Some people say that Islam is a violent religion, and they point to a verse in Surah Al-Anfal as proof.
…thy Lord inspired the angels, (saying): I am with you. So make those who believe stand firm. I will throw fear into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Then smite the necks and smite of them their fingers.
They use this verse to prove how Islam says we should either kill non-believers or cut their fingertips off, making not only murder, but also torture religiously sanctioned. I’d laugh if this wasn’t so sad and so many people didn’t believe it. Lemme explain why.
Say you’re in a war. The people who have brought their armies to meet yours are from your own home-town. They still live there, but you don’t anymore, because they boycotted, tortured, starved, and murdered your people until they were able to leave. They’d love to be able to do that now, which is why they brought their armies to you.
So you’re standing on the battlefield and you’re itching to take revenge, to fight face-to face with the same people who are responsible for your brother’s death perhaps, or the destruction of your house, or for the loss of your business and life savings. You’re holding your sword so tightly in your hand that your knuckles are white and the grip is all sweaty. Then your leader gives you instructions. He tells you to strike above the enemy’s neck, killing him instantly, or to cut off his fingertips.
You’re disappointed. You wanted to beat the bloody hell out of a person who deserved the bloody hell beaten out of him, and in spite of all your righteous anger, all you get to do is kill him quickly (smite above the neck) or make it so he can no longer wield a sword (cut off fingertips)?!?!
You’re crestfallen. The only options you are given are those putting your enemy quickly out of commission, either by striking at his neck or striking at his fingers so he can no longer use a sword against you. No torture, no pistol-whipping, no untoward cruelty. You’d much rather strip your enemy naked and hang his body from a sign post, like in Bosnia, or maybe capture him and demean him through the worst torture you can think of, like in Abu Ghraib.
And what’s more, if you met any of these people on the street, and there wasn’t a battle going on, you wouldn’t be able to harm a hair on their heads. The instructions for smiting necks and fingers are limited only to the battle-field, and it’s pretty obvious from the fact that the chapter of the Qur’an they’re revealed in is about the rules of warfare, and this instruction is never given for any other time. In fact, your Lord makes killing one person, Muslim or non-Muslim, the same as killing all of humanity, and you might into rather a lot of trouble for murdering all of mankind, don’t you think?
Subhana Rabbi Al-Azeem