Blogging the Qur’an: Sura 9, “Repentance,” verses 81-129

posted at 8:00 am on December 30, 2007 by Robert Spencer

Verse 81-89 of Sura 9, “Repentance,” excoriate Muslims who refused to accompany Muhammad on his expedition to Tabuk, where he had hoped to fight the Byzantines in the year 631. Some begged off because of the scorching heat in Arabia, making an expedition particularly trying – leading Allah to taunt them about the heat of hell, for “they hated to strive and fight,” that is, wage jihad (yujahidoo, يُجَاهِدُوا) “with their goods and their persons, in the cause of Allah” (v. 81). Ibn Kathir explains: “if they have any comprehension or understanding, they would have marched with the Messenger of Allah during the heat, so as to save themselves from the Fire of Jahannam [Hell], which is much more severe.”

Even if the Hypocrites were to change their minds and want to join Muhammad on a future expedition, they are forever barred from doing so (v. 83). Muhammad and the Muslims should not even pray for them when they die (v. 84). They will be punished in this world also (v. 85 – a repeat of v. 55). But Muhammad and the Muslims who do “strive and fight [jahadoo, جَاهَدُواْ] with their wealth and their persons” will enter the gardens of Paradise (vv. 88-89).

Verses 90-105 single out for the Bedouin Arabs for especial criticism for not going to Tabuk. Ibn Juzayy says that this in itself invalidated their claim to be Muslim: “They were the people who did not go on jihad nor ask excuses to stay behind them, so they lied when they claimed to believe.” This is not to say that no one can be excused from jihad: one may stay behind if he is “infirm, or ill,” or has “no resources to spend (on the cause)” (v. 91). Ibn Kathir explains the conditions: “Allah mentions here the valid excuses that permit one to stay away from fighting. He first mentions the excuses that remain with a person, the weakness in the body that disallows one from Jihad, such as blindness, limping, and so forth. He then mentions the excuses that are not permanent, such as an illness that would prevent one from fighting in the cause of Allah, or poverty that prevents preparing for Jihad. There is no sin in these cases if they remain behind, providing that when they remain behind, they do not spread malice or try to discourage Muslims from fighting, but all the while observing good behavior in this state.”

But the rich claim exemption (v. 93) and present excuses to Muhammad, who is not to accept them (v. 94), for these people are unclean (v. 95). The worst unbelievers and Hypocrites are the Bedouins (v. 97). Allah accused some of them of plotting against Muhammad, and warned that their plots would backfire (v. 98). However, some truly believe (v. 99). Allah may forgive those who repent of their wrongdoings, who have “mixed an act that was good with another that was evil” (v. 102). Ibn Juzayy explains that “this ayat was sent down about Abu Lubaba. His virtuous action was jihad and his bad action consisted of advising the Banu Qurayza” – that is, the Jewish tribe that broke their covenant with the Muslims and that Muhammad subsequently had massacred. Those who repent can seal their repentance by giving alms (vv. 103-104).

Verses 106-112 contrast false belief with the genuine article. On the way back from Tabuk, Muhammad received news about a mosque that a group of Muslims had built in opposition to his authority. Allah gave him a revelation making clear the malign intent of the builders, despite their protestations of good intentions (v. 107). Muhammad ordered his followers to burn the mosque to the ground. Ibn Kathir says that its builders had “made it an outpost for those who warred against Allah and His Messenger.”

V. 111, with its guarantee of Paradise to those who “kill and are killed” for Allah, has become in the modern age the rationale for suicide bombing. Ibn Kathir explains: “Allah states that He has compensated His believing servants for their lives and wealth — if they give them up in His cause — with Paradise.” Ibn Juzayy adds, significantly: “It is said that it was sent down about the Homage of ‘Aqaba [an early pledge of Muslims’ willingness to wage war for Islam], but its judgment is general to every believer doing jihad in the way of Allah until the Day of Rising.” So it has been understood. Abu Abdel Aziz, a modern-day jihadist who fought in Afghanistan and Bosnia, said in a 1994 interview: “I have found that the best sacrifice we can offer for the sake of Allah, is our souls, then our possession[s].” Then he quoted v. 111.

The Qur’an says that this promise of Paradise to those who kill and are killed for Allah is also in the Torah and Gospel, but it isn’t – which is in itself more evidence for pious Muslims that those documents have been tampered with.

