Home > Islam > Slay and Be Slain: An Exegesis of Koran 9:111

Slay and Be Slain: An Exegesis of Koran 9:111

This next blog is going to be about another verse in the Ninth Surah of the Koran: Surah 9:111. I am going to provide here my interpretation using the Koran and the Bible.

First of all, I want to preface all of my remarks by first of talking about peace. The message that Christians were commanded to spread throughout the world is called in Scripture the Gospel of Peace. (Ephesians 6:15) St. James, the brother of Jesus, wrote:

But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. (James 3:17,18, NKJV)

Anyone who receives God’s wisdom is going to become peaceable and being making peace. In the Gospel according to St. Matthew, Christ said:

Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God. (Matthew 5:9, NKJV)

St. Peter, one of the Twelve Apostles and a Muslim (Matthew 10:2; Koran 3:52), quoted in his First Catholic Epistle from one of the Psalms of King David, who is a messenger and prophet of Allah (Koran 4:163). He wrote:

Let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. (I Peter 3:11, NKJV; Psalm 33:14, LXX; 34:14, Hebrew)

Those who ignore this commandment from Allah are not rightly guided. They are not on the straight for which they pray in the Fatihah. (Koran 1:5-7; 2:285; 4:150-152)

Believe ye in part of the Scripture and disbelieve ye in part thereof? And what is the reward of those who do so save ignominy in the life of the world, and on the Day of Resurrection they will be consigned to the most grievous doom. For Allah is not unaware of what ye do. Such are those who buy the life of the world at the price of the Hereafter. Their punishment will not be lightened, neither will they have support. (Koran 2:85,86, Pickthall)

In the Fifth Surah, it says that the Koran gives instructions to guide people into paths of peace.

O People of the Scripture! Now hath Our messenger come unto you, expounding unto you much of that which ye used to hide in the Scripture, and forgiving much. Now hath come unto you light from Allah and plain Scripture, whereby Allah guideth him who seeketh His good pleasure unto paths of peace. He bringeth them out of darkness unto light by His decree, and guideth them unto a straight path. (Koran 5:15,16, Pickthall)

The Koran says that “Peace is better.” (Koran 4:128) It says that God will reward peacemakers with a “vast reward.”

There is no good in much of their secret conferences save (in) him who enjoineth almsgiving and kindness and peace-making among the people. Whoso doeth that, seeking the good pleasure of Allah, We shall bestow on him a vast reward. (Koran 4:114, Pickthall)

So, peace is what every Muslim, Jew, and Christian should desire. Those who do not pursue peace are ignoring the commandments of God in their own Scriptures.

Warfare is undesirable but sometimes necessary.

Warfare is ordained for you, though it is hateful unto you; but it may happen that ye hate a thing which is good for you, and it may happen that ye love a thing which is bad for you. Allah knoweth, ye know not. (Koran 2:216, Pickthall)

There are only three reasons for warfare in the Koran: self-defense (Koran 2:190; 9:13), to end religious persecution (Koran 2:193; 9:13), and to liberate the oppressed (Koran 4:75). If warfare can be avoided, it should be because “peace is better” (Koran 4:128) and it is the peacemakers who will be children of God and rewarded greatly in the afterlife. (Matthew 5:9; Koran 4:114)

Now, for the exegesis of the verse from the Koran. I am using Pickthall’s translation.

Lo! Allah hath bought from the believers their lives and their wealth because the Garden will be theirs: they shall fight in the way of Allah and shall slay and be slain. It is a promise which is binding on Him in the Torah and the Gospel and the Qur’an. Who fulfilleth His covenant better than Allah? Rejoice then in your bargain that ye have made, for that is the supreme triumph. (Koran 9:111, Pickthall)

“Lo! Allah hath bought from the believers their lives and their wealth.”

The literal meaning of the Arabic word translated “lives” is “souls.” How did God buy from the believers their souls and their wealth? The answer is found in the New Testament.

Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the Church of God which He purchased with His own blood. (Acts 20:28, NKJV)

God purchased them with His own blood. Jesus, who is the incarnate Word of Allah (Koran 4:171; John 1:14), is Allah. (Compare Revelation 1:17 with Koran 57:3 and Isaiah 44:6.) He died for our sins. (Romans 5:8; I Corinthians 15:3; Koran 3:55; 5:117) Believers belong to Him.

For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s. (I Corinthians 6:20, NKJV)

Our sins are forgiven and we have redemption through His blood.

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth — in Him. In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory. (Ephesians 1:7-12, NKJV)

He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:13,14, NKJV)

After mentioning His death in Koran 5:117, Jesus says:

If Thou chastisest them, they are Thy servants; if Thou forgivest them, Thou art the All-mighty, the All-wise. (Koran 5:118, Arberry)

Chastisement is mentioned because God chastens every son He receives.

And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: “My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; for whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.” If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness.  (Hebrews 12:5-10, NKJV)

Forgiveness is mentioned because the Father and the Holy Spirit were pleased to accept the blood of Jesus for the remission of our sins.

And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission. (Hebrews 9:22, NKJV)

For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; not that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood of another —  He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation. (Hebrews 9:24-28, NKJV)

Christ also forgave our sins. (Colossians 3:13) Jesus is the heir. The promises under the covenant that God made with Abraham are for Abraham and his Seed, that is, Jesus.

Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as of many, but as of one, “And to your Seed,” who is Christ. (Galatians 3:16, NKJV)

God promised Abraham that he would be the heir of the world (actually, the entire universe).

For the promise that he would be the heir of the world (Greek, kosmos, universe) was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. (Romans 4:13, NKJV)

Jesus is also the heir of the universe, since the promise is made to Him, too. (Genesis 22:18) He bought Abraham with His own blood. (Acts 20:28) It is interesting that God would want to inherit what He created, but is that not what the Koran teaches?

Lo! We, only We, inherit the earth and all who are thereon, and unto Us they are returned. (Koran 19:40, Pickthall)

Jesus said in His prayer before His crucifixion:

And all Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine, and I am glorified in them. (John 17:10, NKJV)

So, everything that Jesus inherited, belongs to the Father, too. Everything belongs not just to the Father and the Son, but also to the Holy Spirit. All Three are one God.

So Allah bought us with His blood and inherited the universe.

“Because the Garden will be theirs.”

The Garden, that is, Paradise, will belong to the believers, but it will still be God’s. St. Paul said:

The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs — heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together. (Romans 8:16,17, NKJV)

Paradise belongs to Jesus. The Father and the Holy Spirit own it, too. (John 17:10)

“They shall fight in the way of Allah.”

Here, Muhammad speaks about warfare. Warfare must be “in the way of Allah,” that is, for the reasons given in the Koran. Otherwise, the war is not legitimate. Offensive military jihad is forbidden. Such wars are the products of Satanic instigation. (Koran 17:53) People who start wars for reasons other than to end religious persecution (Koran 2:193) or liberate the oppressed (Koran 4:75) spread corruption in the earth.

The Jews say: Allah’s hand is fettered. Their hands are fettered and they are accursed for saying so. Nay, but both His hands are spread out wide in bounty. He bestoweth as He will. That which hath been revealed unto thee from thy Lord is certain to increase the contumacy and disbelief of many of them, and We have cast among them enmity and hatred till the Day of Resurrection. As often as they light a fire for war, Allah extinguisheth it. Their effort is for corruption in the land, and Allah loveth not corrupters. (Koran 5:64, Pickthall)

Fighting back in self-defense is permissible. (Koran 2:190; 9:13) The war should be fought keeping peace in mind as a preferred objective. If the enemy inclines toward peace, Muslims must also incline toward peace.

And fight them until persecution is no more, and religion is for Allah. But if they desist, then let there be no hostility except against wrong-doers. (Koran 2:193, Pickthall)

Make ready for them all thou canst of (armed) force and of horses tethered, that thereby ye may dismay the enemy of Allah and your enemy, and others beside them whom ye know not. Allah knoweth them. Whatsoever ye spend in the way of Allah it will be repaid to you in full, and ye will not be wronged. And if they incline to peace, incline thou also to it, and trust in Allah. Lo! He, even He, is the Hearer, the Knower. (Koran 8:60,61, Pickthall)

Muslims are forbidden to fight against those who offer them peace.

