by M Naseem
From the internal evidence as well as according to the consensus
of opinion this chapter was revealed at Al-Madinah during the
early years after the Hijrah. The precise dating requires more
knowledge than the writer possesses at the time but according
to the evidence available it may be taken as sometime during the
first six years after the Hijrah or perhaps in the sixth year
after the armistice of Hudaibiyah. The commentators have referred
to certain incidents, certain discussions among Muslims about
their willingness to do whatever God wanted them to do as an evidence
of pre- revelation circumstances to which Divine Judgement responded
in its choice of the moment of revelation. It may, however, be
said that the historical background is only an instance of the
timing but as the Qur'an is for all times each chapter needs to
be understood in its broader and general terms and then applied
to the particular situation to which it may be relevant.
In the understanding of the Qur'an two broad schools of thought
have emerged during the passage of time. The majority seem to
have taken the view that chapters, paragraphs, and sentences in
the Book are distinct and unitary pieces of expression having
their own particular message to the reader and that the beauty
of the Book lies in its each part having a characteristic message
and thus satisfying his needs and responding to his mood.
The second group has tried to see beyond this apparent separate
entity of different revelations and seems to have found a definite
wisdom in the arrangements of different chapters, in the selection
of titles and a subtle link that connects sentences to sentences,
paragraphs to paragraphs and chapters to chapters. To the reader
in a hurry each sentence gives its concise message which he may
take as a guide for his practical needs but to a consistent student
of the Qur'an-which we all should be-it reveals a continuous message
which aims to catch him in all flights of his imagination with a
consistent direction that pervades the whole of this revelation.
The human mind, it may be submitted, has the unique quality of viewing
and grasping in many dimensions. Particular situations and obvious
views lead the mind to what in the physical context is quite unrelated
and yet one can see- on further examination-the link that connects
the mental flight to the object in the view. This is how poets and
writers have found meaning and messages in what to a cursory observer
might be an ordinary day to day view of nature. One does not have
to be a poet, a writer or a scientist to experience this happening.
It is rather our common experience that the physical qualities of
sight and hearing do not bind our mind to the physical impressions
these convey; the mind is quite capable of holding the physical
impression while also being moved to other dimensions through the
stimulation of certain wavelengths by the same physical impression.
Thus we may look at one thing and think of many things, hear one
thing and think of other things all at the same time.
This is the approach that has been adopted in the present study
of this chapter. Looked at from this angle the chapter seems to
be most appropriately placed in a contextual sense. The subject
matter seems to be a natural development of the line of thought
that was taken-up in Surah Al-Mumtahinah (chapter 60).
In that Surah the subject was viewed in a relatively narrow dimensions
and a guidance was conveyed about a particular set of circumstances
which developed from the same basic situation that now becomes the
subject of this surah and leads the way to a further discussion
of the implication of this situation in the surah that follows namely
Surah Al-Jumuah (chapter 62). The movement from particular to general
is a characteristic of the Qur'an which, one may venture to say,
has the aim of imparting to the reader the attitude of viewing a
part in the con- text of the whole and the whole in its relation
to different parts.
The Qur'an thus not only commands and forbids but it also moulds
basic attitudes and habits of thinking. It aims to create a community
which not only shares common practices, actions and behaviour but
is also distinct because of its modes of under- standing and its
Following the same approach it is submitted that the title of a
chapter need not be regarded as a random selection of a name having
no significance or bearing on its subject matter. It does not seem
to be in keeping with the wisdom of the Creator of which we see
so much evidence in nature. There are many phenomena which at different
stages of human knowledge have appeared unrelated but on further
enquiry and advancement in knowledge proved to be linked in a certain
way and guided by definite laws. What is apparently unrelated may
not really be so. That this should be the case is most unlikely
in the work of One in Whose work of creation we see so much organisation,
discretion and purpose that even in the objects like the stars in
the sky which seem so haphazardly scattered, there is a definite
inter-relationship that binds each to its appointed role.
Keeping this in view, if we now examine the title of this chapter,
it may perhaps be agreed that it conveys an impression of organisation
and arrangement which in its turn suggests an atmosphere of struggle
which obviously must be for a purpose. And as it is a struggle it
also follows that this purpose to which this organisational arraying
pertains must be faced with an opposition that has necessitated
this movement. It may thus be seen that a word may have more to
convey than just its literal meaning and one may also submit that
there is nothing extraordinary in being able to see so because it
often happens in our everyday experience that a mere expression
not only conveys the literal meaning but also betrays a person's
mood, his circumstances and even an impression of his life story.
Thus by merely reflecting on the title of this chapter one may construe
the circumstances and the atmosphere to which this title may pertain.
And bearing in mind that this is a communication from the Creator
to mankind one may also infer that organisational arraying in a
situation of confrontation involving the whole human race must be
about a very important issue- an issue of life and death for human
The chapter begins with the expression: "In the name of God, the
Most Kind, the Most Beneficent". This forms the first expression
preceding practically all communications from God and seems to convey
the Divine motive and spirit that is responsible for and pervades
through the communication that follows. In other words we are informed
that the communication that follows is not prompted by any self
interest of God; He is the Most Kind, the Most Beneficent and prompted
by these attributes He sends His message for the benefit of those
who are in need of this kindness and mercy.
This is the operative spirit of God in all His communication and
all His dealings as is further supported by His expression,
"He ordained kindness and Generosity for Himself" and
"My mercy encompasses everything".
And so this is the spirit in which the expression Bismillahir
Rahmanir Rahim ought to be understood and applied. Whatever the
subject, even when it is a struggle or a war it is an obligation
of a Muslim to understand this expression and apply it in a spirit
of kindness and beneficence; and with an objectivity that has
only collective good in mind and guarding in the process against
all subjective involvement.
The Messenger of God-peace be upon him-taught us to incorporate
this expression (Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim) in our everyday etiquette
in order to remind us at the beginning of each act the responsibility
that we have to God, to see that our acts result in goodness and
benefit to all concerned. Unfortunately we tend to take them as
magic words that will compensate for our shortcomings and by this
inert grace will do what we may fail to do. When this does not work
as the magic spell we believe it to be; when our expectations are
not met we become disheartened and even sceptical of God and His
attributes. But this is a result of our misconstruction and misunderstanding
and quite contrary to Divine purpose. In this world it is man who
is the vicegerent of God and who is expected to act and work. The
words of God are to inspire him and not to do things for him.
This in brief is the significance of Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim
both as Divine expression when addressed to man and as a human expression
when forming a part of etiquette.
Verse 1: "All that is in the heavens and all that is in
the earth glorifieth Allah; and He is the Mighty, the Wise".
In these opening remarks our attention is drawn to the abounding
evidence in nature which points to the presence of a powerful
and knowledgeable Creator. The nature of the statement is so definite
and positive and it covers such a vast field that it would be
obvious that the sort of evidence to which it is referring cannot
be fully gathered by a cursory glance. it is in fact an indication
to the student of the Qur'an to engage themselves in a searching
inquiry of materials, forces and objects that form our environment
with the Divine assurance that the more they delve into it the
more it will reveal to them the knowledge, wisdom and power that
controls and maintains such complicated functions. Even the study
of a single cell , its system of eating and drinking, its means
of communication is a marvel in itself and points to the existence
of a remarkable knowledge and power that could only conceive and
execute such technical excellence.
The general body of Muslims seem to pass by such statements
in the Qur'an without endeavouring to grasp this significance.
An average person seems to think that the chirping of the birds,
the rustling of the leaves, the sound of the wind and the whispering
of the willows is their way of singing praises to God. But this
sort of thinking is more an indication of the subjective state
of the onlooker than a representation of the objective reality.
