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Is Islam A Religion Of Peace?

Re-examining the historical context of Quran Chapter 9:29 "Is Islam a religion of peace?"

 
This is one of the most controversial passages of the Quran in Muslim/Non-Muslim Post Modern Dialogue:

Fight those who believe not in God nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by God and His Apostle, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.

Most modern Muslims thankfully only believe that the Quran instructs defensive warfare. Perhaps they might extend this to a type of defensive 'offensive' warfare. At the very least 'offensive' warfare might only be permitted in serious situations, like that of genocide and oppression but never for the sake of spreading Islam by the sword or forcing people to pay the Jizya as a source of income.

While you have to hope and wish most Muslims always think like this, for the purposes of studying the life of Mohammed and most closest accurate teachings of the Quran we must put most-modern western interpretations aside and proceed with some more serious investigation.

To briefly summarize the issue. Muslim expositors all tend to agree the reason for the revelation(arabic: sabab ul nazul) for this verse was the charge to fight with the Christian Romans in Tabuk (Northern Arabia).[1]

Of course you have to ask yourself the important question. Why is God ordering the Muslims to fight the Christians? Is it for money? Is it for retaliation of some kind? Is it to spread Islam? Is is to end oppression and tyranny? Is it to defend borders?

The first and most powerful source of Quranic exegesis/explanation(arabic: tafseer) in Islam is the Quran explaining the Quran[2]. Now because the command to "Fight The People of The Book" is found no where else in the Quran it would be futile to go to other passages addressing the different circumstances of other groups like Meccans and possibly specific tribes of Jews (e.g. 2:256 and 109:1-6) and then apply those circumstances to this passage. 


Therefore because the Quran is the best explanation of itself and this is the only mention of this charge to fight the people of the book we must appeal to the immediate context of this chapter and then the immediate verses.

