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An Enlightening Commentary on the War Related Quranic Verses- Part-1 on 2:190


By Ghulam Ghaus Siddiqi, New Age Islam

24 February 2018

The situation of 21st century is remarkably different from that of the early period of Islam. Over the course of time, human minds have witnessed various examples of flexibility in Islamic rulings. We can read out numerous examples of Islamic rulings which were initially applicable but cannot be applied now to this present century. Each Islamic ruling comes into effect for fulfilling certain objectives. After the objectives are achieved, the rulings become invalid or are postponed. Even the common readers have now started knowing that some Islamic rulings or legal values [Ahkamat] are conditional, contextual, specific and exceptional. They have also known that some Islamic rulings are universal, general and absolute and can never be changed. The detailed knowledge, in this regard, can be gained from books related to Sciences of Islamic Laws, Tafsir and Hadith.

But sadly enough, we see some people, especially the terrorist masterminds who, despite having awareness, do not adopt the entirety of what is known as the best methodological approach required for interpreting the Quran and Sunnah. Thus they fail to take out the best meaning. Since they are committing such a failure in context of war-related verses and Ahadith, it has become more a matter of worry for us, because this is increasing problems in two ways. First problem is that this is resulting into brainwashing the naive Muslim youngsters with the idea that it is incumbent upon them to wage war against their ‘enemies’. Second problem is that this is encouraging non-Muslims to believe that whatever the modern terrorists are doing is thoroughly approved by the Quran and Sunnah. To a great extent, these two problems together are creating the third problem, that is, even some of the moderate people from among the Muslims and non-Muslims can be seen waging the war of words and blaming one another for terrorist activities. Affected by these three faces of the problem, our common readers who honestly and objectively want to read Islam but are incapable of distinguishing between what Islam teaches and what it prohibits concerning the war-related verses. Feeling the very problems in mind, a friend of mine has urged me to write an enlightening commentary on the war-related verses of the Quran, and how they should be best interpreted to curb modern terrorism and how they can work to reform the already brainwashed people.

The purpose of my writing this series of articles is mainly built on reforming the two terror-influenced groups; one that seeks to join the terrorist queues and damage the global peace, and other that is blaming Islam for the terrorist attacks.

Prior to initiating this commentary of war-related verses, I had to go through all the required academic methodologies and investigations. I adopted the classical methodologies of Sciences of Tafsir (Ilm al-Tafsir), Hadith (Ilm al-Hadith) and of Islamic Laws (Usul al-Fiqh) which are necessary for getting all-round understanding of any Islamic ruling derived from the Quran and Sunnah. But in this commentary, I have avoided presenting the detailed scholastic discussion, necessarily taking into account the minds of the common readers.  

Let us begin this first part with what is known as the first war-related Quranic verse 2:190 which reads, “And fight in the way of Allah against those who fight against you, but do not transgress. Truly Allah loves not the transgressors.” (2:190).

This verse (2:190) is considered by some to be the first in the chronological order of revelation to permit fighting. Ibn Jarir Tabari narrates with his full chain of narration on the authority of ar-Rabi’ that this was the first verse revealed to permit fighting. Others differ from this view and regard 22:39 as the first verse for this matter. It is reported that Abu Bakr as-Siddiq said that the first verse revealed about fighting was the verse in Surah Haj (22:39), which is translated as, “Permission is granted to those against whom the disbelievers wage war, as they are being wronged; and indeed Allah is Able to assist them” (22:39). Allama Qurtabi wrote in his book of Tafsir that this verse (22:39) is more frequently cited as being the first. However the preponderant statement [Qaul-e-Rajih] among scholars is that the verse 2:190 is the first in this regard. To make agreement between two conflicting statements, some possible reasons are presented. One reason is that the verse 2:190 was first revealed in reality while the verse 22:39 was first-additionally revealed. Other reason is that, the narrators of the cause of revelation [Shan e Nuzul] of the verse 22:39 might not have been present near the beloved Prophet (peace be upon him) during revelation of the first war-related verse 2:190, and accordingly they narrated what they respectively witnessed at first.

