AL-MA’IDAH


Madinah Period

This surah was one of the last chapters of the Qur’an to be revealed. It consists of 120 verses, and takes its name from the table (verse 112) which Jesus’ disciples asked God to send them from haven. In addition to several other topics, it contains rulings concerning daily life.


  1. O you who believe! Fulfill the bonds (you have entered into with God and with people). Lawful for you is the flesh of cattle (grazing beasts of the flock), save what is mentioned to you (herewith), and unlawful (for you is) hunted game when you are in the state of pilgrim sanctity. Assuredly, God decrees as He wills.
  2. O you who believe! Do not violate the sanctity of the public symbols (of Islam) set up by God (such as Jumu‘ah and ‘Īd Prayers, the call to the Prayer, the Sacrifice, and attendant rites of the Pilgrimage), nor of the Sacred Months (during which fighting is forbidden except when you are attacked), nor of the animals (brought to the Sacred House for sacrifice), nor of the collars (put on the animals marked for sacrifice), nor of those who have set out for the Sacred House, seeking from their Lord bounty and His good pleasure. But once you leave your pilgrim sanctity (and the sacred precincts around the city), you are free to hunt. And never let your detestation for a people, because they barred you from the Sacred Mosque, move you to commit violations (acts of aggression or injustice). Rather, help one another in virtue and goodness, and righteousness and piety, and do not help one another in sinful, iniquitous acts and hostility; (in all your actions) keep from disobedience to God in reverence for Him and piety. Surely God is severe in retribution.
  3. Unlawful to you (for food) are carrion, and blood, and the flesh of swine, and that (the animal) which is offered in the name of any other than God, and the animal strangled, and the animal beaten down, and the animal fallen to death, and the animal gored, and that devoured by wild beasts – save that which you make lawful (by slaughtering properly while it was still alive) – and that which has been sacrificed to anything serving the function of idols and at the places consecrated for offerings to other than God. And (also unlawful is) that di- vided and obtained through divining arrows (and the like, such as lotteries and throwing dice). (eating of any of ) that (just mentioned) is transgression. – This
 

day, those who disbelieve have lost all hope of (preventing the establishment of ) your Religion, so do not hold them in awe, but be in awe of Me. This day I have perfected for you your Religion (with all its rules, commandments and universality), completed My favor upon you,1 and have been pleased to assign for you Islam as religion. – Then, whoever is constrained by dire necessity (and driven to what is forbidden), without purposely inclining to sin – surely God is All-Forgiving, All-compassionate.

    1. During the caliphate of ‘Umar, a Jew said: “There is a verse in your Book that, if it had been revealed to us, we would have celebrated the day it was revealed as a religious festival,” and recited: This day I have perfected for you your religion (with all its rules, command- ments and universality), completed My favor upon you.. . This section of the verse, which seems to have no direct relation with the other parts, declares the dominion of Islam and secures its future. So its importance should be sought in the Prophetic declaration: “This day I leave to you two precious things: as long as you hold fast to them, you will never go astray. They are God’s Book and the Family of His Messenger.” This hadīth , which exists in the books of authentic Traditions such as S a h ī h Muslim, Sunan at-Tirmidhī, Sunan an-Nasāī, and Musnad Ahmad ibn Hanbal, reads in al-Muwa tt a by Imām Mālik:

.... “God’s Book and the Sunnah of His Messenger.” However, these two versions do not contradict each other; rather, they interpret each other. For, as pointed out by Bediüzzaman Said Nursi, what is meant by the Messenger’s Family is His Sunnah. That is, the progeny of the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, are, first and foremost, responsible for the maintenance and practice of the Sunnah. Moreover, during the history of Islam, the overwhelming majority of the greatest Muslim scholars, spiritual masters, and revivers (those who have come to revive Islam) have all descended from the Prophet’s Family. God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, encouraged his Ummah to gather around his family and declared that the Qur’ān and his Family, which retains and represents his Sun- nah, his way, would never be separated from one another.

  1. They ask you (O Messenger) what is lawful for them (including, in particu- lar, the game caught by trained hunting animals). Say: Lawful for you are (all) pure, wholesome things; and (as for) such hunting animals as you have trained as hounds teaching them from what God has taught you, you may eat of what they have caught for you (and brought to you dead or alive without themselves having eaten thereof ). And pronounce God’s Name (while dispatching them to hunt for you). Keep from disobedience to God in reverence for Him and piety. Surely God is swift at reckoning.
  2. This day (all) pure, wholesome things have been made lawful for you. And the food of those who were given the Book before (including the animals they slaughter unless, of course, they invoke the name of any other than God) is law- ful for you, just as your food (including the animals you slaughter) is lawful for them. And (lawful for you in marriage) are crom among the believers, and crom among those who were given the Book before, provided that you give them
 

their bridal-due, taking them in honest wedlock, and not in debauchery, nor as secret love-companions. (That is the ordinance regarding your relations with the People of the Book in this world. But know this:) Whoever rejects (the true) faith (and rejects following God’s way as required by faith), all his works are in vain, and in the Hereafter he will be among the losers.

  1. O you who believe! When you rise up for the Prayer, (if you have no ablution) wash your faces and your hands up to (and including) the elbows, and lightly rub your heads (with water), and (wash) your feet up to (and including) the ankles. And if you are in the state of major ritual impurity (requiring total ablution), purify yourselves (by taking a bath). But if you are ill, or on a journey, or if any of you has just satisfied a want of nature, or if you have had contact with women, and can find no water, then betake yourselves to pure earth, passing with it lightly over your face and your hands (and forearms up to and including the elbows). God does not will to impose any hardship upon you, but wills to purify you (of any kind of material and spiritual filth), and to complete His favor upon you, so that you may give thanks (from the heart, and in speech and action by fulfilling His commandments).
  2. And remember God’s favor upon you, and the pledge by which He bound you when you said: “We have heard and we obey.” Keep from disobedience to God in reverence for Him and piety. Surely God has full knowledge of what lies hidden in the bosoms.
  3. O you who believe! Be upholders and standard-bearers of right for God’s sake, being witnesses for (the establishment of ) absolute justice. And by no means let your detestation for a people (or their detestation for you) move you to (commit the sin of ) deviating from justice. Be just: this is nearer and more suited to righteousness and piety. Seek righteousness and piety, and always act in reverence for God. Surely God is fully aware of all that you do.
  4. God has promised those who believe and do good, righteous deeds that for them is forgiveness and a tremendous reward.
  5. Whereas those who deny Our Revelations (to come as verses of the Book establishing the pillars of faith), as well as Our signs (both in their inner world and in the outer world) – such are companions of the Blazing Flame.
  6. O you who believe! Remember God’s favor upon you: when a people were minded to stretch out their hands against you but He restrained their hands from you. Revere God and keep from disobedience to Him so as to always de- serve His protection. And in God should the believers put their trust.
 
  1. And, indeed, God took a solemn pledge from the children of Israel and raised up from among them twelve leaders and representatives (one from each tribe, to look after their affairs and as spiritual mentors). God said: “Surely I am with you: if indeed you establish the Prayer in conformity with all its conditions, and pay the Prescribed Purifying Alms, and believe in all of My Messengers, and honor and support them, and lend God a good loan (by spending out of your wealth in God’s cause), I will surely blot out from you your evil deeds and will certainly admit you into Gardens through which rivers flow. But whoever among you disbelieves after this and is ungrateful has surely strayed from the right, even way.
  1. And from those who said, “We are Nasārā (Helpers),”2 We also took a sol- emn pledge, but they have forgotten a (most important) portion of what they were admonished about. So We have stirred up among them enmity and hatred till the Day of Resurrection; then God will cause them to understand what they have been contriving.

2. Some assert that the word Na s ārā (Helpers) is derived from the word Nā s irah (Naza- reth), which is the home town of Jesus, upon him be peace. On the contrary, this word is derived from the word nu s rah (help); this derivation is based on the question posed by Jesus, upon him be peace, to his disciples: “Who will my helpers ( an s ār ) on this way to God?” The disciples answered: “We are the helpers of God’s cause.” (3: 52) The Qur’ān uses this word here either to refer to this incident and, thereby, to remind the christians of their original creed and basic responsibilities, warning them, or only to remind them of their assertion that they are the helpers.

