It began with this paragraph:
"Why does the Islamic State engage in beheadings and crucifixions? Of course, the practice of beheading is invoked in the Koran, but only the most extreme Islamic militants carry it out in the modern day."It then went on to explain beheading as a weapon of terror in psychological warfare and to discuss whether it was logically speaking an effective strategy, the discussion of which I have no particular issue, but many people don't get past reading a headline and the first paragraph, and here I strongly object and lay out evidence to prove it is factually incorrect to state that the Quran invokes beheading.
I feel this is particularly important at such a time because these acts of barbarism are indeed horrific and must be stopped. I accepted The Quran as truth some ten years ago and I strongly believe that these young men who commit such atrocious acts are a victim of their own ignorance. Such ignorance needs exposing and Muslims everywhere need to be clear amongst themselves and to the wider community that beheading (and other acts of barbarism) play no role whatsoever in Islam and in fact stand against everything Islamic which has at its core a message of 'salam' (peace) and humanity.
I therefore asked the author via Twitter where in the Quran he was referring to regarding the invocation of beheading.
Shashank replied that 8.12 is the most famous example. He also pointed out that the term he used was 'invoked' not 'endorsed' and then went on to explain (in reply to someone else) that the Islamic State claims scriptural legitimacy.
But I believe that the Islamic State has no scriptural legitimacy at all regarding such an act, rather the opposite, and whilst the act of beheading is certainly 'not endorsed' in the Quran, it is not 'invoked' either.
Definition of Invoke
: to mention (someone or something) in an attempt to make people feel a certain way or have a certain idea in their mind
: to refer to (something) in support of your ideas
: to make use of (a law, a right, etc.)
Fist let me start with the verse at 8.12 in the Quran, but let's look at it in its entirety rather than take part of a sentence out of context which has been misinterpreted. This verse is from a chapter entitled 'Battle Gains' in which famous The Battle of Badr, is discussed in which it is known the Muslims were greatly outnumbered, and yet the Muslims won. This surah was sent to remind the Muslims, after the battle, that it was God (not might) who brought them victory, despite their lesser numbers.
This following translation is by M.A.S Abdel Haleem:
[8.9]"When you begged your Lord for help, He answered you, 'I will reinforce you with a thousand angels in succession.' [8.10]God made this a message of hope to reassure your hearts: help comes from God, He is mighty and wise. [8.11]Remember when He gave you sleep as a reassurance from Him, and sent down water from the sky to cleanse you, to remove Satan's pollution from you, to make your hearts strong and your feet firm. [8.12]Your Lord revealed to the angels: 'I am with you: give the believers firmness; I shall put fear into the hearts of the disbelievers - strike above their necks and strike all their fingers.'
This was clearly God talking to 'the angels' regarding striking the disbelievers with fear. It was certainly not a command for the Muslims to start chopping people's heads off. This passage is mentioned here as a reminder to the Muslims, after the battle, that it was God who put fear into their opponents, which resulted in the outcome of victory to the Muslims.
Later on in the same chapter the Muslims are commanded to incline towards peace as soon as those attacking do so:
But if they incline towards peace, you must also incline towards it, and put your trust in God: He is the All Hearing, the All Knowing.
There is a second verse that I found is often referred to in the Quran when talking about beheading, surah (chapter) 47:4. This chapter again deals with the difficult issues of war - something the peaceful amongst us, including I, would rather avoid - but the Quran does not avoid guidance on the most difficult of matters which are very much a part of the world.
The translation by M.A.S.Abdek Haleem reads as follows:
When you meet the disbelievers in battle, strike them in the neck, and once they are defeated, bind any captives firmly - later you can release them by grace or by ransom - until the toils of war have ended.
There are those that argue this is an instruction regarding the face to face combat specific at that time, during battle, and that the order was not to behead but 'strike in the neck', and if it was to behead then why would the verse then talk about what to do with the captives (since if they had been beheaded they would not be alive). I think this is valid argument and this alone should give one serious food for thought before concluding that Islamic scripture invokes the beheading of non-believers - or anyone at all at any time for that matter.
However, regarding this particular scripture, I think there is another translation that has not been considered. I must confess at this point that I am not a scholar of Arabic, rather I have a basic knowledge of the Arabic alphabet and basic vocabulary, but I find the Quran Word By Word site extremely helpful http://corpus.quran.com/wordbyword.jsp and I have also read several discussions regarding interpretations and explanations of key words regarding this and some other controversial verses.
For a word by word translation of 47:4 see here http://corpus.quran.com/wordbyword.jsp?chapter=47&verse=4
It is the words at 47:4:5 and 47:4:6 that I suggest may be translated differently to all current translations that I could find, that would be more in keeping with the theme of the rest of the verse which talks about what to do with prisoners of war. The word 'fa darba' فَضَرْبَ here is translated as 'then strike'. The word 'darba' stems from the route drb ض ر ب and can actually be translated in many different ways depending on context I have come to learn (as can many/most Arabic words). It is the same route as that which is used to describe the striking/parting of the sea by Moses in 26:63:5. One different translation I have come to understand that could be applied in this instance is 'to separate'.
The exact word 'l-riqābi' الرِّقَابِ, here translated as 'necks', is used in two other locations in the Quran and on both those occasions it refers to slaves/captives. Similarly, raqabatin رَقَبَةٍ is used in 6 locations and in all cases it refers to slaves/captives. In no other place could I find this word to mean 'neck' in the Quran, it therefore seems much more fitting that this word be translated in this instance as 'captives'.
The translation I therefore suggest as a more correct translation is:
'So when you meet those who disbelieve, separate the captives until you have subdued them'.(Note I am as of yet undecided on the correct translation of the word here translated as 'those who disbelieve' but that is not the key point in this discussion).
Furthermore, I suggest that this entire verse talks about the protection of captives, rather than taking revenge on them, as the following verses go on to explain that God could have ordered punishment for them but didn't, so as to test us, and that we don't need to worry about those Muslims who have been killed since their deeds will not be forgotten and they will go to Paradise.
After reaching this conclusion and nearly finishing this post, I came across this, which actually suggests almost exactly the same translation as I:
http://www.quran434.com/wife-beating-islam.html which is also an area that has been mistranslated and misunderstood, and certainly not condoned in Islam (although a topic for another day).
I love Islam, because it is a religion of humanity and peace. It is the religion where you say 'Salam' to the people you meet, even when someone annoys you, especially to the people that annoy you. It is the religion that encourages you to repel evil with something good. It is a religion that considers killing even one human being as being equal to the killing all of mankind. It is the religion that warns you of the risk of Hell for even the maltreatment of an animal and forbids even the cutting down of trees during war. When I come across a preaching that goes against peace, the wholeness of humankind, the importance of every single man, woman and child regardless of colour or status, the respect for every person regardless of religion, the protection of minorities (I could go on) then I instinctively know it is wrong and if it is based on scripture then there has been an elementary misunderstanding or mistranslation of that scripture (which will always happen when reading with a closed heart, due to the vast range of the Arabic language and political objectives).
I know there are several other disputed verses in the Quran that people use to try and suggest otherwise, and in the coming weeks insha'Allah I shall attempt to address some of those verses too.