Paul Stenhouse: Islamic incitement to violence

August 31, 2002, Dr Paul Stenhouse:

This brief overview of certain passages in the Quran is in response to claims by Muslims and others that the Quran does not incite to violence, that Jihad 'always indicates the inner struggle to be a good Muslim; never does it indicate armed or military action' and that primitive Islam was basically a 'tolerant' system of beliefs ...

The primary meaning of Jihad

Jahada, the root of the word Jihad, appears 40 times in the Quran - under a variety of grammatical forms. With the exception of Sura 6, 16, 24 and 35, all the other usages are variations of the 3rd Form of the verb, i.e. Jahida which in the Quran and in subsequent Islamic understanding meant and means 'he fought, warred or waged war against unbelievers and the like'.

Because, in the 1st Form, the verb Jahada may mean simply 'he exerted himself, he strove' one finds that euphemisms abound in almost all editions of the Quran intended for non-Muslims when translating the meaning of the 3rd form.

Apologists claim that Jihad in the Quran primarily refers to 'spiritual asceticism' and not militarism. Readers unfamiliar with Arabic are offered 'strive' or 'struggle' or some other neutral word, as a translation of the verb used in the 3rd Form i.e. Jahida ...

Some Quranic Suras

Against all unbelievers in Islam/Allah

'O you who believe, wage war against those of the unbelievers who are near to you and let them find in you hardness.' [Sura 9]

'Surely the vilest of animals in the sight of Allah are those who disbelieve.' [Sura 8]

'Polytheists ... are the worst of creatures' [Sura 98]

'O you who believe, do not take the unbelievers for friends.' [Sura 4; see also 60]

'Wage war in the cause of Allah' ... and goad on the believers. [Sura 4] ...

Muhammad: 'Lord of the Scimiter'

Muhammad moved to Yathreb aged 53, and a new, tougher and merciless personality almost immediately emerged from his prophetic chrysalis. The relatively placid person who spent 13 years trying to win over his relatives and neighbours to his new religion turned into the unforgiving Warrior determined to subdue his tribe by force and humble those who had mocked him. The prophet's behaviour, allegedly endorsed by God, gave the lie to the Islamic mantra: 'God, the forgiving and all-merciful'...

The Meccan Suras contain no reference to a Holy War. On the other hand the Medina Suras are so full of verses on this subject that this obligation appears to be more heavily stressed than any other ...

The last 10 years of Muhammad's life in Medina saw Islam gradually transformed from a vague social experiment with a religious face into a militant and intimidatory force whose progress depended on booty from raids and revenue from the tax. At Muhammad's command prisoners were killed and political assassinations took place ...

Muhammad personally took part in 27 raids between his arrival in Medina and his death ...

Muhammad's last words before his death were, 'Let not two religions be left in the Arabian Peninsular' ...

Authorship of the Quran

The available evidence points to the Quran being the words of Muhammad; not the words of God ...

In the judgement of a Muslim writer, 'Apart from the thirteen years of the prophet's mission in Mecca, the history of Islam is indisputably a record of violence and power-seizure. As long as the prophet lived, force was used primarily for the purpose of spreading Islam and imposing it'.

... in the Shorter Encyclopaedia of Islam: 'Djihad: holy war. The spread of Islam by arms is a religious duty upon Muslims in general. It narrowly escaped being a sixth rukn, or fundamental duty, and is indeed so regarded by the descendants of the Kharkdjis'.

A major incitement to this violence and power seizure was the Quran whose beauty of language and elegance of form belied the terror it is capable of unleashing on unsuspecting generations of non-Muslims, and of Muslims who fail to measure up to the demands of their more puritanical co-religionists.

Muhammad's conduct demonstrates his understanding of the Quran's message.

If his understandings were correct, then all attempts by Islamic apologists to prove that Islam is a basically tolerant and peaceful religion fail when confronted by the Medina Sura and the indisputable facts of Muhammad's life and subsequent history of Islam.

If his understandings were wrong, then he was not a prophet, and Muslims have the problem of reconciling the alleged divine origin of the Quran with its myriad errors of fact, inconsistencies, anachronisms and many other defects.

To those who would claim the nature of Jihad and the militaristic aims of Islam are misunderstood by non-Muslims, we turn back a challenge that Muhammad repeatedly flung at his adversaries in Mecca: prove me wrong 'if you care about the truth'.
Dr Paul Stenhouse is an Australian Catholic priest and Arabic scholar.
Via John Stone via AIM

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