By Silas

Does Islam teach hatred or love toward non-Muslims?

Islam teaches a standard worldview towards non-Muslims.  No religion hates or loves, but their characters do.  Are Muslims to take a hateful, aggressive, and domineering approach, or a kind, loving, and considerate approach towards non-Muslims?  Or is the answer somewhere in between?1

Understanding The Islamic worldview towards non-Muslims.

There are millions of Muslims worldwide who are great people.  They are caring, loving, and giving.  They are excellent citizens and great neighbors.  I personally know far too many good and decent Muslims to characterize them in a malevolent fashion.  Conversely, I know there are millions of Muslims worldwide who support terrorism and oppression to advance the Kingdom of Allah, Muhammad’s kingdom, as the world’s rule and authority.2  These people continue to spill Muslim and non-Muslim blood throughout the world.  In some Muslim countries the majority oppose Islamic terrorism, in other Muslim countries the majority supports some type of force or violence because its aim is to further Islam’s domination.3

Obviously it would be foolish to try to determine if Islam’s Allah, (when I use the word “Allah” I am referring to Islam’s God, when I use “God” I am referring to Christianity’s God), loves or hates non-Muslims based on the intra-contradictory attitudes and actions of Muslims worldwide.  We need to use the Islamic source materials, the Quran, hadith, and sira, to identify Muhammad’s position on this question.  Muhammad was the greatest Muslim who ever lived and Muslims are commanded to obey his word and imitate his example.  Therefore we must use Muhammad, his teachings and actions, identified in the Islamic source materials, in their appropriate context, as our primary reference.

The question becomes:  What was Muhammad’s final position on how Muslims should view and approach non-Muslims?

A follow-up question is:  How does his final position shape today’s Islamic worldview?

The goal here is to identify Islam’s final worldview for its spiritual and physical approach towards non-Muslims.  This study is based upon a composite of the Islamic source material’s, (the Quran, hadith, and sira), which form Islam’s theological foundation.  We will also review historical writings covering the first years after Muhammad’s death because they exemplify Muhammad’s commands for the Islamic approach towards non-Muslims and we’ll consult the work of some great Muslim theological scholars.

We will also examine actual examples of Muhammad’s engagement with non-Muslims.  Muhammad was a man of action.  He not only talked the Islamic talk, he walked the Islamic walk.  If there is a standardized Islamic approach towards non-Muslims then there should exist a correlation between Muhammad’s words, (Islam’s tenets), and his actions.  The saying, “Actions speak louder than words” is appropriate here, and a correlation must be proven.

Examining Muhammad’s teachings and actions relative to his engagements with non-Muslims should show us his primary, and final, approach.  Doesn’t this sound like an intelligent, logical, and fair way to investigate this topic?

Muhammad’s final position on how Muslims should view and approach non-Muslims

Muhammad’s attitude towards non-Muslims changed over time. The biographical literature, tells us that he had a wide variety of interactions with many non-Muslims during his life.  His attitude was not always, “I love you brother, let’s embrace!”  Nor was it, “I hate you infidel, die!”  No, his attitude changed and varied depending on occasion, participants, and his status.  However, it did standardize during his last few years, changing as he gained martial power.  Consequently, I will start the answer with an event that occurred near the middle of Muhammad’s 23 year ministry, instead of at its beginning, because this event was the catalyst for the hardening of his final position.4

Allah’s permission for violence.


Islam’s spiritual approach translates into the physical approach.

The order to fight

The greatest change within the theology of Islam occurred when Allah gave Muhammad a specific command, known as “The Order to Fight.”  This command is based on these Quranic verses: Sura 22:39-41 and 2:193.5

Verse 22:39 allows violence in self-defense while 2:193 allows violence to force Islam upon others, “religion should be only for Allah.”  More on this shortly.

Muhammad received this command while he lived in Mecca, shortly before he fled to Medina.  The year was 621/622 A.D.  Up to this point Muhammad and the Muslims were very weak.  Had they attempted any form of violence the Quraysh would have crushed them and killed Muhammad.  Fortunately, Allah had wisely commanded Muhammad not to be violent (10:99).  However, just before Muhammad received the order to fight a company of experienced fighting men from Medina pledged their swords to defend and fight for Muhammad.6  This event was known as “the second pledge of Aqabah.”  They understood that Muhammad and Islam were to reign supreme and they actually pledged to fight the entire world for Muhammad’s sake.7  Since Muhammad’s physical circumstances had changed Allah changed his commands to fit.  Now fighting was allowed and commanded.

This event signified a new beginning for Muhammad.  The rules of the game had changed in a 180° direction.   In Mecca he was a peaceful “warner,” in Medina, he was the violent warrior.   Before, he was not allowed to spill blood; now he was commanded to spill blood.  Before, his spirituality was to endure ridicule and persecution; now his spirituality told him to pick up the sword and persecute non-Muslims and force them to submit to Islam.

Ibn Ishaq’s sira provides the context and background for this order:


“The apostle had not been given permission to fight or allowed to shed blood before the second Aqaba. He had simply been ordered to call men to God and to endure insult and forgive the ignorant.”

When they are in the ascendant they will establish prayer, pay the poor-tax, enjoin kindness, and forbid iniquity, i.e., the prophet and his companions all of them.”  Then God sent down to him:  “Fight them so that there be no more seduction,” [b] i.e. until no believer is seduced from his religion.  “And the religion is God’s,” i.e. Until God alone is worshipped.”8

Note that a stipulation is “when they are in the ascendant.”  Muhammad was intelligent enough to know that when he was out-gunned he could not force Islam upon people.  But later, if he had grown strong enough, then he was to force Islam upon others.  You see this principle operating in the Islamic world today.

This abrupt theological change is allowed for in Islamic theology.  It is known as “abrogation.”  This event represents the biggest abrogation of all within Islamic theology.  Thus the “Order to Fight” presents us with a theological foundation and a clear backdrop with which to understand Muhammad’s final posture towards non-Muslims.  Allah abrogated his previous commands of non-violence to Muhammad and now commanded Muhammad to use violence when necessary to spread Islam’s rule.

Regarding this passage, the Commentary (tafsir) of a great Muslim scholar, Ibn Kathir, elaborates on the use of violence to spread Islam’s domain:

Then Allah orders Muslims to kill the disbelievers “until there is no more Fitnah.”  According to Ibn Abbas and others, “Fitnah” means polytheism, “And religion (worship), is for Allah” meaning Allah’s religion should stand supreme and overshadowing the rest of the religions.  In the Sahihayn, it is reported that the Prophet said:  “I have been ordered (by Allah) to fight the people till they say:  “None has the right to be worshipped by Allah, and whoever says it will save his life and property from me except on breaking the law (rights and conditions for which he will be punished justly), and his accounts will be with Allah””.9

Muhammad understood this command to violence clearly

Muhammad commented on this command to fight:

Allah’s Apostle said, “I have been ordered to fight the people till they say: ‘None has the right to be worshipped but Allah.’ And if they say so, pray like our prayers, face our Qibla and slaughter as we slaughter, then their blood and property will be sacred to us and we will not interfere with them except legally and their reckoning will be with Allah.10

Not long after the “order to fight” was given Muhammad fled to Medina.  Immediately he began to use violence to exert his power and take advantage of others.  He began to attack, kill, and plunder non-Muslim Arab tribes and trade caravans.11

The attacks on non-Muslims continued and grew in violence.  Tabari’s History (volumes 7, 8, and 9), provide numerous examples of Muhammad’s aggressive attacks against non-Muslims.  Waqidi’s Maghazi (translated by Rizwi Faizer) is 500 pages of detail related to Muhammad’s murders, plunders, attacks, and battles, and the “Authentic”  Traditions, (Sahih Hadith, Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah, An-Nasa’i), have entire chapters dedicated to Muhammad’s commands and violent actions.

Muhammad’s violence started out small: raids on defenseless trade caravans, assassinations, and attacks upon small pagan Arab tribes, but grew into the expulsions, mass enslavements, and wholesale massacres of hundreds of prisoners.  Eventually Muhammad began to send out armies of thousands to fight non-Muslims and this culminated into wholesale subjection of regions and tribes via force or intimidation.  Before he died Muhammad had sent out a large expeditionary force to fight some 400 miles away (see the battle of Mutah).

Obeying Allah was Muhammad’s primary motivation.  Allah changed the command from nonviolence to violence to subject people to Islam.  Muhammad walked the walk and put action behind Allah’s command.  Understand Muhammad.  He believed that Allah had commanded him to fight, kill, and conquer those that rejected him.  Allah commanded, he obeyed.

Islamic conquest was to continue until the entire world was subjected to Islam.

Some people have argued that Muhammad’s commands to violence were limited in scope:  they pertained only to the people near the Muslims who were fighting them.  This is wrong.  Muhammad wanted his followers to fight until the last day.

The end of Muhammad’s raid at Tabuk highlights this.  Following that raid some Muslims thought mistakenly that jihad was over and they began to sell their weapons.  Muhammad learned of this and forbid them from selling them, and said, “A group from my community will continue to strive for the truth until Dajjal arrives.”12

A deeper examination of the “Order to Fight”

Let’s take a deeper look at the “Order to Fight.”  It underlines Muhammad’s worldview towards non-Muslims.  Two key points need to be understood.

Point 1) Establishment and identification of “the other.”
Point 2) Having “the other” submit to Muhammad’s rule

Point 1)  Establishment and identification of “the other.”

This command establishes a spiritual and a physical separation, a classification, between Muslim and non-Muslim.  It is a one side or the other, a “You are either with us or against us” distinction.  Muhammad was commanded to physically fight against those who were not with him.  This is a spiritual, cultural, and physical war.

Some scholars describe this separation as Islam’s “House of Islam,” (Dar al-Islam), and “House of War,” (Dar al-Harb).

This segregation, the identification of “the other,” was initiated by Allah.  It is part of Islam’s theological bedrock and it extends to family members.  Verses 60:3,4 use the example of Abraham as a standard for Muslims to embrace and imitate in their posture towards non-Muslims.

Your ties of kindred and your children will avail you naught upon the Day of Resurrection. He will part you. Allah is Seer of what ye do. There is a goodly pattern for you in Abraham and those with him, when they told their folk: Lo! we are guiltless of you and all that ye worship beside Allah. We have done with you. And there hath arisen between us and you hostility and hate for ever until ye believe in Allah only – save that which Abraham promised his father (when he said): I will ask forgiveness for thee, though I own nothing for thee from Allah – Our Lord! In Thee we put our trust, and unto Thee we turn repentant, and unto Thee is the journeying. 60:3,4 13

You can also reference Frontpage magazine’s article on this topic: ISLAM HATES YOU14  Raymond Ibrahim does an excellent job reviewing the details of Islam’s hatred of non-Muslims.

David Bukay, writing at the Middle East Quarterly, quotes Bernard Lewis’s strong statement on this theme of “the other”:

Even one’s relatives should not be taken as friends if they are not Muslim.  As Bernard Lewis has put it:

Islam is still the ultimate criterion of group identity and loyalty. It is Islam that distinguishes between self and other, between insider and outsider, between brother and stranger … the ultimate definition of the other, the alien outsider and presumptive enemy, has been the kafir [infidel].15

The Islamic distinction of “the other” also requires that Muslims disavow any loyalty with non-Muslims.  Once a person is Muslim his first loyalty is to be given to Islam’s cause and his fellow Muslims.  Two examples of this breaking, perhaps betrayal, of bonds of friendship occurred during Muhammad’s rise to power in Medina.

Example a)  Breaking the bonds with the Jews of the Qaynuqa tribe.

There was a minor conflict in Medina between some Jews and Muslims.  Muhammad used that as a pretense to attack the Jews.  Eventually the Jews surrendered and Muhammad intended to massacre the males and enslave the women and children.  However, a Pagan interceded on the Jew’s behalf and physically confronted Muhammad.  Muhammad backed down but he expelled the Jews from Medina.

Many of the Muslims before their conversion to Islam were formal allies with these Jews.  When challenged about their betrayal one of the Muslims said,

“Hearts have changed. Islam has blotted all treaties out.”16

Example b)  A similar conflict occurred with the Jews of the Nadhir tribe.

Muhammad received a revelation from Allah that these Jews were going to try to kill him, so he attacked them.  Eventually he expelled them from Medina.  One of them asked how the Muslims who were their former allies could betray them, and a Muslim responded:

“Hearts have changed,” he replied, “and Islam has wiped out the old covenants.”17

This first loyalty breaks or takes priority over any other bonds, commitments, citizenship, or pledges, if Islam is infringed upon.  Islam comes first.

Point 2) Having “the other” submit to Muhammad’s rule

The “order to fight” instructed Muhammad to force the non-Muslim world (the other) to submit to his rule because Allah’s kingdom was to be of and on this earth.  This makes Islam not only a spiritual faith but equally a geo-political faith as well.  Islam is a religion with integral civil, martial, and geo-political commands and regulations.  Allah wanted Muhammad to spread his dominion over all and his command authorized, endorsed, and encouraged war to be made on non-Muslims if they refused to submit.

9:33  He it is Who sent His Messenger with guidance and the religion of truth, that He might cause it to prevail over all religions, though the polytheists may be averse.18

7:158  Say: “O men! I am sent unto you all, as the Messenger of Allah, to Whom belongeth the dominion of the heavens and the earth: there is no god but He: it is He That giveth both life and death. So believe in Allah and His Messenger, the Unlettered Prophet, who believeth in Allah and His words: follow him that (so) ye may be guided.”19

Having classified non-Muslims as “the other” Allah gave instructions on how the Muslims were to deal with non-Muslim.  This included using aggressive violence.  The Order to Fight, its classification of “the other,” and the command to violence, runs us straight into these questions.

:  Why did Allah command Muhammad to use violence to spread Islam’s rule?  “Why couldn’t Allah have instructed Muhammad to continue to be peaceable, as God commanded Christians?”

Answer:  Allah regards those who do not believe in Him, or who believe in false gods, as evil, as friends of Allah’s enemies.  Therefore Allah hates them.  The use of violence is allowed after the non-Muslims have heard the message of Islam and rejected it.   If they reject the peaceful offer to accept Islam then they are to be fought to submit to Allah’s rule.  Here are a selection of verses which reflect this, (all quotes are from Shakir’s Quran unless otherwise noted, bold and underline are mine):

In the manner of the people of Firon and those before them; they rejected the communications of their Lord, therefore We destroyed them on account of their faults and We drowned Firon’s people, and they were all unjust.  Surely the vilest of animals in Allah’s sight are those who disbelieve, then they would not believe. 8:54, 55

Those who believe fight in the way of Allah, and those who disbelieve fight in the way of the Shaitan. Fight therefore against the friends of the Shaitan; surely the strategy of the Shaitan is weak. 4:76

Then as to those who disbelieve, I will chastise them with severe chastisement in this world and the hereafter, and they shall have no helpers.  And as to those who believe and do good deeds, He will pay them fully their rewards; and Allah does not love the unjust. 3:56, 57

Say: If you love Allah, then follow me, Allah will love you and forgive you your faults, and Allah is Forgiving, MercifuL  Say: Obey Allah and the Messenger; but if they turn back, then surely Allah does not love the unbelievers. 3:31, 32

O Prophet! strive hard against the unbelievers and the hypocrites and be unyielding to them; and their abode is hell, and evil is the destination.  Allah has promised the hypocritical men and the hypocritical women and the unbelievers the fire of hell to abide therein; it is enough for them; and Allah has cursed them and they shall have lasting punishment.

therefore if they repent, it will be good for them; and if they turn back, Allah will chastise them with a painful chastisement in this world and the hereafter, and they shall not have in the land any guardian or a helper. 9:73, 74

O you who believe! fight those of the unbelievers who are near to you and let them find in you hardness; and know that Allah is with those who guard (against evil). 9:123

One of the strongest verses regarding the treatment of non-Muslims is 9:5.  You have to read the entire passage to understand the context of what Muhammad intended.20

So when the sacred months have passed away, then slay the idolaters wherever you find them, and take them captives and besiege them and lie in wait for them in every ambush, then if they repent and keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate, leave their way free to them; surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. 9:5

These verses are Allah’s/Muhammad’s command for dealing with the pagan non-Muslims in the Hijaz (Muhammad’s home state).  The Muslims are to offer Islam to the Pagans.  If they refuse to submit and accept Muhammad as their prophet then once the sacred months were completed the Muslims were to make wholesale war upon them.  No quarter was to be given.

Here is a quote from the “Tafsir of Ibn Kathir”, on the related passage.

But if they repent and perform the Salah, and give the Zakah, then leave their way free.  Verily, Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful”

Abu Bakr As-Siddiq used this and other honorable Ayat (verse or passage) as proof for fighting those who refrained from paying the Zakah.  These Ayat allowed fighting people unless, and until, they embrace Islam and implement its ruling and obligations.21

These previous verses and scholar’s comments highlight Allah’s, and Muhammad’s, hatred for non-believers, apostates, and Muslim hypocrites.  Muhammad intended to humiliate them and subject them to his rule.

The context of Muhammad’s commands extends warfare against all non-Muslims.

Islam’s condemnation extends to Christians

Islam’s definition of “the other” blankets Christianity and Judaism as well.  Although various Islamic texts speak well of Christians and Jews, others denigrate and castigate them.  Ultimately they were “the other” and were to be subjected to Islam’s rule, and humiliated by the Muslims.  This is because these faiths were viewed as inferior, lacking, and in error.  Here is the Quran:

He it is Who hath sent His messenger with the guidance and the religion of truth, that He may make it conqueror of all religion however much idolaters may be averse. 61:9 22

They do blaspheme who say: “Allah is Christ the son of Mary.” But said Christ: “O Children of Israel! worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord.” Whoever joins other gods with Allah,- Allah will forbid him the garden, and the Fire will be his abode. There will for the wrong-doers be no one to help. 5:72 23

Make war upon such of those to whom the Scriptures have been given as believe not in God, or in the last day, and who forbid not that which God and His Apostle have forbidden, and who profess not the profession of the truth, until they pay tribute out of hand, and they be humbled. The Jews say, ‘Ezra (Ozair) is a son of God’, and the Christians say, ‘The Messiah is a son of God’  Such the sayings in their mouths!  They resemble the saying of the Infidels of old!  God do battle with them!  How are they misguided! 9:29, 30 24

Certainly they disbelieve who say: Surely Allah is the third (person) of the three; and there is no god but the one Allah, and if they desist not from what they say, a painful chastisement shall befall those among them who disbelieve. 5:73 25

Dallas Roark wrote and explicit article on how Islam rejects Christianity and Judaism found here:  Why do Muslims hate Christians?   He comments:

Islam is not willing to be a peaceful religion.  It has the goal of conquering all religions into acceptance or subordination.  This is why there is so much violence in Islam. The Sunnis are killing the Shia and the Shia are killing the Sunnis.  Both types are killing other ¨heretical¨ Muslim groups.    The killing of Copts in Egypt has been a result of the drive for conquest.  The killing of Christians in Africa, the Middle East, and other Islamic countries has the aim of eradicating Christians or forcing their conversion to Islam.

A significant comment on subjection of Christians and Jews comes from the “Reliance of the Traveller.”  This book is a Shafi’i manual of Islamic law

The Caliph makes war upon the Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians, provided he has first invited them to enter Islam in faith and practice, and if they will not, then invited them to enter the social order of Islam by paying the non-Muslim poll tax Jizya…in accordance with the word of Allah Most High:

“Fight those who do not believe in Allah and the Last Day and who forbid not what Allah and Hiss messenger have forbidden – who do not practice the religion of truth, being of those who have been give the Book – until they pay the poll tax out of hand and are humbled.”  9:29

The Caliph fights all other peoples until they become Muslim…26

While the Quran offers some flowers of praise for Christians its overall tone is negative.

Conclusion on the Islamic source materials’ teaching on Islam’s final worldview of non-Muslims.

The Quran presents a substantial amount of material establishing Allah’s hatred towards unbelievers.  The verses quoted above align chronologically with “the order to fight,” i.e. they all occurred during the Medinan time period and followed “the order to fight.”  The Islamic seeds of rejection, condemnation, and separation from the “other” existed in Mecca early on.  Then the “order to fight” changed Islamic theology significantly just prior to Muhammad’s flight to Medina.  The seeds finished growing and bore the fruit of violence in Medina as Muhammad grew in power.  It was in Medina that true Islam, real Islam, Muhammad’s Islam, revealed its true nature.

This theme of “the other” that is to be subjected to Islam, is the under-girding principle for Islam’s approach towards non-Muslims.  Muslims are to approach non-Muslims with the offer to accept Islam.  If the Muslims are militarily weak, then they are to remain peaceful and persistent in their proclamation of Islam.  If the Muslims are militarily strong then they are to use force to make non-Muslims submit.  Daniel Pipes, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and others, identify these two contradictory types of Islam as “Meccan or Medinan Islam.  Throughout the hundreds of years since Muhammad this theme and this approach occur over and over, again and again and again, as Muslims interact with non-Muslims.  You see this occurring throughout the Islamic world today in how the Muslim abuse the non-Muslim minorities.  The more Islamic a nation or region is, i.e. the more Muslims practice Muhammad’s Islam, the greater the abuse of “the other.”


Earlier I said “If there is a standardized Islamic approach towards non-Muslims then there should exist a correlation between Muhammad’s words, (Islam’s tenets), and his actions.”  The saying, “Actions speak louder than words” is appropriate here.  Now we’ll review a very short list of Muhammad’s and the early Muslim’s actions to see how they correlate.

Muhammad had one consistent approach:  confrontation and the use of violence when deemed necessary.

I am not going to go into detail about the consistent and growing series of attacks that persisted from Muhammad’s arrival up to his death, but here is a small chronological outline.  You can find references to all of these in Tabari’s History volumes 7, 8, 9, and 10.27

AH 1) First raids against caravans and non-Muslim Arab tribes.
AH 2) Muhammad starts war with the Quraysh, attacks the Banu Qaynuqa Jews.
AH3) Murder of Kab Ashraf, continued attacks upon various peoples.
AH 4) Attack on the Banu Nadhir Jews, continued attacks on various tribes.
AH 5) Continued attacks on Arab pagans, massacre of the Banu Qurayza Jews.
AH 6) Continued attacks on Arab pagan tribes, rape of female slaves permitted.
AH 7) Attack and enslavement of the Khaybar Jews, torture of Kinana.
AH 8) Attacks on Arab pagan tribes, expedition to Mu’tah, conquest of Mecca.
AH 9) Expedition to Tabuk, subjection of the Christians of Aylah.

Critical Example of Muhammad in action during AH 9.

Not far from Tabuk, was the small Christian fishing village of Aylah, a port at the head of the Red Sea.  Different Muslim historians record similar details concerning the communication between Muhammad and the leaders of Aylah.  In sum, Muhammad issued an injunction against the Christian village.  Read it carefully and notice how it corresponds to 9:29:

“To John ibn Rabah and the Chiefs of Aylah. Peace be on you! I praise God for you, beside whom there is no Lord. I will not fight against you until I have written thus unto you. Believe, or else pay tribute. And be obedient unto the Lord and his Prophet, and the messengers of his Prophet. Honour them and clothe them with excellent vestments, not with inferior raiment. Specially clothe Zeid with excellent garments. As long as my messengers are pleased, so likewise am I. Ye know the tribute. If ye desire to have security by sea and by land, obey the Lord and his Apostle, and he will defend you from every claim, whether by Arab or foreigner, saving the claim of the Lord and his Apostle. But if ye oppose and displease them, I will not accept from you a single thing, until I have fought against you and taken captive your little ones and slain the elder. For I am the Apostle of the Lord in truth. Believe in the Lord and in his Prophets, and in the Messiah, son of Mary; verily he is the Word of God: I believe in him that he was a messenger of God. Come then, before trouble reach you. I commend my messengers to you. Give to Harmala three measures of barley. And indeed Harmala hath interceded for you. As for me, if it were not for the Lord and for this (intercession), I would not have sent any message at all unto you, until ye had seen the army. But now, if ye obey my messengers, God will be your protector, and Mahomet, and whosoever belongeth unto him. Now my messengers are Sharahbil and Obey, and Harmala and Horeith ibn Zeid. Unto you is the guarantee of God and of Mahomet his Apostle, and peace be unto you if ye submit. And convey the people of Macna back to their land.”28

Do you see how Muhammad’s words to Aylah parallel is words in the Quran (9:29)?  Accept Islam’s rule peacefully, or be killed and your women and children enslaved.

(Continuing the list of Muhammad’s and the Caliph’s violence):

AH 10) Yemen attacked
AH 11) Muhammad’s death, Abu Bakr attacks apostates to force them back to Islam.

Following Muhammad’s death the subsequent Caliphs continued their wars of aggression against non-Muslims, be they Christian, Jew, or pagan.  These men knew Muhammad best and they continued to follow his commands.

AH 12) Abu Bakr continues war on apostates and attacks on non-Muslim lands
AH 13) Abu Bakr’s death.  Umar attacks and conquers Syria.
AH 14) Umar continues attacks in order to expand the Kingdom of Allah, Islam’s rule.

You get the point.  Palestine, Persia, Iraq, and Egypt all fell quickly to the attacking Muslim armies who exhorted the non-Muslims, “Accept Islam and you will be safe.”

Islam’s history tells us that violence, war, attacks and plundering, enslavement, rape, and assassinations were Muhammad’s norm for his community.


Muhammad’s commands and teachings found in the Quran, hadith, and sira, are corroborated by his actions detailed in the Quran, hadith, and sira.  His words and his actions go hand in hand.  Separately, or together, the Islamic worldview says that you are “the other” and that if you reject submitting to Muhammad/Allah, then you are Allah’s enemy and are to be fought until you die, or submit to Islam.

Throughout the world today, true and dedicated Muslims are forcing Islam upon non-Muslims in many ways.  Violence is a prominent feature of their work.  Allah ordained that Islam must reign supreme, that his kingdom was to be established on earth, and those on earth who resist are to be physically punished.

Muhammad’s words and actions are not the actions of a man focused on peace, but rather of a man focused on conquest.  Islam hates you.  Observe the plight of the non-Muslims in Muslim majority countries to see, and hear, real Islam’s worldview.

In Christ,

Silas  5/14/2017


1 I read a NYT article with “I Think Islam Hates Us” as the title.  That gave me the idea for this article’s title.  It was a shallow article and I believed that the importance of Muhammad’s worldview toward non-Muslims needed truthful details presented.

4 Muhammad lived in Mecca for about 13 years and was fairly non-violent there, however, the last 10 years of his life, where he was very violent, were spent in Medina.

5 You can read about the order to fight in Guillaume, A., “The Life of Muhammad”, a translation of Ibn Ishaq’s “Sirat Rasul Allah”, Oxford University Press, Karachi, Pakistan pages 212, 213, and al-Tabari, “The History of al-Tabari”, State University of New York Press  volume 6, pages 137-139, and Ibn Kathir, “Al-Sira al-Nabawiyya”, “The Life of the Prophet Muhammad”, translated by Trevor Le Gassick volume 2, page 144.

[NOTE: Other Islamic scholars identify other verses comprising this order, however, they mirror these verses.  I’ve chosen this set because this is what Ibn Ishaq identified in his sira.  See Guillaume, A., “The Life of Muhammad”, a translation of Ibn Ishaq’s “Sirat Rasul Allah”, Oxford University Press, Karachi, Pakistan, pp 212, 213.]

6 Guillaume, A., “The Life of Muhammad”, a translation of Ibn Ishaq’s “Sirat Rasul Allah”, Oxford University Press, Karachi, Pakistan, 208 – 212, and al-Tabari, “The History of al-Tabari”, State University of New York Press  volume 6, pages 130 – 137.

7 al-Tabari, “The History of al-Tabari”, State University of New York Press volume 6, page 134.

8 Guillaume, A., “The Life of Muhammad”, a translation of Ibn Ishaq’s “Sirat Rasul Allah”, Oxford University Press, Karachi, Pakistan, pp212, 213.

9 Ibn Kathir, “Tafsir of Ibn Kathir”, Al-Firdous Ltd., London, 1998, pp117, 118

10 Bukhari, Muhammad, “Sahih Bukhari”, Kitab Bhavan, New Delhi, India, 1987, translated by M. Khan, volume 1, #387.

11 See Guillaume, A., “The Life of Muhammad”, a translation of Ibn Ishaq’s “Sirat Rasul Allah”, Oxford University Press, Karachi, Pakistan, p281, Ibn Sa’d, (d. 852 A.D.), “Kitab al-Tabaqat al-Kabir”, (Book of the Major Classes), translated by S. Moinul Haq, Pakistan Historical Society, volume 2, page 3, and Faizer, Rizwi, The Life of Muhammad, Al-Waqidi’s Kitab al-Maghazi, Routledge, New York, New York, 2011, page 3.

12 “The Life of Muhammad” Al-Waqidi’s Kitab al-Maghazi, Faizer, Rizwi, Routledge, New York, New York. 2011, pp 517, 518).  Ibn Sa’d, (d. 852 A.D.), “Kitab al-Tabaqat al-Kabir”, (Book of the Major Classes), translated by S. Moinul Haq, Pakistan Historical Society, volume 2,page 206

13 Pickthall, Mohammed., “The Meaning of the Glorious Koran”, Mentor, New York, 1953

17 al-Tabari, “The History of al-Tabari”, State University of New York Press, volume 7, page 158.

