Nabeel Qureshi: the Quran inspires radical Muslims to commit Islamic terrorism

A conflict of worldviews
A conflict of worldviews

Dr. Nabeel Qureshi, a former Muslim, explains which verses of the Qu’ran are linked to Islamic terrorism in a USA Today editorial.


As a Muslim growing up in the United States, I was taught by my imams and the community around me that Islam is a religion of peace. My family modeled love for others and love for country, and not just by their words. My father served in the U.S. Navy throughout my childhood, starting as a seaman and retiring as a lieutenant commander. I believed wholeheartedly a slogan often repeated at my mosque after 9/11: “The terrorists who hijacked the planes also hijacked Islam.”

Yet as I began to investigate the Quran and the traditions of Muhammad’s life for myself in college, I found to my genuine surprise that the pages of Islamic history are filled with violence. How could I reconcile this with what I had always been taught about Islam?

[…]The Quran itself reveals a trajectory of jihad reflected in the almost 23 years of Muhammad’s prophetic career. As I demonstrate carefully in my book, Answering Jihad: A Better Way Forward, starting with peaceful teachings and proclamations of monotheism, Muhammad’s message featured violence with increasing intensity, culminating in surah 9, chronologically the last major chapter of the Quran, and its most expansively violent teaching. Throughout history, Muslim theologians have understood and taught this progression, that the message of the Quran culminates in its ninth chapter.

Surah 9 is a command to disavow all treaties with polytheists and to subjugate Jews and Christians (9.29) so that Islam may “prevail over all religions” (9.33). It is fair to wonder whether any non-Muslims in the world are immune from being attacked, subdued or assimilated under this command. Muslims must fight, according to this final chapter of the Quran, and if they do not, then their faith is called into question and they are counted among the hypocrites (9.44-45). If they do fight, they are promised one of two rewards, either spoils of war or heaven through martyrdom. Allah has made a bargain with the mujahid who obeys: Kill or be killed in battle, and paradise awaits (9.111).

Muslim thought leaders agree that the Quran promotes such violence. Maajid Nawaz, co-founder of the Quilliam Foundation in the United Kingdom, has said, “We Muslims must admit there are challenging Koranic passages that require reinterpretation today. … Only by rejecting vacuous literalism are we able to condemn, in principle, ISIS-style slavery, beheading, lashing, amputation & other medieval practices forever (all of which are in the Quran). … Reformers either win, and get religion-neutral politics, or lose, and get ISIL-style theocracy.” In other words, Muslims must depart from the literal reading of the Quran in order to create a jihad-free Islamic world.

This is not at all to say that most Muslims are violent. The vast majority of Muslims do not live their lives based on chapter 9 of the Quran or on the books of jihad in the hadith. My point is not to question the faith of such Muslims nor to imply that radical Muslims are the true Muslims. Rather, I simply want to make clear that while ISIL may lure youth through a variety of methods, it radicalizes them primarily by urging them to follow the literal teachings of the Quran and the hadith, interpreted consistently and in light of the violent trajectory of early Islam. As long as the Islamic world focuses on its foundational texts, we will continue to see violent jihadi movements.

So, any attempt to engage with Muslims will require us to address the texts that they appeal to when they justify their actions. Both Republicans and Democrats try to gloss over the specific passages of the Qu’ran which are troublesome. They claim that Islam, interpreted literally, is a religion of Peace. And they claim that distorting the words of the Qu’ran results in a Jihadi ideology. That’s not accurate. It’s not distortion of the Qu-ran that is causing the problems, it’s taking those passages literally.

There are troubling passages in the Bible, as well, where God is in a theocratic relationship with the Jewish people and commands them to attack their enemies. But the difference is that those verses are not effective in the present day, for present day Christians. Christians are under a new Covenant with a new High Priest, Jesus. This new covenant tells Christians to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us. Are moderate Muslim scholars and Western politicians ready to face the real challenge?

