Volume 2: Surah Baqarah, Verses 153-157

O you who believe! seek assistance through patience and prayer; surely Allah is with the patient. And do not speak of those who are slain in Allah's way as dead; nay, (they are) alive, but you do not perceive. And We will most certainly try you with somewhat of fear and hunger and loss of property and lives and fruits; and give good news to the patient, Who, when a misfortune befalls them, say: Surely we are Allah's and to Him we shall surely return. Those are they on whom are blessings and mercy from their Lord, and those are the followers of the right course. (153-157)

*GENERAL COMMENT: * A single theme joins the five verses like a pearl-string; the sentences from a sequence and the topic is developed harmoniously; the beginning leads to the end, and the end points to the beginning. It shows that they were revealed together, not separately. The context indicates that they must have been revealed shortly before the law of al-jihad (war in the way of Allah) was promulgated and the Muslims were ordered to fight in the cause of religion.

The verses prepare the believers for some trials which they will have to undergo, some misfortunes which will befall them. Not the usual type of trial and hardship, but some extraordinary misfortunes which will afflict the whole community and will continue, recurring every now and then. Man, like any other creature in this world, always faces some hardships and troubles which disturb and disrupt the pattern of his personal life. Death, sickness, fear, hunger, grief, poverty and deprivation are but a few examples of such personal misfortunes. It is the course which Allah has laid down for His servants. This world is a place of struggle and competition; the life is a chain of never ending changes and transformations. And you shall not find any alteration in the course of Allah and you shall not find any change in the course of Allah (35:43).

Although personal afflictions and misfortunes are hard to bear for the man so affected, yet they are not as crushing, bewildering and frightening as those which affect the whole community. When an individual is afflicted by a misfortune, he seeks help of others, complementing his own wisdom, determination and steadiness with those of his relatives, friends and compatriots. But when a misfortune or hardship afflicts the whole community, it stuns them all; it numbs their minds, and clouds their vision; it looks as if the whole society has lost its collective wisdom. It disrupts not only the individual, but even the collective life. Fear terrorizes, panic overwhelms, and minds boggle down; courage deserts and dread reigns supreme. A collective misfortune is, in short, much harder to bear and much more bitter in taste. And it is these that the verse point to.

But not every collective affliction, like epidemic or famine. What the verses describe is in all encompassing affliction which shall be brought about as a consequence of the believers' faith itself. They have accepted the belief of monotheism; they have answered the call of the truth. The whole world and especially their own kith and kin are united against them. The enemies are trying, with all the forces at their command, to extinguish the light of Allah, to erase the word of justice, to nullify the call of truth. The conflict has reached a stage where both parties realize that fighting is the only way out. Both parties have exhausted all other resources they had. The unbelievers first had tried to achieve their goal by arguments and mischief mongering, by whispering campaigns and unsettling rumors. But all was in vain. All their endeavors failed to give them any satisfaction they did not harm the Muslims in the way they wanted. Now, from their point of view, nothing was left but to wage war against the Muslims and to annihilate them. Only then, the path of truth could be blocked and the bright light of Islam extinguished.

As from the believers' point of view, only the fighting could now help them in their endeavor to propagate the creed of monotheism ' to spread the true religion and just rule, to cut at the root of falsehood. The past experience has proved that truth gains strength only when falsehood is removed and now it cannot be removed except by force.

In short, the verses indicate that the great trial is near at hand it mentions martyrdom in the way of Allah, and praises it laudably, saying that it is not a death, it is life and what a life indeed! Accordingly death in the way of Allah, is a distinction which is desirable not a thing to dislike or fear.

The verses encourage the believers to fight for Islam. They are told that there is coming to them a trial, a hardship. Only if they bear it patiently, they shall reach the high ranks of spiritual perfection, receiving the blessings and mercy of Allah, and being guided aright by Divine Guidance. Also, it tells them how they may get help in bearing those burdens they should seek assistance through patience and prayer. Patience will protect them from fear and anguish, and will save their plans from disruption. As for prayer, it will turn their attention to their Lord, and All help them in putting all their affairs in the hands of the Almighty Allah, because all power belongs to Him.

*COMMENTARY: * QUR'AN: O you who believe! seek assistance through patience and prayer; surely Allah is with the patient ones:

We have explained briefly about patience and prayer, under the verse: And seek assistance through patience and prayer; and most surely it is a hard thing except for the humble ones (2:45). Patience is one of the most important characteristics, which the Qur'an praises very highly. It repeatedly tells the believers to be patient there are about seventy verses on this theme. It praises it in such laudable ways as ...and bear patiently that which befalls you; surely it is of the acts which require determination (31:17); And none are made to receive it but those who are patient, and none are made to receive it but those who have a mighty good fortune (41:35); only the patient will be paid back their reward in full without measure (39:10).

