Overview - Surah 9: at-Taubah (Repentance )

Naming Convention of the Surah

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The name of the surah, at-Taubah is derived from ت و ب and it occurs 87 times in the Quran. Interestingly, this surah has the highest usage of the words derived from ت و ب compared to all other surahs – it is used 17 times.

In Ayat 118, occurs the case of the three companions whom Allah turned to and accepted their tawbah to Him – those who had abstained from joining the Jihad at the Battle of Tabuk.

This is the only Sūrah of the Qur’ān to which ‘In the Name of God, Most Gracious Most Merciful’ is not prefixed. Though the commentators have given different reasons for this, the correct one that which has been given by Imām Razi: namely this is because the Prophet himself did not dictate it at the beginning of the Sūrah. Therefore the Companions did not prefix it and their successors followed them. This is a further proof of the fact that utmost care has been taken to keep the Qur’ān intact so that it should remain in its complete and original form.

Overview

Total Ayat129
Total Words2498
Root Words376
Unique Root Words8
Makki / MadaniMadani
Chronological Order* 113th (according to Ibn Abbas)
Year of Revelation* 22th year of Prophethood (9th Year Hijri)
Events during/before this Surah*
Hajj led by Abu Bakr - Expedition of Tabuk, Conquest of Makkah - Battle of Hunain, , Treaty of Hudaiybiyah - Letters to Kings and Rulers, Battle of Ahzab - Expedition of Banu Quraydhah, , Battle of Uhud, 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*
Farewell Hajj by Prophet - Death of Prophet - End of Divine Revelation,
Names of Prophets Mentioned
Nuh, Ibrahim,
Surah Index
‘Aad, Abraham, God (ability to do anything) , God (hard strivers rewarded better) , God (knows that beyond comprehension) , Alliances, Alliances (forbidden with disbelieving kin) , Apostasy, Apostasy (punishment in the hereafter) , Apostasy (repentance) , Bedouin, Calendar (lunar) (correctness of), Calendar (lunar) (disbelievers tamper with annual intercalation), Charity, Charity (those displeased with distribution of) , Christians (say Jesus is God’s son) , Commandments (general religious) , Covenants (with disbelievers) , Covenants (breaking of) , Death (those communities who have no revelation will not be destroyed) , Disbelievers, Disbelievers (covenants with) , Disbelievers (covenants with) (breaking of), Disbelievers (God’s promise to) , Disbelievers (protect them if they ask you to) , Disbelievers (relationship to belivers) , Disbelievers (should not visit or take care of mosques) , Disbelievers (striving hard against) , Ezra, Fighting, Fighting (exemptions) , Fighting (exemptions) (asking for it for wrong reasons), Fighting (exemptions) (for helpless), Fighting (exemptions) (for ill), Fighting (forbidden during the four sacred months) , Fighting (in God’s cause) , Fighting (repentence of recent belligerents) , Gospel, Grave, Hell, Hunayn, Hypocrites, Hypocrites (praying for them does no good) , Jesus, Jews (say Ezra is God’s Son) , Jihad, Jihad (striving hard against disbelievers) , Jihad (striving hard in God’s cause) , Judgement (Day) , Ka’bah, Killing (only during hostilities in progress) , Knowledge (obligation upon man to obtain and impart) , Kufr, Madyan, Mary, Materialism, Medinah, Monks (some devour people’s possessions) , Monks (some turn people away from God) , Monks (taken as lords by some people) , Months (four sacred) , Months (four sacred) (fighting forbidden during), Months (twelve (lunar) in a year) , Mosque (disbelievers should not visit or take care of) , Mosque (rival one in Quba is forbidden) , Muhammad (prayed for non-believing Uncle (enjoined not to)) , Noah, Prayer, Prayer (of Abraham) , Prayer (prostration) , Prophet (has come to you) , Qur’an, Rabbis (some) (devour people’s possessions), Rabbis (some) (taken as lords), Rabbis (some) (turn people away from God), Religion, Resurrection (of soul) , Sexes (equality of) , Sexes (guides for one another) , Sin, Slaves (freeing) (charity is for freeing (among other things)), Tabak (God’s mercy towards those on expedition to) , Thamud, Torah,

Central Theme

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Connection of the name of the Surah and its Ayaat

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Connection between the beginning and the ending of the Surah

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Manuscripts / Inscriptions

Connection of the Surah to the Surah before/after it

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The Virtues of the Surah

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Special Features of the Surah

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Interestingly, this surah has the highest usage of the words derived from ت و ب compared to all other surahs – it is used 17 times. 

