Does the Qur'ān justify acts of violence?
Islamic scripture has been (mis)used by some Muslims in justifying acts of violence against both Muslims and non-Muslims. Whilst one can attribute this understanding of the religious texts as being mere interpretations some critics such as the New Atheist, Sam Harris – who takes a decontextualised reading of the Qurʾān – argues that the problem lies deep within the texts themselves, i.e., Qurʾān and hadith, that these are inherently terroristic and violent. Moreover, these critics further suggest that the violence-inducing verses must be removed from the Qurʾān; they are simply incompatible with our modern-day ethos and values. Here are few examples of such verses:
"And kill them wherever you confront them, and expel them from where they expelled you, for persecution is graver than killing. But do not fight them near the Holy Mosque unless they fight you therein; but if they fight you, kill them; such is the requital of the faithless." 
"And when the sacred months have passed, then kill the polytheists wherever you find them and capture them and besiege them and sit in wait for them at every place of ambush. But if they should repent, establish prayer, and give zakah, let them [go] on their way. Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful." 
"Fight those who do not believe in Allah or in the Last Day and who do not consider unlawful what Allah and His Messenger have made unlawful and who do not adopt the religion of truth from those who were given the Scripture - [fight] until they give the jizyah willingly while they are humbled." 
"You will find others who wish to obtain security from you and [to] obtain security from their people. Every time they are returned to [the influence of] disbelief, they fall back into it. So if they do not withdraw from you or offer you peace or restrain their hands, then seize them and kill them wherever you overtake them. And those - We have made for you against them a clear authorization." 
Sunni and Shia scholars interpret these verses as being in particular contexts of war and self-defence, and, hence, outside these contexts they do not apply. For instance, the verse preceding 9:5 mentions that the treatise made with the polytheists must be honoured and it was due to violating the terms of the treatise that the aggression is ordained. The verse following, for example, states that Muslims should not retaliate if the polytheists cease to attack. Moreover, the critics fail to take into account countless verses that promote peace and restrain.
In addition to understanding the Qurʾānic verse in lieu of its given contexts, another argument against the proponents of violence is that the basis of Islam is peace. Starting with the etymology of the word Islam which itself signifies peace, there are several verses that commands to uphold the values of peace and harmony, such as:
“And Allah invites you to the Abode of Peace, and He guides to the straight path.” 
"And if they incline to peace, then incline to it [also] and rely upon Allah. Indeed, it is He who is the Hearing, the Knowing." 
"And We have revealed to you, [O Muhammad], the Book in truth, confirming that which preceded it of the Scripture and as a criterion over it. So judge between them by what Allah has revealed and do not follow their inclinations away from what has come to you of the truth. To each of you We prescribed a law and a method. Had Allah willed, He would have made you one nation [united in religion], but [He intended] to test you in what He has given you; so race to [all that is] good. To Allah is your return all together, and He will [then] inform you concerning that over which you used to differ." 
And the Prophetic tradition that states:
“A Muslim is one who avoids harming other Muslims with his tongue and hands.” 
Building on the primacy given to peace in Islam, there is also a sanctity given to life and property of others such as the following verse:
“If someone kills another person, unless it is in retaliation for someone else or for causing corruption on the earth, it is as if he had murdered all mankind.” 
And the Prophetic narration:
“Regard the life and property of every man as a sacred trust” 
Sanctity can also be extended not only to the life and property of others, but also to every living being on earth as has been interpreted in the following Qurʾānic verses:
“Eat and drink from the provision of Allah, and do not commit abuse on the earth, spreading corruption.” 
“And cause not corruption upon the earth after its reformation. That is better for you if you should be believers.” 
In the light of above verses, Muslim scholars deem the violation of any life or property unjustly, and indeed any form of harm to any creature as being a grave sin and in violation of the Qurʾānic and Prophetic practice.
Furthermore, an emphasis has been placed in the Qurʾān to exercise moderation in every sphere of life which includes belief and practices:
“And thus We made you (Muslims) a median community (ummah Wasat) that you may be witnesses upon people.” 
“Do not go to excess in your religion.” 
And the Prophetic Narration:
“You should restrain yourselves from committing extremism (ghuluww) in religion. For it was due to their having gone to extremes in religion that the previous communities were destroyed.” 
In conclusion it is clear to see that Islam condemns any form of violence and extremism. The Qurʾānic verses which the critics believe make Islam an inherently violent religion must be applied to their respective contexts of self-defence and self-preservation during a war. Therefore, it is prohibited to participate, justify, condone, or promote acts of violence against any human being.
 Sam Harris, The End of Faith, (London: FreePress, 2006), 109.
 Qurʾān 2:191.
 Qurʾān 9:5.
 Qurʾān 9:29.
 Qurʾān 4:91.
 Qurʾān 9:4.
 Qurʾān 5:8; 8:61; 9:6-7.
 Qurʾān 10:25
 Qurʾān 8:61.
 Qurʾān 5:48.
 al-Nasāʾī, al-Sunanal-Kubrā, 6:530 #11726; 3:440.
 Qurʾān 5:32.
 Ibn Hishām, al-Sīra al-Nabawiyya, 4:1022.
 Qur'ān 2:60
 Qur'ān 7:85
 Qur'ān 2:143
 Aḥmad b. Ḥanbal, Musnad Aḥmad b. Ḥanbal, 1:347; al-Ṭabarānī, al-Muʿjam al-kabīr, 18:289.