Joined: 04 May 2009, 16:10
Al-Ghaali, in his book بالحجة والبرهان لا نسخ في القرآن, pages 187-198, discusses the sword verse and what the scholars said about it. He does a great job of showing that it does not abrogate anything at all.
He mentioned something I've read elsewhere that some scholars called,
the sword verse instead of 9:5. This is noteworthy, since many scholars referred to "the sword verse" without actually quoting it.
Here is what Al-Ghaali writes about 9:5,
- Ibn Salaama said that it abrogated 124 verses and its ending abrogated its beginning!
- Ibn Al-Jawzi ridiculed that opinion and described those who made it as "those who have no understanding among the transmitters of exegesis."
- Abu-Ja`far An-Nahhaas said it abrogated 113 verses.
- Al-Ghaali asks the rhetorical question: Isn't it strange that God reveals a command and emphasizes it 124 times then abrogates it with one verse?
- As-Suyooti said that the verses claimed abrogated by the sword verse are actually delayed (منسأ). That is, they apply for their time only and the contingencies they are tied to. That's not abrogation, he said, because abrogation is to cancel a ruling such that it's not permissible to comply with it.
- Rasheed Ridha said that abrogation claims about the sword verse have been greatly exaggerated and that what the scholars mentioned is not abrogation as the foundationists (الأصوليون) defined it.
- Modern-day Saudi scholar Ibn `Uthaymeen, rahimahullah, said (my translation), "Many scholars whenever they were unable to reconcile verses, or fit them to actuality resorted to claiming abrogation and that's not right."
- Muhammad Al-Ghazaali, rahimahullah, said that abrogation is an "insult that appears in the exegeses of some inept" (قذى يظهر في تفسيرات بعض القاصرين). He added, "And I've seen some who desperately tried to prove that Islam spread by the sword and forced peoples to enter it, and for that end they canceled or abrogated over 120 verses starting with 2:256."
- Al-Ghaali quotes Al-Hasan, `Ataa', Ad-Dhahhaak and As-Suddiyy saying that the sword verse was abrogated by 47:4. They interpreted the word المشركين as prisoners of war, that is killing the enemy is no longer allowed but instead the leader may let them go or take their ransom. Mujaahid, Qataada and others disagreed.
Al-Ghaali says that the majority agrees that killing is for enemy combatants only and that the leaders has three options about a prisoner of war: Let him go, ransom him or kill him.
Al-Ghaali says that Al-Qurtubi, Ibn Al-Jawzi, At-Tabari and An-Nahhaas all said that the two verses, 9:5 and 47:4 are not abrogated.
- Scholars interpreted the word المشركين (polytheists) in many different ways:
- Muqaatil said it means those who had no treaty but the named 50 days.
- Az-Zamakhshari and An-Nasfi said it means those who breached their treaty and supported the enemies of Muslims.
- Al-Baydhaawi said it means those who reneged.
- Ibn Al`Arabi said it means those polytheists who fight Muslims. Al-Ghaali concludes, incorrectly I think, that Ibn Al`Arabi meant the Arab polytheists at that time only.
- Al-Jassaas said it means the Arab polytheists only.
Al-Ghaali concludes that the word means the polytheists who breached their treaty. He argues the same argument I made before, but puts it more elegantly. He said that 9:6,
proves that non-combatants are not to be killed, nor be given a choice to become Muslim or be killed. Thus, Al-Ghaali concludes, the contingency in 9:5 is not polytheism, but rather aggression and treachery. He says that this is emphasized earlier in 9:4,
which confirms that understanding and goes a step further: That polytheists who keep their word and do not support our enemies are to be treated with the same courtesy. That's what At-Tabari settled on. Ibn Katheer agreed. Ar-Raazi agrees too and adds a gem; he said that the verse ends with the words "And God loves the watchful [of Him]", which means that watchfulness of God requires the differentiation between combatants and non-combatants. I'd add that God ends 9:7 with the same words as well.
- Al-Ghaali points out another proof that the contingency of 9:5 is not polytheism,
I'd add that this verse also confirms the reciprocation of courtesy implied by 9:4.
