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Quran 9:29 says:

Quran 9:29 image

Sahih International: Fight those who do not believe in Allah or in the Last Day and who do not consider unlawful what Allah and His Messenger have made unlawful and who do not adopt the religion of truth from those who were given the Scripture - [fight] until they give the jizyah willingly while they are humbled.

Yusuf Ali: Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.

How should this ayat be interpreted? Does it mean that Muslims are responsible to physically fight non-believers?

Reference: Quran.com

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if Muslims are establishing a state and there are people of other religions, they should be willing to accept the state and ready to pay the tax. It does not make sense to rule a place where there are people who are not willing to accept the state and are in rebellion. So the token amount they pay as Jizya is meant to state that they are accepting the rule, in return for the protection provided for them by the state.

But again in number of cases Jizya is not collected, like if the people of other religion are ready to join the army or there is some agreement of mutual protection etc.

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The explanation is very simple if you think about it this way: What is the justification of war according to Q.9:29? There are three possible answers: Either it is the intent of waging war (ḥirāba), not paying jizya, or it's unbelief. So which one is it?

Assume that it's unbelief, that the justification of war according to Q.9:29 was unbelief. Then if that was the case, then jizya wouldn't have been accepted from them. Since when they give jizya it is prohibited, according to Q.9:29, to target them. Yet when they give jizya they are still unbelievers. So the reason for war can't be unbelief.

Now assume that the justification for war was not paying jizya, that is that anyone who doesn't pay the jizya should be fought, including children, women... Yet all Muslim jurists agreed that it is prohibited even in times of war to target children, women, old people, monks... (civilians in general), and they also agreed that children, women, old people, monks... are exempted from the payment of jizya. Hence the justification for war is not "not paying jizya".

This leaves only one option: that the justification of war, according to Q.9:29, is the intent of waging war (ḥirāba). And that is the opinion of the vast majority of Muslim jurists. And as the verse in the same chapter states,

How could you not fight a people who have broken their oaths, who tried to drive the Messenger out, who attacked you first? Do you fear them? It is God you should fear if you are true believers.

Qurʾān – 9:13

In addition to that, there is a very important distinction that non-Arabic speakers may not make which is that the verse qitāl (قتال) and not qatl (قتل). The latter implies initiation of fighting, while the former means if you said ‘qātaltu (قاتلت) him’ if you resisted his effort to fight you by a reciprocal fight, or if you forestalled him in that so that he would not get at you unawares.

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The verse was revealed after Muslims established the first Islamic State in Medina. It asks Muslims to fight the people who refuse to give taxes until they willfully agree to do it. Tafsir Al-Jalalayn of verse 9.29 says:

Fight those who do not believe in God, nor in the Last Day, for, otherwise, they would have believed in the Prophet (s), and who do not forbid what God and His Messenger have forbidden, such as wine, nor do they practise the religion of truth, the firm one, the one that abrogated other religions, namely, the religion of Islam — from among of those who (min, ‘from’, explains [the previous] alladhīna, ‘those who’) have been given the Scripture, namely, the Jews and the Christians, until they pay the jizya tribute, the annual tax imposed them, readily (‘an yadin is a circumstantial qualifier, meaning, ‘compliantly’, or ‘by their own hands’, not delegating it [to others to pay]), being subdued, [being made] submissive and compliant to the authority of Islam.

  • i would like you give also the original arabic text of the cite. ... i have found it: altafsir.com/… . – qdinar Feb 25 '17 at 7:06
  • fight with whom? only with people of book, or with all unbelievers? you do not answer to the first question - what is interpretation; neither the tafsir clears that up. – qdinar Feb 26 '17 at 15:50
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Here is the following tafseer for the Ayah:

From Tafseer Altabari 11/407:

تفسير ابن أبي حاتم - محققا (6 / 1778): أَمَرَ مُحَمَّدٌ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ وَأَصْحَابُهُ بِغَزْوَةِ تَبُوكَ.

This was a direct order for the prophet to fight during the invasion of Tabook.

The same is also for the tafseer Ibn Bani Hatim:

تفسير ابن أبي حاتم - محققا (6 / 1778):

And Aldar Almanthoor for Tafseer:

الدر المنثور في التفسير بالمأثور (4 / 167):

As you can clearly see, this Ayah was a direct commandment for a certain event during a time of the Prophet PBUH and was in no way a general commandment or an order for anytime/all time. Such Ayah's only apply when the situation matches what occurred during that time. This can be proven from the Quran when Allah says contradicting any thoughts any person thinks this is a general commandment:

enter image description here

Fight in the way of Allah those who fight you but do not transgress. Indeed. Allah does not like transgressors.[2:190]

And:

enter image description here

[Fighting in] the sacred month is for [aggression committed in] the sacred month, and for [all] violations is legal retribution. So whoever has assaulted you, then assault him in the same way that he has assaulted you. And fear Allah and know that Allah is with those who fear Him. [2:194]

And many other more Ayah in the Quran with the same idea.

