15 Misquotes from the Quran (Part 4)
Misquoted Verse #13
...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 contend against God and his apostle. ..." [Noble Quran 8:12-13]
This is another verse that is commonly quoted out of context, both historical context and the context of the verse itself in the Quran. Let us first examine the full verse:
Recall that your Lord inspired the angels: "I am with you; so support those who believed. I will throw terror into the hearts of those who disbelieved. You may strike them above the necks, and you may strike even every finger." This is what they have justly incurred by FIGHTING God and His messenger. For those who fight against God and His messenger, God's retribution is severe. [Noble Quran 8:12-13]
That is the context of the verse in the Quran. The historical context is that this verse was revealed at the Battle of Badr, a battle in which the pagans of Makkah traveled over 200 miles to destroy the Muslims of Madinah. The Pagans of Makkah had an army of about 1000 while the Muslims were only 300 followers. The Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) and his followers had suffered severe persecutions and torture for 13 years in the city of Makkah. Having fled from Makkah to the safety of Madinah, they found that they were once again threatened. Abul 'Ala Maududi describes the situation that led to the Battle of Badr, beginning with the Muslim activity in Madinah:
In the first year of Hijrah, four expeditions were sent [by the Muslims to the Quraysh], that is, the expedition under Hamzah, the expedition under Ubaydah bin Harith, the expedition under Sa'ad bin Abi Waqqas and the Al-Abwa' expedition under the Holy Prophet himself. In the first month of the second year two more incursions were made on the same route. These are known as Buwat Expedition and Zawal Ushairah Expedition. Two things about all these expeditions are noteworthy. First, no blood was shed and no caravans were plundered in any of these expeditions. This proves that the real object of these expeditions was to show to the Quraysh which way the wind was blowing. Secondly, not a single man from the people of Al-Madinah was sent by the Holy Prophet on any of these incursions. All the bands consisted purely of the immigrants from Makkah so that the conflict should remain between the people of the Quraysh themselves and should not further spread by the involvement of other clans. On the other side, the Quraysh of Makkah tried to involve others also in the conflict. When they sent bands towards Al-Madinah, they did not hesitate to plunder the people. For instance, an expedition under the leadership of Kurz bin Jabir al-Fihrl plundered the cattle of the people of Al-Madinah from the very vicinity of the city to show what their real intentions were. This was the state of affairs when, in Sha'aban, 2 A. H. (February or March, 623 A. D.) a big trade caravan of the Quraysh, carrying goods worth $50,000 or so, with only a guard of thirty to forty men, on its way back from Syria to Makkah, reached the territory from where it could be easily attacked from Al-Madinah. As the caravan was carrying trade goods worth thousands of pounds, and was scantily guarded, naturally Abu Sufyan, who was in charge of it, from his Past experience feared an attack from the Muslims. Accordingly, as soon as he entered the dangerous territory, he dispatched a camel rider to Makkah with a frantic appeal for help. When the rider reached Makkah, he, following an old custom of Arabia, tore open the ears of his camel, cut open his nose and overturned the saddle. Then rending his shirt from front and behind, he began to cry aloud at the top of his voice, "O people of Quraysh dispatch help to protect your caravan from Syria under the charge of Abu Sufyan, for Muhammad with his followers is in pursuit of it; otherwise I don't think you will ever get your goods. Run, run for help." This caused great excitement and anger in the whole of Makkah and all the big chiefs of the Quraysh got ready for war. An army, consisting of 600 armored soldiers and cavalry of 100 riders with great pomp and show marched out for a fight. They intended not only to rescue the caravan but also to put to an end, once for all, the new menace from the Muslims who had consolidated themselves at Al-Madinah. They wanted to crush that rising power and overawe the clans surrounding the route so as to make it absolutely secure for future trade... ...the Holy Prophet and the true Believers had realized the urgency of that critical hour which required the risk of life: therefore they marched straight to the south-west, wherefrom the army of the Quraysh was coming. This is a clear proof of the fact that from the very beginning they had gone out to fight with the army and not to plunder the caravan. For if they had aimed at plundering the caravan they would have taken the north- westerly direction and not the south- westerly one. [Maududi, Tafhim Al- Quran, emphasis added]
