Shirk Or Persecution โ€“ What does The Word Fitna Mean?

Shirk Or Persecution โ€“ What does The Word Fitna Mean?



Mohamad Mostafa Nassar

Twitter:@NassarMohamadMR

Often times the Arabic word โ€œfitnaโ€ (ููุชู’ู†ูŽุฉูŒ) in Surah 2:190-194 and Surah 8:39 gets associated by critics to mean โ€œshirkโ€ (disbelief). They claim when the Quran ordered early companions of Muhammed to fight against โ€œfitnaโ€, they assert here that they were ordered to fight non-Muslims merely because of them not believing in Islam. This claim has no foundation whatsoever when one looks at the earliest sources of Islam.

The following Hadith saying is from a Companion of prophet Muhammed (p) and he clarifies what is meant by โ€œfitnaโ€ (ููุชู’ู†ูŽุฉูŒ):

โ€œNarrated Sa`id bin Jubair:`Abdullah bin `Umar came to us and we hoped that he would narrate to us a good Hadith. But before we asked him, a man got up and said to him, โ€œO Abu `Abdur-Rahman! Narrate to us about the battles during the time of the afflictions, as Allah says:โ€“ โ€˜And fight them until there is no more afflictions (i.e. no more worshipping of others besides Allah).’โ€

(2.193) Ibn `Umar said (to the man), โ€œDo you know what is meant by afflictions? Let your mother bereave you! Muhammad used to fight against the pagans, FOR A MUSLIM WAS PUT TO TRIAL IN HIS RELIGION (THE PAGANS WILL EITHER KILL HIM OR CHAIN HIM AS A CAPTIVE). His fighting was not like your fighting which is carried on for the sake of ruling.
Arabic:
ุญูŽุฏูŽู‘ุซูŽู†ูŽุง ุฅูุณู’ุญูŽุงู‚ู ุงู„ู’ูˆูŽุงุณูุทููŠูู‘ุŒ ุญูŽุฏูŽู‘ุซูŽู†ูŽุง ุฎูŽุงู„ูุฏูŒุŒ ุนูŽู†ู’ ุจูŽูŠูŽุงู†ูุŒ ุนูŽู†ู’ ูˆูŽุจูŽุฑูŽุฉูŽ ุจู’ู†ู ุนูŽุจู’ุฏู ุงู„ุฑูŽู‘ุญู’ู…ูŽู†ูุŒ ุนูŽู†ู’ ุณูŽุนููŠุฏู ุจู’ู†ู ุฌูุจูŽูŠู’ุฑูุŒ ู‚ูŽุงู„ูŽ ุฎูŽุฑูŽุฌูŽ ุนูŽู„ูŽูŠู’ู†ูŽุง ุนูŽุจู’ุฏู ุงู„ู„ูŽู‘ู‡ู ุจู’ู†ู ุนูู…ูŽุฑูŽ ููŽุฑูŽุฌูŽูˆู’ู†ูŽุง ุฃูŽู†ู’ ูŠูุญูŽุฏูู‘ุซูŽู†ูŽุงุŒ ุญูŽุฏููŠุซู‹ุง ุญูŽุณูŽู†ู‹ุง ู€ ู‚ูŽุงู„ูŽ ู€ ููŽุจูŽุงุฏูŽุฑูŽู†ูŽุง ุฅูู„ูŽูŠู’ู‡ู ุฑูŽุฌูู„ูŒ ููŽู‚ูŽุงู„ูŽ ูŠูŽุง ุฃูŽุจูŽุง ุนูŽุจู’ุฏู ุงู„ุฑูŽู‘ุญู’ู…ูŽู†ู ุญูŽุฏูู‘ุซู’ู†ูŽุง ุนูŽู†ู ุงู„ู’ู‚ูุชูŽุงู„ู ูููŠ ุงู„ู’ููุชู’ู†ูŽุฉู ูˆูŽุงู„ู„ูŽู‘ู‡ู ูŠูŽู‚ููˆู„ู โ€{โ€ูˆูŽู‚ูŽุงุชูู„ููˆู‡ูู…ู’ ุญูŽุชูŽู‘ู‰ ู„ุงูŽ ุชูŽูƒููˆู†ูŽ ููุชู’ู†ูŽุฉูŒโ€}โ€ ููŽู‚ูŽุงู„ูŽ ู‡ูŽู„ู’ ุชูŽุฏู’ุฑููŠ ู…ูŽุง ุงู„ู’ููุชู’ู†ูŽุฉู ุซูŽูƒูู„ูŽุชู’ูƒูŽ ุฃูู…ูู‘ูƒูŽุŒ ุฅูู†ูŽู‘ู…ูŽุง ูƒูŽุงู†ูŽ ู…ูุญูŽู…ูŽู‘ุฏูŒ ุตู„ู‰ ุงู„ู„ู‡ ุนู„ูŠู‡ ูˆุณู„ู… ูŠูู‚ูŽุงุชูู„ู ุงู„ู’ู…ูุดู’ุฑููƒููŠู†ูŽุŒ ูˆูŽูƒูŽุงู†ูŽ ุงู„ุฏูู‘ุฎููˆู„ู ูููŠ ุฏููŠู†ูู‡ูู…ู’ ููุชู’ู†ูŽุฉู‹ุŒ ูˆูŽู„ูŽูŠู’ุณูŽ ูƒูŽู‚ูุชูŽุงู„ููƒูู…ู’ ุนูŽู„ูŽู‰ ุงู„ู’ู…ูู„ู’ูƒูโ€.โ€ โ€œ (Sahih al-Bukhari volume 9, Book 88, Hadith 215 https://sunnah.com/bukhari/92/46)