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    But who decides if they apply to the current situation? – amphibient Jul 24 '15 at 3:22
  • Common sense. Check the story behind the Ayah, see what happened and what led to this situation. If the same applies to your case feel free to apply it. – user12537 Jul 24 '15 at 3:26
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    So you're saying that this ayah comes with a fine subtext that makes it applicable pending the surrounding circumstances, which makes it kind of difficult to process as a moral guideline. Under a similar reasoning, you could say that alcohol prohibition was related to, say the high temperatures in Arabia that made it more dangerous to drink, so now that we have AC or don't live in such heat, that rule no longer applies – amphibient Jul 24 '15 at 3:27
  • @amphibient You have good points but so does AmericanMuslim. I think religion is personal and interrupting this is a personal responsibility not to be enforced on people who have no relation to you. In this case the disbelievers were a part of the Muslim community and sought protection from them. More importantly is the word "Jizya" which has a very specific meaning and implies a very specific setting. Actually I should have just said that... – user13203 Aug 22 '15 at 0:08
  • @amphibient See my explanation. – John Doe Nov 29 '16 at 20:12
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As i see there are several possible interpretations:

1) 9:29: Fight {those who do not believe {in Allah AND AT SAME TIME in the Last Day} AND AT SAME TIME do not consider unlawful what Allah and His Messenger have made unlawful AND AT SAME TIME do not adopt the religion of truth} from those who were given the Scripture until they give the jizyah willingly while they are humbled.

(I have written these using Sahih International translation). The 1st, with "wa" as "AND", seems to me as linguistically more straight. According to this interpretation, muslims should force only part of People of the Book to pay jizya. It looks like compulsion against People of the Book compared to other unbelievers. Does not this interpretation contradict Quran 2:256 ?

2:256: Sahih International: There shall be no compulsion in [acceptance of] the religion. The right course has become clear from the wrong. So whoever disbelieves in Taghut and believes in Allah has grasped the most trustworthy handhold with no break in it. And Allah is Hearing and Knowing.

Then i have seen another interpretation: the jizya is just a compensation for not going to army of islamic state. Are they humbled in that case? I think, they can be thought/regarded as humbled, because they have to obey to Islamic state. In this case, there should not be difference between people of book and other unbelievers. So, we have to make place for other unbelievers in this ayat, and understand last "wa" as "AND TOGETHER WITH WHO ...", and let's similarly understand other "wa"s:

2) 9:29: Fight {those who do not believe {in Allah AND TOGETHER WITH WHO ... (OR) in the Last Day} AND TOGETHER WITH WHO ... (OR) do not consider unlawful what Allah and His Messenger have made unlawful} AND TOGETHER WITH WHO ... (OR) do not adopt the religion of truth from those who were given the Scripture until they give the jizyah willingly while they are humbled.

If we understand "wa" as "AND TOGETHER WITH WHO", then it is doubtful for me, because i think, should not it be better said with "aw", meaning "OR"? And in this case seems there is even more compulsion against non-{People of the Book} compared to 1st interpretation.

The explation "they can be thought/regarded as humbled, because they have to obey to Islamic state" can be used also with 1st interpretation. If do so, why there is comparatively more compulsion to People of the Book? I think, that can be explained with that it is more easy for them to embrace Islam. Also, the word "jizya" is from root of "punishment", so it can be considered fair punishment for them, which they merited in front of God and must pay. Also, who says that non-believers cannot serve in army? - seems nobody, so that was not very good explanation. Is not that punishment to People of the Book a compulsion? Maybe meaning of the word "ikrah" which is used for "compulsion" in 2:256 is only strong compulsion, like with attempt to kill, but compulsion with forcing to pay some money is not counted? It is hard to understand it that way. So, probabaly, it is not counted as compulsion because it is already fair punishment given by God.

I see that the "AND TOGETHER WITH WHO ... (OR)" meaning of "wa" can be used also with 1st interpretation. If "AND AT SAME TIME" is used, then only those people of the Book should be fought who do not do all that things, and whoever of them who does not do only part of them should not be fought, for example, who believe in Allah, of them, should not be fought even if he does not believe to the Last Day, nor consider unlawful what Allah and His Messenger have made unlawful, nor "adopt the religion of truth". Another example: who "adopts the religion of truth", of them, should not be fought even if he does not believe in Allah and does not believe to the Last Day, nor consider unlawful what Allah and His Messenger have made unlawful. This interpretation looks a little strange to me. So, probably, there is the "AND TOGETHER WITH WHO ... (OR)" meaning.

But I have again changed my mind. 2nd way of logical precedense looks more correct to me now, because non-people of the book also can be given punishment from god, and it is also linguistically ok. and if "of people of the book" was appended to all of the listed features, could not it better put before the list? But does not this interpretation contradict with 2:190?

Fight in the way of Allah those who fight you but do not transgress. Indeed. Allah does not like transgressors.

I think both interpretations contradict with it, and also with 2:256, but this interpretation contradicts more. I think I can change my mind again.

Is jizyah, (as it is commonly understood, like tax), compulsion? I think, if it is not too much, it is fair, because muslims also have to make some duties like paying zakat and sadaka, and go to juma prayer, but unbelievers are free from islamic duties in an islamic state or society, so it seems fair if they pay money to muslims or to islamic state to compensate it. The commandment in Quran 9:29 applied to unbelievers outside of muslim countries (states) looks like commandment to make some wars with non-muslim countries (states), but, I think, this should be undrestood only with other ayats which command to abide/fulfill agreements, so it can transform to lawful activities in non-muslim countries with intention to gain more winning, powerful position for muslims, for example, in economy, in politics, for example, to successfully produce and sell some products, advocate muslim rights, and successfully bring up more children, and successfully spread Islam among non-muslims, if figthing is not possible due to agreements.

So, shortly speaking:

How should this ayat be interpreted?
- using text of Sahih International with addition of parentheses:

Fight {those who do not believe in Allah or in the Last Day and who do not consider unlawful what Allah and His Messenger have made unlawful} and {who do not adopt the religion of truth from those who were given the Scripture} - [fight] until they give the jizyah willingly while they are humbled.

But somebody can also understand this way:

Fight {those who do not believe in Allah or in the Last Day and who do not consider unlawful what Allah and His Messenger have made unlawful and who do not adopt the religion of truth} from those who were given the Scripture - [fight] until they give the jizyah willingly while they are humbled.

So, I cannot strictly answer this part of the question with proofs.

Does it mean that Muslims are responsible to physically fight non-believers?
- Yes, but not to fight with intention to physically kill, but only to force to pay jizya. Seems, forcing to pay jizya is with intention to make unbelievers to embrace Islam.


I have remembered another interpretation of 9:29 which removes the contradiction with 2:190, 2:192, 2:193 and 2:256 and 10:99, and 17:33 and 60:8:

3) Whenever you fight {those who fight you from { {those who do not believe in Allah or in the Last Day and who do not consider unlawful what Allah and His Messenger have made unlawful} and {who do not adopt the religion of truth from those who were given the Scripture} }}, stop fighting if they give the jizyah willingly while they are humbled.

I do not feel Arabic very well, and i think that this way of interpretation is possible because the first part, "fight those who ..." maybe theme ie it is already known and it is a reference and the "until they give the jizyah ..." part maybe "rheme" a new information, (or a new commandment), and important part of the sentence. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Topic_and_comment about theme and rheme.

But the word "khatta" ("until") can be translated as "in order to", so this interpretation is suspicious for me. Also there are other problems with interpretation: the reference part is too long to be just a reference, common meaning of the word "jizya" does not suit this very well.

( I wrote about this interpretation in Russian in http://dinarkurbanov.wp.kukmara-rayon.ru/2010/09/22/komment-k-filmu-islam-cto-doljen-znat-zapad/ and about this way of interpretation in Freedom of belief: How do you reconcile these two? ).

Also a question appears for me, what is jizyah? Is it indeed a tax, that should be paid constantly forever? Also "al" ("the") before it, shows to it. Maybe I will make a new question about this.

  • I have been reading through your answer, but I don't understand what you quote as contradictions, but things that are considered wrong to do. One can understand that actually its these things that verse 9:29 is talking about. There are more verses like these (e.g. 17:33, 60:8 etc.). What sense would it make to add "who started you first" in 9:13 if fighting was unconditional? – user21470 Mar 13 '17 at 10:41
  • thank you for additional links to quran. yes, indeed, in 9:1-9:22 part it is also conditional. but as i said, (but my comments are deleted together with your answer), 9:23 and 9:28 start new messages (topics), and that and later parts maybe unrelated to 9:1-9:22. and also 9:25, 9:29, 9:30 etc start new topics. – qdinar Mar 13 '17 at 12:03
  • I removed my answer because of your comment regarding the relation between those verses seemed valid to me, but I don't agree with the conditions part. The Quran has conditions for fighting in general. The jizya might just be a compensation for the damage that was caused due to that fight. Regarding disbelief, I posted a question on that here – user21470 Mar 13 '17 at 12:42
  • @J.Rahmati and you said about jizya in your answer: "Regarding the word jizya is rooted from the word jaza'. This word is used through the Quran for punishements as well as rewards. For this reason you will find in certain translations that its translated as recompense." . seems to me, i have also thought about that, as about possibility, independently, before i have read your text. i have added about this issue to my answer. – qdinar Mar 13 '17 at 12:55
  • you may also add the part about 9:30 if you agree because there seems a lot of misconception about that. Not many (non Arab speaking) people understand its a different topic and interpret it as as a follow up of 9:29. Most translations don't make it clear either. – user21470 Mar 13 '17 at 13:09

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