CHAPTER iii / Promises for the Future

Promises for the Future

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The second type of prophesies relate to the future of the new faith and those who accepted its message in the early days.

When the Prophet was still in Makkah, with his small band of followers, the Qur’an related to the believers some of the accounts of earlier messengers with the aim of giving them reassurance about the future.

It promised them victory and security as given to earlier communities of believers:

“Long ago has Our word gone forth to Our servants, the message-bearers, that they indeed are the ones to receive support, and that Our hosts indeed are the ones to achieve victory.”

(37: 171-173.)

“We shall indeed give support to Our messengers and those who believe, both in this world’s life and on the Day when all the witnesses shall stand up.”

(40: 51.)

When the Muslims migrated to Madinah, seeking secure refuge, they thought that they would be able to enjoy a life of peace.

Soon, however, they were facing all out war, time after time. This meant that they had actually moved into an even worse state of fear.

Their dearest hopes were for a day when they would be able to lay down their arms and feel secure.

In those very difficult days the Qur’an was telling them about a future when they would enjoy power and have a kingdom of their own, in addition to what they hoped for of peace and security.

Was this merely an exercise to pacify them and calm their worries, or one of dreams and wishful thinking?

No, it was a sure promise, given in the most affirmative style and reiterated with an oath:

“God has promised those of you who believe and do righteous deeds that, of a certainty, He will cause them to accede to power on earth, even as He caused [some of] those who lived before them to accede to it; and that, of a certainty, He will firmly establish for them the religion which He has been pleased to bestow on them; and that, of a certainty, He will cause their erstwhile state of fear to be replaced by a sense of security.”

(24: 51.)

Al-Ḥākim relates the following report, grading it as authentic, on the authority of Ubay ibn Kaᶜb, a companion of the Prophet:

“When God’s Messenger migrated to Madinah with his companions and the Anṣār gave them refuge, all Arabs mounted a campaign of hostility against them.

They had to have their arms next to them whenever they went to sleep and when they woke up. Some of them wondered whether they would live to see a day when they would be able to spend their nights in security, fearing none but God.

This verse was revealed in answer to that.”

Ibn Abi Ḥātim reports that “this verse was revealed at a time when we, Muslims, were in great fear.”

Reflect, if you will, on how this promise came true in the broadest and fullest sense, during the lifetimes of the Prophet’s companions themselves.

It was a promise made directly to them, as indicated by the phrase, “God has promised those of you…”

Hence, it was their fear that was replaced by a sense of total security, and they were able to gain power in large areas stretching far to the east and far to the west.

We also need to consider the usage in the last quoted verse of the quality of doing well:

“God has promised those of you who believe and do righteous deeds …”

The emphasis here is on doing ‘righteous deeds’. We should relate this to another verse that specifies this condition in more detail:

“God will most certainly support those who support His cause. Indeed, God is Most-Powerful, Almighty; [those are] the ones who, [even] if We firmly establish them on earth, attend regularly to their prayer, and give in charity, and enjoin the doing of what is right and forbid the doing of what is wrong.”

(22: 40-41.)

This verse tells us much about the reasons for the setbacks the believers sometimes suffered, such as loss of land or military defeat.

It is all due to their falling short of meeting the requirements of their faith:

“Why, when a calamity befell you, after you had inflicted twice as much [on your enemy], did you exclaim, ‘How has this come about?’ Say: ‘It has come from your own selves.”

(3: 165.)

“God would never change the blessings with which He has graced a people unless they change their inner selves.”

(8: 53.)

A second example of prophesies relating to the future of Islam and the Muslims may be taken from the events that led to the peace Treaty of Al-Hudaybiyah, concluded between the Prophet and the Quraysh.

The terms dictated by the Quraysh specified that the Muslims would not enter Makkah that year.

They were allowed to go there the following year, but without any arms other than their swords in their sheaths.

In their past experience, the Quraysh were not the people to honour their pledges or observe the values imposed by blood or tribal relations, or even religious values.

In fact, at the very point of signing that Treaty, the Quraysh were making a determined effort to prevent the Muslims from fulfilling their religious duties at the Kaᶜbah, acknowledged by the Quraysh themselves.

