If mindless repetition could make something true, then Islam would truly deserve this fake certificate produced last year as a spoof. However, in spite of declarations by well-meaning actors and politicians, by luminaries and Muslim apologists, Islam is not a religion of peace, at least not by ordinary Western definitions.
Some with a cursory knowledge of Arabic point out the the word “Islam” comes from the same word family as “salaam,” the common Arabic term for peace, so the two must be related. This is absolutely true. But whereas salaam means peace, islam means submission. The religion of Islam teaches that true salaam only comes by submission to Allah and his divine law, known as Shari’a. So Islam calls for all human beings to submit themselves to Allah — those who do so willingly are called Muslims (also from the same Arabic root), i.e., submitters. Those who refuse to submit voluntarily become targets for conquest or extermination. Those conquered who still do not convert are given two options: live as third class subjects (after Muslim men and Muslim women) under Shari’a law and humiliating restrictions, or be executed. Historically, most of those allowed this third class status in Muslim caliphates, known as “dhimmis,” ultimately fled to non-Muslim lands if able, or died of persecution, or converted to Islam in order to escape unrelenting oppression and enjoy instead the benefit of Muslim citizenship.
In line with this mindset, Islam still today divides the world into two “us vs. them” categories, as do all cohesive groups, but the names they give to each group are instructive. The Muslim community and the lands it governs are known as Dar al-Islam (or Dar as-Salaam), which translates as “The House/Camp of Islam/Peace.” This descriptor reflects the view that to belong to Islam is to be at peace with Allah and with all other Muslims. More interesting, however, is the expression used for the other group: Dar al-Harb, which means “House/Camp of War.” Everyone not in Dar al-Islam or under a temporary treaty with it, is necessarily a part of the Camp of War, so named because Islam is in a permanent state of war with the non-Muslim world until it submits voluntarily to Islam or is conquered and thus subjugated. Only when the whole world kneels willingly or unwillingly to Islam will there be ultimate and final peace. It is with this understanding that Muslim scholars can honestly declare that Islam is a religion of peace — it seeks the harmony of all humanity by killing or subjugating all those opposed to Allah and his perfect law.
A short perusal of the Qur’an, Hadith traditions and the earliest Islamic biography of Muhammad will show clearly that this viewpoint is not unfair to Islam as practiced by its prophet and earliest followers.
According to these sources, Muhammad in the last ten years of his life (from the time he moved to Medina and began teaching the doctrine of warfare known as jihad) ordered his followers to conduct at least 65 military campaigns against non-Muslim groups within reach of his armies, and the prophet personally led 27 of them. He boasted that he would have been at the forefront of all of them but for the concern of his followers that he might be injured or even killed, so he stayed back to allay their anxieties.
The Qur’an that Muhammad brought to the world contains 109 verses teaching on the doctrine of jihad. Over and over, the Qur’an portrays Allah as angry and vengeful toward infidels — over 500 verses convey Allah’s wrath and cruel intentions toward those who refuse to submit. Muhammad promises earthly and heavenly rewards for those who express Allah’s wrath against unbelievers through death and destruction, but he also threatens those Muslims who hang back and evade their jihadi responsibilities by calling them hypocrites and warning that they too will burn in the fires of hell if they won’t fight in Allah’s cause. Despite the claims of some, this doesn’t sound too tolerant.
Muhammad is viewed in Islam as the model par excellence for all Muslims to emulate so as to please Allah. His martial, supremacist attitude infects Islam with the idea it is their right to rule over the world in Allah’s name, and to plunder the infidels as a reward for serving to spread Islamic hegemony everywhere. In the Hadith traditions (second only to the Qur’an in authority) these kinds of declarations from Muhammad are reported frequently:
Narrated Ibn ‘Umar: Allah’s Apostle said: “I have been ordered (by Allah) to fight against the people until they testify that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and that Muhammad is Allah’s Apostle, and offer the prayers perfectly and give the obligatory charity, so if they perform that, then they save their lives [lit., “their blood”] and property from me except for Islamic laws and then their reckoning (accounts) will be done by Allah.” (Sahih Bukhari, 1.2.25)
Abu Huraira reported that the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) said: I have been given superiority over the other prophets in six respects: I have been given words which are concise but comprehensive in meaning; I have been helped by terror (in the hearts of enemies): spoils have been made lawful to me: the earth has been made for me clean and a place of worship; I have been sent to all mankind and the line of prophets is closed with me. (Sahih Muslim, 4.1062)
Indeed, according to the Qur’an, Allah is the one who inflicts terror into the hearts of infidels, primarily through the armies of Islam’s prophet:
Soon shall We cast terror into the hearts of the Unbelievers, for that they joined companions with Allah, for which He had sent no authority: their abode will be the Fire: And evil is the home of the wrong-doers! (3:151)
