5 examples of supreme Muslim tolerance


As we see the images of burning embassies and burnt flags unfolding across the Muslim world, it is easy for non-Muslims (and some Muslims too) to jump to the conclusion that there is an inherent lack of tolerance amongst “religious” Muslims.

A lot of this is down to the hypocrisy of trying to judge others by standards that are completely your own.

Generally speaking, just because the West tolerates blasphemy on a grand scale, this does not mean that people who condemn blasphemy are necessarily intolerant.

Some of it is down to pure Islamophobia, in which Muslims are seen as irrational, violent, and pathological zealots. A fair proportion of this is rooted in a deep-seated ignorance of the supremely tolerant history and nature of Islam.

Here are just a few examples of exceptional Muslim tolerance:

5. The Success of Non-Muslim People in Muslim Ruled Lands

Here’s a quick game you can play…

What happened to the Muslims of any land in which Non-Muslims ruled them?

In Communist Russia they were forcibly marched into the gulags of Siberia. In Eastern Europe it was the genocide of Bosnia and Srebrenica that awaited them. In Palestine, it is 60 years and counting of occupation, humiliation and imprisonment. In Spain, it was total annihilation, such that not one man was left to call the adhan.

Now, what happened to Non-Muslims living in Muslim lands?

In Moghul India, the Hindus survived, prospered and eventually took over. In Umayyad Spain, they all lived happily in the most modern state in all of Europe. In the Ottoman Empire, the Jews found shelter and a new golden age. In Egypt and Syria, a significant minority of the country is still Christian despite living under Muslim rule for 1400 years. Contrary to modern perceived wisdom, Muslims have almost always been tolerant of Non-Muslim minorities/ majorities in lands that they ruled. Had Islam been as intolerant as other ideologies, the non-Muslim communities in the Muslim world would have disappeared just like the Moors of Spain.

4. Preserving the Wisdom of Other People

It is customary for a conquering people to see nothing of value in their vanquished foe. Indeed, to this day, the Orientalist bigotry of the Colonial West towards Islam and Muslims is evidence of this.

Islam is often described as having nothing of benefit for mankind, and Muslims as being backwards despite huge amounts of evidence to the contrary. However, during the Muslim Caliphate there was a healthy respect for the culture and legacy of other cultures. It was this tolerance of the wisdom of others and the humble acceptance that there were things that they, the conquerors, could learn from the conquered that allowed Muslims to be the guardians of world knowledge.

It is little wonder that the oldest Universities in the world are all in Muslim lands. Everything from the philosophy of the ancient Greeks, the numerical system of ancient India and the agricultural marvels of ancient Persia were all preserved for posterity and built on, rather than destroyed.

3. The Conquest of Jerusalem

The Crusader chronicles mention in vivid detail the scene that took place when they conquered Jerusalem.

“Our horses waded knee-deep in the blood of the Saracens,” wrote one Knight Templar.

They celebrated their bloody triumph by converting the beautiful Dome of the Rock and masjid Al Aqsa into palaces and stables. Under a century later, Salahuddin had finally reached the gates of Jerusalem after righting the wrongs of the 1st and 2nd Crusades. Having ground the Crusader army to dust at the horns of Hattin, Salahuddin could have stormed the city like the Crusaders before him and leveled the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

Indeed that is exactly what some in his army wanted. Instead he negotiated the surrender of the city with every inhabitant having to pay a certain amount in ransom. When he saw that many of the poor Christians had not enough money to ransom themselves, this tolerant Muslim leader paid their ransom out of his own pocket. Seeing his example, his soldiers did the same.

2. Saving the Jews of Spain – Twice 

The Jews of Europe have always been a persecuted minority. Living in ghettos, derided openly and victims of regular pogroms – their suffering seemed endless. Nowhere was this worse than in the Iberian peninsula where the Visigothic kings chose to show off their new-found Catholic faith by making life hellish for all Jews.

