Muslims and people of other faiths:
Who won the bet?
After September 11, many of us have heard astonishing things about Islam.
We have been told that Islam is a religion with evil teachings. Further, we have heard that Islam teaches:
It is not only a matter of casual opinions voiced, but also there have been many verses introduced to validate the claim that Islam is an evil religion.
The truth of the matter is that the majority of the people in the West have not gotten the chance to know the real Islam. Those who have had the chance to learn a little about Islam may have done so through a non-Islamic source. However, should one consider the source where one obtains information about Islam, or not?
It could be argued that those who misquote verses from the Quran have done so with the assumption that the readers will believe their contents and not verify for themselves whether these quotations were in fact valid, misquoted or simply quoted out of context.
Here are some examples of the accurate teachings of Islam regarding non-Muslims:
QURAN REACHES OUT FOR ALL
-"We" in the English language, as well as many others, is sometimes used for "I" when the speaker is a king, an emperor or a president. Also, an author who is speaking of his publication can use the word "we". It is the plural for majesty and it refers to God.
- The Bible is a word that means BOOK, from the Latin word biblia and from the Greek word biblion.
- Islam recognizes THE ORIGINAL REVELATION to the above Messengers to be of divine origin. In fact Muslims are taught to say (peace be upon him) after mentioning any of the Prophets' names.
- Had Islam instructed Muslims not to have any type of contact or friendship with non-Muslims as many claim, then what would be the purpose of encouraging a dialogue between Muslims and the people of the Book in the above verses?
- As you see, this verse encourages Muslims to establish the dialogue with non-Muslims.
MUSLIMS AND SELF-DEFENSE
All scriptures (Muslim, Christian or Jewish) are subject to being misquoted by those who would use them to satisfy their own agenda or by those who simply lack an underlying understanding of the contextual elements of the verses at hand. If a scripture says; "God is one" it will be hard to misquote such a verse. However, other more layered verses become targets of misquotation. In this paper we will look at some examples of these misquotations that has been used against Islam.
As a very basic right in any civilized community, Muslims as well as all other people are entitled to defend themselves. However, when the Revelation of the Quran first commenced, Muslims were not even allowed to fight back in self-defense.
The tribe of Quraish in Mecca saw their position as guardians for the "house of Abraham" threatened. They kept idols for different (gods), those idols were worshipped by many tribes in the area, while Muhammad (peace be upon him) called for belief in One God. Blinded by ignorance, the tribe of Quraish thought it must dismantle this new religion that called for submission to One God to replace their many gods that were under their guardianship.
During the first few years of Islam, Muslims were persecuted in Mecca, where Mohammed (Peace Be Upon Him) started calling for Islam. Many were killed and others suffered persecution and humiliation. It was ten long years before Muhammad (pbuh) was commanded to migrate with whoever survived of his followers to Medina, which is about 260 miles North of Mecca. The powerful tribe of Quraish in Mecca, trying to finish off Islam and Muslims, was unable to stop the successful departure of Muslims from Mecca. For those still residing in Mecca, the Quraish decided to finish them all for good and they increased their hold on the city. They started by taking all the properties that belonged to Muslims, thus trying to prevent them from leaving Mecca on foot for the arduous 260 miles trip through in the desert.
Many Muslims still had the courage to leave the city on foot for the sake of God, so the Quraish plotted to kill everyone who left the city for Medina by intercepting them in the desert. After Muhammad (pbuh) made sure that every one of his followers had left the city, he too fled the city of Mecca with his closest friend, Abou Baker after miraculously surviving the assassination plot the tribe of Quraish had planned for him. Three years later, after a total of thirteen years of persecution, humiliation and killing, God allowed Muslims the right for self-defense by declaring to them the following verse: "Fight in the cause of God those who fight you, but do not transgress limits; for God loveth not transgressors". (2:190)
Unfortunately, this self-defense has been generally misinterpreted and maliciously misconstrued by many, in an attempt to show that the commandments were a declaration of war for Muslims against everybody else. You might have heard this quotation from chapter 9, which states: "slay the Non-believers (infidels) wherever ye find them", which has been quoted repeatedly out of context. Let's take a closer look at this verse and its meaning:
Chapter 9 starts by clearly pointing out to whom the commandment apply. Specifically, these commandments were concerning:"…those of the pagans (Non-believers or infidels) with whom ye have contracted mutual alliances" (9:1). More specifically, those who did not honor the treaty and committed aggression towards Muslims, as we will see in (9:4), yet Muslims were still unable to dissolve their treaty until Allah (God in Arabic) had commanded Muslims to dissolve their part of the " treaty " too.
