– Quran 2:191- ‘And kill them wherever you find them…’ Explained

A few years back, my house was invaded by flying ants. I would find them crawling near my kitchen window. Sometimes I would see them fall down out of the air – weak.

One had fallen into a cup of water, writhing.

Ants are small, but they run away from danger. They find their way out of difficult situations. They help each other.

They’re alive and they clearly have a will to live.

I preferred to remove them and place them outside. If I saw them struggling, near death, I resorted on a few occasions to ending it quickly for them – in order to remove the suffering.

For me, killing an ant is a moment of agony. You can see it on my face. It’s hard to take the life even of a small insect.

In Islam, we’ve been permitted to remove pests that may be harmful to us or our homes, even if it means exterminating them; but the appreciation and respect for life we are instilled with by the Quran and the example of the last prophet, Muhammad, make it difficult to do that.

In Islam, we’ve been permitted to eat meat- to kill a living being in order to provide nutrition for our bodies, sustenance for our lives. We’ve been given that permission by the one who gave them life, but there are very strict guidelines on how to do it.

The animal is to be given consideration. It should be treated well, with care. It should never be frightened by witnessing the slaughter of another animal, or even by seeing the blade being sharpened. The blade must be extremely sharp so that the animal doesn’t feel it.

Then, we have to say “Bismillah” – In the name of God.

Because taking a life is no small thing.

So, imagine: Muslims have been instructed to respect life, the lives of animals – even insects.

How could it be possible that human life is easy to destroy? How could it be okay to just kill people?

There are verses in the Quran. Some people love to pull them out and present them all by themselves. Here’s one of them:

“And when the sacred months have passed, then kill the polytheists wherever you find them and capture them and besiege them and sit in wait for them at every place of ambush. But if they should repent, establish prayer, and give charity, let them [go] on their way. Indeed, God is Forgiving and Merciful.” (Quran 9:5)

It’s clear why this verse arouses discomfort and distaste.

Bear with me…

Islam provides guidance for virtually all aspects of life- including war, which is an unfortunate reality that is not going to vanish any time soon.

War is not encouraged in Islam, but it is permitted where there is untenable oppression, or for self-preservation of an established, valid Muslim state.

Violence is not permitted for individuals or rogue or vigilante paramilitary organizations. Only in the context of justifiable war executed by a viable government or ruler.

What would you expect your country to do if it is attacked or threatened?

Or better yet, what does your country do when it is attacked or threatened? If you are an American like me, our country is at war – i.e. killing people – right now.

But, war in Islam has it’s own stringent guidelines and restrictions. All of the guidelines focus on accomplishing what is necessary in the most merciful way. Always with respect for life, fear and reverence for the One Who created life, as well as with methods that reduce damage and unnecessary harm.

In a legitimate war, only combatants are to be fought. Women, children, the elderly, Priests, Rabbis, Monks and even trees are forbidden from being harmed.

Yes, I said trees.

Muslims may not cut down trees or damage structures during combat. Muslims may not slaughter the enemy’s animals except if necessary for food.  All unwarranted damage is forbidden. 

The verse I quoted above, was revealed in a particular context of a specific war that occurred at the time the Quran was being revealed. That is the case with all of the Quranic verses sanctioning or mentioning fighting.

The Muslims at that time had been suffering years of persecution and oppression at the hands of the Quraysh – for nothing more than believing in One God. The fact that Muhammad’s followers were increasing had caused anger amongst the polytheistic culture and the establishment who profited from idolatry. This inevitably induced the powerful Quraysh tribe to inflict harsh punishments, torture and humiliation on Muhammad and his followers.

The persecuted Muslims ultimately migrated in order to escape the persecution and were invited to a place called Yathrib, which then became Medina, the new Muslim state. As the leader of this new nation, Muhammad established treaties with neighboring tribes. Some of those tribes who entered into treaties with the new Muslim nation later betrayed their treaties and committed acts of aggression.

