“Make war on the infidels living in your neighborhood” 9:123
Non-believers believe the Qur’an is full of evil and oppression and promotes terrorism. This is because they do not understand the Qur’an’s context as they read like they do with the bible. I recently received a question in my WhatsApp inbox “My Muslim brother, you claim Islam is a religion of peace, how do you answer this?” He sent me a list of Qur’anic verses which he and others believe the Qur’an is evil.
This article is my answer to the Christian friend and I hope it shall be helpful to Muslim brothers and sister who encounter the same questions.
Qur’an 9:123 “Make war on the infidels living in your neighborhood”
Let’s read the translation of the original context from Qur’an 9:123-125:
“O ye who believe! Fight the unbelievers who gird you about, and let them find firmness in you: and know that Allah is with those who fear Him.”
124“Whenever there cometh down a sura (chapter), some of them say: “Which of you has had His faith increased by it?” Yea, those who believe,- their faith is increased and they do rejoice. ”
125“But those in whose hearts is a disease, – it will add doubt to their doubt, and they will die in a state of Unbelief.”
These verses are talking about the hypocrites and non-believers who made fun of the new suras (chapters) when they were revealed. It is worthy to note that there can be no new surahs since Muhammad (pbuh) is no longer with us. No new surahs will ever come to pass which makes this somewhat of a moot point. However let us look at the context of this in which the Muslims were now in power and had to keep the often hostile non-believers at bay.
It is a continuation of the same discourse from 9:73. It is repeated at the end for good measure to remind the people of what has been said. The people in this topic are those living with the Muslims, some pretending to be Muslim. They are people who are threatening the new social and political structure and undermining the new government. It isn’t just the country next to you because you don’t like them. The fight here can also be interpreted as resisting against the hypocrites.
The following verse which addresses that new suras strengthen the believers’ faith is a way in which the Muslim is fighting against the hypocrisy of the non-believer. This is why it suggests you let them find firmness in you, to show them that their voiced opinion about the verses not being divine have no effect on the faith of the believers.
In the context of the original audience who were essentially in the aftermath of a revolution and change of government the permission to fight physically would be understandable but still falls under the same rules as all of the rest which are still limited to being attacked or under serious risk of attack. That includes both internal and external risks. In these particular verses the risks are internal and it recommends showing firmness in your belief as means of resisting or fighting. Those around you are those living among you in your community.