Verses from SurahAl-Tawba (40)

[40] If you do not help him, then surely Allah helped him when the unbelievers drove him out, the second of the two,81 when they were in the cave, when he was saying to his companion,82 ‘Despair not. Allah is with us.’83 Then Allah sent down His sakinah on him84 and helped him with forces you perceived not and made the word of the unbelievers the lowest. And Allah’s word is the uppermost.85 And Allah is All‑Powerful, All‑Wise.


81. Imam Razi points out that according to Arabic usage, when it is said, “second of the two,” then the reference can be to either of the two. 

82. It is reported by Al‑Harith that once Abu Bakr asked someone to recite this chapter for him. When the man reached this verse, Abu Bakr remarked, “I am the one mentioned here,” (that is, second of the two), and then wept (Ibn Jarir).

In fact, Imam Razi and Rashid Rida add, Abu Bakr was the “second of the two” in great many affairs of the Prophet (saws): in preaching Islam, converting six immediately after his own conversion, remaining by the Prophet’s side and in his service during every battle, deputing him in the Prayers when the Prophet (saws) fell sick before his death, his deputy after him as the first caliph, and, finally, buried by his side as the second of the two. (According to a hadith, Abu Bakr will be by the side of the Prophet at the Pond also: Alusi).

Angered by the Shi‘a scholars corrupting their masses, Rashid Rida follows Alusi in presenting several reasons to demonstrate the important position held by Abu Bakr. Here are some:

(a) The Prophet (saws) trusted none but Abu Bakr when confronted with the most difficult venture of his mission, hijrah.

(b) In a verse which left none of the Companions of the Prophet uncensored, Allah (swt) exempted Abu Bakr by saying, “the second of the two.” This opinion has reportedly come from none other than `Ali himself.

(c) When ‘Ali was sent to Makkah during the Hajj days to announce that Allah was quit of the unbelievers, the verse in question was also included in the recitation which should open the eyes of the Shi‘ah.

(d) The Prophet himself gave Abu Bakr a place that no one else could covet. Bukhari reports that once Abu Bakr and ‘Umar exchanged heated words. Later, Abu Bakr sought forgiveness from ‘Umar. ‘Umar refused. It was mentioned to the Prophet (saws). He said, “May Allah forgive Abu Bakr (three times).” Subsequently, ‘Umar felt sorry that he hadn’t forgiven Abu Bakr. He went up to his house but he wasn’t there. From there he proceeded to the Prophet (saws). As he arrived he greeted him. But the Prophet’s face became red with anger, so that Abu Bakr (who was present) went down on his knees and told him, “It was my fault, Messenger of Allah (twice).” The Prophet only said, “Allah commissioned me as a Messenger. You said, ‘You are lying.’ But Abu Bakr said, ‘You are speaking the truth.’ He pressed his own person and his wealth to my service. Will you then leave to me my Companion?”

(e) Allah (swt) sent down sakinah on Abu Bakr.

(f) He aided him with unseen forces.

(g) Although not named, but Abu Bakr was the only one of the Companions who was praised by Allah (swt). Even Ibn Umm Maktum does not share this honor with Abu Bakr, since there (in the verses of ch. ‘Abasa, no. 80), it is a quality that has been praised and not the person.

Rashid Rida also points out at other places that while all other misguided sects have died down, it is only the Shi‘ah sect that survives. The foundation stone of Shi‘a’s hatred of Abu Bakr and ‘Umar were laid by the early atheist fifth column working among the Muslims in order to divide them. The earliest Shi‘ah leaders were especially angry with Abu Bakr and ‘Umar because it is they who sent their armies to Persia and subdued the land to Islam. Today’s Shi‘ah scholars, if they are on the footsteps of the secret fifth column of the earlier times, and blacken pages against the senior Companions, sowing hatred in the hearts, although in today’s scenario it is of no profit to anyone, yet they do that only to please their fanatical followers on whom depend their leadership and material interests.

