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Misconceptions

     

The Hadith stating "I have been commanded (by Allah) to fight people…."
Mohamed Helal 269

The Hadith stating "I have been commanded (by Allah) to fight people…."

Allegation:

     The Hadith of the Prophet (peace be upon him), stating: "I have been commanded (by Allah) to fight people until they testify that there is no true god except Allah, and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, perform Salat (daily prayers) and pay Zakat (poor due). If they do so, they will have protection of their blood and property from me except as regards to what has been prescribed by Islam, and then account is left to Allah". (Narrated by Al-Bukhārῑ and Muslim)

Reply:

     The Hadith could have been a real problem if it stated the following: " I have been commanded (by Allah) to kill people until they….". In that case, it would have contradicted with many other verses and hadiths, which state the prohibition of compulsion and coercion.

     The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) used the expression “to fight”, according to all of the hadith narrators. This expression does not contradict with stated texts or jurist evidence. Accordingly, there would be no problem if we understand the real meaning of the expression.

     The Arabic word ˀuqatil (to fight) in Arabic denotes mutual action. It only means an act of fighting shared by two parties, thus denoting resistance against an aggressor aiming to kill. The person who resists an aggressor shall be considered a fighter. On the other hand, an aggressor shall not be considered a fighter, but a killer, because he initiated attacking and aggression. In this case, the meaning of participation in fighting would not apply until the second party shows resistance and defense.

     If you say: "I will fight those people to protect my properties, or my honor", any one will understand that you are determined to resist their aggression against your money or your honor. Accordingly, you have the right to kill them only after they start transgression against you.

Now, what is the meaning of the hadith in the light of the above clarification?

     Meaning: I have been commanded (by Allah) to repel any aggression against my call to people to believe in the Oneness of Allah. If the only way to repel aggression against this call is fighting the hostiles and the aggressors, this is a binding duty that Allah has commanded me with.

     The Prophet (pbuh) said on the Day of Al-Hudaybiyah: "If they do not accept [the truce], by Allah in Whose Hands my life is, I will fight against them defending my cause till I [win or otherwise] get killed. (Narrated by Al-Bukhārῑ)

     You may know that the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said the above to Badil Ibn Warqah, when he called Quraish to peace and warned Quraish not to continue the war that had exhausted them.

     In such case, what is the meaning of his saying " By Allah in Whose Hands my life is, I will fight against them defending my cause"? His words are clear evidence that while he was calling them to the peace, he warned them that he would combat their aggression in the same way if they refuse peace. This is the same meaning of his saying: “I have been commanded (by Allah) to fight people …"

     Al-Bayhaqῑ narrated that Imam Ash-Shafiˁῑ said, “Fighting is not the same as killing. It may be permissible for you to fight a man, while you are being prohibited from killing him.”

     Al-Ḥāfiẓ Ibn Ḥajar confirmed this meaning and its importance in his book Fat ul-Bār (1/58). In the light of his explanation of this hadith, He said, "Al-Kirmānῑ, when asked about the one who abandoned the zakat, stated that they (the prayer and zakat) carry the same ruling because they share the same purpose.” It appears that he meant that they carry the same ruling in terms of fighting those who deny them, and not with regards to civilian corporal punishment. However, there is a difference between the two (i.e. salat and zakat) in the fact that the zakat can be taken by using force from a person who attempts to abstain from paying it, as opposed to the salat (in which case force is not used to make one do it). The proof [for this opinion] is in the actions of Abu Bakr Aṣ-Ṣiddῑq, who fought those who refused to pay the zakat."

     Al-Ḥāfiẓ Ibn Ḥajar added, "Hence, using this hadith as proof to carry out corporal punishment on the one who abandons the daily prayers is debatable due to the fact that the statement “to fight” differs than “to kill”. Allah knows the best. Ibn Daqῑq Al-ˁEid opposed the view of using corporal punishment on the one who abandons the daily prayers in his explanation of Al-ˁUmdah. He said, “The permissibility of using force against them doesn’t necessitate the permissibility of killing them, because combat comprises of struggle and fighting from both sides, unlike the outright killing [of a person]."

     It is invalid, therefore, to build on this Hadith a ruling to kill one who abstains from the daily prayers - as Ibn Hajar and others state - because the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) used the word "to fight', rather than "to kill". Accordingly, how can it be possible to depend on this same hadith to kill one who refuses to adopt Islam? That said given that one who deliberately abstains from the daily prayers is obliged to do so because he is Muslim and is thus subjected to the prescribed penalties. Accordingly, a non-Muslim shall not be subjected to the prescribed penalties.

     In conclusion, this Hadith does not contradict with the fact that the call to Islam must be within the scope of choice and freedom of individuals to make their decisions willingly. Hence, the opinion that the call to Islam voluntarily and freely was abrogated by the [above-mentioned] "verse of the sword" and its hadith is so weak; it is an opinion closer to invalidity than to weakness.

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