The Objectives of War
In this ayah, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says,
الَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ يُقَـتِلُونَ فِى سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ وَالَّذِينَ كَفَرُواْ يُقَـتِلُونَ فِى سَبِيلِ الطَّـغُوتِ فَقَـتِلُواْ أَوْلِيَاءَ الشَّيْطَـنِ
“Those who believe, they fight in the way of Allah; and those who disbelieve, they fight in the way of the Taghoot (false deities). So fight against the friends of the Shaytan.”
This clearly shows that the purpose for which a believer strives is to see that the Divine Law becomes operative in this world and that the authority of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala reigns supreme, because He is the master of all. He has created the universe in His infinite wisdom, and His Law is based on pure justice, and when the rule of justice is established, there will be peace which sustains. In order that there be peace in the world, it is necessary that it is run under a law which is the Law of the Lord. So, when a true and perfect Muslim fights in a war, this is the purpose before him.
But, in sharp contrast to him, disbelievers seek to spread the message of kufr, give it the widest possible currency, and work to bring about the ascendency of disbelief. They are all too eager to see that Shaytanic powers rule the world so that everything that constitutes kufr and shirk can be enforced in the universal order giving it the sheen and glamour of something seemingly positive. Since kufr and shirk are the ways of the Shaytan, therefore, the disbelievers help the Shaytan in doing his job.
The Strategy of Shaytan is Weak
إِنَّ كَيْدَ الشَّيْطَـنِ كَانَ ضَعِيفاً
“Indeed, the strategy of Shaytan is weak.”
The last sentence of ayah 76 assures that the deceptive plans made by Shaytan are weak and insubstantial because of which he cannot harm or hurt true Muslims in any way whatsoever. So, Muslims should really not demur when it comes to fighting against the friends of Shaytan, that is, against the disbelievers. This is because their helper is none other but Allah Himself and, with Allah on their side, the game plan of the Shaytan is not going to work for them.
And this is what happened at the battle of Badr. There was the Shaytan by the side of the disbelievers, dishing out his tall claims before them, telling them that nobody will over-power them because he is the helper by their side and his armies their supporters. When the actual fighting began, he did advance with his army, but no sooner did he notice that angels have arrived to help Muslims, all plans he had made were frustrated and he took to his heels saying to his disbelieving accomplices, “I bear no responsibility for you. I see what you do not see. I fear Allah for Allah is severe when punishing.” [Mazhari]
That the strategy of Shaytan has been called ‘weak’ in this ayah (76) is not an isolated statement. There emerge two conditions right from this ayah which provide us with an exception. The first one is that the person against whom the Shaytan is trying his guile must be a Muslim. Then, the second one is that the effort being made by that Muslim must be for the pleasure of Allah alone. In other words, he may not have any selfish motive behind his effort. The first condition emerges from the words, الَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ “those who believe” and the second from, يُقَـتِلُونَ فِى “fight in the way of Allah”. If either of the two conditions stop existing, then, it is not necessary that the guile of the Shaytan remains ‘feeble’ against him.
Al-Qurtubi recorded that Ibn Abbas radhiAllahu anhu has said, “When you see Shaytan, do not think twice. Attack him.” after that, he recited this very ayah,
الشَّيْطَـنِ إِنَّ كَيْدَ الشَّيْطَـنِ كَانَ ضَعِيفاً
Al-Bukhari recorded that Ibn Abbas said, “I and my mother were from the oppressed (in Makkah).” Allah then said,
الَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ يُقَـتِلُونَ فِى سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ وَالَّذِينَ كَفَرُواْ يُقَـتِلُونَ فِى سَبِيلِ الطَّـغُوتِ
Therefore, the believers fight in obedience to Allah and to gain His pleasure, while the disbelievers fight in obedience to Shaytan. Allah then encourages the believers to fight His enemies,