Recipe for Going Astray
Recipe for Going Astray
In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.
Believers! If you pay heed to some of those who have been given revelation, they will cause you to renounce the truth after you have accepted the faith. But how can you sink into disbelief when Allah’s revelations are being recited to you and His messenger is in your midst? He who holds fast to Allah has already been guided along a straight path. (The House of Imran, Aal Imran: 3:100-101)
Commentary by Sayyid Qutb
Translation: A.A.Salahi & S.A.Shamsi
We have commented on these two verses last issue, explaining the role of the Muslim community in relation to the rest of mankind. We need to add a word on the need to guard against borrowing any concept of faith from the followers of any other religion.
Matter of Faith
The Prophet (Pbuh) used to adopt a very strict attitude toward his companions (may Allah be pleased with them all) in matters of faith and with regard to their way of life. He, at the same time, allowed them to use their discretion in matters of practical life which rely on human experience and knowledge. Examples of these are : methods and all purely scientific matters which have nothing to do with faith, or with a social system or the relationship which regulates man’s life. These are two totally different fields. The way of life adopted by an individuals or a certain society has nothing to do with pure or applied science.
The religion of Islam which has been revealed to conduct human life according to a certain divine method makes its directive clear to man to seek knowledge and to benefit by every material discovery or scientific advance, provided that this is made within the context of implementing its own method of life.
Position of the people of earlier Revelation
Imam Ahmad relates on the authority of Abdullah ibn Thabit that Umar came to the Prophet (Pbuh) one day and said: “Messenger of Allah! I have asked a Jewish friend of mine from the tribe of Quraizah to write me the basic teachings of the Torah. Shall I read them to you? The Prophet’s face changed colour when Umar said that.” Abdullah ibn Thabit turned to Umar and said: “Don’t you see the expression on Allah’s messenger’s face?” Umar said immediately: “I believe in Allah as my only Lord, accept Islam as my faith and Muhammad as Allah’s messenger.” The Prophet’s face regained its normal colour and he said: “By Him who holds my soul in His hands, if Moses comes back to you tomorrow and you follow him and leave me you will go astray. You are my share of nations and I am your share of Prophets.”
A Hadith reported by Jabir quotes the Prophet as saying: “Do you ask the people of the Book about anything, for they will not guide you aright when they have gone astray. You will have one of the two alternatives: either you will accept a falsehood or you will reject a truth. Had Moses been living among you, the only course lawful to him is to follow me.” The Prophet is also quoted as saying: “Had Moses and Jews been alive, they would have had to follow me.”
This is the position of the people of earlier revelation. The prophet makes our position abundantly clear when it comes to following their guides in matter of faith, ideological concepts, law or method of life. Islam imposes no restriction whatsoever on its followers when it comes in benefiting to the advances of any group of people to any branch of science. We have only to relate these advances to our own approach to everything in the universe, knowing that Allah has enabled man to make use of everything on earth and to benefit by them in order to achieve a higher and more secure standard of living. We should also be grateful to Allah for enabling us to make such discoveries and to make use of the resources and potentials he has placed in the universe. We express our gratitude to Him by worshipping Him alone and by making the right use of our advances.
Where Muslims Stand today?
When it comes to asking the followers of other religion about concepts of faith, the definition of the purpose of human life, its method, laws and regulations, moral values and codes, we find the Prophet’s face changing colour for the slightest indication of it. Allah gives the Muslim community a stern warning against the ultimate result of all that, namely, the total rejection of faith.
In the life of the directive by Allah and the guidance of His messenger, where do we, who claim to be Muslims, stand today? I see us taking Orientalists and their disciples as our teachers when we study the Qur’an and the Hadith of our Prophet (Pbuh). I see us also formulating our concepts of life and existence on the basis of what we learn from those orientalists and their disciples, as well as from Greek, Roman, European and American philosophers. We borrow our regulations and laws from these suspect sources. I also find us borrowing our manners, code of conduct and moral values from the stinking immorality into which has fallen the modern material civilization which is totally devoid of the spirit of any religion. In spite of all that, we still claim to be Muslims. Such a claim is worse than open disbelief. For when we make such a claim, when our state of affairs is such, we testify to the failure of Islam when those who do not claim to be Muslims would not make such a testimony.
Islam is a method with unique, distinctive characteristics in relation to its ideological philosophy, its laws regulating all spheres of life, its moral values which govern all political, economic and social relations. It is a method designed to lead humanity as a whole. Hence, it is necessary that a certain community should implement this method in order to assume the leadership of mankind. As we have mentioned earlier, it is contrary to the very nature of leadership that this community should receive directives from any source other than its own method of life.
It is for the good of mankind that this method was revealed by Allah. It is also for the good of mankind that the advocates of Islam call for the implementation of this method now and in the future. Indeed, the urgency for its implementation today is much greater, considering the suffering of mankind under all the systems and methods implemented by man. There is simply no saviour except this divine method which must retain all its distinctive characteristics in order to play its role and save mankind anew.
True purpose of Existence
Man has made great advances in utilizing the resources and potentials of the universe. His achievements in medicine and industry are miraculous when compared with man’s past. Fresh discoveries and triumphs still await man. What is the effect of all this on man’s life? Has it given man happiness, security and peace? The answer is in the negative. What humanity has found instead are misery, worry, fear, a host of neurological and psychiatric diseases, in addition to perversion and crime on a large scale indeed. Moreover, it has made no progress whatsoever in the formulation of a sound concept of the purpose of human existence. When this purpose and the goals of human life as concerned by modern civilized men are compared on the Islamic concept, this civilization appears to shrink into insignificance. It seems no more than a curse which belittles man’s own concept of himself and his position in the universe. It degrades him and limits his aspirations. The result is that humanity feels its heart being consumed by void and its soul writhes under the burden of confusion. The simple reason is that humanity cannot find Allah since its course has deviated away from Him as a result of a collection of miserable circumstances. Had scientific research followed the divine method, it would have made every achievement accomplished by man a step which draws humanity nearer to Allah. Instead, it causes humanity to go further away from Him. Man is, therefore, deprived of the light which would have revealed to him the true purpose of his existence and enabled him to work for that purpose equipped with the scientific progress Allah has enabled him to achieve. Nor does man find the method which would have established harmony between him and the universe, in their respective actions, movements, natures and laws. Nor does man find the system which would have established a perfect equilibrium between his potentials and resources, this world and the life to come, the individual and the community, his rights and his duties, in a nature and comprehensive way.
Leadership of Mankind
Certain groups of human beings endeavour to deprive man of Allah’s method and guidance. It is they who describe man’s aspiration to implement this method as “reaction.” They dismiss it as mere nostalgia for the historical past. Whether this is the result of their ignorance or their ill will they actually deprive humanity of the right to aspire to the only method which can lead it to perfect peace and happiness, as well as progress and development. We, who believe in the method, know perfectly well what we call for. We see the misery of mankind and we see as well, over the horizon, the real possibility of salvation looming large for the suffering humanity. We are also aware that unless the leadership of mankind is given to this method, then man will sink into a much lower depth.
The first step to salvation is that this method must remain pure. Its advocates must not listen to any directive given to them by the ignorance which has spread all around them. This ensures the purity of the system until Allah wills it to re-assume the leadership of mankind. Allah is too kind to man to let him fall prey to his enemies who advocate ignorant ways. This is the lesson Allah wanted to give to the first Muslim community in His revelation and the Prophet was keen on driving home to his followers.