In today’s installment, a prescription for punishments of unspeakable violence, following right after the Qur’anic verse most often quoted by Presidents and other non-Muslims who want to praise Islam:
Because of that, We decreed upon the Children of Israel that whoever kills a soul unless for a soul or for corruption [done] in the land – it is as if he had slain mankind entirely. And whoever saves one – it is as if he had saved mankind entirely. And our messengers had certainly come to them with clear proofs. Then indeed many of them, [even] after that, throughout the land, were transgressors.
Indeed, the penalty for those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger and strive upon earth [to cause] corruption is none but that they be killed or crucified or that their hands and feet be cut off from opposite sides or that they be exiled from the land. That is for them a disgrace in this world; and for them in the Hereafter is a great punishment. (Qur’an 5:32-33)
One Muslim authority, Sa”˜id bin Jubayr, explains the first part of the above quote, v. 32 about saving mankind by saving one person, this way: “He who allows himself to shed the blood of a Muslim, is like he who allows shedding the blood of all people. He who forbids shedding the blood of one Muslim, is like he who forbids shedding the blood of all people.”
In other words, he doesn’t envision it applying to non-Muslims, whom many Islamic clerics consider to be not innocent simply by virtue of their not having accepted the prophethood of Muhammad.
Never mentioned by any of those who quote this verse as if it condemns Islamic jihad violence are several important facts: it comes within the context of a warning to the Jews, and is not presented as a universal principle; it contains the important exception “unless for a soul or for corruption [done] in the land,” and it is followed by v. 33, which specifies the punishment for that mischief: execution, or crucifixion, or amputation of hands and feet on opposite sides, or exile.
Thus this passage is explaining what must be done with Jews who reject Muhammad, not dictating lofty moral principles. Ibn Warraq sums it up: “The supposedly noble sentiments are in fact a warning to Jews. “˜Behave, or else” is the message. Far from abjuring violence, these verses aggressively point out that anyone opposing the Prophet will be killed, crucified, mutilated, and banished!”