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Islamic Personalities (03 Apr 2015 NewAgeIslam.Com)

The Story of the Prophetic Mission of Muhammad (pbuh) in the Qu’ran (Concluding Part) Summary

By Naseer Ahmed, New Age Islam

4 April 2015

Was the Prophet (pbuh) fighting battles to end “disbelief” or to end “Religious Persecution”? Was he fighting the “Disbelievers” or the “Oppressors”? While the answers to these questions have been provided in previous 4 parts of the article, let us explore what Muslims believe the answers to these critical questions are.

Before that, let us keep in mind that the word “Kufr” and “Kafir” are like the words “Sin” and “Sinner” and acquire a precise meaning only from the context. If the sin of theft is being talked about, then the sinner is a thief and you will not mistake him for a murderer. Although this is obvious, it is not kept in mind when it comes to the meaning of “Kafir”, which most translators and scholars take as having the fixed meaning of “those who reject the truth of Islam”. This is untrue and more clearly brought out in my article in 4 parts “Who is a Kafir in the Quran” links to which are provided at the end of this article.

Focus on the verse 8:38 as translated by Mohsin Khan. The verses 8:36 and 8:37 are also translated by the same person.

8:36 Verily, those who disbelieve Kafaru) spend their wealth to hinder (men) from the Path of Allah, and so will they continue to spend it; but in the end it will become an anguish for them. Then they will be overcome. And those who disbelieve will be gathered unto Hell.

8:37 In order that Allah may distinguish the wicked (disbelievers, polytheists and doers of evil deeds) from the good (believers of Islamic Monotheism and doers of righteous deeds), and put the wicked (disbelievers, polytheists and doers of evil deeds) one on another, heap them together and cast them into Hell. Those! it is they who are the losers.

8:38 Say to those who have disbelieved (Kafaru), if they cease (from disbelief) their past will be forgiven. But if they return (thereto), then the examples of those (punished) before them have already preceded (as a warning).

The Arabic verse 8:38 only says, “if they cease/desist”. The question that arises is “desist from what?” Since the subject in 8:36 are the Kafaru who spend their wealth to hinder men from the path of Allah, the simple answer is “if they cease/desist from hindering men from the path of Allah”. This is radically different from saying “if they cease/desist from disbelief”. While the Quran is saying that the battle is against “Religious persecution”, Mohsin Khan is trying to tell us that it is against “disbelief”. It is easy to see that in 8:36 also, Kafaru does not mean “those who disbelieve” but “those who practice religious persecution”. In verse 8:37 also, “wicked” is being sought to include all polytheists and disbelievers whereas the Arabic word only means wicked and from the context the wickedness is religious persecution. For Mohsin Khan, the Arabic word signifying good also becomes all believers in Islamic monotheism! This is a rank communal rendering of the meaning of the Quranic verses!

How do the other translators fare?

Fifteen translators do not add anything in parenthesis to say what the kafaru should desist from. They are: Asad, Shakir, DrlalehBakhtiar, Wahiduddin Khan, TB irving, Abdul Haleem, Abdul MajidDaryabadi, Ahmed Ali, AshaBewley, Hamid S Aziz, Muhammad Mahmoud Ghali, Sahih International,

Talal A. Itani, Bilal Muhammad, The monotheist group

Three translators explain what desist from implies and this is not “unbelief”. They are, Pickthal(desist from persecution of believers) Muhammad Sarwar (desist from evil behavior), Shabbir Ahmed (desist from hostilities), Maududi (desist from evil)

For 12 translators, it is desist from “Unbelief” or its equivalent. They are: Yusuf Ali (from Unbelief), Al'-Muntakhab (renounce infidelity, desist from evil purpose and turn to Allah), Ali Unal: (to disbelieve themselves and prevent others from entering the fold of Islam), Muhammad TaqiUsmani (from infidelity), Syed Vickar Ahamed (from disbelief),Farook Malik (from unbelief), Dr Munir Munshey (their skepticism),Dr. M Tahir ul Qadri (from their blasphemous acts),Ali Quli Qarai [faithlessness], Dr Kamal Omar (from their blasphemous acts),Thanvi (Kufr), Raza Ahmad Khan Barelvi(Kufr Se Baaz Aye Aur Islam Laye). While I agree that becoming a believer would have been the ultimate proof of these people agreeing to desist from past behavior, is this being demanded in the verse?

