Re-posting these classics for my new followers:
Click here for a printable PDF pamphlet on the Three Stages of Jihad.
Click here for the passages discussed in “Qur’an in Context 1.”
I. PEACE, VIOLENCE, AND ABROGATION
Muslims in the West are quick to point to passages such as Qur’an 109:6 (“You shall have your religion and I shall have my religion”) and 2:256 (“There is no compulsion in religion”) as evidence that Islam is a religion of peace. When confronted with harsher passages such as 9:5 (“Slay the idolaters wherever you find them”) and 9:29 (“Fight those who believe not in Allah”), Westernized Muslims interpret these verses in light of the more peaceful teachings of the Qur’an, typically saying something like: “Well, the Qur’an can’t be commanding us to kill unbelievers, since it says that there’s no compulsion in religion.”
Hence, Westernized Muslims pick the verses of the Qur’an they find most attractive, and they use these verses to sanitize the rest of the Qur’an. But is this the correct way to interpret the Qur’an? Unfortunately, the answer is no. The Qur’an presents its own method of interpretation—the Doctrine of Abrogation.
Qur’an 2:106—Whatever verse we shall abrogate, or cause [thee] to forget, we will bring a better than it, or one like unto it. Dost thou not know that God is almighty?
Qur’an 16:101—When We substitute one revelation for another—and God knows best what He reveals (in stages)—they say, “Thou art but a forger”: but most of them understand not.
According to the Qur’an, then, when Muslims are faced with conflicting commands, they aren’t supposed to pick the one they like best. Rather, they are to go to history and see which verse was revealed last. Whichever verse came last is said to abrogate (or cancel) earlier revelations.
What happens when we apply this methodology to Qur’anic verses on peace and violence?
II. THE CALL TO JIHAD: THREE STAGES
When we turn to Islam’s theological sources and historical writings (Qur’an, Hadith, Sira, and Tafsir), we find that there are three stages in the call to Jihad, depending on the status of Muslims in a society.
STAGE ONE—When Muslims are completely outnumbered and can’t possibly win a physical confrontation with unbelievers, they are to live in peace with non-Muslims and preach a message of tolerance. We see an example of this stage when Muhammad and his followers were a persecuted minority in Mecca. Since the Muslims were entirely outnumbered, the revelations Muhammad received during this stage (e.g. “You shall have your religion and I shall have my religion”) called for religious tolerance and proclaimed a future punishment (rather than a worldly punishment) for unbelievers.
STAGE TWO—When there are enough Muslims and resources to defend the Islamic community, Muslims are called to engage in defensive Jihad. Thus, when Muhammad had formed alliances with various groups outside Mecca and the Muslim community had become large enough to begin fighting, Muhammad received Qur’an 22:39-40:
Permission (to fight) is given to those upon whom war is made because they are oppressed, and most surely Allah is well able to assist them; Those who have been expelled from their homes without a just cause except that they say: our Lord is Allah. . . .
Although Muslims in the West often pretend that Islam only allows defensive fighting, later revelations show otherwise.
STAGE THREE—When Muslims establish a majority and achieve political power in an area, they are commanded to engage in offensive Jihad. Hence, once Mecca and Arabia were under Muhammad’s control, he received the call the fight all unbelievers. In Surah 9:29, we read:
Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the Religion of Truth, from among the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizyah with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.
Notice that this verse doesn’t order Muslims to fight oppressors, but to fight those who don’t believe in Islam (including the “People of the Book”—Jews and Christians).
Not surprisingly, we find similar commands in Islam’s most trusted collections of ahadith (traditions containing Muhammad’s teachings).
Sahih al-Bukhari 6924—Muhammad said: “I have been ordered to fight the people till they say: La ilaha illallah (none has the right to be worshipped but Allah), and whoever said La ilaha illahllah, Allah will save his property and his life from me.”
Sahih Muslim 30—Muhammad said: “I have been commanded to fight against people so long as they do not declare that there is no god but Allah.”
Here again, the criterion for fighting people is that the people believe something other than Islam.
It’s clear, then, that when Muslims rose to power, peaceful verses of the Qur’an were abrogated by verses commanding Muslims to fight people based on their beliefs. Islam’s greatest scholars acknowledge this. For instance, Ibn Kathir (Islam’s greatest commentator on the Qur’an) sums up Stage Three as follows: “Therefore all people of the world should be called to Islam. If anyone of them refuses to do so, or refuses to pay the Jizyah, they should be fought till they are killed.”
III. WHEN MUSLIMS REACH STAGE THREE
Abrogation also accounts for shifting attitudes regarding Jews and Christians in the Qur’an. While Muslims are to be friendly to Jews and Christians when the former are outnumbered, the Islamic position changes when Muslims reach Stage Three, at which point Christians and Jews are to recognize their inferior status and pay the Jizyah (a payment made to Muslims in exchange for not being killed by them). Consider some of Muhammad’s later teachings about Christians and Jews:
Qur’an 5:51—O you who believe! do not take the Jews and the Christians for friends; they are friends of each other; and whoever amongst you takes them for a friend, then surely he is one of them; surely Allah does not guide the unjust people.
Qur’an 9:30—And the Jews say: Uzair is the son of Allah; and the Christians say: The Messiah is the son of Allah; these are the words of their mouths; they imitate the saying of those who disbelieved before; may Allah destroy them; how they are turned away!
Qur’an 98:6—Those who reject (Truth), among the People of the Book and among the Polytheists, will be in Hell-Fire, to dwell therein. They are the worst of creatures.
Sahih Muslim 4366—Muhammad said: “I will expel the Jews and Christians from the Arabian Peninsula and will not leave any but Muslim.”
Al-Bukhari, Al-Adab al-Mufrad 1103—Muhammad said: “Do not give the People of the Book the greeting first. Force them to the narrowest part of the road.”
Needless to say, these teachings can hardly be considered peaceful or tolerant.
IV. MUSLIMS IN THE WEST
Since Muhammad obviously commanded his followers to fight unbelievers (simply for being unbelievers), why do Muslims in the West deny this? Here we must turn to Surah 3:28, which reads:
Let not the believers take disbelievers for their friends in preference to believers. Whoso doeth that hath no connection with Allah unless (it be) that ye but guard yourselves against them, taking (as it were) security.
According to this verse (which uses a variation of the word Taqiyya, meaning “concealment”), Muslims are not allowed to be friends with non-Muslims. However, if Muslims feel threatened by a stronger adversary, they are allowed to pretend to be friendly. Ibn Kathir comments: “In this case, such believers are allowed to show friendship outwardly but never inwardly.” Abu Darda, one of Muhammad’s companions, put it this way: “We smile in the face of some people although our hearts curse them.”
Is Islam a religion of peace? No. Islam is a religion that pretends to be peaceful when Muslims are too weak to win a war. Of course, there are many Muslims who aren’t violent. Many Muslims in the West love peace and tolerance. But they didn’t get these values from Islam. They got them from the West, and now they’re reinterpreting Islam based on their Western values. For dedicated Muslims, however, there are only two possible situations to be in: (1) fighting unbelievers, and (2) pretending to be peaceful while preparing to fight unbelievers. Either way, fighting non-Muslims and conquering the world in the name of Allah is always the goal.
Go to Answering Muslims for more
Here are some useful links: