Translation & Commentary of Verses from Surah al-`Ankabut [10 – 13]

Revelation: Makkan2


[10] And, among the people are some who say, ‘We believe in Allah.’ But when (one of them) is harmed in (the cause of) Allah, he treats the people’s oppression as a wrath of Allah.10 But if help comes from your Lord, they will surely say, ‘Indeed we were with you.’11 Is not Allah best knowing of what is in the bosom of (all the beings of) the worlds?


10. That is, they said to themselves: ‘If we believe, we are persecuted by the unbelievers, and if we do not, then we face Allah’s ire’ – equating the two. But can the two be equated? (Razi, shortened). So one of them decided that he should, perhaps, take a way in between and adopt hypocrisy. So Allah (swt) said, “But if help comes from your Lord, they will surely say, ‘Indeed, we were with you.’” (Au.)

This verse has been differently expressed elsewhere. Said Allah (22: 11-12):

“And, among the people is such a one who serves Allah on an edge. If good touches him, he is satisfied therewith. But if a trial touches him, he turns on his face. He loses this world and the Hereafter. That, indeed, is an evident loss. He calls to one – apart from Allah – who can neither harm him nor benefit him. That, indeed, is the extreme error.” (Ibn Kathir)

11. So you should give us a share in the booty (Zamakhshari).

As Allah (swt) said elsewhere (4: 141),

Those who wait upon you so that if victory comes to you from Allah, they ask: ‘Were we not with you?’ But if the unbelievers get a share of it they say (to them): ‘Did we not gain mastery over you, and protect you from the believers?’” – Ibn Kathir

[11] And Allah will surely know those who believed and He shall surely know the hypocrites.12



12. (Thus, we can see, once again, that trials are in Allah’s scheme). After the battle of Uhud which subjected the believers to extreme tribulation, Allah (swt) said (3: 179),

Allah was not such as to let the believers remain in the state in which you are, until He distinguished the corrupt from the good.” (Ibn Kathir)

Asad has a word on hypocrisy:

“This is probably the earliest occurrence of the term munafiq in the chronology of the Qur’anic revelation. Idiomatically, the term is derived from the noun nifaq, which denotes an ‘underground passage’ having an outlet different from the entry, and signifying, specifically, the complicated burrow of a field-mouse, a lizard, etc., from which the animal can easily escape or in which it can outwit its pursuer. Tropically, the term munafiq describes a person who is ‘two-faced,’ inasmuch as he always tries to find an easy way out of any real commitment, be it spiritual or social, by adapting his course of action to what promises to be of practical advantage to him in the situation in which he happens to find himself. Since a person thus characterized usually pretends to be morally better than he really is, the epithet munafiq may roughly be rendered as hypocrite.”

Along with the above description, we might keep that definition before us which has been offered by the Salaf, stated elsewhere in this work, which should help us draw a line between a weak Muslim and a hypocrite: “Nifaq is to conceal disbelief and put up a show of faith.”

To put it differently, it is the effort to manifest faith in Islam, without its existence in the heart. According to this definition, if someone has belief well-planted in his heart, but is unable to make it manifest, for whatever reason, or reasons, other than to mislead Allah (swt) and His creations, then he is not a munafiq.

Therefore, to qualify Asad’s statement above, (viz., “he always tries to find an easy way out of any real commitment, be it spiritual or social, by adapting his course of action to what promises to be of practical advantage”), we might add, “doing it out of lack of conviction with regard to Islamic values, teachings and demands, in a word, faith in Islam.”

On the other hand, if he adopts the course as described by Asad, but either out of inner weaknesses, or simply for practical advantages, which he admits, and is remorseful of, then, Allah willing, it is not hypocrisy. (Au.)

[12] And said those who disbelieved to those who believed, ‘Follow our way, and we shall carry (the burden) of your faults.’13 But they are not going to carry any of their faults. Indeed, they are liars.



13. That is, ‘if there is sin in following our pagan ways and beliefs, then such a sin will be our burden (Alusi); such was the level of confidence of the pagans in their religion. They had a feeling deep down in their hearts that their pagan ways were sinful, but considered it worth bearing the burden! (Au.)

[13] But rather they shall carry their (own) burdens, and (other) burdens along with their (own) burdens.14 And they shall surely be questioned on the Day of Standing about that which they were forging.15


14. That is, they will carry their own burden of sins and, in addition, the sins of those they misguided. (Ibn Jarir)

Thus, there is no contradiction between the previous verse which says that they will not carry the burden, and this one which says they will. What was meant earlier was that the sins of the sinners they misguide will not be offloaded from them on to these people so that the misguided ones become free of any responsibility (adopted from Razi). This is clarified by a Sahih hadith that Qurtubi and Ibn Kathir quote. It says,

“Whoever invited to guidance will have rewards equal to the rewards of those who follow him until the Day of Standing without their own rewards being reduced by aught. And whoever invited to misguidance, will have upon him sins equal to the sins of all those who follow him until the Day of Standing, without their sins being reduced by aught.”

Another Sahih report says, “No one is killed unlawfully but a share of the guilt is upon the first son of Adam because he was the first to set the example.”

The report is in Bukhari. (Au.)

15. That is, these misguiding people will carry several kinds of loads: sins of their own, sins of those they misguided, and, in addition, sins of fabricating lies when they claimed that they could carry the sins of others (Razi).

In this connection, Abu Umamah al-Bahiliyy reports that the Prophet said, “Beware of injustice. Allah (swt) will swear by His Power and Majesty and say, ‘No injustice will overtake Me today.’ Then a caller will call out, ‘Where is so and so, son of so and so?’ He will come forward with mountains of good deeds behind him. People’s eyes will be stuck to them (the good deeds) in wonder – until he stands before the All-merciful. He will command a caller to call out, ‘Whoever is owed anything or an injustice (done to him) by so and so, son of so and so, may come forward.’ Such of them will come forward until they stand together before the All-merciful. The All-merciful will say, ‘Pay back from My slave’ (i.e., the one who did wrong to others: Au.). They will ask, ‘How shall we pay back from him?’ He will say, ‘Pay back out of his good deeds.’ So they will keep transferring the good deeds, until none of his good deeds remains. But there would still be people with scores to be settled. He will say, ‘Pay back from My slave.’ They will ask, ‘Nothing is left of his good deeds.’ He will say, ‘Take their evil deeds and load them on to him.’ Then the Prophet recited this verse, “But rather they shall carry their (own) burdens, and (other) burdens along with their (own) burdens.” (Qurtubi)

This report, which is in Ibn Abi Hatim also, has similar reports in Sahih works corroborating it.

Ibn Abi Hatim has another report which fits the context. He narrates Mu`adh b. Jabal as saying, “The Prophet told me, ‘O Mu`adh! A believer will be questioned on the Day of Judgment about his every action to the extent of the kohl in his eyes and the little dust between his fingers. So, let me not find someone on the Day of Judgment who would have done better than you in reference to what Allah bestowed on you.” (Ibn Kathir)

The authenticity of the above report could not be verified. (Au.)

(To be continued)

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