Day 14 – Surah Al-Anfal: A Recipe For Victory

This Surah was revealed after the battle of Badr, giving the Muslims instructions on how to deal with their first big victory in Madinah, after living under persecution of the Quraish in Mecca for 13 years. However, the guidance in this Surah goes beyond that particular incident to teach us the laws of rise and fall of nations, and the recipe for the victory of the Muslim Umma. 
 
Victory, according to Surah Al-Anfal, only comes after completing two major requirements, and those two represent the major sections of this Surah:

  1. Spiritual Connection with Allah
  2. Proper preparation in all materialistic matters

Believers should have what it takes and exert the maximum of their ability in order to attain victory. At the same time, we should be sure that we can do nothing without the help of Allah and hence we should put our trust in Him. Unfortunately some people have the tendency to go towards extremes (the spiritual-only or the materialistic-only person) while Islam teaches us that both ingredients are essential.

The Battle Gains

After the battle, some companions had a dispute on how to divide the gains they got. Arguing and dividing the community on materialistic things is a major cause for failure, both from a spiritual and a tactical perspective. This is why the Surah started with a strong message to the winning army:

يَسْأَلُونَكَ عَنِ الأَنفَالِ قُلِ الأَنفَالُ لِلَّه وَالرَّسُولِ فَاتَّقُواْ اللَّهَ وَأَصْلِحُواْ ذَاتَ بَيْنِكُمْ وَأَطِيعُواْ اللَّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ إِن كُنتُم مُّؤْمِنِينَ
They ask you [Prophet] about [distributing] the battle gains. Say, ‘That is a matter for God and His Messenger, so be mindful of God and make things right between you. Obey God and His Messenger if you are true believers [8:1]

Interestingly enough, the answer to their question about how to distribute the spoils of war was given in Ayah 41:

وَاعْلَمُواْ أَنَّمَا غَنِمْتُم مِّن شَيْءٍ فَأَنَّ لِلَّهِ خُمُسَهُ وَلِلرَّسُولِ وَلِذِي الْقُرْبَى وَالْيَتَامَى وَالْمَسَاكِينِ وَابْنِ السَّبِيلِ
Know that one-fifth of your battle gains belongs to God and the Messenger, to close relatives and orphans, to the needy and travelers, [8:41]

And towards the end of the Surah, Allah tells them to enjoy what they have gained, since attaining worldly gains is not frowned upon in our religion

فَكُلُواْ مِمَّا غَنِمْتُمْ حَلالاً طَيِّبًا وَاتَّقُواْ اللَّهَ إِنَّ اللَّهَ غَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ
So enjoy in a good and lawful manner the things you have gained in war and be mindful of God: He is forgiving and merciful. [8:69]

This shows us that the issue of Al-Anfal is a not a big deal! Although this was the question going through their minds, Allah wanted to teach them a bigger message about the recipe of victory and how to ensure prosperity and success for the Muslim community.  
 
Spiritual Ingredient  

The first segment (Ayahs 1-40) focus on having a strong connection with Allah, since victory only comes from Allah SWT:

وَمَا النَّصْرُ إِلاَّ مِنْ عِندِ اللَّهِ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَزِيزٌ حَكِيمٌ
Help comes only from Allah, He is mighty and wise [8:10]

Then the Surah reminds them that the Muslim army didn’t really want to fight that battle, as they aimed to only attack a caravan that belongs to Quraish, but Allah had a bigger and better plan:

وَإِذْ يَعِدُكُمُ اللَّهُ إِحْدَى الطَّائِفَتَيْنِ أَنَّهَا لَكُمْ وَتَوَدُّونَ أَنَّ غَيْرَ ذَاتِ الشَّوْكَةِ تَكُونُ لَكُمْ وَيُرِيدُ اللَّهُ أَن يُحِقَّ الْحَقَّ بِكَلِمَاتِهِ وَيَقْطَعَ دَابِرَ الْكَافِرِينَ
Remember how God promised you that one of the two enemy groups would fall to you: you wanted the unarmed group to be yours, but it was God’s will to establish the truth according to His Word and to finish off the disbelievers [8:7]

Divine intervention in the battle was discussed in many verses: It was Allah who made the sand thrown by the prophet’s hand get into the eyes of the enemy:

فَلَمْ تَقْتُلُوهُمْ وَلَكِنَّ اللَّهَ قَتَلَهُمْ وَمَا رَمَيْتَ إِذْ رَمَيْتَ وَلَكِنَّ اللَّهَ رَمَى
It was not you who killed them but God, and when you [Prophet] threw sand at them, it was not your throw that defeated them but God’s [8:17]
It was Allah who ordered the angels to come down from the heaven to support the believers:
 
