In almost a hundred verses, Heaven is promised to doers of good deeds while others promise the paradise to the observant of taqwa (righteousness, almost synonymous with Good Deeds)
Some readers of New Age Islam requested Quran exegete Muhammad Yunus to issues raised in well-known Islamic scholar Maulana Wahiduddin Khan's Essay On Dawa. Muhammad Yunus responds.
Ref: Dawah and the Purpose of Life By Maulana Wahiduddin Khan
By Muhammad Yunus, New Age Islam
7 November 2013
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 haq’ 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 the truth.”
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 above statements.
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 thoughts.
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 Ulema 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.
Muhammad Yunus, a Chemical Engineering graduate from Indian Institute of Technology, and a retired corporate executive has been engaged in an in-depth study of the Qur’an since early 90’s, focusing on its core message. He has co-authored the referred exegetic work, which received the approval of al-Azhar al-Sharif, Cairo in 2002, and following restructuring and refinement was endorsed and authenticated by Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl of UCLA, and published by Amana Publications, Maryland, USA, 2009.
I endorse your statement that “Muslims have an obligation to make the Quran known and clear to
mankind.” The only question is how we understand ‘the Qur’an’ in this
Does ‘dawah’ mean asking people to embrace Islam or to convey to
them by speech, writing and actions what the Qur’an teaches or stands for so as
to invite them to the pathways or paradigms of the Qur’an – leaving it to them
to decide on conversion.
To give a practical example, my involvement at this
website and posting comments defending different facets of Islamic message is a
dawah work. In the spirit of the Qur’an we all are required to invite others to
what is ma‘ruf and that is what I try to do through my writings, and since I am
backing my arguments upon the Qur’an, I am propagating its precepts or tenets
and thus doing a dawah work in the broad sense.
One of the brightest commentators who spotted my intention
and posed a question, what if people I am imperceptibly extending ‘dawah’
dismiss me. Well my answer is divine judgment is contingent to one’s deeds and
taqwa and faith in God and final accountability. I will not be judged based on my
dawah because everyone is driven by his own agenda and acts according to his
own station in life, but God alone knows the rightly guided. Nor will those who
ignore or dismiss my dawah will be punished unless they are fully convinced of
my viewpoint but insist on denying me out of malice and arrogance. They will be
judged based on their deeds and taqwa and faith.
More importantly, I neither carry the noble kiramat of
the Prophet, nor am anywhere near him in conduct, behaviour and manners, nor am
I reciting or writing anything that casts a spell on the commentators or scares
them like donkeys hearing the roar of a line, nor am I offering any revolutionary
paradigms as the paradigms of the Qur’an have permeated human society - those
who burnt the widows on the funeral pyre of their dead husbands are now
allowing them to remarry, those who burnt women on stakes at the slightest offence
are grooming them to their highest potentials such as judges and senior diplomats with
the power to award capital punishment to a man, or decide on key national
issues; and the world at large has left the medieval heritage behind and
developed values and norms that are close to what the Prophet taught. So what I
try to share as a follower of the Prophet is known and practiced by them and
what they see in me as a stereotyped Muslim is the hallmark of jahilliyah – a community that champions terrorism and bars girls from studying beyond primary level - among other vices. Therefore, if they dismiss me, they are least likely to be
treated in the same manner as the unenlightened audience of the Prophet seeing
the clear signs of the divine in the Prophet and the Qur’an.
suggestion to condemn the present day non-Muslim audience of a dawah will be simply
As for the professional preachers, I have already made
this remark in my initial commentary on the learned Moulana’s essay – may God
forgive me if I understood him wrong or made an error in judgment: “(Given) the
inalienable right of people to sell their product even if that is an ideology –
like America selling democracy to the Muslim world, even 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.”
These are my views at this moment. I am neither
infallible nor inflexible in my views but have no hesitation to share it with
The original question 'whether it is
incumbent on Muslims to do Dawa' remains unaddressed. I repeat a post and
request Mr. Muhammad Yunus to respond to it.
