81. From here begins the third discourse that was sent down after the expedition to Tabuk.
82. This command enunciated the change of policy towards the hypocrites. Up to this time, leniency was being shown to them for two reasons. First, the Muslims had not as yet become so powerful as to take the risk of an internal conflict in addition to the one with the external enemies. The other reason was to give enough respite to those people who were involved in doubts and suspicions so that they could get sufficient time for attaining to faith and belief. But now the time had come for a change of policy. The whole of Arabia had been subdued and a bitter conflict with the external enemies was about to start; therefore it was required that these internal enemies should be crushed down so that they should not be able to conspire with the external enemies to stir up any internal danger to the Muslims. And now it had become possible to crush them. As regards to the second reason, these hypocrites had been given respite for a period of nine years to observe, to consider and test the right way, and they could have availed of it, if they had any good in them. So there was no reason why any more leniency should be shown to them. Therefore, Allah enjoined the Muslims to treat the hypocrites on one and the same level with the disbelievers and start Jihad against them, and to give up the policy of leniency they had adopted towards them and adopt a fine and stern policy instead.
In this connection, it should also be noted that this verse does not enjoin the Muslims to fight with the hypocrites. It merely meant to end the policy of leniency that had hitherto been adopted towards them. This verse enjoined that they were no more to be considered a part and parcel of the Muslim community, nor were they to be allowed to take part in the management of its affairs, nor consulted about any matter, so that they might not be able to spread the poison of hypocrisy. This changed policy required that the true believers should expose all those, who adopted a hypocritical attitude and conduct and showed in any way that they were not sincere allies to Allah, His Messenger (peace be upon him) and the true Muslims. Each and every one of such hypocrites should be openly criticized and reproved so that there should remain for them no more place of honor and trust in the Muslim society. They should be socially boycotted and kept away from the consultations of the community. Their evidence in the courts of law should be regarded as untrustworthy. The doors of offices and positions of trust should be closed against them and they should be held in contempt in the social meetings. In short, every Muslim should show by his behavior to such a one that there was no place of honor or respect or trust for a hypocrite in the Muslim society. Besides this, if any one of them was found to be guilty of treachery, there should be no connivance at his crime, nor should he be pardoned but openly tried in a court of law and should be duly punished.
This command was urgently needed at the time it came. It was obvious that in order to save the Muslim community from fall and degradation, it was essential to purge it of all the internal dangers to its solidarity. A community which nourishes hypocrites and traitors and allows the internal enemies to flourish with honor and security will inevitably be doomed to moral degradation and ultimate destruction. Hypocrisy is a plague and a hypocrite is the rat that carries and spreads its germs. Therefore to allow him the freedom of movement in the society is to expose the whole population to the danger of hypocrisy. Likewise, to give a place of honor and prestige to a hypocrite is to encourage many others in hypocrisy and treachery, for this shows that it is not sincerity, true faith, and its welfare that count in it. One may flourish and prosper in it even if one verbally professes to be a Muslim and at the same time indulges in dishonesty and treachery. The Prophet (peace be upon him) has expressed the same thing in a pithy saying. He said, “Whoso honors and respects the inventor of new practices which are un-Islamic, indeed helps to demolish the very structure of Islam.”
83. We cannot say with certainty what that “word of disbelief” was which they had uttered. There are, however, traditions that mention several things of unbelief which were uttered by the hypocrites during that time. For instance, it is related that a hypocrite, while he was talking to a young Muslim, a near relative of his, said, “If all that this man, referring to the Prophet (peace be upon him), is saying be true, then we are worse than donkeys.” Another tradition relates that when, during the expedition to Tabuk, one of the she-camels of the Prophet (peace be upon him) went astray and the Muslims were moving about in search of it, a party of the hypocrites made a good deal of fun of this, saying to one another, “Just consider the prophethood of this man. He tells news of heavens but cannot tell where his she-camel is.”
84. This is a reference to the plots which the hypocrites had made during the Tabuk expedition. On the return journey they conspired to push the Prophet (peace be upon him) down into some ravine, while he would be passing over some hill at night. The Prophet (peace be upon him) got wind of the plot and ordered that the army should take the longer route through the valley round the hills, while he himself along with Ammar bin Yasir and Huzaifah bin- Yaman would make the short route over the hill. While they were on the way, suddenly they discovered that a dozen of the hypocrites, with covered faces, were following them. At this Huzaifah (may Allah be pleased with him) turned towards them so that he may drive away their camels but they were terrified when they saw him coming towards them and took to flight lest they should be recognized.
The other plot was to declare Abdullah bin Ubayy as king at Al-Madinah as soon as they should hear some bad news about the Muslim army, because according to their expectations, the Prophet (peace be upon him) and his faithful companions could never fare well against the armies of the great Roman Empire.
85. This is an insinuation to put to shame by an indirect suggestion the hypocrites of Al-Madinah. This refereed to the prosperity of Al-Madinah and its peoples, for Al- Madinah was a small town before the migration of the Prophet (peace be upon him) to it, and its two clans Aus and Khazraj did not hold any high position in regards to wealth or prestige. But within the short period of nine years or so, this small town became the capital of Arabia because of the residence of the Prophet (peace be upon him), and the sacrifices of the Ansar, the true Muslims. As a result of which, the former peasants Aus and Khazraj of Al- Madinah became the great ones of the Islamic state, and wealth began to flow into this central city on account of spoils of war and increased commercial activity. The hypocrites were rebuked in this verse that, instead of being grateful to the Prophet (peace be upon him), they showed anger and spite against him for no other reason than that he had brought forth prosperity among them.
86. This is an instance of their ingratitude for which the hypocrites were rebuked in Ayat 74.
They broke their covenant with Allah which enjoined them to spend money in charity, if Allah enriched them by His bounty. This shows that they were confirmed criminals and they did not care in the least for the agreements they made, and were niggardly and had no moral code to observe.
87. This refers to the mean conduct which the hypocrites evinced on the occasion of the appeal of the Prophet (peace be upon him) for contributions towards the Tabuk expedition. The well-to-do hypocrites did not themselves make any contributions, but when the sincere Muslims came forward with generous contributions according to their means, they began to deride them. If a well-to-do Muslim made a handsome contribution, they would at once accuse him to be guilty of a showoff. On the other hand, if a poor Muslim contributed a paltry sum which he could hardly spare after sacrificing some of the barest necessities of his family, or contributing the small earnings obtained by hard work, they would at once ridicule, saying, “Lo! Here is the farthing that will help conquer the forts of the Roman Empire!”