The 53rd Call: Incitement to Jihad in the Cause of Allah
Almighty Allah says (what can be translated as): “O you who have believed, what is [the matter] with you that, when you are told to go forth in the cause of Allah, you adhere heavily to the earth? Are you satisfied with the life of this world rather than the Hereafter? But what is the enjoyment of worldly life compared to the Hereafter except a [very] little. If you do not go forth, He will punish you with a painful punishment and will replace you with another people and you will not harm Him at all. And Allah is over all things competent. If you do not aid the Prophet - Allah has already aided him when those who disbelieved had driven him out [of Makkah] as one of two, when they were in the cave and he said to his companion, "Do not grieve; indeed Allah is with us." And Allah sent down his tranquility upon him and supported him with angels you did not see and made the word of those who disbelieved the lowest, while the word of Allah - that is the highest. And Allah is Exalted in Might and Wise. Go forth, whether light or heavy, and strive with your wealth and your lives in the cause of Allah. That is better for you, if you only knew.” (At-Tawbah: 38-41)
Almighty Allah admonishes the believers who did not join the Messenger of Allah (Peace Be upon Him) in the Tabuk Expedition because the fruits became ripe and the shades were enjoyable in the hot summer. Almighty Allah says to them: O believers! Why did you become reluctant and slow when you were called to Jihad in the cause of Allah? Why did you prefer relaxing, staying in the shades and enjoying the fruits? Did you do that because you are satisfied by the worldly life instead of the Hereafter? The worth of the worldly life and its pleasures is so small in comparison to the Hereafter when the believers await the mercy and contentment of their Lord and gardens as wide as heavens and earth.
If you do not go forth with Allah’s Messenger (Peace Be upon Him) and if you do not march with him to perform jihad, Allah will punish you with severe torment in the present life by taking His blessings from you and in the Hereafter you will be suffering in the Hellfire. It is not difficult for Allah Almighty to replace you with other people who will hasten to support the Prophet (Peace Be upon Him) and strive with their wealth and lives in the cause of Allah. The Almighty is Capable of everything and this will not harm Him because Allah is over all things Competent, Exalted in Might and Wise.
O Believers! If you do not support the Messenger of Allah (Peace Be upon Him), Allah is his Supporter, Helper and Sustainer. Allah has already aided him when those who disbelieved had driven him out of Makkah so He emigrated to Madinah. He went out of Makkah with his friend and companion Abu Bakr. He resorted to a cave in Thawr Mountain for three days. Quraysh pursued them till the opening of the cave. Abu Bakr said to the Prophet (PBUH): “Should any one of them look down where he is standing, he would surely see us.” But the Prophet (PBUH) had all the calmness of the inner peace bestowed on him by Allah. He reassured his Companion, saying to him: “Abu Bakr, what do you think of two men who have Allah on their side?” So, Allah sent down his tranquility, support and victory upon His Messenger (Peace Be upon Him). He supported him with angels to protect and aid him (that you did not see) and made the word of disbelief and those who disbelieved the lowest, while the word of faith (there is deity worthy of worship except Allah) that is the highest. And Allah is Exalted in His Might, Revenge and Victory. He is the Sovereign, All-Powerful and Almighty. He is the Wise in His rulings and planning.
Almighty Allah commands the believers to march for jihad and go forth with His Messenger (Peace Be upon Him) if he calls them to strive in the path of Allah. The Almighty obligates them to go forth in every condition whether in the condition of activeness or laziness and easiness or difficulty. Allah tells them to march for jihad whether light or heavy, rich or poor, walking or riding, strong or weak because this is for the benefit and best interest of believers in this world because there is no pride and dominance for any nation except through military force. It is also for the benefit of their religion because there is no happiness to the one who does not support righteousness or does not establish justice by following guidance and applying the laws of Allah Almighty.
