Misinterpreted Qur'anic Verses

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Many apologists use mis-interpreted and/or misleading paraphrased Qur'anic verses to propagate Islam. This page discusses a few of the more popular ones and provides their correct meaning.

Killing a person is like killing all of mankind (5:32)


On that account: We ordained for the Children of Israel that if anyone slew a person - unless it be in retaliation for murder or for spreading mischief in the land - it would be as if he slew all mankind: and if anyone saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of all humanity.

Meaning of Verse

This famous verse is often misquoted. Written in past tense, it clearly does not apply to Muslims but to "the Children of Israel" i.e. the Jews who, according to Islam, recieved an earlier set of scriptures. When read in context with the next two verses, it is in actual fact a chilling warning to non-believers.

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.

According to the highly respected Qur'anic exegesis of Ibn Kathir- early qur'anic commentator and Tabi‘un, Sayid ibn Jubayr (who lived at the time of Muhammad, and was a companion of Ayesha), had said:

[فَكَأَنَّمَا قَتَلَ النَّاسَ جَمِيعاً]

.....Sa`id bin Jubayr said, "He who allows himself to shed the blood of a Muslim, is like he who allows shedding the blood of all people. He who forbids shedding the blood of one Muslim, is like he who forbids shedding the blood of all people." In addition, Ibn Jurayj said that Al-A`raj said that Mujahid commented on the Ayah,

That verse also says it is okay to kill someone who does "mischief". In the Tafsir ibn Kathir, Qatada, one of Muhammad's companions, explained the definition of "Mischief" according to Islam.

(And when it is said to them: "Do not make mischief on the earth,"), means, "Do not commit acts of disobedience on the earth. Their mischief is disobeying Allah, because whoever disobeys Allah on the earth, or commands that Allah be disobeyed, he has committed mischief on the earth.
Meaning of Mischief
Tafsir Ibn Kathir


This verse is not condemning the killing of a non-Muslim, but is issuing a stern warning to those who oppose or reject Islam.

Let there be no compulsion in religion (2:256)


Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from Error: whoever rejects evil and believes in Allah hath grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold, that never breaks. And Allah heareth and knoweth all things.

Meaning of Verse

A very famous misinterpreted verse, actually referring to people in other religions converting to Islam.

Narrated Abdullah ibn Abbas
When the children of a woman (in pre-Islamic days) did not survive, she took a vow on herself that if her child survives, she would convert it a Jew. When Banu an-Nadir were expelled (from Arabia), there were some children of the Ansar (Helpers) among them. They said: We shall not leave our children. So Allah the Exalted revealed; "Let there be no compulsion in religion. Truth stands out clear from error."

Ibn Kathir in the version of his tafsir abridged by Sheikh Muhammad Nasib Ar-Rafa‘i, has this to say (note that this portion has not been translated by Safiur Rahman Mubarakpuri who is responsible for the abridged version of Tafsir Ibn Kathir widely available on the internet):

Allah says: "There is no compulsion in religion", meaning: do not force anyone to embrace Islam, because it is clear and its proofs and evidences are manifest. Whoever Allah guides and opens his heart to Islam has indeed embraced it with clear evidence. Whoever Allah misguides blinds his heart and has set a seal on his hearing and a covering on his eyes cannot embrace Islam by force...hence Allah revealed this verse. But, this verse is abrogated by the verse of "fighting...Therefore, all people of the world should be called to Islam. If anyone of them refuses to do so, or refuses to pay the Jizya they should be fought till they are killed. This is the meaning of compulsion. In the Sahih, the Prophet said: "Allah wonders at those people who will enter Paradise in chains", meaning prisoners brought in chains to the Islamic state, then they embrace Islam sincerely and become righteous, and are entered among the people of Paradise.[1]
Tafsir of Ibn Kathir, Al-Firdous Ltd., London, 1999: First Edition, Part 3, pp. 37-38


This verse has nothing to do with tolerance of other beliefs.

Those who blow themselves up are throwing themselves into destruction (2:195)


And spend of your substance in the cause of Allah, and make not your own hands contribute to (your) destruction; but do good; for Allah loveth those who do good.

