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See: Project Rebuttal: What the West needs to know about Islam

Refuting the gross distortion and misrepresentation of the Quran, the Prophet Muhammad and Islam, made by the critics of Islam

Read: Background to the Project

List of all Issues | Summary 1 | Summary 2 | Summary 3‎ — completed, 28th June 2013


December 11th, 2011

Issue 33

Issue 33 [@ 28:58]: Robert Spencer – “This is the calculus behind modern suicide bombing. Many people will say, modern Muslim advocates will say that Islam forbids suicide. And this is plainly dishonest because all the advocates, all the defenders of suicide bombing in the Islamic world, start out by saying – ‘This is not suicide, the intention of the person is not to kill himself, the intention of the person is to kill others. And that is sanctioned because this is Islamic Jihad. And if in the process are killed themselves, that is an unavoidable consequence of their action. And they will be rewarded with the reward of martyrs in Paradise ‘”

Rebuttal 33: Robert Spencer is trying to tell the audience that suicide bombers kill by finding justification in Islam and by implication from Quran. Whether it is suicide bomber or Spencer smearing the Quran, in the words of Spencer himself such justification on either side of the aisle “is plainly dishonest.”

Nowhere Quran allows the suicide or killing of the innocent and non-combatants. It “is plainly dishonest” to ensnare Quran in such a nonsensical argument and that too while trying to find justification out of Quran for a carnage either by the perpetrator or the insinuators like Spencer himself. Self immolation if at all is only found in Bible that Spencer himself follows. Killing of self and mayhem on others for Atonement is none but Biblical. Exodus 32 – King James Version states:

25. And when Moses saw that the people were naked; (for Aaron had made them naked unto their shame among their enemies)

26. Then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, Who is on the LORD’s side? let him come unto me. And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto him.

27. And he said unto them, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Put every man his sword by his side, and go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbour.

28. And the children of Levi did according to the word of Moses: and there fell of the people that day about three thousand men.

29. For Moses had said, Consecrate yourselves today to the LORD, even every man upon his son, and upon his brother; that he may bestow upon you a blessing this day.

30. And it came to pass on the morrow, that Moses said unto the people, Ye have sinned a great sin: and now I will go up unto the LORD; peradventure I shall make an atonement for your sin.

Suicide, no matter what its objective, is plainly not allowed in Islam. There is no room for any discussion to justify it, be it by a misguided zealot or the so called expert of this documentary who tries to find justification for such a zealot. Factually, in Quran, the argument is directly opposite that of a suicide i.e. it emphasizes self preservation. Dr. Zahid Aziz in his book “Islam, Peace and Tolerance” [p. 52-4] writes the following:

Suicide is a sin in Islam, and self-preservation is a duty

The committing of suicide is a very serious sin according to the clear teachings of Islam. The Holy Quran instructs:

“Do not cast yourselves to destruction by your own hands.” — 2:195

“Do not kill yourselves.” — 4:29

In Hadith reports, committing suicide is strongly condemned by the Prophet Muhammad who said:

“… whoever commits suicide with something, will be punished with the same thing in the hell-fire.” (3 Bukhari, book: ‘Oaths and vows’. In Muhsin Khan translation see 8:78:647.)

In Sahih Muslim, there is a chapter entitled Abandoning of funeral prayer for him who committed suicide in which it is reported that the Holy Prophet Muhammad personally refused to say the funeral prayer for a deceased who had killed himself (Sahih Muslim, book: ‘Prayer’. In A.H. Siddiqui translation see book 4, ch. 205, number 2133.). In Muslim countries, attempted suicide has always been a criminal offence and a person guilty of it would face legal penalties. Self-preservation and saving of one’s life is the most basic human instinct. Actions to save one’s life are regarded in the Quran as matters of such high priority that it allows a Muslim to set aside certain obligatory duties and prohibitions, if necessary, to save his life. We give some details of this below.

1. Where the Quran prohibits the eating of certain things, including the meat of the pig, it allows their consumption if it becomes unavoidably necessary in order to save one’s life. In two verses, after mentioning the prohibited foods it is stated:

“But whoever is compelled by hunger, not inclining wilfully to sin, then surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.” — 5:3

“But whoever is compelled, not desiring nor exceeding the limit, then surely your Lord is Forgiving, Merciful.” — 6:145

Nowhere does the Quran say that if a Muslim invites certain death upon himself rather than make use of a prohibited food to save his life then he is some kind of a martyr.

