In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
When Jesus became conscious of their rejection of the faith, he cried; “ Who will be my helpers in the cause of Allah?” The disciples replied; “We are helpers in Allah’s cause. We believe in Allah. Bear you witness that we have surrendered ourselves to Him.
Our Lord, we believe in that which you have revealed, and we follow the messenger,
so write us down among those who bear witness.”The House of Imran, “Aal Imran : 3; 52-53.
Commentary by Sayyid Qutb, Translated by A.A. Salahi & S.A. Shamsi.
In the Earlier verses we discussed the happy news the angel gave to Mary concerning the birth of her son and also the qualities of that son, his message, miracles and address to the Israelites which were all given in the Surah as a follow-up to that piece of news. Now the Surah takes directly to a point in time when Jesus became conscious that the children of Israel were bent on denying his message and rejecting the faith altogether. He then appeals for helps to convey Allah’s message and explain the faith acceptable to Him.
There is, then, a huge gap in the line of the story the Surah is telling. There is no mention that Jesus was actually born, and that his mother confronted her people acknowledging that he was her own son, and that he spoke to them straight away, when he was still a newborn. There is no mention either that he began to call on his people to abide by the teachings of the Divine faith when he was in his prime. Nothing is mentioned either of the miracles to which reference has been made in the happy news of his birth given to his mother, as mentioned in the Surah entitled “Mary.” Such gaps do occur in the stories mentioned in the Qur’an for the dual purpose of avoiding unnecessary repetition, and highlighting the episodes of the story which are directly relevant to the subject matter of the Surah in which it occurs.
Jesus became conscious that the Israelites were hardening their attitude against accepting the faith and abiding by it after he had shown them all the miracles which he had been given. Such miracles could not be accomplished by any human being. They provided concrete evidence that they were the work of Allah, accomplished by His will as a confirmation of the truth told by the messenger who demonstrated them. In spite of the fact that Jesus was also sent to remove some of the restrictions and reduce some of the obligations which were imposed on the children of Israel, they were hardened against accepting his message. At this point, he made his appeal, “Who will be my helpers in the cause of Allah? Who will help me convey Allah’s message and explain it to people? Who will help me to establish Allah’s method and implement His law?”
Every man with a message or ideology must have helpers who support him, believe in his message, defend it and convey it to others and make sure that it remains in its original form when he has passed away. The disciples replied; “We are helpers in Allah’s cause. We believe in Allah. Bear you witness that we have surrendered ourselves to Him.”
We note here that they mention Islam in its broad meaning, that is surrender to Allah, which is the essence of true faith. They ask Jesus e to bear witness to their surrender and their pledging themselves to be the helpers of Allah, which means to help His messenger and His religion and way of life.
They then turn to Allah, their Lord, addressing Him directly in this very essential matter; Our Lord, we believe in that which you have revealed, and we follow the messenger, so write us down among those who bear witness. This direct address to Allah to make their pledges specifically to Him is very significant. A believer makes his covenant directly with his Lord. When the messenger conveys to him Allah’s message, the messenger has discharged his task as far as the faith is concerned. The pledge is made between the believer and Allah and it remains binding on the believer after the messenger has passed away. The disciples’ statement also includes a pledge to Allah to obey His messenger. This is again significant because it shows that the matter is not simply a question of simple beliefs to be accepted. It is also a commitment to a certain way of life which is received through the messenger. This is a basic question in the Surah which is emphasized again and again in different moods and styles.
The disciples’ statement includes another point which merits special consideration: Write us down among those who bear witness. What testimony? And what witnesses?
A person who surrenders himself to Allah and believes in the divine faith is required to make a testimony in favour of this faith which stresses its right to be the religion to follow, and points out very clearly the countless benefits this religion gives to mankind. He cannot make such a testimony unless he makes of himself a practical example of this religion in his style of life, manners and moral values. People will find in such a practical example, something superior to everything else, which confirms the right of this religion to continue to exist and endorses its superiority to all other systems, regimes and methods known to man.
Again, he cannot make such a testimony unless he makes this religion the basis of his life, and the foundation of his society and the law both he and his community follow. Thus, a new social order is brought about which conducts all its affairs according to this straightforward divine way of life. When a believer struggles to make such a society a reality and to establish this method as the way of life followed by that society, and when he prefers to die rather than live under any system which does not implement a divine constitution, he in effect gives his testimony that this religion is more important than life itself, the most valuable possession of the living. It is for this reason that he is called “ a witness.”
Those disciples have prayed Allah to write them down among those who bear witness to His religion. That is, they pray Allah to guide and help them to make of themselves a practical example of this religion, and to direct them to struggle for the cause of implementing it in human life and the establishment of a society which mirrors its way of life, even if they will have to sacrifice their lives in order to be chosen as “witnesses” for this religion.
It is a prayer worthy of careful study by everyone who claims to surrender himself to Allah. This is indeed the meaning of Islam as understood by the disciples and as understood by true Muslims, who actually surrender themselves to Allah. Anyone who suppresses his testimony and is reluctant to give it in favour of his religion is a sinner at heart. If he claims to be a Muslim but chooses a style of life other than that of Islam, or tries to live according to Islam within his own private life, but not in the general social life, and does not strive to establish a divine method in the life of his society either to evade any possible hardship or to spare his own life to the survival of his faith, one who does not give a full testimony for this religion, or, indeed he gives a testimony against it. By so doing, he makes a testimony which deters others from accepting this faith. Can we contemplate the fate of a person who deters others from accepting the divine faith through his own claim that he is a believer when actually he is not?