Wednesday, August 17, 2005


The creation of categories such as Dar al-Islam and Dar al-Harb is exploited by radical, violence-prone extremist leaders in a number of ways. For instance, once one has constructed a category of people who are described as being beyond the pale of Islam (i.e., Dar al-Harb), then, it becomes a quick hop, skip and a jump to begin referring to everyone in such a category as infidels, unbelievers, apostates, idol-worshipers, and people of jahili [that is, those who supposedly exemplify the qualities of spiritual ignorance -- jahiliyyah -- which existed in Arabia prior to the advent of the Prophetic mission of Muhammad (peace be upon him)].

For example, consider the following verse of the Qur’an:

“You shall fight back against those who do not believe in Allah,
nor in the Last Day, nor do they prohibit what Allah and His
messenger have prohibited, nor do they abide by the religion
of truth -- among those who received the scripture -- until
they pay the due tax, willingly or unwillingly.” (9: 29)

Some individuals attempt to use the foregoing as justification for waging war against Christians and Jews because they claim that the latter groups do not “abide by the religion of truth” They claim that this verse gives Muslims permission to fight and wage war against such groups.

Such an understanding is problematic in a number of ways. First of all, individuals who argue in this manner cannot convincingly demonstrate -- via the complete set of teachings given expression through the Qur’an and Hadith … not just partial, distorted, and selectively edited versions of these texts -- that Allah intends for the foregoing verse to apply for all times and to all Muslims, rather than to just the Prophet and the circumstances of that period of history.

There appears to be a general belief among many Muslims that because the Qur’an is a book of Divine guidance, then, this means that whatever occurs, or is said, in relation to the Prophet is applicable to everyone else. However, the fact of the matter is there are differences between the Prophet and other Muslims.

For more than thirteen years -- a time encompassing the period of time in Mecca and the first several years after hijra, or migration, from Mecca to Yathrib (later Medina) -- God did not permit Muslims to defend themselves through armed conflict. This was the case despite the many forms of abuse -- including a two year period of siege in which the Prophet, members of his family, and followers were nearly starved to death -- which were directed against Muslims, in general, and the Prophet, in particular.

At a certain juncture following hijra and prior to the Battle of Badr, permission came for the Prophet to organize the defense of Muslims against aggression. Over the next five or six years, there were a number of armed battles which took place, and, yet, through all these conflicts, no more than 250 non-Muslims were killed and an even smaller number of Muslims lost their lives.

Following the conquest of Mecca by Muslims, there were a number of minor conflicts with several regions near Mecca and Medina, but these were handled largely through the tactic of siege rather than armed battles. Toward the last few years of the Prophet’s life, there was peace in the land.

Why do modern-day, fanatical, fundamentalist extremist jihadists automatically assume that the part of the Prophet’s life which should be used as a model for conduct is armed conflict rather than the non-violent approach -- despite substantial provocation -- which characterized the vast majority of the Prophet’s life? Why do these modern-day jihadists automatically assume that the Divine permission which was given to the Prophet with respect to the waging of war under certain circumstances necessarily accrues to all ensuing generations of Muslims? Why do modern-day jihadists only treat those portions of the Qur’an which mention armed conflict (and there are only about 164 verses, out of some 6,000, or so, total verses in the Qur’an which deal with these matters) in terms of the permissions to fight which is given rather than the many prohibitions which place due limits on such permission, and rather than on the many other non-violent spiritual lessons which are woven into the Quranic text surrounding, as well as within, such verses? Why do modern-day jihadists accrue to themselves the same spiritual authority and stature of the Prophet and, therefore, arrogantly presume that God necessarily will extend to them the same permissions concerning armed conflict that was accorded to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) or that the Prophet approves of what they are doing?

Secondly, in relation to the Quranic verse cited toward the beginning of this post, Christians and Jews do believe in God as well as the Last Day, and they prohibit many, if not most, of the same things which Allah and the Prophet prohibit -- such as: killing, stealing, dishonesty, corruption, injustice, adultery, not respecting one’s parents, and so on. Even the dietary prohibitions given through the Qur’an are observed by Jewish people and should be observed by Christians because such prohibitions are in the Old Testament which, supposedly, is accepted by Christians as the Word of God and, and, yet, many Christians have been spiritually misled by their so-called church leaders into supposing that such dietary permissions and prohibitions do not apply to them.