18 Shakir, M. H., “The Quran”, Tahrike Tarsile Quran, Inc., Elmhurst, NY, 1993

19 Ali, Yusuf, “The Holy Qur’an”, published by Amana, Beltsville, Maryland, USA, 1989

20 You can read my article on this verse here:

21 Ibn Kathir, “Tafsir of Ibn Kathir” published by Darussalam, New York, NY, 2000, page 375.

22 Shakir, M. H., “The Quran”, Tahrike Tarsile Quran, Inc., Elmhurst, NY, 1993

23 Ali, Yusuf, “The Holy Qur’an”, published by Amana, Beltsville, Maryland, USA, 1989

24 Rodwell, J. M.,  “The Koran”, by, published by Everyman, London, England 1994

25 Shakir, M. H., “The Quran”, Tahrike Tarsile Quran, Inc., Elmhurst, NY, 1993

26 al-Misri, Ahmad, “Reliance of the Traveler”, (A Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law), translated by Nuh Ha Mim Keller, published by Amana publications, Beltsville, Maryland, USA  1991

27 al-Tabari, “The History of al-Tabari”, State University of New York Press

Tolerance and the Qur’an – Understanding the Unavoidable Islam

Tolerance and the Qur’an – Understanding the Unavoidable Islam

by Nezir Hyseni

A member of the Gideons (an organization which distributes the Bible worldwide) was telling the story of handing out Bibles in the streets of Marseille, a city in France. According to him, the French city of Marseille now claims Islam as the religion of the majority. It was in this city that Muslims who were offered Bibles took them, and either threw them over his head or burned them in front of him. Such an attitude would not be expected from the majority of westerners even if they strongly disagreed with literature distribution and its message.

With Islam coming to the West through immigration and conversion, it is to be expected that attitudes in the “public square” are going to be affected. The social reality of religious pluralism, where Islam and other religions cannot live in isolation any more, forces us to take seriously the implications of such a plurality of religious views and examine the effects on religious freedom and tolerance. Can Muslims and other religious people live together in peace and harmony? As a student of world religions says: “Frankly, the history of religion is not reassuring.”[1]

What makes some Muslims behave as they did in the streets of a French city? What leads some Muslims to blow up the World Trade Center towers in an American city, killing thousands of civilians? Is this behavior an expression of true Islam or a perversion of it? What does Islam teach on religious tolerance? These are questions that cannot be answered quickly or easily and yet the answers are there if one looks diligently.

The importance of understanding the Islam of the Qur’an

As Jacques Ellul says: “It is impossible to judge the Islamic world in a general way: a hundred different cultures have been absorbed by Islam. It is impossible to study all the doctrines, all the traditions, and all their applications together. Such a study can only be undertaken if one limits oneself to the study of specific questions, disentangling what is true from what is false.”[2]

My task in this piece of writing is to look at the environment of the interfaith exchange in a pluralistic society, especially focusing on the impact of Islam on such an environment. It is important to clarify that the Islam I have in view in this writing is the Qur’anic Islam – the Islam that is faithful to its source, the Islam which cannot exist without the Qur’an as it is – not innovative forms of Islam, or the Islam of people who do not understand and do not follow their religion as prescribed for them in the Qur’an. I will not analyze the differences between numerous branches of Islam with their specific teachings and beliefs. I choose to focus on the teaching of the Qur’an since this is the common denominator for all the different branches of Islam. It is the one source which all Muslims accept, whilst other sources of authority are interpreted and believed (or denied) in unpredictable ways. My concern, therefore, deals exclusively with the unavoidable Islam, that form of Islam which will exist as long as the Qur’an exists.

I will specifically explore the extent to which Qur’anic Islam tolerates other religions. The central question to be investigated in this study is this: “Is the Qur’an’s teaching compatible with tolerance in a pluralistic society?”

The professor and author Edward W. Said, who was born in Palestine but has resided in US since the 1950’s, claims as a matter of fact that “ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union there has been an active, explicit search in the United States for new official enemies, a search that has now come to settle on ‘Islam’ as a manufactured opponent.”[3] Seeking to avoid projecting a “manufactured Islam,” one of the goals of this paper is to combat prejudice – that is, a posture which is not based on relevant information and experience, either favorable or unfavorable, about Islam.

In a recent article in Time magazine, Michael Elliott comments on the PBS documentary “Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet” (funded partially by a number of Islamic foundations). He writes: “What the world needs is not a hagiography of the Prophet or an apologia for Islam but a clear sense that modern Muslims are prepared to engage in an honest debate on the way in which their faith has been perverted by those who kill thousands of innocents.”[4] In this writing I seek to contribute toward the need for a clear sense in the debate about the relationship of the Muslim faith and its violent expressions.

The importance of understanding the unavoidable Islam involves exposing the lies of some presentations of Islam and raising awareness about the challenge presented by a faithful expression of Qur’anic Islam. We will also look at how it may affect the future of the democratic society, as formed by the values of Western civilization.

King Fahd of Saudi Arabia, a Muslim, has said: “The Democratic system that is predominant in the world is not a suitable system for the peoples of our region.”[5] It is important to determine why Fahd believes this to be so; and if the Islam to which he adheres is the Qur’anic (unavoidable) Islam, then how do Islam and democracy co-exist in a pluralistic society. Can Islam be tolerant?

Defining “tolerance”

Since we need to understand what the Qur’an teaches about religious tolerance we must define what tolerance is, and then we must see if there is such a thing taught in the Qur’an. Some Muslims may object to this approach, saying that the Qur’an ought to define the meaning of tolerance. The goal here, however, is to compare the concept of tolerance as generally understood in the democratic West with “Qur’anic tolerance.”

Tolerance is different from toleration. Jay Newman wrote:

… [W]e are reminded that there are two different nouns corresponding to the verb ‘tolerate’ – ‘tolerance’ and ‘toleration.’ The latter seems to have a broader application; it refers to any instance of tolerating. But ‘tolerance’ is more closely related to the adjective ‘tolerant.’ Toleration is merely instantiated in each instance of toleration; the term is entirely behavioural. Tolerance is expressed as well as instantiated in tolerant actions. A person can be tolerant on one occasion and intolerant on another. But most of us believe that some men are generally tolerant while others are not. ‘Tolerance,’ then, unlike ‘toleration,’ is often seen as a character trait, a disposition, and usually as that kind of disposition that we call a ‘virtue.’[6]

To describe a person, a religion, or a doctrine as both tolerant and intolerant says nothing about the disposition or character of such an entity with regard to tolerance.[7] It is not possible to characterize any person or religion as both tolerant and intolerant if tolerance is understood as a normative and defining virtue. One person or religion can be intolerant, although at times may show toleration; another can be tolerant but, inconsistently with the tolerant character, may show lack of toleration in specific or isolated occasions. This distinction between “tolerance” as a normative virtue (something we ought to exemplify consistently) and “toleration” merely as an instantiation of tolerance (occasioned by expediency), is important to bear in mind as we investigate Muslim scripture and history where there may be examples of toleration.

Tolerance and the view of truth

What does it mean to tolerate another’s beliefs? To “tolerate” another’s beliefs does not mean that one accepts them as true; but in being tolerant one respects another’s right to free will to choose what to believe. As Newman clarifies, “Tolerating a religious belief, then, does not involve a half-hearted acceptance or endurance of the belief in itself, but rather it involves acceptance or endurance of someone’s holding that belief, that is of a certain case of believing.”[8]

Relativists modify this meaning of tolerance to make it more of a propositional attitude, which involves respecting another’s religious beliefs as being of equal value to all other truth claims, even one’s own convictions. If this line of thought, however, is followed to its logical conclusion, a person could end up holding as equally true both propositions, even if they are obviously contradictory.

Metaphysical relativism considers metaphysical constructs as valuable in that they give significance to our lives; but it is not necessary for them to correspond with something objective outside of our minds. They are basically our own constructs. The motivation for such a conclusion may be epistemological (doubting the possibility to know things as they are in themselves, following the Kantian postulation of the categories of the mind that give shape to reality as experienced by us) or moral (in seeking to accommodate everybody’s view).

When metaphysical relativism is considered as a foundation for tolerance, we end up with no tolerance at all because it deprives the belief of any significance which makes it worth holding. On the other hand, this view also ends up being another dogmatism itself, as Newman writes: “Tolerance, after all, does not demand that one believe that every other person’s metaphysical views are as true or as reasonable or as profound as his own. Indeed … tolerance is possible only because we are capable of putting up with things that we do not like … or agree with.”[9] This condition implies: (1) having a certain belief and (2) being introduced to another person who holds beliefs with which you disagree. If we didn’t have to put up with those who hold beliefs contrary to ours, there would be no need for tolerance. If all believed the same thing, namely, that all religious beliefs are not to be taken seriously, but rather are to be considered merely as different keys in a piano (which may be different but not true or false), than what is there to tolerate?

In conclusion, we can say that tolerance means exemplifying an attitude of respect[10] or endurance toward another’s views, even those one may consider false, and tolerance as such can rightly be a virtue in one who believes in absolute truth. Muslims and Christians (and others who believe in the nature of truth as absolute and objective), have a real opportunity to be tolerant in this sense of the word, while relativists don’t.

Muslim background beliefs

To understand the Muslim view of tolerance we need to understand some basic concepts of the Muslim worldview and sources of authority. The answer to many questions about Islam and its nature is connected with understanding “the very structure of Islam as a religious and political complex.”[11] Although the so called Christian Byzantine Empire and the Western Holy Roman Empire, with the close association of the Christian Church and the State throughout the Middle Ages might suggest a similarity with the Islamic religious-political structure, it is a wrong assumption to consider them identical.[12] Islam is radically different in that in its very identity is a political-religious structure. Fazlur Rahman, a well respected Muslim scholar writes: “Islam insisted on the assumption of political power since it regarded itself as the repository of the Will of God which had to be worked on earth through a political order … To deny this fact would be both to violate history and to deny justice to Islam itself.”[13]

The concept of God as “Allah” is of a being that is totally other, wholly transcendent to the point of implying that Allah is unknowable in himself but known in his will and requirements revealed in the Qur’an (Sura 42:11; 112:1-4). In the words of a Muslim scholar: “You may not have complete transcendence and self-revelation at the same time.”[14] This view of God is accompanied by a view of humans as the “slaves” of God (Sura 19:93). One major concept in Islam is captured in the very meaning of the word “Islam” itself: namely “submission,” which carries the sense of laying down arms before the victor and is taken to exemplify the total submission of every aspect of life, as an individual and society to Allah (The God).

The Qur’an teaches about itself that it is God’s direct and verbal word, that it is eternal and came down from what is preserved in heaven (Sura 85:22) as the “Mother of the Book” (Sura 3:7; 13:39; 43:4). Although the Qur’an considers the Old and New Testaments as God’s word (Sura 3:93; 4:163; 5:46 etc.), it considers its own authority as greater than theirs (Sura 5:48). Even the Arabic language of the Qur’an is considered an integral part of Allah’s word (Sura 20:113; 12:2), therefore, Muslims consider the Islamic culture as of heavenly origin.[15]

So, Islam is a political, cultural and religious system. Religion, as based primarily on the Qur’an, is a part of the system, which informs all the other aspects of the Islamic system. Religious doctrine, however, is viewed in Islam as a preamble to Islamic law, the Shariah (divine law),[16] which is a comprehensive code governing every aspect of life, because Islam is a religion primarily oriented toward law rather than theology.[17]

Another important Muslim concept is the “Umma,” or “the community of submission.” Although Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, had been reciting the earliest Suras of the Qur’an starting in A.D. 610 for about 13 years, it is A.D. 622 that marks the beginning of the Muslim era, because this marks the emergence of the “Umma,” the establishment of the Muslim political- religious structure. Dr. W. Bonar Sidjabat writes: “… the Islam of the Qur’an is theocratic and the Muslim state was a theocracy from its first ascent to power.”[18]

Prior to A.D. 622, Muhammad had not attracted many with his monotheistic message. The people of Mecca, the city of Muhammad’s birth and his first decade of religious activity (which started when he was 40 years old), were not responding positively to Muhammad’s message. They eventually made life so miserable for Muhammad and his few followers that they decided to flee to Medina, another city three hundred miles to the north, where some people had invited Muhammad to mediate differences between various tribal groups. William J. Saal writes:

That well-known event, the Hijra [emigration to Medina], gave Muhammed opportunity to gain control of Medina and eventually extend that control to the entire Arabian Peninsula and beyond.

This event is the pivotal event of Islamic history and has become the starting point of the Muslim calendar. Muslims believe that God’s ultimate objective was the creation of a new universal social order. The Hijra marks the beginning of this new world order, today identified with the Nation or Community of Islam, the Ummah.[19]

There are many issues that require further development at this point in tracing the history of Islam; the looting of Meccan caravans and subsequent battles with Meccan protectors of the caravans (Sura 2:216-218) in A.D. 624; the conquering of Mecca in A.D. 630; massacres of Jews; and military campaigns against the Christians in the north of Arabia under the leadership of Muhammad. He died in A.D. 632 “… but not without ordering about a month before his death another expedition to the North.”[20] We should turn to our main question now and will pursue history only in relation to defining the Qur’anic view of religious tolerance.

The Qur’an: its importance

The Qur’an is the absolute authority of Islam (socio-political-economic-cultural-religious system). Fazlur Rahman writes: “This ‘Other’ [Allah] through some channel ‘dictated’ the Qur’an with an absolute authority.”[21] The high esteem with which Muslims regard the Qur’an seems best captured by a Muslim scholar, Yusuf K. Ibish, who says: “It is not a book in the ordinary sense, nor is it comparable to the Bible, either the Old or New Testaments. … If you want to compare it with anything in Christianity, you must compare it with Christ Himself … Christ was the expression of the Divine among men, the revelation of the Divine Will. That is what the Qur’an is.”[22]

With regard to the importance of the Qur’an in forming a concept of tolerance in Islam, Sidjabat correctly observes:

[A]lthough the Muslim opinion about any problem does not always find its answer literally in the Qur’an, but also in and supported by the Sunnah (custom) and Hadith (tradition), the Ijma (consensus) and Qias (analogy), the value of the Qur’an as the primary source of any Islamic religious problem is decisive. … Its significance for the concept of religious tolerance is obvious, if we realize that the Qur’an can be considered as the command of God … Following the contents of the Qur’an means practically being obedient to the will of Allah no matter how tolerant or intolerant this might be for others.[23]

Sidjabat even goes so far as to suggest that Muhammad’s “political tolerance or intolerance should not be primarily attributed to Mohammad himself but rather to Allah from Whom – as Mohammad believed – came the Qur’an.”[24]

Qur’an’s nature and the problem of chronology

One would assume that if we just read the Qur’an we should be able to follow its teaching on tolerance easily, but that is not the case. Ignaz Goldziher, considered one of the outstanding European Islamists, wrote: “In its entirety, [the Qur’an] represents an amalgam of the two essentially heterogeneous periods that form the infancy of Islam [Meccan and Medinese].”[25] Nevertheless, chronology and delineation of those periods, is downplayed in the present arrangement of the Qur’an; “ignoring its own pivot,” as Kenneth Cragg puts it.[26] Cragg says:

Through the sequences of [Muhammad’s] career – yearning, vision, utterance, pertinacity, controversy, endurance, rejection, emigration, militancy and triumph – the accumulation of the Qur’an moves in parallel relation, fusing meaning with mission, and truth with setting. It is as events unfold that the whole grows into entirety … [But] In many circles, the non-chronological form of the Qur’an as it stands, however we account for it, becomes in this way a virtue in disguise or, rather, a proper parable of the necessary transcendence of mere point and circumstance which the believer should attain. God had not allowed the Qur’an to be arranged in sequence, in order to preclude notions of the time factor and of calendar time itself, seen as embarrassments to its celestial status.[27]

The Qur’an was not written down systematically during the time of Muhammad but was primarily memorized by Muhammad’s followers. It was not until after his death, and due to the fear that those who knew the Qur’an by heart were dying in the conquering battles Muslims were fighting, that Umar got the idea to ask Muhammad’s successor (caliph) Abu Bakr (632-634) to “order that the Qur’an be collected.”[28] Although that compilation of the Qur’an doesn’t exist[29] and there was another compilation made during the third successor, Uthman (644-656),[30] the order of the chapters (Sura) was decided at the time of the first official copy as the order of length rather than chronology.[31] All the other competing variants of Qur’an, “whether written in fragmentary manuscripts or whole copies, [were ordered to] be burned.”[32]

The Qur’an itself does not help in determining the order of the chapters and sometimes, even verses from one chapter come from different periods. Cragg observes: “… the Surahs, especially the longer ones, are composite within themselves as well as irregular in time, so that the continuous reader oscillates bewilderingly across the years and has, indeed, a better chance of being in historical step if he starts at Surah 114 and reads back to Surah 2, than if he lets the paging guide him.”[33]

On the one hand, Muslims believe that since the Qur’an is eternal there is no need for a chronological order but, on the other hand, as Fazlur Rahman says: “the ‘occasions of revelation’ were recorded [in the Hadith] as a necessary aid for fixing the correct meaning of the Word of God.”[34] Some construction of the chronological order therefore has been undertaken by scholars, which should be supplemented with the “historical traditions containing reports about how those among whom the Qur’an first appeared understood its injunctions and statements.”[35]

The reason chronology is very important for our search for a definition of Qur’anic tolerance is related to the doctrine of abrogation taught therein. Sura 2:106 says: “Whatever communications We abrogate or cause to be forgotten, We bring one better than it or like it.”[36] Zamakshari, a famous Muslim scholar, commenting on this verse, wrote: “To abrogate a verse means the God removes (azala) it by putting another in its place. To cause a verse to be abrogated means that God gives the command that it be abrogated. … Every verse is made to vanish whenever the well-being (maslaha) (of the community) requires that it be eliminated … We bring a verse which is better for the servants (of God), that is, a verse through which one gains a greater benefit, or one which is equal to it in this respect.”[37]

In the earlier Meccan period, Muhammad may well have taught that he was to “declare openly … and turn aside from the polytheists” (Sura 15:94) or to “call to the way of your Lord with wisdom and goodly exhortation, and have disputations with them in the best manner” (Sura 16:125).[38] But when Muhammad went to Medina “it was … time for a different watchword: ‘… kill the idolaters wherever you find them; take them prisoner, lay siege to them, and wait for them in every ambush’ (9:5); ‘fight in the way of God’ (2:244).”[39] Have the later verses of Medina abrogated the earlier ones in this case to serve better the interests of the Muslim Community? Many commentators think that this is the case, although they disagree about the extent of the abrogation and the specific suras it applies to.[40]

Following some chronological arrangement for the Suras (according to Nöldeke’s listing) that is generally accepted by Muslim scholars, we will now look at some pertinent verses from the Qur’an.[41]

Qur’anic teaching on relating to “religious others”[42]

Although the majority of Surahs (90 out of 114) were recited during the first 13 years of persecution in Mecca, it is interesting to notice that none of them contains commands to fight and kill.[43] It is after the Hijra, the establishing of the first Muslim community in Medina, that the teaching on attacking religious others unfolded. Rev. Richard Bailey, in his study “Jihad,” traces the progression of the attitude toward religious others in four stages: (1) No retaliation (in Mecca), (2) Defensive fighting permitted (in Medina), (3) Defensive fighting commanded (in Medina), and (4) Offensive war commanded (after conquering Mecca).[44] I will follow the same progression but in three phases, linking phases two and three together.

1. No retaliation (toleration)

In the Meccan Sura 67:26 and 22:49 we read: “Say ‘… I am (sent) only to warn plainly in public’” and “Say, ‘O men! I am (sent) to you only to give a clear warning.’”

During this period it is clear that Muhammad did not perceive his role to be that of a ruler and military leader. Another Meccan Sura 17:54, confirms this understanding by saying: “… We have not sent thee to be a disposer of their affairs for them.” At this time in Mecca (A.D. 610 – 622), Muhammad seems to uphold tolerance in the real sense of the term as discussed earlier when he recites: “Repel evil with that which is best … We are well acquainted with the things they say. And say, ‘O my Lord! I seek refuge with thee from the suggestions of the evil ones. And I seek refuge with thee of my Lord, lest they should come near me’” (Meccan Sura 23:96).

Mecca was the city of the Ka’aba, a cubic structure where 360 idols were presented for worship. Meccans, who profited from being the guardians of Ka’aba, did not welcome the Message of Muhammad. Their economic and religious traditions were threatened, therefore they ridiculed and harassed the little group of Muslims up to the point where they forbade them to go to the Ka’aba for their religious ritual, while all the polytheists could visit the shrine freely. It is difficult to understand why monotheist Muslims would want to worship at the shrine of 360 idols, but whatever the reason, it is in this context of prohibiting them to worship at the Ka’aba that the words “repel evil with that which is best” were recited. These words can give the impression that the virtue of tolerance is being taught in the Qur’an. If this was the whole of the Qur’anic teaching it may well have been the case that it teaches tolerance in the real sense, namely enduring religious others whilst disagreeing with their beliefs. But, in light of future developments, there is another possible interpretation of these verses, which might render this phase of the history of Islam as one of toleration rather than characterizing Islam as tolerant. It could have been simply a strategic position in order to survive since, being such a small number (no more than 150 converts),[45] they would have been obliterated if they had decided to retaliate (Sura 8:26).

2. Defensive fighting (in Medina)

After Muhammad and his followers went to Medina, 13 years after the beginning of the movement, we see a different attitude toward those who didn’t believe the message of Muhammad. The Medinan Sura 2:190-194 says:

Fight in the cause of God those who fight you, but do no transgress limit; for God 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, God is oft-forgiving, most merciful. And fight them on until there is no more tumult or oppression, and there prevail justice and faith in God; but if they cease, let there be no hostility except to those who practice oppression … If then any one transgresses the prohibition against you, transgress ye likewise against him. But fear God, and know that God is with those who restrain themselves. (Emphasis mine.)

In his commentary Yusuf Ali writes: “If they want forcibly to prevent you from exercising your sacred rites, they have declared war on your religion, and it would be cowardice to ignore the challenge or to fail in rooting out the tyranny.”[46] This is in stark contrast to the previous Meccan attitude of bearing with and not retaliating against those who didn’t let Muslims go to perform the ritual at the Ka’aba, forcibly preventing them from exercising their sacred rites and in effect declaring war on Muslim religion as Ali interprets the opposition against Muslims.

The previous attitude of non-retaliation was not considered cowardice before but now the same persecution is considered worthy of war. What has changed in the situation is the strength of the Muslim community in military terms. The verses we have looked at so far present two different responses toward the same situation, namely, no retaliation at one time and retaliation at a more opportune time against opponents of Muslim religion.

In the face of this drastic change in the proposed response of Muslims toward those who oppose them, Rahman says: “… so far as the Prophet was concerned, there was absolutely no change in him from Mecca to Medina, except that in Medina external circumstances were favourable to him, something that he had longed for in Mecca.”[47] We can conclude, therefore, that the first attitude of non-retaliation was not a normative virtue but rather an expedient attitude due to circumstances, which cannot qualify as tolerance toward religious others but merely as expedient toleration.

Rahman referring to Muhammad in Medina says: “… the Prophet turned to the task that was the crux of his Prophetic mission: to bring Mecca to accept Islam and through the religious center of Mecca to spread Islam further. All his efforts thenceforward are directed to this end.”[48] Fleeing for his life after failing to influence Mecca from inside, Muhammad sought to convert the Meccans by force, which was eventually achieved after eight years of fighting.

One clear example from the Qur’an with regard to the unprovoked war by Muslims, is found in Sura 2:216-218, which says:

Fighting is prescribed for you, and ye dislike it. But it is possible that ye dislike a thing which is good for you, and that ye love a thing which is bad for you. But God knoweth, and ye know not. They ask thee concerning fighting in the prohibited month. Say: ‘Fighting therein is a grave (offence); but graver is it in the sight of God to prevent access to the path of God, to deny Him, to prevent access to the sacred mosque [polytheistic Ka’aba in Mecca prior to its Muslim conquest], and drive out its members.’ Tumult and oppression are worse than slaughter. Nor will they cease fighting you until they turn you back from your faith if they can. And if any of you turn back from their faith and die in unbelief, their works will bear no fruit in this life and in the hereafter. They will be companions of the fire and will abide therein. Those who believed and those who suffered exile fought (and strove and struggled) in the path of God, they have the hope of the mercy of God, and God is oft-forgiving, most merciful. (Emphasis mine.)

To understand the significance of the passage one has to know the historical context it refers to. Rahman explains: “The Qur’an … is referring to a skirmish that took place without the Prophet’s explicit permission between a Meccan caravan and a group of emigrants during the ‘forbidden months’ (when fighting was not allowed by Arab inter-tribal law) in [A.D. 624].”[49] Whatever the “explicit permission” and “a skirmish” means for Rahman, another respected Muslim scholar, Baidawi, explains:

“… the Prophet sent out his paternal cousin ‘Abd Allah ibn Jahsh with an expeditionary force, in order to be on the look-out for a caravan of (the tribe of) Quraish … they killed ‘Amr, took two of his men captive, and drove away the caravan, which contained the goods of trade from at-Ta’if. This happened at the beginning of (the month of) Rajab, while ‘Abd Allah and his people believed it was (still) the (month of) Jumada l-Akhira. … This is supposed to have been the first booty in Islam.”[50]

Amazingly, after quoting the Qur’anic verse above, and after saying earlier that the prophetic task was to convert Meccans (implying the use of force), Rahman writes: “It is, therefore, obvious that the Prophet’s measures in terms of militaristic operations from Medina were not unprovoked.”[51] Some things need to be pointed out about this conclusion of Rahman.

If Meccans were going to fight Muslims in Medina it seems strange that they would go in war with caravans of goods. It is obvious that it was Muslims, attacking the Meccan caravans as they were passing to go home, who started the wars between Muslims and Meccans. They broke the customs that pagans themselves didn’t break, namely fighting in the sacred month, considered by the Qur’an itself as “great offense.” W. Montgomery Watt commenting on Sura 2:194 about the holy month, writes: “Though the taboos were originally matters of pagan religion, many were accepted by Islam.”[52] How can one say that the Meccans provoked the Muslims in this situation, except by the lure of goods to be looted from the caravans? There is plenty of testimony in the Qur’an itself that Muslims suffered from the greed of looting (Sura 8:1; 8:67-69; 3:152).

Important to note in this Qur’anic passage is the attitude of distrust toward religious others: the portrayal of them as seeking to convert Muslims to another faith by force and thus motivating Muslims to do the same. Another aspect is the threatening attitude toward a Muslim who may convert to another religion. One hadith makes it more specific with Muhammad saying: “The blood of a Muslim who confesses that none has the right to be worshipped but God and that I am His Apostle, cannot be shed except in three cases: In qisas [retaliation] for murder, a married person who commits illegal sexual intercourse and one who reverts from Islam and leaves the Muslims.”[53]

This prescribed attitude toward a Muslim embracing another religion has implications for tolerance. Moucarry correctly observes what true religious tolerance involves as he focuses on Christians and Muslims: “Christians and Muslims will be genuinely tolerant only when they have accepted the idea that debate, or dialogue, may lead to conversions either to Christianity or to Islam.”[54] Based on the Qur’anic passage above, therefore, we cannot fail to note that the Qur’an does not convey a situation where religious others can co-exist as equals with Muslims. The relationship between people of different religions is seen as between ruler and the subdued.

Another example from the Qur’an regarding this concept of ruling and authentication of the true religion by military victory and political supremacy (the seal of approval from God for the Muslim cause is seen in political dominance), is the passage referring to the battle of Badr,[55] called the “testing” or the “criterion.” Surah 8:38-42 says:

Say to the unbelievers, if (now) they desist (from unbelief), their past would be forgiven them, but if they persist, the punishment of those before them is already (a matter of warning for them). And fight them on until there is no more tumult or oppression, and there prevail justice and faith in God altogether and everywhere. But if they cease, verily God doth see all that they do. If they refuse, be sure that God is your protector – the best to protect and the best to help. And know that out of all the booty that ye may acquire (in war), a fifth share is assigned to God, – and to the Apostle, and to near relatives, orphans, the needy, and the wayfarer, – If you do believe in God and in the revelation we sent down to our servant on the day of testing, day of the meeting of the two forces. For God hath power over all things.

Remember ye were on the hither side of the valley, and they on the farther side, and the caravan on the lower ground than ye. Even if ye had made a mutual appointment to meet, ye could certainly have failed in the appointment, but (thus ye met), that God might accomplish a matter already enacted, that those who died might die after a clear sign (had been given), and those who lived might live after a clear sign (had been given).[56]And verily God is He who heareth and knoweth (all things). (Emphasis mine.)

Commenting on the “day of testing,” which refers to the meeting of Muslim and Meccan forces, Yusuf Ali considers the criterion between right and wrong to be decided by the military victory between two armies: “the forces of faith and of unbelief.”[57] The winning of the physical battle justifies the Muslim cause and to this day this kind of success, namely political rule, is seen as the mark of true, authenticated Islam.

The Muslims obviously didn’t know that Meccans would have an army coming to protect the caravan (that is why the meeting of the armies is considered an appointment of God not foreseen by them) but when they saw the Meccan army, since they were small in number, Muslims decided to deal with the danger of the Meccan army rather than loot the Meccan caravan which was what they originally desired. The Muslims won and that was believed to justify the Muslim cause. The belief that their strategy of asserting themselves as Muslims by waging war had God’s approval continued to cement their confidence and motivate further fighting.

What concerns us at this point is the attitude toward religious others. As far as we can tell, the Qur’an makes the case that fighting was against unbelievers as such. The phrase “Fight them until there is no more oppression” refers to fighting Meccans who still would not allow Muslims to perform the ritual at the Ka’aba. But, the extent of the war, which is to continue until “there prevail justice and faith in God altogether and everywhere” points to the real agenda of imposing Islam as supreme religion. Again, the envisioned environment with religious others, indelible in the Qur’an itself, is not one of equality, i.e. a pluralistic society, but of a victorious religion which subdues the others. This is what is actually said in Sura 8:67-69: “It is not fitting for an Apostle that he should have prisoners of war until he had thoroughly subdued the land.” (Emphasis mine.)

