Verses from Surah Al-Anfal (44-49)

[44] And when He was showing them to you (O believers) – when you encountered them – as few in your eyes,83 and He made you (appear) as few in their eyes,84 so that Allah may accomplish an affair that was destined to be.85 And to Allah return all the affairs.

Commentary

83.  `Abdullah ibn Mas`ud said: “We thought about the pagans at Badr that they were a small bunch. I turned to the Companion by my side and asked, `Do you think they are 70.’ He replied, `Nope. I believe they are a hundred.’ It was only when we had captured one of them that he told us about their real numbers” (Ibn Jarir, Zamakhshari, Qurtubi). The report is in Ibn Abi Hatim (Ibn Kathir, Shawkani).

84.  So that the pagans said to each other about the Muslims: “These (few) should prove an easy fodder (for us)” – Zamakhshari, Qurtubi.

Suddi has reported that someone suggested to the Quraysh that since Abu Sufyan had escaped unmolested, they should return. Abu Jahl vehemently opposed the move and suggested that they should use the opportunity to destroy the Muslims root and branch. He also said: “When you meet them in combat, spare the use of your arms. Instead, rope them in (so as to carry them as slaves)” – Ibn Jarir.

Majid writes: “The actual strength of the two armies according to Muir was as follows:

                              Muslim                  Pagan

Men                        302                         905
Camels                  70                           700
Horses                   2                              100

(Quraysh horsemen were all mail-clad).

85.  Ibn Kathir writes: There is no contradiction between this verse and the verse in Al-`Imran which says (3: 13): “There was a sign for you in the two forces that met (at Badr). One group fighting in the Allah’s cause, and the other (that of the) unbelievers (fighting in the Devil’s cause). They saw them – as the eye sees – twice themselves (in numbers).” To explain, initially, when they came face to face with each other, both saw each other as lesser than actually they were. This was to encourage both to a good fight. But when the combat began, and the angels descended, then the unbelievers began to see the Muslims as twice their own numbers. That disheartened them and reduced their morale.

For an alternative explanation see note 23 of Al-`Imran (Au.).

[45] Believers! When you encounter a force (in a battlefield), stay firm86 and remember Allah much. Haply that you might succeed.

Commentary

86.  We have a hadith of the Sahihayn. `Abdullah ibn Abi Awfa said: “During one of his campaigns the Prophet (saws) waited until the sun started going down. Then he got up and said, `People, do not wish to meet the enemy. Instead, seek Allah’s protection. But if you meet them, then be patient and know that Paradise is in the shade of the swords.’ Then he rose up again after a while and began to supplicate in words, `O our Lord. The Sender of the Book, the Mover of the clouds, the Annihilator of the forces: inflict defeat on them and help us against them.’” According to another report he added the words, `If they shout and make noise (let them, but) you keep quiet.’ (Hakim has a Sahih report about not being noisy at the time of a battle: Shawkani). According to another report, the Prophet (saws) said: “Allah (swt) approves of silence on three occasions: when the Qur’an is recited, when the battle is on and when the funeral is being carried.” Yet another report (in Tirmidhi: S.Ibrahim) reports Allah’s words: “Verily, that servant is My complete servant who remembers Me on the horse-back.” That is, he remembers Allah  (swt) in every situation. Ata’ has said however, that during a battle the Muslims could raise their voice slightly in remembrance of Allah (Ibn Kathir).

[46] And obey Allah and His Messenger. Do not dispute, or you will lose heart and your power will depart.87 And be patient (and persevering). Surely, Allah is with the patient (and the persevering).

Commentary

87.  As it happened, says Mujahid, at Uhud. They disputed with the Prophet’s instructions and, in consequence, met with defeat (Ibn Jarir, Shawkani).

[47] Be not like those who came forth from their homes in insolence and showing off88 to the people,89 and to obstruct the path of Allah.90 And Allah encompasses what they do.

Commentary

88.  The textual word for “showing off” is riya’. The difference between nifaq and riya’ is as follows. Nifaq is to show off faith while concealing unfaith, and riya’ is to show off obedience while concealing disobedience (Razi).

That is, one is the act of the heart, another of the body (Au.). 

89.  Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid, Suddi, Dahhak and others have said that when Abu Sufyan reached safe territory, he sent word to the Makkan army to return. But they said they wouldn’t. (Except for Banu Zuhra and Banu `Adiyy, who returned seeing no point in a fight: Ibn Kathir). The Quraysh said they would rather go up to Badr, camp there for three days, drink wine, listen to songs and music and demonstrate to the people their heroism, so that the stories of their pomp and show would be long remembered in Hejaz towns (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir, Shawkani). Zamakhshari and Razi add that earlier too when one of the pagan chief sent his sons to Abu Jahl with the message that if he wished he would send his warriors to fight alongside him, Abu Jahl thanked him but turned down his offer saying, “Tell your father, `If we are fighting Allah, as Muhammad claims, then there is no way we will win. But if we are fighting men, then, we have enough manpower.’” Then he added, “Rather, we shall go up to Badr, stay there for three days…” until the end.

90.  They did that by discouraging those who wished to embrace Islam and torturing and fighting those of them who had already embraced this religion (Ibn Jarir).

