Allah said, while warning against fleeing from the battlefield and threatening those who do it with the Fire,
(O you who believe! When you meet those who disbelieve, in a battlefield,) when you get near the enemy and march towards them,
(never turn your backs to them.) do not run away from battle and leave your fellow Muslims behind,
(And whoever turns his back to them on such a day -- unless it be a stratagem of war...)
The Ayah says, whoever flees from the enemy by way of planning to pretend that he is afraid of the enemy, so that they follow him and he takes the chance and returns to kill the enemy, then there is no sin on him. This is the explanation of Sa`id bin Jubayr and As-Suddi. Ad-Dahhak also commented, "Whoever went ahead of his fellow Muslims to investigate the strength of the enemy and make use of it,
(or to retreat to a troop (of his own)), meaning he leaves from here to another troop of Muslims to assist them or be assisted by them. So that is allowed for him, or even during the battle if he flees from his brigade to the commander. Or going to the grand Imam, would also fall under this permission.''
`Umar bin Al-Khattab, may Allah be pleased with him, said about Abu `Ubayd when he was fighting on the bridge in the land of the Persians, because of the many Zoroastrian soldiers, "If he retreated to me then I would be as a troop for him.''
This is how it was reported by Muhammad bin Sirin from `Umar. In the report of Abu `Uthman An-Nahdi from `Umar, he said: When Abu `Ubayd was fighting, `Umar said, "O people! We are your troop.'' Mujahid said that `Umar said, "We are the troop of every Muslim.'' Abdul-Malik bin `Umayr reported from `Umar, "O people! Don't be confused over this Ayah, it was only about the day of Badr, and we are a troop for every Muslim.'' Ibn Abi Hatim (recorded) that Nafi` questioned Ibn `Umar, "We are people who are not stationary when fighting our enemy, and we may not know where our troop is, be it that of our Imam or our army.''
So he replied, "The troop is Allah's Messenger .'' I said but Allah said,
(when you meet those who disbelieve in the battlefield) to the end of the Ayah . So he said; "This Ayah was about Badr, not before it nor after it.''
Ad-Dahhak commented that Allah's statement,
(or to retreat to a troop), refers to "Those who retreat to the Messenger of Allah and his Companions (when the Messenger was alive), and those who retreat in the present time to his commander or companions.'' However, if one flees for any other reason than those mentioned here, then it is prohibited and considered a major sin. Al-Bukhari and Muslim recorded that Abu Hurayrah said that the Messenger of Allah said,
("Shun the seven great destructive sins.'')
The people inquired, "O Allah's Messenger! What are they'' He said,
((They are:) Joining others in worship with Allah, magic taking life which Allah has forbidden, except for a just cause (according to Islamic law), consuming Riba, consuming an orphan's wealth, fleeing the battlefield at the time of fighting, and false accusation to chaste women, who never even think of anything touching chastity and are good believers.)
This is why Allah said here,
(he indeed has drawn upon himself...), and returned with,
(wrath from Allah. And his abode...), destination, and dwelling place on the Day of Return,
(is Hell, and worst indeed is that destination!)
(17. You killed them not, but Allah killed them. And you threw not when you did throw, but Allah threw, that He might test the believers by a fair trial from Him. Verily, Allah is All-Hearer, All-Knower). (18. This (is the fact) and surely Allah weakens the deceitful plots of the disbelievers.)
Allah states that He creates the actions that the servants perform and that whatever good actions they take, it is He Who should be praised for them, for He directed and helped them perform these actions. Allah said,
(You killed them not, but Allah killed them.) meaning, it is not because of your power and strength that you killed the pagans, who were many while you were few. Rather, it is He Who gave you victory over them, just as He said in another Ayah,
(And Allah has already made you victorious at Badr, when you were a weak little force.) (3:123), and,
(Truly, Allah has given you victory on many battlefields, and on the day of Hunayn when you rejoiced at your great number, but it availed you naught and the earth, vast as it is, was straitened for you, then you turned back in flight.) (9:25)
Allah, the Exalted and Ever High, states that victory does not depend on numbers or collecting weapons and shields. Rather, victory is from Him, Exalted He is.
(How often has a small group overcome a mighty host by Allah's leave'' And Allah is with the patient.) (2:249)
Allah then mentioned the handful of sand that His Prophet threw at the disbelievers during the day of Badr, when he went out of his bunker. While in the bunker, the Prophet invoked Allah humbly and expressing his neediness before Allah. He then threw a handful of sand at the disbelievers and said,
(Humiliated be their faces.) He then commanded his Companions to start fighting with sincerity and they did. Allah made this handful of sand enter the eyes of the idolators, each one of them were struck by some of it and it distracted them making each of them busy. Allah said,
(And you threw not when you did throw, but Allah threw.)
