those who correctly understand the principle of naskh, and practice the doctrine of jihad against the infidels.  They have not hijacked Islam.  They practice the fundamental teachings of their prophet.   

Jesus commanded His followers to spread the gospel to every nation.  Yet He did not teach or condone evangelism by force.  In fact, his tone is much different that Muhammad’s: “You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 4:43-45).  Jesus and His disciples understood that everyone has free will.  Rather than force unbelievers to pay a tax or die (like Muhammad did in surah 9:29), Paul told Christians, “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ” (Ephesians 4:15).  Jesus wants us to share the gospel with the world, including Muslims.  At the same time, he wants us to do so with the love and patience that comes from the Spirit of God.  As we speak of the One True God, eternally present as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, let us do so with the love and charity Christ demands of us.  Let us demonstrate to the world that peace comes through Christ Jesus our Lord, and not through conquest and jihad

 

  1. Mark A. Gabiel, Islam and Terrorism, (Florida: Charisma House, 2002), p. 30.  Dr. Mark Gabriel earned his Ph.D. in Islamic Studies at Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt.  He was an imam at the Al-Azhar mosque and taught at the university.  After accepting Jesus Christ as his personal savior, his own father tried to kill him.  Dr. Gabriel was forced to flee his homeland, and he changed his Muslim name to his current Christian name.  As a student at Al-Azhar, one of his lecturers was a blind sheikh named Omar Abdel Rahman, who was later convicted of masterminding the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center in New York City. 

*  Quotes from the Qur’an were taken from The Noble Qur’an

 

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