Sura 9 verse 4: يَنقُصوكُم or يَنْقُضُوكُمْ

In Sura 9 verse 4 of the Quran we read the following verse:

إِلَّا الَّذينَ عاهَدتُم مِنَ المُشرِكينَ ثُمَّ لَم يَنقُصوكُم شَيئًا وَلَم يُظاهِروا عَلَيكُم أَحَدًا فَأَتِمّوا إِلَيهِم عَهدَهُم إِلىٰ مُدَّتِهِم ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُحِبُّ المُتَّقينَ

The literal word for word breakdown of this verse is the following:

All modern day Quran’s will have the 8th word in this verse written as “يَنقُصوكُم” distinctly with a ص. The Arabic word “يَنقُصوكُم” has a trilateral root of “ن ق ص” the meaning of this root is:

ن ق ص = to diminish; decrease; run low; lessen; cause loss or deficiency; consume; fall short; waste; abate. 

Here are how some have translated this verse:

(But the treaties are) not dissolved with those Pagans with whom ye have entered into alliance and who have not subsequently failed you in aught, nor aided any one against you. So fulfil your engagements with them to the end of their term: for God loveth the righteous.

Yusuf Ali Translation of Sura 9 verse 4

Excepting those of the idolaters with whom ye (Muslims) have a treaty, and who have since abated nothing of your right nor have supported anyone against you. (As for these), fulfil their treaty to them till their term. Lo! Allah loveth those who keep their duty (unto Him).

Pickthal Translation of Sura 9 verse 4

Except those of the idolaters with whom you made an agreement, then they have not failed you in anything and have not backed up any one against you, so fulfill their agreement to the end of their term; surely Allah loves those who are careful (of their duty).

Shakir Translation of Sura 9 verse 4

Except those of the disbelievers with whom you have entered into a treaty and who have not subsequently failed you in anything nor aided anyone against you. So fulfil to these the treaty you have made with them till their term. Surely Allah loves those that are righteous.

Sher Ali Translation of Sura 9 verse 4

Except for those with whom you had a treaty from among those who have set-up partners if they did not reduce anything from it nor did they plan to attack you; you shall continue the treaty with them until its expiry. God loves the righteous.

Progressive Muslims Translation of Sura 9 verse 4

When you read these translations you can almost sense the translators struggle in attempting to make a comprehensive statement when they write “fail you in anything”. What does this phrase mean in the context of the verse?

One translation that stands out from the rest is from Rashad Khalifa. Below is how Rashad Khalifa translated Sura 9 verse 4:

If the idol worshipers sign a peace treaty with you, and do not violate it, nor band together with others against you, you shall fulfill your treaty with them until the expiration date. GOD loves the righteous.

Khalifa Translation of Sura 9 verse 4

While Rashad Khalifa’s translation structurally makes more sense, the question is how did he come to this understanding that the word يَنقُصوكُم should be translated as “violate” as opposed to “fail”? One could argue that to fail someone in something in context of عَاهَدْتُمْ (a treaty) could be understood as a violation, but I think there may be another way to look at this.

The Arabic root “ ن ق ض ” has the following meaning:

ن ق ض = to pull down; demolish; break (a contract); undo a thing; violate (a treaty); unravel; untwist. 

It is worth noting that when written, symbolically the only difference between these two roots “ن ق ض” and “ن ق ص” is just a single dot.

I investigated eight of the earliest Qurans that I could access that contained this passage to see if any of these Qurans wrote the word “ يَنقُصوكُم ” with a ض. These Quran’s are estimated to be written between ~660AD – ~900AD.

In seven of the eight Quran’s, the Arabic text did not differentiate between ص and ض , both were written without a dot.

In seven of these Quran’s the text did not use dots to differentiate between ص and ض. This was confirmed by looking at the word “ يُرْضُونَكُمْ ” in Sura 9 verse 8 in addition to the word “ يَنْقُصُوكُمْ ” from Sura 9 verse 4. Below are images of each of the manuscripts with the corresponding words identified in a red outline.

This makes it very possible that the proper transcription of this word “ يَنْقُصُوكُمْ ” in Sura 9 verse 4 should be “ يَنْقُضُوكُمْ ”.

But in one manuscript, that happened to be the most worn out, the word appears to be written with a “ض ” .  

Figure: The fragment in Kufic font style comes from the private collection of Prof. Dr. med. Mark Mersiowsky (Stuttgart), who allowed the German-French research project Coranica to date a sample by C-14 analysis. The parchment was produced with a probability of 95.4% (σ2) between 690 and 877.