However there is no disagreement that, before the revelation of 2:190 or 22:39, fighting was forbidden in Makkah and initially in Madina. As per “Tibyan al-Quran” authored by Allama Ghulam Rasool Saeedi, the Quranic verses which initially debarred Muslims from fighting in defence are as follows;

“Repel evil with the best deeds; We well know the matters that they fabricate”. (23:96)

“So forgive them and excuse them; indeed Allah loves the virtuous”. (5:13)

“And be patient over what they say and avoid them with gracious avoidance”. (73:10)

“Then if they turn away, O dear Prophet, (Mohammed – peace and blessings be upon him) upon you is nothing but to clearly convey (the message)”. (16:82)

“Therefore advise; indeed you are a proclaimer of advice. (The Holy Prophet is a Remembrance from Allah.) You are not at all a guardian over them”. (88:21-22)

“And you are not one to use force over them” (50:45)

But with the revelation of 2:190, fighting was allowed against those who initiated fighting; “And fight in the way of Allah against those who fight against you, but do not transgress. Truly Allah loves not the transgressors.” (2:190).

This first command for fighting was revealed in connection with the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah. It is reported that in 6 A.H/628, the beloved Prophet (peace be upon him) went out with his companions from Madinah to Makkah for performing ‘Umrah. When they camped at Hudaybiyyah near Makkah, the Makkans came and prevented them from continuing on into Makkah. So the Muslims remained there for a month. Then they made a treaty stipulating that they would turn back the following year for three days and perform the ‘Umrah and that there would be no fighting among them. Having concluded the Treaty, they came back to Madinah. Then, as the time for that approached, Muslims feared treachery of the Makkan pagans and being called upon to fight in the sacred precinct [Haram] during the sacred months. This verse 2:190 was then revealed to set the rules of war, meaning that Muslims are allowed to fight if the Arab pagans initiate fighting with them. We already know that in the initial days, Muslims were brutally tortured, murdered and driven out of their homes, but despite that, as the above Quranic verses testify to this fact, they were commanded to have patience and pardon their enemies, but now since they have made a treaty and are feeling treachery of the Makkans, Muslims are therefore allowed to fight them in their defence.  

There are two statements about this verse 2:190; one group of scholars say that this verse has been abrogated by 9:5, while Ibn Zyad and ar-Rabi say this was abrogated by 9:36, but another group including Umar ibn ‘Abdul Aziz and Mujahid said that this verse is Muhkam whose judgment remains all-time operative and means: “fight those who fight you and do not transgress by killing women, children, monks etc”.

It is reported in Tafsir Qurtubi that, as per an-Nahhas, the position of this verse being Muhkam is sound both in terms of Sunnah and logic. As for the Sunnah, Ibn ‘Umar reports a Hadith that, during one of his expeditions, the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) saw a woman who had been killed, he abhorred that and forbade the killing of women and children. As for logic, this applies to children and those like them, like monks, the chronically ill, old men and peasants who should not be killed. (Qurtubi)

Ibn Abbas said “….do not transgress” (2:190) means “Do not kill women, children, old men, or those who offer peace and restrain their hand. If you do that, you will have transgressed against them” (Tafsir Tabari).

In one of his letters, the Umayyad Caliph ‘Umar ibn Abd al-Aziz commented on the verse 2:190 and wrote that it means “do not fight those who do not fight you” (Tabari).

It is reported that Hadrat Ali (may be Allah pleased with him) said, “Do not initiate the war as long as they do not fight you, because you are the followers of Truth.” (Nahjul Balagh p.453)

Explaining the verse 2:190, a famous Indian Sufi theologian Madani Miyan says in his book of Tafsir, that during wartimes you need to implement justice. Do not kill the peaceful citizens, do not destruct the populated areas, hospitals, places of worship and do not mutilate. (Tafsir-e-Ashrafi)

The scholars who consider this verse 2:190 Muhkam set the rules of war with support of the following instructions given by the beloved Prophet (peace be upon him) to his soldiers in the state of war; 

