Does the Koran's Verse 5:32 Forbid the Killing of Non-Muslims? - January, 2006 by Archi Medes

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Extract:After every well-publicized major terrorist attack, Islamic apologists appear in the mainstream media, typically claiming that Islam is a religion of peace. To support their assertion, Islamic apologists often quote a famous line from the Koran's verse 5:32. This famous line is actually only a small part of the verse, and is not even a complete sentence. Here is the line, as it is usually quoted, clipped and cropped, by apologists:
"...whosoever killeth a human being... it shall be as if he had killed all mankind, and whoso saveth the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind..."

Well, so far, so good. It appears to be a universal proclamation that all human life is highly valuable, and that murdering one person would be a terrible crime - like murdering all of humankind. But as we will see, appearances and apologists can be deceiving! To get a better understanding of the origins of this verse and its intended meaning in the Koran, let's go through the complete verses 5:32-37 (Pickthall's translation), starting with 5:32:

5:32: "For that cause We decreed for the Children of Israel that whosoever killeth a human being for other than manslaughter or corruption in the earth, it shall be as if he had killed all mankind, and whoso saveth the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind. Our messengers came unto them of old with clear proofs (of Allah's sovereignty), but afterwards lo! Many of them become prodigals of the earth."

See Ibn Kathir's interpretation of 5:32 at [1].

I will present evidence that (1) the good part of 5:32 - the part that sounds like a prohibition against murdering any innocent human being - is taken from pre-Islamic sources, and will show (2) that the omitted parts of 5:32, when included, change the meaning dramatically, actually permitting killing of non-Muslims in a wide variety of circumstances.


Quoted fully, in light of the subsequent verses, and the overarching message of the Koran, verse 5:32 was never intended to forbid the killing of disbelievers. Verses in the Koran must always be understood within the context of the ultimate goal of Islam. Allah sent Mohammad (and his followers) to conquer all other religions (9:33, 48:28, 61:9). To achieve this ultimate goal of vanquishing disbelief, Muslims must convert, subjugate, or kill all non-Muslims until all religion is for Allah (2:193, 8:39; also see 9:5 and 9:29; also see 4). This must always be kept in mind. This ultimate goal is the context which contains and overrides all contexts in Islam. If killing a non-Muslim is necessary for the advancement or the defence of Islam, then it must be done.


1. Verse 5:32 is almost certainly derived from earlier Jewish sources - actually a rabbi's commentary, not the revelations of a prophet of God/Allah. Mohammad (or someone) added the "corruption on earth" exception, changing the original concept in order to permit the death penalty for significant violations against Islam.

2. In the Koran, verse 5:32 offers no protection for the lives of non-Muslims. Even if we assume the verse is authentic, corruption on earth is so broad a category that almost anything that disbelievers say or do that is judged to be significantly against Islam could be used as grounds for administering the harsh penalties - including death - described in 5:33. In other words, 5:32 permits what most non-Muslims would consider to be murder. Indeed, the verse grants Muslims licence to kill non-Muslims under a surprisingly broad range of circumstances. Those apologists who present 5:32 to non-Muslims as though it were a good verse are either naïve or are knowingly engaging in deception.