This verse was permitting retaliation against those idolaters who had committed acts of betrayal and violence and who violated the treaties. If it had meant that Muslims should kill non-Muslims in any context wherever we find them, then the verse which follows the previous verse would be rather peculiar:

“If any of the polytheists seeks asylum from you, grant him asylum until he hears the Word of God. Then convey him to his place of safety. That is because they are a people who do not know.” (Quran 9:6)

This is still in the context of war. The one seeking asylum is not a Muslim, but a polytheistThey are to be granted safety and even escorted by Muslim fighters to a place of safety where they will not be harmed by either side.

If the previous verse had generally meant to kill all disbelievers wherever you find them, there would be no verse commanding Muslim fighters to escort disbelieving soldiers from their enemy during a war, to a place of safety.

And there is this:

“Fight in the way of God those who fight you but do not transgress. Indeed, God does not like transgressors.” (Quran 2:190)

Here it is made clear that permission is being given to fight those who attack. This permission was necessary, because prior to this allowance, retaliation had not been permitted and the Muslims had passively and patiently endured unspeakable torture and oppression for more than ten years.

It is important to note that the word used for fighting in the Quran is not “jihad”, but “Qital” in Arabic and in the entire Quran there is no mention whatsoever of “holy” war. 

In the lifetime of the prophet Muhammad, the ones who accepted Islam and followed him had found the greatest source of peace and happiness. They were most willing to endure the oppression of their people and to struggle to share the beauty of Islam with others, in spite of all the difficulties and rejection. Their souls had found peace and satisfaction, like I have, and like so many millions have in Islam, and when the permission to fight in self-defense was given, many of them were shocked and somewhat disappointed.

This was due to the realization that they could no longer bask in the beauty and tranquility of their faith, they would have to instead struggle, strive and even fight to defend its existence.  The threat against them was in fact, an existential one. If they had not fought against the powers threatening them, Islam could have vanished altogether.

Regarding this, the following verse was revealed:

“Fighting has been enjoined upon you while it is hateful to you. But perhaps you hate a thing and it is good for you; and perhaps you love a thing and it is bad for you. And God Knows, while you know not.” (Quran 2:216)

This verse is important to me because I see it as a metric. It tells us that the natural disposition of a believer, of a Muslim, is not one that inclines towards violence. Rather, the Muslim, finds war and violence hateful. This example is enough for us to realize that there is something remarkably wrong and tremendously un-Islamic about the bloodthirsty, merciless extremists we see today, though they pretentiously claim validity via Islam.

Furthermore, the reasons for fighting have been explained in greater detail via the Quran. Above, we saw that fighting was sanctioned against those who commit aggression (fight those who fight you). The following verse embellishes the reason war is sometimes necessary:

“[They are] those who have been evicted from their homes without right – only because they say, “Our Lord is the one God.” And were it not that God checks the people, some by means of others, there would have been demolished monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques in which the name of God is much mentioned. And God will surely support those who support Him. Indeed, God is Powerful and Exalted in Might.” (Quran 22:40)

If people are oppressed such that they cannot live in peace, when they are driven from their homes unjustly because of their faith in the One God, then there is justification for war under the right circumstances. And it is mentioned here that if God had not checked some people by means of others, many places of worship would have been destroyed. In other words, the right of worship would have been at risk.

The order of words in the Quran is significant. Please take notice of the order of the places of worship referred to. Before Mosques were mentioned, Monasteries, Churches and Synagogues are put forward. This indicates that war is required to protect the right of people to worship when there is oppression and an existential threat.

Perhaps most importantly in understanding war in Islam – in the context of war, if the aggressor – the enemy inclines to peace, the Muslim nation is REQUIRED to also incline to peace:

“And if they incline to peace, then incline to it [also] and rely upon God. Indeed, it is He who is the Hearing, the Knowing.” (Quran 8:61)

This means that if Idolatrous Country A attacks Muslim Country B, Country B may fight back, without transgressing the stringent rules of war in Islam. If Country A wants a ceasefire and to make peace, the Muslim country B is categorically forbidden from continuing hostilities. Country B is required to come to the table and make peace, no matter what atrocities had been committed by the Idolatrous Country A.

Islam imbues in its followers respect and reverence for all life. It is God who gives life and takes it away. We are allowed by the giver of life, in certain instances to take life, such as when it is necessary to remove insects from our homes, or to slaughter an animal for food without going to excesses.

