By Maulana Wahiduddin Khan
Life is a test. A test means an evaluation. The Quran tells us about the concept of test in these words: “He created death and life so that He might test you, and find out which of you is best in conduct.” (67:2)
God Almighty created Paradise, which is an ideal world. It is the perfect habitat of man. The present world is a selecting ground. God Almighty has put every person on planet earth for a limited period, during which angels are watching man every moment and preparing the record of every individual. In the end, God will select all those individuals who stood up to this test and proved to be of good conduct. These individuals will find entry into Paradise. This is the concept of test, or Ibtila, according to the Quran.
Someone may argue, ‘If one’s success in this test depends on whether or not one accepts and follows Islam, the Deen of Truth, not everyone has the same starting point, and so this test is not just.’ They may say that some people have better chances of passing this test simply because God willed them, and not others, to be born in Muslim families, because of which they were socialised to believe in Islam as the truth.
But the fact is that having been born into a Muslim family is not an advantage. God’s selection of an individual is not based on birth, but, rather, on his or her on conduct. The criterion of selection for both Muslims and non-Muslims is one and the same—that is, discovery of truth and not birth into any religion. Thus, both Muslims and non-Muslims are required to stand up to the same test. For non-Muslims, it should be discovery of truth and for Muslims it should be re-discovery of truth.
Someone might argue, ‘If someone is born in a family that does not follow the religion of Truth, presumably through no fault of his own and perhaps because of the will of God, and is socialised, from infancy onwards, to believe that his religion is true and he dies in that state, it is against the notion of a just God for such a person to be sent to hell. After all, the child was born and reared in that particular family perhaps for no fault of his, and possibly only because God willed this to be.’
In this regard, an Islamic scholar has expressed the formula for salvation in these words: “Jaisi Tabligh, Waisa Mahasabha” (Accountability depends on one’s knowledge). Man must honestly follow his conscience and the realization that he has attained to. If he sincerely and earnestly follows his conscience and the knowledge he possesses, then he will be treated according to the above mentioned criterion, and not any other criterion. There is no single criterion on which to judge a person. Everyone will be treated according to their knowledge of the truth.
Both Muslims and non-Muslims are born on nature. Every human being is initially Mr Nature, and the nature of every human being yearns to discover the meaning of life. Every person, by nature, seeks answers to questions such as: Who am I? What are life and death? What will happen to me after death? All these questions are interwoven in every man and woman. Every person, without exception, is born with these questions. It is, therefore, everyone’s duty to try to find out the answers to these questions. Due to this nature, everyone will be answerable before God. That is, every person will be questioned whether he ignored his nature or tried to find answers to the questions it raised.
Someone might ask, ‘If people born in non-Muslim families must seek the truth to be saved, is it that those born in Muslim families must seek the proper understanding of the Truth and must also convey the Truth in the proper way to be saved. If the latter fail in this task of dawah, what is their punishment, according to Islam? Can, “inherited Islam”, rather than conviction in Islam born out of genuine introspection and reflection, be adequate for salvation?’
In this regard, it should be noted that one of the responsibilities of every believer is Tabien (2:160), that is, Tabligh, or Dawah work. According to the Quran, failure in this regard is doing kitman (3:187). Kitman means to conceal the truth, and this is an unforgivable crime in the eyes of God. Not doing Dawah work is a punishable act, but the punishment will be given out in the Hereafter and not in the present world. Not doing Dawah work is not a cognizable offence in the legal sense of the word, but it will certainly be punishable in the Hereafter. Such a person is, therefore, risking his salvation.
But, this doesn’t mean that non-Muslims have no responsibility. If dawah work is Muslims’ responsibility, non-Muslims’ responsibility is to seek the truth.
And as for ‘inherited Islam’—it is nothing. Islam is an item of discovery, not something to be inherited.
Dawah is basically conveying the message of God to people. Simply distributing Islamic literature, for instance, is not enough, though. Muslims must also prepare and maintain an environment for Dawah work. For example, it is obligatory for Muslims to abandon all negative activities against non-Muslims like demanding, protesting, engaging in violence and fighting, and complaining against others. This kind of policy has to be entirely abandoned. These actions on the part of Muslims vitiate the environment for Dawah work and affect the relationship between the Dai and the Madu. Thus, maintaining normalcy in the relationship between Dai and Madu is as important and crucial as the Dawah spirit itself. Dawah work is certainly dependent on the general atmosphere between the Dai and the Madu. An essential condition for doing Dawah is that the relationship between the Dai and the Madu at the community level should be normalized. Dawah work is based on a two-point formula: first, bringing an end to all those activities that have created a negative environment between Muslims and non-Muslims, and second, doing Dawah in a peaceful manner.
