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Soorah Yoonus

Yoonus

Name and Introduction

This Soorah is called Yoonus{footnote}Also spelled as Younus and Yunus

{/footnote} (Jonah) not because Prophet Yoonus is the topic of the Soorah, but merely as a name or symbol indicating “the Soorah in which Yoonus has been mentioned”.

The contents of the Soorah indicate that it was revealed at a stage when the opponents had become so aggressive and violent that they did not even want to tolerate a Muslim presence in Makkah. Thus, they needed to be warned about their impending destruction in this world and their punishment in the Hereafter which they were going to encounter without any doubt, if they continued their opposition to the mission of the Prophet and their aggression against the Muslims. However, the Soorah does not allude to the Hijrah (migration) indicating that it was revealed in the latter part of the Makkan period but before Yathrib had appeared as a possible destination for migration.

The matters addressed in the Soorah include: invitation to the opponents to accept the truth of Islam, comments on their objections and doubts, admonitions for their good, and warnings about the consequences of their current behaviour. The highlight of the Soorah is the good news to the sincere Muslims about their high status with Allaah SWT.
 

Teachings and Commentary

بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ

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

Like Soorahs Al-Baqarah and Aali-‘Imraan, this Soorah also starts with three letters of the alphabet that serve as the symbol for the Soorah to which the rest of the verse refers when it says, “these are the verses of the Book that is full of Wisdom”. Then, it points out the purpose of the revelation and the task that has been entrusted to the Prophet, “Warn people (of the consequences of their behaviour) and give the good news to the believers that they have high status with their Lord”. The emphasis is duly placed on the good news to the believers so that they remember that success will be theirs, sooner or later. Then it mentions the absurdity of the attempts of the Makkan leaders to label this message of wisdom as some sort of magic.

الر ۚ تِلْكَ آيَاتُ الْكِتَابِ الْحَكِيمِ ﴿١﴾ أَكَانَ لِلنَّاسِ عَجَبًا أَنْ أَوْحَيْنَا إِلَىٰ رَجُلٍ مِّنْهُمْ أَنْ أَنذِرِ النَّاسَ وَبَشِّرِ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا أَنَّ لَهُمْ قَدَمَ صِدْقٍ عِندَ رَبِّهِمْ ۗ قَالَ الْكَافِرُونَ إِنَّ هَـٰذَا لَسَاحِرٌ مُّبِينٌ ﴿٢﴾

1 Alif Laam Raa (A, L, R); these are the verses of the Book that is full of Wisdom. 2 Is it a matter of wonderment for people that We revealed to a man from among themselves that, “Warn people (of the consequences of their behaviour) and give the good news to the believers that they have high status with their Lord”? In response, the disbelievers discount it by saying, “He indeed is an evident magician.”

The problem the Makkan leaders were facing was that they did not want to accept the Prophet as the Messenger of Allaah because of their own inflated egos and jealousy, as well as their fear of losing all their influence and status if he was accepted as the undisputed leader, as the Messenger of Allaah. They were having a tough time refuting his claim because he enjoyed an unparalleled reputation of excellence in integrity, truthfulness and intelligence. In addition to his personal excellence and absolutely flawless background, the beauty and the wisdom of the Qur-aan was also a great witness to the truth of his claim of prophethood. Both were attracting the sincere elements of Makkan society to Islam. To counter the impact of the Qur-aan, the Makkan leaders tried to make people believe that the Qur-aan, which the Prophet was presenting as a revealed book from Allaah, was merely like the pompous rhetoric used by fortune-tellers and soothsayers and the magic spells used by magicians. This was a wild claim which even they themselves knew was totally baseless but they were hoping that continuous repetition of the claim would make those from the public who did not have any direct contact with the Prophet or who had not listened to the Qur-aan directly might believe in their propaganda and thus avoid its influence. Allaah SWT started the discourse of this Soorah by subtly suggesting that such claims from the opponents are totally absurd because this Book is teaching wisdom to people to succeed in this world and the Hereafter. Its wisdom does not need any external proof because everyone who reads and reflects on its contents with an open mind and honesty will marvel at and appreciate its wisdom.

To counter the personal impact of the Prophet, one of the objections the Makkan leaders raised was: why would Allaah pick a person from the community itself to convey His message? If He wanted to send a message, He could have sent an angel or used some other means. This was such an absurd point that any sensible person could reject it with little reflection. Firstly, did they expect that Allaah would ignore people practicing rebellion, injustice and corruption without mercifully guiding them to the proper way of life? Secondly, why would he send an angel for the guidance of human beings to enable people to see him and learn from him? If an angel were sent, the angel would have to come in human form with all the human characteristics; how, then, would they know that he was an angel from Allaah? How would his claim be different from the Prophet’s claim from the perspective of provability? If the angel did not have human characteristics, then how could an angel demonstrate to people the human way of living by the message of Allaah? Thirdly, if a stranger was sent as opposed to someone from their own community, how would they know what kind of person he was? How would they be able to accept a stranger as the Messenger of Allaah? Does it not make sense that a person from themselves is chosen, one whom they have known well and can evaluate to determine if he was a selfish liar with ulterior motives or if he was a selfless, honourable, honest, truthful and thoroughly upright person who was always ready to make sacrifices for the betterment of others? Lastly, was it the first time such an appointment had taken place? What about all other prophets they had heard about? What about Ibraheem and Isma‘eel they themselves felt so proud to believe in? In short, the strange thing was not that Allaah had appointed a Messenger from within their community, but their reaction to the appointment.

The combined impact of the personal excellence of the Prophet, the beauty and wisdom of the Qur-aan and the rationality of the message was that it was affecting sensible people like magic. Once a person accepted Islam, his faith would become the most precious thing in life and no amount of coercion or persecution would cause him to revert back to disbelief or to dislike the Prophet. To discredit that impact, they started calling the Prophet a magician. Once again, this was ridiculous propaganda that did not need any response except inviting people to think about it. They knew the motives of the magicians and the impact a magic spell had on people. But in the case of the Prophet, the results were wonderfully different. On the one hand, the work of the Prophet was totally selfless without gaining any personal benefit from his movement. On the other hand, everyone who became Muslim started to excel in morals, character, behaviour, dealings and attitude. They would all strive for personal excellence and become keen workers for justice, fairness, peace and grace in society.

Thus, the first two verses of the soorah very briefly and concisely allude to the struggle between the message and the reaction, which was going on in the Makkan society, and to let the audience use their common sense to see through the claims being made and judge their validity. Then, starting from the third verse, the Soorah presents its message for everyone to ponder.

إِنَّ رَبَّكُمُ اللَّـهُ الَّذِي خَلَقَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ فِي سِتَّةِ أَيَّامٍ ثُمَّ اسْتَوَىٰ عَلَى الْعَرْشِ ۖ يُدَبِّرُ الْأَمْرَ ۖ مَا مِن شَفِيعٍ إِلَّا مِن بَعْدِ إِذْنِهِ ۚ ذَٰلِكُمُ اللَّـهُ رَبُّكُمْ فَاعْبُدُوهُ ۚ أَفَلَا تَذَكَّرُونَ ﴿٣﴾ إِلَيْهِ مَرْجِعُكُمْ جَمِيعًا ۖ وَعْدَ اللَّـهِ حَقًّا ۚ إِنَّهُ يَبْدَأُ الْخَلْقَ ثُمَّ يُعِيدُهُ لِيَجْزِيَ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ بِالْقِسْطِ ۚ وَالَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا لَهُمْ شَرَابٌ مِّنْ حَمِيمٍ وَعَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ بِمَا كَانُوا يَكْفُرُونَ ﴿٤﴾

3 Verily your Lord is Allaah, Who created the heavens and the earth in six periods , and established Himself upon the Throne of Sovereignty, executing governance. There can be no intercessor except with His permission. That is Allaah, your Lord; therefore, become His slaves. Would you not then learn from these reminders?  4 To Him is your return, of all of you – and that is a true promise. He initiates the creation, then, He will repeat it, so that He may reward with justice those who believe and perform good deeds. And as for those who disbelieve, they shall have a boiling drink and painful punishment because they used to disbelieve.    

These verses make the following points:

  • Your Rabb – Lord, Master, Sovereign and Sustainer – is Allaah, the Creator of this universe. He is both the Creator and the Rabb. There is no other Rabb except Him.
  • Not only did He create, but He also established Himself upon the Throne – He did not retire after creating the universe to let it run independently according to His laws of nature. Although He automated many routines through the laws of nature, He kept the command and control of the universe under His personal authority as the Sovereign of the Universe.
  • He is executing governance – actively watching, managing and governing the universe on an ongoing basis to maintain the desired balance, equilibrium, equity and justice.
  • There can be no intercessor except with His permission – He makes all decisions independently without anyone daring to influence any of His decisions. Thus, no one can intercede to influence Allaah’s decisions and make them less than fair, equitable or just. Although He can do better than justice by mercifully forgiving His slaves, that is His own decision. If He allows someone to intercede for someone else in this respect, the intercessor can only request and implore, the decision rests exclusively with Him.
  • When such is the Lord, it only behoves every human being to voluntary become his slave. He could have pre-programmed human beings through the laws of nature to behave obediently and equitably, just as He has pre-programmed His other creations, but He granted human beings the freedom to make decisions so that they voluntarily adopt His slavery and maintain balance and justice as per His commands. Thus, people should understand that Allaah is their Lord and Master while they have been created to be His slaves – to worship only Him, to submit to Him in complete obedience in all affairs of their lives, and to thank Him for all He has done to provide them both the sustenance and guidance. This is their test. Their success or failure in this test is going to determine what they face in their permanent life Hereafter.
  • Once this temporary world is over, all human beings will definitely be gathered and judged equitably according to their performance in the test of this world.
  • Those who assume raising people from the dead will be impossible should think again because it is easier for Allaah to do so than creating the first time.
  • Those who prove to be good slaves will be generously rewarded and will enjoy a bountiful eternal life. Those who rebel will face a painful punishment. Justice demands that such judgment takes place. It would have been grave injustice that everyone would die without any consequence, regardless of the good or bad behaviour – a fraudster and an honest person, a serial killer and his victims, all ending up being the same once dead.

This is the message with which the Prophet was sent and which was alluded to in the second verse, “Warn people (of the consequences of their behaviour) and give the good news to the believers that they have high status with their Lord”.

Verse four made two points about the Day of Resurrection and the life Hereafter:

  • Bringing people back to life is very much possible for the Creator who created them the first time;
  • The concept of justice demands that there must be a Day when Allaah SWT delivers the perfect and ultimate justice among all those who have been given freedom of making decisions and who may make unfair decisions.

In addition, there are ample signs of Allaah around us that rationally lead to the conclusion that the Day of Judgment is inevitable. However, people can benefit from these signs only if they seek knowledge of the truth instead of living like the animals satisfying their physical needs and following the herd; and they have a desire to do the right thing and to stay away from what is improper. For such people, the next two verses mention some of these signs:

هُوَ الَّذِي جَعَلَ الشَّمْسَ ضِيَاءً وَالْقَمَرَ نُورً‌ا وَقَدَّرَهُ مَنَازِلَ لِتَعْلَمُوا عَدَدَ السِّنِينَ وَالْحِسَابَ ۚ مَا خَلَقَ اللَّـهُ ذَٰلِكَ إِلَّا بِالْحَقِّ ۚ يُفَصِّلُ الْآيَاتِ لِقَوْمٍ يَعْلَمُونَ ﴿٥﴾ إِنَّ فِي اخْتِلَافِ اللَّيْلِ وَالنَّهَارِ وَمَا خَلَقَ اللَّـهُ فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ لَآيَاتٍ لِّقَوْمٍ يَتَّقُونَ ﴿٦﴾

5 It is He Who made the sun a shining brightness and the moon a soft light, and ordained for it stages so that you might know the number of years and the count of months. Allaah did not create them but purposefully. He clearly describes His signs for people who have knowledge.  6 Certainly, in the variation of the night and the day, and what Allaah has created in the heavens and the earth, there are signs for a people who care to save themselves from His displeasure.    

A sincere reflection on the solar and lunar systems, their role in sustaining and facilitating our life and in giving us the concept of time and keeping track of it, the system of day and night and the seasonal variations, all lead people to realize that this universe is an orderly universe wherein all systems have been designed to suit our needs, and facilitate and sustain human life. Their existence, their role and their operation is all planned, not random, and is all purposeful, not accidental. This also shows that Allaah’s actions are purposeful; He does not do things for purposeless sport. If these systems are designed to be useful for human life, and if human beings have been given freedom to make decisions in utilizing the capabilities and resources that Allaah SWT has bestowed on people, is He going to let it go in vain? Would He let people do whatever they want and then let everyone have the same end? Would He not make it purposeful by rewarding those who do good and punishing the evil ones?

The truth is that those who rationally reflect on the signs of Allaah SWT in the natural phenomena around us and prepare for the accountability to Allaah SWT in the Hereafter will not have the same end as those who did not care about the Hereafter and focussed only on the life of this world. Those who did not believe in being presented to Allaah for accountability in the Hereafter will be taken aback by the reality when they witness it, will deeply regret their mistake and will blame each other for the severe punishment they will have to endure. On the other hand, those who prepared for the accountability by doing the right things and adopting the right lifestyle will be delighted with what they see. They will marvel at the kindness of Allaah SWT and excitedly glorify Him by exclaiming “Subĥaankallaahumma”; they will happily greet each other with “Salaam”, the greeting of peace; and they will conclude with profusely thanking Allaah SWT with appreciative praise “Al-Ĥamdulillaahi Rabbil-‘aalameen”. This will not only be their initial reaction but their permanent lifestyle in Jannah.

إِنَّ الَّذِينَ لَا يَرْجُونَ لِقَاءَنَا وَرَضُوا بِالْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا وَاطْمَأَنُّوا بِهَا وَالَّذِينَ هُمْ عَنْ آيَاتِنَا غَافِلُونَ ﴿٧﴾ أُولَـٰئِكَ مَأْوَاهُمُ النَّارُ بِمَا كَانُوا يَكْسِبُونَ ﴿٨﴾ إِنَّ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ يَهْدِيهِمْ رَبُّهُم بِإِيمَانِهِمْ ۖ تَجْرِي مِن تَحْتِهِمُ الْأَنْهَارُ فِي جَنَّاتِ النَّعِيمِ ﴿٩﴾ دَعْوَاهُمْ فِيهَا سُبْحَانَكَ اللَّـهُمَّ وَتَحِيَّتُهُمْ فِيهَا سَلَامٌ ۚ وَآخِرُ دَعْوَاهُمْ أَنِ الْحَمْدُ لِلَّـهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ ﴿١٠﴾

7 As for those who do not expect meeting with Us, are happy with the life of this world and content with it, and are neglectful of Our signs, 8 their home will be the Fire because of what they used to earn. 9 On the other hand, those who believe and do good, their Lord will guide them because of their faith; rivers will flow beneath them in the Gardens of Delight. 10 Their exclamation therein will be “Exalted in Glory You are, O Allaah”, and their greeting therein will be “Peace”. And their concluding remark will be “all praise and gratitude is for Allaah, the Lord of the Universe”!    

These verses further elaborate the point made in the second verse, “Warn people (of the consequences of their behaviour) and give the good news to the believers that they have high status with their Lord”.

In the light of these verses, let us reflect on the aspects of the attitude, lifestyle and performance of both of these groups that caused such a huge difference in the ultimate outcome.

The first group of people does not believe in the Hereafter. That is why they do not worry about it and are quite happy with the worldly life. They are too busy with life to even pay attention to the signs of Allaah around them. Because the life of this world is the only matter they have to worry about, all of their measures of success and failure are in terms of worldly objectives. Their preoccupation is maximizing whatever they cherish or desire and attaining it more than others. Naturally, this leads to a way of life where the only measure of right or wrong is maximizing what they cherish and gratifying what they desire. Whatever helps in that regard is right, otherwise it is wrong. This results in problems in human society including injustices, exploitation, corruption, strife, wars, wastage, overuse of resources, and destruction of the environment.

When these imminent consequences of the denial of accountability in the Hereafter are mentioned, some people raise two arguments against this very logical and factual scenario: Firstly, they quote examples of the good behaviour of some deniers of the Hereafter; and secondly, they present the sad state of some people who claim to believe. Let us take the second one first. Belief is not a claim but something that shows itself in the lifestyle. If someone claims to believe in the Hereafter but his lifestyle is the same as mentioned for the disbelievers, he is hypocritical in his claim and in reality is a disbeliever. As for “good” atheists or disbelievers, where did they get their morality and sense of fairness from? If it is traced back to its origins, the original source will always be Islam taught by Allaah SWT through Adam and subsequent prophets and messengers. It is only the remnants of those Islamic teachings that were incorporated by different societies in their values and social systems which we see as “good” aspects in various lifestyle systems. In addition, there are only a few people who abide by those good values altruistically. The majority follows them because of the fear of being caught and disgraced in the society. That is why we often see that when there is no fear of being caught, no bars are held in exploiting a situation.

Now let us look at the second group. They are those who believe in Allaah and the Hereafter, benefit from the guidance provided by Allaah and live accordingly, adopting the lifestyle of goodness taught by Allaah SWT through His messengers. That is the lifestyle of minimal and responsible use of resources, restraint in satisfying their desires and making sacrifices for the higher goals and pleasure of Allaah. This lifestyle makes people strive for: excellence in everything they do including conducting their affairs with justice, grace and magnanimity; and establishing a society based on justice, peace and excellence. The verse clearly emphasizes that their faith is not merely a claim but is evidenced by the practical guidance they derive from it and the lifestyle they live by.

This concludes the case for the life Hereafter by making the following points:

  • Resurrection of the dead is not impossible for the Creator whose power is evidenced by the first creation;
  • Life Hereafter is logically necessary for carrying out the perfect justice for the rights and wrongs done by people in the first life; and
  • Allaah SWT is Wise and Just, thus He will definitely fulfil this need. He did not give people the freedom of making decisions in a temporary life purposelessly, but to complete the process of evaluating the performance and rewarding / punishing justly after the completion of the test.

The next section addresses the points raised by the disbelievers and demands made by them. To understand the perspective of Allaah’s comments on their first demand, the following key aspects of Allaah’s way (sunnatullaah) of treating people during their worldly life need to be remembered:

  1. Allaah SWT treats people with mercy. He hastens goodness towards them when they seek it.
  2. Those individuals who transgress, He mercifully gives them full respite without any interference from Him until they die. This gives them full opportunity to repent and reform before their death and seek Allaah’s forgiveness for their past transgressions. It also ensures the validity of the test of their freedom without any influence from Allaah’s power, authority or instant punishment.
  3. If a society as a whole had become too corrupt, He would send a messenger to guide them towards the Islamic lifestyle of justice, balance, peace and excellence. Those who opposed the Messenger were given respite until the Messenger had exhausted all means and efforts of bringing them to the Islamic guidance. Once that stage arrived, the Messenger and his followers would migrate out of that locality, all the opponents of the mission of the Messenger would be killed (ending their test) through a natural disaster, wars or a combination of both. All believers would be saved to establish a pure Islamic society to serve as a model of Islamic justice, peace and excellence.

With their opposition to Prophet Muĥammad, the last Messenger of Allaah, the Makkans fell into the third category. Hence, the Qur-aan was repeatedly warning them of the consequences of their opposition to the Prophet. Instead of heeding the call of the Messenger, accepting Islam and reforming themselves, they would dare the Prophet to bring the scourge they were being warned about. Verse eleven (11) comments on their demands and reminds them of the merciful way of Allaah giving them respite until everyone with any propensity to become Muslim had done so. Had it not been for His mercy, they would have been killed for their transgressions long ago.

وَلَوْ يُعَجِّلُ اللَّـهُ لِلنَّاسِ الشَّرَّ اسْتِعْجَالَهُم بِالْخَيْرِ لَقُضِيَ إِلَيْهِمْ أَجَلُهُمْ ۖ فَنَذَرُ الَّذِينَ لَا يَرْجُونَ لِقَاءَنَا فِي طُغْيَانِهِمْ يَعْمَهُونَ ﴿١١﴾ وَإِذَا مَسَّ الْإِنسَانَ الضُّرُّ دَعَانَا لِجَنبِهِ أَوْ قَاعِدًا أَوْ قَائِمًا فَلَمَّا كَشَفْنَا عَنْهُ ضُرَّهُ مَرَّ كَأَن لَّمْ يَدْعُنَا إِلَىٰ ضُرٍّ مَّسَّهُ ۚ كَذَٰلِكَ زُيِّنَ لِلْمُسْرِفِينَ مَا كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ ﴿١٢﴾

11 If Allaah were to hasten the scourge to people as they seek the hastening of material good, their respite would certainly have been brought to an end; instead, We let those who do not expect meeting with Us wander on blindly in their inordinate rebellion. 12 And when an affliction touches a person, he calls upon Us all the time, whether lying on his side, sitting or standing; but when We remove his affliction from him, he moves on as though he had never called upon Us on account of an affliction that touched him; thus is made fair-seeming to the transgressors what they keep doing.    

Thus, the first answer to their demand of bringing on the punishment is that it is not Allaah’s way to expedite the punishment of people before it becomes unavoidable. While giving this response, Allaah acknowledges that though they are given respite mercifully to allow them every opportunity to mend their ways and become believers. Those who do not have any propensity for goodness take it the wrong way. They are so blinded by their opposition to the Messenger that instead of reflecting on the message and trying to find the truth, they take it as a weakness on the part of the Messenger. As a result they become even more inordinate in their rebellion against Allaah and His Messenger. However, despite the existence of such inordinate people, Allaah’s mercy requires that others who have even some propensity to repent must be given full opportunity to do so.

Verse twelve (12) gives the second response: If Allaah SWT does not send full-fledged destruction as per His way, and instead decides to send a milder natural disaster as a warning and as a proof of the truthfulness of the Messenger, even that action is not going to be useful. Human psychology is such that when people face hardship, people continually beseech, implore and pray to Allaah to take the problem away. They even make promises to Allaah that if they are relieved of the difficulty, they would become obedient people. However, once the affliction is removed, people forget everything and fall back to their errant behaviour. They feel no compunction on their about-turn and transgressions.

Verse 13 gives the third response:

وَلَقَدْ أَهْلَكْنَا الْقُرُونَ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ لَمَّا ظَلَمُوا ۙ وَجَاءَتْهُمْ رُسُلُهُم بِالْبَيِّنَاتِ وَمَا كَانُوا لِيُؤْمِنُوا ۚ كَذَٰلِكَ نَجْزِي الْقَوْمَ الْمُجْرِمِينَ ﴿١٣﴾ ثُمَّ جَعَلْنَاكُمْ خَلَائِفَ فِي الْأَرْضِ مِن بَعْدِهِمْ لِنَنظُرَ كَيْفَ تَعْمَلُونَ ﴿١٤﴾

13 And certainly We did destroy generations before you when they did wrong, and their messengers had come to them with clear arguments, but they would not believe; thus do We recompense the guilty people. 14 Then, We made you successors in the land after them so that We may see how you behave.    

If the opponents of the Messenger want to check the veracity of his warning of the impending punishment, there are easier ways to do so. All they have to do is reflect on the stories of previously destroyed nations about whom they have heard and the ruins of which they are aware of. Those predecessors were terminated because they refused to repent from their crimes and rejected the calls of the messengers to that effect. It is now the Makkans’ turn to go through the same process as their predecessors went through. It is now up to them to listen to the Messenger and repent or be destroyed like their predecessors.

The next verse deals with their second demand. The Makkans wanted the Prophet to adjust the message of the Qur-aan to accommodate at least some of their views and lifestyles. They thought that if he adjusted the message to some extent, instead of demanding complete submission to the teachings he was presenting, a “happy medium” or a “workable compromise” could be reached by restricting the applicability of Islam to spiritual matters only or by mixing some of their “rich” cultural heritage, customs and traditions with Islamic teachings. In making such demands, they failed to understand that:

  • The Islamic teachings were designed and revealed by Allaah SWT wherein the Prophet had no say;
  • Islam is a complete system of life that is designed to create a society full of justice, peace, security and excellence in goodness to equally benefit all human beings therein;
  • Systems work as designed to deliver the intended benefits only when they are adopted and implemented without removing, adding or changing any of its parts; and
  • If Islam is not accepted in principle as a complete system of life for every aspect of life, Allaah does not accept a partial acceptance, even if it is 99%.

Thus, Allaah told the Prophet to respond to the disbelievers on such suggestions in the following way:

وَإِذَا تُتْلَىٰ عَلَيْهِمْ آيَاتُنَا بَيِّنَاتٍ ۙ قَالَ الَّذِينَ لَا يَرْجُونَ لِقَاءَنَا ائْتِ بِقُرْآنٍ غَيْرِ هَـٰذَا أَوْ بَدِّلْهُ ۚ قُلْ مَا يَكُونُ لِي أَنْ أُبَدِّلَهُ مِن تِلْقَاءِ نَفْسِي ۖ إِنْ أَتَّبِعُ إِلَّا مَا يُوحَىٰ إِلَيَّ ۖ إِنِّي أَخَافُ إِنْ عَصَيْتُ رَبِّي عَذَابَ يَوْمٍ عَظِيمٍ ﴿١٥﴾ قُل لَّوْ شَاءَ اللَّـهُ مَا تَلَوْتُهُ عَلَيْكُمْ وَلَا أَدْرَاكُم بِهِ ۖ فَقَدْ لَبِثْتُ فِيكُمْ عُمُرًا مِّن قَبْلِهِ ۚ أَفَلَا تَعْقِلُونَ ﴿١٦﴾

15 And when Our clear revelations are recited to them, those who do not expect meeting with Us say, “Bring a Qur-aan other than this or change it”. Say, “It is not up to me that I change it of my own accord; I only follow what is revealed to me. Verily, I fear, if I disobey my Lord, the punishment on an awful Day.” 16 Say, “If Allaah had desired otherwise, I would not have recited it to you, nor would He have made it known to you; indeed I have lived a lifetime among you before it; do you not then understand?”     

The response is three fold:

  • I am not the author; I am just the messenger to convey exactly what I am told. I have neither any say in the content of the message nor do I have any authority to make any changes to it. Rather, if I make any change or do not deliver exactly and completely as instructed, my Lord who appointed me as His Messenger will punish me on the Day of Judgment.
  • I did not even choose to be the Messenger. I neither had any dream to do so nor any desire. It is purely Allaah’s decision that He appointed me as His Messenger to inform you of His message.
  • I am not a stranger who has come from somewhere else just to deliver the message. I have lived all my life among you. Just an honest look at my life with some common sense and rational thinking will provide you irrefutable evidence of the above two facts.

The life of the Prophet provided the following evidence:

  1. He had such an impeccable reputation of honesty, truthfulness and trustworthiness in the society all his life that a mere mention of the adjectives “the truthful” or “the trustworthy” was enough to identify him personally. No person in the society could identify even one occasion where he would have lied, broke a promise, cheated in anything, misled anyone, etc.
  2. His intelligence and judgment was also well known. Just five years before his appointment as the Messenger of Allaah, he was given a unanimous vote of confidence by everyone involved in the dispute in which he was selected to be the arbitrator. When his name was announced, they exclaimed, “He is honest, we are happy that it is Muĥammad”.
  3. He had no schooling, no education and no opportunity whatsoever to learn or hear the information and messages that the Qur-aan was talking about. He had not even discussed any matters of that sort with anyone in the society.
  4. Even days before his appointment as the messenger by the visitation of Jibreel (Gabriel), no one, including his wife and close friends, sensed in him any desire for leadership or any plan of starting a movement or heard from him any philosophical or ideological expositions.
  5. After starting the mission, he rejected all offers of leadership and kingship that were made to him if he would stop opposing idolatry.
  6. He made immense personal sacrifices for the mission without expecting any worldly benefit whatsoever in return.

Thus, for every reasonable and rational person, his life is the greatest proof for his truthfulness. If these facts are ignored and it is assumed that he was false in his claim of being the Messenger of Allaah, then inexplicable questions arise, such as, how was it humanly possible for him to:

  • Produce the Amazing Qur-aan without it being revealed to him by Allaah;
  • Hide his views and aspirations completely from everyone in the society for more than 40 years until the day he suddenly started presenting them as revelations;
  • Continue making sacrifices without any worldly benefit or motive;
  • Maintain meticulous honesty and truthfulness throughout his life; and
  • Avoid making compromises to win over his opponents.

After inviting them to reflect on the facts, the next verse warns people that Allaah does not let anyone succeed who falsely claims to be a Messenger of Allaah SWT or who rejects a true Messenger. Both cases are considered serious crimes by Allaah SWT and both ultimately end up being the losers. Time will tell and the world will clearly see who is right. However, since it is evident that Muĥammad is the true Messenger of Allaah, this becomes a stern warning to his opponents that they better listen to him if they do not want to be the ultimate losers.

فَمَنْ أَظْلَمُ مِمَّنِ افْتَرَىٰ عَلَى اللَّـهِ كَذِبًا أَوْ كَذَّبَ بِآيَاتِهِ ۚ إِنَّهُ لَا يُفْلِحُ الْمُجْرِمُونَ ﴿١٧﴾

17 Who can then be more wrong than someone who invents a lie against Allaah or denies His signs? Surely, the criminals shall never be successful.    

Two points need to be clearly understood about this verse.

Firstly, the right meaning of the word “Success” or “Falaaĥ” (in Arabic) needs to be understood. Technically, success means being able to achieve one’s goals and objectives. Thus, it means different things to different people because people’s priorities, goals and objectives differ. However, most people relate success to material well being; and when they read the word Falaaĥ, they think of the success and prosperity in the material sense. In the Qur-aanic terminology, Falaaĥ means succeeding in doing the right things and living the right way that fulfils the goals for which Allaah created people – submitting to Him and serving Him so well that He is pleased. In the context of this verse, it means the success of the Messenger in delivering the message and concluding the mission triumphantly, as desired by Allaah. The failure of his opponents means that they will perish if they do not accept Islam. Conversely, if someone falsely claims to be a prophet or messenger, his failure is an inability to attract enough followers to achieve his goal; while the success of his opponents will be that his falsehood is exposed; and consequently most people stay away from being fooled by him.

Secondly, in the case of a false claimant, it does not imply that the false claimant will be immediately destroyed or punished. As explained earlier, that is not Allaah’s way. Allaah’s Sunnah about individual criminals, as mentioned above in point 2 in the preamble to verse 11, equally applies to all criminals including the false prophets or messengers. If a false claimant is not killed immediately by an act of God or is able to fool some people to follow him, it does not mean that he can be considered a true prophet or messenger, as some people who follow a false claimant like to argue. As we have made clear in the previous paragraph, this is not the message of this verse at all.

Those followers of the false claimant usually quote verses 44-47 of Soorah Al-Ĥaaqqah in support of their claim that a false claimant immediately perishes by an Act of God. This is, once again, a complete misinterpretation and abuse of the Qur-aan. The said verses are not even talking about any false claimant. Their subject matter is the response by Allaah SWT to the demand of the opponents who wanted the Messenger to change the message, just as their demand has been mentioned in verse 15. Allaah SWT responded by saying:

44 Had he (Muĥammad) made up some sayings about Us, 45 We would certainly have seized him by the right hand, 46 then We would certainly have cut off his aorta; 47 and not one of you could have prevented it. Al-Ĥaaqqah 69: 44-47

The message of this verse is:

The true messengers of Allaah are under strict supervision and are not allowed to make any changes in the revelation sent to them or to add anything to it of their own. If anyone would ever entertain such an idea, he would be punished severely and swiftly because it is Allaah’s responsibility that His appointee conveys his message precisely and accurately. This has been worded such that anyone can easily visualize it in terms of an emperor dealing with his messenger. This has been stated for two reasons: firstly, people should know that Allaah does not tolerate any changes, additions or deletions in His revelations; and secondly, they should not expect the Prophet to change the message to suit public demands.

Thus, it should be clearly understood that this rule is for Allaah’s true messengers, not false claimants. As for those who make a false claim to be the prophets or messengers of Allaah, Allaah does not bother with them. Because they are not from Him, He lets people use their intellect to reject their false claims. For their crimes, the false claimants are dealt with like all other sinners, fraudsters and cheaters.

Instead of manipulating the verses of the Qur-aan, the followers of the false claimants should remember that according to the Islamic teachings, Prophet Muĥammad is the last prophet and the last messenger of Allaah. Thus, it is absolute that no new true prophet or messenger can come after him. Any claimant is automatically a liar, even if he lives a long life or has succeeded in recruiting followers.

After responding to their demands in the previous verses, in verse 18 the Qur-aan gives the real reason for their rejection of the call of the Messenger, which was also the main reason they demanded changes to the message. They did not accept the Islamic concept of Tawĥeed whereby Allaah is the only entity worthy of worship and devotion exclusive of every other entity. They wanted to keep some space for their assumed intercessors, instead of abandoning polytheism and idolatry (Shirk) completely.

وَيَعْبُدُونَ مِن دُونِ اللَّـهِ مَا لَا يَضُرُّهُمْ وَلَا يَنفَعُهُمْ وَيَقُولُونَ هَـٰؤُلَاءِ شُفَعَاؤُنَا عِندَ اللَّـهِ ۚ قُلْ أَتُنَبِّئُونَ اللَّـهَ بِمَا لَا يَعْلَمُ فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَلَا فِي الْأَرْضِ ۚ سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَىٰ عَمَّا يُشْرِكُونَ ﴿١٨﴾

18 They worship besides Allaah that which can neither harm them nor profit them, and they say, “These are our intercessors with Allaah”. Ask them, “Are you informing Allaah of what He knows not in the heavens and the earth? Glory be to Him, and supremely exalted is He above what they ascribe to Him!”    

Arabs, like much of humanity nowadays, used to worship, perform devotion, give obeisance, present offerings and sing hymns (Na‘ts or Qaseedahs) for many living or dead entities, with or without their pictures or idols, in order to please them in the hope they will intercede on their behalf with Allaah to find favours from Him in this world and/or the Hereafter. Allaah SWT categorically denies the existence of any such intercessors by informing people that in His Divine and Ultimate knowledge, He is not aware of the existence of any such entities. If Allaah does not know their existence, what can be a greater proof that they do not exist? Although people think they get what they want by pleasing those imaginary intercessors, the reality is that all their devotion to them is an exercise in futility, which just angers Allaah SWT, the Real Bestower, Who will punish them severely in the Hereafter.

This teaching of Islam was one of the messages the Makkans wanted the Prophet to change or compromise, so that they could follow the Prophet and worship Allaah, but without abandoning their presumed intercessors.

People usually wonder: if Allaah wanted people to follow Islam, worshipping only Him, where do all other gods and religions come from and why does Allaah not make it so clear that all people know the right religion without any doubt? Arabs used to wonder in the same manner. The Qur-aan responds to these questions in the next verse.

