Marmaduke Pickthall, The Meaning of The Glorious Koran. An Explanatory Translation (1930)
Al-Anfâl, “The Spoils,” takes its name from the first verse by which it is proclaimed that property taken in war belongs “to Allah and His messenger” — that is to say, to the theocratic State, to be used for the common weal. The date of the revelation of this Sûrah is established, from the nature of the contents, as the time that elapsed between the battle of Badr and the division of the spoils — a space of only one month — in the second year of the Hijrah. The concluding verses are of later date and lead up to the subject of Sûrah IX.
A Meccan caravan was returning from Syria, and its leader, Abû Sufyân, fearing an attack from Al-Madînah, sent a camel-rider on to Mecca with a frantic appeal for help; which must have come too late, considering the distances, if, as some writers even among Muslims have alleged, the Prophet had always intended to attack the caravan. Ibn Isḥâq (apud Ibn Hishâm) when treating of the Tabûk expedition, says that the Prophet announced the destination on that occasion, whereas it was his custom to hide his real objective. Was not the real objective hidden in this first campaign? It is a fact that he only advanced when the army sent to protect the caravan, or rather (it is probable) to punish the Muslims for having plundered it, was approaching Al-Madînah. His little army of three hundred and thirteen men, ill-armed and roughly equipped, traversed the desert for three days till, when they halted near the water of Badr, they had news that the army of Qureysh was approaching on the other side of the valley. Then rain fell — heavily upon Qureysh so that they could not advance further on account of the muddy state of the ground, lightly on the Muslims, who were able to advance to the water and secure it. At the same time Abû Sufyân, the leader of the caravan, which was also heading for the water of Badr, was warned by one of his scouts of the advance of the Muslims and turned back to the coast-plain. Before the battle against what must have appeared to all men overwhelming odds, the Prophet gave the Anṣâr, the men of Al-Madînah, whose oath of allegiance had not included fighting in the field, the chance of returning if they wished; but they were only hurt by the suggestion that they could possibly forsake him. On the