March 9, 2005
Top ten reasons why Islam is not the religion of peaceBy James Arlandson
Ever since 9/11, Muslim leaders who have access to the national media have told us that Islam is the religion of peace and that violence does not represent the essence of Muhammad's religion.
Even President Bush and Britain's Prime Minister Blair have repeated this assertion, saying that Islam has been 'hijacked' by a few violent fanatics. Is this true?
Sadly it is not, for empirical, observable facts demonstrate beyond doubt that Islam at its founding is filled with violence—in the life of Muhammad himself and in the Quran itself.
Hence, these Muslim apologists must stop misleading unsuspecting Westerners, and they must be honest about the heart of their religion, for once and for all.
Here are ten clear, verifiable reasons that explain why Islam is not the religion of peace.
Clear? In order to prevent the standard, reflexive 'out of context' defense from Muslim apologists, the context of each verse in the Quran is explained either in this article or in the links provided within each of the ten reasons. No verse is taken out of context, and Muslim translators are used.
Verifiable? The readers are invited to look up each verse in the Quran in multiple translations, by visiting this website and typing in references, like so: 61:10—12. (61 is the chapter or sura, and 10—12 are the verses). Once at the site, they should ignore request for the transliterated Arabic titles of the chapters in the Quran, and just type in the numbers.
10. Muhammad nicknames his weapons.
Tabari (AD 839—923) is an early Muslim historian who is considered largely reliable by scholars today. In fact, the State University of New York Press selected his history to be translated into 38 volumes. (We use volume 9, pp. 153—55, trans. Ismail K. Poonawala.)
In the context of the list of Muhammad's assets (horses, camels, milch sheep, and so on) at the end of his life, Tabari records the nicknames of Muhammad's weapons.
Muhammad nicknames three swords that he took from the Jewish tribe Qaynuqa after he banished them from Medina in April 624: 'Pluck Out,' 'Very Sharp,' and 'Death.' Two other swords from elsewhere are named: 'Sharp' and 'That is wont to sink' (presumably into human flesh). After his Hijrah or Emigration from Mecca to Medina in 622, he owned two swords called 'Sharp' and 'Having the vertebrae of the back.' This last sword he collected as booty after his victory at the Battle of Badr in March 624.
Next, Muhammad took three bows from the Qaynuqa tribe and named them as follows: 'Most conducive to ease, or wide,' 'white,' and 'of nab wood' (species of tree from which bows are made).
The name of a coat of mail implies 'ampleness' or 'redundant portions,' probably because Muhammad was portly (cf. Ibn Ishaq, Life of Muhammad, trans. Guillaume, p. 383).
Finally, even Muhammad himself has a nickname. After Tabari lists the positive ones, he matter—of—factly provides one that is not so positive: 'The obliterator.'
Muslim apologists may object that Tabari is not authoritative (except when he shows Muhammad as heroic or victorious) and that he is not on the same level as the Quran and some hadiths (words and deeds of Muhammad outside of the Quran). This is true. But Muslim apologists still must answer why such a tradition of naming weapons developed about Muhammad. After all, later, unauthoritative traditions about Christ developed, but they do not show him naming weapons. The answer to this question is found in the next nine reasons.
Thus, violence sits at the heart of early Islam—in the life of Muhammad. Islam is therefore not the religion of peace.
9. Muhammad commands in his Quran that adulterers and adulteresses should receive a hundred lashes.
24:2 Strike the adulteress and the adulterer one hundred times. Do not let compassion for them keep you from carrying out God's law—if you believe in God and the Last Day—and ensure that a group of believers witnesses the punishment. (Haleem)
The supposed historical context of this sura occurs during a raid of a tribe in December 627 or January 628, on which Muhammad brought his favorite and youngest wife, Aisha, also the daughter of Abu Bakr, his right—hand lieutenant. After the Muslims' victory, they journeyed back to Medina, one hundred and fifty miles to the north. On their last halt, Aisha answered the call of nature, but lost her necklace in the dark, just as the army was setting out from their encampment early in the morning. She left her litter, returned to look for the necklace, and found it. Meanwhile, the man leading her camel assumed she was in her curtained litter and led the animal away by the halter. Returning, Aisha saw that she was left behind.
