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Islamic Ideology (08 Nov 2017 NewAgeIslam.Com)

The Correct Understanding of the So Called ‘Sword’ Verses of Surah Taubah


By Naseer Ahmed, New Age Islam

08 November 2017

The first 29 verses of this Surah are among the last verses of the Surah to be revealed after the battles of Hunain and Tabuk and exactly a year before the Prophet (pbuh) performed his last hajj. He died a few months after performing hajj. These verses were revealed approximately 18 months after Mecca fell to the Muslims in a bloodless take-over with the Prophet’s army marching in unopposed. There was an expectation of a blood bath after Mecca fell, but this did not happen. The ranks of the Muslims swelled immediately after Mecca fell to the Muslims, which made them over confident, and they suffered severe reverses in the battle of Hunain, but recovered to win eventually. Although many of the Meccans had accepted Islam during this period, there were a few, who remained polytheists. The judgment on the polytheists of Mecca was announced in these verses. Some were among those who had fought the Muslims, in violation of their treaties and indulged in various forms of religious persecution and there were others who not violated their treaty in any manner.

The former category is referred to as the Kafaru or the Kafirin and the latter as merely “disbelievers” or la Yuminun. The punishment for the Kafirin is in verse 9:5 and their Kufr is described in 9:12, 13. The punishment for those who chose to remain disbelievers but were not among the Kafirin, was being debarred from entering Kabah (9:28) and required to pay Jizya 9:29. All the polytheists had the option to migrate to a neighbouring country during the four month period of amnesty and save themselves from the consequences of the punishment in 9:5 or 9:29. The outcome was that not a single person was punished by either verse 9:5 or 9:29. They either chose to migrate or accepted Islam.

بَرَاءَةٌ مِّنَ اللَّـهِ وَرَسُولِهِ إِلَى الَّذِينَ عَاهَدتُّم مِّنَ الْمُشْرِكِينَ

(1) A (declaration) of immunity from Allah and His Messenger, to those of the Mushrikin with whom you have contracted mutual alliances:-

فَسِيحُوا فِي الْأَرْضِ أَرْبَعَةَ أَشْهُرٍ وَاعْلَمُوا أَنَّكُمْ غَيْرُ مُعْجِزِي اللَّـهِ ۙ وَأَنَّ اللَّـهَ مُخْزِي الْكَافِرِينَ

(2) Go you, then, for four months, backwards and forwards, (as you will), throughout the land, but know you that ye cannot frustrate Allah (by your falsehood) but that Allah will cover with shame the Kafirin.

وَأَذَانٌ مِّنَ اللَّـهِ وَرَسُولِهِ إِلَى النَّاسِ يَوْمَ الْحَجِّ الْأَكْبَرِ أَنَّ اللَّـهَ بَرِيءٌ مِّنَ الْمُشْرِكِينَ ۙ وَرَسُولُهُ ۚفَإِن تُبْتُمْ فَهُوَ خَيْرٌ لَّكُمْ ۖ وَإِن تَوَلَّيْتُمْ فَاعْلَمُوا أَنَّكُمْ غَيْرُ مُعْجِزِي اللَّـهِ ۗ وَبَشِّرِ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا بِعَذَابٍ أَلِيمٍ

(3) And an announcement from Allah and His Messenger, to the people (assembled) on the day of the Great Pilgrimage,- that Allah and His Messenger dissolve (treaty) obligations with the Mushrikin. If then, you repent, it were best for you; but if ye turn away, know you that you cannot frustrate Allah. And proclaim to the Kafaru, a grievous penalty.

إِلَّا الَّذِينَ عَاهَدتُّم مِّنَ الْمُشْرِكِينَ ثُمَّ لَمْ يَنقُصُوكُمْ شَيْئًا وَلَمْ يُظَاهِرُوا عَلَيْكُمْ أَحَدًا فَأَتِمُّوا إِلَيْهِمْ عَهْدَهُمْ إِلَىٰ مُدَّتِهِمْ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّـهَ يُحِبُّ الْمُتَّقِينَ

(4) (But the treaties are) not dissolved with those Mushrikin with whom you have entered into alliance and who have not subsequently failed you in aught, nor aided any one against you. So fulfil your engagements with them to the end of their term: for Allah loves the righteous.

