“O our Lord, do not make us a trial for the wrongdoing people”: Tafsir ibn Kathir

Allah recounts part of the story of Moosaa in surah Yunus in which Moosaa addresses his people by saying:

وَقَالَ مُوسَىٰ يَا قَوْمِ إِن كُنتُمْ آمَنتُم بِاللَّـهِ فَعَلَيْهِ تَوَكَّلُوا إِن كُنتُم مُّسْلِمِينَ * فَقَالُوا عَلَى اللَّـهِ تَوَكَّلْنَا رَبَّنَا لَا تَجْعَلْنَا فِتْنَةً لِّلْقَوْمِ الظَّالِمِينَ * وَنَجِّنَا بِرَحْمَتِكَ مِنَ الْقَوْمِ الْكَافِرِينَ

And Moosaa said, “O my people, if you have believed in Allah, then place your trust in Him, if you are Muslims.” * So they said, “In Allah do we place our trust. O our Lord, do not make us a trial for the wrongdoing people * And save us by Your mercy from the disbelieving people.” [10:84-86]

There have been a number of different interpretations of the supplication, “do not make us a trial for the wrongdoing people.” Ibn al-Jawzi summarized the different opinions transmitted from the salaf regarding the meaning of this supplication as follows:

وفي قوله : ” لا تجعلنا فتنة ” ثلاثة أقوال : ـ

There are three different opinions regarding Allah’s statement:

لَا تَجْعَلْنَا فِتْنَةً

do not make us a trial

أحدها : لا تهلكنا بعذاب على أيدي قوم فرعون ، ولا بعذاب من قبلك ، فيقول قوم فرعون : لو كانوا على حق ما عذبوا ولا سلطنا عليهم . ـ

○ First: Do not destroy us with afflictions at the hands of the people of Fir’awn, nor by a punishment coming from You. For the people of Fir’awn said, “If they were upon the truth, then they would not have been subjected to suffering nor would we have been given power over them.”

والثاني : لا تسلطهم علينا فيفتنونا والقولان مرويان عن مجاهد . ـ

○ Second: Do not place them in power over us, in which case they would subject us to a trial. And both the first and second opinions have been relayed from Mujaahid.

والثالث : لا تسلطهم علينا فيفتتنوا بنا ، لظنهم أنهم على حق ، قاله أبو الضحى ، وأبو مجلز . ـ

○ Third: Do not place them in power over us, in which case they would be subjected to a trial on account of us due to their thinking that they are the ones upon the truth. This was stated by Abu’l-Dhuhaa and Abu Mujlaz.

[Zad al-Maseer 4/54-55]

In his famous book of tafsir, al-haafidh Ismaa’eel ibn Kathir provided the following commentary on these ayaat:

يَقُولُ تَعَالَى مُخْبِرًا عَنْ مُوسَى أَنَّهُ قَالَ لِبَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ : ( يَاقَوْمِ إِنْ كُنْتُمْ آمَنْتُمْ بِاللَّهِ فَعَلَيْهِ تَوَكَّلُوا إِنْ كُنْتُمْ مُسْلِمِينَ ) أَيْ : فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ كَافٍ مَنْ تَوَكَّلَ عَلَيْهِ ، ( أَلَيْسَ اللَّهُ بِكَافٍ عَبْدَهُ ) [ الزُّمَرِ : 36 ] ، ( وَمَنْ يَتَوَكَّلْ عَلَى اللَّهِ فَهُوَ حَسْبُهُ ) [ الطَّلَاقِ : 3 ] . ـ

Allah is informing us about Moosaa and how he addresses Banu Israa’eel by saying:

يَاقَوْمِ إِنْ كُنْتُمْ آمَنْتُمْ بِاللَّهِ فَعَلَيْهِ تَوَكَّلُوا إِنْ كُنْتُمْ مُسْلِمِينَ

O my people, if you have believed in Allah, then place your trust in Him, if you are Muslims

meaning: for Allah is sufficient for those who place their trust in him.

