twelfth call: obeying disbelievers is a reason for returning to disbelief
almighty allah says (what can be translated as): “o you who have believed, in case you obey a group of the ones who were brought the book, they will turn you back after your belief into disbelievers. and how can you disbelieve, and the ayat (i.e., signs or verses) of allah are recited to you, and his messenger is among you? and whoever firmly adheres to allah, then he is already guided to a straight path.” (al-imran: 100-101)
allah (swt)1 warns believers from obeying the jews who envy believers for the bounty of allah given to the muslims by sending them the prophet muhammad (peace be upon him). almighty allah clarifies to them that obeying disbelievers can be enough reason to return them to disbelief after they have already believed.
this verse was revealed about two men from al-ansar2. there were fierce wars and enmities between the tribes of al-aws and al-khazraj at the time of jahiliyah3. when they embraced islam, allah united their hearts and they became brothers in islam. a jew passed by a group of men from al-aws and al-khazraj, they were sitting in a state of harmony and understanding. he felt bad about it and he sent another jew among them to remind them of the days of wars between the two tribes and the poetry they used to recite for bragging and pride. the jew did his mission of causing a feud, so a man from al-khazraj and another from al-aws got up and they argued. each of them called his group for aid as it was the case in jahiliyah. people started to get their weapons to fight each other. the prophet (peace be upon him) came and made a speech in which he reminded them of their faith so they all calmed down. at this point, allah (awj)4 revealed the verses to his prophet to educate muslims.
allah is saying to believers “how can you disbelieve” so he excludes this possibility because the verses are recited on the prophet (pbuh) day and night. he recites these verses to them and educates them the explanations and lessons they should learn. muslims should have never paid attention to the sayings of those enemies. they should have returned to the prophet (pbuh) when they heard any doubtful speech from those jews. he would have clarified to them any confusion or doubt to avoid falling in disputes.
whoever adheres to allah and entrusts him with all his affairs, he will keep him from delusions and errors and lead him to guidance, goodness and success. the muslim ummah came to this world to establish life on earth following the method of allah (swt). it is a unique distinguished ummah. it began its path based on the method of allah to play a special role in the lives of people, a role that none but she can take. the muslim ummah was founded to ascertain the method of allah on earth and apply it in a practical way. the application of this method has tangible results; qur’anic texts and commands are translated to moves, deed, sayings, feelings, manners, situations and commitments.
the ummah does not achieve the aim of her existence, go straight on its path and create a shinning image on earth of a practical righteous life without following the commands of allah alone. it will only lead humanity when it receives and follows the commands of allah alone, not to receive from humans, follow humans or obey humans. it is whether obeying and following allah or following disbelief, delusion and deviation.
this is what the qu’ran is confirming and repeating in several verses and situations. these verses are to straighten the feelings, ideas and ethics of the muslim group whenever possible. this incident is one of those situations for disciplining the muslim group about how to deal with the schemes of the people of the book5, how to face their conspiracies against muslim in madinah. this disciplining is not limited only to this situation; it is a constant discipline and clarification to the ummah until the final day. it is addressed to each and every generation of muslims because it is the basis of its life and existence.
the muslim nation is founded to lead humanity, so how come they listen to thoughts of jahiliyah. islam came to change this state of jahiliyah in which people were falling under. it came to link them to allah and to lead them according to the method of allah (awj). when the ummah abandons her leading role, what would be the reason for her existence then? there will be no aim of its existence.
the muslim ummah is founded for leadership. it is founded for the leadership of the right belief, the right realization, the right feeling, the right manner, the right system and the right organization. in the shade of this right environment, minds can grow, develop, discover the universe, unlock its secrets and utilizes its powers and supplies. but, the basic leadership must be faith, the leadership that allows, controls and directs all these powers for the goodness of humanity not for destruction and devastation, not for blind desires and inclinations. this leadership should be the responsibility of the muslim group guided by allah (swt) not by one of the slaves of allah. from the verses, we learn that the muslim group should never follow a non-muslim; the verses clarify to muslims their road to establish correct conditions and maintain them. they warn muslims against following the people of the book as they will definitely lead them to disbelief.