The Prophet Jesus, upon him be peace, never claimed that he had introduced a new religion under the name of christianity, nor did he call his followers “christians.” He came to revive Moses’ religion and to follow his Law ( Matthew , 5: 17). He also gave the glad tidings of the advent of the Last Prophet (Qur’ān, 61: 6; John , 14: 25–27, 30; 15: 26; 16: 7–8, 12–15). Likewise, his early followers neither regarded themselves as being a separate community from the Israelites, nor did they adopt any distinctive name or symbol. They worshipped in the temple along with other Jews and considered themselves to be followers of the Mosaic Law ( Acts , 3: 1–10; 21: 14–15). Later on, Paul asserted that observing the Law was not required and faith in christ was all that one needed for salvation ( Romans , 3: 21–24, 27; 5: 1; 6: 14...). even in those days, Jesus’ followers called themselves “those who believed,” “disciples,” and “brethren” ( Acts , 2: 44; 4: 32; 9: 26; 11: 29; 13: 52; 15: 1, 4; 23: 1). The Jews sometimes designated them as “Galileans,” or as “the sect of Nazarenes” ( Luke , 13: 2; Acts

, 24 :5). The label “christians” was flung at them by their opponents in Antioch in 43 or 44 ce only to taunt and mock them ( Acts , 11: 26), and this appellation gradually became established (al-Mawdūdī, 2, note 36).

  1. O People of the Book! Now there has indeed come to you Our Messenger, making clear to you many things you have been concealing of the Book (the Bible), and passing over many things (in order not to put you to further shame).
 

Surely there has come to you from God a light (which enlightens your minds and hearts, and illuminates your way), and a Book manifest in itself and mani- festing the truth,

  1. Whereby God guides whoever strives after His good pleasure (by acting in the way He approves) to the ways of peace, salvation, and safety. And He leads them by His leave out of all kinds of (intellectual, spiritual, social, economic, and political) darkness into light, and guides them to a straight path (in belief, thought, and action).
  2. They have indeed disbelieved who declare: God is the Messiah, son of Mary. Say: “Who then has the least power against God, if He had willed to destroy the Messiah, son of Mary, and his mother, and all those who are on the earth?” To God belongs the sovereignty of the heavens and the earth and all that is between them. He creates whatever He wills. God has full power over everything.
  3. The Jews and christians assert, “We are God’s children and His beloved ones.” Say: “Why, then, does He punish you for your sins? No. You are but mor- tals that (just like others) He has created. He forgives whom He wills, and He punishes whom He wills. To God belongs the sovereignty of the heavens and the earth and all that is between them, and to Him is the homecoming.
  4. O People of the Book! Now, after a long interlude during which no Mes- sengers have appeared, there has indeed come to you Our Messenger, making the whole truth clear to you, lest you should say, “There has not come to us any bearer of good tidings, nor any warner.” Indeed, there has come to you a bearer of good tidings and a warner. And God has full power over everything.
  5. And (remember) when Moses warned his people, saying: “O my people! Remember God’s favor upon you,3 for He appointed among you Prophets, and appointed (among you) rulers (while in egypt; and made you free to manage your own affairs), and He granted to you favors such as He had not granted to anyone else in the worlds.

3. It can be said that true humanity lies in two important virtues, which may serve as the means for a person’s guidance. One of them is that people acknowledges their innate weakness and poverty, and the errors they have committed, and pray for forgiveness. The other is that they feel gratitude for any good they receive from others. Haughtiness and in- gratitude are usually reasons for unbelief. One who never feels remorse or asks forgiveness for their errors and is unaware of gratitude or being thankful cannot be regarded as being truly human. A person whose conscience has not been fully darkened does not refrain from acknowledging their errors, and is appreciative of any good they receive. This is why the Qur’ān, on the one hand, reminds people of God’s favors upon them, thereby arousing in them a feeling of gratitude and thankfulness, while on the other hand, it calls on them to acknowledge their errors and sins and to ask for forgiveness. This is very important, both in

 

being truly human and in making people accept Divine truths and guidance.

  1. “O my people! enter the holy land which God has prescribed for you and commanded you to enter;4 and do not turn back (from faith to your previous state), for then you will turn about as losers (in both this world and the Here- after).”

4. This verse refers to Palestine, where the Prophet Abraham emigrated and settled, and which was the homeland of the Prophets Isaac and Jacob, upon them and all other Proph- ets be peace. At that time, the Divine trust – the representation and promotion of God’s Religion, which has always been called “Islam” – rested on the shoulders of the children of Israel. It is for this reason that God Almighty prescribed that land for them and com- manded them to enter it and make the primordial Religion of Islam prevalent there. So this prescription is not for the children of Israel as a race, nor as the followers of the Jewish religion or Judaism. It is for those who represent Islam, the complete surrender to God, and shoulder its promotion and exaltation at all times.

  1. They said: “Moses, therein live a people of exceeding strength: we cannot enter it unless they depart from it; so if they depart from it, then we will surely enter it.”
  2. Said two men from among those who feared (God’s punishment for dis- obedience to Him), and whom God had favored (with faith, sagacity, and devo- tion): “enter upon them through the gate (by frontal attack). For once you have entered it, you will surely be the victors. And in God you must put your trust if you are truly believers.”
  3. They said: “O Moses! By no means will we enter it as long as they are there. Go forth, then, you and your Lord, and fight, both of you. (As for ourselves) we will be sitting just here!”
  4. He (Moses) said (turning to His Lord with entreaty): “O my Lord! I have power over none except my own self and my brother (Aaron) only; so You judge and separate between us and these transgressing people!”
  5. He (God) said (passing this judgment): “Then, this (land) shall now be forbidden to them for forty years, while they shall wander about on earth, be- wildered. Do not grieve over that transgressing people.”
  6. Narrate to them (O Messenger) in truth the exemplary experience of the two sons of Adam, when they each offered a sacrifice, and it was accepted from one of them, and not accepted from the other. “I will surely kill you,” said (he whose sacrifice was not accepted). “God accepts only from the sincere and truly pious,” said the other.
 
  1. “Yet if you stretch out your hand against me to kill me, I will not stretch out my hand against you to kill you. Surely I fear God, the Lord of the worlds.
  2. “(In refusing to fight you, and in remembering to fear God) I desire indeed (to warn you) that you will bear the burden of my sin (were I to take part in fighting you) and your own sin (for seeking to kill me), and so you will be among the companions of the Fire.5 For that is the recompense of wrongdoers.”

5. This part of the verse literally means: “I desire that you should be laden with both my sin and yours, and so will be among the companions of the Fire.” However, this is not the expression of a desire, but rather a reality and a serious warning. The Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, declares: “When two Muslims attempt to kill each other, both the killer and the killed will go to Hell because the one killed would have killed the other if he had been able to.” (Muslim, “Kitāb al-Fitan,” 14; Ibn Mā’jah, “Kitāb al-Farāi d ,” 8) He also declares: “When two people set out to slander one another, the one who starts the slander shall bear the burden of the sin of both because he has caused mutual slandering, as long as the other does not exceed him in slander” (Muslim, “Kitāb al-Birr wa’s-Silah,” 68; at- Tirmidhi, “Kitāb al-Birr,” 51). This is what the answer of Adam’s wronged son is based on. What is meant is: “I do not desire to bear the burden of both my own and your sin, which will happen if I attempt to kill you.” This brother, known as Abel in the Bible, also warns his brother: “Be careful not to bear the burden of the sins of two people and thus become among the companions of Hell.” He (Abel) never desired that his sibling should kill him and thus, laden with the sin of two men, go to Hell.

  1. (This warning served only to fuel the other’s passion:) His carnal, evil-com- manding soul prompted him to kill his brother, and he killed him, thus becom- ing among the losers.
  2. (He did not know what to do with the dead body of his brother.) Then God sent forth a raven, scratching in the earth, to show him how he might cover the corpse of his brother. (So seeing) he cried: “Oh, alas for me! Am I then unable even to be like this raven, and so find a way to cover the corpse of my brother?” And he became distraught with remorse.6

6. Some events, even though seemingly minor and isolated, reveal universal realities and laws. For example, once the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, left his house, thinking about which day the Night of Power might fall on. When he saw some Muslims fiercely disputing, he forgot what he had been thinking about. This particular event indi- cated an important reality: Dispute and discord, to which Muslims are inclined, are peril- ous to the Muslim community. Similarly, the event which took place between the two sons of Adam, whose names are mentioned as cain and Abel in the Bible (Genesis: 4), discloses an important aspect of human nature. As narrated in the Bible, Abel kept sheep, while cain worked the soil. (In order to get near to God,) cain offered some of the fruits of the soil, while Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. Offering a sacrifice means getting near (to God) and is done to be near to God. even though it was established and is practiced in Islam as the sacrifice of a sheep or of a cow, the main purpose for such an action is to become nearer to God and to attain true piety. The Qur’an declares: Bear in

 

mind that neither their flesh nor their blood reaches God, but only piety and conscious- ness of God reach Him from you. (22: 37). Since cain was devoid of true piety and most probably made the offering with ulterior motives, God did not accept this sacrifice from him. This aroused jealousy in him, a trait that is common to humankind, and eventually it caused the first blood-shed in human history.

