I don’t know what I think about fighting to establish justice or eradicate oppression. I think that it could be OK to overthrow an evil dictator, but maybe only if it’s what the people of the country want. If they don’t want it, then I feel uncomfortable about the whole concept of establishing anything good through force.
I think the early Muslims did some good in uniting tribal Arabia under tawheed, and in later spreading what was at that time probably the most equitable, just civilisation that had existed, across a third of the world. But I think that in doing that, at some point they must have voided the Quranic injunction not to commit aggression. Perhaps the instructions can legitimately change over time and with circumstances; as I have said before, the Quran does not have to be viewed as a universal life manual. Maybe at some point it became appropriate to conquer. What do you think?
I think the reason I feel uncomfortable boils down to the stark categorisation of people into believers and unbelievers. I think professed belief is an inadequate and overly simplistic way of judging and defining people. It is just one more way of dividing humans and breeding prejudice and de-humanisation of the “other”. I find it hard to imagine that God views us that way.
I was actually quite impressed that Muhammad signed the treaty of Hudaybiyya and didn’t charge into Mecca, and then eventually conquered it without much bloodshed, along with mass conversion to Islam and amnesty granted. I thought this demonstrated wisdom, as per Tariq Ramadan “The Messenger”. They had held back from fighting the unbelievers, and in doing so, turned many of them into believers – which is better.
But then I read the Quran verses about the Hudaybiyya incident and I changed my mind. God apparently said that if it weren’t for the presence of believers in Mecca, He would have had the Muslims fight their way in. It sounds like it was God’s concern for the plight of believers that caused the restraint, rather than God’s desire to cause more hearts to believe and His foreknowledge that this would happen. If there hadn’t been believers in Mecca He would have had the Meccans killed at the hands of the Muslims rather than give them that chance to come to faith. This upset me quite a lot.
48:25 [It was not for your enemies sake that He stayed your hands from them: for] it was they who were bent on denying the truth, and who debarred you from the Inviolable House of Worship and prevented your offering from reaching its destination. And had it not been for the believing men and believing women [in Mecca], whom you might have unwittingly trampled underfoot, and on whose account you might have become guilty, without knowing it, of a grievous wrong: [had it not been for this, you would have been allowed to fight your way into the city: but you were forbidden to fight] so that [in time] God might admit to His grace whomever He wills. Had they [who deserve Our mercy and they whom We have condemned] been clearly discernible [to you], We would indeed have imposed grievous suffering [at your hands] on such of them as were bent on denying the truth.
Maybe it’s my Christian background, but I like to think God sees the potential in every person and isn’t quick to write them off.
When I see people posting scholarly articles banning Muslims from congratulating the kuffar on their festivals, and other things like that that are extremely separatist and have an undercurrent of hatred, I get upset and tie myself in knots trying to convince myself this attitude is not authentically Islamic. And maybe it isn’t. This is a weird period of time that we’re in. However, as much as I’ve tried, I can’t find much support for being loving and merciful towards unbelievers in the Quran. Polite, yes, and respectful; but all your most loving qualities seem to be for the believers only. Perhaps I am missing something here?
48:29 MUHAMMAD is God’s Apostle; and those who are [truly] with him are firm and unyielding towards all deniers of the truth, [yet] full of mercy towards one another...
5:54 …God will in time bring forth [in your stead] people whom He loves and who love Him – humble towards the believers, proud towards all who deny the truth…
58:14 ART THOU NOT aware of those who would be friends with people whom God has condemned? They are neither of you [O believers] nor of those [who utterly reject the truth]: and so they swear to a falsehood the while they know [it to be false]. God has readied for them suffering severe [in the life to come]…
58:22 Thou canst not find people who [truly] believe in God and the Last Day and [at the same time] love anyone who contends against God and His Apostle – even though they be their fathers, or their sons, or their brothers, or [others of] their kindred…
A related question is why belief is so important in the first place. I’ve always understood the Quran to be saying that wrong beliefs are the basis of all badness. In other words, the pagans were wicked and unjust precisely because they didn’t have correct beliefs about God. But there are many people who have wrong beliefs according to the Quran and yet are very good people.