Yusuf Ali’s comment follows: “An ordinary war may be for territory or trade, revenge or military glory – all temporal goods of this world. … But a jihad is fought under strict conditions under a righteous imam, purely for the defense of faith and God’s law. All baser motives therefore are strictly excluded.”[58] Here we have one definition of Jihad as being a war for God’s cause, to establish the rule of Islam by the use of force. Moucarry presents the Muslim concept of militaristic jihad[59] in this way:

In the event of God’s cause being in danger, Muslims are under an obligation to take up arms and fight the enemies of Islam, even if they are reluctant to do battle (2:216-218; 4:77) … Indeed, it is preferable to engage in combat rather than to expose the Muslim community to sedition and run the risk of seeing God’s cause defeated (2:191-193; 8:39). Armed combat or holy war is therefore the extreme form of jihad. Its aim is to defend Islam from its enemies.[60]

Muslims love to paint a picture of this being a defensive war in the normal sense of the word “defense,” but one cannot escape another understanding of such a war; that is, one which subdues religious others and establishes Islam as supreme. This is made obvious by expressions like: “[no] prisoners of war until [Muhammad] had thoroughly subdued the land.” The concept of “defense” in the Muslim understanding is related to the Muslim view of the Umma. Bannerman writes: “… followers of Islam … were required, in pursuit of God’s will, to seek to establish a universal community comprising all mankind in which public order was regulated by the revelation [Qur’an].”[61] Muslims consider the destiny of the world order to be the rule of Islam, which they identify with the rule of God; the Muslim community is what that rightly ruled society will look like.

“The world was divided into dar al Islam (the territory of Islam) and dar al harb (the territory of war: and, by extension, the territory of unbelievers). … Dar al harb comprised the rest of the world which Muslim rulers were duty-bound to bring under their authority … Clearly, dar al harb must in due course be transformed into dar al Islam by one means or another.”[62] War against the unbelievers is considered to be defending the cause of God to whom belongs the territory which the unbelievers unjustly occupy simply by existing there. As Bannerman observes,

Al Shafi’i, [787-820 AD] … held that it was a duty to wage war on the unbeliever simply because he was an unbeliever, whether or not there was any threat to the community … [this understanding] was re-established later on by Ibn Taymiyya [1263-1328 AD], and appears to be the view of the majority of today’s [Muslim] jurists for whom reality clearly circumscribes the ideal. Al Shafi’i’s reasoning is consistent with the obligation to establish the universal umma …[63]

3. Offensive war against all religious others

We have to skip over many verses which clearly uphold the same teaching of waging war against the unbelievers during the years in Medina[64] but will now pick up one Sura from the last years of Muhammad’s life, after conquering Mecca in A.D. 630, which establishes fighting not as defensive any more, but aggressive Jihad against all unbelievers. As Bailey writes in the context of this last phase of Qur’anic development, “[S]ince this is the final teaching of the Qur’an regarding Jihad, it is what is still in force today.”[65]

Sura 9:1-6 says:

A (declaration) of immunity from God and His Apostle, to those of the pagans with whom ye have contracted mutual alliances. Go ye, then, for four months backwards and forwards (as ye will) throughout the land, but know ye that ye cannot frustrate God (by your falsehood), but that God will cover with shame those who reject Him. And an announcement from God and His Apostle, to the people (assembled) on the day of the great pilgrimage – that God and His Apostle dissolve (treaty) obligations to the pagans. If, then ye repent, it were best for you. But if ye turn away, know ye that ye cannot frustrate God. And proclaim a grievous penalty to those who reject faith. (But the treaties are) not dissolved with those pagans with whom ye have entered into alliance and who have not subsequently failed you in aught, nor aided any one against you. So fulfill your engagements with them to the end of their term, for God loveth the righteous. But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the pagans wherever ye find them, and seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war). But if they repent, and establish regular prayers and practice regular charity, then open the way for them. (Emphasis mine.)

The list of unbelievers (hence the enemies of Allah) includes Jews and Christians besides pagans as Sura 9 continues in verses 29-31:

Fight those who believe not in God nor the last day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by God and His Apostle, nor acknowledge the religion of truth, (even if they are) of the people of the Book [Bible], until they pay the jizya with willing submission, feel themselves subdued. Jews call Uzair [Ezra] a son of God, and the Christians call Christ the Son of God … God’s curse be on them; how they are deluded away from truth! They take their priests and their anchorites to be their lords in derogation of God, and (they take as their Lord) Christ the son of Mary. Yet they are commanded to worship but One God. (Emphasis mine)

“Those who reject faith” are those who do not want to become Muslims and at this point no more treaties of non-attack are to be observed, since it was decided that they “cannot frustrate God” any longer. The Qur’an clearly establishes an attitude of war toward all those who don’t believe Islam, wherever they may live, until they “repent and establish regular prayers and practice regular charity, then open the way to them.” Yusuf Ali’s comment is: “when war becomes inevitable, it must be prosecuted with vigour.”[66] This gives you the impression that it is a war not chosen by Muslims but by God, as it is viewed in the context of a mandate to subdue the world for Islam. The inevitability of war is interpreted not as the Muslims’ choice but as something imposed upon them. The time had come to abolish all agreements of peace with religious others and fight them until they become Muslims and follow Islamic laws.

Muslims would say that it is essential that God not to be frustrated, meaning that Islam has to cover the whole earth as the supreme religion. Since nonbelievers reject Islam there is no other alternative left but for Muslims to show that nonbelievers “cannot frustrate God” by waging war and conquering the world for Islam. “But even then there is room for repentance and amendment on the part of the guilty party, and if that takes place, our duty is forgiveness and establishment of peace,”[67] continues Ali.

It seems clear that the guilt of the religious others lies in not embracing Islam and not being ruled by Islam. This is especially clear when Jews and Christians are included in the enemies to be conquered for Islam, even though their religion is considered valid for salvation at the Day of Judgment (Sura 2:62; 5:69). This means that Muslims do make a distinction between being under Islam and being in Islam, just as Moucarry says: “Submission to the political order of Islam does not necessarily imply assent to its doctrinal content [Surah 49:14; 48:11].”[68] This “establishment of peace,” means Muslim political rule of all who either become Muslims or live with “a grievous penalty to those who reject faith” in the form of a poll-tax and other humiliating conditions of the status of the dhimmi (“the protected”).

Conclusion on Qur’anic teaching about relating to religious others

During the Meccan period, Muhammad claimed that his role was to warn people. Later, it seems that all those who don’t believe what he taught and forbade, are not simply warned but are to be fought, cursed and commanded to embrace Islam. Nevertheless, since it is logical (due to the nature of belief formation) that “there is no compulsion in religion” (Sura 2:257), those who choose not to embrace Islam have the alternative to live in submission, paying a tax to be allowed to believe what they had believed before but in such a way that they “feel themselves subdued.”

Compared with the concept of tolerance defined at the beginning of this paper, Qur’anic “tolerance” is nothing less than religious persecution. Muslims would never accept this charge of intolerance but they must remember their own complaint when they were the persecuted ones in Mecca. Rev. Bailey makes a valuable observation at this point:

When the pagans were in control and the small number of Muslims were not permitted to enter the Ka’aba, their persecution was called a ‘sacrilegious act’ and ‘an open declaration of war.’ Brigadier S. K. Malik says, ‘The enemy repression reached its zenith when the Koraish denied the Muslims access to the Sacred Mosque to fulfill their religious obligations.’ Now that the tables are reversed, the denial of the pagans’ right to fulfill their religious obligations is not called ‘repression’ but is excused on the grounds that they must ‘shut out all impurity’ because the pagans ‘are unclean.’[69]

In a late Medinan Surah 9:28 we read: “O ye who believe! Truly the pagans are unclean, so let them not, after this year of theirs, approach the Sacred Mosque.” (Emphasis mine).

The interpretation of Qur’an is a fossilized teaching beyond change

The Qur’anic teaching on how to relate to religious others is normatively exemplified in the life of Muhammad and the first community. Muslims cannot be free to interpret Qur’an differently from Muhammad’s interpretation throughout his life and as shown in the way his earliest followers imitated him. The Qur’an says: “And it behoves not a believing man and a believing woman that they should have any choice in their matter when Allah and His Apostle have decided a matter; and whoever disobeys Allah and His Apostle, he surely strays off a manifest straying” (Sura 33:36).[70] Yvone Yazbeck Hadad writes: “Islam is one as revealed in the Qur’an, and the ideal and perfect Islamic community is that of Medina where the Umma lived under divine guidance through the mediation of the Angel Gabriel and the Prophet Muhammad.”[71]

As said earlier, the flight to Medina in A.D. 622 is the watershed event that marks the emerging of the Muslim community (umma), which would remain the model for the future as a God-ordained model for society. Bat Ye’or, traces several significant events in the life of Muhammad and the first Muslim Community:

In 624 Muhammad, joined by more followers, called upon the Qaynuqa, one of the Jewish tribes of Medina, to recognize his prophetic mission. When they refused, he besieged and overcame them. … their lives were spared, but they were expelled from the city, their lands and a part of their possessions being confiscated by the Muslims. The following year the Jewish Nadir tribe suffered a similar fate: Muhammad burned down their palm groves and divided all their fields and houses among the community of the Believers.[72]

… In 627 … guided by the angel Gabriel, Muhammad … turned his host against the Jewish tribe of the Qurayza. … Because the Jews refused conversion, Muhammad attacked and overwhelmed them … six to nine hundred of them … were led forth in batches and decapitated. … The Prophet then divided the women, children, houses, and chattels among the Muslims.[73]

… In 628, taking advantage of a treaty of nonbelligerency (Hudaybiya) with the Meccans,[74] he attacked the oasis of Khaybar. … The assailants came to the oasis at night and in the morning attacked the peasants as they were coming out in the fields, carrying spades and baskets.[75] After a siege lasting a month and a half, the inhabitants surrendered under the terms of a treaty known as the dhimma. According to this agreement Muhammad allowed the Jews to continue cultivating their oasis, on condition that they ceded to him half of their produce; he also reserved the right to break the agreement and expel them whenever he wished.[76]

Based on the dhimma of Khaybar, the relationship between Muslims and conquered peoples everywhere and for all time was held as an example for the future status of peoples under Muslim rule, the status of the dhimmi. When the early successor of Muhammad, Umar Al-Khattab, expelled the Jews and Christians from the Hijaz (Mecca and Medina) in A.D. 640, he referred to what Muhammad had said at the siege of Khaybar: “The land belongs to Allah and his Messenger.”[77] Based also on the Prophet’s advice: “Two religions shall not remain together in the peninsula of the Arabs,”[78] even to this day there are no non-Muslims that can set foot in Mecca.

It is because of such examples left by Muhammad for all of his followers in all times and places, that one is baffled to learn of Muslim scholars like Pickthall who go “to the extent of asserting that Muhammad’s attitude to Jews and the Christians remained tolerant till he died.”[79] Against such a background, it defies understanding to read some evaluations of history by Hassan Al-Turabi who, as of 1983, was Attorney General of the Sudan. He wrote: “The historical record of Muslims’ treatment of Christians and Jews is quite good especially compared with the history of relations between different religions and religious denominations in the West.”[80] After reading the Qur’an, it is surprising to encounter declarations such as Ahmad A. Galwash made: “There is not even a single verse in the Holy Qur’an which directly or indirectly insinuates the alternative of death or Islam for the unbelievers.”[81] Another Muslim claims that: “Mohammad did not merely preach toleration; he embodied it into law. In all conquered nations he offered liberty of worship. A nominal tribute was the only compensation they were required to pay for the observance and enjoyment of their faith.”[82] (Emphasis mine.)

What, then, are the implications of having to pay “compensation” for the “favor” of observing one’s religion? This clearly denies the “fundamental, and inalienable human right – the freedom to reach, hold, freely exercise, or change our beliefs independent of governmental control.”[83]

It is important to clarify that people who lived under Muslim rule didn’t have rights that flow from the mere fact of being a human being, but only as prescribed by a “concessionary charter” (the dhimma) which could be changed at the decision of the Muslim ruler. As Ellul notes: “… In the case of the ‘concessionary charter,’ … one enjoys rights only to the extent that they are recognized in the charter and only for as long as it remains valid. As a person, by the mere fact of one’s ‘existence,’ one has no claim to any rights. And this, indeed, is the dhimmi’s condition.”[84]

This view of human rights is diametrically opposed to the rights that a liberal democracy envisions for its citizens. Nicholas Wolterstorff gives a definition of what democracy involves: “Equal protection under law for all people, equal freedom in law for all citizens, neutrality on the part of the state with respect to the diversity of religious and other comprehensive perspectives present in society, and equal voice for all citizens within the fair voting schemes.”[85]Weigel says: “Democracy is a way of public life, a way of being a political community,” which will work if it includes people “who have made their own the values, the moral truths, that teach us to be civil, tolerant, respectful – in a word, democratic.”[86] I am fully aware that democracy is a fairly recent phenomenon even in the West but the point here is to see if Islam, with the Qur’an as its defining factor, can ever be compatible with democracy and the religious tolerance democracy epitomizes.

In light of the Muslim concept of the Umma, the status of religious others in Qur’anic Islam is not negotiable. Ellul says that the status of the dhimmi:

… was not the product of historical accident but was that which ought to be from the religious point of view and according to the Muslim conception of the world. In other words, it was the expression of the absolute, unchanging, theologically grounded Muslim conception of the relationship between Islam and non-Islam. … One must know as exactly as possible what the Muslims did with these unconverted conquered peoples, because that is what they will do in the future.[87]

Given the Muslim view of God as rule-giver, but not relational, tolerance as a concept is understood to be the undeserved and capricious generosity of a ruler toward the ruled. Epistemologically, given the authority of the Qur’an and Muhammad’s example, tolerance is defined according to the regulations of the Shariah law (divine law of the Muslim theocracy) and the normatively interpretative example of Muhammad and the first Muslim Community. Theologically, Muslims view everything in light of the destiny of Islam to rule the world and, therefore, they are committed to what they believe is God’s will, involving jihad (holy war). Moreover, there is the utilitarian dimension of Muslim intolerance, which includes reasoning that the greater good (for the umma) justifies hard measures. The same worldview and understanding of Islam as superior (not only as a religion but also as a form of government with which it is inseparably linked) persists today among Muslims generally. As Watt writes: “… the thinking of the fundamentalist Islamic intellectuals and of the great masses of ordinary Muslims is still dominated by the standard traditional Islamic world-view and the corresponding self-image of Islam.”[88]

The will to deny the obvious

Nothing that is presented in this paper is new or unheard of by those informed on the subject. Nevertheless, even among those who should know better, there is a tendency to behave like the proverbial ostrich, denying the obvious implications of the Qur’anic teaching. Daniel Pipes, who surveyed about 25 experts in religion (professors in Harvard, Georgetown, Duke University, Baylor, Rutgers, University of Wisconsin etc.), found only four of them who considered the term “jihad” to have any military component whatsoever and this, he says “is quite as if historians of medieval Europe were to deny that the word “crusade” ever had martial overtones … [but rather the term “crusade” actually meant] ‘crusade on hunger’ or ‘crusade against drugs.’”[89] It is also disturbing that, even in post 9/11 America, as Pipes testifies, “one who dares to dissent and utter the truth on the matter of jihad falls under enormous censure … We have thus reached a point where merely to state a known fact about Islam earns one the status of a hostile bigot.”[90]

The will to believe that Islam is a religion of tolerance may cause some to be convinced that it is; but in reality it doesn’t make Islam a religion of tolerance. After being confronted with the facts of Islamic teaching, some still continue to say: “Please tell me this is not Islam.”[91] Even when one correctly observes that “Islam cannot but be ruling – and ruling on its own terms, and deciding what minorities it will allow and how,” exemplifying the ostrich mentality, the same person still hopes against hope that Muslims will choose “Meccan priority (choose to make normative the Meccan attitude of toleration), in terms of the twenty-first century, [which] must emphasize an Islam that … tolerates diversity …”[92] This is just another way of saying, “please tell me this is not Islam.”

We live during the worst time for the West to confront Islam because of the loss of clarity on the nature of truth. The relativistic view of truth explained earlier in relation to tolerance is prevalent in the affluent, sleepy (even if restless) western society. The openness of the West toward third world religions is not because the West has become more tolerant (relativism just stupefies the mind giving the illusion of tolerance), but because it is confused about its own identity; it has educated itself to be ignorant and dismissive of its own heritage; it is embarrassed by colonialism and blows out of proportion the mistakes of the past throwing out the baby with the bath water.

It is as if the West is living the tale of the ugly duckling in reverse. Westerners, for a time, thought the West was beautiful but lured by the “nonconformists” and looking at the exotic “others” they now feel like as if the West is the ugly duckling. There is a need for people like Dinesh D’Souza,[93] who emigrated from the East to the West and can’t be fooled by the hype of criticism against the West, to convincingly declare how beautiful America and the West, still are.

The West built a legacy of religious tolerance because it believed that objective truth existed; because truth mattered and because people should be free to pursue it. As was made clear earlier, in order to have tolerance at all, a view of truth as objective and an attitude of respect for humans (who are endowed by the Creator with dignity and rights that involve the exercise of their free will), is essential. This view of tolerance is part of the glorious legacy the West has bestowed upon the world. Therefore, it is tragic that one can be considered a bigot today in the West because one believes that another view can be wrong. America and the world have an opportunity to overcome this untenable relativistic stance as we face the ugliness of ideologies which result in events such as September 11th 2001.

Contemplating Change: the impossible

At the end of his book Foundations of Religious Tolerance, Newman wants to strike an optimistic note: “… we … still have a moral obligation to believe that further civilization – further civilizing – is possible. If the prospects for religious tolerance are not bright, then it is our business as human beings to make them bright.”[94] Another hopeful voice was Watt, suggesting that: “… a programme for the correction of the faulty self-image of Islam may seem utopian and unlikely to be realized. [but] … That at least is the outcome for which the believer in God, Muslim or non-Muslim, should be praying.”[95]

I also wish that such a change in Islam were possible but understanding the nature of Islamic religion, forces one to agree with the incisive words of Ellul who says:

After all, ideas and concepts are known to change. … But precisely what seems to me interesting and striking about Islam, one of its peculiarities, is the fixity of its concepts. … Wherever the social organization is based upon a system, it tends to reproduce itself far more exactly. Islam, even more than Christianity, is a religion that claims to give a definite form to the social order, to human relations, and claims to embrace each moment in the life of every person. Thus, it tends toward an inflexibility that most other forms of society have not had. Moreover, it is known that the whole of Islamic doctrine (including its religious thought) took on a juridical form. … Of course, there can be an evolution (in practical matters, in jurisprudence, etc.), but when there is a text, which is regarded in some way as an “authoritative” source, one has only to go back to that text and recent innovations will collapse. And this is exactly what has happened in Islam. …

One should be aware that when one is dealing with some Islamic term or institution of the past, as long as the basic text – in this case, the Koran – remains unchanged, one can always return to the original principles and ideas whatever apparent transformations or developments have taken place, especially because Islam has achieved something that has always been very unusual: an integration of the religious, the political, the moral, the social, the juridical, and the intellectual, thus constituting a rigorous whole of which each element forms an integral part.[96]

These words express exactly the thrust of my argument: there is an Islam that is unavoidable, namely the Qur’anic Islam, which can be rediscovered time and again. Just as Kenneth Woodward says: “Israeli commandos do not cite the Hebrew prophet Joshua as they go into battle, but Muslim insurgents can readily invoke the example of their Prophet, Muhammad, who was a military commander himself. And while the Crusaders may have fought with the cross and their shields, they did not – could not – cite words from Jesus to justify their slaughters.”[97] It is the Qur’an that binds Islam to intolerance and since Islam without the Qur’an is not Islam, there cannot ever exist true Islam that is tolerant. Again we may wish to believe that Islam can become tolerant but we will have to live with the consequences, which are inevitable given the hard evidence.

Contemplating change: the possible

If, as I have come to conclude, it is true that the Qur’an ultimately does not teach tolerance but rather intolerance toward other religions in the society it seeks to dominate, I am afraid that there is nothing we can do about it; we cannot change the Qur’an. This doesn’t preclude on the other hand sympathizing with Muslims and seeking to understand where they come from so we may responsibly address the issues of concern.[98] They are fellow human beings, much more similar to us than different. Not every Muslim believes what the unavoidable Islam may suggest, and Muslims can and have changed or converted to another worldview. I am one among unnumbered Christians who come from a Muslim tradition.

Given the content of the Qur’an and the unquestioned place it has in Muslim religion and system, one fails to see how the Qur’anic Islam – the unavoidable Islam can possibly change but a change in its adherents is a different matter. Therefore, we should not get tired of upholding the truth, exposing falsehood, showing the consequences of certain views, seeking to win all people to the truth, and being prepared to stand our ground when the evil hour comes, as people who have hope.[99]


1 Harold Netland, Encountering Religious Pluralism (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2001), p. 347.
2 Bat Ye’or, The Dhimmi: Jews and Christians under Islam, Revised and enlarged English edition (Cranbury, N.J.: Associated University Presses, 1985), p. 28.
3 Edward W. Said, “Declaring War on Islam,” The Progressive, May 1996, as reprinted in Jennifer A. Hurley, ed. Islam: Opposing Viewpoints (San Diego, CA.: Greenhaven Press, 2001), p. 111.
4 Michael Elliot, “Islam’s Prophet Motive. PBS’s Muhammad paints a too rosy picture of a humanitarian faith and its founder” in Time, December 23, 2002, p. 76.
5 Quote taken from Foreign Affairs, Summer 1993, as found in Ibn Warraq, Why I am not a Muslim (New York: Prometheus Books, 1995), p. 172.
6 Jay Newman, Foundations of Religious Tolerance (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1982), p. 5.
7 Dr. W. Bonar Sidjabat, has a whole chapter devoted to the issue of tolerance in Islam and the very title of the chapter “Tolerance and Intolerance in Islam” confuses tolerance and toleration [Religious Tolerance and The Christian Faith (Jakarta: BPK Gunung Mulia, 1982), pp. 112-167]. Sidjabat says: “… the Qur’an is the primary source of the Islamic doctrine of religious tolerance and intolerance” (Sidjabat, Religious Tolerance, p. 112).
8 Newman, Tolerance, p. 8.
9 Ibid., p. 61.
10 Nicholas Wolterstorff writes: “When it comes to what is required for showing respect, I think we must consider the situation not only from the speaker’s perspective but also from the hearer’s. To show full respect for you, as a free and dignified individual, requires, without imposing any restrictions on the content of your speech, inviting you to tell me how you see the situation and then to listen. To listen with the goal in mind of learning from you. To listen with the goal in mind of discerning how I can communicate to you my own perspective and perhaps persuade you of its cogency. But beyond that, to listen for what I can learn from you. Thus, to make up my own mind in the light of what you say – whatever it is that you say. That, it seems to me, is what is required by showing respect in such matters” [Robert Audi and Nicholas Wolterstorff, Religion in the Public Square. The Place of Religious Convictions in Political debate (Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 1997), p. 159-160].
11 Fazlur Rahman, Islam, 2d edition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979), p. 2.
12 Christianity from the earliest times with Jesus rising into heaven and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, through the first three centuries of growth under persecution, has always affirmed an identity apart from the political government although when the emperor chose to become a Christian the state was offered in “marriage” to the Church and a controversial “marriage” continued for many centuries.
13 Fazlur Rahman, Islam, p. 2, (emphasis is mine).
14 I. Faruqi et al., Christian Mission and Islamic Da’wa, p. 48, as quoted in Chawkat Moucarry, The Prophet and the Messiah (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2001), p. 27.
15 William J. Saal, Reaching Muslims for Christ (Chicago: Moody Press, 1993), p. 46.
16 Fazlur Rahman defines the shari’a as including: “all behaviour – spiritual, mental and physical. Thus it comprehends both faith and practice: assent to or belief in one God is part of the Sari’a just as are the religious duties of prayer and fasting, etc. Further all legal and social transactions as well as all personal behaviour is subsumed under the Sari’a as the comprehensive principle of the total way of life” [Fazlur Rahman, Islam and Modernity (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982), p. 101].
17 Saal, Reaching, p. 42.
18 Sidjabat, Religious Tolerance, p. 126.
19 William J. Saal, Reaching, p. 45 (some emphases are mine).
20 See Fazlur Rahman, Islam, pp. 19-28. Although Rahman as a Muslim seeks to bring Muhammad and Muslims in the best possible light by embellishing things to suit western ears, he cannot escape the facts of history. Therefore, his account of Islam is worth reading critically.
21 Rahman, Islam, p. 30.
22 Charis Waddy, The Muslim Mind (London/N.Y.: Longman, 1976), p. 14, as quoted in Norman L. Geisler, Abdul Saleeb, Answering Islam (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2000), p. 179.
23 Sidjabat, Religious Tolerance, p. 113-115.
24 Ibid., p. 129.
25 Ignaz Godziher, Introduction to Islamic Theology and Law (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1981), p. 12.
26 Kenneth Cragg, The Event of the Qur’an. Islam in its Scripture (Oxford: Oneworld, 1994), p.112.
27 Ibid., pp. 112-116.
28 Bukhari, fada’il al-Qur’an 3:VI, p. 477, no. 509 [4603], as quoted in Chawkat Moucarry, Prophet, p. 38.
29 This copy “was not considered at this time [time of its existence] an infallible copy of the Qur’an. ‘Uthman not only ordered his text to be copied but also called for it to be revised at the same time. When he appointed the four redactors mentioned he chose the other three because they were from the Quraish tribe of Mecca while Zaid came from among the ansar of Medina. He said that, if they should differ at any point in respect of the language of the Qur’an, they were to overrule Zaid and write it in the Quraish dialect as it had been originally revealed in it” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Vol. 4, p. 466, as quoted in John Gilchrist, The Qur’an. The Scripture of Islam [Mondeor, South Africa: MERCSA, 1995], p. 111.)
30 Moucarry, Prophet, p. 38.
31 Rahman, Islam, p. 40.
32 Bukhari, fada’il al-Qur’an 3:VI, p. 478, no. 510 [4604], as quoted in Chawkat Moucarry, Prophet, p. 39.
33 Cragg, The Event, p. 113.
34 Rahman, Islam, p. 41, (emphasis is mine).
35 Ibid., p. 41.
36 Shakir, The Qur’an, p. 14. Arthur Jeffery wrote about this doctrine: “The Qur’an is unique among sacred scriptures in teaching a doctrine of abrogation according to which later pronouncements of the Prophet abrogate, i.e., declare null and void, his earlier pronouncements. The importance of knowing which verses abrogate others has given rise to the Qur’anic science known as Nasikh wa Mansukh, i.e., “the Abrogators and the Abrogated” [Arthur Jeffery, ed., Islam: Muhammad and His Religion (Indianapolis: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc., 1977), p. 66].
37 Zamakshari on Sura 2:106/100, as found in Helmut Gätje, The Qur’an and its Exegesis. Selected texts with Classical and Modern Muslim Interpretations (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1976), p. 58.
38 Shakir, The Qur’an, pp. 245, 259.
39 Goldziher, Introduction, p. 23.
40 The Muslim scholar Baidawi, writes: “Say: Fighting in it is a heinous thing: that is, a heinous sin. For the most part, in opposition to ‘Ata, it is held that this statement is abrogated by the following words of God: ‘If they do not leave you alone and offer you peace and stop hostilities, then take them wherever you find them and slay them’ (Sura 4:91/93). In this case the more specific (that is, the prohibition against fighting during the month of Rajab) would be abrogated by the general (that is, the general command to kill the unbelievers)” [Baidawi on Sura 2:216f./212-214, as found in Helmut Gätje, The Qur’an and its Exegesis. Selected texts with Classical and Modern Muslim Interpretations (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1976), p. 213]. Stanton also observes: “On first entry into Medina the command is that there is no compulsion in religion, and warfare is limited to defense … (2: 186). Later this is abrogated by “the verse of the sword” (9:5) …” [H. U. Weitbrecht Stanton, The Teaching of the Qur’an (London: Central Board of Missions, 1919), p. 65].
41 All the following quotations from the Qur’an, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from Abdullah Yusuf Ali, The Holy Qur’an: Text, Translation And Commentary (Al-Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: Dar El-Liwaa Publishing and Distributing, 1938.)
42 I will use this phrase as coined by Harold Netland, Encountering Religious Pluralism (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2001), p. 92, to refer to people of other religions as seen from the perspective of a specific religious group, in this case – those other than Muslims.
43 I am indebted to a study by Rev. Richard P. Bailey for some insights in the development of the Qur’an’s teaching on Jihad (
44 Rev. Richard P. Bailey, “Jihad” (
45 William Campbell, The Qur’an And The Bible In The Light Of History And Science (Upper Darby, PA: Middle East Resources, 1986), p. 96.
46 Abdullah Yusuf Ali, The Holy Qur’an, footnote 206, p. 76 (italics are mine).
47 Rahman, Islam, p. 19.
48 Ibid., p. 19.
49 Ibid., p. 21.
50 Baidawi on Sura 2:216f./212-214, as found in Helmut Gätje, The Qur’an and its Exegesis. Selected texts with Classical and Modern Muslim Interpretations (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1976), p. 213.
51 Rahman, Islam, p. 21.
52 W. Montgomery Watt, Companion to the Qur’an (London: George Allen and Unwin Ltd., 1967), p. 38. It is in this context that Baidawi writes: “Say: Fighting in it is a heinous thing: that is, a heinous sin. For the most part, in opposition to ‘Ata, it is held that this statement is abrogated by the following words of God: ‘If they do not leave you alone and offer you peace and stop hostilities, then take them wherever you find them and slay them’ (Sura 4:91/93). In this case the more specific (that is, the prohibition against fighting during the month of Rajab) would be abrogated by the general (that is, the general command to kill the unbelievers)”[ Baidawi on Sura 2:216f./212-214, as found in Helmut Gätje, The Qur’an and its Exegesis. Selected texts with Classical and Modern Muslim Interpretations (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1976), p. 213].
53 Bukhari, diyat 6:IX, p. 10, no. 17 [6370]; Bukhari, jihad 149:IV, p. 160, no. 260 [2794]; istitaba 2:IX, p. 45, no. 57 [6411], as referred to by Moucarry, The Prophet, p. 116 (emphasis is mine).
54 Moucarry, The Prophet, p. 20.
55 Yusuf Ali’s comment on Surah 8:38-42 in The Holy Qur’an, p. 425.
56 In his commentary on this verse, Watt writes: “… Badr, … furqan must be thought of as a ‘deliverance’ compared to that effected by God for the Israelites when they safely passed over the Red Sea while Pharaoh and his army were drowned” (W. Montgomery Watt, Companion to the Qur’an (London: George Allen and Unwin Ltd., 1967), p. 98.
57 Abdullah Yusuf Ali, The Holy Qur’an, footnote 1210, p. 425.
58 Ibid., footnote 1234, p. 432.
59 Daniel Pipes, tells the story of a student at Harvard College who delivered the speech titled “My American Jihad,” with the explanation that “in the Muslim tradition, jihad represents a struggle to do the right thing” [Daniel Pipes, “Jihad and the Professors,” November 2002, (]. While there is room for “jihad” to mean striving in improving oneself, this is definitely not the main meaning of the word either in the Qur’an or in everyday speech of Muslims.
60 Moucarry, The Prophet, p. 118.
61 Patrick Bannerman, Islam in Perspective (London: Routledge, 1988), p. 83.
62 Ibid., p. 86.
63 Ibid., p. 90.
64 See Bailey’s article “Jihad” for those verses from the Qur’an that teach about jihad – war against non-Muslims.
65 Bailey, p. 15.
66 Abdullah Yusuf Ali, The Holy Qur’an, footnote 1251, p. 439.
67 Ibid.
68 Moucarry, The Prophet, p. 117.
69 Bailey, p. 17.
70 This quotation is from the translation of M. H. Shakir, The Qur’an (N.Y.: Tahrike Tarsile Qur’an, Inc., 1999), p. 410.
71 Yvone Yazbeck Haddad, Contemporary Islam and the Challenge of History (Albany, New York: State University of New York Press, 1982), p. 139.
72 This event is recorded in al-Bukhari (d.869), Les Traditions Islamiques (Al-Sahih), trans. O. Houdas and W. Marcais (Paris, 1903-1914), vol. 2, title 41, chap. 6; title 56, chap. 80:3, chap. 154:2. “This compilation of the acts and sayings attributed to Muhammad, completed in the ninth century, constitutes one of the two pillars of Islamic jurisprudence, the other being the contemporary compilation made by his younger disciple, Muslim (d.875)” [Bat Ye’or, The Dhimmi, p. 44. See also footnote 4, p. 50].
73 This event is recorded in Ibn Ishaq, pp. 461-69; M. Gaudefroy-Demombynes, Mohamet (Paris, 1969), pp. 142-46; W. Montgomery Watt, “Muhammad”, in the Cambridge History of Islam (Cambridge, 1970), 1:39-49, [Bat Ye’or, The Dhimmi, p. 44, and footnote 5, p. 50].
74 Bukhari vol. 2, title 54, chap. 15, as referenced in Bat Ye’or, The Dhimmi, p. 44, and footnote 6 on p. 50.
75 Ibn Ishaq, p. 511; Bukhari, vol. 2, title 56, chaps. 102:5, 130, as referenced in Bat Ye’or, The Dhimmi, p. 44, and footnote 7 on p. 50.
76 Ibn Ishaq, pp. 524-25; Bukhari, vol. 2, title 41, chaps. 8, 9, 11, 17, and title 57, cap. 19:10. For an example of the treaties between Muhammad and the Jews living in Makna (near Eliat), see al-Baladhuri (d.892), vol. 1, The Origins of the Islamic State (Kitab Futuh al-Buldan), trans. P. K. Hitti (New York, 1916), pp. 93-94, [Bat Ye’or, The Dhimmi, p. 44 and footnote 8 on p. 50].
77 Muslim, Traditions (Al-Sahih), trans. A. H. Siddiqi (Lahore, 1976), vol. 3, chap. 723 (4363); Bukhari, vol. 2. title 57, chap. 1:3, and title 58, chap. 6:1, [Bat Ye’or, The Dhimmi, p. 47 and footnote 9 on p. 50].
78 Ibn Ishaq, p. 525; Bukhari, vol. 2, t. 41, chap. 17; t. 54, chap. 14; vol. 4, t. 89, chap.2; Muslim, vol. 3, chap. 723 (4366), [Bat Ye’or, The Dhimmi, p. 47 and footnote 13 on p. 50].
79 As relayed by Sidjabat, Religious Tolerance, p. 124.
80 Hasan Turabi, “The Islamic State,” in Voices of Resurgent Islam, ed. John Esposito, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1983), p. 250.
81 Ahmad A. Galwash, The Religion of Islam (Cambridge: Murray Printing Company, 1940), p. 84, as quoted in Sidjabat, Religious Tolerance, p. 123.
82 As quoted in Sidjabat, Religious Tolerance, p. 123 (the emphasis is mine).
83 Os Guinnes, “Making the World Safe for Diversity,” in Rights of Muslims (Pasadena, CA: Zwemer Institute of Muslim Studies, 1992), p. 18.
84 Bat Ye’or, The Dhimmi, p. 30-31.
85 Robert Audi and Nicholas Wolterstorff, Religion in the Public Square. The Place of Religious Convictions in Political debate (Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 1997), p. 159.
86 As quoted by M. A. Casey, “Globalization,” in First Things, n. 126, October 2002, p. 52.
87 Bat Ye’or, The Dhimmi, p. 29.
88 William Montgomery Watt, Islamic Fundamentalism and Modernity (London: Routledge, 1988), p. 1.
89 Daniel Pipes, “Jihad and the Professors,” November 2002, (, p. 1, 5. See also the protest against this article by some of these professors, and Daniel Pipes’ response at
90 Daniel Pipes, “Jihad and the Professors,” p. 5.
91 Bob Blincoe, “Honor and Shame,” in Mission Frontiers, December 2001, p. 20.
92 Kenneth Cragg, “A Tale of Two Cities. Helping the heirs of Mecca to transform Medina,” in Mission Frontiers, December 2001, p. 21.
93 Dinesh D’Sousa recently wrote What is so great about America (Washington, DC: Regnery Pub., 2002), where he evaluates and affirms the great values of the Western Civilization in spite of colonialism and other deficiencies.
94 Newman, Tolerance, p. 174.
95 Watt, Islamic Fundamentalism, p. 143.
96 Jacques Ellul, from the preface in Bat Ye’or, The Dhimmi, p. 29-30.
97 Kenneth L. Woodward, “In the Beginning There Were the Holy Books,” in Newsweek, 11 February 2002, p. 53.
98 Ellul makes this point in the preface of Bat Ye’or, The Dhimmi, p. 28.
99 The ultimate hope is in Jesus Christ who will return in glory to complete history’s goal in establishing his everlasting kingdom. This hope ultimately rests on knowing God and Jesus Christ whom He has sent (John 17:3).



