By Naseer Ahmed, New Age Islam
15 January 2018
Muhammad (pbuh) was the last of the messengers. He was an Ummi prophet sent to an Ummi people. The word Ummi means those without scriptures or from among the people to whom no messenger had come before, and was therefore without scriptures and guidance.
(62:2) It is He Who has sent amongst the Ummi a messenger from among themselves, to rehearse to them His Signs, to sanctify them, and to instruct them in Scripture and Wisdom,- although they had been, before, in manifest error;-
(36:6) In order that thou mayest admonish a people, whose fathers had received no admonition, and who therefore remain heedless (of the Signs of Allah).
(37:156) Or have ye an authority manifest?(157) Then bring ye your Book (of authority) if ye be truthful!
From the above verses, and from the fact that the Quran says that Prophets have been sent to many nations (6:42), and the fact that every other civilized people have their religion and scriptures, makes all such people, the “People of the Book”. The universalism of the religion of Islam, and its inclusiveness of all other people, is obvious from the following verses:
(2:112) Nay,-whoever submits His whole self to Allah and is a doer of good, - He will get his reward with his Lord; on such shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.
(5:69) Those who believe (in the Qur´an), those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Sabians and the Christians,- any who believe in Allah and the Last Day, and work righteousness,- on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.
The Momineen (faithful) and the Kafirin (faithless) are therefore terms that cannot be associated based on the religion professed, but based on behaviour alone. Else, Islam is not a universal and inclusive religion. Indeed, we do find the Quran judging people by what they do. The Mushrikin in an unjust battle against the Prophet, are referred to as the Kafaru, but the same Mushrikin, after they have been vanquished and are no longer at war, are referred to simply as Mushrikin in verse 9:5 and not as Kafirin. It is therefore the act that you are engaged in, which defines you in that context.
At one extreme are the Momineen, the people of unshakeable faith, who can never do wrong because they are always mindful of God, and at the other extreme are the Kafirin or “those who will never believe”, the likes of the Pharaoh, Qarun, Haman, Abu Jahl, Abu Lahab etc., who are evil incarnate, always opposed to what is just, right and good. In between fall the rest, who can be judged based on the act they are engaged in, and not based on the faith they profess, or their religious identity. We find the Quran doing exactly this.
(49:14) The desert Arabs say, "We believe." Say, "Ye have no faith; but ye (only)say, ´We have submitted our wills to Allah,´ For not yet has Faith entered your hearts. But if ye obey Allah and His Messenger, He will not belittle aught of your deeds: for Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful."
Faith is not simply a matter of saying “I believe”, but a state in which one is mindful of God, which helps resist the temptation to do wrong, or impels to do what is right and just, irrespective of the consequences to self. Allah guides those who are always mindful of God in their deeds, to attain complete faith in Him. See 8:23. Faith is not achieved by being born into a Muslim family nor by reciting the Kalima alone, or by affiliation to any religion, but by acts that bring one closer to God.
As it concerns the people in general, we can therefore talk only in terms of their deeds – whether their deed is worthy of a Momin, or whether it is the deed of a Kafir, or whether the deed is pleasing to God or one that God would be displeased with. Why then does it shock people, when I said that the Indian Army performed the deed worthy of the Momineen, in liberating the oppressed people of Bangladesh, from their oppressors? The oppressors were the army of Pakistan, raping and killing defenceless civilians and their deeds were certainly the deeds of the faithless or the Kafirin. People are shocked, because the Indian army is thought to be a Hindu army, and the Pakistan army a Muslim army, and in our bigoted theology, Kafir has come to mean a non-Muslim and Momin is always a Muslim. In our bigoted theology, a Muslim can never be a Kafir, even though the Quran uses the term Kafir, to describe Muslims who consume usury and those who do not give charity and the Munafiqin or the hypocrites. And if just about anyone who submits to Allah and is a doer of good will be rewarded with Heaven, why cannot such a person be called a Momin irrespective of his religious identity?
Let us consider the adjuration at the beginning of Surah 95:
(1) By the Fig and the Olive,
(2) And the Mount of Sinai,
(3) And this City of security,-
(4) We have indeed created man in the best of moulds,
(5) Then do We abase him (to be) the lowest of the low,-
(6) Except such as believe and do righteous deeds: For they shall have a reward unfailing.
