Section 4: The Religion (Islam) Is the Religion for All
يَآ أَيُّهَا الرُّسُلُ كُلُوا مِنَ الطَّيّـِبَاتِ وَاعْمَلُوا صَالِحاً إِنّـِي بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ عَلِيمٌ
51. “O messengers! Eat of the good things and act righteously. Verily I know best what you do.”
We should not forget two important principles, when we want to eat something:
2. Purity and wholesomeness
All divinely revealed religions give great importance to the kinds of food we eat for they bring Divine succor in doing good deeds.
It is for this very reason that, addressing all the messengers, Allah says:
“O messengers! Eat of the good things and act righteously. Verily I know best what you do.”
The difference between prophets and other human beings is not that they do not have human needs such as the need for food rather they see special modes of nutrition as means towards perfection, therefore they eat pure and wholesome food.
The average person eats as an aim in itself, pursuing the satisfaction of his animal desires whether it is good or bad, he is not even concerned about the physical benefits of his diet not to mention the spiritual effects the foods might have upon him.
Regarding that the kind and quality of food is certainly effective on man’s spiritualities, and different sorts of food consequence different moral manners, the relation between these two sentences are made clear when it says:
“...Eat of the good things”
Some Islamic traditions say that eating unlawful food hinders our prayers and supplications to be accepted.
There is a famous tradition stated by the Prophet (S) which is the evidence of this claim:
A man once told the Prophet (S) that he would like his prayers to be answered.
The Prophet replied:
“Make your food wholesome and refrain from eating unlawful food!”1
Commenting on this verse, Imam Sadiq (as) says:
“The meaning of /tayyib/ is lawfulness.”2
In this context it is also necessary to note that the sentence:
is itself an independent reason for doing good deeds, because when man knows that someone is always watching his deeds and nothing remains hidden from Him and Who carefully reckons his deeds, he will be careful to act correctly and reform his behaviour.
The phrases in the verse above would also be important in arousing in us the sense of thanksgiving for the pure blessings that Allah has given us. This would, in turn, exert a profound effect upon our conduct.
In summary, this verse identifies three ways to encourage the tendency to do good deeds:
A) The influence of pure and wholesome food on the purity of the heart.
B) Arousing the sense of thanksgiving in man.
C) Drawing attention to the fact that Allah watches and observes all our deeds.
As said before, the Qur’anic word /tayyib/ means anything that is clean and pure. It is the opposite of the word ‘khabith’, which means foul and dirty. In the book ‘Mufradat’, the author Raqib says:
“The word ‘tayyib’ originally meant any affair that is pleasant, whether man thinks that he experiences this pleasure through his soul or physical senses or not, in reality, it is experienced only in his soul. In religion, however, it means anything that is clean and lawful.”
Many verses in the Holy Qur’an talk about doing good and enjoying what is pure.
Here, not only the prophets but all the believers are also ordered to eat good and lawful food:
“O you who believe! Eat of the good things We have provided you with...”3
Only good words and deeds are near to Allah.
“...Unto Him do good words ascend, and the pious deed does He exalt...”4
Enjoying good things is one of the great blessings bestowed upon man by Allah and it can also be seen as one of the signs of man’s superiority over all other creatures.
Allah in the Qur’an says:
“And, indeed, We have honored the children of Adam, and We carried them on the land and the sea; and We provided them with sustenance of the good things; and We preferred them greatly over many of those We created.”5
The Prophet (S) reiterates this in a short, meaningful tradition when he says:
“O people! Allah is clean (and pure) and accepts nothing save good (and pure) deeds.”6
1. An Islamic tradition says:
“Allah does not accept the worship of someone who has eaten a single morsel of something unlawful.”7
2. The Prophet (S) said:
“Seeking the lawful (things) is the duty of every Muslim man and woman.”8
3. The Prophet (S) said:
“Worship has 70 parts and the most superior of them is seeking the lawful (things).”9
4. The holy Prophet (S) said:
“Whoever travels for obtaining lawful sustenance is like a warrior in the Path of Allah.”10
5. Salman Farsi was asked:
“Which deed is the best?”
“To have faith in Allah and (to eat) lawful bread (i.e., to earn an honest living).”11
6. The Prophet (S) said:
“Whoever earns his bread by his own hands, Allah will look at him with mercy and will never chastise him.”12
7. The Prophet (S) said:
“Whoever eats that which is lawful, an angel will overshadow him and will continue to ask Allah’s pardon for him until he finishes eating.”13
8. The Prophet (S) said:
“Seeking the lawful is struggle (jihad) in the cause of Allah.”
9. The Prophet (S) said:
“Seeking the lawful (sustenance) is obligatory next to the obligatory (prayer).”14
10. The Prophet (S) said:
“It is the duty of every Muslim to try to obtain lawful (sustenance).”15
11. The Prophet (S) said:
“The best of deeds is to earn an income legally and honestly.”16
12. The Prophet (S) said:
“When Allah makes something unlawful, its money becomes also unlawful.”17
13. The sixth Imam (as) said:
“The result of unlawful income will become manifest in one’s descendants.”18
14. The Prophet (S) said:
“When an unlawful morsel enters a servant’s body, all the angels in the heavens and the earth will curse him.”19
15. The Prophet (S) said:
“Worshipping (Allah) with eating that which is unlawful is like a building on sand or some say like a building on water.”20
16. Imam Baqir (as) said:
“The truth is that if a man obtains some property unlawfully, his Hajj pilgrimage, If ‘Umrah, and his observance of the ties of kinship will not be accepted, and even his chastity will be ruined in it.”21
17. The Prophet (S) said:
“Allah has made Paradise forbidden for a body which has been fed inward unlawfully.”22
18. The Prophet (S) said:
“Abstaining from having one unlawful morsel (of food) is more liked by Allah (s.w.t.) than the performance of two thousand rak‘ats of a recommended prayers.”23
19. Imam Ali-ibn-Abitalib (as) said:
“A generous one is he who avoids from the unlawful things and keeps himself pure from defects.”24
20. The Sixth Imam (as) said:
“Imam Ali (as) has said: ‘Whoever devours a believer’s property unlawfully is not our friend’.”25
وإِنَّ هَذِهِ اُمَّتُكُمْ اُمَّةً وَاحِدَةً وَأَنَاْ رَبُّكُمْ فَاتَّقُونِ
52. “And verily this Ummah of yours is a single Ummah, and I am your Lord, so fear Me.”
Both from the religious world-view and Divine perspectives, all nations, in fact, comprise one nation, The principles behind the call of all the Divine prophets reflect this fact, for the physical, spiritual, and innate needs of man are united in a common system of interrelationships.
This noble verse indicates that all the Divine prophets and their followers have been called to monotheism and piety.
The verse says:
“And verily this Ummah of yours is a single Ummah...”
They invite everyone to the unity and commonality of human society and invalidate all kinds of discrimination and separation. Since Allah is One, all of mankind are one nation.
The verse says:
“...and I am your Lord, so fear Me.”
All nations must therefore follow one program, because their prophets invite people to one religion whose principles have been the same all over the world.
These principles include: monotheism, the knowledge of Truth, acknowledging the Resurrection and the perfectibility of the life of man, using good things, performing good and pure deeds, and supporting justice and the principles of humanity.
Some interpreters believe that the Qur’anic word ‘ummat’ here means ‘religion’, not people or nation, and the Qur’anic sentence /’ana rabukum/:
(“...I am your Lord...”),
which is in plural form, is an evidence to it and indicates that the objective meaning of ‘Ummat’ here is this very community of people.
As a result, in all cases where the word ‘ummat’ is used in the Holy Qur’an, it means nation and group, except in some special contexts where it means religion in a figurative sense such as the verse:
“...Verily we found our fathers on a religion (ummat), and we are certainly followers of their footsteps.”26
It is worthy to note that this subject is presented with a slight difference in verse 92 of Sura Al-’Anbiya:
“Verily, this Ummah of yours is a single Ummah, and I am your Lord, so worship Me.”
Before this verse, the story of many prophets had been presented and, in fact, the Arabic word /haǒihi/ refers to the communities of the previous prophets, all of whom were one Ummah from the view of the command of Allah, and all were persuading one goal.
فَتَقَطَّعُوا أَمْرَهُم بَيْنَهُمْ زُبُراً كُلُّ حِزْبٍ بِمَا لَدَيْهِمْ فَرِحُونَ
53. “But people have cut off their affair (of unity) between them, into sects: each party rejoicing in that which is with them.”
Causing division is a great disaster which has a long history, therefore, following the invitation to unity and harmony in the former verse, mankind is now given a warning about conflict and disintegration with the phrase saying:
“But people have cut off their affair (of unity) between them, into sects...”
It is wonderful that ‘every one of these parties rejoices in that which is with itself and discriminates against the other.
The verse continues saying:
“...each party rejoicing in that which is with them.”
The Arabic word /zubur/ is the plural form of the word /zubrah/, meaning a part of the hair on the back of an animal that can be gathered together and separated from the rest. This word has then been applied to everything that can be separated from something else.
Thus, the sentence:
“But people have cut off their affair...”
refers to the division of nations into various groups.
Some say that the word ‘zubur’ is probably a plural form of the word /zabur/, meaning book. Thus the verse can mean that each of them followed a heavenly book and denied the heavenly books of others while they had also originated from the same Divine Source.
However, the sentence:
‘...each party rejoicing in that which is with them’
strengthens the first interpretation, for it speaks of various parties and their biases in favour of their own claims.
At any rate, the above verse expresses an important social and psychic fact that the ignorant bias of groups that have chosen certain religious schools of thought results in them closing off their minds to any other expression of the Divine truth and blocking off the light of knowledge.
This state which arises from egotism and narcissism is the greatest enemy to arriving at the impartial ultimate truth and reaching to the unity of peoples.
Contentment and complacency in one’s own tradition and the sense of alienation and hostility to other than that is often expressed when we hear something from a religion other than ours and we shut it out, dismiss it and run away, lest a truth apparently other than what we are used to, be disclosed to us.
As the Holy Qur’an says about the polytheists of Noah’s age:
“And verily whenever I call unto them that you may pardon them, they thrust their fingers into their ears, cover themselves with their garments, and persist (in their refusal) and magnify themselves with pride.”27
When this state of prejudice persists, man becomes closed to the path of truth and instead he becomes obstinate and headstrong in his own view.
فَذَرْهُمْ فِي غَمْرَتِهِمْ حَتَّي حِينٍ
54. “But leave them in their overwhelming ignorance for a time.”
The worst kind of misleading is when Allah leaves man to his own devices:
(“But leave them...”).
Disagreement and division lead to the abyss of perdition and bring down the anger of Allah and His Prophet (S).
But people have cut off their affair.
“But leave them in their overwhelming ignorance...”
The above verse implies that when such is the case, one should leave them be in their ignorance, negligence, and confusion until the time of their death approaches when they will see the truth or, on the Day of Judgment when they will face the Divine punishment, because such people have no fate other than this.
The Qur’anic word /hin/ may refer to the time of their death, or the time of their punishment, or both.
The Arabic word /qamrah/ is derived from the word /qamara/ which means to destroy the effect of something. Then the water that rushes ahead on its way like a flood has been called /qamar/ or /qamir/.
The meaning of this word has afterward been extended to the sense of ignorance and the troubles that overwhelm man. Thus in the verse, the word means ignorance, negligence, confusion and misguidance.
أَيَحْسَبُونَ أَنَّمَا نُمِدُّهُم بِهِ مِن مَّالٍ وَبَنِينَ
نُسَارِعُ لَهُمْ فِي الْخَيْرَاتِ بَل لاَّ يَشْعُرُونَ
55. “Do they think that what We aid them with wealth and children, ”
56. “We are hasting unto them of good things? Nay, they do not perceive.”
Evaluating oneself and others only on the basis of wealth and offspring indicates a lack of common sense.
(“...Nay, they do not perceive.”)
The previous verses talked about the danger of being doctrinally and ideologically obstinate and bigoted.
Those obstinate groups and parties who have these tendencies are obsessively attached to their ideas, get a great deal of pleasure from the thought of their ascription to their particular belief system and close their minds to any attempt at investigation and inquiry into other religions.
These latter two verses mention a part of other aspects of their self-conceit where the Qur’an says:
“Do they think that what We aid them with wealth and children, ”
“We are hasting unto them of good things?...”
Do they think that having a great deal of property and offspring are proofs of the rightfulness of their belief and a sign of their spiritual greatness and closeness to Allah?
No, it is not like that, as the verse announces:
“...Nay, they do not perceive.”
They are not aware that their very wealth and children are in fact a kind of punishment and chastisement or a means of trial and the beginning of the retribution for them. They are ignorant to the possibility that Allah might be giving them all kinds of blessings and favours in abundance so that the chastisement to come will be more painful for them.
It is a fact that if the doors of grace are closed to man, he will be more able to suffer troubles and deprivations, but this is not the case when he is used to a life of comfort and luxury for then the smallest deprivation can be very excruciating for him.
Moreover, this abundance of blessings usually thickens the veils of ignorance and conceit before the eyes of the evil and arrogant persons to the extent that they cannot return to the Path of Truth.
The Arabic word /numiddu/ is derived from the word /imdad/ and /madd/ which means to make the deficiency of something perfect, or to prevent something from ending.
إِنَّ الَّذِينَ هُم مِنْ خَشْيَةِ رَبّـِهِم مُشْفِقُونَ
وَالَّذِينَ هُم بِاَيَاتِ رَبّـِهِمْ يُؤْمِنُونَ
وَالَّذِينَ هُم بِرَبّـِهِمْ لاَ يُشْرِكُونَ
57. “Verily those, who from fear of their Lord are cautious, ”
58. “And those who believe in the Signs of their Lord, ”
59. “And those who do not associate (aught) with their Lord, ”
Fear based on cognizant with a view to Allah’s grandeur is a means towards development.
After negating the conjectures of those who are mostly self-conceited and ignorant, the Qur’an turns to the state of the believers and those who compete in doing good and then it describes their main characteristics.
At first, it says:
“Verily those, who from fear of their Lord are cautious, ”
It is notable that the Qur’anic word /xašyat/ does not mean just any kind of fear, but the kind of fear that is associated with kindness and respect.
In view of the fact that ‘khashyat’ is related to the heart whereas ‘ishfaq’ is related to action, the reason why this type of cause and effect is mentioned in the verse will be made clear.
The verse in fact implies that the believers are those in whose hearts the fear based upon Allah’s grandeur is found, and its effects become manifested in ftieir deeds and in their observance of the Divine commands.
In other words, the area where ‘khashiyat’ is perfected is the realm of ‘ishfaq’ wherekhashiyat influences behavior and disposes one to fulfil one’s religious duties and refrain from sin.
The next verse says:
“And those who believe in the Signs of their Lord, ”
This is to say, to have faith in the verses of Allah which is to believe in the Holy Qur’an. All of the Qur’an is the word of Allah from the ‘ba’ of the /bismillah/ of the first Sura to the ‘seen’ of ‘an Nas’, the last Sura totally have been sent to the Messenger of Allah (S), and all of its commandments must be obeyed.
The third verse indicates that the true believers affirm the sublimity and transcendence of Allah above any kind of similarity or association.
“And those who do not associate (aught) with their Lord, ”
This means that they are pure monotheists. In fact, the negation of polytheism is a result and an effect of believing in the signs of Allah. In other words, having faith in the signs of Allah refers to the Divine positive characteristics and the negation of polytheism refers to His negative characteristics. Polytheism in this verse refers to any kind of polytheism whether hidden or open.
وَالَّذِينَ يُؤْتُونَ مَآ ءَاتَوْا وَقُلُوبُهُمْ وَجِلَةٌ أَنَّهُمْ إِلَي رَبّـِهِمْ رَاجِعُونَ
60. “And those who give what they give (in charity) while their hearts are full of fear that they must (finally) return unto their Lord, ”
The Arabic word /wajilah/ means worry and anxiety. The believer is afraid of Allah because he will have to stand before Him on the Day of Resurrection.
(“...with hearts afraid...”)
This verse mentions the stage of belief in the Resurrection and its effect upon the behaviour and the special attention of the true believers to Resurrection in practice when it occupies a central place in their thoughts.
The verse indicates that those who try their best to obey Allah in giving people their due and are aware that they will soon return to their Lord, feel guilt and fear that they might not have adequately performed their obligations.
The verse says:
“And those who give what they give (in charity) while their hearts are full of fear that they must (finally) return unto their Lord, ”
They are not like those who lack foresight, have low ambition, and think that they are the favorites and are among the near stationed of Allah and fall in a surprising state of personality because of doing some small good deed, and think themselves better than others.
The true believers, on the contrary, when they do even the best of good deeds that might equal the worship of Jinn and man together, they say, as Imam Ali (as) said:
“Alas! Long is the journey of the Hereafter and small the supplies.”
These verses indicate that man’s spiritual perfection is realized in five stages:
1. The knowledge and gnosis which are the causes of fear:
(“...who from fear of their Lord are cautious, ”)28
2. Enduring and profound belief in that which Allah has revealed:
(“...who believe in...”) 29
3. Avoidance of all kinds of polytheism, both the hidden and the apparent ones:
(“...who do not associate (aught) with their Lord...”)30
4. Charitableness in what Allah (s.w.t.) has bestowed upon a human being
(“...give what they give (in charity)...”) 31
5. Lack of conceit and, in its stead, concern that whatever good one had done one might not have been adequately sincere, or that it might have been rejected by his Lord or that one’s duty might have been something else rendering him unable to answer Allah on the Day of Judgment
(“...while their hearts are full of fear...”)
اُوْلَئِكَ يُسَارِعُونَ فِي الْخَيْرَاتِ وَهُمْ لَهَا سَابِقُونَ
61. “These (are they who) hasten in good things and they are the foremost to (attain) them.”
Fear of Allah and the Hereafter makes us hasten to do good deeds.
In the commentary of verse 56, it was said that some people think that having wealth and offspring are the cause of happiness and would make them hasten in doing good deeds. However, this verse implies that haste in doing good comes from knowledge, faith, sincerity, and charity accompanied by apprehension, and not what they imagine.
