Islam and Non-Muslims: A New Perspective


Whither International Relations? Shehzad Saleem

Reflections, Islam and Non-Muslims: A New Perspective: Shehzad Saleem


Appendix A: The Preaching Mission of Noah (sws): Shehzad Saleem

Appendix B: Fate of some Nations who denied their Messengers

Appendix C: Treatment of Non-Muslim Minorities        

 Whither International Relations? Reflections, Shehzad Saleem

Almost six months have passed since that fateful morning of September 11 when several thousand innocent civilians of the United States were mercilessly massacred by a team of suicide pilots. The ghastly incident landed like a bolt from the blue and left the world shell-shocked. This time it was not the ‘Japs’. A band of ‘aggrieved’ Muslims had gone on rampage. Besmeared with the blood of peaceful citizens, these pilots or the masterminds behind them could never have imagined the extent of the carnage they were ultimately able to pull off.

The affects produced by this incident are far reaching and have influenced almost every domain of life. One such domain is the sphere of international relations. Of particular mention in this regard, is the question of Islam’s relationship with other religions and polities of the world. This question assumes great significance when it is taken into account that the perpetrators of this terrorist activity have put forth religious arguments for the mass murder they committed.

In my opinion, when we look at the arguments presented by these diehards and at the general Muslim stance regarding Islam and its relationship with other religions of the world, we find that there is something desperately wrong with the Muslim approach.

As a student of Islam, I have tried to ascertain in my humble capacity what exactly is ‘that wrong’. In the following pages, my findings appear in the form of a research article that spans the whole of this journal. I would request the serious reader to critically and carefully go through this work and send me his/her observations. I would specifically ask activists engaged in interfaith-dialogue to spare some time for this article.

Islam and Non-Muslims: A New Perspective, Reflections: Shehzad Saleem

Readers are advised to first carefully go through the components of the article that appear in the contents section of the journal so that they can have a clear comprehension of its overall arrangement.

I. Introduction

The question of Islam’s relationship with other religions of the world carries a significance that needs no elaboration. Shortened frontiers, enhanced communication and increased interaction in this present era have only magnified the importance of this issue. Indeed, the past fourteen centuries of co-inhabitation with other religions has greatly influenced world history and the shaping of global geographic boundaries.

The general opinion of Muslim scholars on this matter is based on the premise that Islam is the final truth and therefore only Islam has the right to rule in this world; non-Muslims better be aware of this or else they will have to face animosity and hostility from Muslims. Peaceful co-existence is something which generally finds mention in the Muslim view where they are in power and people of other religions live in subservience to Muslims. Jeffrey Lang, professor of Mathematics at the Kansas University, who converted to Islam in the early eighties, vividly records this typical Muslim mindset in the following words:  

‘I’m sure you know that it’s incumbent on Muslims living in the United States to work and struggle and, if necessary, to fight to establish an Islamic state here’, said the dean of the Middle Eastern University, aware that tradition and scholarship were on his side.

‘My idea of what makes a state Islamic might be very different from yours’, I answered. ‘Do you, for example, feel that your country is an Islamic state?’

‘Of course it’s not perfect’, he offered. ‘But we’re free to practice our faith and most of the Sharī’ah is enforced’.

‘But what if we’re already free to practice our rituals here and to influence the laws and government through democracy?’

‘But democracy recognizes the will of the majority, while an Islamic state gives final authority to God as revealed in the Qur’ān and teachings of the Prophet!’

‘Might not the two converge in a society where the majority are committed to the viewpoint that God is the supreme authority and Muhammad is His Prophet? If the majority is not so committed, then what purpose is served by declaring an Islamic state or a state religion?’

‘What you’re advocating is secularism!’1

A little deliberation shows that Muslim scholars base their view on what transpired in Arabia fourteen hundred years ago when Muhammad (sws) the last of the Messengers of Allah led a long struggle against the exponents of Kufr (denial of the truth). Many verses of the Qur’ān and certain Āhadīth which record and depict this struggle apparently ask the believers to be hostile to non-Muslims. There are directives like severing ties with non-Muslims and cursing them in prayer. Some Qur’ānic verses and Āhadīth even ask the believers to put to death non-Muslims. As Rev. Stephene puts it:

In the Qur’ān, the Mussulman is absolutely and positively commanded to make war upon all those who decline to acknowledge the Prophet until they submit, or, in the case of Jews and Christians, purchase exemption from the conformity by the payment of tribute. The mission of the Mussulman, as declared in the Qur’ān, is distinctly aggressive. We might say that Mahomet bequeathed to his disciples a roving commission to propagate his faith by the employment of force where persuasion failed. ‘O Prophet, fight for the religion of God’ – ‘Stir up the faithful to war,’ such are commands which Mahomet believed to be given to him by God. ‘Fight against them who believe not in God, nor the last day’, ‘attack the idolatrous in all the months’, such are his own exhortations to his disciples.2

So the conclusion is simple. Muslims must follow what is written in their Holy book and what is ascribed to their Prophet (sws).

II. The Premise

In this regard, the basic premise3 which needs to be understood is that most directives of Islam that depict hostility and antagonism towards non-Muslims are directed towards a specific category of non-Muslims, which may exist today but cannot be humanly pinpointed. In reality, this category of non-Muslims were punished by the Almighty in the era of Muhammad (sws) and his Companions (rta) for reasons that shall be discussed later. The hostility and antagonism which the Qur’ān depicts against these non-Muslims are actually the various manifestations of the punishment meted out to them. In religious parlance, such non-Muslims are called the Kuffār (singular: Kāfir) or Disbelievers.

In other words, directives which apparently depict hostility and antagonism against non-Muslims are not related to the non-Muslims of times other than the times of the Prophet Muhammad (sws) and his Companions (rta) since the Kuffār among them  cannot be ascertained.

III. Arguments and Rationale

I will now attempt to substantiate the above mentioned premise. First, an attempt will be made to identify the Disbelievers (Kuffār). Next the basis and source of their punishment will be delineated. This will be followed by details of the preaching mission of the Rusul4 (plural of Rasūl: Messengers) of God who became the agents of this punishment so that the readers can view the whole act of retribution in its overall perspective. Finally, the major directives which relate to the Kuffār (Disbelievers) and which have been erroneously extended to all non-Muslims shall be elaborated upon.

a. Identifying the Disbelievers (Kuffār)

In the Qur’ān, the word Kāfir is used as a term to denote a person who denies a Messenger of the Almighty even though he is convinced of the truth of his message5.

It is humanly impossible for a person to determine whether an individual or a group of individuals is deliberately denying a Messenger since no one can know what is in a person’s heart; neither can any one be correctly aware of the excuses and hindrances a person may have in this regard. It is only the Almighty who on the basis of His all embracing knowledge can inform us of such a denial, for it is He alone who knows what is in the hearts. In times when He used to send His Messengers, He chose to impart this information to them through Wahī (revelation). However, after the termination of the institution of Wahī, people who have deliberately denied a Messenger cannot be pinpointed. In other words, after the departure of Muhammad (sws), the last Messenger, no Muslim is in a position to ascertain who among his addressees is guilty of deliberately denying the message of Muhammad (sws). Therefore, now, only on the Day of Judgement will it be known whether a particular person is a Kāfir or not.

As a consequence, the Christians and Jews and followers of other religions who live after the age of the Prophet (sws) cannot be called Kāfirs; the right name for them is non-Muslims.

b. Punishing the Disbelievers (Kuffār)

According to the Qur’ān, denying a Messenger of God in spite of being convinced about his veracity is something which deserves severe punishment both in this world and in the Hereafter since this is tantamount to deliberately denying the Almighty Himself. The worldly punishment of the Disbelievers (Kuffār) was carried out by the Almighty in two ways: Either He directly destroyed them Himself through disasters and calamities or by His Messengers and their Companions (rta) — who in this exercise were no more than agents of His retribution. In the second case, the Messengers and their Companions (rta) just replaced the weapons of destruction as the role of earthquakes, storms, cyclones and lightning was assumed by them.

Referring to the first form of punishment, the Qur’ān says:

فَكُلًّا أَخَذْنَا بِذَنْبِهِ فَمِنْهُمْ مَنْ أَرْسَلْنَا عَلَيْهِ حَاصِبًا وَمِنْهُمْ مَنْ أَخَذَتْهُ الصَّيْحَةُ وَمِنْهُمْ مَنْ خَسَفْنَا بِهِ الْأَرْضَ وَمِنْهُمْ مَنْ أَغْرَقْنَا (٢٩ : ٤٠)

Each one of them We seized for their crime: of them, against some We sent a violent tornado with showers of stones; some were caught by a mighty blast; some We sunk in the earth; and some We drowned in the waters. (29:40)

Referring to the second form of divine punishment, the Qur’ān asserts:

قَاتِلُوهُمْ يُعَذِّبْهُمْ اللَّهُ بِأَيْدِيكُمْ وَيُخْزِهِمْ وَيَنْصُرْكُمْ عَلَيْهِمْ (٩ :١٤)

Fight them [ O Believers!] and God will punish them with your hands and humiliate them and help you to victory over them. (9:14)

فَلَمْ تَقْتُلُوهُمْ وَلَكِنَّ اللَّهَ قَتَلَهُمْ (٨ :١٧)

It is not you [O believers] who slew them; it was [ in fact] God [who slew] them. (8:17)

While explaining this verse, the celebrated Muslim authority, Shāh Walī Ullāh, writes:

فَصَارُوْا فِيْ ذَلِكَ بِمَنْزِلَةِ الْمَلَئِكَةِ تَسْعىَ فِيْ إِتْمَامِ مَا أَمَرَ اللهُ تَعَالى غَيْرَ أَنْ الْمَلئِكَةَ تَسَعى مِنْ غَيْرِ أَنْ يُّعَقَّدَ فِيْهِمْ قَاعِدَةٌ كُلِّيَّةٌ وَالْمُسْلِمُوْنَ يُقَاتِلُوْنَ لِأَجَلِ قَاعِدَةِ كُلِّيَّةٍ عَلَّمَهُمْ اللهُ تَعَالى وَكَانَ عَمَلُهُمْ ذَلِكَ أَعْظَمُ الْاَعْمَالِ وَصَارَ الْقَتْلُ لَا يُسْنَدُ إنَّمَا يُسْنَدُ أِلَى الْأَمِيْرِ كَمَا يُسْنَدُ قَتْلُ الْعَاصِىْ إِلىَ الْأْمِيْرِ دُوْنِ السَّيَّافِ. وَهُوَ قَوْلُه تَعَالَى ‘فَلَمْ تَقْتُلُوْهُمْ وَلَكِنَّ اللهَ قَتَلَهُمْ