However, a handsome young Muslim named Safwan saw her and accompanied her back to Medina, though both the Muslims and Muhammad's opposition wagged their tongues at seeing the two youngsters entering the city together. Eventually, revelation came that Aisha was not guilty of any immorality.
Sura 24 thus establishes some ground rules against adultery, of which flogging one hundred times is one of the rules. Amazingly, 24:2 exhorts the accusers and judges not to let compassion keep them from carrying out God's law.
Moreover, early and reliable traditions depict Muhammad and his Muslims stoning adulterers and adulteresses, as recorded by Bukhari and Muslim:
Umar said: God sent Muhammad with the truth and sent down the Book [Quran] to him, and the verse of stoning was included in what God most high sent down. God's messenger [Muhammad] had people stoned to death, and we have done it also since his death. Stoning is a duty laid down in God's Book for married men and women who commit fornication when proof is established, or if there is pregnancy, or a confession.
Umar was Muhammad's right—hand lieutenant (along with Abu Bakr), and even shortly after Muhammad's death he tried very hard to get a verse allowing stoning into the Quran, but he did not succeed (Ibn Ishaq, Life of Muhammad, trans. Guillaume, p. 684). Be that as it may, this and the next hadith are sufficient for many Muslims today to endorse stoning, as seen here and here.
Perhaps the most gruesome hadith is the following. A woman came to the Prophet and asked for purification. He told her to go away and seek God's forgiveness. She persisted four times and admitted that she was pregnant as a result of fornication. He told her to wait until she had given birth. Then he said that the Muslim community should wait until she had weaned her child. When the day arrived for the child to take solid food, Muhammad handed the child over to the community and ordered the woman's death by stoning.
And when he had given command over her and she was put in a hole up to her breast, he ordered the people to stone her. Khalid b. al—Walid came forward with a stone which he threw at her head, and when the blood spurted on his face he cursed her . . . (Muslim)
The Prophet prayed over her dead body and then buried her. Truthfully, how effective was the prayer when Muhammad and his community murdered her in cold blood? They should have forgiven her and let her go to raise her child.
Even if Muslim apologists today do not accept these hadiths, then they still have to answer why the true God would send down the harsh punishment of lashing in the Quran (Sura 24:2), when the New Testament says nothing about this. Christians should therefore rightly reject this verse, for Christ forgave the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1—11). He showed us the better way and taught the will of the true God.
For more information on this early punishment and how it is applied today, link to this article, which also answers Muslim apologists and explains John 8:1—11 more thoroughly.
Thus, cruel violence sits at the heart of early Islam—in Muhammad's life and in his Quran. Islam is therefore not the religion of peace.
8. Muhammad in his Quran permits husbands to beat their wives.
4:34 Husbands should take full care of their wives, with [the bounties] God has given to some more than others and with what they spend out of their own money. Righteous wives are devout and guard what God would have them guard in the husbands' absence. If you fear high—handedness from your wives, remind them [of the teaching of God], then ignore them when you go to bed, then hit them. If they obey you, you have no right to act against them. God is most high and great. (Haleem)
Written in the historical context of the Battle of Uhud (March 625), in which Islam lost 70 holy warriors, this verse belongs to a larger collection of verses that outlines laws for the family, such as how to divide the inheritance and to how to oversee the assets of orphans (vv. 1—35).
Plainly said, Sura 4:34 specifies that husbands may beat their unruly wives if the husbands 'fear' highhandedness, quite apart from whether the wives are actually being highhanded. This puts the interpretation of the wives' behavior squarely in the husbands' judgment, and this swings the door to abuse wide open. This verse embodies a gigantic cultural and social step backwards and should be rejected by all fair—minded and reasonable people.
For a more thorough analysis of this hurtful practice, refer to this article.
Thus, domestic violence sits at the heart of early Islam—in the life of Muhammad and his Quran. Islam is therefore not the religion of peace.
