O ye who believe! what is the matter with you, that, when ye are asked to go forth in the cause of Allah, ye cling heavily to the earth? Do ye prefer the life of this world to the Hereafter? But little is the comfort of this life, as compared with the Hereafter. (verse 38)
Unless ye go forth, He will punish you with a grievous penalty, and put others in your place; but Him ye would not harm in the least. For Allah hath power over all things. (verse 39)
If ye help not (your leader), (it is no matter): for Allah did indeed help him, when the Unbelievers drove him out: he had no more than one companion; they two were in the cave, and he said to his companion, “Have no fear, for Allah is with us”: then Allah sent down His peace upon him, and strengthened him with forces which ye saw not, and humbled to the depths the word of the Unbelievers. But the word of Allah is exalted to the heights: for Allah is Exalted in might, Wise. (verse 40)
Go ye forth, (whether equipped) lightly or heavily, and strive and struggle, with your goods and your persons, in the cause of Allah. That is best for you, if ye (but) knew. (verse 41)
If there had been immediate gain (in sight), and the journey easy, they would (all) without doubt have followed thee, but the distance was long, (and weighed) on them. They would indeed swear by Allah, “If we only could, we should certainly have come out with you”: They would destroy their own souls; for Allah doth know that they are certainly lying. (verse 42)
The verses quoted above describe an important battle from among
those fought by the Holy Prophet (S). As a corollary, also
given there are many injunctions and instructions. This battle is
known as the battle of Tabik and is almost the last battle of the Holy
Tabuk is the name of a place located close to the Syrian border towards the north of Madinah. Syria was, at that time, a province of the government controlled by Byzantine Christians. When the Holy Prophet (S) reached Madinah in the 8th year of Hijrah after the conquest of Makkah and the battle of Hunain, that was a time major parts of the Arabian Peninsula had come under the control of the Islamic state. This was a period of some peace Muslims could enjoy after their eight year long battles against the Mushriks of Makkah.
But, destiny has its own workings. Is it not that Allah had already
revealed about the blessed person of the Holy Prophet (S) (so that He makes it prevail over every faith – 9:33,48:28, 61:9) which was the glad tidings of a world of victories and the ascendancy of the Faith of Truth? The Prophet (S) and his companions in the mission would hardly have the respite to relax. Soon after
they reached Madinah, Syrian traders of olive oil informed them that
the Byzantine ruler, Hiraql had assembled his forces at Tabik on the
border of Syria. They were also told that soldiers of the Byzantine
army had been placated by the payment of advance salaries for one
year and that they had sinister understanding with some Arab tribes
and that they all had plans to mount a surprise attack on Madinah.
When this information reached the Holy Prophet (S), he decided that their attack plans should be pre-empted and they should be challenged where they are gathered together with their forces.
(Tafsir Mazhari, with reference to Muhammad ibn Yusuf Salihi).
By chance, this was a terribly hot summer. People in Madinah
were generally devoted to agriculture. Their farms were close to being
harvested. On this depended their economy, rather the sustenance of
the whole year. Like people in vocations who have empty pockets by
the end of the month, people who depend on agricultural produce are
empty-handed close to the harvesting time. On the one hand, they
have poverty while on the other, they have hopes of income in the near
future. Then, there was this scorching heat of the summer for a people
who had their first breather after eight years of incessant wars. No
doubt, this was an exacting trial.
But, equally crucial was the time. This Jihad was different. It was
not like the wars they had fought before. At that time, they were fighting common people like them. Here, they were to confront the trained
armed forces of Hiraql, the ruler of Byzantine. Therefore, the Holy
Prophet (S) ordered all Muslims of Madinah to come out for
this Jihad. He also invited some other tribes living around Madinah to
This general call was a tough test for those who were willing to
make sacrifices for Islam as well as a challenge to the hypocrites who
would have to prove their claim to be Muslims by joining the Jihad or
be exposed as false pretenders. Apart from this consideration, the inevitable consequence was that those who professed belief in Islam reacted to the call in terms of the conditions they were in. The Holy
Qur’an has enumerated them as separate groups of people and has
pointed out to their condition as well.