That above hadith says fighting canโ€™t be โ€œfor leadershipโ€/supremacy. The fitna fighting was in relation to persecution and oppression. Here is a longer version:

โ€œNarrated Nafi: During the affliction of Ibn Az-Zubair, two men came to Ibn `Umar and said, โ€œThe people are lost, and you are the son of `Umar, and the companion of the Prophet, so what forbids you from coming out?โ€ He said, โ€œWhat forbids me is that Allah has prohibited the shedding of my brotherโ€™s blood.โ€ They both said, โ€œDidnโ€™t Allah say, โ€˜And fight then until there is no more affliction?โ€

He said โ€œWe fought until there was no more affliction and the worship is for Allah (Alone while you want to fight until there is affliction and until the worship become for other than Allah.โ€ โ€ฆ Wonโ€™t you listen to why Allah has mentioned in His Book:

โ€˜If two groups of believers fight each other, then make peace between them, but if one of then transgresses beyond bounds against the other, then you all fight against the one that transgresses. (49.9) and:โ€“

โ€œAND FIGHT THEM TILL THERE IS NO MORE AFFLICTION (FITNA ููุชู’ู†ูŽุฉูŒ).โ€ Ibn `Umar said, โ€œWE DID IT, DURING THE LIFETIME OF ALLAHโ€™S MESSENGER WHEN ISLAM HAD ONLY A FEW FOLLOWERS. A MAN WOULD BE PUT TO TRIAL BECAUSE OF HIS RELIGION; HE WOULD EITHER BE KILLED OR TORTURED. BUT WHEN THE MUSLIMS INCREASED, THERE WAS NO MORE AFFLICTIONS OR OPPRESSIONS (FITNA). โ€ฆ


