Surah Al-Baqarah, no 2
In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.
That Book, there is no doubt in it, is a guide to those who guard (against evil). (2)
Those who believe in the occult and keep up prayer and spend out of what we have given them. (3)
And who believe in that which has been revealed to you and that which was revealed before you and they are sure of the hereafter. (4)
These are on a right course from their Lord and these it is that shall be successful. (5)
Surely those who disbelieve it being alike to them whether you warn them, or do not warn them, will not believe. (6)
Allah has set a seal upon their hearts and upon their hearing and there is a covering over their eyes, and there is a great punishment for them. (7)
This Chapter, which is the longest in the Qur'an and comprises two and a half sections of it, is called the Cow because the story of Israelite Calf has been mentioned in it.
This Chapter, which was revealed in Medina, together with thirteen other chapters of the Qur'an, begins with abbreviations.
Some chapters begin with one letter such as the Chapters the Pen with N and Qaf with Q; some with two letters like YS, TH, TS; some with three letters like TSM, ALM; or four letters like ALMR, and some with five letters like HMASQ or KHIAS.
This is peculiar to the Qur'an, and no other book, either divine or non-divine begins a chapter with abbreviations. What is the purpose of these abbreviations? This question has been asked since early days of Islam, but no definite answer has been given to it. Some of the views expressed thus far will be mentioned here.
Some believe that these are secret symbols between the speaker and listener, namely, God and the Prophet, as something beyond the comprehension of command people. The example of it can be seen in codes arranged between two persons who do not desire others to know what the subject of their talk is.
Another view is that these abbreviations are the names of the chapters concerned.
A third opinion is that they are oaths, uttered in the name of the letters of alphabet as they are uttered in the Qur'an in the name of other manifestations of creation such as the sun, the moon, the stars, night, day, and human self.
When one swears to something it is in support of what he respects and the listener is aware of this respect. Therefore, literary men say that the oath affirms the truth of a true word, But sometimes, one swears to inform the listener of his own respect for someone or something.
The oaths of the Qur'an are of the second type, and swearing to the sun and moon, or olive, or fig is intended to show to human beings the importance of the subject in question.
One of the most important things that has played a basic role in human culture and civilisation are the alphabets. The sounds which take the form of letters play a significant part in human social life. Animals, too, have sounds, but they cannot make letters out of them. If man were unable to turn the sounds into letters (like the dumb) he could not speak and communicate his ideas to another, and as a result, no knowledge, technique or civilisation would have appeared. Even the act of writing which is a blessing and has been sworn to in the Qur’an, has appeared after speech. If we can write the letters separately, it is because we can pronounce them separately. Without letters, we would have had to depend upon drawing, but we know that it is not possible to draw the shape of everything.
Still another view is that these abbreviations point to the miracle of the Qur'an in the sense that Arabic language with 28 letters, as against many other languages with numerous letters even numbering up to three hundred, has been able to produce such a fine Book. The alphabets are like warps and woofs, but can all weavers produce something artistic with them? The answer is no.
Written skills such as books, essays, odes and lyrics are all the woven products of these letters, but they vary in terms of beauty and excellence.
We will later come across verses in the Qur'an that challenge all men of letters to produce something like the Qur'an.
The Qur'an, by mentioning these letters of the alphabet as an example, wants to introduce the raw materials of its verses, challenging the people to offer something similar if they can. Here you have the tools and raw materials at your disposal, but the miracle of the Qur'an is that something is produced by an unlettered and unschooled man which is unrivalled.
Another matter which figured and was published a few years ago concerning these abbreviations of the Qur'an was that an Egyptian computer expert had made an exact calculation about the fourteen chapters which begin with these abbreviations, and concluded that the letters of abbreviation in the case of each chapter have a greater predominance in proportion to other letters, an accurate calculation that is only possible with the aid of a computer.
There is also another probability about this topic which is explained below. An issue which has been the subject of discussion since olden times is: What has enjoyed priority in the system of existence? Some say that words have appeared first, by which they mean thought and comprehension, since words represent thought. The next view is that matter and nature have appeared first, and gradually there have surfaced ideas and understanding, and lastly words have come on the scene.
Between these two views, the Qur'an has accepted the first one, as illustrated by the following verse in connection with creation:
"His command, when He intends anything, is only to say to it, 'Be', so it is". (Chapter Yasin, Verse 82.)
This means that there is speech first, and then creatures.
Here the word speech is not only a sound or word, but something more perfect and comprehensive. It seems then that with these abbreviations, God describes His method of beginning action, namely: speech, thought, matter, and nature.
In any case, these abbreviations belong to the analogous matters of the Qur'an, especially if we agree with the first view that they are secret symbols between God and the Prophet.
You see that it says 'That Book' and not 'This Book', which in Arabic language indicates greatness by using the pronoun 'that' instead of 'this'.
What does 'there is no doubt in it' mean? What doubt? We know, of course that there are people who are doubtful about the genuineness of the Qur'an as illustrated by the following verse in the same Chapter:
"And if you are in doubt as to that which We have revealed to Our servant, then produce a Chapter like it" (Chapter "The Cow", Verse 23).
In answer, I must say that while reading a book you wonder whether the contents of it are true or not, and in order to make sure of them you must trace out and enquire into the sources mentioned in it.
But sometimes it is proved in a tangible way that there is no need for any evidence and reason.
For example, if someone that you do not know is declared to be just, you feel doubtful about it and seek further evidence, and if two witnesses, whose fairness is known to you, affirm it, you accept the verdict.
But if you are completely familiar with someone, have studied his character under different conditions, and are sure of his chastity and fairness, you do not require any further evidence.
This is also true of theoretical and scientific matters. Sometimes, questions need proof and evidence, whereas others, being explicit, have no such need, and their presentation is equivalent to proof.
The Qur'an has an identical case. If a person is not familiar with it, he may have doubts about it, but an acquaintance with it removes all doubts.
It must, however, be kept in mind that there are two ways of familiarity with the Qur'an: One is reading and understanding it, and referring to its interpretations; and the second is to act upon it,
As the Qur'an is not only a theoretical book, but also a combination of theory and practice, therefore this verse tells those who doubt the Qur'an that they have a right to do so, for, they have neither studied it, not tried it in practice. But if they become familiar with it and feel its tangibility, they will have no doubt about its genuineness.
The first thing in understanding and familiarity with the Qur'an is to know as to why it has been sent and what its nature is, so that we may not doubt its genuineness. For, without knowing the object of a book, we cannot express an opinion about it.
What is the Qur'an, and what is it for? Is it a book of medicine, philosophy, history or mathematics? It is none of these. What is it, then? It is a book of guidance. Whom does it guide? Everyone? Is no one to go astray after the descent of the Qur'an, and are all forcefully guided? No, not only does the Qur'an not guide all beings, but some are even misled by it, as shown by Verse 26 of the same Chapter which says:
"He causes many to err by it and many He leads aright by it!"
Of course, He does not by means of the Qur'an mislead any but the sinful who have deviated from the path of human nature
Mowlavi says in his Mathnavi that fine points exalt competent men, but mislead incompetent ones, and says of the Qur'an that many were misled and went down a pit by its rope. He continues by saying that the rope has no fault, for, they had no wish to climb up by it.
The phrase "a guide to those who guard (against evil)" points to those who are chaste and have kept their original virtuous nature.
The Qur'an believes that every being is born clean and chaste in origin, but he may gradually be contaminated by the environment and deviated and completely metamorphosed.
So, here the Qur'an says that if anyone has preserved his original nature, he will be guided to his destination by this Book, and attain perfection in all his potential talents.
The first guidance of the Qur'an is to grant faith in the occult. This word and testimony are two frequently used words in the Qur'an.
In the Qur'an's view of universe, the world of existence is not limited to what is perceptible to us; the tangibles form only a thin layer of the greater universe beyond it. What is perceptible is called testimony and what is not is called the occult.
What the philosophers call nature are flowers, trees, fields, oceans, the galaxies, stars and, in short, everything that one sees, hears, smells and touches, all of which are related to testimony.
If existence had been limited to this, man's view of the world would have been a special one, and seeing the birth and death of a being, he would have concluded that this is the human life and he then would have had nothing to do with his beginning and end, or as to where he has come from and where he will go from here.
But the mission of the Qur'an is to bring man out of this narrow view and make him believe that what he witnesses is only a thin layer of existence and beyond it is a wide ocean of the infinite.
The best example of the occult for man is man's own existence. Our body is tangible for us and we are also aware of our own spirit. These two are testimony for us; but the spirit of others is not tangible for us and it is, therefore, occult. If you live life-long with someone, you only hear his voice, see his figure and touch his body, but his spirit is latent to you always, and if you learn of what passes through his mind, it is through his talk, and you can never know it directly.
In modern psychology, interestingly enough man is attributed to another occult hidden to himself which is called the unconscious. They say we have a conscious mind which shows thought and feelings, and an unconscious one which forms the bulk of our existence. Thus, most part of the man is occult with only a small part of it being overt.
The Qur'an says the same thing about this whole universe, and gives man a fresh view of universe. Angels, the eternal tablet, the Empyrean, and the heavens are all related to the occult, which cannot be negated simply because they are hidden from our eyes. We should rather believe that universe possesses an occult which our senses are unable to fathom, and we can only witness what is evident to us.
The second principle after a faith in occult, as enunciated by the Qur'an, is to keep up prayer. The first principle is related to the mental aspect and belief of a Muslim, the second one is connected with building up oneself, and the third one which is the principle of spending is related to society as will be explained later on.
Hence, we realise the importance of prayer, for it is one of the pillars of religion. If every school of thought has a particular scheme of its own for building up its followers, devotion is placed in Islam at the top of its educational program, and prayer at the top of devotion.
However, it should be remembered that the Qur'an does not say 'who recite prayer'; but it says 'who keep up prayer'. There is a difference between these two, and if 'reciting prayer' is sometimes interpreted from the Qur'an, it is intended as a reproach for being late in performing it.
It means doing justice to prayer, not performing it without spirit, but rather in such a way as to turn the attention of the worshipper to his God and Creator. This is the meaning of the Verse 14 in the Chapter Taha:
"Keep up prayer for My remembrance."
Remembering God is the equivalent of forgetting other things. If someone tells his secrets to God, begs for His aid, praises Him and gives Him His attributes of "He begets not, nor is He begotten, and none is like Him, and He is Unique, Beneficent, Merciful and Eternal", impressions of the highest degree are left on his mind, and his spirit is built up in the way Islam requires, which, without such a program, is impossible.
What is "spending"? It does not mean making oneself indigent, but to use what is stored up in order to eliminate poverty.
Spending establishes the individual's contact with society.
In above verse, the Qur'an says: They "spend out of what We have given them". Livelihood has a general meaning including both material and spiritual sustenance. Knowledge is also like a sustenance given by providence, and those who possess it, should let others benefit from it, too.
Some people may suppose the purpose of "spending" is to fill a vacuum in society, and so they declare that this task should be undertaken by the government, or by some organization to solve the problems of indigence and poverty, without any need for individual efforts.
But that is not true. The purpose of "spending" is "to be built up into real human beings", not to fill vacuums.
If a man, possessing something, can separate himself from it and become a symbol of God's generosity, this plays an important part in building him up. Kindness and attention towards others and becoming one with them, in itself, constitutes an important goal, without which a society will be like a family devoid of affection, replaced by an educational institution.
Bertrand Russell and his followers say: "Is the reason for a family life anything but bringing up children and protecting them against accidents and sickness? This mode of bringing up children was common in olden times. But now that societies have attained evolution, such duties should be transferred from families to big governmental organizations. The child should be sent from a maternity home direct to an infant school to grow up with other children. So these institutions should take the place of parents, and children have to take the form of relations between the people and government!
