A common trend that I have observed in discussions about religious terrorism and religious violence is that the premise that any violent act is said to be a disqualifier for the said act being religious. This is completely untrue and unfounded. This hypothesis is not matched by the observable nature of modern-day religious terrorism and the core scripture within monotheistic faiths and traditions.
Violence as a Disqualifier?
The key question is: does violence disqualify an act from being religious in nature? The answer is no by some scriptural and historic standards, and yes by other non-violent interpretations. Unfortunately, this divide is an intrapersonal position and often from the position of a personal relationship with scriptural understanding and authority. Ultimately, from the early historic periods of religion, violence does not disqualify a religious tradition.
Above: Twitter apologia about violence and religion.
In the above example, the claim is that one violates core Islamic teachings by killing another human-being intentionally. This would mean that Khaled, Hamza, Ali, and even the Prophet Muhammad himself, were in violation of their own teachings, being the first-generation of Muslims. This would also mean that any commands for intentional murder or violence would not be recognised in the Qur’an or any other monotheistic religion, and this is simply not true. And verifiably so.
This position clearly ignores core scripture, differing interpretations, scholarly opinions, and the central figures to the said religion who did engage in violence, sometimes as a religious duty. Obfuscation, denialism, and ignorance do not heed the way to understanding religious violence and terrorism.
Above: Qurtubi tafsir of Holy Qur’an 2:193.
Continuing the example above, in Islamic theology there are multiple theological precedents that place violence as a qualifier for religious worth and duty:
- The Qur’an itself calls for violencetowards a general, and always existent, group of people: the disbelievers. Further, this bracket spills over into categories of paganism, polytheism and idol worships, and hypocritical-munafiq believers. This identifies a religious backing and justification to violent behaviour as a forever-problem, directed towards both Muslims and non-Muslims.
- The Prophet Muhammad lead by example inraids, battles, and violence against those who did not believe, or otherwise rejected, the monotheistic message of Islam, attacked Islam or the Muslims, or other precedents. As did the Prophet’s Companions such as Ali, Abu Bakr, Khaled, and Hamza. To disconnect these examples from the religion of Islam is to ignore the foundational and early Islamic figures that many interpretations deeply held onto.
- In these early Islamic expeditions, which were Prophet-lead and authorised by Allah, violence was seen asa just way of defending as well as spreading the religion. Many battles featured martyrs and “lions of Allah” who fought toe-to-toe with the “enemy.” This violence has religious worth and gained martyrs – those who died in the fighting – direct access to the highest tier of Jannah for a divine Reward, houris or virgins, further incentivizing divine violence.
Islamic terrorist groups revive scriptural understandings of these commandments and examples to justify and continue their terror campaigns. They revive these commands as universal revelation, for all times, to the duty of all Muslims. To use scriptural authority to revive religious violence does not disqualify a violent and otherwise terroristic act from not being religious, religion-based, or spiritual in nature. You cannot rule-out violence as a religious component. This does not only include the aforementioned theological premises in classical Islamic texts but also eschatological precedents such as the genocide of Jews during the Ends of Days.
Violence is clearly a component of the Islamic religion. Arguments in regards to violence usually form around towards what, why, directed by whom, where, and when. To deny the violent components to core scripture, the history of the Prophet Muhammad and his Companions, or Allah’s commands, is obfuscation of the highest order. Being a “murderer” does not disqualify one from being Islamic.
In conclusion, I would like you to adopt the position that religious violence is indeed religious, and can be set upon by spiritual and theological claims. Violence in the form of religious understanding or scripture is not a disqualifier for the said violence being religious in nature.