The Koran and Self Defense


Figure 1.--One problem with violence and the self defense argument is that Islamic terrorists fired by the Koran commonly target the innocent--often fellow Muslims Here are women and children in Kabul, savaged by Pakistani terrorists in two deadly attacks (December 2011). They are Shiites who gathered for Ashura. They were attacked by Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, a Pakistani terror group. And they are supported by elements of the Pakistani Government's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). Yes Pakistanis blithly deny their involvement. One reader insists, "It's not true. We are not one of them who are facilitating the terrorists. Who are murdering and crippling the innocents." [Qaisar]

A Muslim readers takes issue with our page on "The Koran and Violence", charging that we have taken the passages out of context. Her major complaint as I understand it is that the passages we quote do no show the Islamic injunction that war or actions against infidels should only be waged in self defense. She writes, "The injustice you have committed on your web page lies on the fact that these verses are singled out without what comes before and after and without reading all the other related verse in order to understa that they are applicable in very specific situations of self defense. We cannot just pick and choose certain verses about fighting back in self defense and use them to justify that Quran promotes killing when, to the contrary, Quran condemns killing in the strongest language. Please read the verses I have attached. I have provided you with a link that gives an honest and correct perspective of Jihad and Wars in the light of Quran. Please read the articles, just for the sake of the truth." This self- defense argument is often presented by Muslim scgolsars. And it is true that many Koranic passages do include a provision for self defense. Not all, but a number do. The problem with this asertion is, however, that while it is in the Koran, it is an injuction commonly disregarded by Muslim leaders, including the Prophet himself. Muslims leaders from the very beginning of Islam have not followed that injunctuon. And that the Caliphate was established as a result of a series of aggressive wars.

The Koran and Violence

Islam is often desribed as a religion of peace. And there are references toward peace in the Koran. but there are also many references to war and violence. The number of such references is disturbing. Even more disturbing are references to violence as a positive good and references justifying violence against unbrlivers. These passages are unlike any in the religious books of the worlds other great religions. Several of these passages would seem to give a Muslim justification for suiside bombers targetting Jews, Christians, and even Muslims of differing views. The Koran also authorizes violence against women. In reading these passages it should be remembered that Islamic scholars teach that the Koran is the literal, perfect word of God and can not be questined. We have quoted the various pertinent passages from the Koran and attempted to assess their meaning. Some are elusive. Others seem rather straight forward. We do not pretend to be Islamic scholars and welcome any insights that readers might have.

Reader Complaint

A Muslim readers takes issue with our page on "The Koran and Violence", charging that we have taken the passages out of context. Her major complaint as I understand it is that the passages we quote do no show the Islamic injunction that war or actions against infidels should only be waged in self defense. She writes, "The injustice you have committed on your web page lies on the fact that these verses are singled out without what comes before and after and without reading all the other related verse in order to understa that they are applicable in very specific situations of self defense. We cannot just pick and choose certain verses about fighting back in self defense and use them to justify that Quran promotes killing when, to the contrary, Quran condemns killing in the strongest language. Please read the verses I have attached. I have provided you with a link that gives an honest and correct perspective of Jihad and Wars in the light of Quran. Please read the articles, just for the sake of the truth." Note the tendeny here to 1) question our honesy abnd 2) assert that the reader is in possession of the truth. Both of these make a real discussion possible. We do not claim that we possess THE TRUTH nor do we question the readers honesty.

Self Defense Argument

This self- defense argument is often presented by Muslim scgolsars. And it is true that many Koranic passages do include a provision for self defense. Not all, but a number do. And some Koranic passages are devoted entirely to the principle of self defense. Agood example is "You may kill those who wage war against you, and you may evict them whence they evicted you. Oppression is worse than murder. Do not fight them at the Sacred Masjid, unless they attack you therein. If they attack you, you may kill them. This is the just retribution for those disbelievers." [Koranic verse 2:191]