It is far from God the Knowing, the High and the Wise to base
His claim., on such flimsy grounds. The evidence in nature supporting
the presence of a remarkable wisdom is so abundant that the case
for a creative wisdom being responsible for it is far stronger
than its attribution to chance existence and is only being lost
because of the defaults of its support.
Reference to Divine attributes of power and wisdom further supports
this view that it is not some physical act of singing praises by
different objects that we have to look for but something more tangible
that is abundant in nature and is a witness to the wisdom and the
power of the Creator.
Discourse of such sentences in the Qur'an, deep study of nature
and the sciences ought not to be just an academic pursuit for a
Muslim, but a labour of Faith undertaken in the quest for the wisdom
and power of his Creator.
Finally, this verse is perhaps one of the most eighty expressions
in the Qur'an and is always indicative of the importance and seriousness
of the issue involved. Sovereignty of God to which all this evidence
in nature is a pointer is the most important fact of our existence,
so much so that its acceptance or denial is the most important issue
of all time and it is on this basis that we must form our attitude
and direct our life's efforts.
The presence of God is the fact and so those who accept it are the
realists and believers whereas those who reject it deny the truth
and reality. It is quite obvious that if a system has to work properly
and beneficially it has to be guided by facts and realities. Facts
and realities have, therefore, an obligation to prevail and those
who care for the health of this system have a duty to see that it
does prevail and all falsehood is removed, This needs organisation,
struggle and sacrifice and that is what is dealt with in the rest
of this chapter.
The literary style adopted in this chapter is one which, instead
of developing the theme of greatest impact in a progressive manner,
aims to create a shock in the mind of the reader by mentioning
it first so as to sharply awaken him to the realities of his situation
and his obligation. Thus it is, that the highest requirement of
this struggle namely, the laying down of one's life is mentioned
quite early in the fourth verse while its supporting and explanatory
arguments are mentioned later.
Verse2,3: "O,you who believe! Why do you say what you
do not do, it is most hateful in the eyes of God that you say
what you do not do"
Having drawn attention to the solemnity of the subject by its
title and the opening remarks the same grave tone is further used
to heighten the effect. The Muslims are told that believing in
God is more than just passive recognition of His presence. This
in fact is the diverting point for the flow of a personality.
Life may be likened to a growing plant that needs a support to
gain. its natural upright position as otherwise it will fall and
spread on the ground exposing itself to be trampled down and disfigured.
Recognition and acceptance of God is that support in a human
context, and being so essential, merits all the devotion and support
that one is capable
One cannot sit idle and look while wrong spreads like a creeper
and destroys all our chances of peace and progress. That is why
it is hateful in the eyes of God as it cuts across the whole purpose
of creation. Man was created to take charge of his environment
and progress in a peaceful atmosphere to the standard of the man
of the Hereafter. Denial of God is the beginning of the end of
man's peace and also a farewell to his progress. It is, therefore,
the duty of all right thinking people not to sit idle and be satisfied
with mere talk; it needs much more than that.
Verse 4: "Surely God loves those who fight in His way
in ranks as if they were a solid wall".
As mentioned earlier the literary style adopted in the Divine
communication is also indicative of the importance of this subject
in the Divine view. It is a psychological shock- therapy aimed
at achieving a sudden sharp awakening; and this is achieved by
mentioning the maximum requirement of this ideological commitment.
So we are told that this entails fighting in the way of God and
a willingness to face the risk of losing one's life.
At this stage one may stop and wonder how a movement of peace,
motivated by kindness can also envisage involvement in war and
killing. But this universe is based and maintained on a law of
balance and we see that in nature any one force, howsoever likeable
it may be, becomes a danger if it is allowed to preponderate and
disturb the equilibrium. God has recommended to us the same law
in the sphere of mental judgement. Human life is sacred, we are
a movement of peace, we have no aggressive designs, we do not
want to conquer by force or spread by force but when the enemies
of human-welfare will not let us work in a peaceful mann6r-and
being not guided by the same moral precepts as bind us they are
more likely to do so-then we have a social obligation to defeat
their purpose and defeat it in a decisive way. Our consideration
of peace and love has to be balanced against the requirement of
the safety of human- welfare.
