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The First Verse

The Noble Qur-aan starts with the following very concise but extremely profound statement:

Bismillaahir-Raĥmaanir-Raĥeem

In the name of Allaah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.

Commentary:
This verse contains Allaah’s name and two of his attributes: Raĥmaan (the Most Gracious) and
Raĥeem (the Most Merciful). People usually refer to it by its first word, i.e., Bismillaah.

Allaah is the special, personal name of the One and Only True God Who created the universe
and everything in it including human beings. He is the God of Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses,
Jesus, Muhammad and all other prophetsi and messengers, peace be upon all of them. It is He
Who sent His revelations (Torah, Psalms and Gospels) to the prophets and messengers and
Who revealed this Qur-aan in His own Words to Muhammad, the last of the prophets and
messengers. This personal name, Allaah, was always used by the Arabs only for the one True
God and never for any false gods or idols. As Ahmed Deedat has shownii, according to the
older manuscripts of the Torah and the Gospels, it was also the name that was used for God by
earlier prophets and messengers.

Both of the attributes are derivatives from an Arabic root word that connotes mercy, kindness
and grace. Both of the attributes are superlatives indicating the utmost degree of different
aspects of mercy:

Raĥmaan implies abundance and intensity of mercy and grace, the outpouring of which is
unstoppable. The abundance of mercy indicated by the attribute ‘Raĥmaan’ manifested itself in
the creation of human beings as the best of all the creations, endowment of consciousness and
eloquence to them and ensuring that they are appropriately guided through revelations such as
the Qur-aan. The tremendous system of nature set up to ensure survival and sustenance of all
species, in general, and human beings, in particular, is another manifestation of His bountiful
Grace.

i
In common English usage, a prophet is considered to be someone who foretells coming events of the
world. In Islamic terminology, a prophet does not necessarily tells about future events of this world, but is
a person appointed by Allaah to call people to Islam and to tell them about unseen things such as Allaah,
hereafter, paradise, hell, angels, Satan, etc. He works on reviving the existing Islamic teachings in the
society. A messenger is a prophet who also brings new commands from Allaah.
ii
‘What is His Name’ by Ahmed Deedat
Raĥeem indicates the eternity of the attribute emphasizing the constancy and permanence of
mercy that never diminishes or fades. It emphasizes its continuity and indicates that He did not
just stop after creating and setting up a system of nature optimal for our sustenance and
revealing guidance for our benefit. He is continuously taking care of the universe and His
obedient servants, and will continue to do so in the hereafter as well.

Use of both superlative adjectives indicates that His mercy is so boundless that no one word
can describe all its aspects and its extent.

Out of all the wonderful attributes of Allaah, the mention of these two attributes at the very
outset clearly establishes the tone of Allaah’s relationship with us; i.e., Allaah relates to His
creations, especially human beings, with mercy, kindness and grace. Although He is the
Greatest beyond all our images of greatness, and although He is Almighty and infinitely
powerful, He is immensely kind to His creations. As He Himself has said in the Qur-aan, “My
Mercy extends over everythingi.”

This verse occurs at the start of 113 out of 114 soorahs (Chapters) of the Qur-aan, except for
Soorah Towbah. Some scholars take it to be part and parcel of all those 113 Chapters. Others
think that it is part of the first soorah -- Soorah Faatiĥah, but for other soorahs, it is just a
means of demarcation. Most of the scholars, however, consider it as an independent verse of
the Qur-aan that is used as a separator between chapters. It also occurs as a part of the 30th
verse of Soorah An-Naml (Ch. 27). It really does not matter whether it is considered part of a
soorah or not. What really matters is that the text of the Noble Qur-aan, including this verse, is
preserved perfectly and exactly as was taught and dictated by the Prophetii. When reciting the
Qur-aan, Muslims continue to write and recite Bismillaah exactly at the places where the
Prophet used to do.

Starting the recitation with this verse implies: I recite in the name of Allaah, the Most
Gracious, the Most Merciful Who has revealed this Qur-aan in His Own exact words as a
special act of kindness, mercy and grace for our guidance.

Although Prophet Muhammad SA‘WS recited this verse and all the other contents of
revelations exactly as they were revealed to him, doing just as he was told, the people with
knowledge of the Torah found that this was a fulfillment of a prophecy, a promise and a
warning made by Allaah to Moses and to the Israelitesiii in response to their request and
supplication mentioned in the Book of Deuteronomy, where they were told by Allaah:

“I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers; I
will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I

i
Soorah (Chapter) Al-A’raaf 7:156
ii
A capitalized “Prophet” or “Messenger” will always represent Muhammad in this document. A lower
case prophet or messenger will represent any other prophet or messenger.
iii
Israelites are the descendent of Jacob whose title was Israel (Israaeel). It is used commonly as another
name for the Jews.
command him. If anyone does not listen to my words that the prophet
speaks in my name, I myself will call him to account.”i

It also fulfills the command that was given in the very first revelation to Prophet Muhammad
when he was commanded to,
“Proclaim in the name of your Lord who created – Who created man
from a clinging clot. Proclaim! As your Lord is the Most Generous
Who taught with the pen – taught man what he did not know.”ii

Muslims are taught to recite this verse (Bismillaah) before doing anything, taking any action or
embarking on any project. This recital becomes a reminder, a statement of intention and a
supplication. As a reminder, it helps the reciter avoid any action that is disapproved by Allaah.
After consciously saying “In the name of Allaah…”, it is not possible for a person to be sincere
and do something that cannot be done in Allaah’s name. As a statement of intention, it helps
the reciter do the right action with the right spirit, the right intent and right attitude – all for the
sake of Allaah. As a supplication or prayer, it invokes the Gracious Lord’s mercy, help,
support and blessings for the action being undertaken. When it is recited with deliberate
consciousness keeping all three aspects in mind, it delivers all the aforementioned benefits. If
the words of this verse are recited just mechanically as a ritual without much thought or
consciousness, the reciter will naturally fail to attain the benefits described.

i
The Bible -- New International Version (NIV) Deut 18:18-19
ii
Soorah (Chapter) Al-‘Alaq 96:1-5
The First Group
The first of the seven groups of the Soorahs of the Qur-aan (for details see please refer
to “Studying the Qur-aan in the Right Manner”) consists of five Soorahs: one Makkan
Soorah, Al-Faatiĥah, and four Madeenan Soorahs -- Al-Baqarah, Aali-‘Imraan, An-
Nisaa and Al-Maaidah.

The central theme of this group of the Soorahs is highlighting the attributes and
qualities of the believers and their society as well as granting Muslims the charter for
and the final instructions on the establishment and functioning of the Islamic society.
In regard to dealing with non-Muslims, although the messages given are universal, the
focus of the message has been mainly on the Jews and Christians, with only subsidiary
address to Makkans.

This group basically pronounces the principles, laws and regulations on the basis of
which the individual and collective lives of the Muslims are to be fashioned. These
rules and regulations were given in Madeenah during different evolutionary phases
that transformed the society from its initial state to the desired Islamic state. These
pronouncements cover all aspects of the Islamic society including the political, social,
economic, judicial, family and personal affairs. Even the external affairs and
interactions with the Jews and Christians are covered. Whenever the Muslims come
back to the Qur-aan for guidance, this first group provides them with a complete code
for their community life and essential instructions for their individual guidance. Even
all the areas where people usually go wrong are pointed out with sufficient examples
from the followers of the previous prophets. The errors, fallacies, false hopes,
misguided desires, invalid beliefs, and inappropriate actions of the Jews and Christians
have been identified so that Muslims can avoid falling into the similar traps and that
the Jews and Christian can see their errors and reform their behaviour. While
mentioning the pitfalls the Jews and Christians fell into, they have been invited to
repent, come to Islam and seek Allaah’s forgiveness to attain their salvation. The
Jewish claim on the heritage of Abraham (Ibraaheem), Isaac (Isĥaaq) and Jacob
(Ya‘qoob) has been refuted. The chosen-people status and the leadership of the world
that was bestowed upon them conditionally – that with enjoy that status only as long
as they continue to adhere to Islam and its obligations like Ibraaheem -- has been
abrogated because of their history of neglect of the stipulated conditions. It has been
given to the Muslims under similar terms, conditions and stipulations by charging
them with the responsibility of: Establishing a kingdom of God (a society of peace,
justice, magnanimity and excellence); calling other people towards the worship and
obedience of one God; and, providing leadership to the world in the spiritual and
temporal affairs. Parallels between the early history of the Jewish prophets and the
early phases of Islamic movement have been drawn.
For subsequent generations of the Muslims, like us, the first group identifies the
process of re-establishing the Islamic system of peace, justice and excellence when
Muslims have a place to implement it. It starts with a preamble (Al-Faatiĥah) that
gives a very concise overview of the path and where it can go wrong. Then it takes the
believers through four main facets of the process starting with Soorah Al-Baqarah,
until the complete establishment of Deen is attained in Soorah Al-Maaidah.
Al-Faatiĥah -- The Opener
The Name and Background
The first soorahi of the Qur-aan is appropriately named Al-Faatiĥah, which
means “The Opener” -- a discourse that opens the Book or introduces a subject
matter. The full name of the soorah is Faatiĥatul-Kitaab; i.e. the opener of the
Book. It can be called a preamble, preface or foreword. However, this unique
opening by Allaah Subĥaanahu Wa Ta‘aala (SWT) for His Own book is much
more than a preface as we know it. Unlike most other soorahs (chapters) whose
names are just symbols to identify them, the name of this soorah describes the
nature of its contents as well.

Al-Faatiĥah was revealed very early at the beginning of the Islamic mission at
Makkah. It is a multi-purpose soorah that miraculously packs a tremendous
amount of meanings from multiple perspectives in a nutshell of seven brief
verses.

Teachings of Faatiĥah

In the name of Allaah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.

The grateful, appreciative praise is only for Allaah, the Lord of the universe,
the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful, the Owner of the Day of Recompense.
Only You we serve as slaves and only You we call upon for help. Guide us to
and keep us on the Straight Path – the path of those whom You blessed, not
those who attracted anger, nor the misguided.

The Teachings and Commentary


The person who sincerely reflects on the universal realities around him, his own life and means
of sustenance and the arrangements that Allaah has made for the growth, nurturing, sustenance
and survival of human life and all other forms of life on earth can’t help but marvel at the

i
The Qur-aan is composed of 114 soorahs. Soorah is usually translated as “Chapter”. However, there is
subtle difference between a soorah and a chapter: A chapter of a book is expected to have a topic or a title
that describes chapter contents; while a soorah of the Qur-aan does not have such a distinct topic or
descriptive title. The Qur-aan being a book of guidance, each soorah deals with multiple dimensions of
guidance. The soorahs are thus a series of tracts of guidance that are mostly identified by symbolic
names, not topics.
enormity and completeness of the amazing system of nature set up by the Lord and the
Sustainer of the universe for this purpose. Amazingly, the creation and sustenance of life was
planned even before the creation of the universe itself that was especially done in a manner and
speed that made creation of celestial bodies possible. It remained a vital consideration for
everything afterwards such as the values of the four fundamental forces, the formation of red
giant stars to manufacture carbon, the properties of atomic particles, the structure of space, the
distance between celestial bodies, the balance between their gravitational force and centrifugal
forces, the size of the earth, its distance from the sun, its magnetic field, the properties of
different layers of its atmosphere, the existence of mountains, light and its properties, water
and its properties, etc. In short, everything in the universe has been precisely designed to
enable and sustain life. Even the slightest of variations in any of the features, properties or
values of the aforementioned things or in any of some 20 physical constants would have made
life impossible. The more it is reflected upon, the more overwhelmed, amazed and astounded a
person becomes because it shows the care, compassion and kindness with which the whole
arrangement has been designed to sustain human life. At this realization, a feeling of heartfelt
and sincere praise and appreciation fills the heart and moves the lips of the person to thank and
praise his wonderful Master saying,

All the grateful, appreciative praisei is really for Allaah, the Rabb
(Lord) of the universe.
Being Rabbii means being the Lord, Master, Governor, Ruler, Provider, Guardian, and
Sustainer – the One Who provides sustenance, arranges growth and development, takes care,
promulgates laws, dictates policies and demands obedience. Because only He is the Creator
and real Sustainer, only He is the Lord and Master. No human being can be, nor should he be
deemed or regarded as a lord or master in any sense.
His Lordship with all of these meanings extends to ‘Aalameen -- the whole universe and every
creation and every form of life within the universe. Every one of His creations benefits from
His growth-promoting and life-sustaining systems. Thus He is:

The Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.


Even those human beings who, while living in His Kingdom, disobey Him, do not recognize
Him or do not appreciate His mercy, continue to benefit from His systems and resources. He
does not deprive those rebels or traitors of the sustenance or the results of their efforts.
Logically, denial or disobedience of the Master, Lord and Sovereign should result in instant
deprival of resources of Nature, but the Most Gracious Lord (Ar-Raĥmaan) allows people to
continue benefiting from His provisions despite people’s treason and insubordination. This also
allows the rebels an opportunity to come back to loyalty and subordination, if they ever realize
their mistake. For those who truly come back, He is the Most Merciful (Ar-Raĥeem) who

i
The Arabic word, Al-ĥamd, is usually translated as “the praise” or “all the praise”, which does not
describe the nature of the praise. Al-ĥamdu signifies a praise that ensues from a heartfelt appreciation,
gratitude and thankfulness for the bounties and favours of a superb benefactor. That is why a Muslim
thanks Allaah SWT by saying “Al-ĥamdu lillaah” – all appreciative praise and gratitude is for Allaah.
ii
The Arabic used in the verse that is generally translated as Lord.
forgives them and accepts them back. His mercy continues in the eternal life hereafter where
His obedient slaves will be awarded eternal bliss in the Gardens of Paradise. They will be
bestowed far more than they deserve. Also, they will be rewarded: according to the best of
their deeds, not their overall average behaviour; according to their intentions and attitude, not
the results they produced; and, according to the level of their sacrifice and sincerity, not the
quantity of their contribution. For the victims of crimes and excesses of other people, another
dimension of His mercy is the Day of Judgment when all victims will be fully and fairly
compensated for all the abuses, excesses, injustices and exploitations they endured during their
life in this world. This leads to His being:

The Owner of the Day of Recompense.


He is the Maalik -- the Owner and Master who will have absolute and complete authority and
control of the day of recompense that includes both reward and punishment. He being the sole
Master on the day of reward and punishment, no one else will be of any avail to anyone at that
time. Only He will decide and judge the performance of people, without any interference,
intercession or influence from anyone. It is important that no one else is able to interfere in His
judgment because it is only He Who has the absolute wisdom and Who has the complete
knowledge of every detail required for perfect justice -- including the individual circumstances
of people, the motives behinds their actions, and the effects of the actions of people on others
and on the society as a whole. Hence, it is only He who can judge with perfect justice to
recompense every single soul fairly and equitably.

Naturally, as only He is the Lord and Sustainer and only He is the Owner of the day of
recompense:
 Only He deserves our obedience, submission, slavery, servitude, worship and
devotion; and,
 Only He has the power, authority and means to respond to our needs, requests,
supplications and prayers.

Thus, we make a commitment:

Only You we serve as slaves and only You we call upon for help.
The word used in the text is na‘budu from ‘Ibaadah which in Arabic means slavery. Slavery as
we know implies complete obedience, doing exactly as commanded without questioning or
without any option to disobey, 24 hours a day for the whole of one’s life. The concept of
slavery is totally unjustified and absolutely abominable when it comes to a person being a
slave of another person. Nobody wants to become a slave and no one should ever be. However,
when it comes to our Creator and Sustainer, He is the real Lord and Master. For that reason, a
sensible person feels happy and willing from the core of his heart to be a slave of Allaah and to
serve Allaah like a slave. This happy, voluntary and willing slavery to Allaah SWT and
enthusiastic submission and total surrender to His will is called ‘Ibaadahi. It is usually
translated as worship or serving, but is much more comprehensive than performance of ritual

i
The Islamic mission is to free people from the slavery of people and bring them to the slavery
of the One and Only real Lord and Master.
acts of worship. It includes utmost humility, complete obedience, servitude and slavery
(absolute submission) to Allaah SWT in every aspect of life throughout one’s life. It is a
complete way of life encompassing every field of human endeavour wherein a person has to
ensure that his thoughts, words, actions and deeds are in submission to the commands of
Allaah, his Lord and Creator.

Once these fundamentals are clear in a thinking person’s mind, he feels the need to know how
Allaah wants him to live. He recognizes that this is not something he can just think through and
arrive at on his own or discover it in his laboratories. It can be specified only by the Lord
Himself through revelations to some selected persons – the prophets and messengers. Human
philosophers and theorists can come up with only guesswork and experimental theories, which
the subsequent research often proves wrong. He does not want to be a test subject of those
theories; he wants definite answers based on the infinite and eternal knowledge and wisdom of
the Creator.

He is also cognizant of the difficulties of lifelong obedience where he will need frequent
reminders and continuous help to stay on course. So the believer humbly requests,

Guide us to and keep us on the Straight Path --


‘Guide us’ is the translation of Ihdinaa which is also translated as ‘show us’. However, the use
of this verb without an Arabic adverb implies that the request is comprehensive in that it
includes an eagerness for seeking the straight path, clarity of thinking about the straightness of
the path itself, and help in staying on it continuously.

The straight path is the shortest and the most efficient course that takes you to your destination.
The request is for a definite straight path of well-being according to the eternal knowledge of
the All-Knowing and Absolutely-Wise Creator. Islam is and always has been the straight path
taught by all prophets and messengers. It takes the believers towards the development of the
best personality in this life, establishment of the best society in this world and the attainment of
ultimate success in the Hereafter, straight to these goals without confusions, dilemmas, twists
and turns along the way. As the believer wants to succeed in the service of Allaah and wants to
earn his Lord’s approval, pleasure and reward, the path is further qualified,

the path of those whom You blessed,


This covers all blessings, bounties and rewards – the ones being talked about here are not the
temporary successes of this world, but the permanent and sustainable rewards in the form of
peace and tranquility in this world and the eternal bounties of the Hereafter. Soorah Nisaai
explains that people who are blessed and bestowed bounties include all the prophets and
messengers of Islamii from Adam to Muhammad, their true and committed companions who
testify to and stand up for the Truth of Islam in the toughest of circumstances, martyrs who
gave their life in witnessing the Truth and righteous believers who obey Allaah and practise
Islam to the highest level of excellence possible.

i
An-Nisaa 4:69
ii
All prophets and messengers including Noah, Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron,
David and Jesus were prophets of Islam. They all preached for and invited people to Islam.
The next verse clarifies the point further by taking an exception to those people who incurred
His wrath or were misguided. A believer also realizes that Islam is not a new religion. It was
the only way of life that Allaah had prescribed for people to follow since the advent of Adam.
Since that time, people had fallen off the path time and again and were brought back by various
prophets and messengers. So the believer needs to be on guard from falling into the same
pitfalls that earlier people fell into, which again requires help from Allaah SWT. Hence the
believer further requests,

not those who attracted anger, nor the misguided.


There is a clear difference between the two rejected groups. The first group is of those who are
condemned with wrath and anger. They are the people who claim to know the teachings and
what is expected of them but as a community are lax in their practice. Although there may be
some individual cases of good behaviour or practice of personal teaching of Islam, collectively
the requirements of Islam for society as a whole are disregarded, ignored and forgotten. Even
personal practice becomes partial, consisting only of rituals rather than being mission-oriented.
Even in the practice of rituals, their focus is the intricacies of the rules and regulations rather
than the spirit of worship. When they are reminded about their true and full responsibilities,
they reject or persecute those who remind them. A prime example of such people are the
Israelites.
The second group is of those who spend all their energies in specifying and defining the
concepts that are beyond human comprehension or in giving physical meanings to allegorical
concepts. And in that attempt, they lose the way completely through their exaggerations,
innovations and heresies. As a community they tend to practice their adulterated, heretical
theologies, which unfortunately is not the religion of their Lord. The prime example of this
group is the Christians who are following a religion not taught by Jesus, peace be upon him,
but concocted with heresies and innovations by Paul and his followers.

In summary, Soorah Faatiĥah represents the inner feelings of rightly thinking people. Allaah
SWT Himself put the sentiments of the rightly thinking people in beautiful, concise words and
taught them how to express their sentiments and desires to Him. In addition, this soorah also
identifies indirectly the basic stimulus that brings people towards the worship of God. When
people who are pure in their innate nature (uncorrupted by satanic thoughts, culture and
civilization, etc.) consider the signs of the mercy of God in human physique and psyche and in
the systems of nature, it induces a strong feeling of appreciation for the Creator. That feeling of
gratitude leads people to the obedience of God and to a quest for finding how God wants us to
live. The fear enters one’s thought process at a later stage in the form of worry lest we lose the
path of God and, consequently His mercy and favours. The basic instinct that brings people to
the worship of God remains the feeling of appreciation and gratitude.
The Significance
It provides guidance in a nutshell
The core of Islamic teachings is that:
• There is a Creator, Lord, Master and Sovereign of this universe and human
beings Who is One and Unique. It behoves human beings to worship only
Him and to be obedient and fully submissive to Him by their own choice
(Towĥeed).
• For that they will be held accountable, rewarded or punished forever in the
life Hereafter (Aakhirah).
• He has sent messengers and books to let people know how he wants them to
live (Risaalah).
This soorah reinforces all the three fundamentals of faith. In addition, the pronouns (we and us)
used in this soorah, underscore another basic Islamic reality. Although Islam encourages
people to strive for individual excellence, it places an equal importance on the collective goals
of establishing an Islamic, egalitarian human society. Islam wants people to live together in a
loving, caring community of believers that is well-organized and that aspires to establish
freedom, equality, peace and justice for the benefit of all people. By addressing both personal
objectives of the individuals and the collective goals of the society, it provides the crux of
Islam in a very concise manner from the very early days of Islam. It is a summary refresher of
basic Islamic teachings.
People have a better chance of succeeding if they have a clear understanding of the goals they
have to achieve, the path that will take them there and the risks along the way that may impede
the achievement of that goal. This brief soorah clearly demarks all three segments: The goal is
living a life of slavery to Allaah, seeking only His help, the path is the path followed by the
messengers of Allaah and their sincere and truly dedicated followers and the risk is deviation
from the path like the Jews and the Christians.

Avoidance of these deviations is such an important objective that the Qur-aan has dedicated
substantial space to elaborate the details of these deviations and to warn of the consequences of
those deviations. In addition to being coached by the Qur-aan, the Prophet himself warned his
followers in different styles and at different occasions. For example, he said, “Eventually you
will follow the footsteps of the followers of the previous prophets, so much so that if they
entered the burrow of a lizard, you will do the same.” The companions asked if he meant the
Jews and the Christians. He responded, “Of course! Who else?”

It sets the attitude aright


This soorah sets the human mind at the very outset on a well-balanced ideological ground
about the position of human beings in this universe, its relationship with the Creator, man’s
need for guidance from the Creator, and the path that should be followed in life. It sets people
free from being overawed by the superior performance of some human beings in their fields of
endeavour by making them realize that the real praise and credit belongs to God. It is God,
their Lord, who has created the resources and given these individuals the capacity and
capabilities to excel in whatever they devote their energies to. By concentrating on the
perfection of the Creator and immersing people in His praise and gratefulness, the soorah saves
people from hero-worship and “fan-fads”.
It sets the right tone and approach about Allaah Himself. It indicates, on the one hand, that the
Lord of the Universe is not a God of vengeance and anger but a God of mercy and kindness; on
the other hand, it reminds us that He is a just and equitable God who will hold everyone
accountable for their actions, deeds and behaviour. It establishes a relationship that is balanced
between hope and fear, and God’s love and human accountability.
It also brings out the fact that people on their own can neither find the properly balanced right
way and straight path of success and salvation nor can stay on that course without active
Divine guidance and help. Imperfection of human knowledge, a short term view of things and
the incapability to simultaneously consider all aspects of an issue and its ripple effects on other
issues makes it impossible for human beings to find and remain on the straight path on their
own.
The commitment to dedicate our servitude only to Him and to seek only His help, in fact, is the
most liberating idea for human beings. Exclusive submission to Allaah SWT frees a believer
from his/her mental and psychological slavery towards any human being on the earth. People
mostly fall into the servitude of other human beings only because of their hopes for help and
support from them. After acknowledging Allaah as the Lord who has all the power in this
world and in the Hereafter, no one else matters anymore, except for the rights and
responsibilities defined by Allaah SWT Himself.
It also underscores the need to strike a balance between individual piety and community
behaviour. It subtly suggests that although the relationship of a believer with the Lord is very
individual and personal (first three verses), the believers must live together as a community in
an organized egalitarian society (last four verses).

It is a covenant
The single most important aspect of this soorah is that it is a dialogue and a covenant between
a believer and His Master. The slave recognizes the true status of His Master, appreciates His
kindness, and acknowledges his accountability to Him about his performance. After this
acknowledgement, he promises to serve only Him and to seek support only from Him. This is
the covenant that he will be judged against. Then the slave seeks the help of the Lord to enable
him to fulfill the covenant successfully.
This dialogue and covenant is well-described in a Ĥadeethi Qudsiii reported from Aboo
Hurayrahi in Saheeh Muslimii. It indicates that when this soorah is recited consciously and
sincerely in the Ŝalaahiii (prayer), Allaah interacts with His slave in the following manner:

i
Ĥadeeth is a term used for the quotations or reports of the actions, words, approvals or disapprovals of
the Prophet as reported by his companions.
ii
A Ĥadeeth is called “Qudsi” when the Prophet quoted Allaah in his statement, so the Prophet told the
companions that Allaah has said such and such, then the companions reported to others what they heard
from the Prophet. In brief it is a narration quoting Allaah in the words of the Prophet.
It should be noted that the Islamic knowledge coming through different channels has been painstakingly
and distinctly preserved. The Qur-aan is literally the word of Allaah, so it has been preserved distinctly as
such, free from any interpolations. When Prophet quoted Allaah in his own words, it was kept totally
“Allaah Ta’aala says: I have divided the Ŝalaah between Myself and My slave, one half for
each, and I grant My slave what he asks for. When the person says, ‘The grateful, appreciative
praise is only for Allaah, the Lord of the universe.’ Allaah says, ‘My slave has thanked Me.
When he says, ‘the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful’. Allaah says, ‘My slave has praised
Me.’
When he says, ‘Owner of the Day of Recompense.’ Allaah says, ‘My slave has glorified Me.’
When he says, ‘Only You we serve as slaves and only You we call upon for help.’ Allaah says,
‘This is between Me and My slave, and I grant to My slave what he sought.’
When he says, ‘Guide us to and keep us on the straight path -- the path of those whom You
blessed, not those who attracted anger, nor the misguided.’ Allaah says, ‘this is for my slave,
and My slave’s request is granted.’

It is a du‘aaiv
It must be clear by now, that this soorah is in essence a du‘aa in which the believer asks for
guidance from the Lord. As the Ĥadeeth indicates, this supplication gains acceptance
immediately and is granted mercifully -- if offered sincerely and consciously. If we look at the
arrangements of the Noble Qur-aan, immediately after this supplication, Allaah has put the
whole Qur-aan in front of us as the guidance. In fact, the very first sentence of the next chapter
states clearly, “This is the Book of Allaah, without doubt. It is guidance for the God-
conscious.”
Moreover, Chapter two of the Qur-aan not only indicated the path of the blessed but also
details the wrongs Israelites committed, for which they were condemned with the anger and
wrath of Allaah. Similarly, the third Chapter provides the path of the blessed but with it also
points out the misguidance the Christians adopted. In this way, the guidance has all been
arranged in the same order as the words of the du‘aa.
However, this du‘aa goes beyond just receiving the guidance from Allaah in the form of the
Qur-aan. This du‘aa is to seek help and guidance from Allaah SWT on an ongoing basis in
reflecting on the Qur-aan, in understanding its message and its implications on our daily life,
and in deriving the right conclusions and lessons so that we can make the right choices and
decisions on a day to day basis in every aspect of our individual and collective life. This part of

separate from the words of Allaah. Similarly, the words of the Prophet were preserved separately and
distinctly from the words of Allaah.
i
One of the companions of the Prophet.
ii
Different researchers compiled books of Ĥadeeth. This is one of the most authentic ones.
iii
Ŝalaah is one of the most important acts of worship performed by Muslims. The word Ŝalaah literally
means attending to or looking, proceeding or advancing towards something, which in this case implies an
act of worship where a person leaves everything aside, proceeds towards and attends exclusively to the
remembrance and glorification of Allaah. Thus, a Muslim is supposed to stop everything and take a few
minutes five times a day to concentrate on remembering and glorifying Allaah and indicating his
submission to Allaah. It consists of recitation of the Qur-aan, utterances of glorification of Allaah in a few
different positions and a few supplications. There being no English equivalent, many people translate it as
“prayer”, but it is not prayer in the sense of ‘supplication. Use of prayer for Ŝalaah is thus misleading. To
preserve its uniqueness and to void confusing it with prayer as in supplication, it should be referred to by
its original name -- Ŝalaah.
iv
Du’aa means supplication or prayer to Allaah.
the du‘aa is, naturally, responded to in accordance with the sincerity and dedication of the
seeker.
The beauty of Soorah Al-Faatiĥah as a du‘aa is that:
• It is based on the realization that human intellect, wisdom and knowledge can provide
only best guesses and experimental theories but not a proven best way of life, that
they fall short of providing a definite knowledge of the right path and that the definite
knowledge about the best way of life can only be revealed by the Creator Himself;
• It seeks guidance towards Allaah himself – which Allaah loves to grant; and,
• It is meant for the very purpose for which Allaah has created us.

It teaches manners
This soorah also teaches us the etiquette about how to approach our Lord and how to supplicate
to Him. It shows us how our du‘aa should start with appropriate appreciation and
acknowledgement of the bounties of Allaah, and mention of His praise and glory. Only after
these acknowledgments, should we present our request respectfully.
It also teaches another important manner. When mentioning the people who were bestowed
with blessings and bounties, the style was direct – “… You blessed …”. It is because Allaah
bestows favours to the slaves for their obedience because of His Grace, otherwise people
should obey Allaah any way because that is why they were created. On the other hand, when
talking about those who incurred the wrath and who went astray, the style is indirect. Because
Allaah does not want to condemn people, they suffer the natural consequences of their own
actions and behaviours.

It is an Essential Part of the Ŝalaah


It is a well-known Ĥadeeth reported in both Bukhaari and Muslimi that “Ŝalaah of a person
who does not recite Al-Faatiĥah is invalid.” Accordingly, this soorah is recited in every
raka‘ahii (unit) of Ŝalaah five times a day. In other words, a believer recites it at least 17 timesiii
a day, if not more, so that frequently during the day:
• The attitude and perspective of the believer is set aright;
• The covenant is refreshed and remains in the believers’ consciousness; and,
• The believer gains support from the Lord in making the right choices and staying on
the course.

i
Bukhaari and Muslim are names of two most authentic collections of Ĥadeeth.
ii
Salaah is made up of two, three or four sets (units or raka‘aat) of certain movements and positions. Each
unit (raka‘ah) consists of standing, bowing and prostrating positions in which specific words of
glorification are recited. Recitation of Soorah Al-Faatihah is an essential action in the standing position.
iii
The total obligatory units or raka‘aat that a Muslim offers in five daily Ŝalaah.
The Summary
Considering the profoundness of this brief soorah, it becomes evident why this soorah was
called by names like ‘Kafiyah’ (complete and sufficient), ‘Ummul Kitaab’ (essence and
substance of the Book -- the Qur-aan) and ‘Faatiĥatul-Kitaab’ (Preface of the Book).
As a preface to the Qur-aan, it sets the reader in the right frame of mind. People seek what they
earnestly cherish and seek it only from someone who can really deliver. To all those who
cherish truth and seek guidance, Faatiĥah reminds them to ask for guidance from the source of
all knowledge and wisdom, the Lord and the Creator, Who has already delivered in the form of
the Qur-aan what they seek in terms of guidance. In addition, He also arranged for its practical
demonstration through Prophet Muhammad sall-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam (SA‘WS).

To every reader of this Miraculous Book, it suggests that to benefit from it, one must approach
it with a sincere desire for truth and guidance while praying earnestly to gain the guidance
from the eternal knowledge and wisdom of the Lord of the universe Himself. The person who
approaches it with this kind of sentiment will naturally put aside his own preconceived ideas,
notions and theories, and approach the Qur-aan with an open mind and pure heart. Hence when
reciting this soorah, all its features should be remembered and all its teachings kept in mind.

This concludes the commentary on Soorah Faatiĥah.


Al-Baqarah
Name, Background and Topics
Name
The name of this soorah is Al-Baqarah. This is not its title or topic; instead,
like the majority of the names of the soorahs, it simply identifies “the soorah in
which Al-Baqarah (the heifer) is mentioned”. Since it is just a name or symbol,
it will not be translated. We will continue to refer to it as Soorah Al-Baqarah.

Background
To understand the background of this soorah, it is essential to understand the
mission for which Prophet Muhammad sall-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam was
sent, which was the same as for all the previous prophets and messengers:

 To invite people to believe in and worship the One and Only Creator,
Allaah subhaanahu wa ta'aalaa;

 To coach those who accept the message of Islam in becoming the best a
human being can be, to purify their thoughts and behaviour and to excel
in all of their morals, dealings, interactions and conduct;

 To establish the ideal peaceful and just Islamic society – a society that
was characterized by kindness, generosity, compassion, caring, sharing,
complete fairness and dignity for all human beings and that was lead
and constituted by the people who were the trained as per the second
point to excel in their conduct and behaviour.

The purpose of the Qur-aan was to provide the help and guidance to the
Prophet in achieving that mission. In other words, the objectives of the
revelations of the Qur-aan were:

 To identify the straight path that will help people to succeed in this life
and the hereafter;
 To help people develop a superb personality by excelling in their
morals, ethics, dealings and spirituality;
 To guide people in establishing justice and peace in this world by
implementing Islamic systems of life including its concepts of human
equality, human dignity and protection of fundamental human rights in
a society characterized by caring, sharing, kindness, generosity and
magnanimity;
 To invite and encourage people to follow the straight path, to excel
personally and to join the mission for establishing the society of justice
and peace.

It was for these goals that the Prophet started his mission in Makkah and then
migrated to Madeenahi. Although the work of personal purifications of
believers and their training in excellence commenced right from the start of the
mission, the changes in the collective life of the people started taking shape
only in Madeenah where Muslims had established their independent
community.

In Makkah, the messages of the Qur-aan were tuned to the guidance needs of
the idolaters who were not familiar with Towĥeed (oneness and uniqueness of
Allaah), Risaalah (prophethood), Aakhirah (hereafter) and revelations; hence,
the emphasis of the Qur-aanic revelations was to introduce these concepts and
build the foundations of the faith. The main topics included the fundamentals
of the Deenii of Islam and rationality of the Islamic faith. The focus was on
inculcating faith, building the right kind of personality in a believer and
training believers to achieve personal excellence in morals, ethics, dealings and
spiritual aspects of their personality.

In Madeenah, the situation had changed. Muslims made up the majority of the
population and hence were able to form a small Islamic state and had an
opportunity to establish the society according to their beliefs and the teachings
of Islam. The biggest minority of the non-Muslim population were the Jews,
who had agreed to become a part of the new Islamic confederation.
Theoretically, they were the Muslims of the past who had deviated far from the
Islamic path. They were supposed to believe in and were quite familiar with
the articles of faith which Islam required people to believe. They were also
supposed to follow the code of law (sharee’ah) revealed to Moses; however,
through a process of degeneration over a long period, they had lost the goals of
the mission, the spirit of the commands, the integrity of the teachings and the
i
Name of the city to which the Prophet migrated and where he had taken up residence to establish the
Islamic society.
ii
Deen means a paradigm that determines the complete way of life in every aspect of life. Islam is a deen
because a believer must fashion and live all of his life in every aspect of life according to the Islamic
paradigms.
essence of Islam that were originally taught to them by Prophet Moses. Some
of their current beliefs and practices had no basis in the Torah. Even the Torah
itself was not preserved. It was corruptedi by many textual changes,
interpolations, deletions, explanatory comments, historical anecdotes, mythical
stories and mystical accounts. This situation called for Prophet Muhammad to
invite them back to true Islam, in addition to inviting the idolaters and pagans
to the faith.

The small Islamic state that had been created was to be transformed into an
ideal Islamic society established on the basis of Islamic civilization, social
structure, economics, legal system and politics. Thus the focus of the
revelations needed to shift toward communal excellence while continuing with
the campaign for personal excellence.

The establishment of the Islamic state where Muslims were in power had
created new dynamics in the constant struggle between the Islamic movement
and anti-Islam forces. Under this situation, a new group of people emerged in
significant numbers who wanted to preserve their worldly interest by playing
games between the two groups. They were the hypocrites.

There was a very real threat of armed attacks on this little Islamic state from all
of the anti-Islam powers surrounding it, especially the Makkans. Muslims were
provided guidance for dealing with the dangers that were looming and for
preparing them to defend themselves against any and all aggressions as well as
to wrest control of the Holy Ka‘bah from the Makkan occupiers.

All the Muslims being persecuted in Makkah and the surrounding areas were
asked to migrate to Madeenah to join hands in the establishment the Islamic
society of excellence, peace and justice. They were coming from all over
empty-handed leaving everything behind. This had posed a huge settlement
problem for this tiny city of a few hundred resident Muslim families.

As the major part of Soorah Al-Baqarah was revealed this early period of
Muslim life in Madeenah, it deals with all of the above-mentioned issues and
objectives including laying the foundation of Islamic civilization and Islamic
system of peace and justice. It provides the guidance while keeping the
circumstances in perspective, and keeping in line with the Islamic philosophy
i
Even prophets of Israel complained about the corruption of the text: "How can you say we (the Jews) are
wise and the law of the Lord is with us, when in fact the false pen of the scribes has made it into a lie?"
(Jeremiah 8:8 RSV)
of bringing changes through successive evolutionary steps. Because the
permanent, effective and everlasting change in the society happens only when
it evolves with the people of the society, Islam takes the approach of changing
the society towards its ideals by an evolutionary process of introducing the
changes in successive gradual steps, that are introduced consistently and
persistently. Consequently the changes introduced through this soorah (Al-
Baqarah) represent the first wave of Islamic reforms towards Islamic goals of
excellence.

Topics

In Soorah Al-Faatiĥah, we seek guidance to the straight path; in response,


Soorah Al-Baqarah presents the guidance from Allaah with the declaration that
this doubtless book provides guidance to the God-conscious. Then, the overall
theme throughout the soorah continues to provide the details of the straight
path that will lead the believers individually to eternal success in the hereafter
and personal excellence in this world, and collectively to the establishment of
an ideal human society in the form of an Islamic state. It describes a believer’s
responsibilities towards those goals; and the consequences of not working
towards them.

To set the stage for people to accept the guidance that the Qur-aan provides,
the first 39 verses serve as a preamble: It classifies people in three groups in
terms of their reaction to the Islamic call towards the straight path -- Muslims,
disbelievers and hypocrites -- identifying that only practising Muslims will be
successful; it invites people to the Islamic way; it demonstrates Islam to be the
purpose of human creation and their sojourn on the earth through the story of
Adam; and it warns people about the satanic mission, satanic behaviour and its
consequences.

We also seek in Soorah Al-Faatiĥah avoidance and protection from the ways
and behaviour of those people who incurred the wrath of Allaah. Citing Banee
Israaeel’si examples, Soorah Al-Baqarah identifies the kind of behaviour that
angers Allaah SWT. It gives detailed reasons why Banee Israaeel (Israelites)
were condemned and why they incurred the wrath of Allaah.

i
Banee Israaeel means children of Israaeel. Israaeel was the title of prophet Ya’qoob (Jacob). Banee
Israaeel is the Qur-aanic term for the Biblical term Israelites. It is used for Jews in general.
It also makes it clear that the title of God’s chosen or favourites is a
performance-based title specified for practising Muslims who follow the
footsteps of Ibraheemi by leading people in establishing the Islamic system of
justice and peace in the world. It is bestowed for Ibraheem-like performance in
practising Islam, not for racial or religious affiliation to him. Thus the Jews
have lost that status altogether by abandoning that mission. As it was always
intended, it has been given to true Muslims who are now the followers of
Prophet Muhammad. The soorah gives many examples of the Jews’ dereliction
and lists their crimes. It even gives examples of the things that they started
practising when they neglected the real goals of the mission, the spirit of the
commands, and the essence of Islam. After losing the spirit, all they were left
with was a huge structure of nit-picking rules and some customary rituals,
aided by many heresies (bid’ah). That focus caused them to be divided into
different sects that were based on different versions of those heresies and the
nit-picking regulations. Their “spirituality” consisted of practising divination,
astrology, amulets (ta’weez), contact with spirits of the dead, mysticism and
cabbalism -- all geared to maximizing their personal worldly benefits. The
Islamic objectives were lost on all of them including their religious leaders
such as rabbis (mullahs), Pharisees (Faqeehs), Sadducees (modernists), and
Essenes (Sufis), while the benefits of this world were their main concern.
Allaah had sent various prophets from time to time to reform them and bring
them back to the true Islamic mission, but they would not listen. They liked
their version of religiosity so much that they became hostile enemies of anyone
whom Allaah sent to guide them. Some of those who tried to reform them were
even killed.

After listing their crimes, the soorah officially affirms the appointment of the
followers of Prophet Muhammad to be leaders of the Islamic movement and
hence the chosen people, and invites the Jews to join this new Islamic
movement and to reform their ways instead of clinging to their old, corrupt
ways. The emphasis in the invitation has been on encouraging them to adopt
the true faith sincerely so much so that they are immersed in the hue of Allaah
SWT.

Thus, verses 40-121 address the Israelites directly and describe the job given to
them for which they were regarded as chosen people; how that status was not
inheritable but depended on the performance of the job assigned; what special
favours Allaah had bestowed on them for that purpose and how ungrateful they

i
Abraham
were after receiving each of the favours; how they failed in their performance
and broke their promises to Allaah again and again; where they went wrong;
and, why they have been removed from that privilege and condemned to
Allaah’s anger. All of these details have been documented there so that
Muslims can avoid adopting the same behaviour and falling into the same
pitfalls. Verses 122-162 describe the real mission and purpose for which
Ibraheem dedicated his life, reinforcing that the mission of all the messengers
of Allaah has always been the immersion in Allaah’s hue, and attainment of
Allaah’s pleasure and the Islamic objectives listed above. It also indicates that
Ibraheem built the Holy Ka‘bah to be the centre of this Islamic mission, and
that Prophet Muhammad’s advent was in response to Abraham’s supplication
and necessary for the completion of the Islamic mission that Abraham had
started.

Then, verses 163-242 lay down the preliminary social and economic teachings
by which Muslims must live personally and collectively and on the basis of
which the Islamic state should be founded. They provide initial guidance about
establishing an Islamic society and introduce the first wave of social, political
and economic reforms towards the establishment of the Islamic systems in
place of the established un-Islamic customs and traditions of the society.

Verses 243-283 encourage Muslims to engage in and to fully dedicate


themselves both personally and financially for Jihaadi to establish the Islamic
state and supremacy of Islam, and to liberate the Holy Ka‘bah from the
dominance of the disbelieving Makkans so that it can be rededicated to the
mission for which it was originally built.

The last three verses 284-286 are the concluding remarks to: remind people
that Allaah knows everything and is going to hold them accountable; announce
to people that whatever they decide to do, the Prophet and his companions
have embarked on the path of faith for the mission assigned to them; and it
ends with a Duaa that teaches those who have dedicated themselves to the
Islamic mission as to how they should seek help, mercy and forgiveness while
working on this great Islamic mission.

i
Jihaad is a dedicated and passionate struggle for the establishment of Islamic system of peace and justice
justice in the society, for making Islam the dominant global world order and for maintaining it if it is
already established. It must be a well-planned, organized and coordinated collective struggle by the
Ummah, led by a dynamic leadership. It includes every intellectual, verbal or physical effort that,
according to the strategy and plan of the Ummah, is needed to attain the aforementioned Islamic
objectives. It is an obligation on every person who claims to be a Muslim and is not an optional matter.
Placement of this Soorah
It was stated in the introduction to the Qur-aan that Allaah SWT in His
ultimate wisdom decreed the compilation of the Qur-aan in different order than
the order of revelation. Some aspects of this wisdom were mentioned with
examples. Although mankind cannot understand or discover all of the reasons
the Almighty had for this arrangement, some of them are quite evident. The
relationship of the contents of this soorah with the contents of Faatiĥah is one
example.

One point to consider is that, unfortunately, if we look at the condition of


Muslims nowadays, it is very close to that of the Jews at the time of the
Prophet. Perhaps it is one of the profound reasons in the ultimate wisdom of
Allaah SWT that this soorah has been put right at the beginning of the Qur-aan,
so that Muslims can see their face in the mirror right at the outset. Perhaps they
would see themselves in the picture and correct their attitude and behaviour
going forward.

Another point to ponder upon is that the Qur-aan is not a book of theory or of
mere intellectual concepts. It is an operation manual for operating human
society. It delivers its maximum benefits only when it is fully practised.
Muslims are taught to immediately put into practice what they learn from the
Qur-aan. That is why the companions of the Prophet used to learn a few verses,
put them into practice and then learn some more, so on and so forth. From that
perspective, it is but natural that when Muslims embark on Islamic revival and
they start implementing the teachings of the Qur-aan in the collective affairs of
the Islamic state, the implementation should start with the teachings of Soorah
Al-Baqarah. Then, keeping in line with the gradual evolutionary process of
implementation of Islam, move forward in the order the commands appear in
the Qur-aan.
Teachings and Running Commentary
The soorah starts with a string of three letters of Arabic alphabet:
1
Alif, Laam, Meem.

The English equivalents of these letters are A, L, M.

Some of the soorahs of the Qur-aan (29 out of 114) start with letters such as these. At the time
of the revelation of the Qur-aan, it was in vogue for celebrated poets and orators to use random
letters of alphabet in their literary pieces. As the Qur-aan was to dazzle the Arabs in superbness
of its style over every other literary work, Allaah SWT did not leave out any aspect of style
from the Qur-aan that was in vogue at that time. With the passage of time, that style became
extinct, but it stayed in the Qur-aan because every letter of the Qur-aan is preserved forever.
They are always included in the text and recited as its part.

Since the style was familiar at the time of revelation, no enemy of Islam ever questioned the
use of these letters nor did any Muslim ask the Prophet about their use. Similarly, since their
meaning or significance has no bearing on the message or the guidance for which the Qur-aan
was sent, neither the Prophet nor his companions ever commented on them. That is why there
are no documented reports regarding this from the Prophet or his companions. Hence, when
their use got out of style in literary circles, in the absence of any documentation, people started
wondering why these letters were used.

To answer the curiosity of people who ask about them, subsequent commentators of the Qur-
aan have sometimes theorized on their significance but none of the opinions ever gained
widespread acceptability.

Some scholars were of the opinion that by using a string of alphabets, Arab poets used to imply
that from the letters people use for their common language, they create masterpieces. They
proposed that the use of such letters in the Qur-aan points out the fact that Allaah uses the
letters of human language to bring about a book (the Qur-aan) that is a living miracle, which
cannot be humanly duplicated.

Some people think that these letters have some kind of mystic meanings; however, had there
been any mystic meanings, being the teacher of the Qur-aan, the Prophet would have explained
it. By the same token, anyone else who assigns some mystic meanings to these characters is
just speculating, because the valid knowledge of the unseen realities can come only from the
Messenger of Allaah who was directly taught by Allaah SWT. Any other human being’s
opinion is merely speculation or conjecture.

Some others who have reflected on the contents of the soorah to which these letters have been
appended have come up with different theories. They have opined that these letters have a very
strong symbolical relationship with the contents of the chapter they are appended to. The use of
the same letters for multiple soorahs implies a similarity of theme and content. One researcher
has determined that the Arabic letters were based on Hebrew letters of alphabet, which in turn
were strongly influenced by Egyptian hieroglyphics. Hence, each letter of alphabet represented
an animal or a thing and was shaped in similarity to that object. For example, Jeem (J) was
represented by Jeemal (camel) and was shaped like it, so was Beth (B) for Bayt (house). Meem
(M) represented water and was shaped like its wave, while Noon (N) was used to represent fish
and Ŧaa (Ŧ) was used to indicate a snake. The relationship of the letters to the subject matter of
a soorah, he suggests, is based on the original derivation of the letters from the shapes and
animals they represented. For example, the chapter of the Qur-aan that starts with ‘N’ mentions
Jonah’s stay in the belly of fish, while the chapters that start with ‘Ŧ’ always mention Moses
staff taking the form of a snake and those with ‘M’ mention about his crossing of the ocean or
drowning of Pharaoh in the sea.29 Analysis indicates that although it was true in the case of
soorahs that started with Ŧaa and N, this was not true in other cases. Soorah A‘raaf mentions
turning of Moses’ staff into a snake, but does not have Ŧaa in the letters used in its beginning.
Similarly, many soorahs (such as Aali-‘Imraan, Ar-Ra‘d, As-Sajdah, Al-Mu-min, Ash-Shoora,
Al-Aĥqaaf) have the letter M in their string, but do not mention a body of water, Moses’
crossing or Pharaoh’s drowning in the sea.

One theory that became very popular claims the Noble Qur-aan has a mathematical structure
on the basis of nineteen. I analyzed this hypothesis as soon as it was presented and checked the
arguments and evidence that was presented, but found it lacking in support from the Qur-aan
itself as well as in scientific rigour and consistency. Although many people were mesmerized
by it, people with knowledge of Deen could see the inconsistencies and gaps in the whole
approach.

Regardless of what people theorize about them, they all agree that the message of the Qur-aan
remains clear and complete without there being a need to know anything about the strings of
these letters.

After this string of letters, the Qur-aan introduces itself and defines its role:

2
This is the Book, there is no doubt in it – guidance for the righteous who:
• 3 Believe in the Ghayb, establish Ŝalaah, and spend out of what We30
have provided for them; and,
• 4
Believe in what has been revealed to you31 and what was revealed
before you; and,
• Are absolutely certain of the hereafter.
5
They are on the path of guidance from their Lord and they are those who are
successful.

29
(See the Tafseers of Hameeduddeen Fraahi and Ameen Ahsan Islahi)
30
This is the royal ‘We’. As the Sovereign and Owner of the Universe, He uses the pronoun ‘We’ when
the message is intended to show His authority, power, and majesty. ‘I’ is used when talking about His
mercy, grace, forgiveness and personal relationship with His servants.
31
‘You’ naturally stands for Prophet Muhammad SA‘WS. It means that Prophet Muhammad must be
accepted as the final messenger of Allaah along with all the guidance he provided under instructions from
Allaah whether given through the Qur-aan or through extra-Qur-aanic information or explanations.
“The Book” is used in the Qur-aan to represent the text of Allaah’s eternal guidance for
human beings to follow and live by. The Qur-aan constitutes ‘the Book’ because it contains
complete guidance from Allaah in His own words. It may be observed that the word ‘book’ has
been used in the past for the revealed books too. For example, each documented revelation of
the past is called a Scripture (‘book’ in Latin). Similarly, the collection of scriptures is called
the Bible (‘book’ in Greek). That was quite appropriate because the revelations to the previous
prophets and messengers emanated from the same ‘Book’ of Allaah; however, the Qur-aan is
special in the sense that it is the complete, final and the whole version of the Book, literally
word by word from Allaah Himself and preserved perfectly in His original words.

“There is no doubt in it” emphasizes two features of this book. Firstly, it is free of any doubtful
material because it is based on Allaah’s personal, eternal, absolute and perfect knowledge. It
does not contain any theory, guesswork, estimation, speculation or conjecture. Secondly, there
is no doubt about this book being from Allaah.

For this claim, however, it does not present here any evidence. This can be for three reasons:

1. The Book itself is its evidence. The readers should be able to draw their own
conclusions by the time they have finished the Book.

2. By the time this soorah was revealed, this fact was fairly established in Arabian
society that the Qur-aan is undoubtedly Allaah’s Book.

Although it had become apparent to most of the people that this Book could not be a
human production but was Allaah’s word, many people did not respond positively to
the call of Islam or opposed it because they lacked the personality and attitude needed
to do so or their personal worldly interests precluded them from it. They were not
hampered by doubts about the Book. Hence, instead of providing evidence to support
this claim, the verses immediately following this statement focus on the attributes
people should have to avail themselves of the guidance of the Qur-aan.

3. If people at this moment concentrate on the qualities and mindset that are needed to
benefit from and understand clearly the guidance provided by this Book, there will be
ample evidence provided for its claim at many places later on.

The full statement “This is the Book of Allaah, without doubt” has been made so that the
reader knows from the outset that he is not about to read something human, but Divine. This is
to set the attitude and expectations aright immediately at the beginning. It notifies the reader:
You should not read it superficially, cursorily, or in order to kill time. Even if you are not
ready to accept its claim, at least take it seriously, and study it attentively and reflectively so
that you can draw your own conclusions in a responsible manner. This you owe to yourself,
because if the claim of the Book is true, you will be held accountable for not making a serious
attempt to arrive at the right conclusion.

The verse continues to define the objective and purpose of the “Book”. This is a book of
guidance to teach human beings how to live in this world. It is not a book of history, science or
philosophy, though it may use these sciences for making points for the guidance of people. It
provides guidance in terms of defining the goals and objectives that people should strive for
and enunciating the values and principles that will make the achievement of those objectives
possible. It sets the goals for people to develop a superb human personality characterized with
excellence and establishes the best possible human society characterized with peace, balance,
moderation, justice and kindness and imparts teachings that will help people achieve these
goals efficiently and effectively. In this way, it is an operating manual sent by the Creator for
human individuals and human society. It is like getting operating manuals from a manufacturer
for a very sophisticated and complicated machine, in which case, operating and maintaining
the machine according to the manual is essential to benefit from it optimally and to keep it
performing efficiently. This role of providing guidance is Allaah’s response to our request for
guidance we sought in Soorah Al-Faatiĥah. In effect, it clarifies at the outset that herein is
contained the guidance that you sought.

After introducing itself in two extremely concise but profoundly meaningful phrases, the last
phrase of this first verse as well as the subsequent verses divide people in three groups in terms
of their reaction to the guidance of the Qur-aan , describe the personality traits that determine
their attitude towards the guidance of the Qur-aan and specify the consequences of their
attitude and behaviour.

Naturally, not all people who hear or read about the Qur-aan are going to benefit from it. To
benefit from the divine guidance provided by the Qur-aan, a person needs to have an open
mind. It is the same as the fact that to benefit from sunlight for finding one’s way, one must
open his eyes. Those who keep their eyes closed, sleep through the sunlight hours or are blind
cannot obviously benefit from sunlight. Another example would be that a psychiatrist’s
knowledge, diagnosis and prescription are beneficial only for those who realize the need for
the doctor’s help, approach the doctor and then use the prescription. By the same token, there
needs to be a desire and willingness to be guided to benefit from the guidance offered by the
Qur-aan.

Keeping an open mind and having a desire to seek and willingness to accept guidance is an
attribute of Muttaqeen. The Arabic word Muttaqeen is the plural adjective for those who have
Taqwa and is variously translated as pious, righteous, God-fearing, God-conscious, and dutiful
to Allaah. In fact, it carries all those meanings simultaneously. Taqwa is a state of mind, an
attitude and a paradigm of life that is characterized by the following kind of consciousness,
care, caution and avoidance:

 Being conscious of our accountability to Allaah and being mindful that He is well
aware of all our actions, intentions, thoughts and behaviours.
 Being careful and anxious to fulfil one’s duties to Allaah as His slaves.
 Being cautious not to get involved in anything that may be disliked by Allaah.
 Being particular about living in a way that will avoid disobedience, displeasure or
punishment of Allaah.

As two companions of the Prophet SA‘WS, Ubayy Bin Ka‘ab and ‘Umar (may Allaah be
pleased with them), discussed (and I paraphrase), Taqwa is, “Living one’s life as carefully as
you hold your clothes closer to your body while passing through a dense jungle of thorny
bushes so as to avoid your clothes being caught in any of the thorns.”
Taqwa is actually the basis of all goodness. Once a person has developed the quality of Taqwa
in his attitude, only good comes from that person. Nurturing and developing Taqwa is the
natural result of a true faith and is the minimum level of commitment that Islam requires of a
believer. If a person claims to be a believer but his attitude and outlook lacks Taqwa, he is a
hypocrite, not a Muslim.

So the Qur-aan is guidance for those who have Taqwa -- the genuine desire and attitude of care
and caution to do the right things and to avoid what is not good. Taqwa is found in the people
who have the following attributes:

1. They believe in Ghayb, which means something that is not evident, but is hidden,
unknown, secret, or unobservable through sensory perception. Believing in Ghayb means
believing in realities that we cannot perceive through our physical senses or experience
through personal observations but can conceive reasonably through logic, intelligence and
wisdom, establish through indirect evidence or know through credible sources. These
realities include Allaah, angels, the Qur-aan being the word of Allaah, Muhammad being
the final messenger of Allaah and life after death. It indicates the capacity of a person to
rise above the animalistic confines of physical perceptions to the level of using human
faculties of wisdom, intelligence, logic, reasoning, vision, deduction and induction. The
person should be capable of reflecting, evaluating and drawing conclusions based on non-
sensory evidence and accept the realities without being able to see and touch them. Those
people who cannot believe in anything without being able to see, hear or touch are not
worthy of this guidance. They are operating at animal-level mentality even if they happen
to be research scholars.
This quality is extremely important from the point of view of the test for which human
beings have been put on earth. The test is valid only because people cannot meet or talk to
God with certainty or see through a telescope to observe Hell and Paradise. If a person can
determine these realities with absolute certainty, there is no test. Faith is only credible
when it is based on foresight, not on personal sensory observation. It is not a matter of
belief anymore, and thus unacceptable, once the reality is personally experienced, for
example, right at the time of the death or once the punishment of Allaah arrives. When
drowning in the sea, Pharaoh believed in Moses and his God, but that was of no avail.
2. They are practical people. Although they believe because they use their intellect, they do
not stay only in a theoretical world. As soon as the reality of Islam makes sense to them,
they start living it. They establish Ŝalaah. Ŝalaah is the obligatory formal worship
performed five times a day. The word used for establishing is Iqaamah which means
making something stand perfectly straight without any crookedness. Establishing Ŝalaah
has two dimensions: personal -- offering the prayer regularly, timely, in humility, sincerely
and ardently; and, societal – structuring and implementing political and social organization
of Muslims as one united Ummah on the basis of the system of Ŝalaah. Even if Ŝalaah is
performed as an act of worship five times a day regularly and timely, without Ŝalaah being
the main vehicle for the political structure of the Muslim society as a united Ummah,
Ŝalaah is not established. When Ŝalaah is properly established, it strengthens their direct
relationship with Allaah, stimulates them to strive for the objective of the mission of
achieving Islamic goals, develops Godly thinking and consciousness in their personality,
and organizes them in a disciplined manner to achieve the goals of the Islamic mission.
3. They spend generously from what Allaah has bestowed upon them. Whether they possess
a little or a lot, they spend out of it in Allaah’s way to share it with the people around them
and to finance the Islamic movement. They understand that whatever they have, they do
not own it. It is a gift and trust from Allaah. They also appreciate the mercy of Allaah that
they are expected to spend only a portion of it for His sake. This spending is not limited to
Zakaah32, but includes other forms of charity that may be necessary to meet the needs of
the society and the Islamic movement.
Although there are four fundamental obligations in Islam after declaring the faith, only
Ŝalaah and Zakaah are mentioned here. This is for two reasons. Firstly, these two
obligations are through which the establishment of Islam as a Deen begins and the
building of an Islamic society is initiated. They are the bedrocks on which the Islamic
movement and Islamic state are established. Ŝalaah provides the structure and organization
of the Islamic polity and Zakaah its financial infrastructure and philosophy. Secondly, on a
personal level, Ŝalaah represents all our obligations to Allaah because a person who
establishes Ŝalaah is able to perform all other obligations to Allaah. Similarly, Zakaah
represent the obligations to fellow human beings and the person who is particular about
paying Zakaah is usually more inclined to fulfill other obligations to people. That takes
care of all Islamic obligations: both to Allaah and to people.
4. They believe in all prophets and messengers and the guidance revealed to them, as they all
preached Islam. Believing in all those special people reminds a believer that Islam is not a
new religion and that it is the only religion that Allaah had wanted people to follow. This
underscores the continuity of the Islamic message throughout human history.
This also establishes a common heritage among all those who believe in God. It helps to
break down barriers among them, if people venture out of their shells. It opens a door for
healthy relations, open communication and meaningful dialogue among different
communities of believers. Especially, it makes the followers of the previous prophets feel
at home among Muslims or in the fold of Islam.
This also indicates that to be a believer, all representatives from Allaah (prophets and
messengers) must be accepted as such without any reservations. One cannot pick and
choose in who to believe and whom to disregard. The full chain of those special people
must be accepted without discrimination from Adam to Muhammad, the last of them.
Naturally, the last of the Prophets must be obeyed and followed until the Last day. For
instance, when a new official is appointed, we do not insist on following one of his/her
predecessors as it will be inappropriate to disregard the current official and to refer to one
from the past.
Similarly, the guidance brought by the last Prophet is the only guidance that should be
followed because: It is the latest edition of guidance from Allaah; it is complete and
contains all the guidance which human beings need, whether revealed in the past or not;
and, it is the only guidance preserved in its pristine form. Therefore, doing anything else
will be wrong. We refer to the latest, revised and enlarged work of an author, not to an old
edition of a book. We comply with the current statutes in force, not the expired ones. That

32
Zakaah is compulsory charity that must be paid by all Muslims who own assets in excess of a
minimum threshold.
is why we file our tax returns according to the latest tax act and regulations, not according
to an old copy of the Act just because our fathers paid according to that old Act.
Hence, it is crucial that all prophets and books including the last Prophet and Book,
Muhammad and the Qur-aan, be believed to be from Allaah, but we rely solely on the last
revelation for guidance.
5. When it comes to the life hereafter, their belief is so strong that it is an absolutely certain
reality to them. Their lifestyle witnesses their conviction about it as their actions, priorities
and behaviour clearly demonstrate that their focus is on the success of the hereafter rather
than the temporary benefits of this transitory life.
The believers who have Taqwa with all the above five characteristics are the people who have
adopted the guidance from the Qur-aan. They will have a life of inner peace, tranquility and
contentment in this world, they will offer humanity a society of peace and fairness, and they
will have a very thrilling, exhilarating and satisfying success in the eternal life hereafter. They
are the people who will be successful in achieving the aforementioned Islamic goals. It is the
achievement of those goals that is called success or falaah in Qur-aanic language.

This is the first group and the only one that benefits from the guidance of the Qur-aan. It is a
brief profile containing only the basic attributes of a true Muslim. This narration should be
used to evaluate ourselves about where each of us stands. Do we fit the profile presented or do
we need to make changes in our personality and attitude?

At the time of its revelation, the above profile truly described the companions of the Prophet.
Although a lot more could have been said about the companions of the Prophet and also about
those who benefit from the Qur-aan in general, the core attributes mentioned here also tell us a
lot more about those who did not benefit from the guidance of the Qur-aan. If we take the flip
side of this profile, it describes those Jews in Madeenah who had rejected the call to Islam. The
reasons for their rejection corresponded precisely to the absence of the abovementioned
attributes. Here is how:
• Allaah had told Ibraheem (Abraham) that Israelites would enjoy leadership as long as
they kept their faith and Taqwa. He had also indicated to Moosa (Moses) that only
those Israelites who had Taqwa would believe in and follow the last Messenger.
When the Prophet invited Jews to Islam, those who had Taqwa, joined Islam. Others
set off on an anti-Islam campaign.
• Jews as a community could not get out of their shackles of sensory perception. Their
worship of the calf and their demand to see God were examples of this weakness.
• They had given up on the establishment of Ŝalaah and spending in the way of Allaah.
Despite their huge Synagogues and prayers, the system of Ŝalaah had ceased to
provide the structure of their organization. The situation of spending was the worst; in
fact, charity was strongly resisted.
• As for the hereafter, that was not their major concern. Their whole lifestyle was
centred on this world while the hereafter was seldom a consideration in any of their
dealings and actions. Even their religious literature did not talk about the hereafter. So
much so that some Jews themselves wonder if belief in the hereafter is part of Jewish
faith or not.
People of Madeenah, be it Muslims or Jews, could immediately see both sides of the picture as
these verses were revealed.
Unfortunately, the majority of the people who claim to be Muslims nowadays are exactly like
the Jews of Madeenah in their outlook and lifestyle. There is little wonder that Allaah has put
these minimum criteria at the beginning of the Qur-aan so that we can set our attitude aright at
the outset.
The next two verses describe the second group of people -- the disbelievers -- and give a brief,
succinct description of the consequences of their behaviour both in this world and the
hereafter.

6
As for those who have disbelieved, regardless of whether you warn them or
not, they are not going to believe. 7Allaah has sealed their hearts and their
hearing; and their eyes are covered up; and for them, there will be an enormous
punishment.

A disbeliever is a person who lacks any one or all of the attributes mentioned for the first group
of people. The root word ‘Kufr’ connotes thanklessness, rejection and hiding or covering up
(the truth). This is a special Islamic term that the Qur-aan uses to describe disbelief (not
believing in Islam). Disbelief is called Kufr because it is a clear thanklessness to the Creator,
rejection of faith in Him and hiding of the truth about Him. Kufr can take different forms:
Disbelieving in existence of Allaah, having doubts about His existence, disbelieving in any of
His attributes mentioned in the Qur-aan, believing in other gods or deities equal to Allaah or
Allaah’s partners in divinity, believing in Him but not accepting Him as the active and sole
Sovereign of the universe and everything in it, rejecting or refusing to obey His commands or
injunctions or treating any aspect of life secular being out of purview of Allaah’s commands,
not accepting any one or more of His prophets or messengers, believing in all tenets of faith
and attributes of Allaah but practically living a life of disobedience to Him. Thus, a Kaafir is a
disbeliever -- anybody who does not believe fully and purely in Islam. A Kaafir (disbeliever)
may be an atheist, an agnostic, a pagan, an idolater (a Mushrik) or one of the people of the
Book (a Jew or a Christian), etc.

The prophets are sent by Allaah to give good news to the people who listen to the message of
Allaah informing them of how beautifully they will be rewarded. They are also sent to warn
those who reject the message of the punishment they will face for their rejection. In that case,
they are like a doctor who warns a patient about dangers of not following the directions and
prescriptions. Unfortunately, these disbelievers are so tuned out that even the warning is
useless.

The disbelievers, unfortunately, are their own enemies. They are the close-minded people who
do not want to listen to any evidence, knowledge, logic, or reasoning to re-evaluate their
current beliefs. They have closed their minds from giving any consideration to Islam for any or
all of the following reasons: their devotion to their current beliefs, their indulgence in this
world, their prejudice, because of their preconceived notions about Islam or they just do not
want to be bothered. The truth of Islam is not the issue; they simply do not want it. Sometimes,
deep in their heart these people know that Islam is the truth but for their own reasons they keep
opposing it until the truth or falsehood does not matter to them anymore. Once they refuse to
listen to it, they feel compelled to justify their position, rightly and wrongly, by proving Islam
wrong regardless of the evidence otherwise. This behaviour hardens them in their rejection of
Islam and practically closes all avenues to a sincere and honest look at it. Whatever their
reasons, they have sealed their hearts, eyes and ears shut from Islam. Although it is their own
negative and closed-minded attitude towards Islam that has caused this condition, Allaah
attributes it to Himself because it is He Who has made human nature to have the capacity to
become hardened in that manner. It is similar to when Allaah attributes rainfall to Himself
because it is He who has set up the nature of the water cycle to continue and function in that
manner.

Allaah has made human nature such that it grows and intensifies in whatever direction you
want to take it. If a person keeps on doing good things and making the right choices, his
personality develops in that direction and goodness comes easily to him as time goes on. On
the other hand, if a person insists on doing wrong, and continues to justify it, he gets more
deeply entrenched in his wrong attitude. Those who continue to close their mind to Islam, lose
the capacity to perceive its beauties, its excellence, its being the only rational faith and its
being the only system that comprehensively and successfully establishes the virtuous society of
justice and peace.

The benefit of using this style of describing their hardness of the attitude is not only to show
the power of Allaah on His creations but also to indicate to those who are insisting on the
wrong that it is not something they should be proud of. It is a sort of curse from Allaah that
they are digging themselves deeper and deeper into Hell.

Usually, people in this category are the leaders of society who spearhead the anti-Islam
campaigns. The hardening of their attitude is the consequence of their behaviour that they face
in this world; in the Hereafter they will face an enormous torment in Hell.

Telling the Prophet that they are not going to believe whether he warns them or not is to
console him that their disbelief in Islam is not because there is anything lacking in his delivery
of the message or his selfless work, but it is because of their unfortunate psychological state
which Allaah has allowed them to remain in. It is also to indicate that it was all right not to
waste his time or energies on these lost causes, and that he should instead utilize his resources
on those who are open to considering the truth.

Sometimes, people think that if someone’s message is not getting across, it is either because
the message is faulty, or the delivery is inappropriate. Instead of always criticizing the message
or its deliverer, they should be mindful that the receiver of the message might have completely
sealed his faculties shut for receiving the message.

This is also to console anyone who dedicates his time and energies for sharing the message of
Islam with others that they should not be discouraged by the attitude of the hardened
adversaries. Rather they should set their priorities and target their efforts toward those who
tend to be more open and understanding.

At the time of revelation of the Qur-aan, this second group was represented by those Jewish
and Makkan leaders to whom truth did not matter. They were spearheading an extremely
aggressive war against Islam and Muslims while they mostly had a feeling in their hearts that
the claims and message of Muhammad were the truth, but they did not care. They were busy
trying their best to crush his movement and to kill him. It is the same situation that Jesus went
through. The Jewish leadership at his time knew because of ‘Eesa’s (Jesus’) miracles that he
was the Messiah but it did not stop them from trying to have him killed.

Currently anyone who is presented with an opportunity to study, explore and evaluate Islam
but refuses to open his or her heart and mind to explore it rationally, honestly and sincerely in
an unbiased or unprejudiced manner will fall under this category. Similarly anyone who
repeatedly transmits, publishes or promotes hearsay or undue stereotyping of Islam will also be
in this group of people.

Unlike the first two groups that were described concisely in a few words, the third group has a
chameleon type personality that needs a more elaborate description. They are hypocrites – the
people who want to be counted among the disbelievers and among the Muslims at the same
time. They like to be perceived as friends and associates by both sides. They think they are
smart, diplomatic and can establish self-serving relations with everyone.

Usually they are more or less anti-Islam, but they think it is a useful strategy to be perceived
among the Muslims as believers. Sometimes, they pose as broadminded, liberal or “moderate”
believers to unsuspecting Muslims while in reality they are more loyal to disbelievers, promote
their agenda, and follow their lead. Some may not even pretend to be Muslims, but just want
Muslims to believe that there is more than one way to be a believer in God, and that people of
all those faiths should be accepted as one fraternity of believers. Such hypocrites include
people from other religions who use their distorted belief in God and the Last Day to equate
with Muslims beliefs and to establish common grounds. This is usually done to make inroads
into the Muslim community so that they can derail Muslims from their real goals, to create a
fifth column among the Muslims or to sabotage Islamic work through this diplomatic and
hypocritical relationship.

Others may not be anti-Islam. In fact, they may not care about religion as such, but their
interest requires that they be accepted by and included in the Muslim community. They want to
be considered Muslims while living like disbelievers, without making any changes in their un-
Islamic lifestyle. Some of them may practise common easy rituals or participate in some happy
occasions or celebrations, without surrendering fully to Allaah SWT and without adopting the
Islamic personality. Even if a person thinks that he is subscribing to the faith by these token
actions, from an Islamic viewpoint, it is not acceptable and is effectively ‘disbelief’.

Whatever form it takes, the basic point is that they claim to be believers while in reality they
are not. They neither find it expedient to openly reject Islam, nor have the spine to go for it,
either for lack of time or commitment or other expediencies.
8
Then, there are people who claim to believe in Allaah and the Last Day, while
they are not believers. 9 They attempt to deceive Allaah and the believers,
while in reality they are deceiving themselves, but they do not realize. 10 Their
psyches are diseased33 – and Allaah lets their disease grow; and for them, there
will be a painful punishment because of their false pretences. 11 When they are
told not to cause trouble in the land, they claim to be the reformers.34 12
Beware! They are the troublemakers, but they do not get it. 13 And when they
are invited to believe like sincere people35 do, they retort, “Should we believe
as fools36 have done?” Be aware! They are the fools, but they do not know. 14
When among the believers, they claim, “We, too, are believers.” But when they
are alone with their devils37, they assure them, “We are indeed with you. We
were just mocking.” 15 Well, it is Allaah who mocks at them, letting them
blindly wander in their rebellion. 16 They are those who have purchased
misguidance in exchange for guidance. So, neither has their trade been
profitable nor have they attained guidance.

Faith is something directly related to Allaah. When a person plays games with faith, he is in
reality playing games with Allaah SWT. What the hypocrites forget in their excitement of
seeing their game succeed with unsuspecting Muslims is that Allaah SWT knows everything –
every detail of their lies and their ulterior motives. They cannot deceive Him. They will be held
accountable and severely punished for all their deceptions. Even Muslims soon realize their
true nature. Thus, for the temporary and transitory benefit they gain through deceiving
Muslims initially, they are destroying their reputation and credibility in this world and ruining
their eternal future in the hereafter. So they are neither deceiving Allaah nor Muslims, but
deceiving themselves. And they do not even comprehend what they are doing to themselves
because they are so absorbed in their short-term interests and blinded by the initial success of
their games that they are not willing to think through the implications of their behaviour. Some
of them are like a person who thinks that he can succeed in simultaneously riding two boats
going in different directions. Others may be like a person trying to simultaneously ski behind
two boats that are circling in opposite directions.

Trying to deceive in the matter of faith is just like trying to deceive one’s doctor. If the doctor
diagnoses a serious disease and prescribes an effective treatment plan, but the patient deceives
the doctor as if he is following the plan while, in fact, he is not; who is being deceived? Who
will suffer the consequences? The person who takes him to the doctor and wants him to use the
prescription? The doctor? Or, the patient himself?

33
Disease of jealousy, hypocrisy, duplicity and playing games instead of being honest and
straightforward, and of trying to fool people by pretending to be what they are not.
34
Those who restore balance, reform, reconcile and make peace.
35
Sincere Muslims
36
They think the sincere believers are fools to commit themselves to faith and then endure hardships and
trouble for it.
37
The Arabic word Shayaŧeen is plural of Shayŧaan (Satan). Shayŧaan is a superlative degree adjective
indicating one who is extremely rebellious, hasty, ill-tempered, boisterous and arrogant. It is used for both
human devils and Jinn devils. Here it refers to the leaders and instigators who lead, coach and incite
people in their trouble-making behaviour.
This is, in fact, a disease, not a virtue to be proud of. People may give it nice labels such as
diplomacy, but hypocrisy remains what it is -- a deadly disease that is based on dishonesty and
deception and is caused by other unethical attitudes.

The causes of their hypocritical behaviour are many: preference and love for worldly benefits,
physical comforts and carnal desires; absence of resolve and courage; inability to take a stance
for a principle or to take pain for one’s beliefs; propensity towards intrigues and plots; and, a
timid, flattering nature. Certainly, hypocrisy is a complex disease made up of many ailments
and manifesting in a variety of symptoms, but the common cause in all of them is preference
for the worldly interests and expediencies.

Another reason for some people to play this kind of game is jealousy. The hypocrites are
jealous of the success of the Islamic mission. Not being in the forefront of that mission, they
are consumed by jealousy and try to hurt the mission by playing this game of deception.
Another example is the Jewish hypocrisy caused by jealousy of the Prophet not being from the
Israelites but from Ishmaelites.

Whatever the main motive is of their pretending to be Muslims, they usually succeed initially
in having unsuspecting Muslims believe their claims. They are pleased with their diplomacy
and deceptive tactics when they succeed in influencing Muslims by sowing ideas they want to
implant and thereby causing discord, suspicion or arguments among Muslims through their
sabotaging propaganda. Unfortunate for the hypocrites, as they continue to play these games of
deception, it is entrenched deeper into their personality until it becomes acute or second nature.

The teachings of Islam, originating from the Creator Himself, are optimal, balanced and
designed to work well with our earthly environment, to fit appropriately with human nature, to
bring the best out of people and to create the best human society possible. Any deviation from
Islamic behaviour is naturally going to create problems in the society or at best produce less
desirable results. Hence, the Qur-aan calls it Fasaad; i.e., disruptive, disturbing, mischievous
and troublesome behaviour that disrupts the natural balance and disturbs the peace and
tranquility.

The universe continues to function in balance and equilibrium and it sustains itself because it
functions according to the laws of nature which Allaah has promulgated for it. If anything in
the universe deviates from any law of nature, it is going to cause disruption and destruction.
Or, an example more close to home is that the environment and ecology of the earth continues
to sustain and remain in balance as long as it is left to nature. As soon as we start playing with
it according to our own ideas, we destroy ecology, hurt the environment, endanger species of
plants and animals and negatively affect the weather patterns. Nature is their Islam from
Allaah. Any deviation from that causes fasaad. The same is exactly true for us. When human
beings, instead of following Islam, start acting on their own whims, the result is fasaad in the
human society. The situation can be improved or reformed only by coming to Islam – the
religion of nature for human beings from the Creator – Allaah SWT. This is called Iŝlaah –
correction, reform, re-balancing, reconciliation, etc.

Hypocrisy causes problems in the society not only because it is deviation from Islam but also
because it is a form of dishonesty. Dishonesty always destroys the peace of the society. When
the ill effects of hypocritical behaviour are noticed in the society and the hypocrites are invited
to reform themselves, they claim to be reformers. They think they are creating peace in the
society and promoting reconciliation by playing friends on both sides. In reality, with them
sympathising with disbelievers and promoting their agenda, they act as a fifth column among
Muslims, try to cause problems within Muslims, damage the brotherhood and peace of the
Islamic society and hurt the Islamic mission.

All the disturbance, unrest, violence and suffering witnessed in the contemporary world are
caused by disbelief and the hypocritical behaviour of world powers. Just consider what the
world powers nowadays undertake in terms of wars, imperialistic operations, exploitations of
humanity, destruction of peace of smaller countries, clandestine subversive activities, fanning
and funding of conflicts, etc. through their war machine, huge arsenals of weapons of mass
destruction, bribery, abductions and murders, undercover activities and intelligence operations.
All these activities are clearly Fasaad (trouble making, disruption, disequilibrium, upheaval).
The irony is that all this destruction and disturbances are undertaken in the name of Iŝlaah
(peace-making, reformation, social development, freedom) -- civilization, democracy, human
rights, and international law. The fact is that tools change with time, but human psychology
remains the same. Although arrows have been replaced with ballistic missiles and stones with
hydrogen and daisy-cutter bombs, the hypocrisy remains the same with all the same false
pretences, the pretexts for destructive operations, the arrogance and feeling of superiority, the
deceptions and the efforts for harming from within. As the human beings and diseases of its
psyche remain the same and will remain so until the end of the world, the cure in the form of
guidance of the Qur-aan is and will always remain fully relevant, applicable and effective.
Only Islam can and will give stable sustainable peace to the world and make this earth a better
place to live.

The hypocrites usually have a very negative view of the sincere Muslims. They always think of
themselves to be smarter and more prudent than them. They suffer from a superiority complex,
which is indicated by their condescending attitude towards true believers. In fact, they think the
true Muslims are fools – why would they otherwise make the sacrifices of their time and
resources for the sake of religion; why would they face the hardships for their beliefs; and, why
would they neglect their personal needs and family priorities for the sake of the priorities of the
religion?

Many unsuspecting sincere Muslims usually do not realize it, but these hypocrites do not deal
with true believers honestly or respectfully. Their conversation with them is mostly insincere.
They make many comments which they do not mean or which are just uttered to smooth things
over. Often, such comments are made in jest, while laughing inside on the simplicity of the
addressee who takes them at face value. Their real feelings and point of view come out when
they are among other hypocrites including their own leaders. There they show all their hatred
and anti-Islam sentiments.

Sooner or later their hypocrisy is noticed. When they are invited to really become Muslims
instead of pretending to be believers, their hidden feelings come out in the open and
condescendingly they refuse to be like the ‘fools’. What they do not realize is that they are
biggest fools. They are bartering the eternal success of the hereafter for petty gains of this
temporary world. They have such a short-term view of things that they cannot even see beyond
their own navel. It is the sincere Muslims who are smart. They are making the smartest long-
term investment for which they are going to attain the best returns possible on a continuing
basis forever.

One of the groups described by these verses was a group of the Jews of Madeenah. They were
anti-Islam like the disbelievers mentioned in the second group; however, they wanted to keep
their anti-Islamic activities veiled. On the surface they wanted to maintain friendly relations
with Muslims and give the impression of being tolerant, accommodating, broadminded and
conciliatory. They wanted Muslims to believe that these Jews were their partners in faith who
also believed in Allaah and the Last Day. The pretext was that what really mattered at the end
of day was faith in Allaah and the life hereafter, which they were all dedicated to. One does not
have to believe exactly like the Muslims of Madeenah to avoid punishment on that Day. They
are following an earlier prophet who was also from Allaah so why should they be chastised for
not being Muslims? There is no reason for the Qur-aan and the Prophet to invite them to Islam.
They already are in fact ‘believers’.

These verses of the Qur-aan described their reality in concise succinct words. It exposed their
deceptive tactics and false pretences of trying to appear like innocent believers while
disregarding what they clearly knew the Qur-aan and the Prophet were inviting them to. They
knew that it was complete submission to Allaah and His Messenger through Islam that was
expected of them, not the kind of faith they had. And they had been emphatically commanded
to do so by Allaah through Moosa (Moses).38

These verses also exposed their real reason for avoiding the guidance of Islam while knowing
it to be true. It was their disease of jealousy against Ishmaelites (Arabs) that was keeping them
from accepting Muhammad. In addition, the disease of hypocrisy was making them play games
instead of being honest about how they felt.

Also exposed was the hatred and disrespect they harboured in their hearts for Muslims, which
sometimes came to the surface when they were invited to become real Muslims. It was also
their sense of superiority that made them patronize Muslims with joking and facetious
comments then brag about it when they were with their own leaders.

This exposition has been made in sharp and clear terms at this point for the following reasons:
 They have been invited to Islam repeatedly in various contexts and beautiful styles
which they have utterly disregarded.
 One of the major themes of this soorah is to inform Jews of their crimes and officially
remove them from being the chosen people appointed to lead the spread of
monotheistic religion.
 Clarify right at the beginning what kind of faith is unacceptable to Allaah, especially
so that Muslims can avoid the repetition of Jewish mistakes.

Unfortunately, over time, similar groups of people have arisen among Muslims of whom the
sincere Muslims should be wary and on guard. Some people who are born in Muslims families
and carry Muslim names have the hypocritical personality described here. When Communism

38
“The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your brothers. You must listen
to him.” And “If anyone does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name, I will myself
call him to account.” Deut, 18-15,19 NIV
and Socialism were in vogue, they believed in that ideology and had no concern for the Islamic
way of life, but they used to approach Muslims as if they were the real believers. Now with the
defeat and failure of that ideology, most of them have retracted from their earlier philosophies
and adopted other equally damaging philosophies. Others still are clinging to Communism
despite its failure.

But the most dangerous element nowadays is those so-called Muslims who are mesmerized by
the glitter of Western Jahiliyyah (un-Islamic philosophies and way of life) yet they claim to be
believers just like the hypocrites mentioned here. They try to modernize and liberalize Islam
and in the process create many Fitnahs (fights, troubles and discord) among Muslims. They can
be easily recognized if we look at where they bring their ideas from; how their agenda is
determined; what takes priority with them; what is their evidence in support of their ideas; who
likes their ideas; who promotes them; who supports them and who backs them.

The next four verses use two fitting examples to elucidate the psychology of the people who
deprive themselves of the guidance of the Qur-aan after recognizing its truth. These examples
paint vivid pictures of their mental state.

17
Their case is like: A person lit a fire. When it illuminated its surroundings,
Allaah took away their sight and left them in darkness, unable to see. 18 Being
deaf, dumb and blind, they cannot find a way out. 19 Or like: Heavy rain from
the sky that comes with darkness, thunder and lightning. They stick their
fingers into their ears because of thunder, fearing death -- and Allaah keeps the
disbelievers well-surrounded. 20 Lightning almost blinds their eyes. When it
lights up, they walk a bit. When the darkness engulfs them, they stand still. If
Allaah wanted, He would take away their hearing and sight. Certainly, Allaah
has power over everything.

The first example makes the point about the consequences of ignoring Allaah’s guidance after
knowing that it is there and it is available. It is applicable to everyone who is presented an
opportunity for the light of Islam to illuminate his way, but does not use it to follow the right
path towards God. Rather he prefers to stay completely in the dark by ignoring the opportunity
to discover Islam, believing in anti-Islam propaganda, or participating in anti-Islam games and
activities.

To capture the impact of this example, imagine some people who are trying to find their way in
pitch-black darkness in an unknown treacherous territory. This is the condition of humanity
without guidance from Allaah. Trying to find the best way to live and to create an ideal human
society without Allaah’s guidance is like finding a way in this kind of circumstances. To help
people find the way that will take them safely to their destination, Allaah, being the Most
Gracious, sends His messengers who illuminate the way with the guidance they receive from
Him.

This example will be applicable to all those situations where people disregard or ignore the
light of Allaah’s guidance or lose it after discovering it. For example, Moosa (Moses) lit the
fire and illuminated the path for the Israelites. But soon after, they stopped benefiting from that
light, turned away from it, lost the guidance, became so hardened in their ways that even ‘Eesa
(Jesus) could not attract them back to that light, and hence they were cursed.

At the time of revelation of the Qur-aan, the person who lit the fire to illuminate the way was
Prophet Muhammad who illuminated the dark ages with the light and guidance of Islam. He
worked selflessly and diligently to illuminate the surroundings with the guidance from Allaah,
just as Moosa (Moses) and ‘Eesa (Jesus) had done before him. Despite his illuminating the
way, some people refused to benefit from his light. They saw the light and witnessed how
clearly it was showing the way but rejected it after witnessing its benefits in the illuminated
lives of believers; but they chose to disregard the light and to remain in the darkness for the
sake of their worldly interests, prejudice, blind following of their forefathers or whatever other
similar reasons. Consequently, they were totally blinded from the light. With their persistent
refusal to see the light, their attitudes have hardened and their condition has become such as if
they are deaf, dumb and blind, all at the same time. If someone is lost in the darkness, he can
sometimes be rescued if he calls people for help or people can shout directions at him to help
him find his way out. Unfortunately, they have dug themselves into a deep ditch in the
darkness and being deaf, dumb and blind cannot be helped by any means of rescue.
Consequently, neither is the light useful for them, nor can they get help in any other way;
hence, they are destined for their peril from which they cannot be saved.

Like the Israelites, many contemporary Muslims have lost the light of the guidance brought by
the Prophet and neglected the mission he launched and forgotten the purposes and goals that
were given to them by Islam. Consequently they are lost and condemned like the Israelites
were. In the same manner the example applies to those who hear about Islam and its guidance
to establish peace and justice in the world but instead of adopting it and its goals they oppose it
or neglect to pay attention to it.

The second example uses a natural phenomenon to paint a picture of hypocritical behaviour.

As everyone knows, rain is the main factor for the growth of food and sustenance of life on the
earth. It is a part of the system of sustenance Allaah has implemented for people. But to enjoy
the life-giving benefits of rain, people have to bear the darkness the clouds cause, the thunder
and the lightening. Now, think of a group of people whose fields are dry and thirsty and the
water table in their area has descended very low. While they need rain badly, they do not want
to put up with the inconveniences that come with it. Imagine that they are out and about having
fun when they are covered by darkness of thick black clouds bringing heavy showers with
quite a bit of lightning and thunder activity. Visualize their actions in the light of the picture
drawn by the verse: scared of the thunder, groping in the dark, squirming because of lightning,
walking a few steps under its light and then standing bewildered in the dark.

In this example, rain represents the revelation (Qur-aan) to the Prophet that has been sent down
to enliven the spirit and to sustain spiritual life and moral well-being of people; just like rain is
sent down to enliven the land, to sustain physical life and to cause growth. Darkness is the
hardships that believers have to endure and the sacrifices they have to make; and lightning
represents the easy things in Islam and successes of the Muslims. Thunder is the warnings of
punishments and dire circumstances that will befall those who ignore the guidance of Islam.
The people overtaken by this rainfall are those who are double-minded about their reaction to
Islam. Like people overtaken by rain, they are in a quandary. They see the benefit of the rain
but they do not want any discomfort whatsoever that comes with it. They do not want to put up
with any hardships or difficulties that the life-giving rain of the Qur-aan entails. Sometimes
when it is something easy or it is just participating in a celebration or in the success of
Muslims, they take a few steps along with Muslims. When the faith demands an action that
requires some effort such as making a change in lifestyle, dedicating some time or resources or
standing up for the faith, they stop. When they are reminded about the consequences of their
actions and attitude and warning of the punishment from Allaah, they are annoyed, offended
and dejected. It hits right at their nerves because it is clearly applicable to their situation. They
do not want to listen to those things at all. As mentioned in the example, they plug their ears
with their fingers to avoid listening to the thunder because it sounds like death to them. Their
reaction to thunder is quite like an ostrich burying its head in the sand, or a pigeon closing its
eyes at the sight of a cat. The danger does not disappear if we refuse to see it!

Thus the example describes the mental predicament of those who know the truth of Islam but
are not courageous enough to devote themselves to it. They are the people who want to play on
both sides of the fence. They want to continue their life as they always have but still want to
avail themselves the benefits that accrue to believers. Their mentality does not allow them to
endure discomforts for the sake of the truth.

Apart from other differences between the two groups described by the two examples, one point
should be especially noted here. Although the people in the rain are not using their capabilities
properly to receive and accept guidance, their sight and hearing are not sealed. It is because
they still have a little openness in their minds. Even if they take a few steps on occasion, they
are still taking some initiative. There is a chance they may decide to take it seriously and open
their heart for the guidance and become true believers. If they, however, continue disregarding
the guidance, they might get hardened in their attitude so much that they might move into the
closed-minded category. But Allaah SWT does not deprive anyone of the opportunity even if
there is a minute chance for that person to be open to the truth and guidance.

Although this example describes some of the traits of hypocrisy, it is by no means a complete
picture of all kinds of hypocrites. It only mentions those who were found in the early period of
the Islamic mission in Madeenah.
In the next section, the Qur-aan invites humanity to choose the straight path of salvation,
encouraging people to be in the first groups of the successful people, rather than the other two
groups who will be losers. The call indirectly provides rationale for all three main elements of
Islamic Faith: Towĥeed (Oneness and Uniqueness of Allaah), Risaalah (the Qur-aan being
word of Allaah revealed to Muhammad Messenger of Allaah) and Aakhirah (life hereafter).

21
O people! Be submissive slaves to your Lord Who created you and those
before you – so that you attain salvation – 22 Who made the earth a flooring
and sky a ceiling and sent down water from the sky, thereby producing fruits
for your sustenance. So, when you know this39, do not equate others with
Allaah. 23 And if you are in doubt about what We have sent down to Our40
slave41, bring a soorah42 like it – and seek all the help you can get from your
supporters besides Allaah – if you are truthful. 24 However, if you cannot do it
– and you shall never be able to do it – then fear the Fire whose fuel is people
and stones, which is prepared for the disbelievers. 25 And give the good news
to those who believe and act righteously that for them there are Gardens under
which rivers flow. Whenever they will be provided fruits from it to eat, they
will say, “This is what we were provided with before”. They will be given
resembling varieties43. In addition, therein they will have pure spouses44 for
them and they will live there forever.

We manufacture things for set purposes. If and when they do not fulfil their purpose and
cannot be fixed, they are thrown away. Similarly, Allaah created human beings for a purpose --
to serve Him submissively as slaves in all aspects of their life throughout their life by their free
choice. He has clearly indicated through the Qur-aan what level of servitude He expects from
them, what kind of lifestyle He wants them to live and how He wants to be worshipped. Those
who obey Allaah exactly as prescribed in the Qur-aan will attain success and salvation in both
of the worlds. In this world, they will not have to suffer the consequences of the ever-changing
and misguided theories of human beings, rather they will be able to establish the ideally
beautiful and optimally balanced human society in their first attempt, instead of going through

39
You know that Allaah is the Creator and Sustainer.
40
This is the royal “Our”. Allaah SWT uses first person plural pronoun when the context requires an
expression of His ultimate power, authority and sovereignty over the universe and of His being the
Sovereign Lord, Master and Owner of human beings whom He has given a chance to demonstrate their
willingness to become His slaves by their own free choice.
41
This refers to Prophet Muhammad. By this style Allaah is indicating the Prophet is His special, close
and elect slave of all human beings.
42
A chapter like the chapter of the Holy Qur-aan with same quality of the stunning beauty, doubtless
guidance, and full-of-miracles prose.
43
Similar in appearance to the fruits people are familiar with, but the taste and nutrition will be
unimaginably superb. Also, despite their appealing resemblance, they will have a variety of delectable
flavours and tastes.
44
They will be physically, spiritually and ethically pure with pleasing habits and good attitude.
trials and errors trying to find the right system of life. In the hereafter, they will be able to
please their Lord, avoid His punishment and attain eternal bliss in Paradise. They will, in that
way, belong to the first group of people mentioned earlier as Muttaqeen – those who are
Allaah-conscious and keep their duty to Him carefully according to the guidance of the Qur-
aan. Only this lifestyle of obedience ensures success, safety from the consequences of human
trials and errors, avoidance of Allaah’s displeasure and salvation from hell.

Because Allaah is kind to people and wants to save them, He is inviting humanity at large
through the Qur-aan to submit to Him, enjoy a good life both in this world and the hereafter
and save themselves from the perils of this world and the hereafter.

Those who do not submit to Allaah obey many other things beside Allaah: their own lusts and
desires; their own ideas and aspirations; the laws, rules and regulations of other people who are
human beings like themselves, the theories and propositions of so-called experts whose
assertions are frequently refuted by subsequent research, etc. They serve anyone from where
they hope some benefit can accrue. They worship entities that themselves are created such as
Jesus, saints, idols, animals, fire, etc. By submitting in their daily life to entities mentioned in
the first sentence and by worshipping the entities mentioned in the second sentence, these
people practically equate those entities with Allaah SWT, whether they confess it or not. In
other words, they equate creations with the ultimate Creator of everything. They give the
creations the kind of importance and priority that should only be given to the Creator, they
worship them as Allaah should be worshipped, or they expect from them what only Allaah can
deliver. Allaah invites them to think: How can they be slave to or worship anyone other than
He Who created them?

Allaah has actually done more for us than just create us. He has provided for us a life-
sustaining environment on earth and arranged a wonderful system for producing a variety of
nourishing food with a diversity of pleasing tastes, appearances, flavours and textures. In
addition, He has provided us with all the resources that we utilize for our different needs. If we
consider only this aspect of nature as to how our solar system and our earthly environment
work together with the laws of nature to provide for all our needs and to sustain our life, it
indicates beyond doubt that all of this well-coordinated system is the creation of one Creator.
We do not have different gods for different things, otherwise the coordination between all of
them will break down at various times and life will not be sustainable. Coordination between
multiple decision-making bodies is extremely difficult, but when it involves competing powers
(in this case competing gods), it becomes absolutely impossible. The unified system of
universe is a strong and clear evidence for Towĥeed – oneness of Allaah.

After knowing all these favours and bounties from Allaah in the matter of our creation and
sustenance, it does not make sense for anyone to let anyone or anything come in the way of
obeying Allaah fully, completely and consistently.

Let us consider a simple example for those who do not submit to Allaah, our Lord. Let us say
that a person is employed by a company that provides him all the work facilities, supplies and
equipment as well as pays handsomely to do the work he is employed for. The person takes the
pay and uses all the facilities but does the work for another company that has nothing to do
with his employer. How would that employer treat such an employee? This is exactly the
situation of those who live in Allaah’s land, eat Allaah’s created food and use all the facilities
Allaah has created but then spend their time and energies on the goals and priorities set by
entities other than Allaah SWT.

Usually, people believe that God exists and that He has created everything; but either they fail
in committing themselves fully to His servitude or they include others in their service to Him.
The first two verses of this discourse concisely address both of these issues. Firstly, by inviting
people to submit to Him completely and then indicating that He is the only Creator and
Sustainer and must be worshipped as such exclusively.

Submitting exclusively to Allaah as One and Only God is called Towĥeed45 – the bedrock on
which Islam is established as a religion and a way of life. This is the first and foremost article
of Islamic faith mentioned here with its logical argument that only the creator deserves to be
unconditionally obeyed and worshipped.

Although this soorah started with stating the fact that this is the Book of Allaah, some of those
who accept Allaah as the Creator may not be sure if Islam as presented by Prophet Muhammad
is true and if the Qur-aan is really from Allaah SWT. To address this doubt, Allaah SWT
presents the Qur-aan itself as an evidence for its own truth and that of Muhammad. Allaah
challenges the doubters to produce a chapter like this if they think that the Qur-aan is not His
revelation, but a human writing. The miraculous prose of the Qur-aan cannot be copied in its
style, its melodious rhythm, its stunningly artistic beauty, its conciseness, its full-of-wisdom
content, its doubtless guidance, its profoundness, its true-to the-word prophecies, its being
based on perfect knowledge, its being proven right by all scientific discoveries, its not being
proven wrong or inconsistent in any aspect, so on and so forth. They are further challenged to
seek help in this regard from all their literary giants, orators, poets, philosophers, scientists,
witches, Jinns, gods and goddesses – whoever they think is available to them for help.

This challenge was given to Arabs who were proud of their eloquence. Initially, in previous
revelations during life in Makkah, they were challenged to produce a book like this. Then they
were asked to produce ten chapters like those of the Qur-aan. Then, in this final challenge, it
has been reduced to one soorah (chapter) utilizing all the help they can get. But no one – not
even the bitterest enemies of Islam and recognized orators – dared to take the challenge
because they knew it is humanly impossible to match the stunning style of the Qur-aan. The
inferiority of their attempt would have been immediately noticed by Arabs in general and they
would lose credibility rather than being seen as a viable challenger. They at least knew their
strengths and weaknesses and they did not dare to take this challenge. However, some people
have recently made some crude, childish attempts to answer this challenge by composing some
Arabic text and posting it on the internet. It has become a clear evidence of their own

45
The concept of Towĥeed represents a true faith in Allaah as the One and Only Creator, Owner, God,
Deity, Sovereign and Ruler: Who has absolutely no partner in Divinity, equal to Him in any respect or
similar to Him any way; Whose commands, guidance or instructions must govern every aspect of
believers’ individual and collective life so that no aspect of life or lifestyle is considered secular being out
of the purview of His guidance or commands; Who must be obeyed unconditionally and without any
reservations whatsoever; Who must be accepted as the Ultimate Authority obedience to Whom is first and
foremost so that obedience to anyone else is secondary to the obedience to Him and is subject to the
limits imposed by Him; and Whose pleasure is sought as the sole goal of life even if it requires
displeasing everyone else in the world.
ignorance, ineptness and lack of understanding. Even a person with a limited exposure to
Arabic literature cannot help but find their claim laughable. Not to speak of the many
miraculous aspects of the text of the Qur-aan, human prose cannot even match the eloquence,
the literary excellence and the stunning style of the Qur-aanic text.

Prophet Muhammad and the Qur-aan being from Allaah is the second aspect of the Islamic
faith and has been presented here with Qur-aan itself as its evidence.

Disregarding the fact that Allaah SWT is the only Creator and Sustainer, people may still
choose to ignore this call towards submitting only to Him in obedience and worship according
to what He has revealed in the Qur-aan. They may continue living merrily in their un-Islamic
ways. Allaah will punish all those ungrateful, rebellious and disloyal traitors in a burning fire
that will flare up in intensity when culprits are thrown in it. Human beings will not only be the
subject of torment but will also be the fuel for it. If people were worshipping idols, even those
idols will become the fuel of the fire to show the worshippers that they are burning along with
those they assumed were their gods.

On the other hand, the loyal, faithful and obedient slaves will be awarded plenty of all the good
things a person can ever desire. Although being His obedient slaves is a duty which has already
been paid for through all the facilities we use in this life, He will bestow wonderful rewards in
the hereafter because He is the Most Gracious and the Most Merciful. He is so Kind in
providing for His righteous slaves that even the fruits of Paradise will be similar in appearance
to the fruits of this world so that the guests of Paradise do not have to deal with unfamiliar
foods. However, in their taste, flavour, texture and nutrition, they will be superior beyond our
imagination. Every time they will be presented, they will offer a differently superb flavour and
delicious taste, despite their resemblance to the earlier varieties.

All the beauties and comforts of life are not much fun if a person is lonely. That is why people
of Jannah will have companions who will be pure in their manners, habits, characters, attitude,
and who will have pleasing personalities and delightful behaviour to provide the most
comforting and joyful companionship.
Unlike the temporary nature of this world, your success and enjoyment will be permanent and
will remain with you forever without requiring any care or work.

Belief in the eternal life hereafter is the third ingredient of Islamic faith, which has been
described in these verses. The realities of the Jannah (Gardens of Paradise) and Hell are
beyond human experience and perception, hence, neither are our languages equipped to
describe those realities precisely nor can we understand their true and precise nature. What the
Qur-aan describes about them is the closest approximation of those realities that is possible in
human language and that can give us an idea of the joys of paradise or pains of hell in the
terms that we understand46.

46
For example, in a Ĥadeeth Qudsi quoted by Bukhaari, Muslim, Tirmidzi and Ibn Maajah, Aboo
Hurayrah reported from the Prophet that Allaah said, “I have prepared for My righteous slaves what no
eyes has seen, no ear has heard, and no human mind has ever imagined.” Then he gave the example from
the Qur-aan: So no soul knows what joy for them has been kept hidden. As-Sajdah 32:17
Talking about the Book itself presents an opportunity to clarify a point. As mentioned earlier,
the Qur-aan is the book of guidance. To make the points easily understandable and to convey
clear messages with memorable imagery, the Qur-aan frequently uses examples, word pictures
and anecdotes. For the benefit of masses, commonly observed phenomena and common
insignificant objects are often used for this purpose. The only consideration is how lucid an
example the object provides, not how valuable or sacred that object is. The value, sanctity or
significance of these things are only human perceptions, irrelevant to Allaah SWT. Hence,
Allaah SWT uses spider, fly, ant and so many other not-so-sacred things for making points. It
also describes the rewards and punishments of the hereafter in human terms to which people in
general can relate to, understand and visualize. Just two paragraphs ago, scenarios of darkness,
fire, rain, lightning and thunder were used to paint vivid pictures of a complex portrait of the
hypocritical personality. Just a few verses ago, Hell and Paradise were described by using our
worldly terminology and concepts while their real nature is beyond our imagination and
perception. Now, people with a proper attitude find these examples, scenarios and imagery
very useful, and they concentrate on the point being made. Consequently, they get a very clear
understanding of the subject matter and appreciate the value of the truth clarified by these
means. On the other hand, those whose concern is not finding the truth but looking for points
to criticize and to attack Islam pick an issue with the words and objects used for examples and
scenarios, instead of the message conveyed by the example. They come up with objections
such as why does the Qur-aan refer to insignificant and unsophisticated objects? What does
God, the exalted, have to do with such mundane things? Why is there mention of spouses or
such and such in Paradise? How can Hell be this way or that way?

26
Allaah is not shy of using examples and similes, even if it is of a mosquito or
something less significant. Now, those who believe appreciate it knowing that
it is the truth from their Lord, but those who disbelieve wonder what Allaah
intends by using this example. Through the same example, He misguides many
and guides many. Obviously, He misguides only the transgressors 27 who:
Break Allaah’s covenant after its confirmation; cut off what Allaah has
commanded that it be joined; and cause chaos in the world. Such are the losers.
The people who indulge in arguments about the nature of the objects used in the examples are
Faasiq -- rebellious, transgressing, disobedient persons with the following traits:

 They do not keep their confirmed covenant with Allaah. The covenant of Allaah
represents all commitments or promises explicitly made by people with Allaah SWT
or those implicit by virtue of Him being our Creator. For instance, a general
commitment that was made and confirmed by every human soul who was to be born
in Adam’s progeny that they would obey Allaah as the only Lord and live by His
guidance and instructions; the promise by the Israelites to spread and establish Islamic
peace and justice in the world; the commitment by the Israelites to believe in and to
follow Prophet Muhammad; the commitment by Muslims implied by their accepting
Islam to excel in their personal behaviour, to establish Islam as the dominant way of
life and its system of peace and justice in the world, and to dedicate themselves for a
continuous Jihaad for these objectives; a social contract between Allaah as the
Sovereign, and human beings as subjects where every command of Allaah is a
binding contract for people to follow and obey. From that perspective, Allaah’s law
for people (Sharee’ah) is a covenant for people. All of these responsibilities and
obligations that people owe to Allaah are part of our covenant with Him.

Thus, the first attribute of a Faasiq is shirking their responsibility to Allaah, regardless
of the nature of the responsibility.

 They disregard or break all the relationships among human beings that should be
established, in particular, the relations with their own kith and kin. They are so self-
centred and selfish that they do not care for any relationship unless they can get some
personal benefit out of it. For personal worldly interests they violate other’s rights and
neglect their responsibilities to others.

 To attain or maintain their wealth, power, status, standard of living and gratification
of desires, they break rules, spread chaos, destroy peace, harm environment, disturb
ecology, disrupt justice and practice exploitation. This is the result of their violating
the first two obligations.

Hence, a transgressor (Faasiq) is a person who shirks responsibility to Allaah and to people and
consequently damages the well being of the society and destroys its peace. Because the
teachings of the Qur-aan stand in the way of their crooked behaviour, they like to discredit it
by trying to find faults with it such as criticizing its use of mundane things in giving examples
or in describing realities of the hereafter. They think they are hurting the Qur-aan and
succeeding in their quest for the uninterrupted pursuit of their desires. They are, however,
terrible losers: They are losers because they totally miss the point due to their negativism and
argumentative attitude; they are losers because they lose the guidance from the Qur-aan; they
are losers because they lose the pleasure of Allaah; and they are the ultimate losers because
they are losing their salvation and success in their never-ending life hereafter. They will be
suffering in pain forever for their transgression and negativity demonstrated here in this
temporary world.

The third and last point essential for the salvation of people is that of the life hereafter.
Although the description of rewards and punishments has been briefly described above, this
last verse of this section invites people to think about it: How can people disbelieve the power
of Allaah to raise them up after their death while He created them when they did not exist at
all? We have recently discovered the extensive programming of every thing about our
physique coded in our DNA contained in a cell smaller than a speck of dust. We do not know
what other techniques He has used to preserve all the information about us to recreate us
exactly as we now are, whenever He wants. Indeed His knowledge is absolutely limitless and
eternal – beyond our reach, research and imagination.
28
How can you refuse to believe in Allaah? You were lifeless, He gave you
life; then, He will cause you to die; then, He will raise you alive; and then, you
will be brought back to Him. 29 He is the One Who created everything in the
earth for you, then, He turned to the heavens and balanced them into seven
heavens. And He knows absolutely everything about absolutely everything.
There is another aspect that the last part of this concise verse encourages us to consider for the
Life hereafter. How can Allaah who has ultimate wisdom create people to die and disappear
forever after living only temporarily in this world? Why would He undertake a meaningless
activity of birth and death if there was no purpose of this temporary life? The fact is that there
is a purpose -- everyone born will be taken back to the Creator, judged on his performance and
then he will live forever according to his performance in the test during the temporary sojourn
on the earth. It is far from the wisdom of a wise Creator to create people, put tremendous
systems and resources in place for their sustenance, and then let them die in vain without
bringing them back and holding them accountable for how they lived their life using the
resources they were given.

Allaah SWT invites us to think about this point at another place in the Qur-aan by posing us
the following question:

“Have you assumed that We have created you for no purpose and that
you will not be brought back to Us.” Al-Mu-minoon 23:115
After pointing out that everything on earth was created for human use, the mention of heavens
reinforces that measures and arrangements undertaken to make earth life-sustaining extended
to the perimeters beyond the earth. The whole universe established in a way that it would
support and sustain life on earth47. “Then” does not necessarily indicate the order in which the
process was carried out but the order of the relevance to the point being made.

The word “heaven” is the translation of the Qur-aanic word “samaa” which means “height”.
The Qur-aan does not describe the exact nature of the seven heavens (heights). This is to allow
people of all ages and all levels of knowledge and understanding to relate to this term
according to their perception. Mentioning a cosmic phenomenon in the exact and specific
terms in a book that was going to be a source of guidance for thousands of years would have
been counter-productive. This is because it would confuse and confound people until human
society progressed to a level to be able to understand those details. Describing in general terms
allows people of every age to relate to it according to their knowledge. As human knowledge
of the cosmic universe increases, the interpretation keeps evolving. This may be one of those
hidden miracles of the Qur-aan which are revealed every now and then as a result of new
scientific discoveries. It is possible that one day, our increased astronomical knowledge may
discover the precise nature of the seven heavens, pleasantly surprising the scientific
community by the miraculous accuracy of the Qur-aanic description, just as it has happened in
the case of many other modern discoveries. For now, we should remember that Allaah SWT
has somehow divided the immense universe beyond the earth into seven sections, divisions,
levels, layers, spheres or zones of some sort.

The balancing performed in relation to heavens covers all kinds of balances and equilibria in
the celestial systems that sustain the universe and make the earth inhabitable and life
sustaining. They include things like the distances between celestial bodies, the balance between

47
For details about the life sustaining arrangements made in the universe, refer to “Creation of the
Universe” by Harun Yahya
the gravitational pull of their parent stars and their own centrifugal force, the placement of
earth in its planetary system and its distance from the sun, and so on and so forth.

Mention of the special arrangements undertaken to make earth inhabitable and life sustaining
leads into the plan and purpose of human creation and how human beings fit into the grand
scheme of things.

Here is how the scenario was just before human creation:

The universe created by Allaah SWT had every thing in it except for human beings. It had
huge galaxies, shining stars, burning suns, coolly bright moons and, above all, the living things
in innumerable shapes, forms, sizes and colours with a variety of peculiarities and life cycles.

A tiny part of the universe, a planet called earth, was buzzing with much activity. It had
gorgeous meadows, hills, rivers and springs. It had majestic mountains ranges, expansive
deserts and gigantic oceans; all bustling with multitude of beautiful aquatic, desert, pasture and
jungle wildlife. It was a stunningly beautiful planet.

The universe was working exactly as planned and operating precisely as designed. Nothing
anywhere was out of order. The whole universe was following the commands of its Creator
wholly and solely without any exceptions. It was fully obedient to Allaah SWT; or, in other
words, perfectly Muslim (totally obedient). The same was true for the earth. Everything
animate or inanimate, living or lifeless was working as desired by the Creator, maintaining a
wonderful equilibrium. Every species was ecologically balanced. The environment was
designed to maintain its harmonious balance forever without losing its sustainability. The
whole earth and everything on/in it was also obedient to the laws of nature or Muslim (fully
submissive) to its Creator.

In addition to promulgating the laws of nature to automatically carry out the maintenance of
the universe, Allaah SWT used angels to carry out certain duties to fulfill His plans. He had
created them from light; thus, because of the nature of their non-material existence, they cannot
be perceived by human beings. Angels were also Muslim (perfectly submissive) to Allaah
SWT doing only what they were told to do.

This obedience (Islam) of the angels, the universe, the earth and its inhabitants was, however,
ordained, involuntary and instinctive. None of the creatures had any choice. They were Muslim
(obedient) because they were bound by the laws of nature or by their instincts to be so. They
could not choose to do any different.

This is what was alluded to concisely in the verse 29.

Allaah SWT then decided to create two new species who would have freedom to choose and
freedom to respond differently to certain situations. Although their physical being would still
be subject to all the laws of nature, they would be free to act on their own in their social life.
The intent was that among all the creations who are obedient by design, there should be these
two creations who become obedient by choice. Instead of being programmed to obey, they
should accept the Lordship of Allaah SWT of their own accord and their own free will. Instead
of being led by instincts, they should choose to behave according to directions given by Him
despite their freedom to react differently. One of the two free-willed creations was also to be
given dominion over other creations as viceroy of Allaah SWT. This would help them to
implement and execute their decisions that they made because of their free choice. In other
words, Allaah SWT was going to delegate some of his authority to them – only enough to
make their free choice meaningfully free through their power over the resources to implement
those decisions.

The pre-programmed creations can only do what is right or only what is necessary for survival
because that is all they are programmed to do. The can neither go wrong nor excel. The goal of
the viceroy or vicegerent of Allaah SWT would be far beyond the instincts-led goal of other
living things; i.e. doing only what is needed for individual survival and the survival of the
species. It was even to go beyond playing one’s roles, maintaining the equilibrium and the
sustainability of the planet. The goal of the vicegerent was to establish a society that was to be
based on love, compassion, fairness, justice, excellence, magnanimity and generosity in
voluntary servitude to Allaah SWT.

Although these free-willed creations were to be given knowledge and wisdom, they, being
imperfect and finite, would not have the perfect knowledge or the understanding of the things
and thus would be prone to making wrong and/or imperfect decisions. The inappropriate
decisions would cause problems in the otherwise perfectly run universe. Hence, they would
have to be taught how to live a balanced and appropriate life. For that purpose they were to be
provided a code of life to live by. This code would not be pre-programmed into their instincts
but left up to them to be adopted by their choice. As this code of life was to ensure the peace,
the tranquillity, the balance and the equilibrium of the society and the environment through
obedience and servitude to Allaah SWT, it was to be appropriately named ‘Islam’ meaning
peace and obedience.

Now, by nature, some of those who are given freedom of action and choices will not be able to
handle their freedom well; they will disobey and cause problems in the natural order of things.
Some of them will ignore the Islamic code of life and will follow their own ways which being
based on imperfect knowledge and imperfect wisdom would not be in their best interests.
Some people will rebel and go against the Islamic way of life causing social problems,
decadence, inequities and exploitation in human society as well as imbalance and chaos in the
ecology and the environment. This disruption in the running of the universe and human society
would not be tolerated forever and trouble-makers would be prosecuted and imprisoned in
Hell.

Allaah’s plan was to give these two creatures temporary life to establish who of the individual
members of the two creations voluntarily accepts Allaah’s way (Islam) as their way of life and
who rebels and goes their own way. When the temporary test is over, the universe would be
destroyed, recreated and resettled. In the recreated universe, only those people would enjoy the
freedom in paradise (Jannah) who had shown that they could handle freedom well and who, by
choice, could follow Islam and obey Allaah SWT, or, in other words, remained Muslim. The
others would be imprisoned in the hell forever. The new set up would be eternal. The recreated
universe, the Muslims in Jannah and the others in Hell would continue forever - with the
universe functioning in equilibrium and balance as if every one was programmed to function
according to the set laws and rules.
According to this plan and intent, Allaah SWT at first created Jinns and gave them freedom of
choice. They were created from the hot air arising from the flame of fire, unperceivable to
material beings. One of the Jinns named Iblees was very prominent.

Then, Allaah SWT decided to create the second creature that would also have freedom of
action. This new creature would be created from clay (earthly elements). The first of them to
be created would be known as Adam and his progeny would be called human beings. Allaah
also decided to give Adam and his progeny knowledge and wisdom and appoint them,
collectively, as His vicegerents (viceroys) on the earth. As His vicegerents, they were to be
bestowed with a limited amount of supremacy and authority (dominion) over their
surroundings so that they could implement their decisions and choices. In other words, Allaah
SWT would delegate some of His authority to human beings for use of which they will be held
accountable.

Allaah SWT informed angels about his intention of creating human beings who would have
dominion over other creatures and viceroyalty. The angels could not understand Allaah’s
objective for this creation. Just on the basis of what they were told, angels thought that if a
creation with free will but limited knowledge and imperfect wisdom was given some authority
on earth, it would not be able to live optimally. Irresponsible use of authority would cause
chaos on earth, disrupt the natural balance of the ecology, shed blood and waste life. They
humbly and respectfully presented their concern in order to understand the wisdom of Allaah
SWT. While the angels’ concern was valid, they had missed one point. Although many people
may make wrong decisions and adopt an undesirable lifestyle that will disturb the balance,
justice and peace of the society, there will also be people who will excel in doing good. They
will use their freedom to be generous, magnanimous, kind and giving more than expected.
They will sacrifice their worldly interests for the pleasure of Allaah and success in the life
hereafter. They will be people like the prophets and the pious Muslims who will be obedient to
Allaah; who will establish peace, fairness, and justice in the world; and, who will conserve the
resources and ecology. In addition, Allaah already had plans to weed out bad from the good
before giving them eternal freedom, by putting them first for a test in this world for a
temporary period, then transferring them to the eternal world through the process of death and
resurrection. They did not know all these details of Allaah’s plans and had no way of knowing
the future events. In fact each angel’s knowledge is limited to the matters of his duty. They are
taught only what they need to know to play their specific role for which each of them has been
created. They were curious to know the wisdom but did not dare ask Allaah SWT, hence they
just mentioned the possibility of human insubordination and trouble-making vis-à-vis their
own consistent performance in glorifying and praising Allaah SWT.
30
And when your Lord told the angels, I am going to place a Khaleefah on the
earth, they said: Will you place there someone who will cause corruption
therein and shed blood, while we glorify You with Your praise and extol Your
sanctity? He said: Surely I know what you do not know. 31 And He taught
Adam all the names, then presented them to the angels and said: Tell me about
their names if you are right. 32 They said: Glory be to You; we have no
knowledge except whatever You have taught us; surely You are the Knowing,
the Wise. 33 He said: Adam, tell them their names. Then when he had informed
them of their names, He said: Did I not tell you that I surely know unseen in
the heavens and the earth; and that I know what you reveal and what you have
been concealing?
Khaleefah is an important word that has been used to describe human status in this world.
Literally it connotes someone who succeeds another. Human beings as a species are Khaleefah
(Successor) as they are the last species to appear on the scene but who have established
themselves over other creatures. Thus they also have been designated Khaleefah (Successor) in
the sense of vicegerent or viceroy, whom Allaah SWT has delegated some limited power to be
able to execute the decisions they make using their free will. A delegate is authorized only to
conduct his affairs according to the instructions of the delegating authority, he is not free to do
whatever he likes, ignoring the instructions given to him. Any of his actions that are at variance
with the instructions will be considered ultra vires, unauthorized, insubordination or treason.
Human beings are also successors to Jinns who were created before human beings and had
been given the capability to make choices but were bypassed when Allaah gave the dominion
to human beings.

Teaching “Names” is a very profound way of imparting knowledge because human beings
learn, teach and communicate everything through names. Take any branch of human
knowledge: its documentation, communication, transmission, and teaching – everything
happens through names. Human language is also comprised of names of things and actions.
Although the verse does not specify what the subject of “the names” was, all the Arabic
pronouns used in these verses for names are those used for living, intelligent beings. Also, the
knowledge imparted through names here has to be the kind of knowledge that will help the
angels understand the wisdom of Allaah in creating a species that has huge potential of causing
corruption and destroying peace. From that perspective, the only knowledge relevant to the
issue at hand is the names and knowledge about those human beings who were going to excel
in their performance.

This teaching of names indicates that the first human couple was equipped with language and
communications skills. It is not something that evolved afterwards.

Hence, after creating Adam, Allaah taught him all the knowledge he needed to function well in
the world as Allaah’s vicegerent, including the names of the things he needed to know. In
particular, He taught Adam the names of the messengers, prophets and prominent Muslims and
who will excel personally in servitude to Allaah SWT and will be able to establish on earth the
Islamic society or Kingdom of God, i.e., the society of peace, love, compassion, fairness,
justice and generosity. To make angels realize what they did not think of, Allaah asked angels
what they knew about those names. When they acknowledged their ignorance, Allaah asked
Adam to talk about them. That narration opened the eyes of angels to the human potential to be
the best. The angels realized their mistake and glorified Allaah SWT for His Ultimate
Knowledge and His Absolute Wisdom.

By this demonstration Allaah SWT satisfied the curiosity of angels without their having to ask
for it, while this desire was concealed (proverbially) in their hearts.
Allaah SWT told angels to acknowledge the human dominion by prostrating to Adam.
Acceptance by angels meant automatic acceptance by all the creatures under the pertinent
angel’s influence and administration. The only exception would be Jinns who were given
freedom of choice and hence could make their own free choice whether to accept human
dominance or not. They were lead by Iblees who was hoping that his Jinns would get that
status of having delegated authority from Allaah over other creatures of the planet. Angels
immediately followed Allaah's orders, but Iblees (the representative of Jinns) rebelled and
refused to accept human dominance. He became jealous of Adam, was arrogant, and
considered himself to be superior to and better than Adam. Feeling to be more deserving, he
thought he should not accept human dominion. But the question was not who is more
deserving; rather, it was about obeying Allaah’s command. Intentional disobedience to Allaah
is the gravest of all crimes.

When Allaah questioned him about his disobedience, rather than feeling remorseful for his
rebellion against Allaah, his Master, Iblees started arguing that he was right. He tried to justify
his rebellion. So, Allaah condemned Iblees and regarded him as Shayŧaan (Satan). He was told
that he would be thrown into Hell because of his rebellious behaviour.

Iblees became more upset. He became Adam's and his descendants' enemy. He avowed to lead
Adam and his descendants away from Allaah's obedience to prove his point that human beings
do not deserve to be bestowed with delegation of authority on land. He asked for Allaah’s
respite and permission to do so. Allaah SWT gave him the permission to put bad ideas in the
minds of people, but did not give him power to force anyone to do wrong. Thus, Iblees became
Shayŧaan (Satan).

Just like Adam, Allaah had also created Hawwaa (Eve) to be Adam's wife. Before putting
Adam and Hawwaa (Eve) on earth for the temporary life of test, Allaah wanted to coach them
about their objectives in life (obeying Allaah to deserve His pleasure and Jannah in the
hereafter) and the risks that may keep them away from achieving their objective (temptations
and incitement from Shayŧaan). For the purposes of that training, Allaah kept both Adam and
Hawwaa in Jannah (Paradise) to show them the beautiful place where they and their progeny
belong. They were given freedom to enjoy all the bounties of Jannah except one particular tree.
Allaah told them that if they approached that tree, they would not be fit to live in Jannah for the
rest of their lives. Allaah also warned them to beware of Shayŧaan because he was their sworn
enemy who wanted to see them lose Jannah.

Shayŧaan did not waste any time to start upon his mission. He approached them in a friendly
way and posed as their well-wisher who had their best interest in mind. He suggested to them
that it was to their advantage to taste from the forbidden tree. He mentioned all the benefits
they would get and expressed pity for them for all the fun they were missing by avoiding it. At
first Adam and Hawwaa resisted, but slowly they started giving in to Shayŧaan's friendly
pressure. Finally, they tasted what they should not have.

Suddenly, they lost their God-given dresses and were exposed to each other. They felt
embarrassed and started covering their bodies with tree leaves. Then they realized that they had
been deceived. They felt sorry, cried to Allaah for forgiveness and promised not to disobey
him again. Allaah accepted their repentance and forgave them. Thus they were taught that
obedience to Allaah would make people deserve Jannah, while listening to Shayŧaan would
cause them to lose that magnificent place. This experience had underscored for them the
importance of complete obedience to Allaah -- as a prerequisite for staying in Jannah. It had
also identified to them their enemy and taught them their lesson at the hands of that enemy.
Immediately after this incident, they were sent down to earth to live their remaining lives and
to have children. Shayŧaan was also sent down along with them. Earth became the battlefield
for a continuous struggle in which stakes are high for the winners and the losers.

