The Byzantine Christians: Antagonists or Antagonized? Pt. 1

According to the orders of Muhammad, Muslims are obligated to wage war against all unbelievers for the express purpose of converting them to Islam. An exception is made in the case of Jews and Christians who are permitted to remain in their respective faiths, provided they willingly pay Jizyah, which is a sum of money extracted for the purpose of humiliating them:

You who believe, associators are nothing BUT FILTHY, so they should not approach the Hallowed Mosque after this year that they still have. If you should fear destitution, God will enrich you out of His bounty if He so wishes. God is Aware, Wise. Fight the ones among those who were given the Book WHO DO NOT BELIEVE in God nor the Last Day, NOR FORBID whatever God and His messenger have forbidden, NOR PROFESS the True Religion, until they pay the polltax of their own accord and act submissive. Jews say: “Ezra was God´s son,” while Christians say: “Christ was God´s son.” That is what they say with their mouths, imitating what those have said who disbelieved before them. May God fight them off for what they have trumped up! They have adopted their scholars and monks as lords instead of God, plus Christ, the son of Mary. Yet they have been ordered to serve only God Alone; there is no deity except Him. Glory be to Him ahead of whatever they may associate [with Him]! They want to blow out God´s light WITH THEIR MOUTHS while God refuses [everything] except that His light must be perfected, no matter how disbelievers may hate it. He is the One Who has sent His messenger with guidance and the True Religion so He may cause it to prevail over all [other] religion, no matter how associators may hate it. S. 9:28-33 T. B. Irving

As the context itself makes clear, the reason Jews, Christians and all those who associate partners or divinities alongside Allah are to be attacked, killed and/or subjugated is solely because of their beliefs, not because they fought and/or oppressed Muslims.

This interpretation of the text seems so obvious that it really doesn’t need any explanation or defending, especially since the Quran repeatedly insists that it is a perspicuous scripture that fully details and clarifies all its verses:

Am I to desire someone other than Allah as a judge when it is He who has sent down the Book to you CLARIFYING EVERYTHING?´ Those We have given the Book know it has been sent down from your Lord with truth, so on no account be among the doubters. S. 6:114 Aisha Bewley

“Say: Should I seek a judge other than Allah, when He is the One Who has revealed this Book (The Qur’an) with FULL details?…” Farook Malik

“… Inasmuch as We have bestowed from on high upon thee, step by step, this divine writ, to make EVERYTHING CLEAR…” S. 16:89 Muhammad Asad

“… We have sent down the Book to you making ALL THINGS CLEAR and as guidance and mercy and good news for the Muslims.” Aisha Bewley

A Book whose communications have been spelled out distinctly and made clear, and whose verses are in ordered sequence, a Qur’an (Recitation) in Arabic for a people who have knowledge (and so can appreciate excellence in the use of the language); S. 41:3 Ali Unal

A book that its verses are fully explained, a Quran in Arabic for people who know, Ali Bakhtiari Nejad

With that said, notice the reason given by one of Islam’s greatest scholars and Quranic expositors concerning why Muhammad demanded that Jizyah be taken from Jews and Christians:

(Fight against those who believe not in Allah, nor in the Last Day, nor forbid that which has been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, and those who acknowledge not the religion of truth among the People of the Scripture, until they pay the Jizyah with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.) Therefore, when People of the Scriptures disbelieved in Muhammad, they had no beneficial faith in any Messenger or what the Messengers brought. Rather, they followed their religions because this conformed with their ideas, lusts and the ways of their forefathers, not because they are Allah’s Law and religion. Had they been true believers in their religions, that faith would have directed them to believe in Muhammad, because all Prophets gave the good news of Muhammad’s advent and commanded them to obey and follow him. Yet when he was sent, they disbelieved in him, even though he is the mightiest of all Messengers. Therefore, they do not follow the religion of earlier Prophets because these religions came from Allah, but because these suit their desires and lusts. Therefore, their claimed faith in an earlier Prophet will not benefit them because they disbelieved in the master, the mightiest, the last and most perfect of all Prophets. Hence Allah’s statement

