Surah Ale-Imran (The Family Of Imran ) 3 : 162

أَفَمَنِ ٱتَّبَعَ رِضْوَٰنَ ٱللَّهِ كَمَنۢ بَآءَ بِسَخَطٍ مِّنَ ٱللَّهِ وَمَأْوَىٰهُ جَهَنَّمُ ۚ وَبِئْسَ ٱلْمَصِيرُ


 Muhsin Khan
 Yusuf Ali
Quran Project
So is one who pursues the pleasure of Allāh like one who brings upon himself the anger of Allāh and whose refuge is Hell? And wretched is the destination.

1. Lessons/Guidance/Reflections/Gems

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Explanatory Note

Within the framework of keenness to have a share in the spoils of war, which was the  direct  cause  of  the  defeat  at  Uĥud,  and  dishonesty  in  general,  the  sūrah underlines the proper values, on which a believer’s attention must be focused.
There is no doubt that God’s pleasure is the prize to be coveted, and the winning of which determines whether one’s efforts are profitable or end in utter loss. The gulf is great between the one who pursues God’s pleasure until he wins it and the one who ends up incurring God’s displeasure, which leads him to hell. The two have greatly different standings with God: “They have different standings in God’s sight"

2. Linguistic Analysis

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Frequency of Root words in this Ayat used in this Surah *

3. Surah Overview

4. Miscellaneous Information

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5. Connected/Related Ayat

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6. Frequency of the word

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7. Period of Revelation

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“This Surah consists of four discourses:

  • The first discourse (v. 1-32) was probably revealed soon after the Battle of Badr.
  • The second discourse (v. 33-63) was revealed in 9 A.H. (After Hijrah - migration from Makkah to Madinah) on the occasion of the visit of the deputation from the Christians of Najran.
  • The third discourse (v. 64-120) appears to have been revealed immediately after the first one.
  • The fourth discourse (v. 121-200) was revealed after the Battle of Uhud.” [Mawdudi]

8. Reasons for Revelation

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1. The Believers had met with all sorts of trials and hardships about which they had been forewarned in Al-Baqarah. Though they had come out victorious in the Battle of Badr they were not out of danger yet. Their victory had aroused the enmity of all those powers in Arabia which were opposed to the islamic Movement. Signs of threatening storms had begun to appear on all sides and the Muslims were in a perpetual state of fear and anxiety. It looked as if the whole Arabian world around the tiny state of Madinah - which was no more than a village state at that time - was bent upon blotting out its very existence. This state of war was also adversely affecting its economy which had already been badly disturbed by the influx of the Muslim refugees from Makkah.

2. Then there was the disturbing problem of the Jewish clans who lived in the suburbs of Madinah. They were discarding the treaties of alliance they had made with the Prophet after his migration from Makkah. So much so that on the occasion of the Battle of Badr these people of the Book sympathized with the evil aims of the idolaters in spite of the fact that their fundamental articles of Faith - Monotheism, Prophethood and Life-after-death - were the same as those of the Muslims. After the Battle of Badr they openly began to incite the Quraysh and other Arab clans to wreak their vengeance on the Muslims. Thus those Jewish clans set aside their centuries-old friendly and neighbourly relations with the people of Madinah. At last when their mischievous actions and breaches of treaties became unbearable the Prophet attacked the Bani-Qaynuqah, the most mischievous of all the other Jewish clans who had conspired with the hypocrites of Madinah and the idolatrous Arab clans to encircle the Believers on all sides. The magnitude of the peril might be judged from the fact that even the life of the Prophet himself was always in danger. Therefore his Companions slept in their armours during that period and kept watch at night to guard against any sudden attack and whenever the Prophet happened to be out of sight even for a short while they would at once set out in search of him.