4 thoughts on “Nabeel Qureshi: the Quran inspires radical Muslims to commit Islamic terrorism”

  1. Few have bothered to study Islam and we project our own values upon Islam. We need to also study the history of Christianity in the East to see that this is nothing new. There are several excellent Christian sources on the net.

  2. I think one of the biggest mistakes people make (and it’s a mistake I acknowledge I made myself) is to view Islam as just another religion. As it is considered Abrahamic, it is equated with Judaism and Christianity, so the koran is viewed as the equivalent of the Bible and Jewish scriptures, just newer. It’s not at all the same. It’s a small book that is repetitive, saying very little in those few pages. Aside from the repetitiveness, there is the non-nonsensical gibberish. Very little of the koran is as clear as followers of Islam claim, but of the parts that *are* clear, the waging of violent jihad and the extermination of Jews is very clear, as is the goal of subjugating the entire world to Islam.

    Islam is not a religion. It is a political, nation building ideology that uses religion as a method of control. It demands deception of its followers. All things otherwise forbidden are acceptable, if the ultimate goal is to help establish Islam as the ideology that controls the world. Once something – or someone – is claimed for Islam, it remains Islamic in perpetuity, whether it’s a country that is no longer Islamic, or someone who’s great-great-great-great-grandfather was Islamic.

    The only way a truly peaceful Muslim can remain so is to reject the basic tenants of Islam, and Islam is also clear that the penalty of doing so is death.

    1. I agree. Most people are ignorant of the Quran and what Muslims believe. Even though I have attended courses on Muslim evangelism, there is still a lot I don’t know – for example, what is in the Hadiths. I only know a bit from a talk by Daniel Shayestah, during a conference on the Church in countries closed to the Gospel.
      I live in a neighbourhood with a large proportion of Muslims, who moved in from the 1990s onwards, but they tend to keep to themselves on the whole. They tend to be a law unto themselves.

      1. Most Muslims are ignorant of what the koran says; the “true” koran is only written in it’s “original” “Classical” Arabic, and some have never encountered it in their own language. Problem is, there was no “original” written Arabic at the time the koran was supposed to have been written; the written language was in its infancy and not standardized. “Classical” Arabic is supposed to be that ancient, pure, Arabic that is the language of allah (because allah apparently only speaks Arabic). In reality, the verses of the koran were most likely written in Syriac, the lingua franca of the time, and a dialect of Aramaic. Translated as if it were Syriac instead of Arabic, the koran – including the 20% of it that is pure gibberish – suddenly not only makes sense, but says completely different things. In fact, it reveals itself as a Christian lectionary (the work koran, itself, predates Arabic and is Syriac for lectionary). The root of Islam is most likely one of the sects rejected by the Nicene council as heretical because they denied the deity of Jesus.

        As for the hadith, they are even more problematic. Written long after Mohammad (a word that was title, meaning “blessed one”, at the time, not used as a name) supposedly lived and died, the fractured sects of Islam (originally known as the Haggarians or Ishmaelites), busily trying to kill each other off while claiming themselves to be the true Islam, simply made them up. In the hadith, we basically have every moment of every day of Mohammad’s life spelled out in various sayings; an impossibility for any historical figure that truly lived. They frequently contradict each other because one group would come up with a hadith to support their cause, so another would come up with a countering hadith to support their opposing cause. Then, when the writers of the hadith noticed that Jewish and Christian scripture was backed by lineage, add those in, too.

        Which goes a long way into explaining why Muslims are forbidden to question Islam. They are not allowed to question anything the koran, hadith or sunnah say, nor examine them for historical accuracy. Questioning them is right up there with apostacy. And the koran tells Muslims they are not to be friends with the unbelievers, but to hate them.

        I highly recommend “What the Koran Really Says”, by Ibn Warraq. The book gets pretty dry at points, but the introduction is one of the most fascinating things I’ve ever read.

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