Chapter Two: The Cow (Al Baqara)
Verses 193 & 194
Verses 193 & 194
Fight them until there is no more persecution, and worship is devoted to God. If they cease hostilities, there shall be no reprisal except against the wrongdoers.
(Chapter 2: Verse 193)
In the previous sessions, we explained how the responsibility of defending the believers against persecution and aggression, and the responsibility of defending those who are oppressed and subjugated –regardless of their faith- has been transferred from the heavens onto the believers. However, as soon as the aggressors and those causing corruption stop, the believers will neither have the right to continue the fight nor to hold grudges or seek revenge.
Let’s take a moment to define ‘persecution’ which is translated from the Arabic origin ‘Fitna.’ We know that ‘Fitna’ is a test or trial. God says:
Do people think they will be left alone after merely saying ‘We believe’ without being put to the test? (29:02)
God puts our faith to the test because faith is a belief that has to be supported by actions. Is your faith strong enough to withstand trials and hardship? Or do you compromise at the first sign of trouble? There are those who get persecuted for their belief and have to defend it with their life. Take the example of the prophet’s companions: They went through hardship after hardship, and some were martyred while defending against the enemies of the faith. This is how God guaranteed that only those with true faith and pure conviction would join Islam. They were worthy of carrying God message because they stood firm for what they believed. God says: ‘Fight them until there is no more persecution, and worship is devoted to God’ giving the believers a clear mission -not for worldly or material gain- but to give all humanity the chance to be free of persecution and tyranny; an opportunity to follow their creator not their equal; and an opportunity to be truly free from all forms of subjugation and imposed beliefs. Many belief systems and doctrines have been adorned for people to get them away from the path of their Creator. It is the duty of the believers to guide the human mind to the right direction and prevent it from submitting to anyone else but God Almighty. Our beloved prophet –peace be upon him- understood this mission. God says:
We sent you only to bring good news and to give warning. Say, ‘I am not asking for any reward for it, but anyone who wishes should take a path to his Lord.’ (25:56,57)
If you look at the work of the prophets and messengers from an economic view, you find that they reduced corruption and spread fairness and generosity in societies. If you look at their work from a legislative view, you find that they set laws that helped individuals and societies alike. All this –and much more- deserves great material rewards in return. But God’s messengers did not ask for any reward in this world because all pales in comparison to God’s reward and recognition. In fact, no one can reward for faith except God Himself. He is the One who gives without limits.
The verse ends with: ‘If they cease hostilities, there shall be no reprisal except against the wrongdoers’ instructing the believers to refrain from fighting when their enemies stop. Moreover, Allah warns the believers against transgressing and against seeking revenge; rather, they should only stand up and respond to injustice. This is because when someone violates the rights of others, he or she is under the impression that it is easy to get away with it. God wants such a person to know that there are those who will stand firm and defend the weak. God gives us the guidelines in the next verse of ‘The Cow.' He says:
A sacred month for a sacred month: violation of sanctity calls for fair retribution. So if anyone commits aggression against you, assail him in the manner he assailed you, but be mindful of God, and know that He is with those who are mindful of Him.
(Chapter 2: Verse 194)
Tyrants and dictators are under the impression that no one can stand in their way. Allah is instructing the believers to stand for what is right and fair. So if a group violates a sacred month with aggression, God commands the believers to retaliate even during a sacred month. Likewise, if the assault targets and violates a sacred place, God commands the believers to retaliate in kind. This is because retribution means to treat the oppressor in the same way he or she oppressed the victim.
Here, many questions may come to mind: how is it possible that if someone does wrong and violates a sanctity that we are supposed to respond in kind? Are we permitted to do wrong? Are we expected to take revenge from the one who does something unlawful by doing the same as he or she did? If a man committed adultery –for example- then do we take revenge by committing adultery with him? We answer: Of course not. Retribution is only done with matters that are authorized, and the punishment is only permissible in regards to deeds which are clear and have been proven without a doubt.
Suppose, for example, that it is your financial responsibility to take care of a relative and spend on him, but you neglect your duties. Your relative is now authorized to take from your wealth what is enough to meet his or her basic needs. Similarly, when Hind, the wife of Abu Sufyan, came to Prophet Muhammad –peace be upon him- complaining about her husband’s stinginess and negligence. The prophet told her to take from his wealth that which is sufficient to feed and clothe herself and her children. God says: ‘violation of sanctity calls for fair retribution. So if anyone commits aggression against you, assail him in the manner he assailed you.’ Take note that Allah commands fairness against aggressors, whether they are believers or non-believers.
The verse ends with: ‘but be mindful of God, and know that He is with those who are mindful of Him.’ This is a warning not to assume that God gave any of us blank authority over others. God is the creator of us all, and each will be responsible before him for his or her actions.