I’m reading a book called No god but God, by Reza Aslan. It’s book about the history of Islam, read like historical fiction that is surprisingly engaging. With the constant discussion about Islam in the news right now, especially about Islam supposedly being a religion that advocates the murder of non-believers, “infidels,” etc., I thought I would share an excerpt from this book that I found very enlightening.
The part of the book begins with a story about a war that Muhammad and his then small group of followers (collectively called the Ummah) were in with a local group of people who were polytheists, called the Quraysh. The Ummah were made up of people who left this group to follow Muhammad. There was a particularly bloody and brutal battle where the Ummah were about to be slaughtered.
It is true that some verses in the Quran instruct Muhammad and his followers to “slay the polytheists wherever you confront them” (9:5); to “carry the struggle to the hypocrites who deny the faith” (9:73); and, especially, to “fight those who do not believe in God and the Last Day” (9:29). However, it must be understood that these verses were directed specifically at the Quraysh and their clandestine partisans in Yathrib — specifically names in the Quran as “the polytheists and “the hypocrites,” respectively– with whom the Ummah was locked in a terrible war.
Nevertheless, these verses have long been used by Muslims and non-Muslims alike to suggest that Islam advocates fighting combatively until they convert. But this is not a view that either the Quran or Muhammed endorsed. This view was put forth during the height of the Crusades, and partly in response to them, by later generations of Islamic legal scholars who developed what is now referred to as “the classical doctrine of jihad”; a doctrine that, among other things, partitioned the world into two spheres, the House of Islam and the House of War, with the former in constant pursuit of the latter.
The constantly misrepresented verses in question were not instructed to all Muslims forevermore; they were said to these specific followers, in that specific community, during a very specific time, in response to a very specific series of events, and one very specific group of warriors who were constantly trying to kill Muhammad and his followers.
Islam is no more inherently evil than any other religion can be misconstrued to be. Fear of terrorists is not the same as fear of Islam, but the US and many other parts of the world are confusing the two.
I recommend reading this book. It’s informative and engaging.