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  2. O you who have believed! A Call from Almighty Allah to the Believers: Written by Ali Ben Nayif al-Shahoud
  3. The 35th Call: Prohibition of Reverting from the Religion

The 35th Call: Prohibition of Reverting from the Religion

Article translated to : العربية

Almighty Allah says (what can be translated as): “O you who have believed, whoever of you should revert from his religion - Allah will bring forth [in place of them] a people He will love and who will love Him [who are] humble toward the believers, powerful against the disbelievers; they strive in the cause of Allah and do not fear the blame of a critic. That is the favor of Allah; He bestows it upon whom He wills. And Allah is all-Encompassing and Knowing. Your ally is none but Allah and [therefore] His Messenger and those who have believed - those who establish prayer and give zakah, and they bow [in worship]. And whoever is an ally of Allah and His Messenger and those who have believed - indeed, the party of Allah - they will be the predominant. O you who have believed, take not those who have taken your religion in ridicule and amusement among the ones who were given the Scripture before you nor the disbelievers as allies. And fear Allah, if you should [truly] be believers.” (Al-Ma’idah: 54-57)


Almighty Allah informs the believers about His great power and He says to those who revert from their religion, shift from belief to disbelief, stop supporting His religion and fulfilling His Sharia that He will replace them with a people who are better than them, stronger and more righteous. They are people whom Allah will love and they will love Him. They are people who have the traits of believers such as powerfulness against the disbelievers, mercy and humbleness towards their fellow believers. They will fight in the cause of Allah and nothing will stop them from the establishment of the rulings of Allah, application of His prescribed punishments and fight against His enemies. They would enjoin goodness and forbid evil. Whoever is characterized with these traits has a great bounty from Allah, The One with encompassing bounty, He is All-Knowing of the ones who deserve His grace so He gives them and He is also All-Knowing of the ones who do not deserve it so He deprives them.


(It is said that these verses were revealed regarding Abu Bakr, al-Muhajirin and al-Ansar (May Allah be pleased with all of them). Almighty Allah knows that some people will revert from Islam and that a group of believers from al-Muhajirin and al-Ansar will fight those apostates and they will remain steadfast in this war until Allah grants victory to the believers).


 Almighty Allah encourages the believers to ally with Allah, His Messenger and the true believers who establish prayers, pay zakah and help the poor, weak and needy. They are always in constant bow to Allah, i.e. continuous obedience and humbleness.

(This verse was revealed regarding Ubadah ibn al-Samit when he dissociated himself from taking the Jews as allies and he was satisfied by taking Allah and His Messenger as his allies instead).


Anyone who is satisfied with having Allah and Hiss Messenger as his allies is successful in this life and the afterlife. He is victorious in this life and the afterlife because he will be in the party of Allah. Indeed, those in the party of Allah are the predominant. Those who take Allah as their ally will never be defeated.


This warn­ing, com­ing in this fash­ion at this par­tic­ular point to those who turn away from faith, is tak­en to re­fer, in the first in­stance, to an equa­tion which places on one side the main­te­nance of an al­liance with the Jews and Chris­tians, and, on the oth­er, turn­ing away from Is­lam al­to­geth­er. This is high­light­ed by what has been said ear­li­er of clas­si­fy­ing any­one who seeks to be in al­liance with them as one of them, hav­ing bro­ken away from the Mus­lim com­mu­ni­ty: “O you who have believed, do not take the Jews and the Christians as allies. They are [in fact] allies of one another. And whoever is an ally to them among you - then indeed, he is [one] of them.” (Verse 51) In this light, this sec­ond ad­dress serves to empha­size the first one. This is fur­ther sup­port­ed by an­oth­er ad­dress which fol­lows lat­er in this surah. This third ad­dress for­bids al­liances with the peo­ple of ear­li­er rev­ela­tions and disbe­liev­ers, clas­si­fy­ing them all in one group. This means that seek­ing an al­liance with the Chris­tians and Jews is the same as seek­ing it with dis­be­liev­ers. Where Is­lam pro­vides for ex­tend­ing dif­fer­ent treat­ment to the peo­ple of ear­li­er rev­ela­tions from that ex­tend­ed to disbe­liev­ers does not re­late to hav­ing an al­liance with them. Rather, it con­cerns dif­fer­ent mat­ters al­to­geth­er.


