In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
Tafseer Al-Baqarah Ayah 216
This ayah establishes the obligatory nature of holy war even though it may be burdensome for some temperaments. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala knows the reality of everything while man’s knowledge is limited. We assess things on the basis of our limited knowledge and often make wrong decisions. We must Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala to bless us with both hikmah [wisdom] and rushd [deeper understanding with guidance] so that we do not decide on things being good or bad as prompted by personal desires, rather, by the Wisdom of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala.
If we learn this art we will block the way of Shaytan who tries to instill doubts and negative thoughts in our minds.
The word ‘asa [عَسَىٰ] is from the root ayn-seen-ya and it means to perhaps, it may well be that, hope or desire. The word takrahu [تَكْرَهُوا] is from the root kaf-ra-ha and it means to find difficult, dislike, disapprove or feel aversion to.
In this ayah, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala made it obligatory for the Muslims to fight in the way of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala against the enemy who transgress against Islam. Az-Zuhri said, “Jihad is required from every person, whether he actually joins the fighting or remains behind. Whoever remains behind is required to give support, if support is warranted; to provide aid, if aid is needed; and to march forth, if he is commanded to do so. If he is not needed, then he remains behind.”
We have already clarified previously that Jihad is not Qitaal [Holy War]. The term is widely misused and Muslims must know the difference between the two. The best Jihad is fighting against one’s own nafs [self]. One who can make his nafs his slave is indeed a successful person.
It is reported in the Saheeh, the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said,
مَنْ مَاتَ وَلَمْ يَغْزُ وَلَمْ يُحَدِّثْ نَفْسَهُ بِالْغَزْوِ، مَاتَ مِيتَةً جَاهِلِيَّــة
“Whoever dies but neither fought (in Allah’s cause), nor sincerely considered fighting, will die a death of jahiliyyah [pre-Islamic era of ignorance].”
On the day of Al-Fath (when he conquered Makkah), the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said,
لَا هِجْرَةَ بَعْدَ الْفَتْحِ وَلكِنْ جِهَادٌ وَنِيَّةٌ، وَإِذَا اسْتُنْفِرْتُمْ فَانْفِرُوا
“There is no Hijrah [migration from Makkah to Madinah] after the victory, but only Jihad and good intention. If you were required to march forth, then march forth.”
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says, “…it may be that you dislike a thing which is good for you.” Fighting is difficult and heavy on the hearts. Nobody likes being killed, wounded or enduring the hardships of war. But living under oppression is not the solution. Therefore, while we might dislike it victory follows combat.
“But perhaps you hate a thing and it is good for you; and perhaps you love a thing and it is bad for you. And Allah Knows, while you know not.”
This ayah is general in meaning. One might covet something, yet in reality it is not good or beneficial for him. If everyone was to look back into the events of his or her life, it will be noticed that there was something they were going after as beneficial turned out ultimately to be harmful, or there was something they were avoiding as harmful which later on proved to be beneficial. This scenario of human reasoning and planning failing time and again is a matter of repeated experience, therefore, it was said that fighting in the way of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala may obviously appear to be a loss of life and property, yet the time will come when realities will be unveiled and we shall find out that this loss was no loss, instead, it was the ultimate in gain, and a source of eternal peace.
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala Knows the Reality of Things
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala has better knowledge of the reality of the things while we know not. He knows how things will turn out and of what benefit or harm they will be to us. We should ask Him for khair and afia in every matter of this life and of course, the goodness of the Hereafter. We should recite the supplication of Istekhara when deciding upon a matter and seek help from Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. We should also willingly submit to His commands and save our souls from any kind of harm of this world or the next.
O Allah! We ask you for wisdom and to help us see matters as they are. We ask you to not allow us to go after that which displeases you or might cause us harm, and to bring us closer to that which pleases you and make us firm in it, aameen.
Some Considerations related to Qitaal
Mufti Muhammad Shafi Usmani writes that while the words that appear in the ayah state, “Fighting has been enjoined upon you…” this obligation is not absolute. It is not a Fard ‘Ayn that every Muslim must discharge instead it is Fard Al-Kifayah whereby should a group of Muslims discharge this obligation then other Muslims would be considered absolved from it.
