In the name of Allah the Merciful, the Beneficent
Forbidden to you are carrion, blood, the flesh of swine; and that on which the name of any other than Allah has been invoked; and the animals that had been strangled, beaten to death, killed by a fall, gored to death or savaged by a beast of prey, save that which you may have slaughtered when alive. (Also forbidden to you are) animals that have been slaughtered on idolatrous altars. And (you are also forbidden) to resort to the divining arrows; for all this is sinful, the disbelievers have this day despaired of vanquishing your religion. Have no fear of them, then, but fear Me alone. This day I have perfected your religion for you and bestowed on you the full measure of My blessings and chosen Islam as a religion for you.
He who is constrained by extreme hunger (to eat of what is forbidden), not intending to commit sin, will find Allah much forgiving, merciful.
(The Repast “Al-Maidah”: 5;3)
Commentary by Sayyid Qutb. Translated by Adil Salahi
After having commented fully on the instructions given in this verse with regard to types of food that are forbidden to Muslims, we began our discussion of the meaning and significance of the great statement included in this verse: “This day I have perfected your religion for you and bestowed on you the full measure of My blessings and chosen Islam as a religion for you.” We have pointed out that the perfection of this religion of Islam can be clearly seen in the fact that Islam lays down basic principles for those aspects of human life which are bound to change from one society to another and from one period of time to another, while detailed legislation is given for those areas which remain constant. We have also briefly pointed out the fact that with Islam, man has come to know his Lord, the world in which he lives and his own role in the universe as they truly are and that he has never known them before, represents a rebirth of humanity.
Islam gives man a concept of faith which requires him to believe in Allah, His Angels, revelations, messengers and in the Day of Judgment. As he formulates this concept, he leaves the realm of animals which comprehend nothing beyond the extent of their senses to an area which extends well beyond the realm of human perception. Thus, man can comprehend the physical and the metaphysical, the perceptible and the imperceptible. As man acknowledges the oneness of Allah, he is liberated from submission to any authority other than that of Allah. He is equal to, if not nobler than, any other creature. It is to Allah alone that man addresses his worship, and from Allah alone he receives his laws, systems and constitution and on Allah alone he relies and Him alone he fears. Through the divine way of life, laid down by Islam for people to follow, all human power is dedicated to achieve goodness and to improve life. Thus, he is elevated above the standard of animals, or the fulfillment of desires.
Only a person, who has known the true nature of the life of ignorance (which is the Islamic term for any system which is not based on divine revelations) and its oppressive concepts and life of chaos, can appreciate the fact that through the implementation of Islam, man enjoys the full measure of Allah’s blessings. A person who has experienced a life of error, loss and chaos through baseless concepts can appreciate fully the blessing of faith. When one reflects on the suffering that results from tyranny, confusion and total lack of balance in all sorts of ignorant systems, we can state with absolute conviction that life with faith and with the implementation of an Islamic system is the greatest blessing of all in this world.
The Arabs, who were first addressed by the Qur’an, were quick to appreciate its significance, because it told them of their own experience. In matters of faith, they were at the lowest depth of ignorance, believing in idols and considering angels, jinn’s, stars and forefathers and deities equal to the Supreme Lord. With Islam, they came to know what it meant to believe in the one God Who has power over all things and Who is at the same time Merciful, Compassionate, Fair and Who sees all and Knows all. He is close to everyone and answers everyone. There is no intermediary between Him and anyone of His servants. They were liberated from the tyranny of chiefs and priests alike. At the same time, they were liberated from the tyranny of superstition.
Their social set-up established distinction between different classes and allowed every one with power to tyrannize over others. Indeed, oppression was synonymous with dignity and high position among all chiefs throughout Arabia, regardless of their relevant positions in the strict tribal hierarchy. An Arabian poet described the weakness of someone he was castigating in these terms: “His tribes are never unfaithful to their trust and never try to take the smallest of articles unfairly.” Amr ibn Hind was an Arab chief when he imposed his rule to talk to people from behind a screen. He considered it too impudent for the tribal chiefs to refuse that their mothers serve in his palace. Al Numan ibn Al-Munthir, another Arabian King, was so dictatorial in his rule that he chose a day for pleasure when he gave his bounty to all and sundry, and chose a day for displeasure where he killed everyone he met that day from morning till evening. Examples of such a tyrannical system in Arabia were abounding.
In the days prior to Islam, infant girls were buried alive in Arabia, women suffered much injustice. Drinking, gambling, indecent sexual practices, abuse of women, revenge killing, assaults, stealing, looting were characteristics of Arabian life, along with disunity and weakness before any external enemy, Arabian tribes were quick to fight one another, but when the Abyssinians launched an attack with the aim of destroying the Kaaba, all tribes took a defeatist attitude.
It is from such a depth that Islam rescued the Arabs to mould out of them a nation to assume the leadership of all mankind. It was one generation of the Arabs which lived in the depth of ignorance and then experienced life at the top as envisaged by Islam. Hence, they were quick to fully appreciate the significance of the Qur’anic statement: “This day, I have perfected your religion for you and bestowed on you the full measure of My blessings and chose Islam as a religion for you.”
Finally, a believer is bound to reflect on the fact that it was Allah Who has chosen Islam as a faith for him. That is a manifestation of Allah’s care and love to this nation. It is He Himself Who lays down its code of living for it.
These words place a heavy burden on the shoulders of this nation. Nothing that this nation in all its generations can give can equal the care Allah has taken of it. They can only do their utmost in acknowledging Allah’s grace and praising Him for it. In this way, they show that they are aware of their duty and try to fulfill it as best as they can, seeking Allah’s forgiveness at the same time for any slips or failures.
The fact that Allah Himself has chosen this religion for the Muslim nation requires Muslims to appreciate the value of this choice and to exert every effort to implement in their lives what Allah has chosen for them. How foolish and miserable of anyone to ignore, or indeed reject, what Allah has chosen for him and try to establish for himself a way of life different from what Allah has laid down for him. Such attitude is a ghastly crime which must be punished. Its perpetrator cannot escape scot-free when he has rejected Allah’s choice. Allah may let alone those who have never known Islam to do what they like for a period of time. As for those who have known Islam and rejected or abandoned it, choosing for themselves other methods of life, these will deservedly suffer the results of their choice.
This statement merits a much fuller treatment and discussion, but we will content ourselves with what we have said for now.