[Verses 1 to 10]: The exiled Jews:
The date of revelation is the 4th year of the Hijrah, soon after the banishment of which it speaks.
2 He it is Who caused those who disbelieved of the People of the Book to go forth from their homes at the first banishment.a You deemed not that they would go forth, while they thought that their fortresses would defend them against Allah. But Allah came to them from a place they expected not and cast terror into their hearts they demolished their houses with their own hands and the hands of the believers. So take a lesson, O you who have eyes!b
6 And whatever Allah restored to His Messenger from them, you did not press forward against it any horse or any riding-camel, but Allah gives authority to His messengers against whom He pleases. And Allah is Possessor of power over all things.
7 Whatever Allah restored to His Messenger from the people of the towns, it is for Allah and for the Messenger, and for the near of kin and the orphans and the needy and the wayfarer, so that it be not taken by turns by the rich among you. And whatever the Messenger gives you, accept it, and whatever he forbids you, abstain (therefrom); and keep your duty to Allah. Surely Allah is Severe in retribution.a
8 (It is) for the poor who fled, who were driven from their homes and their possessions, seeking grace of Allah and (His) pleasure, and helping Allah and His Messenger. These it is that are the truthful.a
9 And those who made their abode in the City and in faith before them love those who have fled to them, and find in their hearts no need of what they are given, and prefer (them) before themselves, though poverty may afflict them.a And whoever is saved from the niggardliness of his soul, these it is that are the successful.
10 And those who come after them say: Our Lord, forgive us and our brethren who had precedence of us in faith, and leave no spite in our hearts towards those who believe. Our Lord, surely Thou art Kind, Merciful.a
Dr. Prideaux says that the Prophet ordered a party of the Muslims to pursue the emigrants, and that thus they were all put to death. Sale has shown in his note on this verse that the incident from which Dr. Prideaux draws this strange conclusion relates really to the murder in cold blood of seventy Muslims, who, being invited to preach Islam, were treacherously put to death by an Arab tribe. [Back to verse 2]
2b. The Bani Nadir, being granted ten days in which to collect and take with them such of their property as they desired, devoted the time at their disposal to the destruction of their houses, lest they should be a source of strength to the Muslims. What remained of them was demolished by the Muslims. [Back to verse 2]
7a. This verse relates to property acquired in war, which is called fai, being derived from afaa, which occurs in this verse, another kind, called ghanimah, being mentioned in 8:41, for which see 8:41a. The word afaa means, He restored to the Muslims, or gave to them as spoil, the property of the disbelievers (LL). Hence fai comes to mean such of the possessions of the disbelievers as accrue to the Muslims without war, or such as are obtained from the believers in a plurality of gods after the laying down of arms (LL).
The fai is not distributed among the warriors for the reason that there has been no fighting. It is described here as being for Allah and for the Messenger, the near of kin, the orphans, the needy and the wayfarer. From this it will be seen that the whole of it was to be distributed in exactly the same manner as the one-fifth of the ghanimah, for which see 8:41a. A reference to that note will show that the Prophets share was for the benefit of the Muslims. Bd states that there are three different opinions as to the Prophets share after his death. According to one it should go to the Imam or the head; according to a second, it should be spent on the army and the fortification of the boundaries; and according to a third, it is for the benefit of the Muslims in general. The lives of the Holy Prophet and his earlier successors a conqueror like Umar, before whom, wearing patched clothes, was brought all the hoarded wealth of Persia and Syria are a sufficient testimony that the Prophets share was always spent for the benefit of the Muslims. In fact, this share was considered as a part of the Bait al-Mal, the public treasury, for when, after the Holy Prophets death, his daughter Fatimah claimed a share of Fidk, which was also a part of fai, Abu Bakr refused it on the ground that it was not the personal property of the Holy Prophet, and he decided in fact that a prophet does not leave any property to be inherited by his heirs. The feud which thus arose has rent the Muslim world into two great schools. The prohibition contained in the words so that it be not taken by turns by the rich among you is directed against the Prophets share being inherited at all.
It may be added that under modern conditions when the soldiers are paid by the State, all spoils of war may be treated as fai. [Back to verse 7]
8a. It should be noted that the Refugees in general did not receive any share of this property: it was only to the poor among them that something was given for maintenance, the reason for which is clearly stated in the verse, viz., they had lost everything and had to leave their homes as well as their property. It is necessary to remember, moreover, that one of the important heads of expenditure in the Bait al-Mal was the help of the poor and those who were unable to earn their own livelihood. It was under that head that the Refugees who had lost all their wealth and homes and were still so poor that they could not carry on any business of their own, were to receive anything from what the Bani Nadir left, all of which formed part of the public treasury. [Back to verse 8]
9a. By those who made their abode in the City and in faith are meant the Ansar or the Helpers, i.e., the Muslim residents of Madinah. Dar means a house or a mansion as well as a country, or a city or a town or village (LL), and with the article al, al-Dar means al-Madinah or the City of the Prophet (LL). The meaning is that they made an abode in the city of the Prophet and the faith; the faith being likened to a place of abode. Before them signifies before their (i.e., the Refugees) coming to Madinah.
When the Muslims fled from Makkah, they found a refuge in Madinah, where the Muslim inhabitants received them as if they were their brothers, lodging them in their own houses, and many of them were still living in the houses of their benefactors, when the banishment of the Bani Nadir took place. On this the Holy Prophet asked the Helpers to consent to one of two proposals, i.e., to have a share of what was acquired from the Bani Nadir and give part of their houses and wealth to the Refugees, or to let the (poor) Refugees alone have a share in that property, so that with it they might build their houses and make a start in some business or trade. The Ansar replied that they were willing that the Refugees alone should have a share, and, notwithstanding that, they might continue to lodge in their houses (Rz). [Back to verse 9]
10a. This verse contains two directions for all future Muslim generations, viz., to pray for the forgiveness of earlier generations that have passed away before them and to pray for their hearts to be free from all spite towards their living Muslim brethren. [Back to verse 10]