2. A Muslim who denies his faith under duress and coercion in order to save his life, while believing in Islam in his heart, is excluded from condemnation in the Quran:

“Whoever disbelieves in Allah after his belief — not he who is compelled while his heart is content with faith, but he who opens the heart for disbelief — on them is the wrath of Allah, and for them is a grievous punishment (in the hereafter).” — 16:106

Thus if a Muslim is threatened by an enemy of Islam that he will be killed unless he renounces Islam, or face some other dire consequences, the Quran allows him to save his life by making merely an outward renunciation, even though it would constitute a grave sin to make the same denial voluntarily.

3. If fasting during the month of Ramadan would endanger the life of a Muslim man or woman, young or old, this obligation is suspended. Again, to knowingly cause injury to oneself, in order to carry out the duty of fasting, is not any kind of a good or meritorious deed in Islam.

4. It is well known that the obligation of going to perform the Pilgrimage to Makka (hajj) does not apply to anyone whose life would be in danger for any reason by undertaking the visit.

Finally, as explained earlier in this book, even the taking up of arms to fight, by risking one’s life, is only allowed by Islam in order to save and preserve life as the alternative would be to face certain death and destruction. For instance, verses 22:39–40 have been quoted in Section 4 of this book [inserted – “Permission (to fight) is given to those on whom war is made, because they are oppressed. And Allah is able to assist them — those who are driven from their homes without a just cause except that they say: Our Lord is Allah.” — 22:39, 40]which allow Muslims to fight if war has been made upon them, and they are required to repel their enemies in order to save all places of worship from destruction [inserted – “And if Allah did not repel some people by others, then cloisters and churches and synagogues and mosques in which Allah’s name is much remembered, would have been pulled down.” — 22:40]. By repelling their enemy the Muslims saved their own lives, not committed suicide.

Equating Jihad with violence is “plainly dishonest.” To understand the significance and meaning of Jihad in Quran see earlier Issues 27 and 32. Spencer used the word “Islamic Jihad” to make his case for violence by some ignorant in the name of Jihad. The term “Islamic Jihad” used by Spencer needs further exposition. Dr. Zahid Aziz in the same book above “Islam, Peace and Tolerance” [p. 43-9] clarifies the fundamental understanding about the Jihad that this documentary is trying to distort and ingrain in the audience:

What is Jihad?

The Arabic word jihad means striving or exerting yourself to the utmost against something disapproved. It does not as such mean war or fighting by means of arms. No doubt an armed conflict could also be described as a jihad, but that usage would be similar to applying the word ‘struggle’ in English to a war. To determine what is considered as jihad in the teachings of Islam, we need to examine the usage of this word in the Quran. In such a broad sense is the word jihad used in the Quran that it is applied to the striving carried out by those opposed to Islam to make Muslims worship other beings and things than the One God:

“And We have enjoined on man goodness to his parents. But if they strive with you to ascribe partners to Me, of which you have no knowledge, do not obey them.” — 29:8 and see also 31:15

The Arabic word translated as ‘strive’ here indicates the act of jihad. This use shows that, firstly, jihad does not mean war, as no war is being waged here, and secondly that even the opponents of the Muslims are spoken of as undertaking a jihad against the Muslims!

In the Quran we find that the jihad, or striving, that it requires Muslims to conduct is of the following kinds:

1. Striving to attain nearness to God by improving yourself morally and spiritually and overcoming your bad desires;

2. Sticking to Islam under difficult circumstances, such as when facing persecution, by showing perseverance and patience in conditions of suffering;

3. Striving to take the message of Islam to others, by devoting your time, energy and money for this work;

4. Fighting, or helping to fight, in battle in the defence of the Muslims community, under the conditions in which Islam allows Muslims to fight a war by military means.

Jihad to attain nearness to God

This is mentioned in the following verse:

“And those who strive hard for Us, We shall certainly guide them in Our ways. And Allah is surely with the doers of good.” — 29:69

The word translated as “strive hard” indicates the act of doing jihad in the original Arabic. The meaning is clearly striving hard to bring about your moral and spiritual improvement. It may be noted that a synonym of jihad is the word mujahada, which is applied to religious exertions such as fasting.

