Islamic Voice A Monthly English Magazine

SHAWWAL 1424 H
December 2003
Volume 16-12 No : 204
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Qur'an Speaks To You


Allah's Will and Man's Doing

Allah's Will and Man's Doing

In the name of Allah, the Merciful, the Beneficent Why, when a calamity befell you after you have inflicted twice as much (on your enemy), did you exclaim: " How has this come about?" Say: It has come from your ownselves. Surely, Allah has the power over all things. That which befell you, on the day when the two hosts met in the battle, happened by Allah's leave, so that He might mark out the true believers. (The House of Imran, "Aal Imran": 3:165-6) (Commentary by Sayyid Qutb. Translated By A.A.Shamis)

We continue with our commentary after the October 2003 issue carried the commentary on this surah from verse 164 of Surah Imran. In this surah which deals with the events of the battle of Uhud, we mention that this was the second major battle between the new-born Muslim state in Madinah and the polytheists in Makkah. In the battle of Badr, the Muslims scored a spectacular victory. In order to avenge themselves against the Muslims, the polytheists raised a large army which marched towards Madinah with the declared goal of putting an end to Islam. When the two armies met in battle, near the hill of Uhud, a short distance outside Madinah, victory was at first easily within the grasp of the Muslims. However, the squad of archers, stationed on the hill to provide protection against any rear-guard attack by the polytheists, deserted their positions, violating the express orders of the Prophet (Pbuh) in order to have a share of the loot. That enabled the polytheists to launch an attack which resulted in the defeat for the Muslim army. The defeat shook many of the Muslims who could not understand how Allah would allow people who associate partners with Him to triumph over the believers who followed the Prophet and were firm in their belief in the oneness of Allah.


The surah speaks of the Muslims being surprised at the turn of events, which betrayed a na´ve concept of life. Soon experience told them to look at the realities of life and how the laws of nature work. They realised that no one who does not conform to nature and its laws can expect any favouritism. People must adapt themselves to the seriousness inherent in the nature of the universe, life and fate. The surah brings them back to reality as it explains to them that what has befallen them is the result of their own doing. But this is not all. Behind the cause and effect lies Allah's predestination and beyond the law of nature lies Allah's free will. The purpose of what happened is explained to them so they learn how Allah manipulates it in order to turn it to their benefit and to serve the cause which they advocate. It was an experience which made them better equipped to face what was bound to come and to put them through a serious test in order to sift their ranks and mark out the hypocrites who were able to betray them. The whole affair, then, was part of the accomplishment of Allah's will. They were thus able to view the event in its totality, equipped with this accurate Quranic explanation.

" Why, when a calamity befell you after you had inflicted twice as much on your enemy, did you exclaim: How has this come about?" Allah has committed Himself to grant victory to those who support His cause and fight to defend his faith. He, however has made the granting of victory conditional on certain things: that the whole concept of faith must be deeply entrenched in their hearts, that the practical implications of faith must manifest themselves in their organization and behaviour and that they must equip themselves with all the means to achieve victory and exert their maximum effort. This is the law of nature which Allah has set in operation and which gives favour to no one. When the believers fall short of meeting any of these conditions, they have to accept the consequences. The fact that they are Muslims and believers does not mean that the laws of nature should be suspended or abrogated for their sake. They are Muslims because they submit themselves to Allah and conduct their lives according to the laws of nature Allah ahs set in operation. This means in practice that they achieve harmony between their nature as human beings and natural laws. That they are Muslims is a fact which does not remain inconsequential. They submit themselves to Allah, raise his banner and determine to obey Him and conduct their lives according to His constitution. All that will eventually turn their slips and shortcomings to good effect after they bear any sacrifice or pain. Their mistakes become lessons and experiences which have their good effect. They Make their faith pure and their submission clearer. Their ranks are purged of those whose faith is suspect. They are better equipped to achieve the ultimate victory. Thus, Allah's mercy and care are not withheld from the Muslims. Indeed they provide them with what they need to continue along their hard way, despite all the hardships that they may have to face.

It IS with such clarity and seriousness that the questioning and the surprise of a Muslim community are answered. Both the immediate cause-i.e the actions of the Muslim community and the ultimate purpose, i.e Allah's design are explained. The hypocrites, on the other hand are shown the fact that death is inevitable and cannot be avoided by staying at home at the time of battle: " Why, when a calamity befell you after you had inflicted twice as much on your enemy, did you exclaim: " How has this come about?" At Uhud, the Muslims suffered a serious setback, losing 70 martyrs in addition to all the pain they experienced on that difficult day. They found the setback hard to swallow, considering that they were the believers who were fighting in defence of Allah's cause against polytheists who can only be described as Allah's enemies. Yet those very Muslims, had prior to this setback, inflicted twice as much losses on their enemy. In the battle of Badr, they inflicted similar damage on the polytheists when they killed 70 brave warriors of Quraish. They achieved a similar defeat at the early stages of the battle of Uhud, when they were following the express orders of the Prophet, before they weakened at the temptation of the loot and before they entertained thoughts which must never be entertained by believers.

Allah reminds them of all this as He answers their questioning surprise. He attributes what happened to them to its immediate cause: " It has come from your ownselves." It is you who have weakened and entered into dispute. It is you who have failed to fulfill the conditions set by Allah and His Messenger and it is you who have succumbed to greed. It is you who have disobeyed Allah's Messenger and failed to implement his plan of battle. What has happened to you, to your surprise, has come from your own souls, because the laws of nature set into operation by Allah have applied to you. When a human being exposes himself to the laws of nature, they must apply to him, whether he is a believer or a disbeliever. Such laws are not suspended for his sake. His faith is not complete unless he conducts his life according to Allah's laws.

" Surely, Allah has the power over all things." It is part of His overall power that His law should remain in operation and that matters must continue according to His will. The laws He has devised for the universe and for human life must continue as they have been set.

Nevertheless, Allah's will in this whole affair was accomplished for a definite purpose of His own. We must not forget that Allah's will lies beyond everything that takes place and every movement and action in the whole universe. " That which befell you, on the day when the two hosts met in battle, happened by Allah's leave." It has not taken place by mere coincidence or for idle play. Every movement and every action takes place according to a definite plan, with its causes and effects well reckoned. They indeed take place according to the laws of nature which must remain in operation, but in the total sum, they accomplish Allah's purpose and complete the total design of the universe as Allah has created it.

The Islamic view with regard to this whole issue is both comprehensive and well balanced and is not matched by any other view human beings have ever entertained.

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