In these verses, Muslims have been taught and prompted to make a particular prayer which, in a subtle way, gives an indication that they are going to overpower disbelievers. This has its proof in the background in which these verses were revealed. When the Holy Prophet ﷺ promised that Byzantine and Persia will be taken, the hypocrites and the Jews laughed at the idea. Thereupon, this verse was revealedI.
1. Ruh al-Ma' ani from al-Wahidi, from Ibn ` Abbas and Anas ؓ
The background of Revelation:
An episode from the Battle of Khandaq
The recurring defeat of the disbelievers of Makkah at Badr and Uhud and their general failure to register any gains in their hostility against Muslims coupled with the growing strength of Muslims and the rise of Islam had made them very nervous, almost reckless. The whole thing ended up in a conspiracy. The disbelievers of Arabia, the Jews and the Christians all joined in a united front against Muslims and resolved to attack Madinah and fight a conclusive battle. This they did, determined to eradicate Islam and Muslims from the face of the earth. The battle is called 'al-Ahzab' in the Qur'an, and 'Khandaq خندق in history, because the Holy Prophet ﷺ had decided in consultation with his Companions ؓ that a khandaq خندق or trench be dug around parts of Madinah to block the unhindered attack of the enemy during this battle.
According to narrations in al-Baihaqi, Abu Nu'aim and Ibn Khuzaimah, when the task of digging the trench was entrusted to the Islamic army, the plan was to allot the digging of a forty hand-span long trench to a group of ten men each. This trench was several miles long and fairly deep and wide, so that the enemy would find it impossible to cross over. Then, the digging had to be completed in the shortest possible time which made the noble Companions ؓ put in whatever time and energy they had in this effort, so much so that they found it difficult to leave the job and take time for even the most pressing of their needs. They were working non-stop on hungry stomachs. Surely, a modern army engineering service with its latest equipment would have not found this kind of job any easier to handle. Here, it was the power of faith which made the completion of this difficult assignment possible.
The Holy Prophet ﷺ was taking part in this digging operation as an individual like everybody else. By chance, the diggers came upon a huge rock in a certain part of the trench. Those who were assigned to dig that part of the trench tried their best to break it apart but they became helpless and gave up. They asked Sayyidna Salman al-Farisi to go to the Holy Prophet ﷺ ، tell him about the problem and seek his instructions in this connection. The Holy Prophet ﷺ immediately came at the spot, took the pick-axe in his blessed hands and struck at the rock. The rock was shat-tered into pieces and from it rose a streak of light which illuminated the area far and wide. The Holy Prophet ﷺ said: In this light, I see the palaces and buildings of Hirah in the country of Persia. He struck again and a second beam of light rose. He said: 'In this light, I was shown the red palaces and buildings of the Byzantinians.' When he struck the third time and the flame beamed its light around, he said: 'In this I was shown the great palaces of San'a in Yemen.' Then, he said: 'I share the good news given by Jibra'il. (علیہ السلام) with you that my community of Muslims will prevail over all these countries.'
When the hypocrites of Madinah heard about it, they found an occasion to ridicule Muslims - 'just look at these people, here they are all scared of the enemy, digging trenches without eating and resting, not knowing for sure if their own lives will be safe, yet they are dreaming of running over Persia, Byzantine and Yemen!' It was in answer to a people so unfair and unjust that Allah Almighty revealed the verse:
قُلِ اللَّـهُمَّ مَالِكَ الْمُلْكِ تُؤْتِي الْمُلْكَ مَن تَشَاءُ وَتَنزِعُ الْمُلْكَ مِمَّن تَشَاءُ وَتُعِزُّ مَن تَشَاءُ وَتُذِلُّ مَن تَشَاءُ ۖ بِيَدِكَ الْخَيْرُ ۖ إِنَّكَ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ ﴿26﴾
Say: "0 Allah, 0 Lord of the Kingdom, You give kingdom to whom You will, and take kingdom away from whom You will; and You bestow honour on whom You will, and bring disgrace to whom You will. In Your hand lies the good. You are surely powerful over everything." (3 : 26)
Appearing in the form of a prayer, this verse so eloquently brings into focus the most perfect power of Allah as it manifests itself in the rise and fall of nations and in the revolutions that rock countries. At the same time it gives a hint that the prophecy made by the Holy Prophet ﷺ will come to pass and Persia and Byzantine will .fall to Muslims. Here, enemies of Islam have been warned that they have not learnt their lesson from the rise and fall of past wielders of power for they judge events and personalities from the material angle while the truth is that all powers and governments of the world are in the hands of the most pristine power of Allah, the One in whose hands lies all honour and disgrace. There is no doubt that He is capable of making the poor and the meek sit on thrones and wrest power from kings and monarchs. Why then, should it be difficult for him to choose these ragged believers digging trenches to rule over Persia, Syria, Iraq and Yemen?
Things usually considered bad, may ultimately prove not to be that bad:
Towards the end of the verse, the expression بِيَدِكَ الْخَيْرُ translated as ` in Your hand lies the good' needs some explanation. It will be noticed that in the earlier part of the verse both giving and taking of power and bestowing of honour and bringing of disgrace were mentioned side by side. It would have seemed in keeping with the occasion if the word, شر ‘sharr’ (evil) would have been coupled with 'khair' (good). But, the text elects to use the word, 'khair' (good) alone and thereby points out to something real and significant in human affairs. The point worth noting is that a person or a people may regard something as unwelcome, and it may even be so for that particular person or people, but looked at from the wider angle of the whole community of nations, it may not be really evil. The Arab poet, Mutanabbi has put it very succinctly when he said:
مصایب قوم عند قوم فواید
The calamities of one group are the gains of another.
In short, the evil of things we regard as evil is partial. Looked at from its relationship to the Creator of the Universe and the Lord of all there is, and viewed in the perspective of the totality of the world of our experience, nothing is really evil or bad as such. So given the wis-dom, the power and the consideration of the created universe as a whole, everything is good, 'khair' as the verse sees sufficient to say.