4 - An Nisa (The women)

7 Tafsir(s) related to verse 4.94

Al-Jalalayn

The following was revealed when a group from among the Companions passed by a man from the Banū Sulaym driving his flock of sheep, and he offered them a greeting of peace. But they said, ‘He only greeted us dissimulating, out of fear’. So they killed him and took away his flock: O you who believe, when you are going forth, travelling in order to struggle, in the way of God, be discriminating (fa-tabayyanū; a variant reading has fa-tathabbatū, ‘ascertain’, here and further below); and do not say to him who offers you peace (read al-salām or al-salam), that is, the greeting, or [offers you] submission, declaring the profession of faith (shahāda), which is an indication of being a Muslim: ‘You are not a believer: you are only saying this to dissimulate for fear of your life and property’, so that you then end up killing him, desiring, seeking by this, the transient goods of the life of this world, that is, its enjoyment, in the way of spoils. With God are plenteous spoils, rendering you free of the need to kill such a person for his property. So you were formerly, when your lives and property were protected simply upon your professing the faith; but God has been gracious to you, making you known for your faith and uprightness. So be discriminating, lest you kill a believer and treat those entering the religion as you were treated [formerly]. Surely God is ever Aware of what you do, and will requite you for it.

Al-Qushairi

O you who believe when you are going forth in the way of God be discriminating and do not say to him who offers you peace: You are not a believer desiring the transient goods of the life of this world. With God are plenteous spoils. So you were formerly but God has been gracious to you. So be discriminating. Surely God is ever Aware of what you do. Associate with people according to what they show outwardly in their states. Do not falsely pretend to have insight into what is inside them for God is the one who is entrusted with secrets. This [pretension] is a corrupt inclination that arises in you from the controlling elements of the lower self. But as for he whose vision [comes] through God nothing is veiled from him so let him protect the secret of God in what was disclosed to him and let him not reveal to his companion what God has shown him regarding it.

