Q&A&A 1: Does Surah 9:29 promote violence?

Proceeding every Q&A&A you’ll find this brief explanation for the benefit of first time visitors to the blog, added due to the haze of misinformation that often accompanies Islam when seen through the lens of popular culture. I’ll be offering not merely question and answer in the fashion of Q&A, but also an honest rendering of the Muslim position on the subject, hence Q&A&A. Beginning hereafter you’ll find the question’s proposition, wherein I’ll outline what seemingly is the Islamic teaching, following that you’ll be treated to an answer by way of Islamic scholars and Muslim apologists, although for my choosing the most common rebuttals nobody will be forced to endure distortions of that which Muslims consider valid. My intention is whatever you read will equip you with confidence and knowledge enough so to engage dishonest teaching in whatever guise you may encounter it.

Question’s proposition: Doesn’t Surah 9:29 promote violence?

For simplicity’s sake we’d do best to outline what Surah 9:29 teaches upon face value. Which requires that we quote: “Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.” Funnily enough Surah 9 omits the customary “In the name of Allah, the merciful, the compassionate.” which proceeds every other chapter of the Qur’an without so much as a hiccup, most would consider this telling of Allah’s lack of compassion herein. This teaching most will consider an ongoing call to arms when upon the lips of radical preachers of Islam, but there’s rarely an in-depth breakdown with regards to every teaching found herein, so let’s begin by doing that.

(1) “Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day,” Quotation one explains why Muslim fighters ought to be striving hard against unbelievers, and there’s nothing therein about defensive warfare, although it’s commonly repeated by way of modern apologists of Islam. Thus anyone who doesn’t believe in Allah nor the last days might soon be in their last days, since they’re targets for violence.

(2)  “nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth,” In addition people are endangered for not forbidding what Allah has forbidden, which means if you’re a man who’s partial to wearing clothes coloured yellow (for example) you’re sporting colours that might get you attacked by your Muslim neighbours (Book 024, Number 5175).

(3) “[fight] until they give the jizyah willingly while they are humbled.” Ultimately we read how Muslims are commanded to do battle with unbelievers until they pay protection money, after which they’re told to stay their assault. Where to begin with such an awful teaching as this, firstly, believing not in Allah is supposedly an unforgivable sin, yet rather than correct people so to remove this most heinous of sins from their lives, Allah’s fighters are ordered to tax unbelievers and take of their income. An all good God doesn’t mind sin apparently, not whilst I’m paying the Islamic state from out of my wages. It’s something I’ve never heard an appropriate answer to, so make good use of the objection. Furthermore Islamic fighters are told to humble or subjugate unbelievers not due to their conduct nor their aggression, but for their beliefs, hence there is compulsion in Islam. We’re justified in asking therefore, doesn’t Surah 9:29 promote violence?

What Muslims say: Red herrings, equivocation and contextomy

(1) Red herring: Christian and Jewish scriptures also have violent passages.

(2) Equivocation: Fight when studied in context doesn’t necessarily mean to fight in violent confrontation.

(3) Contextomy: Surah 9:29 must be quoted in context to fully understand what’s meant throughout, you’re practising the fallacy of contextomy (quoting something out of context).

What OldSchoolContemporary says: Surah 9:29 promotes violence

Debunking objections one to three shouldn’t be particularly challenging, for they’re bogus charges both of the formal and informal variety, but when doing so I’d advise others to act with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15), by which you might better win hearts to Christ Jesus.

Objection one people commonly call a “red herring”, it’s an idiom ordinarily accompanied by an amusing real life account of how an awful smelling smoked fish (red herring) would be used to divert hunting dogs who’re near catching their quarry. Thus in the mind of an objector you’re the hound, and they rather than outpace you intellectually would sooner divert your attention onto matters otherwise, Christianity being an ideal distraction. Reread the objection moreover, because even if we were to affirm it being accurate (which it certainly isn’t) that wouldn’t exonerate Surah 9:29! An atheist when rebuffed through an objection suchlike that which the Muslim uses often dismisses the threefold religions offhand, and although I’d never suggest you doing likewise, you’re correct to inform others how an attempt to rework the conversation into an argument concerning Zionist Jews, The Crusades or paedophile priests doesn’t address whatever question you’ve posed prior.

