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Surah Mumtahana

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Surah Mumtahana or Mumtahina is the 60th surah of the Quran, revealed in Medina, and located in juz 28. This surah covers a number of topics. In this article on Islam4u, we will explore this surah from different perspectives.

Not Making Allies With the Disbelievers and Allah’s Enemies

In the first verse of Surah Mumtahana, Allah says that we must not make allies with His enemies. The occasion of revelation of this verse is about a man named Hatib. He was a Muslim who had migrated to Medina with Prophet Muhammad (s). However, his family, who were not Muslims, were in Mecca. Therefore, he wanted to somehow support them. The Muslims were about to liberate Mecca. Hatib secretly sent a woman carrying a letter that exposed the intention of the Muslims of liberating Mecca so that in this way he could somehow support his family. Allah revealed this secret to the Prophet (s) through revelation. So the Prophet (s) had three of his companions arrest that woman and seize the letter from her. They found her on the way from Medina to Mecca. First, she denied that she was a spy, and they could not find anything after searching her belongings.

They were about to leave when Imam Ali (a), one of those sent by the Prophet (s), said, “Neither the Prophet (s) lies to us nor are we lying.” Therefore, they threatened her. That was when she took out the letter from between her hair. The Prophet summoned Hatib. Hatib apologized and admitted that he believed in the Prophet (s) and only wanted to support his family. As a result, the first few verses of Surah Mumtahana were revealed, advising Muslims not to take the polytheists as their friends:

يَٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوا۟ لَا تَتَّخِذُوا۟ عَدُوِّى وَعَدُوَّكُمْ أَوْلِيَآءَ تُلْقُونَ إِلَيْهِم بِٱلْمَوَدَّةِ وَقَدْ كَفَرُوا۟ بِمَا جَآءَكُم مِّنَ ٱلْحَقِّ يُخْرِجُونَ ٱلرَّسُولَ وَإِيَّاكُمْ ۙ أَن تُؤْمِنُوا۟ بِٱللَّهِ رَبِّكُمْ إِن كُنتُمْ خَرَجْتُمْ جِهَٰدًا فِى سَبِيلِى وَٱبْتِغَآءَ مَرْضَاتِى ۚ تُسِرُّونَ إِلَيْهِم بِٱلْمَوَدَّةِ وَأَنَا۠ أَعْلَمُ بِمَآ أَخْفَيْتُمْ وَمَآ أَعْلَنتُمْ ۚ وَمَن يَفْعَلْهُ مِنكُمْ فَقَدْ ضَلَّ سَوَآءَ ٱلسَّبِيلِ ‎﴿١﴾‏ إِن يَثْقَفُوكُمْ يَكُونُوا۟ لَكُمْ أَعْدَآءً وَيَبْسُطُوٓا۟ إِلَيْكُمْ أَيْدِيَهُمْ وَأَلْسِنَتَهُم بِٱلسُّوٓءِ وَوَدُّوا۟ لَوْ تَكْفُرُونَ ‎﴿٢﴾‏ لَن تَنفَعَكُمْ أَرْحَامُكُمْ وَلَآ أَوْلَٰدُكُمْ ۚ يَوْمَ ٱلْقِيَٰمَةِ يَفْصِلُ بَيْنَكُمْ ۚ وَٱللَّهُ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ بَصِيرٌ ‎﴿٣﴾

O you who have faith! Do not take My enemy and your enemy for friends, [secretly] offering them affection, if you have set out for jihad in My way and to seek My pleasure, for they have certainly denied whatever has come to you of the truth, expelling the Apostle and you, because you have faith in Allah, your Lord. You secretly nourish affection for them, while I know well whatever you hide and whatever you disclose, and whoever among you does that has certainly strayed from the right way. (1) If they were to confront you they would be your enemies, and would stretch out against you their hands and [unleash] their tongues with evil [intentions], and they are eager that you [too] should be faithless. (2) Your relatives and children will not avail you on the Day of Resurrection: He will separate you [from one another], and Allah watches what you do. (3) [All translations are by Qarai]

Prophet Ibrahim Is an Example for All Muslims

Verse four to six of Surah Mumtahana talks about Prophet Ibrahim (s) as an example of a person who did not make allies with Allah’s enemies, meaning the polytheists who lived in his time. The verses read:

