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The Much discussed and debated Medinian Verses Relating to Fighting

By Naseer Ahmed, New Age Islam

9 April 2015

The Quran is a message for all mankind (12:104, 38:87, 68:52,81:27etc) and not just for the followers of Muhammad (pbuh), from the Lord of all the worlds (1:2, 2:131, 6:45, 7:61, 7:67, 7:104, 10:37, 32:2, 56:80, 69:43) and not simply the Lord of the Muslims alone.

The verse that first gave the Prophet permission to fight was:

(22:39) To those against whom war is made, permission is given (to fight), because they are wronged;- and verily, Allah is most powerful for their aid;-

(40) (They are) those who have been expelled from their homes in defiance of right,- (for no cause) except that they say, "our Lord is Allah". Did not Allah check one set of people by means of another, there would surely have been pulled down monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques, in which the name of Allah is commemorated in abundant measure. Allah will certainly aid those who aid his (cause);- for verily Allah is full of Strength, Exalted in Might, (able to enforce His Will).

 The Verses regarding fighting are of universal relevance

Clearly the permission to fight is of universal relevance and applicable to all those:

Who are expelled from their homes in defiance of right for no other reason except that they say, “our Lord is Allah (by any name)”. The universality of the application of the verse is unmistakable as 22:40 mentions the different places of worship where the name of Allah is abundantly celebrated and that it is Allah’s purpose to protect all such places by means of people who are commanded to fight against all oppression and religious persecution. That Allah can be called by any name is explicitly said in verse 20:8 and 17:110.

Verses 9:111 and 2:246 also make clear that the verses relating to fighting are of universal relevance.

(9:111) Allah hath purchased of the believers their persons and their goods; for theirs (in return) is the garden (of Paradise): they fight in His cause, and slay and are slain: a promise binding on Him in truth, through the Law (Torah), the Gospel, and the Qur´an: and who is more faithful to his covenant than Allah? then rejoice in the bargain which ye have concluded: that is the achievement supreme.

(2:246) Hast thou not Turned thy vision to the Chiefs of the Children of Israel after Moses? they said to a prophet (who was) among them: "Appoint for us a king, that we May fight in the cause of Allah." He said: "Is it not possible, if ye were commanded to fight, that that ye will not fight?" They said: "How could we refuse to fight in the cause of Allah, seeing that we were turned out of our homes and our families?" but when they were commanded to fight, they turned back, except a small band among them. But Allah Has full knowledge of those who do wrong.

 What is fighting in the cause of Allah?

All the verses relating to fighting are for fighting in the cause of Allah. What is the meaning of fighting in the cause of Allah? It means to end religious persecution and oppression consisting of turning people out of their homes or places of worship for no other reason except their faith or hindering them from practicing their faith or torturing them for their faith. See verses 22:39, 40, 2:191 to 193, 2:217, 2:246, 4:75, 8:36-39. It also means to fight to defend any oppressed people (4:74 and 4:75)

 Who are the people against whom fighting is ordained?

Fighting is not ordained against the Muslims, Christians, Jews, polytheists, idolaters, atheists or person(s) of any faith, but only against those who oppress other people for their faith no matter what the faith professed by the oppressors may be.

 Are there any verses that are specific only to the times of the Prophet?

Most of the verses are specific to the Prophet’s times and can be related with the people of those times and events but can be taken as of universal application when identical conditions of tumult, oppression and religious persecution or other kind of targeted oppression exist.

However, the verses of Surah Taubah from 9:1 to 9:15 pronounce judgment on the vanquished Meccans after Mecca was conquered by the Muslims and are only a historical record of what that judgment was. These are not verses relating to fighting but of judgment. These could be used as a guide for pronouncing similar judgment after vanquishing the oppressors.

Verses 9:1 and 9:2 declare amnesty of four months to all mushrikin but with a warning that the kafirun(not mushrikin) among them will be covered with shame at the end of the period.

