Islamic Voice
Zul Hijja / Muharram 1422 H
March 2002
Volume 15-03 No:183

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Quran Speaks to you


The Importance of Action and the Reward it Brings



The Importance of Action and
the Reward it Brings

In the name of Allah, the Merciful, the Beneficent
Do you reckon that you can enter paradise unless Allah has identified those among you who strive hard (in His cause), and who are patient in adversity. Surely, you used to wish for death before you came face to face with it. Now you have seen it with your own eyes.

(The House of Imran, "Al Imran" 3: 142-143)
Commentary by Sayyid Qutb.
Translation: M A Salahi & S A Shamsi


Patience in Adversity

We are discussing certain principles which Allah points out in the present passage of this surah on the events of the battle of Uhud. That battle took place in the third year after Prophet Muhammad’s (Pbuh) settlement in Madinah and the Quraish, the major Arab tribe suffered a crushing defeat a year earlier in Badr. This battle started in the same pattern of the earlier one, with the Muslims soon establishing their authority and taking control of events. However, a serious mistake by a small group of them, which led to disobedience of an express order by the Prophet, changed all that. The outcome was a defeat suffered by the Muslims.

The verses we are looking at today start with a rhetoric question, the purpose of which is to correct the concept formed by Muslims on the patterns established by Allah for the advocacy of His faith: How victory is achieved and defeat suffered: the importance of action and what reward it brings. The Quran makes it clear that the road to heaven is accompanied by many difficulties and undesirable things. The best equipment for a believer is patience in adversity. That is totally different from hollow wishes and claims which any test may prove to be futile. “Do you reckon that you can enter paradise unless Allah has identified those among you who strive hard in His cause and who are patient in adversity?”

The rhetoric mode is employed in this question so as to make it clear that the whole concept is wrong. It is certainly a mistake for any man to think that it is sufficient for him to only say that he has accepted Islam and he is ready to die for it in order to fulfill the duties, which become required of him as one of the believers. It is important to remember here that the fulfillment of such duties earns a person the great prize of all, namely, admission to heaven. What is needed for the fulfillment of such duties is going through a practical test of jihad and facing up to difficulties and to be patient in such adversities.

Allah prepares the Muslim community for the great and highly difficult role of leadership, He has assigned to it. It is His will that man, whom He has placed in charge of building life on earth, assumes this role.


Wishful Thinking

A highly significant point in the Quranic text is evident in the way it is phrased: “Do you reckon that you can enter paradise unless Allah has identified those among you who strive hard (in His cause), and who are patient in adversity.” It is not sufficient that believers should strive hard in Allah’s cause. They have to demonstrate their patience as they fulfill the continuous and varied tasks imposed on them by their faith. There is in addition a never-ending, uphill task of maintaining the standards of behaviour commensurate with faith, developing a set of values which are not only based on the principles of faith, but also reflect in one’s feelings and attitudes, and a degree of perseverance which helps overcome human weakness, whether within oneself or in others with whom one has to deal in the course of his daily life. Patience and perseverance have to be demonstrated in a variety of situations, when to give up appears to be far more appealing, such as: when falsehood appears to be victorious and stronger than the truth; when the way ahead appears to be too long, too hard and full of difficulties; when a moment of relaxation appears to be all that one can care for after a long period of hard struggle. Fighting in the battlefield is just one aspect of striving for Allah’s cause. Heaven is not won by wishful thinking or paying lip service to the requirements of faith.

Education and Preparation

“Surely, you used to wish for death before you came face to face with it. Now you have seen it with your own eyes.”

Once more, they are put face to face with death which they already faced in the battlefield. Since they used to wish for it, they should weigh their words against the facts which they saw with their own eyes. They are thus taught how words must reflect practical reality. In this way, they learn the value of words, wishes and pledges. What attains them heaven is the credence they give to their words and the fulfillment of their pledges. In practice, that necessitates hard striving and patience in adversity. When they demonstrate all that in practical life, all their hopes are fulfilled.

There is no doubt that Allah was able from the very first moment to grant His Prophet victory and to establish His message in practical life, without any effort made by the believers. He was indeed able to send down His angels to fight alongside the believers, and to destroy the polytheists as He had destroyed the people of Aad, Thamud and those to whom Prophet Lot was sent. But the question is not one of victory. The crux of the matter is the education and preparation of the Muslim community to assume the role of leadership of mankind, after having overcome all the weaknesses and desires of human beings, and having corrected any deviation resulting from these weaknesses. To exercise mature and responsible leadership requires a high standard of preparation by the leaders. Among the most important qualities required for this role are morality, unshaken support for truth, patience in adversity, awareness of human nature, ability to identify causes of temptation and deviation and how can they be successfully countered. It also requires the ability to pass the test of prosperity as well as that of hardship and the even far more difficult test of hardship after prosperity.

It is through this sort of education that Allah prepares the Muslim community for the great and highly difficult role of leadership, He has assigned to it. It is His will that man, whom He has placed in charge of building life on earth, assumes this role. The process of educating and preparing the Muslim community may take a whole variety of ways and means as well as incidents and events. Sometimes, the Muslim community is elated by a decisive victory and is required to control its feelings. No trace of arrogance may be apparent in its attitude. On the contrary, it must always show its perseverance. It, then, must turn to Allah acknowledging its weakness if it deviates from the method and way of life Allah has assigned to it. It remains keenly aware of its intrinsic strength and how to tap it. When the Muslim community suffers bitter defeat, it continues to feel itself superior to the forces of falsehood, because it takes its stand in support of absolute truth. It tries hard to identify its weaknesses in order to rectify its position in preparation for the next round. Whether it is victory or defeat, the Muslim community tries to enhance its strength realising that the rules of nature set by Allah will continue to operate and will never fail.

This was part of what the first Muslim community learnt from the battle of Uhud. The Quran puts it in the clearest of terms before the Muslim community, as we see in these verses. The lesson continues to apply to every Muslim community in every generation.

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