(ENGLISH) COMMENTARY BY MUHAMMED ESED
( BY MUHAMMED ESED )
48 - AL-FATH
In the name of god, the most gracious, The dispenser of grace: (1)

1 - According to most of the authorities, this invocation (which occurs at the beginning of every surah with the exception of surah 9) constitutes an integral part of "The Opening" and is, therefore, numbered as verse I. In all other instances, the invocation "in the name of God" precedes the surah as such, and is not counted among its verses. - Both the divine epithets rahman and rahrm are derived from the noun rahmah, which signifies "mercy", "compassion", "loving tenderness" and, more comprehensively, "grace". From the very earliest times, Islamic scholars have endeavoured to define the exact shades of meaning which differentiate the two terms. The best and simplest of these explanations is undoubtedly the one advanced by Ibn al-Qayyim (as quoted in Mandr I, 48): the term rahman circumscribes the quality of abounding grace inherent in, and inseparable from, the concept of God's Being, whereas rahrm expresses the manifestation of that grace in, and its effect upon, His creation-in other words, an aspect of His activity.

        
TOWARDS the end of the sixth year of the hijrah, the Prophet had a dream in which he saw himself and his followers entering Mecca as pilgrims. He decided to perform, accompanied by his followers, the lesser pilgrimage or pious visit (umrah) to Mecca. Although for nearly six years there had been a more or less permanent state of war between the Muslim community at Medina and the pagan oligarchy of Mecca, the Prophet did not anticipate any hostilities on that occasion, since the month of Dhu l-Qadah, in which he intended to reach Mecca, was one of the four sacred months during which, in accordance with time-honoured Arabian custom, all warfare was outlawed, and particularly so in and around the Holy City. A call was issued to some of the allied bedouin tribes in the vicinity of Medina to join the Prophet on this pilgrimage, but most of them excused themselves on some pretext or other (see note on verse 11 of this surah). Thus, the Prophets party which set out for Mecca consisted of only 1400-1500 men, all of them dressed in the pilgrims garb (ihram) and, apart from their sheathed swords, unarmed. On learning of the Prophets approach, the Meccans decided - against all Arabian tradition - to oppose the entry of the pilgrims by force of arms. A detachment of two hundred horsemen under the command of Khalid ibn al-Walid (who was destined to embrace Islam less than two years later) was sent out to intercept the Prophets party, while several thousand heavily-armed men took up positions around Mecca. Since the Prophet was neither inclined nor in a position to give battle, he turned westwards from Bir Usfan (a place about one days journey from Mecca) and alighted on the plain of Al-Hudaybiyyah, where he and his followers remained for the next few days. There and then negotiations were opened between the Muslims and the Meccan oligarchy. After some preliminary discussions conducted by various emissaries of both parties, the Prophet sent Uthman ibn Affan (who belonged to one of the most influential Meccan clans) as his envoy. Shortly after Uthmans arrival in Mecca, a rumour that he had been murdered reached the Muslim camp at Hudaybiyyah. Thereupon the Prophet, expecting a treacherous attack by the Meccans, assembled his followers and, sitting under a wild acacia tree, took, amid scenes of the greatest enthusiasm, a pledge from each one of his followers that they would remain steadfast and fight unto death; and after the revelation of verse 18 of this surah, this Pledge of the Tree became known to history as Bayat ar-Ridwan (the Pledge of [Gods] Goodly Acceptance). When a few days later the rumour of Uthmans death proved false and he himself returned to Hudaybiyyah, it became clear that the Meccans were prepared to conclude a truce. A treaty was drawn up, stipulating, among other provisions, that all warfare between Mecca and Medina should be suspended for ten years, and that the Prophet and his followers should refrain from entering Mecca that year, but would be free to do so the following year. The Prophet also agreed that if a Meccan minor or any other person under guardianship should go over to the Muslims without the permission of his guardian, he would be returned to the latter; but should any follower of the Prophet - whether minor or of age - go over to the Quraysh of his own free will, he or she would not be returned. Although this last stipulation appeared at first glance to be disadvantageous to the Muslims, it is obvious that the Prophet agreed to it in pursuance of the principle that there shall be no coercion in matters of faith (2 256). The Truce of Hudaybiyyah was to prove of the greatest importance to the future of Islam. For the first time in six years peaceful contacts were established between Mecca and Medina, and thus the way was opened to the penetration of Islamic ideas into the citadel of Arabian paganism. The Meccans who had occasion to visit the Muslim camp at Hudaybiyyah returned deeply impressed by the spirit and the unity of Muhammads followers, and many of them began to waver in their hostility towards the faith preached by him. As soon as the perennial warfare came to an end and people of both sides could meet freely, new converts rallied around the Prophet, first in tens, then in hundreds, then in thousands - so much so that when the pagan Quraysh broke the truce two years after its conclusion, the Prophet could and did occupy Mecca almost without resistance. Thus, in fact if not in appearance, the Truce of Hudaybiyyah ushered in the moral and political victory of Islam over all Arabia. In the consensus of all the authorities, the surah commemorating this victory was revealed during the Prophets return march from Hudaybiyyah to Medina.
1. VERILY, [O Muhammad,] We have laid open before thee a manifest victory, (1)

1 - Namely, the moral victory achieved by the Truce of Hudaybiyyah, which opened the doors to the subsequent triumph of Islam in Arabia (see introductory note, which explains many allusions to this historic event found in the subsequent verses).

2. so that God might show His forgiveness of all thy faults, past as well as future, (2) and [thus] bestow upon thee the full measure of His blessings, and guide thee on a straight way, (3 )

2 - Lit., so that God might forgive thee all that is past of thy sins and all that is yet to come - thus indicating elliptically that freedom from faults is an exclusive prerogative of God, and that every human being, however exalted, is bound to err on occasion.

3 - Sc., to a fulfillment of thy mission, which the Truce of Hudaybiyyah clearly presaged.

3. and [show] that God will succour thee with [His] mighty succour.
4. It is He who from on high has bestowed inner peace upon the hearts of the believers, (4) so that - seeing that Gods are all the forces of the heavens and the earth, and that God is all-knowing, truly wise - they might grow yet more firm in their faith; (5)

4 - I.e., endowed them, although they were few and practically unarmed, with calm courage in the face of the much more powerful forces of the enemy.

5 - Lit., so that they might add faith to their faith, seeing that Gods are, etc. Since the latter is obviously a parenthetic clause, I have transposed it in my rendering in order to make the meaning clear.

5. [and] that He might admit the believers, both men and women, into gardens through which running waters flow, therein to abide, and that He might efface their [past bad] deeds: and that is, in the sight of God, indeed a triumph supreme!
6. And [God has willed] to impose suffering [in the life to come] on the hypocrites, both men and women, and on those who ascribe divinity to aught beside Him, both men and women: all who entertain evil thoughts about God. (6) Evil encompasses them from all sides, and Gods condemnation rests upon them; and He has rejected them [from His grace], and has readied hell for them: and how evil a journeys end!

6 - I.e., who deny His existence or mans responsibility to Him, or offend against the concept of His oneness.

7. For, Gods are all the forces of the heavens and the earth; and God is indeed almighty, truly wise!
8. VERILY, [O Muhammad,] We have sent thee as a witness [to the truth], and as a herald of glad tidings and a warner
9. so that you [O men] might believe in God and His Apostle, and might honour Him, and revere Him, and extol His limitless glory from morn to evening. (7)

7 - Lit., at morn and evening, i.e., at all times.

10. Behold, all who pledge their allegiance to thee pledge their allegiance to God: the hand of God is over their hands. (8) Hence, he who breaks his oath, breaks it only to his own hurt; whereas he who remains true to what he has pledged unto God, on him will He bestow a reward supreme.

8 - This refers, in the first instance, to the pledge of faith and allegiance (bayat ar-ridwan) which the Muslims assembled at Hudaybiyyah gave to the Prophet (see introductory note). Beyond this historical allusion, however, the above sentence implies that as ones faith in Gods message- bearer is to all intents and purposes synonymous with a declaration of faith in God Himself, so does ones willingness to obey God necessarily imply a willingness to obey His message-bearer. The phrase the hand of God is over their hands does not merely allude to the hand-clasp with which all of the Prophets followers affirmed their allegiance to him, but is also a metaphor for His being a witness to their pledge.

11. Those of the bedouin who stayed behind will say unto thee: (9) [The need to take care of] our chattels and our families kept us busy: do then, [O Prophet,] ask God to forgive us! [Thus,] they will utter with their tongues something that is not in their hearts. (10) Say: Who, then, has it in his power to avert from you aught that God may have willed, (11) whether it be His will to harm you or to confer a benefit on you? Nay, but God is fully aware of what you do!

