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Surah Al Buruj and the Divine Response to Genocide and Injustice | Blog


Published: February 17, 2024 • Updated: March 5, 2024

Author: Faisal Malik

بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيْمِ

In the name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.

…And never is your Lord forgetful

Finding meaning in existence

Few evils approach the existential horror of genocide: the mass extermination of a people for no other crime than merely existing and being different. For many, the shock of witnessing such immense suffering necessarily raises the problem of evil. How could Allah, the Most Compassionate and Merciful, allow the unleashing of such horror upon an innocent and defenseless people?
Believers should realize that no matter the situation in which we find ourselves, Allah ﷻ has provided us guidance on how to act. Just as a person with poor vision needs glasses to see the world clearly, humanity cannot see through the chaos of existence without the lens of the Qur’an. Such a lens both clarifies and comforts, even in the face of a a crime as heinous as genocide. Indeed, in Sūrat al-Burūj (Chapter of Constellations), Allah ﷻ directly addresses the reality of genocide. Reflecting on its verses can help us make sense not just of the suffering in Gaza, but of the suffering inherent to worldly existence. With this understanding comes hope.

وَٱلسَّمَآءِ ذَاتِ ٱلْبُرُوجِ 

By the sky full of constellations, (85:1)

Anyone who has ever gazed at the sky above a remote countryside has been blessed with the most beautiful of sights: the stars in all their magnificent glory, their numinous beauty freed from the light pollution of the modern city.  One of the most spectacular  qualities of that night sky—a sky that so few of us ever see—is its apparent chaos. To the untrained eye, the stars seem impressive but random, a visual cacophony of lawless light; however, the trained observer knows better. Those who study astronomy understand that those distant points of light, though separated from us and each other by millions of miles, come together to form dazzling constellations. Those celestial patterns do not just demonstrate the order of the universe—they decorate the dark canopy of the night and provide guidance for every traveler. Every time one looks up, the eye is rewarded with beauty, and the soul with enlightenment. Life is the night sky. The unguided eye may perceive its happenings as random, meaningless, and chaotic. This inability to see meaning is characteristic of modern secular life and its pervasive nihilism. The believer, however, is gifted with sight. Out of the infinite chaos of events that overwhelm others, the believer can pick out the underlying constellations. The believer understands that nothing is random and that everything is under Allah’s control.
But how do believers train themselves to see order where others only see disorder? Through the Qur’an, of course. It is a lens—one might say a telescope—through which the believer can see the principles that govern reality, and thus a blueprint for how to act in this world.

وَٱلْيَوْمِ ٱلْمَوْعُودِ

and the Promised Day [of Judgment] (85:2)

Right at the beginning of the surah, Allah ﷻ mentions the promised day—the Day of Judgment. What in this world was incomprehensible, on that day becomes sensible; what was mysterious becomes manifest. This is the day that all oppressors, tyrants, murderers are brought to justice. This is the day where the weak, oppressed, and innocent have their retribution and their justice, served not by a temporal king or temporary authority but the Lord of the worlds, Master of all that exists. This Day of Judgment is a warning to the oppressors and a source of hope for the oppressed.


وَشَاهِدٍۢ وَمَشْهُودٍۢ

and the witness and what is witnessed! (85:3)

Oppressors usually attempt to conceal their crimes from the eyes of humanity, in fear of being exposed and brought to justice. We see this in the current genocide in Gaza, where electricity has been cut and reporters killed. Despite such efforts, Allah ﷻ bears witness to every single act of injustice that has occurred on this planet since its genesis. No injustice can be hidden from Him. Furthermore, His creation also bears witness. Nothing escapes the notice of kirāman kātibīn, the angels assigned to every individual to record their deeds:

كِرَامًۭا كَـٰتِبِينَ - يَعْلَمُونَ مَا تَفْعَلُونَ

… honorable angels, recording [everything]. They know whatever you do.

Not just the angels, but the very bodies of the oppressors will testify against them. The hands with which they killed, the arms with which they commanded, the legs with which they haughtily strolled—all will bear witness to their sins:  


ٱلْيَوْمَ نَخْتِمُ عَلَىٰٓ أَفْوَٰهِهِمْ وَتُكَلِّمُنَآ أَيْدِيهِمْ وَتَشْهَدُ أَرْجُلُهُم بِمَا كَانُوا۟ يَكْسِبُونَ

On this Day We will seal their mouths, their hands will speak to Us, and their feet will testify to what they used to commit.

