Mar 232014
 

Statements by scholars dating back to the 3rd century Hirji have claimed that the following verse, which has become known as “the verse of the sword,” has abrogated, i.e. annulled, many Qur’anic verses:

When the Inviolable Months have passed away, kill the polytheists wherever you find them. Seize them, besiege them, and wait for them at every place of observation. If they repent, observe prayer, and pay the obligatory alms then let them go their way. Allah is forgiving, merciful. (9.5)

The significance of these reports is the nature of the alleged abrogated verses. The latter include numerous verses that call on the Muslims to be tolerant, forgiving, and patient, and to display such positive attributes toward non-Muslims that allowed Muslims to live peacefully with various religious groups for 1,400 years. Although the alleged abrogating function of verse 9.5 has been dismissed by most scholars, it has become very popular among Muslim terrorist groups and individuals who use it to justify their atrocities.

There are a number of fundamental problems with this abrogation claim, which I will summarize here. For those who are interested in a more detailed analysis of this issue with references to primary sources and other works, there is a dedicated chapter in my book Abrogation in the Qur’an and Islamic Law.

First, only by taking 9.5 completely out of context it maybe be claimed that it has abrogated verses that command the Muslims to show tolerance to non-Muslims. To see how blatant that distortion is, I have quoted 9.5 with the verses that surround it:

A proclamation from Allah and His Messenger to people on the day of Greater Pilgrimage that Allah is clear of the polytheists, as is His Messenger. If you repent that is better for you but if you turn away then know that you are not beyond the power of Allah. And give [O Muhammad!] glad tidings of a painful chastisement to the disbelievers. (9.3) Except those of the polytheists with whom you have a treaty and they did not break its terms or aid someone against you, so abide by their treaty until their term. Allah loves the pious. (9.4) When the Inviolable Months have passed away, kill the polytheists wherever you find them. Seize them, besiege them, and wait for them at every place of observation. If they repent, observe prayer, and pay the obligatory alms then let them go their way. Allah is forgiving, merciful. (9.5) If anyone of the polytheists seeks your protection [O Muhammad!], then protect him so that he may hear the Word of Allah, and escort him to his place of safety. That is because they are a people who do not know. (9.6) How can there be a treaty with Allah and with His Messenger for the polytheists, save those with whom you [O you who believe!] made a treaty at the Inviolable Mosque? So long as they are true to you, be true to them. Surely, Allah loves the pious. (9.7) How [can there be any treaty for the others] when if they would get an advantage over you they would not honor any relation or treaty with you? They satisfy you with their mouths while their hearts refuse. Most of them are backsliders. (9.8) They have purchased with the verses of Allah a little gain, so they have turned away from His way. Surely, evil is what they do. (9.9) They do not honor any relation or treaty with a believer; these are the transgressors. (9.10) But if they repent, observe prayer, and pay the obligatory alms, then they are your brethren in religion. We detail Our verses for the people of knowledge. (9.11) If they break their oaths after their treaty and assail your religion, then fight the heads of disbelief. Surely, they have no binding oaths, so that they may desist. (9.12) Will you not fight a people who broke their oaths, set out to drive out the Messenger, and attacked you first? Do you fear them? Allah is more worthy of your fear, if you are believers. (9.13)

I have analysed these verses in my book Jihad in the Qur’an. The verse immediately before 9.5 commands the Muslims to honor any peace treaty they had with disbelievers. Then verse 9.6 shows that Islam does not consider a peaceful disbeliever an enemy. The Qur’an even commanded the Prophet to give protection to any polytheist who sought his help.

Verse 9.7 commands the Muslims to honor their treaty with the polytheists as long as the latter honored it. God considers this to be an act of piety: “Allah loves the pious.” He reminds the Muslims in verses 9.8-10 that the polytheists used to break their peace treaties whenever they felt they had the upper hand and that they showed a similar disregard for their relations with the Muslims. He explains that the polytheists made peace with their mouths but did not embrace it with their hearts.

