And fight in the cause of Allah and know that Allah is All Hearing, All Knowing. (2:245)
It’s alleged that this verse encourages Muslims to commit violence against disbelievers to subjugate them under the religion of Islam. Those who make this allegation present the verse as a single text devoid of any context or reconciliation with the overall teachings and theology of the Quran to back their claims.
This verse is a general command to the Muslims pointing to the fact that in order to establish the religion of Islam with its teachings of peace and protecting fundamental freedoms (see “Fundamental Teachings of Islam” below), the Muslims will face dire struggles and hardships requiring the spirit of a ‘fight’ on and off the battlefield with faith in God.
The previous verse states:
Dost thou not know of those who went forth from their homes, and they were thousands, fearing death? And Allah said to them: Die, then He brought them to life. Surely, Allah is Munificent to men, but most men are not grateful (2:244)
This verse is believed to be referring to the Exodus of the Jews with Moses. When the Hebrews fled from Egypt, death was probable as they would be ruthlessly pursued by Pharaoh’s armies who was a cruel and oppressive dictator having enslaved the Hebrews in bondage. God saved the Israelites against Pharaoh but they would still face mortal enemies and were weary of fighting until, under Joshua, their state of meekness changed to one of bravery and they were able to overcome powerful foes.
Therefore, the context of the verse is to fight oppressive forces with faith in God even if they appear powerful and death is likely. Unless one adopts such bravery and valor, one’s condition is not likely to change for the better.
The subsequent verse 2:246 speaks of spending money in the cause of God. The context shows that it is for the in order to change a depressed state of a community, individuals of that community need to be willing to sacrifice, whether it be their lives or their wealth.
Furthermore, the clause “in the cause of Allah” makes it clear that they are not to fight for any other intention but for the sake of God, and therefore not for any worldly purpose. Reconciling this with the general teachings of the Quran as given below in Fundamental Teachings, this means to fight oppressive and aggressive forces and to maintain fundamental freedoms which may be a military engagement or non-military.
In the verse in question, the word used for fighting is قاتلوا which is a verb form in Arabic based on the measure فاعل . Arabic verbs are based on three letters, the command to kill would have been اقتل, but here we have the addition of the letter Alif which means that Muslims are commanded to fight those who are already fighting them.