Chapter 5 – Islam Came Only to the Arabs Not to Spread by Sword

This is a serialization of the book titled ‘Crisis in Islam’. The full book and its Endnotes may be accessed at:


The previous chapter was concluded by questioning whether the origin of the culture of killing in Islam was religious or political. It is relevant that before searching for the roots of the culture of killing, we need first to consider punishment in Islam.

Reward and punishment, as every Muslim knows, are in Allah’s hands. Allah has willed, in His absolute wisdom, to punish or forgive, as He wants, in this life or in the hereafter. The Almighty also distinguished between offences that call for punishment, dividing them into two parts: an offence that affects the general public being a public offence, and an offence that affects only its owner being a private offence. When the Almighty laid down His rules for nations, He decided that the community has the right to punish for the public offence, but He did not give that community the right to punish for private offence, as He kept that for Him to punish or forgive as He pleases.

The Qur’an stipulated the punishments that the community has the right to impose and which are public crimes such as unlawful killing, theft, adultery and perjury. However, the Almighty did not provide for the punishment for the private offences, which hurts the perpetrator himself and not the community, such as drinking alcohol and apostasy. This is because these offences, and those similar to them, do not harm the community and it is not the community’s right to impose punishment on the perpetrators, as is the case in the punishment for murder and theft, for example.  I believe that most Muslim scholars had not paid attention to this fact and to the Divine Wisdom behind it. When they attempted to justify for a ruler the use of a punishment – because politics and public interest necessitated its imposition – that did not appear in the Qur’an and for which they could not find a religious foundation, they reverted to analogical reasoning (Qiyās)[1]. This they did in the punishment of a drinker, which was built on the likelihood that the drunk would invent falsehoods as a result of the impact of alcohol. They said: ‘when he drinks, he becomes intoxicated, and when he becomes intoxicated, he talks confusedly, and when he talks confusedly, he lies.’[2]  This allowed them to inflict the punishment for perjury as stipulated in the Qur’an. This analogy seems to suffer from two flaws.

The first is that Allah did not stipulate that, and if He had wanted to do so, He would have done so. Secondly, the analogy is not sound because it does not automatically follow that every drunkard loses the ability to control his mind and give false testimony. Punishment cannot be inflicted merely on the basis of the suspicion or assumption that the drunkard would do so despite the lack of evidence that he was going to do it!

Where is killing permissible in Islam and where is it prohibited?

By this I mean what the Almighty has ordered in the Qur’an and not what some Caliph or faqih said later, because what Allah has said is His order in creation, which is also the essence of Islam. What Caliphs and fuqahā said, which He did not say, is merely politics, and must be described as such. No one should say that the Almighty left it to His creation on Earth to create rules in His name. There is a big difference between the case where the text in the Qur’an explicitly stipulated a rule, and the text deliberately left out stating a ruling. What the text of the Qur’an stipulated as a ruling, no creature has the right to change and claim it to be part of religion. No jurist, no matter how knowledgeable he is, can say that the Messenger can abrogate a Qur’anic ruling. This is because it is possible to invent a Hadith or tradition and attribute it to the Prophet, and there is neither protector nor guardian against that happening. According to Islam, Allah willed that only the Qur’an be protected from falsification.[3] What the Almighty decided deliberately to leave out, not inadvertently nor in vain, without specifying a penalty is left to us to judge with our minds and independent reasoning. We may make correct judgments and we may err, but this is all part of this life and the volatility and change that accompany it. That is to say, as long as it is part of human reasoning, then it is subject to change.

The death penalty is one punishment stipulated by the Qur’an and is no longer subject to independent reasoning among Muslims. The Almighty had permitted the taking of a life in the Qur’an in only three cases: Killing in wars in which Muslims are fighting in self-defence, and not as aggressors or invaders, because as submitted before, Allah fully forbade aggression and said: “Do not transgress. Indeed. Allah does not like transgressors.” (Al-Baqara 2:190)

The other two cases for the permissibility of killing other than in defensive wars are stipulated in His saying: “whoever kills a soul unless for a soul or for corruption [done] in the land – it is as if he had slain mankind entirely. And whoever saves one – it is as if he had saved mankind entirely” (Al-Maaida 5:32). This means that Allah authorized the community to punish with death two offences only; for killing a human unjustly and for corruption on Earth. There is no other offence in which the nation is entitled to impose a death sentence. No person is allowed to invent this or impose his reasoning. The sanctity of the soul is so great with Allah that He made whoever takes it unjustly as one who kills all humanity. How, therefore, can anyone impose the death sentence on someone who had committed an offense that Allah did not stipulate as deserving death? We must always remember that in Islam the creator of life is Himself the creator of death!

