8. Al-Anfal (The Spoils of War)

This sūrah was revealed during the Madīnah period of Islam, just after the Battle of Badr, the first major confrontation between the Muslims of Madīnah and the polytheists of Makkah. It takes its name from the word al-anfāl found in the first verse. Al-Anfal (The Spoils of War or The Accessions or Gains of War) has the meaning of “extra, addition,” but here refers to the spoils taken in war. The sūrah deals for the most part with the Battle of Badr and the lessons that are to be taken from it, and instructs believers in topics such us jihād, hijrah (emigration for God’s sake), the law of war, treaties, gains of war, patience, mutual helping and solidarity, and reliance on God.

In the Name of God, the All-Merciful, the All-Compassionate.

1. They (the believers) ask you about the war-gains. Say: “The war-gains belong to God and the Messenger (and they distribute them as they will).” So keep from disobedience to God in reverence for Him and piety, and set things right among yourselves to allow no discord; and obey God and His Messenger if you are true believers.1

2. The true believers are only those who, when God is mentioned, their hearts tremble with awe, and when His Revelations are recited to them, it strengthens them in faith, and they put their trust in their Lord.

3. They establish the Prayer in conformity with its conditions, and out of whatever We have provided for them (of wealth, knowledge, power, etc.), they spend (to provide sustenance for the needy, and in God’s cause, purely for the good pleasure of God, and without placing others under obligation.)

4. Those (illustrious ones) are they who are truly believers. For them are ranks with their Lord (to be granted one after the other), and forgiveness (to bring unforeseen blessings), and generous, honorable provisions.

5. Just so, your Lord caused you to go forth from your home for a true cause (which He had already determined would be realized); and yet a group from among the believers were averse (to the direction that events took).

6. They argued with you concerning the truth (of the matter which God had already decided would be realized) even after it (the direction that developments would take) had been manifest, as if they were being driven toward death with their eyes wide open.

7. Even when God had promised you that one of the two hosts (the trade caravan and the Makkan army approaching) would fall to you, you still wished that other than the powerful, armed one should fall into your hands – whereas God willed to prove the truth to be true by His decrees and make it triumphant, and uproot the unbelievers (by causing their leaders to die).

8. (He willed it so) so as to prove the truth to be true and make it triumphant, and the falsehood to be false, however hateful this might be to the disbelieving criminals.2

9. When you were imploring your Lord for help (as a special mercy), and He responded to you: “I will help you with a thousand angels, coming host after host.”

10. God did that only as glad tidings (of your imminent victory), and that your hearts thereby might be at rest. For help and victory come from God alone. Surely God is All-Glorious with irresistible might, All-Wise.

11. When (at the time that you most needed courage) He caused a slumber to enfold you as a reassurance from Him, and sent down water upon you from the sky, that thereby He might cleanse you (of all actual or ritual impurities, by enabling you to do the minor and major ablution), and take away from you the polluting whisperings of Satan, and through it make your hearts strongand your steps steady.

12. When (in the meantime) your Lord revealed to the angels: “I am certainly with you, so make firm the feet of those who believe. I will cast fear into the hearts of those who disbelieve. So strike at their necks and strike at every finger (which holds a sword or bow).

13. “Do so because they defied God and His Messenger.” Whoever defies God and His Messenger: (let everyone know that) God is severe in retribution.

14. That is (by your deserving, O enemies of God), so taste it, and (let everyone know that) for the unbelievers, there is also the punishment of the Fire.

15. O you who believe! When you encounter in battle those who disbelieve, do not turn your backs on them in flight.

16. For whoever turns his back on them on the day of such an engagement – except that it be tactical maneuvering to fight again, or joining another troop of believers (or taking up a position against another enemy host) – has indeed incurred God’s condemnation, and his final refuge is the Fire; how evil a destination to arrive at!

17. You (O believers) did not kill them (by yourselves in the battle), but God killed them;3 and when you (O Messenger) threw (dust at them at the start of the battle), it was not you who threw but God threw.4 (He did all this) so that He might put the believers to a test by a fair testing from Him (so that they could attain their goal and should know that victory is from God). Surely, God is All-Hearing, All-Knowing.

