There is a hadith that says, “You will fight against the Jews and you will kill them until even a stone would say: come here, O Muslim, there is a Jew, so kill him.”
Does this mean killing Jews is a good deed in Islam?
In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
This narration is describing a specific miraculous event which will occur near the end of time. It is not a narration from which is derived a legal ruling. In other words, this narration is a description, not a prescription. For this reason, the scholars recorded this narration in the books of tribulations near the end of time and portents of the Hour. They did not record it in the books of legal punishment.
As another narration makes clear, this is a group of unbelieving Jews who are followers of the False Messiah, a man who will claim to be God. These Jews do not believe in their own scriptures, let alone Islam. Jesus, peace and blessings be upon him, is recorded as saying:
أَنَّ الدَّجَّالَ خَارِجٌ قَالَ وَمَعِي قَضِيبَانِ فَإِذَا رَآنِي ذَابَ كَمَا يَذُوبُ الرَّصَاصُ قَالَ فَيُهْلِكُهُ اللَّهُ حَتَّى إِنَّ الْحَجَرَ وَالشَّجَرَ لَيَقُولُ يَا مُسْلِمُ إِنَّ تَحْتِي كَافِرًا فَتَعَالَ فَاقْتُلْهُ قَالَ فَيُهْلِكُهُمْ اللَّهُ
The False Messiah will emerge and I will have with me two bars, so when he sees me he will melt away like the melting of lead. Allah will destroy him until the stone and the tree say: O Muslim, underneath me is an unbeliever, so slay him. Thus, Allah will destroy them.
Source: Musnad Ahmad 3546, Grade: Sahih
It is these particular Jews, not all Jews, whom the believers will fight and will be aided with miracles from Allah. The Quran is careful to distinguish between righteous and sinful Jews.
لَيْسُوا سَوَاءً مِّنْ أَهْلِ الْكِتَابِ أُمَّةٌ قَائِمَةٌ يَتْلُونَ آيَاتِ اللَّهِ آنَاءَ اللَّيْلِ وَهُمْ يَسْجُدُونَ يُؤْمِنُونَ بِاللَّهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الْآخِرِ وَيَأْمُرُونَ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَيَنْهَوْنَ عَنِ الْمُنكَرِ وَيُسَارِعُونَ فِي الْخَيْرَاتِ وَأُولَٰئِكَ مِنَ الصَّالِحِينَ وَمَا يَفْعَلُوا مِنْ خَيْرٍ فَلَن يُكْفَرُوهُ وَاللَّهُ عَلِيمٌ بِالْمُتَّقِينَ
They are not all the same; among the People of the Scripture is a community standing, reciting the verses of Allah during periods of the night and prostrating in prayer. They believe in Allah and the Last Day, and they enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong and hasten to good deeds; and those are among the righteous. Whatever good they do – never will it be removed from them; and Allah knows the righteous.
Surah Ali Imran 3:113-115
In another verse, Allah praises the Jews who uphold the teachings of Moses:
وَمِن قَوْمِ مُوسَىٰ أُمَّةٌ يَهْدُونَ بِالْحَقِّ وَبِهِ يَعْدِلُونَ
Among the people of Moses is a community which guides by truth and by it establishes justice.
Surah Al-A’raf 7:159
Muslims have been encouraged to behave well with these peaceful Jews, and indeed all people of different religions who seek peace.
لَّا يَنْهَاكُمُ اللَّهُ عَنِ الَّذِينَ لَمْ يُقَاتِلُوكُمْ فِي الدِّينِ وَلَمْ يُخْرِجُوكُم مِّن دِيَارِكُمْ أَن تَبَرُّوهُمْ وَتُقْسِطُوا إِلَيْهِمْ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُحِبُّ الْمُقْسِطِينَ إِنَّمَا يَنْهَاكُمُ اللَّهُ عَنِ الَّذِينَ قَاتَلُوكُمْ فِي الدِّينِ وَأَخْرَجُوكُم مِّن دِيَارِكُمْ وَظَاهَرُوا عَلَىٰ إِخْرَاجِكُمْ أَن تَوَلَّوْهُمْ وَمَن يَتَوَلَّهُمْ فَأُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الظَّالِمُونَ
Allah does not forbid you from those who do not fight you because of religion and do not expel you from your homes – from being righteous toward them and acting justly toward them. Indeed, Allah loves those who act justly. Allah only forbids you from those who fight you because of religion and expel you from your homes and aid in your expulsion – He forbids that you make allies of them; and whoever makes allies of them, then it is those who are the wrongdoers.
Surah Al-Mumtahina 60:8-9
At-Tabari, an important commentator on the Quran, explains this verse by saying:
لَا يَنْهَاكُمُ اللَّهُ عَنِ الَّذِينَ لَمَّ يُقَاتِلُوكُمْ فِي الدِّينِ مِنْ جَمِيعِ أَصْنَافِ الْمِلَلِ وَالْأَدْيَانِ أَنْ تَبَرُّوهُمْ وَتَصِلُوهُمْ ، وَتُقْسِطُوا إِلَيْهِمْ
Allah does not forbid you from those who do not fight you because of religion – including all the sects, creeds, and religions – that you behave righteously with them, maintain good relations with them, and act fairly with them.
Source: Tafseer At-Tabari 60:8
For this reason, the Prophet was careful to behave well towards the Jews. For example, on one occasion the funeral procession of a Jewish elder was passing by the Muslims. The Prophet stood up out of respect for his humanity. It was said, “It is a Jew.” So the Prophet said:
Was he not a soul?
Source: Sahih Bukhari 1250, Grade: Muttafaqun Alayhi
Following the Prophet’s example, the companions were eager to behave well with their Jewish neighbors, as this is a great way of seeking reward from Allah.
كُنْتُ عِنْدَ عَبْدِ اللهِ بْنِ عَمْرٍو وَغُلاَمُهُ يَسْلُخُ شَاةً فَقَالَ يَا غُلاَمُ إِذَا فَرَغْتَ فَابْدَأْ بِجَارِنَا الْيَهُودِيِّ فَقَالَ رَجُلٌ مِنَ الْقَوْمِ: الْيَهُودِيُّ أَصْلَحَكَ اللَّهُ قَالَ إِنِّي سَمِعْتُ النَّبِيَّ صلى الله عليه وسلم يُوصِي بِالْجَارِ حَتَّى خَشِينَا أَوْ رُئِينَا أَنَّهُ سَيُوَرِّثُهُ
I was with Abdullah ibn Amr while his servant was skinning a sheep. He said: O boy, when you finish up, then start with the Jewish neighbor. A man there exclaimed: May Allah correct you! He replied: I heard the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, recommending that we treat our neighbors well until we thought that he would order us to make them our heirs.
Source: Al-Adab Al-Mufrad 128, Grade: Hasan
In conclusion, the hadith of the gharqad tree is a narration whose implications must be understood in the full light of Islamic tradition. Violent extremists and anti-Muslim activists alike will cite this narration out of context in order to spread discord and hatred among Jews and Muslims. We seek refuge in Allah from their corruption and we pray that Allah will frustrate them by bestowing peace upon Jews and Muslims.
Success comes from Allah, and Allah knows best.