This is the first of two debates Sami and I just had in California. (The debates were professionally recorded, but we won't have that footage for a few weeks. This is the footage from my camcorder.)
Here's my assessment. If we go to the Qur'an, the Hadith, the Sira literature, and the Commentaries, and we let the texts speak for themselves, the evidence is clear: Muslims are called to violence (in more ways than one).
There is a way out, however. Muslims can throw out all of the sources they are permitted to throw out, and they can reinterpret all of the sources they can't throw out. That is, they can convince themselves that Islam is peaceful by doing violence to their sources. There is a tremendous price to pay for this tactic, however. Muslims must reject their earliest historical sources, declare numerous ahadith "weak," ignore the views of their best commentators, and pretend that peaceful verses weren't abrogated by Surah 9.
I suspect that liberal Muslims will be upset with me for accurately representing Islam. I also suspect that devout Muslims will be upset with Sami for misrepresenting their religion and their scholars (as well as for saying that Aisha and Ali were "bad Muslims," and that Umar needed to be rebuked). See below for many of the verses we discussed and for additional commentary.
SAMI'S OPENING STATEMENT
DAVID'S OPENING STATEMENT
I. VIOLENCE TOWARDS UNBELIEVERS
Sahih al-Bukhari 6924—Allah’s Messenger 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 Muslim 30—It is reported on the authority of Abu Huraira that the Messenger of Allah said: I have been commanded to fight against people so long as they do not declare that there is no god but Allah, and he who professed it was guaranteed the protection of his property and life on my behalf except for the right, and his affairs rest with Allah.
Al-Tabari, Volume 10, p. 55—Abu Bakr to the Apostates: . . . “Verily God, may He be exalted, sent Muhammad with His truth to His creation as a bearer of good tidings and as a warner and as one calling [others] to God, with His permission, and as a light-bringing lamp, so that he might warn [all] who live, and so that the saying against the unbelievers might be fulfilled. So God guided with the truth whoever responded to Him, and the Apostle of God, with His permission, struck whoever turned his back to Him until he came to Islam, willingly or grudgingly.”
Sahih al-Bukhari 2785—Narrated Abu Hurairah: A man came to Allah’s Messenger and said, “Guide me to such a deed as equals Jihad (in reward).” He replied, “I do not find such a deed.”
Sahih al-Bukhari 2795—Narrated Anas bin Malik: The Prophet said, “Nobody who dies and finds good from Allah (in the Hereafter) would wish to come back to this world, even if he were given the whole world and whatever is in it, except the martyr who, on seeing the superiority of martyrdom, would like to come back to the world and get killed again (in Allah’s cause).”
Sahih al-Bukhari 2796—Narrated Anas: The Prophet said, “A single endeavor (of fighting) in Allah’s cause in the afternoon or in the forenoon is better than all the world and whatever is in it.”
Sahih al-Bukhari 2797—Narrated Abu Hurairah: The Prophet said, . . . “By Him in Whose Hands my soul is! I would love to be martyred in Allah’s Cause and then come back to life and then get martyred, and then come back to life again and then get martyred and then come back to life again and then get martyred.”
Qur’an 9:29—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.
Ibn Kathir, Volume 4, 405—This honorable Ayah [9:29] was revealed with the order to fight the People of the Book, after the pagans were defeated, the people entered Allah’s religion in large numbers, and the Arabian Peninsula was secured under the Muslims’ control. Allah commanded His Messenger to fight the People of the Scriptures, Jews and Christians, on the ninth year of Hijrah, and he prepared his army to fight the Romans and called the people to Jihad announcing his intent and destination.
Sami responded by arguing that, according to Islam, "there is no compulsion in religion" (despite the fact that Islam's greatest scholars hold either that Surah 2:256 was abrogated or that it only applies to "People of the Book" who submit and pay the Jizya tax).