18. That is (how He treats you), and (let everyone know that) God it is Who undermines the schemes of the unbelievers.

19. If you (O unbelievers) sought a judgment (through battle to see which party is in the right), then surely a judgment has come to you. If you cease (hostilities towards the believers), it is what will be to your good. But if you revert (to hostilities), We will also revert (to what We did to you in that battle). And never will your being a great host be of any avail to you, however numerous it be, and (let everyone know) that God is with the believers.5

20. O you who believe! Obey God and His Messenger, and do not turn away from him when you are hearing (from him God’s Revelations).

21. And do not be like those who say, “We hear,” but in truth they do not hear.

22. Indeed the worst kind of all living creatures in God’s sight are the deaf and dumb, who do not reason and understand.

23. And had God seen any good in them, He would certainly have made them hear, but (being as they are) even if He made them hear, they would surely turn away in aversion.

24. O you who believe! Respond to God and to the Messenger when the Messenger calls you (in the Name of God) to that which gives you life; and know well that surely God “intervenes” between a person and his heart (to cause his heart to swerve); and that He it is to Whom you will be gathered.

25. And beware and guard yourselves against a trial that will surely not smite exclusively those among you who are engaged in wrongdoing; and know that God is severe in retribution.

26. And remember (with gratitude) when you were few and deemed weak in the land (and oppressed), fearing that people would snatch you away, how He provided you with refuge, and strengthened you with His help, and provided for you sustenance out of the pure, wholesome things, that you might give thanks (to Him from the heart and in speech, and in action by fulfilling His commandments).

27. O you who believe! Do not betray God and His Messenger, that you should not betray the trusts in your keeping, while you know (what doing so means).6

28. Know that your possessions and your children are but a trial and temptation, and God is He with Whom there is a tremendous reward.

29. O you who believe! If you keep from disobedience to God in reverence for Him and piety, He will make a criterion for you (in your hearts to distinguish between truth and falsehood, and right and wrong), and blot out from you your evil deeds, and forgive you. God is of tremendous grace and bounty.

30. And (recall, O Messenger) how those who disbelieve schemed against you to take you captive, or kill you, or drive you away (from Makkah). Thus were they scheming, but God put His will into effect (and brought their scheme to nothing). God wills what is the best (for His believing servants) and makes His will prevail.7

31. When Our Revelations are recited to them, they say: “We have heard (the like of this before many times). If we wish, we can speak the like of this; this is nothing but fables of the ancients.”

32. And when they said (even this): “O God! If this is indeed the truth from You, then rain down upon us stones from the sky or bring upon us another painful punishment!”

33. But God would not punish them so long as you were among them; and God is not to punish them (or other people) while they implore Him for forgiveness for their sins.8

34. What plea do they have that God should not punish them, seeing that they bar (the believers) from the Sacred Mosque, although they are not qualified to own and guard it? Its qualified, rightful guardians are only the pious who keep from disobedience to God in reverence for Him, but most of them (those unbelievers) do not know.

35. Their Prayer at the House (in the Sacred Mosque) is nothing but whistling and hand-clapping. Then, taste the punishment because you persistently disbelieve.9

36. Those who are persistent in unbelief spend their wealth in order that they may bar from God’s way. They will continue to spend it so until it becomes for them a source of sighs and anguish, and then they will be vanquished. Those who are persistent in unbelief will finally be gathered into Hell.

37. Thus does God separate the corrupt from the pure, and make all those who are corrupt into a pile, one upon another, and then place them in Hell. Those are indeed the losers.

38. Tell those persistent in unbelief that if they cease (to disbelieve themselves and to prevent others from entering the fold of Islam), what is past will be forgiven them; but if they revert (to their hostilities), then it is manifest by what happened to the people of old times (what their fate must be).

39. And (if they still persist in unbelief and hostilities) fight against them until there is no longer disorder and oppression rooted in rebellion against God, and the whole of religion (the full authority to order the way of life is recognized) for God exclusively. If they cease (to persist in unbelief and continue hostilities toward the believers), then surely God sees well all that they do.10

40. If they still follow their own way, know that God is your Owner and Guardian. How excellent a Guardian and an Owner He is; how excellent a Helper.

