Surat Al-Tawba (Repentance)

Wahba Mahmoud Diyab

Verily, God has purchased of the Believers their lives (persons) and their properties/goods; for theirs (in return) is the Garden/Paradise: they fight in His Cause, so they slay and are slain. It is a promise binding on Him in Truth, through the Law/Torah, the Gospel, and the Qur’an. And who is more faithful and truer to his Covenant than God? Then rejoice in the bargain which you have concluded. That is the supreme achievement. (111) إِنَّ اللَّهَ اشْتَرَى مِنَ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ أَنْفُسَهُمْ وَأَمْوَالَهُمْ بِأَنَّ لَهُمُ الْجَنَّةَ يُقَاتِلُونَ فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ فَيَقْتُلُونَ وَيُقْتَلُونَ وَعْدًا عَلَيْهِ حَقًّا فِي التَّوْرَاةِ وَالْإِنْجِيلِ وَالْقُرْآَنِ وَمَنْ أَوْفَى بِعَهْدِهِ مِنَ اللَّهِ فَاسْتَبْشِرُوا بِبَيْعِكُمُ الَّذِي بَايَعْتُمْ بِهِ وَذَلِكَ هُوَ الْفَوْزُ الْعَظِيمُ (111)
Those that turn (to God) in repentance; that who worship and serve Him,, who praise Him, that who wander in devotion to the Cause of God; that who bow down and prostrate themselves in prayer; that who enjoin good and forbid evil; and observe the limits set by God;- (these do rejoice). So proclaim the glad tidings to the Believers. (112) التَّائِبُونَ الْعَابِدُونَ الْحَامِدُونَ السَّائِحُونَ الرَّاكِعُونَ السَّاجِدُونَ الْآَمِرُونَ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَالنَّاهُونَ عَنِ الْمُنْكَرِ وَالْحَافِظُونَ لِحُدُودِ اللَّهِ وَبَشِّرِ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ (112)
It is not fitting (proper) for the Prophet [PPBUH] and those who believe; that they should pray for forgiveness for the Polytheistic Pagans; even though they be of kin, after it has become clear to them that they are companions (dwellers) of the Fire. (113) مَا كَانَ لِلنَّبِيِّ وَالَّذِينَ آَمَنُوا أَنْ يَسْتَغْفِرُوا لِلْمُشْرِكِينَ وَلَوْ كَانُوا أُولِي قُرْبَى مِنْ بَعْدِ مَا تَبَيَّنَ لَهُمْ أَنَّهُمْ أَصْحَابُ الْجَحِيمِ (113)
And Abraham’s invocations/prayers for his father’s forgiveness was only because of a promise he (Abraham) had made to him (his father). But when it became clear to him that he was an enemy to God, he dissociated himself from him. Verily, Abraham was most tender-hearted, forbearing. (114) وَمَا كَانَ اسْتِغْفَارُ إِبْرَاهِيمَ لِأَبِيهِ إِلَّا عَنْ مَوْعِدَةٍ وَعَدَهَا إِيَّاهُ فَلَمَّا تَبَيَّنَ لَهُ أَنَّهُ عَدُوٌّ لِلَّهِ تَبَرَّأَ مِنْهُ إِنَّ إِبْرَاهِيمَ لَأَوَّاهٌ حَلِيمٌ (114)
And God will never mislead/taking astray a people after He has guided them, in order that He may make clear to them what to fear (and should avoid). Verily, God is All-Knower of all and everything. (115) وَمَا كَانَ اللَّهُ لِيُضِلَّ قَوْمًا بَعْدَ إِذْ هَدَاهُمْ حَتَّى يُبَيِّنَ لَهُمْ مَا يَتَّقُونَ إِنَّ اللَّهَ بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ عَلِيمٌ (115)
Verily, to God belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth. He gives life, and He takes it (causes death). And except for Him, you have no protector, nor helper. (116) إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَهُ مُلْكُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ يُحْيِي وَيُمِيتُ وَمَا لَكُمْ مِنْ دُونِ اللَّهِ مِنْ وَلِيٍّ وَلَا نَصِيرٍ (116)
God Has turned with favor to the Prophet [PPBUH], the Muhajirs=Emigrants, and the Ansar=supporters/ helpers/aids, who followed him (Muhammad PPBUH) in a time of distress (Tabuk expedition), after the hearts of a part of them had nearly swerved/deviated (from the right Path), but He turned to them and accepted their repentance. Certainly, He is to them (also) is the Most-Kind, Most-Merciful . (117) لَقَدْ تَابَ اللَّهُ عَلَى النَّبِيِّ وَالْمُهَاجِرِينَ وَالْأَنْصَارِ الَّذِينَ اتَّبَعُوهُ فِي سَاعَةِ الْعُسْرَةِ مِنْ بَعْدِ مَا كَادَ يَزِيغُ قُلُوبُ فَرِيقٍ مِنْهُمْ ثُمَّ تَابَ عَلَيْهِمْ إِنَّهُ بِهِمْ رَءُوفٌ رَحِيمٌ (117)