Likewise, prayer is one of the greatest acts of worship and devotion which the Qur'an always exhorts the believers to do. It has been praised in these words: surely prayer keeps (one) away from indecency and evil (29:45). Wherever Allah exhorts the people to some good deeds, prayer is always placed at the head of the list.

Then Allah praises patience that Allah is with those who have got this virtue: In this respect this verse differs from the verse 2:45 which had focused attention on prayer; and most surely it is a hard thing except for the humble ones. But this verse singles out the patience, because here the talk is about facing the difficulties and fighting against the enemies; and in this context patience acquires a greater importance. Surely Allah is with the patient ones. It is a special proximity unlike the company mentioned in the verse: and He is with you wherever you are (13:4). This latter verse says that Allah controls your affairs and His knowledge encompasses you; while the verse under discussion means that Allah helps and aids the patient ones. Patience, therefore, is the key to get relief from distress.

QUR'AN: And do not speak of those who are slain in Allah's way as dead; nay, (they are) alive, but you do not perceive:

Some exegetes have said that when the verse says that the martyrs are alive, it actually means that their good names will continue for ever and their heroism will always be remembered with gratitude. Their argument is as follows:

"The verse is addressed to the Muslims, who already believe in Allah, His Messenger and the Day of Judgment; they are also sure of the life hereafter. They have accepted the call of truth, and have already heard a lot of verses which speak of the Resurrection. They know that a man's life does not end with death. How could they speak of the martyrs as dead? Moreover, this verse affirms only about the martyrs that they are alive; and describes it as their especial excellence vis-à-vis other believers and the unbelievers. But we know that life after death is not confined to one group, it is a general phenomenon, which covers the whole mankind. Therefore, the life mentioned here must be something special, which is reserved for those who are slain in the way of Allah, and that is their eternal name and everlasting fame."

But this interpretation is unacceptable, because of the following reasons:

First: The life which they have mentioned is not real life; it is an imaginary thing, which has no relation with reality. Such unreal and imaginary things do not deserve to be included in Divine Speech. Allah, calls to reality, to truth; and says: and what is there after the truth but error? (10:32). Of course, Ibrahim (a.s.) had prayed to Allah, And make for me a truthful tongue among the posterity (26:84). But what he meant by "a truthful tongue" was continuation of his true mission after him; he did not mean only that his good name be remembered and his praise be sung by coming generations.

Of course, such imaginary exegesis, such false interpretation is more in line with materialists' thinking. They believe that soul is a material thing, life is a development of matter; once a man dies the life comes to an end, there is nothing to continue after death; as such, there is no life hereafter. But applying that idea to sociology, they encountered a great difficulty:

The fact is that man by nature believes in continuation of life after death, his instinct tells him that there is happiness and unhappiness in the other world where he goes after death; and if he wants to enjoy happiness there, he will have to sacrifice many comforts of this life. This is specially true about great affairs and ideals which cannot be established except when their supporters and adherents are willing to die for them, to sacrifice their lives for the cause. They have to die so that others may live.

Now, the dilemma of the atheists and materialists was this: If death is the end of life, if man, after his death, is lost for ever, then why should he sacrifice his life so that others may live? Why should he deprive himself of the comforts and enjoyments which he can easily get through injustice and tyranny? Just to let others live in peace? What has he got to gain by his sacrifice? Nothing. No sensible man gives something if he is not getting something in return. Human nature rejects the concept of giving without receiving, of leaving something without getting something in exchange. It rejects the idea of dying to enable others to live, the notion of denying oneself the enjoyment of this short life so that others may enjoy it.

When the materialists realized the trouble they were in, they tried to make up this shortcoming by inventing these imaginary gains which had no existence except in their own minds. They said: A man, emancipated from fetters of superstitions and myths, must sacrifice his life for his country and for other noble goals; this sacrifice will make him immortal because his good name and widespread fame will remain alive for ever. Likewise, he should deny himself some enjoyments of life so that others may benefit from those things. In this way, society and civilization will remain on right track and the social justice will reign supreme. And that man, because of his sacrifice, will get a noble and sublime life. Would that I knew who will enjoy that noble life when the man himself is dead, when his physical body has perished, and with it have gone all traces of life including perceptions and feelings? Who will then feel and enjoy that "noble life"? Isn't it just a delirious raving?

