A Critical Examination of the Qur’an
Warfare in the Qur’an: Defensive and Offensive
In the Qur’an there are a number of passages dealing with how warfare
should be conducted, and it is worth quoting from some of these at length:
And fight in the way of Allah with those who fight with you,
and do not exceed the limits, surely Allah does not love those who exceed
And kill them wherever you find them, and drive them out from whence
they drove you out, and persecution is severer than slaughter, and do
not fight with them at the Sacred Mosque until they fight with you in
it, but if they do fight you, then slay them; such is the recompense of
But if they desist, then surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.
And fight with them until there is no persecution, and religion should
be only for Allah, but if they desist, then there should be no hostility
except against the oppressors.
The Sacred month for the sacred month and all sacred things are (under
the law of) retaliation; whoever then acts aggressively against you, inflict
injury on him according to the injury he has inflicted on you and be
careful (of your duty) to Allah and know that Allah is with those who
guard (against evil) (2.190-4).
Fighting is enjoined on you, and h is an object of dislike to you;
and it may be that you dislike a thing while it is good for you, and it
may be that you love a thing while it is evil for you, and Allah knows,
while you do not know.
They ask you concerning the sacred month about fighting in it. Say:
Fighting in it is a grave matter, and hindering (men) from Allah’s way and
denying Him, and (hindering men from) the Sacred Mosque and turning its
people out of it, are still graver with Allah, and persecution is graver
than slaughter; and they will not cease fighting with you until they turn
you back from your religion, if they can; and whoever of you turns back from
his religion, then he dies while an unbeliever– these it is whose works
shall go for nothing in this world and the hereafter, and they are the inmates
of the fire; therein they shall abide (2.216-17).
Surely those who disbelieve spend their wealth to hinder (people) from
the way of Allah; so they shall spend it, then it shall be to them an
intense regret, then they shall be overcome; and those who disbelieve
shall be driven together to hell.
That Allah might separate the impure from the good, and put the impure,
some of it upon the other, and pile it up together, then cast it into
hell; these it is that are the losers.
Say to those who disbelieve, if they desist, that which is past shall
be forgiven to them; and if they return, then what happened to the ancients
has already passed.
And fight with them until there is no more persecution and religion
should be only for Allah; but if they desist, then surely Allah sees what
And if they turn back, then know that Allah is your Patron; most
excellent is the Patron and most excellent the Helper.que and turning
its people out of it, are still graver with Allah, and persecution is
graver than slaughter; and they will not cease fighting with you until
they turn you back from your religion, if they can; and whoever of you
turns back from his religion, then he dies while an unbeliever– these it
is whose works shall go for nothing in this world and the hereafter, and
they are the inmates of the fire; therein they shall abide (8.36-40).
We will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve, because
they set up with Allah that for which He has sent down no authority, and
their abode is the fire, and evil is the abode of the unjust.
And certainly Allah made good to you His promise when you slew them
by His permission, until when you became weak-hearted and disputed about
the affair and disobeyed after He had shown you that which you loved;
of you were some who desired this world and of you were some who desired
the hereafter; then He turned you away from them that He might try you;
and He has certainly pardoned you, and Allah is Gracious to the believers.
When you ran off precipitately and did not wait for any one, and the
Apostle was calling you from your rear, so He gave you another sorrow instead
of (your) sorrow, so that you might not grieve at what had escaped you,
nor (at) what befell you; and Allah is aware of what you do.
Then after sorrow He sent down security upon you, a calm coming upon
a party of you, and (there was) another party whom their own souls had
rendered anxious; they entertained about Allah thoughts of ignorance quite
unjustly, saying: We have no hand in the affair. Say: Surely the affair
is wholly (in the hands) of Allah. They conceal within their souls what
they would not reveal to you. They say: Had we any hand in the affair,
we would not have been slain here. Say: Had you remained in your houses,
those for whom slaughter was ordained would certainly have gone forth to
the places where they would be slain, and that Allah might test what was
in your breasts and that He might purge what was in your hearts; and Allah
knows what is in the breasts.
