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Surah Muhammad, Chapter 47, Verses 1 - 21

(Muhammad/The Fighting)
Section (juz’): 26
Number of Verses: 38

General Overview of the Chapter

بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَنِ الرَّحِيمِ

In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful

The Chapter has thirty eight Verses and is revealed at Mecca. The title of the Chapter derives from the second Verse in which mention is made of the name of the Noble Prophet Muhammad (S). The dominant theme of the Chapter is jihad against the enemies of Islam hence Its designation “The Chapter of Battle” (Surah al-Qital).

The main subject matter concerns believers and disbelievers, comparing the twain in this world and the world to come, and the hypocrites’ sabotage in Medina. Mention is also made of issues regarding the captivity and freedom of the prisoners of war, call to spend money in Allah’s Cause, and forbidding obsequiousness and complacency in dealing with the enemy.

It is narrated that whoever wishes to perceive the circumstances of the Prophet’s (S) Household (as) and their enemies is supposed to recite the Chapter in question.1 It is also reported that the Noble Prophet (S) would recite the Chapter in his evening prayers.2

The Merits of Reciting the Chapter

According to a Prophetic tradition

“One who recites Sura Muhammad, God will provide him with the streams of Paradise.”3

Surah Muhammad - Verse 1

بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَنِ الرَّحِيمِ

In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.

الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا وَصَدُّوا عَنْ سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ أضَلَّ أعْمَالَهُمْ

1. Those who disbelieve and hinder [men] from the Path of Allah, He will render their deeds vain.

From among the one hundred and fourteen Chapters of the Holy Qur’an, mention is made of reproaching and threatening the enemies in eleven Chapters. The verse in question is one of such instances.

The Noble Verse reads:

“Those who disbelieve and hinder men from the Path of Allah, God will render their deeds vain.”

The verse alludes to the Meccan polytheists and leaders of disbelief serving as war mongers waging wars against the Islamic faith. They were not only disbelievers but also employed diverse stratagems to hinder people from the Path of Allah.

Some exegets, e.g. Zamakhshari in his Kashshaf, considering the meaning of the following Verse which concerns faith, have interpreted sadd ad hoc in the sense of:

“turning away” (i’radh)

from faith; however, taking the Qur’anic usage of the word into consideration, the dominant sense of the word is “hindering and impeding.”

“Render their deeds vain”

is used in the sense that “He” will make their plans ineffective and fruitless, since reducing something serves as a metaphor for being abandoned which necessitates perdition.

At any rate, some exegets take the sentence as an allusion to those who provided people with the meat of the camels slaughtered at the battle of Badr. Abu Jahl, Safwan, and Sahl ibn ‘Amr each slaughtered ten camels as a token of thanksgiving.4 Such acts were of no avail with polytheism and satanic stratagems hence their being rendered totally vain.

It is not apparently restricted to the sense in question rather all their seemingly good deeds, e.g. providing aid to the needy and hospitality, will be rendered vain owing to their faithlessness. Furthermore, God Almighty will render all their acts performed for the obliteration of Islam and defeating Muslims and also impedes them from attaining to their goals.

Surah Muhammad - Verse 2

وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ وَآمَنُوا بِمَا نُزِّلَ عَلَی مُحَمَّدٍ وَهُوَ الْحَقُّ مِنْ رَبِّهِمْ كَفَّرَ عَنْهُمْ سَيِّئَاتِهِمْ وَأصْلَحَ بَالَهُمْ

2. But those who believe and do righteous good deeds, and believe in that which is sent down to Muhammad – for it is the truth from their Lord – He will absolve them of their vices and will make good their state.

Having faith is insufficient for availing oneself of Divine Favors rather one has to do good righteous deeds and follow the Messenger of God:

(“those who believe and do righteous good deeds and believe in that which is sent down to Muhammad”).

Regarding the Noble Verse in question exegets maintain that:

“But those who believe”

alludes to the Medinan Helpers (ansar) and “that which” (ma):

“in that which is sent down” (bi-ma nuzzila)

refers to the Qur’an; in other words the contextual meaning of the clause in question is “those who believed in the Qur’an sent down to Muhammad (S) by God and held that It is true, unchangeable, and standing firm on Its basis to the Last Day and It is not exposed to alterations like other Divine Books, e.g. the Torah, the Christian Bible, which have been abrogated by the Holy Qur’an.

Those believing in the Qur’an and the prophethood of the Messenger of God, the Seal of the Prophets (S) and did righteous good deeds as per the Divine Decrees and Laws of the Islamic faith, God:

“will make good their state” (aslaha balahum),

namely their state will improve out of having faith in Islam, since their conversion to the Islamic faith and having faith in it will alter their inward states and refine their heart out of moral and inward vices and corruption.

“Will make good their state”

concerns believers and contrasts with:

“Will render their deeds vain”

which falls to the share of disbelievers. In other words, in as much as believers proceed on the path of improvement of their inward and outward states through their faith, disbelievers will remain in error out of their disbelief. It may also indicate that as disbelief will render good deeds vain, faith, au contraire, will lead to purity and refinement of heart.

Surah Muhammad - Verse 3

ذَلِكَ بِأنَّ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا اتَّبَعُوا الْبَاطِلَ وَأنَّ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اتَّبَعُوا الْحَقَّ مِنْ رَبِّهِمْ كَذَلِكَ يَضْرِبُ اللَّهُ لِلنَّاسِ أمْثَالَهُمْ

3. That is because those who disbelieve follow falsehood, while those who believe follow the truth [sent down] by their Lord. Thus does Allah set forth for mankind their parables [for their awakening].

