August 7, 2005
Ill legal jihad in the Quran and early Islam (2)By James Arlandson
Part One may be read here.
Classical legal opinions
Sharia is Islamic law embodied in the Quran and the hadith. Fiqh is the science of applying and interpreting sharia, done by qualified judges and legal scholars. Over the first two centuries after Muhammad's death in AD 632, four main Sunni schools of fiqh emerged, led by these scholars: Shafi (d. 820), who lived mostly in Mecca, Arabia, but who was buried in Cairo, Egypt; Malik (d. 795), who lived in Medina, Arabia; Abu Hanifa (d. 767), who lived in Kufa, Iraq; and Ibn Hanbal (d. 855) who lived in Baghdad, Iraq.
Ahmad ibn Naqib al—Misri (d. 1368), is the fourth major scholar, writing centuries later than the other Sunnis. His medieval manual Reliance of the Traveler: A Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law, (rev. ed., trans. Nuh Ha Mim Keller, Beltsville, Maryland: Amana, 1994), compliles and summarizes rulings in the Shafi school of fiqh.
Our analysis is limited to this hard—hitting manual in the matter of jihad, which follows the Quran and hadith closely, because
(1) radicals can use it and still remain within orthodox Sunni Islam; and
(2) geographically, this school covers the hotspots today in the Islamic world: Saudi Arabia and Egypt mainly, but also Palestine and Jordan,
What is the purpose or goal of jihad?
Al—Misri says that jihad establishes the religion of Islam.
The Caliph fights those who are not People of the Book or Zoroastrians (a Persian religion), in order to force them to become Muslims, according to the Shafi school.
Thus, the goal is to force people to become Muslim or to get them to pay a tax for the 'privilege' of living under Islamic 'protection,' that is, so they will not get attacked again. They have three choices: convert, fight and die, or pay the tax. Though technically this is not a forced conversion, it comes close when a Muslim army sits outside the city gate. As we will see shortly, non—Muslims have more incentives to convert to Islam.
These purposes do not reveal a defensive war, when the goal is to establish Islam in a region that was blessed to live outside of this excessively controlling religion.
What are some rules of jihad?
1. Women and children are not targets of jihad, except under one condition.
Islam may (or may not) do this out of a sense of justice, but as we will see, below, women and children are kept as slaves or sold into slavery. So an economic motive must be factored in for letting them live. Nothing is purely peaceful and just in Islam, without a sting at the end of a law or Quranic verse.
This rule is more just than the practice in the hadith that permits nighttime attacks that puts women and children at risk. It seems this later jurist is more just than Muhammad and the first generation of Muslims. Muslims should follow this jurist, instead of the founder of Islam.
2. Women and children are sold into slavery.
This means that the 'generosity' in not killing them is mitigated by their being enslaved. Islam could have been judged more positively if it did not have this hard rule in it (and many others). True, slavery was a world—wide occurrence, but Islam codifies it in unchanging religious law, based on the Quran and the example of Muhammad.
What happened to the rule that hero—jihadists could rape female prisoners, either going all the way with them or practicing coitus interruptus? Is al—Misri, the jurist who wrote this Shafi manual, embarrassed by these hadith (see previous section, no. 2)? Is the practice too entrenched in jihad? Whatever the case, one thing is certain: the legal manual does not prohibit this horrible immorality.
3. When an enemy is taken captive, the caliph has four options:
In the hadith, jihadists could beat prisoners, and according to the earliest biography of Muhammad, he tortured a man to extract information. Apparently, this law improves on original Islam and the founder.
4. But if the captive converts to Islam while captured, then one option is removed:
Avoiding death, even before the captive knows which alternative will be imposed on him, is a powerful incentive to 'freely' convert to Islam.
5. To preserve a conquered man's property and small children from military theft is also a powerful motive to 'freely' convert to Islam:
Everyone has often heard that Islam does not force conversions. Evidently, forced conversions by this definition take place only when a sword hangs directly over the necks of the conquered. This definition is wrong. People actually were forced to convert, unless they were willing to forgo their entire livelihoods and their 'young children.' Only the strongest of the strong would resist this coercion, having this option hung over them like a sword of Muhammad—who owned several and even nicknamed them.
6. Old men and monks may be killed:
In Late Antiquity and the Medieval Age, life expectancy was much lower than it is today, so a forty—year old man was should not be seen as young. Also, killing monks is wrong. This belies the law that says People of the Book may live.
