AT-TAUBAH


According to the majority of scholars, this sūrah was revealed in Madīnah in the 9th year of the Hijrah. It deals with almost the same topics as those dealt with in Sūrat al-Anfāl. It is the only sūrah in the Qur’ān which does not begin with the usual opening formula, In the Name of God, the All-Merciful, the All-Compassionate. In contrast to all other sūrahs, God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, did not order that this formula should be put at the beginning of this sūrah. Among the explanations put forward for his not doing so, the most commonly accepted one is that, like the Islamic salutation, Peace be upon you, the expression, In the Name of God, the All-Merciful, the All-Compassionate conveys security and the giving of quarter to those addressed. However, Sūrat al- Tawbah begins with an ultimatum to certain polytheists in Arabia. It deals, for the most part, with a re-evaluation of the relations with the polytheists, who were frequently violating their agreements, the campaign to Tabuk, a disclosure of the intrigues of the hypocrites in Madīnah, the importance of jihād in God’s cause, and relationships with the People of the Book.


  1. This is an ultimatum from God and His Messenger to those who associate partners with God with whom you have made a treaty.
  2. (O you polytheists who always break the treaties you have entered into!) You may go about freely in the land for four months (making whatever war prepara- tions you wish). But know that you can never escape (the Power of God, nor frustrate His will), and that God will bring disgrace upon the unbelievers.
  3. And a proclamation from God and His Messenger to all people on this day of the Major Pilgrimage: that God disavows those who associate partners with Him (and break their treaty), and His Messenger likewise (disavows them). But if you repent and give up hostilities, this will be for your good; but if you turn away again, know that you will never be able to escape God and frustrate His will in any way. Give glad tidings (O Messenger) of a painful punishment to those who insist on unbelief.
  4. excepting those among the people who associate partners with God with whom you made a treaty, and who have not thereafter failed to fulfill their ob-
 

ligations towards you (required by the treaty), nor have backed anyone against you. Observe, then, your treaty with them until the end of the term (that you agreed with them). Surely God loves the God-revering, pious (who keep their duties to Him).

  1. Then, when the (four) sacred months (of respite, during which fighting with those who associate partners with God and violate their treaties was prohibited to you,) are over, then (declare war on them and) kill them wherever you may come upon them, and seize them, and confine them, and lie in wait for them at every conceivable place. Yet if they repent and (mending their ways) establish the Prescribed Prayer and pay the Prescribed Purifying Alms, let them go their way. Surely God is All-Forgiving, All-compassionate.
  2. And if any of those who associate partners with God seeks asylum of you (O Messenger), grant him asylum, so that he may hear the Word of God, and then convey him to his place of security. That (is how you should act) because they are a people who have no knowledge (of the truth about Islam).1
    1. When considered together with other relevant verses of the Qur’ān, the verses present significant principles concerned with the Islamic view of war. See Appendix 3.
  3. How could there be a covenant with those who associate partners with God (and recognize no laws and treaty) on the part of God and His Messenger?
  • excepting those with whom you made a treaty in the vicinity of the Sacred Mosque: (as for the latter) so long as they remain true to you, be true to them. Surely God loves the God-revering, pious (who keep their duties to Him).2

2. The polytheists mentioned in this verse as those with whom the Muslims had made a treaty in the vicinity of the Sacred Mosque are the same people mentioned in verse 4, i.e. those who did not fail to fulfill their obligations towards the Muslims as required by the treaty made between them. Both of the verses warn the Muslims not to treat those poly- theists in the same way as the others, and to regard adhering to the agreement as a form of piety. It is therefore highly significant that both verses end in, Surely God loves the God- revering, pious (who keep their duties to Him).

  1. How (could there be a covenant with the others) when, if they were to pre- vail against you, they would observe towards you neither any bond, nor law, nor agreement, they seek to please you with their mouths but in their hearts they are averse; and most of them are transgressors (who habitually disregard all bounds of equity).
  2. (As well as breaking their treaties) they have sold God’s Revelations (concern- ing treaties) for a trifling price and they barred people from His way. How evil is what they do!
 
  1. They observe neither any bond, nor law, nor agreement towards the believ- ers. They are those who exceed all bounds.
  2. Yet if they repent so as to mend their ways and establish the Prescribed Prayer and pay the Prescribed Purifying Alms, they are your brothers in religion. Thus We set out in detail Our Revelations (the signposts of Our way, included in the Qur’an) for a people seeking knowledge.
  3. But if they break their pledges after their treaty (with you) and assail your religion, then fight with those leaders of unbelief – surely they have no trustwor- thy pledges – so that they may desist (from aggression).
  4. Will you not fight against the people who have broken their pledges and have done all they could to drive the Messenger (from where he chooses to dwell), and initiated hostilities against you? Do you hold them in awe? But, as- suredly God has greater right to be held in awe, if you are sincere believers.
  5. Fight against them: God will punish them by your hands and humiliate them, and (know) that He will help you to victory over them, and soothe the bosoms of the believing people (oppressed and suffering at their hands as well as at the hands of other oppressors).
  6. And He will remove the wrath in their hearts (by making right and justice prevail). And God guides whomever He wills to turn to Him in repentance. God is All-Knowing (with full knowledge of him who deserves guidance), All- Wise (in Whose every decree and act there are many instances of wisdom).3
  1. The last two verses mention five secondary aims of war and draw our attention to a significant point:
    • The world is the domain where God acts behind the law of causality according to His Wisdom, Which has established the order of the universe, formed the general plan, and turns the wheel of all events. Although this Wisdom considers the whole of the universe when turning its wheel, this does not mean that it neglects any one part, not even the smallest. This Wisdom requires that people should see the consequences of their actions. So, God usually punishes the oppressors at the hands of other people. The believers are required to struggle with the oppressors and, when necessary, to fight against them.
    • The oppressors who act in the world in arrogance, as if they were its sole rulers and owners, and who oppress others, should be humbled.
    • The believers are duty-bound to make right and justice prevail in the world and, thus, they must fight against oppressors whenever necessary. God will help them and grant them victory.
    • The oppressed, suffering people should be saved from the hands of the oppressors and relieved of their burdens.
 
    • When right and justice have been made to prevail, the rage of the oppressed is re- moved from their hearts and this prevents them from adopting worse ideologies or system, and going to excesses to cause greater disorder and injustice in the world, as they did (went to excesses) during some uprisings and regimes in the last century.

After mentioning these five secondary aims of war, the last verse draws our attention to the following point:Since God never wills that any of His servants should go astray and deserve eternal punishment, He always keeps the door to repentance open; He is extremely pleased when a servant turns to Him in repentance.

  1. Or did you think that you would be left (without being tried through suf- fering and hardship) unless God marks out those among you who really strive (in His way), and who take none as intimate friend other than God and His Messenger and the believers to seek help and solidarity? God is fully aware of all that you do.
  2. It is not for those who associate partners with God to maintain God’s houses of worship while they are witnesses against themselves of unbelief (and do not worship God in those houses of worship). They are those whose works have been wasted, and they will abide in the Fire.
  3. Only he will maintain God’s houses of worship (using them for the purposes for which they are built) who believes in God and the Last Day, and establishes the Prescribed Prayer, and pays the Prescribed Purifying Alms, and stands in awe of none but God. It is hoped that such (illustrious) persons will be among the ones guided to achieve their expectations (especially in the Hereafter).
  4. Do you consider providing water to the pilgrims and tending the Sacred Mosque as equal in value to one who believes in God and the Last Day, and strives in God’s cause? They are not equal in God’s sight. And God does not guide (to truth) the wrongdoing folk (whose measure and judgment are wrong).
  5. Those who believe and have emigrated (to the home of Islam in God’s cause), and strive in God’s cause with their wealth and persons are greater in rank in God’s sight, and those are the ones who are the triumphant.
  6. Their Lord gives them glad tidings of mercy from Him (to bring unforeseen blessings), and His being pleased with them, and of Gardens wherein is ever- lasting bounty for them;
  7. Therein to dwell forever. Surely, with God is a tremendous reward.
  8. O you who believe! Do not take your fathers and your brothers for con- fidants and guardians (to whom you can entrust your affairs), if they choose unbelief in preference to belief. Whoever of you takes them for confidants and
 

guardians, those are wrongdoers (who have wronged themselves by committing a great error).

  1. Say: “If your fathers, and your children, and your brothers and sisters, and your spouses, and your kindred and clan, and the wealth you have acquired, and the commerce you fear may slacken, and the dwellings that you love to live in, are dearer to you than God and His Messenger and striving in His cause, then wait until God brings about His decree. God does not guide the transgressing people (who prefer worldly things to Him, His Messenger and striving in His cause, to truth and true happiness in both the world and the Hereafter).4

4. As mentioned before, Muslims are responsible for improving this world and living here according to God’s Religion, as well as being responsible for striving to communicate the Religion to others. They can demand and own worldly favors, provided they use them for this purpose and fulfill the duty of thanksgiving. They should also distribute the worldly bounties justly and, therefore, fulfill a significant role in the power balance in the world. However, there is a point to note here: worldly riches seduce people. In order to avoid this, Muslims should not demand the world from their heart, not should they leave it to the oppressors and transgressors. Being able to establish an equilibrium between these two extremes, namely attachment to the world and renouncing it totally, and so leaving it to the oppressors, requires living a life according to the commandments of God and His Mes- senger, upon him be peace and blessings, and striving for the whole of one’s life to convey God’s Message throughout the world.

