In light of the terrible crimes against humanity in Berlin, Germany, and Ankara, Turkey, let’s review some of the basic bedrock facts about Islamic violence.
Let’s first begin with a startling fact.
All the verses (except one) in the Quran about qital (war, fighting, slaughter, killing) can be explained and limited by their historical context. Even the famous so-called Sword Verse in Chapter 9:5 (see it four Sunni translations) can be dismissed as applying only to pagans in Muhammad’s day who supposedly broke a treaty with him. Like it or not, believe it or not, many Muslim scholars of a more moderate persuasion speak of these limiting historical contexts over and over again.
However, there is one verse that cannot be limited by its historical context because it is open-ended. Chapter 9:29 is about Muhammad’s military campaign to Tabuk (today in northern Saudi Arabia). He had heard a rumor that the Byzantines were gathering an army of 200,000, and he rode up north to meet them with his own qitalists of 20,000 to 30,000. But his prophetic powers did not work, because the rumor was false; no army materialized. Not all was lost. On his journey south, he met Jewish and Christian tribes, who must have been impressed to see such numbers.
At that time he got a “revelation,” so convenient for his political and military agenda, that said he could exact tribute, or the jizya tax, from these tribes. Here is the verse in a translation by Hilali and Khan (see it in three other Sunni translations), with parenthetical points they added for clarity:
Fight against those who (1) believe not in Allah, (2) nor in the Last Day, (3) nor forbid that which has been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger (4) and those who acknowledge not the religion of truth (i.e. Islam) among the people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians), until they pay the Jizyah with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.
The verb “fight” is in the imperative or command from qatala, which is much more narrow than jihad. It means slaughter, fight, kill, and wage war. (In fact, ironically, Chapter 47 can be titled either “Muhammad” or “Qital.”) The weakness in the term “jihad” is that nearly every time it is used in the Quran, it really does mean “struggle” and encompasses all of life, from a struggle against one’s own soul to imposing Islamic finances on a society. (One of my students was actually named Johnny Jihad, which was an honor for him. The struggle!) Yes, sometimes it does mean military warfare, but of course the Islamic left, like Egyptian Sayyid Qutb, one of the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, more broadly translated “jihad” into and from Marxism, which advocated the “struggle.”
It would be clearer for our defense and offense if we stopped using “jihad” and instead picked up the term “qital” when a violent act is committed. Of course “jihad” will never go out of fashion because it elevates the struggle in Muslim eyes. But qital and qitalist are more accurate than jihad or jihadist, in much the same way that “war” and “warrior” are more accurate than “struggle” or “struggler” in a context of violence.
Thus, the most dangerous verse in the Quran is 9:29, because it is continuous and admits of no expiration date. The violent military war (qital) will continue for as long as Islam is alive and radicals keep reading that verse. Jews and Christians need to be aware that they are the verse’s unending targets today and tomorrow.
It staggers belief that the politicians around the Western world refuse to acknowledge this unpleasant truth.
James Arlandson’s website is Live as Free People where he has posted Qital (Warfare) Verses in the Quran, All the Jihad Verses in the Quran, and Islamic Martyrdom: The Economy of Death in the Quran.