وَمَا كَانَ النَّاسُ إِلَّا أُمَّةً وَاحِدَةً فَاخْتَلَفُوا ۚ وَلَوْلَا كَلِمَةٌ سَبَقَتْ مِن رَّبِّكَ لَقُضِيَ بَيْنَهُمْ فِيمَا فِيهِ يَخْتَلِفُونَ ﴿١٩﴾

19 All human beings used to be only one people, but then they differed. Had it not been for the plan that your Lord had already made, the matter in which they differ would have been immediately settled for them.    

Allaah SWT created everything in this universe pre-programmed through laws of nature and instincts to do exactly what He wanted. For human beings, Allaah granted them some powers to make decisions and execute them, with the potential of misusing those powers, excelling in the use of those powers or doing just right. To segregate people according to their practical performance in using that freedom, Allaah put the people in this temporary world for a test, so that ultimately they can be put eternally in an environment that corresponds to their performance in this test. To make the test effective and objective, Allaah SWT chose not to interfere in human performance and kept Himself and all matters of eternal life hidden. If Allaah interferes or influences human behaviour, then it is not a test of freedom; and if He does not keep Himself and the Hereafter hidden, then it is no test at all. This is very briefly the plan that Allaah had already made even before the creation.

The first human being, Adam, was taught Islam directly by Allaah SWT. Thus, the first human society was all united on Islam. Over generations, under the influence of Shaytaan, people started diverting away and inventing heresies, new rituals and new gods. To bring people back to Islam, Allaah sent Nooĥ (Noah). After the destruction of the disbelievers in the flood, the cycle started again. That is how it has been happening after every messenger. Even the Makkan society was founded on belief in and worship of Allaah alone by Ibraheem (Abraham) and Isma‘eel (Ishmael), peace be upon them both. People invented idolatry after them. Thus, the contemporary anthropologists’ guesses are totally wrong wherein they assume that people started by worshipping multiple gods and then evolved into believing in one God. Allaah SWT informs us on the basis of His knowledge that human beings started with worship of Allaah only and then deviated into idolatry and polytheism.

The message of this verse is that Allaah taught people only Islam; the differences were caused by the deviations of people. Allaah has sent His Messenger only to bring people back to where they should have been in the first place. But believing in Allaah has to be on the basis of rational evidence, not on physical evidence. In other words, it has to be a belief in the unseen, otherwise it does not remain a test. Because of Allaah’s plan of freedom and test, Allaah does not make the truth self-evident to end the differences of opinion in that respect. The truth will become evident and the performance of people in the test will be assessed on the Day of Judgment.

This concludes the response to the Makkan demand for change in the message to accommodate their presumed intercessors, including other matters incidental to that topic.

Another point that the Makkan chiefs used extensively to propagate against the Prophet and to confront him in public was that if he was the true messenger of Allaah, then why does Allaah not inflict them with some kind of punishment as a sign of His anger on their rejection of His Messenger. There were two aspects to this demand: Firstly, they dared the Prophet to bring about the destruction of the opponents of the Messenger that the Qur-aan threatened them about. That was mentioned and commented upon in verses eleven (11) to fourteen (14). Secondly, they asked for some natural hardship as a sign to convince them of the validity of the Prophet’s claim so that they could believe in him once satisfied with the evidence. It was summarily commented upon in verse 12 from the perspective of human psychology. The next section responds to this demand again, with examples.

وَيَقُولُونَ لَوْلَا أُنزِلَ عَلَيْهِ آيَةٌ مِّن رَّبِّهِ ۖ فَقُلْ إِنَّمَا الْغَيْبُ لِلَّـهِ فَانتَظِرُوا إِنِّي مَعَكُم مِّنَ الْمُنتَظِرِينَ ﴿٢٠﴾ وَإِذَا أَذَقْنَا النَّاسَ رَحْمَةً مِّن بَعْدِ ضَرَّاءَ مَسَّتْهُمْ إِذَا لَهُم مَّكْرٌ فِي آيَاتِنَا ۚ قُلِ اللَّـهُ أَسْرَعُ مَكْرًا ۚ إِنَّ رُسُلَنَا يَكْتُبُونَ مَا تَمْكُرُونَ ﴿٢١﴾

20 And they say, “Why is not a sign sent down to him from his Lord?” So tell them, “It is a matter of unseen that belongs only to Allaah; therefore, wait (for Allaah’s decision); surely I, too, am waiting alongside you.” 21 The attitude of such people is that when We give them a taste of mercy after some adversity has afflicted them, they take to conspiring against Our signs. Say, “Allaah is much swifter in strategy.” Indeed, Our deputed angels are recording whatever you conspire.    

The first response is that:

  • Like the contents of the message, the decisions about signs and/or punishments are made by Allaah whereby the Messenger does not have any influence. Only Allaah determines the time, extent, nature and form of the punishment. The Messenger is only conveying the message and the warnings from Allaah.
  • Allaah does not act according to the demands of people but according to His own plan and timetable.
  • The decisions and plans of Allaah are matters of unseen, only known to Allaah Himself. He informs the Messenger of only what He wants, when He wants. His decision of punishment is implemented on its planned time without any forewarning or notice to the opponents of the Messenger.

Hence, it is useless to ask the Prophet for any sign or punishment. People should evaluate the message of the Prophet rationally on its own merits, instead of waiting for the punishment whereby they might be killed without having any chance to accept the message before dying. To them, it would be too late because they would be dying as disbelievers. Then, they would be facing eternal punishment in the Hereafter. Thus, if they wanted to wait for punishment, it was their choice. All the Messenger could do was to continue giving his message while waiting alongside those who had opted for waiting.

The second response is about the human attitude that was earlier described in verse 12: when people face hardship, people continually beseech, implore and pray to Allaah to take the problem away. They even make promises to Allaah that if they are relieved of the difficulty, they would become obedient people. However, once the affliction is removed, people forget everything and fall back to their errant behaviour. Instead of learning from the hardship and reforming themselves, they go back to plotting and scheming in opposition to the Islamic message of Tawĥeed.

The truth is that they were not asking for a sign because they really were inclined to believe but were not able to ascertain the validity of the Messenger’s claim. In fact, ample rational evidence existed for their reflection, some of which had been mentioned earlier in this Soorah. This demand was one of their excuses to justify their unwillingness to believe. Thus, even if a punishment as a sign was sent down, they would relent during the duration of the punishment but then revert to their conspiracies against the message as soon as the punishment ended.

As compared to their conspiring against Tawĥeed (exclusive devotion to Allaah) in favour of their idolatry, Allaah already had a strategy in which they were snared because of their evil psyche. They were misusing the respite given by Allaah and were continuing to commit more crimes by scheming against Islam. The angels of Allaah were documenting all their crimes and the cases against them were becoming stronger, calling for more severe punishment in the Hereafter.

The next two verses give an example of this behaviour from the experience people encounter in their voyages.

هُوَ الَّذِي يُسَيِّرُكُمْ فِي الْبَرِّ وَالْبَحْرِ ۖ حَتَّىٰ إِذَا كُنتُمْ فِي الْفُلْكِ وَجَرَيْنَ بِهِم بِرِيحٍ طَيِّبَةٍ وَفَرِحُوا بِهَا جَاءَتْهَا رِيحٌ عَاصِفٌ وَجَاءَهُمُ الْمَوْجُ مِن كُلِّ مَكَانٍ وَظَنُّوا أَنَّهُمْ أُحِيطَ بِهِمْ ۙ دَعَوُا اللَّـهَ مُخْلِصِينَ لَهُ الدِّينَ لَئِنْ أَنجَيْتَنَا مِنْ هَـٰذِهِ لَنَكُونَنَّ مِنَ الشَّاكِرِينَ ﴿٢٢﴾ فَلَمَّا أَنجَاهُمْ إِذَا هُمْ يَبْغُونَ فِي الْأَرْضِ بِغَيْرِ الْحَقِّ ۗ يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنَّمَا بَغْيُكُمْ عَلَىٰ أَنفُسِكُم ۖ مَّتَاعَ الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا ۖ ثُمَّ إِلَيْنَا مَرْجِعُكُمْ فَنُنَبِّئُكُم بِمَا كُنتُمْ تَعْمَلُونَ ﴿٢٣﴾

22 He it is Who makes it possible for you to travel by land and sea. Now, (consider the scenario) that you were travelling in one of the ships: The ships were sailing on with a favourable wind with their passengers rejoicing therein; then came a violent windstorm, waves coming upon them from all sides, and they figured that they were doomed. (At that realization), they prayed to Allaah, submitting to Him exclusively and vowing, “If You deliver us from this, we will most certainly be among those who are grateful.” 23 Yet, once He delivered them, they rebelled on the earth without right. O people! Your rebellion is only going against yourselves; because after enjoying your freedom in this world, to Us shall be your return, so We will inform you of what you used to do.    

Verse 22 first reminds people that long distance travelling for human beings had been made possible only because Allaah SWT provided the resources and made the laws of nature that enabled such transportation. The dangers they come across during their travels are signs of Allaah reminding people that although the resources and nature are there for their benefit, they are not the masters. Nature can leave them helpless on occasion to remind them that the Master and Lord is Allaah.

Then, it gives an example of how people realize their helplessness at the time of the danger and recognize Allaah as their Lord, but soon afterwards, they forget and rebel. This scenario tells the Makkans that any natural hardship inflicted on them as a sign would have the same results. In addition, it illustrates another point as well: the belief in Allaah SWT is built into the human nature. That is why at the time of severe danger, when a person feels helpless, even an atheist cries out to Him; then denying His existence when condition returns to normal.

The last part of verse 23 warns them that they should not be secure and smug during the respite they have been given. If they are assuming that there will not be any consequences for their rebellion, they will soon find out the reality in the Hereafter. The nature of the respite and how it fools people into rebellion is illustrated by the next verse.

إِنَّمَا مَثَلُ الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا كَمَاءٍ أَنزَلْنَاهُ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ فَاخْتَلَطَ بِهِ نَبَاتُ الْأَرْضِ مِمَّا يَأْكُلُ النَّاسُ وَالْأَنْعَامُ حَتَّىٰ إِذَا أَخَذَتِ الْأَرْضُ زُخْرُفَهَا وَازَّيَّنَتْ وَظَنَّ أَهْلُهَا أَنَّهُمْ قَادِرُونَ عَلَيْهَا أَتَاهَا أَمْرُنَا لَيْلًا أَوْ نَهَارًا فَجَعَلْنَاهَا حَصِيدًا كَأَن لَّمْ تَغْنَ بِالْأَمْسِ ۚ كَذَٰلِكَ نُفَصِّلُ الْآيَاتِ لِقَوْمٍ يَتَفَكَّرُونَ ﴿٢٤﴾ وَاللَّـهُ يَدْعُو إِلَىٰ دَارِ السَّلَامِ وَيَهْدِي مَن يَشَاءُ إِلَىٰ صِرَاطٍ مُّسْتَقِيمٍ ﴿٢٥﴾

24 The analogy of worldly life of the opponents of the Messenger is: We sent down the rain from the sky; so the produce of the earth, which people and cattle eat, grew luxuriantly thereby. When the earth had taken on her ornaments and was beautified and the owners thought they had full control over its utilization, Our command was executed on it suddenly, by night or by day, making it so completely mowed as if there was nothing yesterday. That is how We explain our signs for people who reflect. 25 In contrast, Allaah invites to the Home of Peace and guides whom He wills to the straight path.    

This example explains the points made previously in earlier verses. When people reject a Messenger, Allaah SWT allows them respite. During the respite, good people come to Islam, but the evil ones are fooled by their worldly successes into discounting the warnings of the Messenger. Then, when they are at the pinnacle of their glory and are feeling invulnerable, their destruction comes at the appointed stage of the Messenger’s mission, but opponents are caught by surprise because it happens completely against their expectations. This kind of end takes them to severe punishment of the Hereafter. In contrast, Allaah SWT invites them through His Messenger to the path that takes them straight to Jannah – the house of total peace and happiness in the Hereafter.

The next two verses underscore the kind of behaviour that takes them to Jannah and the kind that takes them to hell.

لِّلَّذِينَ أَحْسَنُوا الْحُسْنَىٰ وَزِيَادَةٌ ۖ وَلَا يَرْهَقُ وُجُوهَهُمْ قَتَرٌ وَلَا ذِلَّةٌ ۚ أُولَـٰئِكَ أَصْحَابُ الْجَنَّةِ ۖ هُمْ فِيهَا خَالِدُونَ ﴿٢٦﴾ وَالَّذِينَ كَسَبُوا السَّيِّئَاتِ جَزَاءُ سَيِّئَةٍ بِمِثْلِهَا وَتَرْهَقُهُمْ ذِلَّةٌ ۖ مَّا لَهُم مِّنَ اللَّـهِ مِنْ عَاصِمٍ ۖ كَأَنَّمَا أُغْشِيَتْ وُجُوهُهُمْ قِطَعًا مِّنَ اللَّيْلِ مُظْلِمًا ۚ أُولَـٰئِكَ أَصْحَابُ النَّارِ ۖ هُمْ فِيهَا خَالِدُونَ ﴿٢٧﴾

26 For those who excel is the best reward – plus more. No darkness shall cover their faces, nor humiliation. They will be the inhabitants of the Jannah (Garden), who will live therein eternally.   27 As for those who practise evil, their punishment for an evil will be its equivalent and humiliation will be covering them -- they shall have none to protect them from Allaah -- as if their faces had been covered with pieces of the dense darkness of night. They will be the inmates of the Fire, wherein they will live eternally.    

The emphasis in these verses is on how Allaah deals with both classes of people. To those who try to excel in their conduct in this world, Allaah SWT is Gracious and Generous, rewarding them with more than they deserve. To those who are evil in their conduct, Allaah SWT is Just, punishing them only equal to their crimes. The darkness in these verses does not have anything to do with colour; but refers to facial expressions of complete gloom, disappointment and depression. It is an antonym to the brightness and radiance of happiness that people of Jannah will have on their faces.

In addition to the benefits of the world, one of the motivations behind people performing devotions to other entities besides Allaah is the hope that those entities will help them get salvation from the hardships and punishments of the Day of Judgment, if there will be such a Day. Verse 27 categorically tells them, “They shall have none to protect them from Allaah”. This message needed to be conveyed so clearly and emphatically that Allaah SWT made this declaration as soon as the punishment was mentioned, interrupting the description of the punishment and the resulting humiliation and disappointment. The next two verses present an actual scenario of the Day of Judgment to make the message clear to those who believe in such mythical notions of intercession.

وَيَوْمَ نَحْشُرُهُمْ جَمِيعًا ثُمَّ نَقُولُ لِلَّذِينَ أَشْرَكُوا مَكَانَكُمْ أَنتُمْ وَشُرَكَاؤُكُمْ ۚ فَزَيَّلْنَا بَيْنَهُمْ ۖ وَقَالَ شُرَكَاؤُهُم مَّا كُنتُمْ إِيَّانَا تَعْبُدُونَ ﴿٢٨﴾ فَكَفَىٰ بِاللَّـهِ شَهِيدًا بَيْنَنَا وَبَيْنَكُمْ إِن كُنَّا عَنْ عِبَادَتِكُمْ لَغَافِلِينَ ﴿٢٩﴾ هُنَالِكَ تَبْلُو كُلُّ نَفْسٍ مَّا أَسْلَفَتْ ۚ وَرُدُّوا إِلَى اللَّـهِ مَوْلَاهُمُ الْحَقِّ ۖ وَضَلَّ عَنْهُم مَّا كَانُوا يَفْتَرُونَ﴿٣٠﴾

28 Imagine the Day when We will gather them all together. Then, We will tell those who practised Shirk{footnote}Shirk is a polytheistic lifestyle whereby people believe that some living or dead entities other than Allaah are Allaah’s partners in His person (Divinity), attributes, powers or status and whereby they worship those entities in one or more of the following ways: obeying someone in matters in which Allaah should be obeyed; equating any entity with Allaah or preferring over Him in terms of giving importance or committing time, energies or resources; or, doing ritual worship, performing devotion, giving obeisance, presenting offerings or singing hymns (Na‘ts or Qaseedahs) for any entities other than Allaah or in addition to Allaah. Worshipping or obeying others is Shirk in Allaah‘s rights, which people undertake because of their committing Shirk in terms of His person (Divinity), attributes, powers or status.

{/footnote}, “Stay where you are, you and those whom you worshipped as My partners.” Then, We will segregate both groups; and their “partners” will exclaim, “You did not worship us! 29 Sufficient is Allaah as a witness between you and us that we have been totally unaware of your worship.” 30 That is where everyone will be tried for their past performance; they will be presented before Allaah, their rightful Master; and all the myths they used to fabricate will be blown away.    

There are two major types of Shirk:

  1. People worship -- perform rituals / acts of devotion, give obeisance, present offerings and/or sing hymns (Na‘ts or Qaseedahs) -- for some entities from angels, Jinns, past prophets, dead saints, martyrs, mythical characters, etc. assuming them to be ‘sons’ or ‘daughters’ of Allaah or favourite persons of Allaah, whom Allaah has given some supernatural or divine powers, or who are God incarnate. Regardless of whether the worship is performed in front of or in the absence of a picture, idol or grave of that entity, the assumption is that the entity knows of and responds to the worship. The purpose of this worship is to seek their pleasure so that they can intercede for their devotees to get from Allaah what the devotees want, and to save them from any difficulties in this world and the Hereafter. Thus, they are made Allaah’s “partners” in terms of sharing Allaah’s attributes or powers and in being worshipped instead of, or along with Allaah.
  2. People obey other people in the matters in which Allaah should be obeyed. By obeying them against Allaah’s commands, they give such people the status and importance that should have been given only to Allaah. In other words, they are made “partners” in Allaah’s authority and His right to govern.

These verses inform people: All the angels, Jinns, ‘sons’ or ‘daughters’ of God, prophets, saints, martyrs, etc. whom you worship do not even know or approve of what you do in their name, much less getting Allaah’s favours for you. Thus, they will flatly deny any connection with you at all or any responsibility whatsoever for your Shirk. Similar disclaimers have explicitly been mentioned in other places in the Qur-aan whereby those who are obeyed in this world in matters in which Allaah should be obeyed refuse to take any responsibility for people obeying them. The point being emphasized is that every person will be purely on their own to account for their performance in Allaah’s court.

The next section gives some points to reflect upon, for those who want to take a rational approach in making up their minds about Tawĥeed and Shirk.

قُلْ مَن يَرْزُقُكُم مِّنَ السَّمَاءِ وَالْأَرْضِ أَمَّن يَمْلِكُ السَّمْعَ وَالْأَبْصَارَ وَمَن يُخْرِجُ الْحَيَّ مِنَ الْمَيِّتِ وَيُخْرِجُ الْمَيِّتَ مِنَ الْحَيِّ وَمَن يُدَبِّرُ الْأَمْرَ ۚ فَسَيَقُولُونَ اللَّـهُ ۚ فَقُلْ أَفَلَا تَتَّقُونَ ﴿٣١﴾ فَذَٰلِكُمُ اللَّـهُ رَبُّكُمُ الْحَقُّ ۖ فَمَاذَا بَعْدَ الْحَقِّ إِلَّا الضَّلَالُ ۖ فَأَنَّىٰ تُصْرَفُونَ ﴿٣٢﴾ كَذَٰلِكَ حَقَّتْ كَلِمَتُ رَبِّكَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ فَسَقُوا أَنَّهُمْ لَا يُؤْمِنُونَ ﴿٣٣﴾

31 Ask them: “Who provides sustenance for you from the heaven and the earth? Or Who has power over hearing and sight? And Who brings out the living from the dead and the dead from the living? And Who regulates the affairs of the universe?” They will respond, “Allaah”; then ask, “Will you not avoid His displeasure?” 32 This then is Allaah, your rightful Lord. So, what is there besides the truth except misguidance; then where are you being diverted to? 33 Thus, O Muĥammad, the word (natural law){footnote}Allaah’s law governing human nature whereby whoever closes his mind to reason cannot understand the truth despite the availability of all kinds of rational evidence or signs. For any sign, reasoning or evidence to be useful, people must be willing to find the truth and make a sincere attempt to seek it.

{/footnote} of your Lord has taken effect on those who defiantly disobey, so they do not believe.    

As is evident from these verses, the Arabs did believe in Allaah being the only One Who was the Creator, Sustainer, Almighty and Omnipotent, Giver of life and death and Governor of the universe. They did not think anyone else had such powers. The problem was that they also thought that other entities such as angels, Jinns, prophets, saints, martyrs, etc. were Allaah’s favourites and His assistants in taking care of the universal and human matters or . Thus, Allaah had given them some supernatural powers by the use of which they could help their devotees in supernatural ways. These are the same myths that many of the polytheists of today believe in.

These verses invite such people to think rationally: If the truth is that Allaah SWT is the rightful Lord Who owns all the power and authority, why do you deviate from this truth? Is every deviation from the truth not misguidance? Then, why would they let anyone divert them from the truth? If Allaah SWT has absolute power, why does He need assistants? If He is stating that He does not have any favourites to whom He has given any supernatural powers, on what basis are you assuming such powers for anyone? If He has the absolute power and He is the ultimate Decision-Maker, why would anyone perform acts of devotion, present offerings or sing hymns for anyone else? If Allaah has told them that such behaviour angers Him, why would people not abandon it and save themselves from His displeasure? The reality is that according to the natural law of Allaah SWT about human nature, their unwillingness to change due to factors such as attitude of defiance, egoism, jealousy and arrogance have closed their minds, rendering them unable to reason rationally and to accept the truth.

Arabs had difficulty in envisioning the raising of the dead for accountability on the Day of Judgment. They also did not want to pay much attention to it because they thought even if they would be raised, their “intercessors” would be there to receive them and take care of their wellbeing. This set of verses provides them some points to ponder in that respect as well. If Allaah can “bring out the living from the dead and the dead from the living”, why is it difficult to think that He can raise the dead for accountability? Also, is raising the dead not easier than creating out of nothing? In addition, if their “partners” had no power of creating the first time nor had any role in that process, how can they have any power or role in re-creation from a dead state? The next verse invites people to ponder on these points.

قُلْ هَلْ مِن شُرَكَائِكُم مَّن يَبْدَأُ الْخَلْقَ ثُمَّ يُعِيدُهُ ۚ قُلِ اللَّـهُ يَبْدَأُ الْخَلْقَ ثُمَّ يُعِيدُهُ ۖ فَأَنَّىٰ تُؤْفَكُونَ ﴿٣٤﴾ قُلْ هَلْ مِن شُرَكَائِكُم مَّن يَهْدِي إِلَى الْحَقِّ ۚ قُلِ اللَّـهُ يَهْدِي لِلْحَقِّ ۗ أَفَمَن يَهْدِي إِلَى الْحَقِّ أَحَقُّ أَن يُتَّبَعَ أَمَّن لَّا يَهِدِّي إِلَّا أَن يُهْدَىٰ ۖ فَمَا لَكُمْ كَيْفَ تَحْكُمُونَ ﴿٣٥﴾ وَمَا يَتَّبِعُ أَكْثَرُهُمْ إِلَّا ظَنًّا ۚ إِنَّ الظَّنَّ لَا يُغْنِي مِنَ الْحَقِّ شَيْئًا ۚ إِنَّ اللَّـهَ عَلِيمٌ بِمَا يَفْعَلُونَ ﴿٣٦﴾

34 Ask them, “Is there any one among your 'partners' who initiates creation and then repeats it?” Tell them, “Only Allaah initiates creation and will repeat it; then, how are you being deluded to follow myths?” 35 Ask them, “Is there any of your 'partners' who guides to the truth?” Tell them, “Only Allaah guides to the truth. Is then He Who guides to the truth more deserving to be followed, or he who cannot find guidance unless he is guided? What then is the matter with you; what kind of conclusions do you reach?” 36 Most of them merely follow presumptions; however, presumptions cannot substitute for the truth at all. Verily Allaah is well aware of what they do.    

The previous verses dealt mainly with the Shirk where people expect some supernatural help from some of their presumed “intercessors” or “Allaah’s favourites”. Verse 35 deals with the second kind of Shirk wherein people are obeyed in the matters in which Allaah should be obeyed.

To succeed in this world, humanity needs resources to meet their physical needs as well as guidance to live a moderate and balanced life that will result in justice, peace and excellence in this world and success in accountability in the Hereafter. However, it is impossible for human beings to arrive at such a moderate and balanced lifestyle on their own because they lack perfect knowledge, absolute wisdom and an unbiased long term view of all the factors impacting various aspects of societal life, as well as the complexities of the physical environment in which we live. In terms of life style and way of living, whatever human beings come up with is based on guesswork which is also impacted by the personal biases and tunnel vision of the proponents of those ideas. At best, they can only resort to a trial and error methodology, which can work in a simple physical matter, but not in the intricately complex and largely unknown matters of human society and its environment. That is why Allaah SWT has mercifully taken it upon Himself to guide human beings to such a moderate and balanced lifestyle – Islam – based on His absolutely perfect knowledge and ultimate wisdom. That is what Allaah calls “Haqq” or “truth”. Anyone who rejects Allaah’s guidance is opting to abandon the truth and to follow the guesswork of fallible human beings.

Thus, regardless of the type of Shirk, it is a product of baseless assumptions, which cannot be a substitute for the truth of Islam.

This discourse had started with verse 15 by the mention of the demand of the disbelievers that the Prophet should change the message of the Qur-aan to accommodate some of the views and practices of the society. This demand was based on the assumption that the Prophet himself was forging it while ascribing it to Allaah. After addressing many underlying assumptions, objections and misunderstandings, the topic reverts back in the next verse to the main assumption behind that demand.

وَمَا كَانَ هَـٰذَا الْقُرْآنُ أَن يُفْتَرَىٰ مِن دُونِ اللَّـهِ وَلَـٰكِن تَصْدِيقَ الَّذِي بَيْنَ يَدَيْهِ وَتَفْصِيلَ الْكِتَابِ لَا رَيْبَ فِيهِ مِن رَّبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ ﴿٣٧﴾ أَمْ يَقُولُونَ افْتَرَاهُ ۖ قُلْ فَأْتُوا بِسُورَ‌ةٍ مِّثْلِهِ وَادْعُوا مَنِ اسْتَطَعْتُم مِّن دُونِ اللَّـهِ إِن كُنتُمْ صَادِقِينَ ﴿٣٨﴾ بَلْ كَذَّبُوا بِمَا لَمْ يُحِيطُوا بِعِلْمِهِ وَلَمَّا يَأْتِهِمْ تَأْوِيلُهُ ۚ كَذَٰلِكَ كَذَّبَ الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِهِمْ ۖ فَانظُرْ كَيْفَ كَانَ عَاقِبَةُ الظَّالِمِينَ ﴿٣٩﴾

37 This Qur-aan is not such that could have been forged by someone, other than Allaah revealing it; rather, it is a confirmation of that which existed before it and a full exposition of the Book -- there is no doubt in it being from the Lord of the universe. 38 Do they keep on claiming, “He has forged it”? Ask them, “If you are truthful, then bring a chapter like this and call for help whom you can besides Allaah.” 39 Rather, they have arbitrarily rejected that whose knowledge they cannot grasp and whose reality has not yet dawned upon them. Thus did those before them reject; see then, what was the end of the wrong-doers!

The points presented for their reflection are:

  • Look at the excellence of the text and sublimeness of the messages contained therein; it absolutely cannot be a human product.
  • Its message is not only consistent with previous revelations, but it also fulfils the prophecies contained in the previous scriptures, providing additional proofs of its revelation from Allaah. Hence, it cannot be a forgery because a forger would market something new of his own, would not be consistent with previous revelations and would not be able to fulfil the previous prophecies.
  • The key messages, themes and principles of “the Book” – the common content of all of the revelations from Allaah – are fully described and elucidated with the help of rationale, evidence and examples. It also provides linkages of the teachings to practical life and their application thereof, resulting in an integrated, consistent and cohesive lifestyle system.
  • If opponents think that it is a human product, then they should also be able to produce a chapter like it. For that purpose, they can combine all the talent found in their society and even seek the help of their “gods”.

Thus, the contents of the book itself provide more than enough evidence for the fact that it is not a human product but is from Allaah. The opponents did not reject it because they had some factual basis to do so; rather, they rejected it arbitrarily for two reasons:

  1. They could not fathom that: their fathers and their whole society have been falsely attributing supernatural powers to their “gods” as against one person who claims otherwise; and Allaah can raise the dead and hold them accountable.
  2. The Qur-aan was warning them of Allaah’s punishment in this world and in the Hereafter. They did not want to believe in something they could not imagine until they had seen an example of it taking place.

Both of these points have been previously addressed and they have been invited to use their rational capabilities to understand and perceive these realities; so they are being warned that the people in the past who adopted similar attitudes ended up being destroyed.

So, how should the Prophet deal with these people? That is discussed in the next few verses.

وَمِنْهُم مَّن يُؤْمِنُ بِهِ وَمِنْهُم مَّن لَّا يُؤْمِنُ بِهِ ۚ وَرَبُّكَ أَعْلَمُ بِالْمُفْسِدِينَ ﴿٤٠﴾ وَإِن كَذَّبُوكَ فَقُل لِّي عَمَلِي وَلَكُمْ عَمَلُكُمْ ۖ أَنتُم بَرِيئُونَ مِمَّا أَعْمَلُ وَأَنَا بَرِيءٌ مِّمَّا تَعْمَلُونَ ﴿٤١﴾ وَمِنْهُم مَّن يَسْتَمِعُونَ إِلَيْكَ ۚ أَفَأَنتَ تُسْمِعُ الصُّمَّ وَلَوْ كَانُوا لَا يَعْقِلُونَ ﴿٤٢﴾ وَمِنْهُم مَّن يَنظُرُ إِلَيْكَ ۚ أَفَأَنتَ تَهْدِي الْعُمْيَ وَلَوْ كَانُوا لَا يُبْصِرُونَ ﴿٤٣﴾ إِنَّ اللَّـهَ لَا يَظْلِمُ النَّاسَ شَيْئًا وَلَـٰكِنَّ النَّاسَ أَنفُسَهُمْ يَظْلِمُونَ ﴿٤٤﴾

40 Of them there are some who will believe therein, and some who will not; and your Lord best knows the mischief-makers. 41 If they accuse you of falsehood, then say, “For me are my deeds and for you are your deeds; you are free from responsibility for what I do, and I am free from responsibility for what you do!" 42 Some of them appear as if they are listening to you, but can you make the deaf listen, especially when they do not use reason? 43 And some of them seem to be looking towards you, but can you show the way to the blind, even though they do not see? 44 The fact is that Allaah does not do injustice to people at all, it is the people who are wronging themselves.

The Prophet should continue inviting the disbelievers regardless of how they behave. There are many potential Muslims in their ranks who are going to open their hearts and minds and become Muslim, sooner or later. Only those who have completely closed their minds because of reasons such as prejudices, jealousies and vested interests in the status quo and power structure are going to refuse. They are the mischief makers who spread corruption in the society. For such people, the Prophet should completely dissociate from and not indulge in any arguments with them. They may seem to be listening and paying attention to his preaching, but in reality, their minds are completely closed, unable to perceive or understand his message.

This is a self inflicted condition they have imposed upon themselves. As a result, they will be destroyed in this world and severely punished in the Hereafter -- not because Allaah imposed misguidance upon them but merely because they were so preoccupied in their worldly interests that they refused to open up to the truth.

The next section provides points for reflection for those of them who wanted to see the punishment before believing in the Qur-aan and/or the Hereafter.

وَيَوْمَ يَحْشُرُهُمْ كَأَن لَّمْ يَلْبَثُوا إِلَّا سَاعَةً مِّنَ النَّهَارِ يَتَعَارَفُونَ بَيْنَهُمْ ۚ قَدْ خَسِرَ الَّذِينَ كَذَّبُوا بِلِقَاءِ اللَّـهِ وَمَا كَانُوا مُهْتَدِينَ ﴿٤٥﴾

45 The Day when He will gather them, they will feel as if they had stayed{footnote}The stay refers to the time between a person’s death and the Day of Resurrection; or it may also refer to a person’s life on earth or both – the combined time from a person’s birth to the Day of Resurrection. The feeling equally applies to all the three situations.

{/footnote} only for an hour of a day and they will recognize each other; they will also realize that losers indeed are those who considered the meeting with Allaah to be a lie and refused to receive the guidance.     

The word ‘Labitha’ (stayed) in Arabic has been used in the Qur-aan both for the stay in the world during life as well as the stay in the state of death. The point being made is that when people will be raised on the Day of Resurrection, all the time passed to that Day will seem to them like an hour or so. As far as time after death is concerned, it is nil; because time is relative and is relevant only for the living. Thus, when resurrected, the raised people will feel that they just slept for a short time{footnote}This is clearly indicated in 30:55-56 and 17:52. It is also referred to in 20:102-104.

{/footnote}. Thus, a prophet who was raised after being dead for one hundred years felt as if he slept only for a part of a day, as mentioned in Soorah Al-Baqarah (2:259). The same was the feeling of the people of the cave who woke up after 300 years (18:12, 19 and 25). That is also why, when people are raised on the Day of Resurrection, they will immediately recognize everyone they used to know in this world, and memories will be as fresh as if they had seen each other an hour or so ago. The mention of such facts answered the questions that were bothering people in terms of the time-lapse between death of people and the Day of Resurrection.

As for the worldly life, even if a person lived for more than a hundred years, it is still nothing compared to the eternal life Hereafter. It is not only mathematically true, but it is also the way people feel in reality. We all personally experience this feeling because at any time in our life, the portion of the life already passed does not seem to be long at all. Whatever way one looks at it, it underscores the insignificance of the life of this world. The message is that it does not make sense for people to displease Allaah SWT and jeopardize their eternal life by committing all kinds of crimes and corruption for a life that is so temporary and so insignificant. A wise and successful person is the one who accepts this reality now and prepares for the eternal life rather than destroying it for such an insignificant phase of life. Those who do not do so are going to eventually face the reality in the Hereafter and then it will be evident to them that they are the big losers.

That was about the eventual punishment in the Hereafter. In this world too, the opponents of a messenger are punished by sudden unnatural death to cut off their test in this world because there is no sense in continuing the test due to their horrible performance and absolutely no hope for improvement. This is the Sunnah of Allaah that has been described in detail earlier in the introduction to this Soorah. This happens after all opportunities of the message reaching the opponents of the messenger have been exhausted and there is no possibility of any of the remaining opponents accepting Islam. However, the end of the opponents’ respite is not in the hands of the messenger but only in Allaah’s hands because only He knows when that stage has been reached. Those Makkans who did not believe in the warnings of the Prophet to that effect and wanted him to bring on the punishment are indirectly addressed in the following verses:

وَإِمَّا نُرِيَنَّكَ بَعْضَ الَّذِي نَعِدُهُمْ أَوْ نَتَوَفَّيَنَّكَ فَإِلَيْنَا مَرْجِعُهُمْ ثُمَّ اللَّـهُ شَهِيدٌ عَلَىٰ مَا يَفْعَلُونَ ﴿٤٦﴾ وَلِكُلِّ أُمَّةٍ رَّسُولٌ ۖ فَإِذَا جَاءَ رَسُولُهُمْ قُضِيَ بَيْنَهُم بِالْقِسْطِ وَهُمْ لَا يُظْلَمُونَ ﴿٤٧﴾ وَيَقُولُونَ مَتَىٰ هَـٰذَا الْوَعْدُ إِن كُنتُمْ صَادِقِينَ ﴿٤٨﴾ قُل لَّا أَمْلِكُ لِنَفْسِي ضَرًّا وَلَا نَفْعًا إِلَّا مَا شَاءَ اللَّـهُ ۗ لِكُلِّ أُمَّةٍ أَجَلٌ ۚ إِذَا جَاءَ أَجَلُهُمْ فَلَا يَسْتَأْخِرُونَ سَاعَةً ۖ وَلَا يَسْتَقْدِمُونَ ﴿٤٩﴾ قُلْ أَرَأَيْتُمْ إِنْ أَتَاكُمْ عَذَابُهُ بَيَاتًا أَوْ نَهَارًا مَّاذَا يَسْتَعْجِلُ مِنْهُ الْمُجْرِمُونَ ﴿٥٠﴾ أَثُمَّ إِذَا مَا وَقَعَ آمَنتُم بِهِ ۚ آلْآنَ وَقَدْ كُنتُم بِهِ تَسْتَعْجِلُونَ ﴿٥١﴾ ثُمَّ قِيلَ لِلَّذِينَ ظَلَمُوا ذُوقُوا عَذَابَ الْخُلْدِ هَلْ تُجْزَوْنَ إِلَّا بِمَا كُنتُمْ تَكْسِبُونَ ﴿٥٢﴾

46 Regardless of whether we let you (O Muĥammad) see some part of what We threaten them with, or take you back before it, to Us is their return; ultimately Allaah is witness over whatever they do. 47 And for every Ummah{footnote}Ummah is usually translated as nation, but the general notion of a ‘nation’ is not representative of the concept of Ummah. Ummah represents all those people to whom the call of a messenger reaches, regardless of their race, ethnicity, language or the political boundaries of their countries. This Ummah is divided into Ummah of believers and that of disbelievers. The disbelieving Ummah is once again of two kinds: one Ummah consists of those people to whom the messenger conveys the message during his life. They are the ones who are destroyed if they refuse to listen to the Messenger. The second Ummah consists of all those people to whom the message of the Messenger reaches indirectly during his life or after his death, until the advent of the next Messenger. For Prophet Muĥammad, the last Messenger of Allaah, the whole world is his Ummah until the Day of Judgment as far as the acceptance of his message (Islam) and his messengerhood is concerned. However, for the rule of the destruction of the opponents, his Ummah consisted of the residents of the Arabian Peninsula during his lifetime.

{/footnote} there was a messenger; so when their messenger would come, the judgment would be made between them with justice and they would not be wronged in the least. 48 They challenge, “When will this threat come about, if you are truthful?” 49 Say, “I have no power to harm or benefit myself except as Allaah wills. Every nation has a set period of respite; when their term expires, they cannot delay it or advance it even for a moment. 50 Ask them, “Have you thought: if His punishment{footnote}It should be noted that Arabs avoided the punishment by natural disaster because the major opponents were killed in battles and the whole Arabia had surrendered to the dominance of Islam during the life of the Prophet.

{/footnote} comes to you by night or by day, (will you have any way out); so, what makes the criminals want to expedite it?” 51 Is it when it has actually occurred that you will believe in it? (At that time, you would want it stopped, but you will be told) Now you want a respite? And you did want it to be hastened on? 52 Then, those who have done wrong will be told, “Taste the eternal torment! Are you being recompensed for anything other than what you used to earn?”    

People need to understand that the advent of a Messenger is not something to be taken lightly. Either people accept him or they are doomed. There is no third alternative. The nature of doom is determined by Allaah’s ‘judgment’ and takes different forms for the different segments of the Ummah of a Messenger. The Prophet’s contemporaries in Arabia were subject to two types of judgments: the worldly destruction and the eternal punishment of the Hereafter. The disbelievers from the subsequent Ummah will face only the eternal punishment of the Hereafter. For them, obviously Allaah is the best judge to determine to what extent each disbeliever came to know about the Messenger and how much each of them was at fault for not studying more about him or accepting him.

For Makkans, who had been repeatedly warned about both of the punishments and who wanted the worldly punishment to be brought on, the message basically is that the time is fixed and known only to Allaah. It cannot be brought earlier or delayed even by as little as a moment. What the disbelievers need to worry about is not the timing of their destruction, but the following points:

  • How would they save themselves when the punishment of Allaah brings them death and destruction, because no opponents of the Messenger would be able to escape it?
  • If they do not have any way of escaping it, why are they being impatient to have it sooner?
  • Even if they accept the truth at seeing the punishment, what good will it be? Once the period of respite expires, the test is over and repentance or belief at that time is not acceptable. And there is no going back -- no end to the punishment and no new respite.

And their removal from this world is just the beginning. In the Hereafter, their torment will be eternal and they will be told that their punishment is fitting for their crimes.

When it comes to the Hereafter, they sceptically ask if the Prophet is serious about what he is warning them about. The next few verses address the points related to their question.

وَيَسْتَنبِئُونَكَ أَحَقٌّ هُوَ ۖ قُلْ إِي وَرَبِّي إِنَّهُ لَحَقٌّ ۖ وَمَا أَنتُم بِمُعْجِزِينَ ﴿٥٣﴾ وَلَوْ أَنَّ لِكُلِّ نَفْسٍ ظَلَمَتْ مَا فِي الْأَرْضِ لَافْتَدَتْ بِهِ ۗ وَأَسَرُّوا النَّدَامَةَ لَمَّا رَأَوُا الْعَذَابَ ۖ وَقُضِيَ بَيْنَهُم بِالْقِسْطِ ۚ وَهُمْ لَا يُظْلَمُونَ ﴿٥٤﴾ أَلَا إِنَّ لِلَّـهِ مَا فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ ۗ أَلَا إِنَّ وَعْدَ اللَّـهِ حَقٌّ وَلَـٰكِنَّ أَكْثَرَهُمْ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ ﴿٥٥﴾ هُوَ يُحْيِي وَيُمِيتُ وَإِلَيْهِ تُرْجَعُونَ ﴿٥٦﴾

53 They enquire from you, “Is that true?” Say, “Yes! By my Lord, it indeed is true! And you will not be able to avert or escape it!” 54 If every person who has sinned had all that is in the earth, they would offer it for ransom; and they will hide their regret, when they see the torment; however, they will be judged with justice and they will not be wronged. 55 Know it! To Allaah belongs whatever is in the heavens and earth. Mind it! Allaah’s promise is indeed true; but most of them do not know. 56 He gives life and causes death, and to Him you shall be returned.    

The tone of the concise response underscores the seriousness of the matter. It is so serious a matter that when the disbelievers see the reality, they will be willing to give up everything they have, own and cherish to somehow get some salvation from the torment of the Hereafter, but alas it will all be too late and in vain.

The reader may have noticed that wherever Allaah SWT has warned people about His punishment, He has also mentioned that perfect justice will be meted out and no one will be wronged in any way, shape or form. People usually observe that when powerful kings or heads of states are angry, they do not observe any principles, nor practice justice. Instead, they wreak their vengeance in the most barbaric and unjust ways, especially when they think that nobody can hold them accountable. Although Allaah SWT has the ultimate power and control over everything, and although no one in the universe can hold him accountable for anything, He has made it incumbent upon Himself to establish perfect justice among people and between Himself and His creation. In addition, He has adopted mercy as His way of dealing with His creation. That is why he forgives when people repent; He punishes non-repentant people only to the extent that justly matches their crimes; and He bestows multiple times more reward than a person deserves for his or her good deeds. Thus, the punishment of Allaah is not out of vengeance, as some fools may think. Instead, even His justice is an act of mercy. If we reflect on the nature of sin, every sin is an unjust violation of someone’s rights -- be it the rights of the Creator, other creations or other people. By implementing justice, Allaah SWT mercifully restores the balance by compensating those violations. Perfect justice also ensures that ultimately, crime or transgression does not pay. This takes away one strong motive that makes people commit crimes. Mostly, people commit crimes in the hope that at the end of the day they will be better off. From that perspective, people should thank Allaah SWT that He has set a day for meting out perfect justice for all the injustices done in this temporary world.

Verse 55 and 56 close the discussion about the Hereafter by reminding people of the authority and power of Allaah SWT and the validity of His promise that there will be a Day of Judgment wherein He will execute perfect justice among all people.

In verse 37, Allaah SWT had drawn people’s attention to the attributes of the Qur-aan that clearly indicate that it could not have been a human product, but was a revelation from Allaah and that was why no one would be able to produce a chapter like it. Then it went on to address the real reasons that were making people reject its message as well as warning them of the consequence of such behaviour. The next verse makes people realize how this Qur-aan is such a tremendous blessing and favour from Allaah SWT that should be celebrated.

يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ قَدْ جَاءَتْكُم مَّوْعِظَةٌ مِّن رَّبِّكُمْ وَشِفَاءٌ لِّمَا فِي الصُّدُورِ‌ وَهُدًى وَرَحْمَةٌ لِّلْمُؤْمِنِينَ ﴿٥٧﴾ قُلْ بِفَضْلِ اللَّـهِ وَبِرَحْمَتِهِ فَبِذَٰلِكَ فَلْيَفْرَحُوا هُوَ خَيْرٌ مِّمَّا يَجْمَعُونَ ﴿٥٨﴾

57 O people! There has come to you advice from your Lord and healing for human psyche{footnote}The expression “what is in the breasts” proverbially refers to mental and psychological matters.

{/footnote} as well as guidance and mercy for the believers. 58 Say, “It came because of the bounty of Allaah and His mercy; so that is what they should rejoice in. It is better than what they are busy accumulating.”    

The Qur-aan is a tremendous favour from Allaah SWT in four ways: Two ways relevant to all of humanity and two ways specifically applicable to Muslims.

For humanity in general, it is:

  1. Advice from the Lord whereby He is educating His slaves on how they can be successful in this life and the Hereafter, highlighting the straight path that leads to the right destination and identifying the pitfalls, side-tracks and blind alleys that may make them lose the path of success.
  2. Healing that cures what ails the human psyche. The Qur-aan presents effective ways of correcting all those negative attitudes, sentiments, feelings and emotions that cause people to close their minds, take a wrong turn or react in a sub-human manner.

Naturally, the above benefits can be derived only by those who believe in it and follow its teachings. Hence, for believers, it is:

  1. Guidance – they follow the advice which guides them out of the darkness of ignorance to a radiant path that leads them to success in attaining moderation, balance and personal excellence as well as establishing a society of justice, peace and excellence in this world, which in turn brings them success in the Hereafter in the form of eternal peace and everlasting bounties of Allaah SWT in Jannah.
  2. Mercy – It is a big favour of Allaah SWT that the believers are not burdened with the responsibility of figuring out the best way to live that will lead to success. It is already mercifully spelled out, detailed and highlighted. They just have to follow it.

In fact, as discussed in the commentary on verse 35, the revelation of the Qur-aan is as great a mercy and bounty of Allaah SWT as creating life and making the laws of nature capable of sustaining it in all respects. The same way that human beings could not have come into existence without Allaah creating them and the universe would not have sustained life without Allaah making it that way, people would have been incapable of identifying the rightly balanced and just lifestyle without Allaah SWT teaching them through Islam. Allaah’s guidance saves people from the ravages of extremism that people tend to move towards as well as from the consequences of the errors in their efforts to find the point of balance. Allaah sent us His guidance because he is so bountiful and merciful. Instead of opposing it, people should rejoice in it and celebrate it. Nothing in the world is worth celebrating as much as this mercy of Allaah SWT. Indeed the value of Qur-aanic guidance surpasses by far any concept of value that people strive for accumulating.

The Qur-aan teaches people the way of attaining balance and excellence. It helps them incorporate that balance in their practical lives through its rules and commands about what to do, what to avoid, what is allowed and what is disallowed. Although all such teachings are geared to our benefit to help us attain balance and excellence, giving the laws and rules is also Allaah’s right as the Creator. In fact, being the sole Creator and Master, only He has the right to do so; nobody else, certainly not the slaves (people) themselves. Slaves can come up with their own rules or procedures only when the Master allows them to do so, and even then, only within the guidelines and limits allowed by Him. Thus, Allaah gives commands about what is allowed or disallowed on His own Right, but He mercifully makes them such that will help us attain success through balance and excellence. The next two verses address the human tendency to disregard Allaah’s rules or reject His revelations and live by their self-designed rules.

قُلْ أَرَأَيْتُم مَّا أَنزَلَ اللَّـهُ لَكُم مِّن رِّزْقٍ فَجَعَلْتُم مِّنْهُ حَرَامًا وَحَلَالًا قُلْ آللَّـهُ أَذِنَ لَكُمْ ۖ أَمْ عَلَى اللَّـهِ تَفْتَرُونَ ﴿٥٩﴾ وَمَا ظَنُّ الَّذِينَ يَفْتَرُونَ عَلَى اللَّـهِ الْكَذِبَ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ ۗ إِنَّ اللَّـهَ لَذُو فَضْلٍ عَلَى النَّاسِ وَلَـٰكِنَّ أَكْثَرَهُمْ لَا يَشْكُرُونَ ﴿٦٠﴾

59 (O Prophet!) Say to them, “Have you considered the provision that Allaah has sent down for you and how you have classified it into forbidden and allowed on your own?” And ask them, “Did Allaah permit you to do so, or are you forging lies about Allaah?” 60 What do those who forge lies against Allaah assume about the Day of Resurrection? The reality is that Allaah is Bountiful toward people, but most of them are ungrateful.    

The use of the word ‘provision’ (rizq) in this verse does not merely apply to the items of food, as some people may think, but has been used in a comprehensive sense covering all natural resources and capabilities that Allaah has provided to human beings. Anyone who believes in the existence of the Creator but considers himself independent in creating the rules without the Creator’s approval is forging lies against Him. Although this is a crime of rebellion and treason, Allaah is allowing such people respite because of His mercy and bounty so that they have lifelong opportunity to repent. As explained previously while discussing verse 30, following any other rules where Allaah’s rules should be followed is Shirk or associating partners with Allaah.

When Allaah SWT allows rebels respite mercifully, it may not seem fair to the obedient slaves of Allaah who are enthusiastically serving Him and giving His message to such rebels. During that respite, the obedient slaves may be suffering badly at the hands of the rebels. What about Allaah’s mercy and kindness for those slaves? The next set of verses talks to them.

وَمَا تَكُونُ فِي شَأْنٍ وَمَا تَتْلُو مِنْهُ مِن قُرْآنٍ وَلَا تَعْمَلُونَ مِنْ عَمَلٍ إِلَّا كُنَّا عَلَيْكُمْ شُهُودًا إِذْ تُفِيضُونَ فِيهِ ۚ وَمَا يَعْزُبُ عَن رَّبِّكَ مِن مِّثْقَالِ ذَرَّةٍ فِي الْأَرْضِ وَلَا فِي السَّمَاءِ وَلَا أَصْغَرَ مِن ذَٰلِكَ وَلَا أَكْبَرَ إِلَّا فِي كِتَابٍ مُّبِينٍ ﴿٦١﴾ أَلَا إِنَّ أَوْلِيَاءَ اللَّـهِ لَا خَوْفٌ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلَا هُمْ يَحْزَنُونَ ﴿٦٢﴾ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَكَانُوا يَتَّقُونَ ﴿٦٣﴾ لَهُمُ الْبُشْرَىٰ فِي الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا وَفِي الْآخِرَةِ ۚ لَا تَبْدِيلَ لِكَلِمَاتِ اللَّـهِ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ هُوَ الْفَوْزُ الْعَظِيمُ ﴿٦٤﴾ وَلَا يَحْزُنكَ قَوْلُهُمْ ۘ إِنَّ الْعِزَّةَ لِلَّـهِ جَمِيعًا ۚ هُوَ السَّمِيعُ الْعَلِيمُ ﴿٦٥﴾

61 (O Muĥammad!) Whatever conditions you are in and whatever portion from the Qur-aan you recite to people, and O believers, whatever deeds you do, We are watching over you – right when you are deeply engaged therein. There is nothing in the earth nor in the heaven, whether it is as small as a particle or smaller than that or bigger, that is hidden from Allaah, or that is not recorded in a clear book. 62 Behold! The friends of Allaah shall have no fear nor shall they grieve. 63 They are those who believe and maintain Taqwa. 64 For them are good news in the life of the world and in the Hereafter – Allaah’s words never change -- that is the supreme success. 65 Let not their talk sadden you; certainly power and prestige is wholly Allaah’s; He is the Hearing, the Knowing.    

