Misrepresentations of Islamic Scripture
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Evangelical Islamic discourse makes frequent use of verses and hadiths which when viewed in their full formulation and original context often present a message partially or wholly different than the purpose for which they were employed. While critics of Islam have been known to similarly misrepresent Islamic scripture, such misrepresentation also occur among those advocating Islam, whether in order to appeal to modern sensibilities or to push certain classical interpretations that are not supported by the Quran itself.
(5:32) Killing a soul is like killing all of mankind
Quran 5:32 is often cited as evidence of Islam's strict prohibition on murder and encouragement of saving lives. While murder is certainly prohibited in Islam (albeit unequally punished if the victim was a non-Muslim and even totally unpunished if the victim was an apostate, blasphemer, adulterer, or murderer themselves) and saving lives is encouraged (with the lives of believers being, again, favored), the above verse is at most only of indirect relevance. Written in past tense, it does not regard Islamic law but instead "the Children of Israel", or the Jews, who are held in Islam to have received an earlier set of scriptures. Read in the context of the following two verses, however, the verse emerges as a warning for non-believers, who are supposedly to be unprotected by this historical prohibition and advocation.
According to the highly respected exegesis of Ibn Kathir, early qur'anic commentator and tabi‘i, Sayid ibn Jubayr (who lived at the time of Muhammad, and was a companion of Ayesha), had said:
Tafsir Ibn Kathir
Other narrations on the other hand apply the verse to all persons, not just believers (see main article).
The verse also says it is okay to kill someone who does "mischief". In the Tafsir ibn Kathir, Qatada, one of Muhammad's companions, explained the definition of "Mischief" according to Islam.
Tafsir Ibn Kathir
Rather then being an unqualified condemnation of murder, the verse itself and the passage that encompasses it contain a warning and threat against those who disobey Allah.
(2:256) Let there be no compulsion in religion
Quran 2:256, often cited as evidence of religious tolerance in Islamic law, was understood to refer only to those who convert to Islam rather than leave it. The circumstances given in the hadith literature about the revelation of the verse show the context and sense in which the above verse was read - one markedly different from its modern usage.
When the children of a woman (in pre-Islamic days) did not survive, she took a vow on herself that if her child survives, she would convert it a Jew. When Banu an-Nadir were expelled (from Arabia), there were some children of the Ansar (Helpers) among them. They said: We shall not leave our children. So Allah the Exalted revealed; "Let there be no compulsion in religion. Truth stands out clear from error."
Some scholars at a time when freedom of religion was seen as particularly undesirable even considered the verse to be abrogated (see main article). Ibn Kathir in the version of his tafsir abridged by Sheikh Muhammad Nasib Ar-Rafa‘i, says the following (note that this portion has not been translated by Safiur Rahman Mubarakpuri who is responsible for the abridged version of Tafsir Ibn Kathir):
(There is no compulsion in religion), meaning, "Do not force anyone to become Muslim, for Islam is plain and clear, and its proofs and evidence are plain and clear. Therefore, there is no need to force anyone to embrace Islam. Rather, whoever Allah directs to Islam, opens his heart for it and enlightens his mind, will embrace Islam with certainty. Whoever Allah blinds his heart and seals his hearing and sight, then he will not benefit from being forced to embrace Islam.
It was reported that the Ansar were the reason behind revealing this Ayah, although its indication is general in meaning. Ibn Jarir recorded that Ibn `Abbas said ﴿that before Islam﴾, "When (an Ansar) woman would not bear children who would live, she would vow that if she gives birth to a child who remains alive, she would raise him as a Jew. When Banu An-Nadir (the Jewish tribe) were evacuated ﴿from Al-Madinah﴾, some of the children of the Ansar were being raised among them, and the Ansar said, `We will not abandon our children.'
(There is no compulsion in religion. Verily, the right path has become distinct from the wrong path.)
Abu Dawud and An-Nasa'i also recorded this Hadith. As for the Hadith that Imam Ahmad recorded, in which Anas said that the Messenger of Allah said to a man, ("Embrace Islam. The man said, "I dislike it. The Prophet said, "Even if you dislike it.)First, this is an authentic Hadith, with only three narrators between Imam Ahmad and the Prophet . However, it is not relevant to the subject under discussion, for the Prophet did not force that man to become Muslim. The Prophet merely invited this man to become Muslim, and he replied that he does not find himself eager to become Muslim. The Prophet said to the man that even though he dislikes embracing Islam, he should still embrace it, `for Allah will grant you sincerity and true intent.'
Tafsir Ibn Kathir
In context, it becomes clear that the verse was traditionally understood to only partially reflect religious tolerance as it is presently understood.