(9:2) "Go ye, then, for four months, (as ye will), throughout the land…" The Prophet was directed to give his enemies a four-month grace period, a cessation of hostilities, during which they could review their attitude and plans towards Islam and Muslims. Had the commandment been just to "storm them all and kill them all" there would be no need to allow such long period for warning.
Some also have misunderstood the word " people" in verse (9:3) which says: " This is a proclamation from God and His Messenger to the people on the day of the greater pilgrimage…" to refer to all humankind. Or to make the verse sounds as if it is a command for Muslims to wage war against all people, overlooking the exception found immediately in the next verse. In (9:4), the exceptions are:
" … Those idolaters who have honored their treaties with you in every detail and have not aided anyone else against you"
In (9:5) God commanded Muslims to fight back after they exercised patience for years, losing many lives and masses of properties. At that time The unbelievers (infidels) were the enemy who committed all forms of aggression against the Muslims, that's why God commanded Muslims at that time to fight back: "Slay the Pagans (Non-believers or infidels) wherever ye find them".
With the exception found in (9:4):
" … Those idolaters who have honored their treaties with you in every detail and have not aided anyone else against you"
The comments that follow are even more significant. In every conflict there are innocent people who have no inclination to support either of the fighting sides. The prophet was instructed to guarantee such people safety and security and secure for them right of passage until they reached their safe lands. God said:
"If one amongst the Non-believers ask thee for asylum, grant it to him, so that he may hear the word of God; and then escort him to where he can be secure. That is because they are people without knowledge" (9:6).
How could these verses be simply an advocacy of aggression or warmongering? As you have seen, a careful examination of the above verses reveals the following critical points:
EXAMPLE FROM ANOTHER HISTORY
We know that Great Britain once colonized many other countries in the world including the U.S. It is normal to expect all people of these "colonized" countries to seek independence from Britain. Suppose that George Washington as the commander in chief of the continental army in the American Revolution against Britain, was trying to boost the morale of the American soldiers during the war and he said:"Whenever and wherever you find the British, kill them". Today if I say that the American commander in chief said; "Whenever and wherever you find the British, kill them". Without any explanation, I would make him sound as if he was an evil butcher who's only goal is to kill the British people -not the soldiers- for no reason. Yet, considering the situation as to when that statement was made, wouldn't what George Washington have said -in the example- sound logical?
PRISONERS OF WAR
Should a war situation arise and if Muslims should have the upper hand, then what should be done with captives of war (P.O.W)? With the (false) idea that Muslims are out there to just fight and kill all those who are Non-Muslims, one should expect that Muslims would not grant captives their lives, especially those who are warriors who could return to fight again later. Yet according to the "Shari'a", Muslims cannot kill children, women, elders, Monks or those warriors who are injured where their injuries prevent them from causing harm to Muslims. In fact the Holy Quran commands Muslims with the upper hand with captives or prisoners of war that they should: "…When ye have thoroughly subdued them, bind (the captives) firmly: Thereafter (is the time for) either generosity (i.e. free them without ransom) or ransom". (4:8)
MUHAMMAD (PBUH) THE VICTORIOUS
Right before his death, Muhammad (pbuh) finally was able to come back to Mecca claiming victory against those who chased him, killed his followers and confiscated their properties. While he had the upper hand at that time, what would have stopped him from killing all those who opposed him in Mecca? Who could have prevented Muhammad (pbuh) from taking all the Non-Muslims at that time to be prisoners for the rest of their lives so they won't cause him any trouble later? Yet, he gathered all those who were Non-Muslims and gave his famous speech, with which he ended with: "Go, you are free"!
