What Is the “Rope of Allah” to Hold Onto?

Answered by Shaykh Anas al-Musa


What is the “Rope of Allah” that we are commanded to hold on to?


In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful,

The “Rope of Allah” that Muslims are commanded to hold firmly to is mentioned in the saying of Allah the Almighty: “And hold firmly together to the rope of Allah and do not be divided.” [Quran, 3:103]

“And hold firmly to the rope of Allah” means to grasp onto the rope of Allah. The term “rope” is a polysemous word with many meanings. Its original linguistic meaning is the cause or means by which one achieves a desired goal or need. [Durra, Tafsir al-Quran wa I‘rabuhu wa Bayanuh]

Regarding the intended meaning of the “Rope of Allah,” scholars have various interpretations. These include: the religion of Allah, the Quran, Islam, the community, the covenant of Allah, sincerity, or the command and obedience of Allah. [Ibn Abd al-Barr, al-Tamhid; Ibn al-Jawzi, Zad al-Masir fi Ilm al-Tafsir; Raghib al-Asfahani, al-Mufradat fi Gharib al-Quran]

“And hold firmly to the rope of Allah”: Scholars of rhetoric call this phrase a “direct metaphor (Isti‘ara Tasrihiyya)”, where the Quran, or religion, or Islam is likened to a rope. The name of the metaphor, the rope, is attributed to the subjects like the Quran, Islam, the community, etc., embodying the theme of salvation in each of them. [Durra, Tafsir al-Quran wa I‘rabuhu wa Bayanuh, Zuhayli, al-Tafsir al-Munir]

The Reason for the Revelation of This Verse

In the pre-Islamic era, there were many wars between the Arabs, including the Aws and the Khazraj, and severe enmity, grudges, and bitterness prolonged their fighting and strife.

When Allah brought Islam, and those who entered it did so, they became loving brothers in the majesty of Allah, connected in the cause of Allah, and cooperating in righteousness and piety.

As Allah (Most High) says: “But if their intention is only to deceive you, then Allah is certainly sufficient for you. He is the One Who has supported you with His help and with the believers. He brought their hearts together. Had you spent all the riches in the earth, you could not have united their hearts. But Allah has united them. Indeed, He is Almighty, All-Wise.” [Quran, 8:62-63]

However, the ancient enmity was on the verge of resurfacing among them; thus, the command of Allah the Almighty was revealed: “And hold firmly to the rope of Allah all together and do not become divided.”

Ibn Abbas narrated: “The Aws and the Khazraj, during the time of ignorance, harbored great evil against one another. Once, as they sat together, they began recalling their past conflicts, which angered them, leading to them standing against each other, armed.” Then the following verses were revealed:

“How can you disbelieve when Allah’s revelations are recited to you and His Messenger is in your midst? Whoever holds firmly to Allah is surely guided to the Straight Path. O believers! Be mindful of Allah in the way He deserves, and do not die except in (a state of full) submission (to Him). And hold firmly together to the rope of Allah and do not be divided.

Remember Allah’s favor upon you when you were enemies, then He united your hearts, so you—by His grace—became brothers. And you were at the brink of a fiery pit and He saved you from it. This is how Allah makes His revelations clear to you, so that you may be (rightly) guided.” [Quran, 3:101-102-103] [Tabari, Tafsir Jami‘ al-Bayan; Tabarani, al-Mu‘jam al-Kabir; Suyuti, Lubab al-Nuqul fi Asbab al-Nuzul; Wahidi, Asbab al-Nuzul]

Suyuti says: “The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) came until he stood between the two groups (Aws and Khazraj). He recited these verses and raised his voice. When they heard the voice of Allah’s Messenger reciting the Quran, they listened attentively and began to hear. When he finished, they threw down their arms, embraced each other, knelt down, and wept.” [Suyuti, al-Durr al-Manthur]

General Meaning of this Verse

Allah (Most High) says:

“And hold firmly together to the rope of Allah and do not be divided. Remember Allah’s favor upon you when you were enemies, then He united your hearts, so you—by His grace—became brothers. And you were at the brink of a fiery pit and He saved you from it. This is how Allah makes His revelations clear to you, so that you may be (rightly) guided.” [Quran, 3:103]

Allah (Most High) commands holding firmly and adhering to His religion, His book, and His covenant that He made with people. He forbids ever dividing from it and emphasizes unity and coming together in obedience to Allah and His Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace).

