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The Quran on Wars And Aggression
A number of people today view Submission (Islam in Arabic) as a hostile and aggressive religion. This stereotype has been sadly reinforced by the acts of terrorists and fanatics, who in no way represent what the religion truly stands for. They have hijacked the religion, and consequent media attention, for their own selfish and evil goals. Hence, the world opinion tends towards viewing Islam as a violent religion. People associate Islam with Saddam Hussein, suicide bombers, Osama bin Laden, and September 11th. Very few see it as a religion that forbids any kind of aggression, and permits fighting only in self-defense (Quran 2:190). Yet, this is what the truth is. The religion of Islam, described by God in the Quran stands for peace and tolerance. It does not condone or encourage terrorism.
In the remainder of the article we address some of the common misconceptions about the Islamic and Quranic perspectives on war and peace. These misconceptions are fueled by some people who quote parts of a few Quranic verses out of context. It is unfortunate that rational open-minded folk accept these misquotations without examining the context of the passage they are written in. As with most other books, the Quran must be read as a whole. Taking a single verse—or a part of a verse—out of context, can naturally lead to incorrect conclusions. No religion of God is evil, rather the people who abuse the religion are.
Aggression is Forbidden. Fighting is permitted only in self-defence.
The Quranic verses on this are very clear. God repeats, “do not aggress”, multiple times. Only if attacked, is one permitted to fight back. If the other party refrains from aggression and offers one peace, we are told to stop fighting.
Rules of War*
[2:190] You may fight in the cause of GOD against those who attack you, but do not aggress. GOD does not love the aggressors.[2:191] You may kill those who wage war against you, and you may evict them whence they evicted you. Oppression is worse than murder. Do not fight them at the Sacred Masjid, unless they attack you therein. If they attack you, you may kill them. This is the just retribution for those disbelievers. [2:192] If they refrain, then GOD is Forgiver, Most Merciful. [2:193] You may also fight them to eliminate oppression, and to worship GOD freely. If they refrain, you shall not aggress; aggression is permitted only against the aggressors.
*2:190 All fighting is regulated by the basic rule in 60:8-9. Fighting is allowed strictly in self-defense, while aggression and oppression are strongly condemned throughout the Quran.
[5:87] O you who believe, do not prohibit good things that are made lawful by GOD, and do not aggress; GOD dislikes the aggressors.[8:61] If they resort to peace, so shall you, and put your trust in GOD. He is the Hearer, the Omniscient. [4:90] … if they leave you alone, refrain from fighting you, and offer you peace, then GOD gives you no excuse to fight them.
The Quran also reminds the submitters (muslims in Arabic) that they should not be provoked by past animosity into committing acts of aggression (5:2). Additionally, God insists that submitters (muslims) must be absolutely sure before striking in the cause of God (4:94). Anyone who offers one peace, cannot be attacked.
[4:94] O you who believe, if you strike in the cause of GOD, you shall be absolutely sure. Do not say to one who offers you peace, “You are not a believer,” seeking the spoils of this world. For GOD possesses infinite spoils. Remember that you used to be like them, and GOD blessed you. Therefore, you shall be absolutely sure (before you strike). GOD is fully Cognizant of everything you do.
Life is Sacred
The killing of innocent civilians by suicide bombers and terrorists is strongly condemned in the Quran. Taking any life—except in the course of justice, is forbidden. Even so, capital punishment is discouraged. Thus, those who commit these horrible acts are clearly not muslims, rather very evil people who try to justify their hatred and actions using God’s name (7:28).
The Major Commandments
[6:151] Say, “Come let me tell you what your Lord has really prohibited for you: You shall not set up idols besides Him. You shall honor your parents. You shall not kill your children from fear of poverty – we provide for you and for them. You shall not commit gross sins, obvious or hidden. You shall not kill – GOD has made life sacred – except in the course of justice. These are His commandments to you, that you may understand.”[17:33] You shall not kill any person – for GOD has made life sacred – except in the course of justice. If one is killed unjustly, then we give his heir authority to enforce justice. Thus, he shall not exceed the limits in avenging the murder; he will be helped. [25:68] They never implore beside GOD any other god, nor do they kill anyone – for GOD has made life sacred – except in the course of justice. Nor do they commit adultery. Those who commit these offenses will have to pay. [7:28] They commit a gross sin, then say, “We found our parents doing this, and GOD has commanded us to do it.” Say, “GOD never advocates sin. Are you saying about GOD what you do not know?”
Absolute Freedom to Believe / No compulsion in religion
Does Islam recommend or justify killing of disbelievers or those who decide to leave the religion? The answer is an emphatic “No”. God makes it very clear in the Quran, that there is no compulsion in religion (2:256). Free will is one of God’s precious gifts to humanity, and human beings cannot take away what God gave man. If someone does not wish to believe, they are to be left alone and not forced in any manner. A submitter’s (muslim) job is simply to invite people to God’s religion with kind enlightenment (16:125).
No Compulsion in Religion
[2:256] There shall be no compulsion in religion: the right way is now distinct from the wrong way. Anyone who denounces the devil and believes in GOD has grasped the strongest bond; one that never breaks. GOD is Hearer, Omniscient.
Absolute Freedom of Religion
[18:29] Proclaim: “This is the truth from your Lord,” then whoever wills let him believe, and whoever wills let him disbelieve. We have prepared for the transgressors a fire that will completely surround them. When they scream for help, they will be given a liquid like concentrated acid that scalds the faces. What a miserable drink! What a miserable destiny!
How to Spread God’s Message
[16:125] You shall invite to the path of your Lord with wisdom and kind enlightenment, and debate with them in the best possible manner. Your Lord knows best who has strayed from His path, and He knows best who are the guided ones.
Verses Relating To War-Time Situations that are Abused
There are a number of people who will quote parts of verses out of context, either out of ignorance, or deliberately, to promote a false view of the religion. We present here some of the verses with their context that clearly show that these “violent” verses only relate to war situations. As mentioned before, all wars and fighting are only in self-defence.
The verses are listed in a table format. In the left column is the verse or part of the verse that is commonly misquoted to try and show “Islam is a religion of violence”. In the right column, the full verse / context is shown, making it clear that the “violence” is only in self-defence / in the time of war.
To summarize, the religion of Submission to God (Islam) as described in the Quran is a peaceful and tolerant one. The only situations where fighting is allowed is in self-defense. Aggression is always prohibited.
Note: We would like to add that out of the 6,346 verses in the Quran, a very small percentage talk about “war”. Islam being a practical religion does cover the legitimacy of fighting as well as when it is unjustified. The believers in the time of Muhammad had to face hostile opposition because of their religious views, and were in many cases forced to fight to save their lives. However, the bulk of the Quran, as the religion of Islam in general, focuses on worshipping God, leading a righteous life and attaining salvation in the Hereafter. We invite you to read the Quran for yourself to verify this.