In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.
These Ayat were revealed about the victory of Sabur, the king of Persia, over Ash-Sham (Greater Syria), the adjoining partisan states of the Arabian Peninsula, and the outlying regions of the land of the Romans. Heraclius, the emperor of the Romans, was forced to flee to Constantinople where he was besieged for a lengthy period. Then Heraclius regained the upper hand. Imam Ahmad recorded that Ibn `Abbas, may Allah be pleased with him, commented on this Ayah:
(Alif Lam Mim. The Romans have been defeated. In the nearest land,) He said, "They were defeated and then they were victorious." He said, "The idolators wanted the Persians to prevail over the Romans, because they were idol worshippers, and the Muslims wanted the Romans to prevail over the Persians, because they were People of the Book. This was mentioned to Abu Bakr, who mentioned it to the Messenger of Allah . The Messenger of Allah said:
(They will certainly prevail.) Abu Bakr mentioned this to the idolators, and they said, "Set a time limit for that, and if we prevail, we will get such and such; and if you prevail, you will get such and such." So he set a limit of five years, and they (the Romans) did not prevail. Abu Bakr mentioned that to the Messenger of Allah and he said:
(Why do you not make it less than) I (the narrator) think he meant less than ten. Sa`id bin Jubayr said: "Bid` means less than ten." Then the Romans were victorious, and he said, "That is what Allah said:
(Alif Lam Mim. The Romans have been defeated. In the nearest land, and they, after their defeat, will be victorious. In Bid`i years. The decision of the matter, before and after is only with Allah. And on that day, the believers will rejoice -- with the help of Allah. He helps whom He wills, and He is the All-Mighty, the Most Merciful.) This was also recorded by At-Tirmidhi and An-Nasa'i. At-Tirmidhi said: "Hasan Gharib."
Abu `Isa At-Tirmidhi recorded that Niyar bin Mukram Al-Aslami said: "When the following Ayat were revealed:
(Alif Lam Mim. The Romans have been defeated. In the nearest land, and they, after their defeat, will be victorious. In Bid` years.) on the day they were revealed, the Persians were prevailing over the Romans. The Muslims wanted the Romans to prevail over them (the Persians), because they were both people who followed a Book. Concerning this Allah said:
(And on that day, the believers will rejoice -- with the help of Allah. He helps whom He wills, and He is the All-Mighty, the Most Merciful.) The Quraysh, on the other hand, wanted the Persians to prevail, because neither of them were people who followed a Book and neither of them believed in the Resurrection. When Allah revealed these Ayat, Abu Bakr went out proclaiming throughout Makkah:
(Alif Lam Mim. The Romans have been defeated. In the nearest land, and they, after their defeat, will be victorious. In Bid` years.) Some of the Quraysh said to Abu Bakr: `This is (a bet) between us and you. Your companion claims that the Romans will defeat the Persians within three to nine years, so why not have a bet on that between us and you' Abu Bakr said, `Yes.' This was before betting had been forbidden. So, Abu Bakr and the idolators made a bet, and they said to Abu Bakr: `What do you think, Bid` means something between three and nine years, so let us agree on the middle.' So they agreed on six years. Then six years passed without the Romans being victorious, so the idolators took what they had bet with Abu Bakr. When the seventh year came and the Romans were finally victorious over the Persians, the Muslims rebuked Abu Bakr for agreeing on six years. He said: `Because Allah said: "In Bid` years."' At that time, many people became Muslim." This is how it was narrated by At-Tirmidhi, then he said, "This is a Hasan Hadith."
