By Naseer Ahmed, New Age Islam
28 April, 2015
Many similar questions are asked and the impression among people is that the Quran uses strong words for non-Muslims whether they are Jews, Christians or Polytheists but not for the Muslims. The Quran uses strong language even for those who are evil among the Muslims except that it does not get noticed because they are called the Munafiqin or the hypocrites. The Quran does not use strong language against people of any faith but only against those who were guilty of specific acts or misdeeds. Let us examine one such verse which is one of the oft quoted ones.
(98:6) Those Kafaru among the People of the Book and among the Polytheists, will be in Hell-Fire, to dwell therein (for aye). They are the worst of creatures.
This verse is misunderstood to mean that the Quran has called all Jews, Christians and Polytheists, the worst of creatures who will be in hell in the hereafter! The verse is clearly not calling all the People of the Book or all the Polytheists the worst of creatures who will dwell in hell in the hereafter but only the Kafaru among them. Who are these Kafaru and for what Kufr of theirs are they so condemned?
Let us look at the entire Surah 98 in which the verse appears:
(1) Those Kafaru among the People of the Book and among the Polytheists, were not going to depart (from their ways) until there should come to them Clear Evidence,-
(2) A messenger from Allah, rehearsing scriptures kept pure and holy:
(3) Wherein are laws (or decrees) right and straight.
(4) Nor did the People of the Book make schisms, until after there came to them Clear Evidence.
(5) And they have been commanded no more than this: To worship Allah, offering Him sincere devotion, being true (in faith); to establish regular prayer; and to practise regular charity; and that is the Religion Right and Straight.
(6) Those Kafaru among the People of the Book and among the Polytheists will be in Hell-Fire, to dwell therein (for aye). They are the worst of creatures.
(7) Those who have faith and do righteous deeds,- they are the best of creatures.
(8) Their reward is with Allah: Gardens of Eternity, beneath which rivers flow; they will dwell therein for ever; Allah well pleased with them, and they with Him: all this for such as fear their Lord and Cherisher.
The Kafaru among the Polytheists who are referred to can be identified from the following verses of Surah 37:
(159) Glory to Allah! (He is free) from the things they (the polytheists) ascribe (to Him)
(167) And there were those who said,
(168) "If only we had had before us a Message from those of old,
(169) "We should certainly have been Servants of Allah, sincere (and devoted)!"
(170) But (now that the Qur´an has come), they reject it: But soon will they know!
“And there were those who said” clearly implies not all but some among the polytheists. The Kafaru among the People of the Scriptures were those who were awaiting the coming of a Prophet from amongst the Arabs based on predictions in their own Scriptures.
The much awaited and eagerly expected Prophet came rehearsing scriptures containing laws right and straight. The People of the Scriptures however made schisms only after the clear evidence had come to them and although they were commanded no more than this: To worship Allah, offering Him sincere devotion, being true (in faith); to establish regular prayer; and to practise regular charity; and that is the Religion Right and Straight.
These are the people who are the worst of creatures because when the Messenger for whom they had awaited eagerly came with clear evidence, they rejected him. And these people will be in hell fire forever. Please notice the wordings. This is not a warning to these people about their fate in the hereafter but the sentence has been pronounced which means that these people will die as disbelievers. This confirms that it covers only a specific set of people and not all Polytheists, Jews and Christians because most of the Polytheists believed after this and many of the Jews and Christians as well. The Surah is an early Medinian Surah revealed before the permission to fight was given. After the first battle of Badr, the fortunes appeared to be changing for the better for the Muslims which then attracted the opportunist freeloaders called the Munafiqin or the hypocrites. Until such time, the Muslims were only among those Meccans who had sacrificed everything for Islam and even left their homes and migrated to Medina and the Ansars or the Medinians who had provided support and shelter. They are therefore called the best of creatures and the contrast is perfect. The best of people never had any expectations of a Prophet coming but when he did come, they believed and suffered torture and persecution in Mecca for 13 years and were finally compelled to migrate leaving behind their homes and businesses. The Medinians made huge sacrifices and provided support and shelter to the immigrants. These were true believers and supporters of the Prophet and Allah and clearly selfless, sincere and devoted and beyond doubt among the best of creatures.
In contrast, there were the knowledgeable ones who had eagerly awaited for the coming of the Prophet thinking that he would confer some great worldly benefit on them but when they saw that there were sacrifices to be made and no prospect of any gains in the immediate future, and from all indications’ very uncertain and bleak future, they rejected him. They were self-seekers who were only interested in what was in it for them and had no real love for either God or the “Truth” or for any noble cause. The contrast is perfect and they are called the worst creatures.
It should now be clear that both “the best of creatures” and “the worst of creatures” refers to specific people of the Prophet’s times and not to people of this age. The believers or Muslims have no basis to consider themselves as the best of creatures or to consider others as the worst by citing this verse which only speaks of a specific group of people of the Prophet’s times who displayed the behaviour discussed.
