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Towards Understanding the Quran
With kind permission: Islamic Foundation UK
Introduction to Tafheem | Glossary | Verbs
Other resources: Maarif | Dawat 

 Surah Al-Anfal 8:38-44 [5/10]
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Verse Summary -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
لِّلَّذِينَto those who
يَنتَهُواْthey cease
يُغْفَرْwill be forgiven
لَهُمfor them
سَلَفَ(is) past.
وَإِنBut if
يَعُودُواْthey return
فَقَدْthen verily
سُنَّتُ(the) practice
ٱلْأَوَّلِينَ(of) the former (people).
وَقَـٰتِلُوهُمْAnd fight them
لَا تَكُونَthere is no
وَيَكُونَand is
ٱلدِّينُthe religion
كُلُّهُۥall of it
لِلَّهِ‌ۚfor Allah.
فَإِنِBut if
ٱنتَهَوْاْthey ceased,
فَإِنَّthen indeed,
بِمَاof what
يَعْمَلُونَthey do
بَصِيرٌ(is) All-Seer.
وَإِنAnd if
تَوَلَّوْاْthey turn away
فَٱعْلَمُوٓاْthen know
مَوْلَـٰكُمْ‌ۚ(is) your Protector,
ٱلْمَوْلَىٰ(is) the Protector,
وَنِعْمَand Excellent
ٱلنَّصِيرُ(is) the Helper.
۞ وَٱعْلَمُوٓاْAnd know
أَنَّمَاthat what
غَنِمْتُمyou obtain (as) spoils of war
فَأَنَّthen that,
لِلَّهِfor Allah
خُمُسَهُۥ(is) one fifth of it
وَلِلرَّسُولِand for the Messenger
وَلِذِى ٱلْقُرْبَىٰand for the near relatives,
وَٱلْيَتَـٰمَىٰand the orphans
وَٱلْمَسَـٰكِينِand the needy
وَٱبْنِ ٱلسَّبِيلِand the wayfarer,
بِٱللَّهِin Allah,
وَمَآand (in) what
أَنزَلْنَاWe sent down
عَبْدِنَاOur slave
يَوْمَ(on the) day
ٱلْفُرْقَانِ(of) the criterion,
يَوْمَ(the) day
ٱلْتَقَى(when) met
ٱلْجَمْعَانِ‌ۗthe two forces.
وَٱللَّهُAnd Allah
عَلَىٰ(is) on
أَنتُمyou (were)
بِٱلْعُدْوَةِ ٱلدُّنْيَاon the nearer side of the valley
وَهُمand they
بِٱلْعُدْوَةِ ٱلْقُصْوَىٰ(were) on the farther side
وَٱلرَّكْبُand the caravan
أَسْفَلَ(was) lower
مِنكُمْ‌ۚthan you.
وَلَوْAnd if
تَوَاعَدتُّمْyou (had) made an appointment
لَٱخْتَلَفْتُمْcertainly you would have failed
ٱلْمِيعَـٰدِ‌ۙthe appointment.
لِّيَقْضِىَ ٱللَّهُthat Allah might accomplish
أَمْرًاa matter
كَانَ(that) was
لِّيَهْلِكَthat (might be) destroyed
مَنْ(those) who
هَلَكَ(were to be) destroyed
بَيِّنَةٍa clear evidence
وَيَحْيَىٰand (might) live
مَنْ(those) who
حَىَّ(were to) live
بَيِّنَةٍ‌ۗa clear evidence.
وَإِنَّAnd indeed,
لَسَمِيعٌ(is) All-Hearing,
يُرِيكَهُمُ ٱللَّهُAllah showed them to you
مَنَامِكَyour dream
قَلِيلاً‌ۖ(as) few,
وَلَوْand if
أَرَٮٰكَهُمْHe had shown them to you
كَثِيرًا(as) many
لَّفَشِلْتُمْsurely you would have lost courage
وَلَتَنَـٰزَعْتُمْand surely you would have disputed
ٱلْأَمْرِthe matter,
سَلَّمَ‌ۗsaved (you).
إِنَّهُۥIndeed, He
عَلِيمُۢ(is) All-Knower
بِذَاتِ ٱلصُّدُورِof what is in the breasts.
وَإِذْAnd when
يُرِيكُمُوهُمْHe showed them to you,
ٱلْتَقَيْتُمْyou met -
أَعْيُنِكُمْyour eyes
قَلِيلاً(as) few
وَيُقَلِّلُكُمْand He made you (appear) as few
أَعْيُنِهِمْtheir eyes
لِيَقْضِىَ ٱللَّهُthat Allah might accomplish
أَمْرًاa matter
كَانَ(that) was
مَفْعُولاً‌ۗ(already) destined.
وَإِلَىAnd to
ٱلْأُمُورُ(all) the matters.

