Surah Ali-Imran Part 11 (Ayat 165-180)

{165. (What is the matter with you?) When a single disaster smites you, although you smote (your enemies) with one twice as great, you say: “From where does this come to us?” Say, “It is from yourselves.” And Allah has power over all things.

166. And what you suffered on the day the two armies met, was by the leave of Allah, in order that He might test the believers

167. And that He might test the hypocrites, it was said to them: “Come, fight in the way of Allah or defend yourselves.” They said: “Had we known that fighting will take place, we would certainly have followed you.” They were that day, nearer to disbelief than to faith, saying with their mouths what was not in their hearts. And Allah has full knowledge of what they conceal.

168. (They are) the ones who said about their killed brethren while they themselves sat (at home): “If only they had listened to us, they would not have been killed.” Say: “Avert death from your own selves, if you speak the truth.”}

The Reason and Wisdom Behind the Defeat at Uhud

Allah said, When a single disaster smites you”, in reference to when the Muslims suffered seventy fatalities during the battle of Uhud, ”although you smote (your enemies) with one twice as great” during Badr, when the Muslims killed seventy Mushriks and captured seventy others, ”you say: “From where does this come to us?” why did this defeat happen to us ”Say, “It is from yourselves.” Ibn Abi Hatim recorded that Umar bin Al-Khattab said, “When Uhud occurred, a year after Badr, Muslims were punished for taking ransom from the disbelievers at Badr [in return for releasing the Mushriks whom they captured in that battle]. Thus, they suffered the loss of seventy fatalities and the Companions of the Messenger of Allah gave flight and abandoned him. The Messenger, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, suffered a broken tooth, the helmet was smashed on his head and blood flowed onto his face. Allah then revealed, ”When a single disaster smites you, although you smote (your enemies) with one twice as great, you say: “From where does this come to us?” Say, “It is from yourselves”, because you took the ransom.” Furthermore, Muhammad bin Ishaq, Ibn Jurayj, Ar-Rabi bin Anas and As-Suddi said that the Ayah, ”Say, “It is from yourselves.” means, because you, the archers, disobeyed the Messenger’s command to not abandon your positions. ”And Allah has power over all things.” and He does what He wills and decides what He wills, and there is none who can resist His decision.

Allah then said, ”And what you suffered on the day the two armies met, was by the leave of Allah”, for when you ran away from your enemy, who killed many of you and injured many others, all this occurred by Allah’s will and decree out of His perfect wisdom, ”in order that He might test the believers” who were patient, firm and were not shaken,

”And that He might test the hypocrites, it was said to them: “Come, fight in the way of Allah or defend yourselves.” They said: “Had we known that fighting will take place, we would certainly have followed you.” (3:167),

This refers to the Companions of Abdullah bin Ubayy bin Salul who went back (to Al-Madinah) with him before the battle. Some believers followed them and encouraged them to come back and fight, saying, ”or defend”, so that the number of Muslims          increases,   as  Ibn Abbas, Ikrimah, Said bin Jubayr, Ad-Dahhak, Abu Salih, Al-Hasan and As-Suddi stated. Al-Hasan bin Salih said that this part of the Ayah means, help by supplicating for us, while others said it means, man the posts. However, they refused, saying, “Had we known that fighting will take place, we would certainly have followed you.” meaning, according to Mujahid, if we knew that you would fight today, we would join you, but we think you will not fight. Allah said, ”They were that day, nearer to disbelief than to faith” This Ayah indicates that a person passes through various stages, sometimes being closer to Kufr and sometimes closer to faith, as evident by, ”They were that day, nearer to disbelief than to faith” Allah then said, ”saying with their mouths what was not in their hearts” for they utter what they do not truly believe in, such as, “Had we known that fighting will take place, we would certainly have followed you.” 

They knew that there was an army of idolators that came from a far land raging against the Muslims, to avenge their noble men whom the Muslims killed in Badr. These idolators came in larger numbers than the Muslims, so it was clear that a battle will certainly occur. Allah said; ”And Allah has full knowledge of what they conceal.” ”(They are) the ones who said about their killed brethren while they themselves sat (at home): “If only they had listened to us, they would not have been killed.” had they listened to our advice and not gone out, they would not have met their demise. Allah said, ”Say: “Avert death from your own selves, if you speak the truth.” meaning, if staying at home saves one from being killed or from death, then you should not die. However death will come to you even if you were hiding in fortified castles. Therefore, fend death off of yourselves, if you are right.