First they took their children and when that wasn’t enough to stamp out the Jewish presence in Spain, they decided to kick them out. But before they could complete their ethnic cleansing, the Muslims had arrived and put an end to such barbarity. The Jews were now not only free to live their lives, but also immediately promoted and allowed to take up high positions in government.

This situation lasted for nearly 800 years until eventually the Catholics regrouped and, showing that old habits die-hard, expelled both the Jews and the Muslims out of Spain. The Muslims were absorbed as refugees into the Muslim world, but where did the Jews go?

They were welcomed into Muslims lands as well with the Sultan of Turkey sending boats to bring them to Istanbul and entire districts in Morocco being allocated to them. Muslims saved the Jews for a second time.

1. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)

Of course, no example of tolerance can be greater than that of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) himself. When he ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was struggling in Mecca with a few followers, he would not raise his voice against those who heaped rubbish on him.

When he ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) went to Ta’if he would not curse those who stoned him. When he ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) saw his beloved wife and uncle die during the years of expulsion and starvation, he would not raise his hands against those who decimated his beloved family members. When he ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) entered his hometown as a conqueror, he would not seek vengeance against anyone – even the killer of his dear uncle. Of course, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) did stand up against oppression, unprovoked aggression and injustice. There was a balance in his behavior that is missing from the discourse of both, those whose first instinct is to burn stuff and those who say that all provocation should be ignored.

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) taught us tolerance and taught us its limits.

As the Western world grapples with the cancerous spread of dangerous Islamophobia in their lands and the Muslim world grapples with tendency to reflexive actions in theirs – we would all do well to remember his ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) example. Muslims have a choice – we can either use our limitless love for the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) to burn the world to avenge him or to reunite, refocus and re-build the world in honor of him. It is not hard to guess what he would have wanted.

No wonder he is known as “Rahmat lil-‘Alimeen” – a mercy to ALL the worlds.

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    Muslim spokespersons who have access to the news media are misleading the public about jihad.

    The Council on American Muslim Relations (CAIR) says the following about jihad at the time this present article was posted:

    “Jihad” does not mean “holy war.” Literally, jihad means to strive, struggle and exert effort. It is a central and broad Islamic concept that includes struggle against evil inclinations within oneself, struggle to improve the quality of life in society, struggle in the battlefield for self-defense (e.g., – having a standing army for national defense), or fighting against tyranny or oppression.

    In reply, however, while it is true that a Muslim may wage jihad on the excess in his soul or on unbelief by non-violent means like argumentation, jihad must also include a military, violent war.

    Also, the clauses that say that jihad means the struggle to improve “the quality of life” or the fight against “tyranny and oppression” are ambiguous. Islam expresses the will of Allah, and jihad battles anything that stands in its way.

    By any clear reading of the Quran, the hadith (reports of Muhammad’s words and actions outside of the Quran), the histories, the biographies and the law books on early Islam, jihad cannot exclude military warfare in the cause of Allah in order to expand Islam.



    The Quran is the ultimate source for later legal opinions. It is considered completely reliable and inerrant. What does it say about jihad?


    A complicated policy like jihad can have multiple goals or purposes, but this one comes late in Muhammad’s life in Medina and best summarizes the goal and purpose.

    He wants to make Islam prevail over every religion.

    The following translation is approved and funded by the Saudi Royal family; the parenthetical explanations are inserted by the translators:

    9:33 It is He Who has sent His Messenger (Muhammad) with guidance and the religion of truth, to make it superior over all religions, though the Mushrikûn (polytheists, pagans, idolaters, disbelievers in the Oneness of Allah) hate (it).

    (Hilali and Khan, The Noble Qur’an, Riyadh: Darussalam, 1996, 2002; parenthetical notes are theirs)

    This verse is repeated two more times, word for word, in Suras 61:9 and 48:28. Muhammad means business.