3. This incitement by the Jews added fuel to the fire which was burning in the hearts of the Quraysh and they began to make preparations to avenge the defeat they had suffered at Badr. A year after this an army of 3000 strong marched out of Makkah to invade Madinah and a battle took place at the foot of Mount Uhud. The Prophet came out of Madinah with one thousand men to meet the enemy. While they were marching to the battlefield three hundred hypocrites deserted the army and returned to Madinah but there still remained a small band of hypocrites among the seven hundred who accompanied the Prophet. They played their part and did their utmost to create mischief and chaos in the ranks of the Believers during the Battle. This was the first clear indication of the fact that within the fold of the Muslim Community there was quite a large number of saboteurs who were always ready to conspire with the external enemies to harm their own brethren.

4. Though the devices of the hypocrites had played a great part in the set-back at Uhud, the weaknesses of the Muslims themselves contributed no less to it. And it was but natural that the Muslims should show signs of moral weakness for they were a new community which had only recently been formed on a new ideology and had not as yet got a thorough moral training. Naturally in this second hard test of their physical and moral strength some weaknesses came to the surface. That is why a detailed review of the Battle of Uhud was needed to warn the Muslims of their shortcomings and to issue instructions for their reform. It should also be noted that this review of the Battle is quite different from the reviews that are usually made by generals on similar occasions.

9. Relevant Hadith

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10. Wiki Forum

Comments in this section are statements made by general users – these are not necessarily explanations of the Ayah – rather a place to share personal thoughts and stories…

11. Tafsir Zone


Overview  (Verses 162 - 164)

A Great Favour Done to Believers

Within the framework of keenness to have a share in the spoils of war, which was the  direct  cause  of  the  defeat  at  Uĥud,  and  dishonesty  in  general,  the  sūrah underlines the proper values, on which a believer’s attention must be focused: “Can he who strives after God’s pleasure be compared to one who has incurred God’s wrath and whose abode is hell? How evil such a goal is.” (Verse 162)

There is no doubt that God’s pleasure is the prize to be coveted, and the winning of which determines whether one’s efforts are profitable or end in utter loss. The gulf is great between the one who pursues God’s pleasure until he wins it and the one who ends up incurring God’s displeasure, which leads him to hell. The two have greatly different standings with God: “They have different standings in God’s sight.” (Verse 163) Each actually earns his position, which means that there is no favouritism and none is wronged: “God sees all that they do.” (Verse 163)

This part of the sūrah concludes with a reference back to the personality of God’s Messenger, his message, and the fact that it represents a great favour bestowed by God on the believers: “Indeed, God bestowed a favour on the believers when He sent them a messenger from among themselves, to recite to them His revelations, and to purify them, and teach them the book and wisdom, whereas before that they were surely in plain error.” (Verse 164)

This reference to the Prophet’s role in bringing the Muslim community into existence, and in moulding, educating and leading  it out of a state of error to become a nation endowed with knowledge, wisdom and purity is clearly emphasised. It is typical  of  the  Qur’ānic  method  of  moulding  the  Muslim  community  that  this reference is made in the context of defeat, pain, and loss suffered at Uĥud.  All worldly gains, indeed all the riches of the world, and all the suffering and sacrifices that the Muslims may be called upon to endure seem very petty compared with the great favour God has done to mankind when He sent them His Messenger.

The practical effects of this favour, which can be seen in the life of the Muslim community, are then mentioned: “... to recite to them His revelations, and to purify them, and to teach them the book and wisdom, whereas before that they were surely in plain error.” These effects represent a total transformation of the Muslim community. God is preparing this community to play a great role in the leadership of mankind, and this requires that a messenger be sent to them. A nation with such a mission should not be preoccupied with petty gains that it can make in a battle and should not be reluctant to make sacrifices. Great goals cannot be achieved without sacrifice.

“Indeed, God bestowed a favour on the believers when He sent them a messenger from among themselves.” The fact that God Almighty cared to send a messenger to a particular species of His creation, is a favour which can only be motivated by His limitless grace. It is a favour that cannot be returned in any way by the recipients. Who are those human beings whom God has chosen for such grace, so as to be the recipients of His revelations? Indeed, God bestows His grace on His creation even when they have not earned that grace, and can never return it.