But the major defect of this system is in its diversion from a natural human course. A father and mother are endowed with fatherly and motherly affection, and a child with filial love. A mother wants to nourish her baby in her arms and this is quite natural, and happens so unconsciously that she is often unaware of it.
On the other hand, when she gives the child a motherly kiss and presses it to her breast, she is training it with affection, so that when it grows up, it is full of love and regards people differently. But the children who are brought up in nursing homes and have had no experience of parental affection, sometimes turn into dangerous criminals.
"Spending" is similar to affection and should not be regarded only from the point of view of helping the hungry. The basis of it is to build up human beings, for, it is through indulgence and generosity that the spirit becomes humane.
In this way, no one can declare that he is contented with little and claim to be perfect. He who can gain something, should do so, and by giving away his assets gain perfection. Not having anything and not giving away do not lead the way to perfection. It is by gaining away and being willing to part with one's belongings that one moves towards self-building.
This point is made clear in the Qur'an in Chapter "Immunity", Verse 104 addressed to the Prophet:
"Take alms of their property, you would cleanse them and purify them thereby."
This verse refers to the constructive effect of charity rather than to its social philosophy of satisfying the needy's stomach. It means that in this way you make them grow up morally as a plant grows by weeding. This is true of every living thing that removal of pests helps growth.
"And who believe in that which has been revealed to you and that which was revealed before you ...."
Another of the qualities of the chaste is faith in revelation. A person may accept and not accept it at the same time. He may consider the Qur'an as a great book in the world and as a saviour on account of its teachings, but not believe it as a revelation from God.
Many non-Muslims have such a belief, and introduce the Qur'an as one of the educational books. The writer of "In the Arms of Happiness" in a chapter on book reading recommends the Qur'an as an educational book.
Shebli Shamil, a Lebanese Arab who is a materialist, has written an interesting poem about the Qur'an and Prophet in which he says:
"Though I have no belief in his religion,
How can I deny the strong Verses of the Qur'an?"
But this way of accepting the Qur'an is not a faith in it. Having faith in it means believing it as a revelation from God. As the Qur'an says in Chapter "the Poets", Verse 194:
"The Faithful spirit1 has descended with it upon your heart that you may be of the warners"
meaning that the believer should consider it as messages which have descended from the occult to the world of testimony.
The word 'hereafter' is used as an opposite of 'this world'. The root of the latter may mean what is near, in which case 'hereafter' would mean a remote world. But sometimes 'hereafter' is used as the opposite of 'the first one' meaning 'this world' in which case 'hereafter' would mean 'the last' as in the Qur'anic Chapter "the Early Hours", verse 4:
"And surely, what comes after is better for you than that which has gone before",
and as a consolation to the Prophet that the interruption of God's revelation does not mean His saying farewell to the Prophet, it continues:
"And soon will your Lord give you so that you shall be well-pleased". (Chapter "The Early Hours", verse 4)
In the Phrase "they are sure of the hereafter", the Qur'an says that those who are guided by the Qur'an are sure of another world beyond this one which is the world of reward and punishment.
Belief in the next world is belief in eternity, for, one difference between the two worlds is that this one is transient and the other is everlasting. Man may desire happiness or misfortune. Of course those who seek misfortune, may be temporarily so, and then they find eternal happiness, while some others will always be in perpetual unhappiness.
Belief in eternity is one of the privileges of divine schools of thought, and only such a thought can account for the existence of the world, for, the requisite for materialistic schools, which do not believe in eternity and consider man a bubble which bursts and disappears altogether, is futility of and cynicism towards existence. This conclusion of theirs has caused them so much uneasiness that some materialists have resorted to a trick in order to save them from that futility and nothingness.
They say: It is true that an individual perishes, but as society moves towards perfection, the way of the individual continues, and thus he is eternal.
Such an argument is only a struggle in defense of their philosophy, but the misfortune is that some people intend to bring about conformity between the ideas of the Qur'an and such utterances. For instance, they interpret "they are sure of the hereafter" to mean that they believe in the superior and evolutionary system of the world, that is, the individual is not eternal, but species are.
But it must be said that if we do not believe in the eternal nature of the individual, the same is true of species, for, according to the estimates made by physicists, the earth is millions of years old, and a day will come when there would survive neither the earth nor man. If so, what is the meaning of eternity?
God guides all living beings, and as He is the educator of the world, He guides them towards perfection. Some of them are guided by developmental guidance, and human beings by divine guidance, namely through His Prophets and messengers. It is only the latter who attain perfection.
Only this group receives salvation and none else. With this Verse, the section on faith ends, and the section on infidelity begins.
"Surely those who disbelieve it being alike to them whether you warn them, or do not warn them, will not believe."
To begin with, two words must be explained before discussing the verse.
The word 'infidelity' (Arabic word 'Kofr') has a root meaning 'to cover'. The Qur'an calls infidels so because they cover up the truth of religion which has become clear to them and do not submit to it.
The Arabic word "anzar" means 'to warn ' which is different from 'to frighten'. The word means "informing someone of a future danger", something that Prophets do. What, then, is the meaning of the phrase? Should the people have belief in order to be invited by Prophets? If so, then this is already an accomplished fact.
The Prophet has come to turn infidels into believers, not to make believers out of those who already believe!
This point is used by some as a pretext who say that the Qur'an accounts for society in a materialistic way. They contend that there are two groups of people: the exploited and the exploiters. The exploited are ready to accept the call and the Prophet has actually been ordained for them, and they are addressed by him, while exploiters are not invited by the Prophet.
This statement, however, is irrelevant, for the Qur'an addresses all people and so does the Prophet, as shown by the following Verse 158, Chapter "the Elevated Places" (Araf-7):
"O people! Surely I am the Apostle of Allah to you all."
The Arabic word "Nas" used in the above verse means "all people" and not "deprived masses". The Prophet is ordained to invite the black and white, the exploited and exploiters, and rich and poor alike. Then, what is the meaning of the Verse? ·
In the Qur'an, if not in all cases but in most cases , the word "infidel " is not used for every non-Muslim, The Qur'an calls those people as infidel who, after the Prophet was ordained and he invited them and the truth became clear to them, stood against him and negated him. Thus, prior to the Prophet's invitation, they were neither believers nor infidels nor hypocrites, but only "people".
After the ordainment of the Prophet and his call, the people are divided into three groups: believers, deniers, and overt believers but covert opposers. In this Verse, infidels are not those who have not been converted to Islam, but those who negated the Prophet in spite of their awareness of truth and because of their conflict with their own intelligence and discernment. The Qur'an says:
"And they denied them unjustly and proudly while their soul had been convinced of them." (Chapter "The Naml", verse 14)
In general, if a man spiritually accepts truth, he submits to it no sooner than it is presented to him. What causes his destruction is his hostility towards the truth, and some people belong to this group.
The Qur'an writes about such people in the Chapter "Spoils of War" (Anfal), Verse 32:
"And when they said: O Allah! if this is the truth from Thee , then rain upon us stones from heaven."
Thus, instead of begging God to give them the privilege of accepting the truth, they asked for their own annihilation if the claim was true.
This conveys the meaning of opposing the truth. Warning such people is of no use, for as jurisprudents say, they are guilty, not negligent.
So it does not mean that whoever is not a Muslim is an infidel. Infidelity, as we already said, means covering up, and this is applied to those who opposed God's apostles and bringers of His faith.
It may be asked: what are those to be called who have neither been offered Islam nor any other religion, and have not shown any opposition or agreement? The answer is that they are not believers and the injunctions of belief do not apply to them, but it is only the Prophets' call that creates the three groups of believers, infidels and hypocrites.
The word "infidelity" sometimes takes the form of sanctity, that is, it carries the sense of "standing against wrong", as is shown in Verse 255, Chapter "the Cow":
"There is no compulsion in religion; truly the right way has become clearly distinct from error; therefore whoever disbelieves in the Devil and believes in Allah, he indeed has laid hold on the firmest handle."
This means that every believer must also be an infidel, that is, he must oppose wrong and deny it, and that is holy infidelity.
The Shi'a believe that the secondary canons of religion are ten in number, the ninth being belief in the guardianship of Imam Ali, and the tenth is the negation and denial of everything anti-Ali and against his way.
"Allah has set a seal upon their hearts and upon their hearing and there is a covering over their eyes."
When a letter is finished, it is usually signed and sealed to show that there is no more to add. The Qur'an compares the heart to a letter in which some lines are gradually written, either good or bad. But when there comes the time to seal it, the call of the Prophet is of no avail, and the Qur'an suggests abstaining from further call, not that the call has been futile at first, but as the individuals have been warned earlier and rejected the call, their hearts are covered up.
The Qur'an considers man as a constantly changing creature and his heart, in its capacity as his spirit, undergoes transformation like a feather hanging on a tree and blown about by the wind, as described in a poem by Mowlavi quoting the words of the Prophet.
No two moments of a man are alike, and he is mostly affected by his own deeds. A good deed illuminates him, and a wicked act changes that light into darkness. A good deed softens the heart and prepares it to accept counsel and truth, and sometimes contrary to his nature, a man becomes cruel and so hard-hearted that according to the Qur'an his heart gets sealed. He looks at things but it appears as if he has not seen them due to a veil covering his eyes. These are the results of infidelity and not the cause of it, and with this explanation the problem is solved.
"And there are some people who say: we believe in Allah and the last day; and they are not at all believers."(8)
"They desire to deceive Allah and those who believe, and they deceive only themselves and they do not perceive." (9)
"There is a disease in their hearts, so Allah added to their disease and they shall have a painful chastisement because they lied."(10)
"And when it is said to them, 'Do not make mischief in the land', they say: We are but peace makers" (11)
"Now, surely they themselves are the mischief makers, but they do not perceive."(12)
"And when it is said to them: Believe as the people believe, they say: 'Shall we believe as the fools believe?' Now surely they themselves are the fools, but they do not know."(13)
"And when they meet those who believe, they say 'We believe'; and when they are alone with their devils, they say 'Surely we are with you, we were only mocking". (14)
"Allah shall pay them back their mockery, and He leaves them alone in their inordinacy, blindly wandering on." (15)
These are they who buy error for the right' direction so their bargain shall bring no gain, nor are they the followers of the right direction." (16)
"And there are some people who say: We believe in Allah and the last day; and they are not at all believers.
As the danger of hypocrisy is greater than infidelity, so the Qur'an here speaks of infidelity in no more than two verses, whereas there are many verses about hypocrisy. In 13 chapters, too, hypocrites are mentioned in different ways, while chapter 63 called "the Hypocrites" is devoted to them.
It means being double-faced, and showing oneself to be different from what one really is. Though it is a mean quality, it denotes man's evolution, that is, as man is more developed than animals, his power of simulation and affection has developed whereas animals do not usually possess this quality. Only those animals which are more intelligent can show affectation. Chickens and quadrupeds, like the ass and horse, are not able to pretend while a mouse or sparrow can secure their sustenance by hiding themselves. The fox has won a reputation for cunning and a wolf sometimes shows itself to be sly.
But no animal can rival man in this respect, and this quality is the reason for the coining of many phrases about his hypocrisy. The reason why we said that this is the result of his evolution is that in primitive men hypocrisy is not often seen. A child shows no hypocrisy, and he is quite frank about eating and other desires even in unfamiliar surroundings, while an adult shows simulation and affectation. A child does not pretend.
The more man moves towards civilisation, the greater becomes his degree of hypocrisy. Men of a thousand years ago did not have even one percent of modern man's simulation. Many of the phrases used to-day are hypocritical. Take the word 'colonisation'. In the Qur'an, it is used in a good sense meaning 'to dwell' or 'to render habitable' as in Verse 61 of Chapter Hud which says:
"He brought you into being from the earth and made you dwell in it, therefore ask forgiveness of Him."