A small summary of the chapter before verse 29 is as follows: 
  1. Muslims ought to have faith that Allah will not allow them to fall into poverty. 
  2. God calms the Muslims nerves thinking of future battle by reminding them of previous battle victories
  3. God reminds the Muslims to not valueworldly materialism over belief in God his Apostle and fighting for God 
  4. The sacred mosque belongs to true believers, pagans should no longer be able to enter this sacred temple The Muslims are to place faith over family bonds 
  5. Muslims should not be afraid to fight those who had oppressed them
  6. Muslims are to keep the treaties bound on them until they are consummated in which then they are allowed to kill or accept repentance and the willingness to listen to the Quran.
After summarizing the previous passages it is now important to quote the immediately context:
O ye who believe! Truly the Pagans are unclean; so let them not, after this year of theirs, approach the Sacred Mosque. And if ye fear poverty, soon will God enrich you, if He wills, out of His bounty, for God is All-knowing, All-wise. Fight those who believe not in God nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by God and His Apostle, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued. The Jews call 'Uzair a son of God, and the Christians call Christ the son of God. That is a saying from their mouth; (in this) they but imitate what the unbelievers of old used to say. God's curse be on them: how they are deluded away from the Truth! They take their priests and their anchorites to be their lords in derogation of God, and (they take as their Lord) Christ the son of Mary; yet they were commanded to worship but One God: there is no god but He. Praise and glory to Him: (Far is He) from having the partners they associate (with Him). Fain would they extinguish God's light with their mouths, but God will not allow but that His light should be perfected, even though the Unbelievers may detest (it).It is He Who hath sent His Apostle with guidance and the Religion of Truth, to proclaim it over all religion, even though the Pagans may detest (it).O ye who believe! there are indeed many among the priests and anchorites, who in Falsehood devour the substance of men and hinder (them) from the way of God. And there are those who bury gold and silver and spend it not in the way of God: announce unto them a most grievous penalty - On the Day when heat will be produced out of that (wealth) in the fire of Hell, and with it will be branded their foreheads, their flanks, and their backs, their flanks, and their backs.- "This is the (treasure) which ye buried for yourselves: taste ye, then, the (treasures) ye buried!" Yusuf Ali 9:28-36
It is made painfully clear that pagan polytheists have been forbidden to enter the Sacred Mosque due to their own uncleanliness. Their uncleanliness can be described in two ways:
  1. There beliefs are unclean (being adherents of polytheism)
  2. Their actions are unclean.(having oppressed the Muslims).
The Muslims knowing that if polytheists were no longer allowed to enter the Sacred Mosque (and pay tribute to their false gods) begin to fear poverty but God responds by granting them a new source of enrichment through Jizya (the annual tax given by non-Muslims living under Islamic state). This is confirmed by a Muslim historian:
… Then He said (v. 28): ‘The polytheists are nothing but unclean, so let them not approach the sacred mosque after this year of theirs, and if you fear poverty’ that was because the people said ‘the markets will be cut off from us, trade will be destroyed, and we shall lose the good things we used to enjoy,’ and God said, ‘If you fear poverty God will enrich you from His bounty,’ i.e. in some other way, ‘if He will. He is knowing, wise. Fight those who do not believe in God and the last day and forbid not that which God and His apostle have forbidden and follow not the religion of truth from among those who have been given the scripture until they pay the poll tax out of hand being humbled,’ i.e. as a compensation for what you fear to lose by the closing of the markets. God gave them compensation for what He cut off from them in the former polytheism by what He gave them by way of poll tax from the people of the scripture. (The Life of Muhammad, A Translation of Ibn Ishaq’s Sirat Rasul Allah, with introduction and notes by Alfred Guillaume [Karachi Oxford University Press, Karachi, Tenth Impression 1995], p. 620; bold emphasis ours) 
The  two Jalals commentators also say:
O you who believe, the idolaters are indeed unclean, [they are] filth, on account of their inner vileness, so do not let them come near the Sacred Mosque, that is, let them not enter the Sanctuary, after this year of theirs, year 9 of the Hijra. If you fear impoverishment, poverty, as a result of the cessation of their commerce with you, God will surely enrich you from His bounty, if He will: and He indeed enriched them through conquests and [the imposition of] the jizya. God is Knowing, Wise. (Tafsir al-Jalalayn; source)
In fact, jizya proved to be a very lucrative means of support just as the second caliph realized:
Narrated Juwairiya bin Qudama At-Tamimi:We said to 'Umar bin Al-Khattab, "O Chief of the believers! Advise us." He said, "I advise you to fulfill Allah's covenant (made with the Dhimmis) as it is the covenant of your Prophet and the source of the livelihood of your dependents (i.e. the taxes from the Dhimmis.)" (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 53, Number 388)
However apart from needing a new source of revenue how else do these verses justify the command to fight and retrieve financial tribute from the people of the book? 

Well it shifts into a theological criticism. Jews and Christians both associate partners with God, an unthinkable sin! These partners are said to come in the form of Uziah, Jesus, Priests and Rabbis in which they are all placed as lords over Allah.

Therefore it is clear the People of the Book have the very same uncleanliness that is attributed to the Polytheists. Now if the permission and command to kill, fight or accept repentance from Polytheists was given earlier in the chapter, then surely the Muslims are also commanded to fight the People of the Book who want to extinguish the light of God (Islam) and to whom God has cursed, must be accepted. The fact that God allows them to pay Jizya and still exist under Islamic rule despite the unthinkable polytheism is surely a mercy.

There are two other factors to mention. We clearly have the command to proclaim the true religion over all other religions, it is innately superior and polytheism is innately deranged and cursed, a severe sin. Of course the superiority in context is externally made manifest through the submission of the other religious adherents and internally through the inferiority of their beliefs. Finally there is a financial criticism rather than spending money in the way of God, these people of the book have misused their money and the real buried treasure they are storing up comes in the form of the punishments in the fires of hell.