“o you who have believed, in case you obey a group of the ones who were brought the book, they will turn you back after your belief into disbelievers. and how can you disbelieve, and the ayat (i.e., signs or verses) of allah are recited to you, and his messenger is among you? and whoever firmly adheres to allah, then he is already guided to a straight path.”
the obedience of the people of the book, receiving their teachings and borrowing their methods and traditions reflect an internal defeat. it is an abandonment of the leading role for which the muslim ummah was founded. it also shows doubt in the sufficiency of the method of allah (awj) explained in the qur’an and the prophetic teachings to live and organize life and move forward for more development and progress. this is the crawl of disbelief to take over the self without knowing or feeling its approaching danger.
on the other hand, the people of the book are very keen on deluding this ummah and driving her astray away from islam. the belief in islam is the survival rock, defense line and the source of power that pushes forward the ummah. the enemies of islam know this quite well, they know that in the past, present and future. they exert countless efforts and resources to drive this ummah off the road of belief. to achieve this, they resort to deception, cunning, force and allies. when they fail to fight this ummah visibly, they fight it through deceit in secrecy. when it is a burden fighting the ummah alone, they recruit hypocrites and imposters of islam or those who claim to be muslims. they gather in troops to gnaw at the body of this belief from within to drive people off islam, twist the right methods of islam and set corrupt ones and change the conditions and leadership of the ummah and set corrupt ones instead. when the people of the book find obedience and positive response from muslims to what they call for, they will use this, without doubt, to achieve the aim that preoccupies them. they will lead muslims and the whole nation to disbelief and delusion. hence comes this fearful decisive warning: “o you who have believed, in case you obey a group of the ones who were brought the book, they will turn you back after your belief into disbelievers.”
what was frightening, back then, to any muslim is to relapse to disbelief after they found belief represented in islam. they were afraid of ending in the hellfire after they learned how to seek and attain paradise. this is how the muslim should be at each time, thus, this warning was like a whip on their conscience, it awoke them and made their eyes wide open. the context continues its warning and reminder to believers. how drastic and shocking it would be if believers return to disbelief while they still listen to the verses recited by the messenger of allah (peace be upon him). they still have the prophet (pbuh) among them.
so, the reasons for belief are still present. the call to belief is still in effect. on the crossroad between belief and disbelief there is this light that tells them: “and how can you disbelieve, and the ayat (i.e., signs or verses) of allah are recited to you, and his messenger is among you?”
yes, it is quite a calamity if the believer relapses to disbelief while living and experiencing these faithful circumstances. even after the prophet (peace be upon him) died and chose the sublime companion, yet the verses of allah are still present and the prophet’s guidance is still available for the people. we are addressed by this qur’an exactly like the early muslims. the road of salvation is still available till the final day: “and whoever firmly adheres to allah, then he is already guided to a straight path.” yes, it is adherence to allah, he is the everlasting and he is the ever-living and the superb upright sustainer.
the prophet muhammad (peace be upon him) was firm with his companions (ra)6in matters of belief and method because they are set and defined by allah (awj). yet, he was also giving them a space for exchanging opinions and advices in matters of practical life. things that are up to judgment and experience such as agriculture, combat and such worldly matters that have nothing to do with belief, social system or regulations to organize people’s lives. there is a difference between the two; the method of life is different than the abstract, applicable and experimental sciences. islam came to lead life according to the method of allah. it is also islam that led the mind to knowledge and utilization of every materialistic creation within the domain of its method for life.
