Tafsir of Surah Al-Anfal Part 2 Ayat 11-24

{11. (Remember) when He covered you with a slumber as a security from Him, and He caused water (rain) to descend on you from the sky, to clean you thereby and to remove from you the Rijz (whispering or dirt) of Shaytan, and to strengthen your hearts, and make your feet firm thereby.

12. (Remember) when your Lord revealed to the angels, “Verily, I am with you, so keep firm those who have believed. I will cast terror into the hearts of those who have disbelieved, so strike them over the necks, and smite over all their fingers and toes.”

13. This is because they defied and disobeyed Allah and His Messenger. And whoever defies and disobeys Allah and His Messenger, then verily, Allah is severe in punishment.

14. This is (the torment), so taste it; and surely, for the disbelievers is the torment of the Fire.}

Slumber overcomes Muslims

Allah reminds the believers of the slumber that He sent down on them as security from the fear they suffered from, because of the multitude of their enemy and the sparseness of their forces. They were given the same favour during the battle of Uhud, which Allah described, “Then after the distress, He sent down security for you. Slumber overtook a party of you, while another party was thinking about themselves.” (3:154)

Abu Talhah said, “I was among those who were overcome by slumber during (the battle of) Uhud. The sword fell from my hand several times, and I kept picking it up again, several times. I also saw the Companions’ heads nodding while in the rear guard.” Al-Hafiz Abu Yala narrated that Ali said, “Only Al-Miqdad had a horse during Badr, and at some point, I found that all of us fell asleep, except the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him. He was praying under a tree and crying until dawn.” (Musnad Abu Ya’la 1:242) Abdullah bin Masud said, “Slumber during battle is security from Allah, but during prayer, it is from Shaytan.” (At-Tabari 13:419) Qatadah said, “Slumber affects the head, while sleep affects the heart.” (Ibn Abi Hatim 5:1664)

Slumber overcame the believers on the day of Uhud, and this incident is very well-known. As for this Ayah (8:11), it is describing the battle of Badr, indicating that slumber also overcame the believers during Badr. Therefore, it appears that this will occur for the believers, whenever they are in distress, so that their hearts feel safe and sure of Allah’s aid, rewards, favour and mercy from Allah with them. Allah said in another Ayah, “Verily, along with every hardship is relief. Verily, along with every hardship is relief.” (94:5-6)

In the Sahih, it is recorded that on the day of Badr, while he was in the bunker with Abu Bakr, the Messenger and Abu Bakr were invoking Allah. Suddenly, slumber overcame the Messenger and he woke up smiling and declared,

“Good news, O Abu Bakr! This is Jibril with dust on his shoulders.”

He left the shade while reciting Allah’s statement,

“Their multitude will be put to flight, and they will show their backs.” (54:45)

(Fath Al-Bari 7:364)

Rain falls on the Eve of Badr

Allah said next, “and He caused rain to descend on you from the sky.”

Ali bin Abi Talhah reported that Ibn Abbas said, “When the Prophet arrived at Badr, he made camp. At the time, there was a sandy piece of land between the idolators and the water (the wells at Badr). Muslims felt weak and the Shaytan cast frustration into their hearts. He whispered to them, ‘You claim that you are Allah’s supporters and that His Messenger is among you! However, the idolators have taken over the water resource from you, while you pray needing purity.’ Allah sent down heavy rain, allowing the Muslims to drink and use it for purity. Allah also removed Shaytan’s whisper and made the sand firm when rain fell on it, and the Muslims walked on the sand along with their animals, until they reached the enemy. Allah supported His Prophet and the believers with a thousand angels on one side, five hundred under the command of Jibril and another five hundred under the command of Mika’il on another side.” (At-Tabari 13:423)

