Volume 3: Surah Baqarah, Verses 190-195
And fight in the way of Allah with those who fight with you and do not exceed the limits. Verily, Allah loves not those who exceed the limit. (190) And kill them wherever you find them and drive them out from whence they drove you out; and mischief (disbelief) is more grievous than slaughter; and do not fight with them at the Sacred Mosque until they fight with you therein; but if they do fight you than slay them; such is the recompense of the unbelievers. (191) But if they desist, then verily Allah is forgiving, Merciful. (192) And fight with them until there is no (more) mischief (disbelief), and religion be only for Allah; but if they desist then there should be no hostility except against the oppressors. (193) The sacred month for the sacred month and reprisal (is lawful) in all sacred things; whoever then acts aggressively against you, inflict the like aggression on him as he has inflicted on you; and fear Allah and know that Allah is with those who guard (against evil). (194) And spend in the way of Allah and cast not yourselves into perdition with your own hands; and do good; verily Allah loves those who do good. (195)
The context of the verses shows that they were revealed together. The whole talk has only one aim: permission, for the first time, of fighting with the polytheists of Mecca. These verses refer to driving them out from whence they drove the believers out, to disbelief and to reprisal; they prohibit fighting with them at the Sacred Mosque unless they fight the believers in it. All these matters were connected with the polytheists of Mecca. Also, the sentence: fight in the way of Allah with those who fight with you, deserves more attention. It is not a condition, i.e., it does not mean, "fight with them if they fight with you". Nor is it a restrictive clause (as some people think) meaning, "fight with the men, and not with their women and children who are not in a position to fight with you", because nobody "fights" with those who are unable to fight back. Had it been the aim of the sentence, it would have been proper to say "do not kill them". Therefore, the words those who fight with you only refer to a fact ‑ fight those who are presently engaged in fighting against you. And it points to the polytheists of Mecca.
The verses have the same significance as the following verses: Permission (to fight) is given to those upon whom war is made, for they have been oppressed, and most surely Allah is able to help them; those who have been expelled from their homes without a just cause except that they say, Our Lord is Allah (22:39-40). These verses also contain the initial (but unconditional) permission to fight with the fighting polytheists.
These five verses together promulgate a single law covering all its limits and details. And fight in the way of Allah is the basic law; and do not exceed the limit puts disciplinary restriction on it; And kill them wherever you find them defines the limits of pressure; and do not fight with them at the Sacred Mosque until they fight with you therein puts a restriction according to the place; and fight with them until there is no more mischief (disbelief) shows its duration; The sacred month for the sacred month, and reprisal (is lawful) in all sacred things explains that this legislation is based on the principle of retaliation in fighting and killing, it is paying them in their own coin; And spend in the way of Allah makes the believers responsible for the financial preparations for war: they must spend for their own preparation and for that of others. Therefore, it seems that all the five verses were sent down together about one subject. It is wrong to say (as some have done) that some of these verses abrogate the others; or that they were revealed separately on different occasions. In fact, the aim of all these verses is one: permission to fight against the polytheists of Mecca who were fighting the believers.
Qur’an: And fight in the way of Allah with those who fight with you:
qital means attempting to kill someone who is attempting to kill you. This fight was in the way of Allah because its aim was to establish the religion and to raise the belief of monotheism. It was an act of worship done to gain the favour of Allah,, and not to usurp the property of people or to damage their dignity. War in Islam is basically defensive; it protects the right of humanity sanctioned by nature, as will be explained later. Defense is by nature a limited venture; that is why Allah said soon after this permission, and do not exceed the limit.
Qur’an: and do not exceed the limit. Verily, Allah loves not those who exceed the limit:
i’tida’ means going beyond the boundary. The Arabs say ada and i'tada when someone goes beyond the boundary. This prohibitory order is general and covers all the situations where one may be said to exceed the limit, like fighting someone before calling him to follow the path of truth, or starting a war, or killing women and children, or not desisting from war when ordered: Its other examples are explained in the traditions of the Prophet.
Qur'an: And kill them wherever than slaughter:
thiqafah means "to find". This sentence is similar to the verse: then slay the polytheists wherever you find them (9:6). Fitnah is the means of testing a thing. It is also used for the test itself as well as its related things like difficulty and hardship. It is also used for punishment, and the crimes and sins which bring that punishment in their wake, like polytheism, disbelief and going astray. The Qur’an has used this word in various places in all these meanings.
