This verse showers praise on the Muslims of Madinah who were continuously benefiting from the companionship of the Prophet (sws) and were fully devoted to God. Moreover, the context bears witness that the verse is a slant on the raw Muslims whose shortcomings are being discussed since the initial verses of the surah and who belonged to the nearby tribes of Madinah.
Our exegetesas per their customary practice have also mentioned an occasion of revelation related to verse six: the Prophet (sws) sent Walid ibn 'Uqbah to collect zakah from the tribe of Banu Mustaliq; when he reached there, the tribesmen came out in the form of a procession to greet him; Walid thought that the people had come out to fight him; fearing an attack, he ran back home and informed the Prophet (sws) that those people had become apostates and had refused to pay zakah;on hearing this news, the Prophet (sws) was very annoyed at the tribe of Banu Mustaliq; he sent an army contingent or decided to send one; when the Banu Mustaliq tribe got news of this their leader immediately came over to the Prophet (sws) and assured him on oath that they had not even seen the face of Walid much less refused to pay zakah. After this explanation, the matter was resolved. In the opinion of our exegetes, this verse was revealed because of this narrative attributed to Walid; Muslims were directed not take a hasty step believing in the narration of a fasiq person.
It is customary for our exegetes to cite an occasion of revelation for almost every verse. They have also cited an occasion of revelation for verse four earlier. I have not dealt with it because some authorities have criticized it; however, as far as the occasion of revelation of the verse under discussion is concerned, there is a consensus of the exegetes on it. Thus, analyzing it was essential.
The principle premise regarding narratives on the occasion of revelation should always remain in consideration is something which I have mentioned in the preface to this tafsir: if our early authorities mention an incident as an occasion of revelation for a verse, it does not necessarily mean that that exact incident was the cause of revelation of that verse; they mean that this verse also guides us regarding that incident. This is the opinion of the scholars of exegetical interpretation, which is why I have cited it. Moreover, it is also known that most narratives which mention an occasion of revelation are ḍa'if, in fact, baseless. Hence it is essential that they be analyzed in the light of criteria based on both reason and revelation lest this lead to an untoward situation which this verse had stopped Muslims from ending up in.
If this occasion of revelation is analyzed in the light of reason, one will see that it has many flaws.
Firstly, the verse has asked Muslims not to trust a piece of news given by a fasiq (defiant person). Before this incident there is nothing known to people from Walid which could, God forbid, regard him as a fasiq. Not only this, such was the nature of his reliability and trustworthiness that the Prophet (sws) entrusted him with the responsibility of collecting zakah. If there had been some issue with his character, the Prophet (sws) would never have selected him for such an important service.
Secondly, if this occasion of revelation is accepted, then it will have to be conceded that the Prophet (sws), God forbid, was so unaware of his Companions (rta) that he would select from among them for such important positions those, who because of their dishonest misconduct, would endanger both the citizens and the government. Such short-sightedness is not expected even from a common sane human being not to speak of the Prophet (sws).
Thirdly, if Walid ran away from the tribe thinking the group who had come out to receive him to be armed in order to attack him and if he conveyed this impression of his to the Prophet (sws), then though this could be regarded as a naïve act on his part, as per the shari'ah, it cannot be regarded as fisq. Had this been the case, the verse should have been something to the effect: "Believers! Do not entrust your responsible positions to simpletons who are not even able to distinguish between a welcoming faction and a warring faction." What needs to be kept in consideration is that had Walid been such a simpleton, would the Prophet (sws) have entrusted him with such a political and fiscal position? Can the trait of being a simpleton suddenly emanate from a person and the people around him not know about it? Even a person like the Prophet (sws) was not able to discern it?
Fourthly, it is Walid who was made the governor of Kufah by the caliph 'Uthman (rta) in his time. Was he not aware of the fact that as per a Qur'anic verse, this person had been classified as a fasiq and was not even eligible to narrate a report or to bear witness not to speak of governorship? If he was not aware, then it should be accepted that a rightly guided caliph as 'Uthman (rta) who is also known as the collector of the Qur'an, God forbid, did not have even as much knowledge of the Qur'an as the narrators of reports of occasions of revelation.
