Tafseer Surah Aal-Imran Ayaat 149 – 152
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala warns His believing servants against obeying the disbelievers and hypocrites because such obedience leads to utter destruction in this life and the Hereafter.
Background of the Revelation of the Ayaat
Mufti Muhammad Shafi Usmani writes in his Tafseer, Ma’arif-ul-Qur’an, the word sultan meaning “authority” includes all revealed or rational basis of their position. The promise of casting awe and fear into the hearts of the disbelievers in this ayah was made in the background of the Battle of Uhud. The idolaters were marching back to Makkah with any reason and in spite of defeat overtaking the Muslims. However, after covering a certain distance on their way to Makkah, they awoke to their folly.
When they thought of marching back to Madina, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala filled their hearts with such awe and fear that they could not muster the courage to do so. The most they could do was to hire a Madinah-bound villager to go there and tell the Muslims that they were coming back. However, the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam found it out through revelation. He marched to Hamra’ al-Asad to apprehend them but they had already run away from here.
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala commands the believers to obey Him, take Him as their Protector, seek His aid, and trust in Him.
He conveys the good news that He will put the fear of the Muslims, and feelings of subordination to the Muslims in the hearts of their disbelieving enemies, because of their disbelief and Shirk. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala has prepared torment and punishment for them in the Hereafter.
The High Station of the Companions (RA)
Before we proceed to the Tafseer of these ayaat, we must keep the station of the Companions radhiAllahu ‘anhum in our minds.
Mufti Muhammad Shafi Usmani writes, the Companions made an error of judgment during the Battle of Uhud. This has been the subject of admonition and correction in the previous continuity of ayaat. But equally worth noticing here are the graces of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala showed on the Companions radhiAllahu ‘anhum with the element of warning.
For example, in the following ayah Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says liyabtaliyakum [لِيَبْتَلِيَكُمْ] which is from the root ba-laam-wau and in the ayah it means, “that He might test you.” It was made clear that this temporary setback did not come as a punishment, rather, it was to test the believers.
Then comes the statement walaqad ‘afa ‘ankum [وَلَقَدْ عَفَا عَنكُمْ] which means, “And He has already forgiven you.”
Talking about the Day of Uhud, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says that He did indeed fulfill His promise of helping the believers in the beginning, when they were slaying the enemies until they started fighting among themselves regarding the war booty. Some Companions radhiAllahu ‘anhum were of the view that they should remain at their position as instructed by Rasoolullah salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. While others were of the opinion that the war is over, Muslims have won the battle and it was now to join their brothers in collecting the booty. Therefore, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says, “Among you are some who desire this world, and among you are some who desire the Hereafter.”
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says that this was a test for the believers to see who will follow the instructions of the Messenger salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and who will disobey.
“And He has already forgiven you…”
Ibn Katheer writes that it means He forgave the error you committed because Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala knew that the idolaters were many and well-supplied while the Muslims had few men and few supplies.
Did the Companions (RA) Tilt towards the Material?
Mufti Shafi Usmani writes, the Companions radhiAllahu ‘anhum were split into two groups at that time. Some sought the mundane while others sought the Hereafter.
Had the Companions stayed at their assigned post of duty and had not taken part in the collection of the spoils of the war, would it have made their due share in the spoil any less? Did their participation in the war entitle them to some larger share?
The Companions radhiAllahu ‘anhum knew that according to the Law of Spoils, their due share was under no condition subject to being more or less. Their share of the spoils would have remained the same whether they helped in the collection of the spoils or remained on guard at the appointed place of duty.
The action of the Companions cannot be classed as the “unqualified” pursuit of the material for they were participating in the war, they were expected to have a share in the booty. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala, however, likes to see the hearts of the Companions radhiAllahu ‘anhum clean and untouched by even the remotest idea of any tilt towards material possession. Therefore, this idea of going to possess a thing of Dunya has been equated with “seeking of the mundane” which explains the element of divine distaste for the action.
