Combatants and Non-Combatants
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala excluded some people from the order given in the previous ayah,
إِلاَّ الَّذِينَ يَصِلُونَ إِلَى قَوْمٍ بَيْنَكُمْ وَبَيْنَهُمْ مِّيثَـقٌ
“Except those who join a group, between you and whom there is a treaty (of peace)”
meaning, except those who join and take refuge with a people with whom you have a pact of peace, or people of Dhimmah, then treat them as you treat the people with whom you have peace. This is the saying of As-Suddi, Ibn Zayd and Ibn Jarir. In his Saheeh, Al-Bukhari recorded the story of the treaty of Hudaybiyyah, where it was mentioned that whoever liked to have peace with Quraysh and conduct a pact with them, then they were allowed. Those who liked to have peace with Muhammad and his Companions and enter a pact with them were allowed. It was reported that Ibn Abbas said that this Ayah was later abrogated by Allah’s statement,
فَإِذَا انسَلَخَ الأَشْهُرُ الْحُرُمُ فَاقْتُلُواْ الْمُشْرِكِينَ حَيْثُ وَجَدتُّمُوهُمْ
“Then when the Sacred Months have passed, kill the idolators wherever you find them” [at-Tawbah : 5]
أَوْ جَآءُوكُمْ حَصِرَتْ صُدُورُهُمْ
“…or those who approach you with their hearts restraining…”
referring to another type of people covered by the exclusion from fighting. They are those who approach the Muslims with hesitation in their hearts because of their aversion to fighting the Muslims. They do not have the heart to fight with the Muslims against their own people. Therefore, they are neither with nor against Muslims.
وَلَوْ شَآءَ اللَّهُ لَسَلَّطَهُمْ عَلَيْكُمْ فَلَقَـتَلُوكُمْ
“Had Allah willed, indeed He would have given them power over you, and they would have fought you.”
meaning, it is from Allah’s mercy that He has stopped them from fighting you.
فَإِنِ اعْتَزَلُوكُمْ فَلَمْ يُقَـتِلُوكُمْ وَأَلْقَوْاْ إِلَيْكُمُ السَّلَمَ
“So, if they withdraw from you, and fight not against you, and offer you peace,”
meaning, they revert to peace,
فَمَا جَعَلَ اللَّهُ لَكُمْ عَلَيْهِمْ سَبِيلاً
“….then Allah has opened no way for you against them…”
you do not have the right to kill them, as long as they take this position. This was the position of Banu Hashim (the tribe of the Prophet ), such as Al-Abbas, who accompanied the idolators in the battle of Badr, for they joined the battle with great hesitation. This is why the Prophet commanded that Al-Abbas not be killed, but only captured.