8. Anfaal

Syed Abu-Ala' Maududi's Chapter Introductions to the Quran


The Sura takes its name AL-ANFAL (The Bounties) from the first verse.

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 Sura there is nothing that might show that it is a collection of a couple of discourses that have been patched up together.

Historical Background

Before reviewing the Sura 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 the Message. 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 Hajj 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 of it. The significance of this offer was quite clear to the people of Yathrab and they fully real

Topics of Discussion

It is this great Battle that has been reviewed in this Sura. 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 Sura 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.