The Meaning of Qatal

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The Arabic verb Qatala (قتل) is often used in the Qur'an. It means to kill, and related verbs mean to fight or to commit massacres. Its use is ubiquitous in the Qur'an and a proper understanding of this verb is essential to understanding the text.


In English, "fight" rarely connotes "murder" or "death". Only if "fight" is used in reference to fighting in a war does the word ever connote the loss of lives.

Even then, it is the war itself that causes death and not just the fight. "Fighting" can often be a positive action. In English, people "fight" against cancer, people "fight" to be heard.

In Arabic however, the verb for "fight" does not contain these benign meanings. Another verb such as saari' صارع "to struggle" or "to wrestle" would be used for these meanings. In Arabic, the verb translated fight is "Qātala" (قَاتَلَ with an alif between the first two letters), which is the form III verb from the root Q-T-L (قتل). From this root are also derived other verb forms that mean "kill", "massacre", or "slaughter". The form III verb can most accurately be described as to "try to kill", which is the most extreme form of what is called "fighting" in English.

Wickens explains in his book on Arabic Grammar:

Thus, while qatala is “to kill”, qattala is “to kill violently or on a large scale” (i.e. “to slaughter”, “to massacre”); and qātala is “to try to kill” (i.e. “to fight with”); taqattala and iqtatala, again, both mean “to fight (against each other)”.
G. M. Wickens, Arabic grammar: a first workbook[1]



Here are the meanings of the word "Qatal" (قتل) and their occurances in different arabic verb forms in the Qur'an: Form I (to kill), II (to slaugther/massacre), III and VIII (fight to kill)

Qaf-Ta-Lam (ق ت ل) = to kill, put to death, be accused, slay/murder/kill/slaughter, attempt to kill, render person like to one killed, to wage war/combat/battle, to master, contend/fight, deadly, knew a thing thoroughly/well, become acquainted with it.

qatala vb. (I) perf. act. 2:72, 2:251, 3:183, 4:92, 4:157, 4:157, 4:157, 5:30, 5:32, 5:32, 5:95, 5:95, 6:140, 8:17, 18:74, 18:74, 20:40, 28:19, 28:33 impf. act. 21, 2:85, 2:87, 2:91, 3:21, 3:21, 3:112, 4:29, 4:92, 4:93, 5:27, 5:28, 5:28, 5:70, 5:95, 6:151, 6:151, 7:150, 8:17, 8:30, 9:111, 12:10, 17:31, 17:33, 25:68, 26:14, 28:9, 28:19, 28:20, 28:33, 33:26, 40:26, 40:28, 60:12 impv. 2:54, 2:191, 2:191, 46, 4:89, 4:91, 9:5, 12:9, 29:24, 40:25 perf. pass. 3:144, 3:154, 3:156, 3:157, 3:158, 3:168, 3:169, 3:195, 17:33, 22:58, 47:4, 51:10, 74:1Italic text9, 74:20, 80:17, 81:9, 85:4 impf. pass. 2:154, 4:74, 9:111 n. vb. 2:191, 2:217, 3:154, 3:181, 4:155, 5:30, 6:137, 17:31, 17:33, 33:16

qatala n.m. (pl. of qatil) - 2:178,

qattala vb. (II) impf. act. 7:127, 7:141 perf. pass. 33:61 impf. pass. 5:33, n. vb. 33:61

qatala vb. (III) perf. act. 2:191, 3:146, 3:195, 4:90, 9:30, 33:20, 48:22, 57:10, 57:10, 60:9, 63:4 impf. act. 2:190, 2:191, 2:191, 2:217, 2:246, 2:246, 2:246, 3:13, 3:111, 4:74, 4:74, 4:75, 4:76, 4:76, 4:90, 4:90, 4:90, 9:13, 9:36, 9:83, 9:111, 48:16, 59:14, 60:8, 61:4, 73:20 impv. 2:190, 2:193, 2:244, 3:167, 4:76, 4:84, 5:24, 8:39, 9:12, 9:14, 9:29, 9:36, 9:123, 49:9 perf. pass. 59:11, 59:12 impf. pass. 22:39 n. vb. 2:216, 2:217, 2:217, 2:246, 2:246, 3:121, 3:167, 4:77, 4:77, 8:16, 85, 33:25, 47:20

iqtatala vb. (VIII) perf. act. 2:253, 2:253, 49:9, impf. act. 28:15

LL, V8, p: 238
Project Root List -


Here is the meaning of the English word "Fight":

v. fought, fight·ing, fights


a. To attempt to harm or gain power over an adversary by blows or with weapons.
b. Sports To engage in boxing or wrestling.
2. To engage in a quarrel; argue: They are always fighting about money.
3. To strive vigorously and resolutely: fought against graft; fighting for her rights.