The favour is made even greater by the fact that this messenger is “from among themselves.” We should reflect that the Qur’ānic text did not say “a messenger from them.” For him to be “from among themselves” is especially significant, because it identifies that the relationship between the believers and the messenger is one of human souls, not a relationship between an individual and a race. The question is not merely that the Prophet was one of them, it is far more significant than that. With faith, they establish their unique relationship with the Prophet and a great position of favour with God. That means that it is a double favour; sending the messenger, and establishing the relationship which exists between believers and the Prophet.

The first and greatest of the effects of this favour on the lives of the believers is referred to in the statement describing the Prophet’s role: “To recite to them His revelations.” When we remember that God Himself addresses man with His own words, to speak to him about His majesty, and to explain His attributes, and the nature  and  qualities  of  Godhead,  we  may  begin  to  appreciate  how  great  God’s favour is. Let man reflect that God tells him about himself, an insignificant creature. He speaks to him about his life, feelings, actions and abilities in order to tell him what brings about a truly happy life and what sets him on the way to achieving the greatest of human goals, namely, admission to Paradise, which is far greater than the heavens and the earth. Such a favour can come only from God’s grace, which is infinite indeed.

God the Almighty has no need for mankind, or indeed for any creature. Man, on the other hand, is poor and powerless. He needs God. But it is God Who bestows on man His favours and grace, and calls on him to adopt what brings about a total transformation in his life. Nothing that man can do is sufficient to thank God for His grace.

The Purification of a Model Community

The role of the Messenger is also “to purify them”. This purification touches their hearts, affects their homes, honour and worship, and characterises their lives, community and social systems. He purges them of all traces of polytheism, idol worship, and superstition and all that is associated with these, of rituals, habits and traditions which are unworthy of man. Human life is thus purged of all traces of ignorance and its effects on values, principles and social traditions.

Every type of ignorant community, including the Arabs at that time, entertained its own evil aspects. These evils were highlighted by Ja`far ibn Abī Ţālib, a cousin of the Prophet, when he addressed Negus, the ruler of Abyssinia. A number of Muslims had sought refuge in Abyssinia, but the Quraysh sent a delegation which requested its ruler to extradite them. He called in the Muslim refugees to put their case. Their spokesman, Ja`far, made his statement in the following terms:

“We have been ignorant people who worshipped idols, ate carrion, committed all gross indecencies, severed relations with our kinsfolk, were unkind to   our neighbours, and the strong among us usurped the rights of the weak. We continued in this state of affairs until God sent us a Messenger from among ourselves, who was known to us in respect of his good family position, and truthfulness, honesty and integrity. He called upon us to worship God alone, associate no partners with Him, to abandon what we and our forefathers used to worship alongside Him of stones and statues. He has commanded us to be truthful in what we say, honest, kind to our relatives and neighbours, and to refrain from sin and from killing one another. He has forbidden us every aspect of indecency, perjury, devouring what belongs to orphans, and accusing chaste women of committing adultery. He has bidden us to worship God alone, associate no partners with Him, attend to our Prayers, spend in charity [zakāt], and fast.”

Another aspect of the evil customs that prevailed in ignorant Arabia is described by `Ā’ishah, the Prophet’s wife, as she gives this account of relations between the sexes. This report is given in Al-Bukhārī’s Şaĥīh, the most authentic collection of the Prophet’s hadīths: “There were four types of relations between men and women in the days of ignorance. One of these was the same as the marital relationships of today: a man may make a proposal of marriage to another man’s daughter or some other girl in his charge. He pays her a dower and marries her. A second type was that a man said to his wife after she finishes her menstrual period: ‘Go to so and so ... [he names a certain man] and get pregnant by him.’ He himself stops having intercourse with her until she is manifestly pregnant by the man he named. When she becomes heavy with the child, her husband may have intercourse with her if he so desires. He resorts to this method because of his desire to have a son of superior blood. A third form is that a number of men, less than ten, shared the same woman, every one of them having intercourse with her. If she got pregnant and gave birth to a child, she sent to them asking them to come over to her a few days after delivery. None of them could absent himself from that meeting. She would say to them: ‘You are aware of what has passed between us. Now that I have given birth to a child, this child is the son of ....’ She chose whoever she fancied to be the father. He could not disown that child. The fourth type was that of prostitution. Any number of men may associate with a woman who would not refuse anyone who came to her. Prostitutes used to put some sort of a flag on their doors, to indicate that they welcomed any man. If such a prostitute gave birth to a child, they collected some money for her and they called in a physiognomist to determine the father of that child. The child was then named after that man who did not decline to claim it.”

This contemptible, derogatory state of affairs needs no comment. It is sufficient to imagine a man sending his wife to another man to get pregnant by him, in the same way as he sends his female camel or horse or other animal for good breeding. It is sufficient to imagine a number of men, less than ten, having intercourse with the same woman and then allowing her to choose one of them to be the father of her child. As for prostitution, it is the same everywhere. In this particular case, however, the child born to a prostitute is named after a particular adulterer. He finds no disgrace in this and does not disclaim the child. Had it not been for Islam and its purifying principles, the Arabs would have continued to live in such squalor.

All this, however, is only one aspect of the contempt which was preserved for women in the pre-Islamic days of ignorance. In his valuable work, Islam and the World, Abu’l-Ĥasan `Alī Nadwī says:

The lot of women was extremely lamentable in pre-Islamic Arabia. The right of inheritance was denied to them. Widowed and divorced women were not permitted to remarry. It was a common practice for the eldest son to take as wives his father’s widows, inherited as property with the rest of the estate. Discrimination  was  made  against  them  even  in  matters  of  food,  men reserving certain dishes for themselves. Daughters were buried alive at birth. Pride and poverty had introduced the abominable crime of female infanticide among all the Arabian tribes. Haitham ibn `Adī tells us that one out of every ten men was guilty of it. Kind-hearted tribal chiefs often bought infant girls to save their lives. Sa`sa`a says that before the dawn of Islam he had rescued as many as 300 girls from that terrible fate by paying compensatory money to their fathers. Sometimes a young girl who had escaped being killed at birth or during childhood, due to her father being away from home or some other reason,  would be treacherously taken to a lonely spot by her father and done to death.  Several incidents of this nature were narrated from their past lives by the companions of the Prophet after they had embraced Islam.

These accounts give us a glimpse of the evils from which Islam saved the Arabs and purified them.

Idolatry and Human Dignity

All systems based on ignorance of God have their evils and debased practices. Perhaps the most prominent among these in pre-Islamic Arabia was idol-worship as described by Nadwī:

The belief in an overruling Providence had grown very feeble among them (the Arabs of pre-Islamic days). It was confined to a select few, while the religion of the great mass of them was gross idolatry. The idols that had originally been introduced to serve as devotional media had become elevated to the status of divinity. Homage was still paid to one transcendent God, but only  verbally;  in  their  hearts  a  host  of  deities  were  enthroned,  whose goodwill they sought to propitiate, and displeasure avert.

Each tribe, city, and locality had its own god. Al-Kalbī has stated that every household in Makkah had its own idol. When a Makkan started on a journey, his last act at home would be to invoke the blessings of the family deity, and the first thing he did on his return was to pay reverence to it.

People used to vie with one another in collecting idols and constructing temples for them. Those who could afford neither planted a slab of stone in front of the Ka`bah and performed the ritual of circumambulation around it. Such stones were called ansāb. In the words of Abū Rijā’ al-`Uţāridī, as reported in the Şaĥīh of Al-Bukhārī, “We worshipped stones. When we found a better stone than the one we had, we took it up and threw away the old one. Where no stones were available, we made a mound of sand, milked a goat over it and worshipped it.” When a traveller halted at a place, he used to collect four stones, worshipped the most beautiful of them and used the other three to rest his pots on for cooking.

Angels, stars, jinns (spirits) and all the rest of the objects of veneration found in polytheistic faiths were adored as divine beings by the Arabs. The angels, they believed, were daughters of God, whom they besought to intercede with Him on their behalf, while jinns were regarded as partners of the Almighty in the practical control of the world.

Al-Kalbī says that Band Malīĥ, a branch of the tribe of Khuzā`ah, worshipped the jinns; and Sā’id reports that the tribe of Ĥimyar worshipped the sun; the tribe of Kinānah adored the moon; the tribe of Tamīm worshipped al- Dabarān; the Lakhm and the Judhām, Ţā’ī, Banū Qais and Banū Asad worshipped Jupiter, Canopus, the Dog Star and Mercury, respectively.

A quick look at this crude, primitive form of polytheism is sufficient to give a good idea of the sort of feelings, principles and practices it generated. We can also appreciate the great transformation Islam managed to bring about in the lives of the Arabs. It purified their thoughts and their lives of those evils which gave rise to the sort of social and moral ills which prevailed in their society and in which they took pride. Drinking, gambling and tribal vengeance were their highest preoccupations. Countless poems boastfully described their indulgence in such practices. Shaikh Nadwī says in Islam and the World:

War, in some respects, was a necessity for them, but more than that, it was a fun.... A most trivial incident could touch off a bitter inter-tribal war. The war, for instance, between the descendants of Wā’il, Bakr and Taghlīb dragged on for full forty years. There were innumerable casualties in this war. An Arab chief, Muhalhil, has depicted the consequences of this war thus: “Both the tribes have been exterminated; mothers have become childless; children have become orphans; the flow of tears does not cease; the dead are not buried.”

The same can be said of the war known as Dāĥis and Al-Ghabrā’. What caused this war to flare up was that Dāĥis, a horse belonging to Qais ibn Zuhair, was leading in a race arranged between the horses of Qais and Ĥudhayfah ibn Badr, with bets placed on which horse will be the winner. A tribesman  of  Asad,  on  instructions  from  Ĥudhayfah,  hit  the  face  of  the leading horse and this allowed other horses to catch up and pass him by. A killing followed and vengeance was sought. Both tribes tried to revenge the killing of their murdered children. Many were taken captive. Tribes were displaced and thousands were killed.

All this was evidence of the fact that their lives had no worthy preoccupation. They used up their energy in such trivialities. They never thought of what sort of role they should play in improving human life. They had no faith to purify them from such social evils. Without faith, people can easily sink to such debasement.

Ignorance remains the same. Every form of ignorance has its own manifestations of debasement, regardless of where and when it exists. When people live without a Divine faith or code to regulate their lives, they sink into some form of ignorance. We can easily draw parallels between the ignorance prevalent in our modern world and that which prevailed in pre-Islamic Arabia, or with other contemporary forms elsewhere in the world. It was only through Islam that Arabia was saved from and purified of that ignorance.

Humanity lives today in a great quagmire of vice. We have only to look at the media, the cinema, the fashion industry, beauty competitions, dancing places, public houses, and the widespread use of pornography in literature and art. Combined with the fact that its economic system is based on usury, which entails a materialism that motivates people’s greed and the desire to become rich, even if they have to resort to cheating, embezzlement and other immoral methods. The moral and social fabric of society is also undermined. Doubt and cynicism have affected every individual, family, system and community. It is sufficient to cast a quick glance at all this to realise that the ignorance which prevails in our own world is leading humanity to an awful doom.

Man’s humanity is wearing thin as people continue to seek animal pleasures. Indeed,  animals  have  a  standard  of  life  which  is  cleaner  and  purer.  They  are governed by a serious law of nature which is applicable to them. They do not become debased as man does when he breaks loose, away from faith and its discipline, resorting to ignorance, from which God has saved him by His grace. God reminds His servants of this favour in the verse which states: “God bestowed a favour on the believers when He sent them a messenger from among themselves to recite to them His revelations, and to purify them, and to teach them the book and wisdom...”

Nationalism and Islamic Identity

“And to teach them the book and wisdom.” Those addressed by this verse were illiterate in every sense of the word. Not only did they not read and write, but their illiteracy was intellectual as well. According to international standards of knowledge, they lagged behind in every field. Their preoccupations were not of the sort which encouraged or increased knowledge. When they received this message, they experienced a great transformation which made them pass it on to the rest of the world. It endowed them with great wisdom. They became the standard-bearers of an intellectual and social philosophy which was destined to save humanity from the depths of ignorance into which it had sunk. The same doctrine is about to play its role again, God willing, to save humanity anew from its contemporary ignorance, an ignorance which shares with past forms the same moral and social characteristics, as it sets the same goals and objectives for human life, despite the great material advances of science and industry and the affluence such advances have brought about.

“Whereas before that they were surely in plain error.” They were certainly in error with regard to concepts and beliefs, goals and objectives, habits and practices, systems and standards, as well as moral and social values. The Arabs, addressed for the first time by this verse, undoubtedly remembered what their lives were like and fully appreciated the total transformation brought about by Islam. They recognised that without Islam they would never have attained the high standards to which Islam elevated them. Such a transformation is totally unique in human history. They recognised that it was through Islam that they moved directly from the tribal stage, with all its petty concerns and narrow-mindedness, to become not merely a nation in the fullest sense of the word, but a nation to lead humanity and to set for it its ideals and systems.

They  recognised  that  only  through  Islam  had  they  acquired  their  national, cultural, and intellectual character. Most importantly, Islam gave them their human character, which elevated them to a position of honour through God’s grace. They established their whole life on the basis of this honour and, subsequently, imparted it to the world, and taught it how to respect man and give him the position of honour God has granted him. In this they were the leaders. There was no one ahead of them, not in Arabia, not anywhere. The reference to consultative government which we discussed earlier brings out one aspect of this Divine system.

They also realised that only through Islam had they a message to present to mankind. It involved a doctrine and a system by which to mould human life. All these are basic essentials for the existence of a nation which wants to play an important role on life’s stage.

The Islamic faith, its concepts of life and existence, its laws and regulation of human life, and its practical code which ensures man’s happiness, were the credentials which the Arabs presented to the world and by which they earned the respect and leadership of mankind. Neither at present nor in future will they ever have any other credentials. They have no message other than Islam to give them a position in the world. The choice they have to face is either to be the standard-bearers of the message of Islam, through which they earn recognition and honour, or to abandon it and go back to their earlier position when no one recognised them. The Arabs should ask themselves what they can give to humanity when they abandon the message of Islam.

Do they offer any great achievements in literature and art? Many nations are far ahead of them in these fields, which are of secondary importance. Nations of the world will not wait for any Arab genius to make his contribution, because the need for such a contribution is not felt by anyone. Can they offer any great industrial advance to win the respect of the world and to compete in international markets? Many a nation has taken the lead over the Arabs in this respect as well. Or can they offer any social, economic, or organisational philosophy of their own? Such philosophies, with varying practical effects, are abundant in our world. What can the Arabs, then, give to mankind in order to win a leading position which commands respect and demonstrates their excellence? They can offer nothing except their great message and unique system. This is the great favour which God has bestowed on them and favoured them with as its standard-bearers. It is the message with which God  saved  mankind  from  ignorance.  Today,  mankind  desperately  needs  this message to save itself from the abyss of misery and worry into which it is sinking.

This message is the identity card of the Arabs, which they presented to the world in the past, and thereby commanded its respect. They can present it anew in order to save themselves and save the world. Every great nation has a message, and the greatness of the nation is commensurate to the greatness of its message and system. The Arabs have this great message in their custody. They are its standard-bearers, while other nations are their partners in it. What devil turns them away from their great role and their infinite wealth? It is their duty to chase the devil and resist his temptation and render his actions hopeless and futile.

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