6 December 2002
Contemporary events, such as the New York Trade Center attacks, have brought the issue of Islam’s true message about violence and war to the forefront of philosophic debate. We will review some radical interpretations of the message of Jihad, review Islamic scholarly exegesis on these texts and look at the complete Koranic message on the subject. We will find that the text of the Koran itself, even through historic interpretations, can be used to support violence in Jihad. However, the broader goal of peace and conversion of mankind to Islam allows Jihad to be used only in special circumstances, most of which are not usualy consistent with terrorism.
Characterizations of Islam as a religion of violence.
Huston Smith, in his work The Worlds Religions speaks of Western perceptions of Islam, Muslims report that the standard Western stereotype that they encounter is that of a man marching with sword outstretched, followed by along train of wives. Not surprisingly, inasmuch as from the beginning (a historian reports) Christians have believed that “the two most important aspects of Muhammad's life ... are his sexual licence and his use of force to establish rehgion." Muslims feel that both Muhammad and the Koran have been maligned on these counts.1
Nonetheless, critics of Islam’s message of Jihad cite passages that seem to support a violence used for religious or political purposes. Many western Christian and conservative political leaders have characterized Islam as a religion that condones violence. Prominant theologian Norman Giesler, Ph.D., president of Southern Evangelical Seminary, in his work Answering Islam, says, “While many Muslims are peace-loving, nonetheless, those who commit acts of violence and terror in the name of God can find ample justification for their actions, based on the teachings of the Qur'an and the sayings and examples from prophet Muhammad.”2
The qur’anic verses traditionally used to validate jihad are listed below: 2:190-193 "Fight in the cause of God those who fight you ... And slay them wherever ye catch them ... And fight them on until there is no more tumult or oppression and there prevail justice and faith in God..."
2:216 "Fighting is prescribed for you and ye dislike it. But it is possible that ye dislike a thing which is good for you, and that ye love a thing which is bad for you. But God knoweth and ye know not. "
2:224 "Then fight in the cause of God and know that God heareth and knoweth all things."
3:157-158 "And if ye are slain or die in the way of God, forgiveness and mercy from God are far better than all they could amass. And if ye die, or are slain, Lo! It is unto God that ye are brought together."
3:169 "Think not of those who are slain in God's way as dead. Nay, they live finding their sustenance in the presence of their Lord. "
3:195 "... Those who have ... fought or been slain, verily I will blot out from them their iniquities and admit them into Gardens with rivers flowing beneath; a reward from the presence of God. . ."
4: 101 ". . . For the Unbelievers are unto you open enemies."
4:74, 75 "Let those fight in the cause of God who sell the life of this world for the Hereafter. To him who fighteth in the cause of God whether he is slain or gets victory, soon shall we give him a reward of great (value). Those who believe fight in the cause of God and those who reject faith fight in the cause of evil, so fight ye against the friends of Satan, feeble indeed is the cunning of Satan."
4:89 "They but wish that ye should reject faith as they do, and thus be on the same footing as they. But take not friends from their ranks until they flee in the way of God. But if they turn renegades, seize them and slay them wherever ye find them..."
4:95 "Not equal are those believers who sit (at home)...