Selections from Surah al-Anfal (59-64)

[59] And let not the unbelievers think they have outsmarted Us. They will not be able to defeat (Our purposes).104


104. Plainly, the allusion is to those who escaped unscathed at Badr (Qurtubi); as also those unbelievers who never participated in that battle (Razi).

[60] And prepare against them (O believers)105 whatever you are able of power106 and of steeds (of war)107 to terrify thereby Allah’s enemy, and your enemy,108 and those others besides them whom you do not know.109 Allah knows them. And whatsoever you expend in the way of Allah will be repaid to you in full, and you shall not be wronged.110


105.  This verse is connected with verse 57 and 58 in which the Prophet (saws) was asked to act tough with the unbelievers, fling their treacherous treaties at their faces, and prepare himself to fight against them if they chose to fight (Razi). 

106.  `Uqbah b. `Amir has reported that the Prophet (saws) spoke out from the mimber: “Lo! Shooting (ramyu) is the power.” He said that three times. It should be obvious, however, adds Ibn Jarir, that what is meant is all kinds of arms and equipment.

The hadith is in Muslim (Qurtubi), while the one in Ahmad says, “Shoot and ride, but that you shoot is better than that you ride” (Ibn Kathir). Another hadith says: “Shortly you will conquer territories. Allah will be sufficient for you. But don’t give up shooting practice.” We have another tradition in Abu Da’ud, Tirmidhi and Nasa’i. It says: “Allah sends to Paradise three people because of a single arrow: the one who manufactured it seeking Allah’s Pleasure, the one who shot it, and the one who collected it.” Shooting is therefore, one of the best of military exercises. It drives fear into the enemies. The Prophet (saws) has also said: “O sons of Isma`il, shoot. Your father was a shooter.” Accordingly, learning to shoot and to ride horses is a conditional obligation (fard al-kifayah) – Qurtubi.

Is there anything, in today’s warfare better than shooting – bullets, bombs and missiles at the enemy (Au.)? 

107.  Asad writes: `Lit., “tethering of horses” (ribat al-khayl): an expression which signifies “holding in readiness mounted troops at all points open to enemy invasion (thughur)”; hence, tropically, the over-all maintenance of military preparedness.’

Ibn Sirin was asked about someone who had willed that one-third of his wealth was to be spent in the construction of a fort. (Since there was no fort around under construction) what was to be done? He replied, “Let them buy a horse and send it to the fronts so someone could fight on it.” They asked, “But the man had left the money for a fort!” Ibn Sirin replied, “Have you not heard the poetical piece: “Surely, the fort of horses that deters, is the wall for the villagers.”

It is reported of the Prophet (saws) that there was nothing dearer to him after women than horses. (In fact, the Prophet was so fond of horses that) he even named the kinds and classes that might be kept. There are ahadith in Muslim, Abu Da’ud, Tirmidhi and others to this effect (Alusi). It is also said that the Jinns don’t come near dwellings that have horses tied around (Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi).

A hadith in Nasa’i transmitted by Abu Wuhayb al-Jushamiyy says: “Keep your name on the names of the Prophets. The names most approved of by Allah are `Abdullah and `Abdul Rahman. And keep horses. Stroke them on their foreheads and backs” (Shortened) – Qurtubi.

A hadith of the Sahihayn says: “There are three kinds of horses: (i) that of a man for whom it is the reward, (ii) that of a man for whom it is a shield, and (iii) that of a man upon whom it is a burden. The man who has the reward is the one who kept it for Allah’s cause. When he lets it loose with a long rope into a grazing ground or in an orchard, then, whatever is circumscribed of the reeds or leaves of grass by its rope thereof, brings him as many rewards. And, if by chance it breaks loose and jumps over a few hedges, then whatever dung it throws out or the marks of its hoofs that it leaves behind, will bring him rewards. If it stops at a spring and drinks thereof, even if the owner did not intend to water it, yet, it brings rewards to him. In contrast, another man keeps a horse as a means of wealth, so that he may shield himself (from poverty). He does not forget Allah’s right on its neck or the back (i.e., pays zakah on what he earns using it as a puller or as a beast of ride), then for such a man it is a shield. As for him who kept it for pride, to show off, or in offence of the Muslims, then, for such a man it is a burden.” At that somebody asked him about donkeys. The Prophet (saws) replied, “Nothing specific has come down to me about donkeys, except for the comprehensive verse (99: 7,8): `Therefore, whoever did a good deed the size of an atom, will see it. And whoever did an evil deed the size of an atom, will see it (also).’” The version above is that of Bukhari. Another hadith in Ahmad puts it plainly. It says: “Of horses there are three kinds: for the Rahman, for the Satan and for man. The horse for the Rahman is the one which is kept for Allah’s cause (i.e., jihad). Its fodder, dung and urine (all bring rewards to the master). As for the horse for the Satan, it is that which is kept for betting (i.e., for races). As for the horse for man, it is that which is kept for earning livelihood. It shields the master from poverty.” Another report in Bukhari has the Prophet (saws) saying: “’Horses’ forehead are bound with blessings until the day of Judgement: rewards and spoils of war” (Ibn Kathir).

