As I have often noted lately, the Western intelligentsia is very, very anxious to make sure that you have a positive view of Islam. Thus we see a steady stream of articles in the mainstream media assuring you that the Qur’an is benign, the U.S. Constitution is Sharia-compliant, and the Islamic State is not Islamic. There are so many of these articles because there have to be: they are asking non-Muslims to disregard what they see every day — Muslims committing violence against non-Muslims and justifying it by referring to Islamic texts — and instead embrace a fictional construct: Islam the religion of peace and tolerance.
This takes a relentless barrage of propaganda, because with every new jihad atrocity, reality threatens to break through. It wasn’t accidental that Hitler’s Reich had an entire Ministry of Propaganda: lying to the public is a full-time job, as the cleverest of propaganda constructs is always threatened by the simple facts.
Here, Ahmadi Muslim Adam Walker explains that the Islamic State is violating the Qur’an’s own rules for how it should be interpreted. This would be great if he made his case and took it to jihadis to challenge and refute them directly. Of course, the immediate question his claim raises is why, if this is true, have over 20,000 foreign jihadis traveled from all over the world to join the Islamic State. Don’t those 20,000 Muslims have imams? How did they come to misunderstand the Qur’an and Islam so drastically as to miss its own rules for interpretation?
“Are peaceful Muslims in denial about their religion?,” by Adam Walker, the Independent, March 4, 2015:
Isis has sharpened many people’s sense of paranoia towards Islam. The majority of Muslims have a peaceful reading of the Koran, but as Isis commits more and more atrocities, the argument that the Koran equally invites a violent interpretation of its teachings has begun to gain ground.
A quick internet search that throws up certain passages which, read at face value, could prove these suspicions correct. For example, critics of Islam often cite verses such as: “fight such of the disbelievers as are near to you”; or to “kill the idolaters wherever you find them”. Passages such as these leave an impartial observer wondering — is Islam simply a matter of interpretation? Is the line between a peaceful Muslim and a terrorist simply a matter of which verses you follow and which you ignore?
No, is the emphatic answer of the Koran. Whether Islam is peaceful or extreme is not just a matter of interpretation, and for the simple reason that the Koran tells you exactly how to interpret it. Once you’ve read how it works, you’ll understand exactly why the verses above aren’t actually calling for “Death to the West”, but are in fact completely reasonable in their context. If that sounds far-fetched, then keep reading.
The Koran clearly states that it contains two types of verses: context-independent verses, and context-dependent verses. Context-independent verses are unambiguous and timeless principles which can be applied in every situation. Context-dependent verses are those that are specific to particular situations, and can’t be read in isolation. The Koran then goes on to condemn those who cherry-pick verses to suit their own selfish ends, and tells its reader to take all the verses together before coming to any conclusions.
Walker’s whole case here is based on the idea that there are “context-independent verses” and “context-dependent verses,” the former being “unambiguous and timeless principles which can be applied in every situation” and the latter “those that are specific to particular situations, and can’t be read in isolation.” Actually the Qur’an verse to which he links says that there are some verses that are “precise – they are the foundation of the Book – and others unspecific” (3:7). This has also been translated as “clear revelations – they are the substance of the Book – and others (which are) allegorical.” That is, some are clear and some are unclear. The verse then condemns “those in whose hearts is deviation, they will follow that of it which is unspecific, seeking discord and seeking an interpretation” — that is, make much of the verses that are unclear.
The passage doesn’t actually say anything about “context.” Walker is trying to situate his argument within the familiar claims that non-Muslims are taking Qur’an verses “out of context,” and to go on from there to claim that the idea of violent jihad in Islam is based on taking these verses out of context. His entire premise is false, however, since “context” is not actually what Quran 3:7 is talking about.
“Peace” is one of the literal meanings of Islam, and its ultimate aim. And as such, it explicitly teaches that there is no compulsion in matters of faith. Regarding war, it teaches that Muslims are only ever allowed permitted to fight defensively, stating that “permission to fight is given to those against whom war is made, because they have been wronged – and Allah indeed has the power to help them”.
