Surat al-Hujurat

Tafsir Surat al-Hujurat_part 3

A Tafsir of Surat al-Hujurat_Part 3


  • The previous verses (1-8) established the rules, manners and injunctions related to the Prophet.
  • These two verses (9-10) establish the principles that direct the bond Muslims should have within their individual and social sphere of existence.

Translation vv.9-10:

{And if two parties among the believers fall to fighting, then make peace between them both. But, if one of them commits aggression against the other, then fight against the one that is the aggressor until it complies with the command of Allah. Then if it complies, make reconciliation between them justly and equitably. Verily, Allah loves those who are equitable / The believers are but a brotherhood. So make reconciliation between your brothers, and have taqwa of Allah that you may receive mercy}.


v.9: sabab al-nuzul: Scholars give a number of occasions or events for why this verse was revealed. Two common views based on the narrations include:

[1] the tribes of al-Aws and Khazraj: Ibn Kathir writes: “Sa`id b. Jubayr mentioned that the tribes of Aws and Khazraj would fight using palm branches with leaves on them (sa`af) and slippers. Allah revealed this verse commanding them to make peace between them…”[2]

وذكر سعيد بن جبير أن الأوس والخزرج كان بينهما قتال بالسعف والنعال، فأنزل الله هذه الآية، فأمر بالصلح بينهما

[2] domestic conflict: Ibn Kathir narrates: “And al-Suddi said: A man from the Ansar, whose name was `Imran, had a wife called Umm Zayd. She wanted to visit her family, but her husband prevented her from visiting them by locking her in an upper chamber so that none of her family members could come in and see [s: or visit] her. This woman sent someone to her family [s: letting them know about this situation]. Her people came, took her down from this upper chamber to take her away. Her husband was out at the time, so this man’s family called on his people [s: to come and help]. Their cousins came to help prevent the wife from going with her family. A push and shove situation occurred that led to them fighting using slippers. This verse was then revealed in their case. The Messenger of Allah sent someone to bring peace between them and both sides agreed to resort to the decision of Allah the Exalted.”[3]

وقال السدي: كان رجل من الأنصار يقال له” عمران ، كانت له امرأة تدعى أم زيد، وإن المرأة أرادت أن تزور أهلها فحبسها زوجها وجعلها في علية له لا يدخل عليها أحد من أهلها . وإن المرأة بعثت إلى أهلها، فجاء قومها وأنزلوها لينطلقوا بها، وإن الرجل قد كان خرج، فاستعان أهل الرجل، فجاء بنو عمه ليحولوا بين المرأة وبين أهلها، فتدافعوا واجتلدوا بالنعال، فنزلت فيهم هذه الآية . فبعث إليهم رسول الله – صلى الله عليه وسلم – وأصلح بينهم، وفاءوا إلى أمر الله

{ta’ifa}: It can mean: (i) ‘group’, ‘party’, ‘faction’, ‘individual person’, ‘two people or more’;[4] (ii) it can also means ‘a nation’, ‘people’ and ‘company of people’[5] as well as (iii) ‘something detached’, distinct’, a part of something’ or a ‘piece of something’.[6] In the verse, “the two groups” (ta’ifatan) is a reference to the Aws and the Khazraj tribes who would often be in severe conflict with each other during the Jahiliyya (‘pre-Islamic’) times (see sabab al-nuzul above).

{min al-mu’minin}: ‘from among the believers’; something that occurs between Muslim groups or two sides in opposition who are Muslim. This reciprocal conflict between the Muslims comprise of three general scenarios:

[1] two Muslim factions who reside within the Islamic State (internal civil conflict): in this case, if both factions cannot come to a mutual resolution, then it is the Khalifah (or his authorised ruling representatives) who must resolve this dispute in a diplomatic way through proper communication channels, impartial hearing and fair measures. The aim is to ascertain who is the transgressing party in order to curtail it and bring it in line with the command of Allah and His Messenger. If both factions refuse the intervention of the Khalifah, then they will be treated as rebels and it would be permitted in this instance for the Islamic State to use tough and proportionate measures to bring them under the authority of the state.[7]

[2] one Muslim faction represents the Islamic State while the other is not (e.g. a scenario of rebellion): in this case, the Islamic State will first hear the complaint of the faction to ascertain its grievance in order to remove any misunderstandings, confusion or ambiguity. If the reasons are illegitimate, baseless and illegal, then the State has the permission to quell any open rebellion – even it means resorting to direct conflict that leads to loss of life. Rebellion or revolt is not permitted by anyone unless the Khalifah orders open disobedience to Allah or implements clear and indubitable kufr (i.e. something categorically forbidden by Shariah).[8]

[3] two Muslim factions who do not reside within the Islamic State (external mutual conflict): the Muslims of that locality will urge and advise both disputing factions to fear Allah, resolve the matter in a mutual and non-acrimonious way and settle the differences. If this fails and the matter escalates, then the general advice is to avoid both factions without helping or opposing either.[9]

{iqtatalu}: ‘fall in to conflict’, ‘each fighting the other’.

