Shuck and Jive

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Violence in the Bible and in the Qur'an

How do people of faith deal with their own 'texts of terror?' A heated discussion is brewing on an earlier post, which from my point of view was about getting to know actual people, Muslims in our area. I advocate this in order to be neighborly and so that we might build bridges of common humanity and dismantle stereotypes.

These conversations quickly spiral down into debates over 'texts of terror.'

Here is one from the Qur'an:

Sura 33:25-27

25. And Allah turned back the unbelievers in their rage; they did not obtain any advantage, and Allah sufficed the believers in fighting; and Allah is Strong, Mighty.

26. And He drove down those of the followers of the Book who backed them from their fortresses and He cast awe into their hearts; some you killed and you took captive another part.

27. And He made you heirs to their land and their dwellings and their property, and to a land which you have not yet trodden, and Allah has power over all things.
And from the Torah:
Deuteronomy 7:1-6

When the Lord your God brings you into the land that you are about to enter and occupy, and he clears away many nations before you—the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations mightier and more numerous than you— and when the Lord your God gives them over to you and you defeat them, then you must utterly destroy them. Make no covenant with them and show them no mercy. Do not intermarry with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons, for that would turn away your children from following me, to serve other gods. Then the anger of the Lord would be kindled against you, and he would destroy you quickly. But this is how you must deal with them: break down their altars, smash their pillars, hew down their sacred poles, and burn their idols with fire. For you are a people holy to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on earth to be his people, his treasured possession.
And from the New Testament:
Revelation 19:11-16

Then I saw heaven opened, and there was a white horse! Its rider is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems; and he has a name inscribed that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is called The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, wearing fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron; he will tread the wine press of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name inscribed, ‘King of kings and Lord of lords’.
I can think of three ways to approach these texts:

1) God's word that was God's word not only then, but now as well. It is divine justification for elevation of one's own religion which can even include exterminating (if unsuccessful at converting) 'unbelievers' today. There are Christians, Muslims, and Jews who hold this kind of view. I would hope their number is small.

2) Not God's word at all, but a human justification for one's own greed and self-importance. These are texts to be rejected in regards to how we live with "the other" today.

3) God's word then but only then. These texts were true for their time but they do not provide a blueprint for how we should engage with those of different faiths today. Some type of interpretive theory is used to soften them either by spiritualizing them, placing them in their time period, or simply ignoring them.

I, because I have faith in humanity, think that most current adherents to their religion of choice or birth are either 2s or 3s. In other words they are decent human beings who want to live peacefully with people of other faiths.

Even as they may have a theological theory about their sacred book (ie. Word of God) they don't really invest too much time worrying over its content. If they are even familiar with these texts they find a way to be selective about them. Some do the hard work of historical and literary criticism.

The 1s however, seem to make the news and to make the trouble for the world. Even as I believe in humanity I also see that humanity is subject to paranoia. Even though some may think of themselves as a 2 or a 3 they think of the "other" as a 1. They make the error of coloring all the "other" as a 1 when in fact they may be 2s or 3s.

So how do we make the 2s and 3s thrive and diminish the influence of the 1s?

We need to face our own paranoia and diminish stereotyping. We need to talk to real people not simply point out their texts of terror and assume they are all out to exterminate "us."

That is why I as a non-Muslim encourage other non-Muslims to get to know and to make friends with your Muslim neighbors. I think in so doing we will discover that people in actual practice concern themselves with the good and positive things their respective religions emphasize.

If you don't have the opportunity to meet and to know a person of a different faith, such as a Muslim, you might at least consider reading a book from an average person of that tradition.

I recommend, The Muslim Next Door: The Qur'an, the Media, and That Veil Thing by Sumbul Ali-Karamali:

I live inside my religion because it is sensible, simple, and it teaches good things like forgiveness, generosity, tolerance, and compassion. I live in America because I believe it can be a nation of many faiths. As people of all religions have urged, it is time for genuine understanding and dialogue, not media hysteria and anti-Islamic racism. If we can separate the daily distortions from the reality, perhaps we can break out of that medieval framework of domination and hostility. Instead of working toward a "clash of civilizations," perhaps we can avoid a "clash of ignorances." (p. 247)
What do you say we try for understanding and peace, eh?


