In the opening verses of Surah ar-Rum, Soroor Ahmed finds a political lesson of global importance that the believers should not keep themselves away from the worldly affairs and remain confined to spiritual practices only but rather make a situational response to the developments around them and devise policies as per the demand of the situation.
The Romans have been defeated in the neighbouring land: but after their defeat they shall gain victory in a few years. All power belongs to Allah both before and after. On that day will the believers rejoice at the victory granted by Allah. He grants victory to whomsoever He pleases. He is the Most Mighty, the Most Compassionate. This is Allah’s promise and He does not go back on His promise. But most people do not know. People simply know the outward aspect of the worldly life but are utterly heedless of the Hereafter. Do they not reflect on themselves? Allah created the heavens and the earth and whatever lies between them in Truth and for an appointed term. Yet many people deny that they will meet their Lord. Have they not travelled through the earth that they may observe what was the end of their predecessors who were far mightier and tilled the land and built upon it more than these have ever built? (Surah Rum or Rome: 2-9)
The above verses of the Makkan Surah of the Qur’ān make a prediction which later proved right. The said passage teaches a political lesson to the Companions of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ and his followers in the generations to come – and even today. What happened is that around 609-615 C.E. the Persian army inflicted defeat to the Romans and captured a large tract of territory in Levant, Egypt, Anatolia and adjoining areas.
The news of the defeat was obviously celebrated by the non-believers in Makkah and there was a sort of dejection in the Muslim camp. This was because the pagans used to treat the Persians, who were Zoroastrians by faith, as a natural ally and would tease the Muslims that they are the supporters of Rome or Byzantine as they were Christians. It is not that the Muslims were whole-heartedly backing the Romans, but were somewhere soft towards them because after all they were the followers of Jesus Christ, the last Prophet before Muhammad ﷺ.
It was in this background that the above verses were revealed to the Prophet. It announced that though the Romans had been defeated, the equation is soon going to change and they would gain victory.
Initially the Quraish made fun of these verses. But after several years the Romans hit back and took revenge from Sassanid Persia. The news of the rout of Persian army came just after Muslims were celebrating the victory in the Battle of Badr (Hijra 2, Ramadan 17) that is 624 C.E. (“On that day will the believers rejoice at the victory granted by Allah.”)
The prolonged Byzantine-Persian War, however, continued till 628 C.E. leading to the widespread destruction of both the empires. In 630s the Islamic army from Madinah defeated both these great powers, though a few years back the believers were sympathetic towards the Christians.
There is a message in this whole chain of events. When these verses were revealed, Muslims were said to be tilted towards the Romans notwithstanding the fact that they were no friends of Islam, but because the teachings of Prophet Muhammad were close to those of Jesus Christ. The true Christians – though their numbers may be small – used to accept this fact.
The fighting between the Romans and the Persians were taking place thousands of kilometres away from Makkah and apparently Muslims had nothing to do with it. Yet a Qur’ānic revelation came to calm the believers down and, in a way, guide them. In the field of politics and choice between the two rivals they are expected to opt for lesser evil or behind those who possess even an iota of truthfulness. They should not get locked in the debate that both are enemies and thus Muslims should adopt an indifferent stand.
Be it in on the global front or choosing the political parties in a democratic society, this strategy should be adopted. Muslims should make a situational response and cannot remain aloof. For instance, today a Muslim country will have to choose between Ukraine and Russia.
There is another lesson, especially for those who are of the view that Muslims should keep themselves away from the worldly affairs and remain confined to spiritual practices. They should understand that about 1400 years back when there was no modern mode of communication these verses were revealed to discuss the political developments in far off place. Not only that these strategies cannot be permanent and the Muslims are supposed to make policies as per the demand of the situation.
The problem is that many people who lack political vision fail to differentiate between the two rivals and go on to support the wrong party or country (in the context of international affairs). They either lack political sense or have their own selfish interest.
Many pagans were silenced after the Battle of Badr when Muslims emerged as victorious and the news of Persian defeat reached Makkah. They were surprised as to how this prediction made so many years ago proved right.
As the Qur’ān openly discusses a war between two powers of the world of that time, it teaches the believers the global politics. It does not expect Muslims to become hermit and withdraw themselves to the jungles or mountains.