(Alif Lam Mim. The Romans have been defeated.) We have already discussed the separate letters which appear at the beginning of some Surahs in the beginning of our Tafsir of Surat Al-Baqarah. With regard to the Romans (Ar-Rum), they are the descendents of Al-`Iys bin Ishaq bin Ibrahim. They are the cousins of the Children of Isra'il, and are also known as Bani Al-Asfar. They used to followed the religion of the Greeks, who were descendents of Yafith bin Nuh, the cousins of the Turks. They used to worship the seven planets, and they prayed facing the direction of the North Pole. It is they who founded Damascus and built its temple in which there is a prayer niche facing north. The Romans followed this religion until approximately three hundred years after the time of the Messiah. The king who ruled Greater Syria along with the Fertile Crescent (semicircle of fertile land from Syrian Desert to Persian Gulf) was called Caesar. The first of them to enter the Christian religion was Constantine the son of Costas, whose mother was Maryam Al-Hilaniyyah Ash-Shadqaniyyah, from the land of Harran. She had become Christian before him, and she invited him to her religion. Before that he had been a philosopher, then he followed her. It was said that this was merely an outward show of belief. Then the Christians met with him. During his time they debated with `Abdullah bin Ariyus (Arius) and great differences arose which could not be reconciled. Then a gathering of three hundred and eighteen bishops reached an agreement, and presented their creed to Constantine. This is what they call the Great Trust, but in fact it is the Worst Betrayal. They presented to him their laws, i.e., books of rulings on what was lawful and prohibited, and other things that they needed. They changed the religion of the Messiah (peace be upon him), adding some things and taking some things away. They began praying towards the East, and changed the Sabbath (Saturday) rites to Sunday. They worshipped the cross, permitted eating of pigs, adopted innovated observances such as the festival of the cross, Mass, baptism, etc., Palm Sunday and other occasions. They appointed a pope, as their leader, and patriarchs, metropolitans, bishops, priests and deacons, and they invented monasticism. The king built churches and places of worship for them, and he founded the city which is named after him, Constantinople. It was said that during his time twelve thousand churches were built, three places of prayer in Bethlehem, and that his mother built the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. These are the ones who followed the religion of the kings. Then after them came the Jacobites, followers of Ya`qub Al-Askaf, then the Nestorians, the followers of Nestorius. There are many groups and sects among them, as the Messenger of Allah said:
(They split into seventy two sects.) The point here is that they continued to follow Christianity. Every time one Caesar died, another succeeded him, until the last of them, Heraclius, came to power. He was a wise man, one of the most astute and intelligent of kings, who had deep insight and well-formed opinions. His was a great and glorious reign. He was opposed by Chosroes, the king of Persia and of regions such as Iraq, Khurasan, Ar-Riy and all the lands of the Persians. His name was Sabur Dhul-Aktaf, and his kingdom was greater than the kingdom of Caesar. He was the leader of the Persians and was as stubborn as the Persians who were Zoroastrian fire worshippers.
It was previously reported that `Ikrimah said: "Chosroes sent his deputy and his army against Caesar, and they fought." It is well-known that Chosroes himself fought in the army that invaded his land, and he defeated Caesar and overwhelmed him until he had nothing left except the city of Constantinople, where Chosroes besieged him for a long time, until things became very difficult for him. He was highly venerated among the Christians, and Chosroes was not able to conquer the city because it was well fortified, and half of it faced the land while the other half faced the sea, from where supplies were able to reach them. After this had gone on for a long time, Caesar thought of a clever trick. He asked Chosroes to let him leave his city in return for money given as a peace-offering, on whatever terms he (Chosroes) wanted. Chosroes agreed to that and asked for a huge amount of wealth -- gold, jewels, fabric, servant-women, servants, and much more -- such that no king on earth could ever pay. Caesar went along with that and gave him the impression that he had all that he had asked for, although he thought he was crazy for asking for such a thing, because even if the two of them were to combine all of their wealth, it would not amount to even one-tenth of that. He asked Chosroes to let him go out of the city to Ash-Sham and the other regions of his kingdom, so that he could gather that from his storehouses and places where his wealth was buried. Chosroes let him go, and when Caesar was about to leave Constantinople, he gathered his people together and told them: "I am going out on a mission I have decided to do so with some soldiers I have selected from my army; if I come back to you before one year passes, I will still be your king but if I do not come back after that, you will have the choice. Then, if you wish, you may remain loyal to me, or if you wish you may appoint someone instead of me. Signs of Tawhid Allah tells us that pondering His creation will show that He exists and that He is Unique in creating it, and that there is no god nor lord besides Him. So He says: