Responses to Jamal Badawi's "Radio Al-Islam Channel RA 200"

"Spread of Islam"


In this segment, Dr. Badawi attempts to dispel the notion that Islam was ever spread by the sword. He selectively provides us with one passage from the Qur'an while ignoring many others which discuss how unbelievers should be treated. Badawi then mentions some of the terrible atrocities committed by those claiming to be Christians throughout history while omitting atrocities that have been committed by those claiming to be Muslims. To be completely fair, not all Muslims were converted by the sword, many converted under perfectly peaceful circumstances. Also, not all Christians were converted by peaceful methods, some were converted by force. Some Muslims leaders throughout history respected the rights of non-Muslims while many did not. The key question is : did those who committed these atrocities throughout history, do this in accordance or in defiance of the teachings of the Holy Books and the example of their Prophets?

Host: Some say that Islam was spread by the sword, you converted or you die, what dos the Qur'an say?

Jamal Badawi: There is no single vers in the Qur'an or Traditions which encourages or condones compulsion in religion with force. Sura 2:256:

Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from Error: whoever rejects evil and believes in Allah hath grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold, that never breaks. And Allah heareth and knoweth all things.

Guidance in in the hands of God, Sura 10:99-100:

If it had been thy Lord's will, they would all have believed,- all who are on earth! wilt thou then compel mankind, against their will, to believe! No soul can believe, except by the will of Allah, and He will place doubt (or obscurity) on those who will not understand.

The concept of bringing people to account is not up to us, only God is the judge not the Prophets, Sura 13:40:

Whether We shall show thee (within thy life-time) part of what we promised them or take to ourselves thy soul (before it is all accomplished),- thy duty is to make (the Message) reach them: it is our part to call them to account.

Sura 22:17:

Those who believe (in the Qur'an), those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Sabians, Christians, Magians, and Polytheists,- Allah will judge between them on the Day of Judgment: for Allah is witness of all things.

The verse concerning no compulsion in religion was originally recited at a time when Muhammad had few followers and little power. Once he gained power and more followers, his attitude towards those who disagreed with his religion became very harsh.

Sura 9:5:

But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the Pagans wherever ye find them, an seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war); but if they repent, and establish regular prayers and practise regular charity, then open the way for them: for Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.

Sura 9:29:

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 47:4:

"When you encounter the unbelievers, strike off their heads, until ye have made a great slaughter among them...."

In fact, when we look at the Qur'an the words fight and kill appear more frequently than the word pray.

Host: If Muslims cannot use force, what according to the Qur'an can they use?

Jamal Badawi: Sura 16:125:

Invite (all) to the Way of thy Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious: for thy Lord knoweth best, who have strayed from His Path, and who receive guidance.

The Qur'an gives us the criterion in Sura 29:46:

And dispute ye not with the People of the Book, except with means better (than mere disputation), unless it be with those of them who inflict wrong (and injury): but say, "We believe in the revelation which has come down to us and in that which came down to you; Our Allah and your Allah is one; and it is to Him we bow (in Islam)."

However, Sura 8:38-39 tells us:

Say to the Unbelievers, if (now) they desist (from Unbelief), their past would be forgiven them; but if they persist, the punishment of those before them is already (a matter of warning for them). And fight them on until there is no more tumult or oppression, and there prevail justice and faith in Allah altogether and everywhere; but if they cease, verily Allah doth see all that they do.

Host: Jihad is a popular word, who does this relate to the Qur'an?

Jamal Badawi: In English, this is translated as Holy War. Nowhere in the Qur'an or Traditions is this the equivalent found. Holy War translated into Arabic never appears in the Qur'an or Traditions, it is misleading. This come from the Arabic root for the exertion of effort, the true meaning in the Qur'an means to exert effort to strive or struggle in the path of God and for his cause. Some say that Jihad is the 6th pillar of Islam, it is the essence of Islam. Jihad is in Sura 29:69 as striving:

And those who strive in Our (cause),- We will certainly guide them to our Paths: For verily Allah is with those who do right.

Sura 22:77-78 connect Jihad with worship:

O ye who believe! bow down, prostrate yourselves, and adore your Lord; and do good; that ye may prosper. And strive in His cause as ye ought to strive, (with sincerity and under discipline). He has chosen you, and has imposed no difficulties on you in religion; it is the cult of your father Abraham. It is He Who has named you Muslims, both before and in this (Revelation); that the Messenger may be a witness for you, and ye be witnesses for mankind! So establish regular Prayer, give regular Charity, and hold fast to Allah! He is your Protector - the Best to protect and the Best to help!