(As for) those of you who turned back on the day when the two armies
met, only the Shaitan sought to cause them to make a slip on account of
some deeds they had done, and certainly Allah has pardoned them; surely
Allah is Forgiving, Forbearing.
O you who believe! be not like those who disbelieve and say of their
brethren when they travel in the earth or engage in fighting: Had they
been with us, they would not have died and they would not have been slain;
so Allah makes this to be an intense regret in their hearts; and Allah gives
life and causes death and Allah sees what you do.
And if you are slain in the way of Allah or you die, certainly forgiveness
from Allah and mercy is better than what they amass.
And if indeed you die or you are slain, certainly to Allah shall
you be gathered together (3.151-8).
And what reason have you that you should not fight in the way of Allah
and of the weak among the men and the women and the children, (of) those
who say: Our Lord! cause us to go forth from this town, whose people are
oppressors, and give us from Thee a guardian and give us from Thee a helper.
Those who believe fight in the way of Allah, and those who disbelieve
fight in the way of the Shaitan. Fight therefore against the friends
of the Shaitan; surely the strategy of the Shaitan is weak (4.75-6).
What is the matter with you, then, that you have become two parties
about the hypocrites, while Allah has made them return (to unbelief)
for what they have earned? Do you wish to guide him whom Allah has caused
to err? And whomsoever Allah causes to err, you shall by no means find
a way for him.
They desire that you should disbelieve as they have disbelieved, so
that you might be (all) alike; therefore take not from among them friends
until they fly (their homes) in Allah’s way; but if they turn back, then
seize them and kill them wherever you find them, and take not from among
them a friend or a helper.
Except those who reach a people between whom and you there is an alliance,
or who come to you, their hearts shrinking from fighting you or fighting
their own people; and if Allah had pleased, He would have given them power
over you, so that they should have certainly fought you; therefore if they
withdraw from you and do not fight you and offer you peace, then Allah
has not given you a way against them.
You will find others who desire that they should be safe from you
and secure from their own people; as often as they are sent back to the
mischief they get thrown into it headlong; therefore if they do not withdraw
from you, and (do not) offer you peace and restrain their hands, then
seize them and kill them wherever you find them; and against these We have
given.you a clear authority (4.88-91).
The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His apostle
and strive to make mischief in the land is only this, that they should
be murdered or crucified or their hands and their feet should be cut off
on opposite sides or they should be imprisoned; this shall be as a disgrace
for them in this world, and in the hereafter they shall have a grievous
Except those who repent before you have them in your power; so know
that Allah is Forgiving, Merciful (5.33-4).
In the manner of the people of Firon and those before them; they disbelieved
in Allah’s communications, therefore Allah destroyed them on account of
their faults; surely Allah is strong, severe in requiting (evil).
This is because Allah has never changed a favor which He has conferred
upon a people until they change their own condition; and because Allah is
In the manner of the people of Firon and those before them; they rejected
the communications of their Lord, therefore We destroyed them on account
of their faults and We drowned Firon’s people, and they were all unjust.
Surely the vilest of animals in Allah’s sight are those who disbelieve,
then they would not believe.
Those with whom you make an agreement, then they break their agreement
every time and they do not guard (against punishment).
Therefore if you overtake them in fighting, then scatter by (making
an example of) them those who are in their rear, that they may be mindful.
And if you fear treachery on the part of a people, then throw back to
them on terms of equality; surely Allah does not love the treacherous.
And let not those who disbelieve think that they shall come in first;
surely they will not escape.
And prepare against them what force you can and horses tied at the frontier,
to frighten thereby the enemy of Allah and your enemy and others besides
them, whom you do not know (but) Allah knows them; and whatever thing you
will spend in Allah’s way, it will be paid back to you fully and you shall
not be dealt with unjustly.
And if they incline to peace, then incline to it and trust in Allah;
surely He is the Hearing, the Knowing.
And if they intend to deceive you– then surely Allah is sufficient
for you; He it is Who strengthened you with His help and with the believers
And united their hearts; had you spent all that is in the earth, you
could not have united their hearts, but Allah united them; surely He is
O Prophet! Allah is sufficient for you and (for) such of the believers
as follow you.