    The Arabic word for “to make it superior” comes from the root z-h-r, which means “to become distinct, obvious, conspicuous, or manifest; to ascend or to mount; to have the upper hand.” It can also mean “triumph” or “victorious” or “prevail.”

    Seekers and the curious about Islam must understand this brute fact as they read the Quran: in the ten years that Muhammad lived in Medina (AD 622-632), he either sent out or went out on seventy-four small (74) assassination hit squads, raids, expeditions, small battles, or full-scale wars like the Tabuk Crusade in AD 630, in which Muhammad led 30,000 soldiers north to invade the Byzantine Empire. Sometimes the conflicts did not end in violence, but too many times they did. All verses (and there are not many) in the Medinan suras that seem to speak of peace and tolerance must be read in light of this violent historical context. Not far from the few tolerant verses the reader will find intolerant and violent verses.

    Sura 9:33, simply put, predicts the conquest of Islam over all religions.

    Islam must dominate the world through jihad.


    These rules are numbered for clarity, not priority.

    1. Conquered women and children may be enslaved.

    In AD 627 Muhammad and his followers and allies withstood a large army of Meccans and their allies, without ever slugging it out in pitched battle. The Meccans attacked Muhammad because they were fed up with his aggressions against their trade. He dug trenches in spots around Medina to diminish the advantage that the Meccans had with their cavalry. After about a month the Meccans withdrew because of a fair that was about to begin, and this large gathering from all over brought in money. But Muhammad was not finished. While he was bathing, the archangel Gabriel allegedly appeared to him and told him to attack the large Qurayza tribe of Jews. He besieged them in their fortress, and after some negotiations and a “trial,” the men were beheaded and their bodies and heads dragged and tossed into the trenches, whereas the women and children were sold into slavery.

    These three verses, especially v. 26, in Sura 33 deal with this indefensible atrocity:

    33:25 Allah turned back the unbelievers [Meccans and their allies] in a state of rage, having not won any good, and Allah spared the believers battle [q-t-l]. Allah is, indeed, Strong and Mighty. 26 And He brought those of the People of the Book [Qurayza] who supported them from their fortresses and cast terror into their hearts, some of them you slew [q-t-l] and some you took captive. 27 And he bequeathed to you their lands, their homes and their possessions, together with land you have never trodden. Allah has power over everything. (Majid Fakhry, An Interpretation of the Quran, NYUP, 2000, 2004)

    These verses seem to celebrate death and conquest. The key root word in brackets, q-t-l or qital or qatala, means killing, warring, and slaughtering. This meaning is much more restricted than jihad, though this latter word can also mean killing, warring, or slaughtering.

    Next, Allah permits the enslavement of Qurayza women and children, so later Muslim familiar with the background of this verse will follow their prophet in this practice. Finally, Allah permits Muhammad to take the Jewish clan’s property on the basis of conquest and his possession of all things. This is a dubious revelation and reasoning. Allah speaks, and this benefits Muhammad materially. This happens too often in Muhammad’s life.

    Selling humans into slavery produced a lot of wealth, so the Allah-inspired prophet never got a revelation that this practice should stop permanently and forever.

    2. Women captives are sometimes forced to marry their Muslim masters, regardless of the marital status of the women. That is, the masters are allowed to have sex with the enslaved sex objects.

    Sayyid Abul A’La Maududi, a highly respected Muslim commentator, reminds us that the historical context of the next sura finds Muhammad establishing rules for his community within two to five years after his Hijrah (Emigration) in AD 622. He lays down laws for marriage. What happens to slave women who are captured during the raids that the Muslims go on frequently? Sura 4:24 says:

    Sura 4:24 And forbidden to you are wedded wives of other people except those who have fallen in your hands (as prisoners of war) . . . (Sayyid A’La Abul Maududi, The Meaning of the Quran, vol. 1, p. 319).