ISLAM BY FORCE
Without proofs, it is easy for anybody to make the "CLAIM " that Islam was spread by force. We will share with you some PROOFS of our claim, that nothing other than the force of truth, reason and logic spread Islam. As we share with you some of the facts and some history of Islam.
1. Western converts today
If you get to visit any of the Islamic centers or Mosques in the Western Hemisphere, especially in big cities, you will find a large number of westerners, both men and women worshipping there. These people had the chance to find out about the true Islam and decided to become Muslims. How did Muslims force these converts in their own free western world to accept Islam? What weapon did Muslims use against those who were born and raised in other faiths to force them to accept Islam?
2. Huge increase Muslim population in 50 years
An article in Reader’s Digest ‘Almanac’, yearbook 1986, gave the statistics of the increase of percentage of the major religions of the world in half a century from 1934 to 1984. This article also appeared in ‘The Plain Truth’ magazine. At THE TOP WAS ISLAM, WHICH INCREASED BY 235%, AND CHRISTIANITY HAD INCREASED ONLY BY 47%…!?
May one ask: Which war did Muslims lead against the whole world between 1934 and 1984 that converted millions of people to Islam?
3. Islam in the distant parts of the world
Indonesia and Malaysia provide another example supporting that Islam was not accepted by force. The number of Muslims in these two countries alone exceeds the Muslims in all the Arabic speaking countries combined, which leave us with a few questions, such as:
· How did Islam flourish there?
· How was Islam introduced to these non-Muslim lands, which were simply too far from any "military" reach?
Islam was introduced to that side of the world through MERCHANTS, who went there for business. They were exemplary in character in dealing with the non-Muslims they encountered, by treating them with respect and trading in commerce honestly (two core attributes of Muslim character). Muslims did not have the ability to cross all that land and sea from Arabia to spread in Indonesia by force. Rather, through those good and honest Muslim MERCHANTS, Islam was accepted there by way of example.
4. Let the 14 million testify
Muslims were the rules of the Arab world, a good portion of Asia Minor and all of North Africa for about 1400 years and that's how the official language have become the language of the Quran, the Arabic language. For a few years the British ruled, and for a few years the French ruled. Overall, the Muslims ruled the Arab world most of the time. Yet today, there is an estimated 14 million Arabs who are Coptic Christians, Christians, Catholics and also Jews. They have held their religion for all these generations through these 1400 years. If the Muslims had used the sword as many "CLAIM", there would have not been a single Arab who would have remained on his other religion. Especially when we consider that Muslims could have done with Non-Muslims as they pleased and did not have to worry about the Geneva Convention or the U.N at that time.
5. Old buildings' testimony
In countries where the dominant religion is Islam, there are many old churches and synagogues that are older than the inception of Islam -- more than 1400 years. If Islam does not teach tolerance and respect to other faiths, then why would Muslims keep those buildings with their monks, priests and even their own scriptures, long before any of today's modern human rights and other world organizations such as the U.N?
6. No compulsion in religion
It is very clear in (2:256): "Let there be no compulsion in religion. Truth stands out clear from Error, whoever rejects Taghut (anything other than the real God, false deities, Satan, idols and so on) and believes in God, hath grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold, that never breaks. And God heareth and knoweth all things".
Again we find: "Say: The truth is from your Lord; Let him who will believe, and let him who will, reject". (18:29)
7. More hypocrites?
The Holy Quran also warned Muhammad (pbuh) and Muslims against HYPOCRISY and THE HYPOCRITES. The Quran describes the hypocrites as:
"Of the people there are some who say: "We believe in God and the Last Day, but they do not (really) believe". (2:8)
In fact there is a whole chapter (63) that is entitled The Hypocrites. Any rational mind will find it extremely difficult to believe that Islam teaches forcing others to accept it even if they were not convinced with it, only to create more HYPOCRITES.
NON-MUSLIM PARENTS AND NEIGHBORS
Islam engages all aspects of life, such as dealings with Non-Muslims in our community and in our immediate family.The Quran sets the standards for how to treat them:
In the verse (49:13) the Quran teaches that we all are brothers and sisters of humanity, descended from the same "single (pair) of a male and a female", so that "ye may know each other (not that ye may despise each other".
