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Response to The Evil Isn't Islam

Reader comment on item: The Evil Isn't Islam

Submitted by Anees Ahmad (United States), Feb 18, 2006 at 08:49

I applaud Mr. Pipes for his honest appraisal of Islamic teachings despite the major lack of its implementation in today's world. However, Mr. Pipes categorization of aggressive versus mild Islam is incorrect. While Islam may very well have teachings that demand force to be met with force, they cannot be termed as aggressive. In fact, those verses that Mr. Pipes sees as aggressive can easily be categorized as mild.

Mr. Pipes cites, on the authority of Paul Johnson, two Quranic verses:

• "Strongest among men in enmity to the Believers will you find the Jews and Pagans. And thou shalt assuredly find those who say, 'We are Christians,' to be the nearest of them in friendship to the believers. That is because among them are savants and monks and because they are not arrogant" (5:83).

• "Then fight and slay the pagans wherever you find them. And seize them, beleaguer them and lie in wait for them" (9:5)

First, an explanation of (5:83). When we look at the context of the verse, the last word that comes to our mind is 'aggressive.' Note that (5:70) states, "Surely those who believed, and the Jews, and the Sabians, and the Christians - whoso believes in Allah and the Last Day and does good deeds, on them shall come no fear, nor shall they grieve." This verse is preceded by some admonition from Allah Almighty that if the Jews and Christians had adhered to the Old Testament and New Testament, Allah would hold them in a favorable light. The Quran then begins a discourse in the disobedience of Jews and Christians towards the Divine Law. The overriding quality of these people is that they transgressed far beyond the limits set by Allah.

It is due to their intrinsic quality of usurping the rights of others that Allah has described the idolaters and Jews to be most opposed to the progress of Islam. History stands witness to the truth of this claim of the Holy Quran. It was due to the likes of Abu Jahl and Abdullah Ubay ibn Salul that many a battle was fought and many Muslims suffered unimaginable torture. Abu Jahl's hatred towards Islam prompted him to slap the young daughter of Prophet Muhammad for absolutely no reason. Abu Jahl was the wicked one who martyred Hazrat Sumayyah bint Khabbab by striking her genitals with a spear. Abu Jahl also incited his cohorts to lay the entrails of a dead camel on Prophet Muhammad while he was in prostration during prayer. Abdullah Ubay ibn Salul constantly incited Muslims to war amongst one another. His behavior was so obnoxious that once on a return home from an expedition his callous nature coerced his own son to insist that Abdullah take back his insults to Prophet Muhammad (saw) and accept his own self as having these faults. Abdullah was not allowed to leave until his son was satisfied that his father had taken back the insults levied against the Holy Prophet (saw).

These are the breed of man that the Quran refers to in (5:83). The Quran further admits that despite the opposition of Christians to Islam, there are those amongst the Christians who are pious and God-fearing people (e.g. Najashi, the Christian King of Abyssinia, Heraclius, the Eastern Rome Emperor & Muqauqus, the Christian ruler of Egypt). The Quran also declares that there are those amongst the Christians who the Muslims should be wary of as well (21:97). The history of Islam also testifies to the truth of Islam not only during the prophethood of Hazrat Muhammad (saw), but also later on, particularly in the 13th and 14th century. Surely, (5:83) cannot be described as 'aggressive.' The only word that comes to mind is 'fitting.'

In regards to (9:5), this is a most celebrated verse amongst Muslim extremists and Islamic critics. Both groups, however, have taken this verse and other similar verses totally out of context. The full verse reads thus:

• "And when the forbidden months have passed, slay the idolaters wherever you find them and take them captive, and beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them at every place of ambush. But if they repent and observe Prayer and pay the Zakaat, then leave their way free. Surely, Allah is Most Forgiving, Merciful"

The "forbidden months" refer to the 4 months in (9:2) which were meant to grant a respite to idolaters to travel through the land in safety and see if Islam had triumphed. When the months had passed, war was to be resumed upon those tribes which were traditionally hostile to the Muslims and whose very existence was centered on the notion of annihilating the Muslims.[1] Those who were not guilty of treachery or mischief were to remain unmolested (9:4,7). The words, "…and lie in wait for them at every place of ambush" does not indicate that the Muslims should be thirsty for the blood of the pagans. Rather, it serves as a warning to the Muslims to be on strict watch of them. At this time in history, the Eastern Roman Empire was preparing an attack on the Muslims, which only added to the danger that was already in play due to the evil plots of the Arabs. Anyone who disputes this interpretation need to only look at the conduct of Prophet Muhammad and his loyal followers who endured 13 long years of senseless and unbearable torture without lifting a finger. In total, less than 500 people lost there lives in all the battles combined during Prophet Muhammad's life. This patient and forgiving behavior to a society which claimed the lives of so many Muslims can only indicate that the Muslims are told to be on guard at all times in this verse.

The very next verse declares categorically that if any idolater seeks the protection of the Muslims, it must be granted to him: "And if anyone of the idolaters seeks protection of thee, grant him protection so that he may hear the Word of Allah; then convey him to his place of security. That is because they are a people who have no knowledge" (9:6). It is also worthy of note that conversion to Islam was at its peak during the 2 years of peace as a result of the Treaty of Hudaibiya. No sane person can argue that at a time when Muslims were of no threat to any outsider and peace was secure, that non-Muslims were forced into conversion. Swords can bend heads, but not minds.

• Aggressive Muslims: Fourteen centuries of Islam have witnessed a long history of Muslims engaged in jihad (holy war) to expand the area under Islamic rule, from the early conquests of the caliphs to what Samuel Huntington terms Islam's "bloody borders" today.

While we agree that, unfortunately, Muslims were guilty of flagrant misconduct, this behavior cannot be attributed to Khilafat-e-Rashidun (Hazrat Abu Bakr, Hazrat Omar, Hazrat Usman, Hazrat Ali). If Mr. Pipes is referring to the conduct of the Abbasid and Umayyad dynasties, that is a different story, but from the quotation above it is not clear.

• "In other words, Islam's scriptures and history show variation."

Again, while the comments of Mr. Pipes are correct, it is not safe to assume that Muslims as a whole did not adhere to the pristine injunctions of the Holy Quran. For early Islam, one needs to look no further than the quintessential example of the Holy Prophet (saw). For the modern day, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has taken it upon itself to revitalize the dead masses of Islam.

• "No more fighting jihad to impose Muslim rule. No more endorsement of suicide terrorism. No more second-class citizenship for non-Muslims. No more death penalty for adultery or "honor" killings of women. No more death sentences for blasphemy or apostasy."

If Mr. Pipes truly wants to see the manifestation of the above, all he needs to do is visit www.alislam.org.

[1] Reason given in (9:8-13)
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