Examination of Verse 4 of Surah Muhammad:
As with other verses, what this verse is emphasizing is the presence of a climate of war. The treaty has been broken, the polytheists have gone on the offensive and there is now no alternative but to respond to that aggression. What this verse is describing is the international rules of warfare. In addition, it also describes something that is not actually applied under the international rules of warfare: the release of prisoners as soon as the fighting is over. Yet today, prisoners of war are still being held in Guantanamo Bay in Cuba even though the Iraq War is over, and organizations such as the U.N. and NATO regard this as legitimate. But the Qur’an does not regard that law as legitimate: In the view of Islam, all prisoners must be released as soon as the fighting is over.
The verses concerning war are clearly describing defensive wars under the conditions of the time, being waged solely against polytheists and hypocrites who initiate hostilities and spread fitna and corruption. The main reason why these verses are misinterpreted and used for the policies of rage and hatred of the radicals is that hundreds of false hadiths have been added to Islam and the false perspectives of some analysts. Yet the Qur’an needs to be read with a pure and enlightened mind, purged of all false hadiths and other superstition. When considered in the light of the climate of war of that time, the meaning of these verses is crystal clear.
Under Islamic law, war is only permissible for defensive purposes, and prisoners must be released when it is over. This is a practice not even found in the international law of war. Indeed, prisoners from past conflicts are still being kept under harsh conditions in prisons such as Guantanamo Bay.