(Fight against those who believe not in Allah, nor in the Last Day, nor forbid that which has been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, and those who acknowledge not the religion of truth among the People of the Scripture,) This honorable Ayah was revealed with the order to fight the People of the Book, after the pagans were defeated, the people entered Allah’s religion in large numbers, and the Arabian Peninsula was secured under the Muslims’ control. Allah commanded His Messenger to fight the People of the Scriptures, Jews and Christians, on the ninth year of Hijrah, and he prepared his army to fight the Romans and called the people to Jihad announcing his intent and destination. The Messenger sent his intent to various Arab areas around Al-Madinah to gather forces, and he collected an army of thirty thousand. Some people from Al-Madinah and some hypocrites, in and around it, lagged behind, for that year was a year of drought and intense heat. The Messenger of Allah marched, heading towards Ash-Sham to fight the Romans until he reached Tabuk, where he set camp for about twenty days next to its water resources. He then prayed to Allah for a decision and went back to Al-Madinah because it was a hard year and the people were weak, as we will mention, Allah willing. (Tafsir Ibn Kathir, Q. 9:29; bold and underline emphasis ours)


Paying Jizyah is a Sign of Kufr AND DISGRACE

Allah said…

<until they pay the Jizyah>, if they do not choose to embrace Islam…

<with willing submission>, in defeat and subservience…

<and feel themselves subdued.>, DISGRACED, HUMILIATED AND BELITTLED. Therefore, Muslims are not allowed to honor the people of Dhimmah or elevate them above Muslims, FOR THEY ARE MISERABLE, DISGRACED AND HUMILIATED. Muslim recorded from Abu Hurayrah that the Prophet said…

<<Do not initiate the Salam to the Jews and Christians, and if you meet any of them in a road, FORCE THEM TO ITS NARROWEST ALLEY.>>

This is why the Leader of the faithful `Umar bin Al-Khattab, may Allah be pleased with him, demanded his well-known conditions be met by the Christians, THESE CONDITIONS THAT ENSURED THEIR CONTINUED HUMILIATION, DEGRADATION AND DISGRACE. The scholars of Hadith narrated from `Abdur-Rahman bin Ghanm Al-Ash`ari that he said, “I recorded for `Umar bin Al-Khattab the terms of the treaty of peace he conducted with the Christians of Ash-Sham:

‘In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful. This is a document to the servant of Allah `Umar, the Leader of the faithful, from the Christians of such and such city. When you (Muslims) came to us we requested safety for ourselves, children, property and followers of our religion.

We made a condition on ourselves that we will neither erect in our areas a monastery, church, or a sanctuary for a monk, nor restore any place of worship that needs restoration nor use any of them for the purpose of enmity against Muslims.

We will not prevent any Muslim from resting in our churches whether they come by day or night, and we will open the doors [of our houses of worship] for the wayfarer and passerby.

Those Muslims who come as guests, will enjoy boarding and food for three days.

We will not allow a spy against Muslims into our churches and homes or hide deceit [or betrayal] against Muslims.

We will not teach our children the Qur’an, publicize practices of Shirk, invite anyone to Shirk or prevent any of our fellows from embracing Islam, if they choose to do so.


We will not imitate their clothing, caps, turbans, sandals, hairstyles, speech, nicknames and title names, or ride on saddles, hang swords on the shoulders, collect weapons of any kind or carry these weapons.

We will not encrypt our stamps in Arabic, or sell liquor.

We will have the front of our hair cut, wear our customary clothes wherever we are, wear belts around our waist, refrain from erecting crosses on the outside of our churches and demonstrating them and our books in public in Muslim fairways and markets.

We will not sound the bells in our churches, except discretely, or raise our voices while reciting our holy books inside our churches in the presence of Muslims, nor raise our voices [with prayer] at our funerals, or light torches in funeral processions in the fairways of Muslims, or their markets.

We will not bury our dead next to Muslim dead, or buy servants who were captured by Muslims. We will be guides for Muslims and refrain from breaching their privacy in their homes.’