Life is extremely important and valuable in God’s sight. This is why Islam has established the principle: Right is to be esteemed and observed because it is right, even if it is small. The right of an individual cannot be sacrificed for the society. Taking the life of a human being is the same as if one were to take the lives of all humankind, and sparing or restoring the life of one person is the same as sparing and restoring the life of all. Rights and inviolate values are of equal worth and demand retaliation.

  1. It is because of this that We ordained for (all humankind, but particularly for) the children of Israel: He who kills a soul unless it be (in legal punishment) for murder or for causing disorder and corruption on the earth will be as if he had killed all humankind; and he who saves a life will be as if he had saved the lives of all humankind. Assuredly, there came to them Our Messengers (one after the other) with clear proofs of the truth (so that they might be revived both individually and as a people). Then (in spite of all this), many of them go on committing excesses on the earth.
  2. The recompense of those who fight against God and His Messenger, and hasten about the earth causing disorder and corruption: they shall (according to the nature of their crime) either be executed, or crucified, or have their hands and feet cut off alternately, or be banished from the land. Such is their disgrace in the world, and for them is a mighty punishment in the Hereafter.
  3. except for those who repent (and desist from their crimes against order) before you have overpowered them, (although the judgment as to specific crimes against individuals is left to those individuals or to their heirs). Know that God surely is All-Forgiving, All-compassionate (especially toward His servants who turn to Him in repentance).
  4. O you who believe! Keep from disobedience to God in reverence for Him and piety, and seek the means to come closer to Him, and strive in His cause, so that you may prosper (in both worlds).
  5. As to those who insist on unbelief: even if they owned the whole of what is on the earth, and the like with it, to offer as ransom from the punishment on the Day of Resurrection, it would not be accepted from them. For them is a painful punishment.
  6. They will wish to come out of the Fire, but they shall not come out of it;
 

theirs is a punishment enduring.

  1. And for the thief, male or female: cut off their hands as a recompense for what they have earned, and an exemplary deterrent punishment from God. God is All-Glorious with irresistible might, All-Wise.
  2. But he who repents after having done wrong, and mends his ways, surely God accepts His repentance. For God is All-Forgiving, All-compassionate.7

7. As has been pointed out where the occasion required it, the penal law is not the funda- mental law upon which a complete system of life has been founded. Rather, it is a collection of sanctions and cautions that help to maintain a healthy system. For this reason, it is very important for a penal law to act as a deterrent. So, in evaluating any penal law, we should consider to what extent it deters people from committing crimes and how often and widely such crimes are committed in the community where the law is to be enforced. Another important point to note is that the severity or lightness of penalties demonstrates the de- gree of importance attached to the values that have been brought under protection by the means of such laws. The penalties Islam legislated for the crimes committed against basic human rights and freedoms, such as the right to life, personal property, belief, reproduction, and individual and public security, and basic values like chastity and innocence, and those verses that legislate for crimes against mental and physical health, show the importance Islam attaches to these values and their protection. In addition, any penal law should be considered within the whole body of the system, with all its social, economic and political dimensions, and its principles of creed, worship, morality, and law. Also, by stressing and giving particular importance to repentance and reformation, Islam approaches the matter as one of education and upbringing, showing that it aims to enable individuals to attain human perfection. For this reason, without limiting itself to legal sanctions, Islam brings piety, reverence for God, and life to the forefront.

As a legal term in the Penal Law of Islam, the punishment of cutting off a hand for theft should have the following elements:

The thief should possess legal discretion; i.e., they must have committed the crime purely with their own free will, without any compulsion; they must have taken possession of the thing stolen, thereby depriving its rightful owner of it; they must have stolen it from the place where it was kept, not in an open place where they could enter freely; they must not have had any rights to it; the stolen thing should be of the kind of thing that Islam regards as goods; the value of the goods should be above a certain amount; and it should not be fruit, vegetables, or grain that are not stored in a barn. There is another condition: the per- son who steals should not be constrained to steal out of dire necessity. caliph ‘Umar, may God be pleased with him, did not enforce this punishment at times of famine. However, such exemptions do not mean that the person who steals will not be punished. Under these circumstances, the judge can determine a punishment for the thief, but cannot opt to have the hand cut off.

  1. Do you not know that surely to God belongs the sovereignty of the heavens and the earth? He punishes whom He wills and forgives whom He wills. He has full power over everything.8
 
    1. Such statements in the Qur’ān are of extreme importance. What they mean can be sum- marized as follows:
      • Being the sole creator of everything, God has absolute sovereignty over everything; He decrees whatever He wills.
      • God is also absolutely Merciful, Forgiving and Wise. Whatever He does and decrees has many instances of wisdom. Nothing he does is in vain. What we must do, after acknowledging that He has absolute sovereignty over everything and absolute power to do whatever He wills, is to try to find the instances of wisdom in His decrees and acts.
      • God’s absolute Will is, in one respect, identical with His Knowledge. This means that He “knows” with His eternal Knowledge whatever will happen in the future, and has “pre-recorded” it. Whatever He knows and pre-records takes place when its time is due. But He records an event with its causes and results all together, and also takes into consideration the partial will that He granted to us in His “pre-determinations” that concern us.
      • We are confronted by the results of our intentions and deeds, whether they are good or bad. However, since He always wills good for us, guides us to it, and enables us to do it, whatever good we meet is from Him. But whatever misfortune happens to us, it is from our selves (see 4, note 18).
  1. O Messenger! Let them not grieve you who would rush in unbelief, as if competing with one another in a race, such of them as say with their mouths, “We believe,” but their hearts do not believe, and those of them who are Jews. They are eagerly listening out for falsehoods (especially about you), and ea- gerly listening out (spying) on behalf of other people who have never come to you (even to learn the essence of your Message), altering any words (whether pertaining to God or not) from their contexts to distort their meanings. They say (about matters referred to you for judgment): “If such and such judgment is given to you, accept it; but if it is not given to you, then beware!” Whoever God has willed to put to a trial (to prove his nature, and has failed in this trial), you have no power in anything on his behalf against God. Such are those whose hearts (because of their rushing in unbelief ) God does not will to purify. For them is disgrace in the world, and in the Hereafter a tremendous punishment.
  2. Listening out for lies and falsehood eagerly, and consuming unlawful earn- ings greedily! If they come to you (for judgment), you may either judge between them or turn away from them (and decline to give judgment). If you turn away from them, they cannot harm you in any way. But if you judge, judge between them with equity and justice. Surely God loves the scrupulously equitable.
  3. But how is it that they ask you for judgment when they have the Torah, in which there is God’s judgment (concerning murder), and still thereafter turn away (from that and from your judgment)? The fact is: those are not believers.
 
  1. Surely We did send down the Torah, in which there was guidance and a light (to illuminate people’s minds, hearts and ways of life). Thereby did the Prophets, who were fully submitted to God, judge for the Jews; and so did the masters (self-dedicated to God and educating people) and the rabbis (teachers of law), as they had been entrusted to keep and observe the part of God’s Book (revealed up to their time);9 and they were all witnesses to its truth. (concerning judging by God’s Book and observing It, We warned them saying:) Do not hold people in awe, but stand in awe of Me; and do not sell My Revelations for a trifling price. Whoever (declines to confirm and) does not judge by what God has sent down, those are indeed unbelievers.

9. By the expression “ the part of God’s Book” it is implied that the Torah did not encom- pass the whole of God’s Revelation, and that more was yet to be revealed. There are several other books in the Old Testament, and it is natural that every Rabbi and jurist was respon- sible for judging by, and observing the part of, the Revelation which had been revealed up to his time.

