Surah at-Taubah (Repentance ) 9 : 111
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and their wealth
and they are slain
and the Quran
(is) more faithful
to his promise
in your transaction
you have contracted
(is) the success
1. Lessons/Guidance/Reflections/Gems[ edit ]
This final passage of the sūrah outlines a number of final rulings that govern the Muslim community’s relations with other groups and communities. It starts with defining the relationship between a Muslim and his Lord, the nature of Islam and an outline of Islamic duties and methods of action. It is an inspiring verse, revealing the nature of the relationship between the believers and God, and the nature of the deal they make with God when they adopt Islam and which remains in force throughout their lives. Whoever makes this deal and remains true to it is the one who may truly be described as a believer reflecting the nature of faith. Otherwise his claim to be a believer remains short of proof.
The nature of this deal, or this contract of sale, as God graciously describes it, is that He has taken for Himself the souls and property of the believers, leaving them nothing of all that. They do not retain any part of that which they would feel too dear to sacrifice for His cause. They no longer have any choice whether to spend it in furthering His cause or not. It is indeed a deal that has been concluded and sealed. The buyer may do what He likes, as He pleases, with what He has bought. The seller has no option other than to fulfil the terms of the deal. He cannot argue or make any choices. He can only do what the deal specifies. The price given for this purchase is paradise, and the way to be followed by the sellers is that of jihād, fighting and sacrificing their lives, and the end result is either victory or martyrdom.
Whoever is party to this deal, signing the contract, paying the price agreed is a true believer. It is with the believers that God has made this deal of purchase. He has bestowed His grace on them by specifying a price. He is, after all, the One who gives life and property to all His creation, and He has also given human beings the ability to make a choice. He then bestowed further grace on human beings by making them able to make contracts, even with God Himself, and holding them to their contracts. He makes the honouring of their contract an evidence of their humanity, while going back on it is evidence of sinking back to the level of animals, and the worst of animals: “Indeed, the worst of all creatures in God’s sight are the ones who have denied the truth, and therefore will not believe; those with whom you have concluded a treaty, and then they break their treaty at every occasion, entertaining no sense of fearing God.” (8: 55-56) He has also made the honouring or violation of such deals the criterion of reckoning and reward.
It is indeed an awesome deal, but it remains binding on every believer who is able to honour its terms. He is not to be exempt from it unless he goes back on his faith. Yet those who are claiming to be Muslims everywhere, from the far east to the far west are sitting idle, unwilling to strive hard in order to establish the fundamental truth of God’s Lordship on earth, or to remove the tyranny which usurps the qualities of Lordship over human life on earth. They are unwilling to fight, kill and be killed for God’s cause, and unwilling to undertake a struggle that does not involve fighting and sacrificing one’s life.
These words touched the hearts of the early Muslims at the time of the Prophet and were transformed into a reality that they would experience in life. They were not mere words carrying certain abstract meanings for contemplation and reflection. They were meant for immediate implementation. This is how `Abdullāh ibn Rawāĥah felt at the time of the second pledge given by the Anşār to the Prophet at `Aqabah as reported by Muĥammad ibn Ka`b al-Qurażī and others: “ `Abdullāh ibn Rawāĥah asked God’s Messenger to specify God’s conditions and his own conditions. The Prophet said: `As for God, the condition is that you worship Him alone, associating no partners with Him. And as for myself, the condition is that you protect me like you protect yourselves and your property.’ He said: ‘What do we get in return if we fulfil these terms?’ The Prophet said: ‘Paradise.’ They all said: ‘This is a profitable deal. We accept no going back and we will not go back on it ourselves.’”
That is how they felt about the whole contract: it was a profitable deal that allows no going back by either party. They treated it as a final deal concluded and sealed, with no opting out clause. The price, which is paradise, is paid, not deferred. Is it not a promise made by God Himself? Is He not the purchaser? Is He not the One who has made an old promise specifying the price in all His revelations: “This is a true promise which He has made binding on Himself in the Torah, the Gospel and the Qur’ān.”
“Who is more true to his promise than God?” Indeed a promise by God is certain to be honoured. No one fulfils his promises like He does.