These are very soothing, supportive words for the Prophet and the believers, while at the same time an indirect but stern warning to the opponents (rebels). What can be sterner a warning to rebels than letting them know that Allaah is fully aware of their transgressions and that He is on the side of believers? To believers, it gives a clear message that when they are preoccupied with and absorbed in serving Allaah’s Deen, Allaah is there to watch over them. And what can be more soothing for them than to know that All-Knowing Allaah SWT is watching over them and taking care of them; that Allaah is with them when they are so deeply and sincerely absorbed in the Islamic mission; that Allaah is their friend; and that their success in this world and the Hereafter is guaranteed, if they continue to maintain faith and Taqwa, because Allaah’s promises never change.

Trusting in Allaah’s promise, the Prophet and the believers knew that they will eventually succeed in their mission, but the opponents used to taunt and jeer at the believers’ hopes and Allaah’s promise, considering the believers’ precarious situation. The believers have been advised to take their gibes in stride because the respite given to them is going to end soon. Their mockery does not diminish the honour and prestige of the Muslim because those things belong to Allaah Who will bestow honour and power upon His obedient slaves.

The main message of this Soorah, the Qur-aan and the Prophet was that people must adopt Tawĥeed and shun Shirk. The next set of verses reiterates that message and presents rational ways of understanding the reality.

أَلَا إِنَّ لِلَّـهِ مَن فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَمَن فِي الْأَرْضِ ۗ وَمَا يَتَّبِعُ الَّذِينَ يَدْعُونَ مِن دُونِ اللَّـهِ شُرَكَاءَ ۚ إِن يَتَّبِعُونَ إِلَّا الظَّنَّ وَإِنْ هُمْ إِلَّا يَخْرُصُونَ ﴿٦٦﴾ هُوَ الَّذِي جَعَلَ لَكُمُ اللَّيْلَ لِتَسْكُنُوا فِيهِ وَالنَّهَارَ مُبْصِرًا ۚ إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَآيَاتٍ لِّقَوْمٍ يَسْمَعُونَ ﴿٦٧﴾ قَالُوا اتَّخَذَ اللَّـهُ وَلَدًا ۗ سُبْحَانَهُ ۖ هُوَ الْغَنِيُّ ۖ لَهُ مَا فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَمَا فِي الْأَرْضِ ۚ إِنْ عِندَكُم مِّن سُلْطَانٍ بِهَـٰذَا ۚ أَتَقُولُونَ عَلَى اللَّـهِ مَا لَا تَعْلَمُونَ ﴿٦٨﴾ قُلْ إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يَفْتَرُونَ عَلَى اللَّـهِ الْكَذِبَ لَا يُفْلِحُونَ ﴿٦٩﴾ مَتَاعٌ فِي الدُّنْيَا ثُمَّ إِلَيْنَا مَرْجِعُهُمْ ثُمَّ نُذِيقُهُمُ الْعَذَابَ الشَّدِيدَ بِمَا كَانُوا يَكْفُرُونَ ﴿٧٠﴾

66 (O people) take note! All those in the heavens and all those on the earth are owned by Allaah. Those who invoke anyone other than Allaah do not follow their presumed ‘partners’. They merely are following assumption and they are only speculating. 67 It is He Who made the night (dark) for you that you might rest in it, and the day bright (that you might work for your goals) ; indeed there are signs in it for a people that listen (to the voice of reason). 68 They claim, “Allaah has progeny”, while His Glory transcends such notions; He is absolutely Free-of-needs; and He owns whatever is in the heavens and whatever is in the earth. You have absolutely no grounds for this claim. Do you say about Allaah what you do not know? 69 Tell them, “Those who invent falsehood about Allaah will not be successful.” 70 They have freedom for brief utilization of this world, then, to Us will be their return. Then, We will make them taste severe punishment because they used to disbelieve.    

The following points have been provided for reflection:

  1. People must not forget that any entities, other than Allaah, anywhere in the universe including angels, Jinns, prophets and saints are Allaah’s creation and, thus, His directly owned slaves. Hence, none of them deserves to be equated with or to be considered a partner of Allaah in any sense of these terms.
  2. All beliefs and practices related to Shirk are based merely on assumptions or guesses, not on knowledge. Any beliefs about Allaah SWT are matters of unseen of which human beings cannot have any knowledge on their own. Only Allaah has the knowledge and only He Himself or His prophets and messengers to whom He reveals His knowledge can speak on the basis of knowledge. All other opinions are human speculations based on ignorance. Thus, there is only one way to find the truth about Allaah SWT: listening to a true prophet or messenger of Allaah SWT.
  3. Allaah SWT and His messengers have clearly told people that He does not have any partners whatsoever. Those who supplicate to or invoke any ‘partner’ are really not following a partner because he or she does not exist; rather, they are merely following their assumptions.
  4. The knowledge-based message of a true prophet should be corroborated by the signs of Allaah visible around us such as the system of day and night. A reflection on this system indicates that the system is precise, consistent, purposefully congruent with human needs, and cohesive -- demonstrating that the Creator is One, Omnipotent, Merciful and Wise, Who makes things happen according to His plan, only for the purpose of achieving the planned goals. Thus, He did not have any partners in creation nor does He need assistance or advice from any ‘partner’, nor is there any purpose that a ‘partner’ can serve.
  5. Some people forget that Allaah SWT is Infinite; therefore, they think of Him in human terms and ascribe human attributes and weaknesses to Him. That is why Arabs assumed that Allaah had daughters and Christians assume that Allaah has a son. Allaah SWT rejects this notion with one word: ‘subĥaanahu’ which is an expression of astonishment as well as the Glory of Allaah that transcends all finite attributes or weaknesses. Progeny is a human need for survival of the species or for psychological, emotional, social or financial reasons – none of which is a need of Allaah SWT.

Thus, any notion of Allaah having partners or progeny is a falsehood; and if the Makkans do not open their minds to the truth, their worldly test will be aborted by cutting short their stay in this world and they will be punished severely forever in the Hereafter. If they doubt the validity of these warnings, they should learn a lesson from the history of previous Ummahs. The next section provides such historical examples.

While reading these examples, the reader should keep in mind that the Qur-aan is not a book of history. It cites only that aspect of a historical episode that is directly related to the point under discussion, and even that is done very concisely. The point under discussion here is the eventual outcome of the conflict between a messenger and his opponents. By the time of the revelation of this Soorah, the Makkans were becoming impatient with the Prophet and his preaching and wanted to get rid of him somehow. The purpose of these examples is to show the Makkans the parallels between their behaviour and the behaviour of the rejecters of the previous messengers and to impress upon them that if they do not listen to the Prophet, he and his followers will succeed but those who continue to oppose him would be wiped out as per the Sunnah of Allaah SWT.

وَاتْلُ عَلَيْهِمْ نَبَأَ نُوحٍ إِذْ قَالَ لِقَوْمِهِ يَا قَوْمِ إِن كَانَ كَبُرَ عَلَيْكُم مَّقَامِي وَتَذْكِيرِي بِآيَاتِ اللَّـهِ فَعَلَى اللَّـهِ تَوَكَّلْتُ فَأَجْمِعُوا أَمْرَكُمْ وَشُرَكَاءَكُمْ ثُمَّ لَا يَكُنْ أَمْرُكُمْ عَلَيْكُمْ غُمَّةً ثُمَّ اقْضُوا إِلَيَّ وَلَا تُنظِرُونِ ﴿٧١﴾ فَإِن تَوَلَّيْتُمْ فَمَا سَأَلْتُكُم مِّنْ أَجْرٍ ۖ إِنْ أَجْرِيَ إِلَّا عَلَى اللَّـهِ ۖ وَأُمِرْتُ أَنْ أَكُونَ مِنَ الْمُسْلِمِينَ ﴿٧٢﴾ فَكَذَّبُوهُ فَنَجَّيْنَاهُ وَمَن مَّعَهُ فِي الْفُلْكِ وَجَعَلْنَاهُمْ خَلَائِفَ وَأَغْرَقْنَا الَّذِينَ كَذَّبُوا بِآيَاتِنَا ۖ فَانظُرْ كَيْفَ كَانَ عَاقِبَةُ الْمُنذَرِينَ ﴿٧٣﴾

71 Recite to them the story of Nooĥ{footnote}Noah

{/footnote}: Remember when he said to his people, “O my people! If my presence and my reminding you of Allaah’s signs has become intolerable for you – and only upon Allaah I rely – then agree upon a course of action, you and your ‘partners’, such that you have no confusion or dubiousness on that course of action, then carry it out upon me and give me no respite. 72 If you have turned away, it is not because I asked of you any compensation. My compensation is with Allaah. I am doing it only because I have been commanded to be of those who are Muslims,{footnote}Who submit in obedience to Allaah

{/footnote} (disregarding how you react)”. 73 When they rejected him completely, We saved him and those who were with him in the Ark and made them successors on earth, while We drowned those who rejected Our Signs. See, then, how the end was of those who were warned (but heeded not)!    

Nooĥ’s story has been given in more detail at other places (such as the next Soorah) in the Qur-aan and was generally known in Arabia. Here Nooĥ ‘Alayhissalaam gives a final challenge and ultimatum to his opponents with full reliance on Allaah and full determination to continue his mission. This happened at a stage when, in addition to disbelief and opposition, they did not even want to see him around. When they continued their disbelief, they were destroyed by a flood and only the believers were saved. Thus, once again, the world was inhabited only by Muslims. However, over time, people started practising Shirk again. Whenever that happened Allaah SWT sent another messenger and the same cycle was repeated.

ثُمَّ بَعَثْنَا مِن بَعْدِهِ رُسُلًا إِلَىٰ قَوْمِهِمْ فَجَاءُوهُم بِالْبَيِّنَاتِ فَمَا كَانُوا لِيُؤْمِنُوا بِمَا كَذَّبُوا بِهِ مِن قَبْلُ ۚ كَذَٰلِكَ نَطْبَعُ عَلَىٰ قُلُوبِ الْمُعْتَدِينَ ﴿٧٤﴾

74 Then after him, We raised various messengers for their peoples, who came to them with clear messages and proofs; but they were not going to believe what they had rejected before. Thus it is that We seal the minds of those who exceed the limits.    

Once people have rejected something, their minds start justifying their rejection and rationalizing all the evidence that may show that their decision was wrong. The more egoistic or defensive about accepting their mistake they are, they more they dig their heels in. Slowly, they shut their minds so tight that even clear evidence against their stance is summarily rejected for irrational reasons or without due consideration. Allaah SWT ascribes the sealing of their minds to Himself because He promulgated the laws of nature which allow people to shut their minds in this manner because of their own emotional reactions, ulterior motives, egoism and defensiveness.

The next set of verses gives highlights from the story of Moosa and Haroon in a bit more detail. As the context clearly indicates, they were sent with exactly the same mission as previous messengers like Nooĥ to call the whole population in their area of residence to Islam and to establish the Deen of Allaah.

ثُمَّ بَعَثْنَا مِن بَعْدِهِم مُّوسَىٰ وَهَارُونَ إِلَىٰ فِرْعَوْنَ وَمَلَئِهِ بِآيَاتِنَا فَاسْتَكْبَرُوا وَكَانُوا قَوْمًا مُّجْرِمِينَ ﴿٧٥﴾ فَلَمَّا جَاءَهُمُ الْحَقُّ مِنْ عِندِنَا قَالُوا إِنَّ هَـٰذَا لَسِحْرٌ مُّبِينٌ ﴿٧٦﴾ قَالَ مُوسَىٰ أَتَقُولُونَ لِلْحَقِّ لَمَّا جَاءَكُمْ ۖ أَسِحْرٌ هَـٰذَا وَلَا يُفْلِحُ السَّاحِرُونَ ﴿٧٧﴾ قَالُوا أَجِئْتَنَا لِتَلْفِتَنَا عَمَّا وَجَدْنَا عَلَيْهِ آبَاءَنَا وَتَكُونَ لَكُمَا الْكِبْرِيَاءُ فِي الْأَرْضِ وَمَا نَحْنُ لَكُمَا بِمُؤْمِنِينَ ﴿٧٨﴾ وَقَالَ فِرْعَوْنُ ائْتُونِي بِكُلِّ سَاحِرٍ عَلِيمٍ ﴿٧٩﴾ فَلَمَّا جَاءَ السَّحَرَةُ قَالَ لَهُم مُّوسَىٰ أَلْقُوا مَا أَنتُم مُّلْقُونَ ﴿٨٠﴾ فَلَمَّا أَلْقَوْا قَالَ مُوسَىٰ مَا جِئْتُم بِهِ السِّحْرُ ۖ إِنَّ اللَّـهَ سَيُبْطِلُهُ ۖ إِنَّ اللَّـهَ لَا يُصْلِحُ عَمَلَ الْمُفْسِدِينَ ﴿٨١﴾ وَيُحِقُّ اللَّـهُ الْحَقَّ بِكَلِمَاتِهِ وَلَوْ كَرِهَ الْمُجْرِمُونَ ﴿٨٢﴾

75 Then after them, We sent Moosa and Haroon{footnote}Moses and Aaron

{/footnote} with Our signs to Fir‘awn{footnote}Pharaoh, Fir’aun, Fir’own, Fir’on, Firawn or Firaun

{/footnote} and his establishment, but they behaved arrogantly and were a criminal people. 76 So when the truth came to them from Us they said, “This indeed is sheer magic!” 77 Moosa said, “Do you call the truth magic when it has come to you? Is it magic? The fact is that magicians do not aim at achieving Falaaĥ{footnote}“Falaaĥ” as a Qur-aanic term means success in achieving the objectives of Deen mandated by Allaah SWT – individually to pursue excellence in personal conduct and collectively to establish the Deen of Allaah as the society’s lifestyle system. As a verb, it means making efforts to succeed in achieving the objectives of Deen.

{/footnote}.” 78 They responded, “Have you come to us to turn us away from what we found our fathers upon, and so that to you two belongs greatness on earth? So, we are not going to believe in you two.” 79 Fir‘awn ordered, "Bring me every learned magician." 80 When the magicians came, Moosa said to them, “Cast whatever you are going to cast.” 81 And when they had cast, Moosa said to them, “What you have brought is magic, which Allaah will certainly nullify; surely, Allaah does not make the work of mischief-makers fruitful. 82 And Allaah will establish the validity of the truth by His decisions, though the criminals resent it.”    

All messengers invite everyone in the population to Islam but make a special attempt to reach out to the leadership and establishment of the society at the very beginning of their mission and continue calling every segment of the society throughout their mission. However, the negative reaction to their call is strongest and harshest from the elites of the society. The biggest barrier that causes the leadership to reject a messenger is their pride in their power and status and the resulting egoism and arrogance in their attitude. They see a messenger of Allaah as a challenger to their authority and status; thus, their immediate reaction is: how dare he do so? When the messenger shows clear evidence of his truthfulness to which they have no answer, they label it as magic to counter the influence of the evidence on people, regardless of how senseless that characterization is. In addition, they try to elicit an emotional response from the public against the messenger by telling people that he wants to deprive them of the precious heritage of their forefathers by taking them away from their ways. They also make the motive of the messenger suspect in the eyes of the public by accusing that he merely wants to become the supreme leader of the whole society taking control of their affairs and resources completely. The same was true in the case of the Prophet and the Makkan chiefs and the same happened when Moosa and Haroon were sent to Fir‘awn and his courtiers. By briefly telling their story, the Makkans are being shown their own image in the mirror. It should be remembered that all points about human behaviour highlighted in the stories of the messengers apply to all efforts to re-establish Islam in any society regardless of where it is done and who does it. Every Islamic worker faces the same kind of behaviours at his level of effort and influence.

Some specific points highlighted in theses verses should also be noted. When Fir‘awn and his courtiers rejected the miracles shown by Moosa labelling them as magic, Moosa AS eloquently invited them to reflect on the absurdity of that label by comparing his message, attitude and miracles to those of the typical magicians. Magicians are interested only in getting some rewards for their craft and in acquiring clients for an ongoing source of income and influence. So they flatter the authorities to please them, show their craft and expect to be rewarded. They never have an agenda or objectives of reforming the nation and establishing the Deen of Allaah. Unlike them, Moosa came as the representative of the Creator to give a very clear and rational message that had far reaching implications on the character and behaviour of the people and their society. Instead of flattering, he challenged their current thinking and lifestyle. He was there to help people excel in their conduct and establish the Deen of Allaah, so that he and all those who listen to him could attain Falaaĥ. He showed the miracle only as a proof of being representative of the Omnipotent God. Fir‘awn and his courtiers knew that Moosa had no training in magic. They realized that the miracles he had shown were unique and astounding; so whatever he was presenting was truth. The Qur-aan covered this whole message concisely in one short sentence of verse 77.

Some people think that the only mission Moosa had was to get freedom for the Israelites from bondage. Had it been his only message to Fir‘awn and his courtiers, they would not have claimed that he wanted to take people away from the ways of their forefathers and that he wanted to take over the control of the country. Their biggest worry behind these comments was that Moosa’s message of Tawĥeed would demolish the system of idolatry which sustained their current power structure.

Fir‘awn thought that if people saw many magicians show similarly impressive craft, the impact of Moosa’s miracles could be negated. When the topmost magicians of the country were gathered for that purpose, Moosa AS challenged them, with full confidence and trust in Allaah, to cast their spells. When they did, He told everyone to note the difference between magic and his miracle from Allaah, which was going to nullify all magic spells. After this demonstration, all Egyptians should have accepted his call and become Muslims; but only the magicians and a few others did. At the very least, all of the Israelites should have fully followed him and helped him in his mission. But even that did not happen. The older people were too pre-occupied with their own and their families’ worldly interests. They were too scared of Fir‘awn’s disapproval if they joined Moosa in his mission. Their worldly expediencies had made them so cowardly that for the fear of the persecution from Fir‘awn, they would not dare stand up with the truth knowing it to be the truth. As the next verse narrates, only a handful of youth were prepared to listen to Moosa AS.

