Verses from Surah al-Tawbah [53 – 59]

In the Name of Allah, most Compassionate, most Merciful

[53] Say, ‘Expend willingly or unwillingly: it shall never be accepted of you,99 for you are a wicked people.’100


99.  What is meant by non acceptance is “that acceptance which entails rewards in the Hereafter.” Otherwise, the charitable works of an unbeliever are (accepted and) rewarded for in this world itself. The Prophet (saws) said: “Allah does not do injustice to a believer who is led to a good deed in this world and rewarded in the Hereafter. In contrast, the unbeliever is rewarded for his good deeds in this world itself, until when he rises on the Day of Judgment, he will have no deed left to be rewarded for” (Qurtubi).

Yusuf Ali explains why the alms of a hypocrite are not acceptable:

“The Hypocrites, who secretly plotted against Islam, might sometimes (and they did) make a show of making some contribution to the Cause in order to keep their pretense. Their contributions were not acceptable, whether they seemed to give willingly or unwillingly, because rebellion and disobedience were in their hearts. Three reasons are specifically given for their rejection, in the next verse: (1) they did not believe; (2) their prayers were not earnest, but for mere show; and (3) in reality their hearts were not behind the contributions which they offered. Nothing is acceptable to Allah which does not proceed from a pure and sincere heart.”

100.  (Though general to all hypocrites: Razi), Ibn-‘Abbas has said that the verse was revealed in reference to Jadd b. Qays who wished to stay away from Jihad on a pretext offering monetary help instead (Ibn-Jarir).

[54] And nothing prevented their contributions from being accepted from them except that they disbelieved in Allah and His Messenger. They come not to the Prayers except as sluggards101 and expend not but unwillingly.102


101.  The implication of the word “kusala” is that they are sluggish and half hearted about the Prayers, doing them when in congregation and abandoning them in private (Razi). Zamakhshari adds: “Kusala” is the plural of “kaslan”, a sluggard, lazy person. Probably taking cue from the usage here, it is reported that a believer should never say he was “kaslan” about one of the good acts he didn’t do.

102.  “Such is the condition of the hypocrites of all times: fear and appeasement, a heart twisted and a conscience disturbed, appearances devoid of the spirit and putting up a show against what the inner self conceals” (Sayyid).

The verse tells us by implication that acts of worship have to be out of heart to please the Lord. Not done in that spirit, they could be profitless; in fact, even harmful (Razi).

The above does not absolve, rather only warns. The obligations of Islam, of whatever nature they be, must be performed, whatever the condition of the heart, and then forgiveness sought for deficiencies (au.).

[55] So let not their wealth and children amaze you.103 Allah desires only to punish them therewith in the life of this world104 and that their souls should depart while they are in a state of disbelief.105


103.  Mawdudi comments: “Almost all the hypocrites of Madinah were rich and elderly people. According to the description of the hypocrites in Ibn-Kathir’s “Al-Bidayah wa al-Nihayah,” (vol. 3, pp. 237-41), only one of them was young and absolutely none of them was poor.”

Sayyid writes: “Sometimes wealth and children are a blessing from Allah that descend on one of his slaves. That proves to be so when he is also granted the inducement to gratitude, repair the damage done to the earth, turning to Allah much thereof. If he does that he is peaceful of heart, cool of inner self, and clear of conscience. Every time that he spends, he counts it out as a treasure that he deposited for himself in the Hereafter. On the other hand, if he suffers a loss in wealth or children, he counts it out too as a means of reward. His soul is peaceful and his hope on Allah moves him on. However, sometimes wealth and children are a curse from Allah. That happens when man does nothing but corruption. His worries over his wealth and children turn his life into Hell. His greed eats him up and saps his strength. Whenever he spends, it goes waste and brings back only pain and regret. He is at pain with his children when they are sick and when they are healthy. How many people have not been a target of torment because of their children?”

104.  Majid comments in his succinct style: “Imagine not (O reader: au.), that the hypocrites with their portion of wealth and offspring are the favourites of God; they are but ensnared therewith.”

