Response to:Tolerance and the Quran

by Saif min Suyufillah

Critic:

A member of the Gideons (an organization which distributes the Bible worldwide) was telling the story of handing out Bibles in the streets of Marseille, a city in France. According to him, the French city of Marseille now claims Islam as the religion of the majority. It was in this city that Muslims who were offered Bibles took them, and either threw them over his head or burned them in front of him. Such an attitude would not be expected from the majority of westerners even if they strongly disagreed with literature distribution and its message.

Response:

So it was the behavior of some human beings,not something asked by Allah or His Prophets or mentioned in any authentic Islamic Book.

Quran says Do not abuse what they worship:

And do not abuse those whom they call upon besides Allah, lest exceeding the limits they should abuse Allah out of ignorance. Thus have We made fair seeming to every people their deeds; then to their Lord shall be their return, so He will inform them of what they did.(6:108)

Quran mentions the importance of security of Worshiping places of different religion:(Rather than destroying them):

They have to be protected!

[They are] those who have been evicted from their homes without right – only because they say, “Our Lord is Allah .” And were it not that Allah checks the people, some by means of others, there would have been demolished monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques in which the name of Allah is much mentioned. And Allah will surely support those who support Him. Indeed, Allah is Powerful and Exalted in Might.(22:40)

 Quran is against compelling one to embrace Islam:

There is no compulsion in the religion; right-mindedness has already been evidently (distinct) from misguidance. So whoever disbelieves in the Taghut (i.e. satanic things,false gods, idols, devils ,seducers etc etc) and believes in Allah, then he has already upheld fast the most binding Grip, with no disjunction (ever); and Allah is Ever-Hearing, Ever-Knowing.(2:256)

Quran  says be just and righteous towards those Non Muslims who have not fought you for Islam:

Allah does not forbid you from those who do not fight you because of religion and do not expel you from your homes – from being righteous toward them and acting justly toward them. Indeed, Allah loves those who act justly.(60:8)

Quran says do not transgress even against those who had transgress against you:

O you who have believed, do not violate the rites of Allah or [the sanctity of] the sacred month or [neglect the marking of] the sacrificial animals and garlanding [them] or [violate the safety of] those coming to the Sacred House seeking bounty from their Lord and [His] approval. But when you come out of ihram, then [you may] hunt. And do not let the hatred of a people for having obstructed you from al-Masjid al-Haram lead you to transgress. And cooperate in righteousness and piety, but do not cooperate in sin and aggression. And fear Allah ; indeed, Allah is severe in penalty.(5:2)

 

Critic:

With Islam coming to the West through immigration and conversion, it is to be expected that attitudes in the “public square” are going to be affected. The social reality of religious pluralism, where Islam and other religions cannot live in isolation any more, forces us to take seriously the implications of such a plurality of religious views and examine the effects on religious freedom and tolerance. Can Muslims and other religious people live together in peace and harmony? As a student of world religions says: “Frankly, the history of religion is not reassuring.”[1]

Response:

Patriarch Ghaytho wrote:

The Arabs, to whom the Lord has given control over the world, treat us as you know; they are not the enemies of Christians.  Indeed, they praise our community, and treat our priests and saints with dignity, and offer aid to churches and monasteries. (Arthur Stanley Tritton, The People Of The Covenant In Islam, p. 158)

Gustav Lebon writes:

“The Arabs could have easily been blinded by their first conquests, and committed the injustices that are usually committed by conquerors.  They could have mistreated their defeated opponents or forced them to embrace their religion, which they wished to spread all over the world.  But the Arabs avoided that.  The early caliphs, who had a political genius that was rare in proponents of new religion, realized that religions and systems are not imposed by force.  So they treated the people of Syria, Egypt, Spain, and every country they took over with great kindness, as we have seen.  They left their laws, regulations, and beliefs intact and only imposed on them the jizya, which was paltry when compared to what they had been paying in taxes previously, in exchange for maintaining their security.  The truth is that nations had never known conquerors more tolerant than the Muslims, or a religion more tolerant than Islam.” (Lebon, G, The Civilization Of The Arabs, p. 605)

Critic:

What makes some Muslims behave as they did in the streets of a French city? What leads some Muslims to blow up the World Trade Center towers in an American city, killing thousands of civilians? Is this behavior an expression of true Islam or a perversion of it? What does Islam teach on religious tolerance? These are questions that cannot be answered quickly or easily and yet the answers are there if one looks diligently.
The importance of understanding the Islam of the Qur’an.

Response:

I challenge you to find me a single verse where it is asked to kill any innocent non Muslim.

Critic:

I will specifically explore the extent to which Qur’anic Islam tolerates other religions. The central question to be investigated in this study is this: “Is the Qur’an’s teaching compatible with tolerance in a pluralistic society?”

Response:

See the Quranic verses mentioned above.

Critic:

The professor and author Edward W. Said, who was born in Palestine but has resided in US since the 1950’s, claims as a matter of fact that “ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union there has been an active, explicit search in the United States for new official enemies, a search that has now come to settle on ‘Islam’ as a manufactured opponent.”[3] Seeking to avoid projecting a “manufactured Islam,” one of the goals of this paper is to combat prejudice – that is, a posture which is not based on relevant information and experience, either favorable or unfavorable, about Islam.

In a recent article in Time magazine, Michael Elliott comments on the PBS documentary “Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet” (funded partially by a number of Islamic foundations). He writes: “What the world needs is not a hagiography of the Prophet or an apologia for Islam but a clear sense that modern Muslims are prepared to engage in an honest debate on the way in which their faith has been perverted by those who kill thousands of innocents.”[4] In this writing I seek to contribute toward the need for a clear sense in the debate about the relationship of the Muslim faith and its violent expressions.

The importance of understanding the unavoidable Islam involves exposing the lies of some presentations of Islam and raising awareness about the challenge presented by a faithful expression of Qur’anic Islam. We will also look at how it may affect the future of the democratic society, as formed by the values of Western civilization.

King Fahd of Saudi Arabia, a Muslim, has said: “The Democratic system that is predominant in the world is not a suitable system for the peoples of our region.”[5] It is important to determine why Fahd believes this to be so; and if the Islam to which he adheres is the Qur’anic (unavoidable) Islam, then how do Islam and democracy co-exist in a pluralistic society. Can Islam be tolerant?

Response:

The Caliph after the death of Prophet Muhammad s.a.w.w was chosen by the opinion of the Companions of Prophet Muhammad s.a.w.w.

The democracy today may not be the true representative of Islamic system,but Islam encourages the system of consultation.

So by mercy from Allah , [O Muhammad], you were lenient with them. And if you had been rude [in speech] and harsh in heart, they would have disbanded from about you. So pardon them and ask forgiveness for them and consult them in the matter. And when you have decided, then rely upon Allah . Indeed, Allah loves those who rely [upon Him].(3:159)

Critic:

Defining “tolerance”

Since we need to understand what the Qur’an teaches about religious tolerance we must define what tolerance is, and then we must see if there is such a thing taught in the Qur’an. Some Muslims may object to this approach, saying that the Qur’an ought to define the meaning of tolerance. The goal here, however, is to compare the concept of tolerance as generally understood in the democratic West with “Qur’anic tolerance.”

