Though the various Abrahamic religions, mainly Judaism, Christianity and Islam, prohibit man from killing and fighting one’s coreligionists, history did and does witness infighting among coreligionists for some reason or another.
Since such infighting is something inevitable, it cannot be deemed grounds for belief in the falsehood of some faith or another for it is the scriptural texts rather than the practice of some followers which may be used for judging faiths.
As neither Judaism nor Christianity nor Islam was immune to infighting, it is unfair to vilify Islam only, simply because some of its followers fight one another.
As indicated above, it is the scriptural texts only which constitute the constant basis on which a faith can be judged as false or true. As for the practice of followers, it is changed according to time and space, ranging between adherence to scriptures and deviation from the same. So, let’s have a look at infighting in Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
Infighting in Judaism
Though Judaism prohibits a Jew from killing one’s fellow Jew, in the Old Testament, the Bible cites many instances of infighting among Jews.
For example, the Old Testament relates that Abimelech put many of his brethren from the children of Israel to the sword. About that, we read in the Bible:
“And they gave him threescore and ten pieces of silver out of the house of Baalberith, with which Abimelech hired vain and light persons, who followed him. And he went unto his father’s house at Ophrah and slew his brethren the sons of Jerubbaal, being threescore and ten persons, upon one stone. Notwithstanding, yet Jotham the youngest son of Jerubbaal was left, for he hid himself.” (Judges 9:4-5)
We also read: “And Gaal went out before the men of Shechem, and fought with Abimelech. And Abimelech chased him, and he fled before him; and many were overthrown and wounded, even unto the entrance of the gate.” (Judges 9:39-40)
We further read: “And Abimelech fought against the city all that day; and he took the city, and slew the people who were therein, and beat down the city and sowed it with salt.” (Judges 9:45)
The Old Testament also cites the infighting which took place between the children of Benjamin and the rest of the children of Israel and the massacres which ensued.
About that, we read in the Bible: “And the children of Benjamin went out against the people, and were drawn away from the city; and they began to smite some of the people and kill, as at other times, in the highways (of which one goeth up to the house of God and the other to Gibeah in the field), about thirty men of Israel.” (Judges 20:31)
We also read: “Therefore they turned their backs before the men of Israel unto the way of the wilderness, but the battle overtook them; and those who came out of the cities they destroyed in the midst of them. Thus they enclosed the Benjamites round about, and chased them and trod them down with ease opposite Gibeah toward the sunrising. And there fell of Benjamin eighteen thousand men. All these were men of valor. And they turned and fled toward the wilderness unto the rock of Rimmon; and they gleaned of them in the highways five thousand men, and pursued hard after them unto Gidom and slew two thousand men of them.” (Judges 20:42-45)
Those are just a few instances. There are still so many other examples of infighting among Jews in the Old Testament, which are not given for the avoidance of lengthiness.
Infighting in Christianity
Though Christianity prohibits a Christian from killing one’s fellow Christian, the Christian history, both ancient and modern, abounds in many instances of infighting among Christians since the dawn of Christianity.
For example, after Constantine had professed and adopted Christianity as a faith within the Roman Empire, infighting took place among his children, each with a view to ruling the empire alone, just a few years after their profession of Christianity.
Such infighting ended up in the defeat and killing of Constantine II in 340 A.D. and the division of the Roman Empire between his brothers, namely Constans and Constantius II.
Moreover, during the reign of Emperor Valens, though just a few decades elapsed after the profession of Christianity by the Roman Empire, tremendous wars broke out between the Christian Eastern Roman Empire under the rule of Emperor Valens on the one side and the Christian Western Goths under the leadership of Fritigern on the other side.
On 9 August 378 A.D., the Battle of Adrianople took place between the Eastern Romans and the Western Goths though both were Christian, and the battle ended in the defeat of the Romans and the annihilation of about two-thirds of the Roman army and the killing of Emperor Valens.
Those are only a few instances of infighting in which the ancient, not to mention modern, Christian history abounds since the dawn of Christianity.