The Prophet Muhammad (sws) and his Companions (rta) in the fulfillment of this mission became like angels who also strive for the implementation of God’s directives. The difference between angelic and human undertakings is that the former strive without being guided by any universal principle, while human beings fight for the sake of a definite overall objective given to them by the Almighty. Thus Jihād becomes the greatest of all their deeds. That is why the act of killing is not attributed to them. It is attributed to the Divine Being who issued the directive to kill. This is like ascribing the act of killing of a traitor to the ruler rather than the slayer, as the Qur’ān says: ‘You slew them not, but God slew them’.6

In other words, what needs to be understood is that it was the Almighty who took matters in His own hands and punished the Kuffār in this world in the time of His Messengers. It is precisely for this reason that in this particular sphere, the Prophet Muhammad (sws) is not a role model for Muslims. What mankind needs to learn from this whole exercise is to be mindful of a reality that it tends to forget: reward and punishment in the Hereafter on the basis of a person’s deeds. This reward and punishment which is to take place in the Hereafter is substantiated visually by the Almighty through the agency of His Messengers so that mankind may always remain heedful to this reality. The court of justice which will be set up for every person on the Day of Judgement was set up for the nations of Messengers in this world so that the latter could become a visual testimony to the former. The Qur’ān at numerous instances has used this argument to substantiate the reward and punishment in the Hereafter. In Sūrah Hāqqah, for example, it says:

الْحَاقَّةُ مَا الْحَاقَّةُ  وَمَا أَدْرَاكَ مَا الْحَاقَّةُ كَذَّبَتْ ثَمُودُ وَعَادٌ بِالْقَارِعَةِ  فَأَمَّا ثَمُودُ فَأُهْلِكُوا بِالطَّاغِيَةِ   وَأَمَّا عَادٌ فَأُهْلِكُوا بِرِيحٍ صَرْصَرٍ عَاتِيَةٍ  سَخَّرَهَا عَلَيْهِمْ سَبْعَ لَيَالٍ وَثَمَانِيَةَ أَيَّامٍ حُسُومًا فَتَرَى الْقَوْمَ فِيهَا صَرْعَى كَأَنَّهُمْ أَعْجَازُ نَخْلٍ خَاوِيَةٍ  فَهَلْ تَرَى لَهُمْ مِنْ بَاقِيَةٍ  وَجَاءَ فِرْعَوْنُ وَمَنْ قَبْلَهُ وَالْمُؤْتَفِكَاتُ بِالْخَاطِئَةِ   فَعَصَوْا رَسُولَ رَبِّهِمْ فَأَخَذَهُمْ أَخْذَةً رَابِيَةً   إِنَّا لَمَّا طَغَى الْمَاءُ حَمَلْنَاكُمْ فِي الْجَارِيَةِ   لِنَجْعَلَهَا لَكُمْ تَذْكِرَةً وَتَعِيَهَا أُذُنٌ وَاعِيَةٌ  (٦٩ :١-١٢)

The Inevitable! What is the Inevitable? What do you know what the Inevitable is? It is the Pounding One which the ‘Ād and the Thamūd denied. As for the Thamūd, they were destroyed by a calamity that exceeded all bounds and the ‘Ād by a storm, fierce and violent. He let loose this [storm] on them for seven nights and eight days to ravage them. You would have seen them lying overthrown as though they were hollow trunks of palm-trees. So do you now see any of them? And the same crime was committed by Pharaoh and those before him and by the overturned settlements also such that they disobeyed the Messenger of their Lord [sws]. So He gripped them with an intensifying grip. [Similarly, as a consequence of denying Noah (sws)] when [the storm blew over and] the flood rose high it was We who carried you upon the ark to make this [account of your ancestors] a reminder for you and that retaining ears may retain it . (69:1-12)

The justification of the retribution carried out by the Messengers on the Kuffār is that through divine help, the basic truths7 become manifest in their personalities to the extent that no one is left with any excuse to deny it. In the words of the Qur’ān, this is called Shahādah ‘ala al-nās (bearing witness to the truth before other peoples). The Almighty has referred to this aspect in the following words:

إِنَّا أَرْسَلْنَا إِلَيْكُمْ رَسُولًا شَاهِدًا عَلَيْكُمْ كَمَا أَرْسَلْنَا إِلَى فِرْعَوْنَ رَسُولًا (٧٣ :١٥)

To you [O People of the Quraysh!] We have sent forth a Rasūl as witness to the truth upon you just as we sent a Rasūl to the Pharaoh. (73:15)

In other words, what authorizes a Messenger to punish the Kuffār is that it can be ascertained in this very world that they are guilty of denying the basic truths in spite of being convinced about them. Good and evil are elucidated with ultimate clarity and people who accept evil do so not because of any confusion but because of their own stubbornness.

So it can be concluded that since a Messenger reveals the basic truths in their ultimate form and those who deny it do so because of their stubbornness and even confess their sins, a Messenger has the perfect justification to punish his people after they have denied him.

c. The Preaching Mission of the Messengers

As mentioned earlier, a detailed analysis of the preaching mission of the Messengers shall now be made so that the punishment meted out by the Almighty through them to the Disbelievers can be viewed by the reader in the overall perspective. This will be done in two sections. The first covers the general features of this mission and the second one covers the manifestation of these features in the era of Muhammad (sws).

1. General Features

i. The Objective of the Messengers

In the words of the Qur’ān, the basic objective of the Messengers of Allah is to decide the fate of their respective peoples in this world in such a manner that if these people deny their Messengers, they are subdued in this very world:

وَقَالَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا لِرُسُلِهِمْ لَنُخْرِجَنَّكُمْ مِنْ أَرْضِنَا أَوْ لَتَعُودُنَّ فِي مِلَّتِنَا فَأَوْحَى إِلَيْهِمْ رَبُّهُمْ لَنُهْلِكَنَّ الظَّالِمِينَ وَلَنُسْكِنَنَّكُمْ الْأَرْضَ مِنْ بَعْدِهِمْ ذَلِكَ لِمَنْ خَافَ مَقَامِي وَخَافَ وَعِيدِ (١٤ :٩-١٤)

And the disbelievers said to their Messengers: We will drive you out of our land, or you return to our religion’. But their Lord inspired [this message] to them [–the Messengers –]: ‘Verily We will cause the wrong-doers to perish! And verily We will cause you to abide in the land, and succeed them. This is for those who feared the time when they shall stand before My tribunal and those who feared My warnings’. (14:9-14)

It has been ordained that the Almighty and His Messengers will always prevail:

إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يُحَادُّونَ اللَّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ أُوْلَئِكَ فِي الأَذَلِّينَ كَتَبَ اللَّهُ لَأَغْلِبَنَّ أَنَا وَرُسُلِي إِنَّ اللَّهَ قَوِيٌّ عَزِيزٌ (٥٨ :٢٠-١)

Indeed those who are opposing Allah and His Messenger are bound to be humiliated. The Almighty has ordained: I and My Messengers shall always prevail. Indeed Allah is Mighty and Powerful. (58:20-1)

The Old Testament refers to this law in the following words:

If you ever forget the Lord your God and follow other gods and worship and bow down to them, I testify against you today that you will surely be destroyed. Like the nations the Lord destroyed before you, so you will be destroyed for not obeying the Lord your God. (Deuteronomy, 8:19-20)

The New Testament mentions this law in the following words:

Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered: ‘Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish’. (Luke, 13:1-4)

ii. Phases of the Mission

A Rasūl’s mission after passing through various phases culminates in achieving the above mentioned objective of deciding the fate of his nation in this very world. This mission can be categorized in the following phases:8

a. The Propagation Phase

b. The Acquittal Phase

c. The Judgement Phase

In the following paragraphs, we will take a look at some of the important features of these phases.

a. The Propagation Phase

With this phase begins the mission of the Messengers. During this phase, with the special help and assistance of the Almighty, the Messengers remove misconceptions which may surround the basic truths and vehemently say that if people do not accept these truths they shall be doomed in this world and in the Hereafter. In this phase, the Messengers of Allah never use force or retaliate against any oppression or persecution encountered. They spend all their time and energy in earnestly urging people to mend their ways.

b. The Acquittal Phase

At the end of the Propagation Phase – which is signaled by he Almighty since only He knows when enough time has been given to people to reflect and accept such truths – a Messenger disassociates himself from his people by announcing his acquittal and migrating from them so that the Almighty can pronounce His judgement both upon the followers of the Messenger and his adversaries. It is now that his adversaries are called Kāfirs, implying that they have rejected the basic truths in spite of being convinced about them.

Two important things must be noted about the migration of a Messenger which takes place in this acquittal phase.