Mujahid said that Jabir bin Abdullah said, “This Ayah [3:168] was revealed about Abdullah bin Ubayy bin Salul (the chief hypocrite).” (At-Tabari 7:383)

{169. Think not of those as dead who are killed in the way of Allah. Nay, they are alive, with their Lord, and they have provision

170. They rejoice in what Allah has bestowed upon them of His bounty and rejoice for the sake of those who have not yet joined them, but are left behind (not yet martyred) that on them no fear shall come, nor shall they grieve

171. They rejoice in a grace and a bounty from Allah, and that Allah will not waste the reward of the believers

172. Those who answered (the Call of) Allah and the Messenger after being wounded; for those of them who did good deeds and feared Allah, there is a great reward.

173. Those to whom the people said, “Verily, the people have gathered against you, therefore, fear them.” But it (only) increased them in faith, and they said: “Allah is Sufficient for us, and He is the Best Disposer of affairs.”

174. So they returned with grace and bounty from Allah. No harm touched them; and they followed the pleasure of Allah. And Allah is the Owner of great bounty

175. It is only Shaytan that suggests to you the fear of his friends; so fear them not, but fear Me, if you are indeed believers.}

Virtues of the Martyrs

Allah states that even though the martyrs were killed in this life, their souls are alive and receiving provisions in the Dwelling of Everlasting Life. In his Sahih, Muslim recorded that Masruq said, “We asked Abdullah about this Ayah, ”Think not of those as dead who are killed in the way of Allah. Nay, they are alive, with their Lord, and they have provision.”

He said, ‘We asked the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, the same question and he said,

”Their souls are inside green birds that have lamps, which are hanging below the Throne (of Allah), and they wander about in Paradise wherever they wish. Then they return to those lamps. Allah looks at them and says, ‘Do you wish for anything?’ They say, ‘What more could we wish for, while we go wherever we wish in Paradise?’ Allah asked them this question thrice, and when they realize that He will keep asking them until they give an answer, they say, ‘O Lord! We wish that our souls be returned to our bodies so that we are killed in Your cause again.’ Allah knew that they did not have any other wish, so they were left.” (Muslim 3:1502)

Imam Ahmad recorded that Anas said that the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said,

”No soul that has a good standing with Allah and dies would wish to go back to the life of this world, except for the martyr. He would like to be returned to this life so that he could be martyred again, for he tastes the honor achieved from martyrdom.” (Muslim no. 1877)

In addition, Imam Ahmad recorded that, Ibn Abbas said that the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said,

”When your brothers were killed in Uhud, Allah placed their souls inside green birds that tend to the rivers of Paradise and eat from its fruits. They then return to golden lamps hanging in the shade of the Throne. When they tasted the delight of their food, drink and dwelling, they said, ‘We wish that our brothers knew what Allah gave us so that they will not abandon Jihad or warfare.’ Allah said, ‘I will convey the news for you.” Allah revealed these and the following Ayat, ”Think not of those as dead who are killed in the way of Allah. Nay, they are alive, with their Lord, and they have provision.” (Ahmad 1:265)

Qatadah, Ar-Rabi and Ad-Dahhak said that these Ayat were revealed about the martyrs of Uhud.

Abu Bakr Ibn Marduwyah recorded that Jabir bin Abdullah said, “The Messenger of Allah looked at me one day and said, ‘O Jabir! Why do I see you sad?’ I said, ‘O Messenger of Allah! My father was martyred and left behind debts and children.’ He said,

 ”Should I tell you that Allah never spoke to anyone except from behind a veil. However, He spoke to your father directly. He said, ‘Ask Me and I will give you.’ He said, ‘I ask that I am returned to life so that I am killed in Your cause again.’ The Lord, Exalted He be, said, ‘I have spoken the word that they shall not be returned back to it (this life). ‘ He said, ‘O Lord! Then convey the news to those I left behind.’ Allah revealed, ”Think not of those as dead who are killed in the way of Allah…” (Al-Bayhaqi 3:299)

Imam Ahmad recorded that Ibn Abbas said that the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said,

 ”The martyrs convene at the shore of a river close to the door of Paradise, in a green tent, where their provisions are brought to them from Paradise day and night.”