The Makkans were not satisfied with expelling the Muslims from Makkah and subsequently desired that they be purged from the surroundings of all major trade routes. So God supported the Muslims and informed them that God would allow justice to prevail over oppression. He informed them that they should not fear fighting in God's path, but it is the enemies who should fear God's retribution for their oppression and injustice. Also, God inspired the ANGELS to support the believers and strike the disbelievers. This was NOT a command for the Muslims. Sheikh Safiur Rahman Al-Mubarakpuri describes the situation during the Battle of Badr as follows:
[The Makkans] were too much exasperated and enraged and fell upon the Muslims to exterminate them once and for all. The Muslims, however, after supplicating their Lord, calling upon Him for assistance, were made to hold to their position and conduct a defensive war plan that was successful enough to inflict heavy losses on the attackers. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) used to pray to his Lord ceaselessly persistently and day and night to come to their succour. When the fierce engagement grew too hot he again began to supplicate his Lord saying: "O Allah! Should this group (of Muslims) be defeated today, You will no longer be worshipped.".... Immediate was the response from Allah, Who sent down angels from the heavens for the help and assistance of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and his companions. The Noble Quran observes:
"And recall when your Lord inspired the angels: "Verily, I am with you, so keep firm those who have believed. I will cast terror into the hearts of those who have disbelieved." [Noble Quran 8:12]
(Al-Mubarakpuri, Ar-Rahiq Al-Makhtum; Riyadh-Saudi Arabia, Dar-us-Salam Publications, 1996; pp. 219-220)
Also, the previously mentioned laws of Jihad all applied here and the Muslims were commanded:
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]
Believing in a punishment for oppressive disbelievers delivered by the unseen angels is hardly different from believing in an unseen punishment in the next life. In addition, the word 'terror' used in the verse (Ru'b) is explained in a following discussion under 'Misquoted Narration #15'.
Misquoted Verse #14
The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger, and strive with might and main for mischief through the land is: execution, or crucifixion, or the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides, or exile from the land: that is their disgrace in this world, and a heavy punishment is theirs in the Hereafter" [Noble Quran 5:33]
The context of this verse itself will clear any negative perceptions against Islam. One cannot quote verse 5:33 without quoting verse 5:32 (prohibition of murder) and verse 5:34 (command to forgive). Let us examine the verse in its proper context:
"...If any one slew a person - unless it be as punishment for murder or for spreading corruption in the land - it would be as if he slew the whole people: and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people. Then although there came to them Our apostles with clear signs, yet, even after that, many of them continued to commit excesses in the land. The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger, and strive with might and main for mischief through the land is: execution, or crucifixion, or the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides, or exile from the land: that is their disgrace in this world, and a heavy punishment is theirs in the Hereafter; Except for those who repent before they fall into your power: in that case, know that Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful." [Noble Quran 5:32-34]
There are several points to note here. The first is the gravity of the offense. This is punishment for WAGING WAR against the Prophet of God and spreading evil and destruction. In modern terminology this would be considered "terrorism". This is a punishment for such a severe offense, hence the severity of the punishment. As Muhammad Asad writes on this verse:
The present participle al-Musrifun indicates their "continuously committing excesses" (i.e., crimes), and is best rendered as "they go on committing" them. In view of the preceding passages, these "excesses" obviously refer to crimes of violence and, in particular, to the ruthless killing of human beings. (Asad, The Message of the Quran)
