For context: I am not a Muslim.

In the wake of the most recent terrorist attacks in Paris, I would like once again to ask the question: "Does Islam promote violence?" I realize this question has been asked before, but I have a specific way of asking it:

It seems obvious that it's false to say Islam DOES promote violence in ALL self-proclaimed Muslims. It seems equally false to say that Islam DOES NOT promote violence in ALL self-proclaimed Muslims.

When people who call themselves Muslim kill innocent people while shouting words from the Koran and in the name of Allah, it's pretty clear that for THESE people, their beliefs in Islam promote and result in violence.

Now whether or not their interpretation of the Koran is "correct", or if they are "true" Muslims, well that's another question. That is the question I'm trying to answer today by understanding how non-violent Muslims interpret the violent parts of the Koran.

For example, there are many troubling versus in the Koran that do, in fact, seem to promote violence, especially against non-believers. How do non-violent Muslims explain these verses? Is it an issue of translation? Is it an issue of cherry-picking which parts of the Koran to follow and which to exclude? For example, the Bible clearly states that being gay is a sin. However, there are many Christians who welcome the gay community into the church and will even perform marriage for these couples. This is a contradiction that requires thought to reconcile. So, how do "true" non-violent Muslims reconcile these contradictions regarding the violent verses of the Koran?

Here are some examples:

Quran (3:56) - "As to those who reject faith, I will punish them with terrible agony in this world and in the Hereafter, nor will they have anyone to help."

Quran (8:12) - "I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them"

Quran (9:5) - "So when the sacred months have passed away, then slay the idolaters wherever you find them, and take them captive and besiege them and lie in wait for them in every ambush, then if they repent and keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate, leave their way free to them."

Quran (9:29) - "Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued."

Quran (9:73) - "O Prophet! strive hard against the unbelievers and the hypocrites and be unyielding to them; and their abode is hell, and evil is the destination."

Quran (17:16) - "And when We wish to destroy a town, We send Our commandment to the people of it who lead easy lives, but they transgress therein; thus the word proves true against it, so We destroy it with utter destruction."

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    There are no contradictions in the Quran, but you should know that Islam allows Violence in form of self defense. This means the Muslims were only allowed to fight non believers when they have been suppressed and abused and in cases Muslims are allowed to attack to prevent the attack of their enemies. This are the only reasons which go ahead with islamic laws (shari'a)
    – Medi1Saif
    Commented Nov 17, 2015 at 7:48
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    Note also that some verses in which violence was mentioned, were revealed to the Prophet at certain times and for certain occasions, but ignorant people who don't know about the tafsir of the Quraan use these verses to attack Islam. Commented Nov 17, 2015 at 8:35
  • @AbdelRahmanShamel since this is a question and answer site, and you've chose to answer, why don't you provide some examples of "tafsir" in this context to explain to the "ignorant" people Commented Nov 17, 2015 at 14:08
  • 9:5 sounds really terrifying and terrorising right?? Ya. But do you know the context in which this verse was revealed?? No. Please watch this youtu.be/4u-5ZJ2Frzk and this youtu.be/9ajZkO9WIWw . The same applies for all other verses that seem to promote terrorism and violence, if the context is known, you'll find the logic behind it and that it is fair. Some research must be done first Commented Nov 17, 2015 at 15:57
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    @user2884789 well this is still hard to answer, but i will try to add some information to my answer even if i'm afraid it won't answer your question as this violence -in my opinion- has in 1st place a social and political background
    – Medi1Saif
    Commented Nov 20, 2015 at 6:11

2 Answers 2


The chronologically first verses about jihad revealed in Qur'an are (22:39-40) in those it can be seen that a call for war was allowed for Muslims based on an act of self defense and because of the justness of the cause!

As I wrote in my comment: This means the Muslims were only allowed to fight non believers when they have been suppressed and abused and in cases Muslims are allowed to attack to prevent the attack of their enemies, as they should also show power and let their enemies respect them or if necessary be afraid of them. One could say war in Islam is allowed for self defense and self preservation of a Muslim nation. This are the only reasons which go ahead with Islamic laws (shari'a).
Therefore we can read that Muslims disliked the fighting and killing as it is described in this Verse, but it was in cases necessary for saving their souls!

This doesn't mean that all Wars Muslims fought were from this kind.

Now in 1st place Muslims are more suppressed in their own countries! That's the main problem and because of the lack of a true leader and more or less self declared scholars with a bad half knowledge we see now what happens

I also found this additional statement made by @Shoaib as a part of the answer of the Question Does Islam have a concept of “innocent lives”?

"It is rather the "justness of the cause" that determines whether a life can be taken". Which applies in many of your quoted verses!

The Verses you have quoted

First most parts of these verses have nothing to do with war or fighting and if you read the bible or old testament you will find plenty of similar Verses speaking of God's (Allah's) punishment for sinners and non-believers etc and how believers killed or even massacred non-Believers. I'm not a scholar and I try to give a very short summary of what I read in different tafsir (Qur'an interpretation) books and I would recommend you to read different translations as you may get more information!

  • (3:56) is related to the Jews who disbelieved Jesus or 'Isa (Peace be upon him) so one could say this verse is not even related to Muslims!
  • (8:12) is related to the fighting/battle in Uhud, and is just a visual interpretation of the killing (Uhud was a battle that ended more or less badly for Muslims)

Surah 9 quotes a lot of rules of war!

Talking about rules I'd like to add: you should know that all battles Mulsims fought during the life of the Prophet Mohammad (Peace be upon him) have been governed as test cases for the Islamic jurisprudence, as they are either quoted in the Qur'an or a Hadith collection. But unfortunately one could conclude much of them, so it needs a true scholar to point out whether a case is applicable in each situation or not, of course this is fixed in books, but even those can be interpreted! Among this rules you will find that a fighting army shouldn't kill people who are not involved in the fighting like old people, children, women, preachers etc., this is one thing I really miss these days (even in the most modern wars like WWII, Vietnam, Iraq Invasion etc.)! An other thing is that in Islam as in all abrahamic religions suicide is a major sin!

  • (9:5) shows that Muslims should stop fighting during a time period for example now we have the 5th of safar (2nd Month in the hijri Calendar) a month after muharam one of the 4 months where fighting is not allowed unless one needs to defend himself! Now an other issue about that verse is that there have been a treaty between Muslims and non-Muslims which was violated by the non-Muslims, and according this treaty declaring war was absolutely legal!
  • (9:29) this verse again only make some rules, because after the non-believers have signed a treaty suddenly Jews tried to split this treaty etc. So the intention was to weaken them to create a kind of treaty with them.
  • (9:73) Here the Verse speaks about the punishment of Allah for non-Believers and asks the Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him) to fight (if necessary) the non-Believers, be harsh to the hypocrites, this Verse was revealed as Mohammad (Peace be upon him) treated them or used to treat them before that very kindly, but as it seems this was no more useful Allah ordered him to change his behavior towards them!
  • (17:16) Is only a description on how it goes that a town was punished by Allah, again this is not related to Muslims themselves: see the translation of Muhsin Khan here.

A bit off-topic, but a try to understand the violence

Of course some of these verses you mentioned my lead some miss-leaded Muslims to fight and kill without respecting any of the rules of the shari'a! Not only because they misunderstood them, but mostly because they have such a hate inside them and seek a hint of a proof to justify the vengeance they want to take, for many reasons like:

  • actually Muslims and Muslim countries are weak,
  • most Muslim countries are not democratic by any means and people living there are mostly suppressed,
  • especially scholars of the wahhabi/salafi school indoctrinate that Muslims are not allowed to revolt against a Muslim leader if he acts like a Muslim (praying etc.)!!!
  • they dream or glorify the past and would like to have a caliphate like in the early days of Islam,
  • they use these Verses and other narrations to justify their conduct (maybe more for themselves and those who feel the same and sympathize with them)
  • in the Muslim countries the rate unemployment of young people is very high so some of them seek help or refuge in religion, and fall into the arms of scholars with radical thoughts!
  • by being part of something new (creating a caliphate etc.) they feel being beneficial which is totally different from the feeling they had when being jobless!
  • Muslims are disappointed of many other countries like USA, GB, France etc. because they support the dictators ruling in their countries.
  • there are many other reasons I couldn't count which may more or less have influence!
  • Muslims are always thought and recalled about the "glorious days" and when they look at their present situation they would like to change it.
  • Muslims in many Muslim countries tend to see incidents from a point of view Muslim vs. non-Muslim, which creates a hate towards non-Muslims or a feeling of injustice: For example Israel vs. Palestine, actually the attack in Paris vs. thousands or more Muslims killed each day in Iraq, Syria, Israel etc.

