4 - An Nisa (The women)

7 Tafsir(s) related to verse 4.97


The following was revealed regarding a group of people who submitted to Islam but did not emigrate and were then slain in the battle of Badr alongside the disbelievers: And those whom the angels take [in death], while they are wronging their souls, having remained among the disbelievers and neglected to emigrate, the angels will say, to them in rebuke: ‘What was your predicament?’, in other words, ‘in what circumstances were you with regard to your religion’. They will say, giving excuses, ‘We were oppressed, unable to establish religion, in the land’, the land of Mecca. The angels will say, to them in rebuke: ‘But was not God’s earth spacious that you might have emigrated therein?’, from the land of unbelief to another land, as others did? God, exalted be He, says: as for such, their abode shall be Hell — an evil journey’s end, it is!


And those whom the angels take [in death] while they are wronging their souls the angels will say “What was your predicamentḍ” They will say “We were oppressed in the land.” The angels will say “But was not God's earth spacious that you might have emigrated thereinḍ” As for such their abode shall be hell-an evil journey's end! This alludes to one whose time comes while he is still trapped in his lower self and enslaved to his desires-there is no excuse for him since he did not emigrate to the protection of His nearness so that he could be saved from the contemptible nature of his lower self. There is no veil between you and this talk except your whims.

Asbab Al-Nuzul by Al-Wahidi

(Lo! as for those whom the angels take (in death) while they wrong themselves…) [4:97]. This verse was revealed about some people in Mecca who professed Islam but did not migrate; they showed faith outwardly but were hypocrites inwardly. At the Battle of Badr, they joined the idolaters in their fight against the Muslims and were killed therein. The angels struck their faces and backs and said to them that which Allah, exalted is He, has mentioned in this verse. Abu Bakr al-Harithi informed us> Abu'l-Shaykh al-Hafiz> Abu Yahya> Sahl ibn 'Uthman> 'Abd al-Rahim ibn Sulayman> Ash'ath ibn Sawad> 'Ikrimah> Ibn 'Abbas who said with regard to the verse (Lo! as for those whom the angels take (in death) while they wrong themselves…) which he recited to the end: “They were Muslims who were in Mecca. They went out with the idolaters to fight and were killed with them, and so this verse was revealed”.

Ibn Al Kathir

The Prohibition of Residing Among the Disbelievers While Able to Emigrate

Al-Bukhari recorded that Muhammad bin `Abdur-Rahman, Abu Al-Aswad, said, "The people of Al-Madinah were forced to prepare an army (to fight against the people of Ash-Sham during the Khilafah of Abdullah bin Az-Zubayir at Makkah), and I was enlisted in it. Then I met `Ikrimah, the freed slave of Ibn `Abbas, and informed him (about it), and he forbade me strongly from doing so (i.e., to enlist in that army), and then he said to me, `Ibn `Abbas told me that some Muslims used to go out with the idolators increasing the size of their army against the Messenger of Allah. Then, an arrow would hit one of them and kill him, or he would be struck on his neck (with a sword) and killed, and Allah sent down the Ayah,

إِنَّ الَّذِينَ تَوَفَّـهُمُ الْمَلَـئِكَةُ ظَـلِمِى أَنفُسِهِمْ

(Verily, as for those whom the angels take (in death) while they are wronging themselves).'' Ad-Dahhak stated that this Ayah was revealed about some hypocrites who did not join the Messenger of Allah but remained in Makkah and went out with the idolators for the battle of Badr. They were killed among those who were killed. Thus, this honorable Ayah was revealed about those who reside among the idolators, while able to perform Hijrah and unable to practice the faith. Such people will be committing injustice against themselves and falling into a prohibition according to the consensus and also according to this Ayah,

إِنَّ الَّذِينَ تَوَفَّـهُمُ الْمَلَـئِكَةُ ظَـلِمِى أَنفُسِهِمْ

(Verily, as for those whom the angels take (in death) while they are wronging themselves,) by refraining from Hijrah,

قَالُواْ فِيمَ كُنتُمْ

(They (angels) say (to them): "In what (condition) were you'') meaning, why did you remain here and not perform Hijrah

قَالُواْ كُنَّا مُسْتَضْعَفِينَ فِى الاٌّرْضِ

(They reply: "We were weak and oppressed on the earth.'') meaning, we are unable to leave the land or move about in the earth,