Asbab Al-Nuzul by Al-Wahidi

(O ye who believe! When ye go forth (to fight) in the way of Allah, be careful to discriminate…) [4:94]. Abu Ibrahim Isma'il ibn Ibrahim al-Wa'iz informed me> Abu'l-Husayn Muhammad ibn Ahmad ibn Hamid> Ahmad ibn al-Husayn ibn 'Abd al-Jabbar> Muhammad ibn 'Abbad> Sufyan> 'Amr>> 'Ata'> Ibn 'Abbas who said: “Some Muslims chased a man for his booty. When they got to him, he said: 'Peace be with you'. But they killed him and took his booty. The verse was then revealed (… and say not unto one who offereth you peace: “Thou art not a believer”, seeking the chance profits of this life), i.e. that booty”. This was narrated by Bukhari from 'Ali ibn 'Abd Allah and also by Muslim from Abu Bakr ibn Abi Shaybah; and both transmitters related it from Sufyan. Isma'il informed us> Abu 'Amr ibn Nujayd> Muhammad ibn al-Hasan ibn al-Khalil> Abu Kurayb> 'Ubayd Allah> Isra'il> Simak> 'Ikrimah> Ibn 'Abbas who said: “A man from Sulaym who had sheep with him passed by a group of Companions of the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace. He greeted them with the greeting of peace, but they said to each other: 'He greeted you with the greeting of peace only to seek refuge from you'. And so they killed him and took his sheep and went to the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, after which Allah, exalted is He, revealed (O ye who believe! When ye go forth (to fight) in the way of Allah, be careful to discriminate)”. Abu Bakr al-Asfahani informed us> Abu'l-Shaykh al-Hafiz> Abu Yahya al-Razi> Sahl ibn 'Uthman> Waki'> Sufyan> Habib ibn Abi 'Amrah> Sa'id ibn Jubayr who said: “Al-Miqdad ibn al-Aswad went out one day at the head of a military expedition and they came across a man with some possession. They wanted to kill him, but the man said: 'There is no god but Allah!' Despite this, al-Miqdad went ahead and killed him. He was told: 'How can you kill a man who has said, there is no god but Allah? He would have rather fled with his family and property'. When they went back to the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, they mentioned what had happened, and the verse (O ye who believe! When ye go forth (to fight) in the way of Allah, be careful to discriminate) was revealed”. Said al-Hasan: “The Companions of the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, went out in a reconnaissance patrol. While they were there, they met with some idolaters whom they fought and defeated. One of the men ran away and a Muslim man followed him, in pursuit of his stuff. When he was about to strike him with his sword, the man said: 'I am a Muslim, I am a Muslim!' The Muslim man did not believe him. He killed him and took his possessions which were paltry. The Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, was informed of this. He said to the man: 'You killed him even though he claimed he was Muslim!' The man said: 'O Messenger of Allah, he said it only to protect himself'. The Messenger said: 'Why did you not split his heart open?' 'Why, O Messenger of Allah', asked the man. He said: 'So that we see whether he was truthful or not'. The man said: 'How was I supposed to know he was telling the truth, O Messenger of Allah?' He said: 'You did not know that but he expressed it with his words'. This killer did not live long after this event. When he died, they buried him but the following morning they found his corpse on the side of his grave. They dug another grave and buried him, and the following day they found his corpse on the side of the grave. They did this twice or three times, and when they saw that the earth did not accept his corpse, they threw him in some mountain trails. And then this verse was revealed”. Al-Hasan commented on this: “The earth contains those who are more evil than this man. However, this was an admonition to them so that they would never do this again”. Abu Nasr Ahmad ibn Muhammad al-Muzakki informed us> 'Ubayd Allah ibn Muhammad ibn Battah> Abu'l-Qasim al-Baghawi> Sa'id ibn Yahya al-Umawi> his father> Muhammad ibn Ishaq> Yazid ibn 'Abd Allah ibn Qusayt> al-Qa'qa' ibn 'Abd Allah ibn Abi Hadrad> his father who said: “The Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, sent us in a military expedition to Idam. This was before his conquest of Mecca. It happened that 'Amir ibn al-Adbat al-Ashja'i passed by us and greeted us with the greeting of Islam, but we mistrusted him. Muhallim ibn Jathamah attacked him, due to some feud that they had with each other in the pre-Islamic era, and killed him. He seized from him as booty a camel, a bedding to sleep on and some provision. We then reported to the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, and informed him about this incident. Allah, exalted is He, revealed (O ye who believe! When ye go forth (to fight) in the way of Allah, be careful to discriminate…) up to the end of this verse”. Said al-Suddi: “The Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, sent Usamah ibn Zayd at the head of a military expedition during which he encountered Mirdas ibn Nuhayk al-Damri and killed him. This man was from Fadak, and he was the only person who accepted Islam from amongst all his people. He used to say: 'There is no god but Allah, Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah', and greeted them with the greeting of peace. Usamah said: 'When I went back to the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, and informed him of what had happened, he exclaimed: 'You killed a man who says: there is no god but Allah'. I said: He said it only to protect himself'. He said: 'What will you do when he comes on the Day of Judgement to dispute with you by means of 'there is no god but Allah''. And he kept repeating: 'You killed a man who says: there is no god but Allah', until I wished that I had only embraced Islam on that day. Then the verse (O ye who believe! When ye go forth (to fight) in the way of Allah, be careful to discriminate) was revealed”. Al-Kalbi and Qatadah also reported something of this effect. The authenticity of this tradition is evidenced by the following tradition. Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn Ibrahim al-Farisi informed us> Muhammad ibn 'Isa ibn 'Amrawayh> Ibrahim ibn Sufyan> Muslim> Ya'qub al-Dawraqi> Hushaym> Ibn Hasin> Abu Zubyan> Usamah ibn Zayd ibn Harithah relating the following: “The Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, sent us to al-Hirqah close by Juhaynah. We raided them in the morning and defeated them. I and one of the Helpers chased one of their men and when we caught up with him, he said: there is no god but Allah. The Helper stopped but I stabbed him with my spear and killed him. When we went back the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, he heard of what had happened. He said to me: 'O Usamah, you killed him after he said, there is no god but Allah'. I said: 'O Messenger of Allah, he said it to protect himself'. He said: 'You killed him after he said, there is no god but Allah', and he kept repeating it until I wished that I had embraced Islam only that day”.

