Chapter Scripts

Surah Anf’al: 8:71-75

8:71 And should they but seek to play false with thee- well, they were false to God [Himself] ere this: but He gave [the believers] mastery over them. And God is all-knowing, wise.


This relates to the time at which the above verse was revealed, namely, immediately after the battle of Badr (2 H.), when the Muslims were extremely weak both in numbers and in equipment, and their community had not yet attained to any significant degree of political organization. Under those circumstances, the Qur’an says, they could not – nor could any Muslim community of later times, in similar circumstances – be expected to bring forth the effort and the efficiency required of a fully developed community of believers; but even so they should be able to stand up to an enemy twice their number. (The proportions one to two, or – as in the preceding verse, one to ten – are not, of course, to be taken literally; as a matter of fact, the Muslims defeated at Badr a much better-armed army more than thrice their own number.) The reference to God’s having “lightened the burden” imposed on the believers in this respect makes it clear that both this and the preceding verse imply a divine command couched in terms of exhortation and not a prediction of events to come (Razi).

8:72 Behold, as for those who have attained to faith, and who have forsaken the domain of evil and are striving hard, with their possessions and their lives, in God’s cause, as well as those who shelter and succour [them] – these are [truly] the friends and protectors of one another. But as for those who have come to believe without having migrated [to your country] – you are in no wise responsible for their protection until such a time as they migrate [to you]. Yet, if they ask you for succour against religious persecution, it is your duty to give [them] this succour – except against a people between whom and yourselves there is a covenant: for God sees all that you do.


i.e., as an aftermath of a war in a just cause. As almost always in the Qur’an, an injunction addressed to the Prophet is, by implication, binding on his followers as well. Consequently, the above verse lays down that no person may be taken, or for any time retained, in captivity unless he was taken prisoner in jihad – that is, a holy war in defense of the Faith or of freedom – and that, therefore, the acquisition of a slave by “peaceful” means, and the keeping of a slave thus acquired, is entirely prohibited: which, to all practical purposes, amounts to a prohibition of slavery as a “social institution”. But even with regard to captives taken in war, the Qur’an ordains (in 47:4) that they should be freed after the war is over.

8:73 With all this, [remember that] those who are bent on denying the truth are allies of one another; and unless you act likewise [among yourselves], oppression will reign on earth and great corruption.


This is apparently a reference to the captives taken by the Muslims at Badr, and the discussions among the Prophet’s followers as to what should be done with them. ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab was of the opinion that they should be killed in revenge for their past misdeeds, and in particular for their persecution of the Muslims before the latters’ exodus to Medina; Abu Bakr, on the other hand, pleaded for forgiveness and a release of the prisoners against ransom, supporting his plea with the argument that such an act of mercy might induce some of them to realize the truth of Islam. The Prophet adopted the course of action advocated by Abu Bakr, and released the captives. (The relevant Traditions are quoted by most of the commentators, and especially – with full indication of the sources – by Tabari and Ibn Kathir.) The reference in the above verse to the “tremendous chastisement” that might have befallen the Muslims “but for a decree (kitab) from God that had already gone forth” – i.e., a course of action fore-ordained in God’s knowledge makes it clear that the killing of the captives would have been an awesome sin.

8:74 And they who have attained to faith, and who have forsaken the domain of evil and are striving hard in God’s cause, as well as those who shelter and succour [them] – it is they, they who are truly believers! Forgiveness of sins awaits them, and most excellent sustenance.


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,

8:75 And as for those who henceforth come to believe, and who forsake the domain of evil and strive hard [in God’s cause] together with you – these [too] shall belong to you, and they who are [thus] closely related have the highest claim on one another in [accordance with] God’s decree. Verily, God has full knowledge of everything.


i.e., by falsely pretending to be a change of heart and an acceptance of Islam in order to be freed from the obligation of paying the ransom. 


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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