An Introduction to Surat Al-Anfal (The Spoils of War)
Names of the Surah:
1- Surah Al-Anfal (The Spoils of War)
The Surah takes its title from the first verse that mentions the bounties.
2- The Surah of Badr
Most verses of the surah are about the great and first battle of Muslims against the pagans of Makkah.
Period of Revelation:
The Surah was revealed after the Battle of Badr, the first battle between Islam and kufr (disbelief). As it contains a detailed and comprehensive review of the battle, it appears that most probably it was revealed at one and the same time. But it is also possible that some of the verses concerning the problems arising as a result of this battle might have been revealed later and incorporated at the proper places to make it a continuous whole. At any rate, in the whole Surah there is nothing that might show that it is a collection of a couple of discourses, that have been patched up together.
Is it Makki or Madani?
There is a consensus among scholars that Surah Al-Anfal was revealed in Madinah. It was revealed after Surah Al-Baqarah (The Cow), shortly after the Battle of Badr which took place in Ramadan, in the second year of the Islamic calendar, approximately 19 months after the Prophet’s migration to Madinah.
Theme of the Surah:
The surah enunciates general principles of war (one aspect of Jihad) and peace while reviewing the Battle of Badr and uses them for the moral training of the Muslims.
Topics of the Surah:
1- This surah takes up the Battle of Badr as its subject matter. This battle, its circumstances, results and effects on human history constitute a major landmark in the progress of the Islamic movement.
2- Sanctity of treaties has been enjoined and the Muslims commanded to observe them as long as the other party does not break them.
3- The Surah deals with the problems of the “Spoils of War”. The Qur’an says that these are not the spoils of war but the “Bounties of Allah” and proves this by showing that the victory at Badr (and in all other battles, too,) was won by His succor and not by the efforts of the Muslims.
4- Sanctity of treaties has been enjoined and the Muslims commanded to observe them as long as the other party does not break them.
5- The Muslims should always be prepared for war on every front, but should be ready to make peace if the other party is inclined towards it.
Sayyed Abu A`la Maududi’s Tafhim Al-Qur’an.
Sayyid Qutb’s Fi Zhilal Al-Qur’an.