Audi, Robert and Nicholas Wolterstorff. Religion in the Public Square. The Place of Religious Convictions in Political debate. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 1997.

Bannerman, Patrick. Islam in Perspective. London: Routledge, 1988.

Campbell, William. The Qur’an And The Bible In The Light Of History And Science. Upper Darby, PA: Middle East Resources, 1986.

Cragg, Kenneth. The Event of the Qur’an. Islam in its Scripture. Oxford: Oneworld, 1994.

Gätje, Helmut. The Qur’an and its Exegesis. Selected texts with Classical and Modern Muslim Interpretations. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1976.

Geisler, Norman L. and Abdul Saleeb. Answering Islam. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2000.

Gilchrist, John. The Qur’an. The Scripture of Islam. Mondeor, South Africa: MERCSA, 1995.

Godziher, Ignaz. Introduction to Islamic Theology and Law. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1981.

Haddad, Yvone Yazbeck. Contemporary Islam and the Challenge of History Albany, New York: State University of New York Press, 1982.

Jeffery, Arthur. ed. Islam: Muhammad and His Religion. Indianapolis: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc., 1977.

Moucarry, Chawkat. The Prophet and the Messiah. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2001.

Netland, Harold. Encountering Religious Pluralism. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2001.

Newman, Jay. Foundations of Religious Tolerance. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1982.

Rahman, Fazlur. Islam, 2d edition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979.

Rahman, Fazlur. Islam and Modernity. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982.

Saal, William J. Reaching Muslims for Christ. Chicago: Moody Press, 1993.

Sidjabat, W. Bonar. Religious Tolerance and The Christian Faith. Jakarta: BPK Gunung Mulia, 1982.

Stanton, H. U. Weitbrecht. The Teaching of the Qur’an. London: Central Board of Missions, 1919.

Warraq, Ibn. Why I am not a Muslim. New York: Prometheus Books, 1995.

Watt, W. Montgomery. Companion to the Qur’an. London: George Allen and Unwin Ltd., 1967.

Watt, William Montgomery. Islamic Fundamentalism and Modernity. London: Routledge, 1988.

Ye’or, Bat. The Dhimmi. Jews and Christians under Islam. Revised and enlarged English edition. Cranbury, N.J.: Associated University Presses, 1985.

Translations of the Qur’an used

Ali, Abdullah Yusuf. The Holy Qur’an: Text, Translation And Commentary. Al-Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: Dar El-Liwaa Publishing and Distributing, 1938.

Shakir, M. H. The Qur’an. N.Y.: Tahrike Tarsile Qur’an, Inc., 1999.


Os Guinnes, “Making the World Safe for Diversity,” in Rights of Muslims, Pasadena, CA: Zwemer Institute of Muslim Studies, 1992.

Said, Edward W. “Declaring War on Islam,” in Islam: Opposing Viewpoints. San Diego, CA.: Greenhaven Press, 2001.

Turabi, Hasan. “The Islamic State,” in Voices of Resurgent Islam, ed. John Esposito, New York: Oxford University Press, 1983.

Magazine and Periodical articles

Blincoe, Bob. “Honor and Shame,” in Mission Frontiers, December 2001.

Casey, M. A. “Globalization,” in First Things, n. 126, October 2002.

Cragg, Kenneth. “A Tale of Two Cities. Helping the heirs of Mecca to transform Medina,” in Mission Frontiers, December 2001.

Elliot, Michael. “Islam’s Prophet Motive. PBS’s Muhammad paints a too rosy picture of a humanitarian faith and its founder.” Time, December 23, 2002.

Woodward, Kenneth L. “In the Beginning There Were the Holy Books.” Newsweek, 11 February 2002, p. 53.

Internet resources

Bailey, Richard P. “Jihad”

Pipes, Daniel “Jihad and the Professors,”, November 2002,

Rights of Non-Muslims  in an Islamic State

Rights of Non-Muslims in an Islamic State

By Samuel Shahid


Recently a few books have been written about the rights of non-Muslims who are subjugated to the rule of the Islamic law. Most of these books presented the Islamic view in a favorable fashion, without unveiling the negative facet inherited in these laws.

This brief study attempts to examine these laws as they are stated by the Four Schools of the Fiqh (jurisprudence). It aims at revealing to the reader the negative implications of these laws without ignoring the more tolerant views of modern reformers.

Our ardent hope that this study will reveal to our readers the bare truth in its both positive and negative facets.


Concept of “Islamic State”

“An Islamic state is essentially an ideological state, and is thus radically different from a national state.” This statement made by Mawdudi lays the basic foundation for the political, economical, social, and religious system of all Islamic countries which impose the Islamic law. This ideological system intentionally discriminates between people according to their religious affiliations. Mawdudi, a prominent Pakistani Muslim scholar, summarizes the basic differences between Islamic and secular states as follows:

1) An Islamic state is ideological. People who reside in it are divided into Muslims, who believe in its ideology and non-Muslims who do not believe.
2) Responsibility for policy and administration of such a state “should rest primarily with those who believe in the Islamic ideology.” Non-Muslims, therefore, cannot be asked to undertake or be entrusted with the responsibility of policymaking.
3) An Islamic state is bound to distinguish (i.e. discriminates) between Muslims and non-Muslims. However the Islamic law “Shari`a” guarantees to non-Muslims “certain specifically stated rights beyond which they are not permitted to meddle in the affairs of the state because they do not subscribe to its ideology.” Once they embrace the Islamic faith, they “become equal participants in all matters concerning the state and the government.”

The above view is the representative of the Hanifites, one of the four Islamic schools of jurisprudence. The other three schools are the Malikites, the Hanbilites (the strictest and the most fundamentalist of all), and the Shafi`ites. All four schools agree dogmatically on the basic creeds of Islam but differ in their interpretations of Islamic law which is derived from four sources:

a) Qur’an (read or recite): The sacred book of Muslim community containing direct quotes from Allah as allegedly dictated by Gabriel.
b) Hadith (narrative): The collections of Islamic traditions including sayings and deeds of Muhammad as heard by his contemporaries, first, second, and third hand.
c) Al-Qiyas (analogy or comparison): The legal decision drawn by Islamic Jurists based on precedent cases.
d) Ijma’ (consensus): The interpretations of Islamic laws handed down by the consensus of reputed Muslim scholars in a certain country.

Textual laws prescribed in the Qur’an are few. The door is left wide open for prominent scholars versed in the Qur’an, the Hadith, and other Islamic discipline to present their Fatwa (legal opinion) as we shall see later.

Classification of Non-Muslims:

In his article, “The Ordinances of the People of the Covenant and the Minorities in an Islamic State,” Sheikh Najih Ibrahim Ibn Abdullah remarks that legists classify non-Muslims or infidels into two categories: Dar-ul-Harb or the household of War, which refers to non-Muslims who are not bound by a peace treaty, or covenant, and whose blood and property are not protected by the law of vendetta or retaliation; and Dar-us-Salam or the household of Peace, which refers to those who fall into three classifications:

1) Zimmis – or dhimmi – (those in custody) are non-Muslim subjects who live in Muslim countries and agree to pay the Jizya (tribute) in exchange for protection and safety, and to be subject to Islamic law. These enjoy a permanent covenant.
2) People of the Hudna (truce) are those who sign a peace treaty with Muslims after being defeated in war. They agree to reside in their own land, yet to be subject to the legal jurisprudence of Islam like Zimmis, provided they do not wage war against Muslims.
3) Musta’min (protected one) are persons who come to an Islamic country as messengers, merchants, visitors, or student wanting to learn about Islam. A Musta’min should not wage war against Muslims and he is not obliged to pay Jizya, but he would be urged to embrace Islam. If a Musta’min does not accept Islam, he is allowed to return safely to his own country. Muslims are forbidden to hurt him in any way. When he is back in his own homeland, he is treated as one who belongs to the Household of War.

This study will focus on the laws pertaining to Zimmis.

Islamic Law and Zimmis

Muslim Muftis (legal authorities) agree that the contract of the Zimmis should be offered primarily to the People of the Book, that is, Christians and Jews, then to the Magis or Zoroastrians. However, they disagree on whether any contract should be signed with other groups such as communists or atheists. The Hanbalites and the Shafi`ites believe that no contract should be made with the ungodly or those who do not believe in the supreme God. Hanifites and Malikites affirm that the Jizya may be accepted from all infidels regardless of their beliefs and faith in God. Abu Hanifa, however, did not want pagan Arabs to have this option because they are the people of the Prophet. They. must be given only two options: accept Islam or be killed.

The Jizya (tribute)

Jizya literally means penalty. It is a protection tax levied on non-Muslims living under Islamic regimes, confirming their legal status. Mawdudi states that “the acceptance of the Jizya establishes the sanctity of their lives and property, and thereafter neither the Islamic state, nor the Muslim public have any right to violate their property, honor or liberty.” Paying the Jizya is a symbol of humiliation and submission because Zimmis are not regarded as citizens of the Islamic state although they are, in most cases, natives to the country.

Such an attitude alienates the Zimmis from being an essential part of the community. How can a Zimmi feel at home in his own land, among his own people, and with his own government, when he knows that the Jizya, which he pays, is a symbol of humiliation and submission? In his book The Islamic Law Pertaining to non-Muslims, Sheikh `Abdulla Mustafa Al-Muraghi indicates that the. Jizya can only be exempted from the Zimmi who becomes a Muslim or dies. The Shafi`i reiterates that the Jizya is not automatically put aside when the Zimmi embraces Islam. Exemption from the Jizya has become an incentive to encourage Zimmis to relinquish their faith and embrace Islam.

Sheik Najih Ibrahim Ibn Abdulla summarizes the purpose of the Jizya. He says, quoting Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya, that the Jizya is enacted:

“…to spare the blood (of the Zimmis), to be a symbol of humiliation of the infidels and as an insult and punishment to them, and as the Shafi`ites indicate, the Jizya is offered in exchange for residing in an Islamic country.” Thus Ibn Qayyim adds, “Since the entire religion belongs to God, it aims at humiliating ungodliness and its followers, and insulting them. Imposing the Jizya on the followers of ungodliness and oppressing them is required by God’s religion. The Qur’anic text hints at this meaning when it says: `until they give the tribute by force with humiliation.’ (Qur’an 9:29). What contradicts this is leaving the infidels to enjoy their might and practice their religion as they wish so that they would have power and authority.”


Zimmis and Religious Practices

Muslims believe that the Zimmis are Mushrikun (polytheists) for they see the belief in the Trinity as belief in three gods. Islam is the only true religion, they claim. Therefore, to protect Muslims from corruption, especially against the unforgivable sin of shirk (polytheism), its practice is forbidden among Muslims, because it is considered the greatest abomination. When Christians practice it publicly, it becomes an enticement and exhortation to apostasy. It is significant here to notice that according to Muraghi, Zimmis and infidels are polytheists and therefore, must have the same treatment.

According to Muslim jurists, the following legal ordinances must be enforced on Zimmis (Christians and Jews alike) who reside among Muslims:

1) Zimmis are not allowed to build new churches, temples, or synagogues. They are allowed to renovate old churches or houses of worship provided they do not allow to add any new construction. “Old churches” are those which existed prior to Islamic conquests and are included in a peace accord by Muslims. Construction of any church, temple, or synagogue in the Arab Peninsula (Saudi Arabia) is prohibited. It is the land of the Prophet and only Islam should prevail there. Yet, Muslims, if they wish, are permitted to demolish all non-Muslim houses of worship in any land they conquer.
2) Zimmis are not allowed to pray or read their sacred books out loud at home or in churches, lest Muslims hear their prayers.
3) Zimmis are not allowed to print their religious books or sell them in public places and markets. They are allowed to publish and sell them among their own people, in their churches and temples.
4) Zimmis are not allowed to install the cross on their houses or churches since it is a symbol of infidelity.
5) Zimmis are not permitted to broadcast or display their ceremonial religious rituals on radio or television or to use the media or to publish any picture of their religious ceremonies in newspaper and magazines.
6) Zimmis are not allowed to congregate in the streets during their religious festivals; rather, each must quietly make his way to his church or temple.
7) Zimmis are not allowed to join the army unless there is indispensable need for them in which case they are not allowed to assume leadership positions but are considered mercenaries.

Mawdudi, who is a Hanifite, expresses a more generous opinion toward Christians. He said:

“In their own towns and cities they are allowed to do so (practice their religion) with the fullest freedom. In purely Muslim areas, however, an Islamic government has full discretion to put such restrictions on their practices as it deems necessary.”

Apostasy in Islam

Apostasy means rejection of the religion of Islam either by action or the word of the mouth. “The act of apostasy, thus, put an end to one’s adherence to Islam.” when one rejects the fundamental creeds of Islam, he rejects the faith, and this is an act of apostasy such an act is a grave sin in Islam. The Qur’an indicates,

“How shall Allah guide those who reject faith after they accepted it and bore witness that the Apostle was true and the clear sign had come unto them. But Allah guides not the people of unjust of such the reward is that on them rests the curse of Allah, of His angels and of all mankind in that will they dwell; nor will their penalty be lightened, nor respite be their lot, except for those that repent after that and make amends; for verily Allah is Oft-forging, Most Merciful (Qur’an 3:86-89).

Officially, Islamic law requires Muslims not to force Zimmis to embrace Islam. It is the duty of every Muslim, they hold, to manifest the virtues of Islam so that those who are non-Muslims will convert willingly after discovering its greatness and truth. Once a person becomes a Muslim, he cannot recant. If he does, he will be warned first, then he will be given three days to reconsider and repent. If he persists in his apostasy, his wife is required to divorce him, his property is confiscated, and his children are taken away from him. He is not allowed to remarry. Instead, he should be taken to court and sentenced to death. If he repents, he may return to his wife and children or remarry. According to the Hanifites an apostate female is not allowed to get married. She must spend time in meditation in order to return to Islam. If she does not repent or recant, she will not be sentenced to death, but she is to be persecuted, beaten and jailed until she dies. Other schools of Shari`a demand her death. The above punishment is prescribed in a Hadith recorded by the Bukhari: “It is reported by `Abaas … that the messenger of Allah … said, `Whosoever changes his religion (from Islam to any other faith), kill him.”

In his book Shari`ah: The Islamic Law, Doi remarks, “The punishment by death in the case of Apostasy has been unanimously agreed upon by all the four schools of Islamic jurisprudence.”

A non-Muslim wishing to become a Muslim is encouraged to do so and anyone, even a father or a mother, who attempts to stop him, may be punished. However, anyone who makes an effort to proselytize a Muslim to any other faith may face punishment.

Civic Laws

Zimmis and Muslims are subject to the same civic laws. They are to be treated alike in matters of honor, theft, adultery, murder, and damaging property. They have to be punished in accordance with the Islamic law regardless of their religious affiliation. Zimmis and Muslims alike are subject to Islamic laws in matters of civic business, financial transactions such as sales, leases, firms, establishment of companies, farms, securities, mortgages, and contracts. For instance, theft is punishable by cutting off the thief’s hand whether he is a Muslim or a Christian. But when it comes to privileges, the Zimmis do not enjoy the same treatment. For instance, Zimmis are not issued licenses to carry weapons.

Marriage and Children

A Muslim male can marry a Zimmi girl, but a Zimmi man is not allowed to marry a Muslim girl. If a woman embraces Islam and wants to get married, her non-Muslim father does not have the authority to give her away to her bridegroom. She must be given away by a Muslim guardian.

If one parent is a Muslim, children must be raised as Muslims. If the father is a Zimmi and his wife converts to Islam, she must get a divorce; then she will have the right of custody of her child. Some fundamentalist schools indicate that a Muslim husband has the right to confine his Zimmi wife to her home and restrain her from going to her own house of worship.

Capital Punishment

The Hanifites believe that both Zimmis and Muslims must suffer the same Penalty for similar crimes. If a Muslim kills a Zimmi intentionally, he must be killed in return. The same applies to a Christian who kills a Muslim. But other schools of Law have different interpretations of Islamic law. The Shafi`ites declare that a Muslim who assassinates a Zimmi must not be killed, because it is not reasonable to equate a Muslim with a polytheist (Mushrik). In such a case, blood price must be paid. The penalty depends on the school of law adopted by the particular Islamic country where the crime or offense is committed. This illustrates the implication of different interpretations of the Islamic law based on the Hadith.

Each school attempts to document its legal opinion by referring to the Hadith or to an incident experienced by the Prophet or the “rightly guided” Caliphs.

The Witness of Zimmis

Zimmis cannot testify against Muslims. They can only testify against other Zimmis or Musta’min. Their oaths are not considered valid in an Islamic court. According to the Shari`a, a Zimmi is not even qualified to be under oath. Muraghi states bluntly, “The testimony of a Zimmi is not accepted because Allah – may He be exalted – said: `God will not let the infidels (kafir) have an upper hand over the believers’.” A Zimmi, regarded as an infidel, cannot testify against any Muslim regardless of his moral credibility. If a Zimmi has falsely accused another Zimmi and was once punished, his credibility and integrity is tarnished and his testimony is no longer acceptable. One serious implication of this is that if one Muslim has committed a serious offense against another, witnessed by Zimmis only, the court will have difficulty deciding the case since the testimonies of Zimmis are not acceptable. Yet, this same Zimmi whose integrity is blemished, if he converts to Islam, will have his testimony accepted against the Zimmis and Muslims alike, because according to the Shari`a“By embracing Islam he has gained a new credibility which would enable him to witness…” All he has to do is to utter the Islamic confession of faith before witnesses, and that will elevate him from being an outcast to being a respected Muslim enjoying all the privileges of a devout Muslim.

Personal Law

On personal matters of marriages, divorces, and inheritance, Zimmis are allowed to appeal to their own religious courts. Each Christian denomination has the right and authority to determine the outcome of each case. Zimmis are free to practice their own social and religious rites at home and in church without interference from the state, even in such matters as drinking wine, rearing pigs, and eating pork, as long as they do not sell them to Muslims. Zimmis are generally denied the right to appeal to an Islamic court in family matters, marriage, divorce, and inheritance. However, in the event a Muslim judge agrees to take such a case, the court must apply Islamic law.

Political Rights and Duties

The Islamic state is an ideological state, thus the head of the state inevitably must be a Muslim, because he is bound by the Shari`a to conduct and administer the state in accordance with the Qur’an and the Sunna. The function of his advisory council is to assist him in implementing the Islamic principles and adhering to them. Anyone who does not embrace Islamic ideology cannot be the head of state or a member of the council.

Mawdudi, aware of the requirements of modern society, seems to be more tolerant toward Zimmis. He says,

“In regard to a parliament or a legislature of the modern type which is considerably different from the advisory council in its traditional sense, this rule could be relaxed to allow non-Muslims to be members provided that it has been fully ensured in the constitution that no law which is repugnant to the Qur’an and the Sunna should be enacted, that the Qur’an and the Sunna should be the chief source of public law, and that the head of the state should necessarily be a Muslim.”

Under these circumstances, the sphere of influence of non-Muslim minorities would be limited to matters relating to general problems of the country or to the interest of the minorities. Their participation should not damage the fundamental requirement of Islam. Mawdudi adds,

“It is possible to form a separate representative assembly for all non-Muslim groups in tbe capacity of a central agency. The membership and the voting rights of such an assembly will be confined to non-Muslims and they would be given the fullest freedom within its frame-work.”

These views do not receive the approval of most other schools of the Shari`a which hold that non-Muslims are not allowed to assume any position which might bestow on them any authority over any Muslim. A position of sovereignty demands the implementation of Islamic ideology. It is alleged that a non-Muslim (regardless of his ability, sincerity, and loyalty to his country) cannot and would not work faithfully to achieve the ideological and political goals of Islam.

Business World

The political arena and the official public sectors are not the only area in which non-Muslims are not allowed to assume a position of authority. A Muslim employee who works in a company inquires in a letter “if it is permissible for a Muslim owner (of a company) to confer authority on a Christian over other Muslims? (Al-Muslim Weekly; Vol. 8; issue No. 418; Friday 2, 5, 1993).

In response to this inquiry three eminent Muslim scholars issued their legal opinions:

Sheikh Manna` K. Al-Qubtan, professor of Higher studies at the School of Islamic Law in Riyadh, indicates that:

Basically, the command of non-Muslims over Muslims in not admissible, because God Almighty said: ‘Allah will not give access to the infidels (i.e. Christians) to have authority over believers (Muslims) {Qur’an 4:141}. For God – Glory be to Him – has elevated Muslims to the highest rank (over all men) and foreordained to them the might, by virtue of the Qurtanic text in which God the Almighty said: ‘Might and strength be to Allah, the Prophet (Muhammad) and the believers (Muslims) {Qur’an 63:8}.Thus, the authority of non-Muslim over a Muslim is incompatible with these two verses, since the Muslim has to submit to and obey whoever is in charge over him. The Muslim, therefore becomes inferior to him, and this should not be the case with the Muslim.

Dr. Salih Al-Sadlan, professor of Shari`a at the School of Islamic Law, Riyadh, cites the same verses and asserts that it is not permissible for a infidel (in this case is a Christian) to be in charge over Muslims whether in the private or public sector. Such an act:

“entails the humiliaton of the Muslim and the exaltation of the infidel (Christian). This infidel may exploit his position to humiliate and insult the Muslims who work under his administration. It is advisable to the company owner to fear God Almighty and to authorize only a Muslim over the Muslims. Also, the injunctions issued by the ruler, provides that an infidel should not be in charge when there is a Muslim available to assume the command. Our advice to the company owner is to remove this infidel and to replace him with a Muslim.”

In his response Dr. Fahd Al-`Usaymi, professor of Islamic studies at the Teachers’ College in Riyadh, remarks that the Muslim owner of the company should seek a Muslim employee who is better than the Christian (manager), or equal to him or even less qualified but has the ability to be trained to obtain the same skill enjoyed by the Christian. It is not permissible for a Christian to be in charge of Muslims by the virtue of the general evidences which denote the superiority of the Muslim over others. Then he quotes (Qur’an 63:8) and also cites verse 22 of Chapter 58:

Thou wilt not find any people who believe in Allah and the Last Day, loving those who resist Allah and His Apostle, even though they were their fathers or their sons, or their brothers, or their kindred.

`Usaymi claims that being under the authority of a Christian may force Muslims to flatter him and humiliate themselves to this infidel on the hope to obtain some of what he has. This is against the confirmed evidences. Then he alludes to the story of Umar Ibn Al-Khattab the second Caliph, who was displeased with one of his governors who appointed a Zimmi as a treasurer, and remarked: “Have the wombs of women become sterile that they gave birth only to this man?” Then `Usaymi adds:

Muslims should fear God in their Muslim brothers and train them… for honesty and fear of God are, originally, in the Muslim, contrary to the infidel (the Christian) who, originally, is dishonest and does not fear God.

Does this mean that a Christian who owns a business cannot employ a Muslim to work for him? Even worse, does this mean that a Zimmi, regardless of his unequal qualification, cannot be appointed to the right position where he would serve his country the best? This question demands an answer.

Freedom of Expression

Mawdudi, who is more lenient than most Muslim scholars, presents a revolutionary opinion when he emphasizes that in an Islamic state:

“all non-Muslims will have the freedom of conscience, opinion, expression, and association as the one enjoyed by Muslims themselves, subject to the same limitations as are imposed by law on Muslims.”

