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Listen to Me: Islam Does Not Command War Against Jews

Let me clarify these misconceptions about Islam so that there is no excuse for warmongers and those who wish to shed oceans of blood.
Turkish political and religious commentator Sinem Tezyapar.

Turkish political and religious commentator Sinem Tezyapar.

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In an op. ed. piece for the Jewish Press, I cited from the Qur’an to show that war is an exceptional matter for Muslims, an unwanted obligation to be fulfilled in limited circumstances, and for defensive purposes only.

In response, I’ve been denounced and accused of being a Trojan horse, the wolf trying to devour Little Red Riding Hood, of not being a Muslim or being the worst kind of liar, misguided, deceiver, of practicing taqiyya, of disseminating propaganda with the intention of deceiving Israelis & Westerners, of using jihadist tactics in disguise, etc.

The most moderate reaction has been that I am young, naive… and don’t know my religion and the real world.

Despite the criticism, I stand behind my words, and I say further that Hamas or any other Islamic group that uses violence against civilians is doing wrong according to the Qur’an and that Jews, Christians, and Muslims must and can live co-exist together in harmony and peace. The reactions to my statements have been along the following lines: “What about the jihad verses in Qur’an? What about taqiyyah? What about abrogation of the verses which counsel peace?”

Let me clarify these misconceptions about Islam so that there is no excuse for warmongers and those who wish to shed oceans of blood.

War and violence in the Holy Books - Admittedly, there are commandments about war in the Qur’an, and those verses pertain to self-defense. The Tanakh and the Gospel also contain provisions about war and violence, and there are verses full of killing, especially in the Torah. The passages about war in those are, just as with the Qur’an, in regard to self-defense. The Torah and the Gospel command peace and love, and contain commandments about love and affection too. A person of love will interpret that in one way, and a cruel person in another. One can interpret it truly if one looks at it sincerely. For instance the Gospel speaks of blood up to the manes of the horses; it speaks of nobody being saved apart from 144,000 Jews. These are actually metaphorical and must be elucidated within the general tone of the Gospel, which is one of love and affection prevailing. But if someone insists on interpreting it in terms of violence, if he adds additional things to it out of his own mind, then a climate of violence will of course ensue. But a real Jew or a real Christian would never murder innocent people simply because there exists verses regarding killings in their Holy Books. In the same way, people who will look at Islam and the Qur’an through the eyes of love will not come up with violent interpretations.

Dictators against Prophets’ divine message - Let us not forget that the Prophet Mohammed was a prophet who sought to spread the pure faith of the Prophet Abraham, which is faith in God, the One and Only and ascribing no equals to Him, in a pagan society which had been dominated by idol worship. Like many prophets whose names appear in the Tanakh, the Prophet Mohammad has been commissioned for transmitting the message of God. It was impossible for the prophets to make any concessions on this, and they carried the true message, even at the cost of their own lives, to the most extreme leaders of their times and the most perverse communities. Conveying this message sometimes meant to oppose the tyrant Nimrod, as in the case of the Prophet Abraham, and sometimes to oppose dictators such as Pharaoh, as with the Prophet Moses. At all such times, believers found opposition from people who sought to take their lives. Despite circumstances where no one enjoyed freedom of expression, all the prophets communicated God’s message without regard to the cost. And this is no different in Islam as well.

War (qital) and jihad are not the same - The basic claim of the accusations and reactions trying to portray Islam as violent -God forbid- is that there are verses about jihad in the Qur’an and that these speak of killing. First and foremost, jihad and war are entirely different concepts: Jihad is not synonymous with holy war, as some misguided people think. Jihad means rather exertion, which is to strive, to make effort toward some object identified to the will of God as revealed in the Qur’an. Some worthy objects of jihad include strife against one’s egoistic passions, or to make an intellectual challenge against irreligion, radicalism or fanaticism. One convinces people with scientific and intellectual evidence. To expose the signs of God’s existence, to convey His revelation, to explain the malice of atheistic ideologies etc… These are the legitimate objects of the “jihad” for a Muslim, not beating someone about the head, killing someone or forcing a person to embrace Islam as an act of coercion.

There is also war or combat (qital) in the Qur’an. Whereas jihad is an affirmative duty to confront falsehood with the truth of God, the verses that command war in the Qur’an apply to situations in which a Muslim is called to respond to aggression. In such situations God describes what Muslims may be allowed to do for their own self defense. For instance, if Muslims come under attack; if, their lives, possessions and honor are threatened, if they are being killed and if there is no alternative but to fight, then it becomes obligatory and lawful for Muslims to defend themselves and to come to the aid of the innocent.

Pagan rule and self defense - In order to understand the Qur’anic prescriptions to war, it is necessary to understand the historical context in which the commandments came. The revelation of the Qur’an to Prophet Mohammad was delivered over a period of 23 years. The first thirteen years of this period passed in Mecca, where Muslims lived as a minority and faced much oppression under a pagan rule. At that time, the Arabian peninsula was dominated by Bedouin Arab tribes who wandered about looting, robbing and murdering as a manner of life. They were hooligans that murdered, got drunk and enjoyed killing people. They made war against the Prophet Mohammad and against anyone who followed his teachings. When they were warned not to murder, they kept on murdering. Despite the fact that many Muslims were harassed, dispossessed of their homes, abused, tortured, and even murdered, Muslims strove to co-exist without resorting to any violence and always called pagans to peace. As a matter of fact, the Muslims dug trenches in the Khandaq war as a defensive strategy to avoid conflict as much as possible. They also emigrated (hejira), and ran away from them, but even then the aggressors pursued them.

In sum, nowhere in the Qur’an are Muslims commanded to wage wars of aggression, and certainly not as a means for to propagate Islam. If a community does not attack, and behaves normally, then naturally, there is no call to war. The obligation to war is and remains a limited, unwanted obligation, applicable only to repel attack.

War commandments - It is not an easy thing to decide to wage war, and Prophet Mohammad was undecided, worrying about whether he would be committing a sin. As the aggressors in question are human beings, he felt a responsibility of conscience and was unable to make a decision. Under these circumstances, God commanded the Prophet Mohammad to kill the polytheists wherever he finds them. However that is a commandment delivered within a context of an ongoing war, not as a method for the propagation of Islam. God commanded: “… Whenever they are made to revert to hostility, they fall headlong into it. Therefore, if they do not keep aloof from you, nor offer you peace nor restrain their hands, then seize them and kill them, wherever you find them. Against these We have given you clear authority.” (Qur’an, 4:91)

In this same vein, the Qur’an commands blockade and taking prisoners as a peaceful means of neutralizing a potentially aggressive community (Quran, 9:5). But if a blockade or taking prisoners are not possible, then killing is permissible only as a last resort.

Verses special for a particular time - In addition, some of the verses that are in regard to the strategic wars are specific to that particular period. There is clearly no such situation at the moment. For instance God informs “if they do not accept conditions of agreement”, that refers to a special circumstance. Regarding a battle, God says, “Behold! they came on you from above you and from below you,” (Qur’an, 33:10) and describes a a particular situation. Additionally, there are verses that refer to Prophet Mohammad in particular, and verses specific to a particular event. However a Muslim reads with wisdom and takes lessons from whatever is described in the Qur’an, just like a Jew would read the battles in the Torah with meditation.

Commandments for specific situations and general situations are different. The general commands are orders that are valid until the Day of Reckoning. For instance, God informs us to say, “Your religion is to you, our religion is to us.” (Qur’an, 109:6) This is a general verse. In another verse He says “There is no compulsion in religion,” (Qur’an, 2:256); this is also a general verse. And there certainly is no meaning such as to kill disbelievers or people from other religions, God forbid. It is required that a clear and general command should exist in the Qur’an, but there is no such verse or no general command that is still binding to this day.

Taqiyyah - Taqiyyah is a word which is used to describe justifiable deception on behalf of Islam, and once again, self willed people have pressed this concept to their own purposes. First, as a general matter, taqiyyah only applies in a specific situation where a person is coerced to renounce Islam under the threat of violence. Under that exceptional circumstance, it is acceptable to renounce Islam with the mouth, while not actually doing so in the heart or the conscious mind. However, the notion that taqiyyah represents some broad license to commit “pious fraud” against non-Muslims is wholly incorrect. Just as the object of any truly Islamic jihad must be circumscribed to the revealed will of God in the Qur’an, likewise there can be no truly pious act of deception that conflicts with God’s command.

Abrogation - Some people suggest that the verses sent down during the Meccan period and those sent down during the period of Medina are different, and that verses about peace have been annulled. Those claims are unfounded. All the verses of the Qur’an are valid, from beginning to end. It is disbelief to speak of the annulment of any of God’s commandments. These are ideas some people have invented for themselves, and therefore have no validity whatsoever. No commandment in the Qur’an can cease to apply. It is not acceptable to annul a verse on the basis of fabricated hadiths and of historical information. It must be kept in mind that no hadith (saying of the Prophet Mohammad) can conflict with the Qur’an. If it does, it is not an authentic hadith.

Evidence only from the Qur’an - There is no need to look to another source when the verses of the Qur’an are so explicit. All kinds of stories appear in various historical sources, and every society has its own stories. There is the history of the Umayyad, the Abbasid, the Iranians etc., and they are all very different. We do not know what is objectively true in ancient history, therefore they are not evidence against Islam. About the hadith resources; the criteria of its authenticity is its coherence with the Qur’an. Most strife and conflict has been the result of misinterpretation and misinformation of history. That is also why the Islamic world is fragmented at the moment. The false fabrications of people today or in the past are of no concern to us; the person who applies things wrongly is in manifest error. If people have falsely made things up, their actions have nothing to do with religion itself.

In addition, the Qur’an is a whole and every verse expounds one another. So any verse from the Qur’an should be interpreted within the spirit of the Qur’an. If somebody picks one verse from the Qur’an and tries to implement it out of its context or without the knowledge of the general spirit of the Qur’an, he might practice it falsely. Most of the time, even with the explicit statement, there are conditions or exceptions explained. God warns people “Do you then believe in a part of the Book and disbelieve in another part ?” (Qur’an, 2:85)

Protecting unbelievers - In the Qur’an, God says if any unbeliever asks you for protection, give them protection and escort them to a place where they are safe (Qur’an, 9:6). Thus, Muslims have the responsibility to protect even the unbelievers when they seek protection. This means a Muslim may have to give his life to protect the unbelievers and this is a must in the Qur’an. How can one claim that a Book which makes it a rule for Muslims to protect the unbelievers would make it a rule for them kill everyone if they do not believe? And there is no point in claiming otherwise because they have the right to live as unbelievers as God says there is no compulsion in religion.

Social life with the People of the Book - According to the Qur’an, Christians and Jews, are people Muslims can marry, live with, and eat with, as People of the Book. Under Islam, one person has a Christian wife and another a Jewish wife; one person worships at the synagogue, another at the church and yet another at the mosque. Meanwhile, they all live in peace. This provision alone is more than sufficient evidence that Muslims are bound to live together with Christians and Jews in a climate of peace and love. If a Muslim trusts and loves a woman enough to eat what she cooks, and enough to raise his children, why would he want to kill her? Which part of a true book would advise Muslims to kill their wives? Therefore, the entire idea that Muslims are authorized to kill Christians and Jews collapses into its own absurdity.

God commands peace - God does not love war. God does not love bloodshed. God does not want people to die by violence. God says in the Qur’an that killing someone for no reason is like killing all of mankind (Qur’an, 5:32) and He further says the punishment for killing someone is eternal hell. The commandments of these verses are quite clear. Almighty God does not want strife and conflict in this world. God says that the essential thing is peace; He tells people to enter the abode of peace (Qur’an, 10:5). He also tells us to hold to forgiveness (Qur’an, 7:9) and to enjoin what is just, and forbid what is evil (Qur’an, 9:71); He does not tell us to kill and slaughter. That must not be forgotten.

In Conclusion - I am a devout believer who strongly believes that the message of Islam, Judaism and Christianity is the same: Peace. The vision of all the Abrahamic religions talk about the coming of a better world, without pain, hunger, hatred and war. I know that in my own religious community, there are fanatics who believe that my religion should fight against those who do not embrace it and force them till they accept. But I disagree with them. What is more I believe that I have far better proof that the radicals distort the true meaning of my religion. Therefore I say, let us unite against terrorism, radicalism and bigotry, and help each other by building bridges accross the rift that the radicals work so hard to dig.

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About the Author: Sinem Tezyapar is an executive producer on Turkish Television. She is a political and religious commentator and a peace activist. She can be reached on Facebook, and Twitter.


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197 Responses to “Listen to Me: Islam Does Not Command War Against Jews”

  1. Sorry but I have read the Quran and it not only requires war – but demands GENOCIDE. Yes WAR and HOLY WAR are to very different words and Jihad is much worse than mere Qital.

    There is no more racist – vile – and hateful book ever written on the planet. It makes Mein Kampf look like a kindergarden reader in comparison.

  2. Sorry but I have read the Quran and it not only requires war – but demands GENOCIDE. Yes WAR and HOLY WAR are to very different words and Jihad is much worse than mere Qital.

    There is no more racist – vile – and hateful book ever written on the planet. It makes Mein Kampf look like a kindergarden reader in comparison.

  3. Please read it till the end before making any comments! Thank you!

  4. Ev Max says:

    I just don't think a majority of Muslims, even after reading this, will be convinced and they are the ones who most need convincing. My impression is that among the majority of the world's Muslims, certainly among most Egyptians, Pakistanis, Indonesians, Turks, Muslim Bosnians, Muslim Nigerians and Syrians, that Israel is nothing more than a murderous state that needs to be eliminated and that the they need to be at constant war with Jews. That is what most Muslims from these nations seem to believe and changing their minds seems to be impossible.

  5. Ev Max says:

    I just don't think a majority of Muslims, even after reading this, will be convinced and they are the ones who most need convincing. My impression is that among the majority of the world's Muslims, certainly among most Egyptians, Pakistanis, Indonesians, Turks, Muslim Bosnians, Muslim Nigerians and Syrians, that Israel is nothing more than a murderous state that needs to be eliminated and that the they need to be at constant war with Jews. That is what most Muslims from these nations seem to believe and changing their minds seems to be impossible.

  6. Daniel Greenfield says:

    While your call for building bridges is laudable, building it on a basis of denial of what most Muslims actually practice and believe does not accomplish anything.

    Mohammed's wars against Jews were not defensive, and they culminated in the expulsion of Jews from the region.

    The defining approach is still, "O yes who believe! take not the Jews and the Christians for friends. They are friends one to another. And whoso among you takes them for friends is indeed one of them. Verily, Allah guides not the unjust people." Quran 5:51.

    And the Hadiths make all that even clearer.

  7. Throughout the 13 years they lived in Mecca our Prophet (saas) and the Companions were subjected to terrible duress, attacks and slanders; they were forced to leave their homes and threatened with death. But they never resorted to violence despite all this aggression and oppression. When the oppression in Mecca increased, they migrated to Medina, and during the Medina period they only engaged in wars that were unavoidable and for defensive purposes. For example, the Battle of Badr began when the Meccan pagans gathered their armies and attacked the Muslims, intending to martyr them. At Hendek the Muslim erected obstacles around the city in order to protect themselves, and the fighting was purely defensive. In short, the wars in the past were all unavoidable and defensive, the result of direct and ferocious attacks by pagans. None was an offensive war.

  8. Unjustified killing is a sin in Islam… if someone kills another person–unless it is in retaliation for someone else or for causing corruption in the earth–it is as if he had murdered all mankind. And if anyone gives life to another person, it is as if he had given life to all mankind. Our Messengers came to them with Clear Signs but even after that many of them committed outrages in the earth. (Surat al-Ma’ida, 32).
    (Believers are) those who do not call on any other god together with Allah and do not kill anyone Allah has made inviolate, except with the right to do so, and do not fornicate; anyone who does that will receive an evil punishment. (Surat al-Furqan, 68).

  9. Daniel Greenfield says:

    Regarding your quote of Qur’an, 4:91, you cut off the first part of the verse. So why don't we look at the full verse in the Sahih International translation.

    "You will find others who wish to obtain security from you and [to] obtain security from their people. Every time they are returned to [the influence of] disbelief, they fall back into it. So if they do not withdraw from you or offer you peace or restrain their hands, then seize them and kill them wherever you overtake them. And those – We have made for you against them a clear authorization."

  10. Daniel Greenfield says:

    As for killing as a method of propagation of Islam, see Quran 4.89.

    "They wish you would disbelieve as they disbelieved so you would be alike. So do not take from among them allies until they emigrate for the cause of Allah. But if they turn away, then seize them and kill them wherever you find them and take not from among them any ally or helper."

  11. Thanks for this insightful article Sinem. Some ignorant people who are unaware of the Koran are mislead about Islam requiring a sort of bloody war against any group of people. ISLAM IS A RELIGION OF PEACE AND LOVE.

  12. Prophet Mohammad (saas) was very affectionate and protective towards Christians and Jews living in the area. As Islam commands, there is no oppression in religion and everyone is free to practice their faith as long as they are respectful to others..

    “A Christian Najran delegation came to Medina at the time of the afternoon prayer and entered the Masjid-i Nabawai. Arriving when our Prophet (saas) and his people were still peforming the afternoon prayer, the Christians turned to the East and prepared to worship.SOME COMPANIONS WISHED TO PREVENT THEM WORSHIPING, BUT THE PROPHET (SAAS) COMMANDED THAT THEY BE LEFT ALONE AND PERMITTED TO WORSHIP.” (Tabarî, Ibn Kathir, Razî, Qurtubî; Surah Al‘Imran, 3/1-61; Part of these commentaries dealt with the beginning of the Surah, and some with the 61st verse, known as the mubahala verse).(Hamidullah, The Prophet of Islâm, trans.: Salih Tug, Ankara 2003, I, 920; Saricam, The Prophet Muhammad and His Universal Message, 278.)

  13. OUR PROPHET (SAAS) SPREAD OUT HIS CLOAK FOR THE NAJRAN CHRISTIANS TO SIT ON DURING THEIR VISIT.

    In addition, according to some accounts, our Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) attended their weddings, visited their sick, and was generous to them. THE PROPHET MUHAMMAD (SAAS) EVEN SPREAD OUT HIS CLOAK SO THAT THE CHRISTIANS OF NAJRAN WHO CAME TO VISIT HIM COULD SIT ON IT.

  14. OUR PROPHET (SAAS) ROSE TO HIS FEET AS THE FUNERAL PROCESSION OF A JEW CAME PAST.

    Narrated Jabir bin 'Abdullah:A funeral procession passed in front of us and the Prophet stood up and we too stood up. We said, “O Allah's Apostle! This is the funeral procession of a Jew.”He said, "Whenever you see a funeral procession, you should stand up." (Sahih Bukhari, Volume 2, Book 23, Number 398).

  15. That's really a very good article. True Islam is the Islam revealed by God in the Qur’an and manifested by our Prophet (saas). All forms of barbarism, unnecessary acts of violence and unjust aggression are forbidden by Islam. God does not approve of wars:
    …Each time they kindle the fire of war, God extinguishes it. They rush about the earth corrupting it. God does not love corrupters. (Qur’an, 5:64)

  16. Read AlQur'an from a non-bias translators, like the one translated by Sir Zafrullah Khan, Maulwi Sher Ali or any translations Officially published by Islam International Publications.

  17. Dan Hischar says:

    Lets" tell the WHOLE truth about jihad, which has TWO meanings.The second of which you failed to mention is the PHYSICAL struggle which calls for the destruction of the enemies of Islam!

  18. Daniel Greenfield says:

    Regarding (Qur’an, 9:6).

    Again much is left out.Let's start with 9'5.

    "So when the sacred months have passed away, then slay the idolaters wherever you find them, and take them captives and besiege them and lie in wait for them in every ambush, then if they repent and keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate, leave their way free to them; surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful."

    "And if one of the idolaters seek protection from you, grant him protection till he hears the word of Allah, then make him attain his place of safety; this is because they are a people who do not know."… till he hears the word of Allah means until he becomes a Muslim.

    Finally 9.29 gets to the point.