Majid writes: “In ancient times of course `battles were won and lost by cavalry, and campaigns were conducted in terms of cavalry,’ and `almost every decisive tactical movement was a movement of horse’ (Hilaire Belloc, The Crusade, p. 50).”

108.  Asad comments: `Lit., “God’s enemy and your enemy” – implying that every “enemy of God” (i.e., everyone who deliberately opposes and seeks to undermine the moral laws laid down by God) is, eo ipso, an enemy of those who believe in Him.’

109.  Aside from many others, Imam Razi counts the hypocrites also as those who will be terrified and may, consequently, give up their machinations. They might as well be led to adopt Islam sincerely, since they are easily impressed by display of strength.

110.  That is, whatever you will expend in preparations of defense of Islam will bring its reward both in this world as well as in the next (Ibn Jarir).

[61] However, if they incline to peace, then you incline to it (also)111 and put your trust in Allah. Surely, He is the Hearing, the Seeing.112


111.  “In working for peace there may be a certain risk of treachery on the other side. We must take that risk; because the men of Faith have Allah’s aid to count upon and the strength of the united body of the righteous” (Yusuf Ali).

Although, the verb form is that of a command, the Prophet (saws), and after him the Faithful have a choice. If they think making peace would suit them, they could. Further, the words “if they incline to peace” suggest that it is the enemies who show readiness to work out a peace formula and not the Muslims. It is not the Muslims who should offer the proposal since that would be construed as weakness on their part (Shafi`). The rule here applies however, add Qurtubi and Razi, only to the Holders of the Book. As for the polytheists, there should be no peace with them. Rather, the Muslims should fight on until either they embrace Islam or cough out Jizyah. (They mean the polytheists of the Arab peninsula: Au.). Further, the period of the peace agreement will depend on the situation. If the Muslims are strong, they might allow them a year. But if they are weak, they might allow them 10 years, but no more than that. In fact, according to Imam Shafe`i it is not lawful to strike a peace deal with the pagans lasting more than ten years. This is following the Prophetic sunnah who had allowed the pagans 10 years at Hudaybiyyah. 

112.  Yusuf Ali writes: “While we must always be ready for the good fight lest it be forced on us, even in the midst of the fight we must always be ready for peace if there is any inclination towards peace on the other side. There is no merit merely in a fight by itself. It should be a joyful duty not for itself, but to establish the reign of peace and righteousness and Allah’s law.”


[62] But if they try to be treacherous, then, Allah is sufficient for you.113 He it is who supported you (O Muhammad) with His help and with the believers.114


113.  Mawdudi comments: “In international dealings Muslims should not act with timidity. They should rather have faith in God and should act with courage and bravery. However, as soon as the enemy is inclined to reconciliation, they should welcome the move and should not be reluctant to make peace even if they are unsure whether or not the enemy is sincere about peace, and whether or not he intends to use the settlement as a ruse to commit later treachery. Since it is impossible to know the true intention of others, allowance should be made for their words. If the enemy is sincere in his offer of reconciliation, the Muslims should not continue bloodshed because his insincerity, in their eyes, is suspect. On the contrary, if the enemy is insincere, the Muslims should have courage, thanks to their trust in God, and should go forth for reconciliation. They should stretch out their hand of peace in answer to the enemy’s outstretched hand, for that is an index of their moral superiority. As for the hand of friendship which has been hypocritically stretched out in enmity, Muslims should have the strength to smash that hand to pieces.” 

114.  Imam Razi asks: Is there a need for any other’s help after Allah’s? Obviously not. Why then did Allah add the support of the believers after His own? Then he answers that of help there are two kinds: the invisible and the visible. Allah’s help is invisible. But when it descends, it has to take the form of visible means. That has been termed here as the help coming from the believers.