{fa’slihu}: ‘reconcile’, ‘put right’, ‘correct’, ‘make virtuous’, ‘make order’, ‘rectify’, ‘improve and amend’.[10] The default attitude of the believer is always to seek reconciliation and rectification and not enmity, animosity or corruption (fasad) because the latter attitudes lead to disunity, discord, chaos, hatred, instability and weakness in the Umma.

{baghat}: (i) to exceed the bounds in realising one’s aims or to do something in a wrongful way.[11] (ii) It also refers to leading someone to some danger or negative outcome.[12] (iii) Commonly, it also refers to acting injuriously, tyrannically, unjustly, oppressively and wrongfully.[13] If one of these conflicting groups exceeds and transgresses the bounds, then it is permissible to bring them into what is the correct resolution by force. This is generally the permission granted only to the Islamic State that holds political authority and legitimacy to do that.

{bi’l-`adl}: ‘with justice’ or with the Qur’an according to Sa`id b. Jubayr; any attempt at reconciliation must be just, proportionate and balanced. Transgression cannot be resolved with further transgression.

{wa’qsitu}: ‘be equitable’, ‘be fair’; this is a rule in all matters. This is because {Allah loves those who are equitable} and when links His love to something, it not only means He desires that thing but it entails the highest reward for the action.[14]

Imam Abu Hayyan restricts the commands in {and make peace between them} and {and fight against the one that causes aggression} to those in authority, i.e. the Muslim governors in the Islamic State: “And the imperative in { فأصلحوا }” and { وقاتلوا } applies to those rulers who have the legitimate authority…”[15]

والأمر في فأصلحوا وقاتلوا هو لمن له الأمر من الملوك وولاتهم


  • Any reconciliation or resolution of a conflict must be brought back to the command (amr) of Allah. Thus, the solution for any issue is the hukm shari`i (Islamic ruling) and not another ruling, command or standard. Each conflicting party or faction must submit to the Islamic ruling on that issue, willingly accept it and what it entails.[16]
  • Committing a sin like rebellion or revolting against the ruler does not nullify belief (iman) because Allah refers to the warring factions in the verse as {from the believers} and hence not disbelievers. Ibn Kathir states: “Allah named them as believers despite fighting each other. This [verse] is used by al-Bukhari and others as evidence that an act of disobedience – even of it is a major one – does not make a person a disbeliever as was the view of the Khawarij and those followed them from the Mu`tazila.”[17]

فسماهم مؤمنين مع الاقتتال . وبهذا استدل البخاري وغيره على أنه لا يخرج من الإيمان بالمعصية وإن عظمت، لا كما يقوله الخوارج ومن تابعهم من المعتزلة ونحوهم

  • It is not permitted to force oneself to gain or acquire what is not his right as this is transgression or exceeding the bounds.
  • It is not permitted to disparage or attack the noble Companions of the Prophet for their major differences, which led to direct conflict between themselves. Each acted according to his understanding (ijtihad) and Shariah evidence. The etiquette is to love them and follow them all and pass over the differences.[18]

v.10: {innama}: ‘only’ ‘indeed’; grammatically the restrictive particle meaning only among Muslims is there true brotherhood because they are bonded on one basis – Islam.[19]

{mu’minun}: ‘believers’, ‘Muslims’.

{ikhwa}: ‘a brotherhood’, i.e. “they are all brothers in the religion”[20] and not based on their lineage, colour, race, background, status, wealth or mutual interest.[21] The single reality that binds the hearts and minds of all Muslims is their `aqida (creed, i.e. belief [iman]).[22] This creed is the strongest bond Muslims can have and it is this bond that Islam came to affirm rejecting all other types of bonds whether tribal, racial, nationalist, patriotic or otherwise. Islam thus radically redefined the homogeneity of a people based on belief as this is more lasting and enduring whereas all other types of bonds are either weak or temporary.[23] A few brief points are necessary here:

[1] Brotherhood is not something optional but enjoined by Islam. This brotherhood comes with responsibilities and rights such as loyalty, love, assistance, support and forgiveness and they are extensively discussed by our scholars.[24]

[2] Giving advice is one of the duties of brotherhood and is not to be carried out with arrogance or a self-imposed superiority but out of love, genuine concern and the total pleasure of Allah.[25] This is especially the case in matters that are unlawful (haram) in the Shariah, harmful to the religion or unity of Islam and Muslims wherever they are.