  1. God has already helped you on many fields, and on the day of Hunayn, when your multitude was pleasing to you, but it availed you nothing, and the earth, for all its vastness, was too narrow for you, and you turned back, retreating.
  2. Then God sent down His gift of inner peace and reassurance on His Mes- senger and the believers, and sent (to your aid) hosts that you did not see, and punished those who disbelieved. Such is the recompense of unbelievers.
  3. Then, after all this, God guides whom He wills to repentance (turning to Islam from unbelief ). God is All-Forgiving, all compassionate (especially to His servants who turn to Him in repentance).5

5. The Arab tribes were awaiting the settlement of the conflict between the Quraysh and the Muslims before they would accept Islam, saying: “If Muhammad prevails over his people, he would indeed be a Prophet.” consequently, when this was finally accomplished, people began to join Islam in throngs. This caused the Hawāzīn and the Thaqīf tribes in Tā’if, who were famous for their courage and archery skills, to prepare a great expedition to Makkah. Informed of their movements, God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and bless- ings, left Makkah with 12,000 Muslims. This was the greatest army the Muslims had ever gathered, and some among the companions were pleased and assured. However, Muslims must always rely on God, without ever forgetting that it is God Who takes one to victory. Their self-assurance cost them a setback in the first stage of the war, which took place in

 

the valley of Hunayn, between Makkah and Tāif. The enemy laid an ambush in which the advance guard of the Muslim forces was caught, and the rear forces fell into confusion under a shower of enemy arrows. The Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, was calm as ever in his faith and wisdom in that hour of danger, and he spurred his horse forward. He cried: “Now war has been kindled. I am the Prophet; that is no lie. I am the descendant of ‘Abd al-Muttalib” (al-Bukhārī, “Jihad,” 52; Muslim, “Jihad,” 78). ‘Abbās, the Prophet’s uncle, also called out at the top of his voice to the retreating companions to return. There- upon, from all sides the companions responded “Labbayk!” (at your service), and rallied to the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings. The enemy, who had pushed themselves into the centre of the Muslim army, were surrounded on all sides. The courage, wisdom, and steadfastness of God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, snatched victory from the jaws of defeat by God’s leave. It was by God’s help that the Muslims won the day.

The routed enemy took refuge in Tāif. The Muslim victory persuaded the desert tribes to accept Islam and, shortly thereafter, the rebel tribes and Tā’if also surrendered and entered Islam.

  1. O you who believe! Those who associate partners with God are (nothing) but impure. So, after the expiry of this year, let them not approach the Sacred Mosque.6 And should you fear poverty (because of the possible reduction in your income due to their not coming to Makkah in the season of the ), God will enrich you out of His bounty if He so wills. Surely, God is All-Knowing, All-Wise.

6. Because of their beliefs, morals, practices, and customs, and since they do not make ablutions (wudū‘) for Prayer, nor total ablution in case of canonical impurity, those who associate partners with God are spiritually and canonically unclean. Just as those without ablution cannot perform Prayer or read the Qur’ān, so the polytheists, who are totally un- clean, cannot approach the Sacred Mosque.

Islam attaches extreme importance to cleanliness, including spiritual, moral, bodily, and material cleanliness. The source of spiritual cleanliness is true belief, sincerity, purity of heart, and wishing all well. Moral cleanliness comes from avoiding all kinds of vices, such as illicit relationships like fornication, adultery, prostitution, and homosexuality; unlawful transactions and ways of income and expenditure; and deception, lying, slander, backbiting, etc. Bodily and all kinds of material cleanliness, such as that of clothes, dwelling places, and the environment, are also important. To cite only one example, if one’s clothes or the rug or place on which one prays are fouled with any liquid dirt, such as urine, to the amount that fills the palm of one’s hand, or with any solid filth to the amount of three grams, the prayer is invalid.

  1. Fight against those from among the People of the Book who (despite being People of the Book) do not believe in God and the Last Day (as they should be believed in), and do not hold as unlawful that which God and His Messenger have decreed to be unlawful, and do not adopt and follow the Religion of truth, until they pay the jizyah (tax of protection and exemption from military service)
 

with a willing hand in a state of submission.7

7. The People of the Book are the people such as the Jews and christians who were given a Divine Book. So, when God sent the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and bless- ings, with the last, universal form of Islam, the Religion of truth with which He sent all the Messengers during history, the People of the Book were expected to believe in and follow the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, and the Qur’ān, which was revealed to him as a consummation of the previous Divine Books, and accordingly to have true faith in God and the Last Day (and in other essentials of faith), and to hold lawful what God and His Messenger decreed to be lawful, and unlawful what they decreed to be unlawful. But when, despite their claim to belong to the People of the Book, they acted contrarily to what they were expected to do, and were hostile towards Islam and Muslims, and collaborated against them with the polytheists, God allowed the Muslim state to fight against them. However, He commanded that once it had subdued them, it should accord them full protection of all their civic rights, including the protection of life, wealth, repro- duction, mental and bodily health, and religious freedom. Moreover, the People of the Book were exempted from military service and fighting enemies; this was something for which Muslim citizens were responsible. Muslim citizens also had to pay the Zakāh, the pre- scribed alms-due. In place of the Zakāh, the non-Muslim citizens of the Muslim state, who were called the ahl adh-dhimmah, the protected people, were charged with the payment of the jizyah, which was the tax of protection and exemption from military service.

critically, it should be noted here that only a Muslim state can declare and carry out war; no Muslim individual or group has the right or authority to do this.

Muslims can eat the meat of animals slaughtered by the People of the Book, and it is per- missible for a Muslim man to marry a woman from among them.

  1. And those Jews (who came to you) say (as did some Jews who lived before): “ezra (‘Uzayr) is God’s son;” and (as a general assertion) the christians say: “The Messiah is God’s son.” Such are merely their verbal assertions in imitation of the utterances of some unbelievers who preceded them. May God destroy them! How can they be turned away from the truth and make such assertions?
  2. The Jews take their rabbis (teachers of law), and the christians take their monks, as well as the Messiah, son of Mary, for Lords besides God (by holding as lawful or unlawful what the teachers of law and monks decree to be lawful or unlawful, as against God’s decree), whereas they were commanded to worship none but the One God. There is no deity but He.8 All-Glorified He is in that He is absolutely above their association of partners with Him.

8. Being the Lord means creating, bringing up, sustaining, and giving each creature a struc- ture and nature according to its duty in creation. It also includes the authority to determine what is (religiously) lawful and unlawful in human life. Being divine (deity), or possessing divinity, means having the exclusive right to be worshipped. By mentioning divinity (being a deity) and being the Lord together, this verse explains that only One who is God can be Lord, and that the One Who is the Lord is also God; therefore, belief in God as One God

 

requires confessing that He is both Lord and God.

  1. They seek (with renewed plans and stratagems) to extinguish God’s light (His favor of Islam, as if by the breath issuing) from their mouths. Whereas God refuses but to complete His light, however hateful this may be to the unbeliev- ers.
  2. He it is Who has sent His Messenger with the guidance and the Religion of truth that He may make it prevail over all religions, however hateful this may be to those who associate partners with God.9

9. The last two verses give important guides to understanding Islam and its history. With all its essentials of faith, pillars of worship, standards of morality, and principles of conduct, and with its sociological, economic, and administrative teachings, Islam is a pure light that illuminates minds and hearts, indeed the whole world; with respect to the world, it is like the sun. Those who oppose this light are like those who close their ears, eyes, hearts, and minds to truth and enlightenment, or to the “sun” and He Who created it, thereby darken- ing their own worlds. This attitude is what is meant by “unbelief ” in Islamic terminology. Those who do not believe, whether they are among those who associate partners with Godor the People of the Book (see note 7, above), or if those who recognize no faith at all, have sought throughout history to extinguish this “sun” of Islam with ever-new plans and strategies. But just as they were unable to prevent its being completed, during its dawning during the Messenger’s life (see 5: 3), they have never been able to take its place or efface its splendor, even at times when they have seen it almost setting. Any plan or strategy carried out to extinguish this “sun” has no greater weight than a mere breath.

