Originally published July 2, 2004.
From Freethinkers and Humanists of Muslim Origins
The tragic incidents of September 11 have shocked the world. It is unthinkable that anyone could be so full of hate as to commit such heinous acts and kill so many innocent people. We people of Muslim origin are as much shaken as the rest of the world and yet we find ourselves looked upon with suspicion and distrust by our neighbours and fellow citizens. We want to cry out and tell the world that we are not terrorists, and that those who perpetrate such despicable acts are murderers and not part of us. But, in reality, because of our Muslim origins we just cannot erase the “stigma of Islamic Terrorism” from our identity!
What most Muslims will say:
“Islam would never support the killing of innocent people. Allah of the Holy Qur’an never advocated killings. This is all the work of a few misguided individuals at the fringes of society. The real Islam is sanctified from violence. We denounce all violence. Islam means peace. Islam means tolerance.”
What knowledgeable Muslims should say:
That is what most Muslims think, but is it true? Does Islam really preach peace, tolerance and non-violence? The Muslims who perpetrate these crimes think differently. They believe that what they do is Jihad (holy war). They say that killing unbelievers is mandatory for every Muslim. They do not kill because they wish to break the laws of Islam but because they think this is what true Muslims should do. Those who blow-up their own bodies to kill more innocent people do so because they think they will be rewarded in Paradise. They hope to be blessed by Allah, eat celestial food, drink pure wine and enjoy the company of divine consorts. Are they completely misguided? Where did they get this distorted idea? How did they come to believe that killing innocent people pleases God? Or is it that we are misguided? Does really Islam preach violence? Does it call upon its believers to kill non-believers? We denounce those who commit acts of violence and call them extremists. But are they really extremists or are they following what the holy book, the Qur’an tells them to do? What does the Qur’an teach? Have we read the Qur’an? Do we know what kind of teachings are there? Let us go through some of them and take a closer look at what Allah says.
What the Qur’an Teaches Us:
We have used the most widely available English text of the Qur’an and readers are welcome to verify our quotes from the holy book. Please have an open mind and read through these verses again and again. The following quotes are taken from the most trusted Yusufali’s translation of the Qur’an.
The Qur’an tells us: “not to make friendship with Jews and Christians” (5:51), “kill the disbelievers wherever we find them” (2:191), “murder them and treat them harshly” (9:123), “fight and slay the Pagans, seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem”
(9:5). The Qur’an demands that we fight the unbelievers, and promises “If there are twenty amongst you, you will vanquish two hundred: if a hundred, you will vanquish a thousand of them” (8:65).
Allah and his messenger want us to fight the Christians and the Jews “until they pay the Jizya [a penalty tax for the non-Muslims living under Islamic rules] with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued” (9:29).
Allah and his messenger announce that it is acceptable to go back on our promises (treaties) and obligations with Pagans and make war on them whenever we find ourselves strong enough to do so (9:3). Our God tells us to “fight the unbelievers” and “He will punish them by our hands, cover them with shame and help us (to victory) over them” (9:14).
The Qur’an takes away the freedom of belief from all humanity and relegates those who disbelieve in Islam to hell (5:10), calls them najis (filthy, untouchable, impure) (9:28), and orders its followers to fight the unbelievers until no other religion except Islam is left (2:193).
It says that the “non-believers will go to hell and will drink boiling water” (14:17). It asks the Muslims to “slay or crucify or cut the hands and feet of the unbelievers, that they be expelled from the land with disgrace and that they shall have a great punishment in world hereafter” (5:34).
And tells us that “for them (the unbelievers) garments of fire shall be cut and there shall be poured over their heads boiling water whereby whatever is in their bowels and skin shall be dissolved and they will be punished with hooked iron rods” (22:19-22) and that they not only will have “disgrace in this life, but on the Day of Judgment He shall make them taste the Penalty of burning (Fire)” (22:9).
The Qur’an says that “those who invoke a god other than Allah not only should meet punishment in this world but the Penalty on the Day of Judgment will be doubled to them, and they will dwell therein in ignominy” (25:68).