Ibn Al Kathir

Greeting with the Salam is a Sign of Islam

Imam Ahmad recorded that `Ikrimah said that Ibn `Abbas said, "A man from Bani Sulaym, who was tending a flock of sheep, passed by some of the Companions of the Prophet and said Salam to them. They said (to each other), `He only said Salam to protect himself from us.' Then they attacked him and killed him. They brought his sheep to the Prophet, and this Ayah was revealed,

يَـأَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ

(O you who believe!), until the end of the Ayah.'' At-Tirmidhi recorded this in his (chapter on) Tafsir, and said, "This Hadith is Hasan, and it is also reported from Usamah bin Zayd.'' Al-Hakim also recorded it and said, "Its chain is Sahih, but they did not collect it.'' Al-Bukhari recorded that Ibn `Abbas commented;

وَلاَ تَقُولُواْ لِمَنْ أَلْقَى إِلَيْكُمُ السَّلَـمَ لَسْتَ مُؤْمِناً

(and say not to anyone who greets you: "You are not a believer;''), "A man was tending his sheep and the Muslims caught up with him. He said, `As-Salamu `Alaykum.' However, they killed him and took his sheep. Allah revealed the Ayah;

وَلاَ تَقُولُواْ لِمَنْ أَلْقَى إِلَيْكُمُ السَّلَـمَ لَسْتَ مُؤْمِناً تَبْتَغُونَ عَرَضَ الْحَيَوةِ الدُّنْيَا

(And say not to anyone who greets you: "You are not a believer; seeking the perishable goods of the worldly life).'' Ibn `Abbas said; "The goods of this world were those sheep.'' And he recited,

السَّلَـمُ

(Peace) Imam Ahmad recorded that Al-Qa`qa` bin Abdullah bin Abi Hadrad narrated that his father `Abdullah bin Abi Hadrad said, "The Messenger of Allah sent us to (the area of) Idam. I rode out with a group of Muslims that included Abu Qatadah, Al-Harith bin Rab`i and Muhallam bin Juthamah bin Qays. We continued on until we reached the area of Idam, where `Amr bin Al-Adbat Al-Ashja`i passed by us on his camel. When he passed by us he said Salam to us, and we did not attack him. Because of some previous problems with him, Muhallam bin Juthamah killed him and took his camel. When we went back to the Messenger of Allah and told him what had happened, a part of the Qur'an was revealed about us,

يَـأَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ إِذَا ضَرَبْتُمْ فِى سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ

(O you who believe! When you go (to fight) in the cause of Allah), until,

خَبِيراً

(Well-Aware).'' Only Ahmad recorded this Hadith. Al-Bukhari recorded that Ibn `Abbas said that the Messenger of Allah said to Al-Miqdad,

«إِذَا كَانَ رَجُلٌ مُؤْمِنٌ يُخْفِي إِيمَانَهُ مَعَ قَوْمٍ كُفَّارٍ فَأَظْهَرَ إيمَانَهُ فَقَتَلْتَهُ، فَكَذلِكَ كُنْتَ أَنْتَ تُخْفِي إِيمَانَكَ بِمَكَّةَ مِنْ قَبْل»

(You killed a believing man who hid his faith with disbelieving people, after he had announced his faith to you. Remember that you used to hide your faith in Makkah before.) Al-Bukhari recorded this shorter version without a complete chain of narrators. However a longer version with a connected chain of narrators has also been recorded. Al-Hafiz Abu Bakr Al-Bazzar recorded that Ibn `Abbas said, "The Messenger of Allah sent a military expedition under the authority of Al-Miqdad bin Al-Aswad and when they reached the designated area, they found the people had dispersed. However, a man with a lot of wealth did not leave and said, `I bear witness that there is no deity worthy of worship except Allah.' Yet, Al-Miqdad killed him, and a man said to him, `You killed a man after he proclaimed: "There is no deity worthy of worship except Allah. By Allah I will mention what you did to the Prophet.' When they went back to the Messenger of Allah, they said, `O Messenger of Allah! Al-Miqdad killed a man who testified that there is no deity worthy of worship except Allah.' He said,