7. Fruit trees and homes may be destroyed.
This law is not very peaceful for a religion that claims that the Quran came down directly from Allah and that Muhammad's life was guided directly by his deity:
We should not be surprised at this ruling, since Muhammad started cutting down the trees and destroying the homes of the Jewish Nadir tribe before he exiled them (Sura 59:5).
8. The three options are imposed on the People of the Book. In this excerpt, the parentheses are added:
The passage in the manual quotes the Quran in Sura 9:29, the foundation of the three options.
9. As noted in the section 'The purpose of goal of jihad,' everyone who does not belong to the People of the Book is fought until they become Muslims.
The passage goes on to say that some schools of law allow for non—Arab idol worshippers to pay the tax without converting to Islam, but the Shafi school, the one analyzed here, says that they must convert or die. Why would not terrorists today use the most severe school of law, especially when it dominates their geographical area in Iraq (Sunnis), Saudi Arabia, and Palestine?
What happens to the spoils in jihad?
The spoils are divided into five parts.
As noted in the hadith section, Islam verbally claims to break down class structure, but in reality these rules keep it alive. Only the rich or upper classes could own a horse to spare for battle, and the cavalrymen were usually far fewer than the infantrymen. However, the horsemen were to get much more than the lowly infantrymen. How is this justice?
The first—fifth of the spoils goes to the state, and it gets distributed according to the needs in a welfare state, such as to the poor or orphans. It may also go to building up 'Islamic interests as fortifying defenses on the frontiers, salaries for Islamic judges, muezzins, and the like' (p. 606, o10.3).
Spoils of war are a powerful incentive for the poor and disaffected to join a religion that conquers new areas in order to gain wealth, even though they did not initiate warfare against Islam. If anyone is looking for a reason for the growth of Islam, he or she does not need to look beyond this point—though other factors, such as weakening Byzantine and Persian Empires, play a role.
Islam was not spread by simple preaching, without an army lurking in the background or standing in the foreground.
What happens to martyrs in jihad?
The Shafi manual quotes a hadith:
It is unclear how Allah extracts the debts from a jihadist, but maybe it involves some degree of punishment for him in the afterlife or a financial burden on his family in their earthly life. Ruling o9.5(1) (p. 602) says that a creditor may give his debtor permission to fight, so the hadith passage is not followed that closely.
More importantly, this passage guarantees jihadists the forgiveness of sins and an escalator to heaven. This is reason enough for dazed and confused young Muslim men to wage violent jihad against unbelievers.
Before moving on to the Christian response to these atrocities, we should take stock of the last three sections, Parts One and Two.
The hadith and the Shafi school follow the Quran closely. All three sources permit injustices in jihad. Muslim soldiers are allowed to rape and enslave captured women. Male enemies may be executed. In nighttime raids women and children are permitted to leave this life, provided it is not deliberate. However, what does this say about Muhammad's capacity to be rightly guided in life—and—death policies in jihad?
Jihadists were allowed to destroy homes and fruit trees of an entire tribe, the Nadir, so this means that they are allowed do to this to the homes and fruit trees of other enemies today. The Quran, a pure revelation from Allah, says so. By analogy, the Muslim soldiers may do this to other kinds of civilian property if this helps them win the conflict. Muhammad should have received a revelation that contradicts this excess.
One powerful motive for waging jihad is the material benefits. The conquered territories fall under the control of the jihadists, and they are permitted to keep it. If anyone is looking for the reason for the spread of Islam, then this is a solid one, (though other reasons come into play, like following the will of Allah. The newly conquered have the option to convert, in which case they pay a forced 'charity' or zakat tax. Or they are allowed to remain in the Biblical faith and pay a jizya or poll tax. Granted, it is often asserted that the jizya is less than the forced 'charity' or zakat tax, but either way, money flows into the Islamic treasury.
Why would Muhammad receive a revelation that dries up this money flow, when it was connected to military jihad?
Jesus and the earliest church never waged even a small holy war on people in Israel or the Greco—Roman world who refused to convert or submit to his new religion, and neither he nor his church imposed a 'non—conversion' tax on them.
So the three questions have been taken out or modified, and others have been posed instead.
What are and what happens to Christians martyrs?
Matthew 5:10; 10:39; 19:29 speak of laying down one's life and giving up one's possessions. These verses call Jesus' disciples to be willing to give up all material possessions for the kingdom of God and to lay down their life mainly in a spiritual way, and possibly in a physical death under severe and fatal persecution. But the verses are not found in the context of a bloody religious war.
