Alif lām mīm: God knows best what He means by these [letters].
Alif lām mīm: God knows best what He means by these [letters].
Alif Lām Mīm! Do people suppose they will be left to say, ‘We believe,’ without being put to the test?He said:That is, without their being beset by affliction (balāʾ). Truly affliction is a doorway between the people of gnosis (ahl al-maʿrifa) and God, Mighty and Majestic is He. It has been related that the angels say, ‘O Lord! Your disbelieving servant has had [the goods of] this world made available to him in abundance, while affliction has been kept away from him.’ Then He says to the angels, ‘Reveal his [the unbelieving servant’s] punishment to them [the other angels?].’ When they see it they say, ‘What he gets from the world is not a blessing for him.’ Then they say, ‘O Lord! You keep the world away from Your believing servant and expose him to affliction!’ And He says to the angels, ‘Reveal to the others his [the believing servant’s] reward.’ When they see his reward they say, ‘Whatever he suffers in this world will not harm him.’ He [Tustarī] said:Let your prayer (ṣalāt) be forbearance (ṣabr) in the face of suffering (baʾsāʾ), your fasting (ṣawm) be to observe silence (ṣamt), and your charity (ṣadaqa) be to refrain from doing harm [to anybody] (kaff al-adhā). Furthermore, forbearance in [times of] well-being (ʿāfiya) is more difficult than forbearance in [times of] affliction (balāʾ). This saying is also related from him:Seeking safety (salāma) is not exposing yourself to affliction.His words:
(Alif. Lam. Mim. Do men imagine that they will be left (at ease) because they say, We believe, and will not be tested with affliction?) [29:1-2]. Said al-Sha‘bi: “These verses were revealed about some people in Mecca who embraced Islam. The Companions of the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, in Medina wrote to them saying that their faith and embracing of Islam will not be accepted from them until they emigrate from Mecca. For this reason, they left Mecca with the intention of joining Medina. However, the idolaters caught up with them and harmed them. These verses were, therefore, revealed about them. The Muslims of Medina then wrote back and said to them that such-and-such verses were revealed about you. Those Muslims in Mecca said: ‘We will leave and fight whoever follows us’. They left Mecca and were pursued by the idolaters. Fighting ensued between them; some were killed and some escaped safe. Allah, exalted is He, therefore revealed about them (Then lo! Thy Lord—for those who become fugitive after they had been persecuted…) [16:110]”. Said Muqatil: “This verse was revealed about Mihja‘, the client of ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab, who was the first Muslim to be killed at the Battle of Badr. ‘Amr ibn al-Hadrami struck him with a bow which killed him. The Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, said on that day: ‘The master of all martyrs is Mihja‘. He will be the first one of this community to be called to the gate of heaven’. His wife and parents were distraught because of his death, and so Allah, exalted is He, revealed about them these verses, explaining that they had to suffer trials and hardship for the sake of Allah, exalted is He”.
The Believers are tested so that it may be known Who is Sincere and Who is Lying
Alif Lam Mim.
In the beginning of the Tafsir of Surah Al-Baqarah, we discussed the letters which appear at the beginning of some Surahs.
