Consider the following portion of a quranic verse:
“if anyone killed a person it would be as if he killed all mankind, and if anyone saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of all mankind.”It is heavily used by "Uneducated Muslims" as well as apologists (*) and Islamic supremacists use all the time in an attempt to portray Islam as a peaceful and co-existing religion.
In reality this is just a portion of Quran 5:32. Unfortunately, the whole verse says something very different. And, if looked into the context of its neighboring verses, it sounds really bad.
As we will see, the real meaning is:
“if anyone killed a Muslim it would be as if he killed all mankind, and if anyone saved a Muslim life, it would be as if he saved the life of all mankind.”Let us see what a tafsir, exegesis, has to say about it. I am quoting ibn Kathir, whose exegesis is very influential. Ibn Kathir (born c. 1300, died 1373) was a highly influential Sunni scholar of the Shafi'i school during the Mamluk rule of Syria, an expert on tafsir (Quranic exegesis) and faqīh (jurisprudence) as well as a historian. I am quoting an online version and subsequent pages.
First, a bit of context. Chapter (Sura) 5 was "revealed" in Medina, when Muhammed was already a War Lord, in the process of eradicating the Jewish tribes (5 in total) which refused to accept him as a prophet. Verses 27-34 retell the story of Cain and Abel, and they come within the context of a warning to the Jews, and is not presented as a universal principle. Thus this passage is explaining what must be done with Jews in particular (and all non-Muslims in general) who reject Muhammad, not dictating lofty moral principles.
To start ibn Kathir presents verses 5:32-5:34 together:
32. Because of that, We decreed upon the Children of Israel that whoever kills a soul unless for a soul or for corruption [done] in the land - it is as if he had slain mankind entirely. And whoever saves one - it is as if he had saved mankind entirely. And our messengers had certainly come to them with clear proofs. Then indeed many of them, [even] after that, throughout the land, were transgressors.
33. Indeed, the penalty for those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger and strive upon earth [to cause] corruption is none but that they be killed or crucified or that their hands and feet be cut off from opposite sides or that they be exiled from the land. That is for them a disgrace in this world; and for them in the Hereafter is a great punishment,
34. Except for those who return [repenting] before you apprehend them. And know that Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.What ibn Kathir has to say:
"(We ordained for the Children of Israel...) meaning, We legislated for them and informed them,"This confirms this is directed to the Jews.
"(that if anyone killed a person not in retaliation of murder, or (and) to spread mischief in the land - it would be as if he killed all mankind, and if anyone saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of all mankind.) The Ayah states, whoever kills a soul without justification -- such as in retaliation for murder or for causing mischief on earth -- will be as if he has killed all mankind, because there is no difference between one life and another."Note the two conditions for permissible killing "retaliation for murder or for causing mischief on earth." What are those?
"(it would be as if he killed all mankind.) means, "Whoever kills one soul that Allah has forbidden killing, is just like he who kills all mankind.'' Sa`id bin Jubayr said, "He who allows himself to shed the blood of a Muslim, is like he who allows shedding the blood of all people. He who forbids shedding the blood of one Muslim, is like he who forbids shedding the blood of all people.'' In addition, Ibn Jurayj said that Al-A`raj said that Mujahid commented on the Ayah,"Oh, so Allah forbids shedding the blood of a Muslim
"(it would be as if he killed all mankind,) "He who kills a believing soul intentionally, Allah makes the Fire of Hell his abode, He will become angry with him, and curse him, and has prepared a tremendous punishment for him, equal to if he had killed all people, his punishment will still be the same.'' Ibn Jurayj said that Mujahid said that the Ayah,"He is referring just to a "believing soul" (i.e., a Muslim).
So, the meaning is very different to what Islamic supremacists, uneducated Muslims or apologists try to imply! There is more.
