by Silas


One of the most frequently quoted Quranic verses is chapter 9 verse 5. This verse is known as "The Verse of the Sword." Muslim terrorists cite it to justify their violent jihad. Correspondingly, critics of Islam claim that it commands Muslims to act with offensive aggression towards the non-Muslims of that period, and contributes to Islam’s final theological doctrine of aggression towards all non-Muslims of all times. Apologists for Islam claim that 9:5 is purely defensive. Which side is right?

As the Islamic source materials are examined it will become evident that verse 9:5 is part of the theology of jihad and is meant to be both offensive and defensive. It is directed against Pagans living both near to and far away from Muhammad.

Understanding 9:5 in context requires an examination of the passage in which it is found. This passage consists of 29 to 41 verses or so (depending on which scholar’s view you hold). Because of time and space constraints however, I will only review the first 8 or so verses. I believe that they set the passage’s tone and belay its directives.

Islam’s final theological position regarding the use of violence to further its domain does not rest upon one verse or passage. Rather the entire Quran, other Islamic source materials, and Muhammad’s actions and lifestyle (Sunnah) must be examined and evaluated. We’ll do that with a view toward Sura 9:5.

I have attempted to keep this article focused on 9:5 within the broad theology of jihad. 9:5 is a foundational stone in the building of jihad and general aspects of jihad must be discussed. There is also the related topic of abrogation, but that has been dealt with elsewhere1, 2, 3, 4.




Yusuf Ali’s5 Quran commentary, page 435, states that verses 1 – 29 were revealed during the 10th month (Shawwal), of the year A.H. 9 (630/631 A.D.). It was proclaimed by Muhammad’s cousin, Ali, to the various Muslim and non-Muslim pilgrims in Mecca to give Muhammad’s new policy a wide hearing. He also states that the rest of the Sura (30 – 129) was spoken by Muhammad months earlier, prior to the first 29 verses, and they sum up the lessons of Muhammad’s earlier expedition to Tabuk. (Most scholars I’ve read say that the passage concerning the Tabuk raid was spoken following the raid). This means that the chapter’s first passage (1-29) is chronologically the last passage spoken by Muhammad. Other scholars present slightly differing opinions on its passages, chronology, and themes. However, all Islamic scholars, both Muslim and non-Muslim, that I’ve read, agree that the first 29 verses or so were some of the last Quranic verses spoken by Muhammad.

The introduction to chapter 9 in Mawdudi’s Commentary6 states that by the time chapter 9 was spoken one third of the entire Arabian Peninsula had bent the knee to Islam:

Now let us consider the historical background of the Sura. The series of events that have been discussed in this Sura took place after the Peace Treaty of Hudaibiyah. By that time one-third of Arabia had come under the sway of Islam which had established itself as a powerful well organized and civilized Islamic State.

The chapter’s tone is martial: there are many verses related to violence.




Chapter (sura) 9 has a couple of different names (and transliterations). Usually it is called "Repentance", in Arabic (Al-Tawbah), or "The Ultimatum" or "Release" (Bara’ah). Below is Chapter 9, verses 1-8, from Dawood’s7 English translation of the Quran. For a Quran comparison, I’ll list these verses in a couple of different translations in appendix 1.

9:1 A declaration of immunity from God and His apostle to the idolaters with whom you have made agreements:

9:2 For four months you shall go unmolested in the land. But know that you shall not escape God’s judgement, and that God will humble the unbelievers.

9:3 A proclamation to the people from God and His apostle on the day of the greater pilgrimage:

God and His apostle are under no obligation to the idolaters. If you repent, it shall be well with you; but if you give no heed, know that you shall not be immune from God’s judgement.

Proclaim a woeful punishment to the unbelievers,

9:4 except to those idolaters who have honoured their treaties with you in every detail and aided none against you. With these keep faith, until their treaties have run their term. God loves the righteous.

9:5 When the sacred months are over slay the idolaters wherever you find them. Arrest them, besiege them, and lie in ambush everywhere for them. If they repent and take to prayer and render the alms levy, allow them to go their way. God is forgiving and merciful.

9:6 If an idolater seeks asylum with you, give him protection so that he may hear the Word of God, and then convey him to safety. For the idolaters are ignorant men.

9:7 God and His apostle repose no trust in idolaters, save those with whom you have made treaties at the Sacred Mosque. So long as they keep faith with you, keep faith with them. God loves the righteous.

9:8 How can you trust them? If they prevail against you they will respect neither agreements nor ties of kindred. They flatter you with their tongues, but their hearts reject you. Most of them are evil doers.


NOTES: Scholars believe that the passage references two different sets of "four months":

  1. A sequential period of four months (verse 2).
  2. The "four sacred months" (verse 5). These four sacred months mentioned in the Quran are not sequential in the Islamic calendar, rather they are spread throughout the year. Thus some scholars believe that Muhammad gave some of the various pagan groups about one year until he was to make war upon them. Other pagan groups were to experience his aggression earlier, after 4 sequential months. More on this later. The Islamic calendar is presented in appendix 2.
  3. A "truce" in Muhammad’s time did not mean that there was now a state peace or that the opponents had become friends. It meant that there was a cessation of fighting. Both sides could continue to hate each other, re-arm, and plan the next war, or try to build upon the treaty towards real peace.



Because the Quran lacks internal contextual references we need non-quranic, but related and authoritive references, to understand its meaning accurately. Some people create theological positions based upon a "Quran only" type of reasoning and they make the Quran dance: it says what they want it to say when they want it said. That doesn’t cut it. We must have more than opinion and conjecture. We must use the Quran and contextual references to build a logical, rational, and substantial basis for understanding 9:5. If each person is allowed to "interpret" the Quran as he sees fit, while ignoring the historical and theological references, we would have a meaningless pile of opinions built upon a foundation of cute, but trite, imaginations.

There are five Islamic source groups I’ll draw from to build this understanding:

  1. First, we have other classes of Islamic source materials that are related to the chapter 9 passage. These are the "authentic traditions" (sahih hadiths) and biographical stories (sira). These sources provide additional details concerning the passage. The majority of Islamic scholars, both Muslim and non-Muslim, recognize them as having some degree of validity.
  2. Second, Actions. "Actions speak louder than words". Muslim historians such as Tabari and Ibn Sa’d recorded Muhammad’s actions and the actions of his followers both before and after he spoke the 9:5 passage. I will focus primarily on the actions of the Caliph Abu Bakr. He ruled the Islamic empire after Muhammad died and arguably knew Muhammad and his teachings best. He loved and obeyed Muhammad. He believed in him, served him, fought for him, and would have died for him. Logically, this dedicated, battle hardened veteran soldier, would continue to put Muhammad’s commands into practice. His actions involving non-Muslims display the true meaning of 9:5, i.e., was violence limited to only defense or were Muslims to expand by force?
  3. Third, we have the commentary (tafsir) of the great Islamic scholars. I’m not talking about some eloquent Muslim living in the West, doing a snow job on a naive and lazy Western audience like Hamza Yusuf, or trying to innovate and re-invent Islam into a more benign religion like Ali Eteraz or Stephen Schwartz. I’m talking about scholars like Ibn Kathir who devoted much of their lives to the study of Islam and had no need to fool an audience and present Islam as something it wasn’t in order to gain its acceptance.
  4. Fourth, we have Islamic tomes and theological encyclopedias, such as the "Reliance of the Traveller" and "Encyclopedia of Islam". These may not focus upon specific verses like 9:5, rather they focus on specific subjects, such as jihad and how the 9:5 theme ties into that subject.
  5. Fifth, there is the Quran itself. We should look to other verses in the chapter to see if they parallel 9:5 and attempt to understand what the Quran as a whole, in context, teaches. Because of size limitations I will only look at 2 other verses from chapter 9. But, the references I cite from group 4 above, list many other verses that support a violent jihad.


We can compile enough evidence from these Islamic sources to reach a sound conclusion about 9:5’s meaning. What I’ll do is present the materials I’ve collected for each group and comment upon them. At the end I’ll present a summary and conclusion.




1.1 Ibn Ishaq’s Sirat Rasul Allah.

The most complete background for the passage I’ve found is in "The Life of Muhammad"8, by A. Guillaume, pages 617-19. Guillaume’s work is a reconstitution of Ibn Ishaq’s (born about 75 years after Muhammad died) biography of Muhammad, the "Sirat Rasul Allah", (The Life of the Apostle of God), which is the oldest extant biography of Muhammad. Ishaq’s description of the event in question is long and detailed and I have skipped a few sentences that don’t pertain to the subject. Ibn Ishaq’s text below is in blue color, while the Quran’s verses are in green color & bold, and my comments are in black. The verses and commentary run together in the text, but in order to make it easier to define Quranic from non-Quranic, I have taken the liberty to separate them.

A discharge came down, permitting the breaking of the agreement between the apostle and the polytheists that none should be kept back from the temple when he came to it, and that none need fear during the sacred month. That there was a general agreement between him and the polytheists; meanwhile there were particular agreements between the apostle and the Arab tribes for specified terms. And there came down about it and about the disaffected who held back from him in the raid on Tabuk, and about what they said (revelations) in which God uncovered the secret thoughts of people who were dissembling. We know the names of some of them, of others we do not. He said[1]

1) "A discharge from God and His apostle towards those polytheists with whom you made a treaty,"

i.e. those polytheists with whom you made a general agreement.

2) "So travel through the land for four months and know that you cannot escape God and that God will put the unbelievers to shame. 3) And a proclamation from God and His apostle to men on the day of the greater pilgrimage that God and His apostle are free from obligation to the polytheists,"

i.e., after this pilgrimage.

So if you repent it will be better for you; and if you turn back know that you cannot escape God. Inform those who disbelieve, about a painful punishment 4) except those polytheists with whom you have made a treaty,"

i.e. the special treaty for a specified term,

"Since they have not come short in anything in regard to you and have not helped anyone against you. So fulfill your treaty with them to their allotted time. God loves the pious. 5) And when the sacred months are passed",

He means the four which he fixed as their time,

"then kill the polytheists wherever you find them, and seize them and besiege them and lie in wait for them in every ambush. But if they repent and perform prayer and pay the poor-tax, then let them go their way. God is forgiving, merciful. 6) If one of the polytheists",

i.e. one of those whom I have ordered you to kill,

"asks your protection, give it him so that he may hear the word of God; then convey him to his place of safety. That is because they are a people who do not know."

Then He said:

7) "How can there be for the polytheists"

with whom you had a general agreement that they should not put you in fear and that you would not put them in fear neither in the holy places nor in the holy months

"a treaty with God and His apostle except for those with whom you made a treaty at the sacred mosque?" …

They were the tribes of B. Bakr who had entered into an agreement with Quraysh on the day of al-Hudaybiya up to the tie agreed between the apostle and Quraysh. It was only this clan of Quraysh who had broken it. They were al-Dil of B. Bakr b. Wa’il who had entered into the agreement of Quraysh. So he was ordered to fulfill the agreement with those of B. Bakr who had not broken it up to their allotted time.

"So long as they are true to you, be true to them. God loves the pious."

Then He said:

8) "And how, if when they have the upper hand of you," i.e. the polytheists who have no agreement up to a time under the general agreement with the polytheists "they regard no pact or compact in regard to you" (869).

9) They satisfy you with their lips while their hearts refuse. Most of them are wrongdoers. They have sold the revelations of God for a low price and debarred (men) from His way. Evil is that which they are wont to do.

10) They observe neither pact nor compact with a believer. Those are the transgressors,"

i.e. they have transgressed against you.

"But if they repent and perform prayer and pay the poor tax, then they are your brothers in religion. We make clear the revelations for a people who have knowledge."


Continuing a few sentences later on page 619:

No unbeliever shall enter Paradise, and no polytheist shall make pilgrimage after this year, and no naked person shall circumambulate the temple. He who has an agreement with the apostle has it for his appointed time (only).

Continuing a few sentences later on page 619:

After that year no polytheist went on pilgrimage or circumambulated the temple naked. Then the two of them returned to the apostle. This was the Discharge in regard to the polytheists who had a general agreement, and those who had a respite for the specified time.

Then the apostle gave orders to fight the polytheists who had broken the special agreement as well as those who had a general agreement after the four months which had been given them as a fixed time, save that if any one of them showed hostility he should be killed for it….


Note [1] says: Sura 9. This chapter is a commentary on it.



1.2 Ibn Sa’d’s Kitab al-Tabaqat al-Kabir.

Ibn Sa’d was another great early Muslim scholar and he wrote the Book of the Major Classes, (Kitab al-Tabaqat al-Kabir)9, which is a 17 volume work dedicated to Muhammad’s life and the lives of those that followed him, i.e. his "companions". In volume 2, pages 208-9 there is only a small section related to the event of 9:5. As before, his text will be in blue and the Quran will be in green.

Then (occurred) the Pilgrimage of Abu Bakr al-Siddiq with the people in Dhu al-Hijjah of the ninth year from the hijrah of the Apostle of Allah.

They (narrators) said: The Apostle of Allah appointed Abu Bakr al-Siddiq to be in charge of the hajj. He set out with three hundred persons from al-Madinah. The Apostle of Allah sent with him, twenty sacrificial animals, whom he had adorned with necklaces, and whose humps he had pierced with his own hands. Najiyah Ibn Jundab al-Aslami was in charge (of the sacrificial animals). Abu Bakr carried five sacrificial animals with him. When he reached al-‘Arj, Ali Ibn Abi Talib joined him and he was riding al-Qaswa the she-camel of the Apostle of Allah. Thereupon Abu Bakr said to him: Has the Apostle of Allah given you charge of the pilgrimage? He said: No, But he has sent me to read to the people "Freedom from obligation"[1] and the dissolution agreements of all parties. Then Abu Bakr proceeded and performed Hajj with the people. Ali Ibn Abi Talib read to the people: "Freedom from obligations," on the day of sacrifice, near al-Jamrah, and revoked the covenant of every party; and he said: After this year no polytheists will make a pilgrimage nor a naked person will circumambulate (the Ka’bah).



1.3 Wakidi’s and other’s biographical information.

Wakidi was an early Muslim scholar and he wrote a history of Muhammad’s battles. Sir William Muir was a Christian and was one of the finest Islamic scholars of his day (19th century). He based his detailed four-volume biography of Muhammad, "Life of Muhammad"10 upon the works of Ibn Ishaq, Ibn Sa’d, Wackidi, Tabari, and the collections of Sahih Hadith. Starting on page 208 of volume 3:

Towards the close of the pilgrimage, on the great day of sacrifice, at the place of casting stones near Mina, Ali read aloud to the multitudes who crowded round him in the narrow pass, the heavenly command as follows:

Muir writes out 9:1-7, then continues on pages 210-11:

Having finished the recitation of this passage, Ali continued; - "I have been commanded to declare unto you that no unbeliever shall enter Paradise. No idolater shall after this year perform the pilgrimage; and no one shall make the circuit of the holy house naked. Whosoever hath a treaty with the Prophet, it shall be respected till its termination. Four months are permitted to every tribe to return to their territories in security. After that the obligation of the Prophet ceaseth."

The vast concourse of pilgrims listened peaceably till Ali ended. Then they broke up and departed every man to his home, publishing to all the tribes throughout the Peninsula, the inexorable ordinance which they had heard from the lips of Ali.

The passage just quoted completed the system of Mahomet so far as its relations with idolatrous tribes and races were concerned. The few cases of truce excepted, uncompromising warfare was declared against them all. No trace of idolatry was to survive within the expanding circle of the influence of Islam. And as Islam was the universal faith intended for all mankind, so its mission was now plainly set forth to be the absolute annihilation of idolatry throughout the world.



1.4 The Hadith collection of Bukhari

I’ve not found any comprehensive description in the authentic (sahih) hadith equivalent to Ibn Ishaq’s description. All that I looked at were similar and added little of value to the review so I am only presenting this one reference from Bukhari’s11 collection, volume 1, number 365.

Narrated Abu Huraira:

On the Day of Nahr (10th of Dhul-Hijja, in the year prior to the last Hajj of the Prophet when Abu Bakr was the leader of the pilgrims in that Hajj) Abu Bakr sent me along with other announcers to Mina to make a public announcement: "No pagan is allowed to perform Hajj after this year and no naked person is allowed to perform the Tawaf around the Ka'ba. Then Allah's Apostle sent 'All to read out the Surat Bara'a (At-Tauba) to the people; so he made the announcement along with us on the day of Nahr in Mina: "No pagan is allowed to perform Hajj after this year and no naked person is allowed to perform the Tawaf around the Ka'ba."



At the time Muhammad spoke the passage he had enough power to dominate and crush the remaining Pagan tribes within the Hijaz, so he used it. He changed the rules and regulations that involved the Pagans. The Pagans did nothing to precipitate this change; they continued to do as they had done for the last year under Muhammad’s rule. But Muhammad used his ever growing power and placed his rough noose of Islam around their necks. Pagans were forced to join Islam or die. This is not self defense.

Some observations:

  1. Muhammad was the aggressor (9:2, 3, 5), this passage is an edict for war. Muhammad gave instructions to his followers to defend if attacked, but to also go out and attack all Pagans once the sacred months were completed.
  2. Muhammad was a truce breaker. The Pagans did not break all the truces. Muhammad claimed that God gave him a "revelation" allowing him to lie and break his word, i.e. the truces, stated in 9:1: "A declaration of immunity from God and His apostle to the idolaters with whom you have made agreements", and described as "A discharge came down, permitting the breaking of the agreement between the apostle and the polytheists". The materials state that it was Muhammad who broke all truces except those few he had with specific tribes or individuals for a limited time. When the sacred months were ended, those truces would also end. Muhammad would now be at war with all polytheistic tribes including those who had been peaceful. Had the Pagans broken the truces there would be no need for Muhammad to get a revelation to break them for they would already have been broken. Further, the Pagans were weak and demoralized and they were not about to start a war with the mighty Muhammad. Also note that Muhammad did not make an effort to renew the truce with the peaceful tribes, rather he initiated a state of war.
  3. Muhammad used compulsion to force people to convert to Islam: 9:5, "…If they repent and take to prayer and render the alms levy, allow them to go their way.". The verse describes conversion to Islam. The Pagans were going to be murdered if they did not convert. People tend to define religious conversion at the point of the sword as "compulsion."
  4. Muhammad commanded murder and terrorism for Islam, 9:5, 6, "When the sacred months are over slay the idolaters wherever you find them. Arrest them, besiege them, and lie in ambush everywhere for them", described as "one of those whom I have ordered you to kill,"…. Once the sacred months ended it was open season on the Pagans. They were going to be attacked, hounded, ambushed, captured, terrorized, and murdered by the Muslims. Muslim terrorists today do what this verse commands.




We’ve reviewed the texts related to the event of the 9:5 passage. The next step is to see its meaning reflected in the actions of Muhammad and his companions.


2.1 Material from the Kitab al-Tabaqat al-Kabir, volume 2.

2.1.1 Page 201, a son helps to murder his father.

"The Apostle of Allah sent a force under al-Dahhak Ibn Sufyan Ibn 'Awf Ibn Abu Bakr al-Kilabi, against al-Qurara. Al-Asyad Ibn Salamah Ibn Qart was with him. They encountered them at al-Zujj, the Zujj of Lawah and invited them to embrace Islam. They refused, so they attacked them and forced them to flee. Then Al-Asyad met his father Salamah who was on his own horse, in a pond of al-Zujj. He invited his father to embrace Islam promising him amnesty. He (father) abused him and his creed. Consequently al-Asyad hamstrung the horse of his father. When the horse fell on his hoofs Salamah reclined on his spear in water. He (al-Asyad) held him till one of them (Muslims) came there and killed him. His son did not kill him."


2.1.2 Page 203, raid on Tabuk.

Prior to Muhammad speaking the passage of 9:5, he undertook an action against an imaginary army of Christians supposedly in the northern part of the Arabian Peninsula, near a town called Tabuk. Ibn Sa’d provides the events concerning the campaign (ghazwah).

Then (occurred) the ghazwah of the Apostle of Allah, against Tabuk, in Rajab of the ninth year from his hijrah. …

(continuing the story on page 206)

… The Muslims began to sell their arms, saying that Jihad had come to an end. This report reached the Apostle of Allah, who stopped them from it and said: A party of my people will continue fighting for truth till the emergence of Antichrist.


2.1.3 Page 209, the raid on Yaman

Then (occurred) the sariyyah of Ali ibn Abi Talib against al-Yaman; it has also been said: It was undertaken twice, once in the month of Ramadan of the tenth year from the hijrah of the Apostle of Allah.

They (narrators) said: The Apostle of Allah, sent ‘Ali to al-Yaman and prepared a banner for him. He put the turban on his head with his own hand, and said: Go and do not pay attention to anything. When you reach there, do not fight them (Yamanites) until they fight you. He set out with three hundred horsemen, and it was the first cavalry detachment that ever entered this region, which was the territory of the Madhhij. He spread his companions there. They brought booty, spoils, women, children, camels, goats and other things which they could catch hold of. ‘Ali put the spoils in the charge of Buraydah Ibn al-Husayb al-Aslami. He deposited with him all that they had captured. Then he met their concentration and invited them to embrace Islam. They refused and threw arrows and stones, on which he arrayed his companions and handed over his banner to Masud Ibn Sinan al-Aslami. Then ’Ali with his companions led an attack against them and killed twenty men. They were dispersed and fled away. He restrained from pursuing them but invited them to embrace Islam. They promptly responded; and a party of their chiefs took oath of allegiance and said: We also represent those of our people who are behind us. Here are our sadaqat, take what is due of Allah. …


2.2 Material from Tabari’s History.

Tabari was a distinguished Islamic scholar and historian. He wrote a 39 volume work of history focused primarily upon the Islamic world. Below are excerpts from several volumes.

Material from Tabari’s History12, Volume 9.

2.2.1 Page 82. (NOTE: I am omitting the isnad chain to save space).

The Events of the Year 10 (April 9, 631-March 28, 632)

In this year, in the month of Rabi II (it is said in the month of Rabi’ I or in Jumada I), the Messenger of God sent Khalid b. al-Walid with an army of four hundred to the Banu al-Harith b. Ka’b.

The Messenger of God sent Khalid b. al-Walid in the month of Rabi II, or Jumada I, in the year 10/631 to the Balharith b. Ka’b in Najran, and ordered him to invite them to Islam for three days before he fought them. If they should respond to him [with the acceptance of Islam], then he was to accept it from them, and to stay with them and teach them the Book of God, the sunnah of His prophet, and the requirements of Islam (ma’alim al-islam); if they should decline, then he was to fight them.

Khalid departed and came to them, sending out riders in every direction inviting them to Islam and saying, "O people, accept Islam, and you will be safe." So they embraced Islam and responded to his call. Khalid stayed with them, teaching them Islam, the Book of God, and the sunnah of His prophet.

2.2.2 Page 88

Surad b. ‘Abdallah al-Azd, embraced Islam, and became a good Muslim. The Messenger of God invested him with authority over those of his people who had embraced Islam and ordered him to fight the polytheists from the tribes of the Yemen with them. Surad b. ‘Abdallah then left with an army by the Messenger of God’s command and alighted at Jurash.


Material from Tabari’s History, Volume 10.

2.3.1 Page 2 – (Abu Bakr speaking to the Muslims following Muhammad’s death).

… Thus God bestowed upon you faith in Him and in His Apostle, and protection for him and his companions, and strength for him and his faith, and battle (jihad) for his enemies. You were the most severe people against his enemies who were among you, and the most troublesome to his enemies who were not from among you, so that the Arabs became upright in God’s cause, willingly or unwillingly, and the distant one submitted in abject humiliation, until through you God made great slaughter in the earth for His Apostle, and by your swords the Arabs were abased for him.


2.3.2 Page 6 – (al Hubab b. al-Mundhir arguing on behalf of one group of Muslims with the other group of Muslims about who would be the new leader (this argument occurred a day after Muhammad died, and the Muslims were already at each other’s throats and fighting physically over political power)).

For you are more deserving of this authority than they are, as it was by your swords that those who were not yet converted came to obey this religion.


2.3.3 Page 55 – (Abu Bakr writing to the thousands of apostates who left Islam following Muhammad’s death).

… So God guided with the truth whoever responded to Him, and the Apostle of God, with His permission, struck whoever turned his back to Him until he came to Islam, willingly or grudgingly.


2.3.4 Concerning the leader of an army Abu Bakr sent to force these apostates back to Islam:

… but I have ordered him to fight those who deny [Him] for that reason. So he will not spare any one of them he can gain mastery over [but may] burn them with fire, slaughter them by any means, and take women and children captive; nor shall he accept from anyone anything except Islam.


2.4 Material from Tabari’s History, Volume 11.

(Muhammad has died and Abu Bakr is Caliph).

The Events of the Year 12. (March 18, 633 - March 6, 634)

2.4.1 Page 1 (Abu Bakr writing to Khalid – one of his generals)

When Khalid was done with the business of al-Yamamah, Abu Bakr al-Siddiq wrote to him while Khalid was still there. Ubaydallah b. Sa’d al-Zuhri - his uncle - Sayf b. Umar - ‘Amr b. Muhammad - al-Shabi: [Abu Bakr wrote,] "Go on toward Iraq until you enter it. Begin with the gateway to India, which is al-Ubullah. Render the people of Persia and those nations under their rule peaceable."


2.4.2 Page 4 (Khalid’s actions)

Then Khalid went on with those in his company until he reached al-Hirah, whose nobles came out to him with Qabisah b. Iyas b. Hayyah, al-Ta’i. Kisra had made Qabisah the governor of al-Hirah after al-Numan b. al-Mundhir. Khalid said to him and his companions: "I call you to God and to Islam. If you respond to the call then you are Muslims: You obtain the benefits they enjoy and take up the responsibilities they bear. If you refuse, then [you must pay] the jizyah. If you refuse the jizyah, I will bring against you tribes of people who are more eager for death than you are for life. We will then fight you until God decides between us and you."


2.4.3 Page 6 (Khalid in al-Hirah)

Then Khalid said to them, "I call you to God, to His worship, and to Islam. If you accept, you obtain the benefits we enjoy and take up the responsibilities we bear. If you refuse, then [you must pay] the jizyah. If you refuse the jizyah, then we will bring against you a people who love death more than you love drinking wine."


2.4.4 Page 7 (Khalid writing to the Persians)

From Khalid b. al-Walid to the rulers of the Persians: Peace be upon whosoever follows right guidance. Praise be to God, Who has scattered your servants, wrested your sovereignty away, and rendered your plotting weak. Whoever worships the way we worship, faces the direction we face in prayer, and eats meats slaughtered in our fashion, that person is a Muslim who obtains the benefits we enjoy and takes up the responsibilities we bear. Now then, when you receive this letter, send me hostages and place yourselves under my protection. Otherwise, by Him other than Whom there is no god, I will most certainly send against you a people who love death just as you love life.


2.4.5 Page 10 (Khalid writing to Hurmuz a Persia commander)

Now then, embrace Islam so that you may be safe, or else make a treaty of protection for yourself and your people and agree to pay the jizyah. Otherwise, do not at all blame anyone but yourself, for I have brought you a people who love death as you love life."


2.4.6 Page 150 (Abu Bakr speaking on his death bed, mentioning his regrets)

… I wish, when I sent Khalid b. al-Walid to Syria, that I had sent Umar b. al-Khattab to Iraq; thereby, I would have stretched forth both of my hands in God’s path.




Jihad was real, and it was violent. You don’t see much mention of the "internal struggle" of jihad in the historians’ writings.

2.1.1 Those that rejected Islam were to be killed. This was to be obeyed even if it meant a son had to help murder his father.

2.1.2 Muhammad intended for jihad against non-Muslims to go indefinitely.

2.2.1 The general rule was to invite people to convert to Islam and give them 3 days to consider. If they refuse, make war upon them and kill them.

2.2.2 Muhammad’s blanket of domination spread much farther than the Hijaz.

2.3.1 A great amount of killing was done to force people to become Muslims, either willingly or unwillingly.

2.3.2&3 The early Muslims used the sword to "convert" people to Islam.

2.3.4 People who chose to leave Islam were forced to re-convert or suffer and die.

2.4.2&3 The people of Iraq were forced to convert to Islam, pay extortion, or fight and die.

2.4.4&5 The people of Persia were forced to convert to Islam, pay extortion, or fight and die. Notice the similarity between what Khalid wrote and what Muhammad said in 9:5?

In sum, force was used to compel a hell of a lot of people to become Muslims. This included people who were intimidated into joining Islam while Muhammad lived, as well as people far away from the local Pagan tribes in the Hijaz, after Muhammad died. The "People of the Book" were treated in a nearly identical fashion to how the polytheists were treated but had the option to pay an extortion tax to remain true to their faiths, otherwise they too had to convert or die. We’ll be taking a look at verse 9:29 which describes how they are to be treated later.

In every example above, when Muslims confronted non-Muslims, the threat of war and death was used to convert people. Here, the actions are speaking and they are saying the same thing that the words said: "convert to Islam or die." These actions depict exactly what 9:5 (or 9:29) command on both a local and global scale. These actions say that jihad was to be a worldwide effort.



Now we’ll take a look at quotes from various scholars and their commentary (Tafsir) on this passage.


3.1 Material from the Maariful Tafsir13.

Page 303.

1. As a whole, Surah Al-Taubah carries the description of some battles, events related to them, and many injunctions and rulings emerging therefrom - for example, the termination of pacts with all tribes of Arabia, the Conquest of Makkah, the battles of Hunain and Tabuk. Out of these events, first came the Conquest of Makkah in Hijrah year 8, then came the battle of Hunain in the same year, then the battle of Tabuk in Rajab of Hijrah year 9. Finally came the announcement terminating pacts with all tribes of Arabia in the month of Dhu al-Hijjah, Hijrah year 9.

2. A summary of subjects concerning the repudiation of treaties mentioned in these verses shows that it was in the Hijrah year 6 that

(page 304)

the Holy Prophet started with the intention of ‘Umrah but the Quraysh blocked their entry into Makkah. Then came the peace treaty between them at Hudaybiyah. The time frame of this treaty, as reported in Ruh al-Ma’ani, was ten years. In Makkah, there were other tribes too, other than the Quraysh. An article was included in the peace treaty to cover them. It allowed a tribe, from out of the tribes other than the Quraysh, to become allies to the Quraysh and be with them, if they chose to do so; and whoever chose to become the ally of the Holy Prophet and be with him was allowed to do that. So, the tribe of Khuza’ah chose to become an ally of the Holy Prophet and went with him, while the tribe of Banu Bakr chose to go with the Quraysh. According to the treaty, it was necessary that within ten years there shall be no internecine war, nor shall any aggressor be helped from any side. And the tribe that was an ally of a party to the treaty shall be considered as governed by the same rule that governed the party. In other words, launching an attack on it or helping the aggressor was to be taken as a contravention of the treaty.

This treaty was signed in the Hijrah year 6. In Hijrah year 7, according to this treaty, the Holy prophet and his companions left to Makkah to perform the ‘Umrah they had missed earlier (‘Umrah al-qada’). After staying there for three days, he returned as stipulated in the treaty. Until then, no party had acted against the peace treaty in any way.

After that, it was within a period of five or six months when the tribe of Banu Bakr mounted a nightly ambush against the tribe of Banu Khuza’ah. Thinking that the Holy Prophet was far away and things were happening during the night which would make it difficult for the Holy Prophet to find out details of what had actually happened, the Quraysh came to the assistance of Banu Bakr by providing weapons and men to them.

Events as they transpired and conditions as they prevailed made the Quraysh too accept that the treaty of peace entered into at Hudaibiyah - requiring a ten year moratorium on internecine wars - was broken.

The tribe of Banu Khuza’ah, being an ally of the Holy Prophet informed him about this event. When he learnt about this breach of trust committed by the Quraysh, he started making secret

(page 305)

preparations for war against them. …

(not typing out the rest of the page since the material is incidental).

(page 306)

Rules for four kinds of Mushriks at the time of the Conquest of Makkah

So then, Makkah came under the control of Muslims. Non-Muslims living in and around Makkah were given full protection of their lives and properties. But, that was a time when the existing status of these non-Muslims was different. One kind of people among them was of those who were a party to the peace treaty of Hudaibiyah which they themselves broke and which by itself became the cause of the Conquest of Makkah. Then, there was another set of people with whom a peace treaty was signed for a specified period of time and they continued abiding by this treaty, such as the two tribes of Banu Kinanah called Banu Damurah and Banu Mudlaj. The peace treaty with them was for a specified period of time and, at the time of the revelation of Surah Al-Bara’ah (Al-Taubah) as stated by Khazin, they had another nine months left for their period of treaty to expire.

Thirdly, there were people with whom a peace treaty was concluded without any set time limit. Fourthly, there were those with whom no treaty existed.

The unsavory experience of all treaties entered into by the Holy Prophet with disbelievers of the People of the Book (Jews and Christians) was that they flouted these openly and secretly always conspiring with enemies to hurt him and his Muslim adherents as much as they could. Therefore, led by his own long experience and Divinely inspired indicators, the Holy Prophet had made up his mind not to enter into any peace treaty with any of these people and that the Arabian Peninsula was to be particularized with Muslims only as a bastion of Islam. This required a proclamation soon after the takeover of Makkah and the Arabian Peninsula ordering non-Muslims to leave and go somewhere else. But, in view of Islam’s principle of justice, equity and humane dealing as well as under the universal mercy of the Holy Prophet himself, doing something like that without allowing a suitable time limit was not considered appropriate.