Thirdly, the foregoing Quranic verse refers to those who do not abide by the “religion of truth among those who received the scripture”. This raises a variety of questions.

For instance, with respect to the identity of those individuals who are alluded to as those who do not abide by the religion of truth, there is some ambiguity -- at least on the surface of the Quranic text -- both with respect to who they are and the precise way in which such people are not abiding by that ‘religion of truth’. In addition, one wonders who, beside Allah and the Prophet, is qualified to make such a judgment?

Whose conception of the “religion of truth” is to serve as the standard against which all other understandings are to be measured? -- that of the Wahhabis? that of the philosophers? that of the fundamentalist theologians? that of jurists? that of the jihadists who treat everyone as an apostate and infidel except those who believe and act as they do? What proofs can be offered that such interpretations are acceptable to God? Why should only the opinions of theologians and jurists be considered in such matters, and why doesn’t the quality of such theological and juridical opinions seem to matter as much as the fact that these individuals are willing to give their blessings to violence and armed conflict against anyone who disagrees with them?

Moreover, to what extent must someone not abide by the religion of truth before one can wage war against them? After all, none of us is perfect. We all make mistakes for which we are in need of God’s forgiveness, if not, as well, the forgiveness of our fellow human beings.

Consequently, to one extent or another, there are few, if any, of us who do not, in one way or another, fail to abide by the religion of truth. If this were not so, we would not be encouraged to seek God’s forgiveness. If this were not so, the Qur’an would not have indicated:

“If Allah were to take humankind to task for their wrong-doing,
God would not leave on Earth a living creature, but God reprieves
human beings until an appointed time. (16: 61)

Is one to assume that in the earlier Quranic verse (i.e., 9: 29), God is instructing human beings to make constant war on one another no matter how trifling the manner may be in which someone does not abide by the religion of truth and despite the fact that, notwithstanding the mistakes which someone may make, that, nonetheless, such people still do believe in God, the Last Day, and the things which have been prohibited by God and the Messenger? And, just how does God’s directive that there is to be no compulsion in matters of Deen fit into the alleged directive that Muslims are supposed to fight anyone who does not abide by the religion of truth?

God is not saying things in a contradictory way. Human beings -- such as would-be terrorist leaders -- are imposing contradictions upon the sacred texts by failing to take into consideration the entire body of teachings and how those teachings can modulate one another in ways which give human beings a lot more degrees of freedom concerning the manner in which one abides by ‘the religion of truth’ than are fanatical, fundamentalist, violence-prone, extremist jihadists who are trying to induce people to adopt a delusional framework through spiritually abusive techniques of misrepresenting the teachings of the Qur’an and the Prophet.

In addition to the foregoing considerations, the Quranic verse (9: 29) noted previously, indicates there is still a remedy which permits Muslims to avoid having to fight back even if those other individuals do not believe in God, nor the Last Day, nor prohibit what God and the Prophet forbid, nor abide by the ‘religion of truth’ -- even if they are among the people who have been given scripture. More specifically, if those who satisfy the foregoing conditions pay Jizya (a tax on non-Muslims), then, not only is no fighting required, but the paying of the Jizya tax is the end of the matter and there are no further requirements which need to be imposed on such people with respect to matters of belief or abiding by the ‘religion of truth’.

In the time of the Prophet, there was a legitimate source of authority through which reasonable judgments about such matters could be made. Furthermore, the requirement for paying Jizya extended only to those who lived within territory controlled by that legitimate source of authority. In other words, Jizya was not a tax which could be levied on just anyone by just anyone.

