Chapter Scripts

Surah Al-Hashr 59:1-10

In The Name of God, The Most Gracious, The Dispenser of Grace.

59:1 All that is in the heavens and all that is on earth extols God’s limitless glory, for He alone is Almighty, Truly Wise.


For this and the subsequent historical references, see the introductory note to this surah. The tribe of Banu ‘n-Nadir – who, as Jews, are naturally termed ahl al-kitab (“followers of earlier revelation”) – are characterized as “such as were bent on denying the truth” (alladhina kafaru, see note 6 on 2:6) because they treacherously turned against the Prophet despite their earlier admission that he was truly the bearer of God’s message announced in their own holy scriptures (Deuteronomy xviii, 15 and 18).

59:2 He it is who turned out of their homes, at the time of [their] first gathering [for war], such of the followers of earlier revelation as were bent on denying the truth.  You did not think [O believers] that they would depart [without resistance] – just as they thought that their strongholds would protect them against God: but God came upon them in a manner which they had not expected, and cast terror into their hearts, [and thus] they destroyed their homes by their own hands as well as the hands of the believers. Learn a lesson, then, O you who are endowed with insight!


Lit., “from whence they had not thought [it possible]”, an allusion to the last-minute, unexpected failure of ‘Abd Allah ibn Ubayy to come to their aid.

59:3 And had it not been for God’s having ordained banishment for them, He would indeed have imposed [yet greater] suffering on them in this world, still, in the life to come there awaits them suffering through fire.


As mentioned in the introductory note, the Banu ‘n-Nadir had originally concluded a treaty of mutual non-interference with the Muslim community, and were to live at Medina as its friendly neighbors; and even later, when their hostility to the Muslims had become apparent and they were ordered to emigrate, they were to be allowed to retain ownership of their plantations. Subsequently, however, they forfeited by their treachery both their citizenship and the rights to their landed property, and thus “destroyed their homes by their own hands”. 59:4 This, because they cut themselves off from God and His Apostle: and as for him who cuts himself off from God and His Apostle – Verily, God is severe in retribution!


For this condemnation of the Banu ‘n-Nadir, see note 1 above. As regards my rendering of the verb shaqqa as “they cut themselves off”, see note 16 on 8:13.

59:5 Whatever [of their] palm trees you may have cut down, [O believers] or left standing on their roots, was [done] by God’s leave, and in order that He might confound the iniquitous.


i.e., to facilitate the military operations against the strongholds of the Banu ‘n-Nadir (‘Abd Allah ibn Masud, as quoted by Zamakhshari et al.). It should, however, be noted that apart from such stringent military exigencies, all destruction of enemy property – and, in particular, of trees and crops – had been and continued to be prohibited by the Prophet (Tabari, Baghawi, Zamakhshari, Razi, Ibn Kathir), and has thus become an integral part of Islamic Law

59:6 Yet [remember] whatever [spoils taken] from the enemy God has turned over to His Apostle, you did not have to spur horse or riding-camel for its sake, but God gives His apostles mastery over whomever He wills – for God has the power to will anything.    


Lit., “from them”: i.e., from the Banu ‘n-Nadir.

59:7 Whatever [spoils taken] from the people of those villages God has turned over to His Apostle – [all of it] belongs to God and the Apostle, and the near of kin [of deceased believers], and the orphans, and the needy, and the wayfarer, so that it may not be [a benefit] going round and round among such of you as may [already] be rich. Hence, accept [willingly] whatever the Apostle gives you [thereof], and refrain from [demanding] anything that he withholds from you; and remain conscious of God, for, Verily, God is severe in retribution.


i.e., “you did not have to fight for it since the enemy surrendered without giving battle”. The term fay’ (a noun derived from the verb fa’a, “he returned [something]” or “turned [it] over”) is applied in the Qur’an and the Traditions exclusively to war-gains – whether consisting of lands, or tribute, or indemnities – which are obtained, as a condition of peace, from an enemy who has laid down arms before actual fighting, has taken place (Taj al-‘Arus).

59:8 [Thus, part of such war-gains shall be given] to the poor among those who have forsaken the domain of evil those who have been driven from their homelands and their possessions, seeking favor with God and [His] goodly acceptance, and who aid [the cause of] God and His Apostle, it is they, they who are true to their word!


Sc., and not to individual Muslim warriors. As so often in the Qur’an, the expression “God and the Apostle” is here a metonym for the Islamic cause, resp. for a government that rules in accordance with the laws of the Qur’an and the teachings of the Prophet.

59:9 And [it shall be offered, too, unto the poor from among] those who, before them, had their abode in this realm and in faith – [those] who love all that come to them in search of refuge, and who harbor in their hearts no grudge for whatever the others may have been given, but rather give them preference over themselves, even though poverty be their own lot: for, such as from their own covetousness are saved – it is they, they that shall attain to a happy state!


Cf. 8:41, which relates to booty acquired in actual welfare, out of which only one-fifth is to be reserved for the above five categories (see note 41 on 8:41). In distinction from all such booty, the gains obtained through fay’ are to be utilized in their entirety under these five headings. As regards the term ibn as-sabil (“wayfarer~’), see surah 2, note 145.

59:10 And so, they who come after them pray: “O our Sustainer! Forgive us our sins, as well as those of our brethren who preceded us in faith, and let not our hearts entertain any unworthy thoughts or feelings against [any of] those who have attained to faith. O our Sustainer! Verily, Thou art Compassionate, a Dispenser of Grace!”


Respectively, in later times, the head of an Islamic state, who has to decide – in the light of the exigencies – how the share of “God and His Apostle” is to be utilized for the commonweal.


The divine scriptures are God’s beacons to the world. Surely God offered His trust to the heavens and the earth, and the hills, but they shrank from bearing it and were afraid of it. And man undertook it.
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