Rebuttal to Sam Shamoun's Article "Qur'an Contradiction: Should Muslims Accept Peace or Not? Islam and Warfare"

 

by

 

Bassam Zawadi

 

 

Shamoun's article could be found here.

 

Shamoun mentions hadiths that state that deception is permitted in war (obviously, are you going to tell your enemy the truth and let them come and kill you?) and then he says:

 

 

This basically means that Muslims can use lies and deception when they feel that they are in war against the unbelievers. There is no greater proof for this than what we find in the Quran.

 

 

I don't know what Shamoun is trying to emphasize by putting the word 'feel' in italics, however it appears that he is trying to show (and I could be wrong) that Muslims could at any time use their subjective perceptions and interpret any situation to be a time of war between themselves and non Muslims. Thus, they could be justified in lying to non-Muslims whenever they feel like it.

 

If this is what Shamoun is trying to say, then this is utter nonsense. If it isn't, then I fail to see the argument.

 

One is not allowed to lie to or even backbite on a non-Muslim that he is in a peace treaty with. This is only applicable in times of actual warfare. See here.

 

Shamoun's main argument in the article is that Surah 8:61 contradicts 47:35 because Surah 8:61 says that you should seek peace with the enemy if they seek peace, but Surah 47:35 says that you shouldn't seek peace if you have the upper hand.

 

It is relatively simple to refute this argument and there are a number of possible solutions.

 

First possibility is that Surah 8:61 is saying that you should incline to peace IF THE ENEMY is inclining to peace. But Surah 47:35 says that if you have the upper hand, YOU SHOULDN'T INCLINE TO PEACE in being the first one to do so. However, Surah 47:35 does not say that you shouldn't incline to peace IF THE ENEMY INCLINED TO PEACE first. So there is no contradiction. Surah 8:61 states that you should incline to peace if your enemy did so, but 47:35 basically states that you shouldn't initiate it if you have the upper hand. However, one can incline to peace first if he does not have the upper hand or if it is beneficial to do so just as Ibn Kathir states.

 

 

on the other hand, the disbelievers are considered more powerful and numerous than the Muslims, then the Imam (general commander) may decide to hold a treaty if he judges that it entails a benefit for the Muslims. This is like what Allah's Messenger did when the disbelievers obstructed him from entering Makkah and offered him treaty in which all fighting would stop between them for ten years. (Tafsir Ibn Kathir, Source)

 

 

Surah 47:35 on its plain reading does not prohibit the Muslims to seek peace if the enemy did incline to peace. It simply means that you shouldn't be the first to do so, since it is not necessary.

 

However, this depends on who we are speaking about.


Commentators look at the historical context of this verse and they see that it is referring to the disbelieving Arab idol worshippers who at a certain point in time, Allah has ordered to be eliminated completely (this is the majority opinion of the scholars, while other scholars stated that jizyah was applicable for these people) after they have continuously fought against the Prophet (peace be upon him). Therefore, some will argue that this command (to fight them even if they incline to peace first) was only applicable to those particular people.

 

The majority will argue that this can't be applicable to the rest since the Prophet (peace be upon him) made it clear that we are to fight our enemies until they have accepted Islam or agreed to pay the Jizya. If the enemy has decided to accept Islam or agreed to pay the Jizya then he is 'inclining to peace' in this way, thus he is not to be killed.

 

Another possibility is that Surah 47:35 is simply an exception to the general rule of Surah 8:61. One must bring all the verses together in an attempt to harmonize them. We can't isolate verses and attempt to explain them. Thus, it is possible that Surah 8:61 is a general rule that states that we should incline to peace but then Surah 47:35 came and made an exception to the rule by saying that you shouldn't do so if you have the upper hand. There are so many examples in the Qur'an where verses come down and make exceptions to the general rule. Only an ignoramus of Islamic hermeneutics (e..g Shamoun) would end up isolating the verses and claim that there is a contradiction between them.

 

Whatever way one looks at it, an answer/solution exists to reconcile the alleged contradiction between these two verses.

 

 

 

 

 

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