9 - Lit., who were left behind: i.e., the bedouin belonging to the tribes of Ghifar, Muzaynah, Juhaynah, Ashja, Aslam and Dhayl, who, although allied with the Prophet and outwardly professing Islam, refused under various pretexts to accompany him on his march to Mecca (which resulted in the Truce of Hudaybiyyah), since they were convinced that the Meccans would give battle and destroy the unarmed Muslims (Zamakhshari). The excuses mentioned in the sequence were made after the Prophets and his followers successful return to Medina; hence the future tense, sayaqul.

10 - Implying that the excuses which they would proffer would be purely hypocritical.

11 - Lit., has anything in his power (that could be obtained) in your behalf from God: a construction which, in order to become meaningful in translation, necessitates a paraphrase.

12. Nay, you thought that the Apostle and the believers would never return to their kith and kin: and this seemed goodly to your hearts. (12) And you entertained [such] evil thoughts because you have always been people devoid of all good!

12 - Implying that the real sympathies of those bedouin were with the pagan Quraysh rather than with the Muslims.

13. Now as for those who will not believe in God and His Apostle - verily, We have readied a blazing flame for all [such] deniers of the truth!
14. But Gods is the dominion over the heavens and the earth: He forgives whomever He wills, and imposes suffering on whomever He wills - and [withal,] He is indeed much-forgiving, a dispenser of grace. (13)

13 - Implying that He may forgive even the most hardened sinners if they truly repent and mend their ways: an allusion to what the Prophet was to say according to verse 16.

15. As soon as you [O believers] are about to set forth on a war that promises booty, (14) those who stayed behind [aforetime] will surely say, Allow us to go with you - [thus showing that] they would like to alter the Word of God. (15) Say: By no means shall you go with us: God has declared aforetime [to whom all spoils shall belong]. (16) Thereupon they will [surely] answer, Nay, but you begrudge us [our share of booty]! Nay, they can grasp but so little of the truth!

14 - Lit., set forth to take booty: i.e., any expedition other than against the Quraysh of Mecca, with whom the Prophet had just concluded a truce. This is generally taken as an allusion to the forthcoming war against the Jews of Khaybar (in the year 7 H.), but the meaning may well be more general.

15 - Evidently a reference to 8: 1 - All spoils of war belong to God and the Apostle - which, as pointed out in the note on that verse, implies that no individual warrior can have any claim to the booty obtained in war. Moreover, fighting for the sake of booty contravenes the very principle of a war in Gods cause, which may be waged only in defense of faith or liberty (cf. note on 2: 190), until there is no more oppression and all worship is devoted to God alone (see 2: 193 and the corresponding note). It is to these principles, too, that the Prophets anticipated answer, mentioned in the sequence, refers.

16 - I.e., in the first verse of Al-Anfal, which was revealed in the year 2 H. (see preceding note).

16. Say unto those bedouin who stayed behind: In time you will be called upon [to fight] against people of great prowess in war: (17) you will have to fight against them [until you die] or they surrender. And then, if you heed [that call], God will bestow on you a goodly reward; but if you turn away as you turned away this time, (18) He will chastise you with grievous chastisement.

17 - This is evidently a prophecy relating to the future wars against Byzantium and Persia.

18 - Lit., before, i.e., at the time of the expedition which resulted in the Truce of Hudaybiyyah.

17. No blame attaches to the blind, nor does blame attach to the lame, nor does blame attach to the sick [for staying away from a war in Gods cause]; (19) but whoever heeds [the call of] God and His Apostle [in deed or in heart], (20) him will He admit into gardens through which running waters flow; whereas him who turns away will He chastise with grievous chastisement.

19 - These three categories circumscribe metonymically all kinds of infirmities or disabilities which may prevent a person from actively participating in a war in Gods cause.

20 - This latter applies, by obvious implication, to such as are unable to participate in the fighting physically, but are in their hearts with those who fight.

18. INDEED, well-pleased was God with the believers when they pledged their allegiance unto thee [O Muhammad] under that tree, (21) for He knew what was in their hearts; and so He bestowed inner peace upon them from on high, and rewarded them with [the glad tiding of] a victory soon to come (22)

21 - I.e., at Hudaybiyyah (see introductory note).

22 - Most of the commentators assume that this relates to the conquest of Khaybar, which took place a few months after the Truce of Hudaybiyyah. It is probable, however, that the implication is much wider than that - namely, a prophecy of the almost bloodless conquest of Mecca in the year 8 H., the victorious establishment of Islam in all of Arabia and, finally, the tremendous expansion of the Islamic Commonwealth under the Prophets immediate successors.

