Sura Al Ahzab continues in verse 19 to highlight the evil conduct of the hypocrites. The verse states:
19. Being miserly towards you (as regards help and aid in Allah’s Cause). Then when fear comes, you will see them looking to you, their eyes revolving like one over whom hovers death, but when the fear departs, they will smite you with sharp tongues, miserly towards (spending anything in any) good (and only covetous of booty and wealth). Such have not believed. Therefore Allah makes their deeds fruitless, and that is ever easy for Allah.
It means that they (the hypocrites), behaved miserly towards the Muslims. They seldom participated in any battle with the believers. They did not help them and grant assistance to the poor and needy Muslims. They were unwilling to assist the Muslims while the trench was being dug, and were stingy to spend their monies in the path of Allah. Love, compassion, kindness and good counsel did not come from them because they were not well wishers of the Muslims.
Their state was such that when fear came upon them in the form of battles, they became very scared and frightened. They were struck with such panic and fright that their eyes rolled about, moving left and right like an unconscious person, as if they were in the throes of death. Their behaviour was on account of their weakness and cowardice which emanated from their hypocrisy which they hid in their hearts.
The verse further states that as soon as the fear goes away and the battle comes to an end, they will begin to insult the Muslims. They will taunt and harm the Muslims with their ‘sharp tongues’. They will blame them wrongfully and abuse them. In this manner, when it was time for the booty to be shared amongst those who participated in the battle, they (the hypocrites) would present themselves as if they took part in the battle and demanded their share of the booty. They would say, ‘Give us, give us, we were present with you (in the battle), and you are not more deserving than us for this’. (Tafseer Al Qurtubi vol.14 pg. 137)
The verse continues by saying ‘(they were) miserly towards good’. It means that although they made demands from others for a share in the booty, they were very stingy and would not give others from their wealth or share of the booty. They were covetous and greedy, and were envious of what others possessed’.
With respect to their behaviour, and as to why they conducted themselves in this manner, Allah says, ‘They are the ones who do not believe’. It means that those who behaved in this manner (as mentioned in the verse), (they) have no true Imaan (faith) in their hearts, although they have outwardly expressed Islam. Their level of hypocrisy has made them unbelievers and as such, ‘Allah has destroyed their deeds’. Whatever they have done (thinking that they were good deeds), have all become fruitless and annihilated on account of their hypocrisy. This is due to the fact that true Imaan (and Islam) is a condition for the acceptance of every good deed. Seeing that the hypocrites did not possess this, all the actions they did, will go in vain and become futile.
The verse concludes by saying that this act of nullifying their good deeds is not difficult for Allah. In fact, it is very easy for Him. The verse also gives the message that the act of knowing that they concealed hypocrisy in their hearts is not difficult for Allah, since He is the Knower of what the hearts conceal. (Tafseer Al Qurtubi vol.14 pg. 138)
Sura Ahzab goes further in verse 20 and states:
20. They think that Al-Ahzab (the Confederates) have not yet withdrawn, and if Al-Ahzab (the Confederates) should come (again), they would wish they were in the deserts (wandering) among the bedouins, seeking news about you (from a far place); and if they (happen) to be among you, they would not fight but little.
Here, more signs of the cowardice of the hypocrites (who were with the Muslims in the battle of Ahzab) are given. The verse explains that they were so coward and fearful, that even after the confederates (from among the unbelievers) had already left Madina, they (the hypocrites) thought that they were still there, surrounding Madina.
The verse also says about them that if the unbelievers (the confederates who attacked the Muslims) were to return another time for battle, then they would wish to be among the Bedouins in some far-off desert. They would not want to be with the Muslims, but would want to be away from them due to their fear and cowardice. In this state, they will only want to hear about the condition of the Muslims, asking, ‘Have the believers been destroyed? Has Abu Sufyan gained victory?’ It means that they will have no care and concern for the believers; they will simply want to know the state of the battle. Allah further says that even if they were with the believers, they will not fight except a little (only to show their faces).
Sura Ahzab continues in verse 21 and states:
21. Indeed in the Messenger of Allah (Muhammad S.A) you have a good example to follow for him who hopes in (the meeting with) Allah and the Last Day and remembers Allah much.
In the previous verses, mention was made of the battle of Ahzab and how the hypocrites behaved towards the Prophet (S.A) and the battle itself. Here, the believers are urged to emulate the life of the Prophet (S.A) and to follow him in how he conducted himself, especially in the battlefield. They are to do just as he did by having patience and steadfastness and by sacrificing for the sake of Allah, especially at the time of battles. All believers have been told that they have the best example and the most excellent one in the Messenger of Allah (S.A). Muslims must therefore obey him in his teachings and advice, and follow him in his ways, practices and actions.
In the verse, Allah mentions that those who will truly accept the Prophet (S.A) as the best exemplar will be those who have hopes in meeting Allah on the last day (with true faith and good deeds), and remember Allah much’. It means that those who will honestly accept the Prophet (S.A) as their role model and will truly follow his teachings and practices, will be those who have the true belief in their hearts and have a hope of meeting Allah with Imaan (faith). They are those who are hoping for the blessings of Allah on the Day of Judgement and remember Allah in abundance. These are the ones who will truly take the Prophet (S.A) as the most perfect exemplar to follow.
The verse, though general in meaning and message, makes reference to the conduct of the hypocrites who claimed to be believers (in the battle of Ahzab), but fled on account of cowardice, and encouraged others to flee. All believers, including the hypocrites were informed in the above verse that they must follow the Prophet (S.A) in his patience and forbearance, and his sacrifice and steadfastness, all of which he displayed in the battle of Ahzab. As for the believers who remained with the Prophet (S.A) and sacrificed their lives for the religion of Islam, Allah praises them in verse 22 and says:
22. And when the believers saw Al-Ahzab (the Confederates), they said: “This is what Allah and His Messenger (Muhammad S.A) had promised us, and Allah and His Messenger (Muhammad S.A) had spoken the truth, and it only added to their faith and to their submissiveness (to Allah).
This was the stance of the true believers in the battle of Ahzab when they saw the massive army of the unbelievers surrounding them. This is what their statement was, which emanated (from them) on account of their sincerity and true belief in Allah. Allah tells us that when the believers saw the host of different tribes, amounting to approximately 10,000 soldiers marching towards, and then encircling them from every direction, they did not lose hope and did not ‘lose heart’. Instead, with strong Imaan and conviction in their hearts, they uttered, ‘This is what Allah and His Messenger have promised us, and Allah and His Messenger have spoken the truth’. It means that Allah has promised that He will send trials and tests upon the believers and so, they will surely appear. Along with these, Allah has also promised that He will grant victory to the believers and He will help them against their enemies, and these will also come. Hence, by looking at the battle ahead of them, the companions understood it to be a test from Allah which He had already informed them about and they were also promised that they will gain victory.