We are, therefore, informed that a true involvement in this
movement means a potential risk of war and loss of one's life.
We must, therefore, wake up to this reality and prepare ourselves
accordingly. We are also told that we must conceive and wage this
fight as a cohesive force of such strength as may be likened to
a solid wall. We may say that this is not just an emotional exhortation;
it rather carries a serious consideration for training, organisation
and solidarity. To all students of human behaviour it would be
evident that these qualities can not be produced at short notice.
Man, woman and nations have to train themselves for this purpose.
One cannot have a soft approach to life and aspire to become a
tough soldier as well. One cannot live an easy-going, time wasting,
profusely talkative life and suddenly turn into a hard, meticulous,
tight lipped fighter. Discipline and solidarity are matters of
training and habit. These also require a mental aptitude that
puts priority on unity and that sacrifices all differences for
its preservation. Mental aptitude again is not a matter of sudden
acquisition. It needs sustained experience and constant vigilance
whereby the minds gets into the habit of opting for the main priority
and sacrificing the rest.
So although concise, to those who wake up to this call and have
a discerning mind this statement adds a new dimension and opens
a vast field that calls for the organisation of their faculties
and abilities. This is not a movement for idle-dreamers and pious-hopefuls;
it is a movement for a people of vision who are serious and practical
realists as well.
Verses 5 6:
"And when Moses said to his people, 0 my people l why do you
persecute me when you know that I am God's messenger unto you. But
when they went astray, God let their hearts go astray. God does
not guide those who do wrong."
"And when Jesus son of Mary said 0 children of Israel 1 surely
I am the messenger of God to you, verifying that which is before
me of the Torah and giving the good news of a messenger who will
come after me and whose name is the praised one! But when he came
to them with clear evidence they said: this is mere magic!"
It is a method of the Qur'an that to support its views it does
not go to lengthy dialectical reasoning which can be understood
only by a few and may not be convincing either, but to the factual
evidence provided by the human experience and history.
In the preceding paragraph we were warned of the requirement
of a struggle that was bound to ensue and as if sensing the suspicion
in some minds about the Islamic movement being a blood-thirsty,
trigger-happy movement we are being informed that it has been
the unfortunate experience in the past that people whose minds
are corrupt do not tend to accept the truth no matter how much
clear evidence in its support may be before them.
This character is too degenerate to accept something that is
against their vested interests; their nature is too mean to let
a movement for justice and peace work for its objective in freedom.
So this situation of confrontation and implied hostility is neither
our choice nor our creation; it is a consequence of their intransigence
The historical evidence referred here pertains to two widely
separated periods of history and shows that it is not an isolated
instance but a recurrent example of happenings in a given set
of circumstances. From the statement of Moses, peace be upon him,
it is clear that his audience was in no doubt about his identity,
his office or his mission but their prejudicial interests proved
to be stronger than their minds and so they persisted in following
a line of action that was contrary to their inner conviction.
We are informed that it is not God's practice to force people
into any particular line of action, God observes great respect
for their freedom. He has granted freedom to man and He never
even violates it Himself. Human-freedom is a necessary condition
for human progress and development and it is far from God to break
His own laws.
The same thing happened in the time of Jesus and though the
Divine statement here is concise yet it reveals a great deal.
So we gather that the people of his time had seen enough evidence
that was clear and recurrent to convince them of the truth of
Jesus's office and ideology but again they were too degenerate
to accept what their minds acknowledged to be true. In these periods
of human civilisation when the physical impact still played a
great role in making an impression on human thinking the messengers
of God were also endowed with, some supra-natural powers to create
that effect. But neither logic, nor common sense, nor physical
impression seemed to sway those who were too attached to their
designs and addicted to injustice. So the logical grounds they
found to be unacceptable and the physical manifestation were dismissed
as mere magic.
