Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi deserves to be universally commended for his words supporting an approach to "counter extremism and deviant ideology and to uphold the human, moral and love values among all human kind." Pictured: Sisi addresses the United Nations on September 25, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
Prominent Muslim scholars continue to argue that the Quran and Prophet Mohammed do not incite intolerance or killing Christians and Jews. Many scholars, however, seem prepared to do their utmost to hide this "inconvenient truth."
Take, for example, Sheikh Ahmed El-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Egypt's preeminent Sunni university, who recently claimed that "there is no single verse in the Quran that calls for killing Jews or Christians."
While it is true that the Quran does not specifically call for killing Christians and Jews, the Hadith — a record of the words, actions, and the silent approval of Prophet Mohammed — does refer to killing all Jews.
The Quran, however does refer to Christians and Jews as disbelievers (for instance, Qur'an 98:6, 9:30, 4:46, 48:6, 2:88-89), and calls on Muslims to fight and kill disbelievers.
The Grand Imam of Al-Azhar made his claim in a speech delivered in Cairo, Egypt, in the presence of President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, senior government officials and Al-Azhar clerics on June 11 during the annual celebration of Laylat al-Qadr ("Night of Decree").
In his speech, the senior Muslim cleric reconfirmed Al-Azhar's previous condemnation of a call from many intellectuals and politicians in France to reconsider as outdated the verses of the Quran that provoke hatred, killing Jews and other disbelievers, and that promote anti-Semitism and hatred of other non-Muslims.
The French declaration says:
"... we ask the verses of the Quran calling for the killing and punishment of Jews, Christians and unbelievers be [denounced as] outdated by theological [Islamic] authorities, as were the incoherencies of the Bible and the Catholic anti-Semitism abolished by Vatican II, so that no believer can rely on a sacred text to commit a crime."
The following are some examples of verses in the Quran that refer to Jews and Christians as disbelievers and call on Muslims to fight against them:
"They have certainly disbelieved who say, 'Allah is the Messiah, the son of Mary.'" (Quran 5:72, Sahih International translation)
"They have certainly disbelieved who say, 'Allah is the third of three.'" (Quran 5:73, Sahih International translation)
Because all or most Christians believe in the trinity and believe Jesus Christ is God, they are by the Quran and Muslims as disbelievers:
"Among the Jews are those who distort words from their [proper] usages and say, 'We hear and disobey' and 'Hear but be not heard' and 'Ra'ina,' twisting their tongues and defaming the religion. And if they had said [instead], 'We hear and obey' and 'Wait for us [to understand],' it would have been better for them and more suitable. But Allah has cursed them for their disbelief, so they believe not, except for a few." (Quran 4:46, Sahih International translation)
According to the last verse, all Jews, with the exception of a few, are cursed and disbelievers.
"[Remember] when your Lord inspired to the angels, 'I am with you, so strengthen those who have believed. I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieved, so strike [them] upon the necks and strike from them every fingertip.'" (Quran 8:12, Sahih International translation)
This verse and others clearly call on Muslims to wage war on the disbelievers.
"O you who have believed, fight those adjacent to you of the disbelievers and let them find in you harshness." (Quran 9:123, Sahih International translation)
"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." (Quran 9:29, Sahih International translation)
Because Jews or Christians are "disbelievers," Muslims must apparently obey God's orders and fight against them and kill them.
It is verses such as these that inspire Muslim terrorists to carry out attacks against non-Muslims. Moreover, it is verses such as these on which Muslim preachers continue to rely to incite against non-Muslims.
As one can see, that the Quran is quite clear about the need to fight and kill "disbelievers." That detail, however, does not stop senior Muslim clerics such as the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar from continuing to claim that the Quran is only urging Muslims to defend themselves against "aggression."
The Hadith also calls on Muslims to fight and kill Jews:
Al-Bukhari (3593) and Muslim (2921) narrated from the Hadith of Ibn 'Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) that he said: "I heard the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) say: "The Jews will fight you and you will prevail over them, then a rock will say: 'O Muslim, here is a Jew behind me; kill him.'"
In Saheeh Muslim (2922), it is narrated from the Hadith of Abu Hurayrah that the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) said: "The Hour will not begin until the Muslims fight the Jews and the Muslims will kill them, until a Jew hides behind a rock or a tree, and the rock or tree will say: O Muslim, O slave of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him. Except the gharqad (a thorny tree), for it is one of the trees of the Jews."
Ironically, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar regretted "that those who publish these statements [in the anti-Semitism manifesto] do not know how much hatred these words could create in the hearts of over 1.5 billion Muslims."
The Grand Imam consciously chose to ignore the fact that many Muslims hate and despise non-Muslims. These Muslims are acting in accordance with what the Quran and the Hadith tell them about the disbelievers:
"You will surely find the most intense of the people in animosity toward the believers [to be] the Jews and those who associate others with Allah." (Quran 5:82, Sahih International translation)
"O you who have believed, do not take the Jews and the Christians as allies. They are [in fact] allies of one another. And whoever is an ally to them among you – then indeed, he is [one] of them. Indeed, Allah guides not the wrongdoing people." (Quran 5:51, Sahih International translation)
"And the Jews say, 'The hand of Allah is chained.' Chained are their hands, and cursed are they for what they say... And that which has been revealed to you from your Lord will surely increase many of them in transgression and disbelief. And We have cast among them animosity and hatred until the Day of Resurrection... And they strive throughout the land [causing] corruption, and Allah does not like corrupters." (Quran 5:64, Sahih International translation)
In his attempt to deny that the Quran verses breed anti-Semitism and hatred of non-Muslims, El-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, quoted the following verse from the Quran:
"They are not [all] the same; among the People of the Scripture is a community standing [in obedience], reciting the verses of Allah during periods of the night and prostrating [in prayer]. They believe in Allah and the Last Day, and they enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong and hasten to good deeds. And those are among the righteous. (Quran 3:113-14, Sahih International translation)
Yes, there are positive references to the Jews in the Quran; one verse even depicts the Jews as the preferred group of people:
"And We did certainly give the Children of Israel the Scripture and judgement and prophet-hood, and We provided them with good things and preferred them over the worlds." (Quran 45:16, Sahih International translation)
Muslim scholars argue, in response, that verses favoring the Jews refer only to Jews who became true believers, and not the majority whom Allah labeled "kufaar" (disbelievers).
In addition to absolving Islam of any connection to hatred, violence and terrorism, El-Tayeb accused the Anti-Semitism Manifesto of provoking terrorism, saying, "Such boldness on others' sanctity is one of the major causes of terrorism." There seems, however, to be a blind spot about a reciprocal "boldness on others' sanctity" when it comes to respecting non-Muslims.
At the same celebration of Laylat al-Qadr, President El-Sisi, in his brief speech, which came after El-Tayeb's long one, said:
"I would like to pay tribute to the sincere scholars of Al-Azhar and the Ministry of Awqaf [Endowments] who are working to correct the misconceptions about the tolerant Islamic religion and its moderate middle approach, to address and counter extremism and deviant ideology and to uphold the human, moral and love values among all human kind."
President El-Sisi deserves to be universally commended for his words.
The Grand Imam, on the other hand, clearly does not share his president's views on Islam. By continuing to turn a blind eye to the verses of Quran and Hadith that incite intolerance and hatred of non-Muslims, the imam is thwarting any attempt to turn Islam into a tolerant and moderate religion. His approach only serves to promote violence, extremism and terrorism.
A. Z. Mohamed is a Muslim born and raised in the Middle East.