(page 307)

Therefore, at the beginning of Surah Al-Bara’ah (Al-Taubah), separate injunctions were revealed that covered the four kinds of non-Muslim groups.

The first such group was that of the Quraysh of Makkah who had themselves broken the treaty of Hudaibiyah. Now, they deserved no extra respite. But, since this was the period of ‘sacred months’ during which fighting and killing was forbidden by Allah, therefore, the injunction which covers them appears in the fifth verse of Surah Al-Taubah, that is (So, when the sacred months expire, kill the Mushriks wherever you find them. And catch them and besiege them and sit in ambush for them everywhere. Then, if they repent and establish salah and pay zakah, leave their way. Surely, Allah is most Forgiving, Very Merciful - 9:5). It means that they had, though, forfeited all their rights by breaking the treaty obligation, but observing the sanctity of the ‘sacred months’ was after all necessary, therefore, they should either leave the Arabian Peninsula soon after the ‘sacred months’ expire, or embrace Islam, or be prepared to face war.

Then, there was the second group with whom a peace treaty was made for a specified period of time and they had abided by it. The injunction about them was given in the fourth verse of Surah Al-Taubah:

Except those of the Mushriks with whom you have a treaty, and they have abated nothing of your rights and backed no one against you, so then, fulfill the treaty with them up to their term. Surely, Allah loves the God-fearing (9:4).

This injunction pertained to Banu Damurah and Banu Mudlaj as a result of which they were allowed a respite of nine months.

As for the third and fourth group, only one injunction was revealed to cover both. It has been mentioned in the first and the second verse of Surah Al-Taubah as follows:

Here is a withdrawal (proclaimed] by Allah and His Messen-

(page 308)

ger against those of the Mushriks with whom you have a treaty. So, move in the land freely for four months, and be sure that you can never defeat Allah and that Allah is about to disgrace the disbelievers - (9:1,2).

Thus, according to the first two verses, all those who were covered by some treaty without a fixed time limit, or those with whom there was no treaty, were allowed a respite of four months.

And according to the fourth verse, those who had a treaty for a specified period of time received a respite until it expired and, according to the fifth verse, the Musriks of Makkah got their respite until the ‘sacred months’ expired.

(page 309)

After this public proclamation, the situation was that the first group, that is, the disbelievers of Makkah had to leave the limits of the state by the end of the ‘sacred months,’ that is, the end of the month of Muharram of the Hijrah year 10; and that of the third and fourth groups was the tenth of Rabi’ath-Thani of the Hijrah year 10. Any contravention of this executive order would have rendered the offender liable to face an armed confrontation. Under this arrangement, by the time of Hajj next year, no disbeliever was to remain within state limits. This will appear in verse 28 of Surah Al-Taubah where it has been said: (so, let them not come near Al-Masjid-al-haram after this year of theirs.). And the saying of the Holy Prophet in Hadith (The disbelievers shall not perform Hajj after this year) means precisely this.


3.2 The Tafsir of Ibn Kathir

The "Tafsir of Ibn Kathir" 14, on chapter 9. I am using the English commentary volume 4, starting on page 369 and on, published by Darussalam. The Quranic verses (Ayat) are in Green color, bold, and Ibn Kathir’s tafsir will be in blue color. Text in { } type brackets is mine.

This honorable Surah was one of the last Surahs to be revealed to the Messenger of Allah. Al Bukhari recorded that Al-Bara’ said, "The last Ayah to be revealed was, They ask you for a legal verdict. Say: "Allah directs (thus) about Al-Kalalah" [4:176], while the last Surah to be revealed was Bara’ah. The Basmalah was not mentioned in the beginning of this Surah because the Companions did not write it in the complete copy of the Quran (Mushaf) they collected, following the Commander of the faithful, ‘Uthman bin ‘Affan, may Allah be pleased with him.

The first part of this honorable Surah was revealed to the Messenger of Allah when he returned form the battle of Tabuk, during the Hajj season, which the Prophet thought about attending. But he remembered that the idolators would still attend that Hajj, as was usual in past years, and that they perform Tawaf around the House while naked. He disliked to associate with them and sent Abu Bakr As-Siddiq, may Allah be please with him, to lead Hajj that year and show the people their rituals, commanding him to inform the idolators that they would not be allowed to participate in Hajj after that season. He commanded him to proclaim,

Freedom from (all) obligations (is declared) from Allah and His Messenger….

to the people. When Abu Bakr had left, the Messenger sent ‘Ali bin Abu Talib to be the one to deliver this news to the idolators on behalf of the Messenger for he was the Messenger’s cousin. …


Existing Peace Treaties remained valid until the End of Their Term

This is an exception regulating the longest extent of time for those who have a general treaty - with out time mentioned - to four months.

They would have four months to travel the lands in search of sanctuary for themselves wherever they wish. Those whose treaty mentioned a specific limited time, then the longest it would extend was to the point of its agreed upon termination date. Hadiths in this regard preceded. So anyone who had a treaty with Allah’s Messenger it lasted until its specific termination date. However, those in this category were required to refrain from breaking the terms of the agreement with Muslims and from helping non-Muslims against Muslims. This is to the type whose peace agreement with Muslims was carried out to its end. Allah encouraged honoring such peace treaties, saying,

Surely, Allah loves those who have Taquwa [9:4], who keep their promises.

5 So when the Sacred Months have passed, then fight the Mushrikin wherever you find them, and capture them and besiege them, and lie in wait for them in each and every ambush. But if they repent and perform the Salah, and give the Zakah, then leave their way free. Verily, Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.

This is the Ayah of the Sword.

Mujahid, ‘Amr bin Shyu’ayb, Muhammad bin Ishaq, Qatadah As-Suddi and ‘Abdur-Rahman bin Zayd bin Aslam said that the four months mentioned in this Ayah are the four-months grace period mentioned in the earlier Ayah,

So travel freely for four months throughout the land.

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 many find them." Allah’s statement next,

then 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,

But if they repent and perform the Salah, and give the Zakah, then leave their way free. Verily, Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.

Abu Bakr As-Siddiq used this and other honorable Ayat (verse or passage) 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 ruling and obligations….

"I have been commanded to fight the people until they testify that there is no deity worthy of worship except Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, establish the prayer and pay the Zakah."

This honorable Ayah 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 idolater, every treaty, and every term." Al-Awfi said that Ibn Abbas commented: "No idolater had any more treaty or promise of safety ever since Surah Bara’ah was revealed. The four months, in addition to, all peace treaties conducted before Bara’ah was revealed and announced had ended by the tenth of the month of Rabi’ Al-Akhir."


3.3 The Tafsir of Ibn Abbas15


And from his narration on the authority of Ibn 'Abbas who said regarding Allah's saying: (Freedom from obligation): '(Freedom from obligation) this is freedom from obligation (from Allah and His messenger towards those of the idolaters with whom ye made a treaty) but then they broke that treaty; freedom from obligation is the breaking of treaties. Allah says: whosoever has a treaty with the Messenger of Allah let him know that it is broken. Some of them had a treaty lasting four months, and some of more nine months, while others had treaties for longer or shorter periods. Others had no treaty with Allah's Messenger at all. All these treaties were broken except for the treaty with the Banu Kinanah which was for nine months. Whoever had a treaty for more or less than four months, their treaties were ratified to last four month beginning from the day of immolation; and whoever had a treaty of four months, that treaty was ratified to last four months beginning from the day of immolation. Those who had a treaty of nine months, their treaties were left as they were, while those who did not sign any treaty, were granted one of 50 days beginning from the day of immolation until the departure of the person who was in a state of ritual consecration:


Allah said to them (Travel freely in the land) move about in the land beginning from the day of immolation for (four months) safe from being killed because of the treaty, (and know) O disbelievers (that ye cannot escape Allah) that you cannot escape Allah's punishment, by being killed, after the lapse of a the four months (and that Allah will confound the disbelievers) He will punish the disbelievers after four months by subjecting them to death.


(And a proclamation from Allah) and this is a declaration from Allah (and His messenger to all men on the day of the Greater Pilgrimage) on the day of immolation (that Allah is free from obligation to the idolaters) their religion, and the treaties they broke, (and (so is) His messenger) he is also free from obligation to them. (So, if ye repent) from idolatry and believe in Allah and Muhammad as well as in the Qur'an, (it will be better for you) than idolatry; (but if ye are averse) to faith and repentance, (then know) O idolaters (that ye cannot escape Allah) you cannot escape His punishment. (Give tidings (O Muhammad) of a painful doom to those who disbelieve) i.e. that they will be killed after the elapse of four months.


(Excepting those of the idolaters with whom ye (Muslims) have a treaty) i.e. the Banu Kinanah after the year of al-Hudaybiyyah, (and who have since abated nothing of your right) who they did not break their treaties, i.e. those who had a nine month treaty (nor have supported anyone) of your enemies (against you. (As for these), fulfill their treaty to them till their term) i.e. nine months. (Lo! Allah loveth those who keep their duty (unto Him)) by not breaking their treaties.


(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.


(And if anyone of the idolaters seeketh thy protection (O Muhammad), then protect him so that he may hear the word of Allah) so that he may hear your recitation of the words of Allah; (and afterward convey him to his place of safety) to the place he is going, if he remains an unbeliever. (That) which I have mentioned (is because they are a folk who know not) Allah's command and His divine Oneness.


(How) this is said by way of astonishment (can there be a treaty with Allah and with His messenger for the idolaters save those with whom ye made a treaty at the Inviolable Place of Worship?) after the year of al-Hudaybiyyah, the reference here is to the Banu Kinanah. (So long as they are true to you) in that they honour their treaty, (be true to them) completely. (Lo! Allah loveth those who keep their duty) and abstain from breaking their treaties.


(How) this is also said by way of astonishment: how can there be any treaty between you and them (when, if they have the upper hand of you) they were to conquer you, (they regard no pact) they would have no regard for the ties of kinship relating you ; it is also said: they would have no regard for you in respect of Allah (nor honour about you?) because of the treaty between you (They satisfy you with their mouths) with their tongues (the while their hearts refuse) while their hearts are averse to it. (And most of them) all of them (are wrong-doers) breakers of treaties.


3.4 The Tafsir of Jalalayn16


This is: A declaration of immunity from God and His Messenger to, reach, the idolaters with whom you made a pact, a pact for an indefinite period of time, or one for [a period of] less than, or more than, four months; the annulment of the pact shall be as God mentions in His saying:


'Journey freely, travel in security, O idolaters, in the land for four months - beginning with [the month of] Shawwal, on the basis of what will come shortly - after which there will be no security for you, and know that you cannot escape God, that is, you shall [not] elude His punishment, and that God degrades the disbelievers', humiliating them in this world by having them killed, and in the Hereafter, by [sending them to] the Fire.