Here is a closer image:

One can distinctly see three dots on the top of the word. It should be pointed out that in older versions of Quranic script, like the one imaged above, the letter “فَ” is written with no dots while the “ق” is written with a single dot on top. This can be confirmed in the same verse with the the word “الْمُتَّقِينَ ” where only a single dot is used as well.

This provides possible conclusive evidence that the word “ يَنْقُصُوكُمْ ” in Sura 9 verse 4 should actually be “ يَنْقُضُوكُمْ ”. If this is the case, how is it possible that Rashad Khalifa was able to identify the correct understanding of this verse despite most likely reading a version written as يَنْقُصُوكُمْ ?

Additionally, if we look at 2:27, 8:56, 13:20 and 13:25, we see the word: يَنْقُضُونَ which would correspond with the third person plural of يَنْقُضُوكُمْ . This further confirms that يَنْقُضُوكُمْ should be the proper writing for Sura 9 verse 4. Below are the corresponding translation for these verses:

الَّذينَ يَنقُضونَ عَهدَ اللَّهِ مِن بَعدِ ميثاقِهِ وَيَقطَعونَ ما أَمَرَ اللَّهُ بِهِ أَن يوصَلَ وَيُفسِدونَ فِي الأَرضِ ۚ أُولٰئِكَ هُمُ الخاسِرونَ

who violate GOD’s covenant after pledging to uphold it, sever what GOD has commanded to be joined, and commit evil. These are the losers.

Quran 2:27

الَّذينَ عاهَدتَ مِنهُم ثُمَّ يَنقُضونَ عَهدَهُم في كُلِّ مَرَّةٍ وَهُم لا يَتَّقونَ

You reach agreements with them, but they violate their agreements every time; they are not righteous.

Quran 8:56

وَالَّذينَ يَنقُضونَ عَهدَ اللَّهِ مِن بَعدِ ميثاقِهِ وَيَقطَعونَ ما أَمَرَ اللَّهُ بِهِ أَن يوصَلَ وَيُفسِدونَ فِي الأَرضِ ۙ أُولٰئِكَ لَهُمُ اللَّعنَةُ وَلَهُم سوءُ الدّارِ

As for those who violate GOD’s covenant after pledging to keep it, and sever what GOD has commanded to be joined, and commit evil, they have incurred condemnation; they have incurred the worst destiny.

Quran 13:25

الَّذينَ يوفونَ بِعَهدِ اللَّهِ وَلا يَنقُضونَ الميثاقَ

They are the ones who fulfill their pledge to GOD, and do not violate the covenant.

Quran 13:20

Pharaoh’s Arrogance (28:36 – 28:42)

Pharaoh’s Arrogance

[28:36] When Moses went to them with our proofs, clear and profound, they said, “This is fabricated magic. We have never heard of this from our ancient ancestors.” [28:37] Moses said, “My Lord knows best who brought the guidance from Him, and who will be the ultimate victors. Surely, the transgressors never succeed.” [28:38] Pharaoh said, “O you elders, I have not known of any god for you other than me. Therefore, fire the adobe, O Hãmãn, in order to build a tower, that I may take a look at the god of Moses. I am sure that he is a liar.” [28:39] Thus, he and his troops continued to commit arrogance on earth, without any right, and thought that they would not be returned to us. [28:40] Consequently, we punished him and his troops, by throwing them into the sea. Note the consequences for the transgressors. [28:41] We made them imams who led their people to Hell. Furthermore, on the Day of Resurrection, they will have no help. [28:42] They incurred in this life condemnation, and on the Day of Resurrection they will be despised.

Why does Pharaoh call the proofs “fabricated magic”? I can understand magic, but fabricated?

Upholding the Teachings of Religious Leaders Instead of God’s Teachings

[9:31] They have set up their religious leaders and scholars as lords,* instead of GOD. Others deified the Messiah, son of Mary. They were all commanded to worship only one god. There is no god except He. Be He glorified, high above having any partners.

[40:46] The Hell will be shown to them day and night, and on the Day of Resurrection: “Admit Pharaoh’s people into the worst retribution.” [40:47] As they argue in Hell, the followers will say to their leaders, “We used to be your followers, can you spare us any part of this Hell?” [40:48] The leaders will say, “We are all in this together. GOD has judged among the people.”

[20:79] Thus, Pharaoh misled his people; he did not guide them.