Verses 113-129 emphasize that loyalty to Allah comes before everything, and Allah controls all. Muhammad and the Muslims should not pray for pagans, even relatives (v. 113, cf. v. 84). Abraham even dissociated himself from his father when he realized he was an “enemy of Allah” (v. 114). Allah will not mislead a people after he has guided them to the truth (v. 115) – Ibn Juzayy explains: “This ayat was sent down about some Muslims who asked forgiveness for the idolaters without permission and then they feared for themselves on that account and so the ayat was sent down to console them, i.e. Allah would not take you to task for that before it was clear to you that it was forbidden.” The “three who were left behind” who are forgiven in v. 118 were three Muslims who, according to Ibn Juzayy, “stayed behind the Tabuk expedition without excuse and without hypocrisy nor intention to stay behind.” The believers must “Fear Allah and be with those who are true,” which means, according to as-Suyuti, “to be truthful in everything and in every situation.” However, Muhammad allowed for lying “in battle, for bringing reconciliation amongst persons and the narration of the words of the husband to his wife, and the narration of the words of a wife to her husband (in a twisted form in order to bring reconciliation between them).”

The people of Medina and the Bedouins should not have hesitated to follow Muhammad, because anything they suffered in that adventure would have been credited to them as a deed of righteousness. Nothing that infuriates the unbelievers will go unrewarded (v. 120). However, all the Muslims need not go forth to wage jihad warfare (v. 122). Ibn Abbas says, “it is not necessary for all the Muslims to go on raids.” This is a foundation for the Islamic legal principle that jihad is fard kifaya — that is, a community obligation from which some are freed if others take it up. Jihad becomes fard ayn, or obligatory on every believer, when a Muslim land is attacked. In general, Muslims must fight against the unbelievers, and be harsh toward them (v. 123).

The suras of the Qur’an increase the Muslims’ faith (v. 124), but only add to the doubts of the disbelievers (vv. 125-127).

Next week: Sura 10, “Jonah”: how Allah destroyed previous generations of unbelievers.

(Here you can find links to all the earlier “Blogging the Qur’an” segments. Here is a good Arabic/English Qur’an, here are two popular Muslim translations, those of Abdullah Yusuf Ali and Mohammed Marmaduke Pickthall, along with a third by M. H. Shakir. Here is another popular translation, that of Muhammad Asad. And here is an omnibus of ten Qur’an translations.)

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verse 122 seems to backpeddle from verse 121. Verse 122 starts enthusiastically, “O ye who believe! fight the unbelievers who gird you about…”, while verse 121 seems to ease up a little on the militarism: “Nor should the Believers all go forth together…”.

It just seems like these two verses have no flow or consistancy with each other. It makes me suspicious about authorship.

So far, I agree with verse 125 more than any other so far:

But those in whose hearts is a disease,- it will add doubt to their doubt, and they will die in a state of Unbelief.

Yup. The more I read the Quran, the more I don’t believe it.

HeIsSailing on December 30, 2007 at 9:54 AM

Interesting that the first person to order a mosque destroyed was Mohammad. (Verses 106-112.)

Started a trend among his brethren that continues to this day. (See: the Golden Mosque of Samara, the Red Mosque in Pakistan, et al.)

Begin with a murderous pedophile warlord, end in grief.

(That must be the Sura the goat ate.)

profitsbeard on December 30, 2007 at 10:24 AM

Lo! Jesus hath bought from the believers their lives and their wealth because the Garden will be theirs: they shall fight in the way of Jesus and shall slay and be slain…..(bastardized) sura 9:111

Somehow, that just doesn’t work.

But then again, “The suras of the Qur’an increase the Muslims’ faith (v. 124), but only add to the doubts of the disbelievers (vv. 125-127).”

Of course!

locomotivebreath1901 on December 30, 2007 at 12:41 PM

Sura 10 is where Allah says he will turn your face white in heaven and turn your face black in hell.

I’m interested in whether this means a literal, physical change, or a symbolic, spiritual change – since Mohammad was reported to be a white man, and he refered to ethiopians as “raisin heads”

Jimmy the Dhimmi on December 30, 2007 at 12:41 PM

Thank you, Robert Spencer, for another great weekly lesson. And kudos for the photo which accompanies on the front page.
It speaks volumes.

locomotivebreath1901 on December 30, 2007 at 1:06 PM


To revisit the original assertion that Surah 9 is the last of the surahs, is that unanimous? There is this link here that suggests that surah 114 comes after it.

infidelpride on December 30, 2007 at 1:36 PM

Infidel Pride:

No, not 114. Sura 110 comes after 9, and is, according to Islamic tradition, the last sura to have been revealed. Muhammad was in the midst of consolidating his power and was planning further expansion of his burgeoning empire — he had just ordered jihad warriors into the Byzantine holdings of Syria and Palestine — when he fell ill. According to Islamic tradition, he foresaw his end approaching. A few months before his final illness began he received one last, brief Qur’anic revelation, and he believed it was telling him to ask for Allah’s mercy in preparation for his own death: “When comes the help of Allah, and victory, and thou dost see the people enter Allah’s religion in crowds, celebrate the praises of thy Lord, and pray for His Forgiveness: for He is Oft-Returning (in Grace and Mercy)” (110:1-3).

Aisha said later that Muhammad told her: “Gabriel used to recite the Qur’an to me once a year and for this year it was twice and so I perceived that my death had drawn near.”