However, should there remain no group ready to discharge the obligation of Qitaal at any time or in any country, the result will be that all Muslims will fall into the sin of abandoning an obligation. Therefore, a group of Muslims should keep discharging this duty until the Day of Judgment. In Surah an-Nisa ayah 95, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says,
“Allah has preferred the mujahideen through their wealth and their lives, over those who remain (behind), by degrees. And to both Allah has promised the best (reward).” (4: 95)
Here, the promise of good has been extended to those also who may not be able to take part in war because of some compulsive excuse such as engagement in a religious service. The promise of good would have never been made for those absent from war had this been an absolute obligation on every individual Muslim. Similarly, in another ayah it appears,
“And it is not for the believers to go forth (to battle) all at once. For there should separate from every division of them a group (remaining) to obtain understanding in the religion and warn their people when they return to them that they might be cautious.” [at-Tawbah 9: 122]
Here, the Qur’an itself suggests a division of work whereby some Muslims carry out religious war while some keep giving religious education.
In a hadeeth appearing in al-Bukhari and Muslim, it is said that a person sought the permission of the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam to take part in war. The Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam asked him, “Are your parents alive?” The man replied, “Yes, they are alive.” The Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said, “Then, go. Serve your parents and earn the reward of Jihad.”
When a group from among the Muslims is staunchly discharging the obligation of Qitaal, remaining Muslims can engage themselves in other services and duties. But, should there come a time when the Imam or the leader of Muslims gives a general call under the compulsion of need and invites all Muslims to take part in Qitaal, then, Qitaal becomes an absolute obligation on everybody. In Surah At-Tawbah ayah 38, it appears,
“O you who have believed, what is [the matter] with you that, when you are told to go forth in the cause of Allah, you adhere heavily to the earth?” (9: 38)
This ayah carries the command relating to the general call of Qitaal mentioned above. In the same way, should it be that disbelievers, God forbid, invade an Islamic country and the group engaged in defense is not fully capable of it, being weak or insufficient in number, then, at that time as well, this becomes an obligation for the Muslims living close by. (In the Bosnian war, Muslim armies from different countries were called for help.) In case, they too are weak or incapable, the obligation will pass on to Muslims close to them. This situation may reach a point when Qitaal becomes an absolute obligation on each and every individual Muslim all over the world. It is in view of these ayaat from the Qur’an that the majority of Muslim jurists and scholars of hadeeth have set up the rule that Qitaal is Fard Al-Kifayah.
Since it is Fard Al-Kifayah, it is not permissible for an offspring to go for Qitaal without the permission of the parents.
But, should there come a time when, either due to a general call or an aggressive encirclement of Muslims by the disbelievers, Qitaal becomes Fard ‘Ayn, an absolute obligation on all, then, no condition such as that of the permission of parents or of the husband or of the creditor remains operative.
We learn that an individual cannot start a war on his own – the call has to be given by an Imam and there should be sound leadership to lead the war. Although the Companions radhiAllahu ‘anhum were persecuted in Makkah and they kept requesting the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam to allow them to fight, they were not permitted. The Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam was still doing da’wah and the Muslims were weak and few in number. It would have been a suicide had they gone for war at that stage.
Look at the revolutions in the Muslim world – where have they led the people? Millions of people have become homeless and penniless because of war that lacked leadership. Who started this revolution? What were the reasons? And where has it led us? It has brought nothing but misery and humiliation to innocent Muslims.
Also, you cannot attack your non-Muslim neighbor, colleague or a random person on the street. We have no right to harm others even if they are non-Muslims. The Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam gave da’wah for 13 years and only then he went on war; and that too because Muslims were being persecuted. Had the Makkans let the Muslims live in peace, there would have been no war. How much have we striven in the path of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala, calling others to His Deen and spreading His Message that we are ready to go on war?
These are some questions that we must ask ourselves and those who promote senseless wars. May Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala protect us from falling into Fitnah, aameen.
DOWNLOAD PDF: Tafseer Al-Baqarah Ayah 216
رَبَّنَا تَقَبَّلْ مِنَّا ۖ إِنَّكَ أَنتَ السَّمِيعُ الْعَلِيم
“Our Lord, accept [this] from us. Indeed You are the Hearing, the Knowing.” [Al-Baqarah 2: 127]