‘Verses of Violence’

The Noble Quran was revealed to Prophet Muhammad over a period of 23 years. The positioning of each revelation was by divine ‘dictatum’ but lacked chronology. Therefore, the context to each of the revelations cannot always be relevant to an interpretation. The Noble Quran is a mosaic of verses; it is imperative that we understand the linkages of these verses.
Post an analysis of the Quran the following are some of my observations:

1. Whenever a Prophet is appointed from amongst a people the criteria for adjudicating belief is established through revelations.
2. The pecuniary interest of those in authority is inextricably linked to an enterprise instituted in sacrilege and is the principal subject of the revelations.
3. The Prophet implores the people to repent and to atone but there is a concerted effort by vested interests to persecute him and to subvert the revelations.
4. Failure to comply with the revelations ultimately results in punitive action that is severe and resolute.

We are informed in the Quran:

‘And never will your Lord destroy the town until He sends to its Mother Town a Messenger reciting to them Our Verses. And never will We destroy the town unless its people are transgressors.’ 28:59

And:

‘That was the way of Allah with those from before who passed away. And you will not find any alteration in the way of Allah.’ 48:23

We are also informed in the Quran that Pharaoh was deified by his people:

‘O Chief’s! I know not that you have any god other than me’ 28:38
‘I am your lord, the most high’ 79:24

And this is what happened to the people of Pharaoh:

‘Like the habitude of the people of Pharaoh and those before them – they cried lies to the revelations of their Lord. Thus, We destroyed them for their sins and drowned the people of Pharaoh; they were all transgressors.’ 8:54

Henceforth, if the ‘Children of Israel’ transgress their covenant with ‘Allah’, ‘Yod Heh Vav Heh’ or ‘One God’ because of their veneration of idols and immoral self-indulgence they shall likewise be subject to retribution:

And when Moses said to his people: “O my people! Verily, you have wronged yourselves by worshiping the calf. So turn in repentance to your Creator and kill yourselves; that is better for you with your Creator.” 2:54
When he (Elijah) said to his people: “Will you not fear Allah?” “Will you invoke Ba’al and forsake the Best of Creators,” “Allah, your Lord and the Lord of your forefathers?” 37:124/126
‘And We decreed to the Children of Israel in the Book (Torah): You shall make mischief in the land twice and shall become tyrants and extremely arrogant’ ‘When the first of the two promises came to pass, We send against you servants of Ours possessing severe prowess; penetrating into your habitations’ ‘Then in turn, We made you prevail over them and reinforced you with wealth and children’ ‘When the second promise came to pass, it was for them to humiliate you and enter the mosque; destroy all that you held in esteem’ ‘Maybe your Lord will have mercy on you but if you regress, We will revert’ 17:4/8

The Quran delineates unambiguously the remit of Prophet Muhammad to ‘The Sacred House’:

‘And this is a blessed Book We have sent down confirming what came before it so that you may warn the Mother of Towns and those around it’ 6:92
‘I have been commanded to worship the Lord of this town (Makkah), Who has sanctified it and to Whom belongs everything’ 28:91
‘Allah has made the Kabah, the Sacred House, a fulcrum for mankind’ 5:97

Makkah and the neighbouring towns comprised mainly of the following groups of people:

1. Muslims
2. Hypocrites
3. People of the Scripture – Jews, Christians, Sabians etc.
4. Pagan Arabs

The hypocrites were those who called themselves Muslims but had already moved from a state of belief to disbelief:

When the hypocrites come to you, they say: “We testify that you indeed are the Messenger of Allah.” And Allah knows that you indeed are His Messenger; and Allah testifies that the hypocrites are liars indeed. 63:1
‘The hypocrites, men and women, are of one another; they enjoin the detestable and forbid the virtuous’ 9:67
Do you not see those who turn hypocrites say to their brethren from amongst the People of the Scripture who disbelieve: “If you are expelled, we too will go out with you and we will never obey any one against you; and if you are attacked, we will certainly help you.” But Allah testifies that they are liars indeed. 59:11

I believe that the instance of the appointment of a Prophet is mostly coincidental to a period where the target audience that is the subject of and subject to what is being revealed is unique in its characteristics and a literal application of the same to any contemporary and/or other audience is not the purpose of the revelations.
The following represent some further observations:

1. The presence of a Prophet in the midst of a people is essential to adjudicating by the edicts that are being revealed.
2. It is the generation that is witness to the revelations which is subjected to the penalties for non-compliance and which is inimitably characterised by its desire to indulge in the sacrilege and the immoral.
3. There are revelations that are applicable in a specific location and/or to a specific Prophet and revelations that can be interpreted in a contemporary context for general application.

