Al-Fay' Verse (Arabic: آیة الفیء) was verse seven of the Qur'an 59 which was revealed about the battle of Banu Nadir. Based on this verse, properties acquired by Muslims without war and at peace are called "fay'". They belong to the Prophet (s) and in this verse, some of their usages are mentioned.
Text and Translation
مَّا أَفَاءَ اللَّـهُ عَلَىٰ رَسُولِهِ مِنْ أَهْلِ الْقُرَىٰ فَلِلَّـهِ وَلِلرَّسُولِ وَلِذِي الْقُرْبَىٰ وَالْيَتَامَىٰ وَالْمَسَاكِينِ وَابْنِ السَّبِيلِ كَيْ لَا يَكُونَ دُولَةً بَيْنَ الْأَغْنِيَاءِ مِنكُمْ ۚ وَمَا آتَاكُمُ الرَّسُولُ فَخُذُوهُ وَمَا نَهَاكُمْ عَنْهُ فَانتَهُوا ۚ وَاتَّقُوا اللَّـهَ ۖ إِنَّ اللَّـهَ شَدِيدُ الْعِقَابِ
|— Qur'an 59: 7|
Occasion of Revelation
This verse and its previous verses are about the battle of Banu Nadir. The Jewish tribe of Banu Nadir who lived around Medina were besieged by Muslims after they broke their peace with them. The Prophet (s) gave them some days to leave their place. This verse is about the spoils after the surrender of this tribe and leaving their place.
When the houses, gardens and agricultural lands were taken by Muslims, some of the companions of the Prophet (s) asked him to take one fourth of the spoils for himself and leave the rest to them to divide between themselves, according to the tradition at the Age of Ignorance. These verses were revealed about this request. In this verse, God emphasizes that since no war was taken place and the enemy surrendered without war, all of what acquired belonged to God and His Messenger (s).
However, some mentioned that when Banu Nadir left their houses, Muslims asked the Prophet (s) to take one fifth of them and divides the rest among them like war spoils.
Meaning of Fay'
"Afa'-a" is a derivation of "fay'" meaning "return". In jurisprudence, spoils acquired by Muslims without difficulty or war are called fay'. Many exegetes believe that "fay'" refers to all properties acquired by Muslims by any means other than war. Some also considered anything from disbelievers acquired by Muslims as fay'. Some considered what acquired by Muslims at war as spoils and what acquired by them at peace or other than war as anfal.
Some explained the reason why these properties are called fay' saying that God has created all the blessings of this world essentially for believers and for His Prophet (s) above them all, and those who are not believers are in fact usurpers of these properties (although based on religious or common law they are considered as owners); therefore, when these properties return to their true owners, it is appropriate to be called fay' or "return".
Many of exegetes believe that although in this verse the ruling for the spoils of the battle of Banu Nadir is mentioned, this rule is general and can apply to all spoils acquired by Muslims without any difficulty or war. Ayatullah Makarim Shirazi believes that the reason for the ownership of fay' by the Prophet (s) is his leadership of Islamic government. Therefore, as it is mentioned in this verse, the ownership of these properties by the Prophet (s) does not mean that the Prophet (s) spends all of them for his personal usage; but, since the Prophet (s) was the Islamic leader, defender and guardian of the rights of the needy, he (s) should spend these properties in the usages mentioned in the verse.
Some reported that a group of people believe that this verse was abrogated by the al-khums verse. Based on their opinion, this verse mentions the ruling of the spoils before the al-khums verse. Thus, the ruling for all kinds of spoils was the one mentioned in this verse. But after the revelation of al-khums verse, the rule of spoils was changed and only one fifth of spoils was considered for God and His Messenger (s) and the rest of the properties belonged to Muslims who were participated in the war.
In this verse, generally six usages are considered for fay':
1. Share of God: Some said that it is a formal kind of share or proportion so that other subgroups under it do not feel low and see their shares alongside the share of God, because God is not needy and in fact, He is the owner of everything.
2. Share of the Prophet (s): which includes the personal needs and the needs related with the leadership of the Islamic government.
3. Share of the relatives: many exegetes believe that "the relatives" refers to the relatives of the Prophet (s) who were deprived of receiving zakat. Some reported that a number of exegetes considered all people as "the relatives". Some others believe that needfulness and poverty is a condition for this share.
4. Share of the orphans, the needy and the traveler: There is a disagreement on whether these three groups are included in the relatives of the Prophet (s) or they refer to ordinary people. Many Sunni jurists and exegetes believe that these shares are not specific to a group; while, many Shi'a exegetes refer to different hadiths from the Ahl al-Bayt (a) and consider these shares belonging to the relatives of the Prophet (s) and the Ahl al-Bayt (a).
However, in Tafsir-i Nimuna, Ayatullah Makarim Shirazi mentioned other reports in which it is mentioned that the three shares are for all people and do not belong to the relatives of the Prophet (s). He also referred to the conduct of the Prophet (s) in the battle of Banu Nadir where the Prophet (s) divided all the properties among the Immigrants and three of the needy Helpers and concluded that based on the appearance of the verse, these shares belong to all people and do not belong only to the relatives of the Prophet (s).
Some exegetes said that after mentioning the usages of "fay'", God mentions the philosophy of such a division and says that the reason for the ownership of all these properties by the Prophet (s) and mentioning their usages is so that these properties do not circulate among the rich, and the needy do not become deprived of them. Also, it is mentioned that in the last part of the verse, God has mentioned the general principles for all Muslims according to which all Muslims have to obey the orders and prohibitions of the Prophet (s) in all issues and anyone who does not do so, will be inflicted with eternal destruction and severe retribution.
War or Peace
Some exegetes have mentioned an ambiguity in the meaning of this verse. They have said that if fay' is meant to be something which is acquired by Muslims without war, then it should not include those the battle of Banu Nadir, because they were besieged by Muslims for several days. In other words, Muslims made a campaign for defeating them; therefore, it can be said that actually war took place. Even some reported that in addition to their siege, a fight occurred between them as well, when some people from both sides were killed.
Two answers are given for this question: first, it seems that this verse apparently was not revealed about the battle of Banu Nadir, but it was revealed about Fadak; because in the occasion of Fadak, Jews who lived in Fadak left it without any war and thus Fadak and its properties were owned by the Prophet (s). Some others answered this question by saying that this verse was revealed about the battle of Banu Nadir, but in fact it was not a war or encounter of Muslims and disbelievers in a real war, because they did not go a considerable distance since Banu Nadir lived near Medina and also about fighting, no true historical report is received; thus, God ruled the spoils acquired in this battle as the ones acquired without war.
- The material for this article is mainly taken from آیه فئ in Farsi WikiShia.