A proclamation, a notification, from God and His Messenger to mankind on the day of the Greater Pilgrimage, the Day of Sacrifice (yawm al-nahr), that God is free from obligation to the idolaters, and their pacts, and [so is] His Messenger, also free from obligation: in that same year, year 9 [of the Hijra], the Prophet (s) sent forth 'Ali, who proclaimed these verses on the Day of Sacrifice at Mina, and also [he proclaimed] that after this year no idolater will [be allowed to] make pilgrimage or circumambulate the House naked, as reported by al-Bukhari. So, if you repent, of unbelief, it will be better for you; but if you turn away, from belief, then know that you cannot escape God. And give tidings to - inform - those who disbelieve of a painful chastisement, namely, [of] slaughter or capture in this world, and of [punishment in] the Fire in the Hereafter.


Excepting those of the idolaters with whom you have made a pact, and who have not diminished [their commitment to] you in anyway, with regard to the terms of the pact, nor supported, assisted, anyone, from among the disbelievers, against you; [as for these] fulfill your pact with them until, the completion of, the term, to which you have agreed. Truly God loves those who fear [Him], by fulfilling pacts.


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.


And if any one of the idolaters (ahadun, 'one', is in the nominative because of the [following] verb [istajaraka, 'seeks your protection'] that validates it) seeks your protection, requests security from you against being killed, then grant him protection, provide security for him, so that he might hear the words of God - the Qur'an - and afterward convey him to his place of security, that is, the dwelling-places of his folk, if he does not believe, so that he might reflect upon his situation - that, which is mentioned, is because they are a people who do not know, the religion of God, and so they must [be made to] hear the Qur'an in order to [come to] know [religion].


How can the idolaters have a pact with God and His Messenger - they cannot -while they disbelieve in God and His Messenger, acting treacherously; except for those with whom you made a pact at the Sacred Mosque?, the day of al-Hudaybiyya - these were Quraysh, for whom an exception was made earlier [Q. 9:4]. So long as they are true to you, keeping to the pact and not breaking it, be true to them, by fulfilling it (fa-ma, 'so long as': the ma is a conditional particle). Truly God loves the God-fearing: the Prophet (s) had kept to the pact made with them until they broke it by supporting the Banu Bakr against Khuza'a.


How, can they have a pact, when, if they get the better of you, [if] they have the upper hand over you, they do not respect, [they do not] take into consideration, any bond, kinship, or treaty, pact, with regard to you, but will instead harm you as much as they can (the conditional sentence ['if they …'] is [also] a circumstantial qualifier), pleasing you with their tongues, with charming words, while their hearts refuse, to be true to these [words]; and most of them are wicked, violators of pacts.


3.5 Material from Mawdudi’s Introduction to his Commentary.

Historical Background

Now let us consider the historical background of the Sura. The series of events that have been discussed in this Sura took place after the Peace Treaty of Hudaibiyah. By that time one-third of Arabia had come under the sway of Islam which had established itself as a powerful well organized and civilized Islamic State. This Treaty afforded further opportunities to Islam to spread its influence in the comparatively peaceful atmosphere created by it. After this Treaty two events took place which led to very important results.

Problems of the Period

If we keep in view the preceding background we can easily find out the problems that were confronting the Community at that time. They were: (1) to make the whole of Arabia a perfect Dar-ul-Islam (2) to extend the influence of Islam to the adjoining countries (3) to crush the mischiefs of the hypocrites and (4) to prepare the Muslims for Jihad against the non- Muslim world. Now that the administration of the whole of Arabia had come in the hands of the Believers and all the opposing powers had become helpless it was necessary to make a clear declaration of that policy which was to be adopted to make her a perfect Dar-ul-Islam. Therefore the following measures were adopted.

A clear declaration was made that all the treaties with the mushriks were abolished and the Muslims would be released from the treaty obligations with them after a respite of four months (vv. 1-3). This declaration was necessary for uprooting completely the system of life based on shirk and to make Arabia exclusively the center of Islam so that it should not in any way interfere with the spirit of Islam nor become an internal danger for it.

… This was also to serve as an example to the Muslims for eradicating every vestige of the customs of ignorance from the life of Arabia (and afterwards from the lives of the Muslims everywhere). In order to enable the Muslims to extend the influence of Islam outside Arabia they were enjoined to crush with sword the non-Muslim powers and to force them to accept the sovereignty of the Islamic State. As the great Roman and Iranian Empires were the biggest hindrances in the way a conflict with them was inevitable. The object of Jihad was not to coerce them to accept Islam – they were free to accept or not to accept it – but to prevent them from thrusting forcibly their deviations upon others and the coming generations. The Muslims were enjoined to tolerate their misguidance only to the extent that they might have the freedom to remain misguided if they chose to be so provided that they paid Jizyah (v. 29) as a sign of their subjugation to the Islamic State.

In order to prepare the Muslims for Jihad against the whole non-Muslim world it was necessary to cure them even of that slight weakness of faith from which they were still suffering. …



The commentaries of Ibn Abbas and Jalalayn don’t add much, but I’ve included them because they are respected, and at heart they agree with the other commentaries. Each scholar writes in a distinct tone and focus. Some inject their bias into the text more than others. From their texts I make the following observations.


1) Muhammad was in control of the Hijaz, including Mecca and of course Medina. The non-Muslims in that area were weak and unable to threaten Muhammad. Initially Muhammad allowed the Pagans the same rights to visit their Pagan temple, the Kaba, that they had allowed him since the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah. Some of these Pagans walked around the Kaba naked as part of their religion. This and the fact that they rejected Islam offended Muhammad greatly.

2) The Pagans disliked Muhammad. That should be expected since Muhammad had attacked and conquered them, killing many of their tribesmen in the process, and coerced many to "convert" to Islam.

3) Muhammad understood that his military power was now established and he used that power to entrench and extend his rule. Later he intended to purge the Arabian Peninsula of all non-Muslims. This is codified officially in chapter 9.

4) There were specific groups of Pagans living in Arabia at that time who had various types of treaties with Muhammad. Muhammad decided to break or end those treaties and gave these people a limited amount of time to convert to Islam, leave the area, or fight and die.

5) Muhammad believed that he was commanded to spread Islam by any means necessary, certainly including violence and compulsion, and intended to make war upon all those who refuse to bend the knee to Islam. Bending the knee to Islam meant that one had to pay extortion (jizya) or believe in Muhammad, and perform the duties required of Muslims. Those people who refused would be attacked.




4.1 Material from the "Reliance of the Traveller"17 on "jihad".

The "Reliance of the Traveler, (the Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law)", is one of the more respected classical works in Islamic theology. This 1200+ page volume contains fundamentals of Islamic jurisprudence compiled by "the great 13th century hadith scholar and jurisprudent", Imam Nawawi, and others. This work was not written with a Western audience in mind. Nawawi wanted to produce a book on Islamic law that was precise, and accurate; one that taught true Islamic values. The following is a long series of quotes on jihad.

[Section o9.0, page 599]

"Jihad means to war against non-Muslims, and is etymologically derived from the word "mujahada", signifying warfare to establish the religion. And it is the lesser jihad. As for the greater jihad, it is spiritual warfare against the lower self, (nafs), which is why the Prophet said as he was returning from jihad, "We have returned from the lesser jihad to the greater jihad."

The scriptural basis for jihad, prior to scholarly consensus is such Koranic verses as:

1) Fighting is prescribed for you (2:216)

2) Slay them wherever you find them (4:89)

3) Fight the idolaters utterly (9:36)

and such Hadiths as the one related by Bukhari and Muslim that the Prophet said:

"I have been commanded to fight people until they testify that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, and perform the prayer, and pay zakat. If they say it, they have saved their blood and possessions from me, except for the rights of Islam over them. And their final reckoning is with Allah."

And the hadith reported by Muslim,

"To go forth in the morning or evening to fight in the path of Allah is better than the whole world and everything in it."

[Section o9.1, page 600]


Jihad is communal obligation. When enough people perform it to successfully accomplish it, it is no longer obligatory upon others. And Allah Most High having said:

Those of the believers who are unhurt but sit behind are not equal to those who fight in Allah’s path with their property and lives. Allah has preferred those who fight with their property and lives a whole degree above those who sit behind. And to each Allah has promised great good." 4:95

[Section o9.3, page 601]

Jihad is also obligatory for everyone able to perform it, male or female, old or young when the enemy has surrounded the Muslims.

[Section o9.8, page 602]


The Caliph makes war upon the Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians, provided he has first invited them to enter Islam in faith and practice, and if they will not, then invited them to enter the social order of Islam by paying the non-Muslim poll tax (jizya, def: o11.4) - which is the significance of their paying it, not the money itself - while remaining in their ancestral religions (O: and the war continues) until they become Muslim or else pay the non-Muslim poll tax (O: in accordance with the word of Allah Most High,

"Fight those who do not believe in Allah and the Last Day and who forbid not what Allah and His messenger have forbidden – who do not practice the religion of truth, being of those who have been given the Book – until they pay the poll tax out of hand and are humbled." 9:29

[Section o9.9, page 603]

The Caliph fights all other peoples until they become Muslim (O: because they are not a people with a Book, nor honored as such, and are not permitted to settle with paying the poll tax (jizya)) …

[Section q2.4, page 718 - I added this as support for justifying what we call suicide bombers. They are not committing suicide, rather they are dedicated warriors for Islam.]

"There is no disagreement among scholars that it is permissible for a single Muslim to attack battle-lines of unbelievers headlong and fight them even if he knows he will be killed. ..."


4.2 Material from the Encyclopedia of Islam18 on jihad.

Jihad etymologically signifies an effort directed towards a determined objective. (Cf. idjtihad : the work of the scholar-jurists in seeking the solution of legal problems; mudjahada or, again, jihad: an effort directed upon oneself for the attainment of moral and religious perfection. Certain writers, particularly among those of Shi’ite persuasion, qualify this jihad as "spiritual jihad" and as "the greater jihad", in opposition to the jihad which is our present concern and which is called physical jihad" or "the lesser jihad". It is, however, very much more usual for the term jihad to denote this latter form of "effort").

In law, according to general doctrine and in historical tradition, the jihad consists of military action with the object of the expansion of Islam and, if need be, of its defense.

The notion stems from the fundamental principle of the universality of Islam: this religion, along with the temporal power which it implies, ought to embrace to whole universe, if necessary by force. The principle, however, must be partially combined with another which tolerates the existence, within the Islamic community itself, of the adherents of "the religions with holy books", i.e., Christians, Jews and Madjus [q.v.]. As far as these latter are concerned the jihad ceases as soon as they agree to submit to the political authority of Islam and to pay the poll tax ( jizya [q.v.]) and the land tax (kharadj [q.v.] As long as the question could still, in fact, be posed, a controversy existed—generally resolved by a negative answer—on the question as to whether the Christians and Jews of the Arabian peninsula were entitled to such treatment as of right. To the non-scriptuaries, in particular the idolaters, this half measure has no application according to the opinion of the majority: their conversion to Islam is obligatory under pain of being put to death or reduced into slavery.

In principle, the jihad is the one form of war which is permissible in Islam, for, in theory, Islam must constitute a single community organized under a single authority and any armed conflict between Muslims is prohibited.

