Here Allah swears three oaths. The first oath He swears by the fig and the olive. The second He swears by Mount Sinai. The third he swears by the city of security.
If we accept the view that the fig and the olive refer to the lands of Syria and Palestine where those trees grow, this means that these oaths allude to the prophecies of all the Prophets (peace be upon them). This affirms that theirs was a unified message and a single faith. This bequeaths the Muslim lands with a special importance. The entire region is a place that has been chosen and favored by Allah.
When we speak about the special distinctions of the sacred precincts, we do not diminish the status of other lands. The entire Muslim world has favor and every part of it completes the rest.
The world today is full of political, military, and economic alliances. Even major multi-billion dollar corporations enter into alliances with one another so that they can corner a larger share of the global market. This has become even truer in the era of globalization.
Therefore, this meaning that we find in the Qur’ân shows itself to be even clearer and more beautiful.
Then, in the same context, Allah mentions the “City of Security”. Even though commentators of the Qur’ân have expressed some disagreement about what the fig, the the olive, and the mount refer to, they are unanimous in agreeing that the “city of security” is Mecca. The fact that Allah refers to it using the demonstrative pronoun – this City of Security – makes Mecca spring immediately to mind in the context in which the verse was revealed, since Allah is referring to something right before the people’s very eyes. Then He further identifies it by describing it as being secure.
Likewise, the commentators of the Qur’ân are agreed that Allah is referring to Mecca when He says: “Indeed, I swear by this city - And you free in this city.” [Sûrah al-Balad: 1-2]
They agree that Allah is referring to Mecca when He says: “the Lord of this city, Who has made it sacred, and His are all things...” [Sûrah al-Naml: 91]
This shows us the strength of clarity possessed by this faith, a clarity that surpasses all the previous manifestations of the religion. How can it be otherwise, when it is the final message to be sent to humanity?
It also shows us that the birthplace, homeland, and refuge of this message possesses a distinction and favor unmatched by anywhere else.
In these verses, Allah makes the human being the crux of honor, for indeed the land does not sanctify anyone. What sanctifies a person – as Salmân al-Fârisî had said – are his own deeds.
Therefore, the sanctity of these lands is only on account of the sanctity of the human being – whom Allah has favored and honored with distinction. Allah says: “Indeed we have bestowed honor upon the progeny of Adam.” [Sûrah al-Isrâ’: 70]
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said in his famous sermon during his Farewell Pilgrimage: “Indeed, your blood, your wealth, your honor, and your persons are sacred as the sacredness of this day of yours in this month of yours in this city of yours. Have I then conveyed the Message?”
They people replied: “Yes.”
He then said: “O Allah! Bear witness. May those who are present convey it to those who are not. For many are those who convey a message to those who understand it better... Do not return after me as unbelievers smiting one another’s necks.” [Sahîh al-Bukhârî and Sahîh Muslim]
This honor is clearly seen in Allah’s words: “We have indeed created the human being in the best of moulds.” That there is a special honor and distinction for those who have faith is seen in Allah’s words: “Then we brought him to the lowest of the low, except for those believe and work righteous deeds”.
Therefore, the city of security – Mecca – is the city of those who believe and work righteous deeds. This we find stated clearly in the supplication of Abraham (peace be upon him): “My Lord! Make this a land of security and provide its inhabitants with fruits – such of them as believe in Allah and the Last Day.” [Sûrah al-Baqarah: 126]
Abraham (peace be upon him) articulates three important meanings in this supplication of his:
1. The first is his asking Allah to make this land a land of security. Abraham (peace be upon him) was one of the most prominent Prophets, but did he realize to what great extent this mighty prayer of his would be answered? That land had always been an untamed, barren wilderness where wolves threatened people and where the people themselves would abduct and kill one another. There was no culture, no civility, no growth or development.
Thereafter, Allah transformed that land into an oasis of peace, security, faith, and culture, so much so that prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “A rider will journey from San`a to Hadramawt fearing none but Allah – or the wolves for the sake of his sheep.” [Sahîh al-Bukhârî]
Peace and security had spread outward from Mecca far and wide, putting an end to all the enmity and tribal conflict that used to prevail in the region in the days of ignorance.
2. Abraham then asks that its inhabitants would be provided with fruits. Again, Allah knows best if Abraham (peace be upon him) realized to what extent his prayer was going to be answered. It was a barren desert, devoid of all water and pasture. There was no sign of life to be seen. However, Allah made it a land possessing the greatest of all material wealth – oil.
