Confusion Regarding the Verses for Fighting

QHello, with school being out I have been reading some of the Quran, although I haven't gotten too far. I had a question on interpurting some of the passages.

Mainly one passage that speaks about fighting the non-believers that got me a bit confused on what its trying to say.
190. Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you, but do not transgress limits; for Allah does not love transgressors.

191. And slay them whereever you catch them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out; for tumult and opression are worse than slaughter; but do not fight them at the Sacred Mosque, unless they (first) fight you there; but if they fight you, slay them. Such is the reward of those who supress faith.

192. If they cease, Allah is Oft- forgiving, Most Merciful.

193. And fight them on until there is no more tumult or opression, and there prevail justice and faith in Allah; but if they cease, let there be no hostility except to those who practice oppression.

that is the main passage that I am confused about.

Thank you for the help, talk to you soon.


AHello Stephanie,

My name is Ayub Hamid. I have been asked to comment on the questions that came up in your study of the Qur-aan (as per your email at the bottom).

I want to begin by commending you for two beautiful things that you have done:

Firstly, you have taken an initiative to study Islam and understand it. Human society will become much more loving and caring if we start understanding each other's religions and views.

Secondly, when something did not seem to make sense, you asked. Asking questions to understand is the best way to get the right information.

I am copying an excerpt from a book I am writing on teachings of the Qur-aan. This excerpt deals with the verses that you have asked about. However, this brief comment (excerpt) is written on the premise that the reader is familiar with the history of early Muslims. I do not know how much you know about Islam or history of early Muslims. Just to be on the safe side, I will add a few comments before copying the excerpt.

Muhammad, the Messenger of Allaah, started calling people to Islam (worship of and submission to One God, the Creator) in Makkah. The pagans and idol worshipper were very upset. They started severely persecuting anyone who became a Muslim (worshipper and obedient of one God). This physical, psychological and economic persecution, torture and terrorism continued for more than 13 years during which time Muslims were not allowed at all to respond in any way to the persecution, except to bear it patiently and steadfastly. After 13 years, they were able to find a place of refuge in Madeenah. In that city, they (Muslims) all gathered and wanted to have their own free society to establish peace, justice and rule of law and have freedom to worship one God without being persecuted for it. But the Makkan pagans did not want to leave them in peace. They started sending platoons to attack their city of refuge in Madeenah. The Makkans even threatened them that Madeenah will be invaded by a big army and the Muslims will all be slaughtered and annihilated. Now, it was time to prepare Muslims to defend their town from Makkan assault. The verses that you are reading were revealed at that time to prepare and train the Muslims for fighting and defending their small community.

Now here is the excerpt about the verses:

Then, in the next few verses, Muslims were instructed about how to respond to other matters such as responding to Makkan hostilities and aggressions, especially if they violated the sanctity of sacred months or holy Ka’bah, Muslims’ asserting their right to travel in the sacred months for Ĥajj and ‘Umrah that they had been denied, and their right and duty to take control of the holy Ka’bah and to restore it to its original status and role.

190 From now on, fight for Allaah’s cause those who fight you, but do not transgress because Allaah does not like transgressors. 191 And kill them wherever you find them confronting, and drive them out from where they drove you out. Oppression and persecution imposing un-Islamic systems on Muslims is worse than killing. However, do not fight them in the sanctuary around the Sacred Masjid until they fight you in it. If they do fight you, then kill them. That is the way to deal with the disbelievers. 192 But if they desist, then surely Allaah is Forgiving, Merciful. 193 Otherwise, continue the war until oppressions and persecution to impose un-Islamic systems is eliminated and the governing system becomes Allaah’s. Again, if they desist, then there should be no hostility except against the oppressors. 194 When they disregard the sanctity of the sacred months, you do the same. This applies to all sanctities – treat them reflecting opponents’ treatment of them. Whoever then acts aggressively against you, you should respond to the same extent as their aggression. However, restrain yourself within Allaah’s limits (maintaining Taqwa of Allaah) and know that Allaah is with those who maintain attitude of Taqwa (respecting Allaah’s limits).

Muslims were oppressed, persecuted, tortured, deprived of their basic rights including that of earning a living, driven out of their homes, subjected to murder and murderous behaviour for 13 long years, but Allaah and His Messenger had strictly forbidden them to respond to any oppression, torture or persecution. They were so disciplined that they restrained themselves and bore all that cruelty with fortitude and patience without reacting in any negative manner at all. Now that they had established their own little state and organized themselves into a fledgling political entity, their existence as a community was once again being continuously threatened by Makkans’ aggression. In the face of impending war with the Makkans, which they had already declared by them by banning Muslims from visiting the holy Ka’bah and with their vows to obliterate Muslims, this was the first time Muslims had been allowed to fight back. Accordingly, these verses instruct Muslims as follows:
  • Muslims’ fight must be only for Allaah’s cause – defending the peace, justice, law and order established by Islam in Madeenah -- and not to take revenge for the persecution, nor to acquire booty, nor to settle scores, or any personal motive a person may have;
  • Although killing is bad in general, and that is why Muslims have been trained to respect life, war is an extra-ordinary situation that cannot be won without killing those who insist on fighting. Such a war needs to be waged to correct an even greater evil by unseating the oppressors in power who are persecuting Muslims and denying their basic rights and their freedom to live according to the Islamic system of peace and justice. Hence, despite the Islamic teachings inculcated in Muslims’ minds to respect the life and property of others, Muslims should not be reluctant to kill the enemy fighting in the war.
  • Similarly, although sanctities like the sacred month and holy sanctuary of Makkah must be respected and maintained, the enemy should not be able to violate these sanctities and get an upper hand on Muslims. Hence, if they violate such sanctities, Muslims should not be reluctant to respond because of their respect for those sanctities. The enemy must not be able to play games with sanctities to win the war. They should be given respite only if they give up resisting the law, order, peace and justice of Islam.
  • The war will continue until the leadership of the evil oppressors is completely removed and replaced, the people are able to enjoy freedom to live by the commands of Allaah, and the holy Ka’bah is liberated and restored to its original role as the centre of peace and security. If the enemies stop fighting and surrender, then the general Makkans should be treated with mercy, forgiveness and compassion excepting the ring-leaders of the persecution and oppression who had made animosity to Islam and Muslims their main job in life.
  • This need to fight and command to kill does not mean that Muslims can behave like non-Muslims armies who are psychologically trained to become ruthless and vicious who cannot learn to restrain themselves even after the other side has given up or surrendered. For example, US soldiers are specifically trained to be a killing machine. When these killing machines are psyched up to be that way in combat, they treat even the surrendered people inhumanely and when they return home from a combat mission, they cannot restrain their violent tendencies. Despite the psychological counselling provided on their return, some of them abuse their spouses, and commit other violent crimes. The Muslims must practice restraint and fear Allaah because if they do anything improper, they will lose the support and mercy of Allaah. Hence, they must always maintain the attitude of Taqwa of Allaah.

I hope this is helpful. If you have more questions, please feel free to contact me directly.


PS. May I suggest that you start the study of Islam with a small booklet called, "Islam -- does it make sense?"

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