The very earth that the arrogant used to walk upon and corrupt will testify against them.


يَوْمَئِذٍۢ تُحَدِّثُ أَخْبَارَهَا

on that Day, the earth will recount everything

On that day of reckoning, Allah ﷻ will allow the oppressed to testify against the oppressor. Every single act of injustice they suffered in this life will be recompensed.

لَتُؤَدُّنَّ الْحُقُوقَ إِلَى أَهْلِهَا يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ حَتَّى يُقَادَ لِلشَّاةِ الْجَلْحَاءِ مِنْ الشَّاةِ الْقَرْنَاءِ

The Prophet ﷺ said: “You shall deliver rights to their people on the Day of Resurrection, even the hornless sheep will settle its claim with the horned sheep.”

Companions of the Trench

قُتِلَ أَصْحَـٰبُ ٱلْأُخْدُودِ

Cursed were the companions of the trench (85:4)

Allah ﷻ curses a group of people referred to as “the companions of the trench.” These are a people who committed a genocide against a group of believers. In Sahih Muslim, we find a famous tradition which relates such a story, though it’s important to note we do not know with absolute certainty if it is the historical incident to which this surah refers. Indeed, some scholars have mentioned that genocide against the believers has happened multiple times throughout  history. In any case, the story in Sahih Muslim fits the surah well and has been reported by numerous exegetes. Its lessons are many, and so a brief summary is in order.
There once was a king who wished to replace his aging court magician with a young boy. This young boy, even as he became an apprentice of the court magician, also came under the tutelage of a wise monk.  The young boy eventually  understood that the religion of the monk was the truth while the religion of the magician and king was false. The boy began to cure the blind and the sick, calling people to Allah ﷻ. When the king discovered that his former magician-in-training was calling people to worship Allah ﷻ instead of himself, he ordered him killed.
Though the king successfully killed the monk who had taught the boy about Allah, he could not kill the boy himself. Every time he and his soldiers tried, the boy miraculously survived. Eventually the boy told the king how to kill him: by public execution. The king did as the boy instructed and secured the result he wanted: the boy was dead! Yet the public execution backfired. Rather than frighten the masses, the execution only persuaded them of the truth of the boy’s preaching. More people than ever converted to monotheism.
The king, as tyrannical as ever, decided to massacre all the people who had converted. So he built trenches and began burning the believers alive en masse. The people had the choice of either recanting their faith or being burned alive. They chose to die rather than leave the truth. In this situation, a mother and her young child were about to be thrown into the pit of fire, the mother hesitated, but then her child, an infant, miraculously spoke. The child consoled her by saying:


يَا أُمَّهِ اصْبِرِي فَإِنَّكِ عَلَى الْحَقِّ

O mother, be patient for you are following the truth.

This wrenching tale of tyranny and faith speaks directly to the current situation in Gaza. Just like the king, the Zionist regime established itself on the basis of falsehood; and just like the king, the regime could only respond to any threat to its false ideology with wanton slaughter. Yet when the king did kill the boy, he did not kill his cause. On the contrary, the truthfulness of the boy’s message and the falsehood of the king’s ideology became manifest to the masses.
Today, the massacres conducted by the Zionist state against the Palestinians have exposed the hypocrisy of the regime and its supporters. Despite all the propaganda, the ugly face of settler colonialism and the violent truth of Zionism have been unveiled to the world. At the same time, the faith and resilience of the Palestinians in the face of extreme oppression has inspired millions of people globally.
We see another parallel between the Burūj and Palestine in their respective youth. It was a boy who exposed the kingdom through his faith, and it was an infant child, facing a pit of flesh-burning flame, who encouraged his mother to be patient. Half the population of Gaza, more than a million, are children, and their unshakeable faith has taught the world what faith, courage, and patience really look like.