For all 30 of the translators, Kafaru means an Unbeliever or its equivalent word or description. They therefore have a fixed meaning for “Kafir”. Now the simple question is why should all the “disbelievers” be addressed for the acts of some of them? Is this is not stereotyping? Unfortunately, because every translator takes a fixed meaning for kafir, he ends up stereotyping all “Unbelievers” who range from the peaceful rejecter to the violent rejecter. You can imagine the impact when this is done for all the verses where the term occurs!

A more correct translation would be simply to either stick to the Arabic word Kafaru or say:

8:38 Tell those religious persecutors/oppressors that if they desist, that which is past will be forgiven ….

What they should desist from and what past behavior will be forgiven is then obvious.

The addressees now are the offenders alone; there is no stereotyping and no scope for any misunderstanding. This also leads to a faith neutral rendering of the verse. If these verses have relevance beyond their immediate context of the times of the Prophet, then such a faith neutral rendering can be equally applied in today’s world, to the extremists among those who call themselves Muslim, but practice religious persecution. They can also expect the wrath of Allah to descend on them as indeed it descended twice on the “believing Jews” for similar arrogance and haughtiness.

What is needed therefore is a more faithful translation of the meaning of the Quran and the major issue I think is mistranslation of the keywords used in the Quran such as “kafir”, which for some inexplicable reason, is given a fixed meaning by every translator, when it could mean even those who call themselves Muslim, but indulge in religious persecution. The other issue is of some translators putting in their interpretation in parenthesis what is untenable, and simply a product of their own mind, or that of their predecessors.

Carefully consider the 12 translators who apparently think that the Prophet was fighting against “disbelief”. It includes scholars of every sect and some of them are major influencers such as Thanvi, Tahir ul Qadri and Raza Khan Barelvi. If according to them the Prophet was fighting against “disbelief”, then how can they or their followers refute the ideology of the “Jihadists”?  And how do they reconcile 2:256 “Let there be no compulsion in religion” and 109:6 “To you (peaceful Kafir) be your way and to me mine” with what they think the Prophet was fighting against? The fact is that the Prophet and Quran are far above what these people attribute to the Quran and the Prophet (pbuh). It is time the Muslims rose above such narrow minded communal interpretations of the Quran and reject the theology based on such interpretation. Unless they do this, I do not think that they can defeat the ideology of the extremists.

URL to Previous Parts:

URL of Part 1: http://newageislam.com/islamic-personalities/observer-for-new-age-islam/the-story-of-the-prophetic-mission-of-muhammad-(pbuh)-from-the-qu’ran-(part-1)-the-early-opposition/d/102107

URL of Part 2: http://newageislam.com/islamic-personalities/observer-for-new-age-islam/the-story-of-the-prophetic-mission-of-muhammad-(pbuh)-from-the-qu’ran-(part-2)--the-clear-warning-to-the-meccan-pagans/d/102121

URL of Part 3: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-personalities/the-story-of-the-prophetic-mission-of-muhammad-(pbuh)-in-the-qu’ran-(part-3)--important-pointers-from-the-stories-of-the-prophets/d/102138

URL of Part 4: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-personalities/the-story-of-the-prophetic-mission-of-muhammad-(pbuh)-in-the-qu’ran-(part-4)--the-medinian-period/d/102155

Related Articles:

Who Is A Kafir In The Quran? (Part 2): Muslim– Non-Muslim Relationship

Who Is A Kafir In The Quran? (Part 3): Why Kufr Is A Relative Concept While Shirk, Idol Worship Etc. Have Fixed Meanings

Who is a Kafir in the Quran? (Part 4) Defining Kufr

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 NewAgeIslam.com.