Infighting in Islam
Though Islam prohibits a Muslim from killing one’s fellow Muslim, such infighting God predestined for Jews and Christians has extended to Muslims as well. This is such a fate which cannot be averted by caution. `Amir bin Sa`d reported on the authority of his father that Prophet Muhammad said: “I asked my Lord for three things and He has granted me two but has withheld one. I begged my Lord that my community should not be destroyed because of famine and He granted me this. And I begged my Lord that my community should not be destroyed by drowning (by deluge) and He granted me this. And I begged my Lord that there should be no bloodshed among the people of my community, but He did not grant me this.” (Muslim)
However, unlike the previous heavenly faiths, Islam included, in its practicable, elaborate, exquisite teachings and injunctions, a mechanism for the unification of Muslims, the prevention of their division and dispute, disengagement and reconciliation.
Islam did not content itself with mere prohibition of killing and fighting like the previous Abrahamic faiths. It rather preempted infighting by the commandment of unification, prohibition of division and dispute and such effective solutions for the settlement of any engagement between any two or more Muslim parties:
About unity and unification, we read in the Qur’an:
And hold firmly to the rope of Allah all together and do not become divided. And remember the favor of Allah upon you – when you were enemies and He brought your hearts together and you became, by His favor, brothers. And you were on the edge of a pit of the Fire, and He saved you from it. Thus does Allah make clear to you His verses that you may be guided…And do not be like the ones who became divided and differed after the clear proofs had come to them. And those will have a great punishment. (Aal `Imran 3:103-105)
About the obligation of keeping together and the referral of disputes to the Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Prophet for decision, we read in the Qur’an:
O you who believe! Obey Allah and obey the Messenger (Muhammad SAW), and those of you (Muslims) who are in authority. (And) if you differ in anything amongst yourselves, refer it to Allah and His Messenger (SAW), if you believe in Allah and in the Last Day. That is better and more suitable for final determination. (An-Nisaa’ 4:59)
About the prohibition of difference, division and dispute, we read in the Qur’an:
He has ordained for you of religion what He enjoined upon Noah and that which We have revealed to you, [O Muhammad], and what We enjoined upon Abraham and Moses and Jesus – to establish the religion and not be divided therein. Difficult for those who associate others with Allah is that to which you invite them. Allah chooses for Himself whom He wills and guides to Himself whoever turns back [to Him]. (Ash-Shura 42:13)
About the dispraise of division and factionalism both from inside and outside the Muslim community, we read in the Qur’an:
Surely you have nothing to do with those who have made divisions in their religion and become factions. Their matter is with Allah and He will indeed tell them (in time) what they have been doing. (Al-An`am 6:159)
We also read:
[Or] of those who have divided their religion and become sects, every faction rejoicing in what it has. (Ar-Rum 30:32)
About the dispraise of dispute and the ensuing failure, we read in the Qur’an:
And obey Allah and His Messenger, and do not dispute and [thus] lose courage and [then] your strength would depart; and be patient. Indeed, Allah is with the patient. (Al-Anfal 8:46)
We also read:
And Allah had certainly fulfilled His promise to you when you were killing the enemy by His permission until [the time] when you lost courage and fell to disputing about the order [given by the Prophet] and disobeyed after He had shown you that which you love. Among you are some who desire this world, and among you are some who desire the Hereafter. Then he turned you back from them [defeated] that He might test you. And He has already forgiven you, and Allah is the possessor of bounty for the believers. (Aal `Imran 3:152)
We further read:
[Remember, O Muhammad], when Allah showed them to you in your dream as few; and if He had shown them to you as many, you [believers] would have lost courage and would have disputed in the matter [of whether to fight], but Allah saved [you from that]. Indeed, He is Knowing of that within the breasts. (Al-Anfal 8:43)
About making peace among Muslims and subduing the oppressive Muslim party/ies, we read in the Qur’an:
And if two factions among the believers should fight, then make settlement between the two. But if one of them oppresses the other, then fight against the one that oppresses until it returns to the ordinance of Allah. And if it returns, then make settlement between them in justice and act justly. Indeed, Allah loves those who act justly. The believers are but brothers, so make settlement between your brothers. And fear Allah that you may receive mercy. (Al-Hujurat 49:9-10)
About reconciliation and settlement and being required by the fear of God, we read in the Qur’an:
So fear Allah and amend that which is between you and obey Allah and His Messenger, if you should be believers. (Al-Anfal 8:1)
Though God foreordained infighting for the followers of all Abrahamic religions, including Judaism, Christianity and Islam, we notice that the previous heavenly messages only prohibited their respective followers from killing one another, whereas Islam prescribes an effective course of action, which if adopted, infighting will be unlikely, and if it actually takes place, it will be stopped shortly.
