Disbelief in Islam

The Koran on non-Muslims Part 1c: Zalim

By Jon MC



That Islamic belief and attitudes are grounded by the Islamic canon is a given, but neither does the canon dictate belief itself, the individual may always believe or not believe (at least in private), in part or total, as they choose – which is a point made in the Koran itself.Further even the Koran is subject to interpretation, hence the Islamic ‘science’ of Tafseer which ranges from the literalistic to the (frankly) fanciful in some Sufi traditions.

So let me make it clear what this article is not about.

It is not about the beliefs of any individual Muslim, most of whom are as good, kind and decent as any other group; ethnic, religious or otherwise, of people.



According to the Quranic Arabic Corpus “Zalimoon” is derived from the triliteral root “za-la-mim”, which occurs 315 times in the Koran. The words derived from this root carry meanings of “wronged”, “wrong-doing”, “wrong-doers”, “injustice”, “oppression” and  “darkness”.

The word “Zalimoon” (or “ththalimoon” in some Romanisations) is translated as: “evil-doers” (A), “wrong-doer” (HK, I, MA, P, SI), “unjust” (S), “harm and transgression” (Y), “transgressors” (E, M, SD), “wicked folk” (I), though translations vary according to context (Arberry is particularly consistent in his usage however).

What is significant is that the translators see “Zalimoon” as doers. They are not “wrong-thinkers” or “evil-sayers”; no, they are wrong or evil doers. Rather like “khufr” this evil or wrongness is practised and a choice (see, for example 14:42). It can be understood in two ways: firstly the evil/wrong/harm could be done to the Zalimoon themselves (e.g. 43:76) (they are “fitting” themselves for hell after all) and/or secondly it could be that this “harm” could be done to the Umma, the Muslim believers.

2:51 (and 2:92-95) extends the meaning to “polytheists” in conjunction with the story about the “golden calf” of the Israelites in Moses’ time, M calls this a “wicked transgression” in the first instance and “evil” in the second, SD use “causing harm” – again presumably to themselves – and in 2:95 SD use “harm-doers”. In this last the implication is, I think, that harm is done to the Umma by these Zalimoon who are identified (in these instances) as the Jews – who elsewhere are identified as the Muslims’ bitterest enemies. Indeed the Jews are the group most often identified as being amongst the Zalimoon in the Koran.

Another point to be made here (2:92-95) is that in these verses we have “Zalimoon” associated with “Mushrikoon” since the act of associating  the calf with Allah (by worship of it) made the Israelites both Mushrikoon and Zalimoon. This is repeated in the passage centred on 7:148.

2:145 identifies Jews and Christians as “Zalimoon” (albeit by a negative inference), 5:51 does so in a positive statement. 5:72 defines Christians as Zalimoon.

2:193 (Irving): “Fight them until there is no more subversion [=”fitnah”, otherwise translated as “persecution”, “tumult and oppression”, “mischief”] and (all) religion belongs to God. If they stop, let there be no (more) hostility except toward wrongdoers [Zalimoon]”. This tells Muslims to fight against “zalimoon” because they are “oppressors” (E, M, Q, S, SI, Y), “wrong-doers” (I, MA, P), “evil-doers” (A), “harm-doers” (SD) (again I think SD mean harm-doers as “those that ‘injure’ or ‘oppress’ the Umma”), “the polytheists, and wrong-doers, etc.” (HK). Thus in this verse a majority of translators link the “Zalimoon” to oppressors of the Umma  and the Zalimoon must, therefore, have war waged against them.

Note: “Mischief” in this context means rather more than the pranks of a naughty boy. It means something more along the lines of  “stirring up trouble or (religious) doubt for the Umma” or “engaging in activities that  are unlawful according to Sharia”, or “impeding a fully Sharia-compliant lifestyle” – this latter is quite important since this is considered “oppression” by Islam.

Note the significance of this verse: at first sight  this verse is “a command to be hostile only towards ‘wrong-doers’” – but since, in essence, all non-Muslims are wrong-doers this verse really commands hostility towards (non-Dhimmi) non-Muslims for simply refusing to be Muslim.

2:229. This verse is primarily about divorce (the requirement for a man to divorce a wife three times to make it legally binding), but it ends as follows (Kanz-ul-Eeman): “whoso transgresses the limits of Allah, then they are the oppressors [Zalimoon, or: wrongdoers (P, M, Q, Y), “unjust” (S), “evil-doers” (A, MA), “wrong-doers (i.e. unjust)” (SI – yes, it does get two meanings in), “harm doers” (SD).] The main point here (irrespective of the exact language) is that the “limits of Allah” are, ultimately, defined by Sharia law and that anyone (Muslim or not) who breaks Sharia law is therefore a “Zalimoon” as is someone who breaks a command of Allah (see 2:35, 7:19, 60:9). From previous arguments this will be any non-Muslim. A second point is the inference that anything that is not “Sharia-compliant” is (or can be) deemed “oppressive” to the Umma by Islam.