In this verse the word means ascribing a partner to Allah and disbelieving in His Messenger and persecuting and oppressing the Messenger of Allah and the believers as was done by the polytheists of Mecca before and after the Hijrah.
The verse says: Put the utmost pressure on the polytheists by killing them wherever they be found until they are compelled to go out of their town and emigrate from their land, as they did to you. And whatever they did to you was more grievous, because it was simply a mischief and an act of infidelity; and mischief and infidelity are more grievous than killing. Killing only terminates the life of this world while infidelity terminates this life as well as the next one and destroys both worlds.
Qur'an: and do not fight with them . . . recompense of the disbelievers:
It prohibits fighting with them at the Sacred Mosque (Masjidu l-Haram), to protect its sanctity, as long as they respect that sanctity. Therein refers to the Sacred Mosque.
Qur'an: Then if they desist, then verily Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.
Intiha means to desist from, to abstain from. If they desist means "if they desist from fighting near the Sacred Mosque", because the, sentence is mentioned immediately after that topic. It does not mean desisting from fighting altogether by accepting Islam and obeying its commands. However this topic comes soon after it and then Allah will refer to it in these words, but if they desist then there should be no hostility except against the oppressors.
Thus the two sentences refer to two completely different matters, and there is no repetition.
Then verily Allah is forgiving, Merciful. This sentence puts the cause in the place of the effect. The full meaning is: "But if they desist from fighting at the Sacred Mosque, then you must desist from it, because Allah is Forgiving and Merciful."
Qur'an: And fight with them until there is no more mischief (disbelief) and the religion be only for Allah:
This defines the time limit of the fighting. Fitnah (translated here as 'disbelief' and 'mischief') means here 'ascribing a partner to Allah and worshipping idols', as was the custom of the polytheists of Mecca, who compelled others to do likewise. This meaning is inferred from the next sentence, and religion be only for Allah.
This verse is similar to the verse: And fight with them until there is no mischief (disbelief), and the religion be only for Allah; but if they desist, then verily Allah sees what they do. And if they turn back, then know that Allah is your Master; The Most Excellent Master and the Most Excellent Helper (8:39‑40).
This verse shows that it is obligatory to call them to the right path before the war. If they accept the call, there will be no fighting; but if they reject it then there is no Master except Allah, and He is the most excellent Master and the most excellent Helper; He helps his believing servants. It is known that fighting is prescribed so that the religion be only for Allah. Such a fighting cannot be started until the adversaries are first invited to come onto the right path, i.e. the religion based upon monotheism.
Some people wrote that this verse was abrogated by the verse: Fight those who do not believe in Allah, nor in the latter day, nor do they prohibit what Allah and His Apostle have prohibited, nor follow the religion of truth, from among those who were given the Book, until they pay the jizyah (tributory tax) with their hand while they are in a state of subjection (9:29).
But there is no question of either verse abrogating the other, because they deal with different subjects. The verse under discussion is, as explained earlier, about the Meccan polytheists and does not cover the People of the Book who are referred to in verse 9:29. And the religion be only for Allah means that idol worship be abolished and the oneness of Allah be accepted. The people of the Book do believe in One Creator, We know their belief is in reality disbelief as Allah says that they: do not believe in Allah, nor in the latter day, nor do they prohibit what Allah and His Apostle have prohibited, nor follow the religion of truth. But Islam is content with their mere profession of monotheism. Fighting with them was ordained not to make them believe in monotheism, but simply so that they might pay tribute to the Muslims, thus raising the true creed above their creed and making Islam victorious over all religions.
Qur’an: but if they desist then there should be no hostility except against the oppressors:
If they desist from disbelief in what you believe in, then cease fighting with them, because there is no hostility except against the oppressors. In this verse also, the cause has been mentioned in place of the effect. Instead of saying "then cease fighting with them" it points out the cause that, there should be no hostility except against the oppressors. It is like the verse: But if they repent and establish the prayer and pay the zakat, then they are your brethren in faith (9:11).
