38. From here begins the discourse (Ayats 38-72) which was sent down at the time when the Prophet (peace be upon him) was engaged in making preparations for the campaign to Tabuk.
39. “The enjoyment of the life of this world” may imply two meanings. First: “When you will find that the life in the Hereafter is eternal and see that the good things and the provisions of enjoyment are countless, you will realize that the potential and the actual enjoyments of the temporary life of this world were nothing as compared with the blessings of that great kingdom. At that time you will regret why you deprived yourselves of this everlasting happiness and bliss for the sake of a very little and short lived enjoyments of the mortal life of this world.” Second: “The goods of this worldly life are of no value in the Hereafter, howsoever abundant they might be. You shall have to give up each and everything as soon as you breathe your last. For nothing of this world can go with you to the next world. Of course, you will get credit for what you sacrificed for the pleasure and love of Allah, and love of Islam.”
40. A general rule of the Islamic conduct has been derived from, “If you do not go forth, He will punish you with a painful punishment.” When the Muslims are commanded to go to Jihad by a public proclamation from their leader, it becomes an obligatory duty for those who are called upon to do Jihad, whether they belong to any particular group or region. So much so that the faith of those who do not go for Jihad without a genuine excuse becomes doubtful. But even in cases where the Muslims are called upon to go forth for Jihad and there is no command for the compulsory enrollment of every able-bodied Muslim of a particular group or region, it is a religious duty (though not obligatory), and it shall be considered to have been performed even if only some Muslims go forth for it.
41. That is, “Allah’s work does not depend on you and will be accomplished only if you do it. It is Allah’s grace and bounty that He is affording you the golden opportunity of serving the cause of His Way. Therefore if you miss this opportunity because of any foolish assumption, Allah will raise another people and bestow on them the opportunity and capability of doing His work, and you will be losers”.
42. This refers to the occasion when the disbelievers had decided to assassinate the Prophet (peace be upon him), and the very night, fixed for his assassination, he had left Makkah for Al-Madinah. By that time most of the Muslims had migrated to Al-Madinah in twos and threes and only a few helpless ones had remained behind in Makkah. As he was sure that he would be pursued, he took only Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him) with him and went southward instead of following the northern route to Al- Madinah and remained hidden in the Thaur cave for three days. In the meantime the blood thirsty enemies had begun to make a thorough search for him all around Makkah and some of them reached the very mouth of the cave where he was hidden. On this critical occasion Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him) naturally felt alarmed lest they should peep into the cave, and see them. But the Prophet (peace be upon him) remained as calm as before and reassured his companion, saying, “Do not grieve, indeed Allah is with us.”
43. The words, “light-armed and heavy-armed” have a very comprehensive meaning: when it is enjoined to march forth for Jihad, you must go forth anyhow, whether you like it or not: whether you are in a state of prosperity or indigence, whether you are well-equipped or ill-equipped: whether the circumstances are favorable or adverse: whether you are young and healthy or old and weak.
44. They felt the journey to Tabuk to be hard because they had to fight with the army of the great and powerful Roman Empire: because they had to journey in the scorching heat of the summer season of the desert: because there was a famine in the country and the new harvest on which they had pinned their hopes was ready for reaping.