8 - Al Anfal (Spoils of war)

7 Tafsir(s) related to verse 8.1


‘They question you, O Muhammad (s), concerning the spoils of war — the booty — to whom do they belong? Say, to them: ‘The spoils of war belong to God, Who places them where He will, and the Messenger, who divides them according to God’s command. The Prophet (s) divided these [spoils] between them equally, as reported by al-Hākim in his al-Mustadrak. So fear God and set things right between you, that is, [set right] the reality of that [state of affairs] which is between you, through mutual affection and the refraining from quarrelling; and obey God and His Messenger, if you are, truly, believers’.


…So have full awareness of God, and set things right between you…He [Sahl]said:Having full awareness of God (taqwā) means abandoning everything which befalls one [which might impede that awareness]. Among the proprieties (ādāb), it refers to the noblest character traits. It means that even if one should be enticed [by reward] (targhīb), one does not reveal a secret, and even if one should be intimidated (tarhīb), one does not remain on the side of ignorance. Furthermore, full awareness of God is not acceptable except in the one who is a follower of the Prophet and the Companions.His words:

Asbab Al-Nuzul by Al-Wahidi

(They ask thee (O Muhammad) of the spoils of war. Say: The spoils of war belong to Allah and the messenger…) [8:1]. Abu Sa‘id al-Nasruyiyy informed us> Abu Bakr al-Qati‘i> ‘Abd Allah ibn Ahmad ibn Hanbal> his father> Abu Mu‘awiyah> Abu Ishaq al-Shaybani> Muhammad ibn ‘Ubayd Allah al-Thaqafi> Sa‘d ibn Abi Waqqas who said: “On the day of Badr my brother ‘Umayr was killed and I killed Sa‘id ibn al-‘As and took his sword which was named al-Kifah. I went to the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, and he told me to go and put the sword with the captured booty which was still undivided. I went back in a state which only Allah knew as a result of the killing of my brother and the loss of my spoil. I did not go very far when Surah al-Anfal was revealed. The Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, called me and said: ‘Go and take back your sword!’ ”. ‘Ikrimah reported that Ibn ‘Abbas said: “On the day of Badr, the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, said: ‘Whoever does such-and-such will get such-and-such’. And so the younger men went and the old remained under the banners. When it was time to divide the booty, those younger men came to ask for their share, but the old said: ‘Do not exclude us, for we were under the banners, and if you had been defeated, we would have been a shield for you’. And so Allah, exalted is He, revealed (They ask thee (O Muhammad) of the spoils of war. Say: The spoils of war belong to Allah and the messenger…), and the booty was divided on them in equal shares”. Abu Bakr ibn al-Harith informed us> ‘Abd Allah ibn Muhammad ibn Ja‘far> Abu Yahya> Sahl ibn ‘Uthman> Yahya ibn Abi Za’idah> Ibn Abi al-Zinad> ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn al-Harith> Sulayman ibn Musa ibn al-Ashdaq> Makhul> Abu Salam al-Bahili> Abu Umamah al-Bahili> ‘Ubadah ibn al-Samit who said: “When the enemy was defeated on the day of Badr, a group of men followed them to exterminate them, while one group surrounded the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, [to protect him] and another group seized the booty and spoils. When Allah banished the enemy and those who went after came back, they said: ‘The booty belongs to us, we have chased the enemy and it is through us that Allah has defeated and banished them’. Those who surrounded the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, said: ‘By Allah, you do not have more right to it than we do. We have surrounded the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, lest the enemy attack him by surprise. Therefore, the booty is ours’. Those who had seized the spoils and booty said: ‘By Allah, you do not have more right to it than we do. We have seized, it is therefore ours’. Allah, exalted is He, then revealed (They ask thee (O Muhammad) of the spoils of war) and so the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, divided it on them in equal shares”.

