Selection from Surah al-Anfal (Verses 41-43)

[41] And know70 that whatever71 you secure as spoils of war72 – for Allah is one-fifth thereof, for the Messenger,73 the kin (of the Prophet),74 the orphans, the needy, and the wayfarer75 – if you believe in Allah and in what We have sent down on Our slave76 on the Day of Criterion,77 the day the two forces met. And Allah has power over everything.


70. What it means when Allah (swt) says “know” is,”know and act according to its demands,” since mere knowledge is shared by the believers as well as the unbelievers alike (Zamakhshari). 

71. It has been said that the use of the word “whatever” (minshay’in) implies that every little thing, including a needle and thread of the spoils of war should be handed over to the authorities (Zamakhshari).

Nevertheless, Qurtubi adds, the lands of the unbelievers are excluded by consensus. `Umar (ra) did not distribute the conquered lands amongst the  mujahedin. It is only movable property (taken in the battle-field) that is classified as ghanimah.

Also, he writes further, several authorities believe that the bodily possessions of the enemy soldier is not the property of the one who slew him, unless the Amir announces to that effect,such as to say, `whoever killed one of the enemy will have such and such a reward, (or may keep his bodily belongings to himself: au.).’

72. It has been reported as Qatadah’s opinion that this verse abrogates the verse of  surah al-Hashr which says (59: 7): “Whatever Allah restored to His Messenger from the people of the towns, is for Allah, for the Messenger, for (his) relatives, the orphans, the destitute and the wayfarer…” But the difficulty is that  surah al-Hashr was revealed after the campaign of Banu Nadir which took place after Badr. (That is, an earlier verse cannot abrogate one revealed later: au.). Hence, some scholars have said that the verse of al-Hashr is speaking of “faiy,” whereas this present one is speaking of spoils of war in general. As for him who thinks that spoils of war and “faiy” are both at the discretion of the leader of the believers, obviously, he doesn’t think there is any contradiction between the two verses (Ibn Jarir).

Qurtubi writes: There isn’t any difference in opinion that “ghanimah” is that spoil of war which is obtained from the unbelievers by the believers overcoming their resistance: one requiring some efforts – even if a mere chase. (Whether a fight took place or not). Whereas “faiy” is those materials that are obtained by the Muslims peacefully, without any effort on their part such as kharaj, jizyah, and one-fifth of the spoils of war.  (There is no  khumus over this latter kind, the faiy: Rashid Rida).

73. Although reports and opinions vary, Ibn Jarir is inclined to believe in what has been reported as Qatadah’s opinion. He said that when war spoils were brought to the Prophet (saws), he divided them into five parts. Four-fifths went to those who had taken part in the battle. The remaining one-fifth was again divided into five parts. One-fifth thereof was for Allah (swt) and His Messenger, and the rest for the other four categories mentioned in the verse under discussion, viz., “the kin, the orphans, the needy, and the wayfarer.” Thus, one-fifth of one-fifth was the share of Allah (swt) and His Messenger. And, out of this one-fifth of the one-fifth, the Prophet (saws) marked out a suitable share – as some reports suggest – for the Grand Mosque at Makkah.  Or – as some other reports suggest – when he had divided the whole into five parts, he took out a handful of its one-fifth,and marked it for the Haram at Makkah, and then divided the rest into five equal parts. (That is, the one-fifth was divided into six parts, one of which went for the Grand Mosque: Shawkani).  [The four-fifth remained untouched: au.]. Of these five parts, one part went to the Prophet. Yet, he spent his own share, alongwith the one-fifth marked out for the kin, on his kinsfolk, keeping nothing of it for himself (Ibn Jarir). But according to other reports he spent his share on his wives (Shawkani).

It should be obvious from the above that the Prophet dealt with the booty differently, on different occasions, depending perhaps on circumstances (Au.).