Muslims were commanded to forgive the polytheists, live with them in peace if the latter honored peace, and forgive and consider them brothers if they convert to Islam (9.11). God then emphasizes that the aim of fighting the heads of disbelief is to make them desist and establish peace (9.12).

Finally, verse 9.13 urges the Muslims to fight aggression, reminding them of the background of the conflict with the disbelievers. First, it was the polytheists who broke the treaty they had with the Muslims. Second, like the Meccans who forced the Prophet to immigrate to Medina, the polytheists were trying to expel him from Medina. Third, it was the polytheists who attacked the Muslims first.

Second, there are verses in other places in the Qur’an commanding the Muslims to establish peace with any party that wants peace (e.g. 4.90, 8.72). The Qur’an even has clear references to the Prophet continuing to make peace with people who repeatedly violated their peace treaties with the Muslims:

Surely, the worst of beasts in Allah’s sight are those who are ungrateful as they would not believe. (8.55) Those with whom you [O Muhammad!] have made a covenant yet they break their covenant every time and do not act piously. (8.56) Therefore, should you get hold of them in war, make of them an example that would disperse [the gathering army of] those who are behind them that they may be mindful. (8.57) If you fear treachery from a people, then throw back to them [their treaty] on equal terms. Surely, Allah does not love the treacherous. (8.58) Let not those who disbelieve think that they can outstrip [Us]. Surely, they are not impregnable. (8.59) Prepare [O you who believe!] for them what you can of force and horses tethered, to frighten thereby Allah’s and your enemy and others besides them whom you do not know but Allah knows. Whatever you spend in the way of Allah will be paid back to you in full and you shall not be wronged. (8.60) If they incline to peace then incline [O Muhammad!] to it, and rely on Allah. Surely, He is the Hearing, the Knowing. (8.61) If they intend to deceive you, then surely Allah is sufficient for you. It is He who supported you with His help and with the believers. (8.62)

Third, verse 9.5 is claimed to have abrogated even verses commanding the Muslims to be patient in general, not specifically when dealing with the polytheists or their enemies! This shows the false nature of the claims of abrogation involving this verse in general.

Fourth, those who argue that 9.5 has the power to override other verses ignore the fact that this verse targeted certain groups of polytheists, as they apply it to all idolaters. They make an even bigger mistake by claiming that it applies to all non-Muslims, including even the Jews and Christians. Yet the verse talks about the “mushrikīn,” which is the term the Qur’an applies to the polytheists of Arabia, whereas the Qur’an calls the Jews and Christians “Ahl al-Kitāb” or the “People of the Book.” Even when referring to Jews and Christians behaving like “mushrikīn,” the Qur’an still calls them “Ahl al-Kitāb,” as in verse 29 from the same chapter as the verse of the sword.

Fifth, in addition to the fact that scholars have disagreed on how many verses are supposed to have been abrogated by 9.5, the number of claims of abrogation by 9.5 grew over time. This clearly shows that the claims were based on the opinions of certain later scholars rather than sources that go back to the Prophet or even his Companions or the Successors.

Sixth, if 9.5 really abrogated tolerance and forgiveness for the disbelievers, it would have abrogated all of the many verses that promote such concepts. Yet even when considering all the verses that are claimed to have been abrogated by 9.5, there are still many other verses that command the Muslims to live peacefully with the disbelievers left uncovered by abrogation claims.

It should now be clear that the claim that verse 9.5 has abrogated other verses, let alone such a large number of them, is absurd. Even the title “the verse of the sword” is a late invention. While “the verse of alms” has been given this name by scholars because it talks about almsgiving and other verses have been given names after words that occur in them, the expression “the verse of the sword” is very much a misnomer because the term “sword” is not found in the verse. Even more telling is the fact that this word does not exist anywhere in the Qur’an!