[48] When Satan decked out fair to them their deeds and said, `No one of the people can overcome you today. Indeed, I am by your side.’ (But) When the two forces saw each other, he turned on his heels saying, `I am quit of you. I see what you do not see. I fear Allah;91 and (surely) Allah is severe of chastisement.’

Commentary

91.  Ibn `Abbas, Suddi, Ibn Is-haq and others have said that when they started for Badr, Iblis appeared before the Quraysh in the form of a man called Suraqah b. Malik al-Ju`tham al-Kinani, the poet. (The Quraysh were in fact at war with this tribe and feared attack in their absence because of the old enmity: Razi). He joined them up and egged them on to fight the Muslims with the encouraging words, “I am with you.” He assured them that in their absence his tribe will not strike at Makkah. And, pointing to the Satans he had brought with him in men’s guise he said, “These Kinanians will fight alongside you.” But when the angels descended and Jibril advanced toward him while he was strolling in the field with his hand in the hand of a pagan, he disengaged himself and began to back off quick. The pagan cried out, `Suraqah! You were supposed to be with us?!” Iblis replied, “I am quit of you. I see what you don’t see and I fear Allah. And Allah is severe of chastisement” (Zamakhshari, Ibn Jarir, Shawkani).

Reports in Waqidi and Tabrani say that when Harith tried to prevent Iblis’ retreat, under the impression that he was Suraqah, Iblis gave him a big push on the chest. Harith fell down and Iblis began to run until he reached the sea, and exclaimed, “O Lord. Your promise that you will give me respite until the Day of Judgement!” Some other reports say that after Suraqah’s retreat Abu Jahl told his people not to lose heart at the trick Muhammad had played on them in co-operation with Suraqah (Ibn Kathir).

It is reported that later the Quraysh questioned Suraqah ibn Malik about his behavior. He flatly denied that he ever said those things (or that he had accompanied them to Badr: Au.) – Shawkani.

Thanwi re-quotes a point from Ruh: The ineffectiveness of Satan’s fear which he stated in words, “I fear Allah,” proves that it is not the natural fear of Allah that is required of a believer. It is the fear which grows out of one’s faith in Him that is demanded of him.

[49] When the hypocrites and those in whose heart is sickness were saying, `Their religion has deluded these (Muslims).’92 But (the truth is) whoever placed his trust in Allah, then, surely, Allah is Mighty, Wise.93

Commentary

92.  `Amir, Mujahid, Hasan and others have said that there were some people in Makkah who were inclined toward Islam but were held back by some doubts. They had come out along with the pagans. But when they saw a few Muslims ready to take on the formidable Quraysh, they remarked, “These have been deluded by their religion.” Mujahid named them as Qays b. al-Walid b. al-Mughirah, Harith b. Zam`ah b. al-Aswad b. al-Muttalib, `Ali b. Umayyah and `As b. Munabbih b. al-Hajjaj (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir, Shawkani).

93.  Rashid Rida, known in his own time as a “rationalist” writes: There are example of individuals of this nation who gave up all material means, placing their trust in Allah (swt), and, so Allah placed His bounties at their disposal. Such things happened to them for which no other explanation could be offered save that Allah treated them in accordance with their trust in Him. People such as Ibrahim b. Ad-hum. He was formerly a ruler. He abandoned his kingdom and devoted himself to Allah’s worship without bothering about the means of sustenance. Or others, such as Ibrahim al-Khawas, or Shaqiq al-Balkhi. In fact, in our own time we encountered an example of the ancients. It was `Abdul Baqi, an Afghani scholar who, after completion of his studies went to India to master philosophy and dialectics. But he dreamed that a very handsome person was telling him that he was playing with human secretion. He interpreted the dream as pointing to his occupation with the Greek philosophy. So he gave it up and dedicated his time to devotions. He migrated to the Arab world. He performed Hajj on foot every year and returned to Syria, dividing his time there with us in Qalmun, Tripoli (now in Lebanon) and Hims. Then he would start off for Hijaz for the next Hajj. That was his routine every year without ever carrying with him any money. All that he would carry was a book which, after he had finished reading, would give away to someone. In free time he gave lessons in Tawhid and Principles of Religion (Usul al-Din). My own friend `Abdul Hamid Zahrawi told me that “if we hadn’t seen this man with our own eyes, and tried him in several ways for years together, we wouldn’t have believed that this ummah would have created characters such as Ibrahim b. Ad-hum or Khawas al-Balkhi.” Rashid Rida follows up with the story of his own mentor (Sheikh Muhammad `Abduh) who was living in exile in Beirut. He was approached by a close associate who told him that his father had died and he needed some money immediately. The Sheikh says, “I had no money with me but the month’s salary that I had received from the Madrasah I was teaching in. And the money was meant to pay off the store from which we bought our provisions of the month. I put my trust in Allah (swt) and gave the money to the man. And what a surprise? The same day I received by telex transfer a larger sum from a man who owed it to me for a long time. The interesting part is that I had been urging the man in the past to pay back, since I was hard up, but to no avail. What other explanation was there but that Allah (swt) had induced him to pay, and, on that particular day!?”