Ibn Kathir adds: The above is also the opinion of Ibrahim al-Nakha`i, Hasan b. Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyyah, Hasan al-Busri, Sha`bi, `Ata’ ibn abi Rubah, Mughira and several others and is confirmed by a Sahih report of Bayhaqi which records that a man went up to the Prophet (saws) while he was in the Qura valley examining horses. He asked him about the spoils of war and the Prophet (saws) replied: “One fifth is for Allah and four-fifth for those who participated in the battle.”  And Miqdam b. Ma`dikarab al-Kindi has reported that once he was in a company which included `Ubadah b. Samit, AbuDarda’ and Harith b. Mu`awiyyah al-Kindi. Abu Darda’ asked `Ubadah, “Do you recall what the Prophet (saws) said during such and such a campaign with regard to the one-fifth?”`Ubadah replied, “(Yes), the Prophet (saws) Prayed behind the camels that had been obtained as the spoils of war. Their load was still on them. After the Prayers, he got up with a ball of wool in his hand. He said, `Well. These are your spoils of war. I have no right in them but over one-fifth. And even that one-fifth will be returned to you. Therefore, hand over even the thread and the needle, anything bigger than that or smaller than that, and deceive not. Anything obtained by deceit is a vile thing and is a Fire for its owner in this world and the next. And fight against those near and far and don’t bother about the criticism of the critic. Execute the punishments commanded by Allah (swt) at home and during journey. And fight in the way of Allah (swt), for jihad is one out of several doors leading to Paradise: a great act, by which Allah (swt) gets you rid of anxieties and worries’.”

After narrating the hadith, Ibn Kathir adds: This is a great hadith and parts of it are reported in other narrations such as one in Nasa’i and another in Abu Da’ud.  However, at other times the Prophet (saws) marked out some of the spoil of war for himself. (It was known as “Safiyy“). For e.g., the sword Dhu al-Fiqar, which he kept for himself after Badr, or Safyah (bint Huyyi b. Ukhtab) whom he reserved for himself. These reports are in Abu Da’ud and Nasa’i. Another narration in Ahmed, Abu Da’ud and Nasa’i reports Yezid b. `Abdullah as saying that once we were in an open stable, when a man entered with a parchment in his hand. We read it. It said, “From Muhammad the Messenger of Allah (swt) to the tribe of Zuhayr b. Uqaysh. If you testify that there is no deity save Allah (swt), and that Muhammad is His Messenger, establish the Prayers, pay out the Zakah, and hand over one-fifth of the spoils of war as the Prophet’s share, and the Prophet’s choice (Safiyy), then you will be in peace granted by Allah (swt) and His Messenger.” We asked the man, “Who wrote this to you?” He answered, “The Prophet.” All these reports confirm the opinion stated above as that of the majority of scholars.

As regards Allah’s share, that of His Messenger, and that of his kinsfolk, the opinion of Ibn `Abbas is that after the Prophet’s death, it is to be spent on defence and for public welfare. We find Abu Bakr and `Umar spending it on such causes. Someone asked Hasan b. Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyyah, (a great grandson of `Ali: au.), if `Ali agreed with that. He replied, “Well, `Ali applied it more rigorously” (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir). In fact, Qurtubi writes, all the four Khulafa’ spent it that way. (This is also the opinion stated in the famous Hanafiyy fiqh work, Hidayah: Shafi`). However, Ibn Kathir adds, some scholars have ruled that the share of the Prophet’s kinsfolk should go to Banu Hashim and Banu al-Muttalib; for, as a hadith of Muslim says (as well as one in Bukhari: S. Ibrahim), they are a united body in Islam, as they were a united body during paganism, when they supported the Prophet, despite remaining unbelievers themselves. Nevertheless, there are reports in Muslim, Abu Da’ud, Tirmidhi and Nasa’i that report Ibn`Abbas as saying in reply to a question: “It is we (who are the kinsfolk, deserving the share of the `relatives’). But the people wouldn’t agree to it.”

Ibn Kathir’s commentary – most of which is also in Kashshaf and Razi – ends here.

Rashid Rida adds the note that when the Prophet (saws) was boycotted in Makkah and barricaded for three years in a valley, Banu `Abdul Muttalib stayed with them, while Banu `Abd Shams and Banu Nawfal didn’t. (This is the meaning of the Prophet’s words, “a united body during paganism”: au.).

