Verses from Surah Tawbah [67 – 71]

In the Name of Allah, most Compassionate, most Merciful

[67] The hypocrites – men and women137 – some of them are of the others:138 they enjoin the evil, forbid the virtuous, and keep their hands closed.139 They are oblivious of Allah140 so He is oblivious of them. Surely, the hypocrites – they are the wicked ones.141

Commentary

137. The two – unbelieving men and women – have been separately mentioned to register the message that the female hypocrites were no better than male hypocrite, rather, possessed the same qualities (Razi).

That the female hypocrites were separately addressed is a sign of Allah’s mercy. In contrast to the male hypocrites who were occasionally named by their acquaintances, nobody knew of the female ones, nor did anyone ever speak of them. If Allah (swt) hadn’t spoken of them, nobody would have even suspected, including themselves, that hypocrisy existed among them also. But Allah didn’t deny them His warning and admonition (Au.).

138. The translation is literal. But commentators such as Ibn Jarir and Ibn Kathir have understood the words to mean ‘they are similar to each other,’ i.e., they are alike in their attitudes towards truth and falsehood. And, in explanation of the article “min” (of), Alusi says that the sentence is of the same order as the Prophet’s words to ‘Ali: “Unto me (minni) you are like what Harun was to Musa (asws).” That is, when the Prophet (saws) said anta minni, (lit. you are ‘of’ me), he meant, ‘you are unto me’ (Au.).

Sayyid writes: “The hypocrites – men and women – are from one soil and are of one nature… in every place and in every epoch. Their deeds and words might differ but it all amounts to same and spring out from the same springs. They are of evil designs, mean guiles, full of jibes, intrigues, afraid to look straight into the eyes and fearful of openness. These are their unfailing signs. As for their deeds, they forbid the good and bid the evil, niggardly of wealth unless they be spending in order to put up a show… They have completely forgotten Allah and, therefore, are concerned about nothing except material advantages.”

139. Since opening the hands means to be very liberal, its opposite, closing them means to be parsimonious. That is, the hypocrites do not spend anything in the right cause (Alusi and others).

140. Since a man cannot forget God, the obvious implication is that they ignored to act by His commandments. And He in turn denied them His mercy (Razi).

141. The textual word is “fasiq” and the meaning is, they are perfect in fisq. The use of this word in such a strong manner to describe the hypocrites, should be a warning to those of the believers whose life‑style evokes the same criticism from the tongues of the believers (from Zamakhshari with addition).

Asad offers the rejoinder, “It is to be borne in mind that this and the following verses refer to the conscious hypocrites spoken of in the last sentence of the preceding verse, and not to the waverers, whose hypocrisy is an outcome of inner fears and uncertainties.”

[68] Allah has promised the hypocrites, men and women, and (other outright) unbelievers the Fire of Jahannum, abiding therein forever. Sufficient it is for them.142 Allah has cursed them,143 and for them is an everlasting punishment.

Commentary

142. That is, it is enough of a chastisement, over which nothing need be added for severity (Alusi and others).

143. Yusuf Ali explains the meaning of Allah’s curse: “Curse, here as elsewhere, is deprivation of grace and mercy, brought about by the rejection of Allah by the Unbelievers.”

[69] As was the case of those before you: they were mightier than you in power and more abundant of wealth and offspring. They enjoyed (to their full) their share (of the life of this world) as you have enjoyed (to your full) your share (of the life of this world) exactly as those (other unbelievers) who were before you, enjoying (to their full the worldly life).144 You have also indulged (in vanities) as they indulged. Those ‑ their works failed (to net any gain) in this world or the next; those ‑ it is they who are the losers.

Commentary

144. The repetition of the words, “you enjoyed,” “they enjoyed,” confuse some people. The commentators, such as Zamakhshari, have explained that it is like telling someone: `You are like Fir`awn. He used to do this and that, etc. You also do like he used to do. So, you are like Fir`awn in doing things that he did.’

[70] (As for today’s unbelievers), hasn’t the news of the past peoples reached them: the people of Nuh, ‘Ad, Thamud; the people of Ibrahim,145 the men of Madyan,146 and those (towns) that were turned upside down?147 Their Messengers brought them clear signs. Allah was not such as to wrong them (when He destroyed them), rather they were wronging themselves.148

Commentary

145. “The reference to “Abraham’s people” seems to point to the Babylonians, who rejected the monotheism preached by him, and to the overthrow of their first empire, at about 1100 B.C., by the Assyrians” (Asad).

