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8:39-40 And there prevail justice and faith in Allah altogether

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And fight them on until there is no more tumult or oppression, and there prevail justice and faith in Allah altogether and everywhere; but if they cease, verily Allah doth see all that they do. (verse 39)

If they refuse, be sure that Allah is your Protector – the best to protect and the best to help. (verse 40)


Commentary
We are now on verse 39 of Surah al-Anfal. Two words: (Fitnah)
and (Din) used here need our attention since both are used in many
shades of meaning lexically.

(1) At this place, two meanings have been reported from authorities of
Tafsir from among the Sahabah and Tabi’in: (1) That Fitnah is taken to
mean Kufr and Shirk, and Din is taken to mean the Din of Islam. This
very Tafsir has been reported from Sayyidna ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abbas (RA). Given this exegetic view, the verse would mean that Muslims must continue fighting disbelievers until disbelief disintegrates yielding its place to Islam and there remains no religion and faith other
than Islam. Given this situation, this injunction will be specific to only
the people of Makkah and the people of Arabia – because, the Arabian
Peninsula is the home of Islam. The presence of any other religion,
other than Islam in it, shall be dangerous for Islam. As for the rest of
the world, other religions and faiths could be kept existing as confirmed by other verses of the Holy Qur’an and reports from Hadith.

(2) According to the second Tafsir reported from Sayyidna
‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar (RA) and others, Fitnah at this place means
the chain of pain, retributive suffering and endless woes which the disbelievers of Makkah had always been inflicting on Muslims. As long as they were in Makkah, they kept braving all sorts of pain caused to
them all the time. They could do nothing about it being virtually held by them in their clutches. When these people migrated towards Madinah, they pursued each single Muslim and kept killing or looting
them. Even after these people had reached Madinah, the wrath and
anger of the disbelievers kept showing up in the form of attacks on the
whole city of Madinah.

Set against Fitnah, the term Din means the state of exercising
functional reach and control and prevailing over antagonists. Seen
from this angle, the Tafsir of the verse would be that Muslims must
keep fighting disbelievers until fellow Muslims are delivered and secured from the tyrannies of disbelievers – and until Islam takes over so that it can defend and protect Muslims from the injustices inflicted on them by others. An event relating to Sayyidna ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar (RA) also goes on to support this very Tafsir. The report of the event says: When Hajjaj ibn Yusuf launched an armed attack against Sayyidna ‘Abdullah ibn Zubayr (RA), the Amir of Makkah, it became a strange scene. There were Muslims on both sides and their swords were swishing against each other. Seeing this, a couple of people came to Sayyidna ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar (RA) and said to him: Here you are watching the horror Muslims are in, although you are the son of Sayyidna ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab (RA) who was not one of those who would ever tolerate such evil generating disorder. Why is it that you would not come out to remove this Fitnah? Sayyidna ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar (RA) said: The reason is that Allah Ta’ala has decreed that shedding the blood of any Muslim is forbidden. Both of them countered him by saying: Do you not recite the verse of the Qur’an: (Fight them until there is no Fitnah [disorder or disbelief any more – 39)? Sayyidna ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar (RA) said: Of course, I do recite this verse – and act in accordance with it as well. We continued fighting disbelievers as commanded in this verse until came the time when there remained no Fitnah anymore, and Islam became the dominant Din. Now, here are people like you who wish to kill each other and plant the Fitnah all over again, as a result of which, everything other than Allah will come to reign supreme, and that which thus reigns supreme shall be counter to the true faith, our Din. What he meant to say was that the command to wage Jihad, fight and kill, was against the Fitnah of disbelief and the tyranny of the disbelievers – that they had done, and continued doing so until that Fitnah was eliminated. Now to apply this state of affairs as an analogy to fit forms of infighting among Muslims themselves was not sound logic. In fact, at a time when Muslims fight and kill each other, the instructions of the Holy Prophet (S) are: ‘In such a situation one who keeps sitting is better than one who stands up.’

Summarizing this Tafsir, it can be said that Jihad, fighting and
killing against the enemies of Islam was Wajib (necessary) on Muslims
until the Fitnah of their tyranny unleashed on Muslims is eliminated,
and Islam’s ascendancy stands established over all other orders – and
this outcome will come to pass only close to Qiyamah, therefore, the injunction of Jihad is valid and operative right through the Last Day of Qayimah.

Two things could result from Jihad against the enemies of Islam:
(1) That they stop being oppressive to Muslims, either by entering the
Islamic brotherhood and becoming brothers-in-faith, or by remaining
attached to their religion, they stop harassing and hurting Muslims
and enter into a treaty of allegiance.

(2) That they reject both options and stick to their policy of confrontation. Injunctions covering both options have been mentioned in the next verse (40). It was said:

So, if they desist, then, Allah is indeed watchful over what
they do.

