Violence in Muhammad's life and the Qur’an, by James M. ArlandsonEver since 9/11, Muslim leaders who have access to the national media have told us that Islam is the religion of peace and that violence does not represent the essence of Muhammad’s religion. Even President Bush and
Clear? In order to prevent the standard, reflexive "out of context" defense from Muslim apologists, the context of each verse in the Qur’an is explained either in this article or in the links provided within each of the ten reasons. No verse is taken out of context, and Muslim translations are used.
Verifiable? The readers are invited to look up each verse in the Qur’an in multiple translations, by visiting the website www.Qur’anbrowser.com and typing in references, like so: 61:10-12. (61 is the chapter or sura, and 10-12 are the verses).
10. Muhammad nicknames his weapons. Tabari (AD 839-923) is an early Muslim historian who is considered largely reliable by scholars today. In fact, the State University of New York Press selected his history to be translated into 38 volumes. (We use The Last Years of the Prophet, trans. Ismail K. Poonawala, 9:153-55.). In the context of the list of Muhammad’s assets at the end of his life (horses, camels, milch sheep, and so on), Tabari records the nicknames of Muhammad weapons. Muhammad nicknames three swords that he took from the Jewish tribe Qaynuqa after he banished them from
9. Muhammad commands in his Qur’an that adulterers and adulteresses should receive a hundred lashes. Surah 24:2 Strike the adulteress and the adulterer one hundred times. Do not let compassion for them keep you from carrying out God’s law—if you believe in God and the Last Day—and ensure that a group of believers witnesses the punishment. (MAS Abdel Haleem, The Qur’an,
The supposed historical context of this sura occurs during a raid of a tribe in December 627 or January 628, on which Muhammad brought his favorite and youngest wife, Aisha, also the daughter of Abu Bakr, his right-hand lieutenant. After the Muslims’ victory, they journeyed back to
Moreover, early and reliable traditions depict Muhammad and his Muslims stoning adulterers and adulteresses, as recorded by the two most reliable collectors and editors of the hadith, Bukhari (AD 810-870) and Muslim (c. AD 817-875):
Umar said: God sent Muhammad with the truth and sent down the Book [Qur’an] to him, and the verse of stoning was included in what God most high sent down. God’s messenger [Muhammad] had people stoned to death, and we have done it also since his death. Stoning is a duty laid down in God’s Book for married men and women who commit fornication when proof is established, or if there is pregnancy, or a confession.
Umar was Muhammad’s right-hand lieutenant (along with Abu Bakr), and even shortly after Muhammad’s death he tried very hard to get a verse allowing stoning into the Qur’an, but he did not succeed (Ibn Ishaq, Life of Muhammad, trans. Guillaume, p. 684). Be that as it may, this and the next hadith are sufficient for many Muslims today to endorse stoning, as seen here: , , , .
Perhaps the most gruesome hadith is the following. A woman came to the prophet and asked for purification (by being punished for her sin). He told her to go away and seek God’s forgiveness. She persisted four times and admitted that she was pregnant as a result of fornication. He told her to wait until she had given birth. Then he said that the Muslim community should wait until she had weaned her child. When the day arrived for the child to take solid food, Muhammad handed the child over to the community and ordered the woman’s death by stoning.
And when he had given command over her and she was put in a hole up to her breast, he ordered the people to stone her. Khalid b. al-Walid came forward with a stone which he threw at her head, and when the blood spurted on his face he cursed her ... (Muslim, No. 4206)
It is true that Muhammad told Khalid to be gentler, but how gentle does one have to be when one throws a rock at a woman buried up to her breasts? Is the rock required to go only
Even if some Muslim apologists today do not accept these hadiths, then they still have to answer why the true God would send down the harsh punishment of lashing in the Qur’an (Sura 24:2), when the New Testament says nothing about this. Christians should therefore rightly reject this verse, for Christ forgave the woman caught in adultery and told her to go and sin no more (John 8:1-11). He showed us the better way and taught the will of the true God. For more information on this early punishment and how it is applied today, refer to this article, which also answers Muslim apologists and explains John 8:1-11 more thoroughly. Thus, cruel violence sits at the heart of early Islam—in Muhammad’s life and in his Qur’an. Islam is therefore not the religion of peace.
8. Muhammad in his Qur’an permits husbands to beat their wives. Surah Husbands should take full care of their wives, with [the bounties] God has given to some more than others and with what they spend out of their own money. Righteous wives are devout and guard what God would have them guard in the husbands’ absence. If you fear high-handedness from your wives, remind them [of the teaching of God], then ignore them when you go to bed, then hit them. If they obey you, you have no right to act against them. God is most high and great. (Haleem).
