Verses 72 to 77 of Surah al-Tawbah (Chapter Nine)

[72] Allah has promised the believing men and believing women152 gardens beneath which rivers flow, abiding therein forever,153 and dwellings pleasant ‑ in the Gardens of Eden.154 But the Good Pleasure of Allah is the greatest (of blessings).155 That indeed is the mighty triumph.

Commentary

152. To mention believing women separately is to impress that in Islam both men and women are treated equal in rewards (Manar).

153. Ibn Kathir quotes several ahadith that describe Paradise. The Prophet (saws) said, “For the believer there will be a tent in Paradise made up of a single hollow pearl of length sixty miles in the heavens. There will be spouses for him whom he will visit, but they won’t be seeing each other” (Sahihayn). In another hadith of the Sahihayn he said: “Whosoever believed in Allah and His Messenger, Prayed (properly five times) and fasted in Ramadan, it is binding on Allah that He admit him into Paradise, whether he migrated in the way of Allah or was restricted to the land he was born in.” The people asked, “Messenger of Allah. Should we not inform the people?” He said, “There are a hundred levels of Paradise that Allah has prepared for the mujahidin in His cause. Between each level is the distance like between the earth and the heavens. So, when you supplicate, supplicate for Firdaws Paradise. It is the highest of Paradises and is in the best part of them. From here spring out the rivers of Paradise and above it is `Arsh of the All-merciful.” In another hadith, also of the Sahihayn he said, “The inhabitants of Paradise will see each other’s chambers as you see the stars in the heavens.” In another hadith of Ahmed reported by Abu Hurayrah he said in answer to how Paradise was constructed: “A brick of gold over a brick of silver cemented with Misk and gravel of white and red pearls and plaster of Saffron. Whoever entered will be in bliss, never wretched, eternal, and never dying. His clothes will never get worn and his youth will never slip into old‑age.”

154. In explanation of what is ‘Adn (Eden), opinions among the Salaf varied between a place of permanent habitation, a place completely unknown and unimaginable to the humans, a lush green garden, a place in the center of Paradise, a very special palace, and, a city, a river around on the two banks of which is Paradise (Ibn Jarir).

Ibn Kathir quotes a hadith of Bukhari and Muslim. The Prophet (saws) said, “Two gardens with all dishes and goblets and what they contain in gold. And two gardens with dishes and goblets and what they contain in gold. And, there will be nothing between the people and the sight of their Lord but the Veil of Greatness on His face in the Garden of Eden.”

155. In explanation of this verse, the following can be quoted. Abu Sa‘id al‑Khudri reports the Prophet (saws): “Allah will address the inhabitants of Paradise in words, ‘O people of Paradise.’ They will answer, ‘Here we are O our Lord, at Your service.’ He will ask, ‘Are you satisfied?’ They will answer, ‘Why shouldn’t we be satisfied when You have given us what You didn’t give any of Your creation?’ He will say, ‘I shall give something better than that.’ They will ask, ‘What could be better than this?’ He will reply, ‘My Good Pleasure, so that I shall never be angry with you again’” (Ibn Jarir, Razi). The hadith is in Bukhari (Hussain).

[73] O Prophet! Fight against the unbelievers and hypocrites.156 And act tough with them.157 Their abode is Jahannum ‑ a wretched destination.

Commentary

156. Ibn ‘Abbas has said: (The Prophet was required to) fight against the unbelievers with the sword and against the hypocrites with the words (Ibn Jarir).

‘Ali (ra) has said that the Prophet (saws) was sent with four swords. A sword against the pagans. Allah said (9: 5):

‘So, when the Sacred Months have passed, slaughter the associators (with Allah).’ A sword against the people of the Book. He said (9: 29): ‘Fight those who do not believe in Allah nor in the Last Day, nor do they consider unlawful what Allah has declared unlawful, and what His Messenger (has declared unlawful), neither do they adopt the religion of truth ‑ of those who were given the Book (earlier) ‑ until they pay the tribute out of hand and they are humbled.’ Third, a sword against the hypocrites. He said (9: 73): ‘Fight against the (common) unbelievers and the hypocrites.’ Fourth, a sword against the rebellious. He said (49: 9): ‘Fight against the rebelling party until it submits to Allah’s commands.’” This means that if the hypocrites openly display their hypocrisy, they may be fought against with the sword. Most other scholars believe however that the hypocrites are to be fought with words alone (Ibn Kathir).

