Witness Unto Mankind
Sayyid Abul Al'a Maududi Transl. and edited by Khurram Murad Witness to the Truth
Praise and Salutations
All praise be to God who alone is the Creator, Master and Sovereign of the universe. It is He who rules over it with perfect wisdom, absolute power and infinite mercy. He who has created man, endowed him with knowledge and reason, made him His vicegerent on earth, and has sent His Books and Messengers to guide him.
May God bless all those righteous and noble servants of His who were appointed to teach man how to live as true human beings and who made man aware of the real purpose of his life, and showed him the right way to live in this world. Whatever measure of true guidance, morality, piety, and selflessness that the world possesses today, it owes to the teachings of these servants of God, peace be upon them. This is a debt that can never be sufficiently repaid.
Brothers and friends, we usually divide our meetings into two parts. In one part, we review, among ourselves, our activities and discuss plans for their advancement. The other part we devote to conveying our message to the people of the area where we hold our meeting. We have, thus, asked you to join us in this meeting so that we may explain our message to you.
On the one hand our message is addressed to Muslims, and on the other hand to all those human beings who are outside the fold of Islam. It is unfortunate, however, that I do not see here today people belonging to the second category. Our past mistakes and present errors are responsi- ble for alienating a great many people from us. Therefore, we hardly ever find the opportunity either to draw them near to us or draw near to them, so that we may communicate to them the message sent by God, in whom we all believe, through His Messengers for the guidance of us all. Since we do not have any non-Muslims present amongst us, I shall only concentrate upon that part of our message which is meant for Muslims.
The Purpose and Duty of the Muslim Ummah
Responsibilities and Duties
To the Muslims we have only one very simple thing to say: Understand and fulfil the responsibilities and duties that fall upon you by virtue of your being Muslims. You cannot get away with merely affirming that you are Muslims and that you have accepted God as your only God and Islam as your religion. Rather, as soon as you acknowledge Allah as your only Lord and His guidance as your way of life, you take upon yourselves certain obligations and duties. These obligations you must always remain conscious of, these duties you must always endeavour to discharge. If you evade them, you shall not escape the evil consequences of your conduct in this world or in the Hereafter.
What are these duties? They are not merely confined to the affirmation of faith in Allah, His Angels, His Books, His Messengers, and the Day of Judgement. Nor are they confined to performing the Prayers, observing the Fasts, going on the Pilgrimage, and paying the Alms. Nor are these duties exhausted by observing the injunctions of Islam relating to marriage, divorce and inheritance. Over and above all these duties, there is one which is the most important: that your lives bear witness to the Truth that you have been given by God before all mankind, the Truth which you believe to be true.
The Only Purpose of Existence
The Qur'an clearly states that witnessing to the Truth in a manner that would leave mankind with no justifiable ground to deny it is the only purpose behind constituting you as a distinct Ummah (community), named Muslims.
And thus We have made you a community of the middle way, so that you may be witnesses [to the Truth] before all mankind, and the Messenger may be witness [to it] before you (al-Baqarah 2: 143).
This mission is the sole objective for which your Ummah has been brought into being, it is the raison d'etre of its existence as a society of human beings. Unless you fulfil it you are squandering your life. For this is no ordinary duty; it is a duty enjoined on you by God. It is a Divine command and a Divine call:
O believers, be ever steadfast in standing up, for the sake of God, bearing witness to justice (al-Ma'idah 5: 8) .
It is not a mere trifle but an emphatic and grave mandate, for Allah also says:
And who is a greater wrong-doer than he who suppres- ses a witness entrusted to him by God (al-Baqarah 2: 140).
You have been warned of the consequences of evading this duty. Look at the history of the people of Israel. They too were appointed to stand in the witness-box; but some- times they suppressed the Truth, and sometimes they witnes- sed against it. By their conduct, they, in fact, became witnesses to falsehood rather than witnesses to the Truth. The consequence was that God forsook them and a curse fell upon them.
And so, humiliation and powerlessness afflicted them, and they earned God's anger (al-Baqarah 2: 61).
Witness to the Truth
What does this duty of witness imply? Consider it carefully: You have been given Divine guidance, you have been shown the Truth. You must, therefore, establish by your testimony and witness its authenticity and truthfulness before all mankind. This is a testimony that will make the authenticity and truthfulness of Divine guidance self-evident, for all to see, and a witness that will make it clear and indisputable for all people.
