“Cast Terror Into The Hearts Of The Disbelievers…” Quran 8:1 To 8:12

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Background

These present verses were revealed concerning the battle of Badr (Tafsir al-Jalalayn, Tafsir Ibn Kathir, Tanwir al-Miqbas min Tafsir Ibn ‘Abbas, Asbab Al-Nuzul by Al-Wahidi, Muhammed Asad and Zohurul Hoque/Husain Nuri commentary on the Qur’an), which took place in the year of 2nd Hijri (624 AD). The causes in which it led to this battle are many. For example, when the Muslims fled persecution from Makkah to Madinah, they were yet again hunted down for their beliefs – for merely leaving their former faith to Islam. The Quraysh continued persecuting Muslims in Madinah. This led to the Muslims retaliating, in which led to the battle of Badr. Read about pre-Badr incident, how the Quraysh continued their aggression, and hostilities against Muslims: ‘Did Quraysh Persecute Muslims When They Fled To Madinah?

Analysing Verses

8:01 They ask you, [O Muhammad], about the bounties [of war]. Say, “The [decision concerning] bounties is for Allah and the Messenger.” So fear Allah and amend that which is between you and obey Allah and His Messenger, if you should be believers.

8:05 [It is] just as when your Lord brought you out of your home [for the battle of Badr] in truth, while indeed, a party among the believers were unwilling,

8:07 [Remember, O believers], when Allah promised you one of the two groups – that it would be yours – and you wished that the unarmed one would be yours. But Allah intended to establish the truth by His words and to eliminate the disbelievers

8:09 [Remember] when you asked help of your Lord, and He answered you, “Indeed, I will reinforce you with a thousand from the angels, following one another.”

8:10 And Allah made it not but good tidings and so that your hearts would be assured thereby. And victory is not but from Allah . Indeed, Allah is Exalted in Might and Wise.

8:12 [Remember] when your Lord inspired to the angels, “I am with you, so strengthen those who have believed. I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieved, so strike [them] upon the necks and strike from them every fingertip.”

 

Quran 8:01 speaks of materials left by the enemy in war. Something like, swords, camels or horses, archery bows. In present 21st century would be something similar to guns, cars, tanks. Of-course you won’t hand over these things back to the enemy as they may use it against you. This verse speaks about a specific battle that took place in 624 AD. Here is scholars Zohurul Hoque & Husain Nuri commentary on the verse:

“8:1 The word anfal (pl.), derived from root word nafal, has multiple meanings, each bearing a sense of voluntary act not commanded, therefore, not binding, e.g. supererogatory performance (voluntary prayer or salāt al-Nafl), voluntary gifts or willful gifts, spoils or booty of wars. The meanings of two other words fai’ (59:6) and ghanimah (8:41; 48:15) bear close connection with the meaning of anfal, in the sense that they have ‘war’ as common denominator. Fai’ denotes acquisition of leftover materials from fleeing enemy without one’s laboring for it, whereas ghanimah, as can be seen later in this surah, denotes acquisition of spoils after actually fighting a battle (v. 69). Therefore, the word anfal, used with reference to the battle of Badr, construe its literal meaning of voluntary gifts or contribution obtained without pain. Such contribution belongs to Allah and the Rasūl, the Messenger, who is the trustee for the cause of Allah. The collection, therefore, was utilized for the benefit of common interest of the Muslims. No individual warrior had any legal claim on the booty obtained effortlessly without a war.” [1]

 

For further explanations on Surah 8:01, we have provided more commentaries below.

The wordings used in 8:05 is directed at a ‘party’ of those Muslims, who were healthy but tried abstaining from defending the Muslim community against the Quraysh.

The two ‘parties’ in 8:07 refers (1) to the well-equipped fully armed Quraysh army that came fully prepared to wage war against the Muslims, (2) the Makkan caravan(s) which was returning from north to Makkah which was armed lightly (Tafsir al-Jalalayn, Tanwir al-Miqbas min Tafsir Ibn ‘Abbas, and Malik Ghulam Farid Quran commentary). Some among the Muslims didn’t want to fight the well-equipped army rather they wanted to deal with Quraysh’s caravan which was lightly armed. The caravan which was owned by the Quraysh, had many things in there which belonged to the Muslims. When the Muslims fled to Madinah, they left behind many things in Makkah as a consequence the Quraysh robbed everything there. Hence, the Muslims in turn only wanted to regain what was theirs in the first place by taking over caravan belonging to them (Read more about here how Quraysh stole from the Muslims: ‘Property Of Muslims Stolen – Robbed By Quraysh In Makkah?‘).