I have referred to only a few aspects of this occasion of revelation; otherwise it has problems at every step. Some variants say that the Prophet (sws) had sent the army contingent;others say that he had decided to send it and had given an ultimatum to the Banu Mustalaq that if they did not abstain, he would send someone who is like him (عندي كنفسي) and at the same time patting 'Ali (rta) on his back to encourage him indicated that he would be sent for this campaign.In some other narratives, it is said that he had sent Khalid ibn Walid (rta) for the campaign.In short, contradictions abound even though it is evident from the words لَوۡ یُطِیۡعُکُمۡ فِیۡ کَثِیۡرٍ مِّنَ الۡاَمۡرِ that if such a thing came to the Prophet (sws), he ignored it and people were warned that they should not try to influence him with their opinions.
In my opinion, this occasion of revelation has been concocted by the rawafiḍ through which they not only wanted to bring Walid's name into disrepute but also that of 'Uthman (rta) that deliberately patronizing his relativehe appointed a fasiq as governor of Kufah. Even during his tenure as governor of Kufah, those horrible people did not spare Walid and narrated such incidents reflecting his fisq which bring both laughter and tears: laughter at their intelligence and tears at the simplicity of our exegetes who cite such baseless reports in their exegesis even though they have no relation with the words and context of the verse.
وَ اِنۡ طَآئِفَتٰنِ مِنَ الۡمُؤۡمِنِیۡنَ اقۡتَتَلُوۡا فَاَصۡلِحُوۡا بَیۡنَہُمَا ۚ فَاِنۡۢ بَغَتۡ اِحۡدٰىہُمَا عَلَی الۡاُخۡرٰی فَقَاتِلُوا الَّتِیۡ تَبۡغِیۡ حَتّٰی تَفِیۡٓءَ اِلٰۤی اَمۡرِ اللّٰہِ ۚ فَاِنۡ فَآءَتۡ فَاَصۡلِحُوۡا بَیۡنَہُمَا بِالۡعَدۡلِ وَ اَقۡسِطُوۡا ؕ اِنَّ اللّٰہَ یُحِبُّ الۡمُقۡسِطِیۡنَ ﴿۹﴾
It was said in the previous verse that it is not allowed for Muslims to attack any faction of Muslims by relying on the report of a fasiq. In this verse, Muslims or their governments are guided on what to do when two factions of Muslims are at war: they should try to resolve the issue. If either of the two is not ready for a reconciliation or after reconciliation commits an excess against the other by violating the terms of the reconciliation, then in this situation other Muslims or their government should wage war against the perpetrators of excess until they submit to the truth.
The words حَتّٰی تَفِیۡٓءَ اِلٰۤی اَمۡرِ اللّٰہِ mean to submit to the decision of the adjudicator. If a faction evades this decision, it is as if it evades submission to the decision of God. This is because in order to resolve this situation this is what the Almighty has ordered and when God had commanded thus, then its status is that of God's decision.
The words فَاِنۡ فَآءَتۡ فَاَصۡلِحُوۡا بَیۡنَہُمَا بِالۡعَدۡلِ وَ اَقۡسِطُوۡا refer to the fact that if after this collective action by the Muslims they submit, then no further action should be taken against them on the grounds that they had adopted a rebellious attitude; on the contrary, peace should be made between the two parties on the basis of justice, and the party which has been inflicted with damage should be compensated.
The word اَقۡسِطُوۡا has come to fulfil the consequences of justice. The implication is that neither should unfair concession be granted to anyone nor should anyone be oppressed: whatever is the need of justice should be implemented fairly and squarely. It is such just people whom the Almighty keeps as friends.
The following collective principles can be derived from this verse:
1. If two groups of Muslims are engaged in a fight with one another, other Muslims should not remain indifferent to this state of affairs and should not think that this matter does not concern them. Similarly, it is improper to support a group merely on the basis of familial or tribal bias without finding out which of the two is right. They must support the group which in their opinion is right, and, in no way, let biases form the basis of their support or otherwise. They must try to fully comprehend the situation, and, then, try to reconcile the two groups.
2. If one of the groups is not willing to reconcile, or, insists on war or after reconciliation presents conditions which are against justice, then, in this situation, it would be the duty of the Muslims to use force to make it submit to these conditions.
3. In such disputes, obeying the conditions of reconciliation presented in accordance with the directives of God and His Prophet (sws) by the neutral Muslims will be mandatory on the two factions the way it is mandatory to obey the directives of the shari'ah. So much so, war will be declared on the faction which deviates from them.
4. If after reconciliation a faction violates the conditions of reconciliation, then it shall be regarded as a transgressor. It is obligatory on the Muslims to curb it from this act.