نَّارِ ذَاتِ ٱلْوَقُودِ 

[Containing] the fire full of fuel, (85:5)

إِذْ هُمْ عَلَيْهَا قُعُودٌۭ 

When they were sitting near it. (85:6)

وَهُمْ عَلَىٰ مَا يَفْعَلُونَ بِٱلْمُؤْمِنِينَ شُهُودٌۭ 

And they, to what they were doing against the believers, were witnesses. (85:7)

Not only did this ruler and his army massacre the believers, they sat on the sidelines watching them burn to death. While such a despicable act may seem inconceivable, our own times have shown how depraved oppressors can become towards those whom they oppress. The Israeli Defense Force has several Telegram groups publicizing and mocking the killing and humiliation of Palestinians, as though these atrocities were a form of entertainment. 
Nor is this the first time that Israelis have indulged in such casual dehumanization of their victims; during the 2014 bombing of Gaza, some Israeli civilians literally brought their couches to the hillsides to cheer on the destruction of Gaza from afar. As the Israelis watched their state slaughter the defenseless and the innocent, we watched what could only be described as a modern incarnation of the people of the trench. Even in 2014, those condemned in Sūrat al-Burūj were alive and well.

وَمَا نَقَمُوا۟ مِنْهُمْ إِلَّآ أَن يُؤْمِنُوا۟ بِٱللَّهِ ٱلْعَزِيزِ ٱلْحَمِيدِ 

And they resented them not except because they believed in Allah, the Exalted in Might, the Praiseworthy (85:8)

Oppressors always justify their oppression by dehumanizing those whom they oppress even as they proclaim their own greatness. Every corrupt empire, kingdom, and government has stupidly deluded themselves into believing that their rule is uniquely powerful, great, and civilized. Every time, Allah ﷻ humiliates them and relegates them to the dustbin of history. Temporal power intoxicates and impresses, but it is worth less than a blade of grass in the face of the cosmic power that belongs to Allah ﷻ alone. He is al-ʿAzīz (the Exalted in Might) and  al-Ḥamīd (the Praiseworthy).

ٱلَّذِى لَهُۥ مُلْكُ ٱلسَّمَـٰوَٰتِ وَٱلْأَرْضِ ۚ وَٱللَّهُ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَىْءٍۢ شَهِيدٌ 

To whom belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth. And Allah, over all things, is Witness. (85:9)

No matter the lands and lives which colonizers and imperialists try to steal and control, the reality is that all that is in the heavens and the earth belongs only to Allah ﷻ. The punishment for those who usurp land has been mentioned in a hadith:

مَنْ اِقْتَطَعَ شِبْرًا مِنْ اَلْأَرْضِ ظُلْماً طَوَّقَهُ اَللَّهُ إِيَّاهُ يَوْمَ اَلْقِيَامَةِ مِنْ سَبْعِ أَرَضِينَ

Allah’s Messenger ﷺ said: “If anyone takes a span of land unjustly, on the Day of Resurrection Allah will strangle him with it from seven earths.”

Come the Day of Judgment, those who stole land, deluded by their false sense of power, will learn that only Allah ﷻ is the true King and Owner of all that exists. As expressed in Sūrat Ghāfir:

يَوْمَ هُم بَـٰرِزُونَ ۖ لَا يَخْفَىٰ عَلَى ٱللَّهِ مِنْهُمْ شَىْءٌۭ ۚ لِّمَنِ ٱلْمُلْكُ ٱلْيَوْمَ ۖ لِلَّهِ ٱلْوَٰحِدِ ٱلْقَهَّارِ

The Day all will appear [before Allah]. Nothing about them will be hidden from Him. [He will ask], “To whom does all authority belong this Day? To Allah—the One, the Supreme!

Further explained in a hadith:


عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ ـ رضى الله عنه ـ عَنِ النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالَ ‏ ‏ ”يَقْبِضُ اللَّهُ الأَرْضَ، وَيَطْوِي السَّمَاءَ بِيَمِينِهِ، ثُمَّ يَقُولُ أَنَا الْمَلِكُ أَيْنَ مُلُوكُ الأَرْضِ.“

The Prophet ﷺ said, “Allah will take the whole earth and will roll up the Heaven in His right Hand, and then He will say, ‘I am King! Where are the kings of the earth?’”

When people understand the above reality, they will never submit to oppression and always resist those who seek to oppress them. We can see this in the 75 years of resilience of the Palestinian people against settler colonialism.
As the Muslim poet-philosopher Muhammad Iqbal wrote:
Beware, a hundred times beware,
of the law of the Prophet…
It is a message of death for every kind of slavery…
Can there ever be a greater revolution
Of thought and action (than this?)
This earth belongs to Allah and
Not to the monarchs.

