Quran Interpretation That Sparks Violence

Wednesday, 20 Jan 2010 02:40 PM

By Tawfik Hamid

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In the past few decades, radical Muslims have committed some violent acts because they felt Islam had been insulted or attacked. These acts ranged from violent riots against Salman Rushdie for writing Satanic Verses to violent riots as a response to U.S. soldiers insulting the Quran.

The aggressive Muslim reaction after the publishing of Prophet Muhammad cartoons by the Jyllands-Posten newspaper in Denmark is another well-known example of the Muslim world reactions.

Sadly, these acts of violence have resulted in devastating consequences including burning churches and killing many innocent souls.

All this violence leads to the question that many have raised: Are these violent reactions the result of Islamic teaching itself?

The answer to this question is that the reaction depends largely on the sources used by a particular follower and his understanding of the religious text.

The following are a few examples to illustrate how a Muslim's response to insulting Islam can vary depending on the religious references used:

Option 1: A Muslim who mainly follows the Quran and does not believe in abrogation of the verses is likely to be forgiving if Islam or the prophet is insulted.

This is because the Quran never mentions any punishment for insulting Islam. In addition, the Quran in more than one verse clearly states that a Muslim can only avoid sitting with those who insult the religion during the time of insult and that he is permitted to interact normally with them at any other time (see Quran 4:140, 6:68).

In fact the Quran, in another verse, mentions clearly the concept of insulting Allah himself without approving or justifying any violent reaction to this (see Quran 6:108).

Option 2: If a Muslim believes in abrogation of the verses as described in many traditional and approved Islamic books, he may consider that the above peaceful verses were revealed only when Muslims were weak and that it has been abrogated later on by violent text (such as Quran 2: 193). (Note: A complex theological analysis and interpretation is needed to explain how to understand the above verses in a way that produces a net outcome of peace rather than violence.)

Option 3: Another Muslim who strictly follows the Hadith and Sunna books (non-Quranic sources for Islam) may justify the angry and violent reactions to insulting Islam.

The story of Prophet Muhammad ordering his men to kill the poet Asma bint Marwan for criticizing him (See Ibn Ishaq's "Sirah Rasul Allah") is an example of this type of violence. In such a case, a sincere follower of the prophet (as described in these sources) may do crimes, in the name of the religion, if someone insulted the prophet.

Option 4: Muslims who follow the current mainstream Islamic jurisprudence books can also justify barbaric reactions to insulting Islam through the well-known rule in Islamic jurisprudence. This rule justifies killing those who insult the prophet or Islam (see, as an example, "Minhaj al-Muslim" by Abu-Bakr Al-Jazarry Volume :2 Page 525).

The Muslim world has to choose between the above ways or options of understanding Islam.

Understanding the religion and teaching it as described in Option 1 can prevent many violent acts by Muslims in the future. Ironically enough; the peaceful Muslims or the Muslims who do not use violence against those who insult Islam, are the ones who do not apply the mainstream Islamic teaching and Shariah properly!

The Muslim world needs to learn that Islam will be perceived by others as Muslims portray it.

If Shariah justifies killing a human soul because he or she insulted the Prophet Muhammad or insulted Islam, then the Muslim world must not expect others to call Islam a peaceful religion and Westerners must not expect the outcome of this teaching to be anything but violence and barbarism.

When the Muslim world changes its teaching and understanding of the religion to promote forgiveness for those who insult the religion (as described in Option 1) then and only then can Muslims demand that "Islam is the religion of peace."

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