Surah 8:69 – Prisoners From The Battle Of Badr

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Madinan verse (Al-Wahidi, Ibn Kathir, Mawdudi and Dr. Muhammed Asad)

Analysing Verse

“So consume what you have taken of war booty [as being] lawful and good, and fear Allah . Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.
O Prophet, say to whoever is in your hands of the captives, “If Allah knows [any] good in your hearts, He will give you [something] better than what was taken from you, and He will forgive you; and Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.
But if they intend to betray you – then they have already betrayed Allah before, and He empowered [you] over them. And Allah is Knowing and Wise.” – Quran 8:69 -71

Related article: “Quran 8:61 – 75 Battle Of Badr

Muslims took a number of captives at the battle of Badr, 1400 years ago. The captive-warriors were all released. They were forgiven for what they did against the Muslims. This verse was revealed in connection with the battle of Badr. Other sources say that a ransom was paid and all the prisoners were set free as the earliest historical sources report to us. “So consume what you have taken of war booty”, this is understood by the earliest sources to mean the ransom that was given.


Maulana Abdul Majid Daryabadi:

“126. i.e., had it not been written in God’s decrees that many of the captives would be converted to Islam, and thus would not prove a source of danger to the cause of Islam and the Muslims.
127. (of the ransom money). When the 70 prisoners of war taken at Badr, all of them pillars of paganism, were brought before the Holy Prophet, he asked the advice, as was his wont, of his companions as to what should be done with them. Omar advised slaughter, but the Prophet EVER GENTLE AND LENIENT, AGREED WITH THE OPINION OF ABU BAKR, AND ORDERED THEIR RELEASE on their paying ransom. Here is Divine rebuke administered to the ill-timed leniency, which, by the way, affords another instance of the exclusively Islamic doctrine that the Prophet, angelic in his character, was only human in his judgement.
128. i.e., now that your action is condoned and the matter is passed over.
129. … here signifies ransom. Literally it means whatever is won from the polytheists in war. The Muslims, after the Divine rebuke, naturally felt scruples whether they might make use of the money and property thus acquired. Here they are reassured and permitted to enjoy the ransom they had received.” (Tafsir-Ul-Qur’an – Translation and Commentary Of The Holy Qur’an [Published By Darul Ishaat Urdu Bazaar Karachi: Pakistan] by Maulana Abdul Majid Daryabadi, volume 2, page 207 – 208)

Dr. Muhammad Asad:

“74 I.e., “If God finds in your hearts a disposition to realize the truth of His message, He will bestow on you faith and, thus, the good of the life to come: and this will outweigh by far your defeat in war and the loss of so many of your friends and companions.” Although these words relate primarily to the pagan Quraysh taken prisoner in the battle of Badr, they circumscribe the Islamic attitude towards all unbelieving enemies who might fall into the believers’ hands in the course of war. For a further discussion of the problem of prisoners of war, see 47:4.” (The Message of The Quran translated and explained by Muhammad Asad, page 363, online source )


