Overview - Surah 8: al-Anfal (The Spoils Of War )

Naming Convention of the Surah

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Scholars refer to this Surah as the following three names: Surah al-Anfal, Surah al-Badr and Surah al-Jihad. [Burhan Uddin Al-Biqai’, Nadhm ad-Durar, 3/181]

There are 75 Ayat in this Surah.


Total Ayat75
Total Words1233
Root Words272
Unique Root Words5
Makki / MadaniMadani
Chronological Order* 88th (according to Ibn Abbas)
Year of Revelation* 15th year of Prophethood (2nd Year Hijri)
Events during/before this Surah*
Change of Qiblah from Jerusalem to Makkah - Battle of Badr, Migration from Makkah to Madinah - Building of Masjid Nabi in Madinah - Treaty with Jews of Madinah - Marriage of Prophet to Aishah, , 2nd Pledge of Aqabah, 1st Pledge of Aqabah, Death of Abu Talib - Death of Khadijah - Stoning at Ta'if - al-Isra wal Mi'raj - Night Journey, Boycott of Banu Hashim Yr 3, Boycott of Banu Hashim Yr 2, Boycott of Banu Hashim Yr 1, 2nd Migration to Abyssinia, Physical beating and torture of some Muslims - 1st Migration of Muslims to Abyssinia, Public Invitation to Islam - Persecution of Muslims; antagonism - ridicule - derision - accusation - abuse and false propaganda., Revelation begins - Private Invitation to Islam , Revelation begins - Private Invitation to Islam , Revelation begins - Private Invitation to Islam ,
Events during/after still to occur*
Battle of Uhud, , Battle of Ahzab - Expedition of Banu Quraydhah, Treaty of Hudaiybiyah - Letters to Kings and Rulers, , Conquest of Makkah - Battle of Hunain, Hajj led by Abu Bakr - Expedition of Tabuk, Farewell Hajj by Prophet - Death of Prophet - End of Divine Revelation,
Names of Prophets Mentioned
No Prophets names are mentioned in this Surah
Surah Index
Adversity (patience during) , God (ability to do anything) , God (brings disbelievers schemes to nought) , God (mercy towards prisoners of war who have good in them) , Alliances, Angels, Arguments/Attacks (respond in kind) , Badr, Believers, Borders (jurisdictional boundaries), Booty (enjoy that which is lawful and good) , Booty (one fifth goes for charity) , Captives, Commandments (general religious) , Corruption, Covenants (breaking of (see also Oaths)) , Covenants (with disbelievers) , Covenants (breaking of) , Death, Disbelievers, Disbelievers (ask Muhammad to invoke God’s wrath upon them as proof) , Disbelievers (covenants with) , Disbelievers (covenants with) (breaking of), Disbelievers (God’s promise to) , Disbelievers (God brings their scheming to nought) , Disbelievers (punishment) (during war), Disbelievers (punishment) (in the hereafter), Disbelievers (will only ally with other disbelievers) , Family, Fighting (do not aquire slaves except through war) , Fighting, Fighting (go forth humbly) , Fighting (prepare well) , Friends, Hell, Humankind (vilest are those who don’t use reason) , Iblis, Jihad, Jihad (striving hard in God’s cause) , Ka’bah, Killing (only during hostilities in progress) , Materialism (forbidden) , Oppression, Persecuted (people) , Persecuted (people) (protect them unless they under a regime with whom you have a covenant), Persecuted (those who are protectors of) , Pharaoh, Religion (use reason in) , Sin, Slaves (aquisition only though war) , Treachery, Weather (rain) ,

Central Theme

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  1. The Ayaat in this surah revolve around the theme of Jihad in the way of Allah, with the Battle of Badr being the first major battle of the Muslims.
  2. The moral lesson of the conflict between the Truth and falsehood has been enunciated and the qualities which lead to success in a conflict have been explained. The Surah gives instructions in regard to the spoils of war. The Muslims have been told not to regard these as their right but as a bounty from God. Therefore they should accept with gratitude the share that is granted to them out of it and willingly accede to the share which God sets apart for His cause and for the help of the needy. Then it also gives normal instructions concerning the laws of peace and war for these were urgently needed to be explained at the stage which the Islamic Movement had entered. It enjoined that the Muslims should refrain from ways of “ignorance” in peace and war and thus should establish their moral superiority in the world. It also meant to demonstrate to the world in actual practical life the morality which it had been preaching to the world from the very beginning of Islam and had been enjoining that practical life should be based on the same. It also states some articles of the Islamic Constitution which help differentiate the status of the Muslims living within the limits of ‘The Abode of Islam’ (Dar-ul-Islam) from that of the Muslims living beyond its limits.

Connection of the name of the Surah and its Ayaat

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The name Anfal is derived from ‘nafl’ which means extra – i.e. along with the victory came the extra [the war booty].