For those who “believe not in Allah and His Messenger, He has prepared, for those who reject Allah, a Blazing Fire!” (48:13). Although we are asked to be compassionate amongst each other, we have to be “harsh with unbelievers”, our Christian, Jewish and Atheist neighbours and colleagues (48:29). As for him who does not believe in Islam, the Prophet announces with a “stern command”: “Seize ye him, and bind ye him, And burn ye him in the Blazing Fire. Further, make him march in a chain, whereof the length is seventy cubits! This was he that would not believe in Allah Most High. And would not encourage the feeding of the indigent! So no friend hath he here this Day. Nor hath he any food except the corruption from the washing of wounds, Which none do eat but those in sin.” (69:30-37)
The Qur’an prohibits a Muslim from befriending a non-believer even if that non-believer is the father or the brother of that Muslim (9:23), (3:28). Our holy book asks us to be disobedient towards the disbelievers and their governments and strive against the unbelievers with great endeavour” (25:52) and be stern with them because they belong to Hell (66:9).
The holy Prophet prescribes fighting for us and tells us that “it is good for us even if we dislike it” (2:216). Then he advises us to “strike off the heads of the disbelievers”; and after making a “wide slaughter among them, carefully tie up the remaining captives” (47:4). Our God has promised to “instill terror into the hearts of the unbelievers” and has ordered us to “smite above their necks and smite all their finger-tips off them” (8:12).
He also assures us that when we kill in his name “it is not us who slay them but Allah, in order that He might test the Believers by a gracious trial from Himself” (8:17). He orders us “to strike terror into the hearts of the enemies” (8:60). He has made the Jihad mandatory and warns us that “Unless we go forth, (for Jihad) He will punish us with a grievous penalty, and put others in our place” (9:39). Allah speaks to our Holy Prophet and says “O Prophet! strive hard against the unbelievers and the hypocrites, and be stern against them. Their abode is Hell – an evil refuge indeed” (9:73).
He promises us that in the fight for His cause whether we slay or are slain we return to the garden of Paradise (9:111). In Paradise he will “wed us with Houris (celestial virgins) pure beautiful ones” (56:54), and unite us with large-eyed beautiful ones while we recline on our thrones set in lines (56:20).
There we are promised to eat and drink pleasantly for what we did (56:19). He also promises “boys like hidden pearls” (56:24) and “youth never altering in age like scattered pearls” (for those who have paedophiliac inclinations) (76:19). As you see, Allah has promised all sorts or rewards, gluttony and unlimited sex to Muslim men who kill unbelievers in his name. We will be admitted to Paradise where we shall find “goodly things, beautiful ones, pure ones confined to the pavilions that man has not touched them before nor jinni” (56:67-71).
In the West we enjoy freedom of belief but we are not supposed to give such freedom to anyone else because it is written “If anyone desires a religion other than Islam (submission to Allah), never will it be accepted of him; and in the Hereafter He will be in the ranks of those who have lost (All spiritual good) (3:85). And He orders us to fight them on until there is no more tumult and faith in Allah is practiced everywhere (8:39).
As for women, the book of Allah says that they are inferior to men and their husbands have the right to scourge them if they are found disobedient (4:34). It advises to “take a green branch and beat your wife”, because a green branch is more flexible and hurts more. (38:44). It teaches that women will go to hell if they are disobedient to their husbands (66:10). It maintains that men have an advantage over the women (2:228).
It not only denies the women’s equal right to their inheritance (4:11-12), it also regards them as imbeciles and decrees that their witness is not admissible in the courts of law (2:282). This means that a woman who is raped cannot accuse her rapist unless she can produce a male witness.