    Maududi says in his comment on the verse that is it lawful for Muslims to marry women prisoners of war even when their husbands are still alive. But what happens if the husbands are captured with their wives? Maududi cites a school of law that says Muslims may not marry them, but two other schools, notably one that is analyzed under “Classical legal opinions,” below, say that the marriage between the captive husbands and wives is broken (note 44). But why would a debate over this emerge? The answer is obvious for those who understand simple justice. No sex or marriage should take place between married female prisoners of war and their captors. In fact, no sex should take place between women captives and their Muslim overlords. But Islam traffics in injustice too often, as we saw with the Qurayza tribe.

    Islam allows deep immorality with women who are in their most helpless condition. This crime is reprehensible, but Allah wills it nonetheless—the Quran says so.

    The Jewish Bible, condemns the coveting of another man’s wife:

    “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” Exodus 20:17

    “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife. You shall not set your desire on your neighbor’s house or land, his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” Deuteronomy 5:21

    The Prophet Jesus condemns those who have lustful desires for another man’s wife are guilty of adultery:

    “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Matthew 5:27-28

    The Quran says that Allah gave Muhammad certain privileges not given to anyone else:

    O Prophet! Lo! We have made lawful unto thee thy wives unto whom thou hast paid their dowries, and those whom thy right hand possesseth of those whom Allah hath given thee as spoils of war, and the daughters of thine uncle on the father’s side and the daughters of thine aunts on the father’s side, and the daughters of thine uncle on the mother’s side and the daughters of thine aunts on the mother’s side who emigrated with thee, and a believing woman if she give herself unto the Prophet and the Prophet desire to ask her in marriage – a privilege for thee only, not for the (rest of) believers – We are Aware of that which We enjoined upon them concerning their wives and those whom their right hands possess – that thou mayst be free from blame, for Allah is ever Forgiving, Merciful.

    Sura. 33:50 Pickthall

    The Quran also mentions that Allah wed Muhammad to Zaid’s wife after the latter had divorced her:

    And when you said to him to whom Allah had shown favor and to whom you had shown a favor: Keep your wife to yourself and be careful of (your duty to) Allah; and you concealed in your soul what Allah would bring to light, and you feared men, and Allah had a greater right that you should fear Him. But when Zaid had accomplished his want of her, We gave her to you as a wife, so that there should be no difficulty for the believers in respect of the wives of their adopted sons, when they have accomplished their want of them; and Allah’s command shall be performed. There is no harm in the Prophet doing that which Allah has ordained for him; such has been the course of Allah with respect to those who have gone before; and the command of Allah is a decree that is made absolute:

    Sura. 33:37-38 Shakir

    According to the Muslim sources, the Zaid mentioned above is Zaid ibn Haritha, a former slave of Muhammad’s first wife, Khadijah, whom Muhammad emancipated and adopted as his son. The Muslim sources say that Muhammad went to visit Zaid and found his wife, Zaid b. Jash, unveiled and admired her beauty. Zainab heard Muhammad praise her beauty and shared it with her husband. This made Zaid uncomfortable and decided to divorce her in order that Muhammad could then marry her.

    One of Islam’s premiere Muslim commentators, al-Qurtubi, enumerates the privileges Allah gave Muhammad. The following is taken from the Commentary of al-Qurtubi on Surah 33:50. All bold and capital emphasis ours.

    And any believing woman who dedicates herself to the Prophet if the Prophet wishes to wed (Nikah) her; this only for thee, and not for the Believers (at large).

    As for what was granted and made lawful (by Allah) to the prophet –pbuh– they are 16 issues:-

