Top Ten Ways Islamic Law forbids Terrorism

Erik Rush and others who hastened to scapegoat Muslims for the Boston Marathon bombing are ignorant of the religion. I can’t understand why people who have never so much as read a book about a subject appoint themselves experts on it. (Try this book, e.g.). We don’t yet know who carried out the attack, but we know they either aren’t Muslims at all or they aren’t real Muslims, in the nature of the case.

For the TLDR crowd, here are the top ten ways that Islamic law and tradition forbid terrorism (some of these points are reworked from previous postings):

1. Terrorism is above all murder. Murder is strictly forbidden in the Qur’an. Qur’an 6:151 says, “and do not kill a soul that God has made sacrosanct, save lawfully.” (i.e. murder is forbidden but the death penalty imposed by the state for a crime is permitted). 5:53 says, “… whoso kills a soul, unless it be for murder or for wreaking corruption in the land, it shall be as if he had killed all mankind; and he who saves a life, it shall be as if he had given life to all mankind.”

2. If the motive for terrorism is religious, it is impermissible in Islamic law. It is forbidden to attempt to impose Islam on other people. The Qur’an says, “There is no compulsion in religion. The right way has become distinct from error.” (-The Cow, 2:256). Note that this verse was revealed in Medina in 622 AD or after and was never abrogated by any other verse of the Quran. Islam’s holy book forbids coercing people into adopting any religion. They have to willingly choose it.

3. Islamic law forbids aggressive warfare. The Quran says, “But if the enemies incline towards peace, do you also incline towards peace. And trust in God! For He is the one who hears and knows all things.” (8:61) The Quran chapter “The Cow,” 2:190, says, “Fight in the way of God against those who fight against you, but begin not hostilities. Lo! God loveth not aggressors.”

4. In the Islamic law of war, not just any civil engineer can declare or launch a war. It is the prerogative of the duly constituted leader of the Muslim community that engages in the war. Nowadays that would be the president or prime minister of the state, as advised by the mufti or national jurisconsult.

5. The killing of innocent non-combatants is forbidden. According to Sunni tradition, ‘Abu Bakr al-Siddiq, the first Caliph, gave these instructions to his armies: “I instruct you in ten matters: Do not kill women, children, the old, or the infirm; do not cut down fruit-bearing trees; do not destroy any town . . . ” (Malik’s Muwatta’, “Kitab al-Jihad.”)

6. Terrorism or hirabah is forbidden in Islamic law, which groups it with brigandage, highway robbery and extortion rackets– any illicit use of fear and coercion in public spaces for money or power. The principle of forbidding the spreading of terror in the land is based on the Qur’an (Surah al-Ma’ida 5:33–34). Prominent [pdf] Muslim legal scholar Sherman Jackson writes, “The Spanish Maliki jurist Ibn `Abd al-Barr (d. 464/ 1070)) defines the agent of hiraba as ‘Anyone who disturbs free passage in the streets and renders them unsafe to travel, striving to spread corruption in the land by taking money, killing people or violating what God has made it unlawful to violate is guilty of hirabah . . .”

7. Sneak attacks are forbidden. Muslim commanders must give the enemy fair warning that war is imminent. The Prophet Muhammad at one point gave 4 months notice.

8. The Prophet Muhammad counseled doing good to those who harm you and is said to have commanded, “Do not be people without minds of your own, saying that if others treat you well you will treat them well, and that if they do wrong you will do wrong to them. Instead, accustom yourselves to do good if people do good and not to do wrong (even) if they do evil.” (Al-Tirmidhi)

9. The Qur’an demands of believers that they exercise justice toward people even where they have reason to be angry with them: “And do not let the hatred of a people prevent you from being just. Be just; that is nearer to righteousness.”[5:8]

10. The Qur’an assures Christians and Jews of paradise if they believe and do good works, and commends Christians as the best friends of Muslims. I wrote elsewhere, “Dangerous falsehoods are being promulgated to the American public. The Quran does not preach violence against Christians.

Quran 5:69 says (Arberry): “Surely they that believe, and those of Jewry, and the Christians, and those Sabeaans, whoso believes in God and the Last Day, and works righteousness–their wage waits them with their Lord, and no fear shall be on them, neither shall they sorrow.”

