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Critiquing the Notion that the Hadith Legitimizes the Killing of Non-Muslims

As a source of law and principles regulating the lives of Muslims, the al-Quran had revealed that Allah SWT created diversity amongst men including race, ethnicity, religion and language. This heterogeneity must therefore inspire men to mutually share and help each other. And not to incite conflicts. Allah SWT says:


And we have revealed to you Al Quran bringing truth, confirming that which preceded it, namely religious scriptures (that were previously revealed) and criterion over them; so judge between them by what Allah has revealed and do not follow their inclinations away from what has come to you of the truth. To each of you We prescribed a law and a method. Had Allah Willed, He would have made you one nation, but to test you in what He has given you, so race to doing good. To Allah is your return all together, and He will inform you concerning that over which you used to differ. (Quran, Al-Maidah; 48)


The verse shows that Allah SWT wanted heterogeneity or diversity amongst men. If God had willed, homogeneity would be inevitable. He also stated that the heterogeneity must be used as a motivation for all to do good deeds.


Exemplifying this was Prophet Muhammad SAW who taught his followers how they must interact with those of other faiths. Prophet Muhammad SAW had never preached against diversity of ideology and religion in Madinah.


We must also emulate dakwah (proselytization) that was undertaken by the notable Islamic proselytizer in this country: wali songo (editor: wali songo refers to the nine Ulama who were believed to have brought Islam to Java). Historically, wali songo who had spread Islam in Java was known to have done so by getting acquainted with local culture. This strategy was effective in capturing the hearts of the Javanese community. Gradually, the Javanese community embraced Islam.


This strategy exemplifies a key principle espoused by Prophet Muhammad SAW which required Muslims to respect diversity. In other words, Islam was spread in Java without compulsion but through respecting diverse local cultures.


A hadith that is frequently used by perpetrators of religious violence is one narrated by Imam Bukhari and Imam Muslim. Although this hadith was consensually accepted as valid, understanding its context is essential to its interpretation.


As narrated by Ibnu Umar RA, Prophet Muhammad SAW said: I was commanded by (by Allah SWT) to fight men till they proclaim that that is no God other than Allah and that Prophet Muhammad SAW is Allah’s messenger, to establish prayers, and to give alms. If they have carried out all of these, their safety and belongings will be assured, except those that are justified in Islam and their sanctions will be done as mandated by Allah Ta’ala. (HR: Bukhari and Muslim)


To understand this hadith, it is essential to understand the Arabic language. This is important to understand the nuances of the al-Quran and hadiths which are written in Arabic.


It would be detrimental to accept the literal translation of the hadith above. This is because it would have meant Prophet Muhammad SAW commanded that men be fought till they embraced Islam. However, upon deeper analysis, this is not what is meant. This are due to several reasons:


  1. The term (?????) used by Prophet Muhammad SAW in this hadith is derived from the Arabic word (????). This word, pronounced as “musyarakah” means “mutual.’ In this hadith, it would mean to mutually kill or put differently, war. Therefore, the context of this hadith is referring to a condition of war; not during peace or attacking without reason.
  2. The term (?????) in this hadith also has a specific meaning. The term “an-nas” in this hadith refers to the non-Muslim community who were fighting Prophet Muhammad SAW (as-Sindi, Hasyiyah al-Sindi ‘Ala Sunan Ibn Majah, vol.2, pg.457). This clearly demonstrates that the hadith above can only be applied in specific conditions and restricted only to groups fighting Prophet Muhammad SAW. It must be emphasized that this hadith cannot be applied to all non-Muslims indiscriminately.


There are other numerous factors for the misunderstanding of this hadith by hardline groups to legitimize conducting religious violence. This includes them not understanding the universal principles in Islamic Syariah (maqashid al-Syariah); namely its five principles: hifdz al-din, hifdz al-nafs, hifdz al-aql, hifdz al-nasl and hifdz al-mal. The protection over the lives of others is as commanded by Allah SWT:


Whoever kills another man, not because that man (has killed) another, or not because that man has caused damage on earth, it is as though he has killed the entire humanity. And whoever looks after the life of another, it is as though he has cared for the entire humanity. And although numerous prophets have been brought to men (bringing) clear explanations, there are many among men that have gone against restrictions in causing damage on earth. (Quran, Al-Maidah; 37)


This shows that Islam, through the al-Quran, emphasized the prohibition of killing others and of creating destruction on earth. Additionally, it is not only obligated of men to care for others but to also respect them, as stated by Allah SWT:


And as we have glorified Adam’s children, We transported them on land and on sea, We provided them with sustenance of high quality and We bestowed upon them excesses which are pure and more than other beings that We have created. (Quran, al-Isra’: 70)


Translated by Sham Ismail


Original article can be found on Islami.co