Tolerance is different from toleration. Jay Newman wrote:

… [W]e are reminded that there are two different nouns corresponding to the verb ‘tolerate’ – ‘tolerance’ and ‘toleration.’ The latter seems to have a broader application; it refers to any instance of tolerating. But ‘tolerance’ is more closely related to the adjective ‘tolerant.’ Toleration is merely instantiated in each instance of toleration; the term is entirely behavioural. Tolerance is expressed as well as instantiated in tolerant actions. A person can be tolerant on one occasion and intolerant on another. But most of us believe that some men are generally tolerant while others are not. ‘Tolerance,’ then, unlike ‘toleration,’ is often seen as a character trait, a disposition, and usually as that kind of disposition that we call a ‘virtue.’[6]

To describe a person, a religion, or a doctrine as both tolerant and intolerant says nothing about the disposition or character of such an entity with regard to tolerance.[7] It is not possible to characterize any person or religion as both tolerant and intolerant if tolerance is understood as a normative and defining virtue. One person or religion can be intolerant, although at times may show toleration; another can be tolerant but, inconsistently with the tolerant character, may show lack of toleration in specific or isolated occasions. This distinction between “tolerance” as a normative virtue (something we ought to exemplify consistently) and “toleration” merely as an instantiation of tolerance (occasioned by expediency), is important to bear in mind as we investigate Muslim scripture and history where there may be examples of toleration.
Tolerance and the view of truth

What does it mean to tolerate another’s beliefs? To “tolerate” another’s beliefs does not mean that one accepts them as true; but in being tolerant one respects another’s right to free will to choose what to believe. As Newman clarifies, “Tolerating a religious belief, then, does not involve a half-hearted acceptance or endurance of the belief in itself, but rather it involves acceptance or endurance of someone’s holding that belief, that is of a certain case of believing.”[8]

Relativists modify this meaning of tolerance to make it more of a propositional attitude, which involves respecting another’s religious beliefs as being of equal value to all other truth claims, even one’s own convictions. If this line of thought, however, is followed to its logical conclusion, a person could end up holding as equally true both propositions, even if they are obviously contradictory.

Metaphysical relativism considers metaphysical constructs as valuable in that they give significance to our lives; but it is not necessary for them to correspond with something objective outside of our minds. They are basically our own constructs. The motivation for such a conclusion may be epistemological (doubting the possibility to know things as they are in themselves, following the Kantian postulation of the categories of the mind that give shape to reality as experienced by us) or moral (in seeking to accommodate everybody’s view).

When metaphysical relativism is considered as a foundation for tolerance, we end up with no tolerance at all because it deprives the belief of any significance which makes it worth holding. On the other hand, this view also ends up being another dogmatism itself, as Newman writes: “Tolerance, after all, does not demand that one believe that every other person’s metaphysical views are as true or as reasonable or as profound as his own. Indeed … tolerance is possible only because we are capable of putting up with things that we do not like … or agree with.”[9] This condition implies: (1) having a certain belief and (2) being introduced to another person who holds beliefs with which you disagree. If we didn’t have to put up with those who hold beliefs contrary to ours, there would be no need for tolerance. If all believed the same thing, namely, that all religious beliefs are not to be taken seriously, but rather are to be considered merely as different keys in a piano (which may be different but not true or false), than what is there to tolerate?

In conclusion, we can say that tolerance means exemplifying an attitude of respect[10] or endurance toward another’s views, even those one may consider false, and tolerance as such can rightly be a virtue in one who believes in absolute truth. Muslims and Christians (and others who believe in the nature of truth as absolute and objective), have a real opportunity to be tolerant in this sense of the word, while relativists don’t.
Muslim background beliefs

To understand the Muslim view of tolerance we need to understand some basic concepts of the Muslim worldview and sources of authority. The answer to many questions about Islam and its nature is connected with understanding “the very structure of Islam as a religious and political complex.”[11] Although the so called Christian Byzantine Empire and the Western Holy Roman Empire, with the close association of the Christian Church and the State throughout the Middle Ages might suggest a similarity with the Islamic religious-political structure, it is a wrong assumption to consider them identical.[12]Islam is radically different in that in its very identity is a political-religious structure. Fazlur Rahman, a well respected Muslim scholar writes: “Islam insisted on the assumption of political power since it regarded itself as the repository of the Will of God which had to be worked on earth through a political order … To deny this fact would be both to violate history and to deny justice to Islam itself.”[13]

The concept of God as “Allah” is of a being that is totally other, wholly transcendent to the point of implying that Allah is unknowable in himself but known in his will and requirements revealed in the Qur’an (Sura 42:11; 112:1-4). In the words of a Muslim scholar: “You may not have complete transcendence and self-revelation at the same time.”[14] This view of God is accompanied by a view of humans as the “slaves” of God (Sura 19:93). One major concept in Islam is captured in the very meaning of the word “Islam” itself: namely “submission,” which carries the sense of laying down arms before the victor and is taken to exemplify the total submission of every aspect of life, as an individual and society to Allah (The God).

The Qur’an teaches about itself that it is God’s direct and verbal word, that it is eternal and came down from what is preserved in heaven (Sura 85:22) as the “Mother of the Book” (Sura 3:7; 13:39; 43:4). Although the Qur’an considers the Old and New Testaments as God’s word (Sura 3:93; 4:163; 5:46 etc.), it considers its own authority as greater than theirs (Sura 5:48). Even the Arabic language of the Qur’an is considered an integral part of Allah’s word (Sura 20:113; 12:2), therefore, Muslims consider the Islamic culture as of heavenly origin.[15]

So, Islam is a political, cultural and religious system. Religion, as based primarily on the Qur’an, is a part of the system, which informs all the other aspects of the Islamic system. Religious doctrine, however, is viewed in Islam as a preamble to Islamic law, the Shariah (divine law),[16] which is a comprehensive code governing every aspect of life, because Islam is a religion primarily oriented toward law rather than theology.[17]

Another important Muslim concept is the “Umma,” or “the community of submission.” Although Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, had been reciting the earliest Suras of the Qur’an starting in A.D. 610 for about 13 years, it is A.D. 622 that marks the beginning of the Muslim era, because this marks the emergence of the “Umma,” the establishment of the Muslim political- religious structure. Dr. W. Bonar Sidjabat writes: “… the Islam of the Qur’an is theocratic and the Muslim state was a theocracy from its first ascent to power.”[18]

Prior to A.D. 622, Muhammad had not attracted many with his monotheistic message. The people of Mecca, the city of Muhammad’s birth and his first decade of religious activity (which started when he was 40 years old), were not responding positively to Muhammad’s message. They eventually made life so miserable for Muhammad and his few followers that they decided to flee to Medina, another city three hundred miles to the north, where some people had invited Muhammad to mediate differences between various tribal groups. William J. Saal writes:

That well-known event, the Hijra [emigration to Medina], gave Muhammed opportunity to gain control of Medina and eventually extend that control to the entire Arabian Peninsula and beyond.

