Better Understanding Islam And The Qur’an. Democratic Perspective welcomes Juan Cole, professor of history at the University of Michigan and founder of Informed Comment, to discuss his new book Muhammad, Prophet of Peace Amid The Clash Of Empires. Contrary to the belief that the scriptures of Islam promote violence, Cole explains that the Qur’an has been very badly translated. “I looked at it with the eyes of an historian,” he says. “I’m reading it in the original Arabic and I’m reading it in context with the Greek and Persian and other works of that time. Context is everything.”
According to Cole, “The clans of the Prophet who were based in Mecca were the custodians of the shrine of God. They kept the peace. The Prophet was a peacemaker. The Qur’an actually says that the God of the Christians and the Jews is the same God that they worship. And it says that righteous Jews and Christians are going to heaven.” Cole says that, though the Qur’an has verses that state “when you are attacked, defend yourselves and fight the unbelievers wherever you encounter them,” it’s not talking about Jews and Christians. It’s talking about a specific group – the militant pagans [polytheists] of Mecca who were attacking Muslims at the time.
Cole further explains, “There is nothing distinctive in the Qur’an about war. The great French student of Islam, Maxime Rodinson told my teacher…’Any religion can be interpreted any way.'” Cole says that’s true of Islam, Judaism, Christianity and other religions.