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28:16 Implied Peace treaties: A lesson to remember for all Muslims

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He prayed: “O my Lord! I have indeed wronged my soul! Do Thou then forgive me!” So (Allah) forgave him: for He is the Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.

(He said, “O my Lord, I have wronged
myself, so forgive me.” So he forgave him – 28:16). The gist of this verse is
that Sayyidna Musa (AS) regarded the killing of the infidel Qibti as a sin,
despite the fact that it had happened without any intention on his part,
because it was in conflict with his status of prophethood, and thus below
his dignity. So, he begged Allah’s pardon for the act, which was duly

The first question that arises here is that this Qibti was an infidel
combatant (harbi) in the religious term. Hence, his killing was permissible
and preferable, because he was neither a dhimmi i.e the citizen of
an Islamic state nor under any covenant with Musa (AS). Then why did
Sayyidna Musa (AS) regarded it a sin and an act of Satan? His killing
should have been regarded as an act worth the reward, because the Qibti
was harming a Muslim unjustly, and got killed in the process when Musa
(AS) tried to save the life of the Muslim. The answer to this question is
that covenants of peace are sometimes written or spoken in express words,
and sometimes they come into effect by consistent practice of the parties
that amounts to an implied agreement and is as good as a written
covenant. Violation of the covenants of this type is also prohibited in
Islam. The covenant established by practice can be understood by the
example that if in a non-Islamic state Muslims and non-Muslims are
living in harmony and there is no conflict between them, and any pillage
or fighting with each other is regarded as treachery, then this consistent
practice of co-existence would be regarded as an implied agreement for
peaceful living, and its violation is not allowed. The proof of this principle
can be found in a lengthy hadith of Sayyidna Mughirah Ibn Shu’bah (RA)
that has been reported by Imam Bukhari in his book in the chapter
entitled as ‘Kitab Ash-Shurut. The hadith runs like this: Sayyidna
Mughirah Ibn Shu’bah (RA) had good relations with a group of infidels
before the advent of Islam, and later he killed them and took possession of
all their wealth. Then he went to the Holy Prophet (S) and submitted to
Islam, and presented all that wealth to him. On this action the Holy
Prophet (S) said to him (As far as your
embracing Islam is concerned, I accept it, but I have nothing to do with
this wealth ) Abu Dawud has quoted this hadith like this: (As for wealth, we have no concern with it). The Holy Prophet
(S) declared in this hadith that he accepted his submission to Islam, but
this wealth has been snatched by breach of trust and was a treachery,
hence he did not have any desire for this wealth. Hafiz Ibn Hajar has
observed in his commentary that this hadith has laid down the principle
that grabbing of wealth of the infidels during peacetime is not
permissible. It is for the simple reason that people living together in a city
or township or those who work together regard themselves secured from
each other. The agreement established through their practice is like a
trust, which must be honoured by each and every person, no matter
whether he is a Muslim or an infidel. The property of infidels permitted
for possession by the Muslims is only that which is acquired during a war with them. It is not permitted to grab the wealth of infidels during peacetime, when one feels secured from one another. Qastalani has
observed in his commentary on Bukhari as follows:

‘No doubt the wealth of infidels is permitted (to take possession)
during war or jihad, but in peacetime it is not lawful.
Therefore, any Muslim living and socializing with infidels in the
manner that they are safe and secure for each other, for him it
is unlawful to slay them, or forcefully grab their wealth, unless
the peace agreement established through practice is abrogated
through an announcement’.

The gist of the discussion is that if the Qibti would have been killed
with preconceived resolve in the presence of an implied peace agreement,
it would not have been lawful. But Musa (AS) did not have the intention
of killing the Qibti. He only hit him with his bare hands to save the Isra’ilite
from his grip. In the normal course, it should not have been fatal, but he
died all the same by that blow. Then Musa (AS) realized that a lighter
blow would also have done the job of getting rid of him. Realizing that
harder blow was not needed, he repented and invoked Allah’s mercy.


Shafi, Muhammad (2008). Maariful Quran. (Vol .6 surah 28 verse 16)English-MaarifulQuran-MuftiShafiUsmaniRA-Vol-6.pdf (

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