Islam does not condone the killing of any human being.
The Quran could not be more categorical – it says that killing one man is akin to killing the whole of mankind, and saving one man is akin to saving the whole of mankind1.
Fighting in Islam is only permitted in self-defense and under strict conditions.
What are those conditions? We need to take a look at the Quran and the examples of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) to understand.
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) faced severe persecution in his hometown of Mecca, including a three-year starvation period from which the Prophet’s wife Khadija later died. The Muslims did not fight the persecutors but instead migrated from Mecca to the Jewish city of Medina. However, the extremists who tried to kill Muhammad (peace be upon him) in Mecca followed him to Medina.
It is only in such circumstances that the Quran2 gave Muslims the permission to fight in self-defense. When the Quran says “kill them where you find them”, “them” refers to the terrorists who persecuted Muslims due to their faith, drove them out of their homes, and then pursued them to Medina with the goal to kill all Muslims.
Importantly, this permission granted in the Quran was not just to defend the Muslims from persecution, but to also defend the “cloisters and churches and synagogues and mosques wherein the name of God is oft remembered.”
ISIS must have something to do with Islam?
As a religious scholar who has extensively studied the Quran and Islamic history, I can say with certainty that the actions of ISIS do not represent the teachings of Islam. In fact, they are binary opposites.
Muhammad (peace be upon him) guaranteed universal freedom of religion, so much so that he invited the Christians of Najran to Medina and allowed them to pray in the Nabawi Mosque where Muslims also prayed. Muhammad (peace be upon him) gave the Christians a written guarantee that he would protect their lives, property and freedom to practice Christianity.
Now compare this with the actions of ISIS who are destroying Churches, forcing Christians to convert to Islam, and evicting them from places they have lived in for thousands of years.
The difference could not be clearer.
It does not come as a surprise to me when Evangelical Christian leaders met Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Rev. Johnnie Moore pleaded:
“All we want is for what it was like when the Prophet Muhammad himself was alive, which was a very pluralistic region. There were Christians and Jews, there were synagogues and there were churches.”
In 2014 two convicted terrorists from the United Kingdom, Yusuf Sarwar and Mohammad Ahmed, ordered two books from Amazon before they set out for Syria. So little was their knowledge of Islam and the Quran, that they purchased the books ‘Islam for Dummies’ and ‘The Koran for Dummies’ before leaving for Syria.
The best defense against the radicalisation of vulnerable youth is a sound understanding of the Holy Quran and the life of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).