by Fr. Zakaria Botros
After the recent terrorist attack on America’s World Trade Center and Pentagon, there has been a very clear debate in the international media regarding the nature of Islam. We have seen the media change from the one extreme of being explicitly anti-Islamic, to the other, for the sake of presenting a political and human balance, of being pro-Moslem.
Christianity very clearly teaches us to love all of our fellow humans—even our enemies—but it by no means tells us to become blind to reality and the truth, or to be misled by misinformation.
To make a fair assessment regarding any issue, one must be aware of all sides of the matter at hand, and for this reason this study will demonstrate a certain side of Islam, which has not been precisely portrayed by any part of the popular media. The facts here will be based on textual reality from a recognised interpretation of the Quran—The meaning of THE HOLY QURAN by Abdullah Yusuf Ali, 1992. Note that the word “interpretation” and not “translation” is used because Islam prohibits the literal translation of its “holy book”.
The Two Faces of Islam
In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, many Muslims (and non-Muslims driven by political ends) worldwide have attempted to present Islam as a religion of peace and love, wanting to distance it from those shameful and brutal occurrences … they say that there is no violence in the essence of Islam.
It is obvious however that the perpetrators of these acts base their dependence on violence on clear and indisputable verses of the Quran, represented clearly in a statement by Osama Bin Laden on the CNN network. Based on this premise, Bin Laden, the Taliban and the Philippines Muslim group Abu Saiaf, among others, have openly declared war against the United States of America in the name of Islam, using quotations from the Quran such as: “And those of the people of the Book (Jews & Christians) who aided them (the unbelievers), Allah (God) did take them down from their strongholds. And cast terror into their hearts, so that some ye slew, and some ye made prisoners. And He made you heirs of their lands, their houses, and their goods” (Surah [chapter] Al Ahzab 33:26-27).
Many are then confused: is Islam is a religion of violence, or one of peace?
When we actually study the book of Islam, the Quran, we discover that Islam has two faces. Each of these faces represents a certain stage of Mohammed’s character: one in Mecca, and the other in Medina.
The First Face of Islam: Mohammed’s Character in Mecca
In Mecca, where Mohammed started his new religion in the year 610 A.D, he was not yet strong. To be accepted by all people, he presented a peaceful and loving picture of Islam, avoiding any mention of violence, and here are some quotations from the Quran about that first stage:
1. Mohammed was told to be patient with his opponents in Surah [chapter] Al Muzzammil (73:10): “And have patience with what they say, and leave them with noble (dignity)”.
2. Mohammed was told not to impose Islam by force in Surah Al baqarah (2: 256): “Let there be no compulsion in religion”.
3. Mohammed was told to speak pleasantly to “people of the Book” (Christians and Jews) in Surah Al Ankabut (29:45): “And dispute ye not with the people of the Book, except with means better (than mere disputation) … but say: we believe in the Revelation which has come down to us and that which came down to you; Our God and your God is One; and it is to Him we bow (in Islam)”.
The second face of Islam: Mohammed’s character in Medina
After Mohammed moved to Medina in the year 622 AD and his followers grew in strength and number, he became a relentless warrior, intent on spreading his religion by the sword, and this is the message that now lives on. Here is some evidence from the Quran of this stage:
1. Mohammed claimed that God told him to kill his opponents in Surah Al baqarah (2:191), “And slay them wherever ye catch them …”
Imam Abdullah Yusuf Ali comments on this verse saying, “This passage is illustrated by the events that happened at Hudaybiyyah [a battle] in the six year of the Hijrah [exodus of Mohammed from Mecca to Medina]. The Muslims were by this time a strong and influential community”. (The Meaning of the Holy Quran, p. 77)
2. Mohammed claimed that God told him to kill whoever rejects Islam in Surah Al Baqara (2:193), “And fight them on until there is no tumult or oppression, and there prevail justice and faith in Alla …”
Imam Abdullah Yusuf Ali comments on this verse saying, “Islam will not acquiesce in wrong doing, and its men will hold their lives cheap in defence of honour, and the religion which they hold sacred. They believe in courage, obedience … and a constant striving by all means in their power … They will not flinch from war if their honour demands it and a righteous Imam commands it” (The Meaning of the Holy Quran, p. 77)
