Prayer and Patience in Times of Adversity: Commentary of the Quran (Chapter 2:153-157, Part-I) By: Mohammad Sobhanie

Commentary of the Quran (Chapter 2:153-157, Part-I)

By: Mohammad Sobhanie

Prayer and Patience in Times of Adversity

بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اسْتَعِينُوا بِالصَّبْرِ وَالصَّلَاةِ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّـهَ مَعَ الصَّابِرِينَ ﴿١٥٣﴾ وَلَا تَقُولُوا لِمَن يُقْتَلُ فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّـهِ أَمْوَاتٌ ۚ بَلْ أَحْيَاءٌ وَلَـٰكِن لَّا تَشْعُرُونَ ﴿١٥٤﴾ وَلَنَبْلُوَنَّكُم بِشَيْءٍ مِّنَ الْخَوْفِ وَالْجُوعِ وَنَقْصٍ مِّنَ الْأَمْوَالِ وَالْأَنفُسِ وَالثَّمَرَاتِ ۗ وَبَشِّرِ الصَّابِرِينَ ﴿١٥٥﴾ الَّذِينَ إِذَا أَصَابَتْهُم مُّصِيبَةٌ قَالُوا إِنَّا لِلَّـهِ وَإِنَّا إِلَيْهِ رَاجِعُونَ ﴿١٥٦﴾ أُولَـٰئِكَ عَلَيْهِمْ صَلَوَاتٌ مِّن رَّبِّهِمْ وَرَحْمَةٌ ۖ وَأُولَـٰئِكَ هُمُ الْمُهْتَدُونَ ﴿١٥٧

Translation:

2:153 O ye who believe! Seek help with patience, perseverance, and prayer; for Allah is with those who patiently persevere.

2:154 And do not say of those who are slain in the way of Allah, “they are dead.” In fact, they are alive but you do not perceive that life.

2:155 We will certainly test you with some fear and hunger, and some loss of possessions and lives and crops. But give good news to the steadfast (in these trials).

2:156 When a misfortune comes to them, they say, “We are Allah’s and we shall certainly return to Him.”

2:157 Their Lord will bestow great blessings and mercy upon them; such are the people who are rightly guided.

Commentary:

After the migration of Prophet Mohammad (SAWA) from Mecca to Medina, the tribes of Quraysh (Arabic: قريش ) in Mecca made a firm decision to wage wars against the Prophet and his followers. Thus, the Prophet and the newly founded Muslim community in Medina had no choice except to prepare themselves for war and its devastating consequences.

These verses in their entirety were revealed in the early days of migration of Prophet (SAWA). The theme of these verses is to warn Muslims of facing impending war and its ominous consequences, such as “fear and hunger and loss of property, life and crops”:

وَلَنَبْلُوَنَّكُم بِشَيْءٍ مِّنَ الْخَوْفِ وَالْجُوعِ وَنَقْصٍ مِّنَ الْأَمْوَالِ وَالْأَنفُسِ وَالثَّمَرَاتِ …. ﴿١٥٥

2:155 We will certainly test you with some fear and hunger, and some loss of possessions and lives and crops.

The Arab people in that era were infamous for shedding each other’s blood for vengeance and protecting tribal pride and tribal superiority. So why does the Quran warn them of impending war? What is the distinction between this war with wars they had fought in the past?

The war between the Quraysh and the Prophet was regarding the religion of Allah (SWT), which the Quran calls war in “Allah’s way or Allah’s cause”, [(فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّـهِ)]. The tribes of Quraysh were fighting against the Prophet (SAWA), whereas the new Muslim community was defending him. This was truly a divine test [(وَلَنَبْلُوَنَّكُم)] so people could prove themselves as to whose side they were on.

Nevertheless, the verses advise believers to seek help with fortitude and prayers in times of adversity [(اسْتَعِينُوا بِالصَّبْرِ وَالصَّلَاةِ)], since Allah (SWT) is with those who show fortitude [(إِنَّ اللَّـهَ مَعَ الصَّابِرِينَ)].

The word of “sabr” (الصَّبْرِ) has been translated to patience, perseverance, steadfastness and fortitude. It has been used about 70 times in the Quran and it holds the connotation of patiently persisting in doing the right thing under adverse circumstances without getting aggravated and annoyed. Hence, scholars of ethics have tried to give examples of sabr. One such example is:

  • Sabr in the obedience of Allah. That is, to bear the difficulty of performing what we are commanded to do.
  • Sabr in guarding oneself against committing sin despite its charm and worldly appeal.
  • Sabr in times of adversity, meaning to show strength of mind, character, resilience and to bear the bitterness of troubles and misfortunes with grace.
  • Sabr in a time of loss of a loved one, meaning to mourn and grief without complaint or having thoughts that might displease Allah (SWT).

It is natural for human beings to grieve and lament for the loss of a loved one. This is a sign of compassion, but it is important not to lose control of oneself by uttering words, engaging in actions, or having thoughts that may displease Allah (SWT).

The Prophet (SAW) wept at the time of the death of his son, Ibrahim. He said [see commentary of verse 2:45 for Ref.]:

تَدْمَعُ‏ الْعَيْنُ‏ وَ يَحْزَنُ‏ الْقَلْبُ‏ وَ لَا نَقُولُ‏ مَا يُسْخِطُ الرَّبَ‏ وَ إِنَّا بِكَ يَا إِبْرَاهِيمُ لَمَحْزُونُونَ

“Our eyes shed tears and our hearts are filled with grief, but we do not say anything except that by which Allah is pleased. O, Ibrahim we are sorrowful due to your separation.”

The character of “sabr” which is defined as patiently persisting in doing the right thing in time of adversity embodies the true spirit of faith. Imam Ali (AS) likens the relation of “sabr” to faith as that of the relationship between a head and a body. A human body without a head is not alive. Similarly, faith without patience is a hollow faith [Tafseer-e-Namoona, Vol. 1, P.519]:

وَ عَلَیْکُمْ بِالصَّبْرِ فَإِنَّ الصَّبْرَ مِنَ الْإِیمانِ کَالرَّأْسِ مِنَ الْجَسَدِ وَ لا خَیْرَ فِی جَسَد لا رَأْسَ مَعَهُ وَ لا فِی إِیمان لا صَبْرَ مَعَهُ

In times of adversity, one needs to be steadfast and resolute in putting their utmost trust in Allah (SWT) and invoke Him in times of difficulties and hardship. Allah (SWT) taught us in the Quran that He listens to a distressed soul when it calls on Him, and He relieves its suffering [(أَمَّن يُجِيبُ الْمُضْطَرَّ إِذَا دَعَاهُ وَيَكْشِفُ السُّوءَ), An-Naml 27:62].

When Imam Ali (AS) faced a problem, he offered prayer, after which he recited the verse [Tafseer-e-Namoona, Vol. 1, P.520]:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اسْتَعِينُوا بِالصَّبْرِ وَالصَّلَاةِ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّـهَ مَعَ الصَّابِرِينَ ﴿١٥٣

2:153 O ye who believe! seek help with patient perseverance and prayer; for Allah is with those who patiently persevere.

 

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