Author Topic: Its time to review the meaning of QTL (قتل) in the Quran  (Read 398 times)

gandalf

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Especially in light of the infamous "sword" verse - 9:5 - the standard interpretation of which is:

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And when the inviolable months have passed, then kill the polytheists wherever you find them and capture them and besiege them and sit in wait for them at every place of ambush. But if they should repent, establish prayer, and give zakāh, let them [go] on their way. Indeed, Allāh is Forgiving and Merciful.

the verb قتل is *ALWAYS* interpreted in the Quran as to physically kill someone. This is the case even when it makes absolutely no sense. Case in point: 2:54:

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And [recall] when Moses said to his people, "O my people, indeed you have wronged yourselves by your taking of the calf [for worship]. So repent to your Creator and kill yourselves. That is best for [all of] you in the sight of your Creator." Then He accepted your repentance; indeed, He is the Accepting of Repentance, the Merciful.

Here the words فاقتلوا انفسكم is interpreted literally as "kill yourselves" - which is patently absurd, firstly given Islam's universally understood prohibition on suicide, but also logically - why on earth would suicide be seen as having anything to do with seeking repentance? For translators faced with this, they typically insert a "[i.e., the guilty among you] in parenthesis after "kill yourselves" - as saheeh international does. At least that makes it slightly less ridiculous. And yet, there is nothing in the phrase فاقتلوا انفسكم that indicates it means kill only the guilty. It literally says "kill yourselves" - with no qualifiers whatsoever. Thus inserting this qualifier in parenthesis is pure invention on the part of the translators, with absolutely no basis in reality.

To get a more sensible understanding of قتل, we need only turn to any of the many arab-english lexical dictionaries out there. For example: https://www.alislam.org/library/books/Dictionary-Quran.pdf

We quickly see here that the verb is actually used in several different ways - not just to physically kill someone. One of the meanings quoted in the dictionary linked above includes:

humbling a person completely; rendering a person like unto one killed either physically, morally or spiritually

Thus, قتل may include "killing" in a literal as well as a metaphorical sense.

Now coming back to our verse 2:54, we see that at least the Dr Ghali translation seems to understand that here قتل is being used in a metaphorical sense - where "kill yourself" is simply a metaphor for "humbling yourselves" - via seeking forgiveness:

So repent to your Initiator (and) so kill yourselves. (i.e., the unburdening of their sins; forgiveness)

Armed with this knowledge, we can now view 9:5 through a vastly different lens. Even apart from the moral difficulty with being ordered to physically kill the mushrikeen "wherever you find them" - there are clear logical problems with this interpretation as well. Firstly, in the same sentence muslims are ordered to kill and capture (lit: "take") mushrikeen, presumably simultaneously. So which is it? Kill or capture? It can't be both. But an even more significant contradiction comes in the next phrase of the verse - commonly translated as:

But if they should repent, establish prayer, and give zakāh, let them [go] on their way.

Actually, on this translation its not so contradictory - thanks to the inclusion of the word "But" at the beginning. The problem is, this is a flat out wrong translation of the arabic. The arabic is فإن ('fa in'). the second word is correctly translated as "if". However the 'fa' before it, is a connector, that denotes sequence between two events. The English equivalents are "then" and "so". In fact 'but' is pretty much the exact opposite in meaning. So to translate this as "but if" is flat out wrong. It is understandable why this wrong translation is used though - to act as a counter to slaughtering and capturing - ie "kill/capture them all - *BUT* if they repent, let them go". And in fact the correct translation of فإن ("then/so if") doesn't really fit in with the traditional translation of this verse - when we say "kill and capture and ambush the mushrikeen wherever you find them - so/then if they repent, let them go." Or if it does make sense, its only in so far as people can be "convinced" to genuinely repent and embrace Islam through sheer brute physical force - because the use of 'fa' implies that the preceding action (killing and generally terrorizing) has a direct influence on these people converting to Islam. Its more or less saying "terrorize them so that they will eventually decide to convert. Sure, this might make sense to ISIS types, but not many others.