146. The reference is to the people of Shu‘ayb.

147. The allusion is to the people of Lut. They dwelt in three towns which were turned upside down when they denied their Messenger and continued in their evil ways (Tabari and others).

148. That is, if they were destroyed it was because they had committed wrongs despite warnings conveyed to them by their messengers. They were given every opportunity to choose the right course, but they scoffed at them and insisted on doing things their way. The destruction that followed, in the form of various calamities, was in consequence of their repeated wrong choices. They were not destroyed, as the secularist historians portray, for no fault of theirs (Au.).

Sayyid comments: “A deviated soul is encouraged to recklessness by power and, therefore, does not respond to reminders. It is blinded by the material welfare and so, does not see. Stories of the past and admonitory sentences do not benefit it. That cannot happen unless someone were to open his eyes to realize that the ways of Allah (Sunnatu‑Allah) do not alter over time, are not suspended, and do not spare any of the nations. But, most of those whom Allah tries with power and wealth are blinded by them. They cannot see the end of the powerful that went before them nor do they observe the fate of the rebellions. When they persist in denial, then Allah’s Sunnah takes over. It is then that Allah (swt) seizes them the seizing of the Powerful, the All‑capable, the while they are in their enjoyments and gloating over their power. But in the meanwhile Allah is circumscribing them from their rear. It is nothing but heedlessness, blindness and ignorance that we see as characteristics of the rich and the powerful. And we see them in every place, in every epoch, save for a few to whom Allah (swt) showed mercy.”

[71] (In contrast) the believers – men and women – they are patrons unto each other.149 They enjoin the virtuous, forbid the evil, Pray (assiduously), pay the alms150 and obey Allah and His Messenger.151 These ‑ Allah will show them mercy. Surely, Allah is All‑mighty, All‑wise.

Commentary

149. Imam Razi raises the question. Why did Allah (swt) say about the hypocrites that ‘some of them are of the others,’ whereas He said about the believers that they are believing men and women, awliya’ unto each other (and not some of them of others)? Then he answers that the hypocrites were a people who followed the example of hypocritical men of the past. So they were of them. In contrast, the believers used the faculty of the intellect provided to them to decide between right and wrong, and, as a reward, were made awliya’ unto each other.

On the topic of the believers being awliya’ unto each other, a few of the Prophet’s traditions can be quoted. He said in a hadith (of Bukhari: Hussain), “(The example of) a believer as related to another is like a wall, parts of which strengthen the whole” – then he inserted the fingers of one of his hand into the other to demonstrate. In another hadith, (also of Bukhari: Hussain) he said, “The example of the believers in their love and kindness toward each other is like a body. When one of its limbs feels pain the whole of the body responds to it with fever and sleeplessness” (Ibn Kathir).

150. Thus, the believers are endowed with qualities that are the opposite of the qualities of the hypocrites: against the hypocrites enjoining the evil, they enjoin the virtuous; against the hypocrites forbidding the virtuous, they forbid the wrong; against their heedlessness to Allah, the believers perform the Prayers; and against their withholding of the wealth, the believers expend in charities. Finally, while the believers obey Allah (swt) in all matters, the hypocrites are always sinning, the fasiqun (Au.).

151. Mawdudi comments: “The Muslims and hypocrites stood apart, each a separate entity. Superficially they seemed identical insofar as both groups recognized Islam as their religion and outwardly followed the same set of religious practices. Nevertheless, they differed in character, temperament, behaviour, and habits; in short, in their total orientation. In the case of the hypocrites, faith was a mere verbal claim devoid of true conviction. This claim was repudiated by their life‑style. Their case is similar to that of a man who fills up a container with filth, and labels it perfume; a claim which will instantly be known to be false by the stench it gives off.

In the case of the true believers, their claim can be verified by reference to their character and conduct. The label of perfume is justified by the sweet smell. The hypocrites and true believers passed off as members of the same Muslim community due to the label of Islam. Nevertheless, the characteristics of the two were so different that they could not be considered one community. The hypocrites, by dint of their heedlessness to God, their instinctive interest in evil, their revulsion against goodness, their unwillingness to co‑operate with good causes, were a community by themselves. On the other hand, the true believers – men and women – constituted a distinct community because they shared many traits.”