Quran and Violence

Question: Does the Quran really contain dozens of verses promoting violence?

Summary Answer:

The Quran contains at least 109 verses that call Muslims to war with nonbelievers for the sake of Islamic rule.  Some are quite graphic, with commands to chop off heads and fingers and kill infidels wherever they may be hiding.  Muslims who do not join the fight are called ‘hypocrites’ and warned that Allah will send them to Hell if they do not join the slaughter.

Unlike nearly all of the Old Testament verses of violence, the verses of violence in the Quran are mostly open-ended, meaning that they are not restrained by the historical context of the surrounding text.  They are part of the eternal, unchanging word of Allah, and just as relevant or subjective as anything else in the Quran.

Most of today’s Muslims exercise a personal choice to interpret their holy book’s many calls to violence according to what their own moral preconceptions find justifiable.  Apologists cater to their preferences with tenuous arguments that gloss over historical fact and generally do not stand up to scrutiny.  Still, it is important to note that the problem is not bad people, but bad ideology.

Unfortunately, there are very few verses of tolerance and peace to abrogate or even balance out the many that call for nonbelievers to be fought and subdued until they either accept humiliation, convert to Islam, or are killed.  Muhammad’s own martial legacy – and that of his companions – along with the remarkable stress on violence found in the Quran have produced a trail of blood and tears across world history.

The Quran:

Quran (2:191-193) – “And slay them wherever ye find them, and drive them out of the places whence they drove you out, for persecution [of Muslims] is worse than slaughter [of non-believers]… but if they desist, then lo! Allah is forgiving and merciful.   And fight them until persecution is no more, and religion is for Allah.”  The historical context of this passage is not defensive warfare, since Muhammad and his Muslims had just relocated to Medina and were not under attack by their Meccan adversaries.  In fact, the verses urge offensive warfare, in that Muslims are to drive Meccans out of their own city (which they later did).  The use of the word “persecution” by some Muslim translators is thus disingenuous (the actual Muslim words for persecution – “idtihad” – and oppression – a variation of “z-l-m” – do not appear in the verse).  The actual Arabic comes from “fitna” which can mean disbelief, or the disorder that results from unbelief or temptation.  Taken as a whole, the context makes clear that violence is being authorized until “religion is for Allah” – ie. unbelievers desist in their unbelief.

Quran (2:244) – “Then fight in the cause of Allah, and know that Allah Heareth and knoweth all things.”

Quran (2:216) – Fighting is prescribed for you, and ye dislike it. But it is possible that ye dislike a thing which is good for you, and that ye love a thing which is bad for you. But Allah knoweth, and ye know not.”  Not only does this verse establish that violence can be virtuous, but it also contradicts the myth that fighting is intended only in self-defense, since the audience was obviously not under attack at the time.  From the Hadith, we know that this verse was narrated at a time that Muhammad was actually trying to motivate his people into raiding merchant caravans for loot.

Quran (3:56) – “As to those who reject faith, I will punish them with terrible agony in this world and in the Hereafter, nor will they have anyone to help.”

Quran (3:151) – “Soon shall We cast terror into the hearts of the Unbelievers, for that they joined companions with Allah, for which He had sent no authority”.  This speaks directly of polytheists, yet it also includes Christians, since they believe in the Trinity (ie. what Muhammad incorrectly believed to be ‘joining companions to Allah’).

Quran (4:74) – “Let those fight in the way of Allah who sell the life of this world for the other. Whoso fighteth in the way of Allah, be he slain or be he victorious, on him We shall bestow a vast reward.”  The martyrs of Islam are unlike the early Christians, led meekly to the slaughter.  These Muslims are killed in battle, as they attempt to inflict death and destruction for the cause of Allah.  Here is the theological basis for today’s suicide bombers.

Quran (4:76) – “Those who believe fight in the cause of Allah…”

Quran (4:89) – “They but wish that ye should reject Faith, as they do, and thus be on the same footing (as they): But take not friends from their ranks until they flee in the way of Allah (From what is forbidden). But if they turn renegades, seize them and slay them wherever ye find them; and (in any case) take no friends or helpers from their ranks.”

Quran (4:95) – “Not equal are those believers who sit (at home) and receive no hurt, and those who strive and fight in the cause of Allah with their goods and their persons. Allah hath granted a grade higher to those who strive and fight with their goods and persons than to those who sit (at home). Unto all (in Faith) Hath Allah promised good: But those who strive and fight Hath He distinguished above those who sit (at home) by a special reward,-”  This passage criticizes “peaceful” Muslims who do not join in the violence, letting them know that they are less worthy in Allah’s eyes.  It also demolishes the modern myth that “Jihad” doesn’t mean holy war in the Quran, but rather a spiritual struggle.  Not only is the Arabic word used in this passage, but it is clearly not referring to anything spiritual, since the physically disabled are given exemption.  (The Hadith reveals the context of the passage to be in response to a blind man’s protest that he is unable to engage in Jihad and this is reflected in other translations of the verse).

Quran (4:104) – “And be not weak hearted in pursuit of the enemy; if you suffer pain, then surely they (too) suffer pain as you suffer pain…”  Is pursuing an injured and retreating enemy really an act of self-defense?

Quran (5:33) – “The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His messenger and strive to make mischief in the land is only this, that they should be murdered or crucified or their hands and their feet should be cut off on opposite sides or they should be imprisoned; this shall be as a disgrace for them in this world, and in the hereafter they shall have a grievous chastisement”

Quran (8:12) – “I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them”  No reasonable person would interpret this to mean a spiritual struggle.

Quran (8:15) – “O ye who believe! When ye meet those who disbelieve in battle, turn not your backs to them. (16)Whoso on that day turneth his back to them, unless maneuvering for battle or intent to join a company, he truly hath incurred wrath from Allah, and his habitation will be hell, a hapless journey’s end.”

Quran (8:39) – “And fight with them until there is no more fitna (disorder, unbelief) and religion should be only for Allah”  Some translations interpret “fitna” as “persecution”, but the traditional understanding of this word is not supported by the historical context (See notes for  2:293, also).  The Meccans were simply refusing Muhammad access to their city during Haj.  Other Muslims were allowed to travel there – just not as an armed group, since Muhammad had declared war on Mecca prior to his eviction.  The Meccans were also acting in defense of their religion, since it was Muhammad’s intention to destroy their idols and establish Islam by force (which he later did).  Hence the critical part of this verse is to fight until “religion is only for Allah”, meaning that the true justification of violence was the unbelief of the opposition.  According to the Sira (Ibn Ishaq/Hisham 324) Muhammad further explains that “Allah must have no rivals.”

Quran (8:57) – “If thou comest on them in the war, deal with them so as to strike fear in those who are behind them, that haply they may remember.”

Quran (8:59-60) – “And let not those who disbelieve suppose that they can outstrip (Allah’s Purpose). Lo! they cannot escape.  Make ready for them all thou canst of (armed) force and of horses tethered, that thereby ye may dismay the enemy of Allah and your enemy.”

Quran (8:65) – “O Prophet, exhort the believers to fight…”

Quran (9:5) – “So when the sacred months have passed away, then slay the idolaters wherever you find them, and take them captives and besiege them and lie in wait for them in every ambush, then if they repent and keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate, leave their way free to them.”  According to this verse, the best way of staying safe from Muslim violence is to convert to Islam.  Prayer (salat) and the poor tax (zakat) are among the religion’s Five Pillars.

Quran (9:14) – “Fight them, Allah will punish them by your hands and bring them to disgrace…”

Quran (9:20) – “Those who believe, and have left their homes and striven with their wealth and their lives in Allah’s way are of much greater worth in Allah’s sight. These are they who are triumphant.”  The “striving” spoken of here is Jihad (Arabic).

Quran (9:29) – “Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.”  “People of the Book” refers to Christians and Jews.  This was one of the final “revelations” from Allah and it set in motion the tenacious military expansion, in which Muhammad’s companions managed to conquer two-thirds of the Christian world in the next 100 years.  Islam is intended to dominate all other people and faiths.

Quran (9:30) – “And the Jews say: Ezra is the son of Allah; and the Christians say: The Messiah is the son of Allah; these are the words of their mouths; they imitate the saying of those who disbelieved before; may Allah destroy them; how they are turned away!”

Quran (9:38-39) – “O ye who believe! what is the matter with you, that, when ye are asked to go forth in the cause of Allah, ye cling heavily to the earth? Do ye prefer the life of this world to the Hereafter? But little is the comfort of this life, as compared with the Hereafter. Unless ye go forth, He will punish you with a grievous penalty, and put others in your place.”  This is a warning to those who refuse to fight, that they will be punished with Hell.

Quran (9:41) – “Go forth, light-armed and heavy-armed, and strive with your wealth and your lives in the way of Allah! That is best for you if ye but knew.”  See also the verse that follows (9:42) – “If there had been immediate gain (in sight), and the journey easy, they would (all) without doubt have followed thee, but the distance was long, (and weighed) on them”  This contradicts the myth that Muslims are to fight only in self-defense, since the wording implies that battle will be waged a long distance from home (in another country and on Christian soil, in this case, according to the historians).

Quran (9:73) – “O Prophet! strive hard against the unbelievers and the hypocrites and be unyielding to them; and their abode is hell, and evil is the destination.”  Dehumanizing those who reject Islam, by reminding Muslims that they are merely firewood for Hell, makes it easier to justify slaughter.  It also explains why today’s devout Muslims have little regard for those outside the faith.

Quran (9:88) – “But the Messenger, and those who believe with him, strive and fight with their wealth and their persons: for them are (all) good things: and it is they who will prosper.”

Quran (9:111) – “Allah hath purchased of the believers their persons and their goods; for theirs (in return) is the garden (of Paradise): they fight in His cause, and slay and are slain: a promise binding on Him in truth, through the Law, the Gospel, and the Quran: and who is more faithful to his covenant than Allah? then rejoice in the bargain which ye have concluded: that is the achievement supreme.”


Quran (9:123) – “O you who believe! fight those of the unbelievers who are near to you and let them find in you hardness.”


Quran (17:16) – “And when We wish to destroy a town, We send Our commandment to the people of it who lead easy lives, but they transgress therein; thus the word proves true against it, so We destroy it with utter destruction.”  Note that the crime is moral transgression, and the punishment is “utter destruction.”  (Before ordering the 9/11 attacks, Osama bin Laden first issued Americans an invitation to Islam).


Quran (18:65-81) – This parable lays the theological groundwork for honor killings, in which a family member is murdered because they brought shame to the family, either through apostasy or perceived moral indiscretion.  The story (which is not found in any Jewish or Christian source) tells of Moses encountering a man with “special knowledge” who does things which don’t seem to make sense on the surface, but are then justified according to later explanation.  One such action is to murder a youth for no apparent reason (74).  However, the wise man later explains that it was feared that the boy would “grieve” his parents by “disobedience and ingratitude.”  He was killed so that Allah could provide them a ‘better’ son.  (Note: This is one reason why honor killing is sanctioned by Sharia.  Reliance of the Traveler (Umdat al-Saliq) says that punishment for murder is not applicable when a parent or grandparent kills their offspring (o.1.1-2).)


Quran (21:44) – “We gave the good things of this life to these men and their fathers until the period grew long for them; See they not that We gradually reduce the land (in their control) from its outlying borders? Is it then they who will win?”


Quran (25:52) – “Therefore listen not to the Unbelievers, but strive against them with the utmost strenuousness…”   “Strive against” is Jihad – obviously not in the personal context.  It’s also significant to point out that this is a Meccan verse.


Quran (33:60-62) – “If the hypocrites, and those in whose hearts is a disease, and the alarmists in the city do not cease, We verily shall urge thee on against them, then they will be your neighbors in it but a little while.  Accursed, they will be seized wherever found and slain with a (fierce) slaughter.”   This passage sanctions the slaughter (rendered “merciless” and “horrible murder” in other translations) against three groups: Hypocrites (Muslims who refuse to “fight in the way of Allah” (3:167) and hence don’t act as Muslims should), those with “diseased hearts” (which include Jews and Christians 5:51-52), and “alarmists” or “agitators who include those who merely speak out against Islam, according to Muhammad’s biographers.  It is worth noting that the victims are to be sought out by Muslims, which is what today’s terrorists do.  If this passage is meant merely to apply to the city of Medina, then it is unclear why it is included in Allah’s eternal word to Muslim generations.


Quran (47:3-4) – “Those who reject Allah follow vanities, while those who believe follow the truth from their lord.  Thus does Allah set forth form men their lessons by similitude.  Therefore when you meet in battle those who disbelieve, then smite the necks until when you have overcome them, then make (them) prisoners,”  Those who reject Allah are to be subdued in battle.  The verse goes on to say the only reason Allah doesn’t do the dirty work himself is in order to to test the faithfulness of Muslims.  Those who kill pass the test. “But if it had been Allah’s Will, He could certainly have exacted retribution from them (Himself); but (He lets you fight) in order to test you, some with others. But those who are slain in the Way of Allah,- He will never let their deeds be lost.”


Quran (47:35) – “Be not weary and faint-hearted, crying for peace, when ye should be uppermost (Shakir: “have the upper hand”) for Allah is with you,”  


Quran (48:17) – “There is no blame for the blind, nor is there blame for the lame, nor is there blame for the sick (that they go not forth to war). And whoso obeyeth Allah and His messenger, He will make him enter Gardens underneath which rivers flow; and whoso turneth back, him will He punish with a painful doom.”  Contemporary apologists sometimes claim that Jihad means ‘spiritual struggle.’  Is so, then why are the blind, lame and sick exempted?  This verse also says that those who do not fight will suffer torment in hell.


Quran (48:29) – “Muhammad is the messenger of Allah. And those with him are hard (ruthless) against the disbelievers and merciful among themselves”  Islam is not about treating everyone equally.  There are two very distinct standards that are applied based on religious status.  Also the word used for ‘hard’ or ‘ruthless’ in this verse shares the same root as the word translated as ‘painful’ or severe’ in verse 16.


Quran (61:4) – “Surely Allah loves those who fight in His way”  Religion of Peace, indeed!  This is followed by (61:9): “He it is who has sent His Messenger (Mohammed) with guidance and the religion of truth (Islam) to make it victorious over all religions even though the infidels may resist.”


Quran (61:10-12) – “O ye who believe! Shall I lead you to a bargain that will save you from a grievous Penalty?- That ye believe in Allah and His Messenger, and that ye strive (your utmost) in the Cause of Allah, with your property and your persons: That will be best for you, if ye but knew! He will forgive you your sins, and admit you to Gardens beneath which Rivers flow, and to beautiful mansions in Gardens of Eternity.”  This verse was given in battle.  It uses the Arabic word, Jihad.


Quran (66:9) – “O Prophet! Strive against the disbelievers and the hypocrites, and be stern with them. Hell will be their home, a hapless journey’s end.”  The root word of “Jihad” is used again here.  The context is clearly holy war, and the scope of violence is broadened to include “hypocrites” – those who call themselves Muslims but do not act as such.

From the Hadith:


Bukhari (52:177) – Allah’s Apostle said, “The Hour will not be established until you fight with the Jews, and the stone behind which a Jew will be hiding will say. “O Muslim! There is a Jew hiding behind me, so kill him.”


Bukhari (52:256) – The Prophet… was asked whether it was permissible to attack the pagan warriors at night with the probability of exposing their women and children to danger. The Prophet replied, “They (i.e. women and children) are from them (i.e. pagans).”  In this command, Muhammad establishes that it is permissible to kill non-combatants in the process of killing a perceived enemy.  This provides justification for the many Islamic terror bombings.


Bukhari (52:220) – Allah’s Apostle said… ‘I have been made victorious with terror’


Abu Dawud (14:2526) – The Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) said: Three things are the roots of faith: to refrain from (killing) a person who utters, “There is no god but Allah” and not to declare him unbeliever whatever sin he commits, and not to excommunicate him from Islam for his any action; and jihad will be performed continuously since the day Allah sent me as a prophet until the day the last member of my community will fight with the Dajjal (Antichrist)


Abu Dawud (14:2527) – The Prophet said: Striving in the path of Allah (jihad) is incumbent on you along with every ruler, whether he is pious or impious


Muslim (1:33) – the Messenger of Allah said: I have been commanded to fight against people till they testify that there is no god but Allah, that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah


Bukhari (8:387) – Allah’s Apostle said, “I have been ordered to fight the people till they say: ‘None has the right to be worshipped but Allah’.  And if they say so, pray like our prayers, face our Qibla and slaughter as we slaughter, then their blood and property will be sacred to us and we will not interfere with them except legally.”


