Sincerity is to question yourself and your intention, before and during the action. This sincerity in itself is victory. External circumstances are just illusions, and the journey of iman penetrates the mirage and lets you see the reality. If you are sincere to Allah, He will grant you victory even under the tightest and most desperate situations.
We have already mentioned the stories of Musa AS, Talut and Nuh AS. Repeatedly, the believers were subjected to incredibly difficult and impossible situations. They were subdued to positions of weakness and were severely oppressed, but at the end of it, were granted elevation by Allah.
The constitution set by Allah:
And We wished to do a favour to those who were weak (and oppressed) in the land, and to make them rulers and to make them the inheritors, And to establish them in the land, and We let Fir'aun (Pharaoh) and Haman and their hosts receive from them that which they feared. (Surah Al Qasas 28:5-6)
This favour is bestowed by Allah SWT Himself to the weak and oppressed believers. It is a beautiful bounty, a gift that is granted as a token of Allah's generosity, even though not fully deserved by the recipient.
The more guidance that Allah gives us, the more that we should humble ourselves to Him and those around us. Instead of being arrogant with the knowledge granted to us, we should thank Allah that He has shown us the way. One of the ways of thanking Him is by swallowing our pride and humbling ourselves to others, even those who have not been fortunate enough to be granted such guidance. Today, our pride is our biggest downfall. Given a sliver of knowledge, we become boastful, arrogant and judgmental.
Over history, Allah had promised victory to Bani Israel time and time again, but only when they were at their weakest and most desperate. It is the sunnah of Allah to elevate the weakest from their appalling circumstances, to generate a huge victory for the oppressed.
Allah sometimes reduces our means and status to almost nil, in order to remind us that we need to believe in Allah alone and turn to Him. When ease, ability and wealth are taken away, leaving us in a state of weakness and vulnerability, this forces most of us to be humble and to turn to Him. Once this reconnection has occurred, internal victory is achieved, and from this internal victory, our much sought after external victory follows.
Today, we try to rationalise our faith and distil it to academic, philosophical and scientific theory. We have been indoctrinated to believe that victory comes by applying our intellect and wealth, but with the absence of faith. In the process, we have corrupted the message, and fail to remember that true faith means subordinating our reasoning and the perception of the world as seen through the eyes of dunia, to what Allah tells us.
Lack of faith makes us rationalise situations with our minds alone, thus negating any element of Allah's power or reliance on Him. This is the real defeat, because those who persist on this path are doomed, dunia and akhirah.
While we are encouraged to apply our intellect and reasoning, it should not cross the boundaries such that we believe that our intellect and ability override Allah's power, or that we are able to negate Allah's might through our means, connections and ancestry. We should not deny that Allah is the one orchestrating our achievements. This arrogance breeds spiritual blindness. In reality, Allah is the only one who engineers every movement, achievement, defeat and loss. No one else can claim credit to these, and nor should we grant that credit to any other.
Every story in the Qur'an imparts wisdom to those who genuinely want to understand it. Through it, Allah introduces us to divergent groups of people across the ages – the downtrodden, the outnumbered and the social outcasts, and shows us how easily He generated victory for them when they turned fully towards Him. This is then followed by giving the same people the earth and the upper hand, to check how they will behave, react and treat others in the times of ease.
“And We have already sent [messengers] to nations before you, [O Muhammad]; then We seized them with poverty and hardship that perhaps they might humble themselves [to Us].
Then why, when Our punishment came to them, did they not humble themselves? But their hearts became hardened, and Satan made attractive to them that which they were doing. So when they forgot that by which they had been reminded, We opened to them the doors of every [good] thing until, when they rejoiced in that which they were given, We seized them suddenly, and they were [then] in despair. So the people that committed wrong were eliminated. And praise to Allah, Lord of the worlds.” (Al Qur’an 6:42 to 6:45)
Both sets of circumstances are trials for us, for the cycle of life is such that one cycle is substituted by another.
"And do not incline toward those who do wrong, lest you be touched by the Fire, and you would not have other than Allah any protectors; then you would not be helped.
And establish prayer at the two ends of the day and at the approach of the night. Indeed, good deeds do away with misdeeds. That is a reminder for those who remember.
And be patient, for indeed, Allah does not allow to be lost the reward of those who do good.
So why were there not among the generations before you those of enduring discrimination forbidding corruption on earth - except a few of those We saved from among them? But those who wronged pursued what luxury they were given therein, and they were criminals.
And your Lord would not have destroyed the cities unjustly while their people were reformers." (Al Qur'an 11:113 – 117)
Once guidance has been granted, do not assume that it will stay with us forever. Allah can snatch His guidance from us for many reasons, starting with our arrogance and failure to detach ourselves from dunia. Look around you and see those who used to be extremely pious, now going headlong into the opposite direction of heedlessness and spiritual neglect.