Making sense of trials

إِنَّ ٱلَّذِينَ فَتَنُوا۟ ٱلْمُؤْمِنِينَ وَٱلْمُؤْمِنَـٰتِ ثُمَّ لَمْ يَتُوبُوا۟ فَلَهُمْ عَذَابُ جَهَنَّمَ وَلَهُمْ عَذَابُ ٱلْحَرِيقِ

Indeed, those who have tortured the believing men and believing women and then have not repented will have the punishment of Hell, and they will have the punishment of the Burning Fire. (85:10)

The word fitna has been translated as tortured or persecuted, but can also be literally translated as burnt. One of the linguistic root meanings of fitna is to burn gold and silver in order to purify it. From this meaning we can understand that the trials and tribulations endured by believers are a form of spiritual purification that allows them to increase their ranks in the next life.
Furthermore, even as the verse (āyah) threatens criminals and oppressors with the worst punishment, it simultaneously reveals Allah’s profound mercy. Allah ﷻ does not threaten to punish “those who have tortured the believing men and women”; he threatens to punish those who have tortured the believers and “then have not repented.” In other words, even after the commitment of such monstrous crimes, these criminals are given an opportunity to redeem themselves. It is only if they refuse that opportunity that they will be punished. As commented by early Muslim  ascetic and exegete, al-Ḥasan al-Baṣrī (d. 110/728): “Look at this generosity and magnanimity, they killed Allah’s friends, yet He is calling them to repentance and seeking forgiveness.” 
Even oppressors can hope for salvation if they leave their oppression, submit to Allah ﷻ, and seek His forgiveness. We have many examples of this at the time of the Prophet ﷺ. People like Abū Sufyūn b. Ḥarb (d. 32/ 653), Hind bt. ʿUtba (d. 13/636), Waḥshī b. Ḥarb (d. 39/660) and many others were enemies to the Muslims and even fought and killed some of them; however, they eventually became Muslim and transformed from being enemies of Islam to dedicating their lives to defend and spread the religion.
Despite Allah’s vast mercy, the people who persecuted the believers in Sūrat al-Burūj did not repent from their horrific crimes. Their arrogance and lack of remorse drove them to burn the believers alive. In the next life, they will burn in a fire far worse than the fire they used to persecute innocent believers.
The Prophet ﷺ said:

نَارُكُمْ هَذِهِ الَّتِي يُوقِدُ ابْنُ آدَمَ جُزْءٌ مِنْ سَبْعِينَ جُزْءًا مِنْ حَرِّ جَهَنَّمَ

قَالُوا وَاللَّهِ إِنْ كَانَتْ لَكَافِيَةً يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ ‏.‏ قَالَ ‏"‏ فَإِنَّهَا فُضِّلَتْ عَلَيْهَا بِتِسْعَةٍ وَسِتِّينَ جُزْءًا كُلُّهَا مِثْلُ حَرِّهَا

“The fire which sons of Adam burn is only one-seventieth part of the Fire of Hell. His Companions said: By Allah, even ordinary fire would have been enough (to burn people). Thereupon he said: "There are sixty-nine parts in excess of (the heat of) fire in this world each of them being equivalent to their heat.”

إِنَّ ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوا۟ وَعَمِلُوا۟ ٱلصَّـٰلِحَـٰتِ لَهُمْ جَنَّـٰتٌۭ تَجْرِى مِن تَحْتِهَا ٱلْأَنْهَـٰرُ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ ٱلْفَوْزُ ٱلْكَبِيرُ

Indeed, those who have believed and done righteous deeds will have gardens beneath which rivers flow. That is the great attainment. (85:11)

It is important to understand that the suffering endured by believers in this life is not a sign of failure. The righteous will attain paradise in the next life, and their status will be elevated in accordance with whatever they suffered in this life. No matter the pain we feel at their unjust murder, the martyrs of the Gaza genocide and the martyrs throughout the ages are in a far better place in the next life.