The verses that are often quoted by critics are, like those at the beginning, cherry-picked context-dependent verses. They were only applicable at a time when war had been openly declared against Muslims because of their faith. They were being driven out of their homes and routinely assassinated. “Fight them until there is no persecution and religion is freely professed for Allah”, says the Koran. But if they stop oppressing you, it warns, then remember that “no hostility is allowed except against the aggressors“. Verses such as these mention fighting “disbelievers” because the division of the two sides was one of belief – non-Muslims who were the aggressors, and Muslims, who were being killed for their acceptance of Islam.
The question whenever reading one of these pieces is, will it convince a jihadi that he is on the wrong path and needs to lay down his arms? Once again here, the answer is no. The idea that the Qur’anic statement that “there is no force [or compulsion] in religion” (2:256) establishes that the Islamic State is un-Islamic is contradicted by the fact that there are traditional Islamic authorities who support the Islamic State’s view. According to an early Muslim, Mujahid ibn Jabr, this verse was abrogated by Qur’an 9:29, in which the Muslims are commanded to fight against the People of the Book. Others, however, according to the Islamic historian Tabari, say that 2:256 was never abrogated, but was revealed precisely in reference to the People of the Book. They are not to be forced to accept Islam, but may practice their religions as long as they pay the jizya (poll-tax) and “feel themselves subdued” (9:29).
2:256 in this view doesn’t contradict the Islamic imperative to wage jihad against unbelievers because the aim of jihad is not the forced conversion of non-Muslims, but their subjugation within the Islamic social order.
The idea that the Qur’an allows Muslims only to fight defensively is also non-traditional: Islamic authorities through the ages have held just the opposite, that the violent verses were the ones that were always valid. Muhammad’s earliest biographer, the eighth-century Muslim Ibn Ishaq, explains that defensive war was not Allah’s last word on the circumstances in which Muslims should fight. Ibn Ishaq explains offensive jihad by invoking a Qur’anic verse: “Then God sent down to him: ‘Fight them so that there be no more seduction,’ i.e. until no believer is seduced from his religion. ‘And the religion is God’s’, i.e. Until God alone is worshipped.”
The medieval scholar Ibn Qayyim (1292-1350) also outlines the stages of the Muhammad’s prophetic career: “For thirteen years after the beginning of his Messengership, he called people to God through preaching, without fighting or Jizyah, and was commanded to restrain himself and to practice patience and forbearance. Then he was commanded to migrate, and later permission was given to fight. Then he was commanded to fight those who fought him, and to restrain himself from those who did not make war with him. Later he was commanded to fight the polytheists until God’s religion was fully established.” In other words, he initially could fight only defensively — only “those who fought him” — but later he could fight the polytheists until Islam was “fully established.” He could fight them even if they didn’t fight him first, and solely because they were not Muslim.
Nor do all contemporary Islamic thinkers believe that that command is a relic of history. According to a 20th century Chief Justice of Saudi Arabia, Sheikh ‘Abdullah bin Muhammad bin Humaid, “at first ‘the fighting’ was forbidden, then it was permitted and after that it was made obligatory.” He also distinguishes two groups Muslims must fight: “(1) against them who start ‘the fighting’ against you (Muslims) . . . (2) and against all those who worship others along with Allah . . . as mentioned in Surat Al-Baqarah (II), Al-Imran (III) and At-Taubah (IX) . . . and other Surahs (Chapters of the Qur’an).” (The Roman numerals after the names of the chapters of the Qur’an are the numbers of the suras: Sheikh ‘Abdullah is referring to Qur’anic verses such as 2:216, 3:157-158, 9:5, and 9:29.)
As for how Muslims should co-exist with peaceful people of other beliefs, the Koran couldn’t be clearer: “Allah only forbids you from those who fight you because of religion and expel you from your homes”. For everyone else, it is taught that you should be kind and act fairly towards them.
Notice how large a loophole Walker is leaving here. If Muslims can only fight “those who fight you because of religion and expel you from your homes,” then the jihads in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Israel are all completely justified, since many Muslims have claimed that in all three, the non-Muslims are fighting the Muslims because they are Muslims, and have driven them from their homes.
So just to be clear: Islam is not simply a matter of interpretation, because the Koran itself tells us how to interpret it. Any other interpretation is either willfully dishonest or just plain ignorant.
So all the tens of thousands of Muslims who have joined the Islamic State from all over the world are either willfully dishonest or just plain ignorant. How did willful dishonesty and/or just plain ignorance become so commonplace among Muslims worldwide?