By Ida Indawati Khouw
November 03, 2008
Although Islamic scholars have repeatedly explained that Koranic verses endorsing war and the use of violence only apply in specific circumstances, for example, in justifying defensive violence when fighting against repression, nonetheless contemporary hard-liners continue justifying violent acts using these sacred texts and seek to legitimize their own actions on religious grounds.
"We should think of a way to end this advocacy of violence in the name of Islam. Apologists argue that the problem lies in Muslims having misinterpreted these texts. They refuse to look at the religion in a critical way but suggest a method of contextualization in interpreting these texts (emphasizing that the verses are historically bound to the era in which they were revealed). But I have become tired with this approach."
"The problem is, fundamentalists create context," Guntur explains further: "For instance, they apply the word 'holy war' to the struggle against United States domination. Another example, the hard-liners extend the meaning of 'enemy of Islam' not only to followers of the Jewish faith and Christians but also to Muslims they consider to be cooperating with the 'infidels'. So, they are very 'contextual' in their arguments."
In order to 'rescue' Islam from being tarnished by violent acts, he suggests Muslims should dare to abrogate the Islamic law on war and the use of violence, an approach that is founded on Islamic tradition itself, "Islam acknowledges a method called nasakh, abrogation of law. It is not a popular approach but we can take the step when certain stipulations are no longer applicable to the contemporary context."
Applying nasakh does not mean to abrogate the holy texts, "texts endorsing war and violence will still be there but we will regard them as historical facts," says Guntur.
According to Guntur, the radicals have been using this method. He points out as an example that mujahidin fighters in Afghanistan, "abrogated verses that promote peace and tolerance so that they can wage war (in the name of Islam). So, why don't we reverse the approach; we should abrogate the verses that suggest violence and promote peaceful ones, instead?"
Return to the pre-Madina teachings of Muhammad
Guntur says that peaceful Islam was evident during the Meccan era, when Islam was not yet fully institutionalized and when followers of the Prophet Muhammad were held together primarily as a spiritual community.
"Thus I have a dream, that contemporary Muslims would practice Islam as it was in the pre-Medina era when Islam was in the private realm. In my opinion, that is the era of the hanif Islam (the straight Islam). Peaceful Koranic verses were revealed during this Mecca era," the alumnae of the Department of Creed and Philosophy of Al Azhar University adds, "In Mecca, Muhammad's followers were not very distinctive from Jews or Christians, as the three shared the same stories and (spiritual) genealogy as the offspring of Abraham."
Prophet Muhammad hijra (migrated) from Mecca to Medina in AD 622 to avoid bloodshed, as the Prophet was not popular among the powerful Quraish clan who rejected his tauhid (monotheistic) teaching. The migration is understood as the date for the beginning of the Islamic Hijri calendar.
Guntur elaborates further: "Identity Islam was shaped, later in Medina, when the religion intersected with political power. It was in this context that verses related to war were revealed.
Asked whether he was afraid if his thoughts would be labeled as being blasphemous, Guntur answers: "In fact, I used to be a fundamentalist myself during mypesantren (Islamic boarding school) year in Madura (East Java). I was influenced by the ideology of my teachers."
Thanks to the respected figure Abdurrahman Wahid (Gus Dur) Guntur became religiously enlightened. "Gus Dur visited my school. Before raising issues with him, I challenged him to first take up the argument that Islam was the most correct religion.
"Gus Dur responded: the faith of this santri (Guntur, the student) is in crisis. Those confident with their faith and religion do not need to make the claim that Islam is supreme. Those whose faith is shallow are those with the biggest mouths."
Gus Dur's remarks "hit" Guntur deeply.
First of all I am delighted to see that there is an Islamic website which respects the views of other believers. Normally I have seen Muslims do not like criticism and therefore intelligentsia normally avoids such discussions with them. So the first comment made by me is to acknowledge that when we are prepared to listen to the criticism we are prepared to improve.
In my opinion we should know that the purpose of any religion is to help develop individual, society, countries and the humanity as a whole. Therefore any religion which creates hatred between the people is not a religion but the creation of devil. Islam, Hinduism or Christianity should preach that they all are here to respect God because the ultimate aim of every religion is the same.
