Originally prepared for and presented at a TV debate, these are the slightly updated notes of the Christian speaker.

Is Islam a peace-loving religion?

Bassam Khoury



Ladies and Gentleman:

This subject is far from easy, for both you, the audience, and for me, because of all the things going on at the current time. I have one of two choices—and the easier of the two is still difficult. Should I say what is considered politically correct? Or should I tell the truth? I have chosen the latter, believing in what the Lord Jesus Christ says: You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.

The time limitations we have for this program doesnt make this job any easier, as it will be difficult to cover so much information or go into much depth in such a short time. But in the next few minutes I will do my best to address the issues of the "use of violence" and of "co-existence with other religions" in Islam.

Let me start by saying that God has given us free will to choose our own belief system. I am a strong believer in freedom of religion, and condemn no-one for believing something other than what I myself believe. I do not wish to offend Muslims by anything I say today, and I hope that you will accept my words in the spirit in which they are meant.

After the terrible events of September 11th, we have heard many Muslims saying what Islam does and does not teach with regard to violence towards others, and about the co-existence of Muslims with non-Muslims. Some say that Islam is a religion of peace, that it does not allow the killing of others, and that those who carried out the attacks are twisting the teachings of Islam by claiming to act in the name of Islam. Still others say that Islam does indeed allow the killing of others, and that it is even a noble aim. Who is right?

Obviously, we cannot judge any religion by just looking at those who claim to follow it.  It would be all too easy to point a finger at the many Muslims who have perpetrated violence against Christians, Jews and others over the centuries and conclude that Islam preaches violence, or to point the finger at the many Christians who have perpetrated violence against Muslims, Jews and others and conclude that Christianity preaches violence. This would, however, be quite erroneous. Not all who claim to act in the name of a religion are true adherents to its teachings. To answer the question with which we are concerned today, then, it is necessary to go back to the sources of Islam to see what they have to say about violence and about co-existence with adherents of other faiths. I shall therefore first consider the Quran, Islams holy book, that Muslims believe was revealed to Muhammad from God, and the Hadith, which are the collections of Muhammads sayings and actions. These are the first two sources of Islam[1] I shall go on to consider the actions of the prophet of Islam and his companions as they were the people that understood the Quran the best, and who are taken as role models by Muslims today.


Abrogation Within the Quran  

What do we mean by the term abrogation?

The Arabic words 'nasikh' and 'mansukh' are both derived from the same root word 'nasakha' which carries meanings such as 'to abolish, to replace, to withdraw, to abrogate'.

The word nasikh (an active participle) means 'the abrogating', while mansukh (passive) means 'the abrogated'. In technical language these terms refer to certain parts of the Qur'anic revelation, which have been 'abrogated' by others. The abrogated passage is the one called 'mansukh' while the abrogating one is called 'nasikh'. (Ahmad von Denver, Ulum Al-Quran)

Understanding the concept of abrogation is very important in order to understand Islam.  Within the Qur'an itself are statements which contradict others. 

For example, I have recently read an article by Karen Armstrong saying: the only permissible war (in the Koran) is one of self-defense. Muslims may not begin hostilities (2:190).


Others quote verses from the Qur'an like:

Let there be no compulsion in religion 2:256

" "

Therefore expound openly what thou art commanded, and turn away from those who join false gods with Allah 15:94

" " 94:15

These verses seem to say clearly enough that the Quran teaches a peaceful response to those who oppose Islam.  But there are other verses in the Quran which say quite the opposite.  For example But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the pagans wherever ye find them, and 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 9:5 (we will have a closer look at this verse later on).

Which verse should Muslims follow?  According to the doctrine of abrogation, the later texts supersede the earlier whenever there are inconsistencies, or they are said to abrogate the earlier texts. Therefore, a Muslim simply needs to know which verse came earlier, and which came later.  The importance of the doctrine of abrogation cannot be understated.  In a mosque in the city of Kufa, Ali b. Abi Talib once saw people gathering around the judge, Abdur-Rahman. The judge was confusing that which is permissible with that which is not. Ali asked him whether he could tell the abrogative verses from the abrogated; he said that he could not. Ali then grabbed the man's ear, twisted it, and said: "you perish, and you make others perish. Do not judge in our mosque anymore.''