Important key and unique words of the Surah

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Total Word Count per Ayat (shows how many words per Ayat)

Unique Root Words to this Surah only


8 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
Frequency
in Qur'an
أ ل ه 172 2851
ٱلَّذِى 49 1464
أ م ن 45 879
ك و ن 36 1390
ر س ل 35 513
ع ل م 32 854
ك ف ر 31 525
ق و م 30 660
ق و ل 30 1722
إِلَّا 24 663

Period of Revelation

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This Surah comprises three discourses. The first discourse (v. 1-37) was revealed in Dhul-Qa’adah 9 A.H. or thereabout. As the importance of the subject of the discourse required its declaration on the occasion of Hajj the Prophet dispatched Ali to follow Abu Bakr who had already left for Makkah as leader of the Pilgrims to the Ka’bah. He instructed Ali to deliver the discourse before the representatives of the different clans of Arabia so as to inform them of the new policy towards the polytheists.

The second discourse (v. 38-72) was sent down in Rajab 9 A.H. or a little before this when the Prophet was engaged in making preparations for the Campaign of Tabuk. In this discourse the Believers were urged to take active part in Jihad.

The third discourse (v. 73-129) was revealed on his return from the Campaign of Tabuk. There are some pieces in this discourse that were sent down on different occasions during the same period and were afterwards consolidated by the Prophet into the Surah in accordance with inspiration from God. But this caused no interruption in its continuity because they dealt with the same subject and formed part of the same series of events. This discourse warns the hypocrites of their evil deeds and rebukes those Believers who had stayed behind in the Campaign of Tabuk. Then after taking them to task, God pardons those true Believers who had not taken part in the Jihad in the Way of God for one reason or the other.

Background Reasons for Revelation

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The series of events that have been discussed in this Surah took place after the Peace Treaty of Hudaibiyah. By that time one-third of Arabia had come under the sway of Islam which had established itself as a powerful well organised and civilized Islamic State. There were two important events that followed - the first was the Conquest of Arabia. The Prophet was able to send missions among different clans for the propagation of Islam. The result was that during the short period of two years it became such a great power that it made the old order of ignorance feel helpless before it. So much so that the zealous elements from among the Quraysh were so exasperated that they broke the Treaty in order to encounter Islam in a decisive combat. But the Prophet took prompt action after the breach so as not to allow them any opportunity to gather enough force for this. He made a sudden invasion on Makkah in the month of Ramadan in 8 A.H. and conquered it. Though this conquest broke the backbone of the order of ignorance it made still another attack on Islam in the battlefield of Hunain which proved to be its death-knell. The clans of Hawazin, Thaqif, Naur Jushm and others gathered their entire forces in the battlefield in order to crush the reformative Revolution but they utterly failed in their evil designs. The defeat of ‘ignorance’ at Hunain paved the way for making the whole of Arabia ‘The Abode of Islam’ (Dar-ul-Islam). The result was that hardly a year had passed after the Battle of Hunain when the major portion of Arabia came within the fold of Islam and only a few upholders of the old order remained scattered over some corners of the country.

The second event that contributed towards making Islam a formidable power was the Campaign of Tabuk which was necessitated by the provocative activities of the Christians living within or near the boundaries of the Roman Empire to the north of Arabia. Accordingly the Prophet with an army of thirty thousand marched boldly towards the Roman Empire but the Romans evaded the encounter. The result was that the power of the Prophet and Islam increased manifold and deputations from all corners of Arabia began to wait upon him on his return from Tabuk in order to offer their allegiance to Islam and obedience to him. The Qur’an has described this triumph in Surah 110: an-Nasr (Victory) “When the victory of God has come and the conquest, And you see the people entering into the religion of God in multitudes…”

