Fanatics and terrorists misguided

“America’s fight against terrorism is justified by the Quran”, says Imam Tammam Adi Ph.D, Director of the Islamic Cultural Center of Eugene, Oregon.

I will try to show that America’s fight against terrorism is justified by the Quran, and that fanatics and terrorists misinterpret the Quran to justify their views.

Islam’s prophet, Muhammad, is a descendant of Abraham. His message, the Quran, confirms the Gospel and the Torah. Its essence is that we should love God above everything and not play God on this earth (Allahu akbar), and also that we should treat all humanity as brothers and sisters.

According to Shatibi, a 14th century Spanish-Muslim scholar, the Quran outlines a bill of rights. All verses work together to define five rights in this order of priority: religious liberty, right to life, freedom of the mind, social liberty, and, finally, economic liberty.

In his famous four-volume work “How Things Fit Together in the Roots of Legislation,” Shatibi details the proof. He says all religions protect these basic rights – see, for example, the Ten Commandments.

We find in verses 2:190-193 that the Quran values religious liberty even above the right to life: “… attacking a religious group (fitnah) is more severe than a plain attack (qatl).” These are the first verses revealed that tell Muslims to fight to defend themselves.

“Jihad” is an Arabic word that means “struggle.” It is either military or nonviolent. The verses prescribe when military jihad is allowed. In all other situations, nonviolent jihad (personal and civic struggle) is the only legitimate way to achieve change.

“Fight in the way of God against those who are fighting you and do not start a fight; God surely dislikes aggressors.” Since the verb “fight” is in the plural form, jihad is a collective action based on a political decision by “mutual consultation” (Quran 42:38). No scholar, mullah or religious leader may “declare jihad.” The grammar also excludes non-collective military actions such as assassination, sabotage and guerrilla warfare.

The “way of God” is then defined: “And kill them only in combat clashes, and expel them only from where they expelled you.” This outlaws the killing of non-combatants (terrorism), prisoners of war, retreating troops or surrendering soldiers. It also prohibits overreaching into enemy territory in the course of liberating a country.

“And fight them until there are no more attacks against religious groups and all religious authority is God’s alone” (Quran 2:193).

Given this clarity in the Quranic presentation of principles, religious fanatics have to use blatant misinterpretations to justify their causes. For example, extremists misinterpret Verse 2:193 to mean “Fight until there is no more polytheism and all submit to the religion of Allah (Islam).” Fanatics replace “kill them only in combat clashes” with “kill them wherever you find them.”

The Arabic language and the context of the verses do not allow this twisting by any stretch of imagination. But in a dictatorship without freedom of speech, such state-sponsored mistranslations can stand unchallenged, and will be confirmed by scholars serving the despots.

You can recognize misinterpretations by the fact that they contradict other verses or known principles. For example, a common mistranslation of verse 5:51 is “O you who believe, do not take the Jews and Christians as friends (awliya)… .” The right translation is “protectors,” not “friends,” and it refers to Muslims collaborating with enemies at a time when a specific war was going on, as 5:52 explains.

Verse 60:8 makes the general relationship between Muslims and others crystal clear: “God does not prohibit you from treating with utmost friendship (birr) and fairness those who have not attacked you because of your religion or expelled you from your homes. God loves the fair ones.” The concept of “birr” is the way one should treat parents and relatives.

The old Romans and Persians targeted Jews and Christians within their empires. Early Muslim armies fought against them to protect targeted religious groups. Muslims did not convert anybody. They remained in their nearby garrisons to assure local self-rule according to the Torah or the Gospel. Muslim “conquests” were called “fat-h,” which means “opening” or liberation. Islam spread peacefully. That early Islamic way of life included some cherished values: self-rule, religious freedom and pluralism.

The Quran blessed this approach: “… and if God did not cause people to defend each other, monasteries, churches, synagogues and mosques would have been demolished in which God’s name is often remembered” (Quran 22:40). “There should be no coercion in religion” (Quran 2:256).

Fourteen centuries later, the picture is reversed. Terrorist states in the old world replace the Roman and Persian empires in oppressing people. Governments of many nations with Muslim populations sponsor fanatic organizations that target free-thinking Muslims and call for terrorism against Jews, Christians and others.

The terrorism of September 11 brought the battle to the United States. We are now in a combat clash with terrorists and the states sponsoring them. The Quran gives us the right to fight “until there are no more attacks on religious groups” here or in any allied countries.

America’s fight against terrorism is not only justified, it is jihad.

  • Reprinted with permission. Copyright 2001, The Register-Guard.

AUTHOR’S UPDATE June 18, 2003:

I wrote the following article soon after the 9/11 attacks. At the time, I argued that America’s response might be considered self defense or “jihad.” The passage of time has proved me wrong, given the excesses in Afghanistan and allegations of war crimes, the unprovoked invasion of Iraq, and the unAmerican crackdown on Muslims in the US.

Tammam Adi Ph.D is the Director of the Islamic Cultural Center of Eugene, Oregon, USA. Originally from Syria, he is a computational linguist specializing in Arabic.



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