Here there is something important to be learnt from the Sufis. Their basic character was that they were peace-loving people. They had no hatred for others. It was this trait of theirs that caused people to come to them. At present, the greatest hindrance in doing Dawah is the adopting of a culture of hate for, and violence against, others by Muslims. This is the main obstacle in spreading Islam.
If one’s success in the Hereafter depends on us following the true Deen, then, someone might ask, what is the wisdom behind the fact that God seems to have permitted so many conflicting interpretations of the Deen of Islam. This, someone might say, may seemingly make it even more difficult to recognise the Truth.
My answer to this is that the presence of different interpretations is related to human freedom. Moreover, it is not an evil. It is for the sake of intellectual development. These differences are nothing but intellectual challenges. One should face these challenges and activate one’s mind. In fact, difference is a part of life. In every sphere of life there is difference. For example, there are different jobs, different economic branches, and different ways of getting health care. But no person takes this phenomenon as an excuse. He exerts all his effort to know which one is best suited for him and then adopts it. So, people must adopt this pattern in the matter of search for truth as well.
I am grateful to you for reading my long comment that were no more than my impromptu response to
some of the points raised by the learned Moulana. My take on your comments are:
1. I take your point that, 'the urge to seek out of the important questions of life is ingrained
in the human being and that is what is being referred to by the Maulana.' I
will still say that more than 99.9% of Muslims, Hindus, Christians today have
inherited their faith and only very few convert to other religions after seeking the truth on their own.
We are talking about today when divine criteria of right and
wrong and moral imperatives as enshrined in the Qur'an have largely permeated
human society and in many respects the non-Muslim world is more Islamic than
the Muslim world - as far as compliance with the social, ethical and functional aspects of the Qur'an is concerned.
Furthermore, the image of Islam as a religion that espouses peace, mercy,
forgiveness, rights of women, the poor, the sick and the elderly; love for humanity, fair business
practices, protection of minorities and so forth as it carried in its golden
era has been a history of the past, though preserved in the pages of the
Qur’an. You know where Islam and Muslims stand today in the eyes of the rest of
humanity, ignorant of the noble paradigms of the Qur’an and its inherent
dynamism and universalism. So, there can be no meaningful dawa
even at personal level unless the Muslims retreive their image.
The word 'accountability' appearing a bracket as the meaning of 'tabligh' was confusing for tabligh literally connotes 'dawah'.
3. You quote the following pronouncement
of the Qur’an (33:72) and conclude, “It is
undeniably a great trust placed on us Muslims to spread the word of the Quran.”
indeed offer the Trust to the Heavens and the Earth and the Mountains; but they
refused to undertake it, being afraid thereof: but man undertook it;- He was
indeed unjust and foolish”
In his extensively
researched and highly acclaimed work, Muhammad Assad explains this verse as
classical commentators give all kinds of laborious explanations to the term amanah (Trust), but the most convincing
of them are ‘reason’ or ‘intellect’,and “the faculty of volition” – the ability
to chose between two or more possible courses of action or modes of behavior,
and thus between good andevil.”
the Trust is paced on human being since his advent on earth and not on the followers
of the Prophet. If the Muslims were made responsible to spread the word of God’,
why should the Qur’an permit Muslim men to marry from among the belivers
without any requirement of their conversion to Islam (5:5). And why, in the
context of the revelation will the Muslims of Medina allow their pagan wives to
leave them and go back to their pagan tribes (60:11).
truth is a Muslim is expected to a paragon of excellence and attract others to
Islam, and if this is what you mean by making him responsible to spread the
Word of God, I fully agree with you.
fully agree with your other elaborations leading to your concluding
remark: “The Quran does not say whether God will forgive them or punish
them but judging by the sheer beauty of Jesus’ pleading in verse 118, it is
clear that God will forgive those who otherwise did good deeds. At the same
time, the need for dawa is also clear from this and many other verses.”
Yes, Dawa in the sense of interacting with people in the most
handsomely manner to attract them to Islam as the Prophet did is
intrinsic to the Qur’anic message. This is how practically all the early conversion
occurred. The Prophet’spersonal example is an ideal that cannot be achieved because of his
personal kiramat. He was known as amin (Trust worthy) even before his
prophethood. He attracted the greatest talents of his era – some of which his
most bitter enemies by his shear personality. We are not going to have his like
ever in humanity as there is no likelihood of another Islam rising like a desert
storm and sweeping the remotest corner of the then world in its initial thrust. Besides, the
Prophet was preaching to a pagan lot. And today the world treats the Muslims
like pagans and some commentators even on this website refer to them as
barbarians. So, the example of the Prophet’s era does not really hold.
Dear Muhammad Yunus,
Thanks for a detailed response.
My take on the question is as follows:
Today, 85% of the followers of Islam are
non-Arabs. This has come about through people seeking out the truth on their
own and dawa. Take the examples of Leopold Weiss, Cat Stevens and many others.
They became Muslims not because of dawa but from a personal striving for truth.
I know several such people first hand who became Muslim on account of their own
strivings and interest in the subject. This urge to seek out of the important
questions of life is ingrained in the human being and that is what is being referred
to by the Maulana. A seeker of truth will always find the truth as God has made
it incumbent on Himself to take 10 steps towards one who takes a single step
forward. Aren’t most of us familiar with the tenets of every other religion?
“Accountability depends on one’s knowledge.”
“Everyone will be treated according to their knowledge of the truth.”
What the Maulana means here is that not
everyone is equally gifted and will be judged by what Allah has given him in
terms of intelligence and knowledge. A scholar and an illiterate labourer will
be judged differently – each one by what God has given him and what he has made
of those gifts.
You have said:
“However, the Qur’an claims to be the embodiment of divine
speech preserved without any corruption and unparalleled in diction and a
miracle of God in its own right, and a Muslim will be within his legal and
moral rights to make this claim as much as people of any religion have right to
make any claim about their books and deities.”
Dawa is not about making claims of superiority. If God has sent
a Prophet and revealed the Quran, it was not for his personal benefit but for
all mankind. It is a trust which the Quran describes in verse 33:72 as follows:
“We did indeed offer the Trust to the Heavens and the Earth and
the Mountains; but they refused to undertake it, being afraid thereof: but man
undertook it;- He was indeed unjust and foolish;-“.
It is undeniably a great trust placed on us Muslims to spread
the word of the Quran.
Dawa certainly does not mean that everyone should go from door
to door doing dawa. The least that may be expected is that we set a good
example. Setting a good example itself is 90% of dawa in terms of
effectiveness. The rest can be left to those who are trained for the work.
Deedat and Zakir Naik are poor examples of people engaged in
dawa. Deedat was reacting to his situation in South Africa and the style the
Christian missionaries adopted. What he did is at least understandable. I do
not understand Zakir Naik’s motivation for his style of dawa which is sickening
even for the sensitive Muslims except that he is a blind student of Deedat.
There are many people who get carried away by their talents and both Deedat and
Zakir Naik are very talented but unfortunately their talent has not been put to
Let us also remember that the Quran as well as the Prophet
extended the dawa to the Jews, Christians and Pagans and were willing to meet
them half way if they could come to common terms in their beliefs by worshipping
only one God without ascribing partners.
The limit of Jesus (pbuh) intervention for his followers is
beautifully described in the following verses of Surah 5
(116) And behold! Allah
will say: "O Jesus the son of Mary! Didst thou say unto men, worship me
and my mother as gods in derogation of Allah´?" He will say: "Glory
to Thee! never could I say what I had no right (to say). Had I said such a
thing, thou wouldst indeed have known it. Thou knowest what is in my heart,
Thou I know not what is in Thine. For Thou knowest in full all that is hidden.
(117) "Never said I to them aught except what Thou didst
command me to say, to wit, ´worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord´; and I was a
witness over them whilst I dwelt amongst them; when Thou didst take me up Thou
wast the Watcher over them, and Thou art a witness to all things.
(118) "If Thou dost punish them, they are Thy servant: If
Thou dost forgive them, Thou art the Exalted in power, the Wise."
