Dominance of Islam in the World
الَّذِیْ أَرْسَلَ رَسُوْلَهُ بِالْهُدَى وَدِيْنِ الْحَقِّ
لِيُظْهِرَهُ عَلَى الدِّيْنِ كُلِّهِ وَلَوْ كَرِهَ
He is the one who has sent His Messenger with [pure] guidance
and true religion to make it prevail over all religions,
however hateful this may be to these Polytheists. (61:9)
Based on this verse, it is argued that God sent the Prophet (sws)
to ensure Islam’s dominance over all other worldviews,
religions, and ideologies. He accomplished that not only by
peacefully inviting people to Islam but by using force, too,
when necessary. True believers, therefore, must follow in his
footsteps and struggle likewise for the dominance of Islamic
law in Muslim countries as well as the rest of the world.
As for using force, it needs to be remembered that the Prophet
and his Companions (رضي الله عنهم)
received the political authority of Medina merely through
preaching. As Medinan chiefs accepted Islam, they invited the
Prophet to migrate to Medina and take charge as a head of
state. Thereafter, believers were permitted for the first time
to fight the Meccans in self-defence (Qur’an 22:39-40).
Without political authority, neither Muhammad (sws) in Mecca
nor Moses (sws) in Egypt
was permitted to take up arms. Jesus (sws) and other
messengers faced severe persecution by the most wicked, but
there was no question of retaliation. Thus, no matter how
noble a cause may be, the religion of God never allows any
armed struggle without a legitimate government, with full
control over its army. Such a government is needed to decide,
as a true representative of believers, when and when not to
fight as per the injunctions of God; maintain discipline
within its army; keep a check on war crimes; ensure respect of
treaties, non-combatants, and prisoners of war; avoid anarchy,
and so on (See “Islami Inqilab” in ,
pp. 296-309). The Prophet, therefore,
الإِمَامُ جُنَّةٌ، يُقَاتَلُ مِنْ وَرَائِهِ وَيُتَّقَى بِهِ.
(البخاری، رقم ٢٩٥٧(
Indeed, the ruler [of Muslims] is their shield. An armed
struggle is only launched under him, and in him refuge is
taken [during that]. (,
Let us now come to the prevalence of Islam over all other
religions, as mentioned in 61:9:
Some time after permitting jihad for self-defence, God made
fighting an obligation for the state of Medina for two
purposes: a) to eradicate religious
oppression and persecution, and b) to punish those who
obstinately rejected the call of Muhammad (sws), even after
fully recognising him as an ambassador of God (Qur’an
For the first cause, Muslims of all times can and, sometimes,
must take up arms under a legitimate ruler. The second cause,
however, is specific to messengers (rusul) and their
companions: When a messenger (rasul) of God makes truth plain
to the extent that his addressees are left with no excuse to
reject it, the rejecters are severely punished right in this
world. It is an invariable law of God, which manifests towards
the end of a rasul’s career. Thus,
the people of Noah, Hud, Salih, Lot, Shuʿayb (sws), and
Pharaoh, for example, were destroyed through natural forces.
Similarly, the persistent Polytheists and the People of the
Book in and around Arabia were punished at the hands of God’s
last Rasul and his Companions.
A different method was adopted in the last case because,
unlike other messengers, Muhammad (sws) not only had political
freedom and authority but sufficient resources to fulfil this
purpose. Such punishment results in the political and
religious dominance of messengers and their companions, and
annihilation or complete submission of their opponents (Qur’an
14:9-14). The verse under discussion (61:9) alludes to such
dominance. At other places, this law of God is explicated as
إِنَّ الَّذِيْنَ يُحَآدُّوْنَ اللَّهَ
وَرَسُوْلَهُ أُوْلَئِكَ فِی الْأَذَلِّيْنَ. كَتَبَ اللَّهُ
لَأَغْلِبَنَّ أَنَا وَرُسُلِي إِنَّ اللَّهَ قَوِیٌّ
Those who oppose God and His Messenger shall be among the most
humiliated, for God has written: ‘Certainly, My messengers and
I shall prevail.’ Indeed, God is all-powerful and almighty.