41. And know that whatever you take as gains of war, to God belongs one fifth of it, and to the Messenger, and the near kinsfolk, and orphans, and the destitute, and the wayfarer (one devoid of sufficient means of journeying).11 (This you must observe) if you truly believe in God and what We sent down on our Servant on the day when the truth and falsehood were distinguished from each other, the day when the two hosts met in battle. God has full power over everything.

42. (Remember the day) when you were at the nearer end of the valley (of Badr, on the Madīnah side), and they were at the farther end, and the caravan was below you (on the coastal plain). If you had mutually made an appointment to meet for battle in such circumstances, indeed you would not have been able to hold to the appointment. But (God caused you to meet for battle in such circumstances) so that God might accomplish a thing that He had already decreed, in order that he who was to perish should perish by a clear evidence (of his deserving perishing because he followed falsehood), and he who survived might survive by a clear evidence (of his deserving survival because of his devotion to the truth). Surely God is All-Hearing, All-Knowing.

43. (And recall, O Messenger) when God showed them to you in your dream as few (before the battle begins). If He had showed them to you as numerous (as they really were), you (O believers) would surely have lost heart, and would surely have disagreed with one another about the matter. But God saved (you from that). God surely has full knowledge of what lies hidden in the bosoms.

44. And when He made them appear as few in your eyes when you met them in the battle, just as He lessened you in their eyes, so that God might accomplish a thing that He had already decreed. And to God are all affairs ultimately referred (and whatever He wills occurs).

45. O you who believe! When you meet a host in battle, stand firm, and remember and mention God much, that you may triumph.

46. And obey God and His Messenger, and do not dispute with one another, or else you may lose heart and your power and energy desert you; and remain steadfast. Surely, God is with those who remain steadfast.

47. Be not like those (unbelievers) who went forth from their habitations, swaggering boastfully and to show off to people, and bar (others) from God’s way. And God fully encompasses (with His Knowledge and Power) all that they do.

48. Satan decked out their deeds to be appealing to them, and said: “Today, no power among humankind can overcome you and, for sure, I am your supporter.” But when the two hosts came within sight of each other, he turned on his heels to run away and said: “Indeed I am quit of you; surely I see that which you do not see. Indeed, I fear God.”12 And God is severe in retribution.

49. And (remember) when the hypocrites and those in whose hearts there is a sickness (that dries up the source of their spiritual life) were saying (of the believers): “Their religion has deluded those (people).” But whoever puts his trust in God, truly God is All-Glorious with irresistible might, All-Wise.

50. If you could but see how it will be when the angels take the souls of those who disbelieve, striking them on the faces and the backs, and (saying): “Taste the punishment of the scorching Fire!

51. “This is because of (the evil deeds) that you forwarded with your own hands, for never does God do the least wrong to the servants.”

52. Just as that which happened to the clan (the court and military aristocracy) of the Pharaoh, and those before them; they disbelieved in God’s Revelations, and so God seized them for their sins. Surely God is All-Strong, severe in retribution.

53. That (happened so) because God never changes a favor that He has bestowed upon a people unless they change what is in themselves (their belief, lifestyle, world-view, and devotion to God’s laws embodied in the Religion, and in life, and in the creation and operation of the universe). And God is indeed All-Hearing, All-Knowing.

54. Just as that which happened to the court and military aristocracy of the Pharaoh, and those before them: they denied the Revelations of their Lord, and so We destroyed them for their sins, and We caused the court and military aristocracy of the Pharaoh to drown. All of those peoples (destroyed in the past) were wrongdoers (in that they rebelled against their Lord, oppressed people, and so wronged themselves).

55. Indeed the worst of living creatures in God’s sight are those who are so rooted in unbelief that they cannot believe:

56. Those of them with whom you have made a treaty, and who break their treaty on every occasion without fearing God.

57. If you meet them in war, deal with them in such a manner as to deter those behind them (who follow them, and those who will come after them), so that they may reflect and be mindful.

58. If you have strong reason to fear treachery from a people (with whom you have a treaty), return it to them (i.e. publicly declare to them, before embarking on any action against them, that you have dissolved the treaty), so that both parties should be informed of its termination. Surely God does not love the treacherous.13

59. And let not those who disbelieve ever think that they can outdo the believers, or otherwise escape Our punishment. They can never frustrate Our will.