وَلَا تَحْسَبَنَّ ٱلَّذِينَ قُتِلُوا۟ فِى سَبِيلِ ٱللَّهِ أَمْوَٰتًۢا ۚ بَلْ أَحْيَآءٌ عِندَ رَبِّهِمْ يُرْزَقُونَ

فَرِحِينَ بِمَآ ءَاتَىٰهُمُ ٱللَّهُ مِن فَضْلِهِۦ وَيَسْتَبْشِرُونَ بِٱلَّذِينَ لَمْ يَلْحَقُوا۟ بِهِم مِّنْ خَلْفِهِمْ أَلَّا خَوْفٌ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلَا هُمْ يَحْزَنُونَ

۞ يَسْتَبْشِرُونَ بِنِعْمَةٍۢ مِّنَ ٱللَّهِ وَفَضْلٍۢ وَأَنَّ ٱللَّهَ لَا يُضِيعُ أَجْرَ ٱلْمُؤْمِنِينَ

Never think of those martyred in the cause of Allah as dead. In fact, they are alive with their Lord, well provided for—rejoicing in Allah’s bounties and being delighted for those yet to join them. There will be no fear for them, nor will they grieve. They are joyful for receiving Allah’s grace and bounty, and Allah does not deny the reward of the believers.

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The ultimate retribution


إِنَّ بَطْشَ رَبِّكَ لَشَدِيدٌ

Indeed, the assault [i.e., vengeance (baṭsh)] of your Lord is severe. (85:12)

The word baṭsh can be translated as assault but contains the meaning of a severe grip. When Allah ﷻ decides to seize the oppressors and wrongdoers, they will have no way to escape. Whoever declares war on the believing men, women, and innocent children, Allah ﷻ has declared war on them. As is mentioned in a Ḥadīth Qudsī, or a hadith of divine content but prophetic wording:

مَنْ عَادَى لِي وَلِيًّا فَقْد آذَنْتهُ بِالْحَرْبِ

Whosoever shows enmity to a friend (walī) of Mine, then I have declared war against him.

إِنَّهُۥ هُوَ يُبْدِئُ وَيُعِيدُ

Indeed, it is He who originates [creation] and repeats. (85:13)

Allah ﷻ creates and repeats. We observe the cycle of life and death throughout our lives. We see how with the passing of the seasons, grass grows, dies, and returns, over and over. Similarly, we see how nations rise and fall, always replaced by yet another nation that rises and falls, and so on. Creation itself will go through the same cycle; one day it will all end, and then Allah ﷻ will create everything anew for the Day of Judgment.

وَهُوَ ٱلْغَفُورُ ٱلْوَدُودُ

And He is the Forgiving, the Affectionate. (85:14)

Whatever the believer suffers in this life, we should understand that their suffering is not without spiritual benefits that they will receive in this life and the next. One of the benefits of suffering in this life is that whatever hardship a believer suffers will be a means of expiating their sins.
The believer will receive the forgiveness of Allah ﷻ for whatever hardship they face.

 مَا يُصِيبُ الْمُسْلِمَ مِنْ نَصَبٍ وَلاَ وَصَبٍ وَلاَ هَمٍّ وَلاَ حُزْنٍ وَلاَ أَذًى وَلاَ غَمٍّ حَتَّى الشَّوْكَةِ يُشَاكُهَا، إِلاَّ كَفَّرَ اللَّهُ بِهَا مِنْ خَطَايَاهُ

The Prophet ﷺ said, “No fatigue, nor disease, nor sorrow, nor sadness, nor hurt, nor distress befalls a Muslim, even if it were the prick he receives from a thorn, but that Allah expiates some of his sins for that.”

Also, as noted earlier, even oppressors if they repent by stopping their oppression, submitting to Allah ﷻ, and seeking forgiveness can have hope for forgiveness. However, if they continue in their oppression and rejection of truth then they are deserving of Hell, since Allah ﷻ, who is the Most Forgiving, gave them countless opportunities to turn away from sin.
The other name of Allah ﷻ mentioned in this āyah, The Most Loving (al-Wadūd), appears only twice in the Qur’an, one of which is in this sūrah about genocide. This is a reminder to us that the suffering of the believer is not a sign of Allah’s displeasure. In fact, it is the precise opposite: those most beloved to Allah are tested the most.

