Religion of Mercy, Not Religion of Sword (2)

  • | Monday, 8 July, 2019
Religion of Mercy, Not Religion of Sword (2)

     The first article on this topic shows that neither Allah, Most High, nor the Prophet (PBUH), nor any of the Companions had ever said that the Quran contains a verse called "The Verse of the Sword", which clearly makes the case that "naming a particular verse of the Quran as "The Verse of the Sword" is a matter of personal reasoning of some Muslim scholars, which is actually rejected by the majority of the well-established scholars". The previous article reaches the conclusion that the Saying of Allah, the Almighty, "So when the sacred months have passed away, then slay the idolaters wherever you find them, and take them captives and besiege them and lie in wait for them in every ambush, then if they repent and keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate, leave their way free to them; surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful (The Quran, 9:5)" cannot be the Verse of the Sword. So, the article in hand attempts thereby to carefully examine two other verses which are appointed by some scholars and exegetes as the Verse of the Sword, to arrive at a correct and logical conclusion on them.

Regarding the second verse appointed by some scholars to be the Verse of the Sword, that is, the Saying of Allah, Glorified is He, “and fight the polytheists all together as they fight you all together …” (The Quran 9:36), this verse also does not contain the word “sword”, so why was it appointed as the Verse of the Sword? Nevertheless, carefully consulting the most reliable books of Tafsir on that verse, we found that none of them had ever called it the “Verse of the Sword”.

In his Mafatih Al-Ghayb, Imam Al-Razi (544 – 604 A.H.) recorded three different opinions on the meaning of this verse all of which mainly revolve around the point that “Allah, the Almighty, orders Muslims to gather all their forces together when fighting against the polytheists in the same way the latter gather all their forces together to fight against Muslims.”[1]

Ibn Kathir, on his part, supported the point of Al-Razi in that regard, viewing this part of the verse as “a kind of motivating and urging Muslims to gather their forces in their wars against the polytheists just as the latter gather their forces to fight against Muslims.”[2] He went on to offer another meaning for this verse: - “Allah, Glorified is He, allows the believers to fight against the polytheists in the Sacred Months in case the latter started the war first.”[3] This is actually the same explanation given by Ibn 'Ashour in his Al-Tahrir Wa Al-Tanwir.[4]

Attention should be given to the fact that none of these above-mentioned explanations had even stated that the verse carries an order to eradicate or uproot polytheists from the surface of the earth, since one of the well-established principles of Islam is that "it accepts differences among mankind." Also, the verse, amazingly enough, does not contain the word “sword”. So, the question to be offered right now is “who called this verse “the Verse of the Sword” even though neither Allah nor His Prophet did so?!!!”

As for the Saying of Allah, “Go forth light and heavy, and strive hard in Allah's way with your property and your persons; this is better for you, if you know” (The Quran, 9:41), it is also promulgated by some as the Verse of the Sword. Even though well-versed Muslim scholars have different understandings for this verse in question- each according to his own personal reasoning (Ijtihad), none of them had ever called it "the Verse of the Sword."

In his Al-Muharar Al-Wajiz, Ibn 'Atiyyah Al-Andalusi (d. 546 A.H.), commenting on this verse, recorded scholars’ different opinions on this point, saying that some of them believed that the verse indicates Al-Nafru (going forth for fighting) as an individual obligation upon all Muslim, while others yet view it as urging Muslims to do so, which thus makes Al-Nafru a collective duty,[5] which is also the opinion of Al-Razi and Ibn Kathir, among many others.[6]

This means that the verse does not oblige all Muslims to go forth for fighting, a point which is supported by the Divine Instruction in the end of the same Chapter of Al-Tawbah for Muslims not to go forth all together for fighting, instructing a group of them to go for war and another to go forth for receiving knowledge “And it does not beseem the believers that they should go forth all together; why should not then a company from every party from among them go forth that they may apply themselves to obtain understanding in religion, and that they may warn their people when they come back to them that they may be cautious?” (The Quran, 9:118)

It is also recorded that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) sometimes used to send the Muslim army to fight against non-Muslims while he along with a number of Muslims did not go forth with them; the battle of Mu’ta is a case in point. He (PBUH) sent the Muslim army under the leadership of Zayd Ibn Haritha, and did not march with them, which clearly means that going forth for war is not an individual obligation upon all Muslims but in some cases.

This verse in question may also be relevant to the Saying of Allah, “O you who believe! What (excuse) have you that when it is said to you: Go forth in Allah's way, you should incline heavily to earth; are you contented with this world's life instead of the hereafter? But the provision of this world's life compared with the hereafter is but little.” (The Quran, 9:38) in which Allah reproaches Muslims for not hurrying to fight against the enemies of the Muslim State at that particular period of time, especially if we take into account the historical, undeniable fact that Muslims’ numbers in most of the battles they engaged in during the lifetime of the Prophet were fewer than their enemies’, thus the verse is shown as urging and motivating Muslims to go with the Prophet and not to leave him (PBUH) alone, lest that the large numbers of the non-Muslim enemies would defeat Muslims.

Furthermore, the verse does not contain the word “sword”, so who called it "The Verse of the Sword?"!!!



[1] See Muhammad Al-Razi Fakhr Al-Din Ibn Diaa’ Al-Din U‘mar, Tafsir Al-Fakhr Al-Razi, Vols. 32 (Cairo: Dar Al-Fikr Li Al-Tiba‘at Wa Al-Nashr, 1st ed., 1401 A.H – 1981 C.E.), vol. 16, p.

[2] See Abu Al-Fidaa’ Isma‘il Ibn U‘mar Ibn Kathir Al-Qurashi Al-Dimshiqi, Tafsir Al-Quran Al-A‘zim, ed. Sami Ibn Muhammad Al-Sallamah, Vols. 8 (Riyadh, Dar Taibah Li Al-Nashr Wa Al-Tawzi‘, 2nd ed., 1420 A.H. – 1999 C.E.), vol. 4, p. 150.

[3] Ibid., 151.

[4] See Al-Razi, Tafsir Al-Fakhr Al-Razi, p. 187.

[5] See Abu Muhammad A‘bd Al-Haqq Ibn Ghalib Ibn A‘tiyya Al-Andalusi, Al-Muharrar Al-Wajiz Fi Tafsir Al-Kitab Al-A‘ziz, ed. A‘bd Al-Salam A‘bd Al-Shafi Muhammad, Vols. 5 (Beirut: Dar Al-Kutub Al-‘Ilmiyyah, 1st ed., 1422 A.H. – 2001 C.E.), vol. 3, p.37.

[6] See Ibn Kathir, Tafsir Al-Quran Al-A‘zim, pp. 156-157; see also Al-Razi, Mafatih Al-Ghayb, pp. 72 f.

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