Contrary to what those who are ignorant and conceited think, real happiness and prosperity are not things possessed by the wealthy and affluent. Goodness, prosperity and Divine favour belong to that group of believers who are qualified with the aforementioned specialties and are outstanding in their morals and beliefs and thus are pioneers in doing good deeds.
The verse says:
“These (are they who) hasten in good things and they are the foremost to (attain) them.”
These couple of verses have an obvious and interesting logical progression that describe the attributes of this special group of believers: First, it starts with the fear of Allah born out of respect for Him.
This is the motivating factor that makes them submit to Him and, negate all forms of polytheism. It ends with having faith in the Day of Resurrection and Allah’s Court of Justice, which causes us to do good deeds and to take responsibility for the quality of those deeds.
The Qur’anic word /yusari’una/ means outstripping others in speed. This interesting word expresses the state of believers who race in competing for a great and precious objective and indicates the relentlessness of the competitors in acts of goodness and righteous deeds.
وَلاَ نُكَلّـِفُ نَفْساً إِلاَّ وُسْعَهَا وَلَدَيْنَا كِتَابٌ يَنطِقُ بِالْحَقِّ وَهُمْ لاَ يُظْلَمُونَ
62. “And We do not task a soul but to the extent of its ability, and with Us is Record which clearly speaks the truth, and they will not be dealt with unjustly.”
In Islamic jurisprudence there is a rule based on this verse called: ‘the negation of distress and constriction’, which governs all Islamic rulings and holds priority over them. It means that when an obligation causes intolerable hardship, that obligation becomes nullified.
The duties are not the same for all individuals. Everyone’s obligations are related to his or her physical, intellectual, and resource capabilities. Allah does not expect the obligations of the poor to be the same as that of the rich.
The verse says:
“And We do not task a soul but to the extent of its ability, …”
The special attributes of the believers mentioned in the previous verses, that are the sources of all their good deeds, bring this question forth that not anyone can acquire such attributes nor all individuals have the ability of doing them.
The verse implies that Allah never obliges a person to do more than his power and strength but He expects everyone to do as much as his intelligence and capability can accomplish.
Divine duties and prescripts are in accordance with human strength and capability and whenever a duty exceeds one’s power, one becomes exempt from that duty and as the scholars of methodology say, this method governs all Islamic ordinances and is prior to them.
It might be asked how will the deeds, big or small, of all human beings be reckoned?
The verse says:
“...and with Us is a Record which clearly speaks the truth, and they will not be dealt with unjustly.”
This refers to the Record in which all of man’s deeds are recorded and stands before Allah. It seems that this Record can speak and tell the truth in such a way that it is not possible to deny.
Another probability is that this Record is the Protected Tablet (al Lawh ul Mahfuz); moreover, the Qur’anic phrase /ladayna/ (‘with Us’) confirms the latter interpretation.
The verse, however, indicates the fact that every single deed of ours will be accurately recorded and none of them will be forgotten. Belief in this fact encourages the righteous to do good deeds and dissuades them from doing wrong.
The Qur’anic sentence ‘which speaks the truth' shows that the Record of man’s deeds is so plain and convincing that it does not need to be explained. As we have said before, it is as if the Record itself would speak and reiterate truths without the necessity of reading it.
The Qur’anic sentence:
‘...they will not be dealt with unjustly.’
refers to the fact that there will be no injustice when people are punished or rewarded for their deeds which are recorded accurately.
بَلْ قُلُوبُهُمْ فِي غَمْرَةٍ مِنْ هَذَا وَلَهُمْ أَعْمَالٌ مِن دُونِ ذَلِكَ هُمْ لَهَا عَامِلُونَ
63. “But their hearts are in overwhelming ignorance of this (Record), and they have, besides that, other deeds which they are doing;”
The previous verses spoke about the righteous, but this verse concerns the unbelievers, whose actions differ from those of the righteous, and the Arabic word /bal/ (but) at the beginning is for the transition of the matter.
The Arabic word /qamrah/ (here translated as ‘in ignorance’)means the water or the whirlpool mat engulfs man. Thus we get the impression that they are immersed in ignorance that penetrates their very souls.
Since the statement of truth only influences those who are some how awake and aware, the verse immediately adds implying that the hearts of this group of obstinate infidels have sank so deeply in ignorance that they are heedless of the Record of the deeds, on the Day of Reckoning and Retribution, and of whatever the Qur’an mentions about the Divine promise.
The verse says:
“But their hearts are in overwhelming ignorance of this (Record)...”
To be overwhelmed by ignorance and unawareness does not let them see these truths clearly which would have awoken their consciences and, perhaps, make them return to Allah.
Interpreters have various opinions about the meaning of the rest of the verse, which says:
“...and they have, besides that, other deeds which they are doing;”
Some say that it refers to the wrong deeds they do because of ignorance. (Thus the word /alika/ here, translated as ‘that’, refers to their ignorance.) The Arabic word /’a‘mal/ (deeds) refers to the sins that they commit because of this very ignorance.
Other commentators say that the verse means that not only do they not believe in the true doctrine but that they are also from the point of action very corrupt. Yet others say that the verse means that the program and conduct of the unbelievers are completely different from those of the believers, so they follow two different paths.
In the final analysis, these apparently different interpretations are not inconsistent and can be reconciled with each other. What is important is that the source and cause of their evil deeds is the fact that their hearts are steeped in ignorance and unawareness.
حَتّي إِذَآ أَخَذْنَا مُتْرَفِيهِم بِالْعَذَابِ إِذَا هُمْ يَجْاَرُونَ
لاَ تَجْاَرُوا الْيَوْمَ إِنَّكُم مِنَّا لاَ تُنصَرُونَ
64. “Until, when We seize the luxurious ones of them with punishment, behold, they groan.”
65. “ (It will be said to them:) ‘Groan not this day! Surely you will not be helped by Us!”
The Qur’anic word /yaj’arun/ means the howl of a dog or wolf when the animal is hurt. The likening of the groans of the tranquil negligent ones to the howl of a dog is a sign of their abjectness because of their worldly intoxication.
No other means except the Divine Punishment can awaken this conceited proud and tranquil group that is drowning in the pleasures of the world. Until such a time they will remain ignorant and negligent wallowing in their wealth, power and comforts when they are punished, and at that time they will howl like beasts, and they groan because of the heaviness of the Divine chastisement.
