Surat al-Anfal continued

A moving account of the battle of Badr shows the way the battlefield was organised. The Prophet ﷺ marked the places where some of the Makkan leaders would fall and die. Allah made the enemy appear fewer than they were, and the Muslims appeared to be more than they really were. There was a need to be steadfast and brave on the battlefield. This was to be achieved by being united rather than quarrelling. In a battle, the fighters are ordered to fight bravely but strategically. In addition to this discipline of the Muslim army, Allah sent angels to fight on their side.

Lessons from the battle of Badr

  1. The spoils of war must be distributed; one fifth for the Messenger to distribute as he likes and four-fifth to be distributed among the warriors.
  2. If the enemy plays tricks, then do likewise to counter the plot.
  3. Be fully prepared for battle, but work for peace. “However, if they incline towards peace, you incline towards it, and put your trust in Allah” (59-61).
  4. True faith can give the believers the strength to face twice as many enemies. “your hundred steadfast men can defeat two hundred” (66).
  5. Fighting in Allah’s way shouldn’t be for worldly gains. “It is not fitting for a prophet to take captives until he has won on the battlefield. Believers, you want what this world offers, but Allah desires the Hereafter for you” (67).

Due to their excellent performance on the battlefield, the Muslims were praised: “The first believers who emigrated and struggled with their wealth and lives in Allah’s way, and those who offered them refuge and support, they are each other’s protectors” (73).

Surat al-Tawba – The Repentance

This surat was revealed in 9 AH (630 CE) following the successful campaign of Tabuk, 560 kilometres northwest of Madinah. The cancellation of treaties with idolaters was announced during Hajj in the same year. This surat is set with the background of a looming battle and therefore has an angry tone. This explains why it doesn’t begin with the Basmala, “In the name of Allah, the Kind, the Caring”.

Historical background to the campaign of Tabuk

After the Conquest of Makkah in 8 AH (629 CE), the influence of Islam in the Arabian Peninsula spread rapidly, and many Arab tribes embraced Islam. The Messenger ﷺ sent letters to the rulers of neighbouring countries, inviting them to Islam. These powers began to take notice of this religious and socio-political change. Until now, foreign powers had shown little interest in the Arabs. Now the Romans were nervous and planned to attack Madinah. So, the Messenger ﷺ, after consultation, decided to launch a pre-emptive attack. Muslims gave generously, and a 30,000 strong army was mobilized. However, the Romans remained in their forts. The Muslims stayed twenty days in that area, and made trips along the southeastern border to win allies and sign treaties with local rulers. This increased Muslim influence considerably in the area.

Say, “If your fathers, children, brothers, spouses, relatives and the wealth you have gathered, the business whose downturn you fear and the houses that delight you, if these things are dearer to you than Allah, His Messenger and struggling in His path, then you should wait for Allah’s Judgement to come to pass” (Al-Tawbah: 23). The important event with which this surah begins is the immediate cancellation of treaties with those Arab idolaters who had repeatedly breached them (1–29).

For the second Hajj, after the Conquest of Makkah, the Messenger ﷺ dispatched a delegation under the leadership of Abu Bakr who made this announcement: “From now on the Kaaba will be in the custody of Muslims; idolaters are no longer its keepers.” This implied that the Muslims were now the rulers of the Arabian Peninsula.

A lesson from the Messenger’s migration from Makkah “If you won’t help him, Allah has already helped him when the disbelievers expelled him from Makkah. He was one of the two in the cave when he said to his companion, “Do not worry. Allah is with us.” So, Allah sent His stillness over him and helped him with armies that you didn’t see, and He foiled their plan, Allah’s plan is supreme. Allah is Almighty, Wise. Abu Bakr was the companion who accompanied him on this momentous migration.

The wretched character of the hypocrites is vividly described in verses 38–93. They make excuses, have evil motives, and criticise and insult the Messenger ﷺ and the Muslims. They spread rumours, blaspheme and are miserly. They are a lazy bunch, who love only the worldly life and they constantly lie and break promises. Human beings who have such wretched characteristics cannot be trusted. They pose a real threat to the welfare and security of society. They are the enemy within. Their presence in Madinah was so damaging that the Prophet ﷺ was told to take a very harsh position against them: he denounced them and expelled them from his Masjid. When they built a mosque, he was told to demolish it because they wanted to “divide Muslims and to build an outpost to fight Allah and His Messenger” (107).

Right in the middle of the discussion on hypocrites the Surah digresses and instructs believers to give charity, presenting a powerful antidote to the disease of hypocrisy.

“Zakah is for the poor, the needy, its administrators, people whose hearts and minds are to be won, freeing the slaves, helping people in debt, to advance Allah’s cause, and for the needy traveller. This is a duty instructed by Allah, and Allah is the Knower, Wise” (60).

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