Above all plant, animal and insect life, human life is more sacred. The Quran tells us of God’s established law of old,

“…Whoever kills a soul, unless for a soul or for corruption [done] in the land – it is as if he had slain mankind entirely. And whoever saves one – it is as if he had saved mankind entirely. And Our messengers had certainly come to them with clear proofs. Then indeed many of them, [even] after that, throughout the land, were transgressors.” (Quran 5:32)

This verse expresses the magnitude of murder. Killing one innocent soul is like killing all of humanity. There are so many more examples to give, so many ways in which Islam honors life. The instances in which taking the life of a human being is sanctioned are very few and subject to strict criteria. Harm is to be minimized in all matters.

Violence by individuals is not permitted (except appropriate self defense) nor by vigilante groups that declare themselves a state out of nowhere. It is forbidden to kill innocent men women and children. Even during legitimate war, harming them is to be avoided. In a true Islamic war of self-preservation, drones would not be dropping bombs on innocent civilians.

Islam does not make people violent. It does not encourage people to hate. It is not scary and terrorism has no relationship to Islam.

The people who commit crimes and try to cover them with the blanket of Islam will indeed find justice. Meanwhile, we the people must strive against the tyranny of their lies and refuse to let liars dictate our actions.

We must look deeper and more critically into all current geopolitical issues and into history, which can inform our understanding of much of what is happening today. We must also remember the countless other deranged groups and people who have, and continue to commit crimes against humanity of the worst kind from many different ethnicities – with and without religion as a factor. They include Christians, Jews, Atheists and even Buddhists (such as in contemporary Myanmar). Radical, violent extremists exist across cultures.

Everyone on this planet can do better by having a copy of the Quran and reading it several times at least for a decent grasp of what it says. I recommend suspending judgment on all matters, until sufficient information from many angles has been ascertained and considered.

Remember when you read, that it is meant as guidance for all times and places, but the context in which each verse was initially revealed adds additional understanding about its implementation. So, although verses were revealed dealing with specific wars for example, the guidance is applicable in future wars. But, the original context provides details about the conditions and the reasons and methods for implementation.

May God grant us understanding and remove from us our unwillingness to see. Ameen


Quran 2:191 – “And kill them wherever you find them…”

Critics as usual apply ‘cut and choose’ approach with regards to this passage (Quran 2:191). They only quote, And kill them wherever you find them…(2:191). However, when we read the passage in its context (2:190-195) it says opposite what they portray of the verse.

Quran 2:190 – 195

2:190 Fight in the way of God those who fight you but do not transgress. Indeed. God does not like transgressors.
2:191 And kill them wherever you find them and expel them from wherever they have expelled youand fitnah [Persecution] is worse than killing. And do not fight them at al-Masjid al- Haram until they fight you there. But if they fight you, then kill them. Such is the recompense of the disbelievers.
2:192 And if they cease, then indeed, God is Forgiving and Merciful.
2:193 Fight them until there is no [more] fitnah [Persecution] and [until] worship is for God. But if they cease, then there is to be no aggression except against the oppressors.
2:194 [Fighting in] the sacred month is for [aggression committed in] the sacred month, and for [all] violations is legal retribution. So whoever has assaulted you, then assault him in the same way that he has assaulted you. And fear God and know that God is with those who fear Him.
2:195 And spend in the way of God and do not throw [yourselves] with your [own] hands into destruction [by refraining]. And do good; indeed, God loves the doers of good.

It’s important whenever one reads a Quranic verse, to read it in its context. As you have read, critics only quote the part which suites them, they isolate previous verses and the ones after. When the passage is examined in context, it is clear that nowhere does it sanction the killing of innocent people. From verse 2:190 to 2:195, when read, Allah makes it evident to fight those only who fight them, fighting in self-defence.

Another thing some love to do with the verse is, change the Arabic word’s meaning. Example, the Arabic word ‘Fitna’ used in 2:191 and 2:193, they deceptively have translated the word as ‘disbelief’. So, when it’s read in that perspective, the passage is implying to fight to those who are disbelievers, just because of their religion. This again when we examine it, it will turn out to be a lie. The Arabic word ‘Fitnah’ means ‘persecution’, ‘corruption’, ‘sedition’. But when the word ‘Fitnah’ is used in verse 2:191 and 2:193 it means ‘persecution’.

