Interpretation of Sura Cow - Verses 217-218
Persecution during the sacred month - Mischief graver than carnage - Pardon and Mercy for the emigrants and those who strive and struggle in the way of the Lord - Question about intoxicants and gambling, Alms - Orphans - Matrimony with believer men and women.
217. " They ask you (O' Muhammad) concerning the sacred month about fighting in it. Say: 'Fighting in it is a grave (sin) ; but to bar (people ) from Allah's way, and to deny Him (to prevent access) to the Sacred Mosque, and to drive its people therefrom is, a graver (crime) with Allah. Sedition is more gravous than slaughter. They will not cease fighting against you until they turn you back from your religion, if they can. But whoever of you turns back from his religion, and dies disbelieving ? such are they whose deeds shall be of no avail in this world and Hereafter; those are the inhabitants of the Fire, wherein they shall dwell forever."
218. " Those who believed and those who migrated (suffered exile) and struggled in the way of Allah - these are they who hope for Allah's Mercy; and Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. "
Occasion of Revelation
It is said that this verse was revealed about the struggle of 'Abd-il-lah-ibn-Jahsh. The event was as follows: Before the occurrence of the battle of Badr, the Messenger of Islam (p.b.u.h.) sent for 'Abdillah-ibn-i-Jahsh. When he came, the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) , accompanying him eight men from among the Emigrants, gave him a letter and told him to start on a journey immediately, and after two days of paving the way, then he would open the letter to read and follow what it said. So, after two days of travelling, 'Abdillah opened the letter and found thus: "When you opened the letter, you go forward to 'Nakhlah' , (a land between Mecca and Ta'if) , and from there watch the situation of Quraysh. Then report to us the circumstances.
'Abdillah told his companions the matter and added that the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) had commanded him not to force them on that way. So, those who would be ready to be killed might follow him, and the rest could return. All the members decidedly started to go forward with him. When they reached Nakhlah, they encountered a caravan from Quraysh wherein was 'Amr-ubn-i-Hadrami. That day was the last day of Rajab (one of the Sacred Months) , so, they began consulting whether they could attack that group or not.
A few of them said if they left the caravan to continue their way, they would enter the limits of the sacred town, Mecca, where it was forbidden to attack them. Hence, finally, the Prophet's agents invaded them bravely. They succeeded to kill 'Amr-ubn-i-Hadrami and brought the caravan with two captives to the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) . The Messenger of Allah (p.b.u.h.) said he had not ordered them to fight in a sacred month. Therefore, he did not mix himself with the booties and the captives. The victorious warriors felt annoyed and Muslims thereby began scolding them. Infidels also sarcastically stated that the Prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) made fighting, bloodshedding, and capturing in the Sacred Months lawful. At that time the first verse of the above verses was revealed. After the revelation of this verse, 'Abdillah-ibn-i-Jahsh and his companions stated that they had strived on that way to obtain the reward concerning the Holy War. They also asked the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) whether they had got the reward of the strivers. Then, the second verse in the above was sent down. 103
As the occasion of revelation denotes, the verse intends to answer the questions about fighting in Sacred Months. It clearly proclaims the prohibition of fighting in Sacred Months and counts such a fighting a great sin. " They ask you (O' Muhammad) concerning the sacred month about fighting in it. Say: 'Fighting in it is a grave (sin) ; ... " Yet, it emphasizes that the infidels who have committed great sins such as infidelity to Allah, banning people from being lead to the straight path, expelling the inhabitants of Mecca from their home, trampling on the divine sanctuary and security of the sacred premises of Mecca, where the birds, beasts and plants should be secured, are not rightful to object to a group of Muslims who took action in fighting by mistake during a Sacred Month.
" ... but to bar (people) from Allah's way, and to deny Him (to prevent access) to the Sacred Mosque, and to drive its people therefrom is, a graver (crime) with Allah. ... " In addition to that, pagans have made mischief, because any subversive move against truthful people and barring them from embracing the theistic creed is a movement to creating a mischievous environment full of infidelity and idolatry. This crime is graver than fighting in a Sacred Month. " ... Sedition is more gravous than slaughter. ... " Thus, these Qur'anic words addresses Muslims and warns them to be careful not to be affected by the evil propagations of infidels. It informs them to have insight and be conscious for pagans who always try to convert them from Islam. It says:
" ... They will not cease fighting against you until they turn you back from your religion, if they can. ... " To prevent this situation, the Qur'an warns that whoever of Muslims turns back from the Truth and dies in that status while the one is an infidel, this infidelity nullifies all his good deeds of this world and the next world totally. " ... But whoever of you turns back from his religion, and dies disbelieving ? such are they whose deeds shall be of no avail in this world and Hereafter' ... " When a person, with such a condition of disbelief, has no valid good deeds in Hereafter, reasonably the one will be permanently involved in the torment of Allah.
" ... those are the inhabitants of the Fire, wherein they shall dwell forever. " There is a discription about the Arabic term /habt/ (forfeiture) in Almizan, Commentary, a part of which is as follows:
In short, 'habt of deeds' means their coming to nothing and their being of no effect. It has been said that it is derived from / habata / which is used when an animal over-eats and its stomach distends, often resulting in its death. The gist of the verse under discussion, like other verses of forfeiture, is that disbelief and apostasy make the deeds ineffective, i.e., such deeds lose their power to make life blissful. On the other hand, true faith and belief give life to the deeds and they create felicity, bliss and happiness in life. If someone acquires true faith after disbelief, his deeds are given a new life and they become effective in making life blessed and happy (although they were forfeited and ineffective before) . Likewise, if he apostatizes after having been a believer, all his deeds become dead, null and void; they cannot make life in this world or in the Hereafter happy. Thereafter, if he leaves his apostasy and comes back to the fold of Islam, it is hoped that his deeds will be revived; but if he dies in the apostasy, the forfeiture will have been confirmed and misery unhappiness will be written down for him. 104
The Arabic term /jihad/ literally means striving that can be with wealth i.e. spending money in the way of Allah, or with life which means giving away life or getting killed in Allah's way i.e. for Allah's cause.
" Those who believed and those who migrated (suffered exile) and struggled in the way of Allah - these are they who hope for Allah's Mercy; ... " This point is also remarked in the second verse that some warriors in the cause of Allah (s.w.t.) , as a result of being unaware or being insufficiently cautious, may make some errors, (the foregoing story of 'Abdillah-ibn-i-Jahsh was an example of this meaning) , but Allah will forgive them for their greater services that they usually do faithfully and sincerely. " ... and Allah is Forgiving Merciful. "
103. Sirah Ibn-i-Husham, vol. 2, p. 252
104. Almizan, Commentary, vol. 3, pp. 245, 247, (English version)
Adapted from the book: "The Light of The Quran - Interpretation of Sura Al-Baqarah (The Cow)" by: "Sayyid Kamal Faghih Imani and A Group of Muslim Scholars"
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