Connection between the beginning and the ending of the Surah

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Description of who the real Believers are,

إِنَّمَا الْمُؤْمِنُونَ الَّذِينَ إِذَا ذُكِرَ اللَّـهُ وَجِلَتْ قُلُوبُهُمْ وَإِذَا تُلِيَتْ عَلَيْهِمْ آيَاتُهُ زَادَتْهُمْ إِيمَانًا وَعَلَىٰ رَبِّهِمْ يَتَوَكَّلُونَ "The believers are only those who, when Allah is mentioned, their hearts become fearful, and when His verses are recited to them, it increases them in faith; and upon their Lord they rely." (8:2)

وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَهَاجَرُوا وَجَاهَدُوا فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّـهِ وَالَّذِينَ آوَوا وَّنَصَرُوا أُولَـٰئِكَ هُمُ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ حَقًّا ۚ لَّهُم مَّغْفِرَةٌ وَرِزْقٌ كَرِيمٌ "But those who have believed and emigrated and fought in the cause of Allah and those who gave shelter and aided - it is they who are the believers, truly. For them is forgiveness and noble provision. " (8:74)

Manuscripts / Inscriptions

Connection of the Surah to the Surah before/after it

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The central theme of both Surah al-Anfal and at-Tawbah are both Jihad in the way of Allah.

The Virtues of the Surah

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Before the Battle of Qadisiyah, the general of the Muslim army - the companion of the Prophet, Sa'd ibn Abi Waqqas instructed his army, "All the Mujahideen should recite the surah of Jihad, Surah al-Anfal and Surah at-Tawbah and remain standing in their positions..."

Special Features of the Surah

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Important key and unique words of the Surah

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  • The usage of the word ‘Anfal’ in the context of war booty is only used in the first ayat [twice] of the Surah and not used anywhere else in the Qur’an.
  • (8:72) is the longest Ayat of this Surah with 45 words,

    إِنَّ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَهَاجَرُوا وَجَاهَدُوا بِأَمْوَالِهِمْ وَأَنفُسِهِمْ فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّـهِ وَالَّذِينَ آوَوا وَّنَصَرُوا أُولَـٰئِكَ بَعْضُهُمْ أَوْلِيَاءُ بَعْضٍ ۚ وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَلَمْ يُهَاجِرُوا مَا لَكُم مِّن وَلَايَتِهِم مِّن شَيْءٍ حَتَّىٰ يُهَاجِرُوا ۚ وَإِنِ اسْتَنصَرُوكُمْ فِي الدِّينِ فَعَلَيْكُمُ النَّصْرُ إِلَّا عَلَىٰ قَوْمٍ بَيْنَكُمْ وَبَيْنَهُم مِّيثَاقٌ ۗ وَاللَّـهُ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ بَصِيرٌ "Indeed, those who have believed and emigrated and fought with their wealth and lives in the cause of Allah and those who gave shelter and aided - they are allies of one another. But those who believed and did not emigrate - for you there is no guardianship of them until they emigrate. And if they seek help of you for the religion, then you must help, except against a people between yourselves and whom is a treaty. And Allah is Seeing of what you do." (8:72)
Total Word Count per Ayat (shows how many words per Ayat)

Unique Root Words to this Surah only

5 unique root words that do not appear in any other Surah

Top 10 Most Frequent Root Words used in this Surah

Root Word Frequency
in Surah
in Qur'an
أ ل ه 89 2851
ٱلَّذِى 35 1464
أ م ن 26 879
ك و ن 25 1390
ع ل م 19 854
ك ف ر 17 525
إِذ 15 239
و ل ي 13 232
س م ع 10 185
ب ي ن 10 523

Period of Revelation

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It was revealed in 2 A.H. after the Battle of Badr which took place in Ramadhan in the 2nd year after Hijrah.

Background Reasons for Revelation

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Before reviewing the Surah it is worthwhile to consider the events that led to the Battle of Badr. During the first decade or so of the Prophethood at Makkah, the Message had proved its firmness and stability. This was the result of two things; firstly the Messenger who possessed the highest qualities of character was performing his Mission with wisdom foresight and magnanimity. He had shown by his conduct that he had made up his mind to carry the movement to a successful end and therefore was ready to face all sorts of dangers and obstacles along the way. Secondly, the Message was so appealing that it attracted the hearts and minds of the people irresistibly towards itself. So much so that all obstacles of ignorance, superstition and petty prejudices failed to check its advance. That is why the opponents of the Message, who had looked down upon it in its initial phases, had now begun to reckon it as a serious menace and were bent on crushing it with all their force. However despite their strength, the movement still lacked certain abilities to lead it to victory.

Firstly, it had not yet fully been proven that it had gathered a sufficient number of followers, who not only believed in its truth, but were so intensely devoted to its principles that they were ready to expend all their energies, and all that they possessed in the struggle for its success and establishment. So much so that they were ready to sacrifice their lives in the fight against the whole world itself, even though they should be their own nearest relative. It is true that the followers of Islam had endured the severest persecutions at the hands of the Quraysh of Makkah and had given a good proof of the firmness of their faith and their strong relation with Islam yet further trials were required to show that Islam had succeeded in acquiring such a band of followers which considered nothing dearer than its ideal and was ready to sacrifice life for it.