Non-Muslim Translation

Arthur John Arberry

2:191 And slay them wherever you come upon them, and expel them from where they expelled you; persecution is more grievous than slaying. But fight them not by the Holy Mosque until they should fight you there; then, if they fight you, slay them — such is the recompense of unbelievers.

The Arabic word for disbelief is ‘kufr’. The following Definition(s) on the Arabic word ‘Fitna’.

Associate Professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies Hayrettin Yücesoy writes

“One of the most frequently mentioned portents of the end of time in Muslim prophecies is civil disorder, fitna. Yet contrary to what one might expect, in none of the many instances in which the term fitna (civil disorder) is mentioned in the Quran is it connected to end of time events. In the Qur’anic text, fitna refers to a sort of trial: “And know that your wealth and your children are a trial [fitna], and that with God is a mighty wage.” In other verses, the term connotes discord, controversy, and dissension: “As for those in whose hearts is swerving, they follow the ambiguous part, desiring dissension [fitna], and seeking to explain it; and none knows its meaning, save only God.” Fitna may also mean seduction: “Children of Adan! Let not satan tempt, [v. yaftatin], you as he brought your parents out of the Garden, stripping them of their garments to show them their shameful parts.” On other occasions, it describes chaos and civil disorder: “As for the unbelievers, they are friends one of another. Unless you do this, there will be strife [fitna] in the land and great corruption.” Finally it refers to plotting and acts of conspiracy: “Had they gone forth among you, they would only have increased you in trouble, and run to and fro in your midst, seeking to stir up sedition [fitna] between you; and some of you would listen to them; and God knows the evildoers.” A similar meaning is given in the following verses, where conspiracy against the community and its social and religious status quo is condemned: Persecution [fitna] is more grievous than slaying. But fight them not by the Holy Mosque until they should fight you there; then if they fight you, slay them- such is the recompose of unbelievers.” Even the ban on fighting during the holy months is lifted in cases of the greater danger of persecution: “Fighting in it is a heinous thing, but to bar from God’s way, and disbelief in him, and the Holy Mosque, and to expel its people from it- that is more heinous in God’s sight; and persecution [fitna] is more heinous than slaying.” [1]

Ibn Kathir, Tafsir Ibn Kathir,

“Concerning the verse “If two groups of believers fall to fighting” Q. 49.9) and “fight against them until there is no ‘fitnah’” (Q.2:193), he answered: “We done all this in the time of Prophet. At that time, we came minority so that a Moslem was be faced by fitnah in his religion, either he would be killed or would be the victim of oppression. When the Moslem community grows as powerful adherents, killing oppression has gone.” Based on this argument, we can conclude that ‘fitnah’ should be defined as any oppression or forcing Moslem to do or not to do something against his rights as human being; all this being ratio legis or cause to proclaim fight against oppressor or those who want to kill them.” [2]

Arabic-English Dictionary of Qur’anic Usage. Elsaid M. Badawi and Muhammad Abdel Haleem,

“f-t-n to purify gold and silver by smelting them; to burn; to put to the test, to afflict (in particular as a means of testing someone’s endurance); to disrupt the peace of a community; to tempt, to seduce, to allure, to infatuate. Of this root, six forms occur 60 times in the Qur’an fatana 17 times futina six times; futun once; maftun once and fitnatun 34 times.
fitnatun [n.] 1 test (8:28) your possessions and your children are only a test 2 affliction, trial (22:11) but if a trial befalls him, he reverts to his old ways [lit. falls flat on his face, turns back to front] 3 persecution (2:191) and drive them out from where they drove you out, for persecution is more serious than killing 4 dissension, discord, civil unrest, infighting, mutiny (9:47) they would have scurried around in your midst, trying to sow discord among you 5 temptation, allurement (2:102) yet they [both] never taught anyone until they first said, ‘we are but a temptation-do not [fall for us and] reject the faith’ 6 treachery, defection, desertion (33:14) but if it [the city] had been entered from [all] its sides, with them in it, and they were asked to commit treachery, they would have committed it.” [3]

Arabic-English Lexicon,Edward William Lane commenting on the Arabic word ‘Fitna’,


In conclusion, as we have examined the Arabic word ‘fitna’, and the context of passage, the verse does not promote the killing of innocent people. As shown, the passage shows that Muslims were allowed to fight those who were persecuting the Muslims, 1400 years ago. In other words, the passage sanctioned fighting in self-defence.


