Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

"Kill those who Associate Partners (Mushrikun) Wherever You Find Them!"

A Historical and Contextual Exegesis of Q. 9:5 and 29

Sam Shamoun


In this article we intend to supplement the following excellent discussion of Q. 9:5 by our dear brother Silas: The Verse of the Sword: Sura 9:5 and Jihad

Our purpose is to examine Q. 9:5 and 29 in light of the testimony of Muslim sources in order to see whether these texts refer to defensive jihad, e.g. fighting only those who attack and oppress Muslims. Or do these texts actually command Muslims to attack and/or subjugate the disbelievers in the context of offensive military warfare for the purpose of expanding Islam politically and geographically.

The Passage

Freedom from (all) obligations (is declared) from Allah and His Messenger to those of the Mushrikun (polytheists, pagans, idolaters, disbelievers in the Oneness of Allah), with whom you made a treaty. So travel freely (O Mushrikun - see V.2:105) for four months (as you will) throughout the land, but know that you cannot escape (from the Punishment of) Allah, and Allah will disgrace the disbelievers. And a declaration from Allah and His Messenger to mankind on the greatest day (the 10th of Dhul-Hijjah - the 12th month of Islamic calendar) that Allah is free from (all) obligations to the Mushrikun (see V.2:105) and so is His Messenger. So if you (Mushrikun) repent, it is better for you, but if you turn away, then know that you cannot escape (from the Punishment of) Allah. And give tidings (O Muhammad) of a painful torment to those who disbelieve. Except those of the Mushrikun with whom you have a treaty, and who have not subsequently failed you in aught, nor have supported anyone against you. So fulfill their treaty to them to the end of their term. Surely Allah loves Al-Mattaqun (the pious - see V.2:2). Then when the Sacred Months (the 1st, 7th, 11th, and 12th months of the Islamic calendar) have passed, then kill the Mushrikun (see V.2:105) wherever you find them, and capture them and besiege them, and prepare for them each and every ambush. But if they repent and perform As-Salat (Iqamat-as-Salat), and give Zakat, then leave their way free. Verily, Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. And if anyone of the Mushrikun (polytheists, idolaters, pagans, disbelievers in the Oneness of Allah) seeks your protection then grant him protection, so that he may hear the Word of Allah (the Qur'an), and then escort him to where he can be secure, that is because they are men who know not. How can there be a covenant with Allah and with His Messenger for the Mushrikun (polytheists, idolaters, pagans, disbelievers in the Oneness of Allah) except those with whom you made a covenant near Al-Masjid-al-Haram (at Makkah)? So long, as they are true to you, stand you true to them. Verily, Allah loves Al-Muttaqun (the pious - see V.2:2). How (can there be such a covenant with them) that when you are overpowered by them, they regard not the ties, either of kinship or of covenant with you? With (good words from) their mouths they please you, but their hearts are averse to you, and most of them are Fasiqun (rebellious, disobedient to Allah). They have purchased with the Ayat (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc.) of Allah a little gain, and they hindered men from His Way; evil indeed is that which they used to do. With regard to a believer, they respect not the ties, either of kinship or of covenant! It is they who are the transgressors. But if they repent, perform As-Salat (Iqamat-as-Salat) and give Zakat, then they are your brethren in religion. (In this way) We explain the Ayat (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc.) in detail for a people who know. But if they violate their oaths after their covenant, and attack your religion with disapproval and criticism then fight (you) the leaders of disbelief (chiefs of Quraish - pagans of Makkah) - for surely their oaths are nothing to them - so that they may stop (evil actions). Will you not fight a people who have violated their oaths (pagans of Makkah) and intended to expel the Messenger, while they did attack you first? Do you fear them? Allah has more right that you should fear Him, if you are believers. Fight against them so that Allah will punish them by your hands and disgrace them and give you victory over them and heal the breasts of a believing people, And remove the anger of their (believers') hearts. Allah accepts the repentance of whom He wills. Allah is All-Knowing, All-Wise. Do you think that you shall be left alone while Allah has not yet tested those among you who have striven hard and fought and have not taken Walijah [(Batanah - helpers, advisors and consultants from disbelievers, pagans, etc.) giving openly to them their secrets] besides Allah and His Messenger, and the believers. Allah is Well-Acquainted with what you do. It is not for the Mushrikun (polytheists, idolaters, pagans, disbelievers in the Oneness of Allah), to maintain the Mosques of Allah (i.e. to pray and worship Allah therein, to look after their cleanliness and their building, etc.), while they witness against their ownselves of disbelief. The works of such are in vain and in Fire shall they abide. The Mosques of Allah shall be maintained only by those who believe in Allah and the Last Day; perform As-Salat (Iqamat-as-Salat), and give Zakat and fear none but Allah. It is they who are expected to be on true guidance. Do you consider the providing of drinking water to the pilgrims and the maintenance of Al-Masjid-al-Haram (at Makkah) as equal to the worth of those who believe in Allah and the Last Day, and strive hard and fight in the Cause of Allah? They are not equal before Allah. And Allah guides not those people who are the Zalimun (polytheists and wrong-doers)… O you who believe! Take not for Auliya' (supporters and helpers) your fathers and your brothers if they prefer disbelief to Belief. And whoever of you does so, then he is one of the Zalimun (wrong-doers, etc.)… O you who believe (in Allah's Oneness and in His Messenger (Muhammad)! Verily, the Mushrikun (polytheists, pagans, idolaters, disbelievers in the Oneness of Allah, and in the Message of Muhammad) are Najasun (impure). So let them not come near Al-Masjid-al-Haram (at Makkah) after this year, and if you fear poverty, Allah will enrich you if He will, out of His Bounty. Surely, Allah is All-Knowing, All-Wise. S. 9:1-19, 23, 28 Hilali-Khan

The Historical and Contextual Exegesis

Here, Allah allegedly gives Muhammad the right to break any of his pacts and covenants that he had made with the polytheists with the intention of forcing them to convert to Islam:

This is the Ayah of the Sword...