(7) Then what can, after this, contradict thee, as to the judgment (to come)?
(8) Is not Allah the wisest of judges?
The City of Security is easily recognizable as Mecca since it is a sanctuary from the days of Abraham and is associated with Islam; the Mount of Sinai is associated with Moses or Judaism. What about the Fig and the Olive? Are these fruits that Allah is recommending? If that were so, it would be a horrible mixing up of unrelated metaphors! The Olive and the Fig must therefore necessarily refer to two other religions. The Mount of Olive is associated with Jesus or Christianity, and the Fig is referring to the Fig tree under which Buddha meditated and received enlightenment or with Buddhism. Why is God swearing by these four religions if these are not a few of the different paths to Him?
5:48 “…..To each among you have we prescribed a law and an open way. If Allah had so willed, He would have made you a single people, but (His plan is) to test you in what He hath given you: so strive as in a race in all virtues. The goal of you all is to Allah; it is He that will show you the truth of the matters in which ye dispute;”
What is common to all the four religions? All the four religions have a clear deontological or rule based moral code. What is uncommon? Buddhism is relatively agnostic about belief in God but strong on its moral code. I repeat, faith is not attained by saying I believe, but by following the path that is steep, which is the path of living a moral life and described as follows:
(90:10) And shown him the two highways?
(11) But he hath made no haste on the path that is steep.
(12) And what will explain to thee the path that is steep?-
(13) (It is:) freeing the bondman;
(14) Or the giving of food in a day of privation
(15) To the orphan with claims of relationship,
(16) Or to the indigent (down) in the dust.
(17) Then will he be of those who believe, and enjoin patience, (constancy, and self-restraint), and enjoin deeds of kindness and compassion.
(18) Such are the Companions of the Right Hand.
What is emphasized above? Good deeds. Anyone who practices the deeds described above, will attain complete faith in God and those who do not, will not attain such faith. And all the deeds described above are emphasized in the four religions mentioned.
What Allah clearly wants from us humans, is that we follow His deen or Laws or Religion which is the moral way of living. It is through such practice, that one can attain faith, and not simply by saying “I believe”.
Just imagine what would happen if the Muslims were to follow what I say. All of them would then be on the path of trying to attain perfection in their deeds to get closer to God and urging others to do the same. This is exactly what Allah wants us to do in Surah 103 Al-Asr:
(103:1) By (the Token of) Time (through the ages),(2) Verily Man is in loss,(3) Except such as have Faith, and do righteous deeds, and (join together) in the mutual teaching of Truth, and of Patience and Constancy.
They would also then openly hail the good deeds of others as the acts of a Momin irrespective of the person’s religious affiliation gaining their respect and admiration. This would attract others to Islam and its teachings. What do we have now? We call ourselves Momin although we have become among the worst people on this earth and call others Kafir although they are better than us in many ways. Who then wants to be such a Momin? Have we not become the worst enemies of Islam and distorted the religion beyond recognition with our bigoted vision?
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
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This is a response to Yunus sbs comment posted by me By Naseer Ahmed - 1/18/2018 9:08:43 PM
Deeds matter more than profession of belief
All other things being equal, a Muqallid (blind follower of his religious traditions) polytheist is superior to a Muqallid Muslim. The proof of superiority of beliefs must be reflected in our deeds and if a Muslim’s beliefs are more correct, this must reflect in his deeds. Verse 24:3 is another proof that profession of belief is not enough to be considered a “Momin” but deeds.