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-personalities/naseer-ahmed,-new-age-islam/the-story-of-the-prophetic-mission-of-muhammad-(pbuh)-in-the-qu’ran-(concluding-part)-summary/d/102246



  • To my mind too, Quran 8:38 as translated by the author is correct and it should have been translated this way long back; say, from the very beginning.

    But anyways, jab jaage tab sawera. 

    (8:38 Tell those religious persecutors/oppressors that if they desist, that which is past will be forgiven...)

    The definition of all such words in Quran which have been interpreted in such a way that it has resulted in communication gap between people advocating Islam and those who are apprehensive of Islam, need an exercise in re-definition and have a fresh approach. At least it will benefit those, who are all about Islam but believe and act in just the opposite concept and in opposite manner.

    By sadaf - 8/4/2016 10:26:49 AM

  • Thank you Hamid Sb for your listing of the types of Kufr. Another listing that may be useful is as follows:

    They are kafir who:

     1. despair of the mercy of Allah
    2. are tight fisted
    3. consume usury
    4. who practice oppression and religious persecution
    5. drive people out from their place of worship
    6. sow discord and make mischief on the earth
    7. deliberately spread falsehood
    8. lie and slander against virtuous persons and indulge in calumny
    9. reject the Truth after the Truth has been made clear to them.
    10. are perennially engaged in extinguishing the Light of Allah. 
    11. are open enemy to Allah, His Messengers and His Scriptures. Allah is an enemy to such Kafirin

    12. Reject belief in God without associating partners with God

    13. Reject belief in the hereafter.
    14. Reject belief in the Scriptures as the Word of God.
    15. Reject one, several or all the Messengers of God   

    Items 12 to 15 have to do with affirmation of the faith and the rest are faith neutral. Only those who reject are kafir. Mere non-acceptance for lack of knowledge or understanding is not kufr.

    Likewise for the attitudes or dispositions of the Kafir. They are kafir who:

     1. Are steeped in self-glory and separatism (including sectarianism)

    2. Are Perverse
    3. Are Delusional. 
    4. Have their own theories of the meaning of life and of creation which they hold above the revelations or in other words reject revealed knowledge.
    5. Detest the mention of God, reading/discussion of the Quran and hinder people from all such activities
    6. Reject on account of envy

    These attitudes are found among people of all faiths and have nothing to do with the faith a person professes. He could call himself a Muslim and yet display the attitudes or dispositions of a Kafir.

    As far as behavioral characteristics are concerned. They are kafir who

    1. Resort to ridicule
    2. Oppose, obstruct, create confusion and disorder
    3. Stalk. 
    4. Argue obstinately instead of focusing on what is being said, they ask disruptive questions such as "Why is not a sign sent down to him from his Lord?"
    5. Indulging in all kinds of vain arguments
    6. Doubt perennially. 
    7. Indulge in Personal attacks. 


    The behavioral Characteristics are also faith neutral and are found among people of all faiths. 

    By Naseer Ahmed - 4/29/2015 3:26:20 AM

  • There are several types of Al-Kufr al-Akbar:

    Kufrul-'Inaad: Disbelief out of stubbornness. This applies to someone who knows the Truth and admits to knowing the Truth, and knowing it with his tongue, but refuses to accept it and refrains from making a declaration. Allah says: “Throw into Hell every stubborn disbeliever”

    Kufrul-Inkaar: Disbelief out of denial. This applies to someone who denies with both heart and tongue. Allah says: “They recognize the favors of Allah, yet they deny them. Most of them are disbelievers”

    Kufrul-Kibr: Disbelief out of arrogance and pride. An example of this type of Kufr is the disbelief by the devils (Iblees).

