What reason could you have for not fighting in the Way of Allah - for those men, women and children who are oppressed and say, "Our Lord, take us out of this city whose inhabitants are wrongdoers! Give us a protector from You! Give us a helper from You!"? (Surat an-Nisa: 75) In reading the Qur'an, we come across a certain fact: before a messenger comes to a society, often social and moral corruption prevails there. Once a messenger comes to a society, those following him attain a blissful, peaceful and bountiful life even in the midst of their honourable struggle for the good pleasure of Allah. After this blessed period, however, people who enjoyed the favours of this period drifted away from their spiritual values, revolted and ultimately tended almost to disbelief. In some cases, they worshipped gods other than Allah and thus were unjust to their own selves and, in a sense, prepared their own ends with their own hands.
In the Qur'an (Surah Maryam), Allah relates the loyalty, sincerity and the fear the messengers felt for Allah and then informs us of how the generations coming after them lost their faith completely. They drifted because of their whims and desires and became deprived of all their values. The related verse follows:
Those are some of the Prophets Allah has blessed, from the descendants of Adam and from those We carried with Nuh, and from the descendants of Ibrahim and Isra'il and from those We guided and chose. When the signs of the All-Merciful were recited to them, they fell on their faces, weeping in prostration. An evil generation succeeded them who neglected the prayers and followed their appetites. They will plunge into the Valley of Evil. (Surah Maryam: 58-59)
Those people who neglected their divine responsibilities suffered Allah's wrath expressed in various disasters. Allah withdrew His favour from these people. In accordance with the verse " But if anyone turns away from My reminder, his life will be a dark and narrow one…" (Surah Ta Ha: 124), they suffered from different afflictions such as scarcity and social and economic problems arising from their moral degeneration and political instability.
Under the prevalent disbelieving systems (systems of kufr), these people who were insolent towards the divine revelation were exposed to various pressures and injustices. The period of Pharaoh (Fir'awn) is a typical example recounted in the Qur'an. Exulting in his affluence, Pharaoh led an extravagant life and his people suffered under his tyranny.
Pharaoh exalted himself arrogantly in the land and divided its people into camps, oppressing one group of them by slaughtering their sons and letting their women live. He was one of the corrupters. (Surat al-Qasas: 4)
Under such circumstances where people suffer economic and social problems under the tyranny of unjust leaders, a need for a saviour is profoundly felt. This is the person who removes the unfavourable aspects of the system caused by the disbelief (kufr) of the ruler and his people and brings the peace, justice and security which come along with obedience to Allah and His Messenger.
After the Prophet Musa (as), the Children of Israel also faced the same difficulties under the rule of tyrants. They were driven from their homes and lands and suffered intensely. Realising that neither the idols they worshipped, nor their possessions, nor ancestors would save them from such undesirable circumstances, they asked for a king from their Creator; a saviour who would save them from this cruel system. Allah answered the call of these people and sent them Talut (Saul in the Bible):
What do you think about the council of the tribe of Israel after Musa's time when they said to one of their Prophets, "Give us a king and we will fight in the way of Allah?" He said, "Is it not possible that if fighting were prescribed for you, you would not fight?" They said, "how could we not fight in the way of Allah when we have been driven from our homes and children?" But then when fighting was prescribed for them, they turned their backs - except for a few of them. Allah knows the wrongdoers. (Surat al-Baqara: 246)