فَمَا آمَنَ لِمُوسَىٰ إِلَّا ذُرِّيَّةٌ مِّن قَوْمِهِ عَلَىٰ خَوْفٍ مِّن فِرْعَوْنَ وَمَلَئِهِمْ أَن يَفْتِنَهُمْ ۚ وَإِنَّ فِرْعَوْنَ لَعَالٍ فِي الْأَرْضِ وَإِنَّهُ لَمِنَ الْمُسْرِفِينَ ﴿٨٣﴾ وَقَالَ مُوسَىٰ يَا قَوْمِ إِن كُنتُمْ آمَنتُم بِاللَّـهِ فَعَلَيْهِ تَوَكَّلُوا إِن كُنتُم مُّسْلِمِينَ ﴿٨٤﴾ فَقَالُوا عَلَى اللَّـهِ تَوَكَّلْنَا رَبَّنَا لَا تَجْعَلْنَا فِتْنَةً لِّلْقَوْمِ الظَّالِمِينَ ﴿٨٥﴾ وَنَجِّنَا بِرَحْمَتِكَ مِنَ الْقَوْمِ الْكَافِرِينَ ﴿٨٦﴾

83 Except for some youth from his own people, nobody believed in Moosa because of the fear that Fir‘awn and their Establishment would persecute them. Indeed, Fir‘awn was haughty on the earth and of those who transgress all bounds. 84 So Moosa said, “O my people! If you do believe in Allaah, then on Him you must rely{footnote}“Rely” does not convey the full meaning of the Islamic concept of Tawakkul, which is: while striving at the very best level of one’s ability and resources for Allaah’s Deen and attainment of its objectives, relying on Allaah for whatever results He deems fit to grant in this world, without at all fearing or worrying about any hardship or consequences that may be encountered; and continuing to do so until the objectives of Deen are achieved or one dies.

{/footnote} if you are Muslims. 85 So they confirmed, “Only upon Allaah we rely; Our Lord, do not make us Fitnah{footnote}Fitnah is a troublesome situation that stops people from dedicating themselves to Islamic work for the attainment of the objectives of Deen. That situation may be created by the persecution, propaganda or terrorism by the opponents of Islam or the mistakes or weaknesses of the Islamic missionaries. Because the supplication is by the missionaries, here it refers to the latter type of Fitnah.

{/footnote} for the wrongdoing people; 86 and deliver us by Your mercy from the disbelieving people.    

The mission for which Allaah sends the messengers is an extremely demanding mission. It requires many sacrifices from the messengers as well as their followers. The pioneering followers go through the toughest times. They are severely persecuted and terrorized by the opponents of the mission in an effort to crush the movement through terror. At that stage, only a few daring souls who are willing to sacrifice everything for the sake of truth take the courage to accept Islam. Even in the case of the Prophet, most of his followers who took the brunt of persecution steadfastly were the young people of Makkah. People like ‘Ali, Ja‘far, Zubair, Ŧalĥa, Sa‘d bin Abi Waqqaaŝ, Muŝ‘ab bin ‘Umair and ‘Abdullaah bin Mas‘ood were all youth at the time of their acceptance of Islam; Abdur Raĥmaan bin ‘Aof, Bilal and Ŝuhaib were less than 30 and Aboo ‘Ubaidah bin al-Jarraaĥ, ‘Uthmaan bin ‘Affaan and ‘Umar bin Khŧŧaab in their early thirties.

What gives those who withstand all hardships for the sake of Allaah’s Deen all the indomitable courage, unbeatable strength and insuppressible feeling of liberty is Tawakkul that a true faith adds to the psyche of a believer. Tawakkul{footnote}Islamic Tawakkul is not monastic abandonment of the world to perform ritual worship; rather, it is lifelong dedication to jihad in the manner described above. For details, refer to my article on this topic. 

{/footnote} is a complete reliance on Allaah for the results one encounters in one’s endeavours as a believer in this world. It has six aspects:

  1. Knowing that whatever Allaah commands is the best thing for us to do;
  2. Striving at the very best level of one’s ability and resources for Allaah’s Deen and attainment of its objectives, using the best strategies, means, tools and technologies available to a believer;
  3. Striving fearlessly without at all worrying about any hardship or consequences that may be encountered;
  4. Accepting graciously whatever results Allaah sends one’s way, without complaining, feeling dejected, frustrated or disappointed;
  5. Continuing to do so (steps 2-4) until the objectives of Deen are achieved or one dies;
  6. Always feeling like a winner, being conscious that Allaah will grant ultimate success; that Allaah never lets the reward of sincere efforts go in vain; and that those who rely on Allaah sincerely can never be losers.

The true believers who adopt this Tawakkul continue to strive despite the consequences until the mission succeeds or they die. Such are the believers who bring change in the society and who make the mission of the messengers successful. However, those who give this world too much importance are imprisoned by the expediencies of this world which deprives them of Tawakkul and makes them cowards.

Initially, even the young people who listened to Moosa AS did not have this Tawakkul. That is why the Qur-aan used the term “Aamana li-Moosa” meaning they listened to Moosa and became his supporters. So he had to explain to them what it means to be a true Muslim and how Tawakkul is an integral part of the true faith. Then they adopted it and made Du‘aa to Allaah to make their struggle easy for them. Their Du‘aa “Do not make us Fitnah of the wrongdoing people (zhaalimeen)” is profound, and it needs careful reflection.

Those people who help a messenger of Allaah or a reformer of Deen and dedicate themselves to the attainment of the objectives of Deen, whom we can call Muslim missionaries for lack of a better term, encounter many kinds of zhaalimeen or wrongdoing people. Those zhaalimeen can be categorized in three groups: The first group consists of all sorts of anti-Islam forces who wage a war on Islam as soon as someone stands up to revive Islam. Their aim is to crush the Islamic movement by any means even if they have to resort to the most vicious barbaric acts. Fir‘awn and his courtiers belonged to this group. Because Fir‘awn had no compunction in crossing all limits of savagery in his determination to eradicate Islamic workers or missionaries, the Qur-aan calls him one of those who transgress all bounds.

The second group consists of those ‘believers’ or ‘Muslims’ who claim to believe in Islam but do not care to do anything for its implementation or establishment. They are those who have accepted the dominance of the evil (Baaŧil, the anti-Islam forces) and are scared of the power and/or brutality of the anti-Islam forces. They are content with freedom to perform their ritual worship and consider it enough as fulfillment of their Islamic obligations. Some of them do not see any need to strive for implementing the whole Deen. Others think that such efforts “in current circumstances” are futile or foolhardy. To prove their point, many in this category refuse cooperation with, hinder and even oppose the Muslim missionaries, while they cooperate with the enemies to make the missionaries fail. Many of the “expedient” Israelites belonged to this category.

The third category is that of the general public who do not care much about what is going on except their personal affairs. They just watch the news and accept what they are told. They wait to see who wins and are happy to go with the winner. Because of this attitude of the three groups, any human errors on the part of the missionaries, their weakness, their failure or any setback they suffer become Fitnahs for all of the three groups. If the missionaries show some weakness because of lack of resources or make some mistakes, or any of their members suffers a moral slip, the first two groups have an open season of propaganda against them trying to show how evil or incompetent they are. If they are crushed or defeated, the first group boasts of being on the right against the “regressive and ignorant enemies of the civilization”, giving them all the bad titles they can give. As for the second group, the so-called believers feel pleasure in claiming, “See! We were right; they needlessly created so much distress for the community for something so futile.” And the third group thanks God and happily joins the winners. The result is that it becomes almost impossible for someone to stand up for the establishment of Islam for a long time in future (after their failure). Thus, when the followers of Moosa dedicated themselves truly to the mission, they earnestly requested Allaah that He save them from a situation that their weakness or failure would become a Fitnah in the hands of the opponents.

As for those who did not have the wisdom nor the strength of faith to adopt Tawakkul, they continued to chase their worldly expediencies. They would even discourage their youth from being ‘foolish’ to expose themselves to harm. Because of the actions Fir‘awn took against Israelites, they would even complain to Moosa and Haroon about the dangers their “tough” stance and “undiplomatic” approach had exposed them to. For example, when, according to the Bible, Fir‘awn increased the hardship of their labour, they complained:

The Israelite overseers realized they were in trouble when they were told, “You are not to reduce the number of bricks required of you for each day.” When they left Pharaoh, they found Moses and Aaron waiting to meet them, and they said, “May the LORD look on you and judge you! You have made us obnoxious to Pharaoh and his officials and have put a sword in their hand to kill us.” Exodus 5:19-21

 

When Moses returned at the end of the reign of terror, two of the Israelitish officers accosted him and Aaron, and heaped abuse upon them for having increased the woes of their people rather than diminished them. “… You are responsible for the widespread stench now issuing from the Israelitish corpses used as bricks for building when our tale was not complete. … We are in the quandary of the poor sheep that has been dragged away by a wolf. The shepherd pursues the robber, catches up with him, and tries to snatch the sheep from his jaws, and the wretched victim, pulled this way by the wolf and that way by the shepherd, is torn to pieces. Thus Israel fares between you and Pharaoh.” (Aggadah compilations from Talmud by Louis Ginzberg in his book Legends of the Jews)

 

Unfortunately, the Muslim Ummah has become the same way. Most Muslims are so enamoured by this world that they are not ready to make any sacrifice for Deen. An overwhelming majority of the Muslims nowadays belongs to the second and third category of people mentioned above. When some sincere believers who understand Deen courageously stand up for the revival of Deen, the Muslims themselves become their opponents. This is one of the major reasons that the Ummah has not been able to re-establish Deen or attain its objectives and re-gain its due honour and status, after losing the Islamic system established by the Prophet.

To educate, organize and mobilize the Muslim masses, the Masjid plays a critical role. During the period of degeneration, Muslims lose their link to the Masjid. The same had happened to Israelites in Egypt. Thus, Moosa AS commanded them to establish Masaajid{footnote}Plural of Masjid (Mosques)

{/footnote} which would serve as centres for educating people about the proper concepts of Deen and Tawakkul and for organizing the community through establishment of Ŝalaah (in congregation).

وَأَوْحَيْنَا إِلَىٰ مُوسَىٰ وَأَخِيهِ أَن تَبَوَّآ لِقَوْمِكُمَا بِمِصْرَ بُيُوتًا وَاجْعَلُوا بُيُوتَكُمْ قِبْلَةً وَأَقِيمُوا الصَّلَاةَ ۗ وَبَشِّرِ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ ﴿٨٧﴾

87 We revealed instructions to Moosa and his brother, “Designate some houses in Egypt for Ŝalaah (worship) for your people, make them centres of devotion (Qiblah), establish Ŝalaah and rally the believers with good news.”    

It is not possible to motivate and mobilize people when they have lost all hope. That is why it is important to give them a vision and hope. Hence, Moosa AS was told to continue reminding his people of the good news of success from Allaah, which they did attain at the end and is mentioned in verse 93.

Moosa continued his mission for many years and exhausted all his efforts to invite Fir‘awn and his courtiers to Islam without any success. Instead they challenged him to bring on the punishment of Allaah he warned about. Finally, Moosa prayed to Allaah in the following words to bring to them what they themselves wanted:

وَقَالَ مُوسَىٰ رَبَّنَا إِنَّكَ آتَيْتَ فِرْعَوْنَ وَمَلَأَهُ زِينَةً وَأَمْوَالًا فِي الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا رَبَّنَا لِيُضِلُّوا عَن سَبِيلِكَ ۖ رَبَّنَا اطْمِسْ عَلَىٰ أَمْوَالِهِمْ وَاشْدُدْ عَلَىٰ قُلُوبِهِمْ فَلَا يُؤْمِنُوا حَتَّىٰ يَرَوُا الْعَذَابَ الْأَلِيمَ ﴿٨٨﴾ قَالَ قَدْ أُجِيبَت دَّعْوَتُكُمَا فَاسْتَقِيمَا وَلَا تَتَّبِعَانِّ سَبِيلَ الَّذِينَ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ ﴿٨٩﴾

88 At last, Moosa prayed, “Our Lord! You have granted Fir‘awn and his Establishment splendour and riches in the life of the world, which, Our Lord, they are using to mislead people from your path. Our Lord, wipe out their riches and harden their attitudes so that they do not believe until they see the painful torment.” 89 Allaah responded, “The prayer of you both has indeed been accepted; however, both of you must persevere and not follow the path of those who do not know.”    

With the news of acceptance of Du‘aa, Allaah SWT told both Moosa and Haroon that:

  • Although their Du‘aa is accepted, their work is not yet finished. They must continue delivering the message steadfastly until the last moment when Allaah’s punishment will come. Even afterwards, they have yet to face many challenges and much work to do until the believers settle at a place and establish the Deen of Allaah SWT as a complete system of life.
  • Until the above happens, they were not to take pressure of those fellow Israelites who are ignorant of the Deen, have a defeatist mentality, continue to badger you to give up your ‘futile’ struggle and are content with merely being able to practice their rituals under the domination of the anti-Islam forces.

Finally the time came when the followers of the messengers are commanded to vacate the locality and the opponents are destroyed. So Moosa was asked to migrate with his followers.

وَجَاوَزْنَا بِبَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ الْبَحْرَ فَأَتْبَعَهُمْ فِرْعَوْنُ وَجُنُودُهُ بَغْيًا وَعَدْوًا ۖ حَتَّىٰ إِذَا أَدْرَكَهُ الْغَرَقُ قَالَ آمَنتُ أَنَّهُ لَا إِلَـٰهَ إِلَّا الَّذِي آمَنَتْ بِهِ بَنُو إِسْرَائِيلَ وَأَنَا مِنَ الْمُسْلِمِينَ ﴿٩٠﴾ آلْآنَ وَقَدْ عَصَيْتَ قَبْلُ وَكُنتَ مِنَ الْمُفْسِدِينَ ﴿٩١﴾ فَالْيَوْمَ نُنَجِّيكَ بِبَدَنِكَ لِتَكُونَ لِمَنْ خَلْفَكَ آيَةً ۚ وَإِنَّ كَثِيرًا مِّنَ النَّاسِ عَنْ آيَاتِنَا لَغَافِلُونَ ﴿٩٢﴾

90 We brought the Israelites across the sea; and Fir‘awn and his soldiers pursued them in transgression and spite. Then, when drowning overtook him, he exclaimed, “I believe that there is no god but He in Whom the Israelites believe and I become one of the Muslims.” 91 It was said, “Now? And you had so far disobeyed and you were of the mischief-makers. 92 So, now We are going to save only your body so that you may be a sign to those after you; but most of the people are heedless of Our signs!”     

Fir‘awn and his armies unduly chased the Israelites without any right to stop them from leaving. When they caught up with the Israelites at the shore of the sea, Allaah SWT miraculously made the way through the sea for the Israelites, but when the enemies followed them, they drowned. At that time, Fir‘awn declared his belief in Allaah, but that was too late. Believing does not mean anything once the punishment of Allaah arrives.

Allaah SWT saved Fir‘awn’s body as a sign for posterity. The fact of his body being saved has not been mentioned by the Bible, the Talmud or any other historical record. The burial chambers or tombs of Fir‘awns containing their mummies were buried under sand and their existence was not known until they were discovered in the 19th century. There are a variety of opinions about which of the Pharaohs was the Pharaoh during the time of the Israelite Exodus from Egypt. Initially, some people considered Ramesses II (circa 1279 BCE-1213 BCE{footnote}Egyptology is not an exact science. The name pronunciations, spellings and period of reign indicated by different Egyptologists often differ from others. The periods may differ from each other by many decades. We have quoted the most commonly used opinions. 

{/footnote}) to be the Pharaoh during both the persecution of the Israelites and Exodus; others thought that Ramesses II was the Pharaoh of persecution, but his son Merenptah or Merneptah was the Pharaoh during Exodus. Dr. Maurice Bucaille has given strong arguments in favour of the latter opinion. He had a chance to medically examine Merenptah’s mummy in June 1975 whereby he was convinced of his death in the sea. After arriving at that conclusion, when he discovered that the saving of his body was mentioned in the Qur-aan, he started studying Arabic and the Qur-aan, which eventually led him to accept Islam. Some researchers have suggested names of Thutmose III (ca. 1490-1450 or ca. 1479-1425 BCE) or Amenhotep II (ca. 1450-1425 or ca. 1425-1400 BCE) to be the Pharaoh at the time of Exodus. Regardless of who of the four is the real Pharaoh of Exodus, the Qur-aanic statement holds true in every case because the mummies of all four have been found. Unfortunately, despite their claims to knowledge and research, many people do not reflect on Allaah’s signs.

Those who do not want to accept signs of Allaah try to explain away the signs without regard to the validity of their explanation. Just because their mummified bodies were found in their burial places, some people have tried to refute the drowning of the Pharaoh of Exodus. Both Jewish and Christian Bibles indicate Pharaoh led his chariots and army in the chase (Exodus 14:8-10), God consoled the Israelites that He would triumph over Pharaoh and his entire army (Exodus 14:17-18), not a single person survived (Ex 14:28), and their corpses were thrown by the water on the shore and seen by the Israelites (Exodus 14:30). Also, Exodus chapter 15 quotes: “The enemy said, 'I will give chase; I will overtake, divide the spoils I will satisfy myself. I will draw my sword; My hand will demolish them.'” (Exodus 15:9). His drowning is clarified by the song which was sung: “When Pharaoh's horse came into the sea, along with his chariot corps and cavalry, and God made the sea come back on them, [This song was sung], 'Sing to God for His great victory, horse and rider He cast in the sea.'” (Exodus 15:19-21). This is further confirmed by Psalms 136:12-15:

“With a strong hand, and with an outstretched arm, for His mercy endureth for ever.
To Him who divided the Red Sea in sunder, for His mercy endureth for ever;
And made Israel to pass through the midst of it, for His mercy endureth for ever;
But overthrew Pharaoh and his host in the Red Sea, for His mercy endureth for ever.”