The Shi‘ah claim that the Ahl al‑Bayt (People of the House [of the Prophet]) have read the verse to mean: “O Prophet, fight the unbelievers with the help of the hypocrites.” (The allusion by the ‘hypocrites’ is to the Companions, who according to the Shi‘ah, were either hypocrites or turned apostates after the death of the Prophet: au.). After reporting this lovely commentary, Alusi offers a lively comment: “No such thing is reported of the Ahl al‑Bayt, rather they ‑ the Shi‘ah (who make idols of the Ahl al‑Bayt) ‑ are a Bayt al‑Kidhb (House of Liars).”

157. Qurtubi points out that acting tough on the hypocrites means, being tough in the application of Islamic laws and rules of conduct on them. It does not mean misbehaving with them or using uncivilized language. A hadith says, “If one of your slave‑girls fornicates, the Islamic law be applied to her, but do not address her in foul language.” Mufti Shafi` strengthens the above point by quoting a Qur’anic verse (3; 159) : “Had you been (O Prophet) foul of mouth, insensible of heart, surely, they would have dispersed away from you,” and then remarks that it is sad to note that what has been prohibited against the unbelievers is the fashion among the believers today.

[74] They swear by Allah that they said no (such thing).158 But, in actual fact, they did say the word of unbelief, disavowed after their surrender (to Islam) and strived to achieve what they did not attain.159 And they were not resentful but (for the fact) that Allah had enriched them by His Grace, and (so had) His Messenger.160 Yet, if they repent, it will be better for them.161 But if they turn away (in refusal), Allah will chastise them with a painful chastisement in this world and in the next. And they shall not have in the land a protector or a helper.162

Commentary

158. Some scholars have said that the reference is to Jullas b. Suwayd. Another opinion is that the allusion is to ‘Abdullah ibn Ubayy. It is reported that when two Muslims belonging to two different tribes squabbled over something, he called out to his henchmen saying, “By God. Muhammad’s example is like someone who said, ‘Fatten your dog and it will eat you up.’” But when questioned, he denied that he had said any such thing (Ibn Jarir, Razi, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).

Tabrani, Abu al‑Sheikh and Ibn Marduwayh have another report which says that the Prophet (saws) was resting under the shade of a tree when he remarked, “A man is about to appear before you who looks with the eyes of Satan. When he comes don’t speak to him.” It wasn’t too long when a neat and clean person appeared. The Prophet (saws) beckoned him to himself. When he came close he asked him, “Why do your friends speak evil of me?” The man turned back and swiftly brought back his companions. They swore that they said nothing about him and prevailed until they extracted his pardon and Allah (swt) revealed this verse (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir, Shawkani and others). The report is in Majma` al‑Zawa’id with Haythami declaring it trustworthy (Syed Ibrahim).

159. The allusion is to the attempts by the unbelievers and the hypocrites to assassinate the Prophet (Ibn Jarir).

Ibn Kathir reports Hudhayfah b. al‑Yaman who said in narrations of Ahmed and others, “I was holding the reins of the Prophet’s camel (during the Tabuk return journey). Either me or `Ammar were leading it. When we were in a narrow pass I encountered some twelve men who tried to scare the camel. The Prophet (saws) yelled at them. They dispersed. He asked, “Did you recognize them?” We said, “No, O Messenger of Allah. They had covered themselves. But we could recognize their mounts.” He said, “They were hypocrites who will remain so until the Day of Judgement. Do you know their what they intended?” We said, “No.” He said, “They tried to crowd around the Messenger of Allah and push him down into the gorge.” (Shortened).