This event is the pivotal event of Islamic history and has become the starting point of the Muslim calendar. Muslims believe that God’s ultimate objective was the creation of a new universal social order. The Hijra marks the beginning of this new world order, today identified with the Nation or Community of Islam, the Ummah.[19]

There are many issues that require further development at this point in tracing the history of Islam; the looting of Meccan caravans and subsequent battles with Meccan protectors of the caravans (Sura 2:216-218) in A.D. 624; the conquering of Mecca in A.D. 630; massacres of Jews; and military campaigns against the Christians in the north of Arabia under the leadership of Muhammad. He died in A.D. 632 “… but not without ordering about a month before his death another expedition to the North.”[20] We should turn to our main question now and will pursue history only in relation to defining the Qur’anic view of religious tolerance.
The Qur’an: its importance

The Qur’an is the absolute authority of Islam (socio-political-economic-cultural-religious system). Fazlur Rahman writes: “This ‘Other’ [Allah] through some channel ‘dictated’ the Qur’an with an absolute authority.”[21] The high esteem with which Muslims regard the Qur’an seems best captured by a Muslim scholar, Yusuf K. Ibish, who says: “It is not a book in the ordinary sense, nor is it comparable to the Bible, either the Old or New Testaments. … If you want to compare it with anything in Christianity, you must compare it with Christ Himself … Christ was the expression of the Divine among men, the revelation of the Divine Will. That is what the Qur’an is.”[22]

With regard to the importance of the Qur’an in forming a concept of tolerance in Islam, Sidjabat correctly observes:

[A]lthough the Muslim opinion about any problem does not always find its answer literally in the Qur’an, but also in and supported by the Sunnah (custom) and Hadith (tradition), the Ijma (consensus) and Qias (analogy), the value of the Qur’an as the primary source of any Islamic religious problem is decisive. … Its significance for the concept of religious tolerance is obvious, if we realize that the Qur’an can be considered as the command of God … Following the contents of the Qur’an means practically being obedient to the will of Allah no matter how tolerant or intolerant this might be for others.[23]

Sidjabat even goes so far as to suggest that Muhammad’s “political tolerance or intolerance should not be primarily attributed to Mohammad himself but rather to Allah from Whom – as Mohammad believed – came the Qur’an.”[24]
Qur’an’s nature and the problem of chronology

One would assume that if we just read the Qur’an we should be able to follow its teaching on tolerance easily, but that is not the case. Ignaz Goldziher, considered one of the outstanding European Islamists, wrote: “In its entirety, [the Qur’an] represents an amalgam of the two essentially heterogeneous periods that form the infancy of Islam [Meccan and Medinese].”[25] Nevertheless, chronology and delineation of those periods, is downplayed in the present arrangement of the Qur’an; “ignoring its own pivot,” as Kenneth Cragg puts it.[26] Cragg says:

Through the sequences of [Muhammad’s] career – yearning, vision, utterance, pertinacity, controversy, endurance, rejection, emigration, militancy and triumph – the accumulation of the Qur’an moves in parallel relation, fusing meaning with mission, and truth with setting. It is as events unfold that the whole grows into entirety … [But] In many circles, the non-chronological form of the Qur’an as it stands, however we account for it, becomes in this way a virtue in disguise or, rather, a proper parable of the necessary transcendence of mere point and circumstance which the believer should attain. God had not allowed the Qur’an to be arranged in sequence, in order to preclude notions of the time factor and of calendar time itself, seen as embarrassments to its celestial status.[27]

The Qur’an was not written down systematically during the time of Muhammad but was primarily memorized by Muhammad’s followers. It was not until after his death, and due to the fear that those who knew the Qur’an by heart were dying in the conquering battles Muslims were fighting, that Umar got the idea to ask Muhammad’s successor (caliph) Abu Bakr (632-634) to “order that the Qur’an be collected.”[28] Although that compilation of the Qur’an doesn’t exist[29] and there was another compilation made during the third successor, Uthman (644-656),[30] the order of the chapters (Sura) was decided at the time of the first official copy as the order of length rather than chronology.[31] All the other competing variants of Qur’an, “whether written in fragmentary manuscripts or whole copies, [were ordered to] be burned.”[32]

The Qur’an itself does not help in determining the order of the chapters and sometimes, even verses from one chapter come from different periods. Cragg observes: “… the Surahs, especially the longer ones, are composite within themselves as well as irregular in time, so that the continuous reader oscillates bewilderingly across the years and has, indeed, a better chance of being in historical step if he starts at Surah 114 and reads back to Surah 2, than if he lets the paging guide him.”[33]

On the one hand, Muslims believe that since the Qur’an is eternal there is no need for a chronological order but, on the other hand, as Fazlur Rahman says: “the ‘occasions of revelation’ were recorded [in the Hadith] as a necessary aid for fixing the correct meaning of the Word of God.”[34] Some construction of the chronological order therefore has been undertaken by scholars, which should be supplemented with the “historical traditions containing reports about how those among whom the Qur’an first appeared understood its injunctions and statements.”[35]

The reason chronology is very important for our search for a definition of Qur’anic tolerance is related to the doctrine of abrogation taught therein. Sura 2:106 says: “Whatever communications We abrogate or cause to be forgotten, We bring one better than it or like it.”[36] Zamakshari, a famous Muslim scholar, commenting on this verse, wrote: “To abrogate a verse means the God removes (azala) it by putting another in its place. To cause a verse to be abrogated means that God gives the command that it be abrogated. … Every verse is made to vanish whenever the well-being (maslaha) (of the community) requires that it be eliminated … We bring a verse which is better for the servants (of God), that is, a verse through which one gains a greater benefit, or one which is equal to it in this respect.”[37]

In the earlier Meccan period, Muhammad may well have taught that he was to “declare openly … and turn aside from the polytheists” (Sura 15:94) or to “call to the way of your Lord with wisdom and goodly exhortation, and have disputations with them in the best manner” (Sura 16:125).[38] But when Muhammad went to Medina “it was … time for a different watchword: ‘… kill the idolaters wherever you find them; take them prisoner, lay siege to them, and wait for them in every ambush’ (9:5); ‘fight in the way of God’ (2:244).”[39] Have the later verses of Medina abrogated the earlier ones in this case to serve better the interests of the Muslim Community? Many commentators think that this is the case, although they disagree about the extent of the abrogation and the specific suras it applies to.[40]

Following some chronological arrangement for the Suras (according to Nöldeke’s listing) that is generally accepted by Muslim scholars, we will now look at some pertinent verses from the Qur’an.[41]
Qur’anic teaching on relating to “religious others”[42]

Although the majority of Surahs (90 out of 114) were recited during the first 13 years of persecution in Mecca, it is interesting to notice that none of them contains commands to fight and kill.[43] It is after the Hijra, the establishing of the first Muslim community in Medina, that the teaching on attacking religious others unfolded. Rev. Richard Bailey, in his study “Jihad,” traces the progression of the attitude toward religious others in four stages: (1) No retaliation (in Mecca), (2) Defensive fighting permitted (in Medina), (3) Defensive fighting commanded (in Medina), and (4) Offensive war commanded (after conquering Mecca).[44] I will follow the same progression but in three phases, linking phases two and three together.

1. No retaliation (toleration)

In the Meccan Sura 67:26 and 22:49 we read: “Say ‘… I am (sent) only to warn plainly in public’” and “Say, ‘O men! I am (sent) to you only to give a clear warning.’”

During this period it is clear that Muhammad did not perceive his role to be that of a ruler and military leader. Another Meccan Sura 17:54, confirms this understanding by saying: “… We have not sent thee to be a disposer of their affairs for them.” At this time in Mecca (A.D. 610 – 622), Muhammad seems to uphold tolerance in the real sense of the term as discussed earlier when he recites: “Repel evil with that which is best … We are well acquainted with the things they say. And say, ‘O my Lord! I seek refuge with thee from the suggestions of the evil ones. And I seek refuge with thee of my Lord, lest they should come near me’” (Meccan Sura 23:96).