Our Holy Prophet allows us to marry up to four wives and he licensed us to sleep with our slave maids and as many ‘captive’ women as we may have (4:3) even if those women are already married. He himself did just that. This is why anytime a Muslim army subdues another nation, they call them kafir and allow themselves to rape their women. Pakistani soldiers allegedly raped up to 250,000 Bengali women in 1971 after they massacred 3,000,000 unarmed civilians when their religious leader decreed that Bangladeshis are un-Islamic. This is why the prison guards in Islamic regime of Iran rape the women that in their opinion are apostates prior to killing them, as they believe a virgin will not go to Hell.
Dear fellow Muslims,
Is this the Islam you believe in? Is this your Most Merciful, Most Compassionate Allah whom you worship daily? Could Allah incite you to kill other peoples? Please understand that there is no terrorist gene – but there could be a terrorist mindset. That mindset finds its most fertile ground in the tenets of Islam. Denying it, and presenting Islam to the lay public as a religion of peace similar to Buddhism, is to suppress the truth. The history of Islam between the 7th and 14th centuries is riddled with violence, fratricide and wars of aggression, starting right from the death of the Prophet and during the so-called ‘pure’ or orthodox caliphate. And Muhammad himself hoisted the standard of killing, looting, massacres and bloodshed. How can we deny the entire history? The behaviour of our Holy Prophet as recorded in authentic Islamic sources is quite questionable from a modern viewpoint. The Prophet was a charismatic man but he had few virtues. Imitating him in all aspects of life (following the Sunnah) is both impossible and dangerous in the 21st century. Why are we so helplessly in denial over this simple issue?
When the Prophet was in Mecca and he was still not powerful enough he called for tolerance. He said “To you be your religion, and to me my religion” (109:6).
This famous quote is often misused to prove that the general principle of Qur’an is tolerance. He advised his follower to speak good to their enemies (2: 83), exhorted them to be patient (20:103) and said that “there is no compulsion in religion” (2:256). But that all changed drastically when he came to power. Then killing and slaying unbelievers with harshness and without mercy was justified in innumerable verses. The verses quoted to prove Islam’s tolerance ignore many other verses that bear no trace of tolerance or forgiveness. Where is tolerance in this well-known verse “Alarzu Lillah, Walhukmu Lillah.” (The Earth belongs to Allah and thus only Allah’s rule should prevail all over the earth.).
Is it normal that a book revealed by God should have so many serious contradictions? The Prophet himself set the example of unleashing violence by invading the Jewish settlements, breaking treaties he had signed with them and banishing some of them after confiscating their belongings, massacring others and taking their wives and children as slaves. He inspected the youngsters and massacred all those who had pubic hair along with the men. Those who were younger he kept as slaves. He distributed the women captured in his raids among his soldiers keeping the prettiest for himself (33:50). He made sexual advances on Safiyah, a Jewish girl on the same day he captured her town Kheibar and killed her father, her husband and many of her relatives. Reyhana was another Jewish girl of Bani Quriza whom he used as a sex slave after killing all her male relatives. In the last ten years of his life he accumulated two scores of wives, concubines and sex slaves including the 9 year old Ayesha.
These are not stories but records from authentic Islamic history and the Hadiths. It can be argued that this kind of behaviour was not unknown or unusual for the conquerors and leaders of the mediaeval world but these are not the activities befitting of a peaceful saint and certainly not someone who claimed to be the Mercy of God for all creation. There were known assassinations of adversaries during the Prophet’s time, which he had knowledge of and had supported. Among them there was a 120 year old man, Abu ‘Afak whose only crime was to compose a lyric satirical of the Prophet. (by Ibn Sa’d Kitab al Tabaqat al Kabir, Volume 2, page 32) Then when a poetess, a mother of 5 small children ‘Asma’ Bint Marwan wrote a poetry cursing the Arabs for letting Muhammad assassinate an old man, our Holy Prophet ordered her to be assassinated too in the middle of the night while her youngest child was suckling from her breast. (Sirat Rasul Allah (A. Guillaume’s translation “The Life of Muhammad”) page 675, 676).