narrated imam ahmed and others from abdullah ibn thabit that he said: "omar ibn el-khatab came to allah’s messenger, peace be upon him, and said: o messenger of allah, i passed by a brother from bano qurizah (a jewish tribe) and he wrote parts of the torah for me, shall i show it to you". the face of allah's messenger (peace be upon him) changed. i said: "do you not see what is showing on the face of allah's messenger, peace be upon him?" omar ibn el-khatab said: "i happily accept allah as our lord, islam as our religion and mohamed, peace be upon him, as our messenger". the face of allah's messenger, peace be upon him, showed relief, and then he said: "by him who has my soul in his hand, if you wake up in the morning and find musa (moses) amongst you, and you follow him and leave me, you will be misguided. you are my share of the nations and i am your share of the prophets". [musnad ahmad (3/387)]
al-hafiz abu ya’la narrated from hamad from al-sho’abi from jaber that the prophet (peace be upon him) said: "do not ask the people of the book about anything, for they will never guide you and they have gone astray, lest you deny something that is true or believe something that is false. if moses were alive today among you, he would do naught but follow me." in some prophetic sayings he said: “if moses and jesus were alive today, they would do naught but follow me.”
in another narration, it reads: "if you do ask the people of the book - as is inevitable - then consider what agrees with allah's book and accept it, and whatever contradicts allah's book reject it." [al-musannaf (6/112)]
those are the people of the book and this is the guidance of the messenger of allah (peace be upon him) on how to receive any kind of knowledge from them in matters of belief, sharia and methodology. there is no harm, according to islam, in getting benefit from the efforts of all humans in abstract sciences and the application of those sciences in our daily lives. at the same time, we should link what we learn or receive form those sciences with the divine method in terms of contemplating on those science and how they are created by allah (awj) for the benefit of mankind. we should also direct those sciences for the benefit of humanity to provide safety and wellbeing. we should also thank allah (awj) for the blessing of knowledge and utilization of powers and cosmic energies. we should thank him through worship and through directing this knowledge for the goodness of humanity. as for receiving knowledge from the people of the book in terms of belief, explanation of existence, aim of humans presence, the methodology, systems and legislations of life and method of manners and ethic, this is what made the face of the messenger of allah change into anger. he (peace be upon him) warned the muslim nation from drifting and following the deluded people of the book. following them and believing in what they preach even if it contradicts with the teachings of islam is plain disbelief and blasphemy. it is the road to destruction and loss. how come the muslims turn to deluded misguided people while they have the pure method represented in the qur’an and sunnah??!
this is the direction of allah (swt) and this is the guidance of the prophet (peace be upon him). if we are true muslims, how come we receive and follow explanations of orientlists and their students about the interpretation of the qur’an and the teachings of prophet muhammad (pbuh)??! now we are receiving philosophical teachings and thoughts on life and existence from different people such as the greeks, romans, europeans and american philosophers and thinkers. how come we take the basics, regulations, laws and systems of our lives from these foreign sources and insiders??! how come we learn our ethics, rules, manners and behaviors from these corrupt societies that are lost in sins where their materialistic civilizations led them after abandoning religion, all sorts of religion? so, how come we claim to be muslims after following them? the sin of such claim is even heavier than plain disbelief. seeking their religious teachings is like testifying that islam is a failure or not enough. this behavior should never come from a true muslim, a group of muslims or muslim countries and societies!
islam is a method of life. it is a method with distinguished features in terms of belief, legislations and regulations of life commitments, ethics and rulings on which the commitments are based whether they are political, economic or social. it is a method revealed to lead all humanity, from all walks of life, to the right path which leads to reformation of life and paradise in the afterlife. there has to be a group of people carrying and embracing this method to lead humanity. what really contradicts with the nature of leadership, as mentioned above, is when this group receives directions and teachings from sources other than its own method set by allah (awj). this method came for the goodness of humanity. also, muslim preachers and scholars are actually calling to return to this method to achieve the goodness of humanity that it came for. it should be followed today not to wait till tomorrow. this is how urgent it is to return to the method of allah. humanity is suffering now from regulations and methodologies that led her to the current miseries and calamities. there is no rescue and nothing to turn to except the divine method that should be followed exactly as it was revealed to the prophet muhammad (peace be upon him) so that humanity is saved.
