Quran 2:256 says that:

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.

But, Quran 47:4 also says that:

So when you meet those who disbelieve [in battle], strike [their] necks until, when you have inflicted slaughter upon them, then secure their bonds, and either [confer] favor afterwards or ransom [them] until the war lays down its burdens. That [is the command]. And if Allah had willed, He could have taken vengeance upon them [Himself], but [He ordered armed struggle] to test some of you by means of others. And those who are killed in the cause of Allah - never will He waste their deeds.

How do different sects reconcile these two verses? How they interpret them?

  • 1
    They are very different as the first is applicable to those who are under Islamic authority and the second is about those who are being fought in a battle.
    – UmH
    Commented Dec 29, 2019 at 8:26
  • 1
    In Fiqh usually three different kinds of non-Muslims are distinguished those who fight Muslims, those who are friendly or neutral and those living under Muslim leadership (paying jizyah). In both verses it is clear that the context is different.
    – Medi1Saif
    Commented Dec 29, 2019 at 9:15

2 Answers 2


The two verses apply to different categories of disbelievers.

The first verse applies to those who are either subjects of the Islamic state or have a treaty with it i.e. a dhimmi, musta’min, mu‘aahid. These may freely practice their religion and it is not permitted to strike off their necks.

The second verse applies to the other set i.e. a harbi. They are to be invited to Islam and given the option of becoming a dhimmi. On refusal war may be initiated with them and they may be killed in the war or in the aftermath may be executed, captured, ransomed, freed or they may be made dhimmi.

The first verse does not prevent war with a harbi kafir, rather war is enjoined (see e.g. Is armed Jihad obligatory or recommended?). The second verses does not allow fighting or killing a dhimmi kafir, rather their life is sacred (see Does every non-Muslim need to accept Islam or die?) .


The latter dictates conduct during actual war battle. War is only for self-defense of the Muslim community. If attacked, it is obligatory for the Muslims to defend their community. He who picks up the sword and attacks Muslims deserves the same in kind.

In Quran 5:32, the sanctity of human life is established. "if any one slew a person - unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land - it would be as if he slew the whole people: and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people". Thus, a war of aggression is forbidden in Islam.

However, if the Muslim community is attacked then Allah prescribes what the response of the Muslims should be in Quran 5:33, and even then, mercy is to be extended to those who surrender from the attackers in Quran 5:34.

In Quran 2.190 It says "Fight in the cause of God those who fight you, but do not transgress limits; for God loveth not transgressors". So the permissible fight is in response to aggression, in a defensive posture only, and even then, to use only enough defensive response to neutralize the aggression. Quran 2.192: "But if they cease, God is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful".

Tumult or oppression is a form of aggression for which the Muslim community can engage with the oppressor in a strictly defensive posture. "And fight them on until there is no more Tumult or oppression, and there prevail justice and faith in God; but if they cease, Let there be no hostility except to those who practice oppression" (Quran 2:193).

In order to discourage aggression, the Muslim community should make any potential aggressor aware of their capabilities of defense: "Against them make ready your strength to the utmost of your power, including steeds of war, to strike terror into (the hearts of) the enemies" (Quran 8:60). The military posture should always be defensive, ready for peace and forgiveness, and that the Muslims should not fear that this posture will make them appear weak to the enemy: "But if the enemy incline towards peace, do thou (also) incline towards peace, and trust in God: for He is One that heareth and knoweth (all things)" (Quran 8:61).

The fight is always in response to aggression, including factions among Muslims: "And if two factions among the believers should fight, then make settlement between the two. But if one of them oppresses the other, then fight against the one that oppresses until it returns to the ordinance of Allah. And if it returns, then make settlement between them in justice and act justly. Indeed, Allah loves those who act justly" (Quran 49:9).

The word 'peace' and its derivatives are mentioned at least 50 times in the Quran. Islam itself means 'peace through submission to Allah'. Islam is all about the preservation of peace and justice throughout humanity. Therefore, warfare is only justified as a last resort as a defensive response against aggression and tyranny.

  • please can you add a bit more on your answer e.g. where it says war is only for self-defense.
    – M.A
    Commented May 28, 2020 at 16:30
  • @YakoubAli done Commented May 31, 2020 at 8:59

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