Surah Al Saff – The Ranks

Introduction

Many say that this surah has special relevance to out times, which are referred to as the latter days.

According to Muhammad Ali, in the introduction to this surah:

The title of this chapter is taken from the injunction to the Muslims to fight in defense of the faith in Ranks, for fighting was now essential for the preservation of the very life of the Muslim community. After giving that injunction, the first section speaks of Moses and Jesus and of the latter’s prophecy with regard to the advent of the Holy Prophet, and this is followed by a prophecy of the triumph of Islam over all other religions. The second section exhorts the Muslims to exert themselves in the cause of truth, if they would see that prophecy fulfilled, citing the example of Jesus.

Section I – Triumph of Islam

بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ

In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.

61:1. Everything in the heavens and earth glorifies God—He is the Mighty, the Wise.

سَبَّحَ لِلَّـهِ مَا فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَمَا فِي الْأَرْضِ ۖ وَهُوَ الْعَزِيزُ الْحَكِيمُ

61:2. You who believe, why do you say things that you do not do?

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لِمَ تَقُولُونَ مَا لَا تَفْعَلُونَ

61:3. It is most hateful to God that you should say that which you do not do.

 كَبُرَ مَقْتًا عِندَ اللَّـهِ أَن تَقُولُوا مَا لَا تَفْعَلُونَ

61:4. Allah truly loves those who fight in solid lines for His cause, as though they were a strong wall cemented with molten lead.

 إِنَّ اللَّـهَ يُحِبُّ الَّذِينَ يُقَاتِلُونَ فِي سَبِيلِهِ صَفًّا كَأَنَّهُم بُنْيَانٌ مَّرْصُوصٌ 

61:5. Call to mind when Moses said to his people, ‘My people, why do you vex me when you know that I am sent to you by God?’ When they went astray, God left their hearts to stray: God does not guide rebellious people.

 وَإِذْ قَالَ مُوسَىٰ لِقَوْمِهِ يَا قَوْمِ لِمَ تُؤْذُونَنِي وَقَد تَّعْلَمُونَ أَنِّي رَسُولُ اللَّـهِ إِلَيْكُمْ ۖ فَلَمَّا زَاغُوا أَزَاغَ اللَّـهُ قُلُوبَهُمْ ۚ وَاللَّـهُ لَا يَهْدِي الْقَوْمَ الْفَاسِقِينَ

61:6. Call to mind also when ]esus, son of Mary, said, ‘Children of Israel, I am sent to you by God, confirming the Torah that came before me and bringing good news of a messenger to follow me whose name will be Ahmad.’ Yet when he came to them with clear signs, they said, ‘This is clear deception.’

 وَإِذْ قَالَ عِيسَى ابْنُ مَرْيَمَ يَا بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ إِنِّي رَسُولُ اللَّـهِ إِلَيْكُم مُّصَدِّقًا لِّمَا بَيْنَ يَدَيَّ مِنَ التَّوْرَاةِ وَمُبَشِّرًا بِرَسُولٍ يَأْتِي مِن بَعْدِي اسْمُهُ أَحْمَدُ ۖ فَلَمَّا جَاءَهُم بِالْبَيِّنَاتِ قَالُوا هَـٰذَا سِحْرٌ مُّبِينٌ 

61:7. Who could be more wrong than someone who invents lies against God when called to submit to Him? God does not guide the wrongdoers.

 وَمَنْ أَظْلَمُ مِمَّنِ افْتَرَىٰ عَلَى اللَّـهِ الْكَذِبَ وَهُوَ يُدْعَىٰ إِلَى الْإِسْلَامِ ۚ وَاللَّـهُ لَا يَهْدِي الْقَوْمَ الظَّالِمِينَ 

61:8. They wish to extinguish Allah’s light out with the breaths of their mouths. But He will complete His light, even though the disbelievers hate it.

 يُرِيدُونَ لِيُطْفِئُوا نُورَ اللَّـهِ بِأَفْوَاهِهِمْ وَاللَّـهُ مُتِمُّ نُورِهِ وَلَوْ كَرِهَ الْكَافِرُونَ 

61:9. It is He who sent His Messenger with guidance and the religion of truth to show that it is above all other religions, even though the idolaters hate it.

