The Surah takes its name from the sentence Idha jaa kal-munafiquna
of verse 1. This is the name of the Surah as well as the title
of its subject matter, for in it a review has been made of
the conduct and attitude of the hypocrites themselves.
Period of Revelation
As we shall explain below this Surah was sent down either during
the Holy Prophet's return journey from his campaign against
Bani al- Mustaliq, or immediately after his arrival back at
Madinah, and we have established by argument and research in
the Introduction to Surah An-Nur that the campaign against
Bani al-Mustaliq had taken place in Sha'ban A. H. 6:Thus, the
date of the revelation of this Surah is determined precisely.
Before we mention the particular incident about which this
Surah was sent down, it is necessary to have a look at the
history of the hypocrites of Madinah, for the incident that
occurred on this occasion was not a chance happening but had
a whole series of events behind it, which ultimately led up
Before the Holy Prophet's emigration to Madinah the tribes
of the Aus and the Khazraj, fed up with their mutual rivalries
and civil wars, had almost agreed on the leadership of one
man and were making preparations to crown him their king. This
was Abdullah bin Ubayy bin Salul, the chief of the Khazraj.
Muhammad bin Ishaq has stated that among the people of Khazraj
his authority was never contested and never had the Aus and
the Khazraj rallied to one man before this. (Ibn Hisham, vol.
II, p. 234)
Such were the conditions when the voice of Islam reached Madinah
and the influential people of both the tribes started becoming
Muslims. When before the Emigration, invitation was being extended
to the Holy Prophet (upon whom be Allah'> peace) to come
to Madinah, Hadarat Abbas bin Ubadah bin Nadlah Ansari wanted
to defer this invitation for the reason that Abdullah bin Ubayy
also might join in the declaration of allegiance and invitation
to the Holy Prophet, so that Madinah might become the centre
of Islam by common consent.
But the delegation that arrived in Makkah to declare their
allegiance did not give any importance to the proposal of Abbas
bin Ubadah, and a11 its members, who included 75 men from both
the tribes, became ready to invite the Holy Prophet in the
face of every danger.(lbn Hisham, vol. II, P. 89). We have
given the details of this event in the Introduction to Surah
Then, when the Holy Prophet arrived in Madinah, Islam had so
deeply penetrated every house of the Ansar that Abdullah bin
Ubayy became helpless and did not see any other way to save
his leadership than to become a Muslim himself. So, he entered
Islam along with many of his followers from among the chiefs
and leaders of both the tribes although their hearts were burning
with rage from within. Ibn Ubayy in particular was filled with
grief, for the Holy Prophet (upon whom be Allah's peace) had
deprived him of his kingship.
For several years his hypocritical faith and grief of being
deprived of his kingdom manifested itself in different ways.
On the one hand, when on Fridays the Holy Prophet (upon whom
be Allah's peace) took his seat to deliver the Sermon, Abdullah
bin Ubayy would stand up and say "O people, the Messenger of
Allah is present among you, by whom Allah has honored you;
therefore, you should support him and listen to what he says
and obey him." (Ibn Hisham, vol. III, p. 111). On the other,
his hypocrisy was being exposed day by day and the true Muslims
were realizing that he and his followers bore great malice
against Islam, the Holy Prophet and the Muslims.
Once when the Holy Prophet was passing on the way Abdullah
bin Ubayy spoke to him in harsh words. When the Holy Prophet
complained of it to Hadrat Sa'd bin Ubadah; he said:"O Messenger
of Allah, don't be hard on him, for when Allah sent you to
us we were making a diadem to crown him, and, by God, he thinks
that you have robbed him of his kingdom." (Ibn Hisham vol:
II, pp. 237-238).
After the Battle of Badr when the Holy Prophet (upon whom be
Allah's peace) invaded the Jewish tribe of Bani Qainuqa on
their breaking the agreement and un provoked revolt, this man
stood up in support of them, and holding the Holy Prophet by
his armor, said:"These 700 fighters have been helping and protecting
me against every enemy; would you cut them down in one morning?By
God, I will not leave you until you pardon my clients." (Ibn
Hisham, vol. III, pp. 5l- 52).
On the occasion of the Battle of Uhud this man committed open
treachery and withdrew from the battlefield with 300 of his
companions. One should note that at this critical moment when
he so acted, the Quraish had marched upon Madinah with 3,000
troops and the Holy Prophet had marched out with only 1,000
men to resist them. Of these 1,000 this hypocrite broke away
with 300 men and the Holy Prophet was left with only 700 men
to meet 3,000 troops of the enemy in the field.
