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Surah an-Nasr (No. 110: 'Divine Help')

Verses 1-3

بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ

In the Name of Allah, the All-beneficent, the All-merciful.

إِذَا جَاءَ نَصْرُ اللَّهِ وَالْفَتْحُ

When Allah's help comes with victory, (110:1).

وَرَأَيْتَ النَّاسَ يَدْخُلُونَ فِي دِينِ اللَّهِ أَفْوَاجًا

And you see the people entering Allah's religion in throngs, (110:2).

فَسَبِّحْ بِحَمْدِ رَبِّكَ وَاسْتَغْفِرْهُ إِنَّهُ كَانَ تَوَّابًا

then glorify the praise of your Lord, and plead to Him for forgiveness. Indeed, He is all-clement. (110:3).

1. Allah’s Help And Victory

It is customary for a seeker to pursue the object of his desire. But sometimes, to display the utmost honour to the seeker, the object of his desire comes to him, just as a bride comes in procession to her husband, despite the fact that he is the one who desires her. An example of this in the Qur'an is that Paradise, which is promised to its inhabitants, yet it comes towards them:

“and paradise will be brought near for the Godwary.” (ash-Shu'ara', 26:90).

Another example of this can be found in this surah, for those who struggle for the sake of Allah usually strive to attain Allah's help and victory, but here we see that Allah's help comes to the Prophet (S) and not the other way around:

“When Allah’s help comes with victory...” (an-Nasr, 110:1).

2. The Source Of Help

Help, even though it is attributed to Allah just as all good is attributed to Him, its source lies in the hand of Allah's servant, and He alludes to this fact through His words:

“If you help Allah, He will help you.” (Muhammad, 47:7).

And it is known that helping Allah - in a general sense - entails:

a. First: Helping in all arenas of struggle, great or small

b. Second: Fixing one's gaze on the object of one's assistance, namely Allah, without any ulterior motives, or else it is not counted as helping Him.

3. Cutting Off The Roots Of Sedition

Mentioning victory over Mecca after mentioning Allah's help in general shows that tearing out the sources of corruption and the axis of injustice is essential to the success of the mission of calling others towards Allah; the fight between the Prophet (S) and his enemies did not end at the battles of Badr, Uhud or Khandaq (the Trench), they only ended when he took Mecca and left no remnant of them.

This means that the faithful must use whatever strength they have been given to cut off the roots of sedition (fitnah) in every time, lest they stumble upon the path to their victory.

4. Blessings For Prophet Muhammad (S)

Allah's blessings are mentioned abundantly in the final surahs of this section (juz) of the Qur'an:

a. In some instances the Lord recalls the blessings that He bestowed upon His Prophet, such as opening his breast in Surah ash-Sharh.1

b. In another, He promises him a gift that will please Him, which refers to his power of intercession (shafa'a) as a gift in Surah ad-Duha.2

c. In Surah al-Kawthar, He informs him that He has granted him abundant good.3

d. In Surah al-Qadr, the revelation of the Qur'an to His Chosen Prophet (S) is counted as a blessing.4

e. And in this surah, Allah mentions His assistance to His beloved Prophet (S) and the great victory that resulted from this assistance.

5. Help And Victory

There is a difference between help (nasr) and victory (fath), which is that Allah might grant help to His servant in the form of support against the enemy by thwarting their plans and warding off their stratagems without decisively ending the conflict with them. So, in the Battle of Badr there was divine assistance for the faithful,5 but this did not spell victory for them, which is why they then suffered the setback of Uhud, but Allah granted His Prophet both help and victory when he conquered Mecca in what was called 'the victory of victories' because with that victory his conflict with disbelief and its followers was decisively resolved.

And this distinction that exists in the external world also, exists in the world of the soul: Allah might help His servant in the Greater Struggle (al-jihad al-akbar) in some stages of his life, without handing him complete victory, which is represented by being firmly established at the level of the Contented Soul and entering the kingdom of

“enter among My servants,” (al-Fajr, 89:29).

“and enter My paradise!” (al-Fajr, 89:30).

6. An-Nas (“The People”)

The verse refers to those entering the religion of Allah in droves as 'the people’,

And you see the people entering Allah's religion in throngs, (an-Nasr, 110:2).

which makes it seem as though those who do not enter the Final Religion are not even people! After all, the Qur'an refers to those who have strayed from obedience to Allah as

“…… just like cattle; rather they are further astray from the way.” (al-Furqaan, 25:44).

