A Difference of Interpretation – the distinction between moderate Muslims and Jihadis

difference Jihandists moderate Muslims - featured photo 300 x 300

Introduction: Moderate Muslims, particularly those in the West, interpret their religious texts differently from Jihadis.  Moderate Muslims view passages that call for killing, beheading or crucifixion of unbelievers, infidels and hypocrites in light of other passages and conclude as a result, the violent passages cannot be interpreted literally. Jihadis, on the other hand,hold to a form of interpretation that requires them to replace earlier passages (often quoted by moderate Muslims) with later passagesAs a result, moderate Muslims are moderate and Jihadis are not. Stemming from these differences, moderate Muslims are viewed as infidels by Jihadis.

Moderate Muslims

Moderate Muslims often use passages such as these to temper harsher passages;

“You shall have your religion and I shall have my religion”

Qur’an 109:6

“There is no compulsion in religion”

Qur’an 2:256

To moderate Muslims, passages in the Qur’an calling for the killing of unbelievers are not interpreted literally because the Qur’an says that “there’s no compulsion in religion“.

When presented with passages such these;

“Slay the idolaters wherever you find them”

Qur’an 9:5

“Fight those who believe not in Allah”

Qur’an 9:29

. . .moderate Muslims will use verses such as those mentioned above or others in the Qur’an, to justify arriving at the conclusion that these violent passages should not be interpreted literally.

What separates moderates from Jihadis, however is literally a difference of interpretation.

Jihadis and the Doctrine of Abrogation; later revelation replaces earlier revelation

The Doctrine of Abrogation (based on Qur’an 2:106 and Qur’an 16:101) requires that when Muslims are faced with conflicting commands, they are to determine which verse was revealed last, as the verse that was revealed last abrogates or cancels the earlier revelation.

This doctrine is based on these two passages;

“Whatever verse we shall abrogate, or cause [thee] to forget, we will bring a better than it, or one like unto it. Dost thou not know that God is almighty?”

Qur’an 2:106

“When We substitute one revelation for another—and God knows best what He reveals (in stages)—they say, “Thou art but a forger”: but most of them understand not.”

Qur’an 16:101

The Doctrine of Abrogation requires a Muslim to replace earlier passages – often quoted by moderate Muslims with later passages, including those that call for subjugation, or killing in the form of beheading or crucifixion of unbelievers, infidels and hypocrites, including Jews and Christians.

The Doctrine of Abrogation is also why earlier passages (which indicate that Muslims are to be friendly to Jews and Christians) are to be replaced with later passages that require Christians and Jews to viewed as inferior, pay the Jizyah (a payment in exchange for not being killed), or be killed.

Here are an example of some passages indicating that “People of the Book“, Jews and Christians are to be viewed as inferior;

“O you who believe! do not take the Jews and the Christians for friends; they are friends of each other; and whoever amongst you takes them for a friend, then surely he is one of them; surely Allah does not guide the unjust people.”

Qur’an 5:51

“Those who reject (Truth), among the People of the Book and among the Polytheists, will be in Hell-Fire, to dwell therein. They are the worst of creatures.”

Qur’an 98:6

“Muhammad said: “Do not give the People of the Book the greeting first. Force them to the narrowest part of the road.”

Al-Bukhari, Al-Adab al-Mufrad 1103

Here is the passage requiring the paying of the Jizyah;

“Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the Religion of Truth, from among the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizyah with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.”

Qur’an 9:29

A few of the passages calling on Jews and Christians and others to be killed, are addressed below.

Defensive Jihad and Offensive Jihad

Both moderate Muslims and Jihadis are in agreement that they are called to engage in defensive Jihad in order to defend the Islamic community;

“Permission (to fight) is given to those upon whom war is made because they are oppressed, and most surely Allah is well able to assist them; Those who have been expelled from their homes without a just cause except that they say: our Lord is Allah. . .”

Qur’an 22:39-40

. . .however, how moderate Muslims and Jihadis interpret the application of this, is quite different.

Moderate Muslims believe that in most cases, non-violent forms of defensive jihad are appropriate, such as defending their faith and community in writing, speaking and through education. [The practice of Taqiyya (also spelled taqiya, taqiyah, or taqiyyah), which is deliberate deception, is permitted in Islam to protect the Muslim community and is a form of Defensive Jihad. This is the topic of the next article.]

