Reflection No. 287 on Q 33:23 – Anticipating Fulfillment of the Pledge

مِنَ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ رِجَالٌ صَدَقُوا مَا عَاهَدُوا اللَّهَ عَلَيْهِ
فَمِنْهُمْ مَنْ قَضَىٰ نَحْبَهُ وَمِنْهُمْ مَنْ يَنْتَظِرُ ۖ وَمَا بَدَّلُوا تَبْدِيلًا
Minal mu’minīa rijālun sadaqū mā ‘āhadullāha ‘alayhi
Faminhum man qadhā nahbahu waminhum man yantaziru wamā baddalū tabdīlā
Of the believers are men who fulfill what they have pledged to Allah. Of them are some who have fulfilled their pledge and of them are some who still wait, and they have not changed in the least.
(Sūratul Ahzāb, No. 33, Āyat 23)

This verse talks about believers, those who have fulfilled their pledge to Allah and have gone ahead in the journey towards Him, and those who are anticipating their turn. This second group is described as firm and unchanging. They witness the departure of the first group from this world and they know with certainty that they will follow soon. They do not budge from their duty of believing in, and working for, their Lord till the end.

History has attributed this verse to many incidents where believers were martyred and others continued their mission. Among them;
1. The martyrs of the battles of Badr and ‘Uhud, where some of the believers were martyred and others continued the struggle.
2. Ibn Abbas narrates that the first group of believers refers specifically to Hamza bin Abdul Muttalib who was martyred in the battle of ‘Uhud and the second group is the rest of the believers who continued on.
3. Imam Ali (a) is narrated to have said that he was the one who was awaiting his turn, and he would not change his path at all.

Imam Husayn (a) recited this verse when he bid farewell to his companions on the day of ‘Āshūrā. As each one went ahead he recited this verse, saying that they were going ahead and the others would follow. It is narrated that he also recited it at the bodies of the martyred companions.

According to Tafsīr-e Namūne, this verse applies to believers of all times, whether they are martyred or if they die after a lifetime of struggling to fulfill the pledge of obedience to Allah, anticipating their end. They have been truthful to their pledge. Those who remain behind learn from them, and know that they too will soon follow. They remain firm and steadfast on the same path.

Recite this verse when you hear of the death of a believer who has lived a lifetime of obedience and has always been ready for their death. They have fulfilled their pledge. We too have to fulfill ours.

Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (ed.), Tafsīr-e Namūneh;
Agha Mohsin Qarā’atī, Tafsīr-e Nūr