It should be kept in consideration that this directive relates to a situation when there is a central power of the Muslims which has the authority to intervene between two such factions or groups. In this age, the complex situation has arisen that many small and large Muslim states have been set up. If a war is, God forbid, waged between them, then it is not allowed for other Muslims states to ignore this situation. Every one of them should make efforts to make the warring states reconcile as is directed in this verse; however, practical intervention depends on the situation which relates to the political needs of the time. If the situation allows, use of force against the transgressing faction to make it submit to the truth will be totally justified. But if this is liable to cause further complexities in the international situation, then practical intervention should be abstained from; however, there can be no abstention from the efforts to make the two reconcile through diplomatic means.
اِنَّمَا الۡمُؤۡمِنُوۡنَ اِخۡوَۃٌ فَاَصۡلِحُوۡا بَیۡنَ اَخَوَیۡکُمۡ وَ اتَّقُوا اللّٰہَ لَعَلَّکُمۡ تُرۡحَمُوۡنَ ﴿۱۰﴾
All Muslims are brothers to one another. A dispute between them is, in the very first place, against their brotherhood; however, if Satan is able to instigate a dispute, then other Muslims should try to make peace between them and not to further ignite this enmity. The words وَ اتَّقُوا اللّٰہَ لَعَلَّکُمۡ تُرۡحَمُوۡنَ say that Muslims should keep fearing God. If they become a means of death and destruction for their brethren or if they are involved in a brawl on the basis of some national, tribal, geographical or political expediency, then they should remember that they will not be able to save themselves from the grasp of God. Only the people who always try to strengthen the brotherhood established by God will be regarded worthy of His mercy; those who neither do anything to weaken it nor, as far as they can, give an opportunity to anyone else to do so.
The dual used in بَیۡنَ اَخَوَیۡکُمۡdoes not imply that the war is only between brothers; in fact, this is used for two factions of Muslims. Such usage of the dual is common in Arabic; examples can be seen in the previous surahs.
The Source of Jarh and Ta'dil in the Qur'an
Our scholars of Hadith regard verse six of Surah Hujurat:
... یٰۤاَیُّہَا الَّذِیۡنَ اٰمَنُوۡۤا اِنۡ جَآءَکُمۡ فَاسِقٌۢ to be the source for verifying the reliability or unreliability of the narrators of Hadith as a result of which the great science of rijal was born – which is one of the sciences of which the pioneers are Muslims.
This verse directs Muslims to fully investigate news given to them by a fasiq. This directive is indeed a general one for it is essential to investigate all news likely to have far-fetched consequences. However, if someone attributes a report to the Prophet (sws), then it is even more important that it be scrutinized. The Prophet (sws) is a divinely appointed guide: each of his directives and practices is the best exemplar for the Muslims. If something is wrongly ascribed to him and it is accepted without inquiry, then this can result in loss not only in this world but in the Hereafter as well.
Though the verse only asks Muslims to investigate the news given by a fasiq, yet it is obvious that if a narrator is majhul (not known) such that neither is he known to be trustworthy nor untrustworthy, then it is essential that he too be researched into. This is because there is a chance that in accepting the report of an unknown narrator that person turns out in reality to be a fasiq. Thus scholars of Hadith have always investigated majhul narrators so that their reliability or unreliability can be ascertained. If they were not able to find out the details of a narrator, they rejected him by regarding him to be majhul.
It is also evident from the verse that this investigation is essential when a fasiq gives a piece of news that has far reaching consequences. This is because the word used is نَبَأwhich is used for a piece of news that is important and has far reaching consequences. This word is not used for a common piece of news or incident. Thus in general matters of every day life there is nothing wrong in accepting the information of a fasiq.