Following, however, the disintegration of Muslim unity and the appearance, beginning in the middle of the 2nd/8th century, of an ever increasing number of independent States, the question arose as to how the wars which sprang up between them were to be classified. They were never included within the strict notion of jihad —even in the case of wars between states of different religious persuasion—at least according to the general Sunni doctrine; and it is only by an abuse of language that this term is sometimes applied to them, while those authors who seek for a precise terminology label them only as kital or mukatala (conflict, war). There is even hesitation in referring to the struggle against the renegade groups in Islam as jihad. The viewpoint of Shi’ite doctrine is not the same, for, according to the Shi’a, a refusal to subscribe to their teaching is equivalent to unbelief (kufr). The same holds good, a fortiori, for the Kharidjite doctrine [see further TAKFIR].

The jihad is a duty. This precept is laid down in all the sources. It is true that there are to be found in the Kuran divergent, and even contradictory, texts. These are classified by the doctrine, apart from certain variations of detail, into four successive categories: those which enjoin pardon for offences and encourage the invitation to Islam by peaceful persuasion; those which enjoin fighting to ward off aggression; those which enjoin the initiative in attack, provided it is not within the four sacred months; and those which enjoin the initiative in attack absolutely, at all times and in all places. In sum, these differences correspond to the stages in the development of Muhammad 's thought and to the modifications of policy resulting from particular circumstances; the Meccan period during which Muhammad, in general, confines himself to moral and religious teaching, and the Medina period when, having become the leader of a politico-religious community, he is able to undertake, spontaneously, the struggle against those who do not wish to join this community or submit to his authority. The doctrine holds that the later texts abrogate the former contradictory texts (the theory of naskh [q.v.]), to such effect that only those of the last category remain indubitably valid; and, accordingly, the rule on the subject may be formulated in these absolute terms: "the fight (jihad) is obligatory even when they (the unbelievers) have not themselves started it".

In two isolated opinions, however, attempts were made to temper the rule in some respects. According to one of these views, attributed to ‘Ata (d. 114/732-3), the ancient prohibition against fighting during the sacred months remains valid; while according to the other, attributed to Sufyan al-Thawri (born 97/715), the jihad is obligatory only in defense; it is simply recommended (li 'l-nadb) in attack. According to a view held by modern orientalist scholarship, Muhammad's conception of the jihad as attack applied only in relation to the peoples of Arabia; its general application was the result of the idjma’ (general consensus of opinion) of the immediately succeeding generations. At root, of course, this involves the problem as to whether Muhammad had conceived of Islam as universal or not.

Characteristics of the duty of jihad.

The jihad is not an end in itself but a means which, in itself, is an evil (fasad), but which becomes legitimate and necessary by reason of the objective towards which it is directed: to rid the world of a greater evil; it is "good" from the fact that its purpose is "good" (hasan li-husn ghayrih).

A religious duty.

The jihad has the effect of extending the sway of the faith; it is prescribed by God and his Prophet; the Muslim dedicates himself to the jihad in the same way that, in Christianity, the monk dedicates himself to the service of God; in the same vein it is said in different Hadiths that "the jihad is the monasticism of Islam"; the jihad is "an act of pure devotion"; it is "one of the gates to Paradise"; rich heavenly rewards are guaranteed for those who devote themselves to it; those who fall in the jihad are the martyrs of the faith, etc. A substantial part of the doctrine reckons the jihad among the very "pillars" (arkan) of the religion, along with prayer and fasting etc. It is a duty which falls upon every Muslim who is male, free and able-bodied. It is generally considered that non-Muslims may be called upon to assist the Muslims in the jihad

Its perpetual character.

The duty of the jihad exists as long as the universal domination of Islam has not been attained. "Until the day of the resurrection", and "until the end of the world" say the maxims. Peace with non-Muslim nations is, therefore, a provisional state of affairs only; the chance of circumstances alone can justify it temporarily. Furthermore there can be no question of genuine peace treaties with these nations; only truces, whose duration ought not, in principle, to exceed ten years, are authorized. But even such truces are precarious, inasmuch as they can, before they expire, be repudiated unilaterally should it appear more profitable for Islam to resume the conflict. It is, however, recognized that such repudiation should be brought to the notice of the infidel party, and that he should be afforded sufficient opportunity to be able to disseminate the news of it throughout the whole of his territory [see SULH].

Its defensive as well as offensive character.

The jihad has principally an offensive character; but it is equally a jihad when it is a case of defending Islam against aggression. This indeed, is the essential purpose of the ribat [q.v.] undertaken by isolated groups or individuals settled on the frontiers of Islam. The ribat is a particularly meritorious act.

Finally, there is at the present time a thesis, of a wholly apologetic character, according to which Islam relies for its expansion exclusively upon persuasion and other peaceful means, and the jihad is only authorized in cases of "self defense" and of "support owed to a defenseless ally or brother". Disregarding entirely the previous doctrine and historical tradition, as well as the texts of the kuran and the sunna on the basis of which it was formulated, but claiming, even so, to remain within the bounds of strict orthodoxy, this thesis takes into account only those early texts which state the contrary (v. supra).

(E. Tyan)


4.3 Material from the Encyclopaedia of the Quran19

[The article starts on page 35 of volume 3, J-Q. I am picking up on page 40. I’ve take the liberty to inject a few paragraph breaks].

… There are also Quranic references to treaties with infidels and to peace (Q2:208; 4:90; 8:61; cf. Q 3:28; 47:35; see CONTRACTS AND ALLIANCES). All these are in conflict with the clear order to fight the idolaters (mushrikun), until they are converted to Islam and is known as "the sword verse" (ayat al-sayf, SEE POLYTHEISM AND ATHEISM). Q 9:29 orders Muslims to fight the People of the Book (q.v.) until they consent to pay tribute (jizya, SEE POLL TAX), thereby recognizing the superiority of Islam. It is known as "the jizya verse" (ayat al-jizya, occasionally also as "the sword verse"). The Quran does not lay down rules for cases of Muslim defeat, although there is a long passage discussing such an occurrence (Q 3:139-75, SEE ALSO 4:104; SEE VICTORY).

A broad consensus among medieval exegetes and jurists exists on the issue of waging war. The simplest and earliest solution of the problem of contradictions in the Quran was to consider Q 9:5 and 9:29 as abrogating all the other statements. Scholars seem sometimes to have deliberately expanded the list of the abrogated verses, including in it material that is irrelevant to the issue of waging war (e.g. Q2:83, see Ibn al-Barzi, Nasikh, 23; Ibn al-Jawzi, Musaffa, 14; id., Nawasikh, 156-8; Baydawi, Anwar, i, 70; Tabari, Tafsir, i, 311; other examples: Q 3:111; 4:63; 16:126, 23:96; 25:63; 28:55; 38:88; 39:3). The number of verses abrogated by Q 9:5 and 9:29 is sometimes said to exceed 120 (Ibn al-Barzi, Nasikh, 22-3 and passim; also Powers, Exegetical genre, 138). Several verses are considered as both abrogating and abrogated, in turn, by others. The Muslim tradition, followed by modern scholars (SEE POST-ENLIGHTENMENT ACADEMIC STUDY OF THE QURAN), associated various verses with developments in the career of the Prophet. It is related that, in the beginning, God instructed the prophet to avoid the infidels and to forgive them. The Prophet was actually forbidden to wage war while in Mecca (q.v.). After the emigration to Medina (hijra) the Muslims were first permitted to fight in retaliation for the injustice (see JUSTICE AND INJUSTICE) done them by the Meccans (Q 22:39-40). Then came the order to fight the infidels generally, yet certain restrictions were prescribed. Eventually all restrictions were removed and all treaties with infidels were repudiated by Q9:1-14, and the ultimate divine orders were expressed in Q 9:5 and 9:29. (There are many versions of this scheme, see ‘Abdallah b. Wahb, Jami’, fol. 15b; Abu ‘Ubayd, Nasikh, 190-7; Baydawi, Anwar, i, 634; Khazin, Lubab, i, 168; Shafi’i, Tafsir, 166-73; Jassas, Ahkam, i, 256-63; cf. Ibn al-Jawzi, Nawasikh, 230.)

This evolutionary explanation relies on the technique of abrogation to account for the contradictory statements in the Quran. Although details are disputed, this explanation is not a post-quranic development constructed retrospectively (see Firestone, Jihad, exp. chaps. 3-4). In addition to its obvious rationality, this evolution is attested in the Quran itself (Q 4:77). Many exegetes, however, avoided the technique of abrogation for theological and methodological reasons, but achieved the same result by other means (e.g. Ibn al-Jawzi, Nawasikh). Thus, in spite of differences of opinions regarding the interpretation of the verses and the relations between them, the broad consensus on the main issue remained: whether by abrogation, specification or other techniques, the order to fight unconditionally (Q 9:5, 9:29) prevailed. Some commentators, however, argued that the verses allowing peace (Q 4:90, 8:61) were neither abrogated nor specified, but remained in force. By the assignation technique, peace is allowed when it is in the best interest of the Muslims (e.g. in times of Muslim weakness, see e.g. Jassas, Ahkam, ii, 220; iii, 69-70). In fact this was the position adopted by the four major schools of law (see Peters, Jihad, 32-7).

In a few verses, the cause or purpose of Muslim warfare is mentioned as self-defense, and retaliation for aggression, for the expulsion from Mecca and for the violation of treaties (Q 2:217; 4:84, 91; 5:33; 9:12-3; 22:39-40, 60:9, cf. 4:89). In one case, defense of weak brethren is adduced (Q 4:75; see BROTHER AND BROTHERHOOD). On the basis of the "sword verse" (Q 9:5) and the "jizya verse" (Q 9:29) it is clear that the purpose of fighting the idolaters is to convert them to Islam, whereas the purpose of fighting the People of the Book is to dominate them.

Many commentators interpret Q 2:193 and 8:39 ("fight them until there is no more fitna") as an instruction to convert all the polytheists to Islam by force if need be (e.g. Khazin, Lubab, ii, 183; Jassas, Ahkam, i, 260). It appears, however, that fitna (see DISSENSION; PARTIES AND FACTIONS) originally did not mean polytheism, but referred to attempts by infidels to entice Muslims away from Islam. Such attempts are mentioned in many Quranic verses (e.g. Q 3:149; 14:30; 17:73-4; for Q 2:193 see e.g. Tabari, Tafsir, ii, 254 see APOSTASY). Thus the purpose of war in Q 2:193 and 8:39 would be not conversion of infidels, but the preservation of the Muslim community. Conversion as the purpose of Muslim warfare is also implied by some interpretations of Q 2:192 and 48:16. In later literature the formulation of the purpose of war is "that God’s word reign supreme" (li-takuna kalimatu llahi hiya l-ulya), but in the Quran this phrase is not associated with warfare (Q 9:40; cf. 9:33 = 61:9; 48:28).


