In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
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 only true faith in Allah’s sight is Islam. Disagreement spread through mutual aggression, among those who were given revelations only after knowledge had been granted to them. He who denies Allah’s revelations will find that Allah is indeed swift in reckoning. If they argue with you, say : I have surrendered my whole being to Allah, and so have all who follow me. Say to those who were given revelations and to unlettered people, “Will you also surrender yourselves(to Allah)?” If they surrender, they are on the right path. If they turn away, then your only duty is to convey your message. Allah is watching over His servants. (The House of Imran, “Aal Imran” :3; 18:20)
Commentary by Sayyid Qutb,
Translated by A.A. Salahi & S.A. Shamsi.
In the last issue we discussed the first of these three verses which emphasized the most important fact of the Oneness of Allah and repeats it twice. We move on to discuss the following verses which start with establishing the logical result of that fact. Since there is only one God, then all worship must be addressed to that only God: The only true faith in Allah’s sight is Islam.
The Oneness of the Divine being requires that all submission must be to Him so that nothing remains in the minds of people or in their lives which is not subject to Allah’s authority. The Oneness of Allah means that there is only one being who has the right to require people to submit to and obey Him, implement the legislation he has enacted for them, to set values and standards for them, and to conduct all the affairs of their lives according to what He requires of them. There is only one faith, namely, pure submission to Allah alone, which is acceptable to Him.
When we state that the only true faith acceptable to Allah is Islam we mean that true Islam which is not merely a claim to be stated, but a flag to be raised or an academic concept which does not stir hearts or minds, or even a number of acts of worship offered by individuals at certain times or seasons, such as prayer, fasting and pilgrimage. This is not the sort of Islam which Allah describes as the only faith acceptable to Him. True Islam means complete obedience, total submission to Allah and implementation of His revelations in human life, as will be stated presently in the same Qur’anic text.
Islam also means the oneness of the divine being who is the eternal master of all. People of earlier revelations used to confuse the person of Allah (praised be He) and the person of Jesus Christ (peace be on him). They also confused Allah’s will with that of Christ. They disagreed among themselves so violently that they fought and killed each other on numerous occasions over their differences. Allah, therefore, makes the reasons for these disputes clear for both the people of earlier revelations and for the Muslim community. Disagreement spread, through mutual aggression, among those who were given revelations, only after knowledge had been granted to them.
Their disputes did not arise out of ignorance of the truth. They had been given certain knowledge of Allah’s oneness and the fact that He is the only Lord in the universe. They were also given the knowledge they needed about human nature and true submission to Allah. They simply disagreed “through mutual aggression” when they abandoned the course of justice embodied in the faith and the law which Allah revealed to them.
Christian historians have shown that political considerations were behind these doctrinal disputes. The same has happened frequently in both Jewish and Christian histories. It was the hatred felt by Egypt, Syria and other regions toward the rulers of Rome which resulted in the rejection of the official Roman doctrine and the adoption of a different one. On certain occasions, the keenness of a Byzantine Emperor to maintain his rule over certain parts of his kingdom was the reason for the invention of a compromise doctrine which was hoped to achieve the required results. Faith, to them was a ball game which served political goals. That was one of the worst forms of injustice. Worse still, it was done knowingly and deliberately.
An appropriately stern warning is then given at the right time: He who denies Allah’s revelations will find that Allah is indeed swift in reckoning. Disagreement over the truism of the Oneness of Allah is thus considered a denial and a rejection of Allah’s revelations. The people who reject are threatened with swift reckoning in order that people do not persist in their disbelief and denials and disputes as a result of being left alone for a while.
Allah then instructs the Prophet (Pbuh) to make his attitude towards the people of earlier revelations and the polytheists well-known. The real issue is stated in absolute clarity. Their fate is left to Allah. The Prophet (Pbuh) proceeds along his absolutely clear path; if they argue with you, say: “I have surrendered my whole being to Allah, and so have all who follow me. Say to those who were given revelations and to unlettered people. “Will you also surrender yourselves to Allah?” If they surrender, they are on the right path. If they turn away, then your only duty is to convey your message. Allah is watching over His servants.”
There can be no more clarity after that, either Allah’s Oneness and Masterhood of the universe is acknowledged with its practical correlative which is pure submission to Him, or futile arguments and excuses are pursued.
Allah teaches His Messenger a single word which explains his faith and way of life: If they argue with you in matters of faith and the oneness of Allah, say: I have surrendered my whole being to Allah. This applies to the Prophet (Pbuh) and also to “all who follow me.” The usage of the word “follow” here is very significant. What is required is not the mere acceptance of the Prophet’s (Pbuh) message, but also following it in practice. Similarly the phrase, ‘surrendered my whole being to Allah’ is highly significant. It is not sufficient that one should state verbally or accept in his mind the fact of the oneness of Allah. He must also surrender his whole being to Allah, which means in practical terms to obey Allah and to follow His Messenger. The Arabic phrase is translated literally as “I have submitted my face to Allah.” Since one’s face is the noblest part of man, then its submission indicates willing acceptance and implementation of Allah’s laws.
Such is, then, the faith of Muhammad (Pbuh) and such is his way of life. Muslims follow him in their faith and code of living. Let the people of earlier revelations and unlettered people, which is a reference to the polytheists, answer the question which is aimed at identifying each group in such a way as leaves no room for confusion: Say to those who were given revelations and to unlettered people. “Will you also surrender yourselves (to Allah)?” Both the polytheists and the people of earlier revelations are placed on the same level since they all are called upon to accept Islam in the sense we have explained. They are called upon to acknowledge the Oneness of Allah and that He is the only master of the whole universe. They are also required when they have made this acknowledgement to make it a practical reality through the implementation of Allah’s revelations in human life.
If they surrender, they are on the right path. Right guidance has only one form, namely, Islam in its full meaning which we have explained. There is simply no other form, concept, situation or code which reflects right guidance. Anything which is in conflict with Islam represents error, ignorance, confusion and rejection of the truth.
If they turn away, then your only duty is to convey your message. The Prophet’s (Pbuh) task is simply to convey his message. When he has done that, his mission is over. This applied before Allah commanded the Prophet (Pbuh) to fight those who reject Islam until they either accept its faith and submit to the regime it establishes, or pledge their obedience to this system in the form of payment of loyalty tax. No one is compelled to accept the faith.
Allah is watching over His servants. He conducts all their affairs as He wishes and according to His knowledge. The ultimate decision is with Him.