Ibn Al Kathir

Meaning of Anfal

Al-Bukhari recorded that Ibn `Abbas said, "Al-Anfal are the spoils of war.'' Al-Bukhari also recorded that Sa`id bin Jubayr said, "I said to Ibn `Abbas, `Surat Al-Anfal' He said, `It was revealed concerning (the battle of) Badr.''' `Ali bin Abi Talhah reported, as Al-Bukhari recorded from Ibn `Abbas without a chain of narration, that Ibn `Abbas said, "Al-Anfal are the spoils of war; they were for the Messenger of Allah, and none had a share in them.'' Similar was said by Mujahid, `Ikrimah, `Ata', Ad-Dahhak, Qatadah, `Ata' Al-Khurasani, Muqatil bin Hayyan, `Abdur-Rahman bin Zayd bin Aslam and several others. It was also said that the Nafl (singular for Anfal) refers to the portion of the spoils of war that the commander gives to some of the fighters after dividing the bulk of the spoils. It was also said that Anfal refers to the Khumus; one-fifth of the captured goods after four-fifths are divided between the fighters. It was also said that the Anfal refers to the Fay', the possessions taken from the disbelievers without fighting, and the animals, servants or whatever other possessions escape from the disbelievers to Muslims.

Ibn Jarir recorded that `Ali bin Salih bin Hay said: "It has reached me that,

يَسْأَلُونَكَ عَنِ الأَنفَالِ

(They ask you about Al-Anfal) is about the divisions. This refer to what the Imam gives to some squads in addition to what is divided among the rest of the soldiers.''

The Reason behind revealing Ayah 8:1

Imam Ahmad recorded that Sa`d bin Malik said, "I said, `O Allah's Messenger, Allah has brought comfort to me today over the idolators, so grant me this sword.' He said,

«إِنَّ هَذَا السَّيْفَ لَا لَكَ وَلَا لِي، ضَعْه»

(This sword is neither yours nor mine; put it down.) So I put it down, but said to myself, `The Prophet might give this sword to another man who did not fight as fiercely as I did.' I heard a man calling me from behind and I said, `Has Allah revealed something in my case' The Prophet said,

«كُنْتَ سَأَلْتَنِي السَّيْفَ وَلَيْسَ هُوَ لِي، وَإِنَّهُ قَدْ وُهِبَ لِي، فَهُو لَك»

(You asked me to give you the sword, but it is not for me to decide about. However, it has been granted to me (by Allah), and I give it to you.) So Allah sent down this Ayah,

يَسْأَلُونَكَ عَنِ الأَنفَالِ قُلِ الأَنفَالُ لِلَّهِ وَالرَّسُولِ

(They ask you about Al-Anfal. Say: "Al-Anfal are for Allah and the Messenger'').

Abu Dawud, At-Tirmidhi and An-Nasa'i collected this Hadith, At-Tirmidhi said, "Hasan Sahih''.

Another Reason behind revealing the Ayah 8:1

Imam Ahmad recorded that Abu Umamah said, "I asked `Ubadah about Al-Anfal and he said, `It was revealed about us, those who participated in (the battle of) Badr, when we disputed about An-Nafl and our dispute was not appealing. So Allah took Al-Anfal from us and gave it to the Messenger of Allah. The Messenger divided it equally among Muslims.'''

Imam Ahmad recorded that Abu Umamah said that `Ubadah bin As-Samit said, "We went with the Messenger of Allah to the battle of Badr. When the two armies met, Allah defeated the enemy and some of us pursued them inflicting utter defeat and casualties. Another group of us came to the battlefield collecting the spoils of war. Another group surrounded the Messenger of Allah, so that the enemy could not attack him suddenly. When it was night and the various army groups went back to our camp, some of those who collected the spoils said, `We collected it, so none else will have a share in it.' Those who went in pursuit of the enemy said, `No, you have no more right to it than us. We kept the enemy away from the war spoils and defeated them.' Those who surrounded the Messenger of Allah to protect him said, `You have no more right to it than us, we surrounded the Messenger of Allah for fear that the enemy might conduct a surprise attack against him, so we were busy.' The Ayah,

يَسْأَلُونَكَ عَنِ الأَنفَالِ قُلِ الأَنفَالُ لِلَّهِ وَالرَّسُولِ فَاتَّقُواْ اللَّهَ وَأَصْلِحُواْ ذَاتَ بِيْنِكُمْ

(They ask you about Al-Anfal (the spoils of war). Say: "Al-Anfal are for Allah and the Messenger.'' So fear Allah and settle all matters of difference among you.) was revealed and the Messenger of Allah divided the Anfal equally between Muslims.'''