O Prophet! urge the believers to war; if there are twenty patient ones
of you they shall overcome two hundred, and if there are a hundred of you
they shall overcome a thousand of those who disbelieve, because they are
a people who do not understand.
For the present Allah has made light your burden, and He knows that
there is weakness in you; so if there are a hundred patient ones of you
they shall overcome two hundred, and if there are a thousand they shall
overcome two thousand by Allah’s permission, and Allah is with the patient.
It is not fit for a prophet that he should take captives unless he has
fought and triumphed in the land; you desire the frail goods of this world,
while Allah desires (for you) the hereafter; and Allah is Mighty, Wise.
Were it not for an ordinance from Allah that had already gone forth,
surely there would have befallen you a great chastisement for what you had
Eat then of the lawful and good (things) which you have acquired in
war, and be careful of (your duty to) Allah; surely Allah is Forgiving,
O Prophet! say to those of the captives who are in your hands: If Allah
knows anything good in your hearts, He will give to you better than that
which has been taken away from you and will forgive you, and Allah is Forgiving,
And if they intend to act unfaithfully towards you, so indeed they acted
unfaithfully towards Allah before, but He gave (you) mastery over them;
and Allah is Knowing, Wise (8.52-71)..
(This is a declaration of) immunity by Allah and His Apostle towards
those of the idolaters with whom you made an agreement.
So go about in the land for four months and know that you cannot weaken
Allah and that Allah will bring disgrace to the unbelievers.
And an announcement from Allah and His Apostle to the people on the
day of the greater pilgrimage that Allah and His Apostle are free from
liability to the idolaters; therefore if you repent, it will be better
for you, and if you turn back, then know that you will not weaken Allah;
and announce painful punishment to those who disbelieve.
Except those of the idolaters with whom you made an agreement, then
they have not failed you in anything and have not backed up any one against
you, so fulfill their agreement to the end of their term; surely Allah
loves those who are careful (of their duty).
So when the sacred months have passed away, then slay the idolaters
wherever you find them, and take them captives and besiege them and lie
in wait for them in every ambush, then if they repent and keep up prayer
and pay the poor-rate, leave their way free to them; surely Allah is Forgiving,
And if one of the idolaters seek protection from you, grant him
protection till he hears the word of Allah, then make him attain his place
of safety; this is because they are a people who do not know.
How can there be an agreement for the idolaters with Allah and with
His Apostle; except those with whom you made an agreement at the Sacred
Mosque? So as long as they are true to you, be true to them; surely Allah
loves those who are careful (of their duty).
How (can it be)! while if they prevail against you, they would not
pay regard in your case to ties of relationship, nor those of covenant;
they please you with their mouths while their hearts do not consent; and
most of them are transgressors.
They have taken a small price for the communications of Allah, so
they turn away from His way; surely evil is it that they do.
They do not pay regard to ties of relationship nor those of covenant
in the case of a believer; and these are they who go beyond the limits.
But if they repent and keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate, they
are your brethren in faith; and We make the communications clear for
a people who know.
And if they break their oaths after their agreement and (openly) revile
your religion, then fight the leaders of unbelief– surely their oaths
are nothing– so that they may desist.
What! will you not fight a people who broke their oaths and aimed
at the expulsion of the Apostle, and they attacked you first; do you fear
them? But Allah is most deserving that you should fear Him, if you are believers.
Fight them, Allah will punish them by your hands and bring them to
disgrace, and assist you against them and heal the hearts of a believing
O you who believe! the idolaters are nothing but unclean, so they shall
not approach the Sacred Mosque after this year; and if you fear poverty
then Allah will enrich you out of His grace if He please; surely Allah is
Fight those who do not believe in Allah, nor in the latter day, nor
do they prohibit what Allah and His Apostle have prohibited, nor follow
the religion of truth, out of those who have been given the Book, until
they pay the tax in acknowledgment of superiority and they are in a state
of subjection (9.28-9).
Allah has promised to the believing men and the believing women gardens,
beneath which rivers flow, to abide in them, and goodly dwellings in
gardens of perpetual abode; and best of all is Allah’s goodly pleasure;
that is the grand achievement.
O Prophet! strive hard against the unbelievers and the hypocrites
and be unyielding to them; and their abode is hell, and evil is the destination.