Arabic
ุญูŽุฏูŽู‘ุซูŽู†ูŽุง ู…ูุญูŽู…ูŽู‘ุฏู ุจู’ู†ู ุจูŽุดูŽู‘ุงุฑูุŒ ุญูŽุฏูŽู‘ุซูŽู†ูŽุง ุนูŽุจู’ุฏู ุงู„ู’ูˆูŽู‡ูŽู‘ุงุจูุŒ ุญูŽุฏูŽู‘ุซูŽู†ูŽุง ุนูุจูŽูŠู’ุฏู ุงู„ู„ูŽู‘ู‡ูุŒ ุนูŽู†ู’ ู†ูŽุงููุนูุŒ ุนูŽู†ู ุงุจู’ู†ู ุนูู…ูŽุฑูŽ ู€ ุฑุถู‰ ุงู„ู„ู‡ ุนู†ู‡ู…ุง ู€ ุฃูŽุชูŽุงู‡ู ุฑูŽุฌูู„ุงูŽู†ู ูููŠย ููุชู’ู†ูŽุฉูย ุงุจู’ู†ู ุงู„ุฒูู‘ุจูŽูŠู’ุฑู ููŽู‚ูŽุงู„ุงูŽ ุฅูู†ูŽู‘ ุงู„ู†ูŽู‘ุงุณูŽ ู‚ูŽุฏู’ ุถููŠูู‘ุนููˆุงุŒ ูˆูŽุฃูŽู†ู’ุชูŽ ุงุจู’ู†ู ุนูู…ูŽุฑูŽ ูˆูŽุตูŽุงุญูุจู ุงู„ู†ูŽู‘ุจููŠูู‘ ุตู„ู‰ ุงู„ู„ู‡ ุนู„ูŠู‡ ูˆุณู„ู… ููŽู…ูŽุง ูŠูŽู…ู’ู†ูŽุนููƒูŽ ุฃูŽู†ู’ ุชูŽุฎู’ุฑูุฌูŽ ููŽู‚ูŽุงู„ูŽ ูŠูŽู…ู’ู†ูŽุนูู†ููŠ ุฃูŽู†ูŽู‘ ุงู„ู„ูŽู‘ู‡ูŽ ุญูŽุฑูŽู‘ู…ูŽ ุฏูŽู…ูŽ ุฃูŽุฎููŠโ€.โ€ ููŽู‚ูŽุงู„ุงูŽ ุฃูŽู„ูŽู…ู’ ูŠูŽู‚ูู„ู ุงู„ู„ูŽู‘ู‡ู โ€{โ€ูˆูŽู‚ูŽุงุชูู„ููˆู‡ูู…ู’ ุญูŽุชูŽู‘ู‰ ู„ุงูŽ ุชูŽูƒููˆู†ูŽย ููุชู’ู†ูŽุฉูŒย โ€}โ€ ููŽู‚ูŽุงู„ูŽ ู‚ูŽุงุชูŽู„ู’ู†ูŽุง ุญูŽุชูŽู‘ู‰ ู„ูŽู…ู’ ุชูŽูƒูู†ู’ย ููุชู’ู†ูŽุฉูŒุŒ ูˆูŽูƒูŽุงู†ูŽ ุงู„ุฏูู‘ูŠู†ู ู„ูู„ูŽู‘ู‡ูุŒ