أَلَيْسَ اللَّهُ بِكَافٍ عَبْدَهُ

Is not Allah Sufficient for His slave? [39:36]

وَمَنْ يَتَوَكَّلْ عَلَى اللَّهِ فَهُوَ حَسْبُهُ

And whosoever puts his trust in Allah, then He will suffice him. [65:3]

وَكَثِيرًا مَا يَقْرِنُ اللَّهُ بَيْنَ الْعِبَادَةِ وَالتَّوَكُّلِ ، كَمَا فِي قَوْلِهِ تَعَالَى : ( فَاعْبُدْهُ وَتَوَكَّلْ عَلَيْهِ ) [ هُودٍ : 123 ] ، ( قُلْ هُوَ الرَّحْمَنُ آمَنَّا بِهِ وَعَلَيْهِ تَوَكَّلْنَا ) [ الْمُلْكِ : 29 ] ، ( رَبُّ الْمَشْرِقِ وَالْمَغْرِبِ لَا إِلَهَ إِلَّا هُوَ فَاتَّخِذْهُ وَكِيلًا ) [ الْمُزَّمِّلِ : 9 ] ، وَأَمَرَ اللَّهُ تَعَالَى الْمُؤْمِنِينَ أَنْ يَقُولُوا فِي كُلِّ صَلَوَاتِهِمْ مَرَّاتٍ مُتَعَدِّدَةً : ( إِيَّاكَ نَعْبُدُ وَإِيَّاكَ نَسْتَعِينُ ) [ الْفَاتِحَةِ : 5 ] . ـ

And Allah frequently mentions worship and placing one’s reliance on Him together, such as in His statement:

فَاعْبُدْهُ وَتَوَكَّلْ عَلَيْهِ

So worship Him and put your trust in Him. [11:123]

قُلْ هُوَ الرَّحْمَنُ آمَنَّا بِهِ وَعَلَيْهِ تَوَكَّلْنَا

Say: “He is al-Rahman, in Him do we believe, and in Him do we put our trust.” [67:29]

رَبُّ الْمَشْرِقِ وَالْمَغْرِبِ لَا إِلَهَ إِلَّا هُوَ فَاتَّخِذْهُ وَكِيلًا

He is the Lord of the east and the west. There is no deity worthy of worship but Him, so take Him as the disposer of your affairs. [73:9]

And Allah commanded the believers to say the following phrase multiple times in each and every prayer:

إِيَّاكَ نَعْبُدُ وَإِيَّاكَ نَسْتَعِينُ

You alone do we worship and You alone do we ask for help [1:5]

وَقَدِ امْتَثَلَ بَنُو إِسْرَائِيلَ ذَلِكَ ، فَقَالُوا : ( عَلَى اللَّهِ تَوَكَّلْنَا رَبَّنَا لَا تَجْعَلْنَا فِتْنَةً لِلْقَوْمِ الظَّالِمِينَ ) أَيْ : لَا تُظْفِرْهُمْ بِنَا ، وَتُسَلِّطْهُمْ عَلَيْنَا ، فَيَظُنُّوا أَنَّهُمْ إِنَّمَا سُلِّطُوا لِأَنَّهُمْ عَلَى الْحَقِّ وَنَحْنُ عَلَى الْبَاطِلِ ، [ ص: 289 ] فَيُفْتَنُوا بِذَلِكَ . هَكَذَا رُوِيَ عَنْ أَبِي مِجْلَزٍ ، وَأَبِي الضُّحَى . ـ

Banu Israa’eel followed Moosaa’s command, and so they said:

عَلَى اللَّهِ تَوَكَّلْنَا رَبَّنَا لَا تَجْعَلْنَا فِتْنَةً لِلْقَوْمِ الظَّالِمِينَ

“In Allah do we place our trust. O our Lord, do not make us a trial for the wrongdoing people”

meaning: Do not grant them victory against us and place them in authority over us, as a result of which they would think that they have only been placed in authority because they are upon the truth while we were upon falsehood, and so they would be subjected to a trial due to that. This interpretation was relayed from Abu Miljaz and Abu’l-Dhuhaa.

وَقَالَ ابْنُ أَبِي نَجِيحٍ وَغَيْرُ وَاحِدٍ ، عَنْ مُجَاهِدٍ : لَا تُعَذِّبْنَا بِأَيْدِي قَوْمِ فِرْعَوْنَ ، وَلَا بِعَذَابٍ مِنْ عِنْدِكَ ، فَيَقُولُ قَوْمُ فِرْعَوْنَ : لَوْ كَانُوا عَلَى حَقٍّ مَا عُذِّبُوا ، وَلَا سُلِّطْنَا عَلَيْهِمْ ، فَيُفْتَنُوا بِنَا . ـ

And ibn Abi Najeeh and others conveyed that Mujaahid interpreted it to mean: Do not punish us at the hands of the people of Fir’awn, nor with a punishment from you. For the people of Fir’awn said, “If these people were upon the truth then they would not have been subjected to suffering, nor would we have been granted authority over them,” and so they were put to a trial because of our state.

