This verse was revealed after the battle of Uhud (Mawdudi). It is a Madinan verse (Mawdudi and Dr. Muhammed Asad).
“And never is it for a believer to kill a believer except by mistake. And whoever kills a believer by mistake – then the freeing of a believing slave and a compensation payment presented to the deceased’s family [is required] unless they give [up their right as] charity. But if the deceased was from a people at war with you and he was a believer – then [only] the freeing of a believing slave; and if he was from a people with whom you have a treaty – then a compensation payment presented to his family and the freeing of a believing slave. And whoever does not find [one or cannot afford to buy one] – then [instead], a fast for two months consecutively, [seeking] acceptance of repentance from Allah . And Allah is ever Knowing and Wise.” – Quran 4:92
Maulana Abdul Majid Daryabadi:
“389. Murder, in Muslim jurisprudence, is not only a capital criminal offence but also a civil wrong; and the life of a murderer, in the law of Islam, as in ancient Greece, was forfeited to the kinsmen of the slain, who could, if they chose accept a fine as satisfaction. See II, n. 177, 183 ff.
390. i.e., the deceased’s legal heirs.
391. (that compensation in part or in full).
392. i.e., the person slain. …
397. (in case where the setting free of a slave is obligatory).
398. (in lieu of the freeing of a slave).” (Tafsir-Ul-Qur’an – Translation and Commentary Of The Holy Qur’an [Published By Darul Ishaat Urdu Bazaar Karachi: Pakistan] by Maulana Abdul Majid Daryabadi, volume 1, page 354 – 355)
“It is not for a believer to slay a believer, in other words, no such slaying should result at his hands, except by mistake, killing him by mistake, unintentionally. He who slays a believer by mistake, when he meant to strike some other thing, as in the case of hunting or [shooting at] trees, but then happens to strike him with what in most cases would not kill, then let him set free, let him emancipate, a believing slave (raqaba denotes nasama, ‘a person’), an obligation on him, and blood-money is to be submitted, to be paid, to his family, that is, the slain person’s inheritors, unless they remit it as a charity, to him by waiving [their claim to] it. In the Sunna this [blood-money] is explained as being equivalent to one hundred camels: twenty pregnant, twenty female sucklings, twenty male sucklings, twenty mature ones and twenty young ones [not more than five years old]; and [the Sunna stipulates] that it is incumbent upon the killer’s clan, namely, his paternal relations [and not other relatives]. They share this [burden of the blood-money] over three years; the rich among them pays half a dinar, while the one of moderate means [pays] a quarter of a dinar each year; if they still cannot meet this, then it can be taken from the treasury, and if this is not possible, then from the killer himself. If he, the slain, belongs to a people at enmity, at war, with you and is a believer, then the setting free of a believing slave, is incumbent upon the slayer, as a redemption, but no bloodmoney is to be paid to his family, since they are at war [with you]. If he, the slain, belongs to a people between whom and you there is a covenant, a treaty, as is the case with the Protected People (ahl al-dhimma), then the blood-money, for him, must be paid to his family, and it constitutes a third of the blood-money for a believer, if the slain be a Jew or a Christian, and two thirds of a tenth of it, if he be a Magian; and the setting free of a believing slave, is incumbent upon the slayer. But if he has not the wherewithal, for [setting free] a slave, failing to find one, or the means to obtain one, then the fasting of two successive months, is incumbent upon him as a redemption: here God does not mention the transition to [an alternative to fasting which is] giving food [to the needy], as in the case of [repudiating one’s wife by] zihār, something which al-Shāfi‘ī advocates in the more correct of two opinions of his; a relenting from God (tawbatan, ‘relenting’, is the verbal noun, and is in the accusative because of the implied verb).” (Tafsir al-Jalalyn on Surah 4:92 – Online source)
Tanwir al-Miqbas min Tafsir Ibn ‘Abbas:
“(It is not for a believer) it is not allowed for a believer, meaning here ‘Ayyash Ibn Abi Rabi’ah (to kill a believer) Harith Ibn Zayd ((unless (it be) by mistake) even if it be by mistake. (He who hath killed a believer by mistake must set free a believing slave) a slave who believes in Allah and His Messenger, (and pay the blood money) in full (to the family of the slain) to the next of kin of the victim who have the right to demand retaliation, (unless they remit it as a charity) unless the next of kin of the victim remit the blood money to the killer as a charity. (If he) the victim (be of a people hostile unto you) who are at war with you, (and he) i.e. the victim (is a believer, then (the penance is) to set free a believing slave) the killer should set free