When Muslims suffered defeat in battle at Uhud and some of them were killed, Shaytan shouted, "Muhammad has been killed.'' Ibn Qami'ah went back to the idolaters and claimed, "I have killed Muhammad.'' Some Muslims believed this rumor and thought that the Messenger of Allah had been killed, claiming that this could happen, for Allah narrated that this occurred to many Prophets before. Therefore, the Muslims' resolve was weakened and they did not actively participate in battle. This is why Allah sent down to His Messenger His statement,
(Muhammad is no more than a Messenger, and indeed Messengers have passed away before him.) he is to deliver Allah's Message and may be killed in the process, just as what happened to many Prophets before. Ibn Abi Najih said that his father said that a man from the Muhajirin passed by an Ansari man who was bleeding (during Uhud) and said to him, "O fellow! Did you know that Muhammad was killed'' The Ansari man said, "Even if Muhammad was killed, he has indeed conveyed the Message. Therefore, defend your religion.'' The Ayah,
(Muhammad is no more than a Messenger, and indeed (many) Messengers have passed away before him), was revealed. This story was collected by Al-Hafiz Abu Bakr Al-Bayhaqi in Dala'il An-Nubuwwah.
Allah said next, while chastising those who became weak,
(If he dies or is killed, will you then turn back on your heels), become disbelievers,
(And he who turns back on his heels, not the least harm will he do to Allah; and Allah will give reward to those who are grateful), those who obeyed Allah, defended His religion and followed His Messenger whether he was alive or dead. The Sahih, Musnad and Sunan collections gathered various chains of narration stating that Abu Bakr recited this Ayah when the Messenger of Allah died. Al-Bukhari recorded that `A'ishah said that Abu Bakr came riding his horse from his dwelling in As-Sunh. He dismounted, entered the Masjid and did not speak to anyone until he came to her ﴿in her room﴾ and went directly to the Prophet, who was covered with a marked blanket. Abu Bakr uncovered his face, knelt down and kissed him, then started weeping and proclaimed, "My father and my mother be sacrificed for you! Allah will not combine two deaths on you. You have died the death, which was written for you.''
Ibn `Abbas narrated that Abu Bakr then came out, while `Umar was addressing the people, and Abu Bakr told him to sit down but `Umar refused, and the people attended to Abu Bakr and left `Umar. Abu Bakr said, "To proceed; whoever among you worshipped Muhammad, then Muhammad is dead, but whoever worshipped Allah, Allah is alive and will never die. Allah said,
(Muhammad is no more than a Messenger and indeed (many) Messengers have passed away before him. If he dies or is killed, will you then turn back on your heels And he who turns back on his heels, not the least harm will he do to Allah; and Allah will reward the grateful.)''
The narrator added, "By Allah, it was as if the people never knew that Allah had revealed this verse before until Abu Bakr recited it, and then whoever heard it, started reciting it.'' Sa`id bin Al-Musayyib said that `Umar said, "By Allah! When I heard Abu Bakr recite this Ayah, my feet could not hold me, and I fell to the ground.''
(And no person can ever die except by Allah's leave and at an appointed term.) (3:145) meaning, no one dies except by Allah's decision, after he has finished the term that Allah has destined for him. This is why Allah said,
(at an appointed term) which is similar to His statements,
(And no aged man is granted a length of life nor is a part cut off from his life, but it is in a Book) (35:11), and,
(He it is Who has created you from clay, and then has decreed a (stated) term (for you to die). And there is with Him another determined term (for you to be resurrected)) (6:2).
This Ayah (3:145) encourages cowards to participate in battle; for doing so, or avoiding battle neither decreases, nor increases the life term. Ibn Abi Hatim narrated that, Habib bin Suhban said that a Muslim man, Hujr bin `Adi, said in a battle, "What prevents you from crossing this river (the Euphrates) to the enemy
(And no person can ever die except by Allah's leave and at an appointed term)'' He then crossed the river riding his horse, and when he did, the Muslims followed him. When the enemy saw them, they started shouting, "Diwan (Persian; crazy),'' and they ran away.
Allah said next,
(And whoever desires a reward in the world, We shall give him of it; and whoever desires a reward in the Hereafter, We shall give him thereof).
