A lot of non-muslims quote Quran 2:191 (among others) which states that “And slay them wherever ye catch them” to criticize Islam as a religion that supports terrorism and violence. The verse is obviously quoted out of context both literally and historically coupled with the fact that Islam, unlike other world religion, has a fundamental precept of analyzing facts in Quran and Hadiths based on intellectually logical approach. For instance, Quran is the most important sacred book of Islam which was revealed by Allah through Angel Jubril (Gabriel) to the Prophet (SAW) while Hadiths are the narration, sayings and practice of Prophet Muhammed (SAW). This is most important reason why the Sacred Quran cannot be edited, modified, messages therein expunged, re-compiled or otherwise. How muslims explain and analysis Quran is explicity based on how Prophet Muhammed (SAW) unto whom the message was revealed explained and exemplified the messages coupled with “Compendium of Documentry Explanation” popularly called Tafsir which is available to everyone for consultation. One of the most notable Tafsir of Quran is Ibn Kathir (1301-1373) available online [http://www.qtafsir.com].
There is online transliteration of the Sacred Quran based on Arabic corpus developed by Language Research Groups, University of Leeds, UK available at [corpus.quran.com]. Ike and other should consult this for personal study.
LITERAL/CONTEXTUAL MEANING Quran 2:190-193
(190. And fight in the way of Allah THOSE WHO FIGHT YOU, BUT TRANGRESS NOT THE LIMITS. Truly, Allah likes not the transgressors.) (191. And kill them wherever you find them, and turn them out FROM WHERE THEY HAVE TURNED YOU OUT. And Al-Fitnah is worse than killing. And fight not with them at Al-Masjid Al-Haram (the sanctuary at Makkah), UNLESS THEY (FIRST) FIGHT YOU THERE. BUT IF THEY ATTACK YOU, then kill them. Such is the recompense of the disbelievers. ) (192. But if they cease, then Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.) (193. And fight them until there is no more Fitnah (disbelief and worshipping of others along with Allah) and the religion (all and every kind of worship) is for Allah (Alone). BUT IF THEY CEASE, let there be no transgression except against Az-Zalimin (the polytheists and wrongdoers).)
These verses were revealed at a time when Muslims of Madinah were under constant attack from the pagans in Makkans despite the fact that Muslims were chased out of Makkah to Madinah. An example would be when the Makkans conducted the public crucifixion of the companion of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), Khubaib bin Adi. These would be classified as 'terrorist activities' according to the modern usage of the term. So what does this verse say in this context? "Fight in the cause of God those who fight you", "unless they (first) fight you there" - the context of this verse applies to those who initiate the attack against Muslims. And even after they attack, the verse makes it clear: "But if they cease, God is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful." And it also makes clear the purpose for what Muslims fight: "fight them on until there is no more tumult or oppression, and there prevail justice and faith in God". It is the duty of Muslims to defend humanity from oppression and persecution and to establish justice. Muslims believe that God has placed us here on earth as his deputy or viceroy, and thus, it is our duty to enjoin the good and forbid the evil, to establish peace and justice in the land.
HISTORICAL CONTEXT/RATIONALE FOR REVELATION
The historical context is something that must always be considered where developing an understanding of Qur'anic verses. Without knowing the circumstances behind the revelation, one cannot apply the verse as accurately.
The Muslims, after having borne untold persecution with almost superhuman fortitude for years and years at the hands of the pagans of Makkah, are now for the first time enjoined to take to reprisals. ‘For a full thirteen years the Muslims were subjected to relentless persecution in Mecca. The Prophet and his followers fled for life to Medina, but the enemy would not leave them alone in their refuge. They came to attack them within a year, and the first three battles were fought in the very locality which will whether the Prophet was an assailant or defendant’ (Headley, The Original Church of Jesus Christ and Islam, p. 155). The Makkans had signed a truce and were the first to break it. The words ‘fight with those who fight you’ clearly show, firstly, that the Muslims were not the aggressors, and secondly, that those of the enemy who were not actual combatants – children, women, monks, hermits, the aged and the infirm, the maimed, and the like – had nothing at all to fear from the Muslim soldiery. It was in light of this express Divine injunction that the great Abu Bakr, the first Caliph, charged his troops into Syria, ‘not to mutilate the dead, nor to slay old men, women, and children, nor to cut down fruit-trees, nor to kill cattle unless they were needed for food; and these humane precepts served like a code of laws of war during the career of Mohammadan conquest.’ (Bosworth Smith, Mohammed and Mohammedanism, p. 185). Has not Islam thus, in prescribing war against those who break God’s law, who challenge His righteous authority, and who fill the world with violence and injustice, made every concession short of the impossible? Has any code of military ethics been so chivalrous, so humane and so tender towards the enemy? ‘The moral tone adopted by the Caliph Abu Bakr, in his instructions to the Syrian army, was’, says a modern Christian historian, ‘so unlike the principles of the Roman government, that it must have commanded profound attention from a subject people. Such a proclamation announced to Jews and Christians’ sentiments of justice and principles of toleration which neither Roman emperors nor orthodox bishops had ever adopted as the rule of their conduct’ (Finlay, Greece Under the Romans, pp. 367-368). (Daryabadi, The Glorious Qur’an, emphasis added)………..to be continued
RULES OF ENGAGEMENT IN JIHAD
Jihad can never be fought for worldly gain, for conquest, or even for revenge. Muslims must only fight to protect the lives, property, and freedoms of people, especially their freedom to worship Allah when that freedom is forcibly attacked. They are never allowed to attack innocent people, even when they are themselves attacked by the countrymen of those innocents. Any people that go against this established principle of Islamic Law and murder civilians are fighting against Islam and everything that it stands for. It is ludicrous for them to call this fighting a jihâd, a word that means striving in the cause of Islam. They are in fact murderers in the light of Islamic Law and should be treated as such.
War is only permissible in self-defence, and under well-defined limits. When undertaken, it must be pushed with vigour, but not relentlessly, but only to restore peace and freedom for the worship of God. In any case strict limits must not be transgressed: women, children, old and infirm men should not be molested, nor trees and crops cut down, nor peace withheld when the enemy comes to terms. (Yusuf Ali, The Holy Qur’an, Text, Translation and Commentary )
He then re-iterates the general principles behind Jihad in his commentary on verse 2:191:
In general, it may be said that Islam is the religion of peace, goodwill, mutual understanding, and good faith. But it will not acquiesce in wrong-doing, and its men will hold their lives cheap in defence of honour, justice, and the religion which they hold sacred. Their ideal is that of heroic virtue combined with unselfish gentleness and tenderness, such as is exemplified in the life of the Apostle. They believe in courage, obedience, discipline, duty, and a constant striving by all the means in their power, physical, moral, intellectual, and spiritual, for the establishment of truth and righteousness. (Yusuf Ali, The Holy Qur’an, Text, Translation and Commentary