We are informed in the Quran that there were those amongst the People of the Scripture who intentionally disregarded the revelations and made every effort to undermine Prophet Muhammad.
The obstinately rebellious would eventually be dealt with for their transgressions:

‘Many from amongst the People of the Scripture wish if they could turn you back to disbelief after you have believed, out of envy from their own selves and after the truth has become manifest to them. So forgive and forebear till Allah reveals His command.’ 2:109

Prophet Muhammad is asked to reaffirm the focal tenet of the monotheistic religion as had been practiced by Prophet Moses and Prophet Jesus:

Say: “O People of the Scripture! Come to an utterance equitable between us and you that we worship none but Allah, nor associate with Him anything nor some of us take others as lords.” Then if they turn away, say: “Bear witness that we are Muslims.” 3:64

However, there are those who refuse to listen to his repeated appeals:

‘They take their rabbis and their monks as lords besides Allah, and the Messiah – son of Maryam; and not commanded were they but to worship the One God. No god is there but He; Sacrosanct is He from what they associate as partners.’ 9:31

Prophet Muhammad is asked to enquire about their wilful misconduct:

Say: “O people of the Scripture! Why do you hinder from the path of Allah those who believe, seeking to pervert it while you are witnesses?” 3:99

We are made aware of the wilful misconduct of the priestly classes:

‘Many of the rabbis and the monks devour people’s wealth with deception and hinder them from the path of Allah’ 9:34

The People of the Scripture resident in Makkah and the neighbouring towns are witness to what is being revealed to the Prophet:

‘O People of the Scripture! Why do you disbelieve in the revelations of Allah while you bear witness?’ 3:70

As a consequence of their dogged refusal to alter their behaviour the obstinately rebellious amongst the People of the Scripture are manifestly in breach of their Mosaic covenant with the ‘One God’ and inevitably find themselves the recipients of punitive action:

‘Fight those who do not believe in Allah and the Last Day, and do not forbid that which Allah and His Messenger have forbidden; and do not adhere to the religion of truth from amongst the People of the Scripture, until they pay the tax – ready and willing, and they are humbled.’ 9:29

This verse most certainly does not sanction the indiscriminate killing of Jews and Christians within Makkah and its environs or anywhere else at any time. It is a qualified and a measured diktat against those from amongst the People of the Scripture who refused to:

1. Accept the sovereignty of the ‘One God’ as revealed in the Torah and the Gospel:

‘And our God and your God is One’ 29:46

2. Acknowledge as an article of faith the Day of Resurrection.
3. Prohibit that which has been prohibited by the ‘One God’ and the Prophet:

And say: “We believe in that which has been sent down to us and has been sent down to you.” 29:46
‘The food of those given the Scripture is lawful for you and your food is lawful for them; the chaste women from the believers and the chaste women from those given the Scripture before you’ 5:5

These verses make it patently clear that Prophet Muhammad would not have proscribed anything other than that already proscribed by Prophet Moses and Prophet Jesus.
4. ‘Adhere to the religion of truth’ – the religion of Prophet Muhammad and all of the Prophets from afore:

‘He has prescribed for you the religion what He enjoined on Noah, and that which We communicate to you is what We enjoined on Abraham and Moses and Jesus – that be upright with the religion and be not divided in it’ 42:13
Those to whom We gave the Scripture before it (Quran), they believe in it. And when it is recited to them, they say: “We believe in it. Verily, it is the truth from our Lord. Surely, we had been since before it – Muslims.” 28:52/53

Although the verse is an instruction to fight there are stringent qualifications that must be observed and there is even an opportunity to forfeit the punitive action by virtue of the payment of an appropriate tribute.
It is imperative that the text of the Quran especially those verses that are likely to provoke an emotional response are judiciously interpreted and not through the imposition of prejudice. Again, verse 9:29 is directed at a very specific section of the People of the Scripture:

Say: “O people of the Scripture! You have nothing valid till you are upright with the Torah and the Gospel, and what has been sent down to you from you Lord.” And it increases in many of them what has been sent down to you from your Lord – excesses and disbelief. 5:68
But when the truth has come to them from Us, they say: “Why is he not given the like of Moses?” “Did they not disbelieve in what was given before to Moses?” They say: “Two kinds of magic, each supporting the other!” And they say: “In each we indeed disbelieve.” 28:48

It is my understanding that the ‘One God’ had taken the decision to establish in Makkah and its environs the same monotheistic religion that had earlier been established in the Land of Canaan when Prophet Moses communicated what had been revealed to him to the ‘Children of Israel’:

‘O my people! Enter the Sacred Land which Allah ordained for you and do not retreat’ ‘O Musa! Surely therein are a people of overwhelming power’ 5:21/22

The following verses are unequivocal in their intent:

‘And why should not Allah punish them while they hinder from the Sacred Mosque, and not are they its guardians? Verily, its guardians are none but the righteous’ 8:34
‘O you who believe! Verily, the polytheists are immoral. So let them not come near the Sacred Mosque after this year of theirs’ 9:28

The pagan Arabs have repeatedly reneged and are persistent:

‘They are those with whom you made a covenant; then they violate their covenant each time’ 8:56
‘And they will not cease fighting you until they turn you back from your religion, if they are able to’ 2:217

Again, the appointment of a Prophet is indicative of a society that is not only intransigent but also in an acute state of constant immoral self-indulgence. The revelations that address such a society cannot be literally juxtaposed in order to adjudicate a contemporaneous and/or other society:
‘Whoever goes aright, goes aright for his own self; and whoever goes astray, goes astray against it. And not will bear a burdened one the burden of another; nor do We inflict punishment until We send a Messenger.’ 17:15
‘And no bearer of burden shall bear the burden of another; and if the one heavily burdened calls to his load, not lifted of it will be anything even if he be near of kin’ 35:38

The undermining of the authority of Prophet Muhammad and the reneging of treaties is reiterated:

‘Will you not fight a people that have violated their oaths and colluded to expel the Messenger, and it was them that attacked you in the first instance?’ 9:13

The following proclamation is not just in response to the shenanigans of the pagan Arabs but is also part of the decision to establish the same monotheistic religion that came into being with Prophet Adam:

‘Absolved of obligations are Allah and His Messenger from those of the polytheists with whom a treaty was made’ ‘So roam freely in the land for four months but be aware that you cannot frustrate Allah’ ‘And a pronouncement from Allah and His Messenger to mankind on the day of the Great Pilgrimage that Allah is absolved from the polytheists as is His Messenger’ ‘Except those of the polytheists with whom you did make a treaty and they did not in any way hinder you nor did they assist anyone against you. So fulfil towards them their treaty to the end of its term’ ‘So when the sacred months have passed, then kill the polytheists where you find them; and seize them and besiege them and lie in wait for them in every ambush. But if they repent and establish prayers, and purify their wealth then leave clear their way’ 9:1/5

Fighting is sanctioned expressly against the pagan Arabs in Makkah who are in breach of their treaty with Prophet Muhammad but only up to the point where they either accept the tenets of the monotheistic religion or quit this theatre of war:

‘And if anyone of the polytheists seeks your protection then give him shelter until he hears the word of Allah, then escort him to his place of safety’ 9:6

The Scriptures as revealed to Moses in the Torah, David in the Psalms, Jesus in the Gospels and Muhammad in the Quran reflect and conform to the natural laws manifest in all of creation. Only an ‘Omniscient’ ‘One God’ could ensure that His revelations to the Prophets were relevant to the human condition in this given construct; not in some improbable utopia.

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About Husein M
I have created this blog in order to bring new informed ideas with the view that it would promote an educated discourse amongst progressive British Muslims.

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