Why do we lose and How do We Win? Allah’s Laws of Victory

by | Jan 26, 2024 | Publishing, Featured

Translated and adapted from a lecture by Ahmad Alsayad “Sunnah an-Nasr wa at-Tamkeen

Although we are not strangers to trial and tribulation, sometimes it feels like we keep losing. In the past few years alone, Muslims in the West have struggled with a host of challenges: losing our youth to atheism and harmful ideological trends, a lack of unity and direction, racism and prejudice within some Muslim spaces, Islamophobic rhetoric across societal institutions and from our political leaders, and harassment motivated by xenophobia and racism. Abroad, in Muslim lands and beyond, we wrestle with wars, economic disparity, tyrannical dictatorships, suppression of Islamic expression and practice, occupation, and pilfering of our resources. This is just the tip of the iceberg.

When the challenges overwhelm us, we sometimes wonder why Allah is not helping or supporting us. Didn’t Allah promise victory for those who work in His cause, after all? This wrong line of thinking can lead to problematic decisions in a desperate grab for success, from aligning with immoral groups to pleading with adversaries for support. Sometimes, we do nothing at all, yet still expect someone to come along and bring victory. More often than not, it is a lack of understanding that leads to this line of questioning; we simply don’t know what constitutes a victory, how victory comes, and the effort needed to achieve it.

This article explores Allah’s sunnah, or the divine laws, of victory. Allah has indeed made us a promise: that the believers will be victorious. We will expand on the definition of victory, its formulas, pathways, and conditions, according to the Quran and Sunnah. Whether we are vocal activists, volunteers in the backdrop, or community leaders, we must each be committed to understanding the recipe for achieving victory according to Allah’s laws and direct the full thrust of our efforts into fulfilling these prerequisites of victory.

Man in prayer

The Divine Law is Constant

Just like the physical world is bound by the laws of cause and effect and other immutable principles, the course of human events is also guided by discernible patterns and laws ordained by God. Like all of Allah’s divine sunan (laws, patterns or pathways) dictating human events, the divine laws of victory are constant and universally applicable. When we fulfill the conditions, Allah will grant victory in due time. In the Quran, Allah affirms His guarantee for victory, along with His constant support and presence, for the believers:

إِنَّا لَنَنصُرُ رُسُلَنَا وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا فِي الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا وَيَوْمَ يَقُومُ الْأَشْهَادُ ۝

Indeed, We will support Our messengers and those who believe during the life of this world and on the Day when the witnesses will stand. [Surah Ghafir 40:51]

These verses are not limited to a specific situation. Instead, they are a permanent and fixed divine law applying to all places, times, and circumstances so long as the conditions are met. Ibn Taymiyyah said, “This is the sunnah of Allah and His method of supporting His faithful servants if they do their duty against the disbelievers.”


Allah Grants Victory as a Reward to the Believers—But it’s not the Ultimate Reward

Victory, bestowed by Allah, is a divine reward for believers who demonstrate patience and steadfastness in their commitment to spreading the Word of God. It is not the default outcome of material action and pursuit. Our best efforts are an important condition for victory, but the satisfaction of witnessing victory is not a guarantee in our work. Rather, it is an added reward from Allah for our tangible efforts and persistence in maintaining His conditions. Consider again these verses from Surah Aal-Imran which we explored earlier:

وَكَأَيِّن مِّن نَّبِىٍّۢ قَـٰتَلَ مَعَهُۥ رِبِّيُّونَ كَثِيرٌۭ فَمَا وَهَنُوا۟ لِمَآ أَصَابَهُمْ فِى سَبِيلِ ٱللَّهِ وَمَا ضَعُفُوا۟ وَمَا ٱسْتَكَانُوا۟ ۗ وَٱللَّهُ يُحِبُّ ٱلصَّـٰبِرِينَ ۝ وَمَا كَانَ قَوْلَهُمْ إِلَّآ أَن قَالُوا۟ رَبَّنَا ٱغْفِرْ لَنَا ذُنُوبَنَا وَإِسْرَافَنَا فِىٓ أَمْرِنَا وَثَبِّتْ أَقْدَامَنَا وَٱنصُرْنَا عَلَى ٱلْقَوْمِ ٱلْكَـٰفِرِينَ ۝ فَـَٔاتَىٰهُمُ ٱللَّهُ ثَوَابَ ٱلدُّنْيَا وَحُسْنَ ثَوَابِ ٱلْـَٔاخِرَةِ ۗ وَٱللَّهُ يُحِبُّ ٱلْمُحْسِنِينَ ۝

[Imagine] how many devotees fought along with their prophets and never faltered despite whatever they suffered in the cause of Allah, nor did they weaken or give in! Allah loves those who persevere. And all they said was, ‘Our Lord! Forgive our sins and excesses, make our steps firm, and grant us victory over the disbelieving people.’ So Allah gave them the reward of this world and the excellent reward of the Hereafter. For Allah loves the good-doers [muhsineen] [Surah Aal-Imran:146-148]

Here, Allah refers to victory as a reward, even when it resulted from a nearly debilitating calamity. In fact, across the Quran, victory is always linked to Allah. Whenever victory comes it is from Allah and only Him. 

