Is Islam a religion of peace?

August 20, 2013 in Theology · 43 comments

crusade

Let’s take a look at some Arabic texts and their English translations:

لِيَصْنَعُوا نَقْمَةً تَنْوِيهَاتُ اللهِ فِي أَفْوَاهِهِمْ، وَسَيْفٌ ذُو حَدَّيْنِ فِي يَدِهِمْ. لِيَبْتَهِجِ الأَتْقِيَاءُ بِمَجْدٍ. لِيُرَنِّمُوا عَلَى مَضَاجِعِهِمْ. لأَسْرِ مُلُوكِهِمْ بِقُيُودٍ، وَشُرَفَائِهِمْ بِكُبُول مِنْ حَدِيدٍ. فِي الأُمَمِ، وَتَأْدِيبَاتٍ فِي الشُّعُوبِ.

Let the faithful exult in glory; let them sing for joy on their couches. Let the high praises of God be in their throats and two-edged swords in their hands, to execute vengeance on the nations and punishment on the peoples, to bind their kings with fetters and their nobles with chains of iron

وَأَمَّا مُدُنُ هؤُلاَءِ الشُّعُوبِ الَّتِي يُعْطِيكَ الرَّبُّ إِلهُكَ نَصِيبًا فَلاَ تَسْتَبْقِ مِنْهَا نَسَمَةً مَّا،

But as for the towns of these peoples that the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, you must not let anything that breathes remain alive.

وَأَخَذْنَا كُلَّ مُدُنِهِ فِي ذلِكَ الْوَقْتِ، وَحَرَّمْنَا مِنْ كُلِّ مَدِينَةٍ: فَدَفَعَهُ الرَّبُّ إِلهُنَا أَمَامَنَا، فَضَرَبْنَاهُ وَبَنِيهِ وَجَمِيعَ قَوْمِهِ. لكِنَّ الْبَهَائِمَ نَهَبْنَاهَا لأَنْفُسِنَا، وَغَنِيمَةَ الْمُدُنِ الَّتِي أَخَذْنَا،الرِّجَالَ وَالنِّسَاءَ وَالأَطْفَالَ. لَمْ نُبْقِ شَارِدًا.

the Lord our God gave him over to us; and we struck him down, along with his offspring and all his people. At that time we captured all his towns, and in each town we utterly destroyed men, women, and children. We left not a single survivor. Only the livestock we kept as spoil for ourselves, as well as the plunder of the towns that we had captured.

الآنَ اذْهَبْ وَاضْرِبْ عَمَالِيقَ، وَحَرِّمُوا كُلَّ مَا لَهُ وَلاَ تَعْفُ عَنْهُمْ بَلِ اقْتُلْ رَجُلاً وَامْرَأَةً، طِفْلاً وَرَضِيعًا، بَقَرًا وَغَنَمًا، جَمَلاً وَحِمَارًا .

Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have; do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.

طُوبَى لِمَنْ يُمْسِكُ أَطْفَالَكِ وَيَضْرِبُ بِهِمُ الصَّخْرَةَ

Happy shall they be who take your little ones and dash them against the rock!

إِذَا تَخَاصَمَ رَجُلاَنِ، رَجُلٌ وَأَخُوهُ، وَتَقَدَّمَتِ امْرَأَةُ أَحَدِهِمَا لِكَيْ تُخَلِّصَ رَجُلَهَا مِنْ يَدِ ضَارِبِهِ، وَمَدَّتْ يَدَهَا وَأَمْسَكَتْ فَاقْطَعْ يَدَهَا، وَلاَ تُشْفِقْ عَيْنُكَ. بِعَوْرَتِهِ،

If men get into a fight with one another, and the wife of one intervenes to rescue her husband from the grip of his opponent by reaching out and seizing his genitals, you shall cut off her hand; show no pity.