أَحَسِبَ النَّاسُ أَن يُتْرَكُواْ أَن يَقُولُواْ ءَامَنَّا وَهُمْ لاَ يُفْتَنُونَ
(Do people think that they will be left alone because they say: "We believe,'' and will not be tested.) This is a rebuke in the form of a question, meaning that Allah will inevitably test His believing servants according to their level of faith, as it recorded in the authentic Hadith:
«أَشَدُّ النَّاسِ بَلَاءً الْأَنْبِيَاءُ، ثُمَّ الصَّالِحُونَ، ثُمَّ الْأَمْثَلُ فَالْأَمْثَلُ، يُبْتَلَى الرَّجُلُ عَلَى حَسَبِ دِينِهِ، فَإِنْ كَانَ فِي دِينِهِ صَلَابَةٌ زِيدَ لَهُ فِي الْبَلَاء»
(The people most severly tested are the Prophets, then the righteous, then the next best and the next best. A man will be tested in accordance with the degree of his religious commitment; the stonger his religious commitment, the stronger his test.) This Ayah is like the Ayah,
أَمْ حَسِبْتُمْ أَن تَدْخُلُواْ الْجَنَّةَ وَلَمَّا يَعْلَمِ اللَّهُ الَّذِينَ جَـهَدُواْ مِنكُمْ وَيَعْلَمَ الصَّـبِرِينَ
(Do you think that you will enter Paradise without Allah knowing those of you who fought (in His cause) and knowing those who are the patient) (3:142) There is a similar Ayah in Surat At-Tawbah. And Allah says:
أَمْ حَسِبْتُمْ أَن تَدْخُلُواْ الْجَنَّةَ وَلَمَّا يَأْتِكُم مَّثَلُ الَّذِينَ خَلَوْاْ مِن قَبْلِكُم مَّسَّتْهُمُ الْبَأْسَآءُ وَالضَّرَّآءُ وَزُلْزِلُواْ حَتَّى يَقُولَ الرَّسُولُ وَالَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ مَعَهُ مَتَى نَصْرُ اللَّهِ أَلاَ إِنَّ نَصْرَ اللَّهِ قَرِيبٌ
(Or think you that you will enter Paradise without such (trials) as came to those who passed away before you They were afflicted with severe poverty and ailments and were so shaken that even the Messenger and those who believed along with him said, "When (will come) the help of Allah'' Yes! Certainly, the help of Allah is near!) (2:214) Allah says here:
وَلَقَدْ فَتَنَّا الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِهِمْ فَلَيَعْلَمَنَّ اللَّهُ الَّذِينَ صَدَقُواْ وَلَيَعْلَمَنَّ الْكَـذِبِينَ
(And We indeed tested those who were before them so that Allah will know those who are true, and will know those who are liars.) meaning, He will make know which are sincere in their claim to be believers from those who are lying. Allah, may He be glorified and exalted, knows what has happened in the past and what is yet to come, and He knows how that which will not happen would have happened if it were to happen. All the Imams of Ahlus-Sunnah wal-Jama`ah are agreed on this. This is the view of Ibn `Abbas and others concerning phrases such as the Ayah,
(only that We know) (2:143). Meaning, only to see -- because seeing has to do with what is there, but knowledge is broader than seeing, since it includes what is not present as well as what is.
The Evildoers cannot escape from Allah Allah said:
أَمْ حَسِبَ الَّذِينَ يَعْمَلُونَ السَّيِّئَاتِ أَن يَسْبِقُونَا سَآءَ مَا يَحْكُمُونَ
(Or think those who do evil deeds that they can outstrip Us Evil is that which they judge!) means, those who are not believers should not think that they will escape such trials and tests, for ahead of them lies a greater and more severe punishment. Allah says:
أَمْ حَسِبَ الَّذِينَ يَعْمَلُونَ السَّيِّئَاتِ أَن يَسْبِقُونَا
(Or think those who do evil deeds that they can outstrip Us) meaning, "escape'' from Us.
سَآءَ مَا يَحْكُمُونَ
(Evil is that which they judge!) what they think is evil.
When this thing was said, the conditions prevailing in Makkah were extremely trying. Whoever accepted Islam was made a target of tyranny and humiliation and persecution. If he was a slave or a poor person, he was beaten and subjected to unbearable tortures; if he was a shopkeeper or artisan, he was made to suffer economic hardships, even starvation; if he was a member of an influential family, his own people would tease and harass him in different ways and make life difficult for him. This had created an atmosphere of fear and fright in Makkah, due to. which most people were afraid of believing in the Holy Prophet although they acknowledged him to be a true Prophet in their hearts; and some others who believed would lose heart soon afterwards and would submit and yield to the disbelievers when they confronted dreadful persecutions. Though these trying circumstances could not shake the determination of the strong-willed Companions, naturally they also were sometimes overwhelmed by an intense feeling of anxiety and distraction. An instance of this is found in the tradition of Hadrat Khabbab bin Arat, which has been related by Bukhari, Abu Da'ud and Nasa'i. He says, "During the time when we had become sick of our persecution by the mushriks, one day I saw the Holy Prophet sitting in the shade of the wall of the Ka`bah. I wen up to him and said, `O Messenger of Allah, don't you pray for us !' Hearing this his face became red with feeling and emotion, and he said, `The believers who have gone before you had been subjected to even greater persecutions. Some one of them was made to sit in a ditch in the earth and was sawed into two pieces from head to foot. Someone's joints were rubbed with iron combs so as to withhold him from the Faith. By God, this Mission will be accomplished and the time is not far when a person will travel without apprehension from San`a' to Hadramaut and there will be none but Allah Whom he will fear."
