The Banu al-Nadir surrender to Muhammad

In the months leading up to the Battle of Uhud — the second and disastrous battle after the Muslims moved to Medina between the early Muslims and the pagan Meccans — alliances were made between the Muslims and the Banu al-Nadir, a Jewish tribe living just outside Medina.  Unbeknownst to the Muslims the Banu al-Nadir were double agents; they had already made a deal with the pagans in Mecca to try to kill Muhammad if possible. 

When all of this became clear in the months after the Battle of Uhud, the Muslims beseiged the Banu al-Nadir, pledging to punish them for their duplicity.  To the dismay of the Banu al-Nadir, the pagans in Mecca did not come to their rescue.  A truce was forged and the Banu al-Nadir fled to Syria but not before destroying their houses so the Muslims could not occupy them. 

Today’s surah addresses the “gathering of the forces” (59:2) against the Banu al-Nadir and the power of God over all intrigues and plans of man.  The surpreme power of God is heralded here, especially the last few ayahs (59:22-24).  Click here for a past post about a local Muslim scholar Yasir Qadhi who spoke on this passage in a Christian church in Memphis in April and gave a moving recitation of 59:22-24. 

There were spoils of battle evidently, so the question remained how to distribute it.  God answers the question for the Muslims:

Whatever gains God has turned over to His Messenger [Muhammad] from the inhabitants of the villages belong to God, the Messenger, kinsfolk, orphans, the needy, the traveller in need — this is so they do not just circulate among those of you who are rich. (59:7)

Call it an ancient criticism of “trickle-down economics!”  It seems often the rich just get richer and the poor stay poor.  The rich have ways of ensuring that the flow of wealth goes into their own pockets.  But in the economy of God it is those in need who are taken care of first.  Money follows the pathways of need, not opportunism.