This was abrogated by a following verse: “There is not upon the weak or upon the ill or upon those who do not find anything to spend any discomfort when they are sincere to Allah and His Messenger (PBUH). There is not upon the doers of good any cause [for blame]. And Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.” (Verse: 91)
Such reluctance to march forth in support of Allah’s cause is only motivated by worldly considerations and ambitions. People may fear for their lives and their property. They are keen to protect their interests and preserve their pleasures, and would prefer a settled life of ease and comfort. They think primarily of their present life, immediate objectives, close relatives and physical needs. The words chosen here give a vivid impression such as “you adhere heavily to the earth”. It is as if we are looking at a heavy object that has been in its position for a long time. It is lifted up by a group of people, but it soon falls down with a strong gravitational pull. Joining a jihad campaign for the cause of Allah represents freedom from the shackles of this earthly life and physical pleasures. It emphasizes the yearning for freedom after the shedding of narrow needs, and the expanse of eternity after getting rid of this limited worldly life: “Are you satisfied with the life of this world rather than the Hereafter? But what is the enjoyment of worldly life compared to the Hereafter except a [very] little.” (Verse 38)
No one who believes in Allah would hesitate to set out to fight for Allah’s cause unless there is some weakness in his faith. The Prophet says: “A person who dies without having ever joined an expedition fighting for Allah’s cause or having thought about joining such an expedition must surely have a characteristic of hypocrisy.” Hypocrisy, which is essentially a weakness of faith, is the characteristic which holds a person who claims to believe in Allah from joining a fight for Allah’s cause, because he fears death or poverty when life and death are determined by Allah, and all provisions and wealth are granted by Him. Besides, all the comforts and pleasures of this life are petty and meaningless when compared with what is in store for the believers in the life to come.
“If you do not go forth, He will punish you with a painful punishment and will replace you with another people, and you will not harm Him at all. And Allah is over all things competent.” (Verse 39)
The address here is made to certain people at a certain period of time, but its import applies to all those who believe in Allah. The punishment with which they are threatened is not limited to the life to come, but it also includes a punishment in this life. They will suffer the humiliation which afflicts all those who refrain from fighting for Allah’s cause when their enemies have power over them. They are also deprived of the enjoyments and comforts of this life which will be taken up by their enemies. In addition their loss of life and property is far greater than what they will lose when they fight in support of Allah’s cause. Whenever a community abandons jihad and refuses to fight for Allah’s cause, it is bound to suffer humiliation. Its eventual loss is much greater than it would need to sacrifice when it fights with the spirit of jihad.
“He will replace you with another people…” (Verse 39), who will guard their faith and who are prepared to make the necessary sacrifices without ever submitting to Allah’s enemies “…and you will not harm Him at all. And Allah is over all things competent.” (Verse 39) He can easily cause you to perish and bring about a different community to take your place. In the final balance you will count for nothing.
To elevate oneself above the shackles of the earth and over one’s own weaknesses is to enhance one’s noble existence. It represents the higher meaning of life. To give in to fears for one’s life and the attractions of this worldly life is to condemn one’s humanity to extinction. This is the real death knell of the spiritual aspect which distinguishes human life.
Allah then gives them an example of the history which they themselves had witnessed, showing them how He supported His Messenger (Peace Be upon Him) and gave him a great victory without need for their support. After all, victory is granted by Allah to whom He pleases:
“If you do not aid the Prophet - Allah has already aided him when those who disbelieved had driven him out [of Makkah] as one of two, when they were in the cave and he said to his companion, "Do not grieve; indeed Allah is with us." And Allah sent down his tranquility upon him and supported him with angels you did not see and made the word of those who disbelieved the lowest, while the word of Allah - that is the highest. And Allah is Exalted in Might and Wise.” (Verse 40)
This is a reference to the time when the Quraysh had lost all patience with Muhammad (PBUH) and his message. It is the same with every tyrannical authority when it loses patience with the message of the truth after it realizes that it cannot stifle or suppress it. They held their consultations and decided to assassinate Prophet Muhammad. Allah then informed the Prophet of what the Quraysh had plotted and instructed him to leave. He set out of Makkah alone except for his trusted Companion, Abu Bakr. He had neither troops nor weapons with which to confront his numerous enemies. The odds were heavily against him.
The surah describes vividly the situation of the Prophet (Peace Be upon Him) and his friend: “When they were in the cave,” (Verse 40) with several bands of the Quraysh chasing them in all directions. Abu Bakr had no fear for his own life, but he feared for the Prophet Muhammad.
