Allah’s Victories Are Always Complete, Unlike Ours

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We may sometimes wonder why Allah mentions in the Quran about how He completely destroyed whole nations/communities of deniers, not leaving a single person or trace. People erroneously project human qualities on Allah the Exalted, saying He is “showing off” how wrathful or vindictive or destructively powerful He is, thus missing the point. He is telling us about Himself for us to know the difference between us and Him as a reassurance (for those who trust in Him) and a warning (for those who deny Him) about this: how all His actions are, by His categorical nature as Almighty, always complete. Unlike us, whose actions are never complete, but always deficient, missing something. Often something important. Except when we are supported by Allah and a specific victory, promise, or fulfillment/completion is also ordained by Allah. Even as a response to a human du’a (supplication/prayer). The Most High never “shows off” in the human sense. Because what He completes is always a balance of might and mercy (and mercy is also tied to Justice). 

Allah’s Conquest is Always for Justice, the Best Motive

The word “conquest” is defined as a victory that completely destroys the enemy: “the subjugation and assumption of control of a place or people by use of military force.” But it doesn’t have to be “military force” — it is sufficient to be by “force.” We don’t usually associate this with Justice these days but with gaining an advantage. The Arabic, however, does not convey such an understanding because fat’h — used to refer to conquest — originated from the root meaning “opening,” which is not associated with “subjugation” but in the case of a conquest means “opening” a sort of vacuum or void where there was resistance by the surrender of the opposing side, creating an “opening” for the victor to “enter” and thus claim the territory or rule over the people. There is here the possibility — also existing in English and most often used as a pretext to initiating military action and to motivate soldiers — that there are times when a decisive victory is essential for justice to prevail. And Allah uses the expression jund Allah or “soldiers of Allah” for His angels, certainly (among other possible reasons) because they actively participate at Allah’s command in destroying those He commands to be destroyed, making such actions a sort of “celestial military” action. 

There are many examples of this, never undertaken until a particularly corrupt society commits the most egregious crimes. But there are elements of perfection to them:

Never have We destroyed a community that did not have a set time; (Al-Hijr 15:4)

no community can bring its time forward, nor delay it. (Al-Hijr 15:5)

Here there is the perfection of timing, which is very much something enumerated or measured by numbers of which we have no knowledge but the Omniscient alone knows. 

Your Lord is the Most Forgiving, and full of mercy: if He took them to task for the wrongs they have done, He would hasten their punishment on. They have an appointed time from which they will have no escape, (Al-Kahf 18:58)

[just like] the former communities We destroyed for doing wrong: We set an appointed time for their destruction. (Al-Kahf 18:59)

Notice the relationship here between the “appointed time” and both mercy and justice, that such destruction was never done except when people “were doing wrong,” a word which in 18:59 is thulimu which means literally “to oppress others,” so the word for “wrong” is not a “personal vendetta” for Allah’s interest as a “jealous” God but rather utterly and completely in the interest of justice. This includes correcting injustice. 

Do they not realize how many generations We destroyed before them? We established them in the earth more firmly than you, sent down abundant rain on them from the sky and made running rivers flow at their feet, yet We destroyed them for their misdeeds and raised other generations after them. (Al-An’am 6:6)

Here we are told of “generations” not just “communities” destroyed for their “sins” or thunub (translated here “misdeeds” which is a little too weak) which could be both immorality and oppression but is a more inclusive word. It’s a general word for violations in behavior. Because the word “generations” is inclusive of a wider range of “misdeeds” the wider-ranging word is used. 

Notice that Allah points out first his mercies to such people using references to water which is both symbolic of life and literally the essential source for life and its sustenance without which there could be no life. This shows us the Law of Reciprocity in action; destructive behavior begets destructive action. It is part of Allah’s Divine balance. Also notice that He raised other generations after them, thus giving humanity another opportunity to do better — out of His mercy. Always a complete balance between mercy and Authority that humans do not have. His conquests are not to subjugate humanity (who are by definition subject to Him in any case) but to help them do better

Say, ‘Think: if the punishment of God should come to you, by surprise or openly, would anyone but the evildoers be destroyed?’ (Al-An’am 6:47)

Although destruction can come to both the just and the unjust, there is always a warning, as with Lut and the believers with him, and in all cases, the destruction that occurs in this life is both inevitable (death being the ultimate destruction) and temporary, hence in the Hereafter only evildoers will be destroyed

وَٱتَّقُواْ فِتۡنَةً لَّا تُصِيبَنَّ ٱلَّذِينَ ظَلَمُواْ مِنكُمۡ خَآصَّةًۖ وَٱعۡلَمُوٓاْ أَنَّ ٱللَّهَ شَدِيدُ ٱلۡعِقَابِ

Beware of discord (fitna also means “test”) that harms not only the wrongdoers among you: know that God is severe in His punishment. (Al-Anfal 8:25)

The words fitna (translated “discord” or “test/temptation”) and khaasa (“exclusively” or “only”) are in bold above. This is a warning for the believers — because they too have a responsibility to tell the oppressors to stop their oppression. It’s not simply enough to be good in one’s private sphere but we are also called upon to advise others. This is because Allah’s plan and message is to raise up humanity to their highest purpose as a whole, not just a few individuals.  And this includes creating just human societies, something most people ardently desire and believe in as a most valuable goal. 

