Interpretation of Sura al-Furqan - Verse 20
20. " And We never sent any messengers before you but they certainly ate food and walked in the markets; and We have made some of you a trial for the others: will you bear patiently? And your Lord is Ever-Seeing."
Occasion of Revelation
A group of commentators have said that some chiefs of polytheists came to the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) and said: "Oh Muhammad (p.b.u.h.)! What do you want us to do for you? If you want to be a chief, we make you our chief, if you like money and wealth, we will give you some of our wealth."
But when they saw that the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) did not give up against their propositions, they started to cook up some pretexts and said: "What a messenger of Lord are you that eat food and walk in the market?"
They rebuked the holy Prophet (p.b.u.h.) for eating food, because they wanted him to be an angel. They criticized him for walking in markets, for they had seen Caesars and tyrannical kings who had never gone to market, while the Prophet(p.b.u.h.) associated with and joined people and, at the same time, he declared divine bans and orders. The pretext-seekers criticized and said: "He wants to be our ruler,while his custom and approach is different from kings' traditions."
The above verse was sent down and made clear that the method of the Prophet of Islam (p.b.u.h.) has been the same as that of the former prophets.
In the past several holy verses, one of the pretexts of the polytheists that why the Prophet of Islam (p.b.u.h.) eats food and walks in the market was mentioned and it was answered concisely. The concerned verse turns to that matter again and answers it more explicitly and in detail. It says:
"And We never sent any messengers before you but they certainly ate food and walked in the markets; and We ave made some of you a trial for the others:..."
This trail may be in this way that prophets are to be human and selected from oppressed people and this is a great test, for some people refuse to obey and take order from their fellow creature, especially one who is financially at a low level, and they are from this viewpoint at high level or older or more famous in society.
Another possibility is that its purpose is to test people generally by each other, for disabled people, the sick, and orphans are a test for those who are rich and healthy, and, on the contrary, healthy and rich people are a test for the poor and the sick. Are the members of the second group contented by Allah's will? Do the first group shoulder the responsibility for caring the second group?
Since these two commentaries are in line with each other, it is possible that both of them are included in the extensive concept of the verse.
Then, next to this statement, all people are addressed and are asked:
"... will you bear patiently? ..."
The most important pillar of victory and success in these trials is patience and resistance. Resisting unrestrained desires that prevent accepting the Truth, enduring difficulties that are faced at the time of doing duties and performing missions, and being patient with calamities and painful events, for man's life will not be empty of them.
In brief, in almost all cases it is only with the power of patience and endurance that one can succeed in passing this great test.
In the end of the verse under discussion, as a warning, the Qur'an says:
"... And your Lord is Ever-Seeing."
Never imagine that Allah sees none of your behaviors and deeds. His knowledge operates in minute detail and nothing is hidden from Him. He sees and knows everything precisely.
Adapted from the book: "Interpretation of Sura al-Furqan" by: "Sayyid Kamal Faghih Imani and A Group of Scholars"
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