Aslim Taslam

Jon MC

This is the transliteration into Roman characters of the arabic أسلم تسلمwhich literally means “submit to Islam”. In several of Mohammed’s purported letters it is coupled in a longer phrase such as “become a Muslim, you will be safe” or “submit to Islam and you will have security”.

As such the phrase “Aslim Taslam” is used as a cypher in Islam for the broader concept of “submit to Islam for peace/security/safety”(from/with Muslims).

Aslim Taslam is a phrase that occurs in several of Mohammed’s letters to various rulers:

Sahih Muslim Bk.19, No.4380: Narrated Ibn Abbas: “…Abu Safyan … said: While I was in Syria, the letter of the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) was handed over to Hiraql (Ceasar), the Emperor of Rome …[who] called for the letter of the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) and read it. The letter ran as follows: “In the name of Allah, Most Gracious and Most Merciful. From Muhammad, the Messenger of Allah, to Hiraql, the Emperor of the Romans. Peace be upon him who follows the guidance. After this, I extend to you the invitation to accept Islam. Embrace Islam and you will be safe. Accept Islam, God will give you double the reward.…”{1,3}

The examples below are extracted from the Website:

“This letter is sent from Muhammad the Prophet to Negus Al-Ashama, the king of Abyssinia (Ethiopia). Peace be upon him who follows true guidance and believes in Allah and His Messenger. I bear witness that there is no god but Allah Alone with no associate, He has taken neither a wife nor a son, and that Muhammad is His slave and Messenger. I call you unto the fold of Islam; if you embrace Islam, you will find safety … Should you reject this invitation, then you will be held responsible for all the evils of the Christians of your people.”{2}

Mohammed wrote to Juraij bin Matta, called Muqawqas, vicegerent of Egypt and Alexandria saying: “In the Name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful. From Muhammad servant of Allah and His Messenger to Muqawqas, vicegerent of Egypt. Peace be upon him who follows true guidance. Thereafter, I invite you to accept Islam. Therefore, if you want security, accept Islam. If you accept Islam, Allah, the Sublime, shall reward you doubly. But if you refuse to do so, you will bear the burden of the transgression of all the Copts.” [Here “Copts” means “Egyptians” rather than “Coptic Christians”.]

The letter to Chosroes II, Emperor of Persia reads: “In the Name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful. From Muhammad, the Messenger of Allah to Chosroes, king of Persia. Peace be upon him who follows true guidance, believes in Allah and His Messenger and testifies that there is no god but Allah Alone with no associate, and that Muhammad is His slave and Messenger. I invite you to accept the religion of Allah. I am the Messenger of Allah sent to all people in order that I may infuse fear of Allah in every living person, and that the charge may be proved against those who reject the Truth. Accept Islam as your religion so that you may live in security, otherwise, you will be responsible for all the sins of the Magians.”

Bukhari gave a long narration{1,3} of the contents of the letter sent by the Prophet (Peace be upon him) to Hercules [aka Heraclius], king of the Byzantines: “In the Name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful. From Muhammad, the slave of Allah and His Messenger to Hercules, king of the Byzantines. Blessed are those who follow true guidance. I invite you to embrace Islam so that you may live in security. If you come within the fold of Islam, Allah will give you double reward, but in case you turn your back upon it, then the burden of the sins of all your people shall fall on your shoulders.

In the examples above the threat of sword-jihad (war) is slightly muted by the “Aslim Taslam” phrase in that the threat is not entirely overt. The implicit threat of war could have been smoothed over (if necessary) by the assertion that something was “lost in translation”{4}.

A further point to note here is Mohammed’s declaration that “you will be responsible for all the sins of [your people]” or similar. In other words, if you (collectively) don’t become Muslims the “sin” of not not believing in Islam falls on the shoulders of the ruler – and, implicitly, it would be the ruler’s “fault” when the Muslims slaughtered their people.

The following extracts (from the same source above) do not all have the “Aslim Taslim” and the language to the recipients is more overtly threatening:

“In the Name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful. From Muhammad, Messenger of Allah to Haudha bin‘Ali: Peace be upon him who follows true guidance. Be informed that my religion shall prevail everywhere. You should accept Islam, and whatever under your command shall remain yours.”

A Letter to Harith bin Abi Shamir Al-Ghassani, King of Damascus “In the Name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful. From Muhammad, Messenger of Allah to Al-Harith bin Abi Shamir. Peace be upon him who follows true guidance, believes in it and regards it as true. I invite you to believe in Allah Alone with no associate, thereafter your kingdom will remain yours.