2:254 “the unbelievers [kaffirs], they are the [Zalimoon].” This verse equates kaffirs to Zalimoon. The same equation is made in 2:258, 3:86, 3:127-128,  3:140 (this verse is a little opaque), 3:151,  4:75-76, and more obliquely in 6:33.

2:270 tells us that “the Zalimoon will have no helpers [ansarin]” and 2:271 speaks of charitable acts. Implicit here is a “do not help Zalimoon/Kaffirs” statement. Similarly 3:192 and several other verses, though the context in these is eschatological.

4:75 And what is wrong with you that you fight not in the Cause of Allah, and for those…whose cry is: “Our Lord! Rescue us from this town whose people are the oppressors[al-Zalimi]” (HK, I, M, MA, P, S, SI,Y); or: “evil-doers” (A), “unjust” (E), “harm-doers” (SD)]. Although most translators render “zalimi” as “oppressors”, it is not unanimous and in general terms the word choices carry the same meaning.

In 4:97, the same word “zalimi” is translated as “harming” (I), “wronging / wronged” (A, E, M, P, Q, SD), “unjust” (S), “sinning” (MA). This verse clearly shows that the “wronging” that “al-Zalimi” – Zalimoon – do is against themselves, as does 18:50, 43:76.

5:45 “… Those who do not judge by what God has sent down are wrongdoers[Zalimoon].” Here anyone who does not judge (live by) Sharia law is a “Zalimoon”. Thus being a Zalimoon carries with it an element of illegality and criminality. This is also implicit in 9:19, 9:23.

6:21 says that the “zalimina” make up lies about Allah, as does 6:33, 6:144, 11:18, One element of this “lying” is that Zalimoon think Mohammed is “bewitched” (e.g. 17:47, 25:8), another is that they deny the “signs” [ayat = proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, miracles, revelations, etc. – according to HK] of Allah (e.g. 6:33), This latter extends the meaning of Zalimoon to all non-Muslims, since were a non-Muslim to believe these “ayat” they would, logically enough, convert.

9:47-48 (Saheeh International): Had they [hypocrites, in this case ‘half-hearted’ Muslims] gone forth [to the battle at Tobuk] with you, they would not have increased you except in confusion, and they would have been active among you, seeking (to cause) you fitnah (i.e., chaos and dissension). And among you are avid listeners to them. And Allah is Knowing of the wrongdoers [Zalimoon]. They had already desired dissension before and had upset matters for you…” This verse links two things: it links the “hypocrites” (in this instance “half-hearted” Muslims) to the Zalimoon and it also shows that the harm/wrong/evil done by Zalimoon can be done to the Umma. Thus this verse shows that both meanings (that Zalimoon “harm” both themselves and the Muslim Umma) are correct. The different translators use a variety of words to convey the same meaning.

14:22(Malik): “I [Satan] reject [kafaru] what you did before, that you associated [ashraktumūni] me with Allah. Certainly such wrongdoers [Zalimoon] will have painful punishment.”  This verse links the “associators” (Mushrikoon) with Zalimoon explicitly. The same is found in 22:71,

17:99 links the Zalimoon to the act of Khufr: “but the Zalimoon refused (anything) except (acts of) disbelief [kufooran].” (My own rendition). Thus by definition the Zalimoon are Kaffirs. This link is also made in 18:29.

In 21:59 an idolator speaks of someone who destroyed idols as being “of the zalimoon”. Here a “Zalimoon” is clearly doing harm/evil/wrong to his host society, in a sort of “mirror image” to the way that non-Muslim Zalimoon inflict harm on the Umma.

23:28 (Hilali-Khan): “And when you have embarked on the ship [= the Ark, this is part of a Noah story], you and whoever is with you, then say: “All the praises and thanks be to Allah, Who has saved us from the people who are Zalimoon (i.e. oppressors, wrong-doers, polytheists, those who join others in worship with Allah, etc.).” In this verse praises are to be offered to Allah for saving “the faithful” from the Zalimoon, thus implying that the Zalimoon were harming the “faithful” and thus that Zalimoon harm the Umma. Similar attitudes are found in 28:21, 28:25, 66:11 SD translate Zalimoon in these cases as “harm doing nation” again implying harm done to the “faithful”. You will also note HK’s “catch all” definition of Zalimoon. In particular they make a specific equation of Zalimoon = Mushrikoon, as well as declaring Zalimoon to be “oppressors”.

