The organization which calls itself 877-Why-Islam is an arm of the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA). The ICNA was listed as one of the organizations designated by the Muslim Brotherhood as "our organizations and the organizations of our friends" in the Holy Land Foundation trial. The Holy Land Foundation leaders were indicted on sending Islamic charity money to Hamas, a designated terrorist organization. They count the ICNA as a friend.
877-Why-Islam is the Dawah arm of the ICNA. Dawah is the Islamic term for proselytizing, or giving an invitation to accept Islam. According to the ICNA website, 877-Why-Islam was established to "organize the dawah work in North America in a professional and effective manner. Highlights of the project are Toll-Free number for non-Muslims; Distribution of Islamic literature; Dawah through Masajid; Dawah by Mail; Dawah through Media; Dawah in Prisons; Campus Dawah Support; Dawah Flyers Online; Dawah through Email etc."
The focus of this article and several others is to address a series of propaganda tracts distributed by 877-Why-Islam. These tracts are distributed in mosques, at public venues such as shopping malls, county and state fairs, and online. This article specifically will address the tract entitled: "What Does Islam Say About Terrorism?"
What Does Islam Say About Terrorism?
The first thing to notice is the quotation of Sura 5:32 from the Quran. This verse commonly is used by Muslims to negate the claims that violence has any scriptural legitimacy in Islam. The portion of the verse quoted in the tract reads "... if any one [sic] slew a person - unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land - it would be as if he slew the whole people: and if any one [sic] saved a life, it would be as he saved the life of the whole people."
First, it must be noted that the verse is not quoted in its entirety. This is done purposefully. The entire verse reads, "On that account: We ordained for the Children of Israel that if any one slew a person - unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land - it would be as if he slew the whole people: and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people. Then although there came to them Our messengers with clear signs, yet, even after that, many of them continued to commit excesses in the land."
1) Note who to whom this verse is directed. "We ordained to the Children of Israel ...". This verse has nothing to do with proving Islam is a peaceful religion. The target audience is not Muslims, it is Jews. Jews are being addressed here, the Children of Israel. And why is Allah using the term "we" if he is absolutely singular?
2) What does it mean to "spread mischief in the land?" After all, that seems to be an exception for which killing someone is justified by this verse. If Muslims want to ignore point 1 above and personalize this verse for the Muslim community, as the do frequently, we must understand what it means to spread mischief.
Ibn Kathir is an authoritative scholar and exegete of the Quran. Although he does not develop the term "make mischief" here, he does so in other similar verses. Sura 2:11-12 uses the same term, and Ibn Kathir defines what it means to "make mischief." Speaking of hypocrites and other disbelievers of Islam, Sura 2:11-12 says, "When it is said to them: "Make not mischief on the earth,” they say: "Why, we only Want to make peace!" Of a surety, they are the ones who make mischief, but they realise (it) not."
In his commentary on these verses, Ibn Kathir says, "Their mischief is disobeying Allah, because whoever disobeys Allah on the earth, or commands that Allah be disobeyed, he has committed mischief on the earth. The hypocrites commit mischief on earth by disobeying their Lord on it and continuing in the prohibited acts. They also abandon what Allah made obligatory and doubt His religion, even though He does not accept a deed from anyone except with faith in His religion and certainty of its truth." In other words, to disobey Allah is to spread mischief. Anyone who does not pray five daily prayers, fast during Ramadan, obey Muhammad as Allah's messenger, believe in absolute Islamic monotheism, is spreading mischief.
Spreading mischief in the land is an exception to the prohibition to kill in Sura 5:32. Thus, Sura 5:32 allows the murder of those who spread mischief in the land - those who disbelieve in Allah and his messenger. This verse is not about peace at all.
3) What is the origin of Sura 5:32? Interestingly, the origin can be deduced from the first few words: "We have ordained for the Children of Israel...". This verse comes from Jewish tradition, not from Allah. It is a commentary by a Rabbi on Genesis 4:10 which discusses the murder of Abel by Cain. It comes from Jewish tradition. "Therefore, humans were created singly, to teach you that whoever destroys a single soul [of Israel], Scripture accounts it as if he had destroyed a full world; and whoever saves one soul of Israel, Scripture accounts it as if she had saved a full world. And for the sake of peace among people, that one should not say to his or her fellow, "My parent is greater than yours;" and that heretics should not say, "There are many powers in Heaven." It has nothing to do with Islam, nor is it an apologetic to prove Islam forbids killing anybody.