And (He turned in mercy and forgiveness) to the three who were left behind; (they felt guilty) to such a degree that the earth seemed constrained to them, for all its speciousness, and their (very) souls seemed strained to them; and they perceived that there is no fleeing from God –and no refuge- but to Himself. Then He turned to them in forgiveness, that they might repent (and beg for His Pardon. Verily, God is the One Who forgives and accept repentance, and He is Oft-Returning, Most-Merciful. (118) وَعَلَى الثَّلَاثَةِ الَّذِينَ خُلِّفُوا حَتَّى إِذَا ضَاقَتْ عَلَيْهِمُ الْأَرْضُ بِمَا رَحُبَتْ وَضَاقَتْ عَلَيْهِمْ أَنْفُسُهُمْ وَظَنُّوا أَنْ لَا مَلْجَأَ مِنَ اللَّهِ إِلَّا إِلَيْهِ ثُمَّ تَابَ عَلَيْهِمْ لِيَتُوبُوا إِنَّ اللَّهَ هُوَ التَّوَّابُ الرَّحِيمُ (118)
O’ you who believe! Fear God and be with those who are true (in words and deeds). (119) يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آَمَنُوا اتَّقُوا اللَّهَ وَكُونُوا مَعَ الصَّادِقِينَ (119)
It was not fitting for the people of Al-Medina and the Bedouin Arabs of the neighborhood, to refuse to follow God’s Apostle [PPBUH] (to remain behind when fighting in the Cause of God), nor to prefer their own lives to his; because there is nothing they could suffer or do, but was reckoned to their credit as a deed of righteousness, whether they suffered thirst, or fatigue, or hunger, in the Cause of God, or trod paths to raise the ire of the Unbelievers, or received any injury whatever from an enemy/nor inflict any injury upon an enemy, but is written to their credit as a deed of righteousness. Surely, God may requite their deeds with the best (possible reward), and wastes not the reward of the beneficent/charitable. (120) مَا كَانَ لِأَهْلِ الْمَدِينَةِ وَمَنْ حَوْلَهُمْ مِنَ الْأَعْرَابِ أَنْ يَتَخَلَّفُوا عَنْ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ وَلَا يَرْغَبُوا بِأَنْفُسِهِمْ عَنْ نَفْسِهِ ذَلِكَ بِأَنَّهُمْ لَا يُصِيبُهُمْ ظَمَأٌ وَلَا نَصَبٌ وَلَا مَخْمَصَةٌ فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ وَلَا يَطَئُونَ مَوْطِئًا يَغِيظُ الْكُفَّارَ وَلَا يَنَالُونَ مِنْ عَدُوٍّ نَيْلًا إِلَّا كُتِبَ لَهُمْ بِهِ عَمَلٌ صَالِحٌ إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يُضِيعُ أَجْرَ الْمُحْسِنِينَ (120)
Nor could they spend anything (for the Cause) –small or great- nor cross a valley, but the deed is inscribed to their credit; that God may requite their deed with the best (possible reward). (121) وَلَا يُنْفِقُونَ نَفَقَةً صَغِيرَةً وَلَا كَبِيرَةً وَلَا يَقْطَعُونَ وَادِيًا إِلَّا كُتِبَ لَهُمْ لِيَجْزِيَهُمُ اللَّهُ أَحْسَنَ مَا كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ (121)
And it is not (proper) for the Believers –all go forth together. If a contingent from every expedition remained behind, they could devote themselves to studies in religion, and admonish the people when they return to them;- and that thus they (may learn) to guard themselves (against evil). (122) وَمَا كَانَ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ لِيَنْفِرُوا كَافَّةً فَلَوْلَا نَفَرَ مِنْ كُلِّ فِرْقَةٍ مِنْهُمْ طَائِفَةٌ لِيَتَفَقَّهُوا فِي الدِّينِ وَلِيُنْذِرُوا قَوْمَهُمْ إِذَا رَجَعُوا إِلَيْهِمْ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَحْذَرُونَ (122)
O’ you who believe! Fight the Unbelievers who are gird about and close to you, and let them find firmness in you; and know that God is with those who are pious and fear Him. (123) يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آَمَنُوا قَاتِلُوا الَّذِينَ يَلُونَكُمْ مِنَ الْكُفَّارِ وَلْيَجِدُوا فِيكُمْ غِلْظَةً وَاعْلَمُوا أَنَّ اللَّهَ مَعَ الْمُتَّقِينَ (123)
And whenever there comes down a Sura/Chapter, some of them (Hypocrites) say:”which of you has had his faith increased by it?”. Yea, as for those who believe,- their faith is increased, and they do rejoice. (124) وَإِذَا مَا أُنْزِلَتْ سُورَةٌ فَمِنْهُمْ مَنْ يَقُولُ أَيُّكُمْ زَادَتْهُ هَذِهِ إِيمَانًا فَأَمَّا الَّذِينَ آَمَنُوا فَزَادَتْهُمْ إِيمَانًا وَهُمْ يَسْتَبْشِرُونَ (124)
