As for the believers, they possess nothing of their own as they have traded their lives and their wealth with Allaah-SWT for a very handsome price, that is the Jannah, which is a manifestation of His-SWT Pleasure.
According to the Commentators, this Ayah was revealed in favour of the Companions-RAU (comprising both men and women) who took an oath called "Bait-e-'Uqbah." This Oath of Allegiance was taken at Mina by seventy men and women from Madinah on the eve of Hajj. They pledged that they would never worship anyone save Allaah-SWT and that they would protect the Holy Prophet-SW more than their lives, property and children. A detailed account of this event may be seen in chronicles and books on life of the Holy Prophet-SW as well as in other Commentaries of the Quran. However, its applicability is general for all believers and it explains the states of faith in much detail with clarity and beauty.
Reality of Faith and its Impact on Practical Life
The essence of faith is that a believer trades all that he has with Allaah-SWT for Paradise, a station of Allah-SWT's Nearness as well as an evidence of His-SWT Pleasure. The illustrious Companion-RAU Hadhrat 'Umar Farooq-RAU would marvel at this strange transaction, that it is Allaah-SWT Who has originally given everything and it is He-SWT Who buys back what already belongs to Him-SWT for more blessings. In other words, a human being loses nothing, as he never had anything of his own. The effect of realising this fact is that the believers fight the infidels in the Cause of Allah-SWT, killing them or falling martyrs themselves. They do not care whether it involves a loss of life or wealth for they have already sold everything and are now simply following the instructions of the Owner.
This is not the first lime that such a deal has been made between Allaah-SWT and the believers. The same had also been offered to the preceding nations. Evidence of this can be found in the Torah and the Bible, and now in the Quran. It is enlirely dependant upon the selling party as to how far it succeeds in honouring this deal finalized with the Almighty. Once it is driven home that life and wealth actually belong to Allah-SWT, one no longer desires to increase his wealth by disobeying Him-SWT . And once life is sold to Allah-SWT, why then the urge to earn unlawfully or to commit acts forbidden by Him-SWT to satisfy the vain desires. However, if inspite of being a believer one gets involved in wrongdoing, certainly he is not honouring his part of the deal. His-SWT is a different story, but the determined souls who abide by the deal with sincerity and devotion ought to be congratulated, for Allaah-SWT will honour His-SWT Word and His Jannah shall be theirs, indeed a grand success.
Sometimes non-practising Muslims also join in Jihad, for it is an impulsive decision, in which emotion overwhelm them and take them to the battlefield, giving them the courage to encounter the enemy. But the lives of those who are not merely driven by emotions, but fight because of the strength of their faith, are transformed outside the battlefield too. They are the repentants who repeatedly seek Allah-SWT's Forgiveness against mistakes; apparent and hidden. They worship Allaah-SWT and are always grateful to Him-SWT . It is a common observation that the non practising believers, consciously or unconsciously continue to recount their troubles to Allaah-SWT . But if one has a strong faith he is always grateful to Him-SWT . They not only worship Him-SWT to fulfill an obligation but also relish the pleasures of each Sajdah and restrain from frivolous activities. They enjoin good and forbid evil. In short, they guard the limits laid down by Allaah-SWT . Not only do they themselves observe the sanctity of these limits but also try their level best to prevent others from crossing them. Believers, adorned with these virtues, may rightfully be given the glad tidings of eternal success, of which these Ayat are strong evidence, well before the establishment of the Day of Judgement.
Today we expect similar rewards here and in the Hereafter but have either forgotten to honour our part of the deal or have somehow cancelled the contract altogether. May Allaah-SWT grant us the power to observe and standfast on our end of the bargain!
Cause of Abu Talib's Ordeal
Those who refuse to partake in this deal altogether and die as infidels, can obviously expect no good from it. It is not befitting for the Holy Prophet-SW and the believers to even pray for their salvation and that is why it has been prohibited.