One of the Qur’anic didactic techniques attested in a number of Verses is to draw a distinction between the fates of believers and disbelievers. In the Verse in question, belief and disbelief are distinguished as per truth and falsehood which reveals the Qur’anic logic in Its encounter with foes.

“That”

(dhalika) in the blessed Verse is a demonstrative pronoun whose antecedent are the disbelievers and it signifies the vanity of their deeds.

Since they followed their vain desires and proceeded on the path of falsehood, their deeds reflect their inner self, even though seemingly good, their deeds would be rendered vain since their motives rested in the pleasures of the flesh rather than obtaining Divine Satisfaction and were done out of disobedience to God and following their concupiscence and Satan.

Whoever does such deeds, his deeds will be rendered vain and devoid of truth since truth is restricted to God and the followers of falsehood remain in error.

The Holy Qur’an says:

“That is because Allah – He is the Truth and what they invoke besides Him is falsehood”5.

Thus God strikes a parable saying that good and righteous deeds depend on believing in Divine Unity and the prophethood of His Messenger. When the heart rests truly on the firm ground of faith, deeds stemming from it will be of effect and constancy since man’s truth lies in his heart which accommodates faith and serves as the reservoir of piety. In case it is corrupted through disbelief, all deeds will be rendered vain and ineffective.

Thus it becomes evident that the recompense of one’s deeds depends on the firmness or frailty of faith. The firmer one’s faith and certitude become the effects and the rewards of one’s deeds will be higher and the same will purify the heart from vices.

Surah Muhammad - Verse 4

فَإِذَا لَقِيتُمُ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا فَضَرْبَ الرِّقَابِ حَتَّی إِذَا أثْخَنْتُمُوهُمْ فَشُدُّوا الْوَثَاقَ فَإِمَّا مَنّاً بَعْدُ وَإِمَّا فِدَاءً حَتَّی تَضَعَ الْحَرْبُ أوْزَارَهَا ذَلِكَ وَلَوْ يَشَاءُ اللَّهُ لانْتَصَرَ مِنْهُمْ وَلَكِنْ لِيَبْلُوَ بَعْضَكُمْ بِبَعْضٍ وَالَّذِينَ قُتِلُوا فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ فَلَنْ يُضِلَّ أعْمَالَهُمْ

4. Therefore, when you meet those who disbelieve [in battlefield], smite [their] necks [when they fall into captivity] till when you have killed and wounded many of them, then bind a bond firmly [lest they flee] either for generosity or ransom until the war lays down its burden. Thus [is God’s Command] But if it had been Allah’s Will [to send down lightning, earthquake, and other disasters], He Himself could certainly have punished them. But [He let you fight] in order to test some of you with others. But those who are killed in the Way of Allah, He will never let their deeds be lost.

Athkhantumuhum derives from th-kh-n “totally vanquish the enemy.” Withaq is used in the sense of “a bond used to tie someone or something, e.g. a rope.”

As mentioned above, the preceding Verses serve as a prelude to prepare Muslims for receiving a significant order concerning war.

It reads:

“Upon confrontation with disbelievers on the battlefield attack them with full force and smite their necks!”

“Smiting their heads” is evidently employed in the sense of “smiting them.” It is needless to say that warriors are not supposed to embark upon doing the same but it would suffice to slay them. However, “smiting their necks” evidently indicates taking their life and that it what on which emphasis is laid.

At any rate, the Command ad hoc concerns engaging in war on the battlefield, since laqaytum derives from l-q-y which in such instances indicates “war.” Other pieces of evidence are to be found in the Verse in question denoting the same idea, e.g. captivity of prisoners of war, the word harb (“war”), and martyrdom for Allah’s cause.

In short, the word liqa at times denotes “meeting, encounter” and at times it indicates “confronting on the battlefield.” Both senses are attested in the Qur’an and the word in the Verse in question is used in the latter sense.

Thus it becomes evident that those aspiring to spread anti-Islamic propaganda claim that according to the Islamic doctrine, Muslims may behead disbelievers upon confrontation with them; however, the claim springs from ill will and ulterior motives otherwise the Verse per se clearly demonstrates confrontation with the enemy on the battlefield.

It is needless to say that upon confrontation with the bloodthirsty enemy on the battlefield, one has to attack severely and strike fatal blows on the enemy or else he will perish. The instruction fully stands to logic.

It further says that such fatal attacks are supposed to be pursued such that the enemy falls down in which case defeated warriors are to be taken as captives and they are supposed to be bound firmly:

(“till when you have killed and wounded many of them, then bind a bond firmly [lest they flee]”).

The word athkhantumuhum derives from th-kh-n denotes harshness and firmness hence indicating triumph and conquest and total subjugation of the enemy.

The majority of exegets take the sentence in the sense of the immense number and severity of slaying the enemy, the issue of slaughtering the enemy rather than the original sense remains untouched.6

At any rate, the verse indicates a measured military command to the effect that defeated warriors are not supposed to be taken as captives prior to the enemy’s total defeat since embarking upon the same may jeopardize the position of Muslims engaged in war through their preoccupation with the issue which may hinder them from their main tasks.