Mecca was the city of the Ka’aba, a cubic structure where 360 idols were presented for worship. Meccans, who profited from being the guardians of Ka’aba, did not welcome the Message of Muhammad. Their economic and religious traditions were threatened, therefore they ridiculed and harassed the little group of Muslims up to the point where they forbade them to go to the Ka’aba for their religious ritual, while all the polytheists could visit the shrine freely. It is difficult to understand why monotheist Muslims would want to worship at the shrine of 360 idols, but whatever the reason, it is in this context of prohibiting them to worship at the Ka’aba that the words “repel evil with that which is best” were recited. These words can give the impression that the virtue of tolerance is being taught in the Qur’an. If this was the whole of the Qur’anic teaching it may well have been the case that it teaches tolerance in the real sense, namely enduring religious others whilst disagreeing with their beliefs. But, in light of future developments, there is another possible interpretation of these verses, which might render this phase of the history of Islam as one of toleration rather than characterizing Islam as tolerant. It could have been simply a strategic position in order to survive since, being such a small number (no more than 150 converts),[45] they would have been obliterated if they had decided to retaliate (Sura 8:26).

Response:

True.

Note it that there was no retaliation untill the formation of Islamic government in Madina.

When you establish a government,when you are having treaties with other people,when you are declaring to come to this state for peace,it means you have the responsibility of protecting the people as well; which was definitely not the condition in Makkah.

Critic:

2. Defensive fighting (in Medina)

After Muhammad and his followers went to Medina, 13 years after the beginning of the movement, we see a different attitude toward those who didn’t believe the message of Muhammad. The Medinan Sura 2:190-194 says:

Fight in the cause of God those who fight you, but do no transgress limit; for God loveth not transgressors. And slay them wherever ye catch them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out; for tumult and oppression 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. But if they cease, God is oft-forgiving, most merciful. And fight them on until there is no more tumult or oppression, and there prevail justice and faith in God; but if they cease, let there be no hostility except to those who practice oppression … If then any one transgresses the prohibition against you, transgress ye likewise against him. But fear God, and know that God is with those who restrain themselves. (Emphasis mine.)

In his commentary Yusuf Ali writes: “If they want forcibly to prevent you from exercising your sacred rites, they have declared war on your religion, and it would be cowardice to ignore the challenge or to fail in rooting out the tyranny.”[46] This is in stark contrast to the previous Meccan attitude of bearing with and not retaliating against those who didn’t let Muslims go to perform the ritual at the Ka’aba, forcibly preventing them from exercising their sacred rites and in effect declaring war on Muslim religion as Ali interprets the opposition against Muslims.

The previous attitude of non-retaliation was not considered cowardice before but now the same persecution is considered worthy of war. What has changed in the situation is the strength of the Muslim community in military terms. The verses we have looked at so far present two different responses toward the same situation, namely, no retaliation at one time and retaliation at a more opportune time against opponents of Muslim religion.

Response:

Defensive war?

Yes the position was defensive but there is a difference in a simple defensive war where you just have to retaliate,or protect your own lives when someone attacks you AND when you have the responsibility of protection of many people to whom you have offered a secure place,when you are attacked for just your belief that Allah is your Lord,when you have already persecuted for many years and driven out of your homes for that.

It is not that sort of personal defensive war if you note the differences.

The main aim now was the protection of this tiny state and many civilians coming to this state,already being persecuted by the Non Muslims for their religion.

This was not the condition in Makkah.

Critic:

Rahman referring to Muhammad in Medina says: “… the Prophet turned to the task that was the crux of his Prophetic mission: to bring Mecca to accept Islam and through the religious center of Mecca to spread Islam further. All his efforts thenceforward are directed to this end.”[48] Fleeing for his life after failing to influence Mecca from inside, Muhammad sought to convert the Meccans by force, which was eventually achieved after eight years of fighting.

Response:

Where is it mentioned that the task of Prophet Muhammad s.a.w.w. was to bring Makkah to Islam?

Fleeing for life?Why are you contradicting yourself?

At one place you are saying that He had a great mission of spreading Islam through Makkah that is why He migrated,and at the very next moment you are saying the He flee away?

Fleeing is cowardliness and a fleeing person can never have such a great goal in his mind.

The actual scene was that the migration was for Allah,when there was severe persecution for obeying Allah,the people were martyred for that,persecuted for that and driven out of their homes for that, Allah the most Loving and Merciful does not want all that for His obedient beings,He does not want them tortured,so He commanded to make Hijrah (migration) for peace and a better future where the people could practice their religion easily.

Prophet Muhammad s.a.w.w. had conveyed the command of Allah and so He must had to do the same for Allah,He had to show that in that case Allah would bless them,Allah would grant better provision and better homes.

And those who emigrated for [the cause of] Allah after they had been wronged – We will surely settle them in this world in a good place; but the reward of the Hereafter is greater, if only they could know.(16:41)

And those who emigrated for the cause of Allah and then were killed or died – Allah will surely provide for them a good provision. And indeed, it is Allah who is the best of providers.(22:58)

For the poor emigrants who were expelled from their homes and their properties, seeking bounty from Allah and [His] approval and supporting Allah and His Messenger, [there is also a share]. Those are the truthful.(59:8)

 

Critic:

One clear example from the Qur’an with regard to the unprovoked war by Muslims, is found in Sura 2:216-218, which says:

Fighting is prescribed for you, and ye dislike it. But it is possible that ye dislike a thing which is good for you, and that ye love a thing which is bad for you. But God knoweth, and ye know not. They ask thee concerning fighting in the prohibited month. Say: ‘Fighting therein is a grave (offence); but graver is it in the sight of God to prevent access to the path of God, to deny Him, to prevent access to the sacred mosque [polytheistic Ka’aba in Mecca prior to its Muslim conquest], and drive out its members.’ Tumult and oppression are worse than slaughter. Nor will they cease fighting you until they turn you back from your faith if they can. And if any of you turn back from their faith and die in unbelief, their works will bear no fruit in this life and in the hereafter. They will be companions of the fire and will abide therein. Those who believed and those who suffered exile fought (and strove and struggled) in the path of God, they have the hope of the mercy of God, and God is oft-forgiving, most merciful. (Emphasis mine.)

To understand the significance of the passage one has to know the historical context it refers to. Rahman explains: “The Qur’an … is referring to a skirmish that took place without the Prophet’s explicit permission between a Meccan caravan and a group of emigrants during the ‘forbidden months’ (when fighting was not allowed by Arab inter-tribal law) in [A.D. 624].”[49] Whatever the “explicit permission” and “a skirmish” means for Rahman, another respected Muslim scholar, Baidawi, explains:

“… the Prophet sent out his paternal cousin ‘Abd Allah ibn Jahsh with an expeditionary force, in order to be on the look-out for a caravan of (the tribe of) Quraish … they killed ‘Amr, took two of his men captive, and drove away the caravan, which contained the goods of trade from at-Ta’if. This happened at the beginning of (the month of) Rajab, while ‘Abd Allah and his people believed it was (still) the (month of) Jumada l-Akhira. … This is supposed to have been the first booty in Islam.”[50]

Amazingly, after quoting the Qur’anic verse above, and after saying earlier that the prophetic task was to convert Meccans (implying the use of force), Rahman writes: “It is, therefore, obvious that the Prophet’s measures in terms of militaristic operations from Medina were not unprovoked.”[51] Some things need to be pointed out about this conclusion of Rahman.