Second: The last phrase of the verse, " but you do not perceive," does not agree with that explanation. If that was. the meaning of "life", Allah should have said: nay, they are alive because their good name will remain for ever, and people will always sing their praises generation after generation. Obviously, such description would have proved much more satisfying and encouraging, and would have cheered them up to a greater degree than the phrase, "but you do not perceive".

Third: A similar verse which in a way also explains it describes the promised life in such a way as not to allow that interpretation: And reckon not those who are killed in Allah's way as dead; nay, they are alive (and) are provided sustenance from their Lord; Rejoicing in what Allah has given them out of His grace, and they rejoice for the sake of those who, (being left) behind them have not yet joined them, that they shall have no fear, nor shall they grieve. They rejoice on account of favor from Allah and (His) grace, and that Allah will not waste the reward of the believers (3:169-171). Clearly, it is a description of a real, not imaginary, life.

Fourth: It is not difficult to accept that some Muslims, in the middle of the Prophet's era, were unaware of the life after death. What was very clearly mentioned in the Qur'an was the Resurrection on the Day of Judgment. But so far as the life of al-barzakh (the period between death and the Day of Judgment) is concerned, it has been described in the Qur'an but not so clearly as not to leave any room for ambiguity. That is why not all the Muslims are agreed on this subject even today some of them do not accept it. (These are those who believe that soul is not immaterial; that man perishes on death; and Allah will raise him again for judging him on the Day of Judgment.) This verse, therefore, could have been revealed to affirm that the martyrs were alive in al-barzakh. May be, there were some believers who were not aware of it, even if others knew it.

In short, the verse speaks of a real, not imaginary, life. Allah in several places, has counted the life of an unbeliever after his death as a destruction and perdition. For example: ...and (they) made their people to alight into the abode of perdition (14:28). So, it is the life of bliss that is true life, and it is only the believers who will live that life, as Allah says: and as for the next abode, that most surely is the life did they but know (29:64). They did not know it because their senses could perceive only the material aspects of this world's life. As they did not perceive what was beyond their limited perception, they could not differentiate between extinction and life after death. They thought that there was nothing after death but extinction. That delusion, that conjecture was common to believers and unbelievers alike. That is why Allah said: "nay, (they are) alive, but you do not perceive," that is, by your senses. The same is the import of the last phrase in the verse: that most surely is the life did they but know (29:64), that is, with certainty, as He says in the verse: Nay! if you had known with a knowledge of certainty, you should most certainly have seen the hell (102:5-6).

The meaning of the verse, then, is as follows and Allah knows better! And do not say about those who are slain in the way of Allah that they are dead. You should not think that they have become extinct, have perished. Of course, you generally think that death is extinction; in your language death is used as opposite of life; and this delusion is supported by your senses. But it is not correct. The martyrs are not dead, in that they are not extinct; they are alive although you do not perceive that life by your senses, by your perceptions.

This talk was addressed to the believers, although majority of them if not all knew that man's life continues after his death. It was done to draw their attention to a fact known to them. The aim was to cheer them up by reminding them of this reality, in order that they should not grieve, should not be perturbed, should not loose their hearts, when death faces them or their dear ones in the way of Allah. The only thing that the relatives would be afflicted with, in such cases, is separation from their martyr for a few days, as long as they themselves are alive in this world. And this temporary separation is not a big problem especially if compared to the pleasure of Allah. and to the bounties bestowed on the martyr, like the pleasant life and everlasting grace. And the pleasure of Allah is the greatest bounty and bliss.

In this respect, the verse is not unlike the previously explained one where Allah tells His Prophet: The truth is from your Lord, therefore you should not be of the doubters (2:147). We know that the Prophet was the first and foremost of those who were sure of the Divine signs and communications. Yet he was told not to be of the doubters. This mode is generally used to show that the subject is so clear, so well known and so well established that there is no room for any conflicting thought to come into mind.

QUR'AN: And We will most certainly try you with somewhat of fear and hunger and loss of property and lives and fruits:

Allah told them to seek assistance through patience and prayer and forbade them to say about those who are slain in His way that they are dead because those martyrs were in fact alive. Now, He explains why He has informed them of these realities. It is because the believers were soon to be tried and tested by fighting in the way of Allah. It was by al-jihad that they would reach the pinnacle of their virtues; their noble lives would not be worth living except with al-jihad. The upright religion could not gain strength but with fighting. And while engaged in fighting, their efforts would not be crowned with success unless they were helped by those two helpers, that is, patience and prayer, and were further strengthened by a third factor, that is, the belief that their martyr is neither dead nor lost, and that their endeavors with their wealth and souls is neither forfeited nor fruitless. If they kill their enemy, they will remain alive while their enemy is destroyed; in this way they would be safe from the rule of injustice and falsehood which the enemy wanted to impose on them. And if they are killed in this endeavor, again they will remain alive for ever and equally safe from that unjust and wrong rule. In either case, they shall enjoy one of the two most excellent things.

