Peace Without Weakness
In the name of Allah, the Merciful, the Beneficent
If they turn against you, then seize them and kill them wherever you may find them. Do not take any of them for your ally or supporter. Except in the case of those who have ties with people who have a covenant with you or those who come to you because their hearts shrink from the thought of fighting you or fighting their own people. Had Allah so willed, He would have given them power over you, so that they would have fought you. Therefore, if they leave you alone, and do not make war on you, and offer you peace, Allah has given you no way against them.
You will find others who would like to be safe from you as well as to be safe from their own people. Whenever they are called back to sedition they plunge headlong into it. If they do not leave you alone, and do not offer you peace and do not restrain their hands, seize them and kill them wherever you come upon them. Against these, We have given you a clear authority. (Women “An-’Nisaa” ‘: 4:90-91)
The verdict given by Allah against hypocrites who claim to be Muslims, making the same declaration which brings people into Islam, yet siding decidedly with the unbelievers is that they should be taken prisoners and killed wherever they are found. There is an exception stated in this passage, in the case of those who seek refuge with people who have a covenant or a treaty with the Muslim community. The attitude determined for such a community applies to them: “Except in the case of those who have ties with people who have a covenant with you.” We see here that Islam prefers peace whenever there is room for peace which does not impede its work of conveying its message to people freely and allowing them free choice. Nothing and no one should be in a position to use force against the effort to convey Islam to people. The security of Muslims should be guaranteed and they must not be exposed to any danger represented by sedition, or to threats to the Islamic message which may cause its efforts to be frozen. For this reason, those who seek refuge and live with any group of people who are bound by a treaty or a covenant with Muslims enjoy the same treatment as the people with whom they live. The same state of peace applies to them. This is a clear evidence of the peaceful nature of Islam.
Exception from the ruling of imprisonment and execution is made in the case of those individuals or tribes or communities who wish to take a neutral position, not joining the fighting which takes place between their people and Muslims. Their hearts shrink from the thought of fighting alongside their people against Muslims or fighting with Muslims against their own people. Therefore, they stand aside unwilling to fight either group: “Or those who come to you because their hearts shrink from the thought of fighting you or fighting their own people.”
Again this ruling is evidence of the Islamic desire to avoid fighting others whenever they refrain from fighting against Muslims and choose to be neutral between them and their enemies. Those who did not wish to fight on either side were present in Arabia and indeed within Quraish itself, and Islam did not pressurise them to take sides for or against Islam. It was sufficient that they did not oppose it. At the same time, there was a hope that they will eventually take the side of Islam, once the circumstances which caused them to be reluctant to adopt Islam were removed. This was what actually happened in many cases.
Allah makes this line towards those neutrals preferable to Muslims when He reminds them of the other possibility which might have taken place. These people could have sided with the hostile unbelievers and fought against Muslims. The fact that they did not make peace with them was far more preferable: “Had Allah so willed, He would have given them power over you so that they would have fought you. Therefore, if they leave you alone and do not make war on you and offer you peace, Allah has given you no way against them.” We note here the fine touch which restrains those Muslims who are full of enthusiasm and who may not like this attitude of neutrality by these people. It is a reminder of Allah’s grace who has restrained these people from taking a hostile attitude which could have increased the burden of Muslims. Muslims are instructed to accept whatever goodness is offered to them and to avoid evil which stays away from them, as long as this does not involve any relaxation of Islamic principles or complacency in matters of faith or humiliation to Muslims through a sell-out to their enemies. A cheap peace is not acceptable because the aim is not to avoid fighting at any price. The aim is to achieve peace which does not encroach on any right of Muslims or Islam, whether these rights are due to people or to Islam as a message and philosophy.
It is only right and proper that all impediments should be removed from the way of conveying the message of Islam to mankind, so that everyone who receives this message feels free to accept it without being exposed to any harm anywhere in the world. It is also needed that Islam acquires sufficient strength to deter anyone from taking a hostile attitude in any way or inflict harm of any sort on those who believe in it. Beyond that, peace is preferable and jihad continues.
There is another group of people to whom Islam extends no tolerance, because it is an evil group of hypocrites with whom Islam has no covenant or treaty. Hence, it is free to take the appropriate attitude against them: “You will find others who would like to be safe from you as well as to be safe from their own people. Whenever they are called back to sedition, they plunge headlong into it.”
A report by Mujahid suggests that this statement was concerned with a certain group of people from Makkah who came to the Prophet (Pbuh) to declare that they were Muslims without actually being so. They returned to Quraish where they went back to idol worship. Their purpose was that they should be secure and safe in both camps. Hence, Islam rules that they should be killed unless they stop their erring ways. The verdict in this case is stated clearly: “If they do not leave you alone, and do not offer you peace and do not restrain their hands (from fighting you), seize them and kill them wherever you come upon them. Against these, We have given you a clear authority.”
We note here the clear balance in the Islamic attitude: It is serious and decisive and, at the same time, it is tolerant. Each situation is faced with the suitable attitude. When we consider both features, we realise that they give every Muslim a balanced attitude which becomes an essential feature of the Islamic system as a whole. When some people move towards extremism, adopting an uncompromising, violent attitude, then they do not represent Islam. On the other hand, Islam is not represented by those who take an apologetic attitude towards jihad, trying to defend Islam which, in their view, stands indicted of violent extremism. They emphasize that Islam prefers peace in all situations and its permanent attitude is one of forbearance and forgiveness and that jihad is only allowed in the defence of Muslim land or the Muslim community. Thus, they narrow it down from its more comprehensive outlook. Jihad is indeed a means of defending the Islamic message and its right to be conveyed freely to everyone, everywhere in the world. It is also the means to ensure that every individual, anywhere in the world, is free to accept Islam. It guarantees the supremacy of a virtuous system which extends security to all people, whether they accept Islam or not. As we have already said, neither the narrow extremist view, nor the complacent apologetic view is correct.
Again, these provisions of Islamic international law convey a clear message to mankind.