This makes me remember the words of the Prophet (peace be upon him) when he said: “While I was sleeping, the keys to the treasures of the Earth were brought to me and placed in my hand.” His words indicate that this happened without any great work or effort. He was even asleep when it happened. No one – not even those who heard the Prophet’s words firsthand – could have imagined the extent of the providence that their land – Mecca, Madinah, and their surroundings that the Prophet (peace be upon him) beseeched Allah about – would be blessed with.
3. Abraham (peace be upon him) asked this to be granted to those who “believe in Allah and the Last Day”. Indeed, Allah has blessed this land to be a refuge of faith, the cradle of revelation, the abode of His Message. In this way, faith, security, and sustenance came together.
There is wisdom behind bringing these three ideas together. Sustenance and security are two indispensable pillars of life. Allah has given these to his servants and he reminds the tribe of Quraysh – the inhabitants of Mecca – with the following admonition: “Let them adore the Lord of this House, who provides them with food against hunger and with security against fear.” [Sûrah Quraysh: 3-4]
This brings us to the third concept articulated by Abraham (peace be upon him) in his supplication – that of faith. This alludes to the fact that sustenance and security are reasons for faith to be sustained and nurtured. Faith, success, knowledge, advancement, and all aspects of civilized life need a stable environment in which to develop. They cannot hope to be fully realized in a country plagued by hunger and poverty, where people have to expend all of their energies in the struggle for bare survival and where they live in perpetual fear for themselves and their families.
For this reason, we can see how necessary it is for security and sustenance to be in place before the message would be able to spread to other lands and reach out to the far corners of the Earth. It is, therefore, not at all surprising for us to see today – and may Allah be praised – that there are many charities in this land working around the globe to support the orphans and to relieve the hunger, poverty, and ignorance that people suffer from all over the world. Guidance can be given to people once their hunger is curbed and their backs are clothed.
Perhaps this is one of the reasons why this land is protected by Allah, and why it continues to enjoy prosperity and security and is kept free by Allah’s grace from so many of the problems that are commonly faced elsewhere.
Al-Zuhrî observed that after the Peace of Hudaybiyah: “the people were secure with each other, so much so that not a rational soul was told about Islam except that he embraced it.”
People are more receptive to what is good when they are given the chance to think clearly. When people live in fear, hunger, or distress, they are unable to do so. They cannot digest what is being said to them, nor can they respond to it properly.
Allah, in His knowledge and wisdom, has chosen these lands to be the eternal abode of the two sacred mosques. And Allah says: “Your Lord creates and chooses as He pleases.” [Sûrah al-Qasas: 68]
Mecca is the land most beloved to Allah. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “I swear by Allah! You are the best of lands and the land most beloved to Allah.” The Prophet (peace be upon him) said this while departing Mecca as an emigrant.
Allah has singled out Mecca as being beloved, and He has made it the sanctuary and place of security for people, a place that hearts long for without wavering in their longing. Today, the world is witness to many festivals, celebrations, and sporting events for which every effort is made to attract participants and visitors. Transportation is facilitated. Extra flights are booked. They do whatever it takes to maximize turnout. Mecca, because of the honor that Allah has conferred upon it, has the opposite problem. There is a pressing need to regulate and manage the influx of people, because if all those who wish to perform the pilgrimage were permitted to come, there would not be enough room in Mecca and all of its environs to contain their numbers.
With all of these heats being drawn to Mecca, it is essential that the city enjoys the utmost security and that the road to it is a safe one. It truly needs to be the oasis of peace and safety that Allah has blessed it to be. Allah has decreed it to be so both with His eternal decree and through His Law. Allah has described Mecca as “the Mother of Cities” and surrounding it are many other towns and cities, all blessed by its protective shade. Allah says: “And this is a blessed Book which We have revealed, confirming that which (was revealed) before it, that you may warn the Mother of Cities and those around it.” [Sûrah al-An`âm: 92]
Then we have the promise of the Prophet (peace be upon him) that Islam will remain in these lands. He said: “Islam began as something strange and it will return as it was in the beginning. It will withdraw to the lands between the two mosques like the snake withdraws to its den.”
He also said: “Faith will withdraw to Madinah like the snake withdraws to its den.”
The hadîth is related in Sahîh Muslim and other sources. This shows that in the past and in the future, faith will remain tied to these lands of Islam and that all people of faith are likewise tied to them. Love for these lands is part of their nature, in the same way that a person naturally loves his homeland, except that in this case it is religious faith that inspires love. A Muslim, at the very least, yearns to touch the soil of these lands and to spend in them at least a few days and evenings of his life. Some hope to spend their whole lives in these lands, until, if death finds them there, they are interred within its soil.