For hundreds of years, now, there are serious questions which can, and should, be raised about whether most of the people who currently govern in the Muslims world -- or who, in the past, have governed in the Muslim world -- constitute legitimate sources of authority. In fact the very issue of what it means for someone to be said to possess a legitimate source of authority (and on what grounds and in whose opinion) or whether such individuals are spiritually competent to make judgments about various social and individual matters (such as Jizya or collecting it) -- all of these matters are still very much unsettled within the Muslim world. Consequently, there also are serious questions which need to be asked today about who, if anyone, in the Muslims world has the legitimate, God-given spiritual authority to even ask for Divine permission to fight back against those who do not believe in God, nor the Last Day, nor prohibit what God and the Messenger prohibit or who do not abide by ‘the religion of truth’ -- and such matters are quite apart from the issue of defending oneself, or one’s family, or one’s community against unjust, unprovoked aggression.

Just because someone issues a fatwa (theological decree concerning legal issues), or just because someone speaks Arabic, or just because someone has attended this or that madrassa (school), or just because some people recognize someone as a spiritual authority, or just because someone has certain degrees or a certain educational pedigree – none of this necessarily means anything in and of itself. Unfortunately, these days, there are a lot of irresponsible, spiritually ignorant, abusive ‘leaders’ (among both alleged Sufis, as well as their exoteric namesakes) who call themselves shaykh or sheik who seem to believe that they are Divinely qualified to tell other people how to live their lives.

There are many individuals who are claiming that all manner of spiritual permissions have been given to them. However, claiming this, and actually being given such permission, are not necessarily the same thing -- especially when there are many questions which those people need to answer with respect to the fact that they seem more interested in inventing their own religion than following the full guidance given by God through the Qur’an and through the quality of character of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

Above and beyond the many questions which have been raised in the foregoing discussion, there is the question of why anyone would prefer the tools of violence over the tools of faith? Why, in other words, should fighting back -- even when permission is given -- always have to be understood to mean violent, armed conflict? Why can’t fighting back mean employing the tools of faith? Wasn’t the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) reported to have said: “If someone treats you with nafs (the lower soul), then, treat them with ruh (spirit)?”

Yes, there are times when fighting back, in the sense of armed conflict, may be unavoidable. But, surely, discretion is the better part of valor.

The Qur’an indicates that “oppression is worse than murder” (2: 217). Yet, many of those who claim to be conducting jihad, in the sense of armed conflict, against the infidels are, themselves, guilty of much oppression, including against themselves, in relation to matters of truth.

In Volume 3, Book 43, Number 624, one finds the following hadith which is narrated by Anas:

Allah's Apostle said, "Help your brother, whether he
is an oppressor or he is an oppressed one. People
asked, "O Allah's Apostle! It is all right to help
him if he is oppressed, but how should we help him
if he is an oppressor?" The Prophet said, "By
preventing him from oppressing others."

Almost all those who have committed themselves to armed conflict against those whom they consider to be infidels, apostates, unbelievers, jihilist are guilty of oppressing others because they indiscriminately use tools of violence and oppressive compulsion. In the process, many innocent lives are destroyed.

Those who are inclined toward violence seem bereft of the tools of faith which, God willing, might open up the possibility of peaceful means for resolving difficulties. Unfortunately, most of these violence-prone individuals appear to have lost faith in the tools of faith -- the very tools for which they claim to be fighting and which they claim people are not practicing and the absence of which they cite as the cause of all the problems which face the Muslim community.

Fanatical, extremist, fundamentalist jihadists need to be restrained from oppressing others. However, using violence to restrain these individuals is neither, necessarily, the only option or the best option. Preferably, such individuals need to be shown that what they believe and what they are being taught and what they are teaching and what they are trying to bring about is delusional in character and an expression of spiritual abuse (which is always oppressive), and as such, is not, at all, an accurate reflection of God’s guidance in the Qur’an or the example provided by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

Once an individual jettisons considerations of discernment in such matters -- as extremists frequently are intent on doing -- then, one will begin to see certain verses of the Qur’an, along with various hadiths selectively and inappropriately used in conjunction with the members of such artificially constructed groups.

For example, verses such as:

"And say not of those who are killed in the Way of
Allah, "They are dead," Nay, they are living, but
you perceive (it) not." (2: 154)


"And if you are killed or die in the Way of Allah,
forgiveness and mercy from Allah are far better than
all that they amass (of worldly wealths, etc.)."