Therefore, it is Allah Who made the sand reach their eyes and busied them with it, not you (O Muhammad) .
Muhammad bin Ishaq said that Muhammad bin Ja`far bin Az-Zubayr narrated to him that `Urwah bin Az-Zubayr said about Allah's statement,
(that He might test the believers by a fair trial from Him. ) "So that the believers know Allah's favor for them by giving them victory over their enemy, even though their enemy was numerous, while they were few. They should thus know His right and express gratitude for His favor on them.'' Similar was said by Ibn Jarir. It is stated in a Hadith,
(Every trail (from Allah) is a favor for us.)
Allah said next,
(Verily, Allah is All-Hearer, All-Knower.)
Allah hears the supplication and knows those who deserve help and triumph. Allah said,
(This (is the fact) and surely Allah weakens the deceitful plots of the disbelievers.) This is more good news, aside from the victory that the believers gained. Allah informed them that He will weaken the plots of the disbelievers in the future, degrade them and make everything they have perish and be destroyed, all praise and thanks are due to Allah.
(19. (O disbelievers) if you ask for a judgement, now has the judgement come unto you; and if you cease (to do wrong), it will be better for you, and if you return (to the attack), so shall We return, and your forces will be of no avail to you, however numerous they be; and verily, Allah is with the believers.)
Allah says to the disbeliever,
(If you ask for a judgement), you invoked Allah for victory, judgement and a decision between you and your believing nemesis, and you got what you asked for. Muhammad bin Ishaq and several others reported from Az-Zuhri from `Abdullah bin Tha`labah bin Su`ayr who said that Abu Jahl said on the day of Badr, "O Allah! Whichever of the two camps (pagans and Muslims) severed the relation of the womb and brought us what is not familiar, then destroy him this day.'' This Ayah was later on revealed,
(If you ask for a judgement, then now has the judgement come unto you,) until the end of the Ayah. Imam Ahmad recorded that `Abdullah bin Tha`labah said, "Abu Jahl asked for (Allah's judgment) when he said upon facing the Muslims, `O Allah! Those among us who severed the relations of the womb and brought forth what we do not recognize, then destroy him this day.''' This was also recorded by An-Nasa'i in the Book of Tafsir (of his Sunan) and Al-Hakim in his Mustadrak, and he said, "It is Sahih according to the criteria of the Two Shaykhs, and they did not record it. ''. Similar statements were reported from Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid, Ad-Dahhak, Qatadah, Yazid bin Ruwman and several others. As-Suddi commented, "Before the idolators left Makkah for Badr, they clung to the curtains covering the Ka`bah and supplicated to Allah for victory, `O Allah! Give victory to the exalted among the two armies, the most honored among the two groups, and the most righteous among the two tribes.' Allah revealed the Ayah,
(If you ask for a judgement, then now has the judgement come unto you.) Allah says here, `I accepted your supplication and Muhammad gained the victory.'''
`Abdur-Rahman bin Zayd bin Aslam said; "This is Allah the Most High's answer to their supplication;
(And (remember) when they said: "O Allah! If this is indeed the truth from you..)'' (8:32)
Allah said next,
(and if you cease...) from your disbelief and rejection of Allah and His Messenger ,
(it will be better for you), in this life and the Hereafter. Allah said,
(and if you return, so shall We return...) This is similar to another Ayah,
(but if you return (to sins), We shall return (to Our punishment).) (17:8) meaning, `if you persist in your disbelief and misguidance, We shall repeat the defeat that you suffered, ‘
(and your forces will be of no avail to you, however numerous they be...) for even if you gather whatever forces you can, then know that those whom Allah is with cannot be defeated,
(and verily, Allah is with the believers.) in reference to the Prophet's group, the side of the chosen Messenger .
(20. O you who believe! Obey Allah and His Messenger, and turn not away from him while you are hearing. ) (21. And be not like those who say: "We have heard,'' but they hear not.) (22. Verily, the worst of living creatures with Allah are the deaf and the dumb (the disbelievers), who understand not.) (23. Had Allah known of any good in them, He would indeed have made them listen; and even if He had made them listen, they would but have turned away with aversion.)
Allah commands His believing servants to obey Him and His Messenger and warns them against defying him and imitating the disbelievers who reject him. Allah said,
(and turn not away from him...), neither refrain from obeying him or following his commands nor indulge in what he forbade,
(while you are hearing.) after you gained knowledge of his Message,
(And be not like those who say: "We have heard,'' but they hear not.)