Abu Talib was the paternal uncle of the Holy Prophet-SW who had always protected him against all odds. When he was breathing his last the Holy Prophet-SW tried to persuade him to embrace Islam. He repeatedly urged his uncle to whisper Kalimah Tayyebah in his-SW ear, so that the Holy Prophet-SW could intercede for him. But Abu Jahl would intervene each time and ask him to stand fast on his ancestral religion. The last words Abu Talib uttered were that he was dying on his ancestral religion. The Holy Prophet-SW insisted that he would still pray for him unless prohibited by Allaah-SWT . Once this Ayah was revealed, the Holy Prophet-SW discontinued praying for him.
A big question that boggles the mind is why Abu Talib, the Holy Prophet-SW uncle who had helped him against all odds until his last breath, was denied the capacity to repent? A point that must be clarified at the very outset is that while Abu Talib did side with the Holy Prophet-SW, it was not he who brought him up. A book on the life of the Holy Prophet-SW titled "Muhammad-ur-Rasul Allah" published in Egypt asserts that it was the Holy Prophet-SW who supported the family of Abu Talib. As an orphan joining the household of his uncle, he-SW worked as a shepherd boy and whatever he earned, he gave it to his uncle, who had very meagre means and a large family to support. When the Holy Prophet-SW got married and went to his own home, he brought one of his young cousins along in order to ease off some of his uncle's burden. This young cousin was Hadhrat Ali-RAU. However, Abu Talib did help the Holy Prophet-SW inspite of all the risks involved. Yet he remained deprived simply because he did not support him as the Prophet-SW of Allaah-SWT but only as his nephew. Had he paid heed to the Prophethood, he would have never remained deprived.
A Believer’s Prayer
Thus a rule was laid that believers are not to pray for deceased idolaters. This proves that the prayer of the believers in favour of other believers is indeed a Divine Reward while the prayer of the Holy Prophet'-SW is undisputedly unique. Deprivation from this is the punishment earned for a grievous crime as polytheism. However, it is permissible to pray for a non believer and an idolater during his lifetime. This may pave the way for him to act righteously and attain eternal success by embracing Islam. When the Holy Prophet'-SW was wounded in the Battle of Uhad, he had prayed: "O' Allaah-SWT ! Forgive my people for they do not know me." Mark that they were at war with Muhammad bin Abdullah and had no perception of the exalted status of Allah-SWT's Prophet-SW Whenever a person dies as a disbeliever; it is obvious that he has been condemned to Hell forever. Therefore, it is not permissible to pray for his salvation.
Prophet Ibrahim-AS had prayed for his father. It is true that the polytheists of Makkah held the religion of Prophet Ibrahim-AS in great esteem. Some of the facts pertaining to his religion had been preserved over the centuries and this was one of those facts. So Allaah-SWT confirmed that he had, in fact, prayed for his father. After making all possible efforts in conveying the true religion to his father and on his persistent denial, Prophet Ibrahim-AS had parted saying that he would seek forgiveness for him from Allaah-SWT . Prophet Ibrahim-AS being very kind-hearted and gentle did pray in order to honour his promise. But when he became convinced that his father had remained firm on his disbelief and hostility towards Allaah-SWT till the very end of his life, he absolved himself of this resolve. This, in fact, is the impact of faith, that all relationships with those afflicted with the darkness of disbelief are severed.
It doesn't measure up to Allah-SWT's Grace to declare someone as misguided or a non believer and punish him, or to deprive anyone of guidance after he has accepted the faith. The rule is that doctrines and laws are revealed through the Prophet-SW's and the limits are demarcated by His-SWT Book. Those who do not accept these doctrines or renounce them after accepting, themselves invite misfortune. Allaah-SWT is well Aware of all their thoughts and no matter what they say, it is the action, which earns reward or punishment. He has granted this free will to mankind though He-SWT Himself wields Absolute Authority over all matters. The entire universe is His-SWT Alone and over the domain of the earth or the heavens, He-SWT is the Sovereign. It is He-SWT Who quickens and orders the death to overtake. People must not forget that if they leave Him-SWT or give up His-SWT obedience, they are bound to be left alone and helpless, having no friend to help a bit. He-SWT is so Generous that He-SWT showered His-SWT Prophet-SW with His-SWT blessings and also those Muhajirin and Ansar who always stood by him.