An even a better narration is that collected by Imam Muhammad bin Ishaq bin Yasar, author of Al-Maghazi, may Allah have mercy upon him. Ibn Ishaq narrated that, Yazid bin Ruwman narrated to him that, Urwah bin Az-Zubayr said, “Allah sent rain down from the sky on a sandy valley. That rain made the area where the Messenger of Allah and his Companions camped firmer so that it did not hinder their movement. Meanwhile, the part that the Quraysh were camping on became difficult to move in.” (Al-Waqidi in Al-Maghazi 1:54) Mujahid said, “Allah sent down the rain on the believers before slumber overtook them, and the rain settled the dust, made the ground firmer, made them feel at ease and their feet firmer.” (At-Tabari 13:425)

Allah said next, ”to clean you thereby” using it after answering the call of nature or needing to wash oneself, and this involves cleansing what is on the outside, ”and to remove from you the Rijz of Shaytan” such as his whispers and evil thoughts, this involves sinner purification, whereas Allah’s statement about the residents of Paradise, “Their garments will be of fine green silk, and gold embroidery. They will be adorned with bracelets of silver” (76:21) involves outer appearance, “and their Lord will give them a pure drink.” (76:21) that purifies the anger, envy and hatred that they might have felt. This is the inner purity. Next, Allah said, “and to strengthen your hearts,” with patience and to encourage you to fight the enemies, and this is inner courage, “and make your feet firm thereby”, this involves outer courage. Allah know best.

Allah commands the Angels to fight and support the Believers

Allah said next, “(Remember) when your Lord revealed to the angels, “Verily, I am with you, so keep firm those who have believed.” This is a hidden favour that Allah has made known to the believers, so that they thank Him and are grateful to Him for it. Allah, glorified, exalted, blessed and praised be He, has revealed to the angels – whom He sent to support His Prophet, religion and believing group – to make the believers firmer. Allah’s statement, “I will cast terror into the hearts of those who have disbelieved.” means, ‘you – angels – support the believers, strengthen their (battle) front against their enemies, thus, implementing My command to you. I will cast fear, disgrace and humiliation over those who defied My command and denied My Messenger, “so strike them over the necks, and smite over all their fingers and toes.” strike them on their foreheads to tear them apart and over the necks to cut them off, and cut off their limbs, hands and feet. It was said that, “over the necks” refers to striking the forehead, or the neck, according to Ad-Dahhak and Atiyyah Al- Awfi. In support of the latter, Allah commanded the believers, “So, when you meet (in fight Jihad in Allah’s cause) those who disbelieve, smite (their) necks till when you have killed and wounded many of them, then bind a bond firmly (on them, take them as captives).” (47:4)

Ar-Rabi bin Anas said, “In the aftermath of Badr, the people used to recognize whomever the angels killed from those whom they killed, by the wounds over their necks, fingers and toes, because those parts had a mark as if they were branded by fire.” Allah said, “and smite over all their fingers and toes.”

Ibn Jarir commented that this Ayah commands, “O believers! Strike every limb and finger on the hands and feet of your (disbelieving) enemies.” (At-Tabari 13:431) Al-Awfi reported, that Ibn Abbas said about the battle of Badr that Abu Jahl said, “Do not kill them (the Muslims), but capture them so that you make known to them what they did, their ridiculing your religion and shunning Al- Lat and Al-Uzza (two idols).” Allah than sent down to the angels, “Verily, I am with you, so keep firm those who have believed. I will cast terror into the hearts of those who have disbelieved, so strike them over the necks, and smite over all their fingers and toes.”

In that battle, Abu Jahl (may Allah curse him) was killed along with sixty-nine men. Uqbah bin Abu Muait was captured and then killed, thus bring the death toll of the pagans to seventy, “This is because they defied and disobeyed Allah and His Messenger.” joining the camp that defied Allah and His Messenger not including themselves in the camp of Allah’s Law and faith in Him. Allah said, “And whoever defies and disobeys Allah and His Messenger, then verily, Allah is severe in punishment.” for He will crush whoever defies and disobeys Him. Nothing ever escapes Allah’s grasp nor can anything ever stand against His anger. Blessed and exalted He is, there is no true deity or Lord except Him.“This is (the torment), so taste it; and surely, for the disbelievers is the torment of the Fire.”

