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Islamic Ideology (07 Jul 2015 NewAgeIslam.Com)

Myths about ‘The Verse of the Sword’

By Louay Fatoohi

March 23, 2014

Statements by scholars dating back to the 3rd century Hirji have claimed that the following verse, which has become known as “the verse of the sword,” has abrogated, i.e. annulled, many Qur’anic verses:

When the Inviolable Months have passed away, kill the polytheists wherever you find them. Seize them, besiege them, and wait for them at every place of observation. If they repent, observe prayer, and pay the obligatory alms then let them go their way. Allah is forgiving, merciful. (9.5)

The significance of these reports is the nature of the alleged abrogated verses. The latter include numerous verses that call on the Muslims to be tolerant, forgiving, and patient, and to display such positive attributes toward non-Muslims that allowed Muslims to live peacefully with various religious groups for 1,400 years. Although the alleged abrogating function of verse 9.5 has been dismissed by most scholars, it has become very popular among Muslim terrorist groups and individuals who use it to justify their atrocities.

There are a number of fundamental problems with this abrogation claim, which I will summarize here. For those who are interested in a more detailed analysis of this issue with references to primary sources and other works, there is a dedicated chapter in my book Abrogation in the Qur’an and Islamic Law.

First, only by taking 9.5 completely out of context it maybe be claimed that it has abrogated verses that command the Muslims to show tolerance to non-Muslims. To see how blatant that distortion is, I have quoted 9.5 with the verses that surround it:

A proclamation from Allah and His Messenger to people on the day of Greater Pilgrimage that Allah is clear of the polytheists, as is His Messenger. If you repent that is better for you but if you turn away then know that you are not beyond the power of Allah. And give [O Muhammad!] glad tidings of a painful chastisement to the disbelievers. (9.3) Except those of the polytheists with whom you have a treaty and they did not break its terms or aid someone against you, so abide by their treaty until their term. Allah loves the pious. (9.4) When the Inviolable Months have passed away, kill the polytheists wherever you find them. Seize them, besiege them, and wait for them at every place of observation. If they repent, observe prayer, and pay the obligatory alms then let them go their way. Allah is forgiving, merciful. (9.5) If anyone of the polytheists seeks your protection [O Muhammad!], then protect him so that he may hear the Word of Allah, and escort him to his place of safety. That is because they are a people who do not know. (9.6) How can there be a treaty with Allah and with His Messenger for the polytheists, save those with whom you [O you who believe!] made a treaty at the Inviolable Mosque? So long as they are true to you, be true to them. Surely, Allah loves the pious. (9.7) How [can there be any treaty for the others] when if they would get an advantage over you they would not honor any relation or treaty with you? They satisfy you with their mouths while their hearts refuse. Most of them are backsliders. (9.8) They have purchased with the verses of Allah a little gain, so they have turned away from His way. Surely, evil is what they do. (9.9) They do not honor any relation or treaty with a believer; these are the transgressors. (9.10) But if they repent, observe prayer, and pay the obligatory alms, then they are your brethren in religion. We detail Our verses for the people of knowledge. (9.11) If they break their oaths after their treaty and assail your religion, then fight the heads of disbelief. Surely, they have no binding oaths, so that they may desist. (9.12) Will you not fight a people who broke their oaths, set out to drive out the Messenger, and attacked you first? Do you fear them? Allah is more worthy of your fear, if you are believers. (9.13)

I have analysed these verses in my book Jihad in the Qur’an. The verse immediately before 9.5 commands the Muslims to honor any peace treaty they had with disbelievers. Then verse 9.6 shows that Islam does not consider a peaceful disbeliever an enemy. The Qur’an even commanded the Prophet to give protection to any polytheist who sought his help.

Verse 9.7 commands the Muslims to honor their treaty with the polytheists as long as the latter honored it. God considers this to be an act of piety: “Allah loves the pious.” He reminds the Muslims in verses 9.8-10 that the polytheists used to break their peace treaties whenever they felt they had the upper hand and that they showed a similar disregard for their relations with the Muslims. He explains that the polytheists made peace with their mouths but did not embrace it with their hearts.

Muslims were commanded to forgive the polytheists, live with them in peace if the latter honored peace, and forgive and consider them brothers if they convert to Islam (9.11). God then emphasizes that the aim of fighting the heads of disbelief is to make them desist and establish peace (9.12).

Finally, verse 9.13 urges the Muslims to fight aggression, reminding them of the background of the conflict with the disbelievers. First, it was the polytheists who broke the treaty they had with the Muslims. Second, like the Meccans who forced the Prophet to immigrate to Medina, the polytheists were trying to expel him from Medina. Third, it was the polytheists who attacked the Muslims first.

Second, there are verses in other places in the Qur’an commanding the Muslims to establish peace with any party that wants peace (e.g. 4.90, 8.72). The Qur’an even has clear references to the Prophet continuing to make peace with people who repeatedly violated their peace treaties with the Muslims:

Surely, the worst of beasts in Allah’s sight are those who are ungrateful as they would not believe. (8.55) Those with whom you [O Muhammad!] have made a covenant yet they break their covenant every time and do not act piously. (8.56) Therefore, should you get hold of them in war, make of them an example that would disperse [the gathering army of] those who are behind them that they may be mindful. (8.57) If you fear treachery from a people, then throw back to them [their treaty] on equal terms. Surely, Allah does not love the treacherous. (8.58) Let not those who disbelieve think that they can outstrip [Us]. Surely, they are not impregnable. (8.59) Prepare [O you who believe!] for them what you can of force and horses tethered, to frighten thereby Allah’s and your enemy and others besides them whom you do not know but Allah knows. Whatever you spend in the way of Allah will be paid back to you in full and you shall not be wronged. (8.60) If they incline to peace then incline [O Muhammad!] to it, and rely on Allah. Surely, He is the Hearing, the Knowing. (8.61) If they intend to deceive you, then surely Allah is sufficient for you. It is He who supported you with His help and with the believers. (8.62)

Third, verse 9.5 is claimed to have abrogated even verses commanding the Muslims to be patient in general, not specifically when dealing with the polytheists or their enemies! This shows the false nature of the claims of abrogation involving this verse in general.

Fourth, those who argue that 9.5 has the power to override other verses ignore the fact that this verse targeted certain groups of polytheists, as they apply it to all idolaters. They make an even bigger mistake by claiming that it applies to all non-Muslims, including even the Jews and Christians. Yet the verse talks about the “Mushrikīn,” which is the term the Qur’an applies to the polytheists of Arabia, whereas the Qur’an calls the Jews and Christians “Ahl al-Kitāb” or the “People of the Book.” Even when referring to Jews and Christians behaving like “Mushrikīn,” the Qur’an still calls them “Ahl al-Kitāb,” as in verse 29 from the same chapter as the verse of the sword.

Fifth, in addition to the fact that scholars have disagreed on how many verses are supposed to have been abrogated by 9.5, the number of claims of abrogation by 9.5 grew over time. This clearly shows that the claims were based on the opinions of certain later scholars rather than sources that go back to the Prophet or even his Companions or the Successors.

Sixth, if 9.5 really abrogated tolerance and forgiveness for the disbelievers, it would have abrogated all of the many verses that promote such concepts. Yet even when considering all the verses that are claimed to have been abrogated by 9.5, there are still many other verses that command the Muslims to live peacefully with the disbelievers left uncovered by abrogation claims.

It should now be clear that the claim that verse 9.5 has abrogated other verses, let alone such a large number of them, is absurd. Even the title “the verse of the sword” is a late invention. While “the verse of alms” has been given this name by scholars because it talks about almsgiving and other verses have been given names after words that occur in them, the expression “the verse of the sword” is very much a misnomer because the term “sword” is not found in the verse. Even more telling is the fact that this word does not exist anywhere in the Qur’an!

“Copyright © Louay Fatoohi. Article Reproduced From the Author’s Blog By His Permission

Also Read:

'Kill Them Wherever You Find Them (2:191)': What Quran Actually Means By This Command?


Source: http://www.quranicstudies.com/law/myths-about-the-verse-of-the-sword/

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-ideology/louay-fatoohi/myths-about-‘the-verse-of-the-sword’/d/103801


  • Rational,

    If I show logical consistency, and am able to make good sense of all verses without any contradictions, and do not treat any verse as abrogated, then that is proof that I am right.

    And if someone else gives a different meaning to the verses, and I can show the contradictions that this results in, then it is clear that the other meaning is incorrect.

    It is as simple as that.

    By Naseer Ahmed - 7/11/2015 8:27:06 AM

  • "Very clearly 8:12 covers only those in battle with the Muslims. Who were they? They were those who persecuted the Muslims forcing them to migrate to Medina, driven them out of the Sacred Mosque, hindered them in various way in practicing their religion and were now fighting battles to annihilate them. They were oppressors and religious persecutors and that is what is all that is relevant in the verse and not their faith."

    No war is possible without cause. Meccans were ready to accommodate one more messenger provided he doesn't mock their religion, forefathers, their ways of worship. they visited abu talib so that the prophet can stop mocking.
    a time came when the prophet acknowledged their goddess. Meccans became happy but the prophet said that it was intrusion of shaitan.
    they were happy till the prophet believed "lakum deenukum waliya deen".
    this new religion as usual was a threat to old religion. they stood to protect their old religion and their interests  associated with religion.
    the prophet became more vocal and the opposition grew stronger.
    battles were fought. finally Muslims won. now everything was at disposal of the prophet.
    is it a crime to fight for one's religion?
    do you know any winner who says that defeated was not wrong?
    very defeater threw the responsibility on  head of defeated.
    if Muslims were fighting for their religions, meccans were fighting for their religion. they felt their religion will die and their position will be ruined. they fought as they should have.
    don't you see America threw responsibility on Iraq.
    don't you see India and Pakistan keep blaming each other?
    don't you see Israel blame philistine?
    don't you see Arabs accuse Israel and USA for their failures.

    wars are fought through propaganda. no party accept the responsibility. 
    we don't know the real history. Muslims are complaining that history is being distorted. but are Muslims free from distortion?

    Muslims believe that it was all predestined.
    when you say that ahl e kitab were waiting for a messenger but refused to accept him when he arrived. what is this if not predestination?
    what is prophecy then?
    forecasting based on some available data is different then a prophecy made by the prophet.
    it is firm belief of majority of Muslims that the quran is in loh e mehfooz. so abu lahab was bound to oppose the prophet. he was bound to hell.
    to resolve this problem, Mutazillas refuted the predestination.
    there must be something that stops scholars from accepting your thesis. it is  not
    just their traditional beliefs.

    why do you believe in the history if it is corrupt? we don't have the story from the defeated. whatever we have is written by corrupt Muslim historians. if they could attibute false to the prophet why they couldn't invent some stories to make the Islam bright?

    By rational mohammed yunus - 7/11/2015 8:12:04 AM

  • Naseer saheb
    you have made me aware of my lack of comprehension numerous times, i am unable to sip from your fount of wisdom.
    however i am here with all my ears.

    By rational mohammed yunus - 7/11/2015 7:33:44 AM

  • Naseer saheb
    accepting corruption in the meaning of the Quran is not harmful to Islam but accepting corruption in the text is devastating to Islam. that is why Muslims accept the corruption in meaning but not in the text.
    Since you discard any other source calling it unauthentic, we can't discuss the corruption in the text.
    but there is a full possibility.

    let us leave it aside.
    where is the correct understanding of the Quran? Naturally you will say it is only with you?
    for the same reason, mr mohammed yunus is doing corruption, why you can't.
    Since i am not a scholar of any language and lack in professionalism in debates, i am unable to put my thoughts in right format.
    you take advantage of this and say i am running away. i didn't run away in most difficult times.

    honestly, i think without your new definition of kufr the Quran can't be saved, but why should i believe in it?
    what if it is another way of hiding the truth of the Quran?
    when i asked you to bring a single example of freedom of worship places of non-muslims in prophetic period, you evaded this situation.
    i have repeated it many times, but nobody has brought a single proof of religious freedom in early Islam, when the prophet grew stronger.

    whenever Muslims in past faced external danger they always relied on traditional tafseer of the verses of the Quran.
    take the examples of ibn e tamiyah and his followers, sarhindi, shawaliullah etc. Same happened in Afghanistan.
    these verses will be used as these have been used in past in their true form.
    now when the Quran is under attack in new environment, scholars are trying to hide the real meanings. in the past it was easy because people had no access to books, but in the age of internet almost every source is available to everyone challenging the position of scholars.
    i wish you get success in your mission if it is for truth though i have a strong doubt in it for valid reasons.

    By rational mohammed yunus - 7/11/2015 7:26:30 AM

  • Sultan Saheb

    "The Quran does not speak about the corruption of the text of previous scriptures. It speaks about the manner in which the followers change the meaning of their scriptures. This is exactly what the Muslims have done/are doing to their Book."

    Time for Muslims to reflect on the thought.

    By Sultan Shahin - 7/11/2015 6:02:14 AM"

    your most beloved mohammed yunus the modern exegesis of the Qur'an is doing exactly what the Quran speaks about other books.