Mawdudi’s views are not accepted by most Islamic schools of law, especially in regard to freedom of expression like criticism of Islam and the government. Even in a country like Pakistan, the homeland of Mawdudi, it is illegal to criticize the government or the head of state. Many political prisoners are confined to jails in Pakistan and most other Islamic countries. Through the course of history. except in rare cases, not even Muslims have been given freedom to criticize Islam without being persecuted or sentenced to death. It is far less likely for a Zimmi to get away with criticizing Islam.

In Mawdudi’s statement, the term “limitations” is vaguely defined. If it were explicitly defined, you would find, in the final analysis, that it curbs any type of criticism against the Islamic faith and government.

Moreover, how can the Zimmis express the positive aspects of their religion when they are not allowed to use the media or advertise them on radio or TV? Perhaps Mawdudi meant by his proposals to allow such freedom to Zimmisonly among themselves. Otherwise, they would be subject to penalty. Yet, Muslims are allowed, according to the Shari`a (law) to propagate their faith among all religious sects without any limitations.

Muslims and Zimmis

Relationships between Muslims and Zimmis are classified in two categories: what is forbidden and what is allowable.

I. The Forbidden:

A Muslim is not allowed to:

  1. emulate the Zimmis in their dress or behavior.
  2. attend Zimmi festivals or support them in any way which may give them any power over Muslims.
  3. lease his house or sell his land for the construction of a church, temple, liquor store, or anything that may benefit the Zimmi’s faith.
  4. work for Zimmis in any job that might promote their faith such as constructing a church.
  5. make any endowment to churches or temples.
  6. carry any vessel that contains wine, work in wine production, or transport pigs.
  7. address Zimmis with any title such as: “my master” or “my lord.”

II. The Allowable

A Muslim is allowed to:

  1. financially assist the Zimmis, provided the money is not used in violation of Islamic law like buying wine or pork.
  2. give the right of pre-emption (priority in buying property) to his Zimmi neighbor. The Hanbilites disapprove of this.
  3. eat food prepared by the People of the Book.
  4. console the Zimmis in an illness or in the loss of a loved one. It is also permissible for a Muslims to escort a funeral to the cemetery, but he has to walk in front of the coffin, not behind it, and he must depart before the deceased is buried.
  5. congratulate the Zimmis for a wedding, birth of a child, return from a long trip, or recovery from illness. However, Muslims are warned not to utter any word which may suggest approval of the Zimmis’ faith, such as: “May Allah exalt you,” “May Allah honor you,” or “May Allah give your religion victory.”


This study shows us that non-Muslims are not regarded as citizens by any Islamic state, even if they are original natives of the land. To say otherwise is to conceal the truth. Justice and equality require that any Christian Pakistani, Melanesian, Turk, or Arab be treated as any other citizen of his own country. He deserves to enjoy the same privileges of citizenship regardless of religious affiliation. To claim that Islam is the true religion and to accuse other religions of infidelity is a social, religious and legal offense against the People of the Book.

Christians believe that their religion is the true religion of God and Islam is not. Does that mean that Great Britain, which is headed by a Queen, the head of the Anglican Church, should treat its Muslim subjects as a second class? Moreover, why do Muslims in the West enjoy all freedoms allotted to all citizens of these lands, while Muslim countries do not allow native Christians the same freedom? Muslims in the West build mosques, schools, and educational centers and have access to the media without any restriction. They publicly advertise their activities and are allowed to distribute their Islamic materials freely, while native Christians of any Islamic country are not allowed to do so. Why are Christians in the West allowed to embrace any religion they wish without persecution while a person who chooses to convert to another religion in any Islamic country, is considered an apostate and must be killed if he persists in his apostasy? These questions and others are left for readers to ponder.



  1. Abdullah, Najih Ibrahim Bin, The Ordinances of the People of the Covenant and the Minorities in an Islamic State, Balagh Magazine, Cairo, Egypt, Volume 944, May 29, 1988; Volume 945, June 5, 1988.
  2. Al Muslimun, Vol. 8; issue No, 418; Friday 2, 5, 1993.
  3. Doi, `Abdur Rahman I.; Shari`a: The Islamic Law; Taha Publishers; London UK; 1984.
  4. Mawdudi, S. Abul `Ala’, The Rights of Non-Muslims in Islamic State, Islamic Publications, LTD. Lahore, Pakistan. 1982
  5. Muraghi, Abdullah Mustapha, Islamic Law Pertaining to Non-Muslims, Library of Letters. Egypt. Undated
“Can I criticize Islam without fearing for my life?”

“Can I criticize Islam without fearing for my life?”

The answer is, in fact, no. We may surmise this from how Islamic tradition records Muhammad himself dealing with criticism. Abu Afak was a poet who was over one hundred years old, and had mocked Muhammad in his verses. Muhammad asked the Sahaba: “Who will avenge me on this scoundrel?” One of the companions murdered Abu Afak in his sleep. Likewise with another poet who mocked him: the poetess Asma bint Marwan. Muhammad on another occasion cried out, “Will no one rid me of this daughter of Marwan?” One of Muhammad’s companions, Umayr ibn Adi, went to her house that night, where he found her sleeping next to her children. The youngest, a nursing babe, was in her arms. But that didn’t stop Umayr from murdering her and the baby as well. Muhammad commended him: “You have done a great service to Allah and His Messenger, Umayr!” (Ibn Ishaq, 674-676)

Then there was Ka’b bin Al-Ashraf. Muhammad again asked his companions: “Who is willing to kill Ka’b bin Al-Ashraf who has hurt Allah and His Apostle?” One of the Sahaba, Muhammad bin Maslama answered, “O Allah’s Apostle! Would you like that I kill him?” When Muhammad said that he would, Muhammad bin Maslama said, “Then allow me to say a (false) thing (i.e. to deceive Kab).” Muhammad responded: “You may say it.” Muhammad bin Maslama duly lied to Ka’b, luring him into his trap, and murdered him. (Bukhari 5.59.369)

Meanwhile, “a member of the mosque congregation said to Sandra that she is free to choose her faith emphasizing that her problem is not with Islam but with the Saudi regime.”

That is not true. In reality, the death penalty for apostasy is part of Islamic law. It’s based on the Qur’an: “They wish you would disbelieve as they disbelieved so you would be alike. So do not take from among them allies until they emigrate for the cause of Allah. But if they turn away, then seize them and kill them wherever you find them and take not from among them any ally or helper.” (Qur’an 4:89)

A hadith depicts Muhammad saying: “Whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him” (Bukhari 9.84.57). The death penalty for apostasy is part of Islamic law according to all the schools of Islamic jurisprudence.

This is still the position of all the schools of Islamic jurisprudence, both Sunni and Shi’ite. Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the most renowned and prominent Muslim cleric in the world, has stated: “The Muslim jurists are unanimous that apostates must be punished, yet they differ as to determining the kind of punishment to be inflicted upon them. The majority of them, including the four main schools of jurisprudence (Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi’i, and Hanbali) as well as the other four schools of jurisprudence (the four Shiite schools of Az-Zaidiyyah, Al-Ithna-‘ashriyyah, Al-Ja’fariyyah, and Az-Zaheriyyah) agree that apostates must be executed.”

Qaradawi also once famously said: “If they had gotten rid of the apostasy punishment, Islam wouldn’t exist today.”

A week after she protested against the “Islamization” of Canada outside of Masjid Toronto Mosque, Sandra Solomon, an ex-Muslim who became a human rights activist, took advantage of the mosque’s open house on Saturday, February 25, 2017 to deliver a direct message to the Imam Ahmed Shihab and the Muslim community.

Police are investigating possible hate crimes by the protesters who called for banning Islam and an imam at the mosque who recited supplications for the annihilation of the enemies of Islam and purification of al-Aqsa Mosque from the “filth of Jews.”

The following is the message that Sandra Solomon read in Masjid Toronto Mosque (February 25, 2017):

My name is Sandra Solomon. I am an ex Muslim who lived in the Saudi Arabian society governed by 100% Sharia law.

I suffered a lot in Saudi Arabia from the teachings of Islam because of the lack of women rights.

I was neglected, ignored and forbidden to sharing my thoughts on Islam to the point where I was always under risk of being murdered by honor killing from my brother, who attempted to kill me just because I refused to wear thehijab [head scarf].

They forced me into a marriage. Islamic forced marriage is nothing less than institutionalized rape. Do not dare to think otherwise.

I took my child and escaped Saudi Arabia because of the imminent threat of my execution for not following Islamic Sharia [Islamic Law] without question and came to Canada for its freedom.

I came to Canada to live under secular and Constitution Democratic system of law. A law that respects me as a free human being that has the right to live and think and be critical of anyone and anything without living in fear for my life and my child’s life .That is why I am in Canada. I am a subject of Canadian law. Not Sharia [Islamic] law.

I am a victim of Islam and it is my duty to warn others of its true nature. But unfortunately Sharia law is not leaving me. I was surprised when I found that it has followed us here to Canada. There are three Canadian imams on Canadian soil calling for my execution. Their names are, Shahryar Shiakh [“Punishment for apostasy is death”], Ahmad Abdul Qader Kandil [who said that enemies of Islam to be killed, crucified or their limbs cut off] and SaidRageah [who said that person who insults Mohammad may face execution in Islamic State]. All three of them in Canada are openly calling for my execution. Relying solely on the teaching of Quran and Hadith plus the book called human right in Islam distributed at Dundas square [“Islamic Shari’ah decrees execution for the person who apostatizes”][For more information on “Quebec, Ontario imams say apostates to be executed by The Islamic State” click HERE].

Ladies and gentlemen, criticism of an ideology and political authority is the most important aspect of free democracy. And for this, the imams all call for my death they do so on the Islamic grounds that I speak truths about Islam, its founder, Mohammad, and that I no longer accept the Islamic ideology, all of which are death penalty crimes under Islamic law, and which Islamic States like Iran, Saudi Arabia, The Islamic State, Afghanistan, Pakistan and dozens of more convict and execute. We see it here in Canada when Muslim girls refuse the hijab like the Shafia girls.

I am standing here in your mosque today, asking for you to show me the tolerance you ask of all Canadians. To accept me for whom I am and the free choices I made to be something other than Muslim. My God, is a God of love and mercy. I offer it to you, and ask you for it in return .My criticism of Islam are [sic] of the ideology, the teachings and scriptures. Not any individual Muslim. Criticizing ideology is not just legal in Canada; it’s the foundation of democracy. Whether it is a religious authority, or political, no person, book, or ideas are above criticism and scrutiny….

I have concern about my life and I would love to get an answer from you Muslims to tell me: Am I going to be killed, or my child is going to be killed or harmed by anyway for me openly criticizing Islam? I want to be comforted.

A member of the mosque congregation said to Sandra that she is free to choose her faith emphasizing that her problem is not with Islam but with the Saudi regime.

Tolerating Intolerance: The Challenge of Fundamentalist Islam in Western Europe

Tolerating Intolerance: The Challenge of Fundamentalist Islam in Western Europe

Bruce Bawer

I grew up in New York, the world’s most multicultural city, and for some time lived only a few blocks from the imposing Islamic Center on Third Avenue between 96th and 97th Streets. But it wasn’t until I moved to western Europe in 1998–living first in Amsterdam, then in Oslo–that fundamentalist Islam became a daily reality for me.

The reason this took so long seems pretty clear. Owing partly to different immigration patterns, but partly also to America’s genius for turning immigrants into proudly integrated citizens with realigned loyalties, Muslims in America tend to be more affluent, more assimilated, and more religiously moderate than their co-religionists in Europe. A perhaps not terribly atypical example is Walter Mourad, a secularized Lebanese-American businessman who was profiled a while back in theNew York Times. Mourad has two children in a Montessori school, a wife “who says she would shoot him in the head if he suggested she cover her head with a scarf,” and a love for America that drove him to respond at once when the CIA, FBI, and NSA put out the call for Arabic translators after September 11.

Every American Muslim is not Walter Mourad, to be sure, but his like is considerably easier to find in the United States than in Western Europe, where Islam, generally speaking, offers a somewhat different picture. For various reasons, Western European Muslims are more likely than their American counterparts to live in tightly knit religious communities, to adhere to a narrow fundamentalist faith, and to resist integration into mainstream society. The distance between mainstream society and the Muslim subculture can be especially striking in the Netherlands and in the countries of Scandinavia, whose relatively small, ethnically homogeneous native populations had, until recent decades, little or no experience with large-scale immigration from outside Europe.

The distance I speak of was certainly striking in Amsterdam, where I resided for a time in a neighborhood–the Oud West–where I grew accustomed to the sight of women in chadors pushing baby carriages past shops with signs in Arabic. A few doors from my flat, a huge Turkish flag flew over the entrance to the neighborhood center. (There was no Dutch flag.) One day I peered inside. A dozen or so men, middle-aged and older, scowled back at me. I did not go in.

Curious about my new neighbors, I did some reading. I learned that upwards of 7 percent of the Netherlands’ population–and nearly half of Amsterdam’s–was of non-Dutch origin. The Turkish and Moroccan communities dated back to the 1970s; immigration from Surinam and the Dutch Antilles had peaked in the 1980s. Most people of non-Dutch origin were fundamentalist Muslims, and most, even after years or decades in the Netherlands, remained largely unintegrated. The attitudes of Dutch officialdom, and of the Dutch generally, hadn’t helped: although in America the U.S.-born children of immigrants are American citizens, in the Netherlands the Dutch-born children of immigrants are called “second-generation immigrants.” (The same is true in Germany, where even “third-generation immigrants”–and, yes, they do use that term–aren’t automatically entitled to citizenship.)

To an American, such a generation-by-generation perpetuation of outsider status can only make one think of the enduring social marginality of many American blacks. Yet at least we Americans have been taught by our bloody history that “separate but equal” is not a viable democratic option, but a cruel delusion. This lesson, I soon recognized, had not yet been learned in the Netherlands. Downtown Amsterdam and the Oud West felt almost like two different worlds. Moving among the native Dutch, whose public schools teach children to take for granted the full equality of men and women and to view sexual orientation as a matter of indifference, I felt safe and accepted. Yet many Muslim youngsters in the Netherlands attend private Islamic academies (many of which receive subsidies from the Dutch state as well as from the governments of one or more Islamic countries). These schools reinforce the Koran-based sexual morality learned at home–one that allows polygamy (for men), that prescribes severe penalties for female adulterers and rape victims (though not necessarily for rapists), and that (in the fundamentalist reading, anyway) demands that homosexuals be put to death. If fundamentalist Muslims in Europe do not carry out these punishments, it is not because they’ve advanced beyond such thinking, but because they don’t have the power. Like Christian Reconstructionists, a small U.S. sect that wishes to make harsh Old Testament punishments the law of the land, fundamentalist Muslims–whose numbers are, of course, many times larger–believe firmly in the implementation of scriptural penalties.

Let it not be forgotten, after all, how countries ruled by Koranic law treat their homosexual citizens. Under the Taliban, Afghanistan put at least ten homosexuals to death; on New Year’s Day, 2002, our good friends in Saudi Arabia beheaded three men for sodomy. According to one report, Iran has executed several thousand men for homosexuality since 1979. Even in Egypt, with its relatively moderate and secular government, a widely publicized mass arrest of suspected homosexuals in early 2001 resulted in the torture and imprisonment of dozens of males as young as fifteen. And these figures are undoubtedly dwarfed by the annual number of “honor killings” of female family members who have strayed sexually (or who have shamed their families by being raped)–a form of murder that is so much a part of traditional Muslim culture that it goes unprosecuted even in relatively moderate Islamic countries like Jordan. In May 2002, Amnesty International reported that in Pakistan at least three honor killings occur every day, and that the perpetrators are usually not even arrested, although their identities tend to be known to family, neighbors, and even the police.

It was hardly surprising, then, that in the Netherlands, a country with same-sex marriage and legally regulated prostitution, there was cultural friction between natives and the Muslim community. Yet few Dutch people discussed this friction openly. To do so, it appeared, was taboo. One night over dinner, a Dutch writer of my acquaintance–a maverick gay conservative who could usually be counted on to speak his mind unflinchingly–insisted proudly that the Netherlands, unlike the U.S., had no Religious Right. I knew very well, of course, that the Netherlands did indeed have a Religious Right; that it consisted of Islamic, not Christian, fundamentalists; and that sooner or later the Dutch would be forced to deal openly with the challenges it posed. For the time being, however, they were plainly too uncomfortable with the idea. Criticizing any kind of Islam at all, I gathered, felt too much to them like voicing racial or ethnic prejudice. While freely condemning Protestant fundamentalism–which hardly exists nowadays in that once strictly Calvinist country–they couldn’t bring themselves to breathe a negative word about Islamic fundamentalism. There was no logic in this; but the Dutch were clearly still at a point where it seemed possible, and easier, simply to avoid such uncomfortable issues.

* * *

What does the future hold for a Western world with a growing minority of fundamentalist Muslims? It was only after moving to Amsterdam that I found myself asking this question. It seemed to me a fair and important one. But it was, I found, a question that startlingly few writers had addressed. To be sure, there were plenty of books about Islam and the West, but I could find only a handful about Islam in the West. Most tended to take a sanguine view of the topic, more or less echoing academic Islamists like John Esposito, whose influential 1992 book The Islamic Threat? exhaustively argued that there was no such threat, period. More than one of these books, indeed, put a decidedly upbeat spin on the subject, maintaining that Muslim immigrants’ “spiritual” propensities were precisely what decadent Westerners need nowadays. For example, in When Cultures Collide (1989), the Norwegian writer Peter Normann Waage, while admitting that there were indeed challenging aspects to the presence of Islamic fundamentalism in Europe, characterized fundamentalist Muslim “moral” strictures as an overall virtue and perhaps the West’s best hope of salvation from rampant capitalism and secularism. (And this in a book occasioned by the Salman Rushdie case!)

Adam LeBor, whose A Heart Turned East (1997) was the only non-academic English-language book I could find in Amsterdam about Muslim immigrant communities in the West, was even more fundamentalist-friendly. Routinely, LeBor contrasted what he saw as the high spiritual and moral values of Islamic fundamentalists with what he characterized as Western decadence. LeBor quoted with obvious approval a French Muslim leader on the desirability of letting “Muslims in the West introduce [Westerners to] a new approach [to both family life and life in society]–or rather a much older one–founded in spiritual values, rather than material ones.” Islam, wrote LeBor, “can bring to Europe [something] immeasurable, intangible, but nonetheless vital”–namely, “God and spirituality. The missing part of the jigsaw puzzle of life in the late twentieth century.” LeBor complained at length about the “challenge” that the United States offers

to those Muslims wishing to live fully as Americans, but maintain and cherish their Islamic heritage. Not because of any institutionalized anti-Islamism, but because the values and mores of much of contemporary America–widespread use of recreational drugs, alcohol, promiscuity, homosexuality, teenage dating, gun ownership, values that are ubiquitous across the media–clash completely with the demands of Islamic morality.

LeBor sympathetically raised the case of an Islamic fundamentalist father in the U.S. who “knows he will have to maintain a difficult juggling act to raise his children according to the values of Islam, while living in a consumer society that sells and markets sex, which for Muslims is a sanctification of marriage, as just another commodity.”

LeBor seemed to view fundamentalist Islam in the West as being akin to a spice that enriches an otherwise bland dish. But fundamentalist Islam doesn’t work that way. It doesn’t flavor–it transforms, subdues, conquers. Islam means “submission,” and in its fundamentalist form it demands nothing less. Far from being content to serve merely as part of a culture’s “jigsaw puzzle,” it demands that the whole puzzle be shaken up, the picture entirely redrawn. A Western society that accepted such a religion as its spiritual component would soon prove itself highly inhospitable to, among much else, any of LeBor’s fellow writers who might wish to dissent from his unadulterated admiration for fundamentalist Islam. Nowhere in his book, indeed, did LeBor serve up a single positive word about Western freedoms, Western individuality, Western sexual equality, or Western protections for the rights of minorities; instead there was simply an unwavering insistence on the virtue and piety of fundamentalist Muslims and the greed and decadence of their Western oppressors.

Nor did Waage, Lebor, or anybody else pay much heed to the problems posed by European Muslims’ views on homosexuality–views that Muslim leaders have been less and less shy about advertising. In 1999, for example, the Guardian described a student conference on “Islamophobia” at King’s College, London, at which a speaker began by announcing politely, “I am a gay Muslim.” That effectively ended his presentation: “For members of the majority Muslim audience, the expression was enough to ignite the most passionate opposition. Some people began to shout, while others came raging down to confront the speaker. Security was called and the conference came to a premature end.” Then, in October 1999, the Shari’ah Court of the U.K. declared a fatwa against Terence McNally, who in his play Corpus Christi had depicted Jesus Christ as gay. (In Islam, Jesus is counted among the prophets.) Signing the death order, judge Sheikh Omar Bakri Muhammed emphasized the concept of honor, charging that the Church of England, by failing to take action against McNally, had “neglected the honour of the Virgin Mary and Jesus.” The Daily Telegraph reported that according to the sheikh, “Islamic law states that Mr. McNally can only escape the fatwa by becoming a Muslim. . . . If he simply repents he would still be executed, but his family would be cared for by the Islamic state carrying out the sentence and he could be buried in a Muslim graveyard.”

A few weeks later, British Muslim leaders were busy battling the repeal of Section 28, Great Britain’s notorious antigay law. Dr. Hasham El-Essawy, director of the Islamic Society for the Promotion of Religious Tolerance in the U.K., told theTelegraph that it was Muslims’ obligation “to discourage homosexual behavior.” El-Essawy, who according to the Telegraph is “considered an Islamic moderate,” found it appropriate to quote the Koran’s punishment for lesbians–”Keep the guilty women in their homes until they die, or till God provides a way out for them”–and for homosexual men: “If two of your men commit the abominable act, bother them. But, if they repent . . . then bother them no more.” El-Essawy made clear his “moderation” by contrasting his view with that of some other Muslims, who, he explained, “believe that the punishment for homosexuality is death.”

Apparently, such views don’t disturb the likes of Waage and LeBor–at least not enough to affect their conviction as to Islam’s overall value to the West. Nor, one must assume, do these facts give any pause to the leaders of Britain’s Labour Party, which recently introduced a bill that would make it illegal in Great Britain to criticize any religion. This would not only make possible (as Matthew Parris noted in the London Times) the prosecution of this year’s Nobel laureate V. S. Naipaul for his writings about Islam, it would effectively rob gay people of the right even to challenge imams who call for their extermination.

Of all the English-language books I found in Amsterdam that devoted substantial attention to Islam in the West, one stood out for its straightforwardness about the fundamentalist bent of most European Muslims today and about the unpleasant implications of their antipathy for Western values. The book was The Challenge of Fundamentalism by Bassam Tibi, a professor of international relations at Göttingen University–and a liberal Muslim. Indeed, he was the only Muslim in the pack–and the only one engaged neither in blatant whitewashing nor in wishful thinking.


* * *


In 1999 I moved from Amsterdam to Oslo. I soon found that in Oslo, as in Amsterdam, the cultural gap between natives and the Muslim immigrant minority (which, in Norway, consists largely of Pakistanis) was miles wide. Here, too, the native-born children of immigrants were called “second-generation immigrants,” not Norwegians. (Indeed, in Norway these days the words “immigrant” and “Muslim” are effectively synonyms.) Here, too, the authorities, presumably fearing accusations of insensitivity or cultural imperialism, tended to avoid addressing undemocratic practices within immigrant communities.

Forced marriage is one of these practices. Among Muslims in Europe, it’s quite common for young people to be compelled by their parents to accept spouses they don’t want. Some women manage to escape these situations and seek protection in women’s shelters. In 1999 the Guardian published an article by Faisal Bodi, a British Muslim who complained about these shelters, which in Great Britain are called “women’s refuges.” Charged Bodi, “Refuges tear apart our families. Once a girl has walked in through their door, they do their best to stop her ever returning home. That is at odds with the Islamic impulse to maintain the integrity of the family.” (Bodi made certain to note–as if it definitively established the loathsome character of women’s shelters–”the preponderance of homosexuality among members and staff.”) Citing universal Muslim belief in “the shariah, the body of laws defining our faith”–which he described, a bit unsettlingly, as “a sharp sword capable of cutting through the generational and cultural divide”–Bodi argued that British authorities must recognize the Muslim community “as an organic whole” and thus accord it a larger role in resolving conflicts over forced marriage. Bodi’s plaint was phrased with extreme delicacy, but the point was clear: when Muslim girls or women flee the tyranny of father or husband, the government should essentially hand them over to a group of Muslim men. In short, British law should effectively be subordinate to Muslim law. Group identity trumps individual rights.

Nothing, of course, could be more undemocratic. Yet time and again, governments in western Europe have shown themselves to be exceedingly susceptible to such arguments by Muslim leaders. The same is true of the mainstream media, whose main concern in such matters, it often appears, is to avoid offending Muslim sensibilities. Representative of the media’s standard approach to issues involving Muslim subcultures was an article about forced marriage that appeared in 2000 in the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten. The article tamely characterized the difference between Western-style consensual matrimony and forced Muslim marriages as a “collision between the individual-oriented West and the family-oriented East.” The reporter went on to express admiration for the “family-oriented” approach and even cited the low Muslim divorce rate to support the contention that the Muslim way was better–ignoring entirely the fact that wives who are forced to marry are hardly in a position to decide to divorce.

Then, in September 2001 (only five days, in fact, before the destruction of the World Trade Center), the Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet reported that 65 percent of rapes of Norwegian women were performed by “non-Western” immigrants–a category that, in Norway, consists mostly of Muslims. The article quoted a professor of social anthropology at the University of Oslo (who was described as having “lived for many years in Muslim countries”) as saying that “Norwegian women must take their share of responsibility for these rapes” because Muslim men found their manner of dress provocative. One reason for the high number of rapes by Muslims, explained the professor, was that in their native countries “rape is scarcely punished,” since Muslims “believe that it is women who are responsible for rape.” The professor’s conclusion was not that Muslim men living in the West needed to adjust to Western norms, but the exact opposite: “Norwegian women must realize that we live in a multicultural society and adapt themselves to it.”

It is in such ways that freedoms begin to erode.


* * *


Two people who plainly understood this were Shabana Rehman, a woman who grew up in Oslo’s Muslim community, and Hege Storhaug. In a courageous article that appeared in the Norwegian newspaper VG in April 2000, Rehman and Storhaug accused Norway’s Muslim leaders of presenting the general public with a misleading picture of what was going on inside their community–a picture that Norwegian authorities gladly accepted, the article charged, even though they knew better.

Noting “the lack of freedom and the violence [that] reign in a large part of the Muslim immigrant community,” Rehman and Storhaug asserted that many Muslims in Norway were engaged in “a life and death struggle to secure fundamental human rights.” Pointing out that Muslim community leaders routinely “deny that [Muslim] women [in Norway] are lacking in freedom or that they are the victims of violence,” the article argued that “it is impossible for Norwegian authorities to clean up these problems as long as the immigrants’ representatives continue to veil the truth.” Rehman and Storhaug went on to say,

The Norwegian public has let itself be fooled by the [Muslim] community’s dissemblers ever since the beginning of the integration debate. In one voice, they have delivered an unambiguous message: that the problem for today’s immigrants, both young and old, is discrimination and racism in Norwegian society. This is a lie–a distorted picture that conceals the real obstruction to integration. That obstruction is found within the immigrant community itself: in its lack of respect for human rights and its prevailing notions of honor and shame.

“We fear for Norway’s future,” Rehman and Storhaug wrote. “We fear distance and antagonism between ethnic groups.” In time, they predicted, “Norway may become a country that lives in segregation, violence and hate. . . . So far no political leaders in our country have chosen to take this seriously.”

Rehman and Storhaug concluded their article with the observation that “a whole generation of minority youth is being betrayed by their own as well as by well-meaning ‘anti-racist’ Norwegians.” Change the word “Norwegians” to “Britons”–or, for that matter, “Swedes” or “Dutchmen” or any one of a number of other national labels–and the statement would have remained true. The simple fact is that many Western Europeans, from the man on the street to the cop on the corner, from the politician in parliament to the immigration official at the border, have long considered it their obligation to turn a blind eye to the more disturbing aspects of the immigrant Muslim reality–in short, to tolerate intolerance.

It’s hard not to see such hands-off attitudes by Westerners as a product of leftist groupthink–of the tendency, that is, to view people as members of groups rather than as individuals, and consequently to place the values of the group above the rights of the individual. If native Europeans and fundamentalist Muslims are to coexist in the West, the Muslims must temper their fundamentalism–period. The alternative is for Europeans to sacrifice the freedom, tolerance, and respect for individual mind and conscience on which Western civilization is founded. That cannot be allowed to happen–not just for Europe’s sake, but for America’s as well.

Situations vary, of course, from one Western European country to another. In Spain, according to a December 4 article in the New York Times, the “Islamic population has exploded” during the last ten years, during which the Muslim community of 500,000 “has become a busy logistical rear guard, apparently humming with Islamic terrorists.”

In France, which has the West’s largest Muslim population (five million), there is a man named Soheib Bencheikh who serves as the grand mufti of Marseille and whom the International Herald Tribune calls “the clean-shaven face of progressive Islam in Europe.” In a November 30 profile in that newspaper, speaking with an unequivocal clarity that one might wish more Muslim leaders in the West had exhibited after September 11, Bencheikh assailed the rigidity and backwardness of Islamic fundamentalism and insisted on the vital importance of reforming Islam–a project that, he said, would involve “a desacralization of the whole of Islam’s texts, commentaries, and the theological work around the texts.” The purpose: to shape an Islam that preaches tolerance, respects diversity, supports the separation of church and state, and embraces integration wholeheartedly and without hesitation.

