The 49th Call: Elements of Victory and Defeat
Almighty Allah says (what can be translated as): “O you who have believed, when you encounter a company [from the enemy forces], stand firm and remember Allah much that you may be successful. And obey Allah and His Messenger, and do not dispute and [thus] lose courage and [then] your strength would depart; and be patient. Indeed, Allah is with the patient. And do not be like those who came forth from their homes insolently and to be seen by people and avert [them] from the way of Allah. And Allah is encompassing of what they do. And [remember] when Satan made their deeds pleasing to them and said, ‘No one can overcome you today from among the people, and indeed, I am your protector.’ But when the two armies sighted each other, he turned on his heels and said, ‘Indeed, I am disassociated from you. Indeed, I see what you do not see; indeed I fear Allah. And Allah is severe in penalty.’” (Al-Anfal: 45-48)
Almighty Allah encourages the believers to remain steadfast when they face the enemies in the battlefield. He commands them to mention Him during hardships and distress to strengthen their hearts and support their souls. These are the strongest reasons for victory and winning over the enemies in the world. They are the reasons of gaining success and the satisfaction of Allah in the present world and the Hereafter.
Almighty Allah commands the believers to obey Him by remaining steadfast upon meeting the polytheist enemies and to be sincere to Him, exert effort in fighting and mention Allah a lot to reassure and calm down their spirits and remove any fear, hesitation or worry. Allah also commands them to obey the Messenger of Allah (Peace Be upon Him) and follow his orders to apply the general plan of the army in the battle and eventually win. Then, He commands them not to dispute or have conflicts because fighting and conflicting lead to failure, defeat and loss of the achievements accomplished by Muslims in the battle field “and do not dispute and [thus] lose courage and [then] your strength would depart; and be patient.” Then, Almighty Allah repeats His command to the believers to remain patient because Allah is indeed with the patient.
Believers, you have to follow the commands of your Lord by remaining obedient to the Almighty and His kind Messenger (Peace Be upon Him). You have to apply their orders and do not be like the opposing polytheists came forth from Makkah insolently and proudly of the blessings they were given, they also came out to be seen, admired and praised by people for their wealth, strength and courage. They intend to avert others from the way of Allah, forbid people from entering Islam and limiting the spread of Islam. Allah is encompassing of what they do, there is nothing unknown to Allah and He will repay them in this world and the Hereafter.
Prophet Muhammad! Remind your people when Satan made the bad deeds of the polytheists of Quraysh appealing to them and told them that no one can overcome them today from among the people. He assured them that their homes will not be attacked while they were fighting the Muslims in the Battle of Badr because he is their protector and supporter. But when the two groups faced each other, “he turned on his heels and said…” to his disbelieving followers: I am disassociating myself from you because I see what you do not see. He sees the angles supporting the Muslims and he knows the glory, might and dominance of Allah Almighty. This is something which his supporters do not realize and this is why Satan fears Allah as he knows that Allah is severe in penalty.
They should also try to acquire all that is needed to ensure victory. This includes a steadfast attitude, frequent remembrance of Allah to maintain their relationship with Him, obedience to Allah and His Messenger, avoidance of internal conflict and dispute, patience in adversity, perseverance in battle, and steering away from conceit, showing off and persecution of others.
Steadfastness is the first step to victory, and the party that is more steadfast is the one which has the upper hand. Although the believers cannot tell, their enemy may be suffering even more than what they themselves are suffering. Their enemy may even be enduring more pain, although that enemy could not hope to receive support from Allah as they hope to do. It may be that if the believers only remain steadfast for a moment longer, their enemy will collapse and be vanquished. Why should the believers ever feel shaken when they are certain that they will have either one of the best two alternatives: victory or martyrdom? Their enemy, on the other hand, aims at nothing further than the life of this world. This explains why disbelievers are so keen to achieve material superiority in this life which is the ultimate they hope for, since they have no hope in the life to come.
