Saturday, 10 November 2012

Does Allah Support Violence and Invasion?

Both the Bible and the Quran have often been used to support

violence and invasion throughout history. And both refer to the

supposive Canaanite genocide and invasion of their land as a

decree given directly by God. In a world of Christian colonization

and controversial wars like in Iraq and Afghanistan, can the Bible

and the Quran be faithfully read against violence? Can they share 

in illuminating a just, merciful, and peaceful God? 

From my own Christian perspective I believe these violent biblical

passages are often contrasted by other verses (Old Testament and

New ei: Exodus 23:9 ) which allude to a bigger story fulfilled in

Jesus Christ. From an Islamic perspective we can understand

scripture as needing to be read through the scripture (intertextual)

in order to recognize its spirit and “ultimate intent” (Amina 

WadudQuran and Women, 81-82).

At the end of the story of Esther we see that even after Esther’s

people have secured their own lives through war, they continue in

revenge and “put to death in Susa three hundred men” (Ester 9:15)

along with Esther’s request to the king that Haman’s ten sons be

“impaled on poles” (Esther 9:13). Haman himself even begs Esther

to show him mercy, but she will not relent (Esther 9:7). From a

Quranic perspective this would not only go against the rules of 

war,but goes against the spirit of mercy in repentance. Sura 2:190-

193 suggests that you are to kill the enemy if they attack you first, 

but once they cease, “Allah is Forgiving and Merciful” and there

should no longer be any aggression. Furthermore Sura 25:69-70

suggests while there is punishment for the evildoer, if they repent

“Allah will replace their evil deeds with good. And ever is Allah

Forgiving and Merciful.” 

But even this understanding can be abrogated by the Quran for a 

greater principle. In Sura 5:28 we the story of Cain and Abel being 

used as an example for absolute passivism. As Cain declares that 

he will kill his brother, Abel responds in profound resonance with 

the identity of Jesus that “If you should raise your hand against me 

to kill me, I shall not raise my hand against you to kill you. Indeed, 

I fear Allah, Lord of the worlds” (Sura 5:28). The Quran in this 

instance speaks to the message of Jesus in a more profound way 

then the current biblical account of Cain and Abel.

And while this shows how the Quran can bring depth to the 

biblical narrative, the Quran’s questionable moral acceptance of 

some biblical narratives show how the Quran could also use the 

Gospels to illuminate the true principles of the Quran. Sura 5:20-

21 declares to the Muslims that they should remember Moses and 

how his people had been “appointed among you prophets and 

made you possessors and gave you that which He had not given 

anyone among the worlds.” Just as Moses encouraged his people to 

not be afraid to fight the Canaanites for their right to the promised 

land, so to should the Muslims not fear to enter their own “Holy 

Land which Allah has assigned to you and do not turn back [from 

fighting in Allah 's cause] and [thus] become losers" (Sura 5:20-

21). They should not fear fighting in the name of Allah because 

just as Israel fought the Canaanites, they too are fighting their own 

“defiantly disobedient people” (Sura 5:25).

Ironically then Sura 5:28 uses Cain as an example of those who are

“defiantly disobedient people” and declares that it will be God 

who will give the followers of Cain their due punishment (Sura 


This understanding creates all kinds of problems for people groups

who have had their land taken from them under the guise of divine

decree. It is here that we will need Jesus in Matthew 15 to not only

confirm the apparent hatred of the Canaanites in the both the 

Quran and the Old Testament, but to show that God, as a true 

“mercy for all the worlds” (Sura 21:107), incorporates them into 

his salvation plan. This inter-Abrahamic analysis could also, in a 

controversial way, be supported by the Quran itself as Sura 2:4 

suggests to “believe in what has been revealed to you” and, “what 

was revealed before you."

While I do not think this is the only way we can see a Just and

peaceful God in our scriptures (Nevin Reda and Jawdat Said as

an example offer a different way forward) it is the start of my

developing monotheistic thought.


  1. Here is a link to a Debate I am Having:

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. ere is another one

  4. The teacher in me says ... single space, break up the paragraphs like you would for journalism, rather than as a theologian. I want to read fast :)

    If we are going to take the ideas in Islam seriously, we will need to interrogate closely it's relationship to Judaism and Christianity. I appreciate your work to do just that, Jesse. Keep writing, and I'll keep reading.

  5. Ya it is going to take me a while to get back in the swing of writing for a general audience! :)