Reasons for Infighting among Muslims
Here is a question which may arise: if Islam is really so cautious of infighting like this, why did infighting break out among Muslims?
The answer is that not all Muslims fight one another. Rather, just some of them fight one another for such reasons against which Islam warned in the Qur’an and the Sunnah as follows:
The first reason: the ignorance of the Islamic teachings and the unwillingness to put them into practice as a way of life. About that we read in the Qur’an:
And whoever turns away from My remembrance – indeed, he will have a depressed life, and We will gather him on the Day of Resurrection blind.” (Taha 20:124)
The abovementioned deviation from the way of God has given rise to the wreckage of havoc on earth and severance of brotherhood relationship among Muslims. About that we read in the Qur’an:
So would you perhaps, if you turned away, cause corruption on earth and sever your [ties of] relationship? (Muhammad 47:22)
Therefore, the blessing of unity among Muslims has been taken back though God once said about it:
And brought together their hearts. If you had spent all that is in the earth, you could not have brought their hearts together; but Allah brought them together. Indeed, He is Exalted in Might and Wise. (Al-Anfal 8:63)
About stripping this blessing, we read in the Qur’an:
That is because Allah would not change a favor which He had bestowed upon a people until they change what is within themselves. And indeed, Allah is Hearing and Knowing. (Al-Anfal 8:53)
The second reason: strong inclination to this worldly life and disinclination to the Hereafter. About that we read in the Qur’an:
And of the people is he who worships Allah on an edge. If he is touched by good, he is reassured by it; but if he is struck by trial, he turns on his face [to the other direction]. He has lost [this] world and the Hereafter. That is what is the manifest loss. (Al-Hajj 22:11)
We also read:
Say, [O Muhammad], “Shall we [believers] inform you of the greatest losers as to [their] deeds? [They are] those whose effort is lost in worldly life, while they think that they are doing well in work.” (Al-Kahf 18:103-104)
The third reason: Muslims’ siding with non-Muslims against their fellow Muslims, and allowing non-Muslims to sow the seeds of discord and dissension among Muslims. About that we read in the Qur’an:
O you who have believed, do not take as intimates those other than yourselves, for they will not spare you [any] ruin. They wish you would have hardship. Hatred has already appeared from their mouths, and what their breasts conceal is greater. We have certainly made clear to you the signs, if you will use reason. Here you are loving them but they are not loving you, while you believe in the Scripture – all of it. And when they meet you, they say, “We believe.” But when they are alone, they bite their fingertips at you in rage. Say, “Die in your rage. Indeed, Allah is Knowing of that within the breasts.” If good touches you, it distresses them; but if harm strikes you, they rejoice at it. And if you are patient and fear Allah, their plot will not harm you at all. Indeed, Allah is encompassing of what they do. (Aal `Imran 3:118-120)
We also read:
O you who have believed, do not take My enemies and your enemies as allies, extending to them affection while they have disbelieved in what came to you of the truth, having driven out the Prophet and yourselves [only] because you believe in Allah, your Lord. If you have come out for jihad in My cause and seeking means to My approval, [take them not as friends]. You confide to them affection, but I am most knowing of what you have concealed and what you have declared. And whoever does it among you has certainly strayed from the soundness of the way. If they gain dominance over you, they would be to you as enemies and extend against you their hands and their tongues with evil, and they wish you would disbelieve. (An-Anfal 60:1-2)
We further read:
And those who disbelieved are allies of one another. If you do not do so, there will be fitnah on earth and great corruption. But those who have believed and emigrated and fought in the cause of Allah and those who gave shelter and aided – it is they who are the believers, truly. For them is forgiveness and noble provision. (Al-Anfal 73-74)
Finally, the Islamic teachings, if put into practice, preclude and contain any infighting among Muslims. However, the aversion of most Muslims to Islam and their preference of this worldly life to the Hereafter account for the main reasons for infighting among Muslims.
The Glorious Qur’an
The Holy Bible