And this is supported by a narration from Imam al-Hasan (‘a) about the people in which he says: 'We are the people, our followers are semblances of the people, our enemies are Neanderthals (nasnas).' 6

7. Entering The Religion

There is a difference between people entering the religion by themselves individually, and entering the religion in groups and droves; this is nearer to the ultimate goal of the Shari'ah and more pleasing to the Lord! This is why this state in particular is singled out for mention.

Therefore, someone who does something to bring people to the religion is thereby closer to divine assistance and victory. Equally, someone who does something to drive people away from the religion carries a clear burden, and this is what will come to pass in one of the ummah's stages of life, as it has been narrated from the Prophet (S) that he said: 'People entered the religion in droves, and they shall leave it in droves.'7

8. Fitrah

The original nature (fitrah) upon which mankind was created calls them to turn towards Allah's religion which is in complete harmony with this original nature - which is why the Shari'ah is called 'upright' (hanifiyyah), which means it turns away from the path of falsehood - but the hegemony of the enemy stands in the way of this, just as the Pharaoh and others like him have done throughout history; Allah says:

“So, he misled his people and they obeyed him.” (az-Zukhruf, 43:54).

But when the regime of falsehood vanishes, this obstacle will be removed and man's original nature will be able to have its effect, which is why the conquest of Mecca was such a great victory because it removed the most important barrier to the success of the Prophetic mission in that age.

9. Worldly Success

Help and victory only attain their value and nobleness if they lead to people entering Allah's religion in droves. In fact, it could be said generally that any merit in this world must be seen in the context of its connection with the merits of the unseen world. Something is only praiseworthy insofar as it brings someone closer to Allah, or else it becomes a burden for its possessor. And if the people of this world implemented these criteria in their lives they would not be so, pleased by worldly success, whether it took the form of victory over their enemies, or the most opulent of fleeting pleasures.

10. Honouring The Prophet (S)

When Allah mentions help in this surah, He calls for attention to His Essence at the same time ('Allah's help'), and He does the same for religion ('Allah's religion') because this is within the context of expounding the greatness of the help and the religion, and in this situation it is appropriate to mention the most noble of Allah's names. And yet when it comes to mentioning His beloved Prophet (S), He attaches him to Himself by invoking Lordship “your Lord” and we should not miss the subtlety and favour contained in this expression, namely:

a. By attaching His Prophet (S) to Himself to honour him.

b. Using the title 'Lord' (rabb), alluding to Allah's aspect of Lordship (rububiyyah) from whence this divine assistance came, after honouring the Prophet (S) by attaching him to Himself.

c. In addition to the Qur’an employing a direct second­person address (i.e. 'you'), which demonstrates concern and intimacy.

11. Remembrance

The need for remembrance (dhikr) is greater still when there are factors that distract man from remembering his Lord, including combats and wars, for the nature of the acts of attacking the enemy and retreating from them could cause someone to dilute his remembrance of God. This is why the divine ordinance came in the Qur'an:

“O you who have faith! When you meet a host [in battle], then stand firm, and remember Allah greatly so, that you may be felicitous.” (al-Anfal, 8:45).

People also, become heedless because they are preoccupied with some of the results of divine help, such as worldly booty and the exuberance of victory; and that is why this surah enjoins glorifying Allah's praise and pleading forgiveness from Him after divine help and victory.

12. Glorification

We can interpret ‘glorifying Allah's praise’ (tasbih bil-hamd) in a number of ways, including:

a. Combining glorification and praise together (alhamdulillah and subhanallah), just as we are commanded to combine la ilaha ill allah with allahu akbar without any connection between them.

b. That this celebration (tasbih) means to exalt Him above any deficiency, and this is through praising and extolling Him, as an object of praise does not deserve to be praised unless it is free from faults in its essence and attributes.

c. That the primary goal is to glorify, but this is supported by praising Allah and His favour, just as one attaches all good deeds to oneself by praising Allah, e.g. 'Alhamdulillah, I prayed.'

13. Glorification

Glorification (tasbih) is mentioned in the Qur'an more than tahlil,8 takbir9 or tahmid10 (praise). Perhaps the reason for this is that a person's disobedience towards his Lord in relation to many of his commands and prohibitions causes him to suffer many stumbles and falls, whereby it is appropriate for a person to exalt his Lord above having any fault attributed to him, including wrongdoing (zulm); that is, a person sees in himself some effects of his actions which do not please him and actually attributes the fault to himself (rather than Allah). And this is how Jonah (‘a) entreated his Lord:

“There is no god except You! You are immaculate! I have Indeed, been among the wrongdoers!” (al-Anbiya', 21:87).

And this glorification became a means of his salvation, just as it became a means for the apology of the angels to be accepted:

“Immaculate are You! We have no knowledge except what You have taught us.” (al-Baqarah, 2:32).

