In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.
Those who deny Allah’s revelations, and slay the Prophets against all rights, and slay people who enjoin equity among people; promise them a painful suffering. It is they whose works shall come to nothing in this world and in the life to come; and they shall have none to help them.
Have you considered the case of those who have received a share of revelation? When they are called upon to accept the judgement of Allah’s Book in their affairs, some of them turn away and pay no heed. For they claim: “The fire will most certainly not touch us save for a limited number of days.” They are deceived in their own faith by the false beliefs they used to invent. How, then, will it be with them when we shall gather them all together to witness the day about which there is no doubt, when every soul will be paid in full what it has earned, and they shall not be wronged.
(The House of Imran, “Aal Imran” :3:21-25)
Commentary by Sayyid Qutb, Translated by A.A. Salahi & S.A. Shamsi.
The passage of this Surah which we have been discussing began by stating the fundamental truism of Islamic faith, namely, the Oneness of Allah, and followed that with a discussion of its practical correlative, namely, submission to Allah by mankind. No argument made in defence of any other attitude, belief or philosophy is accepted.
The first verse in our present passage warns against a painful suffering. It is to be expected either in this life or the life to come. It is coupled with an assurance that all their works shall come to nothing in either life. This is given in a highly vivid mode of expression which draws upon a well-known image of an animal grazing in a poisoned area. It swells before it dies. Similarly, the actions of such people may appear to gather momentum and to yield great results. This is no more than the swelling of a poisoned animal prior to its death. All their actions are thus aborted and they will have no one to help or defend them.
We note that the denial and rejection of Allah’s revelation is coupled in the Qur’anic statement with the killing of the Prophets (Pbuh) against all right for there can be no right respected when a Prophet (Pbuh) is killed and the killing of those who enjoin equity in human life, which is a reference to those who advocate the implementation of the code, Allah has laid down for human life which is based on justice and which alone can maintain absolute justice. That these points have been mentioned, suggested that the warning is directed to the Jews, for such are their distinctive qualities in history. That does not mean that the warning is not also directed to Christians who in the past killed many thousands of the followers of doctrines which were at variance with that adopted by the Roman Empire after its adoption of Christianity, including those who declared that Allah was one and that Jesus Christ was a human being. This latter group is included among those “who enjoin equity among people.” It is also a permanent warning to anyone who may perpetrate such ghastly crimes, and those may live in every age.
It is useful to remember that when the expression “those who deny Allah’s revelations” is mentioned in the Qur’an, it does not simply refer to those who declare themselves to be unbelievers. Anyone who does not acknowledge the Oneness of Allah and that He alone is worthy of worship is included in this group. Such a recognition entails that the authority to legislate and to set values and standards for human life belongs only to Allah. Anyone who claims any measure of that authority for anyone other than Allah is either a polytheist or a disbeliever, even though he may claim a thousand times that he believes in Allah. The verses which follow confirm this view.
Have you considered the case of those who have received a share of revelation? When they are called upon to accept the judgement of Allah’s Book in their affairs, some of them turn away and pay no heed.
It is a rhetorical question which is given to emphasize the contradiction in such an attitude by those who have received a share of revelation, which refers to the Torah in respect of the Jews and the Bible in respect of the Christians. Each one is simply “a share” of Allah’s divine revelations which include all the revelation Allah has vouchsafed to His messengers, emphasizing the unity of Godhead, and that Allah alone conducts the affairs of the universe. All such revelation is in essence a single book, part of it was given to the Jews, and another part to the Christians while the Muslims received the whole book, considering that the Qur’an embodies all the bases of faith and confirms all messages Allah revealed in the past. It is certainly something to wonder at, when those who “have received a share of revelation” are called upon to accept the judgment of Allah’s book in their disputes and in all the affairs of their lives, do not respond positively. Some of them are left behind. They turn their backs on Allah’s legislation. This is in flagrant contradiction with believing in any portion of Allah’s book. It belies their claim that they follow Allah’s revelations: Have you considered the case of those who have received a share of revelation? When they are called upon to accept the judgment of Allah’s book in their affairs, some of them turn away and pay no heed.
