Hatred and Violence in the Qur’an Awareness Month: “And slay them wherever you come upon them”

So far this month we have only come upon verses of hatred toward unbelievers in the Qur’an. Here is the first (if one reads the Qur’an from beginning to end, not the first chronologically in the career of Muhammad as traditionally laid out) passage calling for violence:

Front of the Quran
Front of the Quran (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And fight in the way of God with those; who fight with you, but aggress not: God loves not the aggressors. And slay them wherever you come upon them, and expel them from where they expelled you; persecution is more grievous than slaying. But fight them not by the Holy Mosque until they should fight you there; then, if they fight you, slay them — such is the recompense of unbelievers — but if they give over, surely God is All-forgiving, All-compassionate. Fight them, till there is no persecution and the religion is God’s; then if they give over, there shall be no enmity save for evildoers. (2:190-193)

These are among the Qur’an’s most important words about jihad warfare. V. 190, “aggress not,” is often invoked today to show that jihad can only be defensive. Qur’an translator and commentator Muhammad Asad says that “this and the following verses lay down unequivocally that only self-defence (in the widest sense of the word) makes war permissible for Muslims.” However, the Tafsir al-Jalalayn says that this verse was abrogated by Qur’an 9:1, which voids every treaty between the Muslims and nonbelievers. On the other hand, another venerable commentator on the Qur’an, Ibn Kathir, rejects the idea that the verse was abrogated.

What constitutes a defensive conflict? A clue to that comes in v. 193: “Fight them, till there is no persecution and the religion is God’s.” Muhammad’s first biographer, Ibn Ishaq, explains that this means that Muslims must fight against unbelievers “until God alone is worshipped.” Says the twentieth-century Muslim scholar Maulana Bulandshahri: “The worst of sins are Infidelity (Kufr) and Polytheism (shirk) which constitute rebellion against Allah, The Creator. To eradicate these, Muslims are required to wage war until there exists none of it in the world, and the only religion is that of Allah.”

This conflict would be essentially defensive, against the aggression of unbelief: if Muslims must fight until unbelief does not exist, the mere presence of unbelief constitutes sufficient aggression to allow for the beginning of hostilities. This is one of the foundations for the Islamic supremacist notion that Muslims must wage war against unbelievers until those unbelievers are either converted to Islam or subjugated under the rule of Islamic law, as 9:29 states explicitly. As the Prophet of Islam, Muhammad, puts it: “I have been commanded to fight against people, till they testify to the fact that there is no god but Allah, and believe in me (that) I am the messenger (from the Lord) and in all that I have brought. And when they do it, their blood and riches are guaranteed protection on my behalf except where it is justified by law, and their affairs rest with Allah.” Thus one may reasonably assume that if one does not accept him as a prophet, one’s blood and riches are not safe from those who read these words as the words of a messenger from the one true God.By Robert