Is Islam a peace-loving religion

"Islam equals violence"

Islam and violence - the question of whether the terror of the so-called Islamic State or the acts of violence by Al Qaida or Boko Haram can be justified Islam-theologically, whether they are based on Islam itself the Topic of the last few weeks, maybe even the last few months and years. For example, the October issue of the magazine “Cicero” asked: “Is the Is Islam evil? ”Even if there is a question mark here, one is just a question mark away from the statement that Islam is evil - and author Martin Meyer comes to this conclusion only a few lines further. He makes use of the famous sentence, because once quoted by Pope Benedict: “Show me what new Mohammed has brought, and there you will only find bad and inhumane things like this, that he prescribed the faith that he preached through that Spreading the sword. ”[1] Meyer's conclusion: ISIS actually only does what the prophet himself was a role model for the Muslims.

Even in “Die Zeit” with its much broader readership, it doesn't read much better: Here the Palestinian-Israeli psychologist Ahmed Mansour claims, without being contradicted, that the content of IS is based on mainstream Islam, which many Muslims practice in Germany. [2] And Hamed Abdel-Samad also claims in “Die Zeit”: “That religious law is supreme is accepted not only by Islamists, but by many pious Muslims.” [3] Yes, indeed, he is right. But the conclusion that he draws from this is fatal: "This is one of the reasons why ISIS was able to conquer cities of over a million with just a few thousand fighters."

If you think that way, it is only logical to make the demand everywhere that Muslims must distance themselves from the Islamic State - one has only just argued that Muslims are fundamentally close to IS terrorism. Two things are particularly bizarre for me: Why do you think that German Muslims are closer to those Muslims who persecute Yazidis and Christians than to those who rush to their aid and give them shelter? Because it is precisely Muslims who are trying to put an end to the so-called Islamic State. Apparently the word has not yet got around: The fight against the Islamic State is what it is Not a struggle between the West and the Muslims. After all, it is first and foremost Sunni Arabs who fight the IS terrorist gang in Syria in the Free Syrian Army, as well as Sunni Kurds and Shiite Arabs who are doing so in Iraq. They take in the Christian and Yazidi refugees there and care for them under the most difficult conditions - because, despite all the rhetoric that Western culture is based on Christian-Jewish civilization, not even willingly, “the West” is one of the most central Christian commandments to fulfill, which is: to help those in need. The situation of the refugees is catastrophic and an injustice that screams to heaven.

The ignorance of the critics of Islam

Just as strange about the debate about Islam and violence is that the so vehemently demanded distancing are hardly registered when they take place, just as if one did not want to believe that they exist. After September 11th, 2001, we had the same phenomenon. Even then, even when tens of thousands of Muslims took to the streets in Cologne, it was still said: "You are not distancing yourself."

Today, both the Muslim umbrella organizations and the Shura in Hamburg have repeatedly distanced themselves from the IS murderer gang. Likewise, the professors of Islamic theology have clearly taken a position on the atrocities: "We strictly reject interpretations of Islam that pervert it into an archaic ideology of hatred and violence," the statement said. [4] The Islamic authorities as well as decidedly conservative-traditionalist circles have condemned this organization as all around barbaric and un-Islamic. This even applies to the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Abdul Asis bin Abdullah al-Sheikh, who so far has not attracted too much liberalism.

But if critics of Islam ignore these positions and thus Islamic theology and still claim that Islam is close to IS terror, then - it must be said - their image of Islam corresponds almost exactly to that of the fundamentalists.

Examples of such a defamatory image of Islam can not only be found in the press, but are widespread. Just to pick out an example at random: In the publication of a citizens' initiative that is directed against the construction of a mosque in Hesse, it says: In view of the developments surrounding the terrorist organizations IS, Boko Haram and Al Qaida, it is incomprehensible that a mosque should be built. "That all these excesses should have nothing to do with Islam can only be believed by those who have decided to believe ex officio: ignorant politicians."

