“The Sword Verse”: Surah 9:13 – 24

Background

Continuing from previously where we explained Quran 9:5 (‘sword verse’) in its historical context. Now we move on to the remaining verses which are related to the same event.

As we explained before (see here: ‘An Historical Examination Of The Sword Verse – Surah 9:5’), the Muslims signed a peace treaty with the Quraysh and Banu Bakr that there will be no hostilities on their side. Nor would they side with anyone against the Muslims or their allies. As so it happens, it didn’t take long before Banu Bakr with the help of Quraysh attacked and killed many of Banu Khuza’a (an ally of Muhammed). Hence, the Quraysh broke their treaty which they agreed to abide by.

This led to the Muslims retaliating against their treachery. It was on this occasion that the Muslims marched and conquered Makkah.

Analysing Verses

9:13 What! will you not fight a people who broke their oaths and aimed at the expulsion of the Messenger, and they attacked you first; do you fear them? But Allah is most deserving that you should fear Him, if you are believers.

9:14 Fight them; Allah will punish them by your hands and will disgrace them and give you victory over them and satisfy the breasts of a believing people

9:16 Do you think that you will be left [as you are] while Allah has not yet made evident those among you who strive [for His cause] and do not take other than Allah, His Messenger and the believers as intimates? And Allah is Acquainted with what you do.

9:19 Have you made the providing of water for the pilgrim and the maintenance of al-Masjid al-Haram equal to [the deeds of] one who believes in Allah and the Last Day and strives in the cause of Allah? They are not equal in the sight of Allah. And Allah does not guide the wrongdoing people.

9:20 The ones who have believed, emigrated and striven in the cause of Allah with their wealth and their lives are greater in rank in the sight of Allah. And it is those who are the attainers [of success].

9:24 Say, [O Muhammad], “If your fathers, your sons, your brothers, your wives, your relatives, wealth which you have obtained, commerce wherein you fear decline, and dwellings with which you are pleased are more beloved to you than Allah and His Messenger and jihad in His cause, then wait until Allah executes His command. And Allah does not guide the defiantly disobedient people.”

9:13 – As previously explained here, this verse gives us many facts relating as to why the Muslims went to war against the idolaters, 1400 years ago. The verse tells us that the idolaters broke the treaty, tried expelling Prophet Muhammed (p) and fought against the Muslims first.

9:14 – Tells the Muslims to fight the idolaters for what they did, and God will punish them in hereafter for their transgressions. According to commentators on the Quran, this verse referred to a specific tribe called Banu Khuza’ah (Tanwir al-Miqbas min Tafsir Ibn ‘Abbas).

9:16 – “Or (am has the meaning of the [initial a-] hamza used to express disavowal) did you suppose that you would be left [in peace] when God does not yet know, that is, through knowledge outwardly manifested, those of you who have struggled, sincerely, and have not taken, besides God and His Messenger and the believers, an intimate friend?, as a confidant or an ally? In other words: when it has not yet become manifest who the sincere ones are — those described in the exclusive way mentioned. And God is aware of what you do.” (Tafsir al-Jalalayn on Surah 9:16 – Online source)

9:19 – Opinions among scholars on this verse agree that the Muslims providing pilgrims with water and maintain, cleaning the Sacred Masjid are not equal to those Muslims who go out and defend the Muslim community against enemies. Both get rewarded for the good they do, but the latter gets rewarded more and is held higher in God’s sight (Tafsir al-Jalalayn, Tanwir al-Miqbas min Tafsir Ibn ‘Abbas, and Ibn Juzayy).

9:20 – This verse emphasizes just as the previous verse, the rank of those who believed in the message of Islam, emigrated, and fought to defend the community. Those individuals are ‘greater’ in the sight of God than others (Tanwir al-Miqbas min Tafsir Ibn ‘Abbas & Tafsir al-Jalalayn).

9:24 – The Muslims were prohibited from taking idolater relatives who were aggressors and arch enemy of the Muslims, as supporters. That they should have more love for God and Prophet Muhammed (p) than their own relatives who were actively plotting  to harm the Muslims.

