A Response to Ayaan Hirsi’s “Islam Is a Religion of Violence”

Posted by on Jan 12th, 2016 and filed under Opinion, Recent Posts. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry


THE atheist who goes by the name Ayaan Hirsi Ali recently wrote a predictably venal piece of attack propaganda titled “Islam Is a religion of Violence,” and subtitled, “Can the Wave of Violence Sweeping the Islamic World be Traced Back to the Religion’s Core Teachings?”

The article was published in the December 2015 edition of An-Nour, a monthly newspaper distributed in the Atlanta (GA) area. Knowing Hirsi, and the network of support she regrettably enjoys within certain circles of the west, the article was probably published in a number of other publications around the U.S. and abroad (in publications willing to lower journalistic standards in order to carry it).

Our intent is to respond to the rhetorical question raised in the subtitle of Hirsi’s commentary. In her article she references verses from the Qur’an that are usually manipulated by propagandists of her ilk – particularly surahs 8:60 and 9:29. She writes:

“Anyone seeking armed support in the name of ALLAH will find ample support in the passages in the Qur’an and Hadith that relate to Mohammed’s Medina period. For example, Q4:95 states, ‘ALLAH has granted a grade higher to those who strive and fight with their goods and persons than to those who sit (at home).’ Q8:60 advises Muslims to ‘strike terror into (the hearts of) the enemies of ALLAH, and your enemies, and others besides whom you may not know, but whom ALLAH does know.’ Finally, Q9:29 instructs Muslims: ‘Fight those who believe not in ALLAH nor the Last Day, nor hold forbidden that which has been made 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.’

And finally, “Mainstream Islamic jurisprudence continues to maintain that the so-called ‘sword verses’ (9:5 and 9:29) have ‘abrogated, canceled, and replaced’ those verses in the Qur’an that call for tolerance, compassion, and peace.” Not surprisingly, Ayaan Hirsi concluded this paragraph (at the heart of her diatribe) with a straight up lie!

Like her colleagues in the field, Hirsi quotes Qur’anic verses completely out of context. According to the scholars, verses 1-29 of Surah Tawbah (the ninth surah/chapter of the Qur’an) were revealed as a declaration of state policy in or around the month of Shawwal, nine years after the Hijrah (migration of the Prophet, peace be upon him). They were later publicized by one of his leading companions, Ali ibn Abu Talib, at the Hajj (Pilgrimage to Makkah), about two months later, in order to give the revelations the widest exposure possible.

These ayat (verses) were revealed after the enemy repeatedly violated the peace treaty with the Muslims; and even then, those enemies guilty of treachery were given a four month grace period, and the door was left open for repentance and a restoration of ties. The third and fourth verses of Tawbah read as follows:

“And an announcement from ALLAH and His Messenger to the people assembled on the day of the Great Pilgrimage – that ALLAH and His Messenger dissolve treaty obligations with the pagans. If then, you repent, it would be best for you; but if you turn away know that you cannot frustrate ALLAH. And proclaim a grievous penalty to those who reject faith. The treaties are not dissolved with those pagans, with whom you have entered an alliance, who have not failed you [in their agreement]; nor aided anyone against you. Fulfill your agreements with them to the end of their term; for ALLAH loves the righteous.”

In the sixth ayah of Surah Tawbah (the one following the verse often misquoted by Islamophobes out of context), The Creator says:

“If one among the pagans asks you for asylum, give it to him, so that he may hear the word of ALLAH; and then escort him to where he can be secure. That is because they are men without knowledge.”

A well-known and respected American-born scholar of Islam, Dr. Sherman Hakim Jackson, recently delivered a speech in New York City in which he stated: “I published an article in 2000 entitled ‘Domestic Terrorism in the Islamic Legal Tradition,’ in which I pointed out, according to all four schools [of Islamic jurisprudence in the Sunni tradition], terrorism is forbidden according to the law of Islam. Terrorism is what? It is publicly directed violence. Not public violence, publicly directed violence; violence that targets the public – innocents in the public domain – producing fear and a sense of helplessness. These activities have been condemned in Islamic law, from virtually the beginning.”

Any truly objective study of The Noble Qur’an, the Prophetic Sunnah, and the Sirah (the history of the early Islamic movement) would prove this to be a fact. So where does the un-Islamic carnage that we see in parts of the Muslim world today stem from? It stems from societal disruption and reactionary tendencies rooted in ignorance – maladies which are common to the human condition (not unique to Muslims at all). Islam provides an antidote for these tendencies; an antidote ignored by some, and unknown to others – especially to many of the blind-following, easily dispensable foot soldiers of “jihad.”

