15 Misquotes from the Quran (Part 1)
In our time, we find it becoming more and more common for some people to misquote verses from the Quran, or narrations of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), in order to support their twisted presentation of Islam as a hostile and violent religion. The majority of these verses are either mistranslated, taken out of context, or misunderstood due to lack of basic knowledge. For example, Jihad is misunderstood by many people today as a "holy war", hence, whenever it is praised in the Quran, it is seen in a negative light. Jihad in reality is a positive concept, not a negative one, and for this reason, one must read about Jihad before reading the rest of this article. An explanation of Jihad can be read here. This article intends to clarify the misconception that Islam promotes violence and hatred by re-examining the misquoted verses and narrations. As we shall see, once understood properly, it becomes apparent that Islam teaches nothing but peace, harmony and tolerance for all humanity. We have selected and quoted the verses/narrations in the way that they are circulated by the Islam-haters, so that the poor translation and other deceptive tactics of the Islam-Haters may be exposed.
Misquoted Verse #1
"Jihad (holy fighting in God's Cause) is ordained for you (Muslims), though you dislike it. But it is possible that you dislike a thing which is good for you, and like a thing which is bad for you. But God knows, and you know not." [Noble Quran 2:216]
The first mistake in this translation is that this Quranic verse actually does not use the word "Jihad". This verse actually uses the word "Qital", which refers to physical fighting. Fighting is ordained for Muslims in order to defend themselves and their rights, as well as the rights of others. The obligation to physically defend one's rights, and to establish justice was elaborated on in the previously mentioned article on Jihad. It is sufficient to quote a verse from the Quran in this regard:
"And what is wrong with you that you fight not in the Cause of Allah, and for those weak, ill-treated and oppressed among men, women, and children, whose cry is: "Our Lord! Rescue us from this town whose people are oppressors; and raise for us from You one who will protect, and raise for us from You one who will help." [Noble Quran 4:75]
It is most certainly a duty of all human beings to help each other from oppression and injustice. This is what Islam teaches. Commenting on verse 2:216, Abdullah Yusuf Ali writes:
To fight in the cause of Truth is one of the highest forms of charity. What can you offer that is more precious than your own life? But here again the limitations come in. If you are a mere brawler, or a selfish aggressive person, or a vainglorious bully, you deserve the highest censure. (Yusuf Ali, The Holy Quran, Text, Translation and Commentary)
Therefore, the fighting ordained by God in the Quran is the fighting to establish justice and security in the land, and this is a duty upon all human beings. We will always hope for peace, but we must realize that without justice, freedom, rights and equity, peace will never be able to survive. Likewise, on verse 2:216, Abdul Majid Daryabadi writes:
War, it has been truly said, is sanctioned by the law of nature - the constitution of man and the constitution of society - and is at times a biological and sociological necessity. Islam, the ideal and practical religion has allowed it, but only in cases of sheer necessity. (Daryabadi, The Glorious Quran, emphasis added)
Islam has designated war as the last resort and only in cases of sheer necessity, in order for us to defend the rights of ourselves and others. Also, the picture becomes even more clear when we take into consideration the historical context of the revelation. Abdullah Yusuf Ali goes on to explain the historical context in his commentary on verse 2:217:
The intolerance and persecution of the Pagan clique at Mecca caused untold hardships to the holy Messenger of Islam and his early disciples. They bore all with meekness and long-suffering patience until the holy one permitted them to take up arms in self-defense... (Yusuf Ali, The Holy Quran, Text, Translation and Commentary)
In light of the above quote, it becomes apparent that fighting has been especially ordained in conditions of severe persecution and hardship. Consequently, the Muslims are required to defend themselves from oppression and establish justice. To abstain from helping those under oppression is cowardice. Abdul Majid Daryabadi also explains the historical context of the verse:
Persecuted, harassed, afflicted, poverty-ridden, exiled, and small in number as the Muslims were at the time of the enactment of warfare, it was but natural that they were none too fond of crossing swords with the mighty forces that had conspired for their extirpation. Nothing short of express and emphatic Divine Command could urge them on to the field of battle [in order to defend their rights]. And yet the Islamic jihads are declared to be 'designed by the Prophet to satisfy his discontented adherents by an accession of plunder!' (Margoliouth). Such is this European scholar's love of veracity! Such is his wonderful reading of history! (Daryabadi, The Glorious Quran)
The commentary on this verse makes it very clear that Muslims have always understood this verse as the legal right to defend one's rights from the forces of oppression, but never to transgress limits in defense.
Misquoted Verse #2
"Not equal are those believers who sit at home and receive no injurious hurt, and those who strive hard, fighting Jihad in God's Cause with their wealth and lives. God has granted a rank higher to those who strive hard, fighting Jihad with their wealth and bodies to those who sit (at home). Unto each has God promised good, but He prefers Jihadists who strive hard and fight above those who sit home. He has distinguished his fighters with a huge reward. " [Noble Quran 4:95]
First of all, this is a very poor translation of the verse. Let us look at some notable translators:
Yusuf Ali: Not equal are those believers who sit (at home) and receive no hurt, and those who strive and fight in the cause of God with their goods and their persons. God hath granted a grade higher to those who strive and fight with their goods and persons than to those who sit (at home). Unto all (in Faith) Hath God promised good: But those who strive and fight Hath He distinguished above those who sit (at home) by a special reward
Pickthal: Those of the believers who sit still, other than those who have a (disabling) hurt, are not on an equality with those who strive in the way of God with their wealth and lives. God hath conferred on those who strive with their wealth and lives a rank above the sedentary. Unto each God hath promised good, but He hath bestowed on those who strive a great reward above the sedentary
Muhammad Asad: Such of the believers as remain passive' -other than the disabled -cannot be deemed equal to those who strive hard in God's cause with their possessions and their lives:' God has exalted those who strive hard with their possessions and their lives far above those who remain passive. Although God has promised the ultimate good unto all [believers], yet has God exalted those who strive hard above those who remain passive by [promising them] a mighty reward
Khan/Hilali: Not equal are those of the believers who sit (at home), except those who are disabled (by injury or are blind or lame, etc.), and those who strive hard and fight in the Cause of Allah with their wealth and their lives. Allah has preferred in grades those who strive hard and fight with their wealth and their lives above those who sit (at home). Unto each, Allah has promised good (Paradise), but Allah has preferred those who strive hard and fight, above those who sit (at home) by a huge reward;
Now that we have quoted the most common translations, the source for the quoted translation seems questionable. Words such as "Jihadists" are purely media coined terms without any real meaning. In fact, the Oxford American Dictionary says about this term:
USAGE: There doesn't seem to be a pressing need for this English-friendly form since the Arabic term for a holy warrior, Mujahid, has already made it into English in plural forms (Mujahidin, mujahedin), along with jihadi, a form more in keeping with Arabic morphology. Jihadist, however, is the preferred form for all writers who are vehemently anti-Arab or anti-Islam.
Having defined Jihad in the previous article, we can describe a Mujahid as someone who strives to uphold justice, perhaps risking his life in the process. So what do these verses say? They are elevating the status of those who are brave to stand up for truth and justice in the face of oppression. The verses elevate their status over that of those who cowardly hide from defending the rights of others, unless they have a disability, which prevents them from doing so. So the Islam-hater finds no support (for their distorted presentation of Islam) in these verses either. Moreover, the verse supports the interpretation of Jihad as any struggle for the sake of God because it has mentioned those who perform Jihad with their wealth by donating it for a good cause, such as humanitarian organizations. As Muhammad Asad writes about this verse:
The term Mujahid is derived from the verb Jahada, which means "he struggled" or "strove hard" or "exerted himself", namely, in a good cause and against evil. Consequently, jihad denotes "striving in the cause of God" in the widest sense of this expression: that is to say, it applies not merely to physical warfare (Qital) but to any righteous struggle in the moral sense as well (Asad, The Message of the Quran)
Misquoted Verse #3
"Among the Believers are men who have been true to their covenant with God and have gone out for Jihad (holy fighting). Some have completed their vow to extreme and have been martyred fighting and dying in His Cause, and some are waiting, prepared for death in battle. " [Noble Quran 33:23]
Here the Islam-Hater has conveniently removed the brackets from the translation, so that the reader cannot distinguish between ideas of the translator and the words of the Quran. Let us help out by providing a translation without any additional ideas:
Among the believers are men who have been true to their covenant with Allah, of them some have fulfilled their obligations, and some of them are still waiting, but they have never changed in the least. [Noble Quran 33:23]
It is also clear that the Islam-hater has placed additional ideas into the translation, not supported by any translator. "fighting and dying", " prepared for death in battle", these are not the words of the Quran. The Quran is praising those early companions who remained steadfast in their faith and true to the covenant. This verse does not mention fighting or Jihad at all. That is one interpretation of this verse, as Ibn Kathir writes:
