In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
Tafseer Al-Baqarah Ayaat 190 – 192
In the month of Thul Qa’dah, the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and his Companions radhiAllahu ‘anhum journeyed toward Makkah to perform ‘Umrah. When they reached the city, the polytheists Makkan, who controlled the sacred area, did not allow them to enter. A peace deal was made, known as the Treaty of Hudaibiyyah, and Muslims returned to Madinah.
For as long as the Muslims lived in Makkah, they were persecuted by the Makkans. However, due to their small number Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala did not command them to fight. They were instructed to bear the harms patiently. It was only after they migrated to Madinah that Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala revealed the ayaat of qitaal [killing]. By that time, Muslims were both strong in number as well as in material wealth. The Ansar [residents of Madinah] had warmly welcomed their emigrant brethrens and shared their properties with them.
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala revealed,
Before we proceed to the explanation of these ayaat let us understand the words Jihad and qitaal. The word qatiloo [قَاتِلُوا] is from the root qaf-tay-laam and it means to kill. Jihad, on the other hand, means striving – striving in the Cause of Allah (such as teaching His religion to others – in order to do that one has to leave the comfort of his house and bear the hardship of travel). From the same word is the Night Prayer – Tahajjud. A Muslim has to strive against his nafs [self] to wake up in the middle of the night, perform ablution and stand in prayer while many around him are comfortably sleeping. The word qatal [kill] has been used far less than the word jihad. We need to clear this misconception.
In the ayah, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala tells us the purpose of fighting as well as the rules of fighting.
Rules of Fighting
1.Fight only those who fight you
The word yuqatiloonakum [يُقَاتِلُونَكُمْ] is a combination of two words qatiloo + kum.
Qatiloo, as we read above means kill, the kum in the end denotes ‘those who kill you’. There are the etiquette of war. One who fights in the way of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is prohibited to harm anyone other than the one fighting him such as children, women, elderly, physically handicapped, scholars and all those not engaged in war. The jurists have ruled that should a woman, an elderly or a scholar participate in fight then it is permissible to kill them because it comes under the purview of “those who fight you”.
2. Do not transgress the limits
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala said, “وَلَا تَعْتَدُو” meaning do not transgress. Ibn Katheer writes: this ayah means fight for the sake of Allah and do not be transgressors, such as, by committing prohibitions. Al-Hasan Al-Basri stated that transgression (indicated by the ayah), includes mutilating the dead, theft (from the captured goods), killing women, children and old people who do not participate in warfare, killing priests and residents of houses of worship, burning down trees and killing animals without real benefit. This is also the opinion of Ibn `Abbas, `Umar bin `Abdul-`Aziz, Muqatil bin Hayyan and others.
Muslim recorded in his Saheeh that Buraydah narrated that Allah’s Messenger salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said:
اغْزُوا فِي سَبِيلِ اللهِ، قَاتِلُوا مَنْ كَفَرَ بِاللهِ، اغْزُوا وَلَا تَغُلُّوا وَلَا تَغْدِرُوا وَلَا تَمْثُلُوا وَلَا تَقْتُلُوا وَلِيدًا وَلَا أَصْحَابَ الصَّوَامِع
“Fight for the sake of Allah and fight those who disbelieve in Allah. Fight, but do not steal (from the captured goods), commit treachery, mutilate (the dead), or kill a child, or those who reside in houses of worship.”
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is teaching us the etiquette of war. One must not turn barbaric or go wild in a battleground. The Companions radhiAllahu ‘anhum would be vigilant of not transgressing the limits of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. In the war, if an opponent’s sword fell down the Companion fighting that person would pause, pick up the sword and return it to the enemy. Sahabah would not fight a person unless they were at equal standing. This is Islam! People that are tarnishing Islam by beheading innocent people or giving punishments that are not part of Islam have no knowledge of what is in the Qur’an. Again, this reminds us of studying the Book of Allah and living our lives within His guidelines.
The ayah also gives us a tip for our day-to-day matters. If you are in argument with someone be conscious of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. Do not transgress. Do not say, “Now, wait and see what I do to you.” Be conscious of your anger. We know it is difficult to manage one’s anger in a heated environment, therefore the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam taught us three things: recite Tawuz [seeking refuge with Allah from the cursed Satan], if you are standing then sit down, and if you are sitting down then lie down. If still you cannot control your anger then get up, perform ablution and offer two voluntary units of prayer. We can also leave the situation, go for a work or engage in some other activity and let it go. There is no need to abuse ourselves by abusing someone else.
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala ends ayah 190 by saying that He does not like the transgressors. If we wish to become the beloveds of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala then we must be careful of His limits.
Ayah 191 – Fitnah is worse than Killing
The word thaqiftumuhum [ثَقِفْتُمُوهُمْ] is from the root tha-qaf-fa and it means to find, catch or gain mastery over.
“And kill them where you find them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out.” This is another ayah that is misused and misinterpreted. Let us see the context in which this was revealed.
This ayah was revealed after the Treaty of Hudaibiyyah. When the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and his Companions radhiAllahu ‘anhum were prevented from offering the ‘Umrah, they decided to perform the pilgrimage in the next year. As they were journeying toward Makkah, the Companions feared opposition from the Makkan polytheists. At this time, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala gave Muslims the permission to fight the enemy if they choose to be aggressive. And if they do choose to become hostile toward the Muslims, then Muslims were permitted to drive the enemy out of Makkah as it had driven Muslims out.
Since earlier the Muslims were instructed to remain patient and forgive the enemy, the Companions radhiAllahu ‘anhum believed that perhaps it is prohibited to kill the disbelievers. Therefore, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala not only revealed the preceding ayah but also added, “Fitnah is worse than killing.”