The first group included those who were strong and perfect in their faith. They were ready for Jihad without any hesitation. The second group was composed of those who hesitated at the initial stage but, later on, joined up with those ready for Jihad. About these two groups of people, the Holy Quran said: , ( . . . who followed him in the hour of hardship after the hearts of a group of them were about to turn crooked – 9:117). The third group was of those who were unable to join this Jihad on the basis of some genuine excuse. About that, by saying: (There is no blame on the weak, nor on the sick – 9:91), the Holy Qur’an has announced the acceptance of their excuse. Belonging to the fourth group were people who, despite that they had no excuse to offer, simply did not participate in the Jihad out of sheer laziness. Several verses were revealed about them, for example: (And there are others who admitted their sins – 9:102), and (and there are others whose matter is deferred till the command of Allah [comes] – (9:106), and (And [He relented] towards the three whose matter was deferred – 9:118). These three verses were revealed about similar people. They carry admonition for their inertia as well as the good news that their Taubah or repentance has been accepted.
The fifth group was that of the hypocrites, the munafiqs. Their hypocrisy was deep seated and saying yes to Jihad was hard. Finally, they failed to cover it up and stayed away from Jihad. Hypocrites have
been mentioned in the verses of the Qur’an on many places.
The sixth group included munifiqs who had joined up with Muslims with the objective of spying and mischief making. The Holy Qur’an mentions their conduct in the following verses:
(1) (and among you there are their listeners – 9:47)
(2) (and if you ask them, they will say – 9:65)
(3) (and had planned for what they could not achieve – 9:74).
Given above were details about those who stayed away from the
Jihad. But, the fact is that their total number was negligible. The
majority did belong to those Muslims who, despite many prohibitive
factors, chose to sacrifice all gains and comforts and were ready to face
expected hardships in the way of Allah. This is the reason why the
total number of the Islamic army which set out for this Jihad was
thirty thousand – a number never seen in a Jihad before.
The outcome of this Jihad expedition was that Hiraql, the Byzantine ruler – when he heard about such a large Muslim force coming up against him – was overtaken by awe. He simply did not turn up on the
battlefield. The Holy Prophet (S) camped on the war front
with the army of his angelic companions for a few days in the hope
that the enemy may decide to come. When totally disappointed, he returned back to Madinah.
The verses quoted above obviously relate to the fourth group of
people who did not take part in the Jihad because of their inertia and
without any valid excuse. In the beginning of this set of verses, they
were admonished for their lethargy, then, they were told why they behaved the way they did and, finally, they were told how to correct themselves. This wise approach unfolds major lessons.
Regard for Dunyi and Disregard for akhirah:
The Root of all Crimes
No doubt, what has been said above is related to a particular event.
But, if we were to think about it, we shall realize that the real cause of
negligence towards faith – and of every crime and sin – is nothing but
this love for the material and heedlessness towards the life to come.
Therefore, the Holy Prophet (S) said: (The love for Dunya [material life of the present world] is at the top of every
error and sin). That is why it was said in the verse:
O those who believe, what is wrong with you that, when it is
said to you, “Come out in the way of Allah,” you turn heavy
(and cling) to the ground. Have you become happy with the
worldly life instead of the Hereafter? – 38.
This was the diagnosis of the disease. Its treatment appears next
when it was said:
So, the enjoyment of the worldly life is but little as compared
with the Hereafter – 38.
The thrust of the argument is that one’s major concern in life
should be that of the eternal life in Akhirah. It is this concern for the
Akhirah that offers the only and the most perfect treatment of all diseases. Incidentally, this also happens to be the master prescription for eradication of crimes that bother human societies all over the world.