It may sometimes happen that those who identify themselves with Islam, although they are unable to represent or practice it fully in its true meaning and content, are lost to the world of unbelief. However, this never means the defeat of Islam by other religions or unbelief. By God’s mercy, Islam cannot be defeated.. even in the last centuries, when Muslims passed through the darkest period of their history, and the world of Islam was uninterrupt- edly subjected to concerted attacks from all fronts by its opponents throughout the world, opponents equipped with the most sophisticated means, there have been few who have renounced Islam in favor of another religion, while many people have continued to convert to Islam from all other religions. In spite of the fact that the Muslims of today suffer from a multitude of deficiencies, even in their performance of the rites of worship as commanded by Islam, with a thousand mistakes and without true spiritual fulfillment, and in spite of every effort made by the opponents of Islam to distort its image, many people in the West are still affected by it, whether they are religious or not. The comments of Western observ- ers who are aware of Islam’s dynamism and inextinguishable nature are very interesting. For example, caesar e. Farah wrote the following on this subject:

Putting aside the obstacles it met and the infrequent cases of apostasy, Islam has always shown an unlimited ability to live and spread, even under difficult conditions. This capabil- ity can be explained by its essential hidden dynamism and flexibility that can go immedi- ately into action when the need arises. The attractive qualities of Islam that bound great masses to its ranks in the early centuries continued to attract people to the same ranks even

 

when it lost political power (al-ezzati, 345).

Furthermore, while other religions, such as christianity and Buddhism, have been defeated by atheistic, materialistic, and communist ideologies in several parts of the world, Islam has not lost ground. On this point, the observations of e.H. Jurji are significant:

With all its consistency, self-sufficiency and realism, and its determination that gave pre- cedence to solidarity against racial and Marxist ideologies, with its mental rigging that can show the way to Western thought, with its determined attitude against imperialism and pillage, with its brave defense based on Qur’ānic faith that impedes all critical attacks and the plainness and authenticity of the message it brings to humanity that has strayed from the path, Islam appears before the modern world with a very special sense of responsibility. This sense of duty, which has not been spoiled by theological debates drowned in details, involved in confusing speculations, or fossilized under heavy layers of dogma, takes its strength from doctrines based on revelation. (ibid., 348)

  1. O you who believe! Many among the rabbis and monks do indeed consume the wealth of people in legally invalid, wrongful ways (such as changing the Book’s commandments in return for worldly benefit, bribery, and using religion as a means of worldly gain) and bar them from God’s way. Those who hoard up gold and silver and do not spend it in God’s cause (to exalt His cause and help the poor and needy): give them (O Messenger) the glad tidings of a painful punishment.
  2. On that day, it (that hoarded wealth) will be heated in the fire of Hell and, therewith, their foreheads and their sides and their backs will be branded (and they will hear): “This is the treasure which you hoarded up for yourselves; taste now what you were busy hoarding!”10

10. The last two verses contain a serious warning. God’s Religion can never be made a means of worldly gain; it cannot be exploited for such things as show, fame, acquiring wealth, status, or political aims. What people are commanded to do is to practice Islam purely to please God; this is the duty of His servants, and this must be done because God has commanded us to do so (98: 5). For this reason, it is severely prohibited to attempt to use Islam for ulterior motives, i.e. to use it for reasons other than why it has been sent; this is especially pertinent to religious scholars and spiritual masters who are expected to rep- resent and convey Islam in its purity, not to exploit it. Such leaders have a place and status in the people’s eyes, and these leaders are more liable than others to exploit this status for worldly aims. ‘Ali, the Fourth caliph and cousin of the Messenger, may God be pleased with him, says of some types of scholars, whom the Messenger had said would exploit God’s religion for their selfish benefits toward the end of time: “Know, O community of brothers! The worst of people at that time are the scholars who, for the sake of worldly benefits, approve the innovations invented against the religion.” Such scholars are called the “evil scholars” in Islamic literature. God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and bless- ings, talked about 70,000 men who would wear turbans (i.e. religious scholars) who would support the practices of the Dajjāl (the man or a collective personality that is expected to appear toward the end of time and who will try to eradicate Islam from the social life of

 

Muslims) for worldly benefits.

In addition to the ways mentioned above, the scholars and spiritual masters may also ex- ploit religion for selfish motives by distorting some rules of religion or arbitrarily interpret- ing some of its commandments. In whatever way they exploit religion, such attitudes on the part of religious scholars and spiritual masters cause people to grow antipathetic towards religion and prevent its being taught correctly. A scholar or spiritual master who sells reli- gion for material gain cannot help but distort it. Holding such attitudes is what is meant by barring people from God’s way.

Hoarding up money and goods without spending them in God’s cause to promote God’s cause and to help the poor and needy is one of the major sins. The foremost duty with respect to wealth is paying the Prescribed Alms (the Zakāh). Some scholars are of the opinion that any wealth out of which the Prescribed Alms is given cannot be considered hoarded wealth. However, this opinion has not received welcome from the majority of scholars. The standard by which to judge whether any accumulation of money is regarded as hoarded wealth is the general living standard of all Muslims and the conditions that affect the Islamic world. In another verse (59: 7), the Qur’ān openly declares that wealth should not be a means of prosperity circulated among the rich only. At a time when the majority of Muslims are poor and Islam is left without support, any wealth exceeding the limit of richness according to Islam (which is the amount out of which the Prescribed Alms should be given) and some amount of which is not spent in God’s cause, is regarded as hoarded wealth, and is the object of the threat in the verse. The verse clearly mentions hoarded wealth and the failure to spend it in God’s cause.

  1. The number of the months, in God’s sight, is twelve as determined and de- creed by God on the day when He created the heavens and the earth (and set them moving in the present conditions). Four of them are sacred (in that fight- ing is forbidden during them). This is the upright, ever-true Religion (the order that God has established for the operation of the universe and life of humanity). Do not, therefore, wrong yourselves with respect to these months. Nevertheless, fight all together against those who associate partners with God just as they fight against you all together; and know well that God is with the God-revering, pious who keep their duties to Him.
  2. The postponement of a sacred month, and therefore making changes (for such aims as to make fighting in the Sacred Months lawful and cause the season of the Pilgrimage to fall in the period of the year they wish) is but an increase in unbelief (for it means making the unlawful lawful and changing the nature of many lawful and unlawful acts done in those months and therefore recognizing no law). By doing so, those who disbelieve are (further) misled, declaring it (the month they postpone) permitted in one year and forbidden in another, in order that they may conform to the number of the months that God has declared as sacred, (without caring) that they thereby make lawful what God has made unlawful. The evil of their deeds is decked out to be appealing to them. God
 

does not guide the disbelieving people (to truth and to the attainment of their aims).

  1. O you who believe! What excuse do you have that when it is said to you: “Mobilize (for the campaign of Tabuk)11 in God’s cause!” you cling heavily to the earth? Are you content with the present, worldly life, rather than the Hereafter? Yet slight is the enjoyment of the worldly life as compared with the Hereafter.

11. The outcome of the Muslim–Byzantine encounter in Mu’tah came as a shock to Ara- bia and the Middle east, for the Romans did not gain the upper hand over the Muslims, even though they outnumbered the Muslims thirty-three to one. Ultimately, thousands of people from the semi-independent Arab tribes living in Syria and the adjoining areas converted to Islam. To avenge himself for Mu’tah, and to prevent the advance of Islam, the Byzantine emperor ordered military preparations to invade Arabia.

God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, who always kept himself abreast of developments bearing on his mission, promptly decided to challenge the Byzantines on the battlefield. Any show of Muslim weakness might have given fresh life to the dying forces of Arabian polytheism and hostility, which had received a crushing blow at Hunayn. Such a development might also have encouraged the hypocrites in and around Madīnah to cause serious damage to Islam from within. They were already in touch with the Ghas- sanid christian prince and with the Byzantine emperor, and had built a mosque, which the Qur’ān calls the Mosque of Dhirār (Dissension) (9: 107), near Madīnah, to serve as their operational base.

Realizing the gravity of the situation, God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, publicly appealed to the Muslims to prepare for war and, contrary to his usual practice, declared that the Romans were his target.

It was mid-summer, the scorching heat was at its peak, the harvest season had just ar- rived, and there was a shortage of material resources. Moreover, the enemy was one of the two superpowers of the time. Despite all this, the companions responded ardently to the Prophet’s call and commenced their war preparations, all contributing much more than their financial means warranted.

In Rajab 9 AH (after Hijrah)/631 ce. God’s Messenger and 30,000 soldiers left Madīnah and marched to Tabuk, quite close to what was then the Byzantine territory in Syria. The Byzantine emperor, who had begun amassing a huge army, abandoned his plans and with- drew his army, for the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, arrived before he was expected and well before the Byzantine troop concentrations were completed (Ibn Sa‘d, 2: 165–168; at-Tabarī, 3: 100–111).

The Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, stayed in Tabuk for 20 days, during which several buffer states under Byzantine hegemony agreed to pay the protection and exemption tax (jizyah) and live under his rule. Many christian tribes embraced Islam will- ingly (al-Bidāyah, 5: 13). This bloodless victory also enabled the Muslims to consolidate

 

their position before a prolonged conflict with the Byzantines, and altogether shattered the power of both the unbelievers and the Hypocrites in Arabia.

