CHAPTER XI / Striving for God’s Cause

Striving for God’s Cause

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Jihad is the main theme in the next part of the surah. A soldier in war is preoccupied with two worries at least.

He first worries about what may happen to him and his fellow fighters and the risks of death and defeat they face, then he worries about his family and dependants who may suffer if he were killed.

Hence, the surah proceeds immediately to reassure him about both anxieties.

As far as his wife is concerned, God enjoins that when a woman is widowed, she is to stay for a complete year in his home.

Even a divorced wife has the right to be generously treated and this right may not be forgotten.

He, thus, may be reassured on this count, (2: 240-242).

As for his concern about death, Muslims should know that he who does not mind death may have a long life to enjoy:

“Have you reflected on [the case of] those who left their homes in their thousands for fear of death? God said to them, ‘Die,’ and later He brought them back to life?”

(2: 243).

As for worry about defeat, let all believers learn that victory is granted by God:

“How often has a small host triumphed over a large host by God’s grace.”

(2: 249.)

This is, indeed, the standard practice in the case of God’s messengers, (2: 246-253).

Thus, all fears are dispelled once the fighters are equipped with the moral support of Godconsciousness.

They are now ready to receive His supreme order, to fight for His cause, sacrificing their property and their lives, (2: 244-245).

Historical examples are given in order to strengthen them in times of peril and to enhance their hopes of victory, (2: 246253).

It should be noted that the Qur’anic style here differs from its normal educational method, when the conclusion comes at the end of the line.

Here, the premises are shown in a circle and the result falls at the centre of that circle.

The order to fight for God’s cause, (2: 244), is given strong support at both sides, and the support is shown in general terms at first and in full detail at the end.

But this exceptional treatment is not peculiar to this instance in the Qur’an. There are several other examples of it in God’s book.

Perhaps we should add here that jihad is of two types: one involving personal and self sacrifice and the other involving financial sacrifice.

The latter is not limited to financing the war effort only.

It includes readily giving money to anything that improves the community’s situation, strengthens the power of the Islamic state and protects Islam and Muslims.

Personal sacrifice for God’s cause was first identified in a short verse, (2: 244) and then elaborated upon in several verses, (2: 246-253).

Financial sacrifice as an aspect of jihad is also briefly mentioned in a short verse,

(2: 255), so it is only right that it should be addressed in detail in several others.

As this takes place, the treatment starts in a rather strong way, (2: 254-260).

These verses give a stern warning to miserly people, reminding them of the day when no one can make an offering to ensure one’s happiness, and when no friend or intercessor is of any help.

This meaning is reinforced so as to remove any lingering doubt in the mind of anyone who still hopes to be saved through the intercession or the influence of anyone other than God, and to drive home the message concerning the Day of Judgement.

The aim here is to ensure that spending one’s money to further God’s cause is motivated only by pure faith, seeking no reward from anyone other than God.

Then the treatment of financial sacrifice in jihad takes a much softer line, (2: 261),

before it takes an educative aspect showing the good manners that must be observed when spending for God’s cause, (2: 262-274).

The discussion then moves on from talking about sacrifice, which is the noblest social virtue,

to discussing fully the vice of greed and self-aggrandisement, which is at the opposite end of the social scale.

It highlights the most repugnant form of human transaction, usury,

which seeks to exploit the needs of the weak and the deprived...

while the rich exact a price for the help they provide, (2: 275-279).

That the two are juxtaposed in this way highlights the contrast between them for any person with a conscience.

In between these two contrasting types of dealing, the Qur’an establishes the fair criterion, giving the creditor the right to claim his principal amount in full, writing nothing off:

“You shall commit no wrong, nor suffer any wrong yourselves.”

(2: 279).

However, the Qur’an warns us that we should not use this right against people going through hardship.

It instructs us to take one of two benevolent measures:

either to delay one’s loan until the debtor’s circumstances have eased up or to forgo the loan completely, which is a much better course to follow:

“Should you give free will offerings, it would be for your own good, if you but knew it.”,

(2: 289-281).

The prominent aspect in this Qur’anic legislation is one of content and generosity, which may impart a sense of complacency concerning money.

It may also encourage a lax attitude about investing money to ensure its increase.

Hence the surah includes two verses, the first of which is the longest in the Qur’an, which discuss credits and pledges, (2: 282-283).

These two verses dispel any such false impressions and lay down for the believers the most perfect code of conduct in recording, documenting and certifying financial rights and obligations.

This is preparatory to spending money only for beneficial purposes.

When there is nothing available to document a transaction,

and one party is obliged to place his trust in the other’s honesty, a clear instruction is given:

“If you trust one another, let him who is trusted fulfil his trust, and let him fear God, his Lord.”.

(2: 283.)

Thus, the practical part of the surah is concluded with this perfect rule, basic to all honourable dealings:

the rule of honesty and the fulfilment of trust. May God grant us all the virtues of being honest and trustworthy.

Page XI

A Higher Level than Faith

The fourth purpose of the surah is tackled in one verse only, verse 284. In the verse preceding this...