Surah 8:12 Examined
Remember thy Lord inspired the angels (with the message): "I am with you: give firmness to the Believers: I will instil terror into the hearts of the Unbelievers: smite ye above their necks and smite all their finger-tips off them."
By Sami Zaatari
One often quoted verse used against Muslims is that of Surah 8, ayat 12. The verse reads as:
YUSUFALI: Remember thy Lord inspired the angels (with the message): "I am with you: give firmness to the Believers: I will instil terror into the hearts of the Unbelievers: smite ye above their necks and smite all their finger-tips off them."
PICKTHAL: When thy Lord inspired the angels, (saying): I am with you. So make those who believe stand firm. I will throw fear into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Then smite the necks and smite of them each finger.
SHAKIR: When your Lord revealed to the angels: I am with you, therefore make firm those who believe. I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them.
Anti-Islamics like to always bring this up and claim that this verse proves that Islam promotes terrorism and that the Quran orders Muslims to go and chop people's heads off along with their finger tips.
The fact that anti-Islamic's make such claims shows their lack of knowledge on Islam, and that they should really study Islam with an open heart rather than visit anti-Islamic sites, and read anti-Islamic books and believe everything they tell you.
Even that goon Ali Sina uses this same argument over and over again showing how little he knows about Islam.
So to make things easier for everybody, I shall give the explanation of this verse, in doing so it shall help making dialog between Muslims and anti-Islamic's much easier, since there can't be any dialog when one party's information is incorrect and distorted.
To begin, this verse is referring to a SPECIFIC BATTLE, this verse is not an order on Muslims, and this verse is talking about a battle that took place. The battle it is referring to is the battle of Badr.
Al-Maududi's introduction to this Surah writes:
The Surah takes its name AL-ANFAL (The Bounties) from the first verse.
The Period of Revelation
It was revealed in 2 A. H. after the Battle of Badr, the first battle between Islam and kufr. As it contains a detailed and comprehensive review of the Battle, it appears that most probably it was revealed at one and the same time. But it is also possible that some of the verses concerning the problems arising as a result of this Battle might have been revealed later and incorporated at the proper places to make it a continuous whole. At any rate, in the whole Surah there is nothing that might show that it is a collection of a couple of discourses, that have been patched up together. (http://www.usc.edu/dept/MSA/quran/maududi/mau8.html)
Let us now also post the tafsir of Ibn Kathir regarding this verse:
Allah commands the Angels to fight and support the Believers
Allah said next,
((Remember) when your Lord revealed to the angels, "Verily, I am with you, so keep firm those who have believed.'')
This is a hidden favor that Allah has made known to the believers, so that they thank Him and are grateful to Him for it. Allah, glorified, exalted, blessed and praised be He, has revealed to the angels -- whom He sent to support His Prophet, religion and believing group -- to make the believers firmer. Allah's statement,
(I will cast terror into the hearts of those who have disbelieved.) means, `you -- angels -- support the believers, strengthen their (battle) front against their enemies, thus, implementing My command to you. I will cast fear, disgrace and humiliation over those who defied My command and denied My Messenger, f
(so strike them over the necks, and smite over all their fingers and toes.) strike them on their foreheads to tear them apart and over the necks to cut them off, and cut off their limbs, hands and feet. It was said that,
(over the necks) refers to striking the forehead, or the neck, according to Ad-Dahhak and `Atiyyah Al-`Awfi. In support of the latter, Allah commanded the believers,
(So, when you meet (in fight Jihad in Allah's cause) those who disbelieve, smite (their) necks till when you have killed and wounded many of them, then bind a bond firmly (on them, take them as captives).) [47:4]
Ar-Rabi` bin Anas said, "In the aftermath of Badr, the people used to recognize whomever the angels killed from those whom they killed, by the wounds over their necks, fingers and toes, because those parts had a mark as if they were branded by fire.'' Allah said,
(and smite over all their fingers and toes.)
Ibn Jarir commented that this Ayah commands, "O believers! Strike every limb and finger on the hands and feet of your (disbelieving) enemies.'' Al-`Awfi reported, that Ibn `Abbas said about the battle of Badr that Abu Jahl said, "Do not kill them (the Muslims), but capture them so that you make known to them what they did, their ridiculing your religion and shunning Al-Lat and Al-`Uzza (two idols).'' Allah than sent down to the angels,
(Verily, I am with you, so keep firm those who have believed. I will cast terror into the hearts of those who have disbelieved, so strike them over the necks, and smite over all their fingers and toes.)
In that battle, Abu Jahl (may Allah curse him) was killed along with sixty-nine men. `Uqbah bin Abu Mua`it was captured and then killed, thus bring the death toll of the pagans to seventy,
(This is because they defied and disobeyed Allah and His Messenger.) joining the camp that defied Allah and His Messenger not including themselves in the camp of Allah's Law and faith in Him. Allah said,
(And whoever defies and disobeys Allah and His Messenger, then verily, Allah is severe in punishment.) for He will crush whoever defies and disobeys Him. Nothing ever escapes Allah's grasp nor can anything ever stand against His anger. Blessed and exalted He is, there is no true deity or Lord except Him.
(This is (the torment), so taste it; and surely, for the disbelievers is the torment of the Fire.)
This Ayah addresses the disbeliever, saying, taste this torment and punishment in this life and know that the torment of the Fire in the Hereafter is for the disbelievers.
So as you can see, these events were taking place during a battle. Now off course during a battle in those days you would aim for the neck to get an immediate blow, and off course you would also aim for their fingers, once taking out their fingers the enemy would not be able to carry his sword hence you neutralize the enemy.
So there is nothing barbaric or mean about these verses, it is simply referring to a battle, and nothing barbaric was done in the battle neither these were how battles were fought back then.
And Allah Knows Best