“O you who believe! Fight those of the disbelievers who are close to you, and let them find harshness in you, and know that Allah is with those who are the righteous.” Quran 9:123
Greetings of Peace on you. If you are here it means you are either a Muslim who has been directed to this by someone who hates Islam or you have some hate towards Islam in your heart. Either ways, I am presenting a justification to the Quranic verse 9:123 here to end the misconception associated with it and to change that hate.
If you don’t wish to read this long article then I will give you a short answer. Quran Does not tell the Muslims to fight the disbelievers ALL THE TIME EVERYWHERE UNDER ALL CIRCUMSTANCES. Even to think so is foolishness. Verse 9:123 was revealed with a battle-like situation and several conditions and contexts in the background. It commands the Muslims to fight those who are hostile to them and strategically starting from the nearest ones. How do we know this? It is because elsewhere the Quran commands the believers to cease hostilities if the other party also ceases implying that the hostilities can never resume unless the other party initiates the hostility.
“But if the enemy incline towards peace, do thou (also) incline towards peace, and trust in God: for He is One that heareth and knoweth (all things).” Quran 8:61
The above was the short answer. If you need a detailed explanation of the context and background of this verse then you may read the below. Trust me, inshallah you will love it and will treasure the knowledge if you are patient.
There are two possible contexts associated with verse 9:123 and I will present them both. May Allah forgive me if I state anything incorrectly unknowingly. –
CONTEXT 1 –
Quran 9:123 is not a standalone verse which can be read without any context. It certainly has a context which is easily seen if you read few verses before it.
The context begins from verse Quran 9:117.
Quran 9:117 – Allah has already forgiven the Prophet and the Emigrants and the Helpers who followed him in the hour of difficulty after the hearts of a party of them had almost inclined [to doubt], and then He forgave them. Indeed, He was to them Kind and Merciful.
Quran 9:118 – And [He also forgave] the three who were left behind [and regretted their error] to the point that the earth closed in on them in spite of its vastness and their souls confined them and they were certain that there is no refuge from Allah except in Him. Then He turned to them so they could repent. Indeed, Allah is the Accepting of repentance, the Merciful.
Quran 9:119 – O you who have believed, fear Allah and be with those who are true.
Quran 9:120 – It was not [proper] for the people of Medina and those surrounding them of the Bedouins that they remain behind after [the departure of] the Messenger of Allah or that they prefer themselves over his self. That is because they are not afflicted by thirst or fatigue or hunger in the cause of Allah , nor do they tread on any ground that enrages the disbelievers, nor do they inflict upon an enemy any infliction but that is registered for them as a righteous deed. Indeed, Allah does not allow to be lost the reward of the doers of good.
Quran 9:121 – Nor do they spend an expenditure, small or large, or cross a valley but that it is registered for them that Allah may reward them for the best of what they were doing.
Quran 9:122 – And it is not for the believers to go forth [to battle] all at once. For there should separate from every division of them a group [remaining] to obtain understanding in the religion and warn their people when they return to them that they might be cautious.
Quran 9:123 – O you who have believed, fight those adjacent to you of the disbelievers and let them find in you harshness. And know that Allah is with the righteous.
Verse 9:123 is one among 7 verses which are bound by a context. So Analyze them accordingly.
The below verses were revealed concerning the campaign of Tabuk, a city halfway between Mecca and Present day Syria. The believers had peace treaties with many tribes in and around Medina and many of these were not Muslims yet. According to the treaties they were supposed to march with the Prophet to help him in his cause but they failed to do so as Tabuk was too far and it was the season for harvest. Among those who lagged behind were three believers as well whom the Prophet peace on him hoped that they joined him.
In verse 9:117 – Allah is narrating the events after this incident when the Muslims had returned from the campaign. Read this verse properly and you will find it speaks of three parties viz the Prophet peace on him, the Emigrants and Helpers.The Emigrants are the first generation of Muslims who “immigrated” from Mecca to Medina due to persecution. The “Helpers” are those people of Medina who welcomed these refugees as there own and hence known as “Helpers” to the cause of God. None of these three parties are alive today. The whole incident narrates to something that was past.
In verse 9:118 – Allah says that he “forgave the three who were left behind“. These three people failed to join with the Prophet and the Main body of believers who were marching for this Campaign. Again, the reference here is to a specific incident that happened 1400 years ago.
In verse 9:119 – Allah is reprimanding “the three who were left behind” of the previous verse and instructing them not to repeat there mistake again of failing to be with the believers. They believers are supposed to be one united unit.