So, if they hold aloof from you and wage not war against you and offer you peace, Allah alloweth you no way against them. (Koran 4:90, Pickthall)

O ye who believe! When ye go forth (to fight) in the way of Allah, be careful to discriminate, and say not unto one who offereth you peace: “Thou art not a believer,” seeking the chance profits of this life (so that ye may despoil him). With Allah are plenteous spoils. Even thus (as he now is) were ye before; but Allah hath since then been gracious unto you. Therefore take care to discriminate. Allah is ever Informed of what ye do. (Koran 4:94, Pickthall)

Since “Satan is for man an open foe” (Koran 12:5), offensive spiritual jihad is recommended and acceptable. We wage spiritual jihad by praying, fasting, and proclaiming the truth of God’s Word. Spiritual jihad will be the subject of another blog post.

“And shall slay and be slain. It is a promise which is binding on Him in the Torah and the Gospel and the Qur’an.”

In order to understand the expression, “slay and be slain,” one needs to look at the Torah and the Gospel. There is a promise in them pertaining to this. I have already looked and actually looking in the Gospel first is advisable. One can find it in there most easily and then look for similar statements in the Torah and the Koran. In St. Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus said:

But Jesus said to him, “Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.” (Matthew 26:52, NKJV)

In Genesis, God told Noah:

He that sheds man’s blood, instead of that blood shall his own be shed, for in the image of God I made man. (Genesis 9:6, LXX)

The ones who slay and are being slain are not the Muslims. They are the ones who started the war by attacking first or killing Muslims that they were persecuting or oppressing. The promise is that they will die by the sword and have their blood shed.

Regarding Satan, Jesus said that “he was a murderer from the beginning.” (John 8:44) Therefore, spiritual jihad needs to be waged against Satan because of what he has been doing to mankind.

“Who fulfilleth His covenant better than Allah?”

The covenant is the New Covenant which Jesus established on the night before He was crucified. He shed His blood for the remission of sins. So, we can be forgiven.

And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the New Covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” (Matthew 26:26-28, NKJV)

He abolished death so that we can be immortal.

But has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel (II Timothy 1:10, NKJV)

Jesus destroyed death by His death. His God nature could not die. His human nature did die, but because it was joined inseparably to His God nature, it could not remain dead. Jesus arose from the dead.

Those who eat Jesus’ resurrected flesh and blood in the Sacrament of the Eucharist will have eternal life. Jesus said:

Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. (John 6:54, NKJV)

Jesus’ disciples ate His resurrected flesh and blood during the night before Jesus was crucified. How? God is Lord of the Past, the Present, and the Future. God can change the past. The Sacraments are called the Holy Mysteries. A mystery is something that cannot be fully explained, yet it is true.

Forgiveness of sins and immortality are two things that we are promised under the New Covenant. (Matthew 26:26-28; John 6:54)

God will keep His promises to us.

For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us — by me, Silvanus, and Timothy —  not Yes and No, but in Him was Yes. For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us. (II Corinthians 1:19,20, NKJV)

In hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began. (Titus 1:2, NKJV)

“Rejoice then in your bargain that ye have made, for that is the supreme triumph.”

Surrendering their will to God, they inherit everything. In the Gospels of St. Mark and St. Luke, it says:

Then Peter began to say to Him, “See, we have left all and followed You.”  So Jesus answered and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time — houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions — and in the age to come, eternal life.” (Mark 10:28-30, NKJV)

Then Peter said, “See, we have left all and followed You.” So He said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or parents or brothers or wife or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who shall not receive many times more in this present time, and in the age to come eternal life.” (Luke 18:28-30, NKJV)

If we give up everything to follow Jesus, we are supposed to have in this life a hundredfold what we gave up. (That is probably just a figurative expression meaning “manifold” as St. Luke records in his Gospel. Maybe we are supposed to have a thousandfold or a millionfold or even a billionfold.) Well, most people who do what Jesus says, do not obtain vast wealth in this life. Jesus said what we read in St. Mark’s and St. Luke’s Gospels after St. Peter said, “See, we have left all and followed You.” In St. Matthew’s Gospel, St. Peter asks a question. The Lord gives a slightly different answer after St. Peter’s question than what we read in the other two Gospels.

