“So, when the sacred months expire, kill the polytheists wherever you find them, and catch them and besiege them and sit in ambush for them everywhere. Then, if they repent and establish Salāh and pay Zakāh, leave their way. Surely, Allah is most Forgiving, Very-Merciful” (Quran 9:5)
The Holy Quran was revealed to guide humanity through every aspect of life. It is an instructional manual that mandates just how one’s life should be lived, with teachings for both individuals and all of society. The Holy Quran provides guidelines and instructions to govern proper human conduct, a fair economic system, ritual worship, ethics and moral behavior, business, government, and more. Among the many teachings include instruction on responding to hostile people during difficult times.
At age forty, Prophet Muhammad PBUH received his first Revelation from God in a cave via the Angel Gabriel. Although he was known in his community as “the truthful, the trustworthy,” most people did not believe him or his Message. Even though Prophet Muhammad PBUH was spreading the Message of Islam to his people peacefully and did not force anyone to convert, a massive campaign was instigated by the idol worshippers of Mecca to persecute him and those who believed in the Message.
They harassed the Muslims, ridiculed and insulted them, socially boycotted and isolated them, threatened their lives, and even tortured certain believers to death. After thirteen years of preaching in Mecca while being persecuted, Prophet Muhamad PBUH and his followers secretly migrated to Medina, leaving family members, homes, and businesses behind.
In Medina, Prophet Muhammad PBUH gained new followers and became the city’s leader. The idol worshippers of Mecca, who prosecuted Muslims in their homeland, plotted and attempted to reengage their attack. Thus the Muslims prepared for battle to defend themselves and their families from the oppressors that had expelled them from their homes in Mecca. A number of years and several battles later, Prophet Muhammad PBUH led an army of one hundred thousand people back to Mecca and conquered the land in a bloodless victory.
Prophet Muhammad PBUH gathered the chief enemies that had been battling him through the years and told them, “I say to you what my brother Yusuf said to his unkind brothers. Have no fear this day! May Allah forgive you, and He is the Most Merciful.”
The Holy Quran was not revealed in a single setting; it was revealed to Prophet Muhammad PBUH passage by passage over 23 years. At this time, a Verse was revealed to Prophet Muhammad PBUH saying to give the criminal polytheists who broke their treaties with the Muslims, fighting them through the years despite signing peace treaties, a safe place where they could be unthreatened and not intimidated by the Muslims. God stated that they get four months to consider the religion of Islam.
“And if anyone from the polytheists asks for your protection (O Prophet), grant it to them so they may hear the Word of Allah, then escort them to a place of safety, for they are a people who have no knowledge” (Quran 9:6)
The desired outcome was for these criminals to become Muslims, but if they chose not to convert, they would be required to leave the area. Upon the completion of the four months, if they didn’t depart, the command was to “kill them where you find them.” The Muslims were instructed to drive out these criminal idol worshippers from the very land that had forced out the Muslims. This is the precise context of the Verse as delivered.
This Verse references a specific treaty given to the idol worshippers of Mecca from God. While the directive is intended to threaten the idol worshippers that expelled the Muslims from Mecca, not a single person died because of this Verse. At that time, public idol worship was no longer allowed in Arabia. As a result, paganism disappeared throughout the land of Arabia.
Another Verse states that if any polytheist should seek protection from the Muslims, they must grant them protection so they might hear Allah’s Message. If the polytheist did not convert, the Muslims would escort them to the borders and release them. The Muslims were only permitted to kill those criminal polytheists who refused to leave the land — the very land they initially forced out the Muslims.
It’s imperative to emphasize that these Verses and commands are not instructions to govern the actions of Muslims today. Instead, these words take the form of Verses from God that address specific people at a particular time. They pertained explicitly to those idol worshippers that broke their treaties with Prophet Muhammad PBUH and the Muslims, who had been attacking them in violation of their signed peace treaty.
If Muslims were ordered to kill non-Muslims, you would not have found so many Christians and Jews living in an Islamic land throughout history. Muslims have always been directed to allow non-Muslims to live in peace, kindness, and mercy. This, in truth, is the Muslim way.
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