In the Qur’ān, Allah ﷻ promises victory to the believers. He ﷻ also mentions the causes and circumstances which prevent victory and bring defeat. As believers, we must learn these reasons so as to not fall victim to them and suffer the indignities we see today.

1. Sins

Allah ﷻ says,

وَلَقَدْ صَدَقَكُمُ اللّٰهُ وَعْدَهُٓ إِذْ تَحُسُّوْنَهُم بِإِذْنِهِ ۖ حَتّىٰٰٓ إِذَا فَشِلْتُمْ وَتَنَازَعْتُمْ فِي الْأَمْرِ وَعَصَيْتُمْ مِّنْ بَعْدِ مَا أَرَاكُمْ مَّا تُحِبُّوْنَ ۚ مِنْكُمْ مَّنْ يُّرِيْدُ الدُّنْيَا وَمِنْكُمْ مَّنْ يُرِيْدُ الْآخِرَةَ ۚ ثُمَّ صَرَفَكُمْ عَنْهُمْ لِيَبْتَلِيَكُمْ ۖ وَلَقَدْ عَفَا عَنكُمْ ۗ وَاللّٰهُ ذُوْ فَضْلٍ عَلَى الْمُؤْمِنِيْنَ

“Indeed, Allah fulfilled His promise to you when you swept them away by His permission, then your courage weakened and you disputed about the command and disobeyed, after He had shown you what you liked. Some of you were after worldly gain while others desired a heavenly reward. He denied you victory over them as a test, yet He has pardoned you. And Allah is Gracious to the believers” (3:152).

This āyah refers to the Battle of Uḥud, in which an initial victory turned into defeat when archers disobeyed the Prophet ﷺ and left their posts. Allah mentions the reasons for this defeat: disobedience to the Messenger ﷺ and the Commander of the army, disputing amongst each other, being distracted by the spoils of war, and focusing on the world instead of the hereafter.

Even though 300 hypocrites withdrew before the battle commenced, this did not affect the outcome of the battle. However, the disobedience of a small group of Companions, who were sincere Muslims, changed the course of the entire battle. Their actions did not only harm themselves, but harmed the entire Muslim community. Seventy great Companions lost their lives, including the Leader of the Martyrs, the beloved uncle of the Prophet ﷺ: Ḥamzah b. ʿAbd al-Muṭṭalib (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhu). Many more were injured, including the Prophet ﷺ himself.

The Muslims paid a heavy price because of just one act of disobedience. This despite the Messenger of Allah ﷺ being in their midst. Contrast this with the sins of the Ummah today. How many of our own personal sins are resulting in the destruction and oppression of Muslim around the world?

Allah (ʿazza wa jall) says,

إِنَّ اللّٰهَ لَا يُغَيِّرُ مَا بِقَوْمٍ حَتَّىٰ يُغَيِّرُوْا مَا بِأَنفُسِهِمْ

“Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves…” (13:11).

Just as collective obedience leads to victory, collective disobedience leads to Allah removing the peace and prosperity of a nation.

ʿAbdullah b. ʿUmar (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhumā) said: The Messenger of Allah ﷺ came out to us and said, “O Muhājīrīn! There are five things you will be tested with; and I seek Allah’s protection that you live to see them: (1) Immorality will not become so widespread in a nation to such an extent that they commit it openly, except that plague and diseases which were unknown to their ancestors will spread among them; (2) They will not cheat in weight and measure except that they will be stricken with famine, high costs of living and the tyranny of the rulers; (3) They will not withhold zakāh on their wealth except that they will be prevented rain from the sky; and were it not for animals, no rain would fall on them. (4) They will not violate their covenant with Allah and His Messenger, except that Allah will allow their enemies to overcome them and take some of what they possess; (5) Their leaders will not rule according to the Book of Allah, and they will not choose the good of what Allah has sent down, except that Allah will cause them to fight amongst themselves” (Ibn Mājah).

Sins and the disobedience of Allah and His Messenger ﷺ are the greatest victory-blockers. Before the Battle of Qadisiyyah, ʿUmar b. al-Khaṭṭāb (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhu) advised Saʿd b. Abī Waqqāṣ and his army, “Fear your sins more than you fear the enemy as your sins are more dangerous to you than your enemy. We Muslims are only victorious over our enemy because their sins outnumber ours, not for any other reason. If our sins were equal to those of our enemy, then they would defeat us due to their superior numbers and resources.”