Muslims must come to terms with the fact that islam does not have and will not and cannot have a positive context and constructive role in the 21st century. So long muslims practise self-deceit and think islam can be reformed and made modern, we all will continue to suffer. Context is a very flexible argument and suits more to those who wish to enforce fascism and emotionalism and are ready to die or kill for their beliefs. That the kuran contains such weak points is proof enough that it not a divine book - nor a book of peace nor knowledge. Excessive praise of anything or anyone leads to fascism, irrationality and extremism and islam is thus a Mohammad-centred and Kuran-centred fascism. Unfortunately islamic education causes muslims to become cowards and opportunists and they cannot aparently overcome their fears and come to the correct conclusion that islam is a dangerous-evil case now (in the 21st century). Muslim cowardice manifests itself in their love for violence. Practising collective violence under a fascist leader is a way of hiding ones cowardice, opportunism and foolishness. I read the kuran and found it to be a book of totalitarian manipulation of those who are timid and weak of intelligence. Islam is an instrument of arab imperialism and hegemony also. Non-arabs should certainly shun islam. Even for the arabs islam has become a heavy millstone around the neck. A bit of doctoring here and there will not do. Islam has become a scourge upon mankind and things will become worse if muslims keep fooling themselves and others into thinking that islam can be made better. Every attempt to reform islam has only ended up strengthening islamic fascism. Everything good that non-muslims gave to the muslims (even to muslim liberals) ended up in the hands of the islamofascists. Face these facts courageously and honestly now.
Dear Aamir Mughal Sahab,
Thanks for sharing these posts with us. They are very educative and contain quotations from authorities on the subject. So I am posting them separately on another page for NewAgeIslam.com readers.
Knowing how to Interpret Quran correctly is important and certainly useful and necessary. But it still doesn’t solve our problems regarding the Holy Quran’s war-like verses. These verses were situational. They are instructions given in a certain context. Some of them certainly are of a universal nature. But in some other cases that context does not obtain today and cannot obtain today or in future. Time machine or not, we are not going to live in the 6th century Arabia and fight those wars again. Enemies of Islam both within and without are using these surahs to propagate that Islam breeds or justifies terrorism. A virtually new religion has come into existence that I have been calling Jihadism, but it claims to be Islam and derives sustenance from these verses. Its practitioners too are outwardly Muslim and claim to be true Muslims, indeed the only Muslims who deserve to go to Heaven. Jihadism has indeed distorted the very beautiful concept of Jihad fi sabilillah. Mainstream Islam is not contradicting these claims loudly and widely enough. This inevitably creates suspicions in the minds of our neighbors, people belonging to other religions who do not understand the situational nature of Quranic verses, particularly as they are told that every word, comma and full stop in the Holy Quran is immutable and of universal significance. This also makes the task of Jihadists easier. In the absence of adequate response from mainstream Islam, the Jihadists are able to easily brainwash our youth, even those who are highly educated and intelligent.
We cannot delete these verses from the Quran, of course, but we can certainly make it clear that they do not apply to us any more. I hope you will seriously consider the question and come up with a response. Living in Pakistan, the very hub of terrorism, you have probably become inured to Qital in a way that Muslims in more peaceful societies are not. The article
should abrogate verses of war in Islamic Law
was a cry of despair from an Indonesian Muslim who is watching his peaceful Islamic country gradually turning into an inferno of Jihadism. I made a similar plea in
Ulema have no time to lose, must call warlike Quranic surahs obsolete
for the same reason. Indian Prime Minister took pride not long ago in the fact that not a single Muslim from this country was found to be a part of the international Al-Qaeda network. We can no longer do so and Jihadism is gaining ground here too. Mainstream Islam must respond to the challenge of Jihadism that is based on verses from Quran that no longer apply. Let us come out and say so.
Dear Sultan Sahab,
There is a photo of a poet i.e. Allama Iqbal on your website and it would be appropriate to quote him on Quran, by the way I dont like poet very much [Iqbal is also included] but since his photo is on your website so I mentioned Iqbal!
Khud badaltay nahin Quran ko badal detay hain
Some words on abrogation of Quran.
1 - How to Interpret Quran? - 1
2 - How to Interpret Quran? - 2
3 - How to Interpret Quran? - 3