Quote from Rashid Rida ends here and, in this context we might present as an aside, the following from Muhammad Asad’s “The Road to Makkah” (Adam Publishers, p. 277-279):

“When, in the middle of the seventh century, the armies of Caliph Umar conquered the ancient Sasanian Empire, bringing Islam with them, Iran’s Zoroastrian cult had already long been reduced to rigid formalism and thus was unable to oppose effectively the dynamic new idea that had come from Arabia. But at the time the Arab conquest burst upon it, Iran was passing through a period of social and intellectual ferment which seemed to promise a national regeneration. This hope of an inner, organic revival was shattered by the Arab invasion; and the Iranians, abandoning their own historic line of development, henceforth accommodated themselves to the cultural and ethical concepts that had been brought in from outside.

“The advent of Islam represented in Iran, as in so many other countries, a tremendous social advance; it destroyed the old Iranian caste system and brought into being a new community of free, equal people; it opened new channel for cultural energies that had long lain dormant and inarticulate; but with all this, the proud descendants of Darius and Xerxes could never forget that the historic continuity of their national life, the organic connection between their Yesterday and Today, had suddenly been broken. A people whose innermost character had found its expression in the baroque dualism of the Zand religion its almost pantheistic worship of the four elements – air, water, fire and earth – was now faced with Islam’s austere, uncompromising monotheism and its passion for the Absolute. The transition was too sharp and painful to allow the Iranians the supranational concept of Islam. In spite of their speedy and apparently voluntary acceptance of the new religion, they subconsciously equated the victory of the Islamic idea with Iran’s national defeat; and the feeling of having been defeated and irrevocably torn out of the context of their ancient cultural heritage – a feeling desperately intense for its vagueness – was destined to corrode their national self-confidence for centuries to come. Unlike so many other nations to whom the acceptance of Islam gave almost immediately a most positive impulse to further cultural development, the Iranians’ first – and, in a way, most durable – reaction to it was one of deep humiliation and repressed resentment.

“That resentment had to be repressed and smothered in the dark folds of the subconscious, for in the meantime Islam had become Iran’s own faith. But in their hatred of the Arabian conquest, the Iranians instinctively resorted to what psychoanalysis describes as ‘overcompensation’: they began to regard the faith brought to them by their Arab conquerors as something exclusively their own. They did it by subtly transforming the rational, unmystical God-consciousness of the Arabs into its very opposite: mystical fanaticism and somber emotion. A faith which to the Arab was presence and reality and a source of composure and freedom, evolved, in the Iranian mind, into a dark longing for the supernatural and symbolic. The Islamic principle of God’s ungraspable transcendency was transfigured into the mystical doctrine (for which there were many precedents in pre-Islamic Iran) of God’s physical manifestation in especially chosen mortals who would transmit this divine essence to their descendants. To such a tendency, an espousal of the Shia doctrine offered a most welcome channel: for there could be no doubt that the Shiite veneration, almost deification, of Ali and his descendants concealed the germ of the idea of God’s incarnation and continual reincarnation – an idea entirely alien to Islam but very close to the Iranian heart.

“It had been no accident that the Prophet Muhammad died without having nominated a successor and, indeed, refused to nominate one when a suggestion to that effect was made shortly before his death. By his attitude he intended to convey, firstly, that the spiritual quality of Prophethood was not something that could be ‘inherited’, and, secondly, that the future leadership of the community should be the outcome of free election by the people themselves and not of an ‘ordination’ by the Prophet (which would naturally have been implied in his designation of a successor); and thus he deliberately ruled out the idea that the community’s leadership could ever be anything but secular or could be in the nature of an ‘apostolic succession.’ But this was precisely what the Shia doctrine aimed at. It not only insisted – in clear contradiction to the spirit of Islam – on the principle of apostolic succession, but reserved that succession exclusively to the ‘Prophet’s seed’, that is, to his cousin and son-in-law Ali and his lineal descendants.

