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It's much easier to act as if critics of Islam have a problem with Muslims as people than it is to accept the uncomfortable truth that Islam is different


The Quran


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Last 30 Days
2001 (Post 9/11)

What can we learn about
Islam from this woman?

"Discover the Truth's" Game

"Fight Against Those Who Believe Not in Allah..."

From Discover the Truth:

We see that chapter 9, verse 29 of the Quran, that God Almighty only permitted the fighting, in the context of Byzantine (Roman) Empire’s impending army to attack the Muslims. The verse does not in any-way allow or permit aggression against peaceful people.
(March 2, 2017, March 28, 2016)

What the Quran Says

9:29. Fight against those who believe not in Allah, nor in the Last Day, nor forbid that which has been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger and those who acknowledge not the religion of truth (i.e. Islam) among the people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians), until they pay the Jizyah with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.

What the Apologists Want You to Believe

Discover the Truth has at least two articles devoted to verse 9:29, one of which is a rebuttal to an article on this site (as most of their writing seems to be).  Both articles are quite lengthy, but they generally follow the same pattern of speculation bolstered by the opinion of other modern-era apologists in the guise of fact.

DTT's argument will be simplified here to reduce the burden on the reader.  Verse 9:29 tells Muslims to fight Jews and Christians until they pay the jizya.  DTT's explanation is as follows:

1) 9:29 was narrated at a time when the Muslims were under attack (from a Byzantine army).

2) "No harm was inflicted on any Christian or Jew" by Muslims during the Tabuk incident.

3) 9:29 thus permits fighting only within the context of self-defense and not against "peaceful people."

How They Do It: 'Adding' to the Quran

Unfortunately for DTT, Allah did not say anything within verse 9:29 about a Byzantine army or fighting in self-defense against non-peaceful people.  The Quran defines the targets of violence only by their religious beliefs, which proves highly inconvenient to DTT's preferred interpretation.

For this reason, Discover the Truth contends that external sources must be appealed to for a proper understanding of the verse.  Rather than "fight those who believe not in Allah," for example, Allah really meant to say, "fight those who are attacking you."

How They Do It: Citing Contemporary Apologists and Weak Hadith

Everyone agrees that there was no opposing Byzantine army at Tabuk when the Muslims arrived.  It is highly doubtful that one was ever there, since it is supported neither by external sources nor the accounts of early Muslim historians.  However, it is critical to DTT's interpretation of verse 9:29 as pertaining to self-defense.

In support of the thesis that an opposing army did exist, DTT offers four sahih hadith verses and a variety of other opinion from later or weaker sources which seem to embellish the Byzantine threat as the centuries progress.  

Since it is unlikely that lesser known, more recent scholars were more aware of what was happening than those closer to the actual events, the focus here will be on the established Sira and Hadith.

How They Do It: Ignoring Reliable Sources

The Tabuk expedition is addressed by early biographers.  None portray it in terms of self-defense on the part of Muslims.  Ibn Hisham even calls it a "raid on the Byzantines."  This is an act of offensive warfare, with no indication of a threat.

Ibn Ishaq agrees:
The apostle stayed in Medina from Dhu'l-Hijja to Rajab, and then gave orders to prepare to raid the Byzantines... The apostle ordered his companions to prepare to raid the Byzantines at a time when men were hard pressed; the heat was oppressive and there was a drought; fruit was ripe (To and shade was eagerly sought) and the men wanted to stay in the shade with their fruit and dislike traveling at that season...
Ibn Kathir, a very respected historian, writes at length about Muhammad's motivation in sending an army to Tabuk:
When God Almighty decreed that the polytheists should be prevented from approaching the Sacred Mosque, whether in the pilgrimage or at other times, the Quraysh said they would be deprived of the commercial activity that took place during the pilgrimage, and that they would therefore suffer financial loss. And so God compensated them for that by ordering them to battle the people of the scriptures so that they either accepted Islam or paid the jizya tax ("being in a state of submission").

The Messenger of God therefore decided to battle the Byzantines. This was because they were the people nearest to him and those most appropriate to invite to the truth because of their proximity to Islam and to those who believed in it. God Almighty had stated, "0 you who believe, fight those unbelievers who are near you. Let them see severity in you; and know that God is with those who are pious."  (Ibn Kathir Vol.4 p.1)
Thus, the real reason for the expedition is loot and tribute (jizya) to compensate for the loss of revenue from the haj.

Also according to Ibn Kathir (v.4 p.18) Muhammad allegedly sent a letter to Heraclius, the "Roman" emperor, while at Tabuk.  Although this may be an apocryphal account, it is relevant that the letter makes no mention of an army or threat from the Byzantines, but instead contains a resolution to take Byzantine land unless Byzantines convert to Islam.

How They Do It: Sleight of Hand

DTT's manipulation is sometimes more subtle than ignoring reliable accounts and putting forth others as if they are on equal standing.  Sometimes they change the wording of hadith verses to better fit their agenda.

As an example, DTT refers to a sahih hadith verse by Jami at-Termidhi:

The phrase "We heard that the Ghassan were preparing their horses to attack us" leaves out a word.  Here is how it reads in the source:

The word "stories" was deliberately dropped by DTT because it demonstrates that these were unsubstantiated rumors of an attack that did not materialize.

In their rebuttal, DTT also mixes accounts of disparate tribes and persons living in that part of the Byzantine region to make it appear as if those adversely affected by Muhammad's raid were guilty of crimes that were actually attributed to others.  They also rely on weaker sources for exaggerated details that are not found in more reliable accounts.

Why They are Wrong

Discover the Truth's insistence on arguing history distracts from the most damning fact about verse 9:29, which is the textual context.  The passage clearly defines targets of violence not by their threat to Muslims, but by their religious beliefs.  There is no reasonable explanation for this other than the straightforward interpretation.

It is also inconvenient that the next verse in the Quran's "perfectly arranged" sequence, 9:30, explicitly curses Christians and Jews for their beliefs and also calls for their destruction.  Neither verse makes mention of self-defense or an opposing army, which DTT claims is so critical to understanding.

Even the historical context is less than supportive to the theme of self-defense.  No army was marching into Muslims lands, much less on Muslims at Medina.  Instead, Muhammad was cajoling his reluctant community into an expedition into Byzantine territory (Tabuk).

Of the four sahih hadith that DTT cites, three are based on the same incident in which there is a rumor about a Ghassanid attack.  Not only does the attack fail to materialize, but it is within the context of "worse" news that Muhammad had divorced his wives.  This "news" also turned out to be a false rumor.

The fourth hadith (Muslim 6670) does say that Muhammad "had to confront a large army" in his preparations, but this does not contradict the accounts by Ibn Ishaq and Ibn Kathir which say that he was staging an unprovoked raid in an effort to expand his domain (and revenue).  Preparing for the possibility of an opposing army is not the same as believing that one exists, much less that it even does.

Real battles and events receive copious attention from early historians (as does the Tabuk expedition itself).  The impending doom of the Muslim community at the hands of the "Roman Empire," were it to be true, would certainly have been a seminal event rather than a passing mention in the form of a rumor that didn't pan out.

Furthermore, the claim that "no harm was inflicted on any Christian or Jew" is the opinion of a modern-day scholar which is at odds with the historical record (as is much of what is on Discover the Truth's site).

According to the Sira, once Muhammad's army arrived at Tabuk, they extorted the locals into paying protection money (ie. the jizya).  In one well-documented case, they ambushed a hunting party and killed a member of a Christian family:
The Messenger of God then called for Khalid bin Walid and dispatched him to Ukaydir Duma, a man of Banu Kinda who had been their king; he was a Christian. The Messenger of God told Khalid, 'You will find him hunting for cattle.'

Khalid travelled until Ukaydir's fortress was in sight. Ukaydir was on the roof of his fortress with his wife. He then went down and ordered that his horse be brought. It was saddled for him. A number of his family then rode out with him, including a brother of his named Hassan. They all left on the hunt. When they came out, the cavalry of the Prophet engaged them, capturing Ukaydir and killing his brother.

...When Khalid brought Ukaydir to the Messenger of God the latter spared his blood and made a treaty with him on condition that he pay the jizya. (Ibn Kathir Vol.4 p.21)
When confronted with this established account, in which a foreign army invades a peaceful community, lays in wait for a family to leave their home on a hunt, kills some and forces others into paying "protection" money, DTT admits the event in their rebuttal but conjures up a vividly imagined scenario in which the unsuspecting family poses an eminent threat (to the well-equipped foreign army of 30,000 warriors).  We'll just let the reader decide which is the more credible.

Summing up the facts:

1) Verse 9:29 says to fight the "People of the Book" on account of their beliefs.

2) Verse 9:29 says nothing about fighting in self-defense.

3) Verse 9:29 was narrated at the time of the Tabuk expedition, yet it says nothing about either the expedition or any impending threat to the Muslim community.

4) Muslims were not under attack in Muslim lands when the verse was narrated, but they did travel to someone else's land, attack them and force jizya... just as 9:29 says to do.

The historical record thus agrees with the straight-forward reading of the Quran. 

The contorted rendering by modern-day apologists must have been lost on the Companions as well, since they went on to expand the Muslim empire through offensive Jihad in the way of their prophet.

Further Reading

Discover the Truth Propaganda Index

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