JERUSALEM – In his major address to the Muslim world last week, President Obama quoted a verse from the Quran that is interpreted as urging Muslims to follow Muhammad in waging jihad against nonbelievers.
The context of the verse – first noticed by Robert Spencer of the Jihad Watch website – was confirmed by Quranic experts contacted by WND.
“I have pointed to this section of the Quran as showing the importance of jihad and to follow the prophet (Muhammad) in jihad even though a war may be difficult,” Abu Abaida Al-Ahmed, the imam of a central mosque in Gaza City, told WND.
Obama quoted the verse in question during a section of his speech where he was stressing a “new beginning” between the U.S. and the Muslim world, and the need for a “sustained effort to listen to each other.”
Obama continued: “As the Holy Quran tells us, ‘Be conscious of God and speak always the truth.’ That is what I will try to do – to speak the truth as best I can, humbled by the task before us, and firm in my belief that the interests we share as human beings are far more powerful than the forces that drive us apart.”
Obama was reading from chapter 9 verse 119 of the Quran, which deals with the theme of not abandoning Muhammad.
The next Quranic passage continues: “Neither the dwellers of the city, nor the Arabs around them, shall seek to stay behind the messenger of Allah (when he mobilizes for war). Nor shall they give priority to their own affairs over supporting him. This is because they do not suffer any thirst, or any effort, or hunger in the cause of Allah, or take a single step that enrages the disbelievers, or inflict any hardship upon the enemy, without having it written down for them as a credit. Allah never fails to recompense those who work righteousness.”
The two passages are part of a Quranic section scolding local Muslims in Medina for refusing to accompany Muhammad on a war expedition to Tabouk in northern Arabia, where he was seeking to fight a Byzantine garrison.
Abu Saqer, the head of Jahidiya Salifiyah, an Islamic outreach movement in Gaza, explained there are two main interpretations of the verse cited by Obama:
“First that you should follow the truth of Allah, but in specific to follow those who are in jihad with the prophet in spite of the great heat of going to war,” he said.
Al Ahmed, the Gaza imam, stated, “The verses come from the period of the Al-Tabouk war, the year when the prophet left Mecca for Madina.”
The main official Quranic exegesis, or tafsir, concerning verse 119 deals with the importance of speaking the truth. A secondary tafsir, however, uses the verse quoted by Obama to argue for jihad.
That tafsir reads: “(Be careful of your duty to Allah) obey Allah in that which he has commanded you, (and be with the Truthful) with Abu Bakr, ‘Umar and their companions when they stay behind and when they participate in jihad.”
During his speech in Cairo last week, Obama referred to the Quran as “holy” four times and quoted several verses from the Islamic text. He also used Muslim terminology, such as the Quranic obligation of “zakat” or charity.
The speech, in which Obama referenced his Islamic experiences as a child in Indonesia and the Muslim faith of his paternal family, was a major departure from the tone of his campaign last year, when Obama and his team emphasized the then-candidate’s stated Christian faith.