19. and [of] many war-gains which they would achieve: for God is indeed almighty, wise.
20. [O you who believe!] God has promised you many war-gains which you shall yet achieve; and He has vouchsafed you these [worldly gains] well in advance, (23) and has stayed from you the hands of [hostile] people, so that this [your inner strength] may become a symbol to the believers [who will come after you], and that He may guide you all on a straight way.

23 - Sc., of what is to come to you in the hereafter.

21. And there are yet other [gains] which are still beyond your grasp, (24) [but] which God has already encompassed [for you]: for God has the power to will anything.

24 - I.e., the achievement of final bliss in the life to come.

22. And [now,] if they who are bent on denying the truth should fight against you, they will indeed turn their backs [in flight], and will find none to protect them and none to bring them succour: (25)

25 - This divine promise was fulfilled in the unbroken sequence of Muslim victories after the Truce of Hudaybiyyah, ultimately leading to the establishment of an empire which extended from the Atlantic Ocean to the confines of China. For the conditional nature of the above promise, see note on 3: 111.

23. such being Gods way which has ever obtained in the past - and never wilt thou find any change in Gods way! (26)

26 - This reference to Gods way (sunnat Allah) is twofold: on the one hand, you are bound to rise high if you are (truly) believers (3: 139), and, on the other, God does not change mens condition unless they change their inner selves (13: 11), in both the positive and negative connotations of the concept of change.

24. And He it is who, in the valley of Mecca, stayed their hands from you, and your hands from them, after He had enabled you to vanquish them; and God saw indeed what you were doing. (27)

27 - Shortly before the Truce of Hudaybiyyah was concluded, a detachment of Quraysh warriors - variously estimated at between thirty and eighty men - attacked the Prophets camp, but his practically unarmed followers overcame them and took them prisoner; after the signing of the treaty the Prophet released them unharmed (Muslim, Nasai, Tabari).

25. [It was not for your enemies sake that He stayed your hands from them: for] (28) it was they who were bent on denying the truth, and who debarred you from the Inviolable House of Worship (29) and prevented your offering from reaching its destination. (30) And had it not been for the believing men and believing women [in Mecca], whom you might have unwittingly trampled underfoot, (31) and on whose account you might have become guilty, without knowing it, of a grievous wrong-: [had it not been for this, you would have been allowed to fight your way into the city: but you were forbidden to fight] (32) so that [in time] God might admit to His grace whomever He wills. (33) Had they [who deserve Our mercy and they whom We have condemned] been clearly discernible [to you], (34) We would indeed have imposed grievous suffering [at your hands] on such of them as were bent on denying the truth.

28 - This interpolation is based on Razis explanation of the connection between this and the preceding verse.

29 - I.e., the Kabah, which, until the year 7 H., the Muslims were not allowed to approach.

30 - See the second note on 2: 196.

31 - I.e., killed. After the Prophets and his followers exodus to Medina, a number of Meccans - both men and women - had embraced Islam, but had been prevented by the pagan Quraysh from emigrating (Tabari, Zamakhshari). Their identities were not generally known to the Muslims of Medina. (If Muslims were allowed to fight in order to enter Kabah, they would have unwittingly killed some of these unknown Muslims.)

32 - Thus Zamakhshari, supported by Razi, lbn Kathir, and other commentators.

33 - I.e., so that the believers might be spared, and that in time many a pagan Meccan might embrace Islam, as actually happened.

34 - Lit., had they been separated from one another: i.e., the believers and the pagans among the Meccans. In its wider sense, the above implies that man never really knows whether another human being deserves Gods grace or condemnation.

26. Whereas they who are bent on denying the truth harboured a stubborn disdain in their hearts - the stubborn disdain [born] of ignorance (35) God bestowed from on high His [gift of] inner peace upon His Apostle and the believers, and bound them to the spirit of God-consciousness: (36) for they were most worthy of this [divine gift], and deserved it well. And God has full knowledge of all things.