It means that Allah Ta’ila would deal with them in the light of
their conduct. Put simply, if they desisted, Jihad action against them
will be suspended. Under this arrangement, Muslims may have apprehended danger from the disbelievers. Their readiness to sign a peace pact or their declaration to have become Muslims soon after the encounter of mutual killing may have possibly appeared to Muslims as nothing but some strategy of deception usually employed in wars. In a
situation like that, stopping the ongoing war could have been harmful
for Muslims. The answer to this apprehension was given by saying
that Muslims are bound by deeds they see outwardly. The one who
looks into hearts and knows their hidden secrets is none but Allah
Ta’ala Himself. Therefore, when disbelievers declare their adherence
to Islam or make a peace pact, Muslims have no choice but that they
stop fighting and killing in Jihad. As for personal doubts about whether or not they have accepted Islam, or peace, honestly from their heart or all this is a cover for deception – these are things which fall in the
domain of Allah. He knows it well that should they do something like
that, they will be taken care of in some other way. Muslims should not
lay the foundation of their matters and dealings on such thoughts and
apprehensions.

If hands were raised against them after their declaration of Islam
or pact of peace, those waging Jihad would turn into criminals – as it
appears in a Hadith of the Sahih of al-Bukhari and Muslim. There, the
Holy Prophet (S) has said that he has been commanded to
fight the enemies of Islam until they accept the Kalimah:

(There is no god worthy of worship but Allah, Muhammad is a
Messenger of Allah), establish Salah and pay Zakah. When they have
done that, their life and property shall all become protected. The only
exception shall be that of a punishment given to them against a crime
under the Islamic Law. What remains of the accountability of their
hearts – whether they are accepting the creeds and deeds of Islam
heartily or that they are doing it hypocritically – shall be resting with
Allah.

According to another Hadith which Abu Dawud has reported from
several noble Companions, the Holy Prophet (S) said: Whoever does any injustice to a peace pact beneficiary (a person who has entered into a pact of allegiance with the Islamic government) or brings
him any harm, or makes him do something which is more than what
he can physically do, or takes something from him without his genuine, heart-felt consent, then, on the Day of Judgement, I shall support that peace pact beneficiary against a Muslim who has done something like that.

The present verse of the Holy Qur’an under study along with reports from Hadith have obviously exposed Muslims to a political danger. Think of an arch enemy who happens to be at their mercy. Just to
save his life, the enemy recites the Kalimah of Islam. Right there,
Muslims have been obligated to hold their hands instantly. One may
think: With this style of combat, Muslims would be unable to overcome
just about any enemy! But, Allah Ta’ala has His own ways of doing
things. Here, He has taken the hidden secrets of their hearts as His
area of responsibility. In a miraculous manner, it has been demonstrated practically that Muslims never faced such an embarassing situation in any of their battlefields. However, there have been hundreds
of hypocrites in a state of peace who cheated, passed on as Muslims,
even went about fulfilling the obligations of Salah and Sawm at least
outwardly. Some of the miserably graceless among them had no other
objective in sight but that they would exact a few benefits from Muslims and remain safe from their revenge despite nursing hostility in their hearts. Then, there were some of those too who were doing so
with political motives of spying on Muslims, find their secrets and maintain conspiratorial liaison with enemies. But, such was the Divine law that it instructed Muslims to treat all of them as they would
treat Muslims – unless it was proved that they had themselves betrayed their hostility to Islam or contravened the peace agreement.

This teaching of Islam applied to the condition in which the enemies of Islam promise to desist from their hostility and enter into agreement to that effect.

The second condition is that they stick to their doggedness and
hostility. The injunction covering this situation appears in the later verse (40) where it was said: (And if
they turn away, then, be sure that Allah is your protector. He is the an
excellent protector and excellent supporter).

In brief, if they fail to desist from their tyranny and disbelief, the
injunction Muslims are obligated with is the same as stated above,
that is, continue fighting them. Since Jihad involves fighting and killing, it is usually associated with a big army, ample weapons and other hardware and logistic support. But, those days Muslims did not, have
much of this normally, therefore, it was possible that Muslims would
have found this command to fight and kill somewhat heavy, or their
lack of numbers or paucity of equipment may have led them to realize
that they could not win a war like that. Therefore, Muslims were given
the antidote they needed. They were told that it did not matter if the
disbelievers had more men and equipment to fight with, but where in
the world were they going to get the unseen support and help of Allah
Ta’ala which Muslims have with them and which they have been witnessing as being along with them on every battlefield. Then, towards the end it was said that, for all practical purposes, everyone in the
world finds some help and support from someone or somewhere, but
the touchstone of how effective and functionally superior it is depends
on the power, strength, knowledge and experience of that helper or
supporter. It goes without saying that a whole world-full of people
could never exceed, even equal the power and strength and knowledge
and perception of Allah Ta’ala because He is an excellent protector and
an excellent supporter with no one to match Him.

References:

Shafi, Muhammad (2008). Maariful Quran. (Vol .4 surah 8 verses 39-40)English-MaarifulQuran-MuftiShafiUsmaniRA-Vol-4.pdf (islamicweblibrary.com)

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