If Anyone Slew a Person (Qur'an 5:32)
Many websites and public figures have claimed that the following verse appears in the Qur'an, and that it denounces killing and equates the slaying of one human life to that of genocide against the entirety of mankind.
However, this verse cannot be found in any printed copy of the Qur'an, regardless of whether or not it is in the original Arabic or in one of its many English translations. The reason for this is simple: the verse in question does not exist.
What is actually presented by apologists is a distorted, out-of-context and misleading paraphrasing of the following verse:
This verse is written in past tense (Ordained, not Ordain) and clearly does not apply to Muslims but to "the Children of Israel" i.e. the Jews who, according to Islam, received an earlier set of scriptures. In fact, it is mistakingly referencing a rabbinical commentary found in the Talmud as if it were the words of Allah.
Also when the clause which allows killing is reinserted and the passage is read in context with the following two verses directed at Muslims (notice the reference to Allah's messenger and the switch to present tense), what first appeared on the surface to be a peaceful message, is in actual fact a warning to non-believers:
Its Application to Muslims
According to the highly respected Qur'anic exegesis of Ibn Kathir- early Qur'anic commentator and Tabi'un, Sayid ibn Jubayr (who lived at the time of Prophet Muhammad, and was a companion of Aisha), had said:
.....Sa`id bin Jubayr said, "He who allows himself to shed the blood of a Muslim, is like he who allows shedding the blood of all people. He who forbids shedding the blood of one Muslim, is like he who forbids shedding the blood of all people." In addition, Ibn Jurayj said that Al-A`raj said that Mujahid commented on the Ayah,
Tafsir Ibn Kathir
Tafsir Ibn Kathir
Being a companion of Muhammad, Ibn Abbas was present around the time these verses were revealed. Together with ibn Jabr, he went through the Qur'an thirty times and memorised the meanings. Muslim scholars consider ibn Jabr to have the highest reliability.
The Worth of a Non-Believer
So far, it has been ascertained that verse 5:32 is not condemning the killing of a non-Muslim, and that a Muslim must not murder another Muslim, but what of the non-believers? What is the worth of their lives? According to sahih hadith, Muhammad said the life of a non-Muslim is not sacred:
Narrated Anas bin Malik:
Allah's Apostle said, "I have been ordered to fight the people till they say: 'None has the right to be worshipped but Allah.' And if they say so, pray like our prayers, face our Qibla and slaughter as we slaughter, then their blood and property will be sacred to us and we will not interfere with them except legally and their reckoning will be with Allah." Narrated Maimun ibn Siyah that he asked Anas bin Malik,"O Abu Hamza! What makes the life and property of a person sacred?" He replied, "Whoever says, 'None has the right to be worshipped but Allah', faces our Qibla during the prayers, prays like us and eats our slaughtered animal, then he is a Muslim, and has got the same rights and obligations as other Muslims have."
Furthermore, Muhammad also gave the verdict (fatwa) that a Muslim can not be killed for killing a non-Muslim.
The Meaning of "Mischief"
Putting aside the fact that no Muslim is allowed to be killed for the killing of a non-Muslim, "Murder" is quite straight forward, but what does it mean to "spread mischief"?
In the Tafsir ibn Kathir, Qatada, one of Muhammad's companions, explained the definition of "Mischief" according to Islam:
Tafsir Ibn Kathir
In the Tafsir ibn Abbas:
Tafsir Ibn Abbas
In the Tafsir al-Jalalayn, by al-Suyuti, the following commentary is found:
This understanding of what constitutes 'mischief' in Islam is confirmed by looking to other verses found within the Qur'an. Verse 7:103, for example:
Clearly "mischief" which is also equated to "waging war against Allah and His Messenger" in the very next verse, can and does apply to someone who simply refuses to accept Islam.
According to Shaykh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the world's most quoted independent Islamic jurist:
So what was first offered as the height of moral teachings found in the Qur'an, turns out to be an intolerant call to violence.
