Dear Mr. A, Please Stop Being a Sectist

Yesterday one of friend here in Ritsumeikan, Paul, posted a status in his Facebook. Paul is one of my best friend. Before coming to Japan, he lived in New York and he come from a Jews family. Despite our differences, Paul is a very open-minded and socially-engaged person, unparalleled by others I’ve ever known before.

Here is his status:

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Paulie’s status

Then, out of no where, came a person (let’s call him Mr. A) who started to make an Islamophobic comment which Paul cleverly rebutted:

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Mr.A’s comment – 1

Mr. A replied to Paul (unconvincingly) :

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Mr. A’s comment – 2

Seeing their debate, I was wondering on what basis this Mr. A said that Islam is a violent relgion. So, out of curiosity, I asked:

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Responding to me, Mr. A gave a list of Quran verses and “presumably shahih” hadith that, in his opinion, give the basis to say that Islam is violent. This is the list:

Quran (2:216) – “Fighting is prescribed for you, and ye dislike it. But it is possible that ye dislike a thing which is good for you, and that ye love a thing which is bad for you. But Allah knoweth, and ye know not.”

Quran (3:151) – “Soon shall We cast terror into the hearts of the Unbelievers, for that they joined companions with Allah, for which He had sent no authority”.

Quran (8:12) – “I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them”

Quran (9:123) – “O you who believe! fight those of the unbelievers who are near to you and let them find in you hardness.”

Quran (3:56) – “As to those who reject faith, I will punish them with terrible agony in this world and in the Hereafter, nor will they have anyone to help.”

Hadiths

Bukhari (52:177) – 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.”

Bukhari (52:220) – Allah’s Apostle said… ‘I have been made victorious with terror’

Bukhari (52:73) – “Allah’s Apostle said, ‘Know that Paradise is under the shades of swords’.”

Tabari 7:97 The morning after the murder of Ashraf, the Prophet declared, “Kill any Jew who falls under your power.”

Tabari 9:69 “Killing Unbelievers is a small matter to us”

Ibn Ishaq/Hisham 992: – “Fight everyone in the way of Allah and kill those who disbelieve in Allah.”

Saifur Rahman, The Sealed Nectar p.227-228 – “Embrace Islam… If you two accept Islam, you will remain in command of your country; but if your refuse my Call, you’ve got to remember that all of your possessions are perishable. My horsemen will appropriate your land, and my Prophethood will assume preponderance over your kingship.”

In a glance, his argument seemed convincing; he really did a good job to portray the horror of moslem’s faith with these quotations. Yet, his superficial judgement induced a great urge for me to rebut this misconception. As respond to his comment, I made around 2,300 words counter-argument today. I can’t deny that inside my writing there would of course be room for mistakes. But, I’m trying my best to convince him that religious hatred would never create peace. So comrades, put on the filters on your head, take what’s good and abandon what’s not. So here’s my comment:


 

Dear Mr.A,

{1} Quran (2:216) – “Fighting is prescribed for you, and ye dislike it. But it is possible that ye dislike a thing which is good for you, and that ye love a thing which is bad for you. But Allah knoweth, and ye know not.”

If you refer to the original Arabic transcript of this verse, Allah said that we must do القتال or “al qital” which means “the war” not قتال or “qital” which means all war in general. In understanding the Quran, you must first fathom Arabic grammar and literature. The particle “al” is used to like particle “the” to limit the generalization of a term so that it won’t be interpreted arbitrarily or out of context. “The war” that is meant here is the wars justified by Islam. In Islam combat is justified for legitimate self-defense, to aid other Muslims and after a violation in the terms of a treaty, but should be stopped if these circumstances cease to exist. The principle of forgiveness is reiterated in between the assertions of the right to self-defense. Whereas the disbelievers that seeks peace with Islam should never be harmed as Allah said in Quran 9:4 – “Excepted are those with whom you made a treaty among the polytheists [disbelievers] and then they have not been deficient toward you in anything or supported anyone against you; so complete for them their treaty until their term [has ended]. Indeed, Allah loves the righteous [who fear Him]”.

The next sentence “it is possible that ye dislike a thing which is good for you, and that ye love a thing which is bad for you” was not solely meant to promote this self-defense but to a broader virtue. For instance, we might dislike consuming medicine (because it taste awful) but it’s good for us; and we may like to use drugs and narcotics though it’s bad for us.

{2} Quran (3:151) – “Soon shall We cast terror into the hearts of the Unbelievers, for that they joined companions with Allah, for which He had sent no authority”.
Quran (9:123) – “O you who believe! fight those of the unbelievers who are near to you and let them find in you hardness.”