That is how important it is; the person who doesnt know abrogation shall perish and make others perish, according to Ali Ibn abi Talib.

Returning to the three verses I quoted above, we see that all three were abrogated, according to Muslim scholars.( ...) (for detailed information check books under titles like The Abrogative and the Abrogated by authors like Ibn Hazem, Al-Karmi, Ibn Al-Jawzi, Al-Muqri, or Al-Nisabouri)

Suyuti in his book   (Istenbat al tanzeel) says: Every thing in the Qur'an about forgiveness is abrogated by verse 9:5. Al-Shawkani in his book (Alsaylu Jarar 4:518-519) says: Islam is unanimous about fighting the unbelievers and forcing them to Islam or submitting and paying Jiziah (special tax paid only by Christians or Jews) or being killed.   [The verses] about forgiving them are abrogated unanimously by the obligation of fighting in any case.

Please note that I am not telling Muslims which verses to follow and which not.  As I said earlier, I believe 100% in an individuals right to choose his or her beliefs.  However, what I am saying is that according to the  Islamic doctrine of abrogation, these verses are null and void.  They are contradicted by later verses, and in Islam it is the later verses which must be followed today.

Let us now look at some of the Quran that was not written until later, in Madina

The Quran says:

Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you, but do not transgress limits, for Allah does not love transgressors. 2:190

" " 190:2

 And slay them (the infidels) wherever you catch them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out, for tumult and oppression are worse than slaughter 2:191

" " 191:2

And fight them on until there is no more tumult or oppression, and there prevail justice and Faith in Allah; but if they cease, let there be no hostility except to those who practise oppression. 2:193

" " 193:2

Fighting is prescribed for you, and you dislike it. But it is possible that you dislike a thing which is good for you, and that you love a thing which is bad for you. But Allah knows, and you know not 2:216

" " 216:2


Here we see for the first time that war was permissible. Remember that in the earlier days of Islam, war was not allowed. But these verses abrogate the earlier verses, allowing war both in self-defense and against those who the Muslims did not have a treaty with. However, even these verses were in turn abrogated by these later verses:


"Let those fight in the cause of Allah who sell the life of this world for the Hereafter. To him who fighteth in the cause of Allah, whether he is slain or gets victory soon shall we give him a reward of great (value)" 4:74

" " "74:4

 Seize them and slay them wherever you find them: and in any case take no friends or helpers from their ranks. 4:89

" " 89:4

"Allah has granted a grade higher to those who strive and fight with their goods and persons than to those who sit at home "4:95

" " 95:4

"Against them make ready your strength to the utmost of your power, including steeds of war, to strike terror into (the hearts of) the enemies, of Allah and your enemies, and others besides, whom ye may not know, but whom Allah doth know. Whatever ye shall spend in the cause of Allah, shall be repaid unto you, and ye shall not be treated unjustly" 8:60

" " 60:8

"O Prophet! rouse the Believers to the fight. If there are twenty amongst you, patient and persevering, they will vanquish two hundred: if a hundred, they will vanquish a thousand of the Unbelievers: for these are a people without understanding" 8:65

" " 65:8

"Fight them and Allah will punish them by your hands, cover them with shame, help you to victory over them, and heal the breasts of the Believers"  9:14

" " 14:9

"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, from among the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizyah with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued"  9:29

" " 29:9

"Say: can you expect for us (and fate) other than one of two glorious things (martyrdom or victory)? But we can expect for you either that Allah will send his punishment (for not believing in Allah) from Himself, or by our hands. So wait (expectant); we too will wait with you" 9:52

" " 52:4


Now, what we see here is this: the Quran orders Muslims to fight in order to establish Allahs kingdom on earth (all of the earth) by any means.  Most Islamic scholars say that one verse of the Quran (9:5) abrogates 124 verses, which are basically all the verses that talk about peace and forgiveness.  This is the verse that says:

 But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the pagans wherever ye find them, and 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 9:5

" " 5:9

As we see clearly in this verse (which is commonly called the verse of the sword) there is only one way out for pagans (or infidels) to be spared from being slain. They should repent, establish regular prayers, and practice regular charity, i.e. become Muslims. As for people of the book we read the verse in the same sura v. 29, which tells us the way out of being killed  until they pay the Jizyah with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued

They have to pay protection money and accept to be subdued, i.e. second class citizens, even if they live in their homeland. We see this put into practice in Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Sudan, and all the Middle Eastern countries that were conquered by Muslims in the first 100 years of Islam. The ancestors of the Christians who live there now suffered a lot to stay Christian.

Now, there is a fiqhi rule that has to be taken into consideration when studying this: , i.e. what is considered is the absoluteness of the utterance, not the specialization of the reason for the revelation. That is, they follow the letter, not the spirit of the law...

In other words Muslims scholars when they make a judgement they consider the Quran and Mohammad in the light of their meaning not in the light of reasons of revelation.


The Hadeeth

The Hadeeth are the sayings of Muhammad, the prophet of Islam.  They are the second source of Islamic doctrine. The Hadeeth completely agree with the Quran (concerning violence and co-existence).  Hadeeth have the same concept of abrogation, and the same historical characteristics.  That is, Muhammads teachings were very peace-loving at the beginning of Islam, but then came sayings such as:

Ibn Haban in his Sahih, vol. 14, p. 529, narrates: Muhammad said: I swear by Him who has my soul in his hands, I was sent to you with nothing but slaughter.

In his Musnad (vol. 2, p. 50) Imam Ahmed narrates by Ibn Omar: the Prophet said: ‘I was sent by the sword proceeding the judgment day and my livelihood is in the shadow of my spear and humiliation and submission are on those who disobey me.’

Omar Ibn al-Khatab said: I heard the prophet of Allah saying: I will cast Jews and Christians out of the peninsula and I wont leave any one in it but Muslims.’ (Sunan Abu Dawud, vol. 2, No. 28, from the Muhaddith program[2])

Ibn Ishaq and al-Waqidi report that the prophet said the morning after the murder (of Kab Ibn alAshraf), Kill any Jew you can lay your hands on.  (El beddayah wa alnihaya Ibn Katheer vol. 4 in the chapter on killing Kaab bin alAshraf)


1 Muhammads actions

Let us now look at the actions of Muhammad, the last prophet of Islam, as the Quran says Ye have indeed in the Messenger of Allah a beautiful pattern (of conduct) for any one whose hope is in Allah 33:21

" " 21:33


Aisha (the beloved wife of Muhammad) said: His (Muhammad's) character was the Quran (narrated Muslim). Therefore the life of Mohammad reflects an accurate interpretation of the Quran.

When we read of the actions of the prophet of Islam, we see many cases of assassination. Most of these cases happened because someone criticized the prophet of Islam in speech only.

We read:

Ibn Ishak said: The apostle said, Kill any Jew that falls into your power.  Thereupon Muhayyisa b. Masud leapt upon Ibn Sunayna, a Jewish merchant with whom they had social and business relations, and killed him.   Huwayyisa was not a Muslim at the time though he was the elder brother.  When Muhayyisa killed him Huwayyisa began to beat him, saying, You enemy of God, did you kill him when much of the fat on your belly comes from his wealth?  Muhayyisa answered, Had the one who ordered me to kill him ordered me to kill you I would have cut your head off. (El badyah wa alnihaya Ibn Katheer vol. 4 in the chapter on killing Kaab bin alAshraf)


2 `Umayrs Expedition To Kill Abu Afak

Mohammad once killed a man named (al-Harith b. Suwayd). When Abu Afak wrote a poem objecting to the murder, Muhammad said, Who will deal with this rascal for me?   Whereupon Salim b. Umayr, brother of B. Amr b. Auf, one of the weepers, went forth and killed him. (Ibn Hisham Dar el jeel Beirut 1411 Vol. 6 -  UMAYRS EXPEDITION TO KILL ABU AFAK)




After Abu Afak was murdered, Asma wrote a poem blaming Islam and its followers of killing their opponenets.

When Muhammad heard what she had said he said, Who will rid me of Marwans daughter?  Ummayr b. Adiy al-Khatmi who was with him heard him, and that very night he went to her house and killed her.  In the morning he came to the apostle and told him what he had done and he [Muhammad] said, You have helped God and His apostle, O Umayr!  When he asked if he would have to bear any evil consequences the apostle said, Two goats wont butt their heads about her, so Umayr went back to his people. Now there was a great commotion among B. Khatma that day about the affair of bint [girl] Marwan.  She had five sons, and when Umayr went to them from the apostle he said, I have killed bint Marwan, O sons of Khatma.  Withstand me if you can; dont keep me waiting.  That was the first day Islam became powerful among B. Khatma.

The day after Bint Marwan was killed the men of B. Khatma became Muslims because they saw the power of Islam.

(Ibn Katheer el bedayah wa alnehaya vol. 5 in the mention of the year 11 of hijrah also found in- Ibn Hisham dar al jeel Beirut vol. 6 UMAYR B. ADIYYS JOURNEY TO KILL ASMA D. MARWAN)

( 5 11 (


4 Killing of a slave woman.

A blind man had a slave who he had taken a concubine, the mother of his children, who used to abuse the Prophet and disparage him. He forbade her but she did not stop.

One night she began to slander the Prophet and abuse him. So he took a dagger, placed it on her belly, pressed it, and killed her. A child who came between her legs was smeared with the blood that was there. When the morning came, the Prophet was informed about this. He assembled the people and said: I adjure by Allah the man who has done this action and I adjure him by my right to him that he should stand up. The man stood up. He sat before the Prophet and said: Apostle of Allah! I am her master; she used to abuse you and disparage you. I forbade her, but she did not stop, and I rebuked her, but she did not abandon her habit. I have two sons like pearls from her, and she was my companion. Last night she began to abuse and disparage you. So I took a dagger, put it on her belly and pressed it till I killed her.   Thereupon the Prophet said: Oh be witness, no retaliation is payable for her blood.

ѻ . ) _ .  .  .   .)

(Naylu Alwtar -  Al-Shawkani Al muneeriah pulishing Cairo Vol 7 Book of Drinking Chapter on Killing Of One who declared a warning to the prophet - also in Sunan Abi Daowd Markaz Albhath wa aldersat althkafiah Vol 2 Chapter the judgment on one who swore to the prophet)

5 `Amr B Umayya

Once Muhammad sent one of his followers named `Amr, to murder Muhammads enemy Abu Sufyan. However, the assassination attempt failed. As he returned home, he met a one-eyed shepherd. The shepherd and the Muslim man both identified themselves as members of the same Arab clan. Prior to going asleep, the shepherd said that he would never become a Muslim. Umayya waited for the shepherd to fall asleep and thereafter: as soon as the bedouin was asleep and snoring I got up and killed him in a more horrible way than any man has been killed.

Umayya returned and spoke with Muhammad. He relates.... He [Muhammad] asked my news and when I told him what had happened he blessed me.

6 Umm Qirfa

Another example of Muhammad assassinating those who criticised him was when a woman named "Umm Qirfa" (Fatima) was taken prisoner. She was a very old woman. She used to mock Mohammad in speech and poems. Zayd ordered Qays to kill Umm Qirfa and he killed her cruelly, by tying a rope to each of her two legs and to two camels and driving the camels in opposite directions until they tore her in two. (Al saba Ibn Hagar vol. 4, page 231)


Muhammads companions

:    My companions are like stars, if you imitate any of them, you will, indeed, be guided  His companions were those who became Muslims and saw Mohammad while he was alive.

Yet reading the history of these companions we find some horrifying stories. Some of the incidents below would be considered war crimes nowadays.

Abu Bakr (the first caliph)

Waging war as the ultimate tool for propagating and defending Islam became a rule for who ever was in power and ruling the Islamic society. The first Caliph, Abu Bakr, who took the lead after the death of Muhammad, even launched wars against Muslims to force them to pay dues to him that Muhammad used to collect for himself (as related in the Quran 9:103).

Omar ibn al-Khatab (the second caliph)

Abd Allah ibn Saed (Omr ibn al-Khatab servant) said: Arab Christians are not Christians, I am not leaving them until they become Muslims or I cut their throats. (Kanzu umal al mutka al hindi vol. 4, No. 11770)

Khalid ibn al-Walid (the unsheathed sword of Allah)

The letter of Khalid Ibn al-Walid to the people of Madain:

From Khaled ibn al-Walid to Marazebah the people of Faris [Persian people] peace be to those who follow the guidance. Praise God that your servants left you and you lost your possession and have been weakened.  Anyone who prayed our prayer and accepted our place of prayer to the East [Qiblah] and ate our sacrifice that would be a true Muslim who has the same privileges and duties as us. When you receive my letter send me the ransom for the hostage we hold and asked for a covenant, or in the name of the God who there is no other god like him I will send you people who love to die as you love to live."

" ".

During the battle with the Persians, and it was very tough war, Khaled said: O Allah, if you give us victory over them, I swear I wont leave one of them alive and I will run their river with their blood.

Then when Allah gave them victory, Khaled send people to call for capturing everyone and asking Muslims not to kill anyone except who refuses to submit. After they captured them, they (the Persians) were brought to the river and were beheaded. The Muslims did that for three days till they had killed 70000.

( 12 )

(Abu Bakr By Muhammad Rashid Rida Muhaddith Program[2] And Bedaya wa nehaya Ibn Katheer In the mention of year 12 of Hijrah Muhaddith)


I recognize that the information above is too much for some people, but I have used only little of what can be found in the Quran, the Hadeeth, and Islamic history books.

We have seen what the Quran and the Hadeeth teach; we have seen the actions of the last prophet of Islam, and the understanding of these teachings by his companions.

The question now is how do Muslims reconcile all of this with what we hear many saying; namely, that Islam is a peace-loving religion and it teaches co-existence with all other religions.  I would love to believe that Islam is indeed the peaceful religion as many say it is.  But until someone gives me a credible and peaceful interpretation of the writings and events I have outlined, Im afraid I cannot.


One final thing concerns me.  Imam Abu Hammid Ghazali says: Speaking is a means to achieve objectives. If a praiseworthy aim is attainable through both telling the truth and lying, it is unlawful to accomplish through lying because there is no need for it. When it is possible to achieve such an aim by lying but not by telling the truth, it is permissible to lie if attaining the goal is permissible. (Ahmad ibn Naqib al-Misri, The Reliance of the Traveller ( ), translated by Nuh Ha Mim Keller, amana publications, 1997, section r8.2, page 745)

Ibn Shihab, another Muslim scholar said: there were only three cases where lying was acceptable: in battle, for bringing reconciliation amongst persons and the narration of the words of the husband to his wife, and the narration of the words of a wife to her husband (in a twisted form in order to bring reconciliation between them). (More information is provided by William Muirs Life of Mahomet, Volume I, footnote p.88) (Sahih Muslim, Book 32, No. 6303 from the Alim program)

I hope Muslims can tell us why should we believe what they say about how peace-loving a religion Islam is, when we know that they are permitted to lie in order to achieve a noble goal, i.e. making Islam the dominant religion of mankind.  (8:39,40)

These are questions of the utmost importance, and I still hope we will hear an answer one day—before its too late.


If you have comments, questions, or disagreements please feel free to send me an Email.

[1] The other two sources are Ijmaa (uninmity) and Qiaas (Analogy)
[2] www.muhaddith.org

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