وَإِنْ كَانَتْ يَدُكَ الْيُمْنَى تُعْثِرُكَ فَاقْطَعْهَا وَأَلْقِهَا عَنْكَ، لأَنَّهُ خَيْرٌ لَكَ أَنْ يَهْلِكَ أَحَدُ أَعْضَائِكَ وَلاَ يُلْقَى جَسَدُكَ كُلُّهُ فِي

And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell.

لاَ تَظُنُّوا أَنِّي جِئْتُ لأُلْقِيَ سَلاَمًا عَلَى الأَرْضِ. مَا جِئْتُ لأُلْقِيَ سَلاَمًا بَلْ سَيْفًا.

Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.

Arabic text is from the Van Dyke Arabic Bible. Copyright (c) 1998-2005, Arabic Bible Outreach Ministry. English text is from the New Revised Standard Version Bible. Copyright (c) 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Quotations above are Ps 149.5-6, Deut 20.16, Deut 2.33-34, 1 Sam 15.3, Ps 137.9, Deut 25.11-12, Mat 5.30 and Mat 10.34. Header image is detail from “Richard I, the Lionheart and Saladin at the Battle of Arsuf,” by Gustave Doré.

43 comments… read them below or add one

Butt Nozzle August 20, 2013 at 8:22 pm

clever. not.

Reply

Yvon August 20, 2013 at 8:38 pm

Oh, I thought it was indeed pretty clever.

Reply

Dan August 20, 2013 at 9:11 pm

clever’s not the point.

Reply

Dan August 20, 2013 at 9:12 pm

(However your name, Mr. Nozzle, now that’s clever!

Reply

Not impressed August 20, 2013 at 9:04 pm

One could be that selective quoting from the Bible, too. It proves nothing.

Reply

Dan August 20, 2013 at 9:13 pm

Ah, but in your case it seems that selectively quoting from the Bible may have proven something…

Reply

Not impressed August 21, 2013 at 6:05 am

Selectively quoting from any source can be done to support just about any view you wish. It is not necessarily representative of the work as a whole. I do not think the quotes pulled above can be considered representative of Islam (are they even from the Koran?… even that is unclear) and, in fact, taken out of context as they are could possibly be considered deliberately unrepresentative. The same sort of thing has been done regarding the Bible and Christianity over the years. My point is… being selectively representative like that cannot prove definitively, one way or the other, what a religion is or is not. One may think it’s a great conversation starter, but personally I think it is irresponsible.

Reply

Amanda Justice August 21, 2013 at 6:22 am

The quotes above are from the Bible, not the Koran… that kind of *is* the point. Note that the article only says it’s from an Arabic text.

Reply

Not impressed August 21, 2013 at 8:14 am

I see. So deliberately misleading people to believe you are quoting from the Koran, when it’s actually the Bible… in a conversation which clearly is meant to draw a distinction between the two, but only muddies the waters as a result… how is this helpful? It still holds true that one must know the ENTIRE work about which one is talking… selectively quoting (or misquoting) will get you nowhere.

Reply

Amanda Justice August 21, 2013 at 8:29 am

And thats… the point. Of the entire article. You’re in agreement with the author, unless I’m misinterpreting his intent.

Reply

Dan August 21, 2013 at 8:45 am

Who said anything about the Koran?
I agree that selective quoting is often highly problematic, and I think the waters in this conversation are much muddier than some would like them to be.

Reply

AGR August 20, 2013 at 10:00 pm

Doesn’t say anything about Islam’s being peaceful or not, says quite a lot about another major religious persuasion.

Psalm 149
Deuteronomy 20:16
Deuteronomy 2: 33-35
1 Samuel 15:3
Psalm 137:9
Deuteronomy 25:11
Matthew 5:29
Matthew 10:34

Reply

Dan August 20, 2013 at 10:34 pm

Err…I don’t know what you’re talking about.

Reply

Christy Marie August 20, 2013 at 11:52 pm

Given those passages, (and also all of the violence in Revelation) is the Christian God a God of peace or is it pretty frightening to reject him? I don’t know how liberal Christians handle these passages aside from resorting to Marcianism.