In order to change this state of agitation into forbearance, Allah tells the believers, "Ho one can become worthy of Our promises of success in the world and the Hereafter merely by verbal profession of the Faith, but every claimant to the Faith will have to pass through trials and tribulations so as to furnish proof of The truth of his claim. Our Paradise is not so cheap, nor Our special favors in the world so low-priced, that We should bless you with all these as soon as you proclaim verbal faith in Us. The vial is a pre-requisite for them. You will have to undergo hardships for Our sake, suffer losses of life and property, face dangers, misfortunes and difficulties; you will be tried both with fear and with greed; you will have to sacrifice everything that you hold dear for Our pleasure, and bear every discomfort in Our way. Then only will it become manifest whether your claim to faith in Us was true or false. This thing has been said at every such place in the Qur'an where the Muslims have been found placed in hardships and difficulties and obsessed by fear and consternation. In the initial stage of life at Madinah, after the migration, when the Muslims were in great trouble on account of economic hardships, external dangers and internal villainy of the Jews and the hypocrites, Allah said:
"Do you think that you will enter Paradise without undergoing such trials as were experienced by the believers before you? They met with adversity and affliction and were so shaken by trials that the Prophet of the time and his followers cried out, `when will Allah's help come?' (Then only they were comforted with the good tidings:) "Yes, Allah's help is near!"' (Al-Baqarah: 214).
Likewise, when after the Battle of Uhud, the Muslims again confronted a period of afflictions, it was said: "Do you think that you will enter Paradise without undergoing any trial? whereas Allah has not yet tried you to see who among you are ready to lay down their lives in His way and who will show fortitude for His sake." (Al-i-`Imran: 142).
Almost the same thing has been said in Al-i-'Imran: 179, Taubah: 16 and Surah Muhammad: 31. Allah in these verses has impressed on the Muslims that trial is the touchstone by which the pure and the impure are judged. The impure is turned aside by Allah and the pure is selected so that Allah may honor them with His favors which the sincere believers only deserve.
That is, "This is not a new thing which you alone may be experiencing. The same has been happening before also. Whoever made a claim to the Faith was made to pass through trials and tribulations. And when the others were not given anything without the trial, you are in no way any special people that you should be favored and rewarded merely on verbal profession of the Faith."
Literally, "It is necessary that Allah should find out." A question may be asked: "When Allah already knows the truth of the truthful and the untruth of the liar, why should He put the people to the test for the sake of these?" The answer is: Until a person has manifested his potential and capability to do a thing in practical terms, justice requires that he neither deserves any rewards nor any punishment. One man, for example, is capable of being trustworthy and another man of being un-trustworthy. Unless both are tried and one manifests trustworthiness and the other the lack of it practically, it will not be justice on the part of Allah that He should reward one for trustworthiness and punish the other for the lack of it only on the basis of His knowledge of the unseen. Therefore the knowledge Allah already possesses about the capabilities of the people and about their conduct in the future is not enough to satisfy the requirements of justice until the people have manifested their potentialities in practical ways. Justice with Allah is not based on the knowledge that a person possesses a tendency to steal and will commit a theft, but on the knowledge that he has actually committed a theft. Likewise, Allah does not bestow favors and rewards on the basis of the knowledge that a person has the potential and capability to become a great believer and fighter in His way, but on the basis of the knowledge that the person concerned has practically proved by deed and action that he is a sincere believer and a brave fighter in His way. That is why we have translated the words of the verse as: "Allah has to see..."
And from his narration on the authority of Ibn 'Abbas that he said regarding the interpretation of Allah's saying (Alif. Lam. Mim.): '(Alif. Lam. Mim.) He says: I am Allah, I know; it is also said that it is an oath by which Allah swore because of His saying: (Lo! We tested those who were before you).