The Surah takes its name AL-ANFAL (The Bounties) from the first
The Period of Revelation
It was revealed in 2 A. H. after the Battle of Badr, the first
battle between Islam and kufr. As it contains a detailed and
comprehensive review of the Battle, it appears that most probably
it was revealed at one and the same time. But it is also possible
that some of the verses concerning the problems arising as
a result of this Battle might have been revealed later and
incorporated at the proper places to make it a continuous whole.
At any rate, in the whole Surah there is nothing that might
show that it is a collection of a couple of discourses, that
have been patched up together.
Before reviewing the Surah, it is worthwhile to consider the
events that led to the Battle of Badr.
During the first decade or so of the Prophethood at Makkah,
the Message had proved its firmness, and stability. This was
the result of two things. First, the Messenger, who possessed
the highest qualities of character, was performing his Mission
with wisdom, foresight and magnanimity. He had shown by his
conduct that he had made up his mind to carry the movement
to a successful end and, therefore, was ready to face all sorts
of dangers and obstacles in the way.
Secondly, the Message was so charming that it attracted the
minds and hearts of the people irresistibly towards itself.
So much so that all obstacles of ignorance, superstition and
petty prejudices failed to check, its advance. That is why
the Arab upholders of the ways of "ignorance,' who looked down
upon it in its initial stages, had' begun to reckon it as a
serious menace during the last period of the stay of the Holy
Prophet at Makkah, and were bent on crushing it with all the
force at their command. But in spite of the above-mentioned
strength, the movement still lacked certain things to lead
it to victory:-
First, it had not yet been fully proved that it had gathered
round it a sufficient number of such followers who not only
believed in its truth, but also had such an intense devotion
to its principles that they were ready to expend all their
energies and all that they possessed in the struggle for its
success and establishment. So much so that they were ready
to sacrifice their lives in the fight against the whole world
itself even though they should be their own nearest relative.
It is true that the followers of Islam had endured the severest
persecutions at the hands of the Quraish of Makkah and had
given a good proof of the firmness of their faith and their
strong relation with Islam, yet further trials were required
to show that Islam had succeeded in acquiring such a band of
followers which considered nothing dearer than its ideal and
was ready to sacrifice life for it.
Secondly, though the voice of Islam had reached' every part
of the country, its effects were yet scattered and its acquired
strength was spread here and there: it had not yet gathered
sufficient force essential for a decisive conflict with the
old established order of "ignorance".
Thirdly, Islam had yet no home of its own and had not established
itself firmly anywhere in the land where it could consolidate
its power and make it a base for further action. For the Muslims
were scattered all over the country and were living among the
unbelievers as aliens whom their bloodthirsty enemies wanted
to uproot from their own homes.
Fourthly, the Muslims had not yet had an opportunity to demonstrate
practically the blessings of the system of life based on Islam.
There was neither any Islamic culture, nor any social, economic
or political system; nor were there any established principles
of war and peace for their guidance. Therefore the Muslims
had no opportunity for demonstrating those moral principles
on which they intended to build their entire system of life;
nor had it been proved on the touchstone of trial that the
Muslims as a community were sincere in their proclamation of
Allah created opportunities for making up these deficiencies.
During the last four years or so of the Prophet's stay at Makkah,
the voice of Islam had been proving effective at Yathrab and
the people for various reasons had been accepting the message
more readily than other clans of Arabia. So much so that in
the twelfth year of Prophethood on the occasion of Haj a deputation
of 75 people met the Holy Prophet in the darkness of night.
These people not only accepted Islam, but also offered to give
him and his followers a home. As this was a most epoch making
opportunity provided by Allah, the Holy Prophet took advantage
The significance of this offer was quite clear to the people
of Yathrab, and they fully realized that this was not an invitation
to a mere fugitive, but to the Messenger of Allah so that he
should become their leader and ruler. Likewise they knew that
they were not inviting the Muslim refugees to give them shelter
from persecution but to assemble them from all over the country
for their integration with themselves to form an organized
community. Thus the offer of the people of Yathrab was to make
Yathrab the "City of Islam." Accordingly the Holy Prophet accepted
their invitation and made it the first "City of Islam" in Arabia.