Reply

Not impressed August 21, 2013 at 6:19 am

Interestingly enough, liberal Christians understand that such literal-sounding passages cannot always be taken so literally. And since you mention Revelation, it is unclear to many — myself included — just how much of the book was simply a dream sequence written down by the author John. And if it was a dream, it becomes difficult to understand which parts can be taken as “truth,” and which parts are more allegory for how believers should act in general, but not specific and literal instructions. You know… when the hand dryer in the public restroom tells you “Press butt… rub bacon”… do you actually press your butt and find some bacon to rub? Sometimes you need to read between the (wavy) lines.

Reply

Dan August 21, 2013 at 8:49 am

“Sometimes you need to read between the (wavy) lines.” Yes!

Reply

Jesse August 21, 2013 at 10:47 am

The Book of Revelation was written in the author’s particular time, place, and context as a thinly veiled presentation of events that were taking place in the Roman Empire during that time. I definitely agree that one should read much of Revelation allegorically. For example, The “sign of the Beast” (666 or 616) was a coded symbol that represented Emperor Nero. Marcianism was an attempt to try to understand how to reconcile the God of the Hebrew Bible and the God of the New Testament during a particular time, but today one can look at both from the perspective of differing ideas based on as I mentioned earlier: time, place, context etc.

Reply

aken August 21, 2013 at 3:59 am

Are these all from the Koran? There are many violent teachings written in centuries after Mohammed.

Reply

Dan August 21, 2013 at 10:38 am

A very low percentage of them are from the Koran.

Reply

Christy Thomas August 21, 2013 at 6:32 am

I do wonder how many people who affirm a kind of rabid Christianity and its superiority over other religions would be able to recognized that these came from the Bible. This is a good exercise in critical thinking.

Reply

Dan August 21, 2013 at 8:46 am

Sadly, I’m now dealing with plenty of “Christians” here and on Facebook who didn’t recognize these as selections from the Bible.

Reply

Not impressed August 21, 2013 at 9:11 am

Unfortunately (for you, I think ) you pretty much baited them (and me) into the conversation the way you posed it. If that was your intent, then own it. If not, then it was more than a little irresponsible.

Reply

Dan August 21, 2013 at 9:31 am

I’m not sure what the irresponsible part was. Was their some misdirection? Did it prove a point? Perhaps.

Reply

David Evans October 5, 2013 at 2:23 pm

I love this post. For the point it makes so cleverly, and also because it gives me, an atheist, an opportunity to boast. I read your second text and thought “That’s very like the Old Testament. How interesting”. By the time I read the Amalek text I was sure. Then (the icing on the cake) only last night I was trying to persuade some Christian friends that “I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” is the reported speech of Jesus. They didn’t believe me!

Reply

Dan October 5, 2013 at 3:55 pm

Thanks…I think. Not sure why you would want to boast though…

Reply

Not impressed August 21, 2013 at 8:28 am

Point taken that you are trying to mislead people into thinking this came from the Koran or other Islamic teachings, when it’s really Christianity and the Bible that are so barbaric. That was your point, right? What really is the point, though? Is it to prove that you can selectively quote a source in such a way as to discredit it and the entire tradition from which it came? And analogy from the world of statistics:

“Do not put your faith in what statistics say until you have carefully considered what they do not say.” (William W. Watt)

“Statistics are like bikinis. What they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital.” (Aaron Levenstein)

There is so much more to the Bible (and the Koran, for that matter) and their respective religions than what one person can point out as wrong or evil. To consider only a skewed sampling as this is, in my opinion, highly irresponsible.

Reply

Dan August 21, 2013 at 9:29 am

The point isn’t a subtle one … you seem to get it, no need to over think it!

Reply

Peggy Y August 21, 2013 at 9:42 am

That’s funny–I was reading it thinking “Wow, I didn’t know the Koran lifted so much straight from the Bible!”