    "Fight those who do not believe in Allah, nor in the latter day, nor do they prohibit what Allah and His Messenger have prohibited, nor follow the religion of truth, out of those who have been given the Book, until they pay the tax in acknowledgment of superiority and they are in a state of subjection."

  19. Dan Hischar says:

    That's the problem Daniel,they omit the parts that reveal Islam for what it really is.

  20. Yes it does. It also commands that you cover your hair, and not pluck your eyebrows.
    It's very easy to dismiss/ignore the unsavoury teachings of islam when you are in a position to do so.

  21. War in Islam is only for self-defense not the other way around. The Koran commands that the killing of one person is like killing all people. It is such a major haram.

  22. The term jihad means intellectual struggle; meaning preaching the word of Islam like I am doing at the moment for example.

  23. Thank you for such a provocative and informative article. For those that previously posted, just a few facts. The Holy Qur'an forbids war, with the exception of self defense, and even then it is very limited. The Jews will remain in the Holy Land til the end times, and so it is written. This is Allah's will.This messenger of peace brings the Truth, she has fulfilled Allahs, God's, Hashim's Will. The Radicals are happy to see that their twisting of the Holy Qur'an divides us. We are together, in our Search for peace.

  24. Liad Bar-el says:

    You, Sinem Tezyapar and your associates, need to first convience your brothers and sisters as well as all of your leaders about your message of peace in place of their hate before you come to us here in Israel asking us to give away our land to you on a promise of what you think the Quran states. To date, none of us here in Israel has seen anything from the Muslim world to the likes of what you have stated.

  25. Nothing is impossible Ev Max. At the time it was thought that it was impossible for Mehmed the Conquerer to take Constantinople but he was successful. This bigoted mindset can only be changed through education; and this education can come from such articles and TV shows and publishing blogs that can reach millions of internet users and discussing and talking with each other, explaining that we don't need to fear one another and we can really live in peace. It is very possible indeed.

  26. Moe Winters says:

    It's all very well and good to interpret things in a more peaceful way, and without such fair and decent minded people, like you Sinem, the situation in the Middle East and the world over, would be far worse.. but where is the strength from the believers of the "Peaceful" Islam to combat the hoards and hoards of the un-peaceful "Jihadists" (as is people that believe 'holy war' in Islam means to eradicate all others)? When it comes to crunch time, I fail to see real peace lovers and moderates in the Islamic world unifying and mobilizing themselves to be able to repel the people who are armed to the teeth with deadly modernized weaponry screaming "Allahu Akhbar" while burning the flags of Western countries (not limited to the flags of the USA and Israel, even though they are most common)(also, the situation of Iran comes to mind where the Persian people are literally unarmed and hostage to the tyrannical Ayatollah regime). Seems to me the moderates, like you Sinem, need to put your words into much stronger actions or how can you expect people to believe in your peaceful vision. Where is the necessary change from the inside? The West can't be expected to face the very real and menacing actions of the large number of Islamists that are organized militarily and politically in the world without their being terribly messy consequences. Where are these masses of Muslim moderates who espouse your peaceful vision and will firmly stand and really fight against these armies of people that quite openly don't agree with your nice interpretation?? Where are they? We need them sorely…

  27. Actually the examples you just gave are not stated in the Koran. In Islam men and women are equal and equally treated so. Islam is a very modern religion which also encourages art and science.

  28. But the most important thing is we Muslims we love the People of the Book, because we believe in the same God, we pray to the same God and we are all children of Adam and Eve. I have many beloved Christian and Jewish friends and I believe that we can and will live in peace with one another.

  29. Thank you, Brother Liad, for the thoughtful comment. You will see Peace in our Time. The Turkish-Muslim Union is being formed. Hamas, Hezbollah, and their sponsor will be held accountable for it's actions. In the Ottoman times, the Jews were protected. It will happen again. We are fighting the same battle, against ignorance,bigotry, and hatred. In the end, Israel will stand, we will unite, and peace will prevail. insha'Allah, God Willing.

  30. You are absolutely right that we need to educate Muslims as well that People of the Book are our brothers and sisters whom we should be protective of and affective towards. There is a majority of people who feel the same here in Turkey as we do.

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