Generally, the afflictions consist of fear, hunger and loss of properties and lives. As for the loss of fruits, apparently it means loss of children. When fighting occurs, its most telling result is not the loss of fruits but that of progeny, as the men and especially the youths are killed.

Some exegetes have said that the word "fruits" refers to the dates, and the "property" to other possessions, far example, camels, goats and sheep.

QUR'AN: and give good news to the patient ones who, when a misfortunate befalls them, say: "Surely we are Allah's and to Him we shall surely return. " Those are they on whom are blessings and mercy from their Lord, and those are the followers of the right course:

The patient ones are again mentioned in these verses so that Allah may give them good news to begin with, and then may teach them the way of good patience, and thirdly, may explain to them why patience is essential it is because Allah owns the man and fourthly, may declare what is its overall recompense, that is, blessing, mercy and being guided aright.

Allah first told His Prophet to give them good news; but did not disclose what was that good news about. This was to show the greatness of the subject matter it is from Allah, therefore, it must be about something specially good, great and beautiful. Moreover, it is something which Allah, Himself has guaranteed.

Thereafter, He said that the patient ones are those who say these words when misfortune befalls them. "al-Musibah" (translated here as misfortune) is any happening that occurs to a man; but it is always used for a distressing happening. "Who ... say: 'Surely we are Allah's...' ": The word "say" as used here does not mean mere utterance of the sentence without keeping its meaning in mind. Even understanding its meaning is not sufficient, unless one penetrates to the depth of its reality. And that is that man is owned by Allah in real ownership and that he is surely to return to Allah his Master. If this feeling takes deep root in his heart, the man will observe the highest degree of patience; sorrow, fear and anguish will be totally eradicated, and the rust of heedlessness will be removed from the heart. How?

Man and all his faculties, actions and other concomitants of existence, are there because of Allah He is his Creator and Originator. Man exists because of Allah, and is dependent on Him in all his affairs and conditions. He does not have any existence, or continuity independent of Allah. The Master has the right to manage His slave's affairs in any way He likes; the slave has authority whatsoever in his own affairs, because he has has no authority no independence at all. Allah, owns him; He is the real Owner of man's existence, faculties and actions.

Then Allah allowed man to ascribe his "self" to himself as a property is ascribed to its owner. That is why it is said that "man has existence". In the same way, He permitted him to ascribe his faculties and actions to himself. Accordingly, it is said that "man has faculties like hearing and sight", or "he does some actions like: walking, speaking, eating and hearing". Without the Divine permission neither man nor anything else could own any such ascription or attribution, because nothing exists without the Divine permission, or independent of Allah's will.

Allah has also informed us that ultimately all things will revert to their original status the state before Allah allowed them to be attributed to one or the other creature and then no ownership will remain there except that of Allah, as He says: To whom belongs the kingdom this day? To Allah the One, the Subduer (of all) (40:16). It shows that man together with all that "belongs" to him or is with him is to return to Allah.

In short, there is a "real" ownership; it is reserved for Allah nobody be he a man or something else shares it with Him. And there is an "apparent" ownership, for example, man "owns" his own "self " as well as his children and properties etc. But the real ownership is of Allah, and man owns them in form and appearance only and that also because Allah has allowed such attribution. Thus, when man remembers the reality of Divine ownership, and then looks at his own "self ", he knows that he is wholly and totally owned by Allah, Then, he realizes that his "apparent" ownership of his "self" as well as of his children and properties, etc. will soon cease to exist, will become null and void; it will return to his Lord. Then, he will understand that ultimately he owns nothing, either in reality or in appearance. In this background, there is no reason why he should grieve if he is afflicted with some misfortune. One may be affected only by something which one owns feeling happiness when it is found or sorrow if it is lost But when he believes that he owns nothing, he shall not be affected by finding it or losing it. How can he be afflicted by any loss when he believes that Allah is the real Owner of everything and He may manage His property in any way He likes?

