وَلَنَبْلُوَنَّكُمْ حَتَّى نَعْلَمَ الْمُجَاهِدِينَ مِنكُمْ وَالصَّابِرِينَ وَنَبْلُوَ أَخْبَارَكُمْ (31)
The verse says that the Almighty will necessarily test and try them through good and bad circumstances of various types until He is able to sift out those who adopt the path of jihād and perseverance from those who are mere claimers to this. The implication is that it is not the way of the Almighty to write on the forehead of every Hypocrite that he is a Hypocrite; however, this much is His established and unassailable practice that He keeps distinguishing the good from the evil through various trials. Since this is a requisite of His established practice, they too will have to pass through this trial. As a result, those people will not be able to hide themselves for long who want to remain in the ranks of the Muslims.
A reflection on this verse shows that the real purpose of these trials is to pinpoint the fighters for the cause of God and those who persevere; however, as a natural consequence of this those people too will be detected who through deception are desirous to be counted as Muslims. The words وَنَبْلُوَ أَخْبَارَكُمْ refer to this. The word أَخْبَار refers to their circumstances. This, in other words, can be understood that God tests people to sift out the good among them; however, the consequence is that the evil-doers are also identified.
Since this trial is a requisite of God's established practice, it has been mentioned in an emphatic way by employing the assertive particle lām. The verb عَلِمَ here means to sift out and to discern, as explained at an appropriate place in this tafsīr.
إِنَّ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا وَصَدُّوا عَن سَبِيلِ اللهِ وَشَاقُّوا الرَّسُولَ مِن بَعْدِ مَا تَبَيَّنَ لَهُمُ الهُدَى لَن يَضُرُّوا اللهَ شَيْئًا وَسَيُحْبِطُ أَعْمَالَهُمْ (32)
Here, at the end, the sūrah turns to the same topic with which it began and the purpose, as shall become evident from the coming verses, is to warn the Hypocrites that the opposition shown by the disbelievers to God and His Messenger will be of no avail. They will not be able to harm them; in fact, they themselves will be humiliated. All their efforts will end up in vain in this world and in the Hereafter too they will be doomed. So the Hypocrites must not ruin their Herein and the Hereafter by following the ways of the disbelievers and should obey God and His Messenger with full devotion; if they do not show weakness, God will make them succeed and humiliate these enemies.
The words إِنَّ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا وَصَدُّوا عَن سَبِيلِ اللهِ show that the Quraysh and their allies are implied here as the disbelievers. Verse one also mentions them by these words. The words وَشَاقُّوا الرَّسُولَ مِن بَعْدِ مَا تَبَيَّنَ لَهُمُ الهُدَى throw further light on them: they are fully convinced that what the Messenger of God is calling them to is the truth; however, they are adamant in opposing it merely in conceit of their leadership. This opposition of theirs will not be able to harm the religion of God in any way; however, they will doom their own selves. In other words, if they are opposing the Messenger of God in spite of being convinced that he is His Messenger and are fully convinced that what he is calling them towards is the truth, then how long will their artificial verve help them? They will be humiliated at last.
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا أَطِيعُوا اللهَ وَأَطِيعُوا الرَّسُولَ وَلَا تُبْطِلُوا أَعْمَالَكُمْ (33)
Though the address is general, it is evident from its style that it is specially directed towards weak Muslims who are under discussion in the previous verses. The verse says: "O People who have professed faith! It is an essential requirement of your faith that you obey God and His Prophet (sws)." It is evident from contextual indication that the verb أَطِيعُوا is in its complete and thorough meaning. Thus its true implication would be that people in all circumstances while keeping above vested interests should obey God and His Messenger.
The words وَلَا تُبْطِلُوا أَعْمَالَكُمْ imply that through this obedience only their deeds will bear fruit; if this obedience is kept subservient to their vested interests all their deeds will end up in vain even though they be religious in nature. Only that faith is acceptable to God which is in accordance with His terms. The religiosity of those who want to profess faith as per their own terms and obey its dictates as far as it suits their interests will not be totally discarded; so they should not let their deeds turn to nothing by adopting these ways!
