Surah Anfal

Surah Anfal

Surah Anfal is the 8th chapter of the Qurah with 75 verses placed in Juz’ 9 and 10. Surah Anfal mainly deals with the duties of Muslims in battles against the enemy.

Other namesBadr, Jihad
Surah no.8
PlaceJuz’ 9 & 10
Makki/MadaniMadani
Order of revelation88
No. of verses  75
No. of words1244
No. of letters5388
Famous verses24, 30, 61, 62

Facts about Surah Anfal

Surah Anfal meaning spoils of war or public wealth is the 8th surah of the Quran revealed in the city of Medina with 75 verses. Surah Anfal takes its place in Juz’ 9 and 10 of the Quran and discusses topics such as qualities of the believers, angelic aid at Jihad time, the night of Prophet’s migration to the city of Medina (Laylat al-Mabit) and the duties of believers towards the enemies at wartime.  

What is the meaning of Surah Anfal?

In Surah Anfal, the word ‘Anfal’ has occurred twice in the first verse. Moreover, many verses of this surah deal with rulings concerning anfal (war spoils and public wealth). That is why this surah has been named Anfal.

يَسْأَلُونَكَ عَنِ الْأَنْفَالِ ۖ قُلِ الْأَنْفَالُ لِلَّهِ وَالرَّسُولِ ۖ

They ask you concerning the anfaal. Say, ‘The anfaal belong to Allah and the Apostle.’ 1

Literal meaning of Anfal

Anfal comes from the word Nafl (نفل) meaning excess or something additional. For instance, we have Nafilah prayers, which means additional to obligatory prayers.

Moreover, in surah Anbiya 72, Allah (SWT) tells Prophet Abrahim (AS) that we have given you Ishaq and more than that, an additional gift, Yaqub.

وَوَهَبْنَا لَهُ إِسْحَاقَ وَيَعْقُوبَ نَافِلَةً ۖ

Anfal in narrations

Based on narrations and jurisprudential sources, natural resources, public wealth, war spoils, properties with no owners, valleys, mountains, mines etc. are considered as anfal. 2

Surah Anfal Summary of verses 3

Surah Anfal describes the duties of the Muslims against their enemy.

  1. (8:1-14) Have no reluctance to fight with the enemy
  2. Some Muslims were reluctant to accept the manner of division of anfal by the Prophet (S)
  3. Some Muslims were reluctant to start the battle of Badr
  4. (15-19) Do not run away from the battle field
  5. Unless diverting to fight or retiring towards another troop
  6. Allah’s supports the believers
  7. (20-26) Fully obeying the messenger of God (S)
  8. It’s a sign of one’s belief
  9. Life giving
  10. More power for the believers
  11. (27-28) Be loyal and trustworthy to Allah, His apostle and your trusts
  12. Do not prefer you wealth and children over God and the Prophet
  13. (29-44) The righteous believe in God’s support
  14. The faithless plots become ineffective
  15. The righteous fight with polytheist
  16. Divine aid in war (Muslims saw the polytheists as few in number)
  17. (45-54) Remember God and be selfless
  18. (55-64) Being alert towards those who violate their treaty
  19. Break your treaty with the treacherous
  20. Build a strong military force
  21. (65-71) Do not take captives in the midst of the war
  22. Do not go after transitory gains of this world
  23. (72-75) Feel responsible towards other believers

Which surah describes the battle of Badr?

Another name for surah Anfal is Badr as most of the verses are concerning the battle of Badr, the first war between the believers and unbelievers where the Muslims were aided by the angels with the command of God. 

Prior to Islam, spoils of war were distributed among people unjustly and based on certain discriminations. After the battle of Badr and the victory of the Muslims, a large amount of spoils of war was gained by the Muslims and there were different views on how the spoils were to be distributed among the Muslims. The people took this question to the Prophet Muhammad (S) and he distributed the spoils of the war of Badr justly among them. This time, none of the discriminations at the time of ignorance existed which obviously was not so pleasant by some, nevertheless, was a great help for the underprivileged and poverty stricken Musilms of the society. 4

What is meant by two groups in Surah Anfal?