Jihād, or striving for God’s cause, is a deal made by every believer, ever since the first Messenger was sent to mankind with a religion setting out the principles of faith. It is a course of action that is necessary to put life on a proper footing. Without it human life will not follow its right course. It is as God says in the Qur’ān: “Had it not been for the fact that God repels one group of people by another, the earth would have been utterly corrupted.” (2: 251) And He also says: “Had it not been for the fact that God repels one group of people by another, monasteries, temples, houses of worship and mosques, wherein God’s name is often praised, would have been pulled down.” (22: 40)
The truth must certainly move along its well-known way, and it is inevitable that falsehood should try to obstruct its march. The true faith revealed by God must set forth to liberate all mankind from submission to other creatures and to return them to serve and submit to God alone. Tyranny is certain to try to stop it and foil its efforts. The aim of the faith is to reach all corners of the world and liberate all mankind. The truth must set out along its way, without hesitation in order to prevent falsehood from gaining access to it. As long as unbelief and falsehood continue to exist anywhere in the world, and as long as people continue to submit to beings other than God, thus causing man to be humiliated, then striving for God’s cause must continue. The deal made by every believer must be fulfilled, or else he is not a believer. The Prophet is quoted as saying: “Whoever dies without having joined a campaign of jihād, or at least considered joining it, betrays an aspect of hypocrisy.” [Related by Aĥmad, Muslim, Abū Dāwūd and al-Nasā’ī.]
"Rejoice, then, in the bargain you have made with Him. That is the supreme triumph.” Yes, people should rejoice at having dedicated their souls and their property for God’s cause in return for admittance into heaven, as God Himself has promised. What does a believer miss out on when he honours his part of the deal? He certainly does not miss out on anything. He is certain to die anyway, and his wealth is certain to go, whether he spends it to serve God’s cause or in any other way. Being in paradise is a great gain which a believer actually gets for nothing, since the price he offers would be gone anyway, whichever course of action he follows.
We need not mention the position of honour man attains when he conducts his life in line with what God requires of him. If he attains victory, then it is a victory achieved to make God’s word supreme, to establish the faith God has revealed and to liberate God’s servants from subjugation by human beings. If he attains martyrdom, then he is a martyr sacrificing his life for God’s cause, making a testimony that he values his faith as more precious than his life. At every moment and at every step he feels himself to be stronger than the shackles and bonds of life, and that the burdens of this earthly life cannot stop his march. His faith triumphs over pain, and over life itself.
On its own this is a great victory, because it represents the fulfilment of man’s humanity through his release from the burdens of his needs. When admittance to heaven is added as a reward, then the sale he has made calls for him to rejoice as it represents a great triumph indeed: “Rejoice then in the bargain you have made with Him. That is the supreme triumph.”
We need to pause here a little to reflect on God’s statement which says: “This is a true promise which He has made binding on Himself in the Torah, the Gospel and the Qur’ān.” The promise God has made in the Qur’ān to those who strive for His cause is well known and is repeated several times. It leaves no room for any doubt about the fact that striving for God’s cause is an essential part of the Islamic way of life as revealed by God Himself. Such striving is indeed the means to counter any human situation, at any place or time. It is to be remembered that the state of ignorance, or jāhiliyyah, is found in a human grouping or community that resorts to physical force to protect itself. It is not a theoretical concept standing in opposition to another. It takes practical steps to resist the divine faith and to overcome any Islamic grouping that upholds it. It prevents people from listening to the general declaration Islam makes which emphasizes that God is the only Lord to whom all human beings should submit; the declaration that ensures the liberation of all mankind throughout the world from submission to creatures of any sort. It actually stops people from joining the liberated Islamic community. Hence Islam has no choice but to confront the physical power that protects jāhiliyyah groupings, which, in turn, try their utmost to crush the Muslim revivalist groups and suppress their declaration announcing the liberation of mankind.
God’s promise in the Torah and the Gospel to those who strive for His cause needs clarification. The Torah and the Gospel that are today in circulation cannot be described as the ones which God — limitless is He in His glory — revealed to His Messengers, Moses and Jesus (peace be upon them both). Even the Jews and the Christians do not claim that. They agree that the original versions of these Scriptures are not in existence. What they have today was written long after the revelation of these books, when all that was left was the little committed to memory after more than one generation. Much was added to that small memorized portion.
Nevertheless there remain in the Old Testament clear references to jihād and much encouragement to the Jews to fight their pagan enemies in order to ensure the triumph of their faith. Having said that, we should remember that distortion has crept into their concept of God and what striving for His cause means.
On the other hand, the Gospels that circulate among Christians today do not include any reference to jihād. We must, however, revise the concepts people have of the nature of Christianity, because these are taken from those Gospels which are not authentic, a fact conceded by Christian scholars. Besides, their lack of authenticity has been stated by God Himself in His last book, the Qur’ān, which admits no falsehood whatsoever. And in the Qur’ān God says clearly that His promise to grant heaven to those who strive for His cause, kill and be killed, was spelled out in the Torah, the Gospel and the Qur’ān. This is, then, the true fact which no counter argument can disprove.
What this statement means is that jihād, or striving for God’s cause, is a deal binding on everyone who believes in God, ever since God sent messengers to mankind to preach His faith. But striving for God’s cause does not mean rushing to fight the enemy. It is the practical translation of a principle of faith which influences the feelings, attitudes, behaviour and worship of the believers. Those with whom God has made this deal reflect their faith by their true characteristics outlined in the next verse.
2. Linguistic Analysis[ edit ]
4. Miscellaneous Information[ edit ]
5. Connected/Related Ayat[ edit ]
6. Frequency of the word[ edit ]
7. Period of Revelation[ edit ]
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.
8. Reasons for Revelation[ edit ]
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 obvious that if all these three elements had been given an opportunity of taking a concerted action against the Muslims, Islam would have lost the fight it had almost won. That is why in this case the Prophet made an open declaration for making preparations for the Campaign against the Roman Empire, which was one of the two greatest empires of the world of that period. The declaration was made though all the apparent circumstances were against such a decision: for there was famine in the country and the long awaited crops were about to ripen: the burning heat of the scorching summer season of Arabia was at its height and there was not enough money for preparations in general, and for equipment and conveyance in particular. But in spite of these handicaps, when the Messenger of God realised the urgency of the occasion, he took this step which was to decide whether the Mission of the Truth was going to survive or perish. The very fact that he made an open declaration for making preparations for such a campaign to Syria against the Roman Empire showed how important it was, for this was contrary to his previous practice. Usually he took every precaution not to reveal beforehand the direction to which he was going nor the name of the enemy whom he was going to attack; nay, he did not move out of Madinah even in the direction of the campaign.
All the parties in Arabia fully realised the grave consequences of this critical decision. The remnants of the lovers of the old order of ‘ignorance’ were anxiously waiting for the result of the Campaign, for they had pinned all their hopes on the defeat of Islam by the Romans. The ‘hypocrites’ also considered it to be their last chance of crushing the power of Islam by internal rebellion, if the Muslims suffered a defeat in Syria. They had, therefore, made full use of the Mosque built by them for hatching plots and had employed all their devices to render the Campaign a failure. On the other side, the true Believers also realised fully that the fate of the Movement for which they had been exerting their utmost for the last 22 years was now hanging in the balance. If they showed courage on that critical occasion, the doors of the whole outer world would be thrown open for the Movement to spread. But if they showed weakness or cowardice, then all the work they had done in Arabia would end in smoke. That is why these lovers of Islam began to make enthusiastic preparations for the Campaign. Everyone of them tried to surpass the other in making contributions for the provision of equipment for it. Uthman and Abdur Rahman bin awf presented large sums of money for this purpose. Umar contributed half of the earnings of his life and Abu Bakr the entire earnings of his life. The indigent Companions did not lag behind and presented whatever they could earn by the sweat of their labour and the women parted with their ornaments. Thousands of volunteers, who were filled with the desire of sacrificing their lives for Islam, came to the Prophet and requested that arrangements for weapons and conveyance be made for them so that they should join the expedition. Those who could not be provided with these shed tears of sorrow; the scene was so pathetic that it made the Prophet sad because of his inability to arm them. In short, the occasion became the touchstone for discriminating a true believer from a hypocrite. For, to lag behind in the Campaign meant that the very relationship of a person to Islam was doubtful. Accordingly, whenever a person lagged behind during the journey to Tabuk, the Prophet, on being informed, would spontaneously say, “Leave him alone. If there be any good in him, God will again join him with you, and if there be no good in him, then thank God that He relieved you of his evil company.”
In short, the Prophet marched out towards Syria in Rajab A.H. 9, with thirty thousand fighters for the cause of Islam. The conditions in which the expedition was undertaken may be judged from the fact that the number of camels with them was so small that many of them were obliged to walk on foot and to wait for their turns for several had to ride at a time on each camel. To add to this, there was the burning heat of the desert and the acute shortage of water. But they were richly rewarded for their firm resolve and sincere adherence to the cause and for their perseverance in the face of those great difficulties and obstacles.