Allaah made a covenant with the couple and, through them, with all the human beings that all
those who live by the guidance of Allaah during their sojourn on the earth will come back after
their death to eternal freedom and a worry-free life in Jannah forever. Those who disobey
Allaah and follow the ways of Shayŧaan will lose their freedom of action and will be
imprisoned and punished in the fire of Hell.

34
And when We said to the angels, “Prostrate to Adam”; so they prostrated,
except Iblees. He refused, acted haughtily and became one of the disbelievers.
35
And We said: O Adam! Reside you and your wife in the Garden and eat
freely from it wherever either of you may wish. Yet do not approach this tree,
or you both will become unjust. 36 But the Shayŧaan made them both slip from
it, and got them out of the state in which they were. And We said, “Go down
you all, each other’s enemies! You will have on earth your abode and means of
livelihood -- for a specified time.” 37 Then Adam learnt words of repentance
from his Lord, Who mercifully accepted his repentance. Surely He is Oft-
Accepting of repentance, the Merciful. 38 We said: Go down from it you all; so
if, as is sure, there will come to you Guidance from me, then whosoever
follows My guidance, no fear shall come upon them, nor shall they grieve. 39
But those who disbelieve and belie Our revelations, they will be the inmates of
the Fire, therein they shall abide eternally.

The angels’ prostration to Adam had nothing to do with the concept of superiority or
inferiority, but just an indication of the angels’ willingness to let human beings use the
resources created by Allaah unimpeded, even if they do so in disobedience to Allaah.
Otherwise they could have hindered the use of resources that were used in disobedience to
Allaah thus not letting human beings act upon their free choice.

Use of the phrase “one of the disbelievers” for Iblees indicates that he was not alone in
disbelieving but there were other Jinns under his leadership who also disbelieved. Also, it is
clear that intentional disregard of a command of Allaah is a clear disbelief, even if a person
continues to believe in the existence of Allaah.

For testing the first human couple and making the consequence of disobedience clear to them,
only one item was specified as forbidden from the abundance of Jannah (Garden). The nature
of the tree is irrelevant for the point being made. The point is that despite so much being
available so freely, human beings could not resist from one item under the incitement of
Shayŧaan, as if it was deprival from all of the fun of life.
Disobeying Allaah’s command was regarded as being “unjust”. It is the greatest injustice that
being created by Allaah and living on resources created by Him, a person disobeys Him and on
top of it, uses the things created by Him in performing the disobedience. It is also an injustice
to one’s own self because of the consequences that a person has to suffer as a result of
disobedience.

It should be noted that unlike Judaeo-Christian traditions that blame the woman as the cause of
trouble, the Qur-aan blames both Adam and Hawwaa (Eve) for their slip and disobedience. The
reality is that anyone who disobeys Allaah has none to blame but himself because ultimately it
is a person’s own decision to commit that act of disobedience.

The vow that Shayŧaan (satan) made to incite and cause human beings to fail in their test of
obedience has made Shayŧaan an avowed enemy of human beings, whether people realize it or
not.

There is a remarkable difference between the nature and consequences of the disobedience
committed by Iblees and that committed by Adam. Iblees made a pre-meditated, conscious
decision to disobey and had no intention of obeying the specific command of prostrating to
Adam. When confronted, he tried to justify his action. Adam, on the other hand, had all the
intention of obeying, but at a moment of weakness and vulnerability slipped into disobedience.
As soon as he realized that he had done wrong, he was remorseful and anxious to repent.
Hence the consequences were also different. Iblees was condemned, while Adam was
mercifully forgiven and even taught the way to repent.

After forgiveness, as per plan, they were still sent down to earth for living their worldly life
because their practical training was completed about the animosity of Shayŧaan, the need to be
on guard from him, the importance of obeying Allaah in all circumstances and seeking
forgiveness in case of slippage. They were sent down with instructions to live by the guidance
that will be sent to them by Allaah from time to time. This is actually a covenant between
Allaah and people: He gave us the freedom and delegated some powers to us for our
commitment to live according to the instructions and guidance sent by Him.

In the last verse, “revelations” has been used to represent the Arabic word Aayaat. Aayaat is
the plural of aayat which literally means a “guiding sign”. This word has been used in the Qur-
aan in four ways: literally; figuratively for the natural phenomena that serve as signs to guide
towards the creative power of Allaah SWT; figuratively for miracles as they indicate the
legitimacy of the prophets; and also figuratively for the verses of the Qur-aan because they
show the guidance of Allaah SWT. Where used, the context determines the meanings.

Shayŧaan was also sent down to do what he said he would do. He has not given up. He is still
trying to lead human beings away from the path of obedience to Allaah SWT. He has been
joined by other bad Jinns and misguided human beings. All these Shayaateen (satans) are out
there to get us to go to the Hell with them. Our challenge is not to be deceived by their good
sounding, friendly temptations.

As you may have realized, the story of Adam has not been described here fully or in detail.
Only a few points from the story have been mentioned. Why mention the story here and why
not mention it completely?
First of all, it must be remembered that unlike the Bible or Torah, the Qur-aan is not a book of
history. It is a book of guidance, as it introduced itself at the outset. It uses history only to
highlight and emphasize its points of guidance.

Secondly, by the time of the revelation of Al-Baqarah, Muslims already knew the details
through earlier soorahs. Jews, the main addressees of this chapter, also had a fair idea of the
story, although a distorted one. Even the future Muslims that come to the Qur-aan for guidance
will already have heard the story many times over from childhood. Hence, only those parts of
the story have been mentioned here that were needed to make the points that the context
required.

The context here is that people were being invited to fully submit to and serve their Lord and
Creator in the Islamic way as taught by Prophet Muhammad and for that purpose they were
encouraged to reflect on the following points:

 The Creator is the only entity that deserves to be obeyed;


 The miraculous nature of the Qur-aan;
 The special care that was taken to make life and its sustenance possible cannot be
without reason and without holding people accountable for what they were bestowed.

These points were to let people think about them logically. Now the story has been mentioned
to indicate that not only is it a logical idea, but it did in fact happen that way. It only behoves
people that they avoid being among those about whom the angels had concerns; but strive to be
among those whom Allaah could present as the example of best behaviour. It is also to educate
people not to succumb to the incitement of their avowed enemy, but to succeed in obedience as
a delegate should do, despite his efforts to make people fail.

The Following are some of the important points made in this story:

1. Human beings are not sinners by nature. To sin is an aberration, not a natural
behaviour.

2. As compared to all those things that are allowed for our enjoyment, the don’ts in
Allaah’s command are not onerous; it is only misguidance that makes them appear
onerous.

3. Men and women are equally responsible for their behaviour.

4. Allaah’s hands are not tied that He must punish people for their sins; it is totally up to
Him if He wants to forgive or punish people. However, He does so according to His
ultimate wisdom, not haphazardly. In case of right attitude and sincere repentance,
Allaah forgives sins mercifully. Each person can seek and earn forgiveness directly
from Allaah.

5. There is no concept of original sin. Adam’s mistake was forgiven, hence there is no
question of all humanity being held hostage for his mistake.
6. Allaah’s decisions are full of wisdom, which may not be apparent to angels, jinns or
human beings.

7. Because of the vow of Shayŧaan to mislead people, Allaah has very mercifully
arranged for guidance of people through prophets and messengers.

The behaviour of Iblees identifies the greatest enemy of peace and justice in the world.

Shayŧaan (Satan) disobeyed Allaah because of his racist attitude. He thought he was better than
human beings. He considered himself and those he led to be too special to be subjected to the
commands of Allaah SWT applicable to other creations. This racist attitude made him jealous
of Adam and made him justify his own wrongdoings. This led to his stubbornness and he
ended up vowing to mislead human beings to prove himself right. In other words, he became
the source of all the troubles in this world just because of his racist tendencies and wrong
choices. Hence, racism, jealousy, justifying one’s wrongs and trying to prove others’ errors is
deadly for human society.

Unfortunately, there have been and still are people and nations who proudly espouse these
satanic traits. In fact, the satanic attitude of racism and we-are-superior mentality has been the
major enemy of the peace and justice in the world. This satanic philosophy has been the
underpinning of most of the world’s troubles, wars, subjugations of other people, colonization,
and devastation of aboriginal people. Those who believe that they are special and hence do not
have to abide by international treaties and agreements or do not have to be accountable to
international court or similar bodies are doing what (Shayŧaan) Satan did in this episode.
Although the message of the Qur-aan so far has been for mankind in general, you will notice
that personality attributes, examples and anecdotes have been chosen such that in addition to
their general application, they apply to Banee Israaeel in a special manner. It is because one of
the roles of this soorah is to invite descendents of Israaeel (Israelites) in particular to Islam and
obedience to Allaah SWT. We have indicated some of these aspects in the previous paragraphs
of this commentary and it will become very clear in the next section. But even this episode of
Satanic behaviour offers Israelites a special point for reflection.

Among Israelites, there were many who witnessed the truth of Prophet Muhammad, the Qur-
aan and Islam and they happily became Muslim. Those of them who rejected Islam and vowed
to oppose it were also driven mainly by their racist feelings of superiority over non-Israelites
and their jealousy of Arabs. By mentioning this story, they have been subtly shown the mirror
so that they can correct their attitude instead of being stubborn.

Sadly, this racism and consequent troubles continue in the form of Zionism to the present day.
Much of the persecution, misery and bloodshed have been caused by this racist theory that a
certain people have special status and special right to a piece of land for which they are entitled
to take it by force and terror even if it requires them to displace, throw out or kill its rightful
inhabitants.

After the preamble in the previous 39 verses, the next section addresses the Israelites directly.
The objectives are:

1. To encourage those Israelites who still have some capacity to think with an open mind
to accept Islam and join the same movement to which their ancestors were dedicated
and by joining which they will be doing exactly what they were obligated to do.

2. Using historical and logical evidence, to clearly, emphatically and finally warn those
Israelites who are reluctant to do their job and embrace Islam how criminal in nature
their refusal is and what are its consequences.

3. Through the specific and documented examples of the history of Banee Israaeel, to
educate the world about the results people would face depending upon the kind of
response they give when invited to the guidance of Allaah.

4. Most importantly, to present to the Muslims the practical examples of the behaviour
that they must avoid if they want to succeed with Allaah and maintain their status of
the people of God. People are people, whether they are followers of Moosa (Moses)
or Muhammad; they are going to behave similarly, unless forewarned and forearmed.

Avoidance of these deviations is such an important objective that the Qur-aan has
dedicated substantial space to elaborate the details of these deviations and to warn of
the consequences of those deviations. In addition to being coached by the Qur-aan,
the Prophet himself warned his followers in different styles and at different occasions.
For example, he said, “Eventually you will follow the footsteps of the followers of the
previous prophets, so much so that if they entered the burrow of a lizard, you will do
the same.” The companions asked if he meant the Jews and the Christians. He
responded, “Of course! Who else?”
40
O descendants of Israaeel! Remember My favour which I bestowed on you,
and fulfil your covenant with Me, I will fulfill My covenant with you; and
from Me alone should you fear. 41 And believe in what I have sent down
confirming that which you already have, and be not the first to disbelieve
therein, nor sell My revelations for a paltry price; and only My anger should
you avoid. 42 And do not mix up the truth with the falsehood, nor hide the truth
while you know it. 43 And establish Ŝalaah and pay zakaah and bow down with
those who bow down in worship. 44 Do you enjoin people to fulfill obligations
while neglecting yourselves? And you read the Book! Have you then no sense?
45
And seek help in perseverance and Ŝalaah, and it is indeed hard except for
the humble ones, 46 who know that they are going to meet their Lord and that
unto Him they are returning.

Favour refers to the guidance of Islam given to them through Ibraheem (Abraham), Isĥaaq
(Isaac) and Ya‘qoob (Jacob) and subsequent prophets like Moosa (Moses)48. Another aspect of
this favour was their being chosen for inviting other people to Islam and for leading them in
the slavery of Allaah SWT in accordance with the guidance of Islam.

Their covenant with Allaah was that they will;

 Live a life of slavery to Allaah SWT in accordance with the guidance and sharee’ah
(law) of Islam given to them through their prophets and messengers;

 Work hard to achieve the Islamic objectives of personal excellence in ethics, dealings
and all aspects of human behaviour as well as to establish the Islamic system in every
aspect of life creating an ideal society characterized with peace and justice;

 Openly promote, publish and publicize the teachings of their books without hiding
any of its parts or its teachings;

 Believe in, follow, help and support Prophet Muhammad when he is sent to
accomplish the abovementioned objectives on a comprehensive global basis with a
sharee’ah to be preserved and practised until the Day of Judgment.

Allaah’s covenant with them was that if they strive to perform well in fulfilling their promise,
He will grant them honour, status, authority and leadership in this world and His pleasure and
the rewards of Paradise in the hereafter. This is the same covenant that is between Muslims and
Allaah.

48
So far the Biblical names of the prophets have been placed in brackets along with their Arabic names.
The intent was for non-Muslim readers to become familiar with their Arabic names. Thus from here
onwards, only Arabic names will be used, unless a name of the prophet comes up which has not been
mentioned in this book previously, in which case, its Biblical version will be indicated in the footnote.
Naturally, if a community (ummah) does not fulfil their part of the covenant, they will not
remain a chosen people any more. Rather they will be subjugated, persecuted and dishonoured
by their enemies. They will also become the losers in the hereafter.

Often, people neglect their obligations to Allaah for worldly kind of fears; whether it is a fear
of loss of wealth, business or opportunity; loss of power, status and influence; or fear of rulers
or other important people. None of such fears or expediencies should come in the way of a
believer’s obligations to Allaah. For him, Allaah’s fear should be the paramount determinant of
the course of his actions.

The Qur-aan confirms the books (Torah, Psalms, etc) the Israelites already have in two ways.
Firstly, the advent of the Prophet and the Qur-aan was foretold in those books. Their actual
advent testifies to the truth of those statements. Secondly, it confirms the correct Islamic
beliefs, teachings, objectives and mission that were also described by those books, while it
identifies the subsequent deviations and corruptions in the texts and practices. From that
perspective, Israelites (Jews) should have been first and foremost to join the Islamic mission
and support the Prophet. Among the residents of Madeenah, the Arabs used to hear from the
Jews of the coming of the last Prophet and signs of his advent, and when they saw those signs
in Prophet Muhammad, they readily accepted him. On the other hand, the Jews who were
waiting for him and telling Arabs about him instantly rejected him because of their own
worldly expediencies and prejudices.

‘Paltry price’ represents any worldly benefits or expediencies. The greatest possible reward,
benefit, value or wealth a person may get in this world by abandoning or rejecting Islam is a
paltry price when compared to the eternal value of the hereafter. All successes of the world are
of no value, if Allaah SWT is displeased. Hence, a believer should strive to avoid the
displeasure of Allaah even if he has to sacrifice his whole world for it.

The Jews were mixing up right with wrong in two ways: Firstly, the revelations of Allaah
contained in the Torah and books of the prophets had been corrupted49 with changes,
interpolations and additions of their own opinions, interpretations, heresies, traditions and
customs so much so that the original truth contained therein had been totally lost, instead of
being exposed and publicized. Secondly, most of the Arabs were uneducated while most of the
Jews were educated and had a profound influence and aura of superiority over Arabs in terms
of their knowledge, religiosity and civilization. Their beliefs in one God and in revealed books
were known in the area. Many Arabs would see common elements in what Muhammad was
preaching and what the Jews were known to believe. They would go to the Jews to seek
“expert” advice, wondering about the claims of the Prophet and the revelations he claimed to
have received. As a matter of principle, the Jews should have acknowledged clearly that the
belief and ethics taught by Muhammad were the correct beliefs and ethics according to the
guidance of the previous prophets. They should also have mentioned the signs that were given
in their books that clearly and correctly applied to the person of the Prophet. This way they
would have given a sincere and honest answer and also publicized the teachings of their books,
as they were supposed to do. Instead of giving a straight answer or at least acknowledging the

49
The Israelite prophets also lamented the corruption of the book: "How can you say we (the Jews) are
wise and the law of the Lord is with us, when in fact the false pen of the scribes has made it into a lie?"
(Jeremiah 8:8 RSV)
teachings that were clearly in agreement with their own sources, they would try to confuse the
enquirer with their own fabricated allegations against the Prophet, slanders against his person
or confounding propositions. With these tactics, they were trying to hide the truth about Allaah
and His true guidance.

The establishment of Ŝalaah and payment of zakaah have always been the two most crucial
teachings of Allaah’s religion. Their role in the establishment of the Muslim community and in
the practice of Islam has already been discussed in the beginning of this soorah. The command
to bow down is another reference to the establishment of Ŝalaah as bowing to Allaah is an
important part of the Ŝalaah. The emphasis on bowing down with those who bow down
underscores the importance of community building through Ŝalaah. It must be remembered
that Allaah’s command of establishing Ŝalaah and paying zakaah are not complied with until
the political and financial system of the community and of a society of peace and justice are
built on their framework.

The abovementioned reminders addressed to Israelites were geared to enable them to fulfil
their covenant with Allaah so that they were blessed through Allaah’s fulfilling His covenant
with them.

However, when a community abandons fulfilling the objective of Islam and their situation
deteriorates, people are usually critical of others for what they are not doing right. They always
expect others to do something. Hardly anyone looks at himself to examine where he needs to
change and what are his obligations in the current situation. Many people talk about the bad
situation but everyone expects someone else to do something about it, instead of fulfilling their
own responsibility. Thus nothing happens because everyone is expecting someone else to do
something. The leaders of the community are often worst in this respect. They quote the book
and urge the community to fulfill their obligations but do not critically review their own
performance and the areas they need to change and improve to resolve the problem. If some
brave soul steps forward and strives to work for the improvement of the community’s
condition, every one expects that person to be perfect in every respect. Even his minor human
errors are not tolerated. People criticize such activists to death for petty matters while they
themselves continue to commit serious sins and keep breaking all major commands of Allaah
with impunity. The Jews of Madeenah used these tactics particularly against Muslims as they
did against the followers of ‘Eesa. He commented on this hypocrisy in his discourses and said
things like:

They bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men's shoulders; but
they themselves will not move them with their finger. Matthew 23:4 Luke
11:46

Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the
log that is in your own eye? Matthew 7:3 Luke 6:41

Whatever form it takes, all those who forget themselves while lecturing others, expect others to
change without paying attention to their own need to change or want others to be perfect while
ignoring their own failings/crimes are being challenged to reflect on the idiocy of this attitude.
Whether it is a matter of staying on course of fulfilling the covenant with Allaah or it is a
matter of getting back on track towards fulfilling the covenant, it takes a lot personal sacrifice,
hard work and tenacity on the part of each and every member of the community. To enable
people to perform in that manner, two tools are essential: Ŝalaah and Sabr (perseverance). Sabr
is usually translated as patience; and patience is usually understood to be a passive taking of
pain, abuse or adversity quietly, meekly and helplessly. This is not sabr in Arabic. Sabr means
to stand up firmly and bravely for your principles, taking all the hardship that come your way
without flinching or showing any weakness in your resolve and persevering in marching
forward to your goals despite the circumstances. Ŝalaah helps to build this Sabr by establishing
close connection with Allaah and by knitting the community together like a solid rock. Thus
Ŝalaah and sabr help people remain steadfast and persevere in their efforts to fulfil their
covenant with Allaah.

Both Ŝalaah and Ŝabr are tough unless the people have attained humility through surrender to
Allaah SWT in obedience as slaves knowing that they are going to meet their Lord and will be
held accountable. This way they have prepared themselves for the hereafter and are willing to
sacrifice their worldly interests and priorities for the sake of the pleasure of their lord and their
eternal success in the hereafter.

It should be noted that there are three attributes of believers mentioned in this section. In the
first verse, it was rahbah (fear) that people should fear only Allaah. Rahbah is the heart-
trembling fear that a person feels under the awe, majesty and greatness of Allaah subhaanahu
wa ta'aala. In the second verse, it was taqwa (avoidance). Taqwa is being conscious of Allaah’s
presence and adopting the attitude of care and caution to stay away from breaking any of
Allaah’s laws and thus avoiding His anger and displeasure. And in the second last verse, it was
khushoo’ (humility). Khushoo’ is a condition of humility, submission, slave-like surrender that
a person feels in his heart in front of Allaah’s Lordship and greatness. All the three feelings are
facets of the correct grasp of our positions in front of Allaah subhaanahu wa ta'aala and
product of a true faith. A believer should not and cannot have these feelings for anyone except
Allaah.

This was a concise action plan given to the Jews of Madeenah to enable them to appreciate the
bounty of Allaah in the form of His guidance and to fulfill their covenant to Him so that they
can regain their chosen-people status and be successful both in this world and hereafter.
However, this fits like hand and glove for the condition of the Muslims nowadays. They have
been shown a mirror right in the first few pages of the Qur-aan that if they want to succeed in
this world and hereafter and if they want their glory and chosen status back, they must act upon
the same action plan. They must:

 Inculcate in themselves the kind of faith in Allaah that trembles their hearts with his
awe, gives them strong impulse to avoid his displeasure and make them submit in
humility to him surrendering to Him in full obedience as slaves;

 Establish Ŝalaah so that their community is organized and regimented through the
system of Ŝalaah so that they become solid as a rock and their Ŝalaah has such a
quality of remembrance in Allaah that with the help of their relationship with Allaah
and the solidity of a community support structure they develop the quality of sabr to
remain steadfast in their struggle to get back on track.
 Fulfill their commitment with Allaah SWT to develop their personal excellence, set
up their community on the foundations of Ŝalaah and zakaah, implement Islam as a
complete system of life, promote and propagate Islam to all people of the world and
establish peace and justice in the world.

Once they fulfill their commitment to Allaah, they will regain their status in the world instead
of being persecuted everywhere. Then, they will enjoy success in this life and hereafter.

After reminding the Jews of His favour upon them in the form of His guidance and inviting
them to get back on track by following the above-mentioned action plan, in the next verse,
Allaah is reminding them again that their chosen-people status was because of Allaah’s bounty
that they had received in the form of guidance and the leadership of the world, so that they
would share the guidance with all people, invite them to that guidance and implement that
guidance as a complete system of life.
47
O descendants of Israaeel! Remember My favour which I bestowed on you
and that I preferred you over all other nations. 48 And fear that Day when a
person shall not avail another in any way, nor shall intercession be accepted for
him, nor shall any compensation be taken from him, nor shall they be helped.
A big tragedy that had happened to the Jews was that they lost the clear concept of the Day of
Judgment. So much so that it is wondered if it is even part of their faith; hence the warning at
the outset about the realities of that day.

Many so-called believers become lax or heedless about their accountability on the Day of
Judgment because they start harbouring notions of some ways that will get them out of trouble
that day. This verse smashes all those notions indicating that nothing will be of any use except
for a person’s own performance in obedience to Allaah SWT.

From here on, Allaah SWT has mentioned His favours on Israelites and the way they behaved
in response. The details of the incidents have not been given because they are all famous
events in the history of Israelites. The intent is not to recount their history but to impart lessons
from brief reminders of those events so that both the Jews and Muslims can learn from them.
49
And remember when We rescued you from Pharaoh's people who subjected
you to severe torment, slaughtering your sons and sparing your women, and in
this there was a tremendous trial from your Lord. 50 And remember when We
parted the sea for you, so We saved you and drowned Pharaoh's people as you
were watching. 51 And remember when We appointed forty nights for Moosa,
then you took the calf for worship in his absence and you became wrongdoers.
52
Then We pardoned you after that so that you might be grateful.
Ox worship was prevalent in Egypt and its surrounding areas. Although Israelites were
supposed to worship One God, they were deeply influenced by the customs and traditions of
the society around them and started worshipping oxen like other nations. This is what happens
when Muslims live as a subservient minority in a dominant aggressive culture. Despite
teachings to the contrary, they start adopting the ways of the people around them. It always
starts with little “social” customs, but little by little they keep adopting the thoughts, values and
practices of the dominant culture so much so that they start committing shirk50. That is why
Muslims must be extremely sensitive not to adopt any practices from an un-Islamic culture
even if they appear to be innocuous, non-religious or merely social. The irony of the matter
was that the Israelites had just witnessed great miracles happening right in front of their own
eyes and they had seen idolaters being destroyed. Even after all that evidence from Allaah on
the truth of Towĥeed, they fell for the calf within a few days of the absence of Moosa.

Now that Israelites were free to establish their own society on the basis of Islamic principles,
Allaah SWT called Moosa to give the guidance of detailed Islamic principles that must form
the foundations for establishing the Islamic society. It was just like when the Prophet was
called upon to the heavens to be given detailed instructions of the founding principles of the
Islamic state when he was about to migrate to Madeenah to establish the Islamic society.
53
And when We gave Moosa the Book and the criterion so that you might be
guided. 54 And when Moosa said to his people: O my people! you have surely
wronged yourselves by your worship of the calf; therefore, turn in penitence to
your Creator, and kill your own guilty people, that is better for you in the sight
of your Creator. Then He turned mercifully to you in forgiveness, for surely He
is the Oft-returning in forgiveness, the Merciful. 55 And when you said: O
Moosa, we will not believe in you until we see Allaah openly, so the
thunderbolt dazed you while you looked on. 56 Then We raised you up after
your death so that you had the chance to be grateful.

Criterion is the knowledge of the book and wisdom that helps in identifying right from wrong
and good from bad in day to day living and in establishing the Islamic society.

Shirk is such a deadly problem and such a grave sin that cannot be tolerated among believers at
all. Thus, every clan was required to kill their own violators51 who worshipped the golden calf.

Allaah SWT is the Infinite Creator who cannot be perceived by finite people. But the 70 elders
of Israelites who went with Moosa to Mount Sinai could not comprehend this point and
demanded to see Allaah with their own eyes. They were so conditioned by Egyptian society to
the worship of finite gods (like oxen, snakes, idols and heavenly bodies) that it was hard for

50
Shirk is usually translated as idolatry or polytheism, but it is more than that. It is shirk to consider any
other entity in the world:
 Equal to Allaah subhaanahu wa ta'aala in any way, shape or form;
 Allaah’s partner in godhead or sharing godhead with Allaah SWT;
 Having god-like attributes;
 Possessing any quality to the same level as Allaah SWT; or,
 Having the same status, importance or significance in one’s life as Allaah SWT.
51
Exodus 32:27
them to believe that God is Infinite who cannot be perceived. Unfortunately, this tendency
continued among their generations so that even the writers of the Exodus text were not immune
to it. Even they erroneously mentioned that those elders saw God52. Although a subsequent
chapter of the same book contradicts this claim where it mentions that when Moosa wanted to
see Allaah, he was told that it was not possible53.

Asking to see Allaah can be pardoned on the grounds that people do not understand. But in the
case of Israelite leaders, it was not a matter of believers asking for it out of curiosity. They had
no faith. They would believe only if Allaah appeared to them openly. This lack of faith in
Allaah’s infinity after seeing so many astounding miracles, including the parting of the sea,
was reason for their punishment through a terrifying thunderbolt that made them unconscious.

The Arabic word Mowt is normally used for death, but it is also used for unconsciousness
whether someone is unconscious because he is asleep, comatose or dead. In the last verse of
this section, raising them after their death means bringing them back to a conscious state after
they fell unconscious.

The listing of Allaah’s favours on them and their un-appreciative response to those favours
continues in the next section.
57
And We shaded you with clouds and sent to you Manna and Salwa, saying:
"Eat of the good things We have provided for you." But by being
unappreciative, they did not do Us any harm, but it was themselves whom they
harmed. 58 And remember when We said: Enter this city, then eat bountifully
with pleasure from wherever you wish, and enter the gate bowing humbly, and
say, “forgiveness”; We will forgive you your wrongs and give more to those
who excel. 59 But the wrong-doers changed it for a saying other than that they
were told, so We sent upon those who were unjust a punishment from heaven
because they transgressed. 60 And when Moosa prayed for water for his people,
We said: Strike the rock with your staff. So twelve springs gushed from it.
Each tribe knew its drinking place: Eat and drink from Allaah’s provisions and
do not act corruptly in the land, making mischief. 61 And remember when you
said: O Moosa! we cannot endure anymore the same food, therefore, call upon
your Lord for our sake to produce for us of what the earth grows -- of its leafy
vegetables, its cucumbers, its garlic, its lentils and its onions. He said: Are you
seeking to exchange that which is better for that which is worse? Settle in a
city, then indeed you will have what you ask for. Consequently, ignominy and
servility were inflicted upon them, and they ended up incurring Allaah's wrath.
This was because they disbelieved in the signs of Allaah and killed the

52
Exodus 24:10-11
53
Exodus 33:20
prophets unjustly, which was because they habitually disobeyed and
transgressed the limits.
When they came out of Egypt, they were stuck in the desert without any shade to hide from the
burning sun, or any food and water. And it was not a matter of arranging food, water and
shelter for a few people but hundreds of thousands of them. Allaah SWT miraculously took
care of all of their needs. For food, they were provided Manna, which literally means special
favour. It was called a special favour because it was extraordinarily provided as food. It would
come down like dew but dried to become like grain. Salwa was a quail-like bird which came to
their encampment in the thousands and was easily caught. Between these two items, all their
nutritional needs were met. The water problem was solved by creating 12 springs of water, one
for each tribe. The shelter problem was solved by bringing clouds for shade.

All these arrangements were made so they could dedicate their attention and focus on meeting
the Islamic objectives: attaining personal excellence and establishing the complete Islamic
system in their own community and on the cities they conquer. In the circumstances where one
does not have to worry about economic needs and survival issues, decent people will avail this
opportunity to concentrate on attaining their prescribed goals of personal and societal
excellence. Unfortunately, they could not rise above their mundane desires and carnal view of
life. Although their needs were met, they could not pass beyond what they were used to in
favour of something better provided to them so graciously. All their attention was focussed on
the mundane things they were missing, not appreciating what they were given. Instead of
working for their objectives, they kept complaining for this or that. They even claimed that
their life of misery under slavery of Egyptians was better than the freedom that required some
minor sacrifice of variety of tastes. They were told to fight and conquer the lands of idolaters to
establish the peace and justice of Islam in those societies, but they wanted an easy life even if
they had to give up their freedom.54

To find a place where they can live with freedom and establish full Islamic systems, they were
told to fight and conquer an area. After conquering a city, they should enter it with humility,
granting forgiveness to the residents and seeking their own forgiveness from Allaah. At first,
they were not even willing to fight; but when grudgingly they ventured, and Allaah granted
them success, they would enter with arrogance being unjust and cruel to the residents. In short,
in every respect, instead of attaining excellence and striving for peace and justice that were
given to them as their goals, they preferred disobeying Allaah, transgressing limits, exploiting
others and usurping other’s rights.55

This kind of behaviour – complaining for everything, disobeying, arguing against and
disrespecting every command, witnessing the miracles and still being unappreciative, lack of
will to take a stand, lack of commitment to Islamic goals, and love of small benefits of the
world led to their obduracy so much so that in addition to disregarding the Islamic goals and

54
For example, see Exodus ch. 16, Numbers ch. 11 and 20.
55
Old Testament is full of stories of atrocities and exploitations perpetrated by Israelites. For examples
read Judges.
major commandments of Allaah, they would kill prophets 56sent to change their paradigms and
attitudes back to Islamic way and refocus their lives to the Islamic objectives. Consequently,
they lost their status of being Allaah’s favourite and were dishonoured, humiliated and
subjugated in the world. Worst of all, they incurred the wrath of Allaah. While Allaah was
angry with them because of their Kufr – abandoning the objective of Deen, preference for the
world and thus losing the balanced lifestyle, and their rejecting, persecuting and killing of the
reformers, they thought they were still beloved of Allaah and they were still following the
Deen of their forefathers through some ritualistic practices, customs and traditions. The last
verse in this section clearly dispels their notion that they are God’s chosen and brings them to
the reality that rather than being chosen, they are the cursed ones.

The Muslim Ummah presently is caught in the same kind of situation. Worldly comforts and
enjoyments have taken precedence in the life of Muslims and the Islamic goals have been
mostly forgotten. The critical lesson that the Muslims should learn from this episode is that
they must concentrate on achieving the personal and community objectives Islam has set for
them, dedicate their lives to those goals and willingly pay any price for those goals in terms of
worldly sufferings. For the sake of some worldly expediencies, they must never opt for
compromise in their objectives, never accept to live under dominance of un-Islamic systems
and never be content with partial practice of Islam or incomplete implementation of Islamic
systems. They also must support and work with those scholars and movements that are
dedicated to the implementation of Islam as a complete system of life. They must non-
cooperate with their adversaries of Islamic movements who may include so-called scholars
who have made religion as their profession and whose attentions is only on rituals or rules of
religion rather than Islamic objectives. They should also stand firm with the Islamic
movements against the so called secular powers who want to oppress the workers of Islamic
movements as were the prophets of the past oppressed by both the professional religious
leaders and secular political authorities. If they do not change their attitude, they will continue
to face the same consequences in terms of Allaah’s anger and their own humiliation and
wretchedness in this world.

This gives a very high-level point-form overview of the history of Allaah’s favours on
Israelites and their obduracy in response.

The negation of Israelites’ wishful thinking raises a contextual opportunity for a very important
point for all to remember – that Allaah’s favours and blessings are performance-based, not
granted on the basis of race, genealogy, ethnicity, or any other consideration. Allaah deals with
people on the basis of their performance, nothing else. To make this very important point,
Allaah SWT has interrupted the flow of the subject matter and clarified this point through the
next verse.

56
The Qur-aan does not give the names of the prophets murdered because the point is not to give the
history but to allude towards the obdurate behaviour. For that purpose, the addressees -- the Jews -- knew
those details from their books. For example, Zechariah’s killing in 2Chronicles 24:18-21 and persecution
of other prophets mentioned in 1Kings 19:1-10, 22:26-27, and Jeremiah 15:10, 18:20-23, 20:1-18 and
chapters 36 to 40. In the New Testament, see Mark 6:17-29 for John’s murder; and then the case of Jesus
is well known, especially relevant is their demand that he should be hanged in Matt. 27:20-26.
62
The fact is that whether it be Muslims, Jews, Christians or Sabians, whoever
believes in Allaah and the Last Day and does good deeds, they shall have their
reward from their Lord, and there shall be no fear for them, nor shall they
grieve.

By mentioning religious titles or claims of the people to be adherents to certain religions, this
verse indicates that Allaah deals with people not on the basis of their titles or claims, but on the
basis of their performance in terms of the quality of their faith and deeds. If the performance is
good, the person will receive Allaah’s favours and salvation; if it is not good, the person will
be punished or subjected to Allaah’s anger according to the degree of his disobedience,
regardless of the background of the person. So what constitutes quality faith and good deeds in
which a person should perform well to attain salvation? Does it mean that anyone who believes
only in Allaah and the Last Day and behaves in a way that he thinks is good will be assured of
his salvation? Does a good Jew or a good Christian not need to believe in the Messenger and
the Qur-aan?

While these questions are pondered upon, three features of the literary style of the Noble Qur-
aan must be kept in view:

 The Qur-aan uses as few words as possible to make a statement, give an order or
narrate an incident. A lot is left unsaid that can be determined by the context and by
other means within the Qur-aan. At the time of revelation of the Qur-aan, the most
valued skill among the literary circles was the ability to clearly express the most
profound message in the fewest words possible. Qur-aan took this art to its limit and
amazed people with its miraculous brevity. That is why its takes us many paragraphs
and pages to properly describe what the Qur-aan expresses in a few words.

 The Qur-aan puts significant reliance on the context of the words, phrases and
sentences to determine their specific meaning. To understand the Qur-aan properly, its
phrases and sentences should never be taken in isolation or out of context.

 If something is not the main point of discussion at the moment, it is just referred to
briefly, usually through the mention of its representative elements. If something is
alluded to briefly or partially in one place because the context did not require the rest
of the details, it is always described fully and completely at some other place (or
places) in the Qur-aan. Hence, the meaning of any Qur-aanic term, phrase or verse
must be determined in conjunction with all its occurrences in the Qur-aan and the
contexts where they appear.

Let us start with the context. It is evident that this section is highlighting Jewish obduracy and
their criminal thanklessness in response to Allaah’s favours as well as dispelling their
misconceptions about their status. One of their greatest misconceptions has been that they,
being the descendants of the prophets, are the chosen people, blessed by God forever, not to
end up in the Fire except maybe for a short while. To them, regardless of what they did,
salvation was theirs. No one else could get it. Because of their misconception and their pride in
their heritage, they were very condescending to the Muslims as well as to Gentiles in general.
Verse 61 dispelled those notions categorically and identified the consequence of their crimes:
humiliation, misery and wrath of Allaah.

At this point, in verse 62, Allaah SWT takes the opportunity to make a parenthetical remark to
clarify that Allaah SWT deals with people only on the basis of their true belief and sincere
practice of any individual, whether a Jew or a Gentile. After clarifying this principle, verse 63
continues with reminding the Jews of their crimes and transgressions.

Thus the subject matter of this verse in this context is to negate the misconceptions and wishful
thinking of the Jews by saying: No! Allaah SWT is not racist. Allaah SWT does not and will
not reject anyone’s faith and actions just because the person did not belong to a certain race or
ethnic group. Neither does He or will He overlook obdurate disobedience of some people
because they are a certain race. The real determinant of finding favour with Allaah and
salvation in the Hereafter is one’s personal faith and good deeds. Nothing else! This was not a
place to give a complete list of the articles of faith and the good deeds that are necessary to
earn Allaah’s favour and salvation. Those details had been well-explained throughout the
earlier revelations. It is against the style of the Qur-aan to repeat the full list of things that are
not the topic of the discussion and have already been appropriately dealt with in the past. The
subject matter is NOT who is a real believer and who is not, and what are good actions and
what are not. The subject matter is that Allaah SWT does not have any favourites. Allaah SWT
judges people on the basis of their actions, not their ‘roots’, race or claims.

The two elements of faith mentioned here happened to be those in which Israelites were weak.
Although they claimed to believe in these two articles, their behaviour negated their claim:
Despite seeing all the miracles, they still wanted to see Allaah before they believed. Then the
concept of the Last Day remained very vague and insignificant in their religious literature and
traditions. It is not even mentioned in the Old Testament. However, from the Islamic
perspective, these two elements of faith are so significant that they are used in the Qur-aan as
representatives of the complete true faith, which has been fully detailed at other places of the
Qur-aan. All other articles of faith are automatically covered by these two basic beliefs. A
person who believes in Allaah SWT as his Lord and believes in the accountability on the Day
of Judgment has to automatically believe in the messengers and books as they explain what
Allaah wants us to do and what He will hold us accountable for. And the belief in the
messengers and books is not acceptable without the belief in the last of them. So the faith in
Allaah and the Last Day fully represents the Islamic Faith as we know it.

The use of two articles of faith to represent all articles of faith is exactly the way the Qur-aan
uses Ŝalaah and Zakaah to represent ‘good actions’ at many places. The detailed list of good
actions is not given everywhere because the context does not need those details at that spot;
hence, the Qur-aan just alludes to all good actions by mentioning two most significant ones.
But then at appropriate places, pertinent details of good actions are provided. The mention of
two good actions does not mean that they are enough for the salvation of a believer, as the two
articles of faith here do not mean that they are sufficient for the salvation.

Hence this verse cannot be taken to mean that salvation can be had without believing in
Muhammad as the last prophet and the Qur-aan as the current Book of Allaah’s guidance and
commands. This kind of conclusion will be out of context as well as contradicted by the Qur-
aan itself. In fact, at the beginning of the discourse in verse 40, Allaah SWT had invited the
Jews to fulfill their covenant of believing in and supporting the Prophet and to believe in the
Qur-aan. If a few verses later He was going to tell them, “You will certainly be successful if
you remain a good believing Jew”, why would Allaah SWT remind them about the covenant of
believing in the Prophet, command them to believe in the Qur-aan, and warn them against
rejecting it?

The Qur-aan repeats the same message in chapter 5, Soorah Al-Maaidah:

“Certainly, whoever from the Muslims, the Jews, the Sabians and the
Christians believes in Allaah and the Last Day and performs good
deeds will find his reward with Allaah and will not suffer fear or grief
(in the Hereafter).” Al-Maaidah 5:69
Notably, the verse immediately preceding the verse 5:69 of Al-Maaidah has the following to
say:

“Say: O People of the Book! You have no base unless you practice the
Torah, the Gospel and what has been revealed for you (the Qur-aan)
from your Lord. Unfortunately, most of them increase in the rebellion
and disbelief in response to the revelations (Qur-aan) sent down to you
(O Muhammad) from your Lord. So, do not worry about these Kuffaar
(the Unbelievers).” Al-Maaidah 5:68
Also, in Soorah A‘raaf, the Israelites have been clearly told that their salvation depends on
following the Messenger of Allaah and supporting him:

Those who follow the Messenger-Prophet, the Ummi57, whom they find
mentioned in their Towraat and the Injeel, who enjoins them good and
forbids them evil, and makes lawful to them the good things and makes
unlawful to them impure things, and removes from them their burden
and the shackles which were upon them; so (as for) those who believe
in him and honour him and help him, and follow the light which has
been sent down with him, they are the successful. Al-A‘raaf 7:157
In fact, the whole mankind has been advised:

Say: O people, surely I am the Messenger of Allaah to you all, of Him


Whose is the kingdom of the heavens and the earth there is no God but
He; He brings to life and causes to die; therefore believe in Allaah and

57
This world is used as a distinctive title of Prophet Muhammad. It signifies two points: Non-Israelite
(gentile) and unlettered.
His messenger, the Ummi Prophet who believes in Allaah and His
words, and follow him so that you may be saved. Al-A‘raaf 7:158
Hence, it is clear that the purpose of the subject verses is not to give a license to the people to
disbelieve in the last Messenger of Allaah and His last Book and still attain salvation. Anyone
who wishes to attain salvation must believe in Islam, including sincere belief in Muhammad
SA‘WS and the Qur-aan. Without sincere Islamic belief and a full practice of the Islamic
lifestyle, no one will be able to attain success in the Hereafter.

Indirectly, these verses were encouraging the good-hearted people from the Jews, Christians
and others that they should step forward and adopt the proper faith and practice in order to
attain salvation. At the same time, they are warning the Muslims that if they do not have true
faith and do not perform enough good actions, even they would not attain salvation.

In conclusion, the real message of both of the verses from chapters 2 and 5 is that:
 The Israelites, as a race, do not have any special status with Allaah SWT; hence, they
have been cursed for the flagrant violation of their covenant with Allaah SWT; and,
 The people who believe in Islam and practice accordingly will succeed in the
Hereafter and attain salvation, regardless of what race they belong to or what kind of
society they were born in.

Moreover, these verses also serve the following other purposes for the future Muslims (like us)
through the example of the Jews (the Muslims of the past):

 To frankly explain to the Muslims that Allaah’s favours and blessings are endowed to
people on the basis of their personal faith, commitment, dedication, actions and
righteousness, not on the basis of being born in a certain group of people. Having a
Muslim name or being born to a Muslim family has absolutely no value in the eyes of
Allaah SWT, unless it is backed by sincere, passionate faith as well as devoted, total
obedience to Allaah SWT.

 To warn the Muslims that they will be cursed and humiliated like the Jews if they
adopt the same kind of attitude towards Islam.

 To remove the misconceived notion of superiority that ‘born’ Muslims may


sometimes feel over ‘converted’ Muslims. Some ignorant Muslims have been
observed to have this kind of feeling towards converts, just as the Jews had this kind
of feeling towards the Muslims.

 To encourage the people contemplating conversion to Islam that they should not feel
held back by their roots and origins. Islam values individual faith, conviction and
actions of a person, regardless of one’s past. Islam is for the whole humanity. It does
not reject anyone coming forward to believe, unlike a situation reported in the
Gospels and attributed (perhaps wrongfully) to Jesus that he refused to help a
Canaanite woman on the premise, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss
it to their dogs.”58

The next few verses describe the very special circumstances under which their covenant was
ratified so that they would understand the significance of its provisions. Then they give an
example of a violation of the covenant and the punishment that ensued.
63
And remember when We took your covenant and lifted the mountain over
you: "Hold firmly to what We have given you and remember what it contains
so that you may avoid Allaah’s anger.” 64 Then you turned back after that; so
were it not for the grace of Allaah and His mercy on you, you would certainly
have been among the losers. 65 And certainly you have known those among
you who violated the Sabbath, so We said to them: Become apes, despised. 66
So We made them an example to those who witnessed it and those who came
after it, and an admonition to those who maintain Taqwa.

The exact nature of the lifting of the mountain over them is not known. The message, however,
is that the seriousness of the covenant was impressed upon them by making the mountain about
to fall over them, if Allaah so willed.

On Saturday, the Sabbath day, the Jews are not allowed to do any work, cook meals or do any
worldly activity except for the remembrance and worship of Allaah and religious activities.
This is such an important command that the violators are supposed to be punished by death59.

Punishing the violators of Sabbath by turning them into monkeys is a fitting punishment for
that disobedience. The difference between a human being and a monkey essentially boils down
to one matter: Human beings have the capacity to determine if an action is good or bad and if
they should do it or not. Monkeys do not have that capacity; their behaviour is pre-
programmed by instincts. If human beings are not going to use that faculty to do the right
things, they might as well be made monkeys. More details of those violators and the tactics
they used to defy Sabbath are given in Soorah Al-A‘raaf.

This example of breaking the covenant was from the perspective of finding ways of defying a
specific command that was accepted and established in their society. What comes next is an
example of a violation of the covenant in terms of wrong attitude towards a command as it was
being given.

Allaah SWT expects believers to instantly submit to a command without asking questions.
Even if a command is general, the believers are expected to follow it instantly as it is given,
without asking specifics about it.

However, some degenerated believers do not submit willingly and instantly. They start asking
questions. It happens in two situations: When people do not like what they are commanded so

58
Mt. 15:26
59
Exodus 31:14
they exhibit their reservations by asking all those questions either to disregard the command as
unclear or to find loopholes in it. This attitude is indicative of weakness of faith and
commitment to Islam. The second situation happens when the people have adopted un-Islamic
religious paradigms. They may have strong faith and commitment but their paradigm is
misguided. They do not understand the objectives and goals of Islam and consider Islam as a
religion of rules, instead of an objective-oriented way of life. Islam concentrates on
achievements of its noble goals through legitimate and fair means. To make that happen, some
guiding rules are necessary. However, people often get caught in the rules, neglecting the
goals. That is why Islam underplays rules, but emphasizes achievement of goals. It gives many
high level or general-purpose guidelines or commands with the idea of providing ease and
flexibility in their execution. It expects believers to execute those commands and live by those
guidelines readily, submissively and without asking questions. Unfortunately, those caught up
in the rule game, keep asking questions to make the command very detailed, specific and
restrictive.

Israelites were infatuated with rules and were persistently habitual in asking unnecessary
questions reflecting both of the motives mentioned above. The next few verses describe an
episode of their breaking the covenant of instant obedience by raising unnecessary questions as
a tactic to avoid fulfilling the command. It highlights their attitude of trying to get out of
accepting a command by pretending not to know exactly what is expected, instead of
submitting to a command instantly as a true believer should do. This attitude ends up making a
general high-level, easy-to-fulfil command a very specific, more difficult and onerous to fulfill.
67
And remember when Moosa said to his people: Verily Allaah commands
you to slaughter a cow. They said: Are you ridiculing us? He said: I seek
Allaah’s refuge from becoming so ignorant. 68 They said: Call on your Lord for
our sake to explain to us what she is. Moosa said: He says, surely she is a cow
neither too old nor too young, of middle age between the two; do therefore
what you are commanded. 69 They said: Call on your Lord for our sake to
indicate to us what her colour should be. Moosa said: He says, surely she is a
yellow cow; bright in its colour, pleasing to the observers. 70 They said: Call on
your Lord for our sake to explain to us what she is. We are still unclear about
the specific cow needed; and we are sure that, Allaah willing, we will be
guided aright. 71 Moosa said: He says, surely she is a cow not trained to plough
the land, nor to irrigate the crops; sound, without a spot on her. They said: Now
you have brought the truth. So they slaughtered it, though they were not about
to do it. 72 And remember when you killed a man, then you accused each other
about it, and Allaah was to bring out that which you were hiding. 73 So We
said: Strike him (dead man) with a piece of the slaughtered cow. Thus Allaah
brings the dead to life, and He shows you His signs so that you may
understand.
The situation was that a murder had taken place for which a killer was not identified and
people were accusing each other. Allaah SWT decided to help them with identifying the killer,
by making them kill a cow for which they still harboured an un-Islamic attachment that they
had developed during their stay in Egypt. That was a step designed to change their paradigm
about cows, while teaching them a lesson in obedience as well as showing them a miracle to
settle their dispute.

The sincere believers who understand Islamic paradigms properly would have immediately
slaughtered a cow, whatever kind of cow was available at hand or considered to be appropriate.
This would have fulfilled Allaah’s command, shown their readiness to submit, demonstrated
their lack of attachment with cows and achieved all the Islamic objectives. Instead, they started
playing the game of trying to get out of it firstly by disrespectfully and arrogantly brushing it
aside as a joke and then by pretending not to know exactly what is needed. The consequence
was that at the end of it, a very specific cow was required that was not only hard to find, but
interestingly the kind of cow particularly chosen for worship.

Many Muslims tend to play the same game. There are those who discount a valid Islamic
teaching by disregarding it as a joke as if it is so odd that it cannot be serious. Or they raise
questions after questions from that very mindset to show how impractical, unclear and
imprecise the teaching is. Then there are those who are infatuated with rules of Fiqh. They
keep asking questions for general Islamic commands trying to make them specific. Many
Islamic scholars feed their urge by providing specific pronouncements where the Qur-aan and
the Sunnah give just general guidelines. This tendency makes compliance difficult, takes focus
away from Islamic objectives, makes Islam a mumbo jumbo of rules, but most importantly
creates unnecessary rifts, schisms and sectarian fights in the community. That is why the
Prophet strongly discouraged people from asking too many questions; he rather encouraged
them to obey general commands as they individually understood that they should be obeyed. If
Allaah and His Messenger have left matters open and in general terms for ease and flexibility
so that sincere believers can act upon them as their circumstances allow, no one has the right to
make them specific and onerous. For example, when the Prophet (Sal-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa
sallam) presented the general Qur’aanic command that Hajj had been made obligatory for
Muslims, a person asked, “Is it an annual obligation?” The Prophet (Sal-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa
sallam) did not respond. When he kept repeating the question, the prophet responded, “Pity on
you. If I say yes, it will become a yearly obligation, then you will not be able to follow the
command and will disobey.”

Thus, if there is some sort of generality in a Qur-aanic command, Allaah SWT has kept that
generality to allow people flexibility to follow the command as their circumstances allow. That
general aspect of the command should not be made specific in any way, shape or form. Had He
wanted to make a command very detailed and specific, nobody could have stopped Him from
doing so.

It is to discourage from the aforementioned kinds of questions that Allaah SWT said:

O believers! Do not ask questions about things which if declared to


you may trouble you, and if you question about them when the
Qur’aan is being revealed, they shall be declared to you; Allaah has
pardoned this, and Allah is Forgiving, Forbearing. A people before
you did ask such questions, and then became disbelievers on account
of them. (Al-Maaidah 5:101)

And the Messenger ŝall-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said:

“Indeed Allaah SWT has obligated obligations, so do not neglect them; He has
prohibited some things, do not indulge in them; He has set some boundaries, do not
transgress them; and He kept quiet about some things, as mercy to you, without
forgetting them, so do not pursue them.” (Reported in Mishkaat from Jaabir and in
Daraqutni from Aboo Tha’labah)

“The biggest culprit among Muslims is he who raised questions about something that
was not prohibited for people, but answers to his questions ended up making it
prohibited.” (Tafheemul Qur’aan, note 116 to Al-Maaidah)

“Do not pursue me for a matter on which I have not given any instructions. The
previous communities suffered because of asking too many questions and because of
their differing with their prophets.” (Bukhaari)

‘Umar used to curse a person who would ask about an issue that has not actually been
encountered. Other companions like Zaid ibn Thaabit Al-Ansari and ‘Ammaar Ibn
Yaasir would also refuse to answer a theoretical question that the enquirer has not yet
encountered.

The most important lesson is that we must not convert Islam from an objectives-focussed way
of life to a religion of rules as the Israelites had. These unnecessary rules and specifics were the
burdens and chains that Eesa ‘alayhissalaam and Muhammad sall-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam
were sent to remove. Unfortunately, many scholars who do not understand true Islamic
paradigms are bent on putting those shackles and burdens again on Muslims’ backs and
consequently creating sects and schisms.

Whether people break their covenant with Allaah by defying it through the games played by
the violators of Sabbath or by questioning the commands of Allaah, a prolonged display of that
attitude results in developing an obduracy that makes them impervious to any sense of
responsibility, accountability or fear of Allaah. That condition is called hardening of heart,
indicating a state in which nothing moves that heart anymore.
74
Then, after that, your hearts hardened so that they were like stones, or even
harder yet, because there are indeed some stones from which rivers burst forth,
and there are others which split open so water comes out of them, and there are
still others which fall down out of fear of Allaah. And Allaah is not at all
oblivious of what you do.

Mention of a stone or a rock splitting open to let the water flow or collapsing out of the fear of
Allaah is very relevant and profound in the context because they had witnessed 12 springs
gushing forth from a rock. They had also witnessed the rocks breaking into pieces, falling and
collapsing when Allaah showed his power in response to Moosa’s desire to see Him.
Unfortunately, their hearts had become even worse than stones because there was no
inclination in their hearts anymore that will let any goodness or kindness flow out of them or
let them feel the fear of Allaah.

Ironically, such people still behave as if they are the best model of decency and ‘balanced’
behaviour and embodiment of goodness, honour and status. That is why they are being
reminded that “your claims aside, Allaah knows your reality”.

As mentioned earlier, many Muslims who were impressed with religiosity of the Jews wanted
to somehow see them become Muslims. They had great hopes that if the message was
presented to them properly, tactfully and respectfully, they will respond positively. Such
people usually think that if the message is not attracting a positive response, perhaps there is
some problem with the presentation or with the approach. They do not realize that nothing can
work with some people not because there are some problems with the message or its delivery
but because the audience have made an intentional choice not to accept the message regardless
of how valid it is or how beautifully it is presented.
75
Do you (Muslims) then hope that they would believe in response to your
efforts, while the reality is that a party from them used to hear the Word of
Allaah, then knowingly distort it after they had understood it? 76 And when
they meet Muslims they say: We believe. But when they meet each other in
private, they say: “Do you tell them what Allaah has disclosed to you that they
may use it to argue against you before your Lord; do you not then understand?”
77
Do they not know that Allaah knows what they conceal and what they
disclose? 78 And then some of them are illiterate who do not know the Book
but harbour baseless hopes; they are only assuming. 79 Woe, then, to those who
write the book with their hands and then say: This is from Allaah, in order to
exchange it for a small price; therefore woe to them for what their hands have
written and woe to them for what they earn. 80 And they say: Fire shall not
touch us but for numbered days. Say: Have you taken a promise from Allaah --
whereas Allaah never breaks His promise -- or are you saying about Allaah
what you do not know? 81 Rather, whoever earns evil and his sins surround
him, these are the inmates of the fire; therein they shall abide forever. 82 While
those who believe and do good deeds, they are the inhabitants of Garden;
therein they shall abide forever.

The first group obviously is that of religious leaders and scholars who knew the revelations
that Allaah sent to earlier prophets and messengers, understood them and then knowingly
distorted them for the sake of their own worldly expediencies. In particular, they would hide,
twist and distort the predictions and signs that were reported about the Prophet, Holy Ka‘bah
and the Qur-aan to keep people away from accepting the Prophet and Islam. If any of them
could not help but acknowledge some of the true signs during their interactions with Muslims,
they will scold him for doing so.
Distortion is the word that we have used to represent the Arabic word “Taĥreef”, which
literally means changing the directions to the wrong side. When used for narrations, it means
changing the words or message of the words to convey meanings different from what was
intended by the speaker or writer. This distortion may take many forms:
 Mispronouncing or misspelling words to misrepresent the intent. For example,
changing “Marwah” (a hillock beside Holy Ka‘bah) into “Moriah”60 to confuse its
identity. Or Greek Periklytos (the admirable) into Parakletos (advocate) to hide the
Jesus’ prophecy about the advent of Muhammad (the admirable) in John 14:16, 17
and John 16:13, 14.
 Making slight additions/deletions in the text to confuse the subject matter. Inserting
“Isaac” after your only son, who in reality being the second son was never an only
son. It was Ishmael who was the only son for 14 years61.
 Making substantial changes to the text. The example from the Old Testament is the
whole episode of Abraham’s living away from Sarah, his going to Makkah and
construction of Holy Ka‘bah has been grossly changed or eliminated. The example
from New Testament is the subsequent insertion of verses 16:9-19 in Luke or verses
7:53 to 8:11 in John.
 Intentionally misinterpreting the words or message to make it different from what was
intended. For example, Ishmael who was duly recognized as the elder son in Genesis,
has been misinterpreted not being a genuine son just to discredit him in favour of
Isaac, although the Torah itself does not support it62. Or misinterpreting figurative
terms of son and father used in New Testament to describe closeness of relationship
as if it was a biological (begotten or sired) relationship.
 Interpreting a multiple-meaning word by using its meaning that does not fit in the
context.
 Not disclosing all relevant facts but hiding or disclosing selectively to draw a
misleading conclusion.

The last three kinds of distortions continue to this day and age and it varies from person to
person where and how they commit those distortions. More details of these distortions will be
given as the context requires in other places in future.

Allaah has personally taken the responsibility to protect the Noble Qur-aan from distortions.
Hence, it is the only religious book in the world that is perfectly preserved as it was revealed.
Its words are preserved. Their pronunciation to the extent of accents of the pronunciation is
preserved. And its meanings are also preserved in the sense that anyone who wants to find out
what the meaning was of a certain word at the time of the Prophet, it is all documented and
evidenced. However, that does not stop unscrupulous people from trying to change the
meanings of the words. Thus some people still make an effort of distorting the message of the
Qur-aan using the last three techniques. Any such attempts in the past have resulted into
creation of some misguided cults without impacting the mainstream understanding of the

60
"Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Mori'ah, and offer him there
as a burnt offering upon one of the mountains of which I shall tell you." Gen. 22:2
61
Genesis 16:16 and 21:5.
62
Duet. 15:17
Islamic teachings. Some most flagrant examples of distortions come from those who claim to
be the “people of the Qur-aan” who reject the traditional sources of knowledge of Islam under
the pretext of understanding the Qur-aan “purely and directly”. The real reason becomes
evident once their interpretations are evaluated. It becomes clear that they had to get rid of the
original sources of knowledge to take the liberties they take and to make the distortions they
are bent on making. Currently, the three most active groups in this regard are the followers of
Ghulam Ahmad, Perwaiz and Rashad Khalifa. Mirza Ghulam Ahmad Qadiani uses the same
three types of distortions to support his claims and teachings but does not reject altogether the
original sources of Islamic knowledge. That, however, does not make his distortions any less
heinous.

The second group is that of the general public, most of whom do not know anything about the
Books at all. They have just formed some hopes based on hearsay, wishful thinking and
twisted, distorted and misguiding pronouncements of their aforementioned religious leaders.
Most of their hopes are based on assumptions and concocted myths. Examples of such hopes
are:

 They think that they are the children of God and His favourites; just being an Israelite
makes them special.
 Whatever they do, they are not going to be punished in fire. Even if they are, it will be
only a matter of a few days.
 They assume that if they fulfil a few rituals and follow certain customs and traditions,
they have fulfilled their religious obligations; attaining Islamic objectives of
excellence or following major commands of Allaah does not even cross their mind.
 No one will enter paradise unless he is a Jew or Christian.

Once again, the situation of Muslim masses currently is not very different from what is
described here. Most of the Muslims are content with ignoring their Islamic goals of attaining
excellence and establishing Islamic systems in the world. The deen has been reduced to the
fulfillment of some ritual and customs and the celebration of some religious functions. All
baseless hopes, wishful-thinking and assumptions are the same. Just replace words “Jew” or
“Christian” with “Muslim” and the description fits perfectly with their current condition.

Most of these false hopes and wrong paradigms of religion are promoted and perpetuated by
the religious leaders who invent stories and twist the message and present it as teachings of
Islam for their worldly benefits and expediencies. As this kind of preaching and sermons are
not based on the valid knowledge of Islam, Allaah SWT labels it as the “writings of their own
hands”.

Allaah SWT concludes the section, once again, clearly emphasizing that just like the previous
section in which Allaah SWT had listed His favours and Israelite reactions to those favours, the
section was concluded by a statement to the effect that Allaah rewards performance, not
genealogy or religious labels; in the same manner, this discussion about obduracy, violation of
covenant and disregard of Islamic objective is being concluded with clear statements that non-
performance will be severely punished and performance rewarded regardless of whatever
wishful thinking people harbour. The results in the hereafter will not be determined by what
you were or what you claimed or what you hoped, but strictly by what you did and how you
performed. The details of the right kind of faith, paradigm and behaviour needed for
satisfactory performance have been explained at many other place in the Qur-aan.

Just as a matter of interest, these problems with Israelites’ behaviour were lamented by
previous prophets as well. Here are some quotations from Jeremiah as an example:

Jeremiah 8:8 "How can you say, 'We are wise, and the law of the LORD is with us'? But,
behold, the false pen of the scribes has made it into a lie.