“O you who have believed, whoever of you should revert from his religion - Allah will bring forth [in place of them] a people He will love and who will love Him [who are] humble toward the believers, powerful against the disbelievers; they strive in the cause of Allah and do not fear the blame of a critic. That is the favor of Allah; He bestows it upon whom He wills. And Allah is all-Encompassing and Knowing.” (Verse 54) Allah has cho­sen the com­mu­ni­ty of be­liev­ers to be the tool of His will to es­tab­lish the Di­vine faith on earth, en­force His rule in hu­man life, and to im­ple­ment His law in peo­ple’s af­fairs and dis­putes. Thus, they will mould hu­man life on the ba­sis of pro­pri­ety, good­ness and progress. The fact that He has cho­sen the Mus­lim com­mu­ni­ty for this pur­pose is a man­ifes­ta­tion of His grace. Whoever re­jects this grace and de­prives him­self of this bless­ing does so at his own per­il. Allah is in no need of him or any­one else. Allah choos­es from among His ser­vants those whom He knows to de­serve this lim­it­less grace.


The cho­sen peo­ple are here giv­en a clear pro­file, de­scribed amidst a bright, evoca­tive pic­ture: “Allah will bring forth [in place of them] a people He will love and who will love Him...” (Verse 54) Mu­tu­al love is the re­la­tion­ship be­tween them and their Lord. It is a love that gives an air of com­pas­sion, which is pleas­ant, gen­tle, bright, and friend­ly. It pro­vides the ba­sis of their re­la­tion­ship with their compassionate Lord. No one can ap­pre­ci­ate the val­ue of Allah’s love to any one of his ser­vants ex­cept a per­son who knows Allah with all His at­tributes as He has de­scribed Him­self and one who feels the ef­fect of these at­tributes with­in him­self. No one can ap­pre­ci­ate the val­ue of this boun­ty ex­cept one who tru­ly knows Allah, the Giv­er who has cre­at­ed this vast uni­verse and cre­at­ed man. Man, small crea­ture as he is, sums up the cre­ation of the whole uni­verse. To ap­pre­ci­ate the val­ue of Allah’s love re­quires that one recog­niz­es Allah’s great­ness, abil­ity and one­ness as the on­ly Lord of the uni­verse. How great is the dif­fer­ence be­tween Allah and man to whom He grants His love. It is He — lim­it­less is He in His glo­ry — who has made man, while He re­mains Ma­jes­tic, Eter­nal, the First and the Last, the Lord of the Uni­verse.


For a ser­vant of Allah to love his Lord is al­so a great boun­ty be­stowed on that ser­vant him­self. This is some­thing that can be ap­pre­ci­at­ed by those who have ex­pe­ri­enced it. If Allah’s love to any of His servants is some­thing great and a clear man­ifes­ta­tion of end­less grace, then, for Allah to guide one of His ser­vants to love Him and ap­pre­ci­ate that un­par­al­leled kind of love is al­so some­thing great and a clear man­ifes­ta­tion of His end­less grace. Allah’s love to any of His ser­vants re­mains be­yond de­scrip­tion. At the same time, a hu­man be­ing’s love of His Lord is some­thing that is very rarely de­scribed adequately ex­cept, per­haps, in the oc­ca­sion­al touch of ex­cel­lence man­ifest­ed in a true lover’s description. In this re­spect, a very small num­ber from among a great mul­ti­tude of Su­fis have demonstrat­ed their truth­ful­ness and have been able to ex­cel in de­scrib­ing their love of Allah. A few lines of po­et­ry by Rabi’ah al-Adawiyah give us a sense of her ap­pre­ci­ation of this unique type of love. Ad­dress­ing her Lord, she says:

How ten­der­ly I wish to feel that You are sweet when life is bit­ter!

How dear­ly I wish to feel that You are pleased when ev­ery­one else is an­gry.

When the re­la­tion­ship be­tween You and me is sound, I do not care if my re­la­tion­ship with all the worlds is left in ru­in.

If You tru­ly grant me Your love, ev­ery­thing else is of no con­se­quence. All those who are on earth are noth­ing but dust.