At the outset of the pamphlet's text we find a stab at ethical relativism. "Whether it is a bomb going off in a market place, or the hijacking of an aircraft where innocent people are held at ransom to achieve political ends, we live in an age, where the manipulation and loss of innocent lives has become commonplace. Such is the all-pervasive nature of indiscriminate violence, that “terrorism” is considered as one of the prime threats to peace and security in our societies." It further equates nations that drop bombs as an act of wartime retaliation, or who impose economic sanctions to punish rogue regimes as equivalent to a Muslim who flies a jumbo jet into a skyscraper. By doing so, are they justifying the terrorist act of a jihadist as an act of war?
Regardless the argument, this is a tool used frequently by apologists for Islam. The idea here is that violence has always existed, in all societies, for all time. That one can find violence in the name of Islam is nothing new. Hogwash. As we will see, violence and terrorism are part and parcel of Islam, from the Quran and the example set by Islam's prophet.
The tract also suggests "The word terrorism came into wide usage only a few decades ago." I suppose that is true if you distort history and count 1,400 years as just a few decades. Sura 8:60 in the Quran says, "Against them make ready your strength to the utmost of your power, including steeds of war, to strike terror into (the hearts of) the enemies, of Allah and your enemies ..." Speaking of Christians, Sura 3:151 says, "Soon shall We cast terror into the hearts of the Unbelievers, for that they joined companions with Allah, for which He had sent no authority: their abode will be the Fire: And evil is the home of the wrong-doers!." Sura 8:12 reads, "Remember thy Lord inspired the angels (with the message): "I am with you: give firmness to the Believers: I will instil terror into the hearts of the Unbelievers: smite ye above their necks and smite all their finger-tips off them.”" If the word and idea of terrorism is only a few decades old, how did it find its way into the Quran over a thousands years back?
The pamphlet says "Could a faith that has over 1.2 billion followers the world over, and over 7 million in America, actually advocate the killing and maiming of innocent people? Could Islam, whose name itself stands for “peace” and “submission to God”, encourage its adherents to work for death and destruction?" There is a lot to unpack in this short statement. First, the claim of 7 million Muslims in America is over-inflated, purposefully, to persuade politicians of the potential influence of the Muslim community. Real numbers from the CIA Factbook put the number closer to around 3 million. Second, the killing of innocent people is legitimized in Islam, but pivots on the definition of who is an innocent. Anjem Choudary, a devout yet radical cleric in the UK says only Muslims are considered innocent; those who do not accept Islam have committed a crime against God. [ Third, Islam does not mean 'peace' as the pamphlet asserts. It means 'submit' as a slave submits to a master.
The section on jihad begins with a bit of historical twisting. It says, "The term ‘jihad’ has been much abused, to conjure up bizarre images of violent Muslims, forcing people to submit at the point of the sword. This myth was perpetuated throughout the centuries of mistrust during and after the Crusades." Translation: The Crusades, which were very voilent, gave birth to the idea of jihad as forcing submission by the point of the sword. Historical reality: The Crusades were a defensive campaign to recapture former Christian lands which had been plundered and seized, forcing former Christians to either convert to Islam or die by the sword. This happened for over 400 years prior to the Crusades. Fact.
Look how far Islam spread in the first 100 years after Muhammad's death, from 632 to 732. It spread from Arabia eastward into the Levant (modern day Israel, Jordan, Syria) into Iraq and Iran to the western border of India. It also spread west from Arabia across all north Africa, into Spain, where its advance further into Europe was halted in 732 by Charles Martel at the Battle of Tours. Fact. So who was first with the violence, slaughtering, pillaging?
The tract states, "The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) referred to the struggle against the insidious suggestions of one’s own soul as a form of jihad." Note that no citation was provided where Muhammad said this. That's because he never said it. He did talk about jihad dozens of times, if not hundreds. These sayings are recorded in the hadith tradtions collected and assembled by imam al-Bukhari. In the Book of Jihad, Muhammad is quoted as mentioning the term 'jihad' dozens of times, and every one without exception is in the context of armed conflict and warfare to spread Islam or defend it against enemies. Not once is it used of an inner struggle to be a better person.
