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If only Qur'an 9:28 were so clear cut and simple

Reader comment on item: Open Mecca to the World

Submitted by Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi (Spain), Sep 14, 2022 at 18:49

Dr. Pipes,

Much like the debates over Qur'anic verses such as 'No compulsion in religion...', things are more complicated than simply saying that 9:28 bans 'polytheists' from the Sacred Mosque in the conventional way many Westerners would understand 'polytheists' to be those professing religions that openly claim worship of more than one deity (e.g, Greco-Roman paganism and Arabian paganism). The word 'mushrik' in the basic sense means associating a partner with God in worship, and many less ecumenical interpretations of Islam would place Jews and Christians in the 'mushrik' category as well rather than categorising them as fellow 'real monotheists', so to speak.

The mushrik categorisation for Jews and Christians arises partly on the basis of the broader context of Qur'an 9:28, especially Qur'an 9:30-31 where it is said the Jews claim Ezra is the son of God and Christians Jesus, and that they took rabbis, monks and the Messiah as lords besides God, when they were only commanded to worship God. In this reading then, the Jews and Christians have associated partners with God in worship, and thus are guilty of being mushriks ('mushrikun').

The site Islam QA gives a representative example of this interpretation explaining why Jews and Christians are disbelievers ('kuffar') and mushriks:


I am not suggesting this is necessarily the right interpretation, but only that it may be unwise for non-Muslims to invoke a verse like 9:28 as part of this debate on non-Muslims' entry into Mecca, in the same way that some non-Muslims may cite the 'no compulsion in religion' injunction as supposed proof how jihadists go against the spirit of the Qur'an.


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Daniel Pipes replies:

I grant you that nothing is simple in the Koran. In American terms, many verses are as fought over as the 2nd Amendment.

But the current rulers of Saudi Arabia do not read the Koran in the exclusionary was that you allude to, as evidenced by their making moves to reduce the prohibition on non-Muslims entering Medina, so I am merely picking up on their existing tendency.

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