Allah tells us that if we are fulfilling the conditions—strong belief, patience, consistent effort, and so on—the outcome He grants will always be victory in due time. On the other hand, Allah makes another promise for a different victory. This great form of victory, Allah’s eternal paradise, is guaranteed for each believer who fulfills the conditions, no matter the material results in this world. Allah says:

يَـٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوا۟ هَلْ أَدُلُّكُمْ عَلَىٰ تِجَـٰرَةٍۢ تُنجِيكُم مِّنْ عَذَابٍ أَلِيمٍۢ ۝ تُؤْمِنُونَ بِٱللَّهِ وَرَسُولِهِۦ وَتُجَـٰهِدُونَ فِى سَبِيلِ ٱللَّهِ بِأَمْوَٰلِكُمْ وَأَنفُسِكُمْ ۚ ذَٰلِكُمْ خَيْرٌۭ لَّكُمْ إِن كُنتُمْ تَعْلَمُونَ ۝  يَغْفِرْ لَكُمْ ذُنُوبَكُمْ وَيُدْخِلْكُمْ جَنَّـٰتٍۢ تَجْرِى مِن تَحْتِهَا ٱلْأَنْهَـٰرُ وَمَسَـٰكِنَ طَيِّبَةًۭ فِى جَنَّـٰتِ عَدْنٍۢ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ ٱلْفَوْزُ ٱلْعَظِيمُ ۝ وَأُخْرَىٰ تُحِبُّونَهَا ۖ نَصْرٌۭ مِّنَ ٱللَّهِ وَفَتْحٌۭ قَرِيبٌۭ ۗ وَبَشِّرِ ٱلْمُؤْمِنِينَ ۝

O believers! Shall I guide you to a trade that will save you from a painful punishment? [It is to] have faith in Allah and His Messenger, and strive in the cause of Allah with your wealth and your lives. That is best for you, if only you knew. He will forgive your sins, and admit you into Gardens under which rivers flow, and [house you in] splendid homes in the Gardens of Eternity. That is the ultimate triumph. [He will also give you] another favor that you long for: help from Allah and an imminent victory. [So] give good news [O Prophet] to the believers. [Surah As-Saf:10-13]

Notice how Allah calls the material victory and triumph in this life “another favor that you long for.” This is because victory in the hereafter is guaranteed, whereas victory in this life is the extra bonus, one that we may not live to see. We must continuously strive to fulfill the conditions for victory in this life in order to be granted this guarantee of success and reward in the hereafter.

What is Victory?

Many of us imagine victory in its conventional form: the moment when the opposition is completely defeated, and a flag is planted over the enemy’s fortress. However, total defeat of an adversary is only one of many ways victory can be achieved. The Quran describes several ways that Allah sends victory:

  • Prevailing over enemies and aggressors. In this form of victory, believers typically fight in battle against their adversaries and achieve a small or large win. During Badr, for example, the believers prevailed over the disbelievers in battle, thus achieving a small victory for the ummah. The Conquest of Makkah was a greater level of victory that catalyzed the spread of Islam across the world. 
  • Demonstrating the truth. Believers may defeat their opponents by resisting oppression and demonstrating truth, even if they do not win a battle or prevail in a traditional sense. This may look like winning a debate in which positions are facing off directly. It also may take the form of debunking false opinions, publicizing the truth, and garnering new support in society. Any time truth prevails over falsehood is a moment of victory. 
  • Preventing the enemy from achieving their goals. Our adversaries have many goals that they seek to achieve and many strategies they apply in hopes of detrimental outcomes. The believers are victorious every time they prevent their adversaries from achieving a goal, even if it only creates a temporary obstacle and does not eliminate the threat altogether.
  • Destroying an enemy, by Allah’s Will. Allah allows the destruction and humiliation of some particularly harrowing adversaries. These adversaries were typically those who deliberately sought to break the believers’ spirit, aiming to dominate them and leaving them crushed and humiliated. In these situations, Allah Himself may ensure these oppressors suffer the degradation they imposed on others, even after the believers they persecuted have passed on. Allah describes drowning the Pharaoh and his army in the Red Sea, right after the Children of Israel escaped with Musa (as) from the Pharaoh’s grasp, as an example of an oppressor whom Allah Himself destroyed in disgrace.
  • People accepting Islam and becoming believers. Anytime an individual accepts Islam, the ummah is victorious. In fact, Surah An-Nasr, addressing the Conquest of Makkah and subsequent mass acceptance of Islam is a reminder from Allah that people accepting Islam is a momentous victory: 

