Allah tells us what happened when the Confederates surrounded Al-Madinah and the Muslims were besieged and found themselves in straitened circumstances, with the Messenger of Allah in their midst. They were tried and tested, and were shaken with a mighty shaking. At this time hypocrisy emerged, and those in whose hearts was a disease spoke about what they really felt.
(And when the hypocrites and those in whose hearts is a disease said: "Allah and His Messenger promised us nothing but delusion!'') Their hypocrisy became apparent, while the one in whose heart was doubt became weak, and he expressed the ideas that were in his heart because of the weakness of his faith and the difficulty of the situation. And other people said, as Allah tells us:
(And when a party of them said: "O people of Yathrib...'') meaning Al-Madinah, as it was reported in the Sahih:
(I was shown in a dream the place to which you will migrate, a land between two lava fields. At first I thought it was Hajar, but it turned out to be Yathrib.) According to another narration:
(Al-Madinah.) It was said that the origin of its name Yathrib was that a man settled there from (the people of) Al-`Amaliq whose name was Yathrib bin `Ubayd bin Mahlayil bin `Aws bin `Amlaq bin Lawudh bin Iram bin Sam bin Nuh. This was the view of As-Suhayli. He said: "And it was narrated from some of them that he said, `It is given eleven names in the Tawrah: Al-Madinah, Tabah, Tayyibah, Al-Miskinah, Al-Jabirah, Al-Muhibbah, Al-Mahbubah, Al-Qasimah, Al-Majburah, Al-`Adhra' and Al-Marhumah.''' r
(There is no position for you.) means, `here, with the Prophet , you cannot stand guard,'
(Therefore go back) means, `to your houses and dwellings'.
(And a band of them ask for permission of the Prophet) Al-`Awfi reported that Ibn `Abbas, may Allah be pleased with him said, "These were Banu Harithah, who said, `We fear for our homes, that they may be robbed.''' This was also stated by others. Ibn Ishaq mentioned that the one who said this was `Aws bin Qayzi. They were using as an excuse to go back to their houses the claim that they were lying open and had nothing to protect them from the enemy, so they were afraid for their homes. But Allah said:
(And they lay not open.) meaning, it is not as they claim.
(They but wished to flee.) means, they wanted to run away from the battlefield.
(14. And if the enemy had entered from all sides, and they had been exhorted to Al-Fitnah, they would surely have committed it and would have hesitated thereupon but little.) (15. And indeed they had already made a covenant with Allah not to turn their backs, and a covenant with Allah must be answered for.) (16. Say: "Flight will not avail you if you flee from death or killing and then you will enjoy no more than a little while!'') (17. Say: "Who is he who can protect you from Allah if He intends to harm you, or intends mercy on you'' And they will not find, besides Allah, for themselves any protector or any helper.) Allah tells us about those who said:
("Truly, our homes lie open.'' And they lay not open. They but wished to flee.) If the enemy had entered upon them from every side of Al-Madinah and from every direction, then demanded that they become disbelievers, they would have promptly done so. They would not have adhered to their faith or remained steadfast in it if they were faced with the slightest fear. This is how it was interpreted by Qatadah, `Abdur-Rahman bin Zayd and Ibn Jarir. This is a condemnation of them in the clearest terms. Then Allah reminds them of the promise they had made to Him before this fear struck them, that they would not turn their backs or flee from the battlefield.
(and a covenant with Allah must be answered for.) means, Allah will inevitably ask them about that covenant. Then Allah tells them that fleeing from battle will not delay their appointed demise or make their lives any longer; on the contrary, it may be the cause of their being taken sooner, and in a sudden manner. Allah says:
(and then you will enjoy no more than a little while!) meaning, `after you run away and flee from battle.'
(Say: "Short is the enjoyment of this world. The Hereafter is better for him who have Taqwa'') (4:77). Then Allah says:
(Say: "Who is he who can protect you from Allah if He intends to harm you, or intends mercy on you'' And they will not find, besides Allah, for themselves any protector or any helper.) meaning, they have no one else except Allah to respond to their cries.
(18. Allah already knows those among you who keep back (men) from fighting (in Allah's cause), and those who say to their brethren, "Come here towards us,'' while they come not to the battle except a little,) (19. Being miserly towards you. Then when fear comes, you will see them looking to you, their eyes revolving like one over whom hovers death; but when the fear departs, they will smite you with sharp tongues, miserly towards good. Such have not believed. Therefore, Allah makes their deeds fruitless and that is ever easy for Allah.) Allah tells us that His knowledge encompasses those who sought to tell others not to go out and who said to their brethren, meaning their companions, friend and acquaintances,
(Come here towards us,) meaning, come to where we are in the shade and enjoying fruits. But in spite of that,
(they come not to the battle except a little, being miserly towards you.) i.e., `they are mean and have no love or mercy towards you.' As-Suddi said:
(Being miserly towards you.) means, with the booty.
(Then when fear comes, you will see them looking to you, their eyes revolving like one over whom hovers death;) means, because of the intensity of their fear and terror; this is how afraid these cowards are of fighting.
(but when the fear departs, they will smite you with sharp tongues,) means, when security is restored, they will speak eloquently and nicely, claiming that they were the bravest and most chivalrous of men, but they are lying. Ibn `Abbas, may Allah be pleased with him, said:
(they will smite you) means, "they will start to talk about you.'' Qatadah said: "But when it comes to the booty, the most miserly of people and the worst to have to share the booty with are those who say, `Give us, give us, we were there with you,' but during battle they were the most cowardly and the most likely to fail to support the truth.'' They are miserly towards good, meaning that there is no goodness in them, for they have combined cowardice with lies and little good. Allah says:
(Such have not believed. Therefore Allah makes their deeds fruitless and that is ever easy for Allah.)
(20. They think that the Confederates have not yet withdrawn; and if the Confederates should come, they would wish they were in the deserts among the Bedouins, seeking news about you; and if they were to be among you, they would not fight but little.) This is another aspect of their abhorrent attribute of cowardice and fear:
(They think that the Confederates have not yet withdrawn;) and that they are still close by and will return.
(and if the Confederates should come, they would wish they were in the deserts among the Bedouins, seeking news about you;) means, `if the Confederates should come back, they hope that they will not be present with you in Al-Madinah, but that they will be in the desert, asking about news of you and what happened to you with your enemy.'
(and if they were to be among you, they would not fight but little.) means, `if they are among you, they will not fight alongside you very much,' because they are so cowardly and weak, and have so little faith, but Allah knows best about them.
(21. Indeed in the Messenger of Allah you have a good example to follow for him who hopes in Allah and the Last Day, and remembers Allah much.) (22. And when the believers saw the Confederates, they said: "This is what Allah and His Messenger had promised us; and Allah and His Messenger had spoken the truth.'' And it only added to their faith and to their submissiveness.)