Bencheikh would seem to be precisely the kind of leader that European Islam so desperately needs. Yet the French government, instead of throwing its support behind him and other reformists, is, he charged, “choosing the most reactionary, the most politicized, and the most fanatic” of Islamic leaders for participation in that country’s new Muslim Council. Why? Because they are viewed as more representative. Indeed, as the Herald Tribune’s John Vinocur noted, “In Europe, where sixteen Islamist organizations with suspected terrorist ties were banned in Britain in the past year, and where Germany has identified twelve extremist Muslim Arab groups within its borders with 3,100 members, Mr. Bencheikh’s views have an uncertain following.” Yet as Bencheikh argued, the French government, by confirming and reinforcing the power of extremists, is in effect “legitimiz[ing] the forces we decry in the Muslim world” at a time when the only hope for genuine integration in Europe lies in a rapid and radical reformation of the Muslim faith.

Then there’s the case of Denmark. In Norway, when people dare to discuss the issue of Muslim integration, they sometimes speak ominously of danske tilstander: “Danish conditions.” What they are referring to is a state of affairs in which there exists not only de facto segregation between native and Muslim communities but also a routine and open expression of mutual hostility and distrust. Such a situation has existed for some time now in Denmark, where recent years have seen, for example, the movement of children out of integrated public schools and into private “white” and Muslim schools. After September 11, however, the tensions between native Danes and the Muslim community became more heated than ever. In Denmark, as elsewhere, Muslims took to the streets to celebrate the terrorist attacks. A few days later, a thousand Muslims gathered in the Danish town of Nørrebro for a protest against democracy; one speaker called for “holy war” against Danish society. In the run-up to a November parliamentary election, politicians from a range of parties spoke out bluntly on the topic of Islam: one referred to Muslims’ “infiltration” of western countries; another called Islam “not a proper religion” but “a terror organization”; a third offered the staggeringly undemocratic suggestion that, in order to promote integration of Muslims into Danish society, members of the immigrant community be prohibited from marrying people from their ancestral countries. After a new study showed that the persistence of current trends would make Denmark (now about 3 percent Muslim) a majority Muslim nation within sixty years, the small, reactionary Progress Party proposed ejecting “all Mohammedans” from the country.

Immigration was the number-one issue in the campaign. And the election proved historic. It marked the fall from power of the Social Democrats, who since 1920 had been Denmark’s largest political party, and it gave Denmark a new prime minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, whose campaign posters had featured the slogan “Time for a Change” over a picture of a “second-generation immigrant” who had been convicted of violence. In late November, Rasmussen promised a new policy under which immigration would be reduced and resources focused instead on a vastly improved integration program.

A post-election article in Aftenposten, on November 24, vividly summed up the current state of affairs in Denmark. “Our integration has not gone well,” admitted a teacher. “I had a class in which nineteen of thirty-three children couldn’t say anything in Danish, even though they were all born in Denmark. . . . It’s a catastrophe for Denmark, what’s happening.” A young Copenhagen woman who had been a gung-ho supporter of “multiculturalism” said that she now felt uncomfortable in her own country: “When someone like me thinks this way, it doesn’t bode well for the society.”

In Norway, anyone who dares to voice legitimate concerns about the immigrant community’s prejudices and self-segregation risks being branded a racist by the political and media establishment; but in Denmark, it appears, those legitimate concerns have in many cases degenerated into genuine racism. In Denmark, alas, as elsewhere in northern Europe, many natives seem hamstrung by an inability to disentangle ideology from race–and to distinguish their own frankly racist discomforts (“It is simply a little strange to live in Denmark surrounded by so many people from other countries,” one woman told Aftenposten) from their entirely justifiable unease over the prejudices and the resistance to integration that accompany fundamentalist Muslim ideology. This is, of course, dangerous: honest critical thinking of the sort proffered by the likes of Shabana Rehman and Hege Storhaug is vitally important if integration is to be made to work in northern Europe. If the only permitted way of talking about the topic is to reiterate insipid clichés in support of “the multicultural society,” Europe is doomed.

In English we have a word for fear of foreigners: xenophobia. It is a rare word, seldom seen in print, almost never actually spoken, and probably unfamiliar to most English speakers. Most of the languages of northern Europe have words that mean the same thing. These words are frequently used in conversation and are familiar to virtually every native speaker. In Norwegian, the word in question isfremmedfrykt. And while this word is often used unfairly to label anyone who criticizes any aspect of the immigrant communities, there is in fact a real element offremmedfrykt among northern Europeans. The notion that a foreigner–especially a dark-skinned foreigner–can become a Norwegian, a Dane, or a Dutchman, quite simply taxes the imaginations of many people in these countries. However liberal they may be, their pre-existing mental categories don’t allow for it. For all the racial and ethnic hatreds that fill the pages of American history, Americans, even bigoted Americans, tend to be better at this than northern Europeans are; we are accustomed to the idea that a person from anywhere can become an American. This is, to be sure, not a virtue on our part, but simply an idea we are used to. For many northern Europeans, it is not: it just doesn’t come naturally. More than half a century after the fall of Nazi Germany, the notion of ethnic purity still lives, unarticulated, often even unconscious, in the minds of people who think of themselves as good Social Democrats. For almost all northern Europeans, national identity continues to be wrapped up in, and equated with, ethnic background.

For this reason, large-scale immigration–of the right kind–could be a very positive thing for northern Europe. Certainly there are some immigrants from Muslim countries, people who have nothing of the fundamentalist about them, who have proven to be excellent entrepreneurs and model individualists in a part of the world where individualism has been traditionally discouraged. (Why? Because it’s viewed as a threat to social democracy.) In the Norwegian class I took last year at the state-run Rosenhof School, I made friends with students from Muslim countries who were easygoing and open-minded. Yet they were the secularized (or, perhaps, semi-secularized) exceptions among the immigrants from their part of the world; that was why they were in a class made up of people from seventeen different countries in Europe and Asia (plus me, the sole American), all of us with educated backgrounds and at least a smattering of English, rather than in one of the many sexually segregated, Muslim-only classes down the hall. In those classrooms, women sat swathed in fabric, with male relatives at their sides, providing the family escort without which they were prohibited from leaving the house. Our class was lively, irreverent, fun; as we learned Norwegian, we also learned about Norwegian folk ways, and gained insights into our own and one another’s native languages and cultures. Our discussions brought into focus previously unexamined attitudes and assumptions that our native cultures had bred into us; and as we recognized in all this the common foibles and follies of the human species, we laughed–laughed in easy self-mockery, and laughed, too, in celebration of the ability and opportunity we had been given to grow beyond the limits of our own native cultures.

From the other classes we never heard the sound of laughter.

“If you’re not with us, you’re against us,” said President Bush soberly in the wake of September 11. Some European Muslims made it clear they were with us; some made it clear they were not. Faisal Bodi, the same writer who complained in the Guardian in 1999 about women’s shelters, returned to the pages of that newspaper on October 17, reporting with approval that since September 11 his imam had offered up Friday prayers “imploring God to annihilate Islam’s enemies, to ‘rock the ground underneath their feet.’” Here in Norway, a child counselor talked on national TV about a grade-school class he had visited in order to discuss the atrocities. All the children were upset, he said, except for one little Muslim boy who was sincerely puzzled by his classmates’ reactions–at his home, the boy explained, everybody was celebrating. Aftenposten reported on a Palestinian who stood with his young son outside the U.S. Embassy in Oslo and cheered the attacks–shouting “This is a great day!”–until the police led him off. I wasn’t shocked to read that this Palestinian (even though claiming membership in Hizballah) was not taken into custody, just removed from the Embassy area. Nor did the Norwegian authorities, I’m sure, pay a visit to the celebrating family of that puzzled schoolboy. And has the British immigration service, one wonders, examined Faisal Bodi’s visa status? Or his imam’s? One rather doubts it.

Yet since September 11, the winds seem to have begun to shift–in some places, anyway. In the Netherlands, it wasn’t just the horrors of the terrorist attacks on the U.S. that caused the blinders to fall from many people’s eyes. In early 2001, the imam of Rotterdam had made antigay remarks whose viciousness stunned the Dutch. (Most Dutchmen had fooled themselves into thinking their country was past such ugliness.) On the day the World Trade Center fell, the Dutch populace learned that Moroccan immigrants in the town of Ede were rejoicing in the streets. That Friday, a TV report on Nederland 1 commemorating the victims in the U.S. was followed immediately by a Koran reading, supplied by the Dutch Muslim Broadcasting System, stating that “unbelievers were fuel for the fire.” Finally, in a post-attack survey of Moroccan immigrants in the Netherlands, 21 percent openly admitted their support for an anti-American holy war. (A similar Sunday Times poll, reported in early November, revealed that 11 percent of British Muslims considered the attack on the World Trade Center justified.)

None of this surprised me. What did make me sit up and take notice was a poll by De Volkskrant showing that more than 60 percent of Dutch citizens believed that Muslim immigrants who approved of anti-American terrorism should be ejected from the Netherlands. In an editorial, the newspaper’s editors spelled the message out bluntly: “The Netherlands doesn’t accept anti-Western fundamentalistic attitudes from Muslims. In the eyes of most Dutch people, integration means adapting to a humanistic tradition, to the separation between church and state, and distancing oneself from the norms and values of one’s motherland.”

It was, at long last, a stunning–and welcome–affirmation of the Dutch people’s basic commitment to democratic values and to true integration. And it signaled that the Dutch, perhaps the most liberal people on the planet, have finally faced a crucially important fact: that there is nothing at all liberal about allowing one’s reluctance to criticize another person’s religion to trump one’s dedication to individual liberty, human dignity, and equal rights. Tolerance for intolerance is not tolerance at all.

As the International Herald Tribune noted, the De Volkskrant poll marked “an end to the avoidance of talking openly about elements of conflict in Dutch life that have accompanied the presence of Muslim immigrants. . . . The Dutch are treading these days in an area where most of Europe does not want to go.” Indeed, here in Norway there were, in the weeks after September 11, no dramatic signs of turnaround to compare with the De Volkskrant poll. Yet there were stirrings. A November 20 Dagbladet article quoted a college president as saying that “powerful people in the immigrant community are the most important obstacle to integration”; if Norway wished “to avoid the same conditions as in Denmark,” he cautioned, “it doesn’t help to be politically correct and to overlook the weak points.” The article caused a stir. That evening, on the current affairs program “Tabloid,” a longtime teacher at the Rosenhof school described the contempt for democracy and the active resistance to integration that he had observed for years among his Muslim students. (Seething with anger, the Muslim community spokesman sitting across the discussion table charged the teacher with racism.) The next day, Norwegian newspapers reported on Egil Straume, a radio evangelist and local Christian People’s Party leader who, citing Muslim demands for “their own meeting houses, schools, and laws,” predicted that “in ten to fifteen years we’ll have civil war—like conditions between Muslims and Christians in Norway.”

Yet these remained isolated voices. The consensus among Norwegian officials and intellectuals was plainly in agreement with the diagnosis by the head of Norway’s Anti-Racism Center, who (despite Straume’s insistence that his concern was with “Islamic ideology,” not race) called his remarks “mentally deranged.” Even the national leadership of Straume’s own party distanced itself from his comments. Indeed, a few days later it was reported that the Christian People’s Party was in the process of reaching out to Muslim voters, who, a Party official noted proudly, shared many of the Party’s core values in regard to “family and morals.” Muslims, he said, were streaming to the Party in impressive numbers, even though, as non-Christians, they were barred from holding Party positions.

Then in January came a news story that shook up all of Scandinavia. In Uppsala, Sweden, Fadime Sahindal, a young woman whose estrangement from her Muslim family and refusal to submit to forced marriage had made her a well-known media presence–and whose ethnically Swedish boyfriend had died under mysterious circumstances in 1998–was murdered by her father. Upon his arrest, he readily admitted to the crime and called his daughter a whore. The murder was hardly unique; several such “honor slayings” take place every year in Scandinavia. For Norwegians, the story’s most striking aspect was the number of Norwegian Muslims who, when asked by the media for their comments, did not condemn the murder outright. More than one interviewee was of the opinion that the father had done what he had to do. “I can’t say it was right and I can’t say it was wrong,” said an Oslo merchant. When several public figures–including a former prime minister and Oslo’s police chief–turned up on the Norwegian TV program “Holmgang” to discuss the murder, it felt as if the worm was perhaps finally turning in Norway. Rarely, if ever, before in a Norwegian public forum had the problems of Muslim integration been discussed so frankly. The slippery rhetoric served up on the program by the Muslim community spokesman was, for once, strongly rejected–and the person who took the lead was (yet again) a brave young woman of Muslim background, who repeatedly interrupted the spokesman’s boilerplate to demand that he stop lying and tell the truth. It was stirring to watch.

Since then, the intensification of the conflict in the Mideast has muddied the waters to some extent–not only in Norway but throughout much of Western Europe, where the intellectual and media establishment have long proffered a black-and-white image of Palestinians as victims and Israelis as aggressors. Yet at the same time Mideast tensions have, if anything, heightened Western Europeans’ consciousness of Islam. In February 2002 (the same month in which a British Labour MP demanded official action against a London imam and other Muslim leaders who were inciting the murder of non-believers), it was reported that anti-Jewish violence by French Muslims was skyrocketing. In April, Danish Prime Minister Rasmussen condemned a Muslim group, Hizb-ut-Tahrir, for calling for the murder of Danish Jews; later that month, a front-page headline on the Norwegian tabloid VG called attention to Hizb-ut-Tahrir’s plans to “turn Norway into an Islamic state.” (Only two days later came the news that yet another immigrant had perished in an apparent “honor slaying”–this time just outside the police station in Kristiansand.)

The disinclination of social-democratic leaders to properly address such matters has doubtless contributed to the recent growth of conservative parties in many European countries. In the Netherlands, where gay bashings by Moroccan and Turkish youths have been on the rise, and where the government cracked down in February on the teaching of anti-Western hate in state-supported Muslim schools (one of which was raising money by selling calendars featuring a photo of the New York skyline ablaze), a Rotterdam politician named Pim Fortuyn gained widespread support by speaking frankly about the threat that fundamentalist Islam poses to Western liberties. It was a threat of which he, as an openly gay man, was acutely aware. (“In Rotterdam,” he told the New York Times in March, “we have third generation Moroccans who still don’t speak Dutch, oppress women and won’t live by our values.”) Fortuyn’s brutal assassination on May 6, 2002, deprived European politics of a brave and articulate voice for change.

Of course, not all politicians who dare to raise the issues of immigration, Islam, and integration are necessarily admirable. As Anne Applebaum noted inSlate in April, the lesson of the unsavory Jean-Marie Le Pen’s electoral success “is that if French politicians make it unacceptable to discuss such things in the mainstream, then the discussion will take place on the far-right fringes.” Indeed, it is dismaying that while many leaders on the European Left continue to do their best to avoid criticizing fundamentalist Islam–which is, after all, among the most reactionary forces on the planet–they persist in attaching the label “racist” or “right-wing extremist” to any politician, such as Fortuyn, who makes bold to raise it as an issue. The longer the Left keeps trying to stifle discussion in this manner, the higher the chances of a rise to power of genuine racists and right-wing extremists.

The good news is that ordinary Western Europeans are beginning to recognize all this. They are also coming to realize some crucial truths. Fundamentalist Islam is not a race or an ethnicity; it is an ideology. Its critics are not racists, any more than critics of Nazi or Stalinist ideology are racists. And as an ideology, furthermore, Islamic fundamentalism is something that people can be drawn away from. Some of those who arrive in Europe as fundamentalist Muslims do indeed change their stripes, shedding narrow dogma and dangerous prejudices and learning to value tolerance and practice pluralism. It does not seem excessive to suggest that Western European immigration authorities (who have a superfluity of potential immigrants to choose from, and who are already in the habit of weeding out candidates on economic and other grounds) should begin to concentrate on screening for adaptability, accepting only those who seem likely to make an effort to fit in–and admitting them only tentatively, on the condition that they indeed adapt to democratic ways both outwardly and inwardly.

This adaptation should be encouraged in every way possible. Muslim immigrants should not only be taught the language of their adopted country; they should be comprehensively educated in the ways of democracy. They must learn–no small order–to think for themselves, to read critically, to question. Most important, they must learn to question those things they have been taught to regard as most sacred. And they must be encouraged to see themselves as free individuals in a free land rather than as members of a straitjacketing subculture whose religion obliges them to take their marching orders from autocratic community leaders.

Finally, these immigrants must be thought of–and must be encouraged to think of themselves–as full and equal members of the societies in which they live. European natives must appreciate what an accomplishment it is for people to become functioning members of societies radically different from the ones in which they were born. Those who do make the adjustment successfully deserve the utmost respect. To persist in calling them immigrants after they have been living and working in a country for years (and, even more outrageously, to use the same word to describe their European-born children and grandchildren) is not only offensive and insulting but staggeringly counterproductive.

As for those who, after a period in the West, make it obvious that they are unwilling or unable to adapt, they must be sent home and replaced by deserving individuals who can adapt. This may appear extreme, but there is no reasonable alternative. For at stake in all this, ultimately, are the basic freedoms of all Westerners–not only women and homosexuals, but everyone, including Muslims and former Muslims who wish to live in a place where they can be themselves. At stake, indeed, is Western civilization.

EX Muslims: We Envision A World Where Every Person Is Free To Follow Their Conscience.

EX Muslims: We Envision A World Where Every Person Is Free To Follow Their Conscience.

We think that the persecution and discrimination against those that leave Islam is only found in Muslim-majority countries and that our laws and attitudes protect them in the West.  Not so.

Is this not supposed to be one of the foundational principles of Western Society?

UN 25th September 2012

UN 25th September 2012

The like of CAIR go on and on about human rights but I guess this only applies to Muslims that stay within the fold.  But is it any wonder when we have Obama making statements like this?  What about the future must not belong those that oppress and discriminate against others?

I believe we need to support organisations  and individuals like Ex Muslims of North America.  In many ways they are at the forefront of the fight against Islam in our various nations and they can probably do more good for the cause of freedom in this regard than we can.

Apostates refused service at Wegmans bakery – fear of invoking offense led to discrimination, says Ex-Muslims of North America

June 20, 2016

Wegmans, a chain of 89 grocery stores, refused to bake and decorate a cake for a private celebration for those who have left the faith of Islam.

The request included a picture of the Ex-Muslims of North America (EXMNA) name and logo, with a caption of “Congratulations on 3 years!”, but was refused by an associate from the Fairfax branch of the popular chain, stating that the request was “offensive”.

EXMNA representatives called Wegmans bakery to clarify, and were refused again, with no explanation on why the logo, name, and caption was considered offensive.

After conferring with management, the Wegman’s employee stated that her boss(es) would not change their stance on the issue. The associate further added that – the store had Muslim workers, “my employees may not know what this stands for, Ex-Muslims of North America, and I don’t have enough time and people to educate them on what it is,” and although they were not sure if the employees would be offended, they “can’t put them in that situation”.

“I’m shocked by the denial,” said Muhammad Syed, the president of EXMNA. “There is nothing about our name or logo that can be considered offensive to any reasonable individual. There are some, however, who take our very existence as an affront to their faith, and to them I have only this to say: We have every right to exist and be proud of who we are, and we won’t back down.”

EXMNA representatives reached out to the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), a nationwide nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting the constitutional separation of state and church, who agreed that the actions of Wegmans employees were unlawful and discriminatory. “Refusing to provide services to a group on the basis of their religion or lack of a religion is a clear violation of federal, state, and local civil rights laws—one we hope the company will move quickly to correct,” said FFRF constitutional attorney Andrew L. Seidel.
On behalf of EXMNA, FFRF is asking Wegmans to fulfill the original order without charge and educate its employees on their duty to serve patrons without discrimination.

“Ex-Muslims around the world are persecuted and threatened, even by their own family and friends,” Syed continued. “We assumed that here, in the United States, we could go about our business without disruption. Unfortunately, even respectable businesses would rather turn away a persecuted group than risk offence.”


Ex-Muslims of North America is a 501 ( c)(3) registered non-profit, dedicated to advocating for acceptance of religious dissent, promoting secular values, and reducing discrimination faced by those who leave Islam.

“Ex-Muslims around the world are persecuted and threatened, even by their own family and friends,” Syed continued. “We assumed that here, in the United States, we could go about our business without disruption. Unfortunately, even respectable businesses would rather turn away a persecuted group than risk offence.”

Originally posted 2016-07-01 21:02:58. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Myths about Muhammad – Forced Conversions to Islam

Myths about Muhammad – Forced Conversions to Islam



What are we to make of the glaring contradiction between the Koran’s claim that “there is no compulsion in religion” (2:256) and the many other verses that call for war, slavery, and death to those who refuse to submit to Islam (9:5, et al)—to say nothing of the militant behavior of the prophet of Allah, Muhammad?  This is the question Stephen M. Kirby examines in his new book, Islam’s Militant Prophet: Muhammad and Forced Conversion to Islam

Rather than offer speculations or cite nearly 1,400 years of Islamic history that is heavy laden with forced conversions, Kirby answers the question in an objective and meticulous fashion—in a fashion that any Muslim will be hard pressed to counter: he focuses exclusively on the career of Muhammad, from its beginnings in 610 till his death in 632, as recorded in Islam’s primary sources, the Koran and Hadith, and as understood or interpreted by Islam’s most authoritative scholars, such as Ibn al-Kathir.  Along the way, readers are provided useful explanations—again, directly from Islam’s learned scholars themselves—of arcane or misunderstood doctrines, such as abrogation, which is essential for any exegesis.

The long and short of it all?

The command of “no compulsion in Islam” was a unique command that had doctrinal authority for only a little over two years.  It was abrogated both by the Sunnah and the Koran.  Its short lifetime was preceded and followed by commands that non-Muslims were to be given the option of converting to Islam, fighting to the death, or, at times, paying the Jizyah.  Muhammad was indeed the militant prophet of a militant religion that supported forced conversions to Islam.

Before reaching this conclusion, Kirby offers example after example of Muhammad giving non-Muslims—pagan Quraysh, Jews, and Christians, almost always people who had no quarrel with him aside from rejecting his prophetic authority—two choices: convert or suffer the consequences, the latter of which often manifested as wholesale massacres.

It’s also noteworthy that, according to Islam’s earliest histories, sincere belief in Muhammad’s prophet claims is lacking.  The overwhelming majority of those who converted to Islam did so either under duress—literally to save their heads—or else to be part of Muhammad’s “winning team.”  Conversion was the price for one man, Malik bin Auf, to get his kidnapped family back from Muhammad.

Insincere, coerced conversion is especially evident in Muhammad’s conquest of Mecca.  When Islam’s prophet, at the head of a vast army—which had already put several tribes to the sword for refusing to convert—was approaching the polytheists of Mecca, the latter were warned: “Embrace Islam and you shall be safe.  You have been surrounded on all sides.  You are confronted by a hard case that is beyond your power.”  When the leader of Mecca, Abu Sufyan—who had long mocked Muhammad as a false prophet—approached the Muslim camp to parley, he too was warned: “‘Embrace Islam before you lose your head.’  Abu Sufyan then recited the confession of faith and thus he entered Islam.”  The Meccans soon followed suit.

Rather tellingly, the Muslim historians who recorded these non-Muslim conversions to Islam saw no contradiction between the coerced and insincere nature of the conversions and the Koran’s claim that “there is no compulsion in religion.”  For instance, in Muslim historian Taqi al-Din al-Maqrizi’s (d. 1442) multivolume history of Egypt, anecdote after anecdote is recorded of Muslims burning churches, slaughtering Christians, and enslaving their women and children.  After each incident, the pious Muslim historian concludes with, “Under these circumstances a great many Christians became Muslims.”  (One can almost detect in inaudible “Allahu Akbar.”)

Aside from sporadic bouts of persecution, the entrenched dhimmi system (see Koran 9:29)—itself a form of coercion—saw the increasingly impoverished Christians slowly convert to Islam over the centuries, so that today they remain a steadily dwindling minority.  In The Arab Conquest of Egypt, Alfred Butler, a 19th century historian writing before the age of political correctness, highlights this “vicious system of bribing the Christians into conversion”:

[A]lthough religious freedom was in theory secured for the Copts under the capitulation, it soon proved in fact to be shadowy and illusory. For a religious freedom which became identified with social bondage and with financial bondage could have neither substance nor vitality.  As Islam spread, the social pressure upon the Copts became enormous, while the financial pressure at least seemed harder to resist, as the number of Christians or Jews who were liable for the poll-tax [jizya] diminished year by year, and their isolation became more conspicuous. . . . [T]he burdens of the Christians grew heavier in proportion as their numbers lessened [that is, the more Christians converted to Islam, the more the burdens on the remaining few grew]. The wonder, therefore, is not that so many Copts yielded to the current which bore them with sweeping force over to Islam, but that so great a multitude of Christians stood firmly against the stream, nor have all the storms of thirteen centuries moved their faith from the rock of its foundation.

In short, the Koran’s claim that “there is no compulsion in religion” seems more of an assertion, a statement of fact, than a command for Muslims to uphold.  After all, it is true: no Muslim can make a non-Muslim say the words “There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.”  But that doesn’t mean they can’t enslave, extort, plunder, torture, and slaughter those who refuse.

Originally posted 2017-02-09 16:01:19. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

If You Convert You Die

If You Convert You Die

Thursday, August 13, 2009

By Nonie Darwish

Very few people in the West know what is going on inside the Muslim world and what it portends for them. The fact is that through the dominant media, such as CNN, Americans are subjected to much of the same misinformation with regard to Islam that I grew up with inside the Muslim world. The result is that Americans are in the dark attempting to formulate their strategy of how to defend themselves against the threat of terror, domestic jihad and Sharia. While Americans get ridiculed for being “Islamophobes,” the Muslim world itself is undergoing a huge and painful awakening.

For instance, a prominent Egyptian lawyer and women’s rights activist, Nagla Al Imam, recently announced her conversion to Christianity in Cairo, Egypt. The announcement brought shock waves in and beyond Egypt. This is perhaps the first case ever of its kind, where a Muslim woman, who is also a Sharia expert, has openly challenged Islamic apostasy laws from within the Muslim world.
Ms. Al Imam’s incredible courage was on display in an internet chat room, where she announced that she is not afraid, will stand up for the human rights of apostates and refuses to leave her homeland, Egypt. This was immediately followed by attacks and calls (‘fatwas’) for death of the 36 year-old graduate of Al Azhar Islamic University.
Egyptian media not only reported the threat but also participated in the attacks. Ms. Al Imam was literally entrapped by a TV station ‘Al Mihwar’ with the pretext of inviting her for an interview. Upon arrival to the TV studio she was told the show she was to appear on was cancelled. She was then taken forcibly to a room where she was held against her will for hours inside the studio. She was assaulted, threatened and insulted by several people. She was able to escape, and went to her internet chat room telling the world what happened and said she will demand protection from the Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
Such action is common not only against apostates but anyone who deviates from the dictates of Islam or demands reform. Many Muslim journalists, intellectuals and feminists who consider themselves Muslims but are critical of Sharia are often intimidated, threatened or even killed for the slightest independent views using the apostasy card to keep them quiet.
Another recent case in Egypt is that of a brilliant intellectual by the name of Sayed Mahmoud El Qemany. He was recently accused of apostasy even though he denied it on TV and insisted he is still a Muslim. But fatwas of death were immediately issued against him. Mr. El Qemany recently wrote the following:
“I was granted the State Award for Social Sciences, on June 25th 2009. The hard-line radical militant groups considered that the state has adopted this intellectual secular trend officially, infuriating the mentioned group which called on the State to withdraw the prize with the declaration of my defection from Islam and excommunication which means in our country, I could be slain; any citizen is allowed to kill me and be awarded by God in Paradise.
The following parties have participated in the statements of atonement:
  1. Al-Azhar Scholars Front headed by Yahya Ismail Habloush, which issued the first statement of atonement on July 10, 2009.
  2. The Islamic Group (condemned terrorist group) issued a statement of atonement on July 10, 2009.
  3. The Muslim Brotherhood hailed the atonement, and were presented at the parliament by Hamdi Hassan requesting the withdrawal of the award and the declaration of religious-defection and excommunication on July 7, 2009. The Muslim Brotherhood also declared my excommunication on Mohwar Channel on July 11, 2009 and on Al Faraeen Channel on July 13, 2009.
  4. The Salafi (Fundamentalist) Group (condemned terrorist group) dedicated its Internet site named “The Egyptians” for excommunicating me and incitements to kill me, since the date of obtaining the prize until today.
  5. Al Nas channel, which represents the theoretical side of bloody terrorism which declared excommunication and demanded “all citizens who can” to kill me immediately, on July 24 and 25, 2009.
  6. The Hisbah Sheikh Youssef Al Badri in Egypt declared on the channel “ON TV” on July 3, 2009 that I have cursed God and the Prophet Mohammad in my books even though I have challenged him and others to refer to a single text written by me where such claims were made. Due to this proclamation, he has issued an incitement to kill me.
  7. A member of the Al-Azhar scholars, Sheikh Mohammed El Berry, on Mihwar TV Channel on July 11, 2009 announced my atonement as he also said that he did not read any of my writings since he does not read “garbage”. He repeated the same words on the channel “ON TV” on July 22, 2009.
  8. Sheikh Ali Gomaa, the former Chairman of the “State Religious Affairs Advisory Board”, issued a statement declaring my infidelity and calling for slaying me for “insulting the Prophet of Islam, the God of Islam” on July 24, 2009.
  9. The Sheiks of more than 5000 mosques on Friday prayers on July 24, 2009 declared the incitement to kill me, especially in my hometown, which led to the rampage against my family and relatives, and that could possibly evolve to some serious consequences in the coming weeks.
Due to the above, I call upon the conscience of all humanity in the free world to come to me and my children’s rescue by providing moral support and the condemnation and denunciation of the radical thinking with quick solutions to save us from the danger that is luring around us. This is a distress call to all bodies and individuals. A call to the consciences of every free individual in the world.
Signed: Sayed Mahmoud El Qemany- Researcher.”
In spite of the cover up, this is perhaps the first time in the history of Islam that Muslims finally have access to the truth about their own religion, thanks to the Internet and satellite dishes (invented by infidels). There are daily news reports of heart-broken Muslims who say they cannot believe what is written in Muslim scriptures and say that Muslims have been living under the greatest lie in human history. Others simply deny and say that it can’t be so. While Saudi Arabia is spending billions to Islamize the West, many Muslim prisoners of Islamic submission are dying or leaving the religion quietly.
The relatively few number of Muslims who dare to convert to Christianity do it in extreme secrecy. That is because the penalty for leaving Islam is death in all schools of Sharia, both Sunni and Shiite. Those who wrote Sharia centuries ago knew that keeping Muslims in total submission would be very difficult to maintain, and thus they established barbaric laws condemning Muslims to death for exercising their basic human rights to choose their own religion. Sharia never entrusted its enforcement only to the formal legal system. Islam promises heavenly rewards to individual Muslims who take the law into their own hands. Sharia also states that the killers of apostates and adulterers are not murderers and therefore are not to be punished. That is why, for Islam to achieve 100% compliance to Sharia enforcement, Muslim individuals are encouraged to take matters into their own hands.
The end result is a chaotic society where everything happens behind closed doors but at a very heavy price to interpersonal relationships. Fear and distrust of others exists in all Muslim societies. Muslims are not just distrustful of the West, but they are distrustful of one another. In Muslim society, people are often more afraid of their neighbors and family members than of the police. Thus, we see husbands or fathers pressured to apply Sharia by killing an adulterous wife or daughter, or a perfect stranger participate in the killing of an apostate in the public square. Very few get arrested or punished for such crimes across the Muslim world. The ingenious Sharia uses vigilante street justice to bring about Islamic submission. That is why civil unrest and honor crimes go wherever Islam goes. The power of Islam comes from turning Muslim against Muslim — with a reward in heaven.
The above two examples of Islamic tyranny are not unique to Egypt, but exist in all Muslim countries. Islamic tyranny is encapsulated in a law that some Muslims claim to be their religious right in America. Many American citizens who left Islam are living in constant fear from Islamist individuals and groups right here, in the land of the free and home of the brave. I am one of them.
On ‘There is no compulsion in religion’

On ‘There is no compulsion in religion’

no compulsion in religion

compulsionThere is a huge misconception that I am progressively angrier about, largely because of the way it is wielded. It concerns 2:256, the famous Qur’anic verse that states ‘There is no compulsion in religion’, which is often quoted in part* and taken as evidence that Islam is tolerant of non-Muslims.

