Verses from Surah al-Tawbah (61 to 66)

[61] And of them are some who cause pain to the Prophet, and say, ‘He is (all) ear.’125 Say, ‘He is (all) ear for your good.’126 He believes in Allah and in the (reports of the) faithful and is a mercy unto those of you who have believed. Those who cause pain to the Messenger of Allah, theirs shall be a painful chastisement.127

 

Commentary

125. It is reported that some of the hypocrites passed remarks on the Prophet, peace be upon him. One of their kind told them not to do that from fear that they might be conveyed to him. Jullas b. Suwayd said, “Rather, we shall say what pleases us. If reported to him, we shall deny on oath and he will hear because he is ‘all‑ear’” (Razi).

That is, he listens to everyone’s report, believing in everyone. In other words, gullible (Au.). 

126. The translation follows one opinion. Another understanding is: “The Prophet, peace be upon him, listens only to the good and not to the evil.” This is the understanding of the majority (Ibn Jarir). A possible interpretation is that the Prophet, peace be upon him, is a good listener in the sense that he does not pass on all that he hears to others, exposing the hypocrites, and, further, does not open up inquiries to bring out what lies concealed in the hearts, rather, accepts the excuses presented to him in good faith (Zamakhshari).

What the hypocrites meant is that the Prophet, peace be upon him, ought not to believe in what was being reported of their words and deeds. If he believed in their lies, it was alright (Au.).

Mawdudi elaborates: “The Qur’anic response to these taunting remarks is an exhaustive one and covers two points: First, the Prophet, peace be upon him, does not pay any attention to reports that are likely to give rise to evil and mischief; he acts only on those reports which bring good to all, the reports which are conducive to the best interests of Islam and Muslims. Second, that the Prophet’s propensity to listen to everybody is in fact in the interests of the hypocrites themselves. For had the Prophet, peace be upon him, not been forbearing and cool‑tempered he would not have listened with patience to their false professions to faith, to their specious protestations of goodwill, to their lame excuses to justify their shying away from fighting in the way of God. Had he been otherwise, the Prophet, peace be upon him, would have dealt severely with the hypocrites and would have made their life in Madinah extremely difficult. In short, the hypocrites have every reason to be thankful for this trait in the Prophet’s character.”

127. Some scholars have said that just as causing pain to the Prophet, peace be upon him, in his life time was tantamount to disbelief, it is the same even after his death, so that, one could not marry one of his wives after him. Another example is to speak harshly of his parents, since that would have caused him pain if he was alive ‑ although, this latter act would not be considered equal to disbelief, rather, only a sinful act. Nevertheless, this should not be taken too far to say, for instance, that whoever caused pain to one of his kinsfolk, caused pain to him (Manar).

[62] They swear by Allah in order to please you (O Muslims),128 although Allah and His Messenger have the greater right that they should please him,129 if they are (truly) believers. 

Commentary

128. It is reported that one of the hypocrites said, “By God, these (that is, hypocrites of his sort) are the most honorable of us. If what Muhammad says is true then surely, these are worse than donkeys.” A Muslim who heard him retorted in anger, “Rather you are worse than a donkey,” and then reported the words to the Prophet, peace be upon him. But when the Prophet, peace be upon him, summoned the man he denied that he had said any such thing. He swore on God and began to curse. The Muslim said, “O Allah expose the liar and the truthful.” In response Allah, peace be upon him, sent down this verse (Ibn Jarir).

129. The singular pronoun here (in place of the dual) is for the Prophet and it draws the following comment from Alusi and Rashid Rida: The use of the singular pronoun (in “an yurduhu” – “that they should please him”), is meant to bring out – (in inimitable elliptic form so characteristic of the Qur’an: Asad) – the idea that Allah’s pleasure is in following His Messenger. (Or, the good pleasure of one of them, was the good pleasure of the other: Zamakhshari). Using the dual pronoun (huma) wouldn’t have been right since, it might be thought that one needs to please both, whereas, pleasing the Prophet, peace be upon him, is to please Allah, especially when the previous verse speaks of the hypocrites displeasing him.

[63] Do they not know that whoever opposed Allah and His Messenger, shall have the Fire of Hell (as his share), abiding therein forever? That surely is the supreme disgrace.