Muslim (1:30) – “The Messenger of Allah said: I have been commanded to fight against people so long as they do not declare that there is no god but Allah.”


Muslim (1:149) – “Abu Dharr reported: I said: Messenger of Allah, which of the deeds is the best? He (the Holy Prophet) replied: Belief in Allah and Jihad in His cause…”


Muslim (20:4645) – “…He (the Messenger of Allah) did that and said: There is another act which elevates the position of a man in Paradise to a grade one hundred (higher), and the elevation between one grade and the other is equal to the height of the heaven from the earth. He (Abu Sa’id) said: What is that act? He replied: Jihad in the way of Allah! Jihad in the way of Allah!”


Muslim (20:4696) – “the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) said: ‘One who died but did not fight in the way of Allah nor did he express any desire (or determination) for Jihid died the death of a hypocrite.'”


Muslim (19:4321-4323) – Three separate hadith in which Muhammad shrugs over the news that innocent children were killed in a raid by his men against unbelievers.  His response: “They are of them (meaning the enemy).”


Muslim (19:4294) – “When the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) appointed anyone as leader of an army or detachment he would especially exhort him… He would say: Fight in the name of Allah and in the way of Allah. Fight against those who disbelieve in Allah. Make a holy war…  When you meet your enemies who are polytheists, invite them to three courses of action. If they respond to any one of these, you also accept it and withhold yourself from doing them any harm. Invite them to (accept) Islam; if they respond to you, accept it from them and desist from fighting against them… If they refuse to accept Islam, demand from them the Jizya. If they agree to pay, accept it from them and hold off your hands. If they refuse to pay the tax, seek Allah’s help and fight them.


Tabari 7:97  The morning after the murder of Ashraf, the Prophet declared, “Kill any Jew who falls under your power.”  Ashraf was a poet, killed by Muhammad’s men because he insulted Islam.  Here, Muhammad widens the scope of his orders to kill.  An innocent Jewish businessman was then slain by his Muslim partner, merely for being non-Muslim.


Tabari 9:69  “Killing Unbelievers is a small matter to us”  The words of Muhammad, prophet of Islam.


Tabari 17:187  “‘By God, our religion (din) from which we have departed is better and more correct than that which these people follow. Their religion does not stop them from shedding blood, terrifying the roads, and seizing properties.’ And they returned to their former religion.”  The words of a group of Christians who had converted to Islam, but realized their error after being shocked by the violence and looting committed in the name of Allah.  The price of their decision to return to a religion of peace was that the men were beheaded and the woman and children enslaved by the caliph Ali.


Ibn Ishaq/Hisham 327: – “Allah said, ‘A prophet must slaughter before collecting captives. A slaughtered enemy is driven from the land. Muhammad, you craved the desires of this world, its goods and the ransom captives would bring. But Allah desires killing them to manifest the religion.’”


Ibn Ishaq/Hisham 990: – Lest anyone think that cutting off someone’s head while screaming ‘Allah Akbar!’ is a modern creation, here is an account of that very practice under Muhammad, who seems to approve.


Ibn Ishaq/Hisham 992: – “Fight everyone in the way of Allah and kill those who disbelieve in Allah.”  Muhammad’s instructions to his men prior to a military raid.


Additional Notes:

Other than the fact that Muslims haven’t killed every non-Muslim under their domain, there is very little else that they can point to as proof that theirs is a peaceful, tolerant religion.  Where Islam is dominant (as in the Middle East and Pakistan) religious minorities suffer brutal persecution with little resistance.  Where Islam is in the minority (as in Thailand, the Philippines and Europe) there is the threat of violence if Muslim demands are not met.  Either situation seems to provide a justification for religious terrorism, which is persistent and endemic to Islamic fundamentalism.


The reasons are obvious and begin with the Quran.  Few verses of Islam’s most sacred text can be construed to fit the contemporary virtues of religious tolerance and universal brotherhood.  Those that do are earlier “Meccan” verses which are obviously abrogated by later ones.  This is why Muslim apologists speak of the “risks” of trying to interpret the Quran without their “assistance” – even while claiming that it is a perfect book.


Far from being mere history or theological construct, the violent verses of the Quran have played a key role in very real massacre and genocide.  This includes the brutal slaughter of tens of millions of Hindus for five centuries beginning around 1000 AD with Mahmud of Ghazni’s bloody conquest.  Both he and the later Tamerlane (Islam’s Genghis Khan) slaughtered an untold number merely for defending their temples from destruction.  Buddhism was very nearly wiped off the Indian subcontinent.  Judaism and Christianity met the same fate (albeit more slowly) in areas conquered by Muslim armies, including the Middle East, North Africa and parts of Europe, including today’s Turkey.  Zoroastrianism, the ancient religion of a proud Persian people is despised by Muslims and barely survives in modern Iran.


So ingrained is violence in the religion that Islam has never really stopped being at war, either with other religions or with itself.


Muhammad was a military leader, laying siege to towns, massacring the men, raping their women, enslaving their children, and taking the property of others as his own.  On several occasions he rejected offers of surrender from the besieged inhabitants and even butchered captives.  He actually inspired his followers to battle when they did not feel it was right to fight, promising them slaves and booty if they did and threatening them with Hell if they did not.  Muhammad allowed his men to rape traumatized women captured in battle, usually on the very day their husbands and family members were slaughtered.


It is important to emphasize that, for the most part, Muslim armies waged aggressive campaigns, and the religion’s most dramatic military conquests were made by the actual companions of Muhammad in the decades following his death.  The early Islamic principle of warfare was that the civilian population of a town was to be destroyed (i.e. men executed, women and children taken as slaves) if they defended themselves.  Although modern apologists often claim that Muslims are only supposed to attack in self-defense, this is an oxymoron that is flatly contradicted by the accounts of Islamic historians and others that go back to the time of Muhammad.


Consider the example of the Qurayza Jews, who were completely obliterated only five years after Muhammad arrived in Medina.  Their leader opted to stay neutral when their town was besieged by a Meccan army that  was sent to take revenge for Muhammad’s deadly caravan raids.  The tribe killed no one from either side and even surrendered peacefully to Muhammad after the Meccans had been turned back.  Yet the prophet of Islam had every male member of the Qurayza beheaded, and every woman and child enslaved, even raping one of the captives himself (what Muslim apologists might refer to as “same day marriage”).


One of Islam’s most revered modern scholars, Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, openly sanctions offensive Jihad: “In the Jihad which you are seeking, you look for the enemy and invade him. This type of Jihad takes place only when the Islamic state is invading other [countries] in order to spread the word of Islam and to remove obstacles standing in its way.”  Elsewhere, he notes: “Islam has the right to take the initiative…this is God’s religion and it is for the whole world. It has the right to destroy all obstacles in the form of institutions and traditions … it attacks institutions and traditions to release human beings from their poisonous influences, which distort human nature and curtail human freedom. Those who say that Islamic Jihad was merely for the defense of the ‘homeland of Islam’ diminish the greatness of the Islamic way of life.”


Muhammad’s failure to leave a clear line of succession resulted in perpetual internal war following his death.  Those who knew him best first fought to keep remote tribes from leaving Islam and reverting to their preferred religion (the Ridda or ‘Apostasy wars’).  Then, within the closer community, early Meccan converts battled later ones.  Hostility developed between those immigrants who had traveled with Muhammad to Mecca and the Ansar at Medina who had helped them settle in.  Finally there was a violent struggle within Muhammad’s own family between his favorite wife and favorite daughter – a jagged schism that has left Shias and Sunnis at each others’ throats to this day.


The strangest and most untrue thing that can be said about Islam is that it is a Religion of Peace.  If every standard by which the West is judged and condemned (slavery, imperialism, intolerance, misogyny, sexual repression, warfare…) were applied equally to Islam, the verdict would be devastating.  Islam never gives up what it conquers, be it religion, culture, language or life.  Neither does it make apologies or any real effort at moral progress.  It is the least open to dialogue and the most self-absorbed.  It is convinced of its own perfection, yet brutally shuns self-examination and represses criticism.