The verse asks Muslims to investigate both the narrator and his narration since the words used are: "Believers! When a fasiq brings a piece of news to you, investigate it." It is obvious that the object of the verb فَتَبَیَّنُوۡۤا is both the narrator and his narration; in fact, that the narration is the object of the verb is even more evident. This is because it is already known that the narrator is fasiq. In the investigation of a report, just as the reliability and trustworthiness of a narrator is important, even more important is to critically evaluate the words of the report, its context and background, its accordance or discordance with other reports, its analysis in the light of reason and revelation and, most important of all, its harmony with the Book of God and related things. If only the narrator is scrutinized and all these aspects are disregarded, then it cannot be said that research has been thoroughly done. Our scholars of Hadith mostly stress on scrutinizing the narrator and do not give much importance to scrutinizing the content of the report with regard to the aspects I have just referred to. This is in spite of the fact that without researching into these aspects we cannot say that the investigation is thorough. It is for this reason that our jurists have enunciated principles to scrutinize the contents of a report and this process is called darayah. The greatest share in this service is that of Imam Abu Hanifah (ra). By contributing in this regard, he has not only done a great favour to fiqh, he has also done a great service to the discipline of Hadith. Had our scholars of Hadith properly applied these principles, the great propaganda and uproar against Hadith would never have originated by mischief-mongers which opened the way to many interventions in religion by many misled sects. If God gives me the urge and time to write my proposed book on the principles of deliberation on Hadith, I will insha'Allah try to elaborate upon the value and importance of these principles.
It is evident from the above details that it is in accordance with this explicit directive of the Qur'an that our scholars of Hadith have exposed fasiq and majhul narrators. However, in these times, some well-wishers of such narrators have asserted that exposing the faults of these narrators amounts to backbiting which the Qur'an has prohibited in verse twelve of this very surah and regarded it to be equivalent to consuming the meat of one's dead brother. In their opinion, because of a certain "strategy", the scholars of Hadith legalized this prohibition in order to save religion from the narratives of fasiq narrators. From this point, they postulated an even deeper and subtle point that none of the prohibitions of the shari'ah is eternal. Hence, the leader of an Islamic Movement (Tahrik-i Islami) has the right under the requisites of this "strategy" to legalize a prohibition. I have already humbly commented on these views in some of my articles;there is neither need nor requirement to repeat this critique here. It suffices to say that would the scholars of Hadith legalize a thing as filthy as backbiting as part of this so called "strategy" when the Qur'an has so explicitly directed to expose the fasiq and majhul narrators.
It also needs to be kept in consideration that regarding the impugning of narrators to be backbiting is the work of the exponents of tasawwuf. Since the whole edifice of tasawwuf stands on weak and baseless narratives, when the scholars of Hadith began researching into the narrators of a report, these people thought that if this work continued fearlessly the whole edifice of tasawwuf would be razed to the ground. In order to safeguard themselves from this danger, the exponents of tasawwuf started to allege that the scholars of Hadith were indulging in backbiting. This point became very popular among the circles of tasawwuf. This point was adopted by some minds of the present age who dubbed it as "strategy", and, on this basis, enunciated such a principle which could disfigure the whole religion.
In the end, another thing about this verse should be kept in mind. Some scholars of Hadith and fiqh, while investigating the narratives of a fasiq person, gave importance to the practical fisq which emanated from him while disregarding the fisq of his belief and ideology. It is their opinion that if a person is guilty of some practical fisq like telling a lie or has a bad moral conduct, then his narrative and testimony shall no doubt not be accepted; however, if he has belief which can be regarded as fisq, then merely on this basis his narrative or testimony shall not be rejected. In my opinion, this view is absolutely wrong. Experience shows that the number of narratives fabricated by people having beliefs which reflect fisq are much more than those fabricated by people whose deeds reflect fisq. Their narratives are found in great numbers in books of sirah, tafsir, tasawwuf and history and have been misused by innovators and misguided sects. May God have mercy on the scholars who have given this concession to narrators having fisq in their beliefs and in this manner set this ummah on a trial which is not at all easy for the upright.
In my opinion, this division between fisq in belief and fisq in practice is meaningless. There is nothing in the Qur'an and Hadith which supports this view. The general principle stated earlier regarding fasiq people is in accordance with reason and revelation if it is applied to the people who have fisq in their beliefs: their report and testimony shall be accepted in all matters in which the report of a disbeliever is acceptable; however, important, in particular religious matters, their report and testimony cannot possibly be accepted.
Section II: Verses (11-13)
In verse seven earlier, the Almighty has mentioned the elaborate arrangement He had made to save Muslims out of His grace from كُفْرَ (disbelief) and فُسُوْقَ (defiance) and عِصْيَانَ (disobedience). In the succeeding verses, they are stopped from certain things which are contrary to faith and are of the category of fisq. They incite mischief in the hearts which poisons the whole society and which if not stopped, causes those who have been called رُحَمَآءُ بَيْنَهُمْby God to become the enemies of one another.
Readers may proceed to study the succeeding verses.