"Think not of those who are killed in the Way of
Allah as dead, Nay they are alive, with their Lord,
and they have provision. They rejoice in what Allah
has bestowed upon them of His Bounty …” (3:169-170)


"But those who are killed in the Way of Allah, He
will never let their deeds be lost." (47:4)

are cited, and potential converts to the terrorist cause are told that being killed in the way of Allah (Shaheed) is just the flip side of the coin of killing others in the way of Allah. Furthermore, the way of Allah is equated with performing jihad, and, then, jihad is restrictively interpreted to mean engaging in armed conflict against whoever is labeled and demonized as being infidels, apostates, unbelievers, and jihili by the extremist leaders.

In truth, all of the Quranic verses concerning armed conflict are specifically focused on the permission to engage in defensive wars which was given to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) by God. At a certain juncture, a pledge (sometimes referred to as the Pledge of Ridhwan) was taken by those who were traveling with the Prophet at a place called Hudaibiyah, near Mecca. The nature of this pledge, which was taken by both men and women, was to give support to the Prophet and to be willing to engage in armed conflict whenever called upon to do so by the Prophet.

The pledge was directly accepted by the Prophet. However, as the Qur’an indicates:

“Surely, those who pledge allegiance to you, are pledging
allegiance to Allah. Allah approves their pledge; He
places His hand above their hands.” (48:10)

The Pledge of Ridhwan took place in the month of Dhul Qadah, 6. A.H. No fighting ensued immediately following the taking of this pledge, but, rather, a peace treaty was negotiated.

When the aforementioned treaty had been drawn up, it began with “In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.” The Quraish objected to this and wanted it struck from the accord. The Prophet had those words struck from the agreement.
Then, the Quraish objected to the fact that the document was signed with the name of Muhammad (peace be upon him), Messenger of Allah. They indicated that this was the very issue with which they most disagreed and wanted this removed from the agreement as well. The Prophet complied.

The treaty contained provisions and conditions which a number of the Muslims, who were accompanying the Prophet, felt placed Muslims at a tremendous disadvantage and which they believed were almost entirely favorable to the Meccan forces opposed to the Prophet. Some of the Muslims grumbled about, and were unhappy with, the terms of the accord.

The Prophet noticed the visible lack of pleasure with the accord and addressed the matter, asking the Muslims with him why they were upset with the treaty. After informing him of their concerns, the Prophet indicated that, in point of fact, the treaty was a great victory because it gave them the opportunity, free from hostilities and in an atmosphere of peace, to invite people to Islam.

Indeed, many people accepted Islam during this period of negotiated peace. And, the peace ended when the non-Muslims broke the conditions of the treaty, and it was the breaking of the treaty by the non-Muslims which led to subsequent armed conflict over the next several years.

The Qur’an mentions the pledge taken by the Muslims at Hudaibiya in the following way:

“Indeed Allah was pleased with the believers when they
gave their Bai`at (pledge) to you, (O Muhammad ) under
the tree, He knew what was in their hearts, and He sent
down ‘As Sakinah (calmness and tranquillity)’ upon them,
and He rewarded them with a near victory." (48: 18)

How many of modern-day radical, fundamentalist terrorists who call themselves Muslim understand that the reference to the “near victory” mentioned in the foregoing Quranic ayat may have been an allusion to the establishing of peace through non-violent means which followed soon after the collective making of the pledge of allegiance? Many so-called modern-day “jihadists” mention the Pledge of Ridhwan -- albeit in a distorted way which, through misdirection, seeks to transform a willingness to die into a willingness to kill -- and, yet, these same “leaders” fail to mention that such a pledge was immediately followed not by war but by a peace accord.

In the treaty of Hudaibiyah, the Prophet permitted, among other things, one of the most basic, recurring themes of the Qur’an -- namely, ‘in the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful’ -- to be removed from the document, and, as well, he permitted his own role as a Prophet to be denied and struck down. Where is the battle cry of the ‘jihadists’ in these actions of the Prophet … a battle cry which supposedly demands that the duty of all Muslims is to wage war against the pagans, unbelievers, infidels or people who are under the influence of the times of jahiliyyah and force these individuals to submit to Islam?

