Islamic Voice A Monthly English Magazine

November 2005
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Quran Speaks to You

The Final Destiny Is Clearly Stated
Commentary by Sayyid Qutb. Translated by Adil Salahi


To how many a township that was immersed in evildoing have I given rein for a while! But then I took it to task. With Me is the end of all journeys.


Say: Mankind, I am but a plain warner, sent to you! Those who believe and do righteous deeds shall be granted forgiveness of sins and a most excellent sustenance; whereas those who strive against Our revelations are destined for the blazing fire.


Whenever We sent forth a messenger or a prophet before you, and he was hoping for something, Satan would throw some aspersion on his wishes. But God renders null and void whatever aspersion Satan may cast; and God makes His messages clear in and by themselves. God is all-knowing, wise. He may cause whatever aspersion Satan may cast to become a trial for all in whose hearts is disease and all whose hearts are hardened. Indeed, all who are thus sinning are most deeply in the wrong. And those who are endowed with knowledge may realize that this (Qur’an) is the truth from your Lord, and thus they may believe in it, and their hearts may humbly submit to Him. God will surely guide those who believe to a straight path. (The Pilgrimage, Al-Haj: 22: 48-54)


God often gives unbelievers a period of grace so that they may reflect and have a chance to believe. However, when they think that they are immune to God’s punishment, they may go as far as trying to hasten it. They ask for it to be inflicted on them, but God will determine that as He will. He had given respite to many past communities, but such respite did not save them from punishment when they persisted in their wrongdoing. This is a rule which God has set in operation and it cannot fail: “To how many a township that was immersed in evildoing have I given rein for a while! But then I took it to task. With Me is the end of all journeys.” Why would the Arab unbelievers, then, hasten their own punishment and deride God’s warning when it is only respite for a while that God grants such people?


At this point in the narrative of the fate of past communities, outlining the rule concerning those who persist in denying God’s messages, the Surah addresses the Prophet instructing him to warn people and explain the inevitable outcome: “Say: ‘Mankind, I am but a plain warner, sent to you!’ Those who believe and do righteous deeds shall be granted forgiveness of sins and a most excellent sustenance; whereas those who strive against Our revelations are destined for the blazing fire.” We note that in this context, the Prophet’s task is clearly stated as one of giving people a clear and plain warning, that leaves no room for ambiguity. This fits the immediate situation of stubborn rejection of God’s message that makes people hasten their own doom.


The final destiny is clearly stated. Those who believe and put their faith in practice, so as to “do righteous deeds” will have their reward which consists of forgiveness by their Lord of all sins that they might have committed or duties they might have omitted to do. Such forgiveness is coupled with “a most excellent sustenance” that they receive with dignity.


As for those who endeavor to stop God’s revelations from addressing people’s hearts, and God’s laws from being implemented in their life, will be the ones to suffer in the blazing fire. The expression the Surah uses makes them the owners of this fire, which is in stark contrast with the excellent sustenance the believers receive.


God always protects His message from the wicked designs of unbelievers who try to prevent its implementation. Similarly, He protects it from Satan’s scheming and his attempts to maneuver his own ways into it through the hopes entertained by God’s messengers who are, after all, human beings. Although God’s messengers are given immunity against Satan, their human nature makes them hope that their efforts in advocating divine faith would be able to remove all impediments and ensure a speedy victory. Satan tries to exploit these hopes in order to force the message out of its fundamental principles and proper methods. But God renders all Satan’s schemes futile, preserves His message, making its principles and values clear, perfects His revelations and removes all doubt that may surround its values and method of action.


“Whenever We sent forth a messenger or a prophet before you, and he was hoping for something, Satan would throw some aspersion on his wishes. But God renders null and void whatever aspersion Satan may cast; and God makes His messages clear in and by themselves. God is all-knowing, wise. He may cause whatever aspersion Satan may cast to become a trial for all in whose hearts is disease and all whose hearts are hardened. Indeed, all who are thus sinning are most deeply in the wrong. And those who are endowed with knowledge may realize that this (Qur’an) is the truth from your Lord, and thus they may believe in it, and their hearts may humbly submit to Him. God will surely guide those who believe to a straight path.”


There are many reports about the events leading to the revelation of these verses, but Ibn Katheer describes all these reports as lacking in authenticity. The most detailed of these reports mentions that Surah 53, The Star, was revealed at a time when some idolaters used to say to one another that they would let Muhammad and his companions alone if only he would say a good word about the idols they worshipped.


“They felt that the Prophet did not criticize the Jews and Christians who opposed him in the same way as he denounced the practices of the idolaters. The Prophet was very grieved by their continued denial of his message and the persecution they inflicted on his companions. He still hoped that they would be able to recognize divine guidance. God then revealed the Surah, The Star, including the following verses: “Have you ever considered Al-Lat and Al-Uzza, as well as Manat, the third and last (of this triad)? Why (would you choose) for yourselves only male offspring, whereas to Him (you assign) females?” (53: 19-21)


At this mention of those worshiped idols of the Quraysh, Satan added the words, “these are the sublime birds, whose intercession is to be hoped for.” These were nothing but rhyming words of Satan’s invention, but they touched the hearts of all idolaters in Makkah who kept repeating them and expressed their delight to one another, claiming that Muhammad had returned to his old religion which was practiced by his people.


“When the Prophet completed the recitation of the Surah, he prostrated himself, and all those present, Muslims and idolaters alike, also prostrated themselves. The only exception was Al-Waleed ibn Al-Mugheerah, an old man, who took a handful of dust and placed his forehead over it. Both parties were amazed at this common prostration when the Prophet prostrated himself. Muslims were amazed that the idolaters should prostrate themselves when they did not believe in God, particularly because they were unaware of what Satan made the idolaters hear. The idolaters, on the other hand, were reassured by what Satan has introduced through the Prophet’s hopes and implied to them that the Prophet read those words as he recited the Surah. Hence, they prostrated themselves because their idols were praised.


“All this was soon widely known, and Satan helped to circulate it. Before long, the news traveled to Abyssinia, where some Muslims had sought refuge, including Uthman ibn Mathoon. They were told that the people of Makkah had embraced Islam and prayed with the Prophet. They also came to know of Al-Waleed ibn Al-Mugheerah’s gesture of prostration on a handful of dust he raised to his forehead. They felt that Muslims were now safe in Makkah, which prompted some of them to travel back speedily. But then God nullified Satan’s aspersion and made His revelation clear and perfect, preserving it from Satanic fabrication.”