9:3 and 9:4 announces dissolution of all treaties with the mushrikin except with those who never broke their treaty and warns the kafirun (not mushrikin) of a grievous penalty.

Verse 9:5 is a command to kill all mushrikin at the end of the four month period with the exception of:

1.         Those who never broke their treaty or never fought the Muslims (9:4)

2.         Those who accept Islam offer prayers and pay zakat (9:5)

3.         Those who seek asylum (9:6)

If the command was to kill only the kafirin, then the problem would have been how to identify them since there was no longer an enemy standing in battle. The verse identifies the non kafir among the mushrikin through the exceptions listed above. Verse 9:5 read together with 9:4 and 9:6 then becomes a command to kill only the Kafirin among the Mushrikin.

 Who are the Kafirin?

The only deeds for which the Quran treats the Meccanpolytheists (mushrikin) as Kafir are for:

1.         Persecuting the Muslims for no other reason other than for their faith

2.         Fighting the Muslims for their faith and driving them out of their homes. Breaking peace treaties and aiding the enemy.

The Meccan polytheists are uniformly referred to as the Mushrikin except those standing against the Muslims in battle, those that practiced persecution, or those who broke their treaties with the Muslims. These exceptions, who were the enemies of the new faith of Islam, are referred to as the kafaru among the Mushrikin, clearly implying that not all the Mushrikin are Kafirin.

Their “Kufr” is also mentioned in 9:12, 13

(9:12) But if they violate their oaths after their covenant, and taunt you for your Faith,- fight ye the chiefs of Unfaith ( a-immat-al-kufri) : for their oaths are nothing to them: that thus they may be restrained.(13) Will ye not fight people who violated their oaths, plotted to expel the Messenger, and took the aggressive by being the first (to assault) you?

 Were not all Mushrikin Kafir since they had not accepted Islam?

Verses that deal with the spiritual dimension of Belief, Faith, Scriptures, and Messengers of God treat those who reject Belief, Faith, the Scriptures and the Messengers of God as Kafir. Mere non-acceptance is not rejection.  Who has rejected and who has not rejected is known only to God. Besides, since there is no compulsion in religion (2:256) and the peaceful Kafirun are allowed to have their own way (109:6), there can be no punishment for those who took no part in the battles or in oppressing others for their faith. In the temporal dimension therefore, a Kafir can be identified by only what he does and not by the religion he professes or rejects.

 What if the Polytheist or Idolaters are persecuted?

The following verses are a command to fight to protect the oppressed. It could be any kind of oppression or injustice against any people. Those who fight to defend the oppressed fight in the cause of Allah and the oppressors if they fight back, fight in the cause of evil.

(75) And why should ye not fight in the cause of Allah and of those who, being weak, are ill-treated (and oppressed)?- Men, women, and children, whose cry is: "Our Lord! Rescue us from this town, whose people are oppressors; and raise for us from thee one who will protect; and raise for us from thee one who will help!"

(76) Those who believe fight in the cause of Allah, and those who reject Faith Fight in the cause of Evil: So fight ye against the friends of Satan: feeble indeed is the cunning of Satan.

 The remaining verses

The remaining verses tell us what kind of help and support that can be expected from God for defending those who are weak and oppressed with the specific example of the battles that the Prophet fought to end religious persecution.

There are verses that teach us that no matter what the strength of the enemy, with God’s help they can be vanquished. God will aid you with the help of angels, strike terror into the hearts of the enemy, peace and calm will descend on you and you will be assisted by the forces of nature. Should you be slain and be a believer in Allah (by any name) as the sole Creator, your sins shall be forgiven and you will enter paradise. These are verses of great spirituality and a source of strength for the righteous and hope for the oppressed and dismay for the evil oppressors.

Unfortunately however, both the Muslims and the non-Muslims treat the Quran as a book meant only for the followers of Muhammad (pbuh) and Allah as the Lord of only the Muslims.