II. VIOLENCE TOWARDS APOSTATES
Sahih al-Bukhari 6878—Narrated Abdullah: Allah’s Messenger said, “The blood of a Muslim who confesses that La ilaha illallah (none has the right to be worshipped but Allah) and that I am the Messenger of Allah, cannot be shed except in three cases: (1) Life for life; (2) a married person who commits illegal sexual intercourse, and (3) the one who turns renegade from Islam (apostate) and leaves the group of Muslims.
Sahih al-Bukhari 6921—Ibn Umar, Az-Zuhri and Ibrahim said, “A female apostate (who reverts from Islam), should be killed.”
Sahih al-Bukhari 6922—Allah’s Messenger [said], “Whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him.”
Sami responded to these passages by claiming (without any actual evidence) that apostates were only to be killed in Muhammad's time, because they were spies.
III. VIOLENCE TOWARDS CRITICS
Sunan Abu Dawud 4348—Narrated Abdullah Ibn Abbas: A blind man had a slave-mother who used to abuse the Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) and disparage him. He forbade her but she did not stop. He rebuked her but she did not give up her habit. One night she began to slander the Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) and abuse him. So he took a dagger, placed it on her belly, pressed it, and killed her. A child who came between her legs was smeared with the blood that was there. When the morning came, the Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) was informed about it. He assembled the people and said: I adjure by Allah the man who has done this action and I adjure him by my right to him that he should stand up. Jumping over the necks of the people and trembling the man stood up. He sat before the Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) and said: Apostle of Allah! I am her master; she used to abuse you and disparage you. I forbade her, but she did not stop, and I rebuked her, but she did not abandon her habit. I have two sons like pearls from her, and she was my companion. Last night she began to abuse and disparage you. So I took a dagger, put it on her belly and pressed it till I killed her. Thereupon the Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) said: Oh be witness, no retaliation is payable for her blood.
Sunan Abu Dawud 4349— Narrated Ali ibn AbuTalib: A Jewess used to abuse the Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) and disparage him. A man strangled her till she died. The Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) declared that no recompense was payable for her blood.
Sami pointed out that the Muslim sources only report a few instances of critics being killed; hence, Muslims aren't supposed to kill critics. (I'm not sure how this follows.)
IV. VIOLENCE TOWARDS WOMEN
Sunan Abu Dawud 2141—Iyas b. Abd Allah b. Abi Dhubab reported the Apostle of Allah (may peace be upon him) as saying: Do not beat Allah’s handmaidens, but when Umar came to the Apostle of Allah and said: Women have become emboldened towards their husbands, he (the Prophet) gave permission to beat them. Then many women came round the family of the Apostle of Allah complaining against their husbands. So the Apostle of Allah said: Many women have gone round Muhammad’s family complaining against their husbands. They are not the best among you.
Sahih al-Bukhari 5825—Narrated Ikrima: Rifaa divorced his wife whereupon Abdur-Rahman married her. Aisha said that the lady came wearing a green veil and complained to her (Aisha) and showed her a green spot on her skin caused by beating. It was the habit of ladies to support each other, so when Allah’s messenger came, Aisha said, “I have not seen any woman suffering as much as the believing women. Look! Her skin is greener than her clothes!” When Abdur-Rahman heard that his wife had gone to the prophet, he came with his two sons from another wife. She said, “By Allah! I have done no wrong to him, but he is impotent and is as useless to me as this,” holding and showing the fringe of her garment. Abdur-Rahman said, “By Allah, O Allah’s messenger! She has told a lie. I am very strong and can satisfy her, but she is disobedient and wants to go back to Rifaa.” Allah's messenger said to her, “If that is your intention, then know that it is unlawful for you to remarry Rifaa unless Abdur-Rahman has had sexual intercourse with you.” The prophet saw two boys with Abdur-Rahman and asked (him), “Are these your sons?” On that Abdur-Rahman said, “Yes.” The prophet said, “You claim what you claim (that he is impotent)? But by Allah, these boys resemble him as a crow resembles a crow.”
Sunan Ibn Majah 1986—Ash’ath b. Qais is reported to have said, “One night Umar arranged a feast. When it was midnight, he got up and went towards his wife to beat her. I separated them both. When he went to bed, he said to me, ‘O Ash’ath, preserve from me a thing that I heard from Allah’s messenger. (These things are): A man will not be taken to task for beating his wife (for valid reasons) and do not sleep without observing witr prayer.’ I forgot the third (exhortation).”
Sahih Muslim 2127—[Aisha said:] When it was my turn for Allah's Messenger to spend the night with me, he turned his side, put on his mantle and took off his shoes and placed them near his feet, and spread the corner of his shawl on his bed and then lay down till he thought that I had gone to sleep. He took hold of his mantle slowly and put on the shoes slowly, and opened the door and went out and then closed it lightly. I covered my head, put on my veil and tightened my waist wrapper, and then went out following his steps till he reached Baqi'. He stood there and he stood for a long time. He then lifted his hands three times, and then returned and I also returned. He hastened his steps and I also hastened my steps. He ran and I too ran. He came (to the house) and I also came (to the house). I, however, preceded him and I entered (the house), and as I lay down in the bed, he (the Holy Prophet) entered the (house), and said: Why is it, O 'Aisha, that you are out of breath? I said: There is nothing. He said: Tell me or the Subtle and the Aware would inform me. I said: Messenger of Allah, may my father and mother be ransom for you, and then I told him (the whole story). He said: Was it the darkness (of your shadow) that I saw in front of me? I said: Yes. He struck me on the chest which caused me pain, and then said: Did you think that Allah and His Apostle would deal unjustly with you?
Sahih al-Bukhari 6845—Narrated Aisha: Abu Bakr came to towards me and struck me violently with his fist and said, "You have detained the people because of your necklace." But I remained motionless as if I was dead lest I should awake Allah's Apostle although that hit was very painful.
Sahih al-Bukhari 5204—Narrated Abdullah bin Zam’a: “The prophet said, ‘None of you should flog his wife as he flogs a slave and then have sexual intercourse with her in the last part of the day.’”
Sunan Abu Dawud 2142—Umar b. al-Khattab reported the Prophet as saying: A man will not be asked as to why he beat his wife.
According to Sami, women were supposed to be beaten with a stick so small that it couldn't actually hurt them. I'm not sure how he can square this claim with the above passages. If a woman doesn't respond to admonition or bed arrest, I don't see how tapping her with a twig is going to change her mind. However, Sami did point out that Muslims who beat women were "not the best of Muslims." But since Muhammad, Abu Bakr, and Umar all beat women, it seems that Muhammad, Abu Bakr, and Umar weren't the best of Muslims. (Sami even admitted that Umar needed to be rebuked for his sin.)
V. VIOLENCE TOWARDS SINNERS
Qur’an 5:38—And (as for) the man who steals and the woman who steals, cut off their hands as a punishment for what they have earned, an exemplary punishment from Allah; and Allah is Mighty, Wise.
Sunan Abu Dawud 4447—Ibn Abbas reported the Apostle of Allah (may peace be upon him) as saying: If you find anyone doing as Lot’s people did, kill the one who does it, and the one to whom it is done.
Sunan Abu Dawud 4448—Ibn Abbas said: If a man who is not married is seized committing sodomy, he will be stoned to death.
Qur’an 24:2—“(As for) the fornicatress and the fornicator, flog each of them, (giving) a hundred stripes, and let no pity for them detain you in the matter of obedience to Allah, if you believe in Allah and the last day, and let a party of believers witness their chastisement.”
I really like Sami's version of Islam (apart from the fact that it's still false and that he has to twist and mangle his sources to arrive at a peaceful Islam). Sami has the courage to cast aside Islam's greatest scholars and to speak against Aisha, Umar, Ali, etc. He is also willing to reinterpret the clear teachings of the Qur'an and the Hadith when he disagrees with those false teachings. We can only hope that more young Muslims like Sami will take a stand against the early Muslim sources and the violence of the Qur'an. Of course, it would be better if Sami simply rejected Islam. But rejecting the violence is certainly better than nothing.