Frequent remembrance of Allah at the time when an encounter with the enemy is imminent is a constant directive to believers. It is a consistent teaching that becomes well engraved in the hearts of believers. Indeed the Qur’an shows it as a feature of the community of believers in their long history. The Qur’an tells us about the sorcerers Pharaoh gathered for a contest with Prophet Moses (PBUH). When they submitted to the faith after they had realized that it represented the truth, Pharaoh issued them with a highly frightening warning outlining the punishment which he would inflict on them, unless they abandoned their new faith. Their response was: “And you do not resent us except because we believed in the signs of our Lord when they came to us. Our Lord, pour upon us patience and let us die as Muslims [in submission to You].” (Al-Araf: 126)
The Qur’an also mentions the case of a small band of believers among the Children of Israel who were facing the might of Goliath and his army: “When they came face to face with Goliath and his troops, they prayed, ‘And when they went forth to [face] Goliath and his soldiers, they said, “Our Lord, pour upon us patience and plant firmly our feet and give us victory over the disbelieving people..’” (Al-Baqrah: 250)
In the Qur’anic accounts of the attitudes of believing communities as they were fighting their battles we read the following statement: “And how many a prophet [fought and] with him fought many religious scholars. But they never lost assurance due to what afflicted them in the cause of Allah, nor did they weaken or submit. And Allah loves the steadfast. And their words were not but that they said, ‘Our Lord, forgive us our sins and the excess [committed] in our affairs and plant firmly our feet and give us victory over the disbelieving people.’”(Al-Imran: 146-147)
This type of education was well taken by the early Muslim community. They adopted the same attitude whenever they had to meet an enemy in battle. Later, the Qur’an speaks about those who suffered a reversal in the Battle of Uhud. When they were required to go on a new campaign the following day, they showed that they could rise to the highest level of steadfastness: “Those to whom hypocrites said, ‘Indeed, the people have gathered against you, so fear them.’ But it [merely] increased them in faith, and they said, ‘Sufficient for us is Allah , and [He is] the best Disposer of affairs.’” (Al-Imran: 173)
Remembering Allah at the time of encountering an enemy is useful in a variety of ways. To start with, it provides a direct link with the Power that can never be overcome. It is a demonstration of placing all trust in Allah who is certain to support His servants. At the same time it brings to the forefront the nature of the battle, its causes and goals. It is a battle for Allah, to establish His authority on earth and to overthrow all tyrants who try to usurp this authority. In short it is a fight to make Allah’s word supreme. It has no motive of imposing the authority of any person, group or nation, or making any personal or national gain. It also emphasizes the importance of the duty of remembering Allah even at the most difficult time.
Obedience to Allah and His Messenger (PBUH) ensures that the believers go into the battle submitting themselves totally to Allah. There will be no room for any cause of conflict or dispute: “and do not dispute and [thus] lose courage and [then] your strength would depart; and be patient.” (Verse 46)
People fall into dispute when they have different authorities which they look to for leadership and guidance, or when desire is the ultimate factor that shapes people’s views and ideas. When people obey only Allah and His Messenger, the main cause of dispute between them disappears, no matter how much their views differ over the question under discussion. Having different views is never a cause of dispute and conflict. What causes conflict is desire, making everyone insist that his view is the one to follow, even when it appears to be wrong. Desire causes ‘self’ to be placed in opposition to ‘right’ and attaching more importance to self in the first place. For this reason, Muslims are given this directive to obey Allah and His Messenger at the time of battle. It is a question of discipline that is essential in battle. It is obedience to the High Command which reflects itself in a genuine obedience to the leader in command of the Muslim forces. Thus it is different from the rigid and superficial discipline in the ranks of armies that do not fight for Allah’s cause, and in which loyalty to commanders is not based on loyalty and submission to Allah. The gulf between the two is great indeed.