This Ayah addresses the disbeliever, saying, taste this torment and punishment in this life and know that the torment of the Fire in the Hereafter is for the disbelievers.

{15. O you who believe! When you meet those who disbelieve, in a battlefield, never turn your backs to them.

16. And whoever turns his back to them on such a day – unless it be a stratagem of war, or to retreat to a troop (of his own) – he indeed has drawn upon himself wrath from Allah. And his abode is Hell, and worst indeed is that destination!}

 

Fleeing from Battle is prohibited, and its Punishment

Allah said, while warning against fleeing from the battlefield and threatening those who do it with the Fire, “O you who believe! When you meet those who disbelieve, in a battlefield” when you get near the enemy and march towards them, “never turn your backs to them.” do not run away from battle and leave your fellow Muslims behind, “And whoever turns his back to them on such a day – unless it be a stratagem of war…” 

The Ayah says, whoever flees from the enemy by way of planning to pretend that he is afraid of the enemy, so that they follow him and he takes the chance and returns to kill the enemy, then there is no sin on him. This is the explanation of Sa’id bin Jubayr and As-Suddi. (At-Tabari 13:436-437) Ad-Dahhak also commented, “Whoever went ahead of his fellow Muslims to investigate the strength of the enemy and make use of it, “or to retreat to a troop (of his own)”, meaning he leaves from here to another troop of Muslims to assist them or be assisted by them. So that is allowed for him, or even during the battle if he flees from his brigade to the commander. Or going to the grand Imam, would also fall under this permission.”

Umar bin Al-Khattab, may Allah be pleased with him, said about Abu Ubayd when he was fighting on the bridge in the land of the Persians, because of the many Zoroastrian soldiers, “If he retreated to me then I would be as a troop for him.”

This is how it was reported by Muhammad bin Sirin from Umar. In the report of Abu Uthman An-Nahdi from Umar, he said: When Abu Ubayd was fighting, Umar said, “O people! We are your troop.” Mujahid said that Umar said, “We are the troop of every Muslim.” Abdul-Malik bin Umayr reported from Umar, “O people! Don’t be confused over this Ayah, it was only about the day of Badr, and we are a troop for every Muslim.” Ibn Abi Hatim [recorded] that Nafi questioned Ibn Umar, “We are people who are not stationary when fighting our enemy, and we may not know where our troop is, be it that of our Imam or our army.”

So he replied, “The troop is Allah’s Messenger .” I said but Allah said, “when you meet those who disbelieve in the battlefield” to the end of the Ayah . So he said “This Ayah was about Badr, not before it nor after it.” (At-Tabari 13:436)

Ad-Dahhak commented that Allah’s statement, “or to retreat to a troop”, refers to “Those who retreat to the Messenger of Allah and his Companions (when the Messenger was alive), and those who retreat in the present time to his commander or companions.” However, if one flees for any other reason than those mentioned here, then it is prohibited and considered a major sin. Al-Bukhari and Muslim recorded that Abu Hurayrah said that the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him said,

“Shun the seven great destructive sins.”

The people inquired, “O Allah’s Messenger! What are they?” He said,

“(They are) Joining others in worship with Allah, magic, taking life which Allah has forbidden, except for a just cause (according to Islamic law), consuming Riba, consuming an orphan’s wealth, fleeing the battlefield at the time of fighting, and false accusation to chaste women, who never even think of anything touching chastity and are good believers.” (Fath Al-Bari 5:462)

This is why Allah said here, “he indeed has drawn upon himself…”, and returned with, “wrath from Allah. And his abode…”, destination, and dwelling place on the Day of Return, “is Hell, and worst indeed is that destination!”