The two verses given below indicate the same jihad, where again the word “strive” is used to translate the act of jihad:

“And strive hard for Allah with due striving. He has chosen you and has not laid upon you any hardship in religion … so keep up prayer and pay the due charity and hold fast to Allah.” —22:78

“And whoever strives hard, strives for himself. Surely Allah is Self-sufficient, above need of His creatures.” — 29:6

These verses were revealed to the Holy Prophet Muhammad while he was living under persecution at Makka, and therefore the command here to do jihad cannot refer to fighting. In case of the first verse, the form of striving is indicated as by prayer, giving in charity and holding fast to God.

Jihad of patience and endurance

This is indicated in the following verse:

“Then surely your Lord, to those who flee after they are persecuted, then strive hard and are patient, surely your Lord after that is Protecting, Merciful.” — 16:110

This verse was revealed while the Holy Prophet was still resident at Makka, before Muslims had been commanded to fight in battle, while they had started to emigrate to Madina. Their striving hard or jihad was to bear all this hardship with patience, and did not mean fighting.

A jihad of this kind is also indicated in a well-known Hadith report, in which the Holy Prophet Muhammad said:

“The most excellent jihad is to say a word of truth before an unjust ruler.” (Tirmidhi, Abwab-ul-Fitan.)

Here, speaking the truth for a noble purpose, when it requires great courage to do so, is called jihad, indeed the most excellent jihad, by the Holy Prophet of Islam.

Jihad of propagating the message of Islam

The jihad of the verse 16:110, quoted above, includes propagating the message of Islam, because it was for this also that the Muslims were being persecuted. This verse requires them to persevere in the jihad of preaching and be patient as to the results.

The Holy Prophet Muhammad is commanded:

“And if We pleased, We could raise a warner in every town. So do not obey the disbelievers, and strive against them a mighty striving with it.” — 25:51–52

The mighty or great striving, the great jihad (jihad kabir in Arabic) mentioned here, is the mission of the Holy Prophet Muhammad to spread the truth with the Quran, which is what the words “with it” refer to. This is also the duty of every Muslim as the great jihad. This verse, again, was revealed during the Makkan phase of the Holy Prophet’s life and therefore the command in it to “strive a mighty striving”, which mentions jihad twice, cannot possibly refer to undertaking any armed conflict.

There are also verses revealed much later at Madina in which jihad cannot mean fighting by arms. For example:

“O Prophet, strive hard against the disbelievers and the hypocrites and be firm against them.” — 9:73; 66:9

The hypocrites were a group who were outwardly a part of the Muslim community but at critical junctures they deserted the cause of Islam and showed insincerity of faith. No war was ever undertaken against them. The striving hard or jihad against them were the efforts to convince them of the truth of Islam. The same form of ‘striving’ also applies in case of the disbelievers mentioned here. More than ten English translations of the Quran render the meaning of doing jihad in these two verses as “strive hard”, and not as “fight” or “wage war”.

For another example of verses revealed at Madina where jihad cannot mean fighting, we refer to chapter 61, verse 11:

“You should believe in Allah and His Messenger, and strive hard in Allah’s way with your wealth and your lives. That is better for you, if you but knew!”

Three verses later it is stated:

“O you who believe, be helpers (in the cause) of Allah, as Jesus, son of Mary, said to the disciples: Who are my helpers in the cause of Allah? The disciples said: We are helpers (in the cause) of Allah.” — 61:14

The striving hard, or jihad, of verse 11 is explained in this verse 14 as making yourselves helpers in the cause of Allah in the manner in which the disciples of Jesus responded to his call to be helpers in the Divine cause. The disciples of Jesus, whether according to Islamic or Christian sources, were not asked to fight in any battle with weapons. They helped the cause of truth by propagating his message in the face of persecution and the utmost difficulties.