Text and Translation
یٰۤاَیُّہَا الَّذِیۡنَ اٰمَنُوۡا لَا یَسۡخَرۡ قَوۡمٌ مِّنۡ قَوۡمٍ عَسٰۤی اَنۡ یَّکُوۡنُوۡا خَیۡرًا مِّنۡہُمۡ وَ لَا نِسَآءٌ مِّنۡ نِّسَآءٍ عَسٰۤی اَنۡ یَّکُنَّ خَیۡرًا مِّنۡہُنَّ ۚ وَ لَا تَلۡمِزُوۡۤا اَنۡفُسَکُمۡ وَ لَا تَنَابَزُوۡا بِالۡاَلۡقَابِ ؕ بِئۡسَ الِاسۡمُ الۡفُسُوۡقُ بَعۡدَ الۡاِیۡمَانِ ۚ وَ مَنۡ لَّمۡ یَتُبۡ فَاُولٰٓئِکَ ہُمُ الظّٰلِمُوۡنَ ﴿۱۱﴾ یٰۤاَیُّہَا الَّذِیۡنَ اٰمَنُوا اجۡتَنِبُوۡا کَثِیۡرًا مِّنَ الظَّنِّ ۫ اِنَّ بَعۡضَ الظَّنِّ اِثۡمٌ وَّ لَا تَجَسَّسُوۡا وَ لَا یَغۡتَبۡ بَّعۡضُکُمۡ بَعۡضًا ؕ اَیُحِبُّ اَحَدُکُمۡ اَنۡ یَّاۡکُلَ لَحۡمَ اَخِیۡہِ مَیۡتًا فَکَرِہۡتُمُوۡہُ ؕ وَ اتَّقُوا اللّٰہَ ؕ اِنَّ اللّٰہَ تَوَّابٌ رَّحِیۡمٌ ﴿۱۲﴾ یٰۤاَیُّہَا النَّاسُ اِنَّا خَلَقۡنٰکُمۡ مِّنۡ ذَکَرٍ وَّ اُنۡثٰی وَ جَعَلۡنٰکُمۡ شُعُوۡبًا وَّ قَبَآئِلَ لِتَعَارَفُوۡا ؕ اِنَّ اَکۡرَمَکُمۡ عِنۡدَ اللّٰہِ اَتۡقٰکُمۡ ؕ اِنَّ اللّٰہَ عَلِیۡمٌ خَبِیۡرٌ ﴿۱۳﴾
Believers! Let not one group of men make fun of another; it is possible that they may fare better than them. And let not women make fun of other women who may perhaps turn out to be better than themselves. And do not defame one another, nor call one another by bad names. Even the name of defiance is bad after faith. And those who do not repent are the ones who wrong their souls. (11)
Believers! Avoid being overly speculative, for some speculations are a blatant sin and do not pry on one another. And no one among you should indulge in backbiting others. Would any of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? So you regarded this to be abhorrent. And keep fearing God. Indeed, God is ever inclined to accepting repentance and Ever-Merciful. (12)
People! We have created you from one man and one woman and divided you into tribes and clans that you might get to know one another. The noblest of you in God's sight is he who is the most God-conscious. Indeed, God is All-knowing and Wise. (13)
یٰۤاَیُّہَا الَّذِیۡنَ اٰمَنُوۡا لَا یَسۡخَرۡ قَوۡمٌ مِّنۡ قَوۡمٍ عَسٰۤی اَنۡ یَّکُوۡنُوۡا خَیۡرًا مِّنۡہُمۡ وَ لَا نِسَآءٌ مِّنۡ نِّسَآءٍ عَسٰۤی اَنۡ یَّکُنَّ خَیۡرًا مِّنۡہُنَّ ۚ وَ لَا تَلۡمِزُوۡۤا اَنۡفُسَکُمۡ وَ لَا تَنَابَزُوۡا بِالۡاَلۡقَابِ ؕ بِئۡسَ الِاسۡمُ الۡفُسُوۡقُ بَعۡدَ الۡاِیۡمَانِ ۚ وَ مَنۡ لَّمۡ یَتُبۡ فَاُولٰٓئِکَ ہُمُ الظّٰلِمُوۡنَ ﴿۱۱﴾
The words یٰۤاَیُّہَا الَّذِیۡنَ اٰمَنُوۡا are not merely meant for address; further down the evils which are fisq and also contrary to faith are mentioned. This address directs the attention of the Muslims to the fact that it is not befitting for those who have embraced faith to stain themselves with fisq.
It is neither befitting for men once they have accepted faith to make fun of other men by regarding them to be inferior to them nor is it permitted that women should ridicule other women. In the sight of God, it is faith and deeds which make a person noble or ignoble and true weight carried by faith and deeds will be known on the Day of Judgement through God's scale of justice. It is possible that a person regards himself to be superior but on the Day of Judgement the scale of God tells us that his faith and deeds carry no weight. It is similarly possible that he who was never given any importance by the people of the world is given a status in the kingdom of God which is way above given to those who regarded him to be lowly.
In the verse, women are emphatically mentioned with men even though apparently there was no need for it. The general words لَا یَسۡخَرۡ قَوۡمٌ مِّنۡ قَوۡمٍ were enough for them as well. However, in the mention of both morality and immorality, the Almighty has specially mentioned women where they are emphatically urged to strive to gain high reward or to save them from some trial. Here it is this second case. The evil from which men are stopped here is found if not more in women then certainly not less than in men. Women who are conceited because they regard their family, lineage or financial situation or apparent looks to be superior, speak in very humiliating tones to women whom they regard inferior to themselves.
The things which have been forbidden here have a special inner aspect, and the purpose, in fact, is to uproot it. The verse which is coming up at the end of this section points to this inner aspect. Among the various evils invented by Satan to mislead man is the trial of superiority of one's race, creed, family and tribe. Those who are inflicted with this evil (and few are the fortunate who are able to safeguard themselves from it) obviously regard others to be inferior to themselves and when they do so, their words and attitude necessarily reflect this. A stage is reached when this air of superiority becomes a tradition to them and, in fact, wherever they can they even regard it to be part of religion. Thus the Brahmans in the Hindus, the Levites in the Israelites and the Quraysh in the Arabs had acquired a holy status for themselves which was difficult for others to challenge. This is what happened to every nation and in spite of its tall claims to human equality, this evil persists even today. So much so, Muslims who were supposed to uproot this evil have themselves succumbed to it and are now divided into countless tribes and clans and each regards itself to be superior to the other. An expression to this air of superiority can be witnessed every now and then in the statements and slogans of every race and tribe. As a natural result of this, hate and spite arise for one another which then assume the shape of enmity and envy and the stage is reached when they end up fighting and severing ties with one another.
Here the Qur'an, in order to protect Muslims from this evil, has reminded them that the Almighty by His grace took them out from the darkness of ignorance and brought them forth into light. They should also remember that their society has been established on the principle of mutual brotherhood (اِنَّمَا الۡمُؤۡمِنُوۡنَ اِخۡوَۃٌ) and that they have been made merciful for one another (رُحَمَآءُ بَيْنَهُمْ), so they must not consider some of their brothers to be inferior or ridicule and make fun of them and in this manner distort the whole set up of the society.
The words عَسٰۤی اَنۡ یَّکُوۡنُوۡا خَیۡرًا مِّنۡہُمۡ state the real wisdom in this regard: the basis of honour and respect is not race, clan, family, tribe and nation or riches; the real basis is a person's faith and piety, and on the Day of Judgement it will be decided as to who in the sight of God is more noble and who in spite of his tall claims to lineage and ancestry and vanity in his status has no significance before the Almighty.
Consider next the expression: وَ لَا تَلۡمِزُوۡۤا اَنۡفُسَکُمۡ.The word لمز means to blame someone and to say something sarcastic to someone while gesturing towards him with the eye. Thus, for example, in Surah Tawbah, the words used for the Hypocrites are: اَلَّذِیۡنَ یَلۡمِزُوۡنَ الۡمُطَّوِّعِیۡنَ مِنَ الۡمُؤۡمِنِیۡنَ (79:9) (as for those who taunt the believers, (9:79)) i.e. when poor and indigent Muslims would spend in the way of God from their hard-earned money, the Hypocrites in order to discourage them ridiculed them to demean them. They would typically remark: "Look at these! They are trying to become examples of generosity." Such statements not only reflect hate but also their arrogance. They are meant to dishearten others or to create envy for them – and both these things spread poison in the society.
The word اَنۡفُسَکُمۡ is used in this verse the way it is in: وَ لَا تَقۡتُلُوۡۤا اَنۡفُسَکُمۡ (29 :4) (do not kill yourselves, (4:29)). It is evident from this usage that a Muslim who censures another Muslim in fact censures his own self because all Muslims on the principle of
اِنَّمَا الۡمُؤۡمِنُوۡنَ اِخۡوَۃٌ are brothers to one another. In other words, a brother who ridicules and censures another brother is as if he aimed his arrow at his own chest and thereby wounded it.