Yusuf Ali brings out the same point more elaborately: “If they appeared to be prosperous, with their purses and their quivers full (metaphorically), they were not to be envied. In reality their wealth and their sons might themselves be a snare: Cf. viii, 28. On this particular occasion this was proved to the hilt. The wealth of the Pagans filled them with pride, darkened their understanding, and led to their destruction. Their sons and followers adopted the Faith which their fathers had fought against, much to the chagrin of the fathers, whose spiritual death was even worse than their discomfiture in this world.” 

105.  The translation herewith follows the textual arrangement. The understanding of Ibn-‘Abbas as in Tabari is that there has been what is known as “taqdim” of the phrase “in the life of this world.” The verse should therefore be understood in the following way: ‘Let not their wealth and their children dazzle you in the life of this world. Allah only desires to punish them therewith in the Hereafter.’ Hasan al-Busri and Ibn-Zayd however believe that the literal meaning is likelier. Allah (swt) wishes to punish the hypocrites in this world itself. Ibn-Jarir is himself inclined to this second opinion as are Razi and Ibn-Kathir.

[56] They swear by Allah that they are of you although they are not of you, but rather they are a people who dread.106


106.  The textual word “yafraqun” has in its root in “farq” meaning fear. It is said, “rajulun faruqun” meaning, “a frightened man” (Razi).

What it means is that the hypocrites are afraid that their true identity will be exposed. “The hypocrites on the one hand concealed their infidelity lest the Muslims should treat them like the open infidels, and on the other never hesitated to declare their contempt and hatred of Islam when they thought they could do so with impunity” (Majid).

[57] If they could find a shelter, or some caverns, or any place to creep into,107 surely they would turn about thereto and bolt away.108 


107.  The textual word “muddakhalan” is understood by Ibn-‘Abbas and Qatadah as a hole, an opening, or a tunnel into the earth (Ibn-Jarir).

108.  The textual word jamaha implies, in the words of Yusuf Ali, “to be ungovernable, to run like a runaway horse, to rush madly and obstinately.”

[58] Of them there are some who find fault with you (O Muhammad) over the (division of the) Zakah (funds).109 If they are given thereof, they are satisfied. But if they are not given thereof, behold, they are indignant. 


109.  Abu-Sa‘id has said that once the Prophet (saws) was distributing (some gold and silver) when Ibn-Dhi-al-Khuwaysarah happened to drop in. He remarked, “Be just O Messenger of Allah.” The Prophet replied, “Woe unto you man. If I didn’t do justice, who will?” ‘Umar said, “Allow me O Allah’s Apostle to chop his head off.” The Prophet (saws) replied, “Leave him alone. He shall have companions who will be of such order that in comparison to their Prayers and fasts you will consider your own as worthless. But they would have exited out of Islam just as an arrow through a hunted animal. The man looks at the feather but finds no sign (of the arrow having hit the game). Then he looks at the head but finds nothing. Then he looks at its shaft but finds nothing. That is because the arrow left the body before the blood or waste could come into contact with it. Their sign is that one of their men will have his hands swollen as a woman’s breast, or like a piece of flesh that shakes. They will appear among the people after a while.” This verse came down in reference to that incident (Ibn-Jarir).

Slightly differently worded, the above report is in the Sahihayn also (Ibn-Kathir).

Another incident happened at the time of distribution of the Hunayn booty. When the Prophet (saws) was done with it someone remarked, “This is a division by which Allah’s Pleasure was not sought.” Ibn-Mas‘ud transmitted the words to the Prophet (saws). He remarked, “Musa (asws) was said things more painful, but he bore it with patience” (Alusi).

[59] If only they had been content with what Allah and His Messenger had bestowed on them and said, ‘Sufficient unto us is Allah. Surely Allah will give us out of His bounty, and (so will) His Messenger, and to Allah we turn in hope.’110


110.  That is, had they said that, it would have been better for them (au.).

The verse shows by implication that to hanker after the world, seeking after more than what is necessary for a man, leads to hypocrisy. It is better to have trust in Allah (swt) and fasten good hope on Him rather than hanker for more and more (Razi).

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