Jeremiah chapter 22: 13 In the prophets of Sama'ria I saw an unsavory thing: they prophesied by
Ba'al and led my people Israel astray. 14 But in the prophets of Jerusalem I have seen a horrible
thing: they commit adultery and walk in lies; … 16 Thus says the LORD of hosts: "Do not
listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes; they
speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD. 17 They say continually to
those who despise the word of the LORD, 'It shall be well with you'; and to every one who
stubbornly follows his own heart, they say, 'No evil shall come upon you.'" … 21 "I did not
send the prophets, yet they ran; I did not speak to them, yet they prophesied. … 26 How long
shall there be lies in the heart of the prophets who prophesy lies, and who prophesy the deceit
of their own heart, …. 31 Behold, I am against the prophets, says the LORD, who use their
tongues and say, 'Says the LORD.' 32 Behold, I am against those who prophesy lying dreams,
says the LORD, and who tell them and lead my people astray by their lies and their
recklessness, when I did not send them or charge them; … 36 But 'the burden of the LORD' you
shall mention no more, for the burden is every man's own word, and you pervert the words of
the living God, the LORD of hosts, our God.

After pointing out the wrong concept of religion and the false hopes people harbour, the next
section reminds them of the covenant they undertook about fulfilling the Islamic objectives of
excellence, and their behaviour in respect of those objectives.
83
And remember when We took a covenant from the children of Israel: Do not
submit like slaves to anyone except Allaah and excel in your dealings with
parents, and with the close relatives, the orphans and the needy, and speak
good words to people, establish Ŝalaah and pay zakaah. Then you backslid
except a few of you and you are evaders. 84 And remember when We took your
covenant: You shall not shed blood of your own and you shall not drive one
another out of your homes; then you ratified it while you witnessed. 85 Yet you
it is who kill your people and drive a group of you out of their homes, forming
alliances against them, in sin and transgression. Then if they come to you as
captives, you would ransom them -- whereas their expulsion was itself
forbidden for you. Do you then believe in a part of the Book and disbelieve in
the other? What then is the recompense of those of you who do so except
disgrace during worldly life, and on the Day of Resurrection they shall be
driven off to the harshest torment, and Allaah is not at all unaware of what you
do. 86 These are the people who have given priority to worldly life over
hereafter; hence, their punishment shall not be lightened nor shall they be
helped.
The first verse (83) concisely alludes to both Islamic objectives: personal excellence in
fulfilling one’s obligations to Allaah, parents, orphans and the poor as well as excellence in
dealings with all people; and collective goal of establishing the Islamic system of justice by
referring to Ŝalaah for the socio-political system and zakaah for the economic system of Islam.
They were supposed to attain these goals themselves and lead other people in doing the same.
This was the essence of their covenant that made them special people. But they did not keep it
except for a few of them.

Islam is a system of life. Systems work and deliver their benefits only when all their parts are
in place and work cohesively together. Islamic objectives of personal excellence and
excellence in a society of peace and justice are also achieved only when the full Islamic system
is implemented without adulteration of any other ideologies or ways, (which is shirk). When
people practice Islam only partially, abandoning parts of Islam for their worldly expediencies,
they attract only Allaah’s anger and punishment and society as a whole suffers.

One essential part of the Islamic system is the universal brotherhood of believers and the
establishment of peace on earth. Hence, Moosa took a covenant from them in public to that
effect when the whole congregation was witnessing. It was well-documented in their religious
books for subsequent generations. But they did not respect that covenant either. They would
engage in wars against other Jews in violation of the book and then pay ransom to free the
Jewish prisoners of war. For example, Aows and Khazraj of Madeenah remained at war with
each other before the advent of Islam. Some of the Jewish tribes of Madeenah had formed
alliances with Aows and others with Khazraj. During their tribal wars, the Jews would
participate in the battle on their respective side and kill, plunder and displace the people on the
other side, including the Jews fighting for the other side. After the battle, they would pay
ransom for their Jewish captives to seek their freedom. Although their fighting was in violation
of the book but they would gain freedom of the captives according to the book. Thus they
believed in a part of the book and disbelieved in the other part.

Two lessons imparted by this citation cannot be overemphasized: First, a person cannot believe
in the book of Allaah and then violate its commands. Violation of the teachings of the book is
in fact disbelief in the book even if a person claims to believe in the book. Second, partial
compliance with the book is not beneficial for salvation. Islam is an integrated system that
must be practised as complete package. Without all parts of the system being in place, neither
does the system work nor does it benefit the society.

The pity is that Muslims are presently behaving exactly in the same manner. They participate
in alliances forged to invade, destroy and occupy Muslim populations and Muslim lands, just
to win favours with their non-Muslims masters. Then, they want to send aid to the devastated
people and volunteer for “reconstruction”. No wonder the Ummah as a whole remains the most
disgraced of all people in this world!

For Israelites, the situation was not such that they were given the message through Moosa ages
ago, which they lost over all that long period due to lack of reminders or refreshers. The fact is
that they were continuously reminded of the message throughout that time.
87
Verily We gave Moosa the Book and We sent many messengers after him in
succession; and We gave ‘Eesa, the son of Maryam, clear proofs and assisted
him with the holy spirit. Why is that whenever a messenger came to you with
something against your wishes, you were insolent? So you rejected some and
killed others. 88 And they say: Our hearts are protected. Rather, Allaah has
cursed them because of their disbelief; little do they believe.

Clear proofs include all those astounding miracles that Allaah SWT showed them through
‘Eesa ‘alayhissalaam like his miraculous birth, speaking as an infant, curing diseases, raising
the dead, etc. Holy spirit refers to angel Jibreel (Gabriel) who supported ‘Eesa in his mission in
his miracles. There was nothing unusual about Jibreel supporting ‘Eesa because that is Jibreel’s
job and he has supported all the messengers of Allaah. However, in case of ‘Eesa it became a
source of misguidance for both the Jews and the Christians. The Jews had accused ‘Eesa that
he was supported by Shayŧaan63. On the other hand, the Christians thought that ‘Eesa
performed the miracles with his own power which became a reason for them to deify him. In
addition, they also deified the “holy spirit” as the third in the three. The Qur-aan specifically
mentions Jibreel’s help to ‘Eesa to subtly refute such incorrect, extremist views on both sides.

Reminders and refreshers from a chain of successive messengers should have kept the Islamic
spirit alive in the hearts of Israelites and kept them on track and fully dedicated to the Islamic
mission. Instead, they opposed them and even killed some of them. This is the result of
overemphasizing the traditions and customs of the society. When people become loyal to the
traditions and customs that have been passed on to them from earlier generations, they do not
want to listen to any message of reform that seeks to purify their lifestyles, removing the
innovations and heresies that creep over time among the practices of people and bringing them
back to the pure teachings of Islam, its mission and its objectives. Ironically, they even feel
proud of their being impervious to the teachings of the reformers and of their loyalty to the
ignorant traditions and customs of society. That is what the Jews did in response to the
teachings of the prophets. They boasted that their hearts are preserved and protected form such
reforming influences. Unfortunately, many Muslims respond exactly in that style when they
are invited to come back to the pure Islam as it was presented and practised by the Prophet and
his companions.

Considering the past record of Israelites, their rejection of Prophet Muhammad’s call to Islam
was not surprising. Regardless of their excuses, one of main reasons for their rejection of Islam
was their traditional obduracy. The other reason was their racist mentality that is indicated in
the next set of verses.

89
Now that a Book has come to them from Allaah, confirming what they
already have -- though previously they have been praying for it seeking victory
over disbelievers -- now that it has come to them and they recognize it, they
disbelieve in it. So Allaah's curse be on the disbelievers. 90 How wretched is

63
Matthew 12:22-23
that for which they have sold their own selves by denying what Allaah has
revealed, because of their rancour against the fact that Allaah sends down His
grace on whom He wishes from His slaves. So they have ended up drawing
upon themselves wrath upon wrath; and there will be a disgraceful punishment
for the disbelievers. 91 And when it is said to them, Believe in what Allaah has
revealed, they respond, “We believe in that which was revealed to us” and they
reject what is besides that, even though it is the Truth confirming what they
already have. Say: Why then did you kill Allaah's prophets before if you were
indeed believers?

The Israelites’ religious books had prophesied the coming of a Messenger of Allaah who will
prevail over pagans and disbelievers and establish Islam fully and comprehensively as the
dominant way and system of life. On the basis of those predictions, the Jews of Madeenah
were anxiously waiting for the coming of the Prophet. They would even tell the idolaters to
watch when they overpower them with the help of that Messenger. After more than a decade of
preaching in Makkah, when Prophet’s call reached Madeenah, the Arabs saw that the signs
which Jews used to mentioned of the coming Prophet applied to Muhammad ŝall-Allaahu
‘alayhi wa sallam. They accepted his call and became his companions. On the other hand,
when the Jews of Madeenah met the Prophet and they realized that he was the one they were
waiting for, they refused to join him despite recognizing that he and his message was true and
was confirming the predictions given in their books. Despite knowing the truth, they opposed
him because of their staunch racism. They could not come to grips with accepting an
Ishmaelite as their leader, even though he was the true Messenger of Allaah promised in their
books, and they could not tolerate him being surrounded by Arabs, instead of the Jews
exclusively. The Prophet’s wife Ŝafiyyah, the mother of the believers, told a story about her
father who was one of the most distinguished religious leaders of the Jews of Madeenah and
her uncle who was also a leader of similar stature. When the Prophet reached Madeenah, both
of them went to visit him and interview him. When they came back at night and briefed each
other privately, she heard them saying:

Uncle: Is he really the one promised in our books?


Dad: By God, he is.
Uncle: Are you sure?
Dad: Of course!
Uncle: Now what?
Dad: As long as I live, I will oppose him and hinder his mission.64

As was mentioned in the beginning of this soorah, racism is such a debilitating disease that
deprives a person from accepting the truth and doing the right thing. Shayŧaan did what he did
because of his racism.

Naturally, they did not want to publicly acknowledge that their rejection of the Prophet was
based on racism, not facts. So they had to fabricate excuses for public consumption. They

64
Syed Abul A’la Maudoodi’s Tafheemul-Qur-aan Vol. 1 page 94; with reference from Ibn Hishaam
Vol. 2 Page 165
would claim that they are believers in their own books and that is good for their salvations and
then they would try to discredit the Prophet and the Qur-aan in different ways. Allaah SWT has
refuted their claim of faith by citing the examples of their continuous obduracy against all
demands of their faith.

92
Just look at your record: Moosa came to you with clear proofs, yet you were
so unjust that you worshipped the calf in his absence. 93 And when We took
your covenant and raised the mountain over you commanding, “Take what We
have given you with determination and listen.” They said: We hear and
disobey. And they were made to imbibe the calf into their hearts by their
disbelief. Say: What an evil your faith enjoins you if you are believers! 94 Say:
If Allaah has reserved the abode of the Hereafter especially for you exclusive
of other people, then seek death if you are truthful. 95 And they will never seek
it ever on account of the malefactions they have committed; Allaah knows the
evildoers. 96 In fact, you will find them greediest for life of all people, even
more than the idolaters. Each one of them wishes if he could have a life of a
thousand years. But the grant of such a long life will in no way remove him
away from the punishment. For Allaah sees well what they do.

Although the Israelites were making covenants of obedience with Allaah on all the commands
they were being given, their subsequent actions clearly demonstrated that they had no
willingness or commitment to fulfil those covenants. By attributing the words, “We hear and
disobey” to them, it is presenting the reality of their intentions and their behaviour to make
them reflect, if they have any such capacity left in them.

Another reason for their anger against Islam was their wishful thinking that they are chosen
people who have been exclusively blessed by Allaah. Even if there is a life hereafter, that will
also be exclusively for them. The Qur-aan brings their argument back to them by challenging
them to seek death if they sincerely believe that the excellent life in the hereafter is reserved
for them. In reality, they did not have that confidence in the hereafter and they loved the life of
this world so much that they wanted to live here as long as possible.

The people who have true faith in the hereafter and prepare themselves well for that eternal life
do not fear death because they know that it is a transition towards a better and eternal life. True
faith in hereafter bestows upon people courage, freedom and independence and liberates them
from all fears. On the other hand, weakness or lack of faith in the hereafter results in the love
for the worldly life and makes people coward and compromising. They are scared of death and
want to live long regardless of the quality or kind of life they encounter. They are ready to
compromise everything for worldly life even if they have to go against their principles, give up
their freedom and live a life of humiliation.

Contemporary Muslims must look in this mirror and evaluate if they are any better either in
their claims of obedience to Allaah or in their preference for the hereafter.
There were very profound consequences of Allaah’s last Messenger being from Ishmaelites
and his being rejected by Israelites. Instead of dominating all other nations, Israelites were
losing their status as the chosen people. The proper thing for them to do was to join the Prophet
in his missions and support him to attain the goals they were counting on achieving by his
advent. Instead, they developed a strong rancour on this matter and even became the enemies
of angel Jibreel whose job was to bring Allaah’s messages to the messengers and to support
them.

97
Let anyone who is the enemy of Jibreel know that he certainly has revealed
it to your heart by Allaah's command, fulfilling the prophesies that existed
before and guidance and good news for the believers. 98 Anyone who is the
enemy of Allaah, His angels, His messengers, Jibreel65 and Meekaeel66, then
indeed, Allaah is the enemy of such disbelievers.

The rejection of the Qur-aan is in fact the rejection of all objectives for which the Qur-aan has
been revealed. It is rejection of Towraat (Torah) and other books of the prophets that
prophesied about the advent of the Prophet and the Qur-aan. It is a rejection of the guidance
from Allaah, which is the same guidance that Allaah had revealed before. And it is a rejection
of the good news of the success that the Qur-aan has been sent to bring and for which they
used to pray to Allaah.

Similarly, their enmity to Jibreel is in fact enmity towards Allaah who commanded Jibreel to
bring revelations to Muhammad SA‘WS. In addition, it is considered enmity towards all the
prophets, messengers and angels. There is uniformity of purpose and unity among all of those
entities. Opposition to one prophet or one angel is in effect opposition to all prophets, all
angels and God Himself. Jibreel and Meekaeel have especially been mentioned separately only
to highlight that none of them can be differentiated in terms of faith and attitude towards them,
even though the Jews considered Meekaeel (Michael) to be the friendly angel while Jibreel
(Gabriel) to be unfriendly.

99
And certainly We have revealed to you clear communications and none
disbelieve in them except the covenant-breakers67. 100 Is it not the case that
every time they made a covenant, some party among them threw it aside? The
truth is that most of them do not believe. 101 And when a Messenger from
Allaah came to them fulfilling the prophesies they had with them, a group of
those who were given the Book tossed the Book of Allaah behind their backs
as if they knew nothing. 102 Instead, they continued to follow:

65
Gabriel
66
Michael
67
The Arabic word Faasiq means disobedience. Although disobedience can be major or minor, in this
context it refers to major disobediences, especially on those matters where an explicit promise or a
covenant had been made with Allaah SWT.
 What the devils (shayaŧeen) chanted during the reign of Sulaymaan
(Solomon) -- it was not Sulaymaan who indulged in these acts of
disbelief, but it was the devils who disbelieved by teaching people
magic; and,
 What was sent down to the two angels at Babel, Haaroot and Maaroot.
But neither of them taught anyone without warning, "Verily we are
only a temptation, therefore do not be a disbeliever." Even then they
learned from them the means by which they might cause a separation
between a man and his wife – though they cannot harm anyone except
with Allah's permission.

They used to learn what harmed them and did not benefit them. And they
certainly knew that he who dealt in these things would have no share in the
hereafter. How wretched was that for which they bartered themselves, if they
only knew! 103 And if they had believed and maintained taqwa, reward from
Allaah would certainly have been better; if they only knew!

Magic and sorcery have been practised in various societies at different times; for example, it
was quite popular in Egypt at the time of Moosa. It is considered disbelief (kufr) in Islam;
hence, the Jews were not allowed to practise it68. During the reign of prophet Sulaymaan
(Solomon), Israelites started openly breaking this law. Prophet Sulaymaan was given special
knowledge of things that was not given to many other prophets. Hence the anti-Islam elements
from Jinns and humans, who have been called devils here, put much emphasis on propagating
magic and sorcery69 to divert people’s attention from Prophet Sulaymaan’s mission. Ironically,
some of that nonsense was even attributed to him. It was so important to clear Prophet
Sulaymaan’s name from this accusation that Allaah SWT did not wait to complete the
statement and clarified right there that he was not involved in these acts of disbelief (Kufr) at
all. Any charms or enchantments attributed to him were actually works of devils.

Magic was also extremely popular and prevalent in Babylon. Israelites were impacted grossly
by it, as observed by prophet Isaiah.70 To counter the impact of magic on the society, Allaah
SWT sent two angels with esoteric knowledge71 so that they can establish the supremacy of
their angelic knowledge and people can be freed from their awe for magical powers of the
devils. Ignoring this objective for which angels were sent, the Israelites wanted to learn the
angels’ knowledge for their personal worldly benefits. But that would be the misuse of a tool
that Allaah had provided temporarily only for a special role -- to establish the supremacy of
Islam over magic, to save Israelites from becoming victims of sorcery and to attract people to

68
Deut. 18:9-12 and Lev. 19:26, 31
69
For example see 2Kings 17:16-17
70
Isaiah 47:8-13
71
Why we think that the knowledge which angels taught was different from the magic which the devils
taught, please refer to the detailed discussion in Ameen Ahsan Islahi’s Tadabburul Qur-aan Volume I
pages 283-286.
come to Islam. For human beings, the useful knowledge was the guidance that Allaah had
provided in the Book which required people to focus their attention on personal and societal
Islamic goals, physical hard work and reliance on Allaah. The knowledge that angels brought
was dangerous for people because it would entice them to indulge in these esoteric activities
for their worldly interest instead of using it exceptionally for establishing supremacy of Islam
over magic in situations where it became a stumbling block in the propagation of Islam. The
most harmful danger was that it would distract them from the guidance of the Book and the
purposes for which the Book was sent. Instead of working hard for their goals, people would
try to find short cuts and hope to achieve their goals by the power of the esoteric knowledge.
They would lose their reliance on Allaah and start relying on esoteric things. That is why the
angels did not want to teach it freely. Anyone who wanted to learn, they would warn the
person that he was stepping into a dangerous territory where he may lose faith by losing sight
of Islamic objectives and reliance (tawakkul) on Allaah. But Israelites not only insisted on
learning, but worse yet, they wanted to learn it for extremely abominable purposes such as
causing separation between a husband and wife.

The practice of sorcery that devils promoted during Sulaymaan’s reign, the esoteric knowledge
they picked up from angels, and the cabbala kind of things continued among Israelites. In fact,
that was a flourishing business for them in Madeenah and many people used to utilize their
services in this area. That was one of the reasons for their influence in the area because the
Arabs used to come to them for this kind of superstitious matters. As Islam does not allow
these things, becoming Muslim would have put an end to their business and raison de’etre for
their fame and status. That was another reason that they rejected the call of Islam, tossed their
own books and prophesies behind their backs and opted for sorcery and other practices of that
kind instead of adopting Islam.

Muslims have always been expected to dedicate their attention, their resources and their
capabilities towards the achievement of personal and collective goals of Islam. For all of their
endeavours, they are to do their best using their physical and temporal resources, making du‘aa
(supplication) to Allaah, leaving the results to Him and then being happy and content with
whatever results come their way. This kind of trust in and reliance on Allaah and attitude of
being happy with whatever consequence they face despite their best human efforts is called
tawakkul. If they remain dedicated to their Islamic goals and live according to the guidance
provided by the Book striving towards the desired level of excellence, making the sacrifices
needed for this dedication and relying on Allaah for their personal affairs, Allaah SWT grants
them spiritual powers that are better than any esoteric knowledge. In such a case, their du‘aa to
Allaah SWT or their recitation of some verses of the Qur-aan can produce better results than
are produced by incantations and enchantments. But the key is total reliance on Allaah while
continuing to physically do their best in the given circumstances and employing all the
allowable means that are humanly possible, not merely depending on du‘aa or the recitation.

However, when people become ignorant of the proper Islamic perspectives, disregard the
guidance of the Book, lose sight of Islamic goals, prefer this world over hereafter and
concentrate only on their worldly expediencies and needs, they start depending on magic,
sorcery, amulets, incantations, enchantments, auguries, divinations, mysticism, holy waters,
etc. to gain their worldly benefits, though none of it may work. However, by indulging in these
things, people lose Allaah’s help and support72 and nullify their faith. That is why the verse of
the Qur-aan under discussion regards these practices as disbelief (Kufr) regardless of whether
the source of these things is devils for magic or angels for mystic knowledge. Thus all they get
from these things is harm. Despite the dangers and harm of these things, people continue to
indulge in them due to lack of faith and ignorance about Islamic objectives and their desire to
find shortcuts to advance their carnal agendas.

It may sound like a broken record, but look at the condition of today’s Muslims. Is that not
exactly the situation of Muslim masses? The Islamic objectives have been forgotten and real
Islamic priorities and practices have been set aside in favour of these things. Many people do
not even accept a person as a religious scholar or spiritual man unless he can give them some
amulet or tell them what they should do to win a lawsuit, or have a son, or cure a disease or
increase their business profit, so on and so forth. In short, Muslims have lost faith by chasing
these things just like the Israelites who are being condemned here for their disbelief.

Let us remember the concluding remarks of the verse that: “He who dealt in it would have no
share in the hereafter. How wretched was that for which they bartered themselves, if they only
knew! And if they had believed and maintained taqwa, reward from Allaah would certainly
have been better; if they only knew!”

Muslims need to understand that if none of these things can have any effect without Allaah’s
permission, why not go to Allaah directly through sincere du‘aa and rely on Him? Why lose
our share in the hereafter? Why not adopt faith and taqwa that will be better help for us?

In addition to refusing to join in the work they were under obligation by their covenants with
Allaah and by the provisions and prophesies of their books, Israelites started a campaign to
erect hindrances in the way of the Islamic movement and to create problems for the Prophet for
whose advent they used to pray for. They would engage Muslims in useless arguments and
confuse them with tricky questions and false propaganda. They also used to go to the sittings
of the Prophet not to listen, understand, engage in honest dialogue or discuss matters sincerely,
but to amuse themselves by taunting and saying words of disrespect. Instead of being civil,
polite or genuine, they would twist their tongues while pronouncing the words of honour and
respect in such a way that the meaning would become derogatory and derisive. The next
section guides Muslims to help them cope with such Jewish tactics, their uncivil behaviour and
their crude musings as well as to answer the questions that the Jewish propaganda was raising
in their minds and to teach them the appropriate behaviour they should adopt in those
circumstances.
104
O believers, do not say Raa‘inaa rather say Unzhurnaa and listen carefully;
and the disbelievers will have a painful punishment. 105 Those who have
refused to accept Islam whether they are from the People of the Book or from
polytheists do not like that anything good should be sent down to you from

72
Mugheerah bin Shu‘bah reported that anyone who seeks treatment by burning (branding) or by
enchantments has abandoned Tawakkul on Allaah. (Tirmidzee) Abdullaah Ibn ‘Abbaas reported that the
Prophet said, “ those of my followers who do seek cure from burning and do not opt for enchantments but
rather rely on Allaah will be entered into Jannah without severe accountability. (Muslim)
your Lord. But Allaah chooses for His special Mercy whom He wishes, and
Allaah is the Lord of abounding grace.

In the Arabian society, the word Raa‘inaa was used to respectfully beg someone’s pardon if the
first utterance was not properly understood. The Jews would say it in a twisted manner to mean
“O our shepherd” or “O arrogant fool”. They found such taunts amusing, but Allaah is
declaring that, in reality, they were inviting Allaah’s painful punishment. The Muslims have
been told that instead of using Raa‘inaa, they should use Unzhurnaa, which was not subject to
that kind of twisting but had the same sense of begging pardon. In addition, they were advised
to listen carefully in the first place so that they do not have to ask again.

Then they have been told that the rancour of those rejecters of the guidance of Islam is not
limited to their playing these uncivil games; in reality, they do not want to see Muslims
succeed in any respect. But despite the desire and efforts of those enemies to the contrary,
Allaah is free to designate His bounties to whom He wishes and He is going to ensure that the
true followers of the Prophet excel in achieving their Islamic goals.

One of the major objections the Jews used to raise against Islamic teachings was that if the
Qur-aan is also from Allaah as is their book, then why would the Islamic commands be
different from the commands in their books. While raising this kind of question, they ignored a
very important fact. There has been a natural progression and evolution in the commands of
Allaah as they were given to the followers of various prophets and messengers in the past. As
the human society was evolving, Allaah SWT was adjusting his commands accordingly to the
needs of the people at their specific stage in the evolutionary process of maturity. Our Prophet
was sent as the last Prophet of Allaah because humanity had matured to a level that the final
guidance could be given without any need for future changes or updates. In addition to this
natural evolution, there were many additions, interpolations, changes and deletions that
unscrupulous people had made in the previous books of Allaah. The followers of the previous
prophets had invented their own Bid’ah (heresies), changed the teachings of the prophets, lost
some of the teachings or their meaning, etc. Now it was the job of our Prophet SA‘WS to
present Islam in its pure, complete and final form. Consequently, Islam changed some of the
commands that were given to the people of the Book in the past because they were transitional
for their stage of the evolution and now the stage was set for the final version. It rejected all the
Bid’ah or wrong practices introduced and invented by the people of the Book and it restored
some of the teachings that were ignored, forgotten or thrown away. When the Prophet SA‘WS
implemented any of these changes from the previous practices of the people of the Book, the
Jews used to oppose it vociferously, raise objections and bother Muslims with their ignorant
objections. Allaah SWT responded to their propaganda and attacks in the following verse:

106
We do not cancel any verse nor let it be forgotten, but We substitute
something better or similar. Do you not know that Allaah has power over
everything? 107 Do you not know that Allaah's is the kingdom of the heavens
and the earth, and that besides Allaah you have no guardian or helper?

Instead of getting into arguments about why this or why that, Allaah SWT has simply told
them that it is My authority to command people whatever I want. I know what is better for
people at a certain stage of their maturity and that is what I send down in the Qur-aan as my
revelations. If you do not like what I command, then just remember that you will not find any
helper or guardian to protect you from my punishment in my universal kingdom.

Another tactic the Jews used to confuse and frustrate Muslims was to teach them irrelevant,
crooked and convoluted questions to ask of the Prophet. For that the Muslims are being told:

108
Would you like to put questions to your Messenger as Moosa was
questioned before? Note it well that whoever adopts disbelief instead of faith,
he indeed has strayed off the balanced path. 109 Many of the People of the Book
wish that they could turn you back into disbelievers after your faith, out of
their own selfish envy, even though the truth has become evident to them. But
forgive and overlook, until Allaah accomplishes His purpose; certainly Allaah
has power over all things. 110 And establish Ŝalaah and pay zakaah and
whatever good you send ahead for yourselves, you shall find it with Allaah;
surely Allaah sees what you do.

The topic of this kind of unnecessary and irrelevant questions has been fully explained while
commenting on the episode of slaughtering a heifer mentioned in verses 67-71. Now the
Muslims are being warned that all those questions that are being suggested to you are not to
increase your understanding of Islam or to help you to make the right choices. Rather, they are
the product of their envy and the purpose is to misguide you and deprive you of the good that
Allaah’s guidance is going to bring to you. Thus be on guard to watch your own interest
instead of falling victim to propaganda.

This tactic has continuously been used by anti-Islam elements throughout the ages, but in
recent years it has taken a new dimension under the powerful influence of the media owned or
controlled by the Jews. Given the weakness of their faith and their ignorance of Islamic
paradigms, Islamic objectives and Islamic teachings, many Muslims are taken in by the media
propaganda and they start discussing the wrong issues, asking the wrong questions and
spending their time and energies on useless matters. Many of them end up losing faith and
being confused about it. Even if they are able to protect their faith, they end up wasting a lot of
precious time and energies in these discussions.

It does not mean that Muslims should accept everything without asking any questions. That
leads to different set of problems. That makes people accept un-authentic, untrue or heretical
teachings and paradigms, which is equally deadly. Muslims need to know the right questions to
ask, the right time to ask and the right way to ask. For example, people should question faith,
not Allaah’s commands; they should question the authenticity of the source, not the rationale
of commands; they should set their own agenda for exploring, learning and practising the
Islamic teachings and not let the media set their agenda for them.73

73
For a detailed and fully referenced discussion on this topic, please read author’s article “All About
Questions”.
One other point that must be noted is that while keeping on guard against the tactics of anti-
Islam elements, Muslims should be mindful that our dealings remain courteous, civil and
tolerant. Their animosity should not make us slip from our goal of excellence in dealings. We
should overlook their incursions and continue to concentrate on establishing the Islamic system
in the society on the framework of Ŝalaah and zakaah. We must not follow the agenda set by
their propaganda, we must continue with our own strategy and agenda according to the wisdom
we learn from the Islamic mission carried out by Prophet Muhammad SA‘WS.

Both Jews and Christians unite in their efforts to distract Muslims from Islam, even though
their claims are baseless for which neither can bring any logical, sensible or authentic
evidence. The Qur-aan is using this opportunity to explain to them the reality, once again, that
success and salvation all depends on practical obedience to Allaah and aiming for excellence,
not in mythological stories, racism or convoluted doctrines that do not make sense.

111
And they say: None shall enter Paradise unless he be a Jew or a Christian.
Those are their baseless hopes. Say: Bring your proof if you are truthful. 112 In
reality, only he who submits himself entirely to Allaah and is aiming for
excellence will have his reward from his Lord, and there will be no fear for
him nor shall he grieve.

As long as they are working together in targeting Islam and Muslims, both Jews and Christians
are cooperative with each other; but in reality they do not accept the legitimacy of each other.
Ironically, both of them quote the same Old Testament in favour of their claims. Each of them
claims to have a monopoly on the truth, as do the idolaters, who do not know the book at all.

113
The Jews say: The Christians have no legitimacy; and the Christians say:
The Jews have no legitimacy; though both read the same Book. Likewise,
those who do not know the Book. make the same claim. So, Allaah shall judge
their differing claims between them on the Day of Judgment. 114 And who is
more savage than he who prevents people from mentioning Allaah’s name in
His houses of worship, and strives to ruin them? As for such, it is not proper
that they themselves should enter those places except in fear. They will suffer
disgrace in this world and an awful punishment in the hereafter.

All three groups -- Jews and Christians and polytheists -- have fought and destroyed other’s
places of worship in the past. Only Muslims have an enviable record that when they came into
power, all three of them were given full freedom to practice their religion and to maintain their
houses of worship. In fact, their houses of worship were treated respectfully like sanctuaries.
This is despite the fact that whenever Muslims were weak and were taken over either by the
Jews or Christians or by the polytheists, they were stopped from worshipping in masjids of
Allaah. Even to this day, all three groups continue to desecrate Muslim masjids (mosques).
Hindus in India are taking over and destroying historical masjids with impunity. What the Jews
in Israel are doing is witness to their crimes: whenever they feel like it, they ban Palestinians
from praying in the Al-Aqsa Masjid in Jerusalem, they have made attempts to burn it down by
setting it on fire and to destroy it by excavating under it and they have stormed into it wearing
shoes many times, attacking the worshippers inside. Similarly, the atrocities, the bombings and
desecration of Iraqi masjids by American crusaders have been seen on media as witness to
their crimes.

Although Muslims have a good track record of not interfering in the operation of minorities’
houses of worship and not demolishing other’s churches, synagogues and temples, the recent
generation of Muslims have developed a tendency to fight with different sects of their own
faith, and the fighting has reached a stage of interfering in the remembrance of Allaah in the
masjids. In countries like Pakistan, it has taken the worst form where they are killing each
other while praying in the masjids; in other places like Canada, people do not allow a person to
speak or conduct Qur-aanic studies sessions in the masjid, if they do not like any of the views
of the speakers; even if the views of the speaker are fully supported by the Islamic teachings
and that of the administrators are baseless.

When worshipping Allaah SWT, people have to face a direction and places of worship are to
be built facing that direction. The need for a direction to face is a human need which does not
mean that Allaah is only in that direction. He, being Infinite, is in every direction but to fulfill
that human need, He designates a direction for people to face while worshipping Him. In
facing that direction the key is the obedience to the Lord Who can command us to face any
direction He wants and change it whenever He wants. Those who do not understand this spirit
of obedience exaggerate the rule of facing in a particular direction making it an end in itself,
instead of focusing on the spirit of obedience. They treat all physical religious symbols and
rules the same way, making them the objects instead of the religious objectives that they are
designed to achieve. Consequently, they fight over, argue with others and destroy each other’s
places of worship even on issues such as the direction for worship or other rules of religion.
The Jews and Christian both have fought over petty issues of symbolism and exaggerated the
significance of certain symbols, words, rules and personalities. In fact all their religion
constitutes is an exaggeration in these matters. They have totally lost the objectives for which
Islam was sent. Keeping that mentality in mind, the next verse introduces this topic in terms of
Allaah’s infinite boundlessness. This topic will be discussed in detail subsequently from the
perspective of the change of direction Allaah commanded Muslims to make.

115
The East and the West are Allaah’s, therefore, whichever way you turn,
Allaah will be in front; verily Allaah is Boundless, Knowing.

The tendency to exaggerate in terms of rules about physical symbols and places was prominent
among the Jews, the next one -- the tendency to exaggerate about words and persons – is
prominent in Christians.

116
And they say: Allaah has begotten a son. His glory supersedes such notions
of finiteness. Rather, He owns everything and everyone in heavens and earth;
all are submissively obedient to Him. 117 Wonderful Originator of the heavens
and the earth! When He decrees an affair, He only says to it, Be, and it occurs.

People adopt Shirk only because of their wrong perception about Allaah. Instead understanding
the infinite, eternal and absolute nature of Allaah’s attributes, they attach some finiteness, limit
or imperfection to one or more of His attributes. That perception of finiteness leads them to
equating others with Allaah, or in other words, committing Shirk. That is why wherever such a
notion is mentioned in the Qur-aan, it is refuted and people are immediately reminded of the
infiniteness of Allaah by the words, “Subhaanahu”; which means the His infinite glory is
above, beyond, surpassing and transcending any notion of finiteness, limits, or weakness of
any kind. Any people who started ascribing sons or daughter to Allaah have done so for their
wrong views about Allaah. As those topics appear in the various verses, those notions will be
elaborated. Here, Allaah SWT has refuted their claim with two facts: firstly, He owns everyone
and everything in the universe because everything and everyone is His creation. Creation is not
like begetting. He creates, does not beget. Secondly, His ways of creation are beyond human
imagination. He does not need to work like human beings to make things happen. When he
intends that something should happen, the things fall in place and it just happens. He created
this whole universe out of nothing in the same way.

As polytheists and atheists are concerned, they rely too much on their own physical
experiences, not letting their minds think logically, reflect on signs and draw rational
conclusions.

118
And those who have no knowledge of the Book say: Why does not Allaah
speak to us or a sign come to us? Even those before them talked in the same
manner; their attitudes are all alike. We have Indeed made the signs clear for a
people who are open to believe.

The interesting aspect is that regardless of the age or level of knowledge or scientific
advancements, their attitude and mentality is always the same. Their questions, demands and
arguments remain static. Although, they always think that they are enlightened people, yet their
arguments always remain very primitive. The keep repeating the same questions that have been
answered zillions of time in all ages before and can be easily answered if they just open their
minds to let them perform their function of understanding normally.

Their demand about directly speaking to Allaah is so absurd and such a flagrant display of
ignorance of Infinity of Allaah that it has not been even commented upon. For their desire to
see a sign, in terms of a miracle, they are being told that there are countless signs all around
them if they are just open to thinking and understanding. Signs are not lacking; it is their
openness to think, reflect, and understand that is lacking. As is their confidence in their rational
ability and courage to take a stand for what makes sense. In addition to many signs mentioned
in the Qur-aan, the Qur-aan and the life of the Prophet are in themselves great signs.

119
Surely We have sent you with the truth as a bearer of good news and as a
warner, and you shall not be called upon to answer for the sufferers of the
flaming fire.

Regardless of which kind of disbelievers they are, the Prophet’s or his followers’ job is just to
give the message and present the truth of Islamic beliefs in as easy to understand way as
possible. They are not responsible for the reaction of the people to the Islamic message. Their
job is not to change the people but just help them understand the strong basis, logic and
rationale of the message to provide them the opportunity to save themselves.

This point is extremely important for both sides to understand. The disbelievers should
understand it clearly so that they know that believers are doing them a favour by their efforts to
help them receive and understand the message. If they do not get it, it neither a problem with
the message nor with the messenger, but with their own closed minds. It is also extremely
important to understand for the believers because in an effort to convey the message or build
positive relationships, they may start compromising or making the message “:palatable” to the
disbelievers. The reality is that no amount of compromise, “toning down”, “sanitizing” or
adjusting the “teachings to audience” is going to help. Those who are bent upon disbelief will
not be ameliorated for anything less than complete adoption of their paradigms, their attitudes
and their way of thinking. In making such effort a believer may himself lose the salvation.

120
Never will the Jews or the Christians be pleased with you until you fully
adopt their paradigms. Say: Surely Allaah's guidance (Islam) is the only
guidance. And if you follow their desires after the knowledge that has come to
you, you shall have no protector from Allaah, nor any helper. 121 Those to
whom We have given the Book read it as it ought to be read. They are the ones
that believe in Islam; and whoever disbelieves in it, they are the losers.

The verse says, “…until you follow their millah”, which stands for their way of thinking, their
outlook to life, their approach to faith, and their attitude towards obedience to Allaah. In short,
it covers all their lifestyle paradigms and religious paradigms74. Their paradigms are both the
cause and result of their deviation from guidance that was given to their prophets. If a Muslim
leans towards their paradigms, he will lose the balance and moderation of Islam and end up
losing the Islamic path – Allaah’s guidance. Hence, the message must be conveyed tactfully
but without making even slight shift in the practice of Islamic paradigms.

The people who truly understand the message of their religious books and follow them
sincerely recognize the truth of Islam and its paradigms. Thus they progress naturally to accept
Islam and adopt it as their lifestyle. This has been mentioned in Soorah Ra‘d in the following
manner:

“Those to whom We had given the Book rejoice at what has been
revealed to you, though many factions refuse part of it.” Ar-Ra‘d 13:36
As for those who disbelieve in Islam, they are going to be the losers.

74
For detailed discussion of their paradigms, refer to author’s booklet on paradigms and attitudes.
Now that the problems with the Israelites behaviour that caused them to incur the wrath of
Allaah have been listed and the reformation needed has been indicated, the next section
provides an overview of what their mission was really about and what were the goals for which
they were chosen and thus regarded Allaah’s favourite to begin with.
122
O descendants of Israaeel! Remember My favour which I bestowed on you
and that I preferred you over all other nations. 123 And fear that Day when a
person shall not avail another in any way, nor shall compensation be accepted
from him, nor shall intercession benefit him, nor shall they be helped. 124 And
remember when his Lord tested Ibraheem75 by means of certain directives and
he fulfilled them. Allaah said: Surely I am going to make you the leader of
mankind. Ibraheem said: My descendants too? He answered: My covenant
does not apply to the unjust / evil-doers.

These verses indicate the real nature of the Israelites’ status as chosen people and put it in its
proper perspective.

Islam is all about enthusiastic and willing submission to Allaah SWT so that every command
of Allaah SWT is obeyed instantly without any questions or reservations regardless of what a
person has to sacrifice in fulfilling that commandment. Ibraheem was a perfect embodiment of
such submission and obedience. Allaah SWT tested him through the hardest of commands that
required the toughest of sacrifices; Ibraheem always demonstrated the perfect level of
obedience and passionate submission. He dared his parents, family and the whole society to re-
examine their practices, abandon idol worship and accept Allaah as the only Lord thus risking
all his worldly interests, status and standing in the society. He forced them to think by breaking
their gods into pieces risking his personal safety and well-being. Instead of renouncing his faith
or compromising on Towĥeed, he let them throw him into fire to be burnt alive, thus risking
his life for Islam. He left his family, household, people and property and emigrated empty
handed, taking along only his faith and trust in Allaah SWT. After so much du‘aa76 and
request, he was given a son who was his dearest, dearer than his own life. When he realized
Allaah wanted him to sacrifice his only beloved son, he readily proceeded to do so. In short,
everything a human being loves and wants to preserve, Ibraheem sacrificed for Allaah; and
every hardship a human being wants to avoid, Ibraheem bore it for the sake of his faith. His
whole life was a life of sacrifices for Islam and Allaah. It is after the demonstration of this
level of perseverance, steadfastness and willingness to sacrifice everything for Allaah that
Allaah bestowed him the leadership of people – the status of being chosen.

When he was informed of his status, he asked if this status would apply to his descendents. In
response, it was categorically clarified that it is not something hereditary that runs through
generations. It is a performance-based status. Thus, those of his descendents who fail to
properly and wholly submit to Allaah in obedience as Muslims or those who equate others with
Allaah in any respect will be left out of this honour. Once this fact is understood, it becomes
self evident that both Israelites and Makkans -- both groups who feel proud to be the

75
Abraham
76
Supplication, prayer to Allaah
descendents of Ibraheem and consider themselves special -- are excluded from the covenant
and thus are out of favour with Allaah SWT. None of them can legitimately claim to be chosen
people because of their forsaking Islam and rejecting calls to embrace it.

Ibraheem ‘alayhissalaam settled his son and his family in Makkah. But to attain the goals of his
mission, he travelled through the Middle East calling people to Towĥeed and Islam. Then he
built a house of worship in Makkah that was to serve as the centre of the Islamic movement
that he had started. It was the first house ever built solely for Allaah’s worship and thus the
first centre of the Islamic movement. Ismaa‘eel worked side by side with his father Ibraheem in
the construction of the House of Allaah. Both father and son were designated by Allaah SWT
as the caretakers and trustees of this house. Thus, Ismaa‘eel was the first person besides
Ibraheem who was the beneficiary of Allaah’s covenant, designated as being chosen and being
given the honour of being the leader of believers. All of this happened when Isĥaaq (Isaac) was
not yet in the picture.

The next verse indicates the role and purpose of Allaah’s House in Islam and the role of father
and son in service of the house; hence, their special status of leadership.

125
And remember when We made the House a resort for people and a
sanctuary – And commanded people: Make from Ibraheem’s station a place for
your Ŝalaah. And We established a covenant with Ibraheem and Ismaa‘eel
saying that they should keep My House clean for those who visit it to
circumambulate it, who stay in it for a devotional retreat, who bow down and
who prostrate themselves.

The House here stands for the full word “Allaah’s House”, which means the Holy Ka‘bah in
Makkah. The designation of the House as a sanctuary and as the resort to which all believers
turn, associate with and accept as their faith centre also meant that all those believers will turn
to it as their Qiblah77 in their rites of worship. Accordingly, as soon as the Holy Ka‘bah was
built, it was designated the Qiblah for all descendants of Ibraheem from both Ismaa‘eel’s and
Isĥaaq’s progeny and all of their followers. Ismaa‘eel was dedicated to the service of the House
and settled there for that purpose.

The Jews have gone to great lengths to hide the fact that the Holy Ka‘bah was their Qiblah and
that Ismaa‘eel was dedicated to its service. Despite their wholesale efforts to hide the evidence
to this effect, some evidence is still available in the Bible. For example, Gen. 16:12 (Darby),
mentions about Ismaa‘eel that “and he shall dwell before the face of all his brethren”. Or
in Gen. 25:18 (Darby) it says, “He settled before the face of all his brethren.” In the
Jehovah’s Witness’ version it says, “In front of all his brothers, he settled down.” It is a
well-known fact that Ismaa‘eel lived in Makkah. Thus, settling “in front” can make sense only
if Ismaa‘eel was living at a place that they were facing as Qiblah. In addition, if one looks at
the site map of the Temple of Jerusalem, it was built in such a way that the most important
sacrifices offered at the temple would be offered facing the Holy Ka‘bah.

77
Qiblah means the direction to which people face during their rites of worship.
In the second phrase of this verse, which literally means “take from Ibraheem’s muqaam a
place for Ŝalaah”, the “Muqaam” of Ibraheem is interpreted in two ways: One interpretation is
“place of standing” -- the stone on which Ibraheem stood while building Ka‘bah or a place
where he stood for worship. If Muqaam is defined to be a place of standing, adopting a place of
Ŝalaah out of a part of muqaam, as the verse suggests, does not make any sense. However,
according to the second interpretation that is reported from great Muffassireen78 like Ibn
‘Abbaas, Mujaahid and ‘Aŧaa, Ibraheem’s muqaam means his abode or place of residence or a
place where he settled. According to this interpretation, the Holy Sanctuary in Makkah – the
place of Ibraheem’s residence -- is the muqaam of Ibraheem and the House or Holy Ka‘bah is
the designated place of Ŝalaah about which Allaah is commanding people that they should seek
to pray Ŝalaah there. This interpretation makes sense and fits properly in the context. This
meaning is further corroborated by Soorah Ibraheem where he has been quoted describing the
purpose of settling his son in Makkah to be “so that they can establish Ŝalaah”. Thus in the first
part of the verse, Allaah SWT has reminded people how the House built by Ibraheem for
Allaah’s worship was designated as a sanctuary and a central resort for all believers. Then, as a
parenthetical remark, they have been commanded to seek opportunities to worship at that
House. Then the last phrase of the verse explains that, to let this place be a central resort for all
believers, Ibraheem and Ismaa‘eel were commanded to dedicate themselves to maintain the
House and its environment such that it remains most suited for the visitors’ needs of devotion
to Allaah SWT.

The instruction to Ibraheem and Ismaa‘eel to keep the house clean for pilgrims is not restricted
to physical cleanliness, it also implies cleanliness from abominations such as idolatry,
ascribing equals or partners to Allaah and bad customs and practices.

After introducing the purpose of the House, its place in the life of believers and Ibraheem’s and
Ismaa‘eel’s role in that regard, subsequent verses briefly provide a glimpse of the father and
son’s feelings, emotions and du‘aas at the time of settling in Makkah and during the
construction of the House. The first verse expresses his du‘aa at the beginning when he
dedicated his only son for full time Islamic work and settled him in the arid, hostile territory of
Makkah for that purpose.

126
And remember when Ibraheem said: My Lord, make it a City of Peace and
provide its people with fruits, such of them as believe in Allaah and the last
day. He said: Even he who disbelieves, I will let him enjoy for a short while,
then I will drive him to the punishment of the fire; and that is an evil
destination.

To grasp the profundity of this du‘aa, one should keep the environment of Makkah in mind. It
was a totally arid, uncultivable land. The people of the area were nomads who survived by
grazing cattle wherever they could find some greenery, by hunting and by robbing or abducting
travellers or weaker people. To establish a House of Allaah to which people can come for
Allaah’s worship, security and food were the two items needed the most. Similarly, for
Ibraheem and Ismaa‘eel to be able to serve the house with undivided attention, they needed to

78
Exegetes of the Qur-aan.
be free of worries about looking for food and arranging for security. Allaah SWT granted
Ibraheem’s du‘aa so wonderfully that Makkah became the only peaceful place on the earth
where every kind of fruit and produce has been available from all corners of earth. Since
Ibraheem’s time, every generation of people have witnessed Allaah’s blessing on that area in
response to Ibraheem’s du‘aa. Following are some of the examples of how Makkah became a
city of peace and every kind of food was available to its inhabitants:

 The house and its vicinity were declared a sanctuary. Any kind of fight or violence is
completely prohibited. Even killing or slaughtering an animal is not allowed. This has
been the case since the time of Ibraheem. Even during the worst of the violent times,
no Arab will touch an enemy within the limits of the sanctuary.

 Four months of the year were designated for travelling to visit the House. During
those months even the most dangerous territories will become peaceful and the most
savage of Arabs will stop fighting to allow safe passage to the pilgrims going to the
House.

 Even the non-Arab enemies never dared to violate the sanctity of Makkah, except for
one instance. One king violated this peace and attacked with a huge army of
elephants. He was miraculously annihilated by an army of birds. Not a single soul,
human or elephant survived.

 Because of their trusteeship of the House, the Quraish from the descendents of
Ibraheem, were especially regarded and respected. While other tribes were not safe to
pass their caravans through other tribal areas, the Quraish could do so with impunity.
Their caravans were not attacked but rather provided with protection and safe passage
by the tribesmen through their territory. This gave them a chance to flourish in trade
and commerce.

 The pilgrims coming from far and wide would bring all kind of goods and food items
so that there was always plenty of all necessities of life available for inhabitants of
Makkah.

Because of the limitation of the English language, the word translated as “fruits” is
“Thamaraat” which includes all kind of “fruits” that grow on plants and trees whether they are
fruits, vegetables, seeds, grains, pulses, nuts, etc. -- anything that is an edible end-product of a
vegetation. The Arabic word for fruits as we commonly understand them is “Fawaakih”.

When Ibraheem was informed that he had been granted leadership of the believers and he
asked if that leadership would apply to his progeny, he was told that it would apply only to
those of his descendents who submit to Allaah like him and dedicate their lives to the
achievement of Islamic objectives. From this response he learnt that the Islamic faith and
practice is the pre-requisite for Allaah’s bounty. Keeping that in mind, while praying for food
and peace, he requested it only for the believers. But in response to his du‘aa, Allaah SWT
clarified that although the leadership rightfully belongs only to the believers, the utilization of
physical resources of land is available to believers and disbelievers alike. During one’s life on
this earth, anyone who works to acquire worldly resources will be able to acquire them
according to his efforts. No one will be deprived of the fruits of one’s efforts in this temporary
world just because he or she disbelieves in Allaah. Allaah SWT has been magnanimous in this
respect so that people have full freedom to make decisions in this worldly life for a true test for
which they would face results in the Hereafter. And, in the Hereafter, the disbelievers will get
nothing but punishment.

The next du‘aa was prayed during the construction of the House.
127
And remember when Ibraheem and Ismaa‘eel were raising the foundations
of the House and praying: Our Lord! Accept this from us; surely You are the
Hearing, the Knowing. 128 Our Lord! Make us both (Muslims) submissive to
You and raise from our progeny a nation (Muslim) submitting to You, and
show us our rites of devotion and turn to us mercifully, surely You are the Oft-
accepting of repentance, the Merciful. 129 Our Lord! Send amongst them a
Messenger from among themselves who shall recite to them Your signs and
teach them the Book and the wisdom, and purify them; surely You are the
Mighty, the Wise.

This is an excellent example of how to pray du‘aa to Allaah SWT and what to ask for. In terms
of style the humility of the father and son is evident from the outset of the Du’aa. And the
repetition of “Our Lord” indicates the etiquette of making a plea to Him and respectfully
talking to Him as if He is right in front, while addressing Allaah SWT with His attributes that
are pertinent to the du‘aa makes the appeal effective. From the content perspective, it indicates
their real mission and goal in life for which the House is being constructed. The House is not
being built to perform some rituals for Allaah. But it is being built as the centre where people
attain excellence as Muslims and from where an international movement is launched to spread
Islamic excellence to every corner of the world. For that purpose, they start from their own
selves. Although they have already demonstrated to be the best Muslim a person can be and
although Allaah SWT has recognized this quality of theirs, they still start from their own
selves. It gives two messages: First, being Muslim is a continuous improvement program that
must continue throughout one’s life, continuously trying to be better and better; second,
reformation and improvement starts with oneself regardless of how refined a person is. A third
point made by the words of their du‘aa is that the rites of devotion to Allaah SWT can only be
taught by Allaah SWT. Muslims cannot invent their own ways of serving Allaah or change
those taught by Allaah SWT.

The second part of their humble request is for opening people’s hearts to their Islamic mission.
Although 100% of people will never be Muslim, they are praying that enough of the effective
people join their mission so that Islamic lifestyle and system is well-established in the society.
They also realize that with time people lose focus and move away from pure teachings of Islam
and many bad habits, customs and practices are adopted by people over time. Hence it is
important that when that happens, a special Messenger from Allaah is raised to bring people to
true and pure Islam and cleanse them from whatever un-Islamic practices they have picked up.
For that, they pray for a Messenger to appear in that locality from their ( Ismaa‘eel’s) progeny
to launch a reformation Islamic movement making that House as the centre of his movement.
This Messenger should perform three functions:
1. Presenting Aayaat to people: Aayaat means signs. In that respect every creation of
Allaah in the universe and every cosmic phenomenon is a sign of Allaah SWT
indicating his ultimate wisdom, absolute knowledge and limitless power. The first
thing the Messenger was supposed to do was to invite people to think logically and
rationally to accept Allaah as their Lord. Because the verses of the Qur-aan also guide
people to recognize Allaah, they are also called Aayaat or signs. The Messenger was
to use both signs to bring people back to Allaah.

2. Teaching Book and Wisdom: The teaching of the Book was meant to help people
understand the teachings of the Qur-aan at their own intellectual level and to guide
them how to practice those teachings so that Islamic objectives are properly achieved.

Separate mention of teaching wisdom indicates that it was supposed to be something


distinct from the Book. This was meant to teach people how to effectively and
successfully implement Islamic system in the society, how it evolves, what comes
first and what is the order of implementing various modules of the system, how to
discern what is more important and significant at various stages of Islamic movement,
what should be emphasized or de-emphasized in any given circumstance, what has to
be practised rigidly and what should be flexible, so on and so forth. That wisdom is
contained in the Seerah, Sunnah and Ĥadeeth of the Prophet.

3. Performing Tazkiyah: Tazkiyah is purification and reformation so that people are


able to attain Islamic excellence. It is the practical training of people to excel in their
dealings, behaviour and ethics. It is purifying their thoughts and outlook. It is helping
them shift their paradigms. It is assisting them in improving their behaviour and
getting rid of bad practices, customs and traditions. In fact, it is the goal and objective
of everything else in Islam that a Muslim purifies his thoughts, outlook and
paradigms, and excels in ethics, dealings, and behaviour.

In the previous few verses Allaah SWT briefly described the mission of Ibraheem’s life, what
mattered to him and his passion for Islam and its objectives. Thus, the paradigms by which
Ibraheem lived were: submitting to Allaah wholeheartedly without any reservations, adopting
Islam wholly and solely as the system of life and dedicating his whole life to the attainment of
Islamic objectives. But many people who claim to be Ibraheem’s followers such as Jews do not
follow his paradigms. They even consider the true followers of Ibraheem to be fools,
extremists or fundamentalists. About them, the Qur-aan says:

130
Now who would shift away from Ibraheem’s paradigms except a fool? We
indeed chose Ibraheem in the world and in the Hereafter he certainly will be
among the pious. 131 When his Lord asked him to become Muslim
(submissive), he said, “I submit to the Lord of the universe as a Muslim”. 132
And he advised – and so did Ya‘qoob79 -- about it (Islam) to his sons saying,
“My sons, Allaah has selected Islam for you as your Deen, so you must not die
except as Muslims.”

79
Jacob
Thus, to be a follower of Ibraheem, one must submit wholly and solely to Allaah as a Muslim
so that everything else in life becomes subservient to the obedience to Allaah. That is the true
spirit of Islam. The whole life must be spent in that spirit until one’s death. That is what
Ibraheem practised and taught his sons to practice.

Not only was Ibraheem very particular in ensuring that his children and grand children remain
dedicated to the Islamic lifestyle, the tradition continued even after him. Thus Ya‘qoob (Jacob)
followed his example and took covenant from his sons for the same. His example has
specifically been mentioned because the Jews are proud to be his descendents. Accordingly,
they should follow his Deen -- Islam.

133
Were you witness when Ya‘qoob was dying and he asked his sons, “Who
will you serve like slaves after me?” They said, “We will perform slave-like
service only for your God and the God of your fathers Ibraheem, Ismaa‘eel and
Isĥaaq – the one and only God to Whom we submit as Muslims.”

Notice how Ya‘qoob’s sons proudly include Ismaa‘eel among their fathers, indicating no
rivalry or prejudice of any kind among them. This shows that jealousy, rivalry and prejudice
among the two branches of Ibraheem’s progeny that is mentioned in the Bible and practised by
Jews was a subsequent phenomenon interpolated into the Biblical text when it developed.

The next verse concludes the report on Ibraheem and his sons’ paradigms by reminding the
Jews and Christians that Ibraheem and his sons’ dedication to Islam and resulting favours of
Allaah on them are going to be beneficial only to them. Their descendents are not going to
benefit from their piety and righteousness. Islam is not hereditary. Every one stands on his or
her own, according to his or her own faith, deeds and behaviour.

134
Those people have passed away. They will get what they earned and you
will get what you earn. And you will not be asked about what they used to do.

Unfortunately, the Jews and Christians abandoned Ibraheem’s Islam and concocted their own
religions. As if that was not bad enough, they rejected the Messenger of Allaah for whom
Ibraheem had prayed so sincerely when he came and called them back to Islam. Ironically, on
top of their utter misguidance, they want others, especially Muslims, to adopt Judaism or
Christianity to be “guided”. The next verse responds to them nicely and concisely in an effort
to open the mind of those of them who have any goodness and sensibility to get back on a
rational thinking track.

135
They say become Jew or Christian, you will be guided aright. Tell them:
No, the true guidance is attained only by following the paradigms of Ibraheem,
the Ĥaneef -- who had wholly and exclusively submitted to Allaah as a
Muslim, and who was not a Mushrik (polytheist).
The verse mentions “Ĥaneef” as a distinguishing attribute of Ibraheem. Ĥaneef means
someone who exclusively follows a path without letting his attention divert towards anything
else. Ibraheem followed the straight path of submission to Allaah wholly, solely and
exclusively without ever looking back or towards any other direction. This attribute has further
been explained by the phrase that he was not a “Mushrik” – a person who mixes up worship,
loyalty, or obedience to Allaah with any other thing or person so that the other entity usually
gets the level of importance, reverence, loyalty or obedience as should be given exclusively to
Allaah. This is especially emphasized here because both Jews and Christians commit Shirk in
different ways. Jews commit Shirk (idolatry or polytheism) by giving more importance to their
race, to their customs and traditions and to the man-made laws of their rabbis and scholars than
to truth, guidance and Allaah’s original commands. Instead of following the path of Islam like
Ibraheem and his sons, they have become loyal to the collection of traditions compiled for
them by people like ‘Uzair (Ezra). Christians are Mushrik because they have taken Jesus as a
god and also have given up their deen in the hands of their popes, priests and ministers who
determine religion for them rather than they themselves discovering the truth and following the
deen and commands of Allaah. Hence, both of them have moved away from Islam and adopted
Shirk and it is they who need to get back on track by following the ways of Ibraheem.

In response to Jewish and Christian invitation to misguidance, the Muslims have been advised
to tell them:
136
Say: we believe in Allaah and that what has been sent down to us and that
what was sent down to Ibraheem, Ismaa‘eel, Isĥaaq, Ya‘qoob and his
descendents, and that what was given to Moosa and ‘Eesa, and that what was
given to the prophets from their Lord – and we do not discriminate among any
of them – and we are submissive to Allaah as Muslims. 137 Then, if they
believe as you have believed, they found the guidance. If they turn away, they
are given to dissension and conflict. Allaah will suffice you against them; and
he is Listening, Knowing. 138 And say: Adopt Allaah’s hue – what can be better
than Allaah’s hue – to Him we serve like slaves.

These verses categorically state that unless the Jews and Christians believe exactly as Muslims
believe, they remain misguided. Their refusal to accept Islam, which was the Deen of every
prophet and messenger of Allaah, indicates their stubbornness and shows their preference for
causing conflict and discord instead of opting for unity with the universal family of prophets
and messengers and their true Muslim followers. In that case, Muslims should neither relent
nor compromise under pressure from them, but trusting Allaah, they should continue working
for achieving the Islamic goals of universal peace, justice and brotherhood.

The point emphasized here is that all prophets and messengers of Allaah must be believed in,
without any discrimination among them. A rejection of any genuine prophet of Allaah is
considered the negation of the prophethood in general, and thus rejection of faith.

This should open the eyes of those who think that people can attain salvation through Judaism
or Christianity or who deem that those religions can be acceptable to Allaah SWT. Unless the
Jews and Christians accept Islam as it should be accepted and practised, they remain
misguided. Their being people of the book does not expiate their obduracy on misguidance.
They cannot be called people of “Ibraheemic faith” because they neither believe in Ibraheemic
faith (Islam) nor practice it as Ibraheem did. People should not be fooled by the slogans that
claim there are many routes to God. There is only one route to Allaah SWT and that is the
route shown by Allaah Himself, Islam! That is the only path that leads to Allaah and that is the
only path that Allaah SWT has approved for those who want to attain salvation. Although
Allaah SWT has given people freedom to choose their lifestyle or religion, He has also warned
them of consequences of choosing a lifestyle other than Islam; and although Allaah does not
want to force anyone to adopt the guidance, at the same time He disapproves their misguidance
and repeatedly warns that it is totally unacceptable.

Thus the Muslims are required to invite the Jews and Christians that they should take Allaah’s
hue by adopting complete obedience to Allaah as Muslims have done. This invitation calls
upon them to replace their ritual baptism with sincere adoption of Islam.

When a person used to become a Jew or repent as a Jew, he used to take a bath to indicate
starting of a clean, pure life. Over time, it became a ritual of baptism, devoid of its original
spirit. That is how it is currently practised among the Jews and Christians. Allaah SWT does
not need people to follow rituals. Instead, He expects people to shift their lifestyle paradigm
towards Allaah in such manner that their thought process, approach, outlook, lifestyle --
everything in life -- becomes Allaah-centred. That is what the essence of Islam is; that is what
becoming a Muslim means; and that is what Ibraheem demonstrated in his life. In terms of
lifestyle, an Allaah-centred approach takes the form of the complete obedience to Allaah in
everything a person does, which, in other words, is termed as obeying Allaah like a submissive
slave. A person who fully adopts the Allaah-centred paradigm and submits in complete slave-
like obedience to Allaah, is said to be imbued and immersed in Allaah’s hue. Hence, the
Muslims are being asked to invite the Jews and Christians that they should become immersed
and imbued in Allaah’s colour as sincere Muslims, instead of just practising the ritual baptism.
139
Say: Do you argue with us about Allaah Who is our Lord and your Lord?
For us, our deeds and for you, your deeds. We have dedicated ourselves
exclusively to Him. 140 Or do you say Ibraheem, Ismaa‘eel, Isĥaaq, Ya‘qoob
and his descendents were Jews or Christians? Say: Do you know better or
Allaah? And who can be more wicked than he who hides the witness he has
141
from Allaah? Allaah is not unaware of what they do. Those people
have passed away. They will get what they earned and you will get what you
earn. And you will not be asked about what they used to do.