[64] The hypocrites are fearful lest a chapter be revealed against them, informing them what (in reality) is in their hearts.130 Say, ‘Mock on. Allah is about to expose what you fear.’131

Commentary

130. Although the hypocrites could not restrain their tongues, they dearly hoped ‑ half in seriousness, half in jest ‑ that God would not reveal to others what they talked amongst themselves in private.

131. The earliest generation of Muslims used to call this surah “Al‑Fadihah,” i.e., “the Exposer,” for it exposed the hypocrites (Tabari).

[65] Should you question them (regarding their slanderous remarks), they say, ‘We were merely indulging (idle talk)132 and jesting.’133 Say, ‘Were you mocking at Allah, His revelations and His Messenger?’134

Commentary

132. (Although the common meaning of the textual word “khawd” is to indulge) literally it refers to any stepping into dirt, such as, for instance, stepping into a pool of filthy water (Razi). 

133. One of the hypocrites told ‘Awf b. Malik during the Tabuk expedition, (perhaps imagining that he was one of them), “What’s wrong with these (Qur’anic) reciters? They seem to be the most gluttonous, the most lying and the most chicken‑hearted when faced up with an enemy.” ‘Awf cried out, “You are lying and you are a hypocrite. I shall report this to the Prophet.” However, the Revelation overtook him. That is, it came down before ‘Awf could report to the Prophet, peace be upon him. ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar says, “I saw the man holding on to the Prophet’s camel’s side‑strap, with the stones hurting his feet, pleading, ‘We were only jesting, O Messenger of Allah,’ and the Prophet (paying him no attention: Ibn Kathir). He only remarked, ‘Were you jesting with Allah, His revelations, and His Messenger?’” (Ibn Jarir).

134. It is reported by Qatadah that while the Prophet, peace be upon him, and a few of his Companions were passing by a group of hypocrites during the Tabuk expedition one of them remarked: “Do you think this kind of people will be able to conquer the forts and palaces of the Romans? Huh.” Allah, Glorified be He, informed His Messenger about it. He asked them to be presented. When they came up, he asked them, “Did you say, such and such a thing?” They swore to God that they were merely jesting (Ibn Kathir).

It should be obvious that jesting is disallowed in religious matters (Razi and Qurtubi).

Qurtubi adds: In fact, there are other affairs where jesting is not allowed. Even if someone did one of them out of jest, it will be considered an act in earnest with the legal binding. For instance, if somebody entered into a marriage and then said he was jesting, it wouldn’t be accepted of him. This is in view of the Prophet’s hadith, reported by several authorities, with varying degree of reliability, that he said: “There is no jesting in three things: marriage, divorce and enfranchisement” (Qurtubi).

[66] Do not offer excuses now. You disbelieved after declaring your faith.135 Even if We forgive a few of you (if they sought forgiveness), a few others We shall punish, because they are criminals (and will not seek repentance).136

 

Commentary

135. Explaining this verse ‘Ikrimah said, “I used to know a man whom I hope Allah will forgive. He used to say, ‘O Allah, I hear a verse that drives fear into the heart. O Lord! Let my death be in Your path in such a way that nobody should say, ‘I washed him. I wrapped him in the shroud, I buried him.’ The man fell on the Day of Yamamah (battle) and every fallen Muslim was found but he (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir). Perhaps what ‘Ikrimah meant was that it was one of those hypocrites who passed remarks against the Prophet, peace be upon him, but repented later and sought to die unknown. Some reports suggest the identify of this person as Makhshiyy b. Himyar (Au.). 

136. Asad adds a useful point here: “The above Qur’anic sentence expresses the doctrine that in His final judgement God will take into account all that is in a sinner’s heart, and will not indiscriminately condemn everyone who has been sinning out of weakness or out of an inner inability to resolve his doubts, and not out of a conscious inclination to evil.”

While the above is worth noting, Yusuf Ali has another explanation: “Hypocrisy is a half‑way house, a state of indecision in the choice between good and evil. Those who definitely range themselves with good obtain forgiveness; those who pass definitely to evil suffer the penalties of evil.”