2.2 Violent Texts

2.2.1 Is the Quran a violent text?

When reading the Quran, it is important to ask yourself for what purpose you are doing it. The position you take after the reading also differs from person to person.

We limit ourselves to the following 3 purposes:
1. Understand what is in the Quran.
2. The reader only wants to read and memorize the text.
3. The reader only wants to commemorate Allah or do Dhikr.

2.2.2 Understand what is in the Quran

For this purpose, it is important to apply the theological rules of interpretation.

When speaking of interpretation, we must take into account three factors:
1. Reader
2. Author
3. Place

The Reader: The reader is of course a person with feelings, a certain background and life experience.These feelings, background and life experience will play an important role while reading. To understand a text, you always must consider who the author of the text is, the place and context.

Read the example below to understand the meaning of this background influences:

As part of an exchange project, a teacher from Belgium went to teach in a poor village in Burundi for 2 months. The first lesson was about the family and society. The teacher projected an image in class. In the picture there was a large villa with a beautiful garden and a small cage with chickens.
The teacher asked, “What do you see?”
Most students gave the following answer: “ We see chickens.”
The teacher did not expect this answer. After the lesson, the teacher asked for an explanation for the answer that was given. The student replied: “most students in the class are hungry so the chicken is the first thing they saw.”

This example teaches us that the feelings and background of the students influenced how they experienced the image. The students were hungry (feelings) and they lived in a poor village (the background). They were not familiar with the style of the house represented in the picture.

Everyone notices what is important to him or her. The students think food is important because they are hungry, so they chose the chicken. A chicken means food to them.
The teacher chose that image from his own perspective. He considers what is in the picture very normal. He comes from a prosperous country, where houses are quite large and usually have a garden.

This is also the case with the Quran. The Quran was created in a specific context and time spirit. Every part of the Quran has its reason for revelation. Every person who reads the Quran also has his own background. A jihadist who searches for violence in the Quran will find it in it. A person who has a passion for animals will mainly remember the passages that dealing with animals. Each person will find a snippet of text and keep in mind things that interest them.When reading the Quran, the rules of interpretation are of great importance. This means that you cannot just interpret everything in your own way.
You must bring all the Quranic verses together. It is a whole in which you must try to discover a chronological line. In addition, we must also take into account two periods in which the Quranic verses are revealed: The Medina period and the Meccan period.

2.2.3. Selective reading

The problem of misinterpretation also occurs when selectively reading Quranic verses about violence. You should not selectively extract violent verses to interpret them literally. It is important to situate violent passages in the social context in which they originated.
Violent Quranic verses refer to situations that happened at that time, in a society that functioned completely differently. That society was a tribal society that is not comparable to our current context.

These passages took place in the seventh century in the Arabian Peninsula. They tell us about what happened then and in that specific place, about conflicts with specific tribes and persons. They also tell us more about the political actions that the Prophet Mohammed s.a.w. undertook. Every era and every society has dealt with its violent moments. The challenges they faced are not the challenges we face today. The Quran on its own is not violent, although there are passages that deal with violence, death and destruction. In the next section, we will discuss in detail how to understand violence in its context.

2.2.4 Contextual approach

“And kill them wherever you find them, and drive them out where they drove you.”
Jihadists use this verse from the Quran to justify their violent acts. At first sight, this verse appears very violent. It orders Muslims to kill unbelievers.
A jihadist focuses only on this kind of verses. This tells us more about how he reads the Quran. As we discussed in the previous chapter, the reader reads being affected by his feelings, background and life experiences. A jihadist selects Quranic verses that are violent to legitimize his own violent beliefs and even acts. This way of reading the Quran is not correct. The place and context and the intention of the author or “Maqsad Ashari” is essential to understand the meaning behind it.

The verse: “And kill them wherever you find them, and drive them out where they drove you out” . is revealed in Medina. The verses of Medina are contextually bound. It is important to study the specific context of Medina.
The Muslims in Medina had fled from Mecca. Their enemies could attack at any time. To survive, they had to be very careful. This verse allows Muslims to kill their enemies if their enemies attack them first. Several Muslim theologians such as Taher Ibn Ashour and Ibn Khatir share this interpretation of self-defense.


Exercise 1: Fill in the Blanks
Fill in the missing words.