One important point is even if the amount of radical Muslims would be low there are many Muslims who sympathize with them for many reasons which can be more or less the same as above!

On the other hand I would like to say that you missed a lot of Verses and narrations from hadith collections (see for example this sahih hadith) which I would primary regard as a basis for this violence (If taken literally and out of their context).

Does it follow then that the non-violent Muslims simply just do not feel "suppressed and abused" at this time and therefore remain non-violent, but if in the future they do feel so then the Koran can justify violence toward non-believers?

Well as I mentioned the biggest suppression comes from the governments or regimes ruling in Muslim countries, so non-violent Muslims do their best to live their lives as good as they can, but those who can't hold the stress (might) end up as what you called "violent Muslims" or leave their countries (and even among those some get indoctrinated by the wide spread wahhabi sympathizers). So the point is that you can only make an end of this stress by a change in those countries, some regimes already made small steps towards what one could call democracy. And I think non-violent Muslims could refer to the following (linked) Verse.

And Allah knows best!

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    @Toskan I've been in Egypt days before it started and asked people about the situation in the country and I'm still in contact with many Egyptian people. In the first free election in Egypt people have chosen a man from the Muslim brotherhood so they were expecting good things to come from them. If you think that my points are weak then you are welcome to add or discuss others. I've discussed them with Muslims and non-Muslims, so I have a good feeling that I pointed out the most common points! You seem to judge Islam from a non-Muslim point of view, so maybe you don't understand your religion!
    – Medi1Saif
    Commented Apr 25, 2016 at 7:25
  • @Toskan it's necessary to try to understand or study to find the sources of a disease to be able to heal it. And pretending that all Muslims are nice guys and all non-radical Muslims don't sympathize with them would be a clear lie.
    – Medi1Saif
    Commented May 30, 2016 at 9:14
  • So there's no offensive jihad?
    – Hisham
    Commented Jul 3, 2023 at 20:36
  • @Maalik I nowhere denied that offensive Jihad may be legitimate I've just answered the question based on the verses that were presented for discussion. But even for such a case there are rulings to follow.
    – Medi1Saif
    Commented Jul 4, 2023 at 6:37
  1. Every book needs a guider.
  2. Quran itself says that it needs an interpreter, to exactly avoid such confusions
  3. Quran has 6236 verses, it's a TERRIBLE mistake to take out a single verse without cross checking its meaning with the other 6235 verses. Something which ignorant people do and then kill people. I mean why doesn't this question include the other verses of Quran which say that you should socialize with the Christians!?
  4. If you tell your child to buy milk today, does that mean he has to buy milk every day? If a general tells his soldiers to bombard the Syrians in Damascus, does that mean that the soldiers would have to bombard every Syrian for eternity? Absolutely not!!! Same goes for Quran... the verses mentioned are pointing out to a specific time, place and people and such an instruction has been given by a divine figure! Meaning normal people can't give such instructions in today's world...and yet they do!!
  5. Usually the violent verses are concerning a group of people who fought the prophet, or had peace but broke their peace treaties
  6. In addition:

The prophet himself was attacked on numerous occasions. There were many assassination attempts against him. Why? Well imagine there was tyrant who has been killing people for years. Have control over all the economics. Suddenly a humble, loving leader rises and people find hope in following him. Well what does the tyrant do at this moment? He's going to bribe him at first. Then he's going to threaten. Then's he's going to attempt to assassinate him. If none of that works then he will go at war against him. If the tyrant can't take this loving person of the surface of earth, then he's doomed. All the people will go away from him and he will lose his position and wealth.

Because of this turbulent time, there were harsh verses against these people. Some of them even wrote peace treaties with Prophet Muhammad then broke those treaties by killing some Muslims. Then a verse came and said, kill them where you find them.