Non-moderate Muslims view defensive Jihad quite differently. Defensive jihad is viewed as insufficient and use of offensive jihad, necessary. Offensive Jihad is used by Jihadis in response to a perceived threat to the Islamic community and that ‘threat’ is not limited to physical harm.  It could be a verbal threat, some form of criticism of their religion or mocking of their prophet.  It is important to understand that a foreign army setting foot in a Muslim land (such as the US in Afghanistan) is perceived to be the same degree of threat as a cartoon depicting their prophet, and warrant the same type of response. Hence, Charlie Hebdo.

Utilizing violence in defense of the Islamic community is considered justified, as indicated in the previous article, which referred to matter that;

14% of Muslims in the US said (2011) that some form of violence against civilians in the name of Islam is justified;

7% said that suicide bombings are sometimes justified;

1% said that suicide bombings are often justified in these circumstances.

[see http://www.morehasbara.com/2016/06/13/assuming-99-of-muslims-are-peaceful-how-man-is-1-percent/]

Moderate Muslims insist that Islam only allows defensive fighting, however the problem lies in that according to Jihadi interpretation, later revelations calling for offensive jihad abrogate calls to defensive jihad, where they conflict.

Later texts say that those who die without having engaged in offensive jihad will be found to be “deficient” and “hypocrites”;

“The Prophet said: “Whoever dies without having fought or having thought of fighting, he dies on one of the branches of hypocrisy.”

Sunan An-Nasa’i 3099

“The Messenger of Allah said: “Whoever meets Allah with no mark on him (as a result of fighting) in His cause, he will meet Him with a deficiency.”

Sunan Ibn Majah 2763

In later texts, Muslims are commanded to engage in offensive Jihad against those who don’t believe in Islam;

“Muhammad said: “I have been ordered to fight the people till they say: La ilaha illallah (none has the right to be worshipped but Allah), and whoever said La ilaha illahllah, Allah will save his property and his life from me.”

Sahih al-Bukhari 6924

“Muhammad said: “I have been commanded to fight against people so long as they do not declare that there is no god but Allah.”

Sahih Muslim 30

Specifically, Muslims are commanded to engage in offensive Jihad against “People of the BookJews and Christians;

Fighting the Jews and Christians is legislated because they are idolaters and disbelievers. Allah the Exalted encourages the believers to fight the polytheists, disbelieving Jews and Christians, who uttered this terrible statement and utter lies against Allah, the Exalted. As for the Jews, they claimed that Uzayr was the son of God, Allah is free of what they attribute to Him. As for the misguidance of Christians over Isa, it is obvious.”

Tafsir Ibn Kathir (on Qur’an 9:30)

Finally, Muslims are commanded to kill any Muslim who coverts to any other religion;

“Allah’s Messenger said, “If anyone changed his Islamic religion, then kill him.””

Sahih al-Bukhari 6922


[adapted from materials by David Wood from Answering Muslims, www.answeringmuslims.com]


Moderates Muslims view passages that call for killing, beheading or crucifixion of unbelievers, infidels and hypocrites in light of other passages, and conclude that the violent passages cannot be interpreted literally. Jihadis hold to a form of interpretation that requires them to replace earlier passages with later passages. 

Some Final Thoughts…

Very important to understand is that Muslims are permitted, even encouraged to practice something call taqiyya; which is the use of deliberate deception for the purpose of protecting the Islamic community or oneself. If you don’t know what taqiyya is and who Muslims are encourage to practice taqiyya with, please click here to read the third article in this series: http://www.morehasbara.com/2016/06/15/taqiyya-the-deliberate-deception-of-islam/

We often hear the claim that most Muslims are peaceful – so what if we assumed that 99% of Muslims really are peaceful; how many is 1%? The number is staggering. Please click here to read the first in this series of articles on that topic: http://www.morehasbara.com/2016/06/13/assuming-99-of-muslims-are-peaceful-how-man-is-1-percent/

UPDATE: Please read this follow up article titled “Terrorism – what delineates radical Islamists from moderate Muslims” http://www.morehasbara.com/2016/07/15/terrorism-what-delineates-radical-islamists-from-moderate-muslims/