This Sûrah is famous by two names, At-Taubah and Al-Bara'ah. It is called At-Taubah because at one place there is mention of the forgiveness of the faults of some Muslims (vv. 102. 118), and Al-Bara'ah (Release) because in the beginning of this Sûrah the declaration of displeasure has been mad against Mushrikûn.
The reason not to write Bismillah:
In the beginning of this Sûrah Bismillah is not being written. The commentators have given quite a few reasons for it which has many differences. But the correct reason is that which Imam Razi has written, that Prophet Muhammad sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam himself did not dictate Bismillah at the beginning of this Sûrah -- therefore the Companions did not write and their successors have also been following the same. This is a further proof that extreme care has been done to keep the Qur’ân unchanged, so that it should remain in its complete and original form.
Period of Revelation and Contents of Sûrah:
This Sûrah comprises of three speeches:
The first speech starts from the beginning of the Sûrah and ends on 5th Rakuh (vv. 1-37). Its period of revelation is Zil-Qaadah 9th A. H. or around then. That year Prophet Muhammad sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam had appointed Hadrat Abu Bakr as a leader of the pilgrims and sent him to Makkah – this speech revealed right after that, so the Prophet Muhammad sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam immediately sent Hadrat Ali to follow him and at the occasion of Hajj to deliver this speech before the representatives of the different tribes of Arabia and to announce the policy that had been adopted as a result of it.
The second speech starts from 6th Rakuh and ends on 9th Rakuh (vv., 38-72) -- it was revealed in Rajab 9th A. H. or a little before it, when the Prophet Muhammad sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam was preparing for Tabuk Battle. In this, the people with Faith were encouraged to take part in Jihad, and those people, who were reluctant to sacrifice their lives and wealth in the cause of Allâh subhaana wa ta’aala because of their hypocrisy, weak faith or negligence, have been severely rebuked.
The third speech starts from 10th Rakuh and ends with the Sûrah (vv. 73-129) and it was revealed on the way back from the Battle of Tabuk. There are some pieces in this speech that were revealed on different occasions during the same period and later Prophet Muhammad sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam with the inspiration from Allâh subhaana wa ta’aala consolidated into one complete speech. However, it did not cause any interruption in its continuity because they are related to the same subject and same incidents. In this speech there is warning on the evil deeds of the hypocrites, admonish for those who had stayed behind in the Battle of Tabuk, and forgiveness of Allâh subhaana wa ta’aala, after taking the True Believers to the task, who were Truthful in their Faiths but could not take part in the Jihad for the sake of Allâh subhaana wa ta’aala.
In the order of revelation, the first speech should have come at the end; but because of the importance of the subject matter it lead the others, this is why Prophet Muhammad sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam placed it first in the order of compilation.
After determining the period of revelation, we
should glance on the historical background of this Sûrah. The beginning of the series of events that
relates to the subject matter of this Sûrah starts from the Peace Treaty of
Hudaibiyah. Because of continuous
struggle of 6 (six) years until the Treaty of Hudaibiyah, Islam had become the
way of life (Deen) for an organized society, a complete civilization, and
independent powerful state of one-third of
After Hudaibiyah within two years the circle of
Islam become so vast and powerful that the old customs of ignorance proved
helpless before it -- because of the strategies adopted to speared Islam in
Arabia. Finally, when the zealous people
from among the Quraish noticed that they are the losers -- they could not
remain patient and broke the Treaty of Hudaibiyah. After freeing from this commitment, they
wanted to have decisive and final battle with Islam. However, after the breach of treaty the
Prophet Muhammad sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam did not provide them an
opportunity to gather enough force and all of sudden attacked on Makkah in the
month of Ramadan, 8 A. H. and conquer it.
After this, the old union of ignorance made its last attempt in the
battlefield of Hunain, where the tribes of Hawazin, Thaqif, Nasr, Jusham, and
some others tribes lover of ignorance gathered their entire forces in the
battlefield in order to stop the reformation Revolution, which has reached to
its completion after the conquest of Makkah.
However, this attempt also failed.