<But if they repent and perform the Salah, and give Zakah, then leave their way free. Verily, Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.>

Abu Bakr As-Siddiq used this and other honorable Ayat as proof for fighting those who refrained from paying the Zakah. These Ayat allowed fighting people unless, and until, they embrace Islam and implement its rulings and obligations... In the two Sahihs, it is recorded that Ibn ‘Umar said that the Messenger of Allah said,

<I have been commanded to fight the people until they testify there is no deity worthy of worship except Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, establish the prayer and pay Zakah.>

This honorable Ayah (9:5) was called the Ayah of the Sword, about which Ad-Dahhak bin Muzahim said, "It abrogated every agreement of peace between the Prophet and any idolator, EVERY TREATY, AND EVERY TERM." Al-‘Awfi said that Ibn ‘Abbas commented: "No idolator had any more treaty or promise ever since Sura Bara’ah was revealed. The four months, in addition to, all peace treaties conducted before Bara’ah was revealed and announced had ended by the tenth of the month of Rabi’ Al-Akhir." (Tafsir Ibn Kathir (Abridged), Surat Al-A’raf to the end of Surah Yunus, abridged by a group of scholars under the supervision of Shaykh Safiur-Rahman Al-Mubarakpuri [Darussalam Publishers & Distributors, Riyadh, Houston, New York, Lahore; First Edition: May 2000] Volume 4, pp. 375, 377; source; capital and underline emphasis ours)

Another famous Muslim commentator, as-Suyuti, confirms Ibn Kathir’s interpretation:

This [Q. 9:5] is an Ayat of the Sword WHICH ABROGATES PARDON, TRUCE AND OVERLOOKING. (seize them) is used as evidence for the permission to take captives. (and besiege them) is permission for besieging and raiding and attacking by night. Ibn Abi Hatim reported that Abu 'Imran al-Jawfi said that ribat in the way of Allah is found in the words, "lie in wait for them on every road." (if they make tawba and establish the prayer and pay the zakat, let them go on their way) Repentance from shirk is not enough to let them go their way until they establish the prayer and pay the zakat. Ash-Shafi'i took this as a proof FOR KILLING ANYONE WHO ABANDONS THE PRAYER and fighting ANYONE WHO REFUSES TO PAY ZAKAT. Some use it as a proof that they are kafirun… (Aisha Bewley, Tafsir – Surat at-Tawba: Repentance; source; capital and underline emphasis ours)

What many people do not realize is that these verses warning the polytheists of impending massacre were composed sometime after the pagans of Mecca had surrendered to Muhammad, having been given Muhammad’s word that they would not be harmed and that they were now free. The Meccans were then called at-Tulaqaa ("the set-free", "the free ones") as a result of this. As one Muslim taqiyyist and propagandist puts it:

At-Tulaqaa (the Set-Free): Prophet Muhammad, the Prophet of Mercy, practiced Islam’s excellent methods with the Tulaqaa; he pardoned them and set them free.

After Muhammad was sent as Allah’s Final and Last Prophet and Messenger, he remained in Makkah for thirteen years calling its people to Islam. During these years, he and most of his companions were severely oppressed [sic] and endured brutal persecution [sic], torture [sic] and outright murder [sic]. The Makkans plotted to kill the Prophet, their own cousin, but Allah warned him of the plot and ordered him to emigrate to Madinah during the night.

After the Prophet emigrated to Madinah, the Makkan Quraish pagans continued their warfare against Muslims for eight more years [sic] and incited other Arab tribes to fight Muslims wherever and whenever they found them [sic]. Ten thousand pagans, supported by a Madinah Jewish tribe that broke its peace agreement with the Prophet [sic], attacked Madinah during the Battle of the Trench, in an attempt to extinguish the light of Islam and exterminate Muslims [sic]. Many of the Prophet’s companions died during these battles.

Eight years after he was forced to emigrate from Makkah, the Prophet of Allah returned triumphantly, leading one of the largest armies Arabia has ever seen until then. Makkah’s pagans anxiously awaited their fate. They had oppressed Islam and Muslims for twenty-one years [sic]. They tried to kill Muhammad because he called them to worship Allah alone without partners [sic], return to the religion of their father, Abraham [sic], and abandon worshipping idols.