مَنْ يُرِدِ اللَّهُ بِهِ خَيْرًا يُصِبْ مِنْهُ

The Prophet ﷺ said, “If Allah wants to do good for someone, He afflicts him with trials.”        

عن سعد بن أبي وقاص قَالَ قُلْتُ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ أَيُّ النَّاسِ أَشَدُّ بَلَاءً قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ الْأَنْبِيَاءُ ثُمَّ الْأَمْثَلُ فَالْأَمْثَلُ فَيُبْتَلَى الرَّجُلُ عَلَى حَسَبِ دِينِهِ فَإِنْ كَانَ دِينُهُ صُلْبًا اشْتَدَّ بَلَاؤُهُ وَإِنْ كَانَ فِي دِينِهِ رِقَّةٌ ابْتُلِيَ عَلَى حَسَبِ دِينِهِ فَمَا يَبْرَحُ الْبَلَاءُ بِالْعَبْدِ حَتَّى يَتْرُكَهُ يَمْشِي عَلَى الْأَرْضِ مَا عَلَيْهِ خَطِيئَةٌ

Sa’d b. Abī Waqqāṣ (rA) reported: I said: O Messenger of Allah, who are the most afflicted of all people? He replied: The prophets, then the righteous people, then those who are nearest to them in perfection and those who are nearest to them. Man is tested according to this piety; if he is strong in religion, his test is increased, and if he is weak in religion, his test is reduced. A believer will be tested until he walks on the earth sinless (his sins having been erased by the series of afflictions that he has endured).

Thus we should rest assured that our brothers and sisters suffering in Palestine and Gaza, and oppressed believers worldwide, have a special status in the sight of Allah ﷻ.


ذُو ٱلْعَرْشِ ٱلْمَجِيدُ  

Honorable Owner of the Throne (85:15)

Empires take immense pride in their armies and military strength, yet they are nothing before the power of Allah ﷻ. His throne alone dwarves the entirety of the universe.

 أُذِنَ لِي أَنْ أُحَدِّثَ عَنْ مَلَكٍ مِنْ مَلاَئِكَةِ اللَّهِ مِنْ حَمَلَةِ الْعَرْشِ إِنَّ مَا بَيْنَ شَحْمَةِ أُذُنِهِ إِلَى عَاتِقِهِ مَسِيرَةُ سَبْعِمِائَةِ عَامٍ

The Prophet ﷺ said: I have been permitted to tell about one of Allah’s angels who bears the throne that the distance between the lobe of his ear and his shoulder is a journey of seven hundred years.

When one reflects on how great and powerful Allah ﷻ is, then one truly understands the insignificance and weakness of worldly empires and rulers. The weak and oppressed are consoled in knowing that Allah ﷻ, the only true King, is with them.


فَعَّالٌۭ لِّمَا يُرِيدُ

Doer of whatever He wills. (85:16)

When Allah ﷻ wants to do something, nothing can stop Him. Many times history has borne witness to how mighty empires and nations were brought to their knees by means they could not even conceive. We even saw a modern example of this during the COVID-19 pandemic, where the modern world, so proud of its power and technology, was upended  by a microscopic entity. All the world’s armies and weapons were helpless before a virus that couldn’t even be seen by the naked eye.

Past oppressors


هَلْ أَتَىٰكَ حَدِيثُ ٱلْجُنُودِ

Has there reached you the story of the soldiers

فِرْعَوْنَ وَثَمُودَ

[Those of] Pharaoh and Thamud? (85:17–18)

The Pharaoh, with all his might and strength, was not destroyed by another army; he was destroyed by the element most fundamental to life: water. The people of Thamud were destroyed by a blast, an earthquake, and a thunderbolt. Abraha, the Yemeni ruler who wanted to destroy the Kaaba (Kaʿba), was not beaten back by any army; he and his army of elephants were destroyed by birds pelting small stones. These are just some examples of how Allah ﷻ has soldiers that we are not even aware of that will implement His will when He wishes.
As the Qur'an tells us:


وَمَا يَعْلَمُ جُنُودَ رَبِّكَ إِلَّا هُوَ ۚ

…And none knows the forces of your Lord except He.

بَلِ ٱلَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا۟ فِى تَكْذِيبٍۢ

Yet the disbelievers [still] persist in denial. (85:19)

Despite the signs in history and around them, there are disbelievers that persist in their rejection of the truth and in their oppression.