This is what makes the Quran’s verses of violence so dangerous.  They are given the weight of divine command.  While Muslim terrorists take them as literally as anything else in their holy book, and understand that Islam is incomplete without Jihad, moderates offer little to contradict them – outside of opinion.  Indeed, what do they have?  Speaking of peace and love may win over the ignorant, but when every twelfth verse of Islam’s holiest book either speaks to Allah’s hatred for non-Muslims or calls for their death, forced conversion, or subjugation, it’s little wonder that sympathy for terrorism runs as deeply as it does in the broader community – even if most Muslims personally prefer not to interpret their religion in this way.


Although scholars like Ibn Khaldun, one of Islam’s most respected philosophers, understood that“the holy war is a religious duty, because of the universalism of the Muslim mission and (the obligation to) convert everybody to Islam either by persuasion or by force”, many other Muslims are either unaware or willfully ignorant of the Quran’s near absence of verses that preach universal non-violence.  Their understanding of Islam comes from what they are taught by others.  In the West, it is typical for believers to think that their religion must be like Christianity – preaching the New Testament virtues of peace, love, and tolerance – because Muslims are taught that Islam is supposed to be superior in every way.  They are somewhat surprised and embarrassed to learn that the evidence of the Quran and the bloody history of Islam are very much in contradiction to this.


Others simply accept the violence.  In 1991, a Palestinian couple in America was convicted of stabbing their daughter to death for being too Westernized.  A family friend came to their defense, excoriating the jury for not understanding the “culture”, claiming that the father was merely following “the religion” and saying that the couple had to “discipline their daughter or lose respect.” (source).  In 2011, unrepentant Palestinian terrorists, responsible for the brutal murders of civilians, women and children explicitly in the name of Allah were treated to a luxurious “holy pilgrimage” to Mecca by the Saudi king – without a single Muslim voice raised in protest.


For their part, Western liberals would do well not to sacrifice critical thinking to the god of political correctness, or look for reasons to bring other religion down to the level of Islam merely to avoid the existential truth that this it is both different and dangerous.


There are just too many Muslims who take the Quran literally… and too many others who couldn’t care less about the violence done in the name of Islam.

© 2006-2011 TheReligionofPeace.com. All rights reserved.

The Difference Between Islam and Christianity


I browsed thru your website and found it very interesting. My name is Adly. I am a 24 year old Muslim. I’m not very well versed in Islam myself but I’m learning. At the same time I am also learning (slowly) about Christianity. I would like to know sir, about what you think about Islam and Muslims. Do you think that we’re… what’s the word… lost? I would like to know if you have an opinion. I will not take any offence, heck, you might know more about Islam than I do! So if you have time, I would really appreciate it if you would give me your opinion.

Thank you very much.



Thank you for writing. I really appreciate those people who are interested in investigating all truth claims and thinking through what they should or should not accept. I fear that in our culture today we place too little emphasis on intelligent thought and critical investigation. Even if one believes the right thing, believing it by happenstance is not a justifiable position.

To your question. In investigating such important claims, we must be very careful that we are open and honest in our critiques. We should use the same criteria for judging all faiths’ assertions, and we should understand each belief system from the point of view of its proponents – so as to not characterize the belief system.

Both Christianity and Islam hold to the belief that those who deny the basic tenets of their faith are to be judged on the Last Day. In fact one of the foundational beliefs of the faith is that a final day of judgement is coming, followed by heaven for the faithful and hell for the lost. (See http://www.whyislam.org/submission/articles-of-faith/belief-in-judgement-day/)

This belief is outlined in Sura 69:15-33 where we read:

15. On that Day shall the (Great) Event come to pass. 16. And the sky will be rent asunder, for it will that Day be flimsy, 17. And the angels will be on its sides, and eight will, that Day, bear the Throne of thy Lord above them. 18. That Day shall ye be brought to Judgment: not an act of yours that ye hide will be hidden.
30. (The stern command will say): “Seize ye him, and bind ye him, 31. “And burn ye him in the Blazing Fire. 32. “Further, make him march in a chain, whereof the length is seventy cubits! 33. “This was he that would not believe in Allah Most High.(1)

Christianity also teaches that those who do not believe in Jesus as their personal saviour will perish in hell. The Gospel of John states:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. (John 3:16-18)(2)

So, both faiths hold to a form of judgement for the non-believer. However, the reasons for judgement are very different. Islam believes that people are born as a kind of blank slate. They are not fallen and sinful beings, but they are not “saved” either. In order to be saved it is important to do good deeds to earn their “salvation”.

Christianity holds that people are born with a sin nature that separates them from God. This nature means that human beings have a penchant and proclivity to sin that they inherited from the first man, Adam, after he sinned in the Garden of Eden. Further, it means that man is incapable of doing any work that will earn him salvation. Man must be transformed by the Spirit of God in order to be found holy enough to abide in God’s presence.

Much of the differences in these truth claims can be seen in how each faith views the fall of Adam. Both Islam and Christianity believe that God created Adam in a Paradise as the first man, and that Adam disobeyed God by taking of a forbidden fruit.

Islam, though, holds Adam to be a prophet of God. As with most prophets in the Islamic faith, Adam should be sinless. It does not make sense to an Islamic viewpoint that a prophet of God would be sinful the way the average man is today. Norman Geisler, in his book Answering Islam writes,

“Muslim scholars are of the opinion that prophets are either completely sinless or at least free from all major sins or faults. Some orthodox Muslims claim that even the power of sinning does not exist in the prophets. For example, Ibn Khaldun, the classical Muslim scholar (d.1406) says that ‘their characteristic mark is that before the coming revelation to them they were all found to be naturally good and sagacious, such men as shun blameworthy actions and all things unclean.’ This, he believes ‘is the meaning of their impeccability. (isma) Thus they seem to have an instinctive inclination to rise above things that are blameworthy and even shrink from them as though such things were repugnant to their born disposition.”(3)

This is one example, though, of where we have a logical contradiction. If Adam was made perfect by God and part of a world in which no sin yet existed, and he willingly did sin, then how could he have “shunned blameworthy actions”? Many Muslim scholars try to resolve this by claiming that Adam didn’t really sin, but merely had a lapse of judgement. This doesn’t solve the issue, though. If Adam didn’t commit a grievous sin, then how does one account for the introduction of evil in the world? Also, if directly disobeying a command of God is just a lapse in judgement, then how could anything be considered really sinful?

Now this type of tension in Islamic belief isn’t merely restricted to the fall of Adam. Muslims run into a real problem with the problem of evil because of their insistence that God is so sovereign, every act originates with him – even evil ones! This type of extreme determinism is illustrated in a quote from the authoritative Islamic theologian Al-Maturidi (d.944 A.D.) who writes:

“The sins of man occur by God’s will (irada), wish (mashi’a), ordinance (qada’), and power (qadr), but not by His pleasure (rida), love (mahabba), and command (amr), according to His Word, be He exalted: ‘He whom God wills to send astray, He maketh his bosom close and narrow’ (6:125), and His Word: ‘Yet ye will nothing, unless God wills it.'(76:31). If the creature were able to act by his own will, he could prevail over the will of God- be He exalted.”(4)

You can see in the example above that we have only God’s will in view here. Man cannot exercise his own volition. However, this means that every sin anyone commits, it was God who willed it and therefore forced the human to commit it. Thus God become the author of evil by instigating evil acts, and he becomes incredibly unjust in condemning men for committing the very acts that he willed them to do! (For the Christian position on evil see my page “Didn’t God Create Evil, Too?“)

I said at the start of this letter that in judging truth-claims one should use the same yardstick for all faiths. A good way of determining the validity of any truth claim is to test it two ways – is it consistent in all affirmations and beliefs and does it correspond with what we know to be true about the world. The Islam view of prophets being sinless is inconsistent with what it means to be human. Also, the position that Adam’s action in Eden wasn’t truly a sin demonstrates an inconsistent position of the Islamic faith. Further, the idea that God is ultimately responsible for all sin and evil on earth demonstrates the dissonance in the Islamic belief system.

I want to thank you again for taking the time to write and your willingness to investigate more fully the claims of both Islam and Christianity. I pray that you will look at the facts objectively and rationally and that in so doing you will find the truth.