Shawkani writes: Hakim has a report that he declared Sahih. It quotes `Ali as saying: “The Prophet (saws) had deputed me to distribute the share of his kinsfolk. I did that during his lifetime and continued during the time of Abu Bakr and `Umar.” (Shafi` adds: It is quite possible that the share of the kinsfolk of the Prophet, of which `Ali was given the charge of distribution during the time of Abu Bakr and`Umar, was taken out from the share of the poor).

Zamakhshari writes: Abu Hanifa’s opinion with regard to the spoils of war is that during the time of the Prophet (saws) one-fifth was for the Prophet (saws), one-fifth for his kinsfolk that went to the Banu Hashim and Banu `Abdul Muttalib (excluding Banu `Abd Shams and Banu Nawfal, since the former two stayed together both during paganism as well as in Islam). The rest of the three shares were for the orphans, the poor and the wayfarer. After the death of the Prophet (saws), his share stands canceled, and so does the share of his kinsfolk. (This portion is now to be used for general welfare purposes). As for the kinsfolk of the Prophet (saws), they might be given as any poor is given but not if they are rich. (This is how `Umar did during his caliphate: Shafi`). It is reported of Abu Bakr that he did not divide the share of the Prophet’s kinsfolk among Banu Hashim saying, “It is only your poor who will get a share, and not the rich.” Zayd b.`Ali is also reported to have said, “It is not for us to build palaces out of it.” (Alusi states that although the textual wordis “qurba” meaning kinsfolk, the Prophet’s own practice of not giving to everyone of his kinsfolk [such as, Banu `Abd Shams but giving to Banu `Abdul Muttalib, although they did not convert in Makkah: au.], leads us to believe that the meaning of the term “qurba” is, “those who helped.” Now, since, after the Prophet, there is no need of that kind of help, their share is off).

According to Imam Shafe`i the division should be in the following manner: One-fifth to the Prophet (saws), which, after him, on defense, general welfare, etc.; another one-fifth on his kinsfolk as was the practice during his life-time, and the rest of the three-fifths on the orphans, the poor and the wayfarer.

Imam Malik’s opinion about the Prophet’s share and that of hiskinsfolk was that the matter should be left to the discretion of the leader of the faithful. Hasan b. `Ali had the same opinion about the `share of the Prophet’ after his death.

Zamakhshari’s notes end here.

Qurtubi writes: The practice during paganism was that the leader of the tribe kept one-fourth of the choicest of the booty to himself. Islam did away with that practice. He also writes: Following a hadith in Bukhari, the four-fifths that is the share of the mujahedin who participated in a battle, is to be divided in the ratio of two shares for the horse and one share for the rider, while the foot-soldier gets only one share. (The government then did not provide the mujahedin with arms or beasts for ride: au.).  Abu Hanifah has ruled, however, that the horse gets a share, the rider one, and the foot-soldier one. Alusi adds that Imam Abu Hanifah’s rule is based on a report of Ibn `Abbas that the Prophet  (saws) gave two shares to the rider and one to the non-rider. (A hadith in Muslim transmitted by Ibn `Umar confirms that the Prophet (saws) gave two shares to the horsemen and one to the foot soldier: au.).

Those that accompany a Muslim army as non-combatants, (such as civil service employees), they do not have any right in the spoils of war.

If women and slaves participate in a battle, then, the majority opinion is that although they are not entitled to receive a share in the booty equal to the male fighters – since women and children have been spared from fighting – yet they may be given suitable gifts.

There are differences in opinion over the unbeliever’s share if he fought along with the Muslims, or those of the Muslims who wished to join but couldn’t because of a good reason. But, with regards to those who did not participate at all, there is no differences in opinion that they have no share at all. If the Prophet (saws) gave a few non-participants shares from the Khyber spoils, it was only to those who had participated in Hudaybiyyah, since those who had participated in that campaign, were promised spoils of war by Allah (swt) in words (48: 20): “Allah promises you great amount of spoils of war that you will be taking.”  As for those at Badr, who did not participate in the battle, but received shares there, there were good reasons for that. (See note 2 above: au.).

