Reflection No. 186 on Q 33:23 – Waiting for Martyrdom

مِنَ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ رِجَالٌ صَدَقُوا مَا عَاهَدُوا اللَّهَ عَلَيْهِ ۖ فَمِنْهُمْ مَنْ قَضَىٰ نَحْبَهُ وَمِنْهُمْ مَنْ يَنْتَظِرُ ۖ وَمَا بَدَّلُوا تَبْدِيلًا
Minal mu’minīna rijālun Sadaqū mā ‘Āhadullāha ‘alayhi, faminhum man qadhā naHbahu wa-minhum yantaziru, wa mā baddalū tabdīlā
Of the believers are men who are true to the covenant which they made with Allah: so of them is he who accomplished his vow, and of them is he who yet waits, and they have not changed in the least.
(Sūratul AHzāb, No.33, Āyat 23)

This verse, from Sūratul AHzāb which we recited in the a‘māl on the Day of ‘Ashūrā, refers to a group of believers who are steadfast and committed to their pledge of loyalty to God and His Messenger. They are willing to sacrifice their lives to fulfill their pledge. Unlike the hypocrites and those of weak faith, difficult circumstances do not dissuade these people from living up to their word.

Many people pledge loyalty and commitment when circumstances are smooth. But when things begin to change and it becomes apparent that fulfilling the pledge will result in hardship or death, people drift away. It is only a few who will stand firm and not waver from the promise they had made.

Tafsīr Namūne narrates that Imam Ali (a) said about this verse: This verse has been revealed about us. Surely I am the one who is waiting, and I have not changed and moved from my pledge at all. The verse also is in reference to martyrs like Hamza bin ‘Abdul Muttalib, Anas bin Nadhir, and other martyrs of the battle of ‘Uhud. It is narrated from Anas bin Mālik that his uncle Anas bin Nadhir was not present during the battle of Badr. When he found out later he was greatly disappointed and pledged to God that if another battle were to take place he would participate in it and stand firm in it till the end. He was able to take part in the battle of ‘Uhud and did not flee with those who fled from the scene. He was wounded in the battle and achieved martyrdom.

On the day of ‘Āshūrā when the companions of Imam al-Husayn (a) greeted him to bid him farewell he would reply: And on you be peace, we are following you. Then he would recite the above verse. He recited this verse upon learning that his cousin and ambassador to Kūfa, Muslim bin ‘Aqīl achieved martyrdom. The Imam also recited this verse in Karbalā beside the bodies of his companions after their martyrdom.

This verse is for those who fulfill their pledge, and also those who stand firm on it, waiting to fulfill it. Fear and grief do not daunt their spirits and like mountains they stand upright in the face of storms. Let us recite this verse to remind ourselves of the firmness of the companions of the Holy Prophet (s) and of Imam al-Husayn (a). It is this type of spirit that is required in the face of the winds that disrupt the stability of our faith.

Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (ed.), Tafsīre Namune;
Agha Muhsin Qarā’atī Kāshānī, Tafsīre Nūr