Allah did indeed fulfil His promise to you when ye with His permission Were about to annihilate your enemy,-until ye flinched and fell to disputing about the order, and disobeyed it after He brought you in sight (of the booty) which ye covet. Among you are some that hanker after this world and some that desire the Hereafter. Then did He divert you from your foes in order to test you but He forgave you: For Allah is full of grace to those who believe.
The real cause of the setback at Uḥud This is in refuting the false anti-Islam propaganda of the unbelievers and the hypocrites who said the Muslims were simply deluded into thinking that Allah and His angels help and support them, for, it that were true, why were they not helped in the battle of Uḥud? As pointed out in verse 149 above, some weaker Muslims were affected by this poisonous propaganda. To counter this, the Qur’ān tells them that as far as Allah’s promise of help and support is concerned, it was also fulfilled in the battle of Uḥud. In the beginning, the Muslims freely despatched the unbelievers and they had to withdraw. Victory was clearly in sight. But, before breaking down the enemy and forcing them to surrender, the Muslims slackened their effort. The troops that had been stationed by the Prophet, peace be upon him, to guard the hilltop passage way in their rear were instructed by the Prophet in explicit terms not to leave it. They were told to hold on to their position under all circumstances. But, they differed among themselves in interpreting the purpose behind the commandment of the Prophet, peace be upon him. Most of them, thinking that victory was near at hand, abandoned their positions and contrary to the explicit commandment of the Prophet, peace be upon him, joined others in gathering the spoils of war. Some among them wanted this world while others desired the life hereafter. Allah does not like the presence among the believers’ ranks of the people who would ignore the commandment of Allah’s Prophet in their eagerness to gain material riches. In His wisdom therefore, Allah decided to put you through a trial so that those who desired this world should be separated from your ranks. He therefore turned your attention away from the unbelievers and, as a consequence, your victory was turned into defeat.
With respect to the battle of Uḥud, we may note here that almost all the historians and biographers are agreed that the initial attack of the Muslims was highly successful. They had almost overrun their enemy when a detachment of theirs stationed to guard the hilltop passage in their rear with clear instructions from the Prophet, peace be upon him, not to leave their places under any conditions, abandoned their posts and joined in collecting war booty. Only a few of them were left behind. The enemy took advantage of this situation and attacked the Muslims with such ferocity from the rear that the Muslim army was totally confounded. The verse refers to this incident.
Islahi, Amin Ahsan. Pondering Over The Qur’an: Surah Ali Imran (p. 268-269). Islamic Book Trust. Kindle Edition.