If anyone asked me; Did Islam tell Muslims to kill non-Muslims? A direct answer will be "No", but many wouldn't be satisfied by such one word answer for such question when they witness violent attacks being committed by the name of Islam, and many of those who commit these violent attacks pretend to be Muslims, and even use Qur'anic verses to justify their crimes. Many non-Muslims who don't have actual knowledge about Qur'an and Islamic texts would have a wrong perspective that Islam told Muslims to kill non-Muslims when they witness such violence being committed by the name of Islam and by persons who pretend to be Muslims, specifically when those criminals use Qur'anic verses.
That's why I'll focus through this article on the answer of the question;
Islam and Muslims are just like any other religion or philosophy and the believers in it. The religion or the philosophy may preach the best morals, but the believers themselves maybe "bad believers". They will think that they are good persons, applying the principles of their religion or philosophy, they will even find some text or historical incident in their ancient books to justify their personal beliefs, but they are actually contradicting what their religion really preaches.
Christianity and Crusades for example. Christians were fighting by the name of the Bible, since 1096 until 1270 there were several military campaigns by Christians generally against Muslims. They burnt many cities over their way from Europe to Jerusalem, thousands of civilians were killed by the name of the cross, many massacres were committed. The final result was the blood of many children and innocents were spilled on the "Holy Land", and many wars broke out by the name of the Christian belief. Other famous massacres were committed by the name of Christianity like; St. Bartholomew's Day massacre comitted by Catholics in 1572 when tens of thousands were murdered in Paris. Inquisitions during the 15th and 16th centuries when hundreds of thousands were burnt alive and tortured in Europe just because they were suspected of "Heresy", plus the Inquisition in Andalusia (Spain) when Millions of Muslims were forced to be baptized or executed or evacuated. Pope Gregory IX, Pope Sixtus IV, Pope Paul III, Pope Alexander II, Pope Urban II, Pope Innocent III are names of religious leaders who used Christianity to motivate the believers to war or to torture and execute hundreds of thousands.
If we just asked ourselves after witnessing all these bloody wars and all the blood spilled by the name of Christianity; Did Christianity tell Christians to do that? A quick and direct answer from a Christian believer will be; "No". His answer may appear unconvincing when the popes themselves were motivating soldiers to kill, and Inquisition soldiers to burn people alive and torture them, and when we hear Biblical verses used to justify these bloody wars like; "And when the LORD thy God delivereth it into thy hand, thou shalt smite every male thereof with the edge of the sword; 14. but the women, and the little ones, and the cattle, and all that is in the city, even all the spoil thereof, shalt thou take for a prey unto thyself; .. 16. Howbeit of the cities of these peoples, that the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance, thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth, 17. but thou shalt utterly destroy them:" Bible: Deuteronomy, Chapter 20. We'd be more puzzled about the true essence of Christianity.
Christianity in its true essence preaches love and peace. "Love your enemies" is the message that Jesus came by and invited to all his life. Crusades and corrupted popes used their belief to achieve political goals and to gain more power and domination over peoples. Those "bad believers", if we were to call them like that, are not the true examples of Christianity, they are just examples for themselves.
It's not so different with Islamic religion and the bad believers in it. Islam in its essence preaches love, peace, justice, coexistence, respect for the other and good morals. But there are "bad believers" in Islam who pretend to be "good believers", who think that they are executing the principles of Islam. They blowup themselves in civil places, they spread threat messages, they kill by the name of Islam and use Islamic texts to justify their crimes. Does that necessarily mean that Islam tell Muslims to do that? Absolutely no.
Islam invited Muslims to treat non-Muslims as human beings, to deal kindly and justly with non-Muslims, and to provide safe shelter for their lives, property and their worship places. The following are verses from Qur'an (The Holy Book for Muslims) and Hadith (Sayings of Prophet Muhammad) about how Shari'a (Islamic law) regulated the relation between Muslims and non-Muslims..
