August 6, 2005
Ill legal jihad in the Quran and early Islam (1)By James Arlandson
[Part two of this article will appear tomorrow]
Muslim spokespersons who have access to the news media are misleading the public about jihad.
The Council on American Muslim Relations (CAIR ) says the following about jihad at the time this present article was posted:
In reply, however, while it is true that a Muslim may wage jihad on the excess in his soul or on unbelief by non—violent means like argumentation, jihad must also include a military, violent war.
Also, the clauses that say jihad means the struggle to improve 'the quality of life' or the fight against 'tyranny and oppression' are ambiguous. Islam expresses the will of Allah, and jihad battles anything that stands in its way.
By any clear reading of the Quran, the hadith (reports of Muhammad's words and actions outside of the Quran), the histories, the biographies and the law books on early Islam, jihad cannot exclude military warfare in the cause of Allah in order to expand Islam.
Here is how jihad was done in early Islam.
The Quran is the ultimate source for later legal opinions. It is considered completely reliable and inerrant. What does it say about jihad?
What is the purpose or goal of jihad?
A complicated policy like jihad can have multiple goals or purposes, but this one comes late in Muhammad's life in Medina and best summarizes the goal and purposes. He wants to make Islam prevail over every religion.
The following translation is approved and funded by the Saudi Royal family; the parenthetical explanations are inserted by the translators:
This verse is repeated two more times, word for word, in Suras 61:9 and 48:28. Muhammad means business.
Seekers and the curious about Islam must understand this brute fact as they read the Quran: in the ten years that Muhammad lived in Medina (AD 622—632), he either sent out or went out on seventy—four small assassination hit squads, raids, expeditions, small battles, or full—scale wars like the Tabuk Crusade in AD 630, in which Muhammad led 30,000 soldiers north to invade the Byzantine empire. Sometimes the conflicts did not end in violence, but too many times they did. All verses (and there are not many) in the Medinan suras that seem to speak of peace and tolerance must be read in light of this violent historical context. Not far from the few tolerant verses the reader will find intolerant and violent verses.
Sura 9:33, simply put, predicts the conquest of Islam over all religions. Islam must dominate the world through jihad.
What are some rules of jihad?
These rules are numbered for clarity, not priority.
1. Conquered women and children may be enslaved.
In AD 627 Muhammad and his followers and allies withstood a large army of Meccans and their allies, without ever slugging it out in pitched battle. The Meccans attacked Medina because they were fed up with Muhammad's aggressions against their trade. He dug trenches around Medina to diminish the advantage that the Meccans had with their cavalry. After about a month the Meccans withdrew because of a fair that was about to begin, and this large gathering from all over brought in money. But Muhammad was not finished. While he was bathing, the archangel Gabriel allegedly appeared to him and told him to attack the large Qurayza tribe of Jews. He besieged them in their fortress, and after some negotiations and a 'trial,' the men were beheaded and their bodies and heads dragged and tossed into the trenches, whereas the women and children were sold into slavery.
These three verses, especially v. 26, in Sura 33 deal with this indefensible atrocity:
These verses seem to celebrate death and conquest. The key root word in brackets, q—t—l or qital or qatala, means killing, warring, and slaughtering. This meaning is much more restricted than jihad, though this latter word can also mean killing, warring, or slaughtering. Next, Allah permits the enslavement of Qurayza women and children, so later Muslim familiar with the background of this verse will follow their prophet in this practice. Finally, Allah permits Muhammad to take the Jewish clan's property on the basis of conquest and his possession of all things. This is a dubious revelation and reasoning. Allah speaks, and this benefits Muhammad materially. This happens too often in Muhammad's life.
Selling humans into slavery produced a lot of wealth, so the Allah—inspired prophet never got a revelation that this practice should stop permanently and forever.
2. Women captives are sometimes forced to marry their Muslim masters, regardless of the marital status of the women. That is, the masters are allowed to have sex with their enslaved sex objects.
