Surah: 009 At-Tawba
Revealed in the late Madni period, this surah draws its name from the reference to the repentance of the three believers – Kab bin Malik, Hilaal bin Umaiyya and Murara bin Rabi – who failed to participate in the expedition to Tabuk undertaken to confront the Roman army. Although there were others as well who also remained behind, it was these three who were honest enough to admit their laxness and did not present false excuses in front of the Prophet ﷺ. Consequently, they were punished through boycott by the entire Muslim community, which ended after fifty days, when Allaah (SWT) revealed that their repentance was accepted.
This is the only surah in the Qur’an that does not begin with “Bismillaahir-Rahmaanir-Raheem”, primarily because Prophet Muhammad ﷺ instructed his companions to not write it at the beginning. Scholars have explained that the wisdom behind this is mostly because the surah commences with a declaration of war against the polytheists, who had violated the terms of the peace treaty with the Muslims. They were given four months to either accept Islam as their faith or leave the region since polytheism could not be allowed to flourish in the vicinity of the House of Allaah (SWT).
This surah is also called Al Bara’ah, the Absolvement, as Allaah (SWT) declares Himself and His Prophet ﷺ as absolved of any responsibility from the polytheists, particularly for their failure to heed to repeated warnings of punishment and persistence on opposing the spread of Islam. It even prohibits the Prophet ﷺ from seeking forgiveness for the polytheists and sets a precedent for the believers to follow.
Another major theme running in this surah is exposing the fraud of the hypocrites among the Muslims, who were constantly trying to harm the cause of Islam. Their plots were revealed and the false excuses they made before the Prophet ﷺ were made known to everyone through the revelation. In contrast, Allaah (SWT) excused the believers with genuine difficulties or handicap, while appreciating their zealousness at wanting to participate in the expedition despite lack of resources.