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Interpretation of Sura Cow - Verse 193

193. " And fight with them until there is no (more) persecution, and the religion is only for Allah. But when they desist, there should be no hostility save against the (willful) aggressors."


In this verse, the purpose of the Holy War in Islam (Jihad) is stated. It says that fighting is not for the sake of ordinary aims that humankind usually follow in their battles, nor for the sovereignty over the earth and conquest, nor for earning so much spoils, nor for preparing some selling markets and obtaining sufficient food stuff, nor for giving superiority to a group or a race over another group or race. The aim of Holy Struggle is one and only one thing, and that is the attraction of Allah's pleasure which lies in the settlement of social justice, supporting the persons who have encountered with deceit and aberration, wiping out the environment of human societies from infidelity and idolatry, and, finally and particularly, setting the instructions of Allah up in action. Therefore, as it is realized, fighting is for eradication of persecution among humankind and settling the creed of monotheism in them throughout the world.

" And fight with them until there is no (more) persecution, and the religion is only for Allah. ..." And, at the end of the verse, it adds that if they return and leave out infidelity, corruption and idolatry, Muslims should not bother them to revenge the past. They must ignore the past because opposition and reciprocal fighting is used only against oppressors when the circumstances require.

Islamic Holy War (Jihad) , in fact, can be divided into three categories:

1- The Preliminary Holy Wars for Freedom

Allah has designed some commands and programs for the sake of happiness, freedom, development, prosperity, and tranquility of Man. He has commissioned His prophets (a.s.) to communicate these commands to people. Now, if a person or a group of people imagine that this communication is against their personal mean benefits so that they produce some barriers on the way of Prophets' invitation, the prophets are rightful to remove those barriers from their way and acquire the freedom of delivering propagation, at first, through a peaceful way and, if it is not possible, then with the use of violence.

In other words, people of all societies have the right to hearken to the heralds of truth and be free to accept their invitations. Now, if some persons decide to deprive them of their lawful right and do not let the call of the heralds of truth reach the ears of their spirits and, as a result, become free from the bounds of mental and social slavery, the adherents of these agenda are rightful to employ any means in order to obtain that freedom. Hence, the necessity of preliminary Holy Wars (Jihad) in Islam, as well as other heavenly religions, is made manifest. Also, if some persons bear pressure upon some Muslim believers to invert them to their previous religion, they can apply any means to remove that pressure.

2- A Defensive Holy War

It sometimes happens that war is posed to a person or a group of people, viz, they are unexpectedly invaded or unawarely transgressed by an enemy. Here, all the heavenly laws and human rules consider the attacked person or group of persons rightful to rise and defend themselves. Alongside this defense, they can use all their potentialities powerfully and do their best to protect their entity. This kind of struggle is called defensive Holy War. Wars such as the Battles of Ahzab, 'Uhud, Mutah, Tabuk, Hunain and some other battles at the advent of Islam are counted among this kind of Holy War, which have had defensive forms.

3- Holy War Against Infidelity & Idolatry

At the same time that Islam invites the people of the world unto its call, which is the last and highest godly creed, it respects ' freedom of belief '. For this reason, it gives the nations who have the heavenly Book an enough respite to study and contemplate over Islam and willingly accept it. If they do not accept it, they will be treated as ' a confederate minority ', in a peaceful life under some particular conditions, of course, which are neither complicated nor difficult.

But infidelity and idolatry is neither a religion nor a creed nor is counted respectful. It is but a kind of superstition, a deviation, and stupidity. In fact, it is a kind of mental and ethical disease which should be, with any possible means, rooted out. The terms ' honour ' and ' respecting others' opinions ' are used in the cases that those opinions have a safe and sound foundation. But, sickness, deviation, superstition, and aberration are not some things that can be counted respectable. That is why Islam orders that idolatry be rooted out from the human societies, however much costly it may be, even at the cost of fighting. Idol-temples and the signs of idolatry, if not possible peacefully, should be destroyed by force.

Why Was Holy War Legislated in Medina ?

We know that Holy War was enjoined for Muslims in the second year A.H. while it was not compulsory before that. The reason of this subject is clear because, on one hand, the number of Muslims in Mecca was so small that rising practically meant suicide. On the other hand, the enemy was quite powerful in Mecca, and, indeed, Mecca was counted the main center of anti-Islamic powers. The opponents of Islam were so strong there that it was impossible to fight them inside Mecca.

But, when the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) entered Medina, a great deal of people believed him, so many that he was able to spread his invitation clearly inside and outside of Medina. He (p.b.u.h.) could form a simple government and prepare the necessary means for fighting with his enemies, and since Mecca was a rather far distance from Medina, he succeeded to do it with tranquility and peace of mind, and the revolutionary Muslim troops could prepare themselves for fight and defense against enemies.

Adapted from the book: "The Light of The Quran - Interpretation of Sura Al-Baqarah (The Cow)" by: "Sayyid Kamal Faghih Imani and A Group of Muslim Scholars"

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