لِيَجْعَلَ اللَّـهُ ذَٰلِكَ حَسْرَةً فِي قُلُوبِهِمْ
Liyaj‘alal-lāhu dhālika hasratan fī qulūbihim
So that Allah may make it a regret in their hearts.
(Sūrat Āli Imran, No 3, Āyat 156)
When the Muslims went for the battle of ‘Uhud a group of the hypocrites and those who disbelieved refused to accompany them. Upon return of the Muslims and the news that some had been martyred in the battle this group seized the opportunity to create skepticism among the Muslims. They put on a facade of compassion and declared that had these people stayed with them they would not have been killed. The grief that was felt in Madinah at that time was compounded by this group who outwardly showed concern but inwardly wanted to turn Muslims away from the Holy Prophet sallal-lāhu ‘alayhi wa-ālihi wasallam.
The verse above is part of a longer verse in which Allah ‘azza wajall tells the Muslims not to be like them or think like them. Their speech should not affect the spirits of the believers. By holding on to their faith and determination to serve God, the Muslims would confound the plan of the enemies and make it a source of regret for them. The regret mentioned could be of different types:
1. That the Muslims were strong and obedient to the Prophet (s).
2. That their words did not weaken the Muslims as intended.
3. It would also be a source of regret for them on the day of Judgment when they will be taken to account for their evil schemes.
Death and martyrdom, difficulties and pain, are part of the struggle in the way of God. For a believer these are challenges to be faced with a strong spirit in the quest to perfect the soul and achieve closeness to God. When the enemies gloat over it and bring up godless alternatives to allay the natural grief that is felt, believers need to be firm and fight back.
In the courts of Ibn Ziyād in Kūfa and the Umayyad ruler Yazīd in Damascus, the family of Imam al-Husayn ‘alayhis salām were subjected to speeches that gloated over their tragedy. The words of the tyrants intended to convey the message that what the family faced was because of their faith and obedience to God and His Prophet. Ibn Ziyād told Lady Zaynab ‘alayhas salām: ‘Do you see how Allah dealt with your family?’ She replied: I see nothing but beauty! Allah ordained them to be killed and they obeyed and hurried to their tombs, and soon Allah will gather you and them and they will complain of you to Allah. Now look forward to who would win the claim.
Lady Zaynab (a) told Yazīd in the presence of hundreds of courtiers: O Yazīd! Do you think that we have become humble and despicable owing to the martyrdom of our people and our own captivity? . . . You have become boastful because you think that the matters have taken a turn in your favor . . . If you have gained something today by shedding blood, you will certainly be a loser on the Day of Judgment. On that day nothing but your deeds will count . . . On that day you and your followers will quarrel with one another by the side of the Divine scale of Justice.
The strong spirit displayed was a humiliation for the people who thought the holy family would be weakened through their grief. To their chagrin, many people in the courts also supported the holy family and spoke up on their behalf. This became a source of regret for the tyrants, both in this world and in the hereafter.
As believers we need to confound those who wish to weaken us. When people conspire against us it is exasperating for them to see a rebounding of faith and strength. Failing in their plans becomes a source of regret for them. This was the case in history and is still the case today. Let this verse remind you to not be affected by their speech and to frustrate their efforts by holding on to faith.
Sources: ‘Allāmah Muhammad Husayn Tabātabā’ī, Tafsīr al-Mīzān; Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (Ed.), Tafsīr-e Namūneh; Agha Muhsin Qarā’atī, Tafsīr Nur; http://en.wikishia.net/view/Text:Debate_of_Lady_Zaynab_(a)_with_%27Ubayd_Allah_b._Ziyad