  1. thanks, john! helpful!
    for grins, reminds me of the line: "There are two kinds of people: those who say there are two kinds of people and those who don't."

  2. Touche on the grin.

    Two kinds of people.

    1) Those who oversimplify (me)
    2) Those who don't


  3. John, how do we work with people like this? This is breaking news...

    Afghanistan Taliban members have publicly murdered a young couple who were planning to get married.

    The man, 21, and woman, 19, were shot dead on Monday in front of a mosque in the south-western province of Nimroz, because they were supposedly having an illicit affair.

    The young couple had eloped because their families would not approve a marriage.

    Local officials have said the killings followed a decree by local religious leaders, linked to the Taliban.

    Before killing the couple, three Taliban mullahs passed a fatwa, saying that they should be shot and killed in front of a mosque.

  4. Stushie,

    Good question.

    First of all, it has nothing to do with my neighbors down the street. The Taliban is bad news. It is not Islam any more than the KKK is Christian.

    Here is a passage from the book I referenced above:

    "The Taliban are radical, militant Wahhabis. In America, we commonly know the Taliban destroyed statues of Buddha and Buddhist artifacts. But the Taliban also destroyed Islamic artifacts. Ismaili, Shi'i, and Sufi artifacts were all destroyed. In fact, in the early part of the twentieth century, Wahhabis destroyed cemetery markers in Mecca and Medina. They nearly destroyed the tomb of the Prophet, as well....

    ....How can I tolerate so-called Muslims who ignore or even destroy what the Prophet was trying to achieve (a rise in women's status, for one thing), who themselves do not tolerate other Muslims, who desecrate what Muslims and non-Muslims hold sacred in violation of the Qur'an, who slaughter their opposition, and who destroy personal freedom? The Taliban's vision of Islam can only be tolerated, I fell, if that vision never injures others and is never imposed forcibly on anyone else.

    The Saudis and the Taliban loom large in our perceptions of Islam because they have calculated it that way. Whereas the Saudis used their the money, the Taliban and the attackers of the World Trade Center purposefully and deliberately used the media to build their image. For example, the Taliban invited Western Media to Afghanistan to watch them shockingly destroy Buddhist artifacts. Similarly, the September 11th attacks (whoever engineered them) were coordinated so that all television cameras would be trained securely on the destruction of the first tower when the second plane crashed." (p. 97-8)

    How do we respond to the incident you mentioned? We condemn it as any decent person would including our Muslim neighbors. We also condemn all kinds of violence and human rights abuses.

    But we don't condemn it as a Muslim act any more than we condemn as a Christian act what Tony Alamo and the Alamo Ministries have done.

    "Tony Alamo Christian Ministries faces an uncertain future with its controversial Catholic-bashing, gay-hating, pro-polygamy, convicted tax-cheat founder scheduled to go to trial Feb. 1 on federal charges stemming from his alleged sexual contact with underage girls." Intelligence Report (Southern Poverty Law Center) Spring 2009. p. 5

    The seven million Muslims in America are Americans. They are our friends. They are on "our side" against violence and oppression.

    I really recommend her book.

    Thanks again.

  5. Then there is this Christian Terrorist."I say to you people that by the grace of God I am still here — a little bloodied, but emphatically unbowed."

  6. More examples of Christian terrorism can be found here. It is interesting scrolling down to the section where it lists "web sites allegedly promoting violence", and shows Bible quotations lifted from at least one of these sites.

  7. It seems the christian old testemant contains a counter voice to the god of sacrifice and violence, and Jesus was a great countervoice to exclusive thought. Does the Qur'an or other writings contain this same voice?