Meaning of Verse

In this verse, destruction actually refers to abandoning Jihad, and like verse 5:32, means the complete opposite of what apologists claim.

"A man from among the Ansar broke enemy (Byzantine) lines in Constantinople (Istanbul). Abu Ayyub Al-Ansari was with us then. So some people said, `He is throwing himself to destruction.'

Abu Ayyub said, `We know this Ayah (2:195) better, for it was revealed about us, the Companions of Allah's Messenger who participated in Jihad with him and aided and supported him. When Islam became strong, we, the Ansar, met and said to each other, `Allah has honored us by being the Companions of His Prophet and in supporting him until Islam became victorious and its following increased. We had before ignored the needs of our families, estates and children. Warfare has ceased, so let us go back to our families and children and attend to them.' So this Ayah was revealed about us:

(And spend in the cause of Allah and do not throw yourselves into destruction.) the destruction refers to staying with our families and estates and abandoning Jihad."[2]
Abu Dawud, At-Tirmidhi, An-Nasa'i, `Abd bin Humayd in his Tafsir, Ibn Abu Hatim, Ibn Jarir, Ibn Marduwyah, Al-Hafiz Abu Ya`la in his Musnad, Ibn Hibban and Al-Hakim


The ones who are committing destruction and suicide in Allah's eyes are the peace loving Muslims who refuse to participate in Jihad. Sahih (authentic) hadith record Muhammad calling these lukewarm Muslims 'hypocrites'.

It has been narrated on the authority of Abu Huraira that the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) said: One who died but did not fight in the way of Allah nor did he express any desire (or determination) for Jihad died the death of a hypocrite.
Whoever dies but neither fought (i.e., in Allah's cause), nor sincerely considered fighting, will die a death of Jahiliyyah (pre-Islamic era of ignorance.
Jihad is made Obligatory
Sahih hadith, Tafsir Ibn Kathir

If they incline towards peace, you incline also, Allah hates aggressors (8:61)


But if the enemy incline towards peace, do thou (also) incline towards peace, and trust in Allah: for He is One that heareth and knoweth (all things).

Meaning of Verse

Abrogation (Naskh) refers to one Qur'anic verse superseding another, and is itself supported by Qur'anic verses and various hadith narrations. According to Ibn ‘Abbās (Muhammad's Cousin) verse 8:61 has been replaced by another well known verse.

‘This has been abrogated by the “sword verse” [Q. 9:5]’
Surat Al-'Anfāl (The Spoils of War) 8:61
Ibn Abbas in Tafsir Ibn Abbas and Tafsir al-Jalalayn (Suyuti)

And here is that verse in full.

But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the Pagans wherever ye find them, an seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war); but if they repent, and establish regular prayers and practise regular charity, then open the way for them: for Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.

Notice that it says "if they repent, and establish regular prayers and practice regular charity, then open the way for them". The only way a non-believer can repent and establish regular prayers, is by converting to Islam. Muhammad also said, fighting must go on even after it stops.

(Until the war lays down its burden.) Mujahid said: "Until `Isa bin Maryam (peace be upon him) descends. It seems as if he derived this opinion from the Prophet's saying, There will always be a group of my Ummah victorious upon the truth, until the last of them fight against Ad-Dajjal.) Imam Ahmad recorded from Jubayr bin Nufayr who reported from Salamah bin Nufayl that he went to the Messenger of Allah and said, "I have let my horse go, and thrown down my weapon, for the war has ended. There is no more fighting. Then the Prophet said to him, Now the time of fighting has come. There will always be a group of my Ummah dominant over others. Allah will turn the hearts of some people away (from the truth), so they (that group) will fight against them


Verse 8:60 is no longer applicable to Muslims and many scholars agree.

"It is the consensus of the scholars of this Ummah that if part of the religion is Allah's and other part is not, fighting must go on until the entire religion is Allah's".[3]
Ibn Taymiyyah
"Jihad and the rifle alone. NO negotiations, NO conferences and NO dialogue."
Join The Caravan, p9
Sheikh Abdullah Yusuf Azzam
"So, if the fighting stops, the disbelievers will dominate, and fitnah, which is Shirk (polytheism), will spread."
Join The Caravan, p20
Sheikh Abdullah Yusuf Azzam

Fight those who fight you (2:190)


Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you, but do not transgress limits; for Allah loveth not transgressors.