    1400 years and no authentic tafseer of the Quran! every Maulana shaven or unshaven has of his kind of tafseer.
    How can this be a guide to all mankind?
    no matter how much you call us islamophobes, the problem is with the Quran and scholars.
    Since you presume that the Quran is just a perfect, uncorrupted, unchanged book, you can condemn scholars but you can't question the Quran.
    this problem will never end because every body will keep putting his words into the mouth of God.

    By rational mohammed yunus - 7/11/2015 6:59:46 AM

  • "The Quran does not speak about the corruption of the text of previous scriptures. It speaks about the manner in which the followers change the meaning of their scriptures. This is exactly what the Muslims have done/are doing to their Book."

    Time for Muslims to reflect on the thought.

    By Sultan Shahin - 7/11/2015 6:02:14 AM

  • Rational,

    Corruption of the text is preceded by corruption in our understanding. By that yardstick, the Quran is a much misunderstood book because the scholars in the past have not stuck to the meanings that the Quran itself gives to various key words it uses but gave their own meanings or used dictionary meanings.  It is fortunate that the text remains in its original form which makes it easier to reach a correct understanding and the fact that the Quran itself makes clear the meaning of key words that it uses. Following the same process that a child follows to learn the meaning of words we can arrive at the correct meaning of the oft used words in the Quran without resorting to the dictionary.


    While the Quran had to rely on the existing words, it gave new meanings to many words and enriched the Arabic language with refined usages of many of the words that it uses.


    The word "Kufr", "kafaru", "Kafir" can be called terms.

     What is a term?

     “If a word is used in a special sense and if it pertains to any discipline it is called a term.


    When a science, philosophy or thought is developed or when new ideas for social reforms are introduced, the ordinary words prevalent are not sufficient and capable to express the specifically developing units of thought for that particular discipline. As such either new words are coined or the ordinary words are chosen and special meanings are assigned to them. In other words a new status is given to the ordinary words of the language. When a word becomes a term it loses its original dictionary meaning and assumes a new meaning and a new status.”


    The Quran uses the words words Kafaru and kufr the way we use the words Sinner and Sin. Just as the sinner is described by his sin, the kafaru is defined by his kufr. Kafaru cannot therefore be given the fixed dictionary meaning of “Unbeliever” or its equivalent.


    This subject has been dealt in detail in the articles cited in my previous comments.

     The Quran does not speak about the corruption of the text of previous scriptures. It speaks about the manner in which the followers change the meaning of their scriptures. This is exactly what the Muslims have done/are doing to their Book.

    Rational, this is not a debate and it is not debate that I am interested in. If I am not projecting what I truly know and believe to be the truth, I am risking my hereafter. While all the previous scholars have the excuse of being human and therefore prone to error, I have no excuse for going against all of them if I am wrong. I stand alone and at great risk unless I am 100% certain that I am right.

    By Naseer Ahmed - 7/11/2015 4:13:29 AM

  • Rational, 

    Very clearly 8:12 covers only those in battle with the Muslims. Who were they? They were those who persecuted the Muslims forcing them to migrate to Medina, driven them out of the Sacred Mosque, hindered them in various way in practicing their religion and were now fighting battles to annihilate them. They were oppressors and religious persecutors and that is what is all that is relevant in the verse and not their faith.

    Against those who do not fight:

    (60:8) Allah forbids you not, with regard to those who fight you not for (your) Faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them: for Allah loveth those who are just.

    Therefore translating Kafara as "Oppressor" or as "Religious Persecutor" is more appropriate which not only removes all ambiguity but universalizes the message of the Quran.

    The subject of mistranslation of this key term has been covered under my articles:

    Who Is A Kafir In The Quran? (Part 1): 'Kafir,' 'Mushrik' and 'Idolater' are not synonyms

    Who Is A Kafir In The Quran? (Part 2): Muslim– Non-Muslim Relationship

    Who Is A Kafir In The Quran? (Part 3): Why Kufr Is A Relative Concept While Shirk, Idol Worship Etc. Have Fixed Meanings

    Who is a Kafir in the Quran? (Part 4) Defining Kufr

    The following article shows the effect of mistranslation of the verses 8:36 to 8:38

    The Story of the Prophetic Mission of Muhammad (pbuh) in the Qu’ran (Concluding Part) Summary

