In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
There are some among them who twist their tongues when quoting the scriptures, so that you may think that (what they say) is from the scriptures, when it is not from the scriptures. They say; “It is from Allah”, when it is not from Allah. Thus, they deliberately say of Allah what they know to be a lie.
It is not conceivable that any human being to whom Allah had given revelation and wisdom and Prophethood would subsequently, say to people; “Worship me instead of Allah.” But rather “Be devoted servants of Allah,” by virtue of spreading the knowledge of the scriptures and your constant study of them. Nor would he bid you to take the angels and the Prophets as your gods. Would he bid you to be unbelievers after you have surrendered yourselves to Allah? (The House of Imran, ‘Aal Imran’ 3; 78-80)
Commentary by Sayyid Qutb, Translated by A.A. Salahi & S.A. Shamsi.
The verses we are discussing here speak of a certain type of the people of earlier revelation, namely, the deceivers who make use of Allah’s revelation in order to lead people astray. They twist their tongues when they read or quote it, and interpret its statements so that they may be made to agree with certain prejudices, and they receive in return for all that a paltry price, a trifling worldly gain. One example of the statements which they distort and deliberately misinterpret are those which relate to their invented beliefs about Jesus, son of Mary, in order to make people’s beliefs agree with the prejudices of the church and political rulers.
When religious men are corrupt they allow themselves to be a tool used for the falsification of facts, taking advantage of their guise as men of religion. This example the Qur’an mentions about this section of the people of earlier revelation is well known to us in our present-day. They impose on the verses and statements of their revelation certain arbitrary interpretations so that they may draw certain conclusions, claiming that they are the precise meaning of these statements and that they constitute Allah’s message, while their conclusions are in sharp conflict with the very essence of the Divine faith. They are able to do so because the majority of people cannot differentiate between the true essence of faith and the true meaning of these statements on the one hand and the fabricated conclusions they arbitrarily impose on these statements.
We are today well aware of this type of people who are wrongly described as religious. Indeed, they are religious professionals who look on religion as a profession and make use of it in order to satisfy all sorts of prejudices. They do not hesitate to make use of any religious text when it seems to them that by so doing they serve their own interests and they stand to make a material gain. It does not worry them at all that the interpretations which they arbitrarily impose on what has been revealed to them contradict the basic principles of faith. We find such people trying hard to detect even the slightest hint of linguistic ambiguity so that they may make use of a Qur’anic verse in order to endorse any desire or tendency or prejudice which it serves their immediate interest to endorse: They say; It is from Allah, when it is not from Allah. Thus, they deliberately say of Allah what they know to be a lie. They do exactly the same as this group among the followers of earlier revelation described in this passage of the Qur’an. This sort of corruption is not exclusive to the people of earlier revelation. It spreads in every nation in which religious faith becomes so cheap among those who claim to be religious people that it is not worth even a single desire the pursuit of which may bring the person concerned a trifling worldly gain. It spreads fast in any nation where people become so dishonest that they do not hesitate to deliberately and knowingly tell a lie about Allah and distort His own words in order to win a favour with some of Allah’s servants, by approving their perverted desires. This verse implies a warning from Allah to the Muslim community against falling into this slippery way into which the children of Israel fell and led them to be deprived of what they have been entrusted with, namely the leadership of mankind.
Taken together, these verses suggest that this section of the children of Israel used to quote from Allah’s revelation the sentences which express their meaning in a figurative way and try to interpret them arbitrarily in order to suggest that they mean certain things which cannot be deduced from these sentences without such arbitrary interpretation. In this way, they delude the masses into believing that the conclusions they have stated are taken from the divine book. They indeed say that “It is from Allah”, when Allah has said nothing of the sort. Their aim was to prove the divine nature of Jesus and attribute the same to the “Holy spirit”. They alleged that there are three elements, namely, the father, the son and the holy spirit, constituting the trinity which is God. Limitless is Allah in His glory for Him to be as they falsely describe! They also attributed to Jesus certain statements confirming their allegations. Allah refutes their false interpretations by stating that it is not possible for a Prophet whom Allah has honoured with Prophethood and chosen for such a great task to order people to make Him or the angels as gods. It is not conceivable that any human being to whom Allah had given revelation and wisdom and Prophethood would subsequently say to people: Worship me instead of Allah. But rather “Be devoted servants of Allah” by virtue of spreading the knowledge of the scriptures and your constant study of them. Nor would he bid you to take the angels and the Prophets as your gods. Would he bid you to be unbelievers after you have surrendered yourselves to Allah?
A Prophet (Pbuh) knows that he is a servant of Allah, and that Allah is the only Lord to whom people should address their worship. It is not conceivable that a Prophet should claim for himself the quality of godhead which requires people to surrender themselves to him. Hence, no Prophet (Pbuh) would ever say to people: Worship me instead of Allah. What he will always say to them is; “Be devoted servants of Allah. “Declare your allegiance to Allah as servants who surrender themselves to Him. Address your worship to Him alone and adopt only the way of life He has approved for you so that you can be totally devoted to Him. You can achieve this devotion by virtue of your knowledge of the scriptures and your constant study of what Allah has revealed. The more you understand your scriptures the clearer this task becomes to you.
No Prophet would ever instruct people to take the angels or the Prophets as lords or gods. For no Prophet would ever instruct people to be disbelievers after they have surrendered themselves to Allah and acknowledged His divinity. Prophets come to provide guidance for men, not to lead them astray. They set the example for them to be good believers and surrender themselves to Allah, not to be disbelievers.
The impossibility of what this section of the people of earlier revelation attribute to Jesus (Peace be on him) is thus made apparent. Also clearly apparent is their deliberate lie when they allege that this is from Allah. At the same time, all that these people allege in order to create doubts and suspicions among the Muslim community become absolutely valueless after the Qur’an has revealed their true identity.
We find today a group of people who allege to be Muslims and claim to be well read in Islam doing the same thing as that section of the people of earlier revelation. These Qur’anic verses should be directed to them. For they try to distort Qur’anic statements and impose arbitrary interpretations on them in order to create all sorts of idols to be worshipped instead of Allah. They make use of every trick in order to make their allegations plausible. The same Qur’anic description applies to them in equal measure; They say; It is from Allah, when it is not from Allah. Thus, they deliberately say of Allah what they know to be a lie.