And the people of Yathrab were fully aware of the implications
of this offer. It was indeed a declaration of war against the
whole of Arabia, and an invitation to their own social and
economic boycott as well. And when the Ansar from Yathrab declared
their allegiance to the Holy Prophet at Aqabah, they knew fully
well its consequences. During the course of the formal declaration
of allegiance, Asad-bin- Zurarah, the youngest of all the delegates
from Yathrab, stood up and said, "0 people of Yathrab! Just
listen to me and consider the matter carefully in all its aspects.
Though we have come to him, regarding him only as a Messenger
of Allah, we should know that we shall be inviting the enmity
of the whole of Arabia. For when we take him away to Yathrab,
we shall be attacked and our children may be put to the sword.
Therefore if you have the courage in your hearts to face it,
then and then only, you should declare your allegiance to him
and Allah will give you its reward. But if you love your lives
more than him and his Message, then leave this matter and frankly
excuse yourselves, for at this time Allah may accept your excuses."
Abbas bin Ubadah bin Naalah, another member of the delegation,
reiterated the same thing, saying,
Do you understand the implication of the declaration of your
allegiance to this person?" (Voices, "Yes, we know it.") "You
are challenging the whole world to war by your declaration
of allegiance to him. There is every likelihood of a serious
menace to your lives and properties. Therefore consider it
well. If you have any idea lurking in your minds that you will
then hand him over to his enemies, it is much better to leave
him alone now, because that conduct shall bring shame and disgrace
to you in this world and the next.
On the other hand, if you have sincerely resolved that you
will endure all kinds of consequences that will follow as a
result of this invitation, then it would be the best thing
to take the oath of allegiance to him because, by God, this
will surely bring good to you in this world as well as in the
At this all the members of the delegation cried with one voice, "We
are ready and prepared to risk all our wealth and our noble
kith and kin for his sake."
It was then that the famous oath of allegiance, which is known
as the "Second Oath of Allegiance at Aqabah" was taken.
On the other side, the people of Makkah also understood fully
well the implications of this matter from their own point of
view. They realized that Muhammad (Allah's peace be upon him),
who, they knew well, had a great personality and possessed
extraordinary abilities, was going to gain a strong footing,
by this allegiance. For this would help integrate his followers,
whose constancy, determination, and unwavering fidelity to
the Messenger had been tried, into a disciplined community
under his wise leadership and guidance. And they knew that
this would spell death for their old ways of life. They also
realized the strategic importance of. Al- Madinah to their
trade, which was their chief means of livelihood.
Its geographical position was such that the Muslims could strike
with advantage at the caravans traveling on the trade route
between Yaman and Syria, and thus strike at the root of their
economy and that of other pagan clans very effectively. The
value of the trade done by the people of Makkah alone on this
route, not to count that of raif and other places, amounted
to about two hundred thousand dinars annually.
As the Quraish were fully aware of the implications of the
oath of allegiance at Aqabah, they were greatly perturbed when
they got wind of it the same night. At first they tried to
win over the people of Al-Madinah to their side. But when they
saw that the Muslims were migrating to Al- Madinah in small
groups, they realized that the Holy Prophet was also going
to emigrate soon from there. Then they decided to adopt an
extreme measure to prevent this danger.
A few days before his migration, the Quraish held a council
to consider the matter. After a good deal of argument; they
decided that one person should be taken from each of the families
of Quraish other than that of Banu Hashim to put an end to
the life of the Holy Prophet.
This was to make it difficult for the family of the Holy Prophet
to fight alone with all the other families of the Quraish and
thus to force them to accept blood-money for his murder-instead
of taking revenge from them, but by the grace of Allah their
plot against the life of the Holy Prophet failed because of
his admirable foresight and full trust in Allah, and he reached
Al- Madinah safe and sound.