Colonialists, on going to other lands, did not say that they had come to plunder and take away underground resources. They said: "We have come to make your land prosperous." They built one or two roads to prove their claim, but seized, for themselves, a thousand fold of what they invested for the people of that country, and eventually enslaved them. Thus, colonisation is a hypocritical term which has a good meaning, but used wrongly in real practice.
Christian missionaries, or the so-called evangelists, were the advance guards of colonisation, for, they opened the way of entry of colonialism into the countries they visited. They came first to propagate religion and occupy the people's minds with descriptions of the qualities of Jesus and Mary, but the people realised after some time that, under this religious cover, all their material resources were plundered.
An African national has said: "When the Europeans came to our country, we possessed land and they carried the Bible, but after forty or fifty years, the Bible is in our hand, and they have usurped the lands." This is the meaning of hypocrisy.
When the Qur'an speaks of hypocrites, it is, in fact, a warning to the Muslims to be always on the alert against hypocrites, for hypocrites did not live only in the time of early Islam but have existed at all times, and penetrated the ranks of Muslims, pretending to be Muslims and stabbing in the back.
You may have heard the expression 'Fifth column'. It seems that in the First World War, one of the armies had four overt columns which attacked the enemy with weapons, but a group was also sent secretly to penetrate the enemy forces to mislead them. They were the fifth columnists who pretended affection for the enemy but really worked for their own interests. That is why the Qur'an gives a warning against such fifth columnists by saying of them: "We believe in Allah and the last day, and they are not at all believers". The Qur'an also terms them as liars.
The verse does not say that they deceive God, for, it is impossible to deceive God. They intend to do so.
Why is it said that man deceives himself when he tries to deceive God? Truth and reality can never be deceived, and trying to do so, is deceiving oneself. A physician may be deceived, but medicine is undeceivable. You can lie to a doctor about your usage of drugs and adherence of his prescription, but in doing so you are deceiving yourself, for, the doctor writes his prescription on the basis of the patient's statements and the result is the intensification of the untruthful patient's illness.
The Muslims may be deceived, but God cannot.
Another meaning may be mentioned for the first part of the Verse and that is: hypocrites never thought of deceiving God, for, if they did not believe in God, they would not have thought in such terms; and if they believed in Him, they would think it impossible to deceive Him. Therefore, the sentence may refer to deceiving men of truth, and here God attributes this to Himself as in Verse 10 of Chapter "The Victory" (Al-Fat'h):
"Surely, those who swear allegiance to you do but swear allegiance to Allah."
Here, then, it refers to men of truth who are on the path of God, and are the target of deceit. Even if such men are deceived by those who consider themselves clever, it is the clever ones who are the eventually losers by their own deceitful schemes.
"There is a disease in their hearts, so Allah added to their disease and they shall have a painful chastisement because they lied."
Here, God describes the root of the matter which is heart sickness, meaning spiritual disease. Such a disease is often referred to in the Qur'an as arrogance, prejudice about old beliefs, and following ancestors or great men. There are spiritual diseases which do not allow a man to bear truth, in the same way that debauchery, wickedness and contamination lead to some sort of unwillingness to face truth.
God constantly adds to the sickness of such diseased ones, in the same way that lying to a doctor aggravates a patient's illness.
God has made this world apt for any kind of cultivation, depending on the seed sown; a good seed brings forth a bad crop. As the Qur'an says in Verse 20 of Chapter "the Israelites":
"All do We aid - these as well as those."
God helps all, both good and bad, each in his own course towards perfection.
"And when it is said to them, 'Do not make mischief in the land', they say: 'We are but peace-makers."
This Verse clearly shows that hypocrites only deceive themselves. It is often said that excess of falsehood by a liar results in his own lies appearing as truth to himself, as well. He forgets that he has himself forged such lies.
A story is told about a fool who was being annoyed by children. In order to get rid of them, he told them that pudding was being given freely to children on the other side of the town. The children, believing this, dispersed running in the direction he had mentioned. When the fool saw this, he too, started going in the same direction, saying to himself: "This may be true!"
The Qur'an, referring to these fifth columnists who pretended to be friends but in reality were causing damage and disorder, says that when they were told not to create so much mischief, they answered: "We are reformers, not mischief-makers." These are real mischief-makers, but they are unaware of it, and believe their own views in actuality.
"And when it is said to them: 'Believe as the people believe', they say: 'Shall we believe as fools believe!"
When they are told in private to put aside hypocrisy and have faith like others, they say: 'Belief and being religious belong to the stupid, not to them who are enlightened'.
The Verse begins with the word 'beware'. There are two kinds of ignorance: simple and gross. Simple ignorance means being aware of one's ignorance. This is easily remedied for, one tries to get rid of it by learning or at least by listening to others for discerning the truth. This kind of ignorance is not very dangerous.
But gross ignorance is 'to be ignorant without being aware of it'. There is no remedy for it since pride prevents its elimination. Those who claim to possess enlightenment are often like this, and as Avicenna says: Fear imperfect cleverness".
Simple people are often aware of their own simplicity, but the half-clever think themselves very clever and wise whereas they are the most foolish and entangled. Ghazali, the poet-philosopher says: "Everything, even in its imperfect condition, is better than its non-existence except knowledge. " He means, for example, that having a little wealth is better than having none, but in the case of knowledge having little of it is worse than having none, or as it is often said: "A little knowledge is a dangerous thing". Sana'i the poet says:
Each one is vexed at something
My vexation is at a half-mad.
For him, intellect is like knowledge; one should either be wholly mad or wholly sound; being halfintelligent or half-stupid causes more damage than total madness. Deceitful people in society are usually these half and half persons, being half clever rather than wholly clever. Those wholly clever, even if they have no belief, realise that success lies in truth and honesty. But the half-clever people I have met in my life, think it best not to be honest with others. Such persons cannot gain even one friend in life, and no one believes them, for everyone knows them to be smart.
The Qur'an, too, considers these hypocrites as grossly ignorant.
"And when they meet those who believe, they say: 'We believe'; and when they are alone with their devils, they say: 'surely we are with you, we were only mocking."
This verse shows the double-facedness of such people and the next verse says:
"Allah shall pay them back their mockery."
They wrongly suppose that they can mock truth, but in fact it is they who are mocked.
"And He leaves them alone in their inordinacy, blindly wandering on."
They are rebellious, and God makes them so perplexed in their rebellion that they do not know what they are doing.
Up to this point the Qur'an has ascribed several qualities to hypocrites.
Firstly, they love pretense. Secondly, they are deceitful.
Thirdly, they suffer from a mental and spiritual disease which they want to cure by such deeds whereas it gets intensified by these complexes.
Fourthly, things have become so obscure for them that they suppose themselves to be social reformers.
Fifthly, they are foolish and stupid people who consider others as such.
Sixthly, they are double-faced, speaking in one way at a gathering, and in an opposite manner at another.
These are the qualities of hypocrites as described by the Qur'an in these Verses,
Several points must be mentioned here. In Verse 8, the word 'people' is used meaning all kinds of people, rich and poor, learned and ignorant, black and white, oppressor and oppressed and so on. If we disregard all these differences, then 'people' encompasses all human beings.
Commentators have, for long, given it this meaning, but some others have mistaken it for 'those who have nothing' namely the deprived and helpless class, and not all people.
This is wrong, and the Qur'an means all beings by it irrespective of their differences. For example, in Verse 97, Chapter "Al-e-Imran" which says
"And pilgrimage to the House is incumbent upon people for the sake of Allah (upon) everyone who is able to undertake the journey to it,"
it speaks of all people and not some people.
Sometimes, the word ''people" is used for infidels, such as in Verse 173, Chapter "Al-e-Imran":
"Surely, people have gathered against you, Therefore, fear them,"
which is related to a story when infidels wanted to attack Medina, and they had spread the rumour that people had gathered against the Muslims, and this was done by them to frighten the Muslims. In the above Verse the word 'people' means hypocrites.
Those who interpret 'people' to mean "the deprived masses'' have been compelled to also include the hypocrite may belong to any class, and as it happened, the hypocrites of early Islam were mostly the aristocrats of Medina. Their chief in the time of the Prophet was the richest man of that city, named Abdollah-bin-Abi. Before the arrival of the Prophet, the people of Medina intended to choose him as king in order to put an end to the differences between the two tribes of Owss and Khazraj.
This juncture of his expected kingship coincided with the advent of Islam in Mecca. A number of people of Medina who were in touch with Mecca, met the Prophet and embraced Islam. They asked the Prophet to send missionaries to Medina, and the Prophet dispatched Mas'ab-bin-Omeyr who converted many people to Islam there. Thus, the whole plan of Bin-Abi was ruined, and he bore a deep hatred for Islam. However, he pretended to accept Islam, though he never became a true Muslim.
Another point is related to the number of verses about hypocrites in this Chapter, namely 13 verses as against two on infidels, and three or four on believers. What is the purpose of the Qur'an by this insistence on exposing the hypocrites?
The answer given by commentators is that though a hypocrite is a kind of infidel, yet he poses greater danger. For, an infidel is one who does not accept God and the Prophet, but is honest in his creed and so the people know where he stands. But he, who covers up his true belief, and his acts differs from his words, is more dangerous because he deceives people. That is why the Qur'an says in Chapter "the Women" (Nisa), Verse 145:
"Surely, the hypocrites are in the lowest stage of the fire,"
The reason why the prophet was victorious in battles was that he fought the infidels, but Ali was not so successful because he fought the hypocrites. So, the Prophet was fighting those who were frank and outspoken in their own way. Abu-Sofyan was a man who refused to follow the Prophet.
Ali was confronting men who were obstinate but their slogan was Islam. If Mu'avieh had, like his father, openly rejected Islam he would certainly have been defeated by Ali, but he (Mu'avieh) pretended to wear the garment of Islam and shed crocodile tears for Othman, the supposedly oppressed Caliph of the Prophet, and thus incited people against Ali "As a leader of those who murdered Othman"! But, in fact, the murderer of Othman was Mu'avieh himself, as is explained by Ali in Nahjul-Balagha, saying "Why did you not help Othman when he asked for it? Because you were waiting for him to be killed so that you could benefit from his death." Mu'avieh had sent spies to Medina to have a watch over Othman's house, so that when he was killed they would carry his blood-drenched shirt to Damascus. The spies performed their duty speedily, and this shirt hung for a long time in the Mosque of Damascus, and Mu'avieh went there from time to time to shed a few tears beside it mourning for the Caliph! Thus, simple people were incited to fight in the name of God and to be killed in the process.
And at last when Mu'avieh saw defeat at hand, he exploited a deceitful scheme by placing the Qur'an atop a spear as a pretext to depict his surrender to the Qur'an. Ali who knew what lay behind this trick shouted to his men to go on fighting, but the ignorant devouts who were unaware of the plot, cried "We will not fight the Qur'an". In this way, the Umayad party managed to rescue itself.
The third point is that the danger of hypocrisy has always threatened Islam, but in a different form each time.
I have been reading a book which was published recently. It seems to me that some people are deliberately or unknowingly propagating materialism under the cover of the Qur'an. The book begins in the name of God, the Beneficent, the Merciful, and it is all about God, the Prophet and the Qur'an. But when we look at the contents we realise that materialism is hidden there under the mask of the Qur'an.
It is the same materialism which until a few years ago imagined that it could combat religion in Iran, and subsequently started a serious combat. It said that God, Prophet and revelation are all lies, but it was seriously defeated by the strong power of religion. Now that it is despaired of that method, it offers the same ideas under the guise of Islam, negates God and Resurrection in another way, and speaks of a higher and lower order governing existence, meaning thereby that when an oppressive system in this world is changed, its name will be 'hereafter'!
