بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ
In the Name of Allah, the All-beneficent, the All-merciful.
For solidarity among the Quraysh, (106:1).
إِيلَافِهِمْ رِحْلَةَ الشِّتَاءِ وَالصَّيْفِ
their solidarity during winter and summer journeys, (106:2).
فَلْيَعْبُدُوا رَبَّ هَٰذَا الْبَيْتِ
let them worship the Lord of this House, (106:3).
الَّذِي أَطْعَمَهُمْ مِنْ جُوعٍ وَآمَنَهُمْ مِنْ خَوْفٍ
who has fed them from a hunger, and secured them from a fear. (106:4).
A society that is united and far removed from serious disagreements is one that is close to attaining social and spiritual happiness, which is why the Final Prophet (S) could not sow the seeds of the divine mission in Medina except through this social togetherness. This is why Allah counts this as a blessing He bestowed upon them when He says:
“and united their hearts. Had you spent all that is in the earth, you could not have united their hearts, but Allah united them together.” (al-Anfal, 8:63).
Moreover, He warns them against disuniting again until the Day of Resurrection:
'...and do not dispute, or you will lose heart and your power will be gone.'(Al-Anfal, 8:46).
It is known that internal feuding and disagreements, as well as being harmful in themselves, also, give power to the enemies who beset the ummah.
Assuming that this surah is connected to the one immediately before it (Surah Al-Fil) - as is understood from the jurisprudential ruling that they should be recited together in prayer - then the destruction of the Army of the Elephant became a step towards the unity of the Quraysh and the land in which they lived, as were it not for this divine intervention and the removal of fear, then they would have scattered through the land seeking sustenance and security, and become like the Jews:
“We dispersed them into communities around the earth.” (al-Anfal , 8:46).
If this happened, they would have lost the rank and nobleness they had earned through their service of the holy sanctuary at Mecca.
In addition to this, the destruction of Abrahah's army was also, a preliminary to another blessing, namely their ability to travel safely in summer to Syria and in winter to Yemen. Were it not for this safety they would not have dared leave their homes, delve into the wilderness of the desert in search of profit. Rather, they would have remained in their settlement coveting safety and thereby lost the blessings of living in the vicinity of the holy sanctuary.
Travelling and moving about in different seasons to seek a living is a decent thing to do, or else Allah would not have counted it as a blessing for the Quraysh by mentioning their ability to move safely. This complements His blessing of establishing them in the vicinity of the House, which depends on their wealth and safety.
Now, if the Quraysh needed this unity for a worldly affair, such as travelling in winter and summer seeking wealth and profit, then the Muslim ummah is in even greater need of unity and peace of mind for the affair of the hereafter and spreading the message of Islam to people's hearts, just as the individual needs that to attain nearness to Allah.
Listening to the blessings of Allah being enumerated should cause us to wake up and pay attention to the source of these blessings; this is something instinctive, even for animals when they receive the care of their owners. It is in this context that we see Allah highlights several of His blessings over the Quraysh, including harmony, their ease of travel in summers and winters, their food supply and their security, as a precursor to summoning them to worship the House.
We can rely on this principle as well in interactions among man; why should a father not enumerate the blessings he has given to his son to motivate him to be dutiful and kind to him, rather than holding this over him and declaring the son to be in indebted to him?
The House occupies a special place of honour before Allah; sometimes He attaches it to Himself –
“....purify My House...” (al-Hajj, 22:26).
- and sometimes He attaches Himself to it -
“ .... the Lord of this House” (Quraysh, 106:3).
- and by using more than one mode of attachment, He also, demonstrates the greatness of this sanctuary.
And it is clearly fitting to mention the House in this surah because the Lord who repelled tribulation from this House and those living around it is worthy of being worshipped exclusively; so, worship here is ultimately a matter of giving thanks for the blessings, which is something everyone can understand, not worshipping purely for its own sake, which is only known to the elect of Allah's servants.
Reason dictates that avoiding harm comes before seeking benefit. So, Allah first shows the Quraysh how he kept them safe from harm, first by destroying Abrahah and his army, and second, he shows them how he brought them the benefits of safety and sustenance. This shows us the logical order of this surah and the one before it.
Therefore, a person should learn from Allah how he should treat those whom he wishes to show kindness; first by keeping them safe from harm, and then by showering benefits on them.
