إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُحِبُّ الَّذينَ يُقاتِلونَ في سَبيلِهِ صَفًّا كَأَنَّهُم بُنيانٌ مَرصوصٌ
Allah loves those who fight in His Way in ranks as a unified solid structure.
The following is a translation of Dr Fadhel al Samarrai’s Tafseer of Surah Saff. It shows the importance of Muslim armies fighting to achieve Islamic interests (في سَبيلِهِ) and the importance of uniting in fighting as one strong, unified structure (بُنيانٌ مَرصوصٌ) rather than fighting as disunited nation states.
This verse mentions that Allah loves those who fight in his cause in a صَفًّا (row) and it did not mention any other people who Allah loves. This is because the cause of revelation (asbab an-nuzul) of the previous verses reprimanded those who say what they do not do, which was they refused to fight or engage in matters related to fighting. Allah says,
يا أَيُّهَا الَّذينَ آمَنوا لِمَ تَقولونَ ما لا تَفعَلونَ
كَبُرَ مَقتًا عِندَ اللَّهِ أَن تَقولوا ما لا تَفعَلونَ
You who have iman! Why do you say what you do not do? It is deeply abhorrent to Allah that you should say what you do not do.
They said, if we know which actions Allah loves then we would rush to them. So Allah informed them that He loves those who fight in his path as an array.
Also the ambiance of the chapter is about motivating the believers for jihad and seeking the victory of Allah. So mentioning this description إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُحِبُّ (Allah loves) was suitable, and Allah knows best.
The meaning of this verse is that Allah loves those who are steadfast in His path and they are required to be like a solid structure بُنيانٌ مَرصوصٌ.
It was said, what is intended here is that they unite their word, straighten their intention and support each other as if they are one structure.
In reality both meanings are intended. Their steadfastness in war is intended and also their strength requires that they act like one solid structure.
Therefore what is intended is that they are a صَفًّا (row), and that they are a solid array in their intention and in their physical bodies. If their intentions are disparate and their hearts divided, then they will not be a structure even if they stand in a single row.
It came in Al Kashaf: كَأَنَّهُمْ (like): means in their formation of a mass without any crack or gap بُنيانٌ that some of them join each other and become firmly joined. It was said that what is intended is straightening their intention until their word is united like a solid structure.
It came in Tafseer Al-Kabeer: Abu Ishaq said, Allah informed us that He loves those who are firm in jihad and necessitates that their position be like a permanent solid structure. He said: and it is permitted that they straighten their affairs of war so they are united in their word and they are allied to each other like a solid structure. It was said this example was struck for firmness. It means when you stand in line, then stand firm like a solid and continuous structure.
The prepositional phrase فِي سَبِيلِهِ was brought before صَفًّا because the importance of the intention is necessary before entering into a solid structure. Therefore, the unification of the intention is the reason for the unification of the array, otherwise there is no benefit in fighting in the way of Allah.
Allah said: كَأَنَّهُم بُنْيَانٌ and He did not say كَأَنَّهُم بِنَاءٌ. This is because the Qur’an differentiates between the usage of the words بِنَاءٌ and بُنْيَانٌ. It uses بِنَاءٌ for the sky and بُنْيَانٌ for what human beings make. Allah says:
الَّذِي جَعَلَ لَكُمُ الْأَرْضَ فِرَاشًا وَالسَّمَاءَ بِنَاءً
It is He who made the earth a couch for you, and the sky a dome.
and He said:
اللَّـهُ الَّذِي جَعَلَ لَكُمُ الْأَرْضَ قَرَارًا وَالسَّمَاءَ بِنَاءً
It is Allah who made the earth a stable home for you and the sky a dome
Whereas for what human beings make Allah said:
فَقالُوا ابنوا عَلَيهِم بُنيانًا ۖ رَبُّهُم أَعلَمُ بِهِم
They said, ‘Wall up their cave, their Lord knows best about them.’
And He said:
أَفَمَن أَسَّسَ بُنيانَهُ عَلىٰ تَقوىٰ مِنَ اللَّهِ وَرِضوانٍ خَيرٌ أَم مَن أَسَّسَ بُنيانَهُ عَلىٰ شَفا جُرُفٍ هارٍ فَانهارَ بِهِ في نارِ جَهَنَّمَ ۗ وَاللَّهُ لا يَهدِي القَومَ الظّالِمينَ
Who is better: someone who founds his building on taqwa of Allah and His good pleasure, or someone who founds his building on the brink of a crumbling precipice so that it collapses with him into the Fire of Hell? Allah does not love wrongdoers.
Allah described the بُنْيَانٌ (structure) as being مَّرْصُوصٌ (solid) so He said, as if they were a solid structure كَأَنَّهُم بُنيانٌ مَرصوصٌ, to indicate the strength of its cohesiveness and power.