Islam and the Question of Violence*

Discussion in 'Religion' started by Solve et Coagula, Jan 25, 2006.

  1. Solve et Coagula Banned Banned

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    Al-Serat *
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    Islam and the Question of Violence* *
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    Seyyed Hossein Nasr *
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    Vol. XIII, No. 2 *
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    Despite the presence of violence in many regions of the world ranging from Ireland to Lebanon to the Pacific Basin and involving many religions from Christianity to Hinduism, the Western world associates Islam more than any other religion with violence. The Muslim conquest of Spain, the Crusades - which were not begun by Muslims -, and the Ottoman domination of eastern Europe have provided a historical memory of Islam as being related to force and power. Moreover, the upheavals of the past few decades in the Middle East and especially movements using the name of Islam and seeking to solve problems of the Muslim world created by conditions and causes beyond the control of Muslims have only reinforced the idea prevalent in the West that in some special way Islam is related to violence. *
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    To understand the nature of Islam and the truth about the assertion often made of Islam's espousal of violence. it is important to analyze this question clearly remembering that the word islam itself means peace and that the history of Islam has certainly not been witness to any more violence than one finds in other civilizations, particularly that of the West. In what follows. however, it is the Islamic religion in its principles and ideals with which we are especially concerned and not particular events or facts relating to the domain of historical contingency belonging to the unfolding of Islam in the plane of human history *
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    First of all, it is necessary to define what we mean by violence. There are several dictionary definitions that can be taken into account such as 'swift and intense force', 'rough or injurious physical force or action', 'unjust or unwarranted exertion of force especially against the rights of others', rough or immediate vehemence' and finally 'injury resulting from the distortion of meaning or fact'. If these definitions are accepted for violence, then the question can be asked as to how Islam is related to these definitions. As far as 'force' is concerned, Islam is not completely opposed to its use but rather seeks to control it in the light of the divine Law (al-shari'a). This world is one in which force is to be found everywhere, in nature as well as in human society, among men as well as within the human soul. The goal of Islam is to establish equilibrium amidst this field of tension of various forces. The Islamic concept of justice itself is related to equilibrium, the word for justice (al-'adl) in Arabic being related in its etymology to the word for equilibrium (ta'adul). All force used under the guidance of the divine Law with the aim of re-establishing an equilibrium that is destroyed is accepted and in fact necessary, for it means to carry out and establish justice. Moreover, not to use force in such a way is to fall prey to other forces which cannot but increase disequilibrium and disorder and result in greater injustice. Whether the use of force in this manner is swift and intense or gentle and mild depends upon the circumstances, but in all cases force can only be used with the aim of establishing equilibrium and harmony and not for personal or sectarian reasons identified with the interests of a person or a particular group and not the whole. *
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    By embracing the 'world' and not shunning the 'kingdom of Caesar', Islam took upon itself responsibility for the world in which force is present. But by virtue of the same fact it limited the use of force and despite all the wars, invasions, and attacks which it experienced. it was able to create an ambiance of peace and tranquillity which can still be felt whenever something of the traditional Islamic world survives. The peace that dominates the courtyard of a mosque or a garden whether it be in Marrakesh or Lahore is not accidental but the result of the control of force with the aim of establishing that harmony which results from equilibrium of forces, whether those forces be natural, social or psychological. *
