Saturday, 18 April 2009

Surah 9 (al Tauba), “Repentance”, the Historical Background

This is the last whole Surah revealed, of enormous importance for the establishement of Sharia

Chapter 9 of the Qur’an (al Tauba= Repentance) is considered to be the
closing remarks of Muhammad’s god. (The only chapter said to have revealed after this, is Chapter Al Nasr which consisted quite a few verses).

Considering the militant disposition of Islam the so-called religion of peace, it should
not be surprising that this finally revealed chapter from an all merciful god is not at all about making peace among the people.

Sahih Muslim testifies this is the last chapter revealed by Allah. Abu Ishaq said that he heard al-Bara' b 'Azib say “
The last complete sura revealed (in the Holy Qur'an) is Sura tauba” (i e. al-Bara'at, ix). This chapter sums up the message of Qur’an since it is considered to be the concluding remarks of Islam’s god. No wonder it is frilled the marching orders of Allah, inciting offensive onslaughts on unbelievers. After all, if the closing remarks of Allah are all about fighting endlessly to subjugate and humiliate unbelievers, no rationale can thwart the conclusion, that the entire message of the Qur’an as reflected in this chapter is not for peace at all.

Generally, Muhammad in 630 A.D. leaves for Mecca, to reconquer it, toghether with 10'000 warriors. The chief of the Quraish, Abu Sofian, tries to intercept him, but eventually, he is captured by Muslims. Muhammad lets him go after Abu Sofian having converted to Islam. Sofian gets good conditions for his Meccans. If they stay home, nothing bad will happen to them. Therefore, Abu Sofian, while back in Mecca, tells everybody that Muhammad has an enormous army that is willing to kill everybody, except if they will stay home.


Finally, Muhammad enters Mecca, peacefully, going straight to the Kaaba, destroying all idols. Since 622 (time of the Egira, till to his death 632), Muhammad altogether, fought or led in 66 battles/raids, including raid of Uhud, battle at Badr, raid of Hunayn, raid of Tabuk, etc. When Muhammad went back to Medina, his big opponent, Abdullah ibn Ubayy (called the chief of the hypochrites), had died. Muhammad went to his burial and prayed for the remission of his sins. Omar was angry about that, but Muhammad told him that it didn’t matter, that you can pray as much as you want, only Allah knows if one is an hypochrite or not. If not, Allah will pardon him. This shows how hypocritical Muhammad is. If he knows that Allah won’ forgive, then why did he pray for him? His behavior shows how he wants to appear merciful and full of respect, while to others, his fellows and during raids and battles, he shows his hard side.

After the last big pilgrimage done by Muhammad in Mecca, Muhammad decides that he has to announce something important. He lest Ali to make this announcement. Muhammad lets thus announce that Islam is a religion of the sword (Surat 9:5), and that after four months, Muhammad and Muslims will be considered free from any responsibility with the idolaters. He will consider himself free to plunder when and where he wants. Unbelievfers is forbidden to enter Mecca. After this announcement, when in the Arab peninsula everybody got informed about that, the Arab tribes went all to Mecca to convert. Muhammad, with his own hand sacrifies 63 camels (one for each year of his life). He cuts completely his hair (that are distributed, o/w one is still supposed to be in Kasimire). After that he went back to Mecca.

The
historical context of this Surah is described by the famous Qur’an commentator Abul A’ala Madudi in his “Tafhimul Qur’an”: Consider the historical background of the Sura.

The series of events that have been discussed in this Sura
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. For more detailed historical background please check the Sunnis Khomeini tafsir: here.
.

Maududi affirms the fact, prior to the revelation of this chapter
; a powerful and well organized Islamic state had been established in one/third of Arabia. This fact alone dismisses the usual Muslim apologetics of fighting in self defense or fighting against oppressors. An Islamic state is already established in here. What is odd about this Surah, this surah is unlike the other suras of the Qur’an, this chapter doesn’t begin with the usual “Bismillahi al Rahmani Al Rahim" (In the name of Allah, beneficent, merciful). What can be the reason in avoiding it? Scholars give the reason as this chapter accentuates on god’s vengeance and punishment more than any other chapters.

Hudaifat Al Yaman said to his companions: “
You people call this chapter Sura Tauba which means chapter of repentance, but in fact this is the chapter punishment. This chapter hasn’t left a single hypocrite unmentioned." (Tafsir Al Kashaf 2:241).