قَدْ كَانَتْ لَكُمْ أُسْوَةٌ حَسَنَةٌ فِىٓ إِبْرَٰهِيمَ وَٱلَّذِينَ مَعَهُۥٓ إِذْ قَالُوا۟ لِقَوْمِهِمْ إِنَّا بُرَءَٰٓؤُا۟ مِنكُمْ وَمِمَّا تَعْبُدُونَ مِن دُونِ ٱللَّهِ كَفَرْنَا بِكُمْ وَبَدَا بَيْنَنَا وَبَيْنَكُمُ ٱلْعَدَٰوَةُ وَٱلْبَغْضَآءُ أَبَدًا حَتَّىٰ تُؤْمِنُوا۟ بِٱللَّهِ وَحْدَهُۥٓ إِلَّا قَوْلَ إِبْرَٰهِيمَ لِأَبِيهِ لَأَسْتَغْفِرَنَّ لَكَ وَمَآ أَمْلِكُ لَكَ مِنَ ٱللَّهِ مِن شَىْءٍ ۖ رَّبَّنَا عَلَيْكَ تَوَكَّلْنَا وَإِلَيْكَ أَنَبْنَا وَإِلَيْكَ ٱلْمَصِيرُ ‎﴿٤﴾‏ رَبَّنَا لَا تَجْعَلْنَا فِتْنَةً لِّلَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا۟ وَٱغْفِرْ لَنَا رَبَّنَآ ۖ إِنَّكَ أَنتَ ٱلْعَزِيزُ ٱلْحَكِيمُ ‎﴿٥﴾‏ لَقَدْ كَانَ لَكُمْ فِيهِمْ أُسْوَةٌ حَسَنَةٌ لِّمَن كَانَ يَرْجُوا۟ ٱللَّهَ وَٱلْيَوْمَ ٱلْـَٔاخِرَ ۚ وَمَن يَتَوَلَّ فَإِنَّ ٱللَّهَ هُوَ ٱلْغَنِىُّ ٱلْحَمِيدُ ‎﴿٦﴾‏

There is certainly a good exemplar for you in Abraham and those who were with him, when they said to their own people, ‘Indeed we repudiate you and whatever you worship besides Allah. We disown you, and enmity and hate have appeared between you and us forever unless you come to have faith in Allah alone,’ apart from Abraham’s saying to his father, ‘I will surely plead forgiveness for you, though I cannot avail you anything against Allah.’ ‘Our Lord! In You do we put our trust, and to You do we turn penitently, and toward You is the destination. (4) Our Lord! Do not make us a test for the faithless, and forgive us. Our Lord! Indeed You are the All-mighty, the All-wise.’ (5) There is certainly a good exemplar for you in them—for those who look forward to Allah and the Last Day—and anyone who refuses to comply [should know that] indeed Allah is the All-sufficient, the All-laudable. (6)

Prophet Ibrahim is a great example for all of us to follow. He antagonized the polytheists of his time, debated, and disavowed them. He even opposed a person whom he called his “father.” At first, he said that he would seek Allah’s forgiveness for him. However, when it became clear that he would not believe in Allah, Prophet Ibrahim disowned him.

According to Surah Mumtahana, Which Polytheists Should Muslims Befriend and Whom Should They Not?

In verse seven of Surah Mumtahana, Allah says:

عَسَى ٱللَّهُ أَن يَجْعَلَ بَيْنَكُمْ وَبَيْنَ ٱلَّذِينَ عَادَيْتُم مِّنْهُم مَّوَدَّةً ۚ وَٱللَّهُ قَدِيرٌ ۚ وَٱللَّهُ غَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ ‎﴿٧﴾

It may be that Allah will bring about affection between you and those with whom you are at enmity, and Allah is all-powerful, and Allah is all-forgiving, all-merciful. (7)

In the above verse, Allah states that He may make those polytheists who were once your enemies your friends by their believing in Islam. This would mostly happen after the liberation of Mecca by the Prophet and his army. When the Prophet (s) liberated Mecca, many of the polytheists converted to Islam and, therefore, were no longer enemies with the Muslims.

