They came upon you from above and from below you. Your eyes rolled (with fear) and your hearts leapt up to your throats, and confused thoughts about God passed through your minds. That was a situation when the believers were sorely tested and severely shaken.
The hypocrites and the sick at heart said: “God and His Messenger promised us nothing but delusions.” Some of them said: “People of Yathrib! You cannot withstand (the attack) here, so go back.” And a group of them asked the Prophet’s permission to leave, saying: “Our houses are exposed,” while they were not exposed. They only wanted to run away. (The Confederates Al-Ahzab: 33: 10-13)
The Qur’an is not merely a book to be read and understood: it is a motivating force. Its texts are ready for implementation at every point. It only needs a heart that warms to it in circumstances that enable its resources to be fully tapped. We may read a particular Qur’anic text tens or hundreds of times, then we look at it again when we are facing a particular situation only to discover that it gives us what it had not given before. It provides a straight answer to our complex problem, shows a way that we overlooked, clears our doubts and replaces these with firm and perfect reassurance. Nothing else, old or new, gives us what the Qur’an gives.
The surah begins its discussion of the encounter with the confederate forces by reminding the believers of God’s favors when He repelled the armies that were intent on exterminating them. The first verse in the passage sums up the nature of the event, its beginning and end, before giving any details or explaining any attitudes. Thus, God’s favor is brought into focus so that the Muslims will always remember it. It also makes it clear that as God commands the believers to follow His revelations, place their trust in Him and not yield to the unbelievers or the hypocrites, it is also He who protects those advocating His message and code for human life against aggression: “Believers! Remember the blessings God bestowed on you when hosts came down upon you. We let loose against them a windstorm and hosts that you could not see. Yet God sees all that you do.” (Verse 9)
In this short opening verse we have a picture of the beginning and end of the battle, along with the decisive factors that combine to produce its result: the arrival of the enemy forces; God’s sending strong winds and other troops unseen by the believers; and His support which is dependent on their attitude and action as God is fully aware of all that they do.
The surah then gives details of the situation: “They came upon you from above and from below you. Your eyes rolled (with fear) and your hearts leapt up to your throats, and confused thoughts about God passed through your minds. That was a situation when the believers were sorely tested and severely shaken. The hypocrites and the sick at heart said: ‘God and His Messenger promised us nothing but delusions.’ Some of them said: ‘People of Yathrib! You cannot withstand (the attack) here, so go back.’ And a group of them asked the Prophet’s permission to leave, saying: ‘Our houses are exposed,’ while they were not exposed. They only wanted to run away.”
The verses paint an image of the whole of Madinah in the grip of great alarm and distress, with the idolaters of the Quraysh and Ghatafan allied with the Jews of Qurayzah moving in from all sides. These feelings of alarm and distress affected all of the people, but their reactions and responses differed. Needless to say, people’s thoughts about God, their behavior, and their evaluation of causes and results were much at variance. Therefore, the test was extremely difficult and the distinction between believers and hypocrites was decisive.
We can see today the whole situation: its elements, feelings, actions and reactions as if it were happening before our eyes. We see it though from the outside: “They came upon you from above and from below you.” We also see people’s reactions to what was unfolding: “Your eyes rolled (with fear) and your hearts leapt up to your throats.” This is a picture of profound fear, anxiety and distress, imparted through people’s expressions and feelings. “Confused thoughts about God passed through your minds.” The surah does not tell us about these thoughts in detail. In fact the adjective “confused” is implied rather than stated in the Arabic text. This gives a more vivid picture of the confusion in people’s feelings and ideas, leaving minds bewildered and perplexed. Such a state of fear and confusion is then further heightened: “That was a situation when the believers were sorely tested and severely shaken.”
A test that left the believers severely shaken must have been truly fearful. Muhammad ibn Maslamah and others said: “During the Moat Encounter our nights were days. The unbelievers took it in turns to confront us, with Abu Sufyan showing up at the head of his troops one day, Khalid ibn Al-Walid with his forces the next day, Amr ibn Al-As the next, Hubayrah ibn Wahb the next, followed by Ikrimah ibn Abi Jahl, and lastly by Dirar ibn Al-Khattab. This was very hard for us, and people were really in fear.”
