Tafseer Surah Aal-Imran Ayaat 118 – 120
Mufti Muhammad Shafi Usmani writes in his tafseer, Ma’arif ul Qur’an, that these ayaat were revealed in a particular background. The Jewish settlements in Madina had old friendly ties with the tribes of Aws and Khazaraj. Individuals from these tribes were also on friendly terms with other individuals from the Jewish settlements. In their tribal capacity too, Aws and Khazraj were neighbors and allies to the Jews.
When these two tribes embraced Islam, they continued to maintain their ties with the Jews with the same love and sincerity. However, the Jews were hostile to the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and the religion that he brought. They were unwilling to be sincere and loving to anyone who had accepted the prophetic call and embraced Islam.
Outwardly, they went along with the same old relationships with the Ansaar of Madina, but inwardly they had turned into their enemies. The apparent friendship allowed them to conceal their true feelings, learn the secrets and plans of the righteous believers and use them against them.
It is this hypocritical behavior that the Muslims have been warned against in these ayaat.
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala forbids His believing servants from taking the hypocrites as allies so that the hypocrites do not have the opportunity to expose the plans of the believers to their enemies. The hypocrites try their best to confuse, oppose and harm the believers any way they can, and by using any wicked, evil means at their disposal. They wish the worst and difficult conditions for the believers. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala said, “…do not take as intimates those other than yourselves,” in reference to taking followers of other religions as consultants and allies, for advisors of a certain person have access to his most secret affairs.
The word bitanah used in the ayah means a friend, confidant, one with whom secrets are shared. The lining or inside part of a dress which stays close to the body is also known as bitanah. Derived from batn [inside], it is used in everything opposed to zahir [outside/apparent].
Mufti Muhammad Shafi Usmani explains that a person’s bitanah is one who knows his secrets, has access to his affairs in which he seeks his advice. Raghib al-Isfahani in his Mufradat and al-Qurtubi in his tafseer has given the same meaning.
It has been enjoined upon Muslims that they should not take people other than those from their own community as confidants and advisers, in a way that leads one into spilling the sensitive secrets of one’s own government, community or state. No doubt, under the shade of its universal mercy, Islam has given unusual instructions to Muslims so that they treat non-Muslims with compassion, goodwill, beneficence, kindness and tolerance. These are not mere statements but we learn from the Seerah that the Rasoolullah salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam was kind and tolerant towards the non-Muslims.
While being respectful to our non-Muslim friends and neighbors, we have to observe a few limits. We need to live as responsible citizens who are always on guard.
Imam Bukhari and An-Nasa’i recorded that Abu Sa’eed radhiAllahu ‘anhu said that the Messenger of Allah salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said,
مَا بَعَثَ اللهُ مِنْ نَبِيَ وَلَا اسْتَخْلَفَ مِنْ خَلِيفَةٍ إِلَّا كَانَتْ لَهُ بِطَانَتَانِ: بِطَانَةٌ تَأْمُرُهُ بِالْخَيْرِ وَتَحُضُّهُ عَلَيْهِ، وَبِطَانَةٌ تَأْمُرُهُ بِالسُّوءِ وَتَحُضُّهُ عَلَيْهِ، وَالْمَعْصُومُ مَنْ عَصَمَ الله
“Allah has not sent any prophet nor was there any Khalifah [Caliph] but they have two types of allies, one that commands him with righteousness and advises it, and another that commands him with evil and advises him with it. Only those whom Allah gives immunity are immune.”
Ibn Abi Hatim reported that Ibn Abi Ad-Dahqanah said, “`Umar bin Al-Khattab was told, ‘There is a young man here from the people of Hirah (in Iraq, who were Christians) who is a proficient scribe. Why do you not appoint him as a scribe?’ ‘Umar said, ‘I would then be taking advisors from among the disbelievers.’” This ayah and the story about ‘Umar testify to the fact that Muslims are not allowed to use Ahl Adh-Dhimmah to be scribes in matters that affect the affairs of Muslims and expose their secrets, for they might convey these secrets to combatant disbelievers. This is why Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala said,
لَا يَأْلُونَكُمْ خَبَالًا وَدُّوا مَا عَنِتُّمْ
“…for they will not spare you [any] ruin. They wish you would have hardship.”
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala then said,
قَدْ بَدَتِ الْبَغْضَاءُ مِنْ أَفْوَاهِهِمْ وَمَا تُخْفِي صُدُورُهُمْ أَكْبَرُ ۚ
“Hatred has already appeared from their mouths, and what their chests conceal is greater.”
It means enmity appears on their faces and in what they sometimes utter, as well as, the enmity they have against Islam and its people in their hearts. Since this fact is apparent to every person who has sound comprehension, therefore, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala has made signs clear for us to understand and take heed.