الزَّانِي لَا يَنكِحُ إِلَّا زَانِيَةً أَوْ مُشْرِكَةً وَالزَّانِيَةُ لَا يَنكِحُهَا إِلَّا زَانٍ أَوْ مُشْرِكٌ ۚ وَحُرِّمَ ذَٰلِكَ عَلَى الْمُؤْمِنِينَ
Let no man guilty of adultery or fornication marry but a woman similarly guilty, or a polytheist: nor let any but such a man or a polytheist marry such a woman: to the Believers such a thing is forbidden. (24:3) (explanatory note: Adultery among the polytheists was common place and not considered a crime or a sin)
An adulterer can marry only what is prohibited to the “Momin” which means that such a person, by his deed, is not considered a “Momin” but as “Kafir” since he/she has done what is prohibited. There is a relationship of trust or of covenants that a Momin has with Allah, which is broken when he does what is prohibited. The strength of a Momin’s iman is reflected in the Momin’s deeds – whether he does acts that please Allah and scrupulously avoid those that displeases Allah or how well he honors his covenants with Allah. The Quran however does not exclude such kafirs who continue to profess belief while doing acts unworthy of a Momin, from the fold of Islam. They can continue to call themselves Muslim. The polytheists of Arabia of the Prophet’s times, did not become kafir by practicing adultery, because by their beliefs, this is not a sin.
فَأَلْهَمَهَا فُجُورَهَا وَتَقْوَاهَا
91:8 He (Allah) enlightens it (the nafs) to its lewdness (fujur) and its right (taqwa)
Allah has given us the instinct to choose what is right and avoid what is wrong, but the knowledge of right and wrong, is from the scriptures or through Allah’s revelations, which become the beliefs of the believer, but not of those who have not yet accepted the same scriptures. Adultery is therefore a lewd prohibited act for a believer, but not for one who has not yet become a believer in a religion which considers it so. Injustice, oppression and falsehoods on the other hand, are wrong by the beliefs of all the civilized people. Certain notions of morality have permeated widely, but not all. The gap is however small simply because every religion has been founded and nurtured by divinely inspired messengers of God. Good deeds even at a cost to oneself, are acts of faithfulness to something much higher than self because of which self-interest is sacrificed. Acts of such faith in a higher Being and Purpose, are the signs of being a Momin or a man of faith who is committed to live by the requirements of such a higher purpose. The sign of being a Momin may be exhibited by a person from any religion or no religion.
Faith (Iman) is not belief
Faithlessness (kufr) is not disbelief
Satan is not a disbeliever but on the other hand among the best of the believers because his knowledge is certain knowledge and he knows with certainty what we only believe. Satan however broke his trust with God when he disobeyed. Satan is therefore faithless, one who broke his covenants with God (whether explicit or implicit). There is an implicit contract of gratitude to a benefactor which when broken shows ingratitude and makes the person faithless, untrustworthy or a kafir just as Satan is a Kafir vis-à-vis God and Moses was a kafir vis-à-vis his foster father the Pharaoh.
Acts of faith (iman) are acts that show conformance to the grand design and purpose of God. Acts of kindness, generosity are acts expressing gratitude to God for His kindness and generosity. Indulging in acts that are prohibited are acts of faithlessness (kufr).
Momin is therefore not simply one who professes belief or a “believer”, but one who scrupulously honours his covenants with God and man. Kafir is likewise not a “disbeliever”, but one who violates his explicit/implicit covenants with God and man.
Believers may commit heinous crimes and atrocities but not the Momineen. To say that the Momineen do any wrong is an oxymoron. The momineen will readily accept correct beliefs that establish a relationship of trust and explicit covenants with God and the Kafir will reject the same. However, when everyone is from among the People of the Book, who is a disbeliever? We can only know people by their deeds.
What Shahin sb says below, is an excellent endorsement of what I say in my article on the universal application of the terms Momin and Kafir, irrespective of religious identity of the person, but base upon his deeds and whether he chooses good over evil or otherwise. Thank you Shahin sb for the endorsement.