Written in the historical context of the Battle of Uhud (March 625), in which Islam lost 70 holy warriors, this verse belongs to a larger collection of verses that outlines laws for the family, such as how to divide the inheritance and to how to oversee the assets of orphans (vv. 1-35). Plainly said, Sura specifies that husbands may beat their unruly wives if the husbands "fear" highhandedness, quite apart from whether the wives are actually being highhanded. This puts the interpretation of the wives’ behavior squarely in the husbands’ judgment, and this swings the door to abuse wide open. This verse embodies a gigantic cultural and social step backwards and should be rejected by all fair-minded and reasonable people. For a more thorough analysis of this hurtful practice, refer to this article. Thus, domestic violence sits at the heart of early Islam—in the life of Muhammad and his Qur’an. Islam is therefore not the religion of peace.
7. Muhammad in his Qur’an commands that the hands of male or female thieves should be cut off. Surah Cut off the hands of thieves, whether they are male or female, as punishment for what they have done—a deterrent from God: God is almighty and wise. 39 But if anyone repents after his wrongdoing and makes amends, God will accept his repentance: God is most forgiving and merciful. (Haleem).
Three passages in the hadith interpret Muhammad’s policy and provide its context. This is a quick compilation taken from Bukhari and Muslim:
Aisha [favorite wife of Muhammad] reported the Prophet saying, "A thief’s hand should be cut off for only a quarter of a dinar and upwards." A dinar, a word taken from the Roman denarius, was not a small sum, but not exorbitant either, yet one-fourth of a dinar merits the loss of a hand in Muhammad’s view.
Ibn Umar said the Prophet had a thief’s hand cut off for a shield worth three dirhams. The shield was fairly expensive. The poor in Muhammad’s armies could not afford one. But is a shield equal to a hand?
Abu Huraira reported the Prophet as saying, "God curse a thief who steals an egg and has his hand cut off, and steals a rope and has his hand cut off!" Some commentators are quick to say that an "egg" is really a helmet, and the rope is a ship’s rope, which is sizable and costly. However, the translation above is usually accepted, and this means that the penalty could be imposed for trivial thefts. But even if the more expensive items are in view here, they still do not measure up to a hand. For more information on this gruesome practice and its historical context, consult this article, which answers Muslim apologists who seek to defend this practice and which also contrasts Christ with Muhammad. Suffice it to say here, Christ never endorsed this. And Paul the Apostle says that thieves should work with their hands in order to share with those in need, not get their hand cut off (Ephesians 4:28). So Paul excels Muhammad. Thus, harsh and excessive punitive violence sits at the heart of early Islam—in Muhammad’s life and in the Qur’an. Islam is therefore not the religion of peace.
6. Muhammad assassinates poets and poetesses. These two poets represent others in early Islam. March 624: Uqba bin Abu Muayt Uqba mocked Muhammad in
5. Muhammad in his Qur’an commands death or the cutting off of hands and feet for fighting and corrupting the land. Surah 5:33 Indeed, the punishment of those who fight Allah and His Messenger and who go around corrupting the land is to be killed, crucified, have their hands and feet cut off on opposite sides, or to be banished from the land. That is a disgrace for them in this life, and in the life to come theirs will be a terrible punishment. 34 Except for those who repent before you overpower them. Know, then, that Allah is All-Forgiving, Merciful. (Majid Fakhry, An Interpretation of the Qur’an,
According to the hadith, the historical context of these verses runs as follows and clarifies "fighting" and "corrupting" the land. Some Arab tribesmen visited the prophet, but fell sick in the uncongenial climate of
4. Muhammad aggressively attacks Meccan caravans: A year or so after Muhammad’s Hijrah from Mecca to Medina in 622, he attacks Meccan caravans six times, and sent out a punitive expedition three-days away against an Arab tribe that stole some Medinan grazing camels (or cattle), totaling seven raids.
W. Montgomery Watt, a highly reputable Western Islamologist who writes in favor of Muhammad and whose two-volume history of early Islam (Muhammad at Mecca (1953) and Muhammad at Medina (1956)) has won wide acceptance, tells us why geography matters:
The chief point to notice is that the Muslims took the offensive. With one exception the seven expeditions were directed against Meccan caravans. The geographical situation lent itself to this. Caravans from
It must be emphatically stated that the Meccans never sent a force up to the doorstep of
Rather, it is more accurate to say that the Muslims were aggressively harassing the Meccans. To complete the picture of expeditions, raids and wars in Muhammad’s life from 622 to 632, Watt totals up the number that Muhammad either sent out or went out on: seventy-four (Muhammad at Medina, pp. 2; 339-43). They range from negotiations (only a few compared to the violent expeditions), to small assassination hit squads, to the conquest of
3. Muhammad in his Qur’an promises sensuous Gardens for martyrs dying in a military holy war: Throughout the Qur’an, Muhammad promises the men in his fledgling Muslim community that if they die fighting for Allah and for him, Allah will reward them with a "virgin-rich" Garden (Suras 44:51-56; 52:17-29; 55:46-78). In the following Qur’anic passage, representing others (Suras 4:74, 9:111; 3:140-143), the Arabic word "jihad" (root is j-h-d) is the means or currency to trade in this life for the life to come in an economic bargain.