When Allah mentions how the hypocrites broke their promise to Him that they would not turn their backs, He describes the believers as firmly adhering to their covenant and their promise:
([they] have been true to their covenant with Allah; of them some have fulfilled their Nahbah;) Some of [the Quranic commentators] said: "Met their appointed time (i.e., death)." Al-Bukhari said, "Their covenant, and refers back to the beginning of the Ayah. (and some of them are still waiting, but they have never changed in the least.) means, they have never changed or broken their covenant with Allah. [Tafsir Ibn Kathir]
And Abdullah Yusuf Ali writes on verse 33:23:
In the fight for Truth were (and are) many who sacrificed their all - resources, knowledge, influence, life itself - in the Cause, and never wavered. If they won the crown of martyrdom, they were blessed... Other heroes fought valiantly and lived, always ready to lay down their lives. Both classes were staunch: they never changed or wavered. (Yusuf Ali, The Holy Quran, Text, Translation and Commentary)
Their covenant is their promise to Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) to protect him and support Islam. Some of the Muslims had already fulfilled it by dying to protect their faith, while others were still fully prepared to do the same. The comprehensive nature of this verse is better understood when we consider the words of Sheikh Abdul Bary Ath-Thubaity, Imam of the Prophet's Mosque, who said about verse 33:23:
The men about whom we are talking are not those who have sunk deep into the abyss of worldly pleasures, those who do not aim for high moral standards and turn away from their Lord. They are not those of imposing physical stature whose minds are devoid of any sense; for such people are most certainly not real men. The real men whom we are talking about are those whom Allah describes when He says:
"And the slave of the Most-Beneficent (Allah) are those who walk on the earth in humility and sedateness, and when the foolish address them (with bad words) they reply back with mild words of gentleness. And those who spend the night before their Lord, prostrate and standing. And those who say Our Lord! Avert from us the torment of Hell. Verily it's torment is ever an inseparable, permanent punishment. Evil indeed it (Hell) is as an abode and a place of dwell. And those who when they spend, are neither extravagant nor niggardly, but hold a medium (way) between those (extremes). " [Noble Quran 25:63-67]
This is what fulfilling one's covenant truly means. It refers to fulfilling one's Islamic obligations with devotion and sincerity, and speaking gently even to those disbelievers who are rude and harsh. On the subject of martyrs, it would be wise to quote from the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him):
God's Apostle said, "Five are regarded as martyrs: They are those who die because of plague, abdominal disease, drowning or a falling building etc., and the martyrs in God's Cause." [Bukhari #2829 Volume 4, Book 52, #82]
"Whoever dies protecting his religion, he is a martyr; whoever dies protecting his wealth, he is a martyr; whoever dies protecting his family, he is a martyr; and whoever dies protecting his blood (i.e. his life), he is a martyr." [At-Tirmidhi #1421, Abu Dawud 4772, An-Nasa'i #4100 and Ibn Majah #2580]
These Ahadith deals a severe blow to the misconception that martyrdom in Islam refers to those who die in battle only. As we have seen, the greatest manifestation of Jihad is when one is willing to sacrifice their life for the sake of God, and this can take any of the forms listed in the above narration. Dying in physically defending the rights of others is only one form.
Misquoted Verse #4
So, when you clash with the unbelieving Infidels in battle, smite their necks until you overpower them, killing and wounding many of them. At length, when you have thoroughly subdued them, bind them firmly, making (them) captives. Thereafter either generosity or ransom until the war lays down its burdens. Thus are you commanded by God to continue carrying out Jihad against the unbelieving infidels until they submit to Islam. [Noble Quran 47:4]
Once again a poor translation serves the purpose of the Islam-haters very well. Let us examine a more accurate translation before analyzing the verse:
Therefore, when ye meet the Unbelievers in battle, smite at their necks; At length, when ye have thoroughly subdued them, bind a bond firmly (on them): thereafter (is the time for) either generosity or ransom: Until the war lays down its burdens. Thus (are ye commanded): but if it had been God's Will, He could certainly have exacted retribution from them (Himself); but (He lets you fight) in order to test you, some with others. But those who are slain in the Way of God,- He will never let their deeds be lost. [Noble Quran 47:4]
So we now see some grievous mistakes made in the poor translation quoted:
The verse makes NO mention whatsoever of "killing and wounding"
"Thus are you commanded by God to continue carrying out Jihad against the unbelieving infidels until they submit to Islam" is a complete addition to the verse and is not found anywhere in the Quran!
That verse does not use the word Jihad at all It is very clear that the context of this verse is in battle, and when in battle the defenders of humanity should attack the unjust oppressors until they are subdued.
