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

Tafsir Zone

Surah al-Anfal 8:49

Overview (Verse 49)

Deception Compounded by Short-Sightedness

While Satan was working hard, trying to delude the unbelievers and encouraging them to go out in force to fight the believers then abandoning them at their time of need, the hypocrites and those who were sick at heart thought the worst of what fate the Muslims would be facing. They looked at the small band of believers facing up to a much superior force. Thinking only in material terms, they felt that the believers brought upon themselves a woeful doom, deluded by their faith, thinking that faith would bring them victory or at least give them protection: “The hypocrites and those in whose hearts there was disease said: ‘Their faith has deluded these people.’“ (Verse 49) Some scholars say about this group that they were Makkans who looked favourably upon Islam but who stopped short of accepting it. They went out with the Quraysh army, uncertain of their own attitude. When they realized how superior the forces of the unbelievers were they said this about the Muslims.
The hypocrites and those who are sick at heart are unable to understand the true causes of defeat or victory. They only look at appearances and have no means of understanding the true nature of anything that is not physically apparent. They cannot appreciate the power of faith and what effect trusting God and relying on Him bring about. They cannot see how believers cannot be overawed by forces that do not rely on a firm belief in God. Hence it is understandable that they should think the believers to be deluded by their faith, bringing themselves to ruin as they faced a far superior force.
Any situation may have the same physical appearance in the eyes of believers and those whose hearts are devoid of faith. What is different, however, is how they look at any situation and how they evaluate it. Unbelievers do not see anything beyond the physical appearance, while those who have faith see the reality that lies beyond it. They are able to see all the forces that have an influence on it and balance between them accurately. The fact that believers understand and from which they derive reassurance is that to which the conclusion of this verse alludes: “But he who puts his trust in God knows that God is Almighty, Wise.” (Verse 49) But this fact is withheld from those hearts that have no faith. Yet it is the one that tilts the balance and determines the outcome of the conflict between the two groups every time and everywhere.
On the day of Badr the hypocrites and those who were sick at heart said about the Muslim group, “their faith has deluded these people.” This is the same thing that such people say whenever they see the advocates of Islam confronting the mightier forces of tyranny, when their main equipment is basically this religion, their unshakeable faith in its truth, their burning desire to defend what God has made sacred and their reliance on God and trust in Him.
The hypocrites and those who are sick at heart stand idle, watching the advocates of Islam as they firmly stand up to the forces of falsehood, deriding their attitude that makes little of the dangers to which they expose themselves when they take on such mightier forces. At the same time, they are full of admiration for such people who are willing to take such great risks for their cause. They cannot understand why anyone should be willing to be exposed to such great dangers. They view everything in life, including faith and religion, as little more than a business deal. If they feel they can profit by it then they will take it up without question, but if it involves risk taking, then they do not want to have anything to do with it. They are unable to see matters from the point of view of a believer, and they cannot evaluate matters using the perspective of faith. From a believer’s point of view, the deal is a highly profitable one in all circumstances. It leads to one of the two best eventualities: victory which brings about the implementation of faith in practical life or martyrdom which ensures admittance into heaven. Besides, the balance of power is viewed differently by the believer. God Himself is involved, but the hypocrites and those who are sick at heart do not take God’s power into account.
The advocates of Islam, wherever they may be and in whichever period in history they live, are called upon to use the standard of faith when they evaluate matters. They must look at everything in the light of God’s guidance. They must not be overawed by the mighty forces of evil, thinking that they have little power of their own. How could they think themselves to be weak when they have God on their side? They must always pay heed to the instructions God gives to the believers: “He who puts his trust in God knows that God is Almighty, Wise.” (Verse 49)