Islam and Peace

Interpretation/exegesis of religious sources

Vordiplomarbeit, 2005

40 Seiten, Note: gut



1. Introduction

2. What is God?

3. Interpretation/exegesis of religious sources

4. The civilising hexagon
a. State monopoly on the use of force
i. Separation of power
1. Legislative
2. Judicative
3. Executive
b. Constitutional state.
i. The constitution of Medina
c. Interdependency and affect control.
i. Domestic policy
ii. Foreign policy
1. Affect control
2. Interdependency
d. Democratic participation
i. Election of rulers
ii. Shura, consultation
1. Differences between Shura and Western democracy
e. Social justice.
i. Trade
ii. Freedom
iii. Pluralismus vs. totalitarianism
iv. Individualism vs. collectivism
v. Human Rights
1. Equality
2. Property
3. Freedom
4. Human life
5. Gender equality
6. Non-Muslims in Muslim land vi. Zakat
f. Constructive political conflict culture
i. Jihad
ii. Calls for Peace
iii. Armed combat
1. Offensive war
2. Internal repression
3. Defensive war
4. Ius in Bello

5. Conclusion

6. Sources

7. Appendix
a. The constitution of Medina

1. Introduction

There is not one Islam. There is one holy book, the Quran, which causes many different effects, peaceful and bellicose ones. Obvisously and consensual Al-Qaida and despotic political regimes do not contribute to world peace. On the other hand we have very peaceful Muslim individuals and states like Malasya. Apparently it will not be possible to conclude definitely whether Islam is peaceful or bellicose, or anything between. This essay rather tries to analise the capacity for peace of Islam. Due to the actual spread between peaceful and bellicose Muslim unities (individuals and groups or states) and the fact that history influenced and influences Islam, this study aims to analise at the roots of Islam. Therefore three main sources, unaffected by historical or other influences, are used: the Quran, the Sunna1 and the constitution of Medina. Accepting the Islamic principle that the Prophet Mohammed get revelation directly from God and therefore can not be wrong2 one can assume that all his actions and sayings were purely Islamic.

After an overview what God in Islamic perception is and if and how Islamic sources can be interpreted we will analise the peacefulness of Islam by comparing Islamic values and principles to the civilising hexagon from Dieter Senghaas.

2. What is God?

In Islam, as in Judaism and Christianity, believers must not have any image of God. Since God is totally transcendent, human being can only see, feel or recognize in other ways God’s signs:

51:20 - 21 ”And in the earth there are signs for those who are sure, and in your own souls (too); will you not then see?”

Additionally God gave itself3 99 names or attributes that are stated in the Quran. This allows humans to get an idea about It. These names and attributes are important to know in order to understand what a Muslim must strive for, to what he/she has to subordinate him or herself.

The 99 names and attributes of God4:

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Let’s have a closer look at the, for our purpose, most interesting one of the names and attributes: AS-SALÂM The All-Peaceful, The Bestower of peace If God is the All-Peaceful, the bestower of peace, one can assume that each time the Quran or the Prophet calls for submission to God it means the submission to peace, or one of the other 98 names or attributes. Of course all of the 99 names or attributes are always in effect at the same time.

3. Interpretation/exegesis of religious sources

2:282 “If you have faith and conviction in Allah, Allah will teach you.”

Quranic legitimacy cannot be seized by one group of people. Every Muslim is, in principle, a legitimate reader and interpreter. The agreement of a group of people on one interpretation or reading does not make it the authoritative one.5

When the Prophet said that there would be at the beginning of each century a person who would renew religion, this was understood to mean that we need to renew our understanding of religion. This implies, of course, renewal of the intellectual edifice and of the legal, legislative, social and political systems in line with the evolving interests of the individual, society and the state. Since the text is fixed and opinion is not, logically the former is interpreted by the latter.6

