Nov. 8, 2001
Current events in Afghanistan are related to US foreign policy and
international politics. But for some reason, a number of people are
looking into religion for answers, specifically Islam. Many people are
turning to the Quran. Unfortunately, this has led many to misunderstand
a number of verses about the Islamic conduct of war. Below is a clear
explanation that can help clarify misconceptions.
When it comes to the Islamic
conduct of war, some of the verses of the Quran that have often been
quoted by non-Muslims to "prove" Islam promotes violence and
bloodshed are found in Surah 2 verses 190-194:
2.190. Fight against those who fight against you in the way of
Allah, but do not transgress, for Allah does not love transgressors.
2.191. Kill them whenever you confront them and drive them out
from where they drove you out. (For though killing is sinful) wrongful
persecution is even worse than killing. Do not fight against them near
the Holy Mosque unless they fight against you; but if they fight against
you kill them, for that is the reward of such unbelievers.
2.192. Then if they desist, know well that Allah is
Ever-Forgiving, Most Compassionate.
2.193. Keep on fighting against them until mischief ends and the
way prescribed by Allah prevails. But if they desist, then know that
hostility is only against the wrong-doers.
2.194. The sacred month for the sacred month; sanctities should
be respected alike ( by all concerned). Thus, if someone has attacked
you, attack him just as he attacked you, and fear Allah and remain
conscious that Allah is with those who guard against violating the
bounds set by Him.
(translation taken from, Towards
Understanding the Quran)
The Historic Context and
the Nature of the Holy Quran
The Holy Quran comprises of revelations from God to Prophet Muhammad
over a period of twenty three years (610 C.E. – 632 C.E.). The first
13 years of the prophethood of Muhammad were at his hometown of Makkah
(Mecca), where he and his fellow Muslims were severely persecuted by the
pagans of Makkah. During that time, Muslims were not ordered to fight
back, but bear the persecutions. Finally, God ordered the Prophet and
his fellow Muslims (known as Sahabah) to emigrate to the city of Madinah,
about 400 kilometers away.
This emigration, known as the Hijrah, marked the beginning of an Islamic
society in Madinah, in which the Prophet became the head of the state.
It was not long before the polytheists of Makkah marched towards Madinah
to wage war against Muslims and destroy the Islamic state of Madinah.
This battle is known as the Battle of Badr. The verses 2.190-2.194,
above were perhaps the first injunctions from God to Muslims to prepare
themselves for fighting. It was obviously a war in the defense of their
homeland and their Faith.
In verse 2.190, God instructs Muslims to fight back, but not to
transgress, and remain just even during the battle. "They are told
that material interests should not be the motivation for their fighting,
that they should not take up arms against those were not in opposition
to the true faith, that they should not resort to unscrupulous methods
or to the indiscriminate killing and pillage which characterized the
other wars. The excesses alluded to in this verse are acts such as
taking up arms against women and children, the old and the injured,
mutilation of the dead bodies of the enemy, uncalled for devastation
through the destruction of fields and livestock, and other similar acts
of injustice and brutality.
The Prophet prohibited all these acts. The real intent of the verse is
to stress that force should be used only when its use is unavoidable,
and only to the extent that is absolutely necessary." (see note
201, page 151, Towards Understanding the Quran, Volume 1)
Commentary on verse 2.192:
God, in whom the believers have faith, is forgiving and ready to pardon
even the worst criminals and sinners after they have renounced their
arrogant defiance towards Him. It is suggested that this attribute of
God should be reflected in the behavior of the believers as well. Hence,
whenever the believers have to resort to armed conflict, they should do
so not for the sake of quenching their thirst for vengeance but in the
just cause of their defense. Their conflict with any group should last
only as long as that group is fighting them. As soon as it gives up this
fight the hostility should cease. (see (note 203, page 152, as above.)
It should be emphasized that so many revelations in the Holy Quran came
down to provide guidance to Prophet Muhammad and the Muslims based on
what they were confronting at that time. Therefore, it is important to
understand and know the historic context of the revelations for a proper
understanding of these verses.
The Prophet Muhammad, peace and
blessings be upon him, was the peace maker of his time. He endured
torture, hunger and the killing of his loved ones by his enemies, but he
remained a merciful person. In his most startling conquest of Makkah
only four people died. In his 23 years of struggle for Islam, the total
number of people who lost their lives from all sides was less than 2,000
in wars that were imposed on him and the Muslim community.
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