And struggle for the cause of Allah, a struggle deserving of Him. He has chosen you and has not placed in the religion any difficulty. The religion of your father, Abraham. Allah named you “Muslims” before and in this [revelation] that the Messenger may be a witness over you and you may be witnesses over the people. So establish prayer and give zakah and hold fast to Allah. He is your protector; and excellent is the protector, and excellent is the helper. (Quran 22:78)
This is the last verse of chapter Al-Hajj.
It is very interesting that it talks about struggle, or jihad in Arabic, and yet there is no mention of fighting, and the chapter itself doesn’t mention fighting for the cause of Allah.
Struggle with the Inner Self
Imam Ibn Al-Qayyim writes in his book, Za’ad al-Ma’ad about this verse and especially about the struggling:
“That the slave struggles with his inner self so that the heart, tongue and body completely submit to Allah.”
Thus it is understandable from the context, especially of Hajj, and from the chapter, that it is talking of struggling against our own selves to perfect it in its submission to Allah, Most High.
However, my first thought was how can we do a struggle for Allah that is truly deserving of Him? It is not humanly possible is it? And even Allah says in the same chapter earlier:
They have not appraised Allah His true appraisal. (Quran 22:74)
That is, human beings have never exalted Allah as He deserves to be exalted, never praised Him as He deserved to be praised, never worshiped Him as He deserved to be worshiped! Then, how is it possible to strive and struggle for His sake, a struggle that is truly deserving of Him?
The idea here, as Imam Ibn Al-Qayyim says is that we try our best to make our hearts submit to Allah, and our tongue and our deeds. And why is that?
Why should we even bother to struggle so hard?
Allah follows it up and gives us a reason that is as compelling as anything:
He has chosen you.
Allah has chosen you and I among the billions of people to be Muslims, and has chosen us, and it is part of His right that because of the favor He has done on us, we struggle to make sure that we truly submit.
He has honored us by making us Muslims, He has honored us by guiding us to His faith, and the least we can do is to struggle and strive to please Him, in a way that He deserves.
And when we truly do submit, and try our best and struggle for the sake of Allah, then the deen slowly becomes easy. How many of us struggled with sins four or five years ago and thought it would never be possible to stop them and today we have not sinned that sin for a year?
How many of us thought praying 5 times a day would be impossible once upon a time and today we can’t think of a day without prayers? When you strive and struggle, He will make the deen easy for you, as He says straight after mention of His choosing:
He has not placed in the religion any difficulty.
Submission of Abraham
And then He reminds us of our father, of the great Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him). Because anyone who knows how to struggle, knows it is Abraham (peace be upon him). If one wants to know about submitting to Allah, they know Prophet Abraham.
The message from Abraham’s life is simple- the love of Allah trumps all other loves- love for his wife, love for a son, love for life (interestingly all halal sources of love).
He was willing to keep his wife and son in the middle of a desert, all because Allah asked Him to. He submitted even if his heart initially struggled to do so.
Allah ordered Abraham to slaughter his own son as a sacrifice for Allah, and he was willing to obey. He loved his son dearly. He only had him at a very old age. And yet, he was ready to let it all go only for Allah. He was ready to sacrifice it all, and thus till date we still mention him in our prayers.
That is our gold standard, and what we should be aiming for. The gold standard of struggling for the sake of Allah is Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him). The gold standard for submission to Allah is Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him).
And then Allah mentions that He has honored us by calling us Muslims- those who submit to Him in willing submission and who put everything else secondary to Allah. He has honored us by the name already, because we signed up to be Muslims knowing that we are required to submit.
Submit to Him
Now, we need to honor our side of the contract by truly submitting to Him! And thus Allah reminds us that on the day of judgment the Messenger will be a witness for us or against us, depending on our deeds and on how much we have followed his legacy.
Would we want to stand on the Day of Judgment, and the lawyer basing a case against us be the most beloved of Allah, Muhammad (peace be upon him)?
If only for this, we need to struggle to set our hearts and tongues to submit to Allah. We have submitted by the tongue when we accepted to be Muslims, and we learn from the legacy of Prophet Ibrahim to submit with our heart.
Then Allah moves on to the means of submitting to Him with our bodies. Allah orders us to pray and give Zakah (can mean literally Zakah, the yearly charity or to purify ourselves), and to hold fast to Allah.
The five daily prayers is the minimum of the acts that we need to do for Allah. The obligatory giving of Zakah is the minimum we need to do for Allah that helps the people.
That is the summary of Islam- worship Allah and be helpful to people. The minimum of each is prayers and Zakah. And once that is done, we improve upon it and do other deeds.
Prayer and purifying our soul are the means to hold on to Allah in times of difficulty, temptation and weakness. We are humans and we will fail in our good deeds, commit sin and do all sorts of bad deeds. We are tempted every day. It is in those times that we use prayer and purification as our shields as we hold on to Allah. We hold on to Allah for dear life, for the life of Jannah.
Excellent is the Protector, Excellent is the Helper.
He protects us from all harm, and He helps us avoid them. Turn to Him, and success will be yours.
Struggle for Allah a struggle deserving of Him.
Big words, easy on the tongue, very difficult to internalize.
(From Discovering Islam archive.)