    First: To be fair with the spoils.
    Second: To (forcefully) take a fifth of a fifth or just a fifth (of the spoils of war).
    Third: “Al Wisal” (Dimitrius- the fast or fasting. This usually refers to fasting or abstaining from food.)
    Fourth: To take more than four women.
    Fifth: To marry, “Yas-tan-kih” (or have intercourse), with a woman who verbally pronounces her dedication (to the prophet).
    Sixth: To marry, “Yas-tan-kih,” without the presence (or permission) of a legal guardian.
    Seventh: To marry, “Yas-tan-kih,” without a dowry.
    Eighth: To marry (and have intercourse) during a state of ritual consecration and purification.
    Ninth: The annulment of an oath he may make to his wives.
    Tenth: If Muhammad looks at a woman (and desires her) THEN IT IS NECESSARY FOR HER HUSBAND TO DIVORCE HER AND FOR MUHAMMAD TO MARRY HER. Ibn Al A’raby said, “This is what the servant of the two holy mosques has also said, as was clear to the scholars FROM THE STORY OF ZAID which also had this meaning.”
    Eleventh: That the prophet released Safiyyah (from her captured status) and he considered her release as her dowry.
    Twelfth: To enter Mecca without being in a state of ritual purification.
    Thirteenth: To fight in Mecca.
    Fourteenth: That he is not inherited by anyone at all. This was mentioned in the oath of absolution for when a man approaches death due to illness, most of his possessions are taken away, so that he does not have more than a third left for him. But the possessions of the prophet remained for him, as is evidenced in the verse of inheritance and in Surat Mariam.
    Fifteenth: His marriage is still considered effective after his death.
    Sixteenth: If he divorces a woman she remains prohibited to everyone and may not be married, “Nikah,” to someone else.

    “Yas-tan-kih” comes from the word “Yan’kah.” For it is said in different forms “Nakaha” and “Istan-kaha” just as it is said “Ajab” and “Ista-jab”… It is permissible to use the word, “Istan-kaha,” to mean one whom requests marriage or one who requests sexual intercourse. (Source; translation ours)

    Original Arabic text:

    وَأَمَّا مَا أُحِلَّ لَهُ صَلَّى اللَّه عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ فَجُمْلَته سِتَّة عَشَرَ : الْأَوَّل : صَفِيّ الْمَغْنَم . الثَّانِي : الِاسْتِبْدَاد بِخُمُسِ الْخُمُس أَوْ الْخُمُس . الثَّالِث : الْوِصَال . الرَّابِع : الزِّيَادَة عَلَى أَرْبَع نِسْوَة . الْخَامِس : النِّكَاح بِلَفْظِ الْهِبَة . السَّادِس : النِّكَاح بِغَيْرِ وَلِيّ . السَّابِع : النِّكَاح بِغَيْرِ صَدَاق . الثَّامِن : نِكَاحه فِي حَالَة الْإِحْرَام . التَّاسِع : سُقُوط الْقَسْم بَيْن الْأَزْوَاج عَنْهُ , وَسَيَأْتِي . الْعَاشِر : إِذَا وَقَعَ بَصَره عَلَى اِمْرَأَة وَجَبَ عَلَى زَوْجهَا طَلَاقهَا , وَحَلَّ لَهُ نِكَاحهَا . قَالَ اِبْن الْعَرَبِيّ : هَكَذَا قَالَ إِمَام الْحَرَمَيْنِ , وَقَدْ مَضَى مَا لِلْعُلَمَاءِ فِي قِصَّة زَيْد مِنْ هَذَا الْمَعْنَى . الْحَادِيَ عَشَرَ : أَنَّهُ أَعْتَقَ صَفِيَّة وَجَعَلَ عِتْقهَا صَدَاقهَا . الثَّانِي عَشَرَ : دُخُول مَكَّة بِغَيْرِ إِحْرَام , وَفِي حَقّنَا فِيهِ اِخْتِلَاف . الثَّالِث عَشَر : الْقِتَال بِمَكَّة . الرَّابِع عَشَر : أَنَّهُ لَا يُورَث . وَإِنَّمَا ذُكِرَ هَذَا فِي قِسْم التَّحْلِيل لِأَنَّ الرَّجُل إِذَا قَارَبَ الْمَوْت بِالْمَرَضِ زَالَ عَنْهُ أَكْثَرُ مِلْكه , وَلَمْ يَبْقَ لَهُ إِلَّا الثُّلُث خَالِصًا , وَبَقِيَ مِلْك رَسُول اللَّه صَلَّى اللَّه عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ عَلَى مَا تَقَرَّرَ بَيَانه فِي آيَة الْمَوَارِيث , وَسُورَة ” مَرْيَم ” بَيَانه أَيْضًا . الْخَامِسَة عَشَر : بَقَاء زَوْجِيَّته مِنْ بَعْد الْمَوْت . السَّادِس عَشَر : إِذَا طَلَّقَ اِمْرَأَة تَبْقَى حُرْمَته عَلَيْهَا فَلَا تُنْكَح .