Ahmad and Ibn Jarir collected this Hadith, which has a good chain of narration. It appears that the martyrs are of different types, some of them wander in Paradise, and some remain close to this river by the door of Paradise. It is also possible that the river is where all the souls of the martyrs convene and where they are provided with their provision day and night, and Allah knows best. Imam Ahmad narrated a Hadith that contains good news for every believer that his soul will be wandering in Paradise, as well, eating from its fruits, enjoying its delights and happiness and tasting the honor that Allah has prepared in it for him. This Hadith has a unique, authentic chain of narration that includes three of the Four Imams. Imam Ahmad narrated this Hadith from Muhammad bin Idris Ash-Shafi who narrated it from Malik bin Anas Al-Asbuhi, from Az-Zuhri, from Abdur-Rahman bin Kab bin Malik that his father said that the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said,

 ”The soul of the believer becomes a bird that feeds on the trees of Paradise, until Allah sends him back to his body when He resurrects him.” (Ahmad 3:455)

This Hadith states that the souls of the believers are in the shape of a bird in Paradise. As for the souls of martyrs, they are inside green birds, like the stars to the rest of the believing souls. We ask Allah the Most Generous that He makes us firm on the faith.

Allah’s statement, ”They rejoice in what Allah has bestowed upon them” indicates that the martyrs who were killed in Allah’s cause are alive with Allah, delighted because of the bounty and happiness they are enjoying. They are also awaiting their brethren, who will die in Allah’s cause after them, for they will be meeting them soon. These martyrs do not have fear about the future or sorrow for what they left behind. We ask Allah to grant us Paradise. The Two Sahihs record from Anas, the story of the seventy Ansar Companions who were murdered at Bir Maunah in one night. In this Hadith, Anas reported that the Prophet used to supplicate to Allah in Qunut in prayer against those who killed them. Anas said, “A part of the Qur’an was revealed about them, but was later abrogated, ‘Convey to our people that we met Allah and He was pleased with us and made us pleased.”’ (Fath Al-Bari 7:445, Muslim 1:468)

Allah said next, ”They rejoice in a grace and a bounty from Allah, and that Allah will not waste the reward of the believers” (3:171). Muhammad bin Ishaq commented, “They were delighted and pleased because of Allah’s promise that was fulfilled for them, and for the tremendous rewards they earned.” Abdur-Rahman bin Zayd bin Aslam said, “This Ayah encompasses all the believers, martyrs and otherwise. Rarely does Allah mention a bounty and a reward that He granted to the Prophets, without following that with what He has granted the believers after them.”

The Battle of Hamra’ Al-Asad

Allah said, “Those who answered (the Call of) Allah and the Messenger after being wounded” (3:172). This occurred on the day of Hamra’ Al-Asad. After the idolators defeated the Muslims (at Uhud), they started on their way back home, but soon they were concerned because they did not finish off the Muslims in Al-Madinah, so they set out to make that battle the final one. When the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah, got news of this, he commanded the Muslims to march to meet the disbelievers, to bring fear to their hearts and to demonstrate that the Muslims still had strength to fight. The Prophet only allowed those who were present during Uhud to accompany him, except for Jabir bin Abdullah Al-Ansari, as we will mention. The Muslims mobilized, even though they were still suffering from their injuries, in obedience to Allah and His Messenger.

Ibn Abi Hatim recorded that Ikrimah said, “When the idolators returned [towards Makkah] after Uhud, they said, ‘You neither killed Muhammad nor collected female captives. Woe to you for what you did. Let us go back.’ When the Messenger of Allah heard this news, he mobilized the Muslim forces, and they marched until they reached Hamra Al-Asad. The idolators said, ‘Rather, we will meet next year’, and the Messenger of Allah went back [to Al- Madinah], and this was considered a Ghazwah (battle). Allah sent down, ”Those who answered (the Call of) Allah and the Messenger after being wounded; for those of them who did good deeds and feared Allah, there is a great reward.” (An-Nasai in Al-Kubra no.11083)

Al-Bukhari recorded that A’ishah said to Urwah about the Ayah;”Those who answered (the Call of) Allah and the Messenger” “My nephew! Your fathers Az-Zubayr and Abu Bakr were among them. After the Prophet suffered the calamity at Uhud and the idolators went back, he feared that the idolators might try to come back and he said, ‘Who would follow them?’ Seventy men, including Az-Zubayr and Abu Bakr, volunteered.” (Al-Bukhari no.4077)

As for Allah’s statement, ‘‘Those unto whom the people said, “Verily, the people have gathered against you, therefore, fear them.” But it (only) increased them in faith” (3:173), it means, those who threatened the people, saying that the disbelievers have amassed against them, in order to instill fear in them, but this did not worry them, rather, they trusted in Allah and sought His help, ”and they said: “Allah is Sufficient for us, and He is the Best Disposer of affairs.” Al-Bukhari recorded that Ibn Abbas said, “Allah Alone is Sufficient for us and He is the Best Disposer of affairs for us.” “Ibrahim said it when he was thrown in fire. Muhammad said it when the people said, ‘Verily, the people have gathered against you, therefore, fear them.’ But it only increased them in faith, and they said, ‘Allah is Sufficient for us and He is the Best Disposer of affairs for us.”’ Abu Bakr Ibn Marduwyah recorded that Anas bin Malik said that the Prophet was told on the day of Uhud, “Verily, the people have gathered against you, therefore, fear them.” Thereafter, Allah sent down this Ayah (3:173).

