IN CONTRAST with every other surah of the Qur'an, At-Tawbah is not preceded by the invocation "In the name of God, the Most Gracious, the Dispenser of Grace". This undoubtedly deliberate omission is responsible for the view held by many Companions of the Prophet that At-Tawbah is in reality a continuation of Al-Anfal, and that the two together constitute one single surah (Zamakhshari), notwithstanding the fact that an interval of about seven years separates the revelation of the one from that of the other. Although there is no evidence that the Prophet himself ever made a statement to this effect (Razi), the inner relationship between At-Tawbah and Al-Anfal is unmistakable. Both are largely devoted to problems of war between the believers and the deniers of the truth; towards the end of Al-Anfal there is a mention of treaties and of the possibility that these treaties might be treacherously violated by the unbelievers - a theme that is continued and developed at the beginning of At-Tawbah; and both Al-Anfal and At-Tawbah dwell, in the main, on the moral distinction between the believers, on the one hand, and their enemies and ill-wishers, on the other. A very large part of At-Tawbah is connected with the conditions prevailing at Medina before the Prophet's expedition to Tabuk in the year 9 H., and the vacillating spirit displayed by some of his nominal followers. There is hardly any doubt that almost the whole of the surah was revealed shortly before, during and immediately after the campaign, and most of it at the time of the long march from Medina to Tabuk. (Regarding the reasons for this campaign, see notes 59 and 142.) The title of the surah is based on the frequent references in it to the repentance (Tawbah) of the erring ones and to its acceptance by God. Some of the Companions called it Al-Bara'ah ("Disavowal") after the first word occurring in it; and Zamakhshari mentions also several other titles by which the surah was designated by the Prophet's Companions and their immediate successors. At-Tawbah concludes the so-called "seven long surahs" (that is, the distinct, almost self-contained group of chapters beginning with Al-Bagarah and ending with the combination of Al-Anfal and At-Tawbah); and it is significant that some of the last verses of this group (namely, 9:124-127) return to the theme which dominates the early part of Al-Bagarah (2:6-20): the problem of "those in whose hearts is disease" and who cannot attain to faith because they are "bent on denying the truth" whenever it conflicts with their preconceived notions and their personal likes and dislikes: the perennial problem of people whom no spiritual message can convince because they do not want to grasp the truth (9:127), and who thereby "deceive none but themselves, and perceive it not"(2:9).
DISAVOWAL by God and His Apostle [is herewith announced] unto those who ascribe divinity to aught beside God, [and] with whom you [O believers] have made a covenant.1