After this incident the common Muslims of Madinah came to realize
fully that he was certainly a hypocrite and his those Companions
also were found who were his associates in hypocrisy. That
is why when on the very first Friday, after the Battle of Uhud,
this man stood up as usual to make a speech before the Holy
Prophet's Sermon, the people pulled at his garment, saying "Sit
down you are not worthy to say such things." That was the first
occasion in Madinah when this man was publicly disgraced. Thereupon
he was so filled with rage that he left the mosque jumping
over the heads of the people. At the door of the Mosque some
of the Ansar said to him, "What are you doing?Go back and ask
the Holy Prophet (upon whom be Allah's peace) to pray for your
forgiveness." He retorted "I do not, want him to pray for
my forgiveness." (Ibn Hisham, vol. III, p. 111).
Then in A. H. 4 the Battle of Bani an-Nadir took place. On
this occasion he and his companions supported the enemies of
Islam even more openly. On the one side, the Holy Prophet (upon
whom be Allah's peace) and his devoted Companions were preparing
for war against their enemy, the Jews, and on the other, these
hypocrites were secretly sending messages to the Jews to the
effect: "Stand firm we are with you: if you are attacked, we
will help you, and if you are driven out, we too will go out
with you." The secret of this intrigue was exposed by Allah
Himself, as has been explained in Surah Al-Hashr: 11-17 above.
But in spite of being so exposed the reason why the Holy Prophet
(upon whom be Allah's peace) was still treating him kindly
was that he had a large band of the hypocrites behind him.
Many of the chiefs of both the Aus and the Khazraj were his
supporters. At least a third of the population of Madinah consisted
of his companions, as became manifest on the occasion of the
Battle of Uhud. Under such conditions it was not prudent to
wage a war with these internal enemies combined with the external
On this very account, in spite of being fully aware of their
hypocrisy the Holy Prophet continued to deal with them according
to their apparent profession of faith for a long time. On the
other hand, these people too neither possessed the power nor
the courage to fight the believers openly as disbelievers,
or to join hands with an invader and face them in the battlefield.
Apparently they were a strong hand but inwardly they had the
weakness which Allah has vividly portrayed in Surah Al-Hashr:
12-14. Therefore; they thought their well being lay only in
posing as Muslims.
They came to the mosque, offered the prayers gave away the
zakat, and would make tall oral claims to the faith, which
the true Muslims never felt the need to do. They would offer
a thousand justifications for each of their hypocritical acts
by which they would try to deceive their compatriots, the Ansar,
into believing that they were with them. By these designs they
were not only saving themselves from the disadvantages which
could naturally accrue if they separated themselves from the
Ansar brotherhood, but also taking advantage of the opportunities
to make mischief which were available to them as members of
the Muslim brotherhood.
These were the causes which enabled Abdullah bin Ubayy and
like minded hypocrites to get an opportunity to accompany the
Holy Prophet (upon whom be Allah's peace) in his campaign against
the Bani al-Mustaliq, and they simultaneously engineered two
great mischiefs which could shatter the Muslim unity to pieces.
However, by virtue of the wonderful training in discipline
that the Muslim; had received through the pure teaching of
the Quran and the companionship of the Holy Prophet (upon whom
be peace) both mischiefs were stopped in time, and the hypocrites
themselves were disgraced instead. One of these was the mischief
that has been mentioned in Surah An-Nur above, and the other
which has been mentioned in this Surah.
This incident has been related by Bukhari, Muslim, Ahmad, Nasai,
Tirmidhi, Baihaqi, Tabari, Ibn Marduyah, Abdur Razzaq, lbn
Jarir Tabari, Ibn Sa'd and Muhammad bin Ishaq through many
reliable channels. In some traditions the expedition in which
it took place has not been named, and in others it has been
connected with the Battle of Tabuk. But the authorities on
the battles fought by the Holy Prophet and history are agreed
that this incident took place on the occasion of the campaign
against the Bani al- Mustaliq. The following seems to he the
real story when all the traditions are read together.
When after crushing down the power of Bani al- Mustaliq the
Islamic army had made a halt in the settlement at the well
of al Muraisi. Suddenly a dispute arose between two men on
taking water from the well; One of them was Jehjah bin Masud
Ghifari, a servant of Hadrat Umar appointed to lead his horse.
The other was Sinan bin Wabar al-Juhani, whose tribe was an
ally of a clan of the Khazraj. Harsh words between them led
to fighting and Jehjah kicked Sinan, which the Ansar, on account
of their ancient Yamanite tradition, took as a great insult
and disgrace. At this Sinan called out the men of Ansar and
Jehjah the Emigrants for help. Hearing about the quarrel Ibn
Ubayy started inciting and calling the men of the Aus and the
Khazraj to come out and help their ally.
From the other side some Emigrants also came out. The dispute
might have led to a fight between the Ansar and the Muhajirin
themselves at the very place where they had just fought an
enemy tribe jointly and crushing it had halted in its own territory.