«وَكَانَ رَسُولُ اللهِ صلى الله عليه وسلّم إِذَا أَغَارَ فِي أَرْضِ الْعَدُوِّ نَفَلَ الرُّبُعَ، فَإِذَا أَقْبَلَ وَكُلّ النَّاسِ رَاجِعًا نَفَلَ الثُّلُث»

(And Allah's Messenger would give a fourth for Anfal when there was a surprise attack in the land of the enemy, and when there was a confrontation then a third to the people who returned).

The Prophet used to dislike the Anfal and encouraged strong fighters to give some of their share to weak Muslim fighters. At-Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah collected a similar narration for this Hadith, and At-Tirmidhi said, "Hasan''.

Allah said,

فَاتَّقُواْ اللَّهَ وَأَصْلِحُواْ ذَاتَ بِيْنِكُمْ

(So have Taqwa of Allah and settle all matters of difference among you,)

The Ayah commands, have Taqwa of Allah in all your affairs, settle matters of differences between you, do not wrong each other, do not dispute, and do not differ. Certainly, the guidance and knowledge that Allah has granted you is better than what you are disputing about such as Al-Anfal,

وَأَطِيعُواْ اللَّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ

(and obey Allah and His Messenger,) in the division that the Messenger makes according to Allah's order. The Prophet only divided according to what Allah ordained, which is perfectly just and fair. Ibn `Abbas commented on this Ayah, "This is a command from Allah and His Messenger to the believers, that they should have Taqwa of Allah and settle all matters of differences between them.'' A similar statement was reported from Mujahid. As-Suddi also commented on Allah's statement,

فَاتَّقُواْ اللَّهَ وَأَصْلِحُواْ ذَاتَ بِيْنِكُمْ

(So have Taqwa of Allah and settle all matters of difference among you), meaning "Do not curse each other.''


They question you concerning the spoils of war: they veiled themselves with their acts and so objected to the act of God and His Messenger, that is, God's act as manifested in the locus of the Messenger. Accordingly they were commanded to guard against acts, in other words, to avoid them by seeing God's act [therein] and to set things right [between themselves] by effacing the attributes of the souls, which are responsible for producing their acts, [acts] which necessarily bring about conflict and disagreement, so that they might return to mutual affection [towards one other] and love [for one another] that stems from the heart by the manifestation of the different types of attributes; and obey God and His Messenger, by the annihilation of its [the soul's] attributes so that it might be easier for you to accept the matter with the volition of the heart, if you are believers', with true faith.

Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi - Tafhim al-Qur'an

A dispute arose among the Muslims concerning the division of the spoils of victory after the Battle of Badr, Allah used this opportunity for the benefit of the Muslims and gave instructions for the solution of the problems of peace and war.

As Badr was the first battle fought under the flag of Islam, naturally the Muslims were unaware of the Islamic laws about war and the problems, created by it. Some preliminary instructions had already been given in Surahs Al-Baqarah and Muhammad, but more instructions were needed for the "humanization of war", because their notions were still the same that they had during the pre-Islamic days. That is why according to the old usage each Muslim claimed to be the rightful owner of the spoils which came in his hand after the victory. But there were others, who had gone in pursuit of the enemy instead of plundering the spoils, They claimed that they, too, were entitled to a share of the spoils, for, they said, "If we had not pursued the enemies to a long distance, they would have come back and by a surprise attack turned the victory into a defeat". There were still others, who were standing guard for the Holy Prophet: they also claimed a share, saying that they had rendered the greatest service in the Battle by protecting the person of the Holy Prophet, for, without this, there could have been no victory at all. But the people of the first group who possessed the spoils, were adamant and were not amenable to any reason whatever; for them, possession was the strongest of all arguments. By and by, the dispute began to take a very serious turn.