The expression:

“then bind a bond firmly [lest they flee]” (“fa-shuddu al-withaq”)

with due consideration to the meaning of the word withaq (“rope”) is a reference to making doubly sure that the captives are bound firmly lest they liberate themselves and strike fatal blows.

The next sentence indicates the instruction concerning those taken captive at war as per which following the war they may either be granted freedom non gratia or they may be ransomed or exchanged with odd numbers:

(“either for generosity or ransom”).

Therefore, prisoners of war may not be slain following the end of the war but the leader of Muslims exercises his discretion to either ransom or exchange them for odd numbers or set them free non gratia. It is actually a kind of compensation to be borne by the enemy. The issue is discussed in sources on Islamic law.

The Verse further adds that the status quo is supposed to be still effective in which fatal blows are to be struck upon the enemy and a number of them are supposed to be taken captive:

“until the war lays down its burden.”

One may desist from inflicting further blows when the enemy is totally defeated and the flame of war is extinguished. Awzar is the plural form of wizr denoting “heavy burden” and at times connoting “sins” since the burden of the latter is borne by one who commits it.

It is interesting to note that the heavy burdens referred to in the Verse are attributed to the war:

“until the war lays down its burden.”

The heavy burdens refer to diverse kinds of weaponry as well as the responsibilities shouldered by warriors. It is solely at the end of the war that they desist from shouldering them.

The Verse further adds that you are supposed to act upon the same instructions:

“but if it had been Allah’s Will, He Himself could certainly have punished them”

through lightning, earthquake, storm, and other disasters. Nonetheless, there would be no ground for trials.

“But [He let you fight] in order to test some of you with others.”

It is actually the grounds lying behind engaging in war and the main point of the opposition between the Truth and falsehood. It is through such wars that the lines of true believers who act are separated from those who merely talk.

Faculties and abilities flourish, perseverance and resistance are invigorated, and the main goal of the mundane life which is strengthening the power of faith and other human values are attained. Had believers stepped aside preoccupied with everyday life and had God intervened miraculously to defeat the polytheists’ and oppressors’ rebellions, a worthless, stagnant, and frail society would have come into being and the Islamic faith would have been merely a name.

To sum up, one could say that to establish His Religion, God is needless of our struggles. The point is that we need the sacred war on the battlefield to improve our abilities.

The same idea is variously expressed in the Qur’an, for instance,

“Do you think that you will enter Paradise before Allah tests those of you who fought in His Cause and also tests those who are the patient?”7.

The preceding Verse reads:

“And that Allah may [through such battles] purify the believers from sins and destroy the disbelievers.”

The last sentence of the Verse in question treats of the martyrs fell in such battles whom the Muslim community owes a great deal;

“But those who are killed in the Way of Allah, He will never let their deeds be lost.”

Their troubles and pains will not be in vain but they will be all kept in Divine Records.

Their sacrifices will be evident in this world since hearing:

“There is no god but Allah”

reminds Muslims that thanks to their sacrifices the chains of bondage are broken and Muslims owe their good name to them.

Surah Muhammad - Verses 5-6

سَيَهْدِيهِمْ وَيُصْلِحُ بَالَهُمْ

وَيُدْخِلُهُمُ الْجَنَّةَ عَرَّفَهَا لَهُمْ

5. He will guide them and set right their state.
6. And will soon admit them to [high stations in] Paradise which He has made known to them.

Divine Guidance is permanent even after death and martyrdom. Martyrdom for God’s Cause leads to all sins and faults to be forgiven and states to be set aright. The Verses in question add three further bounties.

Firstly,

“He will guide them”

which indicates Guidance toward high stations, great deliverance, and Paradise as Divine Reward.

Secondly,

“He will set right their state,”

i.e., He bestows peace of mind and spirituality upon them, sets them in harmony with Divine angels, and invites them to His Feast through His Mercy.

The last bounty is that He

“will soon admit them to [high stations in] Paradise which He has made known to them.”

Some exegets maintain that God not only expresses the qualities of the Garden of Paradise but also specifies the attributes and signs of their palaces in Paradise such that upon being admitted to Paradise, they immediately depart for their palaces.8

Some exegets take ‘arafaha from ‘arf (“fragrance, perfume”) saying that God admits to Paradise throughout which the guests may enjoy the sweet smell.

Some also hold that taking into consideration the Verse:

“Think not of those who are killed in the Way of Allah as dead. Nay, they are alive, with their Lord, and they have provision”9,

it becomes evident that:

“set right their state”

is on a par with everlasting life through which martyrs are prepared to stand in the presence of Allah with the veils and coverings removed.10

It would be appropriate to make mention of a number of traditions concerning martyrs.

According to a Prophetic tradition:

“There is a better deed above another ending in martyrdom in the Way of Allah, above which no better deed is imaginable.”11

According to a tradition narrated on the authority of Imam Baqir(as):

“There is no single drop dearer to God except for the drop of the blood shed in His Way or the drop of tears shed at night for His awe. There is no step dearer to God but the one taken for helping blood relatives or the one taken to participate in the holy war for God’s Cause.”12

The discussion may be concluded with a tradition narrated on the authority of Imam ‘Ali ibn Musa al-Ridha (as).

Quoting his forefathers from the Messenger of God (S) he says:

“The first one to enter Paradise is the martyr.”

Surah Muhammad - Verse 7

يَا أيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِنْ تَنْصُرُوا اللَّهَ يَنْصُرْكُمْ وَيُثَبِّتْ أقْدَامَكُمْ

7. O you who believe! If you help Allah, He will help you, and make your foothold firm.

Whoever bears aid to the Islamic faith through his thought, speech, and deeds, God will also bear him assistance.