The defeat of Hunain proved to be decisive and paved the way for making
the whole of
The conflict with the
Right next year Caesar began to make military preparations on the border of Syria to punish the Muslims for the insult, he had suffered at M'utah and his subordinates the Ghassanid and other Arab chiefs began to gather armies. Prophet Muhammad sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam was aware of it. He always kept himself well informed even of the little things that could affect the Islamic Movement favorably or unfavorably. He immediately understood the meanings of these preparations, and without any hesitation, he decided to fight against the great power of the Caesar. At this time if a slightest weakness would have been shown the whole thing has been total failure. On one side, there was dying power of ignorance of Arabia, which had been crushed in the Battle of Hunain, could have revived again. On the other side, the hypocrites of Al-Madinah, who had secret plan with Christian king Ghassan and the Caesar himself through a monk named Abu-Amir, and who had constructed a mosque “Al-Zaraar” near Al-Madinah to hold secret meetings. The third danger was of an attack by the Caesar himself, whose terror was prevailing over all other near by territories after defeating the great power of Iran. If all these three dangerous elements had taken a combined action against Islam, it would have lost the fight that it had almost won. In addition, there was famine in the country; corps were about to ripen; it was a season of burning heat; there was shortage of money; it was near to impossible to arrange the equipment and conveyance, and above all the encounter was against one of the two super powers of that time, though all the apparent circumstances were against, the Messenger of Allâh subhaana wa ta’aala realized that this is the time to make a decision about the survival or death of the Mission of the Truth. Therefore, Prophet Muhammad sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam made an announcement to prepare for the Battle against the Roman Empire. In all the earlier Battles Prophet Muhammad sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam never disclosed the destination – where to go and whom to encounter, but while departing Al-Madinah he always took different routes rather going straight towards the target. At this occasion, he did not keep it as a secret and clearly told that it is a Battle against Roman Empire and have to go towards Syria.
All in Arabia were realizing the importance of the event. It was the last hope for the leftovers lovers of the old rule of ignorance and they were anxiously waiting for the result of the Battle between Islam and Romans. Because they knew it very well that after this there will be no hope from anywhere else. The hypocrites had put all their efforts on it and after building a Zarar Mosque they were waiting for the defeat of Muslims in Syria so they could fully propagate their mischief. They had also utilized all their devices to make this mission a failure. On the other hand, the true Believers also realized that the fate of the Movement for which they had been struggling for the last 22 years, is on a scale, to show the courage at this time means that this movement will prevail all over the world, and to show the weakness means that all the work they had done in Arabia would end in smoke. Therefore, with this realization these lovers of Islam enthusiastically started the preparations for Battle. Every one of them tried to exceed the others in contributing for the equipment. Hadrat Uthman and Hadrat Abdur-Rahmân-bin-Auf presented very large amount of money. Hadrat Omar brought half of the earnings of his life. Hadrat Abu-Bakr donated his entire wealth. The poor companions presented all the earnings of their hard labor. The women contributed all their ornaments. Thousands of volunteers filled with the desire of sacrificing their lives for Islam, came to the Prophet Muhammad sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and requested that arrangements for weapons and conveyance should be made – they are ready to sacrifices their lives. Those who could not get conveyance were crying in such a way that it made the Prophet Muhammad sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam sad because of the shortage of resources. This occasion became the criterion for differentiating a true believer from a hypocrite, though to lag behind meant that the truth of the relationship of a person with Islam was doubtful. Therefore, whosoever lagged behind during the journey to Tabuk, the Companions of Prophet Muhammad sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam used to inform him about that person, in response Prophet Muhammad sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam used to say, "Leave him alone. If there is any good in him, Allâh subhaana wa ta’aala will again join him with you, and if there be no good in him, then thanks to Allâh subhaana wa ta’aala that HE relieved you of his false companionship".
In 9 A. H. Prophet Muhammad sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam marched out towards Syria in Rajab with 30,000 (thirty thousand) supporters, from among them there were 10,000 (ten thousand) horse riders. The number of camels was so small that many of them had to wait for their turns and several had to ride at a time on each camel. In addition, there was burning heat and the severe shortage of water. However, the Muslims showed great firmness at this critical time for that they were rewarded right after reaching at Tabuk. When they arrived at Tabuk, they learnt that the Caesar and his allies had withdrawn their troops from the frontier and there was no enemy to fight with.
