Volume 15-07 No:175
Hasten, all of you, to the achievement of your Lord's forgiveness, and a paradise as vast as the heavens and the earth, prepared for the God-fearing, who spend in prosperity and in adversity, and restrain their anger, and forgive their fellow-men. Allah loves the benevolent. And who, when they commit a gross indecency or wrong themselves remember Allah and pray for the forgiveness of their sins -for who but Allah can forgive sins? - and do not knowingly persist in doing the wrong they have done. These shall have the reward of forgiveness by their Lord, and gardens underneath which rivers flow, where they shall abide for ever. Excellent is the reward for workers (of every good thing).(The House of Imran, "Aal Imran": 133-136)
Commentary by Sayyid Qutb
Translation: A. A. Salahi and S. A. Shamsi
We started our commentary on this passage in the last issue, discussing the first two verses which outline some of the main characteristics of the God-fearing. Readers are reminded that this passage and the preceding three verses categorically state that all interest is forbidden in Islam, and call on the believers to guard themselves against hell and to obey Allah and His Messenger so that they may be graced with mercy - all seven verses are given in the surah within the context of its comments on the battle of Uhud, the second major battle in the history of Islam in which the eventual outcome was a defeat for the Muslims, although they managed to impose their authority and gain control in the early stages of the battle. Today we are completing our commentary on this passage before we move on to another passage in the surah.
We take up another quality of the God-fearing. They are those who, when they commit a gross indecency, remember Allah and pray for the forgiveness of their sins - for who but Allah can forgive sins? - and do not knowingly persist in doing the wrong they have done. How compassionate this religion is. Before he calls on people to be compassionate to one another, Allah, limitless He is in His glory, shows them one aspect of His own compassion of which they themselves are the recipients, so that they may learn.
In Islamic terminology, the God-fearing are among the elite of believers. Allah’s compassion and mercy, however, includes among them those who remember Allah after committing a gross indecency and pray to Him to forgive their sins. The term “gross indecency” includes the most ghastly of all sins. This religion of ours, however, is so tolerant that it neither considers those who sink to its depth as outcasts nor deprives them of Allah’s mercy. They are not even given the bottom rank among the believers. They are elevated to the rank of the elite, the God-fearing, on one condition. That condition is that they should remember Allah and pray to Him to forgive their sins.
Islam recognizes the weakness of man whose physical desires may bring him down to the depth of gross indecency. His lust, ambitions or temptations may cause him to lose control and drive him to disobey Allah. Recognizing this weakness in man, Islam does not adopt harsh measures of punishment, rejecting him altogether and depriving him of Allah’s mercy when he wrongs himself and commits a grave sin. In the Islamic view, there is something important to add to his relationship with Allah and he knows that he is merely a servant who slips and makes mistakes, and that he has a Lord who forgives. He clings to his bond with Allah and he does not severe it. He may, then, slip as many times as his weakness imposes on him. Eventually, he will get there as long as he holds to his bond with Allah and he keeps the light of faith with him.
Weakness of Man
Islam never slams the door in the face of a weak sinner to leave him lost in the wilderness. Never does it let him feel permanently rejected. On the contrary, it holds for him the prospect of forgiveness. It shows him the way and holds his trembling hand, steadying him and giving him the light he needs to come back to his secure refuge. As long as he remembers Allah and keeps alive in his conscience the voice of guidance and maintains in his heart the yearning for Allah’s grace, light will shine again in his soul and the seed of faith will spring out with a new plant.
When your misbehaving son who has run away knows that nothing awaits him at home except flogging, he will never return. But if he knows that there is also a tender hand which will pat his shoulder when he apologizes for his misdeeds, he will certainly come back. Islam is sympathetic to man in his moment of weakness to put him again on the way to a higher horizon, as long as he remembers Allah and does not knowingly persist with his wrongdoing. The Prophet says: “He who prays for forgiveness does not persist with his sin, even if he commits it 70 times a day.” (Related by Abu Dawood and At-Tirmithi). Forgiveness by Allah, the only One to forgive sins, does not lead to complacency; it fills the sinner with shame. Only those who persist and pay no heed remain outcast. Thus Islam combines its call to man to aspire to a higher horizon with its mercy and compassion, knowing man’s weakness and capability. It keeps the door of hope always open in front of man as it motivates him to exert his utmost in his movement toward the sublime.
What is the reward for those God-fearing people? These shall have the reward of forgiveness by their Lord, and gardens underneath which rivers flow where they shall abide forever. Excellent is the reward for workers (of every good thing.) When people pray for forgiveness of their sins, and spend their money in times of prosperity and adversity, and when they control their anger and forgive others, they do not take a negative attitude. Indeed, they are good workers. Excellent is the reward for workers (of every good thing). That reward is forgiveness and paradise.
All these characteristics of the God-fearing are relevant to the battle which the surah discusses. In the same way as the Islamic financial system based on cooperation has its effects on the life of the Muslim community and its bearing on the military battle, these personal and communal qualities have their bearing to which we have referred earlier. When individuals triumph over their love of money, their anger and their sins and return to Allah in repentance praying for His forgiveness and pleasure, they only do what is necessary to triumph over the enemies in the battlefield. Their enemies only have that status because they represent niggardliness, caprice and sin. They do not submit themselves or their desires or their lifestyle to Allah and the divine law. It is over this that enemity arises, battles flares up and jihad takes place. There is no other reason for a Muslim to stand in opposition to anyone or fight him. He only fights for Allah’s sake. The link is, then, very close between these directives and commenting on the military battle as well as certain aspects of that battle, such as the disobedience by some Muslims of an express order by the Prophet, resulting from the desire to share in the spoils of war. Other relevant circumstances include a blind attempt at self-assertion which led to the desertion by Abdullah ibn Ubbai and others with him, sudden weakness leading some people to run away, confusion which made some forget that they must leave matters to Allah and caused some of them to ask: “Do we have any authority over this, we would not have been killed here.