This sūrah was revealed in Madīnah in the sixth year after the Hijrah, on the occasion of the Treaty of Hudaybiyah between the Muslim city-state of Madīnah and the Makkan polytheists. It has 29 verses and is named after the word al-fath (victory) in the first verse. It mentions this victory, then criticizes the attitudes of the hypocrites, continues with further promises to the Muslims, and ends by mentioning certain important virtues of the Muslim Community.
- We have surely granted you a manifest victory (which is a door to further victories),1
- This verse is about the Treaty of Hudaybiyah. After the Battle of the Trench (33: 9–25; notes 7–12), the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, told his companions that he had had a vision (dream) that they would shortly enter the Holy Mosque in Makkah in security. His companions, especially the emigrants, were delighted. During that year, 628 ce, the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, set out for Makkah with 1,400–1,500 people in pilgrim dress.
Informed of this event, the Quraysh armed themselves and the neighboring tribes to keep the Muslims out of Makkah. The Muslims halted at Hudaybiyah, 12 miles away from Makkah. exchanges of envoys took place.
Finally, God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, sent ‘Uthmān ibn al-’Affān to the Quraysh, a man who had powerful relatives among the Quraysh. Although ‘Uthmān came to negotiate, the Makkans imprisoned him. When he did not return at the expected time, rumors circulated that he had been killed. At this point, the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, sitting under a tree, took an oath from his companions that they would hold together and fight to the death.
In that moment of tension, a cloud of dust appeared in the distance. This turned out to be a Makkan delegation, led by Suhayl ibn ‘Amr. After negotiations, a treaty was concluded.
Under this treaty, the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, and his followers could not make the pilgrimage in that year but could do so the following year, at which time the Makkans would vacate the city for three days. The treaty also stipulated a ten-year truce, that people or tribes could join or ally themselves with either side they wished, and that Qurayshī subjects or dependents who had defected to Madīnah would be returned. This last condition was not reciprocal and, thus, was opposed in the Muslim camp. However, it really was of little importance. The Muslims sent back to Makkah were not likely to renounce Islam; on the contrary, they would be agents of change within Makkah.
The Qur’ān called the Treaty of Hudaybiyah “a manifest victory.” This proved true for several reasons, among them the following:
- By signing this treaty after years of conflict, the Quraysh admitted that the state of Madīnah was their equal. Seeing the Makkans deal with the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, as an equal and a president, a rising tide of converts flowed toward Madīnah from all over Arabia.
- Many Qurayshīs would benefit from the resulting peace by finally reflecting on what was really happening. Such leading Qurayshīs as Khālid ibn Walīd, ‘Amr ibn al-’Ās, and ‘Uthmān ibn Talhah, all famous for their military and political skills, came to ac- cept Islam.
- The Quraysh used to regard the Ka’bah as their exclusive property, and made its visi- tors pay them a tribute. By not subjecting the Muslims’ deferred pilgrimage to this condition, the Quraysh unwittingly ended their monopoly. The Bedouin tribes now realized that the Quraysh had no right to claim exclusive ownership.
- At the time, there were Muslim men and women living in Makkah. Not everyone in Madīnah knew who they were. Had a fight taken place in Makkah, the victori- ous Muslim army might have unintentionally taken the lives of some Muslims. This would have caused great personal anguish, as well as the martyrdom or identification of the Muslims who had been keeping their faith secret. The treaty prevented such a disaster.
- The Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, performed the minor pilgrimage the following year. The declaration, There is no deity but God, and Muhammad is God’s Messenger, rang throughout Makkah. The Quraysh, camped on the hill of Abū Qubays, heard this portent of Islam’s coming triumph. This was, in fact, God’s fulfill- ing the vision He had given to His Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings.
- The treaty allowed the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, to enter into diplomatic relations with others. Their neighbors, as well as other Arab tribes, were impressed with the Islamic state’s growing strength. The Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, also sent letters to neighboring kings and chiefs, calling them to accept Islam.
- The Muslims spread across Arabia and communicated Islam’s Message. While dur- ing the first 19 years, from the beginning of the Messenger’s mission to the Treaty of Hudaybiyah, only a few thousand people had accepted Islam, within two years after the Treaty, more than 5,000 people had converted.
- During the period of armistice, the Muslims won new victories, such as the conquest of al-Khaybar.