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    As for the meaning of violence as 'rough or injurious physical force or action', Islamic Law opposes all uses of force in this sense except in the case of war or for punishment of criminals in accordance with the shari'a. Even in war, however, the inflicting of any injury to women and children is forbidden as is the use of force against civilians. Only fighters in the field of battle must be confronted with force and it is only against them that injurious physical force can be used. Inflicting injuries outside of this context or in the punishment of criminals according to the dictum of the shari'a and the view of a judge is completely forbidden by Islamic Law. *
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    As far as violence in the sense of the use of unjust force against the rights of others and laws is concerned, Islam stands totally opposed to it. Rights of human beings are defined by Islamic Law and are protected by this Law which embraces not only Muslims but also followers of other religions who are considered as 'People of the Book (ahl al-kitab)'. If there is nevertheless violation in Islamic society, it is due not to the teachings of Islam but the imperfection of the human recipients of the Divine Message. Man 15 man wherever he might be and no religion can neutralize completely the imperfections inherent in the nature of fallen man. What is remarkable, however, is not that some violence in this sense of the word does exist in Muslim societies, but that despite so many negative social and economic factors aggravated by the advent of colonialism, overpopulation, industrialization, modernization resulting in cultural dislocation, and so many other elements, there is less violence as unjust exertion of force against others in most Islamic countries than in the industrialized West. *
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    If one understands by violence 'rough or immoderate vehemence'. then Islam is totally opposed to it. The perspective of Islam is based upon moderation and its morality is grounded upon the principle of avoiding extremes and keeping to the golden mean. Nothing is more alien to the Islamic perspective than vehemence, not to say immoderate vehemence. Even if force is to be used, it must be on the basis of moderation. *
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    Finally, if by violence is meant 'distortion of meaning or fact resulting in injury to others', Islam is completely opposed to it. Islam is based on the Truth which saves and which finds its supreme expression in the testimony of the faith, la ilaha illa 'Llah (there is no divinity but the Divine). Any distortion of truth is against the basic teachings of the religion even if no one were to be affected by it. How much more would distortion resulting in injury be against the teachings of the Qur'an and the tradition of the Prophet! *
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    In conclusion it must be emphasized that since Islam embraces the whole of life and does not distinguish between the sacred and the secular, it concerns itself with force and power which characterize this world as such. But Islam, in controlling the use of force in the direction of creating equilibrium and harmony, limits it and opposes violence as aggression to the rights of both God and His creatures as defined by the divine Law. The goal of Islam is the attainment of peace but this peace can only be experienced through that exertion (jihad) and the use of force which begins with the disciplining of ourselves and leads to living in the world in accordance with the dicta of the shar'ia. Islam seeks to enable man to live according to his theomorphic nature and not to violate that nature. Islam condones the use of force only to the extent of opposing that centripetal tendency which turns man against what he is in his inner reality. The use of force can only be condoned in the sense of undoing the violation of our own nature and the chaos which has resulted from the loss of equilibrium. But such a use of force is not in reality violence as usually understood. It is the exertion of human will and effort in the direction of conforming to the Will of God and in surrendering the human will to the divine Will. From this surrender (taslim) comes peace (salam), hence islam, and only through this islam can the violence inbred within the nature of fallen man be controlled and the beast within subdued so that man lives at peace with himself and the world because he lives at peace with God. *
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    Source: http://www.al-islam.org/al-serat/
     