إِذْ يُوحِي رَبُّكَ إِلَى الْمَلائِكَةِ أَنِّي مَعَكُمْ فَثَبِّتُواْ الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ
Your Lord revealed to the angels: ‘I am with you: give the believers firmness; [8:12]
 
It was Allah who caused the believers to sleep well the night before, despite the fear they had in their hearts. It was Allah who sent down the rain on them to purify them, refresh them, and make the earth under them firm and strong:
 
إِذْ يُغَشِّيكُمُ النُّعَاسَ أَمَنَةً مِّنْهُ وَيُنَزِّلُ عَلَيْكُم مِّن السَّمَاء مَاء لِّيُطَهِّرَكُم بِهِ وَيُذْهِبَ عَنكُمْ رِجْزَ الشَّيْطَانِ وَلِيَرْبِطَ عَلَى قُلُوبِكُمْ وَيُثَبِّتَ بِهِ الأَقْدَامَ
Remember when He gave you sleep, as a reassurance from Him, and sent down water from the sky to cleanse you, to remove Satan’s pollution from you, to make your hearts strong and your feet firm [8:11]
 
Worldly Ingredient
In addition to the strong connection with Allah, Muslims were commanded to prepare well for the battle, in terms of planning, training, organizing, and more importantly: UNITY!

وَأَعِدُّواْ لَهُم مَّا اسْتَطَعْتُم مِّن قُوَّةٍ وَمِن رِّبَاطِ الْخَيْلِ تُرْهِبُونَ بِهِ عَدُوَّ اللَّهِ وَعَدُوَّكُمْ
Prepare whatever forces you [believers] can muster, including warhorses, to frighten off God’s enemies and yours, [8:60]

يَا أَيُّهَا النَّبِيُّ حَرِّضِ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ عَلَى الْقِتَالِ إِن يَكُن مِّنكُمْ عِشْرُونَ صَابِرُونَ يَغْلِبُواْ مِئَتَيْنِ وَإِن يَكُن مِّنكُم مِّائَةٌ يَغْلِبُواْ أَلْفًا مِّنَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُواْ بِأَنَّهُمْ قَوْمٌ لاَّ يَفْقَهُونَ
Prophet, urge the believers to fight: if there are twenty of you who are steadfast, they will overcome two hundred, and a hundred of you, if steadfast, will overcome a thousand of the disbelievers, for they are people who do not understand. [8:65]

وَأَطِيعُواْ اللَّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ وَلاَ تَنَازَعُواْ فَتَفْشَلُواْ وَتَذْهَبَ رِيحُكُمْ وَاصْبِرُواْ إِنَّ اللَّهَ مَعَ الصَّابِرِينَ
Obey God and His Messenger, and do not quarrel with one another, or you may lose heart and your spirit may desert you. Be steadfast: God is with the steadfast. [8:46]
 
Action ITEM: Summary of the Summary

The following two Ayahs summarize this summary J, and give us an action item in order to help bring support and victory to the oppressed. Ayah [8:45] mentions the two components of success in one sentence: being steadfast (worldly component) and continuous remembrance of Allah (spiritual component)

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ إِذَا لَقِيتُمْ فِئَةً فَاثْبُتُواْ وَاذْكُرُواْ اللَّهَ كَثِيرًا لَّعَلَّكُمْ تُفْلِحُونَ
Believers, when you meet a force in battle, stand firm and keep God firmly in mind, so that you may prosper. [8:45]

Ayah [8:53] teaches us that the divine intervention from Allah will not help a community until they change from within:

ذَلِكَ بِأَنَّ اللَّهَ لَمْ يَكُ مُغَيِّرًا نِّعْمَةً أَنْعَمَهَا عَلَى قَوْمٍ حَتَّى يُغَيِّرُواْ مَا بِأَنفُسِهِمْ وَأَنَّ اللَّهَ سَمِيعٌ عَلِيمٌ
Because God would never change a favor He had conferred on a people unless they changed what was within themselves. God is all hearing, all knowing [8:53]

A beautiful, concise, and straight to the point recipe for success is given to us by our Lord. It is about time that we stick to the teachings of the Quran, and start applying it to our lives and sharing its wisdom with our community. Please share this article, discuss the recipe of success with people around you, and remember to always have strong connection with Allah SWT

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