It is clear from the following
verses that Muslims have an obligation to make the Quran known and clear
(39:41) Verily We have revealed the
Book to thee in Truth, for (instructing) mankind. He, then, that receives
guidance benefits his own soul: but he that strays injures his own soul. Nor
art thou set over them to dispose of their affairs.
(3:187) And remember Allah took a
covenant from the People of the Book, to make it known and clear to mankind,
and not to hide it; but they threw it away behind their backs, and purchased
with it some miserable gain! And vile was the bargain they made!
The verse (33:72)“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” is metaphorical and the meaning I derive from it is based on the following:
Read the following verses which resonate with
(59:21) Had We sent down this Qur´an
on a mountain, verily, thou wouldst have seen it humble itself and cleave
asunder for fear of Allah. Such are the similitudes which We propound to men,
that they may reflect.
(13:31) If there were a Qur´an with
which mountains were moved, or the earth were cloven asunder, or the dead were
made to speak, (this would be the one!) But, truly, the command is with Allah
in all things! Do not the Believers know, that, had Allah (so) willed, He could
have guided all mankind (to the right)? But the Unbelievers,- never will
disaster cease to seize them for their (ill) deeds, or to settle close to their
homes, until the promise of Allah come to pass, for, verily, Allah will not
fail in His promise
Asad’s interpretation of trust as
reason and volition is unacceptable as reason and volition is a characteristic
of both the Jinn and human and not exclusive to human.
Man does appear to have progressively
negotiated greater freedom of choice to his own harm.
(2:61) And remember ye said: "O
Moses! we cannot endure one kind of food (always); so beseech thy Lord for us
to produce for us of what the earth groweth, -its pot-herbs, and cucumbers, Its
garlic, lentils, and onions." He said: "Will ye exchange the better
for the worse? Go ye down to any town, and ye shall find what ye want!".
We see a subtle change in the Prophethood
of Muhammad (PBUH) from that of all the previous prophets. Allah strengthened
Muhammad’s mission with his word alone and not with miracles signaling that
from now on the word was enough to achieve what required prophets and Allah’s direct
interventions earlier. God destroyed the disbelievers after the previous prophetic
missions through flood (Noah), showering with brim stone (Lut) and in a similar
manner those of Aad and Samud. (peace be upon all the prophets). In the case of
the last prophet, everything was achieved through the agency of man alone signifying
that the agency of man was enough from now on. The Quran is also unique among
all the scriptures in that it is recorded and preserved exactly as revealed in
a language that is spoken till today. All other scriptures survive only as translations
as the language of their original recording is long dead and forgotten. Neither
has God sent any calamity comparable to how He destroyed various people before.
I think that there is also a hadith which says that as long as there are
believing Muslims, the doomsday will not come. It would therefore appear that
Man has undertaken a trust to do the
work of prophets and God for which God has given them the “The Book” or Quran.
You may be right in saying that the present
day Muslims are in no position to do dawa being barbarians in comparison with
others. For them, the following verse applies:
(6:89) These were the men to whom We gave the
Book, and authority, and prophethood: if these (their descendants) reject them,
Behold! We shall entrust their charge to a new people who reject them not.
The Mongols butchered the Abbasid Caliph
and Muslims in hundreds of thousands and later took on the mantle and spread
the word eastward. The Turks and the Berbers similarly took up leadership
elsewhere but God’s plan to preserve and propagate the Quran has never ceased.
@ Radha and Shahid ali
This is an escapist argument on your part. Quran say that
God has named some apostles and not others and musnad hadis gives a figure of
125 thousand or so. Where did that number come from if hadis is to also be
believed as giving details that Quran missed out?
Buddha precedes even Issa-Jesus? So why the flight and
Rational says, "i am better with those who do good works whether they believe or not or in one or million gods." -
Good! So you have not only learned to take the best meaning from the Quran, you have learned to use your brain. Congratulations!