  1. And We prescribed for them in it (concerning murder): A life for a life, and an eye for an eye, and a nose for a nose, and an ear for an ear, and a tooth for a tooth, and a (like) retaliation for all wounds (the exact retaliation of which is possible). But whoever remits (the retaliation), it will be an act of expiation for him. Whoever does not judge by what God has sent down, those are indeed wrongdoers.10

10. Retaliation is based on absolute equality of rights – whether the rights are those of the president or a common citizen, the richest or the poorest, and the noblest of people or the most common of them – and, therefore, is absolutely just. This is why the Qur’ān declares that there is life for people in retaliation (2: 179). As retaliation is based on justice and absolute equality, only the injuries for which an exact retaliation is possible can fall under the system of retaliation. For this reason, as it would be risky to retaliate for a broken bone or injury to the skin, such injuries are punishable by indemnification.

Although retaliation means absolute justice and equality, it is not good in itself and is aimed only at securing basic individual rights and providing compensation for the violation of the same. So one whose rights have been violated can either demand retaliation as a legal right or forgo that right. The Qur’ān encourages people to forgo retaliation and gives the glad tiding that a person who forgoes their right of retaliation has done a good deed which will atone for their sins, in accordance with the greatness of the right that has been forgone. For example, a person who saves the life of another shall be considered as having saved the lives of all humankind; in the same way, if a person has the right to demand retaliation for a murder but forgoes it, they will gain as great reward as if they had forgiven the whole of humankind, or they will have their sins forgiven to that extent.

In addition to being based on absolute justice and equality, the Divine commandments also consider and attach great merit to forgiveness and mutual sacrifice in society; God knows best His servants (human beings) and what is good or bad for them. For this reason,

 

no one person or system can be better or equal to God in establishing commandments or making laws. Those who do not accept and judge by His commandments are unbelievers, wrongdoers, and transgressors. If they accept these laws, but do not judge by them while they are able to do so, they are both wrongdoers and transgressors.

For retaliation in the Bible, see exodus , 21: 23–25; Leviticus , 25: 17–22.

  1. And in the footsteps of those (earlier Prophets), We sent Jesus son of Mary, confirming (the truth of ) the Torah revealed before him, and We granted to him the Gospel, in which there was guidance and a light (to illuminate people’s minds, hearts and ways of life), confirming what was revealed before it in the Torah (except for a few unlawful things that it made lawful), (and serving as) a guidance and an instruction for the God-revering, pious.
  2. (And We commanded:) Let the People of the Gospel judge by what God sent down therein; and whoever does not judge by what God has sent down, those are indeed the transgressors.
  3. We have sent down to you (O Messenger) the Book with the truth (em- bodying it, and with nothing false in it), confirming (the Divine authorship of, and the truths that are still contained by) whatever of the Book was revealed before it, and guarding over (all the true teachings in) it. Judge, then, between them by what God has sent down (to you), and do not follow their desires and caprices away from the truth that has come to you. For each (community to which a Messenger was sent with a Book), have We appointed a clear way of life and a comprehensive system (containing the principles of that way and how to follow it). And if God had so willed, He would surely have made you a single community (following the same way of life and system surrounded by the same conditions throughout all history); but (He willed it otherwise) in order to test you by what He granted to you (and thereby made you subject to a law of prog- ress). Strive, then, together as if competing in good works. To God is the return of all of you, and He will then make you understand (the truth) about what you have differed on.11

11. Similar to 2: 213, these last verses draw attention to some historical and sociological principles and realities. There are two kinds of differences between people: one is the “natu- ral” difference in intelligence, ability, ambition and desire in life, and character. These are the differences that lead people to take up different occupations and which lead to scientific and technological progress. The other kind of difference comes from conflicts of interest and the parceling out of the world’s riches. Although these changes, too, may incite prog- ress, they also cause unrest, clashes, and corruption on the earth. The changing conditions of life caused by scientific and technological progress were one of the basic reasons why different Messengers were sent with different Books, although all agreed on the essentials of faith, worship, morality, and the fundamental rules of what is lawful or unlawful.

 

Since humanity was living what was, in many respects, an age of childhood until the time of the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, every Messenger to come be- fore that time had been sent to a certain people and for a certain period. In the Abrahamic line, Moses, upon him be peace, came to the children of Israel with the Torah, and Jesus, upon him be peace, with the Gospel, which confirmed the Torah in the essentials of faith, worship, morality, and the fundamental rules of the lawful and unlawful, but which made some unlawful things lawful. So, when Jesus, upon him be peace, came, the children of Is- rael, who had followed the Torah until then, should have believed in him and all the previ- ous Prophets and Books, and taken into account the changes which the Gospel introduced in the commandments of the Torah. Many of them, however, did not. When the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, came with the Qur’ān at a time when there was no longer any need for another Prophet after him or for another Book to be sent, both the Jews and christians should have believed in him and all the previous Prophets and Books, and followed the Qur’ān. Unfortunately, many of them did not, and thus there came to be three different religions and ways where there should have been only one. The conclu- sion of verse 48, To God is the return of all of you, and He will then make you understand (the truth) about what you have differed on, is extremely important and contains a threat that is directly linked to the existence of these three major religions or ways.

The verses above mention the Books prior to the Qur’ān, giving the name of each. In verse 48, the expression, whatever of the Book , is used, and the Qur’ān is mentioned as the Book. This means that, although there are some differences in the laws, the Qur’ān encompasses all the truths contained in the previous Books. concerning the Law, the Qur’ān retained the commandments contained in other Books, which it did not abrogate. This caused the Muslim jurists to establish the rule, “The unabrogated laws of the previous communities to which a Divine Book was sent are also ours.” Although all people must follow the Qur’ān, the People of the Book may live as autonomous communities and follow their own books under the rule of Islam.

Islam has a very comprehensive, dynamic methodology of law that is unparalleled in hu- man history. This law originates in the Qur’ān and Sunnah, and Muslim jurists have de- veloped several other legal procedures that are based on them, such as Analogy ( qiyās ); the principle of deducing new laws through reasoning based on the Qur’ān and Sunnah ( ijtihād ); adoption of what is good and beneficial ( isti hs ān ); maintaining something ap- provable without changing it ( isti s hāb ); taking what is suited to the public benefit and discarding what is harmful (ma s ālih al-mursalah ); barring the road that leads to corrup- tion and what is unlawful ( sadd al-zarā’i‘ ); and customary law and tradition acceptable to Islam’s basic essentials (‘urf ) . (See also notes 2 and 95 on this sūrah .)

  1. (Thus did We command you:) Judge between them with what God has sent down, and do not follow their desires and caprices, and beware of them lest they tempt you away from any part of what God has sent down to you. If they turn away, then know that God wills only to afflict them for some of their sins. And many among human beings are indeed transgressors.
  2. Or is it the law of the (pagan) Ignorance that they seek (to be judged and ruled by)? Who is better than God as law-giver and judge for a people seeking
 

certainty (and authoritative knowledge)?

  1. O you who believe! Take not the Jews and christians for friends and al- lies (in their Judaism and christianity, and against the believers). Some among them are friends and allies to some others. Whoever among you takes them for friends and allies (in their Judaism and christianity and against the believers) will eventually become one of them (and be counted among them in the Here- after). Surely God does not guide such wrongdoers.
  2. Yet you (O Messenger) see those in whose hearts there is a sickness (that dries up the source of their spiritual life, extinguishes their power of understand- ing, and corrupts their character), hastening towards them (to get their friend- ship and patronage) as if competing with one another, saying, “We fear lest a turn of fortune should befall us.” But it may be that God will bring about (for the believers) victory or some other outcome of His own will (to punish those hypocrites or the wrongdoers whose friendship and patronage they seek). And then they will find themselves utterly regretful for the secrets they (as hypo- crites) sought to keep hidden in their selves.
  3. And those who believe will say (to each other): “Are those the self-same people who swore by God their most solemn oaths that they were indeed with you?” Their works have gone to waste and they have become losers.
  4. O you who believe! Whoever of you turns away from his Religion, (know that) in time, God will raise up a people whom He loves, and who love Him, most humble towards the believers, dignified and commanding in the face of the unbelievers, striving (continuously and in solidarity) in God’s cause, and fearing not the censure of any who censure. That is God’s grace and bounty, which He grants to whom He wills. God is All-embracing (with His profound grace), All-Knowing.12
  1. This verse, which contains a great promise for the distant future of Islam, is of great importance because of the following points:
    • No one can detract from Islam by renouncing it. It is God Himself Who preserves it, and He will make it prevail over all other faiths and systems.
    • God acts behind the veil of cause and effect in the world; the world is the realm of wisdom. So, if the nation or community which God has favored with the responsibil- ity of shouldering Islam fails to maintain it, God will raise up another people whom He keeps concealed in His treasury of the Unseen. Such are those whom God chose in pre-eternity because of the performance they will exhibit in the future. He loves them, and because of this love, they love Him.