- The Muslims faithfully observed the terms of the treaty. However, a tribe allied to the Makkans did not. The Banū Bakr attacked the Banū Khudā’ah, who were allied with the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings. So in December 629 ce, the Mes- senger marched a 10,000-man army against Makkah, and captured it with almost no resistance on the first day of January. The Ka’bah was purified of idols and, over the next couple of days, the Makkans accepted Islam.
So, this verse proved to be another manifest miracle of the Qur’ān.
- That God may forgive you (O Messenger) your lapses of the past and those to
follow,2 and complete His favor on you,3 and guide you (to steadfastness) on a straight path (leading to God’s being pleased with You and eternal happiness);4
- Before proceeding to explain the sinlessness of the Prophets, we should point out that, as will be stated in the last verse, the sins mentioned here are the sins committed by the believ- ers, not the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, himself. As in many other verses, God addresses the believers through the person of the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings. However, the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, also has a share in this address. It should be understood in the light of the following explanation:
Infallibility in the sense of sinlessness is a necessary attribute of the Prophets. Their infal- libility is an established fact, based on reason and tradition. This quality is required for several reasons.
First, the Prophets came to convey the Message of God. If we liken this Message to pure water or light (13: 17; 24: 35), the Archangel Gabriel (who brought it) and the Prophet (who conveyed it), upon him be peace and blessings, also must be absolutely pure. If this were not so, their impurity would pollute the Message. every falling off is an impurity, a dark spot, in the heart. The hearts or souls of Gabriel and the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, are like polished mirrors that reflect the Divine Revelation to people, a cup from which people quench their thirst for the pure Divine water.
Any black spot on the mirror would absorb a ray of that light; a single drop of mud would make the water unclear. As a result, the Prophets would not be able to deliver the complete Message. But they delivered the Message perfectly, as stated in 5: 3 and 67.
Second, the Prophets taught their people all the commands and principles of faith and conduct. In order for people to learn their Religion in its pristine purity and truth, as perfectly as possible so that they can secure their happiness and prosperity in both worlds, the Prophets must present and also represent the Revelation without fault or defect. This is their function as guides and good examples to be followed (33: 21; 60: 4, 6). A Prophet can do or say only that which has been sanctioned by God. If he could not, he would have to repent even beyond his current lifetime.
Third, the Qur’ān commands believers to obey the Prophet’s orders and prohibitions, with- out exception, and emphasizes that it is not fitting for a believer, man or woman, to have any doubts about a judgment on a matter when it has been decided by God and His Mes- senger (33: 36), upon him be peace and blessings. It also warns believers that what falls to them when God and His Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, have given a judg- ment is only to say: “We have heard and obeyed” (24: 51). Absolute obedience to a Prophet means that all of his commands and prohibitions are correct and beyond reproach.
Then, how should we evaluate some verses that mention the forgiveness of a Prophet?
Prophethood is such a great favor that all Prophets bore extreme hardship while fulfill- ing the duty of thanksgiving, and always worried about not worshipping God sufficiently. Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, often implored God as follows: “Glory be to You! We have not been able to know You as Your knowledge requires, O
Known One. Glory be to You! We have not been able to worship You as Your worship requires, O Worshipped One.”
The Qur’ānic verses that are sometimes understood (mistakenly) to reprimand certain Prophets for some faults or to show that they have sought God’s forgiveness for some sin should be considered in this light. Moreover, God’s forgiveness does not always mean that a sin has been committed. The Qur’ānic words ‘afw (pardon) and maghfirah (forgiveness) also signify a special favor and kindness, as well as Divine dispensation, in respect to light- ening or overlooking a religious duty, as in the following verses:
Whoever is constrained by dire necessity (and driven to what is forbidden), without pur- posely inclining to sin – surely God is All-Forgiving, All-compassionate. (5: 3)
If you … can find no water, then betake yourselves to pure earth, passing with it lightly over your face and hands (and forearms, up to and including the elbows). Assuredly, God is One Who grants remission, All-Forgiving. (4: 43)
In addition, sins (lapses in respect with the Prophets) and pardoning have different types and degrees. These are disobeying religious commandments, and forgiveness thereof; dis- obeying God’s laws of creation and life, and forgiveness thereof; and disobeying the rules of good manners or courtesy, and forgiveness thereof. A fourth type, which is not a sin, involves not doing something as perfectly as possible, as required by the love of and near- ness to God. Some Prophets may have done this, but such acts cannot be considered sins according to the common definition.
- See sūrah 5: 3, note 1.