They were all either from the Yethrib tribes or their allies. Ibn Kathir has picked up the names from  Tabrani. They were: Mu‘tab b. Bashir, Wadi‘ah b. Thabit, Jadd b. ‘Abdullah, Harith b. Yezid al‑Ta’iyy, Aws b. Qayzi, Harith b. Suwayd, Sa‘d b. Zurarah, Qays b. Fahd, Suwayd and Da‘is of the Banu al‑Hubla, Qays b. ‘Amr, Zayd b. al‑Lasit and Sulalah b. al‑Hammam (Manar).

It is reported of Imam Baqir that he believed eight of them were from the Quraysh. But the report is not worth looking at. There was not a single Qurayshi among them (Alusi).

160. According to Ibn ‘Abbas, ‘Urwah and Qatadah, the allusion is to the Prophet’s monetary assistance they received in connection with blood‑wit on behalf of one, or a few of them (Ibn Jarir).

161. It is said that Jullas was one of those who had repented (Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi and others).

162. The hypocrites were rich and powerful men of their tribes. Time and again, the tribesmen defended their leaders against any calamity falling on them. Allah (swt) informed them that when His chastisement descends they will not find them around for help and protection (Ibn Jarir).

[75] And, of them there are some who promised Allah, ‘If He bestowed on us of His bounty, we shall expend in charity, and be truly of the righteous.’ 

[76] Nevertheless, when He bestowed on them of His bounty, they acted niggardly therewith163 and went back (on their promise)164 ‑ being averse (to fulfilling it).165

Commentary

163. Abu Hafs has defined “bukhl” (niggardliness) as “refusal to give preference to the needs of others in situations of want” (Thanwi).

164. Ibn ‘Abbas and Umama al‑Bahiliyy have reported that the verse came down in response to an incident involving Tha‘labah b. Hatib al‑Ansari. He went up to the Prophet (saws) and requested him to supplicate for his wealth. The Prophet (saws) told him, “Little that is thanked for is better than a lot whose burden you cannot bear.” But he persisted promising that if enriched he would give everyone his due. Finally the Prophet (saws) supplicated for him and his wealth. He reared some goats which began to multiply like insects until Madinah became too constricted for him. He moved out of the town to a valley, coming in only for the ‘Asr and Zuhr Prayers. But the goats kept multiplying in numbers until he gave up coming to the mosque except for Friday Prayers. Finally, he stopped showing up for Friday Prayers also. The Prophet enquired about him and was told that the man was kept busy by his goats. Then he sent two men to collect Zakah from him and another man of Banu Sulaym. When Tha‘labah read the Prophet’s letter, he remarked, “I can’t see a difference between this and jizyah (tribute). This is jizyah’s sister. I don’t know what this is.” Then he added, “Alright. Pass by me on your way back.” When the Sulaym man read the letter, he chose the best of his camels. But the Prophet’s envoy refused to accept on grounds that the Prophet (saws) had forbidden that the best of the people’s wealth be accepted as Zakah. But the man insisted saying that he was offering it willingly. On their way back they stopped at Tha‘labah’s place. He told them, “Let’s see that letter again.” Then, looking into it he remarked, “I don’t think this is any different from jizyah. Why don’t you go back now and allow me time to think?” So they left him and reported to the Prophet (saws). Allah revealed this verse in response. Some others have thought that two men were involved: one Tha‘labah and the other Mu‘tab b. Qushayr (Ibn Jarir).

Ibn Kathir adds: A relative of Tha‘labah informed him about the revelation of this verse. He hurried up to the Prophet (saws) offering his Zakah. The Prophet (saws) told him that Allah (swt) had ordered him not to accept his charity. Tha‘labah began to weep, threw dust on his head and returned. During Abu Bakr’s caliphate he went up to him offering his Zakah. Abu Bakr told him that he was not going to accept it from someone from whom the Prophet (saws) hadn’t accepted. ‘Umar and ‘Uthman ‑ during whose reign he died ‑ also refused to accept his Zakah.

Qurtubi writes that Tha‘labah b. Hatib was one of those who had participated in the Badr battle. Therefore, there is something wrong with the report. He narrates Ibn ‘Abbas as of opinion that the person involved was Hatib b. Balta‘ah. Imam Razi uses both the names Hatib b. Balta‘ah as well as Tha‘labah, which speaks of the confusion over the identity of the person. Rashid Rida also wonders how a man who wept when told that his charity was not acceptable could be regarded as a hypocrite. (Unable to recall the details now, this writer remembers having read a well‑researched article a long time back proving that there was a mix‑up in names, if there weren’t two Tha‘labahs). Moreover, although Tha‘laba’s incident is widely quoted by the commentators, S.Ibrahim notes that the report has been declared “very weak” by Haythami in his “Majma‘ al‑Zawa’id.” Finally, the plural form indicates that there were a few such men who went back on their promise (Au.).

Abu al‑Sheikh has reported that the verse actually came down concerning one of the Ansar who promised Allah (swt) that if he was bestowed wealth he would give everyone his due. It should so happen that a rich cousin of his died leaving his entire wealth to him. But the man went back on his promise and began to act parsimoniously (Shawkani).

165. The allusion by the term Sadaqah as used above is not to Zakah since Allah (swt) added that the man acted niggardly (bukhl). And the term bukhl becomes applicable when one does not spend what is obligatory on him (Razi).

[77] So, as a consequence He placed hypocrisy in their hearts (to last) until the Day they will meet Him ‑ for that they failed Allah in what they promised Him and for that they were lying.166

Commentary

166. Asad comments on the reasons that give birth to hypocrisy: “Thus, the Qur’an states that it is excessive love of worldly possessions which gives rise, in certain type of man, to the attitude of mind described as “hypocrisy” ‑ and not vice versa.”

Ibn Jarir points out that the verse gives us two signs of the hypocrites: lying and turning back on promises. (Ahadith count a few more). A hadith reported by ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar and Muhammad b. Ka‘b al‑Qurazi says: “The mark of a hypocrite are threefold: when he speaks, he lies; when he promises, he breaks his promise; and when he is trusted, he betrays.” (The hadith is in Bukhari also: Hussain). Another version reported by Hasan adds the words: “Even if such a man Prayed and fasted.” It is reported of ‘Amr b. Wa’il that when his death approached he said, “So and so had asked me for my daughter’s marriage. I had told him something about she going through the waiting period. (A device he concocted for refusal: au.). But, by Allah, I shall not meet with Allah as one‑third hypocrite. Be witness that I give my daughter in marriage to the man.” In fact, some people have included one’s intentions in the application of the term “promise.” Sulayman al‑Taymi says that he traveled by sea. “They were struck by a storm and everybody vowed something or the other. I didn’t say a word but vowed to myself without uttering it. When I returned, I asked Abu Sulayman his opinion.” He said, “You better act according to your intention.” When Sa‘id b. Thabit was asked about such situations as when people promise something without spelling it out, he recited the verse: “Don’t they know that Allah knows their secret (thoughts) and what they conspire together, and that Allah knows well the Unseen?”

Razi however maintains that so long as one has not spoken out his intention, he is not bound to fulfill it. The verse under discussion refers to what the particular man had spoken out (and not simply intended). A hadith says, “Allah (swt) has forgiven my Ummah what the inner self considers so long as the man does not do it or speak about it.” (In view of this hadith, Qatada’s opinion ‑ as in Bukhari ‑ with regard to divorce was that it does not come into force if someone merely intended it ‑ au.). As regards the application of hypocrisy to someone who possesses one or more of the qualities stated in the ahadith, Hasan al‑Busri’s opinion was that anyone afflicted with any of the three signs is surely a hypocrite. But Wasil b. `Ata reports that someone went up to him and asked, “Allah has narrated to us the story of Ya`qub’s sons. They lied, gave the word but broke it, were trusted and failed in the trust. Were they hypocrites?” Hasan had no reply. Probably Hasan could not think of an immediate reply. But the scholars have explained that when these things are done habitually, they point to hypocrisy (Au.).

(To be Continued)