 إِذَا جَآءَ نَصْرُ ٱللَّهِ وَٱلْفَتْحُ ۝ وَرَأَيْتَ ٱلنَّاسَ يَدْخُلُونَ فِى دِينِ ٱللَّهِ أَفْوَاجًۭا ۝ فَسَبِّحْ بِحَمْدِ رَبِّكَ وَٱسْتَغْفِرْهُ ۚ إِنَّهُۥ كَانَ تَوَّابًۢا ۝

When Allah’s [ultimate] help comes and the victory [over Makkah is achieved] and you [O Prophet] see the people embracing Allah’s Way in crowds, then glorify the praises of your Lord and seek His forgiveness, for certainly He is ever Accepting of Repentance. [Surah An-Nasr:1-3]

This is true even if the one who delivered the message to the new believers dies in the process. In Surah Al-Buruj, for example, the king executed the boy before he witnessed his people’s firm belief in Allah. In fact, the boy’s execution was the catalyst for their conviction—although the believers were all killed as well. Even still, Allah affirms this moment as a victory and memorializes it in the Quran because the boy steered the people into belief so strong they were willing to die for it. 

How does Allah bring Victory?

What are the prerequisites that trigger the divine laws of victory, and what efforts must we sustain in order to achieve it? We will explore several conditions and a framework for understanding Allah’s laws of victory. 

Before Victory, There is Hardship

Struggling with affliction is a necessary condition to achieve victory. We cannot expect that Allah will immediately turn things around for us the moment we acknowledge the problem; we must wrestle with the hardship first, putting our best efforts into altering our states and exercising steadfastness. We should understand that some divine laws work in parallel while others work in tandem. The laws of victory fall under the second type: victory comes only after certain conditions are met, and one of those is affliction. Allah describes this in the Quran in the following ayahs:

حَتَّىٰٓ إِذَا ٱسْتَيْـَٔسَ ٱلرُّسُلُ وَظَنُّوٓا۟ أَنَّهُمْ قَدْ كُذِبُوا۟ جَآءَهُمْ نَصْرُنَا فَنُجِّىَ مَن نَّشَآءُ ۖ وَلَا يُرَدُّ بَأْسُنَا عَنِ ٱلْقَوْمِ ٱلْمُجْرِمِينَ ۝

Until when the messengers have despaired, and thought that they were rejected, Our help came to them. We save whomever We will, and Our severity is not averted from the guilty people.  [Surah Yusuf:110]

أَمْ حَسِبْتُمْ أَن تَدْخُلُوا۟ ٱلْجَنَّةَ وَلَمَّا يَأْتِكُم مَّثَلُ ٱلَّذِينَ خَلَوْا۟ مِن قَبْلِكُم ۖ مَّسَّتْهُمُ ٱلْبَأْسَآءُ وَٱلضَّرَّآءُ وَزُلْزِلُوا۟ حَتَّىٰ يَقُولَ ٱلرَّسُولُ وَٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوا۟ مَعَهُۥ مَتَىٰ نَصْرُ ٱللَّهِ ۗ أَلَآ إِنَّ نَصْرَ ٱللَّهِ قَرِيبٌۭ ۝

Do you think you will be admitted into Paradise without being tested like those before you? They were afflicted with suffering and adversity and were so [violently] shaken that [even] the Messenger and the believers with him cried out, “When will Allah’s help come?” Indeed, Allah’s help is [always] near. [Surah Al-Baqarah:214]

It’s important to remember that affliction is part of the wisdom of Allah. We may not fully understand the necessity or benefit of it, but we know that Allah never ceases in His Majesty, Mercy, and Compassion, even when He is allowing hardship to persist. We explore some understandings that we may draw from affliction in a related article: Do not Falter or Grieve: Quranic Guidance for Building a Mindset of Triumph in Hard Times.

Victory Comes when Allah Decides, Not Us

Victory comes according to Allah’s timing, not ours. We seek to induce victory by adhering to the conditions of righteousness, but Allah delays or hastens the arrival of victory according to His wisdom. While we may start to lose hope at times and assume that Allah’s aid is distant and out of reach for us, Allah is in fact closer than we can imagine. It is for us to avoid getting lost in the afflictions of the moment or losing sight of Allah’s wisdom in His approach. 

