At the time the Quran was revealed (7th century A.D.), there was no United Nations or Amnesty International to keep the peace or expose injustice. Inter-tribal violence and vengeance was commonplace. As a matter of survival, one must have been willing to defend against aggression from all sides. Nevertheless, the Quran repeatedly urges forgiveness and restraint, and warns believers not to "transgress" or become "oppressors." Some examples:
If anyone slays a person
- unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land -
it would be as if he slew all people.
And if anyone saves a life,
it would be as if he saved the life of all people.
Invite all to the way of your Lord
with wisdom and beautiful preaching.
And argue with them
in ways that are best and most gracious...
And if you punish,
let your punishment be proportional
to the wrong that has been done to you.
But if you show patience, that is indeed the best course.
Be patient, for your patience is from God.
And do not grieve over them,
or distress yourself because of their plots.
For God is with those who restrain themselves,
and those who do good.
Oh you who believe!
Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to God,
even against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin,
and whether it be against rich or poor,
for God can best protect both.
Follow not the cravings of your hearts, lest you swerve,
and if you distort justice or decline to do justice,
verily God is well acquainted with all that you do.
The recompense for an injury
is an injury equal thereto (in degree),
but if a person forgives and makes reconciliation,
his reward is due from God,
for God loves not those who do wrong.
But indeed, if any do help and defend themselves
after a wrong done to them,
against such there is no cause of blame.
The blame is only against those who oppress men
with wrongdoing and insolently transgress
beyond bounds through the land,
defying right and justice.
For such there will be a penalty grievous (in the Hereafter).
But indeed, if any show patience and forgive,
that would truly be an affair of great resolution.
Goodness and evil are not equal.
Repel evil with what is better.
Then that person with whom there was hatred,
may become your intimate friend!
And no one will be granted such goodness
except those who exercise patience and self-restraint,
none but people of the greatest good fortune.
But what about those passages of the Quran that seem to promote wanton violence? For a full discussion of such verses, please visit the FAQ page: Are there verses of the Quran that condone "killing the infidel?"