Man is a very limited creature and the assistance borne to the Religion of God is very restricted, but God is infinite and His Help springs from His Infinite Power. Addressing believers, the noble Verse says that if they help Allah, He will help them, and their foothold will be firm in the way of Truth. Helping God is on a par with helping His Religion and Messenger (S).

Whoever helps God’s Religion, i.e., the Islamic faith revealed to Prophet Muhammad (S) by any means possible to him through his life, property, pen, with attempts at helping to establish Islam, hinder corruption in religion, and bear assistance to believers through any possible means has helped God and strengthened His Religion and in return, God will strengthen his will to carry out his mundane and otherworldly tasks conveniently.

“And make your foothold firm”

demonstrates that He will make the helpers of God’s Religion to persevere such that they may not deviate from the True Path by satanic temptations.

It is narrated from Qatada that

“It is incumbent upon God to bear aid to one helping His Religion since He says:

‘If you help Him, He will help you.’

It is also incumbent upon Him to increase His bounties to those who thank Him since He says:

‘If you be grateful, I will increase [your bounties].’

He will remember him who remembers Him since He says:

“If you remember Me, I will remember you.”

It is also incumbent upon God to keep His Promise to those who keep their promise since He says:

‘Keep My Promise and I will keep yours.’”

Surah Muhammad - Verses 8-9

وَالَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا فَتَعْساً لَهُمْ وَأضَلَّ أعْمَالَهُمْ

ذَلِكَ بِأنَّهُمْ كَرِهُوا مَا أنْزَلَ اللَّهُ فَأحْبَطَ أعْمَالَهُمْ

8. But those who disbelieve, for them is destruction, and [Allah] will make their deeds vain.
9. That [destruction] is because they dislike thatwhich Allah has sent down; so He has made theirdeeds fruitless.

The word ta’s indicates “slip, stumble, fall into the river.” Comparison is one of the best methods of education.

Concerning martyred believers a preceding Verse reads:

“He will never let their deeds be lost.”

Regarding disbelievers the Verse in question reads:

“[He] will make their deeds vain.”

The contrast is a good tiding to the believers struggling in Allah’s Cause.

Addressing believers, the Qur’an says:

“[He will] make your foothold firm.”

Concerning disbelievers, the penultimate Verse says:

“For them is destruction,”

which originally denotes that they will stumble over the precipice.

According to the last two Verses, those who disbelieved were humiliated and destroyed. God made them stumble on the battlefield thus rendering their attempts vain. They disliked the Qur’an revealed to His Prophet (S) as a consequence of which they were defeated and humiliated and their deeds were rendered fruitless.

According to Manhaj, it is narrated from Imam Muhammad Baqir (as) that the Verse in question indicates that disbelievers disliked ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib’s merits, as a consequence of which they deviated from the Right Path and their deeds were rendered vain, since doing righteous good deeds are based on belief in Divine Unity, sincerity in worshipping God, belief in Divine Guidance, and loving the Prophet (S) and his pure offspring (as).

It is worthy of note that:

“What God sent down”

is employed to denote different things one of which is the Commander of the Faithful, ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib’s (as) Imamate.13

Surah Muhammad - Verse 10

أفَلَمْ يَسِيرُوا فِي الْأرْضِ فَيَنْظُرُوا كَيْفَ كَانَ عَاقِبَةُ الَّذِينَ مِنْ قَبْلِهِمْ دَمَّرَ اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلِلْكَافِرِينَ أمْثَالُهَا

10. Have they not traveled through the earth and seen what was the end of those before them? Allah destroyed them completely, and a similar [fate is in store for] disbelievers.

Dammara derives from the root d-m-r denotes “destroy, annihilate, demolish.” Collocated with the preposition ‘ala, it indicates emphasis.

Addressing the negligent astray in ignorance, the blessed Verse asks:

“Why do they not travel on the earth to see the traces of the peoples of the past and see that they were destroyed by Us owing to their denial of the prophet and harassing them. They should know that their destruction was due to their disbelief and disobedience. We destroyed the peoples of the past and such fate awaits these disbelievers.”

Surah Muhammad - Verse 11

ذَلِكَ بِأنَّ اللَّهَ مَوْلَی الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَأنَّ الْكَافِرِينَ لا مَوْلَی لَهُمْ

11. That is because Allah is the Protector of those who believe, and the disbelievers have no protector.

The disbelievers who did not apparently enjoy any support in this world relied solely on God and He will be their Protector on the Last Day. Having faith leads to being granted Divine support and disbelief and finally it leads to losing it. The polytheists’ and disbelievers’ support will be ineffective on the Last Day.

The antecedent of the demonstrative pronoun

“that”

(dhalika) in the blessed Verse in question is the preceding Verse. The believers’ dignity, honor, and triumph is due to the fact that they helped God’s Religion, as a consequence of which they enjoyed Divine Protection.

The token of God’s Friendship toward His servant is that the latter is obedient to his conscience. His heart is the home of love and friendship toward God and it is through his faith, piety, and helping God’s Religion that such great bounty has fallen to his share.

“And the disbelievers have no protector”

since it is through their disbelief that disbelievers have failed to receive Divine bounties as a result of which they have not protector. Thus, all creatures turn into his obedient host. They all become his helpers and friends and at Divine Command render him aid whenever necessary and set right his state.