Sayyid Abul A'La Maududi, a highly respected Muslim commentator, reminds us that the historical context of the next sura finds Muhammad establishing rules for his community within two to five years after his Hijrah (Emigration) in AD 622. He lays down laws for marriage. What happens to slave women who are captured during the raids that the Muslims go on frequently? Sura 4:24 says:
Maududi says in his comment on the verse that is it lawful for Muslims to marry women prisoners of war even when their husbands are still alive. But what happens if the husbands are captured with their wives? Maududi cites a school of law that says Muslims may not marry them, but two other schools, notably one that is analyzed under 'Classical legal opinions,' in Part Two, say that the marriage between the captive husbands and wives is broken (note 44).
But why would a debate over this emerge? The answer is obvious for those who understand simple justice. No marriage should take place between prisoners of war and their captors, married or not. No sex should take place between women captives and their Muslim overlords. But Islam traffics in injustice too often, as we saw with the Qurayza tribe.
Islam allows deep immorality with women who are in their most helpless condition. This crime is reprehensible, but Allah wills it nonetheless—the Quran says so.
The hadith, in the next major section, demonstrate that Muslims jihadists actually have sex with the captured women, whether or not they are married.
3. A captured enemy may be killed, ransomed by money or by an exchange, enslaved, or released freely.
Sura 33:26 speaks of killing captured men and enslaving women and children (the same may be done to men in other battles, as the hadith and history demonstrate). A verse that comes earlier in the same sura says that after the captives are bound firmly, they may be released by grace or freely or by ransom.
Imprisonment may be just if the captured enemy may return to fight against the conqueror at a later time. But selling prisoners of war was an Arab custom that Allah should have abolished in a revelation to his prophet. But why should Muhammad receive this just revelation when money could be made by ransoming prisoners? Allah should have taken away this option and allowed only free release or imprisonment.
4. The conquered are allowed (or forced) to convert.
In Sura 8, which deals with the Battle of Badr in AD 624, Muhammad proposes these options to his captives.
Muhammad tells them that if the conquered Meccans had any sense, they would realize that Allah had a divine plan: expose them to Islam. This is better than all the material riches they can trade in. However, it is not difficult to imagine a Meccan muttering under his breath that he would prefer to takes his money and goods and return to Mecca, wanting Muhammad to stop harassing the Meccans' trade.
5. Is it lawful to kill old men and Christian monks?
One school of law in the section 'Classical legal opinions,' in Part Two (appearing tomorrow), says that it is legal to kill old men and monks. Where may they get this opinion? We should recall that Sura 33:26 says that all the men of the Qurayza tribe were killed, so that verse alone justifies this atrocity. It is also possible that the school of law analyzed in the section 'Classical legal opinions' justifies the death of monks from two passages.
First, Allah says to fight Jews and Christians or People of the Book in Sura 9, the historical context of which has been discussed above ('What is the purpose or goal of jihad?'):
Then Muhammad condemns rabbis and monks who devour the property of people and bar them from following the path of Allah (read: convert to Islam) in the same sura:
It is true that Muhammad goes on to explain an eternal hellish punishment for monks (v. 35), but it is not farfetched to believe that a radical school of law would combine the command to fight People of the Book (v. 29), with the condemnation of unjust and greedy monks. Why would these monks not be the first ones to be killed in a battle? However, it may be the case that the radical school of law may justify their deaths simply because they are Christian leaders.
6. Property may be stolen.
Muhammad fought the Battle of Badr in AD 624, in which 320 or so Muslims won a surprise victory over about 1000 Meccans. Their caravan was traveling south from Syria back to Mecca, and Muhammad intended to capture it. The Meccans got word of this raid and sent their army up to meet their caravan. Sura 8 deals with this (in)famous battle, and this verse says that Muhammad wanted the unarmed group (the large caravan), but Allah gave him not only that one, but also the armed group so that truth may prevail.
