Living The Quran
From Issue: 965 [Read full issue]
Al-Hajj (The Pilgrimage) Sura 22: Verse 15
Although this verse may be general in import, many commentators believe that him in not help him refers to the Prophet (peace be upon him). It is also thought that this verse could refer to a group of believers who were so full of anger at the idolaters that they found the promised victory against them to be slow in coming; some believe it refers to the tribes of Asad and Ghatafan, who thought that the Prophet would not ultimately achieve victory; it can also refer to the Prophet's enemies in general, who did not believe he would overcome them.
According to one interpretation, this verse alludes to individuals who are driven to hang themselves and are asked to see if this will cure their rage; the word translated Heaven (sama), which also means "sky," can also refer to the ceiling of a house. According to this interpretation, the absence of hope that God's Help will come is a manifestation of the deep despair characteristic of those whose faith is upon a brink, and the victims of this despair and lack of hope are asked to meditate upon whether hanging themselves will change anything — the implied answer being that God's relationship with the Prophet, and by extension the believers, will remain the same in this world and the Hereafter.
According to another interpretation of the imagery of this verse, the doubting or hostile ones are here being invited, since they believe that God is preparing to sever the victory He promised the Prophet, to seek some rope, or "means" (sabab), to Heaven, to try to sever it themselves, and then to see if their scheme (i.e., the scheme to sever that help to the Prophet) will assuage their anger and impatience. In another interpretation it is the very revelation from God that these persons are invited to try to sever, and some say the imagery is meant to imply that no matter how far one goes or what bounds one passes, nothing can come between God's Help and the Prophet.
"The Study Quran: A New Translation and Commentary" - Seyyed Hossein Nasr