Background of the revelation
Tirmidhi has recorded, on the authority of Sayyidna ` Abdullah Ibn Salam (رض) ، that a group of Companions discussed among themselves that if we come to know which is the dearest of actions in the sight of Allah, we shall act upon it. Hakim reported this Tradition and graded its chain as sahib’. Baghawi in his citation added the following words: “If we come to know which is the dearest of actions in the sight of Allah, we shall dedicate our lives and wealth to it.” [ Mazhari ].
Ibn Kathir, with reference to Musnad of Ahmad, reports that some of the Companions gathered and wanted someone to go to Allah’s Messenger (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) and ask him about the action that is dearest to Allah, but no one dared to do so. Whilst this discussion was going on, the Holy Messenger (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) sent a man to call each one of them by name. When they all arrived, the Holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) recited the entire Surah As-Saff which had been revealed just then.
This Surah shows that the ‘dearest action’ they were looking for was jihad in the cause of Allah’ and their statement that ‘if we come to know about it, we shall dedicate our lives in acting upon it’ was a sort of claim of having ability to do it. At this, they are admonished that it is not proper for any believer to make such a claim, because no one can for sure know whether he will be able to implement his intentions when the time arrives. It is not in his power that all the causes of action are made effective and all impediments are removed. Nor are the abilities and strengths of his hands or arms or limbs or organs altogether in his power.
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