وَإِذْ يَعِدُكُمُ اللَّهُ إِحْدَى الطَّائِفَتَيْنِ أَنَّهَا لَكُمْ وَتَوَدُّونَ أَنَّ غَيْرَ ذَاتِ الشَّوْكَةِ تَكُونُ لَكُمْ وَيُرِيدُ اللَّهُ أَنْ يُحِقَّ الْحَقَّ بِكَلِمَاتِهِ وَيَقْطَعَ دَابِرَ الْكَافِرِينَ ﴿7﴾

Behold! Allah promised you one of the two (enemy) parties, that it should be yours: Ye wished that the one unarmed should be yours, but Allah willed to justify the Truth according to His words and to cut off the roots of the Unbelievers; 5

Surah Anfal, 7 mentions “the two parties”. Who are they?

These two parties were subject of the first war encounter between the Muslims of Medina and the polytheists of Mecca.

This is how the story goes…

A trade caravan of Quraish under the leadership of Abusufyan had left the city of Mecca and was on its way to Medina. The people of Quraish were the ones who had seized and confiscated the property of the Muslims who had migrated to Medina because of the pressure and oppression they were exposed to in their hometown, Mecca. Now was a good time to weaken the political power of the polytheists and take back part of their unjustly seized possessions.

Hearing of the news of the Msulims’ plan to attack the trade caravan, an army of 1000 armed men gathered to confront the army of the Muslims who consisted of 313 men.

The Noble Prophet (S) consulted with his army about whom to confront: the army of the polytheists or the trade caravan? The final decision was to aim for the army of unbelievers.

Hence, the two parties mentioned in verse 7 of surah Anfal are the two cited groups and God wished that the Muslims confront the army of polytheists and cut their roots. 6

4 Famous verses in surah Anfal

1.   Real life lies in following God and His apostle 

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اسْتَجِيبُوا لِلَّـهِ وَلِلرَّسُولِ إِذَا دَعَاكُمْ لِمَا يُحْيِيكُمْ ۖ ﴿24﴾

O you who have faith! Answer Allah and the Apostle when he summons you to that which will give you life. 7

A key point in verse 24 of surah Anfal is that the believers are called to accept the invitation of God and His messenger, whether it is to fight against the unbelievers or to accept the principles of Islamic faith and act according to them. In this act there is vitality and life.

There are 4 different types of life according to the Quran:

  • The life of plants (Hadid, 17)
  • Life of animals (Fussilat, 39)
  • Human’s intellectual life (Anam, 122)
  • Eternal life (Fajr, 240)

The kind of life mentioned in this verse, most probably matches with the third category. In other words, Islam gives one a mindset and lifestyle which leads to a beautiful everlasting life in the other world.

Islamic lifestyle mindset

The second noteworthy point here is:

وَاعْلَمُوا أَنَّ اللَّـهَ يَحُولُ بَيْنَ الْمَرْءِ وَقَلْبِهِ وَأَنَّهُ إِلَيْهِ تُحْشَرُونَ ﴿24﴾

Know that Allah intervenes between a man and his heart and that toward Him you will be mustered.

In other words, the closest being to an individual is God. He is a witness to all his thoughts, feelings, and inclinations. Knowing this, a person would think twice before doing an action or even before having a bad thought. This is called the concept of Modesty or Haya. The verse ends by pointing to one’s eternal life. 

2.   Lailat al-Mabit: Allah is the best of deviser

وَإِذْ يَمْكُرُ بِكَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا لِيُثْبِتُوكَ أَوْ يَقْتُلُوكَ أَوْ يُخْرِجُوكَ ۚوَيَمْكُرُونَ وَيَمْكُرُ اللَّـهُ ۖ وَاللَّـهُ خَيْرُ الْمَاكِرِينَ ﴿30﴾

When the faithless plotted against you to take you captive, or to kill or expel you—they plotted and Allah devised, and Allah is the best of devisers.

Verse 30 of surah Anfal refers to Lailat al-Mabit, the night when the polytheists of Quraish plotted to assassinate the Noble Prophet (S); his holiness was informed by God and decided to migrate to Medina on that night and Ali (AS) slept in the Prophet’s place so the Quraish would not notice his absence.

