Faith And Brotherhood
In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.
Do not follow the example of those who became divided and fell in conflict with one another after clear proofs had come to them. For these there will be grievous suffering, on the day when some faces will shine (with happiness) and some faces will be blackened. Those whose faces are blackened (shall be told): “ Did you disbelieve after having embraced the faith? Taste, then, this suffering for having sunk into disbelief.”
Those with shining faces shall be in Allah’s mercy; they abide there forever. These are revelations of Allah. We recite them to you in truth. Allah wills no injustice to (His) creatures.
To Allah belongs all that is in the heavens and all that is on earth; to Him shall all things return. (The House of Imran, “Aal Imran”: 3; 105-109)
Commentary by Sayyid Qutb
Translation: A. A. Salahi and S. A. Shamsi
THE verse which comes immediately before our present passage may be translated as follows: “Let there become of you a nation who invite to all that is good, enjoin the doing of what is right and forbid what is wrong. Such are they who shall prosper.” We devoted much of our commentary in the last issue to this verse explaining the role of Muslim community and the characteristics of the nation to which it gives birth. The concept Islam formulates of life, events, actions, values and people is essentially different from all other concepts. Hence, a special environment which is totally different from that of ignorance is needed to enable this unique concept, with all its unique values, to flourish. This environment must be conditioned by the Islamic concept and must serve it so that it may live, breathe freely and grow in it without encountering any internal hindrances to its growth. Should it ever come across any obstacle, then the essential qualities of the Muslim community, i.e. the call to all that is good and enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong, are certain to remove them. Should there happen to be an oppressive force turning people away from Allah, then it will inevitably encounter those who are prepared to defend and protect the divine method of life.
This environment is embodied in the Muslim community which is built on the twin pillars of faith and brotherhood. Its faith in Allah brings conformity to its concept of life, events, actions, values and people and gives it a single standard with which to evaluate everything in life. It conducts all its affairs according to the same divine law and pledges all its loyalty to the leadership which takes upon itself the task of implementing Allah’s method in human life. The brotherhood of faith provides this community with the ties of love and mutual care. These ties ensure the absence of selfishness in this community and help them care for their brethren and give their interests precedence over their own without pressure or ill feeling.
The first Muslim community in Madinah was built on these two pillars: faith in Allah based on knowing Him and recognizing His attributes, fearing Him and being always keenly aware of what pleases Him; and genuine, flowing love, true friendship and mutual care taken most seriously. That first Muslim community achieved in all this a practical standard which is normally considered closer to dreams than to reality. The brotherhood established between the Muhajireen (Muslims who emigrated from Makkah) and the Ansar (Muslims of Madinah) is a real story although it is close to absolute idealism. It is an event borrowed from the world of heaven to take place on this earth.
A Muslim society stands on the twin pillars of faith and brotherhood as was witnessed in the society of Madinah
It is on the basis of such strong faith and real brotherhood that Allah’s method of life can be implemented in every generation.
The Surah adds a fresh warning to the Muslim community against falling out with one another. The example of those of the people of earlier revelation who were trusted with the implementation of Allah’s method but allowed division to creep into their ranks and fell out in conflict with one another is given here. Allah deprived them of the position of leadership and assigned that role to the Muslim community which fosters its bond of brotherhood. Moreover, those who were not true to their task will be sternly punished on the day when faces will either shine or be blackened: Do not follow the example of those who became divided and fell in conflict with one another after clear proofs had come to them. For these there will be grievous suffering, on the day when some faces will shine with happiness and some faces will be blackened. Those whose faces are blackened (shall be told): Did you disbelieve after having embraced the faith? Taste, then, this suffering for having sunk into disbelief. Those with shining faces shall be in Allah’s mercy; they abide there forever.
A vivid, full-of-life scene is drawn here in the inimitable style of the Quran. The scene is one of horror, but the horror is not described in words or adjectives. It is represented in living human beings, in their faces and looks. We see bright, shining faces, full of joy and happiness, and others gloomy, dusty and blackened. Yet those people are not left alone to suffer their fate. They have to put up with scourging comments: Did you disbelieve after having embraced the faith? Taste, then, this suffering for having sunk into disbelief.
The happy fortunes of the other group is also described vividly: Those with shining faces shall be in Allah’s mercy; they abide there forever. This description adds life, movement and dialogue to the scene, again in the Quran’s inimitable style.
Division and Conflict
The scene helps the Muslim community appreciate fully the Qura’nic warning against division and conflict. The grace Allah has bestowed on it through faith and unity is also fully appreciated. The Muslim community sees with its own eyes the end of those people of earlier revelation whom it has been warned not to obey. If it were to follow them, it would have to share their painful doom and grievous suffering on the day when faces will either shine or be blackened.
When the destiny of each of the two groups has been clearly stated, a comment is added which is in harmony with the broad lines of the Surah. It reasserts the truth of the Prophet’s message and revelation, the fact that reckoning and reward on the Day of Judgement are serious, absolute divine justice in this world and in the hereafter, the fact that all that is in heaven and on earth belong to Allah and to Him they all return: These are revelations of Allah. We recite them to you in truth. Allah wills no injustice to His creatures. To Allah belongs all that is in the heavens and all that is on earth; to Him shall all things return.
All the aforementioned facts, all the scenes depicted and all the destinies described are revelations given by Allah to His servants. They are being recited to His messenger in truth. They embody the truth in the principles and values they establish. They tell only the truth about the destinies of other nations. They are revealed in truth by the One who is able to reveal them and who alone has the right to determine values, rewards and destinies. Allah does not inflict any injustice on any one of His creatures. He is the most fair of all arbiters. He controls heavens and earth, and to Him belong all that is in the heavens and on earth, and to Him they all shall return. By making reward fit with action Allah only wants to establish right, administer justice and ensure that all matters are conducted seriously as befits His majesty. Absurd is the claim of the people of earlier revelations that they will be scourged by the fire for only a small number of days.