Written by Lenny Esposito


[1] Ali, Abdullah Yusuf The English Translation Of The Holy Qu’ran http://www.islam101.com/quran/yusufAli/QURAN/69.htm2000 Sura 69:15-18, 30-33

[2] The Holy Bible King James Version http://www.blueletterbible.org/ 2000 John 3:16-18

[3] Geisler, Norman and Saleeb, Abdul Answering Islam
Baker Books GrandRapids, Michigan (1993) p.51

[4] Islam Edited by John Alden Williams, George Braziller, New York (1962) p.180

A Geographic History of Islamic States through Maps

Maps can tell a great story without words, especially by showing a temporal depiction of the change of cultures and boundaries. Throughout history though, various empires conquered many lands across most of Asia and left behind many cultural influences that have molded today’s ethnic groups and languages in the region.

There are three main language families in this region depicted in the below map: Semitic (Yellow), Indo-Iranian (Orange), and Turkic (Green).

Semitic language roots trace back to the days of the Sumerians and Akkadians estimated around 2400 BC. These languages have evolved over time into the most commonly known languages of Arabic (commonly used in all Arab States), Hebrew (commonly used in Israel), Amharic (commonly used in Ethiopia), and Tigrinya (commonly used in Eritrea).

Indo-Iranian language roots trace back to 6th century BC. Indo-Iranian is most commonly known today as the Persian language family consisting of mainly Kurdish, Farsi, Pashto, Tajik, and Dari. Other Indo-Iranian languages are located in Pakistan and India.

Turkic language roots trace back to the early Middle Ages (around 8th century AD). Before the Turkic expansion occurred, most Turks were located in the Area known as Mongolia today. In the years following the early Middle Ages, the Turks expanded in all parts of Asia from Siberia to India to Turkey covering a vast land mass and influencing many cultures along the way. Today, Turkish, Azerbaijani, and the languages of the former Soviet republics in Central Asia make up what is part of the Turkic family.

The following maps are courtesy of the Gulf/2000 Project funded by Columbia University:

Linguistic Composition of Southwest Asian States: Present Day

The following group of maps reveals historic changes as a result of the various conquerors, empires, and cultures from 1450 to 2000 AD. Throughout the years, the only long standing empires have been the Ottoman/Turkey and Persia/Iran.

Islamic States ca. AD 1450
Islamic States ca. AD 1510
Islamic States ca. AD 1550
Islamic States ca. AD 1625
Islamic States ca. AD 1700
Islamic States ca. AD 1750
Islamic States ca. AD 1800
Islamic States ca. AD 1840
Islamic States ca. AD 1850
Islamic States ca. AD 1900
Islamic States ca. AD 1925
Islamic States ca. AD 1950
Islamic States ca. AD 2000

Thanks to Geocrusader https://geocrusader80.wordpress.com/about/

Turkey Supports ISIS Islamist Terrorists

“Turkey’s support for ISIS Islamist terrorists. Aiding jihadists could put Ankara at odds with Iran”

The battle in Iraq consists of “Turkish-backed Sunni jihadis rebelling against an Iranian-backed Shi’ite-oriented central government,” I wrote in a recent article.

Some readers question that the Republic of Turkey has supported the “Islamic State in Iraq and Syria,” the main Sunni group fighting in Iraq. They point to ISIS attacks on Turkish interests, within Turkey, along its border with Syria, and in Mosul and a successful recent meeting of the Turkish and Iranian presidents. Good points, but they can be explained.

Continue reading “Turkey Supports ISIS Islamist Terrorists”

Prophecy Being Fulfilled now in Iraq and Iran?

If you are a student of Bible prophecy, then I want you to get your Bible out and open it to Daniel chapter 8. Now, if you consult nearly any commentary on the Book of Daniel, you’ll find they nearly all interpret this prophecy as fulfilled in history. The prophecy begins with a ram butting to the west, to the north and to the south, which most believe refers to the historical conquests of the Medo-Persian Empire:

Continue reading “Prophecy Being Fulfilled now in Iraq and Iran?”

What the New Caliphate mean in Middle East!

Two weeks ago, our illustrious President Obama stood in the White House and made the following statement:

“[T]he truth of the matter is that for all the challenges we face, all the problems that we have, if you had to be – if you had to choose any moment to be born in human history, not knowing what your position was going to be, who you were going to be, you’d choose this time. The world is less violent than it has ever been. It is healthier than it has ever been. It is more tolerant than it has ever been. It is better fed then it’s ever been. It is more educated than it’s ever been.”

Continue reading “What the New Caliphate mean in Middle East!”

Why the Islamic Antichrist Theory Matters

Why the Islamic Antichrist Theory Matters

As a well-known prophecy teacher, my email inbox is frequently full of questions, comments and news articles from those interested in biblical prophecy. While some of these emails are certainly helpful and interesting, there are also many that I would put into the category of “biblical prophecy as morbid trivia.”

What I mean is that there are many believers who are overly fixated on discussing the many intricate details concerning the many dark events looming on the horizon. Now, to be clear, I say this as someone who deeply values biblical prophecy, but I will be the first to admit that much of what passes for biblical prophecy today is a mixture of conspiracy theories and extra-biblical concepts with only a thin ribbon of biblical passages intertwined throughout, so as to give it the appearance of credibility. I will also be the first to acknowledge that there are numerous Christians who have lost their way, having become completely distracted from the primary mandate of the Christian church, which is the proclamation of the gospel of the Kingdom – in both word and deed.
Continue reading “Why the Islamic Antichrist Theory Matters”

Questions Muslims Ask Christians – Vice Versa

Answering Muslim Questions : Has The Bible Been Corrupted?

When/Where?  Before Muhammad? 

Look at the Qur’anic Evidence:

“God’s word does not change” (Suras 3:2,78; 4:135; 6:34; 10:64; 18:26; 35:42; 50:28-29).

“No difference between Bible & Qur’an” (Suras 2:136; 3:2-3).

“Muslims must ask Christians” (Suras 10:94; 21:7)

“Dispute not with the Christians” (Sura 29:46)

“Muslims are to believe in the Bible” (Sura 4:136)
Continue reading “Questions Muslims Ask Christians – Vice Versa”

Founder Of Islam At Medina

1. The Muslim Community at Medina.

Muhammad and the early Muslims soon settled in Medina though some of the Meccan emigrants suffered fevers from the change of climate. (Mecca is a hot, dry city whereas Medina is set in a fertile valley with a more humid climate). He often praised the virtues of the city that had accepted him as its leader. He stated that Allah would punish those who harmed its inhabitants, that it has its own way of driving out evil people, and that Dajjal (the Islamic equivalent of the Antichrist) would not be able to enter it. An indication of the depth of Muhammad’s love for the city come out clearly in other proclamations he made about it, such as this one:

“I have declared sacred the territory between the two lava plains of Medina, so its trees should not be cut down, or its game killed”; and he also said “Medina is best for them if they knew. No one leaves it through dislike of it without Allah putting in it someone better than he in place of him; and no one will stay there in spite of its hardships and distress without my being an intercessor or witness on behalf of him on the Day of Resurrection”. (Sahih Muslim, Vol. 2, p. 686).

At the beginning of their stay in Medina, however, the early Muslims endured extreme poverty. Muhammad himself soon grew accustomed to the paucity of provisions and possessions and throughout his ten years as ruler of the city (and, in later years, of much of Arabia itself), he allowed himself on y the bare necessities of life. At Mecca he had married his second wife Sauda, shortly after Khadija’s death and now in Medina, took Ayishah, daughter of Abu Bakr, as wife. Of all his wives, Ayishah was the only one who had never been married before. Muhammad was, in fact, betrothed to her when she was only twelve years of age. He had no apartment of his own but took turns in dwelling in the simple apartments he a built for his wives.

His followers also adapted to the new environment and a spirit of brotherhood soon developed between the Ansar and the Muhajirun. Up to fifty of the emigrants were taken individually as brothers by the citizens of Medina and were entitled to inherit from them.

Not all the citizens of Medina welcomed Muhammad. There were three Jewish tribes who caused him much trouble in and around the city, of whose fates more will be said later. Some of the Arabs also were unwilling to acknowledge his leadership but, as the city as a whole had taken him as leader, the disaffected parties generally gave a token outward acknowledgement of his leadership and acceptance of his religion and its practices. Behind the scenes, however, discontent was rarely quiet and Muhammad was constantly aware of the rumblings going on around him.

Such outward conformity, cloaking an opposition ill-concealed, was more dangerous than open animosity. The class soon became peculiarly obnoxious to Mahomet; he established through his adherents a close and searching watch over both their words and actions; and in due time followed up his espionage by acts which struck dismay into the hearts of the disaffected. (Muir,The Life of Mahomet, p. 176).