7. Muhammad in his Quran commands that the hands of male or female thieves should be cut off.
5:38 Cut off the hands of thieves, whether they are male or female, as punishment for what they have done—a deterrent from God: God is almighty and wise. 39 But if anyone repents after his wrongdoing and makes amends, God will accept his repentance: God is most forgiving and merciful. (Haleem)
Three passages in the hadith interpret Muhammad's policy and provide its context. This is a quick compilation taken from the two most reliable collectors and editors of the hadith, Bukhari (810—870 AD) and Muslim (c. 817—875 AD):
Aisha [favorite wife of Muhammad] reported the Prophet saying, 'A thief's hand should be cut off for only a quarter of a dinar and upwards.'
A dinar, a word taken from the Roman denarius, was not a small sum, but not exorbitant either, yet one—fourth of a dinar merits the loss of a hand in Muhammad's view.
Ibn Umar said the Prophet had a thief's hand cut off for a shield worth three dirhams.
The shield was fairly expensive. The poor in Muhammad's armies could not afford one. But is a shield equal to a hand?
Abu Huraira reported the Prophet as saying, 'God curse a thief who steals an egg and has his hand cut off, and steals a rope and has his hand cut off!'
Some commentators are quick to say that an 'egg' is really a helmet, and the rope is a ship's rope, which is sizable and costly. However, the translation above is usually accepted, and this means that the penalty could be imposed for trivial thefts. But even if the more expensive items are in view here, they still do not measure up to a hand.
For more information on this gruesome practice and its historical context, link to this article, which also answers Muslim apologists who seek to defend this practice and which also contrasts Christ with Muhammad. Suffice it to say here, Christ never endorsed this sort of violence. And Paul the Apostle says that thieves should work with their hands in order to share with those in need, not get their hand cut off (Ephesians 4:28). So Paul excels Muhammad.
Thus, harsh and excessive punitive violence sits at the heart of early Islam—in Muhammad's life and in the Quran. Islam is therefore not the religion of peace.
6. Muhammad assassinates poets and poetesses.
These two poets represent others in early Islam.
Uqba mocked Muhammad in Mecca and wrote derogatory verses about him. He was captured during the Battle of Badr, and Muhammad ordered him to be executed. 'But who will look after my children, O Muhammad?' Uqba cried with anguish. 'Hell,' retorted the Prophet coldly. Then the sword of one of his followers cut through Uqba's neck.
March 624: Amsa bint Marwan
Amsa was a poetess who belonged to a tribe of Medinan pagans, and whose husband was named Yazid b. Zayd. She composed a poem blaming the Medinan pagans for obeying a stranger (Muhammad) and for not taking the initiative to attack him by surprise. When the Prophet heard what she had said, he asked, 'Who will rid me of Marwan's daughter?' A member of her husband's tribe volunteered and crept into her house that night. She had five children, and the youngest was sleeping at her breast. The assassin gently removed the child, drew his sword, and plunged it into her, killing her in her sleep.
The following morning, the assassin defied anyone to take revenge. No one took him up on his challenge, not even her husband. In fact, Islam became powerful among his tribe. Previously, some members who had kept their conversion secret now became Muslims openly, 'because they saw the power of Islam,' so conjectures an early Muslim source that reports the assassination.
In addition to the sources that recount these and other assassinations, the Quran also supports harsh punishments for mockers and insulters (Suras 3:186; 33:57; 33:59—61; and 9:61—63).
However, even if Muslims reject the early non—Quranic sources where these assassinations are found, they still must answer these questions: Why would such a tradition grow up around Muhammad in friendly Islamic sources? What was it about Muhammad that produced such reports? Why are these sources eager to present their prophet in a 'positive' way?
For an in—depth analysis of Muhammad's assassinations of poets and how they justify assassinations of artists today, like the one of Theo van Gogh, the Dutch filmmaker, refer to this article, which also answers the Muslim apologists who try to justify Muhammad's deadly policy, and which contrasts early Christianity with early Islam—Jesus assassinated no one, neither did he order this in the Gospels.
Thus, bullying and murderous violence sits at the heart of early Islam—in Muhammad's life and in the Quran. Islam is therefore not the religion of peace.
5. Muhammad commands death or the cutting off of hands and feet for fighting and corrupting the land.
5:33 Indeed, the punishment of those who fight Allah and His Messenger and who go around corrupting the land is to be killed, crucified, have their hands and feet cut off on opposite sides, or to be banished from the land. That is a disgrace for them in this life, and in the life to come theirs will be a terrible punishment. 34 Except for those who repent before you overpower them. Know, then, that Allah is All—Forgiving, Merciful. (Fakhry)
According to the hadith, the historical context of these verses runs as follows and clarifies 'fighting' and 'corrupting' the land.