The rest of the verse continues with something like ‘truth is clear from error’, followed with something about how those who reject evil and believe in God are guided with a firm handhold and God can see everything you do. Here is a link to a Qur’an with three searchable English translations to compare the wording of the full verse, whose Arabic I have had memorized from when I was a child since it is a seminal verse often-discussed in sermons.





An extensive look at the punishment for apostasy in Islam

by Silas



The punishment for apostasy from Islam is a controversial topic for Muslims living in the West and for ex-Muslims everywhere. That’s because Islam teaches that apostates are to be killed. We know from historic Islamic documents that during Muhammad’s lifetime, and the lifetimes of the next four “Rightly Guided Caliphs”, tens of thousands of Muslims left the faith of Islam and thousands were killed. On a large scale the Muslims made war on groups that chose to leave Islam and massacres of apostates occurred. On a smaller scale individual apostates were executed. This death sentence is in effect whether or not the apostasy occurred in or out of the Islamic state.

Many Muslims living in Islamic countries have no problem with the rule of putting apostates to death. The examples of Robert Hussein[1] of Kuwait, Abdul Rahman[2] of Afghanistan, and Bahaa el-Din Ahmed Hussein el-Akkad[3] of Egypt come to mind. These ugly Muslim governments are succored by the West’s finances and blood while they impose an imperial and brutal religion upon its citizens.

On the other hand, Muslims living in the West are embarrassed by this death sentence. The West values the freedoms of thought and speech, Islam does not, and these virtues have never blossomed under Islamic rule. Consequently, when asked about the Islamic law for apostates many Western Muslims do their best to cover up Islam’s edict. Motivated by conviction, or shame, they make up various defenses and say whatever they can to put your mind at ease and make Islam more acceptable to a naïve, gullible, and ignorant Western audience. It is not difficult to make the Quran dance and say what you want it to say. More on these arguments later.

We must examine the Islamic source materials: the Quran, Hadith, and Sira. We must examine not only Muhammad’s words, but his deeds, and the deeds of those who knew, loved, and obeyed him. What exactly was the law during Muhammad’s and the Caliph’s time? What did the great scholars of Islam teach on this issue?

It is left to the Muslims to define their doctrines. But once defined we should understand them for they affect our lives. Note then that for some 1400 years the defined sentence for apostasy was execution. Few Muslim scholars have ever challenged this definition; the overwhelming majority of Islamic scholars supported it. Later in this article as you read the objections of various modern Muslims arguing against the death sentence bear in mind that it is they who are deviating from the judgment established by the depth and breadth of Islamic jurisprudence.

Of course the best arguments for the death sentence are made by Muslim scholars themselves. Therefore, I will draw from their works, or from people who quote them.

[NOTES: 1) This is a revision of an article I wrote many years earlier. Since that time I’ve learned much and after re-examining the article I felt that it needed to be edited and improved. Therefore, I’ve abrogated some of my earlier statements on this topic.

2) You can read more about various apostates from Islam at “Apostates of Islam”[4]]


Let’s start with the definition of apostasy. A simple definition of apostasy is “leaving, departing away from, or deserting, one’s religion.” Further, the Dictionary of Quranic Terms and Concepts[5] defines apostasy:


Arabic “irtidad”. Traditional Islamic law prescribes the penalty of death for a Muslim who commits apostasy. The punishment is not stated in the Quran, but is said to be based on certain Hadith. The advocates and the opponents of the said penalty have, in their attempt to find Quranic support for their views, appealed to certain Quranic verses, but the fact is that none of the arguments offered do full justice to the Quranic context …

As noted above, the Quran does not come out and state explicitly that apostates should be killed. All of the neutral references I examined took this position. However, there are a number of Quranic verses that pertain to apostasy and various Muslim scholars found in them the justification to execute apostates. We will examine a few.

We’ll start with Abul Ala Mawdudi, a highly regarded Muslim scholar from Pakistan who died last century. He argued for the death penalty and against the liberal Muslims. Mawdidi’s work was translated and is available online as “THE PUNISHMENT OF THE APOSTATE ACCORDING TO ISLAMIC LAW”[6]. Some quotations are below. Bold emphasis is mine.


1   The Problem of the Apostate’s Execution from a Legal Perspective

To everyone acquainted with Islamic law it is no secret that according to Islam the punishment for a Muslim who turns to kufr (infidelity, blasphemy) is execution. Doubt about this matter first arose among Muslims during the final portion of the nineteenth century as a result of speculation. Otherwise, for the full twelve centuries prior to that time the total Muslim community remained unanimous about it. The whole of our religious literature clearly testifies that ambiguity about the matter of the apostate’s execution never existed among Muslims. The expositions of the Prophet, the Rightly-Guided Caliphs (Khulafa’-i Rashidun), the great Companions (Sahaba) of the Prophet, their Followers (Tabi’un), the leaders among the mujtahids and, following them, the doctors of the shari’ah of every century are available on record. All these collectively will assure you that from the time of the Prophet to the present day one injunction only has been continuously and uninterruptedly operative and that no room whatever remains to suggest that perhaps the punishment of the apostate is not execution.

A. The Proof from the Qur’an for the Commandment to Execute the Apostate

Here I wish briefly to offer proof that will quiet the doubt in the hearts of those who, for lack of sources of information, may think that perhaps the punishment of death did not exist in Islam but was added at a later time by the “mawlawis” (religious leaders) on their own.

God Most High declares in the Qur’an:

But if they repent and establish worship and pay the poor-due, then are they your brethren in religion. We detail our revelations for a people who have knowledge. And if they break their pledges after their treaty (hath been made with you) and assail your religion, then fight the heads of disbelief — Lo! they have no binding oaths in order that they may desist. (9:11,12)[1]

The following is the occasion for the revelation of this verse: During the pilgrimage (hajj) in A.H. 9 God Most High ordered a proclamation of an immunity. By virtue of this proclamation all those who, up to that time, were fighting against God and His Apostle and were attempting to obstruct the way of God’s religion through all kinds of excesses and false covenants, were granted from that time a maximum respite of four months. During this period they were to ponder their own situation. If they wanted to accept Islam, they could accept it and they would be forgiven. If they wanted to leave the country, they could leave. Within this fixed period nothing would hinder them from leaving. Thereafter those remaining, who would neither accept Islam nor leave the country, would be dealt with by the sword. In this connection it was said: “If they repent and uphold the practice of prayer and almsgiving, then they are your brothers in religion. If after this, however, they break their covenant, then war should be waged against the leaders of kufr (infidelity). Here “covenant breaking” in no way can be construed to mean “breaking of political covenants”. Rather, the context clearly determines its meaning to be “confessing Islam and then renouncing it”. Thereafter the meaning of “fight the heads of disbelief” (9:11,12) can only mean that war should be waged against the leaders instigating apostasy.[2][7]


Mawdudi’s argument is that 9:11, 12 is directed against apostates. These verses were some of Muhammad’s last words and were in effect when he died. His point is that a person who leaves Islam is equivalent to a polytheist and therefore Muslims are to make war upon him. This is paralleled by the command in 9:5. Note however, that other traditional Muslim scholars have different opinions on this verse.


Samuel Zwemer was a Christian missionary to Muslims. He taught passionately about Islam and the need to evangelize Muslims. Below is text from his work on apostasy, a work that quotes a number of great Muslim scholars on the subject. Bold emphasis is mine.



In this chapter we propose to give the passages in the Koran which deal with apostasy, together with the interpretation of these passages in standard commentaries. Also to show from Moslem Tradition and standard law books what the code of Islam is in case of apostasy, and the penalties prescribed.

The word apostate in Arabic is murtadd and one who apostatizes is called man artadd ‘an dinihi, i.e. “Who turns his back on religion.” Two words are used for apostasy in Moslem law: irtidad and ridda. The latter term relates to apostasy from Islam into unbelief, kufr; the former, from Islam to some other religion, for example, Christianity.1 The passages in the Koran dealing with apostasy are the chapter of Women, verse 90; the chapter of the Table, verse 59; and the chapter of the Bee, verse 108, viz:

“Why are ye two parties about the hypocrites, when God hath overturned them for what they earned? Do ye wish to guide those whom God hath led astray? Whoso God hath led astray ye shall not surely find for him a path. They would fain that ye misbelieve as they misbelieve, that ye might be alike; take ye not patrons from among them until they too fight in God’s way; but if they turn their backs, then seize them wheresoever ye and them, and take from them neither patron nor help” (IV. 90, 91). “O ye who believe! Whoso is turned away from his religion-God will bring (instead) a people whom He loves and who love Him, lowly to. believers, lofty to unbelievers, strenuous in the way of God, fearing not the blame of him who blames” (V.59).

It will be sufficient to quote what the standard commentary of Baidhawi says on the first passage: “Whosoever turns back from his belief (irtada), openly or secretly, take him and kill him wheresoever ye find him, like any other infidel.

1 Mufradat-gharib-ul-Quran-lil Sheikh-ar-Raghib, p.191.

Separate yourself from him altogether. Do not accept intercession in his regard.”

All other standard commentaries agree with Beidhawi in their comment on the verse.

A third Koran passage is the chapter on The Bee, XVI. 108. In this verse two types of apostates are distinguished: those who are compelled to apostatize, on whom judgment is lenient; and those who apostatize from their own free will. The commentaries on this passage, also, leave no doubt as to the interpretation. “Whoso disbelieves in God after having believed, unless it be one who is forced and whose heart is quiet in the faith, – but whoso expands his breast to misbelieve, – on them is wrath from God, and for them is mighty woe! That is because they preferred the love of this world’s life to the next; but verily God guides not the unbelieving people.”

Perhaps it is a mistake to use as our fourth reference Surah II. 214, to prove that apostasy merits the death penalty. This verse need not be translated as Dr. W. St. Clair Tisdal has translated it, – “Whosoever shall apostatize from his religion, let him die for it, and he is an infidel”; but correctly, ‘”Whosoever shall apostatize from his religion and dies, he is an infidel.” And we are not dependent on one Koran text, but a careful examination even of the last passage, together with the interpretation of the same, leaves no doubt that according to the commentators the Koran here also declares the punishment for apostasy to be death.

The famous commentary of Al Khazan (used most extensively in the Mohammedan University called Al Azhar), quotes from Malik ibn Anas, Ahmad ibn Hanbal and others, and gives this interpretation of the verse: “All the deeds of the apostate become null and void in this world and the next. He must be killed. His wife must be separated from him and he has no claims on any inheritance” (page 155, vol. I, Cairo edition). Ath Tha’alibi (788 A.H.), in his commentary on Sura II, verse 214, leaves no doubt that the verse in question, whatever the grammatical construction may be, demands the death of the apostate. (Cf. vol. i, p.167, Algiers edition, 1323).

1 Mizan-ul-Haqq, by Pfander, revised by Tisdall, p.364, London 1910.

Finally the great commentary of Fakhr-ud-Din-ar-Razi (vol. ii, p.220, lines 17 to 20, Cairo edition, 1308) distinctly favours the interpretation of this verse as given in the translation by Dr. Tisdall and objected to by the Woking critics. He says the apostate should be killed and loses his wife and heritage. Still it is only fair to state that the Arabic Koran text does not necessarily require this rendering, and that Tabari in his commentary does not seem to favour it. In Zarkani’s commentary on Al Muwatta (vol. iii, p. 193) there are many examples given of Jews and Christians who turned Moslem, and when they afterwards apostatized were immediately killed. The statement is made that” change from Islam to any religion whatever requires the death penalty.” Al Nahayat fi Gharib al Hadith, by Ibn Athir (Cairo edition, vol. iv, p. 38), gives instances how the law was applied, and defines when the apostate becomes a Kafir. And to quote, among many, only one Moslem history used as a textbook in the secondary schools of Egypt, Ibn Taqtaqi, in his History called Al Fakhri fil Adab as Sultaniya (1). 67, Cairo edition, 1317), says that Abu Bekr killed all the apostates of Mecca after the death of Mohammed.[8]


Zwemer quotes various Muslim scholars who find support for their position from various verses. Note however, there is no uniformity amongst the traditional scholars defining the meaning of those verses.


This commentary (Tafsir) comes from a famous Pakistani scholar, Maulana Mufti Muhammad Shafi. Some of today’s Muslim fundamentalists regard it as one of the finest commentaries available in English. On verse 2:217:

In short, the fate of an apostate is worse than that of an original disbeliever. This is why Jizyah can be accepted from an original disbeliever while a male apostate who does not return to Islam is killed. If the apostate is a woman, she is imprisoned for life. The reason is that their conduct insults Islam and the insult of such a binding authority deserves no less a punishment.[9]



The examples above show that different scholars used the Quran to establish the apostate’s death sentence. However, their arguments are not uniform and I’ve not found a united voice on any particular verse. Their arguments have a logical flow but are subjective.


The Hadith is the theological bedrock for the death sentence. There are numerous Hadith that state that apostates are to be killed. Unlike the Quran there is no ambiguity or subjectivity in the Hadith’s statements. All quotes will be from Bukhari’s[10], Muslim’s[11], or Malik’s[12] hadith collections. Bold emphasis is mine.


Bukhari’s Hadith Collection

Bukhari, volume 9, #17

“Narrated Abdullah: Allah’s Messenger said, “The blood of a Muslim who confesses that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and that I am His Messenger, cannot be shed except in three cases: in Qisas (equality in punishment) for murder, a married person who commits illegal sexual intercourse and the one who reverts from Islam (Apostate) and leaves the Muslims.”

Bukhari, volume 9, #57

Narrated Ikrima, “Some atheists were brought to Ali and he burnt them. The news of this event, reached Ibn Abbas who said, “If I had been in his place, I would not have burnt them, as Allah’s messenger forbade it, saying, “Do not punish anybody with Allah’s punishment (fire).” I would have killed them according to the statement of Allah’s Messenger, “Whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him.”

Bukhari, volume 9, #58

Narrated Abu Burda, “Abu Musa said…..Behold there was a fettered man beside Abu Musa. Muadh asked, “Who is this (man)?” Abu Musa said, “He was a Jew and became a Muslim and then reverted back to Judaism.” Then Abu Musa requested Muadh to sit down but Muadh said, “I will not sit down till he has been killed. This is the judgment of Allah and his messenger,” and repeated it thrice. Then Abu Musa ordered that the man be killed, and he was killed. Abu Musa added, “Then we discussed the night prayers …..

Bukhari volume 4, #656:

Narrated Ibn Abbas:

Allah’s Apostle said, “You will be resurrected (and assembled) bare-footed, naked and uncircumcised.” The Prophet then recited the Divine Verse:– “As We began the first creation, We shall repeat it: A promise We have undertaken. Truly we shall do it.” (21.104)

He added, “The first to be dressed will be Abraham. Then some of my companions will take to the right and to the left. I will say: ‘My companions! ‘It will be said, ‘They had been renegades since you left them.‘ I will then say what the Pious Slave Jesus, the son of Mary said: ‘And I was a witness over them while I dwelt amongst them; when You did take me up, You were the Watcher over them, and You are a Witness to all things. If You punish them, they are Your slaves, and if you forgive them, You, only You are the All-Mighty the All-Wise.’ ”

(5.117-118) Narrated Quaggas, “Those were the apostates who renegade from Islam during the Caliphate of Abu Bakr who fought them”.


Muslim’s Hadith Collection


Book 001, Number 0029:

It is narrated on the authority of Abu Huraira that when the Messenger of Allah breathed his last and Abu Bakr was appointed as his successor (Caliph), those amongst the Arabs who wanted to become apostates became apostates. ‘Umar b. Khattab said to Abu Bakr: Why would you fight against the people, when the Messenger of Allah declared: I have been directed to fight against people so long as they do not say: There is no god but Allah, and he who professed it was granted full protection of his property and life on my behalf except for a right? His (other) affairs rest with Allah. Upon this Abu Bakr said: By Allah, I would definitely fight against him who severed prayer from Zakat, for it is the obligation upon the rich. By Allah, I would fight against them even to secure the cord (used for hobbling the feet of a camel) which they used to give to the Messenger of Allah (as zakat) but now they have withheld it. Umar b. Khattab remarked: By Allah, I found nothing but the fact that Allah had opened the heart of Abu Bakr for (perceiving the justification of) fighting (against those who refused to pay Zakat) and I fully recognized that the (stand of Abu Bakr) was right.



Book 016, Number 4152:

‘Abdullah (b. Mas’ud) reported Allah’s Messenger as saying: It is not permissible to take the life of a Muslim who bears testimony (to the fact that there is no god but Allah, and I am the Messenger of Allah, but in one of the three cases: the married adulterer, a life for life, and the deserter of his Din (Islam), abandoning the community.


Muwatta of Imam Malik


Zaid b. Aslam reported that the Apostle declared that the man who leaves the fold of Islam should be executed.



The various collections of hadith state clearly that apostates are to be killed. No one disputes this. Even the “Quran-only” types acknowledge that the hadith is the basis for the apostate’s death sentence. These hadith detail various times and situations in which apostates were killed. In some cases the apostates fought against the rule of Islam, in other cases they simply rejected Islam, but in all cases leaving Islam was the fundamental reason to kill them.


An event from the Sirat Rasulallah[13] and Kitab al-Tabaqat al-Kabir[14].

After Muhammad took Mecca, he ordered that 10 people to be killed, and several of them were apostates. Here is the list of names found in Ibn Sa’d’s Kitab al-Tabaqat al-Kabir. The quote is from Volume 2, page 168.

“The apostle of Allah entered through Adhakhir, [into Mecca], and prohibited fighting. He ordered six men and four women to be killed, they were (1) Ikrimah Ibn Abi Jahl, (2) Habbar Ibn al-Aswad, (3) Abd Allah Ibn Sa’d Ibn Abi Sarh, (4) Miqyas Ibn Sababah al-Laythi, (5) al-Huwayrith Ibn Nuqaydh, (6) Abd Abbah Ibn Hilal Ibn Khatal al-Adrami, (7) Hind Bint Utbah, (8) Sarah, the mawlat (enfranchised girl) of Amr Ibn Hashim, (9) Fartana and (10) Qaribah.


The Sirat Rasulallah provides details behind one of the names – Abdullah Sa’d.

“The apostle had instructed his commanders when they entered Mecca only to fight those who resisted them, except a small number who were to be killed even if they were found beneath the curtains of the Kaba. Among them was Abdullah Sa’d, brother of the B. Amir Luayy. The reason he ordered him to be killed was that he had been a Muslim and used to write down revelation; then he apostatized and returned to Quraysh and fled to Uthman Affan whose foster brother he was. The latter hid him until he brought him to the apostle after the situation in Mecca was tranquil, and asked that he might be granted immunity. They allege that the apostle remained silent for a long time till finally he said yes.


Abdullah apostatized and Muhammad wanted him dead. Also, Abdullah was one of Muhammad’s scribes and said that the reason he left Islam was because he was able to write his own words as the Quran with Muhammad’s approval. Once he realized the Quran was a sham he left Islam.[15] Later, when Muhammad’s knife was poised at his throat, he realized that Islam was true after all and rejoined the fold.



Tabari’s History, volume 10, focuses on aftermath of Muhammad’s death and the wars of apostasy that occurred. Muhammad coerced many tribes via threat, or direct war, to convert to Islam. After he died many of these tribes no longer wanted to be ruled by Islam. Abu Bakr, Muhammad’s best friend and father of his child bride Aisha, became the Caliph, and in obedience to Muhammad’s commands he waged war upon the apostates, both near and far. Thousands of people who no longer wanted to be Muslims were killed or returned to Islam under threat of death.

Volume 10 is full of the various attacks the Muslims made upon the apostates. The translator of volume 10, Fred Donner, summarizes the situation following Muhammad’s death on page xii. Bold emphasis is mine.

… Even as the core of the Muslim community – the Prophet’s Meccan and Medinan followers – was deciding to remain under united leadership, may other groups whom the Prophet had brought into his community in various parts of Arabia were deciding to end their submission to Medina. Some tribes claimed that they wished to remain Muslims in the religious sense – by performing prayer, for example – but would not send to Abu Bakr the tax payments that Muhammad had requested of them in his last years. Others repudiated both the political and the religious leadership of Medina; they wished simply to go their own way, now that the Prophet was dead, in some cases choosing to follow other figures who claimed, like Muhammad, to be prophets (and whom the Muslim tradition naturally, condemns as “false prophets”). Still others, it seems hoped simply to take advantage of the turmoil in Medina to raid the town, enriching themselves with plunder and ending what they perhaps felt to be vexations demands for tribute. All of these movements are termed riddah “apostasy” by the Muslim sources, even in cases where the opponents of Medina showed no desire to repudiate the religious aspects of the faith. Abu Bakr vowed to fight them all until they were subdued and dispatched several armies to deal with the main rebellions. Indeed, the campaigns did not limit themselves to the reconquest of Arabian tribes that had previously had some contract with Muhammad; they spilled over the whole of Arabia, and many tribes and groups that had had no contact with the Prophet at all, and who certainly had not been allied to or subjected by him, were conquered for the first time. The Arabic sources classify these wars, too, as wars against the riddah, even though they involved neither apostasy nor rebellion – only resistance to expansion of the new Islamic state based in Medina. The riddah wars constitute, in effect, the first chapter in the early Islamic conquest movement that led to the establishment throughout the Near East of a new imperial state ruled by Arabian Muslims.


Below are quotes from Tabari’s History, volume 10.

pages 55-7

Abu Bakr’s letter to the apostates.

… So God guided with the truth whoever responded to Him, and the Apostle of God, with His permission, struck whoever turned his back to Him until he came to Islam, willingly or grudgingly.

… I have learned that some of you have turned back from your religion after you had acknowledged Islam and labored in it, out of negligence of God and ignorance of His command, and in compliance with the devil….

… I have sent you someone at the head of an army of the Muhajirun and the Ansar and those who follow (them) in good works. I ordered him not to fight anyone or to kill anyone until he has called him to the cause of God; so that those who respond to him and acknowledge (Him) and renounce (unbelief) and do good works, (my envoy) shall accept him and help him to (do right), but I have ordered him to fight those who deny (Him) for that reason. So he will not spare any one of them he can gain mastery over, (but may) burn them with fire, slaughter them by any means, and take women and children captive; nor shall he accept from anyone anything except Islam.

page 69

The delegations of Banu Asad and Ghatafan and Hawazin and Tayyi came to him, and the delegations of Quda’ah encountered Usamah b. Zayd, whereupon he led them to Abu Bakr; so they gathered in Medina, staying with the chiefs of the Muslims on the tenth (day) after the death of the Apostle of God. Then they proposed to do the ritual prayer, provided that they be exempted from the zakat. A council of those who were lodging them agreed to accept that, so that they might attain what they desired. Every one of the chiefs of the Muslims lodged someone of them, except al-‘Abbas. Then they came to Abu Bakr to inform him of their tidings and of what their council had agreed on. But Abu Bakr did not (agree), for he refused (to accept) anything except what the Apostle of God had accepted. They refused (these terms), so he sent them back, giving them respite of a day and a night (to leave), whereupon they dispersed to their tribes.


Another volume of Tabari’s History, volume 17, pages 187-88 details the murder of other apostates.

Among them were many Christians who had accepted Islam, but when dissension had developed in Islam had said, “By God, our religion (din) from which we have departed is better and more correct than that which these people follow. Their religion does not stop them from shedding blood, terrifying the roads, and seizing properties.” And they returned to their former religion. Al-Khirrit met them and said to them, “Woe unto you! Do you know the precept (hukm) of ‘Ali regarding any Christian who accepts Islam and then reverts to Christianity? By God he will not hear anything they say, he will not consider any excuse, he will not accept any repentance, and he will not summon them to it. His precept regarding them is immediate cutting off of the head when he gets hold of them. Those of the Banu Najiyah and other who were in that district came to him, and many men joined him.

… I was in the army that ‘Ali b. Abi Talib sent against the Banu Najiyah. We came to them and found them split into three groups. Our commander said to one of these groups, “What are you?” and they replied, “We are a Christian people who do not consider any religion to be better than ours, and we hold fast to it. Our commander said to them, “Be off with you (i’tazilu)!” He said to another band, “What are you?” and they said, “We were Christians, but we accepted Islam and we hold fast to our Islam.” He said to them, “Be off with you!” Then he said to the third group, “What are you?” and they said, “We are a people who were Christians. We accepted Islam but we do not think, that any religion is better than our previous one.” He said to them, “Accept Islam!” but they refused. He said to his men, “When I rub my head three times, attack them and kill the fighting men and make captive the dependants.”

The dependants were brought to Ali, …

page 191

…But there was an old man among the, a Christian called al-Rumahis b. Mansur, who said, “By God the only error I have made since attaining reason was abandoning my religion, the religion of truth, for your, the religion of wickedness. No by God, I will not leave my religion and I will not accept yours so long as I live.” Ma’qil brought him forward and cut off his head.”



page 192, Ma’qil wrote a letter to ‘Ali, the Caliph:

… For anyone who had apostatized, we offered return to Islam or else death. As for the Christians, we made them captive and led them off so that they might be a warning for those of the protected people who come after them not to refuse the jizyah and not to make bold against our religion and community, for the protected people are of little account and lowly in status.



The history tells us that the apostates were killed by the various Caliphs following Muhammad’s death for leaving Islam. Christians were of “little account and lowly in status.” That proves that some of the apostates were no threat to the Muslims, and they didn’t fight the Muslims. They were murdered for the only reason of leaving Islam. They realized the evil in Islam and chose to leave it.


All four major schools of Sunni Islamic jurisprudence state that the apostate is to be put to death. Mawdudi cites the writings of the four schools:[17]

E. Agreement of the Leading Mujtahids (Jurists)

To copy the consecutive writings of all the lawyers from the first to the fourteenth century A.H. would make our discussion very long. Yet we cannot avoid mentioning that however much the four Schools of Law may differ among themselves regarding the various aspects of this problem, in any case all four Schools without doubt agree on the point that the punishment of the apostate is execution.

According to the School of Malik, as written in his book Muwatta:

From Zayd ibn Aslam, Malik has reported that the Apostle of God declared: Whoever changes his religion should be executed. Malik said about this tradition: As far as we can understand this command of the prophet means that the person who leaves Islam to follow another way, but conceals his kufr and continues to manifest Islamic belief, as is the pattern of the Zindiqs[26] and others like them, should be executed after his guilt has been established. He should not be asked to repent because the repentance of such persons cannot be trusted. But the person who has left Islam and publicly chooses to follow another way should be requested to repent. If he repents, good. Otherwise, he should be executed.[27]

According to the Hanbali School as explained in the well authenticated book al-Mughni:

In the opinion of Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal any adult and rational man or woman who renounces Islam and chooses kufr should be given a three day period to repent. The person who does not repent should be executed. This is also the opinion of Hasan Basri, Zuhri, Ibrahim Nakhi, Makhul, Hammad, Malik, Layth, Awzai, Shafi’i and Ishaq ibn Rahwiyah.[28]

Imam Tahawi has provided an interpretation of the Hanafi School in his book Sharh Ma’ani al-Athar as follows:

The lawyers differ among themselves concerning whether or not the person who has apostatized from Islam should be requested to repent. One group says it is much better that the imam (leader) requests the apostate to repent. If he repents, he should be released. Otherwise he should be executed. Imam Abu Hanifah, Abu Yusuf and Muhammad Rahmatullah are among those who have expressed this opinion. A second group says there is no need to request repentance. For them the condition of the apostate resembles that of the harbi kafir (“the infidel at war”). The infidels at war whom our invitation has already reached need not be invited to Islam before initiating war against them. Nevertheless every effort should be made to fully inform all others who have not been previously invited to repent, before attacking them. Likewise every effort should be made to bring back to Islam the person who has apostatized for lack of information about Islam. But the person who understands Islam well and deliberately renounces Islam, should be executed without any invitation to repentance. This opinion is supported by a statement of Imam Abu Yusuf also who writes in his book al-Amla’: I will execute an apostate and will not ask for repentance. If, however, he hastens to repent, I will leave him and commit his affair to God.[29]

An extended explanation of the Hanafi school is found in the Hidayah and reads:

When any person forsakes Islam — Refuge is in God — then Islam should be presented to him. If he has any doubt, every effort should be made to clear it. For it is highly possible that he is afflicted by some doubt, which, if removed, will avert his evil prospect of death by the better prospect of re-embracing Islam. But according to the leading lawyers it is not necessary to offer him Islam because he has already received its invitation.[30]

Unfortunately at this time I have no reliable book dealing with Shafi’i jurisprudence; yet the representation of this school as found in the Hidayah is as follows:

It is recorded from Shafi’i that it is incumbent upon the imam to grant the apostate a three day respite. It is illegal for him to execute him before the respite expires, since the apostasy of a Muslim could be the result of some form of doubt. Thus there must be some time given him as an opportunity for consideration and reflection. We consider three days to be sufficient for this purpose.[31]


The Light of Life ministry details the following positions of the four major Orthodox schools:[18]

The Hanbali:

There are two opinions on this issue. Some believe that the apostate should be given a period for repentance consisting of three days, while others are of the opinion that he is to be granted no time for reconsideration but should only be offered Islam. If he accepts the offer, he is to be set free; if not, he is to be put to death immediately.