This is why Allah said, ”So they returned with grace and bounty from Allah. No harm touched them” for when they relied on Allah, Allah took care of their worries, He confounded the plots of their enemies, and the Muslims returned to their land, ”with grace and bounty from Allah. No harm touched them” safe from the wicked plots of their enemies, ”and they followed the pleasure of Allah. And Allah is the Owner of great bounty” Al-Bayhaqi recorded that Ibn Abbas said about Allah’s statement, ‘‘So they returned with grace and bounty from Allah” “The ‘Grace’ was that they were saved. The ‘Bounty’ was that a caravan passed by, and those days were [Hajj] season days. Thus the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, bought and sold and made a profit, which he divided between his Companions.” (Dala’il An-Nubuwwah 3:318)

Allah then said, ”It is only Shaytan that suggests to you the fear of his friends” (3:175) meaning, Shaytan threatens you with his friends and tries to pretend they are powerful and fearsome. Allah said next, ”so fear them not, but fear Me, if you are indeed believers” meaning, “If Shaytan brings these thoughts to you, then depend on Me and seek refuge with Me. Indeed, I shall suffice you and make you prevail over them.” Similarly, Allah said,

”Is not Allah Sufficient for His servant Yet they try to frighten you with those besides Him!” (39: 36), until, ”Say: “Sufficient for me is Allah; in Him those who trust must put their trust.” (39:38).

Allah said,

 ”So fight you against the friends of Shaytan; ever feeble indeed is the plot of Shaytan.” (4:76) and

”They are the party of Shaytan. Verily, it is the party of Shaytan that will be the losers!’‘ (58:19),

”Allah has decreed: “Verily, it is I and My Messengers who shall be the victorious.” Verily, Allah is All-Powerful, All-Mighty.” (58:21) and

 ”Verily, Allah will help those who help His (cause)” (22:40) and

 ”O you who believe! If you help (in the cause of) Allah, He will help you” (47:7), and,

 ”Verily, We will indeed make victorious Our Messengers and those who believe, in this world’s life and on the Day when the witnesses will stand forth. The Day when their excuses will be of no profit to wrongdoers. Theirs will be the curse, and theirs will be the evil abode.” (40:51,52)

{176. And let not those grieve you who rush with haste to disbelieve; verily, not the least harm will they do to Allah. It is Allah’s will to give them no portion in the Hereafter. For them there is a great torment.

177. Verily, those who purchase disbelief at the price of faith, not the least harm will they do to Allah. For them, there is a painful torment.

178. And let not the disbelievers think that Our postponing their punishment is good for them. We postpone the punishment only so that they may increase in sinfulness. And for them is a disgraceful torment.

179. Allah will not leave the believers in the state in which you are now, until He distinguishes the wicked from the good. Nor will Allah disclose to you the secrets of the Unseen, but Allah chooses of His Messengers whom He wills. So believe in Allah and His Messengers. And if you believe and have Taqwa of Allah, then for you there is a great reward.

180. And let not those who are stingy with that which Allah has bestowed on them of His bounty think that it is good for them. Nay, it will be worse for them; the things that they were stingy with shall be tied to their necks like a collar on the Day of Resurrection. And Allah’s is the inheritance of the heavens and the earth; and Allah is Well-Acquainted with all that you do.}

Comforting the Messenger of Allah

Allah said to His Prophet, ”And let not those grieve you who rush with haste to disbelieve” (3:176). Because the Prophet was eager for people’s benefit, he would become sad when the disbelievers would resort to defiance, rebellion and stubbornness. Allah said, ‘Do not be saddened by this behaviour,’ ”verily, not the least harm will they do to Allah. It is Allah’s will to give them no portion in the Hereafter” for He decided with His power and wisdom that they shall not acquire any share in the Hereafter, ”For them there is a great torment” Allah said about the disbelievers, ”Verily, those who purchase disbelief at the price of faith” by exchanging disbelief for faith, ”not the least harm will they do to Allah” Rather, they will only harm themselves, ”For them, there is a painful torment” Allah said next, ”And let not the disbelievers think that Our postponing their punishment is good for them. We postpone the punishment only so that they may increase in sinfulness. And for them is a disgraceful torment” (3:178).