When they arrived at Tabuk, they learnt that the Caesar and his allies had withdrawn their troops from the frontier and there was no enemy to fight with. Thus they won a moral victory that increased their prestige manifold and, that too, without shedding a drop of blood. As a result of this, the boundaries of the Islamic State were extended right up to the Roman Empire, and the majority of the Arab clans, who were being used by the Caesar against Arabia, became the allies of the Muslims against the Romans. Above all, this moral victory of Tabuk afforded a golden opportunity to the Muslims to strengthen their hold on Arabia before entering into a long conflict with the Romans. For it broke the back of those who had still been expecting that the old order of ‘ignorance’ might revive in the near future, whether they were the open upholders of polytheism (Shirk) or the hypocrites who were hiding their shirk under the clothing of Islam. The majority of such people were compelled by the force of circumstances to enter into the fold of Islam and, at least, make it possible for their descendants to become true Muslims. After this a mere impotent minority of the upholders of the old order was left in the field, but it could not stand in the way of the Islamic Revolution for the perfection of which God had sent His Messenger.
Problems of the Period
If we keep in view the preceding background we can easily find out the problems that were confronting the Community at that time. They were:
- to make the whole of Arabia a perfect ‘Abode of Islam’ (Dar-ul-Islam).
- to extend the influence of Islam to the adjoining countries.
- to crush the mischiefs of the hypocrites.
- to prepare the Muslims for Jihad against the non-Muslim world.
A clear declaration was made that all the treaties with the polytheists were abolished and that the Muslims would be released from the treaty obligations with them after a respite of four months (v. 1-3). This declaration was necessary for uprooting completely the system of life based on Shirk and to make Arabia exclusively the centre of Islam so that it should not in any way interfere with the spirit of Islam nor become an internal danger for it.
A decree was issued that the guardianship of the Ka’bah, which held central position in all the affairs of Arabia should be wrested from the polytheists and placed permanently in the hands of the Believers (v. 12-18) and that all the customs and practices of the shirk of the era of ‘ignorance’ should be forcibly abolished: that the polytheists should not be allowed even to come near the “House” (v. 28). This was to eradicate every trace of Shirk from the “House” that was dedicated exclusively to the worship of God. In order to enable the Muslims to extend the influence of Islam outside Arabia they were enjoined to crush with sword the non-Muslim powers and to force them to accept the sovereignty of the Islamic State. As the great Roman and Persian Empires were the biggest hindrances in the way a conflict with them was inevitable. The object of Jihad was not to coerce them to accept Islam; they were free to accept or not to accept it, but to prevent them from thrusting forcibly their deviations upon others and the coming generations. The Muslims were enjoined to tolerate their misguidance - only to the extent that they might have the freedom to remain misguided if they chose to be so, provided that they paid the tax (Jizyah) (v. 29) as a sign of their subjugation to the Islamic State. The third important problem was to crush the mischiefs of the hypocrites who had hitherto been tolerated in spite of their flagrant crimes. Now that there was practically no pressure upon them from outside the Muslims were enjoined to treat them openly as disbelievers (v. 73). Accordingly the Prophet set on fire the house of Swailim where the hypocrites used to gather for consultations in order to dissuade the people from joining the expedition to Tabuk. Likewise on his return from Tabuk he ordered to pull down and burn the ‘Mosque’ that had been built to serve as a cover for the hypocrites for hatching plots against the true Believers.
In order to prepare the Muslims for Jihad against the whole non-Muslim world it was necessary to cure them even of that slight weakness of faith from which they were still suffering. For there could be no greater internal danger to the Islamic Community than the weakness of faith especially where it was going to engage itself single-handed in a conflict with the whole non-Muslim world. That is why those people who had lagged behind in the Campaign to Tabuk or had shown the least negligence were severely taken to task and were considered as hypocrites if they had no plausible excuse for not fulfilling that obligation. Moreover, a clear declaration was made that in future the sole criterion of a Muslim’s faith shall be the exertions he makes for the uplift of the Word of God and the role he plays in the conflict between Islam and disbelief (Kufr). Therefore, if anyone will show any hesitation in sacrificing his life, money, time and energies, his faith shall not be regarded as genuine (v. 81-96). If the above-mentioned important points are kept in view during the study of this Surah, it will facilitate the understanding of its contents. [Ref: Mawdudi]