Allah shows His might, power and mercy through prophets

Friday Khutba by Dr Zahid Aziz, for Lahore Ahmadiyya UK, 3 May 2024

“So do not call upon another god with Allah or you would be among those punished. And (O Prophet): warn your nearest relations, and be gentle to the believers who follow you. But if they disobey you, say: I am clear of what you do. And rely on the Mighty, the Merciful, Who sees you when you stand up, and your movements among those who prostrate themselves. Surely He is the Hearing, the Knowing.” — ch. 26, v. 213–220

فَلَا تَدۡعُ مَعَ اللّٰہِ اِلٰـہًا اٰخَرَ فَتَکُوۡنَ مِنَ الۡمُعَذَّبِیۡنَ ﴿۲۱۳﴾ۚ  وَ اَنۡذِرۡ عَشِیۡرَتَکَ الۡاَقۡرَبِیۡنَ ﴿۲۱۴﴾ۙ وَ اخۡفِضۡ جَنَاحَکَ لِمَنِ اتَّبَعَکَ مِنَ الۡمُؤۡمِنِیۡنَ ﴿۲۱۵﴾ۚفَاِنۡ عَصَوۡکَ فَقُلۡ اِنِّیۡ بَرِیۡٓءٌ مِّمَّا تَعۡمَلُوۡنَ ﴿۲۱۶﴾ۚوَ تَوَکَّلۡ عَلَی الۡعَزِیۡزِ الرَّحِیۡمِ ﴿۲۱۷﴾ۙ الَّذِیۡ یَرٰىکَ حِیۡنَ تَقُوۡمُ ﴿۲۱۸﴾ۙوَ تَقَلُّبَکَ فِی السّٰجِدِیۡنَ ﴿۲۱۹ اِنَّہٗ ہُوَ السَّمِیۡعُ الۡعَلِیۡمُ ﴿۲۲۰

In the last khutba I read and explained some verses from the end of a long chapter of the Quran, chapter 26, whose title is Ash-Shu‘arā or The Poets. I have read here more verses from near the end of that chapter. Let us now look at the beginning of this chapter. There it mentions the opposition that the Holy Prophet was facing from his people when preaching to them his message. The first thing it says about him is this:

“Perhaps you will kill yourself with grief because they do not believe” (26:3).

This shows the depth of the Holy Prophet’s grief and sorrow at seeing his people rejecting his message. He was grieved first of all by the evils that they were committing. More than that, he knew from Allah that if they continued to reject his message, they would be punished by Allah, and he did not want that to happen to them. Allah then says to him:

“And surely your Lord is the Mighty, the Merciful” (26:9).

This is a reassurance to him that, as God is Mighty, He is powerful enough to destroy his opponents, but also powerful enough to make them change their minds and accept the truth. God is also Merciful, which means that He will save the Holy Prophet and his followers and make them successful, and also that instead of destroying his opponents He can also show them His mercy.

After this beginning, most of this chapter goes through the histories of seven prophets: Moses, Abraham, Noah and four others, and after that it ends by referring again to the Holy Prophet Muhammad, as I mentioned last week. For each of those seven prophets, after finishing their story the Quran repeats that same statement “And surely your Lord is the Mighty, the Merciful”. And before repeating this statement, in the case of all of the seven prophets except Abraham, it mentions how their opponents were destroyed in this world. Regarding Abraham, it mentions his opponents as entering hell in the next life. So God showed one aspect of His power and might by destroying the opponents of these prophets and He showed one aspect of His mercy by saving the prophets and their followers. For example, in case of Moses it was Pharaoh and his armies who were drowned in the sea, and Moses and the Israelites were saved and granted success. As the Quran says here:

“And We saved Moses and those with him, all. Then We drowned the others. And surely your Lord is the Mighty, the Merciful” (26:65–66).

It says something very similar about Noah as well.

The chapter then returns to the situation being faced by the Holy Prophet, which was the topic at the start of the chapter. In those verses at the end of the chapter, it informs us among other things of this principle and law of God:

“And We destroyed no town but it had (its) warners — to remind. And We are never unjust” (26:208–209).

This law is that God does not punish or destroy anyone without first reminding them of the wrongs they were committing, and His punishment is in proportion to their wrongdoing. God is never unjust. Elsewhere in the Quran we are told:

“And your Lord would not destroy towns unjustly, while their people acted well” (11:117).

One meaning of this verse is that as long as people act well, it would be unjust for God to destroy them. According to another interpretation, the word “unjustly” — bi-ẓulm-in — does not refer to God acting unjustly but to people holding wrong beliefs. Therefore the meaning would be that God would not destroy people for their ẓulm in holding wrong beliefs, as long as in their actions they act well.

Now, moving a little further to the verses that I read at the beginning of this khutba, the Holy Prophet Muhammad is himself addressed in those verses. He is told:

“So do not call upon another god with Allah or you would be among those punished.”