(2:195) Do not cast yourselves into destruction
Quran 2:195 uses the word 'destruction' to refer to the abandonment of Jihad (rather than its implementation). In this respect it is similar to Quran 5:32, as the popular reference to the verse assumes an interpretation and context altogether opposite that held by the Islamic scholarly and scriptural tradition.
Abu Ayyub said, `We know this Ayah (2:195) better, for it was revealed about us, the Companions of Allah's Messenger who participated in Jihad with him and aided and supported him. When Islam became strong, we, the Ansar, met and said to each other, `Allah has honored us by being the Companions of His Prophet and in supporting him until Islam became victorious and its following increased. We had before ignored the needs of our families, estates and children. Warfare has ceased, so let us go back to our families and children and attend to them.' So this Ayah was revealed about us:(And spend in the cause of Allah and do not throw yourselves into destruction.) the destruction refers to staying with our families and estates and abandoning Jihad."
It is evident that traditionally the verse was read such that 'destruction' metaphorically referred to the spiritual destruction of that person's soul who refused to engage in Jihad, which had been divinely prescribed. In sahih (authentic) hadith, Muhammad is reported to have referred to such persons who refused to engage in Jihad as being 'hypocrites'.
Sahih hadith, Tafsir Ibn Kathir
“Go forth (equipped) lightly or heavily, and strive hard in Allah's cause with your property and own selves; this is better for you, if you know.” Holy Qur'an (9:41)
Jihad is a holy duty made obligatory upon all Muslims by Allah, the Almighty. The Muslims should defend themselves if being attacked in order to preserve their faith, spread Islam, and stand against tyrants and oppressors. Allah made jihad obligatory, in all its forms, whether it is the jihad of society or self, speaking a word for the sake of preserving Islamic call Da'wah, or defending the sanctuaries of the Muslim nation. Jihad is considered among the best forms of worship with Allah, the Most High.
He who spends even a small amount of money in Allah's way will find his reward increased many times by the Beneficent Creator. Whoever is harmed or suffers inflictions in the cause of Allah will have his reward with Allah on the Resurrection Day.The martyr who sacrifices himself and dies for the sake of his faith finds his place in Paradise. He receives blessings from the prophets and the righteous. He is alive and provided for by Allah, The Exalted.
(8:61) If they incline towards peace, you incline also, Allah hates aggressors
Abrogation (Naskh) refers to one Qur'anic verse superseding another, and is explicitly described by Qur'anic verses and various hadith narrations. From Umayyad and Abbasid times, some scholars considered the so-called 'sword verse' Q 9:5 to abrogate various more peaceful verses and interpreted it as an open ended persmission for expansive warfare. According to some later classical scholars, even Quran 8:61 and its message of reconciliation was abrogated by the sword verse. Islamic modernist and academic scholars regard such a view as reflecting the imperial expediencies of a later period.
Tafsir al-Jalalayn (Suyuti)
Quran 9:5 commands fighting against breakers of a treaty.
The same verse adds that "if they repent, and establish regular prayers and practice regular charity, then open the way for them". The only way a non-believer can repent and establish regular prayers is by converting to Islam. Muhammad is reported to have clarified this message further, saying that fighting must go on even after it has come to a natural conclusion.
Tafsir Ibn Kathir
Verse 8:61 is no longer applicable in the eyes of prominent classical scholars and those who continue to identify with them.
Sheikh Abdullah Yusuf Azzam
Sheikh Abdullah Yusuf Azzam
(2:190) Fight those who fight you
Quran 2:190 is also held to have been abrogated by some classical scholars, this time by the 'verse of immunity', which is found at the very beginning of the chapter containing the 'sword-verse'. Islamic modernist and academic scholars regard such a view as reflecting the imperial expediencies of a later period.
Tafsir al jalayn (Suyuti)
Chapter 9, which contains both the 'verse of immunity' and the 'sword verse', known as surah al-Tawbah, was part of the final substantive revelation Muhammad pronounced in his life. Seen as a sort of closing message, the majority of classical scholars agreed with the basic idea that the Muslim ummah was destined to engage in an endless war with the unbelieving world until all had submitted to Allah and there was no more 'fitnah' in the land (according to many academic scholars, 'fitna' means tumult or oppression in the Quran, but was later glossed by classical scholars to include disbelief).
(8:39) Fight them until there is no more fitnah
The Arabic word Fitna (فِتْنَةٌ), used in Quran 8:39 and other verses means "tumult" or "oppression". However, according to many modern academic scholars, certain muslim scholars in a later period glossed the word to include shirk or disbelief in order to suit the imperial needs of a later period. This reinterpretation is continued even by some conservative muslim scholars today.
