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The Conditional Promise

Al-Hāfiẓ Ibn Kathīr, Imām al-Saʿdī

Extracted from the tafāsīr of al-Hāfiẓ Ibn Kathīr and ʿAbd al-Raḥmān ibn Nāṣir al-Saʿdī. In explanation of the Promise of Allāh to grant authority and ascendancy to the Muslims.

Give glad-tidings to this Ummah of high position, establishment upon this earth, victory and a lofty status in this world and in the Hereafter.

“Allāh has promised to those of you who believe and do righteous actions, that He will certainly grant them succession (khilāfah) upon the earth, as He granted it to those before them; and that He will grant them authority to practice their Religion, the one that He has chosen for them and He will change their state from one of fear in which they lived, to one of peace and security. They will worship Me alone, not associating any partner with Me. But whosoever disbelieves after this, then they are the rebellious ones.”
[Sūrah Nūr 24:55]

’Ubayy Ibn Ka’b relates that the Messenger of Allāh (ﷺ) said: “Give glad-tidings to this Ummah of high position, establishment upon this earth, victory and a lofty status in this world and in the Hearafter.”1

Al-Ḥāfiẓ Ibn Kathīr (d.774H) – raḥimahullāh– said:2

“This is a promise from Allāh – the Most High – to His Messenger, may the Prayers of Allāh and the peace be upon him, that he will make this Ummah the khulafā‘ (successors) upon the earth. Meaning that they will be the leaders and rulers over mankind, by whom nations will be corrected and to whom mankind will submit. And that He will replace their state of fear in which they lived, to one of security and dominion. Allāh – the Blessed, the Most High – has fulfilled His promise, and to Him belongs all praise and thanks. The Prophet (ﷺ) did not die until Allāh made him conquer Makkah, Khaybar, al-Bahrain, the remaining lands of the al-ʿArabīan peninsula, and the whole of Yemen. He took jizyah (protection tax) from the Magians of Ḥajar and from the people of the surrounding areas of Syria. The Prophet (ﷺ) received gifts from Heraclius – the king of Rome; the ruler of Egypt and Alexandria – the Mawqawqis; the kings of Oman; and Negus, the king of Ethiopia, who became king after Ashamah died – may Allāh have mercy upon him and grant him nobility.

After the Messenger of Allāh (ﷺ) died, Allāh having chosen for him the reward that is with Him, Abū Bakr as-Siddīq was then established as his Khaleefah (successor), taking charge unwaveringly. Abū Bakr took the al-ʿArabīan peninsula and put it in order. He sent forth armies of Islām to the lands of Persia, under the command of Khālid Ibn al-Walīd (raḍī Allāhu ʿanhu). They conquered parts of these lands, slaying a number of its inhabitants. A second army was sent to the lands of Syria, under the leadership of Abū ’ʿUbaydah (raḍī Allāhu ʿʿʿanhu) and those who followed him. A third army was sent to Egypt under the leadership of ’Amr Ibn al-ʿĀs (raḍī Allāhu ʿanhu). It was during his time that the armies sent to Syria conquered the cities of Busra, Damascus and its environs from the land of Hawraan and its surroundings. Allāh – the Mighty and Majestic – took the soul of Abū Bakr – choosing for him the reward which is with Him. Allāh blessed the people of Islām by inspiring as-Siddīq to chose ʿUmar al-Fārūq as a successor.

ʿUmar then stood up, taking charge completely. The heavens will not witness – after the Prophets – anyone like ʿUmar, whether in the strength of his reign, or in the fulfillment of justice. It was during his time that the conquest of Syria was completed; as was that of Egypt to it’s farthest reaches, as well as the province of Persia. He destroyed Kisraa (Chosroes) and humiliated him to the utmost, forcing him to retreat back to the farthest reaches of his kingdom. Similarly, ʿUmar destroyed Qaysar (Caesar), wrestling from his hands the lands of Syria and bottling him up in Constantinople. He spent the wealth (conquered from them) in the path of Allāh – as the Messenger of Allāh had informed and promised – may the most complete salām and most purest ṣalāt be bestowed upon the Messenger from his Lord.