 

{17. You killed them not, but Allah killed them. And you threw not when you did throw, but Allah threw, that He might test the believers by a fair trial from Him. Verily, Allah is All- Hearer, All-Knower).

18. This (is the fact) and surely Allah weakens the deceitful plots of the disbelievers.}

Allah’s Signs displayed during Badr, And throwing Sand in the Eyes of the Disbelievers

Allah states that He creates the actions that the servants perform and that whatever good actions they take, it is He Who should be praised for them, for He directed and helped them perform these actions. Allah said, “You killed them not, but Allah killed them.” meaning, it is not because of your power and strength that you killed the pagans, who were many while you were few. Rather, it is He Who gave you victory over them, just as He said in another Ayah, “And Allah has already made you victorious at Badr, when you were a weak little force.” (3:123), and, “Truly, Allah has given you victory on many battlefields, and on the day of Hunayn when you rejoiced at your great number, but it availed you naught and the earth, vast as it is, was straitened for you, then you turned back in flight.” (9:25)

Allah, the Exalted and Ever High, states that victory does not depend on numbers or collecting weapons and shields. Rather, victory is from Him, Exalted He is. “How often has a small group overcome a mighty host by Allah’s leave?” And Allah is with the patient.” (2:249)

Allah then mentioned the handful of sand that His Prophet threw at the disbelievers during the day of Badr, when he went out of his bunker. While in the bunker, the Prophet invoked Allah humbly and expressing his neediness before Allah. He then threw a handful of sand at the disbelievers and said, “Humiliated be their faces.” He then commanded his Companions to start fighting with sincerity and they did. Allah made this handful of sand enter the eyes of the idolators, each one of them were struck by some of it and it distracted them making each of them busy. Allah said, “And you threw not when you did throw, but Allah threw.” Therefore, it is Allah Who made the sand reach their eyes and busied them with it, not you (O Muhammad).

Muhammad bin Ishaq said that Muhammad bin Jafar bin Az-Zubayr narrated to him that Urwah bin Az-Zubayr said about Allah’s statement, “that He might test the believers by a fair trial from Him.” “So that the believers know Allah’s favor for them by giving them victory over their enemy, even though their enemy was numerous, while they were few. They should thus know His right and express gratitude for His favour on them.” (At-Tabari 13:448) Similar was said by Ibn Jarir. It is stated in a Hadith,

“Every trail (from Allah) is a favour for us.” [A similar hadith is recorded by Muslim no.6900]

Allah said next, “Verily, Allah is All-Hearer, All-Knower.”

Allah hears the supplication and knows those who deserve help and triumph. Allah said, “This (is the fact) and surely Allah weakens the deceitful plots of the disbelievers.” This is more good news, aside from the victory that the believers gained. Allah informed them that He will weaken the plots of the disbelievers in the future, degrade them and make everything they have perish and be dest royed, all praise and thanks are due to Allah.

 

{19. (O disbelievers) if you ask for a judgement, now has the judgement come unto you; and if you cease (to do wrong), it will be better for you, and if you return (to the attack), so shall We return, and your forces will be of no avail to you, however numerous they be; and verily, Allah is with the believers.}

 