Of course, there exist low orders in the world which must be fought against and replaced by a higher order, as has been stated in the Qur'an. But these two orders do not connotate this world. They are two completely different issues.
You see that they do not declare that 'hereafter' is false. They do not deny man's eternity in the next world. But they explain it in this way (as materialists declare) that individuals die and are succeeded by others, and this is the meaning of eternity!
This is similar to placing the Qur'an on spear-heads in a different form. Ignorant Muslims have been deceived for full fourteen centuries by this pretense, and whenever anti-religious groups have appeared, they have played their hostile role under the guise of religion. But if the Muslims are alert, that sinister scheme is nullified. The Qur'an says in pity for them:
"These are they who buy error for the right direction, so their bargain shall bring no gain, nor are they the followers of the right direction."
The Imam is asked what wisdom is, and he answers: "It is what leads man to the worship and service of God, and brings him eternal happiness." Then he is asked: "What, then, did Mu'avieh have in himself?" He answered: 'Devilry and deceit. And devilry and deceit are different from wisdom which lead man to humanity and spirituality.
"Their parable is like the parable of one who kindled a fire, but when it had illumined all around him, Allah took away their light, and left them in utter darkness - they do not see." (17)
"Deaf, dumb (and) blind, so they will not turn back," (18)
"Or like the abundant rain from the cloud in which is utter darkness and thunder and lightning; they put their fingers into their ears because of the thunder peal, for fear of death, and Allah encompasses the unbelievers." (19)
"The lightning almost takes away their sight; whenever it shines on them they walk in it, and when it becomes dark to them they stand still; and if Allah had pleased He would certainly have taken away their hearing and their sight; surely Allah has the power over all things." (20)
After the Qur'an called the hypocrites' deceits and frauds as futile acts and defeated plans, and named them 'self-deception', it gives two examples of such trickery which lead us to a very important point in the philosophy of history in terms of Qur'an. It is an important principle of the Qur'anic thought and the monotheistic world view as presented by Islam. This topic is so important that we must discuss it at a greater length.
Different views have been expressed about Universe, in general, and about man and human society since their appearance and their future from the viewpoint of good and bad, right and wrong, and whether existence is right and good, or futile, wrong and bad, and whether human life is dominated by good or evil, right or wrong, or by half good and half bad, and if we believe in both, which is genuine: right or wrong.
We will first describe the views of philosophers, thinkers and sociologists, and then explain the Qur'an's monotheistic view of Universe.
There is no doubt that human life is somewhat a mixed one, that is, in individual and social life there exist both good and bad, justice and injustice, and honesty and deceit. So, human life has two sides: the bright and dark.
This mixture of light and darkness and justice and injustice is so deep that we see that prior to his creation, man's existence had been the subject of discussion in the high celestial world.
When God declared to angels: "I want to create a successor on the earth", the angels clamoured: "O God, what is the purpose of creating a mischievous and blood-thirsty creature?" The angels considered man as an absolute evil, and saw only this side of him, and so they posed this question.
This is note-worthy that even the angels could not know all the secrets of man's existence and only God is aware of them all.
But God did not accept this verdict of the angels and said: "I know what you do not." Then He created man, and in a trial and display, proved them to be wrong.
Most materialistic philosophers who have always been cynical about nature have no belief in the origin of creation, and consider man's existence to be the result of accidents, say that man possesses evil as a part of his nature, and has acted wickedly from the very beginning and will continue to be so in future, and there is no hope for his prosperity. They reject every plan of reform for human society, and despair of man's rectitude, for they consider him wholly incorrigible. They are pessimistic about everything that is presented in the name of reform, either religion or philosophy, and consider all these to be artificial, for, according to them, the innovators of these reforms have been human beings possessing human instincts which produce nothing but wickedness. Therefore, every ethical and reformatory thesis and every social proposal is considered to be futile.
When they are asked: "What hope is there to be had in life?" They answer that one should not live at all! If a man attains the final stage of perfection, he should commit suicide! To them, this is the height of man's advancement who is nothing but evil and will continue to be so, constantly adding to his wickedness until he attains what they call 'mental maturity' and commits suicide.
Many books have been written in this connection, showing that there have been philosophers in the world who have committed suicide, all of whom have been materialists known as cynics.
This bitter poison was poured in Iran into the writings of some of the contemporary writers. Sadeqh Hedayat was one of them who, in spite of his youth, committed suicide in 1941 under the influence of this idea. In his writings, he showed pride in having attained that stage of mental genius in which no way is left but suicide. He believed that other people too should follow his example.
What is more, such individuals say that the best service to mankind is to destroy all human·beings, for instance by means of a bomb. This shows how foolish and wrong such an idea is.
Another type of idea of materialists shows its pessimism in another way. They say man has no natural inclination, and is governed by the role assigned to him. These believe in a materialistic
nature for history and society and say what has absolute domination over human life is constituted by material-social, economic, and productive relations, and human life depends, for its goodness and badness, on the form of these relations. One should be neither optimistic nor pessimistic about human life. Productive relations may forcedly make man good or bad.
They say: there was a day when men, because of the extremely low level of production and tools, could not cater to their necessities in excess of their daily consumption needs. Human life was akin to animal life. They lived like pigeons leaving their nests hungry in the morning and returning satiated at night, and this was repeated every day. Early men lived in that way, and had no reserve of provisions or wealth.
In a society, men lived a communal life and probably secured food in a cooperative way. No one could hunt by himself, for he lacked the necessary tools; so they got together, and hunted a big animal and divided the flesh among themselves.
Under such conditions, men were forced to live in a brotherly way, and there was neither strife nor bloodshed.
Gradually, man gained experience and discovered cultivation, animal husbandry, use of animal milk, and their reproduction. In this way, one man could produce enough for ten people.
As soon as this became possible, all the former calculations were upset. Before that, if someone did not use his hands, he could get nothing to fill his belly. But under new conditions, those who were stronger were able to put others to work like their slaves, so that they would themselves live in comfort. Hence, ownership came into existence, ownership of land and that of human beings by their likes.
In this way, there came an upheaval in society, and the communal system changed into a competitive one full of hostility. The first good light waned, and darkness covered the whole of human life. Since that day in the history of man, darkness has dominated light, and wickedness prevailed over goodness, justice over oppression, and deceit over honesty. Meanwhile, there were occasional and exceptional sparks, and there often appeared a philosopher or a leader of a movement, who under the exigencies of circumstances, took a step, and consequently justice and goodness prevailed for a short time. But as the system, ruling over history, was that of wealth and ownership, this state of affairs could not last long and was soon brought to an end like a light which leaps in the dark and is lost soon. Then the same plan of reform was used again as a tool by men of wealth against oppressed people. Every religion, philosophy or moral theory has met with the same fate.
They say this state will continue and there is no remedy for it unless one day the foundation, which is productive relationship, automatically changes, and human beings are forced to return to communal life whether they like it or not, for the growth of the means of production will necessarily create socialism or communism.
Thus, this group of materialists do not base their theory on the evil nature of man, but on a total lack of nature, and he is the victim of his own tools. At first, the tools were such that he had to be good, but with the appearance of wealth and proprietorship, he became bad, and as long as these two exist, there is no remedy. He is mistaken in speaking of reform which is only an idea called 'imaginary socialism'. When ownership is abolished one day as a result of the growth of tools of production, then equality and justice may be witnessed in society.
Now let us see what the Qur'an has to say about this subject, which is one of its most important questions in the interpretation of history. Does the Qur'an regard man and life optimistically and say there does not and will not exist any evil? It is clearly not so, and there is no need for discussion. The Qur’an believes that during all history, there has been a conflict between right and wrong, and so it assumes an identity for wrong. It places light and darkness against each other. God, in answer to the verdict of the angels about Adam that he is an absolute evil, answered that they were mistaken and not wholly wrong. He meant to say what they saw was correct, but He also saw something beyond that which they could not observe. ·
Does the Qur'an think that man is an absolute evil and agree with the discouraging view of man like Nietzsche and Schopenhauer that man is incorrigible and should be left alone?
This is not true, for, the mission of the Prophets has generally been to reform human society, and had they been cynical of human nature, they would not have offered a thesis of reform. Moreover, such a view does not agree with the principle of monotheism which is the most fundamental in the Qur'an. A view of the world cannot be divine and monotheistic if it regards existence as futile and evil.
It is clear that the Qur'an regards existence as a system of goodness in which there is also evil, but goodness has priority over evil, and right over wrong. The view of the Qur'an is diametrically opposite to Marxism. It says right and wrong have always existed during history and this conflict is due to the nature of man, since he has two sides to his nature which is composed of passion and intelligence. But goodness is predominant in him. Justice and light are permanent, but darkness and evil are transient. The Qur'an does not take ownership as criterion in the manner Marx does; rather it believes in the genuineness of faith, and natural and spiritual essence. It never says that religion and morals are the playthings of wealth, and vehemently rejects this view. Power and wealth may have had some effect on religion and in creating innovations, but religion, too, in its turn, has been a powerful factor in human destiny.
The Qur'an thinks that evil and wrong possess no genuineness, but are like an appendix for right, like shadow in relation to light or darkness as the absence of light, not the opposite of it since it has no identity of its own.
This is similar to health and sickness. If the body is to remain sound, there must exist equilibrium in the elements which compose blood, blood pressure etc. Sickness is nothing but the absence of health. What is genuine with regard to the body is equilibrium and the consequent health, and if this equilibrium is disturbed, the result is sickness until that equilibrium is re-established and health regained.
As the body needs equilibrium and health society, too, requires truthfulness, honesty, faith and chastity. And if these are lacking, society cannot last even one day, and if injustice, insecurity and unchastity prevail for a time, as goodness and light are the basic things, the society soon returns to its original state.
The view of the Qur'an, is briefly as follows:
1. Wrong has no entity of its own, but it is only an an appendix of right.
2. As it is devoid of entity, it has no permanence while right is lasting.
3. As it has no continuity, it has a noticeable expansion which may not be evident to nondiscerning eyes that may take right to be something trifling.
Wrong vanishes like foam, and because of its expansion overshadows right, so that to the undiscerning it would seem as if wrong is ruling over the world.
The Qur'an has explained in many verses the combat between right and wrong, and has given several examples some of which will be mentioned below.
1. Verse 17 in Chapter "Thunder" (Ra'd) says:
"He sends down water from the cloud , then water-courses flow (with water) according to their measure, and the torrent bears along the swelling foam, and from what they melt in the fire for the sake of making ornaments or apparatus arises a scum like it; thus does Allah compare truth and falsehood; then as for the scum; it passes away as a worthless thing; and as for that which profits the people, it tarries in the earth; thus does Allah set forth parables."
In the words of commentators the essence of right is like clear and clean water and like that precious metal, and wrong is like foam which vanishes, and what remains is beneficial to man, meaning water for irrigation and gold for ornaments.
2. Verses 24-26 in Chapter "Ibrahim" say:
"Have you not considered how Allah sets forth a parable of a good word (being) like a good tree, whose root is firm and whose branches are in heaven? Yielding its fruit in every season by the permission of its Lord? And Allah sets forth parables for men that they may be mindful. And the parable of an evil world is as an evil tree pulled up from the earth's surface; it has no stability."
Thus, belief in right is a richly fruitful and firm tree and belief in wrong is a useless bush or plant that can be uprooted so easily.
The poet Nasser Khosrow has a poem depicting a dialogue between a plane tree and a marrow-plant which had grown by it and crept up the trunk of the plane tree. The tree was thirty years old, while the marrow-plant had grown so much in just twenty days and was mocking the tree for its slow growth. The tree answered that when the autumn wind begins to blow, then it will be found which one of them is manly enough to withstand the pressure and show resistance.