8:09 and previous are all connected. They speak of the same battle (battle of Badr). Here we are told that Muslims then prayed to God that he help them, God in return reinforced them with a 1000 angels. When the Muslims engaged in battle against the hostile, warmongering Quraysh, the Muslim troops were 300, whereas the Quraysh were a 1000.

8:10 – With God Almighty appointing, and reinforcing the believers with one thousand angels against the enemy, HE made the Muslim hearts reassured that God is with them. At the end of the verse, we are told that all ‘victory’ is from God alone. Without God’s support and help they wouldn’t have won.

8:12 [Remember] when your Lord inspired to the angels, “I am with you, so strengthen those who have believed. I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieved, so strike [them] upon the necks and strike from them every fingertip.”

This last verse (8:12) we are going to deal with in explaining is one of the most quoted and twisted. For example, those who want paint Islam negatively only show this part of the verse, and leave the rest out:

“…I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieved, so strike [them] upon the necks and strike from them every fingertip.”

When someone reads the above, cut in half it will give the reader the impression that the verse sanctions the killings of innocents. Of-course this is not true. Let’s read the whole verse for Q. 8:12:

[Remember] when your Lord inspired to the angels, “I am with you, so strengthen those who have believed. I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieved, so strike [them] upon the necks and strike from them every fingertip.” – Qur’an 8:12

So when we choose to read the verse in its correct form, one would see that this verse was revealed for a specific time, 1400 years ago. The words such as:

[Remember] when your Lord inspired to the angels, “I am with you, so strengthen those who have believed…” – Quran 8:12

Shows that the passage refers to a group of Muslims at the time of the Prophet (p). The verse was sent down and directed to those ‘disbelievers’ of the Quraysh who persecuted and killed many Muslims. Which in turn led to the battle of Badr.

The casting ‘terror into the hearts of those who disbelieved” refers to the hostile Quraysh. The ‘terror’ does not denote terror in the sense of terrorizing innocents. This is a wrong reading. The Arabic word here means ‘fear’. As fear was put into the hearts of the Quraysh aggressors. If you want to know more about the Arabic used here, click on the following article: “Arabic Meaning For Ru’b, Fear, Terror?

The striking of heads here refers to the enemy in battle, i.e., the Quraysh who exiled, persecuted and killed Muslims. This is what happened in battle over a thousand years ago – when there were no guns, parties used to fight with swords. And it led to chopping each other in order for one to be victories in battle. The striking of the fingertips refers to chopping the hand of enemy soldier in order to disable him, so they wont be able to strike back first (Tafsir al-Jalalayn).

 

Commentaries

Muhammad Asad:

“1 The term nafl (of which anfal is the plural) denotes, in its purely linguistic sense, “an accretion or addition received beyond one’s due” or “something given in excess of one’s obligation” (from which latter meaning the term salat an-nafl – i.e., a “supererogatory prayer” – is derived). In its plural form anfal, which occurs in the Qur’an only in the above verse, this word signifies “spoils of war”, inasmuch as such spoils are an incidental accession above and beyond anything that a mujahid (“a fighter in God’s cause”) is entitled to expect. The statement that “all spoils of war belong to God and the Apostle” implies that no individual warrior has a claim to any war booty: it is public property, to be utilized or distributed by the government of an Islamic state in accordance with the principles laid down in the Qur’an and the teachings of the Prophet. For further details relating to the division of spoils of war, see verse 41 of this surah.- The immediate occasion of this revelation was the question of the booty acquired by the Muslims – in the battle of Badr (an account of which is given in the introductory note to this surah); but the principle enunciated above is valid for all times and circumstances.
2 Lit., “set to rights the relationship between yourselves” – i.e., “remain conscious of your brotherhood in faith and banish all discord among yourselves”. [2]

 

Malik Ghulam Farid:

“1092. Anfal are such spoils and gains as come as a Divine gift without the Muslims having laboured for them (Mufradat). The verse does not relate to the division of spoils for which see 8:42. It relates only to the attainment of gains and spoils which fell into the hands of Muslims after the victory at Badr.
1093. The particle kama ordinarily meaning ‘just as’ or ‘like unto’ is also sometimes used in the sense of ‘as’ or ‘since’ or ‘because’ (Muhit). If, the particle is taken in its ordinary sense of ‘just as’, then the verse could be rendered as: ‘God grants victories and spoils to His servants and bestows on them honourable provision just as He did when He brought thee forth from thy house, etc.’
1095. When Muslims marched out from Medina, as they did not know that they would have to fight a well-equipped Meccan army, they did not come fully prepared for fighting. So when on the way they learnt that they would have to fight the Meccan army they anxiously asked the Holy Prophet why he had not informed them of the real state of affairs so that they should have come fully prepared to meet the enemy. Thus their anxiety was not their own sake but for the safety of the Holy Prophet.
In their unpreparedness they were averse to exposing him to danger. This is clear from the verse ‘brought thee forth’ and not ‘bought you forth,’ which signifies that God, in pursuance of Whose command the Holy Prophet had not informed the believers of the encounter with the Meccan army, would not leave him unprotected. The Muslims were not afraid of fighting. They were averse to it because they did not like to shed human blood and because also the person of the Holy Prophet had become exposed to danger.
1096. The verse does not refer to Muslims as wrongly understood by some commentators, but to disbelievers. There is absolutely no evidence in history to show that the Holy Prophet’s companions ever disputed with him regard to fighting the enemy. On the contrary, it is related that when before the battle of Badr he consulted them, they all expressed their complete readiness and even eagerness to accompany him and fight the enemy wherever he might take them (Hisham). Even the disbelievers who came out to fight the Muslims admitted that the latter looked like so many ‘seekers after death’ on the field of battle (Tabari). The verse only signifies that as the enemies of Islam abhorred the truth as one abhors death, so, as a result of this, they were going to be punished with death.
1097. The ‘two parties’ refer to (1) the well-equipped Meccan army that had come fully prepared to fight the Muslims, and (2) the Meccan caravan which was returning from the north and proceeding to Mecca and was lightly armed.
1098. The Muslims naturally wanted to meet the caravan which was lightly armed but God’s design was to bring about an encounter with the fully equipped Meccan army. His object in doing so was to establish the truth by his words and to cut off the root of the disbelievers. See also 3:14 and 8:42-45.

1101. The reference in the verse is to the Battle of Badr.” [3]

Maulana Muhammad Ali:

“5a. The circumstances of the battle of Badr have been misunderstood, even by some Muslims. Christian opinion on the point is summed up in Palmer’s note: “The occasion alluded to was one when Muhammad had made preparations for attacking an unarmed caravan on its way from Syria to Mecca, when Abu Sufyan, who was in charge of it, sent word to Mecca and obtained an escort of nearly a thousand men; many of Muhammad’s followers wished to attack the caravan only, but the Prophet and his immediate followers were for throwing themselves on the escort”. While the several incidents mentioned here are separately true, there is a misconception as to their relation to each other. It is true that a caravan was returning from Syria, and an army had marched forth from Makkah; it is also true that some of the Muslims wished that they should encounter the caravan and not face the Makkan force. Had the Holy Prophet desired to plunder the caravan, he would have done so long before Abu Sufyan could obtain succour from Makkah. Madinah was situated at a distance of thirteen days’ journey from Makkah, so that if the Holy Prophet had actually an idea of plundering the caravan when it approached Madinah, succour could not have reached Abu Sufyan in less than a month, even if he had been apprised of the Holy Prophet’s intentions and had sent for aid from Makkah. And why should the Prophet have waited all this while and not plundered the caravan before help reached Abu Sufyan? Badr, where the encounter took place, lies at a distance of three days’ journey from Madinah. Here, marching towards each other, the two armies met. This shows that the Makkan army had long been on its way to Madinah, while the Muslims were as yet quite unprepared. The enemy had marched forth for ten days and the Muslims only for three days when the two forces encountered each other, which shows clearly that the Muslims had turned out to take the defensive against an invading force. The Prophet had never any design of plundering the caravan, for if he had any such design he could have carried it out long before the Makkan force had approached Madinah, and his hands would thus have been strengthened to meet a powerful enemy. It is quite clear that the Holy Prophet only marched forth when the enemy had already travelled over three-fourths of the way to Madinah, and the caravan had left Madinah far behind. Further, it is clearly stated here that a party of the believers were averse to fighting. They could not have been averse if they had to encounter only an unarmed caravan. What is said in the next verse makes it clearer still, they went forth as if they were being driven to death, because they knew that they were going to meet an enemy not only treble in numbers, but also much more powerful and efficient.
7a. The two parties referred to were the unarmed caravan of the Quraish going to Makkah and the armed force of the Quraish that was on its way to Madinah. Naturally, some of the Muslims desired that their encounter should take place with the unarmed Quraish caravan, which was now a long way from Madinah, and not with the powerful army which was advancing against Madinah.
7b. By His words is meant here the fulfilment of His words, because the Prophet had declared at Makkah, long before the fight actually took place, that an encounter would take place between the Muslims and the Quraish, in which the former would be victorious.
These prophecies had hitherto been laughed at by the Makkans, because they could never imagine that their power could be broken by such an insignificant community. Of the many prophecies which will be noted in their proper place, I may refer here to one which the Holy Prophet himself repeated aloud in the field. I‘Ab says that the Holy Prophet prayed on the day of Badr, saying: “O Allah, I beseech Thee to fulfil Thy promise and Thy compact! O Allah, if Thou pleasest (to destroy this community), Thou wilt not be worshipped (on earth)!” Then the Holy Prophet came forth and he cried: “Soon shall the hosts be routed and they will show their backs” (B. 56:89). Now these concluding words occur in 54:45, which is one of the earliest Makkan revelations, and the incident shows that the importance of the battle of Badr lay in the many prophecies which by their fulfilment bore witness to the truth of the Holy Prophet.
10a. Compare 3:124, where the coming down of angels in the battle of Uhud is mentioned. Also see 3:124a, which explains the object of the coming of the angels. It is nowhere stated in the Holy Qur’an that the angels actually fought, but here, as in 3:126, we are told that the angels were sent down to bear good news of victory and to ease the hearts of the Muslims. Here, however, we are further told (v. 11) that, as a result of the coming of the angels, calm fell upon the Muslims, their hearts being strengthened and their footsteps being steadied, and (v. 12) that while the believers were thus made firm, terror was cast into the hearts of the disbelievers. Hence it is that the number of angels corresponds with the strength of the enemy force in each case, their number being one thousand at Badr, where the enemy had a like force. For the other two occasions, see 3:124a.
11a. Compare 25:25, which is a prophecy about the events of this remarkable battle: “And on the day when the heaven bursts asunder with clouds, and the angels are sent down, as they are sent”. The rainfall brought many advantages to the Muslims, for which see next footnote.
11b. Before the rain fell the Muslim position was very weak. The enemy had the command of the water and the Muslims were in a low and sandy place. Therefore there were some who had misgivings, which, as is said here, were due to the devil’s uncleanness. The enemy having taken possession of the drinking-water, the Muslims feared being troubled by thirst, which is called the devil of the desert. The rain strengthened the position of the Muslims and consequently comforted their hearts. This was a purification, for after the rainfall they all became certain of Divine help and so of their triumph over the enemy.
12a. The last sentence is apparently addressed to the fighting believers. Smiting above the necks is either the same as smiting the necks, or it signifies the striking of the heads, because what is above the neck is the head. And the striking of the finger-tips indicates the striking of the hands which held weapons to kill the Muslims. The two phrases respectively signify the killing of the enemy and disabling him so as to render him unfit for taking further part in fighting.
14a, see next page. 14a. That is, taste this torment in this life as an indication of the chastisement of Fire in the next life.
15a. Zahafa originally means he walked or marched little by little, and applies to the crawling along of a child when unable to walk. Then zahf came to mean an army or military force marching little by little towards the enemy, or heavily by reason of their multitude and force (LL). Thus it became synonymous with war, as in a Hadith quoted by T, farra min al-zahf, which means he fled from war (LL).
17a. Rama carries a number of significances, throwing, flinging, casting, assailing, smiting, shooting, going forth, etc. (LL). It is used in connection with fighting, and therefore I adopt smiting as its equivalent, which, like its original, makes the meaning clear without seeking an understood object. The first part of the verse refers to the Muslims generally — So you slew them not, but Allah slew them, the address being in the plural; and the second part, being in the singular, is understood as referring to the Holy Prophet. Otherwise there is no difference between the two passages. The Muslims slew the enemy, but it is affirmed that really they did not slay, but it was Allah Who slew them; the meaning apparently being that Allah’s hand was working in the battle, which is also clear from the fact that three hundred, mostly raw, young men, equipped with neither horses nor arms, prevailed against a thousand of the most renowned warriors. The same meaning must be attached to the other passage relating to the smiting of the enemy. Whether the Prophet actually threw a handful of pebbles at the enemy, which discomfited the latter, is a different question. It is sufficient to learn that a powerful enemy was discomfited by about a third of its number, while from the point of view of efficiency and equipment even ten men from among the Muslims were not equal to one of the enemy. It was Allah’s hand that slew them, and it was His hand that smote them and ultimately put them to rout. That the Prophet actually threw a handful of dust at the enemy is in no way inconsistent with this explanation.
17b. Ibla’, though ordinarily meaning trying, and proving, like bala’ and ibtila’ (two other verbs from the same root), means here, by the unanimous opinion of all commentators, the conferring of a favour (Rz). The lexicons also give it the same significance. Thus LL explains the words abla-hu bala’-an hasan-an as meaning, God did to him a good deed or conferred a benefit on him. The good gift or the benefit spoken of here is a victory which strengthened the foundations of Islam, and dealt a death-blow to the evil designs of those who were determined to exterminate it, as is plainly stated in the next verse.
18a. This here stands for, this was the Divine purpose in bringing about this encounter.
19a. It is related that when the Quraish left Makkah to attack the Muslims, they held on to the curtains of the Ka‘bah and prayed thus: “O Allah, assist the best of the two forces and the most rightly directed of the two parties and the most honoured of the two groups and the most excellent of the two religions”. Others say that Abu Jahl prayed in the field of battle, saying: “O Allah, whoever of us is the greater cutter of the ties of relationship and more wicked, destroy him tomorrow morning” (Rz). Palmer’s remark in this connection, that the Quraish prayed in the above words “when they were threatened with an attack from Muhammad”, is a travesty of the facts. Indeed, it is utterly absurd to speak of Muhammad threatening the Quraish, when the Muslims did not constitute even a thousandth part of the whole population of Arabia, and their military strength was almost negligible as compared with the Quraish.” [4]