This statement is similar to Allah’s other statements,

”Do they think that because We have given them abundant wealth and children, [that] We hasten unto them with good things. Nay, but they perceive not.” (23:55,56) and

”Then leave Me Alone with such as belie this Qur’an. We shall punish them gradually from directions they perceive not.” (68:44), and,

 ”And let not their wealth or their children amaze you. Allah’s plan is to punish them with these things in this world, and that their souls shall depart (die) while they are disbelievers.” (9:85).

Allah then said, ”Allah will not leave the believers in the state in which you are now, until He distinguishes the wicked from the good.” (3:179), meaning, He allows a calamity to happen, and during this calamity His friend becomes known and His enemy exposed, the patient believer recognized and the sinful hypocrite revealed. This Ayah refers to Uhud, since Allah tested the believers in that battle, thus making known the faith, endurance, patience, firmness and obedience to Allah and His Messenger that the believers had. Allah exposed the hypocrites in their defiance, reverting from Jihad, and the treachery they committed against Allah and His Messenger, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him. This is why Allah said, ”Allah will not leave the believers in the state in which you are now, until He distinguishes the wicked from the good.” Mujahid commented, “He distinguished between them during the day of Uhud.” Qatadah said, “He distinguished between them in Jihad and Hijrah.” Allah said next, ”Nor will Allah disclose to you the secrets of the Unseen” meaning, you do not have access to Allah’s knowledge of His creation so that you can distinguish between the believer and the hypocrite, except by the signs of each type that Allah uncovers. Allah’s statement, ”but Allah chooses of His Messengers whom He wills.” is similar to another Ayah, ”(He Alone is) the All-Knower of the Unseen, and He reveals to none His Unseen. Except to a Messenger (from mankind) whom He has chosen, and then He makes a band of watching guards (angels) to march before him and behind him.” (72:26,27). Allah then said, ”So believe in Allah and His Messengers.” Obey Allah and His Messenger and adhere to the law that he legislated for you, ”and if you believe and fear Allah, then for you there is a great reward.”

The Censure of Selfishness, and Warning Against it

Allah said, ”And let not those who are stingy with that which Allah has bestowed on them of His bounty (wealth) think that it is good for them. Nay, it will be worse for them.” (3:180)

Therefore, the Ayah says that the miser should not think that collecting money will benefit him. Rather, it will harm him in his religion and worldly affairs. Allah mentions the money that the miser collected on the Day of Resurrection, ”the things that they stingy with shall be tied to their necks like a collar on the Day of Resurrection.”

Al-Bukhari recorded that Abu Hurayrah said that the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said,

 ”Whoever Allah makes wealthy and he does not pay the Zakah due on his wealth, then (on the Day of Resurrection) his wealth will be made in the likeness of a bald-headed poisonous male snake with two black spots over the eyes. The snake will encircle his neck and bite his cheeks and proclaim, ‘I am your wealth, I am your treasure.” 

The Prophet then recited the Ayah,

”And let not those who are stingy with that which Allah has bestowed on them of His bounty think that it is good for them. Nay, it will be worse for them”, until the end. Al-Bukhari, but not Muslim, collected this Hadith using this chain of narration, Ibn Hibban also collected it in his Sahih. (Fath Al-Bari 8:78; Ibn Hibban 5:107)

Imam Ahmad recorded that Abdullah said that the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon, said,

 ”Every person who does not pay the Zakah due on his wealth, will have his money made into the shape of a bald-headed, poisonous male snake who will follow him. The person will run away from the snake, who will follow him and proclaim, ‘I am your treasure.”

Abdullah then recited the Ayah in Allah’s Book that testifies to this fact, ”the things that they were stingy with shall be tied to their necks like a collar on the Day of Resurrection.” (Ahmad 1:377)

Allah’s statement, ”And to Allah belongs the inheritance of the heavens and the Earth”, means, ”and spend of that whereof He has made you trustees” (57: 7). Therefore, since all affairs are under Allah’s control, then spend from your money so it will benefit you on the Day of Return, ”and Allah is Well-Acquainted with all that you do” with your intentions and what your hearts conceal.

Tafsir Ibn Kathir (Abridged) Pages 314-333

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