Having gained the upper hand and achieved ultimate victory and triumph, he set people of Makkah free, hence their description, ‘At-Tulaqaa’, meaning, ‘The Set Free’. Allah described His Prophet as being a mercy, because Muhammad was indeed the Prophet of Mercy… (Muhammad: The Prophet of Mercy – 50 New & Humane Concepts Brought by Muhammad, edited by Alaa Mencke [Madinah Publishers and Distributors, June 2007; ordering info], pp. 135-136)

Yet it didn’t take long before Muhammad changed his mind and abrogated his earlier position, since he obviously couldn’t stand the idea of another religion existing in the Arabian Peninsula:

Narrated Ibn 'Umar:
Umar expelled the Jews and the Christians from Hijaz. When Allah's Apostle had conquered Khaibar, he wanted to expel the Jews from it as its land became the property of Allah, His Apostle, and the Muslims. Allah's Apostle intended to expel the Jews but they requested him to let them stay there on the condition that they would do the labor and get half of the fruits. Allah’s Apostle told them, "We will let you stay on thus condition, as long as we wish." So, they (i.e. Jews) kept on living there until 'Umar forced them to go towards Taima' and Ariha'. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 3, Book 39, Number 531)

It has been narrated by 'Umar b. al-Khattab that he heard the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) say: I will expel the Jews and Christians from the Arabian Peninsula and will not leave any but Muslim. (Sahih Muslim, Book 019, Number 4366)

He therefore decided to abolish all his treaties with them, as well as with other pagan tribes who had come under his control, and force them to convert to Islam under the threat of murder and violence:

Discourses and Periods of Revelation

This Surah comprises three discourses:-

The first discourse (vv. 1-37), was revealed in Zil-Qa'adah A. H. 9 or thereabout. As the importance of the subject of the discourse required its declaration on the occasion of Haj the Holy Prophet dispatched Hadrat Ali to follow Hadrat Abu Bakr, who had already left for Makkah as leader of the Pilgrims to the Ka'abah. He instructed Hadrat Ali to deliver the discourse before the representatives of the different clans of Arabia so as to inform them of the new policy towards the mushriks

Historical Background

Now let us consider the historical background of the Surah. The series of events that have been discussed in this Surah took place after the Peace Treaty of Hudaibiyah. By that time, one-third of Arabia had come under the sway of Islam which had established itself as a powerful, well organized and civilized Islamic State. This Treaty afforded further opportunities to Islam to spread its influence in the comparatively peaceful atmosphere created by it. After this Treaty, two events took place, which led to very important results:

Conquest of Arabia

The first was the Conquest of Arabia. The Holy Prophet was able to send missions among different clans for the propagation of Islam. The result was that during the short period of two years, it became such a great power that it made the old order of ignorance' feel helpless before it. So much so that the zealous elements from among the Quraish were so exasperated that they broke the Treaty in order to encounter Islam in a decisive combat. But the Holy Prophet took prompt action after the breach so as not to allow them any opportunity to gather enough force for this. He made a sudden invasion on Makkah in the month of Ramadan in A. H. 8 and conquered it. Though this conquest broke the backbone of the order of ignorance, it made still another attack on Islam in the battle-field of Hunain, which proved to be its death-knell. The clans of Hawazin Thaqif, Naur, Jushm and others gathered their entire forces in the battle field in order to crush the reformative Revolution, but they utterly failed in their evil designs. The defeat of 'ignorance' at Hunain paved the way for making the whole of Arabia the 'Abode of Islam' (Dar-ul-Islam). The result was that hardly a year had passed after the Battle of Hunain, when the major portion of Arabia came within the fold of Islam and only a few upholders of the old order remained scattered over some corners of the country

Problems of the Period

If we keep in view the preceding background, we can easily find out the problems that were confronting the Community at that time. They were:

1. to make the whole of Arabia a perfect Dar-ul-Islam,

2. to extend the influence of Islam to the adjoining countries,

3. to crush the mischiefs of the hypocrites, and

4. to prepare the Muslims for Jihad AGAINST THE NON- MUSLIM WORLD.

1. Now that the administration of the whole of Arabia had come in the hands of the Believers, and all the opposing powers had become helpless, it was necessary to make a clear declaration of that policy which was to be adopted to make her a perfect Dar-ul-Islam. Therefore the following measures were adopted:

1. A clear declaration was made that all the treaties with the mushriks were abolished and the Muslims would be released from the treaty obligations with them after a respite of four months.(vv. 1-3). This declaration was necessary for uprooting completely the system of life based on shirk and to make Arabia exclusively the center of Islam so that it should not in any way interfere with the spirit of Islam nor become an internal danger for it.

2. A decree was issued that the guardianship of the Ka`abah, which held central position in all the affairs of Arabia, should be wrested from the mushriks and placed permanently in the hands of the Believers, (vv. 12-18) that all the customs and practices of the shirk of the era of 'ignorance' should be FORCIBLY abolished: that the mushriks should not be allowed even to come near the "House" (v. 28). This was to eradicate every trace of shirk from the "House" that was dedicated exclusively to the worship of Allah.

3. The evil practice of Nasi, by which they used to tamper with the sacred months in the days of 'ignorance', was forbidden as an act of kufr (v. 37). This was also to serve as an example to the Muslims for eradicating every vestige of the customs of ignorance from the life of Arabia (and afterwards from the lives of the Muslims everywhere). (Syed Abu-Ala' Maududi's Chapter Introductions to the Qur'an; source; capital and underline emphasis ours)


… The first part of this honorable Surah was revealed to the Messenger of Allah when he returned from the battle of Tabuk, during the Hajj season, which the Prophet thought about attending. But he remembered that the idolators would still attend that Hajj, as was usual in past years, and that they perform Tawaf around the House while naked. He disliked to associate with them and sent Abu Bakr As-Siddiq, may Allah be pleased with him, to lead Hajj that year and show the people their rituals, commanding him to inform the idolators that they would not be allowed to participate in Hajj after that season. He commanded him to proclaim..,

<Freedom from (all) obligations (is declared) from Allah and His Messenger…>, to the people. When Abu Bakr had left, the Messenger sent `Ali bin Abu Talib to be the one to deliver this news to the idolators on behalf of the Messenger, for he was the Messenger's cousin. We will mention this story later. (Tafsir Ibn Kathir, Q. 9:1-2; source; underline emphasis ours)

This clearly proves that the pagans posed no serious threat to Muhammad since he had already subjected them to his rule. Yet it wasn’t enough for Muhammad that the disbelievers were under his control, he had to force them to become Muslims. Otherwise he would have them brutally murdered if they refused.