The biographical writers usually present this event though the news of gathering of Roman armies that came to Prophet Muhammad sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam was wrong. Albeit, the fact of the event was that the Caesar started gathering armies, but Prophet Muhammad sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam reached there before he could complete his military preparation – there was no way out except to with draw the armies from the border. He had not forgotten the Battle of M’utah that the 3,000 (three thousand) supporters of Islam had made an army of 100,000 (hundred thousand) helpless. Therefore he did not had the courage even to come with an army of 100,000 – 200,000 (hundred thousand – two hundred thousand) and to fight against an army of 30,000 (thirty thousand) supports of Islam marching under the direct leadership of the Prophet Muhammad sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam himself.
The moral success they had attained after the withdrawal of Caesar, Prophet Muhammad sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam considered it enough and instead of advancing from Tabuk and marching into Syria, he preferred to take utmost political and strategically advantage. Therefore, he stayed 20 days in Tabuk and during this time, he developed pressure on the small states that located between the Roman Empire and the Islamic State and were at that time under the influence of the Romans, and subdued and made them the part of the Islamic State. In this connection the Christian chiefs of Dumatul Al-Jandal, Ukaidir bin Abdul Malik Kindi, the Christian chiefs of Ellah, Yuhanna bin D'obah, and the chiefs of Maqna, Jarba' and Azruh also submitted and agreed to pay Jizyah and became obedient to the Islamic State of Al-Madinah. Consequently, the boundaries of the Islamic State were extended right up to the Roman Empire, and the majority of the Arab tribes, who were being used by the Caesar against Arabia, became the allies of the Muslims against the Romans.
In addition, the other great benefit of it was that the Muslims got an opportunity to strengthen their hold on Arabia before entering into a long conflict with the Romans. This victory without war had broken the backbone of those people who had still been expecting that the old authority of ignorance might recover in the near future, whether they were the open supporters of shirk or the hypocrites in the fold of Islam. This last hopelessness had left no other option for the majority but to take refuge under the banner of Islam and if they could not benefit from the blessing of Faith then at least their descendants could become true Muslims. After this a mere minority of the defender of the old rule of ignorance and Mushrikûn was left, it became so helpless that it could not stand in the way of the Revolution of Reformation, for which Allâh subhaana wa ta’aala had sent HIS Messenger Prophet Muhammad sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam.
Issues and Discussion:
After keeping in view, this background we can easily observe those big issues which were challenging at that time and which have been addressed in Sûrah Taubah:
a) The Shirk should be completely eradicated from the Arab and the old rule of Shirk should be totally abolished, so that the center of Islam should become true center of Islam forever and no one could dare to interfere with the spirit of Islam in anyway and could not become a cause of an internal mischief at the time of any danger. This is why the declaration of displeasure was made and all the treaties with Mushrikûn were put to an end (vv 1-3).
b) After Muslims took control of the arrangements of Ka’bah, it was quite inappropriate that still shirk should be committed in that House which was devoted for the Service of Allâh subhaana wa ta’aala, and its guardianship also remains in the hands of Mushrikûn. Therefore, a verdict was issued that the guardianship of the Ka`abah should remain in the hands of Muslims (vv. 12-18) and all the customs and practices of the shirk in the boundaries of Ka’bah should be forcibly abolished, in addition the Mushriks should not even be allowed to come near this House/Ka’bah (v. 28) -- so there should be no doubt about the place of Ibrâhim being impure with shirk.
c) In the modern Islamic era, it was unsuitable that the signs of ignorance of old social customs of Arabia which were still present should remain alive; therefore, attention has been drawn towards their eradication. The most evil custom of these was the practice of Nasi (to tamper with the sacred months) this is why it has been directly tackled and with the same address; it has been told to Muslim what to do with other customs of ignorance (v. 37).
If during the study of Sûrah Taubah these facts are kept in mind – its all contents could be easily comprehended.