  1. If you do not mobilize (as you are commanded), He will punish you griev- ously, and instead of you He will substitute another people, and you will in no way harm Him. God has full power over everything.
  2. If you do not help him (the Messenger), yet, for certain, God helped him when those who disbelieve drove him out (of his home during the Hijrah), the second of the two when they were in the cave (with those in pursuit of them having reached the mouth of the cave), and he said to his companion (with ut- most trust in God and no worry at all): “Do not grieve. God is surely with us.”12 Then God sent down His gift of inner peace and reassurance on him, supported him with hosts you could not see, and brought the word (the cause) of the un- believers utterly low. And God’s word (His cause) is (always and inherently) supreme. God is All-Glorious with irresistible might, All-Wise.

12. The verse refers to the Hijrah. The Messenger’s reliance on God made him fearless. He appeared in the heartland of a desert inhabited by one of the most uncivilized peoples of the world. Despite their harsh treatment, and the strident hostility of one of his own uncles, he challenged the whole world and, through complete trust in God, carried his mission to victory. He had only a handful of supporters, and his victory came in a very short period – an unparalleled achievement.

The Quraysh were so eager to kill him that just before his emigration to Madīnah, they selected one man from each clan. These, numbering roughly 200, led by Abū Jahl and Abū Lahab, besieged his house. God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, told his cousin ‘Ali, may God be pleased with him, to spend the night in his bed and, throwing some dust at the 200 hostile men while reciting: And We have set a barrier before them and a barrier behind them, and (thus) We have covered them from all sides, so that they cannot see (36: 9), he departed without being seen. He left Makkah with his closest friend, Abū Bakr, and reached the cave of Thawr, which is at the top of a steep mountain. Finding him gone, the chiefs of the Quraysh sent out search parties. One of these climbed the mountain up to the cave. Abū Bakr became anxious, fearing for the life of God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings. However, the latter comforted him by saying, “Do not grieve. God is surely with us,” and added: “What do you think of the two men beside whom God is the third?” (al-Bukhārī, “Tafsīr,” 9; Ibn Hanbal, 1: 4).

  1. Mobilize whether you are equipped lightly or heavily (and whether it be easy or difficult for you); and strive with your wealth and persons in God’s cause. Do- ing so is what is for your good, if you but know it.
  2. Had there been an immediate gain, and an easy journey, those (who stayed behind because of hypocrisy) would surely have followed you, but the difficult journey was too distant for them. Yet they will swear by God: “If only we had
 

been able to, we would surely have gone forth with you.” They destroy their own selves, for God knows that they are truly liars.

  1. May God give you grace! Why did you give them leave to stay behind until it became clear to you who was speaking the truth, and you came to know the liars?13
  1. In the statement, until it became clear to you who was speaking the truth and you came to know the liars, there are subtle points and legal principles to be noted:
    • If a person known to be truthful says something, he or she should be believed. How- ever, this does not remove the probability that he or she may have lied. But, while a verbal statement is enough to judge if a person is truthful in a matter, judging a person’s speech as a lie must be based on certain knowledge. For this reason, while the verse uses the expression, become clear, for judging a person to be speaking the truth, it uses the expression, to come to know, to judge whether he or she is telling a lie.
    • The verse uses a verb – speak – for those who spoke the truth when asking the Mes- senger, upon him be peace and blessings, to be excused from the war, while it uses a noun – liar – for those who did not speak the truth. A noun implies constancy, and so a liar is one who habitually lies. Therefore, those who told lies in this matter were liars and, therefore, the hypocrites in the community – because habitual lying is a sign of hypocrisy. However, since a single act of lying is enough to damage reliability or trustworthiness, a believer must always avoid lying, as a believer is, most of all, one who is both reliable and trustworthy.
    • The verse using a verb – speak – for those who spoke the truth but a noun – liar – for the others also implies that we cannot judge a person to be always and absolutely truthful by his or her saying the truth in a matter, although we cannot automatically suspect him or her of being a liar.

At this point, it would be useful to note that rendering such subtleties of the Qur’ān in its original language into other languages is often impossible. It is for this reason that the Qur’ān cannot be fully and exactly translated into another language, and any translation of it cannot be regarded as being the Qur’ān itself.

  1. Those who believe in God and the Last Day do not ask you for leave to be excused from striving in God’s cause with their wealth and persons. God has full knowledge of the God-revering, pious who keep their duty to Him.
  2. Only they ask you for leave who do not truly believe in God and the Last Day and whose hearts are doubting, so that in their doubting they waver be- tween one thing and another.
  3. Had they truly meant to go forth for war, they would surely have made cer- tain preparation (demonstrating their intent). But God was averse to their rising to fight (unwillingly and without sincerity of purpose), and so He caused them to hold back, and it was decreed for them: “Stay at home with the stay-at-homes (women and children).”
 
  1. If they had gone forth among you, they would have brought no addition to you except trouble, and would have run about in your midst seeking to stir up sedition among you. Among you were some who were prone to heed them. God has full knowledge of the wrongdoers.
  2. Assuredly they sought to stir up sedition before, and tried to turn things upside down to frustrate you, until the truth came and God’s decree was made evident, however hateful this was to them.
  3. Among them is one who says: “Give me leave (not to participate in this campaign) and do not expose me to temptation.” Oh, but surely, they have al- ready fallen into temptation (because of their hypocrisy and transgressions)! And surely Hell encompasses the unbelievers.
  4. If something good comes to you (O Messenger), this grieves them; and if a disaster befalls you, they say, “We have taken due care of our affairs in good time,” and turn away, exultant.
  5. Say: “Nothing befalls us except what God has decreed for us; He is our Guardian and Owner; and in God let the believers put all their trust.
  6. Say (to the hypocrites): “Or else are you are expecting for us other than one of the two best things (namely, victory or martyrdom in God’s cause)? But what we expect for you is that God will inflict punishment upon you from Himself or by our hands! Wait, then, and we too are waiting with you.”
  7. (Respond to their unwilling donation and) say: “Whether you give willingly or unwillingly, (pretending that you give in God’s cause), it will never be accept- able (to God) from you. Surely, you are a transgressing people.”
  8. Nothing hinders their offerings being accepted from them, except that they disbelieve in God and His Messenger, and whenever they come to the Pre- scribed Prayer they do so indolently (i.e. with reluctance), and they do not offer contributions except as averse (to doing so).
  9. Let neither their wealth nor their children impress you. God only wills, thereby, to punish them in the life of this world, and that their souls will depart while they are unbelievers.14

14. It should once more be pointed out that God does not will unbelief or punishment for anybody. He is pleased only with the belief and well-being of His servants. However, such statements mean that God has recognized a field of free movement for human free will, and whatever a person wills, He brings it into existence through that person. He is never pleased with the unbelief, hypocrisy or transgression of His servants, and in order for them to find true guidance, He sent Messengers, and with them He sent down Books. After

 

the Prophets, He creates great persons who represent His religion and convey it to people. Despite all this, those who persist in unbelief and transgression deserve punishment in ac- cordance with the laws God has established for human life. Wealth and children are causes of trouble and anxiety for those who do not believe in God and the Hereafter, and who assign all their efforts to this worldly life. All their lives are spent trying to earn their liveli- hood and bring up their children; yet they make their living without any lofty ideals. They never think of the other life, and they die as they have lived, as unbelievers.

  1. They swear by God that they are indeed of you (belonging with the believ- ers), yet they are not of you. They are only a people ridden by fear (and thereby pretending to be of you).
  2. If they could but find a place of refuge, or any cavern, or any place to creep into to hide, they would turn about and make a bolt for it.
  3. Among them is one who finds fault with you concerning (the distribution of ) alms. If they are given something thereof, they are pleased; but if they are not given anything, they are consumed with rage.
  4. If only they were content with what God and His Messenger give them and would say, “God is sufficient for us! God will give us more out of His grace and bounty, and so will His Messenger. Surely we are supplicants before God (seek- ing His good pleasure, with no right or cause of complaint).”
  5. The Prescribed Purifying Alms (the Zakah) are meant only for the poor, and the destitute (albeit, out of self-respect, they do not give the impression that they are in need), and those in charge of collecting (and administering) them, and those whose hearts are to be won over (for support of God’s cause, including those whose hostility is to be prevented), and to free those in bondage (slavery and captivity), and to help those over-burdened with debt, and in God’s cause (to exalt God’s word, to provide for the warriors and students, and to help the pilgrims), and for the wayfarer (in need of help). This is an ordinance from God. God is All-Knowing, All-Wise.
  6. Among them (the hypocrites) are those who hurt the Prophet and say (of him): “He is all ear (listening to everyone and disposed to believe them).” Say: “Yes, he is all ear, listening to what is best for you; he believes in God, and trusts the believers, and a great mercy for those among you who believe.” Those who hurt God’s Messenger – for them is a painful punishment.
  7. They swear to you by God (O believers) so that you may be pleased with them, while it is God and His Messenger whose pleasure they should seek, if indeed they are believers.
 
