In the name of God, the Beneficent, the Merciful
“Remember always the blessings Allah has bestowed on you and the covenant with which He has bound you when you said: “we have heard and we obey”. Have fear of Allah. Surely Allah has full knowledge of what is at the bottom of people’s hearts.
Believers, be steadfast in your devotion to Allah, bearing witness in equity. Never allow your hatred of any people to lead you away from justice. Be just, this is closer to righteousness. Have fear of Allah. Surely, Allah is aware of all that you do. (The Repast, “Al-Ma’idah”: 5: 7-8)
The surah has outlined a number of instructions concerning the types of food believers are permitted to eat, purification and other matters. By way of commenting on these instructions, the surah reminds the believers of the blessings Allah has bestowed on them when they have accepted the faith and the covenant He has made with them that they will listen and obey. It is indeed this covenant that admits them into the fold of Islam. The first of the two verses also reminds them to have fear of Allah and that He is aware of all thoughts people may entertain.
As I have already said, the first generation to be addressed by the Qur’an were fully aware of the extent of Allah’s blessings bestowed on them by revealing this religion. They felt the change within themselves, in their lives, community and in the position they occupied among mankind. A simple reference of this blessing was always sufficient to turn their attention to a great, undeniable fact of life. Similarly, a reference to the covenant with which Allah has bound them to listen and obey aroused in them feelings of dignity, since they were the other party in a contract made with Allah, the Almighty. To a believer who contemplates such a relationship, this is something great indeed. Hence, it is sufficient to remind them of their duty to have fear of Allah. They were ever conscious of Allah: “Have fear of Allah. Surely Allah has full knowledge of what is at the bottom of peoples’ hearts.” The Qur’an often uses the highly expressive statement that Allah has full knowledge of what is “at the bottom of hearts”. In Arabic, this expression combines accuracy with inspiring beauty. It speaks of something which is always present in the heart. This is a reference to secret feelings and thoughts. Deep as a person may bury these secrets, they are fully known to Allah.
Part of the covenant with which Allah has bound the Muslim nation requires it to deal with other people on the basis of absolute justice which is never affected by feelings of love or hatred, or by a relationship, interest or feelings of any type. It is justice which is based on the duty of remaining steadfast in devotion to Allah alone. No influences are ever allowed to tilt the balance of justice, especially when believers are mindful that Allah watches over them and knows what is in the bottom of their hearts. They fully understand this address: “Believers, be steadfast in your devotion to Allah, bearing witness in equity. Never allow your hatred of any people to lead you away from justice. Be just: this is closer to righteousness.”
Earlier in this surah, Allah has forbidden the believers to allow their hatred of those who have turned them-away from visiting the Sacred Mosque in Makkah, to tempt them to launch an aggression against them. This is indeed a tough standard of self-restraint and tolerance to which they were elevated by the divine system. Now they are ordered that hatred must never lead them away from justice. This is an even higher standard which is much more difficult to attain. The first was a stage requiring them not to launch aggression. Here they are required to maintain justice despite their feelings of hatred and hostility. The first stage stopped at a negative attitude which required self-restraint. The second is a positive attitude ensuring justice to people who are hostile to the believers and detested by them.
The divine system which brings out the best in man realizes that this is a very difficult objective. Hence, it gives a helping introduction: “Believers, be steadfast in your devotion to Allah …” The instructions are also concluded with a comment that helps in achieving the objective: “Have fear of Allah. Surely, Allah is fully aware of all that you do.”
No human being can attain this standard unless he deals in such a matter directly with Allah and when people are steadfast in their devotion to Allah, addressing their feelings purely to Him and fearing Him alone and realizing that He knows what is in people’s minds and the innermost of their hearts. No earthly consideration can lift human beings to such a high standard and keep them there. It is a standard which is achievable only through absolute dedication to Allah. Similarly, no faith or system on earth guarantees absolute justice to detested enemies in the same way as this religion does. That is because Islam addresses those who believe in it making it clear to them that even when they have to administer justice to their enemies, they are dealing with Allah and they must rid themselves of any other consideration. With these basic elements in it, Islam has maintained its role as the last universal religion for humanity. Its system guarantees to all mankind, whether they believe in it or not, that they will have justice. For absolute justice is a duty incumbent on all Muslims and they fulfill this duty to Allah, no matter what hatred is shown to them by other people.
Difficult and hard as this duty is, it is binding on this nation of Islam because of its leading role among mankind. The role of leadership was fulfilled by this nation and all its conditions have been met when the believers in this faith implemented it. To them, these instructions were not mere recommendations or ideals, but a reality they should practice in their daily lives. The history of mankind has never before, nor indeed afterward witnessed any such standards being put to practice and become reality except in the shining period in history when Islam was implemented as a way of life. History gives us numerous cases and examples which testify that these duties and commandments outlined by Allah were transformed into a practical system fully implemented in the daily life of this nation of Islam. They were not ideals to which homage was paid. Nor were they individual examples. They left their mark on life practices to the extent that people felt that was the only way to live.
When we look from that high summit on human life in all periods of ignorance, everywhere on earth, including the ignorance of modern times, we realize how great is the gulf between a system devised by Allah to be implemented in human life and other systems which are man-made. The gap between the effects on people’s lives of these man-made systems and the unique divine system is too wide to bridge.
(Translated by Adil Salahi)