On many occasions in the Koran the Zalimoon are placed in hell (e.g. 3:151, 5:29, 6:40, 6:93, 7:41, 9:109, 19:72, 21:29) and are cursed (e.g. 7:44, 11:18), unloved (e.g. 3:55, 3:57, 3:140, 42:40) and threatened with punishment (e.g. 8:25, 14:13, 25:7, 52,47, 76:31) by Allah and that they will be “done away with” or destroyed (e.g. 6:47, 10:39, 11:44, 14:13, 23:41, 28:40). They are also “losers” (e.g. 6:20, 6:135, 12:23, 28:37) and without guidance (e.g. 2:258, 3:86, 5:51, 6:144,  28:50, 62:5 )



  • The “Zalimoon” are “wrong-doers”. This doing is active, not passive and it is effective and harmful. It is a wilful act.
  • The “wrong” (or harm, or evil) is done both to the Zalimoon themselves, who ‘wrong’ themselves by not following Islam; and also against the Muslim Umma by spreading tumult, discord etc., and by “oppressing” Muslims (in this context “oppression” may be considered as anything that impedes an Islamic life, i.e. anything considered un-Islamic or unlawful under Sharia), so much so that, on occasion, Muslims need to be rescued from them.
  • Implicit in the term “Zalimoon” is an element of illegality and criminality, both in the physical and spiritual realms. In the physical realm those who “do not judge by what Allah has sent down”, ultimately Sharia, are Zalimoon (5:45) since, in the eyes of Islam their judgements are deemed “unjust” and thus “oppressive” to Muslims. In the spiritual realm Zalimoon are accused of making up lies about Allah, these “lies” include that they deny Allah’s “signs”. Logically, if one accepts “Allah’s signs”, one becomes Muslim. Therefore this “spiritual deceit” is (partly) that of refusing to accept Islam – the act of “khufr” which makes one a Kaffir. Thus kaffir are Zalimoon. This is made explicit in 17:99.

Note: Thus the relatively “benign” verse 2:193 Fight them until there is no more subversion and (all) religion belongs to God. If they stop, let there be no (more) hostility except toward  Zalimoon” which appears to limit hostility to “wrong-doers” actually extends this hostility to all Kaffir (or more accurately non-dhimmi ones) and also underpins the idea that if a dhimmi becomes a “wrong doer” (by breach of the dhimmah) then (active) hostility could and should resume (though some Sharia authorities permit the ex-dhimmi to repent, make amends and be “restored to his privileges” – such as keeping his head on his shoulders). I should further state that many authorities consider this verse abrogated by the far less elliptical “verse of the sword”, K9:5 and/or the “fighting verse” K.9:29.

  • Mushrikoon are identified as Zalimoon. Here an element of their wrong-doing is definitely Spiritual, linked to the fact that they “associate others” with Allah.
  • Thus we find that the descriptor “Zalimoon” is linked back to “Mushrikoon” and to “Kaffiroon” (this latter both directly and indirectly)
  • The Zalimoon also stand accused of spreading “fitnah” – variously rendered as “tumult”, “discord”, “sedition”, “persecution”, “oppression”; in fact anything that disturbs the peace and harmony of the Umma – i.e. anything “un-Islamic”, such as criticism of Islam.

This (assumed) attribute of the “Zalimoon” (that they act against the interests of the Umma)  is one reason why Islam (in all four main Sunni as well as the Shi’a schools of Law) justifies the murder of unrepentent apostates on the grounds that they are “treasonous”. This is particularly common in cases of apologia to the West on the grounds that we can all understand why a traitor should be punished. However, this carefully (and deliberately) overlooks the fact that in Islam the act of open apostasy itself is deemed treasonous to the Umma and deserving of death – a sort of “pre-emptive ‘justice’” on the grounds that if they are left alive they will act against the Umma because the Koran says they will.

  • Jews are frequently reviled as Zalimoon.
  • Zalimoon are to be fought against.

To put it in a sentence: the Zalimoon, aka Kaffirs, are active unjust criminal oppressors of the Umma, both physically and spiritually, who seek to spread dissent and discord with their lies about Islam within the body of the Umma and their refusal to abide by Islamic precepts and who should, therefore, be fought until they either accept Islam, Dhimitude, or are killed.