In response to the invitation to join the unifying concept of believing in all prophets and
submitting only to Allaah, if they argue, they should first be frankly told that their insistence on
their misguidance is their problem. As far as Muslims are concerned, they must continue
practising the Deen of Ibraheem by submitting exclusively to Allaah. Muslims neither need
their approval, nor are they responsible for their malpractices. They should also be asked for
the point of their conflict and argument. If they have a problem with Muslims believing in all
of the genuine prophets, then they should realize that disbelieving in a prophet of Allaah is in
fact disbelief in Allaah Who had sent him. Or if they have a problem with Muslims submitting
wholly and fully to Allaah, they should know that Islam has always required that kind of
exclusive submission from all Muslims including Ibraheem, Ismaa‘eel, Isĥaaq, Ya‘qoob and
his descendents. None of them practised Judaism or Christianity, but pure Islam. Judaism and
Christianity were invented long after them through heretical deviations from Islam that they
used to practice. The fact that they preached and practised not Judaism or Christianity but the
same Islam as preached and practised by Muhammad ŝall-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam is clear
even from their own scriptures – a fact that their priests, rabbis and scholars try to hide.
However, they should not forget that their machinations are not hidden from Allaah SWT.

The last point that the current generation of Jews and Christians must reflect upon, is that
Ibraheem and his descendents are bygone generations. Their beliefs and practices are not going
to be of any avail to the current generation. Each person has to be responsible for his or her
own beliefs and practices. Hence, they should spend their time and energies in exploring,
adopting and practising the truth rather than arguing about what the previous generations
believed or practised.
A Summary Review of the Context

Believers in Allaah are required to ensure that the message of Islam in its pristine pure form
reaches all inhabitants of the earth, that everyone is encouraged to accept Islam as their way of
life, that the Islamic system of peace and justice is established in the world and that Islamic
world order prevails over any other ideology. For this purpose, the believers are required to
live like a well-organized, regimented and unified Ummah dedicated to the aforementioned
Islamic objectives and working like a cohesive universal Islamic movement that has its own
headquarters.

Before Muhammad ŝall-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, the Messenger of Allaah, Banee Israaeel
had been given the role of leading this movement and the responsibility of this Islamic mission.
In keeping with this role and responsibility to achieve Islamic objectives, they were given
special status among the people of the world. But they abandoned their mission, neglected their
duty and shirked their responsibility. Consequently, Allaah SWT became displeased with them
and cursed them. Allaah SWT decided to replace them with a new Ummah and for that
purpose Muhammad ŝall-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam was sent.

After the advent of the Prophet ŝall-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, the shifting of responsibility
from Banee Israaeel to the Ummah of the Prophet happened in successive stages. At every
stage of his mission, the Prophet would continue to practice the commands as they were
revealed to the previous prophets, until the new wording was revealed in the Qur-aan on a
specific matter. In those days, the people of the Book were using Jerusalem as their
headquarters and, hence, their Qiblah -- the direction to face during rites of worship.
Accordingly, the Prophet and his followers continued to use Jerusalem as their Qiblah.

In Islam, Qiblah is the established centre of the universal Islamic movement to which all
Muslims must face during their rites of worship as a token of unity and as a symbol of their
loyalty to the unified, global Islamic movement. It is supposed to be the headquarters from
where Islamic work throughout the world is organized, co-ordinated and lead. Although it was
known that the first such headquarter or Qiblah for all Muslims was the Holy Ka‘bah in
Makkah that was built by Ibraheem, Jerusalem was adopted as the headquarters of the Islamic
movement by prophet Sulaymaan and the subsequent prophets. Until Allaah Himself changed
the headquarters back to Holy Ka‘bah in Makkah, it was only appropriate for Muslims to
continue recognizing Jerusalem as the de facto Qiblah or Islamic headquarters.

Change of Qiblah had to wait for an opportune time to happen because such change had very
far-reaching implications such as the following:

It signified formal appointment of Muslims to the office of leadership of Islamic work; hence,
the status of chosen people with the accountabilities and responsibilities that were previously
given earlier to Israelites. Thus it represented an official induction of a new people (ummah) to
the faith and mission of Ibraheem, re-establishing Ibraheemic centre of the Islamic movement
to be the headquarters for the new ummah. For that purpose, it had to wait until the new
ummah established itself as a viable society dedicated to establishing the Islamic system.
Moving Qiblah away from the Israelites centre also meant formal termination of Israelites from
the responsibility of leading Islamic work because of their deplorable performance in that
regard. Even from that perspective, it was necessary that before firing Israelites from the
leadership office and commanding the change of Qiblah, Muslims had established an
independent society where they can start establishing Islamic systems of life.

Once the Islamic society was founded in Madeenah under the leadership of the Prophet, it was
given a few months to lay down its foundations and establish its structure. People of Madeenah
had joyously accepted the Prophet as their leader and the Prophet had consolidated his role as
the head of state through bilateral and multilateral agreements with different factions living in
and around Madeenah. Once that was accomplished, the Prophet knew that it was then time for
change of the Qiblah, for Israelites being formally fired and for his ummah to be formally
appointed through an announcement in Allaah’s official gazette – the oly Qur-aan. Thus, about
16 months after Hijrah (migration for Makkah), the communiqué was issued on this matter.

Before making the announcement, Allaah SWT issued a long charge-sheet concisely
mentioning the crimes committed by Israelites in rebelling against Allaah, in breaking their
covenant with Him and in violating limits set by Him. The charges against them were listed
from verse 40-103, with some concluding remarks until verse 121. Then from verse 122 to 141
people were reminded that Ibraheem was neither a Jew nor a Christian but a pure Muslim and a
very special leader of the Islamic movement and that the Holy Ka‘bah was the original Qiblah
and the centre of the Islamic movement. Now from verse 142, the change of Qiblah is being
announced and discussed.

The first verse comments on the expected Jewish reaction to the announcement. Knowing that
the Holy Ka‘bah was their original Qiblah and knowing its significance and background,
reasonable people would be expected to cheer and welcome its restoration as the Qiblah. But
not the Jews of Madeenah! As predicted, when the change took place, they used it to taunt at,
argue with and launch propaganda against Muslims.

142
The fools among the people will say: What has turned Muslims from their
Qiblah towards which they were formerly facing? Say: The East and the West
belong only to Allaah; He guides whom He likes to the right path.

The second part of the verse makes a very important point about the right attitude towards
religious matters. People who are not blessed with Islamic wisdom usually consider the
religion to be a collection of ritualistic rules. Consequently, they give importance to the details
of ritualistic rules rather than concentrating upon the objective or goals that Islam wants to
achieve with the help of those rules. Hence, when they see a variation in rules, they lose sight
of objectives and fight about the ritual variation of the rules. Those who are blessed with
Islamic guidance and wisdom understand that the concern should not be about what should be
the Qiblah but rather about whole-hearted submission to the command of Allaah SWT Who is
the Lord, Master and owner of all directions and Qiblahs.

The next verse addresses the Muslims and indicates that this change of Qiblah constitutes their
formal appointment as the ummah that is to serve to the people of the world as the best model
of a fair, peaceful, balanced and moderate society just as the Prophet was sent to be a model for
them. Thus, it signifies a chosen status as well as a huge responsibility.
143
Thus, have We appointed you as an ideal Ummah that is justly balanced, so
that you be witnesses over peoples, and the Messenger a witness over
yourselves. And We appointed the Qiblah which you formerly observed only
to distinguish him who follows the Messenger, from him who turns on his
heels. This was surely a hard test except for those whom Allaah has guided
aright. But it was not Allaah's purpose that your faith be destroyed, most surely
Allaah is Affectionate, Merciful to the people.

The Arabic word ‘wasaŧ’ signifies a point of balance and moderation in between the extremes.
Because the point of balance and moderation should also be the best behaviour, the word is
also used to describe that which is excellent, ideal and the best. It indicates Islam in its pure
form as practised by the Prophet and his companions is the best and the most ideal human
behaviour. This brings the best out of humanity and establishes the most excellent, peaceful
and just society. Any deviation from that model is a deviation towards one extreme or another.
And the Muslims have a collective responsibility to demonstrate that excellence of Islam to the
people of the world, which if they do not do, they will be cursed and suffer the same
consequences as the Israelites did.

This verse also provides a point of reflection about the role of the Messenger, which is to
demonstrate the excellence, moderation and balance to the believers. Thus, it implies that
model of lifestyle demonstrated by the Messenger must be emulated by the Muslims.

People nowadays may not be able to understand how difficult a test this question of Qiblah was
for the people at that time. But it was a very challenging test to see if the believers had
internalized the spirit of obedience to Allaah and his Messengers or were they more loyal to the
traditions with which they had grown up as compared to the obedience to Allaah and his
Messenger? The Muslims who had converted from the local population had grown up with
their respect and devotion to the Holy Ka‘bah. It was extremely difficult for them to pray
facing toward Jerusalem instead of towards Ka‘bah. Thus, soon after their acceptance of Islam
as their Deen, their faith was immediately put to the test by requiring them to worship facing
Jerusalem. On the other hand, those who had converted from people of the Book had grown up
with exclusive reverence to the temple of Jerusalem. The test of their sincerity of faith in Islam
and their obedience to Allaah and His Messenger came when the Qiblah was changed to Holy
Ka‘bah.

The next verse gives the command to change the Qiblah. It also indicates that after founding
the fledgling Islamic state of Madeenah, the Prophet was anxiously anticipating the change of
Qiblah and waiting for this command.
144
Indeed We have been watching your face looking up towards heaven, so
We surely are making you turn to a Qiblah which you like; turn, then, your
face towards the Sacred Masjid. Wherever you happen to be, turn your face
towards it. And those who were previously given the Book most surely know
that this change of Qiblah is the truth from their Lord; and they should
remember that Allaah is not at all unaware of what they are doing in reaction to
this change.

One of the reasons Banee Israaeel were cursed by Allaah was that they would go against
matters that they knew had been mandated by Allaah. The matter of change of Qiblah was a
case in point. They knew that it was exactly according to Allaah’s plan and command, all the
while they still attacked the Prophet and Muslims on this issue. Their attacks were so
adversarial and aggressive that it caused natural human anxiety and concern to the Prophet and
the Muslims.

The next verse serves two purposes:


It advises the Prophet and Muslims not to even bother responding to the objections of the
Jews, arguing with them and presenting them all the valid reason and arguments in favour
of the change of Qiblah or making any effort to convince them of its genuine rationale.
These things are useful for those who do not know so there is a hope that responding to
them will educate them and may bring them to Islam. That was not the case with the Jews.
Their objections were not for lack of knowledge or understanding. They knew the truth of
the matter as well as a person knows his or her own children. Their problem was their
obduracy of opposing something while knowing it to be a legitimate matter. In addition,
their scholars tried to conceal the facts that indicated the significance of the Holy Ka‘bah
or its being the original Qiblah for all believers including the Israelites.

The second purpose is to indirectly clarify to the Israelites that regardless of the volume
and frequency of their noise against the change of Qiblah, the Prophet is not going to
backtrack from it. He is not going to disobey Allaah and become a wrongdoer under their
pressure to do so. He is required by Allaah to stand firm on this change and is fully
supported by Allaah in his stand in this respect.

145
And even if you bring all the proof to those who were previously given the
Book, they would not follow your Qiblah, nor can you be a follower of their
Qiblah, nor are they to follow each other's Qiblah. Now, if you follow their
desires after the knowledge that has come to you, then you shall most surely be
146
considered one of the unjust, evil-doers. Those to whom We had
previously given the Book know the significance of this Masjid as they know
their own sons, and a party of them most surely conceals the truth while they
know it. 147 It is the Truth from your Lord (O Muhammad), so be not you of
those who waver.

The emphasis on strictly following the Qiblah has been from the perspective of obedience to
Allaah SWT, of the Holy Ka‘bah being the symbol of Ibraheem’s exemplary devotion and
submission to Allaah SWT and of it being the original centre of the Islamic movement.
Keeping in mind people’s tendency to treat religion as a set of ritualistic rules, the next verse
reminds people of the objective of Islamic teachings – competing and striving to win in
performing the most good works, lest people start viewing Islam also as a religion of ritualistic
rules rather than as an objective-oriented system of life. It also teaches Muslims that instead of
trying to win arguments about which direction is better, the focus should be on winning in
doing good deeds and maximizing virtues. When Allaah SWT gathers every one on the Day of
Judgment, all the arguments will be settled and it will become clear who won in the race for
maximizing virtues and adopting good behaviour.

148
Though every one has a goal towards which he turns, you must focus on
competing and winning in performing good works. Wherever you happen to
be, Allaah will bring you all together to judge your achievements; surely
Allaah has power over all things.

In verse 144, Allaah SWT commanded that wherever the Muslims happen to be, they must
face towards the Sacred Masjid while performing Ŝalaah. The next verse explains that Qiblah
must be maintained during Ŝalaah even when travelling. However, it should be remembered
that the command is to face in the direction of the Sacred Masjid. It does not require people to
face exactly the Holy Ka‘bah, nor does it require people to face exactly the Masjid that
contains the Holy Ka‘bah, but only to face in the direction of that Masjid. Thus, it recognizes
human frailty that people living or traveling faraway may not be able to determine precisely
the exact direction of the Holy Ka‘bah. As long as they face that direction as accurately as
humanly possible in given circumstances, the command is complied with.

149
And from whatsoever place you depart, turn your face towards the Sacred
Masjid. Surely it is the very rightful decree from your Lord, and Allaah is not
at all unaware of what you do.

To conclude the discussion on Qiblah, the next verse repeats both commands in their exact
original wordings – the command to face Qiblah in Ŝalaah while travelling anywhere and the
command to face Qiblah while staying anywhere.

150
And from whatsoever place you depart, turn your face towards the Sacred
Masjid; and wherever you happen to be, turn your faces towards it, so that
people shall have no argument against you, except such of them as are unjust;
so do not fear them, but fear only Me. This change of Qiblah has been
commanded so that I may complete My favour on you and that you may walk
on the right course.

The two commands have been repeated for many reasons:


 To make people realize that these commands cannot be taken lightly and disregarded.
They must be complied with in all circumstances. Although people have been told to
focus on the objectives of Deen such as maximizing virtues and good behaviour,
nobody should discount the importance of rules. While living a life focused on
achieving Islamic objectives, the rules are still important and cannot be disregarded.

 Although the evil elements among the Israelites will never stop their attacks on you,
consistent following of Qiblah will minimize opportunities for their criticism. First of
all, they will not be able to criticize you as they were doing in the past when you were
facing their Qiblah. Their objections like, “if you are facing our Qiblah, why are you
not praying like us?” cannot be raised anymore. Now that everything is back to the
ways of Ibraheem and temporary arrangement is over, they should be able to realize
that it is they who have to answer for their moving away from the ways of Ibraheem,
not Muslims for abandoning Jewish ways. Secondly, if all Muslims wherever they
happen to be are consistent in their obedience to Allaah in this respect, the Jews will
not be able to criticize variation in your practice.

 The third reason for repeating the commands is to explain that the change of Qiblah is
not just a change in a ritualistic rule. It is the official appointment of the Muslims as
the chosen people to lead humanity in obeying Allaah and in implementing the
Islamic systems of universal peace and justice in this world. Thus it is the completion
of Allaah’s favours on Muslims – the favours that started with the advent of the
Prophet.
151
Just like Our favour that We have sent among you a Messenger from among
you who recites to you Our signs and revelations, purifies you, teaches you the
Book and the wisdom and teaches you that which you did not know. 152
Therefore remember Me, I will remember you, and be thankful to Me, and do
not be ungrateful to Me.

The last verse concisely defines the terms of the appointment of the Muslim Ummah to this
position, the compensation they will get and the expected standard of performance.
Accordingly, Muslims must remember Allaah SWT individually and collectively, abundantly
and regularly so that all duties and responsibilities for establishing Islam as a complete system
of life are consistently and effectively fulfilled according to the guidance He has provided. If
Muslims perform this function properly, then Allaah SWT will also remember them and grant
them the promised success, victory, influence, power and make them triumphant in this world
and Hereafter. In addition, they must show their appreciation for the guidance that Allaah has
provided and for being chosen for the noble job of leading humanity in obedience to Allaah.
The appreciation is demonstrated by willing and enthusiastic dedication to the mission and
making this mission top priority of one’s life. Any reluctance, laxity or neglect in the mission
will be considered ingratitude to Allaah that must be avoided. It is implied that if Muslims
forget instead of remembering their duties to Allaah or if they show ingratitude for the mission
given to them, they will face the same kind of consequences and punishments as were faced by
Banee Israaeel.

The task that was entrusted to Muslims was never an easy task. Establishing the Islamic system
of justice and peace entails a long, arduous struggle that is violently resisted and ferociously
opposed by those who want to maintain the existing exploitive man-made systems. Bringing
the desired change requires Muslims to make many sacrifices and endure many hardships. To
crush the Islamic movement of peace and justice, the vested interests who are the beneficiaries
of the existing exploitive systems wage ruthless wars in which numerous human lives are lost.
The Islamic movement succeeds and the true peace and justice is established only if Muslims
persevere and continue moving ahead towards their goals unflinchingly and steadfastly despite
the losses and hardships inflicted by anti-Islamic powers. It is only after Muslims endure
hardships without relenting in their struggle that the help and blessings of Allaah SWT come,
and success and victory are achieved. The next few verses remind Muslims of that reality:
153
O believers! Seek help from perseverance and Ŝalaah; surely Allaah is with
the steadfast. 154 And do not speak of those who are slain in Allaah's way as
dead; nay, they are living, but you do not perceive. 155 And surely We shall test
you with something of fear and hunger, and loss of property, lives and fruits.
And give good news to the steadfast 156 who, when a misfortune befalls them,
say: Surely we are Allaah's and to Him we shall surely return. 157 Such are they
on whom are blessings from their Lord, and mercy. Such are the rightly
guided.

The two key elements that provide the strength needed for an unrelenting struggle for the
achievement of Islamic objectives have been identified to be perseverance and Ŝalaah80.
Ŝalaah, especially that which is performed in addition to obligatory Ŝalaah, in particular
Tahajjud performed in the last part of the night, helps in this struggle by developing a close
bond of relationship with Allaah, by establishing direct communication with the Master, by
giving believers a chance to repose all their sentiments and emotions in Him, by letting them
express their gratitude to Him for His guidance and mercy and by developing a reliance and
Tawakkul that enables them to take on the whole world for Him. Perseverance (Ŝabr in Arabic)
entails a firm resolve and fortitude to continue moving forward without relenting or flinching
despite the severity of the attacks of the opposing forces or the magnitude of the difficulties,
hardships and losses suffered as a result of those attacks. The believers must develop and grow
in this quality through proper understanding of Islamic faith and its objectives, correct
paradigms about life of this world and strong relationship with Allaah established through
Ŝalaah. It becomes much easier when we realize the fact that our life and whatever we own is
all Allaah’s and is temporarily given to us for use according to His directions and that after this
temporary stay in this world and temporary use of what Allaah has bestowed upon us, we are
going to return to Him any way. Whether it is our life or our possessions, they are going to
depart from us sooner or later. So why not let them depart in serving Allaah and working for
His plans and consequently earn His blessings and mercy for eternity. Sacrificing temporary
things for permanent blessings is definitely a rewarding bargain. Those who grasp this concept
and live by it are the ones who are truly guided. They are those who enjoy the presence of
Allaah on their side and His help and His support and success in their endeavours.

Those who are killed during this struggle should not be considered dead. Death is a transitional
step that takes us from this world to the hereafter. When we die, we are taken away from the
test of behaviour in this world to a waiting stage where we wait for the result of our
performance and consequent reward or punishment. However, those who die in the way of

80
Ŝalaah literally means attending to or looking, proceeding or advancing towards something. The act of
Worship where a person leaves everything aside and attends exclusively to the remembrance and
glorification of Allaah is called Ŝalaah. As an act of worship, there is no equivalent word in English,
hence, the word is kept in its original form. When Allaah SWT pays attention to someone with His
kindness, mercy and bounty, that is also called Ŝalaah. When Ŝalaah is used for Allaah’s attention to a
person, it is translated as “blessing”.
Allaah, they are given their reward immediately without waiting for the Day of Judgment.
Hence, they enjoy the pleasures of the life hereafter immediately upon the transitions from this
world to the hereafter. Hence, they are not dead, but living.

Israelites were similarly commanded to seek support from Ŝabr and Ŝalaah81 because they were
required to undertake the same mission and go through the same struggle for the same Islamic
objectives. They incurred Allaah’s wrath, were cursed and fired for abandoning that mission,
for not persevering in its struggle and for not seeking support from Ŝalaah in that respect.
Muslims are suffering and will continue to suffer for the same non-performance, unless and
until they rededicate to the Islamic mission like the companions of the Prophet, seeking help
from Ŝabr and Ŝalaah.

After emphasizing the significance of the change of Qiblah and alluding to its far reaching
implications in terms of appointment of Muslims as the chosen people, and after informing
Muslims that their new office requires them to withstand many difficulties and to make many
sacrifices, the discussion now goes back to a few remaining points about Ibraheem’s true
legacy -- the Holy Ka‘bah and its vicinity as the symbols of pure Islam practiced by him.

158
Verily the Ŝafaa and the Marwah82 are among the Islamic symbols
designated as such by Allaah; so whoever undertakes Ĥajj83 or ‘Umrah84, there
is no blame on him if he circumambulates between them both; and whoever
does good eagerly, then surely Allaah is Appreciative, Knowing.

So far, the previous sections had indicated the significance of the Holy Ka‘bah as the greatest
symbol of Islam (submission to Allaah), the Qiblah of the Muslims and the most important
legacy of Ibraheem and Ismaa‘eel’s love for Allaah SWT. However, the two small hills right
next to the Holy Ka‘bah also had a great deal of historical significance as the symbols of
Ibraheem’s and Ismaa‘eel’s passionate love for and enthusiastic obedience to Allaah SWT. It
was between these two hills that Haajirah ran back and fourth looking for water when left in
that desolate place to stay, and ran out of water while infant Ismaa‘eel was thirsty. It was close
to Ŝafaa that Zamzam85 sprang up as a miracle. It was on Marwah that Ismaa‘eel was offered
as an unprecedented and the most celebrated sacrifice in the history of mankind. Not
mentioning them as Islamic symbols could have been taken to mean that they were not
important as such; especially in view of the fact that they were not designated as Qiblah and
their name and identity was totally erased or completely covered up from the earlier scriptures,
even though their significance was recognized in pagan traditions. Hence, the point has been

81 45
And seek help in perseverance and Ŝalaah, and it is indeed hard except for the humble ones, 46 who
know that they are going to meet their Lord and that unto Him they are returning. Al-Baqarah 2:45
82
Two hillocks in the vicinity of the Holy Ka’bah.
83
Pilgrimage to Holy Ka’bah during the prescribed days of Dzul-ĥijjah, the 12th month of Islamic
calendar.
84
Pilgrimage to Holy Ka’bah at any time of the year outside of the Ĥajj season.
85
The name of the spring that appeared as a miracle to provide water for Ismaa’eel and his mother and
later on to all people who settled there, once water was available.
made that though these hillocks are not mentioned in previous scriptures and there is no
parallel activity among people of the Book in this respect, you should not feel reluctance in
your respect and devotion to these symbols of love for Allaah. You would not be performing a
pagan ritual. Rather, circumambulation between them is a part of rites of Ĥajj. It is a part of
simulating Ibraheem’s family’s devotion to Allaah. Hence, those who eagerly and
enthusiastically follow Ibraheem and his family in complete submission and surrender to
Allaah, He will certainly accept their devotion with appreciation and it will not go unnoticed,
because He knows all of your motives and your actions.

As for those who have manipulated previous scriptures to cover up or to erase any mention of
these important symbols to hide the fact that they are true historical legacies of Ibraheem, they
will suffer severe consequences of their actions.

159
Verily, those who conceal the clear Signs and the guidance that We
revealed after We made it clear in the Book for people, on them shall be
Allaah's curse, and the curse of those entitled to curse; 160 except those who
repent and make amends and openly declare the Truth, these it is to whom I
turn mercifully; and I am the Oft-accepting repentance, the Merciful. 161
However, those who disbelieve and die while they are disbelievers, on them is
the curse of Allaah and of angels and of all mankind. 162 They will stay in that
condition; neither shall their punishment be lightened nor shall they be given
respite.

As we have indicated during an earlier discussion of the teachings of this soorah, the people of
the Book had altered their text to hide that fact that Ibraheem settled in Makkah with his son
Ismaa‘eel, offered Ismaa‘eel for sacrifice on Marwah, and built the Holy Ka‘bah as the Qiblah
and the centre of the Islamic movement that he had started. Most references to these facts were
deleted, Isaac’s (Isĥaaq’s) name was interpolated as if he was offered for sacrifice, the name of
the place of sacrifice was altered to read Moriah, instead of Marwah, and so on and so forth.

Unless they repent and let the truth be exposed, the perpetrators of these crimes have been
given dire warnings of being cursed instead of being favoured as chosen people. Their actions
have been clearly called acts of disbelief, even if they keep claiming faith in Allaah. To Allaah
SWT, if actions and behaviour of a person are incongruent with the demands of faith, the
person is considered faithless, regardless of what he or she claims.

This concludes the discussion on:

 Ibraheem’s exemplary and passionate obedience to Allaah and his dedication to Islam
as a complete system of life;
 Allaah’s appointment of him and those of his descendents who follow in his footsteps
as the chosen people to promote Islam as a complete system of life;
 Allaah’s favours on Israelites and their infractions, ingratitude and obduracy in
response to those favours;
 Their removal from the status of chosen people and their incurring the wrath and
curse of Allaah, angels and believing people;
 Appointment of Muslims as the chosen people to establish and promote Islam as a
complete system of life and the kind of dedication, perseverance and sacrifices
expected of them in doing this job.
 Israelites’ crime of altering the book to hide Ibraheem’s true legacy and to cast a
doubt on the legitimacy of the mission of Prophet Muhammad and Islam.

From verse 163 onwards, Muslims -- the newly appointed chosen people – are being addressed
to provide them the guidance and the preliminary social and economic teachings by which they
must live individually and collectively and on the basis of which the Islamic state should be
founded. These verses provide initial guidelines about establishing an Islamic society and
introduce the first wave of social, political and economic reforms towards the establishment of
the Islamic systems in place of the established un-Islamic customs and traditions of the society.

The instructions begin with an emphasis on Towĥeed86 – the bedrock of Islamic faith and the
Islamic system of life. Because Allaah wants people to adopt Islamic faith rationally and
intellectually, any introduction to Islam or its belief system always starts with reflection on the
signs of Allaah in the universe and in the things around us so that people can reflect on those
signs and intellectually adopt belief in Allaah and Towĥeed as the only view point that makes
sense. Hence, people’s attention has been directed to the signs of Allaah that should be
reflected upon for developing a rational and intellectual understanding of Towĥeed.

163
And your ilaah87 is one ilaah; there is no ilaah but He, the Most Gracious,
the Most Merciful. 164 Behold! In the creation of the heavens and the earth; in
the alternation of the night and the day; in the ships that run through the ocean
with useful things for people; in the rainwater that Allaah sends down from the
skies, thereby reviving the earth after its death and dispersing all kinds of
animals therein; in the change of the winds, and in the clouds which are
controlled between the sky and the earth -- indeed are signs for people who
have sense.

86
The Islamic term “Towĥeed” represents a true faith in Allaah as the One and Only Creator, Owner,
God, Deity, Sovereign and Ruler: Who has absolutely no partner in Divinity, equal to Him in any respect
or similar to Him in any way; Whose commands, guidance or instructions must govern every aspect of a
believers’ individual and collective life so that no aspect of life or lifestyle is considered secular or being
out of the purview of His guidance or commands; Who must be obeyed unconditionally and without any
reservations whatsoever; Who must be accepted as the Ultimate Authority, obedience to Whom is first
and foremost so that obedience to anyone else is secondary to the obedience to Him and is subject to the
limits imposed by Him; Who is loved so much that every other love is subservient to the love for Allaah;
and Whose pleasure is sought as the sole goal of life even if it requires displeasing everyone else in the
world.
87
Ilaah is any entity worshipped, respected, loved, followed, obeyed, given importance or preferred over
others as a god should be. It can be anyone ranging from the God, to a false god, a leader, a philosopher, a
ruler, a parliament, an organization, a sweet-heart or one’s own desire – whatever is given the same
importance or status as a god or more than a god.
The first verse emphasizes Towĥeed in three ways: Firstly, it states the fact with an emphatic
positive statement that Allaah is the only God, Deity, Sovereign, Law-giver, and Master and
the only one worthy of our worship, reverence, devotion, unconditional obedience and instant
submission. Secondly, it reinforces that fact with a negation of any other possibility. Thirdly, it
mentions two of Allaah’s most outstanding attributes; that He is the Most Gracious and the
Most Merciful. These attributes have special relevance to reinforce the concept of Towĥeed
and to develop a real appreciation for Allaah’s relationship with us. Considering the glory,
greatness and absolute power of Allaah SWT, many people think of Him like they do of
powerful dictators of the world who are usually vicious, ferocious and cruel. With that kind of
concept in mind, people try to find those who are close to Him or are liked by Him so that they
can intercede for them. This sentiment leads people to give the intercessors as much
importance and reverence as should be given to Allaah, thus leading them to Shirk or assigning
equals to Allaah. People are being told that Allaah should not be approached or considered in
this manner, because He is extremely kind and merciful. In fact He is so kind to people that He
has devised the whole universe to support their existence.

The second verse lists some examples of the signs in the universe that can guide people to
realizing the Towĥeed of Allaah and His kindness.

If a person reflects sincerely and honestly on the signs of Allaah mentioned in this verse, his or
her heart and mind will witness that the working of all of these systems harmoniously to
facilitate and support life on this earth indicates that they are creation of a Grand Designer and
a Knowledgeable Creator who owns all these finite things and who has power over them. He is
infinite and thus only One and Unique. Understanding of these signs pointing to one Infinitely
Wise and Powerful Creator has become a lot easier with the new scientific discoveries and
advancements in human understanding of physical and natural systems. From the creation of
the universe with the big bang and the speed and force of the bang; the mass, velocity and
distance of planets, stars and galaxies; the existence of certain types of stars such as red giants;
the structure of our solar system and rotation of the earth; the properties of water, the role of
the ocean and water-cycle and the role of winds; etc., everything has been designed to bring
life into existence and to maintain and sustain it. Similarly, within the living things, putting
human beings at the top of the food chain while making everything else from vegetation to all
kinds of animal life serve different roles and purposes to make human life more sustainable
and easier – all these arrangements for our sake shows that not only is the Creator One, but is
also so kind and merciful that He kept our welfare in view in designing every part of the
universe and every aspect of its creation.

165
Yet there are some among people who treat others besides Allaah as His
equals, loving them as they should love Allaah; but those who truly believe are
much stronger in love for Allaah. If only the evildoers who unjustly equate
others with Allaah could realize now what they would realize when they would
face the punishment that to Allaah only belongs all power, and that Allaah is
very severe in punishing. 166 At that time, those who were followed shall
disown those who followed them, will face their punishment and all resources
and relationships will be cut off from them. 167 While the followers will say:
“If only we had just another chance, we would renounce them as they (the
leaders) have disowned us.” Thus will Allaah show them their deeds, which
will be cause of intense regrets to them, and they shall never be able to come
out of the Fire.

Equating any other entity with Allaah is the antithesis of Towĥeed. Other entities may be
equated with Allaah in two ways:
1. Assuming that a person possesses a divine attribute such as being omni-present,
having absolute knowledge, having power or authority over nature of things, being
able to respond supernaturally to the needs of people, etc.;

2. Giving what we owe to Allaah to someone else is treating that person equal to or more
important than Allaah. It is Allaah’s rights on us that: we worship only Him; accept
him as our Supreme Sovereign and our Master who has the sole right to be the
ultimate and inviolable source of law for us, to determine Ĥalaal and Ĥaraam for us,
to designate good and bad for us, to provide guidance to us, or to dictate the goals of
our life and resources for us. We owe to Him that we obey him unconditionally,
submit to him wholly, solely, instantly and enthusiastically and live the way he wants
us to live, turn to Him as the last resort, fear His punishment more than any loss,
setback or danger in the world, love Him more than anyone else or anything else in
the world, repose trust in Him more than any other entity, power, resources or means
and prefer Him over anything or anyone else in the world. If we give these rights to
anything or anyone else, we are equating that person, entity or thing with Allaah. It
may be our own desire, law of the land we are living in, a powerful ruler, a fascist
dictator, a vicious enemy, something or someone most beloved to us, a human
benefactor, a world power – if we give in to the desire, verdict, demand, request,
suggestion or command of anyone in violation of or preferring over what Allaah SWT
wants us to do at that time or in those circumstances, we have made that person or
things Allaah’s partner -- an equal or even greater than Allaah.

Mostly people violate Towĥeed because of their liking or love for something or someone that
makes them transgress Allaah’s boundaries. Some people may see fear of loss of life or means
of sustenance as another factor that may cause people to disobey Allaah, but in reality, it is not
the fear that makes people disobey. It is rather the love of life or means of sustenance which
people are scared to lose that causes them to opt for disobedience. The true believers love
Allaah the most and do not let their liking of anything or anyone else take priority over their
love for Allaah. They prefer Allaah and His commands over everything else in their life and
are wholehearted and promptly willing to sacrifice everything else for the sake of Allaah, His
approval and His pleasure.

Those people who disobey Allaah or neglect in performing according to His commands for the
sake of other people will experience the greatest disappointment of their life when they will be
totally disowned and categorically renounced by those for whose pleasure they disobeyed or
disregarded Allaah and His commands. But by then, it will be too late to realize their mistake
and there will be no second chance. The chance to give Allaah due importance, the highest
preference and the sincerest love is right now.
The one most prevalent form of Shirk (equating others with Allaah) is letting anyone else other
than or in addition to Allaah determine what is Ĥalaal or Ĥaraam, what is good or bad and
what is permissible or impermissible in the matters of lifestyle and culture. Those who abide
by or respect the customs and traditions of society or the cultural norms of their community,
even though those practices or norms have no basis in Islamic teachings, they practice Shirk,
violating Towĥeed. In fact, it is the litmus test that indicates how sincere or genuine one’s faith
is. In the next set of verses, Allaah SWT addresses this issue from the perspective of what is
lawful to eat and what is not. He invites people to enjoy every good thing that Allaah has
declared Ĥalaal and to abandon the dictates of the society in the matters of what is Ĥalaal to eat
and what is not.
168
O people, eat good and Ĥalaal things from the earth and do not follow the
footsteps of Shayŧaan, he surely is your open enemy. 169 Verily, he incites you
towards evil and indecency and to say about Allaah what you do not know.
170
Despite this, when people are asked to follow the commands that Allaah has
revealed, they insist on following the practices of their forefathers – even if
their fathers neither understood anything nor were they guided. 171 The
example of those who disbelieve by disregarding Allaah’s commands is like a
shepherd calling cattle who merely hear a call and a sound. They are deaf,
dumb and blind who do not understand anything.
172
O Believers, eat the Ĥalaal things that We have bestowed upon you and
thank Allaah, if you truly worship Allaah. 173 The only restriction He has
placed upon you is to avoid carrion, blood, pork and an animal slaughtered or
food gifted in other than Allaah’s name. Even for these items, if someone is in
dire situation and eats without intending the violation or without exceeding the
least required for survival, he will not be considered sinful. Surely, Allaah is
Forgiving, Merciful.

Allaah’s commands about our food are few and clear. The first rule is that the food must be
good, pure and clean (Ŧayyib in the words of the Qur-aan). Then, if the food is animal based,
the animal must be Ĥalaal (allowed by Allaah SWT or His Messenger), not prohibited like
swine; it must not be carrion, but a live animal slaughtered for food in Allaah’s name; it must
not be blood, even from a properly slaughtered Ĥalaal animal; and it must not be slaughtered in
other than Allaah’s name. If these rules are observed, it is Ĥalaal (allowed) forever without any
qualifications of time, place or any conditions. If any of these rules are violated, it is Ĥaraam
(disallowed) forever, except for a rare situation where a person has no alternative but to eat
Ĥaraam temporarily, without desiring it or exceeding the least quantity a person is forced to eat
under the circumstances. Any other so called religious pronouncement, other than these rules,
about allowing or disallowing certain foods or certain animals in certain situations or certain
times are all inventions of Shayŧaan who openly vowed to misguide people through his
inventions and incitements. Examples of these inventions include: Dedicating any animal as
sacred, holy or special so that it cannot be used for human benefit or slaughtered for food;
Hindu’s treatment of cows; Jewish practice of not eating rabbit, camel, or the hind leg of beef
as well as not consuming dairy products and meat products in the same meal; Christians eating
of pork, carrion meat (slaughtered without Allaah’s name), and drinking alcohol; Catholics not
eating meat on Fridays, and insisting on eating fish instead; Sufi’s not eating meat during
certain times of their devotion; some so called “Muslim” sects specifying or avoiding certain
foods for certain days or certain foods that can be eaten within a certain location or by females
only; strict vegetarianism where a person religiously avoids meat products; etc. All such
notions are misguidance that must be abandoned by those who believe in Allaah as the only
ilaah – the authority to declare what is allowable and what is not allowable.

The point about “not following his footsteps” is important to reflect: Shayŧaan makes us go his
way by misguiding us step by step, one tiny deviation at a time. With that approach of making
a small, seemingly innocuous compromise at a time, people do not realize that they are drifting
away from the straight path. While they continue to think that they have not made any
significant, meaningful change in direction, people shift to Shayŧaan’s tracks that take them far
away from the straight Islamic path.

Those who profess faith in Allaah or claim to be Muslims must immediately abandon all
innovations in the matters of Ĥalaal and Ĥaraam, observing only the restrictions placed by
Allaah SWT. This is the first indication from a believer whether he or she has adopted Islam as
a Deen or merely as a religion like other religions. Aligning one’s eating preferences according
to Allaah’s commands of Ĥalaal and Ĥaraam is where the reformation of a Muslim society
begins once it has been corrupted by malpractices, deviations and innovations. Generally the
strongest factor that keep people from abandoning old practices and practically aligning their
likes and dislikes with Allaah’s commands is that they want to stick with the practices of their
parents and society. Even when they are told about Allaah’s commands, they remain unwilling
to go against the practices of their parents or society. This way they fail this first small test of
Allaah’s obedience. People who hear commands of Allaah but remain loyal to their parent’s
ignorant and misguided practices have been likened to a herd of cattle that hears voices but
cannot understand the meaning or significance of those voices. It is as if they are deaf, dumb
and blind, devoid of any sense or wisdom. Had they possessed any sense or wisdom, they
would enthusiastically and instantly submit to Allaah’s commands and abandon everything in
their parents’ practices that does not conform to the guidance of Qur-aan and Sunnah because
anything that is variant from the Qur-aan and Sunnah is misguidance and ignorance, not
founded on knowledge or wisdom.

174
In reality, those who cover up the commands that Allaah has revealed from
the Book and barter them for paltry price (temporary worldly benefits) they are
filling their bellies with Fire. Allaah will not talk to them on the Day of
Judgment, nor will He regard them purified (holy). Rather, they will incur
painful punishment. 175 They are those who preferred misguidance over
guidance and punishment over forgiveness. What a resolve they have for Fire.
176
This is despite the fact that Allaah sent down the Book with Truth, but those
who differed from the Book went too far in their opposition.
Another strong factor that keeps heretic customs and traditions of the forefathers alive and in
full force are the so called scholars (rabbis, priests, ministers and mullahs) who continue to
harp in favour of those traditions and even invent scriptural support for them, while ignoring
and even intentionally hiding the clear teachings of the Book that will negate those practices.
Usually their motive is to keep or increase their flock and preserve the economic benefits that
accrue from it. Any worldly benefit they accrue is in fact paltry because it is temporary and
insignificant compared to the eternity of the hereafter. Because of their short-sighted worldly
approach and their dishonesty in their preaching in favour of ignorant and misguided customs
and traditions, they have been given warnings of dire consequences in the hereafter. They are
those who are considered to be the holy ones who have special status with Allaah. In view of
their disgusting behaviour, Allaah will not even talk to them, acknowledge them or even look
at them so that their followers know their true status with Allaah. Knowing the severe
punishment that awaits those who disobey Allaah or fabricate things in matters of deen, their
obduracy and callousness in this regard is really strange. Do they really believe in the hereafter
at all, or is it just a façade they have put forth to advance their careers in the world?

This concludes the first lesson in reforming people’s attitude about religion. Muslims were
clearly told that believing in Allaah alone (Towĥeed) is not limited to the matters of ritual
worship. A Muslim’s whole life must be governed and dominated by the commands of Allaah.
Even in as mundane matters as what food to eat and what to avoid must be decided in
conformance to the commands of Allaah without any consideration of or attention to or regard
for local culture, customs or traditions.
The next verse gives the second lesson about Islam as deen instead of it being a ritualistic
religion.

Most people consider religion as merely a set of rites of worship that are performed as ends in
themselves. From that perspective, a person who performs those rites meticulously and
faithfully is considered pious. Beyond those rituals, the religion has nothing much to do with
the rest of life. With that kind of notion in their minds, those people think of Islam in the same
manner, while in reality, Islam is totally different. Islam is a goal-oriented religion that requires
its adherents to develop excellence in their personality and a lifestyle of living by principles of
excellence, magnanimity, sacrifices and perseverance in a life that is dedicated to establishing
Islamic peace and justice in the world. Even its rites of worship are designed to achieve those
Islamic goals. Thus in Islam a pious, righteous or loyal believer is one who continuously
strives for achieving personal excellence and the aforementioned Islamic goals.

To clarify this important aspect of Islam, the next verse uses the example of the Qiblah
direction to indicate that regulations such as these, although important tools for religious
purposes, are not the objectives of the religion. Islamic goals are not achieved by treating these
rituals as goals in themselves. Islamic goals are achieved only by developing an Islamic
personality through using rituals, such as the Qiblah direction, as tools to develop that
personality. Then the verse lists the important qualities that constitute an Islamic personality.
The use of the Qiblah example was very ideally suited because of Allaah’s recent command to
Muslims to face Holy Ka‘bah as Qiblah without any exception or reservation, which could
have misconstrued and led people to believe Islam was ritual-oriented like other religions. It
was also suitable because the Jews had made the direction a big issue of contention as if
direction itself had significance, not obedience to the command of Allaah Who has the right
and authority to specify any direction He wants or to change it whenever He wants. Hence, it is
being emphasized that despite the importance of rites of worship as tools to help in achieving
Islamic goals, the real aim of Islam is to bring the positive changes in the personality towards
excellence, salient features of which have been highlighted in the verse.
177
Piety88 is not turning your faces towards East or West in prayer. But piety is
a descriptor of a person who: Believes in Allaah, the Last Day, the angels, the
Book and the prophets; gives his favourite89 assets90 out of love for Him to
relatives, orphans, the needy, the traveler, to those who ask, and to free the
subjugated91; establishes Ŝalaah and pays Zakaah; is one of those who are very
particular about fulfilling their promises when they promise; and, is of those
who are outstanding in perseverance during adversity, suffering and war. Such
are the true believers and such are the people who have Taqwa.

88
The Arabic word “Birr” that has been translated here as piety literally means a person’s quality of
fulfilling his/her obligations with loyalty. It can be translated as piety, faithfulness and loyalty.
89
They are “favourite” because he himself needs them and loves them.
90
Includes money and all kind of possessions.
91
Slaves or people subjugated financially or socially.
The Noble Qur-aan uses the word Birr as a descriptor for Islamic personality and the word
Taqwa as the descriptor for the minimum acceptable standard of dedication towards the
achievement of Islamic personality: Birr is the pious behaviour or righteousness resulting from
a person’s fulfilling his/her obligations to Allaah with loyalty and faithfulness. The person who
has Birr can be called a loyal believer, a pious person or a faithful devotee.

Taqwa is the attitude and approach of a Muslim towards affairs of life that distinguishes him
from a non-Muslim. It is the result of the paradigm shift brought about by the continual
awareness, remembrance and consciousness of Allaah that the true faith in Allaah (Eeman)
causes. As was explained while discussing the second verse of this soorah, Taqwa is a state of
mind, an attitude and a paradigm of life that is characterized by the following kind of
consciousness, care, caution and avoidance:

 Being conscious of our accountability to Allaah and being mindful that He is well
aware of all our actions, intentions, thoughts and behaviours.
 Being careful and anxious to fulfil one’s duties to Allaah as His slaves.
 Being cautious not to get involved in anything that may be disliked by Allaah.
 Being particular about living in a way that will avoid disobedience, displeasure or
punishment of Allaah.

Having an attitude of Taqwa is the minimum standard of devotion expected of a Muslim.

The verse defines piety in terms of the attributes of Islamic personality and ends with a
statement that those who have these qualities are truthful and have Taqwa. Thus, only those
who possess all the qualities mentioned in this verse are true in their claim to be Muslims and
to have Taqwa -- the minimum level of commitment to Islam.

The verse categorically denies that fulfilling certain religious rites can be regarded as Birr
(piety or righteousness) in Islam. It asserts that Birr is living a life that is deeply characterized
by Taqwa, personal excellence and other qualities essential for fulfilling the Islamic mission of
creating an ideal, peaceful, just, caring and magnanimous society that establishes and
maintains human equality, fairness, justice and peace in the world.

When the prophets or messengers of Allaah were sent, their followers adopted that kind of
piety. However, as a result of degeneration of religious performance and satanic influences
over time, people lose this comprehensive concept of Birr (pious behaviour). After this
degeneration in perception, most people think piety constitutes ritual manifestations or the
mechanical performance of ritual acts of worship. Words like righteousness, piety and Taqwa
conjure in their minds merely the image of certain kind of dress, appearance, rites and
formalities. Religiosity of a person is measured in terms of those images. The emphasis is on
form and appearance, not substance. The spirit and intent of the acts of worship is not given
much consideration. The mission is completely forgotten. Knowledge is considered to be
mastery of intricate rules and regulations about the rites and formats of worship – the rules that
create divisions and sects, but are devoid of missionary spirit. Respectable scholars are
considered to be Fiqh experts who dazzle the people with their command of a petrified body of
hair-splitting regulations and thus reinforce the inertia of the Ummah. The revolutionaries who
follow the footsteps of the prophets in initiating the movements to establish an Islamic system
of life and who are imbued with the spirit of the Islamic mission are disregarded and
disrespected. The concept of a dynamic Islamic movement becomes a strange idea. Continuous
lifelong Jihaad (hard work to create an atmosphere of obedience to Allaah, peace and Justice),
which is vital obligation of faith, is abandoned. Rather, the concept of Jihaad is relegated to
Qitaal (fighting and war) and that is considered unnecessary in the current circumstances,
hence abandoned. Even the most religious persons and those who dedicate themselves to
Allaah cop out of the difficult way of Jihaad and opt for heretical, but easy way of asceticism
(Sufism).

This was the condition of Jews at the time of Prophets Jesus and Muhammad, peace be upon
them. When called upon to accept Islam with its revolutionary and dynamic flavour, they
opposed it vehemently and remained clung to their preoccupation with the hairsplitting
intricacies of ritual regulations (Fiqh) or their heretical asceticism (Sufism).

When Qiblah was changed for Muslims from Jerusalem to Holy Ka‘bah in Makkah, many
people with the ritualistic mentality, especially the Jews of Madeenah, used the change to
unduly attack Islam and tried to sow the seeds of discontent in the minds of Muslims. They
reacted as if the crux of the worship was the direction itself, not the obedience to Allaah who
can command Muslims to face whichever way He wants. Although the acts of worship are only
tools to strengthen the spirit of obedience and servitude to Allaah and to organize and mobilize
the mission-inspired believers, their reaction demonstrated the mentality where the form, rules
and appearance of ritual acts become the objects of worship in themselves.

Through this verse, those notions of religiosity have been dispelled. Muslims have been told
that pious, faithful behaviour is not just performing some ritualistic exercises such as turning
one’s face to this Qiblah or that. It is much more than this. It is in fact a matter that must
encompass the whole personality and lifestyle of a person. Accordingly, if someone has the
characteristics described in the following paragraphs, that person can be counted among those
who have pious behaviour. Otherwise, he has neither Taqwa nor piety, regardless of the
appearance and religiosity of that person:

1. True faith in Allaah, the Last Day, the angels, the Book, and the prophets is the foundation
on which Islamic personality is built.

True belief in Allaah leads people to believe in the Last Day when Allaah will hold
everyone accountable. That day, He will administer perfect justice on non-Muslims,
demonstrate His boundless Mercy on sincere believers and ensure that every victim of a
crime or injustice in this world is fully compensated. The belief in Allaah and Last Day
also leads to the belief in angels as they are the main workers who perform the work
Allaah assigns to them – especially in relation to keeping the record of the actions of
people and delivering the Justice and Mercy of Allaah on the Day of Judgement. Angels
also are the vehicle for transmitting Allaah’s commands and revelations to the prophets
and messengers by which people will be judged. The belief in angels, in turn, leads to the
belief in the Book that archangel Jibreel (Gabriel) has been bringing to the prophets.
Notice that The Book is mentioned here, not books. It reminds that guidance from Allaah
for human beings has been consistent and constant, originating from one source -- The
Book. The Noble Qur-aan contains The Book. The mention of The Book leads into the
belief in the prophets through whom The Book was presented to people and demonstrated
in action – especially the last prophet, Muhammad, whose life was exactly according to
The Book.

2. The first distinguishing characteristic of a person with true faith is sharing whatever he has
with fellow human beings for the love of Allaah. Sincere believers do so even if they do
not have much to share and even if whatever they have, they themselves are in dire need
of it. In Soorah Al-Ĥashr, their quality is mentioned in the words, “They prefer others over
themselves even if they are particularly in need.” (Al-Ĥashr 59:9)

A similar level of generosity was specified when the Prophet was once asked what is the
best charity. He responded, “a poor man giving from his little income to a relative who
harbours animosity towards him.”

This kind of devotion to giving for the sake of Allaah is a required quality for a person to
be at the right level of Birr (piety, meeting Islamic obligations). This is directly described
later on in Soorah Aali ‘Imraan, “You cannot attain Birr (appropriate level of piety) unless
you spend from what you love.” (Soorah Aali ‘Imraan 3:92)

People love to accumulate wealth and resources. Some of their possessions are especially
dear to them. But a pious Muslim’s love for Allaah is so strong and so real that he donates
his most needed, favourite or valuable possessions for the sake of Allaah. A person cannot
be pious without this kind of generous attitude.

The first generation of Muslims had an amazing record of acts of generosity. When the
verse about spending what one loves was revealed, Aboo Ŧalĥa gave his favourite, the
most valuable and the most productive orchard as charity in the way of Allaah. ‘Uthmaan
gave his whole caravan of goods during a period of grain shortage in charity for the love
of Allaah when the traders were offering him highly attractive prices for the same. Aboo
Bakr used to support a particular person financially. When that person became very active
in spreading false rumours about his daughter, Abu Bakr continued the support. Later on,
Aboo Bakr donated everything he owned at the time of the Tabook expedition. History is
replete with examples of the generosity of those noble souls.

Generosity is given so high an importance because it is the key characteristic of the society
Islam wants to establish -- a society where human propensity towards greed and
selfishness is replaced by the spirit of sharing and taking care of all members of the
society. Just this one paradigm shift in the society removes major causes of injustice,
conflicts, and transgressions. It creates a loving and peaceful environment where the
whole humanity is considered one huge family.

The people who deserve sharing of resources from a believer, in the order of priority,
include: close relatives, orphans, poor, displaced people, those who ask for charity and to
free up people under any kind of bondage or subjugation.

The Noble Qur-aan usually includes travelers in the category of legitimate recipients of
charity. Although a traveler may be rich at home, the circumstances of travel may put him
in a situation where he needs help. In this day and age of hotels, banking cards and
electronic fund transfer facilities, it may not seem important but in the old days, travelers
in trouble had nowhere to go for help except the people of the locality he was passing
through. Besides, the lack of hotel facilities required that the locals host the travelers who
happen to be in their neighbourhood. Even nowadays, it will be an excellent idea to host
and entertain visitors to your locality. This will go a long way to create a friendly, loving
society Islam wants to create. However, the people who are displaced by disasters or
violence will definitely deserve help, as did travelers in early days of Islam.

Separate mention of those who ask for help indicates two things. Firstly, the orphans and
poor should be proactively cared for and helped. They should not have to resort to asking.
Secondly, those who ask should be given whatever we can afford without worrying about
whether the requester is deserving or not. Obviously, we should not keep our eyes closed
if it is blatantly clear that the person asking for help is not deserving or that he is abusing
the system. However, we should not refuse charity because we do not know how
deserving a requester for help is.

Encouraging Muslims to financially help those who want to free themselves from bondage
was one of the many ways Islam achieved an end to slavery. That is why slavery was
finished in the Islamic world long before any other civilized people could get out of it.
And unlike other nations, it disappeared from Muslim society very peacefully, within the
normal functioning of the society, without any civil war or social upheaval. The category,
however, is still valid to help people who may come under other kinds of bondage, such as
excessive, crippling debt or foreign occupation.

We must keep in mind that this generosity and spending is over and above the obligatory
Zakaah which is expressly mentioned in this verse later on. A Muslim’s duty does not end
with paying Zakaah but continues beyond it to share one’s resources as mentioned in this
verse and others like it.

3. The next attribute of faithful people listed in this verse is that they establish Ŝalaah and
pay Zakaah. While discussing establishment of Ŝalaah in the commentary on the first part
of Al-Baqarah, it was mentioned that establishment (Iqaamah) of Ŝalaah is a
comprehensive term and includes many personal, communal and political dimensions. It is
both a vehicle for establishing a close personal relationship with Allaah as well as the
foundation for organizing the Islamic society into a coherent socio-political entity.

As a vehicle for building a close relationship with Allaah, establishment of Ŝalaah requires
attentive glorification and remembrance of Allaah, heartfelt intimacy with Him, and
utmost humility and submissive surrender of one’s whole self in front of Him.

As the foundation for organizing Muslims into a dynamic and vibrant socio-political
entity, establishment of Ŝalaah requires that it be offered in Jama‘ah (Congregation) with
all the disciplines that go with it: timeliness, straightening of lines, changing positions in
unison, listening and following Imaam, not pre-empting Imaam, manner of behaving when
Imaam makes mistake, etc. In this regard, Ŝalaah is the drill of the soldiers of Allaah that
trains them in social discipline, communal etiquettes, organizational regimentation like a
military unit, acting in unison in an integrated manner, co-ordinating activities, taking
orders, obeying commands and becoming a cohesive group of functionaries dedicated to
the establishment and maintenance of the Islamic state. Thus, the congregational Ŝalaah
(Ŝalaatul-Jama‘ah) becomes the single most important instrument of knitting Muslims into
an Ummah (Jama‘ah). This drill performed five times a day joins the hearts and minds of
the members of the community and serves as the mortar that binds the community of
believers together. Most importantly, it provides the basic setup to politically organize the
community at local, municipal, regional and state level through daily Ŝalaah, Salaatul-
Jumu’ah and Ŝalaatul-‘Eed and Ĥajj.
It is for these benefits92 and its role in the establishment of a Muslim community
(Jama‘ah) that the Messenger SA‘WS emphasized congregational Ŝalaah so highly that
individual Ŝalaah is deemed to be unacceptable where congregational Ŝalaah is possible.
In fact, the Prophet severely warned those who miss congregational Ŝalaah.93 Also, the
reward for the congregational Ŝalaah is raised to 27 times the reward for individual Ŝalaah.

Ŝalaah is not established unless and until all of the above mentioned dimensions of its
establishment are fulfilled.

While Ŝalaah provides the structure to the Islamic society, Zakaah provides the basis for
the financial system of that society. It provides the foundations for an economic system
that is based on care and growth of the community rather than an interest-based economy
based on selfishness and personal greed. The essential aspect of Zakaah is that it must be
centrally collected by the Islamic leadership in public treasury (Baytulmaal) and officially
distributed according to the guidelines provided in Soorah At-Towbah.

Thus, the Ŝalaah and Zakaah are the two pillars of the Islamic state. Even if all Muslims
offer Ŝalaah five times a day and pay Zakaah individually every year, the requirement is
not met without establishing a political system that is based on Ŝalaah and that collectively
takes care of the Zakaah. It is for this basic role that both of them are mentioned together
in the Qur-aan and highly emphasized. It is because of this aspect of Ŝalaah that the
prophet said that establishment of Ŝalaah leads to the establishment of the whole Deen
while neglecting the structure of Ŝalaah demolishes the whole Deen.

92
Naturally, all these benefits cannot be realized the way our Masaajid and our congregations are
organized nowadays and the way those who come for Ŝalaah behave. The current system we see in our
mosques where president is different from Imaam is the product of an un-Islamic Western system that
requires separation of religion and politics. In Islam, as you know, life is not segmented but is treated as a
whole. There is no division between secular and spiritual life. Similarly, there is no separation between
religious leader and socio-political leader. Imam of the Ŝalaah and the Ameer (Leader, President,
Chairman, etc.) of the community must be one and the same; and, thus, must be capable of fulfilling both
roles. The elected Ameer of the local ward is supposed to be the Imam of daily Ŝalaah. The Ameer
elected to lead the town is responsible for establishing and leading Friday Ŝalaah and delivering the
sermon. The regional Ameer is the one responsible for establishing and leading ‘Eed Ŝalaah. Hence, the
person chosen to lead the community as the Ameer must also be the person best suited to lead the Ŝalaah.
That requires Muslims to elect the most capable person to serve as Ameer – the one who is relatively
more learned, but definitely the most dedicated in words and actions to the Islamic mission and is at the
same time, the most practical, the most dynamic and the most visionary from among the local
community. This job cannot be served by the graduates of religious schools imported from abroad who
are stuck in the ruts of a static un-Islamic religious paradigm and who are employed by a politicized
board of directors whose whims and desires are the greatest gods he has to worship.
93
It is reported in Muslim that he expressed his anger by saying that he feels like burning them along
with their homes.
4. Fulfilling promises is a very special quality of the faithful. The earlier three qualities were
mentioned by using a third person singular verb; i.e., he believes …, he gives …, and he
establishes Ŝalaah and pays Zakaah. For the attribute of fulfilling promises, instead of
saying, ‘he fulfills …’, it has been mentioned by using a plural attributive noun
“Moofoon” (Keepers of promise). According to Arabic literary usage, this change in style
highlights the significance of this quality. It also indicates that fulfilling promises is their
permanent quality, not a good deed they perform when the circumstances warrant. Then,
the attribute is further emphasized by adding the words, ‘when they promise’. This stresses
that once a word (promise) is given, it is kept despite the implications or cost of keeping it.

The first generation of Muslims had set an unparalleled record in fulfilling their promises.
The Prophet himself was famous for always keeping his word even before his
prophethood. He once stayed three days at a place because he had given his word to a
person that he would wait for him there. The person forgot to come back but the Prophet
did not leave that spot until that person happened to pass by that place three days later. At
the time of the battle of Badr, when every adult Muslim was needed to defend against the
invasion of an army three times their size and far more well-equipped, the Prophet did not
allow two Muslims to take part in the battle because when they were intercepted by scouts
of the invading army, they had given their word to the interceptors that they would not
take part in the fight. Although the Muslims wanted to join the battle and although the
enemy might not even realize it, the principle of keeping one’s word was too sacred to be
violated for any expediency. This strictness in fulfilling promises continued among
Muslims for the longest time. One commander of a Muslim army withdrew an operation
from a locality when he found out that one of his soldiers, though without his permission,
had given word to the inhabitants that they will be spared. Muslim history is full of such
examples.

Fulfillment of promises is so critical in Islam that the Prophet said, “A person who is not
honest has no faith and a person who does not keep his promise has no Deen.”94 This is a
clear warning to those who claim to be Muslims but do not keep their promises. They give
their word without meaning it. Some of the Muslims, especially so-called religious ones,
play with the words of Allaah. They make a promise without having any intention of
fulfilling it and say ‘Inshaa Allaah’. They think that they will not be held accountable for
such promises. Little do they know that this is a blatant deception they practise. ‘Inshaa
Allaah’ absolves from accountability only in those situations where the person had a full
and sincere intention of fulfilling his promise, he attempted his best to keep it but some
situation totally beyond his control transpired which kept him from fulfilling it.

The requirement applies to every promise whether made by an individual or the state, and
whether made to people or to Allaah. Every word given, promise made or pledge
undertaken must be honoured. In addition to the expressed promises, it also covers implied
commitments including the commitments implied by the norms of the society if they do
not conflict with Islam or commitment to Allaah. That encompasses all the rights and
obligations implied under the social contracts in a society such as fulfilling one’s civic

94
Mishkaah, part of a sermon of the prophet reported by Anas.
duties, listening to and obeying the leadership; diligent performance of duties on one’s job,
fulfilling marital obligations, etc.

Fulfilment of human commitment to Allaah is particularly important because it is the


foundation of honouring all other promises. A person who does not fulfil his commitment
to his Master and Owner can hardly be expected to be faithful to anyone else.

