By: Sheikh Abdullah Bin Bayyah
There are still wrongful accusations launched against the civilizational image of Islam, notably the one stating that “Islam is a religion of violence in essence, and a religion of rupture with the other,” depending on mistaken excerpts from the Quranic texts.
In the following, we shall clarify the image and prove that it is possible to counter such an approach, bearing into mind that our Islam is a religion of peace and tolerance.
We should compare this approach with the following texts taken from the Old Testament in order to see how Islam is indeed the true mercy sent to the worlds.
In the Torah, for example, nations are divided into two categories. With regard to the first category, Jehovah asks his people to offer others conditions of peace [When thou comest nigh unto a city to fight against it, then proclaim peace unto it] (Deuteronomy: 20:10), and if such conditions are accepted and they surrender, they should be slaves to Israel [And it shall be, if it make thee answer of peace, and open unto thee, then it shall be, that all the people that is found therein shall be tributaries unto thee, and they shall serve thee.] (Deuteronomy: 20 11)
However, if they did not surrender peacefully then you triumphed over them, then kill all their men by the sword [And when the Lord thy God hath delivered it into thine hands, thou shalt smite every male thereof with the edge of the sword: But the women, and the little ones, and the cattle, and all that is in the city, even all the spoil thereof, shalt thou take unto thyself; and thou shalt eat the spoil of thine enemies, which the Lord thy God hath given thee.] (Deuteronomy: 20: 13-14)
Nonetheless, such categorized and classified use does not apply to non-Hebrew peoples residing within the Promised Land, as they shall suffer a ‘curse’, a term often translated as ‘deprivation,’ ‘holy destruction’ or ‘the curse of destruction’. In the context of the theology of Deuteronomy, the infliction of a curse on a certain group is but an equivalent to complete genocide for their personal, social and spiritual life.
The German scientist Thomas Schieffelin said: “We believe in the original Torah as a holy book from God, which contains guidance and light, but the human practices distorted the content and misused application.” Islam has established the relationship with the followers of other religions on love and righteousness, unless Muslims are not transgressed upon. Allah, the Almighty, says,
Allah does not forbid you from those who do not fight you because of religion and do not expel you from your homes – from being righteous toward them and acting justly toward them. Indeed, Allah loves those who act justly. (Al-Mumtahanah 60:8)
Interpreting this verse, Ibn Al-Arabi Al-Maliki says, “To give them a share of the money. Our religion Islam also calls to spread peace. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “To spread peace (by saluting each other saying “As-Salamu Alaikum”; peace be with you) with respect to those you know and those you know not.” This is a part of an authentic Hadith.
There are fair testimonials by Western individuals on Muslims’ practices. For example, Thomas Arnold said: “If the Caliphs had chosen one of these plans (i.e., temptation to adopt Islam or extermination of Christianity), they would have wiped out Christianity as easily as what happened to Islam during the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella in Spain; by the same method which Louis XIV followed to make Protestantism a creed whose followers were to be sentenced to death; or with the same ease of keeping the Jews away from Britain for a period of three hundred fifty years.”
Richard Staper, an English merchant who lived in Turkey during the sixteenth century, specifically in 1578, held a comparison between the treatment by Muslim Turks to Orthodox and the treatment by Spain to them, saying: “Though the Turks are in general of the fiercest nations, they still allowed all of them, the Roman Catholics and Greek Orthodox, to preserve their religion and follow their consciences as they chose: they allowed them their churches to perform their sacred rituals in Constantinople and many other places. This is in contrast to what I can testify to from living in Spain for twelve years; not only were we forced to attend their Papist celebrations, but our lives and properties were in danger also.”
The German researcher Thomas Schieffelin provides a picture of Islam as follows: Violence is not a virtue in itself; rather, Islam served to rectify the Arab tribal violence by subjecting it to the laws of God.
As explained by Goldziher (1850-1921), the term ‘Jahiliyah,’ which usually referred to the ignorance of the tribal society before Islam, has primarily a broader meaning, i.e., ‘Barbarism: Any uncivilized, reckless, and brutal behavior by those who are not affected by the Divine Revelation and mercy.’
Complaining of the treatment by the Polish Catholics to Polish Orthodox and describing them as cursed, demons of abomination, and ruthless-hearted because of their brutality in treating Christians, Patriarch Makarios said: “The Polish wish to exterminate people of the Orthodox faith. May Allah make the Turkish state eternal, because they do not interfere with the Jews or Christians, provided they pay their taxes.
The Polish Catholics were not satisfied by taking the taxes and tithes from the brothers of Christ, but placed them under the authority of the Jewish oppressors, the enemies of Christ, who did not even allow them to build churches nor did they leave for them priests who know the secrets of their religion.”
Finally, we should point out three things to be meditated on by the fair among the Westerners. First: When Islam appeared, the relations among the nations were based on the law of force which involved permanent hostility against the others if they did not surrender or fuse with the dominant powers in terms of religion, culture, customs and traditions. Under this situation, the teachings of the Islamic religion came to call for peace, Almighty Allah says,
And if they incline to peace, then incline to it [also] and rely upon Allah. (Al-Anfal 8:61)
Islam call for and the establishment of treaties with enemies,
Excepted are those with whom you made a treaty among the polytheists and then they have not been deficient toward you in anything or supported anyone against you; so complete for them their treaty until their term [has ended]. Indeed, Allah loves the righteous [who fear Him]. ( At-Tawbah 9:4)
Second: Allah’s Tradition with respect to His Messengers and Prophets is to commission some of them with certain duties different from those assigned to others.
For example, some of them were assigned to call to worship Allah and undertake preaching and guidance as represented in the missions of Jesus (peace be upon him) and our Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) for 13 years from the beginning of his call to his companions to show patience and forgiveness, as some of them were tortured in Mecca and others immigrated to Abyssinia then to Medina.
Also, some Messengers were commissioned, in addition to the call for the way of Allah, to establish the ‘State of Right’, and they received a detailed Shari`ah (religious laws) which they were commanded to apply to people’s life, as represented in the mission of Moses (peace be upon him) as well as that of our Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) after his immigration to Medina and establishment of the state of Islam, requiring Jihad to repel the aggression and face the aggressors, along with the consequent mechanisms whose objective is to govern humanity according to justice.
Third: The essence of the message cannot be judged according to the behaviors and actions of the followers of such message. Put differently, the behaviors of the Muslim rulers against their enemies throughout history were characterized by being right and sometimes wrong, and we do not absolve our history, but the right behaviors were indeed more than the wrong ones, especially when compared with the behavior of our neighboring Christians in their wars against Islam, whether in terms of the genocide practiced in Andalusia, the Crusades which lasted for two centuries, and the colonial wars that continued for three centuries, aborting any revival of the Islamic world. The two fathers Joseph Cook and Louis Gardier said that the Crusades broke down the Muslims’ civilizational launch.
As for this war, which has started with the beginning of the last century and whose end cannot be known except by Allah, the Almighty, and according to the testimony of Christian historians, the blood of innumerable numbers of innocent Muslims as well as Jews was shed. They demonstrated barbarity unparalleled in history except under the Tartars military attack on Baghdad.
However, they did not apologize to the Muslims as they apologized to the Jews. Is it possible then to attribute to Jesus (peace be upon him) the ruthless practices committed by the Christians against humanity? Does the Pope have the courage to apologize to the Muslims instead of repeating the Byzantine controversy?______________________________