Islamic Voice A Monthly English Magazine
Rajab / Shaban 1423 H
October 2002
Volume 15-10 No:190

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Quran Speaks to You


Why Believers are put to Trials


Why Believers are put to Trials

In the name of Allah, the Merciful, the Beneficent

Then, after sorrow, He let peace fall upon you in the shape of a slumber which overtook some of you,
while others who cared mainly for themselves entertained false thoughts about Allah-thoughts of pagan ignorance. They ask:" Have we any say in the matter?" Say: " All power of decision rests with Allah."
They conceal in their minds what they do not disclose to you.

They say: " Had we any say in the matter, we should not have been slaughtered here,"
Say: Had you stayed in your homes, those of you who were destined to be killed would have gone
to their death-beds, for it was Allah's will to put to a test all that you entertain in your minds and to render pure what you may have in your hearts, Allah is fully aware of what is in people's bosom.

(The House of Imran, "Al Imran"; 3: 154)
Commentary by Sayyid Qutb
Translation: M A Salahi & A A Shamsi

Our commentary last month concentrated on the verses which describe the scenes of the battle of Uhud and how the Muslim army suffered a heavy defeat after a victory was within their grasp. The Surah paints the scene of confusion which caused the majority of Muslim soldiers to run away in the mountain, thinking only of their own safety. We carry on with our commentary and speak about an amazing phenomenon. All the chaos and confusion and panic which the defeat spread among the Muslim soldiers was followed by a remarkable sense of peace and security felt by the believers who came back and rallied to the Prophet (Pbuh).

They were overtaken by gentle slumber which gave them personal reassurance. This exceptional phenomenon is described in fine and gentle words which give us a sense of that placid and serene atmosphere. “Then, after sorrow, He let peace fall upon you in the shape of a slumber which overtook some of you.”

There is no doubt that this was a remarkable phenomenon which was a manifestation of Allah’s grace when it is bestowed upon His servants. When slumber overtakes people who are tired, exhausted and panicking, even for a brief moment, it brings about remarkable results. It gives them reassurance and comfort in a way which we cannot fathom and it makes of them different people altogether. I say this because I have experienced it in a situation of extreme distress. I felt Allah’s grace in a way which no language can describe.

Abu Talhah reports: “ I lifted my head on the day of Uhud to look around me. Everyone of them was hanging down his head because of drowsiness.” In another version, reported also by Abu Talhah: “ We were overtaken by slumber in our position on the day of Uhud. My sword fell, falling from my hand and I would pick it up before it fell again and I picked it up a second time.”

The other group is that of people with shaky faith, whose main pre-occupation was their own interest. These had not purged their minds of ignorant concepts and they had not submitted themselves totally to Allah. They did not experience the certitude that what had befallen them was a test which did not represent an abandonment by Allah of His servants, leaving them alone to face the might of His eminence. Nor was it a verdict that he had passed to allow unfaith and evil to have final victory. While others who cared mainly for themselves, entertained false thoughts about Allah-thoughts of pagan ignorance. They ask: “ Have we any say in the matter.”

This faith teaches its followers, among other things, that they have no say whatsoever over themselves. They belong to Allah. When they go out on a campaign or jihad for his cause, they dedicate themselves to Allah and fight for Him having no personal ambition whatsoever. What He has predestined for them is bound to happen and they accept it with satisfaction and total submission. Those who care only for themselves to the extent that they are totally pre-occupied with their own interests, do not deep at heart feel the true nature of faith. The other groups which the Quran mentions at this particular point were of this type. They were worried, feeling totally lost in a matter which is not quite clear to them. They think that they have been pushed into the battle without having any say in it. Nevertheless, they were put to a severe trial and had to pay a very heavy price. They did not know Allah truly, and they entertained about Him thoughts that they had carried with them from the days of pagan ignorance. These false thoughts included the notion that they were into the battle to be killed, when Allah did not intervene to save them from their enemies. That is why they ask:” Have we no say in the matter.” This statement of theirs implies an objection to the plan of the battle. Perhaps they were of the view that the Muslims should not go out of Madinah to fight this battle, but they were better advised to stay, but they nevertheless did not desert with Abdullah ibn Ubaid, when he and his followers deserted. But they did not have the reassurance of true believers. Before the long verse continues with its accounts of their worries and thoughts, it states the proper view with regard to what they had questioned. It answers their reported question: “ Say: All power of decision rests with Allah.” Neither they nor anyone else has any say in the matter. “ When it comes to this religion and to fighting for its establishment and the implementation of its way of life on earth or to guiding people’s hearts to accept it, these are matters which belong totally to Allah. Human beings have nothing to do with them, except to fulfill their duties and leave their own destiny in Allah’s hands.

The Quran also reveals what they try to conceal in their hearts: “ They conceal in their minds what they do not disclose to you.” They entertain all sorts of thoughts which imply objections and protests. Indeed their question,” Have we any say in the matter,” implies a protest that they have been pushed to suffer a catastrophe which was not of their own making and that they were victims of unsound leadership. Had they been conducting the battle, they would not have suffered that fate. “ They say: had we had any say in the matter, we should not have been slaughtered here.” This is the type of thought which those who have not dedicated themselves to their faith feel when they face defeat in the battle and find out that the price that they had to pay is much greater than they had imagined and that the achievement is more painful than they had expected. When they look deep in their hearts, they do not have a clear vision and they imagine that the action taken by the leadership was responsible for the defeat which could have been spared had they had any power of decision. With such a confused view, they cannot see that it is Allah who determines events and they cannot understand Allah’s purpose in exposing them to a test. To them, the whole matter is nothing, but utter loss. At this point, the Quran states the correct concept of life and death and the purpose behind testing believers.” Say: had you stayed in your homes, those of you who were destined to be killed would have gone to their death-beds, for it was Allah’s will to put to a test all that you entertain in your minds and to render pure what you may have in your hearts. Allah is fully aware of what is in people’s bosoms.” Had you stayed at home without responding to the cry of battle, had you taken your own decisions concerning the battle, those of you who were destined to be killed would have certainly met their death, because death takes place only at the appointed time. There is a bed to which every person must come and lie down. At the appointed moment, the person concerned walks to his or her death-bed without need for anyone to push him or determine its direction.

The remarkable Arabic expression used here speaks, literally of “beds.” The graves in which people rest, and at which all endeavours end, is only a bed to which they come with a subtle motive which they cannot fathom. That motive overtakes them and determines their fate. It is far better and more comfortable for them to submit totally to it, because it is Allah’s pre-destination. He has a purpose behind it. “ It was Allah’s will to put to a test all that you entertain in your minds and to render pure what is in your hearts.”

There is nothing like a trial to reveal what is in people’s minds and to purge what is false from people’s hearts. Allah wants the hearts of the believers to be purged, so that they entertain no false notions. Their concerns will be all clear without any trace of confusion. “ Allah is fully aware of what is in people’s bosoms.” That which is in a person’s bosom is a secret which is never allowed to see the light. However Allah knows everything that people may conceal in their hearts and He wants to reveal them to all people and to those who harbour them. They themselves may not know those secrets until they are shaken by events and laid open for them to see.

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