It was at this psychological moment that Allah sent down Surah Al-Anfal and chose the same thorny problem for the introduction of the review of the Battle of Badr. And it is a miracle of the Divine Book that it solved the thorny problem in a few words. The very first sentence- "They ask you concerning the bounties?"-that introduced the problem contained its solution. The use of the Arabic word(anfal), bounties', instead of (ghana'im),spoils of victory', provided the answer to the problem. The word(anfal) is the plural of (nafl). It means something which is in addition to the thing to which one is entitled by right. When that something is from the servant, it denotes the additional service to what is obligatory on the servant, but when it is from the master it denotes the additional reward which is bestowed on the servant as a bounty over and above to what the servant is entitled. The verse, therefore, implies: "Are you having a dispute concerning the bounties of Allah? If these are not the spoils of victory, but the bounties of Allah, who arc you to decide about their division? It is for the Giver of the bounties to decide whom to give and how much. "

This conception of the spoils of victory helped to bring about a great moral reform in the attitude towards war. Muslims do not go to war for the sake of material gains but for the sake of reforming the moral and social evils in the world in accordance with the principles of the Truth; and that they wage war only when the opposing forces make it impossible for them to carry out the reform work by means of preaching and teaching. Therefore the reformers must keep in view only that aim and object and not the material gains that may be bestowed on them by Allah as His bounties. That is why the Muslims were warned after the very first battle for the cause of Islam to guard themselves against the material gains of the battle lest these should become the sole aim and object of the fight.

This also brought about a great reform in connection with the division of the spoils of war. Formerly these spoils became the property of anyone who got possession of them, or of the commander or of the king who became the owner of the whole of them. In the first case, the selfishness of the soldiers of the victorious army led to a bitter competition for the grabbing of spoils and sometimes even brought about a civil war with all its horrible consequences. In the second case, the soldiers would resort to pilfering, which would degrade them to the low level of thieves. The Qur'an reformed these evils by declaring the spoils of war to be the property of Allah and His Messenger, and then further on in v. 41 by laying down equitable shares for its fair division. The first reform demanded that all these spoils, be they worth much or little, should be brought at one place before the chief commander. Then by the second reform, one-fifth of this should be kept for the Islamic State for the cause of Allah and for the help of the poor, and the remaining part should be divided among all those who had taken part in the battle. In this way the evils of the age of "ignorance" were reformed to the satisfaction of all.

Here this subtle point should also be kept in view: the Qur'an leaves the problem of the division after declaring that these bounties belong to Allah and the Messenger, and does not even touch it so that the minds should first be prepared for obedience and its acceptance: Then in v. 41 it gives the Command for the division of the spoils. That is why these have been called the `bounties' here and the `spoils' of war in v. 41.

This implies that a man's Faith increases on every occasion he acknowledges the Revelations of Allah to be true, and submits to them. Most surely his Faith increases and grows, whenever he surrenders himself to the Book of Allah and to the teachings of the Holy Prophet though they may be against his own desires, his opinions, his conceptions, his theories, his habits, his interests, his lusts, his comforts, his affections and his friendships. For, instead of changing the teachings, he changes himself in accordance with the Commands of Allah and the instructions of the Holy Prophet, and accepts them for his guidance. In contrast to this, if a believer hesitates to accept these, his Faith begins to decrease and fade away.

This also shows that Faith is not something that is incapable of growth and increase and which always remains in one and the same state, but it is capable of both improvement and decay. Every denial of the Truth corrupts its quality, and likewise every acknowledgment and acceptance improves it. But as far as the grading of the rights and ranks of the people, according to the acceptance or denial of the Truth, is concerned, all the Muslims shall be placed in one and the same position, and likewise the non-Muslims. In the Islamic society, the legal rights and obligations of all the Muslims shall be the same, irrespective of the differences in the quality of the Faith. In the same way, the non-Muslims shall be Zimmis or belligerents or allies of the same rank, irrespective of the quality of their denial of the Islamic Faith.

Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs

And from his narration on the authority of Ibn 'Abbas who said concerning the saying of Allah, Exalted is He, ((They ask thee (O Muhammad) of the spoils of war): 'He says: your Companions ask you about the spoils of war on the Day of Badr and also about the officers for weapons and horses. (Say) O Muhammad: (The spoils of war belong to Allah and the messenger) the spoils of war at Badr belong to Allah and His Messenger, and none of it is yours; it is also said: they all belong to Allah and the command of the Messenger regarding what is allowed, (so keep your duty to Allah) fear Allah concerning taking the spoils of war, (and adjust the matter of your difference) solve the differences among you: let the rich give to the poor and the strong to the weak and the young to the elderly, (and obey Allah and His messenger) in the matter of reconciliation, (if ye are (true) believers) in Allah and His Messenger.