Again, according to Ibn Abbas: “When it was asked to Ali, (one of the rightly guided caliphs of Islam) about the lack of Bismilla in this chapter, Ali replied: “
Bismi’s implication is trustworthiness. But this Chapter was revealed with a sword” (Tafsir Qurtubi. 8)

So, this particular Surah hasn’t left anyone of the unbelievers untouched. The sahih hadith below from Bukhari clarifies it further:

Narrated Said bin Jubair: I asked Ibn Abbas about Surat Al-tauba, and he said, "Surat Al-tauba? It is exposure (of all the evils of the infidels and the hypocrites). And it continued revealing (that the oft-repeated expression): '...and of them ...and of them. 'till they started thinking that none would be left unmentioned therein." (Sahih Bukhari.Book 60, Hadith 404)

Perhaps the most violent of Qur’anic verses are found in this particular set of verses. From the very beginning of it, we see Allah inciting violence against unbelievers consistently. Muslims (essentially apologists) have tried to compromise these violent verses with the so-called context argument knowingly or unknowingly that context argument is very much against the simple logic that the Qur’an is meant for the entire humankind to the end of times.

Those relevant parts necessarily in context to prove Muslims are commanded to fight unbelievers until resurrection day. We will bring purely Islamic sources of which’s authenticity is well established throughout centuries:

Muslims are obliged to fight Kufr and Kuffar (Infidels) until the day of resurrection by all available means. For the purpose of illuminating this, we will first quote a verse from another chapter of Qur’an and see it later how they corroborate to the chapter in trial here.

Qur'an 47:4:
Now when ye meet in battle those who disbelieve, then it is smiting of the necks until, when ye have routed them, then making fast of bonds; and afterward either grace or ransom till the war lay down its burdens. That (is the ordinance). And if Allah willed He could have punished them (without you) but (thus it is ordained) that He may try some of you by means of others. And if Allah willed He could have punished them (without you) but (thus it is ordained) that He may try some of you by means of others. And those who are slain in the way of Allah, He rendereth not their actions vain.

These verses are revealed right after
the first battle Muhammad and his folks fought against Meccans and won. The core of the above verses is they spur believers to fight war and most interestingly, an all merciful god pinpoints the exact spot where a Muslim has to strike on his opponent’s steel. Odd it is… the god of this universe had to instruct those fellows on how to fight a war and worst of all specify them where and how to smite an opponent..! Then it talks about taking captives of war to either confine or ransom them till the war lays its burdens. Here the indication is to “fight until the war lays its burdens” Emphasize on it, because it is somewhat like an idiom. What does it mean war lays it burdens? Imam Ibn Kathir in his Tafsir Interprets this:

(Until the war lays down its burden.) Mujahid said: "Until `Isa bin Maryam (peace be upon him) descends.'' It seems as if he derived this opinion from the Prophet's saying, there will always be a group of my Ummah victorious upon the truth, until the last of them fight against Ad-Dajjal.) Imam Ahmad recorded from Jubayr bin Nufayr who reported from Salamah bin Nufayl that he went to the Messenger of Allah and said, "I have let my horse go, and thrown down my weapon, for the war has ended. There is no more fighting.'' Then the Prophet said to him, now the time of fighting has come. There will always be a group of my Ummah dominant over others. Allah will turn the hearts of some people away (from the truth), so they (that group) will fight against them, and Allah will bestow on them (war spoils) from them (the enemies) -- until Allah's command comes to pass while they are in that state. Verily, the center of the believers' abode is Ash-Sham. And goodness is tied around the horses' foreheads till the Day of Resurrection.) An-Nasa'i also recorded this narration. Allah then says, Thus, and had Allah so willed, He could have taken vengeance against them;) which means that had He so willed, He could have taken immediate vengeance against the disbelievers with a chastisement or exemplary punishment directly from Him but (He lets you struggle) so as to test with one another.) meaning, He has ordered Jihad and fighting against the enemies in order to try you and test your affairs. (Tafsir Ibn Kathir )

The interpretation of Ibn Kathir, the most authentic Mufassir of Qur’an, reveals that the context argument is fraudulent. Here in this context, a war has just ended and one of the companions of Muhammad is relaxed for, since the war is ended. He doesn’t need to fight any more. NO, says Muhammad correcting him and if to focus on Muhammad’s answer to the person who was about to retire,
its universal appeal can easily be noted. “There will always be a group in my community (Muslims) dominant over others (Muhammad’s Islam is supposed to be dominant over all other faiths and their adherents”. This notion is flowing out here as Muhammad uses the word “dominant”. Allah will turn some people away from truth (Islam) so, “my community of believers will fight them". Muhammad speaks of this as an incessant process which should inevitably carry through the end of times with a blessing of war booties to the holy fighters. If there still remains a claim of context of the verse 47:4 of Qur’an (which spurs pure violence against disbelievers to the point that Allah doesn’t hesitate to spot the body part of an unbeliever for believers to attack); claimants should spell out whether they are going to refute their own sources, their own scholars, (not any modern scholar, but scholar who lived close to Muhammad’s period and has been hailed as the most reliable among Qur’an  interpreters) or admit the fact Qur’an does incite violence endlessly against those who don’t believe in Allah and Muhammad.