Steadfastness and patience in adversity are also essential in any fight, whether internal within oneself, or on the battlefield: “…and be patient. Indeed, Allah is with the patient.” (Verse 46) Being with Allah will certainly ensure success and victory for those who are steadfast. The last directive is given as follows: “And do not be like those who came forth from their homes insolently and to be seen by people and avert [them] from the way of Allah. And Allah is encompassing of what they do.” (Verse 47)
The purpose of this directive is to protect the community of believers against going out to fight, with an attitude of conceit, keen to show off, boasting of their own strength and using the blessing of power Allah has granted them for a purpose other than that of which He approves. Believers go out to fight for Allah’s cause, to establish His authority and Lordship over human life, and to ensure people’s submission to Him alone. They seek to destroy the tyrants who usurp Allah’s authority and claim sovereignty for themselves, having no basis for their claim in the form of a permission granted by Allah or His law. They fight to declare the liberation of mankind throughout the world from any bondage to any authority, since such bondage represents a humiliation of man. Believers fight in order to protect people’s rights, freedom and integrity, not to humiliate other races and peoples through the abuse of the power Allah has granted them. They go out to fight seeking no personal gain whatsoever. Victory brings them nothing other than having obeyed Allah’s command to go on jihad, to establish the code of living He has revealed, to make Allah’s word supreme and to seek His grace and pleasure. Even the spoils of war that believers may gain are viewed as an aspect of grace bestowed by none other than Allah.
The believers had just seen the Quraysh leave their homes full of self-conceit, eager to be praised by others. They also witnessed the consequences of such an arrogant demonstration. The Quraysh mustered all their pride, power and prestige to defy Allah and His Messenger. By the end of the day the Quraysh returned home with their pride tarnished, their prestige shattered and their might totally destroyed. Here Allah reminds the community of believers of a recent situation that gave them much to think about: “And do not be like those who came forth from their homes insolently and to be seen by people and avert [them] from the way of Allah. And Allah is encompassing of what they do.” (Verse 47)
All the arrogance, self-conceit, and praise-seeking were clear in what Abu Jahl, who commanded the Quraysh forces in the battle, said to Abu Sufyan’s messenger. The latter was the leader of the trade caravan the Muslims sought to intercept in compensation for their property confiscated by the Quraysh. When he and his caravan managed to escape unharmed by his Muslim pursuers, he sent a message to Abu Jahl asking him to return with the Quraysh army, as there was no longer any reason for the Quraysh to fight the Muslims. Abu Jahl said: “No. By Allah we will not go back home until we have reached Badr. We will stay there for three days, slaughtering camels for food, feeding whoever comes to us, drinking wine and listening to music and singers. The Arabs will then hold us in awe for the rest of time.” When Abu Sufyan’s messenger told him of Abu Jahl’s answer, he said: “Pity to my people. This is the action of Amr ibn Hisham (i.e. Abu Jahl). He does not wish to come back because he put himself at the helm and acted unjustly. Injustice brings shame and bad omen. If Muhammad wins the fight, we will be humiliated.” Abu Sufyan was a man of foresight: Muhammad (Peace Be upon Him) scored a great victory and the disbelievers were badly humiliated as a result of their arrogance, injustice and debarring of other people from Allah’s path. The Battle of Badr was a very severe blow to them. “And Allah is encompassing of what they do.”
Nothing escapes Him. Nor can their might stand up to His power. He overpowers them and knows all their actions. The surah goes on to describe how Satan persuaded the disbelievers to go out for a fight that led to their defeat and humiliation: “And [remember] when Satan made their deeds pleasing to them and said, ‘No one can overcome you today from among the people, and indeed, I am your protector.’ But when the two armies sighted each other, he turned on his heels and said, ‘Indeed, I am disassociated from you. Indeed, I see what you do not see; indeed I fear Allah. And Allah is severe in penalty.’” (Verse 48)
We have several reports that refer to this verse and to what it relates. However, none of these is attributed to the Prophet himself, with the exception of one that is graded as poor in authenticity. This report attributes the following statement to the Prophet (Peace Be upon Him): “Iblis is never seen to be more insignificant, humiliated or depressed as he normally is on the day of attendance at Arafat, as he witnesses Allah’s forgiveness, mercy and grace being bestowed on people; except for what he saw on the day of Badr.” People asked the Prophet (PBUH): ‘What did he see on the day of Badr?’ He answered: “He saw Gabriel marshalling the angels.”