Rather, Jesus calls his disciples to pick up their cross and follow him (Matthew 10:38, 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23, 14:27), but he also says that they should do this daily (Luke 9:23). The image of the cross means that they must follow Jesus no matter what, on a daily basis, which precludes an earthly martyrdom, which is done only once; per contra, a 'daily martyrdom' is continuous. A twisted love of physical death is not in view in those New Testament passages in the context of qital or jihad.
It is also true that some of the early Christians suffered martyrdom, but, again, never in the cause of warfare; rather, they were persecuted and put to death because the listeners and local authorities were offended at their message, not because the Christians 'fight in God's way: they kill and are killed' (Sura 9:111). Stephen is the prime example and the first martyr in Christianity (Acts 6:8—8:1). He was stoned to death because he preached the truth, not because he was chopping off heads in a battle, only to have his head chopped off in turn by an enemy who had sneaked up behind him. His place in heaven was already secure before he preached or died, because Christ had saved him in his 'Martyr's' death on the cross.
The following cannot be repeated too often because it diametrically opposes the Islam: only Christ's 'Martyrdom' guarantees a believer's place in heaven; only his ultimate good work on the cross paves the way to God. Thus, the Christian does not (or should not) have a psychological inducement to kill himself or to be killed in battle to achieve heaven. He needs only trust in Christ.
Hence, the Quranic bargain of martyrdom is completely foreign to devout Christians and even to nominal Christians world over, who no longer take their faith seriously. Christians want heaven, and they are assured of it by the atoning death of Christ, once they receive the life—giving Spirit, who is not Gabriel, as claimed in Islamic theology.
Is Christianity a warrior religion?
Jesus and his disciples through the first three centuries turned the world upside down by simple proclamation, not by butchering with swords (or by threatening to butcher with swords) people who opposed their ministry. The subsequent warpath of Emperor Constantine in the fourth century and the Medieval Crusaders do not set the genetic code in the very origins of Christianity in the New Testament.
On the other hand, Muhammad is foundational to Islam, and he says that a martyr's death in the cause of Allah (cause = war) guarantees heaven. The contrast between the two religions is stark.
For more information on the Christian Crusades and the Islamic Crusades see this article.
Christ's original way leads to life and the light; Muhammad's original way leads to death and darkness.
What about the wars in the Old Testament?
This question has been answered more thoroughly in this article, but the short answer may be discussed here.
Allah and the true God at war are worlds apart.
(1) The historical span of Quranic and Biblical history must be considered. In Islam, Muhammad lived in Medina for only ten years (AD 622—632). In this brief time, he either sent out or went out on seventy—four raids, expeditions, or full—scale wars. They range from small assassination hit squads to eliminate anyone who insulted him, to an Islamic Crusade during which Muhammad led 30,000 jihadists against Byzantine Christians.
In contrast, the Old Testament books covers around 1,400 hundred years before Christ, and God did not send out leaders to wage war in most of these years. For example, the Book of Judges alone says that people enjoyed many decades of peace between each judge who was raised up in order to fight off aggression.
Allah compelled Muhammad to fight often in his ten years according to the evidence in the Quran and Islamic history, but the true God for over 1,400 years did not wage nearly as many wars per year in Israel's existence according to the Bible and Biblical history.
(2) Clarity characterizes divine commands about war in Hebrew history, but not in Islamic history. In the Old Testament, the true God issued commands to wipe out specific inhabitants, for example, Sodom and Gomorrah (punishments that the Quran also endorses) or the cities in Canaan—severe commands to be sure, but if such commands are given, they must be clear.
On the other hand, Muhammad goes from one treaty or command to the next in regards to the polytheists in Arabia. Finally, in Sura 9:1—5, he unilaterally breaks these treaties, but in some cases he keeps them until their expiration dates.
Thus, the true God is clear and stable in his severe, divine commands, whereas Allah is unclear and fluctuating in his severe commands. This is significant because Allah gives the impression of feeling his way, but God is decisive.
(3) Who is attacked? In the Bible, the true God orders warfare only against Canaanites who were too far gone in their decadence. Let us assume, contrary to fact, that a nation neighboring Israel was made up of ethical monotheists. Would the true God decree that a war should be waged against them? To reason deductively, the answer is found in the Book of Jonah. He preached to Nineveh hundreds of miles away, and the inhabitants of this city were neither degraded Canaanites nor monotheists. God did not wage war on distant Nineveh despite its being polytheistic. Jonah preached good news. So how much more would God not attack a nation if it were made up of monotheists?