    By Naseer Ahmed - 7/11/2015 3:09:16 AM

  • "The verse is stating a universal truth and the Quran is truly a message for all mankind but there are very few people who understand it as such."
    what is the guarantee one who is claiming to be on right understanding is right? who doesn't say so?
    a true message has no value if it can't be understood by majority.
    it is indeed a shameful  failure of universal message of God to mankind. it is in itself proof that it is not for all.
    i am here. neither i have ran away in past not intend to run away now.
    in fact no message is for all, it can't be. why Allah produced only you to understand but billions of Musims in the past and present.
    it is a mirror but you have veiled it so that you can't see the waekness in your argument.
    if God intended it to all mankind, and the Quran's claim that it is easy to understand is bogus.
    you are proving the proof that the Quran is not easy because you declare all other scholars wrong.
    The Quran is not easy, not a clear book and not in pure Arabic.
    if the Quran is a true message to all then your saying that following of other books can lead to success is just a fabricated lie by you.
    All Muslims believe including you that other scripture are corrupt and the Quran is only intact. there is no Injil in existence that is talked about in the Quran. So following a corrupt book can't lead to success. and if they accept the message of the Quran then they are not ahle kitab,they are only Muslims.
    this is enough and since i am not a habitual/professional debater i may loose the debate but you can't convince me with your contradictory arguments.
    your arguments are contradictory because the book you are defending is contradictory.
    you failed to attract people to your understanding.
    everybody comes with a claim that he is right and rest are wrong. you are no exception.

    By rational mohammed yunus - 7/10/2015 10:21:13 PM

  • Rational,

    You are still running away from discussing the verse in part 4 of the article.

    Irrespective of to whom the verse is addressed the message is for us human beings. However "unbeliever" is not the correct translation of "kafaru". The Kafaru here are the oppressors and the religious persecutors.

    I do not see why this verse cannot inspire anyone irrespective of his faith to stand up and fight against oppression or any kind of wrong or injustice  irrespective of the strength of the oppressor with God's assurance that He will strike terror into the hearts of the oppressor? 

    Is it not a fact that a person in a morally weak position  is a coward and you just have to stand up to him to bring him down?

    The verse is stating a universal truth and the Quran is truly a message for all mankind but there are very few people who understand it as such.

    The Medinian verses are among the most inspiring verses in the Quran if understood correctly. They make a dignified man out of you who has the courage to stand up for his convictions  without relying  on lies, subterfuge or dirty  scheming.

    There are enough verses in the Quran that stress restraint, forgiveness, overlooking, never transgressing the limits etc that prevent a Muslim from becoming overbearing irrespective of his relative strength.

    Even when the Muslims marched into Mecca, they were heavily outnumbered. So your example of a lion terrorising the mice does not hold good. You are also forgetting that the Meccans had besieged the Muslims in Medina just two years earlier and the hypocrites among the Muslims were quaking in fear. They wer also the aggressor in the battle of Uhud.

    By Naseer Ahmed - 7/10/2015 4:34:24 AM

  • Naseer saheb
    you may say that in this verse Allah is talking with angels not Muslims. it is Allah who will cast terror into the hearts of unbelievers through angels.
    were those angels holding weapons to kill the enemies? was not it done through hands of Muslims?
    it was a fight between believers and unbelievers(human beings). killing disbelievers through unseen agencies is inhuman.
    why Allah doesn't interfere when Muslims are killed and tortured in present time? Are not Muslims weak now?

    the fact is that Muslims can follow this verse to wage war on disbelievers as they have done in past and doing in present.
    Muslims gave all credits of wining wars to God.
    Since angels are not coming to help now, Muslims think that disbeliever should be punished at the hands of Muslims.
    How Muslims acted on these verses is important.
    were not these verses quoted ti fight against Russians in Afghanistan?

    By rational mohammed yunus - 7/10/2015 3:39:04 AM

  • Rational,


    The meaning of  the verse "I will instill terror into the hearts of the unbelievers: smite ye above their necks and smite all their finger-tips off." 

    Is plain and clear. I am just asking you to discuss it in its proper context which is part 4 of the article.


    By Naseer Ahmed - 7/10/2015 12:59:09 AM

  • Rational, you have the right to reject just as we have the right to refine and to take the best meaning. So where is the need for argument?
    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 7/10/2015 12:49:44 AM

  • "I doubt whether you have the courage to do it."
    i doubt there were prophets. i doubt the scriptures were words of God.
    i doubt what you say is right. only you have more polished version of Islam. more it is polished, more it is away from real.

    By rational mohammed yunus - 7/9/2015 8:05:01 PM

  • to Muslims meaningful discussion is bound to declare, nothing was/is wrong with Islam.
    it is believing in whatever said by Naseer, Mohammed yunus, Fatoohi etc saheban.

    By rational mohammed yunus - 7/9/2015 7:59:16 PM

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