Sword Verse

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The so-called Sword Verse (ayat as-sayf) is the fifth verse of the ninth sura (Surat at-Tawbah) of the Qur'an. It is a widely-cited Qur'anic call to violence against "pagans" ("idolators", mushrikun), obliging Muslims to "fight and slay the Pagans wherever ye find them" ( fa-uq'tulū l-mush'rikīna ḥaythu wajadttumūhum فَاقْتُلُوا الْمُشْرِكِينَ حَيْثُ وَجَدْتُمُوهُمْ ; trans. Abdullah Yusuf Ali).

This verse is often cited to justify attacks of Muslims on non-Muslims both in classical exegesis and in contemporary jihadism,[1] while contemporary Muslim scholars tend to interpret the call to violence as limited to self-defense.[2] The verse being from a Medinan sura, it has been of particular interest in the literature on abrogation. Although the name "sword-verse" (ayat as-saif) is not Qur'anic and has no support in the major Hadith, it is on record comparatively early, used the literature concerned with abrogation from the 10th century. Thus, Abu Jafar an-Nahhas (d. 949) dedicates a chapter to this verse, compiling a total of 113 Qur'anic verses which are "abrogated" (cancelled) by it.[3]

Text and translations[edit]

Arabic transliteration Marmaduke Pickthall,
The Meaning of the Glorious Koran (1930)
Abdullah Yusuf Ali,
The Holy Qur'an (1934)
فَإِذَا انْسَلَخَ الْأَشْهُرُ الْحُرُمُ
فَاقْتُلُوا الْمُشْرِكِينَ حَيْثُ وَجَدْتُمُوهُمْ
وَخُذُوهُمْ وَاحْصُرُوهُمْ وَاقْعُدُوا لَهُمْ كُلَّ مَرْصَدٍ
فَإِنْ تَابُوا وَأَقَامُوا الصَّلَاةَ وَآتَوُا الزَّكَاةَ
فَخَلُّوا سَبِيلَهُمْ
إِنَّ اللَّهَ غَفُورٌ رَحِيمٌ
([Quran 9:5])
fa-idhā insalakha l-ashhuru l-ḥurumu
fa-uq'tulū l-mush'rikīna ḥaythu wajadttumūhum
wakhudhūhum wa-uḥ'ṣurūhum wa-uq'ʿudū lahum kulla marṣadin
fa-in tābū wa-aqāmū l-ṣalata waātawū l-zakata fakhallū sabīlahum
inna llāha ghafūrun raḥīmun
"Then, when the sacred months have passed,
slay the idolaters wherever ye find them,
and take them (captive), and besiege them, and prepare for them each ambush.
But if they repent and establish worship and pay the poor-due, then leave their way free.
Lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful"
"But when the forbidden months are past,
then fight and slay the Pagans wherever ye find them,
and seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war);
but if they repent, and establish regular prayers and practise regular charity, then open the way for them:
for Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful."


Ibn Kathir's commentary on the verse is:

[citation needed]

The verse of the sword, according to mainstream Islamic theologians, abrogated as many as 124 verses of the Qur'an.[1][4]

Indian politician Arun Shourie, has criticized this verse (including many others) from the Qur'an in his book titled Indian Controversies, Essays in Religion and Politics.[5] Shourie says the sunnah and the hadith are equally evocative in their support of the notion of Jihad, which he deems to be the leitmotiv of the Quran.

Patricia Crone states that the verse is directed against a particular group accused of oath-breaking and aggression and excepts those polytheists who remained faithful. Crone states that this verse seems to be based on the same above-mentioned rules. Here also it is stressed that one must stop when they do.[6]

Explaining the context of this verse, modern Quranic scholar Muhammad Asad (The Message of The Qur'an 1980) restricts the permission to fight and kill as being given regarding specific tribes already at war with the Muslims who had breached their peace agreements and have attacked them first.[7] A similar interpretation of the verse as limited to defensive warfare is also found in Ahmadiyya literature, notably in Muhammad Ali's 1936 The Religion of Islam.[8]


  1. ^ a b Wilson, Aaron N.R. Challenges of the progressive Muslim. [Bloomington, IN]: Xlibris Corp. p. 31. ISBN 1462873383. 
  2. ^ Ali, Maulana Muhammad (2011). The Religion of Islam. ISBN 1934271187. 
  3. ^ Carl Brockelmann: Geschichte der arabischen Litteratur. 2nd ed. Brill. Leiden 1943. vol. 1, p. 138. بيان المنسوخ في القرآن بآية السيف Abu Jafar an-Nahhas, 2nd ed., Beirut 1996, p. 267; Hibatallāh ibn Salāma ibn Nasr (d. 1019) already counts 124 verses abrogated by the sword-verse. Fuat Sezgin: Geschichte des arabischen Schrifttums. Brill. Leiden. 1967. vol. 1, pp. 47f.; Abū ʿUbaid al-Qāsim ibn Sallām's Kitāb al-nāsikh wa-l-mansūkh. ed. John Burton. Cambridge 1987. p. 131.
  4. ^ Ibn Hazm, An-Nasikh wal-Mansukh, pp. 19, 27; Muhi al-Din Ibn al-'Arabi, Tafsir al-Qur'an al-Krim (Beirut: Dar al-Andalus, 1978), p. 69; Burton, The Encyclopedia of Islam, vol. 7, s.v. "Naskh," p. 1010; Salama, An-Nasikh wal-Mansukh, p. 130, mentioned only 114.
  5. ^ Indian Controversies, Essays in Religion and Politics, ASA Publications, New Delhi-110021
  6. ^ Patricia Crone, "War" in Encyclopedia of the Qur'an,[year needed] p.456
  7. ^ Asad, Muhammad: The Message of The Quran. Footnote 7, page 256. Redwood Books, Wiltshire, Great Britain. For similar arguments see also e.g. Articles by Hesham A. HassaballaDoes Islam Call For The Murder of 'Infidels'; Muhammed Asad, The Message of The Qur'an[page needed], Zakir Naik Terrorism and Jihad: An Islamic Perspective
  8. ^ Ali, Maulana Muhammad: The Religion of Islam, Page 414 from CH V Jihad. The Ahmadiyya Anjuman Isha’at Islam (Lahore) USA. 1990 [1]

External links[edit]