Then Peter answered and said to Him, “See, we have left all and followed You. Therefore what shall we have?” So Jesus said to them, “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life.” (Matthew 19:27-29, NKJV)

How can we have so much now when in reality we do not seem to possess it? Jesus told St. Peter that we receive it in the future when we inherit eternal life after he asked the question, “What shall we have?” These words from St. Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians explain the words of Jesus in the other two Gospels.

Therefore let no one boast in men. For all things are yours: whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas, or the world or life or death, or things present or things to come — all are yours. And you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s. (I Corinthians 3:21-23, NKJV)

The world (that is, the universe) is ours. “Things to come” (that is, what Jesus spoke about in St. Matthew’s Gospel) are ours now, but we will not be able to enjoy the hundredfold blessing until after we are resurrected. So, we believers already possess the hundredfold blessing, but we will enjoy it in the future.

This verse from the Koran (9:111) is about war and eternal rewards. Wars are fought whenever the community is being affected adversely, for example, a military attack from another nation. If, on the other hand, an individual believer is affected adversely by being treated badly by others, then there is another rule to follow. The Koran essentially agrees with the Bible. The Koran gives the “Abel principle.” In the Fifth Surah, Abel tells Cain:

Even if thou stretch out thy hand against me to kill me, I shall not stretch out my hand against thee to kill thee, lo! I fear Allah, the Lord of the Worlds. (Koran 5:28, Pickthall)

In the Fourth Surah, it says:

Allah would explain to you and guide you by the examples of those who were before you, and would turn to you in mercy. Allah is Knower, Wise. (Koran 4:26, Pickthall)

According to the Koran, we are supposed to follow the example of Abel and not fight back.

In the 13th Surah, it says:

Such as persevere in seeking their Lord’s Countenance and are regular in prayer and spend of that which We bestow upon them secretly and openly, and overcome evil with good. Theirs will be the sequel of the (heavenly) Home. (Koran 13:22, Pickthall)

In the 23rd Surah, it says:

Repel evil with that which is better. We are Best Aware of that which they allege. (Koran 23:96, Pickthall)

In the 42nd Surah, there is the law from the Torah, “an eye for an eye,” but the law from the Gospel, “pardon and make reconciliation” is preferred. God rewards those who pardon and make reconciliation.

And the retribution for an evil act is an evil one like it, but whoever pardons and makes reconciliation – his reward is [due] from Allah. Indeed, He does not like wrongdoers. (Koran 42:40, Sahih International)

The principle that receiving forgiveness from God depends on whether we forgive others is in the 24th Surah.

Let them pardon and overlook. Would you not like that Allah should forgive you? And Allah is Forgiving and Merciful. (Koran 24:22, Sahih International)

The Bible has similar teachings.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. (Romans 12:14, NKJV)

Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. (Romans 12:17,18, NKJV)

Now therefore, it is already an utter failure for you that you go to law against one another. Why do you not rather accept wrong? Why do you not rather let yourselves be cheated?  No, you yourselves do wrong and cheat, and you do these things to your brethren!  Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? (I Corinthians 6:7-9, NKJV)

For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. (I Peter 2:19,20, NKJV)

“For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:14,15, NKJV)

This concludes my exegesis of Koran 9:111. “Slay and be slain” is not talking about people becoming “martyrs” in battle. It is talking about the ones who have started a war by killing people. They will be slain after they have slain others. (Genesis 9:6; Matthew 26:52) There are only two reasons why Muslims can start a war: to end religious persecution and to liberate the oppressed.  Christians have fought wars for similar reasons. Peace is better. We should all “seek peace and pursue it.” The Muslim community is allowed to fight back in self-defense, but they, as individuals, should observe the “Abel principle” (Koran 4:26; 5:28) when they are attacked personally.

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