Verses from Surah Al-Hajj (No. 22) (38 – 44)

[38] Surely, Allah defends those who have believed;73 verily, Allah does not approve of any dishonest, ungrateful (person).74

Commentary

73. The textual word for “defend” is not “yadfa`u” but rather “yudafi`u” which has the additional implication of a foreseen or actual attack on the person being defended.

74. It is high degree of dishonesty and willful denial that leads a person to disbelieve in Allah’s oneness, or to blindness to the truth of Islam and hence to antagonism against the Muslims (Au.).

[39] Leave is granted (hereby) to those against whom war is made75 – because they have been wronged. And, surely, Allah is capable of their help.76

Commentary

75. Generally, one feels impressed by A. J. Arberry’s translation that tries to remain as close as possible to the understanding of the majority. But not at this point. A plain verse, that does not demand a research to find out how an insignificant minority understood it in the past is translated by him as: “Leave is given to those who fight because they were wronged…”

76. Ibn Jarir notes and shows his own preference to the recitation of the Kufans, as well as of some Makkan (authorities) who have read the text slightly differently – in a manner it would render the meaning as, “(Allah) has allowed those who fight (to retaliate) against those Allah does not approve of ..” However, the great majority of the Ummah has recited in the manner now in the Qur’anic texts.

In any case, Ibn `Abbas reported, “When the Prophet left Makkah, Abu Bakr said, ‘They have expelled their Prophet, to Allah we belong and to Him we return: they will be destroyed.’”

Ibn `Abbas added, “When Allah revealed, ‘Leave is given to those against whom war is made – because they have been wronged,’ Abu Bakr remarked, ‘I knew there would be fighting.’”

The report is somewhat weak (Qurtubi). But Albani treated it as Sahih while editing Tirmidhi and Nasa’i, in both of which it is found (Shawkani, S. Ibrahim).

And Ibn Zayd said, “They were allowed to retaliate after ten years of wrongs.” Qatadah added, “This is the first ever verse revealed concerning Jihad” (Ibn Jarir).

That being the case, it is thought that the verse is Madinan. Allah said in other places (47: 31), “Surely, We shall try you until We know the patient fighters among you and (thus) We shall test your affairs.

He also said (9: 16), “Have you imagined that you will be spared  when Allah has not yet known those who fought from among you and did not take friends apart from Allah, His Messenger or the believers. And Allah is Aware of what you do.”

He also said (3: 142), “Or, do you think you will enter Paradise while Allah has not yet known those who fought from among you, and known those who showed patience.”

Ibn `Abbas has said, “Allah decreed Jihad at the right time. At Makkah, the pagans were in large numbers. If He had asked them to fight back when they were less than ten percent of the population, surely, it would have been tough on them. Thus, although when eighty or so of the Yethribites pledged their hands of support to the Prophet at `Aqabah, when they asked, ‘Messenger of Allah. Should we not fall upon these pagans here at Mina?’ He replied, ‘But rather, I have not been ordered to do that?’ But when they were driven out of Makkah, some going to Abyssinia, others to Madinah, and Allah provided them a shelter at Madinah, where they were able to establish their rule over a piece of land, Allah decreed Jihad by this verse, “Permitted are those (to retaliate) who are fought against..” (Ibn Kathir).

And the beauty of this first verse allowing the Muslims to fight back, when fought against, is that the word “fight” has not been used. This shows Islam’s distaste for matters settled with the help of wars, but its readiness to retaliate if attacked (Au.).

[40] Those that were expelled from their homes without right except that they said, ‘Our Lord is Allah.’ And, were it not for Allah to check one set of people by means of another,77 surely, (many) monasteries, churches,78 synagogues, and mosques79 –  in which Allah’s name is much pronounced80 – would have been pulled down.81 Assuredly, Allah will help those who help Him, surely, Allah is Powerful, Mighty.82

Commentary

77. It is said that twenty-seven of `Ali’s followers reported him as saying that the meaning is, “If not for Allah shielding the Followers (taabe`iyyun) by means of the Companions, surely, (many) monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques in which Allah’s name is much pronounced, would have been pulled down.” However, the great majority have accepted the apparent meaning, viz., “If Allah had not checked the evil of some people by means of the good of others, (many) monasteries…” (Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi). Perhaps `Ali was leading to another possible shade of meaning (Au.).