Shahin sb says:
‘That Allah has endowed every man’s unconscious mind with the concept that there is a moral good and there is a moral evil, that good morals and acts and evil morals and acts are not equal and alike. Fujur (immorality) is an evil thing and taqva (abstention from evils) a good thing. These concepts are not new to man; he is conscious of these by nature, and the Creator has endowed him with the ability to distinguish between good and evil naturally. This same thing has been said in Surah Al-Balad: And We showed him both the highways of good and evil. (verse 10); and in Surah Ad-Dahr, thus: We showed him the way, whether to be grateful or disbelieving (verse 3); and the same has been expressed in Surah Al-Qiyamah, saying: In man there is the reproaching self (conscience) which reproaches him when he commits evil (verse 2), and man knows his own self best, even though he may offer many excuses. (verses 14-15).Here, one should also understand well that Allah has blessed every creature with natural inspiration according to its position and nature, as has been pointed out in Surah TaHa: Who has given a distinctive form to everything and then guided it aright. (verse 50). For example, every species of animals has been given inspirational knowledge according to its needs by virtue of which the fish learns to swim, the bird to fly, the bee to make the beehive and the weaver-bird to build the nest instinctively. Man also in view of his different capacities has been granted separate kinds of inspirational knowledge. His one capacity is that he is an animal being; as such the most significant instance of the inspirational knowledge that he has been given is that the human child starts sucking the mother’s milk soon on birth, which no one could teach it, had it, not been taught of it instinctively by God. Another position of man is that he is a rational being. As such God has been blessing him with inspirational guidance continuously since the time of his creation, by virtue of which he has been discovering things and making inventions to develop his civilization. Anyone who studies the history of these discoveries and inventions will realize that there was hardly any which might be the result of man’'s own effort or thought, but mostly it so happened that suddenly an idea struck a person and he discovered or invented something. Besides these two, another position of man is that he is a moral being. In this position too Allah has blessed him by inspiration with discrimination between good and evil and of the realization of the good to be good and of the evil to be evil. This sense of discrimination and realization is a universal truth on account of which no human society in the world has ever been without the concepts of good and evil; there has never been in history, nor is there now, a society which may not be having some kind of a system of rewarding the good and punishing the evil. This fact being prevalent in every age, at every place, and at every stage of civilization is a clear proof of its being natural and innate. Furthermore, this is also proof that a Wise Creator possessed of knowledge has endued man’s nature with it, for in the elements of which man is made up and the laws which govern the material system of the world, no human origin of morals can be traced out.”
Shhains sb says: Maybe a passage from Towards Understanding Quran, Tafheemul Quran will help:فَاَلۡهَمَهَا فُجُوۡرَهَا وَتَقۡوٰٮهَا ۙ (91:8) and imbued it with (the consciousness of) its evil and its piety:5
Consciousness. Awareness, Enlightenment is correct.
God makes known right from wrong through His revelations and man’s ability to discriminate. God does not inspire evil. You can look at more than 40 other translations:
Pickthall: And inspired it (with conscience of) what is wrong for it and (what is) right for it.
He says ‘inspired’ but what God inspires is not good and evil but knowledge of what is good/right and evil/wrong.
Yusuf Ali: And its enlightenment as to its wrong and its right;-
Inspiring evil is an attribute of Satan and not of God. God enlightens us about what is good and what is evil so that we may choose good and avoid evil.
A literal translation of the verse 91:8:
He enlightened it (the nafs) to its wrong (fujur) and its right (taqwa)?There are four closely related root words
The triliteral root rā wāw ḥā to inspire
The triliteral root lām hā mīm To enlighten
The triliteral root wāw ḥā yā to reveal
The triliteral root nūn zāy lām to descend, to bring down,
The only time it unmistakably means inspire/inspired/inspiration is when it contains the root rā wāw ḥā (ر و ح) and not otherwise. Since 91:8 does not contain this root word, it is not Inspire but Enlighten. Mistranslations are not uncommon but do not always result in disastrous results. For example, whether we translate as:
(10:87) We inspired Moses and his brother with this Message: ……..Yusuf Ali
And 20:38 "Behold! We sent to thy mother, by inspiration, the message: Yusuf Ali
Or the more correct:
(10:87) We revealed to Moses and his brother saying:……… (shakir, wahiduddin Khan, Darybadi etc)
20:38 When We revealed to your mother what was revealed; (shakir, wahiduddin Khan, Darybadi etc)
Makes little difference
The scriptures, the Book, A Surah are sent down. It makes little difference if instead of sent down, the word is mistranslated as revealed or inspired but to translate as enlighten would obviously be incorrect. However, an Angel, Manna from the skies, The Table Spread to Jesus etc are sent down and the word cannot be mistranslated as revealed, inspired or enlightened.