Meaning of verse

Again, This verse has been abrogated by verses from chapter nine.

After the Prophet (s) was prevented from [visiting] the House in the year of the battle of Hudaybiyya, he made a pact with the disbelievers that he would be allowed to return the following year, at which time they would vacate Mecca for three days. Having prepared to depart for the Visitation [‘umra], [he and] the believers were concerned that Quraysh would not keep to the agreement and instigate fighting. The Muslims were averse to becoming engaged in fighting while in a state of pilgrimage inviolability in the Sacred Enclosure [al-haram] and during the sacred months, and so the following was revealed: And fight in the way of God, to elevate His religion, with those who fight against you, the disbelievers, but aggress not, against them by initiating the fighting; God loves not the aggressors, the ones that overstep the bounds which God has set for them: this stipulation was abrogated by the verse of barā’a, ‘immunity’ [Q. 9:1], or by His saying below:
Surat Al-Baqarah (The Cow) 2:190
Tafsir al jalayn (Suyuti)
(And fight in the way of Allah those who fight you,) Abu Al-`Aliyah said, "This was the first Ayah about fighting that was revealed in Al-Madinah. Ever since it was revealed, Allah's Messenger used to fight only those who fought him and avoid non-combatants. Later, Surat Bara'ah (chapter 9 in the Qur'an) was revealed." `Abdur-Rahman bin Zayd bin Aslam said similarly, then he said that this was later abrogated by the Ayah


Al Taubah (Repentance) is considered to be the closing remarks of Allah.

Abu Ishaq said that he heard al-Bara' b 'Azib (Allah be pleased with him) say: The last complete sura revealed (in the Holy Qur'an) is Sura tauba (i e. al-Bara'at, ix.), and the last verse revealed is that pertaining to Kalala.

With all things considered, it should not come as a big surprise to learn that this final chapter is not at all about making peace among the people.

Fight them until there is no more oppression (8:39)


And fight them on until there is no more tumult or oppression [Fitna], and there prevail justice and faith in Allah altogether and everywhere; but if they cease, verily Allah doth see all that they do.

Meaning of Verse

The Arabic word Fitna (فِتْنَةٌ‎) does not have the same meaning as given by our three official translators (Yusuf Ali, Picktall, Shakir), which is "tumult" and "oppression".

Allah then commanded fighting the disbelievers when He said:

(...until there is no more Fitnah) meaning, Shirk. This is the opinion of Ibn `Abbas, Abu Al-`Aliyah, Mujahid, Al-Hasan, Qatadah, Ar-Rabi`, Muqatil bin Hayyan, As-Suddi and Zayd bin Aslam.

Allah's statement:

(...and the religion (all and every kind of worship) is for Allah (Alone).) means, `So that the religion of Allah becomes dominant above all other religions.' It is reported in the Two Sahihs that Abu Musa Al-Ash`ari said: "The Prophet was asked, `O Allah's Messenger! A man fights out of bravery, and another fights to show off, which of them fights in the cause of Allah' The Prophet said:

(He who fights so that Allah's Word is superior, then he fights in Allah's cause.) In addition, it is reported in the Two Sahihs:

(I have been ordered (by Allah) to fight the people until they proclaim, `None has the right to be worshipped but Allah'. Whoever said it, then he will save his life and property from me, except for cases of the law, and their account will be with Allah.)
So fight them until there is no more shirk, and none is worshipped except Allaah alone with no partner or associate, and trials and calamities, which are disbelief and polytheism, are lifted from the slaves of Allaah on earth, and religion is all for Allaah alone, and so that obedience and worship will be devoted to Him alone and none else.[4]
Tafsir al-Tabari


Oppression or not, Muslims must continue to fight until there is no religion but Islam.

Those who believe in God, Christians and Jews, shall be in Heaven (2:62)

Main Article: Christians, Jews and Muslims in Heaven


Surely those who believe, and those who are Jews, and the Christians, and the Sabians, whoever believes in Allah and the Last day and does good, they shall have their reward from their Lord, and there is no fear for them, nor shall they grieve.

