In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
Tafseer Al-Baqarah Ayah 243
The following ayaat encourage the believers to not shy away from sacrificing their lives in the path of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. Life and death are subservient to the destiny determined by Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala, going into a battle does not result in one’s death and running away from it, out of cowardice, is not the means to avoid death.
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala shares an example from the past, for us to take heed.
“Have you not considered those who left their homes in many thousands, fearing death? Allah said to them, ‘Die’; then He restored them to life. And Allah is full of bounty to the people, but most of the people do not show gratitude.” [al-Baqarah 2: 243]
Ibn Abu Hatim related that Ibn ‘Abbas radhiAllahu ‘anhu said that these people were the residents of a village called Dawardan – a place several miles away from Wasit, Iraq.
Explaining this ayah Ibn ‘Abbas said that they were four thousand people who escaped the plague (that broke out in their land). They said, “We should go to a land that is free of death!” When they reached a certain area, Allah said to them: Die. And they all died. Afterwards, one of the prophets passed by them and supplicated to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala to resurrect them and He brought them back to life.
Other scholars among the Salaf said that these people were the residents of a city during the time of the Children of Israel. The weather in their land did not suit them and an epidemic broke out. They fled their land fearing death and took refuge in the wilderness. They later arrived at a fertile valley and they filled what is between its two sides. Then Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala sent two angels to them, one from the lower side and the other from the upper side of the valley. The angels screamed once and all the people died instantly, just as the death of one man. They were later moved to a different place, where walls and graves were built around them. They all perished, and their bodies rotted and disintegrated.
Long afterwards, one of the prophets of the Children of Israel, whose name was Hizqil [Ezekiel], passed by them and asked Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala to bring them back to life by his hand. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala accepted his supplication and commanded him to say, “O rotted bones, Allah commands you to come together.” The bones of every body were brought together. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala then commanded him to say, “O bones, Allah commands you to be covered with flesh, nerves and skin.” That also happened while Hizqil was watching.
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala then commanded him to say, “O souls, Allah commands you to return, each to the body that it used to inhabit.” They all came back to life, looked around and proclaimed, “All praise is due to You (O Allah!) and there is no deity worthy of worship except You.” Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala brought them back to life after they had perished long ago.
The lesson for us is that no living being can escape death by running away from it. If a certain area has been struck by plague or an epidemic, do not leave the place. Because your running away will cause the epidemic to spread and result in more deaths. Stay where you are and take precautionary measures to remain protected.
It also indicates that no caution can ever avert destiny and that there is no refuge from Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala, but to Allah Himself. These people departed from their land fleeing the epidemic and seeking to enjoy a long life. What they earned was the opposite of what they sought, as death came quickly and instantaneously and seized them all.
We should remember that death comes at an appointed time; it can neither be earlier nor later. At the time of someone’s death, people who say, “I wish he had not taken that bus or train,” or “I wish he had not gone to that area,” need to be corrected. These are all asbaab of death. We will all die, on a date decided by Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala and in a manner decreed by Him. Therefore, when someone dies accept it as a Divine decree and don’t fall for kash [saying “if”]. And don’t wail over their death or tear clothes, this is not the Islamic conduct. We ask Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala to teach us the best manners, aameen. Our loved ones have passed and soon we will be joining them.
In an authentic hadeeth Imam Ahmad reported that ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abbas said that ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab radhiAllahu ‘anhum once went to Syria. When he reached the area of Sargh, he was met by the commanders of the army: Abu ‘Ubaydah ibn Jarrah radhiAllahu ‘anhu and his companions. They told him that the plague had broken out in Syria. ‘Abdur-Rahman ibn ‘Awf radhiAllahu ‘anhu, who was away attending to his affairs, came and said, “I have knowledge regarding this matter. I heard Allah’s Messenger salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam say,
إِذَا كَانَ بِأَرْضٍ وَأَنْتُمْ بِهَا فَلَا تَخْرُجُوا فِرَارًا مِنْه، وإِذَا سَمِعتُمْ به بأَرْضٍ فَلا تَقْدمُوا عَلَيْه
“If it (the plague) breaks out in a land that you are in, do not leave that land to escape from it. If you hear about it in a land, do not enter it.” ‘Umar then thanked Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala and went back. This hadeeth is also reported in the Saheehayn.
Bringing these people back to life is a clear proof that physical resurrection shall occur on the Day of Resurrection. This is why Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala said, “And Allah is full of bounty to the people,” meaning He shows them His great signs, sound proofs and clear evidences. Yet, “most of the people do not show gratitude.” They do not thank Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala for what He has given them in their worldly life and religious affairs.
This is the condition of most of the people. We keep complaining for what we don’t have instead of looking at what we do have. When a person is ungrateful, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala snatches the blessings that they were given. Lowering of gaze is not only in gender relations but in all the temptations of this dunya. Do not look at what Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala has given to other people, rather look at what He has given to you. Do not long for what people have, be content with what you have.
Ayah 244 – Abandoning Jihad does not Alter Destiny
The incident of the dead people was brought here as an introduction because in the ayah after that Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala gives the command of fighting in His way.
“And fight in the cause of Allah and know that Allah is Hearing and Knowing.” [al-Baqarah 2: 244]
This ayah indicates that just as caution does not alter destiny, abandoning qitaal [fighting] will neither bring the appointed term closer nor delay it. Rather, destiny and the appointed provisions are fixed and shall never be changed or altered, neither by addition nor deletion. In another ayah, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala said,
الَّذِينَ قَالُواْ لإِخْوَنِهِمْ وَقَعَدُواْ لَوْ أَطَاعُونَا مَا قُتِلُوا قُلْ فَادْرَءُوا عَنْ أَنفُسِكُمُ الْمَوْتَ إِن كُنتُمْ صَـدِقِينَ
“Those who said about their brother while sitting (at home), ‘If they had obeyed us, they would not have been killed.’ Say, ‘Then prevent death from yourselves, if you should be truthful.’” [aal-Imran 3:168]
And in Surah an-Nisa ayaat 77 and 78, He says,
“They say, ‘Our Lord, why have You decreed upon us fighting? If only You had postponed (it for) us for a short time.’ Say, ‘The enjoyment of this world is little, and the Hereafter is better for he who fears Allah . And injustice will not be done to you, (even) as much as a thread (inside a date seed).’ Wheresoever you may be, death will overtake you even if you should be within towers of lofty construction.” (4: 77-78)
Khalid ibn al-Waleed, the commander of the Muslim armies, the veteran among Muslim soldiers, the protector of Islam and the Sword of Allah, said on his deathbed, “I have participated in so-and-so number of battles. There is not a part of my body, but suffered a shot (of an arrow), a stab (of a spear) or a strike (of a sword). Yet, here I am, I die on my bed just as the camel dies! May the eyes of the cowards never taste sleep.” He, may Allah be pleased with him, was sorry and in pain because he did not die as martyr in battle. He was sad that he had to die on his bed!
The lesson here is to not take fighting as going into the jaws of death and do not assume that running away from it will deliver you from your appointed time of death. Obey the commands of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala and achieve the best of both the worlds. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is the Hearer and Knower of all you say and do.
Do you know, running away from the battlefield is one of the major sins? There is also a du’a to seek protection against turning away from striving in the path of Allah.
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