The words of God have been sent down to Mohammed in pieces during a period of about 23 years. Each part was revealed according to a specific situation. Thus, the following Ayat 2:193: “And fight them on until there is no more Tumult or oppression, and there prevail justice and faith in Allah. But if they cease, Let there be no hostility except to those who practise oppression”, allowed the Muslims from Medina to fight the people from Mekka, after they violated Muslims’ relatives in Mekka. So, how do we understand such an Ayat today? Is it a general permission for war? Is it a general permission for a war to protect Muslims? Or was it exclusively applicable for this specific situation according to the causes of revelation (asbab an-nuzul)? Or, is it its deeper sens that Muslims have to remember and that is still valuable throughout the time? Is seems logic that the last question is the one we can answer yes. This leaves, of course, much space for interpretation since everybody interprets his/her own deeper sens. Maybe this is the reason why even the Prophet kept silente about the interpretation of certain Ayats. For instance, after being asked about an interpretation of an Ayat, he said to his compagnions: „The ones that preceded you perished because of discordance“ and, through his compagnon Ali, he continued, that he, Mohammed, orders to read as they were teached to read. Each reading is good and right.7 Aisha, the Prophet’s youngest wife, narratives: „It was not the Prophet’s - God may bless him and give him peace - custom to interpret the Quran, except some few Ayats that angel Gabriel - salvation on it - teached him.8 Furthermore we lack a textus receptus of the Quran. The imperfection of the scripture of the elder Qurans allow different readings. Therefore the Arabic Qurancomments divers strongly and offer for certain unclear parts of the Quran often more than six different interpretations. […] Hence the result that nobody ever will be capable to understand the Quran in all its details. An assiduous interpretor will always have to work with many question marks and list several different interpretations.9 Mr. Luxenberg estimates that one fourth of the Koran remains unclear up to today.10 All this leads us to the conclusion that the Islamic religious sources need to be interpretated and that even everybody can interpret it his/her own way, within a certain frame of course and in good faith. This cognition makes the task of this present study at the same time easier and the outcome, unfortunately, less binding. It is also important to say that everybody interprets any kind of text according to his/her own environment, to his/her actual constitution of time and place, this is inevitable. Everybody is influenced by his/her own past and present and all this flows into the interpretation. And even though the “Islamische Zeitung”11 states the following minimal requirements to interpret Islamic sources, the writer of this study takes himself the right to analyse, reflect and interpret the Islamic sources:

- Profound knowledge of the Arabic language
- The knowleged which Ayats in the Quran are reversed (Hukm)12
- The knowledge which Ayats have to be understood: generally, restricted, specially
- The knowledge which things do have in accordance an appointed sense and for which Ayats interpretations is allowed
- The knowledge which Ayats are relevant for the jurisprudence (Fiqh). These are only about 10% of the Quran

No ordinary Muslim has all this knowledge and makes his/her own reflections and interpretations about what he/she is reading in the Quran. Even though this might, according to certain believers, not be allowed in Islamic belief, it takes its effect and God was not against this, otherwise It would have forbidden to Muslims who do not have the knowledge stated above to read in the Quran and had obliged them to get all the knowledge only through savants. That is definitely not the case.

The Sharia, the Islamic law, is itself an interpretation of the religious sources.

The principles of this unwritten law are set up through interpretation of the Quran, the Sunna and other procedures.13

Another proof for the necessity of interpretation is the fact that different Ayats are in contradiction with others. For instance 25:52: “Strive against disbelievers with a great endeavour” is in contradiction with 2:256: “Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from Error: whoever rejects evil and believes in Allah hath grasped the most trustworthy hand- hold, that never breaks. And Allah heareth and knoweth all things.” Firstly it is to say that the picking out of an Ayat and the interpretation of it without analysing the context in the text itself and especially the cause of relevation is dangerous. But a professional procedure is out of range for this study and this simplified one may in reality be closer to the effect when an ordinary Muslim is reading in the Quran. The Islamic tradition for such cases of contradiction is that a later revealed Ayat overrules an elder one (Abrogation14 ), which proves of a limited commitment in time for some texts in the Quran. But it is in contradiction with for instance 98:3: “Wherein are clear commandments of unchangeable thruth”. The solution might be to accept all the Ayats as authentic and to apply the one more appropriate to a certain situation. The one which is more convenient to achieve the general Islamic idea.

The last point to mention is that diversity and different interpretation are part of Islam. There are two main directions of Islam: Sunnism and Shiism. Sufism, Wahabism, and other smaller groups might be mentionnend as well. Within the two main directions, Sunnism and Shiism, one can define at least 7 different streams.15


Islamic sources have to be interpreted. „The Quran is a scripture between two book covers that doesn’t speak. It is the humans that speak to it.“16 It is a dialectic relation between scripture and reader. The point of view of the exegete designates the outcome of the lecture. Al-Farabi (a Persian-Turkish philosopher and scientist) said: “The truth is one but its representations are divers.”17

4. The civilising hexagon

Islam […] recognized the fact that man becomes good not only because of his internal qualities, but more still because of the external condition shaped by his society.18

In this sens we will analise the peacableness of Islam according to the theory of the civilising hexagon from Dieter Senghaas. This theory indicates six conditions that have to be fulfilled to make a state, and especially its citizens, peacefull. Four conditions will treat only domestic policy (monopoly of power, constitutional state, democratic participation and social justice). The fifth one (Interdependency and affect control) will analise domestic policy as well as foreign policy and the sixth one (Constructive political conflict culture) only foreing policy aspects19, whereby foreign is understood as the whole non- muslim community.