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  3. crazyfreespirit "Custom User Title" Registered Senior Member

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    Well, of course, no one needs proof to know that the religion itself doesn't condone violence. Its the same with any other major religion. Its what people choose to do that makes others see them as "bad".
    When what a person chooses to do is "bad", they are no longer really following the religion. And this isn't just with Islam ofcourse, I'm talking about all religions.
    A religion can't control people, and so the religion, and those that follow it shouldn't be held responsible for what others do.
     
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  5. spidergoat Valued Senior Member

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    If there was no room in Islam for violence, it never would have survived this long. These intellectual objections may be fine among scholors, but for real people it's irrelevant, it's a cultural thing. They would sooner die and take people with them, than let their culture die from the influence of western culture.
     
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  7. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    24,690
    This discussion is a spin-off of one idea in a thread that has been going on for days, about humanity only achieving peace when it outgrows religion. I singled out the Abrahamic religions because their followers have made war in the name of their god more often and more horribly than anyone else.

    Yes, I understand the worn out arguments that the prophets of these religions all preached peace. But you have to judge a movement by its members, not its founders. Judged by the behavior of Muslims, Christians, and Jews, the Abrahamic religions have been dismal failures. The violence perpetrated by the Abrahamists on each other, on the members of competing sects, and on the rest of us has been as brutal as the atrocities committed by any other people in history--and it has the damning distinction of having so often been committed in the deity's name, out of a sense of moral superiority or absolute righteousness.

    We've had more than 1,300 years to observe Islam in action, just as we've had 2,000 years with Christianity and something like 4,000 with Judaism. The results are the same: reprehensible. Despite the occasional genuinely positive, even inspiring, results, in the long run, on the balance, it just absolutely sucks, like Christianity and Judaism. The world needs to move past the seductive legacy of Abraham, and soon.
     
  8. Peedarp Registered Member

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    Any God that prescribes the killing of a fellow creature for any reason whatsoever cannot be God.

    We have seen that Muslims in particular are the ones who create trouble and when they get a thrashing, cry about how the world is singling them out.

    Fanaticism is just not acceptable, and more so, if it is based on religious beliefs.
     
  9. spidergoat Valued Senior Member

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    51,949
    God told Abraham to kill his son.
     
  10. Ted Grant II Registered Senior Member

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    Islam is younger than Christianity. Christians have been violent in the past, determined to force their opinions on others (crusades, burning heretics etc).
    With changes in society, especially in the education of women, Christians have mostly calmed down and become content with their lot.

    The same will happen with Muslims.

    Be patient.
     
  11. Greatest I am Valued Senior Member

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    3,740
    Eh, are Inquisitions and Jihads not religious terms found in Islam and Christianity?

    Regards
    DL
     
  12. Michael 345 Valued Senior Member

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    Nice to know in the Academic World

    all religions preach love and peace

    Also refreshing to hear that the word violence has so many meanings

    but it's OK to use to restore "balance"

    Meanwhile in the real world there are a large bunch of violent idiots going around using violence and pegging it onto a convenient religion

    I really wonder why the peaceful owners of the religion

    (who are being attacked more than other groups)

    are not out in force with protesting marches

    Could it be easier they don't want to get involved?

    and are they being cowered by the idiots?

    in case if they protest the idiots will turn on them?

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  13. Greatest I am Valued Senior Member

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    Likely, yes, depending on the country because in Muslim majority countries Islam says to kill apostates which would include other Islamic sects on the left.

    Regards
    DL
     
  14. Kittamaru Now nearly 40 pounds lighter. Staff Member

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    Why did we revive an eleven year old thread... 0o;
     
  15. b ok lol Registered Member

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    islam is a religion of peace and the quran says
    "whoso kills a soul, unless it be for murder or for wreaking corruption in the land, it shall be as if he had killed all mankind; and he who saves a life, it shall be as if he had given life to all mankind.”
     
  16. Michael 345 Valued Senior Member

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    Poking the bear - no such animal as a soul

    Although having saved a few lives (at least in the sense of being in a team which has done so) during my 40 years as a Registered Nurse I appreciate the sentiment it shall be as if he had given life to all mankind

    Appreciate, not believe. Even delivering babies during my years as a midwife I was always, with each delivery, struck with awe and wonder

    So much potential in a newborn

    Now I'm getting maudlin. Must be to little coffee in my veins

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  17. iceaura Valued Senior Member

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    Nobody cares what any religion's book says except the believers - since religions and their believers don't answer to reason, whatever their text is supposed to have said last year and a thousand miles away is largely irrelevant to reasonable discussions of how to deal with their believers here and now.

    What does it do?
     
  18. spidergoat Valued Senior Member

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    51,949
    It's quite easy to justify killing in any religion. For instance, you could say that someone is without a true soul, since they are tools of the devil. Mohammed himself killed lots of people and seemed proud of that fact. At the time, and sometimes even today, winning in war was considered a sign of gods favor.
     

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