However, such an image of Islam has little to do with the Islam of the vast majority of Muslims and their authorities in this country. This Islam, especially mainstream Islam, which is said to contain the content of IS terrorism, is to be looked at more closely in the following.

There is clear opposition to IS terrorism

In order to give an insight into the attitude of this Islam to violence, the recently published letter from over 120 well-known scholars to the followers of the so-called Islamic State is particularly instructive. [5] Most of these scholars come from a conservative spectrum of Islam and are not modern reformers or Islamic enlighteners. Instead, they deal with the ideology and references to the Quran of ISIS within a decidedly orthodox thought structure. Accordingly, it cannot easily be placed in a certain corner as westernized; Nor can one accuse them of not being listened to by the masses anyway.

Among the authors is the Grand Mufti of Egypt, Sheikh Shawqi Allam, as well as Sheikh Ahmad Al-Kubaisi, the founder of the Ulama Association of Iraq. Among them are scholars from Chad via Nigeria to Sudan and Pakistan. Obviously they need Islamic theology to position itself clearly against the terrorists. How else can one explain why Islamic scholars write to terrorists? They explicitly oppose the claim that IS will implement what is “written in the Koran”, as an IS man who is recruiting new followers in Turkey recently put it in a conversation with “Spiegel Online” ] The 25-page letter is addressed to Ibrahim Awwad al-Badri, alias "Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi" and to the fighters and supporters of the self-proclaimed "Islamic State". It also addresses those Muslims who the authors fear may fall into the clutches of IS propaganda. Al-Baghdadi, born in Iraq in 1971, who names himself after the first caliph of Islam, Abu Bakr, and who with the addition of al-Baghdadi asserts his claim to Baghdad, the capital of the Abbasid caliphs, is named as the caliph by the authors however not addressed. Because, according to the authors, according to Islamic law, the proclamation of a caliphate, i.e. the political successor to the prophet, can only take place in consensus with all Muslims.

The authors name a total of 24 offenses of which the so-called Islamic State is guilty: “It is forbidden in Islam to kill emissaries, ambassadors and diplomats; therefore it is also forbidden to kill all journalists and development workers. ”Or:“ It is forbidden in Islam to harm Christians and all other writers - in any way imaginable - or to abuse them. ”Or:“ Jihad is a part of Islam Defensive war. It is forbidden without the right reasons, the right goals and without the right behavior. "Or:" It is forbidden in Islam to force people to convert. "Or:" The reintroduction of slavery is forbidden in Islam. It was abolished by universal consensus. ”And:“ It is forbidden in Islam to deny women their rights. ”

Detailed reasons are given for each of these statements. For example, the authors describe it as the duty of all Muslims to regard the Yazidis as owners of scriptures: “From an Islamic point of view, these people are majus, about whom the prophet [...] said: 'Treat them like the scripture owners.'” It was accordingly illegitimate to declare them unbelievers or even to treat them as outlawed. With footnotes it is neatly documented where the quotations come from. In this case, the hadith can be found with Imam Malik and Imam ash-Shafi’i, two of the four founders of the four Sunni schools of law, and therefore the greatest authorities.

The authors also go into the prerequisites for Islamic jurisprudence and thus indirectly deny the self-appointed caliph any authority and competence to make legally binding statements. For, according to the authors of the letter, the methodology laid down in the Koran by God and in the hadiths by the Prophet Mohammed is: Everything that has been revealed on a particular issue must be considered in its entirety. The focus must not be on individual fragments. This methodology is evident from Scripture itself, including the following verse: "Do you believe in only part of the book and deny the other?" (2:85)

When all relevant passages are brought together, the “general” must be distinguished from the “specific”, the “conditioned” from the “absolute” and the unambiguous verses from the ambiguous. Thereupon the "Occasions of Revelation", the asbab al-nuzul, for all of these verses, as well as any other hermeneutic conditions established by the classical scholars. Only then is justice pronounced or an interpretation given based on all available written sources.