The words تَنَابَزُوۡا بِالۡاَلۡقَابِ mean "to call others with bad names." Just as calling a person or a nation with good names is to show respect and honour, calling someone with bad names is to demean and disrespect him. Derogatory names come to the tongue very easily and their effect is very far-reaching and permanent. The ill-will created by them remains for generations and a nation in which this tendency increases so much that poets, literary writers, editors and leaders spend all their intelligence in inventing bad names for their adversaries, should only pray for its well-being; its unity is bound to get divided. It needs to be kept in consideration that this tendency was at its peak among the Arabs. A poet and orator would be considered as the greatest in his nation if he was unrivalled in eulogizing the superiority of his nation and in censuring and humiliating others. If their satirical poetry is read, one can see how prominent a status they had in this regard. This proclivity of theirs never allowed them to unite as one nation. They would continue to try to overthrow and vanquish one another. For the first time in their history, Islam introduced unity and the brotherhood of faith in them as a result of which they became worthy of leading and guiding the world. The Qur'an here has informed them of these evils of the age of jahiliyyah: the Almighty has blessed them with faith and Islam and hence they should value and honour it and must not be lured away by Satan and not plunge into the abyss from which the Almighty has saved them.
Consider the next the part of the verse: بِئۡسَ الِاسۡمُ الۡفُسُوۡقُ بَعۡدَ الۡاِیۡمَانِ. The words بِئۡسَ and نِعْمَ are hyperbolic in nature. The exact meaningful translation of this sentence would be: "very evil is the name of fisq after faith." It is like saying: الشرير كأسمه (even the word naughty is bad what to speak of the badness of being naughty). Even in our language we say: "Sir! Even the name of it stinks."
The addition بَعۡدَ الۡاِیۡمَانِ(after faith) is pointing to the fact that if a person had not been introduced to faith and committed something of the nature of fisq (defiance), then this was not something at all odd; however, once the Almighty has made someone aware of the fragrance of faith and as is evident from the words وَ لٰکِنَّ اللّٰہَ حَبَّبَ اِلَیۡکُمُ الۡاِیۡمَانَ وَ زَیَّنَہٗ فِیۡ قُلُوۡبِکُمۡ (but God has endeared faith to you and ingrained it in your hearts), then even the name of fisq should be abhorrent to him not to speak of fisq being committed by him.
It is evident from the above sentence of the verse that whatever things have been prohibited in the previous verses are of the category of fisq and the sensitivity of believers should be so sharp that they hate and detest the very name of fisq much less speak of committing something of the sort.
The words: وَ مَنۡ لَّمۡ یَتُبۡ فَاُولٰٓئِکَ ہُمُ الظّٰلِمُوۡنَ very sternly warn people who even after this explanation commit some fisq of the sort specified above. The verse means that people who do not repent on these things should remember that they are wrong-doers. In other words, the Almighty has delineated the blessings of faith to them and also informed them of the consequences of disbelief and fisq. The responsibility is now on the people themselves. Those who, even after this conclusive communication of the truth, do not desist will definitely face the consequences and this will not be an act of injustice on the part of God; they themselves are the ones responsible for committing this injustice unto themselves.
