A Response to “Jihad at the Heart of Islam”

This is a response from Eng. Abdolali Bazargan to an interview between Minister Robertson and CNN, dated Tuesday November 26, 2002.

”Please allow me to wish you a merry Christmas and to extend my best wishes for your success in propagating the objectives of that model human being, Jesus Christ, Son of Mary.

Last month I heard your speech, critical of Islam, and your follow up television interview with CNN anchorman. For me as an Iranian Muslim it is with wonder and sorrow that I ask, why in an age when the believers in God and his holy prophets should be united and kind to each other and protect one another against injustice and corruption, by mental and physical cooperation, an important Christian personality says things about Islam and the Qur’an that are miles from the truth. Of course, such attacks against Islam have been taking place for a long time in the American public media and unfortunately very few speakers have the fairness to distinguish between a true religion and the practices of those who claim to follow that religion. And if it were not for lack of statements in your interview indicating that you yourself are at a juncture in understanding and are perplexed and bewildered that if Islam is a savage religion why then there are millions of peace-loving Muslims, I would have accepted your words as with the rest of the other taunting comments toward Islam and the Qur’an and would have ignore them with sorrow and indifference. But your claim that you are not against Islam and that you have many Muslim friends encouraged me to show you, with reliance on the Qur’an, that your concept of the Qur’an is not correct. I would like to invite you, due to your distinguished religious position and the responsibility that you bear toward God in following the style of Jesus Christ, at the minimum, to read the Qur’an once without prejudgment so that you will be able to see that not only the Qur’an is not in contradiction with the real teachings of Jesus Christ with respect to peace and friendship, but that it is the certifier of and is complimentary to such teachings. Unfortunately, lack of opportunity to directly communicate with you had so far prevented me from doing so, but today which is the birthday of Jesus Christ, because of his prosperity and blessed being, I decided to write some elucidations for you and I hope that God will provide the opportunity for me to send this to you.

1) The axiom of your speech which the CNN reporter had made into a title was, “Jihad at the Heart of Islam.” Forgoing the fact that no such phrase has ever been used in the Qur’an, the meaning of Jihad, contrary to what contemporarily is translated is not violence and terrorism. The meaning of Jihad in the Qur’an is the use of the ultimate exertion and struggle while accepting difficulties and hardship in order to attain the objective, in which case defending one’s people and custom against the aggressors is one of the meanings of the word Jihad. The other meaning of Jihad according to the Qur’an is cultural struggle by the way of the Qur’an as guidance for human beings (25:52). The other and the most important meaning of Jihad is control and harness of the self which the prophet has called Jihad-e Akbar or the Great Jihad.”

With respect to armed military Jihad, if you consider the circumstances at the time and place when and where the prophet lived and his responsibilities toward the people and how he had to defend his followers from the non-believers and primitive tribes worshiping idols, who considered monotheism to be against their and their ancestral beliefs, you will judge differently. The appearance of the prophet of Islam took place in an era when ignorance, pillage and plunder, poverty, adultery, infanticide and many other forms of corruption were common.

If being armed and preparing for Jihad and war is absolutely unacceptable then how is it that the followers of Jesus Christ, the holy prophet of God, more than other nations in the world, strive and search, day and night, to produce all kinds of weapons for mass slaughter of human beings and sell such weapons to other countries and produce the largest and best equipped armies of the world!?

2) No verse in the Qur’an places the other-than-believer in a status of compulsion to choose between changing one’s religion and death. All the wars during the time of the prophet have been with polytheists and non-believers or the Jews who had transgressed or had used treachery and had cooperated with enemies of Islam to violate contracts regarding peace and reconciliation for coexistence. The best proof of this fact is Chapter Tobah which takes the harshest stance toward the enemies of Islam. In verse four and seven of this chapter, by making an exception for those non-believers who had not violated their contracts, it shows that the recommended harshness was never because of their polytheism beliefs and has merely addressed contract violations which in those days and tribal environment and culture meant declaring war and hostility. In the Qur’an war overall is prohibited and permission is granted exclusively to those who have been attacked and victimized by the enemy (22:39). Of course the Qur’an has permitted combat but only in the way of God (not for aggression, expansionism or imposition of ideas) and then only with those who fight them and then only to fend off the attackers and without infringing upon the rights of the enemy (2:190).