What the Qur'an means is that one should not judge wrong only by appearance, or be deceived by it, but should look deeply. A school of thought which is twenty or thirty years old may expand so rapidly that it may dwarf a true school which is fourteen centuries old. One should wait and see how each stands against calamities. The Islamic revolution has withstood firmly in the face of hostile currents for fourteen centuries, but those other schools soon disappear in the ups and downs of history.
3. Verse 18 in Chapter "the Prophets" (Anbiya) says:
"Nay! We cast the truth against the falsehood, so that it breaks its head, and lo! It banishes; and woe to you for what you describe."
The Verses prior this one are related to creation in which materialistic views that consider the world futile are rejected. The life of man and society depend on the principle of creation, and if the basis of creation had been worldly amusements and futility, then man, as a manifestation of creation, would have been useless and his society futile. But the Qur'an says in Verse 16 of the above Chapter1:
"And we did not create the heaven and the earth and what is between them for sport."
This is an answer to anyone who may ask "If the basis of the world is not futility, what, then, are all these wrongs and falsehoods that exist in human society? Are there no falsehood or treason, or oppression, bloodshed, mischief, and all the false views and vain schools of thought in the world?"
The Qur'an says these are all parasitical elements. When truth appears, these things too, necessarily emerge but only temporarily to disappear soon.
4. Verse 81 in Chapter "the Israelites" says:
''And say: The truth has come and the falsehood has vanished; surely falsehood is a vanishing (thing).''
Thus from the viewpoint of the Qur'an, the combat between truth and falsehood is not a fight between two entities, but a fight between existences and non-existences, a war of perfections against imperfections, for all falsehoods are imperfections, and if a tyrant acts tyrannically, it is because of his imperfection and not of his perfection, and it is his ignorance or inferiority complex that he wants to make amends for.
Materialists, unlike the Qur'an, consider man wicked by nature, or lacking nature altogether. They have no utopia and cannot have one, for, if they claim so, then they would be speaking contrary to their school. A Utopia as proposed by Islam, can only be claimed by one who considers man corrigible.
The Qur'an describes the destiny of peoples and the history of civilisations to show that every society, which is ruled over by evil or falsehood, is doomed to annihilation, and only a society ruled over by truth survives. There have existed many communities which were chastised by God because of their deviation towards wrong and falsehood.
One may look at the pages of history and observe the coming across of wicked individuals on the scene. Suppose that history is all absolute darkness. But this judgment is wrong and is due to the fact that some people suppose history to be made by personalities. The Qur'an calls them "foams afloat on water which vanish soon".
When we look at the history of Islam and see Harun-e-Rashid, the hero of Arabian Nights, with his prisons, his drinking bouts and oppression, we call him a typical example of history. The Qur'an, however, says Harun is transitory, and you are forgetting those who run life in real terms such as farmers and other workers. All Haruns are parasites living by virtue of the masses, and your duty is to fight Haruns without losing hope. Mussa-bin-Jafar, who is lodged in Harun's prison close to the palace from which brawls of drunkenness could be heard, is the Imam who lasts. Even though no one is allowed to visit him, he is ruler over people's hearts. His ideas and thoughts become everlasting, whereas Harun vanishes with all his pomp and glory.
Now let us look at the Verses 17-20 of the Chapter "the Cow":
"Their parable is like the parable of one who kindled a fire, but when it had illumined all around him, Allah took away their light, and left them in utter darkness - they do not see."
By the words "fire" and "light" are meant fraudulent schemes of the followers of falsehood. Man is guided in several ways: by instinct which is weak in human beings but strong in animals; by senses which provide understanding; by intelligence, and by revelation which are granted to the followers of Prophets.
Thus man's thought is his light, which is sometimes used in harmony with the system of creation and in the path ordained by God, in which case God says in the Qur'an, Chapter "Muhammad", Verse 17:
"And those who follow the right direction, He increases them in guidance."
But sometimes a person abandons this path and lives in aberration, using his thought and intellect contrary to divine course. He may succeed for a while, but it is temporary, and all his plans end up in ruin.
Contrary to some people's verdict that right and truth have been short-lived sparks, the Qur'an calls falsehood and wrong so, and thereafter, their followers are left in utter darkness.
"Deaf, dumb (and) blind, so they will not turn back."
Such people are deprived of all their senses, so they cannot return and are buried there. You see that the Qur'an views history optimistically, and assures us that if truth rises to fight, it will come out victorious and defeat falsehood.
This was a parable for the kind of light kindled by themselves with their plans and interpretations. But sometimes, they want to make use of other accidental lights which are not kindled by them, but the very moment they begin using them, these are extinguished.
"Or like the abundant rain from the cloud in which is utter darkness and thunder and lightning; they put their fingers into their ears because of the thunder peal, for fear of death; and Allah encompasses the unbelievers."
The Qur'an says that in such a situation, they are deeply frightened.
"…The lightening almost takes away their sight; whenever it shines on them, they walk in it, and when it becomes dark to them, they stand still; and if Allah had pleased He would certainly have taken away their hearing and sight; surely Allah has the power over all things."
This is the fate of all deceitful people in history, and the Qur'an does not consider them genuine, and says we should not get frightened of them, for they are sure to be destroyed, and truth will last forever.
It is not right to wait for ownership to vanish and give way to communal life. Wherever such a system has come into existence, there is more darkness, showing that the evolution of tools of production, too, is of no avail. It is human beings who bring light and justice by which they may lead a prosperous life.
God is mighty in everything.
"O men! Serve your Lord Who created you and those before you so that you may guard (against evil)." (21)
"Who made the earth a resting place for you and the heaven s canopy and (Who) sends down rain from the cloud, then brings forth with it subsistence for you of the fruits; therefore, do not set up rivals to Allah while you know." (22)
These two verses are inter-linked, and the second one is a complement to the first one, and both invite men to monotheism which is the most fundamental Islamic principle and basic belief in divine teachings.
As you see, it is addressed to people, a word that is frequently used in the Qur'an and is almost synonymous with 'man', except that 'people' is a collective noun, and 'man' is a material noun.
In every school of thought, there are four inter-related things:
1. Who are those addressed by the school, and for whom is it intended? Is it for all people or a particular group, and if it is for the latter, who is it?
2. What is the goal of that school?
3. How does it view the world, man and life?
4. What are its contents, namely, its injunctions and guiding principles.
In the above verse in connection with the first point, it is a message on monotheism, the most basic factor in Islam and the Qur'an.
All schools of thought, whether divine creeds or invented schools, address groups which are different from one another. For example, one of them may have a national hue such as parties whose goals (as they claim frequently) are the liberation and happiness of their nation, in which case their own nation is addressed while other nations are ignored. For example, in England the Labour or Conservative parties address the British nation.
Or a school may have a racial hue, its goal being the liberation of that race, and that race is, therefore, addressed, such as the movements of the blacks against the whites in which the former are addressed.
Sometimes, a school is set up with the object of uniting the hungry to create a force to regain their rights from aggressors, and so this school addresses the hungry. For example, Marxism claims it has come to liberate the proletariat and bring them happiness. It addresses workers and does not enrol capitalists as members.
Who is addressed in the call made by Islam?
Are the Arabs addressed since it has appeared among them? Or are the people of Mecca invited since it began in Mecca?
When we refer to the Qur'an, we never see any addresses being made to Arabs, or the Meccans or the Ghoreysh, or the people of Medina or of Damascus. The Qur'an has two forms of address: the people meaning all human beings, and the believers.
A question may be asked here: Whether is it proper and practical to address all human beings? Some claim that as man, in philosophical terms, is a detached being, he cannot be addressed. They also say that man in general has no conscience, and, therefore, addressing him produces no motion. If Iranians or Arabs were addressed, their national conscience might put them into motion. Or racial pride may be relied upon for such a movement, such as calling upon the blacks or red Indians. Or a special social class which has a conscience may be addressed such as the indigents, or workers or farmers. When the worker is addressed, he is asked: "Why should you have little wealth?" The motive for his movement would be profit, of which he does not wish to be deprived, and this idea is employed for making him move.
Islam does not say that the conscience of man lies in his nationality or race or social class, but in his innate nature. According to this principle, God Almighty in creation has granted him a noble conscience and an angelic spirit ("I breathed My spirit unto him"), and therefore, in every human being, no matter from what parents, on being born, there is this noble conscience. National, racial, guild or class consciences are all acquired, and it is only that noble innate conscience which is called upon by Islam.
It invites beings on the basis of their humanity, and not because they are the deprived, or the colored people and so on. It invites people on the basis of human honour, not on national or racial pride, or for material benefits. In other words, man who desires justice is addressed, not because his interests lie in justice but because justice is a human value.
The Qur'an explicitly says that one of the objectives of Islam is the establishment of justice, and if this is attained, then aggressors and tyrants will be the losers and the oppressed will gain. But there is a difference between saying that the goal of Islam is to make the oppressed indebted to itself by liberating them and saying that the Qur'an addresses the oppressed alone. Islam liberates the oppressed but it addresses all human beings. Even men like the Pharaoh are addressed by it, for, it finds a real human side even in a Pharaoh. It says; "This Pharaoh who rules over you is a tyrant who has deviated from humanity, but he possesses a God-given nature as a human being". That is why the Prophets, in combatting a Pharaoh, try first to arouse the human side of him. The Qur'an says, "O Moses, go and see if you can liberate that inner humanity which is captive there and rouse it. If you cannot, then attack it from outside."
The second point in the two foregoing Verses is the most fundamental message of the Qur'an. The message of monotheism is not confined to the seal of Prophets but is the frontispiece of the mission of all prophets.
This issue is presented in the following way in the Qur'an: it never says that firstly you should worship someone, and secondly that it should be God. Man cannot live without worship, and each and every being shows this devotion in one way or the other, for, it is a part of his inner nature and instinct. This inclination is inherent in all human beings including materialists. Even Karl Marx who says: "I want to liberate man from worshipping non-human, so that he may worship himself", is, in fact, implying the point that man must worship something; and by his word he wants to show who is to be worshipped.
The message of the Qur'an is; Worship your God and Lord, on Whom depends the whole existence, and without Whose care, all things will collapse.
"Who created you and those before you …."
While discussing devotion in the Chapter "Hamd", we said that devotion has a wide meaning, the highest stage of which is to prostrate oneself. Every kind of obedience is devotion, and he who obeys his own desires is showing self-devotion. The Qur'an says in Chapter "the Kneeling" (Jasiah) Verse 23:
"Have you then considered him who takes his low desire for his god?"
Self-devotion, of course, does not mean prostrating before oneself, but obedience to oneself.
The word "polytheism" in Arabic is derived from another word meaning partnership. Is it possible to make a being partner to God? And if someone does not believe in God and worships someone or something, is that not considered to be polytheism?
In the story of the "Saba Tribe" in the Qur'an, it is stated that the hoopoe said to Solomon: "I have brought you sure news. I saw some people ruled over by a woman on a high throne, and they worshipped the sun."
Are such people who worship none but the sun, not polytheists? In the Qur'an, the Arabic word 'Sherk' need not necessarily mean believing in two or more gods. It means replacing God by something else, and as all creatures are expected to worship God, therefore, replacing God by something or someone means believing in a partner for God. Thus, Sun-worshippers are dualists.
By guarding against evil is meant chastity. In this verse, chastity is the consequence of mono theism. Chastity in Arabic is derived from a word meaning 'to guard' which involves purity and chastity, and like faith, it has several degrees. Every pure thought requires a clean atmosphere, in the same way that a seed needs a soil free from pests and pollution for its growth. Proper and right thoughts, too, require a clean and sound spirit , and if clean thoughts enter an evil spirit, the result is a conflict between them in which either the spirit must submit and get purified, or the spirit is victorious and the thoughts are abandoned.
The first verse of the chapter "the Cow" says:
"The Book is sent for the guidance of those who are chaste".