Copyright © 2014 Louay Fatoohi
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43 Comments on "Myths About “The Verse of the Sword”"

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Zainab
Guest
Go Brother Louay, go, go, go! Just yesterday I had a Christian telling me on my facebook page that Islam is ‘hate speech’ against Judaism & Christianity. I informed him that this was not true. He continued with the same old argument of ‘verses of call to violence in the Qur’an’. I again explained how certain people interpret the verses of the Qur’an to their own whims and that is a reflection of themselves and not the entire religion. He still continued with his rant and so I told him this: “& isn’t it funny that the one’s who criticize… Read more »
Ted
Guest
Yup, a great article indeed. The problem is that angry/dissatisfied people (sometimes it is justified-I’m not doubting that) will always look to something to justify/direct their anger. Angry and dissatisfied people are manipulated by unscrupulous leaders who desire power. Whether it is religion or politics, the rhythm of the failings of mankind, across all cultures, follows a predictably depressing pattern. And the Koran, and the Verso of the Sword (even if it is misinterpreted) sadly gives fuel to these individuals. I have no doubt that true Islam is a religion of peace. But there are many who can use the… Read more »
eldee
Guest
9-5 and All of Quran is clear and evident. no need for tafseer which does more harm than good. I am arabic and i read quran daily. as Allah stated it is written in clear and easy to understand arabic. there are many verses in late medina sourate that ask “amr” meaning “farth” meaning obligation to fight non muslims and force islamisation (66-9 , 4-74, 4-76, 4-84). at this stage muslims grew powerfull versus their neighbour arabs tribes (keep this in mind for later). the best and evident proof of is the forced islamisation of many nations after the prophet’s… Read more »
Eldeee
Guest
For the life of me i don’t understand why you turn away from historical and Quranic evidence. Islam spread by force (islamic conquests) until it was defeated and forced back (france in west , india, china… In east) 2-256 “No compulsion in religion” as long as non-muslims pay jizya (living in muslim umma) when it comes to spreading islam the order is clear in surat attaoubat: the penultimate Surat that superseed all others (surat an nasr is the closing and has no instructions in it) if muslim nation had the higher power, it must spread islam including by force and… Read more »
Eeldee
Guest
salem kheire, as i mentioned in my 1st reply, i do not rely on scholars or tafseer to understand Quran. i do my own daily reading and my own judjement. Abrogation is justified by several quranic verses, no question about that: 16-101, 13-39, 2-106 regarding surat attaoubah being one of the last if not the last surat. there is historical evidence of that. this surat is the only one that does not have bismi Allah.. at its begining because the prophet sAaws died before giving more details about it. Initial quran compilers weren’t sure if it is a surat on… Read more »
Eldeee
Guest
I see that you’re still charging :) I do not agree with your analysis. The truth of islam is that it is violent cult. All you gotta do is read medina’s surats (later surats). Theses surats are so clear and evident and makes it veryis obvious to lnow that islam not only prones but orders its spread by power when available. there is no room for debate because of self evidence on this topic. One more thing, do not assume that I don’t read about Islam’s birth teaching and propagation. It’s been 30years that I’ve doing that. I understand that… Read more »
Tim
Member

I have no final view on whether these verses preach violence or not at this stage. However, whether in context of surrounding verses or not 9.5 commands people to kill and I cannot agree with that. It also appears that if I have no treaty with Muslims (which I don’t) and if I am a disbeliever (which I am) then I will be attacked? How can this ever be justified? What am I misunderstanding?

Concerned
Guest
I really don’t see how this can be debated when discussing the “final word of god”. that is quran. why is there any need to use context for something that supposedly existed since the beginning? and why is the quran not make it abundantly clear for the future generations that the violence laid forth commanding muslims to kill should only be understood with historical context? why did god make his eternal word so ambiguous. why did he change his mind about fermented fruit and the like? Reading the Quran all the way through I found it undeniably erratic and making… Read more »
Imran Raja
Guest

Assalamu Alaykum Dr. Fatoohi,
Can I first say thank you, I very much enjoyed reading your article and posts, your arguments and logic make total sense to me and I cannot agree more with what you have said, may Allah reward you for your efforts, and I very much look forward to purchasing and reading your books, keep up the good work.

