Translation Simplified: O Believers! Seek strength and help in Patience (Sabr) and prayer (Salah). Surely, Allah is with those who are patient. Do not say of those who are killed in Allah’s cause, ‘They are dead’. Rather, they are alive, although you do not perceive that. [Holy Qur’ān, 2:153-154]

Translation Simplified: O Believers! Seek strength and help in Patience (Sabr) and prayer (Salah). Surely, Allah is with those who are patient. Do not say of those who are killed in Allah’s cause, ‘They are dead’. Rather, they are alive, although you do not perceive that. [Holy Qur’ān, 2:153-154]


Overview
Having established a permanent and universal ‘Qiblah’ for Islam and having outlined the general features of the ‘Middle’ Muslim community distinguished by Islam and by its role of guardianship over the rest of mankind, the Qur’ān gives Muslims specific instructions to endure adversity with patience and to observe their prayers. These are the best help they may have in the fulfillment of their great role that requires great sacrifice. These are the two most essential requisites for the “Muslim Ummah” to be able to withstand the hardships as well as trials and tribulations that were to come, and to fulfill its universal and historic role in this world. Lives would have to be sacrificed. Poverty, death, famine and insecurity would have to be faced with courage and strength. The Ummah has to make it a reality in human society on this earth and assert unrivalled sovereignty of Allah over all its affairs to establish and defend the Divine world order.
In return, the Muslim Community shall receive Allah’s blessings, mercy and guidance making it a most profitable bargain indeed, if only the Muslims would appreciate it.

The Power of Patience
Patience is mentioned frequently in the Qur’ān. Allah is aware that patience is an essential element in maintaining a steady and balanced pace in the face of the inevitable hardships and adversities of life. It is a prime requirement for the Muslim Community in carrying out its universal responsibility for establishing a global order, prescribed by Allah himself, on earth.
Patience is required on the personal level for observing one’s religious duties, for resisting temptation, misfortune, poverty, oppression and injustice and also for carrying out one’s responsibilities towards the establishment of the Islamic way of life in the society. Patience and perseverance are required to remain all the time on the alert and ready to sacrifice whatever needed. When those hostile to Allah’s cause seem to wield power, when falsehood seems too strong, when help seems to be endlessly delayed and the destination too far away, patience and perseverance are the most important qualities to walk the Journey towards success. They are also needed to face those who are deviant, erring, harsh and persistent in their opposition to the truth.

When victory seems far away and the ongoing situation gets really tough, people tend to lose heart and give up. To avoid that state of despair, Allah links patience with prayer, as an inexhaustible source of strength and energy. The two combine to infuse the heart with boundless confidence and fortitude and to impart to the believer total tranquility, happiness and inner peace.
When man, weak as he is, faces a task that seems beyond his limited resources, when he faces the powers of evil, when he finds temptations and allurements very hard to resist, when tyranny and corruption are too powerful, seeking support from Allah, the Almighty, is the only way forward. As the goals of one’s endeavor seem to recede and life becomes shorter and shorter, despair starts to creep into one’s heart and mind. As the twilight of one’s life approaches and all achievements seem trivial and meaningless, one realizes the value and significance of prayer. It is a spring that never ceases to flow with spiritual strength and tender compassion.
The value and role of prayer lie in its being the direct link between Allah and man. It is the means by which man, an insignificant mortal, draws strength, reassurance and help from Allah’s infinite power and everlasting mercy. It is the source from which man, a frail creature, replenishes his energy and renews his power and strength to face and resist his own inner temptations and prejudices, as well as the temptations and pressures of the world around him. It is the key to the treasures of Allah’s grace, and the fountain of light which illuminates man’s heart with inner peace and tranquility and leads him through the darkness of doubt and confusion to the certainty of faith and trust in Allah Almighty. It is an occasion for rest, serenity and peace of mind. It is no wonder, therefore, that the Prophet Muĥammad (Peace Be Upon Him) used to resort to prayer whenever things became difficult to cope with. He used to ask Bilāl, his Companion, to make the call to prayer, saying- “Bring us its comfort”.
Worship of Allah alone is the essence of the Islamic way of life, which revolves around its mysteries and hidden qualities. It is a source of sustenance in the long journey of life; it purifies the heart and gives the human spirit its inner powers. It goes hand in hand with responsibility and obligation, because it is the key to our appreciation of our responsibilities and obligations in life and to the satisfaction and benefits we draw from fulfilling them. When Allah, the Almighty, commissioned Muĥammad (Peace Be Upon Him) for his great and historic task, He said to him:

“Stand up in prayer at night, all except for a small portion of it; or half the night or a little less or a little more, and recite the Qur’ān in a calm and distinct manner. We are about to address you with words of surpassing gravity” (73: 2-5)

Prayer during the night and recitation of the Qur’ān were the essential means of preparing Muĥammad (Peace Be Upon Him) for the stupendous task of conveying Allah’s message to mankind. Prayer opens the human heart to hope and enlightenment, reinvigorates one’s relationship with Allah, mitigates the struggle for life, and provides one with inspiration and confidence.
For the believers in that small fledgling Muslim community, poised to embark on their momentous task, the sūrah reinforces that reassurance by saying: “God is with those who are patient”. Allah is always there to provide the believers with help and comfort, to lend them His support and replenish their sapping morale and fading enthusiasm. It is noteworthy that the verse starts by making its address exclusively to the believers, and concludes by reassuring them that patience ensures God’s help. Numerous reports have been handed down that tell us how highly the Prophet himself viewed the qualities of patience and perseverance, and how deeply he had thought about them. Some of them are quite relevant to our discussion.
The Prophet’s Companion, Khabbāb ibn al-Aratt (RTA), said: “A group of us once appealed to Allah’s Messenger (Peace Be Upon Him) while he was resting in the shade of the Ka`bah. We said, ‘Would you please appeal to Allah to help us? Would you kindly pray for us?’ He replied, ‘In days gone by, believers like yourselves used to be put in ditches and have their heads sawed in halves, and have their flesh scraped off the bone with iron combs. They withstood all that torture, held on to their faith, and never wavered. I swear that God Almighty will establish this ‘DEEN’ so that a man can travel from San‘ā’ (in western Yemen) to Ĥadramawt (in eastern Yemen) fearing none but Allah and the wolf for his sheep. But you are impatient!!!” [Related by al-Bukhārī, Abū Dāwūd and al-Nasā’ī]
Another Companion of the Prophet, `Abdullāh ibn Mas`ūd (RTA) says: “I can almost see Allah’s Messenger in the same position as an earlier prophet who was beaten by his people until he bled. But even while he was wiping the blood off his face he said: ‘Lord, forgive my people, for they do not know the truth’.” [Related by al-Bukhārī and Muslim]
The Prophet is also quoted as saying: “A Muslim who mixes with people and puts up with their maltreatment is better than one who neither mixes with people nor suffers their abuse.” [Related by al- Tirmidhī]

Sacrificing one’s Life
The Qur’ān continues with its spiritual mobilization of the pioneering Muslim Community of Medina, as the latter braces itself for the crucial and momentous task of leading mankind back to Allah. It outlines the major demands and consequences of its hard and long struggle, or jihād, with its attendant sacrifices. It identifies the proper and correct criteria for the evaluation and appraisal of its outcome:

“Do not say of those who are killed in Allah’s Cause ‘They are dead.’ They are alive, although you do not perceive that”. (Verse 154)

The sūrah tells the Muslims that, in the fight to uphold the universal truth ordained by Allah, lives will have to be sacrificed. Those who risk their lives and go out to fight, and who are prepared to lay down their lives for the cause of Allah are honorable people, pure of heart and blessed of soul. But the great surprise is that those among them who are killed in the struggle must not be considered or described as “dead”. They continue to live, as Allah Himself clearly stated.
To all intents and purposes, those people may very well appear lifeless, but life and death are not judged by superficial physical means alone. Life is chiefly characterized by activity, growth, and persistence, while death is a state of total loss of function, of complete inertia and lifelessness. But the death of those who are killed for the cause of Allah gives more impetus to the cause, which continues to thrive on their blood. Their influence on those they leave behind also grows and spreads. Thus, after their death they remain an active force in shaping the life of their community and giving it direction. It is in this sense that such people, having sacrificed their lives for the sake of Allah, retain their active existence in everyday life. They might, on the other hand, be alive in another level or mode of existence which we here cannot see or conceive of.
According to Islamic tradition, people who are killed “for the cause of Allah” are not washed or prepared for burial in the conventional way, but buried in the clothes they happen to be wearing, because they are considered clean and pure, and because in reality they are not dead. Because they are alive, those who die for the cause of God should not be missed or grieved over by their relatives, friends and loved ones. There is no real sense of loss in their death, since they continue to live, enjoying the hospitality of their Lord, relishing His company and boundless rewards.
There are copious reports in the ĥadīth literature extolling the spirit of sacrifice and the status of martyrs. Muslim records a ĥadīth which says:

“The souls of martyrs are carried in the bellies of green birds which fly at leisure in Paradise. They roost on lamps, placed near Allah’s Throne. Allah casts a glance at them and says, ‘What is your wish?’ They would reply, ‘Lord, what more can we wish for, when You have given us what You have not given any of Your creation.’ God would ask them again and again until they realize they have to make a request, and they would say, ‘We wish to be returned to live on earth so that we fight for Your cause and be killed a second time’. They say this since they have seen how great Allah’s rewards are to those who attain martyrdom for God’s cause. But God says, ‘I have already decreed that people would not return to worldly life.”

The Prophet’s Companion, Anas ibn Mālik (RTA), reports that the Prophet said: “No one enters Paradise and wishes to return to worldly life, even if he was given everything on earth, except a martyr. He wishes to return to life and be killed in the cause of Allah ten times over, for the honor and privilege he receives.” [Related by Mālik, al-Bukhārī and Muslim]
But who are the living martyrs? They are those killed in God’s cause, and in God’s cause alone. It is they who lay down their lives in defense of Allah’s universal truth, rather than in the name of a king, nation or military honor. The sole objective of their struggle and sacrifice is to uphold Allah’s world order and establish it as a social reality. The Qur’ān and the ĥadīth lay strong emphasis on this point, so as to leave no doubt about its meaning.
The Prophet’s Companion, Abū Mūsā (RTA), reports that the Prophet was asked whether fighting out of bravery, or to support one’s own ethnic group, or in pursuit of fame and glory, might be considered as fighting “for the cause of Allah”. He replied: “Only the one who fights to keep Allah’s word supreme fights for Allah’s cause!” [Related by Mālik, al-Bukhārī and Muslim]
Another Companion of the Prophet, Abū Hurayrah (RTA), reported that a man asked Allah’s Messenger three times about the fate of someone who fights ‘in the cause of Allah’ but is also seeking worldly gain. Every time the Messenger replied: “He would receive no reward!” [Related by Abū Dāwūd]
Abū Hurayrah (RTA) reports that Allah’s Messenger said that Allah gives a guarantee to anyone who goes to battle for His cause: “If he has set out for no purpose other than to fight for My cause, totally motivated by faith in Me and to confirm the veracity of My messengers, then I guarantee that he will either enter Paradise or return safely home, enjoying whatever reward or booty he might have gained.” The Prophet continues this ĥadīth, saying: “By Him who holds Muĥammad’s soul in His hand, any wound he may have sustained in battle will look on the Day of Resurrection in the same way as on the day it happened, with the color of blood, but with the smell of pure musk. By Him who holds Muĥammad’s soul in His hand, were it not for fear of making things too hard for Muslims I would have joined every single expedition going out in Allah’s cause. However, I do not have the means to give them transport, nor do they have such means to follow me. In addition, it is trying for them to stay behind. By Him who holds Muĥammad’s soul in His hand, I would love to have fought and been killed for Allah’s cause again and again.” [Related by Mālik, al-Bukhārī and Muslim]
Martyrs, then, are those who set out to fight solely and purely for Allah’s cause, out of faith in Him and an unshakeable belief in His messengers. The Prophet Muĥammad (Peace Be Upon Him) expressed disapproval when he heard a Persian youth extolling his ancestry in the battlefield. `Abd al-Raĥmān ibn Abī `Uqbah reported that his father, a Persian ‘ally’ of the Anşār, relates that he took part with the Prophet in the Battle of Uĥud. “As I struck an unbeliever, I shouted, ‘Take it from me; I, a Persian youth!’ The Prophet turned to me and said, ‘Would it not have been better for you to say, I, the Anşārī youth. The nephew and the ally of any group of people belong to them’.” [Related by Abū Dāwūd]
The Prophet disliked the fact that the young man had chosen to express pride in anything other than being a supporter of Allah’s Messenger and to fight under any banner other than that of the religion of Islam. That is the true meaning of jihād, for which men can give up their lives, earn martyrdom and ensure permanent life.