Volume 15-06 No:174
Commentary by Sayyid Qutb
Translation: A. A. Salahi and S. A. Shamsi
We continue this month with our commentary on the seven verses of this Surah which come in the middle of the Qur’anic comment on the battle of Uhud, the second major battle between the Muslim community and Quraish which ended in a military defeat to the Muslims after they were in full control in the early stages. Their defeat came as a result of disobedience by some of them, to the express and clear orders of the Prophet not to leave their positions for any reason. These seven verses begin with an emphatic order to the Muslims not to base their financial system on usury and not to have anything to do with it.
The prohibition of usury is stated more comprehensively and in greater detail in the preceding Surah, “The Cow,” or Al–Baqarah. In our discussion of the earlier verses, we noted that when the Surah states the prohibition of interest, it also speaks highly of voluntary charity since the two represent opposite approaches to social relations within the economic system. They are the most prominent characteristics of two diametrically opposed systems: The one based on interest and the other on cooperative system. Here again we find that the prohibition of interest is followed by emphasizing the virtue of voluntary spending at times of prosperity and adversity alike.
Paradise for the God-fearing
These verses make a definitive prohibition of accepting any increase on the principal amount of money given as a loan or a deposit, and warn the believers against the fire which is prepared for the disbelievers and call on them to always fear Allah in the hope of being granted His mercy and achieving prosperity. This is immediately followed with an order to hasten to the achievement of Allah’s forgiveness and admission into paradise, which is described as being as vast as the heavens and the earth. We are told that this paradise has been “prepared for the God-fearing.” The first quality given here of this class of people is that they “spend in prosperity and adversity.” They are, then, a class of people which is totally different from those who gorge themselves on usury and multiply their money time after time. Their other qualities are also defined: Hasten, all of you, to the achievement of your Lord’s forgiveness, and a paradise as vast as the heavens and the earth, prepared for the God-fearing, who spend in prosperity and in adversity, and restrain their anger and forgive their fellowmen. Allah loves the benevolent. And who, when they commit a gross indecency or wrong themselves, remember Allah and pray for the forgiveness of their sins – for who but Allah can forgive sins?
The Prize to Win
The style adopted here describes the fulfillment of these duties in a physical movement representing a race towards a certain goal and for a set prize. The prize is forgiveness by Allah and admission to heaven. It is there to be won, and the believers are invited to make their race and vie with one another in order to win it. The prize is set for those who fear Allah. These have certain qualities, which are outlined in the next two verses: They “spend in prosperity and in adversity.” They are then consistent in their attitude. They follow the way, which pleases Allah unchanged either by prosperity or adversity. When money comes to them in plenty, they are not preoccupied with luxurious living. When they suffer hardship and adversity, sorrow and discontent do not become their major preoccupations. They are conscious of their duty at all times and in all situations. They are free from miserliness and greed. They watch Allah and fear Him. Man loves money by nature and he is always reluctant to part with his money. Nothing makes him spend his money voluntarily in all situations except a motive far stronger than that of possession and self-interest. That motive is the fear of Allah. It is a pleasant, profound feeling, which works on man’s soul, so that it becomes free, unfettered by greed and personal desire.
The emphasis laid on this characteristic may be particularly relevant to a certain occasion in connection with the battle of Uhud. Reference to spending in the Surah is made several times in the same way as condemnation of those who refuse to come forward with their money for the cause of Allah, is frequently repeated. This suggests that certain circumstances relevant to the battle and the attitude adopted by certain people when they were called upon to spend voluntarily for Allah’s cause, have made such repeated references necessary.
Allah loves the Benevolent
They “restrain their anger and forgive their fellowmen.”
Fearing Allah also works in this field, providing similar motives and leaving similar effects. Anger is a human reaction, which is normally combined or followed by heated blood and flight of temper. It is both natural and essential to man. It can, however, be overcome only through that higher perception made possible by the positive effects of fearing Allah and the spiritual strength which man achieves through looking up to horizons which are far more superior and sublime than man’s own needs and interests.
Restraining anger is only the first stage, which is not sufficient by itself. A person may restrain his anger, but harbours a grudge. His outward fury becomes a deeply seated, inward rancour. It is needless to say that anger and fury are cleaner and more preferable feelings than grudge and rancour. The Qur’anic verse emphasizes that the God-fearing do not allow their anger to become a grudge. They forgive others and do not harbour any ill feelings. When anger is deliberately restrained, it becomes a burden, a fire that burns internally sending its smoke over man’s conscience in order to blur its vision. Forgiveness, however, ensures release from that burden, gives peace of heart and conscience as well as an easy movement in a more sublime world.
Allah loves the benevolent. Those who spend their money at times of prosperity and adversity are benevolent. Similarly, those who do not hesitate to forgive others after having been angered by them are also benevolent. The Qur’anic verse tells us that Allah loves all benevolent people. The usage of term “love” here is significant. Its pleasant, friendly, bright and compassionate shades are in perfect harmony with the pleasant and honourable atmosphere of forthcoming help and forgiveness.
Because Allah loves the benevolent and the good turns they do, those who love Allah also love to be benevolent. They have the best of all motives. The final comment is then not only an inspiring description; it is a statement of fact.
The community, which enjoys Allah’s love and, in turn, loves Allah and in which forgiveness replaces anger and grudges, is a strong, brotherly and closely knit community. We see here how this directive is clearly relevant to the military battle and to the battle of life.