This sūrah bears witness to the fulfilment of the promise made with the believers in verse thirty five of the previous sūrah. It begins with the truce of Hudaybiyyah which proved to be a prelude to the conquest of Makkah and to the completion of favour to the Prophet (sws) and his ummah. Stated in it are also the predictions and glad tidings of conquest and dominance of this ummah mentioned in the Torah and the Gospel so that it becomes evident to both the believers and the disbelievers that whatever happened, is happening and will happen is not by chance. All this is pre-determined in the scheme of God which is bound to materialize. No force can stop it.
Background of the Sūrah
In order to understand this sūrah, it is essential to understand its background. It was revealed as a ray of hope in very hopeless circumstances and as glad tidings of an open victory in circumstances when Muslims felt that they were being vanquished. It assured the Muslims in very precarious circumstances, and in not more than two years every promise and threat given materialized in a manner that no doubt remained about it in the minds of both friends and foes.
The detail of this rather concise premise is that in 6th AH, the Prophet (sws) was given glad tidings in a dream that he will do ‘umrah with a group of his companions. On the basis of this dream, he called upon people to prepare themselves for ‘umrah. Though Muslims were in a continuous state of war with the Quraysh and there was a strong chance that if Muslims went to offer ‘umrah in their collective capacity, they would definitely try to stop them and the situation could lead to a battle. However, Muslims were so overwhelmed with the deprivation from the Baytullāh that they got ready to accompany the Prophet (sws) while disregarding this danger. The Hypocrites, who have been mentioned in the previous sūrah, tried their best to discourgae and demotivate the Muslims. They tried to strike fear in their hearts by saying that those who will go to Makkah will never return. However, Muslims fully trusted the dream of the Prophet (sws). For this reason about fifteen hundred Companions (rta) became ready to accompany him.
There is a difference of opinion between historians about the month of this journey – whether it was Rajab or Dhū al-Qa‘dah. It was, in any case, one of the two. These months have always remained specific to offer hajj and ‘umrah. For this reason, Muslims hoped that there is a very logical reason for the Quraysh showing respect to the sanctity of these months. The Prophet (sws) and the Companions (rta) wore the ahrām of ‘umrah at Dhū al-Hulayfah, a place six miles from Makkah. They took along with them seventy camels for sacrifice and to distinguish these animals, people put collars around their necks so that it becomes evident to every onlooker that these are sacrificial animals (hadī) and no one should harm them. They did not have any ammunition with them; all they had were swords and they too were sheathed. In other words, it was fully taken care of the fact that the Quraysh present no excuse for a battle; however, their over-blown pride of the age of jāhilliyah did not allow them to allow the procession to enter Makkah. They tried to make different excuses by making incursions through their people but the Prophet (sws) did not allow any of their mischief to succeed. When he reached Hudaybiyyah, he sent an envoy to their leaders with the message that he had come with the intention of offering ‘umrah only; he has no other intention. However, they decided to kill the envoy and it was only with great difficulty that his life was saved after a group of people interfered. After that, he sent his special envoy: ‘Uthmān (rta). He too tried to fully assure the Quraysh but they continued to show stubbornness. However, they did not misbehave with ‘Uthmān (rta) in any way and treated him very respectfully; they even offered him to do tawāf if he wanted to. ‘Uthmān (sws) did not accept their offer because he was not ready to undertake this ritual without the Prophet (sws).
In this pendimonium, ‘Uthmān’s return got delayed and a rumour spread in the Muslim camp that he had been martyred. Quite naturally, this acutely inflamed the Muslims. The Prophet (sws) too was effected by it. He called upon people to pledge a covenant of jihād at this hands so that a do or die war could be waged against the Quraysh. The Companions (rta) earnestly and enthusiastically took this pledge. When the Quraysh received the news that Muslims were about to launch an attack, they sent a delegation under the leadership of Suhayl ibn ‘Amr to negotiate peace. The delegation, in order to salvage the pride of the Quraysh, greatly stressed upon the Muslims to go back this year and return the following one whence the Makkans will vacate the city for three days to avoid any clash. It was also insisted upon that if any person of the Quraysh ran away to the Muslims, the latter would be under obligation to return him whereas the reverse would not be the case. The Companions (rta) were not ready to accept these conditions at any cost. However, the Prophet (sws), on divine bidding, accepted them and a settlement was reached on the following conditions.
1. For ten years, there shall be no war between the two parties. During this time, no party will launch any open or hidden onslaught against one another.
2. During this time, if a person belonging to the Quraysh ran away to the Muslims, they will have to return him, while the Quraysh would not be bound to return any person of the Muslims who goes to them.
3. Any tribe of the Arabs can enter into this settlement by becoming an ally of either of the two parties.
4. Muslims will go back this year and return the next to offer ‘umrah. They will be able to stay in Makkah for three days and each of them, if he wishes, can only bring one sword. In these three days, the people of Makkah will vacate the city so that any clash can be avoided.
