As such, they confirmed with their statement that what they will encounter is truly what Allah and His Messenger have promised. This understanding they had of such trials and difficulties, did not weaken them in faith or submission to Allah. Instead, both of these increased and were strengthened by Allah. Their Imaan in Allah became very strong and deep rooted, and they showed full submission to Allah.
Having spoken about the courage, strong faith and total submission of the true believers in the cause of Allah (in the previous verse), Sura Ahzab goes further in verse 23 to highlight their truthfulness in the pledges and promises which they made to Allah. The verse states:
23. Among the believers are men who have been true to their covenant with Allah, of them some have fulfilled their obligations (i.e. have been martyred), and some of them are still waiting, but they have never changed [i.e. they never proved treacherous to their covenant which they concluded with Allah] in the least.
The verse speaks about the true and sincere believers (at the time of the Prophet (S.A)) who made a promise, and took an oath that if they got the chance, they will fight in the path of Allah until they gain martyrdom. When the opportunity arrived, they did not go against their promises to stay away from the battles. Instead, with strong faith and determination, they fought fiercely for the cause of Allah until they they achieved martyrdom. There were others who made similar oaths, but did not yet achieve martyrdom. As for those, Allah says that they were still waiting for this great honour. Both groups were true in their promises and did not change their intentions and actions in any manner. They stood firmly by what they promised and waited for the moment to fulfil their oaths.
While commenting on the above verse, the commentators have mentioned certain incidents on account of which the above verse was revealed. In this regard, Imams Bukhari, Muslim and Tirmizi have recorded the tradition of Anas (R.A) in which it is stated: He (Anas) said, ‘My uncle, Anas bin Nadhr did not participate in the battle of Badr with the Prophet (S.A) and he bitterly regretted this. He then said, ‘I was absent for the first battle in which the Prophet (S.A) fought. By Allah! If Allah causes me to see another battle with the Prophet (S.A) after this, then Allah will see what I can do’. (That is, I will fight fiercely in Allah’s path to show Him what I can do for His sake).
Anas (R.A) says, ‘He (my uncle) then participated with the Prophet (S.A) in the battle of Uhud in the following year. While on the way to Uhud, Sa’ad bin Malik (R.A) (or Sa’ad bim Mu’az) met him and said, ‘O Abu Amr (Anas bin Nadhr), where are you going?’ Anas bin Nadhr said, ‘By Allah! I can smell the fragrance of Paradise from the direction of Uhud’. Saying this, he went into the thick of the battle and fought until he was killed. After the battle, his body was found with over eighty wounds caused by swords, spears and arrows. Anas (R.A) then said, ‘My aunt, Rubayy bint Nadhr (the sister of Anas bin Nadhr) said, ‘I could not recognize my brother except by his fingertips’. (This was due to the fact that his body was mutilated by the unbelievers). Anas bin Malik (R.A) said, ‘It was about this and similar situations the verse was revealed, ‘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. (Tafseer Al Qurtubi vol.14 pg. 142; Tafseer Ibn Katheer vol.3 pg. 475; Tafseer At Tabari vol.21 pg. 166)
The above verse referred to all those companions who fulfilled their promises made to Allah to fight in His cause, and not to turn away from the battles when they were confronted by the unbelievers. From among them, there were those who exerted their efforts in order to fulfil their oaths and were thus, martyred in Allah’s path like Hamza (R.A), Sa’ad bin Muaz (R.A), Anas bin Nadhr (R.A) and others, and there were others who were still waiting for this opportunity. All were commended for their truthfulness and for having fulfilled their oaths.
Regarding their truthfulness, Sura Ahzab continues in verse 24 and states:
24. That Allah may reward the men of truth for their truth, and punish the hypocrites if He wills or accept their repentance by turning to them in Mercy. Verily, Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.
It means that Allah has caused these holy battles to take place as a way of testing the people. Through these, the true and sincere believers were distinguished from the hypocrites. Hence, when situations like these came about and the people of truth displayed their truthfulness, they are rewarded immensely. These believers remained firm upon the promises they made to Allah and continued to practice good actions on account of their firm belief in Allah. It was about these believers Allah says, ‘That Allah may reward the men of truth for their truth’. That is, Allah will reward them tremendously in the hereafter with the best rewards for having shown themselves to be truthful in words and deeds.
As for those who were not truthful and had hidden hypocrisy in their hearts, they would not be rewarded in this world or the next. Instead, Allah may decide to punish them for breaking their oaths and for their hypocrisy, or He may, on account of His mercy and compassion, show mercy to them. The way of showing mercy to them is that He will give them the guidance to repent and then accept their repentance before death.
Having spoken about the believers, their courage, truthfulness and steadfastness in the battle of Ahzab and their rewards from Allah, Sura Ahzab goes further in verse 25 to describe the defeat and humiliation which came to the unbelievers and confederates (on the occasion of the battle of Ahzab). The verse states:
25. And Allah drove back those who disbelieved in their rage, they gained no advantage (booty, etc.). Allah sufficed for the believers in the fighting (by sending against the disbelievers a severe wind and troops of angels). And Allah is Ever All-Strong, All-Mighty.
Here, Allah mentions the disgrace which came to the confederates when they came to attack Madina. He drove them away from the blessed city while they were in a state of loss and failure. Because of this, they became enraged and were very disappointed, seeing that they could not attain what they had set out for. They did not accomplish any ‘good’ or ‘benefit’. Instead, they achieved a tremendous amount of sins and incurred upon themselves the wrath of Allah by coming out to fight the Prophet (S.A). Hence, they suffered a huge loss in this world, and will suffer an even greater one in the hereafter.
As for the unbelievers, Allah was sufficient for them in the battle. He helped and protected them, and defeated their enemies. In the battle of Ahzab, He sent a heavy and severe wind, as well as, an army of angels against the unbelievers. Such havoc and confusion came about that the unbelievers had no choice except to flee from the battlefield.
‘Allah is Ever All-Strong, All-Mighty’ means that Allah is all powerful and strong, and so He defeated the enemies, though they were in large numbers. He is the All Mighty, hence, none can overpower Him.
Sura Ahzab continues in verse 26 and states:
26. And those of the people of the Scripture who backed them (the disbelievers), Allah brought them down from their forts and cast terror into their hearts, (so that) a group (of them) you killed, and a group (of them) you made captives.
Here, Allah mentions of the disgrace that came to those who betrayed the Prophet (S.A) and joined the forces of the unbelievers to fight against the Prophet (S.A). Those mentioned in the above verse refers to the Jewish tribe known as the Banu Quraiza. They had entered into an agreement with the Prophet (S.A) and made a covenant to live peacefully with the Muslims and would not fight them, or join forces with those who wished to fight them. However, they broke this agreement and joined the confederates when they attacked the city of Madina and the Muslims in the battle of Ahzab. On account of this treachery, when the Prophet (S.A) returned to Madina in safety (along with the Muslims) after the battle of Ahzab, he was instructed by Allah to go to the Banu Quraiza (who were in their forts) to settle the issue of their betrayal.