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Reader comment on item: Uncovering Early Islam

Submitted by vic (United States), Jun 20, 2017 at 10:35

Some people maintain that there some verses of the Qur'an—Islam's holy book—that condone "killing the infidel"?

It is true that the Qur'an commands Muslims to stick up for themselves in a defensive battle--in other words, if an enemy army attacks, then Muslims are to fight against that army until they stop the aggression. All of the verses in the Qur'an that speak about fighting/war are in this context.

There are some specific verses that are very often "snipped" out of context, either by critics of Islam discussing "jihadism," or by misguided Muslims themselves who wish to justify their aggressive tactics.

"Slay Them"--If They Attack You First

For example, one verse (in its snipped version) reads: "slay them wherever you catch them" (Qur'an 2:191). But who is this referring to? Who are "they" that this verse discusses? The preceding and following verses give the correct context:

"Fight in the cause of God those who fight you, but do not transgress limits; for God loves not transgressors. And slay them wherever you catch them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out; for tumult and oppression are worse than slaughter. . . But if they cease, God is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful. . . If they cease, let there be no hostility except to those who practice oppression" (2:190-193).

It is clear from the context that these verses are discussing a defensive war, in which a Muslim community is attacked without reason, oppressed and prevented from practicing its faith.

In these circumstances, permission is given to fight back--but even then Muslims are instructed not to transgress limits and to cease fighting as soon as the attacker gives up. Even in these circumstances, Muslim are only to fight directly against those who are attacking them, not innocent bystanders or non-combatants.


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