We’re not alone in our struggles — some of the earlier Prophets and their followers saw a delay in victory. Allah describes many examples of this in the Quran, such as in the verse from Surah Al-Baqarah mentioned earlier: “…and [they] were so [violently] shaken that [even] the messenger and the believers with him cried out, ‘When will Allah’s help come?’” The Messengers’ questioning is not coming from losing hope in Allah; rather, they were doubting whether they had fulfilled the conditions required for victory to come. 

Similarly, the early Muslims, including the Prophet himself, experienced harassment and ridicule in Makkah. Those who did not have strong family ties or connections with powerful members of Makkan society were subjected to the most severe persecution, including torture and even death. One companion, Khabab ibn Al-Arrat, was a gifted swordsmaker but he was enslaved, so he experienced some of the most severe torture of the early Muslims. As the weeks of oppression turned into years, the companions began to worry that relief and victory would not come. Khabab ibn Al-Arrat narrated:

We complained to Allah’s Messenger of the persecution inflicted on us by the disbelievers while he was sitting in the shade of the Ka`ba, leaning over his Burd (covering sheet). We said to him, “Would you seek help for us? Would you pray to Allah for us?” He said, “Among the nations before you a believing man would be put in a ditch that was dug for him, and a saw would be put over his head and he would be cut into two pieces; yet that torture would not make him give up his religion. His body would be combed with iron combs that would remove his flesh from the bones and nerves; yet that would not make him abandon his religion. By Allah, this religion will prevail until a traveler from Sanaa (in Yemen) to Hadramaut will fear none but Allah, or a wolf as regards his sheep, but you people are hasty.

Even though Khabab ibn al-Arat was severely tortured, he strived to remain patient for a while before he requested the Prophet make dua (supplication) for a hastened victory. Khabab also was receptive to this reminder that Allah’s victory comes according to His time and not ours because he understood that Allah’s wisdom is comprehensive and His understanding is absolute. 

In our limited understanding and perspective, we may not see the benefit or necessity of prolonging affliction but we must follow in the footsteps of the Messengers, Prophets, and Companions, striving for steadfast trust in Allah and His timing. 

Victory can be Followed with Defeat 

Sometimes the believers achieve a victory, and Allah subsequently tests them with a defeat or with setbacks. The Battle of Badr followed by Uhud is one such example from the Seerah. Allah tells us that He ordained the victory at Badr in Surah Aal-Imran, verse 124: “Indeed, Allah made you victorious at Badr when you were [vastly] outnumbered.” Yet, He ordained their defeat in Uhud. Allah describes the outcomes of both these battles in the Quran: 

أَوَلَمَّآ أَصَـٰبَتْكُم مُّصِيبَةٌۭ قَدْ أَصَبْتُم مِّثْلَيْهَا قُلْتُمْ أَنَّىٰ هَـٰذَا ۖ قُلْ هُوَ مِنْ عِندِ أَنفُسِكُمْ ۗ

Why is it when you suffered casualties—although you had made your enemy suffer twice as much [at Badr]—you said, “How could this be?” Say, “It is from your own selves.” Allah is indeed All-Powerful over everything.” [Surah Aal-Imraan 3:165]

Allah further affirmed the law of victories followed by calamities: 

وَتِلْكَ ٱلْأَيَّامُ نُدَاوِلُهَا بَيْنَ ٱلنَّاسِ

We alternate these days [of victory and defeat] among people. [Surah Aal-Imran:140]

This tells us that we should avoid getting comfortable after achieving victory, preparing instead for the next challenge that will surely come.

The Supreme Victory in this World: Successive Authority

The supreme, total victory in this world is tamkeen, an established authority, and istikhlaf, successive leadership on Earth. Tamkeen and istikhlaf together refer to an Islamic authority that remains in the hands of the believers even after the leader passes, with the responsibility advanced to believing successors. There is no higher form of material, collective victory in this world than established authority and successive leadership. This form of victory does not have a guarantee of continuity except to the extent of the believers’ persistence in the conditions and the actions which lead to it. The Quran emphasizes that the conditions for authority and succession must be preserved, otherwise the people who were once victorious may lose their authority: 

وَعَدَ ٱللَّهُ ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوا۟ مِنكُمْ وَعَمِلُوا۟ ٱلصَّـٰلِحَـٰتِ لَيَسْتَخْلِفَنَّهُمْ فِى ٱلْأَرْضِ كَمَا ٱسْتَخْلَفَ ٱلَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِهِمْ وَلَيُمَكِّنَنَّ لَهُمْ دِينَهُمُ ٱلَّذِى ٱرْتَضَىٰ لَهُمْ وَلَيُبَدِّلَنَّهُم مِّنۢ بَعْدِ خَوْفِهِمْ أَمْنًۭا ۚ يَعْبُدُونَنِى لَا يُشْرِكُونَ بِى شَيْـًۭٔا ۚ وَمَن كَفَرَ بَعْدَ ذَٰلِكَ فَأُو۟لَـٰٓئِكَ هُمُ ٱلْفَـٰسِقُونَ ۝

