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MARCH 2001

MONTHLY    *    Vol 15-03 No:171    *   MARCH 2001 / ZIL-HIJJA 1421H
  email: editor@islamicvoice.com

UNDERSTANDING QURAN


Different Ways, Different Ends

Different Ways, Different Ends

In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful

They are not all alike. Of the people of earlier revelation there are some upright people who recite the revelations of Allah in the depth of the night, and prostrate themselves in worship. They believe in Allah and the last day and enjoin the doing of what is right and forbid what is wrong and vie with one another in doing good works. These belong to the righteous. Whatever good they do, they shall never be denied its reward. Allah knows those who fear Him.

As for the unbelievers, neither their riches nor their children will avail them in any way against Allah. It is they who are destined for the fire, where they will abide for ever. Whatever they spend in this present life is like a biting, icy wind which smites the tilth of people who have wronged themselves, laying it to waste. It is not Allah who does them wrong; they wrong themselves.
(The House of Imran, “Aal Imran”: 3;113-117)

Commentary by Sayyid Qutb
Translation: A. A. Salahi and S. A. Shamsi


OUR earlier commentary highlighted the qualities of the Muslim community which makes it the best nation ever raised for mankind. The Quranic text reassured the believers that in their confrontation with the unbelievers they would not be left to suffer more than trifling hurt.

The believers need only to hold fast to their faith and practise it in their lives in order to be guaranteed safety and victory. The Jews who are the most hardened enemies of the Islam will always suffer humiliation because of their disbelief in Allah’s revelation, their killing of prophets and their continued disobedience.

Our present passage begins with a reassurance to the good minority among the people of earlier revelation who take faith seriously. They are singled out again for praise. The passage begins with a statement that the people of earlier revelation are not all alike. Some of them are true believers. Their attitude to faith and to Allah is described. It is the attitude of true believers. This merits them the same reward which Allah gives to His righteous servants. They are not all alike. Of the people of earlier revelation there are some upright people who recite the revelations of Allah in the depth of the night, and prostrate themselves in worship. They believe in Allah and the last day and enjoin the doing of what is right and forbid what is wrong and vie with one another in doing good works. These belong to the righteous. Whatever good they do, they shall never be denied its reward. Allah knows those who fear Him. It is a bright picture of the true believers among the people who received revelations from Allah in the past. Their faith is genuine, profound, complete. They have made their stand clear. They have joined the ranks of those who surrender themselves to Allah and defend this faith with all the power they have. They believe in Allah and the last day. Moreover, they fulfill the duties required of them by their faith and give practical effect to the characteristics of the community which they have joined, the best community ever raised for mankind, by enjoining the doing of what is right and forbidding what is wrong. They desire every good thing. They have set themselves a goal in the achievement of which they compete and vie with one another. That goal is to do good works. For all these reasons they merit this testimony from on high that they belong to the righteous. They also have the promise which never fails that they will never be denied their reward. The verse adds that Allah, who is aware of all things and all people, knows that they belong to that special group of people who genuinely fear Him.

Deeds are the crop of faith. Unless the faith is pristine pure the deeds cannot be virtuous. No reward is given for any donation to any cause and no value is attached to any work unless it is clearly linked to the way of life based on faith

This picture is raised in front of the eyes of those who wish to have a similar testimony and a similar promise. They have only to follow the same line and adopt the same attitude. They will then find its light spreading over the limitless horizon in their lives.

On the other side stand the disbelievers who will not benefit by their possessions or by their children. Nothing they may spend in this life for what they may consider to be a good cause will be of any avail to them.

No reward is given them for it in the hereafter because it has not originated from the straight, constant line of goodness. Every good thing must have its foundation in a belief in Allah which combines a clear concept, a well-defined goal, and a straight uninterrupted line. If it is not, it is reduced to a passing whim or an impulsive desire. It has no clear basis and it is not related to an overall way of life.

As for the unbelievers, neither their riches not their children will avail them in any way against Allah. It is they who are destined for the fire, where they will abide for ever. Whatever they spend in this present life is like a biting, icy wind which smites the tilth of people who have wronged themselves, laying it to waste. It is not Allah who does them wrong; they wrong themselves.

This is a moving, vivid scene, full of life, drawn in the fine Quranic style. Their riches and their children will never protect them against Allah. They cannot be offered in ransom so that they can escape punishment. They are destined for the fire of hell which will become their permanent abode. Whatever they spend of their money, even on causes which they believe to be good. The Quran does not express the ideas it wants to convey in the same way as we do. Instead, it paints a scene which is full of life.

We look up and we find a field ready to yield its crops. It is described as a tilth. But suddenly the wind blows. It biting, icy wind, its strong bite devastates all this tilth. The Arabic word used here sounds like a missile thrown with violence. Its sound adds to its meaning. In a moment, all the crops of that field are destroyed, laid to waste.

It is only a moment which changes everything. All this devastation happens before one can take one’s breath. Nothing is left. This is the example given by the Quran to describe what the unbelievers may spend on what they may count as their blessings of riches and children. All will be laid to waste giving them no enjoyment and no reward.

It is not Allah who does them wrong; they wrong themselves. It is they who have abandoned the way of life which groups together every single aspect of goodness and righteousness and makes of them a straight, consistent line which has a recognized motive and a clear goal. Goodness does not come as a result of a momentary thought, a vague desire or a sudden impulse.

It is they who have chosen to be in error and to break loose from the protection offered by the bond with Allah. If all their actions are wasted, including what they may spend for seemingly good causes, and if their tilth is devastated and they can benefit nothing by wealth or children, this is not an injustice inflicted on them by Allah. It is they who are unjust to themselves by the choice they have made.

What we have here, then, is a clear statement that no reward is given for any donation to any cause and no value is attached to any work unless it is clearly linked to the way of life based on faith, and unless it is motivated by faith.

It is Allah who makes this statement. It cannot be contradicted, then, by any man. No one may argue with this statement except those who argue against Allah’s revelation without basing their argument on any definite knowledge, clear guidance or illuminating revelation. 

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