They swear by Allah that they did not speak, and certainly they did
speak, the word of unbelief, and disbelieved after their Islam, and they
had determined upon what they have not been able to effect, and they did
not find fault except because Allah and His Apostle enriched them out of
His grace; therefore if they repent, it will be good for them; and if they
turn back, Allah will chastise them with a painful chastisement in this
world and the hereafter, and they shall not have in the land any guardian
or a helper (9.72-4).
O you who believe! fight those of the unbelievers who are near to
you and let them find in you hardness; and know that Allah is with those
who guard (against evil) (9.123).
Surely Allah will defend those who believe; surely Allah does not
love any one who is unfaithful, ungrateful.
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 (22.38-9).
Allah knows indeed those among you who hinder others and those who
say to their brethren: Come to us; and they come not to the fight but
Being niggardly with respect to you; but when fear comes, you will
see them looking to you, their eyes rolling like one swooning because of
death; but when the fear is gone they smite you with sharp tongues, being
niggardly of the good things. These have not believed, therefore Allah
has made.their doing naught; and this is easy to Allah.
They think the allies are not gone, and if the allies should come
(again) they would fain be in the deserts with the desert Arabs asking
for news about you, and if they were among you they would not fight save
Certainly you have in the Apostle of Allah an excellent exemplar for
him who hopes in Allah and the latter day and remembers Allah much.
And when the believers saw the allies, they said: This is what Allah
and His Apostle promised us, and Allah and His Apostle spoke the truth;
and it only increased them in faith and submission.
Of the believers are men who are true to the covenant which they made
with Allah: so of them is he who accomplished his vow, and of them is
he who yet waits, and they have not changed in the least
That Allah may reward the truthful for their truth, and punish the
hypocrites if He please or turn to them (mercifully); surely Allah is Forgiving,
And Allah turned back the unbelievers in their rage; they did not
obtain any advantage, and Allah sufficed the believers in fighting; and
Allah is Strong, Mighty.
And He drove down those of the followers of the Book who backed them
from their fortresses and He cast awe into their hearts; some you killed
and you took captive another part.
And He made you heirs to their land and their dwellings and their
property, and (to) a land which you have not yet trodden, and Allah has
power over all things (33.18-27).
(As for) those who disbelieve and turn away from Allah’s way, He shall
render their works ineffective.
And (as for) those who believe and do good, and believe in what has
been revealed to Muhammad, and it is the very truth from their Lord,
He will remove their evil from them and improve their condition.
That is because those who disbelieve follow falsehood, and have given
them their dowries, taking (them) in marriage, not fornicating nor taking
them for paramours in secret; and whoever denies faith, his work indeed
is of no account, and in the hereafter he shall be one of the losers.
So when you meet in battle those who disbelieve, then smite the necks
until when you have overcome them, then make (them) prisoners, and afterwards
either set them free as a favor or let them ransom (themselves) until
the war terminates. That (shall be so); and if Allah had pleased He would
certainly have exacted what is due from them, but that He may try some
of you by means of others; and (as for) those who are slain in the way
of Allah, He will by no means allow their deeds to perish (47.1-4).
And whoever does not believe in Allah and His Apostle, then surely
We have prepared burning fire for the unbelievers.
And Allah’s is the kingdom. of the heavens and the earth; He forgives
whom He pleases and punishes whom He pleases, and Allah is Forgiving,
Those who are left behind will say when you set forth for the gaining
of acquisitions: Allow us (that) we may follow you. They desire to change
the world of Allah. Say: By no means shall you follow us; thus did Allah
say before. But they will say: Nay! you are jealous of us. Nay! they do
not understand but a little.
Say to those of the dwellers of the desert who were left behind: You
shall soon be invited (to fight) against a people possessing mighty prowess;
you will fight against them until they submit; then if you obey, Allah
will grant you a good reward; and if you turn back as you turned back before,
He will punish you with a painful punishment (48.13-16).
And if those who disbelieve fight with you, they would certainly turn
(their) backs, then they would not find any protector or a helper.
Such has been the course of Allah that has indeed run before, and
you shall not find a change in Allah’s course.