It may be noted that Jesus did not claim to bring anything new
but the same eternal truth that God has always sent for man's
guidance and which has always proved useful to man- kind. It is
also evident from the text that in his time, Torah the Book of
God was not present in its complete and original form but only
in parts, the rest presumably having been lost due to human negligence
Verses 7, 8, 9: "Who does greater wrong than one who invents
falsehood against God when he is summoned to submission to God.
God does not guide those who do wrong. They desire to put out the
light of God with their mouths but God will complete His light howsoever
the unbelievers may detest.
It is He Who has sent His messengers with the guidance and the
religion of truth so that it may overcome over all other ways
of life however much the polytheist may be averse."
These paragraphs are a further progression from the thoughts
expressed in the preceding two paragraphs. There we were informed
of the negative attitude of a group that was bent on refusing
truth and right and now we are informed of their intention and
aim. We are also informed of the nature of our movement and its
purpose and destiny as desired by God. It is a great wrong to
human society, we are being told, to uphold falsehood against
truth. Our call is that of reason, of living with facts and in
submission to God Who is The fact and The truth.
This is the road to peace and consequently to unlimited progress
and it is man's privilege to decide which side he chooses but
he must remember that if he chooses wrong wilfully then he will
not be saved by God from this course of action as it is against
His law. So the responsibility of those who do so is very great
indeed as they have been forewarned about the nature of their
choice, the nature of our mission and the consequences of a wrong
choice. This choice will also indicate their intention to eradicate
the truth because two opposites and incompatibles cannot exist
The hostility is inherent in this system but judging from the
nature of wrong doers and unjust people one may rightly presume
that this intolerance will force them to organise action against
the Islamic movement with a view to eradicate it by force. It
is, however, God's wish that this ideology must prevail no matter
how distasteful it may be to the deniers of truth. Such statements
in the Qur'an, how- ever, must never be allowed to create a false
sense of security in the members of an Islamic movement. It is
not the way of God to fight human problem. It is we who have this
responsibility and it is our duty to fight and solve our problems.
Such statements are designed to raise morale as morale is important
in any struggle. Such statements are also there to give us an
added sense of responsibility as in the sphere of human action
and freedom it is man's duty to see that the will of God does
prevail. This view is further strengthened by the verse that follows
in which the nature of our movement is put in its perspective
and its purpose is apprised to us.
It is a way of life, we are informed, that is based on truth
and the facts of existence. Its aim is to guide people safely
through their circumstances of existence and its rightful place
is to be the governing way of life for the whole mankind as then
only the human race can get rid of these frictions, practices,
and attitudes that sap its energy, destroy its structure and bedevil
This also precludes any. compromise on the part of the Islamic
movement because purity can only compromise with impurity at its
We must cast aside any shadow of a second grade position or
role from our thinking no matter how meagre our resources and
how small our numbers. Movements progress according to the scope
of their vision and re- sources fall to those who have a will
to acquire them. Human history has always been made by those who
sprang from nowhere and refused to be daunted by their circumstances.
We have no apology for our ambitions. To be ambitious is not a
matter of shame, especially, when it is for the benefit of all.
The greater the role, the greater is the responsibility of those
who have the privilege of playing such a role. We have a duty
to learn from our past mistakes, we have a duty to cast aside
dead-wood in our thoughts, we have a duty to be prepared to examine
our methods at every juncture; we must always be willing to change,
willing to seek the right approach. To fulfil this mission and
destiny must always be our only guiding thought.