فَإِذَا انسَلَخَ الْأَشْهُرُ الْحُرُمُ فَاقْتُلُوا الْمُشْرِكِينَ حَيْثُ وَجَدتُّمُوهُمْ وَخُذُوهُمْ وَاحْصُرُوهُمْ وَاقْعُدُوا لَهُمْ كُلَّ مَرْصَدٍ ۚ فَإِن تَابُوا وَأَقَامُوا الصَّلَاةَ وَآتَوُا الزَّكَاةَ فَخَلُّوا سَبِيلَهُمْ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّـهَ غَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ

(5) But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the Mushrikin wherever you find them, an seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war); but if they repent, and establish regular prayers and practise regular charity, then open the way for them: for Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.

وَإِنْ أَحَدٌ مِّنَ الْمُشْرِكِينَ اسْتَجَارَكَ فَأَجِرْهُ حَتَّىٰ يَسْمَعَ كَلَامَ اللَّـهِ ثُمَّ أَبْلِغْهُ مَأْمَنَهُ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ بِأَنَّهُمْ قَوْمٌ لَّا يَعْلَمُونَ

(6) If one amongst the Mushrikin ask you for asylum, grant it to him, so that he may hear the word of Allah; and then escort him to where he can be secure. That is because they are men without knowledge.

Please note when a verse uses Mushrikin and when it uses Kafirin or Kafaru and the way it distinguishes between the two. It is only the Kafirin who will be covered with shame (9:2) and to whom is proclaimed a grievous penalty (9:3). Who are these Kafaru and what is their Kufr?

 وَإِن نَّكَثُوا أَيْمَانَهُم مِّن بَعْدِ عَهْدِهِمْ وَطَعَنُوا فِي دِينِكُمْ فَقَاتِلُوا أَئِمَّةَ الْكُفْرِ ۙ إِنَّهُمْ لَا أَيْمَانَ لَهُمْ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَنتَهُونَ

(12) But if they violate their oaths after their covenant, and taunt you for your Faith,- fight ye the chiefs of Unfaith (a-Immata L-Kuf'ri): for their oaths are nothing to them: that thus they may be restrained.

أَلَا تُقَاتِلُونَ قَوْمًا نَّكَثُوا أَيْمَانَهُمْ وَهَمُّوا بِإِخْرَاجِ الرَّسُولِ وَهُم بَدَءُوكُمْ أَوَّلَ مَرَّةٍ ۚ أَتَخْشَوْنَهُمْ ۚ فَاللَّـهُ أَحَقُّ أَن تَخْشَوْهُ إِن كُنتُم مُّؤْمِنِينَ

(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? Do you fear them? Nay, it is Allah Whom you should more justly fear, if you believe!

The Kufr of the Kafirin was:

 Violating their oaths and treaties, those who had plotted to expel the Prophet from Mecca and those who were fighting battles against the Prophet. In brief, it was religious persecution. The punishment in 9:5 is only for the religious persecutors and they are the Kafaru mentioned in 9:2,3.

Those who never broke their treaties nor helped the enemies of the Muslims, nor fought them (9:4) and those who seek asylum are not considered Kafir but only people without knowledge (la Yalamun 9:6) and exempt from the punishment in 9:5. These are however, disbelievers (la-Yuminun) and are barred from entering the Sacred Mosque from the next hajj (9:28) and are required to pay Jizya (9:29)

 يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِنَّمَا الْمُشْرِكُونَ نَجَسٌ فَلَا يَقْرَبُوا الْمَسْجِدَ الْحَرَامَ بَعْدَ عَامِهِمْ هَـٰذَا ۚ وَإِنْ خِفْتُمْ عَيْلَةً فَسَوْفَ يُغْنِيكُمُ اللَّـهُ مِن فَضْلِهِ إِن شَاءَ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّـهَ عَلِيمٌ حَكِيمٌ

(28) O ye who believe! Truly the Mushrikun are unclean; so let them not, after this year of theirs, approach the Sacred Mosque.