Presumably, modern-day jihadists would assassinate the Prophet as an apostate because he abdicated his responsibility -- according to them -- of observing the alleged duty to participate in violent, armed conflict against anyone who would not submit to Islam. Presumably, modern day jihadists would consider the Prophet to be a leader of insufficient and inadequate faith because he was inclined to use tools of faith first and foremost and would only sanction armed conflict under very specific and narrow set of conditions, as a last resort after other, peaceful, avenues had been met with rejection and hostility.

Modern-day, fundamentalist jihadists are spiritual charlatans who selectively distort the Qur’an, the Hadiths, along with Islamic history, in order to re-frame matters in a way that can be used to induce those who are in a state of dissociation to commit violence and feel as if they (those in a dissociative state) are serving the wishes of God and the Prophet when nothing could be further from the truth. This is spiritual abuse of the worse kind.

Extremist, terrorist leaders attempt to argue that the permission for armed conflict spoken of in the Qur’an, along with the Prophetic/Divine acceptance of pledges concerning participation in armed conflict are both in perpetuity and universal in character. In other words, they are claiming that such verses of the Qur’an give carte blanche permission to anyone and everyone to engage in armed conflict against whomever is labeled as unbelievers, apostates, or infidels, and, moreover, such extremists are alleging that the pledge of anyone -- regardless of circumstances, time, and intentions -- concerning his or her willingness to engage in armed conflict against whomever will automatically be accepted by the Prophet and Allah.

All such arguments are nothing but theological speculation and presumption. In fact, consider the following from Bukhari which is narrated by Nafi’:

“During the affliction of Ibn Az-Zubair, two men came to Ibn
'Umar and said, "The people are lost, and you are the son of
'Umar and a companion of the Prophet, so what stops you from
coming out and joining the conflict?" He said, "What stops
me is that Allah has prohibited the shedding of my brother's

They both said, "Didn't Allah say, 'And fight then until
there is no more affliction?’

Ibn ‘Umar said "We fought until there was no more affliction
and so that worship would be for Allah Alone, while you want
to fight until there is affliction and until the worship
becomes for other than Allah."

(Volume 6, Book 60, Number 40)

Through another group of sub-narrators, Nafi narrated the following hadith:

“A man came to Ibn 'Umar and said, "O Abu Abdur Rahman!
What made you perform Hajj in one year and Umra in another
year and leave the jihad for Allah's Cause though you
know how much Allah recommends jihad?"

“Ibn 'Umar replied, "O son of my brother! Islam is
founded on five principles, i.e. believe in Allah and
His Apostle, the five compulsory prayers, the fasting
of the month of Ramadan, the payment of Zakat, and
the Hajj to the House (of Allah).

“The man said, "O Abu Abdur Rahman! Won't you listen
to why Allah has mentioned in His Book: 'If two groups
of believers fight each other, then, make peace between
them, but if one of then transgresses beyond bounds
against the other, then you all fight against the one
that transgresses. (49.9) and:--"And fight them till
there is no more affliction "

Ibn 'Umar said, "We did this, during the lifetime of
Allah's Apostle when Islam had only a few followers.
A man would be put to trial because of his religion;
he would either be killed or tortured. But when the
Muslims increased, there was no more afflictions or

Interestingly enough, and perhaps related to the foregoing comments of ibn ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) -- who was the son of Hazrat ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) -- is the following tradition. More specifically, there is a long hadith narrated by Hazrat ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) in which a stranger, who showed no signs of travel upon his clothes, came to the Prophet one day while the latter was seated with a number of Companions. The stranger proceeded to question the Prophet about the nature of Islam, Iman (faith), and Ihsan (spiritual excellence).