The pursuers were so close to them at one point that he said to the Prophet: “Should any one of them look down where he is standing, he would surely see us.” But the Prophet (PBUH) had all the calmness of the inner peace bestowed on him by Allah. He reassured his Companion, saying to him: “Abu Bakr, what do you think of two men who have Allah on their side?”
What was the result of this confrontation when all the material power was on one side while the Prophet and his Companion stood alone with no such power? A fantastic victory was granted, employing troops whom no human being could see. A humiliating defeat engulfed the unbelievers: “He… made the word of those who disbelieved the lowest.” (Verse 40) Allah’s word remained mighty, victorious, supreme: “while the word of Allah - that is the highest…” (Verse 40) Allah is certainly ‘Exalted in Might’ and those who advocate His cause will never be humiliated, and He is ‘Wise,’ which means here that He determines when to grant victory to those who deserve it.
That confrontation was an example of Allah’s help to His Messenger (Peace Be upon Him) and how His word remains supreme. Allah is certainly able to repeat such a victory at the hands of other people who do not cling heavily to the earth and who are not reluctant to fight for His cause. This is an example from the near history which the Muslims themselves had witnessed. Yet no evidence is needed when Allah has stated His word.
They are then called upon to mobilize their forces and not to allow any impediment to stand in their way. If they wish to attain what is best for them in this life as well as in the life to come, then they should not allow any factor to interfere with their response to such a call: “Go forth, whether light or heavy, and strive with your wealth and your lives in the cause of Allah. That is better for you, if you only knew.” (Verse 41)
They must march whatever the circumstances, and must strive hard, and be ready to sacrifice their wealth and their lives, seeking no excuses and allowing no impediments to stand in their way: “That is better for you, if you only knew…” (Verse 41)
The sincere believers realized that this is best and they set forth on their campaign in support of Allah’s cause. All sorts of impediments stood in their way and they had no shortage of excuses if they wished to justify staying behind, but they sought none and marched on. Hence, Allah enabled them to liberate the hearts and minds of other communities and to liberate their lands as well. He allowed His word to triumph at their hands and enhanced their position by being its advocates. He thus enabled them to achieve miraculous victories, unparalleled in history.
Abu Ţalhah, one of the Prophet’s Companions, after reading this verse, said to his sons: “I see that Allah has ordered us to go on jihad whether we are young or elderly. Prepare my equipment.” His sons protested: “You fought in all the battles with the Prophet until he passed away, and you fought with Abu Bakr until he died, then with Omar until his death. Now let us fight on your behalf.” He refused and insisted on doing his share. He joined an expedition by sea, but soon he died. No island was near where he could be buried. His body remained in the boat for nine days without showing any change of color. They then came to an island where he was buried.
Abu Rashid al-Harrani reports: “I visited al-Miqdad ibn al-Aswad, a great warrior and a Companion of the Prophet (PBHH). I found him sitting on a wooden box, looking so thin, but he nevertheless wanted to join an army on an expedition. I said to him: ‘You are certainly excused by Allah.’ He said: ‘I have been reading this surah and read Allah’s order, “Go forth, whether light or heavy, and strive with your wealth and your lives in the cause of Allah. That is better for you, if you only knew.”’ (Verse 41)
Al-Ţabari, the famous historian also reports on the authority of Hayyan ibn Zayd al-Shar’abi: “We went on a campaign with Şafwan ibn Amr, the Governor of Hums, until we reached a place called al-Jarajimah when I saw a man looking very old with his eyebrows practically covering his eyes. He was from Damascus, riding his camel and taking part in the fight. I went to him and said, ‘Uncle, Allah has certainly excused those who are like you.’ He lifted his eyebrows and said: ‘Nephew, Allah has called upon us to go forth and strive in His cause, whether we be lightly or heavily armed. Allah will test a person whom He loves, and then He will let him live. Allah tests those of His servants who thank and praise Him and those who remain steadfast in adversity as well as those who worship Allah alone.’ It is with such a serious attitude to Allah’s words that Islam was able to march on in the land, carrying its message which sought to liberate mankind from submission to other creatures so that they would submit to Allah alone. The result was the greatest victories ever achieved in the history of mankind.