God has promised those of you who believe and do righteous deeds, that He will certainly make them successors on earth, as He made those before them successors, and He will certainly establish for them their religion—which He has approved for them—and He will certainly substitute security in place of their fear. They worship Me, never associating anything with Me. But whoever disbelieves after that—these are the sinners. [Surah An-Nur:55]

In the Qur’an, glad tidings are often followed by a warning, and vice versa, to prevent people from expecting good outcomes while failing to do their part. The Prophet became a successor on Earth and then the Companions followed him in succession. Islam spread across three continents and further, stretching from the East and West: an immense victory granted and maintained through their obedience to Allah. However, the following generations fell short in following the commands of Allah and fulfilling the conditions of victory that had been established in previous generations. As a result, they could not maintain the same level of influence, resulting in later generations’ struggle to repel attacks on their borders, unify the ummah, and maintain leadership over their own lands and people. 

The lesson here is that believers should think about and prepare for what lies beyond the victory they seek, not just the steps leading to victory. We should be preparing, as individuals and as a community, for maintaining a state of victory as well. This meaning was signaled by Prophet Musa when he said to his followers

قَالَ عَسَىٰ رَبُّكُمْ أَن يُهْلِكَ عَدُوَّكُمْ وَيَسْتَخْلِفَكُمْ فِى ٱلْأَرْضِ فَيَنظُرَ كَيْفَ تَعْمَلُونَ ۝

He replied, “Perhaps your Lord will destroy your enemy and make you successors in the land to see what you will do.” [Surah Al-Araf:129]

While all Muslims long to experience successive victory or other forms of triumph in this life, we cannot become preoccupied with this specific outcome. Victory in this life is considered a secondary promise, while the ultimate victory Allah promises is in the hereafter.

Conditions for Victory

While we continue to seek the ultimate victory, Allah’s pleasure in the next life, we can and should set our sights on achieving worldly victory in this life. Without striving for victory in this life, we cannot hope to achieve it in the Hereafter either. 

Victory in this world relies upon the believers fulfilling certain conditions. Whether we live to see the victory or not, we should commit to striving in these areas as individuals and communities, seeking out victory for the ummah in every respect alongside the pleasure of Allah in the Hereafter. Below we will explore several conditions the Quran lays out for the believers in order for Allah to send us victory.


No victory can be achieved without patience and perseverance. The type of patience required for victory is not limited to a few days or months; it is a long-lasting patience during afflictions which Allah ordains until a time He specifies. As the affliction increases, the believer offers proof of their faith with steadfastness until victory comes. 

There are three types of patience: (1) fortitude in the face of adversaries; (2) commitment to the religion of Allah, even if it is difficult, and; (3) resisting temptations, whether they are emerging from our surroundings, Satan, or ourselves. On patience and perseverance, Allah said: 

كَم مِّن فِئَةٍۢ قَلِيلَةٍ غَلَبَتْ فِئَةًۭ كَثِيرَةًۢ بِإِذْنِ ٱللَّهِ ۗ وَٱللَّهُ مَعَ ٱلصَّـٰبِرِينَ ۝ 

How many times has a small force vanquished a mighty army by the Will of Allah! And Allah is with the steadfast. [Surah Al-Baqarah:249]

فَمَا وَهَنُوا۟ لِمَآ أَصَابَهُمْ فِى سَبِيلِ ٱللَّهِ وَمَا ضَعُفُوا۟ وَمَا ٱسْتَكَانُوا۟ ۗ وَٱللَّهُ يُحِبُّ ٱلصَّـٰبِرِينَ ۝

They never faltered despite whatever [losses] they suffered in the cause of Allah, nor did they weaken or give in! Allah loves those who persevere. [Surah Aal-Imran:146]

Patience is not to lie in wait for relief to arrive. Rather, patience is the proactive search for resolution, the intentional resistance to that which challenges us, the strategizing and continuous evolution of our methods, and seeking out improved resources in the advancement of our goals. Allah described that the patience of the believers was not to just wait for suffering to end; instead, they “never faltered” in their fight for truth to prevail for Allah’s sake. This is the essence of patience: to rise up and struggle with all means available to you, trusting Allah will respond with victory. 