Nowhere in the answers given by the Prophet to these queries by the stranger was there any mention of jihad as being one of the five duties of a Muslim, or of jihad being one of the six basic articles of faith, or of jihad being the essence of spiritual excellence. And, yet, when the Prophet asked Hazrat ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) if he knew who the stranger was and Hazrat ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) replied in the negative, the Prophet is reported to have said:

“That was Gabriel (peace be upon him) and he has come today to teach you your Deen”

When the assassination of Hazrat Hasan (may Allah be pleased with him) was being plotted and plans were set in motion to trick his wife into poisoning him, Hazrat Hasan (may Allah be pleased with him) did not declare jihad against those who were plotting against him even though he knew about the plot and knew that his wife was involved. Instead, when he was dying from the poisoning, he warned his wife about the dangers which lay in wait for her at the hands of those who had induced her to poison him (her conspirators were going to assassinate her after she completed her permission).

When Hazrat Hussein (may Allah be pleased with him) traveled a great distance to stand up to, and resist, the oppression of Yezid, Hazrat Hussein (may Allah be pleased with him) did not compel his companions and family to engage in armed conflict. Rather, he gave them all the opportunity to withdraw from the situation and save their lives -- which they chose not to do and, as a result, almost all of them were slaughtered.

Whenever the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) participated in armed conflict, it is reported that he never raised a weapon against those who were opposed to him. The extent of his physical resistance was that, from time to time, he would pick up the arrows which had been shot at the Prophet, as well as the Muslim warriors surrounding him, and, then, hand the arrows to the Muslim archers.

The Prophet was always in the thick of battle because taking his life was the primary focus of his adversaries. Yet, he did not wield a weapon or try to kill anyone even though he was constantly under attack during such battles.

His jihad was of the very highest order of striving. He was willing to sacrifice his own life and all that he possessed for the sake of God, and, yet, he did not take the life of others.

At the battle of Badr, which is the first, major armed confrontation between Muslims and non-Muslims, the Prophet picked up some pebbles from the ground and threw them in the direction of the opposing forces. After this happened, the far superior and better equipped army of those who sought to exterminate the Prophet, Muslims and Islam all scattered, apparently perceiving themselves to be under attack by strange beings who filled the hearts of the Muslim opposition with tremendous fear. The Qur’an informed the Prophet about this occasion with “it was not you who threw when you threw. God is the one Who threw.” (8: 17)

God had given the permission for Muslims to defend themselves in the battle of Badr. The Prophet complied with the Divine directive in a relatively non-violent manner.

Contrary to the claims of modern-day, extremist ‘jihadists’, the Prophet did not pursue a policy in which polytheists must accept Islam or die. For example, Muhammad (peace be upon him) is reported to have said:

“When you meet your enemies who are polytheists, invite
them to three courses of action. . . . Invite them to
(accept) Islam; if they respond to you, accept it from
them and desist from fighting against them. . . . If
they refuse to accept Islam, demand from them the Jizya
[the tax on non-Muslims which is fairly nominal]. If
they agree to pay, accept it from them and hold off
your hands. If they refuse to pay the tax, seek Allah’s
help and fight them”. (Sahih Muslim, book 19, no. 4294).

First, one should understand that the foregoing counsel was given in relation to a situation in which a Muslim ambassador was assassinated in Byzantium territory. Secondly, the foregoing hadith refers to polytheists and not to people of the Book, or people who believe in God, or people who believe in the Last Day, or to converts. Thirdly, the polytheists are to be invited -- not compelled -- to accept Islam, for, indeed, as the Qur’an stipulates -- and as modern-day, extremist ‘jihadists’ are averse to remembering: “There shall be no compulsion in religion: the right way is now distinct from the wrong way.” (2:256) Fourthly, as long as such polytheists pay the Jizya tax (and Muslims, themselves, are required to pay zakat, so something is not being imposed on non-Muslims for which Muslims do not have a counterpart in financial responsibility in relation to the community), then, no further action is indicated, and they should be left alone. Fifthly, there is absolutely no indication about whether, or not, the foregoing hadith was meant to be a universal principle applicable across all time or was intended only for the circumstances which existed at that time. Finally, if polytheists refuse to pay the jizya tax, it does not necessarily follow that the only way of fighting with them is to kill them or do violence against them.

One could apply economic sanctions against them. Or, one could interact with them in non-cooperative, but non-violent ways. One could keep one’s social distance from them and not take them as allies or friends. Or, one could refuse to help defend them against other people who aggress against them.

With respect to anyone who was seeking to oppress the Prophet and the Muslim community, the Qur’an says:

“If they resort to peace, so shall you, and put your trust
in Allah. He is the Hearer, the Omniscient.” (8: 61)

The Qur’an did not say that the Prophet shall resort to peace only if the antagonists surrender to Islam. The guidance was unconditional and revolved only around the issue of whether, or not, those who were being hostile sought peace.

One of the favorite Quranic verses of modern-day, extremist jihadists is sometimes referred to as the ‘Sword Verse’. This verse says:

“Once the Sacred Months are past, (and they refuse to make
peace) you may kill the idol worshipers when you encounter
them, punish them, and resist every move they make. If they
repent and observe the obligatory prayers and give the
obligatory charity, you shall let them go. Allah is Forgiver,
Most Merciful.” (9: 5)

Just prior to the foregoing verse is a Divine reminder that:

“If the idol worshipers sign a peace treaty with you,
and do not violate it, nor band together with others
against you, you shall fulfill your treaty with them
until the expiration date. Allah loves the righteous.”
(9: 4)

Just after the so-called ‘Sword Verse’ there is guidance (9: 6) about how the Muslims should provide safe passage to any of the idol worshipers who request it so that such a person can hear the word of God and, then, the individual should be permitted to return to her or his people.

Furthermore, when one considers the ‘Sword Verse’, itself, in the context of the Quranic guidance which comes both before and after that verse, there are a number of factors which should be taken into consideration. First, the permission to fight is being given only if the idol-worshipers refuse to make peace. Secondly, Muslims are not being given permission to actively seek out such idol worshipers but, rather, Muslims are being told that ‘if’ the idol-worshipers should be encountered, and if they refuse to make peace, and if one is not bound by any treaties with them, and if they are not seeking safe-passage, and if they do not repent for their aggression, then, one has a variety of options -- namely, one may, if necessary, kill them, or one may punish them in some non-lethal and, possibly, non-violent way, or one may seek to resist (again, possibly, in non-violent ways) every non-peaceful move they make, or one may accept their becoming Muslim. Thirdly, one needs to emphasize that Muslims are not being specifically ordered to kill idol-worshipers but, rather, this is just one possibility among a number of options -- although, not surprisingly, those who are inclined to violence always wish to indulge their predilection for violence and conveniently forget that God is providing an array of alternatives. Fourthly, and, perhaps, most importantly, there is nothing to indicate that the Divine guidance expressed through the ‘Sword Verse’ is intended to serve as carte blanche permission for all Muslims who come after the Prophet to be able to kill idol-worshipers or to engage the latter in armed conflict.

Finally, and once again, attention needs to be drawn to the fact that the ‘Sword Verse’ refers to idol worshipers or polytheists -- not to people of the Book, not to Jews, not to Christians, not to those who believe in God, or the Last Day, or who seek to do deeds of righteousness for the sake of God. Although modern-day, extremist jihadists seek to try to expand the category of ‘idol worshipers’ to include everyone with whom they disagree or who disagrees with them, or whom they consider to be ‘insufficiently Muslim’, or whom they consider to be apostates, or whom belongs to another faith tradition, or are secular leaders, or whom they consider to be infidels, the so-called ‘Sword verse’ applies only to idol worshipers/polytheists, nonetheless, the mental gymnastics of fanatical, extremist jihadists are just part of the package of techniques they have to spiritually abuse those who are vulnerable as a result of the latter’s condition of dissociation due to a variety of personal, social, political, economic, historical, and spiritual circumstances.

Some of these modern-day, extremist jihadists refer to the Quranic verse:

“For this reason did We prescribe to the children of
Israel that whoever slays a soul, unless it be for
manslaughter or for mischief in the land, it is as
though he slew all men; and whoever keeps a soul alive,
it is as though he kept alive all men; and certainly
Our apostles came to them with clear arguments, but
even after that many of them certainly act
extravagantly in the land.” (5: 32)

They use the foregoing verse as justification for committing free-wheeling aggression against other than idol worshipers, claiming that those whom the terrorists oppose are precisely those individuals who are spreading mischief and corruption in the land. How convenient!

