If They Incline Towards Peace, then Incline Towards it: Tafsir ibn Kathir

In surah al-Anfaal, Allah provides the following instructions to the Believers regarding their interactions with the disbelievers:

وَإِن جَنَحُوا لِلسَّلْمِ فَاجْنَحْ لَهَا وَتَوَكَّلْ عَلَى اللَّـهِ ۚ إِنَّهُ هُوَ السَّمِيعُ الْعَلِيمُ

But if they incline to peace, then incline to it as well. And place your trust in Allah. Verily, He is the All-Hearer, the All-Knower. [8:61]

Commenting on this in his famous books of tafsir, al-haafidh Ismaa’eel ibn Kathir wrote:

يقول تعالى : إذا خفت من قوم خيانة فانبذ إليهم عهدهم على سواء ، فإن استمروا على حربك ومنابذتك فقاتلهم ، ( وإن جنحوا ) أي : مالوا ( للسلم ) أي المسالمة والمصالحة والمهادنة ، ( فاجنح لها ) أي : فمل إليها ، واقبل منهم ذلك ؛ ولهذا لما طلب المشركون عام الحديبية الصلح ووضع الحرب بينهم وبين رسول الله – صلى الله عليه وسلم – تسع سنين ؛ أجابهم إلى ذلك مع ما اشترطوا من الشروط الأخر . ـ

Allah is saying: If you fear betrayal from a certain people, then break the peace treaty with them, so that you are both on equal terms [c.f. 8:58]. If they continue being hostile and opposing you, then fight then [c.f. 8:60].

وَإِن جَنَحُوا

but if they incline …

meaning: lean towards

لِلسَّلْمِ

towards peace

meaning: towards ceasing hostilities, forming a treaty, and making peace

فَاجْنَحْ لَهَا

then incline to it as well

meaning: lean towards it and accept that from them. It was in line with this that when the Mushrikoon sought a peace treaty and to pause hostilities between them and Allah’s Messenger for a period of nine years during the Year of al-Hudaybiyyah, the Prophet accepted that while also stipulating a few other conditions.

وقال عبد الله بن الإمام أحمد : حدثنا محمد بن أبي بكر المقدمي ، حدثنا فضيل بن سليمان – يعني النميري – حدثنا محمد بن أبي يحيى ، عن إياس بن عمرو الأسلمي ، عن علي بن أبي طالب – رضي الله عنه – قال : قال رسول الله – صلى الله عليه وسلم – : إنه سيكون بعدي اختلاف – أو : أمر – فإن استطعت أن يكون السلم ، فافعل . ـ

‘Abdullah, the son of Imam Ahmad, narrated … that ‘Ali ibn Abi Taalib (may Allah be pleased with him) said: Allah’s Messenger said, “After me, there will be differing. So if you are able to have peace, then do so.”

وقال مجاهد : نزلت في بني قريظة . [ ص: 84 ] وهذا فيه نظر ؛ لأن السياق كله في وقعة بدر ، وذكرها مكتنف لهذا كله . ـ

Mujahid said, “This was revealed regarding Banu Quraythah.” However, there are different views regarding that, as the entire context is dealing with the Battle of Badr and this ayah is completely surrounded by that.

وقول ابن عباس ، ومجاهد ، وزيد بن أسلم ، وعطاء الخراساني ، وعكرمة ، والحسن ، وقتادة : إن هذه الآية منسوخة بآية السيف في ” براءة ” : ( قاتلوا الذين لا يؤمنون بالله ولا باليوم الآخر ) الآية [ التوبة : 29 ] فيه نظر أيضا ؛ لأن آية براءة فيها الأمر بقتالهم إذا أمكن ذلك ، فأما إذا كان العدو كثيفا ، فإنه تجوز مهادنتهم ، كما دلت عليه هذه الآية الكريمة ، وكما فعل النبي – صلى الله عليه وسلم – يوم الحديبية ، فلا منافاة ولا نسخ ولا تخصيص ، والله أعلم . ـ

Ibn ‘Abbaas, Mujahid, Zayd ibn Aslam, ‘Ataa’ al-Khuraasaani, ‘Ikrimah, al-Hasan, and Qatadah all said that this ayah was mansukh[1] by the Ayah of the Sword in surah al-Baraa’ah:

قَاتِلُوا الَّذِينَ لَا يُؤْمِنُونَ بِاللَّـهِ وَلَا بِالْيَوْمِ الْآخِرِ

Fight those who do not believe in Allah or in the Last Day … [9:29]

until the end of the ayah.