"(And indeed, there came to them Our Messengers with Al-Bayyinat,) meaning, clear evidences, signs and proofs, even then after that many of them continued to exceed the limits in the land!) This Ayah chastises and criticizes those who commit the prohibitions, after knowing that they are prohibited from indulging in them. The Jews of Al-Madinah, such as Banu Qurayzah, An-Nadir and Qaynuqa`, used to fight along with either Khazraj or Aws, when war would erupt between them during the time of Jahiliyyah. When these wars would end, the Jews would ransom those who were captured and pay the blood money for those who were killed. Allah criticized them for this practice in Surat Al-Baqarah,)"Here we go, those pesky Jews again. Remember, the verse is directed to the People of Israel.
Meaning of Mischief
(“Do not make mischief on the earth”), that is disbelief and acts of disobedience.” Abu Ja`far said that Ar-Rabi` bin Anas said that Abu Al-`Aliyah said that Allah’s statement,
(And when it is said to them: “Do not make mischief on the earth,”), means, “Do not commit acts of disobedience on the earth. Their mischief is disobeying Allah, because whoever disobeys Allah on the earth, or commands that Allah be disobeyed, he has committed mischief on the earth. Peace on both the earth and in the heavens is ensured (and earned) through obedience (to Allah).” Ar-Rabi` bin Anas and Qatadah said similarly.This is important. Disobeying Sharia is doing mischief on the earth!
The Punishment of those Who Cause Mischief in the Land
"(The recompense of those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger and do mischief in the land is only that they shall be killed or crucified or their hands and their feet be cut off on the opposite sides, or be exiled from the land.) `Wage war’ mentioned here means, oppose and contradict, and it includes disbelief, blocking roads and spreading fear in the fairways. Mischief in the land refers to various types of evil."
"“Was revealed concerning the idolators, those among them who repent before being apprehended, they will still be liable for punishment for the crimes they committed.” The correct opinion is that this Ayah is general in meaning and includes the idolators and all others who commit the types of crimes the Ayah mentioned.Ibn Kathir then quotes a Tradition of the Prophet, that shows Muhammed torturing people to death:
Al-Bukhari and Muslim recorded that Abu Qilabah `Abdullah bin Zayd Al-Jarmi, said that Anas bin Malik said, “Eight people of the `Ukl tribe came to the Messenger of Allah and gave him their pledge to follow Islam. Al-Madinah’s climate did not suit them and they became sick and complained to Allah’s Messenger. So he said," "(Go with our shephard to be treated by the milk and urine of his camels.) So they went as directed, and after they drank from the camels’ milk and urine, they became healthy, and they killed the shepherd and drove away all the camels. The news reached the Prophet and he sent (men) in their pursuit and they were captured. He then ordered that their hands and feet be cut off (and it was done), and their eyes were branded with heated pieces of iron. Next, they were put in the sun until they died.”The commentary continues with something very interesting, since it refers to “Muslim Land”:
(they shall be killed or crucified or their hands and their feet be cut off on the opposite sides, or be exiled from the land.) `Ali bin Abi Talhah said that Ibn `Abbas said about this Ayah, `He who takes up arms in Muslim land and spreads fear in the fairways and is captured, the Muslim Leader has the choice to either have him killed, crucified or cut off his hands and feet.”Remember that the State of Israel is located in “Muslim Land” (land conquered militarily by Jihad).
(That is their disgrace in this world,) “Meaning, shame, humiliation, punishment, contempt and torment in this life, before the Hereafter,
(and a great torment is theirs in the Hereafter.) in the Fire of Jahannam.”Finally, “those who repent before they are apprehended” means “for the Muslims who commit this crime and repent before they are apprehended, the punishment of killing, crucifixion and cutting the limbs will be waved.” Those punishments are clearly indicated by “this Ayah [verse] … that it applies to the idolators.”
(*) A reminder, both US presidents Bush and Obama used this passage outside of its context in an attempt to portray Islam as a "Religion of Peace."
Links for Tafsir ibn Kathir: