Zul-Qada / Zul Hijja 1422
Volume 15-02 No:182
When the victory granted by Allah and the Conquest come, And you see people embracing the religion of Allah in large numbers, Then celebrate the praises of your Lord, and seek His forgiveness. He is ever disposed to mercy.
An Nasr (Victory)
Commentary by Sayyid Qutb
Translation: A. A. Salahi and S. A. Shamsi
Surah Nasr was the last complete surah of the Quran to be revealed on the occasion of the Farewell Pilgrimage three months before the Prophet's (Pbuh) death. The surah itself was a sign from Allah that his mission had been completed and he could look forward to returning to his Lord in full favour. Only two years before, the holy city of Makkah had been peacefully taken over and had been cleansed of idolatry and all evil practices.
This short surah brings the good news to Allah’s Messenger concerning the advent of victory, the Conquest and people’s collective acceptance of Allah’s religion. It instructs him to turn towards his Lord in devoted adoration and a humble request for His forgiveness. The surah also presents the nature and the righteousness of this Faith and its ideology-how high humanity ascends to an ideal and brilliant summit unattainable otherwise than by responding to the call of Islam.
Of the several traditions regarding the revelation of this surah, we quote that of Imam Ahmad which goes as follows: “Aisha said that the Messenger of Allah used to repeat very frequently towards the end of his life, ‘Exaltations and praises be to Allah, whose forgiveness I ask, I repent of my sins.’ He also said, ‘My Lord told me I would see a sign in my nation. He ordered me to praise Him and ask His pardon when I see this sign. Indeed I have, ‘When the victory granted by Allah and the Conquest come...’
Ibn Katheer said in his commentary on the Quran: “ The Conquest, it is unanimously agreed is a reference to the conquest of Makka. The Arab tribes were awaiting the settlement of the conflict between Quraish and the Muslims, before accepting Islam saying: “ If he, Muhammad prevails over his people, he would indeed be a prophet. Consequently when that was accomplished, they accepted Islam in large numbers. Not two years were to pass after the conquest of Makka when the whole Arabian Peninsula was dominated by Islam and all thanks to Allah, every Arab tribe had declared its belief in Islam.”
Al-Bukhari in his Sahih related “ Amr ibn Salamah said that when Makka was conquered, every tribe hastened to declare acceptance of Islam to Allah’s Messenger. They were waiting for it to take place saying, Leave them to themselves. He would indeed be a prophet if he prevailed over them.” This version is the one which agrees chronologically with the beginning of the surah in the sense that its revelation was a sign of something to follow, with some instructions to the Prophet on what he should do when this event took place.
There is nevertheless another fairly similar version in agreement with the one we have chosen, and it is that by Ibn Abbas which says: Umar used to let me join the company of elders who were present at Badr, some of whom felt uneasy and asked why I should be allowed with them when I was young. But Umar said to them, “ You know that he is of high standing’ One day Umar invited them all and invited me as well. I felt that he wanted to show them who I was, so he asked them, ‘ What do you make of Allah’s saying, ‘When the victory granted by Allah and the Conquest come?” Some of them replied, ‘ He ordered us to praise Him and seek His forgiveness when He helps us to triumph and bestows His favours on us.” The others remained silent. Then Umar asked me, ‘ Do you agree with this view, Ibn Abbas? I answered in the negative. Umar asked me again, ‘what then do you say’? I replied. ‘It was a sign from Allah to His Messenger indicating the approach of the end of his life, meaning when the victory from Allah and the Conquest come, your end is near, so extol the praises of your Lord and seek His forgiveness. Umar commented, I have known no more than what you said.’ So it is possible that the Messenger, having witnessed his Lord’s sign realised that he had fulfilled his mission on this earth and that it was time for him to leave, which was what Ibn Abbas actually meant.
Let us now consider the actual text of the surah and the injunction it gives for all time: "When the victory granted by Allah and the Conquest come, and you see people embracing the religion of Allah in large numbers. Then celebrate the praises of your Lord and seek His forgiveness. He is ever disposed to mercy.