[63] And He brought their hearts together.  Had you spent all that the earth holds, you could not have brought their hearts together.115 Rather, it was Allah who brought them together.116 Surely He is All-mighty, All-wise.117


115.  The interminable wars between the Aws and Khazraj tribes can be cited as an instance of hatred and intolerance toward each other. These kinds of protracted warfare cannot be brought to an abrupt end. Every last battle demands a new one. And the people involved, in those times, were so conscious of their rights that a tribe would fight another if one of its members was slapped by a member of another tribe. But the Light of belief brought it to a sudden close. Even more. After Islam, a man fought against his father or son in a battle, not hesitating to kill him. It was the power of faith that had conquered the hearts. Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) said (3: 103): “Recall Allah’s favor unto you (such as) when you were enemies He joined your hearts in love so that by His grace you became brothers (unto each other). And you were at the edge of the pit of  Fire, but He rescued you from it. Thus does Allah make clear His revelations for you, haply you may be guided” (based on Razi, Ibn Kathir).

The same point in Mawdudi’s words: “It was barely a couple of years before their acceptance of Islam that the two clans (Aws and Khazraj) virtually thirsted for each other’s blood. During the battle of Bu`ath both seemed set to totally exterminate each other. To turn such severe enmity into deep cordiality and brotherhood within a span of two or three years and to join together mutually repellant elements into a unity as firm as that of a solid wall as was witnessed in regard to the Muslim community during the life of the Prophet (peace on him) was doubtlessly beyond the power of any mortal.”

And Ibn `Abbas has said: “Blood relationships are severed. Good turns are denied. But nothing has been observed equaling the coming together of hearts” (Ibn Kathir).

Walid ibn Abi Mughith says that once when he met Mujahid he said, “When two Muslims meet each other and shake hands, they both are forgiven their sins.” Walid asked, “Merely by virtue of a hand-shake?” Mujahid replied, “Have you not heard Allah say, `Had you spent all that is there in the earth, you could not have brought their hearts together?’” According to another report when Mujahid said, “When two Muslims meet and shake hands, their sins fall like the leaves of a tree in Fall,” somebody remarked, “That’s pretty easy, isn’t it.” Mujahid said, “Don’t say that. Hasn’t Allah said, `Had you spent …’” (Ibn Jarir).

The above narration, concerning the sins of two Muslims falling off like leaves when they greet each other with a hand-shake, has been preserved in Tabrani as a hadith (Ibn Kathir).

Imam Razi adds: Only that love can be long-lasting that has a long-lasting relationship as its basis, in this case, the Hereafter. All other kinds of love are ephemeral, because in their final analysis, they are material-based. Friends fall apart as soon as the worldly reasons that brought them together disappear.

Thanwi adds a Sufi point: The verse demonstrates that to put a good quality into the heart of a disciple is not in the power of the Sheikh. 

116.  Mufti Shafi` comments: The need for of unity is something over which there can be no second opinion. But, although everyone speaks of it, there are few who realize how it can be brought about. They do not understand that it cannot be achieved by material means. It is only Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) who can create it among a people and the requirement is His obedience. The Qur’an has therefore instructed us (3: 103): “Hold on unto the rope of Allah together, and do not differ.” That is, if everyone held the rope of Allah, viz., the Qur’an and Sunnah, unitedly, all the differences will dissolve and a true unity will appear. The Qur’an has promised us (19: 96): “Surely, those who believed and did righteous deeds, Allah will create love among them.” There would still be room for differences in opinion: but since everyone would remain within the Shari`ah directives, it will not lead to a split in the people. It is only when the Shari`ah rules are ignored, that differences leading to disunity arise. If the Shari`ah is not the basis, then, obviously, everyone will have his own opinion and hence a true unity will remain a dream, and, even if achieved, would have a short life. 

117.  Sayyid presents a few ahadith on the subject of `love in God.’ The Prophet (saws) has said in a hadith of Abu Da’ud: “There are some among the people who are neither Prophets nor martyrs. But Prophets and martyrs will envy them on the Day of Judgement because of their rank with Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala).” His Companions asked: “Messenger of Allah. Will you let us know who they are?” He replied: “They are a people who love each other in Allah, without being related by blood, nor because of monetary dealings between them. By Allah, their faces will be shining bright and they will be (seated) upon (couches of) Light. They will not be in fear when everyone will be in a state of fear and will not grieve when others grieve.” In another report preserved by Tabrani he said: “When a Muslim meets a brother-Muslim, and holds his hand, their sins fall off, as the leaves fall down in autumn from a dried tree on a day of hard winds. And their sins are forgiven even if they be equal to the foam of the seas.”

[64] O Prophet! Sufficient for you is Allah and those who have followed you of the believers.118


118.  It is widely reported of Ibn `Abbas and Sa`id ibn Jubayr – as in Zamakhshari and others – that this verse was revealed when`Umar became the fortieth man to embrace Islam.

About YMD

Past Issues