[1] Messianic Beliefs and Imperial Politics in Medieval Islam: The ʻAbbāsid Caliphate in the Early Ninth Century [Copyright 2009] By Hayrettin Yücesoy page 37 – 38
[2] See Ibn Kathir, Tafsir Ibn Kathir (Beirut: Dar al-Fikr, 1986), volume, page 227 – 229.
[3] Arabic-English Dictionary of Qur’anic Usage: By Elsaid M. Badawi and Muhammad Abdel Haleem page 693
[4] Arabic-English Lexicon by Edward William Lane (London: Willams & Norgate 1863) Book 1, page 2335


‘Seize Them And Kill Them Wherever You Find Them…’ – Quran 4:89 – 91


Tafsir al-Jalalayn, Muhammed Asad and Maulana Muhammed Ali commentary of the Quran say these passages refer to Banu Asad and Ghatafan tribes. These tribes have in a number of occasions been hostile and sided with enemies of the Prophet (p). And waged war against the Muslims.

Others, such as Ibn Kathir and Maududi’s Quran commentary, say that the verse refers to the hypocrite Muslims who had accepted the message of Islam in Makkah but they never emigrated to Madinah. Further, they mention that they sided with the enemies of the Muslims in Makkah i.e., sided in the sense fighting and persecuting Muslims. They were a bunch of very difficult persons to deal with, because outwardly they prayed, recited the Kalimah (article of Islamic faith), and fasted in the month of Ramadan, but at the same time they did the worst things against the true Muslims.

Analysing Verses

4:89 They wish you would disbelieve as they disbelieved so you would be alike. So do not take from among them allies until they emigrate for the cause of Allah. But if they turn away, then seize them and kill them wherever you find them and take not from among them any ally or helper.

4:90 Except for those who take refuge with a people between yourselves and whom is a treaty or those who come to you, their hearts strained at [the prospect of] fighting you or fighting their own people. And if Allah had willed, He could have given them power over you, and they would have fought you. So if they remove themselves from you and do not fight you and offer you peace, then Allah has not made for you a cause [for fighting] against them.

4:91 You will find others who wish to obtain security from you and [to] obtain security from their people. Every time they are returned to [the influence of] disbelief, they fall back into it. So if they do not withdraw from you or offer you peace or restrain their hands, then seize them and kill them wherever you overtake them. And those – We have made for you against them a clear authorization.

In 4:89 God Almighty turned the hypocrites back to unbelief for what they did (Maududi). Furthermore, the Muslims were commanded 1400 years ago to catch hold of those hypocrites who were actually engaged warfare against the Muslims then.

4:90 shows that the fighting mentioned here were not against innocents, but aimed at those who were actively fighting against the Muslims, 1400 years ago. The verse says, if they cease from hostilities, and remove themselves, not siding with the enemies, and offer peace that they be left alone.

In 4:91 it emphasizes what has been mentioned already, that there are those who will be asking for security but at the same time they refrained from offering peace to the Muslims, by not stopping their hostilities. The Muslims 1400 years ago were commanded that they be caught and dealt with, as a result of their ongoing hostilities, and the fighting they were involved in against the Muslims.

All these verses speak of events that relate to individuals (or groups) who actively fought and harmed the Muslims.


Malik Ghulam Farid:

“645. The reference is to the Bedouin tribes of the desert. The Qur’an forbids Muslims to have anything to do with them, or make friends with them or seek their help.
646. As Qatl is also used in the sense of severing all social contacts (2:62), the expression Uquluhum may also mean, ‘have nothing to do with them.’ This meaning of the expression finds support from the words, ‘take no friend nor helper from among them.’
647. The reference seems to be the two tribes, Asad and Ghatafan who had no treaty of alliance with the Muslims. They played a double game and awaited their opportunity. When invited by their people to join them in fighting against the Muslims, they readily accepted the invitation. The directions contained in these verses come into operation when a virtual state of war exists and danger stalks along the land.
648. By Fitnah is here meant, war with the Muslims.
649. As when actual or virtual state of war exists there is the likelihood that a Muslim may be killed by another Muslim by mistake, the present verse gives a timely warning to Muslims to be always on their guard against such an eventuality.” [1]