Allah’s love, Ma­jes­tic as He is in His glo­ry, for one of His ser­vants and the love of Allah, who be­stows all grace, by one of His ser­vants spread in this wide uni­verse puts its mark on ev­ery liv­ing crea­ture and on ev­ery ob­ject. It im­parts an air of love to the whole uni­verse and to hu­man ex­is­tence. This does not re­fer to some­thing that oc­curs once on­ly or to a pass­ing mo­ment. It speaks of an es­sen­tial truth and a ba­sic Is­lam­ic con­cept: “Indeed, those who have believed and done righteous deeds - the Most Merciful will appoint for them affection.” (Maryam: 96) “Indeed, my Lord is Merciful and Affectionate.” (Hud: 90) “And He is the Forgiving, the Affectionate.” (Al-Buruj: 14) “And when My servants ask you, [O Muhammad], concerning Me - indeed I am near. I respond to the invocation of the supplicant when he calls upon Me…’’ (Al-Baqarah: 186) “But those who believe are stronger in love for Allah.” (Al-Baqarah: 165) “Say, [O Muhammad], ‘If you should love Allah, then follow me, [so] Allah will love you and forgive you your sins. And Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.’” (Al-Imran: 31) Many other verses speak in the same vein.


It is a great won­der that peo­ple may read all this and claim that Is­lam­ic phi­los­ophy is strin­gent and violent. They claim that it vi­su­aliz­es the re­la­tion­ship be­tween Allah and man as one of com­pul­sion, punish­ment, suf­fer­ing and ne­glect. They com­pare it with the phi­los­ophy that makes of Je­sus Christ a son of Allah and a man­ifes­ta­tion of Him. Thus, they es­tab­lish an ar­bi­trary link of du­al­ity be­tween Allah and hu­man be­ings. The clar­ity of Is­lam­ic phi­los­ophy, as it sep­arates be­tween the na­ture of Divinity and that of servi­tude, de­tracts in no way from the pleas­ant re­la­tion­ship that ex­ists be­tween Allah and His ser­vants. This is a re­la­tion­ship based on com­pas­sion, jus­tice, love and pu­ri­ty. It is a com­plete con­cept which in­cludes all the needs of hu­man ex­is­tence in man’s re­la­tion­ship with the Lord of all the worlds.


To Love Allah and Be Loved by Him is the de­scrip­tion of the cho­sen com­mu­ni­ty of be­liev­ers which is remarkable: “He will love and who will love Him.” (Verse 54) This mu­tu­al love is in­deed re­mark­able, gen­er­at­ing as it does a feel­ing of strength the be­liev­er needs to ful­fill his dif­fi­cult task. He feels that it is a great hon­or to have been cho­sen for this task through which he earns his po­si­tion of favor, close to Allah, the Benef­icent, the Almighty. The surah gives fur­ther de­tails of this com­mu­ni­ty which is dedicated to the ser­vice of Allah’s cause: “…[who are] humble toward the believers...” (Verse 54) This hu­mil­ity means that they are af­fa­ble, gen­tle, and tol­er­ant. When they deal with oth­er be­liev­ers, they do not adopt a dif­fi­cult at­ti­tude or show any stub­born­ness. They are ap­proach­able, re­spon­sive and friendly. To adopt such an at­ti­tude to­wards be­liev­ers does not mean any self-​hu­mil­ia­tion. In­deed, it is an as­pect of broth­er­hood which re­moves bar­ri­ers and for­mal­ities. One does not feel that one has anything to with­hold from one’s fel­low broth­ers. It is self-​con­scious­ness that makes some­one dif­fi­cult and un­amenable. On the oth­er hand, when he feels him­self be­long­ing to the group of be­liev­ers, he has noth­ing to with­hold or be­grudge. What can he re­tain for him­self when they have all been unit­ed by faith, lov­ing Allah and be­ing loved by Him and feel­ing this sub­lime love spread­ing over them? 


“…powerful against the disbelievers...” (Verse 54) When they have to deal with dis­be­liev­ers, they show their dig­ni­ty and high sta­tus. This is the at­ti­tude to adopt in such a sit­ua­tion. There is no trace of arrogance or con­ceit. It is be­ing proud of the faith they have cho­sen and be­ing hon­ored to fight disbeliev­ers un­der the ban­ner of faith. It is their un­shak­able trust in what they have, which is good­ness it­self, and their knowl­edge that their role is to make oth­ers sub­mit to this good­ness. It is not a per­son­al sub­mis­sion by one group of peo­ple to an­oth­er. It is rather a mat­ter of com­plete trust that the Di­vine faith, Allah’s par­ty, will even­tu­al­ly tri­umph over all creeds based on per­son­al prej­udice and al­so over igno­rance. It is they who will even­tu­al­ly tri­umph though they may be de­feat­ed in cer­tain bat­tles along the way.


“They strive in the cause of Allah and do not fear the blame of a critic.” (Verse 54) To strive hard in order to es­tab­lish the Di­vine sys­tem and im­ple­ment it in hu­man life so as to achieve all that is good for mankind is a dis­tinc­tive char­ac­ter­is­tic of the com­mu­ni­ty of be­liev­ers cho­sen by Allah to ac­com­plish His will on earth. They strive hard for Allah’s cause not to serve their own in­ter­ests, nor the in­ter­ests of their peo­ple, coun­try or race, but rather to es­tab­lish Allah’s au­thor­ity through the im­ple­men­ta­tion of His law and to achieve all that is good for mankind. Per­son­al­ly, they gain noth­ing for them­selves from such hard striv­ing. It is all for Allah’s sake.


They strive in this way, fear­ing no crit­icism. Why should they wor­ry about be­ing blamed by peo­ple when they have been guar­an­teed that the Lord of all peo­ple loves them? Why should they both­er about peo­ple’s val­ues and tra­di­tions when they fol­low Allah’s own method and call on peo­ple to adopt the Di­vine way of life? It is the per­son who de­rives his val­ues and judg­ment from oth­ers’ views and who seeks their sup­port that fears to be blamed by them. The one who de­fers to Allah’s val­ues and standards and tries to make them gov­ern peo­ple’s val­ues and in­cli­na­tions, and who de­rives his pow­er from Allah’s pow­er, cares noth­ing for what peo­ple may say or do, re­gard­less of their po­si­tion, importance or stan­dard of ad­vance­ment and civil­iza­tion.


We pay so much at­ten­tion to what peo­ple may say, do, or ac­cept, and to their val­ues and stan­dards, because we over­look the stan­dard to which we should re­fer in eval­uat­ing mat­ters. That stan­dard is Allah’s law and sys­tem. It is on­ly Allah’s law that is right and ev­ery­thing that is con­trary to it is wrong, even though it may be ac­cept­ed by mil­lions and mil­lions of peo­ple and en­dorsed by suc­ces­sive generations and cen­turies. The mer­it of any sit­ua­tion, tra­di­tion, or val­ue does not de­rive from the fact that it ex­ists or that mil­lions of peo­ple be­lieve in it or im­ple­ment it in their lives. Such rea­son­ing is unaccept­able to Is­lam. No sit­ua­tion, cus­tom or tra­di­tion has any val­ue un­less it is sanc­tioned by the system re­vealed by Allah. It is for these rea­sons that the com­mu­ni­ty of be­liev­ers strives hard for Allah’s cause with­out fear­ing to be crit­icized or cen­sured by any­one.


This is the mark of the cho­sen be­liev­ers. More­over, that those be­liev­ers are cho­sen by Allah, that there is mu­tu­al love be­tween Him and them, that they have their own dis­tinc­tive char­ac­ter­is­tic and the reassur­ance they have to con­duct their af­fairs on the ba­sis of Di­vine guid­ance are all favors be­stowed on them by Allah: “That is the favor of Allah; He bestows it upon whom He wills. And Allah is all-Encompassing and Knowing.” (Verse 54) He gives in abun­dance and He choos­es the ones to whom He grants His favors on the ba­sis of per­fect knowl­edge. His grace is abun­dant, lim­it­less. Allah de­fines for the be­liev­ers the on­ly group with whom they may have a re­la­tion­ship of pa­tron­age and the ones to patro­nize: “Your ally is none but Allah and [therefore] His Messenger and those who have believed - those who establish prayer and give zakah, and they bow [in worship].” (Verse 55)