    Kufrul-Juhood: Disbelief out of rejection.This applies to someone who acknowledges the truth in his heart, but rejects it with his tongue. This type of kufr is applicable to those who calls themselves Muslims but who reject any necessary and accepted norms of Islam such as Salaat and Zakat. Allah says: “They denied them (OUR SIGNS) even though their hearts believed in them, out of spite and arrogance”

    Kufrul-Nifaaq: Disbelief out of hypocrisy.This applies to someone who pretends to be a believer but conceals his disbelief. Such a person is called a munafiq or hypocrite. Allah says: “Verily the hypocrites will be in the lowest depths of Hell. You will find no one to help them”

    Kufrul-Istihaal: Disbelief out of trying to make haraam into halal. This applies to someone who accepts as lawful Halal that which Allah has made unlawful Haram like alcohol or adultery. Only Allah has the prerogative to make things Halal and Haram and those who seek to interfere with His right are like rivals to Him and therefore fall outside the boundaries of faith.

    Kufrul-Kurh: Disbelief out of detesting any of Allah's commands. Allah says: “Perdition (destruction) has been consigned to those who disbelieve and He will render their actions void. This is because they are averse to that which Allah has revealed so He has made their actions fruitless”

    Kufrul-Istihzaha: Disbelief due to mockery and derision. Allah says: “Say: Was it at Allah, His signs and His apostles that you were mocking? Make no excuses. You have disbelieved after you have believed.”

    Kufrul-I'raadh: Disbelief due to avoidance. This applies to those who turn away and avoid the truth. Allah says: “And who is more unjust than he who is reminded of his Lord's signs but then turns away from them. Then he forgets what he has sent forward (for the Day of Judgement)”

    Kufrul-Istibdaal: Disbelief because of trying to substitute Allah's Laws. This could take the form of:

    Rejection of Allah's law, Shari'ah without denying it

    Denial of Allah's law and therefore rejecting it, or

    Substituting Allah's laws with man-made laws. Allah says: “Or have they partners with Allah who have instituted for them a religion that Allah has not allowed”. Allah says: “Say not concerning that which your tongues put forth falsely (that) is lawful and this is forbidden so as to invent a lie against Allah. Verily, those who invent a lie against Allah will never prosper”

    By Hamid - 4/29/2015 2:44:04 AM

  • No Mr Anonymous. There is no fitna in India or in any of the secular democracies.  However, there is fitna in Pakistan and many of the so called Islamic countries where the minorities are systematically persecuted. The Blasphemy laws of Pakistan are a blot on humanity. The only way to end this fitna is for the Islamic countries to move towards secularism and democracy. There is no other alternative. You may also read my article:

    Is Islam Secular?

     Maududi died in 1979. Had he been alive today, he would have realized how wrong he was. 

    By Naseer Ahmed - 4/5/2015 12:13:49 PM

  • "Maududi is very clear in his notes that the battles were not against disbelief or to force the disbelievers to believe but to end the fitna of political domination and of the ungodly laws imposed on the Muslims. He is foisting his political philosophy here, but clearly he is not compromising on the right to freedom of conscience and religion of those who reject "faith"."

    Mr. Naseer Ahmed, do you believe that today there is fitnah in India due to man-made laws imposed on muslims and thus Islam instructs you to end this fitna by dominating the Hindus and establishing islamic law (supposedly God's law, but in reality man-made law made by a man called mohammed) ?

    By anonymous - 4/5/2015 8:50:07 AM

  • Come on GRD respond!

    I have pitted my understanding of the verse 8:38 against the understanding of 14 great Arabic scholars including Tahirul Qadri, Raza Ahmad Khan Barelvi, Thanvi, Ibn Kathir, and Al Jalayalan.
    Prove me wrong if you can.

