Juz 10 of 30 | Journeying our eyes through the Qur'an

Juz 10 contains the last 35 verses of Surat al-Anfal and the first 92 verses of Surat at-Tawbah. Tawbah means “to turn to” and often refers to repentance--when one turns to God. This surah is also called Bara’ah from the first word of the chapter, meaning to disassociate. This chapter discusses the outcome for those who aggressively continued to attack Islam and Rasulullah (s). Surat at-Tawbah is the only surah in the Qur’an that does not start with Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim. Scholars opine it may be because Surat at-Tawbah is a continuation of Surat al-Anfal, and the basmalah at the beginning of Surat al-Anfal suffices for Surat at-Tawbah. Alternatively, it may be because it was not befitting to begin a chapter of harsh subject matter, with two names describing God’s incredible mercy. However, the contents of the verses somewhat contradict the latter opinion due to discussions of tawbah. God’s Mercy is not independent of His Justice. This chapter also mentions many of the tests that the Muslims went through subsequent to the conquest of Mecca, which should encourage introspection on our relationship with Allah (swt) and in what circumstances are we willing to obey Allah (swt). Are we only willing to submit in times of ease and convenience, or also through difficulty and inconvenience?

Innaa Hadha Al-Qur'ana Yahdee li-latee hiya aqwamu wa yubashshir Al mu'mineen al-lathi ya'malun al-salihat anna lahum Ajran Kabira (17:9) [Indeed, this Qur'an guides to that which is most suitable and gives good tidings to the believers who do righteous deeds that they will have a great reward (17:9)].

Juz 10. 'A'udhu billahi min al-shaytan al-rajim. Bismillah Al-Rahman Al-Rahim, I begin in the name of Allah, compassionate to all, merciful to each. As-salamu alaykum, and welcome to the tenth episode in this podcast series titled: "Journeying Our Eyes Through the Qur'an, exploring 30 years in 30 days". Today, inshaAllah, we will continue our journey through the pages of the Qur'an as we take a brief look into the 10th juz of the Qur'an, which contains the last 35 verses of Surat al-Anfal and 92 verses of the ninth chapter of the Holy Qur'an Surat at-Tawbah.

Surah at-Tawbah is also known as Bara'ah, as per the first word of the chapter. Unlike the Meccan Surat al-Anfal, Surat at-Tawbah as a Medinan surah, which was revealed after the conquest of Mecca where the Muslims dealt with those who had previously oppressed them. This is why the chapter is called Tawbah or Bara'ah. The word Tawbah comes from the verb Taaba, which means to turn to, and often refers to repentance. Since repentance is when one turns to Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala. Derivatives of the verb Taaba occur 17 times in this chapter alone, the highest number of times in a single Surah of the Holy Qur'an.

This is especially interesting juxtaposed to and considering that the other name of the surah is Bara'ah, which means disassociation. Some of you may be familiar with this word or have heard the term Tabarri, which also means to disassociate and is from the same root. The reason that this chapter is also called Bara'ah is because it deals with the difficult subject of the outcome for those who aggressively continue to attack Islam and Rasul Allah, sallal-lahu alayhi wa alihi wa sallam.

After the conquest of Mecca and the Muslims gaining power this was an issue that had to be dealt with. This topic is why some of us sitting opine that the chapter does not begin with the Bismillah i.e. the phrase Bismillah Al-Rahman Al-Rahim, as is seen with every other chapter of the Holy Qur'an. That is to say that because of the heavy topic of the outcome of the conflict between the Muslimin and their oppressors, it was not befitting to begin the chapter with two names describing Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala's incredible mercy like Rahman and Rahim.

It is argued that the theme of this chapter and the occasion for which it was revealed are more related to the attributes of the Might and Majesty of Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala, not the mercy of Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala. However, this is just one opinion. Another opinion about the absence of the Bismillah is that Surat al-Tawbah is actually a continuation of Surat al-Anfal. According Allama Tabataba'i this opinion is quite strong. As such the reason as to why it does not have a Bismillah is because both Surat al-Anfal and Surat al-Tawbah are one in the same surah or chapter with the Bismillah at the beginning of Surat al-Anfal sufficing or this as well.

Ultimately as Allama Tabataba'i notes, this discussion is somewhat irrelevant to the contents and tafsir of the chapter, and although the first opinion recited opines that the reason for the chapter lacking in Bismillah is due to its harsh subject matter, the contents of the verses somewhat contradict this, with how many times the word Tawbah, i.e. repentance and its derivatives are mentioned in the chapter. In fact, as early as the fifth verse in Surah al-Tawbah, Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala says: 'but if they repent and maintain the prayer and give the zakat, then let them alone', "inna Allaha Ghafoorur Rahim" (9:5). Indeed, Allah is all forgiving and all merciful with Al-Rahim be mentioned here as well.

The door of repentance is always open and this is a part of God's mercy. Moreover, justice is a part of God's Mercy. And when we discuss some of the harsher aspects of justice, they are not without God's Mercy or Rahmah, as is unfortunately commonly misunderstood. In many theological discussions the concept of Tawhid us-Sifat is discussed and this is a pertinent concept to note here.