Surah Muhammad - Verse 12

إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُدْخِلُ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ جَنَّاتٍ تَجْرِي مِنْ تَحْتِهَا الْأنْهَارُ وَالَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا يَتَمَتَّعُونَ وَيَأكُلُونَ كَمَا تَأكُلُ الْأنْعَامُ وَالنَّارُ مَثْویً لَهُمْ

12. Certainly Allah will admit those who believe and do righteous good deeds to Gardens [of Paradise] under which [i.e., trees] rivers flow while those who disbelieve enjoy themselves [in worldly life] and eat as cattle eat and [finally] the Fire will be their abode.

Admitting believers to Paradise is a token of Divine Guardianship. Believers doing righteous good deeds are under Divine Protection and He makes them enter Paradise. Deriving pleasures in life is permitted within the limits of Divine Laws. What lie beyond such limits are beastly pleasures.

In this blessed Verse, God Almighty promises believers and those who have done righteous good deeds that Gardens of Paradise will fall into their share beneath whose trees the rivers of Divine Mercy are incessantly flowing. The people of Paradise shall abide in them forever. The bounties of Paradise will be granted through his Grace and Beneficence. His Mercy will be permanent since He is of Permanent Bounties and He is of Abundant Beneficence.

He warns disbelievers that believers will abide in the bountiful Paradise whereas those who disbelieve in Divine Unity and the Last Day but are solely preoccupied with pleasures of the flesh and eat as cattle eat and the abode of such people will be Hellfire.

It is said elsewhere in the Holy Qur’an that the recompense of deeds should be consistent with the deeds committed (jaza’an wifaqan). Believers help the Religion of God and His Messenger (S) as a consequence of which God helps and befriends them and they will enjoy His Grace and Mercy in this world and the world to come; whereas disbelievers turned away from Truth and followed their mundane and false desires.

They were preoccupied themselves with the mundane pleasures and did not take one single step toward Truth and spirituality hence their abode is the Fire.

“Allah is not unjust to His servants”14.

Surah Muhammad - Verse 13

وَكَأيِّنْ مِنْ قَرْيَةٍ هِيَ أشَدُّ قُوَّةً مِنْ قَرْيَتِكَ الَّتِي أخْرَجَتْكَ أهْلَكْنَاهُمْ فَلا نَاصِرَ لَهُمْ

12. And many a [people of a] town, stronger than [the people of] your town which has driven you out We have destroyed. And there was no helper for them.

The Prophet of Islam’s (S) migration was based on his own will, but Meccan disbelievers drove him into dire circumstances which led him to emigrate from Mecca.

That is why God says that the people of Mecca were responsible for his emigration:

(“has driven you out”).

In this blessed Verse God warns disbelievers that many an inhabitant of towns were stronger than Meccans in terms of power but Meccan and Qurayshi disbelievers drove the Prophet (S) out of his hometown. God rendered them hopeless such as the ancient peoples like ‘Ad and Thamud who were strong and powerful and their physical prowess failed to save them from torment since, as mentioned in the above Verse, God is the Friend and Protector of believers.

He will not help disbelievers against torments and afflictions.

Surah Muhammad - Verse 14

أفَمَنْ كَانَ عَلَی بَيِّنَةٍ مِنْ رَبِّهِ كَمَنْ زُيِّنَ لَهُ سُوءُ عَمَلِهِ وَاتَّبَعُوا أهْوَاءَهُمْ

14. Is he who is on a clear proof from his Lord, like those for whom their evil deeds that they do are beautified for them while they follow their own lusts?

The prophethood of the Prophet of Islam (S) is accompanied with clear proofs. He is Divinely appointed to proclaim the Divine Message. He has nothing of his own to profess and he lays emphasis on the same. Certainly believers rely on proofs whereas disbelievers rely on their vain desires.

The noble Verse draws a distinction between the people of Truth and those of falsehood. He produces clear proofs as to his Divine prophethood. The Holy Qur’an is both the Noble Messenger’s (S) miracle and the Book of Law. It is a clear proof demonstrating his Truth since Divine Word is inimitable in terms of eloquence and inclusion of secrets such that Arab eloquent orators and scholars worldwide failed to produce one single verse like It.

Is such individual on a par with one devoid of spiritual perfection? Are not their vices beautified for them through satanic embellishment? Are they not followers of their concupiscence? The wise know that these two individuals are not alike.

Surah Muhammad - Verse 15

مَثَلُ الْجَنَّةِ الَّتِي وُعِدَ الْمُتَّقُونَ فِيهَا أنْهَارٌ مِنْ مَاءٍ غَيْرِ آسِنٍ وَأنْهَارٌ مِنْ لَبَنٍ لَمْ يَتَغَيَّرْ طَعْمُهُ وَأنْهَارٌ مِنْ خَمْرٍ لَذَّةٍ لِلشَّارِبِينَ وَأنْهَارٌ مِنْ عَسَلٍ مُصَفّی وَلَهُمْ فِيهَا مِنْ كُلِّ الثَّمَرَاتِ وَمَغْفِرَةٌ مِنْ رَبِّهِمْ كَمَنْ هُوَ خَالِدٌ فِي النَّارِ وَسُقُوا مَاءً حَمِيماً فَقَطَّعَ أمْعَاءَهُمْ

15. The description of Paradise which the pious have been promised [is that] in it are rivers of water the taste and smell of which are not changed, rivers of milk of which the taste never changes, rivers of wine delicious to those who drink, and rivers of clarified honey therein for them is every kind of fruit and forgiveness from their Lord. [Are these] like those who shall dwell forever in the Fire and be given to drink boiling water so that it cuts up their bowels.

