Five verses of the Quran, whose meaning is most often distorted

author Sheikh Mustafa
- by Sheikh Mustafa

Five verses of the Quran, whose meaning is most often distorted Aug 1 2018

The recent rise in negative views towards Islam and Muslims has led to repeated attempts to portray this religion as cruel, as well as to unreasonable allegations against the Koran. In fact, many verses of the Quran are misunderstood, among them, we distinguish five, distorted more often than others.

Do allegations of violence endure academic criticism, or did these verses debase so much that they acquired the opposite meaning?

Religion has always been a convenient cover for violence. In history, there are many examples of how fans and extremists used religion to give global conflicts a truly universal significance. In recent decades, political conflicts, dictatorial regimes and wars involving Muslim countries have led to the emergence of modern extremist groups that try to justify violence in the name of Islam.

In turn, chaos, instability and protracted military conflicts create a political vacuum in which the aspiring groups vie for control. To be supported, these groups are ready to act under any slogans: in defense of ethnic or cultural identity, nationalistic, ideological or religious.

So let’s ask ourselves immediately: don’t these groups use religion as a political tool, don’t they want to blame the spiritual teaching that exists for 1400 years and has almost 2 billion followers around the world?

Indeed, radicals and Islamophobes are equally inclined to manipulate specific verses of the Koran to prove that the Koran allegedly approves of violence. However, the least familiarity with these verses is enough to understand how far this is from the truth.

It is effortless to turn the content of the text. It is enough to choose suitable proposals and to quote them in isolation from the context. It is remarkable that the alleged cruel content of the five verses of the Quran, which are most often subjected to such a false “citation,” immediately disappears even with a partial glance at the context, including the historical one.

All you need to do is finish the sentence or read the previous or next ayah – and it becomes evident that there is no question of advocating violence.

Moreover, even its probability disappears if one looks at other suras of the Quran and the statements of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) that categorically expose violence and call for peace. Also, a thorough academic analysis of the text of the Koran refutes any attempts by contemporary extremists and extreme haters of Islam to impose false interpretations of the sacred text.

1. Sura Al Bakar, 191 verse (2: 191)

“Kill them (polytheists), wherever you meet them, and drive them out from where they drove you out. The temptation is worse than murder. But do not fight with them at the Preserved Mosque until they fight with you in it. If they fight you, then kill them.

Such is the recompense of the unbelievers! ”

The phrase “kill them wherever you meet them” is perhaps most often cited by Islamophobes and radical extremists. However, this appeal to go to the battlefield follows immediately after the verse, which reads:

“Fight in the way of Allah with those who fight against you, but do not overstep the limits of what is permitted” (Koran 2: 190), and immediately after it said:

“But if they cease, then only the unrighteous should be at enmity” (Quran, 2: 193)!

What is the historical context of the verses 2: 190-193 and of whom they speak?

The famous associate of the Prophet and the expounder of the Koran, Ibn Abbas, claims that this fragment was revealed against the Quraysh.

For 13 years, the Quraysh tribe killed Muslims and challenged them when they lived in Mecca. They suspended the Muslims from their homes, appropriated their property, beat them, and then the Muslims fled to Medina.

The Muslims feared another attack during the Hajj when the war is banned. Therefore, these verses were revealed to them: that they, without a doubt, should take up arms for protection from the Quraysh even during the Hajj. However, no collision ever happened, as with the Quraish the agreement was signed, allowing the pilgrimage.

The phrase “do not overstep the limits of what is permissible” Ibn Abbas explains: “do not attack women, children, old people, or anyone who does not fight with you,” so causing harm to people not participating in hatreds is considered a crime against Almighty Allah.

The authoritative interpreter of the Quran ibn Ashour (died 1393) writes:

“If they stop fighting with you, then do not fight with them, for surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful, and therefore it is proper for the Orthodox to show mercy.”

In this respect, this verse is very similar to verse 89 of Surah 4, which prescribes to fight with the enemy, but in the next verse it says:

“If they departed from you, did not fight with you and offered you peace, then Allah does not open a way for you against them” (Quran, 4:90).

Returning to verses 2: 190-193, the word “fitna/temptation” ( “Temptation is worse than murder” (Koran 2: 191)) means killing because of religion (in the same sense, it is used in 85:10), persecution for faith, forcing them to believe in unbelief or worship.