In verse 9:120 – Allah directly takes the name of a specific city called “Medina” and speaks few words to its inhabitants proving once again that the reference here is to a specific incident that happened 1400 years ago. Allah is reprimanding those tribes of Medina and Bedouins who failed to join the Prophet peace on him in the campaign. At the same time Allah praises the efforts of those who actually went.
In verse 9:121 – Allah continues to speak about these people of the old who were the best in his sight. Again, a direct reference to a specific group of people who have longed passed away.
In verse 9:122 – Allah provides instruction to the management of the early Muslims who were few in number compared to the gigantic number of enemies that surrounded them. He instructs them telling that when they go forth to battle they should leave few knowledgeable people behind so that in case they all die in the battle, the knowledge is not lost. During that time Islam was present in only two small cities called Mecca and Medina. Besides the pagans of Arabia, the Muslims were surrounded by ancient empires like the Roman Empire, the Byzantium Empire and the Persian Empire, all of whom had legions of armies hundreds of thousand strong and trained.
In verse 9:123 – STILL, Your Creator Commanded in this verse to the small band of Muslims to be hostile towards the sea of disbelieving people. This is guts. O you who have guts in your heart, you can’t but admire such courage of men and such instruction that these men of courage followed. If you can get inspired by Hollywood then why not be inspired by this? This is the real deal.
These people fought to establish the truth. As an example, entertain the possibility for a second in your minds, what if the Quran was really the latest and the last book from God? What if these people who were few in number were really following the instruction from the Creator of the Universe? If this was really true, then even though they were engulfed from all sides by a sea of people who believed in idols, saints and others attributing sons and daughters to God, the Creator of the Universe would still command them to oppose falsehood. This is exactly what happened. These small band of people would still have to struggle inch by inch against falsehood and prove to themselves that they were worthy to be the first among the mankind of that time to be guided to truth. And they did this to perfection.
God is not in need of us, it is us who are in need of him.
“O mankind! it is you who stand in need of Allah, but Allah is Rich (Free of all wants and needs), Worthy of all praise.” Quran 35:15
So, this was the first context of these verses. To single out verse 9:123 outside its context and say that Muslims are commanded to be harsh to disbelieves under all circumstances is bigotry. You would be guilty of doing exactly the same thing which you allege the Muslims to do, i.e being harsh to Muslims. If you believe that a God is watching you and Judging your actions then I don’t need to tell you that your thoughts are visible to Him and he is aware whether you are absolved or still involved in this bigotry.
CONTEXT 2 –
So far we have seen verses that precede verse 9:123. Let us now examine verses that succeed it.
Quran 9:124 – And whenever a Chapter is revealed, there are among the hypocrites those who say, “Which of you has this increased faith?” As for those who believed, it has increased them in faith, while they are rejoicing.
Quran 9:125 – But as for those in whose hearts is disease, it has [only] increased them in evil [in addition] to their evil. And they will have died while they are disbelievers.
Quran 9:126 – Do they not see that they are tried every year once or twice but then they do not repent nor do they remember?
Quran 9:127 – And whenever a Chapter is revealed, they look at each other, [saying], “Does anyone see you?” and then they dismiss themselves. Allah has dismissed their hearts because they are a people who do not understand.
Reading the above verses, we see a change in context here. Allah is speaking about the hypocrites living in Medina who were from the Pagans and Jews. These people posed a greater threat to the small group of believers because they were hypocrites.
Now who is a hypocrite according to the Quran?
According to the Quranic terminology a Hypocrite is him who says that he is a Muslim when he meets a Muslim but when he goes back to his own people he says he is a Jew or a Pagan. He is a double edged sword who lingers among the believers trying to know their secrets, plans and spreads lies and sows discord among the communities. He is the one who destroys bridges of Peace.
The Jews who were within the walls of Medina were untrustworthy as they broke every peace treaty which the Prophet peace be on him had with them. As a community they betrayed the Prophet at every turn. If you are a Christian then I should hold you and shake you to make you remember how the Jews behaved with Jesus Peace on him! Do not forget that and do not be surprised that they repeated the same with the next Prophet i.e Prophet Muhammad. Did they not do the same to Moses too even after he faced the Pharaoh and split the Ocean for them and delivered them safely?
I will not go into details of history here and will cut the long story short and present below FOUR INSTANCES OF BETRAYAL BY FOUR DIFFERENT TRIBES OF JEWS who broke their Peace treaties.