أَلَمْ يَأْتِكُمْ نَبَأُ الَّذِينَ مِن
قَبْلِكُمْ قَوْمِ نُوحٍ وَعَادٍ وَثَمُودَ؟ [...] وَقَالَ
الَّذِيْنَ كَفَرُوْا لِرُسُلِهِمْ لَنُخْرِجَنَّـكُمْ مِّنْ
أَرْضِنَآ أَوْ لَتَعُودُنَّ فِیْ مِلَّتِنَا فَأَوْحَى
إِلَيْهِمْ رَبُّهُمْ لَنُهْلِكَنَّ الظَّالِمِيْنَ.
وَلَنُسْكِنَنَّـكُمُ الْأَرْضَ مِن بَعْدِهِمْ. (١٤: ٩-١٤)
Have the accounts of your predecessors not reached you: the
people of Noah, the ‘Ād, and the Thamud, and those who
succeeded them? […] [At last], the rejecters [among them] told
their messengers, ‘We shall expel you from our land, or you
have to return to our religion.’ Thereupon, their Lord
inspired to [the messengers], ‘We will destroy these
wrongdoers and settle you in this land after them.’ (14:9-14)
Regarding such punishment, the Qur’an (17:15) proclaims:
كُنَّا مُعَذِّبِيْنَ حَتَّى نَبْعَثَ رَسُوْلاً. (١٧: ١٥)
And never would We punish [a people] until We sent a messenger
[to fully unveil truth to them].
Such dominance of messengers and punishment of their
opponents, therefore, is an exclusive law of God.
This implies that it cannot be generalised to justify
contemporary armed struggles for Islam’s dominance over other
religions. In 61:9, ‘all religions’ refers to religions
prevailing in the Arabian Peninsula, i.e., the religions of
the direct addressees of a messenger. It was a prophecy, which
was fulfilled in the lifetime of the Prophet. Later, however,
the Companions also launched offensives against the rulers of
the surrounding kingdoms. These rulers rejected Islam despite
being invited by a messenger and seeing undisputable evidence
of his messengership. Thus, as per the same law, God made
these offensives successful and granted Islam dominance there,
too. Beyond these territories, however, the Companions waged
no war for this purpose, nor did Islam conquer all religions
then present in the world.
To conclude, therefore, 61:9 does not lay down any general
ruling but pertains to a law of God specific to His messengers
and their companions. For fulfilling the wish of Islam’s
dominance, the only jihad (endeavour) that Muslims of all
times should undertake is what the Qur’an (25:52) calls the
‘great jihad’ of preaching (For details, see ,
pp. 580-610; “Tawil ki Ghalati” in ,
Another oft-quoted verse in this regard is as follows:
أَقِيمُوا الدِّيْنَ وَلَا تَتَفَرَّقُوْا فِيْهِ. (٤٢: ١٣)
Uphold the religion and be not divided therein. (42:13)
The word we have translated ‘uphold’ is ‘أَقيمُوا’,
which is translated by some exegetes as ‘establish’. As a
consequence, it is claimed that this verse directs Muslims to
enforce religion (shariah) in the entire world (See
commentary on this verse in).
According to linguistic rules, however, such connotation is
impossible here. The verse, instead, directs believers to keep
their religion straight and uphold it, in spirit and letter,
in their individual and collective lives.
Regarding the collective injunctions of Islam, like jihad and
penal shari‘ah, it needs to be emphasised that they only
become applicable if Muslims happen to have a collective
system (state). In such a system, such injunctions are to be
exclusively executed by and under their elected rulers. It is
apparent from the Qur’an and the Hadith that individuals and
non-state groups are not their addressees. This is an agreed
understanding of classical exegetes and jurists, which is
challenged in the present times for no reasonable reasons,
p. 582 & 612). Here, it is also important to realise that the
Islamic shari‘ah by-definition is a religious law and is,
therefore, only applicable to Muslims. Since there is no
compulsion in religion, it cannot be enforced on non-Muslims.