    ” أَنْ يَسْتَنْكِحهَا ” أَيْ يَنْكِحهَا , يُقَال : نَكَحَ وَاسْتَنْكَحَ , مِثْل عَجِبَ وَاسْتَعْجَبَ , وَعَجِلَ وَاسْتَعْجَلَ . وَيَجُوز أَنْ يَرِد الِاسْتِنْكَاح بِمَعْنَى طَلَب النِّكَاح , أَوْ طَلَب الْوَطْء .


    Allah granted Muhammad certain privileges, even the privilege of breaking Allah’s own commandments such as marrying more than four wives. But the most troubling privilege in the list is the one where Muhammad could cause a man to divorce his wife if Muhammad desired her and wanted to marry her. A Muslim cannot claim that this is simply al-Qurtubi’s erroneous interpretation or opinion since the Quran itself mentions how Allah wed Muhammad to Zaid’s divorcee. The traditions provide additional details and tell us that it was Muhammad’s desires for Zainab which led Zaid to divorce her.

    To further complicate things, the Quran makes adultery permissible in specific cases:

    Also (prohibited are) women already married, except those whom your right hands possess: Thus hath God ordained (Prohibitions) against you: Except for these, all others are lawful, provided ye seek (them in marriage) with gifts from your property, – desiring chastity, not lust, seeing that ye derive benefit from them, give them their dowers (at least) as prescribed; but if, after a dower is prescribed, agree Mutually (to vary it), there is no blame on you, and God is All-knowing, All-wise. S. 4:24 Yusuf Ali

    Since this command applied to Muhammad and all the Muslims, this means that Muhammad and the others were allowed to have sex with married women whom they had either taken captive or owned as slaves.

    The sad and tragic thing about this is that this command HAS NOT BEEN RESCINDED, which means that Muslims are still allowed to rape married women they take captive or possess as slaves.

    3. A captured enemy may be killed, ransomed by money or by an exchange, enslaved, or released freely.

    Sura 33:26 speaks of killing captured men and enslaving women and children (the same may be done to men in other battles, as the hadith and history demonstrate). A verse that comes earlier in the same sura says that after the captives are bound firmly, they may be released by freely or by ransom.

    47:4 When you meet the disbelievers in battle, strike them in the neck, and once they are defeated, bind any captives firmly—later you can release them by grace or by ransom—until the toils of war have ended. That [is the way]. (Haleem)

    Imprisonment may be just if the captured enemy may return to fight against the conquerors at a later time. But selling prisoners of war either into slavery or back to their clan was an Arab custom that Allah should have abolished in a revelation to his prophet. But why should Muhammad receive this just revelation when money could be made by ransoming prisoners or selling them into slavery?

    Allah should have taken away this option and allowed only free release or imprisonment.

    4. The conquered are allowed (or forced) to convert.

    In Sura 8, which deals with the Battle of Badr in AD 624, Muhammad proposes these options to his captives.

    8:70 Prophet, tell those you have taken captive, “If God knows of any good in your hearts, He will give you something better [Islam] than what has been taken from you [the caravan], and He will forgive you” . . . (Haleem)

    Muhammad tells them that if the conquered Meccans had any sense, they would realize that Allah had a divine plan: expose them to Islam. This is better than all the material riches they can trade in. However, it is not difficult to imagine a Meccan muttering under his breath that he would prefer to take his money and goods and return to Mecca, wanting Muhammad to stop harassing the Meccans’ trade.