In praising the companions of the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, God presents the following four virtues for us to consider (48: 29):

 
    • continuously being in the Messenger’s company to support him and share his suf- ferings
    • Being stern and implacable against the unbelievers (In that period of ignorance and savagery, triumphing over these people was possible by being strong and unyielding.)
    • Being merciful among themselves
    • Being sincere and devoted to gaining God’s good pleasure and approval

Since Abū Bakr, ‘Umar, ‘Uthmān and ‘Ali were, in turn, at the forefront in having these four virtues respectively, they were the greatest among the companions.

However, a time comes when humanity progresses from ignorance and savagery to science and some sort of civilization, and in that era, when unbelief arises from science and philoso- phy, the following four virtues, in degree of importance, become prominent and the most desired in the community which God favors with the responsibility of shouldering Islam:

    • 1. Being most humble toward the believers
    • 2. Being able to give orders, command respect, and being dignified (not the same as being “stern,” as described above) in the face of the unbelievers, aware that honor and dignity lie in following Islam
    • 3. constantly striving in utmost solidarity in God’s cause to make Him known by people, and to be a means for their guidance
    • 4. Not fearing the censure of any who will censure them for their struggle to make God known by people
  1. Your guardian and confidant is none but God, and His Messenger, and those who, having believed, establish the Prayer in conformity with all its conditions, and pay the Prescribed Purifying Alms (the Zakāh), and they bow (in humility and submission to Him).
  2. Whoever takes God and His Messenger and those who believe for guardian and confidant, then surely the party of God (that they constitute), they are the victors.
  3. O you who believe! Do not take for guardians and confidants such of those who were given the Book before as make a mockery and sport of your Religion, and the unbelievers (who reject the Messenger, Divine Revelation, and the Last Day). Keep from disobedience to God in reverence for Him and piety, if you are truly believers.
  4. When you recite the call to the Prayer, they take it for a mockery and sport – that is because they are a people who do not use their reason to understand.
  5. Say: “O People of the Book! Is it not that you begrudge us only because we believe in God and what has been sent down to us and what was sent down before, and because most of you are transgressors?”
 
  1. Say: “Shall I tell you of a case the worst of all for recompense with God? Those whom God has cursed (excluded from His mercy), and whom He has utterly condemned, and some of whom He turned into apes, and swine, and ser- vants of false powers (who institute patterns of rule in defiance of God) – they are worse situated and further astray from the right, even way.”
  2. Whenever those (of the same character and life-pattern, and the hypocrites following in their footsteps) come to you, they declare (hypocritically), “We believe,” whereas in fact they enter with unbelief (in their hearts), and so they depart with it. God knows very well what (unbelief and hypocrisy) they have been concealing.
  3. You see many among them rushing as if competing in sinful, iniquitous acts, and enmity, and consuming unlawful earnings. How evil indeed is what they have been doing!
  4. Why is it that the masters self-dedicated to God and educating people, and the rabbis (teachers of law) do not forbid them from sinful utterances and con- suming unlawful earnings? How evil indeed is what they have been contriving!
  5. The Jews say: “God’s Hand is fettered” (thus attributing their humiliation and misery to Him). Be their hands fettered and be they excluded from His mercy for saying so! No indeed! Both His Hands are spread out wide in bounty, bestowing as He wills. And (the Revelation and bounties) that are sent down to you from your Lord indeed increase many of them in rebellion and unbelief. However (according to the laws We established for human life in the world), We have cast enmity and hateful rancor among them to last until the Day of Resurrection: as often as they kindle a fire of war (to overcome Islam and put it off ), God extinguishes it (without allowing them to attain to their goal). They hasten about the earth causing disorder and corruption, and God does not love those who cause disorder and corruption.
  6. If only the People of the Book would believe (in the Prophet Muhammad and what is revealed to him), and keep from disobedience to God in piety so as to deserve His protection, We would certainly blot out from them their (previ- ous) evil deeds and admit them, for sure, into Gardens of bounty and blessings.
  7. If only they had truly observed the Torah and the Gospel, and all that was sent down to them from their Lord (faithfully, without introducing distor- tions therein, and, therefore, would believe in Muhammad and follow his way), they would have been fed from above them and from beneath their feet (as God would have poured forth His blessings upon them from both heaven and earth).13 Among them there are just, moderate people who hold to the right
 

course, but many of them – evil indeed is what they do!

13. The following verses of the Old Testament are of the same import as this verse:

If you walk in My statutes and keep My commandments, and perform them, I will give you rain in its season, the land shall yield its produce, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit. Your threshing shall last till the time of vintage, and the vintage shall last till the time of sowing; you shall eat your bread to the full, you dwell in your land safely ( Leviticus

, 26: 3–5).

The same meaning is explained in Moses’ sermon in Deuteronomy , chapter 28.

These two last verses of the sūrah point to an important truth related to the conception of taqwā (keeping from disobedience to God in reverence for Him and piety in order to deserve His protection). As mentioned before, God has two sets of laws, one which we call Religion, and the other being that which God has established for the life and operation of the universe, and which is the subject-matter of sciences. While one gets a return for obey- ing or disobeying the former, usually in the Hereafter, the return for obeying or disobeying the latter usually comes in this world. Taqwā requires obeying both.

  1. O Messenger (you who convey and embody the Message in the best way)! convey and make known in the clearest way all that has been sent down to you from your Lord. For, if you do not, you have not conveyed His Message and fulfilled the task of His Messengership. And God will certainly protect you from the people. God will surely not guide the disbelieving people (to attain their goal of harming or defeating you).14

14. This verse explains one of the numerous miracles of the Qur’ān. It openly declares and predicts that God will protect His Messenger, Muhammad, upon him be peace and bless- ings, from all his enemies, allowing him to convey His Message to the end and not allowing others to harm him. Although surrounded by fierce enemies from among the polytheists of Makkah and the desert, and from among the Jews, hypocrites, christians, and many others, the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, fulfilled his mission without any fear and died in his bed after having carried his mission to victory.

This promise of God is also true for the heirs to the mission of the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, in subsequent centuries, especially toward the end of time, when it is predicted that conditions to live Islam and convey it will be as difficult as they were in Makkah during the early years of Islam. God will also protect these Muslims from their enemies, who will be unable to prevent the Muslims from fulfilling their mission. Also see: 33: 39.

  1. Say: “O People of the Book! You do not stand on anything valid (in God’s sight) unless you truly observe the Torah and the Gospel, and all that has been sent down to you from your Lord (and doing that, you would believe in me and the Qur’ān, and follow my way).”15 However, what is sent down to you from
 

your Lord surely increases many of them in rebellion and unbelief. But grieve not for the disbelieving people.

  1. This verse signifies three important things:
    • The Jews and christians meant nothing and did not stand for anything valid in the sight of God or in the name of the Religion unless, for the Jews, they had been ob- serving the Torah and other books sent to them, including the Gospel, and for the christians, unless they had been observing the Gospel. They should have believed in and followed the Qur’ān when it began to be revealed.
    • even though the Jews and christians do not believe in the Qur’ān and the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, Islam regards them as the People of the Book, and they are expected to observe the Torah and the Gospel (in their true commandments). If they do not, they will have no right to claim to have been given anything by God.
    • Although the Qur’ān clearly explained to them the way of guidance and ultimate salvation, since it revealed how they ill-treated their books, they grew more stubborn in their rejection of it and Muhammad’s Messengership.
  1. Surely, be they of those who declare faith (the community of Muhammad), or be they of those who are the Jews or the Sabaeans or the christians (or of another faith) – whoever truly and sincerely believes in God and the Last Day and does good, righteous deeds – they will have no fear, nor will they grieve.
  2. We did indeed make a covenant with the children of Israel, and (accord- ingly) We sent them Messengers (one after the other). But whenever a Messen- ger came to them with what did not suit (the desires of ) their souls – some they would deny, and some they would kill.
  3. They calculated that there would be no trial (of them as a result of what they did), and so became as if blind and deaf (to truth and all Divine admonitions). Then God (having guided them to waken their consciences, and turn to Him in repentance so that they could reform themselves) relented towards them (in gracious forgiveness). Then (again, in spite of that) many of them became as if blind and deaf. And God sees well all that they do.
  4. Assuredly they have disbelieved who say, “God is the Messiah, son of Mary,” whereas the Messiah himself proclaimed: “O children of Israel! Worship God, my Lord and your Lord.” Whoever associates partners with God, God has surely made Paradise forbidden to him, and his refuge is the Fire. And the wrongdoers will have no helpers.
  5. Assuredly they also have disbelieved who say, “God is the third of the Three,” whereas there is no deity save the One God. If they desist not from their saying so, there shall touch those of them who disbelieve a painful punishment.
 