When they could not prevent his emigration, it occurred to
them to exploit Abdullah bin Ub`ai who had begun to cherish
a grievance against the Holy Prophet since his arrival at Al-Madinah.
He was an influential chief of Al-Madinah and the people had
agreed to make him their king. But when the majority of Aus
and Khazraj clan became Muslims and acknowledged the Holy Prophet
as their leader, guide and ruler, all his hopes of becoming
a king came to an end.
Therefore the Quraish wrote to him, "As you have given shelter
to our enemy, we tell you plainly that you should either fight
with him yourself or exile him from your city otherwise we
swear by God that we will invade your city, kill your males
and make your females our slave girls." This letter added fuel
to the flames of his jealousy and he was inclined to do some
mischief, but the Holy Prophet took timely precautions and
defeated his evil designs.
The Quraish got another opportunity to hold out a threat. When
Sa'ad bin Mu'az, another chief of Al-Madinah, went to Makkah
to perform `Umrah, Abu Jahl interrupted him at the very door
of the Kabah, saying, "Do you think we will let you perform
`Umrah in peace while you give shelter and help to renegades
from us? Had you not been a guest of Ummayyah bin Khalf, you
would not have gone alive from here." Sa'ad replied, "By Allah,
if you prevent me from this, I will retaliate in a worse manner
and block your route near Al-Madinah."
This incident virtually led to a declaration from the people
of Makkah that they would prevent the Muslims from a pilgrimage
to the Kabah, and from the people of Al- Madinah that as a
retaliation they would block their trade route to Syria against
the opponents of Islam. As a matter of fact there was no other
alternative for the Muslims than to keep a strong hold on this
route so as to force the Quraish, and the other clans, whose
interests were vitally bound with this route, to reconsider
their inimical and antagonistic attitude towards them.
That is why the Holy Prophet attached the greatest importance
to this problem. As soon as he was free from making the preliminary
arrangements for organizing the newly formed Muslim Community
and settling peace terms with the neighboring Jewish habitations,
he adopted two measures in this connection:-
First, he entered into negotiations with those clans who lived
between the Red Sea and this route so as to make alliances
with them or at east to persuade them to make treaties of neutrality
with the Muslims. He was successful in this, and he entered
into a treaty of non-alignment with Juhainah, which was a very
important clan of the hilly tract near the sea coast. Then,
at the end of the first year of Hijrah, he made a treaty of
defensive alliance with Bani Damrah, who lived near Yanb'u
and Zawal Ushairah. In 2 A. H. Bani Mudlij also joined the
alliance, as they were the neighbors and allies of Bani Damrah.
Then ii so happened that quite a large number of these people
were converted to Islam as a result of the missionary work
done by the Muslims.
Secondly, he successively sent small bands of his men on this
route to serve as a warning to the Quraish, and himself accompanied
some of them. In the first year of Hijrah, four expeditions
were sent there, that is, the expedition under Hamzah, the
expedition under Ubaidah bin Harith, the expedition under Sa'ad
bin Abi Waqqas and the Al-Abwa' expedition under the Holy Prophet
In the first month of the second year two more incursions were
made on the same route. These are known as Buwat Expedition
and Zawal Ushairah Expedition. Two things about all these expeditions
are noteworthy. First, no blood was shed and no caravans were
plundered in any of these expeditions.
This proves that the real object of these expeditions was to
show to the Quraish which way the wind was blowing. Secondly,
not a single man from the people of Al-Madinah was sent by
the Holy. Prophet on any of these incursions. All the bands
consisted purely of the immigrants from Makkah so that the
conflict should remain between the people of the Quraish themselves
and should not further spread by the involvement of other clans.