قَاتِلُوا الَّذِينَ لَا يُؤْمِنُونَ بِاللَّـهِ وَلَا بِالْيَوْمِ الْآخِرِ وَلَا يُحَرِّمُونَ مَا حَرَّمَ اللَّـهُ وَرَسُولُهُ وَلَا يَدِينُونَ دِينَ الْحَقِّ مِنَ الَّذِينَ أُوتُوا الْكِتَابَ حَتَّىٰ يُعْطُوا الْجِزْيَةَ عَن يَدٍ وَهُمْ صَاغِرُونَ

(29) Fight those who believe not in Allah (la Yuminun) nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.

Why does 9:5 say kill the Mushrikin except those exempted under 9:4 and 9:6 if it is only the Kafirin who are intended? If 9:5 had said kill all the Kafirin except those exempted in 9:4 and 9:6, it is applying exemptions to the Kafirin which makes all of them Kafir. The way it is worded, the exemptions in 9:4 and 9:6 are for those Mushrikin who are not Kafir. The remaining Mushrikin are Kafir to whom the punishment in 9:5 applies.

While 9:5 appears to be harsh, it had the desired effect, and at the end of the four-month amnesty period, not a single Kafir remained to be meted out the death punishment. They either accepted Islam or migrated.

Those who were merely disbelievers but not Kafir, were among the general mass of people who follow their leaders. Once the (a-Immata l-Kuf’ri) or the leaders in Kufr accepted Islam, the rest also accepted Islam, and there were no Jiziya paying Mushrikin.  This historical fact is misinterpreted, and the opinion of the scholars is that the Mushrikin had no choice, but to accept Islam, migrate or be killed.  In effect, they say that 9:29 did not apply to the Mushrikin but only to the People of the Book. This is false. The only people the Quran accuses of not believing in Allah and the last day are the “Mushrikin” or the polytheists. There are numerous verses that speak of the Jews and the Christians but not even one verse accuses them of not believing in Allah or the last day. There are also numerous verses that speak of the “Mushrikin” which accuse them of not believing in the last day and associating partners with Allah or disbelieving both in Allah and the Last Day (44:35, 50:3, 56:47). The Jews and the Christians are accused of not holding that forbidden which has been forbidden by Allah and his messenger (4:161, 5:42, 5:62, 63) and not acknowledging the religion of Truth. The subject of the latter part of the verse is therefore the Jews and the Christians. The verse therefore covers the Polytheists, the Jews and the Christians and all of them are given a choice to willingly pay Jiziya or face war.

Fundamental Principles of Islam

Freedom of Conscience

Let there be no compulsion in Religion (2:256)

To the (peaceful) rejecter of the faith be his way and to me mine (109:6)

The discussion on the verses of Surah Taubah clearly establish that the above two principles, were never violated by the Prophet in his battles against the enemy, and are fundamental principles of Islam. The peaceful Mushrikin had the choice of retaining their religion and paying Jizya and the others had a choice to migrate and retain their religion.

Those who had fought against the Muslims, in violation of their treaty, were deserving of the death punishment, according to the rules of that society. Even these people were given the opportunity to migrate during the amnesty period, and save themselves. The judgment was not only in accordance with the secular law of that society, but more humane and merciful. Calling these the “sword verses” is therefore a complete misrepresentation of both the intent and the outcomes. The people to whom the key words Mushrikin, Kafirin, La Yalamun and La Yuminun apply, and therefore their meaning, is explained with the help of the verses themselves.

Naseer Ahmed is an Engineering graduate from IIT Kanpur and is an independent IT consultant after having served in both the Public and Private sector in responsible positions for over three decades. He is a frequent contributor to www.NewAgeIslam.com

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-ideology/naseer-ahmed,-new-age-islam/the-correct-understanding-of-the-so-called-‘sword’-verses-of-surah-taubah/d/113153

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  • Repeat comment:
    you are saying that Mushrikan of Arab was given 18 months time period of peace conversion than after force conversion, wow.
    Is your Allah poves his/her/.. Superiority by force at the end of you do not believe him, my question why than this idot procduced us and keep produceing millions and killing unjustly.
    So any way you are going to get killed by this believers of God.
    By Aayina - 1/1/2018 11:02:07 PM

  • This surah has no current applicability. Our current teaching should be based on other parts of the Quran: "Be kind, just and forgiving even to your enemies. People of other faiths are not your enemies. The human family is a universal brotherhood."

    nO SUCH VERSES IN QURAN.The author must indicate the exact source

    By dr.A.Anburaj - 1/1/2018 9:30:13 AM

  • Please click below pic to understand the infamous "Fighting verses" of Chapter 9 of the Quran:


    By Mubashir - 12/23/2017 9:18:55 AM

  • First teach these things to new age islam and Sultan Shahin.
    By Iqbal Husain - 12/3/2017 7:14:47 AM

  •  "give them options to save themselves either through migration or repentance and redemption."
    What sounds kind and just to Naseer sab may come across as being too harsh and arbitrary to others. By the way, the verse should be seen in its own light irrespective of whether the threat was carried out or not.

    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 11/13/2017 11:29:09 PM

  • The verse 9:5 is very much where it belongs and tells us that even when people are deserving of the death punishment by their own law, give them options to save themselves either through migration or repentance and redemption. It also tells us that any warning must be clear about the likely outcome and the outcome should never exceed the warning. There is no scope for using euphemisms in a warning.

    Since there was a lull for 18 months after Mecca fell to the Muslims, and there were no revenge killings, but on the other hand the people were assured of their safety, there was a danger that the people may not have heeded the warning if it was not clear enough and suffered the consequences. The clear warning ensured that there was no bloodshed. There are lessons in every verse of the Quran for the whole of mankind for those endued with understanding.

    By Naseer Ahmed - 11/13/2017 10:09:32 PM

  • Yes, but would it not be better for us to say that the verse, "kill the polytheists (mushrikin) wherever you find them." (9:5) does not belong in our Quran, or at least that it is obsolete and we do not believe in it any more?

    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 11/13/2017 12:52:21 PM

  • The first 29 verses of Surah Taubah describe the rarest of rare events, the like of which has no parallel in the history of mankind. 

    The People of the Book were assimilated into the new polity without fighting and through negotiations alone in which they agreed to submit to the political authority of the Prophet by paying Jizya not in the manner of 9:29, but as agreed by them willingly as 'value for money' extracting a benefit. During the Medinian period, despite being signatory to the charter of Medina, they had remained aloof and even hostile.

    The Kafirin among the Mushrikin who had fought against the Muslims and remained defiant were assimilated by giving them opportunity to migrate or accept Islam and four months time in which to act. 

    To those who sought asylum, protection was given and they were escorted to safe places even if they did not accept Islam, All of the asylum seekers chose to accept Islam. 

    Those who had not fought without violating their treaty had the option to retain their faith and become Jizya paying subjects. The fact that there were no jizya paying Mushrikin is proof of their willingly accepting Islam. There was absolutely no coercion. 

    The amount of goodwill that was generated was the strength of the new polity - a strength which made them rise to heights never witnessed in the previous history of mankind. 

    The most beautiful part of our history is rendered grotesque and obnoxious by the Ulema with their bigoted version of the same events.

    By Naseer Ahmed - 11/13/2017 7:56:34 AM

  • Naseer sab,
    Don't you think any verse which says, "Kill the polytheists" should be obsolete? Trying to explain it away would only make us look  like fools or liars. I would rather say, "We ourselves do not understand it. In any case, we do not believe in it."

