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Thursday, November 03, 2005

Is Islam a Religion of Peace?

In his address last night at the air force base in Alaska, President Bush made these comments, “Some call this evil Islamic radicalism; others, militant jihadism; still others, Islamo-fascism. Whatever we choose to call this enemy, we must recognize that this ideology is very different from the tenets of the great religion of Islam.” I don’t expect the Commander and Chief to be a chief theologian for any religion, but I did question his comments and have spent my morning learning about the history of Islam. It’s quite interesting.

For millions of Muslims, the majority, the manifestation of their faith is peaceful. Many scholars of the Islamic faith preach against violence (http://www.cair-net.org/default.asp?Page=articleView&id=1774&theType=NR), rejecting jihad and the terrorist attacks of September 11 (http://www.cair-net.org/html/911statements.html). I understand that they believe their faith has been hijacked by extremists, Islamofacists, jihadists. But, to say that Islam is a religion of peace seems to be historically inaccurate.

Below is a brief history followed by verses of the Qur’an that demonstrate the foundations upon which the religion was founded. I’ve concluded with a few closing remarks.

Muhammad was born in 570 AD traveling extensively in his youth and learning about the religions of Judaism and Christianity. In 610 AD he receives his first revelations and within three years 40 people accept Islam. Muslims are persecuted during this time. In 620 AD Arabs from Medina (called Yathrib) convert to Islam and travel in an envoy to communicate that they want Muhammad to lead their ummah (community).

In 621 AD, Muhammad is taken by an angel from the Kabah in Mecca (The Dome of the Rock) to Jerusalem to meet Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and others. Later, he is taken to heaven to see signs. In 622, an angel warns Muhammed to flee from Mecca to Medina (hirah, the night of migration) because the leaders of his tribe Quraysh, plan to kill him. Regardless of whether or not they did, the Meccans viewed this as a defection. Those from Mecca came to Medina for revenge which led to the largely defensive battle of Badr where Muslims won. After Badr, Jews in Medina were given the opportunity to stay giving homage due to Muslims, in the form of taxes, or leave. When they chose not to pay the taxes, the Bani Qainuqa Jews were expelled.

In 624 AD, outside of Medina, Muslims lose the battle of Uhud to the Meccans. The Banu Nadir Jews, Banu Quraiza Jews were expelled for collaborating with Meccans. This was followed by the preemptive attacks against the towns at Badr (again) and Banu Mustaliq. The Muslims won the Battle of the Trench outside the city of Medina. Following this were the battles for Khyber (90 miles north of Medina; a victory) and then the battle near Syria at Muta where the Muslim army withdrew in defeat.

After this Muslim victory, the treaty of Hudaybiyyah was reached with the Meccans and then violated. Muhammed gathered an army and marches on Mecca; the city falls without a battle. Following this were the Battles of Hunsin, Auras, Taif and Tabuk. In 632, Muhammad dies the most powerful man on the Arabian peninsula with virtually all tribes joining the ummah (community) if not by surrender, than by force.

After the death of Muhammed, Abu Bakr is appointed caliph (representative). This begins many years of war from 632-634 including battles at Syria, battles of Zu Qissa and Abraq, battles of Buzakha, Zafar and Naqra. Campaigns against Bani Tamim and Musailima, the Liar, campaigns in Bahrain, Oman, Mahrah Yemen, and Hadramaut, raids in Iraq, battles of Kazima, Mazar, Walaja, Ulleis, Hirah, Anbar, Ein at tamr, Daumatul Jandal and Firaz, battles of Basra, Damascus and Ajnadin. After these, Abu Bakr died.