إِنَّ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا وَصَدُّوا عَن سَبِيلِ اللهِ ثُمَّ مَاتُوا وَهُمْ كُفَّارٌ فَلَن يَغْفِرَ اللهُ لَهُمْ (34)
The implication of this verse is that God will never forgive these disbelievers who adopted the path of disbelief themselves and also stopped others from treading the path leading to God and then died while remaining adamant on this disbelief. In other words, the same fate will be met by people who will seek their support and conspire to keep their friendship intact with them.
فَلَا تَهِنُوا وَتَدْعُوا إِلَى السَّلْمِ وَأَنتُمُ الْأَعْلَوْنَ وَاللهُ مَعَكُمْ وَلَن يَتِرَكُمْ أَعْمَالَكُمْ (35)
The word سَّلْمِ means "peace and reconciliation". I have mentioned earlier while explaining verses twenty two and twenty three that since these Hypocrites do not have the courage to fight, they would keeping talking about peace and reconciliation. They would advise the Muslims as well as the Quraysh to make peace between one another and not engage in war. They would present themselves as a group inclined to peace and would give the impression to people that it is this policy which is in the interest of the country otherwise a brother will spill the blood of his bother and the whole body of the nation will be dismembered. This policy of theirs was totally founded on their cowardice and vested interests; but they would call people to it in the garb of peace and amity. This would impress people having inclination towards hypocrisy and this verse actually exposes this weakness of theirs: they should not become proponents of peace and reconciliation by hiding behind the veil of cowardice; they should come forward to wage jihād with faith and courage. If they do so, then they will necessarily succeed and their enemies will be humbled and humiliated; God is with them and when He is with them, then His help will be with them at every step; they should also rest assured that God will never be insincere and untruthful to His promises to them regarding the recompense of their deeds; He will fully reward each and every deed of theirs whether big or small.
The linguistic style found in فَلَا تَهِنُوا وَتَدْعُوا إِلَى السَّلْمِ is the same as the one explained in the following verse of Sūrah Baqarah:
وَلاَ تَلْبِسُواْ الْحَقَّ بِالْبَاطِلِ وَتَكْتُمُواْ الْحَقَّ وَأَنتُمْ تَعْلَمُونَ (42:2) (do not confound truth with falsehood, nor knowingly conceal the truth, (2:42)). There is no need to repeat the particle of negation لَاwhen both parts of a conjugate clause express the same reality. Same is the case in the verse under discussion. Since this call to peace was the result of the cowardice of these Hypocrites the word تَدْعُوا is conjugated with فَلَا تَهِنُوا and the particle of negation لَاwas suppressed so that it becomes evident from the very style of the discourse that this call to peace is not because they are peace-loving but because this is an unsuccessful attempt to hide their cowardice.
The expression وَتَرَهُ حَقَّهُ means: "he was dishonest in the rights of a person." The words وَلَن يَتِرَكُمْ أَعْمَالَكُمْ mean that people should not be afraid that God will be insincere or untruthful to them regarding the reward of their deeds; on the contrary, He will richly reward them. When each deed shall be fully and duly rewarded, then there is no reason to desist from sacrifices for His cause.
إِنَّمَا الحَيَاةُ الدُّنْيَا لَعِبٌ وَلَهْوٌ وَإِن تُؤْمِنُوا وَتَتَّقُوا يُؤْتِكُمْ أُجُورَكُمْ وَلَا يَسْأَلْكُمْ أَمْوَالَكُمْ (36)
The verse says that people should not desist from sacrificing their life and wealth for the cause of God by being lured away by the love of this world. If the wealth and resources of this life have any value, then it is only this much that a person uses them to earn for the Hereafter. If a person was not able to use his life in this manner, then this will mean that he spent his life as a slave to his desires and it would turn out to be meaningless for him. They should rest assured that if they lead a life of faith and virtue and spend their wealth for the cause of God, then this is not a non-lucrative deal; in fact, God will richly reward all their deeds and instead of the meagre and paltry riches of this life they will be blessed with an eternal kingdom.
The word إِحْفَاءٌ is suppressed after وَلَا يَسْأَلْكُمْ أَمْوَالَكُمْ as is evident from the next verse.Briefly stating something before explaining it is a common style of the Qur'ān. For this very reason, questions are cited in the Qur'ān in a very brief and concise manner so that the answer itself can explain the brevity. The word إِحْفَاءٌ means to take something completely and totally or to demand something insistently. These words actually sound an assurance to these spineless people that God will not put them through the test of demanding all their wealth; He will only demand a part of it and in this too He will richly recompense them. So they should not be afraid of spending in His cause and also not feel pushed at His calls to spend in His way.