60. (Believers:) make ready against them whatever you can of force and horses assigned (for war), that thereby you may dismay the enemies of God and your enemies and others besides them, of whom (and the nature of whose enmity) you may be unaware. God is aware of them (and of the nature of their enmity). Whatever you spend in God’s cause will be repaid to you in full, and you will not be wronged.14

61. And if they (the enemies) incline to peace, incline to it also, and put your trust in God. Surely He is the All-Hearing, the All-Knowing.

62. And if they seek (thereby only) to deceive you (O Messenger), surely God is sufficient for you. He it is Who has strengthened you with His help and with the believers.

63. He has attuned their (the believers’) hearts. If you had spent all that is on the earth, you could not have attuned their hearts, but God has attuned them. Surely He is All-Glorious with irresistible might, All-Wise.

64. O (most illustrious) Prophet! God is sufficient for you and the believers who follow you.

65. O (most illustrious) Prophet! Rouse the believers to fighting. If there be twenty of you who are steadfast, they will vanquish two hundred; and if there be of you a hundred, they will vanquish a thousand of those who disbelieve. For they (the disbelievers) are a people who do not ponder and seek to penetrate the essence of matters in order to grasp the truth.

66. For now (while you lack in necessary equipment and training), God has lightened your burden, for He knows that there is weakness in you. So if there be a hundred of you who are strong-willed and steadfast, they will vanquish two hundred; and if there be a thousand of you, they will vanquish two thousand by God’s leave. God is with those who are steadfast.15

67. It is not for a Prophet to have captives until he has widely exhausted the enemies in the land. You (O believers) seek the fleeting gains of the present, worldly life, but God wills that the Hereafter will be yours. God is All-Glorious with irresistible might, All-Wise.

68. Had there not been a previous decree from God (concerning that gains of war are lawful and captives can be released in return for ransom), a tremendous punishment would surely have touched you because of what you took (the gains of war, and the captives taken in expectation of ransom, before the enemies’ power in the land had been sufficiently suppressed and exhausted).

69. (But since such a decree has already come) now enjoy as lawful and pure and wholesome of what you have obtained (as gains of war and ransom); and keep from disobedience to God in all your actions. Surely God is All-Forgiving, All-Compassionate (especially toward His believing, pious servants).

70. O (most illustrious) Prophet! Say to the captives in your hands: “If God knows any good in your hearts (any readiness to believe in and surrender to God), He will grant you something better than what has been taken from you, and He will forgive you.” God is All-Forgiving, All-Compassionate (especially towards His servants who return to Him in repentance).

71. But if they seek to betray you (O Messenger) – well, they were treacherous to God before (and the outcome thereof is plain to see): God has given you power over them. God is All-Knowing, All-Wise.

72. Those who have believed and emigrated (to the home of Islam), and striven hard with their wealth and persons in God’s cause, and those who give refuge (to them) and help (them) – those (illustrious ones) are friends and protectors of one another (and can inherit from one another).16 But those who believe but have not emigrated – you have no duty of protection towards them until they emigrate17 (and inheritance is not permissible between them and you). Yet, if they ask you for help in the matter of the Religion, it is your duty to provide help, except against a people between whom and you there is a treaty. God sees well all that you do.

73. Those who disbelieve – they are friends and protectors of one another (especially against you). Unless you do it also (i.e. maintain solidarity among the believers), there will be unrest on the earth and great corruption.

74. Those who have believed and emigrated (to the home of Islam) and striven (with their wealth and persons) in God’s cause, and those who give refuge (to them) and help (them) – those (illustrious ones) are the believers in truth. For them is forgiveness (to bring unforeseen blessings) and honorable, generous provision.

75. And those who believe after (the Prophet’s emigration), and emigrate and strive hard alongside you, they also belong to you. And those related by blood are nearer to one another according to God’s ordinance (with respect to inheritance). Surely God has full knowledge of everything.

The Qur'an with Annotated Interpretation in Modern English

The Qur’an with Annotated Interpretation in Modern English

1. The original word anfāl, translated as “war-gains,” is the plural form of nafl. This word means extra, voluntary service when used in relation to a servant, and extra or additional reward when used for God. It is a reasonable opinion, then, to infer that any worldly reward which comes as the result of services rendered in God’s cause is included in this meaning. The majority of scholars are in agreement that the reference here denotes the war-gains. However, the word ghanā’im (plural of ghanīmah) is used for the war-gains in verse 41, whereas anfāl has a more comprehensive meaning which also includes the idea of fay (war-gains taken without fighting: 59: 6).

