Recently, we hear Christians making strange claims about Sura’ An-Nissa’ (4):89, by saying that it is a verse meant to be applied as a punishment for apostates. The said verse is as follows
They long that ye should disbelieve even as they disbelieve, that ye may be upon a level (with them). So choose not friends from them till they forsake their homes in the way of Allah if they turn back (to enmity) then take them and kill them wherever ye find them, and choose no friend nor helper from among them.
But who are they being referred to in the verse above? The previous verse had the answer.
“What aileth you that ye are become two parties regarding the hypocrites, when Allah cast them back (to disbelief) because of what they earned? Seek ye to guide him whom Allah hath sent astray? He whom Allah sendeth astray, for him thou (O Muhammad) canst not find a road.” (Qur’an 4:88)
It is the hypocrites being referred to (not apostates as insinuated by Christians) and in dealing with those who pretend to be Muslims on the outside, but are the enemies of Islam in reality. Such hypocrites are the ones who would aid the pagans against the Muslims. So we see the missionaries’ claims that the verse in Sura’ An-Nissa’ (4):89 refers to the punishment of apostates falls flat on their face. This is further attested to by Ibn Katheer in this tafseer of the above verse, when he says
And His [God’s] saying “They but wish that ye should reject Faith, as they do, and thus be on the same footing (as they)” means that they (the hypocrites) wish you misguidance so as to be like them in it; and this is due only to their great animosity and hatred towards you, that’s why God said “so take not friends from their ranks until they flee in the way of Allah(meaning left al-hijrah)” as said by Al-Awfy based on Ibn Abbas, and Al-Saddy said “they showed their kufr, then take them and kill them wherever you find them, “and take no friends or helpers from their ranks” means not to take any of them as allies or seek their support against the enemies of Allah as long as they are like this; then Allah excluded from them.
So, the next question is: who are the hypocrites? Hypocrites are those who take the Islamic Shahada (Confession of Faith) but do not mean it. They do so on the sole aim of trying to cause division and hatred within the Muslim ranks. Consider the following from Sura’ Al-Munafiqun (63):1, as follows:
“When the hypocrites come to thee, they say ‘We bearth witness that thou art indeed the messenger of Allah. Yea, Allah knoweth that thou art indeed his messenger, and All?bearth witness that the hypocrites are indeed liars.”
The above verse speaks for itself. Here, God Almighty is describing the hypocrites; they are the people who profess the Islamic faith but are lying and do not mean it. When the Prophet(P) first migrated to Madina and preached to the people there, there were some Jews and pagan Arabs who profess Islam but in fact seek to destroy the faith. Thus, the hypocrites are not synonymous with apostates as Christians are trying to claim.
And only God knows best!