And He it is Who held back their hands from you and your hands from
them in the valley of Mecca after He had given you victory over them; and
Allah is Seeing what you do.
It is they who disbelieved and turned you away from the Sacred Mosque
and (turned off) the offering withheld from arriving at its destined
place; and were it not for the believing men and the believing women, whom,
not having known, you might have trodden down, and thus something hateful
might have afflicted you on their account without knowledge– so that
Allah may cause to enter into His mercy whomsoever He pleases; had they
been widely separated one from another, We would surely have punished
those who disbelieved from among them with a painful punishment (48.22-25).
O you who believe! do not take My enemy and your enemy for friends:
would you offer them love while they deny what has come to you of the
truth, driving out the Apostle and yourselves because you believe in Allah,
your Lord? If you go forth struggling hard in My path and seeking My pleasure,
would you manifest love to them? And I know what you conceal and what you
manifest; and whoever of you does this, he indeed has gone astray from
the straight path.
If they find you, they will be your enemies, and will stretch forth
towards you their hands and their tongues with evil, and they ardently
desire that you may disbelieve.
Your relationship would not profit you, nor your children on the day
of resurrection; He will decide between you; and Allah sees what you do
It may be that Allah will bring about friendship between you and those
whom you hold to be your enemies among them; and Allah is Powerful; and
Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.
Allah does not forbid you respecting those who have not made war against
you on account of (your) religion, and have not driven you forth from
your homes, that you show them kindness and deal with them justly; surely
Allah loves the doers of justice.
Allah only forbids you respecting those who made war upon you on account
of (your) religion, and drove you forth from your homes and backed up
(others) in your expulsion, that you make friends with them, and whoever
makes friends with them, these are the unjust (60.7-9).
Looking at these passages, we can see that a number
of Islamic justifications for war are found in the Qur’an:
1. War to prevent a land, people, or community that has embraced Islam
from external attackers (‘those who wage war against Allah and His apostle
and strive to make mischief in the land’).
2. War to protect Muslim communities from oppression and persecution
(‘fight with them until there is no persecution’, ‘whoever then acts aggressively
against you, inflict injury on him according to the injury he has inflicted
3. War against ‘idolators’ (‘slay the idolaters wherever you find
them’, ‘Fight those who do not believe in Allah … until they pay the
tax in acknowledgment of superiority and they are in a state of subjection’).
4. Warfare in which the cause is unspecified (‘when you meet in battle
those who disbelieve’).
All of these forms of warfare are problematic to the extent that the
Qur’an in no way gives clear definitions of the context in which the attacks
and fighting has taken place. The idea of fighting a people who are persecuting
Muslims among them seems fairly clear, but the notion of a people who ‘wage
war against Allah’ is ambiguous: are they attacking a Muslim land or community
in an unprovoked manner, or are they attacking Muslims because those Muslims
are seeking to subjugate their land to Islam? Either way, the Qur’an’s
answer to the question of how to defend Muslims is brutal, and it states
of such ‘disbelievers’: ‘they should be murdered or crucified or their
hands and their feet should be cut off on opposite sides or they should
be imprisoned’ (5.33). Only those who ‘repent before you have them in your
power’ (5.34) are allowed to escape this.
The case of commands to make war on ‘idolators’ seems to refer mainly
to Arabia (home to the ‘Sacred Mosque’) and appear to be orders to wipe
out the last vestiges of pre-Islamic Paganism from the land (given polytheism
and idolatry are closely linked concepts). However, looking at 9.28-9
it is again unclear as to whether the ‘idolators’ of 9.28 are seperate to,
or equated with, the Jews and Christians referred to in 9.29, where Muslims
are commanded to ‘Fight those who do not believe in Allah … out of those
who have been given the Book’. Either way, in these texts, the object seems
to be simply to subjugate those who will not accept Islam, including Jews
and Christians. Muslims are commanded to ‘slay the idolaters wherever
you find them, and take them captives and besiege them and lie in wait
for them in every ambush, then if they repent and keep up prayer and pay
the poor-rate, leave their way free to them’ (9.5). So, here the Qur’an
claims that Muslims should ‘slay’ or take into captivity those who do not
accept Islam and give them a chance to submit to Islam. According to 9.5,
so long as these captives pray to Allah and pay a tax for the poor, they
will then be left alone. Indeed, 9.11 states that ‘if they repent and keep
up prayer and pay the poor-rate, they are your brethren in faith’. However,
‘if they break their oaths after their agreement and (openly) revile your
religion, then fight the leaders of unbelief — surely their oaths are nothing
— so that they may desist’ (9.12). These texts state that if ‘idolators’
are attacked by Muslims and then submit to Islam they then become ‘your
brethren in faith’. If this submission was in fact a ruse and they later
go on to ‘revile’ Islam they must again be put to the sword until they again
submit, this time paying the tax ‘in acknowledgment of superiority and
they are in a state of subjection’ (9.29).