61:10 You who believe, shall I show you a bargain that will save you from painful punishment? 11 Have faith in God and His Messenger and struggle [j-h-d] for His cause with your possessions and your persons—that is better for you, if only you knew—12 and He will forgive your sins, admit you into Gardens graced with flowing streams, into pleasant dwellings in the Gardens of Eternity. That is the supreme triumph. (Haleem)
These verses are found in the historical context of the Battle of Uhud (625), in which Muhammad lost 70 of his fighters. Thus, he must make the loss of life appear worth the sacrifice, so he frames their deaths in an economic bargain (note the word in bold print). If his jihadists trade in or sell their lives down here, they will be granted Islamic heaven—it is a done deal. For an in-depth analysis of Islamic martyrdom and how Biblical martyrdom opposes it, consult this article. Christ’s "Martyrdom" on the cross opens the way to heaven so that Christians do not have to die in a holy war to reach heaven. Thus, deadly, ‘heavenly violence’ sits at the heart of early Islam—in Muhammad’s life and in the Qur’an. Islam is therefore not the religion of peace.
2. Muhammad unjustly executes around 600 male Jews and enslaves the women and children: After the Battle of the Trench in March 627 (named after a trench that the Muslims dug around parts of Medina) against a large coalition of Meccans and their allies, Muhammad imposed the ultimate penalty on the men in the Jewish clan, Qurayzah, his third and final Jewish rivals (he banished the Qaynuqa tribe in April 624 and the Nadir tribe in August 625). The Qurayzah tribe was supposed to remain neutral in the
33:25 God sent back the disbelievers along with their rage—they gained no benefit—and spared the believers from fighting. He is strong and mighty. 26 He brought those People of the Book [Qurayza] who supported them down from their strongholds and put terror into their hearts. Some of them you [believers] killed and some you took captive. 27 He passed on to you their land, their homes, their possessions, and a land where you had not set foot. God has power over everything. (Haleem).
Now this atrocity has been enshrined in the eternal word of Allah—and the Qur’an seems to celebrate it. But these questions must be answered: Is intriguing with the enemy equal to slaughtering 600 men and enslaving the women and children? Who decides? The Arab tribal chief with the most powerful army? Muhammad said around the time of his Hijrah in 622 the following:
16:126 If you [people] have to respond to an attack, make your response proportionate, but it is better to be steadfast. (Haleem).
Any reasonable and fair-minded person would judge that Muhammad was not making his response (execution) proportionate to the breach of the agreement. The Qurayzah tribe never attacked the Muslims, and even if a few were to have done so, the punishment does not fit the crime. Therefore, Muhammad was being excessive and disproportionate because he used an irreversible penalty to express his human wrath. For a fuller account of this atrocity, refer to this article. Thus, anti-Semitic violence sits at the heart of early Islam—in Muhammad’s life and in his Qur’an. Islam is therefore not the religion of peace.
1. Muhammad launches his own Crusades: In the following verse, Muhammad uses the Arabic word qital (root is q-t-l), which means warring, fighting, or killing:
9:29 Fight [q-t-l] those among the people of the Book [Christians] who do not believe in Allah and the Last Day, do not forbid what Allah and His Messenger have forbidden and do not profess the true religion, till they pay the poll-tax out of hand and submissively. (Fakhry).