Then there was the rule of ’Uthmān, under whom the possessions of Islām extended to the furthest eastern and western reaches of the earth. The lands of the west were conquered to the farthest reaches of what lies there – Andulus, Cyprus, the lands of Qayrawān, and the lands of Ceuta – which is next to the all-encompassing ocean; and to the farthest lands of China. Kisrā was killed and his kingdom totally vanquished. The cities of al-ʿIrāq, Khurāsān, and Ahwaaz were conquered, and the Muslims slew a large number of Turks. Allāh having humiliated the Turks and their great king Kha-Khān. The wealth of the east and the west was collected and brought to the Ameerul-Mu‘mineen (leader of the Believers) ’Uthmān Ibn ’Affaan (raḍī Allāhu ʿanhu). All of this came about as a result of his recitation, study, and gathering of the Ummah for the preservation of the Qurʾān.

It is confirmed in the Ṣaḥīḥ that the Messenger of Allāh (ﷺ) said: “Indeed Allāh gathered up the earth for me, so that I saw it’s east and it’s west. Indeed the dominion of my Ummah will reach what was gathered up for me, from it.”3 We fluctuate in what Allāh has promised us and in what His Messenger has promised. Allāh and His Messenger have spoken the truth. We ask Allāh to grant us īmān(faith) in Him and His Messenger, and that we establish gratitude of what Allāh has given us, in the matter that He is pleased with.

ʿUmar related to us, that Sufyān related to us from ʿAbd al-Malik Ibn ʿUmayr, from Jābir Ibn Samurah who said: I heard the Messenger of Allāh (ﷺ) say: “The affair of the people will continue to be upright whilst twelve men are in charge in of them.” The Prophet (ﷺ) then said something which I could not make not. So I asked my father: What did the Messenger of Allāh (ﷺ) say? He replied: “They are all from Quraysh.” This narration is also narrated by al-Bukhārī.4

In this narration there exists clear evidence that all twelve of these men must be leaders from Quraysh. They are not the twelve imāms claimed by the Shaee’ah, because many of them had no leadership over the Muslims. As for these twelve, they will be from Quraysh and they will be just rulers. The glad tidings of their appearance have also occurred in the previous scriptures. Furthermore, it is not necessary that they succeed one another. Rather, their appearance in the Ummah could be successive or separate. Four of them were in order, namely, Abū Bakr, ʿUmar, ’Uthmān and ʿAlī (raḍī Allāhu ʿʿʿanhum). After these four there was a gap. Others amongst the twelve appeared as and when Allāh willed. It is possible that some of them will appear during a time that only Allāh – the Most High – knows. Amongst them will be the Mahdī whose name will be that of the Messenger (ﷺ), and his kunyā (nickname) that of his kunyā. He will fill the earth with justice as it is filled with tyranny and injustice. Imām Aḥmad, Abū Dāwūd, al-Tirmidhī and Sūrah al-Nisāʾī have all reported from the ḥadīth of Saʿīd Ibn Juhmaan, from Safīnah – the mawlā (master) of the Messenger of Allāh (ﷺ) that the Messenger of Allāh (ﷺ) said: “The Khilāfah (successorship) after me will last for thirty years. Then kingship will appear.”5

Indeed ar-Rabīʿ Ibn Anas has said that Abū al-’Āliyah has remarked concerning this āyah: “The Prophet (ﷺ) and his Companions were in Makkah for ten years afraid, secretly calling to Allāh and His worship alone, He has no partner. They remained in such a state that they were ordered to migrate to al-Madīnah. They were ordered by Allāh to fight. Whilst they were (in al-Madīnah) they were in constant fear (of attack). They would go to sleep armed and awake armed. They remained patient upon that state for as long as Allāh willed, until one day when one individual from amongst the Companions said: “O Messenger of Allāh! Will we remain in a state of fear until the end of time? Will there not come a time when we will be in a state of security, so that we may lay down our weapons?” The Messenger of Allāh (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam) then said: “Be patient for a while, for there will come a time when any man from amongst you will sit in a crowd unharmed.” Allāh sent down this āyah and made his Prophet victorious over the al-ʿArabīan Peninsula. The Companions of the Prophet were now safe and they could lay down their weapons. Allāh – the Most High – then took the soul of His Prophet (ﷺ) and the Muslims remained in such a state during the leadership of Abū Bakr, ʿUmar and ’Uthmān; until the Muslims fell into what they fell into from discord. So fear entered into their hearts and they took armies and guards for protection. For they had changed, so Allāh changed their state. One of the Salaf has remarked that the khilāfah of both Abū Bakr and ’Uthmān was true. He then recited this āyah, al-Baraa‘ Ibn ’Aazib has said: “This āyah was revealed whilst we were in a state of extreme fear.”

This noble āyah is similar in meaning to His statement – the Most High – :

“And remember when you were few and were reckoned weak in the land and were afraid that men might kidnap you, but He (i.e. Allāh) provided a safe place for you, and strengthened you with His help and provided you good things so that you might be grateful.”
[Sūrah al-Anfāl 8:26]

And the statement of Allāh – the Most High – : “As he granted that to those before them.” This āyah is similar to what Allāh said about Mūsá (ʿalayhi al-Salām) that he said to his people:

“It may be that your Lord will destroy your enemy and make you succeed (the present rulers) upon earth, so that He may see how you act.”
[Sūrah al-Aʿrāf 7:129]

Allāh – the Most High – said:

“And We wished to confer a favour upon those who were oppressed in the land, and to make them leaders and to make them heirs; and to establish them upon earth…”
[Sūrah al-Qasas 28:5-6]

And Allāh’s statement: “And that He will change their state after the fear in which they lived to one of security and peace.” This is similar to what the Messenger of Allāh (ﷺ) said to ’Adee Ibn Ḥātim when ’Adee came as a delegation to the Messenger. The Messenger (ﷺ) said: “Do you know Hira?” ’Adee replied: ‘I have not seen it, but I have heard of it.” The Messenger (ﷺ) then said: “By Him in Whose Hand is my soul! Allāh will complete this matter (i.e. Islām) until a woman will be able to travel from Hira, until she goes around the House not needing the protection of anyone. And you will surely conquer the treasure of Kisraa Ibn Hurmuz.” I (i.e. ’Adee) replied: “Kisraa Ibn Hurmuz!” The Prophet (ﷺ) replied: “Yes! Kisrā Ibn Hurmuz. Money will be spent until no one will accept it.” ’Adee Ibn Ḥātim said: “Now here is the woman leaving from Hira until she goes around the House. And I was from amongst those who conquered the treasure of Kisrā. And by Him in Whose Hand is my soul! The third matter will come to pass because the Messenger of Allāh (ﷺ) has said so.”

Aḥmad reports upon ’Ubayy Ibn Ka’b who said that the Messenger of Allāh (ﷺ) has said: “Give glad tidings to this Ummah of ease of life, exalted stature, the establishment of their Religion, and victory and leadership upon the earth. Whoever does acts of the Hereafter for this world, he will have no portion of the Hereafter.”6

And the statement of Allāh: “They worship Me alone and do not associate anything with Me.” Aḥmad reports upon Muʿādh who said: ‘I was sitting behind the Prophet (ﷺ) and I except the end of his saddle. The Prophet said to me: “O Muʿādh Ibn Jabal!” I said: “Here I am O Messenger of Allāh in your service.” The Prophet said: “Do you know what is the Right of Allāh upon His servants?” I said: “Allāh and His Messenger know best.” He said: “The Right of Allāh upon the servants is that they worship Him and do not associate anything with Him.” The Prophet continued to ride on for some time and then he said to me: “O Muʿādh Ibn Jabal!” I said: “Here I am O Messenger of Allāh at your service.” The Prophet said: “Do you know what is the right of the servants upon Allāh if they worship Him alone?” I said: “Allāh and His Messenger know best.” He said: “The right of the servants upon Allāh is that He does not punish whomsoever does not associate anything with Him.” This narration is also narrated in the two Ṣaḥīḥs.7

And the statement of Allāh: “But whoever disbelieved after this, and they are the rebellious ones.” This means, that whoever steps outside my obedience after that promise, has stepped outside the Command of His Lord, and sufficient is that as a sin. Since the Companions of the Prophet (raḍī Allāhu ʿanhum) were the most upright and obedient of the people after the Prophet (ﷺ) in fulfilling the commands of Allāh – the Mighty and Majestic – their victory was accordingly. The Companions of the Prophet made the Word of Allāh supreme, so Allāh Himself aided them in such a manner that He subdued for them the rest of mankind, as well as their lands.