    By Naseer Ahmed - 4/5/2015 6:52:32 AM

  • GRD says in another thread:
    "I am amazed. When you cannot even find out a single verse of the Qur'an in Arabic, how can you claim that you have studied well and properly understood all the Qur'anic verses. 
    Clearly, you rely on the man-made translations of the Qur'an, which are mostly erroneous in your view, and not the original text (matan) of the word of God, which was revealed in Arabic. Since you don't have sufficient knowledge about the language of the original texts of the Qur'an, your tall claim does not stand up to scrutiny."
    What tall claim GRD?
    I have never doubted the matan of the word of God. All my articles only discuss how  various scholars have misunderstood the matan of God. 
    GRD there is no need to indulge in generalities. This article discusses a single verse of the Quran 8:38 and the matan of God as understood  by me.
    The matan as derived by several other scholars is also contained in the article.
    Now tell me what is the matan of God in 8:38?

    By Naseer Ahmed - 4/5/2015 4:49:10 AM

  • Why did so many "scholars" go wrong and  interpret that the Prophet's battles were against the disbelievers  to end disbelief and not against the persecutors and oppressors to end religious  persecution?
    The answer is found in the Tafseer of Ibn Kathir which quotes a hadith attributed to the Prophet (pbuh)

    "There is a Hadith collected in the Two Sahihs that testifies to this explanation. The Messenger of Allah said,

    «أُمِرْتُ أَنْ أُقَاتِلَ النَّاسَ، حَتَّى يَقُولُوا: لَا إِلَهَ إِلَّا اللهُ، فَإِذَا قَالُوهَا عَصَمُوا مِنِّي دِمَاءَهُمْ وَأَمْوَالَهُمْ، إِلَّا بِحَقِّهَا، وَحِسَابُهُمْ عَلَى اللهِ عَزَّ وَجَل»

    (I was commanded to fight against the people until they proclaim, `There is no deity worthy of worship except Allah.' If and when they say it, they will preserve their blood and wealth from me, except for its right (Islamic penal code), and their reckoning is with Allah, the Exalted and Most Honored.)"

    Interestingly Hazrat Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) held a different view.

    The man said, "Allah, the Exalted, said,

    ﴿وَقَـتِلُوهُمْ حَتَّى لاَ تَكُونَ فِتْنَةٌ﴾

    (And fight them until there is no more Fitnah...).'' Ibn `Umar said, "We did that during the time of the Messenger of Allah, when Islam was weak and the man would be tried in religion, either tormented to death or being imprisoned. When Islam became stronger and widespread, there was no more Fitnah.'' When the man realized that Ibn `Umar would not agree to what he is saying, he asked him, "What do you say about `Ali and `Uthman'' Ibn `Umar replied, "What do I say about `Ali and `Uthman! As for `Uthman, Allah has forgiven him, but you hate that Allah forgives him. As for `Ali, he is the cousin of the Messenger of Allah and his son-in-law,'' and he pointed with his hand saying, "And this is his house over there.'' Sa`id bin Jubayr said, "Ibn `Umar came to us and was asked, "What do you say about fighting during Fitnah'' Ibn `Umar said, "Do you know what Fitnah refers to Muhammad was fighting against the idolators, and at that time, attending (or residing with) the idolators was a Fitnah (trial in religion). It is nothing like what you are doing, fighting to gain leadership!'' All these narrations were collected by Al-Bukhari, may Allah the Exalted grant him His mercy. 

    Hazrat Umar was right in interpreting Fitnah as religious persecution and also right in concluding that when Islam gained political domination, this fitnah ended and there was no more reason to fight and those who continued fighting were doing so for self aggrandizement.

    Those who however interpret fitnah to mean "shirk" continue to fight "shirk" and have in turn become the persecutors.

    If what the Quran meant was to fight "shirk" why would it not use "shirk" but "fitnah"?

    The interpretationists are the problem and not the literalists.

    The hadith attributed to the Prophet could never have been said by the Prophet since it contradicts many verses of the Quran such as 109:6, 2:256 and even all the verses related to fighting which explicitly mention the cause of fighting. Not a single of these verses mention disbelief as the cause of fighting.

    Will the gentlemen who swear by the ahadith speak up or be counted among those who believe that it is jihad to fight against disbelief?