Historical Problem

The problem with this asertion is, however, that while it is in the Koran, it is an injuction commonly disregarded by Muslim leaders, including the Prophet himself. Muslims leaders from the very beginning of Islam have not followed that injunctuon. And that the Caliphate was established as a result of a series of aggressive wars. By the time of the Crusades, the Muslims were fighting defensive wars. It is interesing how Muslim scholars present the crusades. They tend to simply ignore three centuries of wars against Christendom. The Crusades are presented as an unprovoked attack on Islam. Generally speaking when assessing who is fighting defensive wars, Muslim attacks oin Christians are ignored. Only Christian attacks on Muslimsare considered. The Barbary Pirates operated from the coast of North Africa for over three centuries (16th-early 19th centuries). As Europe advanced with developments in science and capitalism, North Africa dominated by Islam fell behind economically and culturally. The pirate operations came to be the central aspect of the North African economy as they could prey on increasingly wealthy Christian Europe. The high point of Barbary operations appears to have been the mid-17th century. Historisans believe that over 1 million European Christians were captured and enslaved.

The Prophet (7th century)

At the very incepton of Islamic power, Mohammed began to persecute the Jews. Here there was no matter of self defense. It was an assault oin a religious minority that the Prophet persued once in power. After the Hegira (flight from Mecca) (622 AD), Mohammed converted much of the population of Medina to Islam. This was the turning point of Islam. They were no longer a small persecuted minority, but the majority in the town. There was also a Jewish minority in the city, consisting od several Jewish tribes. Mohammed met with the Jews. Some describe the result as the world's first constitution. Now that Mohammed had realmpower, he no longer needed to be diplomatic and tolerant as he had been with the Quraysh. It was not really a negotiation. Rather Mohammed imposed stern conditions on the Jews if they desired to remain in Medina where their homes were. [Ibn Ishaq]. They were in essence forced to pay protection money to Mohammed. Mohammed gradualy imposed increasingly stringent restrictions. . Jews (and Christians) had to pay a tax to the Muslims (Jizya). Mohammed established a struct social structure. Muslims at the top, setting the rules and collecting taxes. Jews and Christians who paid Jizya were in the middle and pagans at the bottom. The earliest passages of the Koran were revealed to Mohammed while he was still in Mecca emphasised tolerance and peaceful co-existence with other religions and a non-violent approach. After the Hegira the tone of Koranic Revelations change. As Mohammed and his followers become more powerful, the Koranic verses become harsher and less compromising. This is one reason there are so many contradictory passages in the Koran. Badly outnumbered and fearung attack, the Jews accepted Mohammed's dictates. The early Medina converts at first acted as a buffer for the Jewish tribes. These were people whose families had lived togeter for generatins. wh had lived people who had been born and brought up together and initially interceeded with Mohammed in their favor. Mohammed objected to this and labeled them Hypocrites. [Koran 2:8-15 and Koran 63:1-8.] This so irritated Mohammed that he added an injunction to the Koran that ters, Mohammed issued a revelation to the Koran that Muslims can not take a Jew or a Christian as a friend. [Koran 5:51] Mohammed began raiding caravans. He then decided to solve his "Jewish problem". [Ibn Ishaq, p. 363] He surrounded the Jews until they surrendered to him. Mohammed at first planned to simply kill the Jews. The Hypocrits managed to convince him, however, to spare their lives. Mohammed robbed them of their property and banished them from Medina. A respected Jewish poet named Ka'b bin Al-Ashraf had the termity to question Mohammed's actions. Mohammed ordered him to be assasinated. [Bukhari, vol 5, book 64, no. 4037.] Mohammed's forces suffered a military defeat at the hands of the Quraysh (625 AD). Mohammed told his men thsat they were not sufficently devout. [Koran 3: 152.] At this time the Jews Mohammed had expelled from Medina contacted the Quraysh asking for their support in expelling the Muslims so tey could return to their homes in Medina. After the Battle of the Trench, Mohammed attacked the Jewish tribe and once he had defeated them decidedto kill them. [Bukhari, vol 4, book 56, no 3043.] Every Jewish man (about 600900) was beheaded. The women and children were made slaves. Mohammed himself is believed to have personally carried out some of the beheadings. [Ibn Ishaq, p. 464.]