    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 11/11/2017 2:58:30 PM

  • So Naseer Ahmed you are saying that Mushrikan of Arab was given 18 months time period of peace conversion than after force conversion, wow.

    Is your Allah poves his/her/.. Superiority by force at the end of you do not believe him, my question why than this idot procduced us and keep produceing millions and killing unjustly.

    So any way you are going to get killed by this believers of God.

    By Aayina - 11/11/2017 12:58:14 AM

  • Is it required of anyone to say about any historical event that "we do not believe in it and it is obsolete"? We do believe in it as a historical record of what was proclaimed, as we believe in the following as a historical event that took place:

    (11:36) It was revealed to Noah: "None of thy people will believe except those who have believed already! So grieve no longer over their (evil) deeds.

    (37) "But construct an Ark under Our eyes and Our inspiration, and address Me no (further) on behalf of those who are in sin: for they are about to be overwhelmed (in the Flood)."

    And that all the disbelievers were drowned in the floods and the believers saved.

    We do not however continue to build Arks nor expect that the refining process of destroying all the disbelievers and saving only the believers is a continuous one. Nor was the same process followed for every prophet who came after Noah (pbuh) but unfortunately, scholars like Javed Ghamidi believe so, which is why they distort the meaning of the Quran, ignoring that none were destroyed after the mission of many of the prophets and only those who followed Moses into the sea to kill him, were drowned and not every disbeliever. 

    By Naseer Ahmed - 11/10/2017 11:34:44 PM

  • But 9:5 says "kill the polytheists (mushrikin) wherever you find them."
    If we try to whitewash it, we will only make fools of ourselves. It would be better to be honest about it and say straight up , "We do not believe in it any more. It is obsolete".

    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 11/10/2017 11:52:54 AM

  • It is naïve in the extreme to think that history is irrelevant and especially when these verses define the position the Muslims take vis-à-vis the rest of the world. The correct understanding of this part of our history, is key to determining our behaviour. Many of the present-day problems are due to the misunderstanding by even the so-called moderates, this part of our history. The record needs to be set straight and this article is for that purpose.

    I am happy that Yunus Sb has acknowledged that verse 9:4 does not treat all the Mushrikin as Kafirin. In my opinion, 9:6 is even more telling, since the people seeking asylum could be from among those who may have fought the Muslims in violation of their treaty. Even such people, if they seek asylum, are to be given asylum and protected. These are  among the very last verses revealed, and if in these verses, the Quran does not treat all the Mushrikin as kafir, then the question of treating them as kafir in the earlier Siurahs such as Al-Kafirun, simply does not arise.

    It is also amazing that the Mushrikin were given 18 months-time after the conquest of Mecca to assimilate naturally without putting any pressure on them, and many of them did. Only a small residual number was left to whom these verses applied. The complete assimilation of a conquered people who had fought to annihilate Islam, into the new religion, was accomplished without bloodshed. This is a lesson for the whole world. Unfortunately, the picture presented by our own scholars of the same events, is quite revolting and the opposite of what the Quran tells us. 

    By Naseer Ahmed - 11/10/2017 2:52:31 AM

  • I agree with you that the Qur'an does not treat all muhsrikin as kafirin. (9:4).

    By muhammd yunus - 8/8/2017 9:01:11 PM

    Since the above comment is relevant, I have copied it from another thread. The link is provided.

    By Naseer Ahmed - 11/9/2017 2:29:57 AM

  • Surah Taubah is the surah which contains the words, "And when the sacred months have passed, then kill the polytheists (mushrikin) wherever you find them and capture them and besiege them and sit in wait for them at every place of ambush."

    This surah has no current applicability. Our current teaching should be based on other parts of the Quran: "Be kind, just and forgiving even to your enemies. People of other faiths are not your enemies. The human family is a universal brotherhood."

    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 11/8/2017 1:20:42 PM

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