Question: As-Salamu 'Alaykum. I have, many times, read that the verse (9:5) was only specific to a time of war waged against the Muslims and that it is only applicable to such a case.

However, when I read the major exegesis on that verse (including Ibn Kathir, Al-Qurtubi, and I guess Ar-Razi as well) none of them mentioned this and almost all of them said that it is an eternal command for Muslims that "whenever, wherever", in their own words, the Muslims find the polytheists, they should kill them. I don't understand why those scholars would see it that way unless it has some truth in it. Please clarify this subject based on the Qur'an and authentic Ahadith as I am tired of some people who act apologetically. I want the plain truth. If I won't follow some certain rules or commands of the Qur'an (especially on major issues like this), it is better not to follow anything of it because I would only be fooling myself. Jazaakum Allaahu Khayran.

Jasser Auda

Salam, Rawa.
The verse referred to in your question states what means:
*{And so, when the sacred months are over, slay those who ascribe divinity to aught beside God wherever you may come upon them, and take them captive, and besiege them, and lie in wait for them at every conceivable place ! Yet if they repent, and take to prayer, and render the purifying dues, let them go their way: for, behold, God is much forgiving, a dispenser of grace.}* (At-Tawbah 9:5)
The historical context of the verse, in the ninth year of Hijrah, is that of a war between Muslims and the pagans of Makkah. The thematic context of the verse in chapter nine is also the context of the same war, which the chapter is addressing.
However, the verse was taken out of its thematic and historical contexts and claimed to have defined the ruling between Muslims and non-Muslims in every place, time, and circumstance.
Hence, it was perceived to be in disagreement with more than two hundred other verses of the Quran, all calling for dialogue, freedom of belief, forgiveness, peace, and even patience. Conciliation between these different evidences, somehow, was not an option for most scholars.
To solve the disagreement, based on the method of abrogation, most exegetes concluded that this verse (9:5), which was revealed towards the end of the Prophet's (peace be upon him) life, abrogated each and every 'mutaarid' verse that was revealed before it.
Therefore, the following verses were considered abrogated:
*{No compulsion in the religion}* (Al-Baqarah 2:256);
*{Forgive them, for God loves those who do good to people}* (Al-An`am 6:13);
*{Repel evil with that which is best}* (Al-Mu'minum 23: 96);
*{So patiently persevere}* (Ar-Rum 30:60);
*{Do not argue with the People of the Book except with means that are best}* (Fusslilat 41:46);
and *{Say: You have your religion and I have my religion.}* (Al-Kafirun 109:6)
In addition, a large number of prophetic traditions that legitimize peace treaties and multi-cultural co-existence, to use contemporary terms, were also abrogated.
One such tradition is 'The Scroll of Madinah' (Sahifat al-Madinah), in which the Prophet and the Jews of Medina wrote a 'covenant' that defined the relationship between Muslims and Jews living in Madinah.
The scroll stated that, 'Muslims and Jews are one nation (ummah), with Muslims having their own religion and Jews having their own religion.' (Burhan Zuraiq, Al-Sahifah: Mithaq Al-Rasul, 1st ed. (Damascus: Dar al-Numair and Dar Maad, 1996, p. 353)
Some commentators on the Sahifah render it 'abrogated,' based on the verse of The Sword and other similar verses. (216)
Seeing all the above scripts and narrations in terms of the single dimension of peace versus war might imply a contradiction, in which the 'final truth' has to 'belong' to either peace or war. The result will have to be an unreasonable fixed choice between peace and war, for every place, time, and circumstance.
What added to the problem is that the number of cases of abrogation claimed by the students of the companions (al-tabiun) is higher than the cases claimed by the companions themselves.
After the first Islamic century, one could furthermore notice that jurists from the developing schools of thought began claiming many new cases of abrogation, which were never claimed by the tabiun. Thus, abrogation became a method of invalidating opinions or narrations endorsed by rival schools of law.
Abu al-Hasan al-Karkhi (d. 951 CE), for one example, writes: "The fundamental rule is: Every Quranic verse that is different from the opinion of the jurists in our school is either taken out of context or abrogated."
Therefore, it is not unusual in the jurisprudential literature to find a certain ruling to be abrogating (nasikh) according to one school and abrogated (mansukh) according to another. This arbitrary use of the method of abrogation has exacerbated the problem of lack of multi-dimensional interpretations of the evidences.
Now, had you not mentioned in your question the 'truth' in scholars' and exegetes' opinions, I would have given you only the above 'apologetic answer' as you put it.
However, since you mentioned that there must be some 'truth' in the opinion that says that Muslims have to kill non-Muslims 'wherever and whenever', allow me to add a few words on the scholars you mentioned.
I think that we need to revise the way we look at scholars, jurists, narrators, and exegetes from the past. We view their views, somehow, as more "authentic" and more "divine" than contemporary views of today, which is not true.
In fact, contemporary views are more "authentic" and more "divine", for the simple fact that they are coming from people who live in the same era as we do.
Al-Qurtubi and Ibn Katheer lived in a very different world, a world in which the only international border, if you wish, that they knew was the border between Muslims (Islamic State/Khilafa) and non-Muslims, with an ongoing and never ending war, which had shaped their views about the world. They did not have a globe on their desks which shows clear political borders as we do today.
Thus, it is crucial to realize that an exegete does not represent any "truth" about the script more than representing the "truth" about his/her own world.
The eyes by which an exegete reads the Script is totally subject to his world and there is no view from nowhere, as they say. Thus, when Al-Qurtubi talks about war with non-Muslims, he was basically talking about the siege of Cordoba at his time and the ongoing war which lasted until the final 'fall of Cordoba' soon after his time. And so on.
Now, when a scholar from today talks about the relativity of the verse and that there are many other verses that talked about peace and treaties, and so on, and that we have to place each verse in its correct context, then this scholar is also speaking with his or her current international scene in his or her mind.
The current international scene does not have one Islamic/non-Islamic border, as was often the case in the past. It is full of all sorts of borders and various international relations that vary from war, conflict, and sanctions to treaties, cooperation protocols, and transnational unions.
Thus, there is more "truth" in today's view that places the verse only in the context of war, where the rulings of war are indeed part of the Islamic Shariah and part of the realities of politics. Yet, today's view should not exclude all other shades and hues of international relations.
I hope this answers your question. Please keep in touch.