The pursuit of truth

Clarity from Fatwa Against The Targeting Of Civilians of Shaykh Muhammad Afifi al-Akiti, 2005:

If it is said: “What about the verse of the Qur’an which says {kill the unbelievers wherever you find them} and the Sahih Hadith which says ‘I have been ordered to fight against the people until they testify’?”

We say: It is well known among scholars that the following verse,

{fa-qtulU l-mushrikIna Haythu wajad-tumUhum}
{kill the idolaters wherever you find them}(al-Tawba, 9:5)is in reference to a historical episode: those among the Meccan Confederates who breached the Treaty of Hudaybiyya [Sulh al-Hudaybiyya] which led to the Victory of Mecca [Fath Makka], and that therefore, no legal rulings, or in other words, no practical or particular implications, can be derived from this Verse on its own. The Divine Irony and indeed Providence from the last part of the Verse, {wherever you find them} – which many of our mufassirs understood in reference to place (i.e., attack them whether inside the Sacred Precinct or not) – is that the victory against the Meccans happened without a single battle taking place, whether inside the Sacred Precinct or otherwise, rather, there was a general amnesty [wa-mannun ‘alayhi bi-takhliyati sabīlihi or naha ‘an safki d-dima’] for the Jāhilī Arabs there. Had the Verse not been subject to a historical context, then you should know that it is of the general type [‘amm] and that it will therefore be subject to specification [takhsīs] by some other indication [dalīl]. Its effect in lay terms, were it not related to the Jahilī Arabs, is that it can only refer to a case during a valid war when there is no ceasefire.

Among the well known exegeses of “al-mushrikīn” from this Verse are: “al-nākithīna khāssatan” [specifically, those who have breached (the Treaty)] [al-Nawawi al-Jawi, Tafsīr, 1:331]; “al-ladhīna yuharibunakum” [those who have declared war against you] [Qādi Ibn ‘Arabi, Ahkām al-Qur’ān, 2:889]; and “khāssan fī mushkrikī l-‘arabi dūna ghayrihim” [specifically, the Jāhilī Arabs and not anyone else] [al-Jassās, Ahkām al-Qur’ān, 3:81].

As for the meaning of “people” [al-nās] in the above well-related Hadith, it is confirmed by Ijmā’ that it refers to the same “mushrikīn” as in the Verse of Sura al-Tawba above, and therefore what is meant there is only the Jāhilī Arabs [muskhrikū l-‘arab] during the closing days of the Final Messenger and the early years of the Righteous Caliphs and not even to any other non-Muslims.

In sum, we are not in a perpetual state of war with non-Muslims. On the contrary, the original legal status [al-asl] is a state of peace, and making a decision to change this status belongs only to a Muslim authority who will in the Next World answer for their ijtihād and decision; and this decision is not divinely charged to any individuals – not even soldiers or scholars – and to believe otherwise would go against the well-known rule in our Law that a Muslim authority could seek help from a non-Muslim with certain conditions, including, for example, that the non-Muslim allies are of goodwill towards the Muslims:

[la-yast’Inu bi-mushkrikin illA bi-shurUTin
ka-an takUna niyyatuhu Hasanatan li-l-MuslimIna
).

You can read the full fatwa here:

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