وَلَا تَهِنُوا وَلَا تَحْزَنُوا وَأَنْتُمُ الْأَعْلَوْنَ إِنْ كُنْتُمْ مُؤْمِنِينَ
Walā tahinū walā tahzanū wa-antumul-a‘lawna in kuntum mu’minin –
Do not weaken or grieve: you shall have the upper hand if you are believers.
(Sūrat Āli Imran, No.3, Āyat 139)
This verse was revealed after the battle of ‘Uhud when the Muslims were overcome by the enemies. There was the danger of low morale among the Muslims. Allah subhāna wa-ta‘ālā lifts up their spirits and reminds the believers not to succumb to two qualities:
a. Weakness. The word ‘wahana’ refers to any form of vulnerability, whether of the body, or of spirit, intention etc.
b. Sadness. ‘Huzn’ is a form of grief over an occurrence. It is triggered by the event and can linger and bring despair in its wake.
The second part of the verse is a promise. You will be eventually victorious. The condition is if you have faith and stay firm on its path. It is inappropriate for believers who trust Allah ‘azza wa-jall to give in to negativity and weakness after any form of defeat. In fact, they learn from it and move on to perform better next time.
Faith in Allah (swt) gives hope to the believers. Mistakes, disappointments, difficulties, etc. are all seen as opportunities for growth. The future belongs to those who have complete trust in the Almighty Allah and know that His plan will be ultimately successful. Such a belief gives a whole new perspective to life. It wards off despair and infuses hope into the mind. Hope is not a naive or passive attitude. With hope comes a new energy. A determination to realize the hope and a plan for ways of fulfilling it. Hope in Allah ‘azza wa-jall does not mean we sit back and wait. It means we work for it, knowing that Allah will make it happen.
When the holy Imams ‘alayhimus-salām faced persecution they did not lose hope of the eventual victory for the true believers. Each Imam faced his situation and planned for the community to persevere. There was grief at situations but hope persisted. After the tragedy of Karbala, when the women and children were preparing to leave, Imam Zaynul Ābidīn (a) was grief stricken. It was a desolate situation, leaving the bodies of the martyrs alone and un-buried. He was consoled by Bibi Zaynab (a) thus:
Do not allow that which you see to make you restless, for I swear to Allah that the Messenger of Allah, sallal-lāhu ‘alayi wa-ālihi wa sallam, confided to your grandfather (Amīrul Mu’minīn), your father (Imam Husayn) and your uncle (Imam Hasan) that Allah has taken the covenant from some people from among his nation, who are unknown to the pharaohs of this nation but are well-known in the heavens, who will collect these separated organs and these bodies which are covered with blood and they will bury them.
They will assign a flag here to the grave of your father, the Master of Martyrs. And as time passes, the signs of this flag will never vanish and its traces will never be erased (Ibn Qūlawayh, Kāmil al-Ziyārat, Tr. Syd Mohsen al-Milāni, p. 542; p. 261 in Arabic version).
Today the land of Karbala is visited by millions. The Arba‘īn commemoration in Karbala is the largest annual gathering of people anywhere on earth. Its numbers and logistics are astounding. Pilgrims from around the world gather to walk to Karbala, showing their love and dedication to the Imam al-Husayn (a). The outpouring of reverence for the memory of the Imam who stood up to tyranny and sacrificed his life is a proof that the plan of Allah will always be victorious despite the efforts of the enemies.
Let this verse remind you to be ever positive and hopeful. Apparent failures should not lead to pessimism and despair. The promise of Allah will eventually overcome all obstacles. This boosts the spirt and gives energy to continue walking on the path.
Sources: Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (Ed.), Tafsīr-e Namūneh; http://www.alketab.org/