Questions and Answers > Practices of Muslims > Violence

Is Islam a religion of peace?

1. Introduction

Many Muslims support peaceful practices in life. Many Muslims try to promote Islam as a religion of peace. However the term “peace” in the Qur’an is paired with religious warfare (jihad) [1]. There are Muslims who claim to be inspired by the Qur’an and Islam who are terrorists. Does the religion of Islam have a message of peace?

2. Support for peace in the Qur’an

The Qur’an contains some guidelines for peace and there is a call for peace in some verses, including Qur’an 1:1: “Most Gracious, Most Merciful”. There is also guideline not to start war or violence (Qur’an 2:190). Because the Qur’an has ingredients of Jewish and Arab traditions, there is also a reference to the Torah, with the principle to answer violence with violence: eye for eye, tooth for tooth. In case a Muslim is doing violent actions, there is a call in the Qur’an calls to stop it as soon as possible (Qur’an 2: 192-3). Muslims are also educated to respect other religions: “There must be no coercion in matters of faith!” (Qur’an 2: 256) and there is a special call to respect Jews and Christians (Qur’an 29: 46). However, because the Qur’an is filled with statements from a mix of religions, further study is needed to have a complete overview about peace in the Qur’an.

3. Guidelines against peace in the Qur’an

According to the Qur’an, Muhammad was not only an important statesman, but also a general who was not afraid to commit genocide. In 625-627 more than 500 Jewish men have been beheaded under the responsibility of Muhammad (Qur’an 33:9). However, similar actions against enemies happened in the Old Testament. A different issue is the cutting of the palms of the enemies. They were the power for the local economy and therefore cutting palms of the enemy was forbidden by Arab laws and also by the Law of Moses. But Muhammad had destroyed palms of the enemy and he told the Muslims that he was motivated by the spiritual guidance of Allah: “Palms cut, it was with permission by God” (Qur’an 59:5). But was the command to cut of the palms with permission of God? There is doubt [2].

4. Religion of the sword

Muhammad didn’t obey the Qur’an guideline not to initiate violence. He started with raids to the Meccan caravans (Qur’an 22:29). Although Muhammad continued to believe that war is an evil, he gave priority for the survival of his religion even when he had to use military power (Qur’an 2:217) [3]. Therefore Muhammad was not negative about military campaigns (Qur’an 2:215) [4]. After Muhammad’s death the Muslims continued to practice the complex concept of peace in the Qur’an. The first caliph Abu Bakr, started many military campaigns to force non-Muslims to accept Islam according to Qur’an 9:103. The second caliph, Omar ibn al-Khatab said: “Arab Christians are not Christians, I am not leaving them until they become Muslims or I cut their throats.” [5].
The result was that the history of the expansion of Islam became as set of bloody events with uncountable number of people slaughtered by the Muslim invaders and thousands of slaves, including many women as sex-slaves in harems. Modern open society with human rights conflicts in many ways with the so-called “peace” principles of Islam.

5. Conclusion

From the actions of Muhammad we can see that the justification for the concept of peace in Islam rests finally and ultimately in Allah. The peaceful practices of Muhammad became later a sophisticated military element of state policy [6]. Therefore the term “peace” in Islam became a concept mixed with violence against non-Muslims.


Notes:

1. Earle H. Waugh, Peace, in: Jane Dammen McAuliffe (ed.), Encyclopedia of the Qur’an, Brill, Leiden, 2004, Volume Four, P-Sh, 33-34.
2. Hans Küng, Islam, Past, Present & Future, Oneworld Publications, 2009, 154-155.
3. Kenneth Cragg, The Call of the Minaret, Oneworld Publications, 2003, 77.
4. Jonathan E. Brockopp, Jihad and Islamic history, in: Bryan Rennie and Philip .L.Tite (Ed), Religion, Terror and Violence, Religious Studies Perspectives, Routledge, New York, 2008, 151.
5. Ali ibn Husamud-Din al-Muttaqi al-Hindi, Kanzu Ummal, Volume 4, No. 11770.
6. Earle H. Waugh, Peace, in: Jane Dammen McAuliffe (ed.), Encyclopedia of the Qur’an, Brill, Leiden, 2004, Volume Four, P-Sh, 35.

Qur'an 19:33: Is Jesus peace?