It is quite shocking to see how many Islam-haters will place this verse under the heading of "inciting Muslims to kill and wage war", whereas the verse commands nothing of this sort! In fact, it comes directly after a verse prohibiting murder and likening the unjust murder of a single individual to the slaughter of humanity. The Quran purposefully describes the gravity of the sin before describing the punishment. The crime of murder and committing terrorist activities is regarded as such a severe violation in Islam, that a severe retribution has been prescribed. Waging war against God's prophet is tantamount to waging war against Our Creator Himself. It is ironic that Islam-haters will present this verse to justify their claim that Islam supports terrorism, whereas Muslim scholars have always presented this verse as proof that Islam is vehemently opposed to terrorism. For example, the Islamic Fiqh Council of Saudi Arabia writes about this verse:
Obviously, in view of the enormity of such acts of aggression, which are viewed by the Shari'ah (Islamic law) as an act of war against the laws and the creatures of God, there is no stricter punishment anywhere in the manmade laws. (Islamic Fiqh Council of Saudi Arabia, Terrorism - Islam's viewpoint, Muslim World League Journal, Jumad al-Ula 1423/July 2002 CE)
Is it logical to inform someone about a certain punishment without telling them about the crime? Yet, this is exactly what the enemies of Islam have done to deceive people into thinking Islam is a violent religion. They cite only verse 5:33 without verse 5:32 or verse 5:34, which brings us to our next point. God has prescribed multiple punishments in this verse using the word "or" between them, indicating various alternatives. The punishment depends on the circumstances and severity of the offence. As Muhammad F. Malik writes in his translation of this verse:
The punishment for those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger and strive to create mischief in the land is death or crucifixion or the cutting off their hands and feet from opposite sides or exile from the land (based on the gravity of their offence)... (Malik, Al- Quran: Guidance for Mankind)
Likewise, Abdullah Yusuf Ali comments:
For the double crime of treason against State, combined with treason against God, as shown by overt crimes, four alternative punishments are mentioned, any one of which is to be applied according to circumstances...except that tortures such as "hanging, drawing, and quartering" in English Law, and piercing of eyes and leaving the unfortunate victim exposed to a tropical sun, which was practiced in Arabia, and all such tortures were abolished. In any case sincere repentance before it was too late was recognized as grounds for mercy. (Yusuf Ali, The English Translation of the Holy Quran, emphasis added)
Indeed, the subsequent verse immediately states that this punishment is not for those who repent. For verily, God is Oft-Forgiving and Most Merciful. God's infinite Mercy is truly clear when one considers that God is willing to forgive these ruthless acts of terror that deserve such harsh punishments, so long as the offender sincerely repents to Allah, seeking His Pardon and True Guidance. The Muslim scholars have mentioned that whenever Allah warns us of a punishment, He always shows us a way out, a way to avoid the punishment. Many Muslim jurists also cite this verse in the case of punishment for Hirabah (armed robbery/highway robbery). In such instances, depending on the severity of the offence, the punishment is prescribed. When murder has been committed, then execution is prescribed as the punishment. Depending on the circumstances, the judge may choose a lesser punishment. The banishment mentioned in the verse has been interpreted by some schools of thought as imprisonment. The punishment of crucifixion has been mentioned in the verse, but many Muslim scholars have mentioned that they never have even heard of such punishment ever being prescribed. In fact, Imam Malik, the founder of the Maliki school of thought, when as ked about crucifixion, replied that he had never even heard of a single case in which crucifixion was prescribed as punishment for armed robbery. (see Al-Mudawwanah, vol. XV, p. 99). In light of this fact, Sheikh Muhammad S. Al-Awa has said:
This observation of Malik's gives me the impression that this punishment was prescribed solely to deter the potential criminal. (El-Awa, Punishment in Islamic Law; US American Trust Publications, 1993, p. 11, emphasis added)
Concerning the argument that such punishments are barbaric, Sheikh Muhammad S. Al-Awa writes:
Sheikh Muhammad Abu Zahra, in his previously mentioned book [Al-Jarima wal-'Uquba, pp. 6-11], explains the aim of both Islamic law, as well as the sacred Jewish law contained in the Torah, is to achieve public security and peace for the community as well as the retribution for the criminal minority; accordingly, the necessary means for the attainment of this latter end were prescribed both in the Torah and the Quran. The second question concerns the law of pardon for offenders who repent and whether the punishment for Hirabah should be considered a dead letter because of this law. To answer this question, one should again bear in mind that this punishment, and indeed all the Hudud punishments in the Islamic penal system, are prescribed mainly to protect society from crime. In order to achieve this purpose, Islamic law, while prescribing punishment for criminals, makes it possible for them to be pardoned when they realize the evil of their conduct and desire to mend their ways. This does not contradict the earlier quotation from Abu Zahra. While punishment may be withheld, provision must be made for all the injuries and harm resulting from the criminal's act. In this way, society does not lose anything. On the contrary, it gains a new member who, if he had not been given the chance to repent, forever would have been considered an outlaw. (El-Awa, Punishment in Islamic Law; US American Trust Publications, 1993, p. 13, emphasis added)
For further information on the Islamic Criminal Law, the reader may refer to the excellent article, Crime and Punishment in Islam. Other scholars explain the Islamic punishments by comparative means. Sheikh Abdul Majid Daryabadi writes the following on verse 5:33:
Lest some of these penalties may appear 'barbarous' to some hypersensitive Western reader, let him cast a glance on 'drawing and quartering', a penalty of the English Criminal Code maintained as late as the 18th century, inflicted on those found guilty of high treason touching the king's person or government. The person committed was usually drawn on a sledge to the place of execution; there he was hung by the neck from a scaffold, being cut down and disemboweled, while still alive, his head was cut from his body and his corpse divided into four quarters. With the profession of their faith declared as high treason by law many Catholics of England and Ireland suffered this death. 'In this reign of Henry III and Edward I there is abundant evidence that death was the common punishment of felony; and this continued to be the law of the land as to treason and as to all felonies, except petty larceny, down to the year 1826' (Stephen, History of the Criminal Law of England, I. p. 458). In contemporary English law, robbery is larceny with violence; and the guilty is liable to penal servitude for life, and in addition, if a male, to be once privately whipped. The elements of the offence are essentially the same under American law (EBr. XIX. p. 346). (Daryabadi, The Glorious Quran, emphasis added)
In light of the above mentioned points, we can clearly reject any claims of this verse supporting "violence and warfare" as baseless. The textual context, historical context, legal context, and comparative analysis of this verse all demonstrate that this verse merely enjoins justice in return for grave offences, and by no means can support the lies of the Islam-haters.
Some people from `Uraina tribe came to Medina and its climate did not suit them, so Allah's Apostle (peace and blessings be upon him) allowed them to go to the herd of camels (given as Zakah) and they drank their milk and urine (as medicine) but they killed the shepherd and drove away all the camels. So Allah's Apostle sent (men) in their pursuit to catch them, and they were brought, and he had their hands and feet cut, and their eyes were branded with heated pieces of iron and they were left in the Harra (a stony place at Medina) biting the stones. [Bukhari, Volume 2, Book 24, Number 577]
This narration is often quoted in order to present the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) as someone who delivered exceedingly cruel and barbaric punishments. Let us examine the narration more closely along with other narrations of the same event. The narration states the following:
-Some people from Urayna (or Ukil) tribe came to Madinah after accepting Islam
-They acquired an illness due to the climate, for which the Arabs used to drink milk and urine of camels as medicine
-The Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) allowed them to go to the herds of camels for their medicine
-After recovering from their illness, they killed the shepherd and drove away the camels
-The Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) ordered their hands and feet cut off, their eyes branded with heated pieces of iron, and they were left in the desert
It is clear that the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) prescribed the hands and feet to be cut off in accordance with the Islamic laws concerning Hirabah (armed robbery). What doesn't appear in this narration is the reason for branding their eyes with heated pieces of iron. This is explained in other narrations where it states that this was the punishment because they had done the same thing to the shepherd whom they killed. As Sheikh Abdul Khaliq Hasan Ash-Sharif states about this narration:
It should be made clear that those people who came to the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) were Muslims and they were sick. The Prophet advised them to go to the herd of camels and to drink their milk and urine (as a medicine). When they became healthy, they killed the herder of the Prophet and drove away all the camels that were allocated for Sadaqah (charity). When the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) came to know about this, he applied the punishment for Hirabah on them. Hirabah means killing people, robbing their money or raping women by an armed group of people. The punishment for Hirabah is mentioned in the Quran. Allah says:
"The only reward of those who make war upon Allah and His Messenger and strive after corruption in the land will be that they will be killed or crucified, or have their hands and feet on alternate sides cut off, or will be expelled out of the land. Such will be their degradation in the world, and in the Hereafter theirs will be an awful doom" [Noble Quran 5:33]
As for branding their eyes, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) branded the eyes of the people of `Ukl or `Uraina with iron because they killed the herder and branded his eyes with iron. Imam Ibn Hajar stated the differences of opinions among scholars and he said, "The killing that took place (that is, in reference to the above Hadith) was in retaliation and Allah Almighty says,
'And one who attacketh you, attack him in like manner as he attacked you'. [Noble Quran 2:194]
All in all, using this story as evidence in favor of the permissibility of torturing people in Islam is refuted by the fact that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) applied the punishment for Hirabah on them and that he did not do so for personal vengeance.
Likewise, Moiz Amjad writes:
There is only one part of the referred narrative, which raises a question-mark in one's mind. It apparently seems strange that after having implemented the punishment prescribed in the Quran for crimes committed against the society, in general, why did the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) ordered their eyes to be branded. Most of the narratives do not provide an answer to this question. However, in one of the narratives reported in Ibn Al-Jarud's Al-Muntaqa, Anas is reported to have explained the reason for this punishment as well. The companion of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) is reported to have said:
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) branded their eyes because they had branded the eyes of the herdsmen. [volume 1, Pg. 216]
This explanation adequately clarifies the fact that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) ordered the branding the eyes of the culprits, in compliance with the Quranic directive of Qisas (Al-Baqarah 2: 178, Al-Ma'idah 5: 45) for the punishment of murder and inflicting physical injury on someone. In view of the foregoing explanation, I find no reason to consider the incident narrated in the referred narrative to be unauthentic.
Sheikh Muhammad al-Qannas, a Professor at Al-Imam University (Riyadh, Saudi Arabia), places the narration in perspective by presenting the views of the various Muslim scholars:
The above mentioned Hadith is narrated in Sahih al-Bukhari (6802) and Sahih Muslim (1671). It reads:
Some people belonging (to the tribe) of `Uraynah came to the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) at Madinah, but they found its climate uncongenial. So the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said to them: If you so like, you may go to the camels that are part of the charity and drink their milk and urine. They did so and were all right. They then fell upon the shepherds and killed them and turned apostates from Islam and drove off the camels of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). This news reached Allah's Apostle (peace and blessings be upon him) and he sent (people) on their track and they were (brought) and handed over to him. He got their hands cut off, and their feet, and put out their eyes, and threw them on the stony ground until they died.
The scholars disagree among themselves on this punishment:
Some said: This punishment was in retaliation for their act and the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) punished them in the same way that they killed the shepherds. It is mentioned in Sahih Muslim
"The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) put out their eyes because they put out the eyes of the shepherds". [Muslim]
The people concerned in studying the Prophet's (peace and blessings be upon him) military career said: They dismembered the shipyards. Ibn al-Qayyim said: "It is extracted from the story of al-`Araniyin tribe that the criminal will be subject to the same act similar to the one he perpetrated, when they put out the shepherd's eyes, he put out their eyes." [Zad al-Ma'ad: (3/286)]
Other scholars said what is mentioned in the Hadith is abrogated, according to the prohibition of mutilation.