The other reports quote Abdullah ibn Abbas, Urwah ibn al-Zubayr, Qatadah, al Hasan and Muhammad ibn Ka’b. Here are some examples of these, related by alŢabari: “Ibn Abbas reports: Iblis came on the day of Badr with a company of devils raising a banner in the form of a man from the Mudlij clan, while Satan himself took the form of Suraqah ibn Malik. He said to the disbelievers, ‘No one can overcome you today from among the people, and indeed, I am your protector.’ When the two armies were marshaled, the Prophet took a handful of dust and threw it at the disbelievers. They started to flee. Jubayr came to Iblis only to find him holding a man from the disbelievers by the hand. Iblis withdrew his hand quickly and retreated with his assistants. The man said: ‘Suraqah, have you not pledged to stand firm by us?’ He said: “I see what you do not see; indeed I fear Allah. And Allah is severe in penalty.”
Urwah ibn al-Zubayr reports: “When the Quraysh made up their minds to go out in defense of the caravan, they remembered the conflict between them and the Bakr tribe. They were so worried that they began to have second thoughts. Iblis appeared to them in the shape of Suraqah ibn Malik of the Mudlij clan, who was a highly respected chief of the Kinanah tribe. He said to them: “I shall stand firm by you and make sure that the Kinanah will not try to attack you from behind while you are away.’ They continued with their preparations and moved fast.”
Qatadah reports on the subject of the verse mentioning how Satan persuaded the disbelievers to take up arms against the Muslims: “We have been told that he (meaning Satan) saw Gabriel with the angels coming down to support the believers and he claimed that he had no power to counter that of the angels. He said as he saw them: “Indeed, I am disassociated from you. Indeed, I see what you do not see; indeed I fear Allah. And Allah is severe in penalty.” (Verse 48) He was certainly lying for he, a sworn enemy of Allah, had no fear of Allah in his heart. He realized that he had no power and could extend no protection to anyone. It is in his nature to let down those who believe in him and do his bidding. Once the truth comes face to face with falsehood, he turns away, unscrupulously letting them down and declaring that he has nothing to do with them.”
Following our chosen approach in this commentary, we prefer not to discuss matters which relate to the world that lies beyond our human perception in any degree of detail, when we do not have a Qur’anic statement or a highly authentic hadith to explain them. Such matters require a statement of this type to formulate a conceptual belief. However, we do not adopt a negative attitude either.
In this particular case, we have a Qur’anic statement that tells us that Satan did make their deeds seem fair to the disbelievers and encouraged them to raise an army and march to fight the Muslims, promising them support and protection. Later when the two hosts were within sight of each other, “…he turned on his heels and said, ‘Indeed, I am disassociated from you. Indeed, I see what you do not see; indeed I fear Allah. And Allah is severe in penalty.’’’ (Verse 48)
Thus he let them down, keeping no promise he had given them, and leaving them to suffer the outcome of their actions on their own. We have no idea how he made their actions seem fair to them, nor how he said to them that they could not be overcome by any human power on that particular day. Neither do we have any idea how Satan promised them support and assured them of his protection, nor how he turned on his heels and said which is reported in the Qur’an of his statements. We cannot say anything about ‘how’ all these matters took place and in what form they were done. Everything that concerns Satan belongs to the realm that lies beyond the reach of our human perception. We have no way of knowing exactly ‘how’ such matters occur, except in as much as the Qur’anic statement relates. The statement we have here confirms the event but does not mention how it happened.