- As with the address in the first part of the verse concerning the forgiveness of sins, this address also is, as will be seen in the verse 20, to the believers through the person of the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, though he also has a share in it with respect to his rank as Messenger and being one who is nearest to God, and, therefore, with respect to his relation with God.
- And that God may help you to a glorious, mighty achievement –
- He it is Who sent down His (gift of ) inner peace and reassurance into the hearts of the believers, so that they might add faith to their faith. To God belong the hosts of the heavens and the earth;5 and God is All-Knowing, All-Wise –
- Some of the hosts of the heavens and the earth are angels and all the forces and laws in the universe which modern science improperly calls “natural forces and laws.”
- And that He may admit the believing men and believing women into Gar- dens through which rivers flow, therein to abide, and may blot out from them their evil deeds. That is a supreme triumph in God’s sight;
- And that He may punish the hypocritical men and the hypocritical women,
and the men and the women who associate partners with God, who always entertain evil thoughts about God.6 Theirs will be the evil turn of fate. God has destined them to a severe punishment, eternally excluded them from His Mercy, and prepared Hell for them. How evil a destination to arrive at!
- The verse mentions hypocrites before polytheists. This is because the harm the former cause to the Muslims is worse than that of the latter and, therefore, they will be in the low- est level of the Fire (4: 145). entertaining evil thoughts about God means having any evil thought that is unbecoming about God. Here, it particularly means the thought that God will not help the believers and make Islam triumphant, and that, therefore, whatever He has promised is a lie, God forbid.
- To God belong the hosts of the heavens and the earth. God is All-Glorious with irresistible might, All-Wise.
- Surely We have sent you as Messenger as a witness (to the truth of Islam and the falsehood of other ways, and as a witness in both worlds to people’s deeds), and as a bearer of glad tidings (of prosperity in return for faith and righteous- ness) and a warner (against the consequences of misguidance);
- And in order that you (O humankind and jinn) believe in God and His Mes- senger (and support His cause), and hold God in the highest regard, and glorify Him in the early morning and in the evening (i.e., day and night).
- Those who swear allegiance to you (O Messenger), swear allegiance to God only. God’s “Hand” is over their hands.7 Whoever then breaks his oath, breaks his oath only to his own harm; and whoever fulfills what he has covenanted with God, He will grant him a tremendous reward.
7. This statement has two important meanings. As obedience to the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, means the same as obedience to God (4: 80), and his throwing at the enemy means the same as God’s throwing (8: 17), the Messenger’s hand being over the hand which he grasps in allegiance represents God’s Hand. (For God ‘hand’ or any other such term is metaphorical.) The other meaning is that God helps those who swear allegiance to the Messenger. So, here ‘hand’ signifies Power.
- Those of the Bedouins (dwellers of the desert) who (did not respond to your call to participate in the Minor Pilgrimage campaign and) stayed behind will say to you (by way of excuse): “Our possessions and families kept us busy, so ask God for our forgiveness.” They speak with their tongues that which is not in their hearts. Say (to them): “Who is there that can intervene on your behalf with God if He wills harm for you or if He wills a benefit for you? (Whatever excuse you offer, bear in mind that) God is fully aware of all that you do.”8
8. This and the following verse are concerned with the desert Arabs who did not answer
the call of the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, to participate in the ‘Umrah (Minor Pilgrimage) campaign they made in the sixth year after the Hijrah, thinking that the Quraysh would exterminate the Muslims and they would no longer be able to turn back to Madīnah.
- Indeed you thought that the Messenger and the believers would never return to their families (from the campaign), and this thought was decked out to be appealing in your hearts, and you entertained an evil thought (that God would not help the believers and they would be defeated). You (in thinking so have proved yourselves to be and you) are a people useless and doomed to perish.
- Whoever does not believe (and trust) in God and His Messenger: then We have surely prepared a Blaze for the unbelievers.
- To God belongs the sovereignty of the heavens and the earth; He forgives whom He wills and punishes whom He wills. God is All-Forgiving, All-com- passionate.9
9. This verse is significant in understanding God’s forgiving and punishing. First of all, He does whatever He wills and so cannot be questioned concerning His will and acts. However, He never does anything which is unjust; He forgives many of the sins of His servants unless they disbelieve and/or associate partners with Him; and He shows special compassion towards them. So, the conclusion of the verse with the mention of His being the All-Forgiving and All-compassionate (One Who has particular compassion for His servants) is a great consolation and source of hope for the servants who tremble before His Majesty. This is stressed in the first part of the verse.