a slave who believes in Allah and His Messenger and so does not have to pay the blood money. Harith belonged to a people who were at war with the Messenger of Allah (pbuh). (And if he) the victim (cometh of a folk between whom and you there is a covenant) a treaty and peace, (then the blood money must be paid) in full (unto his folk) to the next of kin of the victim (and (also) a believing slave must be set free) a slave who believes in the divine Oneness of Allah. (And whoso hath not the wherewithal) to set free a believing slave (must fast two consecutive months) continuously. (A penance from Allah) if he does this, Allah will forgive him for killing a believer by mistake. (Allah is Knower) of him who kills by mistake, (Wise) in that which he ought to do.” (Tanwir al-Miqbas min Tafsir Ibn ‘Abbas on Surah 4:92 – Online source)
Asbab Al-Nuzul by Al-Wahidi:
“(It is not for a believer to kill a believer unless (it be) by mistake…) [4:92]. Abu ‘Abd Allah ibn Abi Ishaq informed us> Abu ‘Amr ibn Nujayd> Abu Muslim Ibrahim ibn ‘Abd Allah> Ibn Hajjaj> Hammad> Muhammad ibn Ishaq> ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn al-Qasim> his father who reported that al-Harith ibn Shadid was hard on the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace. He was on his way to embrace Islam when he was met by ‘Ayyash ibn Abi Rabi‘ah, and not realising that al-Harith wanted to embrace Islam, he killed him. And so Allah, exalted is He, revealed this verse (It is not for a believer to kill a believer unless (it be) by mistake…). Al-Kalbi explained this event, saying: “‘Ayyash ibn Abi Rabi‘ah al-Makhzumi had embraced Islam but was fearful of coming in the open about it. He fled to Medina and took refuge in one of its fortresses. His mother was distressed a great deal. She said to her two sons Abu Jahl and al-Harith ibn Hisham, who were his half brothers from his mother’s side: ‘By Allah, I will stay outside in the sun, not eating or drinking, until you bring him back to me’. And they went looking for him, accompanied by al-Harith ibn Zayd ibn Abi Anisah, until they reached Medina. They went to ‘Ayyash in his fortress, and said to him: ‘Come down, your mother has not entered the confines of a house since you left. She has also sworn that she will not eat or drink until you go back to her. By Allah we give you assurance that we will not coerce you to do anything nor will we come between you and your religion’. When they mentioned his mother’s distress and gave him their assurance, he came down to them. They took him out of Medina, tied him up with strings and whipped him a hundred lashes each, and then took him to his mother. His mother said to him: ‘I will not untie your fetters until you disbelieve in that which you have believed’, and he was left fettered in the sun until he gave them some of what they had wanted. Al-Harith ibn Yazid went to him and said: ‘O ‘Ayyash, by Allah, if that which you followed was guidance, you have now left it, and if it was error, you were already in error’. ‘Ayyash got very angry because of what al-Harith said to him and this prompted him to say to him: ‘By Allah, I will kill you if I find you alone’. Afterwards, ‘Ayyash embraced Islam and migrated to the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, in Medina. Al-Harith ibn Yazid also embraced Islam and migrated to Medina. This happened at a time when ‘Ayyash was not present. As such, he was unaware of al-Harith becoming Muslim. As he was walking outside Quba’, he met al-Harith ibn Yazid. When he saw him, he attacked and killed him. People said to him: ‘What on earth have you done? He had become Muslim!’ ‘Ayyash went back to the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, and said: ‘O Messenger of Allah, you know what happened between me and al-Harith; I was unaware of his acceptance of Islam and I killed him’. And so Gabriel, peace be upon him, came down with the words of Allah, exalted is He, (It is not for a believer to kill a believer unless (it be) by mistake…)”. (Asbab Al-Nuzul by Al-Wahidi on Surah 4:92 – Online source)
Tafsir Ibn Kathir:
“Mujahid and others said that it was revealed about `Ayyash bin Abi Rabi`ah, Abu Jahl’s half brother, from his mother’s side, Asma’ bint Makhrabah. `Ayyash killed a man called Al-Harith bin Yazid Al-`Amiri, out of revenge for torturing him and his brother because of their Islam. That man later embraced Islam and performed Hijrah, but `Ayyash did not know this fact. On the Day of the Makkan conquest, `Ayyash saw that man and thought that he was still a disbeliever, so he attacked and killed him. Later, Allah sent down this Ayah.” (Tafsir Ibn Kathir on Surah 4:92 – online source)
Dr. Muhammad Asad:
“114 On the strength of this verse, read in conjunction with verse 93, some of the Mutazilite scholars are of the opinion that a believer who deliberately kills another believer must be considered an unbeliever (Razi). This does not, of course, apply to the execution of a death sentence passed in due process of law.