Revolt against rulers ‘who do not judge by the law revealed
The preceding discussion may help us deal with another
misconception: The Prophet (sws) said that ‘those who change
their religion, kill them’,
no. 3017). Furthermore, as mentioned earlier, the Qur’an
(5:44) says that ‘those who do not judge by the law revealed
by God are [truly] disbelievers’. From these rulings, it is
implied that those Muslim rulers who turn their backs on the
shari‘ah are apostates and, therefore, deserve to be
overthrown and killed.
If this hadith is seen in light of the Qur’an, it becomes
clear that it is not a general ruling. Instead, it is a
corollary of the punishment for the persistent deniers of a
messenger from among his direct addressees. In conformity with
this punishment (a special law of God),
God ordained death penalty for the
Polytheists of Arabia. They could, however, avoid this
penalty by repenting from polytheism and embracing God’s
religion (Qur’an 9:3-5). But how about those who, after
accepting Islam, would revert to polytheism? Obviously, the
averted death penalty should have been meted out to them, and
that is exactly what the Prophet decreed. This ruling,
therefore, was specific to such Polytheists. It has nothing to
do with disbelievers, polytheists, and apostates of our time,
including those Muslim rulers who refuse to judge by the law
revealed by God (See ,
In case of such open disbelief
by rulers, however, their obedience does not remain a
religious obligation for Muslims, and a struggle (revolt) may
be launched to overthrow them. That is because the Qur’an’s
directive to ‘obey […] those given authority among you’ (4:59)
pertains to the rulers subservient to God and His Messenger.
Thus, on religious grounds, they certainly lose their right of
being obeyed when they cross a certain limit. Explicitly, that
is, if they approve a law or give an edict obliging a believer
to transgress against God, or if they openly renounce Islam.
In the first case, a believer must humbly refuse to obey the
particular edict and bravely face any consequences of
non-compliance , no.
4763). The second case, on the other hand, even makes revolt
permissible. Thus, the Prophet explained:
أَنْ تَرَوْا كُفْرًا بَوَاحًا، عِنْدَكُمْ مِنْ اللَّهِ فِيهِ
بُرْهَانٌ. (البخاری، رقم ٧٠٥٦)
‘[You may challenge your rulers’ authority] in case you
witness open disbelief from them, and you have indisputable
evidence from God to establish that [such has indeed taken
place].’ , no. 7056)
But even after such disbelief, revolt can
only be staged against an authoritarian regime and in
leadership of a person who is backed by a clear majority of
Muslims. Otherwise, it would not only be a revolt against a
regime (government) but Muslims and their collective system
(state). The latter is a capital
crime, for it falls under what the Qur’an (5:33) refers to as
‘spreading disorder on the earth’ (See ,
no. 4798). Furthermore, in case of an armed revolt, all
conditions and principles prescribed in Islam for jihad must
also be fulfilled.
It is important to note that revolt can be either permissible
or impermissible but neither obligatory nor desirable in
religion, for it puts lives, wealth, infrastructure, and the
entire collective system at stake.
So, even after an outright rejection of Islam by their rulers,
Muslims may well decide not to rebel, but exhort them to mend
their ways, peacefully leave the rulership, or come to some
reasonable agreement with them. Even if nothing works, they
may keep living under them as long as they are not forced to
give up the faith or its practice. That being the case,
religion requires them to, whenever possible, migrate to
another place where they may live in accordance with their
faith and conscience ,
pp. 77-78). Such persecution, however, obliges other polities
of Muslims to wage jihad, if possible, and deliver their
brethren from such despots ,
In case not only their rulers or representatives but a
majority of a Muslim population descends to open disbelief,
believers are only required to, as mentioned earlier, invite
them to God’s path with wisdom, compassion, and goodwill.
Commoners aside, even messengers of God were never allowed to
assume a warder’s role over their people (For details, see
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