Muslim apologists assert that the Muslims wanted the caravan, whereas Muhammad rose above such pettiness. However, historical facts say the opposite. He was constantly conducting raids to capture spoils. If not, why did he not return the caravan and preach at the Meccans only? It is always dubious to connect God's truth with military victory, but no matter, for Muhammad captured a huge caravan, and now he was richer than ever before.
Also, we should not overlook Sura 33:27, quoted above, that promises all of the property of the Qurayza tribe:
The word 'bequeathed' is a euphemism for 'stole' by conquest. As noted, timely and coincidental revelations that benefit Muhammad materially come often enough in his life.
7. Fruit trees may be destroyed.
In AD 625, Muhammad is strong enough to exile the Nadir tribe of Jews, besieging them in their strongholds for fifteen days until he started destroying their date palms, their livelihood, so they capitulated to his first demand for blood—wit money, which compensates for loss of life. However, he raised the penalty—they must get nothing from their palms. Their livelihood undergoing destruction and then theft, they departed to the city of Khaybar, seventy miles to the north, where they had estates. This takeover helped relieve the ongoing poverty of many Muslims, who took over their date orchards.
This verse in Sura 59 justifies his illegal act:
This is another coincidental and timely revelation that seeks to justify the unjustifiable. Later Muslim warriors may use this practice to destroy other assets that are valuable to civilians.
8. Homes may be destroyed.
In the same sura, Muhammad destroys the homes of the Nadir tribe.
A classical opinion of one school of law (see 'Classical legal opinions,' Part Two) agrees and also says that homes may be destroyed. This is also unjust for the revelation—soaked religion of Islam.
9. Three options are imposed on the enemy. It should be recalled that Sura 9:29 lays out some conditions for the People of the Book, when a Muslim army gathers outside their city gate, as Muslim interpreters agree:
(1) Fight and die; (2) convert; (3) keep their religion, but pay a tax, the jizyah, which Muslim apologists (defenders) argue amounted to 'protection' for the 'privilege' of living under Islam (read: not be attacked again).
This is as close as Muhammad can get to forcing the enemy to convert without technically forcing them. This policy will be worked out and further imposed after Muhammad dies of a fever in AD 632, and the policy will not always keep these fine line distinctions.
What happens to the spoils in jihad?
As noted in the previous section, Sura 8 deals with the Muslims' surprise victory over the Meccans at the Battle of Badr in AD 624. After their victory, Arab custom demanded that the warriors get a share of the spoils of war. Muhammad says in 8:41,
That is, Muhammad gets twenty percent for himself and for the needy in his community, as he distributes it. The warriors were to get eighty percent.
This eighty percent distribution is a strong inducement to keep the Arab custom of raiding alive. Why would Muhammad get a revelation telling him to follow the way of peace without warfare and raids? Twenty percent for him and eighty percent for his warriors speak more loudly than Gabriel.
What happens to martyrs in jihad?
Martyrs are guaranteed a fast track to Islamic paradise. Their deaths are depicted in economic terms. If they expend their lives as a living currency, Allah will exchange them for heavenly Islamic gardens.
Muslims who struggle (j—h—d) in Allah's cause will either win the battle and live to see another day, so that they can collect some spoils of war, or they will die and have their sins forgiven and be admitted into Islamic heaven.
Sura 9:111 carries on the economic bargain.
Two things should be noticed here. First, the root q—t—l is used three times in this short verse. Qital or qatala, as noted in the section 'What are some rules of jihad?' means killing, warring, and slaughtering and is therefore less ambiguous or has a more restricted meaning than jihad, though this latter word can mean those same bloody acts.
Thus, if Muslim apologists (defenders) explain (away) jihad as non—violent, then they have not factored in qital.
This is reason enough for dazed and confused young men to join Islam and become radicalized.
The hadith are the reports of Muhammad's words and actions outside of the Quran. The three most reliable hadith collectors and editors are Bukhari (d. 870), Muslim (d. 875), and Abu Dawud (d. 875). The Quran and the hadith are the foundations for later legal rulings.
What is the purpose or goal of jihad?
The hadith follows the Quran in this question. Islam must be made superior over all other religions.