One aspect might take the form of military encounter and fighting oppressors.

If these soldiers were fighting oppressors, how do we explain Sahih Muslim II, pages 705-707?

"In the actual war-field in the midst of hostilities, some concessions were sometimes given to soldiers for recreation. Captive virgin girls in war were once made lawful for the soldiers for copulation. "

Were these unfortunate captive girls the oppressors? Did they deserve to be raped and brutalized? Do you believe that an All Holy God would condone this brutality? This terrible behavior is not a form of prayer or good works.

What about the financial and material motives for Jihad? "Mishkat" II, page 406 tells us:

"After the Battle of Badr, the verse dealing with the booties was first revealed. The verse introduced the rule for the first time that the spoils of war would be the property of the soldiers who actually take part in the battle...THAT IS ONE OF THE REASONS why the soldiers of Islam fought tooth and nail. They would get Paradise in case of death in a Holy War, and booties in the case of CONQUEST. Jihad is therefore the best source of all acquisitions."

Host: Could you elaborate of the levels of Jihad?

Jamal Badawi: You can divide it into three levels:

1. Jihad within onself : Muhammad after returning with a battle with the Pagans told his companions that they were returning to the greater Jihad within themselves, against evil inclinations.

2. Jihad at the community level : Struggle against evil and injustice to change the rotten and corrupt.

3. Jihad at the global level : Fighting against oppression without recognizing artificial lines, oppression is oppression. This may take the form of battle when peaceful means fail.

Once again, I quote from the "Mishkat" II, page 253:

Jihad "is the best method of earning both spiritual and temporal. If victory is won, there is enormous booty and (sic) CONQUEST of a country, which cannot be equal to any other source of earnings."

Was this a conflict the result of spiritual or material motives? Honestly, Jesus had the better alternative:

'You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you...." (Matthew 5:9, 38-44).

Host: Historically speaking, have Muslims adhered to these teachings?

Jamal Badawi: We must be honest and avoid extremes. We cannot say that the 14 centuries of Muslim has only been a series of violations of the Qur'an, the other extreme is to say that the history of any people is nothing but a history of angels, this is not correct. Can Christians explain the Crusades, the Inquisition, the fighting between Catholics and Protestants, did this measure up to the teachings of Christianity, the same is with Islam. The claim that Islam was spread or maintained by the sword is a myth. No serious modern scholar accepts this.

Can I explain the Crusades, the Inquisition, the fighting between Catholics and Protestants? Yes, I can. These people DID NOT follow the Words and Example of Jesus Christ. They were in a state of rebellion with God and His Bible. Also, Dr. Badawi is not telling us the entire history of these events. Pope Urban II called for the first Crusade in 1095 AD! The "defensive" Jihads had, by that time, captured Jerusalem from the Christians (638 AD) and Spain (around 708 AD). Much of Southern and Central Europe was captured and colonized by Muslim armies and some regions remained under Muslim to the 19th century. Can Dr. Badawi explain why Muslims committed atrocities in the past, and why some continue to do so today, or do we simply need to ignore these historic facts?

Host: Which scholars?

Jamal Badawi: Islam at the Crossroads says that the image of the Muslim spreading their religion by the sword is absurd. James Michner says that this is absurd, Islam spread rapidly and no modern scholar agrees with this and the Qur'an emphasizes conscience. H. G. Wells said that Islam flourished because it was the best system in its time. Gibbon said that the claim that Islam spread by the sword is wrong. In the 6th year of Hijra, the Prophet gave a charter to the monks at St. Catherine's protecting them. Christian women married to Muslims could not be subjected to compulsion. The Muslims were to assist Christians if their Churches were threatened.

Host: Are there other sources or information that Islam is not spread by the sword?

Jamal Badawi: The early wars of Muhammad and after were to compel those to accept religion, their wars were in self defense. Some of those conquered welcomed the Muslims. The logic of Islam is surrender to the will of God, no power on earth can impose something in your heart. Any look at the map shows that conquests did not take place in places like Indonesia or Russia, how did Islam spread to China or South Africa or the Philippians? Even in North America and Europe. If Islam spread by the sword, then why did it increase when the Muslims were defeated, like the Seljuk Turks, and some Crusaders?

I agree that Islam was often spread by peaceful means. However, the violent history of the spread of Islam (or Christianity for that matter) cannot be ignored by anyone who claims to be a scholar or an honest follower of God.

Andrew Vargo

Responses to Jamal Badawi's "Radio Al-Islam Channel RA 200"
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