But the Holy Prophet throughout his life, even from his birth to the time he was made messenger of Allah, never regarded something other than Allah as god, or prayed to anything or anyone other than Allah. So why is he being warned that if he did so, he would be among the punished people? The reason is that the law is above everyone, and everyone must obey it. This includes all those who do obey it, not just those who disobey it. All are humans, and we cannot say about any human, however great or righteous he or she may be, that it is impossible for him to commit a sin. Prophets did not commit sins but still they were extremely afraid of the possibility of committing sins. If they had presented themselves to people as being unable to commit sins, they could not have served as models and examples to people of how a person can avoid committing sins. This verse also shows that, according to the Quran and Islam, we do not have one rule for religious leaders and another for their followers.

The next verse tells him:

“And (O Prophet): warn your nearest relations” (26:214).

He is not only a teacher while preaching to outsiders, but to his own kith and kin as well. There are two Hadith reports in Bukhari in connection with what the Holy Prophet did when this verse was revealed to him. One incident is a well-known one that even children are familiar with. The Holy Prophet climbed Safa hill in Makkah and called out to all the clans of the Quraish to gather in front of him. When they had assembled he asked them that if he were to tell them that there is an army behind the hill about to attack you, would they believe him? The replied, Yes, because we only ever hear the truth from you. So he said: I have come to warn you of a punishment to befall you. His opponents grumbled: You gathered us all here to tell us this? (Hadith 4770).

The other report is less well-known. It says that when this verse was revealed, the Holy Prophet stood up and said to the Quraish:

“Buy (i.e. purchase) your souls, I cannot help you (or avail you) against Allah.”

He then took the names of some close relatives and repeated the same words to them by their names. The words “Buy your souls” mean that it is in your hands to save your souls by doing good deeds. The next words, Lā ughnī ‘an-kum min Allāhi shai’-an, may be explained as: “I cannot do anything for you to avoid the laws of Allah” just because you are my relatives. Taking the name of his daughter Hazrat Fatima, he said:

“Fatima, daughter of Muhammad, you can ask me for whatever you want out of my property, but I cannot help you against Allah” (hadith 2753).

Here I may add that when a person acquires some high or powerful position in the world he does not issue any warning to his relatives. He does the opposite and gives them good news that now he will be able to do all kinds of favours for them! This happens everywhere in the world to some extent, but it is very common and openly done in Muslim countries. Yet the Founder of Islam told his relatives that he has no power to distribute any favours to them.

The next two verses instruct the Holy Prophet as follows:

“and be gentle to the believers who follow you. But if they disobey you, say: I am clear of what you do” (26:215–216).

The Arabic words for “be gentle to the believers” literally mean: “lower your wing to the believers”. Interestingly, there is also a saying in the English language “to take someone under your wing”, and its meaning in English dictionaries is given as: look after them, help them, take care of them, protect them, to teach them, etc. This is how Islam progressed in the Holy Prophet’s time and how any community progresses, by the leader taking the followers under his wing. And as it is added, if they disobey you, you are not responsible as long as you have done your duty.

The next verse says to the Holy Prophet:

“And rely on the Mighty, the Merciful” — wa tawakkal ‘ala-l-‘azīz-ir-raḥīm (26:217).

As you know, the statement “And surely your Lord is the Mighty, the Merciful” has already been repeated eight times in this chapter, once in connection with the Holy Prophet and seven times in connection with other prophets. This verse, by instructing the Holy Prophet to “rely on the Mighty, the Merciful”, clearly predicts and reinforces that God’s power and mercy will be seen during his life as well. And each of these attributes of God was seen in his life in two aspects, whereas in the previous prophets’ lives each attribute was seen in just one aspect, as I mentioned above. By His Power and Might, God not only destroyed some of his enemies but He also changed the hearts of very many more and they accepted his message in the end. And God’s mercy did not only save the Holy Prophet and his followers from their enemies but also the enemies escaped punish­ment and were forgiven after the Muslims overcame them. In no prophet’s life before this was there such a great manifestation of the Might and Mercy of God, and it was foretold in his revelation when God advised the Holy Prophet to “rely on the Mighty, the Merciful”.

The last verses which I read above say that Allah is He:

“Who sees you (i.e., the Holy Prophet) when you stand up, and your movements among those who prostrate themselves. Surely He is the Hearing, the Knowing.”

This is reassurance to the Holy Prophet that his work and his prayers will not be in vain and fruitless. The reason is that Allah is seeing it all. Not only seeing, but He is also hearing the prayers and He knows best when and in what manner the work and prayers will be accepted.

So we pray that we may continue to work for good and to call on Allah steadfastly, and may He fulfil His promise that if we do this while relying on Him, He will help us with His power and might and His mercy — ameen.