The verse of the sword (9:5)

A common verse quoted by the critics of Islam is a verse known as the verse of the sword, which says:

Then, when the sacred months have passed, slay the idolaters wherever ye find them, and take them (captive), and besiege them, and prepare for them each ambush. But if they repent and establish worship and pay the poor-due, then leave their way free. Lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. (9:5)

So this verse is quoted and it is then argued that this verse proves that Islam is a violent religion that commands the Muslims to go out and commit terrorism. Now indeed, when one quotes this verse on it’s own, it does seem to paint the picture that Islamophobes would like, but whenever looking at a text, it must be viewed within it’s context.

For example if we were to read the verse that comes right after it, we would see that the argument of the critic falls flat on its face. In fact it’s quite shameful that the critics who quote this verse, don’t quote the verse right after it, we’re not talking about 10, 20, or even 100 verses, but simply one verse after.

Verse 6 says the following:

And if any one of the polytheists seeks your protection, then grant him protection so that he may hear the words of Allah. Then deliver him to his place of safety. That is because they are a people who do not know. (9:6)

So verse 6 goes on to say that if one of the polytheists comes to the Muslims looking for protection, the Muslims must grant him protection, and provide him to a place of safety. Hardly sounds like something terroristic or barbaric. The verse doesn’t simply tell the Muslims to leave the polytheists alone; it explicitly says to take them to a place of safety, to basically look after their well being.

Now let’s look at the context of verse 5 as a whole, because even before verse 5, the context of who is being mentioned in verse 5, is clarified. So the ones who are to be fought in verse 5, are explained in the previous, and after verses. Again, it’s quite shameful that the critic does not quote these verses, but simply quotes verse 5 alone, to paint a very false picture.

From verses 1-3, we see the polytheists that are being mentioned:

[This is a declaration of] disassociation, from Allah and His Messenger, to those with whom you had made a treaty among the polytheists. So travel freely, [O disbelievers], throughout the land [during] four months but know that you cannot cause failure to Allah and that Allah will disgrace the disbelievers. And [it is] an announcement from Allah and His Messenger to the people on the day of the greater pilgrimage that Allah is disassociated from the disbelievers, and [so is] His Messenger. So if you repent, that is best for you; but if you turn away – then know that you will not cause failure to Allah. And give tidings to those who disbelieve of a painful punishment. (9:1-3)

So verses 1-3 talk about a disbanding of a treaty agreement made by the Muslims with some polytheists, it’s these group of polytheists from verses 1-3 that are the ones referenced in verse 5. Verse 4 goes on talk about a treaty still being in place with another group of polytheists:

Excepted are those with whom you made a treaty among the polytheists and then they have not been deficient toward you in anything or supported anyone against you; so complete for them their treaty until their term [has ended]. Indeed, Allah loves the righteous [who fear Him]. (9:4)

Verse 4 is very important verse for the context, because it shows that verse 5 is not a mandate for Muslims to go out and fight any non-Muslim polytheist, but it’s aimed a specific group of polytheists. Verse 4 shows that the treaty made with polytheists who have not gone back on their word or against the treaty still stands. We now move to verses 7-8, which clearly make mention of the polytheists referenced in verse 5:

How can there be for the polytheists a treaty in the sight of Allah and with His Messenger, except for those with whom you made a treaty at al-Masjid al-Haram? So as long as they are upright toward you, be upright toward them. Indeed, Allah loves the righteous [who fear Him]. How [can there be a treaty] while, if they gain dominance over you, they do not observe concerning you any pact of kinship or covenant of protection? They satisfy you with their mouths, but their hearts refuse [compliance], and most of them are defiantly disobedient. (9:7-8)

So now the context is even clearer, as verse 7 says, the treaty with the polytheists who stay firm to the treaty, and are upright with the Muslims, meaning honest to the treaty, then the Muslims are to reciprocate and be upright with them. However so, in regards to the other group of polytheists, who are not in line with the treaty, then they are the ones to be fought as mentioned in verse 5, these are basically the group of polytheists who have broken the covenant, and so verse 5 says they are to be fought.

So verse 5 is only in regards to the polytheists who have broken the treaty, not in regards to the polytheists who have remained honest to the treaty, as mentioned in verse 4, and the start of verse 7.

Verse 10 even goes on to talk about how these group of polytheists, mentioned in verse 5, have broken and went against the treaty:

They do not observe toward a believer any pact of kinship or covenant of protection. And it is they who are the transgressors. (9:10)

So to summarize everything:

1- Verse 5 is in reference to polytheists who have broken the treaty agreement with the Muslims

2- These polytheists who have broken the treaty, are to be fought, and even though they are to be fought, if any of them come looking for protection, they are to be given protection and safety

3- The polytheists who have not broken the treaty, and have stayed true to the treaty, aren’t to be fought, and the terms of the treaty are still in place between them and the Muslims.

So this is the context of verse 9:5, the verse of the sword, as one can see, when the context is given, it hardly looks like a teaching of terrorism or barbarism, as the critics would like some to believe. 

10 replies »

  1. You forgot to mention verse 9:13, which clarifies the full justification to attack: “Will you not fight a people who broke their oaths [treaties], committed to EXPEL the Messenger (i.e., the Muslim community) and ATTACKED YOU FIRST”. Verse 9:10 also emphasizes that “THEY [polytheists] are the aggressors.” Moreover, verse 9:9 states that these aggressors “hinder (Muslims) from God’s way”, which means they were oppressing religious freedom too, on top of everything else.

