Quran Read-A-Long: Al’-Imran 121-129 Recall the Battle of Uhud

As Asad tells us, these verses can hardly be understood without an understanding of the Battle of Uhud, and so Asad provides us with a rousing description of this marked battle between the Muslim forces of Medina and the Quryash forces from Mecca. Significantly, Asad notes that many of the verses of this surah come from this time, and I’m wondering if he means from here forward or other verses that we’ve already seen (and if so, which ones).

The Quran is very good at, as we’ve discussed many times, providing an eternal lesson out of the experiences of the Muslims of Mohammed’s day. For instance, immediately preceding this battle, 300 soldiers abandoned the Muslim army and two other leaders nearly left with their men as well, but ultimately stayed because God was watching out for the Muslims. The lesson behind the Muslim victory – and I call it a victory because when an army of that small size takes on and survives the assault of a larger force as it did, the fight can only have been but a victory – is that you must place your trust in God in order to be victorious (whether at battle or life). My interpolated point was not to discount the difficulties of the battle, including Mohammed’s injury, but I do think it’s something else that they won – and an important lesson too.

124. Is there something significant in the number of 3000 angels? What about 5000 in the following verse? If these numbers do not have known significance before these verses were written, do they come to have significance in later Islamic thought? Does 3000 angels represent 10 times the number of people who abandoned the Muslim forces? If so, what is 5000?

Not to continue this thread of questions, but are the last two verses a mild chastisement of Mohammed’s behavior for proclaiming certain things about people’s potential forgiveness by God? That is what Asad seems to imply. At the same time, it’s that same reminder that I recall somewhere from The Cow in which we are told that we can have no idea who God will and won’t forgive and let into heaven and the very act of saying that someone will be going to either place is cause enough for not being admitted into heaven. Which verses were those?

What else can you tell us about these verses?

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Al’-Imran 121-129

121. AND [remember, O Prophet, the day] when thou didst set out from thy home at early morn to place the believers in battle array. And God was all-hearing, all-knowing 122. when two groups from among you were about to lose heart, although God was near unto them and it is in God that the believers must place their trust: 123. for, indeed, God did succour you at Badr, when you were utterly weak. Remain, then, conscious of God, so that you might have cause to be grateful. 124. [And remember] when thou didst say unto the believers: “Is it not enough for you [to know] that your Sustainer will aid you with three thousand angels sent down [from on high]? 125. Nay, but if you are patient in adversity and conscious of Him, and the enemy should fall upon you of a sudden, your Sustainer will aid you with five thousand angels swooping down!” 126. And God ordained this [to be said by His Apostle] only as a glad tiding for you, and that your hearts should thereby be set at rest – since no succour can come from any save God, the Almighty, the Truly Wise – 127. [and] that [through you] He might destroy some of those who were bent on denying the truth, and so abase the others that they would withdraw in utter hopelessness. 128.[And] it is in no wise for thee [O Prophet] to decide whether He shall accept their repentance or chastise them – for, behold, they are but wrongdoers, 129. whereas unto God belongs all that is in the heavens and all that is on earth: He forgives whom He wills, and He chastises whom He wills; and God is much-forgiving, a dispenser of grace.

3 Responses

  1. Very briefly (it’s already past 2 am)…

    Is there something significant in the number of 3000 angels?

    It is, roughly, the number of angels that are supposed to have reinforced the Muslim army at the Battle of Uhud, just as at the Battle of Badr (see verse 8:9) 1000 angels reinforced the Muslim army. (Yusuf Ali mentions that the number at Uhud was supposed to be 3500 angels; he also stresses that the number is most likely metaphorical.)

    What about 5000 in the following verse?

    Without doing additional research at this time, I would say that Asad’s comment, that the numbers “seem to indicate the unlimited nature of God’s aid to those who are ‘patient in adversity and conscious of Him'”, sounds correct.

    Does 3000 angels represent 10 times the number of people who abandoned the Muslim forces? If so, what is 5000?

    As for the first question, I don’t think so. The angel/Muslim ratio for Badr was approximately 3:1. Why 10:1 for those who abandoned the field of battle? I would side with Asad here, at least for the time being.

    I’ll try to post more later, insha’allah, but this time of year is very busy for me, what with all the home visits during the month of Shawwal that’s part of the traditional Eid celebrations here. Even the book has been neglected.

  2. Thanks for helping clarify those numbers’ meanings. No worries about not getting to this. What’s the point of Quran Read-A-Long if you’re not doing what the Quran instructs in the meantime!? I hope that your Eid celebrations are wonderful. Two years ago I was in Cairo for Eid, and it was incredible. The revelry and mirth were tangible. It was really quite a thing to see and be a part of.

  3. God’s Judgement—The Quran explains that we (human beings) can only judge a person through their behaviour and actions—But God’s judgement is more complete because he can see into our hearts and intentions. That is why, while we have the right to judge behaviour on a legal basis if it causes harm to others or society—we do not have the capacity to judge the piety or righteousness of another so we should refrain from it–this is for God to do.

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