Does Islam teach to kill Non-Muslims

One of most common arguments against Islam is that it teaches to kill non-Muslims. Islam does not teach pacifism because it deals with reality. We would all like to live in a world with no violence where everything can be settled verbally and peacefully.

However the reality is that you will come across some people who are physically violent who can only be stopped with physical force. Hence why it is necessary for even the police to use physical force in some circumstances.

However the basic premise of Islam when it comes to violence is self defence. Islam only permits physical force against someone in self defence and if they stop being physically violent then you must also stop.

You can take verses out of context from any book to make the book portray whatever message you intend. To understand any verse of the Quran you need to

  • Consider the context of the verse within the chapter.
  • The historical context of when the verse was revealed to learn who the verse is addressed to.
  • The tafsir for the verse which is an exegesis explained by scholars hundreds of years ago so people do not misinterpret verses.

Majority of the verses can be explained by reading the very next verse or the previous verse. Some verses can only be understood by reading the tafsir for the verse.

Here are common verses taken out of context from the Quran being explained:

Misquoted Quran VerseExegesis
Fighting is ordained for you, even though it be hateful to you; but it may well be that you hate a thing the while it is good for you, and it may well be that you love a thing the while it is bad for you: and God knows, whereas you do not know. - 2:216This verse is stating that Muslims should fight only to defend their right to believe in Islam. There were very few Muslims when the message of Islam was first revealed. Therefore Muslims were a minority and they were persecuted and killed for just believing in Islam. The people in power at the time did not like some of the teachings of Islam. This is not stating that Muslims should fight Non-Muslims in the 21st century, this verse is addressed to the Muslims in the 7th century. This is clear if you read the very next verse:

They ask you about the sacred month - about fighting therein. Say, "Fighting therein is great [sin], but averting [people] from the way of Allah and disbelief in Him and [preventing access to] al-Masjid al-Haram and the expulsion of its people therefrom are greater [evil] in the sight of Allah. And fitnah is greater than killing." And they will continue to fight you until they turn you back from your religion if they are able. - 2:217
And kill them wherever you overtake them and expel them from wherever they have expelled you, and fitnah is worse than killing. And do not fight them at al-Masjid al- Haram until they fight you there. But if they fight you, then kill them. Such is the recompense of the disbelievers. 2:191This verse is stating that Muslims should fight only to defend their right to believe in Islam. It teaches to only fight those who fight you (the oppressors), you should not transgress and if they cease to fight then so should you. Again this verse is addressed to just the Muslims during the 7th century and not Muslims during the 21st century. This is clear if you read the previous verse and the very next two verses:

Fight in the way of Allah those who fight you but do not transgress. Indeed. Allah does not like transgressors. - 2:190

And if they cease, then indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful. - 2:192

Fight them until there is no [more] fitnah and [until] worship is [acknowledged to be] for Allah . But if they cease, then there is to be no aggression except against the oppressors. - 2:193
And fight in the cause of Allah and know that Allah is Hearing and Knowing. - 2:244It should be clear from the other verses that fighting is only taught to defend and fight oppressors and you should not transgress. Notice how this verse says 'know that Allah is hearing and knowing' it is reminder that you should not transgress when you are fighting oppressors because Allah will know everything that you do. Again it is clear that it is talking about fighting oppressors if you read two verses later:

Have you not considered the assembly of the Children of Israel after [the time of] Moses when they said to a prophet of theirs, "Send to us a king, and we will fight in the way of Allah "? He said, "Would you perhaps refrain from fighting if fighting was prescribed for you?" They said, "And why should we not fight in the cause of Allah when we have been driven out from our homes and from our children?" But when fighting was prescribed for them, they turned away, except for a few of them. And Allah is Knowing of the wrongdoers. - 2:246
So let those fight in the cause of Allah who sell the life of this world for the Hereafter. And he who fights in the cause of Allah and is killed or achieves victory - We will bestow upon him a great reward. - 4:74This verse is referring to fighting for the cause of Allah, which is fighting people oppressing Muslim men, women and children for just being Muslim. This verse does not mean Muslims should fight non-Muslims in the 21st century. This is clear if you read the very next verse:

And what is [the matter] with you that you fight not in the cause of Allah and [for] the oppressed among men, women, and children who say, "Our Lord, take us out of this city of oppressive people and appoint for us from Yourself a protector and appoint for us from Yourself a helper?" - 4:75
They wish you would disbelieve as they disbelieved so you would be alike. So do not take from among them allies until they emigrate for the cause of Allah . But if they turn away, then seize them and kill them wherever you find them and take not from among them any ally or helper. - 4:89This verse is referring to fighting people oppressing Muslim men, women and children for just being Muslim. This verse does not mean Muslims should fight non-Muslims in the 21st century. This is clear if you read the very next verse:

Except for those who take refuge with a people between yourselves and whom is a treaty or those who come to you, their hearts strained at [the prospect of] fighting you or fighting their own people. And if Allah had willed, He could have given them power over you, and they would have fought you. So if they remove themselves from you and do not fight you and offer you peace, then Allah has not made for you a cause [for fighting] against them. - 4:90
And fight them until there is no fitnah and [until] the religion, all of it, is for Allah . And if they cease - then indeed, Allah is Seeing of what they do. - 8:39This verse is referring to fighting people being hostile and oppressive to Muslims. It is not referring to fighting people because they are non-Muslim. This is clear if you read the previous verse:

Say to those who have disbelieved [that] if they cease, what has previously occurred will be forgiven for them. But if they return [to hostility] - then the precedent of the former [rebellious] peoples has already taken place. - 8:38
And if they break their oaths after their treaty and defame your religion, then fight the leaders of disbelief, for indeed, there are no oaths [sacred] to them; [fight them that] they might cease. - 9:12The part of the verse saying 'fight the leaders of disbelief' is normally take out of context. If we read the whole verse then it is clear that it teaches to fight people who broke peace treaties between Muslims and non-Muslims and who started attacking the prophet and Muslims. This is clear from the next verse:

Would you not fight a people who broke their oaths and determined to expel the Messenger, and they had begun [the attack upon] you the first time? Do you fear them? But Allah has more right that you should fear Him, if you are [truly] believers. - 9:13
Fight those who do not believe in Allah or in the Last Day and who do not consider unlawful what Allah and His Messenger have made unlawful and who do not adopt the religion of truth from those who were given the Scripture - [fight] until they give the jizyah willingly while they are humbled. - 9:29On the surface, this appears to be an open-ended command to fight non-Muslims until they are conquered. However, a fundamental principle of Quranic exegesis (tafseer) is that the verses must be understood in the context in which they were revealed (asbab an-nuzul) and in conjunction with other verses delineating the rules of warfare.

The verse 9:29 is a command to fight the Byzantine Romans and other hostile powers who were planning an invasion against the Muslims in Arabia. In context, it is a distinct response to aggression, in particular the assassination of one of the Prophet’s ambassadors.

At-Tabari and other commentators record that this verse was revealed concerning the expedition of

Tabuk. At-Tabari records:
Mujahid reported concerning the verse, “Fight those who do not believe in Allah and the Last Day…” that it was revealed when Muhammad and his companions were commanded with the expedition of Tabuk.
Source: Tafseer At-Tabari 9:29

Ibn Al-Qayyim writes:
The cause of the battle was that the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, sent Harith ibn Umair Al-Azdi of the tribe of Lihb with his letter to Syria for the Roman king or Busra. He presented it to Sharhabeel ibn Amr Al-Ghassani and he bound him and struck his neck. Never had an ambassador of the Messenger of Allah been killed besides him. The Prophet was upset by that when news reached him and he dispatched an expedition.
Source: Zaad Al-Ma’ad 336

Safiur Rahman writes:
The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, had sent Al-Harith ibn Umair Al-Azdi on an errand to carry a letter to the ruler of Busra. On his way, he was intercepted by Sharhabeel ibn Amr Al-Ghassani, the governor of Al-Balqa and a close ally to Caesar, the Byzantine Emperor. Al-Harith was tied and beheaded by Al-Ghassani.
Source: The Sealed Nectar p. 245

This was the first act of Roman aggression that further led to the expedition of Tabuk concerning which the verse 9:29 was revealed. The verse describes the aggressors as those “who do not believe in Allah and the Last Day,” because they committed this act of treachery. Executing emissaries from other countries is a war crime that could never be committed by those who sincerely believe in God.