Ahmad S. Moussalli quotes in his book “The Islamic quest for democracy, pluralism and human rights”20 Al-Awwa21, who identified six features of Islam that make it tolerant and pluralistic. Let us compare these six features with Senghaas’ principles:

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

We see that the two definitions are quite congruent.

We will now compare more precisely Mister Senghaas’ principles with the Islamic ones.

a. State monopoly on the use of force

5:120 “To Allah doth belong the dominion of the heavens and the earth, and all that is therein, and it is He Who hath power over all things.”

Since Islam wants to take social responsibility, the use of social violence is indispensable. In doing so, violence is always an “ultima ratio”. It is limited and has to be legitimised22.

While it is true that ultimate sovereignity in Islam belongs to God,practical and political sovereignity belongs to the people.23 The state can apply the monopoly on the use of force properly only if the force is applied indipendently and in the sense of the totality of its citizens. This can be ensured, among other things, through the principle of separation of powers.24

i. Separation of powers

In the first Islamic state in Medina, the Prophet took the roles of the leader, ruler and judge of the community.25 Obviously there is no separation of power. But since, according to Islamic belief, he was of course in the best position to apply and implement the Islamic system and that the concentration of power in his person was probably the best way to do this we will not refer to this specific temporary situation and concentrate on the separation of power after the Prophet’s lifetime or in the divine texts. Also the Prophet had to follow the principle of shura, consultation. 3:159 “It is part of the Mercy of Allah that thou dost deal gently with them Wert thou severe or harsh-hearted, they would have broken away from about thee: so pass over (Their faults), and ask for ((Allah)'s) forgiveness for them; and consult them in affairs (of moment). Then, when thou hast Taken a decision put thy trust in Allah. For Allah loves those who put their trust (in Him).”

The Caliph Umar mitigated the punishment for theft during a time of famine.26 This indicates that also during the time of the rightly guided caliphs, after Mohammed’s lifetime, there was no real separation of power since the Caliph, the executive, was the ruler and in the just mentionend example also the legislative body. Although under the Islamic system, the Ulema (those versed in Islamic jurisprudence) have theoretically, because of their knowledge of Islamic fiqh (jurisprudence), had the final say over whether the actions of the Caliph or Amir are in conformance with Islamic intent and injunctions.27

1. Legislative

The basis of Islamic legislative, called “the roots of jurisprudence (usūl al-fiqh)” are:

- The Quran
- The Sunna
- Conclusion by analogy (Qiyas)
- Consensus (idshma)

Sometimes additionally the following principles are used as well:

- Common law (urf or āda)
- Indipendant interpretation (idschtihād)

During his lifetime the Prophet was the source of law, he “was” the Sharia.

On the question how to define law after the Prophet’s demise when there is neither in the Quran nor in the Sunna any indication about how to address specific problems, the Prophet answered: “Get together the obedient (to God and his law) people from amongst my followers and place the matter before them for consultation. Do not make decisions on the basis of the opinion of any single person”.28

Shura, or consultation is the imperative modus operandi in Islam.

The constitution of Medina does in addition state the principle of common law.29

2. Judicative

In Sunni Islam (about 90% of all Muslims) there’s no autorative instance that could be compared to the Christian church, or clerus. Over the centuries the theologs and savants indeed established a sophisticated jurisprudence called Fiqh, its object is the religious legitimised law, the Sharia. However it is not binding to any Muslim. It is understood as guidelines, that of course have a high value among Muslims. In some streams of Shia Islam the Imams and their declarations are considered omniscient and therefore allying. During the lifetime of the Prophet, he was responsible for the jurisprudence. After him it was the four rightly guided Kalifs. Since the era after the rightly guided Kalifs each Islamic jurist can publish Fatwas, which are only guidelines in Sunni Islam and it can happen that two Fatwas on the same topic are contradictory. In Shia Islam a Fatwa is binding.