Kind Regards

Imran

Louay
Member

Salam brother Imran, thank you for your kind words. Some of the arguments against the alleged abrogation claims by the “verse of the sword” are technical, but the rest are simply common sense. Absurd claims such as the myth that verse 9.5 abrogated many tens of verses is refuted as much by common sense as by specialist knowledge. Regards.

andrew leung
Guest
Dr. Fatoohi, There should be more people like you preaching about your interpretation of peaceful islam on a worldy stage. We never see them. Unfortunately i hear that the peaceful imams who promote tolerance may be killed. Your points leave me with 2 areas of concern. 1. Are u agreeing that Quran is confusing therefore can have different interpretations? Your your interpretation for peace relies on one having to take into account all factors and contexts which are not obvious to the reader. The more obvious reading is the violent interpretation especially when islam is spreading it seems. So do… Read more »
andrew leung
Guest
Dear Dr Fatoohi Sorry for the obvious typos in my previous message. I’m typing from my phone. I am an atheist so I’m only concerned about religions that I see harm in. Unfortunately it appears islam is the most harmful and violent one. I agree Christianity was bad too and that all religions can be politicised. However Christianity has allowed reform and different sects as you said previously which has allowed a form of freedom and modernisation with the times. This is only good. I respect modern day christian values although I’m not a christian. Much of the common law… Read more »
Marzuki Abdullah
Guest
Andrew, you “have a child in this world”. Yes, so do many Muslim parents, myself included. Especially the ones who live in say Yemen, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, they would have the same concern. On October 30 2006, 68 children were killed when CIA drones destroyed a religious school in the Bajaur area of Pakistan. On December 17, 2009 a US Navy missile slammed into a hamlet hitting a tribe in Yemen leaving 41 civilians dead, including 21 children and 12 women. In June 2014, NATO forces killed 16 civilians, including 4 children, in a drone strike targeting Taliban militants in… Read more »
Ted
Guest

George Orwell said it all-eternal war to keep the people in fear. It was written as a warning but increasingly looks as if it is being used as an instruction manual!

