Say not of anything, “I will do it tomorrow,” but only, “If God wills.” And remember thy Lord when thou forgettest.
When someone recognizes God, his free choice drops away before His will, and his decrees are enveloped by the witnessing of his Lord's decree.
When someone sets foot in the street of recognizing God and comes to know that the creatures are all captive to His power in the prison of the Will on the passageway of the decree and the measuring out, he will no longer choose and will not prepare his own work, nor will he make his own rulings. He will throw his own work entirely over to God's will and not mix his own self-exertion with what God has taken care of. With the tongue of the state he will say, “O God, O He who was, is, and will be! I know not Your measure and am incapable of what is worthy of You. I wander in my misery, day by day in loss. How then is someone like me?! But such am I. I lament at gazing into the darkness-will anything remain of me? I do not know. My eyes look to a day when You remain and I am not. Who will be like me if I see that day? And if I see it, I will sacrifice my spirit to it.”
And remember thy Lord when thou forgettest. It has been said, “When you forget yourself, remember your Lord, and when you forget the creatures, remember the Creator.”
He is saying, “Once you have brought your soul's caprice underfoot and removed your status with people from your heart, remember Me and make your spirit happy with this pure remembrance.” The caprice of the soul is an idol and status with people is a sash of unbelief. As long as you have not disowned the idol, you will not become a tawḤīd-voicer, and as long as you have not undone the sash, you will not be a Muslim.
There was a worshiper by the name of Abū Bakr Ishtanjī who had a great status. He feared that he would destroy the status. He got up and set off on a journey during the month of Ramadan and broke the fast in keeping with the ruling of the Shariah.
Then he returned from the journey not fasting, and the people were unaware of his excuse. He kept on eating food in the middle of the city until the people gathered around him and began slapping him, saying “He has no religion!” One of the realizers of the road said, “At the time when they were slapping him, I went near to see what he would say. To himself he kept on saying, 'O soul, you are not a people-worshiper, and you must not be deluded by status with the people! Look how I have brought you back to worshiping God, not the people!'”
And remember thy Lord when thou forgettest. Junayd said, “The reality of remembrance is to be annihilated from remembrance in the Remembered. That is why God says, 'And remember thy Lord when thou forgettest.' In other words, when you forget the remembrance, the Remembered will be your attribute.”
Remembrance is not only that you take it upon yourself to move your lips by your own volition. That in fact is recollection, and recollection is an affectation. True remembrance is that the tongue becomes all heart, the heart becomes all secret core, and the secret core becomes nothing but contemplation. Then the roots of dispersion are cut off. It is from this station that the perfection of togetherness appears in the World of With-ness. “When self-disclosure is sound, the tongue, the heart, and the secret core are one.” The remembrance is lost in the Remembered, and the spirit is lost in the Light. Reports become face-to-face vision, and face-to-face vision is far from explication.
O You whose remembrance is the argument and whose intimacy is the reminder! You are present-of what use to me is this remembrance? O Gentle One! Give permission that I come out of Your remembrance for a moment! Those who call You friends are a crowd, but the most ancient is to be preferred. O You who bring pure milk out from the midst of feces and blood [16:66], by Thy bounty take my hand! Leave me not with the mark of Eve and Adam!
And never say regarding something, 'I will indeed do that: He disciplined him [the Prophet] by His divine edification after prohibiting him from 'contending' (mumārāt) and 'questioning', and so He said to him, 'Never say [anything] until God wills [it] by permitting you to say; in that way you will be a sayer through Him, through His will. In other words, never say regarding anything that you resolve to do tomorrow, 'I shall do that' unless you have completely enveloped yourself by the divine will by saying, 'If God will [it]'. So never ascribe an action to your own volition, but [always] to that of God, and in this way you will be a doer through Him and by His will.
Saying "If Allah wills" when determining to do Something in the Future
Here Allah, may He be glorified, shows His Messenger the correct etiquette when determining to do something in the future; this should always be referred to the will of Allah, the Knower of the Unseen, Who knows what was and what is yet to be and what is not to be, and how it will be if it is to be. It was recorded in the Two Sahihs that Abu Hurayrah said that the Messenger of Allah said:
(Sulayman bin Dawud (peace be upon them both) said: "Tonight I will go around to seventy women according to some reports, it was ninety or one hundred women so that each one of them will give birth to a son who will fight for the sake of Allah.'' It was said to him, according to one report, the angel said to him "Say: `If Allah wills'", but he did not say it. He went around to the women but none of them gave birth except for one who gave birth to a half-formed child.) The Messenger of Allah said, (By the One in Whose hand is my soul, had he said, "If Allah wills,'' he would not have broken his oath, and that would have helped him to attain what he wanted. ) According to another report, (They would all have fought as horsemen in the cause of Allah.) At the beginning of this Surah we discussed the reason why this Ayah was revealed: when the Prophet was asked about the story of the people of the Cave, he said, "I will tell you tomorrow.'' Then the revelation was delayed for fifteen days. Since we discussed this at length at the beginning of the Surah, there is no need to repeat it here.
