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Fight people until they become Muslims?

Posted on: January 10, 2015

In The name of Allah,The Most Merciful,The Most gracious

Fight people until they become Muslims?


I read a hadith that says, “I have been commanded to fight the people until they say there is no God but Allah.” Does this means Muslims fight to force people into Islam?


This tradition refers to fighting a specific group of idolaters who were waging a war of aggression against the Muslim community. It does not mean Muslims should force people to enter Islam.

We should bring together all the narrations and verses that mention the context in which the Prophet made this statement and interpret them comprehensively and consistently, rather than taking one narration out of context. Other narrations make clear that fighting is only legislated against hostile aggressors.

Jabir reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

أُمِرْتُ أَنْ أُقَاتِلَ النَّاسَ حَتَّى يَقُولُوا لَا إِلَهَ إِلَّا اللَّهُ فَإِذَا قَالُوا لَا إِلَهَ إِلَّا اللَّهُ عَصَمُوا مِنِّي دِمَاءَهُمْ وَأَمْوَالَهُمْ إِلَّا بِحَقِّهَا وَحِسَابُهُمْ عَلَى اللَّهِ

I have been commanded to fight the people until they say there is no God but Allah, so when they say there is no God but Allah then their lives and wealth are protected from me, except by right of justice, and their reckoning is with Allah.

Source: Sahih Muslim 21, Grade: Sahih

Then the Prophet recited the verse:

إِنَّمَا أَنْتَ مُذَكِّرٌ لَسْتَ عَلَيْهِمْ بِمُصَيْطِرٍ

Verily, you are only a reminder. You are not over them as a dictator.

Surah Al-Ghashiyah 88:22

After declaring the command to fight, the Prophet recited verses affirming that his duty is only to deliver the message of Islam which indicates that he was not sanctioning compulsion in religion. For this reason, Ibn Rajab writes in his commentary on this tradition:

وَالْمَعْنَى إِنَّمَا عَلَيْكَ تَذْكِيرُهُمْ بِاللَّهِ وَدَعْوَتُهُمْ إِلَيْهِ وَلَسْتَ مُسَلَّطًا عَلَى إِدْخَالِ الْإِيمَانِ فِي قُلُوبِهِمْ قَهْرًا وَلَا مُكَلَّفًا بِذَلِكَ

The meaning is that your duty is only to remind them about Allah and to preach to them. You do not have authority to enter faith into their hearts by force and you are not responsible for that.

Source: Jami’ Uloom wal-Hikam

The Prophet was commanded by Allah to fight the idolaters in order to defend his community from their aggression, but if they stopped waging war against Islam then there was no justification for fighting.

Allah said:

وَقَاتِلُوهُمْ حَتَّىٰ لَا تَكُونَ فِتْنَةٌ وَيَكُونَ الدِّينُ لِلَّهِ ۖ فَإِنِ انتَهَوْا فَلَا عُدْوَانَ إِلَّا عَلَى الظَّالِمِينَ

Fight them until there is no more persecution and worship is for Allah. But if they cease, then there is to be no aggression except against the oppressors.

Surah Al-Baqarah 2:193

And Allah said:

فَإِنِ اعْتَزَلُوكُمْ فَلَمْ يُقَاتِلُوكُمْ وَأَلْقَوْا إِلَيْكُمُ السَّلَمَ فَمَا جَعَلَ اللَّهُ لَكُمْ عَلَيْهِمْ سَبِيلًا

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.

Surah An-Nisa 4:90

For this reason, Ibn Taymiyyah considered the tradition, “Fight the people until they say there is no God but Allah,” to refer only to those who were waging war on the Muslim community.

Ibn Taymiyyah writes:

مُرَادُهُ قِتَالُ الْمُحَارِبِينَ الَّذِينَ أَذِنَ اللَّهُ فِي قِتَالِهِمْ لَمْ يُرِدْ قِتَالَ الْمُعَاهَدِينَ الَّذِينَ أَمَرَ اللَّهُ بِوَفَاءِ عَهْدِهِمْ

The meaning of this tradition is to fight those who are waging war whom Allah has called us to fight, and it does not mean to fight those who have made peace with whom Allah has commanded us to fulfill their peace.

Source: Majmu’ Al-Fatawa 19/20

It was not necessary for idolaters to accept Islam in order to make peace with Muslims. Rather, all they were required to do was to stop persecuting Muslims and agree to live in peace.

Allah said:

وَإِنْ أَحَدٌ مِّنَ الْمُشْرِكِينَ اسْتَجَارَكَ فَأَجِرْهُ حَتَّىٰ يَسْمَعَ كَلَامَ اللَّهِ ثُمَّ أَبْلِغْهُ مَأْمَنَهُ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ بِأَنَّهُمْ قَوْمٌ لَّا يَعْلَمُونَ

If any one of the idolaters 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.

Surah At-Tawbah 9:6

Likewise, numerous verses of the Quran prohibit compulsion in religion and affirm the freedom of people to practice their own religions.

Allah said:

لَا إِكْرَاهَ فِي الدِّينِ ۖ قَد تَّبَيَّنَ الرُّشْدُ مِنَ الْغَيِّ

There shall be no compulsion in the religion. The right course has become clear from the wrong.

Surah Al-Baqarah 2:256

And Allah said:

وَلَوْ شَاءَ رَبُّكَ لَآمَنَ مَن فِي الْأَرْضِ كُلُّهُمْ جَمِيعًا ۚ أَفَأَنتَ تُكْرِهُ النَّاسَ حَتَّىٰ يَكُونُوا مُؤْمِنِينَ

Had your Lord willed, those on earth would have believed, all of them entirely. Then would you compel the people in order that they become believers?

Surah Yunus 10:99

And Allah said:

وَقُلِ الْحَقُّ مِن رَّبِّكُمْ ۖ فَمَن شَاءَ فَلْيُؤْمِن وَمَن شَاءَ فَلْيَكْفُرْ

Say: The truth is from your Lord, so whoever wills let him believe, and whoever wills let him disbelieve.

Surah Al-Kahf 18:29

The great scholars of Islam affirmed that the Prophet never forced anyone to become a Muslim and that such compulsion is forbidden in Islam.

Ibn Al-Qayyim said:

وَلَمْ يُكْرِهْ أَحَدًا قَطُّ عَلَى الدِّينِ وَإِنَّمَا كَانَ يُقَاتِلُ مَنْ يُحَارِبُهُ وَيُقَاتِلُهُ وَأَمَّا مَنْ سَالَمَهُ وَهَادَنَهُ فَلَمْ يُقَاتِلْهُ وَلَمْ يُكْرِهْهُ عَلَى الدُّخُولِ فِي دِينِهِ

The Prophet never forced the religion upon anyone, but rather he only fought those who waged war against him and fought him. As for those who made peace with him or conducted a truce, then he never fought them and he never compelled them to enter his religion

Source: Hidayat Al-Hayara 237

Therefore, the tradition under discussion refers to fighting a particular group of hostile idolaters who had been persecuting Muslims and waging a war of aggression. It does not mean Muslims are allowed to force anyone into Islam or to fight people just because they have another religion.



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