The def­ini­tion is made here in a way which leaves no chance for lib­er­al in­ter­pre­ta­tion or con­fu­sion. Mat­ters have to be so clear­ly de­fined be­cause the cen­tral is­sue here is that of faith and its implementation through a move­ment. Hence, sub­mis­sion to Allah must be com­plete, trust in Him must be ab­so­lute, and self-​sur­ren­der is the on­ly re­li­gion. The ques­tion is, then, one of a com­plete dis­tinc­tion be­tween the Mus­lim camp and all oth­er camps which do not adopt sub­mis­sion to Allah as a faith and Islam­ic law as a way of life. The Is­lam­ic move­ment must be se­ri­ous in its or­gan­iza­tion so that it ad­mits no al­le­giance ex­cept to its own lead­er­ship. Thus, loy­al­ty and sup­port can ex­ist on­ly be­tween mem­bers of the com­mu­ni­ty of be­liev­ers, be­cause such loy­al­ty and sup­port are based on faith.


So that Is­lam does not become a mere ti­tle, slo­gan or ver­bal claim nor a hered­itary rela­tion­ship or a descrip­tion of peo­ple who live in a cer­tain area. The surah men­tions here some essential char­ac­ter­is­tics of be­liev­ers: “…those who establish prayer and give zakah, and they bow [in worship].” (Verse 55) The first char­ac­ter­is­tic is that of at­tend­ing to prayers, not mere­ly of­fer­ing them. This means pay­ing full at­ten­tion to them so that prayers pro­duce their ef­fects as ex­plained by Allah when He says: “Indeed, prayer prohibits immorality and wrongdoing, and the remembrance of Allah is greater...” (Al-Ankabut: 45) Those who pray but are not pre­vent­ed by their prayer from such in­dul­gence have not at­tend­ed to it prop­er­ly. An­oth­er char­ac­ter­is­tic is that they pay za­kah, which means that they ful­fill their fi­nan­cial obli­ga­tion will­ing­ly, with­out hes­ita­tion and in obe­di­ence to Allah. Za­kah is not a sim­ple tax; it is an act of wor­ship which may be de­scribed as fi­nan­cial wor­ship. This is in­dica­tive of the Is­lam­ic sys­tem which achieves sever­al ob­jec­tives through the same du­ty. This dis­tin­guish­es it from man-​made sys­tems which may achieve one goal and re­main short of achiev­ing the rest.


It is not pos­si­ble for so­cial wel­fare to be achieved through the mere im­po­si­tion of civ­il tax­es, or that finan­cial con­tri­bu­tions be levied from the rich for the ben­efit of the poor in the name of the state or the peo­ple or any oth­er world­ly au­thor­ity. In such a pat­tern, on­ly one goal is achieved, name­ly, the payment of mon­ey to the needy. Za­kah, on the oth­er hand, has a spe­cif­ic sig­nif­icance which is in­di­cat­ed by its very name, which means “pu­ri­fy­ing alms”. First and fore­most, za­kah is pu­rifi­ca­tion and growth. It pu­ri­fies man’s con­science be­cause it is an act of wor­ship and it is paid will­ing­ly with a feel­ing of love towards those who need it, be­cause as a wor­ship its pay­er ex­pects to be well re­ward­ed for it in the life to come and hopes that his wealth in this life will in­crease through the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the blessed eco­nom­ic sys­tem of Is­lam. There is al­so a healthy feel­ing gen­er­at­ed by it among the poor who re­ceive it be­cause they feel that it is part of Allah’s grace that He has de­ter­mined its pay­ment to them by the rich. They en­ter­tain no grudge against the rich. (It is use­ful to re­mind our­selves here that un­der the Is­lam­ic sys­tem, the rich earn their mon­ey through le­git­imate means and do not usurp the right of any­one as they earn their in­come.) Need­less to say, za­kah al­so achieves the ob­jec­tive of fi­nan­cial tax­es in a healthy and sat­is­fac­to­ry at­mo­sphere char­ac­terized by pu­ri­ty and growth.


