You got a problem with that?
A great scholar of Islam & its history, a man of Egyptian Coptic Christian descent and a native Arabic speaker. He offers this evaluation of the latest, um, misleading statements to come from our very good faith partners in dialogue at Al Azhar. I also now stand corrected in my belief that Egypt was predominantly Shafi'i - it is Hanafi.
“Go to Hell!” Egypt Responds to French Call to Revise Koran
Recently I explained how, by Muslims’ own (inadvertent) logic, various Koran verses stand to be banned on the basis that they defame and incite violence against non-Muslims. Two days later, the French newspaper Le Monde published a letter signed by some 300 French public figures across the party lines including former president Nicolas Sarkozy. In it, they “ask that the verses of the Qur’an calling for the killing and punishment of Jews, Christians and unbelievers be obsoleted by theological authorities.”
Titled “Manifesto against the new anti-Semitism,” the signed letter focuses especially on the rise of Muslim violence against France’s Jewish minority: “French Jews are 25 times more likely to be attacked than their fellow Muslims. 10% of the Jewish citizens of Ile-de-France—that is to say about 50,000 people—were recently forced to move because they were no longer safe in some cities and because their children do not could attend the school of the Republic more. This is a low-noise ethnic cleansing…”
Of course, the notion that Muslims will willingly strike out certain verses from the Koran because they upset or threaten infidels is a nonstarter. From a Muslim perspective, because the Koran is Allah’s word, it cannot be tampered with or altered in anyway (if Sarkozy et al made these claims in certain Muslim countries they would either be incarcerated on blasphemy charges or killed outright).
But while more forthright Muslims base their rejection of the French call on this simple fact, those more skilled in “dialoguing” with the West follow a different strategy.
Enter Al Azhar. Located in Cairo and attached to the government of Egypt, it is the Muslim world’s most prestigious “university” (that is, madrasa) and regularly hosts—and engages in “dialogue” with—the likes of Barrack Obama and Pope Francis.
Responding to the French letter, the deputy chief of Al Azhar, Dr. ‘Abbas Shuman, said that “The call from 300 French persons to freeze verses in the Noble Koran, which they claim urges the killing of non-Muslims, is unjustifiable and unacceptable.”
And if that wasn’t clear enough, he exclaimed, “No to freezing one letter from the Koran—and those calling for it can go to hell!”
As usual, however, whereas entities such as the Islamic State proudly embrace the fact that the Koran does call for enmity and violence directed against non-Muslims, Al Azhar went into apologetic mode.
“For we have no verses,” insisted Shuman, “that command the killing of others, unless they commit one of the crimes that do earn the death penalty, such as murder, or raising weapons against us. Nor are we responsible for those [e.g., ISIS] who do not correctly understand the verses, who take them at face value without referring to the tafasir [exegeses] of the ulema.”
Perhaps he had forgotten about Koran 9:29: “Fight those among the People of the Book [Christians and Jews] who do not believe in Allah nor the Last Day, who do not forbid what Allah and His Messenger have forbidden [i.e., embrace sharia law], and who do not embrace the religion of truth [Islam], until they pay the jizya [extortion money] with willing submissiveness and feel themselves utterly subdued.” All authoritative exegeses see this verse as enshrining Islam’s “messianic” mission of subjugating infidels by force.
Not only is Allah’s command here rather straightforward in meaning, but for a millennium Muslims executed it—and conquered some three-quarters of the original Western world in the process (as recounted in my new book, Sword and Scimitar: Fourteen Centuries of War between Islam and the West).
It is only now, when Muslims are militarily/economically weaker than and vulnerable to the Western world that claims that such verses don’t really mean what they plainly say have become popular among Muslims, especially those involved in “dialogue” with the West.
I have in my possession an authoritative Arabic manual titled Al-Tarbiya al-Jihadiya fi Daw’ al-Kitab wa al-Sunna (“The Jihadi Upbringing in Light of the Koran and Sunna”), written by Dr. Abd al-Aziz bin Nasir al-Jalil. After providing several proofs, he concludes that “jihad is when Muslims wage war on infidels, after having called on them to embrace Islam or at least pay tribute [jizya] and live in submission, and then they refuse.” In other words, Koran 9:29, as it is.
As for Al Azhar’s reliance on the ulema and their exegeses, the book contains terse summaries of the word “jihad” as defined by the four schools of Sunni jurisprudence, which have the final say as to how Islam—or in this case, jihad—is articulated:
- According to the Hanafis—the madhhab (school) Egypt follows—jihad is “extreme and strenuous warfare in the path of Allah, with one’s life, wealth, and tongue —a call to the true religion [Islam] and war to whoever refuses to accept it.”
- According to the Malikis, jihad is “when a Muslim fights an infidel [non-Muslim] in order that Allah’s word reigns supreme.”
- According to the Shafi’is, jihad is “fiercely fighting infidels.”
- And according to the austere Hanbalis, it is “fighting infidels.”
Needless to say, fighting infidels in the name of Islam leads to killing infidels—untold millions over the centuries—in the name of Islam, which is precisely what Al Azhar denies.
During his dissembling, Al Azhar’s Shuman went so far as to insist that “Those [French] who think that there are [Koran] verses calling for their killing are unaware that those are really verses of peace. All verses that call for fighting are done in the context of self-defense … and this is a principle that even those calling for the freezing of Koran verses do not dispute. For all religions confirm the right to self-defense.”
Here again is another falsehood; while the Koran does have defensive verses, it has even more offensive verses. The great Muslim philosopher Ibn Khaldun (d.1406) explained the differences between Jews and Christians on the one hand, and Muslims on the other, centuries ago:
In the Muslim community, the holy war [jihad] is a religious duty, because of the universalism of the Muslim mission and the obligation to convert everybody to Islam either by persuasion or by force … The other religious groups did not have a universal mission, and the holy war was not a religious duty for them, save only for purposes of defense … But Islam is under obligation to gain power over other nations.
Even so, despite the clear words of the Koran and hadith, and the clear words of the ulema and their tafasir—to say nothing of the continuum of violence committed against infidels at the hands of Muslims across centuries and continents—Al Azhar, like all apologists, still insists that it’s all a misunderstanding. Or, as Shuman reiterated in closing: “So let them [the French signatories] understand the book of Allah correctly. But if they rely on their own, mistaken understandings, then let them go—with their understandings and requests—to hell!”