Commentary by Sayyid Qutb, Translated by A.A. Salahi & S.A. Shamsi.
In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful,
Allah’s love cannot be earned by the mere mental acceptance of His existence, nor by the verbal acknowledgement of that: “Say: if you love Allah, follow me and Allah will love you.” “Say: Obey Allah and the Messenger. If they turn away, then Allah does not love the disbelievers. Allah Himself bears witness, and so do the angels and men of knowledge, that there is no deity save Him, the Executor of justice. There is no deity save Him, the Almighty, the wise.” (The House of Imran, “Aal Imran” :3:18)
We have discussed earlier the opening passage of this Surah which included its first 18 verses. That passage concentrated on establishing the basic fact of the Oneness of Allah, the Lord and sustainer of the whole universe who controls all its affairs. It also emphasized the unity of the divine revelation and message. It described the attitudes of the true believers and those whose hearts have swerved from the truth of Allah’s revelations and His Book. It also threatened the deviants with a doom similar to what befell those who denied the truth in the past and in the present. It went on to point out the natural motives which prevent people from learning these lessons, showing at the same time how the God-fearing turn to their Lord and seek His refuge.
As from the present verse, the Surah speaks of another fact which logically results from the preceding one. The fact that Allah is one and has no partners requires a practical confirmation in human life which is stated in the next passage of the Surah.
The passage begins with a reiteration of the fact stated in the opening passage in order to outline its essential consequences. We have here a testimony from Allah (praised be He) as well as a testimony from the angels and people of knowledge that “There is no deity save Allah.” Added to this is the divine attribute which results from the fact that He is the sustainer of the universe, that is, He maintains justice among people and in the universe at large.
We are required to accept this basic fact of Allah being the only Lord and sustainer of the whole universe. Our acceptance is manifested primarily by submitting ourselves to Allah alone and referring to Him in all matters. It is further manifested by obeying Allah, our Eternal Master, and following His messenger (Pbuh) and implementing His revelations in our lives.
This is the purport of the divine statement: The only faith acceptable to Allah is Islam. He does not accept any other religion or creed from anyone. Islam means willing submission, obedience and conscious following of the Prophet. This means that the religion which Allah accepts from people is not merely a concept formulated in their minds, nor is it the mere acceptance of a fact. It is indeed the practical translation of this acceptance and that concept. It takes the form of implementing the divine method in all our affairs, total obedience to all Allah’s laws, and following the guidance of His messenger in His implementation of the divine faith.
The passage then moves on to publicize the attitude of the people of earlier revelations, wondering at them. Despite their claim that they follow Allah’s religion, some of them turn away when they are invited to put their disputes to be adjudged according to Allah’s revelations. Their whole claim is thus rendered baseless. Allah accepts no religion other than Islam, and Islam means true submission to Allah, obedience to His Prophet (Pbuh) and the implementation of His revelations in all spheres of life.
We are then told of the real reason for their turning away, which actually means that they do not believe in the divine religion. That is, they do not take seriously the concept of reckoning and reward on the day of judgment: This is because they say: we will suffer the fire only for a few days. In this, they rely on their belief that they are followers of a divine book: They have been deluded by what they have fabricated in their religion. Their whole notion is a false delusion. They are neither followers of a divine book nor are they believers. They have nothing whatsoever to do with the divine faith, since inspite of being invited to put their disputes to the judgment of divine revelations they continue to turn away. In such absolute clarity Allah states in the Qur’an the meaning of religion and the true nature of being religious. He accepts from His servants only one clear attitude: the religion is Islam; and Islam means to consider Allah’s book the final arbiter and accept its judgment. No one who does not do that in practice may be considered a Muslim, although he may claim to be so or claim to follow Allah’s religion. It is Allah who defines and explains His own religion. His definition and explanation do not take into account the desires or personal concepts of human beings.
Indeed, the one who takes the disbelievers, i.e. those who do not accept the judgment of Allah’s Book and revelations, as patrons “has nothing to do with Allah.” There is absolutely no relationship between him and Allah. This applies to those who patronize and support or seek the patronage or support of the disbelievers who reject the judgement of divine revelations, even though they may claim to follow Allah’s religion.
The warning against such patronage which destroys faith altogether is further emphasized. The Muslim community is also made aware of the true nature of the forces which operate in the universe. Allah has absolute control over it; He owns it all, and gives kingship to whom He wills and deprives of it whom He wills. It is He who gives honour to, or causes to sink in contempt, whom He wills. This is only part of the fact that He controls the whole universe and runs it as He wishes. It is He who causes the night to overwhelm the day and then causes the day to overpower the night. It is He who makes life come from death and causes death to end life. He thus maintains justice in human life in the universe at large. There is no need, then, for the patronage of anyone else, no matter how powerful or wealthy they are.
These repeated, emphatic warnings give us an insight into what was actually taking place within the Muslim community when these matters were not absolutely clear to them. Some of them maintained their family, or national or economic relations with the disbelievers in Makkah or with the Jews in Madinah. Hence, the need for this explanation and warning. The repeated warnings also suggest that human nature is normally influenced by the physical power of human beings. Hence, people need to be reminded of the true nature of human power and real power. This needs to be added to the clear explanation of the correct concept of faith and its practical effects in life.
The passage is concluded with a decisive statement that Islam is true obedience to Allah and His messenger. The way to win Allah’s pleasure is simply to follow His messenger. Allah’s love cannot be earned by the mere mental acceptance of His existence, nor by the verbal acknowledgement of that: “Say: if you love Allah, follow me and Allah will love you.” “Say: Obey Allah and the messenger. If they turn away, then Allah does not love the disbelievers.”
The issues then are very clear: either obedience and conscious following of the Prophet (Pbuh) which is the alternative Allah likes, or a rejection of the faith, which is the alternative Allah dislikes. There can be no meeting point between the two options.