In other words, one cannot interpret a verse without observing the entire Koran and all traditions. The letter says: "It is not permitted [...] to just pick the cherry on the cake from the verses of the Koran without understanding them in their overall context." The authors of the letter see it as a duty to include all texts as much as possible to reconcile with each other. They refer to Imam al-Shafi‘i and to a universal consensus among all scholars of legal theory.

The Koran is not a license to use violence

In this context, the authors also deal with those verses of the Koran that seem to legitimize violence: "Those who are being fought were allowed to fight because they were wronged." (22:39) Mostly they are These and similar verses of the second sura, which critics of Islam cite in the negative and jihadists in the positive, in order to prove the alleged willingness or necessity of violence inherent in Islam. In contrast, the authors of the letter refer these verses exclusively to a specific event - precisely because they have included all other texts and, above all, the cause of revelation in the interpretation.

Consequently, the verse only deals with the following concrete situation: In 630 the prophet marched into Mecca to fight the pagan Meccans, thereby breaking a peace treaty that he himself had concluded two years earlier. His actions required legitimation, which is provided by the verse: The Meccans could be fought because they had previously sinned against the prophet's community. They had driven his followers away and wanted to kill him themselves. A general instruction for all Muslims cannot therefore be derived from the verse. The authors explain: “Therefore, jihad is linked to a lack of security, the deprivation of freedom of religion or fraud and eviction from one's own country. These verses were revealed after thirteen years of torture, murder, and persecution at the hands of idolaters. There is no offensive and aggressive jihad just because people belong to a different religion or have a different opinion. "

This reading is by no means modern or inspired by the West. Because here a method is used that has existed in Islamic sciences for centuries. A whole branch of it is concerned with the aforementioned occasions for revelation. So one has always assumed a dialectical relationship between text and addressee and researched the context into which a verse was revealed in order to better understand its meaning and scope. An individual case like the one described in the verse cannot serve as a precedent for other similar situations. Although Islamic law is essentially determined by thinking in terms of precedents, as the authors of the letter put it: "It is not permitted to relate a certain verse of the Koran to an event that happened 1400 years after its revelation."

One thing is certain - and this is clearly shown in the letter: Islamic theology has sufficient argumentative resources to oppose the so-called Islamic State.

Martin Rhonheimer, professor of ethics and political philosophy at the Pontifical University of Santa Croce in Rome, recently claimed the opposite in a widely read article in the “Neue Zürcher Zeitung”. Rhonheimer wrote: “IS is not a heresy, [...] but acts exactly according to the pattern of warlike Islamic expansion that has recurred in history. The model is Mohammed himself. The basis of legitimation are the Koran and Islamic law, the Sharia. ”And further:“ This is where the theological plight of Muslim intellectuals is based: because of their religious tradition, they cannot condemn IS terrorism in principle. ”[7] Man could almost think that the more than 120 scholars wrote their letter in response to Rhonheimer's allegations.

But despite the enlightened attitude towards the self-proclaimed Islamic State, there is still enough problematic in the approach of the letter writers from a liberal-modernist point of view. Because even if they bind the use of corporal punishment to strict criteria, the more than 120 authors adhere to their validity. They also turn against sexual violence when they criticize the reintroduction of slavery and disapprove of the fact that the Islamic State is depriving women of their rights. But one looks in vain for a commitment to equal rights in the letter. As far as women's rights are concerned, the authors are clearly still stuck in traditional structures. A much clearer position must be taken here and it must be made clear that corporal punishment and gender discrimination in the 21st century are not only incompatible with the values ​​of the West, but also with the ethos of Islam.