Objection two isn’t much better than one in all candour, it involves misinterpretation of text, then reapplying an alien meaning to the already warped passage. Be prepared to see this used with regards to jihad more often than not. Equivocation when used aright is defined like so: “the use of ambiguous language to conceal the truth or to avoid committing oneself; prevarication.” By making such an outrageous defence you’re almost forced into learning classical Arabic, yet there’s hope, since although people may incorrectly translate an individual word within Surah 9:29, no such mistake can be made regarding an entire context. Which means we’ve only to provide an immediate context for Surah 9:29 to prove their reinterpretation incorrect. Let’s begin by making use of Surah 9:28: “O ye who believe! The idolaters only are unclean. So let them not come near the Inviolable Place of Worship after this their year. If ye fear poverty (from the loss of their merchandise) Allah shall preserve you of His bounty if He will. Lo! Allah is Knower, Wise.”

Possessing historic context with regards to Surah 9:28 would certainly help here, yet we’re saving that so to utterly dismantle objection number three. Let’s examine Surah 9:30 therefore, which reads: “And the Jews say: Ezra is the son of Allah, and the Christians say: The Messiah is the son of Allah. That is their saying with their mouths. They imitate the saying of those who disbelieved of old. Allah (Himself) fighteth against them. How perverse are they!” There’s that supposedly ambiguous use of fight again, furthermore that what surrounds “fighteth” doesn’t appear to allude to that otherworldly interpretation which magically transforms the meaning thereof. I’d prefer to think this enough to convince any an honest person, however sometimes we’re not speaking with entirely honest people, and it’s hereabouts that they’re likely to ask why ought the passage allude to more sophisticated an interpretation, you yourself may too be wondering that. To answer that we must understand how the Qur’an boasts of itself being an explanation of all things (Surah 12:111), neglecting nothing (Surah 6:38), and complete without additional literature (Surah 6:114), meaning the Qur’an commits itself through its own trumpet blowing to an unsophisticated and sophisticated interpretation of the language found herein, both of which ought to be evident and fully explained within the Qur’an without the use of secondary literature. Of course the Qur’an contains nothing of the sort.

In addition we (due to not being Muslims) are open to secondary literature, which being Islamic in origin none can criticise for supposed Islamophobia. Tafsir Ibn Kathir (on Qur’an 9:30)—Fighting the Jews and Christians is legislated because they are idolaters and disbelievers. Allah the Exalted encourages the believers to fight the polytheists, disbelieving Jews and Christians, who uttered this terrible statement and utter lies against Allah, the Exalted. As for the Jews, they claimed that Uzayr was the son of God, Allah is free of what they attribute to Him. As for the misguidance of Christians over Isa, it is obvious.

Venturing further into Ibn Kathir’s commentaries concerning the matter only yields more evidence of how we ought to be reading Surah 9:29, which had been dubbed even by Muslim writers as the verse of the sword. Tafsir Ibn Kathir—(I have been commanded to fight the people until they testify that there is no deity worthy of worship except Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, establish the prayer and pay the 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 of safety ever since Surah 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.”

Moreover (although we’re already into debunking objection three) I’d prefer highlighting what most would consider the golden rule of tackling Islam, that being you must ever make use of Islamic sources, which means being acquainted with Muslim authors, for reason that anything other than writings for Muslims by Muslims won’t register without taking serious criticism whilst being quoted. Nonetheless, once more context is key to overthrowing an objection, in addition, context although seeming an awesome defence speedily backfires when we’re equipped with the context an objector wrongly claims to being withheld.

Ibn Kathir, The Battles of the Prophet, pp. 183-4—Allah, Most High, ordered the believers to prohibit the disbelievers from entering or coming near the sacred Mosque. On that, Quraish thought that this would reduce their profits from trade. Therefore, Allah, Most High, compensated them and ordered them to fight the people of the Book until they embrace Islam or pay the Jizyah. Allah says, “O ye who believe! Truly the pagans are unclean; so let them not, after this year of theirs, approach the sacred Mosque. And if ye fear poverty, soon will Allah enrich you, if He wills, out of His bounty, for Allah is All-Knowing, All-Wise. Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, from among the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizyah with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.” Therefore, the Messenger of Allah decided to fight the Romans in order to call them to Islam.

Furthermore when debating in less formal an environment (OldSchoolContemporary Vs theNLBS team) supplying commentary so to help others understand would be best.

Thoroughly demystified Surah 9:29 remains what it’s ever been, violent, cruel and of God not.

― T. C. M


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