The pay­ment of za­kah is a char­ac­ter­is­tic of the be­liev­ers con­firm­ing that they im­ple­ment Allah’s law in their lives. The pay­ment of zakah is an ac­knowl­edge­ment that Allah has the au­thor­ity over all their affairs. This is ex­act­ly what is meant by Is­lam, which is based on to­tal sub­mis­sion to Allah. “and they bow [in worship].” (Verse 55) The way this phrase is ex­pressed in the Ara­bic orig­inal in­di­cates that bowing down in wor­ship is their nor­mal and es­sen­tial con­di­tion. The Qur’anic verse has al­ready stat­ed that they at­tend to their prayer, but this sec­ond de­scrip­tion is even more com­pre­hen­sive be­cause it makes it ap­pear as if wor­ship is the most promi­nent char­ac­ter­is­tic by which they are known. In such con­texts, Qur’anic ex­pres­sions are very pow­er­ful in­deed. In re­turn for hav­ing com­plete trust in Him, and seek­ing on­ly His sup­port and main­tain­ing a tie of pa­tron­age with Him on­ly and, in con­se­quence, with His Mes­sen­ger and the be­liev­ers, and in re­turn for a com­plete split be­tween them and all oth­er camps that do not sub­mit to Him, Allah promis­es the be­liev­ers vic­to­ry: “And whoever is an ally of Allah and His Messenger and those who have believed - indeed, the party of Allah - they will be the predominant.” (Verse 56) This promise of vic­to­ry comes on­ly af­ter the ba­sic prin­ci­ple has been out­lined. It is to be in al­liance on­ly with Allah, His Mes­sen­ger and the be­liev­ers. This fol­lows a clear warn­ing against hav­ing an al­liance with the Jews or Chris­tians since it is tan­ta­mount to leav­ing the Mus­lim camp and be­long­ing to the Jews and Chris­tians. In oth­er words, it is a com­plete re­jec­tion of faith.


What we have here is a con­sis­tent Qur’anic point. Allah wants peo­ple to be Mus­lims be­cause Is­lam is good, not be­cause they will tri­umph or gain pow­er in this world. These are fruits which come on­ly at their ap­pro­pri­ate time, and on­ly as a means to ac­com­plish Allah’s will, man­ifest­ed in the prac­ti­cal im­ple­men­ta­tion of His faith. They are nev­er of­fered as a temp­ta­tion to en­cour­age peo­ple to ac­cept Is­lam. More­over, when Mus­lims tri­umph, they gain noth­ing out of their vic­to­ry for them­selves. They are simply the means through which Allah ac­com­plish­es His will. He grants them vic­to­ry not as some­thing they add to their per­son­al cred­it, but to the ad­van­tage of their faith. As such, they earn the re­ward for hav­ing striv­en hard to achieve this vic­to­ry and en­joy the re­sults of the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the Di­vine faith.


Sim­ilar­ly, Allah may promise Mus­lims vic­to­ry in or­der to strength­en them and free them from the shack­les of the present, which may be over­whelm­ing at times. When they are as­sured that the ul­ti­mate re­sult will be in their favor, they are more de­ter­mined to over­come the present im­ped­iment. In oth­er words, they en­ter­tain hopes that Allah will ful­fill His promise to the Mus­lim na­tion through their own ef­forts. The fact that this state­ment oc­curs here tells us some­thing about the Mus­lim com­mu­ni­ty’s situa­tion at that time and its need for such re­as­sur­ance by re­it­er­at­ing the rule that Allah’s par­ty will even­tu­al­ly tri­umph. This again con­firms our view with re­gard to the tim­ing of the rev­ela­tion of this passage.


This rule, how­ev­er, re­mains true re­gard­less of time or place. We re­alize that it is one of Allah’s laws which nev­er fail. If the com­mu­ni­ty of be­liev­ers ex­pe­ri­ences some re­ver­sals and los­es some bat­tles, the con­stant rule, which will al­ways re­main true, is that Allah’s par­ty will re­main vic­to­ri­ous. Such a clear promise by Allah is truer than what may ap­pear to be the case at any par­tic­ular junc­ture. To main­tain a re­la­tion­ship of pa­tron­age with Allah, His Mes­sen­ger and the be­liev­ers is the on­ly way to even­tu­al­ly ensure the ful­fill­ment of Allah’s promise.

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