The Quran does not say whether God will forgive them or punish
them but judging by the sheer beauty of Jesus’ pleading in verse 118, it is
clear that God will forgive those who otherwise did good deeds. At the same
time, the need for dawa is also clear from this and many other verses.
46 More Modern Jurist & Sharia Scholar Opinions on IS&J From All 5 Schools 1900-2012
Dear Observer/ hats off!
You extended me a dawa to punch beyond my weight. Here is my response which perhaps you will care to read. I am not sure about others.
As I read through the article I encounter a
number of themes and axiomatic statements and would like to comment on each:
1. Religion of truth: In the context of the
revelation, the Qur’an refers to Islam as ‘din al huq’ or ‘religion of truth’
and repeatedly declares that it is going to be established, however the pagans
may detest (9:33, 48:28, 61:9). But the Qur’an also uses the epithet ‘Islam’ in
a generic sense as the true religion preached by all messengers regardless of their
mention in the Qur’an (2:136, 3:3, 3:84, 42:13) and accordingly, it asks
Muslims to make no distinction between any of the Prophets (4:152,
2:285, 57:19) – a statement that bars the Muslims from claiming any superiority
for their prophet or religion. Thus to suggest that Islam (in its popular
sense) is the only pure religion and other religions are impure will be
tantamount to putting additional words into the Qur’an. However, the Qur’an claims
to be the embodiment of divine speech preserved without any corruption and
unparalleled in diction and a miracle of God in its own right, and a Muslim
will be within his legal and moral rights to make this claim as much as people
of any religion have right to make any claim about their books and deities. Accordingly,
the Muslims are asked not to insult what the others hold sacred (6:108), but how
many Muslim preachers avoid making left handed remarks against what others hold
sacred is a big question mark.
2. Its take on common Criterion of divine
judgment: "The criterion of selection for both Muslims and
non-Muslims is one and the same—that is, discovery of truth and not birth into
any religion. Thus, both Muslims and non-Muslims are required to stand up to
the same test."
My comment: As ‘truth’ under 1 is conflated with the popular religion of Islam,
the statement purports to connect divine approval with one’s acknowledgement of
the truth of Islamic faith. The Qur’an is, however, unequivocally assures all
believers in God – regardless of their religion that He will judge them –
including the atheists and polytheists (22:17) on the basis of their deeds
('amal/ karama) and moral uprightness (taqwa/dharma - preservation against evil
/ control of the arrogant evil-prone self or nafs al ammara -12:53)
3. The statements, “Accountability depends
on one’s knowledge.” “Everyone will be treated according to their knowledge of
i. These are philosophically couched
sentences. In almost a hundred verses, paradise is promised to the doers of good
while others promise the paradise to the observant of taqwa (13:35, 47:15,
51:15, 52:17, 54:54, 77:41). These criteria pertain to moral and functional spirituality regardless of any
theological knowledge. Theological knowledge’ is contingent to environment, individual
cognitive ability, theological orientation, exposure to theological discourses and
the time and resources at one’s disposal after meeting the essential survival
needs. It cannot therefore be standardised as a common criterion of approval
for all humanity. Thus, the Qur’an does not provide any firm basis to support the
4. The article encourages ontological reflection: “Every person, by nature, seeks answers to
questions such as: Who am I? What are life and death? What will happen to me
after death? … Every person will be questioned whether he ignored his nature or tried to
find answers to the questions it raised.”
My Comment: The quest for the ultimate truth regarding life and death as
stated fall in the category of the ‘mutashabihat’ and do not constitute any
definitive commandments of the Qur’an that the believers are required to follow
(3:7). Therefore, as a Muslim, apart from the pillars of faith, I am required
to abide by the social, moral and ethical paradigms of the Qur’an, which are of universal nature and clearly stated. I will keep away from speculating about
questions, the answer of which is known only to God. Besides, person of
different religions will have different eschatological imageries and that is
true even among the Muslims. Speculation on what is
beyond the faculty of human mind constitutes dialectic theology – that is an attempt to understand the truth by
dialectic methods. It formed the core of scholastic scholarship of medieval
ages and came into Islam from Christianity. If today we call upon the Muslims to mediate and speculate on the unseen and
the unknowable, we go back to their pre-Islamic orientation of religious
5. The article raises the question: “Can, ‘inherited
Islam, rather than conviction in Islam born out of genuine introspection and
reflection, be adequate for salvation?”