Believers aim only to obtain God’s approval and good pleasure in their services in His way. They have no other expectations. Even when they have to fight against God’s enemies, they only aim to obtain God’s good pleasure and uphold His Word, without expecting anything worldly. No worldly aims, such as spoils, fame, or position, can have a place in the believer’s heart. The war-gains are extra rewards that come as the result of fighting in His way, so they belong to God and the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings who can distribute them as they will, and the believers must accept their distribution. It is because of this that the sūrah begins with orienting the believers’ hearts according to this general principle. It stresses that a believer cannot fight for the war-gains, and it teaches that if a believer has captured even a needle in war, he must hand it over to the commander or state before what has been gained is distributed.

2. These verses are concerned with the events that led up to the Battle of Badr. After the emigration to Madīnah, the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, made a treaty with the Jewish tribes which gave the city the status of a multi-communal city-state. Then he organized a new market that would help to establish the economic independence of the Muslims. In Madīnah, there were powerful Jewish tribes, polytheist Arabs, and hypocrites; each posed a threat to the new Muslim community. And in the surrounding desert were polytheist tribes who recognized the Quraysh as their leaders. The Makkans threatened ‘Abdullah ibn Ubayy ibn Salūl, the chief hypocrite in Madīnah, that unless he expelled the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings from Madīnah, they would attack the city. They would organize sudden attacks on the suburbs of the city and plunder and shed blood. Under such adverse conditions, the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, felt obliged to provide security, in order to maintain the existence of Islam and to be able to continue to communicate the message. For this purpose, he organized military campaigns in the desert, sometimes under the leadership of his commanders, sometimes under his own leadership. He never allowed for there to be any bloodshed. With these campaigns, he also aimed to make the neighboring tribes aware of the existence of Muslims and to prevent them from gathering around the polytheist Quraysh.

The Makkans usurped whatever the emigrating Muslims had left behind. They dispatched a trade caravan to Syria, the merchandise of which consisted mainly of the property of the Muslims. God’s Messenger decided to take repossession of their property while the caravan was en route to Makkah. As can be understood from these verses, God Almighty willed that the Makkans, who were extremely uneasy about the development of Islam, should be determined to guard the caravan and to undergo a military encounter with the Muslims. The events developed as God had willed. Most likely having sensed God’s will, God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, consulted his army about the matter; his army was comprised of only about 310 men, most of them on foot, except for two or three mounted on horses, and about 50 on camels. Some insisted that they should march upon the caravan, as the Makkan army was very powerful, comprised of 1,000 men, 600 armored, with more than 100 horsemen. However, the speeches of Miqdād ibn ‘Amr and Sa‘d ibn Mu‘ādh, who said that they would follow the Messenger wherever he led them, pleased the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, and greatly encouraged the believers. In the end, the two armies came face to face at Badr, situated between Madīnah and Makkah, on the 17th of Ramadān (or, according to some authorities, on the 19th or 21st) in the second year of Hijrah (624 CE).

3. That is, “but for God’s plan and help, you could not have killed them and won the war.” This is a warning to those who thought, with pride, that they won the war by their valor and war skills.

4. This phrase refers to the occasion when the Muslim and Makkan armies stood face to- face in the Battle of Badr. At that moment, God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, threw a handful of dust at the enemy saying, “May their faces be scorched,” and every enemy soldier felt as if he had become blind. (Ibn Hishām, 1: 668)