(...until there is no more Fitnah) meaning, Shirk. This is the opinion of Ibn `Abbas, Abu Al-`Aliyah, Mujahid, Al-Hasan, Qatadah, Ar-Rabi`, Muqatil bin Hayyan, As-Suddi and Zayd bin Aslam.
(...and the religion (all and every kind of worship) is for Allah (Alone).) means, `So that the religion of Allah becomes dominant above all other religions.' It is reported in the Two Sahihs that Abu Musa Al-Ash`ari said: "The Prophet was asked, `O Allah's Messenger! A man fights out of bravery, and another fights to show off, which of them fights in the cause of Allah' The Prophet said:
(He who fights so that Allah's Word is superior, then he fights in Allah's cause.) In addition, it is reported in the Two Sahihs:(I have been ordered (by Allah) to fight the people until they proclaim, `None has the right to be worshipped but Allah'. Whoever said it, then he will save his life and property from me, except for cases of the law, and their account will be with Allah.)
Tafsir Ibn Kathir
(2:62) Theists, Christians, and Jews, shall be in Heaven
- Main Article: Christians, Jews and Muslims in Heaven
Quran 2:62 is often referenced as evidence for the idea that Islam teaches religious pluralism and grants salvation to persons of diverse faiths. While modern historians such Fred Donner have taken hold to the idea, considering that the early Islamic movement was likely far more cosmopolitan in nature than is believed to be the case by the later Islamic tradition itself, classical scholars have been and remain entirely uncompromising in their non-pluralistic interpretation of this verse. Classical scholars either hold the verse to be describing the salvation of those who were Christian or Jewish in the past or hold the verse to have been abrogated by other verses such as Quran 3:85.
Other hadiths affirm the classical interpretation, with a set of narrations describing how Muslims will be spared hell-fire on the Day of Resurrection by having Christians and Jews take their places hell.
(109:1-6) To you be your way, and to me mine
Surah Kafiroon (literally the chapter about "unbelievers") is frequently cited as an example of the Islamic scriptures endorsing religious pluralism.
I worship not that which ye worship,
Nor will ye worship that which I worship.
And I will not worship that which ye have been wont to worship,
Nor will ye worship that which I worship.
To you be your Way, and to me mine.
Traditionally, this verse was revealed in the Meccan period before Muhammad became powerful, and may best be understood as a plea for the Meccans to leave the early believers alone (see main article). Commentators were keen to stress that it did not condone shirk, and some even considered it abrogated. Maududi in the quote below takes another approach.
. . .
If the Surah is read with this background in mind, one finds that it was not revealed to preach religious tolerance as some people of today seem to think, but it was revealed in order to exonerate the Muslims from the disbelievers religion, their rites of worship, and their gods, and to express their total disgust and unconcern with them and to tell them that Islam and kufr (unbelief) had nothing in common and there was no possibility of their being combined and mixed into one entity. Although it was addressed in the beginning to the disbelieving Quraish in response to their proposals of compromise, yet it is not confined to them only, but having made it a part of the Quran, Allah gave the Muslims the eternal teaching that they should exonerate themselves by word and deed from the creed of kufr wherever and in whatever form it be, and should declare without any reservation that they cannot make any compromise with the disbelievers in the matter of Faith. That is why this Surah continued to be recited when the people to whom it was addressed as a rejoinder, had died and been forgotten, and those Muslims also continued to recite it who were disbelievers at the time it was revealed, and the Muslims still recite it centuries after they have passed away, for expression of disgust with and dissociation from kufr and its rites is a perpetual demand of Faith.
Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi, Tafhim al-Qur'an
Killing animals for 'good reason' is acceptable
The above hadith is often cited incompletely, with the bold portion being excluded, presumably because that final clause suggests that it is ok to kill animals and that animals do not mind being killed for 'beneficial' purposes.
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- Tafsir of Ibn Kathir, Surah Al-Baqarah, ayat 253 to 286, Surah Al-Imran, ayat 1 to 92, abridged by Sheikh Muhammad Nasib Ar-Rafa‘i [Al-Firdous Ltd., London, 1999: First Edition], Part 3, pp. 37-38
- The Command to spend in the Cause of Allah - Tafsir Ibn Kathir
- See for example Mohammad Hassan Khalil, "Jihad, Radicalism and the New Atheism", Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017, pp. 9-16
- Shaykh ul-Islaam Taqi ud-Deen Ahmad ibn Taymiyyah - The Religious and Moral Doctrine of Jihaad - p.28, 2001 Maktabah Al Ansaar Publications, ISBN 0953984753
- The reason why jihaad is prescribed - Islam Q&A, Fatwa No. 34647