Islam, Violence, and the Ambivalence of the Scripture

Abstract: The book by Chaiwat Satha-Anand entitled “Barangsiapa Memelihara Kehidupan…” consists of a number of essays dealing with, as the subtitle of the book suggests, “nonviolence and Islamic imperatives.” The book seeks to propose theological arguments for nonviolent Islam. Many parts of the book are, thus, filled with Quranic verses and stories and quotes cited from the prophetic traditions which, according to Satha-Anand’s interpretation, support the idea of nonviolent Islam. However, the way he constructs theological arguments is not rigorous enough, especially in consideration of the fact that the position of scripture toward violence and peace is ambiguous and multi-faceted, a position which in turn brings about complexities of interpretation. This article, thus, serves as a response to Satha-Anand’s ideas of nonviolent Islam as explained in the book. It discusses, first, violence in the scripture, both in the Quran and the prophetic traditions, to show the multi-faceted accounts and some difficulties in interpreting them. Second, it draws several points which should be taken into consideration in dealing with that complexity of interpretation—including in showing the ambivalence of the scripture. In the end, it points out that, besides proposing nonviolent interpretations of Islam, the way the perpetrators of violence perceive the surrounding reality they face must be given equal attention in the discussion.

Download the paper here.

— This paper was originally posted on CRCS’s website.

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