Qurtubi’s remarks end here.

74. Shafi` writes: As pointed out by Tahawi, the introduction of a  lam over the first three heads of expenditure: (li)Allah, (li)rrasuli and (li) dhi ‘l qurba, (while it is missing from the rest of the other three categories (al-yatama, al-masakin, ibn al-sabil) carries the hint that the Prophet (saws) enjoyed discretion on the whole. That is, he could spend on any of the six categories, in any proportion he thought fit. He could, for instance, spend on maybe four of the six categories mentioned here (or spend the whole amount on one category alone: Thanwi). Accordingly, we find that when Fatimah (ra) came up to him seeking a slave out of the khumus, the Prophet (saws) told her that he couldn’t give her anything because of the pressing need of the As-hab al-Suffa (those of the Platform).

[The above implies that the Prophet (saws) gave away from the share of his kinsfolk to the As-hab al-Suffa because of their greater need: au.].

75. Ibn `Abbas has said that by the term “wayfarer,” the allusion is to those Muslim travelers who arrive up at the towns in a state of destitution (Ibn Jarir).

Alusi points out that the Shi`ah interpretation of the above verse is that the one-fifth of the spoils of war should be divided into six parts. The (three) parts meant for Allah (swt), His Messenger and his kinsfolk should be given to the Imam (a direct descendant of Fatimah: au.) while the three remaining parts should be divided among the orphans, the poor and wayfarer of the kinsfolk of the Prophet (and not to the orphans, the poor and the wayfarer of the Muslims in general: au.). Alusi then suggests that if the first three parts of (Allah (swt), His Messenger and his kinsfolk), is supposedly to be given to the Imam, then perhaps it has to buried in the ground since the twelfth Imam has gone underground!

The Shi`ah say that the above division is based on a report in Tabari which has `Abdullah b. Muhammad b. `Ali as saying that when Allah (swt) said “the orphans, the poor and the wayfarer,” He meant those of the Prophet’s kinsfolk. It is true that the report is in Tabari. But, firstly, the report is an un-checked one for its authenticity. Secondly, it is a single report against a dozen others in the same work which say that it is the orphan, the poor and the wayfarer of the Muslims in general that have been given their share by the Qur’an. Thirdly, `Ali (ra) himself did not distribute it according to the Shi`ah interpretation. Further, the Shi`ah claim that the above “ghana’im” include all the earnings of the life-time of a Shi`ah Muslim, and that the whole of it must be handed over to the Imam. This is their Zakah, See “Tafsir Hasan al-`Askari,” by Imam Hasan al `Askari, “Tafsir Majma`ul Bayan” by `Ali b. Ibrahim al-Qomi, and others (Au.).

76. Allah (swt) emphasized belief in the distribution-ratio of the spoils as part of belief in Him and His Messenger. Accordingly, we find that when the `Abd al Qays delegation came to the Prophet (saws) he told them: “I order you four things and forbid you four things. The four things I order you are: (i) Belief in Allah (swt). Now, do you know what is belief in Allah (swt)? Well, it is to testify that there is no deity save Allah, and that Muhammad is Allah’s Messenger, (ii) to Pray, (iii) pay the Zakah and (iv) that you should remit one-fifth of war spoils (to the state).” It can be seen in this hadith that following this verse the Prophet (saws) counted paying up one-fifth of the spoils as part of Iman (faith) – Ibn Kathir.

77. According to `Ali ibn Abi Talib, Ibn `Abbas, Dahhak, Qatadah, Maqatil and many others, the allusion is to the day of Badr when Allah (swt) distinguished between Truth and falsehood (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir, Shawkani). It was, according to most reports, the seventeenth of Ramadan, and a Friday. Some have said it was the nineteenth. A report in Hakim, of the same status as reports of the Sahihayn, has Ibn Mas`ud saying that the Muslims ought to look for Laylatu al-Qadr (the Night of Power) when 11 days of Ramadan are left, since the next day of this date was the Day of Badr (Ibn Kathir, Shawkani).