وَاذْكُر رَّبَّكَ إِذَا نَسِيتَ
(And remember your Lord when you forget) It was said that this means, if you forget to say "If Allah wills", then say it when you remember. This was the view of Abu Al-`Aliyah and Al-Hasan Al-Basri. Hushaym reported from Al-A`mash from Mujahid that concerning a man who swears an oath, Ibn `Abbas said "He may say `If Allah wills' even if it is a year later.'' Ibn `Abbas used to interpret this Ayah:
وَاذْكُر رَّبَّكَ إِذَا نَسِيتَ
(And remember your Lord when you forget) in this way. Al-A`mash was asked, "Did you hear this from Mujahid" He said, "Layth bin Abi Salim told it to me.'' The meaning of Ibn `Abbas' view, that a person may say "If Allah wills'', even if it is a year later, is that if he forgets to say it when he makes the oath or when he speaks, and he remembers it later, even a year later, the Sunnah is that he should say it, so that he will still be following the Sunnah of saying "If Allah wills'', even if that is after breaking his oath. This was also the view of Ibn Jarir, but he stated that this does not make up for breaking the oath or mean that one is no longer obliged to offer expiation. What Ibn Jarir said is correct, and it is more appropriate to understand the words of Ibn Abbas in this way. And Allah knows best.
(And never say of anything, "I shall do such and such thing tomorrow.'' Except (with the saying), "If Allah wills!" And remember your Lord when you forget) At-Tabarani recorded that Ibn `Abbas said that this meant saying, "If Allah wills.''
(and say: "It may be that my Lord guides me to a nearer way of truth than this.'') meaning, `if you (O Prophet) are asked about something you know nothing about, ask Allah about it, and turn to Him so that He may guide you to what is right.' And Allah knows best.
Maududi - Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi - Tafhim al-Qur'an
This shows that about three hundred years after this event, at the time of the revelation of the Qur'an, different stories had become current among the Christians about the Sleepers of the Cave, but generally these stories had no authentic source behind them.' This was because that was not the age of the press in which authentic books might have been published. Therefore naturally the stories of events were carried from place to place by means of oral traditions, and with the passage of time many tales of fiction got mixed up with the real story.
This is meant to impress that the real thing in this story is not the number of the Sleepers but the lessons it teaches: (1) A true believer should not on any account turn away from the truth and bow before falsehood. (2) A believer should not merely rely on the material means but on Allah. He should trust in God and follow the right way, even though the outward adverse circumstances might appear to be unfavorable. (3) It is wrong to suppose that Allah is bound by any so-called "Law of Nature", for He is able to do any thing He wills even though that might seem to be against some common experience. He has the power to change any so-called law of nature, whenever and wherever He wills and bring about any extraordinary "supernatural" thing. So much so that He can raise up anyone who might have been asleep for two hundred years, as if he had slept only for a few hours, without letting any change take place in his appearance, dress, health, indeed in anything, during the passage of time. (4) This teaches us that Allah has the power to bring to life all the generations-past, present and future all together as asserted by the Prophets and Divine Scriptures. (5) It teaches us that ignorant people have always been perverting the Signs of Allah which are sent for the right guidance of the people. That is how the miracle of the Sleepers of the Cave, which had been shown as a proof of the Hereafter, had been turned into a means of shirk, as if they were some saints who had been sent only for this purpose.
It is obvious from the above-mentioned real lessons, which one can learn from the story of the Sleepers, that a wise man will pay his attention to these things and not divert it in search of their number, their names, the color of their dog and the like. Only those people, who have no interest for the reality but for superficial things, will spend their time and energy in making investigations about such things. That is why Allah instructed the Holy Prophet: "You should not enter into useless and irrelevant discussions about such things, if other people try to involve you in them. Instead of wasting your time in such useless things, you should concentrate your attention only on your mission." That is why Allah has not Himself told their exact number lest it should encourage such people as are always hankering after useless things.
This is a parenthetical clause which has been inserted here because of its relevancy to the preceding verse, in which it was asserted that the correct number of the Sleepers of the Cave is known only to Allah and a research into it is a useless task. Therefore one should refrain from investigating into unimportant things, nor enter into discussions about them. This has led to the instruction contained in the parenthetical clause for the benefit of the Holy Prophet and the Believers who have been told never to make a positive assertion like this: "I will do this thing tomorrow", for you do not know whether you will be able to do that thing or not: you have neither the knowledge of the unknown nor have full powers to do what you like. If ever inadvertently you utter anything like this, you should at once remember your Lord and say, "Insha Allah." Besides this you do not know whether there will be any good for you in the thing about which you say, “I will do this.” It is possible that you may do another thing better than that. Therefore you should trust in God and say, "I hope that my Lord will guide me in this matter with that thing which is nearer to the right way for me."
This sentence is connected with the theme preceding the parenthetical clause like this: "Some people wilt say, `They were three and the fourth was their do:.....' and some people will say that they remained in the Cave for three hundred years and some others would add nine more years (to the reckoning of the period)". We are of the opinion that the number of the years "300 and 309" have not been stated by Allah Himself but Allah has cited these as sayings of the people. "this opinion is based on this succeeding sentence: "Allah knows best about the period of their stay there. If the number of years, given in v. 25, had been from Allah, this succeeding sentence would have been meaningless. hadrat `Abdullah bin 'Abbas has also opined that this is not the saying of Allah but that of the people which has been cited as a part of the story.