Al-Bukhari recorded that Al-Bara’ said, “We met the idolaters on that day (Uhud) and the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi was sallam appointed ‘Abdullah bin Jubayr as the commander of the archers. He instructed them, ‘Retain your position, and if you see that we have defeated them, do not abandon your positions. If you see that they defeated us, do not rush to help us.’
The disbelievers gave flight when we met them, and we saw their women fleeing up the mountain while lifting up their clothes revealing their anklets and their legs. So, the companions (of ‘Abdullah bin Jubayr) said, ‘The booty, the booty!’ ‘Abdullah bin Jubayr said, ‘Allah’s Messenger commanded me not to allow you to abandon your position.’
They refused to listen, and when they left their position, Muslims were defeated and seventy of them were killed. Abu Sufyan shouted, ‘Is Muhammad present among these people?’ The Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi was sallam said, ‘Do not answer him.’ Then he asked, ‘Is the son of Abu Quhafah (Abu Bakr) present among these people?’ The Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi was sallam said, ‘Do not answer him.’ He asked again, ‘Is the son of Al-Khattab (‘Umar) present among these people? As for these (men), they have been killed, for had they been alive, they would have answered me.’ ‘Umar could not control himself and said (to Abu Sufyan), ‘You lie, O enemy of Allah! The cause of your misery is still present.’
Abu Sufyan said, ‘O Hubal, be high!’ On that the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi was sallam said (to his Companions), ‘Answer him back.’ They said, ‘What shall we say?’ He said, ‘Say, Allah is Higher and more Sublime.’ Abu Sufyan said, ‘We have the (idol) Al-`Uzza, and you have no ‘Uzza.’ The Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi was sallam said, ‘Answer him back.’ They asked, ‘What shall we say?’ He said, ‘Say, Allah is our protector and you have no protector.’
Abu Sufyan said, ‘Our victory today is vengeance for yours in the battle of Badr, and in war (the victory) is always undecided and is shared in turns by the belligerents. You will find some of your killed men mutilated, but I did not urge my men to do so, yet I do not feel sorry for their deed.’”
Only Al-Bukhari collected this Hadith using this chain of narration.
Muhammad bin Ishaq said that ‘Abdullah bin Az-Zubayr narrated that Az-Zubayr bin Al-`Awwam said, “By Allah! I saw the female servants and female companions of Hind (Abu Sufyan’s wife) when they uncovered their legs and gave flight. At that time, there was no big or small effort separating us from capturing them. However, the archers went down the mount when the enemy gave flight from the battlefield, seeking to collect the booty. They uncovered our back lines to the horsemen of the disbelievers, who took the chance and attacked us from behind. Then a person shouted, ‘Muhammad has been killed.’ So we pulled back, and the disbelievers followed us, after we had killed those who carried their flag, and none of them dared to come close the flag, until then.’” Muhammad bin Ishaq said next, “The flag of the disbelievers was left on the ground until ‘Amrah bint `Alqamah Al-Harithiyyah picked it up and gave it to the Quraysh who held it.”
The first lesson that we learn is that we should be careful about who we take advice from. Not everyone qualifies to be our advisor. We should consult only those who are the true believers meaning they have the Taqwa of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala and knowledge of the Deen. They will guide us to a matter that is the most pleasing to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. If we accept everyone’s advice, we might end up taking the wrong decision.
We learn that one of the main causes of defeat or failure for Muslims is disunity. When people are fighting among themselves then there is no goodness left. The same principle applies to family disagreements – if people are respectful and considerate of others’ opinions and rights, there wouldn’t be so many fights in the home and lack of barakah in our lives.
We also learn that the help of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala comes with the strength of our When our relationship with Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is fixed, He fixes our relationship with this Dunya. If we strive in His path with sincerity seeking nothing except nearness to and the pleasure of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala, then He facilitates our worldly affairs.
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala sends tests in our lives to make us strong and to prepare us for a higher responsibility. We are weak and average, we will not be ready to accept a greater role. Therefore, do not complain about the tests but look for the lessons in them.
Love of this world leads one to disobedience, disagreements and disputes. Replace this love with the love for the eternal peace of the Hereafter. Love of this world weaken a person and makes them a coward. Aim high, focus on the Hereafter.
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