Qurtubi comments: The word in the original, “rakb,” is employed for a caravan of camels. If it is of horses then this word cannot be used.

Majid comments: “It is not for nothing that the Qur’an has characterized this battle as the `Day of Distinction‘. A different result would have changed the entire fate of mankind. If there is any single episode in history of which it can be said that on it depended the march of the world’s events, it was this. Even skeptics and rejecters have not entirely failed to grasp this significance. The day `both for internal and external policies was of incalculable advantage to Islam.’ (E Br. XV. p.648) `Seldom has such an insignificant conflict had such far-reaching consequences… The Prophet had received undeniable proof that God was on his side.’ (Andrae, p. 205) `Not only was a most decisive victory gained over a force three times his own in number, but the slain on the enemy’s side included in a remarkable manner many of his most influential opponents’ (Muir, P. 236).”

[42] When you were on the near side of the valley, and they on the farther side with the caravan on your lower side.78 If you (and the pagans) had agreed (to meet), you would have failed the appointment.79 But, (the event was brought about) in order that Allah might accomplish an affair that was destined to be. So that he who died might die on a clear evidence, and he who lived might live on a clear evidence.80  Verily, Allah is Hearing, Knowing.


78. Qatadah, Ibn Is-haq and others have explained that (before the two forces confronted each other: au.) the Muslims were initially at one end of the valley, with their backs to Madinah while the Makkans at the other end, with their backs to Makkah. On the other hand the trade-caravan of Abu Sufyan was travelling by the sea-shore and hence at a much lower level (Ibn Jarir, Shawkani). 

79. Ibn Is-haq explained: ‘That is to say, if you had, O Muslims, agreed on a date and place for a battle, then, on learning of the heavy tilt of balance in favor of the pagans in terms of man-power and equipment, you would have backed off. Instead, as it should happen, both were surprised to find each other at the waters of Badr, staring into each other’s face with disbelief’ (Ibn Jarir).

Ibn Is-haq has also written in his Sirah: When the Prophet (saws) reached the waters of Safra’ he sent Basbas b. `Amr and `Adiyy b. Abi Zaghba’ to bring news about Abu Sufyan. The two went up until Badr and took position on a hill. Then they descended to the waters with an old water-skin. At the well they overheard two girls talking to each other. One was demanding her money back. The other was saying, “Look, tomorrow, or maybe day after, Abu Sufyan should be here. I will work for them and promise you I’ll pay back the money.” Another man called Majdi b. `Amr happened to be there. He interjected, “Yes, you are right.” When the two heard those words, they mounted their camels and rode off to inform the Prophet (saws). A little later Abu Sufyan showed up at the well, sniffing around for the Prophet’s men. He asked if anyone had noticed anything unusual. Majdi told him that he hadn’t noticed anything except for two riders who had tied their camels yonder there and had come down to collect water. Abu Sufyan went up to the spot, picked up fresh dung and broke it. He found it had date-stones. He said, “By God. This is Madinan fodder,” and hurried away. Hitting the sea-shore, he changed the direction of his caravan and leaving Badr on his left, travelled away at a quick pace. Once in safe territory, he sent word to the Quraysh that he had escaped and that they could return. Some time later, the Prophet (saws) sent across `Ali ibn Abi Talib, Sa`d b. Abi Waqqas and Zubayr ibn al-`Awwam to gather fresh news. They came up to the waters and chanced upon two young chaps drawing water for the Quraysh. They escorted them to the Prophet. He was Praying. In the meantime the Companions began questioning them. They said they had been hired by the Quraysh. The Companions weren’t pleased with those words. They wished to hear that they were Abu Sufyan’s men. So they beat them up. When they beat them up the two knew that they could only escape by saying that they were Abu Sufyan’s men. So they said they belonged to Abu Sufyan. When they said that, the Companions let them alone. When the Prophet (saws) finished his Prayers, he remarked that they beat them when they spoke the truth and spared them when they lied. Then he enquired them about the Quraysh numbers. They said a great many but couldn’t give the exact figure. So the Prophet (saws) asked them how many camels they slaughtered everyday. They said, “One day nine and the next day ten.” So the Prophet knew they were between nine hundred and a thousand. Then he enquired about the nobles and the chieftains as to how many had come along. They named `Utbah b. Rabi`ah, Shaybah b. Rabi`ah, Abu al-Bakhtari b. Hisham, Hakim b. Hizam, Nawfal b. Khuwaylid, Harith b. `Amir, Tu`aymah ibn `Adiyy, Nadr b. al-Harith, Zam`ah b. al-Aswad, Abu Jahl b. Hisham, Umayyah b. Khalaf, Nabih and Munabbih the sons of Hajjaj, Suhayl b. `Amr and `Amr b. Abd Wudd. The Prophet told his Companions, “Makkah has thrown out to you pieces of its liver.” (Meaning: the best of its men). Ibn Is-haq has also reported that before the two forces met, Sa`d b. Muadh suggested to the Prophet (saws) that they build a hut or a booth (`Arish in Arabic) for him and station a few fast beasts around so that, `if we overcome the enemy, well and good; but if we are defeated, you could use the mounts to go back to the people we have left behind in Madinah whose love for you is no lesser than their love for their own selves. They will help you continue with your mission. ‘The proposal was accepted with thanks and Prayers, and a kind of booth was fabricated for him. The Prophet (saws) and Abu Bakr stayed in it, and none else (Ibn Kathir).

