Updated: Jul 16, 2021
Muslims are not Islam. We need to distinguish between the people and the ideology; criticism of Islam is not a criticism of all Muslims. To understand what Islam is, we need to examine its teachings from the Qur’an and the example of Muhammad. The fact that most Muslims don’t know or agree with all these teachings does not change what the religion actually teaches.
The word ‘Islam’ does not mean ‘peace’ as is often assumed. It means ‘submission’ or ‘surrender’. Mark Durie, a linguistics and theology scholar, writes: “In its original meaning, a Muslim was someone who surrendered in warfare.” Muhammad’s famous phrase as lim taslam means “surrender (i.e. submit to Islam) and you will be safe”. These words were included by him in letters sent to various rulers offering them peace if they surrendered to Islam. This is important because, far from carrying a peaceful meaning, Islam actually means peace after surrendering in warfare or after subjugation.
In fact, Islam was first called a religion of peace as late as 1930 in a book published to promote Islam,, and as Muslims sought to promote their faith to non-Muslims. Thus, for the first 1,300 years of Islamic history, this description was unknown; it occurs nowhere in the texts or traditions of Islam right up until the last century.
Meaning of Kafir
Kafir does not just mean non-Muslims. The meaning of Kafir is deeper than that and is quite derogatory. Kafir means rejecter of the truth. So you non-Muslims are considered as those who reject the truth.
The term Kafir alludes to a person who rejects or disbelieves in Allah and the teachings of Prophet Muhammad and denies the dominion and authority of Allah. Rejecting Allah’s laws, for example, means you are Kafir. So most Muslims will consider all those who reject Hudud or the Shariah as Kafir. The following are some keys verses in the Quran stating what Allah had decreed and how Muslims must treat a Kafir:
Q3:28 Let not believers take disbelievers (Kafir) as allies rather than believers. And whoever [of you] does that has nothing with Allah, except when taking precaution against them in prudence. And Allah warns you of Himself, and to Allah is the [final] destination.
Q9:29 Fight those who do not believe in Allah or in the Last Day and who do not consider unlawful what Allah and His Messenger have made unlawful and who do not adopt the religion of truth from those who were given the Scripture – [fight] until they give the jizyah willingly while they are humbled.
Q9:30 The Jews say, “Ezra is the son of Allah”, and the Christians say, “The Messiah is the son of Allah.” That is their statement from their mouths; they imitate the saying of those who disbelieved [before them]. May Allah destroy them; how are they deluded?
Q33:64 Indeed, Allah has cursed the disbelievers and prepared for them a blaze.
Q33"68 Our Lord, give them double the punishment and curse them with a great curse.
Q83:34 So today those who believed are laughing at the disbelievers (kafir).
Q47: 4 So when you meet those who disbelieve (Kafir) [in battle], strike [their] necks until, when you have inflicted slaughter upon them, then secure their bonds, and either [confer] favour afterward or ransom [them] until the war lays down its burdens. That [is the command]. And if Allah had willed, He could have taken vengeance upon them [Himself], but [He ordered armed struggle] to test some of you by means of others. And those who are killed in the cause of Allah – never will He waste their deeds.
Q8:13-14 When your Lord inspired the angels, “I am with you, so strengthen those who have believed. I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieved (Kafir), so strike [them] upon the necks and strike from them every fingertip.” That is because they opposed Allah and His Messenger. And whoever opposes Allah and His Messenger – indeed, Allah is severe in penalty.
Q8:16-17 O you who have believed, when you meet those who disbelieve (Kafir) advancing [for battle], do not turn to them your backs [in flight]. And whoever turns his back to them on such a day, unless swerving [as a strategy] for war or joining [another] company, has certainly returned with anger [upon him] from Allah, and his refuge is Hell – and wretched is the destination.
Q8:17-18 And you did not kill them, but it was Allah who killed them. And you threw not, [O Muhammad], when you threw, but it was Allah who threw that He might test the believers with a good test. Indeed, Allah is Hearing and Knowing. That [is so], and [also] that Allah will weaken the plot of the disbelievers (Kafir).
Those are just some of the many verses in the Qur’an that refer to the Kafir and that tell believers (Muslims) how to deal with Kafir (the rejecters of the truth). Islam devotes a great amount of attention to the Kafir. The majority (64%) of the Koran is devoted to the Kafir, and nearly all of the Sira (81%) deal with Mohammed’s struggle with them. The Hadith (Traditions) devotes 32% of the text to Kafirs1. Most of these verses promote hostility against Kafirs. Those who tell you that Islam is a religion of peace either do not know Islam or are lying to you.
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