An-Nisa · Juz 5 · Qur'an Tafseer

Tafseer Surah an-Nisa Ayah 88

Censuring the Companions for Disagreeing Over the Hypocrites

Ayaat 88 – 91 deal with the problem of those hypocritical Muslims who had accepted Islam in Makkah and other parts of Arabia but had not emigrated to Madina. They lived as before with their people and took more or less a practical part in all their hostile activities against Islam and the Muslims.

They had become a very difficult problem for the Muslims who did not know how to deal with them.  Some Muslims were of the opinion that they were after all ‘Muslims’ because they recited the Kalimah, offered the Salah, observed fast and recited the Qur’an. Then how could they be dealt with like the disbelievers?

Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala in this passage criticizing the believers removes the difference of opinion from among the Muslims and tells them how to deal with them.

Imam Ahmad recorded that Zayd bin Thabit radhiAllahu anhu said that Messenger of Allah sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallam marched towards Uhud. However, some people who accompanied him went back to Madinah, and the Companions of the Messenger of Allah divided into two groups concerning them, one saying they should be killed and the other objecting. Allah sent down,

فَمَا لَكُمْ فِى الْمُنَـفِقِينَ فِئَتَيْنِ

“So what is (the matter) with you (that you have) become two parties concerning the hypocrites?” 

The Messenger of Allah sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallam said, “She (Madinah) is Taybah, and she expels filth, just as the billow expels rust from iron.” The two saheehs also recorded this hadeeth.

Al-Awfi reported that Ibn Abbas said that the ayah was revealed about some people in Makkah who said they embraced Islam, yet they gave their support to the idolators. Once these people went out of Makkah to fulfill some needs and said to each other, “If we meet the Companions of Muhammad, there will be no harm for us from their side.” When the believers got news that these people went out of Makkah, some of them said, “Let us march to these cowards and kill them, because they support your enemy against you.” However, another group from the believers said, “Glory be to Allah! Do you kill a people who say as you have said, just because they did not perform Hijrah or leave their land Is it allowed to shed their blood and confiscate their money in this case?” So they divided to two groups, while the Messenger was with them, and did not prohibit either group from reiterating their argument. Thereafter, Allah revealed,


فَمَا لَكُمْ فِى الْمُنَـفِقِينَ فِئَتَيْنِ

Ibn Abi Hatim recorded this hadeeth.

Allah said,

وَاللَّهُ أَرْكَسَهُمْ بِمَا كَسَبُواْ

“…And Allah cast them back for what they earned.…”

meaning, He made them revert to, and fall into error. Ibn Abbas said that, Allah’s statement, بِمَا كَسَبُواْ  means, because of their defiance and disobedience to the Messenger and following falsehood.

Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala then says,


أَتُرِيدُونَ أَن تَهْدُواْ مَنْ أَضَلَّ اللَّهُ وَمَن يُضْلِلِ اللَّهُ فَلَن تَجِدَ لَهُ سَبِيلاً

“Do you wish to guide those whom Allah has let go astray? And whoever Allah lets go astray – never will you find for him a way (of guidance).”

meaning, there will be no path for him, or way to guidance.  Allah turned the hypocrites back to their former unbelief because they followed a double-faced policy and were time-servers. As they preferred the life of this world to that of the Hereafter, they had entered the fold of Islam with some mental reservations. They were not prepared to sacrifice those interests which came into conflict with the requirements of the Faith and they did not have that firm belief in the Hereafter which makes one sacrifice with perfect peace of mind this world for the sake of the Next World. It has thus become obvious that the line of demarcation was so clear cut that there ought not to have been two opinions about hypocrisy.

At this place one should clearly understand why those Muslims who did not emigrate to Madina were declared to be hypocrites. When the Prophet sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallam migrated to Madina and conditions were created there for the fulfillment of the requirements of Islam, a general order was given that all those Muslims who were oppressed in any place and in any tribe or clan and could not freely carry out their Islamic obligations, should migrate to Madina, “the Abode of Islam.”

As a result, all those who could emigrate but did not do so because they loved their homes, their relatives and their interests more than Islam, were declared to be hypocrites.

It is obvious that the Muslims living in the “abode of unbelief” may be declared hypocrites for not migrating only if a general invitation is extended to them by the people living in “the Abode of Islam”, or at least the doors of” the Abode of Islam” are kept open for them. In such a case all those Muslims who may be doing nothing to change “the abode of unbelief” into “the Abode of Islam”, nor emigrate to “the Abode of Islam”, even if they could, would be declared hypocrites.

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