This story has also been mentioned in surah Baqarah:

وَمِنَ النَّاسِ مَنْ يَشْرِي نَفْسَهُ ابْتِغَاءَ مَرْضَاتِ اللَّهِ ۗ وَاللَّهُ رَءُوفٌ بِالْعِبَادِ ﴿207﴾

And among the people is he who sells his soul seeking the pleasure of Allah, and Allah is most kind to [His] servants. 8

The person who sold his soul and sacrificed his life was Ali bin Abi Talib (AS) who is honored and praised in this verse. 

3.   Peace verse in Surah Anfal

وَإِن جَنَحُوا لِلسَّلْمِ فَاجْنَحْ لَهَا وَتَوَكَّلْ عَلَى اللَّـهِ ۚ إِنَّهُ هُوَ السَّمِيعُ الْعَلِيمُ ﴿61﴾

If they incline toward peace, then you [too] incline toward it, and put your trust in Allah. Indeed He is the All-hearing, the All-knowing.

In his insightful letter to Malik Ashtar, Ali bin Abi Talib (AS) advises his governor in Egypt to accept the peace offer of the enemy wherein there is the pleasure of Allah, as peace brings rest to the army and safety for the country. However, the ruler must be on guard that this peace would not offer a chance for the enemy to benefit from their negligence. 9

The following points can be understood from verse 61 of surah Anfal:

  • Islam is a religion of peace;
  • Muslims should be a powerful nation so the peace offer would come from the enemy’s side; 
  • In accepting peace, there could be hidden threats of attack from the enemy or the disagreement of people from your side. In all these, one is to put one’s trust in God. 

4.   Verse of Divine aid in surah Anfal

هُوَ الَّذِي أَيَّدَكَ بِنَصْرِهِ وَبِالْمُؤْمِنِينَ ﴿62﴾

It is He who strengthened you with His help and with the means of the faithful. 10

If we do our duty as we have been ordered by God, we will have His support and the help of other believers.

5 Lessons to learn from surah Anfal

Each and every verse of surah Anfal has many points to offer. This surah covers political, socio-economic, legal and spiritual points, among which 5 have been selected and explained below.

1.   Who is considered a faithful person?

Surah Anfal answers:

إِنَّمَا الْمُؤْمِنُونَ الَّذِينَ إِذَا ذُكِرَ اللَّـهُ وَجِلَتْ قُلُوبُهُمْ وَإِذَا تُلِيَتْ عَلَيْهِمْ آيَاتُهُ زَادَتْهُمْ إِيمَانًا وَعَلَىٰ رَبِّهِمْ يَتَوَكَّلُونَ ﴿ ﴿2﴾

الَّذِينَ يُقِيمُونَ الصَّلَاةَ وَمِمَّا رَزَقْنَاهُمْ يُنفِقُونَ ﴿3﴾

The faithful are only those

  • whose hearts tremble [with awe] when Allah is mentioned, and
  • when His signs are recited to them, they increase their faith, and
  • who put their trust in their Lord,
  • maintain the prayer and
  • spend out of what We have provided them. 11

Remembrance of God on the one hand makes the believer’s heart tremble with fear of the greatness of the creator, His chastisement and the responsibilities that He has put on one’s shoulder. At the same time, His remembrance brings peace and tranquility to the heart. 12 Note that this fear of God is out of one’s knowledge and understanding of the creator and not out of ignorance. 13

2.   Your possessions and children are only a test

أَنَّمَا أَمْوَالُكُمْ وَأَوْلَادُكُمْ فِتْنَةٌ وَأَنَّ اللَّـهَ عِندَهُ أَجْرٌ عَظِيمٌ ﴿28﴾

your possessions and children are only a test, and that Allah—with Him is a great reward. 14

The root of many haram acts such as lying, cheating, betrayal of a trust, greed, abandoning jihad and refusing to give charity, Khums and zakat are love for one’s wealth and children. As a matter of fact, they are means of testing and falling into Satan’s traps. Verse 27 of surah Anfal mentions one of such instances.  

There are four other instances in the Quran, where Allah (SWT) talks of wealth and children as two significant factors in one’s life.

