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أَلَمْ تَرَ إِلَى ٱلَّذِينَ يَزْعُمُونَ أَنَّهُمْ ءَامَنُواْ بِمَآ أُنْزِلَ إِلَيْكَ وَمَآ أُنزِلَ مِن قَبْلِكَ يُرِيدُونَ أَن يَتَحَاكَمُوۤاْ إِلَى ٱلطَّاغُوتِ وَقَدْ أُمِرُوۤاْ أَن يَكْفُرُواْ بِهِ وَيُرِيدُ ٱلشَّيْطَانُ أَن يُضِلَّهُمْ ضَلاَلاً بَعِيداً
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-An-Nisâ’ ( النساء )

Asbab Al-Nuzul

(Hast thou not seen those who pretend that they believe in that which is revealed unto thee and that which was revealed before thee, how they would go for judgment (in their disputes) to false deities when they have been ordered to abjure them?) [4:60]. Sa'id ibn Muhammad al-'Adl informed us> Abu 'Amr ibn Hamdan> al-Hasan ibn Sufyan> Ibrahim ibn Sa'd al-Jawhari> Abu'l-Yaman> Safwan ibn 'Amr>> 'Ikrimah> Ibn 'Abbas who said: “Abu Burdah al-Aslami was a soothsayer who used to settle the disputes that the Jews had amongst themselves. When a group of people from Aslam took their dispute to him, Allah, exalted is He, revealed (Hast thou not seen those who pretend…) up to his saying (… were seeking naught but harmony and kindness) [4:62]”. Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Ibrahim> Abu Salih Shu'ayb ibn Muhammad> Abu Hatim al-Tamimi> Abu'l-Azhar> Ruwaym> Sa'id ibn Qatadah who said: “We were told that this verse was revealed about a dispute regarding a certain property in which were involved a man from the Helpers called Qays and a Jewish man. They took their dispute to a soothsayer in Medina to judge between them while leaving the Prophet of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace. Allah, exalted is He, rebuked them for doing so. In fact the Jew was urging the Muslim to take their dispute to the Prophet of Allah, because he knew he will not wrong him. But the Helper refused to, even though he was a Muslim, and insisted to go to the soothsayer. And so Allah, exalted is He, revealed this verse censoring the person who was pretending to be Muslim as well as the Jew who belonged to the people of the Book, saying (Hast thou not seen those who pretend that they believe in that which is revealed unto thee…) up to His words (… thou seest the hypocrites turn from thee with aversion) [4:61]”. Muhammad ibn 'Abd al-'Aziz al-Marwazi informed us in writing> Muhammad ibn al-Husayn> Muhammad ibn Yahya> Ishaq al-Hanzali> al-Mu'ammil> Yazid ibn Zuray'> Dawud> al-Sha'bi who said: “One certain hypocrite had a dispute with a Jewish man. The Jew invited the hypocrite to take their dispute to the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, because he knew that he did not accept bribery. The hypocrite, on the other hand, called the Jewish man to take their dispute to their own arbiters because he knew that they took bribery for the judgments they issued. When they both rejected each other's choice, they made a compromise and decided to take their dispute to a soothsayer in Juhaynah. And so Allah, exalted is He, revealed about this (Hast thou not seen those who pretend that they believe in that which is revealed unto thee) referring to the hypocrite (and that which was revealed before thee) in reference to the Jew (how they would go for judgment (in their disputes) to false deities) up to his saying (… and submit with full submission) [4:65]”. Al-Kalbi reported from Abu Salih that Ibn 'Abbas reported that this verse was revealed about a hypocrite who had a dispute with a Jewish man. The Jew said to him: “Let us go to Muhammad [to settle our dispute]”. The hypocrite said: “Rather, let us go to Ka'b ibn al-Ashraf (whom Allah described as a false deity) to settle our dispute”. The Jew insisted that their dispute should be settled by the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace. When the hypocrite saw his insistence, he went with him to the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, and his judgement was in favour of the Jew. When they left, the hypocrite stuck to the Jew and said to him: “Let us go to 'Umar ibn al-Khattab”, and they went to him. The Jew said to him: “I and this man took our dispute to Muhammad and his judgement was in my favour, but this man is not happy with his judgement and claimed that he wants you to judge between us. And since he did not let me go, I came with him”. 'Umar said to the hypocrite: “Is this the case?” “Yes!” replied the hypocrite. 'Umar said: “Wait for me a moment until I come back”. 'Umar then entered his house, got his sword went back to the hypocrite and killed him. He said: “This is how I judge for he who does not accept Allah's judgement and the judgement of His Messenger”. The Jew ran away. This verse was then revealed. Gabriel, peace be upon him, said: “'Umar has differentiated between the truth and falsehood”, and so he was named al-Faruq [the distinguisher]. Said al-Suddi: “Some Jewish people had embraced Islam while others were mere hypocrites. In the pre-Islamic period the custom between the clans of Qurayzah and al-Nadir was that if a man from Banu Qurayzah killed another from Banu'l-Nadir, the killer was killed in retaliation and a hundred wasq [pl. Awsuq; one wasq = 60 sa'] of dates were paid in surplus as blood money. But when a man from Banu'l-Nadir killed another from Banu Qurayzah, the killer was not killed in retaliation and only sixty wasq of dates were paid as blood money. Banu'l-Nadir were the allies of the Aws. They were larger and their pedigree nobler than that of Banu Qurayzah who were the allies of the Khazraj. Then it happened that a man from the Banu'l-Nadir killed another from Banu Qurayzah and a dispute ensued because of this. Banu'l-Nadir said: 'We had an agreement in the pre-Islamic period that retaliation is exacted from you but not from us and that your blood money is sixty wasq while the blood money due to us is one hundred wasq. And so we will give you your due'. The Khazraj said: 'This is something you did in the pre-Islamic period because you were greater in number and we were few. Today, we are brothers and our religion is the same as yours. You do not have any merit over us'. The hypocrites said: ''Let us go to Abu Burdah al-Aslami, the soothsayer, to judge between us. The Muslims said: 'No, but rather let us go to the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace'. The hypocrites refused and went instead to Abu Burdah to judge between them. Abu Burdah said to them: 'Increase the bribe!' They said: 'We will give you ten awsuq!' He said: 'I will take a hundred as my blood money, for I fear if I judge in favour of the man from Banu'l-Nadir, Banu Qurayzah will kill me; and if I judge in favour of the man from Banu Qurayzah, Banu'l-Nadir will kill me'. When they refused to give him more than ten awsuq, he refused to judge between them. Allah, exalted is He, then revealed this verse and the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, called the soothsayer of Aslam to embrace Islam. He refused to do so and left. The Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, said to the two sons of the soothsayer: 'Go after your father, for if he goes beyond such-and-such limit he will never accept Islam'. They caught up with him and kept persuading him until he went back and embraced Islam. The Prophet, Allah, bless him and give him peace, commanded a crier to go round and cry: 'The soothsayer of Aslam has embraced Islam' ”.


Asbab Al-Nuzul by Al-Wahidi , trans. Mokrane Guezzou