In her article, Hannatu Musawa argues that Islam is a religion of peace and that the jihadi terrorists misrepresent Islam. She quotes a few peaceful verses from the Quran to support her views. But this is a tired rhetoric, which in my view, does more harm than good to the image of Islam and to the credibility of the so-called moderate Muslims.
We are not strangers to the violence against Muslims and non-Muslims committed globally by jihadi terrorists in the name of Islam; and reasonable people cannot understand how a religion of peace can inspire so much violence. These terrorists tell us they are inspired by the Quran and prophet Mohammed, and there is no reason to disbelieve them because the Quran in fact calls on believers (Muslims) to kill disbelievers (non-Muslims) as the following verses show:
Fighting is obligatory for you (Muslims), even if you dislike it – Quran 2:216.
O, believers make war on the infidels (non-Muslims) who dwell around you, and, let them find harshness in you – Quran 9:123
When the sacred months are over, kill the unbelievers wherever you find them – Quran 9:5.
Fight against Christians and Jews that believe neither in Allah nor in the last day….and who do not embrace the true faith [Islam] – Quran 9:29.
Believers, take neither Jews nor Christians for friends or helpers – Quran 5:51.
Fight in the name of Allah and in the way of Allah. Fight against those who disbelieve in Allah. Make a holy war…Sahih Muslim 19:4294
Islam spread to the rest of the world by conquest and the sword. The crusades were Christian Europe’s response to the invasion of their lands by Muslims. The truth is that Islam is the religion of the moderate muslim. But it is also the religion of the jihadi terrorists. And those who argue that it’s people who commit evil in the name of religion, not the religion itself, that should be blamed need to explain why evil people are able to find justifications for their crimes from the pages of scriptures that are supposedly holy, peaceful and purely good. There is something inherently wrong with any book that cannot be read at face value and understood in a literal sense. When believers cherry pick verses from their scriptures and disregard chunks they consider to be morally objectionable, they unwittingly prove that their morality is not sourced from these holy books. If it were, then how do believers decide which verses are moral and which are not? Believers don’t seem to realise that they are actually more moral than the gods described in their holy books.
Like the other Abrahamic holy books, the Quran is filled with contradictory verses which bear the mark of human frailty. In one verse, it says there is no compulsion in religion but in another it calls on Muslims to either subjugate or kill people who do not embrace or convert to Islam. Similarly, there are verses where it says one or two nice things about people of the book (Christians and Jews) but in others it calls them derogatory names and even calls for them to be killed. Prophet Mohammed killed and maimed, he took prisoners of wars, and he endorsed sex slavery – practically everything that we see Boko Haram and ISIS doing today. Islam spread to the rest of the world by conquest and the sword. Our forefathers right here in Africa were not persuaded to become Muslims. No. They were forced to convert to Islam or be killed. We were enslaved by the Muslim Arabs for about 600 years before the first Europeans set foot on this continent. Have we forgotten about the jihadi campaigns of Usman Dan Fodio in northern Nigeria as late as the 18th century? The Shiites and Sunnis have not stopped killing each other for 1500 years over a silly disagreement about who should be the rightful successor of their prophet – a relative or a friend. It is therefore very dishonest to describe Islam as a religion of peace. The Quran says a few nice things. But it also says a lot of very nasty stuff. When so called moderate Muslims refuse to acknowledge this glaringly obvious fact, then it calls into question their sincerity and motivation – are they ignorant of their scriptures and the history of their religion or are they deliberately being dishonest, a concept known as taqqiya, which is permissible in Islam?
What is the correct way to read religious books – metaphorically or literally? And how does one decide which verses must be read one way or the other? I ask because believers insist that religious texts must be read in a metaphorical way. How do they know this? Nowhere in these holy books did God say that his words must be interpreted in metaphors or symbolism. Religious texts can be interpreted in innumerable ways and even jihadi terrorists are entitled to their interpretations. To the extent that God does not show up to tell us which interpretations are right, no one is in a position to state that their interpretation is the “only correct” one. Clearly, some interpretations are less harmful than others and we must encourage the blossoming of those interpretations that promote peaceful co-existence.
As stated above, religious people are actually more moral than the gods they worship. If Allah does not want men to beat women, then there are better ways to say so than “strike them (women)” – Quran 4:34. Prophet Mohammed married a prepubescent girl when he was in his fifties. This will make him a paedophile by the standards of our more civilised modern world. How did the prophet of an all-knowing God, or that God Himself, not know that paedophilia was wrong or that it will become wrong in the future? Similarly, if you do not want your followers to hate Jews, then you do not say something like this: “Allah’s Apostle said, The Hour will not be established until you fight with the Jews, and the stone behind which a Jew will be hiding will say: ‘O Muslim! There is a Jew hiding behind me, so kill him’.” Sahih Bukhari 4.52.177.
Even if we grant that the verses in which Mohammed calls for violence against disbelievers were prescribed for self-defence, it still does not explain why an all-powerful God requires humans to defend Him (or His religion) with the sword? More problematic, the definition of an enemy is left to all sorts of interpretations – the enemy could be an apostate who denounces Islam. But it could be a country which “attacks” an Islamic nation – Michael Adebalajo and Michael Adebowale attacked and killed Drummer Lee Rigby with a knife on the streets of London because, according to them, British Forces were killing Muslims in Afghanistan and Iraq. Prophet Mohammed said in Quran 9:29, “Fight against Christians and Jews that believe neither in Allah nor in the last day….and who do not embrace the true faith [Islam].” The implication is that those who neither believe in Allah nor Islam, which is practically all non-Muslims, are legitimate enemies.
In summary, denying that jihadi terrorists are inspired by an interpretation of islam or suggesting that they are perverting islam is a faulty premise. Moderate Muslims and those amongst them who wish to see Islam reform must acknowledge the fact that the Quran is an imperfect book that is filled with violent verses from which jihadi terrorists draw inspiration. To reform Islam, muslims must challenge the doctrines of inerrancy and immutability of the Quran and the notion that prophet Mohammed is an excellent example of conduct for all times. Without these, there will be no end to the violence and terrorism that are inspired by the literal interpretation of the Quran and the ahadith.
Ijabla Raymond is a medical doctor and he writes from the UK.
You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or Ijabla.Raymond@facebook.com