When I gave this document to `Umar, he added to it, `We will not beat any Muslim. These are the conditions that we set against ourselves and followers of our religion IN RETURN FOR SAFETY AND PROTECTION. If we break any of these promises that we set for your benefit against ourselves, then our Dhimmah (promise of protection) is broken and you are allowed to do with us what you are allowed of people of defiance and rebellion.’” (Ibid.; capital and underline emphasis ours)

Note, once again, that the reason why Jews and Christians are to be subdued, disgraced, belittled and forced to accept such humiliating conditions is not because of anything they did to Muslims. Rather, Jews and Christians are to be degraded solely because of their beliefs.

The following authoritative reference works on Islamic jurisprudence explain that jihad is obligatory offensive warfare, which Muslims must carry out against all infidels because of their beliefs and/or rejection of Islam:

  1. Muhammad said, “Abu Hanifah informed us from ‘Alqamah ibn Marthad from Ibn Buraydah from his father from the Prophet. He [Buraydah] said, ‘When he sent out an army he would say, “Go on the military expedition in the name of Allah and in the Way of Allah. FIGHT WHOEVER DISBELIEVES IN ALLAH: do not steal the booty, nor act treacherously. Do not mutilate and do not kill a child. Whenever you besiege a fortress or a city, call them to Islam, and if they accept, Islam then inform them that they are Muslims. They are owed what they are owed and they re responsible for what they are responsible for. Invite them to move to the Abode of Islam [Dar al-Islam], but if they refuse, inform them that they are like desert Arab Muslims. If they refuse [Islam], then invite them to pay jizyah. If they do so, then inform them that they have entered into a compact (dhimmah). If they refuse to pay jizyah, dissolve [the negotiations] with them and then fight them. If they want you to settle with them according to (anzala ‘ala) the ruling of Allah then do not settle with them according to [that] because you do not know what the ruling of Allah about them is, but settle with them according to your judgement and then pass judgement regarding them, but give them your compacts and your parents’ compacts because it is better that you violate your compacts than that you violate the compact of Allah, mighty is He and majestic. (The Kitab al-Athar of Imam Abu Hanifah: The Narration of Imam Muhammad Ibn Al-Hasan Ash-Shaybani [Turath Publishing, London, 2007], JIHAD, 281. Jihad in the Way of Allah and calling those whom the call has not reached [to Allah], pp. 506-507; capital and underline emphasis ours)


o9.0 JIHAD

(O: Jihad means to war against non-Muslims, and is etymologically derived from the word mujahada, signifying warfare to establish the religion. And it is the lesser jihad. As for the greater jihad, it is spiritual warfare against the lower self (nafs), which is why the Prophet said as he was returning from jihad,

“We have returned from the lesser jihad to the greater jihad.”

The scriptural basis for jihad, prior to scholarly consensus is such Koranic verses as:

(1) “Fighting is prescribed for you” (Koran 2:216);

(2) “Slay them wherever you find them” (4:89);

(3) “Fight the idolaters utterly” (Koran 9:36);

and such Hadiths as the one related by Bukhari and Muslim that the Prophet said:

“I have been commanded to fight people until they testify that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, and perform the prayer, and pay zakat. If they say it, they have saved their blood and possessions from me, except for the rights of Islam over them. And their final reckoning is with Allah.”;

and the hadith report by Muslim,

“To go forth in the morning or evening to fight in the path of Allah is better than the whole world and everything in it.”…

o9.1 Jihad is communal obligation… When enough people perform it to successfully accomplish it, it is no longer obligatory upon others…

and Allah Most High having said:

“Those of the believers who are unhurt but sit behind are not equal to those who fight in Allah’s path with their property and lives. Allah has preferred those who fight with their property and lives a whole degree above those who sit behind. And to each Allah has promised great good.” (Koran 4:95)…

o9.3 Jihad is also obligatory for everyone able to perform it, male or female, old or young when the enemy has surrounded the Muslims…

o9.8 The caliph MAKES WAR UPON THE JEWS, CHRISTIANS, and Zoroastrians (N: provided he has first invited them to enter Islam in faith and practice, and if they will not, then invited them to enter the social order of Islam by paying the non-Muslim poll tax (jizya, def: o11.4)… until they become Muslim or else pay the non-Muslim poll tax (O: in accordance with the word of Allah Most High,

“Fight those who do not believe in Allah and the Last Day and who forbid not what Allah and His messenger have forbidden – who do not practice the religion of truth, being of those who have been given the Book – until they pay the poll tax out of hand and are humbled.” (Koran 9:29),

The caliph FIGHTS ALL OTHER PEOPLES UNTIL THEY BECOME MUSLIM…” (Ahmad ibn Naqib al-Misri, Reliance of the Traveler: A Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law, In Arabic with Facing English text, Commentary and Appendices Edited and Translated by Nuh Ha Mim Keller [Amana Publications, Beltsville, Maryland, Revised Edition 1994], p. 599-603; bold and capital emphasis ours)

Jihadists are even permitted to attack unbelievers without any prior warning, much like Muhammad did to the Banu al-Mustaliq, where he then had his men take all the woman and children captive!

Narrated Ibn Aun: I wrote a letter to Nāfi’ and Nāfi’ wrote in reply to my letter that the Prophet had suddenly attacked Banū al-Muṣṭaliq without warning WHILE THEY WERE HEEDLESS and their cattle were being watered at the places of water. Their fighting men were killed and their women and children were taken as captives; the Prophet got Juwayrīyah on that day. Nāfi’ said that Ibn ‘Umar had told him the above narration and that Ibn ‘Umar was in that army. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 3, Book 46, Number 717

Ibn ‘Awn reported: I wrote to Nāfi’ inquiring from him whether it was necessary to extend (to the disbelievers) an invitation to accept (Islam) before fighting them. He wrote (in reply) to me that it was necessary in the early days of Islam. The Messenger of Allah made a raid upon Banū al-Muṣṭaliq WHILE THEY WERE UNAWARE and their cattle were having a drink at the water. He killed those who fought and imprisoned others. On that very day, he captured Juwayrīyah bint al-ārith. Nāfi’ said that this tradition was related to him by ‘Abdullāh ibn ‘Umar who (himself) was among the raiding troops. (Sahih Muslim, Book, 019, 4292

Here is a further example of how Muslims implemented Jihad:

2989. It is related that Jubayr ibn Hayya said, “‘Umar sent people to the regions of the great countries to fight the idolaters. Al-Hurmuzan became Muslim and ‘Umar said, ‘I want to consult you about these expeditions.’ He said, ‘Yes, the example of them and the enemies of the Muslims who are in them is like a bird which has a head, two wings, and two legs. If one of its wings is broken, it gets up on its legs with one wing and the head. If the other wing is broken, it gets up on the two legs and the head. But if the head is broken, then the legs, wings and head are gone. The head is Chosroes, the wing is Caesar and the other wing is Faris. Therefore command the Muslims to make for Chosroes.’”

Jubayr ibn Hayya said, “So ‘Umar detailed us and appointed an-Nu’man ibn Muqarran over us. When we reached enemy territory, the agent of Chosroes came out to us with forty thousand men. An interpreter stood up and said, ‘Let a man among you speak to me.’ Al-Mughira said, ‘Ask whatever you like.’ He said, ‘Who are you?’ He replied, ‘We are people of the Arabs. We used to be in terrible hardship and severe affliction. We would suck hides and date-stones out of hunger and we wore camel hair and goat hair. We used to worship trees and stones. While we were like that, the Lord of the heavens and the Lord of the earths sent us a Prophet from among ourselves whose father and mother we knew. Our Prophet, the Messenger of our Lord has commanded us to fight you UNTIL YOU WORSHIP ALLAH ALONE OR PAY THE JIZYA. Our Prophet has informed us from the message of our Lord: whoever of us is killed will go to the Garden in bliss whose like he has never seen. Whoever of us remains will be your masters.’

“An-Nu’man said, ‘If Allah had made you be present at the like of it with the Prophet he would not have made you regret waiting nor disgraced you. But I was present with the Messenger of Allah in the fighting, and when he did not fight at the beginning of the day, he would wait until the winds blew and it was time for the prayer’ [meaning when the day was cooler].”

[Faris was a region of Persia.