The leader of this group was one Abdullah ibn Ubayy. He had known nothing of the pledges of Aqabah and at the time had sought to placate the Meccans who were suspicious of the developing kinship between Muhammad and the citizens of Medina who had come to the fairs. Ibn Ubayy had in fact become one of the foremost men in the city and, were it not for the arrival of the Meccan fugitive, he might well have assumed the leadership of its inhabitants instead.

On more than one occasion in later years his followers plotted to replace Muhammad with their leader. At the Battle of Uhud to follow, Ibn Ubayy withdrew from the pending clash with his followers and, although he made an outward profession of Islam, Muhammad’s companions constantly sought his demise. Muhammad himself forbade it, however, and at his rival’s death even ventured to pray over his grave.

Nonetheless Muhammad was quite apprehensive about this potentially dangerous group and, in the Qur’an, these professors of Islam who gave it no more than lip-service are denounced as munafiqun, “hypocrites”, and are regarded as the worst of unbelievers. A Surah of the Qur’an, appropriately entitled Suratul-Munafiqun, devotes its first eight verses to a particularly vehement condemnation of these pseudo-Muslims. A few of these verses speak for themselves:

When the hypocrites come to thee, they say, “We bear witness that thou art indeed the Apostle of God . Yea, God knoweth that thou art indeed His apostle, and God beareth witness that the hypocrites are indeed liars.

When thou lookest at them, their exteriors please thee and when they speak, thou listenest to their words. They are as (worthless as hollow) pieces of timber propped up, (unable to stand on their own). They think that every cry is against them. They are the enemies; so beware of them. The curse of God be on them’ How are the deluded (away from the Truth). Surah 63.1,4

Muhammad built his first mosque at Quba just south of Medina but his own mosque, the masjidun-nabi (the prophet’s mosque), soon became the dominant place of worship in the city. It survives to this day, but has been greatly enlarged many times and today also encloses Muhammad’s tomb.

When the Muslims first came to Medina they faced Jerusalem when praying. Not long afterwards, however, Muhammad changed this direction of prayer, the qiblah, to the Ka’aba in Mecca even though it was still an idolatrous temple. The rejection of his claim to prophethood by the Jews appears to have made him decide that Islam should be an exclusive faith separate from Judaism, and one with an Arab foundation. He had already identified himself as a prophet in the Bibilcal line, however, and to justify the change of direction from the bartul-muqaddas (the Holy House) in Jerusalem to the masjidul-haram (the Sacred Mosque) in Mecca, the Qur’an boldly declares that Abraham first built the Ka’aba with his son Ishmael as a house of worship dedicated to Allah alone!

We covenanted with Abraham and Isma’il, that they should sanctify My House for those who compass it round, or use it as a retreat, or bow, or prostrate themselves (therein in prayer)..And remember Abraham and Isma’il raised the foundations of the House (with this prayer). “Our Lord! Accept (this service) from us: for Thou art the All- Hearing, the All-Knowing”. Surah 2.125,127.

A little further on in the same Surah comes the justification of the about-face in respect of the qiblah as well.

Now shall We turn thee to a Qibla that shall please thee. Turn then thy face in the direction of the sacred Mosque: wherever ye are, turn your faces in that direction. Surah 2.144

Islam was taking root as an exclusively new faith. The time had come for a more forceful spread of its dominion and influence and a ready-made opportunity lay close at hand in the form of Meccan caravan traffic to and from Syria.

2. Raids on Caravans and the Battle of Badr.

Medina lay right across the path of this caravan traffic and within a year of the hijrah, Muhammad sent out a number of raiding parties to intercept Meccan caravans but none of these was effective. The first raid to succeed took place in inopportune circumstances. During the second year of his rule in Medina Muhammad sent out Abdullah ibn Jahsh with seven others to Nakhlah, a site on the south Arabian trade route between Mecca and at-Ta’if. Two of the party turned back but the remaining six attacked a small Meccan caravan and killed one of its company, took two others prisoner, while the last man returned safely to the city.

There was nothing unusual about a raid of this nature. The nomadic Arabs have been caravan-raiders for centuries and inter-tribal raiding was a fairly common practice. This raid, however, was pursued in one of the four holy months (Rajab in this case) when the caravan crews were unarmed and fighting was prohibited throughout the peninsula. Worse still, the Muslim band had posed as pilgrims by shaving their heads an fell on an unsuspecting Meccan company completely deceive by their appearance.

On their return to Medina the whole city was shocked and dismayed at this flagrant breach of Arab custom. Muhammad himself refused to accept the booty at first but then, very conveniently, a “revelation” justifying the raid came from above, one which is now part of the Qur’an:

They ask thee concerning fighting in the Prohibited Month. Say: “Fighting therein is a grave (offence); but graver is it in the sight of God to prevent access to the path of God, to deny Him, to prevent access to the Sacred Mosque and drive out its members”. Surah 2.217

Because the Meccans had not accepted Muhammad’s message and prevented the Muslims from obtaining easy access to the Ka’aba, the Qur’an states that, whereas fighting in a sacred month is indeed wrong, it is justified in the circumstances. Muhammad took one-fifth of the booty for investment in t e treasury and distribution to the needy, awarded the residue to the raiding band, and ransomed the two prisoners.

From this moment the impressive image of a tolerant prophet patiently withstanding oppression degenerates into the censurable image of a ruler sanctioning robbery, murder and the like by his companions a against all opponents of Islam. In the past biographers of his life were accustomed to draw a clear distinction between the prophet of Mecca and ruler of Medina but a closer examination of the new trend shows that is was purely a logical development of Muhammad’s purpose establish Islam in the traditional way.

In the meantime a general agreement of opinion has grown in modern Western biographies of Muhammad that one must speak of an unbroken unity in Muhammad’s personality (Weasels, A Modern Arabic Biography of Muhammad, p. 87).

An analysis of the very next verse after the justification of the Nakhlah raid shows how consistent the outbreak of fighting in Islam was with the whole object of the hijrah:

Those who believed and those who suffered exile and fought (and strove and struggled) in the path of God, – they have the hope of the Mercy of God: and God is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. Surah 2.218

In the original Arabic the verse up to the words “path of God” reads Innallathiina aa-manuu wallathiina haajaruu wa jaahaduu fii sabiilillah. The link between the word “haajaruu wa jaahaduu” is very significant. From the same root letters come the nouns hijrah (emigration) and jihad (warfare). Those who “suffered exile” (haajaruu) are also those who “fought” (jaahaduu) in the path of God. The hijrah was not just a flight from Mecca. It was a preparation for jihad. It o e the mainspring of the establishment of an ummah (community) that was to spread its influence through warfare. Muhammad’s objective was to create a theocratic Muslim state and community by fighting those who stood in its way and who chose to resist it.

Where Islam is potentially universalized in Hijrah it is inherently politicized in Jihad. The move out  of Mecca with the faith presages the move against Mecca for the faith. In that transition, not only is the Hijrah  implemented in its prospective relevance, but Islam is defined in its essential character. (Cragg, The Event of the Qur’an, p. 134).

Later the same year one of the most important events in the history of Islam occurred. Apart from the smaller caravans a large caravan set out annually from Mecca for Syria. Muhammad knew of its return and prepared to capture it. Its leader Abu Sufyan, the most prominent man in Mecca and a descendant of Umayya, took steps to avoid the impending crisis and hastened home by the Red Sea. He got to Mecca safely but a messenger sent by him to the city saw to it that a large Meccan army of up to a thousand men was sent out to rescue the caravan. (In later years Abu Sufyan’s son Mu’awiya took control of the caliphate and began the Umayyad dynasty which lasted nearly a hundred years. It was replaced by the Abbasid dynasty whose caliphs were descendants of Hashim, Umayya’s great rival and great-grandfather of Muhammad).

Muhammad’s companions heard of the advent of the Meccan army but, encouraged by Muhammad’s declaration that Allah had promised him either the caravan or the army, the band of three hundred and fifty men marched on to Badr near the Red Sea where, in a swift engagement, the Muslims succeeded in destroying most of the Meccan leadership including Muhammad’s great enemy Abu Jahl. The Meccans fled before the Muslim offensive leaving forty-nine of their number slain on the battlefield. The Muslim losses were only fourteen. Nothing more than a skirmish, surely? Perhaps – but one of the most fateful battles ever fought in history and to this day held in awe by the Muslims as Islam’s finest hour on the battlefield.