The context indicates that the special subject matter of this attribute here is the promise the
Muslim Ummah makes to Allaah through their pledge of obedience to strive hard for
establishing His Deen in this world. In return for this continuous Jihaad, Allaah promises
the believers Leadership95, status and authority on the earth and Jannah in the Hereafter. In
the Noble Qur-aan usually that is the promise or pledge generally mentioned for both our
Ummah and the Ummah before us (Banee Israaeel). For example:
“And fulfill the covenant of Allaah.” Al-An‘aam 6:152
“And fulfill the promise you have made to Allaah.” An-Naĥl 16:91

Also, referring to the Muslims’ pledge of fighting to their death for Allaah and His
messenger, Allaah said,

“And whoever fulfills his promise to Allaah, Allaah will soon grant him a great reward.”
Al-Fatĥ 48:10
It is also the promise mentioned in At-Towbah,
“Verily, Allaah has purchased from the believers their lives and their resources in
exchange of their Jannah. They fight for the cause of Allaah, so they kill and are killed. It
is a true promise binding upon Him through Towraat, Injeel and Qur-aan. And who is truer
to his covenant than Allaah.”96

And in Soorah Al-Aĥzaab, Allaah SWT referred to those who showed weakness in
fighting against the allied armies of disbelievers as follows:
“And yet they had already promised Allaah not to turn their backs. And the covenant with
Allaah will surely be asked about.” 97
For the believers who stood fast in that battle, they were mentioned as such,
“Among the believers are men who have been true to what they promised Allaah. Of them,
some have completed their vow (to the death) and some still wait, but they have not at all
changed their determination.” (Al-Aĥzaab 33:23)

Because of this covenant of dedication to the mission of Islam, Israelites were given
leadership. This was the promise for which Allaah said to Ibraheem,
“My promise does not extend to the transgressors.” (Al-Baqarah 2:124)

95
“Allaah has promised to those among you who believe and act righteously that He will definitely grant
them authority in the land as He granted to those before them; that he will surely establish dominance of
their religion which He has approved for them; and that He will substitute their fear with peace and
security.” An-Noor 24:55
96
At-Towbah 9:111
97
Al-Aĥzaab 33:15
When they did not fulfill it they were condemned. And they were told,
“You fulfill your promise to me, I will fulfill mine to you.” (Al-Baqarah 2:40)

It is this kind of promise to Allaah that demands the kind of steadfastness which is
mentioned next.

5. The last distinguishing characteristic of a faithful believer is perseverance. This attribute


also has been specially emphasized by changing the grammatical style of mentioning it.
As a normal statement, the Arabic word for the steadfast should have been in the form of
Ŝaabiroon like the previous characteristic of Moofoon (keepers of promise). To emphasize
that they are especially strong in steadfastness, it has been given the form of Ŝaabireen.
This is to highlight that perseverance is the most outstanding quality of the faithful.

Whether it is standing by your faith, living according to your beliefs, sharing your wealth
with others, establishing an Islamic community organized around Ŝalaah and Zakaah,
fulfilling promises in general, or any other good action, it takes much resolve,
determination and sacrifice to perform these actions constantly and consistently. This
verse cites three situations where faithful Muslims are expected to demonstrate their
fortitude, patience and steadfastness without uttering a word of complaint or
disenchantment.

The toughest times when even committed people get tired and give up or give in are:
during financial hardships, while physically not well and when facing aggression and war
-- especially when any of them continues for long periods. This verse tells us that the
faithful remain steadfast in all those situations even if they all happen to befall together
and continue throughout one's life span.

These testing situations really arise when Muslims are dedicated to the fulfillment of their
covenant to Allaah and dedicate their resources and their lives in constant Jihad to
conform all of their dealings and behaviour to Islamic expectations, for the establishment
of the Islamic society and for the supremacy of the Deen of Allaah. Since Shayŧaan does
not want them to succeed, he and his disciples all over the world are bent on not to let it
happen. They work together and unleash every imaginable terror against the dedicated
Muslims. Muslims are financially deprived through boycotts, sanctions and outright
cheated out of their wealth. They are physically persecuted, imprisoned and tortured. They
are continually victimized through aggressive acts of war. The propaganda machine of the
enemies blames them for every despicable act they themselves inflict on Muslims.

The Muslims persevere for the sake of Allaah. They know that going uphill is difficult and
fraught with dangers, but that is the only way to reach to the top. They understand that
great objectives are achieved only by working under conditions of peculiar difficulties and
discouraging hardships and that journey on the High Road is not without bumps but the
destination is worth the effort. Although it is easy to get discouraged, they recognize that
this is part of journeying on the Highest Road.

While coping steadfastly with the circumstances, they enjoy the peace of mind and
tranquility in their heart because they know they are the ultimate winners as long as they
remain committed to Allaah and His Deen. It is very soothing to know that their reward
with Allaah is secure and success is theirs in the eternal life. Since they repose all their
affairs in Allaah’s care and devote everything for His pleasure, they are content with what
comes their way in that path. Allaah’s pleasure is their pleasure. Their trust and reliance on
Allaah’s help and support keeps their spirits high. No atrocity or animosity can crush their
spirit. The heavy stone on the chest of Bilaal and the burning sand on which his bare body
was laid under intense heat of the sun could not do it. Depriving Khabaab routinely of
legitimate remuneration for his work and usurping his lifelong earnings did not do it. Two
and half years of boycott and strict sanctions against the Prophet and his family did not do
it. Continuous war-like situations and frequent attacks on Madeenah did not do it. The
biggest army from all the Arab tribes against a tiny state of Madeenah did not do it
either.98

Those who want to be counted among the faithful must be ready to dedicate their life and
resources to constant Jihaad and persevere in the manner of the Prophet and his
companions.

This attribute is closely related to the requirement of fulfilling promises and commitments
which preceded it. Only those who are sincere and strict in meeting their commitments go
through these kinds of tests and tribulations. Both of these attributes were mentioned with
special emphasis and both were mentioned in plural form indicating that these
commitments need to be fulfilled by Muslims as a community and as an Ummah. The
message of this verse is loud and clear that Muslims are expected to dedicate themselves
wholly and solely to the Islamic mission fulfilling their commitment to Allaah and
persevering for His sake through all the troubles they encounter. Without these special
attributes, thinking of being counted among true believers, among the pious or among
those who have Taqwa is wishful thinking.

In summary, this verse deals with faith, acts of worship, ethics and morals, money matters and
financial affairs, social and political set up, Islamic mission and war all in one breath. It gives
an unequivocal message that human life is one entity. It cannot be compartmentalized into
secular and religious sections. Piety does not belong only to formal acts of worship. It pervades
life as a whole.

In addition, this description of people with Taqwa and piety (Birr) clearly indicates that they
are the people who not only have transformed their whole life according to Islamic ethics, but
also have dedicated their resources and lives for the sake of Allaah to live like an organized
Muslim community, to establish an ideal Islamic society and to strive for making Islam the
dominant way of life in the world. They are constant and steadfast in their struggle and bear
whatever circumstances they face. In this way it is a fulltime, lifelong commitment to a
collective mission rather than a matter of performing some individual good deeds.
There are no short cuts to being faithful, attaining Birr, and complying with the demands of
Taqwa. Those who have assumed that requirements of Taqwa and Birr are fulfilled by
performing a few religious rites and donning a certain type of clothing or appearance are

98
Rather the believers’ reaction was: “And when the believers saw the allied armies, they said, ‘this is
what Allaah and His messenger had promised us, and Allaah and His messenger spoke the truth.’ And it
only increased them in faith and submission.” Al-Aĥzaab 33:22
deluded. It is a tough arduous road of a continuous Jihaad that starts with faith which is
validated by good actions such as generosity for the love of Allaah, personal relationship with
Allaah through Ŝalaah, establishment of the Islamic society on the basis of Ŝalaah and Zakaah,
fulfilling of all promises including the promise to Allaah for the establishment of His Deen,
and, while living this missionary life, demonstrating the highest level of perseverance in any
circumstances. Only those who consistently try to perform at this level of dedication are being
recognized in this verse by Allaah SWT that they are truthful in their claims of being Muslims
and that they are the people with Taqwa.

Considering that Jews of Madeenah were at the forefront of using the change of Qiblah for
propaganda against Islam, the question is how did they fare against the criteria of piety put
forth by this verse? It is noticeable that they were lacking in all of these essential areas despite
their reputation of religiosity and being very meticulous about religious rules. So, they were
being shown a mirror to remind them what was expected of them and what they had actually
become.

Their concept of God had deteriorated to belief in a racist God who loved the Jewish race
regardless of their wicked behaviour. The belief in the Hereafter was corrupted with the idea
that they would not suffer any punishment because of they were the chosen people of God.
Even if any of them faced punishment, it would be for a few days only. Among angels, they
had become enemies of Jibreel, the holy and trusted spirit. They would recite the book they
thought was from Allaah but would not practise it. They had corrupted it with their scholar’s
words and explanations, and, in effect, had abandoned it in favour of their books of traditions
and Fiqh. So much so that when the real Book (the Qur-aan) was presented to them, they
opposed it instead of willingly adopting it. Among the prophets, they had discriminated and
refused to believe in Jesus and Muhammad. Hence, they were deficient in every aspect of the
faith.

When it came to actions, they were extremely averse to spending even a little bit in Allaah’s
way. They would rather ridicule the commands for spending in the way of Allaah and show
their annoyance for the calls to spend. Although they still used to go to their synagogues for
prayer, the establishment of Ŝalaah in its true sense had been abandoned for a long time. It was
hard for them even to fathom the comprehensive concept of Ŝalaah beyond a ritual act of
worship. Zakaah had also become a mere bit of charity for rabbis and their institutions.

They were extremely negligent in fulfilling their commitments and keeping their words. The
most important covenant for which they had been chosen to be the dedicated Islamic
missionaries was not even talked about. In particular, they had completely violated their
covenant to Allaah about supporting and helping the Last prophet – Muhammad in his Islamic
mission.

The lowest element in their character was their lack of patience and steadfastness. They had
become a nation of whiners and complainers who would not even bear a little bit of hardship.
They had started loving life and possessions of this world so much that they would not take
even a bit of pain for an important mission. Rather than taking trouble for it, they had forsaken
their promise to Allaah for dedication to the Islamic mission and for helping the prophets.
Despite lacking all the essential attributes that are required for piety and success with Allaah
and that indicate the truth of one’s faith and Taqwa, they still dreamed of Allaah’s favours in
this world and the Jannah in the Hereafter. They hoped that the growing of locks on their
heads, covering their heads with special caps, growing their beards long, dressing in their
traditional garbs, reciting their Torah with fervour and physical motion, attending their
synagogues, celebrating certain important days and nights of their calendar, and revering the
remnants of their holy temple in Jerusalem was enough to be pious. Some of them were even
more dedicated. They would perform special acts of worship taught by their ascetic (Sufi)
orders. They even had great scholars of Fiqh who had become petrified in traditions, lost in the
maze of mind-boggling rules devoid of dynamism and spirit. They thought that was what was
required of them from their religion. But Eesa AH termed this kind of religiosity as “straining
mosquitoes while devouring camels”.

Without a lifelong dedication to the Islamic mission and reformation of their affairs and
dealings according to the requirements of this verse, they were like an army whose attention
was so concentrated on the rules of the drill and perfection of the uniform that they forgot all
about fighting skills. They spent all their attention on physical posture in the drill, measuring
the length of the steps in the parade, the position of the feet, the crease and fall of their pants,
shape of their hats, colour of their berets and exact style of wearing them. But when it came to
training on armaments, battle readiness and to the real fighting on the front, they had neither
time nor willingness.

Despite all their religious fervour, Allaah cursed and condemned them because they lacked the
essential attributes He valued! None of their religiosity was of any avail without these
attributes. But instead of changing themselves, they continued in their religious ruts and
rejected those who tried to call them to reformation. Then, when the anger of Allaah SWT
would come down on them, they would wonder, “Why are we disunited, persecuted and
dishonoured” and “Why does not Allaah help us”?

Unfortunately, the situation with the majority of Muslims is not any different from the Jewish
profile highlighted above!

Muslims have followed the Jewish footsteps precisely. Just like them, our religiosity now
revolves around ritual acts beset with debates and fights over rules of Fiqh. These things take
precedence over the Book of Allaah. Like them, we recite the Book of Allaah with fervour but
ignore the demands it makes. In many aspects we do exactly opposite to what the Qur-aan
wants us to do. Just like them, we have abandoned the Islamic mission and given up our
dedication to it. We have completely forgotten the concept of piety that permeates all our
dealings and actions. We are spending all our energies on petty issues of form and appearance,
clothing style, length of the beard, cap and turban. And just like them, we are being punished
through other nations of the world for our negligence and mixed up priorities as they were
punished through Greeks, Romans and Germans. Their caps, locks, beards, long coats,
recitation of Torah, prayers and attendance of the synagogues, wailing at their Temple’s only
remaining wall, etc. could not save them from Allaah’s curse and His anger. Our caps,
Amaamahs, beards, recitation of the Qur-aan, attendance at the Masjid and long Du‘aas in Witr
are not going to save us either. Filtering mosquitoes while devouring camels did not help them
and it is not going to help us either.
The only way out of our miserable position in this world and punishment of Allaah in the
Hereafter is that we change our lifestyle so that all our affairs and dealings are in line with the
Islamic spirit, we become dedicated to the Islamic mission the way the prophet and his
companions did, we strive to establish the caring society as was established in Madeenah and
organize it on the basis of Ŝalaah and Zakaah as it was done by Khulafaa Ar-Raashidoon. Once
a majority of Muslims commits to that kind of comprehensive concept of piety, Allaah will
fulfil His promise and give us success as well as award us blessings for our caps, ‘Amaamahs,
beards, recitation of the Qur-aan, and attendance at the Masjid and long Du‘aas in Witr.
Without drastic changes to our whole lifestyle and dedication to the mission in conformity to
this verse under discussion, all these things are as useless as the uniform and parade of soldiers
who shine their brass, sing battle songs but avoid handling arms and refuse to fight.

If we are true in our faith in Allaah, we must realign our priorities and dedicate ourselves
to the Islamic mission cultivating in us all the attributes Allaah SWT expects. That is
what our Taqwa demands. That is what will ensure our success.

After clarifying two fundamental concepts of Islam, Towĥeed and righteousness, so that they
can provide a strong basis for the intended Islamic reforms by correcting the attitude of
believers and shifting their paradigm towards the Islamic way of thinking, in the next few
verses, the first wave of reforms to establish peace and justice in the society are being
introduced.

Generally, the fundamental requirement of establishing peace and justice in the society is to
restore the respect for life and property of others in the society. Once people start respecting
other’s life and property, society starts enjoying peace and tranquility. Although most of the
people can be educated and trained to observe this respect most of the time, there will always
be some people who would like to transgress. If appropriate law and order is not in place to
deal with those miscreants strictly and swiftly so that they cannot profit from their incursions,
the disturbance spreads and people start taking the law into their own hands. That is why
Islamic philosophy is to reform a person from inside through faith and devotion to Allaah, then
educate him to be the best person and create such an environment of goodness in the society
that people are encouraged to behave in the best possible manner. After all these steps, if
someone breaks all those protective barriers of goodness created around him and commits a
crime, then the punishment must be swift, strict and severe enough to equal the offence so that
the crime does not pay in any way. The next two verses address the issue of restoring respect
for life and implementing justice in case of murder so that crime does not pay and heirs of the
victim feel content to see that justice is done.
178
O believers, Qiŝaaŝ (retribution) is prescribed for you in cases of murder.
Whether the murderer is a free man, a slave or a woman only that free man,
slave or woman must be subjected to retribution. However, if the murderer’s
life is forgiven by the heirs in the spirit of brotherhood, then the monetary
compensation should be followed up suitably and paid up in the best manner.
This is a concession and a mercy from your Lord. So whoever exceeds the
limit after this, he shall have a painful punishment. 179 And there is life for you
in the law of retribution, O men of understanding, that you may restrain
yourselves.

Throughout human history, Islamic law has been that the person guilty of murder (the
murderer) must be killed unless the heirs of the victim forgive the murderer and accept
financial compensation in return. This was the law for the people of the Book – the Jews and
the same was supposed to be practised by Arabs. However, instead of following the law in
proper spirit and the original Islamic manner, both groups had created their own injustices in
this practice. In the case of Jews, the law was set aside if the murderer belonged to some
powerful, influential or wealthy family. In the case of Arabs, in the absence of rule of law or a
central governing authority, it had become a matter of revenge instead of provision of justice.
Thus the level of the power of the victim’s tribe dictated the rules of revenge. If a victim’s tribe
was powerful enough, they would kill several from the offender’s tribe, or demand killing of
an “honourable” man of the offender’s tribe instead of the real murderer, if the real murderer
happened to be an ordinary man, a slave or a woman. The logic used to justify such revenge
was that our “person” is more honourable and valuable than the killer. Thus whether it were
Jews or Arabs, both were discriminating among people thinking some to be more honourable
or valuable than other human beings. Verse 178 put an end to all such notions putting all
human lives equally valuable and honourable and requiring that only the murderer must be
subjected to retribution, none else.

Unfortunately, the prejudices and discriminations that Islam put an end to in the Muslim
societies were vigorously brought back and put into practice by Western societies and spread
once again all over the world. Even in this day and age, the so-called civilized societies
hypocritically practice such discrimination while claiming to be the champions of human
equality as well as preservers of human life. The reality is that the contemporary manmade
legal systems and un-Islamic societies practice one of the two extremes when it comes to doing
justice in case of a murder crime.

At one extreme is the philosophy that people who commit crime are unwell people who
deserve education, treatment and reformation, not punishment. The consequence of this
philosophy is that the victim’s heirs remain upset that justice has not been served for the wrong
done to them, which is not a healthy situation to maintain peace and tranquility in the society.
At the same time, the criminal person is able to profit from his crime because instead of
suffering equal to the victim, he spends some time as the guest of the government while he is
being “rehabilitated” and then is released to potentially commit more crimes.

The other extreme is that to avenge the loss of life for a person, many persons related to the
perpetrator of crime in any way or form are slaughtered mercilessly. In powerful western
societies of today, both extremes are being practised simultaneously. If both the murderer and
victim are from their own society or race, the first extreme is practised where the murderer gets
away with some short-term imprisonment. If the murderer happens to be a foreigner of a wrong
colour, vengeance knows no bounds. Many people or communities are slaughtered and
devastated without even proper investigation into who in fact has committed the crime. Israel
has been using that vicious policy for more than 50 years against Palestinians. Recently what
happened after 9/11 is another relevant example. Merely on suspicion and without proper
investigation, two countries have been utterly destroyed and hundreds of thousand killed with
no end in sight. The crimes have been so barbaric that all American as well as international
laws about use of ammunition and the rights of the prisoners have been broken.

Among these extremes, Allaah SWT gives us a law that is moderate between the extremes and
perfect for establishing justice, ideal for balancing between the rights of victims and
perpetrator and effective for acting as deterrent, maintaining human equality and enhancing
value and respect for human life. This is why the people who have capability to independently
think and understand the essence of matters have been told that it may appear on the surface
that killing a murderer in retribution is wasting a human life, but the consistent, just and non-
compromising practise of Qiŝaaŝ preserves lives, peace, and tranquility of the society in the
long run.

The following points made by the wording of the verse must be noticed:

 Qiŝaaŝ or retribution can take two forms. The basic form is that the murderer is killed
for his crime. But Allaah SWT, out of His mercy, has provided a concession that if
the victim’s family agrees, they can accept the retribution in the form of financial
compensation.

 The believers collectively have been commanded to implement Qiŝaaŝ, which means
that it is the Islamic state’s responsibility to ensure that this practise is implemented in
a fair, consistent and non-compromising manner so that the murderer is brought to
justice without any compromise and that only the murderer himself or herself is
subjected to retribution, no one else. It also ensures that justice will be done even if
the victims has no heirs, or are not in a position to pursue the case or, for some reason
they are more sympathetic to the murderer than the murdered.

 Although the state has a responsibility to provide full justice in the form of retribution
for the loss of life caused by the murderer, the heirs of a victim have been authorized
to forgive, be lenient and remit by agreeing to accept financial compensation instead
of demanding the murderer’s execution. Rather, by using the word “brother”, an
appeal has been made to the sense of human and Islamic brotherhood so that the heirs
are encouraged to forgive and accept compensation instead of insisting on taking the
life of the murderer. This forgiving by the victim’s family can be very positive in
developing a more loving and cohesive society.

 Giving authority to the victim’s family to forgive, but not to the state, gives two
benefits: Firstly it ensures that the victim’s family is provided solace and satisfaction
that justice has been done. It is they who on their free will chose to forgive the
perpetrator’s life and settle for compensation. Nobody is imposing that decision on
them. Secondly, it shuts the door for exploitation and injustice so that people in the
position of power cannot use their position in the society to save the life of a murderer
who is influential or powerful.

 Those who violate the terms of agreement in any way, shape or form have been given
a very strong warning of painful punishment from Allaah SWT so that both sides
fulfill their responsibility properly and in good faith.
The next three verses initiate reforms in the area of protection and respect for people’s
property. The first step towards this reform deals with the importance of a will and proper
execution of a deceased person’s will. This was necessary because people had become used to
usurping or misappropriating the estate of the deceased, especially if the heirs were weak and
defenceless. This was disastrous for orphans and widows who were mercilessly deprived of
their fair share of inheritance by strong people of the society including their own relatives. The
discussion about murder and compensation for loss of one’s life presented a natural segue
towards this discussion.

180
It is prescribed, when death approaches any of you who is leaving behind
any assets, that he make a bequest to parents and near relatives, as per the
established practices of the society; a duty incumbent upon those who have
Taqwa. 181 Whoever then alters the bequest after he has heard it, the sin of it
then is only upon those who alter it; surely Allaah is Hearing, Knowing. 182
However, if anyone senses that testator is being unjust, unintentionally or
intentionally, and effects an agreement between the parties, there is no sin on
him. Surely Allaah is Forgiving, Merciful.

In keeping with Islam’s methodology of reforming the society in a step-by-step continuous


improvement approach, these verses initiate the reforms in the society by first impressing upon
the dying person the importance of making a will to avoid improper distribution of inheritance
and impressing upon the society that it is a grave sin not to respect the will of a person and not
to handle inheritance accordingly. At this time, the following points were made:

 It is a duty of a person who is approaching death to declare a will in presence of


people;
 The will should respect the existing, good norms of the society;
 The will of a person must not be changed; any alteration is a sin for which those
altering it will be held accountable by Allaah SWT Who is All-Hearing All-Knowing;
 If the testator, for one reason or another, intentionally or unintentionally, wills in a
way that is grossly unjust to some heirs, the witnesses to the will have the
responsibility to reconcile the matter among the testator and his heirs so that a balance
and justice is achieved. If the testator dies before this reconciliation can be achieved,
then the witnesses and executors should negotiate an agreement among all the
affected parties. Without such a negotiated settlement, no one has the right to change
any part of the will. The words of the command are clear that a reconciliation or
agreement should be effected among the parties. That is, the executors cannot just
change things on their own.

 People have been reminded that Allaah is Forgiving and Merciful so that they know
that this forgiveness for changes will be granted only in very genuine cases according
to Allaah’s perfect knowledge of all affairs. Therefore, no body should dare alter the
will under a false pretence of correcting it.
Although historically established norms about distribution of inheritance were there in the
Arab society, they were not being respected and the strong people of the society were
misappropriating the inheritance as they liked. Hence, as a first step, people were taught to
respect the norms and wishes of the testator. Once people were trained to respect these things,
a detailed law of inheritance was introduced in Soorah An-Nisaa. After the revelation of those
commands, according to the commands of the Prophet, a will can be valid only within the
following two limits:

1. Only up to 1/3 of the inheritance can be willed at the discretion of the testator. At least 2/3
must be distributed according to the commands given in Soorah An-Nisaa.

2. A will cannot change the share of inheritance for anyone whose share has already been
defined by the commands in Soorah An-Nisaa. Adding anything to or reducing anything
from the specified shares will be a blatant disobedience of Allaah SWT and disrespect for
His wisdom according to which the share was specified as it was specified.

The question that arises is: after the commands of Soorah An-Nisaa, what is the relevance of
these verses? Do they still apply?

The answer is that they are still relevant and applicable. The only part that has been changed by
the subsequent commands of Soorah An-Nisaa is that instead of bequeathing according to the
norms of the society, the bequest should be according to the Islamic laws of inheritance. All
other matters are still relevant. It is still a duty of a person who has Taqwa to leave a formal
will and it is still a duty of the society to respect the will of the deceased. The compliance to
this command is beneficial in two ways:

1. Up to one third of the estate can be given to some charity of the testator’s choice or used to
handle some peculiar family circumstances, such as providing a decent share for the
orphaned grand child or grand children or to help some other dependents who normally
may not be eligible for a share in the inheritance.

2. The testator can specifically instruct the executors to distribute his/her inheritance
according to Allaah’s commands. This is extremely important for those Muslims who are
living in societies where Islamic law of inheritance is not practised.

Those who transgress against life, honour or property of others, violate their rights, commit
crimes and destroy peace of the society do so mainly because either they have an unethical,
self-centred attitude or they cannot resist temptations, practice restraint, and control their
desires or both. Islam takes a holistic approach to reforming people’s behaviour and to
establish peace and justice in the society. Merely stipulating a law does not eradicate crimes in
the society. Hence, Islam corrects the attitude of people through faith and a strong sense of
accountability to Allaah SWT. This correction of attitude is then supported by appropriate legal
pronouncements. Then, it ensures that people are appropriately trained in resisting temptations
and restraining their desires. The next few verses introduce a month-long very intensive
training program in resisting temptations, restraining one’s desires and enhancing self-control
while at the same time strengthening faith and the sense of accountability to Allaah SWT.
This training is achieved through fasting for a month, a period during which Muslims must
abstain from any intake of food or drink or physical intimacy with their spouses from dawn to
sunset. This program has been introduced right amidst the text where initial reforms for the
respect of life, property and fair play were being introduced. Once again, consistent with the
Islamic method of gradual introduction of change, this was also introduced in two stages. The
first two verses introduced the program initially, in the second year after Hijrah, just before the
pagan Makkans attacked Madeenah to prevent the Islamic system of peace and justice from
establishing itself in that city, but Muslims bravely defended the attack at Badr.

183
O believers! Fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before
you, so that you may attain Taqwa. 184 It is for a certain number of days. If, during
those days, any of you is sick or on a journey, the number should be made up in other
days later; or those who can afford can feed one poor person as a ransom for each
missed fast. Then, if anyone does more good voluntarily, it is better for him. And it is
better for you that you fast, if you only knew.

These two verses present the following facts about the program:
 It is not something new; fasting has always been a part of the Deen of Islam. Through
this, Muslims have the honour of reviving another original Islamic practice that had
been either totally abandoned or substantially altered by the earlier recipients of the
book of Allaah.

 The purpose of fasting is to attain taqwa – being so conscious of Allaah’s presence


and of accountability to Him that it makes a person very particular about fulfilling
duties to Allaah, staying away from breaking any of Allaah’s laws and avoiding His
displeasure.

 It is required to be undertaken only for a specified short span of days – the month of
Ramadhaan.

 People who are traveling or are sick do not have to go through this program because
of their vulnerability. They can make up the missed fasts later, when their
vulnerability is passed, or they can feed one poor person for every missed fast.

 Feeding one poor person for one missed fast is the minimum requirement, but those
who feed more will be appropriately rewarded. Or someone may even choose to make
up the missed fast in subsequent days and also feed the poor for missing them in the
prescribed month.

 Although permission was given to feed the poor for the fasts missed, people are still
encouraged to make up the fasts.
 This concession of feeding the poor instead of fasting for the missed days99 was taken
away in the next verse that was revealed about a year after the above two verses.
185
Ramadhaan is the month in which the Qur-aan -- guidance to people,
containing clear pronouncements of the guidance and the criteria of right and
wrong -- was sent down. Therefore, whoever of you is present in the month,
must spend it in fasting; and whoever is sick or on a journey, must make up the
number in other days later. Allaah desires ease for you, and He does not desire
difficulty for you. This is so that you complete the prescribed number and exalt
the greatness of Allaah for the favour that He has guided you, and so that you
may give thanks.
This verse explains the significance of choosing Ramadhaan to be the fasting month. It is the
most suitable for this exercise because it was during this month that the revelation of the Qur-
aan started. It also stresses that everyone must fast during this month unless someone is sick or
on a journey in which case the missed fasts must be made up subsequently. The missed fast can
no longer be compensated by feeding the poor, unless there is no chance of recovery and it is
not possible for the sick person to fast. In that case, feeding of the poor in expiation of the fast
becomes applicable.

The permission for not fasting during sickness or journey is just a permission, not a command.
However, people should not go through undue hardships when permission has been mercifully
granted by the Lord to avoid those hardships. Since “travel” or “journey” has not been defined,
it means that whatever is generally understood and considered as travel according to the times
and conditions in the society will also be considered “travel” for the purposes of this verse.
Obviously, commuting for a distance that people generally commute for business or pleasure
cannot be regarded as travel.

The last part of the verse lists the reasons for the aforementioned commands:
 Permission to defer fasting to later days in case of sickness or travel has been given to
save people from undue hardship;
 The permission to feed the poor instead of fasting has been abolished so that everyone
makes up the fasts; and
 Ramadhaan is selected for this purpose so that appreciation is expressed for the
guidance of the Qur-aan that started coming down in this month and that the greatness
of Allaah is exalted for that guidance and Allaah is thanked for His great mercy.

Thus, fasting in the month of Ramadhaan is in fact a celebration for the guidance that Allaah
SWT has so kindly provided us through the Qur-aan. It is the best means of glorifying Allaah,
exalting His greatness and thanking Him for His kindness and mercy for providing us this
perfect, balanced and optimal system of establishing the best, most peaceful and equitable
human society. And what can be a better way of thanking Allaah than developing His Taqwa,

99
There has been some difference of opinion as to who exactly was allowed to feed the poor as expiation
for missing the fasts. But because the permission has already been cancelled, there is no reason to go into
that discussion as it is now an irrelevant point to discuss or waste time upon.
devoting oneself to His obedience, and developing the excellence in our attitude and behaviour
for which we were given the guidance.

When a new command is given, many questions arise in people’s mind about it, or about the
difficulties they face when they start putting the command into practice. In such cases, the
Muslims should bring their issues, difficulties, problems or confusions to Allaah Who is right
there close to them, and Who listens to His slaves and responds. If they need clarifications on
some issues or points of the commandment, they should present them to Allaah’s Messenger so
that Allaah can provide the answers through him. They should not be like hypocrites who
object, complain and express their discontentment and concerns to everyone but do not bring it
up with Allaah and His Messenger where it can be resolved or responded to. Similarly, they
should not keep it inside while being concerned or confused about it because keeping it like
that leads a person to disobey out of discontent or out of confusion or do something while
thinking it is not the right thing to do. Any of this kind of unsure behaviour is not in keeping
with the kind of enthusiastically obedient personality that a believer should have.

About fasting, some believers were unclear about what was allowed during nights of fasting.
Before clarifying the matter, Allaah SWT has used the opportunity to state in principle how
believers should behave in such situations and seek guidance from Allaah SWT through the
Messenger. This was done by stating the fact that when true believers take the right approach
and come to the Messenger seeking answers, Allaah responds. However, in keeping with
conciseness of the Qur-aan, people calling and Allaah responding has been worded such that it
even covers all human needs of direct communication with Allaah SWT – all situations when a
believer needs to refer to Allaah SWT, call upon Him for help or supplicate to Him,
communicate ones problems, issues or sentiments to Him and repose trust in Him.
186
And when My slaves ask you concerning Me, then surely I am very near; I
answer the call of the caller when he calls Me. Therefore, they should answer
My call and believe in Me so that they may be led aright.

“Concerning Me” includes all questions people have, both about Allaah’s relationship and
interactions with His slaves as well as about His commands for His slaves.

According to the concept of fasting that Muslims had heard about from other communities, the
fast lasted for 24 hours, allowing food only once a day. As opposed to those kinds of practices,
the Islamic fast was only from dawn to sunset and disallowed completely any kind of sexual
activity for the duration of fast. People were not sure if they could eat at night after the initial
fast breaking or before the fasting time started. Similarly they were unsure if they could have
normal sexual relations with their spouses at night or not. Considering it inappropriate on their
own, they were violating it against their own opinion. Although it was never forbidden,
violating one’s own opinion or doing something against one’s conscience is a dishonesty that is
injurious to the health of the Islamic personality. The next verse clarifies the situation and
provides the answers.

187
Permitted to you is the approach to your wives during the nights of fasting
season. They are your garments and you are their garments. Allaah knew that
you were cheating yourselves; hence, He turned to you mercifully and forgave
you. So feel free to sleep with them and seek what Allaah has ordained for you;
and eat and drink until the whiteness of the day becomes distinct from the
blackness of the night at dawn, then complete the fast till night. However, do
not be in contact with your wives while you are in retreat in a Masjid. These
are limits imposed by Allaah; so do not go near them. Thus does Allaah clarify
His commands to people so that they may maintain Taqwa.

It is worth reflecting upon the comparison of a spouse to a garment. From a relationship


perspective, it indicates the closeness of the relationship, intimacy, inseparability and being an
essential part of one’s being. From a functional perspective, a garment plays three important
roles. It covers a person, providing privacy and saving from shame; it beautifies a person; and
it protects the body from all kind of hazards100. In a healthy marriage between Muslim spouses,
each spouse plays all three roles of the garment for each other.

During Ramadhaan, intake of any food or drink and any sexual activity becomes unlawful once
the dawn breaks. The breaking of dawn is defined as the time when whiteness of daylight starts
appearing clearly from the darkness of the departing night. The fast must be completed till
night, which, in Islamic definition, occurs as soon as the upper edge of the sun disappears
below the horizon.

The concept of time on earth is basically measured by the rotation of the earth on its axis and
its revolution around the sun. This is a universal clock which human beings have tried to
simulate by the invention of watches and chronographs so that we can measure and track time
conveniently. Allaah SWT gives His commands in relation to this universal clock. The benefit
of doing so is that the concept and its understanding remains consistent and independent of the
era, geography, state of technology and resources of the believers. His commands do not have
to be revised when knowledge, technology, resources, terminology or perceptions change, new
devices are invented or new measurements are introduced. People of all times and age can
easily determine when dawn breaks, sun rises, twilight disappears and sun sets. The only
exception being a very small segment of the human population living in the polar regions
where either the sun does not set or twilight does not disappear and re-appear to indicate the
break of dawn. Their matter can be easily handled as any other exceptions are handled. Before
watches and standard timing conventions, they would have regulated their religious affairs as
they regulate other activities of life. Nowadays, they can easily follow the timing of the closest
latitude where sun rises, sets, twilight disappears and dawn breaks.

During Ramadhaan, especially in the last ten days, it is very desirable and recommended that
people retreat to the Masjid and focus solely on the service of Allaah, avoiding any business,
economic or social activity. This retreat is called I’tikaaf. During I’tikaaf, people can go out of
the Masjid only for a very brief time to attend to their needs such as call of nature, maintaining
hygiene and cleanliness. Like the wrong assumption originally made by some people about the
lack of permission for sex during nights of fasting, someone could have misinterpreted the

100
Different kinds of garments or apparel provide different kinds of protection from hazards of weather,
work, germs, chemicals, etc.
general permission of conjugal relations mentioned in this verse as if it applies even during the
period when a person has retreated for I’tikaaf. To avoid the possibility of that assumption, the
verse explicitly disallows it.

Another point that must be carefully noted is that Allaah SWT does not want us to go near His
limits. It is not only that those limits must not be transgressed, they must not even be
approached. It is because we become very prone to breaking a limit if we venture close to it.
For example, let us say that a person who is doing I’tikaaf in the Masjid comes home briefly
for some need, he should not even have any physical contact with his wife because that could
lead to sex, breaking the limits of Allaah SWT. This rule applies to all matters of life where
Allaah SWT has set a limit. One must not step into grey areas to avoid breaking the limits.

The Messenger of Allaah said: “Ĥalaal is clear and Ĥaraam is clear, however,
between the two there are some unclear areas about which most people do not have
definite knowledge. Whoever avoids such doubtful matters, he saves his Deen and his
honour. But whoever indulges in such matters, he falls into Ĥaraam. His example is
like a shepherd who grazes his cattle close to a prohibited area, risking that his cattle
may enter the prohibited area. Beware that every king has a prohibited area and
beware that Allaah’s prohibited area constitutes His prohibitions.” Reported by
Muslim from Nu’maan Bin Basheer.

One way of keeping away from limits is to avoid indulging into doubtful matters. The
Messenger of Allaah said: “Abandon what is doubtful in favour of something beyond
doubt. The criterion is that truth imparts peace to the conscience while falsehood
causes anxiety.” Reported by Tirmidzi from Ĥasan Bin ‘Ali. He also said, “A person
cannot be counted among those who have Taqwa until he gives up something that
may be acceptable, as a precautionary measure for avoiding something that is bad.”
Reported by Tirmidzi from ‘Aŧiyyah As-Sa‘di

The last part of the verse indicates that it was a subsequent revelation to clarify issues for
people.

The next verse concludes the first wave of reforms that started the purification of society from
bad behaviour. It lays down the fundamental principle on which all the regulations about the
respect of others’ property are based. The first such command was about care and caution in
handling and distributing one’s inheritance according to one’s will. This verse forbids injustice
or unfairness in all other matters relating to the wealth and property or assets of others. In
between the two commands, the believers were prescribed an intensive training course to help
them in developing self-restraint, resisting temptations and maintaining Taqwa and to reform
them from inside so that they become meticulously careful to avoid doing anything wrong,
improper, unjust or displeasing to Allaah. The attitude of Taqwa and self-restraint created by
acts of worship such as fasting helps the believers in attaining the purity and strength of
character that ensures their living by the commandments of fairness and justice. This is one
example that shows that Islamic acts of worship are not ritual practices that lack any practical
benefit. Rather, they are effective, goal-oriented tools to help improve, reform and purify the
character and behaviour of believers. It should also make it clear to the believers that if the
objectives of the acts of worship are not achieved, they are futile acts unacceptable to Allaah
SWT.
188
And do not swallow one another’s property through unjust means, nor use it
to seek favour of the government officials to wrongfully and knowingly
swallow some of the property of others.
The first part of this verse outlaws acquisition of others’ property, assets, money or any thing
of value through any means that is considered unfair by religion, law of the land or the
established practices of the society – whether it is acquired through lying, dishonesty, deceit,
usurping, exploitation, bribery, misappropriation, theft, gambling, charging interest, etc. It
remains Ĥaraam (forbidden), as long as the acquirer knows that the acquisition will fall into
one of these categories, even if the owner has agreed to the deal.

The second part of the verse declares bribery as an illegal, immoral and sinful activity. The
verse also mentions that the usual motive for giving a bribe is to knowingly take undue
advantage of others through the help of the bribed government officials.
From verse 189 onwards, Allaah SWT starts answering the questions that believers had asked
according to the principle mentioned in verse 186, wherein Allaah SWT had encouraged the
believers to seek response from Allaah for the questions they had. Before we go further, it will
be useful to note the following points concerning the Qur-aanic style of referring to questions
and providing answers:

 The Qur-aan avoids repeating the questions fully because they were brought to the
Prophet publicly and were fully known to the believers. To maintain its miraculous
conciseness and to avoid verbiage, it refers to the question with only a word or a
phrase brief enough to identify the specific question being answered. For subsequent
generations like us, we only need to know the commands that were given in response,
and those commands are so clear that we do not need to know the full text of the
question.

 While responding, the Qur-aan not only answers the original question, but also
responds to subsidiary questions that may arise from the response. It also gives
additional points that relate to the topic of the question but were not asked. However,
even these details are provided concisely and only to the extent that they are needed at
the current stage of the evolutionary reforms Islam is aiming for. Additional
commands or information are not provided if they pertain to the next phase of the
reforms. They are left for the opportune time in future. Provision of this additional
detail or response to subsidiary questions that were not asked is another reason for not
quoting the question because in that case there will appear to be a disconnect between
the question and answer, unless extra verbiage is added to explain that although you
have not asked, you are being provided extra information for your benefit. Obviously,
including this kind of extra verbiage is against the beauty and style of the Qur-aan.
189
They ask you concerning the (sacred) months (new moons). Say: They are
times allocated for (the benefit of) people, and for Ĥajj101. Righteousness is not
that you should enter houses from the back, but righteousness is that one
maintains Taqwa; and go into houses by their doors. And maintain the attitude
of Allaah’s Taqwa, that you may be successful.

The first set of questions that is being answered is about the sacred months. In their deference
to the Holy Ka‘bah and to the traditions of Ibraheem, Arabs used to faithfully and strictly
respect four designated months102 during which pilgrims could travel safely and peacefully for
pilgrimage of the Holy Ka‘bah, without being attacked by anyone for any reason. Provision of
safe passage to pilgrims was religiously accorded and considered inviolable. In that land of
perpetual fighting, revengeful attacks and lawlessness where no one was safe to travel outside
of their tribal territory, that was the only peaceful season in Arabia during which much of the
travel and trade occurred. Even the prosperity and trade of Quraish was dependent on the
sanctity of these months and sanctity of the house. The question has been referred to by just

101
Ĥajj is the pilgrimage to Holy Ka’bah performed during the prescribed time in the 12th month of
Islamic calendar. It is obligatory once in life for anyone who can afford it.
102
Dzul-Qa’dah, Dzul-Ĥijja and Muĥarram for Ĥajj and Rajab for ‘Umrah
one word, ahillah, which is the plural of hilaal, a new moon. Because the months were
identified and counted by the appearance of new moon, the word new moon, especially in
plural, new moons, was used for months, just as in English “moons” is sometimes used to refer
to months and the word “month” itself was “moonth” -- derived from moon. The word al-
ahillah is in proper noun format indicating that some specific months are being talked about.
The fact that the question was about sacred months is indicated by the answers, which confirm
the benefits of the sacred months for people and Ĥajj as well as provides Islamic injunctions
about Ĥajj and fighting during the sacred months.

The background is that Muslims had been recently commanded to adopt the Holy Ka‘bah as
their Qiblah and revive and re-establish the original Deen of Ibraheem with its true paradigms,
with Holy Ka‘bah being the centre of this movement to make Allaah’s Deen the world order.
The Holy Ka‘bah was under pagan Makkans’ control and needed to be liberated from them, if
it were to become the centre of Islamic movement. The Islamic society of Madeenah at that
time was in its infancy and Muslims were desperately trying to establish it as a visible state. At
the same time, the Makkans’ hostilities were at their peak in their determination to destroy the
Islamic society before it took a hold in Madeenah. To remain aware of their aggressive
manoeuvres and to assert its territorial authority, the Prophet SA‘WS was sending out small
teams of Muslims to scout Islamic territory and to keep surveillance on Makkans’ raiding
gangs and their war preparation efforts. Some of those surveillance teams were scouting during
sacred months as well. In addition, Makkans had put a ban on Muslims’ pilgrimage to Holy
Ka‘bah, which meant that if Muslims went for Ĥajj or ‘Umrah103, they might be forcibly
stopped in violation of the established traditions, thus imposing a confrontation during the
sacred months.

On the other hand, Muslims realized that Arabs had distorted Ibraheem’s traditions with their
heresies and innovations so much that most of the things that were believed or practised as
Ibraheem’s legacy had nothing to do with or were completely at variance with Ibraheem’s
Deen -- Islam. Hence, they started questioning everything that was attributed to Ibraheem’s
legacy to determine if it was really part of his legacy or if it was a subsequent invention. The
questions about sacred months arose from both of these perspectives: the real Islamic view
about Arab practices in relation to the sacred months and about some rites of Ĥajj; and the
confrontation that may occur due to Makkan hostilities during sacred months or around the
sanctuary of the Holy Ka‘bah.

The answers to these questions as well as additional related teachings have been provided
starting from this verse up to verse 203. The verse under discussion makes the following two
points:

 The respect of the sacred months is genuine, serves people well, provides people good
opportunity to travel for Ĥajj and thus should be upheld.

 However, Ĥajj is not a ritual consisting of senseless rules as people have made it to
be. It is a goal-oriented undertaking designed to build, develop and strengthen Taqwa
and a catalyst to help people shift from their faulty paradigms to the Ibaaheemic

103
‘Umrah is a pilgrimage at any other time of the year and is optional. Arabs had dedicated Rajab, the
seventh month of the calendar for this purpose.
paradigm of Taqwa and enthusiastic, passionate obedience to Allaah, seeking His
pleasure. To make this point, an example from pre-Islamic Arab practices has been
used. Anyone who ventured for Ĥajj would not enter his house, on his return, from the
front door through which he left. Rather, he would find or devise a way to enter from
the back of the house. Allaah SWT has abolished such practices and clarified that this
is not the Islamic concept of piety and righteousness. Piety and righteousness is not
performance of rituals but acquiring the attitude of Taqwa, which is the objective and
goal of acts of worship such as Ĥajj. Thus, Muslims should concentrate on
developing, strengthening and maintaining Taqwa, if they want to succeed as
Muslims.

Then, in the next few verses, Muslims were instructed about how to respond to other matters
such as responding to Makkan hostilities and aggressions, especially if they violated the
sanctity of sacred months or Holy Ka‘bah, Muslims’ asserting their right to travel in the sacred
months for Ĥajj and ‘Umrah that they had been denied, and their right and duty to take control
of the Holy Ka‘bah and to restore it to its original status and role.
190
From now on, fight for Allaah’s cause those who fight you, but do not
transgress because Allaah does like transgressors. 191 And kill them wherever
you find them confronting, and drive them out from where they drove you out.
Oppression and persecution imposing un-Islamic systems on Muslims is worse
than killing. However, do not fight them in the sanctuary around the Sacred
Masjid until they fight you in it. If they do fight you, then kill them. That is the
way to deal with the disbelievers. 192 But if they desist, then surely Allaah is
Forgiving, Merciful. 193 Otherwise, continue the war until oppressions and
persecution to impose un-Islamic systems is eliminated and the governing
system becomes Allaah’s. Again, if they desist, then there should be no
hostility except against the oppressors. 194 When they disregard the sanctity of
the sacred months, you do the same. This applies to all sanctities – treat them
reflecting opponents’ treatment of them. Whoever then acts aggressively
against you, you should respond to the same extent as their aggression.
However, restrain yourself within Allaah’s limits (maintaining Taqwa of
Allaah) and know that Allaah is with those who maintain attitude of Taqwa
(respecting Allaah’s limits).

Muslims were oppressed, persecuted, tortured, deprived of their basic rights including that of
earning a living, driven out of their homes, subjected to murder and murderous behaviour for
13 long years, but Allaah and His Messenger had strictly forbidden them to respond to any
oppression, torture or persecution. They were so disciplined that they restrained themselves
and bore all that cruelty with fortitude and patience without reacting in any negative manner at
all. Now that they had established their own little state and organized themselves into a
fledgling political entity, their existence as a community was once again being continuously
threatened by Makkans’ aggression. In the face of impending war with the Makkans, which
they had already declared by banning Muslims from visiting the Holy Ka‘bah and with their
vows to obliterate Muslims, this was the first time Muslims had been allowed to fight back.
Accordingly, these verses instruct Muslims as follows:

 Muslims’ fight must be only for Allaah’s cause – attainment of Islamic objectives,
and not to take revenge for the persecution, nor to acquire booty, nor to settle scores,
or any personal motive a person may have;

 Although killing is bad in general, and that is why Muslims have been trained to
respect life, war is an extra-ordinary situation that cannot be won without killing those
who insist on fighting. Such a war needs to be waged to correct an even greater evil
by unseating the oppressors in power who are persecuting Muslims and denying their
basic rights and their freedom to live according to the Islamic system of peace and
justice. Hence, despite the Islamic teachings inculcated in Muslims’ minds to respect
the life and property of others, Muslims should not be reluctant to kill the fighting
enemy.

 Similarly, although sanctities like the sacred month and holy sanctuary of Makkah
must be respected and maintained, the enemy should not be able to violate these
sanctities and get an upper hand on Muslims. Hence, if they violate such sanctities,
Muslims should not be reluctant to respond because of their respect for those
sanctities. The enemy must not be able to play games with sanctities to win the war.
They should be given respite only if they give up resisting the law, order, peace and
justice of Islam.

 The war will continue until the leadership of the evil oppressors is completely
removed and replaced, the people are able to enjoy freedom to live by the Deen of
Allaah, the Deen of Allaah becomes the only dominant system of life in the land and
the Holy Ka‘bah is liberated and restored to its original role under Muslim control. If
the enemies stop fighting and surrender, then the general Makkans should be treated
with mercy, forgiveness and compassion excepting the ring-leaders of the persecution
and oppression who had made animosity to Islam and Muslims their main job in life.

 This need to fight and command to kill does not mean that Muslims can behave like
non-Muslims armies who are psychologically trained to become ruthless and vicious
who cannot learn to restrain themselves even after the other side has given up or
surrendered. For example, US soldiers are specifically trained to be a killing machine.
When these killing machines are psyched up to be that way in combat, they treat even
the surrendered people inhumanely and when they return home from a combat
mission, they cannot restrain their violent tendencies. Despite of the psychological
counselling provided on their return, some of them abuse their spouses, and commit
other violent crimes. The Muslims must practice restraint and fear Allaah because if
the do anything improper, they will lose the support and mercy of Allaah. Hence, they
must always maintain the attitude of Taqwa of Allaah.

Obviously, a war for the Islamic objectives (Allaah’s cause) cannot be fought without finances.
Hence, Muslims must generously spend whatever they have to finance the war, even if they
have to make personal sacrifices. If they do not do that, they will be opting for their own
destruction and devastation in the world by remaining subjugated and persecuted by the
disbelievers and in the hereafter by incurring Allaah’s punishment due to disobeying and
displeasing Him. On the other hand, if they are generous in giving and if they make sacrifices
willingly and enthusiastically for His cause, Allaah will reward them for their excellence with
His love.
195
And spend for Allaah’s cause. Do not cast yourselves to ruin with your own
hands. Rather, try to excel; surely Allaah loves those who pursue excellence.
The next section provides instructions about Ĥajj, its rites and its essence:

196
And complete the Ĥajj or 'Umra only for Allaah. But if you are blockaded
and hence unable to complete, then offer a sacrifice of whatever sacrificial
animal can be easily arranged; and do not shave your heads until the offering
reaches its place of sacrifice. In case any of you is forced to shave early by
sickness or an ailment of his scalp, he should pay a ransom by fasting or
almsgiving or sacrificing. But when you can travel in peace, any one who
avails the opportunity to perform 'Umrah until the Ĥajj time, he must make an
offering of an animal that he can afford. However, if he cannot afford it, he
should fast three days during the Ĥajj and seven days on his return, that is, ten
in all. This permission to combine ‘Umrah and Ĥajj in one journey is for those
who do not reside in the precincts of the Sacred Masjid. And maintain Taqwa
of Allaah, and know that Allaah is severe in punishment. 197 Ĥajj season is only
for a few known months. Thus whoever undertakes to perform Ĥajj, he must
refrain from any sexual activity, any transgression and any quarrelling during
Ĥajj. And whatever good you do, Allaah knows it. And take a provision for the
journey, indeed the best of provisions is Taqwa, so maintain My Taqwa, O
men of understanding. 198 There is no harm that you seek the bounty of your
Lord during Ĥajj. So when you depart from ‘Arafaat, then perform Allaah’s
remembrance at the Sacred Monument. And remember Him as He has guided
you, though before that you were certainly misguided. 199 Then return from the
same place from where the multitude returns and ask the forgiveness of Allaah;
surely Allaah is Forgiving, Merciful. 200 So when you have completed your
holy rites, then celebrate Allaah’s remembrance as you used to laud your
fathers, or with a more enthusiastic remembrance. During remembrance, some
people just ask, “Our Lord! Give us what we want in the world”; there will not
be anything for such a person in the hereafter. 201 There are others who say,
“Our Lord! Grant us good in this world and good in the hereafter, and save us
from the punishment of the fire.” 202 They shall have their share of what they
have earned, and Allaah is swift in reckoning. 203 Remember Allaah during
these numbered days. But if any one hastens to leave in two days, there is no
blame on him, and if any one stays on, there is no blame on him who keeps the
attitude of Taqwa. And maintain Taqwa of Allaah and know that certainly unto
Him you shall be gathered.

Through these verses, the following directions have been provided:

1. Ĥajj must be undertaken solely and purely for the pleasure of Allaah. Once a person
sets out for Ĥajj, he must not give it up. It is must be completed.

2. In case a person is blockaded or forcibly prevented from completing it, a sacrifice


must be offered at the location where blockade or prevention occurs before that
person can remove Iĥraam104 and come out of restrictions of Iĥraam by shaving their
heads. The sacrifice can be of any Ĥalaal animal that falls in the cattle category such
as lamb, goat, cow or camel, whatever can be afforded or arranged at that time. This
instruction was primarily given considering Makkan hostility. Despite the established
and inviolable tradition of providing safe passage to the pilgrims during the sacred
months, it appeared that all principles and traditions would be violated when dealing
with Muslims. And that is what happened when Muslims ventured for ‘Umrah a few
years later. They were stopped at Hudaibiyyah and were not allowed to perform
‘Umrah. Then, a deal was negotiated whereby they could perform ‘Umrah in the
following year.

Although the state of war with Makkah necessitated this rule, it applies to all
situations where a person is forcibly prevented from completing pilgrimage.

3. If a person has to shave his head or cut his hair for some medical need, a ransom must
be offered for doing so. As explained by the Prophet, the ransom is three days’
fasting, or feeding a meal to six poor persons, or the sacrifice of a goat or a lamb.

4. People who go for Ĥajj from places far from Makkah can remove their Iĥraam after
performing ‘Umrah and then can put it back on when the rites of Ĥajj start. Those
who benefit from this permission must offer sacrifice of an animal they can afford or
arrange. If a person cannot afford sacrifice, then he has to fast for 10 days as
described clearly in the verse.

5. The essence of Ĥajj is passionate remembrance of Allaah and the building and
strengthening of Taqwa. The pilgrims must make these objectives as their personal
mission and start on them as soon as they start planning for Ĥajj and must continue to
concentrate on achieving them every step of the way and during every rite that is
performed.

104
Iĥraam is a white uniform put on for the purpose of Ĥajj or ‘Umrah. Once Iĥraam is put on, a person
has to abide by some restrictions that are not applicable during normal life. Iĥraam for men consists of
two unsown white sheets of ordinary cloth (not fancy or costly), one used for wrapping around the lower
body and the second for the upper body. A person need to get his head shaved or his hair shortened in
order properly end Iĥraam condition. Women wear white sown clothes made of similar ordinary cloth;
and to terminate Iĥraam conditions, they only have to shorten their hair.
6. Although Muslims must always avoid transgression and quarrelling, any such
tendencies must be vigilantly, strictly and consciously checked during the journey and
rites of Ĥajj. When hardships, problems and difficulties are faced, especially under
very crowded and difficult conditions, tempers may flare and Shayŧaan may instigate
that kind of behaviour. Hence, extra precautions are needed to stay away from
anything that can displease Allaah.

7. If spouses are travelling together for Ĥajj, any sexual activity, even a flirting chat,
must be avoided.

8. Taking appropriate provisions for the journey or for the stay during Ĥajj is not against
the spirit of Ĥajj.

9. As long as the intention and motive for the journey remains pure for Allaah’s pleasure
and attention is not diverted from intense and passionate remembrance of Allaah or
the development of Taqwa, a business or trade activity during Ĥajj is acceptable.

10. To Allaah SWT, all people are the same. Hence, every one must complete the rites of
Ĥajj at the same spots to the same extent in the same manner. The old ways of Arabs
where certain tribes distinguished themselves from the multitude in performance of
rites are unacceptable.

11. While supplicating at all the blessed occasions during Ĥajj, a winner is the person
who seeks goodness in the life of this world as well as the success in the hereafter,
especially the avoidance of any punishment from Allaah. If someone concentrates
only on seeking the satisfaction of the needs of this world, he will be a real loser in
the hereafter.

12. After the day of Ĥajj, the stay in Minaa can be for two or for three days. Allaah SWT
will evaluate the stay according to the quality of time in terms of Dzikr
(remembrance), Taqwa and consciousness of accountability to Allaah SWT, not
according to the quantity of days. That is a time of glorifying Allaah SWT ardently
and celebrating His majesty, not a time for fun, poetry and parties, as Arabs used to
do.

13. At the completion of rites of Ĥajj, unlike the Arab tradition of boasting about their
tribal and parental glories, Muslims must glorify and laud the greatness and the
majesty of Allaah SWT even more passionately.

As is evident from the emphasis on the remembrance of Allaah, Taqwa and consciousness of
the accountability to Allaah, the essence of Ĥajj is to become enthusiastically and passionately
Allaah-centred. That way, it is a journey that should completely transform the outlook, the
priorities, the attitude, the preferences and the paradigms of a person so that he comes back a
changed person whose whole life revolves around the pleasure of Allaah. It should be like
being re-born. Those who perform Ĥajj in that manner, as the Prophet has told us, come back
as pure and sinless as a newborn baby105.

105
Reported from Aboo Hurairah in Bukhaari Volume 2 Book 26
A true Muslim will perform Ĥajj concentrating upon the attainment of success in the hereafter,
though not forgetting goodness in this world; while a hypocrite is just after the material
benefits of this world. These hypocrites are usually very good in talking, making claims, and
painting beautiful word pictures of their religiosity and their sincerity towards everyone and
they support their talks with oaths. Considering that they are usually effective in their public
relations tactics, Allaah SWT takes this opportunity to expose their vile and destructive real
nature so that sincere, simple-minded Muslims are forewarned that they should not be fooled
by the hypocrites’ smooth, courteous, impressive and flowery talk and their oaths they take in
Allaah’s name. Rather, they should be vigilant about their behind-the-scenes subversive
activities:
204
There is the type of person whose talk charms you in the life of this world,
and he calls Allaah to witness about the goodness of his intentions, yet he is the
nastiest of enemies. 205 When he turns his back, his efforts are geared to
causing turmoil on the earth, destroying crops and committing genocide; and
Allaah dislikes turmoil. 206 When it is said to him, “Adopt Taqwa of Allaah”,
pride makes him stick with sin. So, enough for him is Hell; and certainly it is
an awful place.

When these hypocrites are confronted about their destructive behaviour and advised to
properly adopt the Islamic attitude of Taqwa, they make it a matter of personal pride. Thus,
instead of reforming their attitude, they keep insisting on and justifying their sinful behaviour.
The point to note is how Taqwa and Nifaaq (Hypocrisy) represent two opposing attitudes.

Taqwa represents an attitude of restraint and accountability to Allaah. A person with taqwa
restrains his desires and fulfils his needs only in a restrained, legal and ethical manner without
incurring any wastage or without exceeding any limits. He continually remains conscious of
being accountable to Allaah and thus does everything to ensure his success in the hereafter.
Whether any human power is watching or not and whether there is any one to catch him or not,
he is conscious of Allaah’s presence and knows He is watching Him. Taqwa produces people
who create peace in the society even when there is no power or authority to maintain peace and
order. This attitude of Taqwa is a minimum requirement of Islamic faith. Without it, any claim
to faith is mere hypocrisy.

The attitude of hypocrisy, on the other hand, values only the worldly gains, benefits and
expediencies, and thus, keeps a person from making any sacrifice or facing any hardship for
his principles or faith. It is a self-centred paradigm. A person with hypocrisy, whenever he
finds a chance, will try to get everything he desires by whatever means he can get it. This
attitude produces people who create injustice, killings, exploitation of the weak, and all kinds
of turmoil in the society. On a lower level, they engage in looting, rapes, robberies, frauds and
other felonies. On a higher level of the power hierarchy, they wage wars, invade countries and
cause major devastation on earth, while using their smooth talk and propaganda to make
people believe that they are working for the benefit, security and freedom of people. Usually
they think they are winning because their dirty games seem to work -- especially those in
positions of power think that they can fool everyone and get away with their deceit, robbery
and injustices. However, this is a short-sighted and self-destructive behaviour because it takes
a person to the awful punishment in Hell.

The real winner is the person who makes a deal with Allaah SWT and sells his worldly
interests, priorities and preferences to Allaah, becomes His obedient slave, living by His
priorities and preferences. In return, he earns an excellent profit by attaining Allaah’s pleasure
and receiving His limitless kindness, mercy and everlasting rewards.

207
Then there is the type of person who sells himself seeking the pleasure of
Allaah; and Allaah is very affectionate to the slaves. 208 O believers! Enter into
Islam completely and do not follow the footsteps of Shayŧaan; all surely he is
your open enemy. 209 But if you slip after clear pronouncements have come to
you, then know that Allaah is Mighty, Wise.

Allaah SWT wants all people to be winners. Thus, He invites all those who claim to be
believers to become real believers by submitting to Allaah in every aspect of their individual
and collective life including their outlook, paradigms, perspectives, approaches, standards and
actions. Life must not be compartmentalized into private and public or carnal and spiritual.
Life as a whole, as one unit, must be brought into Islam, conducted according to Allaah’s
commands and lived in His obedience, without making even a slight compromise in this
principle. In doing so, believers should be extremely vigilant about the tactics of Shayŧaan
because he can cause people to deviate from the straight path of Islam by inciting them to
make very small compromises at a time under various pretexts of Hikmah, wisdom, tactics,
adapting to situation, accommodation, etc. If people are not vigilant, they may not realize it,
and one little step at a time, they may move far away. Using this slow and steady methodology,
Shayŧaan may succeed to take an aspect of life out of Allaah’s obedience through one little
compromise upon one little compromise. Once that is done, then another aspect of life may be
removed from the purview of Islam and so on and so forth.

The main reason hypocrites do not come into Islam wholly and completely is that their heart
and mind are not fully convinced of the unseen realities expressed in the Islamic articles of
faith. Islam expects people to take a rational approach to faith and accept those unseen realities
on the basis of rational, intellectual evidence and not on the basis of physical evidence.
Although Islam is the only rational religion in the world and although the Noble Qur-aan
presents very clear guidance for any rational person to discover the truth, these people resist
going to that next level beyond the material senses. Hence, they do not want to believe until
they can perceive the reality with their physical senses. For that purpose, they usually demand
to see some miracles. Allaah SWT has responded to their attitude with two-fold answer:

210
Are they waiting for Allaah to come to them in the shadows of the clouds
along with the angels, and the matter is decided? And to Allaah return all
matters. 211 Ask the Israelites how many a clear sign have We given them; but
whoever changes the favour of Allaah after it has come to him, then surely
Allaah is severe in punishment.
The first part of the answer brings to their attention the fact that no miracle is ever going to
provide them such a physical experience of the realities of the unseen that they have no
recourse left except to accept it. The only way such a definite knowledge of those realities is
possible is if Allaah SWT with His angels appears in person in front of them. That will
definitely happen on the Day of Judgment when, unfortunately for them, the matter will be
over. The test will have already been concluded and the destination of every human being will
have been decided on the basis of their performance. Allaah SWT has made it impossible for
finite human beings to perceive His Infinite Being so that they can be properly tested and it can
be determined who can believe in and obey Allaah on the basis of rational faith in the unseen
and who cannot think beyond their physical world.