    Also, it is laughable for the prophet to offer only Islam in lieu of the Meccans’ material goods. Preaching religion at newly captured prisoners and justifying the aggressive Battle of Badr that robbed the Meccan of their caravan is misguided. Why not return their goods? Why go out on this raid in the first place?

    5. Is it lawful to kill old men and Christian monks?

    One school of law in the section “Classical legal opinions,” below, says that it is legal to kill old men and monks. Where may they get this opinion? We should recall that Sura 33:26 says that all the men of the Qurayza tribe were killed, so that verse alone justifies this atrocity. It is possible that the school of law analyzed in the section “Classical legal opinions,” below, justifies the death of monks from two passages.

    First, Allah says to fight Jews and Christians or People of the Book in Sura 9, the historical context of which has been discussed above (“What is the purpose or goal of jihad?”):

    9:29 Fight [q-t-l] against those who believe not in Allah, nor in the Last Day, nor forbid that which has been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger (Muhammad) and those who acknowledge not the religion of truth (i.e. Islam) among the people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians) until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued. (Hilali and Khan)

    Then Muhammad condemns rabbis and monks who devour the property of people and bar them from following the path of Allah (read: convert to Islam) in the same sura:

    9:33 O believers [Muslims], many of the rabbis and monks devour the property of the people unjustly and bar others from the Path of Allah [Islam]. Those who hoard gold and silver and do not spend them in Allah’s path, announce to them a very painful punishment. (Fakhry)

    It is true that Muhammad goes on to explain an eternal hellish punishment for monks (v. 35), but it is not farfetched to believe that a strict school of law would combine the command to fight People of the Book (v. 29), with the condemnation of unjust and greedy monks. Why would these monks not be the first ones to be killed in a battle? However, it may be the case that the strict school of law may justify their deaths simply because they are Christian leaders.

    6. Property may be stolen.

    Muhammad fought the Battle of Badr in AD 624, in which 320 or so Muslims won a surprise victory over about 1000 Meccans. Their caravan was traveling south from Syria back to Mecca, and Muhammad intended to capture it. The Meccans got word of this raid and sent their army up to meet their caravan. Sura 8 deals with this (in)famous battle, and this verse says that Muhammad wanted the unarmed group (the large caravan), but Allah gave him not only that one, but also the armed group so that truth may prevail.

    8:7 Remember how God promised you [believers] that one of the two enemy groups [The Meccan trade caravan or their army] would fall to you: you wanted the unarmed group to be yours, but it was God’s will to establish the truth according to His word and to finish off the disbelievers (MAS Abdel Haleem, The Qu’ran, Oxford UP, 2004)

    This verse says that only the Muslims wanted the caravan or material goods, whereas Muhammad rose above such petty concerns. However, history and simple reasoning says that he too wanted the material goods. If not, then he should have given back all the goods. It is always dubious to connect God’s truth with military victory, but no matter, for Muhammad captured a huge caravan, and now he was richer than ever before.

    Also, we should not overlook Sura 33:27, quoted above, that promises all of the property of the Qurayza tribe:

    33:27 And he bequeathed to you their lands, their homes and their possessions, together with land you have never trodden. Allah has power over everything. (Fakhry)

    The word “bequeathed” is a euphemism for “stole” by conquest. As noted, timely and coincidental revelations that benefit Muhammad materially come often enough in his life.

    7. Fruit trees may be destroyed.

    In AD 625, Muhammad is strong enough to exile the Nadir tribe of Jews, besieging them in their strongholds for fifteen days until he started destroying their date palms, their livelihood. Their livelihood undergoing destruction and then theft, they departed to the city of Khaybar, seventy miles to the north, where they had estates. This takeover helped relieve the ongoing poverty of many Muslims, who took over their date orchards.