The great Quranic scholar Imam al-Kisai explains that in this case “fitna” should be understood as “torture, bullying” (azaab) because Quraysh mocked those who converted to Islam “.

Ibn Jarir al-Tabari explains that the phrase “fitna worse than killing” means:

“Persecution of a believer for his faith, until he does not renounce and become an idolater, is worse and more painful for him than to be killed in his faith” [6].

Thus, this fragment unambiguously prohibits war with those who do not fight. And the quotation used to mislead people speaks of the war with persecutors to protect themselves from killing and torture on religious grounds.

Sura Al Bakar

2. Surat Al-Taub, 5 Ayat (9: 5)

The following verse, often misunderstood, is quite similar to the previous one:

“… kill the polytheists, wherever you find them.”

Again, even a superficial familiarity with the historical context and meaning of the previous and subsequent verses nullifies all attempts at false interpretation. Ayat, going directly before the quoted, speaks about the observance of peace with those with whom the contract is concluded and who did not violate it in anything.

So, then, what about the 5th verse? The commentators of the Quran al-Baidawi (died 685) and al-Alusi (died 1270) explain that they are those Arab atheists who violated peace agreements and began to fight with Muslims (nakisin), so Abu Bakr al-Jassas (died 370 AD) indicates that these verses refer only to Gentile Arabs and to no one else.

These comments are confirmed by what the Koran himself says. Ayat 13 of the same sura says:

“Won’t you fight with people who have broken their vows and are determined to expel the Messenger? They started first, and verse 36 reads:

“Fight with the polytheists altogether, just as they fight with you all together.”

The text itself clearly shows that verse 5 is not a random prescription given for no reason, without any explanation – it refers to the atheistic tribes of Arabia who fought against Muslims.

Thus, any other interpretation of this fragment contradicts the very text of the Quran.

And literally the next verse (9: 6) says that if the warrior of the opposing party suddenly asked for protection, the religious duty of a Muslim is to provide him with protection, explain to him the message of Islam, and if he refuses to accept it, he should be escorted to a safe place.

This instruction to protect and accompany participants into soldiers from the ranks of the enemy very clearly shows that this fragment cannot be interpreted in any form or form as calling for violence.

3. Sura Al-Anfal, 60 verses (8:60)

Another “favorite” ayat of woe-interpreters:

“Prepare against them as much as you can of strength and fighting horses…”. And again, the following verse says:

“If they are inclined to peace, you too are inclined to peace.” – Can this be regarded as propaganda of cruelty?

Moreover, it is necessary to ask ourselves again: Who are we talking about here? Still, the historical context will explain to us that these words must be interpreted in the light of the then war of Muslims with the Quraish of Mecca and their allies [10].

This surah was revealed in connection with the Battle of Badr, which occurred between the Muslims who had taken refuge in Medina and the Quraysh who pursued them and drove them out of Mecca. This same Sura tells of the constant wars that were going in Arabia then and the fact that the first Muslims could not find a safe place anywhere.

“Remember that you were few and considered weak on earth. You feared that people would seize you, but he sheltered you, strengthened you with his help, and provided you with blessings, so that you would be grateful “(Quran, 8:26).

Let us note that sometimes haters of Islam quote verses 12 of this surah, commanding:

“Kill their heads and cut off all their fingers.”

In doing so, they completely overlook the fact that it is a question of Allah’s order to the angels during the historical battle of Badr with the Quraysh. The first part of this verse reads:

“Here is your Lord inspired to the angels:” I am with you. Strengthen those who believe!

It’s at least dishonest – to take the text of suggestion to the angels in connection with a specific historical event and to hand it out as a universal order for Muslims to kill non-Muslims!

Sura Al-Anfal

4. Surah Muhammad, 4 verses (47: 4)

Perhaps the most outrageous example of manipulation with the text! They take one of the phrases in the middle of the fragment about the battle, and they make it out of context and in the ridiculous way they give it out as an instruction to fix cruel punishment on non-believers.

“When you meet with unbelievers, then cut their heads…”.

But even the most inexperienced reader, who has bothered to look into the source, will be convinced that the verse speaks about the actions of the soldiers (the “fil-muharaba,” as al-Baidawi explains) on the battlefield! And already at the end of the battle, as follows from the text.

“… until the war puts on its burden.”