إِن يَسْأَلْكُمُوهَا فَيُحْفِكُمْ تَبْخَلُوا وَيُخْرِجْ أَضْغَانَكُمْ (37)
The implication of this verse is that the Almighty will not demand all of their wealth because if He does they will be fully exposed as they will necessarily show stinginess, and in this way the malice and jealousy they hide in their hearts against Islam and the Muslims will become known. In verse twenty nine above, these very Hypocrites were threatened that they should not be deceived by the fact that the Almighty will conceal their malice and jealousy forever. He by putting them into any trial can expose them. This thing is stated here from another aspect that had God wanted, He could have asked them to give Him all their wealth or a major portion of it because it is He who gave it to them; however, He does not do so for this would expose people whose stinginess and hypocrisy are as yet under cover. The implication is that people should show gratitude on this graciousness of the Almighty that He has not put them through such a trial; otherwise, had He willed, He would have made known their real selves.
هَاأَنتُمْ هَؤُلَاء تُدْعَوْنَ لِتُنفِقُوا فِي سَبِيلِ اللهِ فَمِنكُم مَّن يَبْخَلُ وَمَن يَبْخَلْ فَإِنَّمَا يَبْخَلُ عَن نَّفْسِهِ وَاللهُ الْغَنِيُّ وَأَنتُمُ الْفُقَرَاء وَإِن تَتَوَلَّوْا يَسْتَبْدِلْ قَوْمًا غَيْرَكُمْ ثُمَّ لَا يَكُونُوا أَمْثَالَكُمْ (38)
The style of the expression هَاأَنتُمْ هَؤُلَاءhas been explained at an earlier instance in this tafsīr. The verse expresses sorrow and yearning on the attitude of the Hypocrites: when they are called to spend in the way of God, they are miserly as if they are spending for someone else even though showing miserliness to God is like showing miserliness to their own selves; if God asks from them to spend, then this is not for Himself but for themselves so that He can reward them the eternal kingdom in recompense.
The words وَإِن تَتَوَلَّوْا يَسْتَبْدِلْ قَوْمًا غَيْرَكُمْ ثُمَّ لَا يَكُونُوا أَمْثَالَكُمْ sound a threat to the Hypocrites that their attitude is akin to apostasy. If they want to become apostates, then they may as well; God does not care for them. He will bring forth other people to serve His religion who will not be worthless and despicable like them. In Sūrah Mā'idah, similar words used for Hypocrites are: يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ مَن يَرْتَدَّ مِنكُمْ عَن دِينِهِ فَسَوْفَ يَأْتِي اللهُ بِقَوْمٍ يُحِبُّهُمْ وَيُحِبُّونَهُ أَذِلَّةٍ عَلَى الْمُؤْمِنِينَ أَعِزَّةٍ عَلَى الْكَافِرِينَ (54:5) (Believers! If any among you renounces his faith, God will soon replace them by others who love Him and are loved by Him; they are soft to the believers and stern to the disbelievers, (5:54)).
If in the light of Sūrah Mā'idah, the words ثُمَّ لَا يَكُونُوا أَمْثَالَكُمْ can be interpreted as follows: these Hypocrites harbour malice for God and have absolutely no interest in earning the pleasure of God; for this reason, God too has revulsion for them. Contrary to you, they will be those who would love God and seek His pleasure and thus God too would love them. These Hypocrites are very soft to the disbelievers: they seek friendship from them and they – the disbelievers – are using them for their interest against Islam and the Muslims. On the contrary, these new people will be very affectionate and gracious for the believers, but if the disbelievers will try to dent them or use them for their own interest, they will find the believers to be like a rock solid wall. With the grace and blessings of God, I come to the end of this sūrah's tafsīr. فالحمد لله على ذالك (so gratitude be to God for this).
9th September 1976 AD
13th Ramadān al-Mubārak 1396 AH
(Translated from Tadabbur-i Qur'ān by Dr Shehzad Saleem)