But as for those in whose hearts is a disease (of doubt, disbelief, and hypocrisy), it will add doubt to their doubt, and they will die in a state of Unbelief/ as disbelievers. (125) وَأَمَّا الَّذِينَ فِي قُلُوبِهِمْ مَرَضٌ فَزَادَتْهُمْ رِجْسًا إِلَى رِجْسِهِمْ وَمَاتُوا وَهُمْ كَافِرُونَ (125)
Do they not see that they are tried every year once or twice? Yet they do not turn in repentance, nor they take no heed. (126) أَوَلَا يَرَوْنَ أَنَّهُمْ يُفْتَنُونَ فِي كُلِّ عَامٍ مَرَّةً أَوْ مَرَّتَيْنِ ثُمَّ لَا يَتُوبُونَ وَلَا هُمْ يَذَّكَّرُونَ (126)
And whenever there comes down a Sura/Chapter, they look at each other, (saying):”does anyone see you?”. Then they turn aside. God has turned their hearts (from the light); for they are a people that understand not. (127) وَإِذَا مَا أُنْزِلَتْ سُورَةٌ نَظَرَ بَعْضُهُمْ إِلَى بَعْضٍ هَلْ يَرَاكُمْ مِنْ أَحَدٍ ثُمَّ انْصَرَفُوا صَرَفَ اللَّهُ قُلُوبَهُمْ بِأَنَّهُمْ قَوْمٌ لَا يَفْقَهُونَ (127)
Verily, now has come to you an Apostle [PPBUH] from amongst yourselves, it grieves him that you perish/receive any injury or difficulty. He [Muhammad PPBUH] is ardently anxious over you; to the Believers he is pity, the most kind and merciful. (128) لَقَدْ جَاءَكُمْ رَسُولٌ مِنْ أَنْفُسِكُمْ عَزِيزٌ عَلَيْهِ مَا عَنِتُّمْ حَرِيصٌ عَلَيْكُمْ بِالْمُؤْمِنِينَ رَءُوفٌ رَحِيمٌ (128)
But if they turn away, say [O’ Muhammad PPBUH]: “God is sufficient for me; there is no god but He; on Him is my trust; He is the Lord of the Mighty Throne (of Glory) Supreme”. (129) فَإِنْ تَوَلَّوْا فَقُلْ حَسْبِيَ اللَّهُ لَا إِلَهَ إِلَّا هُوَ عَلَيْهِ تَوَكَّلْتُ وَهُوَ رَبُّ الْعَرْشِ الْعَظِيمِ (129)
(Verse 111)- A/ In a human bargain both sides give something and receive some advantage. In the divine bargain of God with man, God makes man’s will and soul and his wealth and goods, and gives him in return ever-lasting Felicity. Man fights in God’s Cause and carries out His will, the Universal Will. All that he has to give up is the ephemeral things of this world, while he gains eternal salvation, the fulfillment of his highest spiritual hopes,- a supreme achievement indeed. B/ We offer our whole selves and our possessions to God, and God gives us Salvation, i.e. eternal freedom from the bondage of this world. This is the true doctrine of redemption; and we are taught that this is doctrine not only of Qur’an, but of the earlier Revelations,– the original Law of Moses and the original Gospel of Jesus. Any other view of redemption is rejected by Islam, especially that of corrupted Christianity, which thinks that some other suffered for our sins and we are redeemed by his blood. It is our self-surrender that counts, not other people’s merits. Our complete self-surrender may include fighting for the cause, both spiritual and physical. As regards to the actual fighting with the sword there has been some difference in the theological theories at different times, but very little in the practice of those who framed those theories. The Jewish wars were ruthless wars of extermination. The Old Testament does not mince matters on this subject. In the New Testament St. Paul –in commending the worthy fruits of Faith- mentions Gideon, Barak, and other warriors of the Old Testament as his ideals, “who through faith subdued kingdoms,… waxed valiant in fight, turned to fight the armies of the aliens…” (Hebrews, xi. 32-34). The monkish morality of the Gospels in their present form has never been followed by any self-respecting Christian or other nation in history. Nor is it common-sense to ignore lust of blood in unregenerate man as a form of evil which has to be combated “within the limits set by God” (see next verse).