Naseer Ahmed is an Engineering graduate from IIT Kanpur and is an independent IT consultant after having served in both the Public and Private sector in responsible positions for over three decades. He is a frequent contributor to NewAgeIslam.com.
Regarding the discussion
on Science and Miracles, after I have said that a believer has no need for
miracles to believe and a non-believer will not believe despite miracles, there
is nothing more to be said. The miracles were only to leave the non-believer
without any argument that no "sign" came to them because the
disbelievers sought such signs as I have already covered in my previous
comments. Whether a disbeliever disbelieves because of the miracles or inspite
of them is hardly material. They will always blame something or the other for
their disbelief. If you want to consider the stories in the Quran regarding the period before Muhammad (pbuh) as mythology because of the miracles, what do you say of the 22 years of Muhammad's (pbuh) period which are devoid of "miracles" and yet of very significant events and achievements beyond what the previous prophets achieved during their lifetime?
Also a believer will
believe whether or not there were miracles. As I have already said
the believers are those who seek
God and follow the Messenger even though he says:
(7:188) Say: "I
have no power over any good or harm to myself except as Allah willeth. If I had
knowledge of the unseen, I should have multiplied all good, and no evil should
have touched me: I am but a warner, and a bringer of glad tidings to those who
(11:31) "I tell
you not that with me are the treasures of Allah, nor do I know what is hidden,
nor claim I to be an angel. Nor yet do I say, of those whom your eyes do
despise that Allah will not grant them (all) that is good: Allah knoweth best
what is in their souls: I should, if I did, indeed be a wrong-doer."
(6:50) Say: "I
tell you not that with me are the treasures of Allah, nor do I know what is
hidden, nor do I tell you I am an angel. I but follow what is revealed to
me." Say: "can the blind be held equal to the seeing?" Will ye
then consider not?
all don't attribute anything falsely to me. Make it a habit to quote my exact
repeating what I have already said.
A born Mushrik
is not necessarily a self-seeker. The Quran therefore refrains from calling
them kafir. A self-seeker is one who seeks immediate gratification, believes
that the ends justify the means, cares little for what is right and will turn to
anything that promises immediate gratification. Such a person is a
Mushrik by disposition. There may be many Muslims who are self-seekers just as
there were many in the Prophet’s times also and these are called the Munafiqin.
They pretend that they believe but in all their actions they are only self-seekers.
They have little faith or patience and easily lose heart in periods of trial
and tribulation. (33:12) And behold! The Hypocrites and
those in whose hearts is a disease (even) say: "Allah and His Messenger
promised us nothing but delusion!" They will not make any sacrifices nor strive patiently.
The prayer of the self seeker
(2:200)There are men
who say: "Our Lord! Give us (Thy bounties) in this world!" but they
will have no portion in the Hereafter.
The prayer of the Muslim
(201) And there are men who say:
"Our Lord! Give us what is good for us in this world and what is good for
us in the Hereafter, and defend us from the torment of the Fire!"
What is good in this world is what is
right, just, halal and without depriving others of what is theirs and without
harm to anyone else.
But the Ansars who had adopted the Faith,- show their affection to such as came
to them for refuge, and entertain no desire in their hearts for things given to
the (latter), but give them preference over themselves, even though poverty was
their (own lot). And those saved from the covetousness of their own souls,-
they are the ones that achieve prosperity.
(59:10) And those who came after them say: "Our
Lord! Forgive us, and our brethren who came before us into the Faith, and leave
not, in our hearts, rancour (or sense of injury) against those who have
believed. Our Lord! Thou art indeed Full of Kindness, Most Merciful."
(59:11) Hast thou not observed the Hypocrites say to
their misbelieving brethren among the People of the Book? - "If ye are
expelled, we too will go out with you, and we will never hearken to any one in
your affair; and if ye are attacked (in fight) we will help you". But Allah
is witness that they are indeed liars. (12) If they are expelled, never will
they go out with them; and if they are attacked (in fight), they will never
help them; and if they do help them, they will turn their backs; so they will
receive no help.
(63:1) When the Hypocrites come to you, they say,
"We bear witness that you are indeed the Messenger of Allah." Yea,
Allah knows that you are indeed His Messenger, and Allah bears witness that the
Hypocrites are indeed liars. (2) They have made their oaths a screen (for their
misdeeds): thus they obstruct (men) from the Path of Allah: truly evil are
their deeds. (3) That is because they believed, then they rejected Faith: So a
seal was set on their hearts: therefore they understand not. (4) When you look
at them, their exteriors please you; and when they speak, you listen to their
words. They are as (worthless as hollow) pieces of timber propped up, (unable
to stand on their own). They think that every cry is against them. They are the
enemies; so beware of them. The curse of Allah be on them! How are they deluded
(away from the Truth)! (5) And when it is said to them, "Come, the
Messenger of Allah will pray for your forgiveness", they turn aside their
heads, and you would see them turning away their faces in arrogance.