Those who keep away from the transient pleasures of the flesh through piety will attain to permanent felicity;

(“the pious have been promised”).

Imam Husayn (as) says

“Divine Forgiveness falling to the share of the people of Paradise is the best bounty for them.”

Then the Noble Imam refers to the Qur’anic verse:

“But the greatest bliss is the Good Pleasure of Allah. That is the supreme success”15.

The Verse depicts the Paradise awaiting the pious saying that there are four rivers in Paradise for the pious.

Firstly,

“rivers of water”

in which pure and permanent water flows unlike that of the world whose taste and color will not change through stagnation but its purity and taste will be the same. It is this world which is subject to permanent alteration whose elements are at all times in the process of generation and corruption.

The elements of the world to come will not be subject to change since as per the Holy Qur’an

“Verily, the home of the Hereafter – that is the life indeed”16.

Secondly,

“rivers of milk”

in Paradise,

“whose taste never changes”

resemble water in terms of purity. The milk is not like that of this world that goes sour shortly and becomes useless. The milk, like the water, is incessantly flowing since the milk and water in Paradise spring from the purity of the hearts of the pious.

Thirdly,

“rivers of wine,”

represent all kinds of intoxicant drinks. Unlike the wine in this world, that of Paradise is tasty, delicious, joyful, and invigorating.

Fourthly,

“rivers of clarified honey”

are prepared for the pious in Paradise.

The word:

“clarified”

indicates that heavenly honey is pure and devoid of impurities. It is unlike the honey in this world mingled with wax and other things which is to be purified.

“Therein for them is every kind of fruit and forgiveness from their Lord.”

Heavenly bounties for the pious are not restricted to these four rivers but all kinds of fruit and any imaginable or unimaginable bounty will be prepared for them.

Those aspiring to find such bounties are supposed to know that Divine Favors and heavenly bounties are reserved for the pious in the Hereafter:

(“the pious have been promised”).

It is noteworthy that the seeds of such bounties are to be sown in our hearts in this world so that they bear fruit. In other words, one has to struggle in order to attain to the disposition of piety. The disposition of piety is to be acquired in this world such that it bears fruit in the Hereafter in the form of three rivers. God strikes parables in the Holy Qur’an to express many a meaning and secret of creation without which man may not perceive them through his intellect.

Qur’anic Verses are the mines of secrets and abundant delicacies contained in Their words whose esoteric meaning is solely perceptible to:

“those deeply rooted in knowledge,”

namely the Infallible Imams (as).

According to a recurrently transmitted Prophetic tradition, through performing deeds and prayers of supererogation (nawafil) man attains to a state in which his vision, hearing, and touch turn into those of Truth. The self of such man is annihilated and he is absorbed in God such that he finds everlasting life in Him.

Are such pious believers immersed in the rivers of Mercy and those enjoying His Infinite Bliss are on a par with those whose abode will be Hellfire for good as they are disfavored?

“[Are these] like those who shall dwell forever in the Fire and shall have to drink boiling water so that it shall cut up their bowels.”

Any wise person knows that the pious believer is not on a par with the polytheist and/or the dissimulating disbeliever. The former will immerse in the rivers of Divine Mercy enjoying Divine Infinite Bounties for good and the latter will be disfavored and afflicted with different kinds of torment. How may they stand on a par?

Surah Muhammad - Verse 16

وَمِنْهُمْ مَنْ يَسْتَمِعُ إِلَيْكَ حَتَّی إِذَا خَرَجُوا مِنْ عِنْدِكَ قَالُوا لِلَّذِينَ اُوتُوا الْعِلْمَ مَاذَا قَالَ آنِفاً اُولَئِكَ الَّذِينَ طَبَعَ اللَّهُ عَلَی قُلُوبِهِمْ وَاتَّبَعُوا أهْوَاءَهُمْ

16. And among them are some who [apparently] listen to you till when they go out from you, they say to those who have received knowledge: “What has he said just now? Such are men whose hearts Allah has sealed and they follow their vain desires.

Addressing the Prophet (S) the Verse says that the disbelievers who are nominal Muslims attend your sessions and listen to the Qur’an, but they neither believe in your prophethood nor in the Book revealed to you. They are neither able to recognize it as the Divine Book nor do they understand it.

Upon meeting your followers who know your words they say contemptuously and mockingly: “about what the man is talking?” O Prophet (S)! Your words are not beyond human understanding, but it is through their grudge and animosity that God seals their hearts so that they are unable to perceive the truth and they follow their vain desires.

Surah Muhammad - Verse 17

وَالَّذِينَ اهْتَدَوْا زَادَهُمْ هُدی وَآتَاهُمْ تَقْوَاهُمْ

17. While as for those who accept Guidance, He increases their guidance and bestows on them their piety.

Accepting Divine Guidance by man leads to Its increase by God. Piety is the Divine Reward bestowed upon those who accept the Guidance;

(“[He] bestows on them their piety”).

The Verse refers to the guided whose guidance is increased upon listening to the Revelation through which the truth of piety and the light of knowledge illuminate their hearts leading them from the shadows of ignorance to the light of knowledge.