This argument will no doubt antagonize many people, but it is a sincere call for a rational dialogue to arrive at the roots of the culture of killing that faces us now like devils’ heads,[4] eating everything and everybody. How can we stop it without knowing its roots and what it feeds on?

When I say that the Almighty did not authorize killing for Islam except in defensive wars, I mean that no offensive war can be carried out by a Muslim killing people without committing a sin in that attack. This means, by extension, that every attack based on the pretext of spreading Islam becomes an offense one under this Divine stipulation. My guide in what I am saying is the Qur’an, which Muslims believe to be the immutable word of Allah, which falsehood cannot approach from before it or from behind, which I consider to suffice as my proof! [5] No verse in Qur’an calls on Muslims to spread Islam by force; in fact the Qur’an forbids aggression and calls for wisdom and good advice, and the distance between these and murder is like the distance between Heaven and Earth.

If anyone finds a verse in the Qur’an calling on Muslims to fight others without those having assaulted them first or started killings, let him come up with it! We have got used to reading verses brought as evidence, but they are mostly indications taken out of an integrated context, just like saying: “Do not approach prayer” and then stopping before completing the rest of the verse: “while you are intoxicated.”

What are the verses in the Qur’an that urge to fight, which a Muslim relies on in explaining that Allah commanded him to fight the infidels and spread Islam by force?

Let us read together the main verses where fighting is mentioned:

  1. “Fight in the way of Allah those who fight you but do not transgress. Indeed. Allah does not like transgressors.” (Al-Baqara 2:190)

This verse forbids aggression, and makes fighting conditional on it being a response to an attack and not initiated by the Muslim. It is in the light of this verse that every other verse in the Qur’an that calls to fight must be understood, because as long as the Almighty categorically forbade aggression and stipulated that He does not like aggressors, then no fight is legitimate unless it would be in response to an attack or assault. The Qur’an is an integral message and verses must be read in conjunction with each other and not in isolation. The Message is one unit!

  1. “And kill them wherever you overtake them and expel them from wherever they have expelled you, and ‘fitnah’ sedition is worse than killing.”( Al-Baqara 2:191)

In this verse, fighting is mentioned in conjunction with His saying “….and expel them from wherever they have expelled you”. Fighting, in this case, is in response to an aggression committed in expelling Muslims from their land.

  1. “[Fighting in] the sacred month is for [aggression committed in] the sacred month, and for [all] violations is legal retribution. So whoever has assaulted you, then assault him in the same way that he has assaulted you. And fear Allah and know that Allah is with those who fear Him.” (Al-Baqara 2:194)

This verse states that an attack must be in response to an attack “fight them in the sacred month if they fight you during it.” In addition to that, retribution can only be a response to an injustice, as you cannot initiate retribution because then it would not anymore be retribution!

  1. “Would you not fight a people who broke their oaths and determined to expel the Messenger, and they had begun [the attack upon] you the first time? Do you fear them? But Allah has more right that you should fear Him, if you are [truly] believers.” (At-Tawba 9:13)

This verse states that fighting is in response to the aggression started against you first by people who were about to expel the Messenger and renege on their Covenant.  This is self-defence, not taking the initiative to fight to spread Islam.

  1. “Fight those who do not believe in Allah or in the Last Day and who do not consider unlawful what Allah and His Messenger have made unlawful and who do not adopt the religion of truth from those who were given the Scripture – [fight] until they give the jizya willingly while they are humbled.” (At-Tawba 9:29)

This verse needs more elaboration, to which I will attend later on in another chapter when I will deal with jizya, its origins and what is determined in the Qur’an.

Which of these verses calls for a fight without it being in response to aggression or defence of self and religion?

After this display of evidence from the verses of the Qur’an, how could pages be blackened glorifying murder, invasion and aggression under the pretext that Allah ordered them? Let whoever challenges this contention produce a single alternative verse. It is no good arguing that this or that fallible Caliph did it.

In addition to all this, the Merciful Lord of Heavens and the Earth willed that His mercy, which encompasses all things,[6] should not exclude amnesty and forgiveness if the aggressor stops his aggression. Evidence of that are many in the Qur’an, like His saying about the polytheists:

“And if any one of the polytheists seeks your protection, then grant him protection so that he may hear the words of Allah. Then deliver him to his place of safety. That is because they are a people who do not know.” (At-Tawba 9:6)

He said: “.. deliver him to his place of safety“, not: ‘and then cut off his head’. Where did those demonic evil scholars of the Muslims come up with the invention of beheadings, when the Messenger released polytheists unharmed giving them the benefit of the doubt?