The verse says:
“Until, when We seize the luxurious ones of them with punishment, behold, they groan.”
The next verse, addressing them, implies: Groan not in supplication this day! Verily you will not be helped by Us!
“ (It will be said to them:) 'Groan not this day! Surely you will not be helped by Us!”
Of course the wrongdoers are not limited to the ‘mutrafin’:
(‘...those who receive the good things of this world ...’),
who are mentioned here, it is either because they are the chiefs and leaders of ignorance and deviation, or it is because their punishment will be more painful and severe.
The punishment mentioned here may be the punishment in this world, in the Hereafter or in both, and when Allah punishes them in this world or in the Hereafter they will cry loudly and supplicate. But at that time the dice has already been cast and the chastisement has been decided, so they will not be able to return.
Imam Sadiq (as) says:
“Allah, The Blessed and The Exalted, has sworn that three groups have no place in Paradise: The group that rejects the commandments of Allah, the Almighty and Glorious; the group that does not obey the command of the leading Imam, and the group that does not give a believer his due.”32
قَدْ كَانَتْ ءَايَاتِي تُتْلَي عَلَيْكُمْ فَكُنتُمْ عَلَي أَعْقَابِكُمْ تَنكِصُون
مُسْتَكْبِرِينَ بِهِ سَامِراً تَهْجُرُونَ
66. “Indeed My Signs used to be rehearsed to you, but you used to turn back on your heels, ”
67. “In arrogance: talking nonsense about it (the Qur’an), discoursing foolishly by night.”
Ignoring the prophets is not a sign of development and progress; rather it causes deterioration and regression. Divine rules and prescripts are essential to attaining perfection, and ignoring them causes our downfall,
(“...you used to turn back on your heels.”)
This holy verse actually tells us the primary cause of their ominous fate. It indicates that in former times Allah’s Signs used to be rehearsed to you, but (instead of learning a lesson from them) you used to turn back on your heels.
The holy verse says:
“Indeed My Signs used to be rehearsed to you, but you used to turn back on your heels, ”
The Qur’anic word /tankisun/ (here, turn back on ones heels) is derived from the word /nakas/ and means to regress or retreat. And the Arabic word /‘a’qab/ is the plural form of /‘aqib/ which means the heel of the foot. The whole sentence means that when some people hear something that they are abhorrent of, they get so disturbed that they turn back on their beefs and go back in retreat.
The next verse means that not only do they turned back by hearing the verses of Allah, but they also maintained an arrogant and dismissive attitude towards the object of their revulsion as well. Moreover, they used to hold their nightly gatherings and vilify the Prophet (S), The Holy Qur’an, and the believers.
The Qur’an continues saying:
“In arrogance: talking nonsense about it (the Qur’an), foolishly by night.”
The Arabic word /samiran/ is derived from the word /samar/ which means a chat or conversation at night. Some interpreters have said that the actual meaning of this word is ‘the reflection of the moon at night’, in which darkness and light blend into each other.
This word is used for a nighttime conversation under the moonlight. It has been narrated that the Arab polytheists used to gather around the Ka‘bah on moonlit nights and talk against the Prophet (S). In Arabic, a dark or wheat colored person is described as /samra’/, for whiteness and blackness is mixed in him.
The Arabic word /tahjurun/ (talking nonsense) is derived from the word /hajr/ which originally means ‘to keep away from’ or to desert. It also means the delirious speech of a sick person whose words are, in that state, unpleasant and cause others go away. The Arabic word /hujr/, which is also related to that word, means obscene language that makes others leave the speaker.
This latter meaning is meant in the above verse. It means they sat up until late at nights and, as sick ones, they talked in delivian and obscene language.
This is the way and method of the people who are weak, despicable, and lacking in intelligence. They do not choose to express their views in public in the light of day, and do not rely on their intellect and reason. Instead, they cowardly choose the darkness of the night when people are sleeping and cannot see them to vilify others, console each other and advance their evil aims.
The Holy Qur’an implies that the reason for their misery and punishment was that they were not brave enough to accept The Truth, refusing to submit to the Signs of Allah in humility and they did not treat the Prophet (S) with reason and respect. If they did they could find the path of the truth.
أَفَلَمْ يَدَّبَّرُوا الْقَوْلَ أَمْ جَآءَهُم مَّا لَمْ يَأْتِ ءَابَآءَهُمُ الاَوَّلِينَ
أَمْ لَمْ يَعْرِفُوا رَسُولَهُمْ فَهُمْ لَهُ مُنِكِرُونَ
أَمْ يَقُولُونَ بِهِ جِنَّةٌ بَلْ جَآءَهُم بِالْحَقِّ وَأَكْثَرُهُمْ لِلْحَقِ كَارِهُونَ
68. “Have they not pondered over the statement (of the Qur’an), or has anything come to them that did not come to their fathers of old?”
69. “Or do they not recognize their Messenger, that they reject him?”
70. “Or do they say: 'There is a madness in him’? Rather he has brought them the Truth, but most of them hate the Truth.”
The first cause of a people’s misfortune and misery is when they cease to think and reflect. Not only is the Holy Qur’an a book for recitation but it is a book for contemplation and reflection as well, and anyone who will ponder its words will discover its profound truths.
The former holy verses spoke about the excuses that the unbelievers made to justify their deeds, and the firm answer to them.
These verses concisely show five real reasons why the unbelievers shunned the truth:
First, the Qur’an says:
“Have they not pondered over the statement (of the Qur’an)...”
Following the previous verses which were about the unbelievers’ opposition against the Prophet (S), the first cause of their misery is that they did not think and ponder over the content of the Prophet’s call; were it the opposite, their problems would no longer have existed.
Secondly it says:
“...or has anything come to them that did not come to their fathers of old?”
This indicates that when the Prophet (S) had invited them to the belief in the Oneness of Allah, the belief in the Resurrection, and to good deeds and purity, they would make excuses that these were ideas too novel for them to accept, and that if they had been true, Allah Who is merciful to all human beings, would have revealed them to their ancestors.
However, when we consider the fact that the Prophet's message is the same in principle and origin as that of the previous prophets, this excuse becomes devoid of meaning.