The second part of the answer gives historical evidence that unless people raise themselves
above the physical world, no miracle ever helps. Even the most astounding miracles shown
through messengers like Moosa and ‘Eesa could not change the outlook of those Israelites who
did not want to use their intellect for this purpose. Hence, they did not change their lifestyle
fully and wholly according to the guidance provided to them, and for this lack of appreciation
for the guidance they were cursed and severely punished. The same will be the result for
anyone who displays that kind of attitude.

The irony is that such people who cannot even lift themselves to an intellectual level where
they can accept reality rationally think that they are smart and usually ridicule the true
believers. It is usually because they measure everything in terms of accomplishments in the
material things in life. Because material well-being is the focus of their whole life, naturally
they are going to be ahead of believers whose focus is the hereafter. On that basis, they marvel
at their own achievements and poke fun at the believers for lagging behind. What they forget is
that this world is going to pass soon. Then, in the eternal life of hereafter, believers with Taqwa
will be the triumphant ones, enjoying the immeasurable rewards forever.

212
The life of this world is alluring to those who reject faith, and they mock
those who believe. However, those who maintain Taqwa shall be above them
on the Day of Resurrection. And Allaah gives provisions without measure to
whom He pleases.

In addition to ridiculing the believers, they also blame them for causing discord in the society.
The disbelievers and hypocrites usually try to put the guilt on prophets and sincere believers
that their activities disrupt the society that was working nicely and cohesively. By this
propaganda they try to hide the fact that it is not the believers who are creating the discord, but
it is the self-centred, exploitive behaviour of the worshipers of the material wealth that is the
cause of the problem. Adam was a Muslim and his progeny was also Muslim. They all
constituted one united Ummah. Then some of them started deviating from Islamic attitude of
Taqwa because of their self-centred greed. They started transgressing over others’ rights,
property and honour to establish their own power, hegemony and grandeur. Slowly they totally
forgot about Allaah and started worshiping deities other than Him. These deviations created
strife in the society, caused injustice, destroyed peace and created different groups and warring
factions. When the situation became really bad, Allaah SWT sent Nooĥ as His messenger to
bring people back to Towĥeed as well as to the peace and justice of Islam. Some noble souls
accepted his message but all those whose self interest was tied with the existing exploitive set-
up opposed him and became his enemies although his message was clear, rational and sensible.
This has been continuing since then. When things become very bad, Allaah SWT sends
messengers to put the matters aright. The messengers are opposed violently by those who have
vested interest in maintaining the exploitive and unjust status quo. It is not Nooĥ, Ibraheem ,
Moosa, ‘Eesa and Muhammad and their followers who have been creating discord; the trouble
makers are those who want to preserve un-Islamic, unjust and exploitive systems to protect
their own ill-gotten material possessions and illegitimate power over exploited people. It is
unfortunate that they are blinded by their material self-interest so much that despite observing
the clear evidence of the truth of Islam they insist on opposing it.

213
Human beings were a single Muslim Ummah. (Over time people deviated
from Islam and adopted different views and practices, arising a need to bring
them back to Islam.) Thus, Allaah raised prophets as heralds of good news and
as warners, and He legitimately sent with them the Book, that it might settle
between people the matters in which they differed. But the very people who
were given it differed about it after clear pronouncements had come to them,
revolting against one another. So Allaah guided the believers by His will to the
truth about which they differed. And Allaah guides whom He pleases to the
straight path. 214 Then, do you think that you will enter the Jannah while you
have not yet gone through what Muslims of the past had gone through? They
encountered adversities and afflictions and were shaken up so severely that the
Messenger of that time and his believing companions cried: When will
Allaah’s help come? They were then informed, “Now surely the help of Allaah
is near!”

The opposition of the disbelievers to the Islamic work carried out by messengers and believers
usually becomes very aggressive and violent. They try to suppress the Islamic movement for a
just society and do everything in their power to crush it by violence and persecution. They also
start propaganda wars against those who are guided by Allaah to the straight path of Islamic
system of peace and justice, but are portrayed as the enemies of their civilization and their
fantastic lifestyle. When the number of believers keeps growing and the terrorism of the
disbelievers fails to stop their growth, the disbelievers wage a full-fledged war to eliminate the
Islamic movement and its followers. This conflict results in the victory of believers and
humanity once again becomes truly obedient to Allaah and starts benefiting from the Islamic
system of justice, society attains peace and tranquility and Allaah’s rule becomes supreme in
Allaah’s land. But that destination is achieved only after the true believers bear many hardships
and make many sacrifices for the pleasure of Allaah and persevere steadfastly in their struggle
to uproot and demolish the exploitive systems and overcome its protectors. This is a natural
process of bringing reform in the society that all previous community of believers had to go
through. The same will be true for the current Muslim Ummah. It is only the demonstration of
this kind of sacrifice, steadfastness and perseverance in the struggle to establish Islam in the
world that will bring them the ultimate rewards of Jannah in the eternal life hereafter.
To understand fully the questions and answers being discussed in this part of the soorah, it is
very important to keep in mind the stage of the Islamic movement at that time and conditions
that the Muslims were facing during those days.

For 13 years, Muslims were persecuted and tortured in Makkah merely for the reason that they
believed in only one God, Allaah SWT. They were taught not to respond at all to the violence
and terrorism committed against them and instead to focus on excelling in their morals, ethics
and dealings. As the number of Muslims increased and as the time passed, the violence and
persecution continued to increase instead of abating. All this oppression and persecution was
taking place in the Sanctuary in and around the Sacred Masjid, where no Arab would even
touch his most hated enemy. This continued even during the months of pilgrim season when
there was supposed to be peace for everyone everywhere. This went to such as an extent that
the Muslims were forced to migrate to Madeenah leaving their kith and kin, their houses and
properties, their means of sustenance and their possessions — everything. The Makkans were
infuriated even more when the Muslims were able to find a place of refuge after being driven
out. They vowed to destroy and exterminate the Muslims and their supporters in their new
home. They even did something which was absolutely against all conventions and traditions –
they banned Muslims from visiting the Sacred Masjid – a ban which was not allowed even
against the most bitter enemy of Makkans. They had already started sending various raiding
parties to provoke a war or to loot and plunder the crops and livestock of the people in the
outskirts of Madeenah.

On the other hand, Muslim society in Madeenah was in an extremely precarious situation. A
huge part of the community was displaced whose settlement was beyond the means and
resources of their small community. Many of the Muslims were without any business, job or
any means of earning sustenance. People would go hungry for days at a time. In these
circumstances, it was crucial that the Muslims that had means of sustenance would generously
share with those who had nothing to go by. The Noble Qur-aan strongly encouraged Muslims
to spend in the way of Allaah and share their resources with the less fortunate of the society.
The Prophet ŝall-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam himself encouraged believers in this respect in
many of his sermons and exhortations.

Any gifts, donations or revenues the Prophet ŝall-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam received was
immediately distributed to the most needy without even waiting for the next day, while he
himself would go hungry for days at a time. While giving the settlement and economic needs
of people top priority, other equally pressing matters such as establishment of law and order
and defence of the citizens from the Makkan gangs and robbers were not neglected. Despite
severe lack of resources and arms, small groups of people were sent to protect territorial
borders and for surveillance and reconnaissance missions to keep an eye on the war
preparations of Makkans. To meet these needs, the small community of believers in Madeenah
was requested and encouraged to spend in the way of Allaah whatever they could muster.
Many Muslims were enthusiastically donating most of whatever they had. Some new Muslims,
who did not fully comprehend the direness of the need and the value of making sacrifices in
the way of Allaah were not sure how much sacrifice of their resources they needed to make.
Hence, they asked about it.
215
They ask you how much they should donate. Say: Whatever assets you
donate, it is for the parents, the close relatives, the orphans, the needy and the
wayfarer; and whatever good you do, Allaah surely knows it.

The answer invites reflection on three aspects of spending:

 The spending should correspond to the needs of your kith and kin and your needy
brothers in faith around you and that is what should help you determine how much
would suffice. After all, the initial and foremost request to spend is to ensure that your
own fellow members of the society can survive these tough times.
 One way of giving to the needy is to give directly to the needy people one knows.
However, individual distribution may not take care of all needy people in an equitable
manner. The purpose is best achieved when donations are collected centrally and
allocated to all in need according to their needs.
 Although it is a matter of taking care of your own, you will be rewarded multiple
times for your generosity because Allaah knows every good action you take.

A more difficult point than spending for the poor and needy for some people to understand was
the need to equip themselves as a community for defence. Although people were told in verse
195 that they must pay attention to this if they want to survive as a community, some people
were having difficulty shifting their paradigm from “no response to violence” to “stand up,
defend yourselves and take charge of the affairs.” They did not comprehend that the defence of
the society as a whole is very different from the personal retaliatory response from which they
were prevented. If a society is not defended from the enemies of Islamic peace and justice,
humanity will continue to suffer from the atrocities of the troublemakers of the world.

216
Qitaal (Fighting) is ordained for you, and it is an object of dislike to you;
and it may be that you dislike a thing while it is good for you. Conversely, it
may be that you love a thing while it is evil for you. The fact is that Allaah
knows, while you do not know.

It is human nature that people dislike or resist matters that are hard, difficult or require
sacrifice, though their success and their well being may depend on undertaking that hardship.
Similarly, people like easy or enjoyable things, though their effect may be extremely injurious
for one’s well being. Thus, those who want to be successful do not decide about matters on the
basis of their likes or dislikes but on the basis of whether it is going to achieve their objectives
and take them to their goals and destination. It is also a human limitation that they cannot
always look far enough in advance, in depth or in all aspects of a matter to make a proper
assessment of what will help or hinder their success in their objectives. Hence, they should
take advantage of Allaah’s ultimate and perfect knowledge and enthusiastically follow His
commands knowing them to be the best course of action if they want to succeed.

The comment about Qitaal in verse 216 served as a segue for a response to the propaganda war
launched by anti-Islam elements when one group of Muslims that was sent for reconnaissance
to Nakhlah (a locality close to Makkah) went beyond its mandate and attacked a small caravan
of Quraish. The group was sent for information gathering only, but when they saw the caravan,
the images of Makkan persecution and gang attacks that they had endured and that were fresh
in their minds got the better of them and they could not help but attack them. The Prophet
censured them and offered full compensation to Quraish for their loss. However, instead of
accepting the compensation offer, the Quraish used it as a propaganda tool and as a
justification to intensify their war efforts. Although Muslims thought that the attack occurred in
the early days of Sha’baan, Makkans assumed without clear evidence that it was at the end of
Rajab.106 On the basis of that unsubstantiated claim, they and their Jew and hypocrite friends
initiated the propaganda, blaming Muslims of breaking the sanctity of the month. In doing so,
they conveniently overlooked their own crimes which they had been committing for 14 years,
breaking every sanctity there was by torturing, persecuting and terrorizing Muslims right inside
the holy sanctuary, and without any regard to any of the sacred months. Hence, Allaah SWT
responded:

217
They ask you about fighting in the sacred month. Say: Fighting in it is a
grave matter; but even graver in the sight of Allaah is to hinder from Allaah's
way and to disbelieve in Him, to prevent people from the Sacred Masjid and to
expel its residents. Such oppression and persecution is worse than killing in
war. The reality is that they will not cease fighting with you until they turn you
back from your Deen, if they can. However, whoever of you abandons his
Deen, and he dies while a disbeliever, they are those whose actions shall
become worthless in this world and the hereafter, and they will be the inmates
of the fire; therein they shall remain forever.

The game that anti-Islam elements play is that they undertake and continue a relentless,
systematic and ruthless campaign of terror against Muslims, without any compunction, shame
or moral considerations, violating every law, convention and standard of civilized behaviour
known to man. However, as soon as some Muslim slips, out of desperation, doing something
that is not proper from high Islamic standards but pales in front of their own crimes, they make
a big issue out of it and use it to label Islam and Muslims with every bad epithet that can be
devised for people. This is the game that Jesus (‘Eesa ‘alayhissalaam) described as pointing out
a speck in another’s eye, while ignoring the log in one’s own eye.107

Whether the disbelievers persecute Muslims or launch false propaganda against them, their
goal is to make Muslims abandon Islam and to destroy the Islamic movement completely.
Some simple-minded Muslims do not realize the nature of animosity of disbelievers and
assume that if no Muslim makes a mistake or if Muslims make some compromise so as not to
antagonize disbelievers, then there will be no reason for disbelievers to attack the Muslim
community and hence war will be averted. They are being told that you can make whatever
compromises you want and do whatever you can, but the disbelievers will not leave you in
peace until you abandon Islam completely. That is the only option Muslims have to stop
disbeliveers from their games and terror against Muslims. But they should remember that by
abandoning Islam after knowing the truth, they may avert the disbeliever’s terror in this

106
Rajab is one of the Sacred months that was designated for ‘Umrah travel.
107
Matthew 7:3-4 and Luke 6:41-42
temporary world, but will be ending up in the severest punishment in Hell in the eternal life of
hereafter. Thus, it is up to them: Either bear the temporary hardships in this world, stand up for
truth and justice and fight and defeat the enemies of Islam, or revert back from Deen of Allaah
to their former disbelief and exploitive, unjust system, and consequently, earn the punishment
of Allaah in the hereafter forever. If they choose to keep the faith, and strive hard in the way of
Allaah to defeat the enemies of Islam, they would definitely deserve the mercy of their
Forgiving and Merciful Lord.

218
Surely those who believed, migrated and strove hard in Allaah’s path they
are the ones who expect Allaah's mercy; and Allaah is Forgiving, Merciful.

‘Strove hard’ is the translation of ‘Jaahadoo’ that is a verb form of ‘Jihaad’. In Islamic
terminology, Jihaad means to strive hard and to put in one’s best efforts and dedication for the
achievement of Islamic objectives. Jihaad in Allaah’s path, thus, includes any and all activities
that are undertaken for the pleasure of Allaah to achieve Islamic objectives and may take
different forms and shapes according to the needs of the Islamic movement. Some people
equate Jihaad with war, which is not supported by the Qur-aan. At some point, Jihaad may
include war, but both are not one and the same. For war, the Qur-aanic term is ‘Qitaal’ as used
in verses 216 and 217 in its noun form and in verses 190, 191 and 193 of this soorah in its verb
form.

The next point of discussion is about liquor and gambling. In most societies gambling is
accompanied by drinking. This was especially the case among Arabs at that time. As Amin
Aĥsan Islaaĥi’s research indicates108, Arabs used to have drinking parties where they gambled
and the winner used to give away most of his winnings in charity to the poor of the society
who gathered around such parties for that purpose. This way, it was thought of an act of public
service and a kind of fundraiser for the poor. Modern day parallels include lotteries and bingos,
where the proceeds are used for many worthwhile community projects. When there is an
extreme shortage of funds, people think of many different ways to raise funds and naturally
their attention is attracted by these lottery and gambling schemes as well. While thinking of the
advantages of these schemes, they may overlook or not realize the seriousness of the ethical,
moral and social problems created by these vices. To avoid those problems, Islam has banned
them completely. A believer is advised to stay far away from any of these activities. To warn
people about these matters, in the next verse, Allaah SWT has hinted towards their dangers, as
an initial step in the three-part evolutionary series of commands to ban them completely.

219
They ask you about intoxicants and games of chance. Say: In both of them
there is a grave vice and some benefits for people, but their vice is greater than
their benefit.

Intoxicants include everything that interrupts or inhibits normal mental faculties such as
consciousness, decision making or reasoning abilities. Games of chances include all avenues
where by something of value is given up in expectation of winning others’ share on the basis of

108
Tadabburul Qur-aan vol. I, page 514-515
a chance outcome. It includes all sorts of lotteries, bingos, raffles, game pools, slot machines,
card games, etc.

One point to note is that neither the exact nature of the vice nor the specifics of the benefits
have been described. This style helps people of every society to understand these details in the
light of their contemporary knowledge and research. However, the most important aspect is
that a believer does not need to know the details because he has full faith and trust in the
ultimate knowledge and wisdom of Allaah SWT. Thus he understands and faithfully accepts
that if Allaah says that their harm is greater than their benefits, it is the fact and we must avoid
it, fully trusting Allaah’s ultimate knowledge and wisdom.

All these discussions started because Allaah SWT had commanded believers to get ready to
fight and to spend in the way of Allaah to finance the war. The believers who had a proper
understanding of the circumstances of the Islamic movement and the long term objectives of
Deen, knew that their movement’s survival, as well as their own, depended on equipping their
fledgling state for defence from any aggression from the enemies. Hence, if the circumstances
demanded, they should be ready to spend everything they have. However, many Muslims who
had not attained that kind of maturity in their faith or in their understanding of the objectives of
the Deen, were not mentally ready for this kind of sacrifice. They were those who, when
commanded to spend in the way of Allaah for financing the war, started asking how much they
should spend. Responses to their questions were given in stages to allow them to develop their
understanding and their maturity step by step. The following part of this verse (219) provides
the final answer whereby it is concisely but clearly indicated that if an emergency situation of
the Islamic movement or the Islamic society so requires, believers should be prepared to spend
everything they have beyond their very basic personal needs. Such spending is very rewarding
as mentioned throughout the Qur-aan, but is totally voluntary and depends on the personal
dedication of the believers to the objectives of the Deen. This level of spending is not for
regular needs of the movement but is called for only in very special cases where the survival
for the Islamic society is at stake. It is very different from and is in addition to the spending for
the welfare of the poor and needy, which should be a regular item in a believer’s budget.

They keep asking you about how much to donate. Say: Whatever is in excess
of your basic needs. Thus does Allaah clarify the commandments so that you
may reflect 220 from the perspective of this world as well as the hereafter.

Allaah SWT is providing these guiding explanations and inviting people to reflect because
Allaah SWT does not want to see believers becoming robots who just follow the prescribed
rules. People with that kind of mentality continue to ask questions about rules for this or that.
Rather, Allaah wants Muslims to understand the objectives of Islam and the guiding principles
to achieve those objectives. With that understanding, they will be able to answer many
questions and take the charge of making the right decisions for the attainment of those
objectives. Thus, reflection is very important for that purpose. This reflection should not be
one sided but should be inclusive of both the objectives that need to be achieved in this world
and the objective that need to be achieved in the hereafter.

When spending for the poor and needy was emphasized, taking care of orphans was listed right
after close relatives. Taking care of orphans includes handling their assets and finances in a
prudent manner. Keeping their affairs completely separate from one’s own affairs while
managing them prudently may not always be possible. Good management of their interest may
sometimes be logistically easier, with proper accounting, if their assets do not need to be
completely segregated in physical terms. But the sincere believers were very scared of dealing
with orphans’ assets because of Allaah’s commands not to touch orphans’ property. This verse
answers those concerns. It indicates that as long as orphans’ best interests are kept in focus,
their assets and finances can be managed as convenient because the purpose of Allaah’s
commands was to protect their interest, not to create undue hardship for people. However,
people should remember that if under that pretext someone practices dishonesty, Allaah will
know it.

They also ask about orphans109. Say: Whatever improves their lot is better. If
you mingle their affairs with yours, they are your brethren; and Allaah knows
who means corruption from the one who means improvement. Had Allaah
wished, He could have made it difficult for you; surely Allaah is Mighty, Wise.
221
And do not marry women who equate others with Allaah, until they believe.
Certainly a believing slave woman is better than a woman who equates others
with Allaah, no matter how attractive she may seem to you. Similarly, do not
give your women in marriage to those men who equate others with Allaah,
until they believe. Certainly a believing slave is better than a free man who
equates others with Allaah, no matter how attractive he may seem to you.
Those (who equate others with Allaah) invite to the Fire, while Allaah invites
by His grace to the Garden and to forgiveness. And He explains His commands
to people that they may be mindful.

One effective way of taking care of orphans is to bring them into the family by marrying the
orphans’ mothers. It provides them a safe home environment along with a father figure to take
care of them and their own mother watching for their interests. However, even for this goal,
Muslim should not marry Mushriks -- those who equate others with Allaah. Although the issue
came up in reference to the welfare of orphans, the rule has been given as a general rule
applicable to all situations.

The believers have been taught that marital relationship is a very profound relationship that has
long ranging effects on the life and goals of a person. Marriage to a good believing spouse may
lead to success in the achievement of Islamic objectives or otherwise, it may bring an utter
failure. Hence, a spouse should not be selected on the basis of looks, personal liking, lineage or
social status but on the basis of faith and purity and nobility of character so that it helps a
person in succeeding as a Muslim. To understand the wisdom of this command, one just has to
look at history. Israelites failed miserably in fulfilling the objectives of the Deen, brought
moral devastations and corruption to their society, and started practising many rites and
customs of idolaters because they married idolatresses, disregarding this important rule of
Islam.

109
In Arab society, an Orphan was a child whose father had died.
In addition, while warning people not to marry those who equate others with Allaah, a peaceful
process of freeing of slaves and restoring their dignity has been initiated. Muslims have been
encouraged to start thinking of them as equal human beings worthy of being spouses. Those
who are looking for spouses should seriously look at them for that purpose and marry them,
thus breaking the cycle of slavery.

This leads into the questions and issues related to married life and divorce, which are covered
in verses 222 to 242.

Most religions and societies discourage men from having intimate relations with their wives
during their menstrual period, however, some religions or groups take an extremist approach to
spousal relations during that period. One extreme is where some people do not hold back
during that time, disregarding their wives being unwell, uncomfortable and unclean. The other
extreme is that some religions impose so many restrictions that menstruating women are
treated as pariah who cannot sit on the same couch, sleep or eat together with their husbands.
Islam, being from the Creator Who has created human nature and Who likes balance, promotes
a lifestyle of balance, moderation and harmony with human nature. It teaches that while family
life should go on normally, intimate relations should not occur until women are clean. For this
purpose, it differentiates between women being clean from discharge and their cleansing
themselves through a ritual bath. Although intimacy is banned until they are clean from
discharge, husbands have been encouraged to wait, going to them only after they have cleansed
themselves by taking the bath.
222
And they ask you about menstruation. Say: It is a condition of being
unclean and unwell; therefore let women alone during menstruation and do not
approach them until they are clean. Once they have cleansed themselves, go to
them whatever way Allaah has ordained for you. Surely Allaah loves penitents,
and He loves those who keep clean. 223Your wives are like a place for
cultivation for you, so approach your cultivation whenever or however you
like. But mind your future, maintain Taqwa of Allaah and know that you will
definitely meet Him. And give good news to the believers.
Because Allaah SWT has bestowed us instincts that are necessary for our survival, He
rightfully regards appropriate fulfilments of those instincts as His ordinance.

The verse mentions that Allaah loves those who keep their hearts and minds clean through
repentance and who practise cleanliness in their physical and social activities. It indicates that
those who do not follow clean practices in their spousal relations are disliked by Allaah SWT.

The use of the word ‘cultivation’ for spousal relations carries some very profound messages.
The relationship is neither similar to what a person may have with a wasteland where refuse is
dumped, nor that one may have with a park which one just visits for fun. Instead, it is a close,
intimate, productive relationship the kind that a prudent farmer has with his cultivation. People
cultivate to obtain maximum produce, not to throw away seeds. To get the maximum produce,
seeding is done when the ground is in an ideal condition for germinating seeds and when it is
the most opportune time and season for the crop. Similarly, people are free to perform their
cultivation as they like and when they like, however, prudent people do so in a way that will
enhance and preserve the produce, not waste it, endanger it or destroy it. You have all the
freedom to enjoy as you like, but never forget that the objective is to get the best produce in the
maximum quantity.

Exhortation to ‘mind your future’ reminds people that humanity’s future depends on children.
Most importantly, if a Muslim brings up his children with strong faith, good ethics, righteous
behaviour and excellence in conduct, they will be a source of great reward for him from Allaah
in the hereafter. But the good news of that reward is only for those believers who care for the
Islamic objectives more than their pleasure and standard of living.

Although having children is one of the most important objectives of marriage, the satisfaction
of natural human needs for both spouses is also essential. This must be fulfilled for both
spouses equitably. In Arab society at that time, some men, in order to censure a wife, would
take an oath not to be intimate with her from then onwards, but without divorcing her. This left
her hanging. Neither were her needs fulfilled, nor was she divorced so that she could marry
someone else. Above all, this practice was tantamount to abandoning the cultivation. This was
unacceptable in Islam. However, before addressing that issue, the next verse addresses the
issue of bad oaths in general.
224
Do not use Allaah for your taking oaths against doing good, acting rightly
or making peace between people, and Allaah is Hearing, Knowing. 225 Allaah
will not take you to task for your habitual oaths uttered thoughtlessly, but He
will take you to task for those that your hearts intended; and He is Oft-
forgiving, Most Forbearing.

Allaah SWT is the source of all goodness and excellence and commands believers to adopt
goodness and excellence in everything they do. He, in fact, wants people to rush towards good
and virtuous deeds and surpass each other in doing so. It is bad that someone uses an oath to
preclude himself from doing something that is good or virtuous. But it is extremely
disrespectful and absolutely repulsive that someone takes such an oath using Allaah’s majestic
and exalted name. Allaah SWT who knows and hears everything will take such people to task.
Thus, if someone has made a mistake and taken an oath that prevents him from doing the right
thing, he should break the oath, do what is right and fulfill the ransom for breaking the oath.
However, Allaah being kind, forgiving and forbearing will overlook those oaths which some
people utter thoughtlessly just out of habit, but even that is a useless, purposeless, bad habit
(Laghv) which sensible believers should avoid -- as one of the qualities of good Muslims stated
in the Qur-aan is that they avoid Laghv (anything vain, useless, purposeless).

The next verse puts an end to an injustice done through a particular oath that was called ‘Eelaa’
where a husband would ‘punish’ his wife by taking an oath not to have intimacy with her from
then onwards.

226
For those who take an oath for abstention from their wives, have a
maximum respite of four months; so if they resume normalcy within that
227
period, then Allaah is surely Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful. And if they
decide upon divorce, then Allaah is indeed Hearing, Knowing.
Thus, Allaah SWT has put husbands on notice that if the marital relations become sour to a
point where a husband decides not to have normal intimacy with a wife, he has four month
from the date of such decision to settle the matter one way or the other. If he decides to
reconcile and resume normalcy, then Allaah SWT will forgive the mistakes made by both
spouses that led to those actions. If an oath was taken, the husband must also fulfill the ransom
for breaking the oath. If he decides to divorce, then he must do it properly and equitably
because Allaah SWT knows if it is not done right. If he does not conclude this one way or the
other, at the completion of four months, a wife can immediately seek divorce through court.110

The mention of divorce in verse 227 provided an opportunity to reform existing practices
related to divorces and to implement and clarify Islamic injunctions in that respect. Thus,
verses 228 to 237 deal with this subject. Before studying the specific Qur-aanic
pronouncement, however, it will be useful to understand the general principles on which the
commands are based:

 The objective of Islam is to create balance, moderation, equity and justice in the life
of people. For that purpose, it considers the existing practices and norms of the
society. It lets Muslim abide by and live according to those practices and norms of the
society that are in line with the balance and equity goals of Islam, and prohibits or
modifies only those practices which lead to an imbalance or inequity or it instructs
new practices only when there is a gap that needs to be filled for the attainment of
justice and balance. Hence, it preserved many of the existing practices about the
social practices and norms of the Arab society related to marriages and divorces,
making changes, additions or prohibitions only to make them just, balanced and
equitable.

 There are certain things that are very closely related to the circumstances of the
society, its standard of living, and its modes operandi. Rather than being specified and
legislated, they are better left to the collective conscience of the society expressed
through the established norms of noble behaviour in the society. Those norms of
noble behaviour are called “Ma’roof” by the Qur-aan. In almost all of the
pronouncements made in regard to the subject of divorce, behaving according to
“Ma’roof” or “norms of noble behaviour” has been emphasized explicitly and
repeatedly. It has been translated as ‘appropriately’, ‘properly’, ‘as per the traditions
of the society’, etc. according to the context, but represents abiding by “Ma’roof” or
“norms of noble behaviour” of the society.

 The parties to marital problems usually develop a very intense emotional state of
mind in which even reasonable, civilized people start reacting inequitably,
revengefully and unreasonably. Often even exhortations to such people do not seem to

110
There are many differences of opinion among jurists in the practical details of this command. As a
matter of policy, Teaching of the Qur-aan will not go into Fiqh details of the Islamic commands. The
readers who encounter these situations in their practical life should abide by their own school of Fiqh.
be effective. To ensure that people adhere to the Qur-aanic teaching of balance and
justice even in that emotional state, believers have been reminded again and again that
Allaah is watching, seeing; that these injunctions are limits imposed by Allaah, that
He does not tolerate people transgressing His limits, and that anyone who ignores
Allaah’s limits is not hurting the other party but hurting himself or herself by
displeasing Allaah.

 Although Islam wants its adherents to have stable families and to enter into marital
contracts for a life long commitment, it does recognize that sometimes it may be
better for a couple to terminate their relationship rather than living together in misery.
Hence, it allows divorce when all efforts for a healthy relationship have failed. In
those unfortunate situations, it purports to make it as brief and as strife-free as
possible to keep the tense situation in the society to a minimum.

It will also be useful to keep in mind the following fundamentals of Islamic marital contract:

 The family is the fundamental organizational unit of Islamic society that is lead by the
husband.

 The family unit is established by a mutually consented marital contract the


consideration for which is called Mahr and is paid by the husband. Mahr is a
reasonable amount of money or assets that a wife accepts to be her stake in the assets
of the husband. A wife is not entitled to any of her husband’s assets in addition to the
Mahr in case the marriage fails. In contemporary societies, people get married without
settling the value of the marital contract; then, if the marriage fails, they fight in
courts to determine what one spouse deserves from the assets of the other. This leads
to very acrimonious battle. Depending upon who is craftier and who has a better
lawyer, sometimes a wife is able to get good settlement and other times, a husband is
able to get a better deal. The social, legal and court costs are extremely injurious to
society as a whole. Islam takes care of this issue right at the beginning when both of
them are in a more conciliatory and constructive mood. It requires them to determine
at that moment what is going to be wife’s share in the assets of her prospective
husband. That is what Mahr is. If the amount of Mahr is something that they can be
happy and satisfied with, they can proceed to have a marital contract and then know
exactly what their stake is. If they cannot come to an agreement of that amount, the
marriage does not take place. Both the couple and society are saved untold amount of
costs.

 The husband is responsible for the expenses of the family in which the wife does not
have to contribute anything, even if she has income and assets. However, once the
marriage is terminated, he does not owe her any maintenance or living expenditure.

 Unless it is explicitly stipulated in a marital contract to which a man has agreed, the
husband holds the tie of marriage; i.e., only he can end the marriage by divorcing,
because it is solely he who has made financial investment in the marriage, paying
Mahr to his wife and taking full responsibility for living expenses. Similarly, the
children born into the marriage automatically belong to him, unless contracted
otherwise.
The first reform introduced in this respect is that a grace period of three menstruations has been
obligated. If all attempts to resolve the marital issues have failed, the husband should
pronounce the divorce to the wife when she is not menstruating. After the pronouncement of
the divorce, the wife waits for three menstruations. During that time, the marriage remains
valid and the husband remains responsible for normal family maintenance. If both spouses
figure that they can improve their interaction and relationship and make the marriage work,
and the husband sincerely wants to make another effort towards that goal, he has right to do so
without any other formality. The waiting period also allows finding out if she is pregnant.111
The marriage is terminated at the end of waiting period.

The society has also been told that rights do not belong to men only and obligations do not
belong to women only, as the non-Islamic practices of the society used to assume. Women
have similar rights and obligations as men. However, men also have a right to lead the family
in creating the appropriate environment of piety in their household. Man is the president of the
family unit. Otherwise, both have similar rights and obligation over each other. Women have
been accorded their proper rights in Islamic societies since Adam’s advent. Interestingly, non-
Islamic societies have mostly deprived them of their rights. It is only recently that non-Islamic
societies have started according rights to women. But being deprived of the guidance of Allaah
that ensures proper balance and equity among both males and females, non-Islamic societies
tend to swing from one extreme to another.

228
Divorced women should keep themselves in waiting for three
menstruations; and it is not lawful for them that they should conceal what
Allaah has created in their wombs, if they believe in Allaah and the Last Day.
During that period, their husbands have a better right to take them back, in case
they intend reconciliation and improvement. And the women have rights
similar to their conventional obligations; however, men have a degree more
than them; and Allaah is Mighty, Wise.

In pre-Islamic Arab society, a husband had right to divorce a wife and to take her back as wife
unlimited number of times. This afforded an exploitation opportunity to men. They could
persecute a woman by repeatedly divorcing and taking her back, putting her in a situation
where she could neither live in peace with her malicious husband nor could she marry another
person. The next verse puts an end to this game and gives only two chances to them to make it
work appropriately or end it nobly. That gives them a fair opportunity to save their family
without giving them a tool to exploit the situation. While affording them two chances, men
have been strongly warned that taking back a wife must be done sincerely and with a genuine
effort to reconcile and to improve the situation. If it is not a genuine effort for reconciliation,
but is geared to tease the woman, then Allaah will know it and will punish the perpetrator as
making a mockery of Allaah’s pronouncements.

111
Later revelations indicated that the waiting period in case of pregnancy is the pregnancy term.
229
A reconcilable divorce is only twice, then keep her properly or let her go
magnanimously; and it is not lawful for you to take back any part of what you
have given them previously, unless divorce is negotiated because both fear that
they cannot keep within the limits of Allaah. If you (judges or arbitrators) fear
that they cannot keep within the limits of Allaah, there is no blame on them for
what she gives up to become free thereby. These are the limits of Allaah, so do
not violate them and whoever violates the limits of Allaah, they are the unjust.
230
So if he divorces her for the third time, she shall not be lawful to him
thereafter until she marries another husband. Then if that husband also divorces
her, there is no blame on them both if they remarry each other, if they think
that this time they will be able observe the limits of Allaah. These are the limits
of Allaah that He expounds for a people who know the consequences of
231
violating His limits. When you divorce women and they are about to
reach the end of their waiting period, then reunite with them properly or let
them go properly. But do not retain them to cause hurt, as that will be
exceeding the limits, and whoever does this, he merely hurts himself. And do
not make mockery of Allaah's pronouncements, and remember Allaah’s grace
upon you and the fact that He sent down to you the Book and Wisdom,
admonishing you thereby; and be careful of your duty to Allaah, and know that
Allaah is the Knower of all things.

Thus, it gives a husband a total of only three rights of pronouncing a divorce to a wife. When
all efforts fail to make the marriage work properly, a husband can use his three rights in
different ways. The prudent way is that he makes one pronouncement of divorce during the
purity period of his wife and let the waiting period start. If reconciliation occurs, the husband
can resume the conjugal relations within the waiting period. If the reconciliation attempts fail,
the marriage is terminated at the end of waiting period any way. But it still gives them a chance
to get married again in future if their situation or attitude changes for the better. They can re-
unite and divorce twice. If even their third attempt fails, as soon as a husband pronounces the
third divorce, the right of reconciliation is lost at that very moment. That divorce becomes
irreversible.

Alternatively, a person can make one pronouncement of divorce during the purity period of his
wife and let the waiting period start. If the situation does not improve or no chance of
reconciliation is in sight, he can pronounce the second divorce in the second purity period. At
this point they still have chance to reconcile and resume their conjugal relations within the
waiting period. Or if nothing else happens, they can remarry after the waiting period. But if he
pronounces the third divorce in the third purity period, that puts an end to any chances of
reconciliation.

As is evident form the above, Islam does not want people to end their marriages rashly or
because of an intense emotional reaction. It wants this step to be taken only in a cool manner
when all its implications have been considered. That is why it suggests that the divorce should
be pronounced during the period of purity and in a step-by-step manner with waiting time built
in to serve as a cooling off period. Hence, the worst and the sinful way of divorcing is when an
ignorant person pronounces three divorces right at the first instance when matter reaches that
stage. Regardless of when and how divorce is pronounced, as soon as the third pronouncement
happens, they cannot get back together. However, if the woman happens to genuinely marry
another person, but that marriage does not work out either and that husband independently
divorces her because of their own marital problems, then in that case she can re-marry her
former husband only if they honestly feel that they can make it work this time.

When it is finalized that they are definitely departing from each other, the husband has been
commanded to be generous and magnanimous so that he should send her off nicely not only in
mannerism but also in terms of money, gifts, provisions, etc. in addition to her Mahr which is
her legal right anyway. Particularly, he should not demand back any of the gifts, jewellery or
valuables that he may have given her as his wife. There is only one exception to this command.
If the man wants to make the marriage work honestly, sincerely and properly, but it is the
woman who seeks divorce, then in that case she can make a deal with her husband that she can
give back any of those gifts and even forego any part of the Mahr to which is she is legally
entitled. If they arrive at such an arrangement amicably and privately, then the husband can
divorce her on those terms. Otherwise, the wife can seek the termination of marriage through
court. However, the court will grant annulment or termination only if it is not for a petty reason
but there are some serious issues that hinder their marital life within the boundaries of Allaah’s
law.

As soon as the waiting period is over, the divorced woman can marry any other man to whom
marriage is normally allowed. In fact, Islam encourages them to do so as soon as possible, but
they should do it using the noble behaviour for finding a soul-mate that is acceptable among
the pious people of the society. However, sometimes ex-husbands or their families create
problems in the way of the divorced women getting married again. This is totally unacceptable.
If they are truly Muslims and believe in Allaah and the Last Day, they should understand that
Allaah SWT will hold them accountable for this despicable behaviour on the Day of Judgment.

232
When you divorce women and they complete their waiting period, do not
cause hindrances in the way of their marrying their prospective husbands when
it is agreed between them appropriately. This is an admonition for those among
you who believe in Allaah and the Last Day. This is more virtuous for you, and
cleaner; and Allaah knows, you do not.

If the divorced couple have an infant child, the welfare of the child must be properly
considered when finalizing the terms of divorce:

233
If a father desires that his children are suckled for the full term, the divorced
mothers should breastfeed their children for two whole years. In that case, the
person to whom the child is born (the father) is responsible for bearing the
mother’s food and clothing expenses according to the appropriate standard of
their society. However, no one should be burdened beyond one’s capacity –
neither should mother be troubled for her child, nor he to whom the child is
born for his child. The father’s heir will be similarly responsible for her
expenses. However, if both father and mother want to wean the child by
mutual consent and consultation, it will not be held against them. Similarly, if
you wish to engage a wet-nurse to suckle your children, there is nothing wrong
with it so long as you appropriately pay her what you commit. And save
yourselves from Allaah’s displeasure and know that He indeed watches what
you do.

Depending on the age and needs of the infant, the couple should agree upon one of the
following three alternatives considering the best interest of the child, circumstances of the
mother and financial condition of the father:
 The mother breastfeeds the child for the full Islamically recommended term of two
years. In that case, the husband must pay the food and clothing costs of the mother for
the duration of the suckling term.

 If the infant is less than two years old but is able to consume other nutritional foods
without being breastfed, they can mutually agree upon weaning the child.

 A wet nurse is hired to breastfeed the child in which case the mother will be free from
the responsibility and will be able to concentrate on her personal interests. But the
father must undertake to pay reasonable compensation to the nurse and pay it timely
and appropriately.

Whatever arrangements are made, it must be kept in mind that the needs of the child are not
used as an excuse for exploitation of either the father or the mother.

The use of the term “he to whom the child is born” instead of “father” hints that the child
belongs to father.

The next two verses deal with the situation of a widow:


234
As for the wives left behind by those of you who die, they should hold
themselves back for four months and ten days. Once they have completed that
period, there is no blame on you for what they do for themselves in a normal,
appropriate manner. And Allaah is aware of what you do. 235 During their
waiting period, it is okay whether you subtly hint to the widowed women your
intention of troth, or you keep it in your hearts. Allaah knows that you will be
thinking about them, but do not undertake secret promises, except for talking
what is normally acceptable. In any case, do not make up your mind about
tying the marriage knot until the prescribed period is fulfilled. And remember
that Allaah surely knows what is in your minds, so fear Him. Also know that
Allaah surely is Forgiving, Forbearing.
The point to note is that if someone wants to marry a widow, he should not openly discuss,
make arrangements or seek or make commitments about marriage during the waiting period of
four months and ten days. She should be given time to grieve the loss of her husband and her
emotional mental state should be respected. One may think about her or mentally plan to
propose for marriage, and may even drop a subtle hint, but it must not go beyond that at all.
During the waiting period, her living expenses must be borne by the estate of her husband. As
soon as the waiting period is over, she is free to re-marry even if it is promptly after the period.
The family of her deceased husband should neither interfere with her decision, nor should they
try to influence it one way or the other, nor should they blame her for the steps she takes
according to the accepted norms of noble behaviour.

The discussion on marital issues is being concluded by clarifying the rights and obligation in
case a husband divorces a woman whom he has not yet touched.

236
If you divorce women before you have touched them and before you have
specified for them the amount of your obligation (Mahr), you will not be
blamed for not paying any Mahr. However, you should pay them some
reasonable amount according to society standards – the well-to-do according to
his capacity and the poor according to his. This is an obligation on the noble.
237
If you divorce women before you have touched them but you have already
specified for them the amount of your Mahr obligation, you must pay half of
what you specified, unless she volunteers to forego her right or if he in whose
hand is the marriage tie overlooks his right and pays more. Giving up one’s
right in favour of the other person is more in line with Taqwa. And do not
forget graciousness among yourselves. Indeed Allaah is watching all that you
do.

If the nikaah has taken place but the conjugal relations have not been established, the couple
may realize that their marriage cannot work and may decide to terminate the marriage. If that
happens, and the couple had not yet determined the amount of Mahr, then the husband does not
owe any Mahr to the wife, but he should show some civility and generosity and give her some
reasonable amount of gifts and money as a parting present. However, if the husband had made
commitment for a certain amount of Mahr, then he owes her one half of the agreed upon
amount, unless the woman shows generosity and forgoes part or all of her 50% legal share or
the man shows generosity and gives her more than 50%.

Using the phrase “in whose hand is the marriage tie” for the husband makes it explicit that the
decision about terminating the marriage is in the hands of the husband. If a woman seeks
divorce, she needs to convince her husband to grant it or go to court to get it.

The kind of loving, caring and decent society that Islam is designed to create requires that
people treat each other with generosity, magnanimity, forgiveness and kindness whether they
are happy with someone or unhappy. That is why the believers have been reminded: And do
not forget graciousness among yourselves. This kind of gracious attitude is possible only when
a person’s heart and soul are so imbued in pursuit of Allaah’s pleasure that he passionately
does what Allaah likes and strictly avoids what Allaah dislikes. To develop that kind of
attitude, one must establish a close relationship with Allaah by performing Ŝalaah regularly
and punctually with full spirit of humility and submissiveness; so much so that one must find a
way to perform it even in the dangerous circumstances.
238
Guard your Ŝalawaat112, particularly the excellently performed Ŝalaah113,
and stand in slavish obedience to Allaah. 239 When you are in danger, then
perform them standing or riding, whatever is possible. Once you are safe again,
remember Allaah as He has taught you what you did not know.

Keep in mind that the situation in Madeenah during the days of this revelation was very
dangerous because of the looting gangs and assassination squads being sent by the Makkans
and the impending attack with which they had threatened the Muslims. For that reason,
Muslims had to scout the border areas and remain vigilant in dangerous circumstances. And it
was in those days that the tiny community of impoverished, ill-equipped Muslims had to
defend themselves against a well-armed and well-equipped 1000 strong Makkan army. As one
can witness from all the reforms introduced in the previous paragraphs, despite extremely
adverse circumstances, achievement of the Islamic objective of establishing justice and
promoting excellence remained the top priority and the essence of the Islamic mission.

This was a concluding remark for the injunctions and reforms that started with verse 163. The
next two verses were revealed to clarify and add some subsidiary points to the commands
given in the previous sections.

In the Arab society, there was no concept of giving a widow anything from the inheritance left
by her husband. Like all other reforms implemented by Islam, this situation was also reformed
in evolutionary steps introduced in rapid succession. In the verse 234, Allaah SWT introduced
a waiting period that indirectly makes it incumbent that their living expense must be borne by
the estate of their husbands during the waiting period. Verse 240 introduced the next step.
Then, it was finalized when the inheritance law in Soorah Nisaa allocated a specific portion of
inheritance to the widows.

112
It is plural of Ŝalaah, the obligatory worship of Allaah performed five times daily.
113
The term used in the Qur-aan is Ŝalaatul-wusŧaa. It is usually translated as the middle Ŝalaah of the
five Ŝalawaat. Then there is big difference of opinion among those who translate it that way as to which
of the five is the middle one. Majority opinion is in favour of ‘Asr. It is on the basis of the fact that during
the battle of Aĥzaab, the Prophet and Muslims could not perform ‘Asr Ŝalaah due to the intensity of the
attack of Kuffar. On that, the Prophet commented, “May Allaah fill their graves and homes with fire, they
have made us miss our Ŝalaatul-wusŧaa.” Wusŧaa also means ‘the best’. Hence, Syed Maudoodi is of the
opinion that this does not refer to the sequence of the Ŝalaah, but rather to the quality of the Ŝalaah. From
that perspective, he interprets the Prophets comment also from that perspective; i.e. now the missed
Ŝalaah will be offered out of its time and will have to be done in hurry considering that the battle was still
going on. Syed Mauddodi’s opinion makes much sense and fits the best in the context. Even those who
take it to mean a middle prayer try to identify the prayer which people are most likely to miss or perform
in hurry with least presence of mind. Thus, it comes down to the quality of the prayer anyway.
240
And those of you who are dying leaving wives behind should bequeath for
their wives a year's maintenance and residence, without turning them out; but if
they leave of their own accord, there is no blame on you for what they do by
themselves in an appropriate manner; and Allaah is Mighty, Wise.

In verse 236 Allaah SWT commanded believers to give some appropriate gifts, provisions
and/or money to wives when parting company after the divorce. Now, in closing, He is re-
emphasizing it so that it is not taken lightly or treated just as a good suggestion but is taken
seriously as an obligation upon those who have Taqwa.

241
Similarly, some maintenance should be provided for the divorced women
according to standards of the society. This is a duty on the people with Taqwa.
242
Thus does Allaah expound His pronouncements for you so that you may
understand.

The concluding verse 242 identifies that these verses were revealed to expound on the earlier
commands so that the graduation in the implementation of Islamic reforms is evident to the
subsequent generations.
Before this discourse on social reforms, the two interrelated subjects being discussed were:
Getting ready to fight in the way of Allaah and spending in the way of Allaah. Getting ready to
fight was needed initially to defend against the attacks on the fledgling Islamic state and then
eventually to take back the control of the Holy Ka‘bah from pagan hands to restore it to the
original status of being the centre of the Islamic movement – the purpose for which it was built
by Ibraheem and Ismaa‘eel ‘alayhimassalaam. Spending in the way of Allaah was extremely
important for two reasons: To take care of the many homeless and resourceless immigrants and
other deprived people of the society as well as to finance the war imposed by the Makkans.
This led to the discussion on the importance of staying away from immoral ways of raising
funds for good causes, how much should be spent in the way of Allaah, care of orphans,
marriage to the mothers of orphans, and marital and divorce issues. Now the discussion is
returning to the crucial topic of fighting and spending for Allaah’s cause, because the survival
of the Muslim community was critically dependant on these two things at that time.

Before moving forward, however, it is essential to refresh the understanding of Allaah’s cause.
Although it has been discussed in the past, its frequent repetition is warranted to keep a clear
perspective of the nature of Islamic struggle.

Islam has been a way of life prescribed by Allaah since the creation of Adam. It is the only
system of life that establishes a balanced, moderate, equitable and peaceful society so that
everyone has a chance to be the best a human being can be. Thus, any deviations from it or any
man made systems that are at variance with it are inherently going to be unjust and unfair in
one form or the other. That is why whenever people drifted away from the Islamic way of life,
it resulted in injustices, corruption, tyranny, bloodshed and exploitation of people. Whenever
this situation went out of hand, Allaah SWT sent a new Messenger to re-establish balance,
peace, justice and human dignity through the Islamic system of life. When the messengers
undertake their mission, those who are part of the existing exploitive power structure resist and
try to destroy the Islamic movement, using every tyranny they can muster to do so. The people
who believe in the messengers, stand with them in tough times and fight on their side for the
pleasure of Allaah are said to be fighting for the cause of Allaah. It is Allaah’s cause because
they fight to fulfill Allaah’s plan of mercy for mankind by establishing peace, justice and
balance without infringing upon the freedoms of people. Had Allaah SWT used his own power
and authority to establish peace, balance and justice, it would have deprived people of their
freedom to act, as they would have been forced to do what Allaah wanted them to do.

To make some important points about fighting in the way of Allaah and to teach Muslims not
to repeat the same mistakes, two examples from the history of Israelites have been used.
Although the Jewish and Christian writings depict these historical incidences as if they were
for the hegemony, preservation or benefit of a certain race, that is a corrupted view of reality.
The fact is that every prophet and messenger of Allaah worked for the supremacy of Islam and
for the establishment of peace and justice of Islam in the society, not for racial considerations.
243
Did you not think of those who left their homes fearing death, and they
were thousands? So Allaah said to them, Die; then He revived them. Most
surely Allaah is full of bounty to people, but most people are not grateful.
The people who want to establish Islam and improve the lot of human masses need to stand up
in the face of death and hardships and be ready to make any sacrifices their mission requires.
The cowards who run away from death or hardships cannot achieve any of their noble goals.
They may run away to save their lives, but they end up becoming worse than dead because of
the humiliation and subjugation they have to endure. Despite their huge numbers, they become
a helpless herd of sheep at the mercy of their predators. That is what happened to Israelites.
Their life in slavery of the Egyptians had made them so used to cowardice and sheepish
mentality that when Moosa114 brought them out of their homes in Egypt, they would not fight
to acquire a place to establish an Islamic society of peace and justice where all human beings
could enjoy their life with dignity. Consequently, Allaah let them wander in the desert until a
generation of young men with a taste for freedom was brought up, their courage was revived
and they became alive as a nation.115

Another notable example is what happened during the time of Prophet Samuel. At that time,
the Israelites were a large community but totally divided, disorganized, morally corrupt and
religiously ignorant, not even aware of the real objectives of Deen. They had developed a
defeatist mentality that made them think that they would never be able to win against the
disbelievers. Instead of standing up for their survival, they were terrified by the power and
ability of their enemies. The disbelievers even took away their Ark of Covenant, which was
religiously their most precious physical asset. The Ark was used as their Qiblah for worship
and was placed in the holy of holies where none was allowed to enter except the high priest,
only once a year on Yom Kippur. They were so afraid of dying at the hand of their enemies
that they could not even defend their most sacred object or their cities, and ran away from their
homes.116 Facing this kind of conditions, Prophet Samuel worked day and night to educate
them, to make them repent from their corruption, to revive their faith and to restore their
confidence in themselves and trust in Allaah. Finally, they developed some courage to stand up
and fight for their survival. In other words, the dead community was brought to life again.

Some Muslims who were reluctant to stand up in front of the power of Quraish are being told
through this example that running for the fear of physical death or hardships causes the real
death of a community. True Muslims live by their principles without ever compromising and
thus yielding to the hardships that a principled stand may bring. Rather, they fight bravely to
establish Islam completely without being scared of death. A Muslim never runs from death. If
the immigrant Muslims left their homes for Madeenah, it was not to escape persecution or
death; rather, it was to collect scattered Muslims from different places at one location for
building a community together to implement Islam on a state level.

244
Then, fight for Allaah’s cause, and know that Allaah is Hearing, Knowing.
245
Who is it that will lend to Allaah a beautiful loan, so He may multiply it for
him many times over? It is Allaah Who withholds tightly and bestows
plentifully, and to Him you shall be returned.

114
Moses
115
Al-Maaidah 5:24-26. For details in the Bible, see Numbers, Deuteronomy and Joshua.
116
1 Samuel Chapter 4, 7 and 11.
Allaah’s cause, as explained above, is the establishment of Islam as a complete way of life so
that all humanity benefits from the excellence, peace and justice that are the objectives of
Islam.

Although whatever people have is Allaah’s -- given to them only temporarily in trust to use it
according to Allaah’s commands, Allaah SWT is so kind that if it is spent in His cause He
accepts it as a loan that is paid back many times over in the form of His rewards and bounties.
The reward and its multiples depend upon how good or beautiful the loan is. What makes it
good or beautiful is explained in details in subsequent sections of this soorah, but it becomes
good by factors such as: Given only for the pleasure of Allaah, selflessly, not to show off or
any other ulterior motives, giving the best quality things not the things one does not like,
giving when oneself is in need, the extent of sacrifice made in giving what was given, etc.

The next example from the history of Israelites has been given in more detail because the
details show some parallels with circumstances of Muslims at the time of this revelation, and
some weaknesses in Israelites behaviour that usually creep up among subsequent generations
of Muslims. These weaknesses are highlighted for our benefit (the subsequent generations) so
that we may avoid them or if we find them present in our midst, we can rectify them. Once
again, it should be kept in mind that prophet Samuel, Ŧaloot (Saul) and Dawood (David) were
working for Islamic objectives, not for a racial cause.

246
Did you not think of the chiefs of Israelites after Moosa117 when they said to
a prophet of theirs, “Appoint a king for us under whom we will fight in
Allaah’s cause”? He said: “Perhaps you will not fight even if fighting is
ordained for you.” They said: "How could we not fight for Allaah's cause when
we have been compelled to abandon our homes and our children.” But when
fighting was ordained for them, they turned away, except a few of them; and
Allaah has full knowledge of the evildoers.

The greatest problem that Israelites were facing at that time was that they had completely
forgotten the objectives of Deen and lacked commitment to strive for them or make any
sacrifice for them. Rather, they had become so self-centred that their first priority was to
preserve their personal comfort or their life, regardless of how humiliated that life was. This
lack of commitment and accompanying attitude of giving up principles to save their lives was
their real cause of weakness and cowardice. Instead of recognizing the real issue, they blamed
their problems on lack of dynamic leadership because, in their view, Prophet Samuel was too
old to lead them in a battle. This is typical of people who lack the real commitment to their
mission in life except to their self-centred lifestyle. They usually blame all their problems on
lack of appropriate leadership, ignoring the fact that if they become committed to the mission,
Allaah SWT will make the appropriate leadership at the needed level evolve from their own
ranks. This is a critical point to be considered by the Muslim masses today because many of
them blame similar factors for their deplorable condition.

117
Moosa ‘alayhissalaam is Prophet Moses.
Another indication of their lack of commitment to or understanding of the Islamic system was
what they asked for. When asking for the leadership, they did not ask for a commander or a
leader to lead them in their freedom fighting efforts, but for a king. This indicated how much
they had adopted the un-Islamic concepts from the disbelieving societies. Prophet Samuel told
them the problems a king can cause and dangers hidden in this kind of political set up, but they
would not listen.118 Considering their insistence, he ceded to their request as a concession only
because the king was not going to be fully autonomous king but was going to be under the
guidance and control of the prophet himself. The lesson to learn for us is that we should not
mimic other society’s structures for Muslim societies. Rather, we should establish the structure
of Islamic states on the model of Khilaafah119 practised by Khulafaa-ur-Raashideen.120

Prophet Samuel knew that their real problem was their lack of commitment and courage to
fight for their Deen. Their claims were empty and they were showing readiness to fight only as
long as they had an excuse behind which to hide. Once the excuse was taken away, their
cowardice would become evident. This point was a parallel to the condition of some of the
Muslims who initially were complaining about not being allowed to fight, but when they were
asked to get ready and prepare to defend Madeenah, they starting complaining about their
being asked to fight.

247
Their prophet said to them: "Allaah has appointed Ŧaloot121 as a king over
you." They said: “How can he have kingship over us while we are more
deserving of kingship than he, and he has not been given an abundance of
wealth even?” He said: “Surely Allaah has chosen him over you, and He has
increased him abundantly in knowledge and physique, and Allaah grants His
kingdom to whom He wishes, and Allaah is Plenty-giving, Knowing.” 248 The
prophet also informed them: “Surely the sign of His kingship is that the Ark, in
which there is tranquility from your Lord and a remnant of what the family of
Moosa and the family of Haaroon had left behind, shall come back to you,
carried by angels. Most surely there is a sign in this for you if you are
believers.”
Islamic leadership must be elected on the basis of Taqwa, knowledge, commitment to the
objectives of and the capabilities to perform the required job, not on the basis of family, social
status or wealth of a person. Israelites failed on that point as well. When Ŧaloot was appointed
by Allaah based on his qualities, they objected to the appointment on the basis of un-Islamic
criteria – his being from the Benjaminite’s most insignificant family and not being wealthy.
They overlooked that Allaah SWT knows who has the best capabilities for the job at hand.

118
1 Samuel 7:15 to 8:22 and 12:12-23
119
Islamic consultative and consensus building system that is run under the guidance of the Qur-aan and
Sunnah, is operated democratically (elections, consultation, voting and consensus building) but is free
from the faults and problems of so-called western democracies.
120
Rightly Guided Successor to the Prophet
121
Saul
The capture of the Ark by the enemies, as mentioned previously, was a huge shock to the
Israelites. For the same reason, its recovery was great heartening news. This was a big morale
booster. Because of this role that the ark played in their lives, Qur-aan has called it “in which
there is tranquility (Sakeenah) from your Lord”. Like many other manipulations and
misconceptions, the Jewish literature portrays it as if Shekinah represented physical presence
of God. The Qur-aan is correcting their misconception.

According to the Bible, the way the Ark came back is that Philistines put the ark on a bullock
cart and sent it toward Israelite territory without any cart driver, but the cattle miraculously
continued on the path until they reached Israelite territory.122 This driving of the cattle by
angels may be what is meant by “carried by angels”.

The Bible narrates that the presence of the Ark was bad omen for Philistines, so after 7 months
they sent it back.123 But this statement does not make sense. If it was sent back after merely
seven months, why was it not brought back and put into the holy of holies where it was
supposed to be placed. Why did the Israelites continue lamenting for more than 20 years if the
Ark was in their own custody?124 It is more credible that the Ark was kept by Philistines for all
that time until Ŧaloot’s appointment. During that time the hard work done by Prophet Samuel
in reforming the Israelites had created a change in their attitude and they had been repenting,
coming back to Islamic practice and abandoning many evils, superstitions and idolatrous
practices they had previously adopted. Then, under Ŧaloot’s leadership they had started
preparing for fighting and had started taking some of their territory back.125 On their
reformation, Allaah SWT came to their help and Philistines thought they should send their Ark
back to stop their advance. The fact is that the Bible has so much contradictory information
interpolated into it that any factual statements in it can only be discerned with the help of the
Qur-aan.

Although the hard work by Prophet Samuel and Ŧaloot had created a new desire in Israelites to
stand up for their defence and fight for their principles, old habits die hard. While there were
some sensible people who understood the need of the time, were committed to the cause and
had strong faith and trust in Allaah, many were still not reliable. When Ŧaloot started his
military action, Allaah wanted him to test his forces to sort out the steadfast from the
undependable. For that purpose he tested their obedience to orders, discipline, self-control and
capacity to withstand hardship by asking them to bear their thirst and continue on without
drinking from a river on their way. The majority of them failed the test but some of them
showed the desired quality of steadfastness and discipline. Ŧaloot knew whom he could take
with him to confront the enemy.

249
So when Ŧaloot set out with the armies, he said: “Surely Allaah will test
you at a river; whoever drinks from it, he is not my soldier, except he who
takes a mere sip out of his hand; and whoever does not taste of it, he definitely

122
1 Samuel 6:7-13
123
1 Samuel 6:1
124
1 Samuel 7:2
125
1 Samuel 12:6-16
is my soldier.” But with the exception of a few of them, they drank from it. So
when he and those who believed with him had crossed the river, they (the
violators) said: “Today we have no power against Jaloot126 and his forces.”
Those who were sure that they would meet Allaah exclaimed: How often, by
Allaah's permission, has a small force defeated a huge one, and Allaah is with
the steadfast. 250 When they advanced to meet Jaloot and his forces, they
prayed: "Our Lord! Pour out perseverance on us, and make our steps firm, and
help us against the disbelieving people. 251 By Allaah's permission, they routed
them. Dawood127 killed Jaloot; and Allaah gave him kingship and wisdom and
taught him whatever He wished. And were it not for Allaah's repelling some
people with others, the earth would certainly be full of corruption; but Allaah is
full of bounty to the world.

Those who failed the test of thirst refused to march forward to fight with Jaloot and his army.
But the true believers were undaunted by the power of the enemies. They were truly inspired
by their faith that those who die in the way of Allaah find the eternal life and that they would
be eventually meeting with their Lord anyway. It gave them the courage to confront the enemy
knowing that with bravery, steadfastness and Allaah’s help, a small group can route a large
army. And that is what happened.

The fact that a small army of steadfast believers can win over a large army of disbelievers with
Allaah’s help is the crux of the lesson for which the story was mentioned. In anticipation of
Makkan attack, Muslims were being taught how their faith in Allaah, bravery and steadfastness
can translate into a decisive victory over the well-equipped and large army of Quraish, with the
help of Allaah SWT. In fact, through this example, the Muslims were shown the battle scenario
and its results in advance. And that is exactly what happened at Badr128. Even the way both
armies advanced to confront each other was a fitting example. 1 Samuel 17:3 describes the
scene as follows:

And the Philistines stood on a mountain on the one side, and Israel stood on a
mountain on the other side: and there was a valley between them.