ูˆูŽุฃูŽู†ู’ุชูู…ู’ ุชูุฑููŠุฏููˆู†ูŽ ุฃูŽู†ู’ ุชูู‚ูŽุงุชูู„ููˆุง ุญูŽุชูŽู‘ู‰ ุชูŽูƒููˆู†ูŽย ููุชู’ู†ูŽุฉูŒุŒ ูˆูŽูŠูŽูƒููˆู†ูŽ ุงู„ุฏูู‘ูŠู†ู ู„ูุบูŽูŠู’ุฑู ุงู„ู„ูŽู‘ู‡ูโ€.โ€ ูˆูŽุฒูŽุงุฏูŽ ุนูุซู’ู…ูŽุงู†ู ุจู’ู†ู ุตูŽุงู„ูุญู ุนูŽู†ู ุงุจู’ู†ู ูˆูŽู‡ู’ุจูุŒ ู‚ูŽุงู„ูŽ ุฃูŽุฎู’ุจูŽุฑูŽู†ููŠ ููู„ุงูŽู†ูŒุŒ ูˆูŽุญูŽูŠู’ูˆูŽุฉู ุจู’ู†ู ุดูุฑูŽูŠู’ุญูุŒ ุนูŽู†ู’ ุจูŽูƒู’ุฑู ุจู’ู†ู ุนูŽู…ู’ุฑููˆ ุงู„ู’ู…ูŽุนูŽุงููุฑููŠูู‘ุŒ ุฃูŽู†ูŽู‘ ุจููƒูŽูŠู’ุฑูŽ ุจู’ู†ูŽ ุนูŽุจู’ุฏู ุงู„ู„ูŽู‘ู‡ูุŒ ุญูŽุฏูŽู‘ุซูŽู‡ู ุนูŽู†ู’ ู†ูŽุงููุนูุŒ ุฃูŽู†ูŽู‘ ุฑูŽุฌูู„ุงู‹ุŒ ุฃูŽุชูŽู‰ ุงุจู’ู†ูŽ ุนูู…ูŽุฑูŽ ููŽู‚ูŽุงู„ูŽ ูŠูŽุง ุฃูŽุจูŽุง ุนูŽุจู’ุฏู ุงู„ุฑูŽู‘ุญู’ู…ูŽู†ู ู…ูŽุง ุญูŽู…ูŽู„ูŽูƒูŽ ุนูŽู„ูŽู‰ ุฃูŽู†ู’ ุชูŽุญูุฌูŽู‘ ุนูŽุงู…ู‹ุง ูˆูŽุชูŽุนู’ุชูŽู…ูุฑูŽ ุนูŽุงู…ู‹ุงุŒ ูˆูŽุชูŽุชู’ุฑููƒูŽ ุงู„ู’ุฌูู‡ูŽุงุฏูŽ ูููŠ ุณูŽุจููŠู„ู ุงู„ู„ูŽู‘ู‡ู ุนูŽุฒูŽู‘ ูˆูŽุฌูŽู„ูŽู‘ุŒ ูˆูŽู‚ูŽุฏู’ ุนูŽู„ูู…ู’ุชูŽ ู…ูŽุง ุฑูŽุบูŽู‘ุจูŽ ุงู„ู„ูŽู‘ู‡ู ูููŠู‡ู ู‚ูŽุงู„ูŽ ูŠูŽุง ุงุจู’ู†ูŽ ุฃูŽุฎููŠ ุจูู†ููŠูŽ ุงู„ุฅูุณู’ู„ุงูŽู…ู ุนูŽู„ูŽู‰ ุฎูŽู…ู’ุณู ุฅููŠู…ูŽุงู†ู ุจูุงู„ู„ูŽู‘ู‡ู ูˆูŽุฑูŽุณููˆู„ูู‡ูุŒ ูˆูŽุงู„ุตูŽู‘ู„ุงูŽุฉู ุงู„ู’ุฎูŽู…ู’ุณูุŒ ูˆูŽุตููŠูŽุงู…ู ุฑูŽู…ูŽุถูŽุงู†ูŽุŒ ูˆูŽุฃูŽุฏูŽุงุกู ุงู„ุฒูŽู‘ูƒูŽุงุฉูุŒ ูˆูŽุญูŽุฌูู‘ ุงู„ู’ุจูŽูŠู’ุชูโ€.โ€