This chastity is inherent in man's nature with which he is born, and those who have guarded it are qualified to receive guidance by the Qur'an, while those who are polluted, will not accept the words of God.
How can one not worship God, while he sees all the manifestations of His Godship? Is this earth, which has been turned into a resting-place for you, the result of an accident or Godship? How has this heaven above you, that is like a canopy with twinkling stars, appeared? Do these clouds which bring rain and produce plants and fruits appear on their own or by a creator who arranges all things?
If so, then the Creator Who is the Source of all blessings and goodness must be worshipped, and not a stone which offers neither profit nor loss and its worshipping is equivalent to captivity. And this is Allah whose worship is all freedom and salvation.
"And if you are in doubt as to that which We have revealed to Our servant, then produce a chapter like it, and call on your witnesses besides Allah if you are truthful." (23)
"But if you do (it) not and never shall you do (it), then be on your guard against the fire of which men and stones are the fuel; it is prepared for the unbelievers." (24)
"And if you are in doubt as to that which We have revealed to Our servant….."
In these verses, the Qur'an speaks of miracle, and of this divine Book as a miracle, challenging people to produce something like it if they consider it to be at the level of the books produced by man.
In this verse, only those addressed are offered the challenge, but in the Chapter "the Israelites", it is not only the Arabs of the Prophet's time or even non-Arabs or all people of the world of that time, but also the people of all ages are challenged, and it has even gone beyond human beings to include the genii. Verse 88, Chapter "the Israelites" says:
"Say: If men and Jinn should combine together to bring the like of this Qur'an, they could not bring the like of it, though some of them were aiders of others."
Such verses illustrate two facts: firstly that miracles exist in the world, and secondly that the Qur'an is a miracle. Neither of these two facts can be doubted.
Some people who are numerous in our time cannot understand the secret of a miracle, and though they wish to somehow accept the Qur'an, they deny its being a miracle, or even deny all miracles in the world, or offer frigid explanations or natural interpretations for all the miracles which are mentioned in the Qur'an such as the gaping of the sea for Moses or Moses's stick turning into a serpent. This is nothing but denying the Qur'an
The Qur'an describes in numerous verses the miracles of former prophets, thus proving the existence of miracles and showing that the Qur'an is one of these miracles. It is our duty to accept the invitation of the Qur'an as conscientious servants to ponder over this matter and discover its secret which is one of the great mysteries of Islamic teachings.
The root of this word in Arabic means 'inability' and 'miracle' means an act which others are unable to do. Sometimes, instead of the word 'miracle' the word 'supernatural' is used. But neither of these two words has been used in the Qur'an. They are used by Islamic men of learning. Of course, the word 'miracle' is commonly used by Muslims, and may have also been used in the times of the Imams, but the word 'supernatural' was used only by the Ash'ari sect to mean 'miracle'. The Qur'an uses the word 'ayat' meaning 'sign' which is clearer than the other two.
'Ayat' means 'Sign' or 'a strong proof'. Why has the Qur'an used 'Sign' for 'Miracle? The reason is: A man may claim that he is an apostle of God to whom revelation is sent and therefore the people should accept him as he is quoting the words of God. Should the people believe him unquestionably or not?
There are three probabilities here: first: he may really be a messenger of God; second: he may be lying and is aware of his falsehood himself; third: he may have been misled by some mental and spiritual reaction in his own mind that made him believe about those revelations.
The third case often happens for the people who never lie or wish to lie, but are misled by some fancies.
When the Ghoreysh infidels called the Prophet a mad man, it was because he had such a fine record with people that they could not call him a liar. So in order to nullify his call, they said that he was suffering from mental illusions.
Thus, a man who claims to be a prophet must offer a strong proof in favour of his claim, and it is logical of people to demand such a proof, otherwise acceptance without proof is something foolish.
A miracle then is that sign or proof which confirms the claim of Prophethood. To clarify this, the following points will be discussed:
1. What is a miracle?
2. Is a miracle possible?
3. Has a miracle really happened?
4. How does a miracle attest to the veracity of a claimant?
5. The Prophet of Islam and Miracles
6. The Miracle of the Qur'an
Some people suppose that miracle is not a problem, but the important thing is to accept or reject God. They say if we believe in God, then miracles do not matter, for, we know that God has absolute power to do anything, to bring the dead back to life, turn a stick into a serpent, or take the Prophet within the space of a single moment from the temple of Mecca to the mosque of Jerusalem and to all the heavens.
But this matter is not so simple to suppose that by accepting God, all problems are solved. The reasons are as follows:
a) Some may define a miracle as something which may happen without a cause. But this is quite wrong, and it may have been coined by materialists or those who are in favour of a miracle, want to know the reason, and if it lacks a reason, it proves nothing.
Moreover , if (as an impossible hypothesis ) something happens without a cause , then nothing in the world can be proved, and hence no scientific natural, or philosophical principle remains steadfast and even the proof of God is shaken up. Why? Because we know God as the cause of Universe. If we suppose that there is no order in existence and things may appear without a cause, we cannot reject this probability that Universe has appeared without a cause. Thus, this definition of "miracle" is quite incorrect.2
b) Another group may say that a miracle is not the appearance of something without a cause. There is no exception to the Law of Causation, but another cause may take the place of the real cause. So, a miracle is the substitution of one cause for another.
For example, the true cause of the appearance of a human being is the intercourse between two other human beings. But if another cause replaces this one, it is a miracle.
Such a view shows ignorance of intellectual knowledge, for, if we admit that a system of cause
and effect rules over Universe, this system is not a conventional one which could be changed at will. Rather, it is a true, real and inviolable relationship. In other words, if in nature A is the cause of B, a real relationship exists between A and B, which neither A nor B can have with anything else other than themselves and hence none of them can exist without the other. Thus, nothing can have a cause and effect relationship with two things.3
c) There is a third definition for "miracle" to which the above intellectual objections do not apply, and that is: A miracle is neither the negation of the Law of Causation, nor a violation of and exception to it. It is beyond the principle of nature. There is a difference between "beyond the Law of Causation" and "beyond the principle of nature". A miracle is not the appearance of something out of the course of original cause, but in a way different from ordinary and natural course, so that supernatural interference is evident in it.
Thus, no cause replaces another to bring about a miracle, but the fact that a real and unalterable relationship exists between cause and effect is, in this way accepted and the issue of miracle is explained as follows:
The real causes of things for a man who wants to discover them through science and experiment are always unknown, and only God knows about them. Man can only have access to some conjunctions and relationships through science and experiment, which he must not take for causation.
Thus, a miracle is a phenomenon which occurs through a non-ordinary course which man has thought of as the only course.
The answer to this question was made explicit, to some extent, in the previous section, depending on our definition of a miracle. If we say a miracle is something which happens without a cause, then it is something impossible. And if we say that a miracle is the violation of the Law of Causation, and substitution of one cause for another, then again it is impossible.
But if we accept the third definition which is the exit of nature from the normal course of events, then a miracle is possible.
Hegel, the well-known European philosopher, has a statement on which he has laid the basis of many issues in his philosophy. He says there are a series of things which are indispensable for the intellect, the contrary of which is not possible, such as mathematical propositions, which he calls "analytical theorems". When in geometry you say the three angles of a triangle are equal to 180 degrees or two right angles, this is an intellectual requisite which admits of no other answer.
In philosophy and logic, the essential propositions belong to this kind. But there are a series of experimental issue with there being no indispensability about them. For instance, he says we have found by experience that water evaporates at 100 degrees of temperature. We call it as causation and consider heat to be the cause of evaporation. Similarly, when water freezes into ice at sub-zero temperature, we say cold is the cause of freezing. He says: These are not the requisites for intellect, and we give that verdict on the basis of experience, and had we since our birth experienced the contrary, namely heat for freezing and cold for evaporation, it would have made no difference to our intellect, since none of these two cases is indispensable to our intellect.
So far so good, and even Avicenna and others have paid attention to this matter and asked as to what should be done about natural sciences which are based on experience but it creates no necessity. Can experimental laws be brought under the criterion of philosophical causation? They say in cases where experience shows a relationship, such as heat causing evaporation, and cold causing freezing, there exists a real causation which cannot be replaced by another. But it is doubtful whether that cause is what we have discovered through our senses. Therefore, experimental sciences constantly change; one law is nullified and replaced by another.
For example, one day when they saw a stone, dropped from a height, falling down, they said the gravity is in the stone itself which tends to move towards the centre of the earth. They were unanimous about this verdict until Newton emerged and said the gravitational power lies in the earth which pulls the stone towards itself. This theory was followed by the theory of relativity which necessitated a reappraisal of former laws and principles.
Therefore, it is an acknowledged truth that happenings are not without a cause, but it is not evident whether science can discover causes, and we should not call a relationship a cause. Neither heat nor cold, nor gravity are respectively the real causes of evaporation, freezing and fall of a stone. Such relationships are often subject to change.
Here, the difference between the principle of nature and Law of Causation becomes clear. For example, according to the principle of nature, a male and female must intercourse to produce an offspring. Is the authentic Law of Causation applicable here? Is it not possible for a cell in a womb to have the properties of the cells of both a male and a female?
Intellect does not negate this, but it says: Hitherto we have seen it occur only in one way, but there may be also another way, the secret of which is unknown to us, that by blowing into the female's ovum, it may obtain the property of a male's sperm. Thus, the Law of Causation has not been violated, but the principle of nature has, and that is the meaning of a miracle. In this sense, then, a miracle is possible.
Going back to Hegel's words, if someone claims to be a prophet and says his miracle is to draw a triangle of 190 degrees, he must, at once, be refuted, for, this is intellectually impossible, and a miracle does not make an intellectual impossibility feasible. Such a claim, in itself, is the reason for its falsehood. And again if someone claims Prophethood and says he can do something without a cause, it is false because it violates intellectual necessity.
But if someone claims to be able to perform something contrary to the principle of nature, the kind of thing for which, as Hegel says, "we have no reason to show its validity except that we have not experienced it before", we might accept it.
In other words, intellectual laws are absolute, and not conditional, while natural laws are conditional. In the case of a triangle, there exists no "if" about the total measure of its angles, but in natural laws there are conditions. For example, with regard to the Law of Gravity, we could say it is applicable if there is no obstacle in the way of objects.
In short, man has no power to discover real causes which are known only to God. He can only deduce relationships. The Qur'an says in Chapter "Divorce" (Talaq), Verse 31:
"And whoever trusts in Allah, He is sufficient for him; surely Allah attains His purpose."
Thus, there is no need of any apparent cause. But to prevent this supposition among the people that there is no cause and effect and predestination in the affairs of Universe, it says in the next part of the Verse:
"Allah indeed has appointed a measure for everything."
God can at His will do things in which there are not involved such means, that are known to man. These means act only as covers, and only God knows what the real cause is.
God can at His will acquaint human beings with the mysteries of cause and effect, and if anyone is allowed by God to know them, he can intervene in the affairs of the world, without acting contrary to the order of cause and effect. This is the meaning of what is stated in a narration saying that God's servant can be so close to Him that God becomes his eye to see, his ear to hear, and his hand to work with.
It is easy to answer this question, for, when a miracle is not above the Law of Causation, matters contrary to normal and natural processes, happen and have taken place frequently in the world.
Avicenna is quoted as saying: If you hear that a mystic has survived despite having eaten nothing for a month, do not get surprised, for this act, though contrary to the law of nature, does not go against the general law of existence. Ordinary people may die if they go without food for forty-eight hours, for their body is habitual to receiving food during this period. But a human being can, by strengthening his will power, check his body so much that even his heart-beat, breathing or digestion can be brought under his control.
Such examples are seen in ascetics who can control their breathing for a long time, and not breathe, while an ordinary person cannot do so even for a minute. This shows that the spirit is so strengthened as to dominate the body.