5. The Muslims were very few and were persecuted in a variety of ways in Makkah. God Almighty saved them and provided them with a refuge in Madīnah. However, since they had to leave all their belongings in Makkah, they suffered great deprivations in Madīnah in the early years, despite the peerless sacrifices of the Ansār, the Muslims of Madīnah. They were also surrounded by totally unfavorable conditions. In such circumstances, the caravan that was en route to Makkah from Syria, which contained their belongings that they had had to leave in Makkah, was a chance for them to restore some of their usurped property. Yet, God willed that they should encounter the strong Makkan army, which included all the leaders of polytheism except Abū Lahab, and which was three times greater in number than them. If we consider that around 600 of the opposing army were armored and that there were more than 100 horsemen, while the Muslim army consisted of about 310 men, and only two or three horsemen, with none of them wearing armor, and also that the battles in those days were hand-to-hand combat, it can be easily understood what a terrible position the Muslims found themselves in. They were in dire need of God’s help. The Qur’ān quite explicitly states that they won this war with God’s help; in fact, God attributes to Himself the killing of the enemy soldiers, almost all of whom were the leaders of the polytheists, and also the efficacy of the dust thrown at them by the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings. He also sent angels to encourage the Muslims. They struck at the necks and fingers of the enemy soldiers to make it difficult for them to remain standing or to use their swords, arrows and spears. In addition to these things, as mentioned above, God helped the Muslims in many other ways. These will be revisited later, as the occasion necessitates.

6. Betraying God and His Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, by disobeying them means self-betrayal and results in betraying trusts in one’s keeping, such as the confidences, lives, properties, and chastity of others, and the public affairs, duties, posts and positions in one’s care.

7. Verses 20–30 contain serious advice and reminders for the new Muslim community in Madīnah and for all Muslims, in all ages and places. Verse 30 is concerned with a favor granted to God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, and to the Muslim community through him.

The Battle of Badr proved to be a turning point and one of the greatest victories in Muslim history, perhaps even the greatest. It was won purely with God’s help. As the Muslims had won after having been in such an unenviable position, it is highly likely that the victorious heroes of Badr felt some pride in their achievement. In addition, some of them had been reluctant to fight, and some began to collect booty without first routing the enemy or asking whether it was permissible to collect booty (M. Asım Köksal, 2: 146, 171–73). So, verses 20–30 contain warnings and serious advice for these people, and for all Muslims to come until Judgment Day. These warnings and advice can be summed up as follows:

    • Victory and defeat are purely in the hand of God. In order to deserve victory, people must do whatever is necessary to gain it.
    • Although people do whatever they can to gain or deserve victory, God is never obliged to make them victorious. As with any good that comes to people, victory is also a blessing from God. Therefore, we must always be thankful to God.
    • In all His commandments, people must obey God and His Messenger. They must obey these commandments and not act as if they had not heard anything. They must obey what God and His Messenger command, and must sincerely carry out these orders.
    • Those to whose ears God’s and His Messenger’s commands have not found a way, or who act as if they had not been told anything, are spiritually dead. These people, therefore, are just like lifeless objects, deaf and dumb, not able to understand or use their reason.
    • There are certain things which make people deaf, dumb, and senseless in the face of Divine Revelation, such as having prejudices, indulging in vainglory and arrogance, holding the wrong viewpoint, being controlled by their carnal desires or worldly ambitions, and wrongdoing. Because of such things, people lose all their spiritual senses and faculties, and their ability to believe.
    • Believers must always respond positively to the call of God and His Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings. The Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, conveys to them God’s call to the truth; this is what makes them spiritually alive. If they do not give positive responses to this call, God “intervenes” between them and their hearts, and causes their hearts to swerve, leading them to perdition and bringing about their doom in the Hereafter.
    • If believers fail to respond positively to the call of God through His Messenger, this will not only cause their doom in the Hereafter, but also give rise to an internal conflict in society. This is a decisive test, enabling them to distinguish those who are sincere from those who are not. They may lose their lives, property, and beloved ones in this conflict, and, what is worse, although once being sincere brothers and sisters, they may now begin to kill each other as sworn enemies. Internal security and mutual trust may no longer exist, and public affairs and posts may be given to those who are not qualified. This may result in falling under the control of a despotic government or foreign dominion, or being subject to other kinds of calamities.
    • Believers must always pursue God’s good pleasure and approval and try to obtain it in all their words and actions. They must never think of gaining worldly advantages, in particular through religious acts or services.
    • Whatever a person has in the world, whether it be social status, a post, smart and successful children, or wealth, it is a means of testing to determine what “carat” a person is. That is, our possessions, the things that we take pride in, are a test for us. God provides us with all our gifts, and, therefore, we must attribute them to God and give constant thanks to God from the heart, verbally and through our lifestyle. If we act in such a way, God will reward us greatly in the Hereafter and may also increase what He has provided in the world for us as well. Otherwise, whatever a person has may be a means of self-ruin for them in the other world or even in this world.
    • Believers must always be God-conscious and act in piety and utmost reverence for God, fearing that they might make a mistake or commit a sin. If they do so sincerely, God will equip them with a criterion which they will feel in their hearts. By this criterion, they will be able to distinguish between what is right and wrong, and true and false, without applying to a mufti or another scholar. So long as they do whatever they must to deserve God’s protection, God will protect them against thinking and doing wrong, from internal conflicts, and from defeat by other powers.

