Why Quran’s Surah Al-Maidah verse ‘Kill One, You Kill Humanity’ is misrepresented

Why Quran’s Surah Al-Maidah verse ‘Kill One, You Kill Humanity’ is misrepresented

A lot has been said in the media and repeated by many so-called educated and moderate Muslims – specially in India – about the peaceful nature of Quran and Islamic ideology via one phrase picked selectively from the Surah Al-Maidah.

That phrase is “If you kill one human being, it is as if you have killed the whole humanity.”

On the face of it, this phrase – with the intention that is purported to it by the apologists of Islam – sounds very powerfully in favor of non-violence.  However, that is so because the relevant verse from the Quran is quoted only partially!

Context of the verse in Surah al-Maidah

To understand that verse, one needs to read the whole story behind it.  And the story starts before the verse appears in 5:32.  Let us go through the whole story to get the context of the verse and read it carefully for what it says in full context of that situation.

Please read the translations to all the verses at the bottom of this post.

The story, in brief, is: The story was of two brothers, son of Adam (Cane and Abel in Bible), where one brother murders the other and the one who dies, accepts death. The son of Adam, who is the murderer of his own brother is then sent, by Allah, a raven (crow) who digs the ground to show how the murderer could hide his brother’s corpse and cover him up. This brother then becomes repentant of what he had done. Then comes this verse, where it is said in the context of the Children of Israel or the Adam. However, this verse does NOT come without conditions.

Even though killing anyone from their own tribe/family will be like killing the entire tribe, it can verily be done if it is believed:

(i) the other person murdered someone
(ii) or was spreading mischief (kufr) in the land

So the apologists who cite the verse incompletely forget to mention the conditions imposed by this so-called “peaceful” verse which forbids killing any member of the tribe of Adam (Children of Israel)!  These conditions need to be studied in more detail.

Verse inspiring Violence for Vengeance:  Simply said, the first condition permits one to kill anyone who has killed.  Vengeance is when you do upon others what you think the other has done to you.  Ahimsa or non-violence is that no matter what the other has done, you do not respond back in kind.  Hence, killing in retaliation for the violence of the other is actually the BEST case scenario arising out of this verse!

Verse inspires Jihadi Terror and Islamic Hegemony: In any multi-cultural society, there are multiple beliefs.  Not all beliefs may be similar.  In fact, they ought not to be.  For, everyone’s experience of life is different.  Their conditioning is different.  This makes it imperative that every belief should be treated as just that – a belief.

A belief that stems out of one’s conditioning and limited data of the Universe, cannot fully understand or define the existence in its complete infiniteness.

Something that is infinite cannot be ever captured in anyone’s mind or words in any book.  Even in the case of the Quran – which is a limited book by the account of space, time, and words – there are many interpretations – or beliefs about what it says.  No two interpretations seem to be the same.  Why?  Conditioning and experiences of life are different in different individuals.

Interpreting ‘Fasad’

The central point in this part of the condition of the verse is “Mischief”.  The word for that is “Fasad“.  Two words have been used for Mischief – al-fitnah and al-fasad.

Let us understand what fasad really means in Quranic sense.

Saad ibn ar-Rabi was a Sahaba – or companion of Mohammad during his lifetime.  This is what he says about what fasad really 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).”

Let us look at the pronouncement of another Islamic scholar – Abū Jaʿfar Muḥammad ibn Jarīr al-Ṭabarī

“The hypocrites commit mischief on earth by disobeying their Lord on it and continuing in the prohibited acts. They also abandon what Allah made obligatory and doubt His religion, even though He does not accept a deed from anyone except with faith in His religion and certainty of its truth. The hypocrites also lie to the believers by saying contrary to the doubt and hesitation their hearts harbor. They give as much aid as they can, against Allah’s loyal friends, and support those who deny Allah, His Books and His Messengers. This is how the hypocrites commit mischief on earth, while thinking that they are doing righteous work on earth.”

Basically speaking, mischief is a euphemism for spreading kufr.  Or holding a set of beliefs that are different from that of Islam.  Such a person is known as kafir or worse, mushrik.

However Kufr is the “denial of the Truth” (truth in the form of articles of faith in Islam), and shirk means devoting “acts of worship to anything beside Allah” or “the worship of idols and other created beings”. So a mushrik may worship other things while also “acknowledging Allah”.

Now let us get the real import of verse 5:32 from Surah al-Maidah in its proper context.  What it really says is:

If you kill anyone from Adam’s tribe / Children of Israel (any human, as per the apologists), you kill the whole tribe (the whole humanity, as per the apologists) – unless – the person has (1) killed someone or (2) committed fasad/fitnah born out of kufr.

In the case of the first condition, it is a verse exhorting the Muslims to kill for revenge; and in the case of the second condition it has a far more sinister import, it is giving the justification for Jihadi terror.

Far from having any peaceful import, it is, therefore, the very foundation on which the genocides of Islamic State and all the Jihadis before them, are built on!  It is the very fountain-head of Islamic Terror!  For other verses exhorting violence, please read 55 Quranic Verses that Establish the Islamic Path of Genocide and Terror

Isn’t it shocking that the world is deceived in a bid to sanitize Islamist ideology by simply lying!

Verses from Surah Al-Maidah

  1. Recite to them the truth of the story of the two sons of Adam. Behold! they each presented a sacrifice (to Allah.: It was accepted from one, but not from the other. Said the latter: “Be sure I will slay thee.” “Surely,” said the former, “(Allah) doth accept of the sacrifice of those who are righteous.
  2. “If thou dost stretch thy hand against me, to slay me, it is not for me to stretch my hand against thee to slay thee: for I do fear Allah, the cherisher of the worlds.
  3. “For me, I intend to let thee draw on thyself my sin as well as thine, for thou wilt be among the companions of the fire, and that is the reward of those who do wrong.”
  4. The (selfish) soul of the other led him to the murder of his brother: he murdered him, and became (himself) one of the lost ones.
  5. Then Allah sent a raven, who scratched the ground, to show him how to hide the shame of his brother. “Woe is me!” said he; “Was I not even able to be as this raven, and to hide the shame of my brother?” then he became full of regrets-
  6. On that account: We ordained for the Children of Israel that if any one slew a person – unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land – it would be as if he slew the whole people: and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people. Then although there came to them Our apostles with clear signs, yet, even after that, many of them continued to commit excesses in the land.
  7. The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger, and strive with might and main for mischief through the land is: execution, or crucifixion, or the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides, or exile from the land: that is their disgrace in this world, and a heavy punishment is theirs in the Hereafter;
  8. Except for those who repent before they fall into your power: in that case, know that Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.
  9. O ye who believe! Do your duty to Allah, seek the means of approach unto Him, and strive with might and main in his cause: that ye may prosper.
  10. As to those who reject Faith,- if they had everything on earth, and twice repeated, to give as ransom for the penalty of the Day of Judgment, it would never be accepted of them, theirs would be a grievous penalty.
  11. Their wish will be to get out of the Fire, but never will they get out therefrom: their penalty will be one that endures.

(Source for translation)


When you go through the whole set of verses, it is very clear, that the meaning of the verse leads the believers to go for revenge at its best. It exhorts Muslims to kill for vengeance or worse, for kufr or perceived mischief by someone.  It hardly has any pretense of altruistic action or forgiveness.  This Surah Al-Maidah verse, on full reading, does not seem as benevolent as it is made out to be by most moderates!

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