 

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References:

[1] Zohurul Hoque & Husain Nuri commentary http://www.qurancommentary.com/comm8_1.html
[2] The Message of The Quran translated and explained by Muhammad Asad, page 341
http://www.usc.edu/schools/college/crcc/private/cmje/religious_text/The_Message_of_The_Quran__by_Muhammad_Asad.pdf
[3] The Holy Qur’an – Arabic Text with English Translation & Short Commentary By Malik Ghulam Farid, page 359
[4] The Holy Quran Arabic Text with English Translation, Commentary and comprehensive Introduction [Year 2002 Edition] by Maulana Muhammad Ali, Page 377 – 381

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4 Responses »

  1. You quoted Quran 8:12 and then said,”Shows that the passage refers to a group of Muslims at the time of the Prophet (p).” Well actually I think this is not the case. If you read Quran 8:9-12, you will see and understand that Quran 8:12 is dictated to the Angels whom Allah has sent forth as re-inforcement to help the Prophet in the Battle of Badr. Angels were entrusted with two task: (1) To strengthen the believers and, (2) and to take part in combat.
    Ar-Rabi` bin Anas said, “In the aftermath of Badr, the people used to recognize whomever the angels killed from those whom they killed, by the wounds over their necks, fingers and toes, because those parts had a mark as if they were branded by fire.”

    So I think Quran 8:12 is not a direction to Muslims but to Angels. What do you say?

    • You’re correct. The verse does speak about angels. I actually did mention that. The battle was done collectively, Angels and humans together, 1400 years ago.

      • Week ago I had a debate with a Christian on Youtube. There I corrected that person. That’s why I thought I should leave a brief comment on this website on Quran 8:12.

        I would request you to write an article on Quran 10:94. Because this verse Xtians often claim as an confirmation of Bible.

      • Thank you. We will write on many more subjects in the future InShaa’Allah

        At the moment we are busy with other subjects.

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