The fourth reason that they proffered for shunning the truth is as the next verse says:
“Or do they not recognize their Messenger, that they reject him?”
They behaved as if the Prophet (S) was someone unknown to them and thus they were rather reluctant to give credence to his message. But they had known him quite well, for he had been among them for his whole life and was so faithful to his covenants and word that he gained fame among them as ‘the Trustworthy’ in Arabic, ‘Al Amin’.
They confessed to his knowledge and reason. His parents and his tribe were known for them. Again, this excuse lost its validity in the light of this verse.
The fifth excuse they advanced for rejecting the Prophet's message is mentioned in the verse which says:
“Or do they say: ‘There is a madness in him’?...”
This means mat although they might have known him well, they did not have confidence in the soundness of his intellect.
It was possible that his words could have been produced by madness, for they did not accord with public opinion; and disregarding the traditions is itself a reason for madness.
The Holy Qur’an refutes all of these excuses of theirs by immediately saying:
“...Rather he has brought them the Truth, but most of them hate the Truth.”
These are the words of wisdom but, because the wise words of the Qur’an were not in accord with their uncontrolled passions, they denied them and labeled them insane.
It is for this reason that the enemies of religion sully and scandalize the personalities of those close to Allah in order to preserve their corrupt ideologies. However, the truth must be proclaimed even though the majority of society might be averse to it.
وَلَوِ اتَّبَعَ الْحَقُّ أَهْوَآءَهُمْ لَفَسَدَتِ السَّمَاوَاتُ وَالأَرْضُ وَمَن فِيهِنَّ بَلْ أَتَيْنَاهُم بِذِكْرِهِمْ فَهُمْ عن ذِكْرِهِم مُعْرِضُونَ
71. “And if the Truth had followed their low desires, certainly the heavens and the earth, and whoever therein would have perished! Rather, We have sent them their Reminder (the Qur’an), but they turn away from their Reminder.”
If the Truth accorded with people’s desires, the order of existence would be destroyed for people’s desires, even the desires of one person, never remain constant in different points of time.
Therefore, this noble verse says:
“And if the Truth had followed their low desires, certainly the heavens and the earth, and whoever therein would have perished!...”
This situation is because reason is not the only factor that determines people’s motivations and desires for, in many cases, people also follow their evil passions. If the rules of existence were in conformity with these deviant drives, chaos, anarchy and corruption would prevail over the whole world!
In order to emphasize more this matter, the verse says:
“...Rather, We have sent them their Reminder (the Qur’an), but they turn away from their Reminder.”33
أَمْ تَسْاَلُهُمْ خَرْجاً فَخَرَاجُ رَبّـِكَ خَيْرٌ وَهُوَ خَيْرُ الرَّازِقِينَ
وَإِنَّكَ لَتَدْعُوهُمْ إِلَي صِرَاطٍ مُسْتَقِيمٍ
72. “Or is it that you ask them a recompense? But the recompense of your Lord is the best: He is the Best of the sustainers.”
73. “And verily you call them unto the Straight Way.”
The Arabic word /xarj/ means that which is consumed, however ‘kharaj’ means a fixed amount determined as a tax or rent on land.34
One must not ask for money to propagate religion. Allah is the One Who guarantees the sustenance of those who do that. This holy verse implies that whether the excuse of their escape from the truth was that the holy Prophet (S) might ask a recompense from them for his call, while the recompense of Allah would certainly be better, ands He is the Best for giving sustenance.
The verse says:
“Or is it that you ask them a recompense? But the recompense of your Lord is the best: He is the Best of the sustainers.”
Undoubtedly if a spiritual leader asks people for material reward and recompense for his call, not only would he provide an excuse for some pretext seekers to avoid him because of not having the financial resources, but he could also be accused of using his call to the Truth as a business to earn a living.
Furthermore, what does this human being have to give to another? Is not all sustenance in the hands of Allah, the Provider and the All-Powerful? The previous verses, however, have already shown that the five major excuses that these blind-hearted people advanced to avoid yielding to the Truth and justified their opposition with only unfounded pretexts.
The Qur’an here illustrates the sincerity of the Prophet (S) and the truth of his call; it is that he does not seek any material gain from the people. If he did so, it would have provided one more excuse for the obstinate unbelievers to use against him.
As a general conclusion, the next verse says:
“And verily you call them unto the Straight Way.”
It is ‘the Straight Way’ whose signs are obvious for those who do not blind themselves and soon it will be evident to those who are not minute.
We know that the Straight Way is the shortest distance between two points and is the only way, but there are endless divergent paths to its left and right.
In some narrations ‘the Straight Way’ has been interpreted to mean the guardianship of Imam Ali (as)35, but as we have said may times such narrations are the statement of some of the clear examples of the original meaning and they never contrast the existence of other examples, such as: the Qur’an, belief in Allah, Resurrection, Holy war, and justice.
وإِنَّ الَّذِينَ لاَ يُؤْمِنُونَ بِالاَخِرَةِ عَنِ الصّـِرَاطِ لَنَاكِبُونَ
74. “And verily those who do not believe in the Hereafter are deviating from the Way.”
Having faith in the Resurrection keeps us upon the Straight Way, and the lack of faith in the Resurrection makes us deviate from it.
That is why, the Qur’an in this verse says:
“And verily those who do not believe in the Hereafter are deviating from the Way.”
The Arabic word /nakib/ is derived from the words /nakab/ and /nakub/ meaning deviation and turning back the world.
It is clear that the purpose of ‘the Way’, mentioned in this verse, is ‘the Straight Way’ which was mentioned in the former verse.
Certainly he who deviates from ‘the Straight Way’ in this world will deviate from the way that leads to Paradise in the Hereafter and will fall into Hell, for whatever a person has in Hereafter are the direct results of his actions in the world.
The verse stresses the relation of lack of faith in the Hereafter to deviation from the Way of Truth. This is because man does not feel any sense of responsibility when he does not believe in the Resurrection.
Imam Ali (as) said:
“Allah has appointed us, (the religious leaders), as His gates (towards realizing His gnosis) and His path and His way by which (people can) reach Him. Thus, those who deviate from our guardianship or prefer others over us verily they are diverging from the Way of the Truth.”36
Here are some characteristics and qualities of the religious leaders extracted from the former verses.