*Allah has created all mankind, Muslims and non-Muslims, all are sons of Adam and Eve, and Islam tells that all humans are honored. About sons of Adam, Allah says in Qur'an: "We have honoured the sons of Adam; provided them with transport on land and sea; given them for sustenance things good and pure; and conferred on them special favours, above a great part of our creation." 17:70
*Islam tells Muslims that they should respect the feelings of non-Muslims. In debates, Islam tells Muslims to: "And dispute ye not with the People of the Book, except with means better (than mere disputation), unless it be with those of them who inflict wrong (and injury): but say, "We believe in the revelation which has come down to us and in that which came down to you; Our Allah and your Allah is one; and it is to Him we bow (in Islam)." 29:46
In another Qur'anic verse, a very high example of equity, justice and respect to the beliefs of non-Muslims. Allah has said in Qur'an:"Say (O Muhammad to polytheist, pagans): "Who gives you sustenance, from the heavens and the earth?" Say: "It is Allah. and certain it is that either we or ye are on right guidance or in manifest error!"" 34:24 The verse is ended by highlighting that which is known (the Muslims following guidance, while the unbelievers are in error) as if it were a matter that could be doubted. In doing so, Allah emphasizes the truth by allowing the reader to draw his own conclusion. He does not state in this verse who is the group following guidance and who is not. This use of language is a means of treating the opponent in debate with justice, by presenting the argument, and allowing the listener to judge.
Allah ordered Muslims not to insult non-Muslims: "Revile not ye those whom they call upon besides Allah, lest they out of spite revile Allah in their ignorance. Thus have We made alluring to each people its own doings. In the end will they return to their Lord, and We shall then tell them the truth of all that they did." 6:108
*Islam doesn't force anyone to be a Muslim. Allah says in Qur'an to His Prophet: ".. thy duty is to make (the Message) reach them: it is our part to call them to account." 13:40 It's not the duty of the Prophet to make people convert to Islam, all his duty is to make the message and words of Allah reach them. A duty to make others listen to the Prophet, not to force them to believe in what he says.
In another verse Allah has said: "If it had been thy Lord's will, they would all have believed,- all who are on earth! wilt thou (O Muhammad) then compel mankind, against their will, to believe!" 10:99.
And of course the great verse: "There is no compulsion in religion." 2:256 This verse was revealed concerning some of the Muslim men of the Medina; when Islam came to them, they had adult children who were Jews or Christians. They tried to compel them to embrace the new religion, so this verse was revealed to prevent them from doing so. So, it's not permissible for any Muslim to force anyone, even his children the dearest to his heart and the the ones whom they want the best for, to embrace Islamic religion. The American scholar, Edwin Calgary explained this verse by saying: "There is a noble verse in the Qur'an that is filled with truth and wisdom, and it is known to all Muslims. Everyone else should know it as well; it is the one that says that there is no compulsion in religion."
*Under Islamic rule, Islamic law not only gives freedom of the choice of religion for non-Muslims, but in addition it facilitates practicing religious duties and preserve their worship place. Allah said in Qur'an: ".. Did not Allah check one set of people by means of another, there would surely have been pulled down monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques, in which the name of Allah is commemorated in abundant measure. Allah will certainly aid those who aid his (cause);- for verily Allah is full of Strength, Exalted in Might, (able to enforce His Will). " 22:40
*Islamic regulation requires that Muslims should be just with everyone even the enemies: "O ye who believe! stand out firmly for Allah, as witnesses to fair dealing, and let not the hatred of others to you make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice. Be just: that is next to piety: and fear Allah. For Allah is well-acquainted with all that ye do." 5:8
*And about the security of non-Muslims' lives, Allah says in Qur'an: "On that account: We ordained for the Children of Israel that if any one slew a person - unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land - it would be as if he slew the whole people: and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people. ..." 5:32
And "Nor take life, which Allah has made sacred, except for just cause. And if anyone is slain wrongfully, We have given his heir authority (to demand Qisas or to forgive): but let him not exceed bounds in the matter of taking life; for he is helped (by the law)." 17:33
And it's narrated in Sahih Bukhari that Prophet Muhammad said: "Whoever kills a person whom we have a treaty will not even come closer enough to Paradise to smell its scent, and its scent can be found at a distance of forty years travel."
*And about protecting their property, it has been narrated in Musnad al-Imam Ahmed that the Prophet said: "You must know that it is not lawful for you to take the property of the People of the Covenant unless it is [in payment] for something."
Thinking of it, both the people "whom we have a treaty" and "People of the Covenant" include -in our modern history- all the states around the world, when it is a fact that 192 of the 203 states of the world are members in the United Nations. In other words, Islamic law forbids killing (bombing, suicide bombing, shooting) of civil non-Muslims in all states of the world, and stealing their property. A suicidal bomber in civil places -according to what Prophet Muhammad said- will not even come closer enough to Paradise to smell its scent.