On the other side, the Quraish of Makkah tried to involve others
also in the conflict. When they sent bands towards Al-Madinah,
they did not hesitate to plunder the people. For instance,
an expedition under the leadership of Kurz bin Jabir al-Fihrl
plundered the cattle of the people of Al-Madinah from the very
vicinity of the city to show what their real intentions were.
This was the state of affairs when, in Sha'aban, 2 A. H. (February
or March, 623 A. D.) a big trade caravan of the Quraish, carrying
goods worth $50,000 or so, with only a guard of thirty to forty
men, on its way back from Syria to Makkah, reached the territory
from where it could be easily attacked from Al-Madinah.
As the caravan was carrying trade goods worth thousands of
pounds, and was scantily guarded, naturally Abu Sufyan, who
was in charge of it, from his Past experience feared an attach
from the Muslims. Accordingly, as soon as he entered the dangerous
territory, he despatched a camel rider to Makkah with a frantic
appeal for help. When the rider reached Makkah, he, following
an old custom of Arabia, tore open the ears of his camel, cut
open his nose and overturned the saddle.
Then rending his shirt from front and behind, he began to cry
aloud at the top of his voice, "O people of Quraish despatch
help to protect your caravan from Syria under the charge of
Abu Sufyan, for Muhammad with his followers is in pursuit of
it; otherwise I don't think you will ever get your goods. Run,
run for help."
This caused great excitement and anger in the whole of Makkah
and all the big chiefs of the Quraish got ready for war. An
army, consisting of 600 armored soldiers and cavalry of 100
riders with great pomp and show marched out for a fight. They
intended not only to rescue the caravan but also to put to
an end, once for all, the new menace from the Muslims who had
consolidated themselves at Al-Madinah. They wanted to crush
that rising power and overawe the clans surrounding the route
so as to make it absolutely secure for future trade.
Now the Holy Prophet, who always kept himself well informed
of the state of affairs, felt that the decisive hour has come
and that was the right time when he must take a bold step;
otherwise the Islamic Movement would become lifeless for ever
and no chance would be left for it to rise again. For if the
Quraish invaded Al-Madinah, the odds would be against the Muslims.
The condition of the Muslim Community was still very shaky
because the immigrants (Muhajirin) had not been able to stabilize
their economy during the short period (less than two years)
of their stay at Al-Madinah; their helpers, (the Ansar) had
not yet been tried; and the neighboring Jewish clans were antagonistic.
Then there was a strong group of hypocrites and mushriks in
Al- Madinah itself; above all, the surrounding clans lived
in awe of the Quraish and had all their religious sympathies
with them. The Holy Prophet, therefore, felt that the consequences
of this possible invasion would not be favorable to the Muslims.
The second possibility was that they would not invade Al-Madinah
but try only to escort their caravan safely and securely by
a mere show of force. In that case, too, if the Muslim remained
inactive, it would affect their reputation adversely. Obviously,
this weak stand in the conflict would embolden the other Arabs
also and make the position of the Muslims very insecure in
the country and the surrounding clans would, at the instance
of the Quraish, start hostilities against them, and the Jews,
the hypocrites and the mushriks of Al- Madinah would openly
rise against them and not only endanger their security of life,
property and honor but make it difficult for them even to live
The Muslims would not be able to inspire the enemy with awe
so as to keep safe from them their life, property and honor.
A careful study of the situation led the Holy Prophet to make
up his mind to take a decisive step and go into the battle
with whatever little strength he could muster, for thus and
thus only could he show whether the Muslim Community had the
right to survive or was doomed to perish.
When he arrived at this momentous decision, he called the Muhajirin
and the Ansar together and placed the whole position before
them, without any reservation. He said, "Allah has promised
that you will confront one of the two, the trade caravan coming
from the north or the army of the Quraish marching from the
south. Now tell me which of the two you want to attack!" A
large majority of the people replied that they wanted to attack
the caravan. But the Holy Prophet who had something else before
him, repeated the same question.