The Qur’an verse above does not specify what constitutes mischief. Consequently, the arguments of extremist jihadists concerning the meaning of the foregoing Quranic verse are rather presumptuous and self-serving.

However, if one reflects upon the rest of the Qur’an, then, one might suppose that the real mischief makers are those who continue to commit aggression and resist overtures to peace, or those who seek to oppress and tyrannize believers (of all stripes), or those who are polytheists and are seeking to destroy believers (of all stripes), or those who are driving believers (of all stripes) from their homes or who are actively preventing believers (of all stripes) from worshiping Divinity. Somewhat ironically, the activities of modern-day, extremist jihadists tend to qualify such jihadists as being the very sort of mischief makers to whom they claim to be opposed.

One might also note in passing that it is interesting that the ‘Sword Verse’ only mentions prayer and zakat in reference to the conditions which the idol-worshipers are to observe if they are to be let go. Nothing is said about the first pillar of Islam concerning the bearing witness that ‘there is no reality but Divinity and that Muhammad is the Messenger of God’. Furthermore, there is nothing said in the verse about those who repent having to observe either fasting or Hajj.

When -- for their own self-serving, non-spiritual goals -- fanatical, extremist ‘jihadists’ seek to broaden the notion of who is to be considered to be an infidel, or a corrupter of the earth, or a polytheist, or an unbeliever, or an apostate, or one who is under the influence of jahiliyyah (ignorance), or one who is ‘insufficiently Muslim’ -- that is, all of the categories of human beings with respect to whom the ‘jihadists’ claim that a ‘real’ Muslim is not only justified in killing in the ‘way of Allah’, but, nay, has a religious duty to do so -- some of these fundamentalist fanatics wish to make women, children, the elderly, and non-combatants as legitimate targets for violence. In truth, there is no Quranic support for such delusional ideas, nor is there any justification for this in the traditions of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

In Book 21, Number 21.3.9 of Muslim, one finds the following tradition:

“Yahya related to me from Malik from Nafi from
Ibn Umar that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah
bless him and grant him peace, saw the
corpse of a woman who had been slain in
one of the raids, and he disapproved of
it and forbade the killing of women and

In another tradition, the following is reported:

Yahya related to me from Malik that he had
heard that Umar ibn Abd al-Aziz wrote to one
of his governors, "It has been passed down to
us that when the Messenger of Allah, may Allah
bless him and grant him peace, sent out a raiding
party, he would say to them, 'Make your raids
in the name of Allah and in the way of Allah.
Fight whoever denies Allah. Do not steal from
the booty, and do not act treacherously. Do not
mutilate and do not kill children.' Say the
same to your armies and raiding parties,
Allah willing.
Peace be upon you."

Book 21, Number 21.3.10 of Muslim reports the counsel of Hazrat Abu Bakr as-Siddiq (may Allah be pleased with him) -- the first Caliph, father in-law and close companion of the Prophet – namely:

"I advise you ten things: Do not kill women or
children or an aged, infirm person. Do not cut
down fruit-bearing trees. Do not destroy an
inhabited place. Do not slaughter sheep or
camels except for food. Do not burn bees
and do not scatter them. Do not steal from
the booty, and do not be cowardly."

In addition, as noted previously, the Quranic verse 5: 32 indicates that whoever kills another human being for “other than manslaughter or corruption in the Earth” it is as if such an individual killed the whole of humanity. How is it that women, just because they are women, or children, just because they are children, or the elderly, just because they are elderly, or a Muslim who one considers to be ‘insufficiently Muslim’ have – according to some fanatical ‘jihadists’ -- suddenly become perpetrators of corruption in the Earth and, therefore are worthy of being killed … despite the fact that the Qur’an, the Prophet (peace be upon him), and Abu Bakr Siddiq (may Allah be pleased with him) all teach something quite different?


God willing, Part 4 should appear tomorrow.

Anab Whitehouse

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