There is a difference of opinion concerning the reason behind revealing this part of the Ayah. Mujahid and others said that it was revealed about Ayyash bin Abi Rabi`ah, Abu Jahl‘s half brother, from his mother’s side, Asma’ bint Makhrabah.
Ayyash killed a man called Al-Harith bin Yazid Al-Amiri, out of revenge for torturing him and his brother because of their Islam. That man later embraced Islam and performed Hijrah, but Ayyash did not know this fact. On the Day of the Makkan conquest, Ayyash saw that man and thought that he was still a disbeliever, so he attacked and killed him.
Later, Allah sent down this Ayah. Abdur-Rahman bin Zayd bin Aslam said that this Ayah was revealed about Abu Ad-Darda because he killed a man after he embraced the faith, just as Abu Ad-Darda held the sword above him. When this matter was conveyed to the Messenger of Allah, Abu Ad-Darda’ said, “He only said that to avert death.” The Prophet said to him,
هَلَّا شَقَقْتَ عَنْ قَلْبِه
“Have you opened his heart?” The basis for this story is in the saheeh but it is not about Abu Ad-Darda.
Verifying the Faith Before Taking Any Action – Some Examples from the Life of Rasoolullah
Imam Ahmad recorded that a man from the Ansar said that he brought a slave and said, “O Messenger of Allah! I have to free a believing slave, so if you see that this slave is a believer, I will free her.” The Messenger of Allah asked her,
أَتَشْهَدِينَ أَنْ لَا إِلهَ إِلَّا اللهُ؟
“Do you testify that there is no deity worthy of worship except Allah?” She said, “Yes.” He asked her,
أَتَشْهَدِينَ أَنِّي رَسُولُ اللهِ؟
“Do you testify that I am the Messenger of Allah?” She said, “Yes.” He asked,
أَتُؤْمِنِينَ بِالْبَعْثِ بَعْدَ الْمَوْتِ؟
“Do you believe in Resurrection after death?” She said, “Yes.” The Prophet said,
“Then free her.” This is an authentic chain of narration, and not knowing the name of the Ansari Companion does not lessen its authenticity.
In the two saheehs, it is recorded that Abu Hurayrah radhiAllahu anhu said, “Two women from Hudhayl quarreled and one of them threw a stone at the other and killed her and her unborn fetus. They disputed before the Messenger of Allah and he decided that the Diyah of the fetus should be to free a male or a female slave. He also decided that the Diyah of the deceased is required from the elders of the killer’s tribe.” This hadeeth indicates that in the case of what appears to be intentional murder, the Diyah is the same as that for killing by virtual mistake. The former type requires three types of Diyah, just like intentional murder, because it is somewhat similar to intentional murder. Al-Bukhari recorded in his Saheeh that Abdullah bin `Umar said, “The Messenger of Allah sent Khalid bin Al-Waleed to Banu Jadhimah and he called them to Islam, but they did not know how to say, `We became Muslims.’ They started saying, `Saba’na, Saba’na (we became Sabians). Khalid started killing them, and when this news was conveyed to the Messenger of Allah, he raised his hands and said,
اللَّهُمَّ إِنِّي أَبْرَأُ إِلَيْكَ مِمَّا صَنَعَ خَالِد
“O Allah! I declare my innocence before You of what Khalid did.”
The Messenger sent Ali to pay the Diyah of those who were killed and to compensate for the property that was destroyed, to the extent of replacing the dog’s bowl. This hadeeth indicates that the mistake of the Leader or his deputy (Khalid in this case) is paid from the Muslim Treasury.