3. Mohammed claimed that God told him to fight the “people of the Book” (Christians and Jews) in Surah Al Tawba (2:29), “Fight those who believe not in Alla and the Last Day … nor acknowledge the religion of truth (Islam) from among the People of the Book until they pay the Jizyah (tax) with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued …”
Imam Abdullah Yusuf Ali comments on this verse saying, “A straight fight in the cause of right; go forth bravely to strive and struggle, and prove yourselves worthy of Alla” (The Meaning of the Holy Quran, p. 446)
4. Surah Al Tawbah 9:12: “… Fight ye the chiefs of Unfaith [infidel] …”
Imam Abdullah Yusuf Ali comments on this verse saying, “The catalogue of their sins being set out, it is clear that they were aggressors in the worst possible ways; and war became inevitable”. (The Meaning of the Holy Quran, p. 440)
5. Surah Al Tawbah 9:14: “Fight them and Alla will punish them by your hands, cover them with shame, help you to victory over them, heal the breasts of Believers”
Imam Abdullah Yusuf Ali comments on this verse saying, “When Alla’s Law is stablished, the fire of indignation is quelled, and the true Peace of Islam is attained”. (The Meaning of the Holy Quran, p. 441)
6. Surah Al Tawbah 9:123: “O ye who believe fight the unbelievers who gird you about. And let them find firmness in you and know that Alla is with those who fear Him”
Imam Abdullah Yusuf Ali comments on this verse saying, “When conflict becomes inevitable, the first thing is to clear our surroundings of all evil … To evil we must put up a stout and stiff resistance”. (The Meaning of the Holy Quran, p. 475)
7. Sura Al Anfal 8:65: “O Prophet, rouse the Believers to the fight. If there are twenty amongst you, patient and persevering, they will vanquish two hundred: if a hundred they will vanquish a thousand of the Unbelievers: for these are a people without understanding”.
Imam Abdullah Yusuf Ali comments on this verse saying, “In a fight … the men of faith do not daunt. Whether they personally win or die, their cause prevails. They are sure to win: because (1) they have divine aid, and (2) even humanly speaking, those who take up arms against truth are fools, and their seeming power is but a broken reed”. (The Meaning of the Holy Quran, p. 431). He adds, “Jihad (Holy war) is fought under strict conditions laid down by Islam, and glory for the cause of Alla”. (The Meaning of the Holy Quran, p. 431)
8. Surah Al Baqara 2: 216: “Fighting is prescribed upon you …”
Imam Abdullah Yusuf Ali comments on this verse saying, “To fight in the cause of truth is one of the highest forms of charity”. (The Meaning of the Holy Quran, p. 86)
Notice: Fighting is a form of charity, in Islam!
9. Surah Al Anfal 8:60: “Against them make ready your strength to the utmost of your power, including steeds of war, to strike terror into (the hearts) of the enemies of Alla and your enemies …”
Imam Abdullah Yusuf Ali comments on this verse saying, “In every fight arm yourself with the best weapons and the best arms against your enemy, so as to instil wholesome respect into him for you and the cause you stand for”. (The Meaning of the Holy Quran, p. 429)
The same ideology and strategy
The problem with the assessment of Islam in the West, which is predominantly Christian, is that it is looked upon as another faith—like Christianity—and thus it is the right of each individual to worship as he or she pleases. This [ideal of freedom of belief] is right, but the problem is that Islam is not like Christianity.
Christianity is a system of faith and morality which can exist within any national or state system, but Islam however has its own political and judicial system embodied in the Shareia (law) which governs every Muslim. For this reason, Islamic fundamentalists who live even in a moderate Islamic state with a secular political system will attempt to overthrow this system because it does not sufficiently embody the principal of Islam being ‘Religion and State’.
This study by no means attempts to present a picture of all Muslims being bad, because this is not at all true—there are many moderate Muslims who are good and constructive members of society, but even these are looked upon by fundamentalists as kaffara (apostate) because they do not follow the Quran faithfully, and thus are also worthy of the same end as any non-Muslim, that is, death.
Thus, the problem is one of Islam, and not of Muslims. We know that in any religion, or any faith, it is the role of each believer to carry out the teachings of that faith, and thus, these teaching become the rules by which he or she lives—any ‘faithful’ Muslim must follow the Quran.
Islam everywhere in the world especially in the West follows the same ideology and strategy of Islam. They start with the first stage of weakness to pretend that they are peaceful and loving. They take advantage of Democracy and Human Rights in the West to spread their faith.
After they become strong they do not hesitate to kill people and destroy the civilization of the West, which—according to their belief—is against the doctrines of Islam, as we have seen in bombing the WorldTradeCenter in New York and the Pentagon in Washington.