“This was entirely in tune with the mystical inclination of the Iranians. But when they enthusiastically joined the camp of those who claimed that Muhammad’s spiritual essence lived on in Ali and the latter’s descendants, there was yet another, sub-conscious motivation for their choice. If Ali was the rightful heir and successor of the Prophet, the three Caliphs who preceded him must obviously have been usurpers – and among them had been Umar, that same Umar who had conquered Iran! The national hatred of the conquest of the Sassanid Empire could be rationalized in terms of religion – the religion that had become Iran’s own: Umar had ‘deprived’ Ali and his sons Hasan and Husayn of their divinely ordained right of succession to the Caliphate of Islam and, thus, had opposed the will of God; consequently, in obedience to the will of God, Ali’s party was to be supported. Out of a national antagonism, a religious doctrine was born.”

83. The reference is to the hijrah journey of the Prophet and Abu Bakr. They lay hidden in a cave called Thawr of a mountain called Nur. When the pagans came searching after them, Abu Bakr evinced signs of worry. The Prophet (saws) assured him by asking, “Abu Bakr, what do you think of the two whose third is Allah?” When the pagans got very close, Abu Bakr said that if they merely peeped down they could spot them. The Prophet (saws) reassured him by saying: “Grieve not. Allah is with us.”

Ibn ‘Asakir has a report which says that once the Prophet (saws) asked Hassan b. Thabit, the poet of Islam, if he had said something about Abu Bakr. He said yes and recited the following: 

“And the second of the two in the cave, the outstanding
While the enemy was prowling around, when the two climbed the hill
He is the beloved of Allah’s Messenger, they knew that
Those of all lands, none of the men being equal to him.”
(Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir, Alusi).

In connection with concealment because of fear of persecution, Alusi writes: Just as the Prophet (saws), Imam Ahmed too had to abscond and lay hidden for a few days during the disturbing days in connection with the question concerning the Qur’an (whether it was a created Word or uncreated). “And so had I to,” adds Alusi, “conceal myself and lay hidden for three days after the fall of Baghdad in the year 1247 A.H., fearing the masses and a few of the elites because of false accusations spread against me by some hypocrites. But, thereafter, Allah (swt) sent His special succor, and I came into the open safe and sound.”

It has been pointed out that this verse is a proof of the Prophet’s authenticity. For, if he was not a true Prophet, he wouldn’t have been sitting calmly in the cave while Abu Bakr was restless. As a false Prophet he should have been in great fear. Indeed, he should have been in greater fear than Abu Bakr, and Abu Bakr should have been telling him not to worry, since it was he that the pagans were after and not Abu Bakr. Further, the situation in the cave cannot be denied as having been truly as depicted by the Qur’an. For, if the Qur’anic verse was not narrating the true situation in the cave, Abu Bakr would have been the first to repudiate. He would have told the Prophet: “Come on. At least this part is no revelation from Allah. I was there with you and you were shaking like a leaf out of fear, weren’t you?” This writer first heard this argument from a Canadian new Muslim, a professor of Mathematics, Garry Miller (Au.).

The Shi‘ah however, writes Imam Razi, have used this verse to cast aspersions on the personality of Abu Bakr. They say e.g. that the Prophet (saws) did not take him along except for the reasons that he was afraid that Abu Bakr would betray him if he left him behind. But, as some scholars have said, didn’t Abu Bakr have the chance to betray the Prophet while they were in the cave? (Going by this argument, couldn’t someone say something similarly absurd, viz., the Prophet (saws) did not leave ‘Ali in his bed the night of his hijrah journey, but to get rid of him since the Quraysh could have killed him in the dark only to discover later that they had killed the wrong man?: Rashid Rida). The Shi‘ah also say that Abu Bakr earned Allah’s reproach for being full of anxiety in the cave, in comparison to ‘Ali who slept peacefully in the Prophet’s bed, as instructed by the Prophet (saws). The scholars have answered that to be fearful is human. Allah (swt) said about Musa (20: 68): “Do not fear. You will have the upper hand.” (Further, Abu Bakr’s fear was on account of the Prophet and not himself – something entirely praiseworthy: au.). 