  1. Will they not turn to God in repentance and (being resolved never again to commit the same wrong) ask Him for forgiveness? God is All-Forgiving, All- compassionate.
  2. The Messiah, son of Mary, was but a Messenger; Messengers had passed away before him; and his mother was an upright one wholly devoted to God; both of them ate food (as do all mortals). Look, how We make the truths clear to them, then look how they are turned away from the truth and make false claims!
  3. Say (to them, O Messenger): “Do you worship, apart from God, that which (in and of itself ) has no power either to harm or to benefit you – when God is He Who is the All-Hearing, the All-Knowing?”
  4. Say: “O People of the Book! Do not go beyond the bounds in your religion, (straying towards) other than the truth, and do not follow the lusts and fancies of a people who went astray before, and led many others astray, and they strayed (as again others do now) from the right, even way.”16

16. This verse warns the christians, particularly, against certain peoples of antiquity and some sectarian ones among the Jews who followed ways other than God’s Straight Path. It also warns, allusively, the Muslims and, more particularly, the “lettered ones” of our age

– the expression “People of the Book” containing an allusion to educated people. It is im- possible not to see the part that those peoples played in the alterations of the essentials of christian faith and worship, or in the revolts and disturbances that broke out in the Muslim community in its early period, which gave rise to the emergence of several groups that had strayed from the true path, and the part which they have played in the certain anti-religious ideologies that have appeared in recent centuries. Similar warnings are found in the Bible.

In the article titled christianity in the encyclopedia Britannica (14 th edition), a chris- tian theologian, Reverend George William Knox, touches on the same fact while writing about the essential beliefs of the church:

Its moulds of thought are those of Greek philosophy, and into these were run the Jewish teachings. We have thus a peculiar combination – the religious doctrines of the Bible, as culminating in the person of Jesus, run through the forms of an alien philosophy.

In the same work, charles Anderson Scott writes under the title of “Jesus christ:”

There is nothing in these three Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke) to suggest that their writ- ers thought of Jesus as other than human, a human being especially endowed with the Spirit of God and standing in an unbroken relation to God, which justified his being spo- ken of as the ‘Son of God.’ even Matthew refers to him as the carpenter’s son – It is worth noting that, according to Matthew, the carpenter, Joseph, was the step-father of Jesus, upon him be peace. Jesus came to the world without a father. – and records that after Peter had

 

acknowledged him as Messiah, he ‘took him aside and began to rebuke him’ ( Matthew , 16: 22). And in Luke, the two disciples on the way to emmaus can still speak of him as ‘a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people’ ( Luke , 24: 19)… It is very singular that, in spite of the fact that before Mark was composed, ‘the Lord’ had become the description of Jesus common among christians, he is never thus described in the second Gospel (nor yet, in the first, though the word is freely used to refer to God). All three relate the Passion of Jesus, upon him be peace, with a fullness and emphasis on its great significance; but except the ‘ransom’ passage ( Mark , 10: 45) and certain words at the Last Supper, there is no indication of the meaning which was afterwards attached to it. It is not even suggested that the death of Jesus, upon him be peace, had any relation to sin or forgiveness.

He ( Jesus) frequently referred to himself as the Son of Man.   certain words of Peter

spoken at the time of Pentecost, ‘A man approved of God’, described Jesus, upon him be peace, as he was known and regarded by his contemporaries. From them (the Gospels), we learn that Jesus, upon him be peace, passed through the stages of development, physical and mental, that he hungered, thirsted, was weary and slept, that he could be surprised and require information, and that he suffered pain and died. He not only made no claim to omniscience, but he distinctly waived such a claim. There is still less reason to predicate omnipotence to Jesus, upon him be peace. There is no indication that he ever acted inde- pendently of God, or as an independent God. Rather, does he acknowledge dependence upon God by his habit of prayer. He even repudiates the ascription to himself of goodness in the absolute sense in which it belongs to God alone.

William Knox, quoted above, writes about ascribing divinity to Jesus, upon him be peace:

… before the close of the 3 rd century, his deity was still widely denied… At the council of Nicaea, in 325, the deity of christ received official sanction… but controversy continued for some time (more). (For the quotations, see al-Mawdūdī, 2, note 101.)

  1. Those of the children of Israel who disbelieved were cursed by the tongue of David and Jesus, son of Mary. That was because they disobeyed and kept on exceeding the bounds (of the Law).
  2. They would not restrain one another from doing the evil they did: indeed, evil was what they used to do.
  3. You see many of them (the Jews) taking those who disbelieve as allies and friends (instead of allying with the Messenger and the believers). evil indeed is what they themselves send ahead for themselves (for their future, and for the life hereafter), so that God will condemn them, and they will abide in the punish- ment.
  4. Had they truly believed in God and the (most illustrious) Prophet (Muham- mad), and in what has been sent down to him, they would not have taken them (the unbelievers) for allies and friends; but many of them are transgressors.
 
  1. You will most certainly find that, of the people (of unbelief ), the most vio- lent in enmity toward the believers (the Muslims) are the Jews and those who associate partners with God. And you will most certainly find that the nearest of them in affection to the believers (the Muslims) are those who say: “We are christians.” This is because there are among them (the christians) hermits (who devote themselves to worshipping God, especially at night) and monks (who struggle with their carnal selves, ever fearful of God’s punishment), and because they are not arrogant.17
  1. This verse points to many facts, such as follows:
    • Arrogance and transgression (committing sins openly, without feeling any shame) are obstacles to belief, while modesty and self-criticism are doors opened to it.
    • Because of the nature of his mission, the Prophet Jesus, upon him be peace, attached more importance to the spiritual aspect of the Divine Religion than to its other as- pects, and this gave rise to many hermits and monks appearing in his community.
    • Islam is a middle way; but since modesty, humility, worship and struggling against the carnal soul are also essential to Islam, there must be a natural nearness between Muslims and the followers of Jesus, upon him be peace.
    • The mildness and humility of some hermits and monks caused their accepting Islam and the Qur’ān when they heard God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings.
  1. When they hear what has been sent down to the Messenger, you see their eyes brimming over with tears because they know something of its truth (from their own Books); and they say, “Our Lord! We do believe (in Muhammad and the Qur’ān); so inscribe us among the witnesses (of the truth in the company of his community).
  2. “Why should we not believe in God and what has come to us of the truth? And we fervently desire that our Lord enter us among the righteous people.”
  3. So God (judged that He would) reward them for their saying so with Gar- dens through which rivers flow, therein to abide. Such is the reward of those who are devoted to doing good, aware that God is seeing them.
  4. As to those who disbelieve and deny Our signs and Revelations, those are companions of the Blazing Flame.
  5. O you who believe! Do not hold as unlawful the pure, wholesome things that God has made lawful to you, and do not exceed the bounds (either by making forbidden what is lawful, or by over-indulgence in the lawful). God does not love those who exceed the bounds.
  6. eat (as lawful, pure and wholesome) from that which God has provided for you; and in due reverence for Him, keep from disobedience to God, in Whom
 

you have faith.

  1. God does not take you to task for a slip (or blunder of speech) in your oaths, but He takes you to task for what you have concluded by solemn, deliberate oaths. The expiation (for breaking such oaths) is to feed ten destitute persons (or one person for ten days) with the average of the food you serve to your families, or to clothe them, or to set free a slave. If anyone does not find (the means to do that), let him fast for three days. That is the expiation for your oaths when you have sworn (and broken them). But be mindful of your oaths (do not make them lightly, and when you have sworn them, fulfill them). Thus God makes clear to you His Revelations (the lights of His way), that you may give thanks (from the heart and in speech, and in action by fulfilling His commandments).
  2. O you who believe! Intoxicants, games of chance, sacrifices to (anything serving the function of ) idols (and at places consecrated for offerings to any other than God), and (the pagan practice of ) divination by arrows (and similar practices) are a loathsome evil of Satan’s doing; so turn wholly away from it, so that you may prosper (in both worlds).
  3. Satan only seeks to provoke enmity and hatred among you by means of in- toxicants and games of chance, and to bar you from the remembrance of God and from Prayer. So, then, will you abstain?18

18. These two last verses, which contain significant principles for human life in this world and the next, draw attention to dangers, such as alcohol, drugs, gambling and all other kinds of games of chance, and a predilection for erecting monuments and statutes of an idolatrous nature, which are an embodiment of ostentation, pride, worldliness, and the vain desires of immortality. They also present to us enmity, hatred, and the crimes caused by these. When we consider that “mafia” types of organizations are the breeding grounds of such, and many other kinds of sins, and illicit relationships, such as prostitution, uncontrollable black mar- keting, drug addiction and smuggling, and that these are loathsome evils of Satan’s doing, the warning of the verses becomes even more significant. Also, it is extremely important to understand what losses can be incurred by ignoring even one verse of the Qur’ān; for example, many traffic accidents that take lives and property arise from alcohol.

