يَاأَيُّهَا النَّبِيُّ حَرِّضْ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ عَلَى الْقِتَالِ إِنْ يَكُنْ مِنْكُمْ عِشْرُونَ صَابِرُونَ يَغْلِبُوا مِائَتَيْنِ وَإِنْ يَكُنْ مِنْكُمْ مِائَةٌ يَغْلِبُوا أَلْفًا مِنْ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا بِأَنَّهُمْ قَوْمٌ لَا يَفْقَهُونَ الْآنَ خَفَّفَ اللَّهُ عَنكُمْ وَعَلِمَ أَنَّ فِيكُمْ ضَعْفًا فَإِنْ يَكُنْ مِنْكُمْ مِائَةٌ صَابِرَةٌ يَغْلِبُوا مِائَتَيْنِ وَإِنْ يَكُنْ مِنْكُمْ أَلْفٌ يَغْلِبُوا أَلْفَيْنِ بِإِذْنِ اللَّهِ وَاللَّهُ مَعَ الصَّابِرِينَ )8: 65-6)
O Prophet! Rouse the believers to war. If there are twenty amongst you, patient and persevering, they will subdue two hundred: if a hundred, they will subdue a thousand of the disbelievers: for these are a people without insight. Now, God has lightened your [task] for He knows that there is now weakness among you: But [ever so], if there are a hundred of you, patient and persevering, they will subdue two hundred, and if a thousand, they will subdue two thousand, with the permission of God and [truly] God is with those who patiently persevere [in His cause]. (8:65-6)
Just as these verses of Sūrah Anfāl indicate the extent of the obligation of jihād, they also highlight the principle on which Divine Help descends on believers in an armed struggle. They unequivocally state that Divine Help in this matter is governed by a specific law and is not subject to the whims and desires of people. The Almighty has fixed a principle according to which He helps people who set out for jihād and always abides by this principle. A reflection on these verses shows that Divine Help in a war is based on the following three statutes:
Firstly, the basic thing that entitles people to Divine Help is perseverance and resolution. No group of Muslims becomes entitled to it unless it has this quality in it. A battalion of Muslims devoid of this quality should not expect Divine Help when it faces the enemy. The words صَابِرُونَ (sābirūn) and صَابِرَة (sābirah) of the above quoted verses allude to this reality. Moreover, the words وَ اللهُ مَعَ الصَّابِرِيْن (God is with those who persevere) at the end of the verse also bear reference to this fact.
Secondly, an army must be equipped with proper military strength if it is to wage war. No doubt, whatever happens, happens because of God’s will and one must fully repose one’s trust in Him, but this is also a reality that the Almighty has created this world on certain laws. The scheme behind these laws dictates that whatever measures are adopted for doing good and virtuous deeds, they must have the backing of necessary resources. What are these means and resources? A ratio between Muslim and enemy forces has been put forth in these verses by the Almighty. If this has not been achieved, then efforts should be made by the Muslims to achieve it. If they wage jihād by ignoring this ratio by succumbing to emotions, they themselves would be responsible for such a rash step. Such a step would, of course, not be entitled to any Divine Help.
Thirdly, it is the force of faith that compensates for any lack of material force. The words عَلِمَ أَنَّ فِيكُمْ ضَعْفًا (He knows that there is now weakness among you) and بِأَنَّهُمْ قَوْمٌ لَا يَفْقَهُونَ (for these are a people without insight) bear reference to this inference. The word ضَعْف (da‘f) in Arabic is not only used for material and physical weakness but also for weakness in faith and belief. Similarly, the meaning of the words لَا يَفْقَهُونَ used in contrast to the strength of faith implies a weakness in faith and belief. The verse, consequently, says that since the disbelievers are devoid of true faith and belief while, on the other hand, the believers possess them, the believers would be the victors even if outnumbered by 1:10.
It is evident from the context of the sūrah that the ratio stated is of the period of the battle of Badr. After this battle, many people entered the folds of Islam – people who were not as strong in faith and resolve as those who had been the سَابِقُوْنَ الاوَّلُوْن (the pioneer converts). Though Muslims greatly increased in numbers as a result of these conversions, yet the level and extent of faith decreased overall since the converts were nevertheless not as strong in their faith as the سَابِقُوْنَ الاوَّلُوْن (the pioneer converts). Consequently, the Almighty Himself informed the Muslims that now this ratio had decreased to 1:2 from the original 1:10.
Finally, it needs to be appreciated that the ratios stated in these verses are about the Companions (rta) of the Prophet (sws) – who were a group of noble souls who waged jihād along side the Prophet (sws), and as a result of a direct command of the Almighty. In later times, it can be estimated whether this ratio has increased or decreased keeping in view the extent of faith Muslims have.