Welcome Friends: Ahlan wa sahlan!
Congratulations to our Regular Readers on the start of a new chapter! As any large project, this endeavor will be AS fulfilling as the amount of effort we put into it.
This Chapter is named ‘al Anfaal,’ translated as the ‘Spoils of War.’
It was revealed in Medina, after the Battle of Badr, in the year 2 A.H.
Please note, dear Reader, that we shall NOT get into historical detail from now on. Firstly, history is too wide a scope for us to address on this page. Secondly, now that we have so many renowned scholars’ accounts at our fingertips (including Yusuf Ali and Muhammad Asad) there is no need for further comment. But do remember to read their explanations verse by verse, where you will get their commentaries complete with detailed historical background!
Yusuf Ali’s Translation of this Chapter, about which he says (an excerpt):
In this chapter we have the lessons of the Battle of Badr enforced in their larger aspects:
1. the question of war booty;
2. the true virtues necessary for fighting the good fight;
3. victory against odds; and
4. clemency and consideration for one's own and for others in the hour of victory.
As regards booty taken in battle, the first point to note is that that should never be our aim in war. It is only an adventitious circumstance, a sort of windfall. Secondly, no soldier or troop has any inherent right to it. A righteous war is a community affair, and any accessions resulting from it belong to God, or the community or Cause. Thirdly, certain equitable principles of division should be laid down to check human greed and selfishness. A fifth share goes to the Commander, and he can use it at his discretion; for his own expenses, and for the relief of the poor and suffering, and the orphans and widows (8:41). The remainder was divided, according to the Prophet's practice, not only among those who were actually in the fight physically, but all who were in the enterprise, young and old, provided they loyally did some duty assigned to them. Fourthly, there should be no disputes, as they interfere with internal discipline and harmony.
These principles are followed in the best modern practice of civilized nations. All acquisitions of war belong absolutely to the Sovereign as representing the commonwealth. In the distribution of booty not only the actual captors but also the "joint captors" and the "constructive captors" share. See Sir R. Phillimore's International Law (1885), vol. 3, pp. 209-20, 221-24.
The date of this Surah is shortly after the battle of Badr, which was fought on Friday, the 17th of Ramadan, in the second year of the Hijrah. A short account of the battle is given in n.352 to 3:13.
Muhammad Asad’s Translation of this Chapter, about which he says (an excerpt):
For the Muslims, too, Badr proved to be a turning-point. It may safely be assumed that until then only a very few of the Prophet's Companions had fully understood the political implications of the new order of Islam. To most of them, their exodus to Medina had meant, in those early days, no more than a refuge from the persecutions which they had had to endure in Mecca: after the battle of Badr, however, even the most simple-minded among them became aware that they were on their way towards a new social order. The spirit of passive sacrifice, so characteristic of their earlier days, received its complement in the idea of sacrifice through action. The doctrine of action as the most fundamental, creative element of life was, perhaps for the first time in the history of man, consciously realized not only by a few select individuals but by a whole community; and the intense activism which was to distinguish Muslim history in the coming decades and centuries was a direct, immediate consequence of the battle of Badr.
PAGE 177: Click for Arabic Qur’an.
1. The first verse specifies who has the rights to the ‘spoils of war.’ It also commands Believers to be aware of God, to maintain their bonds to each other, and to obey God and His Messenger IF they are indeed Believers.
Verses 2-3 give us the CHARACTERISTICS of Believers, something to measure ourselves up against!
Believers are indeed those:
· Whose hearts tremble with awe when God is mentioned.
· Who increase in Faith when God’s Signs are rehearsed to them.
· Who rely on their Lord.
· Who establish regular prayer.
· Who spend on others out of what God has provided for them.
Verse 4 concludes by saying that these are in truth the Believers… read the complete verse according to Ali and Asad.
2. Verses 5-8 are related to the circumstances of revelation; well-explained by both Ali and Asad (read them verse by verse where you can also find their commentaries).
PAGE 178: Click for Arabic Qur’an.
3. Verse 9 is heart-wrenching, as it reminds us of the vulnerability of these few early Believers who were imploring their Lord for assistance!
But they did get it, as the verses show; a glad tiding and assurance to set their hearts at ease (see Asad).
4. Verse 11 mentions slumber as a soothing blessing, and shows us that, especially in times of grave danger, a firm heart/mind is necessary to maintain firm footing.
5. Verses 12-14 highlight the destabilizing nature of fear, and show us that those who cut themselves off from God will suffer grave consequence.
6. Verses 15-16 call upon those who have attained Faith NOT to retreat from battle when facing those who have Denied, and inform them that unless the retreat is a battle tactic, it would earn God’s condemnation, with Hell as an abode!
What a responsibility!
Note: At the center of verse 12 is the word ‘banaan’ بنان- the singular of which is ‘banaana’ بنانة– which means ‘finger’ in Arabic and is the origin of our famous finger-shaped-fruit! As usual, English Etymology does NOT acknowledge that (put the word ‘etymology’ in ‘Search this Site’ to find other English words of Arabic origin):
“Etymology: Spanish or Portuguese; Spanish, from Portuguese, of African origin; akin to Wolof banaana banana.”
Our next Reading is from HQ 8: 17-32.