وَقَالَ عَبْدُ الرَّزَّاقِ : أَنْبَأَنَا ابْنُ عُيَيْنَةَ ، عَنِ ابْنِ نَجِيحٍ ، عَنْ مُجَاهِدٍ : ( رَبَّنَا لَا تَجْعَلْنَا فِتْنَةً لِلْقَوْمِ الظَّالِمِينَ ) [ أَيْ ] لَا تُسَلِّطْهُمْ عَلَيْنَا ، فَيَفْتِنُونَا . ـ

And ‘Abd al-Razzaaq related from ibn ‘Uyaynah, from ibn Najeeh that Mujaahid recited the ayah and explained it to mean: Do not place them in authority over us, in which case they would subject us to a trial.

ـ ( وَنَجِّنَا بِرَحْمَتِكَ ) أَيْ : خَلِّصْنَا بِرَحْمَةٍ مِنْكَ وَإِحْسَانٍ ، ( مِنَ الْقَوْمِ الْكَافِرِينَ ) أَيْ : الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا الْحَقَّ وَسَتَرُوهُ ، وَنَحْنُ قَدْ آمَنَّا بِكَ وَتَوَكَّلْنَا عَلَيْكَ . ـ

وَنَجِّنَا بِرَحْمَتِكَ

And save us by Your mercy

meaning: rescue us, out of Your mercy and goodness

مِنَ الْقَوْمِ الْكَافِرِينَ

from the disbelieving people

meaning: those who disbelieve in the truth and cover it up, while we certainly believe in You and place our trust in You.

[Tafsir ibn Kathir 4/289-290]

Imam Muhammad al-Shawkaani also mentioned the following point of benefit in his commentary on these ayaat, writing:

فقالوا أي قوم موسى مجيبين له على الله توكلنا ثم دعوا الله مخلصين فقالوا : ربنا لا تجعلنا فتنة أي موضع فتنة للقوم الظالمين والمعنى : لا تسلطهم علينا فيعذبونا حتى يفتنونا عن ديننا ، ولا تجعلنا فتنة لهم يفتنون بنا غيرنا فيقولون لهم : لو كان هؤلاء على حق لما سلطنا عليهم وعذبناهم ، وعلى المعنى الأول تكون الفتنة بمعنى المفتون . ـ

The people of Moosaa responded to him by saying:

عَلَى اللَّـهِ تَوَكَّلْنَا

In Allah do we place our trust

and then they supplicated sincerely to Allah by saying:

رَبَّنَا لَا تَجْعَلْنَا فِتْنَةً

O our Lord, do not make us a trial

meaning: a subject of trial

لِّلْقَوْمِ الظَّالِمِينَ

for the wrongdoing people

and the overall meaning is: Do not place them in authority over us, in which case we would be afflicted until we would turn away from our religion. And also do not make us a trial for them, such that others would be tested by seeing our state and saying, “If these people were upon the truth, then we would not have be granted authority over them nor could we have subjected them to suffering.” So according to the first meaning, the word fitnah – “trial” – takes on the meaning of passive participle – “subjects of trial”.

ولما قدموا التضرع إلى الله سبحانه في أن يصون دينهم عن الفساد أتبعوه بسؤال عصمة أنفسهم فقالوا : ونجنا برحمتك من القوم الكافرين وفي هذا دليل على أنه كان لهم اهتمام بأمر الدين فوق اهتمامهم بسلامة أنفسهم . ـ

And then after they had supplicated to Allah to protect their religion from corruption, they followed this up by asking for protection for themselves by saying:

نَجِّنَا بِرَحْمَتِكَ مِنَ الْقَوْمِ الْكَافِرِينَ

And save us by Your mercy from the disbelieving people.

In this, we find an indication that their primary concern was on their religion, which was more important to them than their own personal safety.

[Fath al-Qadeer pg. 639]

See also: “The Disbelievers – they are the Thaalimoon”: Tafsir al-Sa’di

See also: Beware of Opposing the Prophet’s Command: Tafsir ibn Kathir

See also: “If you support Allah, He will support you”: Tafsir al-Shinqitee

See also: “Do not Follow that of which you have no Knowledge”: Tafsir al-Shinqitee

See also: And We gave Ibrahim good in this life: Tafsir al-Shinqitee

See also: Those who do not witness al-Zoor: Tafsir al-Tabari

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4 thoughts on ““O our Lord, do not make us a trial for the wrongdoing people”: Tafsir ibn Kathir

  1. Pingback: “The Disbelievers – they are the Thaalimoon”: Tafsir al-Sa’di | Tulayhah

  2. Pingback: Those who do not witness al-Zoor: Tafsir al-Tabari | Tulayhah

  3. Pingback: “If you support Allah, He will support you”: Tafsir al-Shinqitee | Tulayhah

  4. Pingback: Assorted Qur’an Benefits #17 | Tulayhah

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