The 39th Call: Testing those in a State of Ihram with Games
Almighty Allah says (what can be translated as): “O you who have believed, Allah will surely test you through something of the game that your hands and spears [can] reach, that Allah may make evident those who fear Him unseen. And whoever transgresses after that - for him is a painful punishment.” (Al-Ma’idah: 94)
Almighty Allah says that He tests his believing servants when they are in a state of Ihram by letting the small hunting animals and games in the reach of their hands. If they want, they can take them with their hands. He will also test them by making the big hunting animals in the reach of their spears; they would find them easily in front of them while traveling. Allah does that to know who obeys Him in secrecy and in public and who would not hunt as long as he is in a state of Ihram. Whoever transgresses after this warning from Allah, he will have a painful torture for opposing the command of Allah.
It is a very easy game that is brought within their vicinity. They could easily grab it with their hands, or with their spears. Some reports suggest that such game would come as close as the doors of their tents or homes. This, then, was a trial of temptation. Similar in nature to that which the Children of Israel were asked to endure in former times, but in which they failed. They had pleaded with their Prophet, Moses (Peace Be upon Him), to appoint a day when they would not have to attend to any aspect of their daily affairs. Rather, they would rest and spend the whole day in worship. Thus, the Sabbath was established for them. They were then tempted with water game, whereby fish of all types came right to the sea shore on the day of the Sabbath. On other days, it went far into the water in the normal behavior of fish. The Children of Israel, however, could not resist the temptation, could not keep their covenant with Allah. In the end, they resorted to playing tricks holding the fish in enclosures without actually taking them out of the water. They only captured the fish from those enclosures on the following morning, when the Sabbath was over. Indeed, Allah instructs the Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be upon Him) to question them about this, confronting them with their trickery: “And ask them about the town that was by the sea - when they transgressed in [the matter of] the Sabbath - when their fish came to them openly on their Sabbath day, and the day they had no Sabbath they did not come to them. Thus did We give them trial because they were defiantly disobedient.” (Al-‘Araf: 163) It is this same trial which the Muslim community came through successfully, while the Jews did not. This is the proof of Allah’s description of the Muslim community: “You are the best nation produced [as an example] for mankind. You enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong and believe in Allah. If only the People of the Scripture had believed, it would have been better for them. Among them are believers, but most of them are defiantly disobedient.” (Ali Imran: 110) In fact the Muslim community has passed the test on numerous occasions whereas the Jews did not pass any similar tests. Hence, Allah deprived them of their leadership role and assigned it to the Muslim community, giving it more power to establish its entity on earth than He has given to any other community. The fact remains that the code of living laid down by Allah was never implemented in a practical system regulating the whole of human life until it was put into practice by the Muslim community. But that was when that community was truly Islamic, when it knew and accepted that Islam means that the Divine religion and its laws must be implemented in human life. It also realized that it was placed in a position of trust, undertaking the fulfillment of that great task and providing leadership for mankind in implementing the Divine law.
The trial of providing easy game at the time when it was prohibited to kill during the period of consecration, i.e. Ihram, was one of the numerous tests that the Muslim community successfully passed. The care Allah took of this Muslim community and its education is reflected in such tests. In this particular incident, Allah tells the believers of the purpose beyond His test: “…that Allah may make evident those who fear Him unseen.” (Verse 94) Being truly Allah-fearing, or fearing Him in one’s heart, is the solid basis on which faith is established in a person’s conscience. It mould’s one’s behavior and it is the essence of putting man’s vicegerency, i.e. Khilafah, on earth into practice.
Human beings do not see Allah, but they feel His presence in their hearts when they truly believe in Him. To them, He is beyond the reach of all their faculties of perception, but their hearts know and fear Him. The certainty of this great truth in a firm, unshakeable belief in Allah, and achieving, without seeing Him or feeling His presence with our senses, a strength of belief equal, if not superior, to that based on one’s senses is something great indeed. A believer declares that “there is no deity other than Allah” without having seen Him. To have such belief is indicative of a huge step forward towards a superior level of humanity that taps man’s natural faculties and makes the best use of all his natural abilities. This represents a great departure away from the realm of animal existence that cannot look up to anything beyond its immediate perception. On the other hand, when man bars his soul from looking up to what lies beyond the reach of his faculties of perception and confines his feelings to the material world surrounding him, he shuts down his superior faculties and lingers permanently in his material and sensual world.
Hence, Allah makes this quality of fearing Him in our hearts the crucial point of this test, making it clear to the believers so that they are able to use all their powers to achieve it. Allah certainly knows, initially, who fears Him in his heart, but He does not hold people to account on the basis of His initial knowledge. They are accountable only for what they actually do, which Allah also knows on the basis of its taking place. “And whoever transgresses after that - for him is a painful punishment.” (Verse 94)
Man is thus told of the trial to which he is being put. He is informed of its purpose and warned against yielding to temptation. All means of success have been given to him. Hence, should he transgress after all this, it is only fair that he should be made to endure grievous suffering as it is his own choice.