To understand these verses we should know what Islam define as the kafir or “unbelievers”. In general there are 2 major groups of unbelievers: Kafir Harbi and Kafir Dzimmi. The Harbis are the aggressive unbelievers that openly attack Islam and take the human rights of the moslems while the Dzimmis are the pacifist unbelievers that coexist peacefully with Islam. As explained before, The particle “al” in Arabic or “the” in English is very important in Quran. Allah always uses the particle “al” in front of “kafir” so that instruction doesn’t apply for “all unbelievers” but to “the unbelievers” that belongs to the Harbis. Prophet Muhammad ordered moslem to protect and be peaceful with Dzimmis. Muhammad even said in his hadith that “Whoever hurts Kafir Dzimmi, I [Muhammad] will be his opponent in the day of judgment (HR. Muslim)”

{3} Quran (8:12) – “I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them”
Quran (3:56) – “As to those who reject faith, I will punish them with terrible agony in this world and in the Hereafter, nor will they have anyone to help.”

This verses explain about the torment and agony in Hell felt by those who doesn’t obey God’s order properly. Like all religion, Islam has a concept of reward and punishment; if you obey God you’ll be rewarded (heaven) and if you disobey God you’ll be punished (hell) . Similarly, Hindhuism believe in a place called Naraka to torture sinful souls. There is also the concept of Karma which is also shared by the Buddhist. In Christianity we know the 7 deadly sins that could bring sinners to hell. The concept of agony as result from disobedience is a common religious believe and, thus, these two verses don’t attribute any entitlement that Islam as the most violent religion, as you stated. Besides, these verses don’t give any instruction for moslems to impose these “violence” to the unbelievers. It is the prerogative right of God to give punishment for disobedient and unfaithful moslem and non-moslem alike.

{4} Bukhari (52:220) – Allah’s Apostle said… ‘I have been made victorious with terror’

Again you’ve disregarded the whole of picture of the context. The complete version of the hadith is “Narrated by Abu Huraira: Allah’s Apostle said, “I have been sent with the shortest expressions bearing the widest meanings, and I have been made victorious with رعب (extreme fear cast into the hearts of the enemy), and while I was sleeping, the keys of the treasures of the world were brought to me and put in my hand.” Abu Huraira added: Allah’s Apostle has left the world and now you, people, are bringing out those treasures (i.e. the Prophet did not benefit by them)”.

You can’t translate the Arabic word رعب (ru’b) as “terror” which, according to The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, is defined as a “violence committed or threatened by a group to intimidate or coerce a population, as for military or political purposes”. Instead, ru’b means “fright and anxiety”. We can better understand this term by seeing other hadith: “The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “I was given victory through Ru`b (fear and anxiety): the enemy becomes filled with Ru`b (fear and anxiety) even though they are the distance of a month’s journey away from me (Ahmad: 20337)”

This fear was not the fear that resulted from past combat, as many Islam-haters believe; rather it was a type of fear which prevents further combat. Like when the Muraisii people wanted to siege Madina, the city where Muhammad ruled, they cancelled their attack because of fear; they heard rumors that Muhammad had gathered a great army to resist them. Thus, this kind of fear saved Muslims and many of their enemies from the hardship of battle and warfare.

{5} Bukhari (52:73) – “Allah’s Apostle said, ‘Know that Paradise is under the shades of swords’.

I suggest that you learn some Arabic literature before randomly take this hadith. In the discipline of balaghah (literature), whenever a term is being leaned to the word “heaven”, it is actually meant to accentuate the importance of the term. Muhammad said in other hadith “الجنة تحت أقدام الأمهات” which means “Be at your mother’s feet and there is the Paradise (Ibn Majah: 2771)”. This hadith was introduced to urge moslem to respect their mother and understand how revering mother is very important within the faith. Similarly, the Bukhari 52:73 hadith accentuate the importance of strength, volition to fight and protect (symbolized by sword) Islam shall there be any party harming Islam. This hadith doesn’t imply that paradise can only be reached with a “holy war”, but the word “paradise” here is a classical Arabian metaphor used to accentuate a term or action; and this usage of metaphor was common back in those days.

Even more, as Ansar Al Adl (2011) wrote, if the full saying is quoted in context, that image is immediately banished. The full saying is found in another narration: “…Allah’s Apostle in one of his military expeditions against the enemy, waited till the sun declined and then he got up amongst the people saying, ‘O people! Do not wish to meet the enemy, and ask Allah for safety, but when you face the enemy, be patient, and remember that Paradise is under the shades of swords.Then he said, ‘O Allah, the Revealer of the Holy Book, and the Mover of the clouds and the Defeater of the clans, defeat them, and grant us victory over them’. (Bukhari 52:266)”

This narration makes it crystal clear that Muhammad (PBUH) taught his followers to hate violence and never desire conflict with the enemy. However, in the event of a battle, Muhammad (PBUH) encouraged his companions to be patient and informed them of the reward promised by God to those who die fighting oppression and injustice. This saying should be presented in its full context so that the reader may see that Muhammad (PBUH) ) was a man who desired peace and patiently endured the struggles thrust upon him by his enemies. As Dr. Jamal Badawi mentioned about this narration, “The hadith deals with the situation where Muslims are forced to the battlefield as the last resort to defend themselves in which case the use of the sword may be necessary and martyrdom (self-sacrifice) is rewarded with Paradise”

{6} Tabari 7:97 The morning after the murder of Ashraf, the Prophet declared, “Kill any Jew who falls under your power.”
Tabari 9:69 “Killing Unbelievers is a small matter to us”
Ibn Ishaq/Hisham 992: – “Fight everyone in the way of Allah and kill those who disbelieve in Allah.”