قُلْ لِّـلَّذِيۡنَ كَفَرُوۡۤا اِنۡ يَّنۡتَهُوۡا يُغۡفَرۡ لَهُمۡ مَّا قَدۡ سَلَفَۚ وَاِنۡ يَّعُوۡدُوۡا فَقَدۡ مَضَتۡ سُنَّتُ الۡاَوَّلِيۡنَ‏  وَقَاتِلُوۡهُمۡ حَتّٰى لَا تَكُوۡنَ فِتۡنَةٌ وَّيَكُوۡنَ الدِّيۡنُ كُلُّهٗ لِلّٰهِ​ۚ فَاِنِ انْـتَهَوۡا فَاِنَّ اللّٰهَ بِمَا يَعۡمَلُوۡنَ بَصِيۡرٌ‏  وَاِنۡ تَوَلَّوۡا فَاعۡلَمُوۡۤا اَنَّ اللّٰهَ مَوۡلٰٮكُمۡ​ؕ نِعۡمَ الۡمَوۡلٰى وَنِعۡمَ النَّصِيۡرُ‏  وَاعۡلَمُوۡۤا اَنَّمَا غَنِمۡتُمۡ مِّنۡ شَىۡءٍ فَاَنَّ لِلّٰهِ خُمُسَهٗ وَ لِلرَّسُوۡلِ وَلِذِى الۡقُرۡبٰى وَالۡيَتٰمٰى وَالۡمَسٰكِيۡنِ وَابۡنِ السَّبِيۡلِ ۙ اِنۡ كُنۡتُمۡ اٰمَنۡتُمۡ بِاللّٰهِ وَمَاۤ اَنۡزَلۡنَا عَلٰى عَبۡدِنَا يَوۡمَ الۡفُرۡقَانِ يَوۡمَ الۡتَقَى الۡجَمۡعٰنِ​ ؕ وَاللّٰهُ عَلٰى كُلِّ شَىۡءٍ قَدِيۡرٌ‏  اِذۡ اَنۡتُمۡ بِالۡعُدۡوَةِ الدُّنۡيَا وَهُمۡ بِالۡعُدۡوَةِ الۡقُصۡوٰى وَ الرَّكۡبُ اَسۡفَلَ مِنۡكُمۡ​ؕ وَلَوۡ تَوَاعَدْتُّمۡ لَاخۡتَلَفۡتُمۡ فِى الۡمِيۡعٰدِ​ۙ وَلٰـكِنۡ لِّيَقۡضِىَ اللّٰهُ اَمۡرًا كَانَ مَفۡعُوۡلًا ۙ لِّيَهۡلِكَ مَنۡ هَلَكَ عَنۡۢ بَيِّنَةٍ وَّيَحۡيٰى مَنۡ حَىَّ عَنۡۢ بَيِّنَةٍ​ ؕ وَاِنَّ اللّٰهَ لَسَمِيۡعٌ عَلِيۡمٌۙ‏  اِذۡ يُرِيۡكَهُمُ اللّٰهُ فِىۡ مَنَامِكَ قَلِيۡلًا ؕ وَّلَوۡ اَرٰٮكَهُمۡ كَثِيۡرًا لَّـفَشِلۡـتُمۡ وَلَـتَـنَازَعۡتُمۡ فِى الۡاَمۡرِ وَلٰـكِنَّ اللّٰهَ سَلَّمَ​ؕ اِنَّهٗ عَلِيۡمٌۢ بِذَاتِ الصُّدُوۡرِ‏  وَ اِذۡ يُرِيۡكُمُوۡهُمۡ اِذِ الۡتَقَيۡتُمۡ فِىۡۤ اَعۡيُنِكُمۡ قَلِيۡلًا وَّيُقَلِّلُكُمۡ فِىۡۤ اَعۡيُنِهِمۡ لِيَـقۡضِىَ اللّٰهُ اَمۡرًا كَانَ مَفۡعُوۡلًا ؕ وَاِلَى اللّٰهِ تُرۡجَعُ الۡاُمُوۡرُ‏ 
(8:38) [O Prophet!] Tell the unbelievers that if they desist from evil, their past shall be forgiven and if they revert to their past ways, then it is well known what happened with the people of the past. (8:39) And fight against them until the mischief ends and the way prescribed by Allah - the whole of it -prevail31 Then, if they give up mischief, surely Allah sees what they do. (8:40) But if they turn away, then know well that Allah is your Protector - an excellent Protector and an excellent Helper. (8:41) Know that one fifth of the spoils that you obtain belongs to Allah, to the Messenger, to the near of kin, to the orphans, and the needy, and the wayfarer.32 This you must observe if you truly believe In Allah and in what We sent down on Our servant33 on the day when the true was distinguished from the false, the day on which the two armies met in battle. Allah has power over all things. (8:42) And recall when you were encamped at the nearer end of the valley (of Badr) and they were at the farther end and the caravan below you (along the seaside). Had you made a mutual appointment to meet in encounter, you would have declined. But encounter was brought about so that Allah might accomplish what He had decreed, and that he who was to perish should perish through a clear proof, and who was to survive might survive through a clear proof.34 Surely Allah is All-Hearing, All-Knowing.35 (8:43) And recall when Allah showed them to you in your dream to be few in number.36 And had He showed them to you to be numerous, you would have flagged and disagreed with one another about fighting them. But Allah saved you. Surely Allah knows what is hidden in the breasts. (8:44) And recall when He made them appear as few in your eyes when you met them in the battle just as He lessened you in their eyes so that Allah might accomplish what had been decreed. To Allah are all matters referred for decision.