Therefore, the Ayah proclaims, whoever works for the sake of this life, will only earn what Allah decides he will earn. However, he will not have a share in the Hereafter. Whoever works for the sake of the Hereafter, Allah will give him a share in the Hereafter, along with what He decides for him in this life. In similar statements, Allah said,
(Whosoever desires (by his deeds) the reward of the Hereafter, We give him increase in his reward, and whosoever desires the reward of this world (by his deeds), We give him thereof (what is decreed for him), and he has no portion in the Hereafter.) (42:20), and,
(Whoever desires the quick-passing (transitory enjoyment of this world), We readily grant him what We will for whom We like. Then, afterwards, We have appointed for him Hell; he will burn therein disgraced and despised. And whoever desires the Hereafter and strives for it, with the necessary effort due for it while he is a believer, then such are the ones whose striving shall be appreciated) (17:18-19).
In this Ayah (3:145), Allah said,
(And We shall reward the grateful.) meaning, We shall award them with Our favor and mercy in this life and the Hereafter, according to the degree of their appreciation (of Allah) and their good deeds.
Allah then comforts the believers because of what they suffered in Uhud,
(And many a Prophet fought and along with him many Ribbiyyun.)
It was said that this Ayah means that many Prophets and their companions were killed in earlier times, as is the view chosen by Ibn Jarir. It was also said that the Ayah means that many Prophets witnessed their companions' death before their eyes. However, Ibn Ishaq mentioned another explanation in his Sirah, saying that this Ayah means, "Many a Prophet was killed, and he had many companions whose resolve did not weaken after their Prophet died, and they did not become feeble in the face of the enemy. What they suffered in Jihad in Allah's cause and for the sake of their religion did not make them lose heart. This is patience,
(and Allah loves the patient.)'' As-Suhayli agreed with this explanation and defended it vigorously. This view is supported by Allah saying;
(And along with him many Ribbiyyun).
In his book about the battles, Al-Amawi mentioned only this explanation for the Ayah. Sufyan Ath-Thawri reported that, Ibn Mas`ud said that,
(many Ribbiyyun) means, thousands. Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid, Sa`id bin Jubayr, `Ikrimah, Al-Hasan, Qatadah, As-Suddi, Ar-Rabi` and `Ata' Al-Khurasani said that the word Ribbiyyun means, `large bands'. `Abdur-Razzaq narrated that Ma`mmar said that Al-Hasan said that,
(many Ribbiyyun) means, many scholars. He also said that it means patient and pious scholars.
(But they never lost heart for that which befell them in Allah's way, nor did they weaken nor degrade themselves.)
Qatadah and Ar-Rabi` bin Anas said that,
(nor did they weaken), means, after their Prophet was killed.
(nor degrade themselves), by reverting from the true guidance and religion. Rather, they fought on the path that Allah's Prophet fought on until they met Allah. Ibn `Abbas said that,
(nor degrade themselves) means, nor became humiliated, while As-Suddi and Ibn Zayd said that it means, they did not give in to the enemy.
(And Allah loves the patient. And they said nothing but: "Our Lord! Forgive us our sins and our transgressions, establish our feet firmly, and give us victory over the disbelieving folk.'') (3:146-147), and this was the statement that they kept repeating. Therefore,
(So Allah gave them the reward of this world) victory, triumph and the good end,
(and the excellent reward of the Hereafter) added to the gains in this life,
(And Allah loves the good-doers).
(149. O you who believe! If you obey those who disbelieve, they will send you back on your heels, and you will turn back as losers.) (150. Nay, Allah is your protector, and He is the best of helpers.) (151. We shall cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve, because they joined others in worship with Allah, for which He sent no authority; their abode will be the Fire and how evil is the abode of the wrongdoers.) (152. And Allah did indeed fulfill His promise to you when you were killing them (your enemy) with His permission; until Fashiltum and fell to disputing about the order, and disobeyed after He showed you what you love. Among you are some that desire this world and some that desire the Hereafter. Then He made you flee from them, that He might test you. But surely, He forgave you, and Allah is Most Gracious to the believers.) (153. (And remember) when you ran away without even casting a side glance at anyone, and the Messenger was in your rear calling you back. There did Allah give you one distress after another by way of requital, to teach you not to grieve for that which had escaped you, nor for what struck you. And Allah is Well-Aware of all that you do.)