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Understanding the Hadith, “I Was Ordered to Fight the People Until They Testify…”

Answered as per Hanafi Fiqh by Seekersguidance.org

Answered by Shaykh Faraz A. Khan

After coming across some information while reading Fiqh us Sunnah, I have two questions, and I would appreciate it if you can clarify these things for me.

Question 1: Ibn ‘Umar related that the Messenger of Allah, upon whom be peace, said, “I have been ordered to kill the people until they testify that there is no god except Allah, and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, and they establish prayer and pay the zakah. If they do that, their blood and wealth are protected from me save by the rights of Islam. Their reckoning will be with Allah.” (Related by al-Bukhari and Muslim.)”

The first line is quite disturbing. Was the messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) ordered to kill the unbelievers as the text says? Islam has taught me how to be merciful, kind and respectful, and this contradicts that. I don’t want to believe that Islam preaches such blatant violence, but it’s plainly written what it advocates. Am I correct in believing Islam allows for the killing of unbelievers to take place, as the text demonstrates, for merely being unbelievers?

Answer: Absolutely not. Firstly, the hadith as you present it is mistranslated. It does not say, “I was ordered to kill…”, rather it says, “I was ordered to fight.” There is a huge difference between the two words. Killing (qatl) is one-directional, whereas fighting (qital) implies mutuality, i.e., that there are two sides fighting each other. [Dr. Bouti, Jihad fil Islam]

Moreover, this hadith does not apply to all non-believers: the word “people” (nas) used in the hadith is restricted by other texts of the Qur’an and sunna, and is therefore understood to refer only to Arab polytheists. For more information on this hadith and related matters, please see this answer:

Jihad, Abrogation in the Quran, and the Verse of the Sword

Question 2: This hadith has been used by certain Muslims in my country to threaten peaceful Muslims into paying their zakaat money to an organization of the former’s choosing. It has made headlines in the past on the national media, and given Muslims a bad name. They use this hadith to justify their brutality. Is this correct? Can they do such outrageous actions and have certified backing from the Sunnah?

Answer: This is by no means correct; such actions have no backing from the Noble Sunna. Only the government would have such authority, not individual Muslims. May Allah guide such people and protect them from extremism.

Lastly, I would strongly advise you to not read books like Fiqh al-Sunnah, but rather learn from scholars and texts that convey traditional Sunni orthodoxy. For more information, please see related articles here: http://www.masud.co.uk/

And Allah knows best.



Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani

This answer was collected from Seekersguidance.org. It’s an online learning platform overseen by Sheikh Faraz Rabbani. All courses are free. They also have in-person classes in Canada.

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