Qualities of a believer
Right in the beginning of this Surah, Allah (swt) describes the qualities of a true believer. He says, “The believers are only those who, when Allah is mentioned, feel a fear in their hearts and when His Verses (this Quran) are recited unto them, they (i.e. the Verses) increase their Faith; and they put their trust in their Lord (Alone).” (Al-Anfal 8:2) May Allah (swt) strengthen our Iman. Ameen.
These are those who say, “I have tried my best. Rest is all in the Hands of Allah (swt).” And they are content with that. Their other qualities are: “Who perform As-Salat (Iqamat-as-Salat) and spend out of that We have provided them.” (Al-Anfal 8:3) We need to check ourselves. Do we have these qualities within us? If yes, then Allah (swt) says, “It is they who are the believers in truth. For them are grades of dignity with their Lord, and Forgiveness and a generous provision (Paradise).” (Al-Anfal 8:4) May He grant us Paradise and bless us with all the qualities of the true believers. Ameen.
Honouring claims and contracts
He then says, “O you who believe! Obey Allah and His Messenger, and turn not away from him (i.e. Messenger Muhammad (sa)) while you are hearing. And be not like those who say: We have heard, but they hear not.” (Al-Anfal 8: 20-21) Several times during the day, we recite Surah Al-Fatihah, and beseech Allah (swt) to show us the right path. When the right path is shown to us, we turn away. Allah (swt) says when the message has reached you; when you have been informed what is right and what is wrong, then do not turn away. Do not become of those who claim we are the followers of Muhammad (sa). But when a command of Allah (swt) comes, they cannot be bothered to act upon it.
Once again we are reminded about the virtue of honouring contracts, Allah (swt) says, “O you who have believed, do not betray Allah and the Messenger or betray your trusts while you know (the consequence).” (Al-Anfal 8:27) Marriage is a contract similar to business contract. By being Muslim, you naturally become an ambassador of Islam. Do not bring a bad repute to Islam because of your behaviour. Many people do not want to engage with the Muslims because of their deceit and clandestine behaviour.
Stay honest with entrusted responsibilities
“O you who believe! Betray not Allah and His Messenger, nor betray knowingly your Amanat (things entrusted to you, and all the duties which Allah has ordained for you).” (Al-Anfal 8:28) Your wealth and children are a test from Allah (swt). He can take them away whenever He desires. They are not yours; you have only been entrusted with their responsibility. He may never bless you with wealth and children; He may bless you with wealth but not give children; He may bless you with children but deprive you of wealth or He may give them both to you and then take them away during your lifetime or after you are gone. This is a great reminder to not get attached to that which in reality belongs to Allah (swt). He can snatch it any moment.
All belongs to Allah (swt)
When an attachment is snatched away, a person loses his peace of mind and contentment. He complains and grieves for his loss. He utters ungrateful words. And when that happens his Iman begins to diminish. May Allah (swt) strengthen us and help us accept that we will suffer loss in this world.
Taqwa – The key to right decisions
In life, we are faced with miscellaneous decision-making. We wish we had a counsellor that we could consult with; Allah (swt) says, “O you who believe! If you obey and fear Allah, He will grant you Furqan (a criterion to judge between right and wrong, or Makhraj, i.e. making a way for you to get out from every difficulty), and will expiate for you your sins, and forgive you, and Allah is the Owner of the Great Bounty.” (Al-Anfal 8:29) What do we learn from this? The only thing required to make the right decision is Taqwa. If we are conscious of Allah (swt), He will grant us the ability to distinguish between right and wrong. Insha’Allah.
It’s either my way or the highway
This brings us to another important matter – in fact a great Fitnah of our times. Everyone is disagreeing with the other. The ideology is: if you do not follow my belief, then you have clearly gone astray. This continuous fighting has divided the Ummah immensely. Many people don’t come near the religion because they cannot understand who is right and who has deviated. Allah (swt) says, “And obey Allah and His Messenger, and do not dispute (with one another) lest you lose courage and your strength depart, and be patient. Surely, Allah is with those who are As-Sabirin (the patient ones, etc.)” (Al-Anfal 8:46)
The enemies are rejoicing as the Muslims fight among themselves. Let us reflect on our behaviour, be forgiving and reduce the distances between the Ummah.
We notice that in the Quran, the reminders for prayer and obligatory charity are frequently mentioned. It is because reminders benefit the believers. Each time we are reminded, we learn something new.
Consistency is the key
Allah (swt) loves those acts of worship which are done consistently. Doing them strengthens our Iman. And abandoning them can have serious implications on our heart’s condition. If you are content with worshipping and obeying Allah (swt), then you are among those who have understood their purpose in life; and know where they are heading to.
Test or punishment?
As Allah (swt) says in verse 53 of Surah Al-Anfal that He will not change a favour which He has bestowed upon His people; unless they change what was given to them. When that happens, then people deserve the gifts to be taken away. Having said that, we should remember that sometimes taking away of the favours is a test, instead of a punishment. How can one distinguish between a test and a punishment? Your heart’s condition will tell you. If your heart remains content and you say “Alhamdulillah” even in adversity, then Allah (swt) intends to increase your status by this test. On the other hand, if a calamity distances you from Allah (swt), then it could be His punishment. May Allah (swt) forgive and protect us. Ameen.
How can we nurture contentment in our hearts?
Let go of disputes and disagreements and forgive people. Look at what Allah (swt) says about confrontation with enemies, “But if they incline to peace, you also incline to it, and (put your) trust in Allah. Verily, He is the All-Hearer, the All-Knower.” (Al-Anfal 8:61) Allah (swt) is asking us to make peace with the enemies if they give up fighting too.
Opt for a ceasefire; this initiative will bring you peace
If there’s someone who has had an estranged relationship with you, and he now wants to mend it, then hasten to make peace with him. It is a sign of a good believer that he is the first one to apologize and forgive. Keep forgiving others and keep your heart calm. You might want to deal with that person differently, but do forgive them. “And if they intend to deceive you, then verily, Allah is All-Sufficient for you. He it is Who has supported you with His Help and with the believers.” (Al-Anfal 8:62)
If they deceive you after making peace, then make Dua for them instead. Because Dua has the power to alter conditions. And in this we have the best example of Prophet (sa). When two greatest enemies of Islam were creating hurdles for him, he made Dua for the softness of their hearts so that either of the two would come and work for Islam. Reflect on this Dua.
Truly Muhammad (sa) was the mercy for mankind. Within moments we hear Umar ibn Al- Khattab (ra) has embraced Islam. Subhan’Allah! See the power of Dua? One of the mightiest opponents of Islam became one of the strongest proponents of Islam. A seemingly impossible situation was made possible. May Allah (swt) grant us all the strength that Umar (ra) was blessed with. Ameen. Continue making Dua and you will witness the fruit.
(Adapted from Mufti Ismail Menk’s “Pearls of Peace” series, Cape Town, Ramadan 2013. The lecture can be listened to at this link.)