(Raleigh, NC; 9/13/2006) - The Islamic Association of Raleigh would like to issue a statement in regards to the claims made by Mr. Mohammed Taheri-Azar in recent letters to the media.
The verses that Mr. Taheri-Azar has used in defense of his actions on March 3, 2006 are all specifically addressing the laws of fighting prescribed by Islam. However, the Quran is not a book to be understood piecemeal. Rather, the Quran is a book governing an entire way of life, including faith, worship, dealing with other people, social issues, economics, and laws which apply to peace and war. The Quran is a book which must be studied comprehensively and completely to be properly understood. An individual focusing on merely a few verses, such as Mr. Taheri-Azar has done, will not understand the complete or correct picture of Islam.
In order to understand why the Quran has such verses and when they apply, the history of Islam and the revelation of the Quran must be studied. The Quran was revealed to the Prophet of Islam, Muhammad ibn Abdullah (peace and blessings be upon him) over a period of 23 years. The first 13 of these 23 years of revelation came to the Prophet during his time in Makkah (also spelled Mecca), before his migration to the city of Madinah (also spelled Medina). In these 13 years in Makkah, not a single verse was revealed to the Prophet about fighting. Instead, this period of revelation was primarily about faith, the worship of God, delivering the message of Islam to non-Muslims, and patiently persevering through the early persecution of Muslims. In chapter 45, verse 14, God reveals to the Prophet, "Say to those who believe, that they forgive those who do not fear the days of Allah that He may reward a people for what they earn."
During this period of 13 years in Makkah, the Prophet never once allowed his Muslim companions to use violence to respond to the crimes committed against them. At this point in history, the Muslims were still merely a small group and had not yet established any form of Islamic government. One incident, involving the family of a close companion of the Prophet, Ammar bin Yassir, provides such an example. The family of Ammar bin Yassir was tortured by oppressive tribal leaders in Makkah, and during their torture, the Prophet said to them, "Be patient, oh family of Yassir. I promise you paradise." In another such incident, the Prophet and his companions came upon a group of non-Muslims from oppressive tribal groups. The companions asked the Prophet for permission to attack and kill these people, only to be sternly warned by the Prophet that there had not been any such order from God through his revelations yet and therefore the people were to be left unharmed. This Makkan model should be followed by Muslims in the world today, as Muslims too live in a world that has no Islamic government. Many of the laws prescribed by the Quran are only applicable under a society governed by Islam. Although some countries today may claim to be governed by Islam, they are secular in practice. Only peaceful means may be used to establish an Islamic state, as was the case with the Prophet and the early Muslims of Makkah.
The second period of Quranic history comes from Madinah, after the Prophet's famous migration from Makkah. The residents of Madinah invited the Prophet to their city, and eventually they chose to establish an Islamic government in the city. The Prophet at no time used violence or imposed Islam on the people of Madinah. It was also at this point that the Prophet became not only a religious leader but also a statesman. The laws of Islam began to cover the issues of social governance, and the verses about fighting and war were revealed at this time.
The post-migration period can also be divided into two distinct phases. The first of these phases was the defensive fighting conducted by the Muslims in Madinah. They fought only to defend the city and freedoms of the Muslims, which were challenged by other Makkan groups. The second phase of fighting was offensive. However, this offensive fighting was by no means empirical and no innocent people were harmed or forced into Islam during this time. Rather, the Prophet and his followers were fighting to free the people of Makkah from the imposing rule of the idol-worshipping tribes and to give them freedom of religion. It was during these phases that the first verses of fighting were revealed, as guides for the Muslims. Numerous verses in the Quran remind the Muslims of the significance of peace and harmony, and the Prophet was commanded to accept any opportunity for peace with his opponents. Chapter 8, verse 61 of the Quran states, "But if the enemy inclines towards peace, do you also incline towards peace, and trust in Allah: for He is One that hears and knows [all things]." Eventually after succeeding in Madinah and Makkah, the Prophet did achieve harmony with his opponents.
In dealing with non-Muslims, the Quran has informed Muslims to do so with patience and wisdom. There must not be any compulsion in the religion, as chapter 17, verse 15 reminds us, "Whoever receives guidance, receives it for his own benefit; whoever goes astray does so to his own loss. No bearer of burdens can bear the burden of another;" Again, in chapter 16, verse 125, God commands, "Invite all to the way of your Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious: for your Lord knows best, who have strayed from His Path and who receive guidance."
Muslims are also reminded in numerous verses of the Quran to not take any action without proper knowledge of religious and worldly matters. In chapter 17, verse 36 states, "And pursue not of that which you have no knowledge, for every act of hearing, or of seeing or of [feeling in] the heart will be enquired into [on the Day of Judgment]." The companions of the Prophet, by far the most knowledgeable Muslims after the Prophet himself, were far superior to modern Muslims in not only their practice but also their grasp of the original Quranic Arabic, which allowed them to have a stronger understanding of the revelations. However, even these companions needed explanations about verses from the Prophet, which was one of his many duties. Chapter 16, verse 44 addresses the Prophet, "With clear proofs and writings, and We have revealed to you the reminder that you may make clear to men what has been revealed to them, and that haply may they reflect."
The laws of Islam are applicable under circumstances, just as American laws apply to American people within the borders of the United States and under conditions of peace and stability. An American citizen may not fight in the cause of the United States without proper sanctioning by the government. Similarly, there can be no violence for the sake of Muslims or Islam without proper sanctioning from an established legitimate Islamic state and under the appropriate conditions. Therefore, such acts of violence committed for the sake of Islam are unjust and not permissible in the world today. The killing of innocent civilians is not jihad in this case; rather it is the illegal murder of people, which is strictly forbidden in the Quran. During the early era of Islam, when the Prophet and his companions were trying to build a Muslim society, no acts of revenge were permitted.
Actions such as those of Mr. Taheri-Azar are not beneficial to the local or global Muslim society; rather it unnecessarily damages the image of Islam and Islamic teachings. It does not fulfill any commandments of Islam but instead becomes a sinful act. By attempting to justify his actions and quoting the Quran and the Prophet, Mr. Taheri-Azar has only hurt the Muslim community and further alienated himself from the correct path of Islam. We hope and pray that he can understand why his reasoning and actions were incorrect.
For more information about Islam or the Islamic Association of Raleigh, please visit our website at www.islam1.org.