(Verse 112)- We are to rejoice that by giving up such small things as ourselves and our possessions we are to be rewarded with such great thing as the eternal life of felicity. The righteous, whose lives in various aspects are described in this verse, so do rejoice. The good news is to be proclaimed to all Believers, including the weakest among us, so that they may profit by that example.
(Verse 113)- This is usually understood to refer to the prayers for the dead: (1) if they died unrepentant after Islam was preached to them, (2) if they actively resisted or opposed the Faith to the last, and (3) if the person praying knows that on account of deliberate contumacy the deceased may be said to have had the doors of mercy closed to him. How is he to know? The knowledge must come from special commands as declared by the Holy Prophet [PPBUH] in his life-time regarding individuals. Where no light is available from this source we must follow the best judgment we can.
(Verse 114)- A/ Abraham and his unbelieving father are referred to in Surat Al-An’am 6 verse 74. Apparently when Abraham was convinced that the conditions mentioned in the last note applied to his father, he gave up praying for him, as the physical bond was cut off by the spiritual hostility. For the promise to pray for his father , (see Surat Maryam 19 verse 47). B/ Abraham was loyal and tender-hearted, and bore with much that he disapproved, being in this a prototype of Al-Mustapha [PPBUH], and it have gone against his gain to cut off relations in that way. But it would obviously be wrong for human being to entreat God for mercy on people who had finally rejected God.
(Verse 115-116)- God’s clear commands are given, so that Believers may not be misled by their human frailty in unbecoming conduct.
(Verse 117)- A/ see verse 100. The Muhajirs=Emigrants were the people who originally forsook their homes in Mecca and followed Al-Mustapha [PPBUH] in exile to A-Medina. The Ansar=supporters/ helpers/aids, were the Al-Medina people who received them with honor and hospitality into their city. Both these groups were staunch supporters of Islam, and proved their Faith by great sacrifices. But in the difficult days of the Tabuk Expedition some of them –not perversely, but out of lethargy and human weakness- had failed to follow the standard. They were forgiven, and they –afterwards- acquitted themselves with zeal. B/ Note that the “swerving from duty” was merely an inclination due to the weakness of human nature in the face of new difficulties; that it only affected a part of the men for a time; and that it was overcome even in their case by the grace of God, so that they all did their duty, and were freely forgiven their incipient weakness, which they conquered. There were three exceptions, which are referred to in the next verse.
(Verse 118)- Among the Faithful, the largest number consisted of those who were perfectly staunch and ever ready to do their duty. They obtained the love and good pleasure of God. Next came a few who wavered because their will was weak and they were daunted by the dangers and difficulties that faced them; God’s saving grace protected them and they conquered their weakness, and did not fail in their duty; God forgave them and accepted their repentance. Lastly, in the illustration taken from the Tabuk affair, there were some who actually failed in their duty –not from contumacy or ill-will- but from thoughtlessness, slackness, and human weakness: they actually failed to obey the Holy Prophet’s [PPBUH] summons, and were naturally called on to explain, and were excluded from the life of the community. Their mental state is here described graphically. Though the earth is spacious, to them it was constrained. In their own souls they had a feeling of constraint. In worldly affluence they felt poor in spirit. They realized that they could not flee from God, but could only find solace and refuge in coming back to Him. They freely repented and showed it in their deeds, and God freely forgave them and took them to His Grace. Though illustrated by the particular examples of the Ansar, i.e. Ka’b, Marar, Hilal, the lesson is perfectly general and is good for all times.