14. Allah Will Never Abandon His Friends

A corollary of completely exalting and glorifying Allah is believing that Allah will never abandon His friends in this world or the Hereafter:

“Indeed, We shall help Our Messengers and those who have faith in the life of the world and on the day when the witnesses rise up.” (al-Ghafir, 40:51).

It is clear that because one good deed begets another, that Allah will help those who ‘help’ Him because He has said in a verse containing several forms of emphasis:

“Allah will surely help those who help Him.” (al-Hajj, 22:40).

And the pages of history bear witness to this fact, that sooner or later, Allah will always help his friends and thwart His enemies!

15. Forgiveness

When the Prophet (S) pleads for forgiveness, and when Allah commands him to do so, as we see in this surah or in the verse

“.... plead for forgiveness of your sin and for the believers, men and women,” (Muhammad, 47:19).

this could be for a number of reasons:

a. To set an example for those who follow the Prophet (S) as a role model. This is an idea we often see in educating others; a teacher might reprimand a hard-working student to call other student's attention to their own mistakes and the fact that they are more worthy of such a reprimand.

b. For not doing what was most appropriate or best, but this act does not conflict with infallibility ('ismah). Despite that it calls for a feeling of embarrassment before Allah when observing oneself sternly, which in turn calls for real repentance to Allah.

c. It could be a requirement of traversing the spiritual stations when wayfaring towards Allah, for when someone ascends from a high level to an even higher one, he sees himself as though he was deficient and lacking in his previous state, which requires him to seek forgiveness from the One towards whom he is ascending.

16. Etiquette Of Supplication

Pleading for forgiveness (istighfar) is a kind of supplication with which a servant turns to his Lord, and he must therefore observe all the etiquettes of supplication, including preceding with praise and adulation as we see in this surah because Allah instructs his Prophet (S) to glorify and praise Him before He instructs him to plead for forgiveness; and this is an etiquette we should observe in all forms of supplication and in all states.

17. Victory

Success and victory naturally breed feelings of conceit and vainglory, which are famous qualities of conquerors. However, this surah came to remind them to plead for forgiveness after remembering their Lord, contrary to what one might expect from this situation. Perhaps the reason for this is to first remove this conceit, and second to dispel the illusion that their success belongs to them in any real sense, for Allah actually directly attributes it to Himself by saying:

“ …… Victory comes only from Allah.....” (al-Anfal, 8:10)

18. Forgiveness

In this surah, Allah does not qualify pleading for forgiveness with many stipulations as he does in other verses of repentance, such as ignorance, its being near at hand, or avoiding persistently sinning before it... after all, pleading for forgiveness here comes in the context of Allah's help in response to His servants helping Him, so, this does not need many stipulations. In fact, this verse mentions clemency as a direct result of this pleading using a several forms of emphasis, including:

Prefixing the sentence with 'Indeed, ...' (inna) for emphasis (ta'kid); using the noun-form of intensification (mubalaghah) in describing the scope of His clemency, '...all-clement' (tawwab); and expressing the sureness of this clemency by using the explicit copula, 'is' (kana).11

19. Clemency

It is well known that using the expression 'all-clement' (tawwab) instead of all-forgiving (ghaffar) contains a subtle implication in the context of this discussion of divine assistance insofar as clemency (tawba) means that the Lord returns to His servant, turning to him with kindness and mercy, and this inspires the servant to return to Him also, as Allah says:

“He turned clemently toward them so, that they might turn [to Him].” (at-Tawbah, 9:118).

and this meaning is distinct from that of mere forgiveness, for Allah might forgive His servant in the sense of effacing his bad deeds without actually turning towards him.

  • 1. The full verse:
    'Did We not open your breast for you ...?' (94:1).
  • 2. The full verse:
    “And soon will your Lord give you so that you shall be well pleased.” (93:5).
  • 3. The full verse:
    'Indeed, We have given you abundance...' (108:1).
  • 4. The full verse:
    'Indeed, We sent it down on the Night of Ordainment.' (97:1).
  • 5. See the verse:
    'Certainly Allah helped you at Badr...' (3:123).
  • 6. Jawami' al-Jami' 15/556.
  • 7. Jawami' al-Jami' 15/555.
  • 8. Meaning to say 'La ilaha illa Allah'.
  • 9. Meaning to say 'Allahu Akbar'.
  • 10. Meaning to say 'Al-hamdu li-Llah'.
  • 11. In most Arabic sentences, the copula ('is') is implicit. But this verse uses the verb kana (lit. 'to be') to emphasize the certainty of this statement.