The Holy verse says:
"But the messenger and those who believe with him strive with their wealth and their lives. Such are they for whom are the good things. Such are they who are the successful." (9:88)
Actually I was amazed to see some people claiming that the above verse...Apparently the verse was taken out of context because as far as I know NO ONE who has ANY basic knowledge of English does not know that English sentences NEVER starts with a "But", so there is an apparent cutting of the verse from its context.
First let us put the verse in the right context
"Those who were left behind rejoiced at sitting still behind the messenger of Allah, and were averse to striving with their wealth and their lives in Allah's way. And they said: Go not forth in the heat! Say: The fire of hell is more intense of heat, if they but understood. (81)
Then let them laugh a little: they will weep much, as the reward of what they used to earn. (82)
If Allah bring thee back (from the campaign) unto a party of them and they ask of thee leave to go out (to fight), then say unto them: Ye shall never more go out with me nor fight with me against a foe. Ye were content with sitting still the first time. So sit still, with the useless. (83)
And never (O Muhammad) pray for one of them who dieth, nor stand by his grave. Lo! they disbelieved in Allah and His messenger, and they died while they were evil-doers. (84)
Let not their wealth nor their children astonish thee! Allah purposeth only to punish them thereby in the world, and that their souls shall pass away while they are disbelievers. (85)
And when a surah is revealed (which saith): Believe in Allah and strive along with His messenger, the men of wealth among them still ask leave of thee and say: Suffer us to be with those who sit (at home). (86)
They are content that they should be with those who remain behind and their hearts are sealed, so that they apprehend not. (87)
But the messenger and those who believe with him strive with their wealth and their lives. Such are they for whom are the good things. Such are they who are the successful. (88)
Allah hath made ready for them Gardens underneath which rivers flow, wherein they will abide. That is the supreme triumph. (89)
And those among the wandering Arabs who had an excuse came in order that permission might be granted them. And those who lied to Allah and His messenger sat at home. A painful doom will fall on those of them who disbelieve. (90)
Not unto the weak nor unto the sick nor unto those who can find naught to spend is any fault (to be imputed though they stay at home) if they are true to Allah and His messenger. Not unto the good is there any road (of blame). Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. (91)
Nor unto those whom, when they came to thee (asking) that thou shouldst mount them, thou didst tell: I cannot find whereon to mount you. They turned back with eyes flowing with tears, for sorrow that they could not find the means to spend. (92)" (9:81-92)
So what is the story?
Again the above verses are narrating the story of the battle of "Tabuk" which is called "the hardship battle" and explaining the reactions of Muslims to the call for the battle. The above verses narrates the reaction of the hypocrites who claimed to be Muslims while in fact they were hypocrites and refused to fight with our Noble prophet, peace and blessings be upon him. Their cowardice becomes even more apparent when you know that they tried to find excuses to justify not going to battle.
However, when Muslims won the battle and return with the booties they felt so sorry for what they missed so they ran to prophet Mohammad, peace and blessings be upon him, and begged him to participate in coming battles, but then God's verdict was that they should NEVER participate in ANY war.
An insight in the Linguistics of the verses
1- The hypocrites who refused to participate in the battle of "Tabuk" were deprived of the honour of participating in ANY war with the Muslim army because of their potential threat to the army as their loyalty is NOT guaranteed and they can spread rumors just to lower the soldiers' morals. This is clear in the verse: "Had they gone forth among you they had added to you naught save trouble and had hurried to and fro among you, seeking to cause sedition among you; and among you there are some who would have listened to them. Allah is Aware of evil-doers." (9:47)
It is also apparent in other verses like the word "rejoiced" in verse (9:81) which proves they were so happy for being left behind which proves their disloyalty. Also in the same verse "Go not forth in the heat" which proves their malicious intentions to lower the army's morale and encourage them not to go to war.
2- The sentence "Then let them laugh a little" in the verse (9:82). Their sarcasm is one of the biggest proofs that their intentions were purely evil. This wicked sarcasm was evident in other verses like the verse (83:39-30) which says: "Lo! the guilty used to laugh at those who believed, (29) And wink one to another when they passed them;". So sarcasm was a weapon the hypocrites and the unbelievers used to frustrate Muslims and lower their self esteem, but of course their wicked efforts all went in vain.
3- Please look at how they were punished for their deed, the verdict was "If Allah bring thee back (from the campaign) unto a party of them and they ask of thee leave to go out (to fight), then say unto them: Ye shall never more go out with me nor fight with me against a foe." (9:83). Because what they did was NOT based on actual repentance, but rather the sorrow for not enjoying the booties. Forgiveness was only granted to three people who courageously admitted their guilt and really repented.
This was mentioned in the verse (9:118) that says: "And to the three also (did He turn in amercy) who were left behind, when the earth, vast as it is, become straitened for them, and their own souls were straitened for them till they bethought them that there is no refuge from Allah save toward Him. Then turned He unto them in mercy that they (too) might turn (repentant unto Him). Lo! Allah! He is the Relenting, the Merciful."
4- Enjoy the accuracy of the Holy Quran when God says: "If Allah bring thee back (from the campaign) unto a party of them" (9:83) notice the word (a party) because not everyone who was left behind in Medinah was a hypocrite, some others had real excuses or were exempted from going to battle.
These excused people were mentioned in a later verse (9:91-92) that says: "Not unto the weak nor unto the sick nor unto those who can find naught to spend is any fault (to be imputed though they stay at home) if they are true to Allah and His messenger. Not unto the good is there any road (of blame). Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. Nor unto those whom, when they came to thee (asking) that thou shouldst mount them, thou didst tell: I cannot find whereon to mount you. They turned back with eyes flowing with tears, for sorrow that they could not find the means to spend."
5- The hypocrite's second punishment was that they were deprived of the honour of having prophet Mohammed, peace and blessings be upon him, perform their funeral prayer when they die.
Here I will narrate the story of the leader of the hypocrites the infamous Abdullah Ibn ubai ibn salul. He was one of the most powerful men in Medinah and was about to be nominated king, but the Prophet's arrival to Medinah changed everything for him and ruined his plan to become king for this reason he outwardly converted to Islam, but inside him was a bitter grudge against our Noble prophet, peace and blessings be upon him. He thus betrayed our Noble prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, in various occasions that's why he was called "Chief of the Hypocrites". He then became sick for tewnty days.
Narrated Ibn 'Umar, may Allah be pleased with them : When 'Abdullah bin Ubay (the chief of hypocrites) died, his son came to the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, and said, O Allah's Messenger, please give me your shirt to shroud him in it, offer his funeral prayer and ask for Allah's Forgiveness for him.
So Allah's Messenger , peace and blessings be upon him, gave his shirt to him and said, Inform me (when the funeral is ready) so that I may offer the funeral prayer.
He informed him and when the Prophet , peace and blessings be upon him, intended to offer the funeral prayer, 'Umar ibn Elkhattab, may Allah be pleased with him, took hold of his hand and said, Has Allah not forbidden you to offer the funeral prayer for the hypocrites?
The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, I have been given the choice, for Allah Almighty says: "Whether you (O Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him) ask forgiveness for them (hypocrites), or ask not forgiveness for them ...., (and even) if you ask seventy times for their forgiveness .... Allah will not forgive them." (9:80) So the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, offered the funeral prayer and on that the revelation came: "And never (O Muhammad , peace and blessings be upon him,) pray (funeral prayer) for any of them (i.e. hypocrites) who dies." (9:84). (Sahih Bukhari-2:359)
6-Please Notice word (the men of wealth) in the verse (9:86) that says: "And when a surah is revealed (which saith): Believe in Allah and strive along with His messenger, the men of wealth among them still ask leave of thee and say: Suffer us to be with those who sit (at home)." In Arabic it was (Ulu Altawl) which means (capable people) meaning they had the capability whether physical or financial to fight with the Islamic army yet they abandoned the army deliberately and by their own free will.
7- Verse (9:88) was intended to comfort Muslims and tells them not to worry when these hypocrites abandon the army because the real Muslims are the ones who will attain victory in both this life and the afterlife.
From the above we conclude that the verse (9:88) was part of narrating the story of the hypocrites, always remember to read the verses full context and be sure to know the occasion they were revealed on and the reason behind its revelation and whether they represent a general verdict or a verdict for a certain incident and for certain people.