It is narrated that when Soviet leaders went on a visit to India, they were amazed at such things, and when they returned home they declared that such actions should be investigated at universities, as if this were a science by itself!
They had seen a man in a closed coffin being buried in a grave without any hole to let air in. When he was taken out after some time, he began to breathe. He seemed to have stopped breathing upon interment and resumed it upon coming out. There are many such examples, and strengthening willpower by practice accounts for them. ·
Thus, as a miracle is an act which is only contrary to natural laws, and considering the fact that prophets are, by God's grace, the most perfect human beings possessing the strongest spirits and the firmest will-power, it would be an easy task for them to perform miracles.
Logicians say that there are three kinds of indication;
2) Natural, and
Conventional indication means treating something as the sign of another by agreement. For example, words indicate meaning: the word "bread" connotes something edible, and the word "water" something drinkable, while interchanging the place of these two by conventional would alter nothing. This is because there is no inherent relationship between a word and its meaning.
In the same way, traffic signs are conventional, and instead of 'green light' to indicate 'free passage', any other sign could have done.
Does a miracle denote the truth of Prophethood? Is there an agreement between God and his creatures that when they see someone performing miracles, they would know that he is sent by God and is telling the truth? Obviously not, for, God can send to the people whatever He wants through the Prophets, whose position we are going to prove.
Natural indication means experience, such as coughing as an indication of bronchitis, and quick beating of the pulse an index of fever, which are signs obtained through experience. A miracle does not belong to this category since it relates to experience.
Intellectual indication is based on reasoning and is like effect indicating the cause, which requires neither convention nor experience. A miracle belongs to this category.
The indication of a miracle may be described in two ways. It is said by a group that a miracle is a practical way of intellectual indication, such as deducing the satisfaction of a person from his action or from his silence. In jurisprudence, utterance of an impeccable person is considered as an acceptable reason, in the same way that the description of ablution by an impeccable person is an evidence for us. So is the absence of objection by the same person to our manner of ablution considered as an evidence of its correctness. And if we say: "Why should an impeccable person find fault with our ablution?" The answer is that if he did not do so, he would be encouraging ignorance, and such an innocent man abstains from a mean act.
These people say that a miracle attests to the veracity of Prophethood. So, if someone claims that he is sent by God, as God is aware of all actions of human beings, then his claim is made before God. And if he performed an extraordinary deed to prove his claim and attributed it either to himself or to God, it would be an evidence of his veracity. For, if he lied, God would not allow his deed to take place, since otherwise He would be encouraging ignorance.
But a number of scholars say that the above group has not understood the truth of a miracle, for, they have taken a miracle to be an act which God performs directly through a prophet without the latter's interference. It is God who brings a dead man back to life not Jesus who just sits by the dead.
But the issue goes beyond this. There is a relationship between a miracle and the performer of a miracle, so that this action would not be possible without him. A miracle indicates the spiritual perfection of a saint, and in performing a miracle his human power is connected to divine force, that is, God has granted him ability and will-power above that of a human being.
The aforementioned points show that a divine saint attains a position by his perfect obedience to God and by his practical asceticism, so that he gains a strong will by which he can dominate nature, and act as God's manifestation on earth. In this way, when saints perform a supernatural deed, they themselves are doing so with an ability above that a human being.
It is well-known that when Imam Ali with a single hand tore away the gate of the Kheibar Fort which fifty men could hardly lift, and threw it aside, he said: "I swear to God that I did not pluck off the gate of Kheibar by virtue of physical force, but a divine power supported me".
So Ali is saying that he performed the deed, but with a God-given strength. So Jesus' act of reviving a dead man is done by him with God's help. Thus, a miracle as an indication of the truthfulness of Prophethood and an intellectual indication is one hundred percent logical.
Some Orientalists and Christian priests have expressed certain views as objections to the Qur'an and to our Prophet, which have been accepted, in a different form, by some Islamic writers, too. These relate to the miracles of the Prophet of Islam.
The Christian group has stated that according to the Qur'an, the Prophet himself abstained from miracles which he was asked to perform, and they have quoted certain verses in this connection which we will refer to afterwards.
Some Islamic writers of recent times have said that a miracle belongs to the era of the childhood of man when he was still a savage, and had not yet reached the stage of knowledge, logic and reasoning. As it was not possible to convince the people through logic and knowledge, the Prophets resorted to miracles. They say that a miracle is a childish language specific to children. So, when human beings attained mental maturity and could be able to understand the language of logic and reasoning, there was no longer any need for miracles. When a prophet is ordained and he offers a plan of reforms and laws for man's evolutionary advance, men of intellect and logic immediately accept him and submit to him.
The distinction between the Prophet of Islam and other prophets is that his advent is concurrent historically with the process of transition from wildness to thoughtfulness.
Iqbal Lahuri says: "The Prophet of Islam exists at a historical juncture, the past of which belongs to the childhood and wildness of man, and its future is related to the era of science and logic. For this reason, the nature of his revelation is different from that of others, and fundamentally his advent was to lead people to thoughtfulness and reasoning. Iqbal goes on to say that the source of the Prophet's mission, which is revelation, belongs to the past, and the spirit of his mission, which calls upon intellect, logic, knowledge, experience, experiment and absorbing lessons of history, belong to the future".
From the viewpoint of Iqbal, this is the philosophy of his being the last Prophet. This illustrates two points:
1) End of Prophethood
2) Absence of necessity for miracles.
This is what Iqbal states, and some other Islamic writers have followed it. In this connection, we could say briefly that in their philosophy of the "end of prophethood" they have made a big mistake. Iqbal has accepted the question of the end of "prophethood", but his accounting for it is incorrect. His philosophy reaches a conclusion which is contrary to his own expectation. He intends by this means to prove the end of prophethood, but if what he says is true, then unfortunately it leads to the end of religion, not of prophethood.
The above writers mention two points: firstly that during the period of mental maturity of man, there is no need for a miracle; secondly, for this same reason Islam has, according to the verses of Qur'an, constantly refused to produce miracles.
Concerning the first point, it is not true that there is no need for miracles in the time of man's mental maturity, for, as we said before, the Qur'an refers to such an act as a 'sign' not a 'miracle'. Sign of what? A sign that this man's words are not his own, but God's. If a prophet spoke logically with people and proved his word by means of reasoning and experience, he would be a sage and a man of learning, and that is different from, a prophet.
Philosophers' words are at the level of human beings but prophets want to say much more than that. Their words are not only logical and intellectual, but they also observe that these are not their own words; they are commanded to say so, that is, they have received revelations. The Prophet says: "I have one tongue directed at you, but my spirit is connected elsewhere, and I communicate to you what I am told, I am a messenger of God, and as a prophet, I deliver His message".
Suppose Socrates says that he has a specific philosophy in ethics. If we find his words logical, we accept them. But if he says that his words are not his own but God's message which he announces to us, we require him to prove it, for then the guarantee of it, the reward for obeying it, and the punishment for rejecting it, are all related to God, and not to him.
Many people speak logically, and if we do not obey them it does not matter. But if someone said that his words were God's words, we would be disobedient for not accepting them, and we would be showing devotion to God if we are obedient.
Therefore, it is true that a prophet can, in an era of mental maturity, prove his words to the people by logic and reasoning, but the truth of his words, and their belonging to God are two separate matters.
The Prophet of God may say: "Do not drink wine because it is harmful and filthy". You ask for a reason, and he says, "Look at those addicts and note what has happened to their nerves, digestion and liver, and see how the drunkards have damaged the society. Statistics on the number of crimes committed as a consequence of drinking go to prove its evil.
Logical and intelligent people will agree that it is a very logical instruction and one should abstain from drinking. But if this is conveyed as a message of God, a miracle is necessary to affirm his being a divine messenger.
The second point was that some people claim that according to the testimony of the Qur'an, the Holy Prophet refused to perform miracles and this shows that he had no miracles. To prove this, they have quoted a number of verses, the most explicit of which are from Chapter "the Israelites", Verses 90-93:
"And they say: We will, by no means, believe in you until you cause a fountain to gush forth from the earth for us, or you should have a garden of palms and grapes in the midst of which you should cause rivers to flow forth, gushing out, Or you should cause the heavens to come down upon us in pieces as you think, or bring Allah and the angels face to face (with us.) Or you should have a house of gold, or you should ascend into heaven, and we will not believe in your ascending until you bring down to us a book which we may read, Say: Glory be to my Lord; am I aught but a mortal apostle?"
Mecca is a dry and grassless land. There was no flowing water at that time, and the water that is consumed now there and in Mena and Arafat comes mostly from the Ta'if stream. Ta'if is 72 Kilometres south of Mecca, and Zobeida, wife of Harun-e-Rashid, the powerful Caliph who controlled all the public funds, ordered to carve a water-way through the mountains and let a stream flow from Ta'if to Mecca. But in the time of the Prophet, there was no water in Mecca except the Zamzam spring, which did not have as much water as it has now.
The Ghoreysh heathen, who were opposed to the Prophet, asked for the following miracles in order to believe him:
1. To make a spring gush out of the earth.
2. To have a garden of palms and grapes which Mecca lacked, with a stream flowing through it.
3. To make the heavens fall now as it is claimed that they will on Resurrection.
4. To bring down God and angels for them to see.
5. To have a house full of gold.
6. To ascend heaven and bring back a letter addressed to them so that they may believe him.
And God says to the Prophet: "Tell them that you are only a human being and a messenger of God".
On the basis of the last sentence, the above people and Christians claim that he had no miracles. But they are wrong in their claim for the following reasons:
We said before that a miracle is not an impossible thing. Impossible means something that intellectually cannot be done and is impracticable even with infinite power. When something is non-existent, it cannot exist in any way. But asking for a miracle is not asking for the impossible, for, a miracle is something out of the normal course of events, requiring only a supernatural power.
We also said that all prophets must have miracles, but only as a sign and evidence of the truth of their claim that they are sent by God. But are all prophets obliged to comply with whatever people demand? If so, they will sink to the level of magicians. People love to be amused, and each person desires something, and then all this turns into a joke.
A prophet confines his acts of miracle to the extent of proving that he is sent by God, and after that there is no necessity for him to perform miracles. There is no obligation for him to satisfy people's whims and wishes. It is enough for them to be sure of the truth.
Another point is that Prophets are not dealers to make a bargain with people to pay them something in return for their faith. The people are even encouraged by them to spend and fight in the way of God. Even so, the prophets are not willing to accept every kind of contribution. If they feel that a gift is for ostentation, it is refused. Or if a man offers his service as a soldier of Islam in order to have his name recorded in history, again he is rejected because he has shown no devotion in the way of God.
The demands of the Ghoreysh were in the form of a proposal for a bargain, to gain some benefits, and not a demand for a miracle to be converted. Asking for a spring, or a garden or orchard is to seek profit for oneself. Asking for the heavens to fall is meaningless since it would mean the death of all, and what is the use of such a miracle? Asking for the presence of God and angels is the demand for something impossible, and if God could be seen and heard by human beings, what need would there be for a prophet? The meaning of this demand is to turn God into a creature, and this is impossible. The same applies to angels, for they are not material beings, and such a demand is unreasonable. Asking for a house full of gold is again to seek profit, as if one understands nothing but money. The last demand, too, was only a pretext, and even if the Prophet could have produced such a letter, they would have said that he had written it himself.
These demands are, therefore, either profit seeking or stupid, and none of them is for the purpose of discovering truth. Therefore, the above writers have mistakenly supposed that such demands were similar to the demands of former peoples from their prophets. Had they made logical requests for the sake of discovering truth, the Prophet would not have refused them.