Commentaries

Muhammad Asad:

“20 I.e., from Mecca, thus bringing about his and his followers’ exodus (hijrah) to Medina.
21 Lit., “God is more worthy (ahaqq) that you should stand in awe of Him”.
24 Lit., “while God has not yet taken cognizance of those of you who have striven hard”. For an explanation of God’s “taking cognizance”, see 3:142 and the corresponding note.
25 Lit., “without having taken any intimate helper (walijah) other than God and His Apostle and the believers”. 28 Lit., “it may well be that these will be among the right-guided”. However, according to Abu Muslim (as quoted by Razi), as well as the great grammarian Sibawayh (see Manar X, 253); the word ‘asd, usually signifying “it may well be”, is here indicative of the hope which the above-mentioned believers may entertain. 30 See surah 2, note 203, and surah 4, note 124.
31 The term walayah (“alliance” or “friendship”) is used in this context in the sense of an alliance against other believers, as in 3:28. (Regarding the wider, spiritual implications of this expression, see surah 4, note 154.) That it does not refer to “friendship” in the sense of normal human affection is obvious from the many exhortations in the Qur’an to be good to one’s parents and kinsfolk; and, more explicitly, from 60:8-9, where the believers are reminded that friendly relations with unbelievers who are not hostile to the Muslim community are permissible, and even desirable. (See also Manar X, 269 ff., where a similar interpretation is advanced.) 32 Or: “brings about [the fulfilment of) His command”. This may be an allusion to the Day of Judgment or – more probably – to the inevitable degeneration and decline of communities which place narrow self-interest above ethical values. In particular, this passage rejects the tendency to regard ties of kinship and national affiliation (expressed in the term “your clan”) as the decisive factors of social behaviour, and postulates ideology (“God and His Apostle and the struggle in His cause”) as the only valid basis on which a believer’s life – individually and socially – should rest. [1]

 

Malik Ghulam Farid:

“1164. The words, these leaders of disbelief are here applied not to a fw leading individuals but to the whole people to whom this commandment to fight referred. They are called ‘leaders’ because they were among the first to clash with Muslims and their example encouraged others; and because also their hostility towards Islam was so inveterate and implacable that they served, as it were, as evil models in this respect.
1165. The tribes in or about Medina who, when the Holy Prophet went on an expedition, PLOTTED TO BRING ABOUT HIS DOWNFALL BY INCITING THE VARIOUS TRIBES OF ARABIA TO STAND UP AGAINST HIM.
1166. These words also do not refer to the pagan Meccans but to those disbelievers, whether open or secret, who lived in and around Medina. They provided ample proof of the fact that, far from being the transgressor, Islam was transgressed against rather being the aggressor.
1167. The verse hints that the trials of Muslims were not yet over. They had still to face more grievous dangers. 
1171. The verse refers to that class of disbelievers who were actively hostile to Islam and strove hard to exterminate it…” [2]

 

Maulana Muhammad Ali:

“15a. It is said to refer to the Khuza‘ah, who, having become Muslims, suffered severely at the hands of the Bani Bakr, assisted by the Quraish; but the reference may as well be to the Muslims in general, who had suffered the severest persecutions at the hands of the disbelievers. The punishment of the persecutors would no doubt relieve the hearts of the believers.
17a. By the mosques of Allah is meant particularly the Sacred Mosque at Makkah, as being the centre of all the mosques of the world. This is made clear by the use of the words Sacred Mosque in v. 19 instead of the mosques of Allah. It had long remained in the hands of the idolaters, who abode therein, visiting and repairing it, having placed a large number of idols within it. With the conquest of Makkah the Sacred Mosque was denuded of all idols, and was now as pure an emblem of monotheism as in the time of Abraham. Hence the idol-worshippers had nothing to do with it now.
19a. It is generally supposed to refer to ‘Abbas, the Prophet’s uncle, whose charge was giving drink to pilgrims and guarding the Sacred Mosque. But really a comparison is drawn here between all such minor acts of charity and public utility and the great responsibility of every individual to exert himself to his utmost to establish the Truth. 24a. A true Muslim may have wealth, may carry on trade, may have magnificent houses, but these should not be dearer to him than Allah and exertion in His path. In other words, he should be ready to sacrifice all these interests for a higher purpose, before which all these sink into insignificance. The essential difference between the Gospel teaching and the teaching of the Holy Qur’an is that while the former condemns wealth and the amassing of wealth outright, the latter does not require one actually to hate riches, but rather not to be obsessed by wealth to the neglect of one’s higher duties and responsibilities. The acquisition of wealth is not harmful so long as it is not made the real aim of life, but has its proper place as the means to an end.[3]

 

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References:

[1] The Message of The Quran translated and explained by Muhammad Asad page 372 – 376
http://www.usc.edu/schools/college/crcc/private/cmje/religious_text/The_Message_of_The_Quran__by_Muhammad_Asad.pdf
[2] The Holy Qur’an – Arabic Text With English Translation & Short Commentary By Malik Ghulam Farid,
Page 380 – 382
[3] The Holy Quran Arabic Text with English Translation, Commentary and comprehensive Introduction [Year 2002 Edition] by Maulana Muhammad Ali, Page 400 – 402

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