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala said next,
هَا أَنتُمْ أُولَاءِ تُحِبُّونَهُمْ وَلَا يُحِبُّونَكُمْ وَتُؤْمِنُونَ بِالْكِتَابِ كُلِّهِ
“Here you are loving them but they are not loving you while you believe in the Scripture – all of it.”
It means O believers! You like the hypocrites because you think they are believers for they pretend to be so, but they do not like you publicly or secretly. You believe in the Scripture – all of it, having no doubts about any of its portions whereas the hypocrites doubt the Qur’an.
Muhammad ibn Ishaq reported that Ibn ‘Abbas radhiAllahu ‘anhu said that this portion of the ayah means you believe in your Book, their Book, and the previous Books while the hypocrites disbelieve in your Book, and this is why they deserve that you dislike them instead of them disliking you. Ibn Jarir collected this statement.
وَإِذَا لَقُوكُمْ قَالُوا آمَنَّا وَإِذَا خَلَوْا عَضُّوا عَلَيْكُمُ الْأَنَامِلَ مِنَ الْغَيْظِ ۚ
“And when they meet you, they say, ‘We believe.’ But when they are alone, they bite their fingertips at you in rage.”
The word anamil [أَنَامِلَ] means the tips of the fingers, as explained by Qatadah. Such are the hypocrites! They pretend to be believers when they are with the believers while concealing the opposite in their hearts. They bite their fingertips in extreme anger and fury.
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala said to them,
قُلْ مُوتُوا بِغَيْظِكُمْ ۗ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَلِيمٌ بِذَاتِ الصُّدُورِ –
“Say, ‘Die in your rage. Indeed, Allah is Knowing of that within the chests.’”
No matter how much someone envies the believers and feel rage towards them, they should know that Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala shall perfect His favors on His believing servants, complete His religion, raise high His Word and give dominance to His religion. Therefore, O hypocrites, die in your rage, “Allah is Knowing of that within the chests.”
Allah has perfect knowledge of what you conceal in your hearts and chests and in the rage, envy and hatred you have against the believers. Allah will punish you for all this in this life, and they will have the good that you dislike for them. In the Hereafter, you will suffer severe torment in the Fire where you will remain for eternity.
Thereafter, Allah said,
إِن تَمْسَسْكُمْ حَسَنَةٌ تَسُؤْهُمْ وَإِن تُصِبْكُمْ سَيِّئَةٌ يَفْرَحُوا بِهَا ۖ
“If good touches you, it distresses them; but if harm strikes you, they rejoice at it.”
This emphasizes the severity of the enmity that the hypocrites feel against the believers. If the believers enjoy fertile years, victories, support and their numbers and following increase, the hypocrites become displeased. When the Muslims suffer a drought or their enemies gain the upper hand against them, by Allah’s decree, as it occurred during the battle of Uhud, the hypocrites become pleased.
Sabr and Taqwa the Panacea for the Muslims
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala prescribes sabr [patience] and Taqwa [Allah consciousness] as an effective measure against all hardships. This teaching has been conveyed to the Muslims at numerous places in the Qur’an.
In the ayah, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala said to His believing servants,
وَإِن تَصْبِرُوا وَتَتَّقُوا لَا يَضُرُّكُمْ كَيْدُهُمْ شَيْئًا ۗ إِنَّ اللَّهَ بِمَا يَعْمَلُونَ مُحِيطٌ
“And if you are patient and fear Allah, their plot will not harm you at all. Indeed, Allah is encompassing of what they do.”
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala directs the believers to safety from the wickedness of evil people and the plots of the sinners, by recommending them to revert to patience and by having fear of Allah and trusting Him. Allah encompasses the enemies of the believers. The believers have no power or strength except from Him. Whatever Allah wills, occurs, and whatever He does not will, does not occur. Nothing happens in His Kingdom except with His decision and according to His decrees. Verily, whoever relies on Allah, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala shall suffice for him.
We learn that our friendships and close relationships should be based on faith. We should not be intimate with anyone who is an enemy of Islam or discourages us from seeking nearness to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala.
Be careful about what you share with whom. Not everyone is a well-wisher. Be careful about how you use social media. Not everyone needs to know what is happening in your life. We learn in the story of Prophet Yusuf where his father tells him not to share his good dreams with his brothers. So be careful.
We learn that all of our issues can be resolved if we are patient and Allah-conscious. People cannot harm us if our relationship with Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is fixed. Sabr and Taqwa are your armor. Remember that Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala knows everything. Do not forget your morning and evening supplications. Seek help from Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala.
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