Maulana Muhammad Ali:

“90a. This verse explains the previous one, showing clearly that even waverers were not to be killed or fought against if they refrained from fighting, though they may have gone over to disbelief after accepting Islam. The commentators agree that the persons referred to in this verse were disbelievers and not Muslims, and they are generally supposed to have been the Banu Mudlaj (Bd). Note also that we have here the clear injunction that if any people offered peace, they were not to be fought against.
91a. By mischief, or fitnah, is meant war with the Muslims (Rz). Two tribes, Asad and Ghatfan, came to the Muslims and showed an inclination to remain at peace, but when they went back and their people invited them to join them in fighting with the Muslims, they responded to the call. Such people could not be trusted. The importance of these directions in time of war, when the Muslims were hemmed in on all sides by enemies, can hardly be overestimated.” [2]

Muhammad Asad:

“106 Lit., “two parties”.
107 Lit., “seeing that God has thrown them back in result of what they have earned”. There are various conjectures, almost all of them of a historical nature, as to the identity of these hypocrites. Some of the commentators think that the verse refers to the hypocrites at Medina in the early years after the hijrah; others (e.g., Tabari) prefer the view expressed by Ibn ‘Abbas, according to whom this refers to certain people of Mecca who, before the hijrah, outwardly accepted Islam but secretly continued to support the pagan Quraysh. It seems to me, however, that there is no need to search after “historical” interpretations of the above verse, since it can easily be understood in general terms. The preceding verse speaks of God, and stresses His oneness and the obvious truth inherent in His revealed message, as well as the certainty of judgment on Resurrection Day. “How, then,” continues the argument, “could you be of two minds regarding the moral stature of people who go so far as to pay lip-service to the truth of God’s message and are, nevertheless, not willing to make a sincere choice between right and wrong?”
108 See surah 2, verse 218, as well as note on verse 97 of this surah.
109 I.e., any of those who have not “forsaken the domain of evil” and are wavering between belief and disbelief.
110 Lit., “if God had so willed, He would indeed have given them power over you, whereupon…”, etc.- implying that only the lack of requisite power, and not true good will, causes them to refrain from making war on the believers.
111 Lit., “God has given you no way against them”: a reference to the ordinance laid down in verse 86 above.
112 Lit., “whenever they are returned to temptation (fitnah), they are thrown back into it” or thrown headlong into it”.
113 Lit., “that We have given you clear authority (sultan)” – a solemn reiteration of the ordinance which permits war only in self-defence (cf. 2:190 ff. as well as the corresponding notes).” [3]

Tafsir Ibn Kathir:

“… (They wish that you reject faith, as they have rejected, and thus that you all become equal.) means, they wish that you fall into misguidance, so that you and they are equal in that regard. This is because of their extreme enmity and hatred for you. Therefore, Allah said, …
Combatants and Noncombatants … (Except those who join a group, between you and whom there is a treaty (of peace),) meaning, except those who join and take refuge with a people with whom you have a pact of peace, or people of Dhimmah, then treat them as you treat the people with whom you have peace. This is the saying of As-Suddi, Ibn Zayd and Ibn Jarir. In his Sahih, Al-Bukhari recorded the story of the treaty of Al-Hudaybiyyah, where it was mentioned that whoever liked to have peace with Quraysh and conduct a pact with them, then they were allowed. Those who liked to have peace with Muhammad and his Companions and enter a pact with them were allowed. … (or those who approach you with their breasts restraining) referring to another type of people covered by the exclusion from fighting. They are those who approach the Muslims with hesitation in their hearts because of their aversion to fighting the Muslims. They do not have the heart to fight with the Muslims against their own people. Therefore, they are neither with nor against Muslims. (Had Allah willed, indeed He would have given them power over you, and they would have fought you.) meaning, IT IS FROM ALLAH’S MERCY THAT HE HAS STOPPED THEM FROM FIGHTING YOU. (SO, IF THEY WITHDRAW FROM YOU, AND FIGHT NOT AGAINST YOU, AND OFFER YOU PEACE,) MEANING, THEY REVERT TO PEACE, … (then Allah has opened no way for you against them), YOU DO NOT HAVE THE RIGHT TO KILL THEM, AS LONG AS THEY TAKE THIS POSITION. This was the position of Banu Hashim (the tribe of the Prophet ), such as Al-`Abbas, who accompanied the idolators in the battle of Badr, for they joined the battle with great hesitation. This is why the Prophet commanded that Al-`Abbas not be killed, but only captured. Allah’s statement, (You will find others that wish to have security from you and security from their people.) refers to a type of people who on the surface appear to be like the type we just mentioned. However, the intention of each type is different, for the latter are hypocrites. They pretend to be Muslims with the Prophet and his Companions, so that they could attain safety with the Muslims for their blood, property and families. However, THEY SUPPORT THE IDOLATORS IN SECRET and worship what they worship, so that they are at peace with them also. THESE PEOPLE HAVE SECRETLY SIDED WITH THE IDOLATORS, just as Allah described them, (Every time they are sent back to Fitnah, they yield thereto.) meaning, they dwell in Fitnah. As-Suddi said that the Fitnah mentioned here refers to Shirk. Ibn Jarir recorded that Mujahid said that the Ayah was revealed about a group from Makkah who used to go to the Prophet ﴿ in Al-Madinah﴾ pretending to be Muslims. However, when they went back to Quraysh, they reverted to worshipping idols. They wanted to be at peace with both sides. Allah commanded they should be fought against, UNLESS THEY WITHDRAW FROM COMBAT AND RESORT TO PEACE. This is why Allah said, (If they withdraw not from you, nor offer you peace) meaning, REVERT TO PEACEFUL AND COMPLACENT BEHAVIOR, (nor restrain their hands) REFRAIN FROM FIGHTING YOU, (take (hold of) them), capture them, (and kill them wherever you Thaqiftumuhum.), wherever you find them, (In their case, We have provided you with a clear warrant against them), meaning an unequivocal and plain warrant.” [4]

Tafsir al-Jalalayn:

“They long, they wish, that you should disbelieve as they disbelieve, so then you, and they, would be equal, in unbelief; therefore do not take friends from among them, associating with them, even if they should [outwardly] manifest belief, until they emigrate in the way of God, a proper emigration that would confirm their belief; then, if they turn away, and remain upon their ways, take them, as captives, and slay them wherever you find them; and do not take any of them as a patron, to associate with, or as a helper, to assist you against your enemy. Except those who attach themselves to, [who] seek refuge with, a people between whom and you there is a covenant, a pledge of security for them and for whoever attaches himself to them, in the manner of the Prophet’s (s) covenant with Hilal b. ‘Uwaymir al-Aslami; or, those who, come to you with their breasts constricted, dejected, about the prospect of fighting you, [being] on the side of their people, or fighting their people, siding with you, in other words, [those who come to you] REFRAINING FROM FIGHTING EITHER YOU OR THEM, THEN DO NOT INTERFERE WITH THEM, NEITHER TAKING THEM AS CAPTIVES NOR SLAYING THEM … Had God willed, to give them sway over you, He would have given them sway over you, by strengthening their hearts, so that assuredly they would have fought you: but God did not will it and so He cast terror into their hearts. And so IF THEY STAY AWAY FROM YOU AND DO NOT FIGHT YOU, AND OFFER YOU PEACE, RECONCILIATION, that is, [if] they submit, then God does not allow you any way against them, [He does not allow you] a means to take them captive or to slay them. You will find others desiring to have security from you, by manifesting belief before you, and security from their own people, through unbelief, when they return to them, and these were [the tribes of] Asad and Ghatafan; yet whenever THEY ARE RETURNED TO SEDITION, [whenever] they are summoned to idolatry, they are overwhelmed by it, falling into it in the worst of ways. So, IF THEY DO NOT STAY AWAY FROM YOU, BY REFRAINING FROM FIGHTING YOU, AND, DO NOT, OFFER YOU PEACE, AND, DO NOT, RESTRAIN THEIR HANDS, FROM YOU, then take them, as captives, and slay them wherever you come upon them, [wherever] you find them; against them We have given you clear warrant, a clear and manifest proof for you to slay them and capture them, on account of their treachery.” [5]