84. Whom does the personal pronoun in “`alayhi” refer to? Ibn Abi Hatim, Abu al‑Sheikh, Ibn Marduwayh and others have reported the opinion of Ibn `Abbas, that it refers to Abu Bakr. And, there is no inconsistency in saying that on the other hand, the personal pronoun in “ayyadahu” refers to the Prophet (saws). Arabic language and the Qur’anic style allow for such expressions, although one opinion is that in this instance also the personal pronoun refers to Abu Bakr. In fact there is a report to this effect coming down right from the Prophet (Alusi). Rashid Rida is of the same opinion, although the report coming from the Prophet (saws) has not been traced for its authenticity (Au.).

85. By the textual word “kalimah” the allusion is to the testimony, “La ilaha illa Allah” (Ibn Kathir).

Most commentators have mentioned in parts the event of the hijrah journey while Rashid Rida has done it with his usual thoroughness. Herewith an account but not entirely from one source: 

The Hijrah Journey

It was in Allah’s wisdom that when He sent the final Messenger He prepared for his mission a people that were straight in their logic, strong in application, intelligent in their affairs, highly developed of language and previously never enslaved by any ruling class, political or religious. It was also in His wisdom that the Prophet’s own powerful tribe should be the one to oppose the mission. This removed any doubt that establishment of tribal hegemony was the objective.

Protected by his uncle Abu Talib and quietly backed by his wife Khadijah, the Prophet could in the beginning face off the opposition to the Qur’anic call. But, in the seventh year, both these pillars fell to the call of death within a week. That emboldened the Quraysh who left no method untried to force the Prophet (saws) give up his mission. Finally, they decided to do away with him. Even as they were planning and scheming, the Believers were allowed to move out first to Habasha (Abyssinia), and later to Yethrib. Ultimately, the Prophet (saws) himself was ordered to move out to the latter place which thenceforth came to be known as Madinatu al‑Nabiyy – the City of the Prophet.

Bukhari has the following narration to offer in his Kitab al‑Hijrah: ‘A’isha (ra) said “I didn’t step out of childhood to become conscious of things around me but found my parents Muslims; and a day did not pass by when the Prophet (saws) did not visit us, either in the morning or in the evening. Then, as the Muslims were being persecuted, Abu Bakr decided to migrate to Habasha. He hadn’t been up to Bark al‑Ghimad, a place five days journey from Makkah, but met Ibn al‑Dughna, a powerful man of the Qara tribe. He asked Abu Bakr as to where he was heading. He replied that his people had thrown him out and so he had decided to go about in the land worshiping none but his Lord. Ibn al‑Dughna told him, ‘A man of your sort should not leave and should not be expelled. You earn for the unemployed, do good to the kin, help the orphan, treat the guests well and support every good cause. (Rashid Rida adds: Perhaps ‘A’isha borrowed these words from the description made by Khadijah to describe the Prophet). I am your protector. So, go back to your place and worship your Lord in the manner you see is right.’ Ibn al‑Dughna traveled with Abu Bakr and repeated his words in front of the Quraysh. (The possibility exists that either the Prophet (saws) or both he and Abu Bakr had known of Ibn al‑Dughna’s regard for Abu Bakr and sent him across to Bark al‑Ghimad to gain his sympathy and protection: au.). The Quraysh told him to ask Abu Bakr to Pray within his house and recite what he will (of the Qur’an) but not to irk them much, nor influence their women and children. Ibn al‑Dughna placed these conditions on Abu Bakr who agreed. But, subsequently, Abu Bakr constructed a little niche for worship in the front yard of his house where he recited the Qur’an in his Prayers. His recitation attracted Qurayshi women and their young ones ‑ what with Abu Bakr’s crying and sobbing during his recitation! That alarmed the Quraysh. So they sent word to Ibn al‑Dughna reminding him of the conditions and informing him that Abu Bakr had half kept, half broken his words of promise by constructing a mosque in his front yard. They insisted that the original understanding was that Abu Bakr will Pray inside his house, within the rooms. The Quraysh asked Ibn al‑Dughna to withdraw his protection since they didn’t wish to spoil their relations with him. So Ibn Dughna spoke to Abu Bakr who promptly returned him his protection, opting for Allah’s protection.