Imagine if America was having a war with N.Korea and then they wrote a peace treaty. Then a few days later N.Korea soldiers kill some Americans in S.Korea. They are basically peace breakers and never to be trusted again. Just as an example see what America did against the middle east after 9/11. They literally put the entire region in chaos.

Additionally these two verses are very enlightening:

وَقَاتِلُوا فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ الَّذِينَ يُقَاتِلُونَكُمْ وَلَا تَعْتَدُوا ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يُحِبُّ الْمُعْتَدِينَ

Fight in the way of Allah those who fight you but do not transgress. Indeed. Allah does not like transgressors. Baqara : 190

1. Do not transgress: Don't let any innocent be killed, ie if they nuke your cities, don't nuke their cities back, that would kill innocent people. If they attack a person then only seek justice for 1 person, don't attack all of them.

وَاقْتُلُوهُمْ حَيْثُ ثَقِفْتُمُوهُمْ وَأَخْرِجُوهُم مِّنْ حَيْثُ أَخْرَجُوكُمْ ۚ

And kill them wherever you overtake them and expel them from wherever they have expelled you Baqara : 191

they have expelled you : The assumption is that the attackers are people who have invaded your lands, shunned you out of your lands. Imagine today America is attacked by Mexico...America should only seek to kick Mexico out of its borders and that's it. America shouldn't try to claim the capital of Mexico and all other cities...

فَمَنِ اعْتَدَىٰ عَلَيْكُمْ فَاعْتَدُوا عَلَيْهِ بِمِثْلِ مَا اعْتَدَىٰ عَلَيْكُمْ ۚ وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ وَاعْلَمُوا أَنَّ اللَّهَ مَعَ الْمُتَّقِينَ

So whoever has assaulted you, then assault him in the same way that he has assaulted you. And fear Allah and know that Allah is with those who fear Him Baqara : 194

in the same way as mentioned, don't escalate the battle. In all battles at the time of the prophet, wars were began by a Muslim preacher calling men (from the opposite army) to God. Some of the opposing army ran away from their army, some joined the prophet's army...until the attacking army started to loosen their arrows...may point is the prophet didn't want to battle they simply wanted to preach to God/Allah, but once they were attacked, then well it's a battle.

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    Total number of verses in Quran is not 6666. Its around 6,236. You can check the wikipedia for reference.
    – user14305
    Commented Mar 9, 2016 at 9:01
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    @TheIronKnuckle In Shia Islam, Generally The official interpreter is the Imam of its time. Currently we believe that he is in occultation, yet his presence is as affective as the sun behind the clouds. But what can we do if he is occulted? We can seek guidance from previous narrations mentioned by the infallible Imams. Having that said do you need an official interpreter for telling you 2+2 =4? Surely you don't need one. For the same reason you are likely to not need an interpreter for every verse. You can read other verses and put them together cautiously.
    – Thaqalain
    Commented Jan 18, 2017 at 14:05
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    @TheIronKnuckle (If the miracle of Islam ie Quran was to need an interpreter for every verse you want to read then it would be of no practical use. The knowledge to reflect/contemplate Quran is out there, if one has a humble heart he will learn it correctly, but if one doesn't then he can do many things un-attributable to Quran and Islam). For sunnis as far as I can tell, their official interpreter are their greatest scholars—which do no claim to be infallible. Actually Sunnis claim no one is infallible...
    – Thaqalain
    Commented Jan 18, 2017 at 14:09
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    @TheIronKnuckle as a result of Shias and Sunnis having different officials ( in present day and 1400 years ago ) their whole worldview and way of understanding Quran is different. Not 100% different but 20-30% difference...enough to make a difference on some matters
    – Thaqalain
    Commented Jan 18, 2017 at 14:09
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    @TheIronKnuckle in addition to my first comment:so since Shias don't have an official non-occulting leader. if there are debatable subjects then Their best choice is to go to scholars that are knowledgeable on narrations. Still such scholars can't say what I say is the official and correct interpretation... I don't mean Shias( or In general Muslims) are to shut their minds off. All I mean is just as much as the official documentation of Java is its official word, so does stackoverflow exists where there are extremely knowledgeable and intellectual developers interpreting it for some others.
    – Thaqalain
    Commented Jan 18, 2017 at 14:19

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