In surah Tawbah (9:122) – again, the same surah that Islamophobes love to quote out of context – there is another ayah that reads:

“Nor should the Believers all go forth together. If a contingent from every expedition remained behind, they could devote themselves to studies in religion and admonish the people [i.e. the soldiers] when they return to them; thus they may learn to guard themselves against evil.”

In a very insightful tafsir (or explanation) on that Qur’anic verse, the late Qur’anic scholar, Abdullah Yusuf Ali, wrote the following:

“Fighting may be inevitable, and where a call is made by the Amir al-Mu’minin (ruler of an Islamic state) it should be obeyed. But fighting is not to be glorified to the exclusion of all else. Even among those who are able to go forth, a party should remain behind – one in every township or circle – for purposes of study; so that when the fighters return home, their minds may be attuned again to the more normal interests of religious life, under properly instructed teachers. The students and teachers are soldiers of the Jihad in their spirit of obedience and discipline.”

The aforementioned should be more than enough for any fair-minded reader. However, given the amount of space allocated to Ayaan Hirsi’s regrettable diatribe, I would like to conclude with a few memorable quotes from a number of prominent non-Muslim personalities (as closing food for additional thought):

“The lies (western slander) which well-meaning zeal has heaped around this man (Muhammad) are disgraceful to ourselves only.”
– Thomas Carlyle

“If greatness of purpose, smallness of means, and astonishing results are the three criteria of human genius, who could dare compare any great man in history with Muhammad? The most famous men created arms, laws, and empires only. They founded, if anything at all, no more than material powers which often crumbled away before their eyes. This man moved not only armies, legislations, empires, peoples, dynasties, but millions of men in one third of the then inhabited world; and more than that, he moved the alters, the gods, the religions, the ideas, the beliefs and the souls.”
– Alphonse de LaMartaine

“Four years after the death of Justinian, AD 569, was born in Mecca, in Arabia, the man who, of all men, has exercised the greatest influence upon the human race… To be the religious head of many empires, to guide the daily life of one third of the human race may perhaps justify the title of a Messenger of God.”
– Dr. William Draper

“I wanted to know the best of the life of the one who holds today an undisputed sway over the hearts of millions of mankind. I became more than ever convinced that it was not the sword that won a place for Islam in those days in the scheme of life. It was the rigid simplicity, the utter self- effacement of the Prophet, the scrupulous regard for pledges, his intense devotion to his friends and followers, his intrepidity, his fearlessness, his absolute trust in God and in his own mission, These and not the sword carried everything before them and surmounted every obstacle. When I closed the second volume (of the Prophet’s biography) I was sorry there was no more for me to read of that great life.”
– Mahatma Gandhi

“He was the only man in history who was supremely successful on both the religious and secular levels… It is the unparalleled combination of secular and religious influence which I feel entitles Muhammad to be considered the most influential single figure in human history.”
– Michael H. Hart (author of The 100: A Ranking of The Most Influential Persons in History)

“I have always held the religion of Muhammad in high estimation because of its wonderful vitality. It is the only religion which appears to me to possess that assimilating capacity to the changing phase of existence, which can make itself appeal to every age. I have studied him, the wonderful man, and in my opinion, far from being an anti-Christ, he must be called the savior of humanity.”
– Sir George Bernard Shaw

“Muhammad has always been standing higher than Christianity. He does not consider God as a human being, and never makes himself equal to God. Muslims worship nothing except God, and Muhammad is His Messenger. There is not any mystery and secret in it.”
– Leo Tolstoy

“His readiness to undergo persecution for his beliefs, the high moral character of the men who believed in him and looked up to him as a leader, and the greatness of his ultimate achievement – all argue his fundamental integrity. To suppose Muhammad an imposter raises more problems than it solves. Moreover, none of the great figures of history is so poorly appreciated in the West as Muhammad.”
– W. Montgomery Watt

On a final note, not that long ago, the former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark delivered a speech in the Washington, DC, area (at my organization’s request). Toward the end of his speech, far from considering Islam to be a “religion of violence,” he said the following to a mixed audience of concerned citizens: “America needs Muslims to stand up for Islam; it is the one revolutionary force that truly cares about humanity.” Something to think about!

El-Hajj Mauri’ Saalakhan is a Metropolitan Washington, DC, based human rights advocate. He is the founding president and director of operations for The Aafia Foundation, Inc.

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