A man asked Muhammad what men fight for: war booty, fame, or showing off. Muhammad replied:
Allah's religion must become superior over all other religions, a decree that echoes Suras 61:9 and 9:111, above.
This tradition says that Muhammad will fight anyone until they confess that Allah is God and that Muhammad is his messenger.
It is the will of Allah that Islam must spread around the world and dominate it. If people submit to Islam, then their property and lives will be safe.
What are some rules of jihad?
The rules are numbered for clarity, not priority. They cover the same topics in the previous section on the Quran, with only a few exceptions.
1. Besides being enslaved, women are subjected to sex with their new Muslim masters.
Ali, Muhammad's cousin and son—in—law, just finished a relaxing bath. Why?
What was Muhammad's response to the person who hated Ali for this sexual act?
Khumus is one—fifth of the war booty, and Muhammad casually believes that slave women who are part of the one—fifth can be treated like sexual property. Ali is a Muslim hero. So why would the model prophet for the world scold his son—in—law who was married to his daughter Fatima, from his first wife Khadija? After all, slaves are fair sexual game.
2. The same sexual abuse happened to women who were part of the four—fifths of the spoils of war. Jihadists usually practiced coitus interruptus as they raped their slave women.
While on a military campaign and away from their wives, Muslim jihadists 'received captives from among the Arab captives and we desired women and celibacy became hard on us and we loved to do coitus interruptus.' They asked the holy Prophet about this, and it is important to note what he did not say. He did not scold them or prohibit the immoral practice, declaring it haram (prohibited). Rather, he gets lost in theology and the quirky doctrine of fate:
That is, these enquiring Muslims should stop doing coitus interruptus, but instead go all the way with the enslaved sex objects. Fate controls who should be born (Bukhari, Military Expeditions, no. 4138).
It is one thing for some soldiers in any army to strike out on their own and rape women. All armies have criminal soldiers who commit this repugnant act. But it is quite another to codify rape in a sacred text. Islam codifies and legalizes rape for conquering jihadists.
3. In one tradition, women and children should not be killed (Bukhari, Jihad, nos. 3014—3105; Muslim nos. 4319—4320; Abu Dawud, no. 2662). But this makes economic sense, because the victors could sell them into slavery or enjoy more sexual license with them.
4. However, in another tradition, the women and children of polytheists are permitted to be killed during nighttime raids when visibility is low.
A Muslim asked Muhammad
That is, they are all the same—they are polytheists, enough said. Ahmad Hasan, the translator of Abu Dawud, as well as Abdul Hamid Siddiqi, the translator of Muslim, are quick to add that the killing takes place at night when the men and the women and children cannot be distinguished. However, this is small comfort for the women and children who were killed. It would seem that an Allah—inspired prophet would be more cautious.
If it was probable that women and children would get killed in a night attack, Muhammad should have forbidden these untimely attacks.
5. The enemy may be killed, enslaved, ransomed, released freely, or beaten.
Abu Dawud says that a captured enemy combatant may be killed (no. 2680); he may be tied with chains as a slave (no. 2671—2674); he is allowed to be beaten in order to extract information (no. 2675); he may be released freely (no. 2682—2683), or he may be ransomed; that is, he may purchase his freedom (nos. 2684—2688).
Ibn Ishaq (d. 767) is not a collector and editor of hadith, but he is an early biographer of Muhammad; he lived a century before the three hadith editors used in this section. His book, The Life of Muhammad, (trans. A. Guillaume, Oxford UP, 1955), is a primary source for later reputable historians. He reports an egregious incident that occurred during the holy Prophet's conquest of the predominantly Jewish city of Khaybar in AD 628. In order to extract information on the location of the wealth of the city, Muhammad tortured a hapless citizen.
6. Men are allowed (or forced) to convert.
It is true that a non—Muslim could embrace Islam anytime he wished, but Islam has the messy problem of armies accompanying their preachers.