The ‘Aqa’id of Islam (articles of faith) are based on three principles:
(1) Tauhid (Oneness of Allah);
(2) Risalah (the true mission of the messenger and prophet sent by Allah) and
(3) Akhirah (Hereafter). Out of
these, the belief in Akhirah is, in all reality, the moving spirit for correction of deeds and serves as an iron wall before crimes and sins. A little thought would make it amply clear that there can be no peace in
the world without subscribing to this belief. The world as we see it today has reached its zenith in terms of its material progress. Then, there is no dearth of functional solutions and plans designed to eradicate crimes. Laws proliferate. So does the administrative machinery to interpret and implement the objective. No doubt, there is progress in
those terms. But, along with it, everyone is witnessing crimes increasing day by day, everywhere, in all societies. The reason, in our humble view, is no other but that the disease has not been properly diagnosed and the line of treatment is not sound. The root of the disease is materialism, excessive indulgence in the temporal and negligence or avoidance of the thought of any life to come. The only way this frame of mind can be corrected is to remember Allah and think about the Akhirah, the life to come. Whenever and wherever in this world this master
prescription was used, whole nations and their societies became models of humanity at its best earning the admiration of angels. That this happened during the blessed period of the Holy Prophet (S) and during the age of his noble Companions, is sufficient as its proof.
It is interesting that the modern world would very much like to
eradicate crimes but it would do so by not having to bother about God
and the Hereafter. To achieve this purpose, it invents, introduces and
surrounds itself with things to live with – a lifestyle which would never allow human beings to turn their attention towards God and Hereafter. The result of this negative approach is no mystery. We are
watching it with our own eyes. Even in the face of ever better laws, all
legal systems seem to be failing. Crimes are there as they were, in
fact, they are increasing with dangerous speed. To conclude, we wish
that intelligent people among countries and nations of the world would
think of using this Qur’anic prescription, at least for once, and discover
for themselves how easily crimes can be controlled.
Now, as we move to the second verse (39), the text has, after serving
a notice of warning to the lazy and the listless about their disease and
its treatment, delivered its verdict by saying:
‘If you do not come out for Jihad, Allah will have you go
through a painful punishment and bring in your place a nation other than you, and (by your refusal to follow Islam) you can bring no loss to Allah (or His Messenger) because Allah is
powerful over everything. In the third verse (40), by citing the event of the Hijrah of the Holy
Prophet (S), it has been stressed that the Rasul of Allah has no need to depend on any human help and support. Allah can help him directly through unseen factors – as it happened at the time of Hijrah when his own people had forced him to leave his homeland. On this journey, the only companion he had was Sayyidna Abu Bakr (RA), the true one. Enemy foot soldiers and riders were looking for them in hot pursuit. The place to hide he had found was no fortified fortress. It was just a cave and the enemy search party had reached close to its edges. Inside it, the companion of the cave, Sayyidna Abu Bakr (RA) was worried, not for his own safety, but about his master. He was in fear lest the enemy outside were to harm the Holy Prophet (S). But, the master himself was sitting calm like a mountain at peace. Not simply that he was himself cool and collected, he was telling his companion, Sayyidna Abu Bakr: (‘la taban innalliiha ma’ana: Do not grieve. Allah is with us).
What has been said here is composed of a couple of words, easy and
effortless as they sound. But, let those listening place the blueprint of
conditions prevailing before their eyes, cross their hearts and ask: Can
someone dependent on mere material means be that tranquil? Every
honest person would say that it was just not possible. The reason for
this was no other but that which the Qur’an has given in the next sentence:
So, Allah sent down His tranquility on him and strengthened
him with troops you did not see . . .
These troops could be troops of angels, and of the elemental forces
of the entire universe too – for they are, so to say, a virtual army of Allah. When this happened, the ultimate came to be. The word of disbelievers was rendered low and the word of Allah remained the highest.
In the fourth verse (41), the command given earlier has been repeated for emphasis. It is being said here that, once the Prophet of Allah orders people to come out for Jihad, they must come out as a matter of absolute obligation – for on the compliance of this command hinges all that is good for them.
The fifth verse (42) mentions an excuse offered by those who did not
participate in the JihGd because of negligence and lethargy. It was rejected as unacceptable because they did not use the ability given by Allah to pick and choose the right thing to do in His way. Therefore, the
excuse of not having that ability is not valid.
Shafi, Muhammad (2008). Maariful Quran. (Vol .4 surah 9 verses 38-42). English-MaarifulQuran-MuftiShafiUsmaniRA-Vol-4.pdf (islamicweblibrary.com)