  1. Do they not know that whoever opposes God and His Messenger, for him is the fire of Hell to abide therein. That is the tremendous disgrace.
  2. The hypocrites are afraid lest a surah should be sent down against them making plainly known what is in their hearts (while they do not hold back from mocking the Messenger and the believers). Say (to them, O Messenger): “Go on mocking. God will surely bring to light that (whose disclosure) you dread.”
  3. If you ask them (about what they were saying), they will say: “We were merely jesting and being playful.” Say: “Was it God and His Revelations and His Messenger that you were mocking?”
  4. Do not make excuses now! You have indeed disbelieved after your (declara- tion of ) faith. even if We pardon a section of you (those whose idle talk was not intended to mock God and His Messenger), We will surely punish another section of you for they have been criminals.
  5. The hypocrites, both men and women, are all of a kind: enjoining and pro- moting what is evil and forbidding and trying to prevent what is right and good, and they withhold their hands (from doing good and spending in God’s cause). They are oblivious of God (with respect to faith and worship and serving in His cause), and so He is oblivious of them (with respect to rewarding). Assuredly, the hypocrites are those who are the transgressors.
  6. God has promised the hypocrites, both men and women, and the unbeliev- ers, the fire of Hell, therein to abide: it is (recompense) to suffice them. God has excluded them from His mercy, and for them is a lasting punishment.
  7. Just like the peoples before you (O hypocrites and unbelievers) who were greater than you in power and more abundant in wealth and children. They enjoyed their lot (in the world) for a while; and you have been enjoying your lot just as those who preceded you enjoyed their lot, and you have plunged in self-indulgence as others who plunged. Such (hypocrites and unbelievers) are those whose works have been wasted in both this world and the Hereafter, and those – they are the losers.
  8. Have there not reached them the exemplary histories of those who lived before them – the people of Noah, the Ad, the Thamud, and the people of Abra- ham, and the dwellers of Madyan (Midian), and the overthrown cities (of So- dom and Gomorrah)? Their Messengers came to them with the clear proofs (of the truth, in which they would not believe.) It was not, then, God who wronged them but they wronged their own selves.
  9. The believers, both men and women, they are guardians, confidants, and
 

helpers of one another. They enjoin and promote what is right and good and forbid and try to prevent the evil, and they establish the Prescribed Prayer in conformity with its conditions, and pay the Prescribed Purifying Alms. They obey God and His Messenger. They are the ones whom God will treat with mercy. Surely God is All-Glorious with irresistible might, All-Wise.

  1. God has promised the believers, both men and women, Gardens through which rivers flow, therein to abide, and blessed dwellings in Gardens of per- petual bliss; and greater (than those) is God’s being pleased with them. That indeed is the supreme triumph.
  2. O (most illustrious) Prophet! Strive against the unbelievers and the hypo- crites (in the way required by time and conditions), 15 and be stern against them. Their final refuge is Hell: how evil a destination to arrive at!

15. The expression “in the way required by time and conditions” does not exist in the origi- nal text of the verse. However, first of all, as mentioned in many other verses, the Qur’ān discriminates among the opponents of Islam, and even the unbelievers, the People of the Book, and the polytheists themselves, as seen at the beginning of this sūrah. It never orders that all the unbelievers and hypocrites be treated in the same way. It orders that sometimes the Muslims should treat them with patience, sometimes with forgiveness, and sometimes by overlooking their ill-treatment of the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, and the believers. There even comes a time when the believers are ordered to converse with them in the best way possible and call them to the truth with fair exhortation and wisdom. What is important is that we should know what kinds of unbelievers and hypocrites are being discussed, and under what limited conditions the verse orders the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, and, therefore, the Muslims, to strive hard and be stern against them. We should, finally, point out that the ways of striving against the unbelievers and that of striving against the hypocrites differ from one another. For example, since the hypocrites are Muslim in appearance and are regarded as such, Muslims cannot fight against them as long as they obey the government and fulfill their duties of citizenship. (See also verse 123, note 28.)

  1. They swear by God that they have said nothing (blasphemous), whereas they certainly did utter blasphemies (the word of unbelief ), and they fell into unbelief after having entered the fold of Islam, and they purposed and attempted what they could not achieve. They are spiteful against (Islam and the Messenger) for no other reason than that God enriched them and (caused) His Messenger (to enrich them) out of His grace and bounty! even so, if they repent, it will be to their good; but if they still turn away, God will punish them painfully in the world and the Hereafter. They have on earth no protecting guardian nor helper (against God’s punishment).
  2. Among them are some who vowed to God: “Surely, if God grants us out of His grace and bounty, we will most certainly (pay the Prescribed Alms and)
 

spend in alms for His sake, and we will most certainly be among the righ- teous.”

  1. Then God granted them out of His grace and bounty, but they clung to it in niggardly fashion and turned about, swerving away (from what they had vowed).
  2. So as a consequence He has caused hypocrisy to be in their hearts (and to re- main rooted therein) until the day when they will meet Him (at death), because they have broken their word to God that they promised Him, and because they were lying habitually.
  3. Do they not know that God knows what they keep concealed and their pri- vate counsels and gossips, and that God has full knowledge of the whole of the Unseen (all that lies beyond the reach of any created being’s perception).
  4. They taunt the believers, who give for God’s sake more than they are duty- bound to give, as well as those who can find nothing to give except (what they earn through) their hard toil, and they scoff at them. God causes their scoffing to rebound on themselves, and for them is a painful punishment.16

16. The verses reveal how disgusting hypocrisy is, and they warn people against it. The last verse describes a typical aspect of hypocrisy. Those who have no praiseworthy virtues taunt the worthy people because of their merits. For example, as mentioned in the verse, those who do not spend out of their wealth for the good of the community and in God’s cause, attempt to find fault with those who do give, and they taunt them with accusations that they are only making a show. The hypocrites during the Messenger’s time accused the wealthy believers who donated large amounts of money of insincerity and ostentation, and scoffed at the poor believers who donated modest amounts out of their scanty earnings through their hard toil, saying, “Will the strongholds of Byzantium be destroyed with what those give?” They derided them by making signs with their eyes and eyebrows. This was the reflection of the hypocrisy in their hearts. The attitudes, such as derision, scoffing and taunting, which some display when they see others who have merits that they do not have, demonstrate the hypocrisy in their hearts. even though we cannot say that anyone who does this is a hypocrite, it is certain that such attitudes are, in fact, attitudes that typically belong to hypocrites.

  1. Whether you (O Messenger) pray for their forgiveness or do not pray for their forgiveness, even if you pray for their forgiveness seventy times, God will not forgive them. That is because they disbelieve in God and His Messenger. God will not guide the transgressing people.
  2. Those who were left behind in opposition to God’s Messenger rejoiced at staying at home, and abhorred striving with their wealth and persons in God’s cause. And they said: “Do not go forth to war in this heat.” Say (O Messenger):
 

“The fire of Hell is fiercer in heat.” If only they had been able to ponder and penetrate the essence of matters to grasp the truth!

  1. So let them laugh little and weep much, in recompense for what they have been earning.
  2. If God brings you back (from the campaign) and a party of them ask your leave to go forth to war with you, say to them: “Never will you go forth with me any more, nor will you fight an enemy in my company. You were content to stay at home on that first occasion, so continue to stay at home with those who are (naturally) bound to remain behind!”
  3. And never do the funeral Prayer over any of them who dies, nor stand by his grave to pray for him. They surely disbelieved in God and His Messenger and died transgressors.
  4. Let neither their wealth nor their children impress you; God only wills, thereby, to punish them in this world and that their souls should depart while they are unbelievers.17

17. See verse 55, note 14.

  1. (Indeed they are unbelievers, and never want to go forth to war in God’s cause.) Whenever a surah is sent down (calling them): “Believe in God and strive in God’s cause in the company of His Messenger,” (even) those of them who are well able (to go to war) ask you to excuse them, saying: “Leave us to be with those who are to stay at home.”
  2. They are well-pleased to be with those (women and children) bound to stay behind, and a seal has been set upon their hearts, so they cannot ponder and penetrate the essence of matters to grasp the truth.
  3. But the Messenger and those who believe in his company have striven in God’s cause with their wealth and persons. They are those for whom is all good, and they are those who are the prosperous.
  4. God has prepared for them Gardens through which rivers flow, therein to abide. That is the supreme triumph.
  5. Some among the Bedouin Arabs having true excuses came (to the Mes- senger) to ask leave to stay behind, whereas those who are false to God and His Messenger (in their covenant and claim of adherence) stayed at home (without taking part in the campaign). A painful punishment will befall those of them who disbelieve.
 