قَالْواْ أَلَمْ تَكُنْ أَرْضُ اللَّهِ وَسِعَةً

(They (angels) say: "Was not the earth of Allah spacious enough for you). Abu Dawud recorded that Samurah bin Jundub said that the Messenger of Allah said,

«مَنْ جَامَعَ الْمُشْرِكَ وَسَكَنَ مَعَهُ فَإِنَّهُ مِثْلُه»

(Whoever mingles with the idolator and resides with him, he is just like him.) Allah's statement,

إِلاَّ الْمُسْتَضْعَفِينَ

(Except the weak) until the end of the Ayah, is an excuse that Allah gives for this type of people not to emigrate, because they are unable to free themselves from the idolators. And even if they did, they would not know which way to go. This is why Allah said,

لاَ يَسْتَطِيعُونَ حِيلَةً وَلاَ يَهْتَدُونَ سَبِيلاً

(Who cannot devise a plan, nor are they able to direct their way), meaning, they do not find the way to emigrate, as Mujahid, `Ikrimah and As-Suddi stated. Allah's statement,

فَأُوْلَـئِكَ عَسَى اللَّهُ أَن يَعْفُوَ عَنْهُمْ

(These are they whom Allah is likely to forgive them,) means, pardon them for not migrating, and here, `likely' means He shall,

وَكَانَ اللَّهُ عَفُوّاً غَفُوراً

(and Allah is Ever Oft-Pardoning, Oft-Forgiving). Al-Bukhari recorded that Abu Hurayrah said, "While the Messenger of Allah was praying `Isha', he said, `Sami` Allahu Liman Hamidah.' He then said before he prostrated,

«اللَّهُمَّ أَنْجِ عَيَّاشَ بْنَ أبِي رَبِيعَةَ، اللَّهُمَّ أَنْجِ سَلَمَةَ بْنَ هِشَامٍ، اللَّهُمَّ أَنْجِ الْوَلِيدَ بْنَ الْوَلِيدِ، اللَّهُمَّ أَنْجِ الْمُسْتَضْعَفِينَ مِنَ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ، اللَّهُمَّ اشْدُدْ وَطْأَتَكَ عَلَى مُضَرَ، اللَّهُمَّ اجْعَلْهَا سِنِينَ كَسِنِي يُوسُف»

(O Allah! Save `Ayyash bin Abi Rabi`ah. O Allah! Save Salamah bin Hisham. O Allah! Save Al-Walid bin Al-Walid. O Allah! Save the weak Muslims. O Allah! Be very hard on Mudar tribe. O Allah! Afflict them with years (of famine) similar to the (famine) years of the time of Prophet Yusuf.)'' Al-Bukhari recorded that Abu An-Nu`man said that Hammad bin Zayd said that Ayyub narrated that Ibn Abi Mulaykah said that Ibn `Abbas commented on the verse,

إِلاَّ الْمُسْتَضْعَفِينَ

(Except the weak ones among men), "I and my mother were among those (weak ones) whom Allah excused.'' Allah's statement,

وَمَن يُهَاجِرْ فِى سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ يَجِدْ فِى الاٌّرْضِ مُرَاغَماً كَثِيراً وَسَعَةً

(He who emigrates in the cause of Allah, will find on earth many dwelling places and plenty to live by.) this encourages the believers to perform Hijrah and abandon the idolators, for wherever the believer emigrates, he will find a safe refuge to resort to. Mujahid said that,

مُرَاغَماً كَثِيراً

(many dwelling places) means, he will find a way out of what he dislikes. Allah's statement,


(and plenty to live by.) refers to provision. Qatadah also said that,

يَجِدْ فِى الاٌّرْضِ مُرَاغَماً كَثِيراً وَسَعَةً

(...will find on earth many dwelling places and plenty to live by.) means, Allah will take him from misguidance to guidance and from poverty to richness. Allah's statement,

وَمَن يَخْرُجْ مِن بَيْتِهِ مُهَـجِراً إِلَى اللَّهِ وَرَسُولِهِ ثُمَّ يُدْرِكْهُ الْمَوْتُ فَقَدْ وَقَعَ أَجْرُهُ عَلىَ اللَّهِ

(And whosoever leaves his home as an emigrant unto Allah and His Messenger, and death overtakes him, his reward is then surely, incumbent upon Allah. ) means, whoever starts emigrating and dies on the way, he will acquire the reward of those who emigrate for Allah. The Two Sahihs, along with the Musnad and Sunan compilers, recorded that `Umar bin Al-Khattab said that the Messenger of Allah said,