andrew leung
Guest
Dear Louay Thanks for your reply. Since this page is about the verse of the sword, I was wondering when this would apply. I am fully aware of the countless people who have died due to democracy, Christianity, disease etc…however I am concerned about the spread of Islam by application of verse of sword, and the attitude of “convert, die or pay jizia and be a 2nd class citizen”. These are the verses that are at the root of Islamic extremism, right? If I follow Islam as Muhammad intended ie the perfect word of God, the verse of the sword… Read more »
andrew leung
Guest
Dear Louay, Thanks for your time. I can answer your questions. Sure. 1. Obviously I don’t know personally people who have been forcibly converted, however I hear in the news that the yazidis were being given a choice to convert or die by Isis. I think that Quran 9:29 was being applied. I don’t know how much of this has happened in the past as a result of Islamic conquest. What are your views on 9:29 then? Is there a present day context? I worry because it appears there is a reason for islam to fight non muslims until they… Read more »
Andrew Leung
Guest
Dear Marzuki, Sorry I didn’t reply top you. At first I was only concentrating on my conversation with Louay. I hope you are right and that Islamic terrorism isn’t something that we have to worry about, and that it is inflated by the media. That’s why I need to understand the root of their violent ideology and the verses that they are applying so that I can make up my mind as to whether, if left unchecked, ISIS will become a world threatening problem. That’s why I need to understand how moderate muslims like you and Louay can rebut these… Read more »
Andrew Leung
Guest
Dear Louay, After doing my own research on the internet I have come to the following opinion (correct me if I am wrong on any of my opinions below): 1, Verse 9:29 (referred to as verse of the sword) of the Quran is one of the verses that were revealed late in the life of Muhammad when he was in Medina and had become relatively powerful. 2. Previous verses of tolerance and peace were revealed earlier when Muhammed was in Mecca when Muhammad’s believers were relatively small in number (compared to Medina). 3. As a Muslim one has to accept… Read more »
Andrew Leung
Guest
Dear Louay, I disagree that you have already previously answered my questions with facts, logic and reference to history. You said in your previous post to me, “I will quote here from my reply above to “Concerned,” but please do read the full reply as it deals with the same question: “There is no text that God could have revealed that people would not have misinterpreted to suit their ends. This is not only about the Qur’an but all books. The Bible has not changed since Christians for centuries exercised extreme violence against non-Christians and Christians of different denominations. There… Read more »
Andrew Leung
Guest
Dear Louay, Thanks for your reply. Thank you for giving me the verses from the Quran that you apply to justify the context. 1. I don’t know how peaceful the Christians and the Jews lived along side the Muslims in the last 1400 years, however if the Muslims practiced verse 9:29 and gave non-believers the choice of paying the jizyah, converting to Islam, or dying, one does not know whether the non-believers chose to live in peace, or whether it was because they were forced to be peaceful after paying the jizyah. In any event, I think that we can… Read more »
Salik
Guest
Salam aleykoum dr. Louay Fatoohi I’m french, sorry for my english… First of all, thank you very much for your beautiful work that I find exceptionnal. About verse 9.29, someone here said : ——- The only reasons the Quran gives for killing the unbelievers in verse 9:29 is because: a. the jews and christians believe that Allah has a son (9:30); b. they preach the above beliefs through their mouths (9:30); c. they are deluded (9:30); d. They have taken lords and monks as lords along with Allah (9:31); e. They want to extinguish Allah with their mouths (preaching) (9:32);… Read more »
Marcos
Guest
The verse immediately before 9.5 commands the Muslims to honor any peace treaty they had with disbelievers. What ? How can this be viewed as an extraordinary thing ? Any part inside a peace treaty is, by default, expected to honor the treaty. The context is very clear. Leave then live WHILE the treaty is in vigor. After that, kill then. Verse 9.7 commands the Muslims to honor their treaty with the polytheists as long as the latter honored it. God considers this to be an act of piety. Oh, really ? The names that comes to me are “honesty”… Read more »
Abu Fatimah
Guest
This ayah in baqarah, as well as it’s abrogation by 9.5 (Ayah of the Sword) is probably the ayah that is of central importance in Islam today. It seems to be the basis/justification given for udwaan/mufsid/musrif behaviors by some Muslims. Imaam Ibn Kathir provided hadith that 2.109 was abrogated by 9.5- end of story. It happened and it became the reality and part of the heritage of Muslims. The point that is missing here is that the Jews were engaging in udwaan towards the Muslims- through their hypocrisy, and the mushrik through their open udwaan. Understanding the abrogation of 2.109… Read more »
Patrik Strömberg
Guest
Salaam aleikum! The whole thread of discussion has been very interesting to read in the light of how the world looks today (Nov 14, 2015). My view on religion in general is summed up in “what’s the fuzz about, really?” Let people believe and worship whatever deity the want as long as they do not force anyone else to to that. In this view the three “brother religions”(Judaism, Christianity, Islam) have failed throughout history and many of the other big religions out there have also failed in this. I for one hope that one day, however distant, the peoples of… Read more »
Tim Broere
Guest
Dear Dr. Fatoohi, Context: 52 year old uneducated white guy atheist. As Andrew stated last year, “There should be more people like you preaching about your interpretation of a peaceful Islam on a worldly stage. We never see them”. However, I did grow tired of you and Andrew sparring over interpretation of the Qur’an. It matters not what yours, Andrews, or my interpretation of the Qur’an is. What matters is the Islamic States’ interpretation. For that matter, any extremists’ interpretation of the Qur’an should be of concern to everyone. If you, Dr. Fatoohi, are not In agreement with the actions… Read more »
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