Violence in the Bible and Jihad in the Quran

This article was originally published in the Muslim Sunrise, in September of 2011. Muslim Sunrise is the oldest Muslim publication of North America.

By Khaula Rehman MD

Many Christians and Jews, perhaps unconsciously, consider the Quran standing in absolute contrast to the scriptures they themselves cherish. In the minds of ordinary Christians – and Jews – the Quran teaches savagery and warfare, while the Bible offers a message of love, forgiveness, and charity. For the prophet Micah, God’s commands to his people are summarized in the words “act justly, and love mercy, and walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). Christians recall the words of the dying Jesus: “Father, forgive them: they know not what they do.” Likewise, there are verses in the Holy Quran to promote tolerant and kind behavior. The Holy Quran says, “And good and evil are not alike. Repel evil with that which is best. And lo, he between whom and thyself was enmity will become as though he were a warm friend.” (Al Quran 41:35) This article is to give the Christians and the Jews a balanced view of the two scriptures, the Bible and the Quran. There are no verses in the Holy Quran to trigger and promote genocide, but there are in the Bible: When you march up to attack a city, make its people an offer of peace. If they accept and open their gates, all the people in it shall be subject to forced labor and shall work for you. If they refuse to make peace and they engage you in battle, lay siege to that city. When the Lord your God delivers it into your hand, put to the sword all the men in it. As for the women, the children, the livestock and everything else in the city, you may take these as plunder for yourselves. And you may use the plunder the Lord your God gives you from your enemies. This is how you are to treat all the cities that are at a distance from you and do not belong to the nations nearby. However, in the cities of the nations the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes. Completely destroy them—the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—as the Lord your God has commanded you.[i] (Deuteronomy 20:10-17) There are no verses in the Holy Quran to destroy polytheism with sword and kill all polytheists and even their livestock, regardless of whether they are at war or not, but in the Bible there are: If you hear it said about one of the towns the Lord your God is giving you to live in that troublemakers have arisen among you and have led the people of their town astray, saying, “Let us go and worship other gods” (gods you have not known), then you must inquire, probe and investigate it thoroughly. And if it is true and it has been proved that this detestable thing has been done among you, you must certainly put to the sword all who live in that town. You must destroy it completely,both its people and its livestock. You are to gather all the plunder of the town into the middle of the public square and completely burn the town and all its plunder as a whole burnt offering to the Lord your God. That town is to remain a ruin forever, never to be rebuilt. (Deuteronomy 13:12-16) There are no verses in the Holy Quran to kill people for sexual misconduct but there are in the Bible: If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife—with the wife of his neighbor—both the adulterer and the adulteress are to be put to death. (Leviticus 20:10) And: If a priest’s daughter defiles herself by becoming a prostitute, she disgraces her father; she must be burned in the fire. (Leviticus 21:9) There are no verses in the Holy Quran ordering to attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. There is nothing in the Quran ordering, ‘do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys,’ but there is in the Bible: Samuel said to Saul, “I am the one the LORD sent to anoint you king over his people Israel; so listen now to the message from the LORD. This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.’” So Saul summoned the men and mustered them at Telaim—two hundred thousand foot soldiers and ten thousand from Judah. Saul went to the city of Amalek and set an ambush in the ravine. … But Saul and the army spared Agag and the best of the sheep and cattle, the fat calves and lambs—everything that was good. These they were unwilling to destroy completely, but everything that was despised and weak they totally destroyed. (1 Samuel 15:1-9) There are no verses in the Holy Quran describing Allah as a Man of war but in Exodus 15:3, the Bible tells us the Lord is a man of war. Such war verses are not limited to the Old Testament only. In Mark 7:9-10, Jesus is critical of the Jews for not killing their disobedient children as prescribed by Old Testament law. In Luke 19:22-27, Jesus orders killed anyone who refuses to be ruled by him. The New Testament quotes Jesus Christ, “Think not that I am came to bring peace on earth: I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (Matthew 10: 34) At another place the New Testament quotes Jesus, “Then said he unto them, ‘But now, he who has a money bag, let him take it, and likewise his knapsack: and he who has no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one.” (Luke 22: 36) The Holy Quran does not prescribe death sentence for the sin of arrogance but the Bible does: Anyone who shows contempt for the judge or for the priest who stands ministering there to the Lord your God is to be put to death. You must purge the evil from Israel. (Deuteronomy 17:12) The Holy Quran does not prescribe to kill witches and fortune-tellers but the Bible does: Do not allow a sorceress to live. (Exodus 22:18) And: A man or woman who is a medium or spiritist among you must be put to death. You are to stone them; their blood will be on their own heads. (Leviticus 20:27) The Holy Quran gives freedom of speech to followers of all other religions and does not prescribe killing them for preaching their religion but the Bible does: If your very own brother, or your son or daughter, or the wife you love, or your closest friend secretly entices you, saying, “Let us go and worship other gods” (gods that neither you nor your ancestors have known, gods of the peoples around you, whether near or far, from one end of the land to the other), do not yield to them or listen to them. Show them no pity. Do not spare them or shield them. You must certainly put them to death. Your hand must be the first in putting them to death, and then the hands of all the people. Stone them to death, because they tried to turn you away from the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. Then all Israel will hear and be afraid, and no one among you will do such an evil thing again. (Deuteronomy 13:6-11) The Holy Quran does not prescribe capital punishment for stubborn and rebellious children but the Bible does: If someone has a stubborn and rebellious son who does not obey his father and mother and will not listen to them when they discipline him, his father and mother shall take hold of him and bring him to the elders at the gate of his town. They shall say to the elders, “This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a glutton and a drunkard.” Then all the men of his town are to stone him to death. You must purge the evil from among you. All Israel will hear of it and be afraid. (Deuteronomy 21:18-21) Now, the Christian apologists could be writhing in pain and anger and asking a host of questions, for example, why are you cherry picking? Why don’t you take the holistic picture and appreciate the message of compassion in the Bible? Why do you not hear the message of Jesus Christ of turning the other cheek? Muslims can say yes we accept Jesus as a kind hearted prophet of God and the Holy Prophet Muhammad in the Quran has been called as a mercy for the whole mankind, based on his conduct towards all people that he dealt with in his life time.[ii] Now I can hear through the grapevines, the Christian apologists offering host of explanations, for these verses! They are saying statements like, there are different explanations of these verses in different Judeo-Christian traditions and sects, the Old Testament has been superseded by the New Testament, do not take these verses literally in our present times, look at the context of these verses in time and history. I say yes my dear, yes indeed, the Muslims have explanations also, for the so called ‘sword verse’ of the Holy Quran and other similar verses that sometimes hatemongers like to obsess about and the USA national media unilaterally comments on, fairly regularly![iii] Let the discussions begin, as we hold hearings about the Holy Quran in different juries across the West, let us be fair and reasonable and put the Bible on trial as well. Last but not the least, the Christian apologists tell me that even if these verses are there in the Bible, so what, we do not take Bible seriously anymore and do not act on the Biblical injunctions anymore. But I remind them that according to a recent poll, more than 60% of the USA population still takes the Bible to be literal word of God.[iv] So, let us talk, let us talk about both the Bible and the Holy Quran in a grown up fashion. According to the Holy Quran, Jihad even when it means armed struggle, it implies only defensive war and not a pre-emptive strike. Let me introduce two Exhibits in defense of the Holy Quran. My Exhibit A: Fundamental versus allegoric: War and Peace in Islam: Exhibit B: War Verses of the Holy Quran: ——————————————————————————– [i] All Bible references and quotes are from New International Version. [ii] Al Quran 21:108. [iii] Al Quran 9:5. [iv]