«إِنَّمَا الْأَعْمَالُ بِالنِّــيَّاتِ، وَإِنَّمَا لِكُلِّ امْرِىءٍ مَا نَوَى، فَمَنْ كَانَتْ هِجْرَتُهُ إِلَى اللهِ وَرَسُولِهِ، فَهِجْرَتُهُ إِلَى اللهِ وَرَسُولِهِ، وَمَنْ كَانَتْ هِجْرَتُهُ إِلى دُنْيَا يُصِيبُهَا، أَوِ امْرَأَةٍ يَتَزَوَّجُهَا، فَهِجْرَتُهُ إِلى مَا هَاجَرَ إِلَيْه»

(The reward of deeds depends upon the intentions, and every person will be rewarded according to what he has intended. So, whoever emigrated to Allah and His Messenger, then his emigration is for Allah and His Messenger. And whoever emigrated for worldly benefits or for a woman to marry, his emigration is for what he emigrated for.) This Hadith is general, it applies to Hijrah as well as every other deed. In the Two Sahihs, it is recorded that a man killed ninety-nine people and completed the number one hundred when he killed a worshipper. He then asked a scholar if he has a chance to repent. The scholar said, "What prevents you from repentance'' The scholar told the killer to emigrate from his land to another land where Allah is worshipped. When he left his land and started on the migration to the other land, death overtook him on the way. The angels of mercy and the angels of torment disputed about the man, whereas the former said that he went out in repentance, while the latter said that he did not arrive at his destination. They were commanded to measure the distance between the two lands and to whichever land he is closer to, he will be considered part of that land. Allah commanded that the righteous land to move closer and the land of evil to move farther. The angels found that he died closer to the land that he intended to emigrate to by a hand-span, and thus the angels of mercy captured his soul. In another narration, when death came to that man, he moved his chest towards the righteous village that he emigrated to.


And those whom the angels receive [in death], to the end [of the verse]: al-tawaffī is to receive fully the spirit (istīfāÌ) from the body by having it seized from it, which can be in one of three ways: the reception of [it by] the angels, the reception of [it by] the angel of death, and the reception of [it by] God. As for the angels' reception [of the spirit], that is for the folk of the souls who are either fortunate, being the good folk, those of the praiseworthy attributes and virtuous character traits from among the righteous, the Godfearing, those whom the angels receive [in death] while they are goodly, saying to them, 'Peace be upon you! Enter Paradise because of what you used to do' [Q. 16:31-32]: their final return shall be to the garden of the acts. Or they are the damned, the evil folk, those of the base attributes and the wicked character traits, whose spirits are only received by the powers of the angelic realm which in this world are the equivalent of their faculties which constitute their station, veiled as they are by attributes of the soul and the pleasures of the imaginative, estimative, predatorial and bestial faculties, the disbelievers, those whom the angels receive [in death] while they are wronging themselves [Q. 16:27-28]: their final return shall be to the Fire. As for the reception of the angel of death, that is for the possessors of hearts, those who have emerged from the veil of the soul to the station of the heart and have returned to the primordial nature and have become illumined by it. The spirits of these [latter] are seized by the universal rational soul, which is the heart of the world, because of their conjunction with it; this is the case if it is the angel of death himself who seizes their spirits. If he seizes [these spirits] by means of his assistants and their powers, then they belong to the first group [mentioned above]. He [the angel of death] may seize them himself and turn them over to the angelic realm of chastisement so that they might be brought to reckoning and requited in accordance with their vices and be rid [of them]; that will be on account of [their] perfection or deficiency of knowledge, as in the case of the one who is delivered from ignorance and associating [others with God] and becomes adorned with knowledge and the affirmation of Oneness, but upon whose heart there had accumulated dark configurations and base natures because of wicked deeds and reprehensible character traits; or on account of having knowledge of the affirmation of the Oneness but ignorance of the final return, as in the case of the affirmer of the Oneness who denies the [final] recompense and is ensconced in acts of disobedience, as God, exalted be He, says Say: the angel of death, who has been charged with you, shall receive you [in death] [Q.