The Almighty ordered us to uphold peace, stating that in more than one place:

“And if they incline to peace, then incline to it [also] and rely upon Allah. Indeed, it is He who is the Hearing, the Knowing.” (Al-Anfaal 8:61)

“Except for those who take refuge with a people between yourselves and with whom is a treaty or with those who come to you, their hearts strained at [the prospect of] fighting you or fighting their own people. If Allah had willed, He could have given them power over you, and they would have fought you. So if they remove themselves from you and do not fight you and offer you peace, then Allah has not made for you a cause [for fighting] against them” (An-Nisaa 4:90).

We must stop and consider these two verses, to see to whom Allah is referring. As the victim is not able to offer you peace because he does not have the capacity to do so, then it must follow that Allah is describing the behaviour of the perpetrator or aggressor, which confirms what I said before, that a Muslim is forbidden from initiating aggression. Thus, when the enemy wants to stop his aggression and turn to peace, then Allah had ordered Muslims to accept peace in saying: “Allah has not made for you a cause [for fighting] against them”.

I started this book by stating that, if a group of people from outer space were to land on Earth tomorrow, and they would hear what some Muslims say and do, none of them would turn to Islam as his religion.

I do not intend to enter into a philosophical religious debate about the origin of religions of the Semites, because this is a subjective issue, believed by those who believe and rejected by those who reject. I have no problem with that, because I am not trying to convince anyone that Islam is better than Christianity or any other religion. I am committed to a saying of His, which most Muslims have not noticed and Muslim jurists avoided: “O you who have believed, upon you is [responsibility for] yourselves. Those who have gone astray will not harm you when you have been guided. To Allah is your return all together; then He will inform you of what you used to do” (Al-Maaida 5:105).  How is it my business what those whom Allah did not want to guide, or he who did not want to purify himself, do: “He has succeeded who purifies it, And he has failed who instils it [with corruption]” (Ash-Shams 91:9).

But I need to point out here that I think that religions are, in essence, one, and every religion came to people in their tongue to get them out of the darkness of physical matter to the light of mental serenity. It cannot be logically acceptable that one Creator, as agreed upon by all religions, created the universe and yet this Creator was confusing his creation by sending different messages. He did not change His message between sending Ibrāhim, Moses, Jesus, or Muhammad as Muslims believe the series to be.  All of them came from this Creator and the bond that bound them when the Lord took from the children of Adam [7] their descendants, each came speaking his people’s tongue, warning them and not guiding: “You are only a warner, and for every people is a guide” (Ar-Ra’d 13:7). This great Lord could not have ordered Jesus to call his people to love and tolerance, then order Muhammad to call his people to carry out killing, aggression and invasion. He who prevented believers in this world from killing the As-Sāmiri is the ONE who prevented believers from killing Judas Iscariot, and prevented believers from killing Abu Sufyān.[8] That is because killing is His; he kills if He wishes and punishes whenever He wishes and forgives if He so wishes!

These religions came to certain peoples in their tongues. Thus the Torah was in Hebrew, the Bible in Aramaic and the Qur’an in Arabic. Every book of these came to warn the people who spoke that tongue. Without delving into the history of religions of this region, it suffices to restrict the research to the Qur’an and its message, and those to whom it came.

When I blogged that Islam is the religion of the Arabs, some of my friends did not like what I said. I find it important to explain to them because I am confident that they have no intention of defaming me, but they may simply be reluctant to accept what I say, probably because of the depth of the roots of what they have learned and the desire to learn more.

One wrote me that my argument, that Islam came to the Arabs, based on the verse “that you may warn the Mother of Cities and those around it”, is not enough evidence, because if it were a sound basis, we must accept the Almighty’s saying “And warn, [O Muhammad], your closest kindred”(Ash-Shu’araa 26:214), and the Prophet would have contented himself with warning Banu Hāshim. It is a reasonable objection but more than one Qur’anic and logical evidence disproves it.

When the Prophet was ordered to convey the Message, he declared it and the first who heard it were his household; his wife Khadija and his cousin and protégé ‘Ali and Zaid Ibn Hāritha, who embraced Islam immediately.  Then came the Divine command to “warn your closest kindred”. He therefore gathered the Banu Hāshim and showed them what he was commanded to communicate. Around him gathered a group of close believers, who had accepted the First Call in His saying “And [mention] when your Lord took from the children of Adam – from their loins – their descendants and made them testify of themselves, [saying to them], ‘Am I not your Lord?’ They said, ‘Yes, we have testified.’ [This] – lest you should say on the day of Resurrection, ‘Indeed, we were of this unaware’ ” (Al-A’raaf 7:172). Allah has commanded him to warn the Mecca, Mother of Cities, and those Arabs around it in saying:

“And thus We have revealed to you an Arabic Qur’an that you may warn the Mother of Cities [Mecca] and those around it and warn of the Day of Assembly, about which there is no doubt. A party will be in Paradise and a party in the Blaze” (Ash-Shura 42:7).