Robert Spencer on December 30, 2007 at 2:07 PM

Anyway, you see that 110 has no doctrinal content. Sura 9 is the Qur’an’s last and most authoritative (according to Islamic exegetes) word on jihad and Muslims’ relationship with non-Muslims.

Robert Spencer on December 30, 2007 at 2:19 PM

Robert: Fantastic post. I have the Yousef Ali version of the Koran and, much as I have gone over all of it, I can’t find where it says “SILENCE! I keel you!

Any advice? Is this from the Koran or the Hadith?

thejackal on December 30, 2007 at 5:38 PM


Thanks. I re-read what you had said on this in the first installment of surah 9. That clears it.

And yes, I should have noted that the verse in question was 110, not 114.

infidelpride on December 30, 2007 at 5:48 PM


I suspect you’re trying to put us on, but I’ll answer anyway: that phrase does not appear in the Qur’an or Hadith, and I have never claimed that it does.

Robert Spencer on December 30, 2007 at 6:01 PM

Robert Spencer on December 30, 2007 at 6:01 PM

It had that kind of Al-Bukhari flavor to it. Just wanted your confirmation on the point.

thejackal on December 30, 2007 at 7:35 PM

the jackal,

What’s your game?

Just wondering. It isn’t clear.

Robert Spencer on December 30, 2007 at 7:57 PM


I think thejackal is jokingly referring to Achmed the Dead Terrorist.

mram on December 30, 2007 at 8:02 PM


No offense intended. I’m a huge fan, both of yours and Daniel Pipes (you know…educated, informed people). I just have an uncontrollable weakness for comedy. I lived in Saudi Arabia for 4 years (1996-2000) and, much as I thrive on the more serious points of Islamic history and society, my revulsion for the whole Jihadist stuff pushes me to the point of silliness.

I promise I won’t posit any more nonsense on your post again.

Big, huge, whopping kudos for your scholarship on this stuff.

thejackal on December 30, 2007 at 8:15 PM

mram on December 30, 2007 at 8:02 PM

Yes, it is in reference to Achmed. He keels me.

thejackal on December 30, 2007 at 8:24 PM

jackal and mram,

Thanks. I don’t know who Achmed the Dead Terrorist is. Some kind of comedy act, I guess? Pardon me for being obtuse, but I haven’t really been keeping up with pop culture since, oh, about 1981.

Anyway, I knew jackal’s question was some kind of a send-up, but didn’t know what kind, so I figured I’d answer it seriously and see if I found out that way. Anyway, thanks.

Robert Spencer on December 30, 2007 at 8:30 PM


You’re really missing out!


thejackal on December 30, 2007 at 8:38 PM

It’s always interesting to hear Muslim clerics relate to the Old and New Testaments, since their education is based on the interpretations of the sociopath, Mohammad You would think after all these centuries that one of them would reference a primary source.

Hening on December 31, 2007 at 8:48 AM

You would think after all these centuries that one of them would reference a primary source.

Hening on December 31, 2007 at 8:48 AM

You would, if you credited them with the power of independent thought. Sadly, they consider only one primary source of all knowledge in the universe (the Koran, with the Hadith and a few other comic books in tow). And if only one of them tried to think outside the box, he’d better get the hell out of Dodge before he got caught using his brain.

thejackal on December 31, 2007 at 9:31 AM

V. 111, with its guarantee of Paradise to those who “kill and are killed” for Allah, has become in the modern age the rationale for suicide bombing.

I wonder if that’s why 9/11 happened on that exact day. Call me crazy or a conspiracy-theorist, but the numbers 9/11/01 line up way to closely to 9:111 for my liking.

crazy_legs on December 31, 2007 at 12:27 PM

You would think after all these centuries that one of them would reference a primary source.

But you forget that they don’t consider the Bible to be a primary source. They honestly believe that the Bible is “corrupted” and that the Quran straightenes it out. When that’s your belief, there’s no need to go back to the “corrupted” primary source.

Now, asking exactly why your prophet insisted that the Bible was corrupted… that’s another story.

And yes, I agree with thejackal. Achmed the Dead Terrorist is freakin’ HILARIOUS!!

crazy_legs on December 31, 2007 at 12:31 PM

crazy_legs on December 31, 2007 at 12:27 PM

Interesting. I never saw this before. Maybe its a cosmic coincidence, or Allah planned it that way – his hands are not fettered! Maybe he is the one true god after all.

Jimmy the Dhimmi on January 1, 2008 at 12:28 AM

Thanks Robert.

This Sura is the biggie. It’s the John 3:16 of Islam.

As I see it a Muslim will do anything include kill himself to make sure you go to hell. A Christian will do anything including sacrificing his life to make sure you go to heaven. All religions are not created equal.

Mojave Mark on January 1, 2008 at 1:06 PM