But hearing the noise the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace)
emerged and said :"what is this call of paganism? What have
you to do with such a call? Leave it: it is a dirty thing." Thereupon
the leading men of the two sides met and settled the dispute;
Sinan pardoned Jehjah and peace was restored.
After this every person whose heart was disaffected came to
Abdullah bin Ubayy and they all said to him, "Until now we
had our hopes attached to you and you were protecting us, but
now it seems you have become a helper of these paupers against
us. Ibn Ubayy was already enraged:
These words made him burst out, thus: "This is what you have
done to yourselves. You have given these people shelter in
your country, and have divided your property among them. So
much so that they have now become our rivals. Nothing so fits
us and the paupers of Quraish(or the Companions of Muhammad)
as the ancient saying 'Feed your dog to fatten it and it will
devour you.' If you hold back your property from them, they
would go elsewhere. By God, when we return to Madinah, the
honorable ones will drive out from it the mean ones."
Zaid bin Arqam, a young boy, also happened to be present in
the assembly at that time. He heard this and mentioned it before
his uncle, and his uncle who was one of the Ansar chiefs went
to the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace) and told him the whole
story. The Holy Prophet called Zaid and asked him what had
happened and he repeated every word of what he had heard. The
Holy Prophet said, "Zaid, you are perhaps displeased with Ibn
Ubayy; you might have been mistaken in hearing; you. might
have imagined Ibn Ubayy said this." But Zaid was sure and firm.
He said, "No, I swear by God I have heard him say this and
Thereupon the Holy Prophet called Ibn Ubayy, and he came and
swore that he had not said any such thing. The people of the
Ansar also said "Sir, a boy says this : he might have been
mistaken in what he heard lbn Ubayy is a venerable old man
and our chief. Do not believe what a boy says against him." The
elderly people of the tribe reproved Zaid also, who became
depressed and held his peace. But the Holy Prophet knew Zaid
as well as Abdullah bin Ubayy. Therefore, he fully understood
what had actually happened.
When Hadrat Umar came to know of this, he came to the Holy
Prophet and said:"Please allow me to put this hypocrite to
the sword. Or, if you do not think it is fit to give me the
permission you may tell Muadh bin Jabal, or Abbad bin Bishr,
or Sad bin Mu'adh, or Muhammad bin Maslamah from among the
Ansar, to go and kill him."But the Holy Prophet said: "No,
the people will say Muhammad kills his own Companions." After
this he ordered the people to set off immediately, although
it was at a time when the Holy Prophet was not accustomed to
The forced march continued for 30 hours at a stretch so that
the people became exhausted. Then he halted, and as soon as
they touched the ground they fell asleep. This he did to distract
their minds from what had happened at the well of al-Muraisi.
On the way, Hadrat Usaid bin Hudair, an Ansar chief, met the
Holy Prophet, and said:"O Messenger of Allah, today you ordered
the people to set off at a time which was disagreeable for
traveling, a thing you have never done before."
The Holy Prophet replied: "Have you. not heard of what your
friend said?" When he asked who he meant, the Holy Prophet
replied:Abdullah bin Ubayy. He asked what he had said. The
Holy Prophet answered: "He has asserted that when he returns
to Madinah the honorable ones will drive out from it the mean
ones. He answered : "By God, O Messenger of Allah, you are
the honourable one and he is the mean one; you will drive him
out whenever you want to."
By and by the news spread among the Ansar soldiers and it enraged
them against Ibn Ubayy. The people advised him to go to the
Holy Prophet (upon whom be Allah's peace) and request for his
forgiveness, but he retorted : "You asked me to believe in
him, and I believed in him; you asked me to pay the zakat on
my property, and I paid the zakat too; now the only thing left
is that I should bow down to Muhammad."This further enraged
the believing Ansar and everyone' started reproaching and cursing
When the caravan was about to enter Madinah, Abullah, the son
of Abdullah bin Ubayy, stood before his father with a drawn
out sword, and said: "You had said that when you reached Madinah,
the honorable ones would drive out the mean ones. Now, you
will know who is honorable you or Allah and His Messenger.
By God, you cannot enter Madinah until the Messenger of Allah
(upon whom be Allah's peace) permits you to enter." At this
Ibn Ubayy cried out: "O people of Khazraj, look, my own son
is preventing me from entering Madinah." The people conveyed
this news to the Holy Prophet, and he said : "Tell Abdullah
to let his father come home."Abdullah said, "If this is the
Holy Prophet's order, then you may enter."
Thereupon the Holy Prophet said to Hadrat Umar: "Now what do
you think, Umar? Had you killed him on the day when you asked
my permission to kill him, many people would have trembled
with rage. Today if I order them to kill him, they will kill
him immediately."Hadrat Umar replied "By God, I realize there
was greater wisdom behind what the Apostle of Allah said than
what I said."'
These were the circumstances under which this Surah was sent
down most probably after the Holy Prophet's return to Madinah.