وَٱللَّهُ مِن وَرَآئِهِم مُّحِيطٌۢ

But Allah encompasses them from all sides. (85:20)

The persistence of the disbelievers will not go unchecked. Allah ﷻ will encompass them, and they will have no place to escape. When an army wants to destroy their enemy, they surround them so their enemy cannot escape; however, when Allah ﷻ encompasses those who disbelieve and cause corruption on earth, there can be no escape.

Eternal message

بَلْ هُوَ قُرْءَانٌۭ مَّجِيدٌۭ

But this is an honored Qur’an (85:21)

فِى لَوْحٍۢ مَّحْفُوظٍۭ

[recorded] in a Preserved Tablet. (85:22)

The believers in the story of the trench were killed for their faith, yet Allah ﷻ immortalized their memory in the Qur’an. Their story has been preserved for generations and will be preserved for many more generations to come, their resilience a beacon of inspiration spreading Islam in every age. In a similar vein, oppressors have killed prophets, messengers, and the righteous, but they have never been able to kill the message. Muslims may die, but Islam never will. In our own times we have witnessed the mass killing of Palestinians, but those who will try to wipe out Palestine will never succeed.

Notes

1 Qur’an 16:64.
2 Qur’an 82:11–12.
3 Qur’an 36:65.
4 Qur’an 99:4.
5 Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim.
6 Ibn Abī Ḥātim, Tafsir al-Qurʾān al-ʿAẓīm (Mecca: Maktabat Nizār Muṣṭafā al-Bāz, 1997), 3413. See also Ismāʿīl b. ʿUmar Ibn Kathīr, Tafsir Ibn Kathir, ed. Sāmī b. Muḥmmad al-Salāma (Riyadh: Dār Ṭayba, 1999), 8:371.
7 Saḥīḥ Muslim, no. 3005, https://sunnah.com/muslim:3005.
8 Al-Ḥusayn al-Baghawī, Tafsīal-BaghawīMaʿālim al-tanzīl (Riyadh: Dār Ṭayba, 1989), 8:387.
9 Nadda Osman, “Israel-Palestine War: How an Israeli Telegram Channel Is Used to Incite Violence against Palestinians,” Middle East Eye, December 14, 2023, https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/israel-palestine-war-telegram-incite-violence-psychological-warfare-palestinians.
10 Harriett Sherwood, “Israelis Gather on Hillsides to Watch and Cheer as Military Drops Bombs on Gaza,” The Guardian, July 20, 2014, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jul/20/israelis-cheer-gaza-bombing.
11 Sahih Muslim, no. 1610a, https://sunnah.com/muslim:1610a.
12 Qur’an 40:16.
13 Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, no. 7382; Muslim, Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim, no. 2787. https://sunnah.com/bukhari:7382 & https://sunnah.com/muslim:2787 
14 aḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, no. 6519, https://sunnah.com/bukhari:6519.
15 Muhammad Iqbal, Iblees ki Majlis-e-Shoora: The Devil’s Advisory Council, trans. Abdssalaam Puthige (Kuala Lumpur: The Other Press, 2017), 53.
16 See footnote 85:10 in the Sahih International translation.
17 Al-Rāghib al-Isfahānī, Mufradāalfāẓ al-Quran (Damascus: Dar al-Qalam, 2009), 623.
18 Ibn Kathīr, TafsīIbn Kathīr, 8:371.
19 aḥīḥ Muslim, no. 2843a, https://sunnah.com/muslim:2843a.
20 Qur’an 3:169–71.
21 Ibn Juzay  al-Ghirnāṭī, al-Tashīl li-ʿulūal-tanzīl (Cairo: Dar ِalʿĀlamiyya, 2017), 1:63.
22 aḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, no. 6502, https://sunnah.com/bukhari/81/91.
23 Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, no. 5641, 5642, https://sunnah.com/bukhari:5641.
24 Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, no. 5645, https://sunnah.com/bukhari:5645.
25 Jāmiʿ at-Tirmidhī, no. 2398 https://sunnah.com/tirmidhi:2398.
26 Sunan Abī Dāwūd, no. 4727, https://sunnah.com/abudawud/42/132.
27 Qur’an 54:31, 7:78, 51:44.
28 Qur’an 74:31.
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