My comment: Religion is a happenstance
today. Barring a small minority of converts and some Ulemas and researchers, the
entire Muslim community inherit their faith. In today’s fast life, people don’t
have time to post a comment even to most critical article or even to read them,
where is the time to make any pedagogic study of the Qur’an?
6. The following statement is speculative: “Not
doing Dawah work is a punishable act, but the punishment will be given out in the
Hereafter and not in the present world.”
My Comment. Read in isolation as a
definitive (muhkam) commandment, the verse 2:159 will require all Muslims to
proselytize as part of their religious duty or else incur divine wrath. The statement must be understood
in conjunction with other verses on the theme, notably 2:42, 72, 140, 146, 174;
3:71, 187; 5:61. The last three of these verses expressly censor the People of
the Book (the Christians and Jews of the era) for concealing some part of their
revelation or truth (3:71), their pledge (3:187) and their inner thoughts as
they left the Prophet after holding consultations with him (5:61). The rest
implicitly related to them as well for their knowingly hiding of a part of the
revelation that was vouchsafed in them (2:42, 174), hiding the evidences of a
murder (2:72), and the testimony of God (2:140). Hence the verse 2:159 unquestionably
relates to the People of the Book and forms a part of the debate that the
Prophet had with the Jewish tribes of Medina. To interpret them as a mandatory
instruction to all Muslims for all times is thus speculative and not supported
by the Quran.
7. In its concluding part, the article connects
the effectiveness of ‘dawah’ with the general conduct and behaviour of the
Muslims and cordial relation with the non-Muslims. The Qur’an does not however
expressly ask the Muslims to go in small groups and knock at the doors of
neighbouring non-Muslims or give speeches to invite people to Islam. However,
purely from a democratic perspective and the inalienable right of people to
sell their product even if that is an ideology – like America selling democracy
to the Muslim world, albeit by force, the scholars, preachers, and televangelists
of all religions have a right to convey the essentials of their religious
tenets to others as much as this writer has a right to share his own
understanding of his religion with all readers regardless of their religion or
aversion. But any dawah work must not hurt the sentiments of people of other
faiths and there must be no coercion in religion.
I know there are problems. A Christian
missionary can quote from the Sira of the Prophet or the Hadith to demonise the
Prophet of Islam and gutter the Qur’an and even plan to burn its hard copies
under the eyes of law. A Muslim can question the very notion of God taking
birth as a human being and meeting a terrible death and both can question polytheism
and pantheism in their own ontological orations. As hatred against Islam and
the Muslims has become almost normative – thanks to the heinous crimes of the
terrorist in the name of Islam, and even intellectuals expect Muslims to accept
genocide of Rohingyas in Burma this very day as tit for tat against the
destruction of Bamyan Staues some 13 years ago by a totally different creed of Muslims,
and riots and hate crimes against Muslims are given immensely less publicity
than the atrocities the non-Muslim are made to bear at the hands or Islamic zealots
and terrorists, the preachers of Islam have taken to verbally attack faith of those
people who have no sympathy with them without any sympathy either. These
preachers of religion openly claim supremacism in religious ideology, draw
record crowds and mesmerize the Muslim listeners for whom the acclaimed superiority
serves as an antidote to their frustrations for marginalization, sufferings and perceived injustices.
The preachers and spokesmen of rival religions return like for like and the wheel
of hatred turns on.
These are just my thoughts and I do not
want to hurt anyone’s sentiments. Probably my comment would not have been any
different were I not a Muslim. The problem the world faces today cannot be
solved by apportioning blames. In this vicious environment the Muslim have
to earn the sympathy and good will of the others by treating the terrorist
outfits as the Kharijites – terrorist apostates under the cover of Islam and
excel in performance, treating all humanity as their co-equal before God,
probing the Qur’an in its historic context as book of guidance for all humanity
and excelling in all lawful pursuits including universal education before thinking
of any dawah work.
I wonder if anyone is going to read this
long piece of my mind except for those who have drawn me into it.
There are no comments on the
article. I would like to hear the views of Muhammad Yunus (exegete) and others on
the subject and if they think that Dawa is a sign of supremacism. I do not
think so and I am in agreement with much of what is said in the article.