Others claim that the mandate was given in the same context as the very similar wording of Surah 2, self-defense.
But how has Islam traditionally understood it? How did Mohammed's companions understand it? Most importantly, how have non-Muslims for the generations since its utterance been forced to understand it?
From a Wikipedia entry (allegedly) citing Spencer:
. . . Sura 9:5, called “the Verse of the Sword,” is a cornerstone of the Qur’an’s teaching about jihad:From a FrontPage symposium:
"So when the Sacred Months have passed, then fight the Mushrikun [unbelievers] wherever you find them, and capture them and besiege them, and lie in wait for them in each and every ambush. But if they repent and perform the Salah [Islamic prayers five times daily], and give the Zakah [alms as required by Islamic law], then leave their way free. Verily, Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. (9:5)
. . . Ibn Kathir, a prominent commentator of the Qur’an, with a tafsir (exegesis) of this verse. According to Ibn Kathir, "the first part of this honorable Surah was revealed to the Messenger of Allah when he returned from the battle of Tabuk". This military expedition took place within a year prior to Muhammad’s death, and was the last of his life. Ibn Kathir gives an explanation of Sura 9:5 as follows: "Do not wait until you find them. Rather, seek and besiege them in their areas and forts, gather intelligence about them in the various roads and fairways so that what is made wide looks ever smaller to them. This way, they will have no choice, but to die or embrace Islam."
. . . Hazrat Moulana Sayyed Abul Hassan Ali Nadwi, a Muslim scholar and biographer of Muhammad, [writes] . . . that the Prophet was attempting a pre-emptive strike: “The Messenger of Allah decided to lead a Muslim army into Roman territory before Roman armies crossed the Arab borders and threatened the heart of Islam.” . . . in Sura 9:81, Allah scolds those who did not cross the desert with the Prophet to fight:
"Those who were left behind (in the Tabuk expedition) rejoiced in their inaction behind the back of the Messenger of Allah: they hated to strive and fight, with their goods and their persons, in the cause of Allah: they said, ‘Go not forth in the heat.’ Say, ‘The fire of Hell is fiercer in heat.’ If only they could understand!" (9:81)
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. . . Sura 9 is, according to the Sahih Bukhari, “the last Sura revealed in full.”
. . . to the distress of those who claim that while Muhammad may have fought these particular infidels, he didn't actually mean to leave his followers a universal command to fight all infidels, Ibn Kathir quotes an earlier authority, Ad-Dahhak bin Muzahim, to establish that the Verse of the Sword 'abrogated every agreement of peace between the Prophet and any idolater, every treaty, and every term.'" Ibn Kathir quotes another authority: "No idolater had any more treaty or promise of safety ever since Surah Bara’ah (Surah 9) was revealed."
. . . another early commentator, Ibn Juzayy, agrees that one of this verse’s functions is "abrogating every peace treaty in the Quran." . . . In other words, the Muslim community is indeed commanded to fight against any and all unbelievers, not just against those Muhammad was facing when the Verse of the Sword was revealed." He writes that Ibn Juzayy was referring to the Islamic doctrine of naskh, under which later Quranic revelations may modify and cancel certain directives, replacing them with others.
. . . “this idea is crucial as a guide to the relationship of the Qur’an’s peaceful passages to its violent ones. Suras 16, 29, 52, 73, and 109-the sources of most of the verses of peace and tolerance above-are all Meccan. That means that anything they teach must be considered in light of what was revealed later in Medina. (The sole exception to this is the “no compulsion in religion” verse from the Medinan Sura 2, discussed below.) On the other hand, the last sura revealed, Sura 9, is Medinan. Thus it is in effect the Qur’an’s last word on jihad, and all the rest of the book-including the “tolerance verses”-must be read in its light.”
. . . “In other words, Muhammad gave peace a chance with the Pacific suras, and then understood that jihad was the more expedient course.”
. . . The traditional Muslim view articulated by . . . all four Sunni schools of jurisprudence, as well as Sahih Muslim, Sahih Bukhari, Sunan Abu Dawud, Ibn Kathir, Ibn Juzayy, Tafsir al-Jalalayn, Ibn Taymiyya, Ibn Khaldun, Muhammad Muhsin Khan, S. K. Malik, and the others I have quoted. All say that fighting against unbelievers is the Qur'an's final word on this matter. You must know enough of Islamic history and theology to know that I could quote many others saying the same thing, including Averroes, al-Ghazzali, numerous Shi'ites, etc.And of course, there is ample evidence from the rest of the "perfect" word of Allah and the example of his false prophet (as recorded in Qur'an, Hadith, and Sira) to demonstrate that the commands for offensive warfare to establish the tyranny of Allah over all mankind were to be applied at all times and and in all places.
You blithely ignored all these citations and then accuse me of trafficking in generalizations. Why don't you stop blustering and posturing and engage in honest discourse?
. . . .
. . . I've quoted Muslim scholars repeatedly to show that I’m not advancing any personal interpretation of the Qur’an, but merely reporting on a common (but not the only) Muslim understanding.
Ibn Kathir says that the verse I quoted above, Sura 9:5, "abrogated every agreement of peace between the Prophet and any idolater." Ibn Juzayy agrees that one of the functions of Sura 9:5 is "abrogating every peace treaty in the Qur’an." That means war is the Qur’an’s last word.
Ahmad Von Denffer calls Ibn Kathir’s commentary of the "better-known" and "more valuable books of tafsir . . . of greatest importance to Muslims." Other Muslim scholars add that "the majority of the Muslim Ummah in the world today consider it to be the best available source of understanding of the Qur’anic text."
Yusuf Patel says that "some claimed [this verse] referred to the Banu Khuza’a who were the allies of the Prophet slain by the Banu Bakr" -- in other words, that only that group of unbelievers should be fought, not all. But Patel adds: "Ibn Juzayy adds to it a general meaning and Ibn Kathir also held this view. Therefore this is a promise of victory for the Muslims over the Kuffar [unbelievers]."
Ibn Kathir, Ibn Juzayy, Von Denffer, and Patel are Muslim scholars: two medieval, two modern. Yet when I quote them I am Islamophobic? A "phobia" is not a hatred but a fear, and I am not afraid of you and your campaign of smears and intimidation. By smearing people who raise honest questions about Islam instead of facing the roots of terrorism and working to eradicate them, you are paving the way for the ultimate triumph of the terrorist version of Islam.
"the Messenger of Allah . . . would say: 'Fight in the name of Allah and in the way of Allah. Fight against those who disbelieve in Allah. Make a holy war. . . . When you meet your enemies who are polytheists, invite them to three courses of action. . . . Invite them to (accept) Islam; if they respond to you, accept it from them and desist from fighting against them. . . . If they refuse to accept Islam, demand from them the Jizya. If they agree to pay, accept it from them and hold off your hands. If they refuse to pay the tax, seek Allah's help and fight them . . .'" (Muslim Book 019, Number 4294).and
"Allah's Apostle said: 'I have been ordered (by Allah) to fight against the people until they testify that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and that Muhammad is Allah's Apostle . . . '" (Bukhari Volume 1, Book 2, Number 24).and
"Fight them, and Allah will punish them by your hands, cover them with shame, help you (to victory) over them, heal the breasts of Believers . . . " (Qur'an 9:14).
"Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued" (Qur'an 9:29).