Reevaluation incumbent upon peaceful Muslims

November 11, 2007, Robert Spencer:

... Since van der Galiën articulates so many common responses to and common misunderstandings of the work I am doing, I thought it might be useful to respond:
... I also get a bit tired of people who say that the Koran preaches much more violence than the Bible and Torah do. I’ve read the Koran and I disagree; it doesn’t teach violence any more than the Bible or Torah.
I discuss this very common argument at length in my book Religion of Peace?; suffice it to say here that van der Galiën's statement, that the Qur'an doesn’t teach violence any more than the "Bible or Torah" is flatly false. For while the Bible contains descriptions of violent acts committed in the name of God, nowhere does it teach believers to imitate that violence. Where people are commanded to commit acts of violence, these are commands directed to specific individuals or groups in particular situations; they are not universal commands.

The Qur'an, on the other hand, quite clearly does teach believers to commit acts of violence against unbelievers -- see 2:190-193, 9:5, 9:29, 47:4, etc. There are no equivalents to such open-ended and universal commands, addressed to all believers to fight unbelievers, in the Bible.

... all of the schools that are considered orthodox teach, as part of the obligation of the Muslim community, warfare against and the subjugation of unbelievers ...

In this view, then, the jihad must continue as long as there are unbelievers, and only falls into abeyance when Muslims do not have the military strength to press forward with it. Making war on unbelievers is one of the responsibilities of the Muslim umma. That the three stages of jihad, culminating in offensive warfare to establish the hegemony of Islamic law – which stage is normative for all time -- can be found not only in the writings of contemporary Islamic jihadists, but also in ancient Muslim scholars, underscores the traditionalist character of contemporary Islamic jihad activity. Modern mujahedin are, in their own view, not “hijacking” Islam; they are restoring its proper interpretation – and they are successfully convincing peaceful Muslims around the world that they are correct in this.

For this to end, peaceful Muslims around the world would have to confront the fact that bin Laden and other jihad terrorists are regularly justifying their violence by reference to passages of the Qur’an and the words and deeds of Muhammad. If they don’t acknowledge this and formulate new and non-literalist ways of understanding this material, it will continue to be used to incite violence. In other words, the use that jihadists make of elements of the Qur’an and Muhammad’s teaching makes it incumbent upon peaceful Muslims to perform a searching reevaluation of how they understand those elements, so as to neutralize their capacity to set Muslims against non-Muslims.

People will do evil in all kinds of circumstances, and use all manner of justification for it; but the violent passages in the Bible are not equivalent to those in the Qur’an in content, in mainstream interpretation, or in the effect they have had on believers through the ages. The fact that in Islam violence against unbelievers has divine sanction in a way that it does not in Christianity makes religious violence more prevalent and harder to eradicate in Islam than it has ever been in Christianity. To equate it to a jumble of passages from the Bible to which no one would otherwise be paying any attention at all, at least as direct marching orders for twenty-first century warriors, is specious and dangerously misleading ...

Certainly there has been and is diversity of Islamic law, but as I have shown above, there has been consensus on the necessity to wage war against and subjugate unbelievers. I would ask van der Galiën or Koogler to produce one orthodox school of Islamic jurisprudence, or one scholar recognized as orthodox, who explicitly rejected this necessity ...

I have never said that the jihadist version of Islam is "pure Islam." I have said that the jihadists say it is, and that they appeal to broad support within the Qur'an and Sunnah and Islamic jurisprudence, as I've shown above. But does all that support mean that they're correct in saying that theirs is the "pure Islam"? No, and I have never said otherwise. If someone, even Ali Eteraz, could construct a version of Islam that could convince Muslims that the jihadists did not represent "pure Islam," no one would be happier than I. But I don't think they will succeed in doing that by denying the scope of the problem and playing fast and loose with the facts, like Eteraz. Reform doesn't occur by denying the need for reform. It occurs by confronting what needs reforming, and opposing it.
Muslims should decide what ‘pure’ or ‘true’ Islam is and what’s not.
Quite so. That's exactly what I've been calling upon peaceful Muslims to do for years now.
But don't hold your breath waiting for it ...

Please Note: whilst this blog also deals at times with the issue of race, Robert Spencer of Jihad Watch holds the view that the anti-jihad resistance is not about race.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Many people talk about the need to reform Islam. Now you can stop talking and start helping.

With the help of our readers we went through the Koran and removed every verse that we believe did not come from Allah, the Most Merciful, the Most Compassionate. However, it is possible that we missed something, and we could use your help. If you find verses in the reformed version of the Koran that promote violence, divisiveness, religious or gender superiority, bigotry, or discrimination, please let us know the number of the verse and the reason why it should be removed. Please email your suggestions to

When we finish editing process, we would like to publish Reform Koran in as many languages as possible. If you could help with translation or distribution of the Reform Koran, please email us at If you could provide financial support, please visit our support page.

In Memoriam of Aqsa Parvez.