35 - Although this reference to the stubborn disdain (hamiyyah) on the part of the pagan Quraysh may have been characteristic of their over-all attitude towards the Prophet and his mission, it is probable - as Zamakhshari points out - that its special mention here relates to an incident which occurred at Hudaybiyyah during the truce negotiations between the Prophet and the emissary of the Meccans, Suhayl ibn Amr. The Prophet began to dictate to Ali ibn Abi Talib the text of the proposed agreement: Write down, In the name of God, the Most Gracious, the Dispenser of Grace ; but Suhayl interrupted him and said: We have never heard of [the expression] the Most Gracious; write down only what we know. Whereupon the Prophet said to Ali: Write, then, In Thy name, O God. A11 wrote as he was told; and the Prophet continued: This is what has been agreed upon between Muhammad, Gods Apostle, and the people of Mecca. But Suhayl interrupted again: If thou wert (really) an apostle of God, (this would be an admission on our part that) we have been doing wrong to thee; write, therefore, as we understand it. And so the Prophet dictated to Ali: Write thus: This is what has been agreed upon between Muhammad, the son of Abd Allah, son of Abd al-Muttalib, and the people of Mecca. (This story is recorded in many versions, among others by Nasai, Ibn Hanbal and Tabari.)



36 - Lit., the word of God-consciousness (kalimat at-taqwa): implying that their consciousness of God and of His all-pervading power enabled them to bear the stubborn disdain of their enemies with inner calm and serenity.

27. Indeed, God has shown the truth in His Apostles true vision: (37) most certainly shall you enter the Inviolable House of Worship, if God so wills, in full security, with your heads shaved or your hair cut short, without any fear: (38) for He has [always] known that which you yourselves could not know. (39) And He has ordained [for you], besides this, a victory soon to come. (40)

37 - Shortly before the expedition which ended at Hudaybiyyah, the Prophet had a dream in which he saw himself and his followers entering Mecca as pilgrims. This dream-vision was destined to be fulfilled a year later, in 7 H., when the Muslims were able to perform their first peaceful pilgrimage to the Holy City.

38 - Male pilgrims usually shave or (which is the meaning of the conjunctive wa in this context) cut their hair short before assuming the pilgrims garb (ihram), for it is not permitted to do so while in the state of pilgrimage. A repetition of the same act marks the completion of the pilgrimage (cf. 2:196).

39 - Namely, the future.

40 - See the second note on verse 18 above.

28. He it is who has sent forth His Apostle with the [task of spreading] guidance and the religion of truth, to the end that He make it prevail over every [false] religion; and none can bear witness [to the truth] as God does. (41)

41 - Sc., through the revelations which He grants to His prophets. See also 3: 19 - the only [true] religion in the sight of God is [mans] self-surrender unto Him: from which it follows that any religion (in the widest sense of this term) which is not based on the above principle is, eo ipso, false.

29. MUHAMMAD is Gods Apostle; and those who are [truly] with him are firm and unyielding (42) towards all deniers of the truth, [yet] full of mercy towards one another. (43) Thou canst see them bowing down, prostrating themselves [in prayer], seeking favour with God and [His] goodly acceptance: their marks are on their faces, traced by prostration. (44) This is their parable in the Torah as well as their parable in the Gospel: (45) [they are] like a seed that brings forth its shoot, and then He strengthens it, so that it grows stout, and [in the end] stands firm upon its stem, delighting the sowers. [Thus will God cause the believers to grow in strength,] so that through them He might confound the deniers of the truth. [Lit., infuse with wrath.] [But] unto such of them as may [yet] attain to faith and do righteous deeds, God has promised forgiveness and a reward supreme. (46)

42 - This composite gives, I believe, the full meaning of the term ashidda (sing. shadid) in the above context.

43 - Lit., among themselves. Cf. 5: 54 - humble towards the believers, proud towards all who deny the truth.

44 - The infinitive noun sujud (prostration) stands here for the innermost consummation of faith, while its trace signifies the spiritual reflection of that faith in the believers manner of life and even in his outward aspect. Since the face is the most expressive part of mans personality, it is often used in the Quran in the sense of ones whole being.

45 - The posture of humility in prayer is indicated by prostration: i.e., Moses and Aaron fell upon their faces, Num. xvi. 22. Regarding the significance of the term Injil (Gospel) as used in the Quran, see the note on 3: 4.

46 - Whereas most of the classical commentators understand the above sentence as alluding to believers in general, Razi relates the pronoun minhum (of them or among them) explicitly to the deniers of the truth spoken of in the preceding sentence - i.e., to those of them who might yet attain to faith and thus achieve Gods forgiveness: a promise which was fulfilled within a few years after the revelation of this verse, inasmuch as most of the Arabian enemies of the Prophet embraced Islam, and many of them became its torchbearers. But in a wider sense, this divine promise remains open until Resurrection Day (Tabari), relating to everybody, at all times and in all cultural environments, who might yet attain to the truth and live up to it.