At this Miqdad bin 'Amr, a Muhajir, stood up and said, "0 Messenger
of Allah! Please march to the side to which your Lord commands
you; we will accompany you wherever you go. We will not say
like the Israelites, 'Go and let you and your Lord fight we
will wait'. In contrast to them we say, 'Let you and your Lord
fight; we will fight by your side to our last breath'." Even
then he did not announce any decision but waited for a reply
from the Ansar who had not yet taken any part in any battle
of Islam. As this was the first opportunity for them to prove
that they were ready to fulfill their promise of fighting for
the cause of Islam, he repeated the question without directly
At this, Sa'ad bin Mu'az, an Ansar, stood up and said, "Sir,
it appears that you are putting the question to us." When the
Holy Prophet said, "Yes", the Ansar replied, "We have believed
in you and confirmed that what you have brought is the Truth,
and have made a solemn pledge with you that we will listen
to you and obey you. Therefore, 0 Messenger of Allah, do whatever
you intend to do. We swear by Allah Who has sent you with the
Truth that we are ready to accompany you to the sea shore and
if you enter it, we will plunge into it. We assure you that
not a single one of us will remain behind or forsake you, for
we will not hesitate at all to go to fight, even if you should
lead us to the battlefield tomorrow. We will remain steadfast
in the battle and sacrifice our lives in the fight. We do hope
that by the grace of Allah our behavior will gladden your heart.
So, trusting in Allah's blessing, take us to the battlefield."
After these speeches it was decided that they should march
towards the army of the Quraish and not towards the trade caravan.
But it should be noted that the decision was of an ordinary
nature. For the number of people, who came forward to go to
the battlefield, was only a little more than three hundred
(86 Muhajirs, 62 from Aus and 170 from Khazraj).
Then the little army was ill-armed and hardly equipped for
battle. Only a couple of them had horses to ride and the others
had to take their turn in threes and fours on the back of a
camel, out of the 70 they had in all. Above all, they had not
got enough weapons for the battle; only 60 of them had armors.
It is, therefore, no wonder that with the exception of those
who were prepared to sacrifice their lives for the cause of
Islam, the majority of those who had joined the expedition,
were so filled with fear that they felt as if they were knowingly
going into the jaws of death.
Then there were people who always looked at things from a selfish
point of view. Though they had embraced Islam, they did not
realize that their faith would demand the sacrifice of their
lives and properties from them; they were of the opinion that
it was a mad expedition prompted by irrational enthusiasm for
religion. But the Holy Prophet and the true Believers had realized
the urgency of that critical hour which required the risk of
life: therefore they marched straight to the south-west, wherefrom
the army of the Quraish was coming.
This is a clear proof of the fact that from the very beginning
they had gone out to fight with the army and not to plunder
the caravan. For if they had aimed at plundering the caravan
they would have taken the north- westerly direction and not
the south- westerly one.
The two parties met in combat at Badr on the seventeenth of
Ramadan. When the two armies confronted each other and the
Holy Prophet noticed that the Quraish army outnumbered the
Muslims by three to one and was much better equipped, he raised
his hands up in supplication and made this earnest prayer with
great humility: "0 Allah! Here are the Quraish proud of their
war material: they have come to prove that Thy Messenger is
false. 0 Allah! now send that success that Thou hast promised
to give me. 0 Allah!If this little army of Thy servants is
destroyed, then there will be left none in the land to worship
In this combat the emigrants from Makkah were put to the hardest
test for they had to fight against their own near and dear
relatives and put to the sword their fathers, their sons, their
paternal and maternal uncles and their brothers. It is obvious
that only such people could have come out successful in this
hardest of tests as had accepted the Truth sincerely and cut
off all relations with falsehood. And in another way the test
to which the Ansar were put was not less hard. So far they
had only alienated the powerful Quraish and their allies by
giving shelter to the Muslims against their wishes but now,
for the first time, they were going to give fight to them and
to sow the seeds of a long and bitter war with them.