*In war times, if a non-Muslim whom Muslims are fighting against asked for asylum, Qur'an tells Muslims to grant him asylum: "If one amongst the Pagans ask thee for asylum, grant it to him, so that he may hear the word of Allah. and then escort him to where he can be secure. That is because they are men without knowledge." 9:6
*About how to deal with non-Muslims in general, Allah said: "Allah forbids you not, with regard to those who fight you not for (your) Faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them: for Allah loveth those who are just. * Allah only forbids you, with regard to those who fight you for (your) Faith, and drive you out of your homes, and support (others) in driving you out, from turning to them (for friendship and protection). It is such as turn to them (in these circumstances), that do wrong." 60:8,9 In his interpretation for this verse, Imam al-Qurafi defines "dealing kindly" as follows: "Gentleness towards the weak, fulfilling the needs of the poor, feeding the hungry, providing clothing to cover them, and soft speech with them. This must be done with affection and mercy, not in a spirit of intimidation and degradation. [Further], tolerating the fact that they may be noxious neighbors whom you could force to move, but you do not, out of kindness towards them, not out of fear or economic motives. Also, praying that they receive guidance, and join the ranks of those blessed with eternal reward, advising them virtuously in all worldly and spiritual matters, protecting their reputation if they are exposed to slander, and defense of their property, families, rights and concerns. They must be assisted in resisting oppression and getting access to their rights." Imam al-Qurafi was one of the Maliki Imams who lived in Egypt -with Copts- and died in 84th Hijri year.
Well, if Islamic principles are that good, just, merciful and reasonable .. an honest question would arise that need an honest answer; Why Islam looks so bad nowadays?
Personally, I think there are three major factors that generate the bad propaganda about Islam..
The first of these factors is the Bad Believers in Islamic religion. Extremists who kill by the name of Islam, those who do not understand Islamic principles of mercy and justice, who follow what their regional custom says not what Islam says. They originally grow up in an environment that doesn't really understand Islamic true principles, and consequently they don't understand true Islamic principles too. They don't actually represent Islam, but only represent themselves. Extremists exist in every religion, Islam too has extremists.
The second factor is Extremist Media of the West. Focusing on the bad examples, ignoring the good examples, that is what I am talking about. It is widely common to hear in the American and European news about an individual Muslim who killed so-and-so, but it's so uncommon to hear about a Muslim group that organized a coexistence conference. One thing that always made me wonder that a guest of my blog always tell about a lunatic father who killed his daughter, or an extremist who killed random victims, but he is amazed when I tell him about "A Common Word" conference that gathers Muslim and Christian religious leaders in Washington to discuss about ways of understanding each other, or a wonderful experience of coexistence among Muslims and Jews in Virginia. It's well known for many that Muslims, after the crisis of Danish cartoons on 2005, that angry Muslim demonstrations around the world broke out and Danish flags were burnt and the embassy in Beirut was attacked, but very few in the West hear about the peaceful talk conference in Denmark lead by Amr Khaled, Tarek Swidan and Habib Gafri, the three Muslim scholars who have wide fame among Muslim Arab youth, with Danish youth. A Western citizen will hear in the news headlines about the fanatic Muslim who blow himself up in a crowded place and will watch many TV shows about the "coming danger" and will hear analysts talking about why he did that, but will a Western citizen hear about a Muslim scholar who made a discovery or a Muslim woman who wrote a good book? The common Muslim names in Western Media are: Bin Laden, Zawahri, Zarqawi not Ahmed Zewail, Farouk el-Baz, Naguib Mahfouz, Aisha Abd al-Rahman, Qaradawi, Muhammad al-Ghazaly, Ali Gomaa. For all of that, through all this bias, Western Media is an effective factor in generating hatred against Muslims and forming a corrupted perspective about Islam.
The third factor is strongly related to the second one and is the one I stated in the beginning of the article, i.e. the misunderstanding of some verses of the Qur'an. There are extremist Western writers who twist the verses of Qur'an, sayings of Prophet Muhammad and historical incidents to present a corrupted perspective about Islam. Many websites over the web are involved in that.