The bottom line is this: the only reason that God ordered these wars after the Exodus was to purge a small and specific land (see no. 4, below). He did not ordain wars of conquest outside of Israel to spread Judaism around the known world. If Judaism was spread, it was done by proclamation, as seen in the calling of Jonah.
On the other hand, Muhammad waged war on polytheists, and Muslims believe that these polytheists also were too far gone morally. But Muhammad also attacked Jews and Christians, who are monotheists. For example, he embarked on an Islamic Crusade against the Byzantines in AD 630. The Byzantines never showed up, so Muhammad believed a false rumor that said the Byzantines were mustering a large army to invade Arabia. But along the way he extracted agreements from Arab Christians and Jews so that they would not be attacked again. Allah ordained wars of conquest outside of Arabia in order to spread Islam by military force. Muhammad and his deity wanted either conversion (the converted paid a 'charity' or zakat tax) or money in a jizya tax on the unconverted. Either way, money flowed into the Islamic treasury back in Arabia.
Muhammad's attacks on monotheists, besides polytheists, in and outside of Arabia demonstrate beyond all doubt that Allah and God at war are worlds apart.
In contrast, Muslims could claim that Allah told Muhammad to cleanse Arabia of polytheists, but Allah also tell his prophet and his successors to expand beyond this region to conquer other territories, like the Persian and Byzantine Empires and a city like Jerusalem. Thus, ancient Israel had a completely different calling that is related specifically to their land, which is small geographically, whereas Islam waged war on peoples of distant lands, far beyond Arabia.
It is impossible to exaggerate the importance of 'the land' in Biblical history. God wanted only a specific land to be purified, not worldwide conquest. But Allah waged war on the entire known world.
However, for Christians, this debate over the differences between Allah and God at war is academic, anyway. They believe that the first coming of Jesus Christ, 600 years before Muhammad, ushered in a new era of salvation, a way to the true God that excels the one offered in the Old Testament, and much better than the one offered in the Quran; thus, Muhammad's wars on polytheists were misguided from the start, coming so late in history after Jesus showed us a better way.
Christians honor the Old Testament and regard it as inspired, but at the same time they acknowledge that it was written for its own times; they also believe that Christ fulfilled it, and hence they must rise above such commands as animal sacrifices, diet restrictions, and wars over geopolitical 'holy' sites like Jerusalem—what the Emperor Constantine and the Medieval Crusaders did is not foundational to Christianity; only Christ is.
Jesus raised his vision much higher than Jerusalem or any other holy site. He loves the whole world and wants to win it to his cause and spiritual kingdom one soul at a time and by proclamation alone, not by waging war on the unconverted or the religiously deceived, like the pagans whom Muhammad slaughtered. True monotheism does not need a black stone just because pagans walked around it for centuries before Muhammad conquered it. True monotheism does not need a city or any earthly holy site. Christianity looks towards the heavenly Jerusalem (Book of Revelation) or the City of God (Augustine).
Isn't the US a Christian nation, so why does it wage war?
I got at least two emails from Muslims who point out that America, a 'Christian' nation, uses the sword, so who am I to talk about it? First, we should set aside the complications of defining the US as 'Christian.' Rather, we should note that this comparison leaps over 1,400 and 2,000 years of history. It is always better to compare the founder of a religion and his sacred texts with the founder of another religion and his sacred texts. Jesus and Muhammad should be contrasted, not Muhammad and the US government. Muhammad claims direct inspiration from God; the US government does not.
When the proper contrast is made, then the similarities break down completely. The two religious founders differ from each other as much as bright daylight and dark night.
Also, since the Enlightenment (c. 1600—1800), reason has influenced the West. Original Christianity teaches the dignity of humans. Human reason agrees. For example, here is what the Geneva Convention says about the treatment of women prisoners of war, to choose only this one topic:
This is an improvement on the Quran and the hadith. The Quran 'annuls' marriages so jihadists can have sex with captured women or enslave them, and the hadith simply allows jihadists to have sex with them, as their human property.
For the first three centuries or more after the Resurrection of Jesus, the church turned the known world upside down by proclamation alone. The early Christians did not raise armies to attack polytheists, tear down pagan temples, or force Jews to convert. They did not wage a Christian jihad. Was the church perfect, though? No one is. But Jesus set the genetic code for his worldwide movement, and he chose the path of divine peace and love. And it caught on and spread like God—breathed wildfire.
