Sura 47 verse 35 of the Quran states the following:

فَلَا تَهِنُوا وَتَدْعُوا إِلَى السَّلْمِ وَأَنْتُمُ الْأَعْلَوْنَ وَاللَّهُ مَعَكُمْ وَلَنْ يَتِرَكُمْ أَعْمَالَكُمْ

Before we get to the proper translation for this verse, let’s look at the word by word breakdown:

فَلَاSo (do) not
تَهِنُواyou [all] weaken / waver,
وَتَدْعُواand you [all] invite / call
إِلَىto
السَّلْمِ[the] peace,
وَأَنْتُمُand you [all] (will be)
الْأَعْلَوْنَ[the] victors,
وَاللَّهُand God (is)
مَعَكُمْwith you [all]
وَلَنْand never
يَتِرَكُمْHe will deprive you [all] (of)
أَعْمَالَكُمْyour deeds.

The Mistranslation of 47:35

Some people claim that the meaning of this verse is that God is discouraging inviting individuals to peace and interpret the meaning of this verse as the following:

[47:35 Mistranslation] So do not you all waver and (do not) invite to peace while you are the victors. God is with you and will never deprive you of your works.

The Contradiction

By the above interpretation it appears that God is commanding the believers to not advocate for peace when they are the victors. Such an understanding is a direct contradiction to so many verses of the Quran, most notably that followers of the Quran are never allowed to be aggressors.

[2:190] You may fight in the cause of GOD against those who attack you, but do not aggress. GOD does not love the aggressors. [2:191] You may kill those who wage war against you, and you may evict them whence they evicted you. Oppression is worse than murder. Do not fight them at the Sacred Mosque (Masjid), unless they attack you therein. If they attack you, you may kill them. This is the just retribution for those disbelievers. [2:192] If they refrain, then GOD is Forgiver, Most Merciful. [2:193] You may also fight them to eliminate oppression, and to worship GOD freely. If they refrain, you shall not aggress; aggression is permitted only against the aggressors. [2:194] During the Sacred Months, aggression may be met by an equivalent response. If they attack you, you may retaliate by inflicting an equitable retribution. You shall observe GOD and know that GOD is with the righteous.

This is also further validated in the following verse.

[8:61] If they resort to peace, so shall you, and put your trust in GOD. He is the Hearer, the Omniscient.

وَإِنْ جَنَحُوا لِلسَّلْمِ فَاجْنَحْ لَهَا وَتَوَكَّلْ عَلَى اللَّهِ إِنَّهُ هُوَ السَّمِيعُ الْعَلِيمُ

Additionally, even the Arabic words Islam and Muslim come from the same Arabic root as the word for peace. This means that the word Islam can be understood to literally mean “The (religion of) Peace”, while the meaning of the word Muslim is “a practitioner of peace.”

How To Study The Quran

A simple rule when studying the Quran is that if an understanding causes a contradiction then it means that the understanding needs to be reassessed to eliminate any contradictions. God warns the followers of the Quran that individuals who have perversity in their heart will pursue these contradictory understandings is to cause division and infighting among the believers.

[3:7] He sent down to you this scripture, containing straightforward verses—which constitute the essence of the scripture—as well as multiple-meaning or allegorical verses. Those who harbor doubts in their hearts will pursue the multiple-meaning verses to create confusion, and to extricate a certain meaning. None knows the true meaning thereof except GOD and those well founded in knowledge. They say, “We believe in this—all of it comes from our Lord.” Only those who possess intelligence will take heed.

هُوَ الَّذِي أَنْزَلَ عَلَيْكَ الْكِتَابَ مِنْهُ آيَاتٌ مُحْكَمَاتٌ هُنَّ أُمُّ الْكِتَابِ وَأُخَرُ مُتَشَابِهَاتٌ فَأَمَّا الَّذِينَ فِي قُلُوبِهِمْ زَيْغٌ فَيَتَّبِعُونَ مَا تَشَابَهَ مِنْهُ ابْتِغَاءَ الْفِتْنَةِ وَابْتِغَاءَ تَأْوِيلِهِ وَمَا يَعْلَمُ تَأْوِيلَهُ إِلَّا اللَّهُ وَالرَّاسِخُونَ فِي الْعِلْمِ يَقُولُونَ آمَنَّا بِهِ كُلٌّ مِنْ عِنْدِ رَبِّنَا وَمَا يَذَّكَّرُ إِلَّا أُولُو الْأَلْبَابِ

فَأَمَّاThen as for
الَّذِينَthose who
فِيin
قُلُوبِهِمْtheir hearts (is)
زَيْغٌdeviation / perversity / doubt
فَيَتَّبِعُونَ[so] they follow
مَاwhat (is)
تَشَابَهَambiguous / multiple meaning
مِنْهُof it,
ابْتِغَاءَseeking
الْفِتْنَةِ[the] dissension / division / disputes
وَابْتِغَاءَand seeking
تَأْوِيلِهِits interpretation / determination.