Jihad of war

The Quran also speaks of jihad by fighting, as for example:

“Go forth, light and heavy, and strive hard in Allah’s way with your wealth and your lives.” — 9:41

“And when a chapter is revealed, saying, Believe in Allah and strive hard along with His Messenger, the wealthy among them ask permission of you (O Prophet) and say: Leave us behind, that we may be with those who sit at home. … But the Messenger and those who believe with him strive hard with their property and their persons.” — 9:86, 88

There are instances reported in Hadith where, when certain Muslims expressed the desire to join a jihad of fighting, the Holy Prophet told them that their jihad was to perform some other duty entirely unrelated to fighting. For example:

“Aisha (wife of the Holy Prophet) asked: Messenger of Allah, we consider jihad to be the most excellent of all deeds. Should we not then engage in jihad? He said: The most excellent jihad is the properly-performed Hajj (Pilgrimage to Makka).” (Bukhari, book: ‘Pilgrimage’, ch. 4. In the Muhsin Khan translation see the report 2:26:595.)

“A man came to the Prophet and asked his permission for jihad. He asked: Are your parents alive? The man said, Yes. He said: Then do jihad in their way.” (Bukhari, book: Jihad, ch. 138. In the Muhsin Khan translation see the report 4:52:248.)

The words “do jihad in their way” can only mean, and are understood by everyone as meaning, “exert yourself in the service of your parents”. The Holy Prophet here has not presented the Pilgrimage or service of parents as a metaphorical or lesser alternative for people unable to take part in a real jihad. He has described these as the actual jihad on their part. A very illuminating incident is recorded in Hadith, of a time some sixty years after the death of the Holy Prophet, when there was a rebellion of some Muslims led by Ibn Zubair against the Muslim government of the time. Abdullah ibn Umar, one of the greatest authorities on the Quran and son of the second Caliph Umar, was urged by some to join this rebellion as they considered it as jihad. It is reported:

“A man came to Ibn Umar and said: Why is it that one year you go for the Hajj and one year you go for the Umra (a lesser form of the Pilgrimage), and yet you have discarded jihad in the way of God? You know how much God has encouraged jihad? Ibn Umar said: My nephew, Islam is based on five things: Belief in God and His messenger, five prayers, fasting in Ramadan, giving zakat, and the Pilgrimage to the House of God. The man said: Do you not hear what God has said in His Book, … ‘so fight them till there is an end to the mischief ’. Ibn Umar said: ‘We acted on this in the time of the Holy Prophet. At that time, Muslims were few, and a man (who accepted Islam) used to face persecution for his religion — they would kill him or punish him. But then the followers of Islam multiplied in number, and there was no mischief left’.” (Bukhari, book: ‘Commentary on the Quran’, ch. 30 under Sura 2. In the Muhsin Khan translation see the report 6:60:40.)

Thus Ibn Umar refused to recognize that this armed conflict, regarded as jihad by many Muslims, was at all a jihad that a Muslim must join even though it is generally regarded as a just cause against a caliph who was a usurper of that position. As his reference to the five pillars of Islam shows, Ibn Umar did not consider it a duty in Islam to join that so-called jihad.

Conditions for a jihad by arms

For a war to be a jihad in Islamic terms, it must fulfil the conditions specified in the Quran. We have already seen in Section 4, ‘When is war allowed?’, the circumstances in which wars are permissible in Islam. It must be a war of self-defence and self-preservation by an entire Muslim community which is being persecuted for its religion. Only the government of a state or the leadership of a community can call upon Muslims to engage in such jihad. There must be negotiations with the enemy to avoid war and establish peace, if possible. In battle, the clear instructions of Holy Prophet Muhammad must be followed, who strictly forbade the killing of the noncombatants and the defenceless among the enemy such as women, children, old people, and even those only doing labouring work for the enemy soldiers, not being fighters themselves. Again, the Holy Prophet’s example must be followed in the proper and humane treatment of any captured prisoners of war, who must eventually be freed to rejoin their people (These clear directions can be found in the leading collections of Hadith, Bukhari, Muslim, Tirmidhi and Abu Dawud in chapters on Jihad or Wars.)

There is no legitimacy at all in Islam for fringe, secretive, self-styled ‘Islamic’ groups to declare a jihad of war in the first place. Then to conduct their so-called jihad by acts such as indiscriminate violent attacks on the general, unsuspecting public, and kidnapping people and holding them as hostage, is simply abhorrent to the teachings of the Holy Quran and the Holy Prophet Muhammad.

Robert Spencer at the end of his statement maliciously segues into the concept of Martyrdom. This topic will be taken up in the next Issue 34.

Exodus 32 – King James Version – Bible Gateway
Islam, Peace and Tolerance – Dr. Zahid Aziz

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