The Constitution of Medina garantuees a mitigation of punishment. It allows the different tribes a transformation of the usual sharia punishement into a material compensation.30

According to the Medina constitution the person who was responsible for a wrongfully killed Muslim can argue for or against the death penalty against the murderer.31 The Prophet and especially God are the highest judicative authority.32

3. Executive

In any case God demands a sort of government or executive power, 6:165: “It is He Who hath made you (His) agents, inheritors of the earth: He hath raised you in ranks, some above others: that He may try you in the gifts He hath given you: for thy Lord is quick in punishment: yet He is indeed Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.”

The Prophet and later the Caliphs constituted theoretically the executive power in the Islamic state. Nevertheless, according to the constitution of Medina, each citizen needs to be active against evil.33 There is no real concept of state monopoly on the use of force in Islam every Muslim has to do enjoin good and forbid evil, 9:112 “Those that turn (to Allah. in repentance; that serve Him, and praise Him; that wander in devotion to the cause of Allah,: that bow down and prostrate themselves in prayer; that enjoin good and forbid evil; and observe the limit set by Allah.- (These do rejoice). So proclaim the glad tidings to the Believers.”

The constitution does not say anything about government or its constitution, it has to be assumed that the Prophet in his person had the power of everything. And there is nothing defined for the time after his lifetime.

Conclusion There is neither a separation of power nor a clear State monopoly on the use of force in the Islamic concept. Or at least it is very much blurred. It is to say that since Islam did not define any political system that has to be established34, there is nothing against setting up a state with a clear and strict separation of power according to Western thoughts. Not to forget that the highest sovereign remains God and Its divine law.

State monopoly on the use of force in Islam has the capacity to be peaceful. The only negative aspect is that every Muslim has to enjoin good and forbid evil, which can cause anarchistic actions. The principle of shura, consultation could avoid this.


1 The reports of actions, sayings and habits of the Prophet are gathered in the so called Sunna, which was written around 200 years after the death of the Prophet. The most authentic Hadiths were collected by Al-Bukhari and Muslim.

2 53:2 - 6 (2)Your Companion is neither astray nor being misled. (3) Nor does he say (aught) of (his own) Desire.

(4) It is no less than inspiration sent down to him. (5) He was taught by one Mighty in Power, (6) Endued with Wisdom: for he appeared (in stately form);

3 Since God is neither male nor female the pronoun It will be used for God.

4 Source:

5 The Islamic quest for democracy, pluralism and human rights, Ahmad S. Moussalli, page 85

6 The Islamic quest for democracy, pluralism and human rights, Ahmad S. Moussalli, page 102

7 Die Syro-Aramäische Lesart des Koran, Christoph Luxenberg, p. 42/43

8 Die Syro-Aramäische Lesart des Koran, Christoph Luxenberg, p. 74/75

9 Die Syro-Aramäische Lesart des Koran, Christoph Luxenberg, p. 77

10 Die Syro-Aramäische Lesart des Koran, Christoph Luxenberg, p. 115

11 “Islamische Zeitung” Januar 2005, p. 12

12 See below in this same chapter

13 See point 5. a. i.



16 Ali, the first Imam of the Shia Islam

17 The Islamic quest for democracy, pluralism and human rights, Ahmad S. Moussalli, page 90

18 The democracy of Islam, Hussein Alatas, page 28

19 Aspects of domestic political conflict culture can be found throughout the study in other chapters.

20 The Islamic quest for democracy, pluralism and human rights, Ahmad S. Moussalli, pages 124 - 125

21 Al Awwa in his book “Al Ta’addudiyya” pages 133 - 134


23 The Islamic quest for democracy, pluralism and human rights, Ahmad. S. Moussalli, page 77


25 The Islamic quest for democrary, pluralism and human rights, Ahmed S. Moussalli, page 30

26 A comparative analyses of Islamic and Western democratic political thought, El Yaboubi, page 183

27 A comparative analyses of Islamic and Western democratic political thought, El Yaboubi, page 345

28 A comparative analyses of Islamic and Western democratic political thought, El Yaboubi, page 354

29 See appendix The constitution of Medina points 2 and 4

30 Article 3 points 1 - 9, for Diya see:

31 Article 4 point 13

32 Article 6 point 11

33 Article 4 point 3

34 See chapter 4. b.

Ende der Leseprobe aus 40 Seiten


Islam and Peace
Interpretation/exegesis of religious sources
FernUniversität Hagen  (Frieden und Demokratie)
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Buch)
538 KB
Islam, Peace
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Dipl. Ing. Pascal Gemperli (Autor), 2005, Islam and Peace, München, GRIN Verlag,


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