In other words, the Quran promises Christians and Jews along with Muslims that if they have faith and works, they need have no fear in the afterlife. It is not saying that non-Muslims go to hell– quite the opposite.

When speaking of the 7th-century situation in the Muslim city-state of Medina, which was at war with pagan Mecca, the Quran notes that the polytheists and some Arabian Jewish tribes were opposed to Islam, but then goes on to say:

5:82. ” . . . and you will find the nearest in love to the believers [Muslims] those who say: ‘We are Christians.’ That is because amongst them are priests and monks, and they are not proud.”

So the Quran not only does not urge Muslims to commit violence against Christians, it calls them “nearest in love” to the Muslims! The reason given is their piety, their ability to produce holy persons dedicated to God, and their lack of overweening pride.

(For a modernist, liberal interpretation, see this pdf file, “Jihad and the Islamic Law of War.”

74 Responses

  1. If some Christians are hypocrites with regard to their own religious tenets (e.g. Thou shalt not kill) perhaps they will project that hypocrisy onto followers of other religions. The way it works is that a lot of political decision makers are either hypocrites, or can find ideological loopholes to justify values and behaviors that are tribal (us/them) rather than spiritual or religious. Each tribe buys into the mythology they maintain about their own principles, while rejecting the mythologies of other tribes.

  2. My preference: Would everybody just chill the hell out already? We know NOTHING about the identity of the bomber(s) while the authorities conduct their investigation. Let’s just wait and see what they turn up after the facts are in. At that point, we ought to draw conclusions about next steps. Seriously, I’m fed up with the politicization of this tragedy. All sides – just take a chill pill and shut up for now.

    • Killarny-

      I’ve no specific disagreement with your frustrations. But on this particular thread, your rant seems oddly misplaced. Perhaps you meant it for another thread somewhere, where speculation on the Boston bombing’s perpetrators is actually being discussed.

      • Not entirely. Its not just coincidence that there’s been a bombing in the US and we have a story about “Top Ten Ways Islamic Law forbids Terrorism”. It still reinforces the link between acts of violence and Islam.

        What we don’t see are articles after every bombing by Christians ( including secular Christians ) trying to convince us that real Christians aren’t violent and that such violence would be against Christian belief.

        Fortunately there is media in other countries which is more mature and responsible.

  3. But Dr Cole, you could do a similar list for “Christianity” – and yet today’s Christianist positions include starving the poor, abandoning children once they’ve been born, impoverishing the elderly and the ill, and shooting first to avoid having to ask any of those tedious questions.

    Then there’s the list of what the United States purports to stand for, and today’s sad reality.

    People will distinguish between theory and practice.

    • Zandru – you made the point I was going to make.
      And the invasion of Iraq (to take an egregious example) happened through the agency of Bush, Blair, and here in Australia Prime Minister John Howard, all of whom openly profess their Christianity and attend church every Sunday. So much for following the teachings of their god’s earthly representatives and adhering to their religious principles.

  4. That’s why Al Queda and the Taliban have political, not religious objectives. Their fights are primarily political fights for power. Al Queda is made up of a bunch of semi=independent cells; they are anarchists. Therefore, they’ll never amount to anything. That’s how they should be seen and approached. Then all these arguments about what religion is violent, what peaceful would die down.

    • That’s why Al Queda and the Taliban have political, not religious objectives.

      Like the crusaders, who were fighting for Christendom much more than for Christianity.

      • Yes, thank you. Under the banner of Christianity, the crusades were over land. So was Constantine’s expansion of Christianity through conquering. Similar to George W. Bush promoting the occupation of Iraq as ‘spreading democracy’. All wars are waged under one banner or another appealing to the population at the time of the war. We should de-religionize 9/11

    • @RBTL, Al Qaeda and the Taliban have never been able to justify what they do from the quran.

      • You missed my point. They use their interpretation of the Koran and call it Islamic doctrine.

      • @RBTL, well, no .. its not an interpretation of the quran they use. There is no justification in the quran for what they do, even if its misinterpreted. Their ideology is derived from Qutbism, which is not islamic at all.

  5. “Islam’s holy book forbids coercing people into adopting any religion. They have to willingly choose it.”