Again we find in 4:36 "Serve God, and join not any partners with Him; and do good to parents, kinsfolk, orphans, those in need, neighbors who are near, neighbors who are strangers. The companion by your side, the wayfarer -traveler- (ye meet)".
In chapter 107, the Quran criticizes those who don't do small favors for their neighbors;
"So woe to the worshippers. Who are neglectful of their prayers. Those who (want but) to be seen (of men). But refuse (to supply) (even) neighborly needs. (107:4)
Doing good to one's parents is the same commandment which Muslims have to follow concerning their neighbors. Yet, not only do Muslims have to do good and care for their immediate neighbors, but they also help those who are strangers or far away neighbors, no matter what belief they hold. Muslims must also assist those who are travelers, i.e. to those whom they may meet only once in their lifetime.
Honoring parents is taught in many places in the Quran (2:83, 2:215, 4:36, 31:14-15, 17:23-24 and 46:15-17). Even when a person decides to accept Islam while his family are not Muslims, the Quran teaches that one still is obligated to be kind to them (31:14): "And we have enjoined on man (to be good) to his parents. His mother bore him in weakness and hardship upon weakness and hardship, and his weaning in two years. Show gratitude to Me and to thy parents: to Me is (thy final) Goal. But if they strive to make thee join in worship with Me things of which thou hast no knowledge, obey them not; yet bear them company in this life kindly. And follow the way of those who turn to me (in love): in the end the return of you all is to Me, and I will tell you all that ye did."
In chapter 2 verse 215, Muslims are commanded that their charity: " (must go) to parents and near kindred andorphans and the needy and the wayfarer -an alien traveler", regardless to their religion. Also according to "Shari'a" (Islamic Law), money from the general donation (Sadakah) can be given to those who are Non-Muslims. If Islam teaches that Non-Muslims are enemies that should be fought at all times as many claim, then how could it at the same time allow them to benefit from money that is donated by Muslims?
According to "Shari'a" (Islamic Law), Muslims -men and women- can take business partners who are Non-Muslims. In today's Hi-Tech age, one can take a business partner over the phone or after signing a piece of paper. Historically in Arabia, all that was available to many was a handshake and a promise. A merchant in many cases had to travel across the desert for days or weeks with money, goods or livestock. Business partners traveling together in the desert for days or weeks had to have known each other enough to trust each other. When the prophet died, a shield of his was found in the trust of a Jewish citizen of Medinah (the name of the city where he died).
PARTNERS IN MARRIAGE
According to "Shari'a" (Islamic Law) and (5:5) in the Quran, a Muslim man can marry a woman from the people of the Book (Jew or Christian). A tenet of Islam is respect for these two religions. Since marriage is based on -among other things- respect, and Islam recognizes Judaism and Christianity as religions of divine origin. As such, ISLAM guaranties a Jewish or a Christian wife the respect for the beliefs of her faith, her Scriptures and her Prophets. There are many sound reasons why a Muslim woman can't marry a Jewish or a Christian man. One reason is that Islam, like all other religions, considers the man to be the head of the house and the one responsible for the major decisions. Unlike Islam, Judaism and Christianity don't recognize Islam as a divine religion. It would, therefore, be feasible -from the Islamic perspective- that a Muslim woman would not be granted respect for her faith or Prophet, since the RELIGION of a Jewish or a Christian husband does not regard Islam to be "divine" or the Messenger (Muhammad PBUH) to be a true Prophet.
As for the polytheists or atheists or others of non-Abrahamic faiths, Muslims cannot take those for a spouse. Marriage in Islam is not regarded as merely a physical relationship, nor that it is a social custom; it is regarded as a religious act, with its own rituals, rules and obligations, similar to those of the people of the Book. Thus, Islam -among other reasons- can't force anyone who does not accept God (an atheist for example) to be obliged to these religious rules which were set by God.
