A discourse on the term “FITNAH”

Salaa’mun. How would you take on the term al-fitnah (ٱلْفِتْنَةُ) in Q. 2:191 as follows:

[Q. 2:191] “And kill them wherever you overtake them and expel them from wherever they have expelled you, and the persecution (al-fitnah ٱلْفِتْنَةُ) ) is worse than killing. And do not fight them at al-Masjid al-Ḥarām until they fight you there. But if they fight you, then kill them. Such is the recompense of the disbelievers”.

Could you please translate al-fitnah in context in Q. 2:191.

وَٱقْتُلُوهُمْ حَيْثُ ثَقِفْتُمُوهُمْ وَأَخْرِجُوهُم مِّنْ حَيْثُ أَخْرَجُوكُمْ ۚ وَٱلْفِتْنَةُ أَشَدُّ مِنَ ٱلْقَتْلِ ۚ وَلَا تُقَـٰتِلُوهُمْ عِندَ ٱلْمَسْجِدِ ٱلْحَرَامِ حَتَّىٰ يُقَـٰتِلُوكُمْ فِيهِ ۖ فَإِن قَـٰتَلُوكُمْ فَٱقْتُلُوهُمْ ۗ كَذَٰلِكَ جَزَآءُ ٱلْكَـٰفِرِينَ

No doubt about what have been pointing out concerning apocryphal misconception about the Islamic cliche Fitnah. Agreeing with you, I find no such instances in the Quran where ف ت ن or *فِتْنَةُ generates any sense other than the sense of Trail/Test or Ordeal.

Having said so, I find your translation still does not provide an inherent sense on وَالْفِتْنَةُ أَشَدُّ مِنَ الْقَتْلِ –For Fitna from the Qatal is intense, given that you have left Fitna and Qatal untranslated. I hope you can address this to give a full sense in such a plain English within the verse 2:191.

Meanwhile, I find the following value for وَالْفِتْنَةُ أَشَدُّ مِنَ الْقَتْلِ as : ——” And ( wa وَ) the ordeal (al-fitnah الْفِتْنَةُ) of (min مِنَ) the fighting (al-qatli الْقَتْلِ) is tougher (أَشَدُّ)”.


FITNA (الْفِتْنَةُ) normally translated as riot, rebellion, uprising, or insurgency. But the word is used in Quran in much broader sense. The basic characteristics of the meanings of the word Fitna is derived from the process of melting gold or silver in hot temperatures to remove impurities from it- therefore used in the meanings of burning. Al Fatanath is that testing apparatus on which anything made of gold or silver is tested to reveal if it’s pure or not or to identify the level of its purity. Therefore, it means to expose or reveal the purity or real features, characteristics, or qualities of something or someone. The word is however, used in Quran in the meanings of test or trial in both good and bad ways for instance in the ayah 20:131 where its used in meanings of test and trials through Allah’s blessings. In ayah 6:53, the word is used in the meanings of test and trails so as to distinguish Shaakireen from Kafireen. Similarly, in the ayah 16:110, the word used in the meanings of testing and trials that brings out the best in people, in terms of their ability to do Sabar and do Jihaad. The word is used in the similar meanings in the ayah 9:126 and 20:90. It’s also used in the meanings of tempting away from, diverting away from or misleading for instance in the ayah 5:49. Also the same meanings are used in ayah 7:27 as Shaiytan Yuftenanakum (tempt you away from the Haqq). In addition to this, it’s also used in Quran in the meanings of Azaab, trouble, harm, oppression, opposition or war in Quran. In Ayah 4:91 Allah says “You will find Akhireena (Others) who Yureeduna (act,deeds,show) to Ya’munukum (works for peace & security) for you and Ya’munu (peace and security for) their all people what they Raddu (make futile and useless) to the Fitna, Arkasu (react, act in accordance with their actions) in it (the Fitna)” . Here the word Fitna is used both in terms of tempting away from, diverting away from Allah’s path as well as of revealing their real features and characteristics of making you Kaafir (as referred in earlier ayah of 4:89).