[3] Defending one’s brother from all forms of calumny and slander[26] especially against those in the forefront of da`wa generating awareness of Islam, its rulings and its solutions in the face of growing media attacks on everything sacred in Islam from their Book to their Prophet. The media and government tactics is to defame, misrepresent and misconstrue facts related to Islamic matters and issues in order to silence a critical Islamic voice and generate hysteria and hatred towards Islam and Muslims. Thus, Muslims are not to publically defame each other, backbite or attack and slander each other even if there is this strong government pressure because government domestic policy against Muslims aims to be divisive, intolerant and prejudicial. It seeks to undermine, ridicule and stigmatise normative Islamic thought and values

[4] The Prophet demonstrated practical application of brotherhood in society in order to make it a pillar of the new community in Medina after the Hijra. This was an engineered social policy of pairing new émigrés from Mecca (‘al-Muhajiriun’) with the awaiting residents in Medina (‘al-Ansar’). Each accepted this policy in full and it led to incredible acts of generosity and sacrifice where the Ansar would unreservedly share their property, wealth and work.[27]

[5] Brotherhood and ‘one umma’ concept is extremely important. Muslims are reminded that they have membership by virtue of their belief to the global Muslim community (umma). Her collective concerns is each individual believers concern.[28] Muslims are not detached from their global unity with Muslims across the world. This unity and membership transcends geographical boundaries. Much intellectual output and social policy introduced to disconnect Muslims from a global a concern and a global struggle in order to localise concerns to narrow domestic concerns. Even if Muslims cannot physically help, they can express concern and speak out against the oppression they are suffering and call to the solution for that which is the implantation of the Shariah via the Khilafah.[29]

{so have taqwa of Allah if you want to attain mercy}, i.e. the route to gaining Allah’s mercy (i.e. forgiveness, pardon and love) is to be conscious of Him and of what He has commanded you to do (regarding reconciliation) and every other command.

End of part 3.


Peace and blessings on our Master Muhammad,

On his companions and family

And all who follow them.


[1] See al-Shawkani for a summary meaning in Fath al-Qadir, 1:265-268:

والمعنى: أنه إذا تقاتل فريقان من المسلمين، فعلى المسلمين أن يسعوا بالصلح بينهم، ويدعوهم إلى حكم الله، فإن حصل بعد ذلك التعدّي من إحدى الطائفتين على الأخرى، ولم تقبل الصلح، ولا دخلت فيه كان على المسلمين أن يقاتلوا هذه الطائفة الباغية حتى ترجع إلى أمر الله وحكمه، فإن رجعت تلك الطائفة الباغية عن بغيها، وأجابت الدعوة إلى كتاب الله وحكمه، فعلى المسلمين أن يعدلوا بين الطائفتين في الحكم، ويتحرّوا الصواب المطابق لحكم الله، ويأخذوا على يد الطائفة الظالمة حتى تخرج من الظلم، وتؤدّي ما يجب عليها للأخرى. ثم أمر الله سبحانه المسلمين أن يعدلوا في كل أمورهم بعد أمرهم بهذا العدل الخاص بالطائفتين المقتتلتين فقال: { وَأَقْسِطُواْ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ يُحِبُّ ٱلْمُقْسِطِينَ } أي: واعدلوا إن الله يحب العادلين، ومحبته لهم تستلزم مجازاتهم بأحسن الجزاء. قال الحسن، وقتادة، والسديّ: { فَأَصْلِحُواْ بَيْنَهُمَا } بالدعاء إلى حكم كتاب الله، والرضى بما فيه لهما وعليهما { فَإِن بَغَتْ إِحْدَاهُمَا } وطلبت ما ليس لها، ولم ترجع إلى الصلح { فَقَـٰتِلُواْ ٱلَّتِى تَبْغِى } حتى ترجع إلى طاعة الله، والصلح الذي أمر الله به،

[2] Ibn Kathir, al-Tafsir al-Qur’an al-`Azim, 7:374-375.

[3] Ibid., 7:375.

[4] Lane, Arabic-English Lexicon, Bk.1, p.1893, s.v.

[5] Ibid., Bk.1, p.1893.