Professor Shahul Hamid comments on verse 47:4 by saying:
The context of this verse was when the Muslims were to fight their enemies for their very existence. After thirteen years of endurance and patience, the prophet and his companions had to leave their home town of Makkah and to emigrate to Madinah. When the people of Madinah had welcomed him there and he was accepted as a leader there, the Makkans became unhappy. They wanted to eliminate Muhammad and his religion; and so they sent their army to root out Islam. And the crucial battle took place in Badr. It was just before this that Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) received the revelation from God to fight:
"And fight in the way of Allah with those who fight with you, and do not exceed the limits, surely Allah does not love those who exceed the limits " [Noble Quran 2:190]
This meant that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and his companions were not to start the fighting; but to defend themselves against aggressors. That was how fighting was ordained; but we must know that once we fight, we fight to defeat the aggressors, so that we can live without fear of molestation and invasion; so that we can live in peace; so that justice is done. Remember God does not command any one to start fighting; rather He permits people to fight in self defense or for the defense of those who are attacked unjustly.
The historical context again illustrates a condition of constant struggle and war. In such a condition, God reassures the believers that He is with them, and to therefore have full faith, strength and bravery in battle and not to cower from the enemy. As Abdullah Yusuf Ali writes:
When once the fight (Jihad) is entered upon, carry it out with the utmost vigour... (Yusuf Ali, The Holy Quran, Text, Translation and Commentary)
Likewise, Dr. Maher Hathout writes:
Clearly, these verses are applicable in the heat of battle and against an aggressive combating force. (Hathout, Jihad vs. Terrorism; US Multimedia Vera International, 2002, p.49)
Muslims are encouraged to restrain the enemy by capturing them, and to therefore minimize loss of life. Moreover, the verse specifically mentions that Muslims should subdue the enemies "until the war lays down its burdens", i.e. until the enemy stops fighting. Similar to this verse:
"But if the enemy incline towards peace, do thou (also) incline towards peace, and trust in God: for He is One that hears and knows (all things)." [Noble Quran 8:61]
So the verse is very specific, in that it is limited to the context of a battle and the Muslims should only fight until the enemy is subdued or inclines towards peace i.e. they should not transgress limits. In the event of a battle, the verse guides Muslims to abstain from transgressing limits and only to fight the enemy until they are subdued or cease fighting.
Sheikh Muhammad Salih Al-Munajjid comments about the treatment of prisoners:
If the Muslims capture them and take them to a place that has been prepared for them, they should not harm them or torture them with beatings, depriving them of food and water, leaving them out in the sun or the cold, burning them with fire, or putting covers over their mouths, ears and eyes and putting them in cages like animals. Rather they should treat them with kindness and mercy, feed them well and encourage them to enter Islam. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) used to enjoin the Muslims to treat prisoners well, whereas the Romans and those who came before them the Assyrians and Pharaohs, all used to put out their prisoners' eyes with hot irons, and flay them alive, feeding their skins to dogs, such that the prisoners preferred death to life.
Therefore, Islam has laid out clear rules and regulations for Muslims to follow in the event of war, which is only used as a last resort.
Misquoted Verse #5
"There is no blame on those who are old, weak, ill, or who find no resources to spend (on Jihad), if they are sincere (in duty) to God and His Messenger." [Noble Quran 9:91]
Some non-Muslims feel that this verse is proof that Jihad is a Holy War because if it were not the elderly and others would be able to participate. Consequently, this verse is falsely used in an attempt to negate any concept of non-military Jihad. First of all, we have already established that Jihad is of many types and does not necessarily have to be purely spiritual or purely physical. There are several disabilities that prevent a person from performing a certain Jihad. Being old or weak prevents one from participating in a physical Jihad to uphold good. Nor can the weak be expected to be a soldier fighting for justice, like those who fought the Nazis in World War II. Additionally, another form of Jihad is donating money/resources to the poor and needy. Someone devoid of those resources cannot be expected to do that, as the verse mentions. With regards to ill, an example would be if someone has an illness in which they have less control over their desires, then they cannot participate in the spiritual Jihad to control one's desires, like fasting during Ramadan. One who studies the Islamic Law already knows that those who are ill do not have to fast, which is an example of spiritual Jihad. The different forms of Jihad have been described in detail in Islam and is well-known to Muslims. For example, Sheikh Muhammad Salih Al-Munajjid writes:
Jihad may be with the tongue (by speaking out), or with weapons (which is Qital or fighting) or with money. Each of these categories includes numerous subcategories.
And Dr. Shahid Athar writes:
The word "Jihad" means struggle or, to be specific, striving in the cause of God. Any struggle done in day-to-day life to please God can be considered jihad. One of the highest levels of jihad is to stand up to a tyrant and speak a word of truth. Control of the self from wrongdoing is also a great jihad. One of the forms of jihad is to take up arms in defense of Islam or a Muslim country when Islam is attacked. This kind of jihad has to be declared by the religious leadership or by a Muslim head of state who is following the Quran and the Sunnah.
The other forms of Jihad are discussed in more detail in the article An Explanation of Jihad.
By: Ansar Al-'Adl