  8. It is not a good idea to read the verses of the Quran in peices---As the Quran itself says---it should be viewed as a whole otherwise the Quran can be misunderstood.
    Among Jews, Christians and Muslims---there are two types of people--those who are "believers" and those who are "hypocrites". As verse 23 explains--believers are those who have been true to their "covenant with God." This means striving to be a good person. Hypocrites are those who only use the "label" but do not actually follow their religion. During the battle with the Meccans, Some Jewish tribes broke their peace treaties with Prophet Muhammed(pbuh) and sided with the Meccans. (In Islam ---with all treaties, promises and tansactions between people God is a witness.)
    (verse 26-People of the book--refers to this incident)Verse 27 refers to the arbitration that followed--The Jewish tribe selected an arbitrator who gave judgement as to the their treatment according to Jewish Law. (On a previous occassion, muslim law (from Quran) was used but the Quran then revealed that the laws of other religions must be respected if the believers of that religion wish to be judged by it. And during later periods--Jews were able to live in muslim lands and retain their laws.)
    So this verse is not only time-bound-but also timeless if understood properly.

    My translation---
    23. Among the believers are men who have been true to their covenant with God:of them some have died and some (still)wait:But they have never changed (their determination) in the least.
    24 That God may reward the men of truth for their truth and punish the hypocrites if that be his will , or turn to them in mercy: for God is oft-forgiving, most merciful
    25. And God turned back the unbeleivers for (all) their fury: no advantage did they gain;and enough is God for the beleivers in their fight. and God is full of strength exalted in might.
    26. And those of the people of the book who aided them-God did take them down from their strongholds and cast terror into their hearts, (so that) some you slew and some you made captive.
    27. And he made you heirs of their lands and their houses and their goods and of a land which you had not frequented (before). And God has power over all things.

  9. Kat,

    It is not a good idea to read the verses of the Quran in peices---As the Quran itself says---it should be viewed as a whole otherwise the Quran can be misunderstood. Thank you. And I think that is also true for the Hebrew and the Christian Bibles.

    The message of the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

  10. Hey Must Ask,

    This is my view regarding the Bible. Running through the Bible you have a number of voices. A minister used an illustration that was helpful for me.

    Reading the Bible (and perhaps the same could be said for the Qur'an) is like listening to a record on an old Victrola. It is old and scratchy and the sound is crummy.

    You hear pops and hums and all kinds of noise. The noise is the cultural context, perhaps we can call them the imperfect human voices.

    Not only is there noise that distorts the music from the record, but our ears are stopped up and we can't hear very well either.

    We have our own shortcomings and context that keeps us from hearing.

    Sometimes the distortion is so bad we can't tell the noise from the music.

    Nevertheless, the music is there. At times we hear it. The music is the Divine Word that calls us to faith, love, justice, and beauty.

    That has been a helpful metaphor for me in reading sacred texts.

  11. Please remember to ask at the outreach event about Sura 33:25-27

    Here is number 280 in volume 4 of Bukhari's hadith.

    When the tribe of Banu Quraiza was ready to accept Sad's judgement, Allah's Apostle sent for Sad who was near to him. Sad came, riding a donkey and when he came near, Allah's Apostle said (to the Ansar), "Stand up for your leader." Then Sad came and sat beside Allah's Apostle who said to him. "These people are ready to accept your judgement." Sad said, "I give the judgement that their warriors should be killed and their children and women should be taken as prisoners." The Prophet then remarked, "O Sad! You have judged amongst them with (or similar to) the judgement of the King Allah."

    At the Battle of the Trench in 627 AD, the last Jewish tribe in Medina, the Banu Qurayza had been neutral. (Banu means 'sons of'). On the day the Battle finished, Muhammad turned against them. After a siege they surrendered. Muhammad appointed Sa'd ibn Mu'adh, who had been wounded in the battle, as their judge. He gave the judgement recorded as above in the Islamic sources - a judgement which Muhammad said Allah approved of.

    The next day, at least 600 Jewish men were beheaded in public on the edge of trenches and their bodies thrown in. The women and children were sold. Muhammad took one of the women - Rayhana, newly widowed, as a concubine.

