“Kill the Infidels”

Sep 26

Question – What is the basis of Islamic extremists belief that they must “kill the infidels”? Is it based on the Quran or their interpretations?

Chapter 9 Verse 5 of the Quran reads, “But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the Pagans (or idolators) wherever you find them, an seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war); but if they repent, and establish regular prayers and practice regular charity, then open the way for them: for Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.”

This verse if read without any understanding of the historicity of revelations can mislead people to conclude that Islam sanctions the killing of disbelievers. Muslim extremists such as al-Qaida or the Taliban often misuse this verse to justify their nihilistic world view. Also, those who are predisposed to believing that Islam is spread by the sword often cite this verse as evidence towards their spurious claims.

When read in context and in conjunction with the overall message in the Quran this verse reflects the conditions of a certain time and place. Generalizing this verse to sanction the killing of non-Muslims will be a misreading of the verse and an abuse of the message of Islam.

Comparatively speaking it will be the same misreading of divine will if someone interprets the saying of Jesus, “I come not to bring peace, but to bring a sword.” (Gospel of Matthew 10:34) as sanction for spreading Christianity by force.

What is the context of this verse?

During the first 13 years of his mission, Muhammad and his companions faced torture, repression and assassinations. This forced Muhammad and his companions to flee their homes and seek refuge in the neighboring oasis city of Madinah. But the hostility of the pagan Arabs from Mecca did not stop. They tried to extinguish the light of Islam once and for all. It is in this context that the command came from God allowing Muhammad and his companions to take up arms in self-defense. Prior to this explicit command to fight back, Muhammad and his companions did not fight back, even in self-defense.

After the proclamation of 9:5 the principle of fighting was further clarified to be undertaken in self-defense: “To those against whom war is made, permission is given (to fight), because they are wronged; and verily, God is most powerful for their aid…If God did not defend one set of people by means of another, then monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques, in which the name of God is commemorated in abundant measure, would surely have been destroyed…” (22:39-40)

Notice that the reason the Quran gives for waging war is for the protection of the houses of worship for all religions. Note the explicit mention of churches, synagogues, and mosques.

Even in war Muslims are commanded to be just and fair. “Fight in the cause of God those who fight you, but do not transgress limits; for God loves not transgressors” (2:190).

In addition, at the first opportunity for peace, Muslims are commanded to cease hostilities: “But if the enemy incline towards peace, do thou (also) incline towards peace.” (8:61).

The guiding principle of Islam is one of tolerance and mutual respect: “God does not forbid you from dealing kindly and justly with those who do not fight you for (your) Faith nor drive you out of your homes: for God loves those who are just.” (60:8)

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