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Eliminating Causes of Failure

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By Sayyid Qutb
Muslim Intellectual — Egypt
Qur'an Light

Allah the Almighty says:

{Believers, when you meet an enemy force, be firm, and remember Allah often, so that you may be successful. Obey Allah and His Messenger and do not dispute with one another, lest you lose heart and your moral strength. Be patient in adversity, for Allah is with those who are patient in adversity. Do not be like those who left their homes full of self-conceit, seeking to be seen and praised by others. They debar others from the path of Allah; but Allah has knowledge of all that they do. Satan made their deeds seem fair to them, and said: No one can overcome you today, and I will stand firm by you. ‘But when the two hosts came within sight of each other, he turned on his heels and said: ‘I am done with you, for I can see what you cannot. I fear Allah, for Allah is severe in retribution.’ The hypocrites and those in whose hearts there was disease said: Their faith has deluded these people.’ But he who puts his trust in Allah knows that Allah is Almighty, Wise.} (Al-Anfal 8: 45-49)

In these verses we have a host of inspiring touches, rules, directives, scenes and attitudes; all relating to the battle. Ideas, feelings and inner thoughts are portrayed which normally need much greater space to describe, but they are all most vividly delineated here in the unique style of the  Qur’an. They start with an address to the believers, which is one of many in the surah, instructing them to stand firm when they meet their enemy.

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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 (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), 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 unbelievers 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 Almighty 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 Moses. 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: {you want to take vengeance on us only because we have believed in the signs of our Lord when they were shown to us. Our Lord, grant us abundance of patience in adversity, and let us die as people who have surrendered themselves to You.} (Al-A`raf  7: 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, ‘Our Lord, grant us patience, make firm our steps, and grant us victory over the unbelievers.} ( Al-Baqarah  2: 250)

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.
In the  Qur’anic accounts of the attitudes of believing communities as they were fighting their battles we read the following statement:

{Many a Prophet has fought with many devout men alongside him. They never lost heart on account of what they had to suffer in Allah’s cause, and neither did they weaken nor succumb. Allah loves those who are patient in adversity. All that they said was this: ‘Our Lord! forgive us our sins and our excesses in our affairs. Make firm our steps, and give us victory over the unbelievers.}( Aal `Imran 3: 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:

{When other people warned them: ‘A big force has gathered against you, so fear them,’ that only strengthened their faith and they answered: Allah is enough for us; He is the best Guardian.} (Aal `Imran 3: 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 (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) 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:

{Do not dispute with one another, lest you lose heart and your moral strength.} (Al-Anfal 8: 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 (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) at the time of battle. It is a question of discipline that is essential in battle. It is an 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:

{Be patient in adversity, for Allah is with those who are patient in adversity.} (Al-Anfal 8: 46)

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.
Being with Allah will certainly ensure success and victory for those who are steadfast. The last directive is given as follows:

{Do not be like those who left their homes full of self-conceit, seeking to be seen and praised by others. They debar others from the path of Allah; but Allah has knowledge of all that they do.} (Al-Anfal 8: 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.

Related Links:
The Endless Succulence of the Qur'an (Part 1)
Endless Succulence of the Qur'an (Part 2)
Reflections on Surat Al-Fatihah (Part 3)

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