No event in the history of Islam was of more importance than this battle: the Koran rightly calls it the Day of Deliverance, the day before which the Moslems were weak, after which they were strong. Its value to Mohammed itself it is difficult to overrate; he possibly regarded it himself as a miracle, and when he declared it one, most of his neighbours accepted the statement without hesitation. (Margoliouth, Mohammed and the Rise of Islam, p. 269).

Certainly the success was a tremendous tonic for the fledgling Muslim community and one which increased Muhammad’s esteem in Medina. Islam was now firmly established and was . . . gaining ground.

3. The Battles of Uhud and the Ditch.

The cry for revenge, however, soon rose from the citizens of Mecca and a year later an army three thousand strong under the leadership of Abu Sufyan marched on Medina. At the plain beneath the hill of Uhud to the north of Medina they halted and plundered the fields round about. Muhammad counselled his warriors to remain in the city as it was easier to defend close in than out in the plains where the Muslims would all be exposed to the Meccan army which was vastly superior in numbers. His longstanding opponent Abdullah ibn Ubayy also pleaded with the citizens of Medina to stay behind but many of the more youthful combatants sought to go out and take the fight to the Quraysh and, as the victory of Badr was still fresh in the minds of all, their enthusiasm won the day and a thousand men ventured out to battle. The next morning Ibn Ubayy, displeased at the rejection of his advice, nonetheless treacherously deserted Muhammad with about three hundred men and returned to the city. The odds were four to one against the Muslims.

Superior motivation, however, soon assisted the Muslims to once again seize the initiative and the Quraysh were forced to retreat. But the Muslims pressed their advantage too far. Archers guarding a rear flank broke their ranks against the orders of Muhammad and recklessly joined the fray thus leaving their flank exposed. Meanwhile Khalid ibn Walid a Qurayshite general who later led many successful Muslim conquests, swept his mounted force around one of the hills on the plain and surprised the Muslims from behind. Their discipline gone, they soon fell prey to the Meccan cavalry. The Quraysh wreaked havoc among them. Hamza, the “Lion of God” was slain and his body later mutilated. Even Muhammad was so badly injured that the rumour soon spread that he had been killed. His closest companions, however, shielded him carefully from any further danger.

At the end of the day the Quraysh held sway but, for reasons which must remain a mystery, failed to press their advantage and withdrew from the field. The Muslims lost seventy-four men in the battle and the Quraysh twenty. Although the Muslims had not won the battle, the city of Medina remained unharmed. The outcome had serious implications, however, for Muhammad and his companions.

This battle of Uhud has sometimes been presented, even in Muslim sources, as a serious defeat for Muhammad, but this – at least from the military point of view – it certainly was not. The serious aspect was the religious or spiritual one. The victory of Badr had been taken as a sign that God was supporting them, and indeed fighting for them. The loss of life at Uhud, therefore, seemed to be an indication that God had deserted them, or that they had been mistaken in the inferences they had drawn from Badr. (Watt,What is Islam?, p. 105).

A revelation soon assisted Muhammad to quiet the misgivings of his companions. The Qur’an blames the warriors for disobeying orders and for seeking to share in the booty and states that God inflicted their reverses to teach them to obey orders and not to seek the rewards of this life.

Behold! Ye were climbing up the high ground, without even casting a side glance at any one, and the Apostle in your rear was calling you back. There did God give you one distress after another by way of requital, to teach you not to grieve for (the booty) that had escaped you and for (the ill) that had befallen you. For God is well aware of all that ye do. Surah 3.153

After the battle Muhammad had a Qurayshite prisoner, Abu Azzah, beheaded for taking up alms on behalf of the Meccans a second time after he had been released at Badr (because he had five daughters to look after) on the condition that he refrained from joining in hostilities again. The prisoner pleaded with Muhammad to pardon him yet again but Muhammad answered him:

Verily a believer is not stung twice from the same hole. You will not return to Makkah to declare, rubbing your cheeks, that you had befooled Muhammad twice. (Ibn Sa’d, Kitab al-Tabaqat al-Kabir , Vol. 2, p. 51).

The following year the Quraysh returned with ten thousand men to vanquish Muhammad once and for all but he was informed in advance of the pending onslaught and had a trench dug on the northern flank of Medina which was exposed to open attack. The “Battle of the Ditch”, as it is known, was no real battle at all. The Quraysh were thoroughly frustrated by the innovation and, despite a few individual contests, were unable to make any impression on the city. After a division between “the Confederates” (the Qurayshite army had many warriors from other tribes around Mecca in their contingent) and a severe storm one evening, they decided to withdraw.

The Meccan cause against Muhammad was now exhausted. Despite their efforts to gather such a large army for a final showdown, Muhammad’s growing strength remained unchallenged. The Quraysh, exasperated, gave up their designs on Medina and the initiative lost was soon seized by Muhammad. The tables were about to be turned.

4. Muhammad – the Universal Messenger of Allah.

Let us pause in the narrative to consider the prestige and status of the prophet of the Arabs at this point when he finds himself able at last to take the offensive and begin preparations for a move on Mecca, already declared to be the

From being purely a warner, calling the Quraysh to turn away from idols to the worship of the one true God, the Qur’an now represents Muhammad as the last and greatest of all the prophets. He has become the vicegerent of God on earth and his image develops from that of a purely prophetic character to that of messianic proportions. The Qur’an has a number of supreme accolades for him.

1. He is regarded as a universal messenger sent by God, not just to his own people as all previous prophets had been allegedly sent, but to all mankind:

We have not sent thee but as a universal (Messenger) to men, giving them glad tidings, and warning them (against sin), but most men understand not. Surah 34.28

2. The Qur’an not only commands believers to send blessings upon him but claims that even God and all his angels do so in heaven above:

God and His Angels send blessings on the Prophet: O ye that believe! Send ye blessings on him and salute him with all respect. Surah 33.56

3. He is given the illustrious title rahmatallil-alamin, a “mercy to the worlds”, another indication of the now universal character of his ministry:

We sent thee not, but as a Mercy for all creatures. Surah 21.107

4. Another exclusive title he assumes is khataman-nablygin, the seal of the prophets”. As the last and greatest of God’s prophets, he cannot be superseded by another prophet:

Muhammad is not the father of any of your men, but (he is) the Apostle of God, and the Seal of the Prophets and God has full knowledge of all things. Surah 33.40

5. Obedience to Muhammad and obedience to God are by this time synonymous. Any disobedience of any command of the prophet of Islam incurs God’s wrath and acquiescence in his will incurs God’s pleasure:

Verily those who plight their fealty to thee do no less than plight their fealty to God; the hand of God is over their hands: Then any one who violates his oath, does so to the harm of his own soul, and any one who fulfils what he has covenanted with God, God will soon grant him a great reward. Surah 48.10

The foundation was being laid not only for the final conquest of Mecca and Arabia but also for the conquest of the whole world till all be brought into subjection to Allah through obedience to his will as revealed through the prophet of Arabia, his universal and final messenger for all mankind.

Islam was now an autonomous religion, separate from Judaism and Christianity and professedly superior to them. Its prophet had developed from being a lone human voice against Arab paganism into the voice of God calling all men everywhere to his religion, al-Islam. As we shall see in the next chapter, however, the universal nature of Islam was nonetheless simultaneously restricted by the personal failings of its prophet and its claim to supersede all other faiths was compromised by a clear deterioration in the character of its founder during his years of power as leader in Medina.

He now arrived at a point where he completely diverged from the celestial spirit of the Christian doctrines, and stamped his religion with the alloy of fallible mortality. His human nature was not capable of maintaining the sublime forbearance he had hitherto inculcated. (Irving, The Life of Mahomet, p. 103).