[Q. 32:11]. As for the reception of [spirits in death by] God, that is for the affirmers of [His] Oneness who have ascended from the station of the heart to the locus of presential vision (shuhūd) and so there remains no veil between them and their Lord. Thus He takes charge of the seizure of their spirits Himself and gathers them unto Himself the day on which We shall gather the God-fearing to the Compassionate One, as honoured delegations on mounts [Q. 19:85], and as He says God receives the souls at the time of their death [Q. 39:42]; while they are wronging their souls, by preventing them from what is due to them by virtue of their preparednesses in terms of the perfections deposited within them; [the angels will say] 'What was your predicamentḍ', when you fell short of the effort required to [attain] what was decreed [for you] and neglected your duty to God [cf. Q. 39:56], and fell short of attaining the perfection that had been prepared for you and to which you were enjoined. They will say, 'We were oppressed, in the land of the preparedness to which we had become innately disposed by the mastery [over us] of the faculties of the commanding soul and the overwhelming power of caprice through the satanic nature of estimation: these have held us captive in their shackles, compelled us to [follow] their religion and coerced us to [adopt] their disbelief. They [the angels] will reply, 'But was not God's earth spacious: was not the capacity of your preparedness such that you might have emigrated a few steps within it from the original point of your primordial nature in such a way that when some of the veils are removed from you, you would be able to depart from the captivity of the faculties and to be rid of the fetters of caprice and would have drawn strength from the reinforcement of your helpers, the spiritual faculties, and you would have been assisted to victory by the lights of the heart and thus left the town, whose people were evildoers [cf.

[Q. 4:75], and which is the city (madīna) of the soul, to the goodly land of the heart whereafter the mercy of your Forgiving Lord would have reached you; that you might have emigrated thereinḍ' As for such, their abode shall be Hell, [their abode shall be] their souls yearning intensely yet deprived - an evil journey's end!

Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi - Tafhim al-Qur'an

"Those who were doing wrong to their own souls" were the people who had accepted Islam but were still living among their own clans, which had not yet embraced Islam, without any genuine excuse or compulsion. They were doing wrong to their own selves by living in a state of semi-Islam, although "the Abode of Islam" had come into existence where they could migrate and live the full life of a Muslim. They were quite content to live such a wretched life of semi-unbelief, according to their faith because they preferred their comforts, their families, their properties and their interests to their Faith. That is why their excuse, "We were weak and helpless in the land", has not been accepted. (Please also see E.N.116).

That is, "Why did you continue to live in a place which was oppressed by the rebels against Allah and where it was not possible to live in accordance with the Law of Allah? And why did you not migrate to a place where you could follow the Divine Law without any hindrance?"

As regards "migration in the way of Allah", it is an obligation with two exceptions: one may remain there to struggle for the establishment of Islam and to change the system of life based on unbelief into the system of Islam; just as the Prophets and their immediate followers did in the initial stages of their mission; or one may remain there in a state of great disgust and repugnance as long as one is unable to find any way out of it. With the exception of the above two cases, it will be a life of continuous sin to live in an "abode of unbelief". The excuse that "We could not find any `Abode of Islam' for migration" shall not be accepted and will be met with the rebuff: "If there was no `Abode of Islam', was there no forest or mountain where you could live on the leaves of trees and the milk of goats in order to escape from submission to the laws of unbelief?"

In this connection, a misunderstanding about the Tradition, "No migration after the conquest of Makkah", may also be removed. This was not a permanent command concerning migration but only a temporary instruction that suited the changed conditions of Arabia after the conquest of Makkah. As long as the major portion of Arabia was the "abode of unbelief", the Muslims were enjoined to migrate to Madinah, which was the only "Abode of Islam" at the time. But when almost all the parts of Arabia came under Islam, the Holy Prophet so to say, merely canceled the first command under which migration was compulsory, saying, "There is no more (compulsory) migration (to Madinah) after the conquest of Makkah." The Tradition was never meant to be a prohibitory command for all the Muslims of the world for all times to come up to the Last Day.

Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs

Then, Allah revealed the following about the 50 people who had left Islam and were all killed during the Battle of Badr, saying: (Lo! as for those whom the angels take (in death)) at the Battle of Badr (while they wrong themselves) by being idolaters, ((the angels) will ask) upon taking their souls: (In what were you engaged) what were you doing in Mecca? (They will say: We were oppressed) and humiliated (in the land) in Mecca at the hands of the unbelievers. ((The angels) will say: Was not Allah's earth) Medina (spacious) safe (that ye could have migrated therein? As for such) group of people, (their habitation) their dwelling (will be hell, an evil journey's end) they will come to;