1. As has already been stated in the preface to this Surah, this discourse (Ayats 1-37) was revealed in A.H.9, when Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him) had left for Makkah as leader of the pilgrims to the Kaabah. Therefore the companions said to the Prophet (peace be upon him), “Send it to Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him), so that he may proclaim it on the occasion of Hajj.” He replied, “The importance and nature of the declaration demands that this should be proclaimed on my behalf by someone from my own family.” Accordingly, he entrusted this duty to Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) and instructed him to proclaim it openly before the pilgrims, and also make these four announcements: (1) No one who rejects Islam shall enter Paradise. (2) No mushrik should perform Hajj after this. (3) It is forbidden to move round the Kaabah in a naked state. (4) The terms of the treaties which are still in force (i.e. with those who have not broken their treaties with the Messenger of Allah up to that time) would be faithfully observed till the expiry of the term of the treaties.
In this connection, it will be worthwhile to know that the first Hajj of the Islamic period after the conquest of Makkah was performed in A.H. 8 according to the old customs. Then in A.H. 9 the second Hajj was performed by the Muslims in the Islamic way, and by the mushriks in their own way. But the third Hajj, known as "Hajja-tul- Widaa", was performed in A.H. 10 in the purely Islamic way under the guidance of the Prophet (peace be upon him) himself. He did not perform Hajj during the two previous years because up to that time the mushriks had not been forbidden from it, and so there were still some traces of shirk associated with it.
2. This declaration of the abrogation of the treaties with the mushriks was made in accordance with the law enjoined in Surah Al-Anfaal: 58 regarding the treacherous people, for it is treachery from the Islamic point of view to wage war against any people with whom a treaty of peace had been made, without openly declaring that the treaty had been terminated. That is why a proclamation of the abrogation of the treaties was necessitated against those clans who were always hatching plots against Islam in spite of the treaties of peace they had made. They would break the treaties and turn hostile on the first opportunity for treachery, and the same was true of all the mushrik clans with the exception of Bani Kananah, Bani Damrah and one or two other clans.
This proclamation practically reduced the mushriks of Arabia to the position of outlaws and no place of shelter was left for them, for the major part of the country had come under the sway of Islam. As this released the Muslims from the obligations of the treaties made with them and forestalled them, they were driven into a tight corner. For, this smashed all their evil designs of creating trouble by inciting civil war at the time of a threat from the Roman and the Iranian Empires, or after the death of the Prophet (peace be upon him). But Allah and His Messenger (peace be upon him) turned the tables on them before the opportune moment for which they were waiting. Now the only alternatives left with them were either to accept Islam that had become the state religion of Arabia, or to fight against it and be exterminated, or to emigrate from the country.
The wisdom of this grand plan became apparent when the mischief of apostasy broke out in different parts of Arabia a year and a half after this at the death of the Prophet (peace be upon him). This disturbance was so sudden and violent that it shook to its foundations the newly created Islamic state and would have done a far greater harm if the organized power of shirk had not been broken beforehand by this abrogation. It may be asserted that, but for this timely action the mischief of apostasy, that rose at the very beginning of the caliphate of Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him), would have done tenfold harm by rebellion and civil war, and might have changed the whole history of Islam.
3. The respite of four months from the tenth of Zil-Haj (the date of the proclamation) to the tenth of Rabi-uththani was granted to give time to the mushriks so that they should consider their position carefully and decide whether to make preparation for war or to emigrate from the country or to accept Islam.
4. Hajj-i-akbar refers to the 10th of Zil-Hajjah and is also known as Yaum-un-Nahr. This has been explained by the Prophet (peace be upon him) in an authentic tradition. On the 10th of Zil-Hajjah, during the last Hajj of the Prophet (peace be upon him), he asked the people, “What is this day?” The people answered, “It is the day of sacrifice.”
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “This is the day of Hajj-i-akbar”. Here the word Hajj-i-akbar (greater pilgrimage) has been used in contrast to Hajj-i-asghar which the Arabs used for Umrah. Thus, the Hajj which is performed in the prescribed dates of Zil-Hajj is called Hajj-i-akbar.
5. “So, fulfill to them their treaty.” For your violation in such cases shall be against piety. And Muslims should remain pious under all circumstances “Indeed, Allah loves those who are righteous” only.
6. Here “the sacred months” are not those four months during which war is forbidden for the sake of Hajj and Umrah but the four months that were made unlawful for the Muslims to attack those mushriks who were granted respite by Ayat 2.
7. That is, “Mere repentance from disbelief and shirk will not end the matter. But they shall have to perform the prescribed prayer and pay Zakat dues. Without these it will not be considered that they had given up disbelief and embraced Islam." Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him) based his decision on this verse in the case of the apostates, after the death of the Prophet (peace be upon him), who argued that they were not rejecting Islam, because they offered Salat, even though they had refused to pay the Zakat dues. This argument roused doubts in the minds of the companions in general that they had no right to fight with such people as these. But Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him) removed their doubts, saying, “Verse 5 enjoins us to let those people go their way who fulfill all the three conditions, repentance from shirk, the establishment of Salat, and the payment of Zakat. We cannot forbear them, because they do not fulfill one of these three conditions.”
8. That is, if during a fight, an enemy makes a request that he should be given an opportunity to understand Islam, the Muslims should give him a surety of protection and allow him to visit them. They should then present Islam before him in order to make him understand it. If, after this, he does not embrace Islam, they should convey him safely to his place. Such a person who comes to Dar-ul-Islam under the above mentioned protection is called mustamin in the Islamic code.
9. That is: Bani Kinanah and Bani Khuzaah and Bani Damrah.
10. That is, “Though outwardly they negotiated for peace treaties, they cherished evil intentions in their hearts, and waited for an opportune moment to break them. And this was borne by later experiences.”
11. They were evil-doers because they had no sense of moral responsibilities nor did they hesitate to break moral limits.
12. That is, when they had to make a choice between the divine guidance and the transitory worldly ambitions, they chose the latter, because they did not comprehend the comparative values of the two. Whereas the revelations of Allah were inviting them to goodness, righteousness and observance of the divine law, which lead to eternal bliss. They chose to follow the unbridled lusts of their selves which gained some transitory worldly benefits for them, but consequently led them to eternal perdition.
13. Those evil-doers “hindered (people) from His Way”, for they not only chose misguidance for themselves but also tried to prevent others from following the right way. They put every kind of obstruction in the way of the invitation to righteousness; nay, they tried their best to gag the mouths of those who were extending that invitation and make their lives hard for them. In short, they did all they could to prevent the establishment of the righteous system of life that Allah required the people to establish.