We fulfilled Our promise to them in the end: We saved them and those We wished to save, and We destroyed those who exceeded all bounds. (Al-Anbiya 21:9)

When Allah Conquers, No Resistance is Left

This is actually because not only are his victories fully justified, but His decisive ordained and timed victories leave not one of the violators behind. 

  • “Ad was destroyed by a furious wind (Al-Haqqah 69:6)
  • “that God let loose against them for seven consecutive nights, eight consecutive days, so that you could have seen its people lying dead like hollow palm-trunks. (Al-Haqqah 69:7)
  • Can you see any trace of them now?” (Al-Haqqah 69:8)

This is very similar to other descriptions:

How many generations We have destroyed before them! Do you perceive a single one of them now, or hear as much as a whisper? (Maryam 19:98)

And from this short well-known sura, “The Elephant:”

  • “Do you [Prophet] not see how your Lord dealt with the army of the elephant? (Al-Fil 105:1)
  • Did He not utterly confound their plans? (Al-Fil 105:2)
  • “He made them [like] devoured husks.” (Al-Fil 105:5)

Here too their destruction is likened to some remnants of plant material eaten or hollowed-out, as if they had never existed. This is a complete and utter destruction. When Allah — after giving people all they need, even giving them all their hearts asked for as they denied Him, and sending them messengers, and time to hear and respond to the message, advising them to spend on the needy and not to oppress others — after all this, they continue on a path of arrogance and aggression, denying Allah’s giving, Allah the Exalted decrees a time for the Law of Reciprocity to take effect, in this case complete elimination of the violators. 

Only the Almighty can bring about such a complete conquest. This shows us the difference between humanity and our Creator the Almighty All-Merciful. No human army or military effort ever totally succeeded in conquering the enemy — except with Allah’s will and decree. Even prophet Mohammad and his followers were helped by thousands of angels they could not see, ordered to do so by Allah’s command. This is a sign that even the best people cannot on their own effect a victory on the scale that the Almighty does. When people do conquer others they invariably, either by oppressing others or through complacency and self-indulgence, undermine their own victories.

Because even the best people, the prophets, do not succeed to do what they are asked by Allah to do without fail, but make mistakes as they are human. But such people show their good intentions by returning to Allah, repenting. For example, prophet Suleiman (Solomon pbuh) loved his horses so much he forgot to remember Allah; but he admitted his sin and worked to correct himself, repenting and returning to Allah. Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) himself turned away from a blind man who was coming with sincerity to him, and Allah admonished the prophet in Surat ‘Abasa (80). These examples show us not to despair in that case or hate ourselves or blame others, but accept responsibility, repent, ask forgiveness from Allah, and return to Him. He asks us to be among

those who remember God and implore forgiveness for their sins if they do something shameful or wrong themselves- who forgives sins but God?- and who never knowingly persist in doing wrong. (Aal-e-Imran 3:135)

And we can also reflect on the many Quranic examples in this world — to better prepare for the next. Meanwhile, the Law of Reciprocity is still in effect. Are those in power today not also oppressing the rest of us by their extravagance, polluting the planet and poisoning resources? By making us subject to their control over our food and our dwelling places, so many now have no homes and homelessness is now a worldwide condition for millions, while banks “own” all the houses and they themselves are controlled by other hidden puppetmasters who use the banks to further disempower and diminish the rest of us. And this is only one among the myriad “systemic” (affecting entire societies) injustices in the world today. Slavery is certainly systemic injustice, and is often called “human trafficking” because the “work” people are enslaved into against their will often involves sexual exploitation and abuse/cruelty and nothing but that. But there is also enslavement calling itself “employment,” including in “Muslim” countries, where people are lured by promises of good wages, only to have their passports confiscated and having to work without compensation or freedom — the definition of enslavement — possibly never seeing their families again and often subject to sexual abuse (using a false interpretation of the Quran, adding religious violation to their hideous violations of God-given human basic needs) and beatings. The Quran urges us to stand up to these violators, to become guardians of justice, and the Almighty indeed will be with us! 

Do they not draw a lesson from the many generations We destroyed before them, through whose dwelling places they now walk? There truly are signs in this for anyone with understanding! (Ta Ha 20:128)

Do such violators not know that Allah’s victories are always complete, and what they do will hit them with a punishment that is true torment — plus the unbearable regret and remorse which is too late and too insincere to help alleviate? And many of these hear the Quran and are very familiar with it, yet they continue to perpetrate misery and horror for others.

The record of their deeds will be laid open and you will see the guilty, dismayed at what they contain, saying, ‘Woe to us! What a record this is! It does not leave any deed, small or large, unaccounted for!’ They will find everything they ever did laid in front of them: your Lord will not be unjust to anyone. (Al-Kahf 18:49)

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