Some Arab tribesmen visited the Prophet, but fell sick in the uncongenial climate of Medina, so he recommended an old folk belief: drinking the milk and urine of a camel. Subsequently, they are reported to have felt better. However, for some reason, after departing from Medina, they killed some of Muhammad's shepherds, turned apostate, and drove off the Prophet's camels.
This news reached him, and he ordered them to be hunted down and brought before him. He decreed that their hands and feet should be cut off, their eyes gouged out, and their bodies thrown upon stony ground until they died.
For more information on this policy that punishes people today based on Sura 5:33, even on ambiguous charges, and for a reply to Muslim apologists, link to this article, which also contrasts Christ with Muhammad.
Thus, gruesome violence sits at the heart of early Islam—in Muhammad's life and in the Quran. Islam is therefore not the religion of peace.
4. Muhammad aggressively attacks Meccan caravans.
A year or so after Muhammad's Hijrah from Mecca to Medina in 622, he attacks Meccan caravans six times, and sent out a punitive expedition three—days away against an Arab tribe that stole some Medinan grazing camels (or cattle), totaling seven raids.
W. Montgomery Watt, a highly reputable Western Islamologist who writes in favor of Muhammad and whose two—volume history of early Islam (Muhammad at Mecca (1953) and Muhammad at Medina (1956)) has won wide acceptance, tells us why geography matters:
The chief point to notice is that the Muslims took the offensive. With one exception the seven expeditions were directed against Meccan caravans. The geographical situation lent itself to this. Caravans from Mecca to Syria had to pass between Medina and the coast. Even if they kept as close to the Red Sea as possible, they had to pass within about eighty miles of Medina, and, while at this distance from the enemy base, would be twice as far from their own base. (Muhammad at Medina, emphasis added, p. 2)
It must be emphatically stated that the Meccans never sent a force up to the doorstep of Medina at this time—they did later on when they were fed up with Muhammad's aggressions. It is true that the Meccans gathered forces to protect their caravans, but when Muhammad confronted them, they were many days' journeys away from Medina, often more than a hundred miles. (Medina and Mecca are around 200—250 miles from each other, taking seven to eleven days of travel by foot, horse, or camel.)
Hence, two Muslim scholar—apologists are deliberately inaccurate when they assert that the caravans 'passed through' Medina, adding that the Muslims haphazardly sought for whatever spoils they could get, whereas the Meccans mobilized for war (Isma'il R. al—Faruqi and Lois Lamya'al Faruqi, The Cultural Atlas of Islam, New York: Macmillan, 1986, 134). Rather, it is more accurate to say that the Muslims were aggressively harassing the Meccans.
To complete the military picture of Muhammad's life from 622 to 632, Watt sums up the number of expeditions that Muhammad either sent out or went out on: seventy—four (Muhammad at Medina, pp. 2; 339—43). They range from negotiations (only a few compared to the violent expeditions), to small assassination hit squads, to the conquest of Mecca with 10,000 jihadists, and to the confrontation of Byzantine Christians (who never showed up), with 30,000 holy warriors to Tabuk (see below).
For a fuller account of these six early aggressive attacks against Meccan caravans, go to this article, which explains more thoroughly why these attacks are not defensive.
3. Muhammad in his Quran promises sensuous Gardens for martyrs dying in a military holy war.
Throughout the Quran, Muhammad promises the men in his fledgling Muslim community that if they die fighting for Allah and for him, Allah will reward them with a 'virgin—rich' Garden (Suras 44:51—56; 52:17—29; 55:46—78).
In the following Quranic passage, representing others (Suras 4:74, 9:111; 3:140—143), the Arabic word 'jihad' (root is j—h—d) is the means or currency to trade in this life for the life to come in an economic bargain.