5. The Treaty of Hudaybiyah.

While gaining ground nearer home by various raids, Muhammad continued to cherish a return to Mecca and the next year led one-and-a-half-thousand pilgrims to the city for the umra, the lesser pilgrimage. He chose one of the holy months in which war was forbidden, donned the white pilgrim garments traditionally worn for the venture, took the required number of camels for sacrifice, and bade his men carry only a small sword at their sides – the usual form of protection for pilgrim travellers. Although the group was fitted out purely for pilgrimage purposes, the Quraysh were soon alarmed and at al-Hudaybiyah, just outside Mecca where the Muslims stopped, the two parties met. A small deputation came out to discover Muhammad’s intentions while the rest prepared the defence of the city. One of the leading Muslims who was later to become the third Caliph, Uthman, went back with a deputation into the city and when his return was delayed, the Muslims suspected he had been killed and prepared to defend themselves. Under a tree each one took a pledge to stand by Muhammad and Uthman, a pledge often remembered by Muhammad as one which evidenced the supreme loyalty of his companions. This devotion was not lost on the Meccan deputation who soon ensured that the Quraysh were suitably impressed by it.

Uthman returned safely despite their fears and with him a leading Meccan, Suhail ibn Amr, who was given a mandate to negotiate a ten-year truce with Muhammad and advise him that he could not enter the city that year but could return the following year when the Quraysh would evacuate it for three days to allow Muhammad and his companions to perform the pilgrimage.

Muhammad duly negotiated a treaty with Suhail, one which keenly upset many of his devoted followers. Umar objected to the whole proceedings on the principle that true Muslims had been called upon to fight and resist infidels and not to negotiate with them on equal terms:

Umar b. Khattab came, approached the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) and said: Messenger of Allah, aren’t we fighting for the truth and they for falsehood? He replied: By all means. He asked: Are not those killed from our side in Paradise and those killed from their side in the Fire? He replied: Yes. He said: Then why should we put a blot upon our religion and return, while Allah has not decided the issue between them and ourselves? He said: Son of Khattab, I am the Messenger of Allah. Allah will never ruin me. (The narrator said): Umar went away, but he could not contain himself with rage. ( Sahih Muslim, Vol. 3, p. 980).

Indeed, far from concluding an equitable agreement, Muhammad appeared to have agreed to terms humiliating to the Muslims. It was stipulated that any member of the Quraysh who became a Muslim and sought to go over to the Muslims was to be returned to Mecca. If any of the Muslims wished to return to Mecca of his own accord, however, he was free to do so and was not to be returned by the Quraysh. The reaction of the party to this unfavourable provision is plainly set out in the following hadith:

When Suhail bin ‘Amr agreed to the treaty (of Hudaibiya), one of the things he stipulated then, was that the Prophet should return to them (i.e. the pagans) anyone coming to him from their side, even if he was a Muslim; and would not interfere between them and that person. The Muslims did not like this condition and got disgusted with it. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Vol. 3, p. 547).

Muhammad incurred the further wrath of his company when he acquiesced in the demands of Suhail that the treaty should not be headed with the usual Muslim invocation Bismillahir-Rahmanir-Rahim (In the Name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful), but rather in the words chosen by the Quraysh: Bi’ismika Allahumma (In thy Name, O Allah). The offence was compounded when Muhammad even agreed that he should be described simply as Muhammad ibn Abdullah (Muhammad son of Abdullah) and not Muhammadur-Rasulullah (Muhammad the Messenger of Allah). Another hadith tells us the whole story:

Then the apostle summoned Ali and told him to write ‘In the name of Allah the Compassionate, the Merciful’. Suhayl said “I do not recognise this; but write ‘In thy name, O Allah”‘. The apostle told him to write the latter and he did so. Then he said: “Write ‘This is what Muhammad, the apostle of God has agreed with Suhayl b. Amr”‘. Suhayl said, “If I witnessed that you were God’s apostle I would not have fought you. Write your own name and the name of your father”. The apostle said: “Write ‘This is what Muhammad b. Abdullah has agreed with Suhayl b. Amr”‘ (Ibn Ishaq, Sirat Rasulullah , p. 504).

Ali’s displeasure was soon expressed in the same way that Umar had vented his grievances. Had Muhammad not commanded an unswerving loyalty from his followers, this could have been a moment of crisis for him.

He said to Ali: Write down the terms settled between us. (So Ali wrote): In the name of Allah, most Gracious, most Merciful. This is what Muhammad, the Messenger of Allah, has settled (with the Meccans). The polytheists said to him: If we knew that thou art the Messenger of Allah, we would follow you. But write Muhammad b. Abdullah. So he told Ali to strike out these words. Ali said: No, by Allah, I will not strike them out. (Sahih Muslim, Vol. 3, p. 979).

Muhammad then duly struck out the words himself. But, as happened on so many similar occasions when the early Muslims were perplexed about some action or decision of their prophet, a timely revelation in the Qur’an soon settled the issue. The treaty was proclaimed as a victory, notwithstanding all appearances to the contrary.

Verily we have granted thee a manifest victory. Surah 48.1

One of the most prominent Western biographers of Muhammad’s life certainly saw it as such and the events which succeeded it do lend much support to this claim.

But, in truth, a great step had been gained by Mahomet. His political status, as an equal and independent Power, was acknowledged by the treaty: the ten years’ truce would afford opportunity and time for the new religion to expand, and to force its claims upon the convictions of the Coreish; while conquest, material as well as spiritual, might be pursued on every other side. The stipulation that no one under the protection of a guardian should leave the Coreish without his guardian’s consent though unpopular at Medina, was in accordance with the principles of Arabian society; and the Prophet had sufficient confidence in the loyalty of his own people and the superior attractions of Islam, to fear no ill effect from the counter clause that none should be delivered up who might desert his standard. Above all, it was a great and manifest success that free permission was conceded to visit Mecca in the following year, and for three days occupy the city undisturbed. (Muir, The Life of Mahomet, p. 347).

One of the early successes enjoyed by Muhammad as a result of the treaty was the allegiance of the tribe of Khuza’a. Free to exploit the conclusion of further alliances and concentrate on the elimination of threats from hostile tribes nearer home, he soon set about strengthening his position. The strong Jewish fortress of Khaibar north of Medina was besieged and brought into subjection as well.

A year later a much stronger Muhammad returned to Mecca to duly perform the pilgrimage. The Quraysh left the city unattended for three days as agreed and watched with mixed feelings as Muhammad, clearly enjoying the total devotion of his supporters, honoured the holy places of Mecca and paid his respects to the Ka’aba. Consciously or otherwise, Meccan resistance to Islam was steadily being worn down. The inhabitants of the city, weary of warfare with Muhammad, one of their own kinsmen, now beheld his sustained devotion to their shrine and the city of his birth.

Khalid ibn Walid, the great Meccan general who turned the tide for the Quraysh at Uhud, went over to the Muslim side with a few other leading men of Mecca. The final conquest of Mecca was now becoming a vivid possibility and one enhanced by the probable defection en masse of all of its inhabitants to Islam.

In the meantime Muhammad despatched an army of about three thousand men to Muta, a town on the borders of Syria. Here for the first time the Muslims met the strong Byzantine armies and, after putting up a brave but hopeless fight under Khalid’s leadership against a force vastly superior in numbers, the Muslims withdrew. Some important men were lost in the battle, however, including Muhammad’s adopted son and early convert Zaid ibn Haritha. The indecisive battle nevertheless prepared the way for the great onslaughts to follow after Muhammad’s death under the caliphates of Abu Bakr an Umar respectively.

At home his dominion remained ever on the increase and the major obstacle in his path – Mecca – was ready to be tackled. The final triumph of Islam in Arabia was fast approaching and the rolling tide of success was not to be turned back. Before considering it, however, let us examine a chapter in Muhammad’s life at Medina hitherto overlooked – his relationships with the Jewish tribes in and around the city.

The Prophet Of The Arabs At Mecca

1. Mecca at the time of Muhammad.

In the sixth century after Christ, Mecca (pronounced Makkah in Arabic) was hardly known to the outside world but it was the commercial and religious centre of Arabia. Although the Arabs were a divided people, broken up into various tribes who were constantly at war with each other, the fairs at the city served to attract many of them and whatever unity existed among them was generated and expressed through these annual get-togethers. The focal point of attention was the Ka’aba (Arabic for “cube”), a shrine in the centre of the city containing over three hundred idols, chief of whom was the god Hubal (a probable derivation from the ancient high-god Ba’al, so often spoken of as the chief object of worship of the pagan nations around Israel in the Bible). The various tribes came to Mecca to worship their gods and take part in the various poetical contests that were arranged at the fairs. The composition of poetry was a favourite literary pastime of the Arabs and manyshu’ara (poets, singular: sha’ir) competed at these contests.
Continue reading “The Prophet Of The Arabs At Mecca”