Qur'an: The sacred month for the sacred month and reprisal (is lawful) in all sacred things:
hurumat (sacred things refers to the sanctity of the sacred month, the sanctity of the "boundary" (haram) of Mecca, and the sanctity of the Sacred Mosque. If the Meccan polytheists disregard the sanctity of the sacred month by fighting in it ‑ and they did violate its sanctity when they prevented the Prophet and his companions from pilgrimage (umrah) in the years of Hudaybiyah (6 A.H.), and attacked them with arrows and stones ‑ then the believers are allowed to fight them in that month and it would not be deemed disrespectful towards it. The believers are fighting in the way of Allah and are obeying His Command to raise up His word. Likewise, if the infidels violate the sanctity of the boundary of Mecca or the Sacred Mosque by fighting in it or in that area then the believers may hit back at them in that place and that area.
The sacred month for the sacred month describes a particular example, followed by a general observation, and reprisal (is lawful) in all sacred things. This in its turn is followed by even more general principle, whoever then acts aggressively against you, inflict the like aggression on him as he has inflicted on you.
The meaning, thus, will be: Allah has sanctioned reprisal in the sacred month because He has sanctioned it for all sacred things. And He has sanctioned reprisal for all sacred things because He has made it lawful for His servants to inflict aggression equal to the aggression inflicted upon them.
Then He exhorts them to remain steadfastly cautious when inflicting aggression in reprisal, lest they trespass the limit. After all, punishing an oppressor seems sweet, and all animal instincts are roused when one is engaged in taking revenge. There are more chances of deviation from justice, by the use of excessive force, and by disregard of the limits put by the religion. But the fact has already been mentioned that Allah loves not those who exceed the limit. And the believers are most in need of the love of Allah His patronage and His help. Therefore, they are told to fear Allah and know that Allah is with those who guard (against evil).
The question arises: Why Allah sanctioned acting aggressively when He does not love those who act aggressively (or, as translated above, exceed the limit)? Of course, acting aggressively is to be condemned, but only when it is not in response to an aggression. But if it is in reprisal of an aggression, then it is not "exceeding the. limit" or "acting aggressively". It is defending oneself from degradation, and liberating oneself from the fetters of slavery, oppression and injustice. It is like showing pride before a proud man, or the open utterance of evil in speech by the one who has been wronged.
Qur’an: And spend in the way of Allah and cast not yourselves into perdition with your own hands.
It is the command to spend wealth for waging war in the way of Allah. The clause, in the way of Allah attached to "spending" has the same significance as when attached to "fighting" in 2:190. "With your hands" (biaydikum); with (b . . . ) here is extra, added for emphasis. The meaning is "and cast not your hands in perdition". The hand is a symbol of power, ability and strength; and the verse says: do not nullify or waste your strength by not spending money in preparation for war. Another interpretation: "with" (b ... ) signifies the cause or means; and the object of the verb is yourselves (anfusakum) which is deleted but understood. Accordingly, the meaning will be as translated above: and cast not yourselves into perdition with your own hands.
Tahlukah and hilak are synonymous; both mean to perish, to fall in perdition. When man becomes in such a condition that he does not know where he is, this word is used. Tahlukah is with the paradigm of taf’ulah There is' no other infinitive verb in Arabic with this paradigm.
The order is, anyhow, general; and it prohibits any commission or omission which may cause perdition, whether it is on the side of excess or deficiency. For example, miserliness and avarice when preparing for war would weaken the fighters and make the army of Islam the target of the enemy; and many would be killed. On the other hand, extravagance in expenditure would bring poverty and misery to such a spender, degrade him in society and make life unbearable. Both these actions are prohibited by this verse.
Allah finished this talk on "doing good", and said: and do good; verily Allah loves the doers of good. Doing good does not mean desisting from fighting, or clemency in killing the enemies of the religion etc. It means doing a wok in its proper way: Fight when fighting is required; restrain yourselves when restraint is preferred; be strict where strictness is demanded by reason, and forgive where forgiveness will not embolden the enemy. In short, repulsing the oppressor by the most reasonable means is to do good for humanity, because this repulsion guarantees humanity its due right, and defends the religion which would improve man's condition in both worlds.