“In the meanwhile, the Prophet (saws) told his Companions, `I have been shown your place of migration between two lava stretches and some orchards.’ So, not only the freshers, but also those that had gone to Habasha began to re‑migrate to Madinah. Abu Bakr also prepared himself to leave for Madinah. The Prophet (saws) told him, `Hold on a bit. It is possible that I’ll also be granted the permission to migrate.’ So, Abu Bakr held himself back in the hope that he will accompany the Prophet (saws). He got ready two camels for that purpose.

“One day,” continues `A’isha, “as we were sitting around in the house of Abu Bakr at noon when somebody said, `Here’s the Prophet.’ That was a time of the day when he never came. He sought permission to be let in and asked for privacy. Abu Bakr told him that there wasn’t anyone around but the household people. He told him that he had been allowed to migrate. Abu Bakr asked him if he was allowed to accompany him and was told yes. (And, by Allah, `A’isha added, never before had we seen Abu Bakr weep with joy). Abu Bakr offered one of his two beasts but the Prophet (saws) accepted it only on price. [Rashid Rida adds in the footnote: It is said that the Prophet preferred to buy the beast despite the fact that Abu Bakr had earmarked all his wealth in the cause of Islam, because he wished to earn the reward in a cause as great as hijrah]. So we quickly prepared for the two,” continues `A’isha. “As they started off, they hid themselves in the Thawr cave, staying put for three nights. `Abdullah, Abu Bakr’s young sharp son, used to sleep with them, leaving them before dawn to mingle with the Quraysh and bring back news by the evening. `Amir b. Fuhayra, Abu Bakr’s freed‑slave, used to tend his flock near about, watching movements, and feeding them with milk (and mutton: Ibn Is‑haq) in the evenings. (Incidentally, his flock removed any trace of `Abdullah’s footmarks: au.).

The Makkans, having discovered that the Prophet (saws) was gone, quickly spread volunteers to lay hold of them, announcing a reward of a hundred camels for each. One of their search parties came so close to the cave that, as Abu Bakr put it, had they looked down at their feet they would have discovered them. In fact, they saw the cave. But a spider had in the meanwhile built her nest at the mouth. They said to themselves that had anyone entered through the hole, the nest wouldn’t be there in tact.

The Prophet and Abu Bakr had hired an expert guide, a pagan called ‘Abdullah ibn Urqud, to lead them to Yethrib. He arrived at the appointed hour on the third day. (It was on this last day that Asma’, Abu Bakr’s daughter, had brought them food to carry. Having forgotten to bring a rope, when she found nothing else, she tore her girdle (or belt) into two to use one for tying the bundle to the camel. Thereafter, she came to be known as the Dhat al‑Nitaq [“she of the girdles]”: Ibn Is‑haq). The guide took them by the shore route. Abu Bakr ordered ‘Amir b. Fuhayrah to accompany them.