61:10 You who believe, shall I show you a bargain that will save you from painful punishment? 11 Have faith in God and His Messenger and struggle [j—h—d] for His cause with your possessions and your persons—that is better for you, if only you knew—12 and He will forgive your sins, admit you into Gardens graced with flowing streams, into pleasant dwellings in the Gardens of Eternity. That is the supreme triumph. (Haleem)
These verses are found in the historical context of the Battle of Uhud (625), in which Muhammad lost 70 of his fighters. Thus, he must make the loss of life appear worth the sacrifice, so he frames their deaths in an economic bargain (note the word in bold print). If his jihadists trade in or sell their lives down here, they will be granted Islamic heaven—it is a done deal.
For an in—depth analysis of Islamic martyrdom and how Biblical martyrdom opposes it, link to this article. Christ's 'Martyrdom' on the cross opens the way to heaven so that the Christian does not have to die in a holy war to reach heaven.
Thus, deadly, heavenly violence sits at the heart of early Islam—in Muhammad's life and in the Quran. Islam is therefore not the religion of peace.
2. Muhammad unjustly executes around 600 male Jews and enslaves the women and children.
After the Battle of the Trench in March 627 (named after a trench that the Muslims dug around parts of Medina) against a large coalition of Meccans and their allies, Muhammad imposed the ultimate penalty on the men in the Jewish clan, Qurayzah, his third and final Jewish rivals (he banished the Qaynuqa tribe in April 624 and the Nadir tribe in August 625). The Qurayzah tribe was supposed to remain neutral in the Battle, but they seem to have intrigued with the Meccans and to have been on the verge of attacking Muhammad from the rear. They were judged guilty by one of their Medinan Muslim allies, though Muhammad could have shown mercy, exiled them (as indeed they requested), or executed only a few.
The sentence: Death by decapitation for around 600 men (some Islamic sources say 900), and enslavement for the women and children (he took a beautiful Jewess as his own prize). Muhammad was wise enough to have six clans execute two Jews each in order to stop any blood—feuds. The rest of the executions were probably carried out by his fellow Emigrants from Mecca and lasted the whole night.
According to Maulana Muhammad Ali's translation, the Prophet says in Sura 33:25—26 the following about the Battle of the Trench and his treatment of Qurayzah:
33:25 And Allah turned back the disbelievers [Meccans] in their rage—they gained no advantage. And Allah sufficed the believers in fighting. And Allah is ever Strong, Mighty. 26 And He drove down those of the People of the Book [Qurayzah] who backed them from their fortresses, and He cast awe into their hearts; some you killed and you took captive some. 27 And He made you heirs to their land and their dwelling and their properties . . . . Allah is ever Possessor of power over all things.
But these questions must be answered: Is intriguing with the enemy equal to slaughtering 600 men and enslaving the women and children? Who decides? The Arab tribal chief with the most powerful army? Muhammad said around the time of his Hijrah in 622 the following:
16:126 If you [people] have to respond to an attack, make your response proportionate, but it is better to be steadfast. (Haleem)
Any reasonable and fair—minded person would judge that Muhammad was not making his response (execution) proportionate to the breach of the agreement. The Qurayzah tribe never attacked the Muslims, and even if a few were to have done so, the punishment does not fit the crime. Therefore, Muhammad was being excessive and disproportionate because he used an irreversible penalty to express his human wrath.
For a fuller account of this atrocity, refer to this article.
Thus, anti—Semitic violence sits at the heart of early Islam—in Muhammad's life and in his Quran. Islam is therefore not the religion of peace.
1. Muhammad launches his own Crusades.
In the following verse, Muhammad uses the Arabic word qital (root is q—t—l), which means warring, fighting, or killing:
9:29 Fight [q—t—l] those among the people of the Book [Christians] who do not believe in Allah and the Last Day, do not forbid what Allah and His Messenger have forbidden and do not profess the true religion, till they pay the poll—tax out of hand and submissively. (Fakhry)
The two most interesting clauses in this violent verse are (1) People of the Book (Christians in this verse late in Muhammad's life) are to be attacked if they do not profess the true religion: Islam. This leaves the door wide open for terrorists today to attack and fight Christians because they do not adhere to Islam; (2) Christians must pay a tax for the 'privilege' of living under the 'protection' of Islam—submissively or in humiliation.