There is a hilly area, called Jabal Hammam Fir‘awn (Mount of the Spring of Pharaoh), on the west coast of the Gulf of Suez, South Sinai, Latitude. 29.2°, Longitude. 32.967°, a few miles to the north of Abu Zenimah where Fir‘awn’s corpse is believed to have been found.

After being saved from Fir‘awn, the Israelites went through a long struggle and finally achieved their objective of establishing the Islamic state:

وَلَقَدْ بَوَّأْنَا بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ مُبَوَّأَ صِدْقٍ وَرَزَقْنَاهُم مِّنَ الطَّيِّبَاتِ فَمَا اخْتَلَفُوا حَتَّىٰ جَاءَهُمُ الْعِلْمُ ۚ إِنَّ رَبَّكَ يَقْضِي بَيْنَهُمْ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ فِيمَا كَانُوا فِيهِ يَخْتَلِفُونَ ﴿٩٣﴾

93 And We certainly provided Israelites with an excellent settlement and with good provisions. They disputed in Islamic teachings only long after they already had their knowledge. Well, your Lord will certainly judge among them on the day of Resurrection about the matters they used to dispute.    

Over time, however, they drifted away from the path of Islam. Despite having been given clear knowledge of the Deen and the objectives of Deen, their priorities and paradigms shifted away from the Islamic teachings so much that they would dispute against those teachings.

Although people with the book have deviated from the Deen of Islam and invented their own religions, they could still witness that the Prophet’s calls about the oneness of Allaah and the accountability in the Hereafter are not something invented by the Prophet but are consistent with the previous revelations. The next two verses address the Prophet but are directed at the opponents who doubted these teachings. In addition to making a point to the opponents, this style indicates that the intended audience are so greatly disapproved of by Allaah that He does not even address them directly. There is another benefit of this style: Often, the opponents keep questioning the validity of the message most vehemently and frequently in order to break the resolve of the messenger, to make him feel unsure and to compel him to compromise. This style strengthens the resolve of the Prophet and gives the opponents the message that the Messenger is not on his own but under the watch and support of Allaah SWT, and thus, they should not expect him to yield under their pressure.

فَإِن كُنتَ فِي شَكٍّ مِّمَّا أَنزَلْنَا إِلَيْكَ فَاسْأَلِ الَّذِينَ يَقْرَءُونَ الْكِتَابَ مِن قَبْلِكَ ۚ لَقَدْ جَاءَكَ الْحَقُّ مِن رَّبِّكَ فَلَا تَكُونَنَّ مِنَ الْمُمْتَرِينَ ﴿٩٤﴾ وَلَا تَكُونَنَّ مِنَ الَّذِينَ كَذَّبُوا بِآيَاتِ اللَّـهِ فَتَكُونَ مِنَ الْخَاسِرِينَ ﴿٩٥﴾

94 Now, if you are in doubt as to what We have revealed to you, then ask those who have been reading the Book before you. Undoubtedly, the truth has come to you from your Lord, therefore you must not be one of the doubters; 95 nor must you be of those who deny the revelations of Allaah, lest you be one of the losers.    

The reasons for many opponents’ rejection of the message are not that they have not been able to assess the validity of the message or that they have not seen any convincing miracles or evidence of the message being from Allaah. The real reason is that they have closed their minds, as mentioned in verse 33, due to factors such as egoism, jealousy, arrogance, pride in their existing power and status, devotion to the traditions and heritage, vested interest in the status quo, preoccupation with and indulgence in the pursuits of worldly matters and desires, etc. Consequently, they are so blinded that nothing can convince them to open their eyes to the truth except the arrival of the punishment of Allaah, but then it is too late to be of any value.

إِنَّ الَّذِينَ حَقَّتْ عَلَيْهِمْ كَلِمَتُ رَبِّكَ لَا يُؤْمِنُونَ ﴿٩٦﴾ وَلَوْ جَاءَتْهُمْ كُلُّ آيَةٍ حَتَّىٰ يَرَوُا الْعَذَابَ الْأَلِيمَ ﴿٩٧﴾ فَلَوْلَا كَانَتْ قَرْيَةٌ آمَنَتْ فَنَفَعَهَا إِيمَانُهَا إِلَّا قَوْمَ يُونُسَ لَمَّا آمَنُوا كَشَفْنَا عَنْهُمْ عَذَابَ الْخِزْيِ فِي الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا وَمَتَّعْنَاهُمْ إِلَىٰ حِينٍ ﴿٩٨﴾

96 The reality is that those upon whom the proclamation{footnote}The natural law / proclamation of Allaah’s law governing human nature whereby whoever closes his mind to reason cannot understand the truth despite the availability of all kinds of rational evidence until the reality does actually strike. For any sign or evidence to be useful, people must be willing to find the truth and make a sincere attempt to seek it.

{/footnote} of your Lord has taken effect are not going to believe, 97 regardless of any signs that come to them, until they see the painful punishment. 98 Why was there not a single community that believed after seeing the punishment and their faith benefitted them, except the people of Yoonus{footnote}Jonah

{/footnote}? When they believed, We removed from them the torment of disgrace in the life of the world and let them enjoy their natural lifespan.    

Allaah SWT has referred to His Sunnah previously in this Soorah as well as at many other places in the Qur-aan that once the period of respite is over and the punishment comes, it cannot be delayed or stopped; and that if people believe after realizing that punishment has arrived, their faith is not accepted by Allaah because it is no more a faith in the unseen. This Sunnah of Allaah SWT had been applied consistently except for one instance where the punishment was called off because of the acceptance of Islam by people. The reason for this single exception was that one condition for the application of the Sunnah of Allaah was missing. The messenger was supposed to stay within the community and continue inviting everyone to Islam until the last moment just before the arrival of a natural disaster as Allaah’s punishment so that any persons who changed their minds before the punishment began could have access to the messenger to join his followers. This was to ensure that any potential Muslim was given opportunity to the last moment before the disaster struck. However, once Allaah gave the signal to the messenger to leave immediately because the disaster was on the way, the time for repentance ended and acceptance of Islam at that time became useless. Prophet Yoonus (Jonah), in anticipation of Allaah’s decision to strike, left his locality before that final signal was given. However, people changed their minds and wanted to believe but could not find the prophet. Thus, Allaah did not end their respite and left them to live without being killed by a natural disaster. He also commanded the Prophet to go back to his town and all people of the town became Muslims.

Often people raise a question: If the Messenger is true in claiming that Allaah wants people to follow His Deen (Islam) and His Messenger, why does He not make them believe by changing their minds using His power to help His Messenger. Allaah responds to such questions in the next verse, once again indirectly, by addressing the response to His Messenger. This style, in addition to providing Allaah’s response, also clarifies that such decisions are in Allaah’s hands, not the Prophet’s. Even if the Prophet wanted, he would not have any choice. Another benefit is that it clearly gives the message to Muslims that even when they are in power, they must be careful that no one is ever coerced into becoming a Muslim because that is against Allaah’s plan, design, and wishes.

وَلَوْ شَاءَ رَبُّكَ لَآمَنَ مَن فِي الْأَرْضِ كُلُّهُمْ جَمِيعًا ۚ أَفَأَنتَ تُكْرِهُ النَّاسَ حَتَّىٰ يَكُونُوا مُؤْمِنِينَ ﴿٩٩﴾ وَمَا كَانَ لِنَفْسٍ أَن تُؤْمِنَ إِلَّا بِإِذْنِ اللَّـهِ ۚ وَيَجْعَلُ الرِّجْسَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ لَا يَعْقِلُونَ ﴿١٠٠﴾ قُلِ انظُرُوا مَاذَا فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ ۚ وَمَا تُغْنِي الْآيَاتُ وَالنُّذُرُ عَن قَوْمٍ لَّا يُؤْمِنُونَ ﴿١٠١﴾ فَهَلْ يَنتَظِرُونَ إِلَّا مِثْلَ أَيَّامِ الَّذِينَ خَلَوْا مِن قَبْلِهِمْ ۚ قُلْ فَانتَظِرُوا إِنِّي مَعَكُم مِّنَ الْمُنتَظِرِينَ ﴿١٠٢﴾ ثُمَّ نُنَجِّي رُسُلَنَا وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا ۚ كَذَٰلِكَ حَقًّا عَلَيْنَا نُنجِ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ ﴿١٠٣﴾

99 If your Lord had wanted (to disallow choice){footnote}Instead of giving people freedom of choice, He could have pre-programmed everyone as He has done to plants, animals and other creatures (through laws of nature, DNA and instincts).

{/footnote}, everyone on earth would have believed, all of them entirely. Then, are you going to force people to become believers? 100 No person can believe except in accordance with Allaah’s Method{footnote}The way human nature works, as built into the human psyche: people can find the truth only by taking a rational approach instead of blinding themselves by emotional reactions, based on emotions such as hatred, prejudice, jealousy, attachment to status quo, etc.

{/footnote}; and He{footnote}According to Allaah’s law, if a rational approach is not used, the emotional reactions pollute the human faculty of reasoning and understanding.

{/footnote} pollutes the minds of those who do not use reason. 101 (You can only invite them to think, such as to) say, “Reflect upon what is it that is in the heavens and the earth”; but even signs and warnings do not benefit people who do not want to believe. 102 What else are they waiting for other than days of punishment like those encountered by their predecessors? Say, “Wait then; I, too, will surely wait with you”. 103 When that time comes, We save our messengers and those who believe, that is what We do; because it is incumbent upon Us to save believers.    

These brief verses highlight the following points:

  1. Allaah SWT pre-programmed the whole universe and everything in it, excluding people and Jinns, to function exactly as He wanted. He pre-programmed people biologically but gave them the freedom to make decisions for what kind of lives they choose to live. With freedom to choose, He gave them intellect to enable them to make the right choices. He also gave them an optimally designed system of life, Islam, so that they can opt to live by it instead of being forced (programmed) to live by it like other creatures.
  2. He sent them to live on the earth temporarily wherein they are tested in terms of: if they believe in Him without seeing Him or perceiving Him in any way, merely using their rational thinking and intellect; and if they use their freedom responsibly and obey Him by living as Muslims or misuse their freedom to disregard His Deen.
  3. Along with intellect Allaah SWT equipped people with noble and evil emotions. One aspect of the test is whether people can balance their life between emotions and intellect. Rational decisions enhanced by noble emotions cause people to make sacrifices for higher goals and for other human beings. They help people excel in their behaviour. Evil emotions make people selfish and evil. They spoil rational decisions. If such emotions are strong, they usually overtake a person’s psyche and blind their intellect from reaching rational conclusions. All emotions, for that matter, incapacitate rational thinking, if they precede it or overtake it.
  4. To make it an effective test of intellectual decision making, He allowed Shayaaŧeen (Satans) to incite in bad ideas people and provoke them to disobey Allaah; while He sent prophets and messengers to invite people to goodness and obedience of Allaah SWT. To ensure full freedom, He made sure that neither side has the ability to force their ideas on people. Both sides can only suggest ideas and give rational evidence in favour of their ideas, letting people make up their own minds as to which ideas make more sense to be adopted and followed.
  5. To guarantee their freedom so that whatever they do is their own decision, Allaah ensured that He does not use His power to influence people’s choices. Mercifully, He does inform people through His prophets the consequences of the choices people make, but He does not impose His will on their personal decisions or choices.
  6. Hence, there is only one way of spreading Islam among people: provide them rational evidence and signs of Allaah to reflect upon. If they open their minds and find the truth, they pass the first step of the test. If they close their minds, no one can help them from the punishment of Allaah SWT.
  7. Whatever happens as a result of the laws of nature that Allaah SWT had imposed on all of His creations, Allaah ascribes that action to Himself, because it happen as a result of the system he implemented. For example, if people are blinded by their emotions as described in point 3. Allaah SWT says, “He pollutes the minds of those who do not use sense or reason.”

Thus, the Makkans should reflect on the signs of Allaah in the universe. If they would not open their minds and use a rational approach to understand the message of Islam and would continue instead on insisting to see concrete evidence of punishment, they were going to fail the test and face the punishment in this world and the Hereafter. When the punishment came in this world, the Messenger and the believers would, like always, be saved by Allaah SWT.

The next set of verses sums up the main message of this Soorah and gives the essence of the Islamic faith categorically and emphatically so that the opponents know that there is no room for compromise and so that they can reflect on it and make up their minds about it:

قُلْ يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِن كُنتُمْ فِي شَكٍّ مِّن دِينِي فَلَا أَعْبُدُ الَّذِينَ تَعْبُدُونَ مِن دُونِ اللَّـهِ وَلَـٰكِنْ أَعْبُدُ اللَّـهَ الَّذِي يَتَوَفَّاكُمْ ۖ وَأُمِرْتُ أَنْ أَكُونَ مِنَ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ ﴿١٠٤﴾ وَأَنْ أَقِمْ وَجْهَكَ لِلدِّينِ حَنِيفًا وَلَا تَكُونَنَّ مِنَ الْمُشْرِكِينَ ﴿١٠٥﴾ وَلَا تَدْعُ مِن دُونِ اللَّـهِ مَا لَا يَنفَعُكَ وَلَا يَضُرُّكَ ۖ فَإِن فَعَلْتَ فَإِنَّكَ إِذًا مِّنَ الظَّالِمِينَ ﴿١٠٦﴾ وَإِن يَمْسَسْكَ اللَّـهُ بِضُرٍّ فَلَا كَاشِفَ لَهُ إِلَّا هُوَ ۖ وَإِن يُرِدْكَ بِخَيْرٍ فَلَا رَادَّ لِفَضْلِهِ ۚ يُصِيبُ بِهِ مَن يَشَاءُ مِنْ عِبَادِهِ ۚ وَهُوَ الْغَفُورُ‌ الرَّحِيمُ ﴿١٠٧﴾

104 Say, “O people! If you are in doubt about my Deen, then know it that I do not worship those whom you worship besides Allaah; but I worship and submit to Allaah Who takes you back in death. And I have been commanded that:

  • Be one of the believers;
  • 105 Fully dedicate yourself to the Deen sincerely and exclusively;
  • Do not be one of those who practice Shirk{footnote}Please refer to the footnote and explanation given for verse 28.

    {/footnote}; and
  • 106 Do not supplicate to entities other than Allaah, who can neither benefit you nor harm you, because if you did, you will definitely be counted among the unjust wrong-doers.

107 If Allaah afflicts with adversity, then there is none to remove it except He; and if He intends goodness for you, then none can turn His bounty away from you, which He causes to reach whom He wills of His slaves; and He is the Forgiving, the Merciful.”

The adjectival phrase “Who takes you back in death” or “Who causes you to die” used for Allaah SWT also provides an argument against Shirk: There is absolutely no entity, other than Allaah SWT, in the universe that does not die or that controls life and death. Only Allaah SWT is ever-living and only He controls death, thus no partners should be associated with Him. It also reminds people that after death, it is only Him they are going to face for accountability.

The very strong emphasis on dedication to Allaah’s Deen should be particularly noted. It should be a full dedication implying that one is fully committed to live by and to establish the complete Islamic system of life; it should be followed exclusively so that no aspect of life is governed by any other ideology or entity; and it should be followed earnestly and sincerely so that one does not desire or care for any other lifestyle.

Verse 106 and 107 provide further points against Shirk for people to reflect upon. If only Allaah has power to do good or to harm anyone and if no one else can interfere with what Allaah wants to do, why would anyone ever supplicate to or call upon any other entity?

In conclusion, the Prophet is being encouraged to continue inviting people selflessly, making it clear to people, that whether they listen or not, they are not benefitting or hurting him but themselves.

قُلْ يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ قَدْ جَاءَكُمُ الْحَقُّ مِن رَّبِّكُمْ ۖ فَمَنِ اهْتَدَىٰ فَإِنَّمَا يَهْتَدِي لِنَفْسِهِ ۖ وَمَن ضَلَّ فَإِنَّمَا يَضِلُّ عَلَيْهَا ۖ وَمَا أَنَا عَلَيْكُم بِوَكِيلٍ ﴿١٠٨﴾

108 Say, “O people! Indeed the truth has come to you from your Lord; therefore, whoever accepts guidance, does so only for his own benefit; while whoever strays away, does so for his own detriment. I am not answerable for you.”    

If they continue to reject and oppose, the Prophet must continue giving the message steadfastly and patiently until the mission is completed and Allaah’s judgement is delivered in the form of establishment of the Islamic society, run exclusively according to the Islamic system of life (Deen) as well as in the form of decimation of the opposition.

وَاتَّبِعْ مَا يُوحَىٰ إِلَيْكَ وَاصْبِرْ حَتَّىٰ يَحْكُمَ اللَّـهُ ۚ وَهُوَ خَيْرُ الْحَاكِمِينَ ﴿١٠٩﴾

109 (As for you, O Prophet) Continue to follow what is revealed to you and persevere until Allaah’s decision is implemented; and He is the best of the decision-makers.   

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