Therefore, this context must be understood when reading verse 9:29 so that we clearly know who should be fought, specifically the aggressors among the Jews and Christians in the 7th century and not all of them. Rather, many other verses of the Quran make clear that it is unlawful to initiate hostilities against other nations.
Indeed, the number of months with Allah is twelve [lunar] months in the register of Allah [from] the day He created the heavens and the earth; of these, four are sacred. That is the correct religion, so do not wrong yourselves during them. And fight against the disbelievers collectively as they fight against you collectively. And know that Allah is with the righteous [who fear Him]. - 9:36The part of the verse saying 'And fight against the disbelievers collectively' is normally take out of context. If we read the whole verse then it is clear that it teaches 'And fight against the disbelievers collectively as they fight against you collectively' It only permits fighting against people who fight you. Which is the same message as many other verses.

Indeed, the number of months with Allah is twelve [lunar] months in the register of Allah [from] the day He created the heavens and the earth; of these, four are sacred. That is the correct religion, so do not wrong yourselves during them. And fight against the disbelievers collectively as they fight against you collectively. And know that Allah is with the righteous [who fear Him]. - 9:36
Indeed, Allah has purchased from the believers their lives and their properties [in exchange] for that they will have Paradise. They fight in the cause of Allah, so they kill and are killed. [It is] a true promise [binding] upon Him in the Torah and the Gospel and the Qur'an. And who is truer to his covenant than Allah ? So rejoice in your transaction which you have contracted. And it is that which is the great attainment. - 9:111The first part of the verse is referring to when a believer dies, they lose their life and they leave their belongings behind but God gives them paradise in return. Then the verse says 'they fight in the cause of Allah, so they kill and are killed.' From the numerous other verses it should be clear what Allah's cause is. It is to fight oppressors. Again this verse does not give the right to attack non-Muslims.
O you who have believed, fight those adjacent to you of the disbelievers and let them find in you harshness. And know that Allah is with the righteous. - 9:123This verse again is not talking about all disbelievers. It is talking about the oppressors who were killing Muslims and who tried to kill prophet Muhammad leaving the Muslims with the only option of leaving Madinah in the 7th century. This is clear if you read a few verses back:

It was not [proper] for the people of Madinah and those surrounding them of the bedouins that they remain behind after [the departure of] the Messenger of Allah or that they prefer themselves over his self. That is because they are not afflicted by thirst or fatigue or hunger in the cause of Allah, nor do they tread on any ground that enrages the disbelievers, nor do they inflict upon an enemy any infliction but that is registered for them as a righteous deed. Indeed, Allah does not allow to be lost the reward of the doers of good.
Permission [to fight] has been given to those who are being fought, because they were wronged. And indeed, Allah is competent to give them victory. - 22:39This mentions to fight but again it is clear from the verse that Muslims are only permitted to fight in self defense
Already Allah knows the hinderers among you and those [hypocrites] who say to their brothers, "Come to us," and do not go to battle, except for a few, - 33:18This verse is not referring to Muslims fighting non-Muslims. It is referring to the Muslims who ran away and left other Muslims to suffer and be killed at hands of oppressors. The verse calls those Muslims hypocrites because they should have helped defend Muslims from being killed by oppressors and they should have put their trust in God, instead of running away. This is clear if you read a few verses before:

O you who have believed, remember the favor of Allah upon you when armies came to [attack] you and We sent upon them a wind and armies [of angels] you did not see. And ever is Allah, of what you do, Seeing.
[Remember] when they came at you from above you and from below you, and when eyes shifted [in fear], and hearts reached the throats and you assumed about Allah [various] assumptions.
There the believers were tested and shaken with a severe shaking.
And [remember] when the hypocrites and those in whose hearts is disease said, " Allah and His Messenger did not promise us except delusion,"
And when a faction of them said, "O people of Yathrib, there is no stability for you [here], so return [home]." And a party of them asked permission of the Prophet, saying, "Indeed, our houses are unprotected," while they were not exposed. They did not intend except to flee. 33 : 9 - 13

 

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