In the passages that speak of war in general terms, it is unclear
why the Muslims are meeting non-Muslims in battle. Perhaps again
the battle is defensive, but perhaps the Muslims have been attacked by those
who do not wish to submit to Islam, or, again, perhaps the Muslims are engaging
in an attack to subjugate ‘idolators’ or ‘unbelievers’. According to 60.9,
‘Allah only forbids you respecting those who made war upon you on account
of (your) religion’, yet according to other texts, especially those referring
to ‘idolators’, Muslims need show no respect to those who refuse to accept
Islam. Such ambiguity marks out the all too human and contradictory nature
of the Qur’an, and while 60.9 sounds reasonable, the other passages sound
like the ravings of a religious maniac. Again, even if 60.9 sounds reasonable,
it is far from clear what making war ‘on account of (your) religion’ actually
means. For example, it could be used to refer to an army making war on
account of refusing to submit to Muslim attempts to subjugate a people
to Islam. In other words, Qur’anically speaking, a non-Muslim military attack
on Muslims which was an attempt to halt Muslim expansionism and imperialism
would still be counted as an act of aggression against Islam, as opposed
to a defensive act on the part of the non-Muslim army which did not wish
to submit to Islam.
What all these texts have in common is that they present warfare entirely
in religious terms, and in terms of the concerns of Muslims only. We read
nothing, for example, of Muslims being called to wage war on behalf of
a nation of non-Muslims who are suffering persecution from other non-Muslims.
And even if they were called to do so, such a command would certainly be
accompanied by the requirement to ‘convert’ these people to Islam. The resulting
concern for fellow Muslims, and a perceived sense of international brotherhood
amongst Muslims, in a sense mirrors other forms of ‘in-group’ solidarity,
such as ethnonationalism. While Muslims are not a ‘race’, the Qur’an encourages
them to see the world in a similar way to that of ethnonationalists, who
present the concerns of ‘their people’ as paramount and who foster a sense
of global ‘unity’. That such a sense of exclusivist solidarity continues
among many Muslims today is clearly illustrated by the demonstrations that
have occurred regarding the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and in the ongoing
conflicts in the Middle East. In the run up to the invasion of Afghanistan
and Iraq, Muslims across the world mobilised en-masse to protest. Similarly,
the recent Israeli operations in Gaza brought many Muslims onto the streets.
But when it comes to conflicts and issues in which Muslims are not involved,
the level of concern shown by Muslims for these issues is dramatically less.
How many Islamic organisations take part in demonstrations in solidarity
with Tibet? Palestine is presented as an important issue by and for Muslims
because it involves the perceived occupation of ‘Muslim land’, while the
Chinese occupation of Tibet hardly gets a look-in when it comes to most
Muslim organisations’ list of priorities because it is not an issue that
is seen to affect Muslims or Islam.
Many Islamists present events such as the wars in Afghanistan and
Iraq and the ensuing Western occupation of those countries as evidence
of a ‘war against Islam’. This is not simply the result of paranoia and
hyperbole, but is in fact directly derived from the worldview found in
the Qur’an itself. Because the Qur’an presents every instance of hostility
in which Muslims are involved as having religious significance, an understanding
of current world events from an orthodox Qur’anic perspective will by necessity
view issues such as the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as being religiously
significant. When Osama bin Laden denounces the presence of Western troops
in Saudi Arabia, he is not simply presenting a grievance about perceived
Western interference or imperialism in religious language: he is speaking
in the language of the Qur’an. When Western Muslims offer justifications
for and ‘understanding’ of Jihadist attacks on Western troops in Afghanistan
and Iraq, they are simply being loyal followers of the Qur’an. What would
Muhammad be doing were he around today? Through reading the Qur’an, it should
be clear that he would be sending Islamic fighters to Iraq, Afghanistan,
the Palestinian territories, and elsewhere to fight the ‘unbelievers’ who
are ‘occupying Muslim land’.