In general, the verses that extremist Western writers present as "the absolute evidence about Islamic terrorism" are the verses that talk about fighting. There are various reasons for fighting or for making Jihad according to Islamic law;
a) As response to a act of aggression, as stated in Qur'an: "Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you, but do not transgress limits; for Allah loveth not transgressors." 2:190
b) As a penalty for those who break a treaty or violate a truce, as mentioned in Qur'an: "But if they violate their oaths after their covenant, and taunt you for your Faith,- fight ye the chiefs of Unfaith: for their oaths are nothing to them: that thus they may be restrained." 9:12
c) As a deterrent to those who prevent missionaries of the faith from travelling to the people, as stated in Qur'an: "And fight them on until there is no more Tumult or oppression, and there prevail justice and faith in Allah. but if they cease, Let there be no hostility except to those who practise oppression." 2:193
d) To assist people who are being oppressed, with the goal of reliving their oppression, as Allah said: "And why should ye not fight in the cause of Allah and of those who, being weak, are ill-treated (and oppressed)?- Men, women, and children, whose cry is: "Our Lord! Rescue us from this town, whose people are oppressors; and raise for us from thee one who will protect; and raise for us from thee one who will help!"" 4:75
e) Enforcing peace against the transgressor when two parties conflict, as said in Qur'an: "If two parties among the Believers fall into a quarrel, make ye peace between them: but if one of them transgresses beyond bounds against the other then fight ye (all) against the one that transgresses until it complies with the command of Allah; but if it complies then make peace between them with justice and be fair: for Allah loves those who are fair (and just)." 49:8
The five reasons of making Jihad are the main reasons that any state in our recent age would make an action for. a) Self-Defense when attacked, b) Response to violating truces among states, c) Fighting against states that restrict freedom of religion, d) Providing the help for people under oppression from other stronger states, e) Fighting against conflicting states that refuse to make peace.
There are some verses in Qur'an that maybe misunderstood if read out of their textual and historical context..
One of the famous verses is 191th verse of the 2nd Chapter of Qur'an that says: "And slay them wherever ye catch them"
First of all, and a basic rule in reading any religious text, we must read it in its both textual and historical context. If this didn't happen, the religious text will be misunderstood. Consequently, I'll state here the whole verse and few verses before and after this verse to focus on the real context of this verse..
"Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you, but do not transgress limits; for Allah loveth not transgressors. * And slay them wherever ye catch them, and turn them out from where they have Turned you out; for tumult and oppression are worse than slaughter; but fight them not at the Sacred Mosque, unless they (first) fight you there; but if they fight you, slay them. Such is the reward of those who suppress faith. * But if they cease, Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful. * And fight them on until there is no more Tumult or oppression, and there prevail justice and faith in Allah. but if they cease, Let there be no hostility except to those who practise oppression. * The prohibited month for the prohibited month,- and so for all things prohibited,- there is the law of equality. If then any one transgresses the prohibition against you, Transgress ye likewise against him. But fear Allah, and know that Allah is with those who restrain themselves." 2:190-194
Do these verses give a free permission for Muslims to kill non-Muslims wherever Muslims catch them? These verses were revealed by Allah to Prophet Muhammad at the time when Muslims were attacked by the pagans of Makkah on a regular basis. They were frightening the Muslim community of Madinah. They tortured and killed tens of Muslims and expropriated their property when they were in Mecca. One may say, using the contemporary jargon, that there were constant terrorist attacks on Muslims, and in this situation Muslims were given permission to fight back the "terrorists". This can be easily realized when noticing in more than part of these verses the mention of the attacks make by the pagans and that Muslims are just fighting back. It's noticed in: "turn them out from where they have Turned you out" and "fight them on until there is no more Tumult or oppression" and "but if they cease, Let there be no hostility". These verses are not a permission for "terrorism", but a warning against "terrorists". But even in these warnings, one can readily see how much restraint and care is emphasized. It is important that we study the religious texts in their proper context. When these texts are not read in their proper textual and historical contexts, they can be easily manipulated and distorted. It is true that some extremist Muslims manipulate these verses for their own goals. But this is not only with Islamic texts, it is also true with the texts of other religions (as mentioned above).
On the other hand, one can see how the verses give restrictions on fighting back those who attack and terrorize Muslims. a) "Fight .. those who fight you" b) "Do not transgress limits" c) "Fight them not at the Sacred Mosque" d) "If they cease, Let there be no hostility except to those who practise oppression.".
Islamic religion did not come to oppress and terrorize, but it came to spread safety, justice, love and mercy. Those extremists who kill by the name of Islam have the same logic of those who killed over the centuries by the name of Christianity or Judaism. Judaism, Christianity and Islam are all three divine messages revealed from the One God, the Creator, Most Gracious and Most Merciful. God who created all mankind and made them all equal but according to piety. He created all of us; Jews, Christians, Muslims Buddhists, atheists, etc and only ordered us to be kind and merciful to each other according to our human relationships. It is only the extremists who distorted His true words to achieve their personal corrupted desires. Those are not just the enemies of Jews, or just the enemies of Christians, or just the enemies of Muslims, instead, they are the enemies of all of us .. enemies of humankind.
-"The Rights Of Non-Muslims In The Islamic World" by Saleh Hussain Al-Aayed, translated by Alexandra Alosh (WAMY)