Friday, November 20, 2015

Extract from Tafsir Zilal - Muhammad, Death and Reward

Āl `Imrān (The House of `Imrān) - Verse 144\145
آل عمران - آية 144\145

"Muĥammad is only a messenger: all messengers have passed away before him. If then, he dies or is slain, will you turn about on your heels? He that turns about on his heels will not harm God in any way. God will reward those who are grateful [to Him]."

"وَمَا مُحَمَّدٌ إِلا رَسُولٌ قَدْ خَلَتْ مِنْ قَبْلِهِ الرُّسُلُ. أَفَإِنْ مَاتَ أَوْ قُتِلَ انْقَلَبْتُمْ عَلَى أَعْقَابِكُمْ. وَمَنْ يَنْقَلِبْ عَلَى عَقِبَيْهِ فَلَنْ يَضُرَّ اللَّهَ شَيْئًا وَسَيَجْزِي اللَّهُ الشَّاكِرِينَ"
This verse refers to a particular incident which took place during the Battle of Uĥud. The Prophet had stationed a detachment of soldiers on top of the mountain behind the Muslim army. They were the rearguard, equipped with bows and arrows to repel any attack launched against the Muslim army from behind. When the battle appeared to be all over, most of them left their positions, against the express orders of the Prophet. A battalion of the enemy forces were thus able to go round the mountain and attack the Muslims from the rear. The Prophet himself was injured: his front teeth were broken, and his face was bleeding.

The situation became chaotic and the Muslim army was in disarray. At this moment, someone cried out: “Muĥammad is killed!” Such a great shock was this to the Muslims, that many of them turned round to return to Madinah. They went up into the mountain, shattered, defeated, in despair. However, the Prophet himself, with a small group of his Companions, stood firm. He called to his Companions as they began to retreat. When they heard him, they began to rally. God helped them regain their moral strength and allowed them to be overtaken by a momentary slumber so as to give them strength, security and reassurance, as will be explained later.

This sequence of events is used in the Qur’ān to drive home to the Muslims certain fundamental principles about life and death and the history of Divine faith: “Muĥammad is only a messenger: all messengers have passed away before him. If then, he dies or is slain, will you turn about on your heels?” Muĥammad (pbuh) is simply a messenger, having been preceded by all other messengers. He will die as other messengers have died before him. This is an elementary fact. How is it then that the Muslims show themselves to be oblivious of this fact when it stared them in the face during the battle?

Muĥammad (pbuh) is a messenger of God, entrusted with the task of conveying His message. God is Eternal and His word never dies. Believers should never turn on their heels if the messenger who has come to convey God’s word to them dies or is killed. This is also an elementary fact which the Muslims, in their great confusion, overlooked.

Human beings die and perish, while the faith survives. The way of life God has designed for mankind has its own entity; it is independent of those who convey it to people, be they messengers or believers. Every Muslim loves God’s Messenger (pbuh). His Companions loved him as no one had ever been loved before. They were ready to sacrifice their lives in order to spare him the slightest pain. One of his Companions, Abū Dujānah, stood as a shield to protect the Prophet, was hit by numerous arrows in the back and yet he never stirred. Only nine of his Companions were close to him when he was targeted by a determined attack by the unbelievers, and those nine defended him most courageously, until they were all killed. Many others in every generation and in all places continue to love him with all their hearts. Every Muslim who loves Muĥammad (pbuh) in such a way is required to distinguish between the Prophet as a person, and the faith he has conveyed to mankind and left intact for all people to accept and implement. It derives its continuity from God, Who never dies.

The message is much older than its advocates: “Muĥammad is only a messenger: all messengers have passed away before him.” They all preached the same message, the roots of which go back to the beginning of history. It starts with the beginning of human life, providing mankind with guidance and peace from the very first day of its existence.

The message is also greater than its advocates and lasts longer. Many of its advocates have come and gone, while it continues to serve as guidance to succeeding generations. Its followers maintain their link with God Almighty, its originator, Who has sent messengers to convey it to mankind. He is Everlasting and believers address their prayers to Him. None of them may turn about on their heels or turn their back on God’s guidance. This explains the stern warning implicit in this verse: “If then, he dies or is slain, will you turn about on your heels? He that turns about on his heels will not harm God in any way. God will reward those who are grateful [to Him].” (Verse 144)

The vivid description of turning back is here to be noted: “Will you turn about on your heels?” The physical movement depicted here brings alive the meaning of abandoning faith as if we see it with our own eyes. The verse does not refer to the physical turning away as a result of defeat in battle. It is more concerned with the psychological turning about when a voice cried out that Muĥammad was killed. Some Muslims felt that there was no point in continuing the fight against the idolaters, since the death of Muĥammad (pbuh) signalled the end of this faith and the end of combat against idolatry. This psychological effect is delineated in terms of turning about on one’s heels, which was a movement that actually took place during the battle. It is this very attitude which Al-Nađīr ibn Anas, a Companion of the Prophet, warned his fellow Muslims against when he saw that many of them had lain down their arms. His retort to their excuse that Muĥammad was dead, was: “What use is life to you after he has died? Get up and die for the cause God’s Messenger (pbuh) has sacrificed his life for.”