ู‚ูŽุงู„ูŽ ูŠูŽุง ุฃูŽุจูŽุง ุนูŽุจู’ุฏู ุงู„ุฑูŽู‘ุญู’ู…ูŽู†ูุŒ ุฃูŽู„ุงูŽ ุชูŽุณู’ู…ูŽุนู ู…ูŽุง ุฐูŽูƒูŽุฑูŽ ุงู„ู„ูŽู‘ู‡ู ูููŠ ูƒูุชูŽุงุจูู‡ู โ€{โ€ูˆูŽุฅูู†ู’ ุทูŽุงุฆูููŽุชูŽุงู†ู ู…ูู†ูŽ ุงู„ู’ู…ูุคู’ู…ูู†ููŠู†ูŽ ุงู‚ู’ุชูŽุชูŽู„ููˆุง ููŽุฃูŽุตู’ู„ูุญููˆุง ุจูŽูŠู’ู†ูŽู‡ูู…ูŽุงโ€}โ€ โ€{โ€ุฅูู„ูŽู‰ ุฃูŽู…ู’ุฑู ุงู„ู„ูŽู‘ู‡ูโ€}โ€ โ€{โ€ู‚ูŽุงุชูู„ููˆู‡ูู…ู’ ุญูŽุชูŽู‘ู‰ ู„ุงูŽ ุชูŽูƒููˆู†ูŽย ููุชู’ู†ูŽุฉูŒโ€}โ€ ู‚ูŽุงู„ูŽ ููŽุนูŽู„ู’ู†ูŽุง ุนูŽู„ูŽู‰ ุนูŽู‡ู’ุฏู ุฑูŽุณููˆู„ู ุงู„ู„ูŽู‘ู‡ู ุตู„ู‰ ุงู„ู„ู‡ ุนู„ูŠู‡ ูˆุณู„ู… ูˆูŽูƒูŽุงู†ูŽ ุงู„ุฅูุณู’ู„ุงูŽู…ู ู‚ูŽู„ููŠู„ุงู‹ุŒ ููŽูƒูŽุงู†ูŽ ุงู„ุฑูŽู‘ุฌูู„ู ูŠููู’ุชูŽู†ู ูููŠ ุฏููŠู†ูู‡ู ุฅูู…ูŽู‘ุง ู‚ูŽุชูŽู„ููˆู‡ูุŒ ูˆูŽุฅูู…ูŽู‘ุง ูŠูุนูŽุฐูู‘ุจููˆู‡ูุŒ ุญูŽุชูŽู‘ู‰ ูƒูŽุซูุฑูŽ ุงู„ุฅูุณู’ู„ุงูŽู…ู ููŽู„ูŽู…ู’ ุชูŽูƒูู†ู’ย ููุชู’ู†ูŽุฉูŒโ€.โ€ ู‚ูŽุงู„ูŽ ููŽู…ูŽุง ู‚ูŽูˆู’ู„ููƒูŽ ูููŠ ุนูŽู„ููŠูู‘ ูˆูŽุนูุซู’ู…ูŽุงู†ูŽ ู‚ูŽุงู„ูŽ ุฃูŽู…ูŽู‘ุง ุนูุซู’ู…ูŽุงู†ู ููŽูƒูŽุฃูŽู†ูŽู‘ ุงู„ู„ูŽู‘ู‡ูŽ ุนูŽููŽุง ุนูŽู†ู’ู‡ูุŒ ูˆูŽุฃูŽู…ูŽู‘ุง ุฃูŽู†ู’ุชูู…ู’ ููŽูƒูŽุฑูู‡ู’ุชูู…ู’ ุฃูŽู†ู’ ุชูŽุนู’ูููˆุง ุนูŽู†ู’ู‡ูุŒ ูˆูŽุฃูŽู…ูŽู‘ุง ุนูŽู„ููŠูŒู‘ ููŽุงุจู’ู†ู ุนูŽู…ูู‘ ุฑูŽุณููˆู„ู ุงู„ู„ูŽู‘ู‡ู ุตู„ู‰ ุงู„ู„ู‡ ุนู„ูŠู‡ ูˆุณู„ู… ูˆูŽุฎูŽุชูŽู†ูู‡ูโ€.โ€ ูˆูŽุฃูŽุดูŽุงุฑูŽ ุจููŠูŽุฏูู‡ู ููŽู‚ูŽุงู„ูŽ ู‡ูŽุฐูŽุง ุจูŽูŠู’ุชูู‡ู ุญูŽูŠู’ุซู ุชูŽุฑูŽูˆู’ู†ูŽโ€.โ€


โ€ (Sahih al-Bukhari volume 6, Book 60, Hadith 40ย https://sunnah.com/urn/41950)

And:

Narrated Ibn `Umar: โ€ฆ Ibn `Umar said, โ€œO son of my brother! I would rather be blamed for not fighting because of this Verse than to be blamed because of another Verse where Allah says: โ€˜And whoever kills a believer intentionallyโ€ฆโ€

(4.93) Then that man said, โ€œAllah says:โ€“ โ€˜And fight them until there is no more afflictions (worshipping other besides Allah) and the religion (i.e. worship) will be all for Allah (Alone)โ€ (8.39) Ibn `Umar said,

