The Book of Alliance and Disavowal in Surah Mumthahinah
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An Introduction to ‘al-Mumtahanah’
The correct understanding of the various parts of this chapter necessitate that we first delve into its historical context, including the occasion of its revelation. This is what we will cover in the first section, if Allah Wills.
- A General Understanding of the Chapter -
‘al-Mumtahanah’ is from the chapters revealed entirely in Madinah, according to the opinion of all.1 It is from the medium-sized chapters – which include the chapters from ‘Qaf’ to the end of the Mushaf 2– and it is composed of thirteen verses. The title of the chapter is ‘al- Mumtahanah’ (The Woman Who Is Examined), and this is what is most commonly accepted, while some also pronounce it as ‘al-Mumtahinah’ (The Examiner). So, the first pronunciation would make the title a reference to the woman regarding whom the chapter was revealed – as we will soon show – and the second would make it a reference to the nature of the chapter itself 3 in that it is meant to test the people, 4 as al-Imam al-Qurtubi (may Allah have Mercy on him) said. This is just like the case with the chapter ‘Bara’ah’ also being known as ‘al-Fadihah’ (The Exposer). In any case, al-Hafidh Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani clarified that the stronger pronunciation is the first.5
And this Madinan chapter is just like the other Madinan chapters in that it serves to organize and structure the Muslim society and state by laying down foundations that establish and clarify the roles of the individuals who comprise it, and it laid down the rules of warfare, governance, socialization, etc.6 In reality, the one who reflects over the meanings of this chapter will find that it covers a number of significant issues that deal with the both the internal and external security of the Islamic state. As for its internal security, this is seen in its sorting out of the characteristics of the believers and clarifying the conditions upon which they gave their allegiance to Allah and His Messenger (peace be upon him) from one angle, as well as the limits of the relationship with non-Muslims and the guidelines of dealing with them from another angle. As for its external security, this is seen in the laying down of guidelines for dealing with others outside of the Islamic state and the establishment of policies meant to preserve the secrets and security of the state, such that the proper balance is achieved of interacting with others and taking the necessary precautions to protect the nation. The one who reflects while reading this chapter will find that the common theme connecting each of its individual parts revolves around the concept of wala’ and bara’, and the chapter adopts a very special style in clarifying these principles. It concentrates on constructing the building of these civil laws upon the foundations of the pure, unadulterated belief whose roots were being planted for the thirteen years in which the Prophet (peace be upon him) called to pure monotheism and cleaning of the heart, making them ready to enter into the realm of la ilaha illa Allah. So, this made the building much easier to construct, and you see that the internal and external interests of countries of today depend on laws and policies similar to these that relate to security, relations with individuals and other nations, etc. However, you do not find any nation in the world using the basis of belief and spirituality to ensure the success of these laws and principles as in the Islamic system, and this is what the one who reflects over the chapter of ‘al-Mumtahanah’ will realize, since this strong, secure building was erected on none other than the foundations of the unique belief in wala’ and bara’ in Islam, as we will clarify if Allah Wills.
1 ‘al-Jami’ li Ahkam al-Qur’an’ (18/46)
2 ‘Tafsir al-Qur’an al-‘Adhim’ (1/89)
3 ‘Fath al-Bari’ (9/623)
4 ‘al-Jami’ li Ahkam al-Qur’an’ (18/46)
5 ‘Fath al-Bari’ (9/623)
6 az-Zarqani’s ‘Manahil al-‘Urfan’ (1/191)