- The Meccan polytheists had rallied the Arab tribes and marched towards Medina with an army of 10,000 troops. This was the biggest army in Arabia during that time. The Muslims were roughly 2000-3000 including children and old. Due to such large disparity in numbers it was suicidal to meet the enemy head on as they were outnumbered by three or four times. Hence the Muslims decided to dig a deep trench across Medina and make it something like an Island. But the enemy was very near and it was just 7 days March away. So the Muslims dug a trench which covered only a partial portion of the circumference towards North. A hill called Mount Sal was a natural barrier and was made part of the Circumference. The entire stretch on the South and South-East was covered by the tall Fortresses of the Jewish tribe of Banu Qurayzah who had a peace treaty with Prophet Muhammad.To Summarize. In the North the Muslims dug the trench and to the south they left their fates in the hands of the Jewish tribe who were supposed to be allies. Now do you see where the danger was?
If for any reason these Jews were to open their gates from the south, an army of 10,000 would enter and massacre the city easily. The danger was as serious as this. It was in this juncture that the Jews of Bani Qurayzah broke the treaty unabashedly and tore the parchment in pieces. But we only fool ourselves if we think we are fooling the Creator. The Creator saved us and history has documented this in great detail.
We actually won the war and you can google the details. Just search for “Battle of the trench” in google.
After the defeat the enemy withdrew and what do you think the Bani Qurayzah were? They were worst enemies than the ones which were just defeated. An enemy who says that he is a friend is a worse enemy than the one who declares it openly. This was one example of the treachery of Jews.
- There were another Jewish tribe called Banu Nadir who had a similar treaty with the Prophet peace on him but attempted to Murder the Prophet after inviting him for a meal.
- There was yet another Jewish tribe called Bani Qaynuqah who also had a Peace treaty with the Muslims but broke it unabashedly for a petty incident that happened in the market when few of them outraged the modesty of a Muslim Woman which they blew out of proportion and they declared war against the Muslims. After subduing them they were exiled out of Mecca. The Prophet was such that he allowed them to carry their possessions as Much as there camels could carry in one journey. IT is a different story the way this tribe marched outside Medina flaunting its wealth before the starved Muslim immigrants and economically weakened helpers.
- When the Meccan polytheists attacked the Muslims in the Battle of Uhud, none of the Jewish tribes came to aid which was a clear violation of the Peace treaties which they had. In this case it was a collective betrayal by each one of them. As per the peace treaty they were one united people with the Muslims who were supposed to aid each other when an enemy attacked any one of them. After all they shared a common city, so why should only one community fight an invading force? But no aid came to the Muslims. Recognizing the folly of Jews there was one brave Jewish Rabbi who alone rode to the Battle field to honor the pact. His name was Mukhayriq. Just google “Mukhayriq” and check him in Wikipedia.
The treachery of Jews was endless. One tribe after another they betrayed the Muslims at every stage. This was an enemy within the house. Hence to address this the Creator revealed verse 9:123.
Quran 9:123 – “O you who have believed, fight those adjacent to you of the disbelievers and let them find in you harshness. And know that Allah is with the righteous.”
It was to send a clear Message to the Jews and the Pagans that there behavior will not be taken lightly anymore and enough was enough. It was also a deterrence to them that their betrayal is not without consequence.
Does it mean that these verses 9:117-123 are only for the past and not valid anymore?
No! Quran is a timeless revelation from God whose verses are most certainly valid till the end of the world. They outline to us how we should be today if we face the same situation again. They teach us that Allah forgives our mistakes, that we should not have doubt about Allah and we should preserve in difficulty (9:117).
They teach us that there is no true refuge other than Allah and we should seek refuge in him from our difficulties of life and Allah accepts the repentance of those who repents and likes us to long for his forgiveness (9:118).
They teach us that we should be in awe of our Creator and not take him lightly. A Parent need to be kind and Merciful (9:117) and at the same time be strict (9:119) because fear, awe and respect compliment those things which are difficult to achieve with Love alone. The Love from Allah and the Awe towards him are of a much higher degree than that of Parents.
These verses tell us the qualities of the humble souls with whom their Creator is well pleased with (9:120) and most importantly that they hold the Prophet ahead in preference even to themselves. Prophet Muhammad and all the Prophets should be dearer to us than our own selves and these verses inform us that the deeds of the doers of good are never lost (9:120-121).
Verse 9:122 is a key guidance of strategy for any battle even for an army of disbelievers and verse 9:123 is a culmination or conclusion of all these with the moral that we should never relent towards falsehood and stand fast on our beliefs and present our “strong” side towards falsehood both as an inspiration and as a deterrence.
Next these verses reveal us the nature of the hypocrites so that we guard against them (9:124-127).
O Reader, these are the words of your creator. I sincerely hope that whatever you have read so far benefits you in truth and you be an instrument for world peace.
If you would like to know more about Islam, feel free to leave a reply and what you want to know. God willing, I will reply.