Now, it must be pointed out that His Holiness is not really that big on tact and He tends to voice matter that He feels is justifiable for Him to do so on the grounds of Theology. Bearing this in mind, he is one of the most eminent theologian of the Catholic Church and the core central of His Belief is that Jesus Christ is Lord and Redeemer and the Church is founded by Christ and Salvation is through Christ. That is etched very Strongly in His Holiness Heart and Mind and His action is dictated therefore by that very words and so it should be in every Catholic and Christian's heart and mind.
However, the spiritual leader of Lebanon's Sunnis, the Grand Mufti Sheik Mohammed Rashid Kabbani, said the pope's remarks emanated either from "Ignorance and lack of knowledge or were deliberately intended to distort Islam." Now, is it? I shall go more into that later. Firstly, however, anyone looking at the perpetual outrage and constant state of ready-reaction that we've all witnessed in the Muslim world, completely rebuts the argument of Muslim leaders such as Sheik Mohammed Rashid Kabbani, especially when he makes comments like: "Reason is the substance of Islam and its teachings ... Islam prohibited violence in human life, and that anyone who wants the truth (about Islam) must take it from Islam's holy book, the Koran, rather than from a dialogue or excerpts." After all, it is the Koran that is quoted word for word by the Muslim clerics around the world now inflaming their followers to follow violent jihad, conversion by the sword, suicide bombings of innocent "infidels", shooting nuns in the back who work in hospitals, kidnappings, beheadings, ad nauseam.
If remarks by the Pope can be so misinterpreted as to "offend Muslim sensitivities", perhaps much of the Muslim world is far too sensitive because their positions relative to faith without reason, violence in the name of God, violence in the name of their religion, conversion by the sword, and other such examples of unreasonableness, is in fact - unreasonable?
My personal opinion is that there is indeed a Muslim majority that believes as the Grand Mufti Sheik Mohammed Rashid Kabbani suggests, that Islam prohibits violence, includes reason, and that violent jihad and forced conversion is wrong. However, unless these "rational and reasonable" Muslims speak out more strongly than their radical brethren, the view of Islam by the non-Muslim world will continue to be one of unreasonable, irrational, violence. For now, all we are seeing from the Muslim world, every single hour of every single day, is violence and one outrage after another. If one is so sensitive about their faith and remain in a constant state of anxiety and anger, one would think that sooner or later a rational and reasonable person would act to reform and modernize their faith, or leave it. To do otherwise is, irrational.
But why are they so sensitive towards their faith and feels free to condemn others who accuses their faith for things that might have been committed in the past? Insecurity? For perhaps that truly they might be some errors in their teaching? Perhaps that what people are being insensitive about in Islam is actually true and therefore they can't reconcile themselves to it?
The Catholic Church has recognised its multitude of crimes and errors it has committed in the past 2000 years and has asked forgiveness without reservations for the crimes we have done to the people of the world in the name of the Church. We are not proud of that history but it is our history and we face the facts that we did what we did and therefore we are truly sorry for it, but why can't Islam? That is what Benedict XVI in the beginning of His Pontificate has been trying to stress, that is, to come to a full dialogue with each others, especialy between Catholics and Islam, we must both recognise our History and our Mistake and accept it but it seems that Muslims are not ready to do so.
Now, I shall qoute from the Quran to prove to those news report from Muslim all over the world that the Pope is misleading the people and that Islam is not what Emperor Manuel II of the Byzantine believe it is is not wrong.
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....(Quran; Surah 5:33)
...beware of them lest they seduce you from some part of that which Allah has revealed to you. And if they turn away know that Allah's will is to smite them...(Quran; Surah 5:49)
...Take not the Jews and Christians for friends. They are friends one to another. He among you who takes them for friends is one of them. Lo! Allah guids not these wrongdoing people. (Quran Surah 5:51)
And let not those who disbelieve suppose that they can overcome. Lo! they cannot escape. Make ready for them all you can by armed force...(Quran; Surah 8:59-60a)
...slay the idolaters wherever you find them, and take them captive, and besiege them, and prepare to ambush them. But if they repent and establish [Islamic] worship...their way is free. Lo! Allah is forgiving and Merciful. (Quran; Surah 9:5)
...Strive against the disbelievers and the hypocrites! Be harsh with them...(Quran; Surah 9:73)
Here are some examples of the Qur'an's other passages advocating violence:
"And he who fights in the cause of Allah and is killed achieves victory. We will bestow on him a great reward." (Sura 4:74).
"Those who believe fight in the cause of Allah, and those who disbelieve in the cause of Satan. So fight against the allies of Satan." (Sura 4:76).
"Indeed, the penalty for those who wage war against Allah and his messenger . . . is none but that they be killed or crucified or that their hands and feet be cut off from the opposite sides." (Sura 5:33).
"I will instill terror into the hearts of the infidels. Strike off their heads then, and strike off them every finger-tip." (Sura 8:12).
"Kill those who join other gods with God (Allah) wherever you find them." (Sura 9:5).
"Fight those who do not believe in Allah." (Sura 9:29).
"If you do not fight, (Allah) will punish you severely, and put others in your place." (Sura 9:39).
"O Prophet, fight against the disbelievers and the hypocrites and be harsh upon them." (Sura 9:75).
"So when you meet those who disbelieve, strike their necks until, when you have inflicted slaughter upon them, then secure their bonds . . . And those who are killed in the cause of Allah never will waste their deeds." (Sura 47:4).
And this is from the Holy Quran itself? So can we truly say that Islam does not evoke and teaches violence? Therefore, is the Holy Father wanted to highlight this issue, what would the Muslim have to say? No other formal established religion in the world evokes such violence of its believers, truly, I say none but only Islam. So, can we truly blame them for being so insecure when people speaks out the truth about their religion?
Forced conversions in Islamic history are not exceptional -- they have been the norm, across three continents -- Asia, Africa, and Europe -- for over 13 centuries ... Even in the 20th century [i.e., the genocide of the Armenians during World War I, the Moplah in Southern India , against the Assyrians of Iraq [early 1930s], against the Chinese of Indonesia and the Christian Ibo of southern Nigeria in the 1960s, and the against the Christians and Animists of the southern Sudan from 1983 to 2001], ... a consistent practice was to enslave populations taken from outside the boundaries of the "Dar al Islam", where Islamic rule (and Law) prevailed. Inevitably fresh non-Muslim slaves, including children, were Islamized within a generation, their ethnic and linguistic origins erased ...which echose the Ottoman Emperor's tactics of taking young Christian Boys as "Tribute" from the conquered Greeks and to be converted and brought up by force as Muslims and trained as janissaries, (for more on Janissaries, go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Janissary )
Given this enduring (and ignoble) historical legacy, how can they truly assert the claim that Islam was not spread by the sword? Of course, some are not physical violence but emotional violence and also National Violence as we can see here in our own country, Malaysia, where we are threatened and yes, I use that strong word, threatened, with conversion if we are to succeed in anything, to be able to gain scholarship, business contracts and in the case of the Orang Asli in West Malaysia, their own Identity Card and to be called Malaysians? For goodness sake, this people have been here before Islam came into the Malayan states and now you refuse them their right to citizenship providing that they convert to Islam? Is that not the truth? Should I now apologise and say that I am wrong when the proof is all out there for all to see, in the newspaper headlines, in countless reports from United Nations on Human Rights?
Now, I return to a more indepth study of the Quran of which I have been doing for the last few days and share it with you all.
The Quran is replete with explicit and implicit sanction and promotion of armed conflict, violence, and bloodshed by Muslims. For example, within months of the Hijrah, Muhammad claimed to receive a revelation that clarified the issue:
Now when ye meet in battle those who disbelieve, then it is smiting of the necks until, when ye have routed them, then making fast of bonds; and afterward either grace or ransom till the war lay down its burdens. That (is the ordinance). And if Allah willed He could have punished them (without you) but (thus it is ordained) that He may try some of you by means of others. And those who are slain in the way of Allah, He rendereth not their actions vain (Surah 47:4, emp. added).
Fight in the way of Allah against those who fight against you, but begin not hostilities. Lo! Allah loveth not aggressors. And slay them wherever ye find them, and drive them out of the places whence they drove you out, for persecution is worse than slaughter. And fight not with them at the Inviolable Place of Worship until they first attack you there, but if they attack you (there) then slay them. Such is the reward of disbelievers. But if they desist, then lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. And fight them until persecution is no more, and religion is for Allah. But if they desist, then let there be no hostility except against wrongdoers. The forbidden month for the forbidden month, and forbidden things in retaliation. And one who attacketh you, attack him in like manner as he attacked you. Observe your duty to Allah, and know that Allah is with those who ward off (evil) (Surah 2:190-194, emp. added).
Warfare is ordained for you, though it is hateful unto you; but it may happen that ye hate a thing which is good for you, and it may happen that ye love a thing which is bad for you. Allah knoweth, ye know not. They question thee (O Muhammad) with regard to warfare in the sacred month. Say: Warfare therein is a great (transgression), but to turn (men) from the way of Allah, and to disbelieve in Him and in the Inviolable Place of Worship, and to expel his people thence, is a greater with Allah; for persecution is worse than killing. And they will not cease from fighting against you till they have made you renegades from your religion, if they can (Surah 2:216-217, emp. added).
Muhammad was informed that warfare was prescribed for him! Though he may have hated warfare, it was actually good for him, and what he loved, i.e., non-warfare, was actually bad for him! And though under normal circumstances, fighting is not appropriate during sacred months, killing was warranted against those who sought to prevent Muslims from practicing their religion. Killing is better than being persecuted! A similar injunction states: “Sanction is given unto those who fight because they have been wronged; and Allah is indeed Able to give them victory” (Surah 22:39, emp. added). In fact, “Allah loveth those who battle for His cause in ranks, as if they were a solid structure” (Surah 61:4, emp. added).
In a surah titled “Repentance” that issues stern measures to be taken against idolaters, the requirement to engage in carnal warfare is apparent:
Freedom from obligation (is proclaimed) from Allah and His messenger toward those of the idolaters with whom ye made a treaty: Travel freely in the land four months, and know that ye cannot escape Allah and that Allah will confound the disbelievers (in His guidance). And a proclamation from Allah and His messenger to all men on the day of the Greater Pilgrimage that Allah is free from obligation to the idolaters, and (so is) His messenger. So, if ye repent, it will be better for you; but if ye are averse, then know that ye cannot escape Allah. Give tidings (O Muhammad) of a painful doom to those who disbelieve. Excepting those of the idolaters with whom ye (Muslims) have a treaty, and who have since abated nothing of your right nor have supported anyone against you. (As for these), fulfill their treaty to them till their term. Lo! Allah loveth those who keep their duty (unto Him). Then, when the sacred months have passed, slay the idolaters wherever ye find them, and take them (captive), and besiege them, and prepare for them each ambush. But if they repent and establish worship and pay the poor-due, then leave their way free. Lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful (Surah 9:1-5, emp. added).
The ancient Muslim histories elaborate on the occasion of these admonitions: “[T]he idolaters were given four months’ respite to come and go as they pleased in safety, but after that God and His Messenger would be free from any obligation towards them. War was declared upon them, and they were to be slain or taken captive wherever they were found” (Lings, 1983, p. 323).
Later in the same surah, “Fight against such of those who have been given the Scripture as believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, and forbid not that which Allah hath forbidden by His messenger, and follow not the religion of truth, until they pay the tribute readily, being brought low” (Surah 9:29, emp. added). “Those who have been given the Scripture” is a reference to Jews and Christians. The surah advocates coercion against Jews and Christians in order to physically force them to pay the jizyah—a special religious tax imposed on religious minorities (see Nasr, 2002, p. 166). Muslim translator Mohammed Pickthall explains the historical setting of this quranic utterance: “It signified the end of idolatry in Arabia. The Christian Byzantine Empire had begun to move against the growing Muslim power, and this Surah contains mention of a greater war to come, and instructions with regard to it” (p. 145). Indeed, the final verse of Surah 2 calls upon Allah to give Muslims “victory over the disbelieving folk” (vs. 286), rendered by Rodwell: “give us victory therefore over the infidel nations.” That this stance by the Quran was to be expected is evident from the formulation of the Second Pledge of Aqabah, in which the men pledged their loyalty and their commitment to protecting Muhammad from all opponents. This pledge included duties of war, and was taken only by the males. Consequently, the First Aqabah pact, which contained no mention of war, became known as the “pledge of the women” (Lings, p. 112).
Additional allusions to warfare in the Quran are seen in the surah, “The Spoils,” dated in the second year of the Hijrah (A.D. 623), within a month after the Battle of Badr:
And fight them until persecution is no more, and religion is all for Allah.... If thou comest on them in the war, deal with them so as to strike fear in those who are behind them.... And let not those who disbelieve suppose that they can outstrip (Allah’s purpose). Lo! they cannot escape. Make ready for them all thou canst of (armed) force and of horses tethered, that thereby ye may dismay the enemy of Allah and your enemy, and others beside them whom ye know not.... O Prophet! Exhort the believers to fight. If there be of you twenty stedfast they shall overcome two hundred, and if there be of you a hundred stedfast they shall overcome a thousand of those who disbelieve, because they (the disbelievers) are a folk without intelligence.... It is not for any Prophet to have captives until he hath made slaughter in the land. Ye desire the lure of this world and Allah desireth (for you) the Hereafter, and Allah is Mighty, Wise. Had it not been for an ordinance of Allah which had gone before, an awful doom had come upon you on account of what ye took. Now enjoy what ye have won, as lawful and good, and keep your duty to Allah. Lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful (Surah 8:39,57,59-60,65,67-69, emp. added; cf. 33:26).
Muslim scholar Pickthall readily concedes the context of these verses:
vv. 67-69 were revealed when the Prophet had decided to spare the lives of the prisoners taken at Badr and hold them to ransom, against the wish of Omar, who would have executed them for their past crimes. The Prophet took the verses as a reproof, and they are generally understood to mean that no quarter ought to have been given in that first battle (p. 144, emp. added).
So the Quran indicates that at the Battle of Badr, no captives should have been taken. The enemy should have been completely slaughtered, with no quarter given. This very fate awaited the Jewish Bani Qurayzah, when some 700 men were beheaded by the Muslims with Muhammad’s approval (Lings, p. 232). Likewise, members of a clan of the Bani Nadir were executed in Khaybar for concealing their treasure rather than forfeiting it to the Muslims (Lings, p. 267).
Another surah describes how allowances respecting the daily prayers were to be made for Muhammad’s Muslim warriors when engaged in military action:
And when ye go forth in the land, it is no sin for you to curtail (your) worship if ye fear that those who disbelieve may attack you. In truth the disbelievers are an open enemy to you. And when thou (O Muhammad) art among them and arrangest (their) worship for them, let only a party of them stand with thee (to worship) and let them take their arms. Then when they have performed their prostrations let them fall to the rear and let another party come that hath not worshipped and let them worship with thee, and let them take their precaution and their arms. Those who disbelieve long for you to neglect your arms and your baggage that they may attack you once for all. It is no sin for you to lay aside your arms, if rain impedeth you or ye are sick. But take your precaution. Lo! Allah prepareth for the disbelievers shameful punishment. When ye have performed the act of worship, remember Allah, standing, sitting and reclining. And when ye are in safety, observe proper worship. Worship at fixed hours hath been enjoined on the believers. Relent not in pursuit of the enemy (Surah 4:101-104, emp. added; cf. 73:20).
These verses show that the Quran implicitly endorses armed conflict and war to advance Islam.
Muslim historical sources themselves report the background details of those armed conflicts that have characterized Islam from its inception—including Muhammad’s own warring tendencies involving personal participation in and endorsement of military campaigns (cf. Lings, pp. 86,111). Muslim scholar Pickthall’s own summary of Muhammad’s war record is an eye-opener: “The number of the campaigns which he led in person during the last ten years of his life is twenty-seven, in nine of which there was hard fighting. The number of the expeditions which he planned and sent out under other leaders is thirty-eight” (n.d., p. xxvi).
Furthermore the Quran boldly declares, “And one who attacks you, attack him in like manner as he attacked you” (Surah 2:194; cf. 22:60), So, perhaps the Muslims are justified in their violent reactions to Benedict XVI, speech.
Also, the Quran says that “persecution is worse than killing” (Surah 2:217)—i.e., it is better to kill your persecutors than to endure their persecutions!
The standard Muslim attempt to justify the Quran’s endorsement of violence is that such violence was undertaken in self-defense (e.g., Surah 42:41). Consider the following Muslim explanation:
At the time when this surah (Surah 2—DM) was revealed at Al-Madinah, the Prophet’s own tribe, the pagan Qureysh at Mecca, were preparing to attack the Muslims in their place of refuge. Cruel persecution was the lot of Muslims who had stayed in Meccan territory or who journeyed thither, and Muslims were being prevented from performing the pilgrimage. The possible necessity of fighting had been foreseen in the terms of the oath, taken at Al-Aqabah by the Muslims of Yathrib before the Flight, to defend the Prophet as they would their own wives and children, and the first commandment to fight was revealed to the Prophet before his flight from Mecca; but there was no actual fighting by the Muslims until the battle of Badr. Many of them were reluctant, having before been subject to a rule of strict non-violence. It was with difficulty that they could accept the idea of fighting even in self-defence [sic].... (Pickthall, p. 33, emp. added).
Apart from the fact that the claim that Muhammad’s advocacy of fighting was justifiable on the ground of self-defense is contrary to the historical facts (since the wars waged by Muhammad and the territorial expansion of Islam achieved by his subsequent followers cannot all be dismissed as defensive), this explanation fails to come to grips with the propriety of shedding of blood and inflicting violence—regardless of the reason. Muslim scholar Seyyed Nasr seems unconscious of the inherent self-contradiction apparent in his own remark:
The spread of Islam occurred in waves. In less than a century after the establishment of the first Islamic society in Medina by the Prophet, Arab armies had conquered a land stretching from the Indus River to France and brought with them Islam, which, contrary to popular Western conceptions, was not, however, forced on the people by the sword (2003, p. 17, emp. added).
In other words, Muslim armies physically conquered—by military force and bloodshed—various nations, forcing the population to submit to Muslim rule, but did not require them to become Muslims! One suspects that, at the time, the distinction escaped the citizens of those conquered countries, even as it surely does the reader.
The Quran appears to have been somewhat influenced by the Law of Moses in this regard. For example, the Quran states: “If ye punish, then punish with the like of that wherewith ye were afflicted” (Surah 16:126). Similarly, “O ye who believe! Retaliation is prescribed for you in the matter of the murdered; the freeman for the freeman, and the slave for the slave, and the female for the female.... And there is life for you in retaliation, O men of understanding, that ye may ward off (evil)” (Surah 2:178-179). One is reminded of the lex talionis [literally “law as (or of) retaliation”] of the Law of Moses. However, whereas the Quran appears to enjoin retaliation, the lex talionis were not intended to promote retaliation. Enjoining retaliation would be in direct conflict with the nature of God. God is never vindictive. The New Testament law does not differ with the Old Testament in the areas of proper values, ethics, mercy, and justice. The “eye for an eye” injunctions of the Old Testament were designed to be prohibitive in their thrust, i.e., they humanely limited and restricted legal punishment to a degree in keeping with the crime. That is, they prevented dispensers of justice from punishing too harshly or too much. They were intended to inculcate into Israelite society the principle of confining retribution to appropriate parameters.
The fact that the author of the Quran failed to grasp this feature of God’s laws is evident in various quranic injunctions: “As for the thief, both male and female, cut off their hands. It is the reward of their own deeds, an exemplary punishment from Allah. Allah is Mighty, Wise” (Surah 5:38, emp. added).
The adulterer and the adulteress, scourge ye each one of them (with) a hundred stripes. And let not pity for the twain withhold you from obedience to Allah, if ye believe in Allah and the Last Day. And let a party of believers witness their punishment.... And those who accuse honourable women but bring not four witnesses, scourge them (with) eighty stripes and never (afterward) accept their testimony—They indeed are evildoers (Surah 24:2,4, emp. added).
Now, if the majority of Muslims were violent, that would not prove that Islam is a religion of violence. The vast majority of those who claim to be “Christian” are practicing a corrupted form of the Christian faith. So the validity of any religion is determined ultimately not by the imperfect, inaccurate practice of the religion by even a majority of its adherents, but by the official authority or standard upon which it is based, i.e., its Scriptures and in this case, the Holy Quran. The present discussion in the world regarding whether or not jihad includes physical force in the advancement of Islam is ultimately irrelevant (cf. Nasr, 2002, pp. 256-266). The Quran unquestionably endorses violence, war, and armed conflict. No wonder a substantial number of Muslims manifest a maniacal, reckless abandon in their willingness to die by sacrificing their lives in order to kill as many “infidels”. They have read the following:
Now when ye meet in battle those who disbelieve, then it is smiting of the necks.... And those who are slain in the way of Allah, He rendereth not their actions vain. He will guide them and improve their state, and bring them in unto the Garden [Paradise—DM] which He hath made known to them (Surah 47:4-6, emp. added).
O ye who believe! Be not as those who disbelieved and said of their brethren who went abroad in the land or were fighting in the field: If they had been (here) with us they would not have died or been killed.... And what though ye be slain in Allah’s way or die therein? Surely pardon from Allah and mercy are better than all that they amass. What though ye be slain or die, when unto Allah ye are gathered?.... So those who...fought and were slain, verily I shall remit their evil deeds from them and verily I shall bring them into Gardens underneath which rivers flow—a reward from Allah (Surah 3:156-158,195, emp. added).
Even if the vast majority of Muslims in the world reject violence and refrain from terrorist activity (which would appear to be the case), it is still a fact that the Quran (as well as the example of Muhammad himself) endorses the advancement of Islam through physical force. While Muslim apologist Seyyed Hossein Nasr insists that “the traditional norms based on peace and openness to others” characterize true Islam and the majority of Muslims, in contradistinction, he freely admits that at times Islam “has been forced to take recourse to physical action in the form of defense” (Nasr, 2002, pp. 112,110). This concession cannot be successfully denied in view of the Quran’s own declarations. Hence, the Muslim is forced to maintain the self-contradictory position that, yes, there have been times that Islam has been properly violent and, yes, the Quran does endorse violence, but, no, most Muslims are not violent, and then only in self-defense. As reprehensible and cowardly as Islamic terrorists have shown themselves to be in recent years, an honest reading of the Quran leads one to believe that they, at least, are more consistent with, and true to, their own Scriptures—as revolting an idea as that may be.
As a conclussion, I therefore Repeat the Title of this posting, should the Pope Apologise? I believe, No, he shouldn't. The reactions of the Muslim world further shows to the rest of the world that Islam resorts to Violence in the forms of threat, riots and murder in order to get their message across rather than through the spirit of dialogue. The Holy Father has made his point clearly to all to see what Islam is all about, perhaps it is time we ourselves enlighten ourselves to what Islam is all about.
Lings, Martin (1983), Muhammad (Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions International).
Nasr, Seyyed Hossein (2002), The Heart of Islam (New York: HarperCollins).
Nasr, Seyyed Hossein (2003), Islam (New York: HarperCollins).
Pickthall, Mohammed M. (no date), The Meaning of the Glorious Koran (New York: Mentor).
Rahman, Fazlur (1979), Islam (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press), second edition.
Rodwell, J.M., trans. (1950 reprint), The Koran (London: J.M. Dent and Sons).