  1. Obey God and obey the Messenger (whose commands are based on Divine Revelation), and be on the alert (against opposing them). If you turn away (from obedience to them), then know that what rests with Our Messenger is only to convey the Message fully and clearly.
  2. There is no sin on those who believe and do good, righteous deeds for what they might have partaken (in their pre-Islamic past), provided (henceforth) they fear (the end of their previous creeds and misdeeds) and come to faith and do good, righteous deeds, then keep from disobedience to God in reverence
 

for Him and piety and believe (more profoundly), then be more meticulous in obeying God in greater reverence for Him and piety, and be devoted to doing good: God loves those who are devoted to doing good, aware that God is seeing them.

  1. O you who believe! Something of the game that you take by your hands or your lances (while you are on the Pilgrimage) is God’s testing of you, so that He may prove those who fear Him (though) unseen. Whoever, after that, exceeds the bounds, for him is a painful punishment.
  2. O you who believe! Do not kill game while you are in the state of pilgrim sanctity or in the sacred precincts of Makkah. Whoever of you kills it, then its recompense is the like of what he has killed, from livestock, to be judged by two men among you of equity and probity, and to be brought to the Ka‘bah as an offering; or (there shall be) an expiation by way of giving (as much) food to the destitute (as the value of the game killed), or fasting (a number of days) equiva- lent (to the number of the persons to be fed, or the shares assigned for them). (That is ordained) so that he may taste the evil consequences of his deed. God has pardoned what is past; but for one who re-offends, God will take retribu- tion from him. And God is All-Glorious with irresistible might, ever-Able to requite (wrong).
  3. (To hunt and eat) the game in the sea, its (fish and other) edibles are lawful for you, a provision for you and for travelers (whom you want to feed). However, while you are in the state of pilgrim sanctity, you are forbidden to hunt on land (or slaughter and eat of the animals that you get others to hunt for you). Keep from disobedience to God, in due reverence for Him to Whom you will be gathered.
  4. God has made the Ka‘bah, the Sacred House, a standard and maintenance for the people, and also the Sacred Months (during which fighting is forbidden), and the animals for sacrificial offering, and the (camels wearing the sacrificial) collars. That is so that you may know that God knows whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth, and that God has full knowledge of everything.
  5. Know (also) that God is severe in punishment, and that God is All-Forgiv- ing, All-compassionate.
  6. Nothing rests with the Messenger but to convey the Message fully. (It is your responsibility to act in accordance therewith and) God knows whatever you re- veal and do openly, and whatever you conceal (in your bosoms) and do secretly.
  7. Say (O Messenger): “The bad and the good are not alike,” even though the
 

abundance of the bad (the sheer quantity of the corrupt) amazes you. So keep from disobedience to God in reverence for Him and piety, O people of discern- ment (so that you may rightly distinguish quality and quantity, and so), that you may prosper (in both worlds).19

19. This verse enunciates a very important standard of evaluation and judgment. Since the world and whatever is in it are not capable of receiving and reflecting what is perfect, and due to their innate deficiencies that are essential to their nature, they can only reflect many absolute truths in relative ways, degrees, or colors. That is why, both from a perspective of relativity and in actual fact, the ugly, bad, and corrupt (unbelievers, hypocrites, transgressors, unlawful earnings, wrong thoughts and false beliefs, etc.) exist in the world more abundant- ly than the beautiful, good, and pure (believers, sincere and just persons, lawful earnings, right thoughts and sound beliefs). For this reason, it is wrong to judge by quantity; what is important is nature and quality. It sometimes occurs that a single person may represent right and truth in a community. So, except for things which are open to question and which are true relative to circumstances, what is right and true cannot be judged by quantity. The source of absolute truths is God. Whatever He judges to be true and right is true and right. Thinking and acting otherwise brings failure, not success and salvation. Both history and the present world bear witness to this.

  1. O you who believe! (Practice as you are admonished to practice, and) do not ask about things which, if made manifest to you, would give you trouble (and make the practice of religion difficult for you). even so, if you ask about them while the Qur’ān is being sent down, they (what is necessary to be made manifest) will be made manifest to you (to the extent that God wills). (Many things that you have either asked or want to ask about, but which God has left unspoken) God has absolved you thereof: God is All-Forgiving, All-clement.
  2. Indeed a people before you used to ask such questions (and demanded from their Prophet such things as particular miracles) and, thereafter, they fell into unbelief (through not carrying out the commandments given in answer to their questions, or through willfully disbelieving in their Prophet, despite the miracles worked).
  3. God has not ordained anything (in the nature) of a bahīrah, nor a sā’ibah, nor a wasīlah, nor hām. But those who disbelieve fabricate falsehoods against God – most of them do not reason and indeed are devoid of sense.20

20. Bahīrah : a she-camel, whose milk the pagans dedicated to idols after she gave birth to five young, the fifth being a male; sā’ibah : a camel let loose, whose milk the pagans forbade themselves, consecrating it to express gratitude for successful fulfillment of a vow; wa s īlah

: a sheep or a camel which gave birth to twins, one male, the other female, and whose male young was let loose and dedicated to idols; h ām : a male camel which the pagans forbade themselves after it had inseminated ten females.

The conclusion of the verse points to a very important truth: God never does anything in

 

vain or anything that is useless, and anyone who can use their reason, anyone who has suf- ficient intellect, can grasp at least some of the wisdom in every command of God.

Islam makes reason or intellect bear witness to the fact that every one of its commands is reasonable, but this does not mean that reason or intellect can discover or establish these commands. The discovery or establishment of these commands in their proper place re- quires an “intellect” which, as stated in verse 97 above, knows whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth, and which has full knowledge of everything – an intellect which knows the structure of the whole universe, along with its relationships with all the parts and everything and every event, with all of time and space, and which knows human- ity with all its needs and nature, and which understands the web of relationships. There is only one such “intellect:” God. So, the duty of humanity is to discover the wisdom in God’s commands and to use our reason or intellect to deduce the secondary principles and com- mandments that are mutable according to time and circumstances.

Another point to mention here is that those who disregard any Islamic commandment because they consider it to be incompatible with reason and, therefore, prefer other com- mandments to them are either devoid of sufficient knowledge, intellectual capacity and reasoning, or they have some other purposes.

  1. When it is said to them, “come (in obedience) to what God has sent down and to the Messenger (to whom the Qur’ān is being revealed), they (refuse to think, and instead) say: “enough for us (are the ways) that we found our fore- fathers on.” What, even if their forefathers knew nothing and were not guided (and so did not follow a right way)?
  2. O you who believe! (Do not busy yourselves with those who follow dif- ferent ways!) Your responsibility is your selves (so consider how you are faring along your own way). Those who go astray can do you no harm if you yourselves are guided (and so know the right way, and then follow it without deviation). To God is the return of all of you, and He will make you understand all that you were doing (and call you to account for it).
  3. O you who believe! Let there be witnesses among you when death ap- proaches you, at the time of making bequests – two straightforward and trust- worthy persons from among your own people (the Muslim community), or two other persons from among people other than your own (from among the People of the Book), if you are on a journey (and there are no Muslims) when the afflic- tion of death befalls you. Then, if any doubt arises (concerning their testimony), have the two of them stay (in the mosque) after the Prayer, and they shall swear by God: “We will not sell our testimony for any price, even if it concerns one near of kin, nor will we conceal the testimony of God (namely, the truth), for then we would surely be among the sinful.”
  4. Then if it is discovered later that the two (witnesses) have been guilty of
 

(that very) sin (of not giving true testimony), then have two others stand in their place from among those (rightful heirs of the deceased), whom the first two have deprived of their right, and these shall swear by God: “Our testimony is truer than the testimony of the other two, and we have not exceeded the bounds (of what is right, nor violated the rights of any others), for then we would indeed be among the wrongdoers.”

