113. Abu al-`Aliyyah said, the Prophet (saws) spent ten years in Makkah in a state of fear: calling to Allah in open and secret. Then he was ordered to move to Madinah where he and his Companions remained in fear for long, wearing their arms day and night. So someone remarked, “Will a day come when we will be in peace and lay aside our arms?” At that the Prophet said, “It will not be too long before one of you will sit amongst a large company, unguarded, without any steel around.” And Allah revealed this verse (Ibn Jarir, Zamakhshari, Qurtubi, Shawkani). The reports are in Ibn al-Mundhir, Tabarani (in his Awsat) and Hakim who declared it creditable (Alusi).
Yusuf Ali adds: “If this verse was revealed about the time of the Battle of the Ditch (Khandaq), also called the Battle of the Confederates (Ahzab) A.H. 4-5, we can imagine the comfort it gave to the Muslims who were besieged in Madinah by a force ten times their number. The Muslims then lived in a state of great suspense and danger, and under arms for days on end. (See xxxiii. 9-20). The security and authority they were promised came to them subsequently in abundant measures.”
114. Asad provides the subtle connection between different parts of the verse: “i.e., the believer’s freedom of fear is a direct outcome of his intellectual and emotional refusal to attribute to anyone, or anything, but God, the power to shape his destiny.”
Most commentators are of the opinion that this promise was made true during the Caliphate of the four Rightly Guided Caliphs. Some would exclude the period of `Ali when political troubles within the Islamic polity began to surface. But politics apart, `Ali’s period, too, was of such quality, that there is no reason to consider it significantly different from the earlier period. It is another thing that troubles began right after `Uthman’s murder. But that was the cause, while the troubles that surfaced during `Ali’s period, were the effect (Au.).
Shafi` writes in above reference: Baghawi has reported through his chain of narration the following speech of `Abdullah ibn Salam, which he delivered when he sensed that `Uthman could be murdered, “Allah’s angels have been guarding your city from the time the Prophet came down to it. It has continued down to this day. By Allah, if you killed `Uthman, these angels will return and never come back. By Allah, whoever of you took part in his killing, will be raised with a severed hand. Know it that Allah’s sword has been in the sheath. Once it is brought out, it will never be put back, for, whenever a Prophet is killed, seventy-thousand men have to lose life in compensation and when a Khalifah is killed, thirty-five thousand people are killed in compensation.”
Qurtubi however, who reports (Abu Bakr) Ibn al-`Arabiyy of the same thoughts, does not believe that istikhlaf in the land should be understood in the political sense. As Ibn al-`Arabiyy wrote, the promise was open to embrace the Nubuwwah, the Khilafah, the establishment of the Call to Islam and the Shari`ah, in general, and it was fulfilled through everyone who could make any contribution including jurists, the Imams and others. Also, it was not bound to a period, except that its high point and apex was achieved at the time of the Khilafah al-Rashidah, `Ali’s period not excluded. For, a couple of internal battles that mark `Ali’s period, did not have any effect on the general peace and progress that prevailed. Those were only ripples in the flow of the Islamic tide.
Herewith, Ibn Kathir’s somewhat shortened remarks: The fulfillment of the promise had begun to take shape even during the Prophet’s time, culminating in the 20th year after his death, marked by `Uthman’s murder. During his own time, Islam had spread to every nook and corner of the Arabian Peninsula, with most rulers embracing Islam or paying tribute. And, in acknowledgment of his position in Arabia, the rulers of Rome, Egypt, Alexandria, `Oman, and Habasha had sent him gifts. His successor, Abu Bakr (who would not agree to a single command of Islam broken), first took control of the entire Peninsula and then extended the rule to Syrian regions. He was inspired to select `Umar ibn al-Khattab as his successor. He proved to be just the right man for the right job, establishing justice in the entire Islamic world, laying an order never heard of before. Egypt, rest of Syria and Persia also fell to his excellent rule. Kisra and Qaysar retreated to the farthest points of their empires, now reduced to kingdoms, or maybe fiefdoms, and their wealth was distributed among the people. A new era of peace, justice, freedom and confidence began. During the reign of `Uthman, who succeeded `Umar, the Islamic rule was further expanded to cover North Africa, several large islands of the Mediterranean Sea, and in the East to Chinese territories through Khurasan and other West Asian regions. Kisra was finally killed during his time and Allah’s promise expressed at the tongue of His Prophet came true. He had said (Muslim), “Allah folded together the earth for me and I looked at the east and the west of it. The dominion of my Ummah will reach the places I was shown.” But then, as we know, `Uthman was murdered and decline began.