Meaning of Verse

This verse is often quoted by Muslims in an effort to prove Islam is tolerant and inclusive of other faiths. After all, how much more tolerant can a faith be than to allow the followers of other faiths into its vision of heaven?

However, this is in direct conflict with the following:

And if any believe not in Allah and His Messenger, We have prepared, for those who reject Allah, a Blazing Fire!

As most Muslims will already be aware, this is not a contradiction per se, when you take abrogation into consideration. Verse 2:62 has been abrogated by verse 3:85.

And whoever desires a religion other than Islam, it shall not be accepted from him, and in the hereafter he shall be one of the losers.


Heaven in Islam is exclusive to Muslims. Christians and Jews may believe in God, but they do not believe in "His Messenger". Thus they are destined for the "Blazing Fire".

The only way a Christian or Jew can make it into heaven is by accepting Muhammad as a prophet, but then they would no longer be Christians or Jews, they would be Muslims.

In fact, Muslims will be spared hell-fire by Allah on the Day of Resurrection by making innocent Christians and Jews take their place and be thrown into hell.

Abu Musa' reported that Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) said: When it will be the Day of Resurrection Allah would deliver to every Muslim a Jew or a Christian and say: That is your rescue from Hell-Fire.

To you be your way, and to me mine (109:1-6)


Say: O ye that reject Faith!
I worship not that which ye worship,
Nor will ye worship that which I worship.
And I will not worship that which ye have been wont to worship,
Nor will ye worship that which I worship.
To you be your Way, and to me mine.

Meaning of Verse

There was a time in Makkah when although a storm of opposition had arisen in the pagan society of Quraish against the message of Islam preached by the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace), yet the Quraish chiefs hall not yet lost hope that they would reach some sort of a compromise with him. Therefore, from time to time they would visit him with different proposals of compromise so that he accepted one of them and the dispute between them was brought to an end.
. . .
If the Surah is read with this background in mind, one finds that it was not revealed to preach religious tolerance as some people of today seem to think, but it was revealed in order to exonerate the Muslims from the disbelievers religion, their rites of worship, and their gods, and to express their total disgust and unconcern with them and to tell them that Islam and kufr (unbelief) had nothing in common and there was no possibility of their being combined and mixed into one entity. Although it was addressed in the beginning to the disbelieving Quraish in response to their proposals of compromise, yet it is not confined to them only, but having made it a part of the Quran, Allah gave the Muslims the eternal teaching that they should exonerate themselves by word and deed from the creed of kufr wherever and in whatever form it be, and should declare without any reservation that they cannot make any compromise with the disbelievers in the matter of Faith. That is why this Surah continued to be recited when the people to whom it was addressed as a rejoinder, had died and been forgotten, and those Muslims also continued to recite it who were disbelievers at the time it was revealed, and the Muslims still recite it centuries after they have passed away, for expression of disgust with and dissociation from kufr and its rites is a perpetual demand of Faith.
Commentary on Qur'an Chapter 109:1-6
Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi, Tafhim al-Qur'an


When read in context, like many other verses misinterpreted for apologetic purposes, surat al-Kafiroon advocates the opposite of what is sometimes claimed. This surah is not a proclamation on religious tolerance and freedom or a recognition of religious pluralism.

This page is featured in the core article, Islam and Propaganda which serves as a starting point for anyone wishing to learn more about this topic Core part.png

See Also


  1. Tafsir of Ibn Kathir, Surah Al-Baqarah, ayat 253 to 286, Surah Al-Imran, ayat 1 to 92, abridged by Sheikh Muhammad Nasib Ar-Rafa‘i [Al-Firdous Ltd., London, 1999: First Edition], Part 3, pp. 37-38
  2. The Command to spend in the Cause of Allah - Tafsir Ibn Kathir
  3. Shaykh ul-Islaam Taqi ud-Deen Ahmad ibn Taymiyyah - The Religious and Moral Doctrine of Jihaad - p.28, 2001 Maktabah Al Ansaar Publications, ISBN 0953984753
  4. The reason why jihaad is prescribed - Islam Q&A, Fatwa No. 34647