An-Nu’man’s comments are in answer to al-Mughira’s objection to the decision to delay the attack.] (Aisha Bewley, Sahih Collection of al-Bukhari, Chapter 63. Chapters on the Jizya and Truces; bold, capital and underline emphasis ours)

Here again we see that the reason given for attacking the Persians was because of their beliefs and not because they had attacked any Muslim.

The fact is that Islam’s earliest and most reliable sources candidly acknowledge that, for the most part, Muhammad’s religion spread by violence and war, not by preaching. Note, for instance, what the following Muslim sources state:

Al-Jihad (Islamic Holy War) in Allah’s Cause [with a large number of Muslims (union), equipped with the latest modern weapons)], is placed at the top in Islam, and is one of its pillars. Islam CANNOT be established EXCEPT with Jihad and with it is made high (superior) the Word of Allah (La ilaha il Allah – None has the right to be worshiped but Allah, Islam, etc.), and with it – Jihad, is propagated Allah’s Religion (Islam). And by abandoning it – Jihad, [And we seek refuge with Allah from it], there is the DESTRUCTION of Islam and its people (Muslims), with the loss of honour and their country and a severe decline in their rule and kingdom. Jihad is prescribed (as an obligatory duty to Allah), on every Muslim, and he who does not fight in Allah’s Cause and does not (even) speak to his personal-self for fighting in Allah’s Cause, then he will die (as a hypocrite), while committing one of crime [sic], items of hypocrisy. (Dr. Muhammad Taqi-ud Din Al-Hilali & Dr. Muhammad Muhsin Khan, Interpretation of the Meanings of the Noble Qur’an: With Comments from Tafsir At-Tabari, Tafsir Al-Qurtubi and Tafsir Ibn Kathir and Ahadith from Sahih Al-Bukhari, Sahih Muslim and other Ahadith Books [Darussalam Publishers & Distributors, Riyadh, Lahore, Houston, New York, First Edition: January 2000], Part 2. From Surah 6 to 9, Q. 9:24, fn. 1, p. 338; bold and capital emphasis ours)


Al-Jihad (Holy fighting) in Allah’s Cause (with full force of numbers and weaponry) is given the utmost importance in Islam and is one of its pillars (on which it stands). BY JIHAD ISLAM IS ESTABLISHED, ALLAH’S WORD IS MADE SUPERIOR, (His Word – La ilaha illallah – none has the right to be worshiped but Allah), AND HIS RELIGION ISLAM IS PROPAGATED. By ABANDONING Jihad (MAY ALLAH PROTECT US FROM THAT) Islam IS DESTROYED and the Muslims fall into an inferior position; their honor is lost, their lands are stolen, their rule and authority vanishes. Jihad is an obligatory duty in Islam on every Muslim, and he who tries to escape from this duty, or does not in his innermost heart wish to fulfill this duty, dies with one of the qualities of a hypocrite. (Ibid., Q. 9:44, fn. 1, p. 383; bold and capital emphasis ours)

In light of this rather honest admission it shouldn’t come as a surprise to the readers that Muhammad is reported to have made the following statements: 

LXXXVII: What is said about spears

It is mentioned from Ibn ‘Umar from the Prophet, “My provision has been placed under the shadow of my spear, and abasement and humility have been placed on the one who disobeys my command.” (Bewley, Sahih Collection of al-Bukhari, Chapter 61. Book of Jihad and Military Expeditions

Here is another version of this same narration:

(88) Chapter.
Narrated Ibn ‘Umar that the Prophet said, “My livelihood is under the shade of my spear,(1) and he who disobeys my orders will be humiliated by paying Jizya.”

(1) (Ch. 88) “Under the shade of my spear” means, from war booty. (The Translation of the Meanings of Sahih Al-Bukhari, Arabic-English, by Dr. Muhammad Muhsin Khan, (Islamic University—Al-Medina Al-Munawwara), Volume IV, p. 108)

With the foregoing in perspective we are now ready to address the feeble attempt by specific Muhammadan propagandists to explain Muhammad’s command in Q. 9:29 to attack and humiliate Jews and Christians as another case of self-defense.


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