This verse of the Quran lies within a crucial passage in which for the first time followers of Muhammad are given permission to fight for defense purposes against the Meccans who had driven them out of their homes. But the reason why it has always attracted the attention of exegetes is that it equates monasteries (‘cloisters’ in Arberry’s translation), churches, synagogues (‘oratories’), and mosques as places situated all under God's protection.
From this text, as well as several episodes of the life of Muhammad, Islam has always deduced the sanctity of places of worship. Also in this case the observation that we made regarding the massacre of Nice and the attack in Medina proves to be true: the slaughter of Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray claimed by the Islamic State clearly lies outside the limits that Islamic law establishes for the use of violence. As often happens, this fact lends itself to two different readings: the first is to say, once again, that "this is not Islam." A technically correct observation, but at a risk of self-absolution, with possible conspiracy complications. The second is to ask how this murderous drift happened. A painful process, but much more profitable.
For our part, we cannot forget the words in the epigraph of our magazine. They were pronounced by St. John Paul II during his historic visit to the Mosque of the Umayyads in Syria (2001): "Both Muslims and Christians prize their places of prayer, as oases where they meet the All Merciful God on the journey to eternal life, and where they meet their brothers and sisters in the bond of religion." Yes, it is still so. Believers will know how to recognise each other.
This article was translated from Italian