Muslim theologians - Focuses - Feelings - Violent acts - Medina - Belief

“And kill them wherever you find them, and drive them out where they expelled you?”

Jihadists use this verse from the Quran to justify At first sight, this verse appears to be very violent. It orders Muslims to kill unbelievers.

A jihadist only on these kinds of verses. This tells us more about how he reads the Quran. As we discussed in the previous chapter, the reader reads a text along with his background and life experiences.

A jihadist selects Quranic verses that are violent to legitimize his own violent

This way of reading wrongs the Quran. The place, context and intention of the author or “Maqsad Ashari” is essential to understand the Quran.

The verses of are contextually bound. It is important to study the specific context of Medina.

The Muslims in Medina had fled from Mecca at the time. Their enemies could attack them at any time. To survive, they had to be extremely wary. This verse allows Muslims to kill their enemies if their enemies attack them first. Several such as Taher Ibn Ashour and Ibn Khatir share this.

Exercise 2: Schedule Aspects
There are three aspects to consider when reading a text. Complete the schedule below:


2.3.1 The original meaning of jihad

‘Jihad’ is a term often misinterpreted by both jihadists and Islam critics. Both sides interpret the term violently. The noun jihad comes from the word jahada. It means effort (jhud). Originally it was about the effort that must be made to achieve a goal. One can clearly deduce this from a verse from the Quran: “But if they (the parents) insist (jahada) to worship other Gods with me of which you have no knowledge, do not obey them....”1.
The concept of a “holy war” does not exist in the Islam. For the term war, the term qitaal (battle) is used. Translating or explaining the term jihad as a holy war is therefore wrong.

2.3.2 How to interpret the verses in the Coran

Verse 191 of surat al-Baqara is often abused by jihadists and critics of Islam. One group wants to justify violence, the other group wants to portray Islam as a violent religion.

At first glance, the first verse says that Muslims are allowed to kill polytheistic worshippers or non- Muslims. Let’s study the verse through the following aspects:
a. Context of the verse
b. Kind of verse
c. Reason of Revelation

a. Context of revelation

This verse was revealed during a war between Muslims and non-Muslims from Mecca. As mentioned earlier, the entire context in which the verse was created is essential. The young Muslim community was weak. They had little chance of survival. The Prophet made political and military decisions from his position as leader to protect his community.

b. Kind of verse

“And kill them wherever you find them, and drive them out where they expelled you?”
The Quran can be divided into two categories: Meccan verses and Medina verses.

Meccan verses
Verses Revealed in Mecca. The Meccan period focuses on the foundations and basic principles of Islam or “attawhid” (monotheism).
The emphasis goes to the universal values and norms such as justice, fairness, equality, etc. These verses are very clear and self-explanatory. For that reason, no detailed explanation can be found regarding Islamic regulations regarding these verses.
These verses were revealed before the Prophet Muhammad immigrated.

Medinan verses
These verses are more detailed in nature and take place after the immigration from Mecca to Medina.
They are about a specific context and about a specific society. They are contextual just like ‘the verses of the sword’. Therefore, they cannot simply be used outside that place and that time.
Therefore, verse 191 of surat albaqara is a Medinan verse. Medinan verses, as explained earlier, are more detailed in nature and context. In other words, this verse should not be taken out of context and placed in the light of Meccan verses, which emphasize righteousness.

c. Reason of Revelation

Reason of revelation or Asbāb an-nuzūl (pl.) Means the causes or reasons why a verse was revealed. This refers to events that occurred in the time of the Prophet to which the Quran responded with an answer.

The reason for revelation of verse 191 of surah albaqara is that the Muslims of Medina agreed on a treaty with the Meccans. There was tension between the different parties. When the Meccans violated the treaty, the Quran gave permission to the Muslims to make war with the Meccans. This allowed the Muslims to defend themselves and protect themselves from destruction.


Fill in the basics principles of Islam revealed in Mecca.

EXERCISE 2: The Jihad of love.
Show the students the video “The Jihad of Love”
(Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=clkzGkyqzoo)
Then let them answer the questions below.

Mohamed El Bachiri is a Moroccan Belgian, Muslim and lives in Molenbeek. He lost his wife Loubna Lafquiri during the attacks on March 22, 2016 in Brussels. Mohamed was left as a widow with three young children. His plea for a jihad of love in the TV program ‘De Afspraak’ became one of the most watched videos on Flemish television.