- When you (O believers) set forth for (the campaign during which they think that you are sure) to take gains of war, those who stayed behind (aforetime) will say: “Let us go with you.” They desire to alter God’s decree. Say (to them): “You will by no means come with us. That (decision) regarding you is what God de- clared before.” Then they will say: “Rather, you are jealous of us.” But the fact is that they are lacking in discernment and understanding, except a very little.10
10. After the Treaty of Hudaybiyah, the believers took several tribes under control, and conquered Khaybar. Once the hypocritical desert Arabs saw the Muslims conquering all their enemies, they wanted to participate in the campaign of Khaybar with the hope of gaining spoils. However, God decreed that only those who had taken part in the campaign of the Minor Pilgrimage could participate in this campaign. So they were left devoid of the war-gains that they had so craved.
- Say to those of the dwellers of the desert who stayed behind: “Soon you will be called (to fight) against a people of great military power; then either you will fight against them or they will submit to God and become Muslims. If you obey, God will grant you a handsome reward; but if you turn away as you turned away
before, He will punish you with a painful punishment.”11
- There are many predictions in this sūrah, such as:
- God would help the believers and favor them with great victories;
- Those who stayed behind from the campaign of Minor Pilgrimage would try to excuse themselves with false pretexts;
- They would desire to participate in the campaign against Khaybar that was to take place following the Treaty of Hudaybiyah, with the aim of taking gains of war;
- The Muslims would have to fight against powerful tribes or states in the future;
- The Muslims would take abundant war-gains in battles to come in the future;
- The Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, and his companions would visit the Ka’bah in safety, thus completing the Minor Pilgrimage the year after they had intended it;
- God would complete His favor upon the Messenger, upon him be peace and bless- ings;
- Islam would continue to flourish so powerfully and speedily that it would amaze both the Muslims and others.
- There are many predictions in this sūrah, such as:
All of these predictions came true within a very short time.
The people mentioned in this verse must be one of the Arab polytheistic tribes in the Hijāz or neighboring regions; some of these tribes are mentioned in Sūrat at-Tawbah. The Muslims had to give them two alternatives, they would either have to be resigned to fight- ing or become Muslims. Most probably it refers to the Thaqīf and Hawāzīn tribes, against whom God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, had to fight after the conquest of Makkah in order to stop their attacks.
- There is no blame on the blind nor any blame on the lame nor any blame on the sick (for staying away from a war in God’s cause). Whoever obeys God and His Messenger (in the religious duties he is charged with and can carry out), God will admit him into Gardens through which rivers flow. But whoever turns away, He will punish him with a painful punishment.
- God was assuredly well-pleased with the believers when they swore alle- giance to you under the tree. He knew what was in their hearts (of sincere inten- tion and loyalty to God’s cause), and therefore He sent down (the gift of ) inner peace and reassurance on them, and rewarded them with a near victory,
- And much in gains of war that they will take.12 And God is All-Glorious with irresistible might, All-Wise.
12. The verse mentions the allegiance which 1,400–1,500 believers swore to the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, at Hudaybiyah. When rumors circulated that ‘Uthmān ibn ‘Affān, who had been sent to Makkah to negotiate the Muslims’ intention to make Minor Pilgrimage, had been killed, God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings,
called the believers in his company to swear allegiance to him to defend themselves even if they might be killed. They had come with the intention to visit the Ka’bah and to make a Minor Pilgrimage. However, when they met with the unexpected reaction and felt their cause to be under great threat, they united around the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, as if a single body. They had no other intention than to serve God’s cause in order to gain His approval and good pleasure. God was well pleased with the purity of intention and faithfulness in their hearts. So He favored them with a victory in the near future: i.e., the conquest of Khaybar and abundant war-gains.
- God has promised you abundant gains of war that you will take later,13 and these He granted you as present reward (for your obedience and purity of intention).14 And He has restrained the hands of (other hostile) people from you so that it may be a sign for the believers (concerning the truth of their way and God’s promises to them), and that He may guide you to (steadfastness on) a straight path.
- The abundant war-gains promised are the gains that the Muslims were to acquire in the battles they had to fight after the Battle of Khaybar.
- The present reward granted to the Muslims was the war-gains that they acquired at the Battle of Khaybar.
- And there are yet other (gains) which you have not been able to acquire but God has encompassed (in His Knowledge and Power, and will grant you). Surely God has full power over everything.
- If the unbelievers (of Makkah) had fought against you (instead of sign- ing the treaty with you at Hudaybiyah), they would certainly have turned their backs in flight, then they would have found no protecting guardian or helper (to rescue them).
- It is God’s way that has continued (ever so) from the past;15 you will never find any change in God’s way.
15. This way is what is stated in (4: 141): . . . and never will God allow the unbelievers to find a way (to triumph) over the (true) believers, and in (3: 139): . . . you are always the superior side if you are (true) believers.
- And He it is Who restrained their hands from you and your hands from them in the valley of Makkah, after He had granted you victory over them.16 Surely God sees well all that you do.
16. This victory is that which happened when the Makkans could not do anything to the Muslims who had come for Minor Pilgrimage, and they returned safe and sound to their families, despite the expectations of the hypocrites. In addition, the Makkans had to recog- nize Madīnah as an equal city-state to them, and the Muslims secured the Minor Pilgrim-
age for the following year. The truce signed also paved the way for them to communicate Islam in circumstances of peace and, in consequence, numerous people converted. All these developments ended two years later in the conquest of Makkah, the decisive bloodless vic- tory of Islam.
- (God defeated them because) they are the ones who have disbelieved and who barred you from (visiting) the Sacred Mosque and (prevented) the offerings from reaching their destination. And had there not been (in Makkah) believing men and believing women whom you did not know and therefore might have trodden down, and thus something undesired might have afflicted you on their account (for what you did) unknowingly, (God would not have restrained your hands from fighting. But He restrained your hands) so that He might admit to His mercy whom He wills (by sparing the believers in Makkah and enabling many among the Makkans to embrace Islam in time). If they (the believers and unbelievers in Makkah) had been clearly separated, We would certainly have punished those among them who disbelieved with a painful punishment.
- When those who disbelieved harbored in their hearts fierce zealotry (com- ing from egotism, tribalism, and feuding), the zealotry particular to the Age of Ignorance, God sent down His (gift of ) inner peace and reassurance on His Messenger and on the believers, and bound them to the Word of faith, piety, and reverence for God. They were most worthy of it and entitled to it. And God has full knowledge of everything.
- God has assuredly confirmed the vision for His Messenger as true (and will certainly fulfill it) in reality:17 you will certainly enter the Sacred Mosque, if God wills,18 in full security, with your heads shaven or your hair cut short,19 and you will have nothing to fear. But He always knows what you do not know, and (therefore, without allowing you to enter the Mosque this year,) granted you a near victory before this.20
- For this vision, see note 1 in this sūrah.
- If God wills, has three meanings here:
- Your entering the Sacred Mosque, like all other events in the universe and in your lives, will take place by God’s Will, not by your will or that of the Makkan polytheists. So do not ask the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, why you have not been able to enter this year.
- The verse teaches us that whatever we intend or have decided to do in the future, we must always refer it to God’s Will and say, “We will do or intend to do that if it is God’s will.” (See 18: 23.)
- Some may die before it is time for them to enter the Mosque or they will not be able to join the Muslims who will go to visit it.
- During the Pilgrimage, men either have their heads totally shaven or their hair cut short as a mark of the completion of the Pilgrimage, whether it be major or minor. Having heads shaven is more rewarding. Women only have some of their hair cut short. So this statement means that the Muslims will complete their Minor Pilgrimage in full security and the Messenger’s vision will come true.
- This victory must be the Treaty of Hudaybiyah, which eventually proved to be a mani- fest victory. (See above, verse 1, note 1.)
- He it is Who has sent His Messenger with the Divine guidance and the Re- ligion of truth that He may make it prevail over all religions.21 God suffices for a witness (for the truth of His promise and the mission of His Messenger).
21. For an explanation, see 9: 33, note 9.
- Muhammad is the Messenger of God; and those who are in his company are firm and unyielding against the unbelievers, and compassionate among them- selves. You see them (constant in the Prayer) bowing down and prostrating, seeking favor with God and His approval and good pleasure. Their marks are on their faces, traced by prostration. This is their description in the Torah; and their description in the Gospel: like a seed that has sprouted its shoot, then it has strengthened it, and then risen firmly on its stem, delighting the sowers (with joy and wonder); (thereby) it fills the unbelievers with rage at them (the believers). God has promised all those among them who believe and do good, righteous deeds forgiveness (to bring unforeseen blessings) and a tremendous reward.