Tanwir al-Miqbas min Tafsir Ibn ‘Abbas:

“(They long that you should disbelieve) in Muhammad and the Qur’an (even as they disbelieve, that ye may be upon a level (with them)) in following idolatry. (So choose not friends from them) in religion or for seeking assistance and backing (till they forsake their homes) until they believe again and migrate (in the way of Allah) in obedience of Allah; (if they turn back) from faith and migration (then take them) as prisoners (and kill them wherever you find them) in the Sacred Precinct or anywhere else, (and choose no friend) in religion or for seeking assistance and backing (nor helper) a protector (from among them), Allah then made an exception, saying: (Except those) among the ten men who fled to Mecca (who seek refuge with a people) i.e. the people of Hilal Ibn ‘Uwaymir al-Aslami (between whom and you there is a covenant) a pact and peace, (or (those who)) the people of Hilal (come unto you because their hearts forbid them to make war) they come to you because they are annoyed at the huge cost they have to pay due to this pact (on you or make war on their own folk) due to their ties of kinship. (Had Allah willed He could have given them power over you) i.e. the people of Hilal Ibn ‘Uwaymir (so that assuredly they would have fought you) together with their people upon the conquest of Mecca. (So, IF THEY HOLD ALOOF FROM YOU AND WAGE NOT WAR AGAINST YOU) upon the conquest of Mecca (and offer you peace) THEY SUBMIT TO YOU THROUGH PEACE AND HONOURING THE PACT THEY MADE, (ALLAH ALLOWETH YOU NO WAY AGAINST THEM) HE DOES NOT GIVE YOU ANY EXCUSE FOR KILLING THEM. (You will find others) other than the people of Hilal, Asad and Ghatafan for example (who desire that they should have security from you) they desire that their persons and wealth and families be safe from you by the declaration of “there is no god but Allah”, (and security from their own folk) and desire to be safe from their clan by adhering to disbelief. (So often as they are returned to hostility) to idolatry (they are plunged therein) they revert to it. (IF THEY KEEP NOT ALOOF FROM YOU) UPON THE CONQUEST OF MECCA (NOR OFFER YOU PEACE) NOR SUBMIT TO YOU BY MEANS OF A TREATY (NOR HOLD THEIR HANDS) FROM FIGHTING YOU upon the conquest of Mecca, (then take them) as prisoners (and kill them wherever you find them) in the Sacred Precinct or anywhere else. (Against such) i.e. Asad and Ghatafan (We have given you clear warrant) to kill them.” [6]

Tafsir al-Tustari

“…Or those who come to you with their breasts constricted… That is, ‘They have become sick at heart BECAUSE OF FIGHTING YOU and fighting their people, due to their love of safety, and their inclination towards their own well-being (ʿafiya).’ This refers to the Banu Madlaj.” [7]


[1] The Holy Qur’an – Arabic Text With English Translation & Short Commentary By Malik Ghulam Farid,
Page 208 – 209
[2] The Holy Quran Arabic Text with English Translation, Commentary and comprehensive Introduction [Year 2002 Edition] by Maulana Muhammad Ali, page 222
[3] The Message of The Quran translated and explained by Muhammad Asad, page 186 – 188
[4] Tafsir Ibn Kathir http://www.alim.org/library/quran/AlQuran-tafsir/TIK/4/88
[5] Tafsir al-Jalalayn http://altafsir.com/Tafasir.asp?tMadhNo=0&tTafsirNo=74&tSoraNo=4&tAyahNo=90&tDisplay=yes&UserProfile=0&LanguageId=2
[6] Tanwir al-Miqbas min Tafsir Ibn ‘Abbas http://altafsir.com/Tafasir.asp?tMadhNo=0&tTafsirNo=73&tSoraNo=4&tAyahNo=91&tDisplay=yes&UserProfile=0&LanguageId=2
[7] Tafsir al-Tustari http://altafsir.com/Tafasir.asp?tMadhNo=0&tTafsirNo=93&tSoraNo=4&tAyahNo=90&tDisplay=yes&UserProfile=0&LanguageId=2

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