- Al-Ghaali makes an excellent point: He says that God has actually specified what the contingency of 9:5 was! He says,
- If the intention of the sword verse is killing the polytheists, unless they accept Islam, then why the four months reprieve, asks Al-Ghaali. He says that polytheists, who now see four months between them and their death, would either get out or prepare for war. I agree that these are two possible alternatives but disagree that they are the only ones. They could also pretend to accept Islam and add their names to the list of hypocrites!
Was any of those alternatives intended by God? One might argue that expelling the polytheists from Arabia was desired by God. This can be supported by a hadeeth of the Prophet (PBUH) in which he said, "Get the polytheists out of the peninsula of the Arabs", narrated by Ibn Abbaas and reported by Al-Bukhaari and Muslim. One may even interpret God's words فسيحوا في الأرض (then spread in the land), in 9:2 to mean "get out of the land", but that's a stretch.
I'd counter that a similar hadeeth quotes the Prophet (PBUH) saying, "I surely will expel the Jews and the Christians from the peninsula of the Arabs until I leave in it none but Muslims", narrated by Umar and reported by Muslim, An-Nasaa'i and Ahmad. Yet, there is no text that gives the Jews and the Christians a reprieve of any length! How come? It is established that the People of the Book are not polytheists, so how can the polytheists have an advantage over them?
There is no historical evidence, to the best of my knowledge, that the polytheists took advantage of the reprieve to prepare for a terminal war. Why didn't they? They were still the majority.
Lastly, an option they could have contemplated was to claim conversion and join the hypocrites. There is no evidence that they did that either. And could it possibly be a desired outcome that masses of people become hypocrites?
What is evident from history is that the Prophet's triumphant return to Mecca took place with very little fighting and even less resistance, and with overwhelming victory. He took six thousand prisoners of war with almost no effort. And what did he do with them? If he had understood the "sword" verse to mean "kill the polytheists", he would have killed those POWs, but instead he understood 47:4 and he asked them, "What do you think I'll do with you?" They replied, "Good; you're a noble brother and a noble nephew!" Indeed he was, peace be upon him. He replied, "Go! You are free." The Arabs have never before seen 6,000 POWs let go.
The result of this magnanimity, which came naturally to the Prophet (PBUH), was that delegation after delegation of Arab tribes came to the Prophet declaring their willing acceptance of Islam and vowing allegiance to him. Were they hypocrite? Some of them may have been, but only God knows that. The historical evidence is that no Arab tribe reverted to polytheism ever since.
- The next question Al-Ghaali asks is: If we concede that the sword verse mandates killing the polytheists, is that mandate for all polytheists around the world at all times, or is it limited to the time, place and people at the time of revelation? His answers were not strong, I thought. I'd offer the same hadeeth presented as evidence for this as evidence against it! If the mandate is for all times and about all polytheists, then what's the point of expelling the polytheists from the Arabian peninsula if Muslims are supposed to chase them wherever they go and kill them?!
- The last point Al-Ghaali makes is good, and I have not seen it mentioned elsewhere, namely, the sword verse gives a number of options about the hostile polytheists. Killing them is only one. The other options are to take them as prisoners of war, enforce sanctions on them and stalk them. That is only fair, since those types of actions were all done by the polytheists to Muslims before. In fact, the polytheists did worse; they tortured them to renounce Islam but that didn't work.
Doesn't all that logically lead to the one conclusion: that verse 9:5 is not a sword verse, does not require Muslims to kill anybody except enemy combatants who are bent on killing them and would not live and let live?
Only two categories of people would disagree: Trigger-happy Muslims with a perverted concept of Islam who long for the days of pre-Islamic era where tribes freely raided each other, stole their property, killed their men and enslaved their women and children. That kind of life was the norm everywhere in the world for most of human history, be it the Vikings raiding England, the Anglos fighting the Saxons, or be it the Germanics or the Francs, etc. Islam came to put an end to those practices which it calls الجاهلية
(ignorance). It was revolutionary. So, it is doubly sad that some Muslims want to revert to ignorance and worse yet that they want to sanction it by Islam!
The other category are Islamophobes and enemies of Islam who wish to silence the truth and curtail the tide of Islam, or at least keep Muslims fighting amongst each other.
A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.