Firstly, it signals the end of his nation. It means that all that could have been done to call them to accept faith has been done. Before migration, as long as a Messenger remains among his people, they are protected from any punishment and given respite due to his presence. So, when the pagan Arabs demanded from Muhammad (sws) to bring the punishment he had been threatening them with, they were told:

وَمَا كَانَ اللَّهُ لِيُعَذِّبَهُمْ وَأَنْتَ فِيهِمْ (٨ :٣٣)

But God was not going to send them a punishment whilst you are amongst them. (8:33)

Secondly, a Messenger is not authorized to make the decision of migration for himself since only the Almighty knows when a particular people has been given enough time to accept the basic truths. A Messenger must keep to his task of warning his people, in spite of bitter opposition, until he is informed by the Almighty that the time for warning them is over. The Prophet Jonah (sws) was reprimanded by the Almighty when he on his own decided to migrate from his people: 

وَذَا النُّونِ إِذْ ذَهَبَ مُغَاضِبًا فَظَنَّ أَنْ لَنْ نَقْدِرَ عَلَيْهِ فَنَادَى فِي الظُّلُمَاتِ أَنْ لَا إِلَهَ إِلَّا أَنْتَ سُبْحَانَكَ إِنِّي كُنتُ مِنْ الظَّالِمِينَ (٢١ :٨٧)

And remember Dhu’l-Nūn, when he departed in wrath thinking that We will not hold him responsible! So he cried through the depths of darkness: ‘There is no god but You. Glory to You. I was indeed wrong!’ (21:87)

The Prophet Muhammad (sws) was told to exercise patience and not be like Jonah (sws) until the decree of Allah arrived:

فَاصْبِرْ لِحُكْمِ رَبِّكَ وَلَا تَكُنْ كَصَاحِبِ الْحُوتِ إِذْ نَادَى وَهُوَ مَكْظُومٌ (٦٨ :٤٨)

So wait with patience for the Command of your Lord, and be not like the Companion of the Fish, — when he cried out in agony. (68:48)

On the other hand, when Abraham (sws) argued with the Almighty that the nation of his nephew, the Prophet Lot (sws), be given more respite, he was told that none among the righteous were left in it. While the Qur’ān (11:74) makes a passing reference to this, the Bible gives the following details:

Then Abraham approached Him and said: ‘Will You sweep away the righteous with the wicked? What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare that place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing – to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?’ The Lord said: ‘If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake’. Then Abraham spoke up again: ‘Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, though I am nothing but dust and ashes, what if the number of the righteous is five less than fifty? Will you destroy the whole city because of five people?’ ‘If I find forty-five there’, He said: ‘I will not destroy it’. Once again he spoke to him: ‘What if only forty are found there?’ He said: ‘For the sake of forty, I will not do it’. Then he said: ‘May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak. What if only thirty can be found there?’ He answered: ‘I will not do it if I find thirty there’. Abraham said: ‘Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, what if only twenty can be found there?’ He said: ‘For the sake of twenty, I will not destroy it’. Then he said: ‘May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more. What if only ten can be found there?’ He answered: ‘For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it’. (Genesis, 18:23-32)

c. The Judgement Phase

This phase is the culmination of a Messenger’s preaching mission. He decides the fate of his nation in this phase. It is in reality the Almighty who undertakes this task as pointed out before.

It is evident from the Qur’ān that in the Judgement phase, the punishment of the Disbelievers9 normally takes two forms depending upon the situation that arises.

If a Messenger has very few companions and he has no place to migrate from his people and attain political power, then the Messenger and his companions are sifted out from their nation by the Almighty and made to migrate to a safe place. Their nation is then destroyed through various natural calamities like earthquakes, typhoons and cyclones. The Qur’ān says:

فَكُلًّا أَخَذْنَا بِذَنْبِهِ فَمِنْهُمْ مَنْ أَرْسَلْنَا عَلَيْهِ حَاصِبًا وَمِنْهُمْ مَنْ أَخَذَتْهُ الصَّيْحَةُ وَمِنْهُمْ مَنْ خَسَفْنَا بِهِ الْأَرْضَ وَمِنْهُمْ مَنْ أَغْرَقْنَا (٢٩ :٤٠)

Each one of them We seized for their crime: of them, against some We sent a violent tornado with showers of stones; some were caught by a mighty blast; some We sunk in the earth; and some We drowned in the waters. (29:40)

The ‘Ad, nation of Hūd (sws), the Thamūd nation of Sālih (sws) as well as the nations of Noah (sws), Lot (sws) and Shu’ayb (sws) were destroyed through such natural disasters when they denied their respective Messengers as is mentioned in the various sūrahs of the Qur’ān.10 In the case of Moses (sws), the Israelites never denied him. The Pharaoh and his followers however did. Therefore, they were destroyed.

The Prophet Jonah’s people accepted faith and were saved from punishment:

فَلَوْلَا كَانَتْ قَرْيَةٌ آمَنَتْ فَنَفَعَهَا إِيمَانُهَا إِلَّا قَوْمَ يُونُسَ لَمَّا آمَنُوا كَشَفْنَا عَنْهُمْ عَذَابَ الْخِزْيِ فِي الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا وَمَتَّعْنَاهُمْ إِلَى حِينٍ (١٠: ٩٨)

Why was there not a single township which professed faith so that its faith should have profited it, — except the people of Jonah? When they believed, We removed from them the penalty of ignominy in the life of the present, and permitted them to enjoy their life for a while. (10:98)

In the second case, a Messenger is able to win a fair amount of companions and is also able to migrate to a place where he is able to acquire the reins of political power through divine help. In this case, a Messenger and his companions subdue their nation by force, and execute them if they do not accept faith. The nation of a Messenger is then given further respite during which the Messenger starts to purge and cleanse the people who accept faith and organizes them for a final onslaught upon the forces of evil. He also strengthens his hold and authority in the land. Once his companions are ready for an armed conflict, these addressees are given a final ultimatum and then attacked. The forces of a Messenger are destined to triumph and humiliate his enemies. The punishment, which in the previous case descended from the heavens, in this case emanates from the sword of the believers. It was this situation which arose in the case of Muhammad (sws). His opponents were destroyed by the swords of the Muslim believers until at the conquest of Makkah, the remaining accepted faith. (Details follow in the next section).

Referring to this form of divine punishment, the Qur’ān asserts:

قَاتِلُوهُمْ يُعَذِّبْهُمْ اللَّهُ بِأَيْدِيكُمْ وَيُخْزِهِمْ وَيَنْصُرْكُمْ عَلَيْهِمْ (٩ :١٤)

Fight them and God will punish them with your hands and humiliate them and help you to victory over them. (9:14)

فَلَمْ تَقْتُلُوهُمْ وَلَكِنَّ اللَّهَ قَتَلَهُمْ (٨ :١٧)

It is not you [O believers] who slew them; it was [ in fact] God who slew them. (8:17)

In other words, as pointed out earlier, it is the Almighty Himself who punishes the addressees of Messengers if they deny their respective Messengers; the Messengers and their companions are no more than a means to carry out this Divine plan.

The punishment and humiliation of nations towards whom Messengers were sent generally took place in two ways: Nations who subscribed to monotheism were spared if they accepted the supremacy of their respective Messenger, while nations who subscribed to polytheism were destroyed. The latter fate is in accordance with the fact that polytheism is something that the Almighty never forgives:

إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يَغْفِرُ أَنْ يُشْرَكَ بِهِ وَيَغْفِرُ مَا دُونَ ذَلِكَ لِمَنْ يَشَاءُ وَمَنْ يُشْرِكْ بِاللَّهِ فَقَدْ افْتَرَى إِثْمًا عَظِيمًا (٤ :٤٨)

God never forgives those guilty of polytheism though He may forgive other sins to whom He pleases. Those who commit polytheism devise a heinous sin. (4:48)

إِنَّهُ مَنْ يُشْرِكْ بِاللَّهِ فَقَدْ حَرَّمَ اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ الْجَنَّةَ وَمَأْوَاهُ النَّارُ وَمَا لِلظَّالِمِينَ مِنْ أَنصَارٍ (٥ :٧٢)

God has absolutely forbidden Paradise to the person who is guilty of polytheism. Fire will be his abode. For the wrong-doers, there will be no help. (5:72)

For similar reasons, in the Judaic law, perpetrators of polytheism were to be punished with death in this world:

If a man or woman living among you in one of the towns the Lord gives you is found doing evil in the eyes of the Lord your God in violation of his covenant, and contrary to my command has worshipped other gods, bowing down to them or to the sun or the moon or the stars of the sky, and this has been brought to your attention, then you must investigate it thoroughly. If it is true and it has been proved that this detestable thing has been done in Israel, take the man or woman who has done this evil deed to your city gate and stone that person to death. (Deuteronomy 17:2-5)

Consequently, the Israelites were told that they should put to death all the polytheist nations and not to spare them in any way:

When the Lord your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you many nations – the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites, seven nations larger and stronger than you – and when the Lord your God has delivered them over to you and you have defeated them, then you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons, for they will turn your sons away from following me to serve other gods, and the Lord’s anger will burn against you and will quickly destroy you. This is what you are to do to them: Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones, cut down their Asherah poles and burn their idols in the fire. (Deuteronomy 7:1-5)

The Old Testament also mentions that there were certain nations that were to be spared if they were prepared to live a life of subjugation. In the light of the Qur’ān, it can be adduced that such nations were those who did not subscribe to polytheism. They were not put to death and were given the option to live if they accepted the supremacy of the Mosaic law:

When you march up to attack a city, make its people an offer of peace. If they accept and open their gates, all the people in it shall be subject to forced labour and shall work for you. If they refuse to make peace and they engage you in battle, lay siege to that city. When the Lord your God delivers it into your hand, put to the sword all the men in it. As for the women, and children, the livestock and everything else in the city you may take these as plunder for yourselves. And you may use the plunder the Lord your God gives you from your enemies. This is how you are to treat all the cities that are at a distance from you and do not belong to the nations nearby. (Deuteronomy, 20:10-15)

Consequently, the People of the Book (the Israelites) were not wiped out as a nation because, being the People of the Book, they were basically adherents to monotheism. Their humiliation took the form of constant subjugation to the followers of Jesus (sws) till the day of Judgement as referred to by the following verse:

إِذْ قَالَ اللَّهُ يَاعِيسَى إِنِّي مُتَوَفِّيكَ وَرَافِعُكَ إِلَيَّ وَمُطَهِّرُكَ مِنْ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا وَجَاعِلُ الَّذِينَ اتَّبَعُوكَ فَوْقَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا إِلَى يَوْمِ الْقِيَامَةِ (٣: ٥٥)

Remember when God said: ‘O Jesus! I will give death to you and raise you to Myself and cleanse you from those who have denied; I will make those who follow you superior to those who reject faith till the Day of Resurrection. (3:55)

Here one might ask: Why were the People of the Book in particular the Christians regarded to be monotheists when they ascribed to trinity — which apparently is a polytheistic doctrine? The answer to this question is that Christians are basically followers of monotheism. The Bible is very explicit about it:

The most important one, answered Jesus, is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one’. (Mark, 12:29)

Christians never admit to polytheism, though they are involved in certain polytheistic practices. A person becomes a polytheist when he openly admits that he is a polytheist. A person who claims to be a monotheist in spite of being involved in polytheistic practices, cannot be regarded as a polytheist. The reason is that a person might be doing something wrong without realizing that what he is doing; all Christians whether of today or from the period of Jesus (sws) never admit to polytheism; trinity to them is in accordance with monotheism. Of course Muslims do not agree with them but unless they claim polytheism, it can only be said that in spite of claiming to be monotheists they are involved in polytheism. Their case is the case of a Muslim who goes to the grave of a saint to ask him to grant a wish; we will not call such a Muslim a polytheist; we shall tell him that what he is doing is something which is against monotheism to which he himself strongly claims adherence. Similarly, we will not call Christians polytheists but we will keep telling them that what they are doing is not in accordance with monotheism.

