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Indeed, Allah loves those who fight in His cause in a row as though they are a [single] structure joined firmly. Surah 61:4

This ayah refers to 'those who fight', and they are contrasted with those who "...say what you do not do" in the previous two ayat (presumably hypocrites?).

Is 'the fight' an offense against enemies or an act of defense from assailants or is it not possible to tell from the context or original Arabic?

  • 002:190 And fight in the Way of Allah those who fight you, but transgress not the limits. Truly, Allah likes not the transgressors. [This Verse is the first one that was revealed in connection with Jihad] – Aboudi Sep 24 '14 at 19:49
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    We as Muslims are not allowed to attack any one, not even those who disbelief but we do attack who attacks us, which is only logic. – Aboudi Sep 24 '14 at 19:51
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According to Tafsir Ibn Kathir, this verse was explicitly revealed in the context of the Battle of Uhud; in that sense it would be seen as a defensive battle as the Makkan army was at that time sent against the Muslims of Medina.

However, taken in context the emphasis is far less on any particular mode of fighting as it is on unity. The hypocrites who "…say what [they] do not do" are essentially being reprimanded for either failing to fulfill their promises to stand with the Prophet and fight, or for claiming that they had fought hard when they did not. In other words, for appearing to stand as one with the fighting forces when they in fact did not.

Even if the verse itself was explicitly revealed regarding Uhud, the general understanding can (and probably should) be extrapolated for not only any form of fighting, but for general unity of the Ummah itself. Whether it was an offensive or a defensive battle is irrelevant; fighting was commanded, and those who believed (or claimed to believe) that the Prophet spoke with the authority of God should've been committed to following through on that, but for whatever reason (be it weakness of faith, fear of worldly harm or outright malice) many weren't.

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