Does Qur'an talk about Terror and War?

Details of the Question
salam... i am having a discussion with atheist... need answers of following as they say islam is cruel religion Quran (8:12)-"I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them" Quran (3:151)-"Soon shall We cast terror into the hearts of the Unbelievers, for that they joined companions with Allah, for which He had sent no authority". Quran (5:33)-"The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His messenger and strive to make mischief in the land is only this, that they should be murdered or crucified or their hands and their feet should be cut off on opposite sides or they should be imprisoned; this shall be as a disgrace for them in this world, and in the hereafter they shall have a grievous chastisement"
The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

This Qur’anic verse is about war and mentioned in it as a necessity of the war is the killing.

What is done here is not violence, but ‘Jihad’, which means war for God’s sake.Allah supports his believing bondsmen with his angels and orders them what they must do.

We are informed of the following concerning the functions of  the angels appointed for the war of Badr:

 “When thy Lord inspired the angels, (saying): I am with you. So make those who believe stand firm. I will throw fear into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Then smite the necks and smite of them each finger.” (al-Anfal, 8/12)

It is inferred from this verse that angels are a means of giving firmness to believers and fear to disbelievers. There are narrations that the angels were appointed for wars other than Badr. Many people narrate that spiritual beings were seen and they helped Muslims inTurkish Independence War, in Cyprus Operation, and in the  resistance of Afghan warriors pioneering in the collapse of communism.

Angels’ help is cited in the following verses about the period before the war of Uhud:

“Allah had already given you victory at Badr, when ye were contemptible. So observe your duty to Allah in order that ye may be thankful. When thou didst unto the believers: Is it not sufficient for you that your Lord should support you with three thousand angels sent down (to your help)? Nay, but if you persevere, and keep from evil, and (the enemy) attack you suddenly, your Lord will help you with five thousand angels sweeping on.” (Aal-i Imran, 3/123-125)

Allah, who informs that angels will come to help, then reminds the following in order to prevent the believers from being stuck in causes (Razi, XV, 131; Beydavi, I, 377; Kutub, III, 1483):

“Allah appointed it only as good tidings, and that your hearts might be at rest. Victory cometh only by the help of Allah. (al-Anfal, 8/10; Aal-i Imran, 3/126)”

As is expressed in the verse, angels’ help is aimed at being a gladtidings to believers and relieving their hearts. In fact, the help and the victory are from Allah.  We can say that according to the fact that a single angel can be granted enough power to destroy the Earth, thousands of angels’ having been seen at Badr is for showing the sublimity and glory of this war in a specific way. (Hamidullah, The Prophet Of Islam, I, 225-226)

About the Verse: 3/151

Here, Allah consoles the believers and eases their anxiety by giving them the gladtidings of victory against their enemies, and he gives the news that the fear will soon fill the hearts of those who are lacking in moral power of believing in Allah.For, the disbelievers, irrespective of any logical or narrative evidences, associate partners with Allah with a superstitious belief passed down on by their ancestors, they seek help from idols, and render them intecessors between Allah and his bondsmen.

However, the idols do not even possess power to get rid of attackers let alone helping others.

So, the idolators confide in their idols to the extent Muslims trust their Lord.For, they suppose that just as their gods have power, so too do those of others and there is a continual war between gods.   This too causes them to become cowardly.

As a matter of fact, in the war of Uhud, the unbelievers withdrew from the war though Muslims dispersed in panic for a while.Once, they thought to return and slay the Muslims, but they could not be brave enough to do this and they preferred to remain unbeaten.  Of course, this is the result of fear Allah had put in their hearts. In one of his hadiths, our noble prophet said: “I was supported by being given the talent to terrify (my enemies) at a distance of one-month path.” (Bukhari, Tayammum, 1) 

Is there an order in the Quran stating that the hands and feet of the unbelievers need to be cut off from opposite sides? If there is, on whom is this punishment applied?

Verses 33 and 34 of the chapter of al-Maida determine the punishments applied on the criminals.