A further piece of misinformation is found in the last paragraph of the jihad section. An older version of this tract that I picked up 8 years ago says, "The Glorious Qur'an never condones the killing of innocent people." This has been changed in more recent versions to, "the Glorious Qur’an categorically denounces the killing of innocent people." Subtle but important change. But neither statement is accurate, and is misleading, for the reasons stated earlier: Who or what is an innocent person?
History of Tolerance
More propaganda and revisionist history fill this section. But since when has anyone expected the truth from an organization connected to the Muslim Brotherhood, whose goals are to deceive the world about the truth of what Islam teaches?
First the tract quotes one lone historian, De Lacy O'Leary, debunking the myth of Islam having been spread by the sword. What is left unsaid is dozens of other scholars and historians who say just the opposite. Search far and wide, dismiss the majority opinion of history, and you will no doubt find someone who will say exactly what you want him to say. Unfortunately for Muslims, he is the ONLY scholar who has made such an historically ignorant statement that neglects the historical reality.
Second, to drive home the point of Islamic tolerance, the tract quotes Sura 2:256 which says, "“Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from Error: whoever rejects evil and believes in God hath grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold, that never breaks. And God heareth and knoweth all things.” See how tolerant Islam is? The Quran says nobody can be compelled regarding religion.
Except for one small detail that the tract again fails to mention. This verse has been abrogated, set aside, no longer valid. According to the Quran itself, Allah can change his mind regarding any prior revelation. When one verse seems to contradict another, we need to determine which verse came later, because later revelation abrogates or replaces contradictory earlier revelation. This is base on Sura 2:106 which reads, "Whatever a Verse (revelation) do We abrogate or cause to be forgotten, We bring a better one or similar to it. Know you not that Allah is able to do all things?"
Sura 2:256 quoted above and in the tract came early in Muhammad's prophetic career when he was at Mecca, facing persecution from the polytheist Meccans, and he was finding a way to mend relations with them. Muhammad was the proverbial underdog, with no political clout and no military might. His message to the Meccans was "Can't we just get along? Islam is peace!!" But later in his career after moving to Medina, gaining political clout and amassing a large military force, his message changed. He began forcing those he couquered to either convert or die by the sword. Historical fact. Scholars say Sura 9:29 abrogates Sura 2:256 and hundreds of similar peaceful verses. It reads, "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." Sura 9 was given to Muhammad shortly before his death, so this verse constitutes Muhammad's final orders to his followers, to fight (to kill) anyone who does not believe in Allah. Quite a contrast from "Let there be no compulsion in religion" wouldn't you say?
Islam: The Great Unifier
The tract concludes with more rubbish. It states, "it is the universality of its teachings that makes Islam the fastest growing religion in the world." Nope. The ONLY reason Islam continues to grow is through reproduction rate: Muslim women have more babies than non-Muslim women do, and Muslim men can have up to four wives. Osama bin Laden, the infamous leader of Al Qaeda, was one of 54 siblings from his father, who had multiple wives. But in terms of conversion rates to Islam, they are insignificant. More people are leaving Islam than are joining it. Some adopt other religions, others become atheists. The universality of it's teachings have no effect at all on the growth of Islam.
The tract also says "Islam is a beacon of light and hope for the future." Sadly, Islam offers no hope at all for its followers. They have no assurance of their eternal destiny; they never know if they have been good enough to earn Allah's favor. The only way to bypass judgment and enter directly into paradise is to blow one's self to smithereens, to shed one's own blood. Where is the hope in that?
There is only one person, and one belief system, that has ever offered complete hope and assurance. The Bible says in 1 John 5:13 "These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God." Jesus himself said the following recorded in John 14:6: "“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." The apostle Paul said in Ephesians 2:8-9: "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast." We cannot earn our salvation through good works. We do not have to shed our own blood to atone for our sins, and doing so does not get us into heaven or paradise. The only way there is through Jesus, who is The Way.