4.4 Material from the Shorter Encyclopedia of Islam20, page 89

[Note: The text transliterates "jihad" as "djihad"].


holy war. The spread of Islam by arms is a religious duty upon Muslims in general. It narrowly escaped being a sixth rukn, or fundamental duty, and is indeed still so regarded by the descendants of the Kharidjis. This position was reached gradually but quickly. In the Meccan Suras of the Kuran patience under attack is taught; no other attitude was possible. But at Madina the right to repel attack appears, and gradually it became a prescribed duty to fight against and subdue the hostile Meccans. Whether Muhammad himself recognized that his position implied steady and unprovoked war against the unbelieving world until it was subdued to Islam may be in doubt. Traditions are explicit on the point; but the Kuranic passages speak always of the unbelievers who are to be subdued as dangerous or faithless. Still, the story of his writing to the powers around him shows that such a universal position was implicit in his mind, and it certainly developed immediately after his death, when the Muslim armies advanced out of Arabia. It is now a fard ‘ala ‘l-kifaya, a duty in general on all male, free, adult Muslims, sane in mind and body and having means enough to reach the Muslim army, yet not a duty necessarily incumbent on every individual but sufficiently performed when done by a certain number. So it must continue to be done until the whole world is under the rule of Islam.



I have to say up front that I was surprised to see how the tomes all agreed with each other! The Muslim scholars’ work agreed with the non-Muslims’ work concerning the nature, scope, methodology, and goals of jihad. It is unusual to see the various authors all agree upon something so controversial. 9:5 is referenced in some of the works and is understood to be one of several verses that support the violent nature of jihad.

Here are some comments:

  1. Jihad is "holy war", the effort to spread Islam by force. When the scholars talk about jihad they’re not talking about the "inner struggle". They’re talking about killing, beheadings, and destruction.
  2. 9:5 forms part of the theology of jihad.
  3. 9:5 is focused upon Pagans or polytheists.
  4. Muhammad intended for Islam to rule the world. His faith was to crush and dominate all that was non-Islamic.
  5. Muhammad’s rules for violence changed over time. 9:5 abrogates earlier Quranic verses that encourage peace.
  6. Muhammad’s choice to now make war upon the non-Muslims reflects how Muhammad invented Islam as he went along. This was power through stages: a rise in power led to a new expansion of violence. It increased in scope and application, and became less restrictive as his power increased. The trail of blood behind Muhammad grew wider over time. When he was weak his "god" told him not to fight. Once he had power, he drew the sword easily enough. Circumstances changed, Islam changed.




There are many verses in the Quran that pertain to violence and jihad and we cannot examine them all here. However, there are two key verses found in chapter 9 that parallel 9:5 and corroborate the assertion that jihad is offensive. These are 9:29, and 9:123. We’ll start with 9:29. Below are 3 translations.

Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued. (Yusuf Ali).

Fight against such of those who have been given the Scripture as believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, and forbid not that which Allah hath forbidden by His messenger, and follow not the Religion of Truth, until they pay the tribute readily, being brought low. (Pickthall).

Fight those who do not believe in Allah, nor in the latter day, nor do they prohibit what Allah and His Messenger have prohibited, nor follow the religion of truth, out of those who have been given the Book, until they pay the tax in acknowledgment of superiority and they are in a state of subjection. (Shakir).

Notice the similarity between 9:5 and 9:29? They are nearly identical except Muhammad allowed a provision that the Jews and Christians pay the extortion tax if they want to remain true to their faiths. Otherwise they would have to convert to Islam or die.


5.1 Supporting actions: Material from Muir’s sira, "Life of Muhammad".

The account comes from Muir’s21 biography of Muhammad. This action probably preceded Muhammad’s journey to Tabuk and it describes Muhammad’s attitudes and intentions towards Christians and Jews. It describes Muhammad’s effort against an imaginary army of Christians that were supposedly going to attack him. He marshaled 30,000 of his troops and they went hundreds of miles north to the town of Tabuk to do battle. However, upon arriving, they found that there was no army there. Muhammad then sent a detachment to Aylah, a small Christian fishing village, to give them the aforementioned options: convert to Islam, pay the extortion tax, or die. The Christian leaders there decided to pay the extortion. Below is the letter Muhammad wrote to the leaders containing his demands.

"To John ibn Rabah and the Chiefs of Aylah. Peace be on you! I praise God for you, beside whom there is no Lord. I will not fight against you until I have written thus unto you. Believe, or else pay tribute. And be obedient unto the Lord and his Prophet, and the messengers of his Prophet. Honor them and clothe them with excellent vestments, not with inferior raiment. Specially clothe Zeid with excellent garments. As long as my messengers are pleased, so likewise am I. Ye know the tribute. If ye desire to have security by sea and by land, obey the Lord and his Apostle, and he will defend you from every claim, whether by Arab or foreigner, saving the claim of the Lord and his Apostle. But if ye oppose and displease them, I will not accept from you a single thing, until I have fought against you and taken captive your little ones and slain the elder.


Muhammad’s attack upon these people corresponds to his teachings in chapter 9, "Make war upon the Christians and Jews, unless they convert or pay the extortion." Real Islam, i.e. Muhammad’s Islam, is clearly taught in the Quran, and demonstrated by Muhammad’s actions. Muhammad’s actions speak loudly here. Committed near the end of his life, they clearly portray what he wanted his followers to continue to do: attack and conquer non-Muslim people.


Now the Jews and Christians that Muhammad was talking about were not tribes near Mecca or Medina. Those Jews had already been conquered, driven off, or massacred. The Christians south of Muhammad had already entered into a submission treaty with Muhammad. However, beyond those regions, they were Jews and Christians who were not under the yoke of Islam and Muhammad wanted them subjected to his rule.

We’ve seen the Quran’s command to make war on Christians and Jews, and we’ve seen Muhammad do just that. Muhammad’s actions corresponded with his teachings. Now let’s see what the commentaries say.


5.2 Material from the Maariful Tafsir on 9:29

Verse 28 appearing earlier referred to Jihad against the Mushriks of Makkah. The present verses talk about Jihad against the People of the Book. In a sense, this is a prelude to the battle of Tabuk that was fought against the People of the Book. In Tafsir al-Durr al-Manthur, it has been reported from the Quran commentator, Mujahid that these verses have been revealed about the battle of Tabuk. Then, there is the reference to "those who were given the Book". In Islamic religious terminology, they are referred to as "ahl al-Kitab" or People of the Book. In its literal sense, it covers every disbelieving group of people who believe in a Scripture but, in the terminology of the Holy Quran, this term is used for Jews and Christians only - because, only these two groups from the People of the Book were well-known in and around Arabia. Therefore, addressing the Mushriks of Arabia, the Holy Quran has said,

lest you should say, "The Book was sent down only upon two groups before us, were ignorant of what they studied."

As for the injunction of Jihad against the People of the Book given in verse 29, it is really not particular to the People of the Book. The fact is that this very injunction applies to all disbelieving groups - because, the reasons for the injunction to fight mentioned next are common to all disbelievers. …


5.3 Material from Ibn Kathir’s commentary on 9:29.

The Order to fight People of the Scriptures until They give the Jizyah

Allah said,

(Fight against those who believe not in Allah, nor in the Last Day, nor forbid that which has been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, and those who acknowledge not the religion of truth among the People of the Scripture, until they pay the Jizyah with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.)

Therefore, when People of the Scriptures disbelieved in Muhammad , they had no beneficial faith in any Messenger or what the Messengers brought. Rather, they followed their religions because this conformed with their ideas, lusts and the ways of their forefathers, not because they are Allah's Law and religion. Had they been true believers in their religions, that faith would have directed them to believe in Muhammad , because all Prophets gave the good news of Muhammad's advent and commanded them to obey and follow him. Yet when he was sent, they disbelieved in him, even though he is the mightiest of all Messengers. Therefore, they do not follow the religion of earlier Prophets because these religions came from Allah, but because these suit their desires and lusts. Therefore, their claimed faith in an earlier Prophet will not benefit them because they disbelieved in the master, the mightiest, the last and most perfect of all Prophets . Hence Allah's statement,

(Fight against those who believe not in Allah, nor in the Last Day, nor forbid that which has been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, and those who acknowledge not the religion of truth among the People of the Scripture,)

This honorable Ayah was revealed with the order to fight the People of the Book, after the pagans were defeated, the people entered Allah's religion in large numbers, and the Arabian Peninsula was secured under the Muslims' control. Allah commanded His Messenger to fight the People of the Scriptures, Jews and Christians, on the ninth year of Hijrah, and he prepared his army to fight the Romans and called the people to Jihad announcing his intent and destination. The Messenger sent his intent to various Arab areas around Al-Madinah to gather forces, and he collected an army of thirty thousand. Some people from Al-Madinah and some hypocrites, in and around it, lagged behind, for that year was a year of drought and intense heat. The Messenger of Allah marched, heading towards Ash-Sham to fight the Romans until he reached Tabuk, where he set camp for about twenty days next to its water resources. He then prayed to Allah for a decision and went back to Al-Madinah because it was a hard year and the people were weak, as we will mention, Allah willing.

Paying Jizyah is a Sign of Kufr and Disgrace

Allah said,

(until they pay the Jizyah), if they do not choose to embrace Islam,

(with willing submission), in defeat and subservience,

(and feel themselves subdued.), disgraced, humiliated and belittled.

Therefore, Muslims are not allowed to honor the people of Dhimmah or elevate them above Muslims, for they are miserable, disgraced and humiliated. Muslim recorded from Abu Hurayrah that the Prophet said,


VERSE 9:123

Below are 3 translations.

O ye who believe! fight the unbelievers who gird you about, and let them find firmness in you: and know that Allah is with those who fear Him. (Ali).

O ye who believe! Fight those of the disbelievers who are near to you, and let them find harshness in you, and know that Allah is with those who keep their duty (unto Him). (Pickthall).

O you who believe! fight those of the unbelievers who are near to you and let them find in you hardness; and know that Allah is with those who guard (against evil). (Shakir).


Let’s see what the scholars say about this verse.



Page 503

Previous verses carried inducement to Jihad. The first verse from the present ones (123) which opens with the words: (O those who believe, fight those disbelievers who are near you) gives details, for disbelievers are spread out all over the world and any confrontation with them has to have some sort of functional sequence. The verse says that Jihad should first be waged against those of the disbelievers who were near. "Being near" could be taken in terms of the place, that is, the disbelievers who live closer to home base should be fought against first. And it could also be understood in terms of relationship, that is, those who are near in kinship, parentage and other social bonds should be given precedence. This is because Islamic Jihad is essentially carried out in their interest and for their well being, therefore, when it comes to care and concern, kinsfolk have precedence - similar to the command given to the Holy Prophet (And warn your near relatives against the punishment of Allah - 26:214). He carried out the command by assembling people from his family and conveyed to them the Word of Allah as revealed to him. The circle then became larger. Keeping the same principle of near and far, confronted first, as compared to other, were disbelievers who lived in the vicinity of Madinah, such as Banu Qurayzah, Banu Nadir, and the people of Khaibar. After that came the fight against the rest within the Arabian Peninsula. And after things were settled there came the last command to fight the disbelievers of Byzantium that resulted in the expedition of Tabuk.


5.5 IBN KATHIR ON 9:123

(I’ve taken the liberty to break the quotation below into paragraphs).

The Order for Jihad against the Disbelievers, the Closest, then the Farthest Areas

Allah commands the believers to fight the disbelievers, the closest in area to the Islamic state, then the farthest. This is why the Messenger of Allah started fighting the idolators in the Arabian Peninsula. When he finished with them and Allah gave him control over Makkah, Al-Madinah, At-Ta'if, Yemen, Yamamah, Hajr, Khaybar, Hadramawt and other Arab provinces, and the various Arab tribes entered Islam in large crowds, he then started fighting the People of the Scriptures.