 هُوَ الَّذِي أَرْسَلَ رَسُولَهُ بِالْهُدَىٰ وَدِينِ الْحَقِّ لِيُظْهِرَهُ عَلَى الدِّينِ كُلِّهِ وَلَوْ كَرِهَ الْمُشْرِكُونَ

61:1

This and many similar verses present God the Creator in a beautiful metaphor.

Our commentary of Surah Fatihah: The Opening, more specifically of the verse 1:2, can be considered to be a commentary of this verse as well.

61:2-3

These verses present a very profound prescription to overcome any tendency of hypocrisy, double standards or duplicity in human nature.

61:6

According to  Seyyed Hossein Nasr and colleagues in the commentary of this verse:

A function of every Divine messenger is to confirm  the revelations that have come before; thus 6:92 says of the Quran, This is a blessed Book that We have sent down, confirming that which came before it (cf. 35:31; 46:30). That the prophets would confirm one another is said to be part of the primordial covenant that they made with God in 3:81 and 33:7. The prophets’ confirmation of other messengers is also understood to refer to those who would follow them in time, and several verses are interpreted as references to the mention of the Prophet Muhammad in the Old and New Testaments (see 7:157c). The name Ahmad means ‘most praised’; it derives from the same root as Muhammad — h-m-d — and has long been recognized by Muslims as one of the many honorific names given to the Prophet by God Himself. This is based upon a saying of the Prophet: ‘I have several names: I am Muhammad; I am Ahmad; I am al- Mahi (the Effacer) by means of whom God eliminates unbelief.’ Many other ahadith simply refer to the Prophet as Ahmad.

61:9

There are two other verses in the holy Quran with a similar language, 9:33 and 48:28. Is it the victory of individual Islamic teachings over others where they differ or some sort of political victory of the Muslims? The opinions differ, over time and place.

Many Islamic scholars are now making a favorable case for the assertion that secular governance is what the holy Quran wants and not some sort of ‘Shariah Law.’ If that be true, political victory of the Muslims, if not accompanied by improvement in human rights and good governance becomes a meaningless goal anyways. Please read an article: Why Secularism Is Compatible with the Quran and Sunnah — And an ‘Islamic State’ Is Not.

Seyyed Hossein Nasr and colleagues say in their recent commentary regarding this verse:

He it is Who sent His Messenger with guidance and the  Religion of Truth to make it prevail over all religion is repeated verbatim in 9:33 and 48:28. Guidance can here be seen as a reference to the Quran (Aj, Al) or to the truth itself (Q). All religion is understood to mean all religions (Q); see 9:32—33c; 48:28c. Almost all classical commentators interpret Religion of Truth here and in 9:33 and 48:28 as a reference to Islam and thus see all three verses as a reference to the triumph of Islam over all other religions. But as the Quran attests to the veracity and salvific efficacy of other religions (see, e.g., 2:62c; 5:69c), the Religion of Truth can be more broadly understood to mean all revealed religions. From this perspective, the disbelievers’ aversion to the completion of God’s Light in v. 8, can be understood as a reference to the idolaters who desire to extinguish the light of all revelation and to the People of the Book, most of whom reject the completion of revelation in the Prophet Muhammad. V. 9 would then refer only to the idolaters, as they are opposed to all truthful religion, whereas the People of the Book still seek the Religion of Truth in one form or another. See the essay ‘The Quranic View of Sacred History and Other Religions.’

Zia H Shah MD, the Chief Editor of the Muslim Times, has addressed this issue in some detail in an article published in the Muslim Sunrise: Rising of the Sun from the West in the Latter Days.

Would people of one sect exclusively demonstrate the superiority of many of the Islamic teachings or would this honor be shared by the Muslims from all sects and all walks of life?

One way to answer this question is by demonstrating that this honor would not be exclusive to the Muslims either. This becomes apparent when we look at the success of many of the non-Muslim writers in presenting Islam to the world in very glowing colors; for example, Karen Armstrong, Prof. John Adair, Craig Considine and John Andrew Morrow. And what about all the Christian and Jewish scientists who are making discoveries that establishing truth of many of the verses of the Quran?