Soorah Anfaal describes the seen of battle of Badr as follows:

When you were on this side of the valley and they were on the other side… (8:42)

These battles between the believers and their enemies are in fact a part of Allaah’s plan to keep
in check the corruption, injustices and destruction caused by the corrupt powers and their un-
Islamic, man-made systems. They are not the battles motivated by territorial, political,
economic or racial interests. If Allaah would not make the believers fight to keep the

126
Goliath
127
David
128
The place where Muslims successfully defended against the first major Makkan attack.
disbelieving rulers in check, the tyranny of rulers governing by their own whims or by man-
made systems would fill the whole earth with their corruption and destruction. It is through
these Islamic movements that Allaah SWT re-establishes peace, justice, law and order on earth
after the man-made systems corrupt the land and continue to make the life miserable for the
masses. In this way, using believers to fight to re-establish peace and justice in the world is a
great kindness of Allaah SWT for the people of the world. It was for this mercy the previous
prophets and messengers were sent to various nations and localities and it is for this great
mercy Prophet Muĥammad ŝall Allaahu 'alayhi wa sallam was sent for the whole mankind.

252
These are the verses of Allaah that We recite to you in truth; and you indeed
are one of the messengers. 253 Those messengers -- We distinguished one over
another with different special privileges. To one of them Allaah spoke; others
He raised their status in different ways. To ‘Eesa the son of Maryam, We gave
clear miracles and provided him support from the holy spirit (Gabriel). If
Allaah had so willed, succeeding generations would not have fought one with
another after clear signs had come to them, but they disagreed; so some of
them believed and others rejected. If Allaah had so willed, they would not have
fought one with another; but Allaah does what He intends.
The proper attitude towards the messengers of Allaah is that they should all be believed in and
learnt from, recognizing the special privileges Allaah SWT granted to each of them. But some
people are biased, adhering only to a certain messenger or a group of messengers. Those who
discriminate among messengers despite clear evidence in favour of the messengers they reject,
they are the people who are creating problems and hindrances in the way of Allaah’s plan for
the peace and justice for all people. Someone may wonder, if Allaah’s plan was to establish
peace and justice for all people why does he need help from Messengers or believers in doing
so and why can he not make every one believe in the same way so there is no strife is the
world. The answer is that Allaah SWT can easily do it. He can create and pre-program people
to live peacefully and perfectly, or he can instantly kill anyone who violates any limit. But that
is not His plan, because either way, their freedom of action will be lost. His plan is to establish
peace and justice by encouraging people to voluntarily adopt Islam as their way of life and to
live by it.

Here Allaah SWT has only mentioned the special privileges granted to two Messengers before
Prophet Muĥammad. The reason is that there were two major groups of people who, like
Muslims, believed in Allaah and His revelations – the Jews and Christians. The Jews had made
everything revolve around Moosa ‘alayhisslaam to whom Allaah had granted special privilege
of direct talk. They even rejected ‘Eesa despite seeing his most astounding miracles. They even
accused him of showing the miracles with the help of Shayŧaan. The Qur-aan absolves ‘Eesa
from their charge and clarifies that he was supported by angel Jibreel whose title is holy spirit.
On the other hand, the Christians abandoned every Messenger before or after ‘Eesa
‘alayhissalaam and deified him because of the same miracles and the support from the holy
spirit. They even ended up deifying the holy spirit who was simply an angel of Allaah who
helped ‘Eesa on the command of Allaah SWT. In a subtle way, both of the groups are being
invited to abandon their biases and accept Muĥammad ŝall Allaahu 'alayhi wa sallam as the
Messenger of Allaah, who has been granted the most special privilege that he was given the
last Book in Allaah’s own words, presenting the truth in its pristine form, preserved forever
and a living miracle for people of all times.

The main theme of the discourse has been that to succeed in the hereafter, believers must strive
for Allaah’s cause (perform Jihaad) with their possessions (assets, money, resources) and their
own selves (life, time abilities), making the required sacrifices along the way. Without these
sacrifices, neither will they be able to survive with honour as a community nor will they attain
success in the hereafter. The previous sections focused more on the need to fight (Qitaal) in the
course of striving for Allaah’s cause. During the discussion on fighting, a mention of
messengers came up as a parenthetical remark. The next verse re-introduces Qitaal’s twin topic
-- spending for Allaah’s cause (Infaaq), which will remain the major topic from here onwards
until the end of the soorah, after a few more parenthetical discussions on: the right
understanding of Allaah’s attributes; Islamic concept of intercession; and, Allaah’s not
interfering with people’s freedom to deny Him; however, mercifully taking steps to guide those
who voluntarily choose to acknowledge Him as their Lord.
254
O believers! Spend from that which We have bestowed upon you before the
day comes in which there will be no trade and when neither any friendship nor
intercession will be of any use; and the disbelievers are the ones who are doing
wrong to themselves.

People succeed in their worldly goals usually through three avenues: Either they can buy what
they need to succeed; or they utilize the network of their friends; or they are helped by the
intercession (influence) of powerful, influential people who are on their side. In the hereafter,
none of these avenues of success will be at all available. The only thing that will help in the
hereafter is the pleasure of Allaah that was attained by making financial and personal sacrifices
for His cause. The time to invest in the success of the hereafter is now, which can be easily
done by spending for His cause some of the resources Allaah has bestowed to people. People
need to remember that whatever we acquire as our wealth is in fact Allaah’s. He has bestowed
it to us only temporarily and it will go to other people when we die. Logically, people should
be willing to spend in His way all of what He has bestowed. But He is so kind and merciful, He
is asking only for a portion ‘from’ it. Those who withhold from giving for His cause may think
that they are saving money and thus looking after their interest; while the fact is that by
withholding they are doing severe wrong to themselves.

The mention of intercession provided an opportunity to clarify the concept of intercession on


the day of Judgement as well as to highlight the attributes of Allaah, which, if not understood
properly, cause people to fail in developing the right kind of relationship with Allaah and leads
them into false expectations and misguided concepts of intercession. Thus the next verse
presents the essence of the faith in Allaah’s Towĥeed (oneness and uniqueness) that all the
messengers believed in, preached and lived by. Those who claim to follow any of them may
dispute as they like but the reality is what is mentioned in this verse. These concise
clarifications of wrong notions that lead to misguidance and the eloquent description of
Allaah’s attributes makes the next verse one of most significant verses of the Qur-aan.
255
Allaah is He besides Whom there is no God, the Ever-living, the Self-
subsisting Sustainer of everything. Slumber does not overtake Him nor does
sleep. Whatever is in the heavens and whatever is in the earth is His. Who is
there that can intercede with Him except by His permission? He knows what is
before them and what is behind them, while they cannot comprehend anything
of His knowledge except what He wishes to impart. His rule129 extends over the
heavens and the earth, and taking care of them both tires Him not, and He is
the Most High, the Tremendous.

This verse describes the reality and truth about Allaah SWT and mentions some aspects of the
infiniteness of Allaah’s being and of His attributes; thus:
1. Allaah SWT is one, only and infinitely unique God; hence, He is totally beyond finite
human understanding;
2. He is Ever-living who did not have any beginning, nor has any end; and He is Self-
Subsisting without any need of any support from anyone else. He always was and will
eternally remain living on His own. Because He is Ever-living, He is watching all the
time who is doing what in His universe.
3. He sustains everything else in the universe. Everything else that you can and cannot
name in the universe has been created by Him and depends on Him for its existence.
Obviously anyone who himself is not living or self-subsisting cannot be the creator
and sustainer of either life or universe. As Allaah SWT is the only One Who is Ever-
living, the Self-subsisting Sustainer, He is the only God and there is absolutely none
like Him, similar to Him or equal to Him. People who revere, worship or sing praise
of anyone else than Him are being totally unjust, unfair and irrational rebels who are
rebelling on the basis of falsehood. Anyone who dies even for one moment for
whatever reason, or needs to be resurrected, or cannot subsist on his own without food
or nourishment, cannot be God or equal to Allaah.
4. He is not the Cause of the causes who retired after initiating the process of creation,
but He has been actively managing the whole universe since He initiated its creation
and will continue to do so until he decides to wrap it up and start anew. He is not only
managing the whole universe, He owns everything in it, rules over everything and
everything will ultimately revert and remain in His custody and control. Obviously no
one who is created and owned can be in any way whatsoever equal to the Creator and
the Owner. Also, no one can give what it does not have or owns; thus no one except
Allaah can bestow to people what they seek. Seeking from anyone else is useless.
5. People must not attribute human weaknesses or finite concepts to Him. Taking care of
the whole Universe continuously does not tire Him, nor does He ever slumber or need
to rest or sleep. Without any break whatsoever, He is looking after everything with
full knowledge and awareness. So, one the one hand, we are continuously being

129
The word used in Arabic text is “Kursiyy” which means seat, chair, throne, etc. and is also used as an
allegory for power, authority, sovereignty, rule or kingdom. Because the verse contains this word, it is
commonly known as “Aayatul Kursiyy”, or the “verse of the Throne”.
watched for every intention we make or action we take; and on the other hand, He is
always present and awake to appreciate our worship and to listen to our requests,
prayers and supplications.
6. The knowledge possessed by any of the creations is finite, limited, incomplete and
imperfect on any subject matter. Allaah SWT has absolutely perfect knowledge of
everything in the universe. Also, He precisely knows the past, present and future
knowledge of everyone of His creations including any ideas that flash through their
minds, but absolutely no one of His creations can even estimate, imagine or grasp the
nature or extent of His knowledge, not to speak of the details of His knowledge. Any
person or angel can only know that much of Allaah’s knowledge as He Himself
chooses reveals to him.
7. He is so Majestic and Tremendous Sovereign that no one from His creation – no
angel, no messenger, no saint or any other names that people may have devised for
any of His creation (such as son of God) – has or will have courage to speak without
Allaah’s permission or intercede for anyone without Allaah’s invitation to do so. Only
the person invited on the Day of judgement, then, will dare to open his mouth and say
only what is true and appropriate. Even in this world, no angel or spirit can dare to
intercede on our behalf to get what we want in this world. One can get what one needs
only by making direct request to Allaah through humble supplications and prayers
directly to Him.
8. Because He is himself Ever-living, no one else is; because He exactly knows what is
everyone doing or thinking, no one else does; and because He is Self-Subsisting and
sustaining everything else, only He can do the justice to everyone and He does not
need anyone’s help Allaah in doing perfect justice to everyone. Thus, He does not
need intercession from anyone for anyone to do the justice. He will allow intercession
only as a favour to the intercessor and to the person for whom the intercession is
allowed. No one has either right to intercede or to benefit from the intercession. This
favour will not be random but only on the basis of His own principles of bestowing
His mercy on people. Because only Allaah has the absolute knowledge about
everyone, only He can make the right decision who deserves His mercy and who
should intercede for him. Thus, people do not need to please anyone else by any rites
or offerings to gain his or her favour except Allaah, because no one has right to
intercede any way. If Allaah is pleased then everything else will fall in place, but if
He is not pleased, no intercession is going to be of any avail.

Once a person properly understands the abovementioned facts about Allaah, it is impossible for
him to commit any kind of Shirk, ascribe any partners to Allaah, consider anyone in the
universe equal to Allaah SWT in any respect, or believe in anyone having right to intercede in
favour of his favourite people.
This is the truth about Allaah SWT that all messengers believed and preached, but
unfortunately many people deviate from it. Allaah could have forced them to believe in this
truth by pre-programming them like all other creations, thus depriving them from freedom to
choose. But instead of compelling them to do so by depriving them from freedom, He has
chosen to provide clear guidance through many signs in the universe, within human
surroundings and their own existence as well as through clear teachings of the Messenger and
the Qur-aan so that the sensible people can discover the truth rationally and adopt it
voluntarily.
256
There is no compulsion regarding Deen. The reality is that the right way has
become distinct from error; therefore, whoever disbelieves in the Ŧaaghoot and
believes in Allaah, he indeed has grasped the most trustworthy handle that
never breaks. And Allaah is Hearing, Knowing.

Here Deen refers to Islamic faith and lifestyle that is firmly grounded in the attributes of Allaah
as described above in verse of the Throne (255). Ŧaaghoot is any ideology, system, person or
clique that rebels from the obedience to Allaah, causes others to disobey Allaah and/or
demands people’s loyalty and obedience to itself in place of Allaah. A person cannot be a true
slave of Allaah unless obedience to Ŧaaghoot is denied and rejected.

Now that Allaah SWT has not compelled people through pre-programming to live by the Deen
of Islam, it is up to people to use their common sense and rational power to believe in Allaah
and thus benefit from the strong support of the truth and Allaah’s guidance that will lead them
to the eternal success without breaking. If people choose not to believe in the realities about
Allaah, they will not be forced because that will defeat the purpose for which they have been
given freedom by Allaah. That is a simple, straightforward meaning that fits in the context.
Some people take this verse out of context and misinterpret it to mean that the rule of Islam
cannot be enforced. They think if a person claims to be a Muslim but violates the teachings of
Islam, he should not be pressured to follow them. Nothing can be more ridiculous than this
claim. The fact that Allaah does not force people to become Muslims does not mean that those
who choose to become Muslims should not be expected to follow its rules and regulations.
Those who voluntarily accept Islam must follow its teachings or stop claiming to be Muslims.
That is simple and straightforward logic. People are free to join and not join an army. But once
they join, they have no choice but to strictly follow the rules and commands. If they violate,
they will be punished and forced to obey. Or, people are free whether they want to join a sports
team or not, but those who decide to join must play by the rules as part of the team. They
cannot be allowed to do whatever they want. The same way, Allaah does not want to compel
any one to become a Muslim, but if one does become a Muslim, he has no choice but to live by
its rules and practices.

Once a person comes out of the darkness of all the confusions and misguidances created by
Ŧaaghoot and takes a rational approach to faith, his mind is illuminated with the truth of Islam
and guidance of Allaah. Then the straight path to the eternal success remains bright and clear
for him. On the other hand, those who follow Ŧaaghoot continue to grope deeper and deeper
into the darkness of misguidance, confusion and misunderstandings. They continue wasting
their time and life on wrong paths without seeing the dreadful end to which they are heading.
257
Allaah is the patron of those who believe; He brings them out of the
darkness into the light; while those who disbelieve, their patrons are Ŧaaghoot
who take them out of the light into the darkness; they are the inmates of the
Fire, in which they shall abide forever.

In Arabic Allaah SWT has used light in singular while darkness in plural. It is because there is
only one truth, but those who refuse to accept it suffer from a variety of confusions,
misguidances and misunderstandings in terms of their nature, kind and source; hence, multiple
darknesses.

This verse makes two important points: Firstly, Those who use their God-given rational
abilities and voluntarily accept Allaah as their Lord because it makes a lot of sense to them,
Allaah becomes their “Wali” (patron, friend, supporter, guardian) and mercifully takes steps
that help them clarify all confusions or misunderstandings and the path of Islam becomes
crystal clear to them. This help is afforded directly to the prophets and Messengers and through
them to the believers. On the other hand, those who prefer to stay with Ŧaaghoot are left at
their130 mercy, and different kinds of Ŧaaghoots misguide them even further, taking them
deeper into the multiple layers of darkness.

In the following verses Allaah SWT has given three examples to elaborate the points made
above.

The first example is about a person, Nimrod (Namrood), who is provided the clear and rational
proposition about faith in Allaah but he refuses to accept the guidance and continues to follow
the Ŧaaghoot of his own pride, selfishness and desire to maintain the existing power structure
where he is at the top.

258
Did you not think about him who argued with Ibraheem131 about his Lord,
because Allaah had given him the kingdom? When Ibraheem said, “My Lord is
He who gives life and causes death”, he said, “I give life and cause death”.
Ibraheem said, “Well, surely Allaah brings the sun up from the east, just bring
it up from the west”. That disbeliever was dumbfounded. And Allaah does not
guide aright the unjust people.

As you may know, Ibraheem’s community worshipped idols, stars, the moon and the sun.
Their whole society was structured around these religious beliefs. Even their king was
supposed to be a representative of these gods and a god-incarnate, and thus only he deserved
the autonomous authority in the land and that his word must be taken as the ultimate law for
people to obey. Ibraheem was a rational person. He told his community that it did not make
sense that they made idols with their own hands and then worshiped these useless things or

130
Once a person forsakes slavery to Allaah, he or she becomes slave to many Taaghoots including
Shayŧaan, one’s own desires, family expediencies, customs and traditions of the society, Western
lifestyle, powerful leaders, so on and so forth.
131
Abraham
other finite, lifeless things. He explained that they should worship only the Infinite Creator of
all these things. When they would not listen to him, he gave them a practical demonstration of
the powerlessness of their object of worship by destroying their idols. That is when he was
brought to the court of Nimrod.

When asked about God, Ibraheem presented the very fundamental, logical concept about God;
i.e., God can only be the entity who created life and death. If people just understand this basic
concept, they will never worship any idol or any entity that is not a creator of life and death.
Clarification of this basic point eliminates all false deities worshipped by people. But instead
of paying attention to the essence of Ibraheem’s statement, the king preferred to play with the
words. He claimed that he also gives life and death because he can command a person to be
killed or to be freed. This was a ridiculous reply and Ibraheem could have easily pointed out
the problem with king’s response. But that would have started an argument, wasting time and
energy without much chance of clarifying the issue. Hence, Ibraheem came back from a
different angle where the king would not be able to play the game. That made the king
speechless but he still refused to accept the truth that was so tactfully and clearly presented to
him. He would not believe because he knew that it would deprive him of the legitimacy to
govern. If Allaah was accepted as the sole Lord of the universe, only Allaah’s word would be
supreme in the land, and not his. Also in that case, Ibraheem would be the representative of
Allaah, not him. That is why the king was dumbfounded. He could not deny the truth about
Allaah, nor would his own pride and self-interest let him accept it. Thus he did what all
Ŧaaghoot do. He labelled Ibraheem as an enemy of the civilization who was destroying peace
in the land and he commanded that Ibraheem be imprisoned and then burnt alive.

The next two examples describe how Allaah SWT becomes the patron of the Messengers and
guides them through different stages of development. While reading these examples, one must
keep in mind that these represent some very special educational experiences that Allaah SWT
arranges for His messengers. Once His messengers went through the rational faith in the
unseen stage, and they stood up and started inviting people to Islamic faith on His command,
they are given special first hand knowledge or personal experience of the realities of the faith.
That is how they were prepared for inviting people to Islam so that they could tell people that
what they were saying was the truth they themselves had observed and experienced. A
messenger went through three stages of development in this respect. They challenged the
beliefs and paradigms of the society at the onset of their adulthood and through their rational
approach believed in Allaah as the One and Only Creator and God Who should be singularly
and exclusively obeyed in all matters. This first stage, believing only because it made sense, is
common between ordinary people and the messengers. Then Allaah SWT started sending them
the revelations and asked them to invite others to Islam. At this second stage they could invite
people not only on the rational basis that made sense but also because Allaah himself had told
them about the realities in which they must believe. All prophets had that distinction. Then,
during the early stages of their prophethood, the messengers were taken through very special
experiences where they themselves were able to personally experience or observe the realities
of faith. This enabled them to call people to Islam on rational basis, on the basis of knowledge
from Allaah, and on the basis of their personal witness.
259
Or he, for example, who passed by a township that had fallen down upon its
roofs; he wondered, “How will Allaah raise its population after its death?” So
Allaah caused him to die for a hundred years, then raised him to life and asked,
“How long have you lain here?” He said, “I have lain for a day or a part of a
day.” Allaah informed him, “Nay! You have been lying here a hundred years.
Now look at your food and drink, they have not yet even become stale; but
look at your donkey! We have kept you alive so that We make you a sign for
people, and now watch donkey’s bones, how We set them together, then clothe
them with flesh.” So when it became clear to him, he exclaimed, “I know that
Allaah has power over all things.”

Allaah SWT has not mentioned here the name of the Messenger because the complete story of
this messenger is not preserved in any of the previous scriptures. In such cases, the mention of
the name is useless and can, in fact, become a distraction from the importance of the point
itself that Allaah did bestow special knowledge and guidance to His messengers.

The exclamation about “how will Allaah raise…” was not an exclamation of doubt or denial
but of curiosity to find out and discover with certainly how it takes place. This type of “how” is
expressly stated in the next example by Ibraheem himself who had expressed the same
curiosity.

Many people wonder about the time between a person’s death and the Day of Judgment. They
forget that our concept time is only a worldly phenomenon to help us, the finite human beings
living in a finite world of rising and setting sun. Beyond this world, this worldly concept of
time does not apply at all. That is why, when this messenger was raised after 100 years, it
seemed to him only a matter of perhaps a few hours. People will feel the same way when they
will be raised on the Day of Judgment regardless of how many thousands of years ago one
died.

260
Also keep in mind when Ibraheem said, “My Lord! Show me how do You
revive the dead.” He asked, “Why, do you not believe?” He responded, “Of
course I do, but just want to bring certainty to my heart.” Allaah said: “Then
take four of the birds, train them to follow you, then place on every mountain a
part of them, then call them, they will come to you flying in haste; and know
that Allaah is Mighty, Wise.

The Qur-aan, as per its concise style, has related the whole story in a very few words. People
who seek guidance from the Qur-aan can easily understand the whole story from the wording
used within this concise narration. For example, Ibraheem’s slaughtering of the birds and
cutting into pieces is evident from the mention of placing their pieces on each mountain.
However, there are who those want the Qur-aan to say what they think is right instead of
accepting what the Qur-aan has to say. For example, some people do not want to believe in
miracles. They do not understand that Allaah SWT is the Creator of nature and is not bound by
it. He can do things differently whenever He wants. They fail to grasp that He has power to do
everything and that He uses His power with wisdom, sometimes out of ordinary course of
nature, for greater good of people such as in this case of preparing the messengers for the
extremely difficult task of inviting others to Islam. Because they do not want to accept that a
miracle took place, they twist the words of the Qur-aan to suit their stance and deny the clear
teachings of the Qur-aan by distorting its message and applying obscure meanings to its words
to somehow twist its meanings to comply with their own concepts.

Another very important caution in respect of these examples is that such requests of
messengers about “how” for the certainty of their heart were allowed for the messengers only.
Muslims should not use these examples to justify the questions they raise about Islamic
commands132.

132
For detailed discussion on this topic, please refer to author’s treatise “All About Questions.”
The point being discussed previously was that a person’s success in the hereafter depends
solely on his performance as a missionary for Islam – the level of the dedication of his life
(time, capabilities and life itself) as well as his finances (wealth, assets, property and resources)
for fulfilling the duties of public service and the Islamic mission of peace and justice for the
pleasure of Allaah. This is called Jihaad in Allaah’s cause with one’s life and assets. If one’s
performance in this area is lacking, no intercession or any other means are going to be of any
avail on the Day of Judgment. That led to the clarification of the Islamic concept of
intercession, Towĥeed of Allaah and Allaah’s active caretaking of the whole universe,
including us. The discussion about Allaah’s authority and power led to the clarification that
Allaah does not force people to follow Islam. He has provided enough signs and given enough
information for people to rationally adopt Islam as their way of life as that is the only sensible
thing to do. If people choose to follow Ŧaaghoot, it is their choice; Allaah lets them adopt the
darkness. But if they take initiative to benefit from the light of Islam, Allaah supports them and
guides them. After clarifying these important points, the discussion on spending for Allaah’s
cause resumes. The next section provides vivid guidance on all aspects of alms, charity or
spending for Allaah’s cause.
261
The likeness of those who spend their assets for Allaah’s cause is like a
grain that grows seven ears, each ear bearing a hundred grains. Allaah
multiplies for whom He wills; and Allaah is Ample-giving, Knowing. 262
Those who spend their assets for Allaah’s cause, without subsequently
displaying any patronizing attitude or causing any hurt, their reward is with
their Lord, and they shall have no fear nor shall they grieve. 263 Kind words
and forgiveness are better than charity followed by hurt; and Allaah is Self-
sufficient, Forbearing.

A charity that is done sincerely for the pleasure of Allaah yields tremendous benefits to the
society and brings manifold rewards in the hereafter. The multiplicity of benefits and rewards
depends upon many factors such as: How sincere and pure is the motive for the pleasure of
Allaah, how high is the level of personal sacrifice made for giving the alms, whether it is
undertaken happily and enthusiastically or half-heartedly and grudgingly, how much the nature
and timing of giving corresponds to the needs of the society and the Islamic mission, etc. Thus,
if alms are given happily and enthusiastically purely for Allaah’s pleasure from the assets a
person himself dearly needs and they are donated timely when they are needed for the projects
strategically most important for the needs of the ummah (not one’s personal preference), their
reward can be as much as 700 times or 70,000%. Can any investment in this world yield that
much return? Indeed Allaah is Ample-giving. In addition, this is totally risk free because it is
guaranteed by Allaah who owns everything including everyone’s intentions and actions, and
who does not forget to fulfill His word or who does not need any reminder. These multi-fold
benefits accrue both in this world and the hereafter.

One factor that discourages people from charity is the fear of losing their job, business failure
or poverty for which they want to save for their future or invest in a rainy day fund. They do
not spend in charity because of their worries about their own future needs. But those who
spend in the way of Allaah know that their investment with Allaah is safe and rewarding. They
will never lose it and they will never have to worry about the quality of this investment
decision as risk does not exist and the astounding level of returns is guaranteed. They will be
entered into Jannah where no one will ever have any fear or any worry.

One indication that the charity is sincerely given for Allaah is that a person will never bring up
the mention of his charity to remind of his ‘favour’ or to patronize or cause any hard feelings,
distress, hurt or coercion of any kind. It is better to maintain a kind, gentle, forgiving and
pleasant demeanour than to give any charity that will lead to this kind of negative attitudes.
People should learn from Allaah’s attributes as to how generous and forbearing He is. He does
not deprive people even when they disobey Him. He does not deprive even those people who
do not want to spend in His way any of the wealth that He has bestowed upon them. Even if
they spend, they do so grudgingly and then want to get a lot of mileage from their charity by
advertising it, by patronizing the recipient, by reminding about it and by seeking to gain
influence for their charity. If they do not get what they seek, then they use it to hurt the
recipient by different kind of psychological or emotional abuse. The next verse explains that
these attitudes destroy any benefits that could have accrued from charity both in this world and
the hereafter.

264
O believers! Do not nullify your charity by patronizing or causing hurt, like
him who spends his assets to show off to people and does not believe in Allaah
and the Last Day. His likeness is that of a mountain of smooth rock that is
covered with soil, then a heavy rain falls upon it, so it leaves it bare. They will
be unable to materialize any rewards they earned from charity; and Allaah does
not guide the unbelieving people.

Those people who do a good act to show off to people obviously do not believe in Allaah or
the Day of Judgment. Had they believed in these realities, they would work for Allaah’s
pleasure and the reward in the hereafter, not for the worldly benefits which people who show-
off expect by publicizing their good work. Those who show-off and those who patronize or
cause hurt after their charity have in essence the same mentality. Both are after maximizing
their worldly benefits from their charity instead of seeking Allaah’s pleasure. Thus both are
living by paradigm of Kufr (disbelief) instead of Islamic paradigm. They are left with their
own disbelief without getting Allaah’s help towards the right path.

The illustration used for them is very telling. The slippery rock is their bad, insincere motive
for charity, the thin layer of soil is the apparent goodness of the act and the rain is the charity
and the intensity of rain is the hoopla and publicity surrounding it. Normally, heavy rain on
fertile soil should yield good crop, but in their case it just washes off the soil or causes
landslides. Nothing good comes out of their charity in this world even if there is any benefit to
the society from their alms, it is outbalanced by the damage they inflict upon the society. And
they do not get any reward in the hereafter for it because that was not their motive anyway.
Their reward is the publicity and other benefits they derived from it.

265
And the likeness of those who spend their assets seeking Allaah’s pleasure
and strengthening their conscience is that of an orchard on flat, elevated
ground, upon which heavy rain falls so it yields twice as much produce as
normal but if heavy rain does not fall upon it, then drizzle suffices for normal
yield. Allaah is observant of what you do.

In this illustration, goodness of the act and goodness of the motive form an ideal high ground
for maximum productivity. Heavy rain neither floods it, nor washes it away. The soil is
protected by fruit producing trees and vines like all the benefiting virtues that Islam creates in a
believers’ personality. Thus, it is productive regardless of amount or intensity of rain, giving
produce of the crops cultivated in such soil and fruits of its trees and vines according to the
quantity of precipitation in the form of charity. Such charity brings the pleasure of Allaah
because it is intended for that purpose but in addition it strengthens the conscience and the faith
of the alms giver just as exercise develops and strengthens muscles and bones and fasting
builds Taqwa.

The next parable illustrates the point that those who give charity with wrong motives and
assume that they are doing good will be shocked to face the terrible consequences in the
hereafter, at the time when they will be totally vulnerable and will not be able to do anything to
get out of their terrible end.
266
Would any of you like to be a person who has a garden of date-palms and
grape-vines, with streams flowing beneath it, so that he has all kinds of
produce therein; but when he is overtaken by old age while his children are still
weak, a fiery whirlwind strikes it burning it all up? Thus Allaah illustrates His
revelations unto you that you may reflect.

The true believers who love Allaah give their best and their most favourite assets for Allaah’s
cause because they understand that anything given in the name of and for the cause of the
Sovereign Master and Owner of the universe must be the best. Whatever we have is His
anyway and He does not need our charity. He only encourages us to be charitable so that
everyone in the society benefits from the wealth He has created and that all the good projects
are properly financed and supported. However, many people do not understand the significance
of the charity given for Allaah and fail to perceive that charity is in fact is a presentation in
front of the Sovereign of the universe. Thus, they pick up the worst things in their household,
which no one wants, and donate those things for charity. The next verse warns people to avoid
that kind of indecent, shameful behaviour.

267
O believers! Donate out of the good things that you earn and out of that
which We have produced for you from the earth. And do not choose
undesirable things with the intent of giving out of them, the things that you
would not take yourselves except with closed eyes (with disdain, feeling
humiliated). And know that Allaah is Self-sufficient, Praiseworthy.

Some people who can afford to spend in Allaah’s way and should be doing so happily do not
do it because of two main reasons: They want to save it for their future security or they want to
spend it on luxuries and satisfaction of their lusts. Many people who will not be ready to spend
a few dollars in charity do not feel any qualms about wasting thousands of dollars in parties,
events and pastimes that fall into the category of indecent, lewd, licentious and wanton
behaviour.

268
Shayŧaan threatens you with poverty and enjoins you lewdness, while
Allaah promises you forgiveness from Himself and bounties; and Allaah is
Ample-giving, Knowing. 269 He grants wisdom to whom He pleases, and
whoever is granted wisdom, he indeed is given abundant goodness; but no one
grasps it except men of understanding.

People usually think that a wise person is one who cleverly earns, saves, invests and multiplies
his wealth. But that is a short-sighted approach which makes one leave everything behind in
this world and go empty handed into the hereafter. A person who has been granted real wisdom
from Allaah SWT will spend only what is necessary on his and his family’s needs and invest
the rest with Allaah by spending generously in His way. He will collect the maximum amount
for his eternal life in the hereafter instead of just wasting it in this world. Such wise people are
the source of goodness because they make this world good place for everyone around them.

270
And whatever alms you give or whatever vow you fulfil, Allaah certainly
knows it; but the wrong-doers have no helpers.

This verse covers a special kind of charity or a conditional charity. Vow, in this sentence, is the
translation of “Nadzar” which represents a situation when a person makes a commitment that if
Allaah fulfills certain of his needs or wishes, he will do such and such act of worship or give a
certain amount of charity. Making this kind of deals with Allaah is not desirable, because
charity or worship should be unconditional and only for the pleasure of Allaah SWT; but if a
person has made such a commitment, he must fulfill it. Unfortunately, some people may make
a Nadzar for a wish that is un-Islamic in nature or they may commit their Nadzar to someone
other than Allaah such as a prophet or a saint. These Nadzars are totally unacceptable in Islam.

Because Allaah knows everyone’s intentions and actions, those who spend in the way of
Allaah just for His pleasure will be rewarded accordingly; those who fulfill their vows, they
will also be appropriately rewarded; but those do not spend, or spend with wrong motives or
make un-Islamic Nadzars are wrong-doers who will not find any helper on the Day of
Judgment.

271
If you disclose your alms, it is well; but if you conceal them, giving it
secretly to those most in need, that is better for you: It will atone for some of
your ill-deeds. And Allaah is well aware of what you do.

The last point about charity is whether it should be given publicly or secretly. There are good
points in favour of both ways. If it is obligatory charity such as Zakaah, it should be given
openly and publicly. If there is a public campaign to collect donations and meet certain targets,
in that situation as well, giving publicly is desirable as long as the motive remains pure for the
pleasure of Allaah, not for showing off. For individual charity to help poor of the society the
best way is to give it quietly, secretly and even anonymously. It protects the dignity of the
receiver, saves the giver from any feeling of show, and develops very positive purifying
attitude in his mind. Allaah, who knows the most secret of acts or intentions, will benevolently
forgive the sins of the giver as well.

272
It is not required of you to make them follow the guidance, but Allaah
guides aright whom He pleases. Whatever good assets you donate, it is for
yourselves. Although you spend to seek Allaah's pleasure, whatever good
assets you spend shall be paid back to you in full, and you shall not be
wronged.

This verse concludes the message about alms, charity or spending for Allaah’s cause. It has
been clarified that the Prophet is just doing his job conveying them the message about the
significance of charity and the precautions that should be taken in its regard. It is up to people
to act accordingly. People should realize that charity is not for Allaah or His Messenger. It is
for their own sake and well-being. It all comes back to them. In this world, they benefit from
the healthy society it creates and the multiplier effect it has on the society’s economy. In the
hereafter, they earn reward as much as 70,000%.

At the end, a specific group of people has been mentioned who have dedicated themselves
solely for creating the peaceful and just society for the benefit of everyone but who may be
neglected by the society for their economic needs.

273
Your donations are especially for those poor who are so restricted by their
dedication to Allaah’s cause that they cannot run around to earn their living.
Because of their dignified demeanour, the imperceptive consider them well to
do, but you can recognise their poverty from their countenance. They do not
beg from people importunately. So whatever good assets you spend for them,
surely Allaah knows it.

They were the people known as Aŝĥaab of Ŝuffah who had put themselves totally at the service
of Islamic mission. They would go without any food or provisions for days at a time but would
never ask for charity or help. Allaah SWT has taken upon Himself to draw the attention of the
society towards their needs. This also serves as an example of why charity is so important.
Islamic mission needed this kind of fulltime Islamic workers to be available for different
projects as and when needed, hence, believers owed it to themselves to take care of these
dedicated souls, seek them out and help them quietly.

After expounding on all aspects of spending in Allaah’s way, the Qur-aan contrasts the
personality of those who generously spend for Allaah’s cause with that of those who seek to
multiply their wealth through charging interest. The attitudes, the outlook, and the paradigms
of the two personalities are poles apart. So are the results of the two in this world and in the
hereafter. The next verse makes a concise statement for the Islamic personality as a summation
of all of the points discussed so far.
274
Those who spend their assets by night and by day, secretly and openly, they
shall have their reward from their Lord and they shall have no fear, nor shall
they grieve.

They are those whose life is focussed on seeking Allaah’s pleasure and attaining success in the
hereafter. For that goal of their life, they readily do whatever brings Allaah’s pleasure
including spending of whatever they have, openly for obligations or public fundraisings and
privately for helping individuals in need, especially those whose whole life is dedicated for
Allaah’s cause. They spend for these purposes even when they are in need themselves and even
when giving means making personal sacrifices. They are selfless people who are not worried
about their future nor concerned about facing poverty. Hence, they will be rewarded with the
worry-free, fear-free, grief-free life in Jannah forever.

On the other hand there is the attitude, mentality and behaviour of those who seek to increase
their wealth by charging interest. This desire stems from the focus on the life of this world,
rather than hereafter. Instead of maximizing the attainment of Allaah’s pleasure, the focus is on
maximizing the wealth in this world. This attitude makes a person selfish, self-centred, greedy
and miserly. A person aiming to increase his or her wealth with the help of interest looks to
find a place to park his money for even a fraction of a percentage point better return and is
unwilling to part with the money for charity.

Thus charity and interest develop two totally different kinds of personalities and societies. The
kind of loving, caring, sharing, generous and magnanimous society that Islam is designed to
build is possible only through developing a spirit of charity among its followers, and
eliminating the interest-charging attitude or ideology.
275
Those who devour interest133 will not rise up except as one whom Shayŧaan
has driven to madness by his touch. That is because they say, “trading is
similar to charging interest”; whereas Allaah has allowed trading but forbidden
charging of interest. Anyone who, after receiving direction from their Lord,
stops charging interest, whatever was taken in the past is his; and his affair is in
the hands of Allaah. But those who continue are the inmates of the fire; they
are going to be there forever.

Many people who try to justify the charging of interest or who argue in favour of an interest
based economy try to show that the interest charged on loans is just like profits earned through
business. In making this simplistic comparison, they overlook or forget many important
differences between the two.

A business produces goods and services that people can consume or provides a tangible,
physical service to the customers by making goods and services available at the time they are

133
The Arabic word used here is “Ribaa”, which literally means ‘increase’, ‘growth’ or ‘addition’ and has
been conceptually used to describe any stipulated amount charged to a borrower in addition to the
principal amount for any kind of loan -- what nowadays is called ‘interest’.
needed (time utility), where they are needed (place utility) and in the form they are needed
(form utility through manufacturing processes); and in providing these services all factors of
production (land, labour, capital and entrepreneurship) are used. Despite all these efforts, the
business may not succeed and, in fact, may suffer a devastating loss. Profit of the business is
the reward for all those efforts, the services and utilities created as well as the risk that is taken.
On the other hand, money is just a medium of exchange that in its monetary form cannot be
consumed. Furthermore, lending it does not create any utility in the consumable product and
does not assume the risk of business failure, because any such risk is covered through enough
guarantees, mortgages, charges, etc. that the security of principal and interest is assured – a
luxury that is not available to the businessman. Interest is charged only for the time the money
is used, not for any efforts, risks or utilities created. Thus there is no comparison between the
two. Both create absolutely different impacts on the individuals, economy and on the society.

For consumer goods, a person buys what he needs paying according to the value he sees for
himself in his purchase. Goods or services are acquired, the price is paid and the matter is
settled and the buyers benefit from what they bought in a consumer loan transaction. A person
borrows money to buy what he cannot afford in the hope that he will be able to get money
somehow and pay it back. He continues to pay a price for his consumption (in the form of
interest on the loan) on an ongoing unlimited basis, until he is able to pay back the loan, which
usually becomes more and more difficult to pay as the time goes by. Many people end up
caught in the trap of debt, losing most of what they have and devastated as a result. The lender,
however, continues to grow in wealth only because he had some money to spare that he could
loan on interest. Thus, with regard to the consumer, business (trade) helps to fulfil the needs of
the society and contributes to its well being, while interest-based loan transactions create
problems in the society, trap people in bad situations, and destroy many for the benefit of only
a few.

The role of interest-based loans is even more injurious to business than it appears on the
surface. In a normal business investment, a person who has money will invest in the business
and share its profits and losses as the case may be. If the business is losing money, an investor
cannot just withdraw his full money from the business and walk away from it. He has to sell
his share or windup his business in an appropriate manner. On the other hand, a lender does not
share the risks of the business. If at any time, the lender realizes that his money is at risk, he
calls for repayment of his loan leaving the business in difficulty and many times forcing
bankruptcy of a potentially viable business, thus causing significant losses to the equity
investors, entrepreneurs and to other trade creditors just for his own selfishness. If those with
extra money are allowed only to make equity investments (normal business activity), not loan
to businesses (Ribaa investment), many business bankruptcies and resulting loss to the
legitimate investors and trade creditors would be avoided.

Thus, considering normal business activity as the same as Ribaa activity is such an absurd
proposition that the Noble Qur-aan did not even feel the need to comment on it. It quoted this
insane argument only to indicate that a person who devours interest will be raised on the Day
of Judgment as a crazy man in a wild, rabid fit because of their insanity of justifying interest
based loans as if they are normal trade endeavours.

Some people who are ignorant of the Arab or other ancient civilizations think commercial
loans are only a recent phenomenon and try to argue that the interest on loans is similar to the
profit of a business, although the Noble Qur-aan had already condemned that kind of
arguments 14 centuries ago.

An important point to note is that those who stop charging interest have not been required to
payback what they have taken in the past, but at the same time they have been told that “their
affair is in the hands of Allaah”. It indicates that although for practical consideration, people
are not required to go back and try to determine what they have done in the past, their
forgiveness from Allaah depends on their sincerity in following the spirit of this
commandment. The probability of their forgiveness from Allaah will definitely increase if they
clean their heart from the desire for this illegal practice and happily accept the change,
voluntarily try to pay back the recent interest charged to some identifiable people, spend other
interest earned in the past on public welfare projects, and forgive loans to those who cannot
afford to pay back.

Those who continue to justify Ribaa based transaction for this reason or that (current economic
environment, world trade, international banking, etc., etc.) have been warned of painful
punishment forever in Hell.

This verse was about confusing business with Ribaa -- the next verse is about the long term
consequences of the charitable mentality and the interest-charging mentality.

276
Allaah blights interest and nourishes deeds of charity, and Allaah does not
like any ungrateful exploiter. 277 Indeed, those who believe, do good deeds,
establish Ŝalaah, pay Zakaah, they shall have their reward from their Lord, and
they shall have no fear, nor shall they grieve.
Verse 276 describes the truth about the consequences of two economic ideologies in this world
and in the hereafter: The ideology of growth of wealth through interest, on the surface, seems
to increase the wealth of a society but in reality it has totally the opposite effect.

Economically, on a macro level, it is a known fact that the high interest rates contract the
economy and low interest rates let the economy grow. But even low interest rates are bad for
the economy. They expand the economy without a corresponding increase in production and
thus cause inflation, which leads to higher interests rates, contraction, recession, bankruptcies
and loss of employment. Thus, merely the existence of interest in the society causes unhealthy
trade cycles and hurts the economy in the long run. But more devastating are the effects on the
attitude that interest causes. One such consequence is that, regardless of the level of interest
rates, any economic activity that may be very useful for the society but does not produce a
return better than the prevailing interest rate will not be undertaken by anyone regardless of the
need of the society for such a venture. Similarly, it makes the government resort to deficit
financing in difficult times or when finances are needed for some crises situation. In those
circumstances, the lenders benefit from the difficulty or the crises of the nation while the whole
nation and future generations pay for the debt of the nation. On a micro level, as mentioned
earlier, the majority of the society suffers at the hand of a few lenders and lenders are the main
reasons causing business failures during difficult times, which would not happen with equity
based financing of businesses. This has a very negative effect on the psyche of the people who
lose everything due to their personal or business bankruptcies. It kills the spirit of working hard
and taking initiative.

All the economic difficulties caused by an interest-based economy have their serious social
repercussions as well. Not only does the greed mentality developed by the desire to grow
wealth through interest create a selfish society, it also creates different classes in the society
whose interests are at odds with each other. This results in social unrest, clashes between the
classes of the society and failed elements in the society who are predisposed to violence and
crime. Thus regardless of how one looks at it, interest is extremely injurious to the health,
peace, and justice in the society. But its real destruction will be evident on the Day of
Judgment when those involved with charging interest or perpetuating interest-based systems
will be empty handed and will have nothing with them except the burden of injustices they
caused in the society.

On the other hand, the society built on the charitable mentality produces goodness, growth,
peace and justice in the world. The charity meets the needs of the have-nots of the society that
spurs economic activity and has its own multiplier effect on the economic growth of the
society. People live within their means because credit cards are not available. If they have to
borrow for a crises situation, they can get interest free loans from other members of the society
that are easy to pay back without the added burden of interest. Thus failure because of the debt
trap is dramatically lowered. It develops a loving and caring society that is coherent, classless
and united. Those who have some savings invest in business ventures through equity interest,
giving businesses a better chance to succeed. When a crises hits a nation, a charitable society
handles the crises within its own means through contribution of the members of the society for
the pleasure of Allaah rather than through debts that have to be paid back by future generations
and benefit only a few. So in any way one looks at it, this kind of economic system causes
tremendous economic growth, social growth and peace and justice in the society. But the real
growth will be evident on the Day of Judgment when the sincere charity of the people would
have grown up to 70,000 percent and they will be welcomed into the eternal happiness of
Jannah. This is what was indicated in the following report from Aboo Hurayrah that the
Prophet said:

“Allaah SWT accepts charity, takes it into His hand and nourishes it as you nourish a calf until
a morsel of food given by you grows to be like mountain Uĥad.”

It is quite evident that the only economic ideology that fits with the Islamic goal of peace and
justice in the society and in developing a caring and sharing society is the one where people
spend in the way of Allaah and there can be no role of interest in that society.

Those who want their wealth to grow through interest are considered ungrateful and exploiters
of others’ rights and hence are disliked by Allaah. They are ungrateful because they do not
share through charity the bounties that Allaah has given them in the form of the surplus money
beyond their current needs. They are exploiters because they take advantage of the needy
instead of giving them the right that the needy have in their wealth. On the other hand, those
who establish the Islamic system of peace and justice and live accordingly will enjoy the
pleasures of worry-free life in Jannah.
The next three verses were revealed after conquer of Makkah but have been included here to
complete the discussion about the subject of charging interest. They have been worded to give
an ultimatum to everyone living within the borders of the Islamic state to get rid of any kind of
interest-based practice and completely adopt the Islamic ideology based on Zakaah and charity.
After this announcement, charging interest became a criminal offence punishable by
imprisonment or, in some cases, by death. Placing of this verse in Soorah Baqarah among the
first wave of Islamic reforms also indicates that when Islam is re-established in the society,
reform of the economic system and getting rid of all Ribaa-based practices should be the first
priority of the Islamic movement.
278
O believers! Fear Allaah and give up what remains due to you from interest,
if you are believers. 279 But if you do not, then be warned of a war against you
from Allaah and His Messenger; while if you repent, then you shall have your
principal. Neither do you do the wrong, nor are you wronged. 280 If the debtor
is going through financial difficulty, give him respite until it is easy for him to
repay. However, remitting it as charity is better for you, if you only knew. 281
And protect yourselves from the hardships of the Day when you shall be
returned to Allaah; then everyone shall be fully compensated for what it
earned, and they shall not be wronged.
An important point should be noted from the wording “If the debtor is going through financial
difficulty”. It indicates that not all debtors used to borrow because of the financial difficulties
but also for business purposes. That is why a qualification has been put that if the debtor is in
trouble, then give him respite or, if possible, forgive the loan for him.

Interest is charged on loans. Thus, after prohibiting interest, Allaah SWT taught a proper
approach for protecting the rights of both the lenders and borrowers in a balanced way when
transacting interest-free loans. Following these instructions will ensure: fairness to all; integrity
of evidence and witness; and avoidance of vagueness, confusion or misunderstandings.

282
O believers! When you transact a debt among yourselves for a fixed term,
write it down. Let a scribe write it down faithfully between you. No one able to
scribe should refuse to write as Allaah has taught him, so he must take the
dictation. Let him who incurs the debt dictate, and he should avoid displeasure
of Allaah, his Lord, and not understate any of the terms. However, if the party
incurring the liability is mentally deficient, too weak, or unable to dictate
himself, let his guardian dictate with fairness. Have the document witnessed by
two witnesses from your own men; but if two men are not available, then one
man and two women so that if one of the two forgets, the other can remind her.
These witnesses should be from the well-approved persons among you. The
witnesses should not refuse when they are called upon. Whether the loan is
small or large, do not be averse to writing it specifying its due date. In the sight
of Allaah, these practices will ensure more fairness, greater accuracy in
testimony, and the most likelihood of preventing misunderstandings among
yourselves; unless it is a trade that you carry out on the spot among yourselves;
in that case, there is no blame on you for not writing it. But when you enter
into a commercial contract, have it witnessed. And let no harm be done to the
scribe or to the witness. If you do any such harm, then surely it will be a
serious transgression on your part. Avoid Allaah’s displeasure. Allaah teaches
you and Allaah knows all things.

Accordingly:
 A loan should have a specified term;
 If a fixed term loan is transacted, it must be documented. Regardless of how trusting,
reliable, or friendly both parties are, documentation of the loan transaction with clear
enunciation of payback terms is a must. Irrespective of the loan amount, a lender
should not feel shy or a borrower should not feel insulted or distrusted in this regard.
 The documentation should be initiated by the borrower. If the borrower himself
initiates the documentation, then neither the lender will have to feel shy in asking to
do so nor the borrower will have to feel slighted because the lender asked for it. If the
borrower is literate, he can write it otherwise he can seek help from an independent
scribe. There is another benefit in the borrower writing it or dictating it because, in
that case, there will be no surprises in the terms or conditions of which the borrower is
not aware. There will not be any ‘small print’ stipulations that are not clearly
discussed and agreed upon.
 The loan document must be witnessed by two Muslim men or, if that is not possible,
then one Muslim man and two Muslim women.
Having the loan document witnessed is so important that if a lender does not
document a loan or have it properly witnessed, and then has any difficulty later on in
this matter, Allaah SWT does not even respond to his supplication in this regard. The
Prophet said, “There are three people who are not helped when they make pleas to
Allaah: A person whose wife deals obnoxiously and he does not divorce her; a person
who hands over an orphan’s asset to him before the orphan reaches age of maturity;
and a person who loans without having it witnessed.”134
 The witnesses must be “your males”; i.e. Muslims who are known to the parties to the
transaction. They should also be well-liked and well-regarded in the society. Non-
Muslim citizens of Islamic state can use non-Muslim witnesses.
 When called upon, the witnesses must not avoid giving or hiding their testimony.
They have an obligation to give witness.
 Witnesses must not be harassed, harmed, threatened or coerced. This is a grave sin
and serious transgression.

134
Tafheemul Qur-aan by Syed Maudoodi, vol. I, Al-Baqarah note 326
In addition to the loan transactions, commercial contracts should also be documented and
witnessed.

But before moving to the next verse, some comments about the witness of women mentioned
in this verse are warranted. First of all, its context should be properly understood. The subject
matter being discussed here is not a comparison between males and females or establishing
equality or inequality between the two. Allaah SWT does not compare males and females at
all, because there is no need to compare them to each other as both are human beings – slaves
of Allaah. As such, both are treated equally as slaves, require the same kind of dedication and
obedience to Allaah and are rewarded in the same manner for their loyalty, submission and
quality of their performance. However, both have their own roles to play in the society, all of
which are essential, complementary, and beneficial for the establishment of a society of peace
and justice in the kingdom of Allaah.

Secondly, the foremost objective of Islam is to establish fairness, equity and justice in this
world. To render justice in the case where facts are in dispute, the justice system has to rely on
witnesses. In this case, the matter at hand is about ensuring justice in a dispute between the
lender and the borrower. Allaah SWT, the Creator of human nature and the knower of its
intricate details, has instructed us, on the basis of His ultimate knowledge and absolutely
perfect wisdom, that an equitable resolution of disputes in financial dealings requires witnesses
as prescribed in this verse. Whether we understand His reasons or not, we say: We listen and
obey -- instantly, happily and without any reservations. It is because: He knows, we do not; His
wisdom is perfect, ours is not; and He is the Master, we are obedient slaves.

Thirdly, Allaah SWT, as our Master, does not have to give us any reason for His
commandments, and usually, He does not. In this case, however, Allaah has very kindly
mentioned the reason – if one of the women forgets, the other can remind her. That should
prevent people from drawing any wrong conclusions such as equating two women to one man.
But some people may still question in their mind that why a woman’s memory in this respect is
considered less reliable. One can speculate some reasons, none of which will be known for
sure, as they have not been given by Allaah or His Messenger. Perhaps it is that the stress,
discomfort and hormonal activity during menses or during pregnancy may cloud their memory.
Perhaps it is their preoccupation with the welfare of the children and their attention to micro
details in that respect that may make them inattentive to the details of commercial transactions.
Perhaps it is due to their lack of orientation to commercial matters due to cultural influences in
some societies. Perhaps it is for some other factors in the knowledge of Allaah SWT that we
have not yet discovered. That is where we must have confidence, as believers, in Allaah’s
knowledge and His wisdom. We must realize that it is not our place to be able to understand all
rationale of Allaah’s commands. That is neither possible nor desirable. Hence, Allaah wants us
to obey Him without knowing any reasons for His commands135.

One thing must be clearly understood. We cannot presume a reason and conclude that because
such and such is the reason and because that reason no longer exists, we can do it differently
than the way we have been instructed. Even if we come across many women with superior
memory and with superior financial acumen than most men, we cannot use them as witnesses

135
For detailed discussion on this topic, please refer to author’s article “All About Questions” or author’s
Book “ Islam – What are its paradigms?”
in commercial transactions like men. The commands of Allaah are for all time, for all societies
and for all cases. They must be followed exactly as commanded until the Day of Judgment
regardless of what our experience is, how we feel or whether our presumed reason exists or
not.

Fourthly, Islam is a holistic and complex system like a sophisticated machine. Like any
machine or system, We cannot take one of its individual parts and evaluate its usefulness or
relevance in isolation of the role of the part in the machine or the system. The instruction given
in this verse about female witness in commercial transactions is only one part of a very
comprehensive, complex system and a highly complicated machine made of different modules,
assemblies, sub-assemblies and parts. Each part has it role in the functioning of the machine or
the system. Tampering with one part in isolation from the overall design will interfere with the
working of the entire system. The Islamic system has been designed by Allaah for our well-
being and for helping us create the best, most equitable and peaceful society on earth. Let us
not tamper with its parts and let us implement the whole system as designed by our Creator.

The next verse provides an alternative for people who are travelling. If someone badly needs a
loan during a journey, where documentation facilities or appropriate witnesses are not
available, the borrower should give some assets in pledge to the lender as security.

283
If you are on a journey and cannot find a scribe, then pledge some assets to
the lender as security. Thus, if one of you trusts another, then the trustee should
deliver his trust and avoid displeasure of Allaah, his Lord. Also, do not hide
any testimony, because whoever hides it, certainly has a vicious heart; and
Allaah knows what you do.

It should be noted that the pledged items are a trust in the hands of the lender. The lender
cannot use the pledged goods for his own benefit. If he does so, it will be tantamount to
charging Ribaa (interest) on the loan. The only exception is that if an animal has been pledged,
then the lender can benefit from the animal (milking or riding) only to recover the cost of
feeding the animal. Because the pledged goods are a trust, the lender has a responsibility to
take care of them, to preserve and protect them and to give them back intact, when they fall
due. Although the law about the trust has been mentioned in relation to the things that have
been entrusted as pledge, in keeping with the concise style of the Qur-aan, the rule has been
given in general terms to cover all situations when something is given to someone in trust.

Another point to note is the emphasis on giving witness and not hiding it. Accordingly, if a
Muslim has witnessed something and the authorities are calling for witnesses, he is obligated
to bear the witness. Anyone who hides witness has a vicious personality, not an Islamic
personality.
The last three verses represent the closing comments of this soorah. First of all, people have
been reminded of the three fundamental realities a clear understanding of which helps people
live Islamically in this world.
284
Whatever is in the heavens and whatever is in the earth is Allaah's; and
whether you disclose what is in your minds or hide it, Allaah will hold you
accountable for it. Then He will forgive whom He pleases and punish whom
He pleases, and Allaah has power over all things.

The first fact is that Allaah owns everything in this universe, controls everything and
eventually will take back everything. This guides people to accept Him as their only Lord to
Whom they must whole-heartedly submit and happily follow His commands while living in
His universe, consuming His resources, enjoying life given by Him. Any other behaviour
would be ungrateful, unjust and rebellious.

The second fact is that He is watching everyone’s performance and is going to hold each and
every human being accountable for how he or she performed while living here. He even knows
everyone’s hidden intentions, desires, philosophies, reservations or apprehensions that trigger
whatever comes out in public in the form of words, responses and actions. Hence, every
thought, word and action will be open to accountability. This realization leads the people to do
the right things with the right intentions and motives and to keep the right kind of mental
frame, clean of negative or improper thoughts or motives.

The third fact is that as a result of accountability, whatever reward, forgiveness or punishment
a person will deserve and face is wholly and solely Allaah’s decision. No one in the universe
can interfere or influence His decision. Although His decision is not going to be haphazard
random or devoid of any principles, it will be completely independent and free of any influence
of any kind from anyone. Understanding of this reality helps people to concentrate on
submitting only to Allaah and seeking His pleasure instead of seeking approval and support of
any presumed intercessor whom people may wrongly expect to get help from.

Thus the verse has summarized the concept of Towĥheed and accountability in the hereafter,
while the next verse covers other articles of faith, in particular faith in all messengers as one
fraternity, as well as the Islamic paradigms of obedience.

285
The messenger believes in what has been revealed to him from his Lord,
and so do the believers; they all believe in Allaah and His angels and His
books and His messengers. They declare, “We do not discriminate among any
of His messengers”, and say, “We hear and obey; our Lord! Your forgiveness
we crave, and to You is the eventual destination.

The first point highlighted here is that the Messenger is not like a philosopher who theorizes
some ideas and promotes them among people. The Messenger himself believes in the realities
of the faith and follows the guidance revealed to him. Every moment of his life, every word he
speaks and every step he takes is perfectly in accordance with the truth he presents and the
guidance from Allaah he delivers. He himself is the perfect model of conviction and practice.
The believers also follow his footsteps and are similarly committed. Allaah SWT Himself is
describing their commitment and conviction.

The second highlight is that the belief in messengers is not valid unless all messengers are
believed in without any discrimination or differentiation. They were all Allaah’s
representatives sent with the same Deen and must be treated as one single brotherhood without
leaving anyone out. Just as Muslims believe in all prophets and messengers, unless believers in
Moosa accept ‘Eesa and Muhammad and unless believers in ‘Eesa accept all previous
messengers and Muhammad, they cannot be regarded as believers in Allaah and His
messengers and His books. Unlike Jews and Christians, the Muslims proudly declare their faith
and respect for all prophets and messengers of Allaah and Allaah SWT has quoted their stance.

The third highlight is that the true believers accept Allaah’s commands instantly and obey
wholeheartedly without any questions, reservations, second thoughts or ifs and buts. Their faith
makes them totally submissive to Allaah, seeking His pleasure and dedicating their whole life
and all resources to the objectives of Deen. Attaining personal excellence and establishing
Islamic system of peace and justice in this world becomes the top priority in their life. But it is
not an easy job. It includes changing people’s paradigms, uprooting the existing man-made
systems, and replacing them with the Islamic system. This requires constant, steadfast, untiring
efforts and bearing the brunt of vehement opposition, persecution, propaganda, smear
campaigns, imprisonments, killings, torture, etc. from the powers that have a vested interest in
the status quo. It also needs the believers to continue moving forward despite all the
frustrations, discouragements and disappointments that come on the way including but not
limited to errors and omissions of fellow workers, bad apples among their own ranks,
disappointing behaviour of rank and file of the Islamic movement and discouraging hindrances
put up by some segment of the movement, etc. When a believer looks at the enormity of the
task, the odds of success of the mission and the expectations from him, the immediate reaction
is the realization of one’s own weakness and humbleness in comparison to the mission
assigned. The feelings of the heart come on the lips in the form of a humble but anxious
request for forgiveness from Allaah and realization of eventual return to Him and
accountability to Him for the performance on the mission. This expression of feeling then
continues in the form of a Du’aa in which a believer pours his heart out to Allaah vis-à-vis the
enormity of the mission and the performance expected of the believers.

286
Allaah does not burden anyone beyond one’s capacity. Everyone will
benefit from what he earns and suffer from what he brings upon himself. Our
Lord! Do not take us to task if we forget or make a mistake. Our Lord! Do not
lay on us a burden as you had lain on those before us. Our Lord! Do not
impose upon us that for which we do not have the strength to bear; and pardon
us, forgive us and have mercy on us, You are our Protector, so help us against
the unbelieving people.

Before continuing with the Du’aa, Allaah SWT has clarified for the guidance of the believers
that the task, though enormous, is not beyond the capability of the believers, if they
collectively adopt it as their mission of life. However, each individual believer is only
accountable for himself or herself. If a Muslim does what he is supposed to do for the Islamic
mission and its objectives, gives this mission the top priority in his life, and does his level best
employing all his resources, abilities and power allowed by the circumstances he confronts, he
will Inshaa Allaah succeed in pleasing Allaah SWT. No one is expected to do what is not in his
power or influence. As long as the consistent efforts to the best of one’s ability are untiringly
undertaken, a believer has done his job. No one will have to account for others if they do not
perform. Those who do not perform will have to bear the consequences of non-performance.
Although the responsibility is collective for the whole Ummah, accountability is very personal
and individual for each Muslim.

The words of Du’aa clearly indicate that the mission of establishing Islamic system of peace
and justice as the dominant world order is not something new required only of the Ummah of
Muhammad ŝall-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. It always was the responsibility of all prophets,
messengers and their Ummahs.

The first burden is the rules of Sharee’ah that had become very onerous, intricate and
overwhelmingly difficult for Banee Israaeel, which the Prophet ŝall-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam
was sent to remove and make things easier136. The second burden represents all the trials,
tribulations, difficulties, hardships, problems and violence that believers who dedicate
themselves for the mission face. They are unavoidable and come with the territory of working
to reform a society. When these setbacks and hardships are encountered a believer is expected
to bear them steadfastly without swerving or relenting in his struggle. However, we should
always pray to Allaah SWT to make the path easy for us and to save us from such trials and
tribulations.

The passionate request for Allaah’s pardon, forgiveness and mercy represents the realization
that none of us is perfect. We all make mistakes and we all sometimes fail to do as much as
should be done. Despite our best efforts, we succeed in the hereafter only with the forgiveness
and mercy of Allaah SWT. And Allaah SWT is so kind and so merciful that as long as we keep
coming back to our mission with renewed enthusiasm, vigour and determination to do better,
He keeps forgiving us and appreciating our efforts.

The unbelieving people include all those who stand in the way of making Allaah’s Deen the
established system of life on Allaah’s earth.

****************

136
Al-A‘raaf 7:157