Tuesday, March 3, 2009

At-Taubah 9:5, The Verse of the Sword

"Then, when the sacred months have passed, slay the idolaters wherever ye find them, and take them (captive), and besiege them, and prepare for them each ambush. But if they repent and establish worship and pay the poor-due, then leave their way free. Lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful." (At-Taubah 9:5)

Tafsir Ibn Kathir: "Allah said next, (So when the Sacred Months have passed...), meaning, `Upon the end of the four months during which We prohibited you from fighting the idolators, and which is the grace period We gave them, then fight and kill the idolators wherever you may find them.' Allah's statement next, fight the Mushrikin wherever you find them), means, on the earth in general, except for the Sacred Area, for Allah said, (And fight not with them at Al-Masjid Al-Haram, unless they fight you there. But if they attack you, then fight them. )[2:191] Allah said here, (and capture them), executing some and keeping some as prisoners, (and besiege them, and lie in wait for them in each and every ambush), do not wait until you find them. Rather, seek and besiege them in their areas and forts, gather intelligence about them in the various roads and fairways so that what is made wide looks ever smaller to them. This way, they will have no choice, but to die or embrace Islam. Abu Bakr As-Siddiq used this and other honorable Ayat as proof for fighting those who refrained from paying the Zakah. These Ayat allowed fighting people unless, and until, they embrace Islam and implement its rulings and obligations. This honorable Ayah (9:5) was called the Ayah of the Sword, about which Ad-Dahhak bin Muzahim said, "It abrogated every agreement of peace between the Prophet and any idolator, every treaty, and every term.'' Al-`Awfi said that Ibn `Abbas commented: "No idolator had any more treaty or promise of safety ever since Surah Bara'ah was revealed." [parenthetic notations orignal, emphasis mine]

From the above, we can draw a number of important conclusions:
  • Allah commands Muslim to slay "idolators" wherever they can be found on the earth
  • Muslims are not to wait for them, they are to actively seek them out
  • Muslims should lie in wait, ambushing them, and gathering intelligence
  • Idolators are to be fought continuously until they "embrace Islam"
  • This Ayah forever abrogates previous peace treaties, and no idolator has a promise of safety from Muslims since this was revealed
  • The reason the Muslims are to fight, is so that idolators will have no choice but to die or "embrace Islam" (i.e. become Muslims).

I wonder which of the so-called "moderate Muslims" believes himself/herself to have a superior understanding of the Qur'an to that of Ibn Kathir (one of the most prolific Qur'anic commentators of all time)? Perhaps this great scholar of Islam just missed the mark and got this one wrong. Let's see what al-Jalalayn and Ibn Abbas have to say:

al-Jalalayn: Then, when the sacred months have passed — that is, [at] the end of the period of deferment — slay the idolaters wherever you find them, be it during a lawful [period] or a sacred [one], and take them, captive, and confine them, to castles and forts, until they have no choice except [being put to] death or [acceptance of] Islam; and lie in wait for them at every place of ambush, [at every] route that they use (kulla, ‘every’, is in the accusative because a [preceding] genitive-taking preposition has been removed). But if they repent, of unbelief, and establish prayer and pay the alms, then leave their way free, and do not interfere with them. God is Forgiving, Merciful, to those who repent.

Ibn Abbas, who was Muhammad's cousin, and a sahaba [companion of the 'prophet']: (Then, when the sacred months have passed) then after the day of immolation when the month of Muharram passes, (slay the idolaters) whose treaty is for fifty days (wherever ye find them) whether in the Sacred Precinct or outside it, during the sacred months or at any other time, (and take them (captive)) imprison them, (and besiege them) in their homes, (and prepare for them each ambush) on every road they tread for trade. (But if they repent) from idolatry and believe in Allah (and establish worship) and acknowledge the five daily prayers (and pay the poor-due) acknowledge the payment of the poor-due, (then leave their way free) if they wish to go to the House of Allah. (Lo! Allah is Forgiving) He forgives whoever repents, (Merciful) towards whosoever dies in a state of repentance.

No, it seems they agree as well. Muhammad ordered his followers to violently fight people based on the fact that they were not Muslims, and kill them. This fighting was in fact designed to force them into Islam (or leave them dead). In all fairness, this was a directive given as a call to war in a specific time in Arabia; however, the standing tradition within Islam, and the historical exegetes believe the Qur'an to be a "book for all-time". Those Muslims who interpret this verse to be a command to fight TODAY are able to draw from a broad base of Islamic jurist-prudence. It is the liberal Muslim, most often influenced by Western cultural values, that has a lack of historical support within Islamic theology. Also of note, is that Surah 9 (At-Taubah) was one of the last Surahs added to the Qur'an. Muslim scholars have ruled that this one single verse abrogated as many as 128 other verses within the Qur'an. Muslim's final "marching orders" found throughout Surah 9 are slanted to violence and warfare. It should come as no surprise that we see people all over the world acting on the commands of the Qur'an and violently fighting against non-Muslims.