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Quran Chapter 8 [part 1] - The Spoils of War - God Establishes a Victory, Separates Good from Bad

The main part of this Medinan sura is a comment on the Battle of Badr (near Medina), the first battle fought between the Muslims and their Meccan opponents in the second year after the Migration. The Muslims, who were at first reluctant to fight, won in spite of being vastly outnumbered. They began to question the distribution of the gains. and the sura reminds them; it was God who brought about the victory. Verse 41 shows how the gains were to be distributed. It ends with a statement about loyalties and alliances.

In the name of God, the Lord of Mercy, the Giver of Mercy

God Establishes a Victory

1 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: 2 true believers are those whose hearts tremble with awe when God is mentioned, whose faith increases when His revelations are recited to them, who put their trust in their Lord, 3 who keep up the prayer and give to others out of what We provide for them. 4 Those are the ones who truly believe. They have high standing with their Lord, forgiveness, and generous provision.’

5 For [a] it was your Lord who made you [Prophet] venture from your home for a true purpose––though a group of the believers disliked it 6 and argued with you about the truth after it had been made clear, as if they were being driven towards a death they could see with their own eyes. 7 Remember how God promised you [believers] that one of the two enemy groups [b] would fall to you: you wanted the unarmed group to be yours, but it was God’s will to establish the truth according to His Word and to finish off the disbelievers–– 8 to prove the Truth to be true, and the false to be false, much as the guilty might dislike it. 9 When you begged your Lord for help, He answered you, ‘I will reinforce you with a thousand angels in succession.’ 10 God made this a message of hope to reassure your hearts: help comes only from God, He is mighty and wise. 11 Remember when He gave you sleep [c] as a reassurance from Him, and sent down water from the sky to cleanse you, to remove Satan’s pollution from you, to make your hearts strong and your feet firm. 12 Your Lord revealed to the angels: ‘I am with you: give the believers firmness; I shall put terror into the hearts of the disbelievers– strike above their necks and strike all their fingertips.’ 13 That was because they opposed God and His Messenger, and if anyone opposes God and His Messenger, God punishes them severely– 14 ‘That is what you get! Taste that!’––and the torment of the Fire awaits the disbelievers.

15 Believers, when you meet the disbelievers in battle, never turn your backs on them: 16 if anyone does so on such a day– unless maneuvering to fight or to join a fighting group– he incurs the wrath of God, and Hell will be his home, a wretched destination! 17 It was not you who killed them but God, and when you [Prophet] threw [sand at them] [d] it was not your throw [that defeated them] but God’s, to do the believers a favor: God is all seeing and all knowing– 18 ‘That is what you get!’––and God will weaken the disbelievers’ designs. 19 [Disbelievers], if you were seeking a decision, now you have witnessed one: if you stop here, it will be better for you. If you return, so shall We, and your forces, though greater in number, will be of no use to you. God is with the believers.

20 Believers, obey God and His Messenger: do not turn away when you are listening to him; 21 do not be like those who say, ‘We heard,’ though in fact they were not listening– 22 the worst creatures in God’s eyes are those who are [willfully] deaf and dumb, who do not reason. 23 If God had known there was any good in them, He would have made them hear, but even if He had, they would still have turned away and taken no notice. 24 Believers, respond to God and His Messenger when he calls you to that which gives you life. Know that God comes between a man and his heart, [e] and that you will be gathered to Him. 25 Beware of discord that harms not only the wrongdoers among you: know that God is severe in His punishment.

26 Remember when you were few, victimized in the land, afraid that people might catch you, but God sheltered you and strengthened you with His help, and provided you with good things so that you might be grateful. 27 Believers, do not betray God and the Messenger, or knowingly betray [other people’s] trust in you.

God separates the Bad from the Good

28 Be aware that your possessions and your children are only a test, and that there is a tremendous reward with God. 29 Believers, if you remain mindful of God, He will give you a criterion [to tell right from wrong] and wipe out your bad deeds, and forgive you: God’s favor is great indeed.

30 Remember [Prophet] when the disbelievers plotted to take you captive, kill, or expel you. They schemed and so did God: He is the best of schemers. 31 Whenever Our Revelation is recited to them they say, ‘We have heard all this before– we could say something like this if we wanted– this is nothing but ancient fables.’ 32 They also said, ‘God, if this really is the truth from You, then rain stones on us from the heavens, or send us some other painful punishment.’ 33 But God would not send them punishment while you [Prophet] are in their midst, nor would He punish them if they sought forgiveness, 34 yet why should God not punish them when they debar people from the Sacred Mosque, although they are not its [rightful] guardians? Only those mindful of God are its rightful guardians, but most of the disbelievers do not realize this. 35 Their prayers before the House are nothing but whistling and clapping. ‘So taste the punishment [f] for your disbelief.’ 36 They use their wealth to bar people from the path of God, and they will go on doing so. In the end this will be a source of intense regret for them: they will be overcome and herded towards Hell. 37 God will separate the bad from the good, place the bad on top of one another– heaping them all up together– and put them in Hell. They will be the losers. 38 [Prophet], tell the disbelievers that if they desist their past will be forgiven, but if they persist, they have an example in the fate of those who went before. 39 [Believers], fight them until there is no more persecution, and all worship [g] is devoted to God alone: if they desist, then God sees all that they do, 40 but if they pay no heed, be sure that God is your protector, the best protector and the best helper.


a. This links to v. 1.

b. The Meccan trade caravan or their army

c. On the night before the battle.

d. Before the battle, the Prophet prayed and threw a handful of sand at the enemy as a symbol of their being defeated.

e. There are various ways of interpreting this, including that, through death, God separates a man from his heart’s desire, i.e. life.

f. This could allude to their defeat in the battle.

g. At the Sacred House; cf. 2: 191–3, 2: 17.

The Qur'an (Oxford World's Classics)

The Qur'an / a new translation by M. A. S. Abdel Haleem, copyright © 2004 Oxford World's Classics (Oxford University Press). Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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