Friday, February 03, 2006

Islam =/= the Religion of Peace.

Muslims are fond of stating that Islam is a/the religion of peace.

(Aside: There is a difference between Islam being a religion of peace and it being the religion of peace. The former admits that Islam is peaceful amongst other religions, thereby equating Islam with other religions or, at least, setting it at the same level of the others. Such equality is prohibited by Islam: Muslims are forbidden to place Islam at the same level of other religions; they must always place Islam above other religions. The latter phrase ("the religion of peace") means that Islam is peaceful in ways other religions are not or that it is the only peaceful religion. When Muslims speak of Islam as being peaceful, they mean "the religion of peace.")

This statement is often supported with Qur'anic verses and by pointing out that the root of "islaam" (meaning "submission," and the name of the religion) is the same as the root of "salaam" (meaning "peace"). Indeed, this is true. Like Hebrew, another Semitic language, Arabic words are derived from roots, which are usually of three letters. From these three letters, vowels and consonants are added in consistent patters to create more words. From the root "salima" (the root consonants being s-l-m (the letters seen, laam, and meem)) come the words "salaam" ("peace") and "islaam" ("submission"). This is not merely a case of sharing the same root, though; "salaam" and "islaam" are verbal noun forms of the verb/root "salima." A verbal noun refers to the noun form of a verb.

Form I of the root "salima": "salima" (literally, "he was at peace," "he was sure/certain," "he was safe/secure/unharmed," or "he was blameless"; with the preposition "min," it means "he was free from" or "he escaped from"). The verbal noun of form I of this root is "salaamun" (indefinite; by itself, "salaam") or "salaamu" (definite; by itself, "salaam") (meaning "soundness, intactness, well-being, peace, security").

From IV of the root "salima": "aslama" (literally, "he deserted," "he let [something] fall," "he handed over," "he surrendered," "he resigned himself [to the will of God]," "he embraced Islam," or "he committed himself to God/Islam"). The verbal noun of form IV of this root is "islaamun" (indefinite; by itself, "islaam") or "islaamu" (definite; by itself, "islaam") (meaning "submission, resignation, reconciliation [to the will of God]." With the article ("al-islaamu"; by itself or at the end of a phrase, "al-islaam"), it refers specifically to the religion, Islam.

So, one can easily see how "peace" ("salaam") and Islam can be related. The key word, however, is can. Just because they share the same root does not mean they are fundamentally related. Here is an example how this ("words of the same root are related") is not always true. From the root "'alima" come "'ilm," "'alam," "'aalam," and "'aalim." From the looks of it, all of these would be related, right? The reality is startling. Here are the definitions of the words:
'alima - he knew, he was informed, he was familiar
'ilm - knowledge
'alam - a sign, a token, a mark, characteristic, a road sign, a flag, a distinguished man, an eminent personality, an authority, a proper name
'aalam - world, universe, cosmos (Muslims will immediately recognize this from suuratu-l-fatiHah, the first suurah (shapter) of the Qur'an: "rabbi-l-'aalamiin," "Lord of the Worlds")
'aalim - knowing, familiar, expert, professional (the plural of this word, "'ulamaa'," refers to scholars of Islamic jurisprudence)

Not so related.

The word "aqtuluu" (imperative masculine plural of form I of the root/verb "qatala" (root letters q-t-l, the letters qaaf, taa', and laam)) means "kill," as in a command to kill; "qaatiluu" (imperative masculine plural of form III of the root/verb "qatala") meaning "fight," as in a command to fight. Both of these words are used in suuratu-l-tawbah, the ninth suurah (chapter) of the Qur'an, wherein is the Verse of the Sword.

Verse 5 says:
"fa'idhaa-nsalakha-l-ash'huru-l-Hurumu fa-qtuloo-l-mushrikeen Haythu wajad-ttumoohum wa-khudoohum wa-HSuroohum wa-q'udoo lahum kulla marSad"

"Then when the sacred months have passed, then kill the infidels wherever you find them them, and capture them, and besiege them, and lie in wait for them in each and every ambush."

However, verse 14 says:
"qaatiloohum yu'adhdhibhumu-llaahu bi'aydeekum wa yukhzihim wa yanSurkum 'alayhim wa yashfi Sudoora qawmin mu'mineen"

"Fight against them so that Allah will punish them by your hands and disgrace them and give you victory over them and heal the breasts of a believing people."

Verse 29 says:
"qaatiloo-lladheena laa yu'minoona bi-llaahi wa laa bu-l-yawmi-l-akhiri wa laa yuHarrimoona maa Harrama-laahu wa rasooluhoo wa laa yadeenoona deena-l-Haqqi mina-lladheena 'ootoo-l-kitaaba Hattaa yu'Too-l-jizyata 'an yadin wa hum Saaghiroon"

"Fight against those who believe not in Allah, nor in the Last Day, nor forbid that which has been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger and those who acknbowledge not the religion of truth among the people of the Scripture, until they pay the Jizyah with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued."

(The jizyah is the tax levied on non-Muslims in a Muslim realm.)

Now, as can be seen, "qaatiloo" and "aqtuloo" both come from the same root ("qatala," "he killed"). But both have significantly different meanings: one is a command to kill, the other is a command to fight. If, however, they both share a fundamental relationship, it would weaken verse 5 ("Kill the infidels") or strengthen verse 29 ("Fight those who..."). If verse 29 were to be strengthened, the ramifications would be significantly disastrous: this would mean that the Qur'an, in this late Medinan suurah (therefore, abrogating any previous statements on tolerating non-Muslims, which were revealed in the Meccan era) commands Muslims to kill anyone who does not submit their attempts to subdue and rule the world.

The debate, though, is somewhat moot. Classically, Islam provides Muslims' opponents with three choices: become Muslims (and join the Islamic crusade), become a subject under Muslims (and pay the jizyah, accept second-class citizenship, and accept substantial restrictions on one's rights), or fight the Muslims (and die). Convert, submit, or die. Simple yet inhumane.

As such, how can Islam conceivably be called a religion of peace, let alone the religion of peace? From the standards of the non-muslim world, such an epithet is impossible or illogical. The logic of Islam is quite different, though.

According to Islam, Islam is, indeed, the religion of peace. When people live according to the standards of Islam, there is peace. But what is "peace," according to Islam? In Islam, peace is the tranquility and submission that comes with submitting to Islam and imposing Islam's standards, rules, practices, commandments, exhortations, morals, values, mores, and traditions. Islam's mandates are for all people, Muslim and non-Muslim. They are mandatory and comprehensive. To live in peace, one must be at peace with God, which fundamentally requires submitting to His will. Under God's commands, as revealed in Islam, there will be justice (as defined by Islam), righteousness (as define by Islam), order (as defined by Islam), stability (as defined by Islam), honor (as defined by Islam), and peace (as defined by Islam).

So, Islam is the religion of peace by imposing its peace through violence. After all, Islam's opponents do have the choice to convert or submit before being killed. Before its imposition, it is a religion of violence; it is peaceful once it is imposed and accepted (whether as a religion or as the ruling regime).

Verse 256 of suuratu-l-baqarah (the second suurah) says:
"laa ikraahi fi-ddeen"

"There is no compulsion in religion."

This is followed immediately, in the same verse, by:
"qad-ttabayyana-rrushdu mina-l-ghayy"

"For, the Right Path has become distinct from the wrong path."

The logic goes: there is no compulsion in religion because what is right and wrong is abundantly clear; as such, people should make the right decision; if someone does something wrong, he/she has consciously chosen the wrong path; those who consciously choose the wrong path are in league with the Devil and must be punished/stopped/hindered.

So much for being the religion of peace. islaam huwa haqqan ad-deen li-fitan wa li-Huroob wa li-qatl, huwa deen as-sayf.

inna naHnu-l-a'lamuun.

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