Is Islam a religion of peace or violence? Are Muslim extremists off base in their understanding of the Koran?
First a little bit on Jihad. It is derived from the Arabic root meaning “to strive” or “to make an effort”. There are two interpretations of jihad – inner jihad and outer jihad. Outer Jihad extends Muslim influence through force (Holy war). Inner Jihad is a personal battle against evil inclinations.
Though Muslims may claim that jihad is just an inner battle, there are numerous references in the Koran for battle against non-Muslims:
[2.190-191] And fight in the way of Allah with those who fight with you, and do not exceed the limits, surely Allah does not love those who exceed the limits. And kill them wherever you find them, and drive them out from whence they drove you out, and persecution is severer than slaughter, and do not fight with them at the Sacred Mosque until they fight with you in it, but if they do fight you, then slay them; such is the recompense of the unbelievers.
[2:216] Jihad is ordained for you though you dislike it, and it may be that you dislike a thing which is good for you and that you like a thing which is bad for you. Allah knows but you do not know.
[9.73] O Prophet! strive hard against the unbelievers and the hypocrites and be unyielding to them; and their abode is hell, and evil is the destination.
[9.20-22] Those who believe, and who have forsaken the domain of evil and have striven [jihad] hard in God’s cause with their possessions and their lives have the highest rank in the sight of God; and it is they, they who shall triumph in the end! Their Sustainer gives them glad tidings of the grace that flows from Him, and of His goodly acceptance, and of the gardens which await them, full of lasting bliss, therein to abide beyond the count of time. Verily, with God is a mighty reward!
[9.123] O you who believe! fight those of the unbelievers who are near to you and let them find in you hardness; and know that Allah is with those who guard (against evil).
[47.4] So when you meet in battle those who disbelieve, then smite the necks until when you have overcome them, then make (them) prisoners, and afterwards either set them free as a favor or let them ransom (themselves) until the war terminates. That (shall be so); and if Allah had pleased He would certainly have exacted what is due from them, but that He may try some of you by means of others; and (as for) those who are slain in the way of Allah, He will by no means allow their deeds to perish.