Thank you for contacting About Islam with your question.
Dr. Shabir Ally addresses this question in the video below:
Aisha Khaja: Dr. Shabir, we have a question on a series we just completed—The Just War series–and the viewer is thanking you for a wonderful job. And then, they’re asking: what is the commentary in the hadith of the Prophet (peace be upon him) he’s reported to have said:
I have been ordered to fight the people until they believe.
And he says, or the viewers actually says, Islamophobes and extremists alike site this as a command for war, and this question—sorry—is from the UK.
Dr. Shabir Ally: Well, the this is a popularly known hadith. And it is so well known that it is one of the 40 compiled by Nawawi–40 hadith. And this is in a short book.
And because it is a brief book of hadith, it is often studied in Islamic schools even in the in UK, in Canada, United States of America.
Aisha Khaja: So, these are the 40 most studied kind of thing?
Dr. Shabir Ally: Well, it turns out to be most studied only because a certain scholar compiled a book with the 40. You know, hadiths are in large volumes, so the average person doesn’t have the time or inclination to go sort through all of these volumes.
But, then there’s a sense that hadith are important to us, so where do you start? So, you have a short book with forty hadith which al-Imam an-Nawawi thought were very important hadith for people to know, and this turns out to be one of them.
So, now if we want to pick a book to use in a study for children in an Islamic school what do we do? We pick that one—easy to study, right?
But people did not go through these hadiths with that critical eye to think about whether or not Imam an-Nawawi was right in prescribing these 40 as important hadiths—and if he was right for his time—is that the most appropriate hadith to be teaching our children at this time?
Well, this hadith in particular is, in fact, problematic. And the generality of the wording was problematic even for ancient commentators on hadith such that, such as ibn Hajar Asqalani. Because notice the wording “I have been commanded to fight people”.
And it’s general [quoting hadith in Arabic] “I have been commanded to fight people”. Almost like I’ve been commanded to fight humanity. And Imam An-Nawawi says it couldn’t be that.
It must be only the Quraysh people that were intended by this because those were the people that the Prophet (peace be upon him) was at war with.
But of course, the generality of the wording remains and it’s left for terrorists to pick it up, and say, well this applies to us and we’re fighting all of the people.
And then it says [quoting hadith in Arabic] “until they testify that there is no god but God” and so on. Well, the best way forward is to say that this hadith must have been mistakenly attributed to the Prophet (peace be upon him).
He was not a war with all people. We are not at war with all people.
I hope this helps answer your question. Please keep in touch.
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