Allah invites us to wonder at the people of earlier revelations when some of them, not all, refuse to allow Allah’s book to judge in their affairs of both faith and life. What should be our attitude, then, toward those who claim to be Muslims but who nevertheless banish Allah’s law from their lives totally, while they continue to claim to be Muslim? This is indeed an example given by Allah so that Muslims should know the true nature of faith generally and Islam in particular. They must be careful lest they themselves should become subject to Allah’s condemnation of their attitude. If this denunciation is given by Allah of the attitude of the people of earlier revelations who did not claim to be Muslims when a group of them refused to accept the judgement of Allah’s book in their affairs, what degree of denunciation or condemnation would be suitable if Muslims adopt a similar attitude? There is no doubt that they would then incur Allah’s wrath which will lead them to be totally rejected by Allah and to live in utter misery, deprived of Divine Mercy in any form.
The cause of such a denounced, contradictory attitude is then given: For they claim that the fire will most certainly not touch us save for a limited number of days. They are deceived in their own faith by the false beliefs they used to invent.
This is then the reason for people turning their backs on the judgment of Allah’s book, which places them in total contradiction with their claim to be believers or followers of Divine Revelation. They simply do not believe that the notion of reckoning on the day of judgement is serious. Nor do they consider as serious the administration of Divine Justice. This is the import of their claim that they will not suffer the fire except for a limited number of days. How is this possible when they deviate from the most fundamental principle of faith which imposes on them the duty of accepting the judgement of the Divine Book in all matters? How can they make such a claim if they truly believe in the justice of Allah, or even if they feel that they will definitely be raised to Allah on the day of judgement? What they state is simply an invention which they perpetrate, then they are deceived by it; They are deceived in their own faith by the false beliefs they used to invent. It is indeed a fact that believing seriously in meeting Allah cannot be combined with such a wet notion in respect to His justice and reward. No man can combine the fear of Allah and punishment on the day of judgement with turning his back on Allah’s rulings outlined in His book or to the implementation of His law in human life.
This group of the people of earlier revelations stands in the same position as those whom we meet today claiming to be Muslims and turning their backs when they are called upon to implement Allah’s laws in their lives. Some of them go further than that and impudently claim that human life has nothing to do with religion. The say that there is no need to impose religion on the practical side of human life, or on economic and social, and indeed family relations. They nevertheless continue to claim to be Muslims. Some of them are so naive that they believe that Allah’s punishment will be limited to purifying them of their sins before they are admitted into heaven. They ask in absolute naivety; “Are we not Muslims?” It is the same false belief which was maintained by such group of the people of earlier revelations. They show the same conceit and they deceive themselves with their false beliefs which have no foundation in the religion Allah has revealed. Both groups are the same in rejecting the very basics of faith and isolating themselves from its fundamental practical expression, namely, submission to Allah and total obedience to His commands in all affairs of life which they receive through His Messengers.
How, then, will it be with them when we shall gather them all together to witness the day about which there is no doubt, when every soul will be paid in full what it has earned, and they shall not be wronged.
How? This is a very stern warning which every believer shudders to face since he knows that day will inevitably come and that Allah’s justice is certain to be done. That belief is in no way weakened by any false hopes or invented beliefs. This warning applies to all; polytheists and atheists, those who claim to follow earlier revelations and those who claim to be Muslims. They are all alike in the essential fact that they do not submit to Allah in their lives.
How, then, will it be with them when we shall gather them all together to witness the day about which there is no doubt, and Allah’s justice is done? Every soul will be paid in full what it has earned, without any injustice or favouritism? They shall neither not be wronged, nor shall they receive any favours. It is a question which remains without answer. Man’s heart shakes when it imagines what will happen.