The caliph Umar ibn al-Katthab, extended the battles to neighboring countries including wars the battles of Namaraq and Saqatia. In 635, the Battles of Bridge, Buwaib, Conquest of Damascus, and Battle of Fahl. In 636, Battles of Yermuk, Qadsiyia and conquest of Madain. In 637, the Conquest of Syria, fall of Jerusalem, and the Battle of Jalula. In 638, the conquest of Jazirah. In 639, the Muslims conquered Khuizistan and advanced into Egypt. In 640, Muslims captured the post of Caesaria in Syria, Shustar and Jande Sabur in Persia and fought the Battle of Babylon in Egypt. In 641, the Battle of Nihawand and Conquest Of Alexandria in Egypt. In 642, the Battle of Rayy in Persia and conquest of Egypt. In 643, the Conquest of Azarbaijan and Tabaristan (Russia). In 644, the Conquest of Fars, Kerman, Sistan, Mekran and Kharan. After these Umar was killed by a Persian prisoner of war in a mosque of Medina.

In 644, the caliph Uthman ibn Affan was appointed representative. During his rule, he carried out campaigns in Khurasan, Armeain and Asia Minor, North Africa, the island of Cypress, against the Byzantines, and the Battle of the Masts against the Byzantines. Many Muslims were disaffected by his rule and Uthman was assassinated by Muslim soldiers who proclaim Ali ibn Abi Talib as the new caliph.

During the years 656-660, the new caliphate of Ali ibn Abi Talib, cousin of Muhammad, a five-year civil war ensues, known as the first fitnah (time of temptation) beginning with the Battle of the Camel. Aisha, one of Muhammad's wives lead rebellion against Ali for not avenging Uthman's murder. They are defeated. In Syria the opposition is led by Uthman's kinsman Muawiyyah ibn Abi Sufyan. An attempt to arbitrate leads to Muawwiyyah deposing Ali and proclaiming himself caliph in Jerusalem. Ali is murdered by a Kharajite extremist. Ali's supporters acclaim his son Hasan as the next caliph, but he abdicates and Muawiyyah becomes caliph who starts what becomes known as the Umayyad dynasty (moving the capital from Medina to Damascus).

In 662, Khawarij revolts. In 666, Muslims raid Sicily. In 670, Muslims advance into North Africa, and Kabul (Afghanistan) is conquered. In 672, the island of Rhodes (Greece) is conquered and campaigns begin in Khurasan (Iran). Bukhara (Uzbekistan) becomes a vassal state in 674. Muslims then moved into and occupied Sarnarkand and Tirmiz (Uzbekistan), and sieged Constantinople.

It is estimated that from 623 to 777, there were close to 100 Islamic battles, conquests, or campaigns. “When studied chronologically, the Qur'an concept of war appears to evolve: Stage one: no retaliation (in Mecca), Stage two: defensive fighting permitted (first instruction in Medina); Stage three: defensive fighting commanded (revised instruction in Medina); Stage four: offensive war commanded to kill pagans and humble Christians and Jews (after conquering Mecca)” [Richard P. Bailey, Jihad: The Teaching of Islam From Its Primary Sources - The Qur'an and Hadith] This suggests that depending upon which stage you read, you will find a contextually different stance toward war. This may explain the differences in thinking about jihad.

These words from the Qur’an illustrate how a doctrine of jihad can be derived:

"Let those who would exchange the life of this world for the hereafter, fight for the cause of God; whether he dies or triumphs, We shall richly reward him. ... The true believers fight for the cause of God, but the infidels fight for the devil. Fight then against the friends of Satan ..." (Qur'an 4:74,76)

"The believers who stay at home -- apart from those that suffer a grave impediment -- are not the equals of those who fight for the cause of God with their goods and their persons. God has given those that fight with their goods and their persons a higher rank than those who stay at home ..." (Qur'an 4:95,96)

"Slay the idolaters wherever you find them. ...lie in ambush everywhere for them. If they repent and take to prayer and render the alms levy, allow them to go their way ..." (Qur'an 9:5)

"Those that make war against God and His apostle and spread disorder in the land shall be put to death or crucified or have their hands and feet cut off on alternate sides, or be banished from the land. They shall be held up to shame in this world and sternly punished in the hereafter: except those that repent before you reduce them ..." (Qur'an 5:34, 35)

"Make war on them until idolatry shall cease and God's religion shall reign supreme" (Qur'an 8:39)