    All of these are fundamental violations of basic human rights. Verse 9:5 is therefore in full compliance with the Just War Doctrine.

    But that is not all. Verses 9:4 and 9:7 both clarify that Muslims must still honor any treaties with polytheists who are still upholding their side of the treaty. Verse 9:6 clarifies that polytheist INDIVIDUALS should be considered innocent when they are not fighting (i.e., seek protection instead). Instead of fighting them, Muslims should INVITE them to Islam (i.e., NOT coerce them). So who then should Muslims focus on to fight if not the general polytheist population? That’s explained in verse 9:12: the “LEADERS” of the polytheists, until they “CEASE” their aggression.

    Again, such a response is 100% in compliance with the Just War Doctrine. Therefore, verse 9:5 cannot be viewed as a green light to attack any and all polytheists – only the LEADERS (and those who fight to defend them) who violated their treaties with Muslims and attacked them first.

    You also brushed over another very important point, which is the title of Sura 9 itself: “ULTIMATUM” (per Ali Unal’s translation/interpretation). The command in verse 9:5 was revealed as an “ultimatum” (not a mere “announcement”) to all polytheist leaders to give them a chance (actually a few months) to repent and make amends on their treaties. That is why verse 9:3 states, “If you [polytheists] REPENT, then it is best for you. But if you turn away, then know that you cannot escape…”

    One final and critical point is that Islamophobes use this verse to stir up fear amongst Christians and Jews that Muslims are commanded to kill them, but this is patently absurd. Even without all of this rich context totally quashing this interpretation, it is simply IMPOSSIBLE for Christians and Jews to be classified as “l-mush’rikīna” (S-R-K root word), which is the word used in verse 9:5 to describe who is being given an ultimatum. The Quran NEVER refers to Christians and Jews as such. Verse 9:5 can ONLY be in reference to polytheists/pagans.

    Please do this article full justice by incorporating the additions/clarifications that I have noted. Feel free to copy/paste any of my words here without attribution if you like. I will then encourage other Muslims to link to it in fighting the Islamophobic interpretation of this verse. By the way, others can connect with me on Twitter at @Chameleon_X_ (note extra “_” at end).

    • i remember you said the following on loonwatch

      QUOTE :

      This brings us back to your first argument of conditionality. If you would have read my posts and the Quran properly, you would have understood that showing kindness, justice and genuine love towards one’s enemies is not the same as taking those enemies as protective friends and allies. In fact, taking them as friends of this nature is strictly prohibited when they persecute and oppress Muslims, since to do so would be submission to persecution and oppression. This is completely unchanged by bringing in verse 60:1, which simply validates this distinction and separation even more between showing love for enemies and making them your protective friends. They are completely separate notions. How else could they not be? The only way for an enemy to also be your friend is through deceit and hypocrisy.
      Unlike the cowardly Christian love cult response of turning the other cheek while one’s community is being persecuted and oppressed, Muslims are obligated to fight to stop it, not to submit to it.

      Unlike the cowardly Christian love cult response of turning the other cheek while one’s community is being persecuted and oppressed, Muslims are obligated to fight to stop it, not to submit to it. This is also the most honorable and valiant moral value that just about all Americans share and cherish in bowing to no man and no authority


      Now they are , once again, talking about thier cowardly love cult here

  2. More propaganda to whitewash the violence that you find in the Quran. 9:4 doesn’t say at all that the polytheist broke any treaty. It says (you can kill all the polytheist) “except” those with whom you have made a treaty, but only until the treaty is over. Supposedly you can kill them after…. Of course, 9:6 says that “if they repent” or accept islam they won’t be killed, shamefull! This is conversion by fear of death not compassion. Please, you talk as if this was the only violent text of the Quran. The Qura is full of violence and the number of violent texts are much higher than the moderate ones.

  3. You have rebutted almost nothing from this article and what I wrote. Your “supposedly you can kill them after” the treaty is over is wrong and wildly asserted without evidence. In fact, the Quran commands that ALL treaties/oaths must be honored, and Muslims can only fight those who broke their treaties and attacked the Muslims FIRST, per 9:13. READ. This is perfectly in line with the universal principles of the modern Just War Doctrine.

    Your interpretation of 9:6 is also utterly wrong. Yes, if polytheists formally come over to the Muslim side in opposition to their leaders, they cannot be attacked. However, polytheists can also not be attacked if they merely seek a neutral position of protection/safety when they are unwilling to fight on behalf of their leaders, who are the ones the Muslims are commanded to fight per verse 9:12. In this case, Muslims merely invite these polytheists to Islam, but there is no consequence if they don’t accept. Note that Muslims MUST not fight them if they do not fight the Muslims and seek safety instead. It is right there in verse 9:6, in spite of your pathetic attempt to blackwash it.

    As for all other verses dealing with violence, every last one of them complies with the universal principles of the modern Just War Doctrine. I have done this debate MANY times, and not one opponent has ever come out the other end remotely successful in proving me wrong.

    • sir/madam

      do you have any recent exchanges on twitter with islamaphobes and in any of your exchanges have you explained ayats which they misuse ? ayats specifically on war

  4. Not so much on Twitter, since the tweets are far too fragmented. The same with my posts on Loonwatch and elsewhere. I plan to pull it all together into a book or long article, but I have two big projects ahead of that one. Here is one location where I have addressed a list of these verses, even though it is a bit superficial compared to what I have written since. See my comments there, particularly the Sep. 3, 2011 one:

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