  1. There is no blame on those too weak to go forth to war, and the sick, and on those who cannot find the means (with which to equip and maintain themselves if they go forth), provided that they are true to God and His Messenger. There can be no way (of blame) against those who are devoted to doing good, aware that God is seeing them. God is All-Forgiving, All-compassionate.
  2. Nor (can there be any way to blame) those who, when they came to you to provide them with mounts, and you said, “I cannot find anything whereon to mount you,” they returned, their eyes overflowing with tears for sorrow that they could not find anything to spend (to prepare themselves for the campaign).
  3. The way (of blame) is open only against those who sought leave to stay be- hind even though they are wealthy (well able to equip themselves for the cam- paign). They were well-pleased to be with those (women and children) bound to stay behind. God has set a seal on their hearts, so that they do not know (the truth and what is really beneficial to them).
  4. They will offer excuses to you (O believers) when you return to them. Say (to them, O Messenger): “Do not offer excuses: we will never believe you. God has informed us (of the truth) about you. And God will observe your (future) conduct, and so will His Messenger, and then you will be brought back to the Knower of the Unseen and the witnessed, and He will make you understand what you used to do (and call you to account).
  5. When you return to them, they will (out of fear of punishment) swear to you in the Name of God, (repeating their excuses) so that you may leave them be. So leave them be and withdraw from them. They are loathsome, and their final refuge is Hell as a recompense for what they have been earning.
  6. They will swear to you so that you may be pleased with them. But even should you be pleased with them, God will not be pleased with the transgress- ing people.
  7. The Bedouin Arabs are (by nature) more stubborn in unbelief and hypocrisy (than the city-dwellers), and more liable to be unaware of the bounds prescribed by God in what He has sent down on His Messenger. God is All-Knowing (of the nature and state of His servants), All-Wise.18

18. The Bedouin Arabs were those who lived a nomadic life in the desert or in villages. As a culture, and through centuries of their particular lifestyle, they had developed general pat- terns of behaviorr whereby many of them, if not most, were rude, obstinate, and ignorant. Most could not find time to visit the Messenger and listen to him. So it was difficult for even a minority of them to change their centuries-old world-view, beliefs, and lifestyle.

 

We should note here that history tells us that both the unbelievers and hypocrites who lived during the Messenger’s life were the most refractory of all times. Both the people of Mak- kah and Madīnah, while extremely courageous, were also arrogant, merciless, and deeply devoted to their centuries-old cultures, beliefs, and lifestyles; therefore, they were extremely difficult to deal with. But the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, edu- cated them in such a way that he raised from them the greatest, most merciful, wise, virtu- ous, and knowledgeable community of all times. They came to be known and respected as the companions, and they became the teachers of all future Muslim generations. This is one of the greatest miracles of the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, which is unparalleled in human history. Said Nursi writes:

consider how he quickly eradicated his people’s fanatic attachment to their evil and savage customs and immoral qualities. See how he equipped and adorned the Peninsula’s dispa- rate, wild, and unyielding peoples with all praiseworthy virtues and made them teachers and masters of the world, especially to the civilized nations. Moreover, this domination was not outward – he conquered and subjugated minds, spirits, hearts, and souls. He became the beloved of hearts, the teacher of minds, the trainer of souls, and the ruler of spirits.

You know that a small habit like smoking, even in a small community, can be removed permanently only by a powerful ruler and with great effort. But the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, quickly removed numerous ingrained habits from large obsessed com- munities with little outward power and effort. In their place, he implanted and inculcated exalted qualities that became inherent in their being. Many more such miraculous accom- plishments can be credited to him. To those who refuse to see the testimony of this blessed age, let them go to the present “civilized” Arabian Peninsula with hundreds of philosophers, sociologists, and psychologists, and strive for 100 years. I wonder if they can achieve in that period even a small fraction of what the Prophet achieved in a year (The Words, “the 19th Word,” 249–250).

In viewing the Qur’ānic passages about the unbelievers among the hypocrites, this point should never be forgotten.

  1. Among the Bedouin Arabs there are such as take what they spend (as Pre- scribed Alms and the contributions they are called on to make in God’s cause) as a fine, and wait for some misfortune to befall you; theirs will be the evil turn. God is All-Hearing, All-Knowing.
  2. Among the Bedouin Arabs there are also those who believe in God and the Last Day, and take what they spend (as Prescribed Alms and the contributions they are called on to make in God’s cause) as a means of drawing them near to God and of the Messenger’s praying (to God for them). Indeed, it is a means for them to draw near to God. God will admit them into His mercy. Surely, God is All-Forgiving, All-compassionate.
  3. The first and foremost (to embrace Islam and excel others in virtue) among the emigrants and the Helpers, and those who follow them in devotion to doing
 

good, aware that God is seeing them – God is well-pleased with them, and they are well-pleased with Him, and He has prepared for them Gardens throughout which rivers flow, therein to abide forever. That is the supreme triumph.19

  1. This verse is enough to show the merit of the Messenger’s companions. The Muslim scholars unanimously agree that the companions of Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, are the most meritorious of all people after the Prophets. It should be noted that while the Qur’ān uses the preposition min (functioning to exclude some part from a whole) in describing the Gardens which all other believers will be admitted into, it does not do so in this verse. So, while there are rivers in other Gardens flowing through them, the Gardens into which the companions will be admitted have rivers flowing throughout them. This means that they are richer than the others in blessings and bounties.

According to the definition of the scholars, a companion is “a believer who saw and heard the Messenger at least once and died as a believer” (al-Asqalānī, 1: 7). Scholars have di- vided them into twelve ranks, according to their precedence in accepting and serving Islam, which are as described below. (Some companions, particularly those who were the first to accept Islam, are included in many of the ranks. For example, nine of the ten who were promised Paradise while they were alive and who comprise the first rank are also included in the second. So, each rank should be considered with respect to those who are included in it particularly.)

    • The four Rightly Guided caliphs (Abū Bakr, ‘Umar, ‘Uthmān, and ‘Ali), and the rest of the ten who were promised Paradise while still alive (Zubayr ibn al-‘Awwām, Abū ‘Ubaydah ibn al-Jarrāh, ‘Abdurrahmān ibn al-‘Awf, Talhah ibn ‘Ubaydullāh, Sa‘d ibn Abī Waqqās, and Sa‘īd ibn Zayd).
    • Those who believed prior to ‘Umar’s conversion and met secretly in Zayd ibn Arqām’s house to listen to the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings.
    • Those who migrated to Abyssinia.
    • The Helpers (Ansār) who swore their allegiance to the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, at al-‘Aqabah.
    • The Helpers who swore their allegiance at al-‘Aqabah the following year.
    • The emigrants who joined the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings during the Hijrah before his arrival in Madīnah from Qūba, where he stayed for a short while.
    • The companions who fought at Badr.
    • Those who emigrated to Madīnah between the Battle of Badr and the Treaty of Hu- daybiyah.
    • The companions who swore allegiance under a tree during the expedition to Hu- daybiyah.
    • Those who converted and emigrated to Madīnah after the Treaty of Hudaybiyah.
    • Those who became Muslims after the conquest of Makkah.
    • children who saw the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, any time or any place after the conquest of Makkah (al-Hākim, 22–24).

Some interpreters of the Qur’ān understand from the expression, The first and foremost

 

among the emigrants and the Helpers, to be indicating the first two or three ranks among the emigrants and the Helpers, and the expression, those who follow them in devotion to doing good aware that God is seeing them, denoting the others. But some are of the opinion that the preposition min, translated as “among,” functions here as an explanation and, therefore, the emigrants and the Helpers are in apposition to the first and foremost. According to these scholars, all of the emigrants and Helpers are the first and foremost in Islam, and those who follow them in devotion in doing good, aware that God is seeing them are the two generations which followed the companions. The Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, declared: “The best people are those living in my time. Then come those who follow them, and then come those who follow them. Those will be followed by a generation whose witness is sometimes true, sometimes false” (al-Bukhārī, “Fadā’il al- Ashāb,” 1; Muslim, “Fadā’il as-Sahābah,” 212).

  1. Among the Bedouin Arabs who dwell around you there are hypocrites, and among the people of Madinah (too) there are such as have grown more artful and insidious in hypocrisy: you (O Messenger) do not know them (unless We inform you of them). We know them all (and the threat they pose). We will punish them doubly, and then they will be returned to a mighty punishment (in the Hereafter).
  2. Others (there are who) have admitted their sins: they have mixed a righ- teous deed with an evil one. It may be that God will return their repentance with forgiveness. Surely God is All-Forgiving, All-compassionate.
  3. Take alms (prescribed or voluntary) out of their wealth so that you (O Messenger) may thereby cleanse them and cause them to grow in purity and sincerity, and pray for them. Indeed your prayer is a source of comfort for them. God is All-Hearing, All-Knowing.
  4. Do they not know that surely God is He Who welcomes His servants’ turn- ing to Him in repentance, and accepts what is offered as charity (prescribed or voluntary ) for His sake, and that surely God is He Who accepts repentance and returns it with liberal forgiveness and additional reward, the All-compassionate (especially towards His believing servants)?
  5. Say: “Work, and God will see your work, and so will His Messenger and the true believers; and you will be brought back to the Knower of the Unseen and the witnessed, and He will make you understand all that you were doing (and call you to account for it).
  6. And yet others (there are, about whom) God’s decree is awaited: whether He will punish them or guide them to repentance to forgive them.20 God is All- Knowing, All-Wise.
  1. There are some events which function as decisive criteria in clearly distinguishing peo-
 

ple from one another, in helping to understand their character and values, and in judging them. The campaign to Tabuk during the Messenger’s time was one of these events. It explicitly showed that there are groups among the Muslims of different ranks.