How To Properly Translate 47:35

That said, how should we properly understand 47:35? Let’s start by taking another look at the Arabic.

فَلَا تَهِنُوا وَتَدْعُوا إِلَى السَّلْمِ وَأَنْتُمُ الْأَعْلَوْنَ وَاللَّهُ مَعَكُمْ وَلَنْ يَتِرَكُمْ أَعْمَالَكُمْ

Again, here is the word by word breakdown of this verse:

فَلَاSo (do) not
تَهِنُواyou [all] weaken / waver,
وَتَدْعُواand you [all] invite / call
إِلَىtowards
السَّلْمِ[the] peace,
وَأَنْتُمُand you [all] (will be)
الْأَعْلَوْنَ[the] victors,
وَاللَّهُand God (is)
مَعَكُمْwith you [all]
وَلَنْand never
يَتِرَكُمْHe will deprive you [all] (of)
أَعْمَالَكُمْyour deeds.

If we were to understand that the command to “not to waver” also corresponds to “not invite towards peace,” then we would expect that the Arabic would be وَلَا تَهِنُوا وَلَا تَدْعُوا إِلَى السَّلْمِ rather than how it is actually written فَلَا تَهِنُوا وَتَدْعُوا إِلَى السَّلْمِ.

وَلَاAnd (do) not
تَهِنُوا[you all] weaken / waver
وَلَاand (do) not
تَدْعُوا[you all] invite
إِلَىto
السَّلْمِ[the] peace.

If the text had an additional وَلَا (and do not) before the word invite, then we would understand that the verse is indicating to “not” to invite, but since this second وَلَا (and do not) is not present before the word “invite” then these are separate statements. This is grammatically confirmed when we look at 3:139 which is very similar to 47:35.

[3:139] You shall not waver, nor shall you grieve, for you are the ultimate victors, if you are believers.

وَلَا تَهِنُوا وَلَا تَحْزَنُوا وَأَنْتُمُ الْأَعْلَوْنَ إِنْ كُنْتُمْ مُؤْمِنِينَ

وَلَاAnd (do) not
تَهِنُوا[you all] weaken / waver
وَلَاand (do) not
تَحْزَنُوا[you all] grieve
وَأَنْتُمُand you [all] (will be)
الْأَعْلَوْنَ[the] victors,
إِنْif
كُنْتُمْyou [all] are
مُؤْمِنِينَbelievers.

Note the use of وَلَا (and do not) before each action in the verse. This is not what we see in 47:35. So because of this the misunderstanding that is causing the mistranslation of 47:35 is that 47:35 is stating multiple commands and not a single command. This means that the commandment to “do not” only corresponds with the action of “wavering” and not to the action of “inviting”.

47:35 three separate statements not one:

Below are the breakdown for the three separate statements of 47:35. The fact that each statement starts with و is additional proof that these are separate statements.

Statement #1:

فَلَا تَهِنُوا = So do not waver [you all].

فَلَاSo (do) not
تَهِنُواyou [all] weaken / waver,

Statement #2:

وَتَدْعُوا إِلَى السَّلْمِ = And invite to peace [you all].

وَتَدْعُواand you [all] invite / call
إِلَىto
السَّلْمِ[the] peace,

Statement #3

وَأَنْتُمُ الْأَعْلَوْنَ = and you all will be the victors

وَأَنْتُمُand you [all] (will be)
الْأَعْلَوْنَ[the] victors,

[47:35] Then you shall not waver, and you shall invite to peace, and you will be the victors. God is with you and will never deprive you of your works.

Therefore, it is clear that God is only commanding the believers to not waver, and making a separate statement to the believers to invite to peace. This understanding not only is consistent with the other verses of the Quran, it also corresponds to the Arabic as per 3:139 indicating that each of these are separate statements and not one.

[16:125] You shall invite to the path of your Lord with wisdom and kind enlightenment, and debate with them in the best possible manner. Your Lord knows best who has strayed from His path, and He knows best who are the guided ones.

ادْعُ إِلَىٰ سَبِيلِ رَبِّكَ بِالْحِكْمَةِ وَالْمَوْعِظَةِ الْحَسَنَةِ وَجَادِلْهُمْ بِالَّتِي هِيَ أَحْسَنُ إِنَّ رَبَّكَ هُوَ أَعْلَمُ بِمَنْ ضَلَّ عَنْ سَبِيلِهِ وَهُوَ أَعْلَمُ بِالْمُهْتَدِينَ

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s