A Letter to the King(s) of Oman: “In the Name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful. From Muhammad bin ‘Abdullah to Jaifer and ‘Abd Al-Jalandi. Peace be upon him who follows true guidance; thereafter I invite both of you to the Call of Islam. Embrace Islam. Allah has sent me as a Prophet to all His creatures in order that I may instil fear of Allah in the hearts of His disobedient creatures so that there may be left no excuse for those who deny Allah. If you two accept Islam, you will remain in command of your country; but if you refuse my Call, you’ve got to remember that all your possessions are perishable. My horsemen will appropriate your land, and my Prophet-hood will assume preponderance over your kingship.”

In these cases the letters are to far smaller powers than Persia, Abyssinia, Byzantine or Rome. Thus Mohammed is prepared to make a clear declaration of war on them unless they accept Islam – there is no circumlocution here: If you believe in Islam “whatever [is] under your command” and “your kingdom” will remain yours and if you don’t “my horsemen will appropriate your land”. The threat of war could hardly be clearer.

Our final letter is somewhat different and all the more interesting for that:

Letters between Mundhir bin Sawa, Governor of Bahrain and Mohammed. The Prophet (Peace be upon him) despatched ‘Al-‘Ala’ bin Al-Hadrami to the governor of Bahrain, carrying a letter inviting him to embrace Islam{5}. In reply, Al-Mundhir bin Sawa wrote the following letter:

“[To] Allah’s Messenger (Peace be upon him)! I received your injunctions. Prior to this, I read your letter, which you wrote to the people of Bahrain extending to them an invitation to Islam. Islam appealed to some of them and they entered the fold of Islam, while others did not find it appealing. In my country, there live Magians and Jews, and therefore you may inform me of the treatment to be extended to them.”

The Prophet (Peace be upon him) wrote the following letter in reply to his:

“In the Name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful. From Muhammad, Messenger of Allah to Mundhir bin Sawa. Peace be on you! I praise Allah with no associate, and I bear witness that Muhammad is His slave and Messenger. Thereafter, I remind you of Allah, the Mighty, the Glorious. Whoever accepts admonition, does it for his own good. Whoever follows my messengers and acts in accordance with their guidance, he, in fact, accepts my advice. My messengers have highly praised your behaviour. You shall continue in your present office. Give the new Muslims full chance to preach their religion. I accept your recommendation regarding the people of Bahrain, and I pardon the offences of the offenders; therefore, you may also forgive them. Of the people of Bahrain whoever wants to go on in their Jewish or Magian faith, should be made to pay Jizya (poll-tax).”

In this exchange of letters there are several interesting points: since Sawa writes to Mohammedyou may inform me of the treatment to be extended to” Jews and Sabians he is implementing what would later be codified in Shariah law. Mohammed replies to SawaWhoever accepts admonition, does it for his own good”. In juxtaposition these two phrases imply that Sawa was one of those to whom the “invitation to Islam… appealed.” Mohammed next confirms Sawa in office “You shall continue in your present office”, rescinding any threat (overt or covert) made to him. Mohammed finishes by stating that the Jizya must be imposed on the Jews and Magians. This confirms the imposition of (proto-)Shariah law and (implicitly) the fact that Sawa’s continuance in office and the rescinding of any threat of war was contingent on Sawa’s embrace of Islam.

A further point of interest emerges when we compare these letters to that written to the Nagus.

The Nagus is told “Should you reject this invitation, then you will be held responsible for all the evils of the Christians of your people.” The implication is that there were some non-Christian people living in Abyssinia as well. More importantly, the Nagus is not responsible for these people (unlike Sawa who is responsible for “pardoning” the Jews and Sabians – as well as collecting Jizya from them).

The deduction that follows is that the Nagus still had some Muslims within his realm, but despite his still offering them sanctuary, he is threatened with war because the Nagus has not permitted the institution of Islamic rule.

Lest it be thought that these remaining Muslims were in anyway persecuted in Abyssinia it is a matter of Islamic history that the Muslim immigrants were well treated, allowed to freely practice their faith and perform dawa{6}. Furthermore, emigrants had already been recalled by Mohammed and the Koran (K.4:97, according to Tafseers and K.8:72) to Medina in order to bolster his strength there. Those who refused (or failed) to do so were placed beyond Mohammed’s “protection” – he is told not to worry about them.