“He that turns about on his heels will not harm God in any way.” It is indeed he who is the loser. He who deviates from the path of faith harms himself and causes God no harm. God is in no need of mankind or their worship. It is out of His grace that He has given His servants this constitution for their own good and happiness. Everyone who turns his back on it suffers from confusion and misery. Everything is thus set on the wrong footing. Life itself becomes deviant. People suffer the evil consequences of turning away from the only constitution which provides harmony in life and which achieves harmony between man, his nature and the universe around him.

“God will reward those who are grateful to Him.” They know the great bounty God has given His servants by establishing for them this code of living. They show their gratitude to Him by following this code and praising Him. They reap the benefits of this way of life and achieve total happiness. This is good reward for their gratitude. But they also have an increase of happiness with the reward they receive from God in the hereafter. That is a much greater reward and, unlike everything enjoyed in this world, it is everlasting.

“God will reward those who are grateful to Him.” Those who appreciate God’s bounty and show their gratitude to Him by following His guidance and by glorifying Him find happiness in their lives. Thus are they rewarded for their gratitude, and they will receive an even better reward in the life to come.

Apparently God wanted to wean the Companions of the Prophet from their overenthusiastic attachment to him in person while he was alive among them. Their attachment should be, in the first place, with Islam itself. Their covenants should be made with God directly and they should be made to feel that they are responsible to Him directly. Thus they would feel that their responsibilities continue after the death of the Prophet. Perhaps God also wanted to prepare the Muslim community for the inevitable shock which they were bound to receive when the Prophet died. He certainly knew that his death would be a stunning blow to them. Hence, if they were made to feel that their direct relationship was with Him and His message then they would be able to overcome their shock.

When the Prophet actually died his Companions were stunned, so much so that `Umar drew his sword and threatened anyone who claimed that Muĥammad was dead. Only Abū Bakr, the best example of a true believer in God, was able to take the event in its proper perspective. He read out this verse to the Muslims and it was enough to make them realise that it was only a natural event. With this they were able to turn to God. The Qur’ān in this verse touches on man’s fear of death. It dispels that fear by stating the ever-correct principle of life and death and also of what comes after

"No one can die except by God’s leave, at a term appointed. He who desires the reward of this world, We shall give him thereof and to him who desires the reward of the life to come, We shall give thereof. We shall reward those who are grateful to Us." (Verse 145)

"وَمَا كَانَ لِنَفْسٍ أَن تَمُوتَ إِلَّا بِإِذْنِ اللَّهِ كِتَابًا مُّؤَجَّلًا ۗ وَمَن يُرِدْ ثَوَابَ الدُّنْيَا نُؤْتِهِ مِنْهَا وَمَن يُرِدْ ثَوَابَ الْآخِرَةِ نُؤْتِهِ مِنْهَا ۚ وَسَنَجْزِي الشَّاكِرِينَ"

Every human soul, then, lives up to its appointed time. No one dies before his time. Neither fear, nor the desire to live longer can postpone anyone’s appointed time. Courage and adventure, on the other hand, will not shorten one’s life. As this idea sinks into the minds of the believers they simply do not think of death as they go about fulfilling their responsibilities and carrying out their religious duties. This is the reason why people, throughout the ages, have seen that those who believe in God are not encumbered by their desire to prolong their time on earth or by their fear of what lies ahead. They simply rely on God as they carry out their duties with patience and reassurance. 

Since everybody dies at his or her appointed time then everyone should think of the life to come and should work hard in order to achieve the greater happiness of that life: “He who desires the reward of this world, We shall give him thereof and to him who desires the reward of the life to come, We shall give thereof” (Verse 145)

The gulf between the two types of life is as wide as the gulf between the concerns of those who desire the reward of either one or the other. The length of one’s life on this earth is not affected by the choice one makes. So, he who makes this life his ultimate goal and seeks only its rewards leads a life which is not greatly different from the life of animals, before he dies at the appointed time. On the other hand, he who looks up to the wider horizon leads the life of a true human being whom God has ennobled, to whom He has assigned the mission of building a happy human life on earth. Such a person also dies at his appointed time. 

“We shall reward those who are grateful to Us.” Those who appreciate how God has ennobled man and lift themselves above the standard of animals and show their gratitude to God will certainly be richly rewarded by Him. 

This is how the Qur’ān views the essence of life and death, and the end of human beings as they choose for themselves and determine their preoccupations which can be either petty like those of worms or great like those of man. In this way, the Qur’ān turns our attention from fear of death and worry about duties because we have no say with regard to our life and death. It thus enables us to concentrate on what is of much better use, namely, the life to come. Whichever choice he makes, he will receive from God the reward most appropriate for that choice. 

Rahma Fateen

1 comment:

أحمد زيدان said...

نصيحة هامة لحضرتك : لا تقرأي في كتب سيد قطب (كتب الدعاة والأدباء عمومًا) قبل ما تقرأي و "تدرسي" عقيدة أهل السنة والجماعة جيدًا لأن الكتب من هذا النوع غالبًا ما تحتوي على أخطاء عقائدية جسيمة، وهذا الكتاب به أخطاء مشهورة منها ما ذكره في مقدمة سورة طه أن "القرآن ظاهرة كونية كالأرض والسماوات ، تنزلت من الملأ الأعلى " ، وفي نفس المقدمة ذكر أن الاستواء في قوله "الرحمان على العرش استوى" ""كناية"" عن غاية السيطرة والاستعلاء.. وهذا مخالف لمعتقد أهل السنة والجماعة.