Other Islamic thinkers have already done this and called for equality. As a women's rights activist, for example, one can argue with the spirit that speaks from the Koranic provisions or the maqasid ash-shari‘a, the goals of religion. The reasoning can be as follows: The Koran has improved the situation of women. For example, he forbids the killing of female infants, which was common at the time. And he granted daughters half of the inheritance that their sons got. According to this approach, however, full equality could not be established because this would not have been conveyable to the society of the time. But through the improvement that has taken place, the goal of prophecy can be clearly seen. And in this sense, equality must be achieved today. With this approach one can also find a solution for sura 4:34, the so-called chastisement verse - the verse that apparently legitimizes violence against women: precisely because of the situation prevailing at the time, violence against women could not be abolished, but the goal of prophecy emerges solely from the fact that the Prophet, therefore the first interpreter of the Koran, never struck his wives.

Significantly more liberal thinkers than the authors of the letter to IS have developed other methodologies to carry the message of the Koran into the present day, such as the method of the so-called Double movement of the Pakistani Fazlur Rahman. According to him, one must first study the context in which the Koran was preached; this is the only way to understand the original message. From this, in a second movement, the principles and values ​​that the Koran propagates as the norm can be derived.

Like the authors of the letter, Rahman also criticizes an approach to exegesis that regards the Koran as a series of isolated verses and thus fails to convey an understanding of the Koranic worldview. He wrote that many Muslims did not understand that the Koran was a unit; instead, they proceeded atomistically. This fragmentary treatment of the Koran has increased in modern times.But Fazlur Rahman, and with him many who were greatly influenced by him, go much further in terms of content than the traditionally thinking writers of the letter - this is how Rahman comes across his Double movement approach to an Islamic justification for a pluralistic theology of religion and not only rejects violence against people of different faiths, but even promises them a place in heaven. [8]

What connects fundamentalists and critics of Islam

As far-reaching as the approaches of the letter writers and the modern-liberal authors may be, the fact is that the traditionally thinking authors of the letter to al-Baghdadi also assume a relationship between revelation and history and insist on the need to create even apparently clear verses to subject them to detailed linguistic and historical interpretation instead of simply taking them literally. In doing so, they consider the Koran in its overall context and always with a view to its history of interpretation. On the other hand, the process of picking out individual verses from the Koran in order to substantiate one's own theses, as practiced by Islamic critics and fundamentalists alike, is grotesque from an Islamic-theological point of view, and even more: it is a sign of complete ignorance. The Koran is not a quarry, and suras ping-pong is not part of the canon of Islamic science.

Fundamentalists, but also the well-known critics of Islam, disregard a 1400 year old scholarship if they assume that the Koran would understand itself without recourse to the elaborate methods of its interpretation. For example, the publicist Necla Kelek's call for Islamic scholarship shows that she has never heard of these methods: “The peace-loving Muslims will be helpless in argumentation towards the fundamentalists as long as they are not ready to include the Koran as historical and The text to be questioned and the doubt to be regarded as legitimate. ”[9] But that is exactly what Islamic scholarship has always done: It regards the Koran in its historical context - and not just since today. An Islam beyond its interpretation by Muslims and Muslim theology, which for their part are extremely heterogeneous, only exists in the fundamentalism of warriors and critics.

[1] See Islam. The totalitarian religion, in: "Cicero", August 19, 2014,

[2] Cf. “The contents of IS are based on mainstream Islam”, interview with Ahmad Mansour,, September 5, 2014.

[3] Hamed Abdel-Samad, The New Wars of Religion,, October 3, 2014.

[4] See "The authority to interpret Islam must not be left to extremists and violent criminals", documentation of the statement at, September 1, 2014.

[6] Hasnain Kazim, recruiter for the “Islamic State” in an interview: “Democracy is for unbelievers”,, 23.10.14.

[7] Martin Rhonheimer, Killing in the Name of Allah, in: "Neue Zürcher Zeitung",, 6.9.2014.

[8] See Fazlur Rahman, Major Themes of the Qur’an, Chicago 1980 and Katajun Amirpur, Re-think Islam. The Jihad for Democracy, Freedom and Women's Rights, Munich 2013, pp. 91-116.

[9] Necla Kelek, Violence and Oppression in Islam. A religion of arbitrariness, in: NZZ,, 20.9.1024.