Another way to tackle this issue is to ask the rhetorical question, does anyone know or care, what sect the most recognized Muslim,  boxer Muhammad Ali or the most read Muslim author, Dr. Maurice Bucaille, who penned the Bible, the Quran and Science, belonged to? God’s plans are always more generous, profound and multidimensional and not limited by our parochial or myopic thoughts.

In other words this verse talks about the victory of everlasting principles and teachings of Islam and not of few individuals. Allah is Most Gracious and Merciful and no one can try to monopolize His Grace.

In this sense every one who contributes to the dignity of humans, human rights, women rights, universal brotherhood, secular governance, freedom of thought, freedom of conscience and speech and freedom of religion is contributing to the victory of Islam. Additionally, the human consensus that developed in 1949, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, can be considered to be great victory of Islamic principles over all others. Sir Zafrulla Khan, the first Foreign Minister of Pakistan and one time President of United Nations General Assembly, wrote a book to show parallels between Islam and Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is a milestone document in the history of human rights. Drafted by representatives with different legal and cultural backgrounds from all regions of the world, the Declaration was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on 10 December 1948 (General Assembly resolution 217 A) as a common standard of achievements for all peoples and all nations. It sets out, for the first time, fundamental human rights to be universally protected and it has been translated into over 500 languages.

Section II – Establishment of Truth Needed Sacrifices

61:10. You who believe, shall I show you a bargain that will save you from painful  torment?

 يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا هَلْ أَدُلُّكُمْ عَلَىٰ تِجَارَةٍ تُنجِيكُم مِّنْ عَذَابٍ أَلِيمٍ 

61:11. Have faith in Allah and His Messenger and struggle for His cause with your possessions and your persons—that is better for you, if only you knew.

تُؤْمِنُونَ بِاللَّـهِ وَرَسُولِهِ وَتُجَاهِدُونَ فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّـهِ بِأَمْوَالِكُمْ وَأَنفُسِكُمْ ۚ ذَٰلِكُمْ خَيْرٌ لَّكُمْ إِن كُنتُمْ تَعْلَمُونَ

61:12. And He will forgive your sins, admit you into Gardens graced with flowing streams, into pleasant dwellings in the Gardens of Eternity. That is the supreme triumph.

 يَغْفِرْ لَكُمْ ذُنُوبَكُمْ وَيُدْخِلْكُمْ جَنَّاتٍ تَجْرِي مِن تَحْتِهَا الْأَنْهَارُ وَمَسَاكِنَ طَيِّبَةً فِي جَنَّاتِ عَدْنٍ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ الْفَوْزُ الْعَظِيمُ

61:13. And He will give you other things that will please you: His help and an imminent breakthrough. So, Muhammad give the faithful the good news.

 وَأُخْرَىٰ تُحِبُّونَهَا ۖ نَصْرٌ مِّنَ اللَّـهِ وَفَتْحٌ قَرِيبٌ ۗ وَبَشِّرِ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ

61:14. You who believe, be Allah’s helpers. As Jesus, son of Mary, said to the disciples, ‘Who will be my helpers in the cause of Allah?’ The disciples said, ‘We shall be Allah’s helpers.’ Some of the Children of Israel believed and some disbelieved: We supported the believers against their enemy and they gained mastery over them.

 يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا كُونُوا أَنصَارَ اللَّـهِ كَمَا قَالَ عِيسَى ابْنُ مَرْيَمَ لِلْحَوَارِيِّينَ مَنْ أَنصَارِي إِلَى اللَّـهِ ۖ قَالَ الْحَوَارِيُّونَ نَحْنُ أَنصَارُ اللَّـهِ ۖ فَآمَنَت طَّائِفَةٌ مِّن بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ وَكَفَرَت طَّائِفَةٌ ۖ فَأَيَّدْنَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا عَلَىٰ عَدُوِّهِمْ فَأَصْبَحُوا ظَاهِرِينَ

 

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