The Prohibition of Killing Innocent People in Islam: A Misconception

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Not too long ago I had a conversation with a fellow Catholic who told me: “It’s time we Catholics promote that Islam is a religion of peace for unlike its critics, its teachings defend innocent life.” I naturally responded: “With all do respect, I beg to differ.” He then took it upon himself to show me from his smartphone a link of Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the Muslim cleric who was behind the proposal to build a mosque at Ground Zero where the towers fell. In it, Rauf sustained that Islam was against killing innocent people and that the real battle was not between Muslims and non-Muslims but against moderates and extremists of different faiths. Given the recent events in the Islamic world where once again Islam is presented as a religion of peace, I felt it is necessary to present a brief summary from a segment of my book (Islam: Religion of Peace? — The Violation of Natural Rights and Western Cover-Up) to demonstrate that it is not.

Many Muslim scholars and other apologists who argue that the murder of innocent people committed by jihadists in the name of Islam was never ordained by the Prophet present this Quranic verse: “If anyone slays [kills] a person, it would be as if he slew the whole people, and if anyone saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people.” What is misleading about this is that this verse, as presented, does not exist anywhere in the Quran. It is, instead, a distorted version of verse 32 of the fifth sura, which states: “For that cause, We decreed upon the Children of Israel that whoever kills a soul unless for a soul or for corruption [done] in the land; it is as if he had slain mankind entirely. And whoever saves one; it is as if he had saved mankind entirely. And our messengers had certainly come to them with clear proofs.” On a side note, whoever wrote this segment in the Quran got the words directly from Judaism, specifically the Mishna Sanhedrin (c.190–230 AD).

The ordinance is in reference, as per the preceding verses, to the killing of Abel by his brother Cain. Verse 32, which begins “for that cause” (reason), meaning “for the reason Cain killed Abel,” is followed by the decree given to “the Children of Israel” (i.e., the Jews) who, according to Muslims, received an earlier set of scriptures. Effectively speaking, this is applied to Muslims who as the new chosen people should not kill other Muslims. The verse likewise sanctions killing as an act of vengeance against those who kill or cause disharmony in the umma. Based on the two verses that follow (33–34), what appears on the surface to be a peaceful message is in reality a warning:

Indeed, the penalty for those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger and strive upon earth [to cause] corruption is none but that they be killed or crucified or that their hands and feet be cut off from opposite sides or that they be exiled from the land. That is for them a disgrace in this world; and for them in the Hereafter is a great punishment; Except for those who repent before you apprehend them. And know that Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.—Sura 5, 33–34

The Islamic scholars Muhammad Ibn Jarīr al-Ṭabari (839 — 923) and Abu Abdullah al-Qurtubi (1214 — 1273) both say that the intended meaning of verse 32 refers to the killing of a soul of particular spiritual importance, such as a prophet or a “just imam,” or it stems from the point of view of the murdered individual. It is quite apparent that the pseudo-verse 32 as presented by apologists is misleading because it is not just out of context, but it is deliberately abbreviated in order to deceive those not familiar with the Quran (to say nothing of the hadiths that encourage violence). The verse in its entirety implies that when someone incites sedition or commits murder, killing him is justified. In the eyes of Muslims, all non-Muslims who do not submit to Allah’s teachings as proclaimed by the Prophet are “spreading corruption.” They are considered to be outside of the fold and not innocent (i.e., a threat to the Islamic community) and therefore can be seen as enemies of Islam, whereby they can become legitimate targets to be killed:  “I am with you, so strengthen those who have believed. I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieved, so strike [them] upon the necks and strike from them every fingertip.” (Sura 8, 12) This, however, does not apply to Muslims, for killing another (innocent) Muslim would be synonymous to killing all humankind.

Of course, there are Muslims who are against the killing of innocent people and are opposed to the oppressive sharia norms. Islam teaches otherwise. Non-Muslims who are seen as enemies of Allah, including Muslims who are seen as “progressives” by so-called hardliners, that must be wiped out? Those non-Muslims, considered kafirs (infidels) had to pay the jizya (a tax) if he retained his faith. If he did not pay, he had to be killed:

Fight in the name of Allah and in the way of Allah. Fight against those who disbelieve in Allah. Make a holy war.… When you meet your enemies who are polytheists, invite them to three courses of action.… If they refuse to migrate, tell them that they will have the status of Bedouin Muslims and will be subjected to the Commands of Allah like other Muslims, but they will not get any share from the spoils of war or except when they actually fight with the Muslims (against the disbelievers). If they refuse to accept Islam, demand from them the jizya. If they agree to pay, accept it from them and hold off your hands. If they refuse to pay the tax, seek Allah‘s help and fight them.Sahih Muslim, Book 19, hadith 4294 

The common concurrence is that verse 256 was tied to a unique historical situation and simply fell out of use since it was no longer relevant. The fourteenth-century Quranic exegete Ismael Ibn Kathir sustained that the bearing of this verse cannot be absolute because Muhammad, in his campaign against the polytheists, did not give them the option of remaining idolaters or paying the jizya. Fakhr al-Din al-Razi explained that not only were the Arabs coerced to give up their idol worship, but the freedom to become a Jew or Christian under the protected status of—[t]here is no coercion in religion, cannot be sustained, especially in light that—every soul in the heavens and the earth has submitted to Him [Allah], willingly or by compulsion [karh]. —Sura 3, 83 

The problem is not between moderates and extremists of different faiths, as Feisal Abdul Rauf suggested — ever thought twice about your safety with an extremist Amish or Quaker who are pacifists? I dare  to say, NO! The problem lies in the Quranic doctrine itself, which teaches to kill innocent people, i.e., wipe out those of us who do not submit to Allah, for then we are not innocent until proven guilty but rather guilty until proven innocent.

N.B. Sources in this article can be found in author’s book Islam: Religion of Peace? — The Violation of Natural Rights and Western Cover-Up. I invite everyone to please take a look at my book . Everything you wanted to know about Islam and what you can do to keep it from taking over our society is in this book!

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