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Surah Al-Munafiqun

Ayat/pg: 5 | 10 | 15 | 20 | All

Maududi's Commentry (Tafseer) on Surah Al-Munafiqun

Madina Madina (104)
11Total Ayat: 11
2Total Ruku: 2


The Surah takes its name from the sentence Idha jaa kal-munafiquna ofverse 1. This is the name of the Surah as well as the title of itssubject matter, for in it a review has been made of the conduct andattitude of the hypocrites themselves.

Period of Revelation

As we shall explain below this Surah was sent down either during theHoly Prophet's return journey from his campaign against Bani al-Mustaliq, or immediately after his arrival back at Madinah, and wehave established by argument and research in the Introduction to SurahAn-Nur that the campaign against Bani al-Mustaliq had taken place inSha'ban A. H. 6:Thus, the date of the revelation of this Surah isdetermined precisely.

Historical Background

Before we mention the particular incident about which this Surah wassent down, it is necessary to have a look at the history of thehypocrites of Madinah, for the incident that occurred on this occasionwas not a chance happening but had a whole series of events behind it,which ultimately led up to it.

Before the Holy Prophet's emigration toMadinah the tribes of the Aus and the Khazraj, fed up with theirmutual rivalries and civil wars, had almost agreed on the leadershipof one man and were making preparations to crown him their king. Thiswas Abdullah bin Ubayy bin Salul, the chief of the Khazraj. Muhammadbin Ishaq has stated that among the people of Khazraj his authoritywas never contested and never had the Aus and the Khazraj rallied toone man before this. (Ibn Hisham, vol. II, p. 234)

Such were the conditions when the voice of Islamreached Madinah and the influential people of both the tribes startedbecoming Muslims. When before the Emigration, invitation was beingextended to the Holy Prophet (upon whom be Allah'> peace) to come toMadinah, Hadarat Abbas bin Ubadah bin Nadlah Ansari wanted to deferthis invitation for the reason that Abdullah bin Ubayy also might joinin the declaration of allegiance and invitation to the Holy Prophet,so that Madinah might become the centre of Islam by common consent.But the delegation that arrived in Makkah to declare their allegiancedid not give any importance to the proposal of Abbas bin Ubadah, anda11 its members, who included 75 men from both the tribes, becameready to invite the Holy Prophet in the face of every danger.(lbnHisham, vol. II, P. 89). We have given the details of this event inthe Introduction to Surah Al-Anfal.

Then, when the Holy Prophet arrivedin Madinah, Islam had so deeply penetrated every house of the Ansarthat Abdullah bin Ubayy became helpless and did not see any other wayto save his leadership than to become a Muslim himself. So, he enteredIslam along with many of his followers from among the chiefs andleaders of both the tribes although their hearts were burning withrage from within. Ibn Ubayy in particular was filled with grief, forthe Holy Prophet (upon whom be Allah's peace) had deprived him of hiskingship. For several years his hypocritical faith and grief of beingdeprived of his kingdom manifested itself in different ways. On theone hand, when on Fridays the Holy Prophet (upon whom be Allah'speace) took his seat to deliver the Sermon, Abdullah bin Ubayy wouldstand up and say "O people, the Messenger of Allah is present amongyou, by whom Allah has honored you; therefore, you should support himand listen to what he says and obey him." (Ibn Hisham, vol. III, p.111). On the other, his hypocrisy was being exposed day by day and thetrue Muslims were realizing that he and his followers bore greatmalice against Islam, the Holy Prophet and the Muslims.

Once when theHoly Prophet was passing on the way Abdullah bin Ubayy spoke to him inharsh words. When the Holy Prophet complained of it to Hadrat Sa'd binUbadah; he said:"O Messenger of Allah, don't be hard on him, for whenAllah sent you to us we were making a diadem to crown him, and, by God,he thinks that you have robbed him of his kingdom." (Ibn Hisham vol:II, pp. 237-238).

After the Battle of Badr when the Holy Prophet (uponwhom be Allah's peace) invaded the Jewish tribe of Bani Qainuqa ontheir breaking the agreement and un provoked revolt, this man stood upin support of them, and holding the Holy Prophet by his armor,said:"These 700 fighters have been helping and protecting me againstevery enemy; would you cut them down in one morning?By God, I will notleave you until you pardon my clients." (Ibn Hisham, vol. III, pp. 5l-52).

On the occasion of the Battle of Uhud this man committed opentreachery and withdrew from the battlefield with 300 of his companions.One should note that at this critical moment when he so acted, theQuraish had marched upon Madinah with 3,000 troops and the Holy Prophethad marched out with only 1,000 men to resist them. Of these 1,000this hypocrite broke away with 300 men and the Holy Prophet was leftwith only 700 men to meet 3,000 troops of the enemy in the field.