Reply

Pauly Brunner August 21, 2013 at 10:49 am

I remember reading a long time ago a book where an attorney was trying to make a point to an all white Jurors in a crime that happened a long time ago where segregation and Jim Crow laws were common place.

In the book a white man was accused of raping a little black girl. It was obvious that he had done it but the mindset of the day was that black people were sort of “disposable” and not worthy of justice.

So the attorney painted a story of a little girl walking down the street and being raped. Along the whole story the attourny was saying “Imagine that…”, or “Imagine this…” and during the story the white jurors were unresponsive until he got graphic with the details. Than at the end of the story he said, “No…Imagine that the girl was white!”

It really shook them up. Was it deception? Was it misinformation? OR…was it a clever way to get close minded people to expand a bit.

My feeling is “Not Impressed” just expanded his mind and didn’t like the look from the other side.

Reply

norevbrooksTracy Brooks August 21, 2013 at 10:58 am

I get your point but the blog title is still misleading and some people (pretty much the same ones who presently proof-text the Bible anyway) are going to miss that point entirely and now they have one more “proof” that Islam is violent. If you want to do it this way, proof text some actual Koran texts that talk about peace and hospitality – there are some – and show them in opposition to each other.

As it reads it is misleading and that’s a shame since the point is a very good one. As my kids used to say: FAIL.

Reply

Dan August 21, 2013 at 12:12 pm

Sorry to have failed you.

Of course the title is misleading — that’s the point! — and I hardly think that my posting peaceful or violent passages from the Bible or the Koran is going to persuade those who already have their minds made up.

Reply

Eric English August 21, 2013 at 8:35 pm

Dan…It would be disingenuous for me not to compliment you when it is well deserved given my condemnation of your article from a few months back (e.g. http://www.ericsenglish.com/is-homosexuality-a-sin/). With that said: This was well done – I appreciated it immensely (even shared it on my personal FB account.).

For what it’s worth. 🙂

Reply

Dan August 22, 2013 at 1:58 pm

Thanks 😉

Reply

Anna August 23, 2013 at 7:36 am

Not impressed at all, Dan. I expected more from you. Inflaming hatred, ignorance, and distrust of the “other” falls well outside Jesus’s mandate to “love thy neighbor as thyself”. And please never forget that Jesus administered to those of ALL faiths.

In this post you have been behaving like the stereotypical “Evangelical Christian” who is ignorant of Scripture and yet selectively quotes it to serve his warped point.

Reply

Dan August 23, 2013 at 7:46 am

Why do you think I’m “inflaming hatred” etc.? How am I’m selling Jesus’ message short? What “warped point” do you think I’m making?

Reply

Amanda Justice August 23, 2013 at 8:01 am

I’ve been trying to articulate what I think is going on with this type of response — because I’m finding it baffling to a degree — and what I’ve come up with is that essentially people are either a) utterly missing that these quotes are from the Bible rather than the Koran, and are worried that you’re actually promoting the idea that Islam is NOT a religion of peace; or b) they are offended that you are putting up verses that, to those who like to take verses out of context, might show Christianity in a less than flattering light thereby “hurting the whole church”, as it were.

Thing is, I see this post more as a variant of casting the beam out of our own eye before we see to the mote in our neighbor’s. The point is that every religion has verses which, when taken out of context, can be seen as less than flattering. And the point is that anyone can make a religion, ANY religion, look bad when they cherry-pick verses. Doesn’t matter in the least what religion it is — Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Jainism, Hinduism — this can be done to ANY of us.

Islam is just the current religious whipping boy of the west, thanks to the actions of its most radical element. But what if the rest of the world’s religions judged Christianity by the actions of our lunatic fringe? And they do. Shoot, that idiot from Gainesville, Florida, Terry Jones, is coming down right near where I live to do more Koran burning, blithering moron that he is. I can’t say he’s not a Christian because I’m not going to engage in the No True Scotsman fallacy, but I can say he’s hardly representative of all Christianity and I think most folks would agree with that.

