COMMENTARY OF SURA AL AHZAB
The word ‘Ahzab’ (as used in the Sura and after which the Sura is named) is the plural of the word ‘hizb’ which means a ‘group’ or a ‘party’. In the 5th year after migration, the unbelievers of Makkah, as well as many other neighboring tribes surrounded Madina from all directions with an intention of attacking the sacred city.
On account of the numerous groups that gathered against the Muslims, this battle was known as ‘the battle of Al Ahzab’ or ‘the battle of the confederates’. In order to defend the city, as well as the Muslims living in Madina, the Prophet (S.A) (with his beloved companions) dug a trench around the sacred city so that the enemies could not enter. For this reason, the battle is also known as ‘the battle of Khandaq’ or ‘the battle of the trench’.
The Sura begins with the following verses:
1. O Prophet (Muhammad)! Fear Allah, and obey not the disbelievers and the hypocrites. Verily! Allah is Ever All-Knower, All-Wise.
2. And follow that which is revealed to you from your Lord. Verily, Allah is Well-Acquainted with what you do.
3. And put your trust in Allah, and Sufficient is Allah as a Wakil (Disposer of affairs).
In the first verse, the Prophet (S.A) was ordered to fear Allah and must not be concerned about the opposition of the unbelievers and hypocrites. He should continue to follow the message which has been revealed to him and put his total trust in Allah in order to achieve success in his mission.
While commenting on these verses, some commentators including the great companion Abdullah bin Abbas (R.A), have stated that certain polytheists like Waleed bin Mughirah and Shaibah bin Rab’i of Makka came to the Prophet (S.A) in Madina and made an offering to him. They told him that they would give him half of their wealth if he were to abandon his message. The Jews and hypocrites of Madinah had also threatened to kill the Prophet (S.A) if he did not forsake his message. It was in these circumstances the above mentioned verses were revealed. (Tafseer Ruhul Ma’ani vol.2 part 21 pg. 143)
In response to these threats and offering, the Prophet (S.A) was ordered to fear Allah by being fully obedient to Him and complying to His commands. He should also fulfill the rights that Allah has over him and refrain from the prohibited. (Tafseer Ibn Jareer vol.21 pg. 134)
Some commentators have stated that the command to the Prophet (S.A) that he must fear Allah means that he should be consistent upon the message which he must convey, and increase in his firmness upon it. (Tafseer Ruhul Ma’ani vol.2 part 21 pg. 143; Safwatut Tafseer vol.12 pg. 46)
The Prophet (S.A) was then told that he should not follow the unbelievers and the hypocrites in what they call him towards, and should not accept their words. He must not listen to them and consult with them. He is reminded that Allah is fully knowledgeable of all the actions of the servants and is aware of what they conceal within their hearts. He is well aware of the threats and bribes of the unbelievers, and allows these to take place, so that he (the Prophet S.A) can grow more resolute in his mission.
This would encourage him to press on with greater fervor and reliance on Allah, regardless of their harassment. Instead of paying attention to what the unbelievers said, the Prophet (S.A) was ordered by Allah in verse 2 to follow and practice upon the revelation which his Lord sent to him from the teachings of the Shariah and the religion of Islam, and should hold fast to the Holy Quran which has been revealed to him.
He should know that Allah is fully aware of what he does. Allah knows the threats made by the hypocrites and Jews, and He also knows the actions of the Prophet (S.A). Hence, He will compensate each for what he has done.
The Prophet (S.A) was then exhorted to place his full trust and reliance on Allah, since He alone is the protector and helper. While commenting on these verses, some commentators have stated that though the address is to the Prophet (S.A), the purpose is to warn the Muslim community at large. As for him, he was protected by Allah from all sins and violation of the laws of Islam. Hence, there was no probability of the contravention of the Divine injunctions from him. The law then is for the entire Muslim community. (Ma’ariful Quran vol.7 pg. 88)
In his commentary, while explaining the concept of Taqwa or ‘fear of Allah’ (as it appears in verse 1), Hafiz Ibn Katheer has quoted the statement of Talq bin Habeeb, which states, ‘Taqwa (the fear of Allah) is that you should practice upon the obedience of Allah on a light (that is, based upon the light of guidance) which comes from Allah, hoping for His rewards. And (it is that) you refrain from the disobedience of Allah based upon a light which comes from Allah, fearing His punishment’. (Tafseer Ibn Katheer vol.3 pg. 465)