In the ayahs 2:190 to 2:193 the word Qatal is used, not in terms of physically or metaphorically killing someone, but in the manner of fighting, physically or metaphorically. Therefore, when in the ayah 2:190, Allah says “And Qaatilu in the Sabeel of Allah those who Qaatilu you, but do not commit aggression. Indeed, Allah does not love the aggressors.”  Its not talking about murdering or killing people, it is talking about fight ONLY those who are fighting with you in the path of Allah, specifically asking us not to commit aggression, just fight in the similar manner or to the extent of what they are fighting with you while you are on the path of Allah. As we know the path of Allah is not a physical road, it is when you are in the process of implementing Allah’s Deen practically, then whoever is fighting with you, creating stumbling blocks for you in whatever manner, you respond in similar manner. Here Allah’s commandments are very clear by saying “…but do not commit aggression. Indeed, Allah does not love the aggressors”.  That is not to transgress in any manner, just to response in the same manner that is what Allah is asking us to do. For instance, if someone is fighting you in terms of verbally going against you, you cannot go on and start physically assault to the individual, you will have to fight the person in the same manner and in the same limit to which he/she is fighting with you. 

The next ayah 2:191 “And Qatal them wherever you apprehend them, and expel them from where they had expelled you”. Here again the instructions from Allah is very clear, that is to fight only those who are fighting you and to expel only those who had expelled you; therefore this is only the response in the like manner. The next phrase “…For Fitna from the Qatal is intense.” Is the mostly misinterpreted and mistranslated as Fitna is more intense than Qatal; which is an extremely wrong interpretations of this phrase. The phrase is وَالْفِتْنَةُ أَشَدُّ مِنَ الْقَتْلِ i.e. Fitna in/from (min) the Qatal is intense (Ashad/shaded). Which actually shows the inclination of Quran to avoid Qatal in all manners unless and until compelled and only as a response since the Fitna (test/trial) from Qatal is extremely intense. This is further clarified by the subsequent phrase that “… But do not Qatal them at the Masjid il Haraam, unless they Qatal you there. If they Qatal you, then Qatal them. Equivalently is the retribution of the Kaafireen.”  That is you can not fight them at the locations where Allah’s laws have been established (Masjid Al haram) unless and until they fight you there since whatever they (the Kaafireen) will do you have to retaliate it with the same-equivalent manner.

The next ayah 2:192- “But if they refrain, then indeed, Allah is Ghafarun Raheem.”  Showing that in case if they start to fight, but later on refrain, then you should refrain too, since Allah is Ghafurun Raheem, as time and again, Allah asks us to be forgiving, kind, compassion, even in the face of aggression, if they stop, discontinue or refrain, then we must forgive them and let go. 

The next ayah 2:193 is also mistranslated and misinterpreted as “kill those until there is no fitna left and they become part of Allah’s Deen”. The phrase actually is “And Qatal them until there is no Fitnatun left, and Deen of Allah prevails…”  it is very clear in terms of saying that fight them until their fitna of creating bottlenecks, hurdles in the establishment of deen, their aggression and fighting ends, and the Deen of Allah prevails, finally established. We all know there is no compulsion in deen, we cannot force any one to convert Islam. At times in most of the situations, the criticisms and aggressive approaches can be handled with kindness, logic, reasoning, and compassion. But if they resort to aggression in terms of fighting in whatever way, we should respond in the like manner until the fitna – the aggression, the fighting remains no more and Allah’s Deen prevails/established. This is further clarified in the next phrase “..But if they refrain, then there is no Au’dwan (injustice/Hostility/aggression) except against the Zwalimeen.”  This is aligned with the preceding ayah 2:192 which tells us that if they refrain, stop, discontinue the aggression and the fighting, we should stop as well and we should discontinue the fighting. The exception here is only for the Zwalimeen, which means that if someone has done Zulm, then one should continue the fight with them. Quran has used word Zwalimeen as those who cross the boundaries of laws & rules, those who are oppressors, the wrong doers in terms of going against other’s due rights and haqq; those who take advantage of people in terms of exploiting people’s abilities and properties for their own vested interests; those who are cruel and abusive of others.