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Verses from Surah Al-Hajj (No. 22) (38 – 44)

75. Generally, one feels impressed by A. J. Arberry’s translation that tries to remain as close as possible to the understanding of the majority. But not at this point. A plain verse, that does not demand a research to find out how an insignificant minority understood it in the past is translated by him as: “Leave is given to those who fight because they were wronged…”

76. Ibn Jarir notes and shows his own preference to the recitation of the Kufans, as well as of some Makkan (authorities) who have read the text slightly differently – in a manner it would render the meaning as, “(Allah) has allowed those who fight (to retaliate) against those Allah does not approve of ..” However, the great majority of the Ummah has recited in the manner now in the Qur’anic texts.

In any case, Ibn `Abbas reported, “When the Prophet left Makkah, Abu Bakr said, ‘They have expelled their Prophet, to Allah we belong and to Him we return: they will be destroyed.’”

Ibn `Abbas added, “When Allah revealed, ‘Leave is given to those against whom war is made – because they have been wronged,’ Abu Bakr remarked, ‘I knew there would be fighting.’”

The report is somewhat weak (Qurtubi). But Albani treated it as Sahih while editing Tirmidhi and Nasa’i, in both of which it is found (Shawkani, S. Ibrahim).

And Ibn Zayd said, “They were allowed to retaliate after ten years of wrongs.” Qatadah added, “This is the first ever verse revealed concerning Jihad” (Ibn Jarir).

That being the case, it is thought that the verse is Madinan. Allah said in other places (47: 31), “Surely, We shall try you until We know the patient fighters among you and (thus) We shall test your affairs.

He also said (9: 16), “Have you imagined that you will be spared  when Allah has not yet known those who fought from among you and did not take friends apart from Allah, His Messenger or the believers. And Allah is Aware of what you do.”

He also said (3: 142), “Or, do you think you will enter Paradise while Allah has not yet known those who fought from among you, and known those who showed patience.”

Ibn `Abbas has said, “Allah decreed Jihad at the right time. At Makkah, the pagans were in large numbers. If He had asked them to fight back when they were less than ten percent of the population, surely, it would have been tough on them. Thus, although when eighty or so of the Yethribites pledged their hands of support to the Prophet at `Aqabah, when they asked, ‘Messenger of Allah. Should we not fall upon these pagans here at Mina?’ He replied, ‘But rather, I have not been ordered to do that?’ But when they were driven out of Makkah, some going to Abyssinia, others to Madinah, and Allah provided them a shelter at Madinah, where they were able to establish their rule over a piece of land, Allah decreed Jihad by this verse, “Permitted are those (to retaliate) who are fought against..” (Ibn Kathir).

And the beauty of this first verse allowing the Muslims to fight back, when fought against, is that the word “fight” has not been used. This shows Islam’s distaste for matters settled with the help of wars, but its readiness to retaliate if attacked (Au.).

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