Does the Qur’an Preach Violence?

Q. I have been told that Islam is not a peaceful religion and that the Qur’an is a book filled with ranting and ravings from Muhammad (peace be upon him). So are there any verses in the Qur’an that would tell me that people of Islam do not want war and death?

A. Thank you for your message which shows that you are a person who does not accept what is said without questioning its truth. This is the mark of an intelligent person. What you have been told about the Qur’an is certainly untrue. It is the word of someone who either does not know what he is talking about, or someone whose grudge against Islam blinds him to the truth.
It is as the saying goes: The proof of the pudding is in the eating. You only need to open the Qur’an and read to realize that what it calls for is peace, not war. Besides, the Qur’an is not Muhammad’s book; it is God’s book. A person who wants to know what the Qur’an says should start with an objective outlook and read it, seeking some help where he finds difficulty. I suppose we would agree that if we have it on highly reliable authority that Beethoven stated that he did not write one of the best symphonies the world attributes to him, we need no further proof to strike it off the list of his musical works. Similarly, if we have a reliable statement by Shakespeare that he did not write Hamlet or King Lear, we can no longer attribute that play to him. Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) has always maintained that he did not write or compose the Qur’an, which is universally agreed to be a book of surpassing literary excellence. Yet Muhammad’s own statements, which we know to be his, are also superb.
So, how can anyone attribute the Qur’an to Muhammad when he has repeatedly disclaimed any part in its authorship? Besides, the Qur’an provides numerous proofs that its only author is God Almighty. These begin with its style, which is unlike any human writing, and include its subject matter and different statements.
The Qur’an certainly speaks about war and jihad. But when we take all statements in the Qur’an about war, and also take into consideration the circumstances prevailing at the time of the revelation of each, and relate this to the final statements, we are bound to have a firm conviction that war in Islam is a defensive one. But we have to add here that its being defensive does not mean that Muslims must wait until they are attacked before taking to arms. It means that they may take measures to remove the threat of aggression.
I do not wish to go into what the Bible says about war, but you undoubtedly realize that human beings often resort to war without justification. You only need to look at what the US and UK have been doing over the last couple of years to realize this. Hence, a religion that provides a code of living, as Islam does, must address the possibility of war. The Qur’an certainly does so, and the code it provides is more civilized than any in the whole history of humanity, even in our modern times.

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