Muhammad – The Antagonizer of the Community

Now Muslims may contend that the unbelievers were the ones who initiated the hostility towards the Muslims by persecuting and forcing them out of Mecca. Muhammad was therefore justified in attacking those who had been hostile towards him. There are two main problems with such an assertion. First, when this particular Sura was composed the pagans, including the Meccans, had surrendered to Muhammad’s rule and were given amnesty.

Why, then, does Muhammad come back a year later and threaten to kill them if they don’t embrace Islam when he had specifically told them that they were free and under no threat of harm?

Second, this argument goes against the express statements of the Islamic source material since there we find that it was Muhammad, not the pagans, who antagonized his opponents. They even pleaded with him to stop, but to no avail:

Ibn Humayd – Salamah – Ibn Ishaq: The Messenger of God proclaimed God’s message openly and declared Islam publicly to his tribesmen. When he did so, they did not withdraw from him or reject him in anyway, as far as I had heard, UNTIL he spoke of their gods and denounced them. When he did this, they took exception to it and united in opposition and hostility to him, except for those of them whom God had protected from error by means of Islam. The latter were few in number and practiced their faith in secret. His uncle Abu Talib was friendly to him, however, and protected him and shielded him from them. The Messenger of God continued to do God’s work and to proclaim his message, undeterred by anything. When Quraysh saw that he would not give them any satisfaction, they objected to his departing from their ways and denouncing their gods, and seeing that Abu Talib protected him, shielded him from harm, and would not hand him over to them, a number of the nobles of Quraysh, consisting of such men as ‘Utbah b. Rabi‘ah, Shaybah b. Rabi‘ah, Abu al-Bakhtari b. Hisham, al-Aswad b. al-Muttalib, al-Walid b. al-Mughirah, Abu Jahl b. Hisham, al-‘As b. Wa’il and Nubayh and Munabbih, the sons of al-Hajjaj, went to Abu Talib and said, "Abu Talib, your nephew has reviled our gods, denounced our religion, derided our traditional values and told us that our forefathers were misguided. Either curb his attacks on us or give us a free hand to deal with him, for you are just as opposed to him as we are, and we will deal with him for you." Abu Talib gave them a mild answer and declined courteously, and they left him. The Messenger of God continued as before, proclaiming the faith of God and summoning people to it.

After this, Muhammad was estranged from the Quraysh, and they withdrew from him and harbored a secret hatred for him. They talked about him frequently amongst themselves and urged one another against him. Eventually they went to Abu Talib once again. "Abu Talib," they said, "we hold you in respect among us on account of your age, your nobility and your standing. We asked you to forbid your nephew TO ATTACK US, but you did not do so. By God, we can no longer endure this vilification of our forefathers, this derision of our traditional values and this abuse of our gods. Either you restrain him or we shall fight both of you over this until one side or the other is destroyed," or words to that effect. Then they left. This breach and enmity with his tribe weighed heavily on Abu Talib, but he could not reconcile himself to surrendering the Messenger of God to them or deserting him.

Muhammad b. al-Husayn- Ahmad b. al-Mufaddal- Asbat- al-Suddi: A number of men of the Quraysh gathered together with a number of other shaykhs of the Quraysh, and said to one another, "Let us go to Abu Talib and speak to him about Muhammad, so that he will give us justice against him and order him to desist from reviling our gods and we will leave him to the god whom he worships for we fear that this old man may die and we may do something which the Arabs will reproach us for and say, ‘They let him alone until his uncle died, and then they laid hands on him.’"

They sent one of their number, whose name was al-Muttalib, to Abu Talib to ask permission for them to enter. He said, "Here are the shaykhs and nobles of your tribe asking permission to visit you." He told him to ask them to come in, and when they had done so they said, "Abu Talib, you are our elder and our chief, so give us justice against your nephew and order him to desist from reviling our gods, and we will leave him to his god."

Abu Talib sent for the Messenger of God, and when he came in he said, "Nephew, here are the shaykhs and nobles of your tribe. They have asked for justice against you, that you should desist from reviling their gods and they will leave you to your god." "Uncle," he said, "shall I not summon them to something which is better for them than their gods?" "What do you summon them to?" he asked. He replied, "I summon them to utter a saying through which the Arabs will submit to them and they will rule over the non-Arabs." Abu Jahl said from among the gathering, "What is it, by your father? We would give you it and ten like it." He answered, "That you should say, ‘There is no deity but God.’" They took fright at that and said, "Ask for anything rather than that!" But he said, "If you were to bring me the sun and put it into my hand, I would not ask you for anything other than this."

They rose up to leave in anger and said, "By God, we shall revile you and your god who commands you to do this!" "The chiefs among them hurried about, exhorting; Go and be staunch to your gods! This is a thing designed…" to the words "naught but an invention." (The History of al-Tabari: Muhammad at Mecca, translated and annotated by W. Montgomery Watt and M. V. McDonald [State University of New York Press, Albany 1988], Volume VI, pp. 93-95; bold, capital and underline emphasis ours)


The Prohibition of Insulting the False gods of the Disbelievers, So that they Do not Insult Allah

Allah prohibits His Messenger and the believers from insulting the false deities of the idolators, although there is a clear benefit in doing so. Insulting their deities will lead to a bigger evil than its benefit, for the idolators might retaliate by insulting the God of the believers, Allah, none has the right to be worshipped but He. `Ali bin Abi Talhah said that Ibn `Abbas commented on this Ayah [6:108]; "They (disbelievers) said, `O Muhammad! You will stop insulting our gods, or we will insult your Lord.' Thereafter, Allah prohibited the believers from insulting the disbelievers' idols…

<lest they insult Allah wrongfully without knowledge.>" `Abdur-Razzaq narrated that Ma`mar said that Qatadah said, "Muslims used to insult the idols of the disbelievers and the disbelievers would retaliate by insulting Allah wrongfully without knowledge …" (Tafsir Ibn Kathir, Q. 6:108; source; underline emphasis ours)

Moreover, when Muhammad migrated to Medina the Meccans pretty much left him alone… that is until Muhammad decided to ransack their caravans and rob them of their resources:

According to ‘Ali b. Nasr b. ‘Ali and ‘Abd al-Warith b. ‘Abd al-Samad b. ‘Abd al-Warith- ‘Abd al-Samad b. ‘Abd al-Warith- his father- Aban al-‘Attar- Hisham b. ‘Urwah: ‘Urwah wrote to ‘Abd al-Malik b. Marwan as follows:

You have written to me asking about Abu Sufyan and the circumstances of his expedition. Abu Sufyan b. Harb came from Syria at the head of nearly seventy horsemen from all the clans of Quraysh. They had been trading in Syria and they all came together with their money and their merchandise. The Messenger of God and his companions were informed about them. This was after fighting had broken out between them and people had been killed, including Ibn al-Hadrami at Nakhlah, and some of Quraysh had been taken captive, including one of the sons of al-Mughirah and their mawla, Ibn Kaysan. Those responsible [for the fighting] were ‘Abd Allah b. Jash and Waqid, the confederate of the Banu ‘Adi b. Ka‘b, together with other companions of the Messenger of God whom he had sent out with ‘Abd Allah b. Jash. This incident had provoked (a state of) war between the Messenger of God and Quraysh and was the beginning of the fighting in which they inflicted casualties upon one another; it took place before Abu Sufyan and his companions had set out for Syria.

Subsequently Abu Sufyan and the horsemen of Quraysh who were with him returned from Syria, following the coastal road. When the Messenger of God heard about them he called together his companions and told them of the wealth they had with them and the fewness of their numbers. The Muslims set out with no other object than Abu Sufyan and the horsemen with him. They did not think that these were anything but (easy) booty and did not suppose that there would be a great battle when they met them. It is concerning this that God revealed, "And ye longed that other than the armed one might be yours."

When Abu Sufyan heard that the companions of the messenger of God were on their way to intercept him, he sent to Quraysh (saying), "Muhammad and his companions are going to intercept your caravan, so protect your merchandise …" (The History of Al-Tabari: The Foundation of the Community, translated by M. V. McDonald, annotated by W. Montgomery Watt [State University of New York Press, Albany 1987], Volume VII, pp. 28-29; bold emphasis and comments within brackets ours)

Interestingly, the Meccans had a suspicion that Muhammad’s purpose in relocating to Medina was to regroup in order to come back to fight and subjugate them, and they were right:

After his companions had left, the apostle stayed in Mecca waiting for permission to migrate. Except for Abu Bakr and ‘Ali, none of his supporters were left but those under restraint and those who had been forced to apostatize. The former kept asking the apostle for permission to emigrate and he would answer, ‘Don’t be in a hurry; it may be that God will give you a companion.’ Abu Bakr hoped that it would be Muhammad himself.

When the Quraysh saw that the apostle had a party and companions not of their tribe and outside their territory, and that his companions had migrated to join them, and knew that they had settled in a new home and had gained protectors, they feared that the apostle might join them, SINCE THEY KNEW THAT HE HAD DECIDED TO FIGHT THEM. So they assembled in their council chamber, the house of Qusayy b. Kilab where all their important business was conducted, to take counsel what they should do in regard to the apostle, FOR THEY WERE NOW IN FEAR OF HIM. (The Life of Muhammad: A Translation of Ibn Ishaq’s Sirat Rasul Allah, with introduction and notes by Alfred Guillaume [Oxford University Press, Karachi, Tenth impression 1995],, p. 221; capital emphasis ours)

For more on this topic we recommend the article, Muhammad and the Meccans: Who Antagonized Whom?

Not only did Muhammad antagonize the pagans he also harassed and threatened the Jews and Christians, especially when he saw that he couldn’t convince them to convert to his religion. Muslim sources admit that in the beginning Muhammad first tried to win the Jews and Christians by following some of their practices. After realizing that they wouldn’t believe in him he turned against them and threatened them.

For instance, the following historian and exegete candidly admits that Muhammad changed the prayer direction from Jerusalem to Mecca due to the Jews making fun of him.

According to Yunus b. ‘Abd al-A‘la – Ibn Wahb – Ibn Zayd: The Prophet turned towards Jerusalem for sixteen months, and then it reached his ears that the Jews were saying, "By God, Muhammad and his companions did not know where their Qiblah was until we directed them." This displeased the Prophet and he raised his face toward Heaven, and God said, "We have seen the turning of your face to Heaven." (The History of Al-Tabari: The Foundation of the Community, translated by M. V. McDonald, annotated by W. Montgomery Watt [State University of New York Press (SUNY), Albany 1987], Volume VII, p. 25; bold emphasis ours)

Another source states that Muhammad told the Jews to convert otherwise he would have them expelled from their land:

VI: Expelling the Jews from the Arabian peninsula

'Umar said that the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "We will let you remain in that as long as Allah lets you remain there."