    Ask *real* Muslims about this event,not just Islamic scholars.

  12. Wow, that hobby horse must be plumb tuckered out by now, eh Steven?

  13. Alan is tired of hearing how Muhammad had 600+ Jews beheaded.

    And the women and children taken into slavery, give it a rest, that is old news.

    Why not talk about the nice things about Islam, like the way seven stones must be thrown at each of three pillars. The pebble must be held between the thumb and forefinger of the right hand and be thrown more than five yards.

    Or the way pilgrims must walk 3 times quickly and 4 times slowly around a rock in the middle of Mecca.

    How strange the ways of Allah are to non-Muslims.

  14. And Steven can obsess about nothing else.

    I can find any number of horrors in the Bible. So?

    I can find any number of horrors in history perpetrated by atheists as well. So?

    You don't have a point. You don't engage. And you risk nothing, and expose nothing in your refusal to engage. So I'm supposed to feel bad because some random stranger on the internet gets off on copy-and-pasting the same stuff over and over again?

    You make no point because you have no point.

  15. "How strange the ways of Allah are to non-Muslims."

    Pebbles? That's nothing. I drink the blood of Christ and eat his body every almost every Sunday.

    How strange the ways of God are to non-Christians.

    Again, your point? Oh, right. You don't actually have one.

  16. It's not like Christianity was a loving peaceful religion at the time. Jews will tell you that on average over the centuries they have prospered far better at the hands of Muslims than at the hand of Christians.

    We could also for example talk about the treatment of Jews in Spain under the "Catholic Kings" in 1492.

    Or their treatment under Eastern Orthodox Christian Russia in the 1700s and 1800s.

    And its not like Christians have had any better success at changing the ways of Arab tribal customs. The kind of behavior that Stushie talks about in Afhganistan for example was going on long before Islam came on the scene.

    My only point being that people in glass houses shouldn't throw rocks.

    You are not going to win points by poking Islam in the eye. Following Jesus is going to have to be shown to be a better way on its own merits alone.

  17. Well Jodie, as an atheist, Steven's point is that religious people do bad things therefore religion is bad, and religious people must be held responsible for the atrocities committed millennia ago by long-dead people half-way around the world.

    And he isn't even clever enough to know that practically no one who writes or comments here is a fundamentalist of any stripe and that we have all sorts of ways of understanding those bad actions, but none of us think they were a good idea or something to be emulated.

    Basically he's arguing against a straw man, but not bothering to engage enough to actually tell you that's what he's doing. And he's just cutting and pasting the same thing he's posted all sorts of other places. His last post, for example was copied from here:

    which he wrote, so it isn't plagiarism. I'm simply saying he must troll blogs that talk about Islam and just copy and paste the same stuff over and over. A brilliant method of argumentation, obviously. ;)

  18. Oops, sorry. Perhaps I spoke too soon when I said Steven's comment above wasn't plagiarism.

    Looks like it might be:

    The same thing can be found on that page, written by some guy named Bill Nelson, back in 2003.

    Man, I love the internet. LOL

  19. Alan,

    Thank you for that. I think Steven has had his say.

  20. First--my apologies for going on about this---I do understand that people are entitled to whatever view of history they understanding of the battle of the trench----As explained in the (Yusuf Ali) commentary---The Jewish Tribes of Medina had signed peace treaties with Prphet Muhammed(pbuh) Some sources say these treaties were of neutrality---that they would remain neutral in the event of battle between Mecca and Medina. The Banu Quraiza tribe violated their treaty and conspired with the Meccans. After the battle--an arbitrator was appointed--Saad ibn Muaz from the tribe of Aws who were allies of Banu Quraiza. Saad arbitrated according to Jewish Law for treason Deutoronomy 20 v10-18. (specifically v13 instead of v16 because v13 is more lenient of the two options)
    (Note---The Torah is considered a previous revelation by Allah(swt), though it has been corrupted over time--mentioned in Surah 2)

  21. Kat,

    You are wonderful. Thanks for posting. I suppose I should ask for Steven's sake:

    "You don't spend your days and nights wondering how you might go about beheading Jews, do you?"