    Except Muslims who wish to abandon Islam and convert to another religion, or abandon religion altogether. that is called apostasy, and the penalty for apostasy under Islam is death. It is not necessarily enforced in more enlightened Islamic countries, but it is always a presence and a threat, and it is enforced in more hardline Islamic societies.

      • I stated that the penalty for apostasy under Islam is death. Perhaps I should have been more precise and indicated it as under Shari’a Law.

        • “There is NO penalty for apostasy in Islam. Please let me know where you get this statement from.”

          You obviously know little about Islam, Heba Sourour, judging from your statement, cited above. Shari’a Law most definitely calls for death in the case of apostates, and it derives its authority from the Hadith, sayings attributed to the Prophet. I have quoted below:

          “Bukhari records this tradition traced back to Muhammad himself in a legal context. It gives three reasons for shedding a Muslim’s blood. One of them is apostasy. Allah’s Apostle said, “The blood of a Muslim who confesses that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and that I am His Apostle, cannot be shed except in three cases: In Qisas [like-for-like punishment] for murder, a married person who commits illegal sexual intercourse and the one who reverts from Islam (apostate) and leaves the Muslims.”

        • …which “contents” seems to include all the stuff that folks who treat adherents of “other” traditions, devout or deviant or not, as “the other,” are so happy to attribute every kind of demonico to those “other” folks. See, e.g., Pat Robertson, or other demonstrated actual moral hypocrites like Tedd “That Boy Was Just Carrying My Bag” Haggard and Jim “Show Me The Money” Bakker and this guy, link to

          Of course, we are all just human, with all that means…

      • But those who reject faith after they accepted it, and then go on adding to their defiance of faith, never will their repentance be accepted; for they are those who have (of set purpose) gone astray. [Quran 3:90]

        • Where is the penalty here? There is no HUMAN agent at all in this verse. “never will their repentance be accepted” by God. He chooses to do what He sees fit and it really is none of any human’s business. What does this have to do with human-afflicted penalty, seriously?

    • In reply to your comment containing the hadith:

      Allah’s Apostle said, “The blood of a Muslim who confesses that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and that I am His Apostle, cannot be shed except in three cases: In Qisas [like-for-like punishment] for murder, a married person who commits illegal sexual intercourse and the one who reverts from Islam (apostate) and leaves the Muslims.”

      Actually you will find that some scholars say that the true punishment was not for apostasy but for treason, in that in the days of the Prophet, in many cases of those who converted from Islam, the apostates ended up joining enemy forces, or attempted to smear Islam’s reputation. Fadel Soliman, an Islamic apologist (please look him up and take the time to watch his video on the matter: link to, talked about this and about how the word “apostate”, or rather the Arabic word “mortad”, had a more encompassing meaning back then than it does now. Political groups back then were based on religious affiliations, and as such apostasy was more about treason and political threat. Even note that the hadith that you shared doesn’t speak simply of killing a convert, but of one who leaves the community, or as I tried to elaborate “betrays” it.

      There is also a hadith that covers the case of a man who converted from Islam peacefully and the Prophet allowed him to leave Madinah without any punishment being incurred.

      Let us also not forget that the Quran, the main source of all Islamic law, states that there is no compulsion in religion, that no one is to be forced into or out of any relgion; it’s a person’s free choice. “Let there be no compulsion in religion. Truth has been made clear from error.” (2:256) This is the Quranic, thus strongest base which will re-enforce the argument that there is no penalty for apostates per se unless for the reasons stated.

  6. There is one passage of the Quran I would like to add to those Juan has already presented that I hope will make Islam’s teaching on when war is justified clearer:

    “Permission to take up arms is given to those against whom war is made, because they have been wronged and Allah, indeed, has power to help them – those who have been driven out from their homes unjustly, only because they said: ‘Our Lord is Allah’ and if Allah had not repelled some people by means of others, cloisters and churches and synagogues and mosques, wherein the name of Allah is oft remembered, would surely have been destroyed.” (Quran 22:39-40)

    Permission to take up arms is only given to those ‘against whom war is made’ meaning in self defense only. Moreover, Muslims are told they must protect churches and synagogues before they even protect their own mosques. This was a true teaching of religious freedom and interfaith harmony which was taught by Quran and the only conditions under which war could be made. It may well be true that these teachings have been forgotten by a small minority of extremist Muslims, but that does not mean Islam is to blame in the same way Jesus/Christianity were not to blame for the crusades in medieval times.