He addresses the Ansar, saying to them, O assembly of Aws and Khazraj, remember Allah’s favor upon you when before Islam you were enemies, and He united and brought your hearts together through Islam, making you brothers in religion and guardianship. You were on the brink of a pit of fire, with nothing preventing you from falling into it except dying as disbelievers, but He saved you from it with faith.

Multiple Meanings of This Verse

The multiple meanings that scholars have mentioned for the “Rope of Allah” are close and overlapping, united by the fact that Allah (Most High) commands unity and forbids division, for division leads to ruin, and unity leads to salvation. [Qurtubi, Tafsir al-Qurtubi; Durra, Tafsir al-Quran wa I‘rabuhu wa Bayanuh]

Some scholars have favored that the “Rope of Allah” is the Quran, citing a hadith in Sahih al-Muslim where the Chosen One, peace and blessings be upon him, says: “Behold! I am leaving among you two things, one of them is the Book of Allah, the Mighty and Glorious, which is the Rope of Allah. Whoever follows it will be on the right path, and whoever leaves it will be in error.” [Muslim]

Or it means to be collectively adhering to the rope of Allah. The command to hold firmly is only truly fulfilled when the entire nation holds onto it; that’s why He, the Exalted, said: “all together”. This is because this religion is a whole that does not accept division, and the Islamic community is one whole, unified group.

Allah has obligated us to adhere to His Book, the Sunna of His Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), and to refer to them in case of disagreements. He has commanded us to unite, love, and harmonize, and to avoid disputes over false matters that have no connection to the religion.

The command to hold firmly to the rope of Allah does not imply that differing in the branches of sacred law is not permissible, as such differences are not actually disputes; since a dispute is what cannot be reconciled and unified. As for the rulings on matters of Ijtihad, differing in them is due to the explanation of rulings and the extraction of meanings of worship, and this is not considered disagreement.

The companions and their followers in goodness used to differ in the rulings of emerging events, yet they were still harmonious and loving towards each other. May Allah have mercy on Ibn al-Mubarak, who said:

“إنّ الجماعة حبل الله فاعتصموا… منه بعروته الوثقى لمن دانا”
“Indeed, the community is the rope of Allah, so hold firmly… to its strongest handhold, those who follow us.” [Qurtubi, Tafsir al-Qurtubi]

Qatada said: “Allah has indeed made you detest division, has warned you against it, forbade you from it, and is pleased with hearing and obedience, unity, and togetherness. So be content with what Allah has pleased for you. It has been mentioned to us that the Prophet of Allah – peace and blessings be upon him – used to say: ‘Whoever separates from the Muslim community by even a span has cast off the collar of Islam from his neck.’” [Ibn Abd al-Barr, al-Tamhid]

Abu Hurayra reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, said, “Allah is pleased with you for three things and displeased with you for three things. He is pleased that you worship Him and do not associate anything with Him, that you hold fast to the rope of Allah altogether and do not become divided, and He dislikes idle talk, excessive questioning, and wastage of wealth.” [Muslim]


Finally, I conclude with advice from the counsels of the Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) in which he says: “Do not envy one another, do not hate one another, do not turn away from one another, and be, O servants of Allah, brothers.” [Ibid.]

[Shaykh] Anas al-Musa

Shaykh Anas al-Musa, born in Hama, Syria, in 1974, is an erudite scholar of notable repute. He graduated from the Engineering Institute in Damascus, where he specialized in General Construction, and Al-Azhar University, Faculty of Usul al-Din, where he specialized in Hadith.

He studied under prominent scholars in Damascus, including Shaykh Abdul Rahman al-Shaghouri and Shaykh Adib al-Kallas, among others. Shaykh Anas has memorized the Quran and is proficient in the ten Mutawatir recitations, having studied under Shaykh Bakri al-Tarabishi and Shaykh Mowfaq ‘Ayun. He also graduated from the Iraqi Hadith School.

He has taught numerous Islamic subjects at Shari‘a institutes in Syria and Turkey. Shaykh Anas has served as an Imam and preacher for over 15 years and is a teacher of the Quran in its various readings and narrations.

Currently, he works as a teacher at SeekersGuidance and is responsible for academic guidance there. He has completed his Master’s degree in Hadith and is now pursuing his Ph.D. in the same field. Shaykh Anas al-Musa is married and resides in Istanbul.