Inherent in Islam–Violence or Peace?

 

By: Masood Malikyar

One of the oft-repeated assertions in today’s rhetoric is some  variation of “Islam is inherently a violent religion.”  It, therefore, follows that Muslims are inherently a violent bunch.  Terror acts by so-called Muslims further fuel these incendiary assertions and fill the canvas upon which a great world religion is painted in dark colors.  Those who follow Islam, meaning 1.7 billion Muslims, as a whole are violent, must be feared, and defeated.

Since much has already been written about it,  I don’t see a point in tracing the root causes of all the nascent violence.  Many clear connections have already been drawn between factors such as political or economic aspirations, frustrations, sectarian divisions, or governing miscalculations and the ensuing confrontations in its various manifestations.  However, what I do wish to examine is the true nature of Islam and to show whether it engenders violence or peace.

To that end, I have to go back – way back – to the origins of Islam,  its immutable constitution or Quran and the richly preserved traditions of its Prophet (utterings and practice).

First, I turn to the Quran which defines Islam – Islam meaning Peace and submission to the Will of God.  So, how could a religion that is named and known as Peace – not named after its leader as the case is with Buddhism or Christianity, or after a tribe as in Judaism – be the antithesis of peace?  How would that settle with the early converts to Islam and billions thereafter?  How blatant of the Quran to call it peace and its followers peaceful while espousing just the opposite?  Wouldn’t the manifest incongruity turn off anyone studying or adopting it?  If we find only snakes inside an advertised big bag of candies at the store, do we still pay for it? Let’s assume we do,  do we then try to eat the snakes?

If Quran were to condone murder and promise heavenly rewards in exchange, why are not a vast majority of Muslims murderers?  If we were to trust media statistics, the combined population of all the fighters in the Middle East and Africa does not number more than a few thousand.  Even at an exaggerated 100,000 it would constitute .0000588 percent of the Muslim population worldwide.

So, let’s move on beyond the name of Islam.  Let’s look at some verses in the Quran to see what it truly prescribes.

This verse establishes how sacred human life is:

أَنَّهُ مَنْ قَتَلَ نَفْسًا بِغَيْرِ نَفْسٍ أَوْ فَسَادٍ فِي الْأَرْضِ فَكَأَنَّمَا قَتَلَ النَّاسَ جَمِيعًا وَمَنْ أَحْيَاهَا فَكَأَنَّمَا أَحْيَا النَّاسَ جَمِيعًا

..If anyone slays a human being-unless it be [in punishment] for murder or for spreading corruption on earth-it shall be as though he had slain all mankind; whereas, if anyone saves a life, it shall be as though he had saved the lives of all mankind…  [5:32]

The following verse enjoins man to race for righteousness:

وَلَوْ شَاءَ اللَّـهُ لَجَعَلَكُمْ أُمَّةً وَاحِدَةً وَلَـٰكِنْ لِيَبْلُوَكُمْ فِي مَا آتَاكُمْ ۖ فَاسْتَبِقُوا الْخَيْرَاتِ ۚ إِلَى اللَّـهِ مَرْجِعُكُمْ جَمِيعًا فَيُنَبِّئُكُمْ بِمَا كُنْتُمْ فِيهِ تَخْتَلِفُونَ

And if God had so willed, He could surely have made you all one single community: but [He willed it otherwise] in order to test you by means of what He has vouchsafed unto, you. Vie, then, with one another in doing good works! Unto God is your return; and then He will show you the truth of the matters which you dispute. [5:48]

Capital punishment without due process is expressly prohibited and life’s sacredness is reemphasized below:

قُلْ تَعَالَوْا أَتْلُ مَا حَرَّمَ رَبُّكُمْ عَلَيْكُمْ ۖ أَلَّا تُشْرِكُوا بِهِ شَيْئًا ۖ وَبِالْوَالِدَيْنِ إِحْسَانًا ۖ وَلَا تَقْتُلُوا أَوْلَادَكُمْ مِنْ إِمْلَاقٍ ۖ نَحْنُ نَرْزُقُكُمْ وَإِيَّاهُمْ ۖ وَلَا تَقْرَبُوا الْفَوَاحِشَ مَا ظَهَرَ مِنْهَا وَمَا بَطَنَ ۖ وَلَا تَقْتُلُوا النَّفْسَ الَّتِي حَرَّمَ اللَّـهُ إِلَّا بِالْحَقِّ ۚ ذَٰلِكُمْ وَصَّاكُمْ بِهِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَعْقِلُونَ

Say: “Come, I will rehearse what Allah hath (really) prohibited you from”: Join not anything as equal with Him; be good to your parents; kill not your children on a plea of want;- We provide sustenance for you and for them;- come not nigh to shameful deeds. Whether open or secret; take not life, which Allah hath made sacred, except by way of justice and law: thus doth He command you, that ye may learn wisdom. [6:151]

Quran explains God’s reason for diversity.  It is so that we as human beings come closer, to know each other and to share.  After all, we are descendants of the same parents.  Righteousness is what distinguishes people before God,  not wealth or other artificial rankings.  Righteousness has always been interpreted by Muslims as the opposite of evil or acts of evil such as murder or violence.

يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنَّا خَلَقْنَاكُمْ مِنْ ذَكَرٍ وَأُنْثَىٰ وَجَعَلْنَاكُمْ شُعُوبًا وَقَبَائِلَ لِتَعَارَفُوا ۚ إِنَّ أَكْرَمَكُمْ عِنْدَ اللَّـهِ أَتْقَاكُمْ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّـهَ عَلِيمٌ خَبِيرٌ

O men! Behold, We have created you all out of a male and a female, and have made you into nations and tribes, so that you might come to know one another. Verily, the noblest of you in the sight of God is the most righteous of you. Behold, God is all-knowing, all-aware. [49:13]

Muslims are the first and the primary victims of these vicious acts of murder in the world.  Quran prescribes the most severe punishment for those who kill other believers in God:

وَمَنْ يَقْتُلْ مُؤْمِنًا مُتَعَمِّدًا فَجَزَاؤُهُ جَهَنَّمُ خَالِدًا فِيهَا وَغَضِبَ اللَّـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَلَعَنَهُ وَأَعَدَّ لَهُ عَذَابًا عَظِيمًا

But whoever deliberately slays another be­liever, his requital shall be hell, therein to abide; and God will condemn him, and will reject him, and will prepare for him awesome suffering. 94:93]

Now, let me turn to some traditions established by the Prophet of Islam, Muhammad (SAW).

Prophet Muhammad said:

لاَ يُؤْمِنُ أَحَدُكُمْ حَتَّى يُحِبَّ لأَخِيهِ – أَوْ قَالَ لِجَارِهِ – مَا يُحِبُّ لِنَفْسِهِ

Not one amongst you believes (truly) till one loves for his brother or for his neighbor that which he loves for himself. [Muslim]

الْمُسْلِمُ مَنْ سَلِمَ النَّاسُ مِنْ لِسَانِهِ وَيَدِهِ

The Muslim is the one from whose tongue and hand the people are safe. [Nissai]

Prophet Muhammad commanded his followers to “show mercy to Earth’s inhabitants so that the One who is in Heaven will have mercy on you:” [Abi Dawud]

ارْحَمُوا أَهْلَ الأَرْضِ يَرْحَمْكُمْ مَنْ فِي السَّمَاءِ

He also said, “One will not enter Paradise if his neighbor is not safe from his harm” [Muslim]:

 لاَ يَدْخُلُ الْجَنَّةَ مَنْ لاَ يَأْمَنُ جَارُهُ بَوَائِقَهُ

So, in light of the above verses from Quran and sayings from the Prophet, how are we to label the so-called self-appointed Muslims who murder innocent people and whom people fear?  This is why Islam must not be conflated with terrorism or Muslims with terrorists.  There are many political pundits and media talking heads who profess people should do exactly that.  Those who kill innocent people are not Muslims. They are not practicing Islam or peace.  They are antipodal to Islam and world peace.  They are indeed misrepresenting a great world religion.   Anyone who calls them Muslims is insulting Muslims and slandering Islam.

Prophet Muhammad and his early followers (numbering in a few hundred) experienced the severest forms of sanctions and persecution while in Mecca during the first 13 years of his prophecy.  Towards the end of that period, people of Mecca were banned to trade with him or his followers, to intermarry with Muslims, to provide any assistance to Muslims, or to sell them any of life’s essentials such as food or clothing. Their punishment comprised regular invectives and even torture.  The Prophet was consistently dealt doses of public ridicule.  They even attempted to murder him in his own house.  He and his followers were forced to leave their homes and belongings and were exiled to Medina.  Years later, the Prophet entered Mecca and conquered his birth city without bloodshed.  Riding his camel, he lowered his posture parallel to the beast’s neck to set yet another human precedence – not to become arrogant or act arrogantly in victory.  Meccan leadership and citizens were petrified at the prospects of his verdict which they expected and by then were wholly accepting – justified by what they had enforced on Muslims before.  Every pretext existed for severe retribution – especially in the context of 7th century Arabia.  The Prophet’s verdict came swiftly and turned out to be astonishingly and extraordinarily unprecedented. The verdict was in complete accordance to the main precept of Quran and Islam: peace.  He declared general amnesty to all residents of Mecca regardless of their past crimes.

The example he left behind was indeed of the highest standard in ethical behavior despite his newly acquired status as the conqueror and absolute arbitrator of the entire city and its inhabitants.  He could have annihilated all of his opponents by uttering a single command.   Instead he forgave them en-masse. That is the spirit of Islam and that is the example of the messenger of God.

Islam is, therefore, inherently peaceful.  We have to make a contradistinction between Islam and those who violate its main principles of peace, tolerance and justice.

I will conclude this article by citing one more verse from the Quran for anyone who is still not convinced of Islam’s true spirit of peace and tolerance.  God Declares:

ادْفَعْ بِالَّتِي هِيَ أَحْسَنُ السَّيِّئَةَ ۚ نَحْنُ أَعْلَمُ بِمَا يَصِفُونَ

[But whatever they may say or do,] repel the evil [which they commit] with something that is bet­ter: We are fully aware of what they attribute [to Us]. [23:96]

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