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Refuting ISIS’ Magazine ‘Rumiyah’ That Ignores the Context of Quran's Verses To Forcefully Justify its Atrocities

By Ghulam Ghaus Siddiqi, New Age Islam

12 June 2017

The terror groups, most predominantly ISIS are viciously attacking Islam’s peaceful ideology from all possible angles, thrusting the world into the fire of hatred and prejudice. Completely bereft of true spirit of Islam, they continue to pen articles after articles in their mouthpiece “Rumiyah”—the magazine that replaces Dabiq, Dar al-Islam, and other magazines which were released until mid-2016. In order to justify their terror attacks, they repeatedly quote the verse 9:14 “Fight them and Allah will punish them through your hands”. Again in the article titled “The Ruling On the Belligerent Christians” (Rumiyah: 9th issue, page 10),they have referred to the same verse out of context in order to kill all those who do not belong to their ideology which is commonly called Wahhabism or Salafism.  

Before proceeding further into refuting ISIS, it must be noted that the US and some of its Arab allies are trying to eradicate the terrorist outfit ISIS from the face of the earth. Islamic scholars from around the world have issued a number of Fatwas condemning all of the ISIS atrocities—mutilation, beheading, merciless killing of innocent people, etc. However, all such efforts failed to change the attitude of ISIS, as the terrorists are still striking in different parts of the world—Iraq, Syria, UK, France, Pakistan, Afghanistan and so on. Mere condemnation of the terrorist attacks or quoting only peaceful verses and ignoring the war-related verses will not change the attitude of ISIS militants. The learned scholars will have to tell them that the war-related verses are contextual and specific for the time. They do not apply to us any more. They urgently need to refute the misconceptions that ISIS and its founders have created with reference to the war-related Quranic verses and Ahadith.

For instance, to justify their terror attacks, ISIS has quoted the Qur’anic verses 9:14-15 out of context, without understanding the reasons and circumstances (Asbab al-Nuzul) of these verses. Such interpretative process, no matter who started it, is injecting evil virus into nearly all societies across the world. Majority of the great jurists of Islam have focused on the study of Asbab al-Nuzul (context) while interpreting the holy Quran. But what the ISIS militants, their founders and partners are doing is a truly bizarre development in the entire history of Tafsir.

Unlawfulness of Misquoting or Cherry-picking the Qur’anic Verses

The significance of the context to understand the Qur’an and Hadith can and should be seen in the principles of Islamic jurisprudence and exegesis. In accordance with the methodology established by the Qur’an and Hadith, it is strictly prohibited to cherry-pick an extract from the Qur’an without understanding it within its full context. Allah Almighty says:

“Do you believe in some parts of the Book and deny some others? So he who does so from amongst you, what can be his punishment but disgrace (and humiliation) in the worldly life? And (also) on the Day of Resurrection, (such people) will be returned to the most ruthless torment. And Allah is not unaware of your deeds” (2:85)

“Then We laid Our curse on them because of their breach of promise (i.e., they were deprived of Our mercy), and We made their hearts callous (i.e., they were deprived of guidance and susceptibility. So,) they change the Words (of Allah’s Book) from their (right) places, and have forgotten a (major) portion of that (guidance) which they were urged upon. And you will continue being informed about one or the other of their treachery, except a few of them (who have embraced faith). So pardon them and forbear. Indeed, Allah loves the benefactors” (5:13)

“(The torment) that We sent down upon the dividers,(15:90) Those who divided the Qur’an into pieces (and split it, i.e., accepted the favourable Verses but rejected the others)”. (15:91)

The verses mentioned above guide people to understand the Quranic verses in context. Thus, to understand any Qur’anic verse or Hadith, everybody should ponder over the relevant context in its entirety, and not depending on only parts of it. Having gathered all the relevant scriptural texts, he should distinguish the ‘general’ from the ‘specific’, the ‘conditional’ from the ‘unconditional’ and the ‘unequivocal’ from the ‘allegorical’. Besides, it is essential for him to consider the reasons and circumstances of revelation (Asbab al-Nuzul) and all the other interpretive conditions specified by the classical Islamic jurists and scholars.

Widely Approved Reasons and Circumstances (Asbab al-Nuzul) of the Qur’anic verses 9:14-15

The exact context of the verses 9:14, 15, which ISIS quoted in its magazine “Rumiyah” in order to incite extremism and fanaticism among Muslims and non-Muslims, basically starts from the verse 9:12. Before quoting these verses within full context, we should take into consideration their reasons and circumstances (Asbab al-Nuzul).

According to the widely renowned and unanimously accepted books of exegesis—Tafsir al-Qurtubi, Tafseeral-Tabari, Tafsir al-Baghawi (also known as Ma'alim at-Tanzeel), Tafsir Al-Tahrir Wal Tanwir’ (also known as Tafsir Ibn 'Ashur), Tafsir ibn Kathir, Tafsir al-Kabir (The Large Commentary, also known as Mafatih al-Ghayb), Tafsir al-Jalalayn—, these verses (9:12, 13, 14, 15) were revealed after the pagans of Makkah broke the treaty of peace known as Sulh al-Hudaibiya and restored the state of war.

Taking into consideration Asbab al-Nuzul, these verses can now be well understood as follows:

“And if after making a promise (for peaceful bilateral relations), they break their oaths, (and restore the state of war,) and taunt you with sarcasm in your Din (Religion), then wage (defensive) war against (those) chieftains of disbelief (to eliminate any chance of mischief, violence and revolt). Surely, their oaths are not worth any regard, so that they may desist (from their mischief-mongering). (9:12)

“Will you not fight a people who broke their oaths (violating the peace treaty and restoring the state of war), and decided to banish the Messenger (blessings and peace be upon him) whilst the first time it is they who initiated war against you? Do you fear them? But Allah has more right that you should fear Him, provided you are believers. (9:13)

“Fight against them (to establish peace). Allah will torment them at your hands and will humiliate them, and will help you (in your defensive fight) against them, and will heal the breasts of the believers. (9:14)

“And He will remove the distress and fury in their hearts, and will accept repentance of whom He wills. And Allah is All-Knowing, Most Wise. (9:15)”

It has been clear from the verses above that fighting was ordered only against those who broke the treaty of peace (Sulh al-Hudaibiya) and restored the state of war. There was no option left for the then believers other than defending their lives and rights to freely practice their religion. The situation in which these verses were revealed is entirely different from today’s bloody events taking place in Iraq, Syria and Pakistan. Innocent emissaries, journalists like James Foley and Steven Sotloff, citizens including Muslims and non-Muslims living in Iraq and Syria or elsewhere being killed by ISIS or its allies are not in any way like those Arab pagans who had compelled the then believers to either defend themselves or be killed. So, from the Islamic perspective, it is categorically injustice and absolutely wrong to forcefully attach today’s situation to that of the early period of Islam. Muslims should understand and say unequivocally that ISIS or other terrorists' ideology of justifying their present day fitna and violence is just not acceptable to any mainstream Muslim as those wartime verses of the holy Quran simply cannot be applied in the present 21st century circumstances.

Allah Almighty knows the best!


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


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