Surah Muhammad - Verse 18

فَهَلْ يَنْظُرُونَ إِلاّ السَّاعَةَ أنْ تَأتِيَهُمْ بَغْتَةً فَقَدْ جَاءَ أشْرَاطُهَا فَأنَّی لَهُمْ إِذَا جَاءَتْهُمْ ذِكْرَاهُمْ

18. Do they [disbelievers in order to believe] then await [anything] other than the Hour that it should come upon them suddenly? But some of its portents have already come and when it is on them [on the Day of Resurrection] how can they benefit then by their reminder?

Ashrat is the plural form of sharat (“portent, sign, indication”).

As per a Prophetic tradition,

“but some of its portents have already come”

refers to his prophethood,17 since the last Messenger has Divinely appointed, the last Divine Book has been revealed, and men have been provided with the last decisive Argument. Thus any sin, corruption, disbelief, and denial will make the Last Day occur earlier.

The world al-Sa’a;

(“the Hour”)

is usually employed in the sense of Resurrection, but it may also indicate Divine Wrath and annihilation of men in this world which will be a prelude to the torments of Resurrection.

Ibn ‘Abbas narrates that at the farewell pilgrimage (hajjat al-wida’) on which Salman the Persian was the most intimate Companion of the Noble Prophet (S), Prophet Muhammad (S) said:

“Should I inform you of the portents of Resurrection? They are negligence in establishing daily prayers, following vain desires, cherishing the wealthy, exchanging religion for worldly possessions.”18

Some traditions refer to more than one hundred portents for the coming of Resurrection.

The Verse in question warns disbelievers and polytheists that an ounce of precaution is better than a pound of cure saying that those who await the advent of resurrection should know that it will come all of a sudden.

“The portents have already come”

since the Seal of the Prophets (S) has been Divinely appointed in the last days (akhir al-zaman). According to a Prophetic tradition recorded in Manhaj, the Noble Prophet (S) pointed at two fingers of his saying that the Resurrection and I are attached like these two fingers. Some other portents have already come and others are to come in time.

“When it is on them [on the Day of Resurrection] how can they benefit then by their reminder?”

Surah Muhammad - Verse 19

فَاعْلَمْ أنَّهُ لا إِلَهَ إِلاّ اللَّهُ وَاسْتَغْفِرْ لِذَنْبِكَ وَلِلْمُؤْمِنِينَ وَالْمُؤْمِنَاتِ وَاللَّهُ يَعْلَمُ مُتَقَلَّبَكُمْ وَمَثْوَاكُمْ

19. Therefore, know that there is no god but Allah and ask forgiveness for your sin, and also for [the sin of] believing men and believing women. And Allah knows well your moving about and your place of rest.

The clause;

“ask forgiveness for your sin”

is also attested elsewhere in the Holy Qur’an19.

With due consideration to the fact that all prophets are infallible, there are grounds for such asking for forgiveness:

Asking for forgiveness is a kind of worshipping God even if no sin has been committed.

It may ad hoc indicate avoidance from doing what is preferable (tark al-ula). In other words, the Prophet (S) was supposed to do preferable acts but he abstained from doing them.

Asking for forgiveness may turn into a common practice for people.

It leads to attaining supreme stations by the Prophet (S).

It may connote asking for forgiveness for the sins committed by people in respect of the Prophet (S).

Asking for forgiveness is not at all times for one’s sins and faults, but perceiving that he is so inferior against Divine Glory and Greatness, man asks for forgiveness.

Addressing His Prophet (S) God Almighty says unto him:

“know that there is no god but Allah and ask forgiveness for your sin and also for [the sin of] believing men and believing women.”

Imami scholars are unanimous in maintaining that prophets, particularly the Seal of the Prophets (S), are infallible.

“Your sin”

(dhanbika) may either indicate abstaining from doing preferable acts or preoccupation with mundane affairs. It is narrated from the Prophet (S) that he asked forgiveness of God seventy times a day. It was for his preoccupation with carrying out the tasks of promulgation of the Islamic faith and attending to the affairs of his prophethood.

It is in the Qur’an that he is a man like other men;

(“Verily, I am a human being like you”).

Owing to the restrictions of human nature, preoccupation with any matter may at times hinder one from attending fully to God.

It is to be noted that his preoccupation with attending to the affairs of his prophethood was out of is obedience to God and acting upon His Command but:

“the good deeds of those disfavored by God are like the faults of favorites of God.”

That is why he is asked to ask for forgiveness for himself and believers. In other words, he is asked to turn away from people following the communication of the Message and attend fully to the glorification of God. It is a source of hope to believers that the Noble Prophet (S) is asked to pray for their forgiveness.

His prayer will not remain unanswered unless we really have faith in God and His Messenger. It is worthy of note that the Prophet (S) with his supreme station is required to ask for forgiveness let alone us since we commit sins and neglect our duties at all times.

Asking for forgiveness of “the All-Forgiving of sins” and turning away from opposition to God lead to turning toward God and are regarded per se as an act of worship.

The Verse ends in:

“Allah knows well your moving about and your place of rest.”

In other words, God is fully aware of the acts committed by man as well as his abode in the Hereafter. Past, present, and future make no difference to His Omniscience.

Narrating on the authority of Hudhayfa Yamani, Tabarsi records that the former said unto the Prophet (S) that he had a sharp tongue and as a consequence was afraid of ending up in Hell for that sake. The Noble Prophet (S) asked him why he was not asking for forgiveness as he [the Prophet (S)] was asking for the same one hundred times a day.

