This sūrah of three verses was revealed in Madīnah some three months before the death of God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings. It is about God’s completion of His favor upon him during his life and, therefore, the end of the Messenger’s duty of Messengership. Therefore, it suggests his imminent death. It also implies a warning to the believers that they, because they have been victorious, should be even more alert against avoiding sins and indulging in worldly amusements.
1. When God’s help comes and victory (which is a door to further victories) 1
1. On many occasions, God promised His Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, help and victory and openly declared that He and His Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, would prevail. For example, while the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, and his followers suffered great persecutions at the hands of the Makkan polytheists, He declared: Most certainly We help Our Messengers, and those who believe, in the life of this world and on the Day when the Witnesses will stand forth (to testify concerning people’s response to the Messengers) (40: 51). In Madīnah, during the days of the Battle of Uhud in the third year of the Hijrah, He declared: And yet another (blessing) which you love: Help from God and a near victory soon to come (which will lead to further victories). Give glad tidings to the believers (61: 13). And after the Battle of the Trench that took place in the fifth year of the Hjirah, He promised: God has decreed: “I will most certainly prevail, I and My Messengers.” Surely God is All-Strong, All-Glorious with irresistible might (58: 21). However, since humans are tested in the world in order to prepare for their life in the other world, He made His help and victory dependent upon the believers’ helping His cause: O you who believe! If you help God(‘s cause by striving in His way), He will help you and make your feet firm (so that you are steadfast in His cause and ultimately victorious) (47: 7). So, with God’s help, victory was secured, and this meant that the believers had helped His cause and carried out their duties in a way that pleased Him.
This verse marks an important aspect of the Qur’ān’s miraculousness and its Divine authorship. For no one other than God can speak so certainly about the future. As seen in the few examples above, God clearly declared that He would complete His favor on His Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, and lead him and the believers to victory, which He did.
2. And you see people entering God’s Religion in throngs,
3. Then glorify your Lord with His praise, and ask Him for forgiveness; for He surely is One Who returns repentance with liberal forgiveness and additional reward.2/3
2. The order to glorify God with His praise and to ask Him for forgiveness is a warning to the believers that they should never fall into the perilous error of attributing victory to themselves, and that they should always be careful to avoid indulging in sins after a victory. The victory is not their achievement; rather, it is God Who bestows victory on His servants. Moreover, we can put up with hardships and persecutions, but it is more difficult to be firm and unyielding against the temptations of the carnal soul, particularly in times of ease that come after years of privation and persecution. This we can clearly see in an attitude typical of the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings. While the Muslim army was returning to Madīnah after they had defeated the enemy, the Messenger of God, upon him be peace and blessings, said to them: “We are returning from the lesser jihād to the greater one.” The Companions asked what the greater jihad was, and he explained that it was fighting the carnal soul (al-’Ajlūnī, Kashf al-Khafa’, 1: 424).
Secondly, we may have made some mistakes and committed sins on the way to victory. Therefore, we should also seek forgiveness for these. The Qur’ān gives great importance to seeking forgiveness from God, and since we are fallible, we should always implore God for forgiveness. Imploring Him for forgiveness also severs the roots of evil and greatly helps us not to indulge in sins.
3. As pointed out by ‘Abdullāh ibn ‘Abbās, a great Companion well-versed in the interpretation of the Qur’ān, this sūrah informed us that the time for God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, to leave the world had approached. The Messengers were sent to convey God’s Message, and God’s Last Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, had completed his mission; so there was no longer any reason for him to stay in the world. This also reminds us that humans have duties in the world, and when a person no longer has anything to do in the world, or when they can no longer serve God and His cause any more, there is no reason for them to stay in the world any longer.
‘Ā’ishah, the beloved wife of God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, tells us about the last moments of his blessed life:
I was with him during his last moments. Whenever he was ill, he would ask me to pray for him and, expecting my prayer to be accepted through the blessing of his auspicious hand, I would hold his hand and pray. During his last illness, I wanted to do the same and pray, when he suddenly withdrew his hand and said: “To ar-Rafīq, al-A’lā!” (The All-Exalted Friend, meaning God Almighty) (al-Bukhārī, “Maghazī,” 78; Muslim, “Salām,” 50, 51).