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I have heard from several sources that the Koran or some other Islamic text instructs the followers of Islam to deal "death to the infidel," and presumably all non-believers in Islam would be infidels. Is this true? or is this make-believe or masked bigotry? If it is true, it would shed some light on why there is so much hatred by Muslims of the United States - something I have difficulty understanding. I'd be interested in whatever knowledge there is out there.


I don't believe the Koran specifically speaks of jihad. This came later. I'm going to quote one of my books on Islam and see if this helps.

"In practice, Islam is a strikingly simple religion. It requires just five things (the Five Pillars). First and central to all, is the shahada, the declaration that "there is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet."

Second, there are the daily prayers. Five times daily according to Sunnis, three according to Shiites. Third, a Muslim must fast from sunrise to sunset during the month of Ramadan. Fourth, the Muslim must give alms to the poor. Lastly, there is the hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca, which every Muslim must perform once in a lifetime if possible.

If someone follows these rules, then no one can say he is not a Muslim. Of course there are hypocrites and bad Muslims, but that is between them and Allah. As with all religions there are some rules which are stretched or simply ignored. In fact Islam is built even more than most religion on a set of certainties. There is no God but Allah, The Koran is the word of Allah, a wise Muslim is equipped to lead a completely satisfactory life, and give others guidance.

This interpratation of what's right can cause fundamental disagreements, and splits in Islam. (see below)

For people used to thinking in terms of Christianity, Islam can be compared, very loosely to the most austere forms of Protestantism. It has rules, but little hierarchy. Muslims deal with Allah directly, not through priests and popes. Strictly speaking Islam does not even have priests, just teachers and scholars. Only prophets relay the word of Allah directly, and Mohammed was the last prophet. there were many previous prophets, including Noah, Abraham and Jesus, who are considered by Muslims to have been divinely inspired but mortal.

Teachers or sheikhs, are experts in the rules of Islam. Scholars, the Ulama remind the world of Islamically correct way to behave. Semi secular leaders include the mullars and Shiite ayatollahs. The caliph was "Commander of the Faithful". Mohammed is regarded with vast respect but not worshipped. He himself always emphasized he was mortal and fallible.

Jihad as a sixth pillar of Islam came about later during the question of succession after Mohammed's death in 632 AD.

Mohammed had made no clear statement on how matters were to be arranged after him. Had he left a living son, then his realm might have been treated according to traditional laws of inheritance. As it was, the new faith fell into controversy.

The minority, the Shiites supported Ali, Mohammed's cousin, husband of his daughter Fatima, and one of his first followers. However the majority, the Sunnis, backed Abu Bakr, one of Mohammed's father in laws, who became khalifa or "deputy" caliph.

Abu Bakr died after a few years, to be succeeded by Omar, who himself died in 644, to be replaced by Uthman, of the Umayyad family. Uthman survived until 655, but then was murdered by court enemies.

Ali finally got his chance. While he had widespread support, he also had enemies, including Uthman's aristocratic kinsman, Mu'awiya, who hinted darkly about the murder of Uthman. Ali eventually accepted the suggestion of arbitration on his claim.

Some felt that this was a immoral compromise. "Judgment" they said "belong to Allah alone." These Khawarj (or Suceders) murdered Ali, regretting only they had failed to slay his rival as well. They proclaimed that jihad or holy war, was the sixth pillar of Islam, and declared it against anyone who opposed them. To them, any caliph who committed any kind of sin was disqualified from the throne, as a sinner was automatically not a Muslim.

The Umayyad dynasty then succeeded Mohammed. This is the basis for the split between Sunnis and Shiites, and there thought of jihad against sinners (or infidels).

Now Islam is often thought of as actively seeking converts. This is misleading. There are hints in the Koran that Islam was specifically a religion for Arabs. On the other hand, the Islam is not intolerant. The Koran declares no one can be forced to believe.

In particular, the tradition grew up of not persecuting Jews and Christians, who followed prophets honored in the Koran and who worshipped the One God. However these "People of the Book" were never on par with Muslims. Muslim lands also often had a number of "free thinkers", and these were tolerated provided they were tactful.

Then came the Crusades...
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