Surah Al-Anfal Ayat 1 in Arabic Text
Here you can read various translations of verse 1
They ask you, [O Muhammad], about the bounties [of war]. Say, “The [decision concerning] bounties is for Allah and the Messenger.” So fear Allah and amend that which is between you and obey Allah and His Messenger, if you should be believers.
They ask thee concerning (things taken as) spoils of war. Say: “(such) spoils are at the disposal of Allah and the Messenger: So fear Allah, and keep straight the relations between yourselves: Obey Allah and His Messenger, if ye do believe.”
They ask you concerning the spoils of war? Tell them: ‘The spoils of war belong to Allah and the Messenger. So fear Allah, and set things right between you, and obey Allah and His Messenger if you are true believers.
They ask you (O Muhammad SAW) about the spoils of war. Say: “The spoils are for Allah and the Messenger.” So fear Allah and adjust all matters of difference among you, and obey Allah and His Messenger (Muhammad SAW), if you are believers.
They ask thee (O Muhammad) of the spoils of war. Say: The spoils of war belong to Allah and the messenger, so keep your duty to Allah, and adjust the matter of your difference, and obey Allah and His messenger, if ye are (true) believers.
They ask you about the spoils. (The Arabic word nafl originally means: supererogatory prayer, or gift) Say, “The spoils (belong) to Allah and the Messenger; so be pious to Allah, and act righteously among yourselves (Or: make a reconciliation after differences) and obey Allah and His Messenger, in case you are believers.”
They ask you [Prophet] about [distributing] the battle gains. Say, ‘That is a matter for God and His Messenger, so be mindful of God and make things right between you. Obey God and His Messenger if you are true believers:
Quran 8 Verse 1 Explanation
For those looking for commentary to help with the understanding of Surah Al-Anfal ayat 1, we’ve provided two Tafseer works below. The first is the tafseer of Abul Ala Maududi, the second is of Ibn Kathir.
(8:1) They ask you concerning the spoils of war? Tell them: ‘The spoils of war belong to Allah and the Messenger. So fear Allah, and set things right between you, and obey Allah and His Messenger if you are true believers. 
1. The critique of the battle opens with this unusual note. Some disagreements had arisen among the Muslims with regard to sharing the spoils of war. As it was their first experience of fighting under the banner of Islam, the Muslim soldiers had scarcely any notion of the regulations they were required to follow on the battlefield and for settling problems arising from warfare. Doubtlessly some preliminary instructions had been laid down for them in (Surah al-Baqarah 2 )and (Surah Muhammad 47), (See 2: 190 ff. and 47: 4 ff. – Ed.) However the full set of regulations that could contribute to civilizing the conduct of warfare had yet to be laid down. Hence, when it came to war as with several other societal matters, the Muslims were still under the influence of pre-Islamic ideas and concepts. Going by the age-old Arab customs, those who had seized the spoils of war considered themselves their sole and legitimate owners. On the other hand, the Muslims who had concentrated on driving away the enemy rather than on collecting the spoils, claimed that they deserved an equal share of the spoils. They contended that had they slackened in their duty of pursuing the enemy, the latter might have struck back, turning the Muslim victory into a defeat. Similarly, another group of Muslims who had escorted the Prophet (peace he on him) on the battlefield, also laid claim to an equal share, For, they believed, it was they who had rendered an invaluable service insofar as neglect of duty on their part might have resulted in endangering the precious life of the Prophet (peace be on him), in which case the possibility of victory and its attendant spoils and their distribution would all have been totally out of the question. Nonetheless, the group of Muslims who already possessed the spoils saw no merit in these claims. Arguments and counter-arguments gave rise to bitterness and bad blood. (For disagreements among Muslims on the question of distribution of spoils of war see Ibn Hisham, vol. 1. pp. 641-2; al-Waqadi, vol. 1, p. 78. See also the comments on the verse in Qurtubi and Ibn Kathir – Ed.)
It was at this juncture that God revealed the present surah. The opening verse takes up this issue. ‘They ask you concerning anfal’ is the query with which the surah opens. The very use of the word anfal instead of ghana’im in the query implies the answer. For the word anfal, which is the plural of nafl, stands for that which is extra, that which is over and above what is obligatory. If this extra is from the servant, it denotes that additional service which he voluntarily renders over and above what is obligatory. On the other hand, when this extra is from the master, it denotes the additional reward which the master awards his servant over and above what he is entitled to. What is being conveyed here by using the word anfal is, in fact, that all wrangling about spoils is out of place since it concerns not their rights, but the additional rewards they might receive from God. Any and all heated discussion in which they engaged was irrelevant since it was entirely for God to decide whether He should grant any extra reward or not; and if He should grant it, then how much, and to whom. In short, it was not for men to say who should and who should not receive any party of the spoils.
This was a major conceptual reform. The war that a Muslim wages is not in order to accumulate worldly benefits. He resorts to it for the moral and social reform of the world and does so when the opposing forces make it impossible to bring about reform by means of persuasion and preaching. Being reformers, the Muslims should focus their attentions on their goal – the reform of the world – rather than on the material benefits which accrue to them incidental by way of God’s additional reward in lieu of their strivings. If the attention of Muslims is not diverted from material benefits to their true mission, it is likely that material benefits would become an end in themselves.
Moreover, the concept introduced by the Qur’an (see the verse above) also brought about a major administrative reform pertaining to war and the spoils of war. Before the advent of Islam, a soldier used to appropriate all that he could lay his hands on, claiming to be its rightful owner, or else spoils were seized either by; the king or the commander of the army. In the former case, mutual conflicts ensued among soldiers of the victorious army, with the frequent result that their victory turned into defeat. On the other hand, if the spoils were seized by the commander of the army or the ruler, soldiers often concealed and stole the spoils. By declaring that the spoils belong to God and His Messenger, the Qur’an made it obligatory on all soldiers to commit all the spoils of war to the custody of the commander, concealing not even something as trivial as a sewing needle. Subsequently the Qur’an laid down an elaborate set of laws to distribute the spoils of war. According to it, one-fifth of the spoils is to be deposited in the public treasury for public welfare and to provide support for the poor, while four-fifths is to be distributed among the soldiers. (al-Anfal 8: 41 – Ed.)It thus put an end to the evils inherent in the old system.
A subtle point implicit in the above verse should not he overlooked. In the opening verse of the Surah nothing has been said beyond affirming the principle that the spoils belong to God and His Messenger. The problem as to how the spoils should be distributed was not touched upon. The Qur’an does however subsequently treat the question of distribution see (verse 41) below. It is significant that in this second instance the word used is a verbal derivative of ghanimah (spoils, booty) see (verse 41 )below whereas in the opening verse the word used is anfal.
1. They ask you about Al-Anfal (the spoils of war). Say: “Al-Anfal are for Allah and the Messenger.” So have Taqwa of Allah and settle all matters of difference among you, and obey Allah and His Messenger, if you are believers.
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,
(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.”
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,
(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,
(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,
(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”.
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,
(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.”’
(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”.
(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﴾,
(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,
(So have Taqwa of Allah and settle all matters of difference among you), meaning “Do not curse each other.”
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