  7. Whenever I am in a conversation with an uninformed person concerning “terror and Muslims”, I simply ask: How many suicide bombings had Iraq experienced before the 2003 US invasion? The answer: None. “It has repeatedly been shown that more religious Muslims are the least inclined to terrorism, and that those drawn to extremism are propelled by political, territorial and very often personal motives unrelated to faith.”
    link to

  8. Rakiba,
    I am not a Muslim, but in fairness to Islam, especially in view of all the distorted propaganda against it and in view of the vile activities of some terrorists who try to justify their evil deeds on religious grounds, I feel it is important to set the record straight, as this wonderful article is doing.
    In answer to your first question, remarkably, Islam does not believe in inquisition and questioning people’s motivation, or coercing the non-believers to become Muslims. At the time of Prophet Muhammad there were many of his followers who wanted him to force the Arabs to become Muslims. The Koran’s response to those demands was the following:
    “We are best aware of what they say, but thou (O Muhammad) art in no wise a compeller over them. But warn by the Koran him who feareth My warning.” (Koran, 50:45). Therefore, the Prophet’s job, as it is stressed elsewhere in the Koran, is merely to warn and to call the people towards God, but not to coerce them to follow it. Faith and guidance ultimately comes from God: “Say: The truth is from your Lord; then whosoever will, let him believe; and whosoever will, let him disbelieve.” (Koran, 18:28) A remarkable verse in the Koran says, “say not to anyone who greets you ‘you are not a believer’” (Koran 4:94). In other words, one should not question people’s motives or call them a non-believer.
    Muhammad was unhappy that some of his close relatives, including his favorite uncle, had not become Muslims, but he was told in another verse: “And if thy Lord had willed, whoever is on the earth would have believed, all of them, altogether. Wouldst thou then compel the people, until they are believers?” (Koran, 10:98). Again: “Say: O mankind! Now hath the truth from your Lord come unto you. So whosoever is guided, is guided only for his own soul, and whosoever erreth, erreth only against his soul. And I am not a warder over you.” (Koran, 10: 107). So if the prophet has no right to force the people to believe or act as their guardian, certainly ordinary Muslims have no right to do so.
    As to your second point, there are many people in all religions who commit violence and try to justify their acts by quoting some verses in support of their deeds. Sadly, that is a trait common to the followers of all religions.
    If I may quote myself, here is a link to an article that I wrote many years ago on Islam and human rights that deals with these issues in some detail: link to

  9. Religions are more than their founding scriptures – as a Jew or a Catholic – and genuine, devout religious believers do things, convinced they are right according to their religion – that are forbidden in those scriptures all the time.

    Muslims who commit terrorist attacks might be bad Muslims, but they are real Muslims. Christians who beat up gay people, likewise.

      • The “Army of God” and “Sword, Covenant and Arm of the Lord” were supposedly-Christian entities designated within the U.S. as terror organizations that used the anti-abortion movement or white supremicism as their organizing principle.

        Neither Al-Qaeda, Islamic Jihad, nor other violent Muslim groups represent mainstream Islamic beliefs.

        In Palestine, the Second Intifada’s history of suicide bombers was inspired by a minority religious interpretation within Islam that allowed the bombers to target civilians in Israel as an acceptable form of resistance consistent with the Quran. The bombers were often young and religious, seeing their actions as heroic; in contrast al-Qaeda leaders, such as the Jordanian-born Zarkawi, had criminal records and were often non-observant of basic Islamic tenets.

      • JT,

        A reference to the OKC bombing is inapt here, because McVeigh didn’t claim to be fighting in the name of religion. He once said in an interview that he didn’t believe in Christianity.

        • Always gotta check these things:

          Did he? Here’s what he said:

          Time: Are you religious?

          McVeigh: I was raised Catholic. I was confirmed Catholic (received the sacrament of confirmation). Through my military years, I sort of lost touch with the religion. I never really picked it up, however I do maintain core beliefs.

