Quranic Reflection No. 518. Ayat 61:4 – A Firm Structure of Defense

إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُحِبُّ الَّذِينَ يُقَاتِلُونَ فِي سَبِيلِهِ صَفًّا كَأَنَّهُم بُنْيَانٌ مَّرْصُوصٌ
Innallāha yuhibbul-ladhīna yuqātilūna fī sabīlihi saffan ka-annahum bunyānun marsūs
Indeed, Allah loves those who fight in His cause in a row as though they are a [single] structure joined firmly.
(Sūrat al-Saff, No 61, Āyat 4)

This verse talks about those who fight in the way of Allah ‘azza wajall. It describes the fight, or struggle, that is beloved to Allah. Certain qualities of the struggle raise its status and make it deserving of success. These include:
1. Sincerity – the fight is in His way, not to derive any personal gain.
2. Orderly – in a straight row, planned, organized.
3. United – a single unit made of individual parts connected through the love of Allah subhānahu wata‘ālā.

The phrase bunyānun marsūs refers to a building which is made solid and unyielding by pouring liquid lead through its parts. This makes it extraordinarily compact and tough. Āghā Mahdī Puyā says structure joined firmly refers to order, discipline, cohesion and courage.

According to Tafsīr Nūr al-Thaqalayn, Imam Ali ‘alayhis-salām recited this verse during the battle of Siffin and urged his troops to stand firm against the enemy. He told them to grit their teeth and not stare and become bemused by the apparent show of strength by the enemies. The hadith mentions different tactics with which the Imam sough to inspire and embolden his forces.

Facing the enemy requires strength and firmness. It is like facing a flood that can overpower and ruin all in its way unless blocked by a strong dam. The ability of the dam to restrict the flow of the water depends on its internal structure. If it is soft and loosely put together it can be no match for the surge of flood water. But a solid structure can resist the flood and allow only necessary amount of water to pass through.

Believers stand up against the enemy that wishes to put down the name of Allah – those who wish to block the spread of religion and work against it. The fight against them can take many forms. Physical fighting is one expression of it. But in today’s times the more relevant fight for us is to stand up in defense of Allah (swt) in ways available to us – through speech, written words, social media, etc. It is a modern form of warfare, and we need to ready ourselves to be active troops of Allah in it.

Let this verse remind us of the need to unite with others and work with them to face the onslaught of the enemy. Faith is being weakened and diluted in many ways. It is the flood that will carry away many people with it, much like the flood during the time of Prophet Nūh ‘alayhis-salām. To save ourselves and our generations to come, we must stand up together, like a firmly joined structure. We can overlook differences and have a big heart for tolerance, all for the sake of building that solid structure so beloved to Almighty Allah.

Sources:  Allāmah Muhammad Husayn Tabātabā’ī, Tafsīr al-Mīzān; Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (Ed.), Tafsīr-e Namūneh