"Prophet, rouse the faithful to arms. If there are twenty steadfast men among you, they shall vanquish two hundred; and if there are a hundred, they shall rout a thousand unbelievers, for they are devoid of understanding." (Qur'an 8:65)

"Fight against such of those to whom the Scriptures were given...and do not embrace the true Faith, until they pay tribute out of hand and are utterly subdued." (Qur'an 9:29)

Any verse taken out of context can be used to mean a variety of things; I may be guilty of doing that here. In addition, history removed from its context can look awfully strange as well. I also understand that the actions of followers like Osama bin Laden and other jihadists do not define what is truth any more than the actions of Jim Baker or Jimmy Swaggert. While I’ll leave room for these errors in interpretations, I’ve concluded that I’m simply not comfortable with calling Islam a religion of peace. In my opinion, it is an inaccurate statement.

These sources were used in the compilation of the above data:
http://www.thewaytotruth.org/prophetmuhammad/trench.html http://www.witness-pioneer.org/vil/Articles/companion/04_abu_bakr.htm http://www.witness-pioneer.org/vil/Articles/companion/12_ali_bin_talib.htm http://www.witness-pioneer.org/vil/Articles/companion/12_ali_bin_talib.htm http://islamicweb.com/history/century7.htm http://www.carm.org/islam/islam_chronology.htm http://al-islam.org/restatement/29.htm http://www.cair-net.org/ http://www.ccel.org/contrib/exec_outlines/islam.htm http://www.geocities.com/badr_313/ http://www.islamicvoice.com/august.98/child.htm http://www.message4muslims.org.uk/Muhammad/LifeofMuhammad/22beyondOhod.htm http://www.sabawoon.com/afghanpedia/KhyberPass.shtm http://www.themodernreligion.com/basic/islam_Chronology_P1.htm

Related Information can be found here:

Thoughtful Readers Speak:
I think my friend, who is writing all this material is not well enough aware about the history of islam. He has taken (for illustrative purpose) only few verses (perhaps do not bother to learn into deep). He is claiming so many battles campaigns where Muslims invaded other countries. May be he is not aware about the war strategies and the war practices of that time. One thing I would like him to do is to read the full history of war (at least) which happened between Muslims and other religion. In his study, he did specify the several campaign but did not declare the no. of battle attendees. I bet, if he study, he would come to know the strength of both sides. In every battles, Muslims were 1/5 - 1/4 of the opponent. (such as, in Ajnadin it 60,000 against 200,000-240,000 byzaninies. In Badar Battle, 313 mumslim against more than 1000 Quraish. In Yarmooq Battle, again it was 40,000 Muslims against more than 200,000 of force who are well equipped with all mandatory war equipments. Bear in mind, byzantines did not wear bangles. They were well equipped, had all latest technology and weapons of that time.

Every battle which Muslims won, they never slaughter Civilians. Invaded civilians were always in peace and were allowed to follow their religion. Only they need to pay taxes for their security, which I believe every govt. has right to take. Not a single civilian were harmed/looted in Muslim government.

My friend, you can never claim that in Muslim government of that time ever misuse of their power and put burden of taxes. In Iraq / Syria campaign (I do not remember the exact name) when Muslims were approaching other country, they were force to take out their military force from the holding state. They returned all the taxes they had collected from non-muslims as they were unable to guard them anymore.

This is the only glimpse of islamic history.

My friend, by decorating with biased sources, you can change the glorious victory and history of Islam. I condemn your statement "I’ve concluded that I’m simply not comfortable with calling Islam a religion of peace. In my opinion, it is an inaccurate statement".

Since day first, Islam is the religion of peace. Please go through with history once again. Further, for your knowledge sake, please note that, during Jews and Christian war campaign, civilians were most harmed/looted.
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RIGHTFAITH: Where everything favors the stewardship of patrimony. All content is believed to be correct but may be amended based upon new information. The content of this page may be republished with proper citation without the expressed consent of the author. This site is not, in any manner whatsoever, associated with the religious philosophism from the Indian penninsula. All comments or emails to the author become the property of the author and may be published or deleted without notice or reason provided. Copyrighted 2005.

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