          Time: Do you believe in God?

          McVeigh: I do believe in a God, yes. But that’s as far as I want to discuss. If I get too detailed on some things that are personal like that, it gives people an easier way [to] alienate themselves from me and that’s all they are looking for now.

          All this text discloses is that McVeigh distanced himself from Catholicism, not Christianity. It also reveals that he did not want to discuss his faith further because he knew most people would find it repulsive. What was repulsive about his faith? Was he an atheist? No. Was he a secular humanist? No. What do we know about his beliefs at the time he was bombing the federal building in Oklahoma City?

          There is no doubt that Timothy McVeigh was deeply influenced by the Christian Identity to Christian Identity is a profoundly racist and theocratic form of faith that developed in the late 1970s and spread like wildfire through rural communities throughout the U.S. in the 1980s.

          The chief guidebook for Christian Identity eschatology is “The Turner Diaries” written by William Pierce under the pseudonym Andrew MacDonald. The book is a fictional account of the “day of judgment” for which Identity adherents are preparing. Here’s a summary of the book by Joel Dyer, author of “Harvest of Rage: Why Oklahoma City is Only the Beginning” (1997) – by far the best explanation in print for what led to the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City:

          In his book “The Turner Diaries,” Pierce describes a race war that ends with the government being overthrown. Pierce’s book is more than fiction. The most radical elements of the movement view it as a vision or blueprint for action. In the book, the Aryan forces used armored car robberies to finance their revolution. In real life, the radical white supremacist group called “the Order” used Pierce’s book as a guide to their armored car robberies in the Northwest. In the book, the revolutionaries blow up a federal building as part of their antigovernment war. In real life, the bombing of Oklahoma City’s Alfred P. Murrah Building was almost a carbon copy of the incident in Pierce’s book. As I mentioned earlier, Timothy McVeigh had photocopies of a portion of “The Turner Diaries” with him when he was arrested. McVeigh also sold copies of the book at gun shows around the country.

          link to {There’s more in the link that would kind of cast that claim about McVeigh into some doubt.}

          Is that the interview you were relying on for the assertion?

    • @joe from Lowell, but when a christian does something wrong does the media blame all of christendom ? NO!

  10. It is far, far easier to lecture and reassure Western liberals that Islam specifically teaches peace than it is to convince some prominent Islamic scholars and a significant percentage of Muslims that Islam sanctions war.

    In fact, Islam like Judaism is a complicated legal system with no central authority. I think Tariq Ramadan is most articulate (and honest) on this subject when he says Islam deals with humans and humans can be violent and peaceful.

  11. “So telling Americans what you just said seems like the wrong audience …”

    I’m immediately inclined to strongly disagree with you; I think non-Muslim Americans are precisely the audience that need more information about Islam’s tenets.

    But really, I don’t understand the nature of your criticism. It sounds like you’re saying that Islam’s tenets are in fact defined not by either scripture or Muslims themselves, but by whatever is perceived by the world’s non-Muslims. Nevermind how grossly inaccurate said perceptions might be.

    Surely I’ve misunderstood you, because that sounds like nonsense.

    Further, that you “live in a Muslim context” isn’t remotely informative.

    If someone told me they “live in a Christian context”, that wouldn’t mean anything to me. I’d have to ask some questions before I might be able to put such a comment in context. Why? Because there are too many Christian communities which exist in varying degrees of conflict/contradiction/incompatibility with one another. I mean, living amongst fundamentalist Mormons is 180 degrees from living amongst, say, Massachusetts’ protestants or midwestern Catholics.

    I’m certainly no expert on Islam, but I can at least imagine that Muslims are similarly driven by diverse interpretations of their scriptures, much like Christians are. (Same with Judaism.)

    That said, I think Mr.Cole’s OP speaks to a more basic Qur’anic interpretation which the majority of the world’s Muslims follow (even if they might have quibbles on other finer theological points).

  12. C’mon Juan, you know Muslims have coerced infidels into the true religion many times over the centuries. And even Shat’an can quote scripture.

  13. ” I can’t understand why people who have never so much as read a book about a subject appoint themselves experts on it.”

    Simple. If people doesn’t know what they are talking about it is easier to say whatever they want.

