Reflection No. 271 on Q 61:4 – Strength through Unity

إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُحِبُّ الَّذِينَ يُقَاتِلُونَ فِي سَبِيلِهِ صَفًّا كَأَنَّهُمْ بُنْيَانٌ مَرْصُوصٌ

Innallāha yuhibbul-ladhīna yuqātilūna fī sabīlihi saffan ka-annahum bunyānun marsūs
Surely Allah loves those who fight in His way in ranks as if they were a firm and compact structure
(Sūratus Saff, No.61, Āyat 4)

Two qualities of those who strive in the way of Allah are outlined in this verse: the intention of doing it for the sake of Allah, and to have unity such that together they form a structure that is firm and strong. These are the people whom Allah loves, for they have the right spirit in their efforts to please Allah.

To understand the verse better reflect on the following three words:
– saffan – standing in ranks or straight lines. These believers stand together in alignment and harmony. They stand next to each other and support one another in the common cause.
– bunyan – a building or structure. Together believers can form a solid structure that is able to withstand the storms that may threaten them.
– marsus – from the root word rasas which refers to lead used to strengthen bricks. Not only do the believers form a structure, but the structure is bound together very firmly. It is like a dam that stands firm against the onslaught of floods which can create havoc.

According to Tafsīr-e Namūne, Imam Ali (a) recited this verse when he talked to his people during the battle of Siffīn and encouraged them to be strong and firm against the enemies. Preventing disunity was the reason behind the silence of Imam Ali (a) and was also the reason behind the times he stood up. During the battle of Jamal he told his people: Certainly, these people are in agreement in disliking my authority. I will carry on till I perceive disunity among you, because if they succeed despite the unsoundness of their view, the whole organization of the Muslims will be shattered (Nahjul Balāgha, Sermon 169).

Fighting in the way of Allah could refer to all forms of standing up for Islam. It is the struggle to defend the religion of Allah. It could encompass countering the modern day phenomenon of Islamophobia, defending the values and teachings of Islam, protecting the new generations from negative influences, standing up for oppressed Muslims around the world, and more. To do that requires a firm resolve and a joining with other like-minded people to work together. Each person is a cog in the wheel that moves the vehicle of Islam. Each cog has a role to play but needs to work in harmony with the rest to function effectively. Without unity of purpose and effort individual parts become useless.

Muslims need to work together and strengthen one another. The problem today is the intense division that weakens the Muslims. Fanned by external forces, these divisions split up communities and diminish all efforts in the way of Islam. Each person, and each group, thinks they are right and the other is wrong. This mentality eliminates the possibility of forming a compact structure that is able to face the winds blowing against Islam.

To apply this verse practically in your life think of what you can do to defend the religion of Islam. What role are you going to play in the global effort to stand up for Islam and reveal its beauty and practicality?  Pick a cause and find people to work with. Unite and be strong and remind yourself of this verse constantly. It will help you overcome differences so you can be a strong and compact wall.

Sources: Amīrul Mu’minīn Imam Ali bin Abu Talib, Nahjul Balāgha; Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (ed.), Tafsīr-e Namūne.