But there are different views regarding this also, for that ayah in surah al-Baraa’ah contains a command to fight them if one is able to do that. But as for if the enemy is intense, then it is permissible  to negotiate a treaty with them as this noble ayah indicates. And this is also shown by the Prophet’s action on the Day of al-Hudaybiyyah. So there is no contradiction, abrogation, or delimitation. And Allah knows best.[2]

وقوله : ( وتوكل على الله ) أي : صالحهم وتوكل على الله ، فإن الله كافيك وناصرك ، ولو كانوا يريدون بالصلح خديعة ليتقووا ويستعدوا ، ( فإن حسبك الله ) أي : كافيك وحده . ـ

And Allah’s statement:

وَتَوَكَّلْ عَلَى اللَّـهِ

and place your trust upon Allah

meaning: make a treaty with them and place your reliance on Allah, for Allah will suffice you and aid you. And if they only desired a treaty as a farce in order for them to regain and bolster their strength

فَإِنَّ حَسْبَكَ اللَّـهُ

then Allah is sufficient for you [8:62]

[Tafsir ibn Kathir 4/83-84]

[1] Translator’s Note: The term mansukh is usually translated as “abrogated”. This translation is in line with the meaning generally intended by the scholars of fiqh, however when the salaf used this term they did not necessary mean “abrogation”. Sheikh al-Islaam ibn Taymiyah explains this by writing:

لفظ النسخ في عرف السلف يدخل فيه كل ما فيه نوع رفع لحكم أو ظاهر أو ظنّ دلالة حتى يسمّوا تخصيص العام نسخًا، ومنهم من يسمّي الاستثناء نسخًا إذا تأخّر نزوله

According to the understanding of usage of the salaf, the word al-naskh includes anything that involves any kind of removal of an ayah‘s legal rulings, its most apparent meaning, or what one might think that it entails – such that they even refer to one ayah providing further details about what another had left general as naskh. There were even some who would refer to an ayah which included an exception to a ruling mentioned in another ayah as naskh when the revelation of that ayah with the exception came at a later date than the initial ayah.

[Manhaj al-Sunnah 5/690]

[2] Sheikh Muhammad Bazmool quoted this paragraph and then commented:

وهذا هو الصحيح – إن شاء الله – ويدل عليه أن الصلح مشروع مع العدو، إذا كان العدو قوياً لا نقدر عليه، – كما أشار ابن كثير رحمه الله – فإن مقتضى ذلك منع قتاله، بحسب الصلح والهدنة، ولو كان الواجب هو قتال الكفار دائماً وعلى أي حال من القوة أو الضعف التي يكون عليها المسلمون؛ فإن معنى هذا أن لا صلح و لا هدنة مع الكفار مطلقاً، وهذا باطل، لأنه يخالف الآية في جواز الصلح، ولأنه يخالف قاعدة القدرة مناط التكليف ! ـ
كما أن مجرد التعارض مع إمكان الجمع والتوفيق وإن علم التاريخ لا يكفي للقول بالنسخ، إذ الأصل عدمه. ـ

And this position is correct – inshaAllaah – and this demonstrates that making a peace treaty with one’s enemies is within the bounds of the Sharee’ah if the enemy is powerful and we are not able to overpower them, as ibn Kathir (may Allah have mercy on him) indicated. So that would entail a prohibition of fighting them in line with a peace treaty and suspension of hostilities.

For if it were obligatory to always be in a state of war with the Disbelievers regardless of whether the Muslims were in a position of strength or weakness, then that would mean that there could never be any peace treaty or armistice with the Disbelievers at all. But that is false, for it runs in the face of this ayah which permits peace treaties, and also because it goes against the well-known principle that being charged with a task is dependent on actually being able to accomplish said task.

And likewise, the simple fact that such a position creates conflict among the texts despite it being possible to reconcile them shows that this is false. For simply knowing the timeline of revelation is not enough to make a claim of abrogation, as the norm is to assume that there has not been abrogation unless there is evidence to the contrary.

[Found on sheikh Muhammad Bazmool’s social media page here]

See also: What the Salaf Meant by “Abrogation”: Ibn al-Qayyim

See also: Remaining eternally in the Hell-fire and its causes: Imam al-Sa’di

See also: Investigate and Verify: Tafsir al-Sa’di

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3 thoughts on “If They Incline Towards Peace, then Incline Towards it: Tafsir ibn Kathir

  1. Pingback: “So Turn Away From Them”: Sheikh Saalih al-Fawzan | Tulayhah

  2. Pingback: What the Salaf Meant by “Abrogation”: Ibn al-Qayyim | Tulayhah

  3. Pingback: A Primer on Abrogation: al-Zarkashi | Tulayhah

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