Of course the most interesting fact to recognize here is that the chapter itself provides the very reasons the Muslims are commanded to fight the people of the book until they submit and pay Jizyah. This means any explanation contradicting or conflicting with the direct explanation provided by the Quran must be rejected. The Quran is the highest and best explanation after all.

Nevertheless some Muslims in their haste to defend Islam have appealed to various commentaries in order to justify Quran Chapter 9:29 as some kind of retaliation and retribution and defense of borders as opposed to the typical offensive jihad explanation. The most interesting facts about these commentaries are as follows:

  1. The historical background given by these commentaries is only found in Muslim sources and no other sources outside of Arab history record this
  2. The specific details of these background stories are often contradictory
  3. The stories are not recorded in the most authentic report(hadith) collections Bukhari and Muslim, making them dubious even by Muslim standards. What is confirmed by Bukhari and Muslim is that the battle happened, the specific details of many of the commentaries is however absent and unwarranted from these authentic collections.
These facts alone are enough to take the Quran as sufficient on this, and only accept that which agrees with Al Quran. Nevertheless it is time to dive into these commentaries and really see if they are as 'defensive' as many of our Muslim friends think or whether they are really slightly 'misleading'.

Firstly it is necessary to read these commentaries for yourself. Secondly you should read my previous response to these commentaries. And thirdly you should read some basic history here first and then here to put things in chronological perspective.

Are you finished? Lets resume.

Here is the general pattern:

  1. Mohammed sends a letter to various heads of states including the Christian Ghassan king
  2. Ghassan tribe member(s) Assassinate Mohammed's Men/Messenger
  3. Mohammed sends troops for battle of Mu'tah 
  4. Neither side wins 
  5. Mohammed later assembles his biggest army ever and returns to Northern Arabia in order to 'take on' these very forces and defend his new empire
It is the western Muslim assertion of course that it was the Christians themselves who instigated the battle of Mu'tah and Tabuk. Here are the commentaries they cite to support this claim:
The second event that contributed towards making Islam a formidable power was the Campaign of Tabuk, which was necessitated by the provocative activities of the Christians living within or near the boundaries of the Roman Empire to the north of Arabia. Accordingly, the Holy Prophet, with an army of thirty thousand marched boldly towards the Roman Empire but the Romans evaded the encounter. The result was that the power of the Holy Prophet and Islam increased manifold and deputations from all corners of Arabia began to wait upon him on his return from Tabuk in order to offer their allegiance to Islam and obedience to him. The Holy Quran has described this triumph in Surah AN-NASR: "When the succour of Allah came and victory was attained and you saw people entering the fold of Islam in large numbers... Campaign to Tabuk 
The Campaign to Tabuk was the result of conflict with the Roman Empire, that had started even before the conquest of Makkah. One of the missions sent after the Treaty of Hudaibiyah to different parts of Arabia visited the clans which lived in the northern areas adjacent to Syria. The majority of these people were Christians, who were under the influence of the Roman Empire. Contrary to all the principles of the commonly accepted international law, they killed fifteen members of the delegation near a place known as Zat-u-Talah (or Zat-i-Itlah). Only Ka'ab bin Umair Ghifari, the head of the delegation, succeeded in escaping and reporting the sad incident. Besides this, Shurahbll bin Amr, the Christian governor of Busra, who was directly under the Roman Caesar, had also put to death Haritli bin Umair, the ambassador of the Holy Prophet, who had been sent to him on a similar minion. 
These events convinced the Holy Prophet that a strong action should be taken in order to make the territory adjacent to the Roman Empire safe and secure for the Muslims. Accordingly, in the month of Jamadi-ul-Ula A. H. 8, he sent an army of three thousand towards the Syrian border. When this army reached near Ma'an, the Muslims learnt that Shurahbil was marching with an army of one hundred thousand to fight-with them and that the Caesar, who himself was at Hims, had sent another army consisting of one hundred thousand soldiers under his brother Theodore. But in spite of such fearful news, the brave small band of the Muslims marched on fearlessly and encountered the big army of Shurahbil at M'utah. And the result of the encounter in which the Muslims were fighting against fearful odds (the ratio of the two armies was 1:33), as very favorable, for the enemy utterly failed to defeat them. This proved very helpful for the propagation of Islam. As a result, those Arabs who were living in a state of semi. independence in Syria and near Syria and the clans of Najd near Iraq, who were under the influence of the Iranian Empire, turned towards Islam and embraced it in thousands. For example, the people of Bani Sulaim (whose chief was Abbas bin Mirdas Sulaimi), Ashja'a, Ghatafan, Zubyan, Fazarah, etc., came into the fold of Islam at the same time. Above all, Farvah bin 'Amral Juzami, who was the commander of the Arab armies of the Roman Empire, embraced Islam during that time, and underwent the trial of his Faith in a way that filled the whole territory with wonder. When the Caesar came to know that Farvah had embraced Islam, he ordered that he should be arrested and brought to his court.Then the Caesar said to him, "You will have to choose one of the two things. Either give up your Islam and win your liberty and your former rank, or remain a Muslim and face death." He calmly chose Islam and sacrificed his life in the way of the Truth.
And of course:
The underlying Reasons 
The Byzantine power, which was considered the greatest military force on earth at that time, showed an unjustifiable opposition towards Muslims. As we have already mentioned, their opposition started at killing the ambassador of the Messenger of All⨠[pbuh], Al-Harith bin ?Umair Al-Azdi, by Sharhabeel bin ?Amr Al-Ghassani. The ambassador was then carrying a message from the Prophet [pbuh] to the ruler of Busra. We have also stated that the Prophet consequently dispatched a brigade under the command of Zaid bin Haritha, who had a fierce fight against the Byzantines at Mu'tah. Although Muslim forces could not have revenge on those haughty overproud tyrants, the confrontation itself had a great impression on the Arabs, all over Arabia. 
Caesar ? who could neither ignore the great benefit that Mu'tah Battle had brought to Muslims, nor could he disregard the Arab tribes' expectations of independence, and their hopes of getting free from his influence and reign, nor he could ignore their alliance to the Muslims ? realizing all that, Caesar was aware of the progressive danger threatening his borders, especially Ash-Sham-fronts which were neighbouring Arab lands. So he concluded that demolition of the Muslims power had grown an urgent necessity. This decision of his should, in his opinion, be achieved before the Muslims become too powerful to conquer, and raise troubles and unrest in the adjacent Arab territories. 
To meet these exigencies, Caesar mustered a huge army of the Byzantines and pro-Roman Ghassanide tribes to launch a decisive bloody battle against the Muslims.
Now I had already mentioned that this battle appears to be absent from Byzantine records and that it seems highly fanciful and non-historical to think a 'stalemate' occurred between 3,000 Arabs and over ten roman legions. But it is also important to mention the one possible Byzantine record referring to this Battle has it quite differently: 
Aside from the Muslim accounts, there may be a reference to the battle in the chronicle written by ninth century Byzantine monk and chronicler Theophanes. 
According to Theophanes, the Muslim army intended to attack the local Arabs on a feast day (the word that Theophanes used most likely indicates a pagan rather than a Christian holiday). However, the vicarius Theodorus (who might be emperor's brother, in this case vicarius augustus (emperor's deputy) is meant, i.e. viceroy) learnt about their plans and gathered a force from the garrisons of local fortresses:

He determined from the Saracen the day and hour on which the emirs intended to attack, and attacked them at a place called Mothous. He killed three of them and most of their army, but one emir, Khalid (whom they call the sword of God), got away.[3] 
It has been argued by some scholars, such as Walter Kaegi, that this is a reference to the Battle of Mu'tah, but this is not certain.
Now this of course if sound shows the truely fanciful nature of the Arab record including the supposed death of a general of a roman army and the conversion of Northern Arabs to Islam. 

Now what else is left out? What these commentaries conveniently left out when they accused the Christian Arabs of instigating Mohammed into war by killing his men was the fact that Mohammed had already instigated a war between Ghassanids, Byzantines and Muslims as mentioned by George Sale:
"Mohammed wrote to the same effect to the king of Ethiopia, though he had been converted before, according to the Arab writers; and to mokawkas, governor of Egypt, who gave the messenger a very favorable reception, and send several valuable presents to Mohammed, and among the rest two girls, one of which named Mary, became a great favorite with him. He also sent letters of the like purport to several Arab princes, particularly one to Al Hareth Ebn Abi Shamer king of Ghassan, who returning for answer that he would go to Mohammed himself, the prophet said, May his kingdom perish; another to Hawdha Ebn Ali, king of Yamama, who was a Christian, and having some time before professed Islamism, had lately returned to his former faith; this prince sent back a very rough answer upon which Mohammed cursing him, he died soon after; and a third to al Mondar Ebn Sawa, king of Bahrein, who embraced Mohammedism, and all the Arabs of that country following his example. 
The eight year of the Hejra was a very fortunate year to Mohammed. In the beginning of it Khaled Ebn al Walid and Amru Ebn al As, both excellent soldiers, the first of whom afterwards conquered Syria and other countries, and the latter, Egypt, became proselytes of Mohammedism. And soon after the prophet send three thousand men against the Grecian forces, to revenge the death of one of his ambassadors, who being sent to the governor of Bosra on the same errand as those who went to the above mentioned princes, was slain by an Arab of the tribe of Bhassa at Muta, a town in the territory of Balka in Syria, about three days’ journey eastward from Jerusalem, near which town they encountered. The Grecians being vastly superior in number(for, including the auxiliary Arabs, they had an army of one hundred thousand men), the Mohammedans were repulsed in the first attack, and lost successively three of their generals"[4] 
and Shahid Ayatullah Murtadha Mutahhari says: 
“Among those who were sent to the Christian rulers and tribes, we see the following names: Dihyah al-Kalbī sent to Heraclius, the Emperor of Byzantine; `Amr bin Umayyah Zamrī to the Negus, the King of Abyssinia; Hāťib bin Abī Baltā‘a sent to the Muqawqis, the King of Egypt; and the tribes of Ghassan and Ĥanīfah (in northern Arabia).”“[5] 
Ibn Hajar’s explanation of a story when Heraclius received the letter from Mohammed: 
"Abu Sufyan saying: Heraclius then asked for the letter sent by Allah’s Prophet The letter was delivered by Dihya to the Governor of Busra (Al-Harith Al-Ghassani), who then forwarded it to Heraclius (Dihya who embraced Islam early was known to have a very handsome face and died during the caliphate of Mu’aawiyyah). The Prophet sent him with the letter to Heraclius towards the end of the 6th year after the Hijrah. Dihya reached Heraclius in the month of Al-Muharram in the beginning of the year 7 H. Busra was a city between Al-Medina and Damascus (not the present day Basra in Iraq). Al-Harith bin Shamir Al-Ghassani, the governor of Busra, forwarded the letter to Heraclius. It is recorded in the Musnad of Al-Bazzar that Dihya handed the letter to Heraclius himself."[6] 
It is also recorded in Bukhari:
"At that time I had a friend from the Ansar who used to bring news (from the Prophet) in case of my absence, and I used to bring him the news if he was absent. In those days we were afraid of one of the king of Ghassan tribe. We heard that he intended to move and attack us, so fear filled our hearts because of that. (One day) my Ansari friend unexpectedly knocked at my door, and said, “Open Open!” I said, “Has the king of Ghassan come”' He said, “No, but something worse; Allah's Prophet has isolated himself from his wives.”"[7]
What the commentaries have clearly left out on purpose then is the fact that Mohammed had sent a letter to various heads of states including the the King of Ghassan, the Governor of Busra Al-Harith Al-Ghassani telling them and him to: "Accept Islam and live in safety"[8] In other words a declaration of war. Is Islam A Religion Of Peace? Can't be. Al Ghassani having met with Mohammed in person and rejected his invitation to Islam results in Mohammed's cursing him: "may his kingdom perish". This being only one of many kings rejecting him. Later either Al Ghassani or one Arab man from the same or near tribe has ended up killing an ambassador of the Prophet. 

It is then said that Mohammed had sent 15 men who to spy on the Ghassands and Byzantine combined gathered forces in which they ignored the command to spy and ended up trying to preach to them, when arrows were delivered to them, instead of leaving they had chosen to stay and die preaching rather than leaving.[9] Clearly an attempt to die as martyrs and ignore Mohammed's instruction to only spy.

It is then in this context that Mohammed has supposedly amassed his biggest army so far in order to extract his vengeance due to the death of these disobedient men. After the battle having failed to defeat the Ghassand and Byzantine Forces Mohammed forces return home in which then Mohammed postpones his attacks. 

In fact it is not until approximately two years afterward Mohammed resumes his expedition to North Arabia.[10] You would think of course that if the Ghassands and Byzantines having two separate armies possibly totaling over one hundred thousand soldiers would then have no problem with invading Mecca or chasing this army til it's death. This also makes it look rather absurd that two years later the Byzantine army is said to being gathered in order to attack the Muslims, when they had already been together ready to attack the Muslims two years earlier! Why did they disband in the first place? I thought they were trying to wipe out the Muslims?

That is all then for this part of the discussion. Not only do these events often conflict with the Quranic injunction and given reason for invasion, but they are historically dubious and fanciful. Most importantly these commentators have deliberately omitted some of the most important information.

At least if you are going to appeal to sources outside of the Quran, Sahih Bukhari, Sahih Muslim, then be willing to share the whole story. For more information I recommend clicking on footnote 8 which goes into the further fanciful legend of the supposed "Battle of Tabuk" itself. A false claim inciting the  "accumulation of Caesars forces to protect his borders" seems to be another pure historical myth, this time even admitted by the commentator Maududi himself when he references the Arab historians.

In the end Maududi himself summaries these passages quite nicely, once again after reading these quotations ask yourself: Is Islam A Religion Of Peace?