Today, that spot has a mosque called Masjid al-`Arish. It overlooks a valley, pretty deep at about 10-12 meters, where a spring throws out enough water for a palm grove that covers the wide trapezoidal-shaped valley. This is the valley where the battle took place. Although when first visited in 1980, there were a few houses around, the `Arish mosque was way out of the town of Badr. But, in recent times residential quarters have sprung up all around, and the old mosque has been replaced by a new and much larger one. The cemetery where the thirteen martyrs of Badr lie buried, is about a kilometer away from the spot and is now a town cemetery. Although it is enclosed with a full-height wall, with a guard at the gate, the graves of the thirteen Companions within it are further enclosed with a meter high block-work. There are no other markings, no tomb stone, nothing: just plain sand. But an awe-inspiring sight that steals a heart beat. With the new highway to Madinah that avoids to mention the exit for Badr, one must now, after about 150 km. on the main highway, take the road to Rabigh and then, after about another 30-40 km. enter into the Badr lane (Au.).

80. Ibn Is-haq once again explained: That is, the event of Badr was accompanied by such irrefutable signs of the truth as truth and falsehood as falsehood, that whoever died after that should die on a clear evidence (of falsehood as falsehood: Zamakhshari), and whoever lived after that should live assured that he follows the truth (Ibn Jarir).

Another explanation is: So that whoever wished to disbelieve, could disbelieve, and whoever wished to believe could believe after he had seen the Great Signs at Badr (Ibn Kathir).

[43] (Remember) When Allah was showing them to you (O Messenger) in your dream as few.81 Had He showed them as many you would have been (O believers), discouraged and would have disputed over the affair (of the battle).82 But Allah saved (you from that). Verily, He is aware of that which is in the breasts.


81. Thanwi, himself a Sufi, brings out a subtle point for the followers of the Sufis: In this verse is a lesson for the over-zealot followers of the Sufi Shuyukh. They seem to place great trust in the so-called “inspirations” or “the inner revelations” and the (the esoteric) meanings derived from their dreams. How much more they would not believe in their Shuyukh were their Shuyukh to experience those things in real life situations? Yet, here we have a verse concerning no less than the Prophet (saws) himself, saying: “When Allah was showing them to you (O Messenger) in your dream as few!

(That is, they were not few but Allah (swt) was showing them few. How then can one put his blind faith into what the Shuyukh claim they experience in their dreams: au.)?

82. Mujahid has said that Allah (swt) showed the Prophet (saws) the enemy few in number. When he woke up he told his Companions that he thought they weren’t very large in numbers. That acted as morale booster (Ibn Jarir).

(To be continued)