A further description of the state in which the Muslims found themselves is given by Al-Maqrizi in Imta Al-Asma: “The idolaters appeared at dawn, and the Prophet (peace be upon him) mobilized his companions and the two sides engaged in fighting throughout the day and part of the night. Neither the Prophet nor any Muslim could move out of position. The Prophet could not offer any of the Dhuhr, Asr, Maghrib and Isha’ prayers. His companions said to him: ‘Messenger of God! We have not prayed.’ He said: ‘Nor have I.’ Then the idolaters withdrew and each side went back to their encampments. On another day, Usayd ibn Hudayr stood guard on the edge of the moat, at the head of 200 Muslims. Mounted forces of idolaters, commanded by Khalid ibn Al-Walid tried to take them unawares, but the two sides were engaged in fighting for sometime. Wahshi, who had killed Hamzah, the Prophet’s uncle, during the Battle of Uhud, stabbed Al-Tufayl ibn Al-Nu’man Al-Ansari with a spear and killed him. On that day, the Prophet said: ‘The idolaters have kept us from our middle prayer of Asr. May God fill their bellies and hearts with fire.'”
There was a pious man among the Banu Israel who always remained busy in the worship of Allah. A group of people came to him and told him that a tribe living nearby worshiped a tree. The news upset him, and with an axe on his shoulder he went to cut down that tree. On the way, Satan met him in the form of an old man and asked him where he was going. He said he was going to cut a particular tree. Satan said, “You have nothing to be concerned with this tree, you better mind your worship and do not give it up for the sake of something that does not concern you.” “This is also worship,” retorted the worshiper.
Then Satan tried to prevent him from cutting the tree, and there followed a fight between the two, in which the worshiper overpowered the Satan. Finding himself completely helpless, Satan begged to be excused, and when the worshiper released him, he again said, “Allah has not made the cutting of this tree obligatory on you. You do not lose anything if you do not cut it. If its cutting were necessary, Allah could have got it done through one of his many Prophets.” The worshiper insisted on cutting the tree. There was again a fight between the two and again the worshiper overpowered the Satan. “Well listen,” said Satan, “I propose a settlement that will be to your advantage.” The worshiper agreed, and Satan said, “You are a poor man, a mere burden on this earth. If you stay away from this act, I will pay you three gold coins everyday. You will daily find them lying under your pillow.
By this money you can fulfill your own needs, can oblige your relative, help the needy, and do so many other virtuous things. Cutting the tree will be only one virtue, which will ultimately be of no use because the people will grow another tree.” This proposal appealed to the worshiper, and he accepted it. He found the money on two successive days, but on the third day there was nothing. He got enraged, picked up his axe and went to cut the tree. Satan as an old man again met him on the way and asked him where he was going. “To cut the tree,” shouted the worshiper. “I will not let you do it,” said Satan. A fight took place between the two again but this time Satan had the upper hand and overpowered the worshiper. The latter was surprised at his own defeat, and asked the former the cause of his success. Satan replied, “At first, your anger was purely for earning the pleasure of Allah, and therefore Almighty Allah helped you to overpower me, but now it has been partly for the sake of the gold coins and therefore you lost.”
Source: From the book “Ihyaa-ul Uloom Ud Deen” by Imam Ghazzali (Rematullah Alehe).
[ALLAH’S Quran – 2:261] “The example of those who spend of their wealth in divine service is similar to sown individual grains of corn growing seven auricles, each auricle carrying a hundred grains. And Allah thankfully reimburses multi-fold to whom He will, and Allah is Wasi‘un, His grace abounds in the universe, and He is Alimun.”
The PROPHET (Peace Be Upon Him) has said:
[Fiqh-us-Sunnah, Volume 3, Number 104B] “The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “Whoever seeks the protection of God, give him protection. Whoever asks in the name of God, grant him refuge. Whoever does a good deed to you, reward him. And if you do not have anything (to give in reward), invoke God’s blessings on his behalf until you know that he has been rewarded.”
[Al-Tirmidhi, Hadith 897] “The Prophet also said: “Whoever does not thank people, does not thank God.”
Allah Almighty is All-Knowing and All-Wise. He is also the Most Compassionate, and Most Merciful, without doubt. Yet, in His Ultimate Wisdom, Allah afflicts His slaves from time to time with disasters and calamities, the reasons for which cannot, fully, be comprehended. And it is not befitting any of his creatures to question His Doings.
“He cannot be questioned for His acts, but they will be questioned (for theirs)”.
However, some of the reasons may be as follows. And Allah knows best.