Verses eight to nine read:

لَّا يَنْهَىٰكُمُ ٱللَّهُ عَنِ ٱلَّذِينَ لَمْ يُقَٰتِلُوكُمْ فِى ٱلدِّينِ وَلَمْ يُخْرِجُوكُم مِّن دِيَٰرِكُمْ أَن تَبَرُّوهُمْ وَتُقْسِطُوٓا۟ إِلَيْهِمْ ۚ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ يُحِبُّ ٱلْمُقْسِطِينَ ‎﴿٨﴾‏ إِنَّمَا يَنْهَىٰكُمُ ٱللَّهُ عَنِ ٱلَّذِينَ قَٰتَلُوكُمْ فِى ٱلدِّينِ وَأَخْرَجُوكُم مِّن دِيَٰرِكُمْ وَظَٰهَرُوا۟ عَلَىٰٓ إِخْرَاجِكُمْ أَن تَوَلَّوْهُمْ ۚ وَمَن يَتَوَلَّهُمْ فَأُو۟لَٰٓئِكَ هُمُ ٱلظَّٰلِمُونَ ‎﴿٩﴾

Allah does not forbid you from dealing with kindness and justice with those [polytheists] who did not make war against you on account of religion and did not expel you from your homes. Indeed Allah loves the just. (8) Allah forbids you only in regard to those who made war against you on account of religion and expelled you from your homes and supported [the polytheists of Makkah] in your expulsion, that you make friends with them, and whoever makes friends with them—it is they who are the wrongdoers. (9)

There are two groups of disbelievers. A group of them conspires against Muslims and bears animosity toward them. Muslims should not make allies with them, just as verse nine clearly states. Another group of disbelievers has not and does not show animosity toward Muslims. Allah says to treat them well and there is no problem in having relations with them.

The Testing of Muslim Women in Surah Mumtahana

Verses ten of Surah Mumtahana talks about the women who had migrated from Mecca to Medina and how their faith should be confirmed through testing them. The verse reads:

يَٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوٓا۟ إِذَا جَآءَكُمُ ٱلْمُؤْمِنَٰتُ مُهَٰجِرَٰتٍ فَٱمْتَحِنُوهُنَّ ۖ ٱللَّهُ أَعْلَمُ بِإِيمَٰنِهِنَّ ۖ فَإِنْ عَلِمْتُمُوهُنَّ مُؤْمِنَٰتٍ فَلَا تَرْجِعُوهُنَّ إِلَى ٱلْكُفَّارِ ۖ لَا هُنَّ حِلٌّ لَّهُمْ وَلَا هُمْ يَحِلُّونَ لَهُنَّ ۖ وَءَاتُوهُم مَّآ أَنفَقُوا۟ ۚ وَلَا جُنَاحَ عَلَيْكُمْ أَن تَنكِحُوهُنَّ إِذَآ ءَاتَيْتُمُوهُنَّ أُجُورَهُنَّ ۚ وَلَا تُمْسِكُوا۟ بِعِصَمِ ٱلْكَوَافِرِ وَسْـَٔلُوا۟ مَآ أَنفَقْتُمْ وَلْيَسْـَٔلُوا۟ مَآ أَنفَقُوا۟ ۚ ذَٰلِكُمْ حُكْمُ ٱللَّهِ ۖ يَحْكُمُ بَيْنَكُمْ ۚ وَٱللَّهُ عَلِيمٌ حَكِيمٌ ‎﴿١٠﴾‏ 

O you who have faith! When faithful women come to you as immigrants, test them. Allah knows best [the state of] their faith. Then, if you ascertain them to be [genuinely] faithful women, do not send them back to the faithless. They are not lawful for them, nor are they lawful for them, but give them what [dowry] they have spent [for them]. There is no sin upon you in marrying them when you have given them their dowries. Do not hold on to [conjugal] ties with faithless women. Demand [from the infidels] what you have spent [as dowries], and let the faithless demand [from you] what they have spent [as dowries]. That is Allah’s judgment; He judges between you, and Allah is all-knowing, all-wise. (10)

Some women migrated from Mecca to Medina without being accompanied by their husbands and families. In these two verses, Allah states that the faith of these women must first be tested. If they are truly faithful, it is forbidden for them to return to their husbands because Muslims are forbidden from marrying polytheists and disbelievers. According to some scholars, after their waiting period (‘iddah) is finished and their husbands do not become Muslim, their marriage is nullified and they can marry another person.