Verses 10, 11, 12: "0 you who believe! Shall I lead you
to a commerce that will save you from a painful doom. "You should
believe in God and His messenger and should strive for the cause
of God with your wealth and your lives. This is better for you
if you only know. "He will forgive you your sins and cause you
to enter gardens wherein rivers flow and beautiful dwellings in
gardens of eternity. That is indeed a supreme achievement. "And
yet another favour that you would love, help from God and a speedy
victory, so give good news to the believers."
After having explained the situation in the context of past
and present human history of stating its requirement, the same
subject is now approached from another angle. The object of the
discourse as is the preceding verses is to motivate members of
an Islamic Movement to a course of action that is appropriate
to their situation.
The Our'an, it seems, acknowledges fear and gain as the basic
motivating factors of human action and repeatedly uses them as
a means of promotion or prevention of an action. The verses under
study are an example of this technique and we are being told that
what has been said before may not be regarded just as an idealistic
exhortation but in fact suggests a practical approach to the problems.
Looking in a wider context it is a businesslike engagement of
one's abilities and possessions for the sake of earning profit.
Considered in the context of worldly life a movement for the
benefit of all cannot but lead to the welfare of the individual
and society and considered in the context of the Hereafter it
would be obvious that as it is a reflection of the action here
it is bound to be wholesome and everlasting. We are also told
that it is not just a matter of sunshine and glory that we may
leave it if we are not particularly interested. The consequence
of inaction and apathy are more than a mere negative loss.
They are positively harmful, giving rise to a situation that
in the text is described as painful and gloomy. We must, therefore,
realise that it is not only a matter of gaining something, it
is also a matter of avoiding something that is going to be terribly
painful. Students of human- nature and behaviour would agree that
individual and social happiness or misery stem from the cultural
precepts of a society, so much so, that even when an individual
pretends to be acting outside their influence his subconscious
behaviour is still subjected to them. The consideration of this
directing thought of human society thus acquires a sense of urgency
and we are told that first of all we must have a true appreciation
of the truths of our existence which means recognition of God
as the All- directing Force and accepting Him as the Rightful
Guide which also entails an acknowledgement of His messenger.
Having set our own thoughts right we are then required to get
this concept accepted by the rest of the society for our benefit
as well as theirs, with all the forces and means at our disposal.
Struggle is a necessity as well as an obligation of existence
and struggle for a right cause is the foremost and fundamental
of all such necessities. It is not a struggle that one can afford
to look at with a lukewarm attitude. It merits a most serious
consideration and devotion. Its maximum requirement was mentioned
in verse four and although the subject is being discussed in a
general manner here but having been informed of its scope it is
easy to form can idea of the nature and pattern of the organisational
structure and effort that is required to meet its requirements.
We are also reminded that since it is described as working for
the cause of God we must not think that we are acting for something
extraneous to ourselves. It is a Divine way of speech and is a
manifestation of His extreme kindness, care, and benevolence that
He describes human welfare as His cause. In the last part of the
eleventh verse it is made clear to us that in fact it is for our
own benefit, if we only stop to think. As a corollary it may be
submitted here that it is a wrong policy for Muslim movements
and a mistake of presentation to make God or Islam at stake in
Even in Divine eyes it is the human interest that is always
considered and it is this interest that we must concern ourselves
To common people their interests are more near and real than
metaphysical concepts and unless these concepts are married to
such interests they are not likely to be accepted by the masses.
In verses 12 and 13 we are informed of the benefits and final
outcome of this struggle. The language of the first half is purposely
allegorical so as to make it possible of widest interpretation
and understanding. Even the idea that the sky is not the limit
seems to be the imposing impression. A social order based on this
ideology we are informed is going to change this world of ours
into a garden where rivers flow, where every thing is green, cool
and refreshing-a place where senses will be pleased and spirit
will be delighted. The ideology and social order have an inherent
quality of rectifying faults and mistakes that people may have
or commit, which is quite unlike the other social orders where
every ship drags one to the devil's cobweb which grows on the
victim and ultimately drowns the poor creature. This is how it
may be said, Divine forgiveness of sins operates in a worldly
context. The verse, as said earlier, is capable of the widest
understanding because this concept of life in a garden is not
a restricted one.
