A warning against renouncing the Truth
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
Our commentary over the last few issues dealt with a passage answering arguments advanced by Christians and Jews against the message of Islam. Having answered all their arguments, the Surah makes this address directly to the Muslim Community which begins with a stern warning against paying heed to Christians and Jews, and outlines the essential characteristics of the Muslim Community, its methods, beliefs and way of life.
The Muslim community implements a divine system which makes it unique among all the nations of the world. It owes its very existence of this system which, in turn, assigns to it a role which cannot be played by any other community. It has to establish the divine system in practice so that it appears to all eyes as real and practical. Statements and clauses are thus translated into actions. They define moral standards, generate certain feelings and establish certain relations.
The Muslim community, however, cannot go along its proper way, realize the purpose of its existence and make the theory a reality unless it receives its instruction from Allah alone. Only through this can the Muslim community assume the leadership of mankind. This precludes then any possibility of following or paying heed to any human being. The choice before the Muslim Community is either to follow this course dictated by its faith or sink into utter disbelief.
The Qur’an emphasizes this fact on several occasions. It tries to mould the feelings, thought and morals of the Muslim community on the basis of this principle at every possible chance. On this particular occasion of answering the arguments of the people of earlier revelation and forestalling their schemes against the Muslim community in Madinah, this principle is re-emphasized. The fact that it is stated again here within the context of a particular occasion does not detract from its permanent validity. It applies to all generations of the Muslim community because it is the basis of its very existence.
The only guarantee against slipping into renouncing the truth is to hold fast to Allah. He is the Eternal Master of all. He never dies
Leadership of Mankind
If the Muslim community is brought into existence in order to assume the leadership of mankind, how is it possible for that community to receive instruction from the very ignorance which it aims to change? If the Muslim community is to abandon its role of leadership, what remains of its purpose of existence? Its leadership is to provide correct concepts and beliefs for human life, generating perfect moral standards and a perfect social setup. In such a healthy situation, the human intellect makes its constructive contribution as it tries to learn the secrets of the universe and manipulate its potentials. The leadership which permits and controls all that, using it for the benefit of man, not to threaten human life with destruction, nor to devote these potentials to satisfy carnal desires belongs to faith only. It is given to the Muslim community which seeks Allah’s guidance and does not allow itself to be dictated to by anyone of Allah’s servants.
Beginning of Creeping Disbelief
The verses which we are considering today include a warning to the Muslim community against following other people. These are followed later by an explanation of how the Muslim community can create and maintain a proper setup. The first warning is against following people of earlier revelation, i.e. Christians and Jews, for they will inevitably lead the Muslim community back into disbelief: 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. In the first place, to follow the people of earlier revelation and to copy their methods and systems indicate an inner defeat and suggest that the Muslim community has abandoned its leadership role. It also suggests the existence of doubts in the minds of the Muslims in the adequacy of the divine system to organize and elevate human life. These very doubts are the beginnings of creeping disbelief, although one may not feel its approaching danger in such early stages.
On the other hand, people of earlier revelation are most keen on turning the Muslim community away from its faith which represents at the same time its line of defence and its driving force. The enemies of Islam, they resort to wicked scheming. When they feel they cannot launch a war against it by themselves, they recruit hypocrites who pretend to be Muslims so that they work against Islam from within, advocating different systems and pledging their loyalty of different leaderships.
Sinking in Disbelief
Were the people of earlier revelation to find some Muslims responsive to their arguments, they will lose no time in channelling that reponsiveness to their paramount goal of leading those Muslims, and the Muslim community as a whole to total disbelief and renunciation of the truth. Hence, the stern divine warning” 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.
At the time of the Prophet no prospect was more frightening to any Muslim than finding himself sinking into disbelief after he has accepted the faith. To him, that of hell after he had saved himself and opened his way to heaven. This applies to every true Muslim in all generations. Hence, a warning in such terms is sufficient to alert his conscience and keep it wide awake. The Surah, therefore, continues the warning with a reminder to the Muslim community of Allah’s grace. How fearful is that prospect of finding those who have accepted the faith allowing themselves to be led back into disbelief when Allah’s revelations continue to be recited to them, and Allah’s messenger retains in their midst.
All the incentives to accept the faith are there, and the call of Allah continues to be made, and the parting of the ways of belief and disbelief is made absolutely clear. But how can you sink into disbelief when Allah’s revelations are being recited to you and His messenger is in your midst?
It is indeed a great calamity that a believer should sink into disbelief in such circumstances which are conducive to strengthen his faith. If Allah’s messenger has completed his term in this life. Allah’s revelations remain with us, and the guidance of His messenger continues to show us the way. Today, we are addressed by the Qur’an as the first generation of Muslims were addressed by it. The way to follow that guidance is clear and the banner of the truth remains flying high. He who holds fast straight path. The only guarantee against slipping into renouncing the truth is to hold fast to Allah. He is the Eternal Master of all. He never dies.