Jesus never raised even a small army to conquer the unconverted. In the passage about Satan tempting Jesus (Matthew 4:1—11 and Luke 4:1—13), Satan shows Jesus the whole world and all of its kingdoms. Satan promises to give the whole thing to him. No doubt this included military conquest and riches beyond anyone's wildest dreams. Jesus turned it down, rebuking the devil. Therefore, if original Christianity is followed closely, then women will not be raped during military conquests. People will be able to keep their property. Forced taxes after a military conquest, even a religious tax that makes it into a pillar of the faith, will not be imposed. On the positive side, Jesus and all of his disciples will spread the message of the kingdom by preaching alone—Constantine and the Medieval Crusaders are not foundational to Christianity, so they do not set the genetic code.
But Jesus and his early church turned the world upside down with their message and peaceful method of spreading it.
This demonstrates that the true God was backing this divine Messiah and his message. This demonstrates that the message of Christ was attractive and winsome.
In contrast, for the first three centuries and many more after Muhammad's death of a fever in AD 632, Islam spread only with an army lurking in the background or standing in the foreground. Muhammad set the genetic code for Islam, and he either sent out or went out on seventy—four raids, expeditions or full—scale wars. Military armies stormed out of Arabia and conquered cities along the Tigris and Euphrates, as well as cities towards the Mediterranean Sea, like Jerusalem in AD 638. Then Islam spread militarily beyond those regions.
No one can accurately predict how far Islam would have spread if it had used only proclamation without armies. But the implication is that it would not have spread very far. After all, as soon as Arab tribes had heard that Muhammad had died, many of them revolted against Islam and wanted nothing more to do with it. The world could have judged Islam more positively if it had not used military jihad as the means of spreading Allah's religion around the known world. But it did use military jihad.
This implies that the true God did not back this merely human and mortal messenger (Sura 3:144) and his message. This demonstrates that the message of Muhammad was unattractive and too restrictive, like forced prayers five times a day or a forced pilgrimage to a black stone that true monotheism does not need.
On the other hand, Muhammad is foundational to Islam, and he wants the whole world, even by conquest, if necessary. This conquest allows for injustices. They have seeped into the Quran and in his words and policies in the hadith.
Dying as a Muslim martyr in a holy war catapults the martyr into a hundred layers of paradise.
Martyrs in the early church of Jesus Christ suffered because of their holiness and because their proclamation offended ungodly authorities. They did not die in a military holy war. They entered heaven only because of Christ's once—and—for—all and unique 'Martyrdom' on the cross.
This is right.
Muhammad's martyrs were called into dying in a military holy war that they often initiated in order to expand Islam.
This is wrong.
Which religious path leads to true peace?
The way of Jesus leads to life. The way of Muhammad led to death.
James M. Arlandson may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
This article at an Islamic website quotes mostly from the Meccan suras (chapters) in the Quran, in which Muhammad was not strong enough to wage a military holy war, so he is forced to take a more peaceful path. And the few Medinan suras the author cites, in which Muhammad became violent, are Muhammad's claims that he and his fellow Muslim were being persecuted by Meccans early on, though he lived in Medina, about two hundred—plus miles from Mecca. But this is exaggerated or self—induced, as seen here.
This short article at a website produced under the auspices of the University of Southern California says that jihad is defensive or offensive, but the offensive jihad is waged only to suppress tyranny. This is a whitewash. Jihad may be also used to spread Islam around the world, even if this entails a physical war. History demonstrates this. It also says inaccurately that women and children are not targets, but the hadith says they may become targets in a nighttime raid when visibility is low. Women may also be raped or sold into slavery as sexual property.
The article also says that only the Medieval Crusaders waged a wrongheaded jihad. However, the facts say that the offensive and wrongheaded Islamic Crusades happened centuries before the European ones. If Islam had spread itsr message by preaching alone, then its military conquests would have never happened, and the Europeans would have had no reason to launch all their Crusades. See this article for a contrast between the two Crusades.
This Muslim online booklet is directed at young Muslims. It analyzes jihad in the Quran, hadith, and legal rulings, and concludes that it includes a physical fight. However, the article is not always available, so here is a key quotation:
People have for some time now ridiculed this but today these same people acknowledge that preparation for war is the surest way to peace! Allah did not ordain jihad for the Muslims so that it may be used as a tool of oppression or tyranny or so that it may be used by some to further their personal gains. Rather jihad s used to safeguard the mission of spreading Islam. This would guarantee peace and the means of implementing the Supreme Message. This is a responsibility which the Muslims bear, this Message guiding mankind to truth and justice. For Islam, even as it ordains jihad, it extols peace . . . .
Thus, jihad is used to spread Islam around the world. Here is the whitewashed article.