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Refutation of ISIS That Uses the Verse, ‘Kill the Mushrikin Wherever You Find Them’ To Justify Terrorism in 21st Century: Linguistic Analysis of the Word ‘Mushrikin’ Part-1

Linguistic Analysis of the Word ‘Mushrikin’ in Verse 9:5

Main points

·         The ISIS militants in their magazine ‘Dabiq’ have quoted the Quranic verse (9:5) to justify the acts of violence and terrorism and that “Islam is the religion of the sword not pacifism”

·         The refutation of ISIS is based on Hanafi Jurisprudential principles

·         Sometimes the Quran uses the general word to mean some individuals or some components of the word

·         The word ‘Mushrikin’ mentioned in the verse 9:5 is specific for those Mushrikin of Makka who were religious persecutors and were in the state of war

By Ghulam Ghaus Siddiqi, New Age Islam

28 September 2019

The ISIS militants often quote the Quranic verse (9:5) to justify their acts of violence and terrorism. In the seventh issue of their mouthpiece magazine called ‘Dabiq’, they have quoted this verse to justify their claim that “Islam is the religion of the sword not pacifism” (Dabiq, 7th issue, p.20). An excerpt quoted in their magazine with reference to Tafsir-e-Ibn Kathir is as follows;    

“‘Alī Ibn Abī Tālib (radiyallāhu ‘anh) said, “Allah’s Messenger (sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) was sent with four swords: a sword for the Mushrikin, {And when the sacred months have passed, then kill the Mushrikin wherever you find them} [At-Tawbah: 5], a sword for Ahlul-Kitāb, {Fight those who do not believe in Allah or in the Last Day and who do not consider unlawful what Allah and His Messenger have made unlawful and who do not adopt the religion of truth from those who were given the Book – [fight them] until they give the jizyah willingly while they are humbled} [At-Tawbah: 29], a sword for the munāfiqīn, {O Prophet, fight against the Kuffar and the Munāfiqīn} [At-Tawbah: 73], and a sword for the bughāt (rebellious aggressors), {Then fight against the group that commits baghy (aggression) until it returns to the ordinance of Allah} [Al-Hujurāt: 9]” [Tafsīr

Ibn Kathīr]. (Quoted from ISIS’ magazine ‘Dabiq’, 7th issue, p.20)

The circumstances and causes of revelation (Shane Nuzul or Asbab Al-Nuzul) of the verses quoted in the above mentioned excerpt report that they were revealed in the war-situation. However they are quoted by ISIS and its likes in this age to justify the indiscriminate killing, suicide attacks, destruction of public places and the so-called ‘Istishhadi’ operation. As a result a great disorder and Fasad is taking place around the world and therefore this is the responsibility of all Ulema, scholars to perform their duty to remove the Fasad, if they think so. 

In this article, I would present analysis of the verse (9:5) on the basis of an honest approach, which Allah Almighty alone knows the best. Rather this would work as a refutation of what is understood by ISIS and its likes and even those who are still confused by the variety of available interpretations. This refutation is based on classical Hanafi principles and will be available to you in several parts, as the subject is somewhat lengthy. This series is divided into six parts; with each discussing one point. All the points to be discussed are; 1) Linguistic Analysis of the Word ‘Mushrikin’ in the verse (9:5), 2) Who Are The Mushrikin Mentioned In The Quranic Verse (9:5?), 3) The Verse (9:5) And The Rule that When Nass and Zahir conflict, Nass is preferred, 4) The concept of Abrogation (Naskh) and The Quranic verse (9:5), 5) Refutation based on Muhkamat Verses and 6)  Refutation based on Specification of Generality (‘Aam khussa Anhul Baaz’) and that once a general word is specified by any definite evidence, further specifications can be made even by those Ahadith (which work as a probable evidence).