Fa alhamaha – this is the only occurrence in the Quran of a word with the root lām hā mīm and means neither revealed, inspired, or sent down but enlightened. If incorrectly translated as “He inspired” instead of the correct “He enlightened” makes a world of difference.
Allah shows us or enlightens us with what is right and what is wrong. He does not inspire evil. The Quran is called the furqan or the criteria to distinguish right from wrong. It doesn’t inspire evil. Yunus sb quoted 7 translations and I agreed with six of them but not with his translation or Arberry’s. Both make Allah one who inspires “evil” or one who inspires “lewdness” and I reject it. He is wrong in his basic understanding of the attributes of God and the different words used in the Quran and the rampant mistranslations but without making much of a difference. His and Arberry’s mistranslation in verse 91:8 make Allah do what Satan does and is a blunder of enormous proportions.
The hadith quoted by Arshad sb says that a person is not a momin when he is committing a sin which means that he is a kafir when he is committing a sin.
By the same reasoning, why can we not say that a person when he performs a good deed for no ulterior or selfish purpose is a momin during those times when he is performing the good deed?
Why do we give credit to Satan for our bad deeds and not give credit to God for our good deeds? Isn't this a form of kufr denying credit to God for the good deeds man performs without a selfish or ulterior motive? What is the motive when man performs such deeds except reverence for something higher than oneself which one may or may not call God? What is God except a concept to any human being? For a believer, the concept is relatively crystallized and for an agnostic it is vague and amorphous. The Quran says that the source of all good is God and the source of all evil is your own self or Satan. Isn’t then failure to see God as the inspiration when we witness a good deed kufr?
Allah has shown different paths. The path of Islam starts with belief. The path of Buddhism is different but in both religions good deeds are more important. Belief in God and in the Hereafter is acknowledged even by philosophers such as Kant as a logical necessity to ensure that man lives by the "Supreme principle of morality". Belief is therefore a great facilitator and without such belief, one is greatly handicapped. The end result desired is however living by the moral code and such living such a life is the only proof of being a Momin.
What does profession of belief amount to if one commits heinous crimes against humanity? How does Yunus sb say that such people had faith? Or, how does Yunus sb say that the Mushrikin of the Prophet's times were Kafir? On what basis does he judge the people who committed heinous crimes against humanity as Momineen and an Ummi people or people without knowledge who had not yet accepted Islam as Kafir? And that too from the very early years of the Prophetic mission when Surah Al-Kafirn was revealed?
Yunus Sb’s argument is another proof of how defective our theology is that recognizes only professions of faith as a sign of being a Momin and not deeds. No wonder, the Muslims have sunk to very low levels. It sis high time we did a clean-up act.
From the Qur'anic perspective all believing humans stand equal before God and will be judged on the basis of their deeds and taqwa. Thus, even a monotheist Hindu who is a champion of karma and dharma may stand far ahead of the head of Deobandi or Barelvi school in the divine court - God alone knows best.
Shocking this may sound, the foregoing statement is compatible with the following corollary tabled in an ijtihad work referenced below:
“The Qur’anic broader notion of taqwa and its association with the deeper impulses of all humanity demolishes any distinction of people on religious ground. A Muslim person (regardless of gender) most visibly given to religious symbolism or devoted to religious rituals, may lag behind or even fail in taqwa and disqualify for divine rewards, while a non-Muslim person, probably even an atheist, who has no lesser share of divine inspiration in his/her subconscious soul, may excel in taqwa and earn divine reward despite his lacking in religious symbolism and visible or regimented devotion – though God knows best who all will earn divine reward.”
By muhammad yunus - 4/28/2013 12:21:02 AM
بِاللَّهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الْآخِرِ وَيَأْمُرُونَ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ
وَيَنْهَوْنَ عَنِ الْمُنكَرِ وَيُسَارِعُونَ
فِي الْخَيْرَاتِ وَأُولَٰئِكَ
(3:114) They believe in Allah and the Last Day; they enjoin
what is right, and forbid what is wrong; and they hasten (in emulation) in
(all) good works: They are in the ranks of the righteous.