The Life of al-Barzakh

The Immateriality of the Soul


al-Baqir ( a.s.) said: "A man came to the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) and said: 'I am keen (and) enthusiastic for jihad.' (The Messenger of Allah) said: 'Then do jihad in the way of Allah because if you are killed, you shall remain alive near Allah and sustained, if you die (before that), then your reward is indeed with Allah. . . ' "

The author says: The Prophet's words, "and if you die. . . point to the word of Allah: and whoever goes forth from his house emigrating to Allah and His Messenger, and then death overtakes him, his reward is indeed with Allah . . (4: 100). It also shows that proceeding to jihad is emigration to Allah and His Messenger.

as-Sadiq ( a.s.) said about the prophet Isma'il, whom Allah has named "Truthful in promise": "He was named 'Truthful in promise' because he had promised a man (to wait for him) in a place. So he remained waiting for that man for one year. Therefore, Allah named him 'True of promise'. Then that man came to him after that (long) time and Isma'il said to him, 'I have been waiting for you. . . ' " (al-Kafi)

The author says: It is a thing which average wisdom would probably say was a deviation from middle course, while Allah has counted it as an excellent virtue of the said prophet, increasing thereby his prestige and raising his status, as He has said: And mention Isma'il in the Book, surely he was truthful in (his) promise, and he was a messenger, a prophet. And he enjoined on his family prayer and alms-giving, and was one in whom his Lord was well pleased (19:54-5). The fact is that the criterion by which this action was judged is different from the one used by common wisdom. The average wisdom, the common sense, looks at the things according to its own views, and Allah looks after His friends by His Own help and support; and the word of Allah is the High. Many similar events have been narrated about the Prophet, the Imams and other friends of Allah

Question: How can rules of the shari'ah go against the dictates of reason, in situations where reason may have a say?

Reply: True that reason may judge the virtue or vice of an action wherever it is possible for it to do so. But that thing or action should first come within its jurisdiction before it can pronounce its judgment on it. And we have explained earlier that such actions (as described in the above tradition) are governed by the third system, and that system takes such actions out of the jurisdiction of human intellect and reason - reason does not have any say against or about them. It is the way of the Divine Knowledge. Apparently the prophet Isma'il ( a.s.) had given that man unconditional promise by saying, 'I shall wait for you here until you come back to me.' Therefore, he stuck to that unconditional wording, to save himself from breaking the promise, and to fulfill what Allah had put in his mind and made his tongue utter. Of the same import is an event related about the Prophet that he was near the Sacred Mosque when one of his companions told him that he would come back to him, and the Prophet promised to wait for him until he would return. That man went away and did not return, and the Prophet remained there three days waiting for him in the same place which he had promised. That man passed by that place after three days and found the Prophet sitting there waiting for him and he himself had forgotten the promise.

as-Sayyid ar-Radi has narrated from the Leader of the faithfuls ('Ali - a.s.) that he heard someone saying: "Surely we are Allah's and to Him shall we surely return . " Thereupon, he ('Ali a.s.) said: "0 man! Verily our word, Surely we are Allah's, is acknowledgment by us that we belong to Him, and, to Him shall we surely return, is acknowledgment by us that we are to die." (al-Khasa'is)

The author says: Its meaning is clear in the light of the earlier given explanation. The tradition has been narrated in detail in al-Kafi.

Ishaq ibn 'Ammar and Abdullah ibn Sinan have narrated from as_Sadiq ( a.s.) that he said: "The Messenger of Allah (s.a. w.a.) has said: Allah the Mighty, the Great, has said: "I have given the world as loan to My servants. Then whoever gives Me a loan from it, I give him ten times to seven-hundred times in lieu of one. And whoever does not give Me a loan and I take something from him by force, then I give him three things that if I gave one of them to My angels they would be pleased of Me." ' " Then Abu 'Abdillah said: "(It is) the words of Allah: Who, when a misfortune befalls them, say: 'Surely we are Allah's and to Him we shall surely return.' Those are they on whom are blessings and mercy from their Lord, and those are the followers of the right course." Then Abu 'Abdillah (a.s.) said: "It is for the man from whom Allah takes something forcibly." (al-Kafi)

The author says: This tradition is narrated by other chains, all having nearly the same theme.

as- Sadiq (a. s.) said: "as-Salah" from Allah is mercy, and from the angels is purification, and from the people is prayer." (Ma'ani 'l-akhbar)

The author says: There are other traditions of the same meaning.

At first glance, there appears to be a conflict between this and the preceding tradition. This tradition explains as-salah as mercy, while the preceding one counts as-salah as other than mercy; and this view is further strengthened by the wording of the verse itself which mentions as-salah and mercy separately, "blessings and mercy from Allah". But in fact there is no contradiction as we have explained in detail in the Commentary.