“And the example of a bad word is like a bad tree, uprooted for the surface of the earth, not having any stability. And Allah keeps firm those who believe, with the firm word, in worldly life and in the Hereafter. And Allah sends astray the wrongdoers. And Allah does what He wills.” (Surah Ibrahim:26-27)
Allah then mentioned the opposite of the good word, ‘the bad word‘ and likened it to the bad tree that has been uprooted from the surface of the earth. It is unstable with a weak trunk and no high branches, bears no fruit nor has any shade – as it is in reality nothing but a low and fruitless tree.
When a person with a sound intellect contemplates upon most of the writing and speech of mankind, he will realise that it is similar to this bad tree. It is a great loss when a person busies himself with this fruitless talk and leaves behind the best and most beneficial speech (i.e. the Qur’an).
Al-Dahhak said, “Allah compared the disbeliever with a tree that has been ‘uprooted from the surface of the earth, not having any stability’ to say that a rootless tree without branches or fruit is without benefit and is similar to the disbeliever, whose actions and speech are devoid of good and therefore Allah places no grace or benefit within them. Ibn Abbas, RadhiAllahu Anhuma, said: “The phrase ‘the example of a bad word‘ refers to shirk, and ‘is like a bad tree‘ refers to the disbeliever, and ‘uprooted from the surface of the earth, not having any stability’ means shirk as neither has an origin that a disbeliever can hold to nor a proof.” And Allah never accepts the deed of a disbeliever and never raises it to Himself. The intended meaning of ‘has no firm roots on earth and no branches in the sky‘ is that the disbeliever has no good deed to be raised to Allah and no good deed in the Hereafter.
Al-Rabi ibn Anas said, “The example of the bad tree is like the disbeliever whose words and deeds have neither roots nor branches, and his deeds and sayings having no stability on earth nor can they reach high into the sky.”
Said narrated from Qatadah regarding this ayah, “A man once asked someone from the people of knowledge that he met on the road, ‘what do you say about the phrase in the ayah ‘the bad word‘? he replied, ‘As far as I know, it neither settles on earth nor ascends to the sky, so it accompanies the one who said it until the Day of Judgement.” Then Allah informs of His separation between the two groups; the people of the goodly word and the people of the bad word, and His justice. He informs us that ‘He keeps firm those who believe, with the firm word’ which is what they are most in need of in this life, and the hereafter; and that He ‘sends astray the wrongdoers (i.e. disbelievers)’ by directing them far from the firm word thus He sends them astray by His Justice; and holds the believers upon the firm word by His Grace, and due to their Iman.
With this ayah ‘Allah keeps firm those who believe, with he firm word, in the worldly life and in the Hereafter‘ lies a magnificent treasure. Those who find it, utilise it and spend from it, will be successful, whereas those who are prevented from enjoying this treasure will be from the losers. Indeed the slave of Allah cannot survive without Allah keeping him firm, even for the blinking of an eye because without the Support from Allah, his world would come crashing down. Allah said to His most noble and beloved one amongst His creation,
“And had we not made you stand firm, you would nearly have inclined to them a little…” (Surah Isra:74)
“(Remember) when your Lord revealed to the angels, “Verily I am with you, so keep firm those who have believed…” (Surah al-Anfal:12)
“And all that We relate to you of the news of the Messengers is in order that We may make strong and firm your heart…” (Surah Hud:120)
The Method of Keeping Them Firm
The entire creation is divided into two kinds; those that are blessed with firmness and those who are debased and without firmness. The origin and essence of firmness is generated from the firm Word and adherence to all the Commandments of Allah by which he keeps His slave firm. The more steadfast and firm the speech is and the better deeds, the more Allah keeps His slave firm. As He said,
“But if they had done what they were told it would have been better for them, and would have strengthen their faith.” (Surah An-Nisa:66)
Those with the most firm hearts are the ones with the most firm words, and the firm word is the truthful and honest word, which is the opposite of the false dishonest word. There are two kinds of words; a firm word that is real, and a false word that is not real.
The most firm word is the word of Tawhid, and what it necessitates – for indeed the greatest means by which Allah keeps His slaves firm in this life and the Hereafter. For this reason, a truthful person is noted as the most firm and brave by others, whereas a dishonest man is seen as the most cowardly and least firm of people. People of intuition are able to recognise the truthfulness of an honest person by the firmness of his heart and bravery during trials; and the dishonesty of a dishonest person by his weak heart and cowardice. Such observations only go unnoticed by those who are weak in iman.
Some people asked about the words that they heard from a person; so the answerer said; “By Allah I have not understood a word from what he said except without doubt, his words have an effect that cannot be the effect of a falsifier.” Indeed, Allah has not given His slave anything better, or more beneficial than the firm word; as such people reap the fruits of their speech when they are most in need of it; in their graves and on the Day of Judgement. Al-Bara ibn Azib, may Allah be pleased with him, narrated: The Prophet, SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam, said, “This ayah was revealed regarding the punishment of the grave.”
