Quranic Reflection No. 527. Ayat 3:154 – Reacting to Danger
ثُمَّ أَنزَلَ عَلَيْكُم مِّن بَعْدِ الْغَمِّ أَمَنَةً نُّعَاسًا يَغْشَىٰ طَائِفَةً مِّنكُمْ ۖ
وَطَائِفَةٌ قَدْ أَهَمَّتْهُمْ أَنفُسُهُمْ يَظُنُّونَ بِاللَّهِ غَيْرَ الْحَقِّ ظَنَّ الْجَاهِلِيَّةِ
Thumma anzala ‘alaykum min ba‘dil-ghammi amanatan nu‘āsan yaghshā tā’ifatan minkum, watā’ifatum qad ahammat-hum anfusuhum yazunnūna billāhi ghayral haqqi zannal-jāhiliyyah
Then He sent down to you safety after grief—a drowsiness that came over a group of you—while another group, anxious only about themselves, entertained false notions about Allah, notions of [pagan] ignorance.
(Sūrat Āli Imrān, No 3, Āyat 154)
The night after the battle of ‘Uhud was an uneasy one for the Muslims. The enemies had threatened to return and complete their attack. This could be disastrous for the Muslims who were already low in spirit and strength. The atmosphere hanging over the Muslims was tense and there was fear and uncertainty.
People differ in their level of faith, in their fortitude and spirit, and in their ability to cope with challenges. Groups of Muslims reacted differently to this uncertain threat that night. The group of determined helpers of Allah ‘azza wajall who had fought bravely, as well as those who had fled the scene but repented sincerely, was able to counter the uneasiness of that night with their faith in Allah and trust in the promise of the Prophet sallal-lāhu ‘alayhi wa-ālihi wasallam. They were able to get some peaceful sleep while still in their gear of war, with their weapons beside them. Note that the word used is ‘sent down’ safety. It is a metaphorical way to show that it was Allah’s grace that helped them overcome their grief and fear and drift off to sleep. Imam al-Sādiq ‘alayhis-salām: Having a good opinion of Allah means that you must not hope in anyone except Him, and you should not fear for anything except for your sins.
One of the rewards of faith that is experienced in this world is the feeling of peace that accompanies it. This is a priceless gift for the believer. A self-inflicted punishment for those who lack faith and/or are hypocritical is a lack of peace and tranquility. They cannot taste the sweetness of the fruits of faith in this world. Their inner unrest is manifested strongly in turbulent times.
Another group of Muslims whose faith was weak and who did not fully trust the Prophet’s promise could not sleep that night. Their lack of certainty in Allah’s promise and their hypocrisy would not allow them any peace, a prerequisite for good sleep. The fear of facing the enemies occupied their minds. The term ‘anxious only about themselves’ was used by the Arabs for a cowardly person whose anxiety stemmed from a desire to free himself from that which he feared, and who was oblivious of all else.
These people are described in the above verse as having two qualities:
• concerned only about themselves. They did not think about the fate of Islam, or that of the Muslim community as a whole. Their own safety and immediate comfort were of utmost importance to them.
• thinking false thoughts about Allah subhānahu wata‘ālā. They did not believe in the complete power and wisdom of Allah. Just like people during the days of ignorance their understanding of Allah was faulty and unfounded.
When a person’s vision is self-centered and individualistic, the negative impact effects both the individual and the society. The individual is bereft of true peace as that requires going beyond the self. And society loses the contribution of a member who has the potential to help it progress. It is a sad loss for all involved.
Let this verse remind us of the different ways in which people handle threats and uncertainty. Their reactions reveal their level of faith. Higher levels of faith allow the believer to feel safe and get on with what needs to be done in life, even amidst danger.
Sources: Shaykh Tabarsī, Tafsīr Majma‘ al-Bayān; Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (Ed.), Tafsīr-e Namūneh; Āghā Muhsin Qarā’atī, Tafsīr Nūr.