When Jihadists travel to Iraq to launch attacks on Western troops,
they are heeding the call of the Qur’an – the call to fight against the
armies of the ‘disbelievers’. As a predominantly non-Muslim army that currently
maintains a military presence in Iraq – an Islamic country – Western troops
are, from a Qur’anic point of view, oppressors and occupiers, and the very
agents of Satan: ‘Those who believe fight in the way of Allah, and those
who disbelieve fight in the way of the Shaitan. Fight therefore against
the friends of the Shaitan; surely the strategy of the Shaitan is weak’ (4.76).
Likewise, the presence of Israelis – ‘disbelieving’ Jews – on what has been
‘consecrated’ as ‘Muslim land’ represents in the Qur’anic worldview an act
of oppression against Islam and Hamas are simply following the commands of
the Qur’an when they seek to ‘cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve’
(3.151). After all, as we have seen, the Qur’an warns Muslims that Jews are
amongst ‘the most violent of people in enmity for those who believe’, that
they are known for ‘hindering many (people) from Allah’s way’, that they
are ‘cursed’, that they serve Satan, and that they were ‘made apes and swine’
by Allah. Hamas dreams of a future in which a mighty Islamic victory will
be won with the destruction of the State of Israel, and it is not hard to
see from where they draw their inspiration: ‘Fight those who do not believe
in Allah, nor in the latter day, nor do they prohibit what Allah and His
Apostle have prohibited, nor follow the religion of truth, out of those
who have been given the Book, until they pay the tax in acknowledgment of
superiority and they are in a state of subjection’. The fact that Hamas are
hugely out-gunned by Israel does not matter. After all, does not the Qur’an
speak of believers fighting ‘against a people possessing mighty prowess’?
And does it not offer the promise that ‘you will fight against them until
they submit’? And, indeed, it also promises Muslims that ‘if there are
twenty patient ones of you they shall overcome two hundred, and if there
are a hundred of you they shall overcome a thousand of those who disbelieve’.
And what if many Muslims fall in the fight against Israel? Of what matter
is that when every Jew killed by a Hamas fighter is destined for eternal
hellfire and every Muslim who falls fighting against Israelis is destined
for eternal joy in the gardens of paradise? Muslims who do not adhere to this
simplistic and dangerous view of the world do so not because of the
Qur’an, but in spite of it.
The Qur’an’s passages on warfare are obviously writings referring to
events in a specific time and place. They are not a collection of instructions
on the ethics of modern warfare, and they provide absolutely no useful
material for guiding political leaders and military commanders on how
or when to prosecute a military campaign today. The Qur’an understands
warfare in terms of localised battles on horseback using swords, not in
terms of tanks, machine guns, missiles, and fighter jets. But the fundamental
problem we face with the Qur’an is that it consistently and repeatedly claims
itself to be the perfect words of the creator of the universe. Consequently,
if this ridiculous claim continues to be adhered to by billions of people
around the world, we are placed in grave danger that people who take the
Qur’anic view of the world seriously will mix its centuries old superstitious
and supremacist content with access to modern weapons of mass destruction.
What seems absolutely clear from reading the Qur’an on warfare is that
it is farcical to describe Islam as intrinsically a ‘religion of peace’,
unless by ‘peace’ one means a state in which resistance to the dominance
of Islam is vanquished. A society in which everyone bows towards Mecca
in ‘acknowledgment of [the] superiority’ of Islam, and in which those who
do not accept Islam are kept ‘in a state of subjection’ may well be on
paper a ‘peaceful’ society, but this peace comes at the cost of human freedom
and is bought with the blood of those who refuse it.