During the discussion period after a recent talk by the courageous secular Muslim “apostate” Wafa Sultan, Judea Pearl, father of slain Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl (who was barbarously murdered by pious Muslim terrorists), alluded to the Koran’s “verses of peace”—which certain votaries of Islam uphold as the religion's exclusive legacy. According to an observer at the event, Judea Pearl derided Ms. Sultan’s critical view of Islam by further contending that the Koran's bellicose and brutal verses were mere “cultural baggage”, akin to “similar” pronouncements in the Old Testament. The comparison was naïve, if not absurd.
Naïve because the Koran’s “verses of peace”, frequently cited by both Muslim and non-Muslim apologists, most notably verse 2:256, “There is no compulsion in religion”, were all abrogated by the so-called verses of the sword. These abrogating verses of the sword recommend beheading or otherwise murdering and mutilating non-Muslims, and Muslim apostates. According to classical Muslim Koranic commentators verse 9:5 (perhaps the most infamous verse of the sword), “Slay the idolators wherever you find them, and take them captives and besiege them and lie in wait for them in every ambush…”, for example, cancels 124 verses that promote patience and toleration.
The sacralized Islamic sources indicate that as the Muslim prophet Muhammad accrued political and military power, he evolved from a proselytizer and persuader, to a warrior (i.e., a prototype jihadist; see: The Prophet Muhammad as a Jihad Model), and dictatorial legislator. Thus the sword and other similar Koranic verses—as per the linkage between Muhammad’s biography and the Koranic narrative—capture the Muslim prophet at his most dogmatic, belligerent, and intolerant. Muslims are enjoined to fight and murder nonbelievers—woe unto those who shirk these campaigns—but those who are killed fighting for the one true religion, i.e., Islam, will be rewarded amply in the afterlife. A sampling of such verses, which established these eternal injunctions, are included below:
47:4: “Now when ye meet in battle those who disbelieve, then it is smiting of the necks until, when ye have routed them, then making fast of bonds”
9:29: “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.”
4:76: “Those who believe fight in the way of Allah, and those who disbelieve fight in the way of the Shaitan. Fight therefore against the friends of the Shaitan; surely the strategy of the Shaitan is weak.”
: “When your Lord revealed to the angels: I am with you, therefore make firm those who believe. I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them.”
-39: “Say to the Unbelievers, if (now) they desist (from Unbelief), their past would be forgiven them; but if they persist, the punishment of those before them is already (a matter of warning for them). And fight them on until there is no more tumult or oppression, and there prevail justice and faith in Allah altogether and everywhere; but if they cease, verily Allah doth see all that they do.”
: “If you do not go forth, He will chastise you with a painful chastisement and bring in your place a people other than you, and you will do Him no harm; and Allah has power over all things.”
4:74: “Therefore let those fight in the way of Allah, who sell this world's life for the hereafter; and whoever fights in the way of Allah, then be he slain or be he victorious, We shall grant him a mighty reward.”
9:111: “Surely Allah has bought of the believers their persons and their property for this, that they shall have the garden; they fight in Allah's way, so they slay and are slain; a promise which is binding on Him in the Taurat and the Injeel and the Quran; and who is more faithful to his covenant than Allah? Rejoice therefore in the pledge which you have made; and that is the mighty achievement.”
As Ibn Warraq notes, aptly (p.69):
…“tolerance” has been abrogated by “intolerance”
And this doctrine of abrogation, necessitated by the many contradictions which abound in the Koran, originates as putatively taught by Muhammad, himself, at verse 2:106: “Whatever communications We abrogate or cause to be forgotten, We bring one better than it or like it. Do you not know that Allah has power over all things?” . This verse, in combination with verses* 16:101, , and 87:6, was elaborated into a formal system of abrogation (naskh in Arabic) by the greatest classical Muslim Koranic scholars and jurists, which entailed (p.72),
…the suppression of a ruling without the suppression of the wording. That is to say, the earlier ruling is still to be found in the Koran, and is still to this day recited in worship, but it no longer has any legal force [emphasis added]
But it is only when viewed in the larger context of the uniquely Islamic institution of jihad war—which derives substantively from the abrogating Koranic sword verses—that Judea Pearl’s naïve equation to “similar” verses from the Old Testament, becomes entirely fatuous. From the bellicose verses in the Koran, expounded upon in the hadith (the words and deeds of Muhammad as recorded by pious Muslim transmitters), Muslim jurists and theologians formulated the Islamic institution of permanent jihad war against non-Muslims to bring the world under Islamic rule (Shari’a law).
Since its earliest inception, through the present, jihad has been central to the thought and writings of prominent Muslim theologians and jurists. The precepts and regulations elucidated in the 7th through 9th centuries are immutable in the Muslim theological-juridical system, and they have remained essentially unchallenged by the majority of contemporary Muslims. The jihad is intrinsic to the sacred Muslim texts, including the divine Koranic revelation—“the uncreated word of Allah”. The Old Testament sanctions the Israelites conquest of Canaan—a limited domain—it does not sanction a permanent war to submit all the nations of humanity to a uniform code of religious law. Similarly, the tactics of warfare are described in the Old Testament, unlike the Koran, in very circumscribed and specific contexts. Moreover, while the Old Testament clearly condemns certain inhumane practices of paganism, it never invoked an eternal war against all of the world’s pagan peoples.
Uninformed ecumenical zeal in search of a fantasy Islam yet to be created, does not excuse making intellectual, let alone moral equivalences, between the severely limited and contextualized war proclamations of the Old Testament, and the permanent proto-jihad war injunctions of the Koran. Staking out the presumptive “higher” moral ground by a thinly veiled (and ahistorical!) attack on a courageous secularist seeking profound, not cosmetic (and meaningless) changes in Islamdom, is unsavory and destructive, regardless of the misguided motivations.
* 16: 101: “And when We change (one) communication for (another) communication, and Allah knows best what He reveals, they say: You are only a forger. Nay, most of them do not know.”; 22:52: “And We did not send before you any messenger or prophet, but when he desired, the Shaitan made a suggestion respecting his desire; but Allah annuls that which the Shaitan casts, then does Allah establish His communications, and Allah is Knowing, Wise”; 87:6: “By degrees shall We teach thee to declare (the Message), so thou shalt not forget”
The discussion of abrogation/naskh draws heavily upon the insightful analysis, here pp. 67-75, of my courageous mentor and colleague Ibn Warraq.