From verse 47:4, we can conclude that
Muslims can’t stop fighting even after they win a war, rather they should look for other ways of shedding more blood. This fight should continue until the day of resurrection, because as Mujahid stated believers can’t stop fighting until the end of times. (The very reason god stipulates the limit as “until war sheds its burden”). This will be more pronounced with additional back ups from the Islamic sources.

Going back to Sura Tauba, which we found earlier as the
chapter of sword: Being the finally revealed Sura, it contains all codes of conducts that Muslims should observe when they are in contact with infidels. See the verses: Qur’an 9:29

Fight those who believe not in Allah or 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.

Here in the above verses the command of Allah is not to those who fight Muslims or oppress Muslims. (Many Muslims try to conciliate to these kinds of Qur’anic verses with the excuse that “
the Qur’an only inspires to fight in self defense.” Sadly for them, here the reasons for fighting is not the other side is waging war against Muslims, nor due to any oppression, but the only reason god ignites his pious against the other side is because the opposition doesn’t believe in Allah and the “last day” and don’t observe what is forbidden by Allah and his messenger Muhammad. To sum up; only because the other side rejects Islam, Allah inflames the pious to go to war until they subjugate infidels on the other side. If unbelievers are not willing to submit themselves and covert to Islam, the only chance of survival rests on paying Jizya to Muslims which is in Qur’an ’s own language a blotch (of humiliation)

Arguments for
Jizya are often made as it is a tax similar to the obligatory Zakat (charity) of Muslims. They fervently argue, since Muslims in an Islamic land have to pay obligatory charity, there is nothing discriminative in the case of Jizya. We will look upon this argument in detail but later; preferably in another article that will be solely dedicated to the subject of Jizya. Now, the explication is, Jizya is the only way of survival of non-Muslims in a Muslim land. Muhammad had taken Jizya from all unbelievers’ regardless of their diverse faiths, though doubts in the case of polytheists remain. This hadith from Sahih Bukhari testifies Muhammad had taken Jizya from unbelievers:

Narrated 'Umar bin Dinar: I was sitting with Jabir bin Zaid and 'Amr bin Aus, and Bjalla was narrating to them in 70 AH the year when Musab bin Az-Zubair was the leader of the pilgrims of Basra. We were sitting at the steps of Zam-zam well and Bajala said, "I was the clerk of Juz bin Muawiya, Al-Ahnaf's paternal uncle. A letter came from 'Umar bin Al-Khattab one year before his death; and it was read:-- "Cancel every marriage contracted among the Magians between relatives of close kinship (marriages that are regarded illegal in Islam: a relative of this sort being called Dhu-Mahram.)" 'Umar did not take the Jizya from the Magian infidels till 'Abdur-Rahman bin 'Auf testified that Allah's Apostle had taken the Jizya from the Magians of Hajar. ( Sahih Bukhari. Book 53, Hadith 384)

What unfolds from this hadith is when the second Caliph of Islam Omar hesitated to take Jizya from Magian infidels (Magians, a sect of Zoroastrians) one of Muhammad’s companions testifies; Muhammad had taken Jizya from the same people. A clear indicative, Jizya was imposed upon all those subjugated people during the time of Muhammad. There is one more hadith from the same source; Muhammad had taken Jizya from the people of Bahrain too. Good reasons aren’t there to conclude the people of Bahrain at that time were entirely Jews or Christians. There were pagans too among them. However, taking Jizya from the people of Bahrain confirms
this tool of oppression was applied to the entire set of unbelievers of that time.

Now, it is necessary to have a look upon the traditional Muslim belief on Jesus Christ, whom they consider a prophet who got raised to God and will be descending to earth among people prior to the day of resurrection. This is confirmed through many sahih hadiths:

Jabir b. 'Abdullah reported: I heard the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) say: A section of my people will not cease fighting for the Truth and will prevail till the Day of resurrection. He said: Jesus son of Mary would then descend and their (Muslims') commander would invite him to come and lead them in prayer, but he would say: No, some amongst you are commanders over some (amongst you). This is the honour from Allah for this Ummah. (Sahih Muslim. Book 001, Hadith 293).

This hadith confirms what is said earlier.
True Muslims can not stop fighting until the day of resurrection. Moreover these fighting are not mere defensive struggles, but will be offensive onslaughts, until Muslims win over unbelievers and establish Islamic rule. Establishing Islamic governance necessarily contains imposing Jizya upon infidels. Muhammad believed or his command was to fight until Jesus, the son of Mary descends from heaven. Moreover, he envisioned Muslim domains all over and Jizya is imposed upon infidels. According to Muhammad’s version, it would be Jesus and Jesus only who will be eradicating Jizya from the earth. Abolition of Jizya means the whole world becomes Islamic right after Jesus foots on earth for a second term. See how Muhammad envisioned this phenomenon.

Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah's Apostle said, "By Him in Whose Hands my soul is, son of Mary (Jesus) will shortly descend amongst you people (Muslims) as a just ruler and will break the Cross and kill the pig and abolish the Jizya (a tax taken from the non-Muslims, who are in the protection, of the Muslim government). Then there will be abundance of money and no-body will accept charitable gifts. (Sahih Bukhari. Book 34, Hadith 425).

Three main points come out here in this hadith: Muhammad affirms Jesus will break the cross. It is metaphorical of the demise of Christianity. Obvious,
Muhammad believed Christianity will prevail until the day of resurrection and it will take Jesus to end it altogether. Secondly, killing pig can be another allegory. It might be pointing to Jews, because according to the Qur’an Jews once turned into apes and pigs. Many Muslims consider Jews as descendents of apes and pigs. Moreover, Muhammad’s detest of Jews would have forced him to label Jews as pigs and he satisfies himself in uttering “Jesus will descend prior to resurrection day to kill all Jews”. More remarkable here, Muhammad wasn’t aware of any other religions that would endure until the resurrection day. His mind's eye limited in Judaism and Christianity only. For him pagans were all defeated in the Arabian land, but the poor chap doesn’t seem to be aware of the polytheistic religions that were still in practice all over the world apart from Arabian Peninsula. However, the third point we can obtain from this hadith is Muhammad’s swearing on Jesus abolishing Jizya which gives us the insight, that his order to fight infidels is not time bounded but protracts to the end of times. His call for Jihad was not time-limited nor was force of circumstances, but it was to carry through the offensive fight to subjugate nations after nations under the sword of Islam. Practical though he was; as he didn’t think of a world without unbelievers like Jews and Christians; however Muslims are duty bounded to stretch beyond the borders of nations and to continue the fight until the resurrection day.

Finally, what does the last revealed chapter of Islam’s holy book have to offer the world? Answer is virtually “
nothing but antagonism”. Muhammad ordered expeditions even from his death-bed. The activities of his followers including four rightly guided caliphs were constricted chiefly into invading nations after nations and establishing Islamic states all over the invaded lands. Words followed with actions speak much loudly here. Muhammad; the founder of Islam could never envision a non violent world where all faiths will have a peaceful co-existence. Rather he was driven with a virulent lust of domination.

His words “
There will always be a group in his community of believers that is dominant over infidels” reveal how far it is possible for Muslims to stick on peace. An ideology stuck in a certain backdrop of history where killing and subjugating others in the name of religion has been made legal by divine dictations can never bring peace to the world. If it was for peace, god shouldn’t have revealed his last words with pretty blood on top of them. After all, it is satanic that on the face of humanity, this dangerous cult still remains under the banner of a “normal religion”

It is in this violent context that verse 9:5 was revealed. The commandment to "
slay the Pagans wherever you find them" in verse 9:5 speaks of the hostile Arab tribes surrounding Medina. At every given chance, these tribes attacked the Muslims and killed as many of them as possible for no just cause.

Comment

Some Muslim say that this verse was revealed in connection with Pagan Arab tribes surrounding Medina allying themselves with the Meccans to make war upon the Muslims. (Note that they never provide any references).

But the chronology of this verse is mentioned in Yusuf Ali’s Qur’an , one of the more popular English Qur’an, Ali states page 435, that
verses 1-29 were revealed during the month of Shawwal, A.H. 9, and read by Ali out loud to the various pilgrims in Mecca two months later to give Muhammad’s new policy a wide hearing. Muhammad had already conquered Mecca in A.H. 8, a full year prior.

But better detail is available from the early Muslim historians. They document the chronology and context behind verse 9:5. Quoting from Ibn Ishaq, pages 617 – 619: (The Qur’anic verses are in bold)

A discharge came down, permitting the breaking of the agreement between the apostle and the polytheists that none should be kept back from the temple when he came to it, and that none need fear during the sacred months. That there was a general agreement between him and the polytheists; meanwhile there were particular agreements between the apostle and the Arab tribes for specified terms. And there came down about it and about the disaffected who held back from him in the raid on Tabuk, and about what they said (revelations) in which God uncovered the secret thoughts of people who were dissembling. We know the names of some of them, of others we do not. He said [1] "A discharge from God and His apostle towards those polytheists with whom you made a treaty," i.e. those polytheists with whom you made a general agreement."So travel through the land for four months and know that you cannot escape God and that God will put the unbelievers to shame. And a proclamation from God and His apostle to men on the day of the greater pilgrimage that God and His apostle are free from obligation to the polytheists," i.e., after this pilgrimage. So if you repent it will be better for you; and if you turn back know that you cannot escape God. Inform those who disbelieve, about a painful punishment except those polytheists with whom you have made a treaty," i.e. the special treaty for a specified term, "Since they have not come short in anything in regard to you and have not helped anyone against you. So fulfill your treaty with them to their allotted time. God loves the pious. And when the sacred months are passed, He means the four which he fixed as their time, "then kill the polytheists wherever you find them, and seize them and besiege them and lie in wait for them in every ambush. But if they repent and perform prayer and pay the poor-tax, then let them go their way. God is forgiving, merciful. If one of the polytheists, i.e. one of those whom I have ordered you to kill, asks your protection, give it him so that he may hear the word of God; then convey him to his place of safety. That is because they are a people who do not know."

Prior to this "revelation" of chapter 9,
Muhammad had several different "agreements" with various Arab tribes. Some of these agreements were for a specified time. Others were general agreements allowing the Pagans to visit the Kaba (the large Pagan shrine in Mecca), and perform their religious rituals. Some of these tribes were peaceful with the Muslims. Allah gave Muhammad a "revelation" allowing him to break all these various agreements, either immediately, or later. Thereafter he would attack all Pagans following the four sacred months. He would keep those treaties that were for a specified time with tribes that were on friendly terms. However, once those times were complete, a state of war would be in place.

Here, a series of quotes from a Qur’anic commentary, the "Tafsir of Ibn Kathir", volume 4, [8]. Ibn Kathir was one of the greatest Islamic scholars of all time. His works are used throughout the Islamic world today. You can purchase his Tafsir
here.

On verse 9:5, page 375: (words in ( ) brackets are mine).

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

Abu Bakr As-Siddiq used this and other honorable Ayat (verse or passage) 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 ruling and obligations.

On verse 9:5, page 376:

So when the sacred months have passed… meaning, "Upon the end of the four months during which We prohibited you from fighting the idolators, and which is the grace period We gave them, then fight and kill the idolators wherever you may find them…

On verse 9:5, page 377:

This honorable Ayah 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 idolater, every treaty, and every term." Al-Awfi said that Ibn Abbas commented: "No idolater had any more treaty or promise of safety ever since Surah Bara’ah was revealed.

Sura 9:5 is not focused only on the Arab tribes surrounding Medina. Instead
it deals with all non-Muslim Arab tribes with whom Muhammad had treaties or general agreements. This verse commands Muslims to make war upon non-Muslims.

Some still support the opinion that
the principle of fighting in Islam is self-defensive:

"To those against whom war is made, permission is given (to fight), because they are wronged; and verily, God is most powerful for their aid...If God did not defend one set of people by means of another, then monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques, in which the name of God is commemorated in abundant measure, would surely have been destroyed..." (22:39-40)

Comment

The order to fight is primarily defensive, but is also offensive. Again, here is where the context of the passage comes into play. For example, 2:193 commands Muhammad to fight non-Muslims until they cease from believing in Pagan Gods. The entire passage allows for defensive and offensive war against Pagans. Further, there are later Quran’ic passages that command violence against all non-Muslims, whether they be Christian, Jew, Pagan, atheist, etc.


For a more detailed in- depth analysis of Sura 9 and the
SWORD VERSE, please see this excellet article by Silas:
http://www.answering-islam.org/Silas/swordverse.htm

IHS

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