Qur’an 33:23 Commentary

Posted Dec 20, 2004      •Permalink      • Printer-Friendly Version Bookmark and Share

Qur’an 33:23 Among the Believers are men who have been true to their covenant with God and have gone out for Jihad (holy fighting ). Some have completed their vow to extreme and have been martyred fighting and dying in His Cause, and some are waiting, prepared for death in battle .

Here the Islam-Hater has conveniently removed the brackets from the translation, so that the reader cannot distinguish between ideas of the translator and the words of the Qur’an. Let us help out by providing a translation without any additional ideas:

33:23. Among the believers are men who have been true to their covenant with Allah, of them some have fulfilled their obligations, and some of them are still waiting, but they have never changed in the least.

It is also clear that the Islam-hater has placed additional ideas into the translation, not supported by any translator. “fighting and dying”, “prepared for death in battle”, these are not the words of the Qur’an. The Qur’an is praising those early companions who remained steadfast in their faith and true to the covenant. This verse does not mention fighting or Jihad at all. That is one interpretation of this verse, as Ibn Kathir writes:

When Allah mentions how the hypocrites broke their promise to Him that they would not turn their backs, He describes the believers as firmly adhering to their covenant and their promise:

([they] have been true to their covenant with Allah; of them some have fulfilled their Nahbah;) Some of [the Qur’anic commentators] said: “Met their appointed time (i.e., death).’’ Al-Bukhari said, “Their covenant, and refers back to the beginning of the Ayah.

(and some of them are still waiting, but they have never changed in the least.) means, they have never changed or broken their covenant with Allah. (Tafsir Ibn Kathir)
And Abdullah Yusuf Ali writes on verse 33:23:

In the fight for Truth were (and are) many who sacrificed their all ? resources, knowledge, influence, life itself ? in the Cause, and never wavered. If they won the crown of martyrdom, they were blessed? Other heroes fought valiantly and lived, always ready to lay down their lives. Both classes were staunch: they never changed or wavered. (Yusuf Ali, The Holy Qur’an, Text, Translation and Commentary )

Their covenant is their promise to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) to protect him and support Islam. Some of the Muslims had already fulfilled it by dying to protect their faith, while others were still fully prepared to do the same. The comprehensive nature of this verse is better understood when we consider the words of Shaykh Abdul Bary Ath-Thubaity, Imam of the Prophet’s Mosque, who said about verse 33:23:

The men about whom we are talking are not those who have sunk deep into the abyss of worldly pleasures, those who do not aim for high moral standards and turn away from their Lord. They are not those of imposing physical stature whose minds are devoid of any sense; for such people are most certainly not real men. The real men whom we are talking about are those whom Allah describes when He says,

“And the slave of the Most-Beneficent (Allah) are those who walk on the earth in humility and sedateness, and when the foolish address them (with bad words) they reply back with mild words of gentleness. And those who spend the night before their Lord, prostrate and standing. And those who say Our Lord! Avert from us the torment of Hell. Verily it’s torment is ever an inseparable, permanent punishment. Evil indeed it (Hell) is as an abode and a place of dwell. And those who when they spend, are neither extravagant nor niggardly, but hold a medium (way) between those (extremes).” (Al-Furqan 25: 63-67)(SOURCE)

This is what fulfilling one’s covenant truly means. It refers to fulfilling one’s Islamic obligations with devotion and sincerity, and speaking gently even to those disbelievers who are rude and harsh. On the subject of martyrs, it would be wise to quote from the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him):

God’s Apostle said, “Five are regarded as martyrs: They are those who die because of plague, abdominal disease, drowning or a falling building etc., and the martyrs in God’s Cause.” -Bukhari #2829 (Volume 4, Book 52, #82) “Whoever dies protecting his religion, he is a martyr; whoever dies protecting his wealth, he is a martyr; whoever dies protecting his family, he is a martyr; and whoever dies protecting his blood (i.e. his life), he is a martyr.” - (At-Tirmidhi #1421, Abu Dawud 4772, An-Nasa’i #4100 and Ibn Majah #2580)

These ahadith deals a severe blow to the misconception that martyrdom in Islam refers to those who die in battle only. As we have seen, the greatest manifestation of Jihad is when one is willing to sacrifice their life for the sake of God, and this can take any of the forms listed in the above narration. Dying in physically defending the rights of others is only one form.