((Verses 119-129:__ To be true in word and deed is to hold our selfish desires at bay, and follow God’s Call: in this is our fullest satisfaction and reward. But our striving should include study and teaching, for the Brethren’s benefit. For God’s Message increases our Faith and leads us to love Him and trust Him; the Lord of the Throne of Glory Supreme)).
(Verses 119-120)- Again, the illustration is that of Tabuk, but the lesson is general. We must not hold our own comfort or lives dearer than that of our Leader, nor desert him in the hour of danger. If we have true devotion, we shall hold our own lives or comfort cheap in comparison to his. But whatever service we render to the Cause of God, and whatever sufferings, or injuries we endure, or whatever resources we spend for the Cause,- all goes to raise our degree in the spiritual world. Nothing is lost. Our reward is far greater in worth than any little service we can render, or ay little hardship we can suffer, or any little contributions we can make to the Cause. We “painfully attain to joy”.
(Verse 121)- ‘Cut across a valley’: this is specially mentioned in a symbolical way, as denoting an individual act of heroism, dash, or bravery. To march with the troops along valley –or- spiritually, tread paths of danger along with our Comrades, is good and praiseworthy; but one that dashes across a stream, all alone, for some special deed of bravery where the clan of comradeship does not sustain him, needs special mention. Notice that both the things mentioned in this verse,- the spending of resources and the dashing across a valley, are individual acts, while those mentioned in the last verse are collective acts, which are in some ways easier. The individual acts having been mentioned, the next verse follows naturally.
(Verse 122)- Fighting may be inevitable, and where a call is made by the righteous Imam, it should be obeyed. But fighting is not to be glorified to the exclusion of all else. Even among those who are able to go forth, a party should remain behind –one in each township or circle- for purposes of study; so that when the fighters return home, their minds may be attuned again to the more normal interests of religious life, under properly instructed teachers. The students and teachers are soldiers of the Jihad in their spirit of obedience and discipline.
(Verse 123)- When conflict becomes inevitable, the first thing is to clear our surroundings of all evil, for it is only evil that we can rightly fight. To evil we must put up a stout and stiff resistance. Mealy-mouthed compromises are not right for soldiers of truth and righteousness. They are often a compound of cowardice, weariness, greed, and corruptibility.
(Verse 124)- The incompatibility of Unfaith and Faith are contrasted in this section in respect of revelation and the divine teacher. The Unbelievers laugh at revelation, and say to each other mockingly: “Does this increase your faith?” To the Believers every new aspect of God’s truth as revealed increases his faith, and wonder, and gratitude. He rejoices, because he gets added strength for life and achievement.
(Verse 125)- In Surat Al-Bagara 2 verse 10, and several similar passages. Just as the light, which to healthy eyes gives enlightenment, causes pain to the diseased eye, which emits unclean matter, so to those spiritually diseased, God’s grace is unwelcome, and they put forth more doubts to cover their disease. And they die in their disease, and of their disease. Note the aptness of the metaphor.
(Verse 126)- Yet, in spite of the their infidelity, one or two chances are given them every year. The door is not closed to them. Yet they deliberately turn away, and take no heed of all the warnings which their own nature and the teaching and example of good should give them.
(Verse 127)- Even the Unbelievers, in their heart and conscience, feel uncomfortable when they turn aside from Faith and Truth, therefore their turning aside is figured by furtive glances, such as we may suppose literally to have been cast by the Hypocrites in the assemblies of the Holy Apostle [PPBUH]. Then they slink away, feeling superior in their minds. And yet, if they only knew it, their contumacy deprives them of God’s grace and light. They are turning Grace away, and when God withdraws it altogether, they perish utterly.
(Verse 128)- The tender heart of the Teacher is grieved that any among his flock should rush headlong to ruin. He watches ardently over them, and whenever any of them show signs of Faith, his kindness and mercy surround him and rejoice over him.
(Verse 129)- But if the Message is rejected, he still proclaims the burning Faith of his heart, which is unquenchable. God is all in all. To trust Him is to find the accomplishment of all spiritual desire. His grandeur is figured by a lofty Throne, supreme in glory!

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