(1)      “Do not kill any child, any woman, or any elder or sick person.” (Sunan Abu Dawud)

(2)      “Do not practice treachery or mutilation. (Muwatta Malik)

(3)      “Do not destroy the villages and towns, do not spoil the cultivated fields and gardens, and do not slaughter the cattle.” (Sahih Bukhari; Sunan Abu Dawud)

(4)      “Do not kill the monks in monasteries, and do not kill those sitting in places of worship. (Musnad Ahmad Ibn Hanbal)

(5)      “Do not uproot or burn palms or cut down fruitful trees. (Al-Muwatta)

(6)      “Do not wish for an encounter with the enemy; pray to Allah to grant you security; but when you [are forced to] encounter them, exercise patience.” (Sahih Muslim)

(7)      “No one may punish with fire except the Lord of Fire.” (Sunan Abu Dawud).

A Brief Summary for Reforming the Brainwashed Youth

The points derived from the verse 2:190 can be shortly summarised that this verse was the first revealed to permit fighting. As a Muhkam verse, this sets the guidelines for defence and prohibits every sort of transgression. In this 21st century, the people have made certain laws for promoting peaceful coexistence and maintaining peace-treaties, therefore, the war should not be initiated against any peace-seekers. The modern terrorists are transgressing the limits set by Allah Almighty and detailed by the beloved prophet (peace be upon him) as mentioned above in the verse 2:190 and a number of Ahadith. In the Shariat terminology, they are transgressing the limits of Allah, by initiating the war against the peaceful citizens, killing children, women, chronically ill, old men, bombing the populated areas and punishing the innocent civilians with fire. These are the crimes they are committing by making the strictly forbidden acts lawful, and thus they are inventing falsehood about Allah. Do they forget at such a time the Quranic warnings, such as “And do not say about what your tongues assert of untruth, ‘This is lawful and this is unlawful’, to invent falsehood about Allah. Indeed, those who invent falsehood about Allah will not succeed” (16:116)?! While committing terrorism, do they ignore this Quranic verse which commands Muslims to fulfil the promise as, “And fulfil every covenant, Verily the covenant will be questioned about” (17:34)?! While committing indiscriminate killing, do these brainwashed youth forget this Quranic verse which reads, “But if they intend to peace, you also incline to it...” (8:61)?! While brainwashing their members and the youth, why and why do the terrorist masterminds intentionally ignore the Quranic command which says, “And do not kill the soul which Allah has forbidden, except by right. And whoever is killed unjustly - We have given his heir authority, but let him not exceed limits in [the matter of] taking life. Indeed, he has been supported [by the law]” (17:33)?! From the above mentioned Quranic verses and Ahadith, it is known to us that killing peaceful citizens including women, children, old men, monks, destructing places of worship etc are forbidden, then why do the terrorists commit such explicit crimes?! While committing terrorism, why do they make their own decisions in preference to Allah’s decision, while the Quran says, “The decision is only for Allah. He relates the truth, and He is the best of deciders.” (6:57)?! The answers to all such questions are comprehensible in our minds that the terrorists have been brainwashed by their master-ideologues and thereby they are perpetrating those acts which are strictly forbidden in the Quran and Sunnah. But after knowing the facts, if they seek repentance [Tauba] with sincere heart and stop committing such forbidden acts, they may be forgiven, as indeed Allah is the most forgiving and merciful.   


Related Articles:

Rights of Non-Muslims Living In Minority – Part 1 – Freedom of Religion,-new-age-islam/rights-of-non-muslims-living-in-minority-–-part-1-–-freedom-of-religion/d/113727


Rights of Non-Muslims Living In Minority – Part 2 – Protection of Their Lives,-new-age-islam/rights-of-non-muslims-living-in-minority-–-part-2-–-protection-of-their-lives/d/113871



A regular Columnist with, Ghulam Ghaus Siddiqi Dehlvi is an Alim and Fazil (Classical Islamic scholar) with a Sufi background and English-Arabic-Urdu Translator.


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