As pointed out above in note 1 (Appendix 3), there are basically two kinds of Muslims: the real ones who believe in whatever must be believed, and the false ones who are legally Muslims or Muslim citizens of an Islamic state. If a person verbally declares faith and at- tends the congregational prayer, in particular the Friday Prayer, and pays the Prescribed Alms, then he or she is regarded as a Muslim. But such a person may well be a hypocrite who is inwardly an unbeliever. So, as indicated in the verses, three groups of verses appeared in regard with the campaign to Tabuk:

    • True believers: They took part in the campaign willingly, or if they did not take part, this was because they could not, due either to lacking the necessary means or being ill or too weak. These believers always remained true to God and His Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, and made free donations each according to their capacity. Among these believers there were also ranks. Some excelled others in embracing Islam and serving it, while others followed them sincerely and in devotion to doing good.
    • The believers who did not take part in the campaign but immediately confessed their faults and repented. Their past record also demonstrated their righteousness. They could hope that God, Who is All-Forgiving and All-compassionate, would forgive them.
    • The believers who did not participate in the campaign and yet showed no repentance. Their cases were deferred until a time when God would pass His final judgment on them. It is reported that they were those whom verse 118 would describe as also hav- ing repented and being forgiven.
    • The hypocrites: They did not believe in the essentials of faith, but declared faith ver- bally. even though they did so reluctantly and lazily, they attended the congregational prayers, in particular the Friday Prayer, and, if they were wealthy enough, they paid the Prescribed Alms. But they frequently lied, never missed any opportunity to cause harm to Islam, the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, and the believers. Some of them were more artful and insidious in their hypocrisy. But the matchless sagacity, insight and intelligence of the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings,as well as the fact that he was supported by Divine Revelation, prevented all their plans from being successful. However, since they did not do anything that would have le- gally classified them as unbelievers or apostates, they were still regarded as Muslims. The Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, did not disclose their identity. He only told Hudayfah ibn al-Yamān about them. After he was prohibited from perform- ing their funeral prayer (9: 84), the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, did not perform the funeral prayer for any hypocrite when they died. After the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, the other companions, including ‘Umar in particu- lar, followed the lead of Hudayfah as to whether a funeral prayer should be performed for a person, and if Hudayfah did not participate in someone’s funeral prayer, then they did not participate either.
  1. Some among the hypocrites – who have adopted a mosque out of dis- sension and unbelief, in order to cause division among the believers, and use as an outpost to collaborate with him who before made war on God and His
 

Messenger – will certainly swear: “We mean nothing but good (in building this mosque),” whereas God bears witness that they are surely liars.21

21. This verse mentions a very important point. Despite the Qur’ān’s emphatic warnings, Muslims have been unable to perceive the conspiracies of hypocrites, except during the Age of Happiness, including to a certain extent the period of the first Four Rightly Guided caliphs; many acts of hypocrisy have been sources of the greatest danger for Muslims.

In their unceasing struggle against Islam in Madīnah, the hypocrites built a mosque. It was meant to divide the Muslim community. They invited the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, to inaugurate it by leading the first prayer in it. However, the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, excused himself from this, as he was busy with the prepa- rations for the campaign to Tabuk.

There was a man called Abū ‘Āmir who had become a christian before the Messenger’s emigration to Madīnah and who desired to be the chief. But, since he had not been able to realize his plans once the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, emigrated there, he had become the enemy of the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, and began to fight against him. He finally went to the emperor of Byzantium to provoke him against the Muslims. By building the mosque, the hypocrites also intended to use it as a base to collaborate with these enemies. The Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, who knew the real purpose for the construction of that mosque, ordered its destruction on his return from Tabuk.

Many bands of hypocrites under the guise of Islam have conspired against Muslims during the history of Islam. As well as having played a great part in the emergence of many of the heterodox sects, it has also been such bands that caused the destruction of the Ottoman State and have conspired against Muslims throughout the world since that time. Although Muslims in name, they usually belong to different faiths or are anti-religious, and are re- fractory enemies of Islam. Among them, some have appeared who have even built mosques and infiltrated some Muslim organizations. It is unfortunate that in recent centuries, in particular, Muslims seem to have lacked the insight to recognize these people.

  1. Do not stand in that mosque to do the Prayer. The mosque that was found- ed on piety and reverence for God from the very first days (in Madinah) is worthy that you should stand in it for the Prayer. In it are men who love to be purified (of all spiritual and moral blemishes). God loves those who strive to purify themselves.
  2. Is he better, who founded his building (religion and personal world) on piety and reverence for God, and the aim to please God, or he who founded his building on the edge of a water-worn, crumbling river-bank so that it tumbles with him into the Hell-fire? God does not guide wrongdoing people.
  3. The building (systems, plans, and lifestyles) which the hypocrites have founded will never cease to be doubt and disquiet in their hearts (that are crushed
 

by fear and anxieties), unless their hearts are cut into pieces (and they themselves die).22 God is All-Knowing (of their states of mind and conspiracies), All-Wise (in Whose every act and decree there are many instances of wisdom).

22. This verse describes the inner worlds of the hypocrites in an extraordinarily figurative style. All the systems that they devise and the plans that they make and the outposts they build to struggle with Islam are nothing but a source of disquiet and fear for them. For they feign to be Muslims while their hearts are like nests of snakes and scorpions. Since they are traitors, they are fearful. They constantly feel fear of being discovered and of their plans being brought to light. This fear pounds in their chests. It is evident to what extent such a fear can be harmful to the heart. If the bands of hypocrisy have been successful to certain extent in their conspiracies against the Muslims, particularly in recent centuries, this is because the Muslims have fallen away from Islam and have lost the discernment that Islam provides for them. In truth, hypocrisy is a dungeon or prison for a hypocrite.

  1. God has bought from the believers their selves and wealth because Paradise is for them.23 They fight in God’s cause, and they kill or are killed. This is a promise with which God has bound Himself in the Torah and in the Gospel and in the Qur’ān.24 Who could be more faithful to his covenant than God? So (O believers), glad tidings to you because of the bargain you have made with Him! That, indeed, is the supreme triumph.
  1. It is God Who has created humankind and prepared all the conditions for our life. So, He is our absolute Owner. However, He has distinguished and honored us with free will and, without leaving us to be lost in the “wasteland” of the world, He has informed us of what consequences we will meet in return for what we do.

As the very being of all humans belongs to God, His share in what they suppose to be their wealth is more than 999/1000. For example, air and water are two of the three basic essen- tials for human life; these belong solely to God, and almost nothing of them is the property of human beings or the result of their effort. It is also God Who creates the wheat seed and Who equips it with the ability to germinate; Who creates air, water, earth, and solar light, which are essential to its growth; and Who brings about the necessary co-operation among these elements. Again, it is He Who creates human beings with the power and ability to obtain this wheat. Therefore, their share in the bread they make from it is even less than one in a thousand.

Though humans, with their very being and their wealth, belong absolutely to God, God offers them a bargain: He will buy from them what He has deposited in them in return for eternal happiness. He will also safeguard them from being troubled because of these things. This is a bargain completely in their favor. Nevertheless, our ignorance and heedlessness can prevent us from willingly accepting such a bargain.While the Qur’ān mentions first wealth and then the person of human beings in the places where it talks about striving in God’s cause, in this verse, it gives precedence to the being or persons of human beings. This is because it is these beings themselves that will enjoy eternal happiness in Paradise (The Words, “the 6th Word;” Kur’an’dan İdrake, 1: 182–183).

 
  1. The verse explicitly informs us of a promise to the believers, which is mentioned in the Torah, the Gospel, and in the Qur’ān. However, although there are many passages in the Gospel that concern Paradise, sometimes under the title of the Kingdom of Heaven, such as in the verse, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew, 5: 10), and sometimes under the title of eternal life, such as in the verse, “And everyone who has left houses, or brothers, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life” (Matthew, 19: 29). The Torah in its present form does not contain any explicit promise of Paradise. It is shorn of the notion of life after death, of the Day of Judgment, and of Divine reward and punishment, even though belief in the Hereafter is the second pillar of faith in all God-revealed religions. Although the original Torah certainly contained passages concerning this pillar, since the present Torah is the product of a time in Jewish history when Jews tragically became too worldly, all the promises of the eternal life of Paradise were taken to mean triumph in this worldly life, and the descriptions of Paradise were interpreted as being descriptions of Palestine. For example, in the Qur’ān 48: 15, Paradise is described as a place that has been promised to the pious, in which there are rivers of pure, unpolluted water; of milk; of delicious, non-intoxicant wine (fruit juice); and of pure honey. But in the present Torah, the land with milk and honey (Deuteronomy, 6: 3) has come to be taken to mean Palestine.