According to a Prophetic tradition, uttering:

“I ask forgiveness of God”

and

“There is no god but Allah”

are the best devotions since God Almighty says in a Qur’anic Verse:

“Therefore know that there is no god but Allah and ask forgiveness for your sin, and also for [the sin of] believing men and believing women.”20

It is to be noted that asking for forgiveness of God may not be solely done verbally but true repentance lies in being regretful from committing sins and intending to not turn to sins and mere praying for forgiveness is of no avail.

According to a Prophetic tradition recurrently narrated:

“Regret [from committing sins] is asking for forgiveness,”

in other words, regret from committing sins forms the basis of asking for forgiveness of God. However, such regret necessitates intending to abstain from committing further sins. It may be said that true asking for forgiveness lies in repentance and intention as to committing no further sins; nonetheless, praying for forgiveness and other requirements attested in traditions and narrations are the conditions of perfect repentance.

The repentant ask for forgiveness of the All-Forgiving of sins by heart and tongue.

Surah Muhammad - Verse 20

وَيَقُولُ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَوْلا نُزِّلَتْ سُورَةٌ فَإِذَا اُنْزِلَتْ سُورَةٌ مُحْكَمَةٌ وَذُكِرَ فِيهَا الْقِتَالُ رَأيْتَ الَّذِينَ فِي قُلُوبِهِمْ مَرَضٌ يَنْظُرُونَ إِلَيْكَ نَظَرَ الْمَغْشِيِّ عَلَيْهِ مِنَ الْمَوْتِ فَأوْلَی لَهُمْ

20. Those who believe say: “Why is not a Chapter [of the Qur’an] sent down [regarding jihad]? But when a decisive Chapter is sent down and jihad is mentioned therein, you will see those in whose hearts is a disease looking at you with a look of one fainting to death. But it [death] was better for them.

A number of believers await the declaration of jihad and make mention of their preparedness to engage in it;

(“Those who believe say …”).

Such declaration should be based on Divine Revelation and Command. The Verse concerns the believers whose hearts are not touched by faith and await Revelation inquiring why a Chapter has not been sent down so that we may act upon it. Nonetheless, upon the Revelation of a Chapter regarding jihad they become anxious as if they suffer from heart disease.

They look at the Prophet (S) as if they are on death bed. But the best thing leading to their felicity is to obey God’s Command and that of His Messenger as well as uttering good words to the effect that they have heard the Command and they Obey It;

(“We hear and obey”).

Now that they disobey the Command, death is better for them.

Surah Muhammad - Verse 21

طَاعَةٌ وَقَوْلٌ مَعْرُوفٌ فَإِذَا عَزَمَ الْأمْرُ فَلَوْ صَدَقُوا اللَّهَ لَكَانَ خَيْراً لَهُمْ

21. Obedience and carefully considered words [were better for them]. And when the matter [jihad] is resolved on, then if they had been true to Allah [and engage in jihad wholeheartedly] it would have been [certainly] better for them.

Believers are wholeheartedly obedient before the Divine declaration of jihad

(“obedience”).

Words and deeds are to be both accurate and well considered;

(“obedience and carefully considered words [were better for them]”).

People with frail faith are afraid of engaging in jihad. They not only disobey the Command but they also attempt at justifications and irrelevant words.

Their pretexts are mentioned in different instances in the Holy Qur’an, e.g. inability to engage in jihad,

“insecurity of their families, insecurity of their houses,”

“hot weather,”

being tempted to commit sin in case of engagement in jihad, looking at Roman maids will tempt us into getting involved in sedition (at the battle of Tabuk). The Holy Qur’an says that their deserting is the sedition.

Other pretexts to refrain from engagement in jihad include: inappropriate time designated for battle, preferably postponed

“for the fear of evading incurring loss and suffering from disaster.”

The verse in question says that it would be better to obey the Command and say good words rather than uttering such pretexts. In other words, it says that it would be better for them if they speak and act wholeheartedly when the declaration of jihad is decisive, since they will lead to their pride and honor in this world and great reward, felicity, and salvation in the hereafter.

The clause:

“the matter is resolved on”

basically indicates decisiveness but taking the preceding and the following Verses into consideration it connotes “jihad.”

  • 1. Majma’ al-Bayan [Exegesis].
  • 2. Maraghi’s Exegesis.
  • 3. Majma’ al-Bayan, vol. 9, Sura Muhammad.
  • 4. Ruh al-Ma’ni, vol. 26, p. 33.
  • 5. 22:62
  • 6. Ibn al-A’rabi is quoted in Lisan al-’Arab as saying “Athkhana idha ghalaba wa qahara” (“The word athkhana is employed upon conquering and subjugation”).
  • 7. 3:142
  • 8. Majma’ al-Bayan, vol. 9, p. 98.
  • 9. 3:169
  • 10. al-Mizan, vol. 18, p. 244.
  • 11. Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 100, p.15.
  • 12. Ibid, p. 14.
  • 13. Majma’ al-Bayan, under the blessed Verse in question.
  • 14. 8:51
  • 15. 9:72
  • 16. 29:64
  • 17. Majma’ al-Bayan.
  • 18. Nur al-Thiqalayn [Exegesis].
  • 19. 40:55
  • 20. Manhaj al-Sadiqin.

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