Moses Appointed (28:30 – 28:35)

Moses Appointed

[28:30] When he reached it, he was called from the edge of the right side of the valley, in the blessed spot where the burning bush was located: “O Moses, this is Me. GOD; Lord of the universe. [28:31] “Throw down your staff.” When he saw it moving like a demon, he turned around and fled. “O Moses, come back; do not be afraid. You are perfectly safe. [28:32] “Put your hand into your pocket; it will come out white without a blemish. Fold your wings and settle down from your fear. These are two proofs from your Lord, to be shown to Pharaoh and his elders; they have been wicked people.” [28:33] He said, “My Lord, I killed one of them, and I fear lest they kill me. [28:34] “Also, my brother Aaron is more eloquent than I. Send him with me as a helper to confirm and strengthen me. I fear lest they disbelieve me.” [28:35] He said, “We will strengthen you with your brother, and we will provide you both with manifest authority. Thus, they will not be able to touch either one of you. With our miracles, the two of you, together with those who follow you, will be the victors.”

Back to Egypt (28:29)

Back to Egypt

[28:29] When he had fulfilled his obligation, he traveled with his family (towards Egypt). He saw from the slope of Mount Sinai a fire. He said to his family, “Stay here. I have seen a fire. Maybe I can bring to you news, or a portion of the fire to warm you.”

Moses Marries (28:26 – 28:28)

Moses Marries

[28:26] One of the two women said, “O my father, hire him. He is the best one to hire, for he is strong and honest.” [28:27] He said, “I wish to offer one of my two daughters for you to marry, in return for working for me for eight pilgrimages; if you make them ten, it will be voluntary on your part. I do not wish to make this matter too difficult for you. You will find me, GOD willing, righteous.” [28:28] He said, “It is an agreement between me and you. Whichever period I fulfill, you will not be averse to either one. GOD is the guarantor of what we said.”

Did Moses have to wait 8 – 10 pilgrimages before he got married? Or did he get married and then fulfill his agreement?

Shows the length of time from meeting his future wife to marriage, eight pilgrimages.

This shows that Moses performed Hajj. This is in the index under Hajj. Lesson here may be not to rush into marriage.

[4:25] Those among you who cannot afford to marry free believing women, may marry believing slave women. GOD knows best about your belief, and you are equal to one another, as far as belief is concerned. You shall obtain permission from their guardians before you marry them, and pay them their due dowry equitably. They shall maintain moral behavior, by not committing adultery, or having secret lovers. Once they are freed through marriage, if they commit adultery, their punishment shall be half of that for the free women.* Marrying a slave shall be a last resort for those unable to wait. To be patient is better for you. GOD is Forgiver, Most Merciful.

[15:72] But, alas, they were totally blinded by their lust.

In Midyan (28:22 – 28:25)

In Midyan

[28:22] As he traveled towards Midyan, he said, “May my Lord guide me in the right path.” [28:23] When he reached Midyan’s water, he found a crowd of people watering, and noticed two women waiting on the side. He said, “What is it that you need?” They said, “We are not able to water, until the crowd disperses, and our father is an old man.” [28:24] He watered for them, then turned to the shade, saying, “My Lord, whatever provision You send to me, I am in dire need for it.” [28:25] Soon, one of the two women approached him, shyly, and said, “My father invites you to pay you for watering for us.” When he met him, and told him his story, he said, “Have no fear. You have been saved from the oppressive people.”

Moses fulfills the need of others then asks God to fulfill his needs. In return, God provides him security, a family, righteous wife and father-in-law.

Supplication: A Form of Worship

[40:60] Your Lord says, “Implore Me, and I will respond to you. Surely, those who are too arrogant to worship Me will enter Gehenna, forcibly.”

Moses’ Crime Exposed (28:19 – 28:21)

Moses’ Crime Exposed

[28:19] Before he attempted to strike their common enemy, he said, “O Moses, do you want to kill me, as you killed the other man yesterday? Obviously, you wish to be a tyrant on earth; you do not wish to be righteous.” [28:20] A man came running from the other side of the city, saying, “O Moses, the people are plotting to kill you. You better leave immediately. I am giving you good advice.” [28:21] He fled the city, afraid and watchful. He said, “My Lord, save me from the oppressive people.”

Acts 7:

23“When Moses was forty years old, he decided to visit his own people, the Israelites. 24He saw one of them being mistreated by an Egyptian, so he went to his defense and avenged him by killing the Egyptian. 25Moses thought that his own people would realize that God was using him to rescue them, but they did not. 26The next day Moses came upon two Israelites who were fighting. He tried to reconcile them by saying, ‘Men, you are brothers; why do you want to hurt each other?’ 27“But the man who was mistreating the other pushed Moses aside and said, ‘Who made you ruler and judge over us? 28Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?’