2996. It is related that Abu Hurayra said, "While we were in the mosque, the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, came out and said, ‘Go to the Jews.’ We went out until we came to the house of al-Midras. He said, ‘Become Muslim AND YOU WILL BE SAFE. Know that the earth belongs to Allah and His Messenger. I want to expel you from this land. Whoever of you has some property should sell it. However, the earth belongs to Allah and His Messenger.’" (Aisha Bewley, The Sahih Collection of al-Bukhari, Chapter 63. Chapters on the Jizya and Truces; source; bold, capital and underline emphasis ours)

Moreover, Muhammad even had the audacity to send threatening letters to certain Christian tribes and rulers such as the Byzantine Emperor:

Narrated 'Abdullah bin 'Abbas:
Heraclius then asked for the letter addressed by Allah's Apostle which was delivered by Dihya to the Governor of Busra, who forwarded it to Heraclius to read. The contents of the letter were as follows: "In the name of Allah the Beneficent, the Merciful (This letter is) from Muhammad the slave of Allah and His Apostle to Heraclius the ruler of Byzantine. Peace be upon him, who follows the right path. Furthermore I invite you to Islam, and if you become a Muslim YOU WILL BE SAFE, and Allah will double your reward, and if you reject this invitation of Islam you will be committing a sin by misguiding your Arisiyin (peasants). (And I recite to you Allah's Statement:)

'O people of the scripture! Come to a word common to you and us that we worship none but Allah and that we associate nothing in worship with Him, and that none of us shall take others as Lords beside Allah. Then, if they turn away, say: Bear witness that we are Muslims (those who have surrendered to Allah).' (3:64)

Abu Sufyan then added, "When Heraclius had finished his speech and had read the letter, there was a great hue and cry in the Royal Court. So we were turned out of the court. I told my companions that the question of Ibn-Abi-Kabsha) (the Prophet Muhammad) has become so prominent that even the King of Bani Al-Asfar (Byzantine) is afraid of him. Then I started to become sure that he (the Prophet) would be the conqueror in the near future till I embraced Islam (i.e. Allah guided me to it)." (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 1, Book 1, Number 6)

Al-Tabari provides additional details (much of which is simply mythical and clearly embellished):

According to Ibn Humayd – Salamah – Muhammad b. Ishaq – Khalid b. Yasar – a very old Syrian, who said: When Heraclius was about to leave the land of Syria for Constantinople because of the report he received about the Messenger of God, he assembled the Romans and said: "People of the Romans, I shall present certain matters to you. Consider what I have decided." "What are they?" they asked. He said: "You know, by God, that this man is a prophet who has been sent [sic]. We find him in our book [sic]. We know him by the description whereby he has been described to us. Let us follow him, that our life in this world and the next may be secure." They said, "Shall we be under the hands of the Arabs, when we are mankind’s greatest kingdom, most numerous nation, and best land?" He said, "Then let me give him TRIBUTE453 each year, SO THAT I CAN AVERT HIS VEHEMENCE FROM ME AND FIND REST FROM HIS WARFARE BY MEANS OF MONEY THAT I GIVE HIM." They said, "Shall we concede to the Arabs [our own] HUMILIATION AND ABASEMENT BY A TAX THAT THEY TAKE FROM US when we are mankind’s most numerous nation, greatest kingdom, and most impregnable land? By God, we will never do it!" He said, "Then let me make peace with him on condition that I give him the land of Syria and that he leave me with the land of al-Sha’m." … They said to him: "Shall we give him the land of Syria, when you know that it is the navel of al-Sha’m? By God, we will never do it!" They having refused, he said, "By God, you shall see that, if you hold back from him, you will be defeated in your own city." …

453. Arabic jizyah, later the technical term for the poll tax paid by members of protected minorities, here is used in the general sense of tribute… (The History of al-Tabari: The Victory of Islam, translated by Michael Fishbein [State University of New York Press (SUNY), Albany 1997], Volume VIII, pp. 106-107; bold, capital and underline emphasis ours)

Pay careful attention to what the above source is saying. Heraclius’ statement to paying tribute or Jizyah in order to avoid any warfare with Muhammad presupposes that Muhammad threatened him and his empire with violence and bloodshed if the Byzantine emperor refused to submit to Islam. Further notice that the people realized that paying such tribute was a sign of their humiliation and abasement, providing clear evidence that it was Muhammad who antagonized and harassed his enemies not the other way around.

Another Christian group that Muhammad threatened and harassed was the Ghassan tribe, one that had ties with the Byzantine Empire:

In this year the Messenger of God sent out messengers. He sent out six persons in the month of Dhu al-Hijjah, three of them setting out together: Hatib b. Abi Balta‘ah of Lakhm, a confederate of the Banu Asad b. ‘Abd al-Uzza, to al-Muqawqis; Shuja‘ b. Wahb of the Banu Asad b. Khuzaymah, a confederate of Harb b. Umayyah and veteran of Badr, to al-Harith b. Abi Shimr al-Ghassani; and Dihyah b. Khalifah al-Kalbi to Caesar…

According to Ibn Ishaq: The Messenger of God sent Shuja‘ b. Wahb, a member of the Banu Asad b. Khuzaymah, to al-Mundhir b. al-Harith b. Abi Shimr al-Ghassani, the ruler of Damascus.

