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

Tafsir Zone

Surah al-Anfal 8:27

Overview (Verses 27 - 29)

A Reassuring Criterion
Another address to the believers follows. God knows that property and children may discourage people from giving the proper response to such a call as they tend to enhance traits of fear and miserliness. Therefore, the Qur’ān highlights the fact that property and children may be the subject of a trial and warns against weaknesses that may cause people to fail in such a trial. They may feel too reluctant to respond to the call of jihād, or to shoulder the responsibilities of the trust God placed in them and the pledges of loyalty they have given. To refrain from the fulfilment of such duties is a betrayal of God and His Messenger, and a betrayal of the trust God has assigned to the Muslim community on earth. This trust requires the Muslim community to strive to make God’s word triumphant, establish His Godhead as absolute, and maintain truth and justice. Coupled with this warning is a reminder of the great reward that God has in store for them which outweighs by far the value of property and children: “Believers, do not betray God and the Messenger, nor knowingly betray the trust that has been reposed in you. Know that your worldly goods and your children are but a trial, and that with God there is a great reward.” (Verses 27-28)
To abandon the duties God has assigned to the Muslim community is a betrayal of God and His Messenger. The basic issue in the Islamic faith is that of attributing Godhead purely and solely to God alone, following only what has been conveyed to us by His Messenger, the Prophet Muĥammad (peace be upon him). Throughout human history, people did not deny God altogether, but they mostly associated partners with Him. On a few occasions, this took the form of beliefs and worship, but the form of attributing sovereignty and authority to others beside Him was much more common. Therefore, the basic issue is not to make people believe in God, but to make such a belief pure of all distortion. The declaration that “there is no deity other than God” means that He is the sovereign over their life on earth, as they acknowledge His sovereignty in the universe. This is embodied in the Qur’ānic statement: “It is He alone who is God in heaven and God on earth.” (43: 84) This basic issue also entails that God’s Messenger is the only source to convey what God wants of human beings, and this means that they must follow all his orders and directives. As this includes both conviction and action, the Muslim community, which has declared its belief in God, is warned against abandoning this whole issue. To do so is equal to betraying God and His Messenger.
Believers are also warned against betraying the trust they have accepted when they pledged their loyalty to God’s Messenger and declared their acceptance of Islam. Islam means submission to God. This is not merely a verbal statement, but a complete code of living that must be implemented, even though such implementation faces numerous obstacles and difficulties. It is a code that aims to build human life on the basis of the declaration that there is no deity other than God. This means that people should submit only to their true Lord, and the whole community should accept His sovereignty and implement His law. The usurpers who tyrannize people and claim sovereignty for themselves must be taken to task. Right and justice must be maintained for all people. Human life must be built entirely on the basis of the divine constitution. All these are aspects of the trust God has placed in the Muslim community. Those who do not fulfil their trust actually betray their pledges to God and His Messenger. It is, then, a fully integrated code that comprises concepts of beliefs, directives and education, as well as duties and responsibilities. It is a code that has been devised by God who knows what suits man, because it is He who has created man: “Does He not know what He has created when He is fully aware of all things?” (67: 14)

The last address to the believers in this passage of the sūrah requires them to remain God-fearing. People cannot fulfil such heavy responsibilities unless they are fully aware of their true position, equipped with light that clears all misunderstandings and a determination that steadies their footsteps along the road they have to traverse. They can only have that when they have the sensitivity imparted by fearing God and benefit by the light He provides: “Believers, if you remain God-fearing, He will give you a standard by which to discern the true from the false, and will wipe off your bad deeds, and forgive you. God’s bounty is great indeed.” (Verse 29)

This is, then, the equipment needed along the road. It is the sense of fearing God which makes people’s hearts alive and keeps them fully alert. With God’s light they can see clearly; their vision is not clouded by anything. Besides, fearing God is the proper equipment which ensures forgiveness for errors and sinful deeds. It provides reassurance and security, as well as great hope for a great bounty from God on the Day of Judgement when people discover that their actions have fallen short of expectation.
It is a fact of life that fearing God provides people with a standard to distinguish truth from falsehood. Like all facts of faith, however, this can only be appreciated by those who have experienced it. Description cannot begin to give a feeling of this fact to those who have no experience of it. Matters remain intermingled in people’s minds and thoughts, and falsehood tries to always cling to the truth, particularly at points of divergence. Argument may silence objections, but cannot provide conviction, and polemics remain futile unless people are equipped with a sense of fearing God. When such a God-fearing sense is present, minds are open to see the truth, and the way ahead is defined. Thus, people can enjoy security and reassurance, and walk along with steady steps.
The truth itself may not be lost to human nature because God has made this nature responsive to the truth. But people’s desires may force a separation between the truth and human nature. It is such desires that becloud people’s vision and cause them to lose their way. People’s desires are not overcome by argument, but by a sense of fearing God. Hence, the standard to discern truth from falsehood is all important to enlighten the way to those who wish to follow it. It is a priceless gift from God. God’s grace, however, does not stop at that. God adds to it the forgiveness of sins as well as a great bounty. This can only be provided by the Lord whose grace is great, limitless, unceasing.