The Prophet did develop a ‘Robin Hood’ image that justified raiding merchant caravans attacking cities and towns, killing people and looting their belongings in the name of social justice. Usama Bin Laden is also trying to create the same image. But Robin Hood didn’t claim to be a prophet or a pacifist nor did he care for apologist arguments. He did not massacre innocent people indiscriminately nor did he profit by reducing free people to slaves and then trading them.
With the known and documented violent legacy of Islam, how can we suddenly rediscover it as a religion of peace in the free world in the 21st century? Isn’t this the perpetuation of a lie by a few ambitious leaders in order to gain political control of the huge and ignorant Muslim population? They are creating a polished version of Islam by completely ignoring history. They are propagating the same old dogma for simple believing people in a crisp new modern package. Their aim: to gain political power in today’s high-tension world. They want to use the confrontational power of the original Islam to catalyze new conflicts and control new circles of power.
Dear conscientious Muslims,
Please question yourselves. Isn’t this compulsive following of a man who lived 1400 years ago leading us to doom in a changing world? Do the followers of any other religion follow one man in such an all-encompassing way? Who are we deceiving, them or ourselves? Dear brothers and sisters, see how our Umma (people) has sunk into poverty and how it lags behind the rest of the world. Isn’t it because we are following a religion that is outdated and impractical? In this crucial moment of history, when a great catastrophe has befallen us and a much bigger one is lying ahead, should not we wake up from our 1400 years of slumber and see where things have gone wrong?
Hatred has filled the air and the world is bracing itself for its doomsday. Should we not ask ourselves whether we have contributed, wittingly or unwittingly, to this tragedy and whether we can stop the great disaster from happening?
Unfortunately, the answer to the first question is yes.
Yes we have contributed to the rise of fundamentalism by merely claiming Islam is a religion of peace, by simply being a Muslim and by saying our shahada (testimony that Allah is the only God and Muhammad is his messenger). By our shahada we have recognized Muhammad as a true messenger of God and his book as the words of God. But as you saw above those words are anything but from God. They call for killing, they are prescriptions for hate and they foment intolerance. And when the ignorant among us read those hate-laden verses, they act on them and the result is the infamous September 11, human bombs in Israel, massacres in East Timor and Bangladesh, kidnappings and killings in the Philippines, slavery in the Sudan, honour killings in Pakistan and Jordan, torture in Iran, stoning and maiming in Afghanistan and Iran, violence in Algeria, terrorism in Palestine and misery and death in every Islamic country.
We are responsible because we endorse Islam and hail it as a religion of God. And we are as guilty as those who put into practice what the Qur’an preaches – and ironically we are the main victims too. If we are not terrorists, if we love peace, if we cried with the rest of the word for what happened in New York, then why are we supporting the Qur’an that preaches killing, that advocates holy war, that calls for the murder of non-Muslims? It is not the extremists who have misunderstood Islam. They do literally what the Qur’an asks them to do. It is we who misunderstand Islam. We are the ones who are confused. We are the ones who wrongly assume that Islam is the religion of peace. Islam is not a religion of peace. In its so-called “pure” form it can very well be interpreted as a doctrine of hate. Terrorists are doing just that and we the intellectual apologists of Islam are justifying it. We can stop this madness. Yes, we can avert the disaster that is hovering over our heads. Yes, we can denounce the doctrines that promote hate. Yes, we can embrace the rest of humanity with love. Yes, we can become part of a united world, members of one human family, flowers of one garden. We can dump the claim of infallibility of our Book, and the questionable legacy of our Prophet.
Dear friends, there is no time to waste. Let us put an end to this lie. Let us not fool ourselves. Islam is not a religion of peace, of tolerance, of equality or of unity of humankind. Let us read the Qur’an. Let us face the truth even if it is painful. As long as we keep this lie alive, as long as we hide our head in the sands of Arabia we are feeding terrorism. As long as you and I keep calling Qur’an the unchangeable book of God, we cannot blame those who follow the teachings therein. As long as we pay our Khums and Zakat our money goes to promote Islamic expansionism and that means terrorism, Jihad and war. Islam divides the world in two. Darul Harb (land of war) and Darul Islam (land of Islam).
