Translating Words, Interpreting Events

Islamic Jihad and the Doctrine of Abrogation

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While other scriptures contain contradictions, the Koran is the only holy book whose commentators have evolved a doctrine to account for the very visible shifts which occur from one injunction to another. No careful reader will remain unaware of the many contradictory verses in the Koran, most specifically the way in which peaceful and tolerant verses lie almost side by side with violent and intolerant ones. The ulema were initially baffled as to which verses to codify into the Shari’a worldview—the one that states there is no coercion in religion (2:256), or the ones that command believers to fight all non-Muslims till they either convert, or at least submit, to Islam (8:39, 9:5, 9:29). To get out of this quandary, the commentators developed the doctrine of abrogation, which essentially maintains that verses revealed later in Muhammad’s career take precedence over earlier ones whenever there is a discrepancy. In order to document which verses abrogated which, a religious science devoted to the chronology of the Koran’s verses evolved (known as an-Nasikh wa’l Mansukh, the abrogater and the abrogated).

Koran and Sword: Hand in Hand

But why the contradiction in the first place? The standard view is that in the early years of Islam, since Muhammad and his community were far outnumbered by their infidel competitors while living next to them in Mecca, a message of peace and coexistence was in order. However, after the Muslims migrated to Medina in 622 and grew in military strength, verses inciting them to go on the offensive were slowly “revealed”—in principle, sent down from Allah—always commensurate with Islam’s growing capabilities. In juridical texts, these are categorized in stages: passivity vis-á-vis aggression; permission to fight back against aggressors; commands to fight aggressors; commands to fight all non-Muslims, whether the latter begin aggressions or not. [1] Growing Muslim might is the only variable that explains this progressive change in policy.

Other scholars put a gloss on this by arguing that over a twenty-two year period, the Koran was revealed piecemeal, from passive and spiritual verses to legal prescriptions and injunctions to spread the faith through jihad and conquest, simply to acclimate early Muslim converts to the duties of Islam, lest they be discouraged at the outset by the dramatic obligations that would appear in later verses.[2] Verses revealed towards the end of Muhammad’s career—such as, “Warfare is prescribed for you though you hate it”[3]—would have been out of place when warfare was actually out of the question.

Allah himself speaking through the Koran justifies abrogation:  “Whenever We abrogate a verse or cause it to be forgotten, we replace it by a better or similar one.  Know you not that Allah has power over all things?” (Koran 2: 106; see also 16:101, 13:39, and 17:86).

However interpreted, the standard view on Koranic abrogation concerning war and peace verses is that when Muslims are weak and in a minority position, they should preach and behave according to the ethos of the Meccan verses (peace and tolerance); when strong, however, they should go on the offensive on the basis of what is commanded in the Medinan verses (war and conquest). The vicissitudes of Islamic history are a testimony to this dichotomy, best captured by the popular Muslim notion, based on a hadith, that, if possible, jihad should be performed by the hand (force), if not, then by the tongue (through preaching); and, if that is not possible, then with the heart or one’s intentions.[4]

Consider the role of deceit or taqiyya in Islam in the context of jihad and abrogation.  That Islam legitimizes deceit during war is, of course, not all that astonishing; after all, as the Elizabethan writer John Lyly put it, “All’s fair in love and war.”[5] Other non-Muslim philosophers and strategists—such as Sun Tzu, Machiavelli, and Thomas Hobbes—justified deceit in warfare. Deception of the enemy during war is only common sense. The crucial difference in Islam, however, is that war against the infidel is a perpetual affair—until, in the words of the Koran, “all chaos ceases, and all religion belongs to Allah.”[6] In his entry on jihad from the Encyclopaedia of Islam, Emile Tyan states: “The duty of the jihad exists as long as the universal domination of Islam has not been attained. Peace with non-Muslim nations is, therefore, a provisional state of affairs only; the chance of circumstances alone can justify it temporarily.”[7]

Moreover, going back to the doctrine of abrogation, Muslim scholars such as Ibn Salama (d. 1020) agree that Koran 9:5, known as ayat as-sayf or the sword verse, has abrogated some 124 of the more peaceful Meccan verses, including “every other verse in the Koran, which commands or implies anything less than a total offensive against the nonbelievers.”[8] In fact, all four schools of Sunni jurisprudence agree that “jihad is when Muslims wage war on infidels, after having called on them to embrace Islam or at least pay tribute [jizya] and live in submission, and the infidels refuse.”[9]

It is the same with Koran 9:29—the final word on the fate of Christians and Jews, and the divine source behind the idea that they must always live in subjugation to Muslims:  Allah commands believers to “Fight those among the People of the Book who do not believe in Allah nor the Last Day, nor forbid what Allah and His Messenger have forbidden, nor embrace the religion of truth [i.e., Islam], until they pay the jizya [tribute] with willing submission and feel themselves subdued.”

In Islamic parlance, “People of the Book” is a reference to those pre-Islamic peoples who had their own scriptures—chief among them, Christians and Jews. Koran 9:29, and its equally bellicose counterpart, Koran 9:5, appeared as Muhammad’s armies were preparing to invade the Christian territories of the Byzantine empire.

A year after proclaiming these anti-Christian verses, Muhammad was dead, revelations ceased, and the Islamic jihad against the surrounding infidels, most of whom were Christians, erupted from Arabia, in the first phase of what are commonly known as the Muslim conquests of history.  Till this day, mainstream Islamic jurisprudence holds that the Sword Verses (specifically 9:5 and 9:29) have “abrogated, canceled, and replaced 124 verses that called for tolerance, compassion, and peace.[10]

The obligatory jihad is best expressed by Islam’s dichotomized worldview that pits the realm of Islam against the realm of war. The first, dar al-Islam, is the “realm of submission,” the world where Shari’a governs; the second, dar al-Harb (the realm of war), is the non-Islamic world. A struggle continues until the realm of Islam subsumes the non-Islamic world—a perpetual affair that continues to the present day. The renowned Muslim historian and philosopher Ibn Khaldun (d. 1406) clearly articulates this division:

In the Muslim community, jihad is a religious duty because of the universalism of the Muslim mission and the obligation to convert everybody to Islam either by persuasion or by force. The other religious groups did not have a universal mission, and the jihad was not a religious duty for them, save only for purposes of defense. But Islam is under obligation to gain power over other nations.[11]

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[1] Ibn Qayyim, Tafsir, in Abd al-’Aziz bin Nasir al-Jalil, At-Tarbiya al-Jihadiya fi Daw’ al-Kitab wa ‘s-Sunna (Riyahd: n.p., 2003), pp. 36-43.
[2] Mukaram, At-Taqiyya fi ’l-Islam, p. 20.
[3] Koran 2: 216.
[4] Yahya bin Sharaf ad-Din an-Nawawi, An-Nawawi’s Forty Hadiths, p. 16, accessed Aug. 1, 2009.
[5] John Lyly, Euphues: The Anatomy of Wit (London, 1578), p. 236.
[6] Koran 8:39.
[7] Emile Tyan, The Encyclopedia of Islam (Leiden: Brill, 1960), vol. 2, s.v. “Djihad,” pp. 538-40.
[8] David Bukay, “Peace or Jihad? Abrogation in Islam,” Middle East Quarterly, Fall 2007, pp. 3-11, f.n. 58; David S. Powers, “The Exegetical Genre nasikh al-Qur’an wa-mansukhuhu,” in Approaches to the History of the Interpretation of the Qur’an, Andrew Rippin, ed. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988), pp. 130-1.
[9] Jalil, At-Tarbiya al-Jihadiya fi Daw’ al-Kitab wa ‘ s-Sunna, p. 7.
[10] David Bukay, “Peace or Jihad? Abrogation in Islam,” Middle East Quarterly, Fall 2007, pp. 3-11.

[11] Ibn Khaldun, The Muqadimmah. An Introduction to History, Franz Rosenthal, trans. (New York: Pantheon, 1958), vol. 1, p. 473.

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  • DogWithoutSlippers

    They love the jizya – protection money – spread the wealth!~ All dirtbags.

  • ugwu

    Raymon the almighty God will continue to protect you and the truth you stand for in Jesus name.

  • Larry

    THE COSMIC JOKE

    HEAR O ISRAEL THE LORD IS ……A VOLCANO!!!

    Nahum 1:5-6 The mountains quake at him, and the hills melt, and the earth is burned at his presence, yea, the world, and all that dwell therein. Who can stand before his indignation? and who can abide in the fierceness of his anger? his fury is poured out like fire, and the rocks are thrown down by him.

    WAS GOD A VOLCANO?

    YES! GOD – YHWH/MOLOCH/BAAL/ALLAH WAS A VOLCANO-VOLCANIC ACTIVITY!!

    List of Biblical verses that suggest God was a volcano

    This list of Bible verses that prove beyond all reasonable doubt god was a volcano will be regularly updated and re-circulated. If you would like to submit some verses for the collection then please add them as a comment.

    Exodus 3:12 And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.”

    Exodus 13:21 By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night.

    Exodus 15:7 In the greatness of your majesty you threw down those who opposed you. You unleashed your burning anger; it consumed them like stubble.

    Exodus 19:18 Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the LORD descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, and the whole mountain trembled violently.

    Exodus 24:17 To the Israelites the glory of the LORD looked like a consuming fire on top of the mountain.

    Exodus: 32:14 And the LORD repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people.

    Exodus 40:38 So the cloud of the LORD was over the tabernacle by day, and fire was in the cloud by night, in the sight of all the Israelites during all their travels.

    Leviticus 9:24 Fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the fat portions on the altar. And when all the people saw it, they shouted for joy and fell facedown.

    Leviticus 10:2 So fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD.

    Leviticus 10:6 Then Moses said to Aaron and his sons Eleazar and Ithamar, “Do not let your hair become unkempt and do not tear your clothes, or you will die and the LORD will be angry with the whole community. But your relatives, all the Israelites, may mourn for those the LORD has destroyed by fire.

    Numbers 11:1 Now the people complained about their hardships in the hearing of the LORD, and when he heard them his anger was aroused. Then fire from the LORD burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp.

    Numbers 11:3 So that place was called Taberah, because fire from the LORD had burned among them.

    Numbers 14:14 And they will tell the inhabitants of this land about it.
    They have already heard that you, LORD, are with these people and that you, LORD, have been seen face to face, that your cloud stays over them, and that
    you go before them in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.

    Numbers 16:35 And fire came out from the LORD and consumed the 250 men who were offering the incense.

    Numbers 26:10 The earth opened its mouth and swallowed them along with Korah, whose followers died when the fire devoured the 250 men. And they served as a warning sign.

    Deuteronomy 1:33 who went ahead of you on your journey, in fire by night and in a cloud by day, to search out places for you to camp and to show you the way you should go.

    Deuteronomy 4:11 You came near and stood at the foot of the mountain while it blazed with fire to the very heavens, with black clouds and deep darkness.

    Deuteronomy 4:12 Then the LORD spoke to you out of the fire. You heard the sound of words but saw no form; there was only a voice.

    Deuteronomy 4:15 You saw no form of any kind the day the LORD spoke to you at Horeb out of the fire. Therefore watch yourselves very carefully.

    Deuteronomy 4:24 For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.

    Deuteronomy 4:33 Has any other people heard the voice of God speaking out of fire, as you have, and lived?

    Deuteronomy 4:36 From heaven he made you hear his voice to discipline you. On earth he showed you his great fire, and you heard his words from out of the fire.

    Deuteronomy 5:4 The LORD spoke to you face to face out of the fire on the mountain.

    Deuteronomy 5:5 At that time I stood between the LORD and you to declare to you the word of the LORD, because you were afraid of the fire and did not go up the mountain.

    Deuteronomy 5:22 These are the commandments the LORD proclaimed in a loud voice to your whole assembly there on the mountain from out of the fire, the
    cloud and the deep darkness; and he added nothing more. Then he wrote them on
    two stone tablets and gave them to me.

    Deuteronomy 5:23 When you heard the voice out of the darkness, while the mountain was ablaze with fire, all the leaders of your tribes and your elders came to me.

    Deuteronomy 5:24 And you said, “The LORD our God has shown us his glory and his majesty, and we have heard his voice from the fire. Today we have seen that a person can live even if God speaks with them.

    Deuteronomy 5:25 But now, why should we die? This great fire will consume us, and we will die if we hear the voice of the LORD our God any longer.

    Deuteronomy 5:26 For what mortal has ever heard the voice of the living God speaking out of fire, as we have, and survived?

    Deuteronomy 9:3 But be assured today that the LORD your God is the one who goes across ahead of you like a devouring fire. He will destroy them; he will subdue them before you. And you will drive them out and annihilate them quickly, as the LORD has promised you.

    Deuteronomy 9:10 The LORD gave me two stone tablets inscribed by the finger of God. On them were all the commandments the LORD proclaimed to you on the mountain out of the fire, on the day of the assembly.

    Deuteronomy 9:15 So I turned and went down from the mountain while it was ablaze with fire. And the two tablets of the covenant were in my hands.

    Deuteronomy 10:4 The LORD wrote on these tablets what he had written before, the Ten Commandments he had proclaimed to you on the mountain, out of the fire, on the day of the assembly. And the LORD gave them to me.

    Deuteronomy 18:16 For this is what you asked of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said, “Let us not hear the voice of the LORD our God nor see this great fire anymore, or we will die.”

    Deuteronomy 33:2 He said: “The LORD came from Sinai and dawned over them from Seir; he shone forth from Mount Paran. He came with myriads of holy ones
    from the south, from his mountain slopes.

    2 Samuel 22:9 Smoke rose from his nostrils; consuming fire came from his mouth, burning coals blazed out of it.

    • steve8714

      Ever heard of allegory? Prophets, actual ones, were inspired by God to change the hearts and minds of the Hebrews. Allegory is a very good way to reach the illiterate.

      • Larry

        EVER HEARD OF IGNORANCE, SUPERSTITION, MYTH, LEGEND?

        PROBLEM:
        Most people bring their Sunday school religion with them when they read the Jewish Torah. And because of Cognitive dissonance, they won’t allow their intelligence to clash with their religious beliefs. Just look at Mohammedans & Talmudic Jews! They are Neanderthal when it comes to using 21st knowledge when reading their books.

        • steve8714

          Is any of this relevant? It doesn’t seem to fit my comment.

          • Larry

            FIRST OFF!

            IT WAS EZRA THE SCRIBE/PRIEST WHO COMPILED THE JEWISH BIBLE IN BABYLON & CREATED TALMUDIC JUDAISM!
            THE 10 COMMANDMENTS WERE PLAGIARIZED FROM THE 42 PRINCIPLES OF MAAT, A GODDESS OF EGYPT.
            ITS A TOSS UP AS TO WHICH IS MORE TRUTHFUL – HARRY POTTER OR MOSES’ TORAH?

            GENESIS 47 IS THE FIRST CHAPTER OF THE PROTOCOLS OF THE ELDERS OF ZION, ON HOW TO DESTROY A PEOPLE & CONTROL A COUNTRY!

            THE “GOD” OF EXODUS IS A VOLCANO!

            THE ILLITERATES ARE THE GOYIM WHO SWALLOWED THIS JEWISH MYTH, HOOK, LINE & SINKER!

            THE BEST THEOLOGY IS PARASITOLOGY!

            THE BEST BOOK AROUND ON IT IS, “PARASITE REX” BY CARL ZIMMER!

            WHEN YOU UNDERSTAND HOW PARASITES OPERATE, THEN YOU WILL UNDERSTAND HOW PEOPLE ARE CONTROLLED!

    • Sandy Perlmutter

      Dude, the Lord is speaking to you in Iceland at this very moment, from the location of Bárðarbunga. A whole set of articles can be found on this site: http://www.dailykos.com/blog/Rei

  • Audrey

    Thank you, Raymond, for another excellent piece!