When the people after the Prophet’s Companions fell short in adhering to some of Allāh’s Commands, their victory accordingly fell short. It is, however, affirmed in both Ṣaḥīḥs (i.e. al-Bukhārī and Muslim) in many ways from the Messenger of Allāh (ﷺ) that he said: “There shall not cease to be a group from my Ummah, victorious upon the truth, not being harmed by those who abandoned them or go against them, until Allāh’s favour comes, and they are like that.”8 And in a narration: “Until the last of them fights the Anti-Christ (Maseehud-Dajjāl).”9 All of these narrations are authentic and there is no contraḍīction between them.” Imām ’Abdur-Raḥmān Ibn Nāṣir as-Saʿdī (d.1376H) said:

“This is one of His true promises whose meaning and accomplishment has been witnessed. He promised those who came with īmān (faith) and ’amalus-sālih (righteous and correct actions) from this Ummah, that He will cause them to be successors upon this earth so that they are the ones in authority and in charge of the affairs. Further, He would establish their Religion – that which He was pleased with for them, which is the Religion of Islām, which gained ascendancy over all other religions. He was pleased with it for this Ummah, due to its excellence, nobility, and favours upon it, in that He enabled them to establish it, and to establish its laws and prescriptions – relating both to manifest and non-manifest matters – upon themselves and upon others so that the people of other religions and the rest of the disbelievers conquered and humbled.

And that He would change their condition of fear to one of security since it was previously the case that one of them would not be able to manifest his Religion, and they suffered harm and injury from the disbelievers. The united body of Muslims was very small in number, in comparison to the rest of the people of the earth, who combined to attack them and hope for their downfall. However, Allāh promised them these things when the āyah was sent down, at a time when they were not witnessing ascendancy and establishment upon this earth, nor the ability to fully establish the Religion of Islām and full security – such as would enable them to worship Allāh, not associating anything with Him – in a state of not having to fear anyone besides Allāh.

So the first and foremost of this Ummah combined īmān and righteous and correct action to a degree surpassing everyone else, so He established them in the land and gave them authority over the people, and granted them the conquest of the east and the west. They attained full security and complete authority and establishment – and this is one of the astounding signs of Allāh. This applies until the Hour is established – that whenever the Muslims combine īmān (faith) and righteous and correct action – then that which Allāh promises will certainly occur. Indeed, Allāh only grants that they are overcome by the unbelievers and the hypocrites and that they suffer humiliation when the Muslims neglect īmān and righteous and correct action.”10


[1] Ṣaḥīḥ: Related by Aḥmad (5/134) and al-Ḥākim (4/311), and it was authenticated by al-Ḥāfiẓ al-Mundhirī in Targheeb wa-al-Tarḥīb (1/31).
[2] Tafsīr Qurʾānil-’Adthīm (3/311-313
[3] Related by Muslim (8/171) and Abū Dāwūd (no. 4252), from Thawbaan (raḍī Allāhu ʿanhu).
[4] Related by al-Bukhārī (6/416), Muslim (6/3-4) and Aḥmad (5/101), the wording is from Aḥmad.
[5] Ṣaḥīḥ: Related by Abū Dāwūd (no. 4646), al-Tirmidhī (2/35) and others. It was authenticated by al-Tabarī in his Iʿtiqād (p. 8), and by al-Ḥāfiẓ Ibn Ḥajar in Fat′h al-Bārī (13/182).
[6] Ṣaḥīḥ: Related by Aḥmad (4/134) and al-Ḥākim (4/311) and it was authenticated by al-Albānī in ṣallallāhu (p. 52).
[7] Related by al-Bukhārī (6/58) and Muslim (1/232)
[8] Related by Muslim (6/52-53) and al-Tirmidhī (2/36), from Thawbaan (raḍī Allāhu ʿanhu).
[9] Ṣaḥīḥ: Related by Aḥmad (4/492), Abū Dāwūd (1/388-389) and al-Ḥākim (4/450), from ʿImrān Ibn Husayn (raḍī Allāhu ʿanhu). It was authenticated by al-Albānī in al-Ṣaḥihah (no. 1959).
[10] Tayseerul-Karīmir-Raḥmān (4/123)

Published: June 5, 2007
Edited: January 22, 2023


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