The historical context of Sura 9:29 finds Muhammad preparing for a military expedition against the Byzantine Empire in 630, two years before his ordinary death of an ordinary fever in 632. Indeed, some scholars regard Sura 9 as the last sura to be revealed from on high. Therefore, it sets many policies for Muslims today, and is often interpreted as abrogating or canceling previous verses, even peaceful ones.
Muhammad heard a rumor that the Byzantines amassed an army some 700 miles to the north in Tabuk (northern Arabia today) in order to attack Islam, so he led an army of 30,000 holy warriors to counter—strike preemptively. However, the Byzantines failed to materialize, so Muhammad's belief in the false rumor was misguided and his expedition was fruitless, except he managed to extract (extort) agreements from northern Christian Arab tribes that they would not attack him and his community. An army of 30,000 soldiers from the south must have deeply impressed the northern tribes, so they posed no real threat to Islam. They are the ones who paid the 'protection' tax mentioned in Sura 9:29 (and so do tribes and cities after Muhammad's death). Therefore, Muhammad's forced tax was aggressive and hence unjust, not defensive and hence just.
Muhammad's military expedition qualifies as an Islamic Crusade long before the European ones. After all, in 638, only six years after Muhammad's death, Muslim armies conquer Jerusalem. Today, Muslims should never again complain about European Crusades, unless they first come to grips with their own.
For more information on the Muslim Crusades after Muhammad's death and their atrocities and motives, refer to this article.
Thus, crusading violence sits at the heart of early Islam—in Muhammad's life and in his Quran—and beyond, even reaching to today's western world. Islam is therefore not the religion peace.
What the ten reasons mean for us today
These ten aspects of violence that have burrowed into the hemorrhaging heart of early Islam have implications for us today.
First, as noted in the Introduction to this article, Muslim apologists who have access to the national media and who constantly assert that Islam is the religion of peace must stop misleading unsuspecting Westerners. Factually, Islam is not the religion of peace. True, it had peaceful moments, but not for very long. Muhammad sent out or went out on seventy—four expeditions and raids in only ten years (622—632), most of which were violent.
Second, as each reason in this article has hinted at and the links explain more thoroughly, Christ never, ever engaged in such violence. For example, he never assassinated opponents, whipped adulterers, cut off the hands of thieves, or launched his own Crusades (what the Medieval Europeans did is not foundational to Christianity). Christ expresses the love of God. Therefore, Christians and all fair—minded persons have the right to question whether the true God would reveal the Quran when it contains such violent verses that conveniently support Muhammad's violence, whereas the New Testament does not have such violence.
Third, nominal Christians who no longer take their faith seriously, but who are tempted to convert to Islam, must stop and think a second time. Christ the Son of God demonstrated the love of God (Matt. 3:16—17), not the wrath of an ordinary, self—described human messenger (Sura 3:144). Why would they trade in the religion of God's peace and love for Allah's human religion of violence?
Fourth, fanatical Muslims today are simply carrying on their Prophet's mission. Why should we be surprised if they want to conquer the West, in order to impose Allah's will on non—Islamic societies? They are still working out Muhammad's Crusades.
Fifth, Western civilization must never accept the lie that Muhammad's life, the Quran, or sharia (the law derived from the hadith and the Quran) is a benefit to society. Rather, Islam represents many gigantic steps backwards, culturally and socially. One of the most tragic events in the Western world—and one of the most underreported—is the existence of an Islamic court in Canada . The Canadian government should promptly shut it down. And such a court must never be allowed to exist here in the US.
Sixth and finally, Islam should never be taught in our public schools, K through 12 ; but if school administrators insist on it, Islamic violence must be included in the lesson plans because it is part and parcel of early Islam and Muhammad's life. Of course, Muslim apologists assert that Christianity is filled with violence, citing the Roman Emperor Constantine and the Medieval Crusaders. However, they are not foundational for Christianity—only Christ and the rest of the New Testament are. And he and the New Testament authors never practiced or endorsed such violence.
On the other hand, Muhammad and his Quran are foundational for Islam, and violence fills his life and its pages.
Therefore, for ten clear and verifiable reasons, Islam is not the religion of peace.
[This article has a companion piece.]
Jim Arlandson (PhD) teaches world religions and introductory philosophy at a college in southern California. He has written a book, Women, Class, and Society in Early Christianity (Hendrickson, 1997)