Campaign to Tabuk

The Campaign to Tabuk was the result of conflict with the Roman Empire that had started even before the conquest of Makkah. One of the missions sent after the Treaty of Hudaibiyah to different parts of Arabia visited the clans which lived in the northern areas adjacent to Syria. The majority of these people were Christians who were under the influence of the Roman Empire. Contrary to all the principles of the commonly accepted international law they killed fifteen members of the delegation near a place known as Zat-u-Talah. Only Ka’ab bin Umair Ghifari, the head of the delegation, succeeded in escaping and reporting the sad incident. Besides this Shurahbil bin Amr, the Christian governor of Busra who was directly under the Roman Caesar had also put to death Haritli bin Umair the ambassador of the Prophet who had been sent to him on a similar mission.

These events convinced the Prophet that a strong action should be taken in order to make the territory adjacent to the Roman Empire safe and secure for the Muslims. Accordingly in the month of Jamadi-ul-Ula 8 A.H. he sent an army of three thousand towards the Syrian border. When this army reached near Ma’an the Muslims learnt that Shurahbil was marching with an army of one hundred thousand to fight-with them and that the Caesar who himself was at Hims had sent another army consisting of one hundred thousand soldiers under his brother Theodore. But in spite of such fearful news the brave small band of the Muslims marched on fearlessly and encountered the big army of Shurahbil at M’utah. The result of the encounter, in which the Muslims were fighting against fearful odds (the ratio of the two armies was 1:33) as very favourable for the enemy utterly failed to defeat them. This proved very helpful for the propagation of Islam. As a result those Arabs who were living in a state of semi-independence in Syria and near Syria and the clans of Najd near Iraq who were under the influence of the Persian Empire turned towards Islam and embraced it in thousands. For example the people of Bani Sulaim (whose chief was Abbas bin Mirdas Sulaimi) Ashja’a Ghatafan Zubyan Fazarah etc. came into the fold of Islam at the same time. Above all Farvah bin ‘Amral Juzami who was the commander of the Arab armies of the Roman Empire embraced Islam during that time and underwent the trial of his Faith in a way that filled the whole territory with wonder. When the Caesar came to know that Farvah had embraced Islam he ordered that he should be arrested and brought to his court. Then the Caesar said to him, ‘You will have to choose between one of two options; either give up your Islam and win your liberty and your former rank, or remain a Muslim and face death.’ He calmly chose Islam and sacrificed his life in the way of the Truth.

No wonder that such events as these made the Caesar realise the nature of the danger that was threatening his Empire from Arabia. Accordingly in 9 A.H. he began to make military preparations to avenge the insult he had suffered at M’utah. The Ghassanid and other Arab chiefs also began to muster armies under him. When the Prophet who always kept himself well-informed even of the minutest things that could affect the Islamic Movement favourably or adversely came to know of these preparations he at once understood their meaning. Therefore without the least hesitation he decided to fight against the great power of the Caesar. He knew that the show of the slightest weakness would result in the utter failure of the Movement which was facing three great dangers at that time. First the dying power of ‘ignorance’ that had almost been crushed in the battlefield of Hunain might revive again. Secondly the Hypocrites of Madinah who were always on the look-out for such an opportunity might make full use of this to do the greatest possible harm to it. For they had already made preparations for this and had through a monk called Abu Amir, sent secret messages of their evil designs to the Christian king of Ghassan and the Caesar himself. Besides this, they had also built a mosque near Madinah for holding secret meetings for this purpose. The third danger was of an attack by the Caesar himself, who had already defeated Persia, the other great power of that period, and filled with awe the adjacent territories. It is obvio .....read more

Relevant Hadith

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Lessons/Guidance/Major-Issues/Reflections

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  • Policy towards the mushrikin.
  • Commandments relating to participation in Jihad.
  • Regulations relating to hypocrisy, weak faith, and negligence.
  • Campaign of Tabuk.
  • Establishment of a Dar-ul-Islam (an Islamic state).
  • Extending the influence of Islam to adjoining countries.
  • Crushing the mischief of the hypocrites.
  • Preparing the Muslims for a struggle in the cause of Islam.

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Miscellaneous Issues

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