This week, the Libyan affiliate of the so-called “Islamic State” (IS) horrifically murdered twenty-one Egyptian Coptic Christians. IS seems to have forgotten the peaceful religious teachings of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). When our religion started, Christians in Abyssinia (modern-day Ethiopia) gave shelter to Muslims who faced persecution on the Arabian Peninsula. They saved Islam when all Muslims in Makkah were on the brink of extinction.
In light of that history, how can IS possibly justify its mistreatment of Christians in Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Egypt? Whatever happened to the Quran’s call to repel evil with good (13:22, 23:96, 41:34)? The recent beheadings and destruction of mosques, churches, synagogues, and Yazidi places of worship completely contradict the basic teachings of Islam.
Because of IS’s barbaric practices, 1.8 billion Muslims worldwide are subjected to the hatred of non-Muslims who think that IS exemplifies Islam. We must not remain silent. We must defend peaceful Islam and work for greater unity with our Christian brothers and sisters.
The Quran clearly condemns killing and reprimands those who would use force to spread Islam. God, we are told, is full of loving kindness (85:14), and his angels pray for forgiveness for all on earth (42:5). Muslims are called to respect the free will of those of other faiths and are told never to compel others to accept Islam against their will (10:99). We are commanded not to be severe and harsh-hearted against non-Muslims (3:159).
Repeatedly, Quranic verses condemn murder: “take not life, which God has made sacred, except by way of justice and law: thus does He command you, that you may learn wisdom” (6:151); “if any one slew a person—unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land—it would be as if he slew the entire mankind: and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the entire mankind” (5:32). We are commanded, do not let your hatred of a people incite you to aggression (5:2), and do not let ill will towards any folk incite you so that you swerve from dealing justly. Be just; that is nearest to righteousness (5:8).
IS leaders need to study basic Islamic teachings. They are clear:
Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from Error: whoever rejects evil and believes in God has grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold that never breaks. And God hears and knows all things. (2:256).
With its atrocities and crimes against humanity, IS does more harm to Islam than any non-Muslim could do. Disrupting, dismantling, and defeating Al-Qaida, IS, and other Islamist militant groups will require us to address the ideology fueling their crimes. If we can take away their distorted interpretation of Islam, they will have nothing to fall back on.
Countering emerging threats will require innovative non-military solutions to win the hearts and minds of people who are at risk of becoming radicalized. The United States must find a way to reclaim its status as a beacon of hope for the world. We may have made foreign policy mistakes in Iraq and Syria, but we must not turn this into a war against Islam.
God in the Bible and the Quran
The God of Christians is the same God of Islam. To give you an idea of the similarities between the Bible’s teachings about God and the Quran’s, I created the following chart.
Christians Are Nearest in Love to Islam
In the Quran, Christians are often referred to as among the “People of the Book.” This means that they have also received and believed previous revelations from God’s prophets. The Quran praises the humility of Christians:
nearest among them in love to the believers will you find those who say, “We are Christians,” because amongst these are men devoted to learning and men who have renounced the world, and they are not arrogant. (5:82)
The Quran praises the dedication of those Christians who have been persecuted for their faith, saying: “They are those who have been evicted from their homes without right—only because they say, “Our Lord is God (Allah).” Not only are they praised as being holy, non-Muslim people of the book are promised a heavenly reward for their faith:
Surely those who believe, and those who are Jews, and the Christians, and the Sabians—whoever believes in God and the Last Day and does good, they shall have their reward from their Lord. And there will be no fear for them, nor shall they grieve. (2:62, 5:69)
The Prophetic Methodology shows that during his lifetime Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) sent a message to the monks of Saint Catherine in Mount Sinai. It is worth quoting at length:
This is a message written by Muhammad ibn Abdullah, as a covenant to those who adopt Christianity, far and near, we are behind them. Verily, I defend them by myself, the servants, the helpers, and my followers, because Christians are my citizens; and by Allah! I hold out against anything that displeases them. No compulsion is to be on them. Neither are their judges to be changed from their jobs, nor their monks from their monasteries. No one is to destroy a house of their religion, to damage it, or to carry anything from it to the Muslims' houses. Should anyone take any of these, he would spoil God's covenant and disobey His Prophet. Verily, they (Christians) are my allies and have my secure charter against all that they hate. No one is to force them to travel or to oblige them to fight. The Muslims are to fight for them. If a female Christian is married to a Muslim, this is not to take place without her own wish. She is not to be prevented from going to her church to pray. Their churches are to be respected. They are neither to be prevented from repairing them nor the sacredness of their covenants. No one of the nation is to disobey this covenant till the Day of Judgment and the end of the world.
With such a clear directive from the Prophet, how can IS behead innocent journalists, humanitarian aid workers, Christians, Muslims, women, and children?
IS isn’t motivated by the commands of Islam. Its members are taking out their frustrations with Western governments’ foreign and military policies in Iraq and Syria. But killing innocent people is not the answer. Not only are the IS fighters causing pain and suffering in this world, they are destroying their Hereafter for the sake of worldly gains, and their conduct is turning people away from Islam. The purpose of striving for the cause of God is establishing peace and justice on earth through Islamic Jihad. Properly understood, the word "Jihad" simply means "to struggle for God." It includes both the spiritual and the physical struggle to live our life according to Islam. The Prophet Muhammad said, “The ink of a scholar is more sacred than the blood of martyrs.” He also said that “The best Jihad is the word of Justice in front of an oppressive ruler.” This means that Muslims must struggle for education and justice, as this is the real cause of God. One cannot be a true flag-bearer of Islam while committing violent atrocities.
The Prophet Jesus in the Holy Quran
Muslims are required to believe in God and the Prophet Jesus. Jesus is mentioned seventy times in the Quran. Here are just a few of these passages.
Jesus, son of Mary, recall My favors to you and your mother. (Recall) how I supported you by the Holy Spirit, made you speak to people from your cradle and when you grew up, taught you the Book, gave you wisdom, the Torah, and the Gospel. (Recall) when, by My will, you made a sculpture of a bird out of clay, blew into it, and it turned into a real bird by My Will. (Recall) how, by My will, you healed the deaf, the lepers, and raised the dead. (Recall) when you came to the Israelites in the house with clear miracles and I saved you from their mischief, even though the disbelievers among them said, “This is obviously magic.” (5:110).
Believers, be the helpers of God just as when Jesus, the son of Mary, asked the disciples, “Who will be my helpers for the cause of God?” and the disciples replied, “We are the helpers of God.” A group of the Israelites believed in him and others rejected him. We helped the believers against their enemies and they became victorious. (61:14)
Say, “We believe in God and in that which has been revealed to us and in that which was revealed to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, and their descendants. We believe in that which was given to Moses, Jesus, and the Prophets by their Lord. We make no distinction between them and we have submitted ourselves to the will of God.” (3:84)
He told Jesus, “I will save you from your enemies, raise you to Myself, keep you clean from the association with the disbelievers, and give superiority to your followers over the unbelievers until the Day of Judgment. On that day you will all return to Me and I shall resolve your dispute.” (3:55)
True Devotion Demands Peace and Justice
If we are devoted to God, the entire earth is our territory. No apocalypse can dissuade peaceful Muslims from establishing peace and justice on earth. I choose to defend Islam not because I’m embarrassed or want to be politically correct, but because I love my religion. This understanding of Islam is not a “cotton candy” view of my faith, as some may naively suggest. Rather, the verses in this article get to the heart of Islamic belief. I share them with the hope that perhaps members of IS or those who are considering supporting their cause might read them and realize how un-Islamic their behavior really is.
In a strange twist of fate, IS has become the greatest enemy of Islam in our modern world. What might have been a noble endeavor to establish Islam and provide social and economic justice for all has been marred with transgression against humanity. Perhaps IS can learn how to govern from successful nations instead of causing turmoil on earth.
US lawmakers must realize that it is not Islamic belief that is the cause of IS’s atrocities. Both Islamist terrorism and the war on terror have taken the lives of many people around the world. It is time for our faith communities to provide healing to our aching world, especially through unity among Christian and Muslim leaders. God needs us to work together, Inshallah!
Saba Ahmed is a Pakistani-American Muslimah currently pursuing her Patent Attorney career at the US Patent & Trademark Office. She recently completed her LLM in law and government at American University Washington School of Law and obtained her JD from Lewis & Clark Law School, her MBA from the University of Portland, and her BS in electrical engineering and physics from Portland State University in Oregon. She has worked at top law firms, corporations, and government positions for several years in various engineering, management, and legal positions. Saba recently moved to Washington, DC, from Oregon and is living her dream life defending Islam in conservative Republican business, legal, and media circles.