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


Bassam Zawadi

Shamoun's article can 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 at 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 nonsense. If it isn't, then I fail to see the argument.

One is not allowed to lie to or even backbite a non-Muslim with whom he is in a peace treaty. 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.

The 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 does so, but 47:35 basically states that you shouldn't initiate it if you have the upper hand. However, as Ibn Kathir states, one can be inclined to peace first if he does not have the upper hand or if it is beneficial to do so:

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, in its plain reading, does not prohibit Muslims from seeking peace if the enemy inclines to it. 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. 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 (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) only applies to those particular people.

The majority will argue that this can't apply 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 to harmonize them. We can't isolate verses and attempt to explain them. Thus, Surah 8:61 may be a general rule that states that we should be inclined to peace, but then Surah 47:35 came and made an exception by saying that you shouldn't do so if you have the upper hand. There are many examples in the Qur'an where verses 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 one looks at it, an answer/solution exists to reconcile the alleged contradiction between these two verses.

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