1) Through calamities, Allah tests the Believers:
a)Do people think that they will be left alone because they say: We believe, – and will not be tested. And We indeed tested those who were before them. [al-Ankaboot:2]
b)Or think you that you will enter Paradise without such (trials) as came to those who passed away before you? They were afflicted with severe poverty and ailments and were so shaken that even the Messenger and those who believed along with him said, When (will come) the Help of Allah? Yes! Certainly, the Help of Allah is near! [al-Baqarah:214]
2) Through calamities, Allah forgives sins and raises our status:
The Prophet (pbuh – peace be upon him) said: There is nothing that befalls a believer, not even a thorn that pricks him, but Allah will record one good deed for him and will remove one bad deed from him. (Muslim).
Also, he (pbuh) said: Trials will continue to befall the believing man and woman, with regard to themselves, their children and their wealth, until they meet Allah with no sin on them. (Tirmidhi- Saheeh)
3) Through calamities, Allah distinguishes between people:
By testing us, Allah filters the pure from the evil, the good from the bad, the true from the false, the believer from the hypocrite.
a)Allah will not leave the believers in the state in which you are now, until He distinguishes the wicked from the good [Aal Imraan:179]
b)And Allah will certainly make known (the truth of) those who are true, and will certainly make known (the falsehood of) those who are liars, (although Allah knows all that before putting them to test) [al-Ankaboot:3]
4) Through disasters, Allah warns us & reminds us so we may return to Him:
This is one of the greatest reasons behind calamities and trials, that Allah warns us to correct our mistakes and mend our ways. If we do so, it is good only for us. If we don’t pay heed, surely, only WE are the losers.
a)Verily, We sent (Messengers) to many nations before you (O Muhammad). And We seized them with extreme poverty and loss in health (with calamities) so that they might humble themselves (believe with humility).[Anaam :42]
b)See they not that they are put in trial once or twice every year (with different kinds of calamities, disease, famine)? Yet, they turn not in repentance, nor do they learn a lesson (from it) [al-Tawbah:126]
5) Calamities and disasters strike because of our sins:
And whatever of misfortune befalls you, it is because of what your hands have earned. And He pardons much [al-Shoora:30]
6) Disasters and calamities are a means of punishment:
And indeed, We destroyed generations before you when they did wrong, while their Messengers came to them with clear proofs, but they were not such as to believe! Thus do We requite the people who are Mujrimoon (criminals) [Yoonus:13]
7) If one is patient, they are also a means of great reward in the Hereafter:
The Prophet (pbuh) said: On the Day of Resurrection, when people who had suffered affliction are given their reward, those who were healthy will wish their skins had been cut to pieces with scissors when they were in the world (when they see the great REWARD for suffering) (Tirmidhi- Saheeh)
8) Disasters and calamities are reminders that the world is only temporary:
If the world were free of calamities, man would love it more and feel content with it, and would forget about the Hereafter. But calamities wake him up from his negligence and make him strive for the place (al-Jannah) in which there are NO calamities or trials.
9) Calamities and trials remind us that we are SO weak:
Problems and disasters are a sign of man’s weakness and his need for his Lord. Man cannot succeed unless he realizes his need for his Lord and starts beseeching Him.
10) Worship during hard times has a special favor and a special reward.
The Prophet (pbuh) said: Worshipping at times of tribulation and confusion is like migrating to join me. (Muslim)
11) Calamities make a person appreciate the blessings he has from Allah:
Blessings that come after pain, hardship and calamity are more precious to people. So then they appreciate the blessings as they should be appreciated, and thank Allah.
If things are always easy, a person may forget all the blessing given to him By Allah and not be grateful for it, so Allah tests him by taking some of them away , as a reminder to him to be grateful for it. And, only the one whose heart is open will feel this. Those who have no heart do not give thanks for the blessings of Allah, rather they are arrogant towards Allah and His creation.
12) When Muslims help those Muslims who have been afflicted by calamity, they will be rewarded for that.
The Prophet (pbuh) said: The likeness of the believers in their mutual love, mercy and compassion is that of the body; when one part of it suffers, the rest of the body joins it in staying awake and suffering fever. (Bukhaari, Muslim)
CERTAIN basic states and attitudes of the heart and mind are necessary prerequisites to any fruitful relationship with the Qur’an. Develop them as much as you can. Make them part of your consciousness, keep them ever-alive and active. Integrate them in your actions. Let them penetrate the depth of your being. Without the help of these inner resources you will not receive your full measure of the Qur’an’s blessings. They will be your indispensable companions too, throughout your journey.
1. Faith: The Word Of God
Come to the Qur’an with a strong and deep faith that it is the word of Allah, your Creator and Lord.
Why should such a faith be a necessary prerequisite? No doubt such is the power and charm of the Qur’an that even if a man takes it up and starts reading it as he would an ordinary book, he will still benefit from it, should he read it with an open mind. But this book is no ordinary book, it opens with the emphatic statement : (This is the Book (the Qur’an), whereof there is no doubt . . . ) (Al-Baqarah, 2:2). Your purpose in reading and studying it is no ordinary purpose. You seek from it the guidance that will transform your whole being, bring you and keep you on the Straight Path: (Guide us to the Straight Way) (Al-Fatihah, 1:5) is the cry of your heart to which the Qur’an is the response.
You may admire the Qur’an, even be informed by it, but you cannot be transformed by it unless its words soak in to awaken you, to grip you, to heal, and to change you. This cannot happen unless you take them for what they truly are, the words of God.
That is why the Qur’an reminds you of this important truth again and again: in the very beginning, in the opening verses of many surahs, and frequently in between.
That is why even the Messenger (peace and blessings be on him) is instructed to proclaim his own faith, and all believers must join him: (The Messenger (Muhammad, peace be upon him) believes in what has been sent down to him from His Lord, and (so do) the believers.) (Al-Baqarah, 2:285).
You must, therefore, always remain conscious that each word that you are reading, reciting, hearing, or trying to understand has been sent for you by Allah.
2. Purity Of Intention
Read the Qur’an with no purpose other than to receive guidance from your Lord, to come nearer to Him, and to seek His good pleasure.
What you get from the Qur’an depends on what you come to it for. Your niyyah (intention and purpose) is crucial. Certainly the Qur’an has come to guide you, but you may also go astray by reading it should you approach it for impure purposes and wrong motives. (Al-Baqarah 2:26).
The Qur’an is the word of Allah, it therefore requires as much exclusiveness of intention and purity of purpose as does worshiping (in prayer) and serving Him.
Do not read it merely for intellectual pursuit and pleasure, even though you must apply your intellect to its fullest for the task of understanding the Qur’an. So many people spend a lifetime in studying the language, style, history, geography, law, and ethics of the Qur’an, and yet their lives remain untouched by its message. The Qur’an frequently refers to people who have knowledge but do not derive benefit from it.
You may also derive other lesser benefits from the words of the Qur’an, such as the healing of bodily afflictions, psychological peace, and deliverance from poverty. There is no bar to having these, but again, they should not become the be-all and end-all that you seek from the Qur’an nor the goal of your niyyah. For in achieving these you may lose a whole ocean that could have been yours.
Finally, your niyyah should be directed to seeking only your Lord‚s pleasure, by devoting your heart, mind, and time to the guidance that He has sent to you. That is what you barter when you surrender yourself to Allah : (And of mankind is he who would sell himself, seeking the Pleasure of Allah . . .) (Al-Baqarah 2:207).
Purpose and intentions are like the soul of a body, the inner capability of a seed. Many seeds look alike, but as they begin to grow and bear fruits, their differences become manifest. The purer and higher the motive, the greater the value and yield of your efforts.
So always ask yourself: Why am I reading the Qur’an? Tell yourself constantly why you should. This may be the best way to ensure the purity and exclusiveness of purpose and intention.
[ALLAH’S Quran – 40:59] “Verily the Hour is coming: there is no doubt there of; yet most of mankind believe not.”
The PROPHET (Peace Be Upon Him) has said:
[BUKHARI, Book #3, Hadith #80] “Narrated Anas: Allah’s Apostle said, “From among the portents of the hour are (the following):
1. Religious knowledge will be taken away (by the death of Religious learned men).
2. (Religious) ignorance will prevail.
3. Drinking of Alcoholic drinks (will be very common).
4. there will be prevalence of open illegal sexual intercourse.”
[BUKHARI, Book #76, Hadith #503] “Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah’s Apostle said, “When honesty is lost, then wait for the Hour.” It was asked, “How will honesty be lost, O Allah’s Apostle?” He said, “When authority is given to those who do not deserve it, then wait for the Hour.”
[MUSLIM, Book #032, Hadith #6382] “Anas b. Malik reported: Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) and I were coming out of the mosque that we met a person on the threshold of the mosque and he said to Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him): When would be the Last hour? Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) said: What preparation have you made for that? the man became silent and then said: Allah’s Messenger, I have made no significant preparation with prayer and fasting and charity but I, however, love Allah and His Messenger. there upon (the Holy Prophet) said: You would be along with one whom you love.”