The Shafi’i:

If a Muslim becomes apostate — Allah forbid! — the imam should grant him three days’ grace; he is not to be killed before this period expires, for the apostasy of a Muslim from his faith often results from his confusion.

The Maliki:

If he repents after three days, he is to be released; but if he does not, he is to be killed on the third day, at sunset.

The Hanifi:

If he accepts Islam thereafter, it is good; if not, he is to be killed, for Allah says to “kill those who believe in many gods” (Sura al-Tawba 9:5), without fixing a deadline. The Prophet also said, “Kill him who changes his religion,” without mentioning a delay, because the apostate is surely a hostile unbeliever and no asylum seeker (musta’min) who has asked for protection; furthermore, he is no dhimmi (a non-Muslim under Islamic rule), for no poll tax is demanded of him. Therefore, he should be killed without reservation.



There are several tomes that address the penalty for apostasy. The first I quote from, the “Reliance of the Traveller”[19], is a book of Shafi’i jurisprudence.

Apostasy from the Reliance of the Traveller.

F1.3, (page 109):

Someone raised among Muslims who denies the obligatoriness of the prayer, zakat, fasting Ramadan, the pilgrimage, or the unlawfulness of wine and adultery, or denies something else upon which there is scholarly consensus (ijma’, def: b7) and which is necessarily knows as being of the religion (N: necessarily known meaning things that any Muslim would know about if asked) thereby becomes an unbeliever (kafir) and is executed for his unbelief (O: if he does not admit he is mistaken and acknowledge the obligatoriness or unlawfulness of that which there is scholarly consensus upon. As for if he denies the obligatoriness of something there is not consensus upon, then he is not adjudged an unbeliever).


o1.2, (page 583)

The following are not subject to retaliation:

(3) A Jewish or Christian subject of the Islamic state for killing an apostate from Islam (O: because a subject of the state is under its protection, while killing an apostate from Islam is without consequences);



(O: There is no expiation for killing someone who has left Islam, a highwayman, (def: o15), or a convicted married adulterer, even when someone besides the caliph kills him.)



(O: Leaving Islam is the ugliest form of unbelief (kufr) and the worst. It may come about through sarcasm, as when someone is told, “Trim your nails, it is sunna,” and he replies, “I would not do it ever if it were,” as opposed to when some circumstance exists which exonerates him of having committed apostasy, such as when his tongue runs away with him, or when he is quoting someone, or says it out of fear.)

o8.1 When a person who has reached puberty and is sane voluntarily apostatizes from Islam, he deserves to be killed.

o8.2 In such a case, it is obligatory for the caliph (A: or his representative) to ask him to repent and return to Islam. If he does, it is accepted from him, but if he refuses, he is immediately killed.

o8.3 If he is a freeman, no one besides the caliph or his representative may kill him. If someone else kills him, the killer is disciplined (def: o17) (O: for arrogating the caliph’s prerogative and encroaching upon his rights, as this is one of his duties).

o8.4 There is no indemnity for killing an apostate (O: or any expiation, since it is killing someone who deserves to die).


  1. “O” represents a excerpt from the commentary of Sheikh ‘Umar Barakat.
  2. “A” represents a comment by Sheikh ‘Abd al-Wakil Durubi.
  3. “N” represents a comment by Sheikh Nuh ‘Ali Salman


The Encyclopaedia of Islam[20] on Apostasy.

MURTADD (a.), “one who turns back”, especially from Islam, an apostate. Apostasy is called irtidad or ridda; it may be committed verbally by denying a principle of belief or by an action, for example treating a copy of the Kur’an with disrespect.

1. In the Kur’an, the apostate is threatened with punishment in the next world only; the “wrath of God” will fall upon him according to a sura of the latest Meccan period (XVI, 108-9) and severe punishment ( ‘adhab ) “except he did it under compulsion and his heart is steadfast in belief”. Similarly, it is written in the Medinan sura III, 80 ff., “… This is the punishment for them, that the curse of Allah, the Angels and of men is upon them for all time (82); the punishment shall not be lightened for them and they shall not be granted alleviation, (83) except for those who later repent and make good their fault, for Allah is forgiving and merciful. (84) Those who disbelieve after believing and increase in unbelief, shall not have their repentance accepted; they are the erring ones. (85) Those who are unbelievers and die as unbelievers, from none of them shall be accepted the earth-full of gold, even if he should wish to ransom himself with it; this is a painful punishment for them and there will be no helpers for them” (cf. also IV, 136; V, 59; IX, 67). Sura II, 214, is to be interpreted in the same way, although it is adduced by al-Shafi’i as the main evidence for the death penalty, “… He among you who falls away from his belief and dies an unbeliever—these, their works are fruitless in this world and the next, and they are the companions of the fire for ever”.

2. There is little echo of these punishments in the next world in the Traditions (cf. Ibn Madja, Hudud , bab 2; Ibn Hanbal, i, 409, 430, 464-5; v, 4, 5). Instead, we have in many traditions a new element, the death penalty. Thus Ibn ‘Abbas transmits an utterance of the Prophet, “Slay him, who changes his religion” or “behead him” (Ibn Madja, Hudud , bab 2; al-Nasa’i, Tahrim al-dam, bab 14; al-Tayalisi, no. 2689; Malik, Akdyia, tr. 15; cf. also al-Bukhari, Istitabat al-murtaddin, bab 2; al-Tirmidhi, Hudud , bab 25; Abu Dawud, Hudud , bab 1; Ibn Hanbal, i, 217, 282, 322). According to another tradition of Ibn ‘Abbas and ‘Aisha, the Prophet is said to have permitted the blood to be shed of him “who abandons his religion and separates himself from the community (djama’a)” (al-Bukhari, Diyat, bab 6; Muslim, Kasama, tr. 25, 26; al-Nasa’i, Tahrim al-dam, bab 5, 14; Kasama, bab 6; Ibn Madja, Hudud , bab 1; Abu Dawud, Hudud , bab 1; al-Tirmidhi, Diyat, bab 10; Fitan, bab 1; Ibn Hanbal, i, 382, 444). But there was no agreement from the first on the nature of the death penalty; thus ‘Ikrima (d. 106/724) and Anas b. Malik (d. 91/710) criticise ‘Ali for having burned apostates (al-Bukhari, Istitabat al-murtaddin, bab 2; al-Tirmidhi, Hudud , bab 25; Abu Dawud, Hudud , bab 1; Ibn Hanbal, i, 217; according to a variant the reference is to Zindiks or Zutt, who served idols; al-Nasa’i, Tahrim al-dam, bab 14; Ibn Hanbal, i, 282, 322). According to a tradition | [VII:635b] of ‘Aisha’s, apostates are to be slain, crucified or banished (al-Nasa’i, Tahrim al-dam, bab 11; Kasama, bab 13; Abu Dawud, Hudud, bab 1).

3. a. In Fikh, there is unanimity that the male apostate must be put to death, but only if he is grown up (baligh) and compos mentis (‘akil) and has not acted under compulsion (mukhtar ). A woman, on the other hand, is imprisoned, according to Hanafi and Shi’i teaching, until she again adopts Islam, while according to al-Awza’i, Ibn Hanbal (al-Tirmidhi, Hudud , bab 25), the Malikis and Shafi’is (cf. Umm, i, 131, where al-Shafi’i vigorously attacks Abu Yusuf who is not mentioned by name) she also is put to death. Although this punishment is not properly Hadd (cf. thereon, al-Shafi’i, Umm, vii, 330, ll. 20-2) it is regarded as such by some jurists, as it is a question of a Hakk Allah (cf. e.g. al-Sarakhsi, Siyar, iv, 162); therefore the execution of the punishment lies with the imam; in the case of a slave, however, the mawla can carry it out, as with any other Hadd punishment. Execution should be by the sword. According to the above traditions, apostates must sometimes have been tortured to death. The caliph ‘Umar II had them tied to a post and a lance thrust into their hearts (Abu Yusuf, Kharadj, 112). Al-Badjuri expressly forbids any form of torture, like burning, drowning, strangling, impaling or flaying; according to him, Sultan Baybars II (708-9/1308-9) was the first to introduce torture (Snouck Hurgronje, Verspr. Geschriften, ii, 198). Lane (Manners and customs, ch. iii, near the end) records the case of a woman who had apostatised and was led through the streets of Cairo on an ass, then strangled in a boat in the middle of the Nile and thrown into the river. (The throwing of a corpse into the Nile was already usual in Cairo in the Fatimid period; cf. Mez, Renaissance des Islâms, 29.) In quite recent times, followers of the Kadiyani or Ahmadiyya [q.v.] sect in Afghanistan were stoned to death (OM, v [1925], 138).

One should here call attention to an agreement which is probably not accidental. Since in Islam, in addition to apostasy, unchastity and unnatural vice are punished by death, even by stoning, according to both Shafi’is and Malikis, as well as blaspheming God or a prophet, and magic, we find in Islam all crimes punished by death which in the Mishna (Sanhedrin, vii, 4) are threatened with stoning.


The Encyclopaedia of the Quran[21]

Apostasy from the Encyclopaedia of Quran (EQ), page 119.

I assume that this article was written by a Muslim because the work is tainted with apologetics. The editor, Jane McAuliffe, did a poor job in vetting this work. But the writer makes two important points that I have bolded.

Abandoning the religion of Islam is therefore not only iritidad but also kufr and fisq. It is through the juxtaposition of this terminological triad that the Qur’an articulates the idea of apostasy.

The characterization and fate of those who commit apostasy vary in the Qur’an. What is striking, especially in the light of later juristic developments, is that although apostates are usually assigned a place in hell, there is no mention of any specific corporal punishment to which they are to be subjected in this world. In certain chapters of the Qur’an, the apostates are described merely as “having strayed from the right path” (Q 2:108; also 4:167), while in others they are threatened with a severe yet unspecified punishment in this world and in the hereafter (Q 9:74). They are ignorant and “their punishment is that upon them is heaped the curse of God, of angels and of people in their entirety” (Q 3:87). In fact, in Q 2:109, the believers are even asked to forgive them: …

It is quite plausible that the various types of reaction to apostasy, from the near oblivion to the angry chastisement may be a reflection of the changing circumstances with which the Qur’an had to deal as its mission evolved. At the early stages, the Prophet did not have the effective power to deal with the apostates and thus the Qur’an adopted a considerably more lenient attitude. With the growing strength of the new religion that attitude changed into a confident and less compromising one.


The article’s tone implies a “Quran-only” approach when dealing with apostasy. I assume the author is ashamed of the order’s brutality. Hence his article suggests subtly that the death sentence is not what Muhammad really wanted. Note the two important points above, 1) Initially Muhammad was not able to murder apostates because he was without power, but after he acquired that power Muhammad began to murder apostates and critics alike, 2) Even this author sees in the Quran (9:74) a severe, physical, punishment to be dealt out to the apostates. Execution would fit the bill nicely.


The tomes reference various scholars’ works and state that the Quran does not mandate the death sentence explicitly but traditional Islamic jurisprudence based upon the Sunna and hadith do. The Ency. of Islam says it plainly, “In Fikh (jurisprudence), there is unanimity that the male apostate must be put to death.” This ruling has been the accepted Islamic law for the last 1400 years.


Throughout the Muslim world and community various scholars and writers address this topic. Below is a sampling of some of their writings.

The Ayatollah of Iran, Ali Khamenei, said that the sentence for apostasy is execution.


TEHRAN, Sept 1 (Reuters) – Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Wednesday that anyone questioning basic Islamic principles could face execution, after a newspaper advocated more liberal laws on capital punishment in Iran.

“If anyone denies Islamic principles, including the Islamic law of retribution, then this person is an apostate and the sentence of an apostate is evident under Islam,” state television quoted Khamenei as saying.

Islamic laws usually require that apostates be sentenced to death.

Khamenei was reacting to recent articles in the moderate daily Neshat which advocated a more liberal interpretation of Iran’s Islamic laws, saying the law of retribution did not necessarily demand capital punishment.

The “Islam Online[22]” webpage addresses various topics in Islam. Regarding the punishment for an apostate they write:

The prescribed punishment for a murtadd:

If a sane person who has reached puberty voluntarily apostatizes from Islam, he deserves to be punished. In such a case, it is obligatory for the caliph (or his representative) to ask him to repent and return to Islam. If he does, it is accepted from him, but if he refuses, he is immediately killed.

No one besides the caliph or his representative may kill the apostate. If someone else kills him, the killer is disciplined (for arrogating the caliph’s prerogative and encroaching upon his rights, as this is one of his duties).

I could go on cutting and pasting similar quotes from other sites and articles. But by now the point is made: Established, historical Islamic theology and jurisprudence mandates the execution of apostates. The question is not if Islam mandates it, the question is whether or not the non-quranic sources of Islam that establish it are authentic and trustworthy. That brings us to the next section.


Some Muslims living primarily in the West have come out against the apostate’s death sentence and argue that Islam does not permit the death sentence for simple apostasy in this day and age. I have found 3 standard arguments, with minor variations, used by “non-death” Muslims. As I read their writings I sense that they are ashamed of the edict and want to present a more human image to the ugly face of Islam.

These non-death arguments are thin and tenuous and deserve to be scrutinized. Below, in my words, are the three differing arguments I’ve found that oppose the death penalty:

  1. The Quran does not state that apostates should be killed therefore the doctrine for the death sentence is incorrect.
  2. During Muhammad’s time apostasy involved treason and as such apostates were enemies of the state and deserved to be killed.
  3. Only Muhammad, and Muhammad alone, was allowed to kill apostates because he was a special prophet like Moses.

In my opinion the strongest argument of the three is the first one. This, I believe, is a valid argument for the non-death proponents to make. If the Quran were really the supercharged text that Muslims claim than this could be a glaring omission.

Below is a brief overview of these arguments taken from their supporter’s work.

Representing non-death argument #1 is Dr. Ahmad Shafaat. He addresses this in his article “Q & A THE PUNISHMENT OF APOSTASY IN ISLAM”[23]. It is a well written argument and he makes his first point strongly. Below are what I believe to be his three main points:

1) “It is a significant fact that the Book of God does not prescribe any punishment for apostasy.”

Dr. Shafaat supports this by making 3 sub-points. I’ll summarize them as:

  1. Allah would have included this important penalty in the Quran if he wanted it performed.
  2. Lesser sins and crimes have penalties detailed explicitly in the Quran, such as the penalty for theft. Therefore the more severe apostate’s death sentence should most certainly be established by the Quran.
  3. The Quran mentions apostasy several times but does not prescribe any penalty.

Dr. Shafaat’s 2nd main point is

“The death penalty for apostasy conflicts with the Quran.”

He supports this points with the two following statements:

a) There is no mandatory death penalty in the Quran for any crime.

b) The death penalty for apostasy in fact conflicts with the Quran.

I think his argument begins to weaken here and I’ll leave it to the reader to judge for himself. I will only address his best point, #1.

Dr. Shafaat’s 3rd main point is

“Thus according to the Quran the apostates are to be treated like other kuffar: If they want to live in peace with the Muslims, they are to be left in peace and if they assume a hostile attitude, then they are to be treated accordingly.”

The whole of Dr. Shafaat’s thrust is to argue from a “Quran only” position and he does an excellent job. Dr. Shafaat knows that the Hadith and Islamic jurisprudence establish the death penalty and he avoids them altogether in this discussion. However, he has promised a later article regarding apostasy and the Hadith.

The second non-death argument varies from the first and this is my summary:

“The area that Muhammad lived in was tribal and violent and those that left Islam were actually committing treason. Therefore it was acceptable for that time period to execute apostates, but now it is no longer needed or acceptable.”

One Muslim apologist using this tack writes:

“Much has been made of this. It’s comparable to the movement to refuse to pay taxes to the Feds while still claiming the right to live in America. Imagine that on a large basis, such that the very economic legs of the nation would not only wobble, but collapse and put an end to the American entity. Do we remember the Civil War and its economic rationale?”[24]

This type of argument accepts the death sentence but asserts that it was limited for that time and age and dealt with apostasy as treason. You can find variations on the theme above from various Muslim apologists. I think the article referenced above is very poor, and I was surprised at its weakness. Not only did he make several out-of-context statements, he based his argument primarily upon non-Islamic premises.

The third argument is similar to the second and covers the killing of unbelievers or polytheists as well. It also asserts that the death sentence was for a limited time – for Muhammad alone to execute. It goes something like this:

“Muhammad was a prophet like Moses and he was given the right to execute those that rejected his message. However, that right was for him alone and following his death his followers did not have the right to kill apostates, unless in self defense. Since the Quran does not issue a general for-all-time command to execute apostates then Muslims are not allowed to do so. Killing apostates is wrong because the Quran’s silence on the subject means that it cannot be done.”

Variations of this argument can be found in various articles. A re-packaging of the argument is:

“The scholar is saying that the authority to kill polytheists who reject Islam, and to kill those who are Muslim and subsequently (left) Islam, was limited to the Prophet Muhammad. The implication of that assertion is that no Muslim today can kill any rejecters or anyone who leaves Islam, because no Muslim today is a messenger of God.”[25]


I’m not going to go into great detail countering their arguments. That is not the purpose of this article. But I will make some general points and show that their arguments rest upon shaky ground and cannot stand scrutiny.


Dr. Shafaat makes a strong case against the death penalty by asserting that the Quran does not mandate execution. Many of the great Muslim scholars find justification for execution from the Quran but their arguments, based solely upon their interpretation of various verses, are subjective and are not uniform.

But I think Dr. Shafaat’s argument rests upon shaky presuppositions:

1) He assumes that the Quran addresses all the fundamental tenets of Islam. Dr. Shafaat believes that the Quran is a be-all-and-end-all book, i.e. that it should cover all the important aspects to establish the faith. But that that assumption is wrong. The Quran does not cover all the primary aspects of Islam. Sam Shamoun has written articles deconstructing the myth that the Quran is a complete religious text. For example, take the direction of prayer. Muslims are to pray 5 times a day facing Mecca. Sam writes:

1. Again, if it is claimed that the first house of worship is the Kabah in Mecca, can you please produce a single Quranic verse explicitly stating this?

2. What direction is the Qiblah? [In what direction was the original Qiblah pointing? Cf. this article.]

3. If you say it is Mecca, can you show this from the Quran itself?

4. What is the location of the sacred mosque (Ali’s Inviolable Place of Worship), i.e. masjid al-haram?

5. If you claim that it is Mecca, can you produce a single verse stating that the sacred mosque is located there?[26]


Sam proves that when it comes to the more important topic of Muslim prayer, the Quran fails to tell its followers what direction to face when praying. As such, the Quran is an incomplete religious text and Islam must rely upon non-quranic sources in order to make sense to its followers. If the Quran fails to address this most important topic should we be surprized that it fails to address lesser points? On the other hand, if the Quran is the work of Muhammad, a man with many failings, then we should expect it to be incomplete.

Mawdudi’s work argues against Shafaat’s position best:

Some people, after hearing these discourses from the Hadith and the Law, keep on asking: Where is the punishment written in the Qur’an? Even though we have demonstrated the presence of this order also in the Qur’an in the beginning of our discussion, yet, for the satisfaction of these people, let us suppose the commandment is not found in the Qur’an. Still the large number of Hadith, the decisions of the Rightly-Guided Caliphs and the united opinions of the lawyers suffice fully to establish this commandment.

We ask those who deem this evidence insufficient and request some Quranic reference to prove the existence of this commandment: In your opinion is the full Islamic penal code the same as that which is found in the Qur’an? If your answer is in the affirmative, it is as if you are saying that apart from those actions which the Qur’an designates as criminal and for which a penalty is prescribed, no other action will be punishable as a crime. Then consider this matter again. Can you run any government in the world successfully even for one day on this principle? If you answer in the negative and you yourself also admit that an Islamic order of government must reckon with other crimes also besides those crimes and their punishment mentioned in the Qur’an and the need for a detailed penal code relative to them, then we ask a second question. Which law will be more worthy to be called Muslim: The law which was in use during the rule of the Prophet and the four Rightly-Guided Caliphs and which was accepted with full agreement and without break for thirteen hundred years by the whole Muslim community’s judges, magistrates and legal scholars or the law formulated at present by some persons who have been influenced and overcome by non-Islamic studies and non-Islamic culture and civilization and who have not obtained even a partial education in Islamic disciplines?[27]

2) The second significant weakness in Dr. Shafaat’s argument is that he does not account for the Hadith’s statements. He did say that he intends to write an article addressing the Hadith and implies that the authentic (sahih) Hadith of Bukhari and Muslim are not so “sahih” with respect to apostasy. This position also represents a departure from established Islamic scholarship.

3) The third weakness of Dr. Shafaat’s argument is it implies that the Muslims who murdered and massacred so many apostates were wrong, committed great sins, and didn’t know Islam! This includes Abu Bakr and Ali. He implies that the four “Rightly Guided” Caliphs of Islam weren’t so right, and weren’t so guided. Further, they were cold blooded murderers! I have a hard time believing that Abu Bakr and Ali didn’t know what Muhammad wanted with respect to apostates.


The main thrust of this argument is that apostates were committing treason and deserved to be killed. However, if you examine the cases where an execution occurred, treason is not always mentioned or implied. Rather, the only reason given consistently to execute apostates was that they left the faith.

Robert Spencer addresses this argument:

But it is not true that Muhammad ordered the execution only of apostates who joined the enemies of Islam. His statement baddala deenahu, faqtuhulu — if anyone changes his religion, kill him — includes no caveat. He didn’t say, “If anyone changes his religion, kill him only if he joins the enemies of Islam.” He simply said, “If anyone changes his religion, kill him.” This statement is amply attested in the Hadith, and is accepted as authentic by all except the most disingenuous Islamic scholars. It appears in various forms in Bukhari, Ibn Majah, An-Nasai, Tayalisi, Malik, Tirmidhi, Abu Dawud, and other authorities.

Nor does Muhammad make any exception when enunciating the principle in this way: “The blood of a Muslim who confesses that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and that I am His Apostle, cannot be shed except in three cases: In Qisas for murder, a married person who commits illegal sexual intercourse and the one who reverts from Islam (apostate) and leaves the Muslims” (Bukhari, vol. 9, bk. 83, no. 17).[28]

As you read the various historical stories of the apostates who were murdered by Muslims you often find no mention of opposition to the state, rather you find people who searched their own consciences and soul and decided that Islam was not true. As seen above, the Christians said to Ali,

“By God, our religion from which we have departed is better and more correct than that which these people follow. Their religion does not stop them from shedding blood, terrifying the roads, and seizing properties.” And they returned to their former religion.”

There is no mention of rebellion. There is no mention of fighting Islam. These Christians realized they had made a mistake in believing that Islam contained truth and righteousness. They saw the deeds of Islam and it repulsed them. In good conscience they could no longer follow such a criminal faith and they left it. Their stand cost them their lives but it carried an eternal weight of glory. They stood up to a Satanic power, and that faith, that precious faith, is something God values and rewards.


The third argument is the weakest of the three: Muhammad alone was authorized by Allah to kill apostates.

Similar to the response to argument #1, this argument ignores the Hadith, Sira, and body of jurisprudence. Further, consider all of the apostates murdered by Abu Bakr, Ali, and other Muslim leaders. If killing apostates were for Muhammad alone, then shouldn’t Abu Bakr and Ali have known? Does it seem logical that these men misunderstood Muhammad’s teachings? These men lived with Muhammad and knew both his words and deeds. I cannot accept that they were ignorant or disobedient.


Analysis of apostasy requires examination of the full scope and weight of the Islamic source materials. We have on one side, a few Muslims, primarily living in the West, arguing that the Quran does not teach execution. On the other hand, the Hadith state specifically that apostates are to be executed, the historical records detail the massacre of thousands of apostates, and the comprehensive weight of Islamic jurisprudence pronounces the death sentence. Both sides cannot be right. Either the modern, “non-death” Muslims are right, and the Companions were fools, liars, and murderers, or the Caliphs of Islam, the great scholars of Islam, the records of Hadith, are correct, and the non-death Muslims are deluded, or playing a shell game to con a Western audience.

When compared to the corpus of Islamic jurisprudence the “non-death” arguments crumble like a sheet of aluminum foil. Their positions cannot stand for they argue from poorly supported assumptions, silence, or a limited use of Islamic theological texts. The non-death arguers are “innovators” and introduce a new “interpretation” of the Quran. The Quran is incomplete and does not spell out all details, but within it are passages that imply apostates should be executed. That coupled with both the other sources of Islam and the actions of the Companions proves that the death sentence for apostasy is Islam’s official position.


Below are 5 “talking points” or topics for discussion related to apostasy and Islam.

#1 As mentioned earlier, 9:74 states that apostates are to be subjected to a severe physical punishment. We are not told by the Quran what that punishment is. However, the Hadith mandates that the punishment is death. The Encyclopaedia of the Quran also states that when Muhammad had power he began to kill apostates. Therefore, it is logical to conclude that this severe punishment was execution.

Apostates are unbelievers, and Muhammad’s final position on unbelievers was that they were to be killed (Q 9:5). Isn’t it understandable then that Muhammad would naturally classify apostates under a similar edict?

#2 Muhammad promised heavenly reward for those who kill apostates:

Bukhari, vol. 9, #64.

“… So, wherever you find them, kill them, for whoever kills them shall have reward on the Day of Resurrection.”

The biographical records state that those who had apostatized prior to the incorporation of Mecca into the Islamic state were ordered to be executed (Abdullah b. Sa’d and others). These people were Muslims living in Medina and later left Islam. When able, Muhammad ordered their deaths. These people would correspond to Muslims living in the West who left Islam. Following the Sunnah these Muslims are already under a death sentence. It would not be against Islamic law for Muslims to murder these ex-Muslims “wherever they are”, and it would obtain a reward for the Muslim. This means that the devout Muslims living in the West are potential murderers if they choose to obey their faith.

#3 I am reminded of Jesus words, “Satan was a murderer from the beginning”, and, “In fact a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God”… John 16:2. Indeed, many Muslims who have converted to Christianity have paid the price with their lives. There is a Satanic vein in Muhammad’s command to kill apostates.

#4 This aspect of Islam portrays one of its most ugly faces – i.e. the murder of those who think for themselves. It is no wonder that Muslim countries continue to regress since freedom of thought, freedom of creativity, freedom of expression are stifled. We see the Muslim states falling further behind the rest of the world in areas like education, science, and the arts. The more Islamic a state becomes, the farther it regresses. Iran is a perfect case in point.

#5 What is to be made of a religion that functions as a religious mafia, forbids men to think and choose for themselves, and kills those that leave it?


We have examined the theological foundation of Islam and found that Islam’s established ruling is that apostates are to be killed wherever they are. The Quran implies this while the Hadith, Sira, and works of jurisprudence state it clearly. When the breadth and depth of Islam are examined this is the only conclusion that can be drawn.

Islam brings a knife to the throat of all that is non-Muslim, be they Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, atheists, or apostates. It is incumbent upon Christians to expose this brutality and speak out against and oppose the darkness of this command. Supporting ministries like Voice of the Martyrs[29] is something all Christians can do.

Rev A: 11-7-97   Rev B: 24 Jan, 2007


[1] ,

[2] ,



[5] The Dictionary of Quranic Terms and Concepts – page 16, (written by M. Mir – a Muslim writer)


[7] ibid, pages 12-23



[10] Bukhari, Muhammad, “Sahih Bukhari”, Kitab Bhavan, New Delhi, India, 1987, translated by M. Khan

[11] Muslim, Abu’l-Husain, “Sahih Muslim”, International Islamic Publishing House, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, 1971, translated by A. Siddiqi

[12] Malik, “Muwatta”, Taj Company, New Dehli, India, 1985

[13] Guillaume, A., “The Life of Muhammad”, a translation of Ibn Ishaq’s “Sirat Rasul Allah”, Oxford University Press, Karachi, Pakistan.

[14] Ibn Sa’d, (d. 852 A.D.), “Kitab al-Tabaqat al-Kabir”, (Book of the Major Classes), translated by S. Moinul Haq, Pakistan Historical Society.


[16] al-Tabari, “The History of al-Tabari”, (Ta’rikh al-rusul wa’l-muluk), State University of New York Press 1993

[17] Hahn, Mawdudi, op. cit. pages 18-19


[19] Misri, Ahmad, “Reliance of the Traveler”, Amana, Beltsville, MD, 1994

[20] Encyclopadia of Islam, published by Brill, Leiden, Netherlands

[21] Encyclopaedia of the Quran, edited by Jane McAuliffe, Brill, Leiden, Netherlands.






[27] Hahn, Mawdudi, op. cit., page 20.




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