This was indeed a very hard test for it meant that a small
town with a population of a few thousand inhabitants was going
to wage a war with the whole of Arabia. It is obvious that
only such people could take this bold step who believed in
the Truth of Islam so firmly that they were ready to sacrifice
every personal interest for its sake.
So Allah accepted the self-sacrifices of the Muhajirin and
the Ansar because of their true faith, and rewarded them with
His success. The proud, well- armed Quraish were routed by
these ill-equipped devotees of Islam. Seventy men of their
army were killed and seventy captured as prisoners and their
arms and equipment came into the hands of the Muslims as spoils
of war. All their big chiefs, who were their best soldiers
and who had led the opposition to Islam, were killed in this
Battle. No wonder that this decisive victory made Islam a power
to be reckoned with. A Western research scholar says that before
the Battle of Badr, Islam was merely a religion and a state
but after the Battle it became the state religion, nay, the
Topics of Discussion
It is this great Battle that has been reviewed in this Surah.
But let it be noted that in some respects this review is quite
different from the reviews that are usually made by the worldly
commanders after a great victory.
Instead of gloating over the victory, the moral weaknesses
that had come to the surface in that expedition have been pointed
out so that the Muslims should try their best to reform themselves.
It has been impressed upon them that the victory was due to
the success of Allah rather -than to their own valor and bravery
so that the Muslims should learn to rely on Him and obey Allah
and His Messenger alone.
The moral lesson of the conflict between the Truth and falsehood
has been enunciated and the qualities which lead to success
in a conflict have been explained.
Then the Surah addresses the mushriks, the hypocrites, the
Jews and the prisoners of this war in a very impressive manner
that should teach them a good lesson.
It also gives instructions in regard to the spoils of war.
The Muslims have bean told not to regard these as their right
but as a bounty from Allah. Therefore they should accept with
gratitude the share that is granted to them out of it and willingly
accede to the share which Allah sets apart for His cause and
for the help of the needy.
Then it also gives normal instructions concerning the laws
of peace and war for these were urgently needed to be explained
at the stage which the Islamic Movement had entered. It enjoined
that the Muslims should refrain from ways of "ignorance" in
peace and war and thus should establish their moral superiority
in the world. It also meant, to demonstrate to the world in
actual practical life the morality which it had been preaching
to the world from the very beginning of Islam and had been
enjoining that practical life should be based on the same.
It also states some articles of the Islamic Constitution which
help differentiate the status of the Muslims living within
the limits of Dar-ul-Islam (the Abode of Islam) from that of
the Muslims living beyond its limits.
Problems of Jihad
This surah enunciates general principles of war (one aspect
of Jihad) and peace while reviewing the Battle of Badr and
uses them for the moral training of the Muslims.
Topics and their Interconnection
This portion deals with the problems of the "Spoils of War".
The Quran says that these are not the spoils of war but the "Bounties
of Allah" and proves this by showing that the victory at Badr
(and in all other battles, too,) was won by His succour and
not by the efforts of the Muslims. It also declares (in v.
40) that the war aim of the Muslims should be to eliminate
all unfavourable conditions for the establishment of Islam
and not to gain spoils. Moreover, the spoils, being the bounties
of God, belong to Allah and His Messenger and they alone are
entitled to allocate them. Then after conditioning the Muslims
to accept these things, the different shares have been allocated
in v. 41. 1 - 41
The Battle of Badr was ordained by Allah so that Islam should
triumph over "ignorance". The lesson from this is that the
Muslims should trust in God and prepare themselves for war
and should not be beguiled by Satan as the disbelievers were.
42 - 54
Sanctity of treaties has been enjoined and the Muslims commanded
to observe them as long as the other party does not break them.
55 - 59
The Muslims should always be prepared for war on every front,
but should be ready to make peace if the other party is inclined
towards it. 60 - 66
In these verses, instructions about prisoners of war have been
given. 67 - 71
In order to keep the Muslims joined together against their
enemies, they have been taught to have cordial relations with
one another. 72 - 75