The beginning of the first verse implicitly presents a concept of what goes on in this universe, the events that take place in this life, and the actual role of the Messenger of Allah and his followers in the progress of Islam and to what extent it depends on their efforts. ‘When the victory granted by Allah,’ denotes that it is Allah’s victory and Allah is the One who brings it about in His own good time, in the form He decides and for the purpose He determines. The Prophet and his companions have nothing to do with it at all and they obtain no personal gain from it. It suffices them that He does it through them, appoints them as its guards and entrusts it to them. This is all they acquire from the victory of Allah, the Conquest and the people’s acceptance en masse of His religion.
According to this concept, the duty of the Messenger and his companions whom Allah chose and gave the privilege of being instruments of His victory, was to turn to Him at the climax of victory in praise, expressing gratitude and seeking forgiveness. Gratitude and praise are for His being so generous as to have chosen them to be the standard bearers of His religion, for the mercy and favour He did to all humanity by making His religion victorious and for the Conquest of Makka and the people’s collective acceptance of Islam.
His forgiveness is sought for the various unrevealed, defective feelings such as vanity, which sometimes creeps into one’s heart at the overwhelming moment of victory attained after a long struggle. Human beings can hardly prevent this happening and therefore Allah’s forgiveness is to be sought for it. Forgiveness also has to be sought for what might have been insinuated into one’s heart during the long and cruel struggle and for petulance resulting from the belatedness of victory or the effects of convulsive despair as the Quran brings out elsewhere: “ Or think that you will enter Paradise while yet there has not come to you the like of that which came to those who passed away before you? Affliction and adversity befell them, they were shaken as with the earthquake, till the Messenger of Allah and those who believed along with him said: When will Allah’s help come? Now surely Allah’s help is near.’
It is also necessary to seek Allah’s forgiveness for one’s shortcomings in praising Allah and thanking Him for His favours which are perpetual and infinite. “ And if you were to count the favours of Allah, never will you be able to number them. However much one’s efforts in this respect, they are never adequate. Another touching thought is that seeking forgiveness at the moment of triumph arouses in one’s mind the feeling of impotence and imperfection at a time when an attitude of self-esteem and conceit seems natural. All these factors guarantee that no tyranny will afflict the conquered. The victorious is made to realise that it is Allah who has appointed him- a man who has no power of his own and is devoid of any strength- for a pre-determined purpose, consequently the triumph and the conquest as well as the religion are all His, to Whom all things ultimately return.
This is the lofty dignified ideal the Quran exhorts people to toil towards and attain, an ideal in which man’s exaltation is in neglecting his own pride and where his soul’s freedom is in his subservience to Allah. The goal set is the total release of human souls from their egoistic shackles, their only ambition being to attain Allah’s pleasure. Along with this release, there must be exerted a striving which helps man to flourish in the world, promote human civilisation and provide a rightly guided, unblemished, constructive, just leadership devoted to Allah.
In contrast, man’s efforts to liberate himself while in the grip of egoism shackled by his zest for worldy things, or overpowered by his cravings turn out to be absolutely in vain unless he sets himself free from self and lets his loyalty to Allah override everything else, particularly at the moment of triumph and the collecting of booty-such a standard of behaviour which Allah wants humanity to aspire towards and to attain, was the characteristic feature of Prophets at all times. This characteristic feature was also visible in Prophet Muhammad all through his life. In the moment of triumph, as the Conquest of Makka was accomplished, he entered it on the back of his camel with his head bowed down. He forgot the joy of victory and thankfully bowed his head seeking his Lord’s forgiveness, though he had just conquered Makka, the city whose people had openly and unashamedly persecuted and expelled him. This also was the practice of his companions after him. Thus upon belief in Allah, was that the great generation of humanity raised very high, reaching an unparalled standard of greatness, power and freedom.