  1. That (way) it is more likely that people will offer correct testimony or else they will (at least) fear that their oaths will be rebutted by other oaths. Keep from disobedience to God in reverence for Him and piety, and pay heed (to His commandments). God does not guide people of transgression.21
  1. These last verses contain important principles concerning Islamic jurisprudence, good morals and social order. They are:
    • (Although we should always hold a good opinion of believers,) the transactions in society must be based on legal procedures.
    • Bearing true witness is extremely important. Refraining from this and bearing false testimony are among the major, cardinal sins.
    • The testimony of non-Muslims, especially that of the People of the Book, can be ac- ceptable in cases of necessity.
    • If contradictory evidence is discovered after a court has passed judgment, a new trial must begin.
    • If it is discovered that the executors did not tell the truth, they are dismissed and, in their place, two people are appointed from among the rightful heirs of the deceased person.
    • Both the executors and the heirs are asked to swear an oath.
    • Those whom people regard as trustworthy and straightforward may not always be so. We should regard everybody as trustworthy until contradictory evidence emerges, and we can only decide if another person is untrustworthy on concrete evidence.
    • The law has principles of its own, but in order for them to prevail and become op- erative as we expect, belief in and respect for God, Who sees everybody and what everybody does, and Who will call them to account in another world, and belief in the Hereafter, where people will see the return of what they did in this world, are paramount. Belief in, respect for, and fear of God are the primary conditions to ensure a happy social life.
  1. The day when God will gather the Messengers and ask them: “What was the response you received (from the people to whom you were appointed to convey My Message)?” They say: “We have no knowledge; You and You alone have knowledge of the Unseen (of all that lies beyond the reach of any created being’s perception).”
  2. When God says: “O Jesus, son of Mary! Remember My favor upon you and upon your mother, when I confirmed you with the Spirit of Holiness so that you
 

talked to people in the cradle and in manhood; and when I taught you of the Book22 and wisdom, and the Torah and the Gospel; and when you fashioned out of clay something in the shape of a bird by My leave, then you breathed into it, and it became a bird by My leave, and you healed the blind from birth and the leper by My leave; and when you raised the dead by My leave; and when I restrained the children of Israel from you when you came to them with clear proofs (truths and miracles demonstrating Your Messengership), and those of them who disbelieved said: ‘This is clearly nothing but sorcery.’

22. The verse mentioning the Torah and the Gospel in addition to the Book, as in 3: 48, has led some to interpret the Book ( al-kitāb ) as meaning “writing.” However, when we consider another fact, namely that the Torah and the Gospel contain or even are embodi- ments of the Wisdom as Divine Books, we can conclude that by the Book and the wisdom the verse refers to the Divine Book and the wisdom generally, and particularizes or specifies them to be the Torah and the Gospel.

  1. “And when I revealed to the disciples (through you, and inspired in their hearts), ‘Believe in Me and My Messenger!’, they said: ‘We believe, and bear witness that we are (Muslims) submitted exclusively to Him.’ “
  2. And once the disciples said: “Jesus, son of Mary, is your Lord able to send down on us a table (of food) from heaven?”23 ( Jesus) answered: “Fear God (as He should be feared, and so desist from making such demands lest He punish you) if you are (truly) believers.”
  1. The wording of this demand, which the disciples made to have greater certainty of faith, contains several points that go against the good manners that a believer must have before

God and His Messenger:

    • While they should have addressed Jesus, upon him be peace, as God’s Messenger, which would demonstrate their belief in and respect for him, they displayed bad man- ners and doubted him concerning his Messengership.
    • By saying “your Lord,” they implied that their belief in God had not been established in their hearts, thus behaving in a rude manner.
    • By saying “Is your Lord able…?”, they demonstrated that they had no true judgment of God as His right (in being God) requires.
    • By demanding a miracle after they claimed belief, they displayed doubt and another kind of rudeness.

However, we should note that the disciples which the Qur’ān highly praised in some other verses (i.e., 3: 52, 5: 111), may have made this demand in the early phase of their conversion, and before they had responded to Jesus’ calling, “Who will be my helpers (on this way) to God?” by saying: “We are the helpers of God(‘s cause). We believe in God, and bear witness that we are (Muslims), submitted exclusively to Him.” (3: 52)

It should also be noted that none of the companions of the Prophet Mu h ammad, upon

 

him be peace and blessings, made such a demand after they had entered into the fold of Islam. Not only did they not make any such demand, they also attached no greater impor- tance to the miracles that God’s Messenger worked than one might have expected from within the milieu of Islam. An example of such a miracle is the time when there was no other means to obtain water or food, and the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, was able to make water flow from his fingers and he was able to multiply the small amount of food available so that it sufficed for hundreds of soldiers to partake of. The companions focused on and devoted themselves to reporting the rules of religion and deemed it suf- ficient that such miracles be reported by only a few.

  1. They said: “We desire to eat thereof and that our hearts might be set at rest (with certainty of God’s being our Lord and of your being His Messenger), and so that we might know that you speak the truth to us, and so that we might be among the witnesses (to the meaning and truth of what is demonstrated to us).”
  2. Jesus, son of Mary, said (in entreaty to his Lord): “O God, our Lord! Send down on us a table (of food) from heaven, that shall be an ever-recurring (reli- gious) festival for us – for the first and the last of us – and a sign from You; and provide us sustenance, for You are the Best to be sought as provider with the ultimate rank of providing.”
  3. God said: “I send it down on you. Then if any of you should henceforth disbelieve, surely I inflict on him a punishment that I never inflict on anyone in the worlds.”24

24. By concluding the event without specifying whether the table was sent down or not, the Qur’ān shows that the purpose for relating these events is either to reinforce the main purposes within them or to give a lesson through them. By relating this event, the Qur’ān is showing us that what leads people to believe in the Messengers and the Message they brought is not primarily the miracles they worked. Rather, it is the persons of the Mes- sengers themselves, their deep spirituality, the high morals they have, and the rationality and truth of their Message and its compatibility with the unblemished human conscience. This shows that both belief and unbelief are a conscious choice. So, instead of expecting miracles, people should study the universe, which is, in fact, an exhibition of “miracles” from top to bottom, and the character and lives of the Prophets, along with the Books they brought; and one’s conscience should not be allowed to be contaminated with such things as prejudices, carnal desires, sins, wrongdoing, wrong viewpoints, and arrogance, each of which is an obstacle to belief.

  1. And (remember) when God will say: “Jesus, son of Mary, is it you who said to people: ‘Take me and my mother for deities besides God?’” and he will an- swer: “All-Glorified You are (in that You are absolutely above having a partner, as having any need or deficiency whatever)! It is not for me to say what I had no right to! Had I said it, You would already have known it. You know all that is
 

within my self, whereas I do not know what is within You Self. Surely You, and You alone, have knowledge of the Unseen (of all that lies beyond the reach of any created being’s perception).

  1. “I did not say to them except what You commanded me to (say): ‘Worship God, my Lord and your Lord.’ I was a witness over them so long as I remained among them; and when You took me back, You were Yourself the Watcher over them. Indeed, You are Witness over everything.
  2. “If You punish them, they are Your servants; and if You forgive them, You are the All-Glorious with irresistible might, the All-Wise.”25

25. The answer that The Prophet Jesus will give displays his mission and character. By saying, “If You punish them, they are Your servants; and if You forgive them, You are the All-Glorious with irresistible might, the All-Wise.” he exhibits his absolute respect for God, while, with the expression “they are Your servants,” he appeals to God’s compassion. Although it seems more reasonable to refer the matter to God’s being the All-Forgiving and All-compassionate, where forgiving is mentioned, that illustrious Prophet, who refers this matter to God’s being the All-Glorious with irresistible might and to His being the All-Wise, displays his deep submission to God’s absolute Authority and Wisdom.

On one occasion our Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, mentions Abraham and Jesus, upon them be peace, together and likens them to one another. Abraham appealed to God on behalf of his people who disobeyed him, by saying, “He who follows me is truly of me; while he who disobeys me, surely You are All-Forgiving, All-compassionate” (14: 36).

  1. God will say: “This is the Day when their truthfulness (faithfulness and steadfastness) will benefit all who were true to their word (to God). For them are Gardens through which rivers flow, therein to abide forever. God is well-pleased with them, and they are well-pleased with Him. That is the supreme triumph.”
  2. To God belongs the sovereignty of the heavens and the earth and all that is in them. And He has full power over everything.