Surah Al-Anfal Ayat 58 in Arabic Text
Here you can read various translations of verse 58
If you [have reason to] fear from a people betrayal, throw [their treaty] back to them, [putting you] on equal terms. Indeed, Allah does not like traitors.
If thou fearest treachery from any group, throw back (their covenant) to them, (so as to be) on equal terms: for Allah loveth not the treacherous.
And if you fear treachery from any people (with whom you have a covenant) then publicly throw their covenant at them. Allah does not love the treacherous.
If you (O Muhammad SAW) fear treachery from any people throw back (their covenant) to them (so as to be) on equal terms (that there will be no more covenant between you and them). Certainly Allah likes not the treacherous.
And if thou fearest treachery from any folk, then throw back to them (their treaty) fairly. Lo! Allah loveth not the treacherous.
And definitely in case you ever fear treachery from any people, then renounce (the covenant) with them equally; surely Allah does not love the treacherous;
And if you learn of treachery on the part of any people, throw their treaty back at them, for God does not love the treacherous.
Quran 8 Verse 58 Explanation
For those looking for commentary to help with the understanding of Surah Al-Anfal ayat 58, we’ve provided two Tafseer works below. The first is the tafseer of Abul Ala Maududi, the second is of Ibn Kathir.
(8:58) And if you fear treachery from any people (with whom you have a covenant) then publicly throw their covenant at them. Allah does not love the treacherous.
43. According to the above verse, it is not lawful for Muslims to decide unilaterally that their treaty with an ally is annulled either because of their grievance that their ally did not fully observe the terms of the treaty in the past or on ground of the fear that he would treacherously breach it in the future. There is no justification for Muslims to make such a decision nor to behave as if no treaty bound the two parties. On the contrary, whenever the Muslims are forced into such a situation they are required to inform the other party, before embarking on any hostile action, that the treaty was terminated. This step is necessary in order that both parties are clear in their minds as to where things stand. Guided by this principle, the Prophet (peace be on him) laid down a basic rule of Islamic international law in the following words: Whoever is bound in treaty with a people may not dissolve it until either its term expires, or he flings it at them (i.e. publicly declares that it had been annulled).’ (Abu Da’ud, ‘Jihad’, Babfi al-Iman yakunbaynaha al-‘Aduw ‘Ahad, vol. 2, p. 75; Ahmad b. Hanbal, Musnad, vol. 4, pp. 111 and 113 – Ed.) The Prophet (peace be on him) further elucidated this by sayling: ‘Do not be treacherous even to him who is treacherous to you’ (Abu Da’ud, Kitab al-Buyu’, ‘Bab fi al-Rajul Ya’khudh Hakkahu man tahe Yadih’, vol. 2, p. 260 – Ed.)
These directives were not given merely in order that preachers might preach them from the pulpit or embellish them in religious books. On the contrary, Muslims were required to foliow these directive in their everyday lives, and they did in fact do so. Once Mu’awiyah during his reign, concentrated his troops on the borders of the Roman Empire in order to carry out a sudden attack immediately after the expiry of the treaty. ‘Amr b. ‘Anbasah, a Companion, strongly opposed this manoeuvre. He supported his opposition by reference to a tradition from the Prophet (peace he on him) in which he condemned such an act of treachery. Ultimately Mu’awiyah had to yield and call off his troops. (See the comments on the verse by Qurtubi and Ibn Kathir. See also Ahmad b. Hanbal, Musnad , vol. 4, pp. 113 and 389 – Ed,)
To annul a treaty unilaterally and to launch an armed attack without any warning was common practice in the time of ancient jahiliyah (Ignorance). That practice remains in vogue in the civilized jahiliyah of the present day as well. Recent instances in point are the Russian invasion of Germany and the Russian and British military action against Iran during the Second World War. Such actions are usually justified on the ground that a previous warning would have put the enemy on the alert and would have enabled him to put up even stiffer resistance. It is also justified by saying that a military initiative has the effect of pre-empting a similar military initiative by the enemy. If such pleading can absolve people of their moral obligations, then every offence is justifiable. In such a case even those who commit theft, robbery, illegitimate sexual intercourse, homicide, or forgery can proffer either one pretext or the other for so doing. It is also amazing that acts which are deemed unlawful for individuals are deemed perfectly lawful when they are committed by nations.
It should also be pointed out that an unannounced attack. according to Islamic law, is lawful in one situation: when the ally has clearly violated the treaty and has blatantly indulged in hostile action. Only in such an eventuality it is not binding on Muslims to first declare the dissolution of the treaty. Not only that, in such a circumstance it is also lawful to launch an unannounced military action. In deriving this legal rule, Muslim jurists have drawn on the Prophet’s own conduct in regard to the Quraysh who had breached the Hudaybiyah Treaty in dealing with Bana Khuza’ah. In this instance the Prophet (peace be on him) did not notify them that the treaty had been annulled. On the contrary, he invaded Makka without warning. (See Qurtubi’s comments on the verse – Ed.) Nonetheless, while acting on this exceptional provision one should be cautious and take into account the totality of circumstances in which the Prophet (peace be on him) took this step. That alone will help one to properly follow the Prophet’s example. For one should try to imitate the Prophet’s example in its totality rather than just one or other aspect of it depending on one’s whim. What we know from the Sirah and Hadith with regard to this is the following:
First, that the Quraysh had so openly violated the treaty that its annulment had become absolutely clear. Even men of the Quraysh themselves acknowledged that the treaty was no longer in operation. It is because of this realization that the Qurayrsh had deputed Abu Sufyan to Madina to negotiate for its renewal (Al-Tabari. Ta’rikh, vol. 3, p. 46 -Ed.) This fact clearly indicates that the Quraysh were in no doubt that the treaty stood dissolved. It is immaterial whether the party which annulled the treaty verbally declared so or not for it had been violated so blatantly that no room for doubt was left.
Second, after the annulment of the treaty the Prophet (peace be on him) did not say anything, either in clear or ambiguous terms, which could justify the impression that he still regarded the Quraysh to be his allies or that the treaty relations with them were still intact. All relevant reports, on the contrary, suggest that when Abu Sufyan pleaded for the renewal of the treaty, the Prophet (peace be on him) did not accede to that request, (Ibn Hisham. vol. 2, p. 395 – Ed.)
Third, the Prophet (peace he on him) himself initiated military action against the Quraysh and he did so openly. There was no element of duplicity or fraud in the Prophet’s behaviour; there was no trace of pretence to be at peace while secretly engaging in belligerent activities.
This is the full picture of the Prophet’s attitude on the occasion. Hence the directive of flinging the treaty in the face of the other party as embodied in the above verse (i.e. informing the other party that the treaty had been terminated) may only be disregarded in very special circumstances such as those existing then. And should it be disregarded then this should be done in the straightforward and graceful manner adopted by the Prophet (peace be on him).
Moreover, if some dispute arises with a people with whom the Muslims have a treaty and the dispute remains unresolved even after direct negotiations or international mediation; or if the other party appears bent upon forcing a military solution to the problem, it would be lawful for Muslims to resort to force. However, according to the above verse, force may be used by Muslims after making a clear proclamation of the annulment of the treaty, and that the action taken should be overt. To carry out military action by stealth is an immoral act and can nowhere be found among the teachings of Islam.
58. If you fear treachery from any people, throw back (their covenant) to them (so as to be) on equal terms. Certainly Allah likes not the treacherous.) make a heading, Allah says to His Prophet ,
(If you fear from any people), with whom you have a treaty of peace,
(treachery), and betrayal of peace treaties and agreements that you have conducted with them,
(then throw back (their covenant) to them), meaning their treaty of peace.
(on equal terms), informing them that you are severing the treaty. This way, you will be on equal terms, in that, you and they will be aware that a state of war exists between you and that the bilateral peace treaty is null and void,
(Certainly Allah likes not the treacherous. ) This even includes treachery against the disbelievers. Imam Ahmad recorded that Salim bin `Amir said, “Mu`awiyah was leading an army in Roman lands, at a time the bilateral peace treaty was valid. He wanted to go closer to their forces so that when the treaty of peace ended, he could invade them. An old man riding on his animal said, `Allahu Akbar (Allah is the Great), Allahu Akbar! Be honest and stay away from betrayal.’ The Messenger of Allah said,
(Whoever has a treaty of peace with a people, then he should not untie any part of it or tie it harder until the treaty reaches its appointed term. Or, he should declare the treaty null and void so that they are both on equal terms.) When Mu`awiyah was informed of the Prophet’s statement, he retreated. They found that man to be `Amr bin `Anbasah, may Allah be pleased with him.” This Hadith was also collected by Abu Dawud At-Tayalisi, Abu Dawud, At-Tirmidhi, An-Nasa’i and Ibn Hibban in his Sahih. At-Tirmidhi said, “Hasan Sahih.”
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