The Response to the Disbelievers Who ask for a Judgement

Allah says to the disbeliever, “If you ask for a judgement”, you invoked Allah for victory, judgement and a decision between you and your believing nemesis, and you got what you asked for. Muhammad bin Ishaq and several others reported from Az-Zuhri from Abdullah bin Thalabah bin Suayr who said that Abu Jahl said on the day of Badr, “O Allah! Whichever of the two camps (pagans and Muslims) severed the relation of the womb and brought us what is not familiar, then destroy him this day.” This Ayah was later on revealed, “If you ask for a judgement, then now has the judgement come unto you” until the end of the Ayah. (At-Tabari 13:453) Imam Ahmad recorded that Abdullah bin Thalabah said, “Abu Jahl asked for (Allah’s judgment) when he said upon facing the Muslims, ‘O Allah! Those among us who severed the relations of the womb and brought forth what we do not recognize, then destroy him this day.” (Ahmad 5:531)  This was also recorded by An-Nasa’i in the Book of Tafsir (of his Sunan) and Al-Hakim in his Mustadrak, and he said, “It is Sahih according to the criteria of the Two Shaykhs, and they did not record it.” (An-Nasai in Al-Kubra 6:350)  Similar statements were reported from Ibn Abbas, Mujahid, Ad-Dahhak, Qatadah, Yazid bin Ruwman and several others. As-Suddi commented, “Before the idolators left Makkah for Badr, they clung to the curtains covering the Kabah and supplicated to Allah for victory, ‘O Allah! Give victory to the exalted among the two armies, the most honored among the two groups, and the most righteous among the two tribes.’ Allah revealed the Ayah, “If you ask for a judgement, then now has the judgement come unto you.” Allah says here, ‘I accepted your supplication and Muhammad gained the victory.”’

Abdur-Rahman bin Zayd bin Aslam said; “This is Allah the Most High’s answer to their supplication; “And (remember) when they said: “O Allah! If this is indeed the truth from you..)” (8:32) (At-Tabari 13:453) Allah said next, “and if you cease…” from your disbelief and rejection of Allah and His Messenger, “it will be better for you”, in this life and the Hereafter. Allah said, “and if you return, so shall We return…” This is similar to another Ayah, “but if you return (to sins), We shall return (to Our punishment).” (17:8) meaning, ‘if you persist in your disbelief and misguidance, We shall repeat the defeat that you suffered,’ ”and your forces will be of no avail to you, however numerous they be…” for even if you gather whatever forces you can, then know that those whom Allah is with cannot be defeated, “and verily, Allah is with the believers” in reference to the Prophet’s group, the side of the chosen Messenger.

 

{20. O you who believe! Obey Allah and His Messenger, and turn not away from him while you are hearing.

21. And be not like those who say: “We have heard,” but they hear not.

22. Verily, the worst of living creatures with Allah are the deaf and the dumb (the disbelievers), who understand not.

23. Had Allah known of any good in them, He would indeed have made them listen; and even if He had made them listen, they would but have turned away with aversion.}

 

The Command to obey Allah and His Messenger

Allah commands His believing servants to obey Him and His Messenger and warns them against defying him and imitating the disbelievers who reject him. Allah said, “and turn not away from him…”, neither refrain from obeying him or following his commands nor indulge in what he forbade, “while you are hearing.” after you gained knowledge of his Message, “And be not like those who say: “We have heard,” but they hear not.”

Ibn Ishaq said that this Ayah refers to the hypocrites, who pretend to hear and obey, while in fact they do neither. (At-Tabari 13:458) Allah declares that these are the most wicked creatures among the Children of Adam, “Verily, the worst of living creatures with Allah are the deaf” who do not hear the truth, “and the dumb” who cannot comprehend it, “who understand not.” These indeed are the most wicked creatures, for every creature except them abide by the way that Allah created in them. These people were created to worship Allah, but instead disbelieved. This is why Allah equated them to animals, when He said, “And the example of those who disbelieve is as that of him who shouts to those that hear nothing but calls and cries.” (2:171), and, “They are like cattle, nay even more astray; those! They are the heedless ones.” (7:179)

It was also said that the Ayah (8:22) refers to some of the pagans of Quraysh from the tribe of Bani Abd Ad-Dar, according to Ibn Abbas, Mujahid and Ibn Jarir. (At-Tabari 13:460) Muhammad bin Ishaq said that this Ayah refers to hypocrites, as we stated. There is no contradiction here, because both disbelievers and hypocrites are devoid of sound comprehension, in addition to having lost the intention to do good. Allah states here that such are those who neither have sound understanding nor good intentions, even if they have some type of reason, “Had Allah known of any good in them, He would indeed have made them listen.”