In the Qur’an it has been stressed that there is no compulsion in religion (2:256). Then according to which verse have you claimed, several times, that the Muslims want to kill us (Christians and Jews)? Can you show a verse, as a sample that only because of opposing beliefs (even polytheism and atheism) for the Muslims to be allowed to bother others?

3) You have mentioned that the Muslims consider the Jews to be descendents of monkeys and pigs. This statement has no universality whatsoever. Just as among any people and followers of any religion there are very good and very bad persons, the Qur’an has rebuked those people of the Book (the Jews) who have strayed from the right path and who have committed debauchery, fornication, libertinism, bribery, aggression, transgression, and injustice, and has compared their profiteering to pigs, their imitations to monkeys and their allegiance to power masters as to servants of the riches. The Qur’an has used these analogies whose personifications and fulfillments remind us of the qualities and attributes of human beings. (5:60)

One cannot understand the judgment of the Qur’an with regards to the Jews solely from a verse that is exclusively about those who have strayed from the right path. For your information and a more comprehensive look I will mention the following points:

3.1) The Qur’an in 16 verses has confirmed and acknowledged the Torah and the Bible [1] and has nominated them guidance, light, sermon and mercy [2]. How is it possible to place the followers of these Books in a state of compulsion to choose between death and changing their religion and customs? The Qur’an has introduced itself as their guardian [3].

3.2) Whereas the name of the prophet of Islam has been mentioned in the Qur’an only four times, the name of Moses has been mentioned 136 times, Abraham 69 times, and Mary and Jesus together have been repeated 70 times. In addition, the names of noble prophets such as Issac, Jacob, Yusuf, Solomon, David, Yunis, etc., have been mentioned repeatedly. According to the Qur’anic orders, the Muslims have no right to allow for the slightest discrimination among the prophets [4], and to selfishly follow the path of separation and disunion. How then is it possible for the Qur’an to commission the Muslims to kill those who the Qur’an says should be supported?

3.3) The Qur’an has stipulated that the people of the Bible have to judge according to what God has sent to them (their own Book) or else they would be outside the bounds of their religion [5], and the Qur’an has ordered the prophet of Islam to tell the people of the Book (Jews and Christians), “You are nothing (not dependent on anything worthy) unless you uphold the Torah and the Bible.” [6]

3.4) God has commissioned the prophet of Islam to tell the people of the Book:

“Say: We believe in God, and in what has been revealed to us and what was revealed to Abraham, Isma’il; Issac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and in (the Books) given to Moses, Jesus, and the Prophets, from their Lord: We make no distinction between one and another among them, and to God [not our tribal and racial inclinations] do we bow our will (in Islam).” [7] (3:84)

3.5) Not only because of the above declaration which has been repeated in the Qur’an several times in different languages, but also because the Prophet of Islam had orders to invite the people of the Book to unite with the Muslims around three common axioms: Monotheism, separation from polytheism, rejecting allegiance to the masters of the riches.[8]

3.6) The Qur’an stipulates that:

“…To each among you have We prescribed a Law and an Open Way. If God had so willed, He would have made you a single People, but (His plan is) to test you in what He hath given you: so strive as in a race in all virtues. The goal of you all is to God; it is He that will show you the truth of the matters in which ye dispute;” (5:48)

3.7) Not only the Qur’an has not nullified practicing Torah and Bible, but it has emphasized that:

“If only they had stood fast by the Law, the Gospel and all the revelation that was sent to them from their Lord, they would have enjoyed happiness from every side. There is from among them a party on the right course: but many of them follow a course that is evil.” (5:66)

3.8) The Qur’an has taught the Muslims that:

“Of the people of Moses there is a section who guide and do justice in the light of truth.” (7:159)

The Qur’an has glorified the good people of the Book in an unparalleled way. It says,

“Not all of them are alike: of the People of the Book are a portion that stand (for the right); they rehearse the Signs of God all night long, and they prostrate themselves in adoration.” (3:113)

“They believe in God and the Last Day; they enjoin what is right, and forbid what is wrong; and they hasten (in emulation) in (all) good works: they are in ranks of the righteous.” (3:114)

“Of the good that they do, nothing will be rejected of them; for God knoweth well those that do right.” (3:115)

In another fair comparison the Qur’an says:

“Among the People of the Book are some who, if entrusted with a hoard of gold, will (readily) pay it back; others, who, if entrusted with a single silver coin, will not repay it unless thou constantly stoodest demanding, …” (3:75)

As you can see in the above verses, ten attributes : stand (for the right); rehearse the Signs of God all night long, prostrate, believe in God and the Last Day, enjoin what is right, forbid what is wrong, hasten (in emulation) in (all) good works, are in ranks of the righteous, the good that they do…. which are of the highest praise have been considered for them.