He began preparations to fight the Romans who were the closest in area to the Arabian Peninsula, and as such, had the most right to be called to Islam, especially since they were from the People of the Scriptures. The Prophet marched until he reached Tabuk and went back because of the extreme hardship, little rain and little supplies. This battle occurred on the ninth year after his Hijrah. In the tenth year, the Messenger of Allah was busy with the Farewell Hajj. The Messenger died eighty-one days after he returned from that Hajj, Allah chose him for what He had prepared for him [in Paradise].

After his death, his executor, friend, and Khalifah, Abu Bakr As-Siddiq, may Allah be pleased with him, became the leader. At that time, the religion came under attack and would have been defeated, if it had not been for the fact that Allah gave the religion firmness through Abu Bakr, who established its basis and made its foundations firm. He brought those who strayed from the religion back to it, and made those who reverted from Islam return. He took the Zakah from the evil people who did not want to pay it, and explained the truth to those who were unaware of it. On behalf of the Prophet , Abu Bakr delivered what he was entrusted with. Then, he started preparing the Islamic armies to fight the Roman cross worshippers, and the Persian fire worshippers. By the blessing of his mission, Allah opened the lands for him and brought down Caesar and Kisra and those who obeyed them among the servants.

Abu Bakr spent their treasures in the cause of Allah, just as the Messenger of Allah had foretold would happen. This mission continued after Abu Bakr at the hands of he whom Abu Bakr chose to be his successor, Al-Faruq, the Martyr of the Mihrab, Abu Hafs, `Umar bin Al-Khattab, may Allah be pleased with him. With `Umar, Allah humiliated the disbelievers, suppressed the tyrants and hypocrites, and opened the eastern and western parts of the world. The treasures of various countries were brought to `Umar from near and far provinces, and he divided them according to the legitimate and accepted method. `Umar then died as a martyr after he lived a praise worthy life. Then, the Companions among the Muhajirin and Ansar agreed to chose after `Umar, `Uthman bin `Affan, Leader of the faithful and Martyr of the House, may Allah be pleased with him. During `Uthman's reign, Islam wore its widest garment and Allah's unequivocal proof was established in various parts of the world over the necks of the servants. Islam appeared in the eastern and western parts of the world and Allah's Word was elevated and His religion apparent. The pure religion reached its deepest aims against Allah's enemies, and whenever Muslims overcame an Ummah, they moved to the next one, and then the next one, crushing the tyrannical evil doers. They did this in reverence to Allah's statement,

(O you who believe! Fight those of the disbelievers who are close to you,)




9:5 is corroborated by 9:29, 9:123, and other verses. 9:29 is also supported by Muhammad’s actions. He walked the walk that he talked. He taught to make war upon and subject others, and he did just that. The scholars state that jihad against the Christians and Jews followed the same direction as the jihad against the pagans: ever expanding.

Note Muhammad’s method in dealing with the Christians of Aylah: before he attacked them, he invited them to convert to Islam and then threatened them. Note his words: "But if ye oppose and displease them, I will not accept from you a single thing, until I have fought against you and taken captive your little ones and slain the elder." Muhammad would do to them what he did to previous Jews: kill the adult males and enslave the women and children.

Ibn Kathir notes that the Caliphs Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman, and Ali, did exactly what Muhammad did and commanded: they attacked and conquered non-Muslim peoples.




The traditional understanding of "The Verse of the Sword", that jihad is offensive, is rooted in the theological foundations of Islam: the Quran, the Sunnah, and the supporting Islamic source materials.

We’ve taken the simple command of 9:5 – "fight and kill them unless they convert" and established this understanding by examining the Islamic references and source materials. Below is a selection of quotes from those sources.

From Ibn Ishaq’s biography

"i.e. one of those whom I have ordered you to kill,"

"Then the apostle gave orders to fight the polytheists who had broken the special agreement as well as those who had a general agreement after the four months which had been given them as a fixed time, save that if any one of them showed hostility he should be killed for it…."

From Tabari’s history:

"For you are more deserving of this authority than they are, as it was by your swords that those who were not yet converted came to obey this religion."

… So God guided with the truth whoever responded to Him, and the Apostle of God, with His permission, struck whoever turned his back to Him until he came to Islam, willingly or grudgingly.

From the commentaries (Ibn Kathir):

"Abu Bakr As-Siddiq used this and other honorable Ayat (verse or passage) 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 ruling and obligations….

"I have been commanded to fight the people until they testify that there is no deity worthy of worship except Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, establish the prayer and pay the Zakah."

From the tomes (Reliance of the Traveller):

The Caliph fights all other peoples until they become Muslim (O: because they are not a people with a Book, nor honored as such, and are not permitted to settle with paying the poll tax (jizya)) …

From the Quran (9:29):

Fight those who do not believe in Allah, nor in the latter day, nor do they prohibit what Allah and His Messenger have prohibited, nor follow the religion of truth, out of those who have been given the Book, until they pay the tax in acknowledgment of superiority and they are in a state of subjection.


The words and actions of Muhammad, the words and actions of the immediate Caliphs, the commentary of the Muslim scholars, the analysis in the tomes, and the theme in the Quran all agree: Islam was to expand by force and 9:5 is part of the foundation of that theology.





We’ve examined the historical and scholarly Islamic documents related to 9:5 and jihad and there is only one conclusion that can be drawn: 9:5 was meant to be both offensive and defensive and was meant for worldwide application. The theology of jihad is composed in part of verse 9:5 and in particular this verse applies to "polytheists". Corresponding to 9:5, 9:29 issues a similar edict of war upon Jews and Christians, forcing them to bow the knee to Islam in humility, pay extortion, or die.

True Islam, real Islam, Muhammad’ Islam, is a poison in humanity’s soul. In this case it subjects man to a satanic brutality, "believe or die", where son will turn against family, friends against friends, and blood spills if one challenges the belief of Muhammad’s dominance.


Further reading:

"Kill those who Associate Partners (Mushrikun) Wherever You Find Them!" — a historical and contextual exegesis of Q. 9:5 and 29.



APPENDIX 1 Various English translations of the Quran.

Yusuf Ali

9:1 A (declaration) of immunity from Allah and His Messenger, to those of the Pagans with whom ye have contracted mutual alliances:-

9:2 Go ye, then, for four months, backwards and forwards, (as ye will), throughout the land, but know ye that ye cannot frustrate Allah (by your falsehood) but that Allah will cover with shame those who reject Him.

9:3 And an announcement from Allah and His Messenger, to the people (assembled) on the day of the Great Pilgrimage,- that Allah and His Messenger dissolve (treaty) obligations with the Pagans. If then, ye repent, it were best for you; but if ye turn away, know ye that ye cannot frustrate Allah. And proclaim a grievous penalty to those who reject Faith.

9:4 (But the treaties are) not dissolved with those Pagans with whom ye have entered into alliance and who have not subsequently failed you in aught, nor aided any one against you. So fulfill your engagements with them to the end of their term: for Allah loveth the righteous.

9:5 But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the Pagans wherever ye 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 practise regular charity, then open the way for them: for Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.

9:6 If one amongst the Pagans ask thee for asylum, grant it to him, so that he may hear the word of Allah; and then escort him to where he can be secure. That is because they are men without knowledge.

9:7 How can there be a league, before Allah and His Messenger, with the Pagans, except those with whom ye made a treaty near the sacred Mosque? As long as these stand true to you, stand ye true to them: for Allah doth love the righteous.

9:8 How (can there be such a league), seeing that if they get an advantage over you, they respect not in you the ties either of kinship or of covenant? With (fair words from) their mouths they entice you, but their hearts are averse from you; and most of them are rebellious and wicked.



9:1 Freedom from obligation (is proclaimed) from Allah and His messenger toward those of the idolaters with whom ye made a treaty.

9:2 Travel freely in the land four months, and know that ye cannot escape Allah and that Allah will confound the disbelievers (in His Guidance).

9:3 And a proclamation from Allah and His messenger to all men on the day of the Greater Pilgrimage that Allah is free from obligation to the idolaters, and (so is) His messenger. So, if ye repent, it will be better for you; but if ye are averse, then know that ye cannot escape Allah. Give tidings (O Muhammad) of a painful doom to those who disbelieve,

9:4 Excepting those of the idolaters with whom ye (Muslims) have a treaty, and who have since abated nothing of your right nor have supported anyone against you. (As for these), fulfill their treaty to them till their term. Lo! Allah loveth those who keep their duty (unto Him).

9:5 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.

9:6 And if anyone of the idolaters seeketh thy protection (O Muhammad), then protect him so that he may hear the Word of Allah, and afterward convey him to his place of safety. That is because they are a folk who know not.

9:7 How can there be a treaty with Allah and with His messenger for the idolaters save those with whom ye made a treaty at the Inviolable Place of Worship? So long as they are true to you, be true to them. Lo! Allah loveth those who keep their duty.9:8 How (can there be any treaty for the others) when, if they have the upper hand of you, they regard not pact nor honour in respect of you? They satisfy you with their mouths the while their hearts refuse. And most of them are wrongdoers.



APPENDIX 2: Months of the Islamic Calendar

1. Muharram or Muharram ul Haram

2. Safar

3. Rabi' al-awwal

4. Rabi' al-thani or Rabi' al-Akhir

5. Jumada al-awwa

6. Jumada al-thani

7. Rajab

8. Sha'aban

9. Ramadan

10. Shawwal

11. Dhu al-Qi'dah

12. Dhu al-Hijjah








5) Ali, Yusef, "The Holy Qur'an", published by Amana, Beltsville, Maryland, USA, 1989


7) Dawood, N. J., "The Koran", Penguin, London, England, 1995

8) Guillaume, A., "The Life of Muhammad", a translation of Ibn Ishaq's "Sirat Rasul Allah", Oxford University Press, Karachi, Pakistan.

9) Ibn Sa'd, (d. 852 A.D.), "Kitab al-Tabaqat al-Kabir", (Book of the Major Classes), translated by S. Moinul Haq, Pakistan Historical Society.

10) Muir, William, "Life of Mahomet", London, 1861

11) Bukhari, Muhammad, "Sahih Bukhari", Kitab Bhavan, New Delhi, India, 1987, translated by M. Khan

12) al-Tabari, "The History of al-Tabari", (Ta'rikh al-rusul wa'l-muluk), State University of New York Press 1993


14) Ibn Kathir, "Tafsir of Ibn Kathir" published by Darussalam, New York, NY, 2000.

15) Ibn Abbas’ Tafsir

16) Jalalain Tafsir

17) al-Misri, Ahmad, "Reliance of the Traveler", (A Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law), translated by Nuh Ha Mim Keller, published by Amana publications, Beltsville, Maryland, USA 1991

18) Encyclopadia of Islam, Brill, Leiden, Netherlands

19) Encyclopaedia of the Quran, edited by Jane McAuliffe, Brill, Leiden, Netherlands.

20) Shorter Encyclopedia of Islam, edited by H. A. R. Gibb, Brill, Netherlands

21) Muir, citing the early Islamic sources


Reference site:


Silas, Maranatha
29 Dec, 2006

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