Revenge and Forgiveness in Islam essay

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. that the manslayer who killed any person by accident may flee into.' Willful murderers were not entitled to such refuge from the 'blood avenger,' but accidental killers were entitled to protection until passions cooled. The Bible recognized that the passion for revenge may be just as great against the accidental killer as against the premeditated murderer (124)."

Dershowitz is succinct and exact in his analysis, and even the most frequently quoted verse of the Bible, at least as regards revenge, "An eye for an eye," is often taken out of context. For instance, Nasr (2004) refers to the saying in his book, The Heart of Islam: Enduring Values for Humanity, says: "The Quran does mention the Biblical 'eye for an eye,' but recommends forgoing revenge and practicing charity (cited above)." It would seem here that Nasr is saying that the Bible recommends an eye for eye kind of treatment of one and another between Christians; and that is taking the saying out of context. How the phrase is actually read in the Bible is this way:

"You have that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also (Matthew 5:38)."

So we see that what has often been used as a justification for revenge when people quote the Bible, they are lacking the understanding of the verse and the context in that the phrase was used in. We also find that neither the Quran nor the Bible is advocating revenge, but are telling their faithful that revenge is the province of the Lord, and that to exercise forgiveness (turning the other cheek), is in the spirit of the Lord, and for this, the enemy for whom you turn the other cheek to, will have hot coals on his head -- or will be punished for his hatefulness.

Forgiveness in the Quran and in the Bible

Both the Bible and the Quran advocate forgiveness. In Luke 6:35-38, 42, Luke speaks of forgiveness.

"But love your enemies, and do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be the sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your father is merciful."

This is not the same concept of forgiveness that we find in the Quran. While the Quran advocates forgiveness, it does not say that the Lord is kind or grateful to the wicked, because it suggests that salvation is for everyone, regardless of the wickedness or the extent of the ungrateful attitude. The Quran says this is a myth:

"Whether you ask forgiveness for them, or do not ask forgiveness for them -- even if you ask forgiveness for them seventy times -- God will not forgive them. This is because they disbelieve in God and His messenger. God does not guide the wicked people [9:80] (Khalifa 157)."

So while we find very similar treatments of revenge in the Bible and in the Quran, we do not find the same treatment or philosophy of rendering forgiveness. For Islamic forgiveness to be extended, it must clearly be a Muslim whom embraces Islamic law.


The literature and the readings from the Quran and from the Bible help put into perspective the mindset of Islamic fundamentalists, and the response to the attacks of September 11, 2001. We just read above, the Quran makes clear that there is no forgiveness for nonbelievers. The Bible suggests otherwise, that sinners are forgiven, and that God even has a special love for those people who are unkind and behave badly. In other words, it suggests that salvation is for everyone.

In the same way that the Bible cites forgiveness and conveys the idea that salvation is for everyone; the Quran makes very clear that salvation is only for those people who embrace Islam, and that for the nonbelievers, the infidels, there is no salvation. We actually see many other parallels and similarities between the Bible and the Quran, but not on the subject of forgiveness. For the Islamic fundamentalists of 2001, and because Islam is a backward looking faith; Americans and other western countries are the infidels, the nonbelievers, and for that we cannot be forgiven, and we must be eliminated, because we pose a threat to Islam and to Muslims.

Both books seem to have a shared notion when it comes to revenge; revenge is the realm of the Lord, and it should be left to Him. For those people who would say that the Bible is all about revenge; they are mistaken, and it is too easy to take catchy phrases out of context and to use them in negative ways and create false impressions of Christians and about the ways in which the Bible treats about revenge: turn the other cheek.

In order for there to be peace in the Middle East, it will require that fundamentalists evolve, and that their spiritual guides, the clerics, embrace the more generous concepts of the Quran. War cannot, and should not go on forever, and there must be a common ground and a center point where the Christian and Muslim meet in peace to talk about the forgiveness and bringing about an end to revenge.

Bergen, Peter, 2006. The Osama Bin Laden I Know: An Oral History of Al Qaeda's

Leader, Simon and Schuster, New York, New York. Print.

Dershowitz, Alan, 2004. Rights From Wrong: A Secular of the Origins of Rights, Basic

Books, New York, New York. Print.

McCullough, Michael, 2008. Beyond Revenge: The Evolution of Forgiveness Instinct,

John Wiley and Sons, New…[continue]

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