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Sura 33
Aya 1

Chapter 33

The Confederatesal-Aḥzāb ( الأحزاب )

73 verses • revealed at Medinan

»The surah that mentions The Confederates of the unbelievers, who besieged Medina, with an overwhelming force, but whom God routed with winds and a sandstorm in what became known as the Battle of the Ditch (in reference to the digging of a wide trench around the city as a barrier to invasion, an unprecedented practice in Arabia) in AH 5/627 CE (verse 9 ff.). It takes its name from verse 20 which refers to the campaign of the “confederates” (aḥzāb) against the Prophet. The believers dug a ditch, which the disbelievers were unable to cross, and eventually the enemy retreated in disarray. This is mentioned in order to remind the believers of God’s goodness to them, so that they may obey the numerous instructions given in the surah, starting with the regulation of adoption and including proper conduct towards the Prophet, his Ahl al-Bayt and his wives. The hypocrites are warned to stop their bad behaviour.«

The surah is also known as The Allied Troops, The Coalition, The Confederate Tribes, The Confederaters, The Federated Clans, The Joint Forces

بِسمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحمٰنِ الرَّحيمِ


يا أَيُّهَا النَّبِيُّ اتَّقِ اللَّهَ وَلا تُطِعِ الكافِرينَ وَالمُنافِقينَ ۗ إِنَّ اللَّهَ كانَ عَليمًا حَكيمًا

Ali Unal

This sūrah of 73 verses was revealed in the 5th year of the Madīnan period, and derives its name from verse 20, where the word ahzāb (the confederates) occurs, referring to the allied enemy forces that besieged Madīnah. The sūrah concentrates on the Battle of the Trench, which ensued from that siege, and the campaign against the Banū Qurayzah that followed the battle. In addition, the sūrah introduces laws pertaining to marriage and divorce; describes new regulations concerning the law of inheritance and Islamic family life; and discusses the relation between the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, and his wives and the Islamic community. It also abolishes a form of adoption that had been an established custom in the pre-Islamic period.
O (most illustrious) Prophet! Keep your duty to God in utmost reverence for Him and piety, and pay no heed to (the offers of) the unbelievers and hypocrites. Surely God is All-Knowing, All-Wise.1
  • The Muslims had to suffer many hardships after the Battle of Uhud. A group from the Adal and al-Qārah tribes, who were apparently from the same ancestral stock as the Quraysh and who lived near Makkah, came to God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, and, declaring that they had accepted Islam, asked for some teachers to be given to them. The Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, selected six Companions to go with them. Upon reaching the land of the Hudhayl tribe, the group halted and the Companions settled down to rest. Suddenly, a group of Hudhaylī tribesmen fell upon them and martyred four of them, handing Hubayb ibn ‘Adiyy and Zayd ibn Dasīnah over to the Quraysh for execution. In the same year, 40 (according to another report, 70) Muslim teachers were requested by the chief of the Banū ‘Āmir to teach the Qur’ān to a tribe from Najd and were martyred near the Well of Ma’ūnah.
    The following year, God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, was informed that the tribe of Banū Asad were making preparations for war against Madīnah, and dispatched an army of 150 soldiers to combat them, under the command of Abū Salamah.
    The Jewish Banū Nadīr tribe was originally the sworn ally of the Muslims in Madīnah. However, its members secretly conspired with the Makkan pagans and the Madīnan hypocrites. They even tried to kill the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, while he was visiting them, breaking both the laws of hospitality and their treaty. The way in which this happened is as follows: the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, asked them to abandon their strategic position, about three miles south of Madīnah, and they agreed to do so. But when ‘Abdullāh ibn Ubayy, the chief of the Hypocrites, promised to help them in case of war, the Banū Nadīr reneged on their agreement. The Muslim army then besieged them in their fortresses. The Banū Nadīr, seeing that neither the Makkan polytheists nor the Madīnan hypocrites cared enough to help them, abandoned the city. They were dismayed, but their lives were spared. Given ten days to leave, along with their families and all they could carry, most of them joined their brethren in Syria and others in Khaybar (Ibn Hishām, 3: 47–49, 190–192).
    While returning from Uhud, Abū Sufyān challenged the Muslims to meet them at Badr in the following year (Ibid., 3: 94). However, when God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, reached Badr with an army of 1,500 fighters, there was no enemy to meet him. They stayed there for eight days, waiting for the threatened encounter. When there was no sign of the Quraysh army, they returned to Madīnah. This campaign was called Badr as-Sughrā (Badr the Minor).
    In 627CE, God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, was told that the desert tribes of Anmār and Sa’labah had decided to attack Madīnah. He went to Dhāt ar-Riqa’ with 400 fighters and, hearing that the enemy tribes had fled, returned to Madīnah. (Ibid, 3: 213). In the same year, the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, marched upon the people of Dūmat al-Jandal, who had lived on the border between Arabia and Syria. These people had previously attacked Muslim tradesmen and robbed them. When the Muslim army came upon them, they fled and the territory came under Muslim control.
    It was in these difficult days that a group from the leaders of the Quraysh, under the leadership of Abū Sufyan came to Madīnah and, together with ‘Abdullāh ibn Ubayy ibn Salūl, the leader of the hypocrites, offered the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, their support if he would not oppose their worship of their idols and declare that these idols had a right of intercession with God. The Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, categorically rejected this offer. This verse was revealed in connection with this event (az-Zamahsharī).