Two of these conditions were every detestable to the Muslims, as has been indicated earlier. People thought that accepting them would be tantamount to an acknowledgement of defeat and were not ready at any cost to accept any condition that would depict them as the weaker party. It was at this instance that the caliph ‘Umar (rta) expressed his emotions in a manner that made him regret it all his life. After the peace agreement had been signed, the Prophet (sws) directed the Muslims to offer sacrifice and then shave their heads and in this way complete their ‘umrah. However, such was the sorrow and distress found in the Muslims that no one was ready to comply. At last, the Prophet (sws) himself took the initiative. When people realized that there was no room for any change in the directive, they too were compelled to get up and complete the rites of the ‘umrah. While returning, the general feeling was of being overwhelmed and of being vanquished. For this reason, a natural question that came to their minds was that if the dream of prophets of God are true, then what happened to the dream which the Prophet (sws) saw and as a result of which had embarked on this journey. It was in these circumstances in which this sūrah was revealed and as has been indicated earler was revealed as glad tidings of a clear victory. As far as the question is concerned that how did a thing that was seen as defeat by common Muslims became a clear victory, it shall be answered in the tafsīr of the sūrah.
Readers may first take an overview of the meanings of the sūrah.
Analysis of the Meanings
Verses (1-7): The Prophet (sws) is given glad tidings that he has been granted an open victory in the form of the Hudaybiyyah truce. This open victory is a prelude to an imminent conquest of Makkah which will totally humble the disbelievers before him; the Almighty will complete the favour of His religion on him and after successfully acomplishing his mission, he will attain the complete and eternal pleasure of God. A very blessed aspect of this campaign is that He opened the way to enhancement of faith and to Paradise for the believers, which in the sight of God is great success. This campaign also became the means of God’s anger and condemnation on the men and women from among the Hypocrites who would make all sorts of evil estimations about God and were not able to grasp the reality that all the forces of heavens and the earth are under the command of God and He, in accordance with His knowledge and wisdom, makes use of their service the way He desires or can desire.
Verses (8-10): The common Muslims are addressed and told that a Messenger comes from God as a bearer of glad tidings and warnings. It is the duty of people to profess faith in him, respect him, support him in all his campaigns and be his helpers. Those who pledge a covenant at his hands, in fact, pledge a covenant at the hands of God. If they fulfil the obligations imposed by this pledge, then they will receive great reward, and if they do not do so, then they should remember that it is only they who will be doomed for this behaviour. God will not suffer any loss from this.
Verses (11-16): The Prophet (sws) is informed that at this instance the Hypocrites who did not go out with him will come to him to beg pardon on the grounds that they were forced not to go because of their household responsibilities; so they should be forgiven and the Prophet (sws) should pray to God for their repentance. He is told to inform them that the real reason for not going was their thought that this time the Prophet (sws) and the Muslims would not return and that through this speculation of theirs they have only sought to ruin their ownselves. Now their matter rests with God. He alone will forgive whomsoever He wants and forgive whomsoever He wants.
The Prophet (sws) is also informed about these Hypocrites that when they will see that victory is being gained without any war, they will try their best to secure a place among the warriors; however, he must never give them this permission. They should be informed that soon they will be faced with a poweful enemy. If at that moment, they go out it would be alright and if at that moment too they do not go out by making similar excuses, then for them too the same punishment will be ordained as has been ordained for the disbelievers.
Verse (17): Those people are mentioned whose excuse to not attend the battle would not be regarded as hypocrisy as long as they remain obedient from their hearts to God and His Messenger (rta).
Verses (18-21): The courageous among the Companions took the bay’ah ridwān are mentioned. They are given glad tidings of victory, spoils of war and of the conquest of Makkah.
Verses (22-25): A mention of the fact that had the Quraysh waged war on the occasion of Hudaybiyyah, they would have been routed. The aspect which made the Muslims superior in this agreement is referred to and also mentioned is the fact that this truce was an open moral and religious defeat of the Quraysh. Stated then is the real reason because of which Muslims were not allowed to wage war in spite of the fact that Quraysh had been over-awed by them.
Verse (26): The moral victory secured by the Muslims in the wake of the moral defeat earned by the Quraysh is referred to. In contrast with the bias of the Quraysh to emotional frenzy, the majesty displayed by the Muslims in piety and in obeying God and His Prophet (sws) is alluded to.
Verse (27): An affirmation of the dream of the Prophet (sws). The wisdom in its delay to materialize is referred to.
Verses (28-29): A mention of the fact that the supremacy of Islam over all religions is beyond doubt. The parable of the Prophet (rta) and his Companions (rta) found in the Torah and the parable of the gradual victory of the truth found in the Gospel is alluded to.
(Rendered into English by Mr. Shehzad Saleem)
. The verse reads:
فَلَا تَهِنُوا وَتَدْعُوا إِلَى السَّلْمِ وَأَنتُمُ الْأَعْلَوْنَ وَاللَّهُ مَعَكُمْ وَلَن يَتِرَكُمْ أَعْمَالَكُمْ (47: 35)
So do not falter and call for a compromise and you will remain dominant and God is on your side and will not show any dishonesty with you in your deeds (47:35)