the 23rd call: the obligation of taking precaution from the enemies
allah almighty says (what can be translated as):
o you who have believed, take your precaution and [either] go forth in companies or go forth all together. and indeed, there is among you he who lingers behind; and if disaster strikes you, he says, 'allah has favored me in that i was not present with them.' but if bounty comes to you from allah, he will surely say, as if there had never been between you and him any affection. 'oh, i wish i had been with them so i could have attained a great attainment.'" (an-nisa': 71:73)
almighty allah commands believers to take their precaution against their enemies. this requires knowing the conditions of those enemies, their land, number, weapons, allies and fortunes. it also requires getting ready to meet them, preparing, training, arming men for the war and collecting weapons, supplies, means of transportations and rides. being precautious demands us to be ready to go into wars when there is a call for jihad as we should go forth in companies or all together according to the conditions of the enemies, their danger and strength and according to the danger that threatens the nation.
some people (hypocrites, cowards and those with weak faith) linger behind and move slowly to go for jihad. some of them stay and do not go. they even discourage others from going for jihad. so, if a disaster strikes the believers such as killing, injury or defeat, the hypocrites rejoice and consider their refrain from joining jihad a blessing. they think that lagging behind saved them from the plight that befell muslims. they do not recognize they missed the blessings such as rewards of being patient at times of affliction and martyrdom in case they were murdered.
on the other hand, if muslims achieved victory, gained booty and attained profit (bounty from allah), the one who did not go with them to the war would be distressed for not being there. he would feel sad for not taking a share from the booty as it is his biggest desire. he would say, as if he is not one of the muslims, 'i wish i had been with them so i could have attained a great attainment like they did.' he forgot his duty of helping his believing brothers by offering himself and his money so that they achieve success.
it is the recommendation for those who believe: a recommendation from the high authority that draws the method and shows the way. any human would be amazed if he reads the holy qur'an. it is a book that draws for muslims – in general – the complete plan for the battle or what is known as "the battle's strategy". in another verse almighty allah says to the believers: "o you who have believed, fight those adjacent to you of the disbelievers and let them find in you harshness. and know that allah is with the righteous." (at-tawbah: 123) so, he draws the general plan of the islamic movement. in this verse he says to those who believe: "o you who have believed, take your precaution and [either] go forth in companies or go forth all together." the verse clarifies a part of the executive plan or what is called as "tactics". in surat al-anfal there are other points such as the verse: "so if you, [o muhammad], gain dominance over them in war, disperse by [means of] them those behind them that perhaps they will be reminded." (al-anfal: 57).
accordingly, this book does not only teach muslim acts of worship and rituals, it does not only teach them manners and ethics – as some people might limit religion in this frame! the qur'an looks at their lives as one whole. it displays everything that people might encounter in the true and factual incidents. thus, it requires – rightfully – the full custody on the human life. it does not accept from the muslim individual or the muslim community less than accustoming their whole lives according to this method and under its direction and guidance. in specific, it does not accept from the muslim individual or the muslim community to make for their lives methods from different sources: a method for the personal life, rituals and acts of worship while ethics and manners to be taken from the book of allah. a method for the economic, social, political and international transactions taken from another book or from the human thinking altogether! the mission of the human thinking is to drive from the book of allah and his method detailed and applicable rules for the renewable incidents of life and its changing events. this has to be according to the method clarified by allah in the past lesson of this surat and nothing else beyond that. otherwise, there will be neither belief nor islam from the start because whoever takes his method from other sources than the book of allah has not actually embraced belief or admitted the pillars of islam. the first of those pillars are the testimony of faith: testifying that there is no deity worthy of worship except allah. based on this testimony, there is no ruler except allah and there is no legislator except allah.
this is the book of the muslims drawing for them a part of the executive plan of the battle. it suits their position back at that time because they were surrounded by many animosities from the outside, while in the inside they had the threat of the hypocrites and their jewish allies. almighty allah warns them from the start "o you who have believed, take your precaution…"
take your precaution against all your enemies especially those who infiltrate your lines such as the ones lingering behind as mentioned in the verse: "…and [either] go forth in companies or go forth all together." in the qur'an the arabic word "thubatan" is used which means a group or company in the english translation. the meaning is not to go for jihad individually, rather go in small groups or go as a complete army according to the nature of the battle. this is because individuals can be chased by the enemies that are scattered everywhere, especially when the enemies reside in the heart of the islamic camp represented in the hypocrites. as for the jews, they were in the heart of medina.
"and indeed, there is among you he who lingers behind; and if disaster strikes you, he says, 'allah has favored me in that i was not present with them.' but if bounty comes to you from allah, he will surely say, as if there had never been between you and him any affection. 'oh, i wish i had been with them so i could have attained a great attainment.'"
march in organized groups or march all together. do not march to the battle while others linger – as it happens – and take your precaution, not only from the foreign enemy, but also from the lingering, delaying ones and the people who let you down. beware of them whether they are lingering on their own – i.e. sitting heavily – or lingering other people with them. this is usually the attitude of the people who discourage and deter others!
in the text of the qur'an, almighty allah uses the word "layobata'an" which in english means "lingering behind". the word is very well chosen because it is a word that indicates heaviness and stumbling. even the tongue finds the word heavy whether in pronunciation or the sound of it. the tongue utters this heavy word, as if it is being pulled to come out of the mouth. the word portrays the psychological and physical movement of the person through the difficulty and heaviness of its sound.
this is one of the wonders of the artistic portrayal in the qur'an that can draw a complete condition with one word.
the structure of the whole sentence also gives other meanings: "and indeed, there is among you he who lingers behind…" the sentence indicates that the people lingering behind are – considered from the muslims – that means "among you" people who practice the process of lingering. they insist on it and do their best to achieve it. this is expressed in all methods of confirmation in the sentence. this reveals the strong persistence of this group to linger and their strong effect on the muslim lines that face a lot of hardships because of this group!
this way, the context sheds lights on this group, their inner selves and their repulsive natures. this is done according to the amazing method of illustration in the qur'an: here they are, with all their motives, natures, actions and sayings. they are totally exposed to the eyes as if they are put under the lens of the microscope to reveal their intentions, determinations, motives and aims.
here they are – as they used to be at the time of the messenger – peace be upon him- and as they will always be at anytime and anyplace. here they are, weak, hypocrites and indirect. they care about small concerns too: they do not know an aim higher than their direct personal interest. they do not know a horizon higher than their limited small selves. they run the present life around one axis which they do not forget even for one moment!
they linger behind and loiter and they are not honest so that they hold the stick from the middle as the saying goes. their vision of winning and losing is the vision that suits hypocrites with weak spirits:
they linger behind from the battle, if the mujahidin are afflicted by a tribulation as it sometimes happen to fighters, those who lingered behind rejoice and they reckon that fleeing from jihad and escaping the tribulation is a blessing for them:
"and indeed, there is among you he who lingers behind; and if disaster strikes you, he says, 'allah has favored me in that i was not present with them.'"
they do not feel ashamed – they consider that escaping along with lingering is a blessing – and they refer to that as a blessing from allah, while they actually disobeyed him from the first place by not going into the battle and sitting in the medina! escaping this situation can never be a blessing from allah. the blessing of allah can never be attained through disobedience even if it seems as if it is an escape!
it is indeed a blessing but for those who do not deal with allah, those who do not realize why they are created by allah. they do not worship allah through obedience and going to jihad to fulfill his method in life. it is a blessing for those who do not look higher than their footholds on the ground.
it is a blessing for those who do not feel that the tribulation – in the path of allah and striving to apply the method of allah and raising the word of allah – is actually a bounty and selection from allah. it is a bounty that he bestows to the servants he has chosen to raise them in the present life despite their human weakness. then, allah set them free from the restrains of the earth to attain a high life that they would own but it will not own them. thus, he qualifies them to be near him in the hereafter in the dwellings of the martyrs.
all the people die! but, only the martyrs – in the path of allah – attain the degree of "martyrdom". it is a great bounty from almighty allah. on the other hand, if it’s the second case when the strivers or mujahidin achieve victory which they went forth for it and were ready to accept whatever comes from allah. if they garner the victory and booty from allah, the people who lingered behind regret their decision for not being part in the successful battle! it is successful according to their limited comprehension of winning and losing!
"but if bounty comes to you from allah, he will surely say, as if there had never been between you and him any affection. 'oh, i wish i had been with them so i could have attained a great attainment.'"
it is the small wish of winning the booty and return. this is what they call "great attainment". the believer does not hate winning the return and booty, what is required from him is to pray to allah to have them. the believer does not wish for the tribulation to happen to him, rather he is required to ask allah to protect him from it. so, the complete vision of the believer is different than this vision painted by the qur'anic expression of this kind of people in a repulsive condemning way.
the believer does not wish for the tribulation, he asks allah to protect him from it. yet, if he is summoned to march for jihad, he goes out without moving heavily or lingering. he goes out asking allah to gain one of the two good attainments: victory or martyrdom. they are both a bounty from allah. they are both great triumphs. so, if allah blesses him with martyrdom, the believer is satisfied with allah's decree and he rejoices for gaining the degree of martyrdom. or allah blesses him with the booty and return to his home, so he thanks allah for his bounty and rejoices for the victory of allah, not just the survival or escape!
this is the horizon that allah wants to elevate the muslims to. allah portrays this repelling image of this team from "among them (the believers)" to reveal to them the hinderers in the lines who discourage them so that they take precaution against them, just like they take precaution against the enemies!
behind the warning and stimulation for the muslim community at this time, a recurrent human pattern is portrayed in the humankind in every time and place in this small number of words in the qur'an.
this fact has to be considered by the muslim community forever, i.e. there might be people like them in the muslim lines. yet, we should not despair, what we should do is take precaution and move on. through education, direction and effort, the muslim should complete the shortage, cure the weakness and arrange the steps, feelings and movement!