In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
Allah Himself bears witness, and so do the angels and men of knowledge, that there is no deity save Him, the executor of justice. There is no deity save Him, the Almighty, the wise. (The House of Imran, “Aal Imran” : 3:18)
Commentary by Sayyid Qutb, Translated by A.A. Salahi & S.A. Shamsi.
We have here a statement of the most essential fact which constitutes the basis of the Islamic ideological basis, namely the fact of the Oneness of Allah and that He is the eternal master of the universe who maintains and executes justice. It is the same principle with which the Surah opens: Allah : there is no deity save him, the ever-living, the eternal master of all. The ultimate objective of this Surah is to establish in absolute clarity the true nature of Islamic faith, and to dispel all doubts from the minds of those people themselves as well as from the minds of Muslims who may be at one time or another influenced by those people.
A testimony from Allah that there is no deity other than Him is sufficient for anyone who believes in Allah. It may be said that such a testimony is sufficient only for the one who believes in Allah, who is not in need of such a testimony in any case. This is not absolutely true. People of earlier revelations believed in Allah, but at the same time they maintain that He has a son and a partner. The polytheists themselves used to profess that they believed in Allah. Their deviation and error took the form of ascribing partners and equals and children to Allah. When both groups of people are told that Allah Himself bears witness to the fact that there is no deity save Him, such a statement has a marked effect in correcting their beliefs.
The matter, however, is much more fine and profound. Allah’s testimony that there is no deity save Hims is given here as a prelude to outlining what it entails. Since He himself stresses His Oneness, He, therefore, does not accept from His servant anything other than pure devotion to Him, which takes the form of Islam or submission to Him. Such submission is not confined to the realm of beliefs and feelings; it must be translated into total obedience to Allah and a conscious implementation of His law outlined in His revelations. If we view the matter from this angle we will find many people in all ages claiming to believe in Allah but ascribing divinity at the same time to others. This they do when they implement a law which is in conflict with His law, and obey those who do not follow His Messenger or His book, and when they derive their values, standards and morals from sources other than Him. All these actions of theirs run contrary to their claim that they believe in Allah. They are in conflict with Allah’s own testimony that He is the only God.
The testimony of the angels and the people of knowledge takes the form of their total obedience to Allah’s orders and looking to Him alone for guidance, accepting everything which comes to them from Him without doubt or argument, once they are certain that it has come from Him. This Surah has already referred to the attitude of such people of knowledge: Those who are firmly established in knowledge say: we believe in it; is all from our Lord. This is then, the testimony of the people of knowledge and the angels: total acceptance, obedience and submission.
The testimony of Allah, the angels and the men of knowledge to the Oneness of Allah is coupled with their testimony to the fact that He establishes and maintains justice, since justice is an essential quality of godhead. The Arabic text is phrased in such a way as to leave no doubt that justice is an attribute of Allah at all times. This also explains the meaning of Allah being the eternal master of the universe which has been stated at the beginning of this Surah: Allah : there is no deity save Him, the ever-living, the eternal master of all. He maintains His mastership with justice.
Allah’s control of the universe and His conduct of its affairs and of people’s lives is always characterized by justice. Indeed, justice cannot be established in human life, and human life generally cannot be set on its proper course as the rest of the universe where every single creature fulfils its function in perfect harmony with the rest of creation except through the implementation of the method and the way of life Allah has chosen for people, as outlined in His revelation. Otherwise, justice cannot be established, harmony cannot be achieved and there can be no interrelation between man and the universe. What takes place, then, is injustice, conflict and total ruin.
Throughout history, only the periods when Allah’s method was established were those characterized by injustice. These were the periods when human life was set on a perfect and straight course like everything else in the universe, to the extent that human nature can tolerate in view of the fact that human beings tend to waver between obedience and disobedience to Allah. They move nearer to obedience to Allah whenever his method is established and his law is implemented. Wherever man-made laws are established, ignorance and shortcoming abound. A direct consequence of this is injustice in one form or another: an individual, or one class tyrannizes another, or one nation subjugates another, or one generation to eats another with injustice. It is only divine justice which remains free of any favouritism toward any of these. He is the Lord of all creation who does not overlook anything on earth or in the heavens.
“There is no deity save Him, the Almighty, the Wise.” The same truism of the Oneness of Allah is repeated again in the same verse, but it is coupled this time with the two attributes of Allah’s might and wisdom. Both power and wisdom are essential for the purpose of maintaining justice. Justice can be maintained only when matters are set in their proper places with the ability to set them so. Allah’s attributes suggest positive activity. Nothing in the Islamic concept associates Allah with any negative attribute. This is the proper and true concept of the divine being, because it is His own description of Himself. When we believe in Allah in the light of His positive attributes our thoughts remain concentrated on His will and His power. Our faith, then, becomes much more than an academic concept; it provides us with a dynamic motive to act and do what is required of us.