1. What made Mohamed El Bachiri call for jihad during an evening in a Molenbeek church?

2. What does Mohamed mean by: “I call young people to jihad”?

3. In the Quran it says: “La ikraha fi dine.” What does this mean?

4. Mohamed is talking about “The search for truth”. Which path did he choose?

1. How does a humanist Muslim view the Quran?

2. What does Mohamed end his plea with?

EXERCISE 3: A lettre to Al-Baghadadi.
120 islamic scholars have written an open letter that was addressed to Al Baghdadi (the leader of IS). They explain to him in detail why the ideology of IS goes against the basic principles of islam.
Read the letter and answer the questions below.


1. A fatwa
It is forbidden in Islam to issue a fatwa [religious decree] without having the required training. Even then, a fatwa must follow Islamic theology as laid down in the classical texts.
Furthermore, it is forbidden to quote [hereby] only some or only part of a verse from the Qur’an without including the Qur’an as a whole and the ahadit [the tradition of the deeds and words of the Prophet] as a whole. on the subject in question.
There are strict rules for a fatwa; one may not use verses as an argument at will without observing the entirety of the Qur’an and the ahadith.
2. The language
It is forbidden in Islam to impose obligations without a thorough knowledge of Arabic.
3. Simplism
It is forbidden in Islam to simplify Shari’ah [Islamic law] and to ignore established Islamic science.
4. Differences
[For scholars] it is permissible in Islam to disagree except on the foundation of religion that all Muslims should know.
5. The reality
In Islam it is forbidden to ignore contemporary reality when issuing decrees.
6. You will not kill
It is forbidden in Islam to kill someone.
7. Nor shall you kill ...
It is illegal in Islam to kill envoys, ambassadors and diplomats therefore, also to kill journalists and aid workers.
8. The jihad
Jihad [holy war] may only be used in defense. This is also prohibited without a legitimate reason, without a legitimate purpose and without observing the rules of conduct.
9. Infidels
It is forbidden in Islam to declare someone an unbeliever (non- Muslim) unless he or she publicly declares this disbelief.
10. You shall not ...
It is forbidden in Islam to harm or mistreat Christians or other people with a [Holy] Book in any way.

11. The Yazidis
[Pronounce: “Yezidis”; write ‘Yazidi’s’] It is mandatory to see the Yazidis as people with a Holy Book.
12. Slavery
Islam is prohibited from reintroducing slavery. There is a worldwide consensus on this.
13. Repent
It is forbidden in Islam to force people to repent.
14. Women
It is forbidden in Islam to deny women their rights.
15. Children
It is forbidden in Islam to deprive children of their rights.
16. Penalties
It is forbidden in Islam to carry out judicial punishments without observing proper procedures of justice and mercy.
17. Torture
It is illegal to torture people in Islam. 18. The deceased
It is forbidden in Islam to deform a mortal remains.
19. God
It is forbidden in Islam to attribute any evil to God.
20. The graves
It is forbidden in Islam to destroy the tombs and tombs of prophets and their companions.
21. Rebellion
It is forbidden in Islam to rebel for any reason, except for explicit disbelief from the legislator and the prohibition to pray.
22. The caliphate
It is forbidden in Islam to create a caliphate without the consent of all Muslims.
23. The state
Islam permits a Muslim to be loyal to a person’s nation or state.
24. Emigrate
Since the Prophet’s death, Islam has not obliged anyone to emigrate anywhere


1. Which verses are about violence?

2. Which verses are about rights?

3. Which verses are about freedom

2.4 Sharia

2.4.1 Introduction of sharia

Many people associate the term “sharia” with injustice, harsh legislation and brutal punishments such as women’s oppression, corporal punishment, etc.
This is because the media, certain politicians and jihadists use the term inappropriately.But do they use the term correctly?
The meaning of the term “sharia” means more than just Islamic law. It not only contains legislation, but also rituals, doctrine and philosophy. It is wrong to limit the translation of “sharia” only to “Islamic law”.
Sharia is not a law that contains strict rules. There is no book on “sharia” that contains Islamic laws as is the case with the Belgian code. All books on Islamic fiqh are individual interpretations of the Quran and Sunnah.