This has been further explained in other authentic ahadeeth, including one narrated in the Musnad of Imam Ahmad from the hadith of Dawud Ibn Abi Hind, who narrated from Abu Nudrah who narrated from Abu Saad al-Khudri, RadhiAllahu Anhuma, who said, “We were walking in a funeral with the prophet, SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam, who said,
“O people, this nation is tested in their graves so that when the deceased is buried and the people have departed, an angel with a hammer in his hand comes to the deceased and asks him, ‘What do you say about this man (i.e. the Prophet)?’ If the deceased was a believer he will testify that there is no deity worth of worship but Allah, and that He has no partner, and that Muhammad is His slave and Messenger. The angel will then say, ‘You said the truth,’ and open for him a door showing Hell and say to him ‘This would have been your position in the fire had you disbelieved, but as you have believed, for you Allah has replaced it with this,’ He the opens for him a door showing him his place in Jennah. The deceased tries to get up and to enter but the angel says. ‘Remain in your place’ then he expands his grave. As for the disbeliever and the hypocrite, when they are asked ‘What do you say of this man?’ The reply, ‘I do not know,’ so the angel says you neither knew nor were guided, the he opens of him a door to Jennah, and says to him, ‘This would have been your place had you believed in your Lord, but as you have disbelieved, for you Allah has replaced it with this,’ and opens for him the door of Hell and then the angel strikes him with his hammer so that the entire creation can hear except mankind and Jinn.”
Some of his Companions said, ”O Messenger of Allah, everyone of us will be too frightened and speechless when we see an angel with a hammer in his hand standing next to our heads.” The Messenger of Allah, SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam, said,
”Allah keeps the believing ones firm with the firm word in his worldly life and the Hereafter, and He sends astray wrongdoers (disbelievers) and does what He Wills.”
In the Musnad of imam Ahmad, al-Bara ibn Azib also narrated: the Messenger of Allah, SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam, said (mentioning how the soul of the believers are taken by the Angel of Death),
“An angel comes to him in the grave so he asks him, ‘Who is your Lord? What is your religion? Who is your Prophet? So he says, ‘My Lord is Allah, my religion is Islam and my Prophet is Muhammad.’ The angel repeats the three questions angrily, and that would be the last test that a believer goes through and at that moment applies the Ayah: ‘He keeps firm those who believe, with the firm word in the worldly life and Hereafter.’ So the believer relies, ‘My Lord is Allah, my religion is Islam and my Prophet is Muhammad.’ The angels replies ‘You spoke the truth.” And this is an authentic hadith.
Hammed ibn Salamah narrated from Muhammad ibn Amr and Abu Salamah that Abu Hurairah, RadhiAllahu Anhu, said that the Messenger of Allah, SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam, said,
“He keeps firm those who believe, with the firm word in the worldly life and in Hereafter.” The deceased is asked in his grave, “Who is your Lord? What if your religion? He answers, ‘My Lord is Allah, my religion is Islam and my Prophet is Muhammad. He was sent with proofs from Allah so I believed in him.” The angel replies, ‘You said the truth; upon this you lived and upon this you died and upon this you shall be resurrected.”
Al-Amash narrated from al-Minhal ibn Amr that Zahan narrated from al-Bara ibn Azib, RadhiAllahu Anhu, that the Messenger of Allah, SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam, said (after mentioning how the soul of the believer returns into his body (in the grave) then two violent angels are sent to him, so they make him sit down (in his grave) and aggressively ask him, ‘Who is your Lord?’ he answers, ‘Allah.’ They ask him, ‘What is your religion?’ He answers, ‘Islam.’ They ask him, ‘Who is this man who was sent to you?’ He answers ‘Muhammad, the Messenger of Allah.’ They say, ‘How do you know so?’ He answers, ‘I read the book of Allah so I believed in him.’ And this is what is meant with the ayah, ”He keeps firm those who believe, with the firm word in the worldly life and the Hereafter.”
This was reported in the sahib of Ibn Hinbban and the Musnad of Imam Ahmad. Ibn Hibban also reported upon the authority of Abu Hurayrah, RadhiAllahu Anhu, that the Prophet, SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam, said, “The deceased can hear the steps of people leaving him in his grave; so if he was a believer he will find that the Salah stands next to his head, the Zakah stands on his right side, fasting stands on his left side, and good deeds such as charity, joining kinship, being kind to others and similar good deeds stand next to his feet. When punishment attempts to reach him from the other side of his head, the Salah stops it, so it attempts to reach him from the right side but the Zakah stops it, so it tries from his left side but the fasting stops it. Then he is told to sit down so he sits down while the sun is shown to him near sunset time so the angels ask him, “Tell us the answers of what we will ask you about.’ He says, ‘What is it that you want to ask? Leave me alone so that I may pray.’ They reply, ‘You will pray but tell us about what we will ask of you.’ They ask ‘What do you say about the man who was sent to you? And what do you testify regarding him? He says, ‘Muhammad.’ They say ‘Yes that is him.’ He says, ‘I testify that he is the Messenger of Allah and he was sent with clear proofs from Allah so we believed in him.’ They say to him ‘Upon that you lived, and upon that you died and upon that you will be resurrected, with the permission of Allah.’ Then his grave is expanded to the width of seventy arms-lengths and his grave becomes illuminated. Then a door from the doors of Jennah opens for him and then it is said to him, ‘Look at what Allah had prepared for you in it.’ So he looks and becomes happy and delighted. Then Allah sends his soul into green birds of Jannah that land on trees of Jannah. Then the body returns to dust and that is the statement of Allah: “Allah keeps the believing ones firm with the firm word in the worldly life and the hereafter.”
No Muslim should become tired of hearing about firm word and its benefits, as very scholar, martyr, ruler and all Muslims are more in need of understanding this, than their need for air, food and water. And with Allah lies all success.