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.[citation needed] 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).[citation needed]

This verse is often cited to justify attacks of Muslims on non-Muslims both in classical exegesis and in contemporary jihadism,[citation needed] while contemporary Muslim scholars tend to interpret the call to violence as limited to self-defense.[1] 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.[citation needed]

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."


According to mainstream Islamic scholarship, the verse relates to a specific event in islamic history. Namingly that Arabian Pagans made and broke a covenant with Arabic Muslims. The verses immediately preceding and following 9:5, 9:4 and 9:6, make the context very clear: Only those Pagans who broke the covenant were subject to violent repercussions. Furthermore, any Pagans who honored the covenant as well as those who repented were to be spared. Politician Arun Shourie has criticized the Sword Verse and many others from the Qur'an. Shourie says the sunnah and the hadith are equally evocative in their support of Jihad, which he deems to be the leitmotiv of the Qur'an.[2]

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.[3]

Explaining the context of this verse, modern Quranic scholar Muhammad Asad 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 attacked them first.[4] 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.[5]


  1. ^ Ali, Maulana Muhammad (2011). The Religion of Islam. ISBN 1934271187. 
  2. ^ Shourie, Arun. Indian Controversies, Essays in Religion and Politics ASA Publications, New Delhi-110021
  3. ^ Patricia Crone, "War" in Encyclopedia of the Qur'an (2006), p. 456
  4. ^ Asad, Muhammad. The Message of the Qur'an, 1980. Redwood Books, Wiltshire, Great Britain. p. 256, Footnote 7. For similar arguments see also e.g. Hesham A. Hassaballa, Articles; "Does Islam Call For The Murder of 'Infidels'"; Zakir Naik, "Terrorism and Jihad: An Islamic Perspective".
  5. ^ Ali, Maulana Muhammad. The Religion of Islam. The Ahmadiyya Anjuman Isha’at Islam (Lahore) USA, 1990. Chapter V, "Jihad", page 414. On-line text

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