115 Lit., “his people” – i.e., the heirs or dependants of the victim. The “freeing of a believing soul from bondage”, mentioned three times in this verse, refers in the first instance to persons who have been taken captive in war (see note on 8:67 and also note on 58:3).
116 Lit., “who are hostile to you” – implying that they are in an actual state of war.
117 This relates to cases where the victim is a non-Muslim belonging to a people with whom the Muslims have normal, peaceful relations; in such cases the penalty is the same as that imposed for the killing, under similar circumstances, of a fellow-believer.
118 I.e., in the way prescribed for fasting during the month of Ramadan (see 2:183-187). This alleviation applies to a person who cannot afford to pay the indemnity and/or purchase the freedom of a slave (Razi), or cannot find a slave to be freed, as may be the case in our times (Manar V, 337).
119 Sc., “and therefore one of the enemies”. This verse prohibits the treating of noncombatants as enemies and using their supposed unbelief as a pretext for plundering them. The injunction “use your discernment” (tabayyanu) imposes on the believers the duty of making sure, in every case, whether the persons concerned are actively engaged in hostilities or not.
120 Lit., “thus have you [too] been aforetime”. Since the preceding injunction refers to the whole community, it would seem that the above clause, too, bears the same implication: namely, a reference to the time when the Muslim community was, because of its weakness and numerical insignificance, at the mercy of enemies endowed with greater power. Thus, the believers are told, as it were: “Remember your erstwhile weakness, and treat the peacefully-minded among your enemies with the same consideration with which you yourselves were once hoping to be treated.” (The Message of The Quran translated and explained by Muhammad Asad, page 188 – 189, online source)
Maulana Muhammad Ali:
“92a. This verse and the one following it show that the man who killed a believer intentionally could not be a believer. In the state of warfare which then existed in Arabia, disbelievers often made use of ruses, professing a firm belief in Islam and thus tempting the Muslims to go over to them as religious teachers, and afterwards murdering them.” (The Holy Quran Arabic Text with English Translation, Commentary and comprehensive Introduction [Year 2002 Edition] by Maulana Muhammad Ali, page 222)
Malik Ghulam Farid:
“649. As when actual state of war exists there is the likelihood that a Muslim may be killed by another Muslim by mistake, the present verse gives a timely warning to Muslims to be always on their guard against such an eventually.
650. In case the slain person is a believer but happens to belong to a hostile people, then the offender shall only free a believing slave and no blood-money shall be levied on him, because money paid to a hostile people would go to strengthen their military power against Islam. In the expression, ‘and if be of a people between whom and you is a pact’, the words and he be a believer, have not been repeated, in order to point out that the law with regard to the Dhimmis (disbelievers under the protection of Muslims), or Mu’ahids (disbelievers belonging to a people in alliance with Muslims) is the same as for the Muslims.” (The Holy Qur’an – Arabic Text With English Translation & Short Commentary By Malik Ghulam Farid, page 209)
Mufti Taqi Usmani – commentary:
“SEQUENCE OF VERSES
Linked with earlier verses dealing with fighting and killing, all forms of killing, in the first instance, are eight in number because the person killed is covered by one of the four conditions which follow. Either, he is a Muslim; or, he is a Dhimmi (a free, protected, non-Muslim resident of a Muslim state); or, he is beneficiary of a peace pact and has been assured of the protection of his life, property, honour and religion; or, he is a belligerent disbeliever. Then, killing is of two types: intentional, or accidental. Thus, we see that there are only eight possible forms of killing:
1. The intentional killing of a Muslim.
2. The accidental killing of a Muslim.
3. The intentional killing of a Dhimmi.
4. The accidental killing of a Dhimmi.
5. The intentional killing of a person with whom there was a pact of peace.
6. The accidental killing of a peace pact beneficiary.
7. The intentional killing of a belligerent disbeliever.
8. The accidental killing of a belligerent disbeliever.
Injunctions covering some of these situations have appeared earlier; some find mention later, and some others are contained in Hadith. Thus, the injunction relation to the first situation enforceable in this life, that is, the obligatory duty of taking ‘even retaliation’ (qisas) from him finds mention in Surh al—Baqarah and the injunction applicable to the Hereafter follows a little later in verse 93 beginning with … (And whoever kills…). The second situation appears in Verse 92 from … (it is not for a believer to kill any believer) to … (and if he i.e., victim was a disbelievers…). The injunction covering the third situation appears in a hadith from Darqutni where the Holy Prophet has been reported to have subjected a Muslims to ‘even retaliation’ (qisas) to compensate a Dhimmi (non-Muslim resident of a Muslim state) (…)
The injunction for the fourth situation appears also in verse 92: … (and f he is from the people with whom you have a peace treaty). The fifth situation has already been taken up in verse 90 of the previous section under: … (then Allah has not made it permissible for you). The injunction governing the sixth situation has been mentioned alongwith the one relating to the fourth situation because the peace covenant is general and covers the permanents and the temporary both. Thus, it includes Dhimmi and Musta’min both, irrespective of their permanent or time-bound guarantee of peace and protection. (al-durr al-Mukhtar Kitab al-diyat)” (Maarif ul-Quran Quran Translation and Commentary [Translation by Prof. Muhammad Hasan Askari & Prof. Muhammad Shamim Revised by Justice Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usmani], by Maulana Mufti Mohammad Shafi, page 541 – 542)
“Indemnity for Accidental Killing
All the foregoing applies to relations between the Muslim community and other camps. The surah now moves on to speak of internal relations among Muslims, no matter how distant their countries are. It is clear that there can be no fighting or killing among Muslims except by way of punishment for certain crimes. The point is that there can be no situation superseding the relationship of faith that exists between Muslims. Hence, no Muslim may ever kill another Muslim, knowing that this strong tie of faith exists between them. Such killing may only happen by mistake. Since this is a possibility, it requires certain legal provisions. As for deliberate killing, it is a crime much too ghastly to be erased by any atonement. It is something that transgresses all boundaries of Islam. Never should a believer kill another believer, unless it be by mistake. He who kills a believer by mistake must free a believing soul from bondage and pay an indemnity to his family, unless they forego it by way of charity. If the victim belonged to a people who are at war with you, while he himself was a believer, then let his killer free a believing soul from bondage. If he (the victim) belonged to a people with whom you are bound by a covenant, then the penalty is an indemnity to be paid to his family and the freeing of a believing soul, from bondage. He who cannot afford the wherewithal must fast for two consecutive months. This is the atonement ordained by God. God is All Knowing, Wise. (Verse 92) The surah provides legal provisions for four cases of killing, three of which may happen by mistake among Muslims in the same community or in different communities. The fourth is that of deliberate murder which, the Qur’ān insists, should never happen in the first place. Nothing should bring the relationship between two Muslims so low for a murder of this sort to take place. The relationship between two Muslims is too strong, deeply rooted, precious and dearly cherished for such a serious breach to be contemplated. Hence, the surah begins by legislating for accidental killing. “Never should a believer kill another believer, unless it be by mistake.” (Verse 92) This is the only possibility which is acceptable to the Islamic sense and which is possible in reality. For a Muslim to live side by side with another Muslim is a truly great blessing. It is inconceivable that a Muslim takes a deliberate step, after contemplation, to remove this great blessing from his life by committing such a horrendous crime. Muslims belong to a very dear race. The one who knows the value of a Muslim is only another Muslim. Hence, killing him makes no sense. This is something well known to the people immediately concerned with it. They recognise it within themselves and in their feelings. It is God who has given it to them through their faith and their ties with God’s Messenger. These ties are further elevated to bring them together, united by their bonds with God Himself who has established their remarkable unity. When accidental killing takes place, there can be one of three cases for which legal provisions are made. The first is that when the victim belongs to a Muslim family living in the land of Islam. In this case, a slave who is a believer must be set free and an indemnity must be paid to the victim’s family. Setting a slave free is a compensation made to the Muslim community by the revival of another Muslim soul. This is, indeed, how freeing a slave is viewed in Islam. As for the indemnity, it is paid in order to pacify those immediately affected by the killing. It compensates them for a part of their loss. At the same time, the Qur’ān hints that the victim’s family may forego this indemnity, if