To waylay; to block the way, to stop people by using force and to rob travelers. Waylaying may be done by one person or a group, with or without weapons, in the city or countryside. No matter how and where it takes place, it is regarded as waylaying and the punishment mentioned in the following verse can be applied:

"The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger, and strive with might and main for mischief through the land is: execution, or crucifixion or the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides, or exile from the land: that is their disgrace in this world, and a heavy punishment is theirs in the Hereafter.― Except for those who repent before they fall into your power: in that case, know that Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.." (al-Maida, 5/33, 34)

The narrations about the reason for the sending down of the verses above are as follows:

1. They were sent down about a tribe among the People of the Book. They had signed a treaty with the Prophet (pbuh) but they violated the treaty and started to waylay and cause mischief on the earth. (a narration from Ibn Abbas)

2. They were sent down about polytheists. (reported from Ikrima, Hasan al-Basri and Ala)

3. They were sent down about the people of Urayna; some people from Uqul, Urayna and Bajiyla came to Madinah; they were poor and ill. They declared that they had become Muslims. The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) sent them to the place where the camels collected as zakah for the Treasury grazed and told them to drink the milk of the camels and to treat their illnesses with the urine of the camels. They went there and recovered after a while. Then, they exited from religion, killed the shepherds, rode the camels, waylaid and raped women; they ran away but they were caught after a while. (reported from Anas b. Malik, Urwa b. Zubayr and a few more people)

4. They were sent down about the tribe of Hilal b. Uwaymiri, who was also known as Abu Burda. The Prophet (pbuh) made a peace treaty with Hilal "that he would not help Hilal's good or bad deeds that the Muslims that went to Hilal would be protected and that those who stopped by Hilal on the way to the Prophet would be protected."

Once, a group of people from Sons of Kinana were on their way to visit to the Prophet (pbuh) in order to become Muslims; they stopped by Hilal's tribe on the way. Hilal was not there when they arrived. Hilal's tribe stopped them, seized their property and killed them.  

As it is understood from all of these narrations, the verses above are related to waylaying and robbing. However, some scholars hold the view that this decree is related to unbelievers while others say it includes sinning Muslims, too, which is the view of the majority of the scholars.

It is possible to fight against the Prophet (pbuh) in terms of logic but it is impossible to wage war against Allah; so, it is metaphorical. It is not possible for a word to be used as both literarily and metaphorically. Then, the war mentioned here needs to be metaphorical related to both Allah and His messenger. Then, the word war is metaphorical indicating opposition to the orders and decrees of Allah and His Messenger or Allah's slaves who fulfill those orders and decrees.

It is understood from the context and the reasons for those verses being sent down that this war is not an open war. For, it is seen that there is nothing like being a prisoner of war and jizyah in this war. Most tafsir and fiqh scholars say real war includes grabbing and that what is meant by this war is waylaying and they call it great robbery. Others say it is trying to rob whether in the city or in the countryside, that is, open robbery. In this sense, it can be committed by a musta'min (a non-Muslim given security and living in an Islamic country) a zimmi (a non-Muslim citizen), a harbi (a non-Muslim who is not musta'min and zimmi), an unbeliever or a fasiq (sinning Muslim).

To sum up, they are a group of aberrant, social and political people who protect one another and form a strong block, attacking both Muslims and non-Muslims living under the protection of the Islamic state, their property or honor. In the verses above, the religious punishment about them is explained:

The punishment for those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger and the orders and decrees of Allah and His Messenger by opposing their orders and decrees actually, who try to cause mischief on the earth and attempt to attack people's lives, property and honor, to destroy crops and cattle, to disturb the true system, to break  peace and order in the community is as follows based on the degrees of their crimes:

They will be killed, that is, if they have killed people, they will be killed not through qisas (retaliation) but be executed with no possibility of being forgiven. That is, if they have killed people and grabbed property or raped women, they will be hanged alive, killed with bayonet; or they will be hanged after they are killed and shown to people; if they have grabbed property but not killed any people, their hands and feet will be cut off from opposite sides, right hand and left foot or vice versa or they will be exiled; if they have not done any of them but only threatened people, they will be imprisoned or exiled.

The punishment for those who wage war against Allah and His Prophet and who carry weapons and cause mischief based on the degrees of their crime determined by the Shari'ah is to kill or hang them, to cut off their hands or to deport. It is known that the nature of war involves one those four deeds and the punishments are their equivalents. There are some narrations from A'ta, Qatada and Hasan that the repetitions here, the word or, indicate that either can be chosen. Accordingly, the administrator has to apply one of those four punishments but he is free to choose any of them. However, most of the scholars state that it is not appropriate in terms of narration and reason to decide that repetition indicates choice but, as it is shown above, it indicates the necessity of applying the punishments based on the degree of the crime; therefore, the administrator has no right to choose but has to apply the punishments based on the degree of the crime; he has no right to cut off the hands and feet of a person who needs to be imprisoned, to kill a person whose extremities need to be cut off, or to hang a person who needs to be killed only or vice versa; he has no right to forgive them, either. In fact, to do something that is not reasonable in terms of narrations and logic by choosing whatever one wants like regarding it enough to imprison a killer, to hang a person who is not a killer is definitely wrong. However, we can say here that the word or may indicate choosing and dividing. 