Wealth and Children in Quran

It needs to be noted that these two same factors could turn to continuous and remaining righteous deeds for one if used in the right way. That is why believers prayed for offspring who would become the light of their eyes and as guides for the righteous. 15

3.   Taqwa, a bright torch in the dark paths of life

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِن تَتَّقُوا اللَّـهَ يَجْعَل لَّكُمْ فُرْقَانًا وَيُكَفِّرْ عَنكُمْ سَيِّئَاتِكُمْ وَيَغْفِرْ لَكُمْ ۗ وَاللَّـهُ ذُو الْفَضْلِ الْعَظِيمِ ﴿29﴾

O you who have faith! If you are wary of Allah, He shall appoint a criterion for you, and absolve you of your misdeeds, and forgive you, for Allah is dispenser of a great grace. 16

Three benefits of Taqwa have been mentioned here:

  • The ability to discriminate between right and wrong;
  • Absolving of misdeeds in this world and
  • Forgiveness in the Last world.

Allah (SWT) has equipped and assisted us with a number of elements to live our worldly life with the ability to distinguish between right and wrong. These elements are:

  • Messengers and guides sent by God
  • Dive books
  • One’s intellect and power of reasoning
  • Taqwa or Godweariness

The Taqwa mentioned in surah Anfal is a kind of self-control which includes other forms of self-control such as modesty, patience, swallowing one’s anger (Kazm Gheiz), forbearance and fear.

Taqwa means that you have control over your carnal desires and you do not let them rule over you and your intellect. In such instances, God also comes to your help as the Quran itself testifies,

وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ ۖ وَيُعَلِّمُكُمُ اللَّهُ

Be wary of Allah and Allah will teach you 17

It is as though one’s soul is like a mirror dusted with fog and dirt by man’s actions, in a way that after some time, if not cleansed, it will stop reflecting light. When there is Taqwa, the mirror is cleansed and can reflect the divine light.

Therefore, a person who has taqwa is capable of succeeding with the trial of wealth and children as mentioned in earlier verses of surah Anfal, moreover, he/she will be well reputed in this world and have Allah’s forgiveness in the world to come. 

4.   Satan’s technique in misleading mankind

وَإِذْ زَيَّنَ لَهُمُ الشَّيْطَانُ أَعْمَالَهُمْ وَقَالَ لَا غَالِبَ لَكُمُ الْيَوْمَ مِنَ النَّاسِ وَإِنِّي جَارٌ لَّكُمْ ۖ فَلَمَّا تَرَاءَتِ الْفِئَتَانِ نَكَصَ عَلَىٰ عَقِبَيْهِ وَقَالَ إِنِّي بَرِيءٌ مِّنكُمْ إِنِّي أَرَىٰ مَا لَا تَرَوْنَ إِنِّي أَخَافُ اللَّـهَ ۚ وَاللَّـهُ شَدِيدُ الْعِقَابِ ﴿48﴾

When Satan made their deeds seem decorous to them, and said [to the faithless], ‘No one shall overcome you today from among all mankind, and I will stand by you.’ But when the two hosts sighted each other, he took to his heels, saying, ‘Indeed I am quit of you. I see what you do not see. Indeed I fear Allah, and Allah is severe in retribution.’ 18

Satan tries to convince people toward evil by

  • turning their ungly actions seem beautiful;
  • Giving them courage and a high spirit to commit their wrong action;
  • Promising them that he will be by their side and support them.

But when he sees the good and evil groups facing each other, he sees the divine help which overcomes all the unbelievers’ power and might and takes to his heels and runs away.

5.   Unity of hearts, a divine blessing

وَأَلَّفَ بَيْنَ قُلُوبِهِمْ ۚ لَوْ أَنفَقْتَ مَا فِي الْأَرْضِ جَمِيعًا مَّا أَلَّفْتَ بَيْنَ قُلُوبِهِمْ وَلَـٰكِنَّ اللَّـهَ أَلَّفَ بَيْنَهُمْ ۚ إِنَّهُ عَزِيزٌ حَكِيمٌ ﴿63﴾

and united their hearts. Had you spent all that is in the earth, you could not have united their hearts, but Allah united them together. Indeed He is all-mighty, all-wise. 19

Occasion of revelation

This verse was revealed with regards to the two tribes of Aws and Khazraj who were among the Ansars in the city of Medina and had a long history of enmity between them until they accepted Islam and Allah brought their hearts close to one another.

One can still see this unity among true Muslims in today’s world. This is indeed a divine blessing which is often neglected. Note that often two or more countries unite to become allies for a common interest, nevertheless, their hearts are not at all in conformity.  