It should also be noted here that, while the verses that were revealed after the Battle of Uhud console the believers with regards to the reverse they experienced during the second stage of the battle, and even contain compliments for them to lift their wounded spirits, these verses, as they came after the victory of Badr, do not contain any congratulatory words; rather, we find warning and advice. This is important, particularly with respect to guidance and education.

8. This verse implies that so long as the religion – Islam – brought by God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, continues to be practiced and to order the life of the community in a way that is pleasing to God Almighty, and as long as people go on living in consciousness of God and imploring Him for forgiveness whenever they commit sins, God will not inflict any grievous suffering on them.

9. The punishment mentioned here is not of the kind referred to in verse 32 above, which usually follows as a “natural” calamity. It is either their defeat at the hands of the Muslims, or some social catastrophes or Divine punishment in the Hereafter. It may, indeed, refer to all.

10. The Qur’ān mentions fitnah as being the most important reason for going to war. As also mentioned in 2: 191 and explained in note 138 to that sūrah (al-Baqarah), fitnah means unbelief, associating partners with God, hypocrisy, wrongdoing, transgression, and the chaotic atmosphere or disorder that gives rise to these, or that is caused by these. It may be truer to define fitnah as corruption, including all the evils mentioned.

God Almighty wills that peace, justice, and security, as well as belief in and submission to Him, should prevail on the earth; these are the conditions that are essential to humanity. So what the believers must do is to strive to put an end to fitnah, or the dominion of unbelief, the association of partners with God, and wrongdoing. This is one legitimate reason for entering a war; the other one is in the case of self-defense. Once fitnah has been eradicated, people can adopt different world-views, and the followers of other faiths, such as Christianity, Judaism, Zoroastrianism, and Sabeanism, are free to live according to their own religions. But public order should not be harmed by any of these faiths. (See also 2: 190–93, 256, notes 138–39.)

11. This sūrah began by emphasizing the basic principle that the gains of war belong to God and His Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, and it has prepared the hearts of the believers to willingly accept the distribution that God will make. This verse describes how the war-gains will be distributed and assigns one-fifth to God first, that is, to public services; it then mentions the people who represent these services: the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, his near kinsfolk, orphans, the destitute, and the wayfarer who does not have sufficient means to complete the journey. The remainder is to be distributed among the warriors.

The Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, devoted all his life to communicating Islam to others and to the service of the people. He was not in a position to provide for the poor among his kinsfolk. In addition, there were many other places or items of expenditure for which the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, had to pay as both the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, and the head of the state. The share assigned to him may, in some respects, be likened to the funds assigned for the special expenditures of heads of state. 

It is a historical fact that the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, spent his first wife Khadījah’s wealth on the cause of calling to Islam, while he, his family and his kinsfolk lived as the poorest of all Muslims. They also spent all the shares of the war-gains that were assigned to them on Islamic services and the needy.

12. When Satan perceived that the Muslim army was supported by angels, he chose to flee, as he feared receiving blows. His words “Surely I am quit of you,” and, “In addition, I fear God,” are only excuses for his flight.

13. Islam is a system of values, and all its principles are aimed at preserving these values and governing life according to them in justice. This verse lays down a basic rule of Islamic international law: when two nations have made a treaty with each other that will last for a certain period of time, both sides should remain true to the treaty until its termination. If one party contravenes the treaty, the other side should make it known to them that the treaty has been dissolved before starting any hostile actions, so that both parties will know where things stand. The Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, says: “Whoever is bound in a treaty with a people cannot dissolve this treaty until either the term is up or until he publicly declares that it has been annulled” (Abū Dāwūd, “Jihād,” 2: 75). In another saying, he declares: “Do not be treacherous, even to him who is treacherous to you” (Abū Dāwūd, “Kitāb al-Buyū‘,” 2: 75). Even today’s “civilized” nations do not comply with this principle, established fourteen centuries ago by Islam; rather they work on the principle, “Whoever launches a surprise attack first will win.”