a. To contend with physically or in battle.
b. To wage or carry on (a battle).
c. To contend for, by or as if by combat: "I now resolved that Calais should be fought to the death" (Winston S. Churchill).
a. Sports To box or wrestle against in a ring.
b. To participate in (a boxing match, for example).
3. To set (a boxer, for example) in combat with another. See Synonyms at oppose.
4. To contend with or struggle against: fight cancer; fight temptation.
5. To try to prevent the development or success of.
6. To make (one's way) by struggle or striving: fought my way to the top.


1. A confrontation between opposing groups in which each attempts to harm or gain power over the other, as with bodily force or weapons.
2. A quarrel or conflict.
a. A physical conflict between two or more individuals.
b. Sports A boxing or wrestling match.
4. A struggle to achieve an objective. See Synonyms at conflict.
5. The power or inclination to fight; pugnacity: I just didn't have any fight left in me.
Definition of Fight
The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition


Qatal Translated as "Kill" (Arabic Verb Form I)

In this verse Allah denies Jesus was crucified or killed, with the words 'WA MAA QATALOOHU WA MAA SALABOOHU' وَمَا قَتَلُوهُ وَمَا صَلَبُوهُ which means "and they killed him not and they crucified him not."

That they said (in boast), "We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah";- but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no (certain) knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not:

In verse 18:74 the wiseman, to whom Moses is sent to learn wisdom, kills a boy.

Then they proceeded: until, when they met a young man, he slew him. Moses said: "Hast thou slain an innocent person who had slain none? Truly a foul (unheard of) thing hast thou done!"

Also verse 2:154 tells us that those who are killed for the cause of Allah etc.

And say not of those who are slain in the way of Allah: "They are dead." Nay, they are living, though ye perceive (it) not.

Qatal Translated as "Kill / Slaughter" (Arabic Verb Form II)

As detailed above, form II of this verb means to slaugter or massacre.

The only reward of those who make war upon Allah and His messenger and strive after corruption in the land will be that they will be killed or crucified, or have their hands and feet on alternate sides cut off, or will be expelled out of the land. Such will be their degradation in the world, and in the Hereafter theirs will be an awful doom;
If the hypocrites, and those in whose hearts is a disease, and the alarmists in the city do not cease, We verily shall urge thee on against them, then they will be your neighbours in it but a little while. Accursed, they will be seized wherever found and slain with a (fierce) slaughter

Qatal Translated as "Fight" (Arabic Verb Form III)

And fight them until persecution is no more, and religion is all for Allah. But if they cease, then lo! Allah is Seer of what they do.

The context of the verse is very clear, i.e. break the strength of the infidels by way of mass killings, so that there is no more opposition. As the fighting here is the means of ending the persecution, a more accurate translation might be something like "fight to kill them until there is no more fitnah".

The same applies to verse 9:29.

Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.
And when you see them, their persons will please you, and If they speak, you will listen to their speech; (they are) as if they were big pieces of wood clad with garments; they think every cry to be against them. They are the enemy, therefore beware of them; may Allah destroy them, whence are they turned back?

Related Languages

In Hebrew, a Semitic language like Arabic, and in Urdu, a language which has borrowed extensively from Arabic, we find similar meanings.

Qatal in Hebrew

Strong's Concordance

qatal: to slay
Original Word: קָטַל
Transliteration: qatal
Phonetic Spelling: (kaa-tal)
Short Definition: slay

Strong's Exhaustive Concordance

kill, slay

A primitive root; properly, to cut off, i.e. (figuratively) put to death -- kill, slay.

Qatal in Urdu

qatal قتل

1. Homicide

2. Massacre

3. Murder


In Arabic, the word "Qatal" = kill. "Maqtool" = the killed. Maqtal = the place where the killing takes place. Qaatal = the killer.

The secondary meaning of the word is more of an interpretation rather than a direct translation of the word, e.g. battle. The idea seems to be based upon collective killings.

The word "Qatal" is only used in the Qur'an when the believers are commanded to fight to kill, i.e. killing is the primary objective or the desired or required outcome.

See Also

External Links


  1. G. M. Wickens, Arabic grammar: a first workbook, Cambridge University Press, p.64, 1980