What would their real attitude be the following year?

Should they honour their promise and allow the Muslims in, how could the Muslims feel secure, when they would be on the Quraysh’s home ground, without their body armour and other equipment?

Could this be a trick to tempt the Muslims so that they easily fell into the trap? Such possibilities could not be discounted by any means.

Such suspicion is further enhanced by the fact that the Quraysh insisted, as a condition, that the Muslims would not wear any but the minimum of armament.

Their swords might reassure the Muslims that they would be able to defend themselves against an attack with similar weapons, but against an attack with spears and arrows they would certainly be defenceless.

In such a situation, beset with doubt and suspicion, they received a firm promise comprising all three matters: entering Makkah, security and completing their rituals:

“Indeed, God has shown the truth in His Messenger’s true vision: most certainly shall you enter the Inviolable House of Worship, if God so wills, in full security, with your heads shaved or your hair cut short, without any fear.”

(48: 27.)

That certainly came to pass. They entered Makkah for their compensatory umrah, stayed there for three days and completed their rituals.

A third example may be seen in the arguments the unbelievers used against the Muslims when they were still in Makkah, before they migrated to Madinah.

The unbelievers argued that the Byzantines also claimed to have revelations from on high...

but their revelations and scriptures were of no avail to them in their war against the Majian Persians.

You, Muslims, claim that you will overcome us with this Book that you claim to be revealed from on high.

But you will see how we will inflict on you a defeat similar to that inflicted by the Majians on the Byzantines. In response, God revealed the opening of Surah 30, The Byzantines:

“Defeated have been the Byzantines in the lands close-by. Yet it is they who, notwithstanding this their defeat, shall be victorious within a few years.”

(30: 2-4.)

This report of an impending victory, coming at a particular time, gave two pieces of information regarding future events, each of which was beyond anyone’s imagination.

The Byzantine Empire had sunk into a sorry state of weakness that culminated in its homeland being attacked and defeated.

This is the point the Qur’anic verse refers to as it specifies the location of the defeat, ‘in the lands close-by.’

No one gave the Byzantines a remote chance of recovery, let alone specified the time when it would attain a military victory.

Hence, the unbelievers discounted that promise and bet that it would never be. But the Qur’an did not stop at this. It made a further promise, stating that “on that day will the believers [too, have cause to] rejoice in victory granted by God.”

(30: 4-5.)

This statement signified that on the day the Byzantines achieved victory over the Persians, the Muslims would be victorious against the unbelievers.

Each one of these two victories was highly improbable by all human standards.

What would people say to a promise stating that both would take place on the same day?

Hence, the Qur’an makes this prophesy in a most emphatic statement: “This is God’s promise. Never does God fail to fulfil His promise, but most people do not know.”

(30: 6.)

God certainly fulfilled His promise, and the Byzantines were able to achieve victory against the Persians in less than nine years, according to all historians.

That victory took place on the same day as the victory achieved by a small army of believers against a much larger force of unbelievers, in what came to be known as the Battle of Badr.

It should be pointed out here that the Qur’anic text specifies that the victory of the Byzantines would be ‘within a few years’.

The equivalent Arabic expression signifies any number of years between three and nine.

Some people may wonder why the Qur’an used this rather indeterminate period, when God is certainly aware of the year, day and exact hour of the event in question.

The answer may be found in the fact that people differ in their method of reckoning.

Some date according to the lunar calendar, while others use a solar one; some drop any fraction, while others round it up to the next whole number.

Hence, it is wiser to give an expression that gives a perfectly true prediction, whatever method of reckoning people employ.

This puts an end to all doubt and argument.

Besides, there may be a gap of time between the early signs of victory and the time when it ultimately takes place...

which may lead to some difference as to the exact timing of victory.

All this makes it more appropriate to say, as the Qur’an says,

‘within a few years’,

not ‘after a few years’.

page ii

A Challenge to All Mankind

Everyone knows that a critic can carefully study what an earlier writer has produced and 30 then be able to find in it something that the original writer missed out or overlooked.

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