According to Muhammad b. ‘Umar al-Waqidi: He wrote to him via Shuja‘:

Peace be with whoever follows the right guidance and believes in it. I call you to believe in God alone, Who has no partner, AND YOUR KINGDOM SHALL REMAIN YOURS.

Shuja‘ b. Wahb brought the letter to him, and he read it to them. Al-Mundhir said: "Who can wrest my kingdom from me? It is I who will go against him!" The Prophet said, "His kingdom has perished." (Ibid., pp. 98, 107-108; bold, capital and underline emphasis ours)


423 … The mission was to the ruler of the Banu Ghassan, an Arab tribal kingdom with its capital at Busra (Bostra) in Syria. The Ghassanids were Monophysite Christians and ruled as a client state of the Byzantine Empire… (Ibid., p. 98)

In light of this, does anyone really blame the Jews and Christians for wanting to rid themselves of such a tyrant? Moreover, however we may view this today, would anyone be surprised that the Ghassanite ruler killed Muhammad’s messenger for bringing such a letter (assuming, of course, that these Islamic tales are recounting actual historical events)?

Another example of Muhammad’s interest in the north is the expedition that set out for Syria and was defeated by Byzantine troops and their Arab allies at Mu’tah in Jordan during the month of Jumada I, A.H. 8 (August-September 629). Al-Tabari’s account, which relies almost entirely on Ibn Ishaq, says nothing about the causes of the expedition. Al-Waqidi (W, II, 755) indicates that the immediate occasion was the killing by Shurahbil b. ‘Amr al-Ghassani (the Banu Ghassan were allies of the Byzantines) of a messenger whom Muhammad had sent to the ruler of Busra in Syria. Thus, although the motive for this mission remains a mystery, the immediate motive for the expedition was retaliation… (Ibid., p. xviii)

What would Muslims do to a person who would dare bring such a letter that threatened their lives and lands?

For a detailed analysis of the gross errors with this Islamic version of the history of Heraclius’ meeting with Muhammad’s messenger Dihyah b. al-Kalbi and Abu Sufyan we recommend the following articles (1, 2).

Muhammad – The Treaty-Breaker

A Muslim may further argue that the Meccans deserved what they got because they were the ones who actually broke their treaty with Muhammad, specifically the one they made at al-Hudaybiyyah, an assertion which is also contrary to the facts. According to the Islamic sources themselves, one of the stipulations, which Muhammad accepted, demanded that in the case that any Meccan defected to the Muslim camp, be they male or female, he would be forced to return them to the pagans:

"… So the Messenger of God said, ‘Write: This is that whereon Muhammad b. ‘Abdallah has made peace with Suhayl b. ‘Amr. The two have agreed on these terms: that warfare shall be laid aside by the people for ten years, during which the people shall be safe and refrain from [attacking] each other; that, WHOEVER shall come to the Messenger of God from Quraysh WITHOUT THE PERMISSION of his guardian, [Muhammad] shall return him to them; that WHOEVER shall come to Quraysh from those who are with the Messenger of God, they shall not return him to [Muhammad] …’" (The History of Al-Tabari: The Victory of Islam, translated by Michael Fishbein [State University of New York Press (SUNY), Albany, 1997], Volume VIII, p. 86; capital emphasis ours)

A more recent Muslim scholar, the late Muhammad Asad, in his notes to Q. 60:10, concurs that women were included within the agreement between Muhammad and the pagans. Asad admitted that the stipulations which Muhammad accepted included the return of any women who left to follow the Muslims:

11 Under the terms of the Truce of Hudaybiyyah, concluded in the year 6 H. between the Prophet and the pagan Quraysh of Mecca, any Meccan minor or other person under guardianship who went over to the Muslims without the permission of his or HER guardian was to be returned to the Quraysh (see introductory note to surah 48). The Quraysh took this stipulation to include ALSO MARRIED WOMEN, whom they considered to be under the "guardianship" of their husbands. Accordingly, when several Meccan women embraced Islam against the will of their husbands and fled to Medina, the Quraysh demanded their forcible return to Mecca. This the Prophet refused on the grounds that married women did not fall within the category of "persons under guardianship". However, since there was always the possibility that some of these women had gone over to the Muslims not for reasons of faith but out of purely worldly considerations, the believers were enjoined to make sure of their sincerity; and so, the Prophet asked each of them: "Swear before God that thou didst not leave because of hatred of thy husband, or out of desire to go to another country, or in the hope of attaining to worldly advantages: swear before God that thou didst not leave for any reason save the love of God and His Apostle" (Tabari). Since God alone knows what is in the heart of a human being, a positive response of the woman concerned was to be regarded as the only humanly attainable - and, therefore, legally sufficient - proof of her sincerity. The fact that God alone is really aware of what is in a human being's heart is incorporated in the shar’i principle that any adult person's declaration of faith, in the absence of any evidence to the contrary, makes it mandatory upon the community to accept that person – whether man or woman – as a Muslim on the basis of this declaration alone. (Source; bold and capital emphasis ours)

And another recent Quranic translator and commentator who admitted that the treaty included women is the late Abdullah Yusuf Ali. He writes:

Under the treaty of Hudaibiya [see Introduction to S. lxviii, paragraph 4, condition (3)], women under guardianship (INCLUDING MARRIED WOMEN), who fled from the Quraish in Makkah to the Prophet’s protection at Madinah WERE TO BE SENT BACK. But before this Ayat was issued, the Quraysh had already broken the treaty, and some instruction was necessary as to what the Madinah Muslims should do in those circumstances… (Ali, The Holy Qur’an: Translation and Commentary, p. 1534, fn. 5422 on Q. 60:10; bold and capital emphasis ours)