Allah’s words are eternal, but every person who interprets Allah’s words is a product of his time. There are thousands of tafsirs and books about the fiqh, everyone has a different interpretation and opinion. All those books are human works and can therefore contain errors contrary to the words of Allah.

But what does “sharia” actually mean?

2.4.2 Original meaning of the term shariar

The Arabic term “sharia” originally means the path that leads to the water. This is not about a water well from which you get the water, but the path you have to follow to find a fertile place or a place where water flows.

Water stands for life, which means that “sharia” is the right path to follow to protect human nature. The natural disposition of man must be protected, and this will automatically lead to a more just and peaceful society. Unfortunately, this term is often misinterpreted, which gives a negative connotation of Islam.

2.4.3 execrcises

Exercise 1: Sharia
Answer the questions below.

1. What does sharia mean?

2. What is sharia often associated with?

3. What happens to society when man protects his human nature?

Exercise 2: ‘Sharia above the law’.
Read part of the article by theologian Jonas Slaats and put a cross in the appropriate column.

Sharia above the law:
Sharia is not a series of laws that are neatly written in the Quran or in any other book. In other words, you cannot enter a library to get sharia from the rack of ‘religious rules’.
As a concept, the word “sharia” merely refers to the idea that there are divine principles that support life and that an ethical guideline follows from those principles. In other words, if there is a God, it is likely that God will expect people to behave in a certain moral way. Evident examples: do not murder, do not steal, be as compassionate as possible, maintain certain rituals, etc.

Throughout history, the precise interpretation of this sharia remained infinitely subject to debate and was never written down in its entirety. All kinds of scholars kept discussing the exact way God wants people to live.
Chop hands and the guillotine
So no, it is not the case that “chopping off hands of those who have stolen” is an eternal rule of a firmly chiseled sharia that every Muslim adheres to. When such a rule is pronounced, it concerns only some scholars who in certain contexts concluded that this was a correct rule based on their beliefs about (God-wanted) justice in society. This is little different from, for example, the fact that the legal system in France approved the death penalty through the Guillotine up to the 1970s. It was a rule that arose from old beliefs about justice (wanted by laicity) in society.

But just as guillotine’s death penalty could be ended because of changing ideas in the society, the interpretation of Islamic scholars can be contradicted and changed. What one found correct is not justified by the other, and some rules that may have been accepted in theory were not always followed in practice.
Place a cross in the appropriate column


Is sharia a set of laws that we can find in the Quran?

Does sharia refer to divine principles that support life?

Is chopping hands off someone who stole an eternal rule?

Can someone discuss and contradict the interpretation of Islamic scholars?

Did people continue to discuss throughout history about the precise interpretation of sharia?


Synonym for monotheism or belief in one god.

Ayat As Sayf
The verses of the sword. These are verses that are violent in nature and should be understood in context.

Commemorating God.

Written rules about Islamic rituals and Islamic law. There are different opinions on certain matters. Basically, fiqh means in simple terms that every Muslim or Muslima through the study of Islam, gains knowledge and insight about the understanding and application of Islamic rules and the assessment of the consequences.

What is attributed to the Prophet Muhammad of both words, deeds, approvals, outward features and inward features.

It comes from the word “jahada” which means effort. Originally, it was about the effort that one must do to achieve a goal.

Maqsad Ashari
Purposes of Islam.

The rights path to follow in order to achieve a peaceful society.

Interpretations by Islamic Scholars


H. HUMBERTO, Islam and Enlightenment, Baltimore, Maryland, The Johns Hopkins University Press 2012, p 223.
IBN KATHIR, Tafsir fi ‘lum Alquraan, Beiroet, Dar Al-Koutboub Al’lmiya, 2010.
Jihad van de liefde. (2017, 4 januari). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=clkzGkyqzoo
Jonas SLAAS, de sharia staat wel boven de wet, in Knack, 18 februari 2017. https://www.knack.be/nieuws/belgie/de-sharia-staat-wel-boven-de-wet/article-opinion-816391.html
K. BENHADDOU, Is dit nu de islam, Gent, Borgerhoff en Lamberigts, 2016, 135-136.
Lettre al baghdadi. (z.d.). http://www.tegenwicht.org/64_i_s/brief_aan_de_kalief.htm
M. ATTAHAR IBN ASSHOUR, Tafsir fi ‘lum Alquraan, Tunis, Dar Attounusia Linnashr.