(190) وَقَاتِلُواْ فِي سَبِيلِ اللّهِ الَّذِينَ يُقَاتِلُونَكُمْ وَلاَ تَعْتَدُواْ إِنَّ اللّهَ لاَ يُحِبِّ الْمُعْتَدِينَ
190. " And fight in the cause of Allah (against) those who fight you, but be not aggressive, for surely Allah loves not the aggressors."
Occasion of Revelation:
It is narrated by Ibn-'Abbas that this verse was revealed about the ' Peace of Hudaibiyah '. The incident was in this manner that the holy Prophet (p.b.u.h.) started on a journey to go to Mecca for 'Umrah accompanied by 1400 people out of his companions. When they arrived Hudaibiyah, (a land near Mecca) , pagans hindered them from entering into Mecca and doing the sacred rites of the 'Umrah. After a lot of debates and discussions, they agreed with the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) that Muslims would go to Mecca the following year when the pagans would empty the City for them to circumambulate the Sacred House for three days.
The next year, when they set out towards Mecca, they were scared that the pagans might not be loyal to their promise and prohibit them, hence, consequently, a battle could come forth and the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) was not willing to fight in the forbidden month. So, this verse was sent down and permitted them to defend and fight against the enemies if they initiated fighting.
In this verse, the Qur'an has issued the command of fighting upon those who initiate war against Muslims. It lets Muslims use swords or any weapons and defensive means in order to stop the enemies. This condition, in fact, is for the time when the circumstances require and the course of patience in Muslims has ended, so they can openly and courageously defend their rights.
Fight: Why & Against Whom ?
There are three subjects pointed out in this verse. They make manifest the logic of Islam about war.
1- The first phrase of the verse points to the ideal of the wars in Islam. It says: " And fight in the cause of Allah..."
Then, the main goal in Islamic fights (jihad) is the cause of Allah and the stretch of the Divine laws including: truth, justice, monotheism, and eradication of transgression, degeneration and deviation.
Thus, Islam condemns the wars aiming for: vengeance, ambition, conquering other countries, taking lands of others, and obtaining spoils of war. So, taking weapon and setting to war is right only when it is done in the path of Allah.
2- Now, the question is that against whom the holy struggle is right. The second phrase of the verse answers:
It clearly says that Muslims should not begin war unless the opponents initiate fighting by using weapons, except for some peculiar cases which will be pointed out when discussing the verses about Holy War.
By the way, it is understood from this verse that civil people (women and children in particular) , who have not risen for fighting, must not be invaded and they are, therefore, privileged from invasion.
Basing on this principle, the great leader of Islam, Ali-ibn-Abitalib (a.s) orders his soldiers thus:
" Do not fight them unless they initiate the fighting, because, by the grace of Allah, you are in the right and to leave them till they begin fighting will be another point (of right) from your side against them. ..." (1)
3- The limit of war is defined by the next clause, saying:
The basis of this meaning is that fighting in Islam is for the sake of Allah and in the path of Allah, where there should not be any transgression and aggression.
(1) Nahjul-Balaqah, Letter No. 14
That is why Islam, in spite of the wars of our Age, advises Muslims to observe many ethical principles in war. For example, it tells them not to kill in fight those who put down their weapons and surrender, those who have lost their ability of fighting or, basically, are not able to fight, like old men and women and children. Such people should not be invaded. Gardens and trees should not be destroyed. Muslims must not poison the water that their enemies use as their drinking water by poisonous ingredients (the chemical and microbial war) .
Imam Amir-ul-Mu'mineen Ali (a.s.) says:
"...If, by the Will of Allah, the enemy is defeated, then do not kill the runner away. Do not strike a helpless person. Do not finish a wounded. And, do not inflict on women even though they may attack your honour with filthy words and abuse your officers, ..." (1)
The above mentioned explanations prove the invalidity of the numerous accusations of the enemies of Islam against Islam about the Islamic Holy wars. With these clear statements of the Qur'an, upon the aims of fighting in Islam and the different dimensions that the Holy War has, the answer to the objections of the enemies is made manifest.
There will come forth some more explanations, of course, when commenting other verses of Jihad. Allah willing.
(1) Nahjul-Balaqah,Letter No. 14