Praise be to Allah the Lord of all creations, and peace and blessings of Allah be upon his noble messenger and upon his family and companions.
Allah created all of humanity, that is all human beings and let them live upon this earth. Moreover, Allah created all humans with Fitrah, which is an innate conscious guidance placed within every single human to lead him to the belief that there is a creator of this universe. However, many humans, despite this inner guidance placed by Allah, have gone astray due to the impact of Satan. Prophet Muhammed explains this when he quoted Allah as saying: “I have created my servants as one having a natural inclination to the worship of Allah but it is Satan who turned them away from the right religion and he made unlawful what has been declared lawful for them and he commanded them to ascribe partnership with me, although he has no justification for that.” (Sahih Muslim: 54, hadith number 7386). This last part meaning that those who turned away from Allah also began to worship false gods and elevate pagan gods to equality or partnership with Allah the one and only creator of mankind and the universe.
Allah revealed all of the three monotheistic religions: Judiasm, Christianity and Islam and called all human beings to worship Him alone and abandon worshipping the idols, as He says in the Quran: “We sent a Messenger to every nation, saying: ‘Worship Allah and avoid the idols’” (Surah 16, Ayah 36). The last revelation to all humanity is the Quran, in which Allah completed his commandments by confirming some of those which He revealed in the previous books, such as the Turah (the Old Testament) and the Injil (the New Testament), abrogating other commandments and improving others.
Since Allah created all humans to worship Him and created everything else for their benefit, what is the destiny of those who do not worship him? What about those who worship other gods beside him? Is it permissible, as groups like ISIS would instruct us, to kill them according to what Allah says in the Quran: “When the sacred months are over, slay the idolaters wherever you find them. Take them and confine them, then lie in ambush everywhere for them. If they repent and establish the prayer and pay the obligatory charity, let them go their way. Allah is Forgiving and the Most Merciful” (Surah 9, ayah 5)?
To answer this question, we have to analyze the aforementioned ayahs and we need to point out we are talking of idolaters, not those who are followers of the Book, i.e. monotheists even if they have not yet taken Islam. The definition article which is used with idolaters is “ال”, which is an equivalent to the definite article “the”. In Arabic, this article has more meanings than mere definition. One of those meanings is the inclusion of all members of a group, as we say: “God created the creatures”, which means that each individual creature in the group of ‘creation’ is included in the process of creation made by God. Another meaning is the reference to the pre-mentioned, which is used here, as we say: “I bought a book and sold the book”. The book I sold is the same book I bought, which I mentioned previously in my statement. The only two meanings which cause the misunderstanding are those two meanings. There are other meanings of that definite article but it is not my task here to explain them.
Now let us go back to the ayah which I brought earlier in surah 9, ayah 5. Let us check the definite article, is it the inclusion or the pre-mentioned article? If we go back to ayah 1 we may grasp a bigger view: “An acquittal from Allah and His Messenger to the idolaters with whom you have made agreements; (1) ‘For four months you shall journey freely in the land. But know that you shall not render Allah incapable, and that Allah will humiliate the unbelievers. ‘ (2) A proclamation from Allah and His Messenger, to the people on the day of the Grand Pilgrimage; ‘Allah rejects, and His Messenger (rejects) the idolaters. So, if you repent, that will be better for you; but if you turn your backs, know that you cannot frustrate Allah. And give glad tidings to the unbelievers of a painful punishment, (3) except those idolaters who have fully honored their treaties with you and aided none against you. With these fulfill your covenant till their term. Surely, Allah loves the righteous. (4) When the sacred months are over, slay the idolaters wherever you find them. Take them and confine them, then lie in ambush everywhere for them. If they repent and establish the prayer and pay the obligatory charity, let them go their way. Allah is Forgiving and the Most Merciful. (5) (Surah 9, ayah 1-5).
First of all, we observe that there was an agreement of peace between those idolaters and the Prophet, peace be upon him. They broke this treaty and betrayed the Prophet, peace be upon him, and the Muslims. So, Allah is declaring the end of this treaty and gave the idolaters four months to prepare for war, or to leave the place. Allah excluded those idolaters who did not break the peace treaty. In ayah 5, Allah is referring to those idolaters, whom He mentioned in ayah 1, to wage war against them, but He is not closing the door of repentance before them, as they are his creatures, thus He commanded the Muslims to let them go their way as in ayah 5. If the definite article was meant to include every single idolater, then there would be no use for ayah 4 “except those idolaters who have fully honored their treaties with you and aided none against you, with these fulfill your covenant till their term. Surely, Allah loves the righteous.” And there would be no use for Allah to reveal other similar ayahs, such as: “Allah does not forbid you to be kind and to act justly to those who have neither made war on your Religion nor expelled you from your homes. Allah loves the just.” (Surah 60, ayah 8). There are other ayahs which regulate relations with others, whether they were Muslims, Christians, Jews, or idolaters. Despite what other may say about Islam, and what groups like ISIS may claim, the main principle of Islam is peace; if someone wants peace with us, then we are obliged to respond with the same intention and establish peace treaties, as the Quran tells us: “If they incline to peace, incline to it also, and put your trust in Allah. Surely, He is the Hearing, the Knowing.” (Surah 8, ayah 61). War is an exception, but again only when it is waged upon us, not when we act aggressively toward others through acts of terrorism or otherwise and then blame them for retaliating. As Muslims, we are obliged to defend our people and our lands, to wage war against those who initiate war against us, as the Quran tells us: “Fight in the way of Allah those who fight against you, but do not aggress. Allah does not love the aggressors.” (Surah 2, ayah 190).
Finally, to conclude this article, we need to study the ayahs of the Quran deeply and analyze them in relation to the whole corpus of the Quran and connect the similar ayahs to understand what Allah has commanded us to do in this life to win the Jannah in the hereafter. Remember Allah’s intention for you in this life is to perform justice in order to live peacefully at all times with all persons and enjoy loving, just and respectful relations with all those humans created by Allah who are surrounding you, whether they be believers or not, and that most importantly your example of living a righteous and faithful life would bring them also to a fuller and more complete understanding of the love Allah has for us in creating us and continually drawing us to Him.
Praise be to Allah the Lord of all creations.