Before considering this verse, and what supports it in Qur’an, it must be said that there was no Divine Order after that telling the Prophet to warn the people of China or warn the Romans, for example, but He limited it to the Mother of Cities and those around it who have not had a warner. An enquirer may ask why did the warning stop at the Mother of Cities and those around it?

The answer is in the same verse, which is that the Qur’an is in Arabic, and the warning cannot be but in the tongue of the people it intends to warn. The Almighty has committed himself to this when he said:

“And We did not send any messenger except [speaking] in the language of his people to state clearly for them, and Allah sends astray [thereby] whom He wills and guides whom He wills. And He is the Exalted in Might, the Wise” (Ibrāhim 14:4). And He would never renege on His words!

The Almighty confirmed the Arabic nature of the Qur’an in eleven verses, all clearly stating that the Qur’an is Arabic and that its legislation is Arabic:

“And thus We have revealed it as an Arabic legislation. And if you should follow their inclinations after what has come to you of knowledge, you would not have against Allah any ally or any protector” (Ar-Ra’d 13:37).

When He distinguished it from the book of Moses, despite the fact that Moses’ Tablets are identical to Muhammad’s Testament in everything, He said:
“And before it was the scripture of Moses to lead and as a mercy. And this is a confirming Book in an Arabic tongue to warn those who have wronged and as good tidings to the doers of good” (Al-Ahqaf 46:12)

 
And when The Almighty said:
“And if We had made it a non-Arabic Qur’an, they would have said, ‘Why are its verses not explained in detail [in our language]? Is it a foreign [recitation] and an Arab [messenger]?’ Say, ‘It is, for those who believe, a guidance and cure. ‘And those who do not believe – in their ears is deafness, and it is upon them blindness. Those are being called from a distant place” (Fussilat 41:44), He cut the road on all those who say that Islam came to all people on Earth and that all they are charged with following it. This is because He allowed the Arab to ask, if the warning had come in a non-Arabic language, is it foreign and Arabic? How can He be just with the Arab when He allows the Arab to ask this question, and not be just, for example, with the Chinese, if we assume that he would be asked on the Day of Judgment about the Qur’an, would he not ask: Why are its verses not explained in detail [in our language]? Is it a foreign [recitation] and Chinese?

“And even if We had revealed it to one among the foreigners, And he had recited it to them, they would not have been believers in it” (Ash-Shu’araa 26: 198-199)

How is it possible for Muslims to claim today that the Qur’an was sent to all people on Earth when Allah told them in the above verse those non-Arabs would not believe it simply because it was not sent in their tongue?
Islam is the religion of the Arabs that was sent in their tongue “That you may warn a people whose forefathers were not warned, so they are unaware” (Yaseen 36:6). It is the identity of the Arabs, and they are its people. The Arabic identity of the Qur’an is not the subject of debate or conflict, as it is quite briefly the Qur’an of the Arabs! That is why I find it difficult to hear some Indian or African or Albanian, who does not know the basics of Arabic language, lecturing in jurisprudence and explaining the Qur’an, when he does not know why every Sura in the Qur’an starts with the letter (Ba’) and not any other character. Even Surat at-Tawba (Penitence) – which does not start with the Basmalah – starts with the letter (Ba’) in the word (Barā’a).[9] Or how does Allah inspire his Prophets with the letters “Ha’, Meem ‘Ayn, Seen, Qāf”? [10] and a thousand other questions.

The Jews have succeeded in something in which Muslims failed, when they did not allow a person to be a Jew unless he understood the Torah in its native language, in addition to having been born to a Jewish mother. The Jew learns, from a Jewish mother and wherever he is, Hebrew, to understand the words of God with which Moses was singled out. How many Muslims, who have exceeded the billion in number, know Arabic? How can their Islam, in this case, be of value without an honest sense of knowledge of the Qur’an? Islam is not simply prostration in ignorance, because animals would then be more Muslim than humans would, for they are eternally prostrating with their heads in the ground “If We willed, We could send down to them from the sky a sign for which their necks would remain humbled”(Ash-Shu’araa 26:4).

 
No one should think that I am trying to prevent a person choosing, as I am not going to turn away any non-Arab who wants to convert to Islam. But I say that he is not commanded to do so. If he wants to convert to Islam, he should first be Arabized in order to be able to embrace it. After that he is entitled to what Arabs are entitled to and bound by the same obligations in religion.

 
So what did the Messenger of Mercy do in calling non-Arabs to Islam, and did this happen

 

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