Stations and Levels of His-SWT Nearness are Endless
Acceptance of repentance does not connote mere forgiveness of a sin. When Allaah-SWT accepts repentance it means progress in His-SWT Nearness. The Ayah: "Assuredly has Allaah-SWT relented towards the Prophet-SW and to the Muhajirin and the Ansar" means that Allaah-SWT elevates the stations of His-SWT Prophet-SW and his followers, the Muhajirin and Ansar constantly. Just as He-SWT Himself is unlimited so are the stations of His-SWT Nearness. And Suluk is a never ending journey. So much so that even in the Akhirah there will be a constant progress for the believers in terms of pleasures and spiritual states, though it shall depend upon the practical life in this world.
Allah-SWT's Munificence Towards the Companions-RAU
The Companions-RAU were so deeply devoted that they did not leave the Holy Prophet-SWT's side even through moments of great trial and distress. This refers to the Battle of Tabuk, which took place at a time when drought and a terribly hot weather were complemented with long journey and a formidable enemy. But the Companions-RAU were not deterred by any hurdles. And some of them who became apprehensive due to propaganda by the hypocrites were blessed with Divine Succour to make the right decision. Since their hearts overflowed with sincerity, Allaah-SWT protected them from being deluded by Satan and the hypocrites. Even though a momentary hesitation did not befit their status and was in itself a grave crime, yet the Most Forgiving cleansed them and pardoned them, for He-SWT extends special Mercy and Grace towards them. Mark the case of the three Companions'-RAU who failed to join the Jihad contingent. As mentioned before they presented themselves before the Holy Prophet-SW on his return from Tabuk and confessed that they had succumbed to laziness but their devotion had not diminished. Some of them even tied themselves to the pillars of the Prophet-SW's Masjid. The three who are specifically being discussed are Hadhrat K'ab ibn Malik-RAU, Marara bin Rabe'eh-RAU and Halal bin Umayyah-RAU. They did not tie themselves with the pillars, yet confessed their neglect. They were well known Ansars and had participated in all major events from Bait-e-'Uqbah to all the previous battles. However, the Holy Prophet-SW, very annoyed at their negligence, said that their case was left to Allaah-SWT for a decision. Pending that he ordered a general boycott by the believers. Hadhrat K’ab ibn Malik-RAU being the youngest among these well known personalities of Madinah recalls how all the believers turned away from them. No one would even exchange greetings. After forty days their wives also received the command to separate from them. Thus totally isolated, their life became truly miserable. A non believer Ghassani chieftain and a right hand man of the Caesor, wrote to Hadhrat K'ab bin Malik-RAU that he should come over to them, and he will be duly honoured. He set this letter ablaze in reply to the offer. But his-RAU life became even bitter by the very thought that now the non believers were nursing hopes to win him-RAU over.
Inspite of all its vastness the earth seemed to have straitened and life became an unbearable burden for them. And it became crystal clear that no one can protect them against the Wrath of Allah-SWT, or avert His-SWT Afflictions unless He-SWT shows clemency Himself. Thus Allaah-SWT accepted their repentance and on the fiftieth day these Ayat were revealed and they were pardoned. The Holy Prophet-SW's and all the Companions-RAU were overjoyed. The Companions-RAU ran to inform Hadhrat K’ab'-RAU, who lived on the farther side of mount Safa with Hadhrat Abu Bakr Siddiq-RAU and Umar-RAU in the lead. When Hadhrat Umar-RAU out ran Hadhrat Abu Bakr Siddiq-RAU, the latter climbed up the Mount Sala and called out "O K'ab! Congratulations".
Let us analyze our conduct in this perspective and see how much is our contribution to the Holy Prophet-SW's mission. How many Jihad expeditions have we undertaken for upholding Islam that we are so hopeful of being rewarded by Allaah-SWT .This may help us to realize our condition. Allaah-SWT is the Most Relenting and Merciful; His-SWT Mercy is unfathomable and no man has the power to even imagine its depths.