If Meccans were going to fight Muslims in Medina it seems strange that they would go in war with caravans of goods. It is obvious that it was Muslims, attacking the Meccan caravans as they were passing to go home, who started the wars between Muslims and Meccans. They broke the customs that pagans themselves didn’t break, namely fighting in the sacred month, considered by the Qur’an itself as “great offense.” W. Montgomery Watt commenting on Sura 2:194 about the holy month, writes: “Though the taboos were originally matters of pagan religion, many were accepted by Islam.”[52] How can one say that the Meccans provoked the Muslims in this situation, except by the lure of goods to be looted from the caravans? There is plenty of testimony in the Qur’an itself that Muslims suffered from the greed of looting (Sura 8:1; 8:67-69; 3:152).

Response:

Encyclopedia Britannica says:

In 624 an army of 1,000 assembled by the Quraysh marched against Medina and met a much smaller force of 313 Muslims at a place called Badr on the 17th day of the month of Ramadan.

Critic:

Important to note in this Qur’anic passage is the attitude of distrust toward religious others: the portrayal of them as seeking to convert Muslims to another faith by force and thus motivating Muslims to do the same. Another aspect is the threatening attitude toward a Muslim who may convert to another religion. One hadith makes it more specific with Muhammad saying: “The blood of a Muslim who confesses that none has the right to be worshipped but God and that I am His Apostle, cannot be shed except in three cases: In qisas [retaliation] for murder, a married person who commits illegal sexual intercourse and one who reverts from Islam and leaves the Muslims.”[53]

This prescribed attitude toward a Muslim embracing another religion has implications for tolerance. Moucarry correctly observes what true religious tolerance involves as he focuses on Christians and Muslims: “Christians and Muslims will be genuinely tolerant only when they have accepted the idea that debate, or dialogue, may lead to conversions either to Christianity or to Islam.”[54] Based on the Qur’anic passage above, therefore, we cannot fail to note that the Qur’an does not convey a situation where religious others can co-exist as equals with Muslims. The relationship between people of different religions is seen as between ruler and the subdued.

Another example from the Qur’an regarding this concept of ruling and authentication of the true religion by military victory and political supremacy (the seal of approval from God for the Muslim cause is seen in political dominance), is the passage referring to the battle of Badr,[55] called the “testing” or the “criterion.” Surah 8:38-42 says:

Say to the unbelievers, if (now) they desist (from unbelief), their past would be forgiven them, but if they persist, the punishment of those before them is already (a matter of warning for them). And fight them on until there is no more tumult or oppression, and there prevail justice and faith in God altogether and everywhere. But if they cease, verily God doth see all that they do. If they refuse, be sure that God is your protector – the best to protect and the best to help. And know that out of all the booty that ye may acquire (in war), a fifth share is assigned to God, – and to the Apostle, and to near relatives, orphans, the needy, and the wayfarer, – If you do believe in God and in the revelation we sent down to our servant on the day of testing, day of the meeting of the two forces. For God hath power over all things.

Remember ye were on the hither side of the valley, and they on the farther side, and the caravan on the lower ground than ye. Even if ye had made a mutual appointment to meet, ye could certainly have failed in the appointment, but (thus ye met), that God might accomplish a matter already enacted, that those who died might die after a clear sign (had been given), and those who lived might live after a clear sign (had been given).[56] And verily God is He who heareth and knoweth (all things). (Emphasis mine.)

Commenting on the “day of testing,” which refers to the meeting of Muslim and Meccan forces, Yusuf Ali considers the criterion between right and wrong to be decided by the military victory between two armies: “the forces of faith and of unbelief.”[57] The winning of the physical battle justifies the Muslim cause and to this day this kind of success, namely political rule, is seen as the mark of true, authenticated Islam.

Response:

The people of Makkah were asking for a criteria to see who was right and who was wrong.That day,such a small group defeating such a larger army,was presented as the criteria that Allah is with the Muslims.

Many hypocrites had joined the Muslims as well who were having friendly terms with the enemies of Islam and Muslims.

At that day,it became all obvious.

Critic:

What concerns us at this point is the attitude toward religious others. As far as we can tell, the Qur’an makes the case that fighting was against unbelievers as such. The phrase “Fight them until there is no more oppression” refers to fighting Meccans who still would not allow Muslims to perform the ritual at the Ka’aba. But, the extent of the war, which is to continue until “there prevail justice and faith in God altogether and everywhere” points to the real agenda of imposing Islam as supreme religion. Again, the envisioned environment with religious others, indelible in the Qur’an itself, is not one of equality, i.e. a pluralistic society, but of a victorious religion which subdues the others. This is what is actually said in Sura 8:67-69: “It is not fitting for an Apostle that he should have prisoners of war until he had thoroughly subdued the land.” (Emphasis mine.)

Response:

“Until there is no more Fitnah” means until there is no more persecution,no more intolerance,no more oppression.

It does not mean that Islam has to be imposed upon everyone.

Critic:

Yusuf Ali’s comment follows: “An ordinary war may be for territory or trade, revenge or military glory – all temporal goods of this world. … But a jihad is fought under strict conditions under a righteous imam, purely for the defense of faith and God’s law. All baser motives therefore are strictly excluded.”[58] Here we have one definition of Jihad as being a war for God’s cause, to establish the rule of Islam by the use of force. Moucarry presents the Muslim concept of militaristic jihad[59] in this way:

In the event of God’s cause being in danger, Muslims are under an obligation to take up arms and fight the enemies of Islam, even if they are reluctant to do battle (2:216-218; 4:77) … Indeed, it is preferable to engage in combat rather than to expose the Muslim community to sedition and run the risk of seeing God’s cause defeated (2:191-193; 8:39). Armed combat or holy war is therefore the extreme form of jihad. Its aim is to defend Islam from its enemies.[60]

Muslims love to paint a picture of this being a defensive war in the normal sense of the word “defense,” but one cannot escape another understanding of such a war; that is, one which subdues religious others and establishes Islam as supreme. This is made obvious by expressions like: “[no] prisoners of war until [Muhammad] had thoroughly subdued the land.” The concept of “defense” in the Muslim understanding is related to the Muslim view of the Umma. Bannerman writes: “… followers of Islam … were required, in pursuit of God’s will, to seek to establish a universal community comprising all mankind in which public order was regulated by the revelation [Qur’an].”[61] Muslims consider the destiny of the world order to be the rule of Islam, which they identify with the rule of God; the Muslim community is what that rightly ruled society will look like.

“The world was divided into dar al Islam (the territory of Islam) and dar al harb (the territory of war: and, by extension, the territory of unbelievers). … Dar al harb comprised the rest of the world which Muslim rulers were duty-bound to bring under their authority … Clearly, dar al harb must in due course be transformed into dar al Islam by one means or another.”[62] War against the unbelievers is considered to be defending the cause of God to whom belongs the territory which the unbelievers unjustly occupy simply by existing there.

Response:

The division into darul Islam and Darul Harb is not something specified in Quran or Authentic Hadees.

Regarding the point of defense,refer to the example of the defense system of our body.

There are many microorganisms(bacteria,fungi) living inside our body known as Normal Flora,and our body does NOT destroy them,because they are not destructive,they are not harmful.They live in our body,get benefits from us and are well protected.

When the same microorganism (bacteria or fungus) enters into our body and starts to cause disruption,destruction and disturbance inside our body,the person gets ill and the DEFENSE system gets activated.