However, another aspect of the meaning is touched upon by Qurtubi. He explains Allah’s words, “were it not for Allah to check one set of people by means of another…” as meaning, “Had not Allah legalized wars unto the Prophets and believers, the unbelievers would have suppressed the believers and caused the desertion of their places of devotion to one God. But rather, He defended them, legislated fighting, so that, ultimately, they could be free to worship their Lord.

78. The following is a surprised addition by a Sufi commentator Thanwi:  Two places of Christian worship and devotion have been named (as against one of every other community) perhaps because they ran a parallel religion in monasteries.

79. “Masaajid” (sing. “masjid”), lit. a place where prostration is made, is perhaps so called because prostration is the best part of the Islamic Prayer (Alusi), the most distinctly different and hence noteworthy to others (Au.).

80. Scholars have differed over whether the qualifying sentence “in which Allah’s name is much pronounced” is applicable to all places of worship or to Masaajid alone. In our times however, it shouldn’t be difficult to attribute the statement to Masaajid in particular, since, it is within them alone that Allah’s name is mentioned much. Most other houses of worship have either been abandoned, or have been converted to dance and music halls for the faithful (Au.).

81. Why did Allah mention together the various houses of worship? Is it to approve what goes on within them? Are they of the same status as mosques? Imam Razi answers that such is not the case. But rather, they had Allah’s approval at the time of their Prophets but not later when a new Prophet came and they disbelieved in him. He canceled the old. In other words, what the verse is saying, had not Allah defended the Synagogues during the Mosaic and later Jewish times, they would have been destroyed; had not Allah defended the Christian Churches during the times when the Final Messenger had not yet appeared… – they would have been destroyed.

It might also be noted, writes Qurtubi, that neither the pagan nor the Magian temples have been mentioned. That is because One God is not mentioned at all in those places of worship.

82. The rendering of `Aziz as “Mighty” is inadequate. It stands for, as Yusuf Ali puts it, “Exalted in power, rank, dignity; Incomparable; Full of might and majesty; Able to enforce His will.”

[41] Those, whom, if We established in the earth, would establish the Prayer, expend in charity, enjoin the good and forbid the wrong.83 And with Allah rests the end of (all) affairs.

[42] But, if they give you the lie then (no wonder), before them the people of Nuh, `Aad and Thamud also gave the lie. 

Commentary

83. So, that’s the condition for securing Allah’s help: Jihad should be conducted to establish Allah’s religion (Thanwi).

And, by the words “those who, if established in the land …” the allusion is to the Companions. (Because, it is during their reign that the four primary spiritual functions of a government were fulfilled in the highest sense, although, the room is open for others who will follow them unto the Last Hour: Au.).

Abu al-Aaliyyah has said: (Although the mention here is in general terms), the specific meaning of bidding the good and forbidding evil is that they invite to Allah’s oneness and forbid idol worship. For, whoever invited to Allah’s oneness and forbid the worship of idols, actually invited to the good and forbid the evil (in the highest sense) – Ibn Jarir.

[43] And (so did) the people of Ibrahim and Lut. [44] And the inhabitants of Madyan.84 And, Musa was (also) given the lie.85 But I granted respite to the unbelievers (for a while) and then seized them. How then was My repudiation punishment?86

Commentary

84. That is, the nation of Shu`ayb (Ibn Jarir).

85. One might appreciate the accuracy of the Qur’an that while it said about other Prophets that their people cried lies to them, about Musa it did not say that he was cried lies to, for, his people did not lay lies on him (Ibn Jarir, Razi). But Yusuf Ali has a deeper meaning to offer. He writes: “The case of Moses is mentioned apart, as his people survived to the time of our Prophet and survive to the present, and they frequently rebelled against Moses (ii, 49-61).”

86. The word “inkaar” means to repudiate, reproach, reject, disavowal, etc. The meaning here is, “See how was my repudiation of your continued denial” (Ibn Kathir, Baghawi and others).

Some of the ancient scholars have said that the time gap between Fir`awn’s words, ‘I am your highest Lord,’ and his destruction was forty years. (Thus long did Allah grant him respite). And a report in the Sahihayn says, “Allah extends respite to a wrongdoer. But when He seizes him, He does not let go” (Ibn Kathir).

The textual word “nakeer” has at least two strong connotations. In the words of Mawdudi, “(1) strong disapproval of someone’s evil ways; (2) the infliction of a severe punishment on him.”

(To be continued)