    By Naseer Ahmed - 4/5/2015 2:34:39 AM

  • Thank you Hamza Sb for your appreciation.
    Two more heavyweights also think that the battle was against "disbelief"
    Al Jalalayan: desist from unbelief and from waging war against the Prophet
    Ibn Kathir: (Say to those who have disbelieved, if they cease...) the disbelief, defiance and stubbornness they indulge in, and embrace Islam, obedience and repentance.
    Maududi is very clear in his notes that the battles were not against disbelief or to force the disbelievers to believe but to end the fitna of political domination and of the ungodly laws imposed on the Muslims. He is foisting his political philosophy here, but clearly he is not compromising on the right to freedom of conscience and religion of those who reject "faith".
    Verse 2:193 is almost identical to 8:38 and the verse 8:38 refers to the notes on verse 2:193
    Maududi's note on verse 2:193
    Note 205: It does not mean that Islam incites the believers to go to war to force unbelievers at the point of sword to give up disbelief and polytheism and adopt the Way of Allah instead. War is to be waged only to make them give up fitnah. As a matter of fact, Islam allows freedom of belief to all non-Muslims. One may adopt any way of life that one chooses and may or may not worship anyone or anything. It exhorts the believers to preach and to persuade the unbelievers and the wrong doers by argument to give up their false faith and evil ways, but it does not allow the unbelievers the right to enforce on God's earth any ungodly law and make the servants of Allah the servants of some one else. In order to remove such an unjust condition, Islam allows both preaching and fighting according to the requirements of the occasion. The believers, therefore, cannot rest content unless this fitnah, political domination and legal sovereignty of unbelievers, is eradicated and freedom for the Way of Allah is secured.

    From the words, "Then if they desist from it, there should be no more hostility except against those who had been guilty of cruelty and brutality," it has been deduced that when the Islamic rule replaces ungodly rule, there should be a general amnesty save for those who had been extremely cruel and tyrannous in opposing the Truth when in power. Although in this case also it behoves the believers to show forgiveness at the time of victory, yet they would be perfectly justified in punishing those who broke all limits in their blind opposition and persecution. The Holy Prophet, who was an embodiment of mercy and clemency, himself availed of this permission and sentenced to death `Uqbah bin Abi Mu'ait and Nadr bin Harith, two prisoners of war taken in the battle of Badr: Moreover, although a general amnesty was proclaimed after the conquest of Makkah, seventeen persons who were the worst offenders against Islam were made an exception and four of these were sentenced to death.

    By Naseer Ahmed - 4/4/2015 9:04:40 AM

  • Thank you for this article.

    This is a much needed clarification of Qur'anic terms. The ummah is hurting (mostly self-inflicted) and we are in desperate need of better dialogue.

    Thanks again.

    By Hamza - 4/4/2015 7:00:36 AM

  • Link to part 1 of the article 

    Who Is A Kafir In The Quran? (Part 1): 'Kafir,' 'Mushrik' and 'Idolater' are not synonyms

    This part provides the evidence that `Kufr' and Kafir are  faith neutral terms in the Quran and 'kufr' is used for specific behaviour/deeds of  Muslims, Jews, Christians, polytheists etc and even Moses is referred to as Kafir by Pharaoh!

    Going by the Quran, a faith neutral rendering is appropriate since kafaru as a matter of fact is a faith neutral term unless the context implies that it specifically means "those who deny the truth of Islam". This is not the case  in 8:36 to 8:38 where it simply means the 'religious persecutors '. The verses can therefore  be understood in their  historical context as the battle between the Muslims lead by the Prophet (pbuh) and the Meccan persecutors of the Prophet and his followers  who incidentally were polytheists.

    As a verse with a universal message, it can be read as a message to all religious persecutors and those who fight against such persecution that Allah will aid those who fight against religious persecution and humiliate the persecutors no matter whether the persecutor calls himself Muslim and the persecuted declares himself as a polytheist.

    By Naseer Ahmed - 4/3/2015 5:07:57 AM

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