The tiny but powerful army aims against that microorganism to MAKE THEM HARMLESS OR KILL THEM so that the person could remain alive and healthy.

This is the system of nature.

Similarly,the religion of Allah has no problem with the existence of any Non Muslim,they could remain at peace anywhere,anyhow,continuing their own religion,but when they start oppression,disruption and destruction in the society,they need to be calm down by the Natural Defense System of Allah on the Earth,to maintain peace.

Critic:

3. Offensive war against all religious others

We have to skip over many verses which clearly uphold the same teaching of waging war against the unbelievers during the years in Medina[64] but will now pick up one Sura from the last years of Muhammad’s life, after conquering Mecca in A.D. 630, which establishes fighting not as defensive any more, but aggressive Jihad against all unbelievers. As Bailey writes in the context of this last phase of Qur’anic development, “[S]ince this is the final teaching of the Qur’an regarding Jihad, it is what is still in force today.”[65]

Sura 9:1-6 says:

A (declaration) of immunity from God and His Apostle, to those of the pagans with whom ye have contracted mutual alliances. Go ye, then, for four months backwards and forwards (as ye will) throughout the land, but know ye that ye cannot frustrate God (by your falsehood), but that God will cover with shame those who reject Him. And an announcement from God and His Apostle, to the people (assembled) on the day of the great pilgrimage – that God and His Apostle dissolve (treaty) obligations to the pagans. If, then ye repent, it were best for you. But if ye turn away, know ye that ye cannot frustrate God. And proclaim a grievous penalty to those who reject faith. (But the treaties are) not dissolved with those pagans with whom ye have entered into alliance and who have not subsequently failed you in aught, nor aided any one against you. So fulfill your engagements with them to the end of their term, for God loveth the righteous. But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the pagans wherever ye find them, and seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war). But if they repent, and establish regular prayers and practice regular charity, then open the way for them. (Emphasis mine.)

The list of unbelievers (hence the enemies of Allah) includes Jews and Christians besides pagans as Sura 9 continues in verses 29-31:

Fight those who believe not in God nor the last day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by God and His Apostle, nor acknowledge the religion of truth, (even if they are) of the people of the Book [Bible], until they pay the jizya with willing submission, feel themselves subdued. Jews call Uzair [Ezra] a son of God, and the Christians call Christ the Son of God … God’s curse be on them; how they are deluded away from truth! They take their priests and their anchorites to be their lords in derogation of God, and (they take as their Lord) Christ the son of Mary. Yet they are commanded to worship but One God. (Emphasis mine)

“Those who reject faith” are those who do not want to become Muslims and at this point no more treaties of non-attack are to be observed, since it was decided that they “cannot frustrate God” any longer. The Qur’an clearly establishes an attitude of war toward all those who don’t believe Islam, wherever they may live, until they “repent and establish regular prayers and practice regular charity, then open the way to them.” Yusuf Ali’s comment is: “when war becomes inevitable, it must be prosecuted with vigour.”[66] This gives you the impression that it is a war not chosen by Muslims but by God, as it is viewed in the context of a mandate to subdue the world for Islam. The inevitability of war is interpreted not as the Muslims’ choice but as something imposed upon them. The time had come to abolish all agreements of peace with religious others and fight them until they become Muslims and follow Islamic laws.

Muslims would say that it is essential that God not to be frustrated, meaning that Islam has to cover the whole earth as the supreme religion. Since nonbelievers reject Islam there is no other alternative left but for Muslims to show that nonbelievers “cannot frustrate God” by waging war and conquering the world for Islam. “But even then there is room for repentance and amendment on the part of the guilty party, and if that takes place, our duty is forgiveness and establishment of peace,”[67] continues Ali.

It seems clear that the guilt of the religious others lies in not embracing Islam and not being ruled by Islam. This is especially clear when Jews and Christians are included in the enemies to be conquered for Islam, even though their religion is considered valid for salvation at the Day of Judgment (Sura 2:62; 5:69). This means that Muslims do make a distinction between being under Islam and being in Islam, just as Moucarry says: “Submission to the political order of Islam does not necessarily imply assent to its doctrinal content [Surah 49:14; 48:11].”[68] This “establishment of peace,” means Muslim political rule of all who either become Muslims or live with “a grievous penalty to those who reject faith” in the form of a poll-tax and other humiliating conditions of the status of the dhimmi (“the protected”).

Response:

As you have yourself quoted 2:62 and 5:69,the case is not as that you are portraying.

There was no hatred for every Non Muslim rather there is a clear history,series of prolonged persecution,the case of occupying the sacred place of Muslims and many other factors,all to be eliminated in the way mentioned in 9:1-6.

Use your logic,if this was the mindset of Islam and Muslims,then why they had to keep on tolerating for so many years?

Critic:

Conclusion on Qur’anic teaching about relating to religious others

During the Meccan period, Muhammad claimed that his role was to warn people. Later, it seems that all those who don’t believe what he taught and forbade, are not simply warned but are to be fought, cursed and commanded to embrace Islam. Nevertheless, since it is logical (due to the nature of belief formation) that “there is no compulsion in religion” (Sura 2:257), those who choose not to embrace Islam have the alternative to live in submission, paying a tax to be allowed to believe what they had believed before but in such a way that they “feel themselves subdued.”

Response:

Warning,yes warning to keep peace otherwise they would be fought back.

What is wrong here?

Critic:

Compared with the concept of tolerance defined at the beginning of this paper, Qur’anic “tolerance” is nothing less than religious persecution. Muslims would never accept this charge of intolerance but they must remember their own complaint when they were the persecuted ones in Mecca. Rev. Bailey makes a valuable observation at this point:

When the pagans were in control and the small number of Muslims were not permitted to enter the Ka’aba, their persecution was called a ‘sacrilegious act’ and ‘an open declaration of war.’ Brigadier S. K. Malik says, ‘The enemy repression reached its zenith when the Koraish denied the Muslims access to the Sacred Mosque to fulfill their religious obligations.’ Now that the tables are reversed, the denial of the pagans’ right to fulfill their religious obligations is not called ‘repression’ but is excused on the grounds that they must ‘shut out all impurity’ because the pagans ‘are unclean.’[69]

In a late Medinan Surah 9:28 we read: “O ye who believe! Truly the pagans are unclean, so let them not, after this year of theirs, approach the Sacred Mosque.” (Emphasis mine).

Response:

You have yourself mentioned those who started all that.It was not Muslims but the pagans.

Regarding the uncleanliness,definitely there is no such term in Quran as “shut out all impurity”.Rather it is your personal prejudice.

The concept of Pure term or Pure speech lies in affirming the Unity of God,His Oneness.The opposite refers to impurity or impure speech.