These Divine leaders were known for their goodness and their kindnesses.
If they were as unknown and mysterious, as the verse says:
“Or do they not recognize their messenger, that they reject him?”37
The hypocrites would have had an excuse to dismiss their known Divine call because they would have been unknown to them.
In the course of their missions, they have never yielded to the desires and whims of people, unlike today where leaders are expected to submit to public opinion. They remained steady in propagating the doctrine of the Truth, even though it might not have pleased a large number of people.
In addition, they did not ask for any material reward for their mission and bore all kinds of deprivation, for relying on others for their sustenance would have constricted their freedom of thought and language to present the Divine message.
So only the Prophet’s Family (Ahl-ul-Bayt) (as) possess these noble qualities, therefore the Prophet (S) said:
“The likeness of my Ahl-ul-Bayt (progeny) is similar to Noah’s Ark; those who embark upon this ship will be saved, and those who do not embark upon it will be drowned.”
This tradition has been narrated by one hundred of great Sunni scholars, and among the Shi‘ite scholars, it has gained the state of successive transmission. It has been mentioned in the following books: Al-Ghadir, Vol. 4, P. 177, Ihqaq ul-Haqq, part 9, P. 270, and Nafahat ul-’Azhar fi Khulasah ‘Abaqat ul-’Anwar38 part 4, P. 11.
In this context, there is another famous tradition that has been successively transmitted by Shi‘ites and Sunnis: Jabir ibn ‘Abdullah-i-’Ansari said:
‘O Messenger of Allah, we have known Allah and His Apostle; then who is ’Ulul-’Amr, those that Allah has made their obedience the same as your obedience?’
Then, the Prophet (S) said:
‘O Jabir! they are, after me, my successors and the Guides of Muslims; the first of them is Ali-ibn-Abitalib; then (Imam) Hassan, and (Imam) Hussayn; then Ali-ibn-il-Hussayn; then Mohammad-ibn-Ali; known in the Turah as Baqir, whom you will see.
O Jabir! when you visit him, give my regards to him. After him, there is Sadiq, - Ja‘far-ibnMuhammad; and after him Musa-ibn-Ja‘far; then Ali-ibn-Musa; then Muhammad-ibn-Ali; then Ali-ibn-Muhammad, then Hassan-ibn-Ali; and after him (there comes) Al-Gha’im, whose name and sir-name is the same as mine.
He is Allah’s Authority on the Earth and His Remainder amongst His servants. He is the son of (Imam) Hassan-ibn-Ali (al-‘Askari).
This is the very personality by whose hands Allah will open the Easts and the Wests of the worlds, and this is the very personality who will be absent from his followers and his lovers in which his mastership can not be proved by a statement of anyone except for the one whose heart Allah tests for Faith.”
This tradition has been quoted in the Commentary of Sura An-Nisa’, No. 4, verse 59. Again39, this tradition has been narrated in Manhaj us-Sadiqin, The Great Commentary, and other commentaries such as Safi, Majma‘ ul-Bayan, Burhan, Nur-uth-Thaqalayn, Jawami‘-ul-Jami‘, and so on. Moreover Sunnis have also narrated this tradition: you can refer to Ihqaq ul-Haqq, Vol. 3, P. 425, and Fakhr-i-Razi’s commentary after the above-mentioned verse, Yanabi‘ ul Mawaddah, P. 117, Faraid us-Samtayn by Hamwini, Vol. 1, P. 312 Al-Ghadir by the Late Amini, ‘Abaqat ul-’Anwar, and other books by Sunnis and Shi‘ites.
Also we read in Yanabi‘-ul-Mawaddah narrated from the book Mawaddat al-Qurba by Sayyid Ali Hamadani Shafe‘i that Abuthar Ghaffari said that the Prophet (S) said:
“Ali is the gate of my knowledge. After me he will tell my people what has been sent to me. After me, loving him is to have faith, being hostile towards him will be hypocrisy, and looking at him with affection will be worship.”
This tradition has been narrated by Daylami in Firdaus al-Akhbar, Hamwini in Fara’id-us-Samtayn, and Ibn Maghazili Shafi‘i in Manaqib.
It has been cited in the Book of Wasilah, and Nuzul-us-Sa’rin fi Ahadith Sayyid-ul-Mursalin from Umm-us-Salamah, the Prophet’s wife who said that the Prophet (S) said:
“Ali ibn Abi Talib (as) and his Shiites will be successful on the Day of Resurrection”
This tradition has been narrated by Hamwini Shafi‘i in Fara’id us-Samtayn, chapter 21 and Manawi in Kunuz-ul-Haqa’iq, in the margin of Jami‘-us-Saqir, Vol. 2, P. 21 by Suyuti, and Sibt ibn Jawzi in Tathkirah Khawas ul-’A’immah, P. 31, and Kharazmi in Manaqib, P. 66, have narrated it from Umm-us-Salamah. It has also been narrated in the book The Explanation of Jami‘-us-Saqir and the book Suyuti, Vol. 2, P. 21
وَلَوْ رَحِمْنَاهُمْ وَكَشَفْنَا مَا بِهِم مِن ضُرٍّ لَّلَجُّواْ فِي طُغْيَانِهِمْ يَعْمَهُونَ
75. “If We had mercy on them and removed the distress which is on them, they would obstinately persist in their transgression, blindly wandering on.”
In the books of commentary on titled: Kanz ul-Daqa’iq and Ruh ul-Bayan, we read that once there had been a famine in Mecca and Abu Sufyan asked the Prophet (S) to pray. The Prophet (S) prayed and because of this the famine ended, then this verse was revealed.
Wealth and comfort are manifestations of Divine mercy, but unbelieving men misuse their opportunities and respites.
The Qur’an says:
(“...those who believe not in the Hereafter... would obstinately persist in their transgression.”)
The previous verses spoke of the various excuses that the deniers of the Truth made to disobey the call of the prophets. In these verses Allah talks about awakening them and giving them the final argument.
The verse indicates that first of all Allah bestows blessings upon them to awake. Then it implies that even if Allah showers blessings upon them and keeps away waves of disaster from them, they are so impure that they persist in their disobedience and they remain wandered in this field.