The passage in Bukhari, cited under the section 'What is the purpose or goal of jihad?' says that Muhammad was ordered by Allah to call people to accept Islam (Jihad, no. 2946; cf. nos. 25 and 1399). If they convert, then their lives and property will be kept safe from him. These hadiths from Bukhari make the same offer: Jihad, nos. 2937, 2940, 3010, and 3058).
This is the entire mission of Muhammad: bring the entire world under Islam, the best religion that Allah—the god of the Arabian Peninsula—has to offer. The problem with this mission is that a Muslim army lurked in the background or stood in the foreground to this alleged 'freedom of religion.' Only the strongest of the strong could resist this offer.
7. In Islamic war, old men who are polytheists may be killed.
The translator of this hadith collection says that decrepit old men may not be killed, but how is a warrior supposed to distinguish them, except in extreme cases?
8. Property may be stolen.
In the section, 'What is the purpose or goal of jihad?' a hadith says that Muhammad has been ordered by his deity that he should fight until everyone says Allah is God and Muhammad is his messenger. If they do, then their property and lives are safe (Bukhari, Jihad, no. 2946; cf. nos. 25 and 1399). It is often claimed that Islam does not force conversions. But only the strongest of the strong could resist this threat. If they do not submit to this divine order, then they lose their property and lives. This actually happened throughout the many raids and wars that early Muslims embarked on.
The rule of 'to the victors go the spoils' is unjust for a religious system.
9. Fruit trees may be destroyed.
It should be recalled that Muhammad besieged the Nadir tribe of Jews, and they finally surrendered when he was in the process of destroying their date palm orchards and homes. The hadith refers to this historical event and approves of it (Muslim nos. 4324—4326; Abu Dawud no. 2609).
This is also unjust because by analogy jihadists may possibly destroy other sources of food among the civilians.
10. Three options are imposed on the conquered.
The hadith collector and editor Muslim says that Muhammad would exhort his jihadists to make three offers when their army surrounds a town or settlement: (1) the surrounded enemy may convert; (2) they may refuse to accept Islam and pay the jizya or poll tax, which allows non—Muslims to live under the 'protection' of Islam (read: not be attacked again); or (3) they must be fought if they refuse the first two (no. 4294; see Abu Dawud no. 2606). These three options appear in Muslim's hadith as being granted to polytheists, but history demonstrates that they were conquered or killed completely. The second option was taken away from them. But all three were offered to the People of the Book, or Jews and Christians (Sura 9:29).
What happens to the spoils in jihad?
In the hadith collection edited by Bukhari, an entire section is called 'The Book of Obligations of Khumus.' This latter word means one—fifth of the spoils of war. So twenty percent goes to Muhammad or the State, and eighty percent goes to the soldiers.
However, this eighty percent can be divided along different lines. A horseman should get three shares, whereas an infantryman should get only two (Abu Dawud nos. 2728—2730). Another tradition distributes the spoils, as follows: two for the horseman, and one for the footman (Muslim no. 4358).
Islam, led by Allah and Muhammad, allegedly breaks down class hierarchy, but this uneven distribution keeps it alive in the most visible way. Horses were expensive, so only the upper classes could afford them, especially in going out to war. But they get a lot more than the lowly foot soldier.
What happens to the martyrs in jihad?
The hadith, like the Quran, promises the fast track to Islamic paradise for jihadists.
This hadith says that no one would wish to return to this earthly world, except the martyrs, so that they could die again.
The martyrs get beautiful dark—eyed houris or virgins in Islamic heaven.
This one says that Islamic paradise has one hundred grades that are reserved for the mujahadeen or jihadists (note three letter root j—h—d in mujahideen and jihad).
This is reason enough for a dazed and confused young would—be jihadist to join the cause of Allah (cause = war).
Before moving on to Part Two, we should take stock of the last two sections.
The hadith follows the Quran closely. Both 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 are 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. 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' tax, but either way, money flows into the Islamic treasury.
Why would Muhammad receive a revelation that dries up this money flow, especially when it is connected to military war?
James M. Arlandson may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org