It is precisely for this reason that the Qur’ān never called the People of the Book as polytheists though they subscribed to certain blatant forms of polytheism. The Qur’ān only called the Ismaelites as polytheists because they admittedly subscribed and testified to the creed of polytheism. They strongly advocated that polytheism was the very religion the Almighty had revealed and claimed that they were strong adherents to this religion. Because of this very reason, they were called the Mushrikūn (the adherents to the creed of shirk) by the Qur’ān.

2. The Era of Muhammad (sws)

We shall now examine the details of the punishment that the Almighty administered to the Kuffār in the era of Muhammad (sws) in the overall perspective of the various phases of his preaching mission.

i. The Propagation Phase

In the fortieth year of his life, Muhammad (sws) was summoned by the Almighty to serve Him. Makkah at the time was the social and cultural centre of Arabia. It was its central city. So, in accordance with the Almighty’s established practice of sending a Messenger to the central city of a land, Muhammad (sws) was called upon to begin his endeavour in this city:

وَكَذَلِكَ أَوْحَيْنَا إِلَيْكَ قُرْآنًا عَرَبِيًّا لِتُنْذِرَ أُمَّ الْقُرَى وَمَنْ حَوْلَهَا وَتُنْذِرَ يَوْمَ الْجَمْعِ لَا رَيْبَ فِيهِ فَرِيقٌ فِي الْجَنَّةِ وَفَرِيقٌ فِي السَّعِيرِ (٤٢ :٧)

Thus have We sent by inspiration to you an Arabic Qur’ān that you may warn the Mother of Cities and all around her; – and warn [them] of the Day of Assembly of which there is no doubt [when] some will be in the Garden, and some in the Blazing Fire. (42:7)

In Makkah, where Muhammad (sws) spent about thirteen years of his preaching endeavour, his addressees were basically the Idolaters – the descendants of the Prophet’s great ancestor: the Prophet Ismā’īl (sws). However, the People of the Book (the Jews and the Christians) were also addressed at various instances. Besides these two distinct pockets of opponents, there were the Munāfiqūn (the Hypocrites) of whom only a few were in Makkah and who emerged as a sizeable faction in Madīnah as the Islamic message started to gain momentum.

Muhammad (sws) bore witness to the basic truths before all these three groups and refuted their evil beliefs. As pointed out earlier, in the terminology of the Qur’ān, this is called Shahādah. He revived various Abrahamic practices and rituals, cleansing them of various interpolations added by the polytheists, and delineating the basic truths of monotheism and accountability in the Hereafter on the basis of the Sharī’ah brought by him.

The real debate with the Idolaters concerned their polytheistic beliefs and religious innovations (Bid’āt). They were repeatedly asked to give up their religion of Idolatry since it had no grounds. It was only the Almighty who could have told them that He had associated with Him certain other deities. Without the sanction of the Almighty, they had no means to know about such details for themselves. Consequently, when they claimed that polytheism was revealed to them by the Almighty Himself, the Qur’ān called this a vicious lie:

إِنْ هِيَ إِلَّا أَسْمَاءٌ سَمَّيْتُمُوهَا أَنْتُمْ وَآبَاؤُكُمْ مَا أَنزَلَ اللَّهُ بِهَا مِنْ سُلْطَانٍ إِنْ يَتَّبِعُونَ إِلَّا الظَّنَّ وَمَا تَهْوَى الْأَنْفُسُ وَلَقَدْ جَاءَهُمْ مِنْ رَبِّهِمْ الْهُدَى (٥٣ :٢٣)

These are nothing but names which you have devised – you and your fathers – for which Allah has sent down no authority [whatsoever]. They follow nothing but conjecture and what their own souls desire! – even though there has already come to them guidance from their Lord! (53:23)

سَنُلْقِي فِي قُلُوبِ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا الرُّعْبَ بِمَا أَشْرَكُوا بِاللَّهِ مَا لَمْ يُنَزِّلْ بِهِ سُلْطَانًا وَمَأْوَاهُمْ النَّارُ وَبِئْسَ مَثْوَى الظَّالِمِينَ (٣ :١٥١)

Soon shall We cast terror into the hearts of those who have denied [the basic truths] because they joined companions with Allah for which He had sent no authority; their abode will be the Fire; and evil is the home of the wrongdoers! (3:151)

It is precisely for this reason that their denial of monotheism amounted to a deliberate rejection of the message of Muhammad (sws), as a result of which they would have to face the punishment of Hell in the Hereafter:

بَلَى قَدْ جَاءَتْكَ آيَاتِي فَكَذَّبْتَ بِهَا وَاسْتَكْبَرْتَ وَكُنْتَ مِنْ الْكَافِرِينَ وَيَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ تَرَى الَّذِينَ كَذَبُوا عَلَى اللَّهِ وُجُوهُهُمْ مُسْوَدَّةٌ أَلَيْسَ فِي جَهَنَّمَ مَثْوًى لِلْمُتَكَبِّرِينَ (٣٩ :٥٩-٦٠)

Nay there came to you My signs and you rejected them and showed haughtiness and as a result became from among the disbelievers. On the Day of Judgement you will see that faces of those who told lies against God will turn black. Is not in Hell an abode for the haughty. (39:59-60)

Similarly, the People of the Book were asked to desist from their attitude of hostility and antagonism and to honour the covenant they had made of professing belief in the final Messenger – someone whose name was mentioned in their very books:

وَأَوْفُوا بِعَهْدِ اللَّهِ إِذَا عَاهَدْتُمْ وَلَا تَنقُضُوا الْأَيْمَانَ بَعْدَ تَوْكِيدِهَا وَقَدْ جَعَلْتُمْ اللَّهَ عَلَيْكُمْ كَفِيلًا إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَعْلَمُ مَا تَفْعَلُونَ وَلَا تَكُونُوا كَالَّتِي نَقَضَتْ غَزْلَهَا مِنْ بَعْدِ قُوَّةٍ أَنكَاثًا تَتَّخِذُونَ أَيْمَانَكُمْ دَخَلًا بَيْنَكُمْ أَنْ تَكُونَ أُمَّةٌ هِيَ أَرْبَى مِنْ أُمَّةٍ إِنَّمَا يَبْلُوكُمْ اللَّهُ بِهِ وَلَيُبَيِّنَنَّ لَكُمْ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ مَا كُنْتُمْ فِيهِ تَخْتَلِفُونَ (١٦ : ٩١-٢)

Fulfill the Covenant of Allah when you have entered into it, and break not your oaths after you have confirmed them: indeed you have made Allah your witness; for Allah knows all that you do. And be not like a woman who breaks into untwisted strands the yarn she has spun after it has become strong. Nor take your oaths to practice deception between yourselves, lest one party should be more numerous than another: for Allah will test you by this; and on the Day of Judgement He will certainly make clear to you [the truth of] that wherein you disagree. (16:91-2)

قَالَ عَذَابِي أُصِيبُ بِهِ مَنْ أَشَاءُ وَرَحْمَتِي وَسِعَتْ كُلَّ شَيْءٍ فَسَأَكْتُبُهَا لِلَّذِينَ يَتَّقُونَ وَيُؤْتُونَ الزَّكَاةَ وَالَّذِينَ هُمْ بِآيَاتِنَا يُؤْمِنُونَ الَّذِينَ يَتَّبِعُونَ الرَّسُولَ النَّبِيَّ الْأُمِّيَّ الَّذِي يَجِدُونَهُ مَكْتُوبًا عِنْدَهُمْ فِي التَّوْرَاةِ وَالْإِنجِيلِ يَأْمُرُهُمْ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَيَنْهَاهُمْ عَنْ الْمُنكَرِ وَيُحِلُّ لَهُمْ الطَّيِّبَاتِ وَيُحَرِّمُ عَلَيْهِمْ الْخَبَائِثَ وَيَضَعُ عَنْهُمْ إِصْرَهُمْ وَالْأَغْلَالَ الَّتِي كَانَتْ عَلَيْهِمْ فَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا بِهِ وَعَزَّرُوهُ وَنَصَرُوهُ وَاتَّبَعُوا النُّورَ الَّذِي أُنزِلَ مَعَهُ أُوْلَئِكَ هُمْ الْمُفْلِحُونَ (٧: ١٥٦-٧)

He [– the Almighty –] said: ‘With My Punishment I visit whom I will; but My Mercy extends to all things. That [mercy] I shall ordain for those who do right, and practice regular charity, and those who believe in Our Signs – Those who follow the Messenger, the unlettered Prophet, whom they find mentioned in their own [Scriptures] in the Torah and in the Injīl – for he commands them what is just and forbids them what is evil; he allows them as lawful what is good [and pure] and prohibits them from what is bad [and impure]; he releases them from their heavy burdens and from the yokes that were upon them. So those who believe in him, honour him, help him, and follow the Light which is sent down with him – it is they who shall prosper. (7:156-7)

Like the Idolaters also, their real crime, according to the Qur’ān, was deliberate denial:

فَلَمَّا جَاءَهُمْ مَا عَرَفُوا كَفَرُوا بِهِ فَلَعْنَةُ اللَّهِ  عَلَى الْكَافِرِين( ٢ :٨٩)

When there came to them that which they recognized, they disbelieved in it. So let the curse of Allah be on the disbelievers. (2:89)

وَدَّ كَثِيرٌ مِنْ أَهْلِ الْكِتَابِ لَوْ يَرُدُّونَكُمْ مِنْ بَعْدِ إِيمَانِكُمْ كُفَّارًا حَسَدًا مِنْ عِنْدِ أَنفُسِهِمْ مِنْ بَعْدِ مَا تَبَيَّنَ لَهُمْ الْحَقُّ (٢ :١٠٩)

Many of the people of the Book wish that if they could turn you away as disbelievers after you have believed out of envy from their own selves even after the truth has become manifest to them. (2:109)