humanity has achieved many victories in its road to utilize and make use of cosmic powers. in industry and medicine, it achieved what was thought to be miracles and hard to attain in the past. it is still achieving and adding more victories and advances. but, what is the effect of all those triumphs on the human life? what is their effect on the human psychology? did humanity find happiness? did she find tranquility? did she find peace? no, it certainly did not. on the contrary, it found miseries, worries, fears, mental and physiological illnesses, homosexuality, abnormalities and crimes everywhere. it did not also achieve a lot of progress in terms of the aim of human existence and the aims of human life. when the aim of human existence and the aims of human life are measured in the mind of the modern civilized man against the islamic concept in this regard, this civilization looks so small. actually, it looks like a curse that diminishes the realization of the human about himself and his status in this huge existence. it lowers the human’s status and lessens his interests and aims. emptiness is eating the heavy heart of humanity and curiosity wrecks its tired soul. this is because humanity does not find allah; it is distanced by tiring circumstances. if science followed the method of allah it could have made each triumph of humanity a further step to take her towards allah. yet, this science does not do that, instead it is taking humanity very far away causing it to suffer from miseries and tiredness, because, this science does not follow the methodology of allah (swt). humanity cannot find the light that would reveal the aim of its existence to reach that aim equipped by the science that allah has granted her. humanity cannot find the methodology that would harmonize between its movement and the movement of the universe, its nature and the nature of the universe and finally harmonize between its law and the law of the universe. it cannot find the system that would organize between its powers and forces, its present and its future, its hereafter and its life, its individuals and its groups, its duties and its rights, a natural comprehensive comfortable organization. this humanity has people who work very hard to deprive her of the guiding method of allah. they call following this methodology as “reactionism”! they think it is just nostalgia to the past or yearning to a period that belongs to history. by their ignorance or ill-intention, they are depriving humanity from looking up to the only method that would lead the steps of humanity to peace and tranquility, exactly as it would lead her to growth and progress. we, believers of this method, know what we are calling for. we know the nature of the method. we also see the reality of a suffering ailing humanity; we smell the bad odor of the swamp in which humanity is drowning. in the horizon, we see the rising rescue flag waving for the lost and fatigued in the burning desert. the clean illuminative top is visible for the drowned overwhelmed souls deep down in the swamp. if the leadership of humanity does not approve this method, then it is on its way to relapse and outrageous withdrawal of all the history of man and every meaning of humanity.
the first step in the road to achieve this is to keep the distinctiveness and differentiation of this method. the believers of this method should not receive directions or teachings from the jahiliyah around them so that to keep the method pure and intact until it leads humanity one more time by the will of allah. allah is the all-merciful towards his slaves, he is too merciful to let them in the hands of enemies of humans who call for jahiliyah. this is what allah wanted to teach the first group of early muslims in his book and what the prophet (peace be upon him) was careful to teach muslims.
(1) swt: subhanahu wa ta'ala [glorified and exalted be he]
(2) al-ansar: an islamic term that literally means "helpers" and denotes the citizens of madinah that helped prophet muhammad (pbuh) and the muhajirun on the arrival to the city after the migration to madinah. they belonged to two main tribes, al-khazraj and al-aws.
(3) jahiliyah: in islam, the period preceding the revelation of the qur'an to the prophet muhammad (pbuh). when it is used today, it denotes ignorance and delusion.
(4) awj: aza-wa-jal [glorified and sublime be he].
(5) people of the book: is a term used to designate non-muslim adherents to faiths which have a revealed scripture called, in arabic, al-kitab ("the book" or "the scripture").
(6) ra: radya allah anhu/anha/anhum [may allah be pleased with him/her/them]