โ€œWe did this during the lifetime of Allahโ€™s Messenger when the number of Muslims was small, andย A MAN WAS PUT TO TRIAL BECAUSE OF HIS RELIGION, THE PAGANS WOULD EITHER KILL OR CHAIN HIM; BUT WHEN THE MUSLIMS INCREASED (AND ISLAM SPREAD), THERE WAS NO PERSECUTION (FITNA).โ€

When that man saw that Ibn `Umar did not agree to his proposal, he said, โ€œWhat is your opinion regarding `Ali and `Uthman?โ€ Ibn `Umar said, โ€œWhat is my opinion regarding `Ali and `Uthman?

As for `Uthman, Allah forgave him and you disliked to forgive him, and `Ali is the cousin and son-in-law of Allahโ€™s Messenger.โ€ Then he pointed out with his hand and said, โ€œAnd that is his daughterโ€™s (house) which you can see.โ€ (Sahih al-Bukhari volume 6, Book 60, Hadith 173ย https://sunnah.com/urn/43280)

And this report from Fath al-Bari:

โ€œโ€™And fight them until there is no more FITNAHโ€ฆโ€™
Ibn Umar said, โ€˜We did that during the time of The Messenger of Allah when Islam was weak and the man would be tried in religion, EITHER TORMENTED TO DEATH OR BEING IMPRISONED. When Islam became stronger and widespread, there was no more Fitnah.โ€™ โ€ฆโ€ (Fath al-Bari volume 8, page 160) (Tafsir Ibn Kathir (Abridged) [Abridged by A Group of Scholars Under The Supervision Of Shaykh Safiur-Rahman Al-Mubarakpuri. Maktaba Dar-us-Salam โ€“ Second Edition, 2003] volume 4 page 314)

Ibn Kathir explains that โ€œfitnahโ€ in Surah 8:39-41 is understood classically to mean that a Muslim is persecuted so much that he may abandon his religion. In his footnote he provides Ibn Abi Hatim (854 โ€“ 938 AD) who also has this opinion:

โ€œโ€™until there is no Fitnahโ€™ the Fitnah mentioned here means, until no Muslims is PERSECUTED so that he abandons his religion.โ€ (Ibn Abi Hatim volume 5, page 1701) (Tafsir Ibn Kathir (Abridged) [Abridged by A Group of Scholars Under The Supervision Of Shaykh Safiur-Rahman Al-Mubarakpuri. Maktaba Dar-us-Salam โ€“ Second Edition, 2003] volume 4 page 314)

When some commentaries or the above Hadith say fitna in connection with โ€œno more worshipping of others besides Allahโ€ in brackets, one should note here this is in reference to some Muslims who were forcefully converted to polytheism (Shirk) and thus they had to worship idols or gods of the persecutors. Thus no more shirk in the sense of them (persecutors) not being able to persecute an individual where they may fall back into polytheism due to the oppression.

Conclusion:

These Hadith reports shown proves unequivocally that fitnah requires physical persecution and oppression against Muslims before any fight can occur. It also proves that it is a fight by the weak against the oppressor and never a fight by the one in power to impose Islam on others. Therefore, โ€œfitnaโ€ was understood by Prophet Muhammedโ€™s companions as persecution and oppression.

Related articles:

(1) โ€“ โ€œMost Misinterpreted Verses Of The Quran?โ€

(2) โ€“ โ€œEarly Expeditions And Battles Of Islamโ€

(3) โ€“ โ€œDid Quraysh Persecute Muslims When They Fled To Madinah?โ€

(4) โ€“ โ€œDid Muhammad Order Or Support The Killing Of Innocents?โ€

Quran 2:191- โ€˜And kill them wherever you find themโ€ฆโ€™ Explained

Shirk Or Persecution โ€“ What does The Word Fitna Mean?

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Jizya in Judaism and Christianity

Jizya across the Islamic History

Bible Commands Christians to Pay Jizyah Tax.

Jizya in Judaism and Christianity

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I would encourage you to read this insightful article: Churchs Do NOT Pay Taxes