Further, desisting from 'exceeding the limits while obtaining the due right is another good action. And love of Allah is the final good of the religion; and it is essential for every follower of religion to be worthy of the love of Allah by obeying His command and following His Apostle. Allah says in the Qur’an: Say "if you love Allah then follow me, Allah will love you and forgive you your sins" (3:30).
These five verses ‑ and they are about fighting ‑ began with the prohibition of exceeding the limit and that: Verily Allah loves not those who exceed the limit, and ended with the command to do good and that: Verily Allah loves those who do good. Its delicacy and subtlety need no explanation.
Ibn 'Abbas said about the verse, And fight in the way of Allah . . . : "This verse was revealed about the treaty of Hudaybiyah. And it was like this: The Messenger of Allah (s.a.w,a.) and his companions came out in the year when they wanted to perform ‘umrah. They were one thousand and four hundred persons. They proceeded till they reached Hudaybiyah. There the polytheists prevented them from reaching the Sacred House. Therefore, they slaughtered their sacrificial animals at Hudaybiyah. The polytheists made an agreement with them that they were to go back that year; they would return for 'umrah next year when they would be allowed to enter and remain in Mecca for three days to perform tawaf and whatever religious rites they wished.
"The (Messenger of Allah) thereon returned to Medina. Next year the Prophet and his companions made preparations for the 'umrah which had become qada the previous year. At the same time, they were afraid that the Qurayshites would not honor the agreement and would again prevent them from reaching the Sacred House and would fight. The, Messenger of Allah did not like the idea of fighting with them in the Sacred month within the sacred boundary of Mecca. Then Allah sent down this verse." [Majam’u l-bayan]
The author says: Similar traditions have been written in ad‑Durru l‑manthur with various chains from Ibn 'Abbas and others.
Another tradition from ar‑Rabi' ibn Anas and 'Abdu 'r‑Rahman ibn Zayd ibn Aslam said: This is the first verse revealed about fighting. When it was revealed, the Messenger of Allah used to fight with those who fought with him and desisted from fighting those who refrained from fighting, until was revealed the verses, Kill the polytheists wherever you find them. Thus the above verse was abrogated. [Majam’u l-bayan]
The author says: It is their own opinion. You know that the verse: Kill the polytheists wherever you find them does not abrogate the verse And fight in the way of Allah ... Rather it generalizes an order which was specific.
About the verse, and kill them wherever you find them . This verse was revealed because one of the companions killed an infidel in the sacred month, The believers condemned him for it. Then Allah made it clear that mischief in religion, i.e. polytheism, is more grievous than killing polytheists in the sacred month, even though it was not allowed. [Majam’u l-bayan]
The author says: You know that the singleness of the context and inter‑relationship of all the five verses obviously proves that they were revealed all together, not piecemeal.
There is a tradition from various chains, from Qatadah. He said: "And fight with them until there is no more mischief, i.e. polytheism, and the religion be only for Allah." He said: "till it is said, 'there is none to be worshipped except Allah.' It is this cause which the Messenger of Allah fought for, and called the people to. And we are told that the Prophet used to say, 'Verily Allah ordered me to fight the people till they say, "there is none to be worshipped except Allah", then, if they desisted (from polytheism), there should be no hostility except against the oppressors." He said: "And verily the oppressor, who refuses to say 'there is none to be worshipped except Allah' shall be fought with till he says 'there is none to be worshipped except Allah'." [ad‑Durru l‑manthur]
The author says: The sentence "And verily the oppressor. . is the saying of Qatadah; he has inferred it from the saying of the Prophet and it is a fine inference.
A similar interpretation has been reported from 'Ikrimah.
Al‑Bukhari, Abu sh‑Shaykh and Ibn Mardawayh have narrated from Ibn 'Umar that two persons came to him during the fitnah (mischief) of Ibn az‑Zubayr and told him: "Verily, people have done (what they have done) and you are the son of 'Umar and a companion of the Prophet; then why do you not come out?" He (Ibn 'Umar) said: "It prevents me (from coming out) that Allah has forbidden (shedding) the blood of my (Muslim) brother." They said: "Has not Allah said, fight with them until there is no (more) mischief?" He said: "We fought until there was no more mischief and the religion became only of Allah ; but you want to fight until there be mischief and the religion be for other than Allah." [ad‑Durru l‑manthur]
The author says: He was mistaken in the meaning of fitnah and also the two questioners were mistaken. The meaning of fitnah has already been explained. The event of Ibn az‑Zubayr was not "polytheism or disbelief", it was an example of disorder on earth, or fighting with one another without any just cause; and believers were not allowed to remain silent about it.
