48:21 And there are yet other [gains] which are still beyond your grasp, [but] which God has already encompassed [for you], for God has the power to will anything.
i.e., at Hudaybiyyah (see introductory note).
48:22 And [now] if they who are bent on denying the truth should fight against you, they will indeed turn their backs [in flight], and will find none to protect them and none to bring them succor.
Most of the commentators assume that this relates to the conquest of Khaybar, which took place a few months after the Truce of Hudaybiyyah. It is probable, however, that the implication is much wider than that – namely, a prophecy of the almost bloodless conquest of Mecca in the year 8 H., the victorious establishment of Islam in all of Arabia, and, finally, the tremendous expansion of the Islamic Commonwealth under the Prophet’s immediate successors
48:23 Such being God’s way which has ever obtained in the past – and never wilt thou find any change in God’s way.
Sc., “of what is to come to you in the hereafter”.
48:24 And He it is who, in the valley of Mecca, stayed their hands from you, and your hands from them, after He had enabled you to vanquish them, and God saw indeed what you were doing.
48:25 [It was not for your enemies’ sake that He stayed your hands from them, for] it was they who were bent on denying the truth, and who debarred you from the Inviolable House of Worship and prevented your offering from reaching its destination. And had it not been for the believing men and believing women [in Mecca], whom you might have unwittingly trampled underfoot, and on whose account you might have become guilty, without knowing it, of a grievous wrong, [had it not been for this, you would have been allowed to fight your way into the city, but you were forbidden to fight] so that [in time] God might admit to His grace whomever He wills. Had they [who deserve Our mercy and they whom We have condemned] been clearly discernible [to you], We would indeed have imposed grievous suffering [at your hands] on such of them as were bent on denying the truth?
i.e., the achievement of final bliss in the life to come.
48:26 Whereas they who are bent on denying the truth harbored a stubborn disdain in their hearts – the stubborn disdain [born] of ignorance – God bestowed from on high His [gift of inner peace upon His Apostle and the believers, and bound them to the spirit of God-consciousness, for they were most worthy of this [divine gift], and deserved it well. And God has full knowledge of all things.
This divine promise was fulfilled in the unbroken sequence of Muslim victories after the Truce of Hudaybiyyah, ultimately leading to the establishment of an empire which extended from the Atlantic Ocean to the confines of China. – For the conditional nature of the above promise, see note 82 on 3:111.
48:27 Indeed, God has shown the truth in His Apostle’s true vision, most certainly shall you enter the Inviolable House of Worship, if God so wills, in full security, with your heads shaved or your hair cut short, without any fear: for He has [always] known that which you yourselves could not know. And He has ordained [for you], besides this, a victory soon to come.
This reference to “God’s way” (Sunnat Allah) is twofold: on the one hand, “you are bound to rise high if you are [truly] believers” (3:139), and, on the other, “God does not change men’s condition unless they change their inner selves” (13:11), in both the positive and negative connotations of the concept of “change”.
48:28 He it is who has sent forth His Apostle with the [task of spreading] guidance and the religion of truth, to the end that He make it prevail over every [false] religion, and none can bear witness [to the truth] as God does.
Shortly before the ‘Truce of Hudaybiyyah was concluded, a detachment of Quraysh warriors – variously estimated at between thirty and eighty men – attacked the Prophet’s camp, but his practically unarmed followers overcame them and took them prisoner; after the signing of the treaty the Prophet released them unharmed (Muslim; Nasa’i, Tabari).
48:29 Muhammad is God’s Apostle; and those who are [truly] with him are firm and unyielding towards all deniers of the truth, [yet] full of mercy towards one another. Thou canst see them bowing down, prostrating themselves [in prayer], seeking favor with God and [His] goodly acceptance: their marks are on their faces, traced by prostration.
This is their parable in the Torah as well as their parable in the Gospel: [they are] like a seed that brings forth its shoot, and then He strengthens it, so that it grows stout, and [in the end] stands firm upon its stem, delighting the sowers…. [Thus will God cause the believers to grow in strength] so that through them He might confound the deniers of the truth. [But] unto such of them as may [yet] attain to faith and do righteous deeds, God has promised forgiveness and a reward supreme.
This interpolation is based on Razi’s explanation of the connection between this and the preceding verse.