Maulana Wahiduddin Khan I Misconceptions about Islam

There are certain verses in the Quran which convey injunctions similar to the following:  ‘Slay them wherever you find them.’ (The Quran, 2:191)

Referring to such verses there are some who attempt to give the impression that Islam is a religion of war and violence. This is totally untrue. Such verses relate in a restricted sense, to those who have unilaterally attacked the Muslims. The above verse does not convey the general command of Islam.

The truth of the matter is that the Quran was not revealed in the complete from in which it exists today. It was revealed from time to time. According to the circumstances, over a time span of 23 years. If this is divided into years of war and peace, the period of peace amounts to 20 years, while that of war amounts only to 3 years. The revelations during these 20 peaceful years were the peaceful teachings of Islam as are conveyed in the verses regarding the realization of God, worship, mortality, justice, etc.

This division of commands is a natural one and is found in all religious books. For instance, the Gita, the holy book of the Hindus pertains to wisdom and moral values. Yet along with this is the exhortation of Krishan to Arjun, encouraging him to fight. (Bhagwad Gita, 3:30)  This does not mean that believers in the Gita should wage wars all the time. Gandhiji, after all, derived his philosophy of non-violence from the same Gita. The exhortation to wage war in the Gita applies only to exceptional cases where circumstances leave no choice. But for general day-to-day existence it gives the same peaceful commands as derived from it by Mahatma Ghandhi.

Similarly, Jesus Christ said: “Do not think that I came to bring peace on Earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (Matthew, Chapter 10)

It would not be right to conclude that the religion preached by Christ was one of war and violence, for such utterances relate purely to particular occasions. So far as general life is concerned, Christ taught peaceful values, such as the building up of a good character, loving each other, helping the poor and needy, etc.

The same is true of the Quran. When the Prophet of Islam emigrated from Makkah to Madinah, the idolatrous tribes were aggressive towards him. But the Prophet always averted their attacks by the exercise of patience and the strategy of avoidance. However on certain occasions no other options existed, except to engage in defensive battles. It was these circumstances which occasioned those revelation relating to war. These commands, being specific to certain circumstances, were not meant to be valid for all time to come. That is why, the permanent status of the Prophet has been termed a Mercy for all mankind.’ (The Quran, 21:107)