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2:191 Tumult and oppression are worse than slaughter

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And slay them wherever ye catch them, and turn them out from where they have Turned you out; for tumult and oppression are worse than slaughter; but fight them not at the Sacred Mosque, unless they (first) fight you there; but if they fight you, slay them. Such is the reward of those who suppress faith.

The following excerpt is taken from “Maariful Quran” pg. 484-485:

As already explained briefly in the opening remarks, the verse 191,
that is, (And kill them:wherever you
find them and drive them out from where they drove you out…), was
revealed after the happening at Hudaybiyyah at a time when the Holy
Prophet (S) decided, in accordance with the condition agreed upon in
the Peace Treaty of Hudaybiyyah, to embark on a journey to Makkah
to perform the qadi’ of ‘Umrah along with his Companions, something
he was stopped from doing a year before by the disbelievers of
Makkah. The noble Companions, on the eve of this projected journey,
had started to worry about the disbelievers who could not be trusted
upon in a peace treaty. If they chose to be aggressive, as they did a
year before, what option are they going to take? Thereupon, the words
used in the present verse gave them the permission to meet the
challenge of their aggression and kill them where they find them. And
if they could, it was permissible for them to drive the disbelievers out
from where they had driven the believers out.
Since Muslims, during their entire Makkan period, were made to
stay away from fighting against the disbelievers and were repeatedly
asked to forego and forgive, so much so, that the noble Companions
were, before the revelation of this verse, under the impression that
killing disbelievers was bad, and prohibited. It was to remove this misconception that it was said: :”And Fitnah is more
severe than to kill,” that is, it is true that to kill someone is a terribly
evil act, but more terrible and severe is what the disbelievers of
Makkah have done by insisting on their kufr and shirk (infidelity and
the associating of others with Allah) and by stopping Muslims from
fulfilling their religious obligations, and from performing Hajj and
‘Umrah. It is to avoid this greater evil that killing them has been
permitted. The word, Fitnah in the verse (not translated for want of a
perfect equivalent in English) inescapably means kufr and shirk and to
prevent Muslims from fulfilling their religious obligations of ibadah.
(Jassas, Qurtubi and others)

Since the generality of the words ‘kill them wherever you find
them’ might lead to the misconception that killing the disbelievers is
allowed even in the precincts of Haram, this generality has been
particularized in the next sentence of the verse by saying:
And do not fight them near Al-Masjid al-Haram unless they
fight you there.
That is, ‘you should not fight them close to AL-Masjid aL-Haram,
which includes all its environs in Makkah, unless they themselves
start fighting you there.’

  1. In the Haram (the sacred precincts) of Makkah, it is just not
    permissible to kill even a bird or animal, let alone the human beings.
    However, this same verse tells us that in the event someone starts
    killing somebody else within the sacred precincts, then, that other
    person is permitted to fight back in defence. There is a consensus of
    the jurists on this point.
  2. It also comes out from this verse that the prohibition of
    initiating Jihad or Qital is restricted to Al-Masjid al-Haram and its
    environs to which the sacred precincts extend in Makkah. At other
    places, just as the defensive Jihad is necessary, the initiating of Jihad
    and Qital is also valid.


Shafi, Muhammad (2008). Maariful Quran. (Vol .1 pg. 484-485)

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