Hypocrites - they think they are over-reaching Allah, but He will over-reach
them: When they stand up to prayer, they stand without earnestness, to be seen
of men, but little do they hold Allah in remembrance;
Hypocrites, men and women, (have an understanding) with each other: They enjoin
evil, and forbid what is just, and are close with their hands. They have
forgotten Allah; so He hath forgotten them. Verily the Hypocrites are
rebellious and perverse.(68) Allah hath promised the Hypocrites men and women,
and the rejecters, of Faith, the fire of Hell: Therein shall they dwell:
Sufficient is it for them: for them is the curse of Allah, and an enduring
(57:13) One Day will the Hypocrites- men and women -
say to the Believers: "Wait for us! Let us borrow (a Light) from your
Light!" It will be said: "Turn ye back to your rear! then seek a
Light (where ye can)!" So a wall will be put up betwixt them, with a gate
therein. Within it will be Mercy throughout, and without it, all alongside,
will be (Wrath and) Punishment! (14) (Those without) will call out, "Were
we not with you?" (The others) will reply, "True! but ye led
yourselves into temptation; ye looked forward (to our ruin); ye doubted
(Allah´s Promise); and (your false) desires deceived you; until there issued the
Command of Allah. And the Deceiver deceived you in respect of Allah.
Rational, (28:48) But (now), when the Truth has come to them from Ourselves, they say, "Why are not (Signs) sent to him, like those which were sent to Moses?" Do they not then reject (the Signs) which were formerly sent to Moses? They say: "Two kinds of sorcery, each assisting the other!" And they say: "For us, we reject all (such things)!"
Those who disbelieve will disbelieve either way. On the one hand, there were people who wouldn't believe unless there was an obvious sign of God that could amaze them. There are others who will doubt just because of these amazing things that were sent as the Signs of God.
Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was taunted because he did not come with such signs as the prophets before.
(17:90) They say: "We shall not believe in thee, until thou cause a spring to gush forth for us from the earth,
(91) "Or (until) thou have a garden of date trees and vines, and cause rivers to gush forth in their midst, carrying abundant water;
(92) "Or thou cause the sky to fall in pieces, as thou sayest (will happen), against us; or thou bring Allah and the angels before (us) face to face:
(93) "Or thou have a house adorned with gold, or thou mount a ladder right into the skies. No, we shall not even believe in thy mounting until thou send down to us a book that we could read." Say: "Glory to my Lord! Am I aught but a man,- a messenger?"
(94) What kept men back from belief when Guidance came to them, was nothing but this: they said, "Has Allah sent a man (like us) to be (His) Messenger?"
(95) Say, "If there were settled, on earth, angels walking about in peace and quiet, We should certainly have sent them down from the heavens an angel for a messenger."
(96) Say: "Enough is Allah for a witness between me and you: for He is well acquainted with His servants, and He sees (all things).
(97) It is he whom Allah guides, that is on true Guidance; but he whom He leaves astray - for such wilt thou find no protector besides Him. On the Day of Judgment We shall gather, them together, prone on their faces, blind, dumb, and deaf: their abode will be Hell: every time it shows abatement, We shall increase from them the fierceness of the Fire.
The kind of people who believe:
(16:30) To the righteous (when) it is said, "What is it that your Lord has revealed?" they say, "All that is good." To those who do good, there is good in this world, and the Home of the Hereafter is even better and excellent indeed is the Home of the righteous,-
They will believe even though the Messenger said:
(7:188) Say: "I have no power over any good or harm to myself except as Allah willeth. If I had knowledge of the unseen, I should have multiplied all good, and no evil should have touched me: I am but a warner, and a bringer of glad tidings to those who have faith."
(11:31) "I tell you not that with me are the treasures of Allah, nor do I know what is hidden, nor claim I to be an angel. Nor yet do I say, of those whom your eyes do despise that Allah will not grant them (all) that is good: Allah knoweth best what is in their souls: I should, if I did, indeed be a wrong-doer."
(6:50) Say: "I tell you not that with me are the treasures of Allah, nor do I know what is hidden, nor do I tell you I am an angel. I but follow what is revealed to me." Say: "can the blind be held equal to the seeing?" Will ye then consider not?
The disbelievers will disbelieve because of the kind of signs Moses, Jesus (pbut) brought because to them these are lies or inspite of it or because Muhammad (pbuh) did not perform miracles like the earlier prophets or inspite of the fact that there are no such unbelievable stories associated with him.
Incidentally, we have also established through this discussion that:
1. The Quran does not consider all members of any religious group as Kafir. The Kafir are simply the deniers, rejecters and hinderers of the truth, the oppressors, and the evil doers
2. Only the Kafaru will be punished. These are
a). Those who reject “the truth” after “the truth” becomes plain to them and die rejecting. The context of "the truth" in the Quran is mostly belief in God without associating partners, belief in the hereafter, belief in all the Scriptures and Messengers of God. This is the most important truth. However, bringing out, accepting and supporting any truth is held highly virtuous and its rejection worthy of punishment.
b) The evil doers.
Those who are true to what they know and believe to be the truth and do good works and are righteous will be successful.