یٰۤاَیُّہَا الَّذِیۡنَ اٰمَنُوا اجۡتَنِبُوۡا کَثِیۡرًا مِّنَ الظَّنِّ ۫ اِنَّ بَعۡضَ الظَّنِّ اِثۡمٌ وَّ لَا تَجَسَّسُوۡا وَ لَا یَغۡتَبۡ بَّعۡضُکُمۡ بَعۡضًا ؕ اَیُحِبُّ اَحَدُکُمۡ اَنۡ یَّاۡکُلَ لَحۡمَ اَخِیۡہِ مَیۡتًا فَکَرِہۡتُمُوۡہُ ؕ وَ اتَّقُوا اللّٰہَ ؕ اِنَّ اللّٰہَ تَوَّابٌ رَّحِیۡمٌ ﴿۱۲﴾
Here the believers are addressed afresh and stopped from certain things which though apparently seem trivial, yet can potentially damage the heart of a person so much that it does not remain conducive to taqwa. Thus, people who hold faith dear must necessarily protect themselves from such evils. The first thing mentioned is that a person should not nurture ill-founded thoughts about others in his heart. He should not harbour whatever evil thoughts that arise in him or others. It is but natural for good or bad thoughts to arise in one's heart about people whom one encounters in life. These thoughts establish or sever a person's relationship with another. Viewed thus, it is these thoughts which make and break relationships in a society. On the basis of the importance which thoughts occupy, a person should not carelessly accept or reject them; on the contrary, he should be very sharp and alive to them. In this regard, the guidance provided by Islam to its followers is that a Muslim must always think well of others unless it is proven to him that someone is not worthy of this. Thinking well of a person is an obvious requirement of the brotherhood of faith on which Islam has founded its society and which has been explained earlier. On the other hand, if a person adopts the attitude of entertaining and harbouring all sorts of ill-founded thoughts that come to his mind, then the example of such a person is that of a hunter who becomes so blind in his obsession for catching fish that he also catches snakes. Obviously, it is very possible that a person who becomes blind in his obsession for catching fish ends up losing his own life one day as a result. The Qur'an has stopped Muslims from this danger in that one must not start conjecturing too much because certain conjectures are blatant sins which may ruin a person. The guidance which emerges from this directive is that a person should not become so mentally sick as to think ill of others; on the contrary, he should always think well of others. If the deed or words of a person induce him to think ill of him, he should try as far as he can to make a good justification, if it can be made. He should only think to the contrary when he is unable to make any sound justification. It is better to think positively of a person who deserves to be thought of negatively than to think negatively of a person who deserves to be thought of positively. In Hadith narratives, a believer is eulogized as: اَلْمُؤْمِنُ غِرٌّ كَرِيْمٌ (a believer is noble and innocent).In these times, the favourite principle of people is that they should harbour ill-thoughts for others except if they prove themselves to be thought of otherwise; people regard this attitude to be one reflecting political acumen and think that this cleverness is necessary to deal with enemies. I have already explained this under the previous surah's verse: اَشِدَّآءُ عَلَی الۡکُفَّارِ. However, how can this political acumen be true for believers when they have been directed by the Qur'an to be اَذِلَّۃٍ عَلَی الۡمُؤۡمِنِیۡنَ (polite to the believers, (5:54)) and رُحَمَآءُ بَیۡنَہُمۡ (merciful to one another, (48:29)).
. See for example: Abu al-Fada' Isma'il ibn 'Umaribn Kathir, Tafsir al-Qur'an al-'Azim, vol. 4 (Beirut: Dar al-fikr, 1401 AH), 210-211.
. Some narrators have reported that he did not run away because of fear but because he already had grievances with the tribe. So he came back without meeting them and instead reported to the Prophet (sws) that they had refused to payzakah. See: Ibid.
. See, for example: Ibn Kathir, Tafsir al-Qur'an al-'Azim, vol. 4, 210.
. See, for example: Al-Zamakhashari, Al-Kashshaf, vol. 4, 362.
. See, for example: Ibn Kathir, Tafsir al-Qur'an al-'Azim, vol. 4, 211.
. It should remain in mind that Walid ibn 'Uqbah (rta) was a relative of 'Uthman (rta).
. And if two groups from among the believers take up arms against one another, make peace between them. Then if one of them unjustly attacks the other, fight against the aggressors till it submits to God's judgement. So if it submits, reconcile them with fairness and administer full justice.
. Indeed, God loves those who exercise justice. Muslims are brothers to one another so reconcile your brothers and fear God that you may be shown mercy.
. Amin Ahsan Islahi, Khalid Masud (ed.) Maqalat-i Islahi, 1st ed. (Lahore: Faran Foundation, 1991), 79-189.
. Believers! Let not one group of men make fun of another; it is possible that they may fare better than them. And let not women make fun of other women who may perhaps turn out to be better than themselves. And do not defame one another, nor call one another by bad names. Even the name of defiance is bad after faith. And those who do not repent are the ones who wrong their souls.
. Believers! Avoid being overly speculative, for some speculations are a blatant sin and do not pry on one another. And no one among you should indulge in backbiting others. Would any of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? So you regarded this to be abhorrent. And keep fearing God. Indeed, God is ever inclined to accepting repentance and Ever-Merciful.
. Abu Da'ud Sulyman ibn al-Ash'ath al-Sajistani, Sunan, vol. 4 (n.p.: Dar al-fikr, n.d.), 251, (no. 4790).