Allah added a few verses later in the same surah assuring that the believers’ patience was recognized: 

فَـَٔاتَىٰهُمُ ٱللَّهُ ثَوَابَ ٱلدُّنْيَا

Allah has given them the reward of this world… [Aal-Imran:148]  

Victory is the reward of this world that Allah mentioned in this verse—but victory does not come until we have been patient. 

Belief and Conviction 

Strong belief includes conviction, correct belief, and good faith in Allah. The deeper this faith is rooted in the heart, the easier victory comes. As Allah said, 

إِنَّا لَنَنصُرُ رُسُلَنَا وَٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوا۟ فِى ٱلْحَيَوٰةِ ٱلدُّنْيَا وَيَوْمَ يَقُومُ ٱلْأَشْهَـٰدُ ۝

Indeed, We will support Our messengers and those who believe during the life of this world and on the Day when the witnesses will stand. [Surah Ghafir 40:51]

Good Deeds 

Heartfelt faith is only the starting point; good action is a necessary prerequisite of victory as well. Good deeds are the outward manifestation of strong belief in the heart of the believer. As this verse demonstrates, deeds and belief are inseparable, both necessary for Allah to grant victory:

وَعَدَ ٱللَّهُ ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوا۟ مِنكُمْ وَعَمِلُوا۟ ٱلصَّـٰلِحَـٰتِ لَيَسْتَخْلِفَنَّهُمْ فِى ٱلْأَرْضِ كَمَا ٱسْتَخْلَفَ ٱلَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِهِمْ وَلَيُمَكِّنَنَّ لَهُمْ دِينَهُمُ ٱلَّذِى ٱرْتَضَىٰ لَهُمْ وَلَيُبَدِّلَنَّهُم مِّنۢ بَعْدِ خَوْفِهِمْ أَمْنًۭا ۚ يَعْبُدُونَنِى لَا يُشْرِكُونَ بِى شَيْـًۭٔا ۚ وَمَن كَفَرَ بَعْدَ ذَٰلِكَ فَأُو۟لَـٰٓئِكَ هُمُ ٱلْفَـٰسِقُونَ ۝

Allah has promised those of you who believe and do good that He will certainly make them successors in the land, as He did with those before them; and will surely establish for them their faith which He has chosen for them; and will indeed change their fear into security—[provided that] they worship Me, associating nothing with Me. But whoever disbelieves after this [promise], it is they who will be the rebellious. [Surah an-Nur 24:55]

Not only does Allah guarantee He will support and facilitate victory for those who both believe and do good deeds, but He guarantees those who meet these conditions the highest level of victory: succession on Earth and security in the hearts of believers. 

Obligation to Allah and His Messenger ﷺ 

When we believe in Allah, we must also obey Him and the Messenger He sent to guide us. The more we believers fulfill our obligations to Allah—by avoiding that which He has prohibited and doing that which He has commanded—and the closer we get to the Sunnah of the Messenger and the closer we get to victory. 

One of Allah’s commands in the context of hardship, for example, is,

يَـٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوٓا۟ إِذَا لَقِيتُمْ فِئَةًۭ فَٱثْبُتُوا۟ وَٱذْكُرُوا۟ ٱللَّهَ كَثِيرًۭا لَّعَلَّكُمْ تُفْلِحُونَ ۝ وَأَطِيعُوا۟ ٱللَّهَ وَرَسُولَهُۥ وَلَا تَنَـٰزَعُوا۟ فَتَفْشَلُوا۟ وَتَذْهَبَ رِيحُكُمْ ۖ

O believers! When you face an enemy, stand firm and remember Allah often so you may triumph. Obey Allah and His Messenger and do not dispute with one another, or you would be discouraged and weakened. [Surah al-Anfal 8:45-46]

Allah reminds us to approach adversaries with dignity and to adhere to all of Allah’s rules and prophetic guidance, especially that which relates to the issue we are experiencing. Further, we should discourage anything that will lead to division within the ummah. These commands are only to benefit us and facilitate victory. 

Ihsan – Your Best Foot Forward

Ihsan is often translated as excellence. Ihsan is to worship Allah as though we see Him, and, if we cannot, to be aware that He sees us in all that we do, and to behave accordingly. It includes achieving piety of the highest level through doing everything—whether worship or menial tasks —for Allah’s sake with the most diligent effort and care, so as to perfect and beautify the act.