He would have helped them understand. However, this did not happen because there is no goodness in such people, for Allah knows that, “even if He had made them listen…” and allowed them to understand, “they would but have turned…”, intentionally and out of stubbornness, even after they comprehend, “with aversion”, to the truth.

 

{24. O you who believe! Answer Allah and (His) Messenger when he (the Messenger) calls you to that which will give you life, and know that Allah comes between a person and his heart. And verily to Him you shall (all) be gathered.}

 

The Command to answer and obey Allah and His Messenger

Al-Bukhari said, “Answer”, obey, “that which will give you life” that which will make your affairs good.” Al-Bukhari went on to narrate that Abu Sa’id bin Al-Mualla said, “I was praying when the Prophet passed by and called me, but I did not answer him until I finished the prayer. He said,

“What prevented you from answering me? Has not Allah said: “O you who believe! Answer Allah and (His) Messenger when he calls you to that which will give you life”

He then said:

“I will teach you the greatest Surah in the Qur’an before I leave.”

When he was about to leave, I mentioned what he said to me. He said, “All the praises and thanks are to Allah, the Lord of all that exists…” (1:1-6). Surely, it is the seven oft-repeated verses.” (Fath Al-Bari 8:158)

Muhammad bin Ishaq narrated that Muhammad bin Jafar bin Az-Zubayr said that Urwah bin Az-Zubayr explained this Ayah, “O you who believe! Answer Allah and (His) Messenger when he calls you to that which will give you life” “Answer when called to war (Jihad) with which Allah gives you might after meekness, and strength after weakness, and shields you from the enemy who oppressed you.” (Sirah Ibn Hisham 2:234)

Allah comes in between a Person and His Heart

Allah said, and know that Allah comes in between a person and his heart.” Ibn Abbas commented, “Allah prevents the believer from disbelief and the disbeliever from faith.” (At-Tabari 13:468) Al-Hakim recorded this in his Mustadrak and said, “It is Sahih and they did not record it.” (Al-Hakim 2:328) Similar was said by Mujahid, Sa’id, Ikrimah, Ad-Dahhak, Abu Salih Atiyyah, Muqatil bin Hayyan and As-Suddi. (At-Tabari 13:470-471) In another report from Mujahid, he commented; “…comes in between a person and his heart.” “Leaves him without comprehension,” As-Suddi said, “Prevents one self from his own heart, so he will neither believe nor disbelieve except by His leave.” There are several Hadiths that conform with the meaning of this Ayah. For instance, Imam Ahmad recorded that Anas bin Malik said, “The Prophet used to often say these words,

“O You Who changes the hearts, make my heart firm on Your religion.”

We said, ‘O Allah’s Messenger! We believed in you and in what you brought us. Are you afraid for us?’ He said,

“Yes, for the hearts are between two of Allah’s Fingers, He changes them (as He wills).” (Ahmad 3:112)

This is the same narration recorded by At-Tirmidhi in the Book of Qadar in his Jami’ [Sunan], and he said, “Hasan.” (Tuhfat Al-Ahwadhi 6:349-350) Imam Ahmad recorded that An-Nawwas bin Saman Al-Kilabi said that he heard the Prophet saying,

“Every heart is between two of the Fingers of the Most Beneficent (Allah), Lord of all that exists, if He wills, He makes it straight, and if He wills, He makes it stray.” (Ahmad 4:182)

And he said:

“O You Who changes the hearts! Keep my heart firm on Your religion”

And he would say;

“The Balance is in the Hand of Ar-Rahman, He raises and lowers it.” (Ahmad 3:182)

This was also recorded by An-Nasai and Ibn Majah (An-Nasai in Al-Kubra 4:414 and Ibn Majah 1:72)

Tafsir Ibn Kathir (Abridged) Vol 4 Pages 269-288

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