2002 December 20 Friday
David Klinghoffer on Islam and Non-Believers

David Klinghoffer has a different take on the meaning of the Koran's "the People of the Book" phrase. He argues that it is not meant as a friendly reference to religions that are close to Islam.

Referring to Christians as well as Jews, that famous phrase, "the People of the Book," comes up whenever someone is trying to paint a friendly face on Islam. The truth is that Muhammad typically means it not in praise but as an expression of bitter irony, as if to say: These people have Scripture, yet they reject me!

The Koran does not encourage a benevolent view of non-Muslims even if they are Christians or Jews.

God is quoted by prophet as saying, "The unbelievers among the People of the Book and the pagans shall burn forever in the fire of Hell. They are the vilest of all creatures." "…those that disbelieve Our revelations and deny them are the heirs of Hell." Of the Jews in particular: "God has cursed them in their unbelief."

You can check out this contention for yourself by trying the USC Koran search engine. What is nice about the USC engine is that it has 3 translations (Pickthal, Yusufali, and Shakir) and returns each verse in all 3 translations. It even searches all 3 translations. So, for instance, "disbelieve" will be used in the Pickthal translation in some locations but "deny Allah" or some other phrasing in the other two. Or Shakir will use "disbelieve" where Yusufali uses "reject". So it is easier to find the relevant verses when all the translations are searched.

Here is an example verse I turned by by searching on "unbelievers". There are a lot of verses in the Koran about warfare against unbelievers.

YUSUFALI: Therefore, when ye meet the Unbelievers (in fight), smite at their necks; At length, when ye have thoroughly subdued them, bind a bond firmly (on them): thereafter (is the time for) either generosity or ransom: Until the war lays down its burdens. Thus (are ye commanded): but if it had been Allah's Will, He could certainly have exacted retribution from them (Himself); but (He lets you fight) in order to test you, some with others. But those who are slain in the Way of Allah,- He will never let their deeds be lost.
PICKTHAL: 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; and afterward either grace or ransom till the war lay down its burdens. That (is the ordinance). And if Allah willed He could have punished them (without you) but (thus it is ordained) that He may try some of you by means of others. And those who are slain in the way of Allah, He rendereth not their actions vain.
SHAKIR: So when you meet in battle those who disbelieve, then smite the necks until when you have overcome them, then make (them) prisoners, and afterwards either set them free as a favor or let them ransom (themselves) until the war terminates. That (shall be so); and if Allah had pleased He would certainly have exacted what is due from them, but that He may try some of you by means of others; and (as for) those who are slain in the way of Allah, He will by no means allow their deeds to perish.

Here s an example of the Koranic view of Pagans, Christians and Jews. This is a tolerant religion?

YUSUFALI: O ye who believe! Truly the Pagans are unclean; so let them not, after this year of theirs, approach the Sacred Mosque. And if ye fear poverty, soon will Allah enrich you, if He wills, out of His bounty, for Allah is All-knowing, All-wise.
PICKTHAL: O ye who believe! The idolaters only are unclean. So let them not come near the Inviolable Place of Worship after this their year. If ye fear poverty (from the loss of their merchandise) Allah shall preserve you of His bounty if He will. Lo! Allah is Knower, Wise.
SHAKIR: O you who believe! the idolaters are nothing but unclean, so they shall not approach the Sacred Mosque after this year; and if you fear poverty then Allah will enrich you out of His grace if He please; surely Allah is Knowing Wise.

YUSUFALI: Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.
PICKTHAL: Fight against such of those who have been given the Scripture as believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, and forbid not that which Allah hath forbidden by His messenger, and follow not the Religion of Truth, until they pay the tribute readily, being brought low.
SHAKIR: 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.

YUSUFALI: The Jews call 'Uzair a son of Allah, and the Christians call Christ the son of Allah. That is a saying from their mouth; (in this) they but imitate what the unbelievers of old used to say. Allah's curse be on them: how they are deluded away from the Truth!
PICKTHAL: And the Jews say: Ezra is the son of Allah, and the Christians say: The Messiah is the son of Allah. That is their saying with their mouths. They imitate the saying of those who disbelieved of old. Allah (Himself) fighteth against them. How perverse are they!
SHAKIR: And the Jews say: Uzair is the son of Allah; and the Christians say: The Messiah is the son of Allah; these are the words of their mouths; they imitate the saying of those who disbelieved before; may Allah destroy them; how they are turned away!

YUSUFALI: They take their priests and their anchorites to be their lords in derogation of Allah, and (they take as their Lord) Christ the son of Mary; yet they were commanded to worship but One Allah: there is no god but He. Praise and glory to Him: (Far is He) from having the partners they associate (with Him).
PICKTHAL: They have taken as lords beside Allah their rabbis and their monks and the Messiah son of Mary, when they were bidden to worship only One Allah. There is no Allah save Him. Be He Glorified from all that they ascribe as partner (unto Him)!
SHAKIR: They have taken their doctors of law and their monks for lords besides Allah, and (also) the Messiah son of Marium and they were enjoined that they should serve one Allah only, there is no god but He; far from His glory be what they set up (with Him).

