A while ago I had a little debate with an old friend of mine over e-mail. He said,
I simply can not accept the notion that Islam is a religion of peace or unity for all humanity, and thus dismiss that notion as mere delusion potentially mingled with ignorance. It is one rather of exclusivity: peace for those who submit and then war, hate, and death for those who do not submit, which is carried out by its followers… To put the Qur’an in my own words, ‘Convert right now or I’ll cut off your head and you’ll rot in hell you stinking rotten heathen!!’ Where’s mercy?
Below is a list of passages I picked up from the Quran (and some ahadith) to balance the debate. Needless to say there are some hard to ‘explain’ passages in the Koran. But there are more than enough passages that prove that there are solid readings in which Islam is in fact a Religion of Peace.
I also threw in some New Testament passages (the OT is ‘Old’ news, so lets ignore it for now) to show that there are passages that can be, and often have been historically, taken out of context for Christianity as well.
No Compulsion in Islam
2:256 There is no compulsion in religion, for the right way is clear from the wrong way.
16:82 But if they turn away from you, (O Prophet remember that) your only duty is a clear delivery of the Message.
17:53, 54 And tell my servants that they should speak in a most kindly manner (unto those who do not share their beliefs). Verily, Satan is always ready to stir up discord between men; for verily; Satan is mans foe …. Hence, We have not sent you (Unto men O Prophet) with power to determine their Faith.
21:107 – 109 (O Prophet?) “We have not sent you except to be a mercy to all mankind: Declare, ‘Verily, what is revealed to me is this, your God is the only One God, so is it not up to you to bow down to Him?’ But if they turn away then say, ‘I have delivered the Truth in a manner clear to one and all, and I know not whether the promised hour (of Judgment) is near or far.’ “
22:67 To every people have We appointed ceremonial rites (of prayer) which they observe; therefore, let them not wrangle over this matter with you, but bid them to turn to your Lord (since that is the main objective of religion). You indeed are rightly guided. But if they still dispute you in this matter, (then say,) “God best knows (the value of) what you do.”
88:21 And so, (O Prophet!) exhort them, your task is only to exhort; you cannot compel them to believe.
36:16, 17 (Three Messengers to their people) Said (the Messengers), “Our Sustainer knows that we have indeed been sent unto you, but we are not bound to more than clearly deliver the Message entrusted to us.”
39:41 Assuredly, We have sent down the Book to you in right form for the good of man. Whoso guided himself by it does so to his own advantage, and whoso turns away from it does so at his own loss. You certainly are not their keeper.
42:6, 48 And whoso takes for patrons others besides God, over them does God keep a watch. Mark, you are not a keeper over them. But if they turn aside from you (do not get disheartened), for We have not sent you to be a keeper over them; your task is but to preach.
60:8 Allah forbids you not, with regard to those who fight you not for (your) Faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them: for Allah loveth those who are just.
Islam: The Rules of War
Caliph Abu Bakr, the First Caliph of Islam “Stop, O people, that I may give you ten rules for your guidance in the battlefield.  Do not commit treachery or  deviate from the right path.  You must not mutilate dead bodies.  Neither kill a child,  nor a woman,  nor an aged man.  Bring no harm to the trees,  nor burn them with fire, especially those which are fruitful.  Slay not any of the enemy’s flock, save for your food.  You are likely to pass by people who have devoted their lives to monastic services; leave them alone.” [A-Muwatta; Book 21, Number 21.3.10.]
Hadith of Muhammed “You are going to enter Egypt a land where qirat (money unit) is used. Be extremely good to them as they have with us close ties and marriage relationships. When you enter Egypt after my death, recruit many soldiers from among the Egyptians because they are the best soldiers on earth, as they and their wives are permanently on duty until the Day of Resurrection. Be good to the Copts of Egypt; you shall take them over, but they shall be your instrument and help. Be Righteous to God about the Copts.” [Note the Copts were (are) Christians]
8:61 But if the enemies incline towards peace, do you also incline towards peace. And trust in Allah! For He is the one who hears and knows all things.
6:151 Take not life which Allah has made sacred, except by way of justice and law: thus He commands you that you may learn wisdom.
5:32 If anyone killed a person not in retaliation for murder or for his spreading evil in the land, it would be as if he killed the whole of mankind. And if anyone saved a life, it would be as if he saved the whole of mankind.
22:39-40 To those against whom war is made, permission is given to fight, because they are wronged; and verily Allah is most powerful for their aid. They are those who have been expelled from their homes in defiance of right – (for no cause) except that they did say “Our Lord is Allah.”
4:90 Those who join a group between whom and you there is a treaty (of peace) or those who approach you with hearts restraining them from fighting you as well as fighting their own people. If God had pleased, He could have given them power over you, and they would have fought you. Therefore if they withdraw from you and fight you not, and send you (guarantees of peace) then God has opened no way for you (to fight them).
9:6 And if any of those who ascribe divinity to any besides Allah seeks thy protection, grant him protection.
29:46 Dispute ye not with the People of the Book except with means better (than mere disputation), unless it be with those of them that inflict wrong and injury.
Passages from the New Testament
Matthew 10:34-39 Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household. He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for my sake will find it.
Romans 13:2-4 Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.
Hebrew 11:32-24 And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies.
Luke22:35-36 Then Jesus asked them, “When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?” “Nothing,” they answered. He said to them, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.”
Augustine and Heretics Though I can’t point to a particular passages in the bible to matter-o-factly cite this, it is important to note that there are events in the NT as well that have been used to endorse violence. Most notably when Jesus attacks the moneylenders in the temple, several parables of Jesus that end violently and when God blinds St. Paul in His conversion. The last instance with St. Paul was used as justification by St. Augustine that Christians could use “great violence” for heretics and in conversion, while heathens could not because only Christians “persecuted because of love.” Also, he argued that since Church equals State and vice versa and God allowed violence from the State then the State ought to punish heretics of the Church.
These are just some passages. All of them need more context, both textually and historically. So go and look them up!
Also, I want to note, I am NOT arguing that the Quran is peaceful and the Bible is violent. So please don’t respond with passages from the NT that are peaceful.
The point of this post is that if you feel you can explain the passages above for your religion, then please remember: so can your friend of a different Book.