Sahih International(2:190) : Fight in the way of Allah those who fight you but do not transgress. Indeed. Allah does not like transgressors.

What is the interpretation of this verse.

1 Answer 1


The following is related in the tafsir of the verse:

  • Some hold that it is abrogated. The context (2:190-194) shows that it was revealed before the conquest of Makkah. This was either in the very beginning when Jihad was first made lawful or in the interim peace period after the treaty of Hudaibiya. It is superseded by the latter verses on unrestricted Jihad in Surah at-Tawbah such as :

    فإذا انسلخ الأشهر الحرم فاقتلوا المشركين حيث وجدتموهم

    And when the sacred months have passed, then kill the polytheists wherever you find them

    Quran 9:5

    يا أيها الذين آمنوا قاتلوا الذين يلونكم من الكفار

    O you who have believed, fight those adjacent to you of the disbelievers

    Quran 9:123

    وقاتلوا المشركين كافة

    And fight against the disbelievers collectively

    Quran 9:36

    قاتلوا الذين لا يؤمنون بالله ولا باليوم الآخر ولا يحرمون ما حرم الله ورسوله ولا يدينون دين الحق

    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 ...

    Quran 9:29

    These verses do not limit the fight to self-defense, but rather are general and their apparent meaning includes all disbelievers whether or not they begin the fight. Since these verses were revealed after 2:190 they abrogate it.

  • Some hold that the verse is not abrogated, but rather means that fighting should be only against those who are capable of fighting, i.e. adult men. And those who do not fight are the women and children, and depending on the madhab the old men, monks, physically disabled etc. Killing them is transgression.

  • Some held that it was revealed during the period of peace because of the treaty of Hudaibiya. According to the terms of the treaty there was supposed to be a ceasefire for 10 years and the Muslims were permitted by the Quraysh to enter Makkah to perform Umrah.

    The Muslims however feared betrayal of the treaty, and they asked the prophet about what to do if they were attacked when they entered Makkah. This was because there was a prohibition on fighing because of three reasons:

    1. The treaty
    2. The sacredness of the Haram.
    3. The sacredness of the month of Dhu’l-Qi’dah

    This verse is a reply to that concern. Allah permitted the Muslims to defend themselves if they were attacked, but he forbade them from attacking first because of the above prohibitions.

    Hence the verse is specific to this situation, e.g during a treaty. And does not apply to all war in general.

References: Tafsir al-Qurtubi, Tafsir al-Tabary

As for the interpretation that this verse forbids initiating the fighting and only allows for fighting in self-defense - then I am not aware of any reputable classic scholar who has adopted that view:

فأما الذين يحاربون فاتفقوا على أنهم جميع المشركين؛ لقوله تعالى: {وقاتلوهم حتى لا تكون فتنة ويكون الدين كله لله} [الأنفال: 39] ، إلا ما روي عن مالك أنه قال: لا يجوز ابتداء الحبشة بالحرب ولا الترك؛ لما روي أنه - عليه الصلاة والسلام - قال: «ذروا الحبشة ما وذرتكم» . وقد سئل مالك عن صحة هذا الأثر، فلم يعترف بذلك، لكن قال: لم يزل الناس يتحامون غزوهم.

The jurists agreed, with respect to the people who are to be fought, that they are all of the polytheists (muskrikun), because of the words of the Exalted, "And fight them until persecution is no more, and religion is all for Allah".

Except what is narrated from Malik, who said it is not permitted to commence hostilities against the Ethiopians, nor against the Turks, because of the report from the Prophet (God's peace and blessings be upon him),

"Leave the Ethiopians in peace as long as they leave you alone". (Abu Dawud)

Malik was questioned about the authenticity of this tradition. He did not acknowledge it, but said, "People continue to avoid an attack on them"

Bidaayat al-Mujtahid [(English)]

لا نعلم أحدا من الفقهاء يحظر قتال من اعتزل قتالنا من المشركين وإنما الخلاف في جواز ترك قتالهم لا في حظره

We do not know of anyone among the jurists who held the opinion of prohibiting fighting against those who refrain from fighing us from the mushriqeen, and disagreement is only in the permission of refraining from fighting not on its prohibition

Tafsir al-Jassas

  • I don't know why it's such a burden to quote the entire verse, "Indeed, the number of months with Allah is twelve [lunar] months in the register of Allah [from] the day He created the heavens and the earth; of these, four are sacred. That is the correct religion [i.e., way], so do not wrong yourselves during them. And fight against the disbelievers collectively as they fight against you collectively. And know that Allah is with the righteous [who fear Him]." (9:36)
    – Afiq
    Jun 5, 2021 at 12:00
  • @Afiq Because it is unnecessary and takes space. Scholars in tafsirs have quoted verses partially, e.g. وقال ابن زيد والربيع : نسخها وقاتلوا المشركين كافة فأمر بالقتال لجميع الكفار by Qurtubi. The part you have highlighted is irrelevant here, it not a condition but news.
    – UmH
    Jun 5, 2021 at 12:07
  • It's better to recite surah at-Tawbah in context from 1-15
    – Afiq
    Jun 5, 2021 at 12:07
  • 2
    @UmH Thanks for the answer but verses 60:8 according to this verse being kind is allowed to the disbelievers. If kindness is allowed then why fighting is allowed
    – user45458
    Jun 5, 2021 at 14:40
  • 1
    Ask a distinct question to digress to another verse. You would need to improve it though since as such it lacks sense. If kindness is permitted then does that mean that it is obligatory or optional? There is no conflict with fighting with some of them while being kind to others as suits the interest of the Muslims. The verse is applied by jurists to a dhimmi, musta’min or mu‘aahid as evident by the context of its revelation that it was revealed about the mother of Asma' bint Abi Bakr who came to her during the period of the peace treaty (Bukhari)
    – UmH
    Jun 5, 2021 at 15:30

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