8-Surah Al-Anfal ( The Spoils of War ) 69
    So consume what you have taken of war booty [as being] lawful and good, and fear Allah. Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.
    فَكُلُوا مِمَّا غَنِمْتُمْ حَلَالًا طَيِّبًا ۚ وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ غَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ

    Quran's Tafhim ( explanation)

    *49). In attempting to explain the circumstantial background of the above verse, some commentators on the Qur'an have referred to the deliberations for deciding the fate of the Quraysh captives after the Battle of Badr. In that council Abu Bakr pleaded to release the captives in return for ransom while 'Umar suggested that they should be put to the sword. Preferring Abu Bakr's suggestion, the Prophet (peace be on him) set all the captives free in return for ransom. However, God disapproved the decision as is evident from the above-quoted verse. (See Muslim, 'Jihad', 'Bab al-lmdad bi al-Mala'ikah fi Ghazwah Badr'; and the comments on verses 67 and 68 by Ibn Kathir; and on verse 67 by Jassas and Qurtubi - Ed.) The viewpoint of the commentators can be faulted on the grounds that they failed to offer any persuasive explanation of this part of the same Qur'anic verse: 'Had it not been for a previous decree from Allah.' This could mean either the Divine decree in eternity which determines all that will happen, or, God's decree in eternity to make the spoils of war lawful for the Muslims. Now, it is evident that it is unlawful to take anything from someone unless it has been declared lawful according to Revealed Law. Hence, were the above view to be accepted, it would mean that all, including the Prophet (peace be on him), had committed a sin. Such an interpretation can hardly he entertained especially since this view is dependent on the authority of isolated ('ahad) traditions.
    In my opinion, in order to understand the above verse it should be borne in mind that preliminary instructions about war had already been given in Surah Muhammad which was revealed before the Battle of Badr:
    Therefore, when you meet, the Unbelievers (in fight), smite at their necks. At length, when you have thoroughly subdued them, bind a bond firmly (on them). Thereafter, either resort to generosity or to ransom until the war lays down its burden (Muhammad 47: 4).
    This verse had already made it lawful for the Muslims to hold the enemy in captivity or to accept ransom contingent on the total suppression of the enemy. The Muslims had, therefore, acted in accordance with the permission granted by God to accept ransom. However, in so doing they had neglected the stipulation that the enemy should be fully subdued before the acceptance of ransom. (See the comments of Jassas on verses 67- 9-Ed.) While the Quraysh army was retreating, many Muslims took to collecting the spoils and taking the unbelievers as captives. It was only a few Muslims who chased the fleeing enemy. Had the Muslims made a concerted pursuit, a death-blow could have been struck at the Quraysh power, once and for all. God, therefore expressed His disapproal of this manner of dealing with the situation as the above-quoted verse suggests. It is obvious that it is not the Prophet (peace be on him) but the generality of Muslims at whom the reproach is directed.
    The purpose of the verse is to impress upon the Muslims that they had not yet imbibed the mission of the Prophet (peace be on him). Prophets are not concerned with filling their coffers with spoils and ransom money. Rather their mission is to crush the power of the unbelievers. This was not the first instance when the Muslims had showed their worldliness. They had earlier expressed their preference to raid the trade caravan to fighting against the Quraysh army. Then, rather than try to crush the enemy, they turned to collecting spoils and taking captives, and later remonstrated about the distribution of booty. Had it not been that God had granted them permission to accept ransom (see Muhammad 47: 4), He would have severely punished them on that count. God, howeve, was merciful to them and permitted them to enjoy whatever they had seized. They should, therefore, refrain from behaviour which might be displeasing to God. It is pertinent to point out that Jassas in his Ahkam al-Qur'an, considers the above view a plausible interpretation of the verse. (See the comments of Jassas on this verse, vol. 3, pp. 72-3 - Ed.) Ibn Hisham also contains a report which supports the view. The report mentions that while the Muslims were engaged in seizing captives of war and collecting booty, the Prophet ( peace be on him) observed signs of disapproval on the face of Sa'd b. Mu'adh. The Prophet (peace be on him) asked him: 'O Sa'd! It appears that you do not approve of the behaviour of these people.' He replied: 'Yes, O Messenger of God! It is the first encounter in which God has caused the rout of the unbelivers. This opportunity should have been better utilized for crushing the unbelievers thoroughly rather than for amassing captives of war.' (Ibn Hisham. vol. 1, p. 628 - Ed.)
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