After this incident the common Muslims of Madinah came to realizefully that he was certainly a hypocrite and his those Companions alsowere found who were his associates in hypocrisy. That is why when onthe very first Friday, after the Battle of Uhud, this man stood up asusual to make a speech before the Holy Prophet's Sermon, the peoplepulled at his garment, saying "Sit down you are not worthy to say suchthings." That was the first occasion in Madinah when this man waspublicly disgraced. Thereupon he was so filled with rage that he leftthe mosque jumping over the heads of the people. At the door of theMosque some of the Ansar said to him, "What are you doing?Go back andask the Holy Prophet (upon whom be Allah's peace) to pray for yourforgiveness." He retorted "I do not, want him to pray for myforgiveness." (Ibn Hisham, vol. III, p. 111).

Then in A. H. 4 theBattle of Bani an-Nadir took place. On this occasion he and hiscompanions supported the enemies of Islam even more openly. On the oneside, the Holy Prophet (upon whom be Allah's peace) and his devotedCompanions were preparing for war against their enemy, the Jews, andon the other, these hypocrites were secretly sending messages to theJews to the effect: "Stand firm we are with you: if you are attacked,we will help you, and if you are driven out, we too will go out withyou." The secret of this intrigue was exposed by Allah Himself, as hasbeen explained in Surah Al-Hashr: 11-17 above.

But in spite of being soexposed the reason why the Holy Prophet (upon whom be Allah's peace)was still treating him kindly was that he had a large band of thehypocrites behind him. Many of the chiefs of both the Aus and theKhazraj were his supporters. At least a third of the population ofMadinah consisted of his companions, as became manifest on theoccasion of the Battle of Uhud. Under such conditions it was notprudent to wage a war with these internal enemies combined with theexternal enemies. On this very account, in spite of being fully awareof their hypocrisy the Holy Prophet continued to deal with themaccording to their apparent profession of faith for a long time. Onthe other hand, these people too neither possessed the power nor thecourage to fight the believers openly as disbelievers, or to joinhands with an invader and face them in the battlefield. Apparentlythey were a strong hand but inwardly they had the weakness which Allahhas vividly portrayed in Surah Al-Hashr: 12-14. Therefore; theythought their well being lay only in posing as Muslims. They came tothe mosque, offered the prayers gave away the zakat, and would maketall oral claims to the faith, which the true Muslims never felt theneed to do. They would offer a thousand justifications for each oftheir hypocritical acts by which they would try to deceive theircompatriots, the Ansar, into believing that they were with them. Bythese designs they were not only saving themselves from thedisadvantages which could naturally accrue if they separatedthemselves from the Ansar brotherhood, but also taking advantage ofthe opportunities to make mischief which were available to them asmembers of the Muslim brotherhood.

These were the causes which enabledAbdullah bin Ubayy and like minded hypocrites to get an opportunity toaccompany the Holy Prophet (upon whom be Allah's peace) in hiscampaign against the Bani al-Mustaliq, and they simultaneouslyengineered two great mischiefs which could shatter the Muslim unity topieces. However, by virtue of the wonderful training in disciplinethat the Muslim; had received through the pure teaching of the Quranand the companionship of the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace) bothmischiefs were stopped in time, and the hypocrites themselves weredisgraced instead. One of these was the mischief that has beenmentioned in Surah An-Nur above, and the other which has been mentionedin this Surah.

This incident has been related by Bukhari, Muslim, Ahmad,Nasai, Tirmidhi, Baihaqi, Tabari, Ibn Marduyah, Abdur Razzaq, lbnJarir Tabari, Ibn Sa'd and Muhammad bin Ishaq through many reliablechannels. In some traditions the expedition in which it took place hasnot been named, and in others it has been connected with the Battle ofTabuk. But the authorities on the battles fought by the Holy Prophetand history are agreed that this incident took place on the occasionof the campaign against the Bani al- Mustaliq. The following seems tohe the real story when all the traditions are read together.

Whenafter crushing down the power of Bani al- Mustaliq the Islamic armyhad made a halt in the settlement at the well of al Muraisi. Suddenlya dispute arose between two men on taking water from the well; One ofthem was Jehjah bin Masud Ghifari, a servant of Hadrat Umar appointedto lead his horse. The other was Sinan bin Wabar al-Juhani, whosetribe was an ally of a clan of the Khazraj. Harsh words between themled to fighting and Jehjah kicked Sinan, which the Ansar, on accountof their ancient Yamanite tradition, took as a great insult anddisgrace. At this Sinan called out the men of Ansar and Jehjah theEmigrants for help. Hearing about the quarrel Ibn Ubayy startedinciting and calling the men of the Aus and the Khazraj to come outand help their ally. From the other side some Emigrants also came out.The dispute might have led to a fight between the Ansar and theMuhajirin themselves at the very place where they had just fought anenemy tribe jointly and crushing it had halted in its own territory.But hearing the noise the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace) emergedand said :"what is this call of paganism? What have you to do with sucha call? Leave it: it is a dirty thing." Thereupon the leading men ofthe two sides met and settled the dispute; Sinan pardoned Jehjah andpeace was restored.

