Are the terrorists who cite the Qur'an distorting the spirit of thereligion or depicting its emphasis accurately? Here are several of theQur'an passages most frequently cited, and analysis from Islamicscholars.
On Jihad or "Holy War"
Chapter 2, verse 190: Fight in the cause of Allah those who fightyou, but do not transgress limits; for Allah loves nottransgressors.
This portion of the Qur'an was written in about 606 C.E., when theProphet Muhammad and his followers were under attack in the city ofMedinah, says Imam Yahya Hendi, a Qur'anic scholar who is the Muslim chaplain at Georgetown University. There, they had established their own state. But various coalitions of non-Muslim tribes--including Christians, Jews, atheists and animists--continued to go to war with them. This portion of the Qur'an explains their reasoning behind striking back.
The passage actually refers to a defensive war. "You fight back. Yougo as far as it takes to stop the aggression but you do not go beyondthat. So if you have to, you go as far as fighting verbally to getsomeone out of your home--but you don't shoot him after he is out. Youdon't keep going on with it--only if you are attacked, if there is anoppression applied to you. The idea is that justice prevails. You don'tfight because you enjoy fighting, but because there is anoppression.
"It could be military force or [in today's world] it could be mediaforce, writing against you. But when the hostilities are over and theenemy offers a peace treaty, you should submit. Muslims are obliged tosubmit to a peace treaty offered by the enemy. You don't keepfighting."
Al-Hajj Talib 'Abdur-Rashid, imam of the Mosque of Islamic Brotherhoodin Harlem, says the word jihad has its origin in the verb jahada whichmeans to struggle, to fight. The word has a few different connotations, since struggle can occur on several levels.
"Muslims understand these levels based not only on the words of Allah in the Qur'an, but also on the authentic statements of the Prophet Muhammad as recorded in our oral traditions, preserved as hadith," he says. According to 'Abdur-Rashid, there are three levels of jihad:
Personal Jihad: The most excellent jihad is that of the soul. This jihad, called the Jihadun-Nafs, is the intimate struggle to purify the soul of satanic influence--both subtle and overt. It is the struggle to cleanse one's spirit of sin. This is the most important level of jihad.
Verbal Jihad: On another occasion, the Prophet said, "The most excellentjihad is the speaking of truth in the face of a tyrant." He encouragedraising one's voice in the name of Allah on behalf of justice.
Physical Jihad: This is combat waged in defense of Muslims against oppression and transgression by the enemies of Allah, Islam and Muslims. We are commanded by Allah to lead peaceful lives and not transgress against anyone, but also to defend ourselves against oppression by "fighting against those who fight against us." This "jihad with the hand" is the aspect of jihad that has been so profoundly misunderstood in today's world.