The verse says:
“If We had mercy on them and removed the distress which is on them, they would obstinately persist in their transgression, blindly wandering on.”
وَلَقَدْ أَخَذْنَاهُم بِالْعَذَابِ فَمَا اسْتَكَانُوا لِرَبّـِهِمْ وَمَا يَتَضَرَّعُونَ
76. “And indeed We inflicted chastisement on them, but they were not submissive unto their Lord, nor do they humble themselves, ”
An Islamic tradition says that the Arabic word /’istikanat/ means ‘to humble oneself’, and the word /tadarru‘/ means ‘to raise the hands in supplication’.
The previous verse was about the obstinate unbelievers, indicating that if Allah had mercy on them they would obstinate and do not improve themselves. It indicates Allah grasped them with punishment, but they did not humble themselves unto their Lord, because: there is often no use in preaching to a black hearted one.
The verse also implies that sometimes they were taught a lesson through calamities to be on their guard but they had no effect upon them.
The verse says:
“And indeed We inflicted chastisement on them, but they were not submissive unto their Lord, nor do they humble themselves, ”
The Qur’anic word /tadarru‘/ is derived from the Arabic word /dara‘a/, which means to grasp an udder, and the word /tadarru‘/ means the one who milks. This word has been extended to mean the yielding associated with humility.
Thus the verse implies that these catastrophic events did not remove them from the state of conceit and transgression and they did not submit the truth.
If some narrations say that the word /tadarru‘/ means raising the hands at the time of prayer and supplication, this is actually expressing one of the extensions of this vast meaning.
حَتَّي إِذَا فَتَحْنَا عَلَيْهِم بَاباً ذَا عَذَابٍ شَدِيدٍ إِذَا هُمْ فِيهِ مُبْلِسُونَ
77. “Until, when We open against them a gate of severe chastisement, behold! They will get into despair at it.”
The Arabic word /mublis/ is derived from the word /iblas/, which means the grief and sorrow that overcomes man after a severely traumatic and bitter event that usually makes him silent, astonished and full of despair. Of course, the gates of Divine chastisement are closed to us, but our obstinacy and stubbornness towards the Truth cause Allah to open these gates to us.
The following principles are observed in all the stages of education to which Allah subjects man:
1. He behaves kindly and gracefully with him.
2. He punishes him in order to admonish him.
3. He often inflicts ultimate punishment upon him causing misery and helplessness
(“...a severe chastisement...”)
That is why the Qur’an in this verse indicates that Allah continues giving them these favours, blessings and awakening chastisements when they continue their disobedience and their obstinacy.
Until when, as the verse says:
“Until, when We open against them a gate of severe chastisement, behold! They will get into despair at it.”
In fact, Allah inflicts two kinds of punishment:
A) Punishments that teach
B) Punishments that obliterate and cause despair Punishments that teach put man into troubles so that he can experience his weakness and incapability and stop being conceited.
Punishments that obliterate are inflicted upon incorrigible people to root them out, for they have no right to live in this system. They are thorns in the path of human perfection and must be eliminated.
With regard to the objective of the Qur’anic phrase,
“...a gate of severe chastisement...”
there are different views among the commentators:
Some say that it is death and the punishment of the Day of Resurrection respectively.
Some others say that it refers to the severe famine that had afflicted the unbelievers for some years due to the Prophet’s (S) curse. Staple items of food became very scarce and the people had to eat things that none like to consume them in normal case.
Some say that it refers to the painful punishment particular to the incorrigible ones that the Muslim fighters inflicted upon the unbelievers in War of Badr.
Another possibility is that it does not refer to any special group, but is a general rule governing Divine punishments that start with mercy and are then followed by punishments that educate people and, finally, ending up with punishments that obliterate.
- 1. Wasa’il-ush-Shi’ah, Vol. 4. Abwab ud Du‘a’. Bab 67, tradition 4
- 2. Bihar Vol. 11, p. 58
- 3. Sura Al- Baqara, No. 2, verse 172
- 4. Sura Fatir, No. 35, verse 10
- 5. Sura ’Isra’, No. 17, verse 70
- 6. The commentary of Qurtuby, Vol. 7, following this verse
- 7. Maraqy, the commentary
- 8. Bihar, Vol. 100, p. 9
- 9. Safinat ul-Bihar, part ‘Halal’, p. 298
- 10. Bihar, Vol. 100, p. 170
- 11. Bihar, Vol. 100, p. 5
- 12. Bihar, Vol. 100, p. 9
- 13. Safinat ul-Bihar, part ‘Halal’, p. 298
- 14. Kanz ul-‘Ummal, Vol. 4, p. 5
- 15. Kanz ul-‘Ummal, Vol. 4, p. 5
- 16. Kanz ul-‘Ummal, Vol. 4, p. 5
- 17. Bihar, Vol. 100, p. 9
- 18. Furu‘ ul- Kafi, Vol. 5, p. 125
- 19. Safinat ul-Bihar, part ‘Haram’, p. 244
- 20. Bihar, Vol. 100, p. 16
- 21. Safinah, p. 244, and Wasa’il, Vol. 6, p. 16
- 22. Majmueh Warram
- 23. Madynat ul-Balaqah, Vol. 2, p. 479
- 24. Qurar ul-Hikam, Vol. 1, p. 60
- 25. Mishkat ul-’Anwar, p. 388
- 26. Sura Al-Zukhruf, No. 43, verse 23
- 27. Sura Noah, No. 71, verse 7
- 28. verse 57
- 29. verse 58
- 30. verse 59
- 31. verse 60
- 32. Mizan ul-Hikmah, p. 806, narrated from Saduq’s khisal
- 33. Using the Arabic phrase/ǒikrihim/ can be interpreted as reminding them or awakening them. It may also mean their respect, honor, and their remembrance in human society.
- 34. Mufradat by Raqib
- 35. Nur-uth-Thaqalqyn, The commentary, Vol. 3, p. 548 and Safi, The commentary
- 36. ‘Usul Kafi, narrated from Nur-uth-Thaqalayn, Vol. 3, p. 549
- 37. The Current Sura, Verse 69
- 38. by Sayyid Ali Hussayni Milani
- 39. “O you who have faith! Obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those charged with authority (‘Ulu-l-’Amr) among you …”