7 rewards and benefits for Surah Anfal

Many worldly and other-worldly rewards and benefits have been cited in narrations for the one who recites surah Anfal with a pure intention, tries to understand the meaning of the verses and acts upon the teachings provided.

1.   Will not be a hypocrite

The messenger of God (S) says,

On Judgement Day, I will intercede  for one who recites surah Anfal and Taubah and testify that he was not a hypocrite. Moreover, for every hypocrite man and woman in the world, that person will receive the reward of 10 Hasanah (righteous deeds), 10 of his sins will be wiped away, will elevate 10 levels, and the throne and its bearers will salute him in this worldly life. 20

2.   Victory over the enemy

Abu Abdillah (AS) says,

“One who writes surah Anfal and ties it to his elbow, will gain the right he was entitled to when referring to the ruler and will be victorious over whoever he disputes/fights with. Also he/she will be happy and this surah will be like a firm fortress for him.” 21

3.   Freedom from prison

Abu Abdillah (AS) says,

He who recites surah Anfal 7 times with a pure intention and considering its meaning, will be freed from prison or oppression against him. 22

4.   Happiness and optimism

وَمَا جَعَلَهُ اللّهُ إِلاَّ بُشْرَى وَلِتَطْمَئِنَّ بِهِ قُلُوبُكُمْ وَمَا النَّصْرُ إِلاَّ مِنْ عِندِ اللّهِ إِنَّ اللّهَ عَزِيزٌ حَكِيمٌ ﴿10﴾

Allah did not appoint it but as a good news, and to reassure your hearts. Victory comes only from Allah. Indeed Allah is all-mighty, all-wise.

He who constantly recites the cited verse with pure intention and consideration for its meaning, will always be happy, content and victorious over enemies. 23

5.   Popularity among people

Recitation of verses 62 and 63 of surah Anfal with pure intention makes one popular among people.

6.   A remedy for miserliness and hard-heartedness

The recitation of the 2nd verse of surah Anfal with the above cited conditions helps incline the heart toward righteous deeds and the worship of Allah (SWT). 24

7.   Solution to problems and anxiety

The believer who recites verses 66 to 75 of surah Anfal for one week starting from Saturday after every prayer with a pure intention and with attention to the meaning, Allah (SWT) will make things easy for him and peace and tranquility comes to him. 25

Summary

Surah Anfal also called Surah Badr is the 8th chapter of the Quran which discusses the first battle between the Muslims and the polytheists of Mecca in the 2nd year after Hijra. There are beautiful points to be understood and acted upon. It teaches that one needs to prefer the command of God and His messenger over one’s own personal interest. After all, even one’s own interest lies in the acceptance of the divine rulings.   


References

  1. The Quran, 8:1 (Qarai).
  2. Noor Tafsir on surah Anfal.
  3. Khamagar, Muhammad, “The Structure of the Glorious Qur’an”.
  4. Noor Tafsir.
  5. The Quran, 8:7, Yusuf Ali translation.
  6. Tafsir Noor.
  7. The Quran, 8:24 (Qarai).
  8. The Quran: 2:207 (Qarai).
  9. Nahjul Balaqah, letter 53.
  10. The Quran, 8:62 (Qarai).
  11. The Quran, 8:2-3 (Qarai).
  12. The Quran, 13:28.
  13. The Quran, 35:28.
  14. The Quran, 8:28 (Qarai).
  15. The Quran, 25:74.
  16. The Quran, 8:29 (Qarai).
  17. The Quran, 2:282 (Qarai).
  18. The Quran, 8:48 (Qarai).
  19. The Quran, 8:63 (Qarai).
  20. Mustadrak al-Wasa’il, vol. 4, p. 340.
  21. Translation of al-Burhan fi Tafsir al-Quran, vol. 6, p. 2.
  22. Khawas al-Quran al-Karim, p. 83.
  23. Khawas al-Quran al-Karim, p. 84.
  24. Ibid.
  25. Ibid.

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Radiyah Shameli
Radiyah Shameli
I am Radiyah Shameil. I write for the blog and am a team member in providing content for courses on “Family in the Quran”. I have a Ph.D. in Islamic studies and am a researcher in the field of women and family in Islam. I teach and research mostly in this area. Currently, I am working on the course “Family in the Quran” and “Parenting”

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