Another loaded question in the news: What does Islam teach about violence?


Why don’t mainstream Muslims acknowledge that the Quran orders them to do just what ISIS does?


Does the Quran tell Muslims to kill anyone who doesn’t become a Muslim?


David’s full question -- posted before the latest slaughter aimed at Christians in Pakistan, children included, and the bombings in Belgium -- asks why Quran passages “explicitly order the killing of non-Muslims.” Mike, posting after those atrocities, wonders “why there is so much violence and murder in the Muslim faith.”

The Wall Street Journal‘s Sohrab Ahmari observes that “Islamic terrorism is now a permanent and ubiquitous hazard to life in every city on every continent” and “not a single day now goes by” without an attack somewhere. With much of today’s terror enacted in the name of God, fellow Muslims are the majority among innocent victims. The Global Terrorism Index counts 32,685 killings during 2014, an 80 percent increase over 2013. Not all were Islam-related and, notably, in the West only a fifth of them were.

The Islamic State and similar factions claim to follow precedents from Islam’s founding, in the holy Quran and collected hadith teachings of the Prophet Muhammad. Nabeel Qureshi writes in USA Today that his conversion from Islam to Christianity, described in “Answering Jihad,” resulted from “the reality of violent jihad in the very foundations” of Islam that provides terrorists’ “primary recruiting technique.” Graeme Wood of The Atlantic documented the importance of the early religious texts for current terror ideology.

Yet Muslim scholars say the revelations often applied to specific circumstances and some passages abrogate earlier ones. The founding era also brought an internal struggle for religious, political and military control after Muhammad died without a fully agreed-upon successor. The resulting and sometimes bloody split between Sunni and Shi’a branches persists as a factor in today’s death tolls.

The terrorist belief defies authoritative Islamic teaching that developed across more than 1,000 years after the founding era. This mainstream Islam has been incapable of suppressing the violent, populist uprising in its midst. Islam was never pacifist and proved remarkably successful in military conquest, but developed a code of military and political conduct that terrorists routinely violate. (The Islamic ideal is distinguished from followers’ embarrassing misdeeds, as with all religions and secular ideologies.)

English readers can now learn about that more moderate heritage through the highly significant “The Study Quran” from HarperOne. North American Muslim scholars provide 15 special essays and analyze the Scriptures in elaborate detail, verse by verse, drawing upon 41 classic commentaries, with hadith citations that run 43 pages.

Numerous Quran verses say infidels will be punished in the hereafter, but what about this life? Moderates cite the Quran’s edicts that “there is no coercion in religion” (2:256) and that God himself willed the existence of humanity’s various creeds (10:99). In 42:48, God tells the Prophet his sole task toward unbelievers is “proclamation.” An essay by Caner Dagli says “the vast majority” of experts believe religious coercion is forbidden “throughout the Quran” and this “still holds true today.”

A well-known “sword verse” is: “When the sacred months have passed, slay the idolaters wheresoever you find them, capture them, besiege them, and lie in wait for them at every place of ambush. But if they repent and perform the prayer and give the alms, then let them go their way. Truly God is Forgiving, Merciful” (9:5).

Continue reading "What does Islam teach about violence?" by Richard Ostling.

Please respect our Commenting Policy