The Quraysh, despite their unbelief and evil conducts - such as fighting, raiding and persecuting the Prophet (S) - and even after many years of resisting the prophetic mission, Allah still displayed kindness to them through the things mentioned in this surah, such as providing them with food and keeping them safe:
a. First, in order to honour His holy sanctuary, because they had lived in its vicinity so, long that others called them 'Allah's people.'
b. And to honour those who lived amongst them like 'Abd al-Muttalib, because Allah honours a land with the presence of a righteous servant therein and repels harm from them through him.
c. Out of respect for the one who would be born amongst them later, a prophet from themselves.
And why should Allah not show favour to an earlier person because of the nobleness of a later one? This is why 'Ali (‘a) would spare the lives of those in whose future offspring he saw light!
Worshipping Allah requires a soul that has gathered its strength, is secure in its livelihood, and which finds its provision near at hand. Suffering of hunger and insecurity obstruct this, which is why the Lord in His wisdom asks His servants to worship Him after blessing them with sustenance and safety, so, that they have no excuse not to!
And this is supported by something that Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) relates from Salman: 'Do you not know, O ignorant ones! The soul is slow to obey its master if it lacks reliable sustenance, for when it has secured its livelihood it is content. As for Abu Dharr, he had a few she-camels and sheep which he would milk, and slaughter if his family desired meat or he had a guest.'1
The act of feeding is in itself a praiseworthy attribute, which Allah joins to the act of creation when He says:
“Shall I take for guardian anyone other than Allah, the originator of the heavens and the earth, who feeds and is not fed?” (al-An'am, 6:14).
And this is also, an attribute of Allah's friends (awliya'), for there is no prophet or wali save that he displays the utmost generosity in feeding others and in other matters. But when Allah mentions that this is from hunger and deprivation, this serves to emphasize it further, and the verse specifically mentions this:
“who fed them from a hunger....” (Quraysh, 106:4).
especially when we notice that the verse uses the indefinite for fear and hunger ('from a hunger ... from a fear...') which aggrandizes them, and the Qur'an also, mentions this as a means of overcoming obstacles:
“or to feed on a day of starvation.” (al-Balad, 90:14).
Hunger and fear are generally forms of tribulation, a common feature of creation, such that Allah says:
“We will surely test you with a measure of fear and hunger ...” (al-Baqarah, 2:155).
And here we must note that sometimes a person faces these as a form of punishment and retribution, as happened to the secure and peaceful town which was ungrateful for Allah's blessings:
“So, Allah made it taste hunger and fear.” (an-Nahl, 16:112).
But a person might also, face hunger and fear as a means to awaken them to worship Allah, for it is the nature of the low self (nafs) to be heedless and distracted. So, this kind of tribulation is a way to set right the self. And one form of this can be found in this surah when Allah says:
“who has fed them from a hunger, and secured them from a fear” (Quraysh, 106:4).
so, being free from hunger and fear is a step towards worshipping the Lord of the House.
The blessing of security and being free from the fear of external threats is one of the most important blessings that Allah can single out for his servants in this world and also, in the Hereafter; because a heart that is free from every distraction is a sound heart which can then receive the divine lights of beauty and majesty. This is supported by a narration from Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) about the verse:
“except him who comes to Allah with a sound heart.” (ash-Shu'ara, 26:89).
He (‘a) says: 'A sound heart which receives its Lord without anyone else being within it.'2
As for the evidence that this blessing will be granted to the believers in this world, it is Allah's saying:
“Allah has promised those of you who have faith and do righteous deeds that He will surely make them successors in the earth, just as He made those who were before them successors, and He will surely establish for them their religion which He has approved for them, and that He will surely change their state to security after their fear, while they worship Me, not ascribing any partners to Me. And whoever is ungrateful after that - it is they who are the transgressors.” (an-Nur, 24:55).
As for in the Hereafter, Allah says:
“Those who have faith and do not taint their faith with wrongdoing - for such there shall be safety, and they are the guided ones.” (al-An'am, 6:82).
So, the faithful are given glad tidings of safety and security in both worlds.
When the supplications of the Prophets (‘a) are granted, these extend for many centuries. For example, the supplication of Abraham for the inhabitants of Mecca, when he said:
“My Lord, make this a secure town, and provide its people with fruits...” (al-Baqarah, 2:126).
and the things mentioned in this surah are the fulfillment of his supplication, in that the blessing of fruit is not restricted only to the righteous inhabitants of Mecca but includes all of them so, as to establish Allah's authority over them ... so, why do people not follow the example of Abraham (‘a) when supplicating to Allah, by supplicating not only for all the people in their own time, but for also, people in future times as well?