There is in Majma’u l‑bayan, under the verse, and fight with them until there is no (more) mischief. "That is polytheism", and the author of Majam’u l-bayan said: "And it is narrated from Abu ‘Abdillah (a.s.)."
There is a hadith in the Tafsir of al‑'Ayyashi about the words of Allah: The sacred month for the sacred month; al‑Ula’ ibn al-Fudayl said: "I asked him (the Imam) Whether it was allowed to the Muslims to start fighting with the polytheists in the sacred month. He said: 'If the polytheists start the fight with them by (practically) making it lawful (to fight in the month), then the Muslims will see how they can overcome the polytheists (and do it). And it is the word of Allah, The sacred month for the sacred month and reprisal (is lawful) in all sacred things.' "
Ahmad and Ibn Jarir, and an‑Nahhas in his Nasikh, have narrated from Jabir ibn 'Abdullah that he said: "The Messenger of Allah did not fight in the sacred month until he was fought with, and if ever he was in a fight and the sacred month began, he would desist (from fighting) until it came to an end." [adDurru l‑manthur]
Mu’awiyah ibn 'Ammar said: "I asked Abu ‘Abdillah (a.s.) about a man who killed another man, outside the sacred territory and then entered the sacred territory. The Imam (a.s.) said: 'He will not be killed (therein), but he will not be given anything to eat or drink, and will not be sold anything until he comes out of the sacred territory; then he will be given the punishment of his crime'." The narrator said that he then asked the Imam (a.s.): "Then what do you say about a man who killed someone in the sacred territory or stole therein. He (the Imam) said: 'He will be punished inside the sacred territory because he himself did not maintain respect of it. And Allah has said, whoever then acts aggressively against you, inflict the like aggression on him.' (The Imam said) 'This is the law about the sacred territory; and Allah said, there should be no hostility except against the aggressors'." [al-Kafi]
as‑Sadiq (a.s.) said about the words of Allah, and cast not yourselves into perdition.. "If a man spent in the way of Allah all that he had, lie would not have done good and God would not lead him to success. Does Allah not say: and cast not yourselves into perdition with your own hands; and do good; Verily Allah loves those who do good, i.e., who are economical." [ibid].
as‑Saduq has narrated from Thabit ibn Anas that he said: "The Messenger of Allah said: obedience to the ruler is obligatory; and one who has left the obedience to the ruler has not obeyed Allah and has entered into His prohibition, as He says: and cast not yourselves into perdition with your own hands'."
It is narrated in ad‑Durru l‑manthur with numerous chains, from Aslam Abi Imran that he said: "We were (fighting) at Constantinople; 'Aqbah ibn Amir commanded the Egyptians, and Fudalah ibn 'Ubayd led the Syrians. There came out a big row of the Romans, and we stood in row against them. Then a man from our side attacked the Roman row until he entered in its midst. The people (Muslims) cried out, 'Glory be to Allah! He is casting himself in perdition with his own hands!' Then Abu Ayyub, the companion of the Messenger of Allah, stood up and said: 'O people! You are interpreting this verse in this way, while (the fact is that) it was sent down about us, the group of the Helpers. Verily, when A11ah made His religion powerful, and its helpers increased in number, some of us told others, keeping it secret from the Messenger of Allah, "Verily, our properties are ruined, and (now) Allah had made Islam powerful and its helpers have increased. Therefore, (it would be better) if we stayed in our properties and mended what had been damaged therein." Then Allah revealed to his prophet, refuting what we had said, And spend in the way of Allah and cast not yourselves into perdition with your own hands. So, perdition meant our staying in our properties and repairing them by leaving fighting (in the way of Allah)'."
The author says: The difference of the traditions in interpreting the meaning of this verse supports what we have said that this verse is general and covers both extremes (extravagance and miserliness) in spending, and that it is not confined to spending only, but covers other aspects also where "casting oneself into perdition" can be applied.
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