Aal-Imran · Juz 3 · Qur'an Tafseer

He Honors and He Humiliates whom He wills

In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful

Tafseer Surah Aal-Imran Ayaat 26-27 [Part 1]

In these ayaat, Muslims have been taught and prompted to make a particular prayer which, in a subtle way, gives an indication that they are going to overpower disbelievers. This has its proof in the background in which these ayaat were revealed. When the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam promised that Byzantine and Persia will be conquered, the hypocrites and the Jews laughed at the idea. Thereupon, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala revealed these ayaat.

Background of the Ayaat – An Episode from the Battle of Khandaq
{Excerpt from Maarif ul Qur’an by Mufti Muhammad Shafi Usmani. (Please note that some sentences have been paraphrased for clarity. We respect the work of our Ulema, and have made slight modifications only for clear understanding.)}

The recurring defeat of the disbelievers of Makkah at Badr and Uhud and their general failure to register any gains in their hostility against Muslims coupled with the growing strength of Muslims and the rise of Islam had made them nervous. The disbelievers of Arabia, the Jews, and the Christians all joined in a united front against Muslims and resolved to attack Madinah and fight a conclusive battle. They did this to eradicate Islam and Muslims from the face of the earth. The battle is called “Al-Ahzab” in the Qur’an and “Khandaq” in history. It is called the Battle of Khandaq or the Battle of the Trench because in this battle the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam had instructed the Companions radhiAllahu ‘anhum to dig a trench around parts of Madinah to block the unhindered attack of the enemy during this battle.

According to narrations in al-Baihaqi, Abu Nu’aim and Ibn Khuzaimah, when the task of digging the trench was entrusted to the Muslim army, the plan was to allot the digging of a forty hand-span long trench to a group of ten men each. This trench was several miles long and fairly deep and wide so that the enemy would find it impossible to cross over. Then the digging had to be completed in the shortest possible time, which made the Companions radhiAllahu ‘anhum put in whatever time and energy they had in this effort. They found it difficult to leave the job and take time for even the most pressing of their needs. They were working non-stop on empty stomachs. A modern army engineering service with its latest equipment would have not found this kind of job any easier to handle. Here, it was the power of faith which made the completion of this difficult assignment possible.

The Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam took part in the digging as everybody else. While digging, the diggers came upon a huge rock in a certain part of the trench. Those who were assigned to dig that part of the trench tried their best to break it apart but they became helpless and gave up. They requested Salman al-Farsi radhiAllahu ‘anhu to go to the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and seek instructions from him. The Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam immediately came at the spot, took the pick-axe in his blessed hands and struck the rock. The rock was shattered into pieces and from it rose a streak of light which illuminated the area far and wide. The Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said, “In this light, I see the palaces and buildings of Hirah in the country of Persia.”

He struck again and the second beam of light rose. He said, “In this light, I was shown the red palaces and buildings of the Byzantinians.” When he struck the third time and the flame beamed its light around, he said, “In this, I was shown the great palaces of San’a in Yemen.” Then he said, “I share the good news given by Jibreel (‘alayhi salaam) with you that my community of Muslims will prevail over all these countries.”

When the hypocrites of Madinah heard about it, they found an occasion to ridicule Muslims. They said: Look at these people, here they are all scared of the enemy, digging trenches without eating or resting, not knowing if their lives will be safe, yet they are dreaming of conquering Persia, Byzantine, and Yemen.

It was in reply to their criticism that Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala revealed ayah 26.

قُلِ اللَّهُمَّ مَالِكَ الْمُلْكِ تُؤْتِي الْمُلْكَ مَن تَشَاءُ وَتَنزِعُ الْمُلْكَ مِمَّن تَشَاءُ وَتُعِزُّ مَن تَشَاءُ وَتُذِلُّ مَن تَشَاءُ ۖ بِيَدِكَ الْخَيْرُ ۖ إِنَّكَ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ

“Say, ‘O Allah , Owner of Sovereignty, You give sovereignty to whom You will and You take sovereignty away from whom You will. You honor whom You will and You humble whom You will. In Your hand is [all] good. Indeed, You are over all things competent.’”

Appearing in the form of a prayer, this ayah eloquently brings into focus the most perfect power of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala as it manifests itself in the rise and fall of nations and in the revolutions that rock countries. At the same time, it gives a hint that the prophecy made by the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam will come to pass and Persia and Byzantine will fall to Muslims.

Here, the enemies of Islam have been warned that they have not learned their lesson from the rise and fall of past wielders of power for they judge events and personalities from the material aspect. The truth is that all powers and governments of the world are in the hands of the most pristine power of Allah, the One in whose hands lies all honor and disgrace.

He is Capable of making the poor and the meek sit on the thrones and wrest power from the kings and monarchs. Why then, should it be difficult for Him to choose these ragged believers digging trenches to rule over Persia, Syria, Iraq and Yemen?

Things usually considered bad may ultimately prove not to be that bad:

The expression biyadikal khair [بِيَدِكَ الْخَيْرُ] translated as “in Your hand is [all] good,” needs some explanation. Notice that in the earlier part of the ayah both giving and taking of power and bestowing honor and bringing disgracing have been mentioned. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala does not use the word shar [evil] next to the word khair [good]. He elects to use the word “khair” alone and thereby points out to something real and significant in human affairs.

The point worth noting is that a person or a people may regard something as undesirable, and it may even be so for that particular person or community, but if looked with a broader view, it may not be really evil. The Arab poet, Mutanabbi has put in succinctly when he said:

The evil of things that we regard as evil is partial. Looked at from its relationship to the Creator of the Universe and the Lord of all there is, nothing is truly evil or bad.




One thought on “He Honors and He Humiliates whom He wills

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s