As we saw in the previous point on “patience,” Allah said in Surah Aal-Imran: “[they] never faltered despite whatever [losses] they suffered in the cause of Allah, nor did they weaken or give in! Allah loves those who persevere.” Patience and fortitude is a form of ihsan we demonstrate in times of calamity, without which we cannot hope to be victorious. We must also demonstrate ihsan in other aspects of our actions during hardship, including continuing to worship with excellence, fighting with strength and dignity, speaking and debating others with etiquette and respect, and so on. Without ihsan across all our deeds and efforts, Allah will not grant victory: 

فَـَٔاتَىٰهُمُ ٱللَّهُ ثَوَابَ ٱلدُّنْيَا وَحُسْنَ ثَوَابِ ٱلْـَٔاخِرَةِ ۗ وَٱللَّهُ يُحِبُّ ٱلْمُحْسِنِينَ ۝

So Allah gave them the reward of this world and the excellent reward of the Hereafter. For Allah loves the good-doers [muhsineen; the ones who demonstrate ihsan] [Surah Aal-Imran:148]

Reconciling Hearts

People may be firm believers and work in the cause of Allah, but still they dispute among themselves, enabling disunity and division. When the believers cannot speak with a unified voice or reconcile between themselves, victory may be delayed even if they meet other conditions for victory like patience and belief. 

وَلَا تَنَـٰزَعُوا۟ فَتَفْشَلُوا۟ وَتَذْهَبَ رِيحُكُمْ ۖ 

Do not dispute with one another or you will be discouraged and weakened [Surah al-Anfal 8:46]

Many wisdoms exist for the condition of unity, but Allah names two; division demoralizes even the most righteous and committed of people, and it weakens the ummah. In both cases, we lose.

Doing Our Part

Allah controls when and how victory comes, but we still have control over and an obligation to put in our best effort and take every step toward victory. We should each actively seek out resources and apply whatever means at our disposal towards the victory we seek: 

وَأَعِدُّوا۟ لَهُم مَّا ٱسْتَطَعْتُم مِّن قُوَّةٍۢ وَمِن رِّبَاطِ ٱلْخَيْلِ

Prepare whatever forces you can muster, including warhorses… [Surah al-Anfal:60]

Preparing looks different depending on the opportunities available to us and the circumstances we are in. At one point, the Prophet and the Companions were preaching the word of Allah in private, inviting in a limited number of trusted people. At another point, they were migrating in the cover of night to Abyssinia and Madina, narrowly evading capture. At yet another, they were preparing for and fighting the disbelievers in battle. Each of these were times the Prophet and the Companions were doing their part with whatever they had at their disposal.  

It can be hard, at times, to imagine how a seemingly small act undertaken because it is the only one within our means, or our small group banding together for truth because no one else stands with us, may actually result in victory. The odds are clearly stacked against us in these moments. Allah guarantees that as long as we fulfill all the conditions, including doing our part, He will take care of the result. Victory in all its forms will come even if we cannot fathom how it can be possible. In fact, Allah promises to multiply our impact, in accordance with our efforts:

 إِن يَكُن مِّنكُمْ عِشْرُونَ صَـٰبِرُونَ يَغْلِبُوا۟ مِا۟ئَتَيْنِ ۚ وَإِن يَكُن مِّنكُم مِّا۟ئَةٌۭ يَغْلِبُوٓا۟ أَلْفًۭا … الْآنَ خَفَّفَ اللَّهُ عَنكُمْ وَعَلِمَ أَنَّ فِيكُمْ ضَعْفًا ۚ فَإِن يَكُن مِّنكُم مِّائَةٌ صَابِرَةٌ يَغْلِبُوا مِائَتَيْنِ ۚ وَإِن يَكُن مِّنكُمْ أَلْفٌ يَغْلِبُوا أَلْفَيْنِ بِإِذْنِ اللَّهِ ۗ وَاللَّهُ مَعَ الصَّابِرِينَ ۝

If there are twenty steadfast among you, they will overcome two hundred. And if there are one hundred of you, they will overcome one thousand…God has now lightened your burden, knowing that there is weakness in you. If there are a hundred steadfast among you, they will defeat two hundred; and if there are a thousand of you, they will defeat two thousand by God’s leave. God is with the steadfast. [Surah al-Anfal 8:65-66]

Why Does Defeat Still Occur?

It happens all the time—we are certain we are doing everything right and adhering to all the conditions for victory, but victory still is not within reach. There can be many reasons behind Allah allowing defeat to occur, even for those who believe and work for Allah. Let’s explore some of the interpretations of this experience: 

  • Victory may be delayed in order to fulfill another divine law such as the Law of Hardship. As we saw earlier, for example, Allah has a law that affliction must precede victory. Similarly, Allah might be sending a test to push the believers into greater piety or commitment to the religion through hardship. 
  • Victory may be delayed because the believers have violated a condition of victory or left it unfulfilled. Maybe they have full belief, good deeds, patience, and so on, but they have not yet resolved conflict among themselves.
  • Perhaps the defeat is not a defeat at all. Sometimes we interpret an event as a defeat when it is actually a form of victory. This is often the case when we confront challenging experiences such as the loss of loved ones, natural disasters, or wars in which innocent people suffer. In each, we struggle to see past the destruction to the benefit or positive consequences that also arose from it. When we reframe the event according to that which Allah and His Messenger taught us, we might observe the victories within the calamity. 