  14. I believe the author means that a “real Muslim” is one who follows the religion correctly and doesnt justify violence using religion. However, only God can be the final judge to decide if someone followed the religion correctly or not. So if someone claims to be a Muslim, even if you have evidence that he was corrupt, you still have to treat and bury him as a Muslim and let God decide. OBL is a bad example by the way, as most educated ppl know 9/11 was an inside job. You should have picked Saddam Hussein or Muamar Gaddafi.

    • Only God can be the final judge? Which God?

      One popular T-shirt from the Vietnam period (I don’t dare say how I know) was a skull with bloodshot eyes, a crazed skull’s grin, a Fairburn Sykes dagger through both temporal bones, and the legend “Kill ‘Em All, And Let God Sort ‘Em Out!”

      Google gives this updated image:

      link to

      And in all the religious traditions I’ve looked at (except maybe the real Assassins, and the Thuggees, link to, there’s this weird notion that reads something like the various examples laid out here:

      link to

      There’s always a solipsistic, casuistical apologist, or many, who can provide a gloss on any ethical maxim that justifies or at least obscures the real moral nature of excursions from that silly bedrock principle of “the ethic of reciprocity.”

  15. Regardless of all possible nits that can be picked here, I think this is a valuable piece of scholarship with real value. All of our servicepeople and State Department personnel who interact with the Muslim world should know this. In addition it should be widely distributed in multilingual versions (at least three at once… English/Arabic/Persian, English/Dari/Urdu etc.) in areas where we have the ability to do so. Even if it just starts a discussion in those areas, or prevents a single atrocity, it would be worth it. The West needs to realize the value of communicating with people on their own terms, using materials they already value. This is, or could be, a major step towards doing so. Cheers to Juan for that.

  16. Many radical Muslims don’t even read the Qur’an. They are encouraged in “jihad” and they can enter the country just to blow themselves up.

    I think most Muslims you have met are intelligent, educated people who can accept grey as a color. What mainstream Islam thinks doesn’t reflect what the usual Muslim in the Middle East thinks. I said “the Muslim” because they call themselves Muslim. Not because they obey the rules in the Qur’an.

      • We for one thing literacy in places like Yemen is only about 60%. The rest can be brainwashed so easily. They may never question what they are told by an authority that they trust. It can be family, preacher, a TV channel or the state. If the preacher tells them that the Qur’an suggests violence, they believe.

    • @edwards, The problem is we got people like you throwing around words like “jihad” without properly understanding how what it means and the context in which it is used in the Quran. That seriously misleads people about Islam.

  17. IMHO, interpreting Koran is up to the Muslim clerics, splitting the difference between policing, regular warfare and terrorism in religious terms even more so. Why should secular Westerners get involved in this?!

    • This idea that only adherents of particular religions, or individuals of particular ethnic backgrounds, have a right to discuss and interpret those religious and ethnic categories to which they belong is nonsense. It violates the very idea of intellectual freedom, exchange, and scholarship.

      It is popular among certain narrow-minded circles to suggest that only Muslims can interpret Islam, only Arabs can discuss Arab history and culture, only African-Americans can discuss and interpret African-American history and culture, only Hispanics can discuss and interpret Hispanic history and culture, and on and on. This type of thinking represents the Balkanization of scholarship and really has no place in a society that values intellectual diversity and the exchange of ideas.

      • @Bill…and of course Serious Scholars are free to provide their own glosses and interpretations and exigeses from the sources they select and with the benefit of their particular approaches to History and Fact and Truth…

        The comment implies that the Society of USans either does or should value intellectual diversity and the exchange of ideas. For extra credit, identify and discuss examples and sources that support or refute either contention.

        • Are you seriously suggesting that a society that produces Noam Chomsky, Paul Krugman, Milton Friedman, and Samuel Huntington (not to mention Juan Cole) is a society that does not value intellectual diversity and the exchange of ideas? Do not make the mistake of confusing valuing the diversity and exchange of ideas with their acceptance. The ideas are out there in the intellectual marketplace, and everyone I know considers that to be of value. That anyone’s ideas may not be accepted, via the political process, is not evidence they are not valued as ideas. After all, just because someone has ideas out there in the intellectual marketplace does not grant him the right to expect they will be accepted.

    • @Henry James, only mufassirs are qualified to interpret the quran. Clerics are not permitted to do such. Mufassirs have a methodology too. Their interpretations are NOT, as some claim, whatever they believe or want it to say.

  18. 1) No one has the right to judge who is a “real” anything, it all goes back to God because only he knows about the inner souls. But in the end, it is all about adherence to law. If for instance, you know the laws of Islam well, and you see someone deviating from these laws for whatever purpose, be it political, then you would right then and there be able to tell that this is a deviating Muslim. And that this person is warping Islamic law for a political purpose, using it as a cover for political gain/disturbances/etc.

    2) ANY text on Earth, if taken out of context, is subject to faulty interpretation. Manipulation of texts can occur very easily if one is selective of the words and phrases which serve his/her purpose while excluding other words which, had they been kept unexempted, would change the meaning completely. This is exactly what happens in the case of justifying terrorist acts with Islamic texts. One of these “justifiers” would take a text such as the one mentioned above: “Fight in the way of God against those who fight against you, but begin not hostilities. Lo! God loveth not aggressors.” When a selective process happens, this terrorism justifier would choose to mention only this part of the verse: “Fight in the way of God,” and the meaning becomes immediately violent and repulsive. This is the curse of taking words out of context, and as a Muslim I have personally seen examples like this everywhere. And the sad part is this, it is unjust to people like me and the millions of Muslims who are wronged, maltreated, and misunderstood everyday…

    • ‘ANY text on Earth, if taken out of context, is subject to faulty interpretation. Manipulation of texts can occur very easily if one is selective of the words and phrases…”

      Thank you Heba. And, that is why all religious texts are ridiculous. There is no god; there can’t be a god. A “wise” god wouldn’t have provided us with these texts in the first place because he would have figured out (he is wise, after all, right?) that we’d take everything out of context, politicize the entire thing, and hurt each other all day long.

      That is why there is only you and me. We are the life force of the universe with manual dexterity and cognitive minds. We have the power to choose who and how we want to be in the world. Right here, right now.

      “We are all one consciousness experiencing itself subjectively” as the great Bill Hicks once said. And that is the only thing that makes sense.

      Peace and love.

      • But I don’t see this as a logical argument Sammur. To me, it’s all about human error. God has created US flawed, and we are making flawed decisions accordingly. And this is where the testing comes in, and thus the reward and punishment, and thus MEANING to existence. This is the way I find my mind perfectly making sense of it.

  19. juan,

    don’t know if you’re aware of the recent exchanges between some leftish types n the ‘new atheists’ but i was wondering if you’d care to weigh in… if you haven’t heard about it, it was triggered by an al jazeera english post regarding the islamaphobia of sam harris, which led to an exchange between glenn greenwald and harris in both the guardian and on harris’s site, along w/ mentions here n there on other sites by other folks. the main players seem to be greenwald on the one hand and harris/dawkins/and a very dead hitchens on the other.(seems like dan dennett is in the clear) if you’ve already addressed this in some form, link plz? (also, i don’t believe i HAVE ever read a book on islam, thanks for the esposito thing, i’ll check it out)

  20. bin laden was dumped into the ocean purposefully, so as not to allow people to bury him according to Islamic burial rites. Islamic Burial rites are to bury the body in solid ground.

    I think you need to re-assess where you’re getting your knowledge from.

  21. This is Right that it is important to set the record straight, as this wonderful article is doing.

  22. The vast majority of Muslims do not at all agree with the last point, number 10,than Jews and Christians(today) can en enter Paradise.

    • The posting isn’t entitled ‘what illiterate Muslims believe’; it is about scriptural ideals. The verse is quite clear and uncontradicted elsewhere in the Qur’an, and just because people like to use their scripture to reinforce their own bigotries by using it selectively is no reason to ignore what the scripture plainly says.

      • Being fairly ‘illiterate’ in these matters myself…

        I’ve often read/heard that this was with reference to persons from past times (pre ‘islam’) or for those that have not properly received the ‘message’. May I ask if these verses clearly reflect a tense (past/current) in your opinion ?