In this instance, as in many others, it is the apologists, not the skeptics, who are misinterpreting verses and quoting them out of context. A simple reading of the verse and those that surround it makes this clear.
In the Islamic world, those who propagate their non-Islamic faiths or publicly criticize Islam are often harassed, imprisoned and even executed by their communities or their governments, under laws against "spreading disorder [mischief] through the land" and apostasy.
If verse 5:32 means what some apologists claim it to mean, why are they so reluctant to quote the verse accurately rather than presenting a misleading paraphrasing of what they wished the verse had said? Furthermore, why are moderates unable to silence fellow Muslims on an intellectual level by using that very verse?
They are unable to because their claim is false, and (as proven by the actions of many) anyone who is familiar with the Qur'an already knows this.
- Parallelism: Sanhedrin 37a - verse 5:32 is a Rabbinic commentary misattributed to Allah
- Mischief - A hub page that leads to other articles related to Mischief
- Misinterpreted Verses - A hub page that leads to other articles related to Misinterpreted Verses
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- The Most Peaceful Verse - Faith Freedom International (archived), http://www.faithfreedom.org/the-most-peaceful-verse/
- Can Infidels be Innocents? - Daniel Pipes (archived), http://www.danielpipes.org/blog/2005/08/can-infidels-be-innocents
- Fort Hood in light of the Quran: An Open Letter To CNN - Answering Islam (archived), http://www.answering-islam.org/authors/nakdimon/fort_hood_cnn.html
- Killing of Non-Muslims is Legitimate - Anjem Choudary on HardTalk
- Does Qur'an 5:32 Forbid Killing? (A Response to CNN and Arsalan Iftikhar on the Fort Hood Massacre)
- Understanding the Islamic Bombing of the Boston Marathon
- Jacob Bender, "Jewish-Muslim Dialogue and the Value of Peace", The American Muslim, July 19, 2007
- Arsalan Iftikhar, "Murder has no religion", CNN, November 9, 2009 (refutation to Arsalan Iftikhar's piece: Murder Has A Religion)
- "Islamophobia", Wisdom Today, June 8, 2009
- Andrew G. Bostom, "Keith Ellison's Taqiyya", American Thinker, March 13, 2011
- "TRANSCRIPT: Remarks of President Obama in Cairo", Fox News, June 4, 2009
- "....Mujahid ibn Jabr, Abu al-Hajjaj al-Makhzumi is one of the major commentators of Qur'an among the Tâbi'în and of the highest rank in reliability among hadith narrators (thiqa)...." - Sh. G. F. Haddad - Mujahid (d. 102) - LivingIslam, April 4, 2000.
- "Killing a Muslim in punishment for killing a non-Muslim", Islamweb, Fatwa No.92261, August 1, 2006 (archived), http://www.islamweb.net/emainpage/index.php?page=showfatwa&Option=FatwaId&Id=92261.
- Fatawa: Killing a Muslim for a Non-Muslim - Islamic Science University of Malaysia, November 6, 2003
- Some apologists may try to claim that Pharaoh and his chiefs were "bad men" who deserved their "end". But anything else they may or may not have done is irrelevant to this discussion. The verse cites only one reason for punishing them, and that sole reason is for "wrongly rejecting" Allah's messengers.
- See this related Tumblr post by the Artistic Atheist for an informative discussion concerning the context of verse 5:32 and verse 3:151 (the "cast terror into the hearts of the unbelievers" verse).
- For example, on the 20th of July, following the 7/7 terrorist attacks on London, Islamic cleric Omar Bakri Mohammed publicly stated "I condemn the killing of innocent people." only to be secretly recorded by an undercover reporter for the Sunday Times explaining two days later "Yes I condemn killing any innocent people, but not any kuffar."
One of his followers, Islamic preacher Anjem Choudary, also explained in a BBC interview "when we [Muslims] say 'innocent people' we mean 'Muslims'. As far as non-Muslims are concerned, they have not accepted Islam. As far as we are concerned, that is a crime against God." Ref: Daniel Pipes - Can Infidels be Innocents? - Danielpipes.org, August 7, 2005