The War-Time Quranic Verses:Their Authentic Explanation and Relevance Today

Maulana Ghulam Ghaus Siddiqi

Let’s begin with the verse (2:190) which is considered to be the first in the chronological order of revelation to permit fighting: “Fight in the way of Allah those who fight you but do not transgress. Indeed. Allah does not like transgressors.”

There is a collective agreement among the Islamic scholars that, before the revelation of 2:190 or 22:39, fighting was completely forbidden in Makkah and initially in Madina. As per “Tibyan al-Quran” authored by Allama Ghulam Rasool Saeedi, the Quranic verses which initially debarred Muslims from fighting in defence are as follows;

“Repel evil with the best deeds; We well know the matters that they fabricate”. (23:96)

“So forgive them and excuse them; indeed Allah loves the virtuous”. (5:13)

“And be patient over what they say and avoid them with gracious avoidance”. (73:10)

“Then if they turn away, O dear Prophet, (Mohammed – peace and blessings be upon him) upon you is nothing but to clearly convey (the message)”. (16:82)

“Therefore advise; indeed you are a proclaimer of advice. (The Holy Prophet is a Remembrance from Allah.) You are not at all a guardian over them”. (88:21-22)

“And you are not one to use force over them” (50:45)

But with the revelation of 2:190, fighting was allowed against those who initiated fighting; “And fight in the way of Allah against those who fight against you, but do not transgress. Truly Allah loves not the transgressors.” (2:190).

This first command for fighting was revealed in connection with the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah. It is reported that in 6 A.H/628, Prophet (peace be upon him) went out with his companions from Madinah to Makkah for performing ‘Umrah. When they camped at Hudaybiyyah near Makkah, the Makkans came and prevented them from continuing on into Makkah. So the Muslims remained there for a month. Then, they made a treaty stipulating that they would turn back the following year for three days and perform the ‘Umrah and that there would be no fighting among them. Having concluded the Treaty, they came back to Madinah. Then, as  Muslims feared treachery of the Makkan pagans and being called upon to fight in the sacred precinct [Haram] during the sacred months, yhis verse (2:190) was revealed to set the rules of war, meaning that Muslims are allowed to fight if the Arab pagans initiate fighting with them.

In the initial days, Muslims were brutally tortured, murdered and driven out of their homes, but despite that, as the above Quranic verses testify to this fact, they were commanded to have patience and pardon their enemies, but later, since they made a treaty and were facing treachery of the Makkans, Muslims were therefore allowed to fight them in their defence.

Relevance of this verse today

As for the relevance of this verse today, there are two statements about this verse 2:190; one group of scholars say that this verse has been abrogated by 9:5, while Ibn Zyad and ar-Rabi say this was abrogated by 9:36, but another group including Umar ibn ‘Abdul Aziz and Mujahid said that this verse remains all-time operative and means: “fight those who fight you and do not transgress by killing women, children, monks etc”.

Ibn Abbas said “….do not transgress” (2:190) means “Do not kill women, children, old men, or those who offer peace and restrain their hand. If you do that, you will have transgressed against them” (Tafsir Tabari).

In one of his letters, the Umayyad Caliph ‘Umar ibn Abd al-Aziz commented on the verse 2:190 and wrote that it means “do not fight those who do not fight you” (Tabari).

It is reported that Hazrat Ali  said, “Do not initiate the war as long as they do not fight you, because you are the followers of Truth.” (Nahjul Balagh p.453)

Explaining the verse 2:190, a famous Indian Sufi theologian Madani Miyan says in his book of Tafsir, even during wartimes,you need to implement justice.”Do not kill the peaceful citizens, do not destruct the populated areas, hospitals, places of worship and do not mutilate”.(Tafsir-e-Ashrafi)

The scholars who consider this verse 2:190 Muhkam set the rules of war with support of the following instructions given by the beloved Prophet (peace be upon him) to his soldiers in the state of war;

(1)      “Do not kill any child, any woman, or any elder or sick person.” (Sunan Abu Dawud)

(2)      “Do not practice treachery or mutilation. (Muwatta Malik)

(3)      “Do not destroy the villages and towns, do not spoil the cultivated fields and gardens, and do not slaughter the cattle.” (Sahih Bukhari; Sunan Abu Dawud)

(4)      “Do not kill the monks in monasteries, and do not kill those sitting in places of worship. (Musnad Ahmad Ibn Hanbal)

(5)      “Do not uproot or burn palms or cut down fruitful trees. (Al-Muwatta)

(6)      “Do not wish for an encounter with the enemy; pray to Allah to grant you security; but when you [are forced to] encounter them, exercise patience.” (Sahih Muslim)

(7)      “No one may punish with fire except the Lord of Fire.” (Sunan Abu Dawud).

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