Thou Shalt Not Kill? 

Truth-telling about the systemic violence within Islam can often be a challenge, because the Qur’an contains seemingly peaceful verses. These verses have been later abrogated, or are commonly cited out of context, by deceptive Muslims and by misinformed non-Muslims. 

Some of the defenders of Islam are well meaning and have good intentions. If we look closer, we will see a consistent pattern of Islamic violence that is widely supported through textual doctrine by scholars within Islam, and which is harshly enforced by state power in Islamic countries.

This article explains a pair of verses, in full context, and what they lead to under Islamic power.

The first is a verse that is cited regularly by Islam apologists, to claim that Islam forbids murder.

“Because of that, We decreed upon the Children of Israel that whoever kills a soul unless for a soul or for corruption [done] in the land – it is as if he had slain mankind entirely. And whoever saves one – it is as if he had saved mankind entirely. And our messengers had certainly come to them with clear proofs. Then indeed many of them, [even] after that, throughout the land, were transgressors.” 5.32

Many people mistakenly believe that this Qur’an verse is also found in the Torah, and so is a Law from God. Historically, the verse originated in the Jewish Talmud (Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5 and Babylonian Tractate Sanhedrin 37a). 

The Talmud is an oral, legal commentary of the written law of the Torah. In this case, the Talmudic statement originated when ancient Rabbis interpreted the verses of the account of Cain and Abel from the Torah, for use in judgments by the Jewish Courts.

The quote from the Talmud is:

“Whoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if he destroyed an entire world. And whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world.”

The Qur’anic verses are believed by Muslims to be divine revelations, from Allah, to Muhammad, as an eternal order for Muslims. 

Evidently, for many centuries before Muhammad, that Rabbinical Talmudic commentary had become an established Jewish tradition. This should lead anyone to question why, centuries later, Allah would reveal to Muhammad, almost word for word, the traditional interpretative text of Rabbis of antiquity, as his decree. 

The interpretation of this verse, by Islamic scholar, Ibn Kathir, within the tafsirs is as follows. 

Cain and Abel appear in the Qur’an as two sons of Adam, who are named as Habil and Qabil within the Qur’an. Habil and Qabil each had a twin sister; the agreement was that they would each marry the other’s twin sister. 

When Qabil’s twin sister grew to an age of marriage, he decided he did not want to give his twin sister away to his brother, as he thought she was too beautiful and he wanted her for himself.

When Habil objected, Adam asked both brothers to offer a sacrifice to God. The one whose offer was accepted would get to marry the sister of his choice. Habil’s sacrifice was accepted.

The two brothers fought. Qabil killed Habil, after Satan showed Qabil how to carry out the act by smashing a rock over Habil’s head. Satan also showed Qabil how to bury his brother by the example of a crow scratching the ground to bury its mate it had just killed.

The full account above is as described in the tafsirs. In the Qur’an, it is brief, and begins in 5.27 as the tale of the two sons of Adam.  

From this account, we know the Islamic context of 5.32. The verse is explicitly a warning to Muslims, the blood of another Muslim is unlawful. The reference is to that incident, of a brother’s murder, as revealed in the five verses previous to 5.32.

Muslims, and some misinformed non-Muslims, will often present that verse out of context, to make the claim that Allah’s word in the Qur’an is that Muslims may not harm or kill any people. This claim is inaccurate.

Orders by Allah and Muhammad to harm and kill non-Muslims appear throughout the Qur’an and the Sunnah of Muhammad. 

To be clear, the verses which call for violence upon unbelievers are ones that came to Muhammad as later revelations. Earlier verses were abrogated which may have left room for a peaceful interpretation.

Within the tafsirs, the phrase “it is as if he has saved mankind entirely”,  means it is not permissible to kill a soul that Allah has forbidden. 

Allah specifically forbade Muslims to kill Muslims needlessly. Saving a life specifically means refraining from killing those whom Allah made it unlawful to kill.

Allah never forbade Muslims to kill non-Muslims. Although In verse 5.32, it is stated Jews, or “Children of Israel”, are the people who have been decreed upon. The explanation in the tafsirs is for Muslims, the blood of a Muslim is not lawful, unless they have killed another Muslim, spread mischief in the land or committed fornication.  

Non-Muslims are rejecting the true word of Allah, which means they are not attributed with the term mankind within this verse.

The condition is discussed by Ibn Kathir within the Tafsirs for the immediately following violent verse and the ahadith refers to the incident in many narrations.

“Indeed, the penalty for those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger and strive upon earth [to cause] corruption is none but that they be killed or crucified or that their hands and feet be cut off from opposite sides or that they be exiled from the land. That is for them a disgrace in this world; and for them in the Hereafter is a great punishment.” (5.33)

As prelude to this revelation, the Ukl tribe became unwell when they migrated to Medina. This was thought to be due to the climate. 

Muhammad advised the tribe to drink camel urine mixed with milk as a Medicine. The tribe recovered and shortly afterwards they killed the Shepherds and drove the camels away. 

Muhammad sent his men to hunt them down and return them, for his judgment. The results of the capture culminated in their limbs being limbs cut off, their eyes branded out. The horribly maimed prisoners were left begging for water in the desert, as nobody among the Muslims responded to their cries.

Subsequently in Islamic doctrine, crucifixion and the cutting off of limbs is used as a method to bring shame, humiliation, punishment and contempt, in this life, and is believed to continue with torment in the hereafter within hellfire.

Within the tafsirs, the scholar Ibn kathir explains that wage war in the verse means opposing, disbelief (of) and contradicting Islam. The blocking of roads, and spreading fear in the fairways. Within the shari’ah, this verse is cited as scriptural reference for the Hadd punishment for opposing Allah and his Messenger, it is referring to all non-Muslims, including those who left Islam.

The term, mischief in the land, refers to all types of evil, but with no specifics. Within Islamic terminology, it is called Hirabah, which means robbery or rebellion.

There can be contradictions around this term, as Islam forbids highway robbery. But again, by the history of the Islamic revelations, violence in Islam started with raids against the Quraysh Tribe, by Muhammad and his followers blocking roads and raiding caravans. The early raids resulted in the death of one member of the Quraysh tribe after a Muslim killed him.

In an Islamic state, Hirabah is used by Islamic law to silence anyone who opposes the oppressive laws within Islam. For instance, in the Islamic Republic of Iran, the term used is Moharebeh, which means waging war against Allah. 

The Islamic regime in Iran uses the law of Moharebeh to arrest people for many alleged offences, such as writing negatively about the regime, protesting the regime, spying etc. These vague charges are all commonly applied with little or no evidence.

Dissident and accused people in Iran are arrested by the IRGB (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Cops), and incarcerated in the most horrific conditions within Iranian prisons for years. Typically, their crimes are actions which Western democratic people take for granted as their human rights, including freedom of speech, freedom of expression, the right to protest.

Islamic Iran and other Islamic countries, the laws laid down in the Qur’an and the Sunnah of Muhammad and the Shari’ah, are used to incarcerate people for years without trial. Which often end in the death penalty, or death from neglect after abuse, as was the terrible fate of the Ukl tribe by the hands of Muhammad.

From the context of just this pair of verses, the Islamic practice of violence upon non-Muslims, or even upon anybody who is thought to oppose Islamic rule, is based in a long chain of Islamic textual and legal doctrine. The doctrine in turn cites the Qur’an verses and the ahadith that support its laws. 

The history of what Muhammad was doing at the time of the revelations shows why non-Muslims are systematically abused in similar ways, whenever Islam gains an upper hand over them in a land.

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