 

Critic:
The interpretation of Qur’an is a fossilized teaching beyond change

The Qur’anic teaching on how to relate to religious others is normatively exemplified in the life of Muhammad and the first community. Muslims cannot be free to interpret Qur’an differently from Muhammad’s interpretation throughout his life and as shown in the way his earliest followers imitated him. The Qur’an says: “And it behoves not a believing man and a believing woman that they should have any choice in their matter when Allah and His Apostle have decided a matter; and whoever disobeys Allah and His Apostle, he surely strays off a manifest straying” (Sura 33:36).[70] Yvone Yazbeck Hadad writes: “Islam is one as revealed in the Qur’an, and the ideal and perfect Islamic community is that of Medina where the Umma lived under divine guidance through the mediation of the Angel Gabriel and the Prophet Muhammad.”[71]

As said earlier, the flight to Medina in A.D. 622 is the watershed event that marks the emerging of the Muslim community (umma), which would remain the model for the future as a God-ordained model for society. Bat Ye’or, traces several significant events in the life of Muhammad and the first Muslim Community:

In 624 Muhammad, joined by more followers, called upon the Qaynuqa, one of the Jewish tribes of Medina, to recognize his prophetic mission. When they refused, he besieged and overcame them. … their lives were spared, but they were expelled from the city, their lands and a part of their possessions being confiscated by the Muslims. The following year the Jewish Nadir tribe suffered a similar fate: Muhammad burned down their palm groves and divided all their fields and houses among the community of the Believers.[72]

… In 627 … guided by the angel Gabriel, Muhammad … turned his host against the Jewish tribe of the Qurayza. … Because the Jews refused conversion, Muhammad attacked and overwhelmed them … six to nine hundred of them … were led forth in batches and decapitated. … The Prophet then divided the women, children, houses, and chattels among the Muslims.[73]

… In 628, taking advantage of a treaty of nonbelligerency (Hudaybiya) with the Meccans,[74] he attacked the oasis of Khaybar. … The assailants came to the oasis at night and in the morning attacked the peasants as they were coming out in the fields, carrying spades and baskets.[75] After a siege lasting a month and a half, the inhabitants surrendered under the terms of a treaty known as the dhimma. According to this agreement Muhammad allowed the Jews to continue cultivating their oasis, on condition that they ceded to him half of their produce; he also reserved the right to break the agreement and expel them whenever he wished.[76]

Based on the dhimma of Khaybar, the relationship between Muslims and conquered peoples everywhere and for all time was held as an example for the future status of peoples under Muslim rule, the status of the dhimmi. When the early successor of Muhammad, Umar Al-Khattab, expelled the Jews and Christians from the Hijaz (Mecca and Medina) in A.D. 640, he referred to what Muhammad had said at the siege of Khaybar: “The land belongs to Allah and his Messenger.”[77] Based also on the Prophet’s advice: “Two religions shall not remain together in the peninsula of the Arabs,”[78] even to this day there are no non-Muslims that can set foot in Mecca.

It is because of such examples left by Muhammad for all of his followers in all times and places, that one is baffled to learn of Muslim scholars like Pickthall who go “to the extent of asserting that Muhammad’s attitude to Jews and the Christians remained tolerant till he died.”[79] Against such a background, it defies understanding to read some evaluations of history by Hassan Al-Turabi who, as of 1983, was Attorney General of the Sudan. He wrote: “The historical record of Muslims’ treatment of Christians and Jews is quite good especially compared with the history of relations between different religions and religious denominations in the West.”[80] After reading the Qur’an, it is surprising to encounter declarations such as Ahmad A. Galwash made: “There is not even a single verse in the Holy Qur’an which directly or indirectly insinuates the alternative of death or Islam for the unbelievers.”[81] Another Muslim claims that: “Mohammad did not merely preach toleration; he embodied it into law. In all conquered nations he offered liberty of worship. A nominal tribute was the only compensation they were required to pay for the observance and enjoyment of their faith.”[82] (Emphasis mine.)

What, then, are the implications of having to pay “compensation” for the “favor” of observing one’s religion? This clearly denies the “fundamental, and inalienable human right – the freedom to reach, hold, freely exercise, or change our beliefs independent of governmental control.”[83]

It is important to clarify that people who lived under Muslim rule didn’t have rights that flow from the mere fact of being a human being, but only as prescribed by a “concessionary charter” (the dhimma) which could be changed at the decision of the Muslim ruler. As Ellul notes: “… In the case of the ‘concessionary charter,’ … one enjoys rights only to the extent that they are recognized in the charter and only for as long as it remains valid. As a person, by the mere fact of one’s ‘existence,’ one has no claim to any rights. And this, indeed, is the dhimmi’s condition.”[84]

This view of human rights is diametrically opposed to the rights that a liberal democracy envisions for its citizens. Nicholas Wolterstorff gives a definition of what democracy involves: “Equal protection under law for all people, equal freedom in law for all citizens, neutrality on the part of the state with respect to the diversity of religious and other comprehensive perspectives present in society, and equal voice for all citizens within the fair voting schemes.”[85] Weigel says: “Democracy is a way of public life, a way of being a political community,” which will work if it includes people “who have made their own the values, the moral truths, that teach us to be civil, tolerant, respectful – in a word, democratic.”[86] I am fully aware that democracy is a fairly recent phenomenon even in the West but the point here is to see if Islam, with the Qur’an as its defining factor, can ever be compatible with democracy and the religious tolerance democracy epitomizes.

In light of the Muslim concept of the Umma, the status of religious others in Qur’anic Islam is not negotiable. Ellul says that the status of the dhimmi:

… was not the product of historical accident but was that which ought to be from the religious point of view and according to the Muslim conception of the world. In other words, it was the expression of the absolute, unchanging, theologically grounded Muslim conception of the relationship between Islam and non-Islam. … One must know as exactly as possible what the Muslims did with these unconverted conquered peoples, because that is what they will do in the future.[87]

Given the Muslim view of God as rule-giver, but not relational, tolerance as a concept is understood to be the undeserved and capricious generosity of a ruler toward the ruled. Epistemologically, given the authority of the Qur’an and Muhammad’s example, tolerance is defined according to the regulations of the Shariah law (divine law of the Muslim theocracy) and the normatively interpretative example of Muhammad and the first Muslim Community. Theologically, Muslims view everything in light of the destiny of Islam to rule the world and, therefore, they are committed to what they believe is God’s will, involving jihad (holy war). Moreover, there is the utilitarian dimension of Muslim intolerance, which includes reasoning that the greater good (for the umma) justifies hard measures. The same worldview and understanding of Islam as superior (not only as a religion but also as a form of government with which it is inseparably linked) persists today among Muslims generally. As Watt writes: “… the thinking of the fundamentalist Islamic intellectuals and of the great masses of ordinary Muslims is still dominated by the standard traditional Islamic world-view and the corresponding self-image of Islam.”[88]
The will to deny the obvious

Nothing that is presented in this paper is new or unheard of by those informed on the subject. Nevertheless, even among those who should know better, there is a tendency to behave like the proverbial ostrich, denying the obvious implications of the Qur’anic teaching. Daniel Pipes, who surveyed about 25 experts in religion (professors in Harvard, Georgetown, Duke University, Baylor, Rutgers, University of Wisconsin etc.), found only four of them who considered the term “jihad” to have any military component whatsoever and this, he says “is quite as if historians of medieval Europe were to deny that the word “crusade” ever had martial overtones … [but rather the term “crusade” actually meant] ‘crusade on hunger’ or ‘crusade against drugs.’”[89] It is also disturbing that, even in post 9/11 America, as Pipes testifies, “one who dares to dissent and utter the truth on the matter of jihad falls under enormous censure … We have thus reached a point where merely to state a known fact about Islam earns one the status of a hostile bigot.”[90]

The will to believe that Islam is a religion of tolerance may cause some to be convinced that it is; but in reality it doesn’t make Islam a religion of tolerance. After being confronted with the facts of Islamic teaching, some still continue to say: “Please tell me this is not Islam.”[91] Even when one correctly observes that “Islam cannot but be ruling – and ruling on its own terms, and deciding what minorities it will allow and how,” exemplifying the ostrich mentality, the same person still hopes against hope that Muslims will choose “Meccan priority (choose to make normative the Meccan attitude of toleration), in terms of the twenty-first century, [which] must emphasize an Islam that … tolerates diversity …”[92] This is just another way of saying, “please tell me this is not Islam.”