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  1. Duncan Dugan

    The part of the Bible which is known as the “Old Testament” was written over a period spanning 700 years, and finished about 300 years before the birth of Jesus. It does contain a lot of violence.

    Jesus came to change all that and teach people that God was a kind, loving Father to his people. You have gotten all your Jesus quotes out of context. When Jesus says (in Matthew) “I come not to bring you peace, but a sword”, he is not ordering his followers to take up swords and kill people. What he is warning them is that they will be in danger of being killed. And this was true. For the first 300 years of Christianity, Christians were persecuted, just the way they are still persecuted in countries where they are a minority. Christianity was not spread by military action (unlike Islam, where Muhammed led more than 20 military actions); Christianity was spread simply by people telling each other the teachings of Jesus.

    The second thing: In Luke chapter 22, Jesus is warning his followers that everything is about to change. What he is saying here is that although their lives have never been in danger before, they will be, from now on. So the disciples take two swords with them, not really enough to defend themselves against a whole band of soldiers. When the soldiers come for Jesus, he says to them “Why have you come looking for me with swords? You have seen me in full view, teaching in the city every day. You could have seized me then.”

    The other two passages are more difficult to explain. You write “In Mark 7:9-10, Jesus is critical of the Jews for not killing their disobedient children as prescribed by Old Testament law.”
    This is a serious misinterpretation of what is taking place here. Jesus is NOT criticising the Pharisees for not killing their disobedient children. He is criticising them for their double standards and their hypocrisy. The Pharisees were a group of fundamentalists who claimed to follow the ancient Judaic Laws exactly. They criticised Jesus because his followers pick some grain to eat on the Holy Day, they ate without washing their hands, and Jesus healed a man on the Holy Day, when it was forbidden to work. On one occasion Jesus said to them “So if your cow falls down the well on the Holy Day, are you going to leave it there?” In the particular instance related about Jesus is saying, “OK! You SAY you keep the Law, and you are proud of that. Well, there is a Law that says that if your son doesn’t honour his parents, you should kill him. Do you kill your disobedient sons? No, you don’t! This shows that in fact, you only keep the laws that you think are appropriate! So don’t be such hypocrites about the things that other people do!” (Note that he isn’t criticising their actions, only their attitude to other people.)

    Think about this in REAL terms. Do Jews and Christians kill their children for dishonouring them? No, they don’t. But this practice is common in Islam, and has been documented in Pakistan, Iraq, Iran, India, Afghanistan, Canada and Australia, particularly when girls marry against their parents’ wishes.)

    Jesus told a VERY IMPORTANT story about this, to show how God loves all his children, even those who turn their backs on him. The story goes that there was a Father with two sons. The younger one said “Why should I have to wait till you die to get my inheritance? I want it now so I can enjoy it!” This ungrateful conduct was a dishonour to the Father, but he gave the inheritance. So the son went to another city, made friends and spent all the money. Soon he was so poor that the only job he could get was minding a herd of pigs (which are unclean to the Jews as well as Muslims). He was totally shamed. So he decided to go and beg his father’s forgiveness, and ask if he could just be a servant in the house. But his Father had looked out for him every single day. When he saw the son coming, the Father ran to meet him, lifted him from his knees, and immediately gave his forgiveness. The Father ordered a banquet to be prepared, but the older son was jealous. The Father said “Rejoice with me, because my son who was lost, is found; who I thought was dead is alive!” Jesus told this to show how God never lets go of his children, even when they stray from him, and how he forgives them, when they turn to him in Faith for his mercy.

    Finally, the other difficult teaching that you have cited, from Luke Chapter 19. The disciples want Jesus (who is the descendant of the Royal House of David) to claim his kingship (and kick the Roman government out of their country). Jesus responds, as he very often did, by telling a story. In this you must realise that within Jewish culture, narratives were a very important way of convey meaningful information. Hence, the stories that Jesus told, as retold by the Gospel writers, are often very much more complex than those which have been recorded from Muhammed. In this story, Jesus is not depicting himself as the King, and saying what he would do, how he would act, or how things will be, either on Earth or in Heaven. What Jesus is showing in the story is the tyrannical way that an ordinary earthly king would act towards those who served him.

    In fact, Jesus had told another story about the behaviour of the Heavenly King (who in the story is depicted as a rich farmer). In this story, the landowner has a great field full of grain and the harvest time has come. So he sends his steward to the market place to hire workers. During the day, it is clear that the job will not be done, so he hires more. As evening draws near, he sends to the market for yet more workers. At the end of the day, he pays the whole lot for a day’s work. Some men get angry and say, “But these people only worked one hour!” (They had stood at the hiring fare for the rest of the day with no work to do.) The rich man says that the men who began work in the morning agreed to the terms. They have not been cheated. But the rich man has the right to reward, as he choses, those who had worked. (Those who had stood and waited were equally willing, and just as deserving, so they got the same.)

    Jesus came to show us the true nature of God, as the loving Father of us all, more loving that any earthly father, more merciful than any human judge, more concerned for the well-being of his subjects than any earthly king. It is only possible to depict Jesus as encouraging violence if you misunderstand his teachings, or take them out of context, or deliberately twist them.

  2. Janalexa

    Human Skin Pain-Receptors[Quran 04:56] Surely, those disbelieve signs (verses), shall burn (Hell) fire.  skins rosetad through, shall change skins, taste punishment (outcome incorrect-doings). Verily, Allah -Powerful, -Wise. Prof Tagatat Tejasen,Chairman Deptt Anatomy Chiang Mai University, Thailand embraced Islam during 8th Saudi Medical Cnference,Riyadh reading Quranic verse;

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