Tuesday 16 February 2021

Hold fast together to the cable of Allah and be not divided

Unity is defined as being together or at one with someone or something. It's the opposite of being divided. Unity is being in harmony or one in spirit. The age old dictum "unity is the strength" has always been true and its opposite has divided families, societies and nations, leading to mistrust, strife and wars. 

We can always overcome the disunity with humility, love, and the fear of God. Islam has always advocated the virtue of unity and at many  a places in Quran believers have been asked to hold tight to the rope of Allah, that is His guidance as embodied in His commandments. The following 103rd verse of Surah Al i Imran points towards to unity and Muslims are commanded never to be divided:

وَاعۡتَصِمُوۡا بِحَبۡلِ اللّٰهِ جَمِيۡعًا وَّلَا تَفَرَّقُوۡا​ وَاذۡكُرُوۡا نِعۡمَتَ اللّٰهِ عَلَيۡكُمۡ اِذۡ كُنۡتُمۡ اَعۡدَآءً فَاَ لَّفَ بَيۡنَ قُلُوۡبِكُمۡ فَاَصۡبَحۡتُمۡ بِنِعۡمَتِهٖۤ اِخۡوَانًا ۚ وَكُنۡتُمۡ عَلٰى شَفَا حُفۡرَةٍ مِّنَ النَّارِ فَاَنۡقَذَكُمۡ مِّنۡهَا ​ؕ كَذٰلِكَ يُبَيِّنُ اللّٰهُ لَـكُمۡ اٰيٰتِهٖ لَعَلَّكُمۡ تَهۡتَدُوۡنَ‏ 

(3:103) Hold fast together to the cable of Allah and be not divided. Remember the blessing that Allah bestowed upon you: you were once enemies then He brought your hearts together, so that through His blessing you became brothers. You stood on the brink of a pit of fire and He delivered you from it. Thus Allah makes His signs clear to you that you may be guided to the right way.

The expression 'cable of Allah', in this verse, refers to the 'religion of God'. The reason for use of the word 'cable' (habl) is that it both establishes a bond between man and God and joins all believers together. To take a firm hold on this cable means that the believers should attach profound importance to their religion: this should always be the centre of their concerns; they should continually strive to establish it; and the common desire to serve it should make them co-operate with each other.

As soon as Muslims turn their attentions away from the fundamental teachings of their religion and lose sight of establishing its hegemony in life they begin to concern themselves with matters of secondary importance. And, just as they rent the communities of the former Prophets, enticing people away from their true objective in life, so schisms and dissensions are bound to plague their lives. If Muslims do this they are bound to suffer indignity and disgrace both in this world and the Next as happened with the followers of the previous Prophets.

( You stood on the brink of a pit of fire and He delivered you from it) This refers to the state of the Arabs on the eve of the advent of Islam. There were animosities among the tribes which regularly broke out into fighting; every now and then there was much bloodshed. Things had reached a point that the entire Arabian nation seemed to be on the verge of destroying itself. It was due to the blessings of Islam alone that it was saved from being consumed by the fire to which this verse alludes. The people of Madina had embraced Islam some three or four years before these verses were revealed. They had witnessed the blessing of Islam as it unified into one brotherhood the Aws and Khazraj, two tribes which had long been sworn enemies. Moreover, both tribes treated the migrants from Makkah in a spirit of sacrifice and love seldom seen even among members of the same family.

(Thus Allah makes His signs clear to you that you may be guided to the right way.) If they had eyes to see they could conclude for themselves whether their salvation lay in adhering firmly to this religion or in abandoning it and reverting to their former state; i.e. decide whether their true well-wishers were God and His Messenger or those Jews, polytheists and hypocrites who strove to plunge them back into their former state.

Tafsir Ibn Kathir:
(And hold fast, all of you together, to the Rope of Allah, and be not divided among yourselves.) It was said that, (to the Rope of Allah) refers to Allah's covenant, just as Allah said in the following Ayah, (Indignity is put over them wherever they may be, except when under a covenant (of protection) from Allah, and from men;) [3:112], in reference to pledges and peace treaties.

Allah's statement (and be not divided among yourselves), orders sticking to the community of the believers and forbids division. There are several Hadiths that require adhering to the Jama`ah (congregation of believers) and prohibit division. Muslim recorded that Abu Hurayrah said that the Messenger of Allah said,
(It pleases Allah for you to acquire three qualities and displeases Him that you acquire three characteristics. It pleases Him that you worship Him Alone and not associate anything or anyone with Him in worship, that you hold on to the Rope of Allah altogether and do not divide, and that you advise whoever Allah appoints as your Leader. The three that displease Him are that you say, `It was said,' and, `So-and-so said,' asking many unnecessary questions and wasting money.)
Allah said, (and remember Allah's favor on you, for you were enemies one to another but He joined your hearts together, so that, by His grace, you became brethren) [3:103].

This was revealed about the Aws and Khazraj. During the time of Jahiliyyah, the Aws and Khazraj were at war and had great hatred, enmity and ill feelings towards each other, causing long conflicts and battles to occur between them. When Allah brought Islam, those among them who embraced it became brothers who loved each other by Allah's grace, having good ties for Allah's sake and helping each other in righteousness and piety. 

Allah said, (He it is Who has supported you with His Help and with the believers. And He has united their hearts. If you had spent all that is in the earth, you could not have united their hearts, but Allah has united them)[8:62,63], until the end of the Ayah. Before Islam, their disbelief had them standing at the edge of a pit of the Fire, but Allah saved them from it and delivered them to faith. The Messenger of Allah reminded the Ansar (from both Aws and Khazraj) of this bounty when he was dividing the war booty of Hunayn. During that time, some Ansar did not like the way the booty was divided, since they did not get what the others did, although that was what Allah directed His Prophet to do. The Messenger of Allah gave them a speech, in which he said, (O Ansar! Did I not find you misguided and Allah directed you to guidance because of me Were you not divided beforehand and Allah united you around me Were you not poor and Allah enriched you because of me)

Whenever the Prophet asked them a question, they would answer, "Indeed, Allah and His Messenger have granted us bounty.''

Yusuf Ali Explanation:
The simile is that of people struggling in deep water, to whom a benevolent Providence stretches out a strong and unbreakable rope of rescue. If all hold fast to it together, their mutual support adds to the chance of their safety.

Yathrib was torn with civil and tribal feuds and dissensions before the Messenger of Allah set his feet on its soil. After that, it became the City of the Prophet, Madinah, and unmatched Brotherhood, and the pivot of Islam. This poor quarrelsome world is a larger Yathrib: can we establish the sacred feet on its soil, and make it a new and larger Madinah?

Muhammad Asad Explanation:
"a pit of fire" - a metaphor of the sufferings which are the inescapable consequence of spiritual ignorance. The reminder of their one-time mutual enmity is an allusion to man's lot on earth (cf. 2:36 and 7:24 ), from which only God's guidance can save him (see {2:37-38}).

Javed Ahmad Ghamidi Explanation:
This refers to the Qur’an because this is the rope which is stretched from the heavens to the earth between God and His servants. It is this rope which is the means to reach God and it is also our covenant with Him. Consequently, holding firmly the rope of God means nothing but to firmly grasp the Book of God and in no situation leave it. Holding steadfast is qualified by the word جَمِیۡعًا and the prohibition وَلَا تَفَرَّقُوۡا. This means that this requirement is from Muslims in their collective capacity. The Almighty wants that all these people should firmly grasp this rope and not become divided by forsaking it. While being united they should adhere to the Qur’an, read it and reflect on its verses. They should gather counsel from it, turn to it in all their affairs considering it to be a barometer of justice and before its verdicts give no importance to any other thing whatsoever.

This is a reminder of the great favour reaped by the Arabs only because of the Qur’an. Before the revelation of this Book, every tribe was an enemy of the other and they would be engaged in fighting and warfare. There was no unifying thread between them on the basis of religion also. Each tribe had its own deities. Their interests clashed with one another in the fields of politics and economics as well. However, when in the form of the Qur’an, this rope was handed to them, then in the words of Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi it knitted them together and weaved them into a locket of pearls and foes became friends and well-wishers.

The implication is that with this explanation this reminder has been sounded because a slight mistake in this matter can result in grave trials. Thus people should be well aware that if they want to sustain love and unity among them they must hold fast to this Book otherwise they will revert to the age of jahiliyyah they used to be in. It was undeniable that they were standing at the brink of an abyss of fire when the Almighty caught them by their hands and saved them from it. So, now if they forsake this Book, there is a strong chance that they will fall in this abyss and then will not be able to save themselves from its flames.

The very next verse 104 (And let there be appointed among you a community who calls towards righteousness, enjoins virtue and forbids evil. [Diligently arrange for this] and [remember that those who do so] will only attain salvation.) is a directive is given to the Muslims in their collective capacity: in order to hold steadfast to this directive of the Qur’an, they must depute some people from among themselves to enjoin good and forbid evil. It is in this capacity that glad tidings of success are given. It is evident from this that this directive relates to those in authority. Consequently, in an Islamic state, the pulpit of the Friday prayer and the department of police serve this very purpose. Through the Friday sermon, those in authority call them towards righteousness and urge them to refrain from wrongdoings while the police holds people accountable who perpetrate acts which are considered as crimes as per law.

Verse By Verse Quran Study Circle Explanation:
  • We learn the virtue of unity and brotherhood for the sake of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. We see in the example of the Sahabah radhiAllahu ‘anhum, the pious predecessors and the leaders of the different schools of thought that despite their disagreements, they remained united. They were not of those who would boycott one another or do character assassination if someone differed from them.
  • As students of knowledge, it is an obligation on us to stay united. We should not let the differences in understanding a topic lead to breaking ties or slandering one another.
  • It is this disunity and hatred that keeps many people away from studying and understanding the Deen. When the founders of Islamic institutes, the Imams of the masajid and their followers are fighting with anyone who is different from them, then how will the hearts be united and Islam be strong?
  • We also learn that love, affection, and unity is a special favor of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala, whether you have come together for the promotion of His Deen or you live as a family, ask Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala to put love, affection, unity, and mercy among you. Do not be divided over petty matters. Hold on to Allah’s Book and do what He commands you to do.
More than ever before, the Muslim world today is at the verge of utter disunity, for we have stopped reading Quran  with understanding and have swayed away form its teachings. Today Muslims are fighting Muslims (Saudi Arabia and Yemen) and these fighting have been sponsored by none other than Muslim countries. The Palestinians and Kashmiris are fighting for their independence, but very few Muslim countries back their efforts and even side with the belligerents. Had Muslims been united, no one would have dared to do any harm to them. Time is now to unite and shun sectarian differences and hold really fast to the cable of Allah and remove petty difference and stand united once again to revive the glorious past of Islam. 

May Allah help us understand Qur'ān and help us to act upon the commandments of Allah contained therein. Aameen.

For more Selected Verses, please refer to our reference page: Selected Verses from the Qur'anYou may also refer to our Reference Pages for knowing more about Islam and Qur'ān.
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Reading the Qur'ān should be a daily obligation of a Muslim - Reading it with translation will make it meaningful. But reading its Exegesis / Tafsir will make you understand it fully.

An effort has been made to gather explanation / exegesis of the surahs of the Qur'ān from authentic sources and then present a least possible condensed explanation of the surah. In that:
  • The plain translation has been taken from the Qur'ān officially published by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. [1]
  • The exegesis of the chapters of the Quran is mainly based on the "Tafhim al-Qur'an - The Meaning of the Qur'an" by one of the most enlightened scholars of the Muslim World Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi. [2]  
In order to augment and add more explanation as already provided by [2], additional input has been interjected from following sources: 
  • Towards Understanding the Quran
  • Tafsir Ibn Khatir
  • Muhammad Asad Translation
  • Javed Ahmad Ghamidi / Al Mawrid
  • Al-Quran, Yusuf Ali Translation
  • Verse by Verse Qur'an Study Circle
In addition the references of  other sources which have been explored have also been given above. Those desirous of detailed explanations and tafsir (exegesis), may refer to these sites.

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