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Commanding Jihad Against Those Who Believe Differently

The Quran emphatically orders Muhammadans to fight, murder and/or subdue peoples of other faiths, especially Jews and Christians, unless and until they pay a sum of money (jizyah) as a sign of their degradation and humiliation:

Fight against those who (1) believe not in Allah, (2) nor in the Last Day, (3) nor forbid that which has been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger (4) and those who acknowledge not the religion of truth (i.e. Islam) among the people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians), until they pay the Jizyah with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued. And the Jews say: ‘Uzair (Ezra) is the son of Allah, and the Christians say: Messiah is the son of Allah. That is a saying from their mouths. They imitate the saying of the disbelievers of old. Allah’s Curse be on them, how they are deluded away from the truth! They (Jews and Christians) took their rabbis and their monks to be their lords besides Allah (by obeying them in things which they made lawful or unlawful according to their own desires without being ordered by Allah), and (they also took as their Lord) Messiah, son of Maryam (Mary), while they (Jews and Christians) were commanded [in the Taurat (Torah) and the Injeel (Gospel)) to worship none but One Ilah (God – Allah) La ilaha illa Huwa (none has the right to be worshipped but He). Praise and glory be to Him, (far above is He) from having the partners they associate (with Him).” They (the disbelievers, the Jews and the Christians) want to extinguish Allah’s Light (with which Muhammad has been sent – Islamic Monotheism) with their mouths, but Allah will not allow except that His Light should be perfected even though the Kafirun (disbelievers) hate (it). It is He Who has sent His Messenger (Muhammad) with guidance and the religion of truth (Islam), to make it superior over all religions even though the Mushrikun (polytheists, pagans, idolaters, disbelievers in the Oneness of Allah) hate (it). S. 9:29-33 Hilali-Khan

Some Muslims try to get around this by claiming that these passages were “revealed” against those Jews and Christians that attacked and waged war against the Muslims.

The problem with such a desperate interpretation is that this is not what the verses say. The plain reading of the passage is that Muhammad’s followers were ordered to attack these people simply because they were not Muslims and followed a religion other than Islam.

This is not simply an “Islamophobic” reading of these references but has been the traditional view of Sunni Islamic scholarship for centuries.

For instance, the following extract comes from a renowned Muslim scholar and commentator who unashamedly admits that these verses are commanding Muhammadans to attack and subdue people of other faiths, particularly Jews and Christians, not because they have attacked or waged war against Muhammad’s followers, but because they believe a religion other than Islam:

This verse contains instructions to fight the disbelievers among the Jews and Christians, {those who do not believe in Allah and the Last Day} in the sense of sound belief that is confirmed by deeds and actions

{and do not regard as forbidden that which Allah and His Messenger have forbidden}, so they do not follow His law with regard to what was forbidden

{and do not follow the religion of truth} that is, they do not follow the true religion. Even if they do claim to follow a religion, then it is not the correct religion because either it is a false religion that Allah did not prescribe in the first place, or it is an abrogated religion that Allah did prescribe, but He superseded it with the religion of Muhammad, therefore adhering to it after it has been abrogated is not permissible.

Hence Allah instructed the Muslims to fight these people and encouraged them to do so, BECAUSE they call people to the religion that they follow and cause a great deal of harm to people, as people may be deceived by them, because of their being People of the Book.

Then Allah defines the aim of that fighting: {until they pay the jizyah} that is, wealth that is given in return for the Muslims not fighting them and allowing them to stay among the Muslims, granting them safety for their lives and their property. The jizyah is to be taken from them every year, each according to his situation, and is to be taken from rich and poor and everyone in between, as was done by Ameer al-Mu’mineen ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab and other caliphs.

{readily} that is, until they give it when they are subdued and have no power to resist, and they give it themselves, not sending it with a servant or anyone else; rather it can only be accepted from their own hands

{and feel themselves subdued}

If they are like this, and they ask the Muslims to let them give the jizyah and live under Muslim rule and control, and there is no fear of their evil or turmoil, and they agree to the conditions stipulated by the Muslims, then it is obligatory for the Muslim ruler or his deputy to give them this deal.

This verse is quoted as evidence by the majority of scholars who say that the jizyah can only be accepted from the People of the Book, because Allah did not mention taking the jizyah from anyone except them.

The Magians are included with the People of the Book with regard to taking the jizyah from them and allowing them to live in the Muslim lands, because the Prophet took the jizyah from the Magians of Hajar, then Ameer al-Mu’mineen ‘Umar took it from the Persian Magians.

It was also said that jizyah may be taken from all the disbelievers, People of the Book and others, because this verse was revealed after the Muslims had finished fighting with the polytheist Arabs and had begun to fight the People of the Book and their ilk, so this condition is describing the real situation and is not meant to impose a restriction on accepting jizyah from the People of the Book only.

This is supported by the fact that the jizyah was taken from the Magians, who were not People of the Book, and the fact that it is narrated in mutawatir reports from the Sahabah and those who came after them that they called those whom they were about to fight to choose one of three options: either to become Muslim or to give the jizyah or to fight, without differentiating between those who were People of the Book and others.

When Allah issued the command to fight the People of the Book, He mentioned some of their evil notions SO AS TO ENCOURAGE THE BELIEVERS who care about their Lord and His religion TO FIGHT THEM, striving and doing their utmost… Allah sent him with guidance and the true religion, {so that He may cause it to prevail over all other religions, even though the polytheists hate it} that is, so that He may make it prevail over all religions, by means of proof and evidence, AND BY MEANS OF FIGHTING, even though the polytheists hate it and try to defeat it and plot against it, for evil plots harm no one but their authors. Allah will inevitably fulfil His promise and do that which He has guaranteed to do. (Abdur-Rahman Nasir as-Sa’di, Tafseer As-Sa’di, translated by Nasiruddin al-Khattab, edited by Huda Khattab [International Islamic Publishing House, 2018], Volume 4 (Juz’ 10-12), pp. 75-77, 80; capital and underline emphasis mine)

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