  22. Here is a link for the event at the Muslim Community of North East Tennessee.

    I'll be there Friday at 6 p.m. Y'all come.

  23. I see Kat is claiming that it was perfectly justified to behead 600 plus Jews and take the women and children into slavery.

    I knew she would justify killing every male person in a tribe.

    She's a Muslim. She has to say that it was correct to take all the women and children into slavery.

    And she did.

    Told you so!

    By the way, where is this 'peace treaty'?

    And according to Kat, Muslims move into Medina, where the Jews had been living for century, and the previous inhabitants had to sign a peace treaty , which stated that they could all be killed and sold into slavery if they did not support the Muslims.

    Who signs a peace treaty like that? Does that even begin to make sense?

    Somebody signs a peace treaty saying you can kill us all if we break the treaty?

    (And Muhammad WON the Battle of the Trench, no harm had come to Islam)

    Saad arbitrated according to Jewish Law for treason Deutoronomy 20 v10-18.

    Yes, John Shuck posts from Deuteronomy as an example of a text which religious believers think is violent.

    And then Kat says that Deut. 20 applies

    '13 When the LORD your God delivers it into your hand, put to the sword all the men in it. 14 As for the women, the children, the livestock and everything else in the city, you may take these as plunder for yourselves. And you may use the plunder the LORD your God gives you from your enemies.'

    Yes, the very same bloodthirsty passages that John abhors get quoted by Muslims as justification for beheading all the men in a tribe.

    I am grateful to Alan for telling me that somebody copied out my page on Hadith.

    But , of course, he simply accused me of plagiarism without any evidence.

    Of course, I accused Muslims of using bloodthirsty texts like Dueteronomy 20 to justify killing whole tribes of Jewish men, and taking women and children into slavery.

    But Kat did. I quote her once more ' Saad arbitrated according to Jewish Law for treason Deutoronomy 20 v10-18. (specifically v13 instead of v16 because v13 is more lenient of the two options)

    Let me repeat that. Verse 13 is the more *lenient* of the options.

    Verse 13 - '13 When the LORD your God delivers it into your hand, put to the sword all the men in it.'

    Kat claims this is 'more lenient'

    Those were her exact words.

    Putting to the sword all the men in it, is 'more lenient' according to Kat.

  24. ALAN
    Well Jodie, as an atheist, Steven's point is that religious people do bad things therefore religion is bad, and religious people must be held responsible for the atrocities committed millennia ago by long-dead people half-way around the world.

    I see.

    So Muhammad to Muslims is a 'long dead person halfway around the world'.

    Watch Kat justify this assassination , ordered by this 'long-dead person halfway around the world' - which I have plagiarised from Islamic text-books.

    'The Prophet said, "Who is ready to kill Ka'b bin Al-Ashraf who has really hurt Allah and His Apostle?" Muhammad bin Maslama said, "O Allah's Apostle! Do you like me to kill him?" He replied in the affirmative. So, Muhammad bin Maslama went to him (i.e. Ka'b) and said, "This person (i.e. the Prophet) has put us to task and asked us for charity." Ka'b replied, "By Allah, you will get tired of him." Muhammad said to him, "We have followed him, so we dislike to leave him till we see the end of his affair." Muhammad bin Maslama went on talking to him in this way till he got the chance to kill him.'

    The elimination of Ka'b took place after the Battle of Badr. The story goes that the head of Ka'b was placed at Muhammad's feet.

    There are other stories of elimination of the opponents of Muhammad. For example, Ocba, Asma bint Marwam and Abu Afak were all murdered. To read about them, I suggest you buy 'Muhammad' by Maxime Rodinson .

    Ask Kat.

    She will tell you that all those people deserved to die.

  25. Kat,

    I debated with myself whether to leave Steven's comments up or not. He obviously has a hostile agenda. That is to slam modern day Muslim people by devising a litmus test regarding a 7th century event.

    He has written this kind of stuff on other blogs. Other bloggers have pegged him pretty well.

    Check this blog, Dilettante Hobby Horse.

    You are welcome to engage him if you wish. However, if you think it pointless as I do, then just offer him a pleasantry such as "Peace be upon you" or "Bless your heart" (my personal favorite) and I will send him and his horse off to greener pastures.

    The point of this post and the previous post is how we behave in the present (as you wrote--"striving to be a good person").

    You have shown yourself to be a gracious commenter and it appears that your religion has helped you to become that.

    I think the goal and task of interfaith dialogue is to look for and to encourage the commonality and the good in one each other.

    Steven is not interested in dialogue. He is not interested in discovering anything good about you or your faith.

    He wants to trash it and he is baiting you toward that end.

    It is up to you whether or not you want to continue. Until you comment again, all of his forthcoming comments will go where they belong...the cyber dust bin.

  26. John posted about the 'texts of terror' in Deuteronomy and Kat cited them as justification of her religion.

    I think John's tolerance towards learning about Islam is a model to us all.

    If people want to post Islamic texts, he will delete them.

    Surely it would be 'more lenient' in Kat's phrase to just put me to the sword.

    This is what Kat claimed was 'more lenient'.

  27. John are you upset because I claimed Muslims would behave like Kat did and cite texts of terror to justify their religion?

    I told you so!

    The only way to deal with people who are correct is to delete their comments.

  28. John, I think your original assessment of Steven was spot on; about the same as your last assessment, but more succinct.

    His posts certainly do not contraindicate it!

  29. John--Thankyou for your kindness. People are entitled to their views. All I can do is give information---As to your question about Jews--Much to my regret I do not know any live Jewish person---but I have chatted with some Jewish Rabbi's on the net. (They were reading the Quran and I was trying to read the Torah.) There are many concepts and words that have similar roots in Hebrew and Arabic. The concept of the soul and its levels is interesting (nafs-arabic, nefesh-hebrew)
    As far as I know, I think the Torah is understood in the context of Midrash, Mishna/Gemarrah, and the Rabbinical works...which help to explain the texts. In Islam, it is the hadiths, tafsirs, and writings of scholars. I am not sure if it is the same thing, but the Roman Catholic Church has "Catechism"? By the way ---CCC2307-2309 is interesting---it is about their "Just war doctrine"
    Some mention was made of the Haj pilgrimage. The rituals have symbolic meaning mostly related to Prophet Abraham(pbuh).
    I am unable to answer the question regarding a countervoice as I don't understand the question.--but if any others would like to ask anything......

  30. I have articles on the Hadith and the Hajj In the first five days of the Hajj, the pilgrim wears plain clothes and abstains from all violence and sexual intercourse. He visits the sacred mosque of Mecca and kisses the sacred Black Stone.

    Then, he walks seven times around the Kaaba. He walks three times quickly and four times slowly. He touches the Yamani corner each time.

    Then, he or she goes to the place of Abraham and prays twice. After that, he or she must return to the Black Stone and kiss it again. The pilgrims then move to the enclosure called the al-Hijr. This is where Muhammad is supposed to have slept when he made his miraculous journey from Mecca to Jerusalem.

    On the sixth day, the pilgrim goes to the hill known as Mount As Safa, while reciting verses from the Qu'ran. There he must run from the top of As Safa to the summit of al-Marwah seven times (no more and no less), while praying.

    For the benefit of non-Muslims, who will not be able to guess why people should be commanded by God to run up and down a hill seven times, it is to commemorate Hagar's search for water.

    The ninth day is spent at Mount Arafat where the wuquf (standing) is performed. This is where Adam and Eve met. By sunset, the pilgrim must have hurried to Muzdalifah for evening prayer.

    The tenth day is the day of Sacrifice. There a three pillars in Mina. Seven stones must be thrown at each of these pillars.

    The pebble must be held between the thumb and forefinger of the right hand and be thrown more than five yards.

    How strange are the ways of Allah to Western eyes!