Remember thy Lord inspired the angels (with the message): “I am with you: give firmness to the Believers: I will instill terror into the hearts of the Unbelievers: smite ye above their necks and smite all their finger-tips off them.” This because they contended against Allah and His Messenger: If any contend against Allah and His Messenger, Allah is strict in punishment. (8:12-13)
Let not the unbelievers think that they can get the better (of the godly): they will never frustrate (them). Against them make ready your strength to the utmost of your power, including steeds of war, to strike terror into (the hearts of) the enemies, of Allah and your enemies, and others besides, whom ye may not know, but whom Allah doth know. Whatever ye shall spend in the cause of Allah, shall be repaid unto you, and ye shall not be treated unjustly. (8:59-60)
And Allah turned back the Unbelievers for (all) their fury: no advantage did they gain; and enough is Allah for the believers in their fight. And Allah is full of Strength, able to enforce His Will. And those of the People of the Book who aided them – Allah did take them down from their strongholds and cast terror into their hearts. (So that) some ye slew, and some ye made prisoners. And He made you heirs of their lands, their houses, and their goods, and of a land which ye had not frequented (before). And Allah has power over all things. (33:25-27)
It is He Who got out the Unbelievers among the People of the Book from their homes at the first gathering (of the forces). Little did ye think that they would get out: And they thought that their fortresses would defend them from Allah! But the (Wrath of) Allah came to them from quarters from which they little expected (it), and cast terror into their hearts, so that they destroyed their dwellings by their own hands and the hands of the Believers, take warning, then, O ye with eyes (to see)! (59:2)
One particularly bloodthirsty passage from the Qur’an comes as a rebuke to Muhammad who had been victorious in an early battle (Badr) and had taken many prisoners. He decided that rather than executing them, he would hold them for ransom and thus add to the booty collected for his troops and himself. Soon after this decision, a revelation comes from Allah:
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 (Sura Anfal 8:67).
So much for the religion of peace….
On top of these authoritative texts commanding Muslims to fight and kill unbelievers, striking terror into the hearts of the hold-outs, the behavior of Muhammad’s leadership team after his death demonstrates their clear understanding of the warfare which they were commanded to wage against the Persian, Byzantine and Roman Empires around them. Within one hundred years, Islam had broken out of the Arabian peninsula and by use or threat of the sword had conquered lands spanning from Morocco and Spain on the west to northern India and western China on the east. This was not peaceful invitation to Islam; it was conquest of any rival to the way of the prophet.
When Muhammad died and his confidant Abu Bakr became his successor as the first caliph, the presenting issue was the abandonment of Islam by many Arab tribes which had pledged their allegiance to Muhammad (but apparently not to Islam). For over a year, Abu Bakr waged what became known as the Apostasy (ridda) Wars, killing former Muslims until their tribes returned to the fold. Once the peninsula was again securely in the grip of Islam, he then sent his armies to begin the conquest of the Persians and Byzantines. Abu Bakr only lived two years after the death of Muhammad, succumbing either to poison or illness. He and the next three caliphs (Umar, Uthman and Ali) were collectively known as the Rashidun (rightly guided caliphs). Yet over the combined 27 years of their rule, as Islam spread by the sword, each of these three rulers died as a result of murder, either at the hands of slaves or fellow Muslims. Somehow “the religion of peace” did not spread its message over Islam’s earliest followers, who knew their prophet most intimately.
Lastly, with regard to apostasy, one might expect a true religion of peace to wistfully allow those deciding to part ways with it, and bestow on them its blessing of peace. Islam shows its true colors, however, by forbidding its adherents the freedom to leave. According to the Hadith, Muhammad said about apostasy, “Whoever changes his religion [i.e., leaves Islam], kill him” (Sahih Bukhari, 9.84.57). Even today, all 8 Islamic schools of jurisprudence (4 Sunni, 4 Shi’ite) concur that the appropriate penalty for leaving Islam is execution.
One might rightly expect that if a religion promotes peace as a central feature of its worldview, its followers would be a powerful force for peace in the wider world. So if Islam really is a religion of peace, why is it the undisputed world leader in fatal (and non-fatal) terror attacks. Since the 9/11 attacks in 2001, there have been some 30,400 documented Muslim terrorist incidents around the world. No other religion comes remotely close to this. In fact, incidents involving all the other religions combined over the same time period do not come remotely close. Apologists argue that all these 30,000+ perpetrators misunderstand the religion or are motivated by mental illness rather than Islam. But that begs the question, “What is it about Islam that makes it so horrendously capable of violent misunderstanding or gives it such appeal to the mentally imbalanced?”
In point of fact, such Muslims are just taking the life of Muhammad and Islamic texts at face value. They know that from the time of Islam’s birth in 622 AD at Medina Muhammad never promoted peace, only surrender, and that at the point of a sword.