Ibn Ishaq said that this Ayah refers to the hypocrites, who pretend to hear and obey, while in fact they do neither. Allah declares that these are the most wicked creatures among the Children of Adam,
(Verily, the worst of living creatures with Allah are the deaf) who do not hear the truth,
(and the dumb) who cannot comprehend it,
(who understand not. ) These indeed are the most wicked creatures, for every creature except them abide by the way that Allah created in them. These people were created to worship Allah, but instead disbelieved. This is why Allah equated them to animals, when He said,
(And the example of those who disbelieve is as that of him who shouts to those that hear nothing but calls and cries.) (2:171), and,
(They are like cattle, nay even more astray; those! They are the heedless ones.) (7:179)
It was also said that the Ayah (8:22) refers to some of the pagans of Quraysh from the tribe of Bani `Abd Ad-Dar, according to Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid and Ibn Jarir. Muhammad bin Ishaq said that this Ayah refers to hypocrites, as we stated. There is no contradiction here, because both disbelievers and hypocrites are devoid of sound comprehension, in addition to having lost the intention to do good. Allah states here that such are those who neither have sound understanding nor good intentions, even if they have some type of reason,
(Had Allah known of any good in them, He would indeed have made them listen.)
He would have helped them understand. However, this did not happen because there is no goodness in such people, for Allah knows that,
(even if He had made them listen...) and allowed them to understand,
(they would but have turned...), intentionally and out of stubbornness, even after they comprehend,
(with aversion.), to the truth.
(24. O you who believe! Answer Allah and (His) Messenger when he (the Messenger) calls you to that which will give you life, and know that Allah comes between a person and his heart. And verily to Him you shall (all) be gathered.)
(that which will give you life) that which will make your affairs good.'' Al-Bukhari went on to narrate that Abu Sa`id bin Al-Mu`alla said, "I was praying when the Prophet passed by and called me, but I did not answer him until I finished the prayer. He said,
(What prevented you from answering me Has not Allah said:
(O you who believe! Answer Allah and (His) Messenger when he calls you to that which will give you life)' He then said:
(I will teach you the greatest Surah in the Qur'an before I leave.) When he was about to leave, I mentioned what he said to me. He said,
(All the praises and thanks are to Allah, the Lord of all that exists...) (1:1-6).
(Surely, it is the seven oft-repeated verses.)''' Muhammad bin Ishaq narrated that Muhammad bin Ja`far bin Az-Zubayr said that `Urwah bin Az-Zubayr explained this Ayah,
(O you who believe! Answer Allah and (His) Messenger when he calls you to that which will give you life,) "Answer when called to war (Jihad) with which Allah gives you might after meekness, and strength after weakness, and shields you from the enemy who oppressed you.''
(and know that Allah comes in between a person and his heart.)
Ibn `Abbas commented, "Allah prevents the believer from disbelief and the disbeliever from faith.'' Al-Hakim recorded this in his Mustadrak and said, "It is Sahih and they did not record it.'' . Similar was said by Mujahid, Sa`id, `Ikrimah, Ad-Dahhak, Abu Salih `Atiyyah, Muqatil bin Hayyan and As-Suddi. In another report from Mujahid, he commented;
(...comes in between a person and his heart.) "Leaves him without comprehension,'' As-Suddi said, "Prevents one self from his own heart, so he will neither believe nor disbelieve except by His leave.'' There are several Hadiths that conform with the meaning of this Ayah. For instance, Imam Ahmad recorded that Anas bin Malik said, "The Prophet used to often say these words,
(O You Who changes the hearts, make my heart firm on Your religion.) We said, `O Allah's Messenger! We believed in you and in what you brought us. Are you afraid for us' He said,
(Yes, for the hearts are between two of Allah's Fingers, He changes them (as He wills).)''
This is the same narration recorded by At-Tirmidhi in the Book of Qadar in his Jami' (Sunan), and he said, "Hasan.'' Imam Ahmad recorded that An-Nawwas bin Sam`an Al-Kilabi said that he heard the Prophet saying,
(Every heart is between two of the Fingers of the Most Beneficent (Allah), Lord of all that exists, if He wills, He makes it straight, and if He wills, He makes it stray.)
And he said:
(O You Who changes the hearts! keep my heart firm on Your religion) And he would say;
(The Balance is in the Hand of Ar-Rahman, He raises and lowers it.)
This was also recorded by An-Nasai and Ibn Majah.
(25. And fear the Fitnah (affliction and trial) which affects not in particular (only) those of you who do wrong, and know that Allah is severe in punishment.)