The word fitnah [فِتْنَ] from root fa-ta-noon means trial or test. It is not any trial but an intense trial. It can be understood by the example of a goldsmith melting gold to shape it. The word is also used for wealth and children because both are a test for mankind. Man exhausts himself in earning wealth such that he becomes negligent toward his religious duties. Likewise, parents tire themselves in raising and pleasing their children that many times they ignore their religious obligations and limits.
In the ayah, fitnah has been used for religious persecution. Preventing Muslims to perform their ritual pilgrimage was religious persecution.
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala said that it is true that killing someone is an evil act but stopping someone from practicing their religion is even greater a crime than killing them. It is also said that fitnah refers to Shirk [associating partners with Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala] and kufr [disbelief]. Disbelief in Allah, associating partners with Him, and hindering His slaves from His path are all great evils. Therefore, the ayah “Fitnah is worse than killing,” means what the disbelievers are committing is worse than killing.
We learn that the purpose of war is not to possess another country’s resources or territory but to stop persecution. People should be free to live and practice their religion. No one should be at risk for practicing what they believe in. It was because the idolaters of Makkah expelled the Muslims from Makkah that the Muslims were commanded to fight in retaliation. History tells us that non-Muslims lived in security under the Muslim leadership.
Fighting in the Sacred Area is Prohibited, Except in Self-Defense
Since the words of ayah, “kill them where you find them,” could be taken in a general sense, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala added, “And fight not with them at Al-Masjid Al-Haram [the sanctuary at Makkah].” It is prohibited to fight in the Masjid as well as in the area surrounding Sacred Mosque. However, if the enemy initiates the fight then it is permissible to fight in retaliation.
It is reported in the two Saheehs that the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said,
إنَّ هَذَا الْبَلَدَ حَرَّمَهُ اللهُ يَوْمَ خَلَقَ السَّموَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ، فَهُوَ حَرَامٌ بِحُرْمَةِ اللهِ إِلى يَوْمِ الْقِيَامَةِ، وَلَمْ يَحِلَّ لِي إِلَّا سَاعَةً مِنْ نَهَارٍ، وَإِنَّهَا سَاعَتِي هذِهِ حَرامٌ بحُرْمَةِ اللهِ إِلى يَوْمِ الْقِيامَةِ، لا يُعْضَدُ شَجَرُهُ، وَلَا يُخْتَلىَ خَلَاهُ، فَإِنْ أَحَدٌ تَرَخَّصَ بِقِتَالِ رَسُولِ اللهِصلى الله عليه وسلّم، فَقُولُوا: إنَّ اللهَ أَذِنَ لِرَسُولِهِ وَلَمْ يَأْذَنْ لَكُم
“Allah has made this city a sanctuary since the day He created the heavens and the earth. So, it is a sanctuary by Allah’s decree till the Day of Resurrection. Fighting in it was made legal for me only for an hour in the daytime. So, it (i.e., Makkah) is a sanctuary, by Allah’s decree, from now on until the Day of Resurrection. Its trees should not be cut, and its grass should not be uprooted. If anyone mentions the fighting in it that occurred by Allah’s Messenger, then say that Allah allowed His Messenger, but did not allow you.”
In this hadeeth, Allah’s Messenger salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam mentions fighting the people of Makkah when he conquered it by force, leading to some deaths among the polytheists in the area of the Khandamah. This occurred after the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam proclaimed:
مَنْ أَغْلَقَ بَابَهُ فهُوَ آمِنٌ،وَمَنْ دَخَلَ الْمَسْجِدَ فَهُو آمِنٌ، ومَنْ دَخَلَ دَارَ أَبِي سُفْيَانَ فَهُوَ آمِن
“Whoever closed his door is safe. Whoever entered the (Sacred) Mosque is safe. Whoever entered the house of Abu Sufyan is also safe.” We learn that he did not enter unannounced and killed whoever he got hold of. Rather, he gave a warning to the people that those who do not wish to participate in the fight could go to their homes and close their doors. It was unlike the wars of today, where bombs are dropped on innocent civilians having no respect for children, women, elderly or the scholars.
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala states: Do not fight them in the area of the Sacred Mosque unless they start fighting you in it. In this case, you are allowed to fight them and kill them to stop their aggression. Hence, Allah’s Messenger salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam took the pledge from his Companions radhiAllahu ‘anhum under the tree (in the area of Al-Hudaibiyyah). They pledged to fight the polytheists, after the tribes of Quraysh and their allies, Thaqif and other groups, collaborated against the Muslims to stop them from entering Makkah to visit the Sacred House. It should be noted that this fight was stopped before it even started by the revelation of the ayaat 24 and 25 of Surah Al-Fath.
If it is prohibited to fight the disbelievers in Masjid Al-Haram, then how can the Muslims visiting the Sacred House for pilgrimage fight in there over petty issues. We should remember the commands of the Qur’an not only when dealing with the non-Muslims but also when conducting our day-to-day affairs. How often it has been seen people hurting and pushing others during Tawaaf? How often people have been seen fighting over prayer spaces? We should remember the etiquette of visiting the House of Allah and abstain from everything that displeases Him.
Ayah 192 – Allah’s Forgiveness is Vast
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says, “But if they cease, then Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” The word intahau [انتَهَوْا] is from the root noon-ha-ya and it means to stop. The ayah means that if the polytheists cease fighting in the Sacred Area and come to Islam and repent, then Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala will forgive them their sins. Their sins would be forgiven even if they had before killed Muslims in the area.
Indeed, Allah’s forgiveness encompasses every sin, whatever its enormity, when the sinner repents it.
Since these are one of the most exploited ayaat of the Qur’an, it is incumbent on the Muslims to understand their background and meaning, and not fall for the propaganda.
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