Secondly, though the voice of Islam had reached every part of the country its effects were yet scattered and its acquired strength was spread here and there: it had not yet gathered sufficient force essential for a decisive conflict with the old established order of ‘ignorance’.

Thirdly, Islam had yet no home of its own and had not established itself firmly anywhere in the land where it could consolidate its power and make it a base for further action. For the Muslims were scattered all over the country and were living among the unbelievers as aliens whom their bloodthirsty enemies wanted to uproot from their own homes.

Fourthly, the Muslims had not yet had an opportunity to demonstrate practically the blessings of the system of life based on Islam. There was neither any Islamic culture, nor any social, economic or political system; nor were there any established principles of war and peace for their guidance. Therefore the Muslims had no opportunity for demonstrating those moral principles on which they intended to build their entire system of life; nor had it been proved on the touchstone of trial that the Muslims as a community were sincere in the proclamation of the Message. God created opportunities for making up these deficiencies. During the last four years of the Prophet's stay at Makkah, the voice of Islam had been proving effective at Yathrib (Madinah) and the people for various reasons had been accepting the message more readily than other clans of Arabia. So much so that in the twelfth year of Prophethood on the occasion of Hajj a deputation of 75 people met the Prophet in the darkness of night. These people not only accepted Islam, but also offered to give him and his followers a home. As this was a most epoch making opportunity provided by God, the Prophet took advantage of it. The significance of this offer was quite clear to the people of Yathrib, and they fully realised that this was not an invitation to a mere fugitive, but to the Messenger of God so that he should become their leader and ruler. Likewise they knew that they were not inviting the Muslim refugees to give them shelter from persecution but to assemble them from all over the country for their integration with themselves to form an organised community. Thus the offer of the people of Yathrib was to make Yathrib the “City of Islam.” Accordingly the Prophet accepted their invitation and made it the first “City of Islam” in Arabia. And the people of Yathrib were fully aware of the implications of this offer. It was indeed a declaration of war against the whole of Arabia, and an invitation to their own social and economic boycott as well. And when the Ansar from Yathrib declared their allegiance to the Prophet at Aqabah, they knew fully well its consequences. During the course of the formal declaration of allegiance, Asad bin Zurarah, the youngest of all the delegates from Yathrib, stood up and said, “O people of Yathrib! Just listen to me and consider the matter carefully in all its aspects. Though we have come to him, regarding him only as a Messenger of God, we should know that we shall be inviting the enmity of the whole of Arabia. For when we take him away to Yathrib, we shall be attacked and our children may be put to the sword. Therefore if you have the courage in your hearts to face it, then and then only, you should declare your allegiance to him and God will give you its reward. But if you love your lives more than him and his Message, then leave this matter and frankly excuse yourselves, for at this time God may accept your excuses.”

Abbas bin Ubadah bin Naalah, another member of the delegation, reiterated the same thing, saying, Do you understand the implication of the declaration of your allegiance to this person?” (Voices, “Yes, we know it.”) “You are challenging the whole world to war by your declaration of allegiance to him. There is every likelihood of a serious menace to your lives and properties. Therefore consider it well. If you have any idea lurking in your minds that you will then hand him over to his enemies, it is much better to leave him alone now, because that conduct shall bring shame and disgrace to you in this world and the next. On the other hand, if you have sincerely resolved that you will endure all kinds of consequences that will follow as a result of this invitation, then it would be the best thing to take the oath of allegiance to him because, by God, this will surely bring good to you in this world as well as in the next world.” At this all the members of the delegation cried with one voice, “We are ready and prepared to risk all our wealth and our noble kith and kin for his sake.” It was then that the famous oath of allegiance, which is known as the “Second Oath of Allegiance at Aqabah” was taken.

On the other side, the people of Makkah also understood fully well the implicatio .....read more

Relevant Hadith

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  • A very interesting reflection about the events of Battle of Badr and its connection to Surah al-Anfal is that Despite such a grand victory and the major leaders of the enemy killed, the Surah does not begin by congratulating the Muslims or speaking of how great they are or their victory but begins by correcting them in their aspirations with regards to worldly goods which resulted in the defeat of the enemy and the differences that occurred in the distribution of these spoils.
  • There was around 70 camels between the Muslims before the Battle of Badr. The Prophet Muhammad (saw) was taking it in turns with two others to ride the camel. They insisted the Prophet ride the camel only. The Prophet refused saying these amazing words....."You are not stronger than me, and I am no less in need of God's reward than you." (Sahih in Musnad Ahmad). Compare this to other leaders of history.

  • Battle of truth and falsehood.

  • Truth should not fear to be cowed down by odds against it.

  • Fighting should not be for spoils or gains but for a just cause.

  • Laws relating to peace and war.

  • Relation of an Islamic state with Muslims living in non-Muslim countries.

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Miscellaneous Issues

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