    This verse in Sura 59 justifies his illegal act:

    59:5 Whatever you [believers] may have done to [their] palm trees—cutting them down or leaving them standing on their roots—was done by God’s leave [permission], so that He might disgrace those who defied Him. (Haleem)

    This is another coincidental and timely revelation that seeks to justify the unjustifiable. Later Muslim warriors may use this practice to destroy other assets that are valuable to civilians, so this is unjust for Allah and his prophet.

    8. Homes may be destroyed.

    In the same sura, Muhammad destroys the homes of the Nadir tribe.

    59:2 . . . God came upon them [Jews of the Nadir tribe] from where they least expected and put panic into their hearts: they brought ruin to their own homes by their own hands, as well as the hands of the believers [Muslims] . . . (Haleem)

    A classical opinion of one school of law (see “Classical legal opinions,” below) agrees and also says that homes may be destroyed. This is also unjust for the revelation-soaked religion of Islam.

    9. Three options are imposed on the enemy. It should be recalled that Sura 9:29 lays out some conditions for the People of the Book, when a Muslim army gathers outside their city gate, as Muslim interpreters agree:

    (1) Fight and die; (2) convert; (3) keep their religion, but pay a tax, the jizyah, which Muslim apologists (defenders) argue amounted to “protection” for the “privilege” of living under Islam (read: not be attacked again).

    This is as close as Muhammad can get to forcing the enemy to convert without technically forcing them. This policy will be worked out and further imposed after Muhammad dies of a fever in AD 632, and the policy will not always keep these fine line distinctions.

    What happens to the spoils in jihad?

    As noted in the previous section, Sura 8 deals with the Muslims’ surprise victory over the Meccans at the Battle of Badr in AD 624. After their victory, Arab custom demanded that the warriors get a share of the spoils of war. Muhammad says in 8:41, “Know that one-fifth of your battle gains belongs to God and the Messenger” . . . (Haleem). That is, Muhammad gets twenty percent for himself and for the needy in his community, as he distributes it. The warriors were to get eighty percent.

    This eighty percent distribution is a strong inducement to keep the Arab custom of raiding alive. Why would Muhammad get a revelation telling him to follow the way of peace without warfare and raids? Twenty percent for him and eighty percent for his warriors speak more loudly than Gabriel.

    What happens to martyrs in jihad?

    Martyrs are guaranteed a fast track to Islamic paradise. Their deaths are depicted in economic terms. If they expend their lives as a living currency, Allah will exchange them for heavenly Islamic gardens.

    61:10 You who believe, shall I show you a bargain that will save you from painful punishment? 11 Have faith in God and His Messenger and struggle [j-h-d] for His cause with your possessions and your persons—that is better for you, if only you knew—12 and He will forgive your sins, admit you into Gardens graced with flowing streams, into pleasant dwellings in the Gardens of Eternity. That is the supreme triumph. (Haleem)

    Muslims who struggle (j-h-d) in Allah’s cause will either win the battle and live to see another day, so that they can collect some spoils of war, or they will die and have their sins forgiven and be admitted into Islamic heaven.

    Sura 9:111 carries on the economic bargain.

    9:111 God has purchased the persons and possessions of the believers for the Garden—they fight [q-t-l] in God’s way: they kill [q-t-l] and are killed [q-t-l]—this is a true promise given by Him in the Torah, the Gospel, and the Qur’an. Who could be more faithful to his promise than God? So be happy with the bargain you have made: that is the supreme triumph. (Haleem)

    Two things should be noticed here. First, the root q-t-l is used three times in this short verse. Qital or qatala, as noted in the section “What are some rules of jihad?” means killing, warring, and slaughtering and is therefore less ambiguous or has a more restricted meaning than jihad, though this latter word can mean those same bloody acts.

    Thus, if Muslim apologists (defenders) explain (away) jihad as non-violent, then they have not factored in the frequently used word qital.

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