It’s just that, when Muslims say the extremists aren’t representative of all Islam, many Christians dismss that assertion out of hand. They want the benefit of the doubt extended toward their own religion while refusing to offer the same to others.

I don’t see what payoff there is to saying this blog entry is inflammatory or misleading. It’s none of those things. It’s thought-provoking… and that’s the issue. So I’m back to the beam in our own eyes…

Thank you for this, Dan. It’s good for me to actually exercise my brain past my standard Reality TV viewing.

Reply

Dan August 23, 2013 at 3:13 pm

Thanks Amanda.

Reply

Anna August 23, 2013 at 8:23 am

Inflaming hatred: Your title is “Is Islam a religion of peace” and then you follow it up with a bunch of violent passages from unidentified “Arabic texts” — what part? The Qur’an? A sunna? And whose sunna? Is it considered valid? — that seem to “prove” that Islam is violent.

I have read the Qur’an (in a bikini, in Malaysia, and the locals LOVED that I cared enough about their religion to learn about it) and studied Islam at the Masters level at Oxford. I firmly believe that Islam is a peaceful, benevolent religion and am deeply offended by your attempts to shame an entire religion.

Why don’t you have a peruse through Deuteronomy and the back half of Numbers to learn about what a scumbag Moses turned out to be after he received the Ten Commandments. He razed entire cities, slaughtered people by the tens and twenty thousands at a time. And why don’t you also familiarize yourself through the arcane laws of the two above books and Leviticus, which are also horrifying.

And before you get smug about Christianity, please remember that the New Testament has been effectively used as an excuse for human oppression, including slavery and the Nazi concentration camps.

Selectively quoting Scripture can be used to prove pretty much any point you want. As Shakespeare noted in the Merchant of Venice:
“The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.
An evil soul producing holy witness
Is like a villain with a smiling cheek,
A goodly apple rotten at the heart.
O, what a goodly outside falsehood hath!”

I would ask you to lay off the Muslim commentary for now, as you know nothing about it. And you dare criticize Reza Aslan for writing about the historical Jesus??!?!?! Really, I am completely unimpressed by this post.

Reply

Amanda Justice August 23, 2013 at 8:25 am

If you read further down in the comments, the point to this post is that the quotes above are actually from the Bible. As in the Christian Bible. The author agrees with you — he’s not inflaming hatred, he’s asking folks to take a look at potentially questionable verses in his/our own religion.

Reply

Anna August 23, 2013 at 8:57 am

Hi Amanda, yes I saw that just as you were writing me the note. I am sorry for my vitriol, but have been so burned by those who wish to condemn Islam without knowing anything about it that I simply couldn’t read to the end of the passage. I now see what Dan was trying to do, and respect that position. But I think it could have been handled more effectively.

Reply

Amanda Justice August 23, 2013 at 9:02 am

Yeah, I kind of saw our comments crossed in time. And as a Christian who has several good Muslima friends, one even from back in high school, I understand your concern regarding what you thought was being said 🙂 I did a double-take on the verses myself, but as I read I recognized them and realized what was up.

For me, I think the fact that it *made* me think twice was instructive. I’ll say this much — the response and perspectives this post has generated have definitely been interesting 🙂

Reply

Anna August 23, 2013 at 8:27 am

OMG! I now see that you are quoting Arabic texts from the Bible. I thought you believed you were quoting from the Qur’an or the Sunna. This is why my face began to melt and my head spun around with green vomit spewing forth. Sorry about the attack… but you may wish to make the presentation of your argument more clear to avoid such confusion going forward.

Reply

Dan August 23, 2013 at 3:11 pm

Sorry to make your face melt!

At least part of the point here is that I don’t want to make a more overt point. It’s been absolutely fascinating to see the responses that people have to this post and how they read their own predispositions into it. Sure, there’s some misdirection going on … but the extent to which we jump to conclusions without really understanding the broader context of what we’re reading should give us a sobering pause.

Reply

Leave a Reply

Previous post:

Next post: