…It is probably true that in every faith, ordinary people will pick the parts they like best and practise those, while the scholars will work out an official version. In Islam the scholars had a particularly challenging task, given the mass of contradictory texts within the Qur’an. To meet this challenge they developed the rule of abrogation which states that wherever contradictions are found, the later-dated text abrogates the earlier one. To elucidate further the original intention of Muhammad, they referred to traditions (hadith) recording what he himself had said and done. Sadly for the rest of the world, both these methods led Islam away from peace and towards war. For the peaceable verses of the Qur’an are almost all earlier, dating from Muhammad’s time in Mecca, while those which advocate war and violence are almost all later, dating from after his flight to Medina. Though “jihad” has a variety of meanings including a spiritual struggle against sin, Muhammad’s own example shows clearly that he frequently interpreted jihad as literal warfare and himself ordered massacre, assassination and torture. From these sources the Islamic scholars developed a detailed theology dividing the world into two parts Dar al-Harb and Dar al-Islam, with Muslims required to change Dar al-Harb into Dar al-Islam either through warfare or by da’wa (mission).
So the mantra “Islam is peace” which we hear repeated in the media so often is almost 1400 years out of date. It was only for about thirteen years that Islam was peace and nothing but peace. From 622 onwards, it became increasingly aggressive, albeit with periods of peaceful co-existence particularly in colonial times, when the theology of war was not dominant. For today’s radical Muslims – just as for the medieval jurists who developed classical Islam – it would be truer to say “Islam is war”. One of the most radical Islamic groups in Britain, al-Ghurabaa, stated in the wake of the two London bombings, “Any Muslim that denies that terror is a part of Islam is kafir.” A kafir is an unbeliever (i.e. a non-Muslim), a term of gross insult.
by Patrick Sookhdeo
–Dr Patrick Sookhdeo is Director of the Institute for the Study of Islam and Christianity. He is also an ordained priest in the Church of England.