Quranic Reflection No. 474. Āyat 2:250 – Praying for Strength

رَبَّنا أَفْرِغْ عَلَيْنا صَبْراً وَثَبِّتْ أَقْدامَنا وَانْصُرْنا عَلَى الْقَوْمِ الْكافِرِينَ
Rabbanā afrigh ‘alaynā sabran wa thabbit aqdāmanā wansurnā ‘alalqawmil-kāfirīn
Our Lord pour down upon us patience and make our steps firm and assist us against the unbelieving people.
(Sūrat al-Baqarah, No. 2, Āyat 250)

This verse is part of a set of verses that describe the story of Prophet Dāwūd ‘alayhis salām and Jālūt (Goliath). It centers around the trials of the Banū Israel. After being saved by Prophet Mūsā ‘alayhis salām from the Pharaoh and subsequently enjoying years of benefits and blessings from Allah subhānahu wata‘ālā, many of the Banū Israel became ungrateful and rebelled against the teachings of Allah. As a result, the blessings were taken away from them and they were once again subjugated to oppression and tyranny at the hands of despots. One such despot was Jālūt (Goliath).

After years of being vanquished, the Banū Israel were fed up. They approached the Prophet of their time who was named Ishmī’il, for assistance. They asked him to raise a king who would lead them to battle against Goliath. A beautiful conversation ensues that can be found starting from verse 246 of Sūrat al-Baqarah. Allah ‘azza wajall sends for them a king by the name of Tālūt (Saul) who was instructed to test the people for their sincerity and commitment before facing Goliath.

Their test was that they would reach a stream but were not allowed to drink from it. Most of the people could not resist the temptation and failed the test, while only a small minority (313 according to traditions) remained steadfast. It was this group of people who when they faced Goliath prayed to Allah (swt) saying: Our Lord, pour down upon us patience, and make our steps firm and assist us against the unbelieving people. [Q2:250]

The believers ask Allah for three things in this verse:
One: Patience and Steadfastness – they realized that Goliath was a powerful and ruthless tyrant and that their numbers had dwindled drastically because most of their army failed the test of Allah. Thus, they required patience from Allah to overcome this formidable challenge.

Two: For their feet to be steady and firm – after having asked Allah (swt) for internal strength they also ask for external strength from Him as well.  This is a full realization that everything: internal and external, the hidden and apparent, all come from Allah. They needed every form of support from the Almighty.

Three: Assistance against the oppressors – This shows that the first two things that they asked for were not specific only to their confrontation with Goliath. As believers they needed patience and steadiness in every aspect of their lives. In this part of the supplication they specifically ask for help against Goliath.

Allah answers their Du‘ā in the very next verse when He says: They routed them with Allah’s will, and David killed Goliath (Q 2:251).

There are many lessons that we can take from this story and specifically from this Du‘ā:
i) Just because we ask for help from Allah does not mean He will not test us to see if we are worthy of receiving that help.  The Banū Israel were tested after asking for help and it turned out that very few were sincere in their request.

ii) We are in constant need of both internal and external assistance from Allah (swt).
iii)  Larger numbers do not guarantee victory – true victory belongs to those who remain steadfast at the tests of Allah and prove their commitment and faith to Him.

As we exit the month of Mercy having strengthened our servitude to Allah, and recognizing our neediness of both internal and external assistance from Him, this is a beautiful Du‘ā for us to constantly recite in order to maximize His support for us in our daily lives.

Sources: Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī, Al-Amthal fí Tafsīr Kitāb Allah al- Munzal, ‘Allāmah Muhammad Husayn Tabātabā’ī, Tafsīr al-Mīzān.