Anyone who reads the Quran for himself will quickly appreciate that its message has nothing to do with violence. From beginning to end, the Quran is a book that promulgates peace and in no way countenances violence. Jihad indeed is one of the teachings of the Quran. But jihad, taken in its correct sense, is the name of peaceful struggle rather than any violent action.
So, according to the Quran, the desired approach moves man’s heart and mind. In addressing people’s minds, it satisfies them, convinces them of the veracity of the Quran, and, in short, brings about an intellectual revolution within them. This is the mission of the Quran. And this mission can be performed only utilizing rational arguments, and this target can never be achieved through violence or armed action.
There are indeed certain verses in the Quran which convey injunctions similar to the following, ‘slay them wherever you find them. Referring to such verses, there are some who attempt to give the impression that Islam is a religion of war and violence. This is totally untrue. In a restricted sense, such verses relate to those who have unilaterally attacked the Muslims. The above verse does not convey the general command of Islam.
The truth of the matter is that the Quran was not revealed in the complete form it exists today, and it was revealed from time to time, according to the circumstances, over a period of 23 years. If this is divided into years of war and peace, the period of peace amounts to 20 years, while that of the state of war amounts to only three years. During these twenty peaceful years, the revelations were the peaceful teachings of Islam as are conveyed in the verse regarding the realisation of God, worship, morality, justice, etc.
When the Prophet Muhammad emigrated from Makkah to Madinah, the idolatrous tribes were aggressive toward him. But the Prophet always averted their attacks by the exercise of patience and avoidance strategy. However, on certain occasions, no other options existed save that of defense. Therefore, he had to do battle on certain occasions. It was these circumstances that occasioned those revelations relating to war. These commands, being specific to unavoidable circumstances, had no general application. They were not meant to be valid for all time to come. That is why; the permanent status of the Prophet has been termed a ‘mercy for all mankind.’ (21:107)
Islam is a religion of peace in the fullest sense of the word. The Quran calls its way ‘the paths of peace’ (5:16). It describes reconciliation as the best policy (4:128), and states that God abhors any disturbance of the peace (2:205). We can say that it is no exaggeration to say that Islam and violence are contradictory to each other. The concept of Islamic violence is so obviously unfounded that prima facie, it stands rejected. The fact that violence is not sustainable in the present world is a sufficient indication that violence, as a principle, is quite alien to the scheme of things in Islam.
(Source: the introduction to Quran Commentary, published by Goodword books, 2021)