We live during the worst time for the West to confront Islam because of the loss of clarity on the nature of truth. The relativistic view of truth explained earlier in relation to tolerance is prevalent in the affluent, sleepy (even if restless) western society. The openness of the West toward third world religions is not because the West has become more tolerant (relativism just stupefies the mind giving the illusion of tolerance), but because it is confused about its own identity; it has educated itself to be ignorant and dismissive of its own heritage; it is embarrassed by colonialism and blows out of proportion the mistakes of the past throwing out the baby with the bath water.

It is as if the West is living the tale of the ugly duckling in reverse. Westerners, for a time, thought the West was beautiful but lured by the “nonconformists” and looking at the exotic “others” they now feel like as if the West is the ugly duckling. There is a need for people like Dinesh D’Souza,[93] who emigrated from the East to the West and can’t be fooled by the hype of criticism against the West, to convincingly declare how beautiful America and the West, still are.

The West built a legacy of religious tolerance because it believed that objective truth existed; because truth mattered and because people should be free to pursue it. As was made clear earlier, in order to have tolerance at all, a view of truth as objective and an attitude of respect for humans (who are endowed by the Creator with dignity and rights that involve the exercise of their free will), is essential. This view of tolerance is part of the glorious legacy the West has bestowed upon the world. Therefore, it is tragic that one can be considered a bigot today in the West because one believes that another view can be wrong. America and the world have an opportunity to overcome this untenable relativistic stance as we face the ugliness of ideologies which result in events such as September 11th 2001.
Contemplating Change: the impossible

At the end of his book Foundations of Religious Tolerance, Newman wants to strike an optimistic note: “… we … still have a moral obligation to believe that further civilization – further civilizing – is possible. If the prospects for religious tolerance are not bright, then it is our business as human beings to make them bright.”[94] Another hopeful voice was Watt, suggesting that: “… a programme for the correction of the faulty self-image of Islam may seem utopian and unlikely to be realized. [but] … That at least is the outcome for which the believer in God, Muslim or non-Muslim, should be praying.”[95]

I also wish that such a change in Islam were possible but understanding the nature of Islamic religion, forces one to agree with the incisive words of Ellul who says:

After all, ideas and concepts are known to change. … But precisely what seems to me interesting and striking about Islam, one of its peculiarities, is the fixity of its concepts. … Wherever the social organization is based upon a system, it tends to reproduce itself far more exactly. Islam, even more than Christianity, is a religion that claims to give a definite form to the social order, to human relations, and claims to embrace each moment in the life of every person. Thus, it tends toward an inflexibility that most other forms of society have not had. Moreover, it is known that the whole of Islamic doctrine (including its religious thought) took on a juridical form. … Of course, there can be an evolution (in practical matters, in jurisprudence, etc.), but when there is a text, which is regarded in some way as an “authoritative” source, one has only to go back to that text and recent innovations will collapse. And this is exactly what has happened in Islam. …

One should be aware that when one is dealing with some Islamic term or institution of the past, as long as the basic text – in this case, the Koran – remains unchanged, one can always return to the original principles and ideas whatever apparent transformations or developments have taken place, especially because Islam has achieved something that has always been very unusual: an integration of the religious, the political, the moral, the social, the juridical, and the intellectual, thus constituting a rigorous whole of which each element forms an integral part.[96]

These words express exactly the thrust of my argument: there is an Islam that is unavoidable, namely the Qur’anic Islam, which can be rediscovered time and again. Just as Kenneth Woodward says: “Israeli commandos do not cite the Hebrew prophet Joshua as they go into battle, but Muslim insurgents can readily invoke the example of their Prophet, Muhammad, who was a military commander himself. And while the Crusaders may have fought with the cross and their shields, they did not – could not – cite words from Jesus to justify their slaughters.”[97] It is the Qur’an that binds Islam to intolerance and since Islam without the Qur’an is not Islam, there cannot ever exist true Islam that is tolerant. Again we may wish to believe that Islam can become tolerant but we will have to live with the consequences, which are inevitable given the hard evidence.
Contemplating change: the possible

If, as I have come to conclude, it is true that the Qur’an ultimately does not teach tolerance but rather intolerance toward other religions in the society it seeks to dominate, I am afraid that there is nothing we can do about it; we cannot change the Qur’an. This doesn’t preclude on the other hand sympathizing with Muslims and seeking to understand where they come from so we may responsibly address the issues of concern.[98] They are fellow human beings, much more similar to us than different. Not every Muslim believes what the unavoidable Islam may suggest, and Muslims can and have changed or converted to another worldview. I am one among unnumbered Christians who come from a Muslim tradition.

Given the content of the Qur’an and the unquestioned place it has in Muslim religion and system, one fails to see how the Qur’anic Islam – the unavoidable Islam can possibly change but a change in its adherents is a different matter. Therefore, we should not get tired of upholding the truth, exposing falsehood, showing the consequences of certain views, seeking to win all people to the truth, and being prepared to stand our ground when the evil hour comes, as people who have hope

Response:

The height of prejudice or the height of depression is leading you all to this pessimism.

See the verses again.

Quran says Do not abuse what they worship:

And do not abuse those whom they call upon besides Allah, lest exceeding the limits they should abuse Allah out of ignorance. Thus have We made fair seeming to every people their deeds; then to their Lord shall be their return, so He will inform them of what they did.(6:108)

Quran mentions the importance of security of Worshiping places of different religion:(Rather than destroying them):

They have to be protected!

[They are] those who have been evicted from their homes without right – only because they say, “Our Lord is Allah .” And were it not that Allah checks the people, some by means of others, there would have been demolished monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques in which the name of Allah is much mentioned. And Allah will surely support those who support Him. Indeed, Allah is Powerful and Exalted in Might.(22:40)

 Quran is against compelling one to embrace Islam:

There is no compulsion in the religion; right-mindedness has already been evidently (distinct) from misguidance. So whoever disbelieves in the Taghut (i.e. satanic things,false gods, idols, devils ,seducers etc etc) and believes in Allah, then he has already upheld fast the most binding Grip, with no disjunction (ever); and Allah is Ever-Hearing, Ever-Knowing.(2:256)

Quran  says be just and righteous towards those Non Muslims who have not fought you for Islam:

Allah does not forbid you from those who do not fight you because of religion and do not expel you from your homes – from being righteous toward them and acting justly toward them. Indeed, Allah loves those who act justly.(60:8)

Quran says do not transgress even against those who had transgress against you:

O you who have believed, do not violate the rites of Allah or [the sanctity of] the sacred month or [neglect the marking of] the sacrificial animals and garlanding [them] or [violate the safety of] those coming to the Sacred House seeking bounty from their Lord and [His] approval. But when you come out of ihram, then [you may] hunt. And do not let the hatred of a people for having obstructed you from al-Masjid al-Haram lead you to transgress. And cooperate in righteousness and piety, but do not cooperate in sin and aggression. And fear Allah ; indeed, Allah is severe in penalty.(5:2)

 

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