115. Abu Sha`tha’ reported, “I was sitting with Hudhayfah (b. al-Yaman) and `Abdullah (ibn Mas`ud) when Hudhayfah remarked, ‘Hypocrisy has departed. Hypocrisy was during the time of the Prophet. Now it’s going to be disbelief after belief.’ Ibn Mas`ud asked, ‘Why do you say that?’ Hudhayfah replied with this and the pervious verse. Ibn Mas`ud laughed. Sho`bah (the next reporter) met Abu Sha`tha after some time. He asked him as to why Ibn Mas`ud had laughed. He replied, ‘I don’t know. A man laughs both at something pleasing, as well as something displeasing. So I do not know why he laughed.’”
Abul `Aliyyah, however, believed that the disbelief is to be understood as not disbelief in Islam but rather, ungratefulness to the blessings of Allah. Accordingly, it is said that the situation of complete peace remained until `Uthman was murdered. With his murder, fear began to prevail (Ibn Jarir).
116. This is also apparent in our history. The Companions were the most committed followers of Allah’s commands. The promise to them then, was fulfilled in its complete sense. But weakness began to prevail after them, and, accordingly, the victories of those who fell short in the observation of certain commandments, also fell short in certain respects. Nonetheless (the promise remains true in reference to those who remain true to the commandments: Au.). In a well-reported tradition, the Prophet said, “A group of my Ummah will remain on Truth overcoming (opposition). Those who forsake them, or oppress them, will not be able to do them any harm – until the Day of Judgment.” (Ibn Kathir, summarized)
“Allah’s promise to those of the followers of the Prophet who believe and do righteous deeds is that He will make them succeed in the earth, that He will establish for them the religion that He has approved for them, and that He will accord them peace after fear. Such is the promise. Allah’s promise is true. And Allah’s promise has to be fulfilled. And Allah does not break his promise. What then is the reality of faith and what is the true meaning of succession?
“The reality of the faith after which Allah’s promise comes true is a huge reality that covers all human endeavour and which directs the entire human endeavors (to a goal). It does not take its place in the heart, but it begins to announce its presence in the form of deeds, activities, frameworks and edifices: all of them directed to Allah; the faithful not desiring anything but the approval of Allah. Faith, then, is Allah’s obedience and submission to Him in everything, minor or major. The inner self’s desires do not remain active along with it, nor the low cravings of the heart, nor the inclinations of the natural kind – except that it follows what the Prophet brought from Allah.
“It is that faith then (alluded to here) which embraces the whole of man, including his inmost thoughts, the recesses of his heart, the longings of the soul, the inclinations of his nature, the movements of his body organs, the gestures of his limbs, and his conduct with his Lord, his near ones, and mankind, in general – propelling himself with all these towards Allah. This is well-represented in Allah’s words in the same verse that gives the reason for succession and establishment in the earth: ‘They shall worship Me, not associating any with Me.’ Association then has several openings and colors. And to be turning to other than Allah either physically or sub-consciously is one of the several kinds of association with Allah.
“This faith then is the way of life, the whole of it. It includes everything that Allah has ordered. And Allah’s commandments include obtaining of the means (for the fulfillment of the commands), getting ready the equipment, employment of the material means, and preparation for bearing the great Trust in the earth, the Trust of Khilafah.
“And what is the reality of the succession? Of the Khilafah?
“Well, it is not the possession, or the subjugation, or triumph, or rule… All of these are only there as a condition of utilization for the reformation and construction, and for realization of the program that Allah has laid down for humankind, so that they can follow it and so that they can attain through it the highest position delineated for them in the earth, that which is deserving of a creation that Allah has honored.
“Succession in the earth (Istikhlaf) is the ability to build it and improve it, not the ability to destroy and corrupt. It is the power to administer justice and achieve contentment, not the power to oppress and subjugate. It is the ability to raise above: the humans and the human systems, and not to lower – at the individual and social level – to the levels of the animals.
“This, then, is the Istikhlaf that Allah has promised those who believe and do righteous deeds… He has promised them this succession in the earth just as He allowed succession to the believers and righteous before them – so that they can realize the right way that Allah has opened for them, and establish the justice that He has willed, and walk up the way that assures their rise to the heights that He has decreed for them the day He created them. For, those who have arrogated power corrupt the land, spread rebellion and injustice and who take them down to the level of the animals. These are not the successors. They are being tried in their situation, or others are being tried by them: those whom they have overcome, for a wisdom that Allah has decreed.
“A clue to this understanding of the succession is Allah’s statement that follows it, “And He shall establish for them the religion that He has approved for them.” Establishment of the religion will follow its establishment in the hearts, as its establishment is accomplished in life and its affairs. It is consequent to this that Allah has promised the establishment of their succession in the earth, and that He will make the religion that He has approved for them to overcome others on the earth: this religion of theirs which commands reformation, justice, and overcoming the desire for base earthly things. It commands building of this earth and the utilization of that which Allah has placed therein: the wealth, provision, and power, all directed with great fervor towards (obtaining) Allah’s (approval).”