The Pledge of Muslim Women in Surah Mumtahana

Verse 12 of Surah Mumtahana reads:

يَٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلنَّبِىُّ إِذَا جَآءَكَ ٱلْمُؤْمِنَٰتُ يُبَايِعْنَكَ عَلَىٰٓ أَن لَّا يُشْرِكْنَ بِٱللَّهِ شَيْـًٔا وَلَا يَسْرِقْنَ وَلَا يَزْنِينَ وَلَا يَقْتُلْنَ أَوْلَٰدَهُنَّ وَلَا يَأْتِينَ بِبُهْتَٰنٍ يَفْتَرِينَهُۥ بَيْنَ أَيْدِيهِنَّ وَأَرْجُلِهِنَّ وَلَا يَعْصِينَكَ فِى مَعْرُوفٍ ۙ فَبَايِعْهُنَّ وَٱسْتَغْفِرْ لَهُنَّ ٱللَّهَ ۖ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ غَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ ‎﴿١٢﴾‏

O Prophet! If faithful women come to you, to take the oath of allegiance to you, [pledging] that they shall not ascribe any partners to Allah, that they shall not steal, nor commit adultery, nor kill their children, nor utter any slander that they may have intentionally fabricated, nor disobey you in what is right, then accept their allegiance, and plead for them to Allah for forgiveness. Indeed Allah is all-forgiving, all-merciful (12)

The items that are listed in the verse must all be fulfilled if a person, specifically a Muslim woman, claims to have faith in Allah and His Prophet. That is when the Prophet accepts their allegiance and asks Allah to forgive them.

Do Not Befriend Those Who Have Incurred Allah’s Wrath

Verse 13, the last verse of Surah Mumtahana reads:

يَٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوا۟ لَا تَتَوَلَّوْا۟ قَوْمًا غَضِبَ ٱللَّهُ عَلَيْهِمْ قَدْ يَئِسُوا۟ مِنَ ٱلْـَٔاخِرَةِ كَمَا يَئِسَ ٱلْكُفَّارُ مِنْ أَصْحَٰبِ ٱلْقُبُورِ ‎﴿١٣﴾

O you who have faith! Do not befriend a people at whom Allah is wrathful: they have despaired of the Hereafter, just as the faithless have despaired of the occupants of the graves. (13)

In this verse, Allah says that we should not befriend and make allies with those with whom Allah is angry. This may include Muslims and non-Muslims. Therefore, we must see whether a person who claims to be a Muslim is following the laws of Islam or not. If they are not, then we should not make friends with them.

Benefits and Virtues of Reciting Surah Mumtahana

  • Whoever recites Surah Mumtahana, believers will intercede with Allah on their behalf, and they will be immune to certain diseases.
  • Imam Zayn al-‘Abidin (a) has said that whoever recites this surah in their obligatory and supererogatory prayers, Allah will prepare their hearts for faith, their eyes will lighten, they will never become poor, and the reciter of this surah and their children will never go insane.[1]
  • The Prophet (s) has said that whoever recites this surah, angels will greet them and ask for their forgiveness. If he dies on the same day that he recited the surah, he will die as a martyr, and the believers shall intercede with Allah on his behalf.[2]

Conclusion

Surah Mumtahana emphasizes the importance of not befriending Allah’s enemies. It states that we should follow the example of Prophet Ibrahim who antagonized the polytheists of his time. The surah also talks about those women who had migrated to Medina alone. Allah says that Muslims must first test them to see if they are faithful or not. If they are, their marriage with their disbelieving husbands is annulled after their waiting period (‘iddah), and Muslims can marry them if they pay their dowries. Surah Mumtahana ends by laying emphasis on not befriending those with whom Allah is angry. They are those who have despaired of the Hereafter. In conclusion, surah Mumtahana teaches us many socio-political matters that we can implement in our lives, especially regarding our relations with non-Muslims.


References

[1] Saduq, Thawab al-A‘mal, p. 118.

[2] Bahrani, Tafsir al-Burhan, vol. 5, p. 351.

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