He further says:

4. A peaceful Treaty was therefore concluded, known as the Treaty of Hudaibiya. It stipulated: (1) that there was to be peace between the parties for ten years; (2) that any tribe or person was free to join either party or make an alliance with it; (3) that if a Quraish person from Mecca, under guardianship, should join the prophet without the guardian’s permission, he (OR SHE) should be sent back to the guardian, but in the contrary case, they should not be sent back; and (4) that the Prophet and his party were not to enter Mecca that year, but that they could enter unarmed the following year. (Ibid., introduction to Sura XLVIII (Fat-h), p. 1389; bold, capital and underline emphasis ours)

Moreover, a commentary attributed to Ibn Abbas states in reference to Q. 60:10:

… This was revealed about Subay'ah Bint al-Harth al-Aslamiyyah who came to the Prophet (pbuh) in the year of al-Hudaybiyyah, to declare her Islam but her husband Musafir came after her to take her back. The Prophet, Allah bless him and give peace, gave him back the dowry which her husband had given her. In that particular year, and before the revelation of this verse, the people of Mecca had signed a treaty with the Prophet (pbuh) which stipulated that WHOEVER from the people of Mecca embraces Islam can join the Muslims, and whoever of the Muslims embraces the religion of the Meccan pagans is returned to the Muslims; and any woman from the people of Mecca who embraces Islam, the Muslims should pay back the dowry given to her to her husband, and any Muslim woman who joins the religion of the Meccan pagans, the people of Mecca should pay back her dowry to her husband. This is why the Prophet (pbuh) paid back to Musafir the dowry which he had given to Subay'ah… (Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs; source; bold and capital emphasis ours)

Another authoritative Islamic reference work says pretty much the same thing:

O you who believe, when believing women come to you, [saying] with their tongues [that they are], emigrating, from the [company of] disbelievers - [this was] following the truce concluded with them [the disbelievers] at al-Hudaybiyya to the effect that if ANY of their number should go to [join] the believers, that person should be sent back - test them, by making them swear that they had only gone forth [from Mecca] because of their [sincere] wish to embrace Islam, and not out of some hatred for their disbelieving husbands, nor because they might be enamoured by some Muslim man: that was how the Prophet (s) used to take from them their oaths… (Tafsir al-Jalalayn; source; bold and capital emphasis ours)

The above citations emphatically prove that Muhammad’s contemporaries clearly understood that women were included within the treaty.

With the foregoing in view the question that every honest and sincere Muslim should ask, as well as answer, is why would Umm Kulthum’s brothers demand that Muhammad return their sister in accord with the treaty if women were not included? If s/he is honest the answer will have to be that these brothers knew that Muhammad had to return any of their women who defected since this was also part of their agreement. These Arabs realized that there was nothing stated in the Arabic which excluded women. They clearly understood from the language of the treaty that Muhammad had to return to the pagans any woman who departed to the Muslim camp.

Concluding Remarks

It is clear from our investigation that Q. 9:5 and 29 were not composed solely in respect to defensive jihad. These verses were produced to both justify and encourage Muslims to engage in offensive military warfare in order to kill the pagan Arabs who refused to convert to Islam and to also subjugate Jews and Christians who agreed to pay the jizyah so as to retain their respective beliefs.

The Islamic sources themselves testify that when these verses were recited the Meccans had already surrendered to Muhammad and were completely under his control and authority. Thus, they posed no serious challenge to his prophetic and political ambitions. Yet this was not enough for Muhammad since he could not allow for other religions to coexist as long as he had the upperhand and the power to force them to convert. Notice, once again, what Q. 9:32-33 says:

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). Hilali-Khan

And here is another reference which repeats this point of Islam becoming dominant through military expedition, tyranny and oppression:

He it is Who has sent His Messenger (Muhammad) with guidance and the religion of truth (Islam), that He may make it (Islam) superior over all religions. And All-Sufficient is Allah as a Witness. Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, and those who are with him are severe against disbelievers, and merciful among themselves. You see them bowing and falling down prostrate (in prayer), seeking Bounty from Allah and (His) Good Pleasure. The mark of them (i.e. of their Faith) is on their faces (foreheads) from the traces of (their) prostration (during prayers). This is their description in the Taurat (Torah). But their description in the Injeel (Gospel) is like a (sown) seed which sends forth its shoot, then makes it strong, it then becomes thick, and it stands straight on its stem, delighting the sowers that He may enrage the disbelievers with them. Allah has promised those among them who believe (i.e. all those who follow Islamic Monotheism, the religion of Prophet Muhammad till the Day of Resurrection) and do righteous good deeds, forgiveness and a mighty reward (i.e. Paradise). S. 48:28-29 Hilali-Khan

Moreover, these passages are part of the many texts which form the basis for offensive jihad, encouraging Muslims to fight and kill the disbelievers, and subjugate Jews and Christians, in order to bring the entire world under the control and rule of Islam, provided that they have the power and the military means to do so. Otherwise, they must bide their time and deceive people into thinking that Islam is a peaceful and tolerant religion by focusing on the texts of the Quran which encourage peace and forgiveness, the ones composed during the time that Muhammad was outnumbered and couldn’t do anything to kill and control his opponents. Yet as soon as the Muslims have the upperhand, as soon as they have the money and weaponry to mount an offensive strike, then we will see the true face of Islam, its prophet, and its god.

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