After this every person whose heart wasdisaffected came to Abdullah bin Ubayy and they all said to him,"Until now we had our hopes attached to you and you were protecting us,but now it seems you have become a helper of these paupers against us.Ibn Ubayy was already enraged: These words made him burst out, thus:"This is what you have done to yourselves. You have given these peopleshelter in your country, and have divided your property among them. Somuch so that they have now become our rivals. Nothing so fits us andthe paupers of Quraish(or the Companions of Muhammad) as the ancientsaying 'Feed your dog to fatten it and it will devour you.' If youhold back your property from them, they would go elsewhere. By God,when we return to Madinah, the honorable ones will drive out from itthe mean ones."

Zaid bin Arqam, a young boy, also happened to bepresent in the assembly at that time. He heard this and mentioned itbefore his uncle, and his uncle who was one of the Ansar chiefs wentto the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace) and told him the whole story.The Holy Prophet called Zaid and asked him what had happened and herepeated every word of what he had heard. The Holy Prophet said, "Zaid,you are perhaps displeased with Ibn Ubayy; you might have beenmistaken in hearing; you. might have imagined Ibn Ubayy said this."But Zaid was sure and firm. He said, "No, I swear by God I have heardhim say this and that." Thereupon the Holy Prophet called Ibn Ubayy,and he came and swore that he had not said any such thing. The peopleof the Ansar also said "Sir, a boy says this : he might have beenmistaken in what he heard lbn Ubayy is a venerable old man and ourchief. Do not believe what a boy says against him." The elderly peopleof the tribe reproved Zaid also, who became depressed and held hispeace. But the Holy Prophet knew Zaid as well as Abdullah bin Ubayy.Therefore, he fully understood what had actually happened.

When HadratUmar came to know of this, he came to the Holy Prophet andsaid:"Please allow me to put this hypocrite to the sword. Or, if youdo not think it is fit to give me the permission you may tell Muadhbin Jabal, or Abbad bin Bishr, or Sad bin Mu'adh, or Muhammad binMaslamah from among the Ansar, to go and kill him."But the HolyProphet said: "No, the people will say Muhammad kills his ownCompanions." After this he ordered the people to set off immediately,although it was at a time when the Holy Prophet was not accustomed totravel. The forced march continued for 30 hours at a stretch so thatthe people became exhausted. Then he halted, and as soon as theytouched the ground they fell asleep. This he did to distract theirminds from what had happened at the well of al-Muraisi. On the way,Hadrat Usaid bin Hudair, an Ansar chief, met the Holy Prophet, andsaid:"O Messenger of Allah, today you ordered the people to set off ata time which was disagreeable for traveling, a thing you have neverdone before."The Holy Prophet replied: "Have you. not heard of whatyour friend said?" When he asked who he meant, the Holy Prophetreplied:Abdullah bin Ubayy. He asked what he had said. The HolyProphet answered: "He has asserted that when he returns to Madinah thehonorable ones will drive out from it the mean ones. He answered :"By God, O Messenger of Allah, you are the honourable one and he isthe mean one; you will drive him out whenever you want to."

By and bythe news spread among the Ansar soldiers and it enraged them againstIbn Ubayy. The people advised him to go to the Holy Prophet (upon whombe Allah's peace) and request for his forgiveness, but he retorted :"You asked me to believe in him, and I believed in him; you asked meto pay the zakat on my property, and I paid the zakat too; now the onlything left is that I should bow down to Muhammad."This further enragedthe believing Ansar and everyone' started reproaching and cursing himroughly. When the caravan was about to enter Madinah, Abullah, the sonof Abdullah bin Ubayy, stood before his father with a drawn out sword,and said: "You had said that when you reached Madinah, the honorableones would drive out the mean ones. Now, you will know who ishonorable you or Allah and His Messenger. By God, you cannot enterMadinah until the Messenger of Allah (upon whom be Allah's peace)permits you to enter." At this Ibn Ubayy cried out: "O people ofKhazraj, look, my own son is preventing me from entering Madinah." Thepeople conveyed this news to the Holy Prophet, and he said : "TellAbdullah to let his father come home."Abdullah said, "If this is theHoly Prophet's order, then you may enter."Thereupon the Holy Prophetsaid to Hadrat Umar: "Now what do you think, Umar? Had you killed himon the day when you asked my permission to kill him, many people wouldhave trembled with rage. Today if I order them to kill him, they willkill him immediately."Hadrat Umar replied "By God, I realize there wasgreater wisdom behind what the Apostle of Allah said than what Isaid."'

These were the circumstances under which this Surah was sentdown most probably after the Holy Prophet's return to Madinah.

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