وَكَأَيِّن مِّن نَّبِيٍّ قَاتَلَ مَعَهُ رِبِّيُّونَ كَثِيرٌ فَمَا وَهَنُوا لِمَا أَصَابَهُمْ فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ وَمَا ضَعُفُوا وَمَا اسْتَكَانُوا ۗ وَاللَّهُ يُحِبُّ الصَّابِرِينَ
Waka-ayyin min nabiyyin qātala ma‘ahu ribbiyyūna kathīrūn famā wahanū limā asābahum fī sabīlillāhi wamā da‘ufū wamastakānū, wallāhu yuhibbus-sābirīn.
And how many a prophet has fought with whom were many worshippers of the Lord; so, they did not become weak hearted on account of what befell them in Allah’s way, nor did they weaken, nor did they submit themselves; and Allah loves the patient.
(Sūrat Āli Imrān, No 3, Āyat 146)
This verse talks about the Ribbiyūn. The word Ribbi refers to one who is strongly connected to Allah ‘azza wajall. It also denotes one who is scholarly, sincere, and determined. After the battle of ‘Uhud this verse was revealed to remember those who had fought bravely with previous Prophets. This was to encourage the Muslims who had fought bravely and to reproach those who had run away from the battle. There were many Prophets who had sincere worshippers in the ranks of their companions.
The verse goes on to describe their qualities:
- They faced many difficulties and struggles with the Prophets in the way of Allah. But they did not lose heart and faced the challenges head on.
- They did not show any weakness or lack of spirit
- They did not submit and give up
The lives of Prophets ‘alayhimus-salām were full of many struggles. The examples of those who stood firmly with them are an inspiration for people of all times to come. Those who feel overwhelmed by the challenges they face can take strength from the examples of such people. The worshippers who had awareness and knowledge and this was the roots of their firmness. They were able to withstand a lot of obstacles because it was in the way of Allah subhānahu wata‘ālā . Difficulties are meant to stimulate movement, not make the person weak or stagnant.
Patience and determination when on the path of truth are necessary qualities of the believer. Imam al-Bāqir ‘alayhis-salām says: When the final moments of my father, Ali bin Husain (a) approached, he embraced me and said: My son, I advise you that which my father advised me at the time of his passing away and mentioned that which his father had advised: My son, be patient on truth even though it may be bitter. (Al-Kāfī, v 2, p 91).
The Ribbiyūn (or Rabbāinuyyūn as appearing in Q 3:79) are special devotees of Allah with outstanding qualities. A Ziyārat of the companions of Imam al-Husayn (a) narrated by Imam al-Sādiq (a) says: Peace be on you, O Rabbāniyyūn. Imam then quotes the above verse and says: You did not become weak, nor did you submit, until you met Allah (al-Kāfī, v 4, p 574).
During these days of Muharram as we remember the martyrs of Karbala, let us be inspired by their qualities of bravery and determination and learn from their example. As Imam al-Husayn (a) himself said about them: I do not know of companions more loyal and better than my companions.
Sources: Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (Ed.), Tafsīr-e Namūneh; Agha Muhsin Qarā’atī, Tafsīr Nūr; http://www.mirbaqeri.ir/; Rayshahrī, The Chronicle of the Martyrdom of Imam al-Husayn.