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

Tafsir Zone

Surah al-Anfal 8:9
 

Overview (Verses 9 - 10)

An Appeal and a Response
 
At this point, the sūrah recalls the atmosphere of the Battle of Badr, the circumstances leading to it and the attitudes adopted prior to the Battle and during it. It paints a complete picture of the conditions that the Muslims were in, what God planned for them and how the victory they attained was part of His planning. In the inimitable style of the Qur’ān, the whole situation is brought back to them with its different scenes, events, feelings and reactions so that they could relive it, but this time in the light of Qur’ānic directives. Thus they are able to appreciate its true dimensions that go far beyond Badr, the Arabian Peninsula and the whole earth to stretch across the universe and reach up to the Highest Society. It also goes beyond the day of Badr, Arabian and human history in general, and beyond this life to reach to the time of reckoning in the life to come and the perfect reward. The Muslim community is thus enabled to appreciate its value in God’s sight, and how He values the moves and actions of individuals and communities in the service of their faith.
 
When you implored your Lord for help, He answered: “I will reinforce you with a thousand angels advancing in ranks.” God made this only as good news with which to reassure your hearts, for victory comes only from God. Indeed, God is Almighty, Wise. He made slumber fall upon you, as an assurance from Him, and He sent down water from the sky to cleanse you and to remove from you Satan’s filth, to strengthen your hearts and steady your footsteps. Your Lord inspired the angels, saying: “I am with you. So, give courage to the believers. I shall cast terror into the hearts of the unbelievers. Strike, then, their necks and strike off their every fingertip.” This is because they have defied God and His Messenger. Whoever defies God and His Messenger [will find out that] God is severe in retribution. This is for you, [enemies of God]! Taste it, then. The unbelievers shall be made to suffer the torment of fire. (Verses 9-14) The whole battle is conducted by God’s will and according to His careful planning. The actors are God’s soldiers whom He directs and commands. The whole scene is painted so vividly through the Qur’ānic expressions that bring it alive as if it is happening here and now.
 
As for the appeal for God’s help, Imām Ahmad relates on `Umar ibn al-Khaţţāb’s authority: “On the Day of Badr, the Prophet looked at his Companions who numbered a little over three hundred, and he looked at the unbelievers who were over one thousand. The Prophet turned his face towards the qiblah (i.e. the direction faced by Muslims in prayer), wearing both his garments and prayed earnestly, saying: `My Lord, fulfil Your promise to me. My Lord, if this group of believers are left to perish, You will not be worshipped on earth.’ He continued his imploring prayer until his top garment fell off his shoulders. Abū Bakr took his garment and put it back on him. He held him from behind and said: `Messenger of God, not so hard in your appeal to your Lord. He will surely grant you what He has promised you.’ The verse was then revealed which says: “When you implored your Lord for help, He answered: ‘I will reinforce you with a thousand angels advancing in ranks.’” (Verse 9)
 

There are numerous detailed reports that mention the angels who came to support the Muslims on the day of Badr, their number, how they took part in the battle, what they said to reassure the believers and what they said to dishearten the unbelievers. Following our method in this work, we confine ourselves in all matters that relate to the realm that lies beyond the reach of human perception only to the authentic statements in the Qur’ān and the ĥadīth. The Qur’ānic text in this connection gives us enough information: “When you implored your Lord for help, He answered: ‘I will reinforce you with a thousand angels advancing in ranks.’” (Verse 9) This is then the angels’ number. “Your Lord inspired the angels, saying: ‘I am with you. So, give courage to the believers. I shall cast terror into the hearts of the unbelievers. Strike, then, their necks and strike off their every fingertip.’” (Verse 12) Such is, then, the task assigned to them. We need not go into any details beyond this statement. It is sufficient for our purposes that we should know that God did not abandon the Muslim community to their own devices on that day, when they were much inferior in number to their enemies. The Highest Society played an active part in the determination of what happened to the Muslim army and to Islam, along the lines described by God Himself in the Qur’ān.
 

In a chapter entitled, The Angels’ Presence at Badr, al-Bukhārī relates on the authority of Rifā`ah ibn Rāfi`: “Gabriel came to the Prophet (peace be upon him) and said: ‘What status do you assign to the people of Badr among you?’ He answered: ‘They are among the best Muslims’, or he might have said something similar. Gabriel said: `And so do we count the angels who were present at Badr.’’ [Related by al- Bukhārī]. “When you implored your Lord for help, He answered: ‘I will reinforce you with a thousand angels advancing in ranks.’ God made this only as good news with which to reassure your hearts, for victory comes only from God. Indeed, God is Almighty, Wise.” (Verses 9-10) Their Lord, then, answered their appeal and informed them that He had decided to reinforce them with a thousand angels moving in close ranks. Greatly significant as this decision is, indicating the great value assigned by God to those believers and the faith of Islam, God does not want the Muslims to understand that there is a mechanical process of a direct cause leading to a definite effect. The whole matter is referred back to Him so that the Muslims maintain the right beliefs and concepts. This whole response, enforcement, and the revelation announcing it were merely given as happy news to reassure the believers’ hearts. Victory itself comes only from God. This is a basic fact of faith restated here so that Muslims do not attach undue importance to any particular cause or factor.
 
It was sufficient that the Muslims should do their best and exert their maximum effort, overcoming the initial shock some of them experienced as they found themselves facing real danger. All they needed to do was to actually proceed in obedience of God, assured of His support. In other words, they needed to fulfil their part and leave the rest to God’s will. It is He who plans matters for them and dictates the final outcome of their efforts. The rest was merely a piece of happy news, giving reassurance to the believers to calm their hearts and enable them to face up to the real danger. A community of believers does not need more than to feel that they are supported by God’s soldiers for their hearts to be set at rest and to go into battle with courage and perseverance. Victory then comes from God, who alone can grant it. He is, mighty indeed, able to accomplish His purpose, and He is wise, putting everyone and everything in the proper place.
 
He made slumber fall upon you, as an assurance from Him, and He sent down water from the sky to cleanse you and to remove from you Satan’s filth, to strengthen your hearts and steady your footsteps. (Verse 11)
 

This slumber that overcame the believers before the battle is a manifestation of a remarkable state that can only take place by God’s will. The Muslims were shaken when they saw themselves facing a much superior force and taking a risk they had not reckoned with and for which they had not prepared themselves. Slumber momentarily falls upon them and they presently wake to find themselves in complete reassurance, with their hearts set at rest.
 
The same took place at the Battle of Uĥud when the Muslims experienced fear. The same condition of slumber was repeated and the same reassurance was given. I used to read these verses mentioning this slumber, and I used to understand it as an event reported to us by God who alone knows its secret. I then experienced a hard situation when I went through a period of stifling stress and worried apprehension. It was around sunset when I was overtaken by slumber that lasted only for a few moments. I woke up to find myself a totally different man, reassured, at peace with everything around me. It was a profound feeling that set me at ease. I simply cannot tell how it all happened, or how this whole transformation took place. After this experience, I have come to appreciate what happened at Badr and Uĥud, not merely mentally, but by my whole being. I go through this whole experience again, not merely visualize it. I see in it God’s hand at work, and I am reassured.