they so desire, because such an attitude promotes feelings of forgiveness within the Muslim community: “He who kills a believer by mistake must free a believing soul from bondage and pay an indemnity to his family, unless they forego it by way of charity.” (Verse 92) The second case is that whereby the victim is, himself, a believer while his own people are at war with the Muslim community. In this case, a slave who is a believer must be freed to compensate for the believer who has been killed. No indemnity is payable to his people who are at war with Islam, because that would strengthen them in their fight against the Muslims. Here, there is no attempt to pacify the family of the victim or to win favour or to establish friendly relations with them. They are hostile to Islam and they fight against the Muslims. The third case is one whereby the victim belongs to a people who have a treaty or a covenant with the Muslims. The Qur’anic statement does not specify that the victim must be a believer in this case. This has led some commentators on the Qur’ān and other scholars to consider the statement a general one, applying to all people who have a covenant or a treaty with the Muslims, even if they are not believers. The fact that they have such a covenant makes them entitled to the same protection as Muslims. It appears to us, however, that the whole verse deals with the killing of believers. The opening sentence in this Qur’anic verse states: “Never should a believer kill another believer, unless it be by mistake.” This is followed by detailing the various cases in which the victim is a believer. The fact that in the second case there is a clear and specific reference to the victim being a believer, “If the victim belonged to a people who are at war with you, while he himself was a believer”, has special significance. It is made in order to dispel any confusion about his identity because his people are at war with the Muslims. The victim, himself, must be a believer, although his people are not. This understanding of the third case being applicable to victims of accidental death who are Muslims is supported by the fact that the penalty includes the freeing of a believing slave. Again this is compensation for the loss of one believer by freeing another from bondage. Otherwise, the freeing of any slave, believer or not, would have been adequate. A number of reports speak of the Prophet paying indemnity to the families of victims of accidental death who belonged to tribes bound by covenants or treaties with the Muslims. These reports do not speak of the freeing of the same number of slave believers. This suggests that in this case the only penalty is the indemnity. This ruling is based on what the Prophet did, not on this verse. All three cases identified in this verse share a common factor: the victim is a believer, although his family may not be believers living in the Muslim community or belong to a hostile camp at war with the Muslims, or to a people at peace with Islam having a covenant with the believers. This is what appears to us to be a more accurate understanding of this verse.” (In The Shade Of The Quran (‘Fi Dhilal Al Qur’an’), by Sayyid Qutb volume 3, page 225 – 227)
Scholar Abdullah Yusuf Ali:
“611 Life is absolutely sacred in the Islamic Brotherhood. But mistakes will sometimes happen, as did happen in the melee at Uhud, when some Muslims were killed (being mistaken for the enemy) by Muslims. There was no guilty intention: therefore there was no murder. But all the same, the family of the deceased was entitled to compensation unless they freely remitted it, and in addition it was provided that the unfortunate man who made the mistake should free a believing slave. Thus a deplorable mistake was made the occasion for winning the liberty of a slave who was a Believer, for Islam discountenances slavery. The compensation could only be paid if the deceased belonged to a Muslim society or to some people at peace with the Muslim society. Obviously it could not be paid if, though the deceased was a Believer, his people were at war with the Muslim society; even if his people could be reached, it is not fair to increase the resources of the enemy. If the deceased was himself an enemy at war, obviously the laws of war justify his being killed in warfare unless he surrendered. If the man who took life unintentionally has no means from which to free a believing slave or to give compensation, he must still by an act of strict self-denial (fasting for two whole months running) show that he is cognizant of the grave nature of the deed he has done and sincerely repentant I take this to apply to all three cases mentioned: that is, where a Believer killed a Believer unintentionally and the deceased (1} belonged to the same community as you, or (2) belonged to a community at war with you, or (5) belonged to a community in alliance with you.” (The Meaning of The Noble Qur’an, Abdullah Yusuf Ali, page 59, online source)
“22. Setting free a believing slave is a duty to God and the Muslim community, while paying blood-money is a duty to the heirs of the victim. Emancipating a believing slave means, in one respect, granting the slave a (free) life as atonement for one’s killing a believer by mistake. This explicitly shows the great value Islam attaches to freedom. The Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, fixed the blood-money at 100 camels, or at the market value of the same. However, the heirs of the victim are allowed to forgo the blood-money or to reduce it. The killer should also turn to God in remorse and repentance, so that his sin may be pardoned and his soul secured against the recurrence of similar mistakes.” (The Qur’an With Annotated Interpretation in Modern English Ali Unal, page 227)
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