(In the meanwhile the original heat was lost, the enthusiasm ran low, and the Quraysh cooled down a bit, resigned to having lost their prize. One of those evenings while Suraqa ibn Malik sat in the company of his tribesmen – Banu Mudlaj – a traveler dropped in and said to him that he had spotted on the horizon figures which he suspected to be the Prophet (saws) and his companions. Suraqa knew immediately that it must be the two. But he said, emphatically, “That’s not correct. Rather, they are so and so, who left us a while ago.” Then, allowing for a respectable gap of time, he left the company and heading home he ordered his slave‑girl to lead his horse to such and such a place and wait for him. Then, slipping out from the rear, he rushed to his horse and galloped away in the direction the traveler had pointed. And, for sure, it was the Prophet that he had caught up with. But, as he advanced his horse sank into the sand. He jumped out and pulling out the divining arrows tried to ascertain if he should proceed or stop there. The arrows told him what he feared. A firm no. So he ignored them and pulling out the horse he tried to gallop forward again. He was as near as to hear the recitation of the Prophet, who paid him no attention, when his horse sank again. Suraqa consulted the arrows again, and, blast them, he received the same hateful answer. He also saw a lightening in the sky accompanied by smoke. That convinced him that the affair was a bit different from what he had thought. “There must be some truth to this,” Suraqa told himself. He says in the continuation of the story, “I advanced upon them and told them the story of the prize of hundred camels on their heads. (According to another version, Suraqa knew that the sinking of the horse was the work of Muhammad. He sought peace and assured them that he will keep the news concerning the direction of their escape, secret: Alusi). I also offered them provision for the rest of the journey, but it was promptly rejected. They didn’t ask anything in return save for saying, `keep the news about us to yourself.’ I asked for (the covenant of peace between me and him) to be written down and he ordered `Amir b. Fuhayrah to do it on a parchment. I thrust it into the sheath of my sword and traced back my trail, speaking nothing about it to any one.

Several years later, when the Prophet (saws) had overcome Makkah, had lifted the Ta’if siege and was camping at Ji`rana that I went forward to meet him. But the Ansar kept beating me and saying, `Be off with you man, what on earth do you want?’ But I kept pursuing until when the Prophet mounted his beast – and I could see his shank in the stirrup which looked like a trunk of a palm tree, I closed in on him and lifted my hand with the document and told him who I was. He said, `Let him, for today, it is the day for repaying goodness.’ So I closed up and embraced Islam. Then I remembered something that I had wanted to ask. I said, “Sometimes my cistern is full of water, and camels not belonging to me stray up to it. Will I be rewarded for letting them drink?’ He replied, `Yes. For watering every thirsty creature, there is a reward.’

‘Abdullah ibn Urqud took them along the sea lane, crossing the road below ‘Usfan, then below Amaj; then, after passing Qudayd by way of al‑Kharrar and Thaniyyatu ‘l Marra to Liqf. From there he took them down to Malajatu Mahaj, Marjih Mahaj, Marjih Dhu al‑Ghadwayn, then across the valley of Dhu Kashr; then by al‑Jadajid, al‑Ajrad, Dhu Salam of A‘da’, the water‑hole of Ta‘hin, then by al‑‘Abadid, Fajja, to ‘Arj. Here one of his mounts dropped back, so another guide from the Aslam tribe, Aws b. Hajr, took over and led them to Madinah through Thaniyyatu ‘l A’ir, to the right of Rakuba, through the valley of Ri’m, to finally arrive on a Monday, the 12th of Rabi‘ al‑Awwal at Quba’ by noon.

The Madinans, who had received the news of the Prophet’s departure from Makkah, went out every morning to the edge of the town and waited until the sun was high. One day, as they had just returned, a Jew spotted the two from his balcony and instantly shouted out: “Here is your man, O Madinans.” The Madinans rushed out – the young of them and the old – full of joy. Meanwhile, the Prophet (saws) had alighted and was sitting under a palm tree. The advancing Madinans didn’t know who was who – the two being of equal age – until as the shadow slipped, Abu Bakr held a cloth over the Prophet to protect him from the sun.

Back at Makkah, ‘Ali, having handed over the people’s trusts back to them, as instructed by the Prophet, also followed them, joining them up at Quba. ‘Ali used to say that an unmarried Muslim woman lived nearby his quarters (in Quba’). He noticed that a man came in the middle of the night, knocked on her door and, as she opened it, handed over something to her. ‘Ali became very suspicious of what was going on. He asked her to explain the meaning of this nightly performance as she was a Muslim and without a husband. She told him that it was Sahl b. Hunayf who knew that she was all alone and so broke the idols of his tribe and secretly brought the pieces to her which she promptly used as fuel. ‘Ali used to talk of this incident until Sahl died in Iraq while he was with him.

The Prophet (saws) stayed for a while in Quba’, and then moved into Madinah, on to where the Grand Mosque now stands.

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