Darul Harb is the land of the infidels, Muslims are required to infiltrate those lands, proselytise and procreate until their numbers increase and then start the war and fight and kill the people and impose the religion of Islam on them and convert that land into Darul Islam. In all fairness we denounce this betrayal. This is abuse of the trust. How can we make war in the countries that have sheltered us? How can we kill those who have befriended us? Yet willingly or unwillingly we have become pawns in this Islamic Imperialism. Let us see what great Islamic scholars have had to say in this respect.
Dr. M. Khan the translator of Sahih Bukhari and the Qur’an into English wrote: “Allah revealed in Sura Bara’at (Repentance, IX) the order to discard (all)
obligations (covenants, etc), and commanded the Muslims to fight against all the Pagans as well as against the people of the Scriptures (Jews and Christians) if they do not embrace Islam, till they pay the Jizia (a tax levied on the Jews and Christians) with willing submission and feel themselves subdued (as it is revealed in 9:29). So the Muslims were not permitted to abandon “the fighting” against them (Pagans, Jews and Christians) and to reconcile with them and to suspend hostilities against them for an unlimited period while they are strong and have the ability to fight against them. So at first “the fighting” was forbidden, then it was permitted, and after that it was made obligatory” [Introduction to English translation of Sahih Bukhari, p.xxiv.]
Dr. Sobhy as-Saleh, a contemporary Islamic academician quoted Imam Suyuti the author of Itqan Fi ‘Ulum al- Qur’an who wrote: “The command to fight the infidels was delayed until the Muslims become strong, but when they were weak they were commanded to endure and be patient”. [ Sobhy as_Saleh, Mabaheth Fi ‘Ulum al- Qur’an, Dar al-‘Ilm Lel-Malayeen, Beirut, 1983, p. 269.]
Dr. Sobhy, in a footnote, commends the opinion of a scholar named Zarkashi who said: “Allah the most high and wise revealed to Mohammad in his weak condition what suited the situation, because of his mercy to him and his followers. For if He gave them the command to fight while they were weak it would have been embarrassing and most difficult, but when the most high made Islam victorious He commanded him with what suited the situation, that is asking the people of the Book to become Muslims or to pay the levied tax, and the infidels to become Muslims or face death. These two options, to fight or to have peace return according to the strength or the weakness of the Muslims.” [ibid p. 270]
Other Islamic scholars (Ibn Hazm al-Andalusi, Ga’far ar-Razi, Rabi’ Ibn ‘Ons, ‘Abil-‘Aliyah, Abd ar-Rahman Ibn Zayd Ibn ‘Aslam, etc.) agree that the verse “Slay the idolaters wherever you find them”
(9:5) cancelled those few earlier verses that called for tolerance in the Qur’an and were revealed when Islam was weak. Can you still say that Islam is the religion of peace?
We propose a solution.
We know too well that it is not easy to denounce our faith because it means denouncing a part of ourselves. We are a group of freethinkers and humanists with Islamic roots. Discovering the truth and leaving the religion of our fathers and forefathers was a painful experience. But after learning what Islam stands for we had no choice but to leave it. After becoming familiar with the Qur’an the choice became clear: It is either Islam or humanity. If Islam thrives, then humanity will die. We decided to side with humanity. Culturally we are still Muslims but we no longer believe in Islam as the true religion of God. We are humanists. We love humanity. We work for the unity of humankind. We work for equality between men and women. We strive for the secularisation of Islamic countries, for democracy and freedom of thought, belief and expression. We decided to live no longer in self-deception but to embrace humanity, and to enter into the new millennium hand in hand with people of other cultures and beliefs in amity and in peace.
We denounce the violence that is eulogized in the Qur’an as holy war (Jihad). We condemn killing in the name of God. We believe in the sanctity of human life, not in the inviolability of beliefs and religions. We invite you to join us and the rest of humanity and become part of the family of humankind – in love, camaraderie and peace.