الَّذِينَ آتَيْنَاهُمْ الْكِتَابَ يَعْرِفُونَهُ كَمَا يَعْرِفُونَ أَبْنَاءَهُمْ وَإِنَّ فَرِيقًا مِنْهُمْ لَيَكْتُمُونَ الْحَقَّ وَهُمْ يَعْلَمُونَ (٢: ١٤٦)

Those to whom We have given the Book recognize him [–Muhammad—] as they recognize their sons. But verily, a party of them conceal the truth while they know it. (2:146)e

كَيْفَ يَهْدِي اللَّهُ قَوْمًا كَفَرُوا بَعْدَ إِيمَانِهِمْ وَشَهِدُوا أَنَّ الرَّسُولَ حَقٌّ وَجَاءَهُمْ الْبَيِّنَاتُ وَاللَّهُ لَا يَهْدِي الْقَوْمَ الظَّالِمِينَ (٣ :٨٦)

How shall Allah guide a people who disbelieved after their belief and after they bore witness that the Messenger [Muhammad (sws)] is a truth and after clear proofs had come unto them? And Allah guides not the people who are wrong-doers. (3:86)

Initially, Muhammad (sws) could muster very little support from his tribe in favour of his message. Most people of Makkah rejected his call and only a few youth of the city accepted it. The hostility shown by the chiefs of Makkah was so severe that most people reckoned that it would only be a matter of days before this newly founded faith would reach a disastrous end. Muhammad (sws) and his Companions (rta) were put through severe physical torture and mental affliction. Such was the extent of the persecution suffered by the Prophet (sws) that for many years he had to confine his endeavour to his near relatives. However, after many years of persistent struggle, when it became evident that the people of Makkah were denying the Prophet (sws) due to sheer obstinacy, the Almighty asked him to dissociate himself from these people.

ii. The Acquittal Phase

After thirteen long years of calling people to the truth, the Almighty told Muhammad (sws) that the basic truths had been unveiled to the Idolaters of Makkah. They had knowingly denied these and therefore were now prone to punishment. In the meantime, the city of Madīnah had come under the influence of the Divine message and its chiefs readily accepted Islam. Muhammad (sws) was directed to migrate to Madīnah and leave his people. Sūrah Kāfirūn records this declaration of acquittal in the following words:

قُلْ يَاأَيُّهَا الْكَافِرُونَ لَا أَعْبُدُ مَا تَعْبُدُونَ وَلَا أَنْتُمْ عَابِدُونَ مَا أَعْبُدُ وَلَا أَنَا عَابِدٌ مَا عَبَدتُّمْ وَلَا أَنْتُمْ عَابِدُونَ مَا أَعْبُدُ لَكُمْ دِينُكُمْ وَلِيَ دِينِ (١٠٩ :١-٦)

Declare you [O Prophet!]: O Kuffār! I shall worship not that which you worship. Nor will you ever worship [alone] that which I worship. Nor ever before this was I prepared to worship that which you worshipped. Nor were you ever prepared to worship that which I have been worshipping. [So, now] to you your religion and to me mine. (109:1-6)

This is perhaps the only instance in the Qur’ān in which the disbelievers have been directly addressed in such words11. These words are not meant to condemn or chide them; they actually convey their true behaviour. After thirteen long years of propagation and exhortation, the leaders of the Quraysh had refused the calls of sense and reason. Their denial was based on nothing but stubbornness in spite of the fact that the truth had been revealed to them in its purest form. Consequently, Muhammad (sws) at this stage addressed them by a name which aptly described their deeds, and on divine bidding, departed from them. The last verse of the sūrah, it must be appreciated, is not an expression of tolerance; it expresses renunciation on the part of the Prophet (sws) and a warning to the Kuffār that they must now get ready to face the consequences of their obdurate denial.

As far as the People of the Book were concerned, the migration did not end the propagation phase for them since many of them were based in Madīnah. They were given more time to contemplate the consequences of denial until at a certain point in time in Madīnah, their time for accepting faith expired too. In other words, the Shahādah (bearing witness to the truth) reached its completion for them in the early Madīnan period after which Judgement was pronounced upon them together with the Hypocrites and the Idolaters of Arabia.

iii. The Judgement Phase

Following are the details of the Judgement when it finally took place:

a. The Reward

After Muhammad (sws) migrated to Madīnah, the people of Arabia on whom the truth had already been unveiled were given a further chance to contemplate upon the consequences of their denial. Here in Madīnah, the believers were prepared to launch a final assault on the Kuffār. They were told that their opponents would never be able to triumph over them:

وَلَوْ قَاتَلَكُمْ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا لَوَلَّوْا الْأَدْبَارَ ثُمَّ لَا يَجِدُونَ وَلِيًّا وَلَا نَصِيرًا سُنَّةَ اللَّهِ الَّتِي قَدْ خَلَتْ مِنْ قَبْلُ وَلَنْ تَجِدَ لِسُنَّةِ اللَّهِ تَبْدِيلًا (٤٨ :٢٢-٣)

If the Kuffār should fight you, they would certainly turn their backs; then would they find neither protector nor helper. Such has been the practice approved of God already in the past: no change will you find in the practice approved of God. (48:22-3)

They are given glad tidings of success in the following words:

وَعَدَ اللَّهُ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا مِنْكُمْ وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ لَيَسْتَخْلِفَنَّهُم فِي الْأَرْضِ كَمَا اسْتَخْلَفَ الَّذِينَ مِنْ قَبْلِهِمْ وَلَيُمَكِّنَنَّ لَهُمْ دِينَهُمْ الَّذِي ارْتَضَى لَهُمْ وَلَيُبَدِّلَنَّهُمْ مِنْ بَعْدِ خَوْفِهِمْ أَمْنًا يَعْبُدُونَنِي لَا يُشْرِكُونَ بِي شَيْئًا وَمَنْ كَفَرَ بَعْدَ ذَلِكَ فَأُوْلَئِكَ هُمْ الْفَاسِقُونَ (٥٥:٢٤)

God has promised to those among you who professed belief and did righteous deeds that He will of surety grant you political authority in this land as He granted it to those before them; that He will establish their religion – the one which He has chosen for them; and that He will change [their state] after the fear in which they [lived] to one of security and peace: ‘They will worship Me [alone] and not associate anyone with Me’. If any do reject faith after this, they are rebellious and wicked. (24:55)

The sincere among them who were guilty of some blemishes were forgiven after some punishment:

وَعَلَى الثَّلَاثَةِ الَّذِينَ خُلِّفُوا حَتَّى إِذَا ضَاقَتْ عَلَيْهِمْ الْأَرْضُ بِمَا رَحُبَتْ وَضَاقَتْ عَلَيْهِمْ أَنفُسُهُمْ وَظَنُّوا أَنْ لَا مَلْجَأَ مِنْ اللَّهِ إِلَّا إِلَيْهِ ثُمَّ تَابَ عَلَيْهِمْ لِيَتُوبُوا إِنَّ اللَّهَ هُوَ التَّوَّابُ الرَّحِيمُ (٩ :١١٨)

[He turned in mercy also] to the three whose matter was deferred to such a degree that the earth seemed constrained to them for all its spaciousness, and their souls seemed straitened to them – and they perceived that there is no fleeing from Allah but to Him. Then, He turned to them that they might repent: for Allah is Oft-Returning, Most Merciful. (9:118)

The weak among them were told that if they repented and mended their ways and remained steadfast, then hopefully the Almighty would also forgive them:

وَآخَرُونَ اعْتَرَفُوا بِذُنُوبِهِمْ خَلَطُوا عَمَلًا صَالِحًا وَآخَرَ سَيِّئًا عَسَى اللَّهُ أَنْ يَتُوبَ عَلَيْهِمْ إِنَّ اللَّهَ غَفُورٌ رَحِيمٌ (٩ :١٠٢)

And others who have acknowledged their wrong-doings: they have mixed an act that was good with another that was evil. Perhaps, God will turn unto them [in mercy]: for God is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. (9:102)

b. The Punishment

In the Judgement phase, the humiliation of the Disbelievers took place in two phases. Initially, all active adversaries were put to death whether they belonged to the Idolaters of Arabia or the People of the Book. Some of the Jews killed were only done so after they had broken the pacts which had guaranteed them security and protection. The following verse mentions this first phase:

وَقَاتِلُوهُمْ حَتَّى لَا تَكُونَ فِتْنَةٌ وَيَكُونَ الدِّينُ لِلَّهِ (١٩٢:٢)

Keep fighting against them until persecution does not remain and [in the land of Arabia] Allah’s religion reigns supreme. (2:192)

Though this verse addresses only the Idolaters, its last words ‘and [in the land of Arabia] Allah’s religion reigns supreme’, shows that followers of all other religions were also to be subdued until the religion of Islam reigned supreme in the Arabian peninsula.

In the next phase, when the believers had been prepared for a final onslaught against the Kuffār, who had been given ample time to contemplate on the consequences of their denial, the stage was set to pronounce the final judgement against the addressees of Muhammad (sws). Sūrah Tawbah describes in detail the events which took place in the final phase regarding the three major opponents: the Idolaters, the People of the Book and the Hypocrites. The sūrah is divided into three sections. In the first, the Idolaters of Arabia; in the second, the People of the Book, and, in the third, the Hypocrites are dealt with.

1. For the Idolaters

Initially, the Idolaters were given an ultimatum of four months after which their humiliation would start:

بَرَاءَةٌ مِنْ اللَّهِ وَرَسُولِهِ إِلَى الَّذِينَ عَاهَدتُّمْ مِنْ الْمُشْرِكِينَ فَسِيحُوا فِي الْأَرْضِ أَرْبَعَةَ أَشْهُرٍ وَاعْلَمُوا أَنَّكُمْ غَيْرُ مُعْجِزِي اللَّهِ وَأَنَّ اللَّهَ مُخْزِي الْكَافِرِينَ (٩ :١-٢)

This is a declaration of acquittal from Allah and His Messenger from these Idolaters with whom you had made contracts. So move about in the land  for four months but you should know that you are not beyond the grasp of Allah and Allah shall indeed humiliate those who reject Him. (9:1-2)

Tribes who had honoured their contracts were provided immunity during the period of the contract. However, once the contract period ended, they would also be treated similarly:

إِلَّا الَّذِينَ عَاهَدتُّمْ مِنْ الْمُشْرِكِينَ ثُمَّ لَمْ يَنقُصُوكُمْ شَيْئًا وَلَمْ يُظَاهِرُوا عَلَيْكُمْ أَحَدًا فَأَتِمُّوا إِلَيْهِمْ عَهْدَهُمْ إِلَى مُدَّتِهِمْ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُحِبُّ الْمُتَّقِينَ (٩: ٤)

But this action shall not be taken against those Idolaters with whom you have entered into alliance and who did not breach the contract nor aided anyone against you. So fulfil your engagements with them to the end of their term: for Allah loves the pious. (9:4)

Later, this announcement was repeated for those people among these Idolaters who had not accepted faith until the day of Hajj-i-Akbar (9th Hijra). They were given a final extension by a proclamation made in the field of ‘Arafāt on that day. According to the proclamation, this final extension would end with the last day of the month of Muharram. Before this period, they had to accept faith and demonstrate this acceptance by offering prayers and paying Zakāh; otherwise they would face execution at the end of that period. The Qur’ān says:

فَإِذَا انسَلَخَ الْأَشْهُرُ الْحُرُمُ فَاقْتُلُوا الْمُشْرِكِينَ حَيْثُ وَجَدْتُمُوهُمْ وَخُذُوهُمْ وَاحْصُرُوهُمْ وَاقْعُدُوا لَهُمْ كُلَّ مَرْصَدٍ فَإِنْ تَابُوا وَأَقَامُوا الصَّلَاةَ وَآتَوُا الزَّكَاةَ فَخَلُّوا سَبِيلَهُمْ إِنَّ اللَّهَ غَفُورٌ رَحِيمٌ (٩ :٥)

When the forbidden months are over, slay the Idolaters wherever you find them. Seize them, surround them and everywhere lie in ambush for them. But if they repent from their wrong beliefs and establish the prayer and pay Zakāh, then spare their lives. God is Oft-Forgiving and Ever Merciful. (9:5)

However, if a person asked for asylum to understand the teachings of Islam, he was to be given this asylum and no action was to be taken against him until this period was over.

وَإِنْ أَحَدٌ مِنْ الْمُشْرِكِينَ اسْتَجَارَكَ فَأَجِرْهُ حَتَّى يَسْمَعَ كَلَامَ اللَّهِ ثُمَّ أَبْلِغْهُ مَأْمَنَهُ ذَلِكَ بِأَنَّهُمْ قَوْمٌ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ (٩ :٦)

If anyone among the Idolaters asks you for asylum, grant it to him so that he may hear the Word of Allah and then escort him to where he can be secure. That is because they are men without knowledge. (9:6)

2. For the People of the Book

After the Idolaters, the fate of the People of the Book is stated in Sūrah Tawbah. Since it had become evident that their denial too was based on sheer obstinacy, Muslims were asked to fight them into subjugation unless they accepted the superiority of the Muslims by paying Jizyah:

قَاتِلُوا الَّذِينَ لَا يُؤْمِنُونَ بِاللَّهِ وَلَا بِالْيَوْمِ الْآخِرِ وَلَا يُحَرِّمُونَ مَا حَرَّمَ اللَّهُ وَرَسُولُهُ وَلَا يَدِينُونَ دِينَ الْحَقِّ مِنْ الَّذِينَ أُوتُوا الْكِتَابَ حَتَّى يُعْطُوا الْجِزْيَةَ عَنْ يَدٍ وَهُمْ صَاغِرُونَ (٩: ٢٩)

Fight those who believe not in Allah or the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which has been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the Religion of Truth, from among the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizyah with willing submission and are subdued. (9:29)

A final charge sheet of their crimes was presented to them in the following words:

وَقَالَتْ الْيَهُودُ عُزَيْرٌ ابْنُ اللَّهِ وَقَالَتْ النَّصَارَى الْمَسِيحُ ابْنُ اللَّهِ ذَلِكَ قَوْلُهُمْ بِأَفْوَاهِهِمْ يُضَاهِئُونَ قَوْلَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا مِنْ قَبْلُ قَاتَلَهُمْ اللَّهُ أَنَّى يُؤْفَكُونَ اتَّخَذُوا أَحْبَارَهُمْ وَرُهْبَانَهُمْ أَرْبَابًا مِنْ دُونِ اللَّهِ وَالْمَسِيحَ ابْنَ مَرْيَمَ وَمَا أُمِرُوا إِلَّا لِيَعْبُدُوا إِلَهًا وَاحِدًا لَا إِلَهَ إِلَّا هُوَ سُبْحَانَهُ عَمَّا يُشْرِكُونَ  (٩ :٣٠-١)

The Jews [of Arabia] call ‘Uzayr the son of God, and the Christians call Christ the son of God. That is a saying from their mouth; [In this] they but imitate what the Disbelievers of old used to say. Allah’s curse be on them: how they are deluded away from the Truth. They take their priests and their anchorites to be their lords in derogation of Allah, and [they take as their Lord] Christ, the son of Mary; yet they were commanded to worship but One God: there is no god but He. Praise and glory to Him: [far is He] from having the partners they associate [with Him]. (9:30-1)

It has been shown in the previous sections that the difference in punishment between the Idolaters and the People of the Book seems to be based on the fact that while the former ascribed to polytheism, the latter were basically monotheists.

3. For the Hypocrites

In the third section of Sūrah Tawbah, the Hypocrites are taken to task and told that if they do not desist from this behaviour, they would meet their fate also:

يَحْلِفُونَ بِاللَّهِ مَا قَالُوا وَلَقَدْ قَالُوا كَلِمَةَ الْكُفْرِ وَكَفَرُوا بَعْدَ إِسْلَامِهِمْ وَهَمُّوا بِمَا لَمْ يَنَالُوا وَمَا نَقَمُوا إِلَّا أَنْ أَغْنَاهُمْ اللَّهُ وَرَسُولُهُ مِنْ فَضْلِهِ فَإِنْ يَتُوبُوا يَكُ خَيْرًا لَهُمْ وَإِنْ يَتَوَلَّوْا يُعَذِّبْهُمْ اللَّهُ عَذَابًا أَلِيمًا فِي الدُّنْيَا وَالْآخِرَةِ وَمَا لَهُمْ فِي الْأَرْضِ مِنْ وَلِيٍّ وَلَا نَصِيرٍ (٩ :٧٤)

They swear by Allah that they said nothing [evil], but indeed they uttered blasphemy, and they did it after accepting Islam; and they meditated a plot which they were unable to carry out: this revenge of theirs was only because of the blessings with which Allah and His Messenger had enriched the Muslims. If they repent, it will be best for them; but if they turn back [to their evil ways], Allah will punish them with a grievous penalty in this life and in the Hereafter: they shall have none on earth to protect or help them. (9:74)

وَمِمَّنْ حَوْلَكُمْ مِنْ الْأَعْرَابِ مُنَافِقُونَ وَمِنْ أَهْلِ الْمَدِينَةِ مَرَدُوا عَلَى النِّفَاقِ لَا تَعْلَمُهُمْ نَحْنُ نَعْلَمُهُمْ سَنُعَذِّبُهُمْ مَرَّتَيْنِ ثُمَّ يُرَدُّونَ إِلَى عَذَابٍ عَظِيمٍ (٩ :١٠١)

There are Hypocrites among the desert Arabs round you as well as among the Madīnah folk: they are obstinate in hypocrisy: you do not know them: We know them: twice shall We punish them: and in addition shall they be sent to a grievous penalty. (9:101)

I now conclude this section by presenting Ghamidi’s thesis12 regarding the continuation of Muhammad’s (sws) mission by his immediate Companions (rta) and why this mission was divinely terminated with the departure of these immediate Companions (rta). Muhammad (sws) directly bore witness to the truth before his Companions (rta) as a group. Moral concepts were personified in these Companions (rta) in the ultimate degree. They were a group of noble souls who graced this world and became embodiments of moral ideals in their collective capacity. They became the representatives of the

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Appendix A: The Preaching Mission of Noah (sws)

Appendixes, Shehzad Saleem

The various stages of the Prophet Noah’s preaching mission are very compactly set forth in a brief sūrah of the Qur’ān: Sūrah Nūh. A short analysis of it follows:

a. The Propagation Phase

Noah (sws) began his preaching by warning his nation about the basic truths. The underlined words in clear simple terms state the three-point agenda which formed the crux of Noah’s message. These three points are, in fact, the basis of propagation and preaching of all the Prophets of Allah. Noah (sws) explicitly told his nation that they would be given a certain amount of time to mend their ways. If they do not do so, they would be destroyed:

إِنَّا أَرْسَلْنَا نُوحًا إِلَى قَوْمِهِ أَنْ أَنذِرْ قَوْمَكَ مِنْ قَبْلِ أَنْ يَأْتِيَهُمْ عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ قَالَ يَاقَوْمِ إِنِّي لَكُمْ نَذِيرٌ مُبِينٌ أَنْ اعْبُدُوا اللَّهَ وَاتَّقُوهُ وَأَطِيْعُوْنِ يَغْفِرْ لَكُمْ مِنْ ذُنُوبِكُمْ وَيُؤَخِّرْكُمْ إِلَى أَجَلٍ مُسَمًّى إِنَّ أَجَلَ اللَّهِ إِذَا جَاءَ لَا يُؤَخَّرُ لَوْ كُنتُمْ تَعْلَمُونَ (٧١ :١-٤)

[O Prophet! just as We have sent forth you], We had sent forth Noah as a Rasūl to his people [with the directive]: ‘Warn your people before there comes to them a grievous penalty’. He said: ‘O my People! I am to you a warner, clear and open. [I call upon you] to serve Allah and remain within the limits set by him and obey me. [I inform you that as a result of this] the Almighty shall forgive your [previous] sins, and shall give you respite till an appointed time. Verily, the time appointed by Allah, when it comes, cannot be put off. Would that you understood this!’ (71:1-4)

The Prophets of Allah invest all their time and effort in trying to warn their people of the punishment which they would encounter if they do not mend their ways. In this regard, the Prophet Noah (sws) had the distinction of warning his people for an extremely long period: almost a millennium. His earnest calls should have melted their hearts and stirred their souls had they responded properly. However, the more he called them, the more they ran away from him. The following verses portray the reaction of the leaders of Noah’s people and spells out the basic reason for their denial: pride and arrogance:

قَالَ رَبِّ إِنِّي دَعَوْتُ قَوْمِي لَيْلًا وَنَهَارًا فَلَمْ يَزِدْهُمْ دُعَائِي إِلَّا فِرَارًا وَإِنِّي كُلَّمَا دَعَوْتُهُمْ لِتَغْفِرَ لَهُمْ جَعَلُوا أَصَابِعَهُمْ فِي آذَانِهِمْ وَاسْتَغْشَوْا ثِيَابَهُمْ وَأَصَرُّوا وَاسْتَكْبَرُوا اسْتِكْبَارًا  (٧١ :٥-٧)

[He kept on calling them to this message but they did not pay any heed until at last] he said: ‘O Lord! day and night I have called my people but my calls have only added to their aversion. And whenever I called upon them [to show repentance] so that You [O Lord!] may forgive them, they thrust their fingers in their ears and drew their cloaks over them and persisted in their denial and bore themselves with insolent pride’. (71:5-7)

The sūrah goes on to show that after sometime Noah (sws), seeing the denial of his people, augmented his crusade and launched an extensive effort to beseech his nation: for a true preacher does not get frustrated at the obstinacy of his people; in fact the more they evade his calls the more he increases his pitch and the more hostility they show to him the more gracious he becomes:

ثُمَّ إِنِّي دَعَوْتُهُمْ جِهَارًا ثُمَّ إِنِّي أَعْلَنتُ لَهُمْ وَأَسْرَرْتُ لَهُمْ إِسْرَارًا فَقُلْتُ اسْتَغْفِرُوا رَبَّكُمْ إِنَّهُ كَانَ غَفَّارًا يُرْسِلْ السَّمَاءَ عَلَيْكُمْ مِدْرَارًا وَيُمْدِدْكُمْ بِأَمْوَالٍ وَبَنِينَ وَيَجْعَلْ لَكُمْ جَنَّاتٍ وَيَجْعَلْ لَكُمْ أَنْهَارًا (٧١ :٨-١٢)

Then I openly called them and then appealed to them in public and beseeched them in private: ‘Seek forgiveness from your Lord’ I said. ‘Indeed, He is ever Forgiving. [As a consequence] He shall send down on you abundant rain from the heavens and shall strengthen you with wealth and sons and shall make for you gardens and shall bring forth for you springs of water’. (71:8-12)

Once the truth had been unveiled to his addressees, they were scolded and reprimanded that their fate is at hand. It can be seen from the following verses that the earnest pleadings of Noah (sws) have given way to stern words of rebuke. A nation is often misled by its wealth and riches in the time of respite allotted to it by the Almighty according to His laws. They consider this period of reprieve as eternal and often cite it as a testimony of their own rectitude. The people of Noah (sws) too had become deeply engrossed in their misdeeds. The sūrah prods them that they must not misunderstand the purpose of the freedom given to them by Allah’s majesty and grace; they must be mindful of the precious time they are losing and if they continue to be indifferent, the Almighty shall decide their fate once and for all. The verses state the reason why must these people, who consider the Day of Judgement as something unlikely, remain mindful of His grace and majesty mentioned in the previous verse: if the Almighty has shown such a profound display of His Power and Grandeur in creating man, He can easily create him a second time:

مَا لَكُمْ لَا تَرْجُونَ لِلَّهِ وَقَارًا وَقَدْ خَلَقَكُمْ أَطْوَارًا أَلَمْ تَرَوْا كَيْفَ خَلَقَ اللَّهُ سَبْعَ سَمَاوَاتٍ طِبَاقًا وَجَعَلَ الْقَمَرَ فِيهِنَّ نُورًا وَجَعَلَ الشَّمْسَ سِرَاجًا وَاللَّهُ أَنْبَتَكُمْ مِنْ الْأَرْضِ نَبَاتًا ثُمَّ يُعِيدُكُمْ فِيهَا وَيُخْرِجُكُمْ إِخْرَاجًا وَاللَّهُ جَعَلَ لَكُمْ الْأَرْضَ بِسَاطًا لِتَسْلُكُوا مِنْهَا سُبُلًا فِجَاجًا (٧١ :١٣-٢٠)

What has come upon you that you do not fear the Majesty of your Lord, for He has made you in gradual stages in various moulds. [We said]: ‘See you not how God has made seven heavens one above the other? And made the moon a light therein and the sun a lamp? And Allah has grown you from the earth in such an elaborate way and to the earth He will return you and then He will suddenly bring you forth from it without any effort. And Allah has spread out the earth for you as a spreading that you may walk in its spacious passes [that lie between the mountains]. (71:13-20)

b. The Acquittal Phase

As soon as Noah’s propagation mission reached its culmination, he announced his acquittal from his people. He dissociated himself from them so that they could be punished:

قَالَ نُوحٌ رَبِّ إِنَّهُمْ عَصَوْنِي وَاتَّبَعُوا مَنْ لَمْ يَزِدْهُ مَالُهُ وَوَلَدُهُ إِلَّا خَسَارًا وَمَكَرُوا مَكْرًا كُبَّارًا وَقَالُوا لَا تَذَرُنَّ آلِهَتَكُمْ وَلَا تَذَرُنَّ وَدًّا وَلَا سُوَاعًا وَلَا يَغُوثَ وَيَعُوقَ وَنَسْرًا وَقَدْ أَضَلُّوا كَثِيرًا وَلَا تَزِدْ الظَّالِمِينَ إِلَّا ضَلَالًا (٧١ :١٥-٢٤)

Noah said: ‘O Lord! they have disobeyed me and followed those [leaders of theirs] whose wealth and children only added to their ruin and they contrived great schemes and said: “Abandon not these Gods of yours whatsoever and abandon not [this] Wadd nor Suwā’; and neither Yagūth nor Ya’ūq nor Nasr.” And [in this manner] they misled many. And [now, O Lord!] only increase these wrong-doers in further error’. (71:15-24)

c. The Judgement Phase

In the final phase, his nation’s fate was decided and they were wiped out:

مِمَّا خَطِيئَاتِهِمْ أُغْرِقُوا فَأُدْخِلُوا نَارًا فَلَمْ يَجِدُوا لَهُمْ مِنْ دُونِ اللَّهِ أَنْصَارًا (٧١ :٢٥)

And because of their misdeeds they were drowned and then were cast into a great Fire. Then they found none to help them against Allah.  (71:25)

The verses also refer to the punishment of the Hereafter encountered by them wherein they will be cast in Hell. The punishment of the next world has been stated in the past tense to show its certainty.

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Appendix B: Fate of some Nations who denied their Messengers

Appendixes, Shehzad Saleem

Sūrah Qamar depicts in the following words the fate of some nations who deliberately rejected their Messengers:

كَذَّبَتْ قَبْلَهُمْ قَوْمُ نُوحٍ فَكَذَّبُوا عَبْدَنَا وَقَالُوا مَجْنُونٌ وَازْدُجِرَ فَدَعَا رَبَّهُ أَنِّي مَغْلُوبٌ فَانْتَصِرْ فَفَتَحْنَا أَبْوَابَ السَّمَاءِ بِمَاءٍ مُنْهَمِرٍ وَفَجَّرْنَا الْأَرْضَ عُيُونًا فَالْتَقَى الْمَاءُ عَلَى أَمْرٍ قَدْ قُدِرَ وَحَمَلْنَاهُ عَلَى ذَاتِ أَلْوَاحٍ وَدُسُرٍ تَجْرِي بِأَعْيُنِنَا جَزَاءً لِمَنْ كَانَ كُفِرَ وَلَقَدْ تَرَكْنَاهَا آيَةً فَهَلْ مِنْ مُدَّكِرٍ فَكَيْفَ كَانَ عَذَابِي وَنُذُرِ وَلَقَدْ يَسَّرْنَا الْقُرْآنَ لِلذِّكْرِ فَهَلْ مِنْ مُدَّكِرٍ (٥٤ :٩-١٧)

[Similarly], before them the folks of Noah [rejected their Prophet] by declaring Our servant to be a liar and said that he was a mad man, and he was badly scolded [by them]. At last he cried unto his Lord saying: I am vanquished, Take revenge from them. So We opened the gates of heaven with water pouring forth, and caused the earth to burst with gushing springs. The waters met at the point decreed and We carried him [—Our servant Noah] on a vessel made of planks and nails, which sailed under Our protection: a recompense for him who had been snubbed. And We made this tale a sign [for those who would learn a lesson from it]. So is there anyone who would take heed [from this]! [You heard this tale!]. Tell Me how [dreadful] was My punishment, how [stern] was My warning? [Will you also receive admonition like this?]. And, [indeed], We have made the Qur’ān very appropriate for admonition. Is there any who shall take heed?!! (54:9-17)

كَذَّبَتْ عَادٌ فَكَيْفَ كَانَ عَذَابِي وَنُذُرِ إِنَّا أَرْسَلْنَا عَلَيْهِمْ رِيحًا صَرْصَرًا فِي يَوْمِ نَحْسٍ مُسْتَمِرٍّ تَنزِعُ النَّاسَ كَأَنَّهُمْ أَعْجَازُ نَخْلٍ مُنْقَعِرٍ فَكَيْفَ كَانَ عَذَابِي وَنُذُرِ وَلَقَدْ يَسَّرْنَا الْقُرْآنَ لِلذِّكْرِ فَهَلْ مِنْ مُدَّكِرٍ (٥٤ :١٨-٢٢)

[Similarly], the people of Ād rejected the warnings. Then observe how dreadful was My punishment and how My promised doom [got hold of them]! On a day of unremitting woe, We had let loose on them a howling wind which plucked out the people [of A^d from their places] as if they were uprooted trunks of palm-trees. So tell Me how [dreadful] was My punishment and how [stern] was My warning. [Will you also receive admonition like this?]. And We have made the Qur’ān very appropriate for admonition. Is there anyone who shall take heed?!! (54:18-22)

