Introductory Notes on Sūrat al-Anfāl
by Sulaiman Hamid
(5th Year Alim Student, DarusSalam Seminary)
The Sūrah’s Name
Sūrat al-Anfāl is a madanī (revealed in Madinah) chapter. It was revealed towards the end of the Battle of Badr; and for this reason, it is also called: “Sūrah Badr.” Regarding it being named, “al-Anfāl,” this is because of the query regarding the spoils of war at the beginning of the chapter. It begins with the question:
يسألونك عن الأنفال
“They ask you regarding the spoils…“
The Sūrah’s Place in the Chronological Order of Revelation
According to some scholars, it is the second chapter that was revealed in Madinah, being revealed after Sūrat al-Baqarah. Others maintained that it was the third, being revealed after Sūrah Āl ʿImrān. It was revealed before Sūrat al-Aḥzāb. In consideration of all of the chapters, it was the eighty-ninth revealed.
The Number of Verses in the Sūrah
According to the authorities of Madinah, Makkah, and Basrah, it consists of seventy-six verses. According to the authorities of the Levant, it consists of seventy-seven verses. And according to the authorities of Kufah, it consists of seventy-five.
Some of the Correlations Between It and the Sūrah that Precedes It
1) The chapter that comes before it, Sūrat al-Aʿrāf, discusses some of the well-known Prophets and their interactions with their nations. It discusses how the Prophets (may Allāh send blessings upon them) triumphed over their nations. Similarly, the chapter discusses the Prophet Muḥammad (may peace and blessings be upon him) and his nation. Then, in Sūrat al-Anfāl, the chapter deals with the Battle of Badr, in which the Muslims were victorious after divine assistance was sent. Outwardly, the Muslims were unequipped and were few in number compared to the disbelievers. Despite that, the Muslims defeated them through the unseen help sent by Allāh.
2) As well, at the end of Sūrat al-Aʿrāf, Allāh says:
And in Sūrat al-Anfāl many of the virtues that are to be enjoined are mentioned.
3) Imām Biqāʿī (may Allāh have mercy upon him) mentioned that in the previous chapters, Allāh’s majesty was expounded on. Then, in Sūrat al-Anfāl, Allāh discusses the obligation of following the Prophet of Allāh (may peace and blessing be upon him), the one assigned the duty of calling humanity towards the Supreme Being.
Topics That the Sūrah Discusses
Sūrat al-Anfāl discusses a variety of topics of which some are the following:
- Reservation of the right for the Prophet (may peace and blessing be upon him) to distribute the spoils of war
- Allāh’s divine help during the Battle of Badr
- Legal rulings pertaining to the rules of engagement
- The immigration from Makkah to Madinah
- The Muslims’ protection from general punishment so long as the Prophet (may peace and blessing be upon him) remained amongst them
- Reliance on Allāh along with taking the appropriate means
- The detrimental effect of oppression
- The welfare of a nation being dependent on the people’s conduct
- Peace being preferred over conflict
- The obligation of fulfilling pacts
- The obligation of treating those who break pacts firmly
- The unity of the Muslims and the obligation of mutual support
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