In your opinion, is it possible for a Book that has so much praise for the good people of the Book to have commissioned the Muslims to kill them?

3.9) The Qur’an has added,

“Then in their wake, We followed them up with (others of) Our apostles: We sent after them Jesus the son of Mary, and bestowed on him the Gospel; and We ordained in the hearts of those who followed him Compassion and Mercy.” (57:27)

How is it possible for a Book that calls a people to be compassionate and merciful to recommend violence against them?

In another place the Qur’an emphasizes,

“Strongest among men in enmity to the Believers wilt thou find the Jews and Pagans; and nearest among them in love to the Believers wilt thou find those who say, “We are Christians”: because amongst these are men devoted to learning and men who have renounced the world, and they are not arrogant. (5:82)

In your opinion, isn’t there a contradiction between negative judgment about the Qur’an and these recommendations?

3.10) It is good for you to know that in addition to Chapter “Mary” which consists of the story of the life of Zakaria, Yahya, Mary and Jesus Christ, one of the most detailed and lengthy chapters of the Qur’an is about “the Family of Imran” that is the pure and God-loving family of the parents of Mary. Also Chapter “Ya-Sin” which is called the heart of the Qur’an, speaks of the missions of three apostles (representatives of Jesus) for the guidance of the people of Anatolia. Believers have high praise for “Ya-Sin”. With respect to the prophetic mission of Moses for guidance of the children of Israel, there are four chapters allocated to this exclusive matter [9]. In the rest of the Qur’an there are numerous references to the above.

With all these factual evidences, do you still think that the Qur’an has ordered the slaughter of the Jews and the Christians?

Of course one cannot deny that in addition to the above eulogistic verses about positive and beneficent people of the Book, in many verses there are rebukes and reproaches against tyrants and those who have strayed from the right path, just as there are many verses which rebuke hypocrites and unprincipled Muslims. I don’t think you would claim that those whose birth certificates alone identify them as Jews or Christians are honest and pious beings.

In summary, the Qur’an considers all prophets to be teachers of one school and their followers to be students of the same school who, according to their age and academic standing have gathered in different classes, but in reality belong to the same educational establishment.

The Qur’an many times recommends to Muslims to declare to the Jews and Christians that your God and our God is the same and that we are all his servants and we shall return to him.

The Qur’an in two different verses has promised the followers of Moses and Jesus, just as with the followers of Mohammad (peace be upon them all) that:

“Those who believe (in the Qur’an), and those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Christians and the Sabians, any who believe in God and the Last Day, and work righteousness, shall have their reward with their Lord: on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.” (2:62 and 5:69)

Is this your answer and is this the secret of your humiliation toward the Muslims and your being at a loss to understand as to how, in spite of the Qur’an being accused of violence, there are millions of peace-loving Muslims?

Best wishes for the fulfillment of global peace and ultimate brotherhood for true followers of all prophets of God.

————————————————————————————————

[1] (Baqara) 2:41, 89, 91, 97, 89, 101
(Al-i-‘Imran) 3:3, 39, 50, 81
(Nissa) 4:47
(Mai’da) 5:46, 48
(An’am) 6:92
(Hud) 11:37
(Ahqaf) 46:12, 30
(Saff) 61:6

[2] Mai’da) 5:46
(Hud) 11:17

[3] (Mai’da) 48

[4] (Baqara) 2:136, 285
(Al-i-‘Imran) 3:84

[5] (Mai’da) 5:47

[6] (Mai’da) 5:69

[7] (Al-i-‘Imran) 3:84
(Baqara) 2: 136

[8] (Al-i-‘Imran) 64

[9] (Ta-Ha) 20
(Shu’ara) 26
(Naml) 27

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