The Islamic Conquests (7th-8th centuries)

The history of early Islam is a series of aggressive wars which spread the religion in just a few decades east to central Asia and west to Spain. These were not defensive wars. They were wars of aggression. One single war would not bring the principle of wageing wars only in self-defense into question. Nor would several wars. But the entire series of wars which led to the Caliphate do bring this Islsamic contention that Muslims only wage wars in self defense into contention. Westerners are probably most familiar with the Muslim invasin of Spain (711) and France (732). A whole series of agressive wars aganst Egypt and Christian kingdoms as well as Jews and Berbers had to be waged to get Morooco from which the invasion was launched across the Straits of Gibralter. And there were many yher campaigns to seize Syria, Iraq, Persia, Afghanistan ases of central asia.

Koranic Truth and Muslim Practice

A Muslim reader writes, "As for the wide gap that exists between the truth/ the essence of the Quran, and what has been widely practiced under the banner of Islam by the so-called Muslims in the so-called Islamic countries, it is all because of following man-made doctrines rather than the divine word of God. The religion of Islam (Submission to God alone) has been severely corrupted. 200+ years after prophet Muhammad's death ..." [BK] This might be a reasinable argument if the variation between Koranic Truth and Muslim practice began as suggested 200 or so years after the Prophet's death. In fact as we see here, it began while Mohammed first led the Islamic community in Medina. Other Muslims leadrs have used the same line of argument, to avoid responsibility for the deeds of Muslims they simply deny they we Islamic. This is also a popular line of argument for Soialists and Communits, they simply deny that Lennin, Stalin, Mao, and other ruthless dictators were Soicialists. It may be that the Muslim leaders were inperfect Muslims, but they were more influenced by the Koran than Christian and Jewish leaders.

The Crusades (11th 13th centuries)

By the time of the Crusades, the Muslims were actually fighting defensive wars. It is interesing how Muslim scholars present the Crusades. They tend to simply ignore three centuries of wars against Christendom. The Crusades are presented as an unprovoked attack on Islam. Generally speaking when assessing who is fighting defensive wars, Muslim attacks oin Christians are ignored. Only Christian attacks on Muslimsare considered.

The Barbary Pirates (16th-early-19th centuries)

The Barbary Pirates operated from the coast of North Africa for over three centuries (16th-early 19th centuries). As Europe advanced with developments in science and capitalism, North Africa dominated by Islam fell behind economically and culturally. The pirate operations came to be the central aspect of the North African economy as they could prey on increasingly wealthy Christian Europe. The high point of Barbary operations appears to have been the mid-17th century. Historisans believe that over 1 million European Christians were captured and enslaved. The rich were ransomed. The ordinary captives were condemned to a life of slavery and toil. The Barbary raids were conducted as far north as Scandinavia. European powers conducted military operations, but ir proved more cost effective to pay tribute. The first overseas military operations of the new United States was against the Barbary Pirates. The Barbary raids continued until improivements in European navies in the early 19th century and French efforts to colonize the area finally put an end to it.

Modern Terroists

One problem with violence and the self defense argument is that Islamic terrorists fired by thecKoran commonly target the innocent--often fellow Muslims Here are women and children in Kabul (figure 1). They were savaged by Pakistani terrorists in two deadly attacks (December 2011). They are Shiites who gathered for Ashura. They were attacked by Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, a Pakistani terror group. And they are supported by elements of the Pakistani Government's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). Yes Pakistanis blithly deny their involvement. One reader insists, "It's not true. We are not one of them who are facilitating the terrorists. Who are murdering and crippling the innocents." [Qaisar]

Sources

BK. eMail message, December 3, 2007.

Bukhari. Sahih al-Bukhari is one of the Sunni six major Hadith collections. The Hadith are Islamic oral traditions recounting events in the lives of the prophet Muhammad and his close advisers. Many Sunni Muslims view this as their most trusted hadith.

Ibn Ishaq. Muhammad ibn Ishaq ibn Yasar (?-767 or 761), ususally referred to as just Ibn Ishaq was the son of Isaac. He was the erliest Arab Muslim historian. He carefully collected the oral traditions that were used for the the first biography of Mohammed. The biography is commonly called Sirat Rasul Allah (Life of Allah's Messenger).

Koran

Qaisar, Luqman. E-mail message, December 7, 2011.







HBC






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Created: 3:24 AM 12/4/2007
Last updated: 4:31 PM 12/7/2011