«ادْعُوا لِيَ الْمِقْدَادَ، يَا مِقْدَادُ أَقَتَلْتَ رَجُلًا يَقُولُ: لَا إِلهَ إلَّا اللهُ، فَكَيْفَ لَكَ بِلَا إِلهَ إِلَّا اللهُ غَدًا؟»

(Summon Al-Miqdad before me. O Miqdad! Did you kill a man who proclaimed, "There is no deity worthy of worship except Allah" What would you do when you face, "There is no deity worthy of worship except Allah tomorrow") Allah then revealed;

يَـأَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ إِذَا ضَرَبْتُمْ فِى سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ فَتَبَيَّنُواْ وَلاَ تَقُولُواْ لِمَنْ أَلْقَى إِلَيْكُمُ السَّلَـمَ لَسْتَ مُؤْمِناً تَبْتَغُونَ عَرَضَ الْحَيَوةِ الدُّنْيَا فَعِنْدَ اللَّهِ مَغَانِمُ كَثِيرَةٌ كَذلِكَ كُنتُمْ مِّن قَبْلُ فَمَنَّ اللَّهُ عَلَيْكُمْ فَتَبَيَّنُواْ

(O you who believe! When you go (to fight) in the cause of Allah, verify (the truth), and say not to anyone who greets you: "You are not a believer;'' seeking the perishable goods of the worldly life. There are much more profits and booties with Allah. Even as he is now, so were you yourselves before till Allah conferred on you His Favors, therefore, be cautious in discrimination). The Messenger of Allah said to Al-Miqdad,

«كَانَ رَجُلٌ مُؤْمِنٌ يُخْفِي إِيمَانَهُ مَعَ قَوْمٍ كُفَّارٍ فَأَظْهَرَ إيمَانَهُ فَقَتَلْتَهُ، فَكَذَلِكَ كُنْتَ أَنْتَ تُخْفِي إِيمَانَكَ بِمَكَّةَ مِنْ قَبْل»

(He was a believing man who hid his faith among disbelieving people, and he announced his faith to you, but you killed him, although you used to hide your faith before, in Makkah.)'' Allah's statement,

فَعِنْدَ اللَّهِ مَغَانِمُ كَثِيرَةٌ

(There is much more benefit with Allah.) means, better than what you desired of worldly possessions which made you kill the one who greeted you with the Salam and pronounced his faith to you. Yet, you ignored all this and accused him of hypocrisy, to acquire the gains of this life. However, the pure wealth with Allah is far better than what you acquired. Allah's statement,

كَذلِكَ كُنتُمْ مِّن قَبْلُ فَمَنَّ اللَّهُ عَلَيْكُمْ

(so were you yourselves before, till Allah conferred on you His Favors.) means, beforehand, you used to be in the same situation like this person who hid his faith from his people. We mentioned the relevant Hadiths above. Allah said,

وَاذْكُرُواْ إِذْ أَنتُمْ قَلِيلٌ مُّسْتَضْعَفُونَ فِى الاٌّرْضِ

(And remember when you were few and were reckoned weak in the land). `Abdur-Razzaq recorded that Sa`id bin Jubayr commented about Allah's statement,

كَذلِكَ كُنتُمْ مِّن قَبْلُ

(so were you yourselves before), "You used to hide your faith, just as this shepherd hid his faith.'' Allah said,

فَتَبَيَّنُواْ

(therefore, be cautious in discrimination), then said,

إِنَّ اللَّهَ كَانَ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ خَبِيراً

(Allah is Ever Well-Aware of what you do.) and this part of the Ayah contains a threat and a warning, as Sa`id bin Jubayr stated.

Kashf Al-Asrar

O you who have faith! When you strike forth on the path of God, look clearly, and say not to him who offers you peace, “You are not of the faithful,” seeking the chance goods of this world's life.

