Deal fairly with disbelievers
Be careful who you let in to your community
Surat al-Mumtahinah is another Madani surah, all about who to take as your allies, and where to draw the line between the camp of the believers vs the disbelievers and their supporters. The context of surah is that it was revealed during the period when the Quraysh were still resisting the Muslims, and they were fighting various different battles.
Some people were still converting and migrating from Makkah to Madinah: al-Mumtahinah means ‘the woman who is investigated’, and the surah is called that because of an ayah where it comes up.
‘When the believing women come to you as migrants, test their intentions.’ [60:10] It is saying you need to be careful, and have security and intelligence systems in place to make your nation secure.
Be fair even with disbelievers
At the same time, Allah is drawing a line between what not to do. Another verse in the surah says,
‘Allah does not forbid you from dealing kindly and fairly with those who have not fought against you, nor driven you out of your homes. Surely, Allah loves those who are fair.’ [60:8]
The story of Asma bint Abu Bakr
The story behind this revelation was that Asma bint Abu Bakr’s mother, Qutayla bint Abd Al-Uzza, Abu Bakr’s wife, whom he divorced in Jahiliyyah, who at the time was still a disbeliever, ( she embraced Islam after the conquest of Makkah) came from Makkah to Madinah to visit her and bring her some gifts. Asma was hesitant to accept these gifts because her mother was still in the camp of the Quraysh, so she asked Aisha to ask the Prophet (peace be on him) what she should do.
That was when this revelation came, telling the Prophet (peace be on him) and all the believers that you shouldn’t take people as your enemy just for the sake of it. It’s only when you have real enemies fighting you and perpetrating evil against you that you need to fight them. If they are peaceful and do not betray you, you should treat them kindly and fairly, even if they are non-Muslim. Allah is very clear here: contrary to what many people say in the media, you don’t have to be nasty to someone just because they are a disbeliever.
Revelation came to set the boundaries of society
This is another example of when revelation came to clarify boundaries. Remember that this was still the transition period between the cultural practices of Jahiliyya to the Shariah practices of Islam. Rasul Allah (peace be on him) was the Head of State, setting up the laws and rules of the society, so we see this surah and similar ones setting the boundaries and telling the community what is allowed.
In the case of Asma, she accepted the gifts from her mother, and was good to her mother because the revelation said so. Imagine if revelation had said the opposite: she would have had to comply with it. But revelation is full of mercy, and Allah is the Lord of Justice.
Don’t be naïve
Of course, if someone really is against you, then you need to protect yourself. Don’t be naïve. During the Prophet’s time (peace be upon him) and during our own time, we see many naïve people who ally with non-Muslims with good intention, but this becomes the gate where enemies can come through. The first ayah we talked about mentions testing those who coming, because among them might be some intruders, like the Trojan Horse. And the form of this test can be in different ways, it depends on the situation. It’s another mechanism to protect the community.
We ask Allah to enable us to understand His words, apply them, and live by them. Ameen.
Shaykh Haytham Tamim – Ramadan Night 27
Transcribed by Hana Khan
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