Leaving Islam



Were Muhammad's Wars in Self Defense? 

By Ali Sina 

Dear Ali

I was debating with one of my religious relatives and when I showed her this verse (9:5) she accused us (you and I) of misinterpretation.  According to her we are reading this verse in the wrong context.  Her interpretation of this verse is that Muslims are asked to fight back in self defense only and we should read verses 9:04 - 9:06 in order to get the correct meaning. She looks at it from Yusuf Ali's tafsir which states fight only if the pagans make war against you.




Dear Gus,  

Sura 9 consists of two main discourses:  

The first discourse (vv. 1-37), is called Bara’at. This discourse basically is the edict of intolerance that Muhammad issued one year after his victory in Mecca and only a few months before his death. The other main discourse of this Sura is called Taubah or repentance and has to do with the conditions that he imposed for accepting the repentance of those who did not go to war with him to Tabuk. Your question is about the first discourse which is actually, chronologically speaking, the last verses of the Quran.    

Quran must be read in its context i.e. the context in which it was written (Sha’ne Nozool). You have to know the history behind every verse and Surah to understand what it says.   

Bara’at means deliverance. In the year seven of Hijra Muhammad had signed a peace treaty with the Meccans, a few miles away from that town, in a place called Hudaibiyah. The treaty stated that for 10 years Muslims would leave the Quraish and their caravans unscathed and would not harass them by waylaying their caravans and plundering their properties. In exchange the Quraish would allow the Muslims to perform Hajj starting from the subsequent year.    

After signing that accord, Muhammad concentrated on the North and raided the Northern populations of Arabia , starting with Khaibar, which was a prosperous Jewish town and then subdued many other smaller populations, casting terror in the hearts of the majority of the Arabs.  

Only two years after the treaty of Hudaibiyah he felt strong enough to attack Mecca and was able to gather 10,000 men to accompany him in the expedition. (At Hudaibiyah he had only 1500 men). Not all those who accompanied him were Muslims. But he was an emerging tyrant and some of the tribes feared that refusing his demand would anger him and they too could become his subsequent victims. In other words they tried to stay out of his harm by appeasing him. Among them were the two big tribes of Sulaim and Tamim. To sweeten the deal Muhammad offered them a share of the booty. Carrot and stick are the preferred tools of narcissists. 

But Muhammad had signed a treaty with the Meccans. How could he get around it? Not that the treaty itself was any deterrent, what Muhammad needed was an excuse to justify his treachery. The solution to all Muhammad’s problems was Allah and in this case also it was Allah who gave him deliverance.   

Dr. M. Khan the translator of Sahih Bukhari and the Quran into English writes:

"Allah revealed in Sura Bara'at the order to discard (all) obligations (covenants, etc), and commanded the Muslims to fight against all the Pagans as well as against the people of the Scriptures (Jews and Christians) if they do not embrace Islam, till they pay the Jizia (a tax levied on the Jews and Christians) with willing submission and feel themselves subdued (as it is revealed in 9:29). So the Muslims were not permitted to abandon "the fighting" against them (Pagans, Jews and Christians) and to reconcile with them and to suspend hostilities against them for an unlimited period while they are strong and have the ability to fight against them. So at first "the fighting" was forbidden, then it was permitted, and after that it was made obligatory " [I
ntroduction to English translation of Sahih Bukhari, p.xxiv.]    

Ali read the Bara'at to the crowd of the pilgrims in Mecca one year after the conquest of that city. That year was the last year that the Pagans were allowed to come close to Mecca and its mosque. In this edict Muhammad announced, "the Pagans are unclean; so let them not, after this year of theirs, approach the Sacred Mosque" (9.28) 

In this discourse Muhammad declared that all the treaties that he had previously signed with the Pagans are null and that the Pagans had four months of grace to submit to him and after that they would be hunted and as the verse 2 says; “covered with shame”.      

The verse 3 clearly states that after the lapse of those four months, Muhammad would unilaterally dissolve his treaties and obligations with the Pagans "and will inflict grievous penalty on those who reject his Faith."  

The pretext to declare null his treaty with the Meccans was soon found.  

In the vicinity of Mecca there were two tribes with a long standing feud between them. One was Bani Bakr who had Meccans for allies and the other was Bani Khoza’a. They sought the protection of Muhammad when he was stationed in Hudaibiyah. It happened that several men of the Bani Bakr, in their traditional custom of hostility, effected a petty raid on their enemies, the Bani Khoza’a, and killed a few of them. The victims took their complaints to Muhammad to punish the aggressors. Entreaty was hardly necessary. The opportunity that Muhammad had been waiting for had finally arrived. He immediately gave his word to avenge their blood: "If I assist you not with the same aid as if the cause were mine own, then let Allah never assist me again!" But it was the invasion of Mecca that Muhammad was really coveting.  

Instead of Bani Bakr, Muhammad started making preparation to attack Mecca . This was a continuing war between two unrelated tribes. The treaty of Hudaibiyah was signed between Muhammad and the Quraish. In no logical terms one can find an excuse for Muhammad to annul the treaty and attack Mecca . To justify this war he accused the Meccans of furnishing weapons to Bani Bakr. The history is written by the Muslims and we have no way to verify their claims against their enemies, but even if this accusation was true, still the Meccans cannot be blamed for selling arms to their allies. One can find no justification for Muhammad for invading Mecca .    

The verse 4 of this Sura refers to this episode where Muhammad spells out his pretext. In this verse Muhammad shifts the blame on his victims and makes his Allah say that the treaties are “not dissolved with those Pagans with whom ye have entered into alliance and who have not subsequently failed you in aught, nor aided any one against you.” 

In other words the reason this treaty is dissolved, according to Muhammad was because the Meccans aided one against him. Of course this is a lie. The Meccans did not help Bani Bakr against Muhammad. This verse is basically an excuse, a face saver. Here Muhammad implies that the reason for the attack is because the Meccans aided the Bani Bakr. To see the absurdity of this excuse imagine that America and Russia sign a peace treaty but Russia supplies India some arms which the Indians use against Pakistan . Would America be justified to declare war on Russia accusing the Russians of the breach of their peace accord because America and Pakistan are allies? This makes no sense at all and it is clear that Muhammad was looking for an excuse to renege his treaty. 

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