It all changes though when we simply replace "kill the mushrikeen" with "humble the mushrikeen". And by "humble" we might mean to show them the errors of their ways through peaceful dialogue. Naive? Perhaps - but at least it then makes sense and flows logically through the rest of the verse (as well as subsequent verses). Suddenly the فإن makes sense, when we say "humble the mushrikeen (with convincing arguments etc) wherever you find them then if (because of your convincing arguments) they repent and establish prayer etc - then you can let them go their merry way (ie not argue with them any more).

gandalf

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Re: Its time to review the meaning of QTL (قتل) in the Quran
« Reply #1 on: June 05, 2022, 04:57:35 PM »
It should be noted that Lane's Lexicon - widely regarded as the gold standard in Quranic-Arabic to English translations - defines قتل as "to know" or "be acquainted with". I find this fascinating that this is seemingly the primary definition according to Lane - and "to kill" doesn't even get a mention - except as some of the variants of that trilateral root. Even more curious is the fact that no one seems to ever acknowledge this alternate definition. I don't know whats going on here, as it seems very apparent that "to kill" is undeniably *A* definition of قتل, even if its not the only one.

Another curious point about Surah 9 is that following on from verse 5, muslims are futher instructed to "fight" (قاتل) the leaders of the mushrikeen when a treaty is broken. The word "fighting" is vague and obviously far more open to interpretation than "kill". But why the discrepancy here? First muslims are supposedly ordered to kill indiscriminately the mushrikeen without mercy (wherever they find them) - no ifs or buts. And yet a few verses later, are ordered to merely "fight" just the leaders of the mushrikeen - seemingly for the same crime of treaty violation. Are ordinary non-leader mushrikeen now off limits? And wouldn't the leaders have already been "killed wherever they were seen" - as per the earlier verse?

What if instead we took some poetic licence with "fight" (قاتل) - given that it is inherently an ambiguous word to start with - and inferred the meaning "confront".

Now I can interpret the entire section of the Surah that I have been talking about:

1. When the mushrikeen break their agreement (and perhaps this should be seen less of a formal treaty, but the "agreed" norms of acceptable behaviour ie common courtesy, between the two peoples - and indeed the verse goes on to include mocking and ridiculing of people's religion) - either "become acquainted" or "humble" the mushrikeen wherever they may be found - so as to engage in healthy dialogue with them and persuade them the error of their ways.
2. If as a result of this engagement (arabic فإن) these people acknowledge their bad behaviour and atone (ie make solat and pay zakah) - then let them be (literally "leave them on their way")
3. But if they either revert to, or continue their bad behaviour - this time "confront" their leaders, and engage with them so that they may (voluntarily - the verb ينتهي deontes a voluntary act) decide to desist from their provocations.

Euphoric

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Re: Its time to review the meaning of QTL (قتل) in the Quran
« Reply #2 on: June 06, 2022, 05:17:39 PM »
Before you try to review the meaning, first make sure you're not a follower of Shaitaan, trying to water down Islaam into an ridiculous form of pacifism like a coward hypocrite.

Fighting and killing the enemy is part of Islaamic teachings. This is in cases of necessity when the situation arises. It's part of being a believer.

QTL primary meaning is kill. Then based on context, it can mean to insult or make them absent. Either way it involves bringing harm.

2:54 is correctly interpreted as kill yourselves in Arabic is each other. That's the literal meaning.

The other ayah doesn't mean "humble the mushrikeen". It literally means to kill them based on the context.

Never has the word QTL imply Humble, ever. In fact, humble is used elsewhere in the Quran.

gandalf

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Re: Its time to review the meaning of QTL (قتل) in the Quran
« Reply #3 on: June 07, 2022, 11:00:28 PM »

2:54 is correctly interpreted as kill yourselves in Arabic is each other. That's the literal meaning.

corpus quran site interprets Q-T-L as "to kill" exactly 100% of the time. Despite the fact that there are known alternative translations out there. This is precisely the problem.

As mentioned, we have Lane's translation "to know". Don't forget that Lane is regularly cited as the 'gold standard' in Quranic arab - English lexicon by traditionalists when it suits them. Naturally they are deafening in their silence regarding this particular entry.

And I'm sorry, but the interpretation "kill each other" in 2:54 is plainly absurd to me. Please be aware also that to interpret it as "kill only the guilty amongst you" requires you to insist that the Quran is saying something that just is not in the wording - which simply says "kill yourselves" - nothing more, nothing less. I can only assume that muslims get "kill each other (the guilty) from a combination of copying the Biblical story and Ibn Kathir's tafsir - who lets not forget stated that the number of those killed was no less than 70 thousand (even the Biblical version has only around 10 thousand). You going to plant your mast on ibn Kathir's obviously ludicrous claim?