YUSUFALI: Fain would they extinguish Allah's light with their mouths, but Allah will not allow but that His light should be perfected, even though the Unbelievers may detest (it).
PICKTHAL: Fain would they put out the light of Allah with their mouths, but Allah disdaineth (aught) save that He shall perfect His light, however much the disbelievers are averse.
SHAKIR: They desire to put out the light of Allah with their mouths, and Allah will not consent save to perfect His light, though the unbelievers are averse.

According to this excerpt the Muslims are supposed to fight the Jews and Christians until the latter two groups submit to Muslim rule and agree to pay special higher taxes aimed at them. This is explicitly specified in the Koran.

Update: Robert Spencer, author of Islam Unveiled: Disturbing Questions About the World's Fastest Growing Faith by Robert Spencer, also examines the PBS documentary Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet which was the occasion for David Klinghoffer's article on the nature of Islam. Spencer asks if Islam does not support terrorism then why have terrorist organizations found it so easy to recruit members from Muslim societies around the world?

But here the producers of Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet had a real opportunity. Instead of flatly stating that terrorism cannot be justified by Islam, they could have explained why misunderstanding jihad isn't a faux pas restricted to the benighted Falwells and Robertsons of the world. They could have informed viewers why millions of Muslims endorse the violent jihad preached by Islamic organizations spanning the globe — from Hamas, Hezbollah, and Islamic Jihad to the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, Jemaah Islamiah in Southeast Asia, Al-Gamaa al-Islamiyya in Egypt, the Armed Islamic Group in Algeria, Al-Ummah in India, the Abu Sayyaf group in the Philippines, and so many others.

The documentary reports the views of Mohamed Zakariya, who is described by another Muslim as being among "the mildest people in our community." Zakariya states that "revenge, suicide bombing, things of that kind, they have no place in Islam." This is simply stated as fact. The producers pass up the opportunity to clarify opposing views held by quite prominent figures in the Islamic world, such as Sheikh Muhammad Sayyed Tantawi, the prestigious and respected Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar University in Cairo. Tantawi was quoted by President Bush last Fall at the United Nations as saying that "terrorism is a disease, and that Islam prohibits killing innocent civilians." But according to the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), last spring the same sheikh declared that suicide bombing was "the highest form of Jihad operations," and that "every martyrdom operation against any Israeli, including children, women, and teenagers, is a legitimate act according to [Islamic] religious law, and an Islamic commandment."

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2002 December 20 01:53 PM  Religion Secular Ideologies

Sirah said at April 11, 2005 10:46 AM:

Salaamu 'alaykum I really think that you are not being fair to yourself or to those who read your webpage. with your knowlege of islaam you should know that not all of the Qur'aan ayahs can be understood with out the tafseer, which is an explanation of the meaning. Furthermore these are not the only ayahs dealing with fighting jihad against the non-believersor how the muslims percieve the non muslims. by using them alone, you are taking them out of context. If you truly wanted to know the truth you would have looked alittle harder.

Horse's Mouth said at February 20, 2006 7:07 PM:

As to the Muslims who are rioting and killing people over a cartoon - Get over it! How many anti- (insert country, religion, political leader) cartoons have been passed around in the Muslim World? How many innocent people have been murdered because they didn't believe in Islam? How many Buddhists heads have Muslims cut off?

Fuck this politically correct shit and fuck that pirate Mohammed.

syeda qurat-ul-ain haider said at March 21, 2006 1:00 PM:

this is all bullshit, you dont read everything and then you go ahead and open your mouth, did you forget the forceful acceptance the king of spain used on spanish muslims to convert them to christianity, did you forget the crusaders, recently jews are encouranging young muslims to buy forqan that pretty much go against EVERYTHING of quran, did you also forget the killing of many muslims in nigeria because they were rallying against the carnicatures that danish newspaper printed. PLEASE before you open your mouth and abuse the keyboard get the facts straight!!!

Jewish Supremacist said at September 3, 2006 12:38 PM:

David Klinghoffer is a good Jew trying to save the world from those big, bad, evil Islamic fascists.


BeyBlack said at August 7, 2007 2:27 AM:

Not that I consider myself to be anyone, and because I have found it to a tremendous waste of time convincing fools and cowards to invest in new programs for their mouths. . . I'll leave you with this; From what I have accidentally glanced at... it would appear that you, who argue, belong to a very small but self acclaimed alcholic/rejected terrorist cell. Try Credit cards. I am sure that capital one would be more than willing to fund your crusade. They offer free toilet paper for every 64th purchase. Until you have enough money or resource to effect random but positive change, which ever your taliban predecessors leave you with. . . try learning something, instead of blaming people who have made freedom of speech and your way of life possible for you.

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