9:121 And whenever they spend anything [for the sake of God], be it little or much, and whenever they move on earth [in God’s cause] – it is recorded in their favor, and God will grant them the best reward for all that they have been doing.
9:122 With all this, it is not desirable that all of the believers take the field [in time of war]. From within every group in their midst, some shall refrain from going forth to war, and shall devote themselves [instead] to acquiring a deeper knowledge of the Faith. and [thus be able to] teach their home-coming brethren, so that these [too] might guard themselves against evil.
i.e., from participating in the expedition to Tabuk. The term al-mu’adhdhiran connotes both “those having a valid excuse (‘udhr)” and “those offering false excuses”; it is, therefore, best rendered as “such as had some excuse to offer”. The specific mention of the a’rab (“bedouin”) in this and the following passages probably arises from the fact that their attitude – positive or negative – towards Islam was of the greatest importance within the context of early Muslim history, inasmuch as the message of Muhammad could not obtain a real, lasting foothold in Arabia without first securing the allegiance of those warlike nomads and half-nomads, who constituted the great majority of the Peninsula’s population. At the time when the Prophet was preparing to set out towards Tabuk, many of the already converted tribesmen were willing to go to war under his leadership (and, in fact, did so), while others were afraid lest in their absence their encampments, denuded of man-power, be raided by hostile, as yet unconverted tribes (Razi); others, again, were simply averse to exposing themselves to the hardships of a campaign in distant lands, which did not seem to them to have any bearing on their own, immediate interests.
9:123 O you who have attained to faith! Fight against those deniers of the truth who are near you, and let them find you adamant, and know that God is with those who are conscious of Him.
i.e., without even caring to come to Medina and to excuse themselves.
9:124 Yet Whenever, surah [of this divine writ] is bestowed from on high, some of the deniers of the truth are prone to ask, “Which of you has this [message] strengthened in his faith?” Now as for those who have attained to faith, it does strengthen them in their faith, and they rejoice in the glad tiding [which God has given them].
i.e., the old and the infirm.
9:125 But as for those in whose hearts is a disease, each new message but adds another [element of] disbelief to the disbelief which they already harbor, and they die while [still] refusing to acknowledge the truth.
Lit., “who do not find anything to spend”, i.e., on their equipment. At the time in question, a public treasury did not yet exist, and every participant in a military expedition was expected to provide his own weapons and mounts.
9:126 Are they, then, not aware that they are being tested year-in, year-out? And yet, they do not repent and do not bethink themselves [of God].
Lit., “who ask thee for exemption while they are rich”. The term ghani denotes “one who is rich” or “free from want” or “self-sufficient”; in this context, it obviously refers to physical competence in addition to financial means: that is, to people who were able-bodied as well as financially in a position to equip themselves.
9:127 And whenever a surah is bestowed from on high, they look at one another [and say, as it were], “Is there anyone who can see what is in your hearts?”- and then they turn away. God has turned their hearts away [from the truth] – for they are people who will not grasp it.
Lit., “and thereafter you will be brought back unto Him”
9:128 Indeed, there has come unto you [O mankind] an Apostle from among yourselves: heavily weighs – upon him [the thought] that you might suffer [in the life to come]; full of concern for you [is he, and] full of compassion and mercy towards the believers.
9:129 But if those [who are bent on denying the truth] turn away, say: “God is enough for me! There is no deity save Him. In Him have I placed my trust, for He is the Sustainer, in awesome almightiness enthroned.
Sc., “and not punishing them”. As a matter of fact, their fears were unfounded, since, on his return from Tabuk, the Prophet took no punitive action against any of those who had failed to follow him on his campaign.