BEFRIEND OR NOT TO BE
Another verse that has been misunderstood by many from being quoted out of context deals with the issue of Muslims being friends with Jews or Christians: "O ye who believe! Take not the Jews and the Christians for your friends and protectors: They are but friends and protectors to each other. And he amongst you that turns to them (for friendship and protection) is of them. Verily God guideth not a people unjust". (5:51)
We have seen earlier how Islam encourages Muslims to establish a dialogue with the people of the book, urges them to care for their neighbors regardless to the religion, and allows Muslims to marry them. So how could it forbid Muslims from having them as friends? If the meaning intended in (5:51) were not to take "ALL" the Jews and the Christians as friends, then what would be the meaning of this verse that follows only 5 verses later: "O ye who believe! Take not for friends and protectors those who take your religion for a mockery or sport, whether among those who received the Scripture before you, or among those who reject Faith; but fear ye God, if ye have faith (indeed). When ye proclaim your call to prayer they take it (but) as mockery and sport; that is because they are a people without understanding. (5:57-58)
Thus, it is clear that what God is commanding Muslims here is only logical. Those who enjoy mocking Islam and its way of worshipping God, a way that is similar to the followers of other Messengers such as Abraham, Moses and Jesus (peace be upon them), can't be true friends for a Muslim. For friendship would have obligated them to respect Muslims and their religion.
A closer look to other verses in the same context will reveal even more details, as we read:
"Your (real) friends and protectors are (no less than) God, His Apostle, and the believers, those who establish regular prayers and regular charity, and they bow down humbly (in worship)". (5:55)
Who should be the true friend and protector for Muslims? The verse answers: "God, His Apostle and the believers". One can see how to be a friend of other believers, but how could one be a friend of God?
In Islam, one can establish a strong relationship with God, where God is present in one's life, overseeing and protecting him or her. This would be the meaning that most Muslims understand from verse (5:55) and not having a friendship with God that is similar to that of you and me as equal humans. The meaning understood then is not friendship, but protection.
Protection is something that is provided by a ruler or a government. In any community with certain beliefs, everyone in that community would like to have a leader with the same beliefs, too. A Christian community, for example, would support a pious Christian as a ruler and protector, not somebody who has an opposing belief to that of Christianity to regulate their lives. So is the case for an Islamic community, whose ruler or protector (after God) should be a Muslim, too.
As for friendship, you have seen earlier that a Muslim is obligated to care for his parents even if they were Non-Muslims, his Non-Muslim neighbors and so on. In fact, Muslims are commanded to be kind to others regardless of faith as we read: "God forbids you not, with regard to those who fight you not for (your) Faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them: for God loveth those who are just. (60:8).
DEBATES AND ANSWERS
In many historical incidents, there were debates between Muhammad (pbuh) and others that held certain differing beliefs. The Quran has recorded such incidents and has provided answers to their questions. The story of chapter 112 -in short- was that a group of Christians debated with the Prophet and compared what they heard about the new religion with their own beliefs. God gave the answer in that chapter:
"Say: He is Allah, the One. God, the Eternal, Absolute. He begetteth not, nor is He begotten. And there is none like unto Him". (112:1-4)
Had it been the policy of Islam to force others into accepting it, the following would have been the reality through the Quran:
KILLING AN INNOCENT
Finally, the ruling for killing an innocent (Muslim or Non-Muslim) in Islam is similar to the ruling that was given to the children of Israel (i.e. in the Old Testament):
"If any one slew a person - unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land - it would be as if he slew the whole people: and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people". (5:32)
If Islam teaches the killing of others, it would have devalued their souls and promised no punishments for killing them, or made the price much different from killing a Muslim for example.
What about those "negative" verses we hear about everywhere?
It is easy for anybody can misquote any scriptures and make it sound negative. Here is an example:
Did you know the Quran teaches: There is no God…?
So how is it that Muslims claim to worship the One and the only God?
If you read the rest of the verse you will find out, as it accurately reads:
"God! There is no god but He, the Living, the Self-subsisting, Eternal". (2:255)
Did you also know that the Bible teaches the same? There is no God…!
"Now I know that there is no God in all the earth but in Israel." Second kings (5:15)
Any scripture can fall prey to misquotation,if the one misquoting it makes a bet that you will not verify it for yourself.
As we have seen in some of the prior examples, misquoting verses, or quoting verses out of context, is key to the development of negative perceptions about Islam. Yet, careful examinations of content and context reveal a completely different meaning from that which was misquoted. Our examples refuting opponents' claims in summary are: