Monday, December 17, 2018

Quoting Qur’an’s Fighting Verses In Isolation To Promote Violence Or Defame Islam Amounts To Treacherous Misrepresentation Of Its Message Of Peace And Reconciliation

By Muhammad Yunus, New Age Islam
19 October 2017
(Co-author (Jointly with Ashfaque Ullah Syed), Essential Message of Islam, Amana Publications, USA, 2009)
The verse 8:60 exhorts the Prophet’s followers “to prepare against them with whatever strength and war mounts you can muster by which you may deter the enemy of God and your enemy “But the very succeeding verse of the Qur’an declares:
“And if they incline to peace, then you (O Muhammad) too incline to it and rely on God. Indeed, it is He who is the Hearing, the Knowing” (8:61)
Read together 8:60-61 make it abundantly clear that the exhortation of 8:60 was in relation to defending against an army. The instruction was to make all possible preparations to engage with it, but if it offered peace, to settle for peace.
The verse 9:5 authorizes the Prophet’s followers to “kill the pagans wherever you find them, and capture them, surround them, and watch for them in every lookout” but the very succeeding verse declares;
“If anyone of the pagans seeks your protection* (O Muhammad), grant him protection, so that he may hear the words of God; and then deliver him to a place, safe for him. That is because they are a people without knowledge” (9:6). *[Lit., ‘seeks to become your neighbour.’]
Yet another verse from the ninth Surah (al-Tawbah) declares:
“Would you not fight a people who broke their oaths and plotted to expel the Messenger (from his hometown), and were the first to attack you (9:13)
Together 9:5/6/13 clarify that these verses relate to an ongoing state of hostility between the Prophet (and his followers) and the pagans, and that the instruction in 9:5 was in relation to those pagan Arabs who had expelled the Prophet from Mecca and were determined to expel him from Medina and repeatedly broke their oaths (9:13) and was not meant for those who sought peace (9:6). The people who sought peace were to be given protection, and were not to be coerced to embrace Islam.
Now if a Muslim person of this era quotes 8:60 or 9:5 or 9:13 in isolation disregarding consecutive reconciliatory verses (8:61, 9:6) and their context specificity (9:13) to instigate a group of his followers to commit any form of violence he is likening himself and his followers with the Prophet of Islam and his followers who were the direct recipients of the instructions of these verses. But such selective appropriation of Qur’an’s message to promote violence amounts to treacherous distortion of Qur’anic message.
The Prophet of Islam was commissioned on a mission “to deliver humanity from the burden that lay over it from before” (7:157) and to take humanity out of darkness into light (2:257, 5:16, 14:1, 57:9, 65:11) He had to achieve this single-handedly as the Messenger of God by introducing a series of revolutionary changes in the social order of Pre-Islamic Arabia as dictated by the revelation. His immediate audience consisted of highly fractured Arab tribes that had no political identity, no geographical boundary, no scripture or book of guidance, who roamed the barren desert highlands since time immemorial - save for a few scattered settlements near sources of water. The tribal system with all its traditions - blood vendetta, female infanticide; institutionalized slavery, usury (money lending), adultery; commercial exploitation; arbitrary punishment, and raiding the caravans of rival tribes was deeply entrenched as the normative way of the ancients (Sunnat al Awwalin) and there had never been any movement or awareness for a change. Accordingly, as the Prophet began preaching (610 AD), he was initially dismissed as an oddity, and with time encountered strong resistance from fellow Arabs that only increased as years went by with the Prophet not letting up on his mission. This resulted first in his self-exile from Mecca to Medina (622) as a lone fugitive with (only one un-named companion) (9:40),and later, when he was preaching in Medina and gaining converts, three full scale attack on him and his followers (624, 625 and 627) that we will review separately. In each case, the attackers were numerically and militarily far superior to the Prophet’s company. The Qur’an counselled and consoled during his preaching in Mecca (610-622) and guided him in Medina with military commands to defend against the attacking army. The Prophet also faced political resistance and conspiracies from the native Jewish tribes and a faction of the Muslims (hypocrites), and lived under constant threat of annihilation for almost twenty out of twenty-three years of his mission until Mecca was integrated (630). However, by the time of his death – some 2 years later, his mission was completed and Islam was established as an historical reality and almost the whole of Arabia was unified as an Umma that was ready to change the course of history. What happened in the ensuing decades is captured allegorically as follows by Thomas Carlyle, one of the iconic figures of Enlightenment:
“as if a spark had fallen, one spark, on a world of what seemed black unnoticeable sand; but lo, the sand proves explosive powder, blazes heaven-high from Delhi to Grenada! I said, the Great Man was always as lightning out of Heaven; the rest of men waited for him like fuel, and then they too would flame.” [1]
In one word, the Prophet accomplished a historically impossible and unparalleled task of establishing a new faith and a new nation that expanded into a global religion barely a few decades after his death and heralded the greatest civilization of the era – the Golden Age of Islam (8th to 13th century AD) out of a hoard of nomadic tribes who were living in their ancient ways since time immemorial, and were non-entities in historical terms and relativism.
So no human being can replay his role until eternity as this planet does not offer such civilisational vacuum as the Prophet’s era – that is regarded as the dark ages. Thus any Muslim attempting to play the role of the Prophet by misappropriating its fighting verses to promote violence in the name of the Prophet or Islam commits treason against the faith of Islam. Likewise, any non-Muslim quoting these verses in isolation to defame Islam does great injustice to humanity by projecting Islam – a religion of peace and reconciliation [2] as a violent religion and supporting the agenda of the Muslim terrorists of this era. Hence, God witnessing, there is a pressing need for an international fatwa (such as from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) and United Nations ruling criminalizing selective quotation of the fighting verses of the Qur’an to promote terrorism or defame Islam.
This Reflection which is in sequel to my referenced technical article [2] is inspired by the following bold and categorical declaration by Sultan Shahin, Founding Editor, New Age Islam in his September 26 2017 UNHRC debate [3].
“War-time verses of the Prophet’s time maybe important as a historical account of the near insurmountable difficulties the Prophet had to face to establish Islam but do not apply to us today in the 21st century.”
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Muhammad Yunus, a Chemical Engineering graduate from Indian Institute of Technology, and a retired corporate executive has been engaged in an in-depth study of the Qur’an since early 90’s, focusing on its core message. He has co-authored the referred exegetic work, which received the approval of al-Azhar al-Sharif, Cairo in 2002, and following restructuring and refinement was endorsed and authenticated by Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl of UCLA, and published by Amana Publications, Maryland, USA, 2009.