Accordingly, what took place in this Hadith was abrogated. This was adopted by al-Bukhari. He narrated from Qatadah that: "It is been narrated to us from the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) after that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) encouraged charity and prohibited mutilation." [Sahih al-Bukhari (4192)]
It was narrated by Qatadah through Muhammad b. Sirin that this took place before the revelation on the ruling of punishments. [Sahih al-Bukhari (5686)]
Al-Hazimi said: "This Hadith was abrogated" and he set a chapter "Mutilation and its abrogation". He said: "A group of people adopted the opinion that these ruling were fixed in the beginning and then were abrogated when Allah sent:
"The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His messenger..." [Noble Quran 5:33]
[Al-I'tibar fi al-Nasikh wa al-Mansukh, page 196].
It could be that this severe punishment was at the beginning because the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) knew that some of the tough and hardened Bedouins who live around Madinah would not refrain from attacking others unless they heard of some of these severe punishments. The desert Bedouins living in the surrounding wilderness were warlike tribes used to toughness and to causing harassment. Allah says:
"The dwellers of the desert are very hard in unbelief and hypocrisy, and more disposed not to know the limits of what Allah has revealed to His Messenger; and Allah is Knowing, Wise" [Noble Quran 9: 97]
Therefore, the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) did not punish them any more than the harm they inflicted upon the shepherd and the Muslim community. He also sent a strong message to other desert tribes who were accustomed to raiding and attacking nearby villages and tribes. This punishment was done for the security of the Muslim community, living in a very dangerous time with no formal legal system governing the Arabian tribes. The situation is incomparable to modern times where governments have strong control over their territories - in Arabia there existed a tribalistic anarchy. As Sheikh Muhammad 'Ata Al Sid Sid Ahmad writes:
When the criminals of 'Urainah betrayed the community of Madinah which had met them with all love and respect -- by torturing and killing the herder of their camels and escaping with the Muslim's camels as their booty -- the Prophet quickly marshaled all his powers, arrested and dealt with them in the severest manner as the law allowed him. (Al-Sid, Islamic Criminal Law: The Hudud; Malaysia, Eagle Trading Sdn. Bhd., 1995, p. 132)
It should also be noted that many critics of the punishments in Islam are themselves believers in an afterlife in which people will be punished for their crimes, often with eternal torment in Hell. Eternal torment is far more severe than any temporary punishment delivered in this life. The punishments prescribed in Islam are intended to purify the offender of their sin in order that they may be saved from a far greater punishment in the next life. It seems that when one defers a punishment to the afterlife, there is a subconscious belief that such a punishment is not as "real" and consequently it is not as bothering to sentence someone to eternal torture in Hell as it is to prescribe a painful punishment here and now. Such thinking is inherently flawed.
Some writers have also claimed that the punishment delivered to the Ukil/Urayna tribe was prescribed for their apostasy. This is clearly rejected by the text of the Hadith as well as the consensus of all Muslim jurists. Sheikh Muhammad S. Al-Awa explains this as well:
On the other hand, the prevalent view among Muslim jurists is that the case of this group of 'Ukal and 'Urayna was a case of Hirabah (armed robbery) and it was for this crime that they were punished (fn. See Tabari, Tafsir, vol. VI, pp. 132-146; Ibn al-Qayyim, Zad al-Ma'ad, vol. III, p. 78; Ibn Hajar, Fath Al-Bari, where he criticizes Bukhari's view). The text itself demonstrates this very clearly. (El-Awa, Punishment in Islamic Law; US American Trust Publications, 1993, p. 51)
To conclude, this narration refers to an event of Hirabah (armed robbery), where the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) implemented the law of Qisas (retribution), and the offenders were punished exactly as they had punished the shepherd. The Prophet did not exceed this limit at all in his prescribed punishment, but rather purified the offenders so that the punishment in the next life would be averted.
By : Ansar Al-'Adl