        I sometimes think of this in terms on the ‘The Matrix’. Where the Oracle Tells Neo he is not ‘the one’. i.e. The message is carefully worded for its intended audience in order to guide. Suggesting you will be alright regardless, kind of detracts from that :)

      • The vast majority of Muslims are illiterate in many countries. Are you claiming they are not Muslims?

        • @Brian

          What an asinine comment based on absolutely nothing. Literacy rates in countries with large Muslim populations range dramatically from 57% in Bangladesh to 95% in Kuwait. Not even the most exaggerated definition of “vast majority” could be applied in any of those situations.

          Honestly, take 5 seconds to type something into a search engine before posting moronic comments. All the knowledge of mankind is at your finger tips, if only you’re willing to look past your nose.

  23. The ten points that this article attempts to make are largely valid, and I generally concur that Islamic Law prohibits acts that are commonly referred to as “terrorism” today. However, a few of the points are simply not valid, although Juan Cole’s ultimate conclusion that Islamic Law forbids terrorism still is.

    Here are the points that are NOT valid and why:

    2. Juan Cole seemingly needs to read the classical commentaries which attempt to understand the meaning of the verse “There is no compulsion in religion. The right way has become distinct from error.” (Qur’an 2:256). Not only was Islam forced upon the pagan Arabs, but the overwhelming majority of Muslim scholars supported forcibly spreading it into non-Muslim lands. While it is true that, in the opinions of most Muslims scholars, individual converts to Islam have to “willingly choose it,” some classical scholars did opine–including the renowned Imam al-Ghazali–that compulsion can sometimes be used if it is in the best interest of certain people. This opinion is essentially no different than the one expressed by (St.) Augustine of Hippo in regards to forcible conversations with the best long-term interests (i.e. salvation and eternal bliss in the hereafter) of heretics and others.

    Even worse, it’s very dishonest to say that Qur’an 2:256 “was never abrogated by any other verse of the Quran” since quite a number of Muslim scholars held that it was indeed abrogated by Qur’an 9:5 and other verses. One can certainly disagree with that latter opinion, but to make it sound like there was no difference of opinion on it simply isn’t right. That’s because it’s tantamount to presenting mere opinion as fact.

    Also, the Islamic ruling on apostasy, which in the view of the overwhelming majority of traditional Muslim scholars is death, makes Islam something of a Hotel California in regards to freedom of choice, and in regards to “no compulsion” as well.

    3. I’m sure that Juan has heard of “al-Futuhat al-Islamiyyah,” which makes this point disingenuous and false. There’s no doubt that Muhammad and the “Rightly Guided” Caliphs who followed him, launched offensive wars into non-Muslim lands.

    7. There are mixed opinions on this both in the hadith literature, prophetic biographies (i.e. “seerah” literature), and the opinions of classical scholars. One strongly supported view is that a country or group of people must be preached to and called to Islam before they can be attacked. Once it becomes clear that they reject Islam, they can then be attacked without warning.

    10. This is often heard, but is simply is not true. There are variously and (seemingly) irreconcilable verses in the Qur’an regarding the eventual status of Jews and Christians. The large majority of Muslim scholars count anyone who has heard the (alleged) truth of Islam and the Prophet Muhammad, but reject it, to be a hell-bound disbeliever. For an explanation of the traditional Muslim view on this, see “Reliance of the Traveller: A Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law,” by Nuh Ha Mim Keller, which is packed with references and the opinions of mainstream classical Muslim scholars.

    I’m simply an advocate for fairness and honesty in these discussions. There’s no doubt that Islam is often misrepresented and misunderstood, and I also believe that Islamic Law prohibits terrorism, suicide bombing, and honor killings. However, there are also some aspects of Islam that are barbaric, discriminatory, and unacceptable to Western liberal democracies in the 21st century.

    • The article is not about later commentaries. It is about scriptural values. As a Qur’an scholar myself, I stand by what I wrote.

  24. Wow, I didn’t finish this paragraph. Ouch.

    “I’m simply an advocate for fairness and honesty in these discussions.”
    Juan is as well, and I’m hoping he will at least post the view of the overwhelming (find anyone else who believe point #10 more than 100 years ago)number of muffassireen, scholars, students of knowledge and laymen of the fate of Jews and Christians.

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