Thus the only reason for Mohammed’s continued belligerence towards the Nagus is that the Nagus refused Mohammed’s “invitation” and declined to implement Shariah law.

Note carefully the phrases such as: “you will be” and “you may have” that occur in many of these letters. These are all conditional statements. The “safety” and/or “security” spoken of is something that will come to pass in the future, provided a condition is fulfilled, but is not the case at the present. Thus what Aslim Taslam implies is that if you don’t become a Muslim you will not have peace and security (from the Muslims) in the future – just as you don’t now.

The absence of peace is called “war”. Thus this phrase is an implicit declaration of war on its recipient.

An absence of security in this case means that you should expect border-raids (ghazwas) and/or outright invasion.

Is this threatening interpretation justified?

Mohammed et al raided (ghazwas) the Meccans’ caravans and he also attacked the surrounding Jewish tribes – killing, looting and capturing women (who were handed out amongst the Muslim fighters (Mujahids) as sex-slaves).

After his death the Islamic armies swept out of Arabia and attacked and raided, and (ultimately) invaded and conquered, both the Persian and Byzantine Empires – to whom he had sent letters with this phrase.

You cannot say that they did not get fair warning.

The conclusions to draw from this seem clear:

  1. The less powerful an adversary, the more overt Mohammed’s threats of war and plundering became.

  2. No matter how accommodating, welcoming and protective a non-Muslim Country was to Muslims refugees and asylum seekers, it was not enough to lift Mohammed’s threat of war against a non-Islamic government.

  3. The only “escape” from Mohammed’s aggression was conversion to Islam and implementation of Islamic rule. Which of course is no escape at all.

From the above we can see the threatening and violent nature of Islamic expansion – all contained in the words “Aslim Taslam” – submit to Islam or face war with the army of Mohammed.

It could be argued that this is all historical, but that ignores the fact that Islam takes historical events and applies them to current situations. This is a widely used technique in Koran exegesis. In theory at least all the verses of the Koran have a specific application in that they were recited in a given historical context and thus the development of Shariah law required the “generalising” of these recitations.

Aslim Taslam is a phrase that is taken from the letters purportedly sent by the Muhammad to the chiefs of tribes in his times in which he urged them to “embrace Islam and you will be safe”. Some Muslim scholars, however, have endorsed a more moderate interpretation of the term, arguing that its real meaning was that “those who surrendered to the will of God [i.e. became Muslim] would find peace.” Given that this latter interpretation still implies that only Muslims will have peace, one wonders what the difference really is – apart from a softer “tone”.

Muslim apologists often try to cast this as a kindly call by adding parenthetically to the end of the statement as follows: “become a Muslim and you shall be safe (from Hell or God’s punishment)”.

But this parenthetical remark is not in the original Arabic and is an addition by the translator to further “soften” the sentence.

Here are some more modern examples were the same phrase has been used:

In September 2006 in his Ravensburg lecture Pope Benedict XVI Quoted Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Paleologus who held less than flattering views of Islam and Mohammed. This was accompanied with an explicit disclaimer from the Pope that these views did not reflect his own. Inevitably (predictably violent) Muslim “outrage” erupted and Muslim clerics in Gaza called on the Pope to “accept Islam.” One of them, Dr. Imad Hamto, called on the pope to “repent and ask for forgiveness. We want to use the words of the Prophet Muhammad and tell the pope: ‘Aslim Taslam”. Thus an implicit death-threat to the Pope.

Mawlana Shaykh Nazim (of Northern – Turkish – Cyprus) on meeting some tourists (reportedly) said: “Are you from America? That is not Islam, not even wild animals they are doing such things [here]. Allah Almighty and His Prophet have a saying: “who does not give mercy will receive no mercy”. This is non-Islam. Islam is, ‘Bismillahi ‘r-Rahmaani ‘r-Raheem’ coming with full Mercy aslim taslam.” Setting aside a “shaykhy” translation, note that the “full Mercy” of Islam comes when you embrace Islam, otherwise there is no mercy.

It took about 1000 years, until the “Gates of Vienna” battle in 1683, to finally halt (Ottoman) Islamic expansionist ambitions in the West.

In today’s world we have suicide and/or bombing attacks on many Countries that are non-Muslim, the taking of captives for later murder or ransom{7} and the piracy of vessels on the high seas by Muslim gangs.

Are these then the modern forms of “ghazwa”?