[6] Ibid., Bk.1, p.1893.

[7] Mufti M. Shafi, Ma`rif al-Qur’an, 8:127.

[8] Ibid., 8:127-128. Imam al-Qurtubi writes: “This verse is an evidence for the obligation to fight that faction that is rebellious and its rebellion is established whether by a legitimate Imam or any Muslim…” al-Jami` li-Ahkam al-Qur’an, 16:287:

هذه الآية دليل على وجوب قتال الفئة الباغية المعلوم بغيها على الإمام أو على أحد من المسلمين

He then continues and says: “If a faction openly rebels against a just Imam without any legal proof or basis, the Imam of the Muslims can fight them with the Muslims all or a section of them capable of doing so…”, op., cit, 16:289:

إذا خرجت على الإمام العدل خارجة باغية ولا حجة لها، قاتلهم الإمام بالمسلمين كافة أو من فيه كفاية

[9] Cf. Mufti M. Shafi, Ma`rif al-Qur’an, 8:126.

[10] Lane, Arabic-English Lexicon, Bk.1, p.1714, s.v.

[11] Ibid., Bk.1, p.231.

[12] Ibid., Bk.1, p.231.

[13] Ibid., Bk.1, p.231. al-Mawardi comments: “the word ‘baghy’ refers to excessive use of force to seek what one is not entitled to…” al-Nukat wa’l-`Uyun, 4:152:

 }فَإِن بَغَتْ إِحْدَاهُمَا عَلَى الأُخْرَى } البغي التعدي بالقوة إلى طلب ما ليس بمستحق

[14] See al-Shawkani, Fath al-Qadir, 1:268:

ومحبته لهم تستلزم مجازاتهم بأحسن الجزاء

[15] Abu Hayyan, al-Bahr al-Muhit, 8:112.

[16] See al-Mawardi, al-Nukat wa’l-`Uyun, 4:152:

ترجع إلى كتاب الله وسنة رسوله فيما لهم وعليهم، قاله قتادة

Ibn al-Jawzi, Zad al-Masir, 7:181:

}فأصلِحوا بينهما} بالدعاء إِلى حكم كتاب الله عز وجل والرضى بما فيه لهما وعليها

[17] Ibn Kathir, al-Tafsir al-Qur’an al-`Azim, 7:374.

[18] See Qurtubi, al-Jami` li-Ahkam al-Qur’an, 16:291-292 (= trans. taken from Mufti M. Shafi’s Ma`rif al-Qur’an, 8:128-131 with minor changes): “It is not permitted to attribute categorically, and with certainty to any of the Companions that he was absolutely wrong in his action, because each of them acted according to his own ijtihad. Their objective was to seek the pleasure of Allah. The Companions are all our leaders, and it is enjoined upon us that we should hold back our tongue from talking about their mutual differences and always speak the best things about them. The Prophet’s companionship is a highly honourable position which should not be violated. The Prophet has prohibited to revile them or talk bad about them, and informed us that they have been forgiven and that Allah is pleased with them […] Likewise, the noble Companions, who did not participate in the battles on either side, cannot be regarded as defaulters because their behaviour conduct and attitude in this matter was also based on their ijtihad, and Allah maintained them thus. Therefore, it is not proper in any sense of the word to curse them, to taunt them, to hold them as sinners, and to neglect their virtues, their struggles and their great religious stations […] Ibn Furak said: ‘Some of our colleagues feel that the example of the conflicts that took place between the noble Companions is like that of the episodes of conflict that occurred between Yusuf and his brothers. They, despite their mutual differences, did not lose their status of wilaya (authority) and nabuwwa (Prophethood). The same principle applies to the matter of conflicts that occurred between the Companions…’ […] Hasan al-Basri was asked [about this matter] and he replied: ‘Those were fights in which the Companions were present and we were not. They knew all the circumstances and we do not know them. The matter in which the Companions are unanimous, we follow; and the matter in which there is difference of opinion, we observe silence’. And al-Muhasibi said: ‘As far as this blood-shed is concerned, it is difficult for us to say anything because there was a difference of opinion in this regard among the noble Companions themselves’…”:

لا يجوز أن ينسب إلى أحد من الصحابة خطأ مقطوع به ، إذ كانوا كلهم اجتهدوا فيما فعلوه وأرادوا الله عز وجل ، وهم كلهم لنا أئمة، وقد تعبدنا بالكف عما شجر بينهم، وألا نذكرهم إلا بأحسن الذكر، لحرمة الصحبة ولنهي النبي – صلى الله عليه وسلم – عن سبهم، وأن الله غفر لهم ، وأخبر بالرضا عنهم . هذا مع ما قد ورد من الأخبار من طرق مختلفة عن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم – أن طلحة شهيد يمشي على وجه الأرض، فلو كان ما خرج إليه من الحرب عصيانا لم يكن بالقتل فيه شهيدا . وكذلك لو كان ما خرج إليه خطأ في التأويل وتقصيرا في الواجب عليه لأن الشهادة لا تكون إلا بقتل في طاعة، فوجب حمل أمرهم على ما بيناه . ومما يدل على ذلك ما قد صح وانتشر من أخبار علي بأن قاتل الزبير في النار . وقوله : سمعت رسول الله – صلى الله عليه وسلم – يقولبشر قاتل ابن صفية بالناروإذا كان كذلك فقد ثبت أن طلحة والزبير غير عاصيين ولا آثمين بالقتال لأن ذلك لو كان كذلك لم يقل النبي – صلى الله عليه وسلم – في طلحة شهيد . ولم يخبر أن قاتل الزبير في النار .

وكذلك من قعد غير مخطئ في التأويل . بل صواب أراه الله الاجتهاد . وإذا كان كذلك لم يوجب ذلك لعنهم ، والبراءة منهم وتفسيقهم ، وإبطال فضائلهم وجهادهم ، وعظيم غنائهم في الدين – رضي الله عنهم . وقد سئل بعضهم عن الدماء التي أريقت فيما بينهم فقالتلك أمة قد خلت لها ما كسبت ولكم ما كسبتم ولا تسألون عما كانوا يعملون .

سئل بعضهم عنها أيضا فقال : تلك دماء طهر الله منها يدي، فلا أخضب بها لساني . يعني في التحرز من الوقوع في خطأ، والحكم على بعضهم بما لا يكون مصيبا فيه قال ابن فورك : ومن أصحابنا من قال: إن سبيل ما جرت بين الصحابة من المنازعات كسبيل ما جرى بين إخوة يوسف مع يوسف، ثم إنهم لم يخرجوا بذلك عن حد الولاية والنبوة، فكذلك الأمر فيما جرى بين الصحابة . وقال المحاسبي فأما الدماء فقد أشكل علينا القول فيها باختلافهم . وقد سئل الحسن البصري عن قتالهم فقال : قتال شهده أصحاب محمد – صلى الله عليه وسلم – وغبنا، وعلموا وجهلنا ، واجتمعوا فاتبعنا، واختلفوا فوقفنا . قال المحاسبي فنحن نقول كما قال الحسن، ونعلم أن القوم كانوا أعلم بما دخلوا فيه منا ، ونتبع ما اجتمعوا عليه ، ونقف عند ما اختلفوا فيه ولا نبتدع رأيا منا ، ونعلم أنهم اجتهدوا وأرادوا الله عز وجل ، إذ كانوا غير متهمين في الدين ، ونسأل الله التوفيق

[19] al-Razi, Mafatih al-Ghayb, 4:122:

 }إِنَّمَا } للحصر أي لا أخوة إلا بين المؤمنين

[20] Abu Hayyan, al-Bahr al-Muhit, 8:112:

أي إخوة في الدين

[21] al-Qurtubi, al-Jami` li-Ahkam al-Qur’an, 16:287: “The believers are one brotherhood in their religion and their sanctities and not their lineage. For that reason, it is said that the bond of brotherhood in the religion is more permanent than the brotherhood based on one’s family lineage because the latter is severed if it opposes the religion whereas the brotherhood of the religion is not severed if it opposes one’s lineage…”

إنما المؤمنون إخوة أي في الدين والحرمة لا في النسب، ولهذا قيل : أخوة الدين أثبت من أخوة النسب، فإن أخوة النسب تنقطع بمخالفة الدين، وأخوة الدين لا تنقطع بمخالفة النسب

[22] al-Shawkani, Fath al-Qadir, 1:269:

 }إِنَّمَا ٱلْمُؤْمِنُونَ إِخْوَةٌ } مستأنفة مقرّرة لما قبلها من الأمر بالإصلاح، والمعنى: أنهم راجعون إلى أصل واحد، وهو الإيمان

[24] For a comprehensive account, see al-Ghazali, ‘The Duties of Brotherhood in Islam’ (from the Ihya’ `Ulum al-Din), tr. M. Holland, pp.21-88.

[25] Ibid., pp.35-48.

[26] Ibid., pp.49-50.

[27] al-Nabhani, The Islamic State, pp.43-47.


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