Peace in the Qur'an


Most Muslims support the peaceful practices in the Qur’an. But there are Qur’an verses with violence which have always been used as justification for Muslims to be involved in violent actions in history. Has Islam been ‘corrupted’ by a few violent fundamentalists?

Qur’an as source for peace

The Qur’an supports basic guidelines for peace and has therefore calls for peace. Here a collection of verses: God is in the Qur’an not a military power, but as it is written in the opening of the Qur’an: ‘Most Gracious, Most Merciful’ (Qur’an 1:1). According to the Quran, a Muslim cannot initiate a war. Muslims may not start violence (Qur’an 2: 190). The Qur’an refers to the Taurah (Torah), the Jewish scriptures, which allows for revenge: eye for eye, tooth for tooth. There are also references to the Injil (Gospel), the Christian scriptures. The Qur’an suggests that it is better not to do revenge in a spirit of charity (Qur’an 5: 45). When there is violence, the Qur’an calls to an end as soon as possible (Qur’an 2: 192-3). About the relations with other religions, the Qur’an calls for peace: ‘There must be no coercion in matters of faith!’ (Qur’an 2: 256). Muslims are advised to respect the ‘People of the Book’, the Jews and Christians (Qur’an 29: 46) and: ‘O people! We have formed you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another’ (Qur’an 49: 13). Therefore Muslims should not conquer or slaughter but to reach out toward others with intelligence and understanding. For a complete overview and understanding of peace for what the Qur’an is teaching, we also should have a look to the rest of the Qur’an.

Peace under pressure in Medina

In the war with Medina, Muhammad proved not only to be an important statesman, but also a superior military leader. He thought that the Jewish tribes were unreliable and that in case of a war they could attack him. It cannot be denied that there was aggression by the Muslims against three big Jewish tribes. During 625-627 they beheaded 600 men, and sold the women and children as slaves. Muhammad is directly responsible for most actions. But we may explain much of the actions because there were no human rights in those days and brutal methods against enemies were normal. The same can be done with similar issues in the Hebrew Scripture (Old Testament). It is different with palm cutting of the enemies. In that time it was in the Arab world an unwritten law not to cut the palms of the enemies. It takes more than twenty years to get new palms. To the judge of the people in those days there was no justification to cut palms. But when you are a neutral observer of the facts, it is strange that the prophet justified his actions by Allah: Palms cut, it was with permission by God (Qur’an 59:5). Was the cutting of the palms with permission of God? [25].

Offensive attacks of Meccan caravans

Muhammad sent his men on raids against Meccan caravans, most of them without success. The Muslims involved in the raids had no income and were motivated to be involved in these raids. This is an old Bedouin-Arab usage as a law in the wilderness. But later the raids were announced as ‘religious war’ against the unbelievers of Mecca.When the Muslims had found a caravan, they murdered the driver and plundered the contents. The time this event occurred was in the holy months and it was agreed between the tribes that they would not attack each other during that time. Therefore this caravan was very vulnerable. The Muslims in Mecca were angry that the killing happened during the sacred months. But Muhammad told them it was a revelation from Allah to initiate the violence: ‘They ask you concerning the sacred month about fighting in it. Say: Fighting in it is a grave matter, and hindering (men) from Allah's way and denying Him, and (hindering men from) the Sacred Mosque and turning its people out of it, are still graver with Allah, and persecution is graver than slaughter (Qur'an 2:217). To the judge of the people in those days, the Muslims were initiating violence.

Jihad of the sword

The roots of the idea of jihad of the sword are in 8th century. In the Qur’an the word jihad is not used to fighting, but refers to the obligation of all Muslims to work in the path of God by word and deed to an attitude of the mind and the heart. The jihad of the sword was invented by juristic Muslims. They divided the world into two territories: the territory of Islam (dar al-islam) and the territory of war (dar al-harb) [26]. The non-islamic territory was a reason to start robbery and conqueror and was not a stimulance for peace. In the teachings of the jihad someone can be a blood testifier (sjahied) not only by passive suffering, but also by acting as a warrior. According to the Qur’an, such a man will go direct to paradise (Qur’an 47:4-6). Most Muslims went back to the original meaning of jihad: that of moral effort. They have given up jihad of the sword. There is a distinction between ‘small effort’, fighting against enemies from outside and ‘big effort’, to fight against your own flesh and bad habits. A small number of Muslims continues to practice the jihad of the sword.

Violent fundamentalism

The violent Muslim fundamentalists of the 20th century still had some moral rules. The violent fundamentalist Al Banna had at least mercy in mind with people who did not fight against him. He referred to the Quran: ‘O ye who believe! Be not like the unbelievers, who say of their brethren, when they are traveling through the earth or engaged in fighting: ‘If they had stayed with us, they would not have died, or been slain.’ This that Allah may make it a cause of sighs and regrets in their hearts. It is Allah that gives Life and Death, and Allah sees well all that ye do. And if ye are slain, or die, in the way of Allah, forgiveness and mercy from Allah are far better than all they could amass: And if ye die, or are slain, Lo! it is unto Allah that ye are brought together’ (Qur’an 3:156-158). Unfortunately, the violent fundamentalists of the 21st century are more radical in practice than in theory [27]. By focusing on the more aggressive verses in the Qur’an, the violent fundamentalists are destroying the peace making reputation of Islam. Fundamentalists are in every religion, but the number of violent actions and the violent impact in Islam much higher.

Your position

As a person, just, not prejudiced, free from favoritism or self-interest you should ask yourself if you agree to use the mentioned verses as a practice for violence. Christians live according to Jesus Christ, who preached non-violence, justice, love and eternal life. The first Christians were not allowed to serve in fighting and could even not have a job as a butcher. When you want to use violence as a Muslim it is possible to use verses in the Qur’an or the acts of Muhammad as source. When a Christian wants to use violence he has no connection to the Gospel or the acts of Jesus Christ. Because peace is a preview of paradise: Come to Jesus.