Surah Al-Buruj presents a Muslim boy who led his community into conviction in Allah through standing for truth against an oppressive king. One might see their deaths as a defeat, but Allah describes the believers as triumphant for their firm belief. 

In Surah Aal-Imran, Allah describes alternating days of victory and defeat to expose both the sincere believers and the hypocrites. Knowing who is truly on our side and whom we need to keep at a distance is an incredible benefit and a small victory arising out of defeat. It is also to allow a select few to die in His Name, the ultimate personal victory for individuals.

We Ask Allah to Use us and Not Replace Us

Victory in this life is a promise from Allah, but we are not guaranteed the honor of involvement in deliverance. We have to deliberately work for it. Allah says:

هَـٰٓأَنتُمْ هَـٰٓؤُلَآءِ تُدْعَوْنَ لِتُنفِقُوا۟ فِى سَبِيلِ ٱللَّهِ فَمِنكُم مَّن يَبْخَلُ ۖ وَمَن يَبْخَلْ فَإِنَّمَا يَبْخَلُ عَن نَّفْسِهِۦ ۚ وَٱللَّهُ ٱلْغَنِىُّ وَأَنتُمُ ٱلْفُقَرَآءُ ۚ وَإِن تَتَوَلَّوْا۟ يَسْتَبْدِلْ قَوْمًا غَيْرَكُمْ ثُمَّ لَا يَكُونُوٓا۟ أَمْثَـٰلَكُم ۝

Here you are, being invited to donate [a little] in the cause of Allah. Still some of you withhold. And whoever does so, it is only to their own loss. For Allah is the Self-Sufficient, whereas you stand in need [of Him]. If you [still] turn away, He will replace you with another people. And they will not be like you. [Surah Muhammad 47:38]

Here, Allah reminds us in the Quran that if we refuse to answer the call—whether it is to meet the requisite conditions or rise to complete the work at hand—He will replace us with people better than us, with greater resolve and stronger understanding. This is a disfavor we would have deserved for not fulfilling the responsibilities we were entrusted with. 

Allah does not need us to deliver victory. On the other hand, we need this work more than anything else. Without doing this work, we lose the mission for which we were created—to worship Allah completely and demonstrate obedience to Him. We may also lose out on the potential for being rewarded for our contributions and efforts in striving for victory. As such, we each should cling to the opportunity to work towards a victory for our Ummah, through improving ourselves—in belief and character—and  joining hands with fellow believers in good deeds, reconciliation, and service to Allah’s creation.


Allah’s laws are universal and do not change; victory is in His hands alone, and He promises it will come at the time He has specified. Too often, well-meaning activists, Islamic workers, and believers as a whole succumb to low morale, burnout, or impatience because they expect triumph or other forms of victory at specific times and places. Sometimes, as leaders, we even encourage this by giving misinformed promises that victory will come at the end of this specific affliction or with this particular step the Ummah is taking. 

Allah decides the timing of victory and the means through which it occurs, as well as the type of victory we are granted. On the flip side, this becomes a blessing because no earthly power can prevent a victory that Allah has decreed. No matter how our adversaries scheme and leverage every tool in their arsenal, Allah’s victory will come to defeat them. No matter how imperfect we are in our own efforts and ourselves, Allah will deliver victory at the appointed time to His sincere believers in ways neither our adversaries nor our own minds can fathom. 

وَٱللَّهُ غَالِبٌ عَلَىٰٓ أَمْرِهِۦ وَلَـٰكِنَّ أَكْثَرَ ٱلنَّاسِ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ ۝ 

And Allah always prevails in His affairs, but most people do not know. [Surah Yusuf 12:21]

Without keeping this in mind, we risk inaction, loss of momentum, and, consequently, bringing on a defeat for the Ummah in this world and the loss of reward with Allah in the hereafter. 

We should thus focus our minds, hearts, and efforts on the extent to which we are fulfilling the conditions for victory, more than postulating the timing of an impending victory. We should consistently ask ourselves, especially when we see signs of loss and defeat, whether we have done our part to demonstrate patience, ihsan, belief, and good deeds. We must further check whether we have allowed conflict, resentment, and pride to sabotage our unity and brotherhood. 

We must carry on, doing what is in our control, hoping for Allah’s victory in this world, a reward He bestows as He wills on His steadfast believers. All the while, we trust in and strive for the promise of triumph in the Hereafter, regardless of whether we get to witness any results in this life.