31. This is a reiteration of the purpose, mentioned earlier in al-Baqarah 2: 193, for which Muslims are required to wage war. The purpose is two-fold. Negatively speaking, the purpose is to eradicate 'mischief'. The positive purpose consists of establishing a state of affairs wherein all obedience is rendered to God alone. This alone is the purpose for which the believers may, rather should, fight. Fighting for any other purpose is not lawful. Nor does it behove men of faith to take part in wars for worldly purposes. (For further explanation see Towards Understanding the Qur'an, vol. 1, (al-Baqarah 2, nn.. 204 and 205, pp. 152-3 - Ed.)

32. This verse lay's down the law for distributing the spoils of war. Spoils of war, as mentioned earlier, essentially belong to God and His Messenger. They alone have the right to dispose of them. As for the soldiers who fight, they are not the rightful owners of the spoils; whatever they do receive should be considered an extra reward from God rather than their legitimate right.

Here it is stated how God and His Messenger decided to dispose of the spoils. The prescribed rule is that the soldiers should depbsit all the spoils with the ruler or the commander without making any effort to conceal anything. One-fifth of the spoils thus deposited would be assigned for the purposes mentioned in the present verse and four-fifths would be distributed among the soldiers who had taken part in the fighting. In keeping with the directive contained in the present verse, after every battle the Prophet (peace be on him) used to proclaim: 'These are your spoils. My own share in them is no more than one-fifth and even that fifth is spent on you. Bring everything, even if it be a piece of thread or a needle, or anything bigger or smaller, and take nothing by stealth (gulal), for taking by stealth is a shameful deed, and would lead to Hell.' (Ahmad b. Hanbal, Musnad, vol. 5, p. 316 - Ed.)

It is pertinent to remember that the share of God and His Messenger (peace be on him) in the spoils signifies that a part of the spoils should be earmarked for the struggle to exalt the Word of God and to establish Islam as an operational system of life..

As to the word 'kinsmen' in the verse, during the Prophet's lifetime, it stood for his relatives. Since the Prophet (peace be on him) devoted all his time to the cause of Islam, he was not in a position to earn his own living. Hence, some arrangement had to be made for the maintenance of the Prophet (peace be on him) as well as for his family, and the relatives dependent upon him for financial support. Hence a part of khums (one-fifth of the spoils of war) was specified for that purpose. There is, however, some disagreement among jurists as to whom this share should go to after the Prophet's death. Some jurists are of the view that after the Prophet's death the rule stands repealed. According to other jurists, this part should go to relatives of those who succeeded him to Caliphate. Other jurists are of the view that this share should be distributed among the poor members of the Prophet's family. To the best of my knowledge, the Rightly-Guided Caliphs followed the last practice. (See the comments of Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir and Jassas on the verse. See also Ibn Rushd, Bidayat al-Mujtahid, vol. 1, pp. 377-8 - Ed. )

33. This refers to the support and help from God which brought about victory for the Muslims.

34. The living and the dead spoken of in the above verse do not signify the individuals who survived the battle or those killed during it. The reference here is to the ideological entities of Islam and Jahiliyah.

35. God is neither blind nor deaf nor ignorant. On the contrary, He is All-Knowing, All-Seeing, All-Wise. Hence, we find reflection of God's knowledge, wisdom and justice in history.

36. This refers to the time when the Prophet (peace be on him) was leaving Madina along with the Muslims, or was on his way to Badr for the encounter with the Quraysh and did not have any definite information about the strength of the enemy. In a dream, however, the Prophet (peace be on him) had a vision of the enemy. On the basis of that vision, the Prophet (peace he on him) estimated that the enemy, was not too powerful. Later when the Prophet (peace be on him) narrated his dream to the Muslims, they; were also encouraged and boldly went ahead to confront the enemy,