I’ve been enjoying myself in this space with responding to an anti-Islamic Facebook image or meme that was sent to me a week or so ago. It was presented to me as supporting evidence for an angry comment about my article on Islam in the April issue of the Ensign.
It bears the title “Islam: A religion of peace?” And then, after offering up twelve quotations — or, anyway (and the distinction is important), twelve alleged quotations — from the Qur’an that seem chillingly to illustrate Islam’s violent and bigoted character, it asks “Any questions?”
I’ve already looked at several of those quotations. In this post, I want to look at yet another.
Among the alleged Qur‘anic passages cited in the meme is Qur’an 5:33, or, in the meme’s own quaintly old-fashioned transliteration style, Koran 5:33: “Maim and crucify the infidels if they criticize Islam.”
I now offer my own quick translation of Qur’an 5:33, as well as of the immediately preceding verse and the immediately succeeding verse:
32. Because of that, we prescribed for the children of Israel that whoever kills a soul (unless it be in retribution for another soul) or wreaks corruption in the land, it’s as if he had killed all of humanity, and whoever saves the life of a soul, it’s as if he had saved all of humanity. And our emissaries had certainly come to them with clear messages. But then, indeed, many of them were transgressors in the land thereafter.
34. Except for those who repent before you capture them. Know that God is forgiving and merciful.
You can easily compare my translation with the original Arabic and with another translation here.
What should we conclude from the evidence? We should conclude that the compiler of the meme was either careless or deliberately dishonest with regard to Qur’an 5:33. “Maim and crucify the infidels if they criticize Islam” is a dramatically truncated but also grossly misleading translation of the verse — which, incidentally, is bracketed on either side by verses that emphasize divine forgiveness and mercy.
Qur’an 5:33 doesn’t merely refer to folks who “criticize Islam.” Rather, it’s speaking of people who are engaged in warfare — that’s warfare, not just criticism — against God and Muhammad and/or who are involved in serious corruption. And yes, as one might expect from a “war passage,” it’s rather rough. But, even so, it mentions not only capital punishment and some rather gruesome punishments (though no more gruesome than what was commonly done in the premodern world, in Christendom as well as among Muslims and elsewhere) but the considerably less brutal penalty of banishment.
Still, what do I know? As at least two of my recent correspondents have pointed out, I obviously haven’t studied Islam and I plainly have had no actual experience in the Middle East.
Posted from Amman, Jordan