A couple of days ago I was driving to school with my friend Zuhum, who told me about a whatsapp forward he had received in his class group titled, “Islamic Jihad has Engulfed the World Unaware.” The forward was a fabricated story that aims to instill baseless fear in the Christian community with twisted facts: typical of bigoted Islamophobes who pick and choose passages that suit their view.
This morning I received the same message from the owner of the barber shop I go to, Jax. We usually have conversations based on religion whenever I get my haircut and he felt the need to share this message in order to get clarification. He is one of a handful who would read such a message and first go to his Muslim friends in order to seek clarification but how about all the hundreds or thousands who received this message and take it as is?
In the text, the author accuses all Muslims of being murderers whose only way to heaven is by killing all non-muslims. There are several problems with this statement for obvious reasons. For example, following the basic tenets of Islam — performing the five fardh: shahada (bearing witness there is no God but Allah), salah (prayer), zakat (alms), saum (fasting) and hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca) — are the major, and only some of the, ways Muslims believe they can make it to heaven in the hereafter. There are more than one billion Muslims in the world and Islam has been around for centuries. It’s impossible to imagine all these Muslims going on a murderous rampage; otherwise, there would be no one left in the world! Additionally, Islamic history bears truth to the fact that Muslims have coexisted peacefully with non-Muslims in the past and they continue to do so in the present despite what the media wants us to think. A prime example is Andalusia Spain. We don’t need to look too far geographically or historically either. The fact that Muslims and Christians have coexisted peacefully in our own country is ample evidence.
The quote often used to back this violent claim about Muslims usually is from the ninth chapter of the Qur’an, Surat Taubah. It says:
Then when the sacred months (the Ist, 7th, 11th, and 12th months of the Islamic calendar) have passed, then kill the Mushrikun (unbelievers/polytheists) wherever you find them. And capture them and besiege them, and prepare for them each and every ambush. But if they repent and perform As-Salat (prayers), and give Zakat (alms/charity), then leave their way free. Verily, Allah is Oft-Forgiving, most merciful (5).
Taken by itself, it is very easy to accuse Muslims as bloodthirsty. But, you cannot take it by itself, out of its context. Besides, the same could be argued for Christian texts as well which incorporate calls for violence. It’s important to understand the context and this goes for both non-Muslims and Muslims.
To quickly sum it up, the above section is specific to a particular point in time in Islamic history. Let me give you the context: when Islam started spreading in Arabia in Mecca (present-day Saudi Arabia), the local pagan Arab population, comprised of a members of a wealthy merchant tribe known as the Quraysh, was very hostile to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and his followers. To curb the hostilities, the two groups signed a ten-year peace treaty known as the treaty of Hudaybiyah. The treaty was created after the Quraysh barred the Muslims from entering Mecca to perform their pilgrimage (hajj). The ayahs (verses) above were provided as a guidance from God on how to go about the treaty and how to respond after a group, allied to the Quraysh, broke the agreement two years after the treaty was signed. This eventually led to the conquest of Mecca by the Muslims. The verse is therefore referencing a people who were openly fighting the Muslims and not adhering to the treaty as per the agreement.The verse right after it, in the same chapter, shows that it is not an unrelenting order to indefinitely murder all non-Muslims:
And if anyone of the Mushrikun (polytheists, idolaters, pagans, disbelievers in the oneness of Allah) seeks your protection, then grant him protection so that he may hear the word of Allah (the Qur’an), and then escort him to where he can be secure, that is because they are men who know not (6).
Furthermore, the Qur’an even gives instruction on how to fight when it comes to that point:
Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you but do not do aggression, for Allah loves not the aggressors. Fight in the way of Allah against those who fight against you, but begin not hostilities. Lo! Allah loveth not aggressors. And slay them wherever ye find them, and drive them out of the places whence they drove you out, for persecution is worse than slaughter. And fight not with them at the inviolable place of worship until they first attack you there, but if they attack you (there) then slay them. Such is the reward of disbelievers. But if they desist, then lo! Allah is forgiving, merciful. And fight them until persecution is no more, and religion is for Allah. But if they desist, then let there be no hostility except against wrongdoers (Al Baqarah, 2.190-194).
And even before one gets to the point of fighting, Muslims are not to engage in war senselessly. One must understand the rules and regulations related to it, which in Islam are exhaustively covered.
So my fellow brothers and sisters in humanity, I am not here to kill you. We are not here to kill you. Yes, recent reports and crimes committed by Al-Shabaab may present the alternative case but I assure they are not representative of the rest of us. Rather I consider it my duty to explain the true and just Islam to you so as to fight these misconceptions. It is not the first and last time such messages will be spread around. I urge that you do not take the messages spread around verbatim and encourage you, if possible, to read the Qur’an or seek the right information. At the very least, do not shy away from asking us for clarification, especially if you have Muslim friends. It is very easy to fall prey to false messages and such messages can incite violence creating unnecessary tensions within our country.
To fellow Muslims, we must take the initiative to spread the right message of Islam and not let others create any further animosity. Clear the misconceptions and spread valuable, and possibly life-saving, knowledge.
With that, I leave you with the beautiful greeting taught to us by our beloved Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him):
“Peace, blessings and mercy of God be upon you.”
To learn more about the nature of jihad in Islam, click on the links below:
- “Jihad in Islam” by Fatuma Hirsi
- “What is Jihad?” [VIDEO]
- “What does the Quran and Sunnah Really Say?" by Hyder Alhad