The Meaning Of Victory And Defeat
In the name of God, the Lord of Grace, the Ever Merciful
We shall indeed support Our messengers and the believers both in this world’s life and on the Day when all the witnesses shall stand up. On that Day their excuses will be of no avail to the wrongdoers: Their fate will be rejection, and they will have the worst of homes. And indeed, We bestowed Our guidance on Moses and passed down the Book to the Children of Israel as a guide and a reminder to people of understanding. Therefore, remain patient in adversity, for God’s promise always comes true. Ask forgiveness for your sins, and extol your Lord’s glory and praise evening and morning. (The Forgiving; 40: 51-55)
What constitutes victory? What is meant by defeat? We need to review our concepts and our sense of values before we ask about whether God’s promise to His messengers and to believers comes true in this present life?
Yet there are many situations where victory takes its familiar form, particularly when such form is linked to a permanent one. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) achieved victory in his lifetime because his victory was necessary for the establishment of the faith in its full reality in human life. This faith of ours can only be brought to its fullness when it governs the life of its community. It can, thus, conduct all affairs, from those of a single heart and soul to those of state and government. It was God’s will that the Messenger preaching this faith should triumph during his own lifetime, so that he could establish the full form of the Islamic faith, leaving a real example for future generations. Thus, the familiar form of victory was linked in his case to a much wider one, and the two were united by God’s will and according to His planning.
Another point to consider is that God’s promise is given to His messengers and to believers. Thus, a prerequisite for victory is the presence of true faith in people’s hearts so as to make the promise applicable to them. Yet people often overlook the significance of the truth of faith, which comes into existence only when people remove all forms of idolatry.
There are some very subtle forms of idolatry that can only be purged when a person is totally devoted to God, relies on Him alone, and submits totally to His will in all affairs.
He then feels that God guides his footsteps and that he chooses nothing other than what God has chosen for him. Thus, he accepts God’s will with contentment. When a person attains this state, he does not suggest to God any particular form of victory. He leaves the matter to God to determine. He accepts whatever befalls him as good. This is one of the meanings of victory. It is victory over one’s pleasures and desires. It is an internal victory, one that is prerequisite for achieving the external victory: “We shall indeed support Our messengers and the believers both in this world’s life and on the Day when all the witnesses shall stand up. On that Day their excuses will be of no avail to the wrongdoers: their fate will be rejection, and they will have the worst of homes.”
We have seen in the previous image drawn how the excuses advanced by the wrongdoers were of little use to them, and how they were rejected and made to dwell in the worst of homes. Moses’ story shows yet another form of victory: “And indeed, We bestowed Our guidance on Moses, and passed down the Book to the Children of Israel as a guide and a reminder to people of understanding.” Providing guidance and passing the book down to them was a form of victory that clearly reflects the breadth of its scope.
The final note in this part of the surah is given in the form of a directive to the Prophet and the believers facing much hardship in Makkah, and to all future generations of believers who face such hardship: “Therefore, remain patient in adversity, for God’s promise always comes true. Ask forgiveness for your sins, and extol your Lord’s glory and praise evening and morning.” Remain patient in adversity, whether this adversity takes the form of rejection of the message, denying its truth, or the infliction of physical harm. Remain patient when you are unable to check falsehood that appears to enjoy wealth and power for a period of time. Bear with patience what you have to face of people’s rough attitudes and behavior. Check your own desire to achieve a quick victory. Remain patient as you may have to face many difficulties caused by friends, if not by enemies.
“Remain patient in adversity, for God’s promise always comes true.” It may appear slow coming; matters may become complicated; prospects may become gloomy, yet it is the promise of the One who can fulfill it, and whose will it has been to make the promise. As you go along your way, take the necessary equipment: “Ask forgiveness for your sins, and extol your Lord’s glory and praise evening and morning.” This is what is of most benefit along the hard way of patience; seeking forgiveness of one’s sins and extolling God’s praise and glory. While this serves to refine our hearts and feelings, it also ensures a positive response. Indeed, it is through such seeking of forgiveness and extolling of God’s praise and glory that victory is achieved within ourselves, to be followed by victory in life.
The evening and morning are specified either as a reference to all-time, since these are the two ends of the day, or because these are times when hearts are calm and reflective. They can, thus, appreciate God’s greatness better.
Such is the way, then, that God has chosen to provide the necessary equipment for achieving victory.
– By NAUSHAD SHAMIM AL-HAQ