English Translation and Commentary of the Holy Quran (2010)

by Maulana Muhammad Ali

Chapter 8: Al-Anfal — Voluntary Gifts (Revealed at Madinah: 10 sections, 75 verses)

Section 5 (Verses 8:38–8:44): Badr as Sign of the Prophet’s Truth


8:38 Say to those who disbelieve, if they cease (fighting), what is past will be forgiven them; and if they return (to it), then the example of those of old has already gone.1
8:39 And fight them until there is no more persecution, and all religions are for Allah. But if they cease, then surely Allah is Seer of what they do.2
8:40 And if they turn back, then know that Allah is your Patron. Most excellent the Patron and most excellent the Helper!
Part 108:41 And know that whatever you acquire in war, a fifth of it is for Allah and for the Messenger and for the near of kin and the orphans and the needy and the traveller,3 if you believe in Allah and in what We revealed to Our servant, on the day of Distinction, the day on which the two forces met.4 And Allah is Powerful over all things.
8:42 When you were on the nearer side (of the valley) and they were on the farther side, while the caravan was in a lower place than you.5 And if you had tried to make a mutual appointment, you would certainly have broken away from the appointment, but6 — in order that Allah might bring about a matter which had to be done;7 that he who perished by clear argument might perish, and he who lived by clear argument might live.8 And surely Allah is Hearing, Knowing:
8:43 When Allah showed them to you in your dream as few9 — and if He had shown them to you as many, you (O Muslims) would certainly have become weak-hearted and you would have disputed about the matter, but Allah saved (you). Surely He is Knower of what is in the hearts.
8:44 And when He showed them to you, when you met, as few in your eyes, and He made you to appear few in their eyes, in order that Allah might bring about a matter which had to be done.10 And to Allah are all affairs returned.


  1. They had gone away from Badr quite discomfited, and they were told that, if they ceased fighting, they would be forgiven. Otherwise, they could read their own doom in the doom of those with whom Allah had dealt previously in similar circumstances.
  2. That is, if they cease fighting and put an end to their mischief, God’s decree of punishment will not be executed. The state of religious liberty which Islam aimed at is put tersely in the two opening statements — there is no more per­se­cution and all religions are for Allah, everyone being at liberty to hold any belief he likes.
  3. The one-fifth spoken of here is to be divided again into five parts, the Prophet, the near of kin, the orphans, the poor, and the traveller being equal sharers. The near of kin included all individuals belonging to the tribes of Bani Hashim and Bani Abdul Muttalib, to whom zakāt money was not allowed. The poor among them were thus paid from this source of income. As to the Holy Prophet’s twenty-fifth, it was also used for the benefit of the Muslims. The re­maining four-fifths of the acquisitions were divided among those who took part in the battle, as they were not otherwise paid for their services, but there is no order to this effect in the Quran itself. This arrangement was simply an exigency. War was forced on Muslims all of a sudden when the State had not yet been pro­perly formed; there was no army at all, nor a treasury from which to pay it; and just as they were required to carry on war on the basis of voluntary gifts, so they were allowed a share in the war acquisitions. If the State pays its soldiers as it pays its civil servants, the war acquisitions would all go to the State treasury.
  4. The day of Distinction (yaum al-furqān) referred to here is the battle of Badr.
  5. The Muslims were on the side nearer to Madinah, the main army of the Quraish was on the side which was farther from Madinah, while the caravan was in a lower place, i.e. towards the sea-coast, and farther away from Madinah, on its way to Makkah.
  6. There is a break here, the meaning being but an encounter was brought about without an appointment. The Muslims were so weak that they could not think of making an appointment with the enemy — they would have broken away from the appointment.
  7. The matter referred to is the defeat of the opponents of Islam.
  8. The disbelievers had seen clear arguments of the Holy Prophet’s truth, yet they rejected him and had thus perished in a spiritual sense; they were now vanquished in the battle and thus perished temporally.
  9. The Holy Prophet’s seeing them few in a vision must be interpreted as signifying their actual weakness, despite their great number.
  10. Here we are told that they were also shown to be few to the Muslims when the two armies met. See 3:13 and footnote.