There are a few verses from the Quran that are quite often misquoted or quoted out of context to perpetuate the myth that Islam promotes violence and exhorts its followers to kill those outside the fold of Islam. The words Kill the polytheists wherever you find them are often quoted to portray that Islam promotes violence, bloodshed and brutality.
In order to understand the context, it is necessary to read from the beginning of the chapter. It discloses that there was a peace treaty between the Muslims and the pagans of Mecca. The pagans violated this treaty, so a period of four months was given them to make amends; otherwise war would be declared against them. The complete verse actually says:
But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the Pagans wherever ye find them, an seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war); but if they repent, and establish regular prayers and practise regular charity, then open the way for them: for Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.
This verse is a command to the Muslims who had entered into an agreement with the pagans, who soon violated the agreement, to fight and kill those who betrayed them wherever they found them. It would seem that any open-minded person would consider the historical context of this verse and agree that it cannot be used as “evidence” that Islam promotes violence, brutality and bloodshed, or that it exhorts its followers to kill anyone outside the fold of Islam.
The very next verse gives the answer to the allegation that Islam promotes violence, brutality and bloodshed:
If one amongst the Pagans ask thee for asylum, grant it to him, so that he may hear the word of Allah; and then escort him to where he can be secure. That is because they are men without knowledge.”
The Quran not only stipulates that a pagan seeking asylum during the battle should be granted refuge, but also that he is escorted to safety. In the present age, what military commander would direct his soldiers not just to spare an enemy during battle, but to escort him to a place of safety? Yet, that is exactly what Almighty Allah instructs in the Quran.