2. Infighting

A major barrier to victory is infighting and disunity. Allah ﷻ says,

يـٰٓأَيُّهَا الَّذِيْنَ اٰمَنُوْٓا إِذَا لَقِيْتُمْ فِئَةً فَاثْبُتُوْا وَاذْكُرُوا اللّٰهَ كَثِيْرًا لَّعَلَّكُمْ تُفْلِحُوْنَ . وَأَطِيْعُوا اللّٰهَ وَرَسُوْلَهُ وَلَا تَنَازَعُوْا فَتَفْشَلُوْا وَتَذْهَبَ رِيْحُكُمْ ۖ وَاصْبِرُوا ۚ إِنَّ اللّٰهَ مَعَ الصَّابِرِيْنَ

“Believers! When you encounter a group (in battle), stand firm and remember Allah abundantly, so you may triumph. Obey Allah and His Messenger and do not quarrel with one another, lest you lose heart and your moral courage. And persevere, for surely Allah is with those who persevere” (8:45-46).

Allah ﷻ says,

وَالَّذِيْنَ كَفَرُوْا بَعْضُهُمْ أَوْلِيَآءُ بَعْضٍ ۚ إِلَّا تَفْعَلُوْهُ تَكُنْ فِتْنَةٌ فِي الْأَرْضِ وَفَسَادٌ كَبِيْرٌ

“As for the disbelievers, they are guardians of one another. And if you do not do the same, there will be great oppression and corruption in the land” (8:73).

This āyah makes it clear that if the believers do not help and support each other, the result will be terrible corruption and bloodshed on the earth.

History has repeatedly shown that fragmentation and disunity lead to weakness and defeat. External threats to the Ummah can always be overcome with the help of Allah. However, internal conflicts cause Muslims to undermine themselves and implode, inevitably culminating in external defeat and failure.

3. Diseases of the Heart

After the victory of the Battle of Badr, Allah ﷻ reminded the believers that victory came directly from Allah, not from themselves. It was He who enveloped them with sleep when they most needed it, sent down gentle rain and reinforcements from among the angels, made them stand firmly, and caused the disbelievers to lose their morale. Thus, the believers should not feel any pride and they should not attribute victory to themselves. Allah ﷻ says,

فَلَمْ تَقْتُلُوهُمْ وَلَٰكِنَّ اللّٰهَ قَتَلَهُمْ ۚ وَمَا رَمَيْتَ إِذْ رَمَيْتَ وَلَٰكِنَّ اللّٰهَ رَمَىٰ ۚ وَلِيُبْلِيَ الْمُؤْمِنِيْنَ مِنْهُ بَلَآءً حَسَنًا ۚ إِنَّ اللّٰهَ سَمِيْعٌ عَلِيْمٌ

“It was not you who killed them, but it was Allah who did so. Nor was it you (O Prophet) who threw (a handful of sand at the disbelievers), but it was Allah who did so, rendering the believers a great favour. Indeed Allah is All-Hearing, All-Knowing” (8:17).

The believers should praise and thank Allah Alone, for He favoured them with victory.

Allah ﷻ also warned them from being like those disbelievers who came out full of arrogance and pride. Allah ﷻ says,

وَلَا تَكُوْنُوا كَالَّذِيْنَ خَرَجُوْا مِنْ دِيَارِهِمْ بَطَرًا وَّرِئَآءَ النَّاسِ وَيَصُدُّوْنَ عَنْ سَبِيْلِ اللّٰهِ ۚ وَاللّٰهُ بِمَا يَعْمَلُوْنَ مُحِيْطٌ

“Do not be like those who left their homes full of arrogance, showing off to people, and preventing others from Allah’s Path. And Allah is All-Encompassing of what they do” (8:47).

In another āyah, Allah reminds the believers,

لَقَدْ نَصَرَكُمُ اللّٰهُ فِيْ مَوَاطِنَ كَثِيْرَةٍ ۙ وَّيَوْمَ حُنَيْنٍ ۙ إِذْ أَعْجَبَتْكُمْ كَثْرَتُكُمْ فَلَمْ تُغْنِ عَنْكُمْ شَيْئًا وَّضَاقَتْ عَلَيْكُمُ الْأَرْضُ بِمَا رَحُبَتْ ثُمَّ وَلَّيْتُمْ مُّدْبِرِيْنَ

“Indeed Allah has given you victory on many battlefields, and on the Day of Ḥunayn when you took pride in your great numbers, but they proved of no advantage to you. The earth, despite its vastness, seemed to close in on you, then you turned back in retreat” (9:25).

Before the Battle of Ḥunayn commenced, the Muslims felt supremely confident and proud because of their large numbers. However, it did not benefit them: thousands of the Companions fled from the battle-field, resulting in utter chaos and confusion.

The road to the downfall of many nations and armies throughout history has been paved with self-deceit and the false impression of power and invulnerability. Victory does not come from angels or from numbers or from weapons. Victory comes from Allah, Alone.

Many of the Ummah’s predicaments today – including the lack of unity – are caused by the diseases of the hearts e.g. pride, showing off, self-admiration, envy, cowardice, stinginess, greed, and selfishness. The root of most of the world’s problems is diseased hearts. Hearts which do not know Allah, hearts which are full of arrogance, greed and selfishness. Hearts which have become corrupted by sins and no longer taste the sweetness of īmān. Hearts torn apart by pride, envy and hatred, resulting in a fractured Ummah.

The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, “The goodness of the earlier generations of this Ummah is due to their zuhd (abstinence) and yaqīn (conviction); and the latter generation of this Ummah will be ruined because of shuḥḥ (stinginess and greed) and false hopes” (Bayhaqī).

4. Love of the World

Allah ﷻ says,

وَلَقَدْ صَدَقَكُمُ اللّٰهُ وَعْدَهُٓ إِذْ تَحُسُّوْنَهُم بِإِذْنِهِ ۖ حَتّىٰٰٓ إِذَا فَشِلْتُمْ وَتَنَازَعْتُمْ فِي الْأَمْرِ وَعَصَيْتُمْ مِّنْ بَعْدِ مَا أَرَاكُمْ مَّا تُحِبُّوْنَ ۚ مِنْكُمْ مَّنْ يُّرِيْدُ الدُّنْيَا وَمِنْكُمْ مَّنْ يُرِيْدُ الْآخِرَةَ ۚ ثُمَّ صَرَفَكُمْ عَنْهُمْ لِيَبْتَلِيَكُمْ ۖ وَلَقَدْ عَفَا عَنكُمْ ۗ وَاللّٰهُ ذُوْ فَضْلٍ عَلَى الْمُؤْمِنِيْنَ

“Indeed, Allah fulfilled His promise to you when you swept them away by His permission, then your courage weakened and you disputed about the command and disobeyed, after He had shown you what you liked. Some of you were after worldly gain while others desired a heavenly reward. He denied you victory over them as a test, yet He has pardoned you. And Allah is Gracious to the believers” (3:152).

In the Battle of Uḥud, the archers left their posts since they were worried that they may miss out on the spoils of war. This āyah is a reminder that the desire for worldly gain prevents victory.

One of the key blockers of victory and the root cause of the ummah’s humiliation is the love of this world (one of the diseases of the heart). The Prophet ﷺ said, “The nations will soon summon one another to attack you just as diners invite one another to share their dish.” Someone asked, “Will it be due to our small number at the time?” He ﷺ replied, “No, there will be many of you at the time, but you will be like the froth and scum of a flood. Allah will remove from your enemies’ hearts their fear of you, and He will cast wahn into your hearts.

Someone asked, “O Messenger of Allah, what is wahn?” He ﷺ replied, “Love of the world and a dislike of death” (Abū Dāwūd).

“The love of the world is the root of every shortcoming and the source of all corruption.” – Imām al-Ghazālī (raḥimahullah)

5. Despair

It’s difficult to look at the tragedies around the Ummah and not feel depressed and hopeless. However, Allah ﷻ reminds us,

وَلَا تَهِنُوْا وَلَا تَحْزَنُوْا وَأَنْتُمُ الْأَعْلَوْنَ إِنْ كُنْتُمْ مُّؤْمِنِيْنَ

Do not lose heart, and do not grieve, for you will have the upper hand, if you are (true) believers” (3:139).

This āyah was revealed after the Battle of Uḥud, which was a very painful time for the Muslims. Over seventy of the Companions were slain in battle. The Prophet’s beloved uncle Ḥamzah was killed and then mutilated. He ﷺ himself was wounded. Thus, Allah revealed this āyah after the battle to console the Companions, instructing them to not lose hope and always be certain of Allah’s help, as long as they remain true to their īmān.

This is a timeless lesson and reminder for the Ummah: to never lose hope and become despondent. No matter how many enemies unite against the ummah, no matter how many precious souls are martyred, no matter how many homes, masjids and hospitals are destroyed — the believers should always think good of Allah and have unwavering yaqīn that Allah will most certainly help those who help His dīn. Despite all the odds, everyone in the Ummah must work to bring justice and goodness to this world.

The believers may see victory in their lifetime or may not. However, they should never give up. Instead, they should try their utmost to pave the way for future generations. They must plant trees knowing that they’ll never sit under their shade.

6. Weakness and Cowardice

Allah ﷻ says,

وَكَأَيِّنْ مِّنْ نَّبِيٍّ قَاتَلَ مَعَهُ رِبِّيُّوْنَ كَثِيْرٌ فَمَا وَهَنُوْا لِمَآ أَصَابَهُمْ فِيْ سَبِيْلِ اللّٰهِ وَمَا ضَعُفُوْا وَمَا اسْتَكَانُوْا ۗ وَاللّٰهُ يُحِبُّ الصَّابِرِيْنَ

“Many Prophets have fought, with many godly men alongside them. They never lost heart on account of what they suffered in the cause of Allah, nor did they weaken or give in! Allah loves those who persevere” (3:146).

In this āyah, the Prophets and the ribbiyyūn (men of devout worship and knowledge) are described as being people who were severely tested in His cause, yet they were not overcome by physical, mental or spiritual weakness. They remained firm and steadfast. At the same time, they were not impressed by their own courage and valour. In the next āyah, Allah mentions them pleading with Him for forgiveness, strength and victory.

Cowardice is a deadly disease of the heart, which the Prophet ﷺ sought refuge from every day. The believer is brave: he is certain that his sustenance and his death are both from Allah. He fears none but Allah. When he sees something powerful, he remembers that Allah is al-Qawiyy: The Most Powerful.

A strong Ummah cannot be mentally or physically weak. It must not capitulate to mere mortals who seek to drag them to the Hell-fire. It must emancipate itself from the shackles of colonialism, materialism and hedonism. And it must realise how fortunate it is to have been granted divine guidance and the honour of being Allah’s vicegerents on this earth.

7. Internal Defeat

In the previous point, Allah ﷻ mentioned the Prophets and those who remained steadfast with Him. After describing their reward in the subsequent āyah, Allah then continues to say,

. يـٰٓأَيُّهَا الَّذِيْنَ اٰمَنُوْٓا إِن تُطِيعُوا الَّذِيْنَ كَفَرُوْا يَرُدُّوْكُمْ عَلَىٰٓ أَعْقَابِكُمْ فَتَنقَلِبُوْا خَاسِرِيْنَ . بَلِ اللّٰهُ مَوْلَاكُمْ ۖ وَهُوَ خَيْرُ النَّاصِرِيْنَ

“O believers! If you obey the disbelievers, they will drag you back to disbelief—and you will become losers. No indeed! It is Allah who is your Protector: He is the best Helper” (3:150).

In this āyah, Allah is reminding the believers to stay firm on their īmān, and to not fall into the trap of the disbelievers and the hypocrites. They are being warned from yielding to them and seeking to please them by obeying them. Instead of taking the disbelievers as their masters, they should take Allah as their Master, as He is the One who can truly help them. Following the disbelievers will lead to eternal loss; following the dīn of Allah will result in true success, in this world and the hereafter.

Today, the Ummah has become accustomed to living under the jackboot of Islam’s enemies who perpetrate relentless tyranny, unchecked crimes and rampant corruption upon it.

And yet still, despite all this physical subjugation, it is another enemy which has today paralysed us. One which has disorientated our minds, killed our spirits, and left us enamoured with our enemies.

It is our mental and cultural defeat. The disbelievers may not occupy our lands anymore, but their ways occupy our minds and hearts — and this remains our greatest setback.

Enticing ‘progressive’ ideas, debased sensual entertainment and far-reaching media have blurred our faculties. With time, this has created an inferiority complex towards our dīn and towards our native languages, cultures, and dress. A planned and systemic dissemination of their ideas has eroded our core identity and crushed centuries-long values of morality, family and community.

We foolishly imitate the disbelievers’ ways, no matter how absurd, blindly accepting their evil materialism, hedonism and godlessness. Instead of deriving strength and guidance from our revelation and heritage, we seek it from their degenerate celebrities: manicured human devils who steal the minds and innocence of our youth.

Resisting the occupation of one’s land is easier when compared to dajjalic enslavement of our minds. This enslavement cannot be seen, and for many, not even believed. How do you convince the zoo animal, who is well-fed and looked after, that it is still imprisoned?

Only one religion clears the fog.

Islam Offers Another Way

As believers, it is our duty to live for Allah, and establish His dīn on His earth. Rather than blindly following what popular culture feeds us, we should reflect on the damage that materialism, hedonism and liberalism have wreaked on the psychological, social, economic and spiritual states of humanity. We should ask ourselves what values and norms we are imbibing as we zombie scroll through our social media feeds and TV channels.

We should feel and inspire in ourselves and in our youth a sense of honour (ʿizzah) for the incredible gift of Islam. We should feel privileged at being given īmān, and scared that it could be taken away from us at any time. We should strive hard to serve the dīn of Allah, and remain steadfast on whatever hurdles come in our way.

“We were indeed the most disgraced of all people. Allah honoured and elevated us through Islam. If we seek honour from anything besides that with which Allah honoured us, Allah will disgrace us.” -ʿUmar b. al-Khaṭṭāb (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhu)

May Allah al-ʿAzīz (The Exalted in Might) grant honour and victory to the Ummah of Muḥammad ﷺ. May Allah al-Mawlā (The Protective Ally) protect us from all harm and make us attach our hearts to Him Alone.

What Brings Victory