In the name of Allah, the Merciful, the Beneficient
You shall most certainly be tried in your possessions and in your persons and you shall hear much hurting abuse from those who were given the scriptures before you and from the polytheists. But if you persevere and continue to fear Allah-that is indeed a matter requiring strong resolve. (The House of Imran, “ Aal Imran” 3:186)
(Commentary by Sayyid Qutb, Translated by A.A.Shamis and Adil Salahi)
In this verse, Allah tells the believers in no uncertain terms that they will have to undergo tests and trials which will affect their possessions and will affect them personally. They have to persevere and remain steadfast in order to prove themselves worthy of Allah’s trust and His great reward. It is the natural way of things when it comes to establishment of any faith in real life that its advocates should stand a hard test. There is no escaping the fact that they will have to demonstrate their patience in adversity, their determined resistance and strong resolve despite whatever they may have to withstand in respect of their possessions and their persons. This is the only way to heaven which cannot be attained without going through hardship. Hell, on the other hand is surrounded by easy pleasures and temptations. Moreover, there is no other way to mould the community which will become the standard-bearer of the call of Islam and discharge its duties. This community must receive thorough education and cultivation in order to heighten its good potentials and strength. The only way is the practical discharge of the duties imposed by their faith and gaining a true and practical knowledge of life and people as they are. The trials are needed so that only the strongest in faith continue to advocate the Islamic call. It is such people that are worthy of its advocacy since they are fully equipped to be entrusted with it. Moreover, it is through trial and perseverance that faith becomes dearer to the faithful. The more they have to endure of hardship and the more sacrifice they have to give for their faith, the more valuable it becomes to them. They would not turn their backs on it afterwards in any circumstances. Trials strengthen those who are tried. It is resistance which sharpens potentials and consolidates them. A new faith requires that these potentials be heightened so that it can establish its roots deep in the most fertile soil of human nature. It is also through trials that the advocates of a faith come to know themselves as they are. They will look at themselves as they struggle and fight for their faith. They become more aware of human nature in reality and its latent potentials and they will know the true nature of societies and communities. They will observe the struggle between their own principles and desires and temptations inside every human being, including themselves. They will become aware of how Satan works on man leading him astray and causing him to slip.
Moreover it is through the trials endured by the advocates of a certain faith that its opponents come to realise that there is much good in it which makes its followers stick to it despite all the hardships they have to endure for its sake. It is then that those opponents may turn over and accept that faith en masse. This is in the nature of faiths and ideologies. To withstand such hard trials maintaining at the same time the fear of Allah, so that repelling aggression by others does not turn into counter-aggression and so that despair is not allowed to be-cloud one’s vision as one gets through the hardships-to withstand all this requires very strong resolve indeed: That is indeed a matter requiring strong resolve.
The Muslim community in Madinah was thus made aware of what awaits it of sacrifices, agonies, abuse and trials in the possessions and persons. These were to be inflicted on the community by its enemies among the followers of earlier religions and the polytheists. Despite all that, Muslims were determined to go along its way, without reluctance or hesitation, entertaining no thought whatsoever of going back. Members of the community in Madinah were certain that every soul shall taste death and that rewards are paid on the day of resurrection. They knew that true triumph is that of being drawn away from the fire and being brought into paradise. To them, the life of this world was nothing, but an illusory enjoyment. It is on such hard rocks that the Muslim community in Madinah stood and along that straight and correct way, it made its strides. The same hard rocks and the same straight way are available to the advocates of Islam in every generation. The enemies of this faith remain the same. Generations follow generations and they go on plotting to undermine it. The Quran remains the same, well preserved by Allah.
The methods of trial may differ from time to time. Hostile propaganda against the Muslim community may change colour as may happen with the methods adopted to distort its image and to attack its honour, aims and means in order to undermine it altogether. The principle remains the same: You shall most certainly be tried in your possessions and in your persons and you shall hear much hurting abuse from those who were given the scriptures before you and from the polytheists.
The surah gives many examples of the schemes adopted by people of earlier religions and the polytheists as well as other examples of their propaganda which aimed at the creation of doubts and confusion concerning, at times, the very fundamentals of Islam and on other occasions, its followers and their leadership.
These examples are always renewed and new methods and forms are added to them as new means of communication are invented. They are all directed against Islam and its principles of faith as well as against the Muslim community and its leadership. Hence, the same principle which Allah explains to the first Muslim community as He points out its way and the nature of its enemy remains always applicable.
This Quranic directive remains valid for the Muslim community every time it takes upon itself to implement Allah’s method in practical life. Every method of plotting to undermine the Muslim community is employed in addition to every modern method of propaganda in order to distort its aims and destroy it altogether. This Quranic directive, however continues to explain to the Muslim community in the plainest of terms the nature of this faith and its way and the nature of its enemies who always remain on the alert. It reassures the Muslims that Allah’s promise will come true. When wolves chase it with every method to inflict harm and when mischievous propaganda is hurled on it and when it is subjected to trials and tests, it knows that it is following the right way. All that it has to endure of trials, abuse, false accusations and hardships become very pleasant, since it is no more than a confirmation that the community is going along the way Allah has chartered for it. It is fully certain that perseverance and maintaining the fear of Allah are all the equipment it needs. All the schemes of its enemies become of little effect. Trials and abuse are of no consequence. It follows its well-defined way to its clearly defined aim, patient in adversity, fearing Allah and equipped with strong resolve.