By way of allusion, He is saying that when you go on a journey, go for the sake of reaching one of the friends of God so that he may be the intimate of your days and the witness of your heart and spirit. No matter how far you go, never be at ease from seeking and do not hold back the foot of effort. The friends are the favorites of the Exalted Threshold and accepted by the Presence of Divinity. Not everyone sees them, not every eyesight perceives them. When you find them, give ear, and when you see them, cling to them, for the brightness of the heart lies in witnessing them and endless felicity in being their companion.

The pir of the Tariqah Junayd was asked, “Which do you prefer? Two cycles of voluntary prayer or an hour of witnessing the poor.”

He said, “An hour of witnessing the poor, for witnessing the poor is God's love, for He says, 'It is incumbent on Me to love those who love each other in Me and who visit each other in Me.' Bringing God's love to hand is an obligatory act for everyone. Leaving aside this obligatory act and choosing a supererogatory act is not the work of the clever and the conduct of the chevaliers.”

Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi - Tafhim al-Qur'an

In the early days of Islam, Assalam-u-alaikum (peace be upon you) was a symbol of recognition for Muslims. When a Muslim met another Muslim, he greeted him with this salutation, as if to say, "I belong to your own community; I am your friend and well-wisher. I have nothing but peace and security for you; so you should not show enmity towards me nor fear enmity and harm from me." It was like a "pass-word" used in the army while passing through a line of guards at night so as to discern between friends and foes.

The importance of the salutation of peace as a symbol of recognition was specially great at that time because there was no apparent mark of distinction between a Muslim Arab and a non-Muslim Arab, as they wore the same kind of dress and spoke the semi language. Still a difficulty arose when the Muslims attacked some clan and a local Muslim also became the target of attack. Then he would cry out, Asalam-u-alaikum or La llaha illallah (there is no god but Allah). But the attacking Muslims would suspect him to be a disbeliever who was using the password as a trick merely to save his life. They would, therefore, often kill him and take possession of his belongings as spoils. Although the Holy Prophet would severely admonish the offenders on such occasions, yet there was a recurrence of such incidents. Then Allah solved the difficulty in this verse, which means, "You have no right to judge cursorily that the man, who is declaring himself to be a Muslim, is telling a lie merely to save his life. It is equally possible that he may be speaking the truth, or telling a lie, and one cannot know the reality without making a thorough investigation. Thus, while there is a chance of letting off a disbeliever by accepting his salutations of peace as genuine, there is also the more horrible chance of killing an innocent Believer. In any case, it is far better to let off a disbeliever by mistake than to kill a Reliever by error.

That is, There was a time when you yourselves were scattered as individuals among different clans of disbelievers. You were then hiding your Islam for fear of oppression and persecution and you could offer no other proof of your Faith except by an oral expression. Now it is the bounty of Allah that you are enjoying community life and are able to raise the banner of Islam against the disbelievers. The right way of showing gratitude to Allah for this bounty is to show kindness and leniency to those Muslims who are still in the same state in which you were before this.

Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs

Then Allah revealed about Usamah Ibn Zayd who killed Mirdas Ibn Nuhayk al-Farari, a fellow believer, saying: (O ye who believe! When ye go forth (to fight) in the way of Allah) in jihad, (be careful to discriminate) between who is a believer and who is an unbeliever, (and say not unto one who offereth you peace) he who greets you and says to you “there is no god but Allah, Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah”: (“Thou art not a believer”;) and then kill him (seeking the chance profits of this life) so that you may despoil him. (With Allah are plenteous spoils) He has with Him a tremendous reward for him who avoids killing a fellow believer. (Even thus (as he now is) were ye before) with your people feeling safe with the believers and with Muhammad (pbuh) and his Companions because of the attestation of “there is no god but Allah and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah”, before the Emigration; (but Allah hath since then been gracious unto you) by migrating from the unbelievers. (Therefore take care to discriminate) such that you do not kill believers. (Allah is ever informed of what ye do) whether it is killing someone or other things.