We are also promised dwelling in gardens of eternity which conforms
to Islamic concept of continuation of life into the Hereafter
which will be of a permanent nature. It is also in logical sequence
because the results in the Hereafter are dependent on the achievements
in this life and so those who are able to convert this life into
a life of peace, pleasure and progress will justifiably be awarded
a similar life in the Hereafter.
I It would be obvious that a movement with such a promise to
offer, with such organisational structure and determination would
not be far from success and it is perhaps, therefore, that God
informs us that if we keep all this in mind and apply it intelligently
then His help which means His natural law of cause and effect
will be with us and speedy victory for our movement will be near.
We are given these glad tidings to raise our morale as well
as to convey that the process of revolution if con- ducted on
the right lines is not a long one and who can give a better assurance
than the Creator of all the operative laws that govern and affect
Verse 14: "0 you who believe! be helpers of God, as Jesus,
son of Mary, said to the disciples! who are my helpers in the
cause of God? The disciples said, we are helpers of God. So a
party of the children of Israel believed and another party disbelieved;
then We aided those who believed against their enemy and they
As was mentioned earlier the Quran' relies a great deal on historical
evidence to prove its point. It also encourages travel, study
of archaeology and the study of ancient civilisation as all these
gives historical evidence of one sort or other that may be very
useful in the presentation of one's thesis.
Remembering that whenever in the Qur'an God mentions His cause
it turns out to be a cause that is for the benefit of His people
it seems that Jesus in his Islamic movement took the cause of
downtrodden people and presented it as God's cause which gave
it its mass appeal and drew the poor and the young to his flock.
Movements, it may be submitted, gain this mass acceptance through
catch phrases and appealing slogans and not by lengthy treatises.
It is apparent from the text that those who supported Jesus because
of their organisational ability, struggle and persistence eventually
became predominant over those who had the power and the means
and not a long time ago were their persecutors.
The law of success as seen through human history has no respect
for numbers or material superiority. It is always the decadent
civilisation that has relied on weight rather than mobility, show
rather than reality, arrogance rather than humility and numbers
and materials rather than spirit and innovation. It is also a
lesson of history that these were always trampled by those who
had no respect for their values and were regarded as barbarians.
Yet again the message is clear that an Islamic movement is not
destined to lose; it is destined to win and win in a worldly sense
as is proven by history.
It is evident from the title, opening remarks, style and subject
matter of this surah that the subject of an Islamic movement,
its organisation, its conduct and fate is of great significance
in the eyes of God. It is also evident from this surah as well
as other verses in the Qur'an 7:128, 7:137, 21:105 and 24:55 that
this movement if conducted on the right lines is destined to succeed
in this world. It is also evident that God always wants it to
This human race was not created to live in a state of strife,
tension, dissatisfaction and frustration, but as true representatives
of its Creator managing the world with beauty, elegance and goodness
in every way. However in the sphere of human freedom what is desirable
need not happen as it is dependent on human action and hence it
is essential that any people who aspire to work for the cause
of God must also be prepared to examine their approach and technique
as God's promise cannot be false but our understanding can be
With these thoughts in mind the following submissions are made
for consideration of those who have the privilege of being the
partisans of this cause or who aspire to be so.
(a) Somewhere, sometime, it seems Muslims made the mistake of
developing a care of the Hereafter that seemed to be at the expense
of the life in this world. The concept of the Hereafter was given
to man to broaden his outlook and not to blind him to his immediate
environment. The line of argument was that you care for the needs
of this world but that is not all. There is a Hereafter which
is permanent and so incomparably more extensive. One, therefore,
should not care for this world on the expense of the Hereafter.
It was simply an exhortation for re-orientation and reorganisation
and not a call for the neglect of either.
