Nabeel Qureshi, made famous for being the Muslim who converted to Christianity, in a recent op-ed reaches insidious conclusions about Islam. Qureshi alleges the culprit behind the Belgian atrocities isn’t necessarily the corrupted beliefs of extremists, but the Qur’an itself.
Although Qureshi claims that he is not questioning the faith of over 2.1 billion Muslims, he clearly is when claiming that their holy scripture is inherently violent. By cherry picking verses from a 1,400-year-old religious scripture without reference to its historical and literary context, Qureshi falls into the same trap of many amateur scholars when attacking Islam under the guise of academic pursuit.
If this wasn’t the case, then surely Qureshi would mention that the Qur’an encourages all to read it and reflect upon it (Chapter 30: Verse 22). The Qur’an encourages mankind to test their faith with reason and rationality (Chapter 8: Verse 22). When one does this, one finds that the Qur’an fosters interfaith harmony (Chapter 109), freedom of choice (Chapter 2: Verse 256), abstinence from disorder (Chapter 2: Verse 11), and justice and respect for all human beings (Chapter 25: Verse 8; Chapter 57: Verse 25). In fact, the word “Kafir” (unbeliever) appears only six times in the Qur’an. Even then, an unbeliever doesn’t necessarily mean a non-Muslim but rather one who isn’t a believer in the eyes of God. Only God knows who’s a believer or not.
Qureshi claims that ISIS backs its claims by referencing the highest sources of authority in Islam, such as the Qur’an, and the sayings and teaching of Prophet Muhammad. In reality, ISIS has no basis in the Qur’an. Didier François, who spent almost a year in an ISIS prison, stated his ISIS captors had little care for religion. François states: “We didn’t even have the Quran; they didn’t want even to give us a Quran.” ISIS uses religion as mask to hide its political agenda, as François says, “There was never really discussion about texts or — it was not a religious discussion. It was a political discussion.”
ISIS’s propaganda magazine, Dabiq, urges Muslims to realize that they are living in the times of early Muslims. Qureshi compounds this false notion by alleging that Islam has had a trajectory of violence that started early on. Nothing could be further from the truth. For the first 13 years of early Islam, Muslims were tortured, beaten, and killed by the native Meccans. One example is of Bilal, an Ethiopian slave who converted to Islam and was dragged from a rope around his neck across the burning sand. During this period of 13 years of brutality, not a single Muslim fought back.
It was only after 13 years of persecution did Muslims receive the commandments to defend themselves. The early Muslims had migrated from Mecca to Medina to escape the persecution, and the Muslims were attacked for a period of nine years in Medina by the Meccans, after which Surah (i.e. Chapter) 9, Al-Taubah, was revealed.
Qureshi claims that Surah Al-Taubah compels Muslims to fight, and if they do not, they are hypocrites, that they must either kill or be killed in battle to be a true Muslim. Qureshi claims that Surah Al-Taubah is the violent chapter of the Qur’an that fuels extremists. This is a superficial understanding of Surah 9. Surah Al-Taubah literally means “the forgiveness” or “the repentance.” One would assume that the “violent” chapter of the Qur’an would not even suggest forgiveness.
The verse that is most famously quoted from this chapter states, “kill the idolaters wherever you find them and take them prisoners, and beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them at every place of ambush.” However the next sentence is often forgotten: “But if they repent and observe Prayer and pay the Zakat, then leave their way free. Surely, Allah is Most Forgiving, Merciful” (Chapter 9: Verse 5). The following verse continues by stating, “And if anyone of the idolaters ask protection of thee, grant him protection so that he may hear the word of Allah; then convey him to his place of security. That is because they are a people who have no knowledge” (Chapter 9: Verse 6). How is it possible to lie in wait and kill someone but to also forgive them and provide them with shelter and protection?
When this verse is taken into the historical context of the persecution the Muslims were facing, it instructed Muslims to protect themselves for the first time. At that time, there were only a handful of Muslims, and the Meccan attacks threatened Islam itself. This verse was revealed at that time for that specific moment in history, as a means of self defense. However Qureshi claims these verses slowly lead to a violent Islam. If this was the case, then why did Prophet Muhammad forgive nearly all the Meccans when the Muslims successfully marched toward Mecca?
However, writers like Qureshi will continue to claim Islam to be an inherently violent religion. This is what people want to hear. They want an easy answer. They want to hear that Islam is evil. Saying that the Qur’an is the real culprit in the Belgian terror attacks would be the same as saying that the Bible is the real culprit behind the Spanish Inquisition. Both of these statements are false. The Qur’an in reality is the solution to stopping ISIS. A lack of education and furthering the deep knowledge of the Qur’an is the real culprit.