14. This verse contains important advice and warnings for the Muslims:

    • Until Doomsday, there will always be enemies of belief and Islam. For this reason, Muslims must always be on the alert against any enmity and be powerful enough to deter it.
    • The next verse (61) is especially important as it follows verses concerned with warfare, verses that state that a Muslim state must always be ready for war since such readiness can act as a deterrent. However, in verse 61, it is stated that Muslims are peaceful and that they must live peacefully and be representatives of universal peace. So, their acting as a deterrent in the power balance is one of the most important factors in bringing peace to the world and in preserving this peace. For this reason, if Muslims are not powerful enough to do this, and if, because of this, others shed innocent blood in the world, it is also the Muslims who will be held accountable for that blood by God.
    • There are many kinds of enemies of belief and Islam. Some of them are overt enemies of God and religion, and thus display their enmity and are known. Some others maintain enmity against Islam and Muslims for other reasons, beyond their being Muslims. And there are some enemies that the Muslims may not be aware of because they are usually found among the Muslims, and they conceal their enmity. These people are hypocrites, or they live in Muslim society because they see their interests lie in so doing; sometimes, such persons may not yet have their beliefs ingrained in their hearts and, therefore, may easily change sides, even for insignificant reasons. God knows these people well. Muslims must also take these people into account, trying to accumulate the necessary power to overwhelm them.
    • Muslims must be powerful. Islam holds individuals and societies responsible for their own fate; therefore, people must be responsible for governing themselves. The Qur’ān addresses society with such phrases as, “O people!” and, “O believers!” The duties entrusted to modern states are those that Islam refers to society and classifies, in order of importance, as “absolutely necessary, relatively necessary, and commendable to perform.” Such a system causes Muslims to establish the institutions necessary to fulfill these duties. One of the ways to be powerful is that everyone should expend in God’s cause of whatever they have. This usually occurs by way of the Zakāh (Prescribed Purifying Alms); and, when necessary, by imposing new taxes in addition to the Zakāh; and, again when necessary, by way of general mobilization.   

15. These last two verses should not be misread. When all is equal, i.e. equipment, resources, etc., then the believers can be ten times more powerful than the unbelievers, owing to their sources of power, such as their belief in God and eternal life; their fearlessness of death; the strength of will that they have acquired by regular worship; their resistance against the temptations of their carnal selves; their dependence on God; patience; and the fact that they expect the eternal bliss of Paradise and God’s being pleased with them. These are things which the unbelievers do not possess. But the Muslims at that time – the time when this sūrah was revealed just after the Battle of Badr – did not have enough material power, nor did they have military training. That is why they were able to overcome an enemy that was only twice as powerful as them. They won the Battle of Badr against an enemy that was more than three times as powerful as they were when they were reinforced with the help of God. However, when they had the same equipment and military training as their enemies, they were able to resist and even overcome enemies that were five, ten, twenty or even thirty times as powerful as themselves, in later years, in the Battles of Mū’tah, Yarmuk, Qadīsiyah, and in many other wars. The verses here state the minimum limit.

These two verses also present some military standards. It is preferable that the smallest army unit should contain 20 soldiers when the believers are powerful and 100 soldiers when they are weak. While steadfastness and having strong will-power is one of the sources of superiority in war, penetrating and discerning the essence of matters is another source.

16. When God’s Messenger emigrated to Madīnah with the Makkan Muslims, he established brotherhood among the Muslims of Madīnah and those of Makkah. They could inherit from each other even though they had no blood relation. This continued for some until the emigrating Muslims had certain means to earn their livelihood in Madīnah. Verse 75 which came later abolished this institution of formal brotherhood and restricted inheritance to blood relationships.

17. This judgment concerns, rather than all times inclusively, a time when emigration to, and settling in, the center of Islam is compulsory for all Muslims.

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