But like previous people we made the same mistake and gave the
impression that religious people were not interested in the affairs
of this world; they were nice and holy but had nothing in common
with those who were confronted with the day-to-day problems of
life. This caused separation between the masses and the religious
(b) The religious leaning and dependence that are inherent in
man need some sort of satisfaction and it depends on the wisdom
of the leaders whether they satisfy it with progressive and vibrant
concepts or with those that give a false sense of security and
lull them to inactivity. We made a mistake in this field again
and supplied our people with concepts that made them accept their
ignorance with entire satisfaction. We gave them the assurance
that reading of the Qur'an was a Thawab even if they did not understand
it. The result was that we have millions of Muslims who read the
Qur'an and are as remote from it as they are from Hebrew. We have
a Muslim society that is as indulgent in the un-Qur'anic ways
as pagan society. Consequently our people live in a fool's paradise
where every term is under- stood out of context and we have fantastic
hopes of our deliverance in the Hereafter without having anything
to show in this world for this optimism.
(c) A death-wish seems to have infiltrated the Muslim movement.
The concept of martyrdom that was meant to remove the fear of
death and present it as a desirable end in the pursuit of our
goal became an end in itself. The concept of martyrdom was there
to relieve us of our fears but not to satisfy our best hopes.
Consequently our leaders have forgotten the basic rules of waging
a successful struggle. We do not seem to realise that in the strategy
of a struggle it is sometimes desirable to run away as long as
we can, regroup and wage our struggle again. We seem to give more
credence to people's faith and less to human failures. We seem
to take the line that at worst our omission can only cause us
to lose our life which prospect anyway is very satisfactory.
This smug philosophy makes us poor revolutionaries and sitting
ducks for our enemies to shoot. The art of revolution needs the
eyes of a hawk, the agility of a tiger and the cunning of a fox
and that is how a Muslim ought to be as his is the most revolutionary
mission of all.
(d) The Qur'an refers so much to the history of early Muslim
groups like those who began to call themselves Jews and Christians
and yet we fail to see that the present Muslim people of whom
we are a section point by point have fallen into the same category
as other people of the Book. We appeal to them as Muslims and
do not seem to realise that they have acquired the same characteristics
that are described of the people of the Book. Our scholars are
behaving in the same way, our richmen are acting in the same manner,
our masses are as ignorant and complacent as theirs were and yet
instead of telling this to our scholars we try to win them by
being deferential to them, we are considerate of our rich whereas
they deserve a bitter opposition, we condone our masses and rather
make them more complacent where as they need a rude awakening.
This attitude has brought us no reward but has certainly estranged
that section of our community that is restless and is impatient
for a change.
(e) The Qur'an provides ample evidence of the fact that the
call to Islam was seldom made in a situation where the concept
of a Creator as unknown or a system of religious practices and
observation were extinct. But there are many Messengers of God,
nay, almost all who did not present a whole system of law and
ethics to the people of their time but chose a few burning issues
of their time and released their detailed system of belief and
practices by gradual progression with care and discretion.
We, however, judging from our own emotional response, seem to
think that the whole of Islam as we know it is going to appeal
to our people as well and all that we have to do is to write scholarly
articles about its different aspects and let the people read it
and they will run to it as to a lost treasure, feeling guilty
at their neglect. Unfortunately, the situation is not so; the
majority of our people have no love for Islam. They, in fact,
hardly know it. They are more aware of their needs than they are
of the presence of God. Today it is wrong policy to call for Islam
as we understand it. Like the Messengers of God we must look for
the burning issues of our time and let people know what rights
God has given them that they must fight for, what security God
offers them that they must look for, what promise God has for
them that they must work for.
Let people first realise God in their immediate requirements
and concerns and from this bound they will become more responsive
to His further commands. But asking them to accept the whole set
of beliefs and practices we make them run away because we do not
seem to understand that that is the very picture they are afraid
of. They do not know Islam and they run from the fear of the unknown.
January - February 1971