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It is alleged that several verses of the Holy Quran incite believers to commit violence against non-Muslims by way of aggression. Such verses are misused by extremists to commit acts of violence against non-Muslims. However, a holistic and consolidated study of the verses, the teachings of the Holy Quran and the historical narratives of the aggression of the opponents of Islam, as well as the broader context of the Roman-Persian wars clearly demonstrates that these wartime injunctions were defensive in nature. The conflicts occurred due to oppression of fundamental freedoms including the freedom of conscience and practicing one’s religion of choice. Islamic teachings permits military engagement as a defense and protection of fundamental human freedoms.

If the hypocrites, and those in whose heart is a disease, and those who cause agitation in the city, desist not, We shall surely give thee authority over them; then they will not dwell therein as thy neighbors, save for a little while. (33:61-62)



It is alleged that these verses say that those who oppose Islam will be accursed and slain, that these verses preach hate. Some anti-Islam websites claim these three verses sanctions slaughter against three groups: Hypocrites (Muslims who refuse to “fight in the way of Allah” and hence don’t act as Muslims should), those with “diseased hearts” (which include Jews and Christians), and alarmists or agitators who include those who merely speak out against Islam. Detractors say that If this passage is meant merely to apply to the city of Medina, then it is unclear why it is included in Allah’s eternal word to Muslim generations.



In its historical context, this verse is addressed to hypocrites of the city of Medina who were neighbors to the Holy Prophet Muhammad (on whom be peace) and the Muslims. When the Holy Prophet Muhammad (on whom be peace) was delegated by Medina’s chiefs to serve as Chief Arbitrator of the city and mediate between its feuding factions and tribes, the Holy Prophet Muhammad (on whom be peace) had formulated agreements and accords for the city’s communities to agree to and settle their disputes by. However, there were certain groups opposed to this new arrangement and the privilege it accorded to the Holy Prophet Muhammad (on whom be peace) and the Muslims. These groups are known to have attempted to subvert the new state and constitution formed under the accords that came to be known as “The Constitution of Medina”.

The term mentioned in the verse 33:61 is ‘hypocrites’ and not disbelievers. Hypocrites by definition are people who claim one set of ideals, principles and associations but secretly harbor its subversion, destruction or do not act according to its provisions. This has nothing to do with the concept of disbelief or not accepting Islam.


Furthermore, these verses are also historically thought to refer to the Jewish tribes of Medina who had agreed to the accords but some had plotted against the Muslims. One such incident is known to be during the Battle of the Ditch when the Jewish tribe of Banu Qurayzah had entered into negotiations with the Confederate Army. Chapter 33 of the Quran is known as Al-Ahzaab which means the combined forces or The Confederates. This was an all out attempt by a large combination of tribes and forces to destroy the Islamic movement once and for all. The onslaught was expected to be so intense that the people of Medina dug a ditch around the city to have a chance of defending against the massive onslaught. After the battle ended with the Confederates unable to conquer Medina, the treason of Banu Qurayzah was revealed and the community was put under a military siege until it was eventually conquered in the interest and security of the state.


Verse 33:63 states that this has been the way of God before with prophets, like Moses who faced an oppressive enemy (Pharaoh) but God does not permit such subversion to overcome the mission of His prophets and such hypocrites are cursed by God.


This verse has nothing to do with killing disbelievers for their disbelief which is against the fundamental teachings of the Quran (see below).

Fundamental Teachings of Islam

The following verses of the Holy Quran clearly state that fighting is only permitted as a defensive recourse against oppression and that fundamental freedom of religion and conscience must be maintained at all times.


1) Conditions on permission to fight– must be defensive and to protect universal freedom of conscience

Permission to fight is given to those against whom war is made, because they have been wronged — and Allah indeed has power to help them. Those who have been driven out from their homes unjustly only because they said, ‘Our Lord is Allah’. And if Allah did not repel some men by means of others, there would surely have been pulled down cloisters and churches and synagogues and mosques, wherein the name of Allah is oft commemorated. And Allah will surely help one who helps Him. Allah is indeed Powerful, Mighty. (22:40-41)


The fundamental verses of the Quran (22:40-41) that permit Muslims to undertake military engagement clearly outline conditions which are defensive and where Muslims were being attacked and persecuted on the basis of their beliefs. Further, the verses clearly state that such undertaking must extend to a universal freedom of conscience where churches, cloisters and synagogues must be protected. This is also further validated by Holy Prophet Muhammad’s (on whom be peace) covenants with the Christians instructing Muslims to never attack Christians on the basis of religion and beliefs.


And fight them until there is no persecution and religion is wholly for Allah. But if they desist, then surely Allah is Watchful of what they do. (8:40)


Verse 8:40 above further endorses the principle that taking up an armed conflict must only be in context of protecting freedom of religion, and if the enemy desists then one should cease hostilities.


Some allegation narratives consider that ‘religion being wholly for Allah’ in this verse means that only Islam is to be enforced as a religion. However this allegation is negated by 22:40-41 above which clarifies that the principle of the Quran is freedom of religion and fighting is not permitted to enforce any one religion.


2) Peace and reconciliation with the enemy must be sought at all times

The Quran states that during wartime, seeking peace and reconciliation is a duty. This is emphasized to such a great degree that even if one fears that the enemy is seeking peace out of deception (as a strategy of war) one should still incline to it and put their trust in Allah (see 8:62-63 below).


And if they incline towards peace, incline thou also towards it, and put thy trust in Allah. Surely, it is He Who is All-Hearing, All-Knowing. And if they intend to deceive thee, then surely Allah is sufficient for thee. He it is Who has strengthened thee with His help and with the believers. (8:62-63)


And if two parties of believers fight against each other, make peace between them; then if after that one of them transgresses against the other, fight the party that transgresses until it returns to the command of Allah. Then if it returns, make peace between them with equity, and act justly. Verily, Allah loves the just. (49:10)


And fight them until there is no persecution, and religion is freely professed for Allah. But if they desist, then remember that no hostility is allowed except against the aggressors. (2:194)


3) Peace as a fundamental desired state of affairs in Quran

The term ‘Islam’ itself is derived from the root ‘Salema’ which means peace. The traditional greeting used by Muslims translated to ‘peace be with you’. Peace is a prominent theme in the Holy Quran and a fundamental desired state of affairs. Following are a few verses from the Holy Quran that illustrate the fundamental value of peace.

Peace on you-- a word of greeting from the Merciful Lord. (36:59)

And make not Allah a target for your oaths that you may thereby abstain from doing good and acting righteously and making peace between men. And Allah is All-Hearing, All-Knowing. (2:225)

Thereby does Allah guide those who seek His pleasure on the paths of peace, and leads them out of every kind of darkness into light by His will, and guides them to the right path. (5:17)

And Allah calls to the abode of peace, and guides whom He pleases to the straight path. (10:26)

And the servants of the Gracious God are those who walk on the earth in a dignified manner, and when the ignorant address them, they say, ‘Peace!’ (25:64)

He is Allah, and there is no God beside Him, the Sovereign, the Holy One, the Source of Peace, the Bestower of Security, the Protector, the Mighty, the Subduer, the Exalted. Holy is Allah far above that which they associate with Him. (59:24)


4) There can be no compulsion in religion

The Holy Quran declares in 2:257 that there can be no compulsion in religion. The meaning of any given verse of the Holy Quran must comply with this rule. Therefore, any given verse of The Holy Quran addressing armed engagement cannot be taken to mean waging war on disbelievers or infidels on account of their beliefs. This negates the assertion that Quran sanctions violence against disbelievers.