Tawhid us-Sifat means the unity in God's attributes or the oneness of God's characteristics. It means that while we look at Allah Subhana wa Ta'la's attributes and characteristics and names in order to understand what we can of Him in our limited capacity, we should know that these names and attributes do not exist independently of one another. They represent one reality. As a result, Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala's Divine Essence and Attributes are one in the same undividable non compound, unlimited reality.

So when we say that Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala is Merciful, Al-Rahman Al-Rahim on the one hand, and that He is just on the other, we are not discussing two separate things. They are both one in the same. And when we look at the punishment of Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala or discussions like the one in Surat al-Tawbah, this concept is vital to keep in mind.

This chapter mentions many of the tests that the Muslims went through subsequent to the conquest of Mecca. These were tests that ascertain the strength of their faith. Some of these tests are mentioned in the Surah, starting with the enactment of justice against oppressors, active in their aggression against people of faith, and spanning up to two battles, including Hunayn and Tabuk, which are mentioned in the Surah, where the Muslims struggled with weak spirits. Their weakness had reached a point where they were chastised in verses 38-41 for their failure to fight. And Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala, reminds them of the beautiful instances in which He aided them. First, He says in verse 38:

"Ya ayyuha alladhina amanu, ma lakum idha qila lakum unfiru fi sabil Illah iththaqaltum ila al-ardh, aradheetum bil haayati id-dunya min al-akhirah, fa ma mata'u ul-hayati id-dunya fi il-akhiraati illa qalil" (9:38). 'Oh, you who have faith, what is the matter with you that when you are told go forth in the way of Allah, you sink heavily to the ground? Are you pleased with the life of this world instead of the hereafter, but the prayers of the life of this world compared with the hereafter? Ah, but insignificant' (9:38).

After this verse, Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala turns to note his support for Rasul Allah, Sallal-lahu alayhi wa alihi wa sallam, and how even when numbers were low, and odds seem to be against Rasul allah, Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala always ensured support for Rasul Allah. It is noted in verse 40:

"Illaa tansuruhu fa qad naasarahu Allahu idh akhrajahu alladhina kafaru thani yathnayni idh huma fi il-ghari idh yaqulu li sahibihi la taahdhan inna Allaha ma'ana. Fa anzala Allahu sakinatahu alayhi wa ayyadahu bi junudin lam tarawha wa jaaala kalimata alladhina kafaru us-sufla, wa kalimatu Allahi hiya al-'ulya, wa Allahu Azeezun Haakim" (9:40). 'If you do not help him, then Allah has already helped him. When the faithless expelled him as one of two refugees, when the two of them were in the cave, he said to his companion, Do not grieve. Allah is indeed with us. Then Allah set down his composure upon him, Rasul Allah, and strengthen him with hosts you did not see. And he made the word of the faithless the lowest, and the word of Allah is the highest, and Allah is Almighty, All-Wise (9:40).

This beautiful reminder, or blast to the past, reminds the Muslims that even when their numbers were few and Rasul Allah, sallal-lahu alayhi wa alihi wa sallam, was almost alone having to escape in the middle of the night. And when he left Imam Ali, alayhi as-salam, in his bed in the famous occasion of Laylat al-Mabeet or the night of sleeping in the Prophet's bed, even then, Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala protected the Prophet and the Message of Truth in a miraculous way, using the web of a spider in a story that is all too familiar with us.

In this way, he ensured that truth was preserved. Moreover, in times like the Battle of Badr, Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala was with the Muslims and with Rasul Allah, and He strengthened the believers with what they could not see, sending angels to support them and more, as is mentioned in the Qur'an. Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala is capable of supporting Muslims and the Rasul Allah, even when the numbers were low. So why wouldn't He protect and help them when they were strong as per the occasion of the Surah?

It is curious to think that the Muslimin were so hesitant to fight alongside Rasul Allah, sallal-lahu alayhi wa alihi wa sallam, even after witnessing the victory of the conquest of Mecca and all of the ways in which Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala had aided the Muslims.

However, it is important to note here that at this point in time, there were many new Muslims and it can be argued that the reality of faith had not yet entered their hearts. Moreover, there were many hypocrites among the Muslimin who not only had faith not entered their hearts yet, but there were also hiding the true reality of their intentions and sentiments towards the Muslims joining them only because it was opportunistic and beneficial for them.

In verse 42 Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala notes that had the journey for the battle of Hunayn and Tabuk, had these journeys been easy journeys versus arduous ones, these people would have joined, meaning that they were only willing to be a part of the cause of Rasul Allah, sallal-lahu alayhi wa alihi wa sallam, when it was convenient and when it was to their benefit. As such, they made excuses to avoid the battle and the verses in the surah elaborate on this false excuse exposing the reality of their hypocrisy.

Although we are not in the exact same situation that the Muslims were facing at the time of the revelation of the Surah, there are some overarching principles that we too can take heed from. Are we only willing to obey Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala when it's convenient and easy for us? Are we opportunistic in our Muslim-ness, or are we willing to obey Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala even when it is difficult and inconvenient?

Wa Al-Hamdulil-Lahi Rabbi Al-Alameen, wa salla Allahu alaa nabiyyina Muhammadin, wa alihi, al-tayibeen, al-tahireen. Wa as-salamu alaykum, wa rahmatullahi, wa baraktu.

Rabbana La tuzigh Qulubana (3:8) [Our Lord, let not our hearts deviate (3:8)]
 

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