Neither of your inferences are
correct. Since this verse and other verses of similar meaning have a specific
context and background, I’ll try to explain this context, which, hopefully, will
bring out the true purport of this verse:
It is evident from the Qur’ān (2:62)
that the basic truths for which man shall be held accountable on the Day of
1. Belief in the One and Only God.
2. Belief that a person shall be held
accountable on the day of judgement.
3. Belief that this accountability shall
be based on the deeds a person does in this world.
The Almighty selects and sends certain
personalities called Prophets (Rusul) to elucidate and explain these basic
truths to their respective people. With His special help and assistance, they
remove misconceptions which may surround these concepts and vehemently say that
if people do not accept these truths they shall be doomed in this world and in
the Hereafter too. People who knowingly deny these truths are punished in
various degrees so that this whole episode can become an argument for the reward
and punishment that is going to take place on similar grounds in the Hereafter.
The Prophet Muhammad (sws) too, like the
previous Prophets (sws), explained these truths in their ultimate form through
the special help of the Almighty. When it became evident that his addressees
were deliberately denying him, they were punished in varying degrees to prove to
mankind for the last time that a similar court of justice shall be set up on the
Day of Judgement, and that the reward and punishment given by the Almighty
through His Prophets (sws) to their addressees in their collective capacity in
this world would be given to all the people who deny such basic truths. The
idolaters were given the options of accepting faith or death and the People of
the Book were given the options of accepting faith or remaining subservient and
paying Jizyah, a tax imposed on them. This difference seems to stem from the
fact that the idolaters subscribed to polytheism even after being convinced
about its baselessness, while the People of the Book were basically monotheistic
though were involved in certain polytheistic practices.
It is evident from this thesis that 9:29
specifically relates to the Prophet’ addressees. It is not directly related to
us. After the departure of the Prophets of Allah, no Muslim preacher can deliver
the truth in its ultimate form and neither has he any means to know if his
addressees are knowingly denying him. Therefore, today Muslims cannot wage war
on the non-Muslims of the world to forcibly make them accept faith. They must
keep on presenting Islam to them in a polite and humble manner. Only the Prophet
(sws) and his companions had this authority since it was actually the Almighty
who had delivered the truth in its ultimate form through him and his addressees
knowingly denied the truth.
Today the Muslims fail to realize this
difference and insist on doing something which is the prerogative of only the
Prophets of Allah and their companions.