There are a few verses from the Quran that are quite often misquoted or quoted out of context to perpetuate the myth that Islam promotes violence and exhorts its followers to kill those outside the fold of Islam. The words Kill the polytheists wherever you find them are often quoted to portray that Islam promotes violence, bloodshed and brutality.
In order to understand the context, it is necessary to read from the beginning of the chapter. It discloses that there was a peace treaty between the Muslims and the pagans of Mecca. The pagans violated this treaty, so a period of four months was given them to make amends; otherwise war would be declared against them. The complete verse actually says:
“But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the Pagans wherever ye find them, an seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war); but if they repent, and establish regular prayers and practise regular charity, then open the way for them: for Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.” (Quran 9:5)
This verse is a command to the Muslims who had entered into an agreement with the pagans, who soon violated the agreement, to fight and kill those who betrayed them wherever they found them. It would seem that any open-minded person would consider the historical context of this verse and agree that it cannot be used as “evidence” that Islam promotes violence, brutality and bloodshed, or that it exhorts its followers to kill anyone outside the fold of Islam.
The very next verse gives the answer to the allegation that Islam promotes violence, brutality and bloodshed “If one amongst the Pagans ask thee for asylum, grant it to him, so that he may hear the word of Allah; and then escort him to where he can be secure. That is because they are men without knowledge.” (Quran 9:6)
The Quran not only stipulates that a pagan seeking asylum during the battle should be granted refuge, but also that he is escorted to safety. In the present age, what military commander would direct his soldiers not just to spare an enemy during battle, but to escort him to a place of safety? Yet, that is exactly what Almighty Allah instructs in the Quran.
Arun Shourie, one of the most persistent critics of Islam in India, quotes the same verse (9:5) in his book, The World of Fatwas, p. 572. But alter quoting it, he skips the next verse and jumps to the one after it. This is a clear indication that some of the opponents of Islam are biased and prejudiced in their criticism.
This idea can be easily be disproved, as only about 15 to 20 percent of Muslims in the world are Arabs. There are more Indian Muslims than Arab Muslims, and more Indonesian Muslims than Indian Muslims. This assumption is possibly based on the fact that most of the first generation of Muslims were Arabs, that the Quran is in Arabic and that the Prophet Muhammad was an Arab.
However, history testifies that the Prophet, his followers and the early Muslims made every effort to spread the message of Islam to all nations, races and peoples. From the very beginning of the mission of Prophet Muhammad his followers came from a wide spectrum of countries and races. Among them was Bilal, the African slave; Suhaib, the Byzantine Roman; Abdullah bin Salam, the Jewish Rabbi; and Salman, the Persian.
Furthermore, it should be clarified that not all Muslims are Arabs and not all Arabs are Muslims. An Arab might be a Muslim, Christian, Jew, atheist or follower of any other religion or ideology. Additionally, some countries – such as Turkey and Iran (Persia) – that uninformed people consider to be “Arab” are not Arab at all. The people who live in those countries speak languages other than Arabic and are of a different ethnic heritage.
Since religious truth is eternal and unchanging, and humanity is considered one universal brotherhood, Islam teaches that God’s revelations to humanity have always been consistent, clear and universal. The truth of Islam is meant for all people regardless of race, nationality, cultural or linguistic background. A brief look at the Muslim World, from Nigeria to Bosnia and from Malaysia to Afghanistan is sufficient proof that Islam offers a universal appeal; a message for all of mankind – not to mention the fact that significant numbers of Europeans and Americans of all races and ethnic backgrounds are finding and coming into Islam. The Quran clearly says, And We have not sent you “We have not sent thee but as a universal (Messenger) to men, giving them glad tidings, and warning them (against sin), but most men understand not.” (Quran 34:28)