Bassam Darwich / Oct 10, 1994

Muslim propagandists are nowadays making extraordinary efforts to change the image of Islam by reintroducing it to the Western society as a religion that calls for peace and rejects all kind of violence. One of the new theories that they are trying to sell is that the name of their religion Islam implies the meaning of `Peace', which in Arabic is Salam. The ground for their theory is that both words are derived from the same root "masdar" in the Arabic language!

While it may be possible to deceive those who do not speak Arabic, or those who do not know much about Islam, propaganda like this does not fool someone who knows the Arabic language and the teaching of Islam, a religion that was established by violence and still believes in violence as a principle and as a way of life. The relationships amongst Muslims themselves and between them and all other nations have always been based on terror and still are. Islam and Salam are two incongruous words that share no common ground either in name or in substance.

In order to find the meaning of a certain word in the Arabic dictionary, it is essential to search for the three letter infinitive verb, which is, called the root. Many words can be derived from the same root, but they don't necessarily have to have any similarity in their meaning. The word Islam, which means `submission', is derived from the infinitive Salama. So is the word Salam, which means `peace' and so, is the verb Salima which means `to be saved or to escape from danger'. One of the derivations of the infinitive Salama means `the stinging of a snake' or `the tanning of the leather'. Hence, if the word Islam has something to do with the word Salam i.e. `Peace', does that also mean that it must be related to the `stinging of the snake' or `the tanning of the leather'?

Muhammad used to send letters to the kings and leaders of the surrounding countries and tribes, inviting them to surrender to his authority and to believe in him as the messenger of Allah. He always ended his letters with the following two words: "Aslem, Taslam!" Although these two words are derived from the same infinitive Salama, which is the root of Salam i.e. `Peace', neither one of them implies the meaning of `peace'. The sentence means `surrender and you will be safe', or in other words, `surrender or face death'. So where is the meaning of `Peace' in such a religion that threatens to kill other people if they do not submit to it?

On the other hand, the Qur'an and other Islamic books like Al-Hadith and Al-Sira, i.e. the life of Muhammad, are full of evidence which proves that had it not been for violence, Islam would not have existed or would not have survived until today. A good example to mention would be The Wars Of Al-Riddah, i.e. `the wars against the apostates', that began immediately after the death of Muhammad. Feeling relieved by the disappearance of the strong fearful leader Muhammad, the tribes which have been forced to embrace Islam, revolted and began, one after another, to renegade and to refuse paying the taxes imposed on them by the Prophet's government. In response to the revolution, the first Caliph, Abu-Bakr, ordered his army to fight the apostates. It took him almost two years of fighting to force the tribes back into the fold of Islam. These wars were not ordered only by the first Caliph, but they were also instructed by Allah and his "messenger" Muhammad. The Qur'an states clearly that those who go back from Islam are to be punished by death: "But if they turn renegades seize them and slay them wherever ye find them and (in any case) take no friends or helpers from their ranks. (Al-Nisaa 4:89)." Muhammad also said, as narrated by Al-Bukhari, "If somebody - a Muslim - discards his religion, kill him."

The Qur'an not only ordered the killing of those who embraced Islam and afterwards decided to renegade, but also commanded the followers to fight all nations until they either believe in it, pay the Jizya or face death:
"Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the last day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and his apostle nor acknowledge the religion of truth of the people of the Book (the Jews and the Christians) until they pay the Jizya with willing submission and feel themselves subdued." (At-Tauba 9:29) And in the same Sura, verse 5, the Qur'an also states: "Fight and slay the pagans wherever ye find them and seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem ..."

Now doesn't the image of Islam as a religion of peace sound, after all, a little bit hard to believe?

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