Another interesting point is that the Holy Qur'an has described many miracles of former prophets such as Noah, Lot, Saleh, Moses, Abraham, Jesus and many others, none of which can be doubted. It is reasonable to suppose that the Qur'an quotes so many miracles of prophets, yet the Prophet of Islam refuses to perform any on the excuse of being only a prophet? Or were those acts not miracles? Therefore, the meaning of the Prophet's answer is that what they demanded were not miracles, otherwise he would have complied accordingly.
Moreover, the Qur'an itself is a miracle as we will explain later. But did the Prophet have no other miracle? The Qur'an mentions some of them, such as the following: Chapter "the Israelites", Verse 1:
"Glory be to Him who made His servant to go on a night from the Sacred Mosque to the remote mosque of which We have blessed the precincts, so that We may show to him some of Our signs; surely He is the Hearing and Seeing."
This Verse describes an extraordinary physical journey of the Prophet in one night to places very far from each other (Mecca to Palestine) at a time when the fastest means of transport was a camel. Is this not a miracle? When this verse descended, the Ghoreysh infidels asked him: "What evidence have you for this journey?" The Prophet described a caravan which was on its way from Damascus to Mecca, its halting place and its acts. The Ghoreysh then realised that he had passed close by the caravan.
There is another story of a miracle by the Prophet in the Qur'an in Chapter "the Moon" (Qamar) Verses 1and 2:
"The hour drew nigh and the moon did rend asunder. And if they see a miracle they turn aside and say "Transient magic."
We know that Muhammad is the Seal of Prophets, and his religion is the last and eternal one, and other Prophets have come as a prologue to him. In fact, they passed the preliminary stages when mankind, too, was undergoing its early phases, preparing for the final stage, which was the advent of Muhammad.
What is the explanation of this finality? I have discussed this subject in a little pamphlet called "The Finality of Prophethood;" and here I will mention a few points about it.
The creed of Muhammad has many differences with other religions, one of which is its main miracle. The miracles of other Prophets have been connected with natural events, such as reviving a dead man, a stick turning into a serpent, the sea going asunder and such likes.
Each of these is a transient issue, taking place at a certain time without lasting. For instance, a man is brought back to life, lives for some time and dies, and that is the end of it. A stick may become a serpent temporarily and once again return to its original state. Even some of the miracles of Muhammad are of this type. His journey from one place to another occurs at a special time, and then it all ends.
·But, for a religion which is to last many centuries, such short-lived miracles are not enough as it requires an eternal miracle. Thus, his principal miracle takes the form of a book. Other prophets have had books as well as miracles, but their books were not miracles, nor their miracles books.
Moses had the Old Testament, but he said that the book was not his miracle, his miracle was something else. The Prophet of Islam, however, had his book as his special miracle beside other miracles.
Another point about the last religion, which is also a secret of its finality, is that its duration compared with those of other religions resembles a specialised course by which man has become a clear-sighted expert.
It is in this era that in religious matters we can get expert theologians. Such men did not exist in the time of other religions, because religious jurisprudence belongs to this era. What a religious jurisprudent does today by his knowledge and reasoning was performed by the former prophets by means of revelation and prophethood. Moreover, the ground was not prepared for such expertness in those times, for, criteria and general principles are a pre-requisite for issuing a verdict on details, and the past religions lacked these criteria and general principles.
There are two terms commonly used for prophets: prophets with divine laws such as Abraham, Moses and Jesus, and prophets who followed their predecessors and had no divine laws of their own. What a religious jurisprudent does today is similar to the acts of the second group of prophets. Of course, such a jurisprudent in addition to this, also acts as a leader and spiritual magistrate, and directs people to do good deeds and forbids evil acts. He is a reformer who checks mischiefs.
In the religion of Islam, a prophet is not to be sent to do the work of experts, for, jurisprudents perform this duty. That explains the meaning of an utterance of the Prophet, saying: "The religious men of learning among my people are like the prophets of the Israelites". It refers to those prophets who only propagated the religion of Moses. In this sense then, jurisprudents are successors to the prophets who do not have divine laws.
There are two miraculous aspects of the Qur'an: literal and spiritual. By literal aspect is meant its artistic beauty, and by spiritual sense its intellectual and scientific aspect. Beauty is related to technique and knowledge is related to discovery of truth.
We can divide beauty into two kinds:
1) Sensual beauty.
2) Mental beauty.
Sensual beauty is also of two types: auditory and visual. The beauty of a garden and flowers is visual, and the beauty of music and song is auditory. The beauty of language is mental. A fine piece of poetry or prose is most attractive. The mixture of prose and poetry of Sa'di with which the poet begins his "Golestan" is of this kind. Sa'di died seven hundred years ago, but his Golestan has still preserved its beauty because it is fluent and eloquent.
Gha'ani, the Shirazi poet, is from the same town as Sa'di. He tried to write a book to rival Sa'di's "Golestan", but could not succeed. It is narrated that in a cheerful party, a minstrel began melodiously reciting a poem of Sa'di which perfectly fitted the occasion. When Gha'ani heard it, he was so amazed at the beauty of it that he said: "This man has left nothing unsaid for other poets", and threw his own book of poetry into the fire. Gha'ani was a good poet, but when he compared his own work with Sa'di's, he had to admit the latter's exalted position as a poet over himself.
What has preserved the position of Hafez and Mowlavi? Their eloquence, clarity, originality, and charm.
All those who have a mastery of language and words, and are familiar with the Qur'an, and even those Europeans who are acquainted with Arabic language, have admitted that the divine book is unrivalled in beauty, and eloquence. Firstly, the Qur'an has a particular style; it is neither prose nor poetry. Unlike poetry it has no rhyme or rhythm, and has made no use of extravagant imagery which is a peculiarity of a poem. Sometimes, it is said that the best poetry is the most untrue, but in spite of all exaggerations, it is attractive because of its imagery and arrangement of words. Moreover, beauty of language is attainable in special topics such as love, epic, eulogy or satire, and no poet can be very artistic in describing spiritual matters, for the sense cannot be interfered with, and so he resorts to metaphor to convey the meanings. For instance in speaking of knowledge he alludes to it as 'wine', and in referring to the glory of God, he uses the metaphor 'lock of hair'.
But the Qur'an presents spiritual issues in a most fluent way. The Chapter "Hamd" which was discussed at the beginning of this book is a fine example of this. Every Muslim recites it lifelong and at least ten times a day while offering prayer, and yet it is so sweet and pleasant that it is never tiresome or boring.
The Qur'an is not prose either, for prose lacks melody, whereas the Qur'an is wonderfully melodious. Have you ever seen a prose book, either religious or non-religious, which would lend itself to tuneful readings in different styles?
The Qur'an is the only book which can be recited in that way, so that a systematic study of it is made in this respect, and various resonances can be used for it depending on the meaning of the verses concerned, illustrating fear, encouragement, consolation etc.
Have you heard the Old or New Testament being recited melodiously in Christian or Jewish lands? If they do, it would sound strange and become intolerable. Can Sa'di's prose be recited melodiously? This is a special quality of the Qur'an, which has had no precedent, and nothing like it afterwards in the Arabic language.
An interesting point about all those who retained the Qur'an by heart and adored it deeply, is that though they were masters of the language of their time, they could not produce even two lines which would resemble those in the Qur'an.
Imam Ali is admittedly the most eloquent man whose discourses in the "Nahjul-Balagha" have never been rivalled by any Arab writer or orator, and these have preserved their magnificence. He heard the first Verse of the Qur'an at the age of ten or eleven, possessed great talents and was thoroughly familiar with the Qur'an. But when we compare "Nahjul-Balagha" with the Qur'an, we find two quite different styles. Even when Imam Ali, in the middle of his fine discourse, quotes a verse of the Qur'an, you feel as if a brilliant star has suddenly shone in a dark sky.
This is Verse 30 from Chapter "Yunus":
"There shall every soul become acquainted with what is sent before, and they shall be brought back to Allah, their true Patron, and what they devised shall escape from them."
In this verse, Resurrection has been so clearly portrayed that one feels to be in the presence of his Lord after having seen so many false lords.
The era of the Qur'an is that of eloquence and rhetoric. It is well-known that there was a market named Akkaz where, in sacred months when fighting was forbidden, artistic skills in poetry were displayed, and the best poems selected and hung on the walls of the Kaaba. There were seven famous odes which had, for long, been placed there. When the Qur'an was revealed, these poems were removed and taken away. Lebeyd-bin-Ziad was a first-rate poet who after embracing Islam and becoming familiar with the Qur'an, abstained from composing poetry, and constantly recited the Qur'an instead. When he was asked why he did not apply his skill in the world of Islam, he said: "I can no longer do it. If this is the word, all other words are nonsensical. I enjoy the Qur'an so much that no pleasure can be compared with it." The Qur'an challenges all people to produce even one verse similar to that of this Holy Book.
Yet so many enemies of the Qur'an, both when it descended and afterwards, have not been able to take up this challenge, and even if they have tried, it has been a failure.
Thus, one of the reasons for the miraculousness of the Qur'an is its artistic aspect in the form of fluency and eloquence, combined with a charm which penetrated the hearts and won them over. The fact that infidels called the Prophet a magician was an implied confession that they could not rival the words of the Qur'an. When they saw a man, devoid of faith, being so deeply attracted to the Qur'an after listening to its recitation once or twice, they called him a magician.
Strangers, who visited Mecca and attended the ceremony of circumambulation of the Kaaba, were told beforehand by heathens that if they went there they should put some cotton wool in their ears so as not to hear the magical words of a man who would charm them.
A Medina chief who had come to Mecca was given this recommendation, and he so filled his ears with cotton wool that he said he could not even hear the sound of a drum. On his ceremonial walk round the Kaaba, he noticed a man in prayer whose features attracted him. He noticed that the man's lips were moving but he could hear nothing. Suddenly he thought that the recommendation of those people was meaningless, so he took the wool out of his ears, went near and listened to him. He was quietly reading the verses of Qur'an, and this softened his heart so quickly that he felt devotion for him involuntarily.
This chief became a loyal believer of Islam and helped in the emigration of the Prophet to Medina, and it was this very meeting which culminated in the spread of Islam in Medina.4 This was the effect of the Qur'anic charm and beauty.
History of literature shows that with the passage of time, the Qur'an has had an increasing influence on the Muslim literature. In the first and second centuries of the Hejira, Arabic literature had its own place, but as time went on, it came more and more under the influence of the Qur'an. In Persian literature, too, we see this especially from the time of Ferdowsi onward, and when we come to the sixth and seventh centuries of Hejira, that is, to Mowlavi's time, this becomes very pronounced, so that Mathnavi is full of references to the Qur'an. The second aspect of the miraculousness of the Qur'an is in its contents and spiritual matter. If we study the divine subjects of the Qur'an, its logic about Resurrection and prophets, or its philosophy of history and ethics, we would realise how great it is.
These are matters in which the Qur'an has a mission, and that is to guide human beings.
The Qur'an has another miraculous aspect which is occult predictions, as well as its consistency and absence of contradiction, a subject which requires many sessions to discuss.
- 1. Gabriel
- 2. 7 This question has been discussed at length in my book "Divine Justice". It is wrong to suppose that our inability forces us to do things on the basis of cause and effect, or as God is absolute and mighty, cause and effect have no importance for Him. It has already been proved that God's sanctity and perfection necessitate that things should be based on cause and effect. In the Qur'an, there are many verses showing that God carries out His commands through various means, either natural, such as rainfall and growth of plants and their likes, or through supernatural means, such as angels and invisible armies.
- 3. The reason why no more than one effect can be produced from one cause, or vice versa, has been explained in my third volume of "Philosophical Principles".
- 4. 9 The story is about As'ad-bin-Zarara and Zakwan Khazavji, who had come to Mecca for a military pact to wage a war against the Owss tribe, but returned to Medina fully converted to Islam, and prepared the ground for the Prophet's emigration to Medina.