Islam Under Scrutiny by Ex-Muslims

Debate between Syed Mirza and Shah Abdul Halim: Islam and Pluralism—Comments by Mr. Archimedez

[Sender’s Note:  This posting contains all the comments made by Mr. Archimedez on the write-ups of Shah Abdul Halim which he made during his recent debate with me.  Mr. Archimedez’s performed an excellent job of thorough critiquing and scrutinizing those Islamic inanities presented by Mr. Halim. I found it very much enlightening and really worth re-posting in the Islam-Watch for the honorable readers— Syed Kamran Mirza.] 

Shah Abdul Halim (SAH, quoted below in Navy Blue) has made sweeping claims attempting to discredit the entire Sira of Ibn Ishaq based only a few flimsy points of contention and disagreement which arise between honest historians. I would like to see SKM rebut SAH's claims point-by-point. I would also like to see SKM address SAH's specific apologetics in regards to those so-called good verses in the Koran which SAH cites. 
SAH writes, in regards to the reported slaughter of the Banu Qurayza post-pubescent male POWs:

SAH: "This narration of Ibn Ishaq, as examined and proved hereunder, is a later innovation and challenged by the scholars. Imam Malik, a contemporary of Ibn Ishaq, denounced Ibn Ishaq as an outright liar [Uyun al-Athar, 1, 2] and imposter [ibid, 1, 16] for transmitting such stories. Tabari, nearly 150 years after Ibn Ishaq, doubted that Prophet dig trenches. Ibn al-Qayyin in Zad al-Ma'ad ignores altogether the crucial question of numbers killed. Ibn Kathir even seems to have general doubt in his mind about the narration of Ibn Ishaq [Tabari, Tarikh, 1, 1499 (where the reference is to al-Waqidi, Maghazi, 11, 513); Zad al-Maad (ed. T. A. Taha, Cairo, 1970), 11, 82; Ibn Kathir, IV, 118]. The attitude of scholars and historians to Ibn Ishaq's version of the story has been either one of complacency, sometimes mingled with uncertainty, or at least in two important cases, one of condemnation and outright rejection." 

SAH "proves" nothing here. These are weak claims. So what if Malik calls him a liar? Where's the evidence? Malik was also called a liar. So what? Let's have a look at this reported controversy between Malik and Ishaq (I.I.), discussed in Professor Guillaume's translation of the Sira (Introduction, p. xl):

"As for Malik, what he said [about Ishaq's credibility] was momentary and afterwards did him justice. Nobody in the Hijaz knew more about genealogies and wars than I.I., and he used to say that Malik was a freed slave of Dhu Asbah while Malik alleged he was a full member of the tribe so that there was a bad feeling between them; and when Malik compiled the Muwatta  I.I. said, 'Bring it to me for I am its veterinary surgeon.' Hearing of this, Malik said: 'He is an antichrist; he reports traditions on the authority of Jews.' The quarrel lasted until I.I. decided to go to Iraq. Then they were reconciled and Malik gave him 50 dinars and half his date crop as a parting gift. Malik did not intend to bring him in ill favour as a traditionalist: all that he disliked was his following of the Jews who had become Muslims and learning of the story of Khaybar and Qurayza and al-Nadir and similar (otherwise) unattested happenings from their fathers." [brackets added; parenthesis ( ) in original].

So we see that these allegations arose in a mere temporary spat between Malik and Ishaq, where harsh words were exhanged because Malik felt personally insulted, but the two men reconciled their differences. If SAH has additional evidence regarding some other claims Malik might have made about Ishaq, he (SAH) should be prompted to present the evidence for it, if there is any. 
Muhammad himself was also called a liar, had admitted to lying, and permitted deception, as reported in Sahih Bukhari and verified in Ishaq in the same story about the assassination of Kab bin Ashraf. The account of Ashraf's assassination in Ishaq matches the account in Sahih Bukhari quite well (including Muhammad's permission for the assassins to use deception), and the essential point is that in both sources Ashraf is killed for composing amatory verses of an insulting nature viz the Muslim women. Ishaq also documents Muhammad's order to kill the two singing girls who had sung mocking lyrics about Muhammad--also found in Sunan of Abu Dawud, and Tabari. The order to kill Abdullah bin Sa'd, the scribe turned apostate, Uthman's request for his pardon, and the subsequent miscommunication between Muhammad and his men which prevented Sa'd from being killed, are documented in both Ishaq and Sunan Abu Dawud. Tabari relies heavily on Ishaq. Tabari also reports another embarrassing episode, which is also reported in Ishaq, when Muhammad made concessions honoring the polytheists' gods (Guillaume mentions this, see p. xxxi, Introduction). 
Professor Guillaume has addressed the criticisms directed against Ibn Ishaq, as well as the defenses made on Ishaq's behalf, in his introduction to the Sira.  I recommend that people read Guillaume's discussion of Ishaq's credibility. He does not claim Ishaq is impeccable--no historian is, and history by its very nature contains more uncertainty than the hard sciences. But Ishaq overall is probably as valid as any of the other early Islamic sources. But Guillaume makes a compelling case that Ishaq overall is a valid source. Guillaume notes, from I. Sayyidu'l-Nas' comprehensive assessment of the claims made, pro and con, regarding Ishaq, that "...though [Ishaq's] traditions at times lack complete documentation there is no question of his truthfulness in the subject-matter he reports..."  
SAH writes:

SAH: "One of the weakness of the authors of Sira including Ibn Ishaq is that, unlike the compiler of Hadith who applied critical criteria for checking accuracy of the Hadith, they are not meticulous and did not apply the strict rules of traditions, did not provide chain of authorities, did not verify whether the narrators are trustworthy or not and therefore Sira cannot be really taken as absolutely authentic."

1. SAH has stated a blatant falsehood. Ishaq does include Isnad chains in many cases (Guillaume has even included an Isnad Index at the back of the Oxford Press edition), and does often give adjectives indicating his judgement or impression on authenticity or certainty of a story. It is not as rigorous as the process used by Bukhari, of course, but that does not mean that the stories are all false, or not believed to be authentic by Muslim scholars.  
2. Actually, none of the Hadith, including sahih Bukhari, are taken to be "absolutely authentic." They (the hadith) are taken to have various degrees of authenticity. Only the Quran itself in Islam is taken to be totally authentic (and that is on pure faith).

SAH: "The truth of killing of 400 to 900 Jews tribesmen of Banu Qurayza by the Prophet is rejected by scholars as Islam permits punishing only those who are responsible for sedition. To kill such a large number is also opposed to the Islamic sense of justice Al Quran states: No soul shall bear another's burden [35:18]. It is also against the Quranic injunction regarding the prisoner of war. Verse 47:4 states that when the enemy is brought under control, the prisoners are to be treated with generosity (i.e. release the prisoner to freedom without ransom) or ransom is recommended." 

1. Rejected by what scholars of Islam? On what grounds? Where is the evidence for SAH's claim? 
2. The Islamic definition of "sedition" in Islam is so wide that anyone uttering any words perceived (by Muslims) to be critical of Islam are to be put to death according to Islamic law. Muhammad claimed the Qurayza broke a treaty with the Muslims and on these grounds Muhammad waged war on them. 
3. The verse "no soul shall bear another's burden" has no bearing on what we are talking about here. 
4. Verse 47:4 leaves the question of slaughter up to the discretion of the Islamic leader on the scene, see Ibn Kathir's tafsir of this verse.

SAH: "Had this slaughter actually happened jurists would have adopted it as a precedent? In fact exactly the opposite has been the case. The attitude of jurists and their rulings have been more according to the precepts of Islam. Al Quran states: No soul shall bear another's burden [35:18]." 

He says, in Islam, no soul shall bear another's burden? Then explain this hadith:

Sahih Bukhari, Volume 5, Book 58, Number 160:  
"Narrated Jarir bin 'Abdullah: Allah's Apostle has never refused to admit me since I embraced Islam, and whenever he saw me, he would smile. (In another narration) Jarir bin 'Abdullah narrated: There was a house called Dhul-Khalasa in the Pre-lslamic Period and it was also called Al-Ka'ba Al-Yamaniya or Al-Ka'ba Ash-Shamiya. Allah's Apostle said to me, "Will you relieve me from Dhul-Khalasa?" So I left for it with 150 cavalrymen from the tribe of Ahmas and then we destroyed it and killed whoever we found there. Then we came to the Prophet and informed him about it. He invoked good upon us and upon the tribe of Ahmas."

And this:

Sahih Muslim, Book 19, 4321 (also 4322, 4323). 
It is reported on the authority of Sa'b b. Jaththama that the Prophet of Allah (may peace be upon him), when asked about the women and children of the polytheists being killed during the night raid, said: They are from them. {also see Sahih Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 52, Number 256}

The policy is consistent with Allah's policy of collective punishment in the Quran:

27:48. “And there were in the city nine persons who made mischief in the land and reformed not. 27:49. They said: Swear one to another by Allah that we verily will attack him and his household by night, and afterward we will surely say unto his friend: We witnessed not the destruction of his household. And lo! we are truthtellers. 27:50. So they plotted a plot: and We plotted a plot, while they perceived not. 27:51. Then see the nature of the consequence of their plotting, for lo! We destroyed them and their people, every one.”

Here above we see that Allah destroys all of a people as punishment for the crime of only those nine people. The tafsirs next confirm this:

27:51. Al-Jalalayn, “So behold how was the consequence of their plot! For lo! We destroyed them and all their people, with Gabriel's cry, or by the angels' pelting them with stones, which they could see even though they could not see them [the angels]."

27:51. Ibn Abbas, “(Then see) O Muhammad (the nature of the consequence of their plotting) the punishment for their plan to kill Salih, (for lo! We destroyed them) through raining stones on them (and their people, every one) and We destroyed every one of their people.

This collective punishment by Allah is delivered throughout the Koran:

17:14. (And it will be said unto him): Read thy Book. Thy soul sufficeth as reckoner against thee this day. 17:15. Whosoever goeth right, it is only for (the good of) his own soul that he goeth right, and whosoever erreth, erreth only to its hurt. No laden soul can bear another's load, We never punish until we have sent a messenger. 17:16. And when We would destroy a township We send commandment to its folk who live at ease, and afterward they commit abomination therein, and so the Word (of doom) hath effect for it, and we annihilate it with complete annihilation. 17:17. How many generations have We destroyed since Noah! And Allah sufficeth as Knower and Beholder of the sins of His slaves.

21:11. How many a town (community), that were wrong-doers, have We destroyed, and raised up after them another people! 21:12. Then, when they perceived (saw) Our Torment (coming), behold, they (tried to) flee from it. 21:13. Flee not, but return to that wherein you lived a luxurious life, and to your homes, in order that you may be questioned. 21:14. They cried: "Woe to us! Certainly! We have been Zalimun (polytheists, wrong-doers and disbelievers in the Oneness of Allah, etc.)." 21:15. And that cry of theirs ceased not, till We made them as a field that is reaped, extinct (dead).

SAH's claim implying that jurists have respected the policy in the ambiguous verse (35:18) which he cites is also refuted easily with historical evidence from Andrew Bostom (

Abu Yusuf (from the Hanafi school of jurisprudence, d. 798): 

“..that one can even ..finish off the wounded, or kill prisoners who might prove dangerous to the Muslims.. As for the prisoners who are lead before the imam, the latter has the choice, as he pleases, of executing them, or making them pay a ransom, for the most advantageous choice for the Muslims, and the wisest for Islam. The ransom imposed upon them is not to consist either of gold, silver, or wares, but is only in exchange for Muslim captives..”

Ibn Abi Zayd Al_Qayrawani (d. 996), head of the North African Maliki school at Qairuan:

 “There is no inconvenience to kill white non-Arabs who have been taken prisoner”. 10

 The famous Syrian jurist Ibn Taymiyya (d. 1328) of the Hanbali school under the Mamluks:

 “…If a male unbeliever is taken captive during warfare or otherwise, eg.,  as a result of a shipwreck, or because he has lost his way, or as a result of a ruse, then the imam may do whatever he deems appropriate: killing him, enslaving him, releasing him or setting him free for a ransom consisting in either property or people. This is the view of most jurists and it is supported by the Koran and the Sunna…” 11

…Babur (1483-1530), the founder of the Mughal Empire, who is revered as a paragon of Muslim tolerance by modern revisionist historians, recorded the following in his autobiographical “Baburnama,” about infidel prisoners of a jihad campaign:

 "Those who were brought in alive [having surrendered] were ordered beheaded, after which a tower of skulls was erected in the camp." 15

The Hanbali jurist Ibn Taymiyya (d. 1328) provided this caveat, which allowed for killing those who would otherwise be classified as non-combatants, if they merely engaged in verbal or written propaganda:

 “As for those who cannot offer resistance or cannot fight, such as women, children, monks, old people, the blind, handicapped and their likes, they shall not be killed unless they actually fight with words [eg. by propaganda] and acts [by spying or otherwise assisting in the warfare]. Some jurists are of the opinion that all of them may be killed, on the mere ground that they are unbelievers, but they make an exception for women and children since they constitute property for Muslims” 18

The punishment of dhimmitude on non-Muslims (especially Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians) is collective and burdens all those people throughout Islamic history, and is regarded as valid in Islamic law for all time until the Last Day when, according to sahih hadith, Christ is supposed to return and abolish the jizya and then judge the non-Muslims according to the Koran, i.e., they must except Islam. 
Now let's look at some of those seemingly good verses cited by SAH.

SAH: "No doubt Islam stands for pluralistic order. Pluralism is the design of Allah. Al Quran states: If it had been your Lord's will, they would all have believed, all who are on the earth. Will you then compel mankind against their will to believe [10:99]? In another verse Al Quran states: To each among you have We prescribed a law and a clear way. If Allah had so willed, He would have made you a single people, but His plan is to test you in what He has given you; so strive as in a race in good deeds [5:48]."

Here is 10:99 with some textual context:

10:99. "And if thy Lord willed, all who are in the earth would have believed together. Wouldst thou (Muhammad) compel men until they are believers? 10:100. It is not for any soul to believe save by the permission of Allah. He hath set uncleanness upon those who have no sense."

Here is 5:48 with some textual context: 

5:47. "Let the People of the Gospel judge by that which Allah hath revealed therein. Whoso judgeth not by that which Allah hath revealed: such are evil-livers. 5:48. And unto thee have We revealed the Scripture with the truth, confirming whatever Scripture was before it, and a watcher over it. So judge between them by that which Allah hath revealed, and follow not their desires away from the truth which hath come unto thee. For each We have appointed a divine law and a traced-out way. Had Allah willed He could have made you one community. But that He may try you by that which He hath given you (He hath made you as ye are). So vie one with another in good works. Unto Allah ye will all return, and He will then inform you of that wherein ye differ." 

5:49. So judge between them by that which Allah hath revealed, and follow not their desires, but beware of them lest they seduce thee from some part of that which Allah hath revealed unto thee. And if they turn away, then know that Allah's Will is to smite them for some sin of theirs. Lo! many of mankind are evil-livers. 5:50. Is it a judgment of the time of (pagan) ignorance that they are seeking? Who is better than Allah for judgment to a people who have certainty (in their belief)? 5:51. O ye who believe! Take not the Jews and the Christians for friends. They are friends one to another. He among you who taketh them for friends is (one) of them. Lo! Allah guideth not wrongdoing folk."

So Allah has stamped uncleanness upon those who don't have enough "sense" to follow his commands (10:100), says that those who do not follow his divine command and Islamic theocracy are evil-livers (5:47) and that he will smite them (5:49), and that Muslims should not take the Jews and Christians for friends/guardians (5:51)--and anyone who does is one of them. What was SAH saying about pluralism?

SAH. "The text of the aforementioned verses also makes it clear that compulsion in the matter of faith is forbidden which is also corroborated by another verse of the Quran which states: Let there be no compulsion in religion [2:256]." 

I would comment on this one but I have already given a detailed critical assessment of the apologetic treatment of this verse here. Below is the verse with some textual context:

2:256. "There is no compulsion in religion. The right direction is henceforth distinct from error. And he who rejecteth false deities and believeth in Allah hath grasped a firm handhold which will never break. Allah is Hearer, Knower. 2:257. Allah is the Protecting Guardian of those who believe. He bringeth them out of darkness into light. As for those who disbelieve, their patrons are false deities. They bring them out of light into darkness. Such are rightful owners of the Fire. They will abide therein."

Disbelievers will be punished in hell-fire. What was SAH saying about pluralism? 

SAH. "Al Quran states: And did not Allah check one set of people by means of another, the earth would indeed be full of mischief [2:251]. In another verse Al Quran states: Did not Allah check one set of people by means of another, monasteries, churches, synagogues and mosques wherein the name of Allah is mentioned much would surely have been pulled down [22:40]."

Here is 2:251:

"So they routed them by Allah's leave and David slew Goliath; and Allah gave him the kingdom and wisdom, and taught him of that which He willeth. And if Allah had not repelled some men by others the earth would have been corrupted. But Allah is a Lord of Kindness to (His) creatures."

Here is how Islam deals with those who spread "corruption." (I have responded to the inevitable apologetics regarding the verse 5:32 here). 

5:33. "The only reward of those who make war upon Allah and His messenger and strive after corruption in the land will be that they will be killed or crucified, or have their hands and feet on alternate sides cut off, or will be expelled out of the land. Such will be their degradation in the world, and in the Hereafter theirs will be an awful doom;" 

Next, here is some context for 22:40 (more collective punishment and destruction upon the disbelievers):

22:40. Those who have been driven from their homes unjustly only because they said: Our Lord is Allah - For had it not been for Allah's repelling some men by means of others, cloisters and churches and oratories and mosques, wherein the name of Allah is oft mentioned, would assuredly have been pulled down. Verily Allah helpeth one who helpeth Him. Lo! Allah is Strong, Almighty – 22:41. Those who, if We give them power in the land, establish worship and pay the poor-due and enjoin kindness and forbid iniquity. And Allah's is the sequel of events. 22:42. If they deny thee (Muhammad), even so the folk of Noah, and (the tribes of) A'ad and Thamud, before thee, denied (Our messengers); 22:43. And the folk of Abraham and the folk of Lot; 22:44. (And) the dwellers in Midian. And Moses was denied; but I indulged the disbelievers a long while, then I seized them, and how (terrible) was My abhorrence! 22:45. How many a township have We destroyed while it was sinful, so that it lieth (to this day) in ruins, and (how many) a deserted well and lofty tower!

SAH writes:

SAH: "Al Quran states: O mankind, We created you from a single pair of a male and a female and made you into nations and tribes that you may know each other [49:13]. Knowing and respecting each other and dialogue and communication is the best way to avoid mistrust and overcome differences." 

That verse doesn't say "respect" and here is the full verse (Hilali and Khan translation):

49:13. "O mankind! We have created you from a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know one another. Verily, the most honourable of you with Allah is that (believer) who has At-Taqwa [i.e. one of the Muttaqun (pious - see V.2:2). Verily, Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware."

It also says the most honorable among humankind are those who are most righteous Islamically. That doesn't sound like pluralism. It sounds like Islamic supremacism. For examples:

98:6. "Lo! those who disbelieve, among the People of the Scripture and the idolaters, will abide in fire of hell. They are the worst of created beings. 98:7. (And) lo! those who believe and do good works are the best of created beings." 
3:110. "Ye are the best community that hath been raised up for mankind. Ye enjoin right conduct and forbid indecency; and ye believe in Allah. And if the People of the Scripture had believed it had been better for them. Some of them are believers; but most of them are evil-livers."

Next SAH writes:

SAH: "Establishing harmonious relations between peoples have been repeatedly emphasized in Islam. Al Quran states: Allah forbids you not with regard to those who fight you not for your faith nor drive you out of your homes from dealing kindly and justly with them for Allah loves those who are just [60:8]. In another verse Al Quran states: Invite all to the way of your Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious [16:125]. In another verse Al Quran states: And dispute you not with the People of the Book except in the best way, unless it be with those of them who do wrong [29:46]." 

Regarding 60:8, where "those who are just" is again defined in Islamic terms (they must follow what Allah has revealed, 5:47, 5:45), and in that same passage Allah tells believers not to take the disbelievers for friends (60:1) especially not with those with whom Allah is wroth (60:13); that it is exemplary for believers to hate the disbelievers forever until the believe in Allah (60:4). Regarding the historical context of 60:8, al-Jalalayn tafsir states:

"God does not forbid you in regard to those who did not wage war against you, from among the disbelievers, on account of religion and did not expel you from your homes, that you should treat them kindly (an tabarrūhum is an inclusive substitution for alladhīna, 'those who') and deal with them justly: this was [revealed] before the command to struggle against them. Assuredly God loves the just."

Regarding the historical context of 16:125, Al-Jalalayn tafsir explains:

"Call, mankind, O Muhammad (s), to the way of your Lord, [to] His religion, with wisdom, [with] the Qur'ān, and fair exhortation, its [the Qur'ān's] fair exhortations, or with gentle words, and dispute with them by way of that which, that is, by way of that [manner of] disputation which, is best, such as calling [them] to God by way of His signs and calling [them] to His definitive arguments. Truly your Lord knows best, that is, He is fully knowledgeable [of], those who stray from His way and He knows best those who are guided, and will requite them - this was [revealed] before the command to fight [them]."

Regarding 29:46, Al-Jalalayn puts it in context of the Koran's later policies, (e.g., as expressed in 9:29 in regards to the jizya to be extracted by force from the People of the Book who do not accept Islam:

"And do not dispute with the People of the Scripture unless it be with that - in that manner of disputation, bettering the most virtuous way, such as calling [them] to God by [reference to] His signs and pointing out His arguments; except [in the case of] those of them who have done wrong, by waging war and refusing to accept [to pay] the jizya-tax: dispute with these using the sword, until such time as they submit or pay the jizya-tax; and say, to those who have accepted [the imposition upon them of] the jizya-tax, should they inform you of something stated in their Scriptures: 'We believe in that which has been revealed to us and revealed to you - and neither believe nor disbelieve them in that [which they tell you] - our God and your God is one [and the same], and to Him we submit', [to Him] we are obedient."

In conclusion, I have highlighted in this brief response some of the difficulties in the Islamic texts and Islamic history, which any reform movement toward pluralism and the other positive aspects--emphasized by SAH in his modern interpretation--must address. I also was concerned that the author SAH was not presenting a full picture to those who may not yet be familiar with the various issues and problems in the Islamic texts and Islamic history.  


These are my comments on the claims of Shah Abdul Halim (SAH), from part 2 of the debate with SKM.


SAH: “Some of these verses are guidance's when the war is in progress or war is about to start, for example 9:73, 8:39, 9:29, 47:4, 4:89, 9:111, 2:216, 8:12, 9:5 and 9:39”

Most of the wars, battles, and booty raids were initiated by Muhammad ostensibly in the name of Islam. (Please see this for documentation). Verse 8:12 and 8:39 are in reference to the Battle of Badr, which was actually initiated by Muhammad as a booty raid on a caravan, and only became a larger battle because the Quraysh sent troops to defend the caravan from being raided by bandits such as Muhammad. 

SAH: “These verses are not in conflict with the verses related to peace time. If you kindly take the trouble of looking into a few commentaries of the Quran you will find answers of most of the questions you have raised.”

 Okay, here are some respected*  commentaries on 9:5—all of which support forced conversion. 


"The chapter of Repentance was revealed to raise the level of security which the infidels enjoyed because Muhammad had earlier made a covenant with them not to kill them. After that, this verse was given (9:5) in order to free God and Muhammad from any covenant with the infidels. It gives them four months in which they will be protected, but by the end of the four months (the end of the grace period), the order comes: Kill the infidels wherever you find them. Capture them, besiege them in their castles and fortresses until they are forced to accept Islam or be killed."  
- Al-Mahili (d. 1486), Al-Jalalan, p.153

Al-Jalalayn (on-line version), 9:5
"Then, when the sacred months have passed - that is, [at] the end of the period of deferment - slay the idolaters wherever you find them, be it during a lawful [period] or a sacred [one], and take them, captive, and confine them, to castles and forts, until they have no choice except [being put to] death or [acceptance of] Islam; and lie in wait for them at every place of ambush, [at every] route that they use (kulla, 'every', is in the accusative because a [preceding] genitive-taking preposition has been removed). But if they repent, of unbelief, and establish prayer and pay the alms, then leave their way free, and do not interfere with them. God is Forgiving, Merciful, to those who repent."

Ibn Abbas, 9:5
"(Then, when the sacred months have passed) then after the day of immolation when the month of Muharram passes, (slay the idolaters) whose treaty is for fifty days (wherever ye find them) whether in the Sacred Precinct or outside it, during the sacred months or at any other time, (and take them (captive)) imprison them, (and besiege them) in their homes, (and prepare for them each ambush) on every road they tread for trade. (But if they repent) from idolatry and believe in Allah (and establish worship) and acknowledge the five daily prayers (and pay the poor-due) acknowledge the payment of the poor-due, (then leave their way free) if they wish to go to the House of Allah. (Lo! Allah is Forgiving) He forgives whoever repents, (Merciful) towards whosoever dies in a state of repentance." 

Ibn Kathir's tafsir of 9:5

"This is the Ayah of the Sword

Mujahid, `Amr bin Shu`ayb, Muhammad bin Ishaq, Qatadah, As-Suddi and `Abdur-Rahman bin Zayd bin Aslam said that the four months mentioned in this Ayah are the four-month grace period mentioned in the earlier Ayah,

(So travel freely for four months throughout the land.) Allah said next,

(So when the Sacred Months have passed...), meaning, `Upon the end of the four months during which We prohibited you from fighting the idolators, and which is the grace period We gave them, then fight and kill the idolators wherever you may find them.' Allah's statement next,

(then fight the Mushrikin wherever you find them), means, on the earth in general, except for the Sacred Area, for Allah said,

(And fight not with them at Al-Masjid Al-Haram, unless they fight you there. But if they attack you, then fight them. )[2:191] Allah said here,

(and capture them), executing some and keeping some as prisoners,

(and besiege them, and lie in wait for them in each and every ambush), do not wait until you find them. Rather, seek and besiege them in their areas and forts, gather intelligence about them in the various roads and fairways so that what is made wide looks ever smaller to them. This way, they will have no choice, but to die or embrace Islam,

(But if they repent and perform the Salah, and give the Zakah, then leave their way free. Verily, Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.) Abu Bakr As-Siddiq used this and other honorable Ayat as proof for fighting those who refrained from paying the Zakah. These Ayat allowed fighting people unless, and until, they embrace Islam and implement its rulings and obligations.


 *SAH calls Yusuf Ali’s Koranic commentary “monumental” and presents it as a serious scholarly commentary. That is very funny. Yusuf Ali was not a significant scholar of Islam and his commentary and translation was designed for popular western audiences.

 Re: peaceful verses inconsistent with fighting verses?

 Of course, the so-called peaceful verses are not in conflict with the later verses of war, once we realize that Muhammad was only biding his time, waiting for the right time to carry out his intentions to use force if necessary. He would say  “peace,” and then add a veiled threat to show his true feelings. When Muhammad was weak, “Allah” told him to say to the pagans “peace,” but at the same time offered them a veiled threat of what was to come: “…but they will come to know.” (43:89). When Muhammad later became powerful, “Allah” allowed Muhammad to cash in on the earlier threats and said “do not cry for peace when you have the upper hand” (47:35).

 43:88 (Shakir). "Consider his cry: O my Lord! surely they are a people who do not believe. 43:89. So turn away from them and say, Peace*, for they shall soon come to know.” 
*Salamun. (See Selected Verses and Tafsirs, below).

 *43:89. Al-Jalalayn, tafsir. “God, exalted be He, says: Then disregard them, leave [them] be, and say, 'Peace!', [I will stay away] from you - this was [revealed] before he was commanded to fight them. For they will [soon] come to know (ya'lamūna, may also be read as [second person plural] ta'lamūna, 'you will [come to] know'), [meant] to threaten them.”

*43:89. Ibn Abbas, tafsir. “(Then bear with them (O Muhammad)) it was said to him: turn away from them (and say: Peace) words of truth. (But) this is a threat (they will come to know) what will be done with them on the Day of Badr, Uhud, the Troops. Then, after this, he was commanded to fight them; it is also said that this means: but they will come to know the hunger and smoke that will befall them.’”

*43:89. Ibn Kathir, tafsir. "...Say Salam (peace!) means, 'do not respond to them in the the same evil manner in which they address you; but try to soften their hearts and forgive them in word and deed.'...(But they will come to know.) This is a warning from Allah for them. His punishment, which cannot be warded off, struck them, and His religion and His word was supreme. Subsequently Jihad and striving were prescribed until people entered the religion of Allah in crowds, and Islam spread throughout the east and the west."

 47:35. (Pickthall). "So do not falter and cry out for peace* when ye (will be) the uppermost, and Allah is with you, and He will not grudge (the reward of) your actions." 

SAH: “There is no disagreement even among the non-Muslim scholars that Islam rejects forced conversion.”

 No disagreement? That is clearly a false claim by SAH. Actually Dr. Buti of Al-Azhar and others openly admit that Islam uses forced conversion. What SAH may be referring to here is the fact that most Muslim scholars, especially when making statements that might reach the non-Muslim public, will say that Islam forbids forced conversion. SAH makes the fallacy of confusing what some scholars might say about Islamic policies with the actual substance of those Islamic policies. Thus, if SAH were to say that Islam's scholars say that Islamic policies are wonderful and just, then--he wishes us to believe--it must be true that those policies are wonderful and just. How foolish! How relentlessly deceptive! Those statements about the policies, which are for public-relations purposes or for the those scholars to rationalize to themselves using tortured thinking, do not change the fact that Islam’s policy includes forced conversion if persuasion and other techniques and tricks don’t work. Verses 8:39, 9:5, and 9:29, clearly prescribe a policy of forced conversion. Muhammad’s statement that he is to fight all men until they embrace Islam is also included in the sahih Hadith and is considered mutawatir.

In Koran 9:29 in particular, non-Muslims are forced to (1) accept Islam or face battle in the sword, or (2) they can accept dhimmitude subjugation and pay the jizya tax, and failing (2), then (3) they are put to death. Note that if an able-bodied dhimmi male earner fails to pay jizya to the Muslim authorities, the protection agreement is broken and the dhimmi can be killed. Also, if the dhimmis violate other aspects of the dhimma, such as by insulting Muhammad or Islam, they can be put to death. If dhimmis try to escape from the subjugation of the Muslim state, they are punished as highway robbers. The only way a dhimmi can (legally under Islam) get out of the punishing and precarious conditions of the dhimma without being killed is by converting to Islam. Ergo, Islam permits forced conversion, including use of the dhimma punishment to forcefully pressure dhimmis to convert, all the time precariously under the threat of death.

 Islam vs disbelievers

 Re 98:6, which states that Non-Muslims are the worst beasts in all of creation.

 SAH has no qualms about this (98:6) at all. He agrees with it 100% and admits to what it says. However, he uses deceptive tactics like Yusuf Ali, throwing around terms like “right and wrong” etc. In fact, Islam has totally different definitions and conceptions of what is “right and wrong.” Much of what is “right in Islam”—e.g., killing people who “insult Muhammad” or who criticize Islam—is considered “wrong” by non-Muslims. Islam does not have true morality. It has divine command. If Allah commanded it, then it is considered “right” without question. Islam has haram and halal, forbidden and permitted; it is not based on moral principles as such. Muhammad laid down rules to perpetuate the Islam meme; morality is thrown to the wayside in Islam. Islam is the only permitted religion (3:85), all others are considered haram—forbidden, impure, evil, etc.—because “Allah said so,” “Allah knows best,” etc.

Re 9:28. Spiritual vs physical impurity.

 SAH admits that the verse calls some non-Muslims impure but then tries to pull some apologetics around the the word “unclean.” Those apologetics make absolutely no difference. Islam’s policies toward non-Muslims are not in any way changed, not one iota, by SAH’s tactics here. Here is what the Koran says, forbidding Muslims to marry polytheists:

2:221. “Wed not idolatresses till they believe; for lo! a believing bondwoman is better than an idolatress though she please you; and give not your daughters in marriage to idolaters till they believe, for lo! a believing slave is better than an idolater though he please you. These invite unto the Fire, and Allah inviteth unto the Garden, and unto forgiveness by His grace, and expoundeth His revelations to mankind that haply they may remember.”

SAH has no problem whatsoever when the ruling is discriminating against non-Muslims. In light of such verses, which SAH endorses 100% because they are in the Koran, how can anyone seriously believe that SAH really supports pluralism?

SAH dances around pretending desperately that verse 9:28 does not refer to physical impurity of non-Muslims. Rather, SAH, who calls himself an advocate of pluralism, admits that the verse accuses non-Muslims of being “spiritually impure.” SAH thinks that this is okay. It does not trouble him in the least that the Koran calls non-Muslims spiritually impure. But, of course, Islam contains all kinds of restrictions, such that Muslims should not make physical contact with non-Muslims, should not be in the same space as Muslims (e.g., 9:28 forbids non-Muslims from being in a specific place that Islam declares sacred—and to this day Saudi Arabia generally prohibits non-Muslims from physically being in certain locations in Saudi Arabia such as Medina and Mecca). Likewise, Muslims are permitted to attack non-Muslims who try to use Muslim-only facilities or utensils (e.g., we often read news stories here about Muslim mobs attacking some Christian for using the wrong drinking glass or fountain, etc.). In that case, Muslims are permitted to touch the non-Muslims; it is halal because the latter have violated Islamic purity rules and therefore Muslims are permitted to use physical punishment against the non-Muslim.  

SAH is also misleading when he says that 9:28 is the only verse that uses the term najasun, unclean, filthy. Actually, 9:95 uses a very similar term “rijsun,”  which is generally translated either as unclean or abomination. (Also, see below, there are other words that expert translators have seen fit to translate as "unclean" "impure" etc.)

 It is clear that Islam has a well-developed quasi-racial notion of purity, whereby Muslims must protect themselves from the “corruption” (fasad) of the non-Muslims (8:73).  Indeed, the Sahih Bukhari states that Muslims and non-Muslims have an anatomical or physiological difference in their number of intestines used in digestion (and note that that particular hadith about the intestines is considered mutawatir by Sunni Muslim scholars). As for the Shia, they have a thoroughly developed concept of najis, by which disbelievers (non-Muslims, kafir) are in the same category as urine, ***, and pigs. (please see the link at the end of the next paragraph for al-Sistani's rulings on unclean non-Muslims). 

Moroever, it is clear that there are other words which expert translators and tafsirs have interpreted to mean unclean, impure, etc.  Readers note: we have compiled a file on Islam’s view of disbelievers, which includes some quotes regarding the Islamic notion of uncleanness. Click on the link to those resources here.

 79:18. (Hilali-Khan) “And say to him: "Would you purify yourself (from the sin of disbelief by becoming a believer)"” 
{Al-Jalalayn. "...and say, " Would you - I call you [to] - purify yourself (tazakkā: a variant reading has tazzakkā, where the original second tā' [of tatazakkā] has been assimilated with the zāy), to purge yourself of idolatry, by bearing witness that there is no god but God}

 9:95. (Pickthall) “They* will swear by Allah unto you, when ye return unto them, that ye may let them be. Let them be, for lo! they are unclean, and their abode is hell as the reward for what they used to earn.”

*Those who stayed behind instead of going on a jihad expedition.

{Al-Jalalayn. "They will swear to you by God, when you turn back, [when] you return, to them, from Tabūk, that they had [genuine] excuses for staying behind, so that you may leave them be, refraining from reproaching them. So leave them be, for they are an abomination, filth, on account of their inner vileness, and their abode shall be Hell, as requital for what they used to earn.}

 9:125. (Shakir) “And as for those in whose hearts is a disease, it adds uncleanness to their uncleanness and they die while they are unbelievers.”

{Al-Jalalayn. "But as for those in whose hearts is sickness, a weakness of faith, it only adds abomination to their abomination, that is, [it only adds] disbelief to their disbelief, since they disbelieve in it, and they die while they were disbelievers."} 
{Ibn Abbas."(But as for those in whose hearts is disease) doubt and hypocrisy, (it only addeth wickedness to their wickedness) it only adds doubt to their doubt in what is revealed of the Qur’an, (and they die while they are disbelievers) inwardly in Muhammad (pbuh) and in the Qur’an."}


10:100. (Pickthall). “It is not for any soul to believe save by the permission of Allah. He hath set uncleanness upon those who have no sense*.

*I.e., those who disbelieve in Islam. Also see 6:125 (Shakir)

 74:3-10. (Pickthall). “Thy Lord magnify, Thy raiment purify, Pollution shun!* And show not favour, seeking wordly gain! For the sake of thy Lord, be patient! For when the trumpet shall sound, Surely that day will be a day of anguish, Not of ease, for disbelievers…(74:17) “On him I shall impose a fearful doom.” 
*E.g., shun all kinds of pollution/uncleanness, such as disbelievers (e.g., see 53:29); also see Pickthall 22:30, "shun the filth of idols." 
{Al-Jalalayn, 53:29. "So shun him who turns away from Our Remembrance, that is, [from] the Qur'ān, and desires nothing but the life of this world - this was [revealed] before the command to struggle [against the disbelievers]."}

 3:55. (Pickthall). “(And remember) when Allah said: O Jesus! Lo! I am gathering thee and causing thee to ascend unto Me, and am cleansing thee of those who disbelieve and am setting those who follow thee above those who disbelieve until the Day of Resurrection. Then unto Me ye will (all) return, and I shall judge between you as to that wherein ye used to differ.” 
{Al-Jalalayn. "And mention, when God said, 'O Jesus, I am gathering you, seizing you, and raising you to Me, away from the world without death, and I am cleansing you of, removing you far away from, those who disbelieved, and I am setting those who follow you, those Christians and Muslims who believed in your prophethood, above those who disbelieved, in you, namely, the Jews, becoming above them through [definitive] argument and the sword, until the Day of Resurrection. Then to Me shall be your return, and I will decide between you, as to what you were at variance about, as regards religion."}

  62:2. (Hilali-Khan) “He it is Who sent among the unlettered ones a Messenger (Muhammad SAW) from among themselves, reciting to them His Verses, purifying them (from the filth of disbelief and polytheism), and teaching them the Book (this Qur'an, Islamic laws and Islamic jurisprudence) and Al-Hikmah (As-Sunnah: legal ways, orders, acts of worship, etc. of Prophet Muhammad SAW). And verily, they had been before in mainfest error;”

{Al-Jalalayn. It is He Who sent to the unlettered [folk], [among] the Arabs (ummī means 'one who cannot write or read a book'), a messenger from among them, namely, Muhammad (s), to recite to them His signs, the Qur'ān, and to purify them, to cleanse them from idolatry, and to teach them the Book, the Qur'ān, and wisdom, [in] the rulings that it contains, though indeed (wa-in: in has been softened from the hardened form, with its subject having been omitted, that is to say, [understand it as] wa-innahum) before that, [before] his coming, they had been in manifest error.}

 8:11 (Arberry). “When He was causing slumber to overcome you as a security from Him, and sending down on you water from heaven, to purify you thereby, and to put away from you the defilement of Satan, and to strengthen your hearts, and to confirm your feet.”


Syed Kamran Mirza can be contacted at


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