However, there are some Jews who regard the Resurrection and afterlife as being “the thir- teenth foundation” of the Jewish religion. For example: the Thirteenth Foundation is the resurrection of the dead. The following is a translation of what the Ramba’m writes on this subject: the resurrection of the dead is a foundation from the foundations of Moshe, our Teacher, may peace be upon him. There is no faith and no connection to the Jewish religion for one who does not believe this. But the resurrection is only for the righteous. And so we find the Sages teach: “The rains are for the righteous and the wicked, and the resurrection of the dead is for the righteous alone.” (http://members.aol.com/LazerA/13yesodos.html)

  1. Those who return in repentance to God, and those who worship God, and those who praise God, and those who travel (with such aims as conveying God’s Message or studying and making investigations for God’s sake or reflecting on God’s signs), and those who bow down in awe of God, and those who prostrate themselves before God in submission, and those who enjoin and promote what is right and good and forbid and try to prevent evil, and those who keep to the bounds set by God: give glad tidings to the believers.
  2. It is not for the Prophet and those who believe to ask God for the forgive- ness of those who associate partners with God even though they be near of kin, after it has become clear to them that they (died polytheists and therefore) are condemned to the Blazing Flame.
  3. The prayer of Abraham for the forgiveness of his father was only because of a promise which he had made to him. But when it became clear to him that he was an enemy of God, he (Abraham) dissociated himself from him.25 Abraham was most tender-hearted, most clement.
 

25. It is a controversial matter whether Āzar, whom the Qur’ān mentions as Abraham’s father, was his real father or foster father. The Qur’ān always uses the term ab for him, which can mean either real father or foster father. Abraham, upon him be peace, promised him that he would ask God for his forgiveness (19: 47). In order to fulfill his promise, he asked for his forgiveness (26: 86). Then it became clear to Abraham, upon him be peace, that Āzar was the enemy of God, he stopped praying for him. However, we also read in the Qur’ān that toward the end of his life when he begot both Ishmael (Ismāīl) and Isaac (Ishāq), upon them be peace, Abraham, upon him be peace, prayed for his parents, saying: Our Lord! Forgive me and my parents (14: 41). The Qur’ān uses here the word, wālidayn (parents), not abawayn. While ab may mean real father or foster father, the word wālid means real father. We conclude from this that Āzar was not the real father of the Prophet Abraham, upon him be God’s peace.

  1. It is not God’s way to lead people astray after He has guided them, without having made clear to them what they should beware of (so as to guard against straying).26 Surely, God has full knowledge of everything.

26. After He has guided a people, God never lets them go astray without having made fully clear to them what attitudes may result in their going astray. So, those who deviate from the right path after God has guided them to it are those whose hearts God swerves because they themselves swerve from the right path (61: 5), and who change their inner worlds, world-views, and lifestyles (13: 11).

  1. God is He to Whom belongs the sovereignty of the heavens and the earth. He gives life and causes to die. And you have, apart from God, neither a guardian (who will protect you and to whom you can entrust your affairs) nor a helper.
  2. God has assuredly turned in mercy to the Prophet, as well as to the emi- grants and the Helpers who followed him in the time of hardship, when the hearts of a party among them had well-nigh swerved but God turned (also) to them in mercy (and protected against swerving). Surely for them He is All- Pitying, All-compassionate.
  3. And (He turned in mercy also) to the three left behind and whose cases had been deferred (because they had not taken part in the campaign of Tabuk): (they felt such remorse that) the earth was too narrow for them despite all its vastness, and their souls became utterly constricted for them, and they came to perceive fully that there is no refuge from God except in Him. Then He turned to them in mercy that they might repent and recover their former state (in Islam). Surely God is the One Who truly returns repentance with liberal forgiveness and additional reward, the All-compassionate (especially towards His believing servants.)
  4. O you who believe! Keep from disobedience to God in reverence for Him and piety, and keep the company of the truthful (those who are also faithful to
 

their covenant with God).

  1. It does not behove the people of Madinah and the Bedouin Arabs around them to fail to follow God’s Messenger and to care for their own selves more than for him. That is because they suffer neither from thirst, nor weariness, nor hunger in God’s cause, nor take a step which enrages the unbelievers, nor win some gain from the enemy, but a righteous deed is thereby recorded for them (to their account). Indeed, God does not leave to waste the reward of those devoted to doing good, aware that God is seeing them.
  2. Nor do they spend any amount for God’s sake, small or great, nor do they cross a valley (while traveling in God’s cause), but it is recorded for them (to their account) so that God may repay them the best reward for what they used to do .
  3. And the believers should not go forth to war all together. But why should not a party from every community of them mobilize to acquire profound, cor- rect knowledge and understanding of the Religion, and warn their people when they return to them so that they may beware (of wrongful attitudes)?27

27. Islam is a religion of perfect balance, each part of which is exactly where it should be. While exhorting the believers to mobilize against one of the two superpowers of the time, the Qur’ān does not neglect an important dimension. It orders the Muslim community that there must be some among these people who are well-versed in Islam. If the warriors are victorious, they may feel proud and adopt some undesirable attitudes in the society, while if they are defeated, this may cause them to despair for the future. So they may need a warning from someone well-versed in Islam. Secondly, the army members may not have enough time to learn the commandments of the religion. All this requires that there must be a scholarly group who will teach them. The verse uses the word “tafakkuh” for the group that is to be mobilized in order to instruct in the religion. This means to penetrate the es- sence of a matter, to attain a deep and correct understanding and discernment. Only such people can grasp the religion accurately, and these people are called faqīh.

  1. O you who believe! Fight against those unbelievers who are in your vicinity (and pose an immediate threat to you and the preaching of Islam), and let them find in you sternness.28 Know that God is with the God-revering, pious who keep their duty to Him.

28. There is a relationship between this verse and verse 73. In verse 73, it is ordered that the believers must strive hard (do jihād) against the unbelievers and the hypocrites and be stern against them. This verse also orders fighting against the unbelievers and being stern against them. When the two verses are considered together, we understand that the unbelievers and hypocrites against whom they ordered the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, (and the believers) to strive hard and be stern were particularly those in and around Madīnah. Just as the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, was ordered to begin preaching Islam with his nearest kindred (26: 214), so it is natural that priority in fighting should be

 

given to those who are in the neighborhood and pose an immediate threat. This was also required by the fact that the very center of Islam had to be secure against every attack.

While verse 73 orders doing jihād against both the unbelievers and the hypocrites, and being stern against them, this verse orders fighting against the unbelievers only, and being stern against them in particular. This explicitly shows the difference between jihād and fighting (qitāl). Since the hypocrites are legally regarded as Muslims, the Muslims are not allowed to fight them unless they cause disorder and dissension and rebel against public order. But the Muslims must do jihad against both the unbelievers and the hypocrites.

  1. Whenever a sūrah is sent down, there are some among them (the hypo- crites) who say: “Which of you has this strengthened in his faith?”29 As for those who believe, it does strengthen them in faith, and they rejoice in its being sent down and in the glad tidings (they receive thereby).

29. At first, a person usually believes in the essentials of faith superficially. But when he or she continues to order his or her life in the light of faith;carrying out religious du- ties; regularly worshiping God; reflecting on the essentials and truths of faith based on the evidence that he or she collects from “nature,” events, and his or her conscience and heart; and increasing in knowledge about them, then this person increasingly deepens his or her understanding and knowledge. Thus, the truths of faith are increasingly expanded in one’s mind and heart with the result that, like a bud blossoming into an elaborate flower with full-grown petals, one’s faith constantly develops. Imam Rabbānī Ahmad al-Fārūqī al-Sirhindī (d. 1624), one of the greatest scholars and Sūfī masters in Islam, who lived in India, says: “I would prefer to make one matter of faith known in plain terms than attain thousands of spiritual pleasures and ecstasies and work wonders.” He also says: “The final station of all spiritual journeying is to attain the full perception of the truths of faith” (The Letters, “the 5th Letter,” 22). This knowledge and perception cause faith to grow stronger and deeper.

  1. But as for those in whose hearts there is a sickness (that dries up the source of their spiritual life, extinguishes their power of understanding and corrupts their character), it increases them in foulness added to their foulness, and they die while they are unbelievers.
  2. Do they not see that they are tried time and again every year (by coming face to face with such decisive events and situations as reveal to them their inner world and remind them that they should turn to God in repentance and mend their ways)? Yet they neither repent (and mend their ways) nor take warning (from all that befalls them).
  3. Whenever a surah is sent down (and the Messenger is reciting it in the presence of the Muslims), they glance at each other (as though saying), “Is there anyone who sees you?” and then they slip away. God has turned their hearts away (from the truth) because they are a people who do not ponder and try to
 

grasp the truth.

  1. There has come to you (O people) a Messenger from among yourselves; extremely grievous to him is your suffering, full of concern for you is he, and for the believers full of pity and compassion.
  2. Still, if they turn away from you (O Messenger), say: “God is sufficient for me; there is no deity but He. In Him have I put my trust, and He is the Lord of the Supreme Throne (as the absolute Ruler and Sustainer of the universe and all creation, Who maintains and protects it).”