Linguistic Analysis Of The Word ‘Mushrikin’ In The Verse (9:5)

This first part is aimed at doing linguistic analysis of the word ‘Mushrikin’ mentioned in the verse “kill the Mushrikin wherever you find them” (9:5). The Phrase “kill the Mushrikin” is apparent (Zahir) in its meaning, and the listener or reader understands its apparent meaning without pondering over. Yet there remains possibility of further interpretation or specification in the word ‘Mushrikin’.

The Arabic word “Mushrikin” is in plural form and thus denotes generality (‘Umum). Those who are not well-versed in Arabic, even despite being the Arabs, must know that the general words (‘Aam Kalimat) of the Quran always include possibility of incorporating some individuals, or majority of individuals, or few individuals or sometimes one individual.

Several times, the holy Quran has used the general words (‘Aam Kalimat) in plural form to denote some or many individuals or only one individual. For instance, the Quran says, “And when the angels (Malaikah) said, "O Mary, indeed Allah has chosen you and purified you and chosen you above the women of the worlds.” (3:42). In this verse the Arabic word “Malaikah plural of Malāk—angel” refers only to one angel, and that is Hazrat Jibreel, which is also spelt as Jibra'il, Gibril, Jibril or Gabriel. Allama Aalusi says, “The word Malaikah refers to angel Jibra’il who is the chief of angels” (Tafsir al-Alusi 3:42), Allama Razi says, “the Mufassirin (exegetes of the Quran) say, the word “Malaikah refers only to one angel, that is, Jibril” (Tafsir al-Razi 3:42). 

We also find in the Quran that when it uses the apparently general word and wants to involve all the constituents (Afraad or component parts) of that word, Allah Almighty explains the word in such a way that there remains no possibility of any further interpretation or specification other than what He has said. For instance, Allah has said that all of the angles prostrated before Hazrat Adam (peace be upon him) as in the verse “So the angels (Malaikah) prostrated- all of them (Kulluhum) entirely (ajma’oon)” (15:30). The word ‘Malaikah is a plural word which apparently means “all of the angles”, however there still remains a possibility of being specified (Takhsees) through some exclusion. The Quran closes the door of specification with the word ‘Kulluhum’ (all of them). Then there is again a possibility of Tafriqah, (separation) by way of Taweel (interpretation) between whether the angels prostrated before Adam together or separately. The Quran also closes this possibility of interpretation with the word ‘Ajma’oon’ (all together/ entirely). So in this example, the words “Kulluhum” and “Ajma’oon” are known as ‘Mufassar’ which explains the meaning the words “the angels prostrated [before Adam] in such a way that no further explanations are needed.

Therefore I would say that in the verse “kill the Mushrikin wherever you find them”, we do not find any Mufassar words such as “Kulluhum” (all of them) or “Ajma’oon” (all together), or the words “Mushrikin of all ages or of all kinds including peaceful ones”. This principle implies that there is still possibility of specification or interpretation in this verse (9:5).        

This is enough for us to understand that the Quran has used the plural form or general word to indicate one or more component parts of the word. Aware of this, the jurists of all ages have unanimously agreed in their area of principles of jurisprudence that any word of the Quran whose meaning is apparent (Zahir) still has the possibility of specification or further interpretation. Therefore no one in this world can present this verse (9:5) as a definitive evidence to prove that the word “Mushrikin” mentioned in the Quran refers to all Mushrikin of the world or of all ages. On the contrary, we find here not only the possibility of further interpretation (Taweel) or specification (Takhsees), but also the solid evidences (which we will see in the forthcoming parts) that bring us to accept that the word ‘Mushrikin’ mentioned in the verse 9:5 is specific for those Mushrikin of Makka who were religious persecutors and were in the state of war.


A regular Columnist with, Ghulam Ghaus Siddiqi Dehlvi is an Alim and Fazil (Classical Islamic scholar), with a Sufi-Sunni background and English-Arabic-Urdu Translator. He has also done B.A (Hons.) in Arabic, M.A. in Arabic and M.A in English from JMI, New Delhi. He is Interested in Islamic Sciences; Theology, Jurisprudence, Tafsir, Hadith and Islamic mysticism (Tasawwuf).


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