26Though the people of the Book professed to believe in Allah and the Hereafter, in fact they believed in neither. For only that person really believes in Allah who acknowledges Him as the only One God and the only One Lord, and does not associate with Him any other, whatsoever, in His Being, in His characteristics, in His rights and in His powers and authority. But according to this definition of shirk both the Christians and the Jews were guilty of shirk as has been made plain in the verses that follow: therefore their profession of belief in Allah was meaningless. Likewise they did not really believe in the Hereafter, in spite of the fact that they believed in Resurrection. For it is not enough: one must also believe that on that Day absolute justice will be done on the basis of one's belief and actions. One should also believe that no ransom and no expiation and no 'spiritual' relationships with any 'saint' shall be of any avail on that Day. It is absolutely meaningless to believe in the Hereafter without this. And the Jews and the Christians had polluted their faiths because they believed that such things would protect them against justice on that Day.
27The second reason why Jihad should be waged against them is drat they did not adopt the Law sent down by Allah through His Messenger
28This is the aim of Jihad with the Jews and the Christians and it is not to force them to become Muslims and adopt the `Islamic Way of Life.' They should be forced to pay Jizyah in order to put an end to their independence and supremacy so that they should not remain rulers and sovereigns in the land. These powers should be wrested from them by the followers of the true Faith, who should assume the sovereignty and lead others towards the Right Way, while they should become their subjects and pay jizyah. jizyah is paid by those non-Muslims who live as Zimmis (proteges) in an Islamic State, in exchange for the security and protection granted to them by it. This is also symbolical of the fact that they themselves agree to live in it as its subjects. This is the significance of "..... they Pay jizyah with their own hands," that is, "with full consent so that they willingly become the subjects of the Believers, who perform the duty of the vicegerents of Allah on the earth. "
At first this Command applied only to the Jews and the Christians. Then the Holy Prophet himself extended it to the Zoroastrians also. After his death, his Companions unanimously applied this rule to all the non-Muslim nations outside Arabia.
This is jizyah " of which the Muslims have been feeling apologetic during the last two centuries of their degeneration and there are still some people who continue to apologize for it. But the Way of Allah is straight and clear and does not stand in need of any apology to the rebels against Allah. Instead of offering apologies on behalf of Islam for the measure that guarantees security of life, property and faith to those who choose to live under its protection, the Muslims should feel proud of such a humane law as that of jizyah. For it is obvious that the maximum freedom that can be allowed to those who do not adopt the Way of Allah but choose to tread the ways of error is that they should be tolerated to lead the life they like. That is why the Islamic State offers them protection, IF THEY agree to live as its Zimmis by paying jizyah, but it cannot allow that they should remain supreme rulers in any place and establish wrong ways and impose them on others. As this state of things inevitably produces chaos and disorder, it is the duty of the true Muslims to exert their utmost to bring to an end their wicked rule and bring them under a righteous order.
As regards the question, "What do the non-Muslims get in return for Jizyah " it may suffice to say that it is the price of the freedom which the Islamic State allows them in following their erroneous ways, while living in the jurisdiction of Islam and enjoying its protection. The money thus collected is spent in maintaining the righteous administration that gives them the freedom and protects their rights. This also serves as a yearly reminder to them that they have been deprived of the honor of paying Zakat in the Way of Allah, and forced to pay jizyah instead as a price of following the ways of error. (source)
Note further down on the same page Maududi says:
32The Arabic word ad-din has been translated into 'ways'. For the word din, as has already been explained in E.N. 204, :Al-Baqarah, is used for the 'way of life' or the 'system of life', which is followed in obedience to the supreme authority.
Now let us try to understand the significance of this verse. The object of the Mission of the Messenger is to make the Guidance and the Right Way he has brought from Allah dominant over all the other ways and systems of life. In other words, the Messenger is not sent to allow Allah's Way to remain subordinate to other ways in order to enjoy concessions from them. He is sent by the Sovereign of the earth and the heavens to make His Way dominant over all other ways. And if a wrong way is at all allowed to remain on the earth, it should be tolerated only under its own protection by the payment of Jizyah under the limits conferred by the Divine System as in the cast of the system of life of the Zimmis who pay Jizyah
Note the three reasons to fight them presented by Maududi:

  1. Shirk and disbelief
  2. They did not adopt the law of Allah and his Messenger
  3. Because they did not adopt the law, they had to pay jizya as a sign of the bare minimum of tolerance to live considering they reject Islam

It turns out even Muslim commentator Maududi is able to exegete the Quranic passages and contradict his own introductory story reasons for war. He is able to derive from the Quran the true reasons Muslims are to fight disbelievers from a plain reading from the text, something that cannot be done by Zaatari and Samatar least they admit Islam is what it is.

Notes

[1] http://muslim-responses.com/Fighting_those_who_dont_Believe_/Fighting_those_who_dont_Believe_
[2] http://www.islamic-awareness.org/Quran/Tafseer/Ulum/Denffor6.html#Q&Q
[3] p.36, The Chronicle of Theophanes, tr. Harry Turtledove, University of Pennsylvania, 1982
[4] (Pg 72 The Koran, Commonly Called The AlCoran Of Mohammed; Translated Into English Immediately From The Original Arabic; With Explanatory Notes Taken From The Most Approved Commentators; To Which Is Prefixed A Preliminary Discourse By Goerge Sale, Gent. A New Edition, With A Memoir Of The Translator, (and with various readings and illustrative notes from Savary’s version of the Koran) In Two Volumes Vol. 1.)
[5] (Islam and Religious Pluralism Translated by: Sayyid Sulayman Ali Hasan First Edition (2004) Published by:Islamic Publishing House, Canada) 

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