The two most interesting clauses in this violent verse are (1) People of the Book (Christians in this verse late in Muhammad’s life) are to be attacked if they do not profess the true religion: Islam. This leaves the door wide open for terrorists today to attack and fight Christians because they do not adhere to Islam; (2) Christians must pay a tax for the "privilege" of living under the "protection" of Islam—submissively or in humiliation. The historical context of Sura 9:29 finds Muhammad preparing for a military expedition against the Byzantine Empire in 630, two years before his ordinary death of a fever in 632. Indeed, some scholars regard Sura 9 as the last sura to be revealed from on high. Therefore, it sets many policies for Muslims today, and is often interpreted as abrogating or canceling previous verses, even peaceful ones. Muhammad heard a rumor that the Byzantines amassed an army some
What the ten reasons mean for us today
These ten aspects of violence that have burrowed into the hemorrhaging heart of early Islam have eight implications for us today. The first three are theological; the rest are practical. The theological implications are as follows:
First, as each reason in this article has hinted at and the links explain more thoroughly, Christ never, ever engaged in such violence. For example, he never assassinated opponents, whipped adulterers, cut off the hands of thieves, or launched his own Crusades (what the Medieval Europeans did is not foundational to Christianity). Christ expresses the love of God. Therefore, Christians and all fair-minded persons have the right to question whether the true God would reveal the Qur’an when it contains such violent verses that conveniently support Muhammad’s violence, whereas the New Testament does not have such violence
Second, Muslims believe that the New Testament is corrupted, whereas the Qur’an is inerrant. Even if we assume only for the sake of argument that these claims are true (but they actually are not), then why would reasonable seekers of the truth prefer the "pure" but violence-filled Qur’an over the "corrupted" but peaceful New Testament? Before Muhammad is allowed to throw around unsubstantiated charges about alleged New Testament corruption, he and his Qur’an must pass a down-to-earth test regarding his dubious, violent practices. But he and it fail the test badly, as this article demonstrates, whereas Christ and the New Testament pass with a perfect score. Therefore, if Muhammad is so wrong about down-to-earth matters like whipping adulterers and cutting off the hands of thieves and beating wives, then he is likely wrong about unresearched accusations of New Testament corruption—and factually he is wrong. Please refer to the articles listed on these pages for more information: , .
Third, since Muhammad who claims divine guidance is so wrong about practical matters, why should we believe him about theoretical matters like the deity of Christ and the Trinity, both of which he denies? Clearly, he was not divinely guided in practical matters because the true God would not degrade religion by endorsing such gruesome violence six hundred years after Christ came—the historical span is critical. Christ and the New Testament do not have even one example of such violence. Again, if Muhammad first fails the down-to-earth test, then he likely fails the theological or theoretical test—we have no reason to believe him in such high doctrines, especially since he was no theologian and his revelations are now empirically suspect.
The practical implications of the top ten reasons are as follows:
Fourth, nominal Christians who no longer take their faith seriously, but who are tempted to convert to Islam, must stop to think a second time. Christ the Son of God demonstrates the love of God (Matt. -17), not the wrath of an ordinary, self-described human messenger (Sura 3:144). Why would they trade in the religion of God’s peace and love for Allah’s human religion of violence?
Fifth, fanatical Muslims today are simply carrying on their prophet’s mission. Why should we be surprised if they want to conquer the West, in order to impose Allah’s will on non-Islamic societies? They are still working out Muhammad’s Crusades and trying to put a halt to the reality embodied in this simple logic:
(1) If A, then B. If Allah endorses Islam, then it should expand endlessly.
(2) Not-B. But it is not expanding endlessly (see this analysis).
(3) Therefore, not-A. Therefore, Allah does not endorse Islam.
This logic eats away at the heart of fanatics, especially premise two, even if they are not conscious of it in this logical form. What is stopping the endless expansion of Islam, according to the fanatics? Their answer: the US and even the very existence of the Jewish State of Israel in the heart of the Middle East. The fanatics have yet to uproot the Jews, despite three wars, which the Arabs lost. This tiny non-Islamic, Jewish State in their neighborhood slaps them in the face every day. How could Allah let this happen? Hence, premise two is the deepest reason that they have been launching attacks on the
For more information on three Qur’anic verses that predict the worldwide dominance of Islam and that provide the motives for fanatics, refer to this article. And for more information on bin Laden’s motives specifically, go here.
Sixth, as noted in the introduction to this article, Muslim apologists who have access to the national media and who constantly assert that Islam is the religion of peace must stop misleading unsuspecting Westerners. Factually, Islam is not the religion of peace. True, it had peaceful moments, but not for very long. Muhammad sent out or went out on seventy-four expeditions, raids, and wars in only ten years (622-632), most of which were violent.
Seventh, western civilization must never accept the lie that Muhammad’s life, the Qur’an, and sharia (the law derived from the hadith and the Qur’an) are benefits to society. Rather, Islam represents many gigantic steps backwards, culturally and socially. One of the most tragic events in the western world in recent years—and one of the most underreported—is the existence of an Islamic court in Canada. Muslims are pushing for a sharia divorce court in Australia, as well. The Canadian government should promptly shut it down, and
Eighth and finally, Islam should never be taught in our public schools, K through 11. Perhaps grade 12 is acceptable, but only on one condition. If school administrators insist on teaching it, Islamic violence must be included in the lesson plans because it is part and parcel of early Islam and Muhammad’s life. Of course, Muslim apologists assert that Christianity is filled with violence, citing the Roman Emperor Constantine and the Medieval Crusaders. However, to repeat, they are not foundational for Christianity—only Christ and the New Testament are. And he and the New Testament authors never practiced or endorsed such violence. On the other hand, Muhammad and his Qur’an are foundational for Islam, and violence fills his life and its pages.Therefore, for ten clear and verifiable reasons, Islam is not the religion of peace