كَذَّبَتْ ثَمُودُ بِالنُّذُرِ فَقَالُوا أَبَشَرًا مِنَّا وَاحِدًا نَتَّبِعُهُ إِنَّا إِذًا لَفِي ضَلَالٍ وَسُعُرٍ أَؤُلْقِيَ الذِّكْرُ عَلَيْهِ مِنْ بَيْنِنَا بَلْ هُوَ كَذَّابٌ أَشِرٌ سَيَعْلَمُونَ غَدًا مَنْ الْكَذَّابُ الْأَشِرُ إِنَّا مُرْسِلُو النَّاقَةِ فِتْنَةً لَهُمْ فَارْتَقِبْهُمْ وَاصْطَبِرْ وَنَبِّئْهُمْ أَنَّ الْمَاءَ قِسْمَةٌ بَيْنَهُمْ كُلُّ شِرْبٍ مُحْتَضَرٌ فَنَادَوْا صَاحِبَهُمْ فَتَعَاطَى فَعَقَرَ فَكَيْفَ كَانَ عَذَابِي وَنُذُرِ إِنَّا أَرْسَلْنَا عَلَيْهِمْ صَيْحَةً وَاحِدَةً فَكَانُوا كَهَشِيمِ الْمُحْتَظِرِ وَلَقَدْ يَسَّرْنَا الْقُرْآنَ لِلذِّكْرِ فَهَلْ مِنْ مُدَّكِرٍ (٥٤ :٢٢-٣٢)

The Thamūd also rejected this warning by saying: Are we to follow a person who stands alone amongst us? If we do so, we shall, [in fact], be straying [from the right path] and [would eventually] find ourselves [in the raging fire of] Hell. Did he alone among us receive this Reminder? Nay, he is indeed a liar, a boaster. [We said:] tomorrow they shall know who is the liar and [who is] the boaster. We will be sending a she-camel as a test for them. So wait and see and have patience, and inform them that the water is to be shared between [her and] them. [Now] everyone shall come on his turn. At this, they cried out to their leader; so he came forward and hamstrung her. So observe how My punishment descended upon them and how My promised doom got hold of them. We sent upon them a single shout and they became [crushed powder] like the trampled hedge of a sheep-fold builder. [Will you now also receive admonition like this?]. And We have made the Qur’ān very appropriate for admonition. Is there anyone who shall take heed?!! (54:23-32)

كَذَّبَتْ قَوْمُ لُوطٍ بِالنُّذُرِ إِنَّا أَرْسَلْنَا عَلَيْهِمْ حَاصِبًا إِلَّا آلَ لُوطٍ نَجَّيْنَاهُمْ بِسَحَرٍ نِعْمَةً مِنْ عِنْدِنَاكَذَلِكَ نَجْزِي مَنْ شَكَرَ وَلَقَدْ أَنذَرَهُمْ بَطْشَتَنَا فَتَمَارَوْا بِالنُّذُرِ وَلَقَدْ رَاوَدُوهُ عَنْ ضَيْفِهِ فَطَمَسْنَا أَعْيُنَهُمْ فَذُوقُوا عَذَابِي وَنُذُرِ وَلَقَدْ صَبَّحَهُمْ بُكْرَةً عَذَابٌ مُسْتَقِرٌّ فَذُوقُوا عَذَابِي وَنُذُرِ وَلَقَدْ يَسَّرْنَا الْقُرْآنَ لِلذِّكْرِ فَهَلْ مِنْ مُدَّكِرٍ (٥٤ :٣٣-٤١)

[Similarly,] the people of Lot rejected this warning. [As recompense for this crime], We unleashed on them a stone-charged whirlwind; only the followers of Lot survived, whom, as a special favour, We evacuated [from that place] before the advent of dawn. Thus do We reward every person who is thankful. And, indeed, Lot had warned them of Our punishment, but they only foolishly argued [with him about Our] warnings. And they tempted him to hand over his guests to them [for a wanton purpose]; so We blinded their eyes [and said] taste you My wrath and [the terrible consequences of] My warning. And, indeed, at daybreak, an abiding punishment seized them. [So now] taste My wrath and [the terrible consequences of] My warning. [Will these people also receive admonition after tasting My punishment]! And We have made the Qur’ān very appropriate for admonition. Is there anyone who shall take heed?!! (54:33-41)

وَلَقَدْ جَاءَ آلَ فِرْعَوْنَ النُّذُرُ كَذَّبُوا بِآيَاتِنَا كُلِّهَا فَأَخَذْنَاهُمْ أَخْذَ عَزِيزٍ مُقْتَدِرٍ (٥٤ :٤٢-٣)

And, indeed, to the Pharaoh’s people also came the warnings. But [in a similar manner], they also rejected all Our signs; so We grasped them with the grasp of One Mighty, Powerful. (54:42-3)

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Appendix C: Treatment of Non-Muslim Minorities

Appendixes, Shehzad Saleem

It has been shown that non-Muslim minorities living in an Islamic state must be classified as Mu’āhids (citizens by contract). As far as the attitude of an Islamic state to its non-Muslim minorities is concerned, it needs to be appreciated that all dealings with them should be according to the terms of the treaty concluded with them. Muslims have been bound  by Islam to abide by these terms in all circumstances and to never violate them in the slightest way. Such violations according to Islam are totally forbidden and, in fact, amount to a grave transgression. The Qur’ān says:

وَأَوْفُوا بِالْعَهْدِ إِنَّ الْعَهْدَ كَانَ مَسْئُولًا (١٧ :٣٤)

Keep [your] covenants; because indeed [on the Day of Judgement] you will be held accountable for them. (17:34)

The Prophet (sws) is reported to have said:

أَلَا مَنْ ظَلَمَ مُعَاهِدًا أَوْ انْتَقَصَهُ أَوْ كَلَّفَهُ فَوْقَ طَاقَتِهِ أَوْ أَخَذَ مِنْهُ شَيْئًا بِغَيْرِ طِيبِ نَفْسٍ فَأَنَا حَجِيجُهُ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ (ابو داؤد: رقم ٣٠٥٢)

Beware! I myself shall invoke the justice of the Almighty on the Day of Judgement against the person who oppresses and persecutes a Mu’āhid, or reduces his rights, or burdens him [with responsibilities] he cannot bear, or takes something from him against his will. (Abu Dā’ūd: No. 3052)

In this regard, the Qur’ān has explicitly stated the principle that Muslims while dealing with their enemies must not exceed the limits of justice, not to speak of Mu’āhids who have accepted to live peacefully in an Islamic State:

وَلَا يَجْرِمَنَّكُمْ شَنَآنُ قَوْمٍ عَلَى أَلَّا تَعْدِلُوا اعْدِلُوا هُوَ أَقْرَبُ (٥ :٨)

And let not the enmity of a people turn you away from justice. Deal justly; this is nearer to piety. (5:8)

As far as their rights are concerned, they should be given all the rights that are sanctioned by the norms of justice and fairness for people in a civilized society. For example:

Their life, wealth and honour should be protected by the state such that no one whosoever is able to lay hands on them.

The needy and poor among them should be provided the basic necessities of life.

Their personal matters and religious rituals should be exempted from the law of the state and no interference should be made in their faith and religion.

Their places of worship should be given full protection.

They should be allowed to present their religion to others in a polite manner.

They should be allowed to be elected to public offices except to those which may require Muslims to preserve the religious identity of the state.

In this regard, however, there exists an exception regarding the Arabian peninsula. Pre-Islamic Arabia was conquered and given in the possession of Muhammad (sws) and his Companions (rta) by the Almighty in accordance with His established scheme regarding His Messengers that has been discussed earlier in detail in the main text of this article. It is the Almighty who actually took control of matters and saw to it that the Kuffār be punished through the hands of the believers. The Messengers and their Companions (rta) act as no more than the implementers of His will. So in accordance with this law, specifically meant for the Messengers, Muhammad (sws) and his Companions (rta) were told that they would have to fight the Idolaters of Arabia until the supremacy of Islam was achieved:

وَقَاتِلُوهُمْ حَتَّى لَا تَكُونَ فِتْنَةٌ وَيَكُونَ الدِّينُ كُلُّهُ لِلَّهِ (٨ :٣٩)

And fight them on until there is no more persecution and there prevails the religion of God everywhere [in this land of Arabia]. (8:39)

This Qur’anic directive has been referred to by the Prophet in the following words:

لَا يَجْتَمِعُ دِينَانِ فِي جَزِيرَةِ الْعَرَبِ (مؤطا: رقم ١٦٥١)

No religion other than Islam should reign in Arabia. (Mu’attā: No. 1651)

With the implementation of this divine scheme, Arabia was required to become a symbol of monotheism. Here every trace of polytheism was to be uprooted. Therefore, all idols were destroyed. Consequently, in Arabia no non-Muslim was and is allowed to build places of worship to practice polytheism.

The directive is not related to other countries and territories in which non-Muslims can live as permanent citizens and build places of worship. So, we find the Companions (rta) of the Prophet (sws) giving full religious freedom to their subjects in conquered areas outside Arabia.

All non-Muslims who come to Arabia would be treated as its guests and temporary residents and would not be given its full citizenship for reasons mentioned above.

An issue that is linked with non-Muslim occupation in Holy lands is their visiting the Baytullāh.

On the basis of the following verse, some scholars1 opine that non-Muslims cannot enter Muslim places of worship, in particular the Baytullāh:

يأَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ إِنَّمَا الْمُشْرِكُونَ نَجَسٌ فَلاَ يَقْرَبُواْ الْمَسْجِدَ الْحَرَامَ بَعْدَ عَامِهِمْ (٩ :٢٨)

Believers, verily these Idolaters are unclean [of faith]. So let them not after this year of theirs approach the Sacred Mosque. (9:28)

It is evident from this verse that the real reason of this prohibition is polytheism which has been called impure and unclean. Consequently, this prohibition stands analogously extended to people who have adopted polytheism as their religion, for example some sects of Hinduism. It cannot be extended to the adherents of such monotheistic religions as Judaism and Christianity. As has been explained earlier, though the followers of Christianity are involved in polytheistic practices, yet they never condone to polytheism as the real religion. Obviously, there is a world of difference between getting involved in polytheistic practices while considering them to be non- polytheistic and becoming followers of polytheism itself.


1. According to Zamakhasharī, this is the view of Mālik and Shāfi’ī. For details see Zamakhasharī, Kashshāf, vol. 2 (Beirut: Dāru’l-Kitāb al-‘Arabī), p. 261

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