As Ibn Jarir al-Tabari points out, this verse speaks of a particular battle with unbelievers in war conditions, as can be seen from the very first line of the surah, which speaks of … those who disbelieved and knocked others off the path of Allah” (Quran , 47: 1), that is, according to Ibn Abbas, about the pagans of the Quraysh tribe who oppressed the believers, first violating on them the right to freely confess their faith, and then declaring war on them to annihilation.

As for the phrase: “until the war puts on its burden,” Imam Qatada (died 117BC) explains: “until the enemy folds his burden.” This is echoed by many scholars throughout the history of Islam, for example, Ibn Qutayb al-Dainouri (died 276 AD).

It should also be noted that this verse gives Muslims only two options for dealing with prisoners of war: either to release them without any conditions or to exchange for ransom. The ayah does not mention any more variants, and scientists indeed point out that this is a general rule, since in the conditions of war the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and blessing) punished only traitors and those who committed a serious crime, in all other cases he almost invariably pardoned prisoners – even from among their irreconcilable opponents.

For example, he did this with the commander Salamah ibn Usal, Abu Sufyan ibn Harb, Habbar ibn al-Aswad, Ikrim ibn Abi Jahl, Umayr ibn Wahb, Safuan ibn Umayah, Suhail ibn Amir and many others.

5. Surat Al-Tawba, 29 May (9:29)

And, finally, one of the most noteworthy is the quote, which is cited as evidence that the Koran supposedly tells Muslims to fight with the people of the scripture,

“… until they pay their tribute with their own hands while remaining humiliated”.

However, this verse also has a historical context that is neglected. The early interpreter of the Quran, Mujahid ibn Jabr al-Makhzumi (died 104 AD), explains that this verse was revealed in connection with the Prophet Muhammad’s campaign against him and the blessing of the Byzantine Empire.

The Prophet Muhammad sent Haris ibn Umayr al-Azdi as his envoy to the Ghassanid state, which was in vassal dependence on Byzantium. However, the governor of the Byzantine emperor, the ruler of Shurahbil, committed a terrible crime: he arrested and killed the Muslim ambassador.

The Muslims perceived this as a declaration of war and equipped the army to avenge the Gassanids, on whose side the Byzantines came.

Thus, this surah was revealed in connection with the Battle of Muta-a battle with a specific hostile state, the Byzantine Empire, followed by preparations for a campaign against Tabuk. The enemy side is mentioned in the text of the Quran itself, which states that the commandment refers to those who “want to put out the light of Allah with their mouths” (Koran 9:32) – that is, according to Al-Dahhak (died 105) , “They wanted to destroy Muhammad and his companions”.

The story continued, as did the conflicts between the Byzantine Empire and the Umayyad caliphate. Many chronicles of this period suggest that this verse reflects the state of the ongoing war between the warring nations. However, as noted in “Tafsir al-Maragi,” all the conditions of warfare laid down in the Quran apply to this verse. That is, this verse means:

“Fight them when there are conditions necessary for warfare, namely, aggression against you and your country, persecution, and persecution of you for your faith or the threat to your life and security, as the Byzantines subjected you, which led to Tabuk.”.

Surat Al-Tawba


The message of the Quran to humanity is repeated 114 times “In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful. ” The Quran enjoins Muslims to be magnanimous with those who committed evil (41:34), turn to enemies with the words of peace (25:63), call them wise and beautiful preaching on the path of Allah (16: 125), treat non-believing non-Muslims in a kind and fairway (60: 8), to behave with other nations in the best way (3: 110) and respect freedom of religion (2: 256, 10:99).

Beyond this context of peace, mercy, and compassion, a correct understanding of the Quran is merely impossible. Reading these lines, any honest and reasonable person can not help but admit that the Koran stands for mercy, not destruction and cruelty.

Attempts to portray the Koranic text as the preaching of violence cannot withstand academic criticism, and in fact, they are easily refuted by just reading the sentence entirely and with the context, although Islamophobes and radicals snatch out of context individual proposals.

Knowing the historical context of these verses proves that all these lines refer to combat operations against a military adversary. Also, a careful study of the interpretation of these lines by scientists also makes it possible to form an idea of their true meaning.

At this stage, it should be evident that one of the best ways to counteract the misuse of writing is to spread all kinds of information necessary to understand the peaceful and tolerant nature of Scripture and to empower those who contribute to this understanding.

To continue to characterize Islam as a religion of violence means to play into the hands of extremists on both sides who seek to sow hatred and impose war.

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