In Islam, we do not simply trust every hadith. Put it simply, even I can say “Hey, I heard from my great great great great grandfather that he heard Muhammad saying: Kill all the Jews and Christians! Therefore, Islam is violent”, but nobody will be stupid enough to believe me. Thus, to acknowledge the validity of a hadith, we must identify who recorded it. A legitimate hadith recorder has a very strict requirement such as:

1. Never encountered to be lying in his life; no one bare witness that the person is untrustworthy
2. Record the precise sanad (hierarchy) of the hadits
3. Each level of hierarchy has a minimum number of 10 people who witness that the hadith is accurate
4. Many other requirements that are too long to list here

In short, it is extremely hard and rare for a person to be a valid hadith recorder. Now, the two quotes from Tabari above can not even be considered as a valid hadith. It was a quote from a historical chronical that we wrote called Tarikh al-Rusul wa al-Muluk. He even wrote in his introduction: “Let the reader be aware that whatever I mention in my book is relied on the news that were narrated by some men. I had attributed these stories to their narrators, without inferring anything from their incidents”. That is to say, The main purpose of Tabari was to write history according to the science of narration; he quoted the narrator without interfering in any way. In this sense, a moslem should not consider his quotations as a religious text; it’s only a history book.

Meanwhile, a general analysis of Ibnu Ishaq’s records has given him the negative distinction of being a mudallis, meaning one who did not name his teacher, claiming instead to narrate directly from his teacher’s teacher (Qardhawi, 2007). Even the greatest and most trustworthy hadith recorder, Bukhari, never used his narrations in the shahih book. Having said that, I believe that these two sources are invalid to be followed by moslem and, thus, it couldn’t be accounted as an Islamic doctrine to impose violence on unbelievers.


Understanding Islam as a legal system, moslem has Quran as their constitution; thereby, all the laws below the Quran –the hadith, fatwa by the Islamic scholars, etc– must adhere to the holy book. The holy book provides requirements as well as limitations for the the other source of Islamic law to be exercised. In Al Qur’an itself we see many verses that condemn any unjust and violence. Upon self-defense war, Al Quran states : “Fight in the way of Allah those who fight you but do not transgress. Indeed. Allah does not like transgressors (2:190)”. Even more Allah said: “There shall be no compulsion [force] in [acceptance of] the religion [Islam] (2:256). Islam is even the only religion that has an unequivocal ethic code of combat shall there be no other way except war to defense the faith. By codifying several of the hadith, we get the fact that Muhammad prohibits moslem, in time of war, to kill a child, woman, sick person, old people, monk/priest, those who surrendered, those who run away and many other ethics that ensure peace and safety. Therefore, whenever a moslem behave, make a decision, or even start a justified war, they must adhere to limitations set by Quran (not to transgress and force Islam); otherwise they shouldn’t be considered as a real moslem.

Dear Mr. A,

I’m not telling you to stop criticizing Islam, but before you do so please spare a chance to study Arabic literature and the discipline of tafsir (the method to interpret Quran and hadith). Islam is whole; you can never understand Islam by taking the verse and hadith partially. I would gladly invite you to further criticize Islam if, and only if, you have read all the verses in Quran and all the shahih hadiths. If I follow your step, copy-pasting some verses from a radical website (I saw the exact array of verses and hadiths that you wrote in two or three websites) to justify that a religion is violent, I could easily do the same thing with Bible, and show you the “assumed” violent verses on your face. But what I am to judge Christianity if I haven’t even read the whole holy book and have no knowledge to interpret it?; how can I say Christianity is a violent religion if I haven’t lived with them and understand how their faith really means?

No, Mr. A, I’m not that stupid to pragmatically judge a religion and justify my argument by cherry picking some random parts of their holy scripture. I won’t be that idiot racist that pursue to end hate with hate. I won’t be surprised if afterwards you would bombard me with arguments to justify the hatred that blind you; please do so. But know this: the longer our debate will last, the greater the gap and hate would exist between us. It would, thus, make more sense if people like us around the world could save our energy to de-radicalize the believers of our religion –me towards mine, you towards yours– to reach the peaceful world we both envision.

لكم دينكم ولي دين
“For you is your religion, and for me is my religion (Quran 109:6)”

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