“49 As regards the question why Allah rebuked the Muslims in v. 68 for taking ransom, the commentators have cited some traditions. According to these, after the Battle of Badr, a consultation was held in regard to the prisoners taken from the army of the Quraish. HARDRAT ABU BAKR WAS OF THE OPINION THAT THEY SHOULD BE SET AT LIBERTY AFTER THE PAYMENT OF RANSOM but Hadrat `Umar opined that they should be slain. THE HOLY PROPHET AGREED TO THE OPINION OF HADRAT ABU BAKR AND SET THEM AT LIBERTY AFTER THE PAYMENT OF THEIR RANSOM. At this, Allah sent down this verse as a rebuke. But this interpretation is open to some objections. The first difficulty of these interpreters is that they are unable to give a satisfactory explanation that might fit into the words: “Had there not been a decree that had already been given by Allah….”. They say that it refers to the decree that was predestined by Allah or it means that Allah had already decreed to snake spoils of war lawful though He had not sent down this decree to the Holy Prophet. But it is obvious that a thing does not become lawful unless it is made so by an explicit Command. The second difficulty is that according to this explanation, the Holy Prophet himself and his followers become guilty of the sin of taking ransom for prisoners. Therefore one would think many times before accepting an explanation that is based on traditions emanating from a single source. In my opinion, Allah rebuked the Muslims for not complying fully with the condition laid down in the Ordinance in XLVII: 4: “So kill the disbelievers until you crush them down; after this you may take them as prisoners; and then set them at liberty as a favor or for a ransom after the battle comes to an end. According to this previous Ordinance, there was nothing wrong in taking prisoners of war and charging ransom for them, but what was wrong was that they did not fully comply with the prior condition, that is, `until you crush them down’ . For we learn that, when after the Battle of Badr the army of the Quraish was put to rout, many Muslims began to gather spoils or to take prisoners and only a few of them went in pursuit of the enemy to crush them. Had all the Muslims gone in pursuit of them, they would have crushed down their power then and there. Therefore Allah rebuked the Muslims (and not the Holy Prophet) as if to say, “O Muslims ! you have not yet fully understood the meaning of the mission of the Prophet. He is not sent to take prisoners and charge ransoms or gather spoils. The main objective of his mission is to crush down the powers of disbelief. But you are overwhelmed by the worldly Breeds again and again. During the course of this campaign, you at first desired to attack the trade caravan instead of the army of the Quraish. Then you began to gather spoils and take prisoners, and afterwards entered into a dispute regarding the division of spoils. Had We not previously given you permission for taking ransom (XLVII :4), We would have inflicted a severe chastisement on you. Very well, now you may enjoy what you have taken, but you should, in future, fear Us and refrain from incurring Our displeasure. Imam Jassas also is of the same opinion (as expressed in his book Ahkamul-Qur an), and therefore the above interpretation is worth considering. This view is also supported by a Tradition related in Sirat-i-Ibn Hisham. According to this, the Holy Prophet noticed signs of disapproval on the face of Sa`ad bin M’uaz on the occasion, when the Muslims were gathering the spoils and taking prisoners. So the Holy Prophet said, “O Sa`ad, it appears that you do not approve this conduct of the Muslims”. Sa`ad replied, “It is so, O Messenger of Allah. This is the first victory that Allah has given us over the mushriks. Therefore it would have been much better for us to crush down their power completely than to save their lives by taking them prisoners”. (Volume II, pp. 280-281).” (Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi – Tafhim al-Qur’an – The Meaning of the Qur’an, online source )

Muhammad b. al-Sa’ib al-Kalbi (d. 146/763):

“(Now enjoy what ye have won) at Badr of spoils of war, (as lawful and good, and keep your duty to Allah) and fear Allah regarding this. (Lo! Allah is Forgiving) He overlooks transgressions, (Merciful) regarding that which ensued from you at BADR CONCERNING THE RANSOM OF PRISONERS. (Tanwir al-Miqbas min Tafsir Ibn Abbas on Surah 8:69 – online source )

Asbab Al-Nuzul by Al-Wahidi:

“(It is not for any prophet to have captives until he hath made slaughter in the land…) [8:67-69]. Said Mujahid: “It happened that some of that which was revealed from heaven agreed with many of ‘Umar’s opinions. WHEN THE MESSENGER OF ALLAH, ALLAH BLESS HIM AND GIVE HIM PEACE, CONSULTED THE MUSLIMS ABOUT THE PRISONERS OF BADR, THEY SAID: ‘O MESSENGER OF ALLAH, THEY ARE YOUR COUSINS, SO FREE THEM IN EXCHANGE FOR A RANSOM‘. ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab said: ‘No, O Messenger of Allah, you should kill them’. Then this verse was revealed (It is not for any prophet to have captives until he hath made slaughter in the land)”. Said Ibn ‘Umar: “The Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, consulted Abu Bakr regarding the prisoners of Badr, and the latter said: ‘THEY ARE YOUR PEOPLE AND CLAN, LET THEM GO!’ But when he consulted ‘Umar, the latter said: ‘Kill them’. THE MESSENGER OF ALLAH, ALLAH BLESS HIM AND GIVE HIM PEACE, FREED THEM IN EXCHANGE FOR A RANSOM. Allah, exalted is He, then revealed (It is not for any prophet to have captives until he hath made slaughter in the land) up to his words (Now enjoy what ye have won, as lawful and good…) …“When the prisoners were brought on the Day of Badr, the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, said: ‘What do you think we should do with these prisoners?’ ABU BAKR SAID: ‘O MESSENGER OF ALLAH, THESE ARE YOUR PEOPLE AND KIN, SPARE THEM and wait that haply Allah, glorious and majestic is He, may relent on them’. …”(Asbab Al-Nuzul by Al-Wahidi on 8:69, online source

Tafsir Ibn kathir:

“Imam Ahmad recorded that Anas said, “The Prophet asked the people for their opinion about the prisoners of war of Badr, saying, (Allah has made you prevail above them.) `Umar bin Al-Khattab stood up and said, `O Allah’s Messenger! Cut off their necks,’ but THE PROPHET TURNED AWAY FROM HIM. The Messenger of Allah again asked, (O people! Allah has made you prevail over them, and only yesterday, they were your brothers.) `Umar again stood up and said, `O Allah’s Messenger! Cut off their necks.’ THE PROPHET IGNORED HIM AND ASKED THE SAME QUESTION AGAIN AND HE REPEATED THE SAME ANSWER. ABU BAKR AS-SIDDIQ STOOD UP AND SAID, `O ALLAH’S MESSENGER! I THINK YOU SHOULD PARDON THEM AND SET THEM FREE IN RETURN FOR RANSOM.’ Thereupon the grief on the face of Allah’s Messenger vanished. He pardoned them and accepted ransom for their release. Allah, the Exalted and Most Honored, revealed this verse, (Were it not a previous ordainment from Allah, a severe torment would have touched you for what you took).” `Ali bin Abi Talhah narrated that Ibn `Abbas said about Allah’s statement, (Were it not a previous ordainment from Allah…), “In the Preserved Book, that war spoils and prisoners of war will be made allowed for you, (would have touched you for what you took), because of the captives. (a severe torment.) Allah, the Exalted said next, (So enjoy what you have gotten of booty in war, lawful and good).” eAl-`Awfi also reported this statement from Ibn `Abbas. A similar statement was collected from Abu Hurayrah, Ibn Mas`ud, Sa`id bin Jubayr, `Ata’, Al-Hasan Al-Basri, Qatadah and Al-A`mash. They all stated that, (Were it not a previous ordainment from Allah. .) refers to allowing the spoils of war for this Ummah. …
THE MUSLIMS THEN TOOK THE RANSOM FOR THEIR CAPTIVES. In his Sunan, Imam Abu Dawud recorded that Ibn `Abbas said that the Messenger of Allah fixed four hundred (Dirhams) in ransom from the people of Jahiliyyah in the aftermath of Badr. … If he decides, he can accept a RANSOM FOR THEM, AS IN THE CASE OF THE PRISONERS OF BADR, OR EXCHANGE THEM FOR MUSLIM PRISONERS. The Messenger exchanged a woman and her daughter who were captured by Salamah bin Al-Akwa`, for exchange of some Muslims who were captured by the idolators, or if he decides he can take the prisoner as a captives.” (Tafsir Ibn Kathir, online source )

Hadith Reports

Sahih Muslim:

“It has been narrated on the authority of `Umar b. al-Khattab who said: When it was the day on which the Battle of Badr was fought, the Messenger of Allah cast a glance at the infidels, and they were one thousand while his own Companions were three hundred and nineteen. The Prophet turned (his face) towards the Qibla. Then he stretched his hands and began his supplication to his Lord: “O Allah, accomplish for me what Thou hast promised to me. O Allah, bring about what Thou hast promised to me. O Allah, if this small band of Muslims is destroyed. Thou will not be worshipped on this earth.” He continued his supplication to his Lord, stretching his hands, facing the Qibla, until his mantle slipped down from his shoulders. So Abu Bakr came to him, picked up his mantle and put it on his shoulders. Then he embraced him from behind and said: Prophet of Allah, this prayer of yours to your Lord will suffice you, and He will fulfill for you what He has promised you. So Allah, the Glorious and Exalted, revealed (the Qur’anic verse): “When ye appealed to your Lord for help, He responded to your call (saying): I will help you with one thousand angels coming in succession.” So Allah helped him with angels. Abu Zumail said that the hadith was narrated to him by Ibn `Abbas who said: While on that day a Muslim was chasing a disbeliever who was going ahead of him, he heard over him the swishing of the whip and the voice of the rider saying: Go ahead, Haizum! He glanced at the polytheist who had (now) fallen down on his back. When he looked at him (carefully he found that) there was a scar on his nose and his face was torn as if it had been lashed with a whip, and had turned green with its poison. An Ansari came to the Messenger of Allah and related this (event) to him. He said: You have told the truth. This was the help from the third heaven. The Muslims that day (i.e. the day of the Battle of Badr) killed seventy persons and captured seventy. The Messenger of Allah said to Abu Bakr and `Umar (Allah be pleased with them): What is your opinion about these captives? ABU BAKR SAID: THEY ARE OUR KITH AND KIN. I THINK YOU SHOULD RELEASE THEM AFTER GETTING FROM THEM A RANSOM. This will be a source of strength to us against the infidels. IT IS QUITE POSSIBLE THAT ALLAH MAY GUIDE THEM TO ISLAM. Then the Messenger of Allah said: What is your opinion, Ibn Khattab? He said: Messenger of Allah, I do not hold the same opinion as Abu Bakr. I am of the opinion that you should hand them over to us so that we may cut off their heads. Hand over `Aqil to `Ali that he may cut off his head, and hand over such and such relative to me that I may cut off his head. They are leaders of the disbelievers and veterans among them. THE MESSENGER OF ALLAH APPROVED THE OPINION OF ABU BAKR and did not approve what I said. The next day when I came to the Messenger of Allah, I found that both he and Abu Bakr were sitting shedding tears. I said: Messenger of Allah, why are you and your Companion shedding tears? Tell me the reason. For I will weep, or I will at least pretend to weep in sympathy with you. The Messenger of Allah said: I weep for what has happened to your companions for taking ransom (from the prisoners). I was shown the torture to which they were subjected. It was brought to me as close as this tree. (He pointed to a tree close to him.) Then God revealed the verse: “It is not befitting for a prophet that he should take prisoners until the force of the disbelievers has been crushed…” to the end of the verse: “so eat ye the spoils of war, (it is) lawful and pure. So Allah made booty lawful for them.” (Sahih Muslim Book 19, Hadith 4360, online source )

Other prisoners were released on condition that they teach the children how to write:

“2216. It was narrated that Ibn Abbas said: Some of the prisoners on the day of Badr did not have any ransom, so THE MESSENGER OF ALLAH MADE IT THEIR RANSOM TO TEACH THE CHILDREN OF THE ANSAR HOW TO WRITE. One day a boy came crying to his father, who said: What is the matter with you? He said: My teacher hit me. He said: The evil one is seeking vengeance for [the people thrown into] the well at Badr! By Allah, you will never go to him again. [Hasan] (English Translation Of Musnad Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal (Abu Abdullah Ahmad bin Muhammad bin Hanbal Ash-Shaibani) [Ahadeeth Edited, Researched and Refernced by Darussalam, Translated by Nasiruddin Al-Khattab, Edited by Huda Al-Khattab, Dar-us-salam, 2012], volume 2, page 367)


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