Here, division and distribution are preferred in terms of narration and reason. However, it does not necessarily render the possibility of choosing what is wrong and invalid. For, it is not permissible to choose a more severe punishment like preferring deporting to cutting off extremities, cutting to killing, killing to hanging; however, it is reasonable and possible to choose a lighter punishment like preferring hanging to killing, killing to cutting off extremities, cutting off extremities to imprisonment. The possibility of choosing actually exists and there are some narrations; so, this possibility cannot be denied; then, since punishments lapse when there are doubts, it might be appropriate to think of this possibility too when it is necessary by lessening the punishment depending on the changes in situations and time. It does not mean to interpret one word as both choosing and diversifying; it means to think of the two meanings one after the other depending on the changes in situations and time, enabling division that makes a kind of choice; it is away from doubts as doing things based on two possibilities, which is in accordance with the meaning of the punishment and the decrees of lessening. 

It is known that the meaning of salb (hanging) is stretching someone form the arms. As a matter of fact, crucifixion is derived from this word. Imam Shafii prefers hanging a person after he is killed and if he is a Muslim first performing his janazah prayer and then hanging and being shown to everybody, which is doubtlessly useful. As for deporting, nafy actually means to hang, to eliminate. As a matter of fact, it is not used in the sense of hanging since it is mentioned for killing and hanging. Then, exile from the land for a person can take place only through imprisonment; there is no disagreement that nafy is used in this sense in Arabic. Abu Hanifa and many linguists prefer this meaning. Expelling a person from his town to another town or from an Islamic land can be called exile but they are not regarded as permissible since both of them are not away from drawbacks. For, the purpose is to get rid of evil.  To send a bandit to another country is not away from harming the people there.To send someone from the Islamic land to non-Muslim land means to want a believer to join non-Muslims and it is not regarded as permissible. However, there are some scholars who say that it is permissible to exile those people if it becomes clear that the drawbacks mentioned above will not occur. There is a narration from Umar b. Abdulaziz regarding the issue. It is stated that Dahlak, the furthest part of Tihama desert and Nasi in Abyssinia were places of exile. 

The word nafy is used in this sense. Imam Shafii says nafy may have two meanings here. The first one: if they have killed people, grabbed property and have been caught, their punishments are applied. If they have not been caught, they need to be followed. What is meant by nafy in this sense is their fear from the government causing them to escape from one place to another all the time. 

The second one: Those who have not killed anybody and grabbed property but who have only intimidated people are also followed all the time. When they are caught, they are given tazir punishment and imprisoned. What is meant by nafy about them is only imprisonment. That Imam Shafii interprets nafy in two ways is similar to the explanation above about the issue of choosing and dividing. This statement of Shafii also indicates that imprisonment is not hadd but tazir. Then, its becoming hadd is compared to the origin of imprisonment. 

Thus, the punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger is nothing but execution, or crucifixion or the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides, or exile from the land. However, the lessening (or allocation) of this punishment is not absolute but relative. For, this punishment is their disgrace only in this world. There is also very big torture in the hereafter for them, which is impossible to compare with any of them.

However, those who repent before they are caught are excluded. Then, know it very well that Allah is the most forgiving and most merciful. Then, those who repent are not sued and none of the punishments mentioned above are applied. However, personal cases continue. If they have killed any people, the inheritors of the murdered people may forgive them or want them to be executed after they are proved to be guilty. The decree that elapses through repentance is the obligation of the application of the hadd punishment, not its permissibility. Similarly, if they have grabbed property, the owners of the property may ask their property to be returned to them or their expenses to be paid to them; they are free to sue them. Those who are charged with authority also have the right to give tazir punishment for those who wage war and cause mischief and those who cause mischief without waging war regarding the rights of both Allah and individuals; this right of giving tazir punishment can be used for the wrong deeds that are not so evil as to be given hadd punishment. More detailed information can be found in fiqh books. The general rule is as follows: any person who commits a bad deed can be punished.

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