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APRIL 2000

MONTHLY    *    Vol 14-04 No:160    *   APRIL 2000 / MUHARRAM 1421H
  email: editor@islamicvoice.com

UNDERSTANDING QUR'AN


An appeal in the interest of Truth

An appeal in the interest of Truth

In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful

Pilgrimage to the House is a duty owed to Allah by all people who are able to make the journey. As for those who disbelieve, Allah is in no need of anyone in all the worlds. Say: People of earlier revelation, why do you disbelieve in Allah’s revelations, when Allah Himself is witness to all that you do. Say: People of earlier revelation, why do you try to turn those who have come to believe away from the path of Allah’s, seeking to make it appear crooked, when you yourselves bear witness (to its being straight)? Allah is not unaware of what you do. (The House of Imran, “Aal Imran”: 3;97-99)

Commentary: Sayyid Qutb
Translation: A.A. Salahi & S.A.Shamsi


The first verse in this passage speaks about pilgrimage. In our last commentary, we referred to how it is phrased and what we may infer from its phraseology. We will speak now of the duty which it imposes on all people.

Pilgrimage is a personal obligation on every individual once in a life time, and it becomes due when the conditions of ability are fulfilled, including physical health, ability to travel and safe passage. There is difference of opinion among scholars with regard to the time when this duty was imposed. Relying on the report that this passage was revealed in the 9th year of the Prophet’s settlement in Madinah, which is generally known in history books as “ the year of delegations”, some scholars believe that pilgrimage was made an obligatory duty in that year.

They support their argument with the fact that the Prophet himself (Pbuh) went on his pilgrimage later. When we discussed the question of changing the direction of the Qiblah, in our commentary on the preceding surah, we made the point that the timing of the Prophet’s pilgrimage may not be taken as an argument in support of the view that pilgrimage was made obligatory at a later stage in the life of the Prophet.

Several considerations might have contributed to that delay. One of these may have been the fact that the mushrikeen (disbelievers/polytheists) used to make their walk (tawaf) round the Ka’abah completely in the nude, and they continued to do so even after the liberation of Makkah. The Prophet (Pbuh) did not like to join them in their tawaf. The Surah entitled “Repentance,” or At-Tawbah, was revealed in the 9th year of the Islamic calendar, and mushrikeen were banned from tawaf in the Ka’abah all together. The Prophet offered his pilgrimage in the following year.

Hence, the duty of offering pilgrimage may have been legislated earlier, and this verse may have been revealed in the early part of the Prophet’s settlement in Madinah, probably around the time of the Battle of Uhud which took place in the third year of the Islamic calendar.

This clear statement imposes this obligation of pilgrimage, in the terms of a right which Allah demands from all people who are able to make the journey. Pilgrimage is the Muslim’s annual general assembly which is held at the House from which their message was given to them at the first time, and which witnessed the birth of the pure faith of Abraham, their first father, and which was the first House Allah set up on earth for His own worship. Pilgrimage is therefore, an assembly of great significance. It has its historical associations which centre around the noble concept of faith highlighting the link between man and his Maker.

Faith means man’s spiritual response to Allah, a fact of great significance considering that only with a blow of Allah’s spirit man has acquired his humanity. It is a worthy concept as a basis for human unity. Hence, it is appropriate that people should assemble every year at the Sacred Place which witnessed the birth of his call to mankind to unite on pure faith.

Having provided this clarification, the Surah instructs the Prophet to address the people of earlier revelation denouncing their attitude toward the truth of this message. They know this truth fully well, yet they try to turn people away from it. They ignore Allah’s revelations although they bear witness to them and they are certain that these revelations are true: Say: People of earlier revelation, why do you disbelieve in Allah’s revelations, when Allah Himself is witness to all that you do. Say: People of earlier revelation, why do you try to turn those who have come to believe away from the path of Allah, seeking to make it appear crooked, when you yourselves bear witness (to its being straight)? Allah is not unaware of what you do. Similar denunciations are made in this Surah and many others.

It is a highly effective denunciation because it does not mince words about the matter in question. The attitude of the people of earlier revelation is truthfully described, and they are shown in their true colour although they try to appear as people who have faith when they are in reality disbelievers. They disbelieve in the Qur’an which is revealed by Allah. Anyone who disbelieves in any part of Allah’s Book questions the whole Book. Were they true believers in the part of Allah’s Book which has been revealed to them, they would have believed in every messenger sent by Allah after their own messenger. The essence of divine faith is the same. Anyone who knows is certain to know that whatever is preached by subsequent messengers is true. He is bound to accept their call to surrender himself to Allah in the way they teach. This fact should shake those people and make them fear the consequences of insisting on their erring ways.

Those in the Muslim community who are deceived by the fact that those people adhere to a divine book can no longer be so deceived. As they listen to Allah’s words declaring the truth about those people branding them as total disbelievers, all their doubts are bound to disappear. Allah issues them with warnings which strike fear in their hearts: Allah Himself is witness to all that you do..... Allah is not unaware of what you do. It is a fearful warning because it makes man feel that Allah watches him and sees exactly what he does. Which is, in reality, nothing but disbelief, deception and the spread of corruption. Moreover, Allah makes it clear that they are aware from which they try to turn people: You yourselves bear witness to its being straight. It is absolutely clear, then, that they were aware of the truth of what they rejected. They knowingly tried to turn people away from what they realised to be a straight path. What a wicked attitude! Anyone who adopts it is not worthy of trust. He is indeed worthy of nothing but contempt and denunciation.

We need to reflect on Allah’s description of those people in the following terms: Why do you try to turn those who have come to believe away from the path of Allah, seeking to make it appear crooked? This is a statement of great significance, Allah’s path is straight, and every other way is crooked. When people are turned away from Allah’s path and believers are forcibly barred from following Allah’s constitution, nothing remains straight. Our standards become faulty and nothing remains on earth except crookedness which can never be set straight.Corruption thus wins the upper hand. Human nature becomes corrupt as it deviates from the straight path, and life becomes corrupt as it follows a crooked line. All this corruption is the result of turning people away from the path of Allah which generates erroneous concepts, deviant conscience, crooked morality, wicked behaviour, unfair transactions and injustice in all relations within human society and between man and the universe around him. Either people follow the path of Allah which is straight and leads to everything that is good, or they deviate from it in any direction, and this will inevitably lead to crookedness, evil and corruption. In man’s life, there is no third alternative.

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