During the early period of the Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) revelation of the Quran, he warned the people of Makkah of the horrors that awaited them in Hell if they did not turn their lives to God.
He mentioned that there were 19 angels who were responsible for the oversight of Hell, keeping watch over those condemned to eternal punishment.
For the non-believers of Makkah, this was a laughable concept. Millions of people, they joked, would be watched over by just 19? That is hardly enough to manage a small village, much less the entirety of Hell.
In response to this joke, the following verse was revealed:
We have appointed none but angels as the keepers of the Fire, and We have not made their number but as a trial for the unbelievers so that those who have been endowed with the Book will be convinced and the believers’ faith will increase, and neither those who have been endowed with the Book nor the believers will fall into any doubt. As for those in whose hearts there is a sickness as well as the unbelievers, they will say ‘What did Allah aim at by this strange parable?’ Thus does Allah let whomsoever He pleases go astray, and directs whomsoever He pleases to the Right Way. And none knows the soldiers of your Lord but He, that people may take heed. (74:31)
Meanings of Soldiers
The word here used for soldiers (junud, or the singular jund), in modern Arabic is used to denote the obvious, soldiers who fight in an army against an enemy.
In classical Arabic, as we have come to know together, this term is much deeper. In fact, the word reflects something closer to the idea of a “host,” or someone who both welcomes the authenticity of and provides support to another.
In an army, soldiers or “hosts” are given power and authority by the government to use violence, and support those on their side. This meaning can be seen elsewhere in the Quran, for example in chapter 2, the Quran states:
And when Saul went forth with the soldiers,” or a bit later in the same verse, “There is no power for us today against Goliath and his soldiers.” (2:249)
For the deeper meaning of “hosts,” we can look to chapter 28 where the Quran states:
And the family of Pharaoh picked him up [out of the river] so that he would become to them an enemy and a [cause of] grief. Indeed, Pharaoh and Haman and their soldiers were deliberate sinners. (28:8)
Does the word ‘soldiers – junud’ here mean only soldiers in an army?
Not at all, and it refers to all those who supported and stood with Pharaoh as non-believers against the message of Moses.
How to Be Better Hosts
How, therefore, can we as Muslims learn to be better “hosts” to the support of God and Islam?
We can take our first queue from the initial verse about the keepers of Hell. The Quran says in the verse we mentioned above:
We have not made their number but as a trial for the unbelievers so that those who have been endowed with the Book will be convinced and the believers’ faith will increase, and neither those who have been endowed with the Book nor the believers will fall into any doubt.
Learn to Listen
The first step, therefore, is to listen. Understanding the Quran, thinking about its many meanings, and developing a sense of the true depth of our faith is designed to help fill your heart with conviction.
You become a “host” or “supporter” of God’s authority, able to withstand the many doubts that we all will no doubt face during our lives.
When we reach these moments of trial, instead of falling into doubt, our steadfastness in faith will help us to see them for what they truly are: a test to make us better Muslims.
Who Do You Support?
The second step is a warning, to be conscious of who you support. Being a “host” is a voluntary act, a role that you willingly step into. Such is the case with Islam or any other faith for that matter.
Therefore, the responsibility is upon us to figure out which side we stand on. If we fall into error, the Quran tells us clearly that the fault will be our own.
In Chapter 5, on the Day of Judgement God will ask:
O Jesus, Son of Mary, did you say to the people, ‘Take me and my mother as deities besides Allah?’ He will say, ‘Exalted are You! It was not for me to say that to which I have no right. If I had said it, You would have known it. You know what is within myself, and I do not know what is within Yourself. Indeed, it is You who is Knower of the unseen.’ (5:116)
Therefore, we cannot point to others and say, “I was just following them.” That is not a good soldier, much less a good host.
We must therefore be conscious of our faith and actions, not blindly following the understanding of others, but examining our faith on its merits and reaching the conclusion that we are the most comfortable with.
Being a Good Example
Finally, being a good host means providing support to others in defense of our faith and beliefs. The most important of these is to be a good, honest, and hardworking person, fulfilling our religious obligations.
Your outward projection of Islam through your daily life is the best form of dawah to others and shows a good example. Then, expressing your faith to others, whether that be through performing charitable acts or speaking to your friends and family about matters of faith.
As you work on becoming a better “host,” remember that standing on the side of God is not always the easiest thing to do, but it always leads to the best conclusion and a better reward.