Quiet often in contemporary times various platforms on the internet like the one titled Answering Islam point out that Islam is an intolerant religion and persecute followers of other faiths. To prove their point very often they use the Hadith stated below
“I have been commanded to fight the people until they profess there is no God but Allah.” (Bukhari 385)
Can you kindly clarify the proper context and meaning of this hadith. The negative understanding these Anti-Islamic forces imply use this particular hadith to good effect to prove their point.
Will be waiting to hear from you.
Assalam o alaikum
People had faced problems in understanding this Hadith. Modern terrorists present it in favor of their vision to destroy the world. The opponents of Islam use this Hadith to raise objections on Islam.
The mistake of both groups is to generalize this Hadith. This Hadith is targeted to a specific group of people i.e. the Pagans of Arabia who were the direct audience of the Prophet صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم.
The mistake in the approach or the terrorists and the opponents of Islam are as follows:
1. The word الناس or “the people” is used in Arabic for any group of people comprising three persons or more. The terrorists and the opponents of Islam generalize this word to entire humanity.
2. Hadith should be understood in the light of the Quran. They ignore the Quran and take each narration from the Hadith Books as an independent source. It is clear from the Quran (Surah Tauba 9: Verse 1-6) that a specific group of people is indicated here. They are the pagans who were the direct audience of the Prophet صلی اللہ علیہ وآلہ وسلم. The verses are:
بَرَاءَةٌ مِنْ اللَّهِ وَرَسُولِهِ إِلَى الَّذِينَ عَاهَدتُّمْ مِنْ الْمُشْرِكِينَ (1)
فَسِيحُوا فِي الأَرْضِ أَرْبَعَةَ أَشْهُرٍ وَاعْلَمُوا أَنَّكُمْ غَيْرُ مُعْجِزِي اللَّهِ وَأَنَّ اللَّهَ مُخْزِي الْكَافِرِينَ (2)
وَأَذَانٌ مِنْ اللَّهِ وَرَسُولِهِ إِلَى النَّاسِ يَوْمَ الْحَجِّ الأَكْبَرِ أَنَّ اللَّهَ بَرِيءٌ مِنْ الْمُشْرِكِينَ وَرَسُولُهُ فَإِنْ تُبْتُمْ فَهُوَ خَيْرٌ لَكُمْ وَإِنْ تَوَلَّيْتُمْ فَاعْلَمُوا أَنَّكُمْ غَيْرُ مُعْجِزِي اللَّهِ وَبَشِّرْ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا بِعَذَابٍ أَلِيمٍ (3)
إِلاَّ الَّذِينَ عَاهَدتُّمْ مِنْ الْمُشْرِكِينَ ثُمَّ لَمْ يَنقُصُوكُمْ شَيْئاً وَلَمْ يُظَاهِرُوا عَلَيْكُمْ أَحَداً فَأَتِمُّوا إِلَيْهِمْ عَهْدَهُمْ إِلَى مُدَّتِهِمْ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُحِبُّ الْمُتَّقِينَ (4)
فَإِذَا انسَلَخَ الأَشْهُرُ الْحُرُمُ فَاقْتُلُوا الْمُشْرِكِينَ حَيْثُ وَجَدْتُمُوهُمْ وَخُذُوهُمْ وَاحْصُرُوهُمْ وَاقْعُدُوا لَهُمْ كُلَّ مَرْصَدٍ فَإِنْ تَابُوا وَأَقَامُوا الصَّلاةَ وَآتَوْا الزَّكَاةَ فَخَلُّوا سَبِيلَهُمْ إِنَّ اللَّهَ غَفُورٌ رَحِيمٌ (5)
وَإِنْ أَحَدٌ مِنْ الْمُشْرِكِينَ اسْتَجَارَكَ فَأَجِرْهُ حَتَّى يَسْمَعَ كَلامَ اللَّهِ ثُمَّ أَبْلِغْهُ مَأْمَنَهُ ذَلِكَ بِأَنَّهُمْ قَوْمٌ لا يَعْلَمُونَ (6)
A declaration of immunity from Allah and His Messenger is hereby made to those of the pagans with whom you have made a treaty:
“You have four months to go around in the land unmolested; but you should know that you cannot frustrate the will of Allah, and that Allah will humiliate the unbelievers.”
This is a public proclamation from Allah and His Messenger to the people on the day of the Great Hajj (Pilgrimage) that Allah and His Messenger do hereby dissolve treaty obligations with the pagans. Therefore, if you repent, it will be better for you but if you turn away, then you should know that you cannot frustrate the Will of Allah. O Prophet, proclaim a painful punishment to those who are unbelievers.
Except (this proclamation does not apply to) those pagans who honored their treaties with you in every detail and aided none against you. So fulfill your treaties with them to the end of their term; for Allah loves the righteous.
When the forbidden months (10,11,12 & 1 of the Islamic calendar) are over, then fight the pagans wherever you find them, seize them, besiege them, and lie in ambush for them in every stratagem of war, but if they repent, establish Salah and pay Zakah, then let them go their way: surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.
If anyone from the pagans ask you for asylum, grant it to him so that he may hear the Word of Allah, and then escort him to his place of safety: this should be done because these people do not know the truth. (Al-Taubah 9:1-6)
It is God’s law that the direct audience of a Prophet are either rewarded or destroyed within the same world. Practically, this punishment was not implemented because all pagans of Arab converted to Islam.
You can see the details of this Divine Law in one of my presentations from the following link:
3. The Companions of the Holy Prophet صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم understood this law very well. During their life, vast area of the Roman & Persian Empires was conquered. They did not kill a single person due to not converting to Islam. If it is instructed in this Hadith to kill every Non-Muslim, why did they not kill every Non-Muslim in the conquered lands?
Therefore, it is clear that this Hadith is relevant to the specific pagans of Arabia who were the direct audience of the Prophet. The justification of this punishment is that the people, who are the direct audience of a Prophet, do not have any excuse after looking the miracles and clear signs of the Prophet. They are destroyed either by a natural disaster or by the swords of the followers of the prophet, if such acolytes are enough in number.
The first situation occurred with the direct audience of Prophet Noah, Hood, Saleh, Abraham, Lot, and Shuaib علیہم الصلوۃ والسلام. The second situation occurred with the direct audience of Prophet Moses & Muhammad علیہما الصلوۃ والسلام. On the contrary, the direct followers of each Prophet were rewarded within the same world.
This Divine Law provides us an empirical evidence that what occurred to these nations in this world, will occur with all of us in the Hereafter.
I hope this detail will help you.
Muhammad Mubashir Nazir
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