Recently (late 2012) parts of Mali were infiltrated by Islamists who, along with very temporary allies from amongst indigenous groups, carved out a separate Islamist “state” in the North of the Country.

Is this a modern form of Islamic invasion?

The threat of the “Aslim Taslam” has never been lifted, it is still in use today.

You cannot say that we have not had fair warning.

The “West” with it’s secular biases refuses to acknowledge the threat implicit in “Aslim Taslam” or to fight a necessary “war of ideas”.

Foremost amongst these is the multi-cultural notion that all cultures are of equal worth and cannot, therefore, be criticised and that anyone who does so is therefore prejudiced and intolerant and probably a racist and fascist to boot.

Second is the “narrative story” that Islam is peaceful, tolerant and that the “terrorists” are “misinterpreting” Islam, although this narrative is losing ground in the face of continual Islamic violence both against non-Muslims and against “fellow” Muslims world-wide and the in-depth appeal to the Islamic Canon that the terrorists employ.

A third “narrative” strand is generated by the Western mind-set popularised by secularist thinkers that religion can never be the “root cause” of anything and as such the actions of Islamic terrorists “must” be rooted in other non-religious causes (particular favourites are “exclusion”, “discrimination” and other things that are almost impossible to disprove of course). The particular danger of this is that it means that the words and justifications of the terrorists themselves are automatically rejected as the “real” reason for their actions. There is the counter risk of taking all the rhetoric and hyperbole at face-value too, but it is far more foolish to assume that nothing Islamic terrorists say about their religious motivations are true.

Fourth is the idea that “everybody is just like us” and “wants the same things we do”{8} and therefore wants to live in a secular liberal democracy with all its advantages (and disadvantages) etc. This is, frankly, a very myopic and even arrogant – or else criminally ignorant – attitude on the part of Western political leaders and pundits. We have seen how the much-trumpeted “Arab Spring” which, according to people of a “rose-tinted liberal”{9} disposition was supposed to lead to the establishment of western-style (and liberal) democracy has instead led thus far to the establishment of “Islamist” governments with (in Egypt for example) increasing oppression of religious minorities, which thoroughly undermines this particular canard.

There is a response for Aslim Taslam, popularised by Oriana Fallaci{10} it is “Lan astaslem“, Arabic: لن استسلمmeaning “I will never surrender/I will never submit/I will never be a Muslim”.

That is my declaration too. Make it yours also.


Footnotes and references.

  1. This hadith of Muslim may in fact relate to the same “King” as Bukhari’s. The muddle of the names is probably due to the fact that there were two “Roman” Emperors at the time. This tends to throw these letters into doubt as to authenticity.

  2. This letter, if actually written, is particularly outrageous since it was to the Nagus of Abyssinia that Mohammed sent a number of his early converts to escape persecution by the Meccans (this was the “first Hijra” – which actually took place in two waves). And here Mohammed is “thanking” the Nagus for the protection he gave to Muslims (the Nagus rejected a Meccan embassy demanding their return) by calling for the Nagus’ conversion (and that of his people) under the threat of war. “Thanks for protecting my people, now convert or we’ll kill you.”

  3. Bukhari: Vol.1 Bk.1 No.6

  4. Several of the complete stories refer to the use of interpretors between the parties.

  5. This letter may have contained the Aslim Taslam or other threat.

  6. In simple terms this is proslytisation. In this case the asylum seekers were enjoined to use entirely peaceful means.

  7. See Koran 47:4 When Muslims meet non-Muslims in battle, they are to kill them until the non-Muslims are overcome, then the Muslims are to take captives, whom they may ransom.

  8. I heard these trotted out on the BBC Television by a Western Politician (who shall remain nameless) on 03/Feb/2013. (To be fair I should note that I am sure that those met by this ex-Parliamentarian in the Mid.East would assure him that they were “just like us” and that they “want the same things we do” and perhaps some of them were even sincere.)

  9. I am wary of describing this in Left/Right (American) political terms since there were those on the “Right” who welcomed the “Arab Spring” with open – and uncritical – arms and those on the “Left” who were more wary of it – as well as the more stereotypical responses.

  10. Oriana Fallaci, the Italian author and outspoken journalist, popularized the rejoinder “Lan astaslem”.

Jon MC

Jon MC is a retired Chemist, Physicist and teacher (not necessarily in that order) who still has professional commitments. His interest in Islam was kindled when he met some "radical Muslims up close and personal" and he has studied the foundational texts of Islam ever since. He writes under a nomme de plume in order to keep his professional life and views separate.

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