“And there went out another horse that was red: and power was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another: and there was given unto him a great sword.” Revelation 6:4
Islam is at war. Jihad is brutally apparent on almost every continent on the face of the earth. Islamic terrorists are involved in most major conflicts in the world today, as Jihad is being waged against Muslims and non-Muslims alike. The Islamic War is a global war for power and it is the biggest threat facing the world.
The United States has remained adamant in its stand that without the opportunity for prosperity and democracy in countries like Palestine, Afghanistan and Iraq, terrorists will continue to find converts among the poor and disenfranchised in those countries. Officially, most governments including the United States government, continue to maintain that Islam is a peaceful religion that is being perverted by terrorists. Is this true?
Islam has always been at war. From its beginnings on the Arabian Peninsula, Islam has waged war in order to gain power over people and lands. History has shown that when the opportunity existed for Islam to be spread by force, it was. This is still true today. Although the Quran speaks of peaceful dealings with unbelievers, it also contains calls to war against unbelievers as well. These teachings are not contradictory when you take into consideration the situational ethics of Islam’s founder, Mohammed. The different teachings in the Quran reflect the different strategies used by Mohammed to overcome a world full of opposition.
The pre-Islamic Arabian world was filled with pagans who worshipped many gods. There were also monotheists in this world – the Jews and Christians. Mohammed’s Islam had to incorporate elements of the religions it encountered in order to make it palatable to potential converts.
It was in Mohammed’s birthplace in Mecca where Islam gained its first converts. Because Mohammed could not make any meaningful inroads into the political, social or economic hierarchies of Mecca, he encouraged his followers to walk softly using the art of persuasion in their efforts. His early writings in the Quran teach this approach.
“Invite [all] to the way of thy Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious . …But if you show patience, that is indeed the best [course] for those who are patient.” Sura (Chapter) 16: 125-6. (1)
Mohammed’s followers grew to about 70 people from within his circle of family and friends. This feat took Mohammed more than a decade to accomplish. But the Muslims managed to upset the Meccans in their home base, and Mohammed and his group fled to avoid the sting of persecution. They fled to Medina, Mecca’s enemy.
At first, some of the pagans in Medina accepted Mohammed. The Christians and Jews there had no real squabble with him, because Mohammed used the common thread of early Old Testament passages and his portrayal of Islam as a religion which respected the people of ‘the Book’. But when Mohammed’s power base in Medina grew, he demanded universal recognition as a prophet. Many Christians and Jews who refused were killed. So were any other citizens of Medina that stood in Mohammed’s way. Violence became enshrined in the Islamic text as a way to right wrongs on earth.
“To those against whom war is made, permission is given [to fight], because they are wronged, and verily, God is most powerful for their aid. [They are] those who have been expelled from their homes in defiance of right, [for no cause] except that they say, ‘Our Lord is God.'” Sura 22: 39 (2)
Mohammed decided to take revenge on the ones who caused him to flee his homeland of Mecca. He orchestrated raids on Meccan trade caravans, claiming their riches for himself and his followers as spoils of war. Emboldened by his wealth and victories, Mohammed went to war against the powerful city of Mecca. Now that Mohammed had laid the groundwork for his righteous war, his words became more aggressive and violent:
“Fight in the cause of God those who fight you, but do not transgress limits; for God loveth not transgressors. And slay them wherever you catch them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out. …But if they fight you, slay them. Such is the reward of those who suppress faith” Sura 2:190-194. (3)
In the beginning, Mohammed’s wars did have limits. Fighting was not allowed during holy months, and captives were allowed to convert to Islam to save them from immediate death.
“When the forbidden months are past,” the Qur’an declares, “then fight and slay the pagans wherever you find them, and seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in each and every ambush. But if they repent, perform the prayers and give alms, then leave their way free” Sura 9:5. (4)
But later on, even these limits were rescinded by Mohammed, if the situation called for it. It is the inconsistencies in Mohammed’s teachings that have left clerics and scholars at odds as how to interpret the Qur’an. Since the teachings of Mohammed changed over time, many use the text’s chronology as their guide. This approach also has its problems.
“The Kuran responds constantly and often explicitly to Muhammad’s historical situation, giving encouragement in times of persecution, answering questions from his followers and opponents, commenting on current events, etc. Major doctrines and regulations for the Muslim community, which are never stated systematically in the Kuran, are introduced gradually and in stages that are not always clear. There are apparent contradictions and inconsistencies in the presentation of both the beliefs and the regulations, and the latter are sometimes altered to fit new situations. Thus it is essential to know the approximate dates or historical settings of some passages, and at least the chronological order of others, if they are to be understood fully. This problem was recognized by early Muslim scholars who devoted much attention to it in the first few centuries, until a fairly rigid system of dating was established and given the imprimatur of orthodoxy. In modern times the study of the chronology of the Kuran has been almost exclusively a domain of Western scholars, who have not however been able to reach a consensus on a dating system, or even on the possibility of establishing one”. (5)
Mohammed died shortly after his final battle against Mecca. He left behind the teachings of the Qu’ran, full of its apparent inconsistencies. The tenets of Islam continued to develop in accordance with the ambitions of its leaders. This in turn has led to intra-Islamic turmoil and much confusion within the Muslim world. But, to the People of the Book, Mohammed left a legacy of war:
“Fight those who believe not in God and the Last Day and do not forbid what God and His Messenger have forbidden – such men as practise not the religion of truth, being of those who have been given the Book-until they pay tribute out of hand and have been humbled. The Jews say, ‘Ezra is the Son of God’; the Christians say, ‘The Messiah is the Son of God.’ That is the utterance of their mouths, conforming with the unbelievers before them. God assail them! How they are perverted!” Sura 9 29-30 (6)
1-Four Jihads, Mateen A. Elass, http://ctlibrary.com/6312
2-Four Jihads, Mateen A. Elass, http://ctlibrary.com/6312
3-Four Jihads, Mateen A. Elass, http://ctlibrary.com/6312
4-Four Jihads, Mateen A. Elass, http://ctlibrary.com/6312
5- from Islam Undressed, by Vernon Richards, Chapter 2: Chronology And Abrogation in the Qur’an, quoting the “Encyclopedia of Islam”, published by Brill, Leiden, The Netherlands.
6- The Koran Interpreted, translation by Arthur J. Arberry, Collier Books, Macmillan Publishing Company, New York