Interpretation of Sura Cow - Verse 214
214. " Or did you suppose you would enter Paradise untouched by the suffering which was endured by those before you? They were afflicted by distress and adversity and were so shakened that the Messenger and those who believed with him said, 'When will Allah's help (come) ?' Surely Allah's help is (always) nigh! "
Occasion of Revelation
Some of the commentators say that this verse was revealed on the occasion of the battle of Ahzab, or the Confederate, when the Muslims got impatient and terribly terrified in the battle. So, they, being surrounded by the enemy, began asking about the help of Allah, the Almighty. Therefore, the revelation of this verse invited them to patience and perseverance and made them hopeful of triumph through the help of Allah.
It is also reported that when Muslims were defeated in the battle of 'Uhud, 'Abdillah-ibn-'Ubayy, reproaching them, inquired that until when those Muslims were going to give themselves in death and he added that if Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) was really the Messenger of Allah, then He (s.w.t.) would not let his companions be captured or killed. At that moment the above verse was revealed.
Intense Adversities as a Divine Practice
The above verse indicates that some of the believers thought that the main factor of arriving in Heaven was only the expression of Faith ƒto Allah and, thereafter, no trouble or pain they might tolerate. Hence, Allah would arrange their affairs, they imagined, and destroy their enemies without any effort and endeavour that they themselves might suffer.
Against this kind of wrong thinking, the Qur'an points to the true and usual method of Allah. It says that the believers must be ready to devote themselves and to face with troubles and difficulties along the path of Faith and its influence. These difficulties are, in fact, some trials which make the real Faith from the unreal one manifest. The Qur'an also explains that these trials and difficulties exist as a general law, and that is why they had afflicted the former nations and all previous sects, too.
" Or did you suppose you would enter Paradise untouched by the suffering which was endured by those before you? ..." The Israelites, for example entangled with many sufferings in order to be rescued from the oppressive grips of the Pharaoh. When they were amazed and did not know what to do, the grace and favour of Allah came and helped them to win their enemy. This situation was not exclusive to the Children of Israel alone, but, as the above verse points out in the phrase: " by those before you ", all earlier nations had a common status from this point of view, too. It seems that this is a Divine practice which is the secret of training and spiritual development in human kind.
" ... They were afflicted by distress and adversity ..." All dynasties should be involved in the current of adversities and calamities so that they be prepared for some more important and graver adventures, and also, by this way, the efficient and experienced ones be recognized and with repelling the unworthy persons, the society be filtered.
" ... and were so shakened that the Messenger and those who believed with him said, ..." Another point that we must be aware of in commenting on this verse is that, at the end, it proclaims that afflictions and adversities had so intensely encompassed the former nations that even the believing people and prophets, all together, said: " ... 'When will Allah's help (come) ?' ... " It is evident that the purpose, here, is not a protest against the Providence, but this manner of statement is itself a kind of invocation and a plea for help. So, the Qur'an says:
" ... Surely Allah's help is (always) nigh! "
Adapted from the book: "The Light of The Quran - Interpretation of Sura Al-Baqarah (The Cow)" by: "Sayyid Kamal Faghih Imani and A Group of Muslim Scholars"
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