Tuesday 25 May 2021

Do believers think they would be let go merely by saying: “We believe,” and that they will not be tested?

When I read this verse (verse 2 of Surah 29. Al-Ankabut), I was literally shaken for it was true at the time when it was revealed and is so true even today. It is understandable that at the time of its revelation, the faith of the new Muslims had any shades and many were in the middle and lower brackets and their reaction to hardships was that by reciting the Kalima and coming under the fold of Islam was enough for them to the door of Paradise. But they were rightly and promptly stopped from any misconception by Allah and told very squarely that they will be tested to ascertain the level of their faith.

But now after so many years, as we witness today, the faith of Muslims is far from the acceptable level. We prefer this world more than the Eternal World which will come after the Day of Resurrection and are under the false hope that no matter what we do in this world, we will be let go and be forgiven. And we are sadly mistaken as this verse stands equally applicable today and we see Muslims failing in faith miserably. In this backdrop, please read the explanation of this verse and ponder where we are heading and how can we come back to the path of the true faith. 

And be sure to carryout a self appraisal of yourself and see where are you standing as to the level of your faith in Allah:
اَحَسِبَ النَّاسُ اَنۡ يُّتۡرَكُوۡۤا اَنۡ يَّقُوۡلُوۡۤا اٰمَنَّا وَهُمۡ لَا يُفۡتَـنُوۡنَ‏ 
(29:2) Do people think that they will be let go merely by saying: “We believe,” and that they will not be tested,

Mere lip profession of Faith is not enough. It must be tried and tested in the real turmoil of life. The test will be applied in all kinds of circumstances, in individual life and in relation to the environment around us, to see whether we can strive constantly and put Allah above Self. Much pain, sorrow, and self-sacrifice may be necessary, not because they are good in themselves, but because they will purify us, like fire applied to a goldsmith's crucible to burn out the dross. [2]

Before going into the explanation of this verse, let us look back and see how were the circumstances under which this verse was revealed:
When this thing was said, the conditions prevailing in Makkah were extremely trying. Whoever accepted Islam was made a target of tyranny and humiliation and persecution. If he was a slave or a poor person, he was beaten and subjected to unbearable tortures. If he was a shopkeeper or artisan, he was made to suffer economic hardships, even starvation. If he was a member of an influential family, his own people would tease and harass him in different ways and make life difficult for him. This had created an atmosphere of fear and fright in Makkah, due to which most people were afraid of believing in the Prophet (peace be upon him) although they acknowledged him to be a true Prophet (peace be upon him) in their hearts; and some others who believed would lose heart soon afterwards and would submit and yield to the disbelievers when they confronted dreadful persecutions. Though these trying circumstances could not shake the determination of the strong willed companions, naturally they also were sometimes overwhelmed by an intense feeling of anxiety and distraction. An instance of this is found in the tradition of Khabbab bin Arat (may Allah be pleased with him), which has been related by Bukhari, Abu Daud and Nasai. He says, “During the time when we had become tired of our persecution by the mushriks, one day I saw the Prophet (peace be upon him) sitting in the shade of the wall of the Kabah. I went up to him and said, O Messenger of Allah, don’t you pray for us. Hearing this, his face became red with feeling and emotion, and he said, The believers who have gone before you had been subjected to even greater persecutions. Some one of them was made to sit in a ditch in the earth and was sawed into two pieces from head to foot. Someone’s joints were rubbed with iron combs so as to withhold him from the faith. By God, this mission will be accomplished and the time is not far when a person will travel without apprehension from Sana to Hadramaut and there will be none but Allah Whom he will fear.”
In order to change this state of agitation into forbearance, Allah tells the believers, “No one can become worthy of Our promises of success in the world and the Hereafter merely by verbal profession of the faith, but every claimant to the faith will have to pass through trials and tribulations so as to furnish proof of the truth of his claim. Our Paradise is not so cheap, neither are Our special favors in the world so low priced that We should bless you with all these as soon as you proclaim verbal faith in Us. The trial is a prerequisite for them. You will have to undergo hardships for Our sake, suffer losses of life and property, face dangers, misfortunes and difficulties; you will be tried both with fear and with greed; you will have to sacrifice everything that you hold dear for Our pleasure, and bear every discomfort in Our way. Then only will it become manifest whether your claim to faith in Us was true or false. This thing has been said at every such place in the Quran where the Muslims have been found placed in hardships and difficulties and obsessed by fear and consternation. In the initial stage of life at Al-Madinah, after the migration, when the Muslims were in great trouble on account of economic hardships, external dangers and internal villainy of the Jews and the hypocrites, Allah said:
“Do you think that you will enter Paradise without undergoing such trials as were experienced by the believers before you? They met with adversity and affliction and were so shaken by trials that the Prophet of the time and his followers cried out, when will Allah’s help come? (Then only they were comforted with the good tidings:) “Yes, Allah’s help is near!” (Surah Al-Baqarah: Ayat 214).
Likewise, when after the battle of Uhud, the Muslims again confronted a period of afflictions, it was said: “Do you think that you will enter Paradise without undergoing any trial, whereas Allah has not yet tried you to see who among you are ready to lay down their lives in His way and who will show fortitude for His sake.” (Surah Aal-Imran: Ayat 142).

Almost the same thing has been said in (Surah Aal- Imran: Ayat 179), (Surah At-Taubah: Ayat 16) and (Surah Muhammad: Ayat 31). Allah in these verses has impressed on the Muslims that trial is the touchstone by which the pure and the impure are judged. The impure is turned aside by Allah and the pure is selected so that Allah may honor them with His favors which the only sincere believers deserve.

And in the very next verse, Allah cautions:
(29:3) for We indeed tested those who went before them? Allah will most certainly ascertain those who spoke the truth and those who lied.
" for We indeed tested those who went before them? " That is, this is not a new thing which you alone may be experiencing. The same has also been happening before you. Whoever made a claim to the faith, he was made to pass through trials and tribulations. And when the others were not given anything without the trial, you are in no way any special people that you should be favored and rewarded merely on verbal profession of the faith.
" Allah will most certainly ascertain "  Literally, “It is necessary that Allah should find out.” A question may be asked: “When Allah already knows the truth of the truthful and the untruth of the liar, why should He put the people to the test for the sake of these” The answer is: Until a person has manifested his potential and capability to do a thing in practical terms, justice requires that he neither deserves any rewards nor any punishment. One man, for example, is capable of being trustworthy and another man of being un-trustworthy. Unless both are tried and one manifests trustworthiness and the other the lack of it practically, it will not be justice on the part of Allah that He should reward one for trustworthiness and punish the other for the lack of it only on the basis of His knowledge of the unseen. Therefore the knowledge Allah already possesses about the capabilities of the people and about their conduct in the future is not enough to satisfy the requirements of justice until the people have manifested their potentialities in practical ways. Justice with Allah is not based on the knowledge that a person possesses a tendency to steal and will commit a theft, but on the knowledge that he has actually committed a theft. Likewise, Allah does not bestow favors and rewards on the basis of the knowledge that a person has the potential and capability to become a great believer and fighter in His way, but on the basis of the knowledge that the person concerned has practically proved by deed and action that he is a sincere believer and a brave fighter in His way. That is why we have translated the words of the verse as: “Allah will surely make evident.”
Tafsir Ibn-Kathir
This is a rebuke in the form of a question, meaning that Allah will inevitably test His believing servants according to their level of faith, as it recorded in the authentic Hadith:
(The people most severely tested are the Prophets, then the righteous, then the next best and the next best. A man will be tested in accordance with the degree of his religious commitment; the stronger his religious commitment, the stronger his test.) 
This Ayah is like the Ayah, (Do you think that you will enter Paradise without Allah knowing those of you who fought (in His cause) and knowing those who are the patient) (3:142) 

There is a similar Ayah in Surat At-Tawbah. And Allah says: (Or think you that you will enter Paradise without such (trials) as came to those who passed away before you They were afflicted with severe poverty and ailments and were so shaken that even the Messenger and those who believed along with him said, "When (will come) the help of Allah'' Yes! Certainly, the help of Allah is near!) (2:214) 

Qur'an Wiki:
Immediately after the opening, the sūrah begins speaking about faith and the hard test believers are subjected to in order to make their belief a reality. It mentions that it is through such testing that true believers are distinguished from liars. This is the first strong note made in the sūrah, given in the form of a rhetorical question about people’s concept of faith. They often imagine that it is merely a word they utter: “Do people think that once they say: ‘We are believers’, they will be left alone?” Belief is not a mere word we say; it is a reality that imposes duties, a trust that carries requirements and a struggle that demands patience and perseverance. It is not enough that people should claim to believe.

When they make this claim they are not left alone. They are subjected to tests so as to prove their sincerity and true metal, just as gold is tested with fire so as to separate it from any cheap elements. The Arabic word used here for test derives from the root fitnah, which imparts exactly this sense of being subjected to a test with all that this implies.

Please listen to explanation of the ayat by eminent Muslim scholar Nouman Ali Khan:
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 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.  

In order to augment and add more explanation as already provided, 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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