For this very purpose all the Messengers were sent to the world; this was their primary duty. After them, their follow- ers were entrusted with the same duty. And now the Muslim Ummah, as the successor to the Last Prophet, blessings and peace be on him, is charged with this very mission, just as he was charged with it during his lifetime.
Nature and Importance
What is the importance of this witness? You will know its importance only when you understand that man has been made accountable for his conduct and will be rewarded and punished in the Hereafter under the Divine Law which rests entirely on this witness. God is All-wise, All-merciful, and Alljust. His mercy, justice and wisdom are not such that He should punish people for living against His will while they had no knowledge of it, that He should take people to task for deviating from the right path of which they were ignorant, that He should hold people accountable for things of which they were unaware. 
It was as a provision against this that the first man He created was a Messenger, and that after him many more were sent from time to time.  They were all to be witnesses to mankind, to make it understand and remember the will of God. They were all to teach human beings the proper way of conducting their lives, the code of behaviour that they should adopt to win God's favour, the acts that they should perform, the acts that they should avoid, and the things for which they will be brought to account. 
This witness was given by Allah's Messengers so that the people may not be in a position to say to God: How can we be punished for things of which we were not warned? The Qur'an says:
[We sent] all Messengers as heralds of glad tidings and as warners, so that men may not have any argument against God, after [the coming of] these Messengers; God is indeed All-mighty, All-wise (al-Nisa' 4: 165).
In this manner God made His Messengers bear the crucial responsibility for guiding man on His behalf. They were thus charged with a very delicate and grave responsibility: if they bore witness to the Truth properly, the people would be accountable for their own actions, but if they failed in their duty, they themselves would be called to account for their people going astray. In other words, unless the Messengers made people responsible for their conduct by giving them conclusive and indisputable testimony to the Truth, the people would hold the Messengers responsible for their own misdeeds, saying: 'The knowledge that God gave you, that you did not communicate to us; the way of life that He showed you, that you did not show US.'  That is why all the Messengers always remained acutely conscious of the burden of this responsibility, and that is why they endeavoured so hard to bear witness before the people to the Truth entrusted to them. 
Responsibility of the Ummah
All those who were led by the Messengers to the knowledge of the Truth and Divine guidance were formed into a community, an Ummah. Every Ummah was charged with the same mission as the Messengers of witnessing to the Truth. As successors to the Messengers, every Ummah has the same crucial role and responsibility as they had. Thus, if an Ummah properly fulfils its duty of witnessing to the Truth and yet the people do not pay heed, it will be rewarded and the people will be brought to account. However, if the Ummah neglects its duty, or if it gives false witness, it will deserve to be punished more severely than the people. The Ummah shall be accountable not only for its own misdeeds, but also for the misdeeds of those who went astray or turned to error and wickedness because the testimony given to them by the Ummah was misleading or false.
This, brothers, is the nature and logic of that grave and crucial duty which lies upon me, you and all those who consider themselves part of the Muslim Ummah, or those who have become sufficiently aware of God's Book and the guidance brought by His Messengers.
How Should We Witness to the Truth?
Let us now see in what manner we should discharge our duty of witnessing to the Truth. Witnessing is of two types: one, witness by words, or the word-witness; the other, witness by acts and deeds, or the act-witness. 
HOW SHOULD WE WITNESS TO THE TRUTH?
In what way should our words witness to the Truth? Through our speech and writing, we should proclaim and explain to the world the guidance that has come to us through God's Messengers. This, in sum, is the word-witness. Employing all possible methods of education, using all possible means of communication and propagation, master- ing all knowledge provided by the contemporary arts and sciences, we should inform mankind of the way of life that God has laid down for man. The guidance that Islam gives to humanity in thought and belief, in morality and behaviour, in culture and civilization, in economics and business, in jurisprudence and judiciary, in politics and civil administra- tion - that is, in all aspects of inter-human relations - we should clearly and fully expound before mankind. By rational discourse and convincing evidence, we should establish its truth and soundness. By soundly reasoned critique, we should rebut all that is contrary to the guidance given by God.
The task is enormous. Full justice cannot be done to it unless the thought of guiding man to the right path seizes the whole Ummah as completely as it did each Messenger personally. It is essential, too, that this task should become the central objective of all our collective endeavours, that we should commit all our hearts and minds, all of our resources, to this cause. Uppermost in all our actions should be this objective. Under no circumstances should we allow any voice within ourselves to bear witness against the Truth and Divine guidance that we have.
In what way should our acts and deeds witness to the Truth? For this purpose, the guidance that we hold to be true we must put into practice. Our actions should demonstrate the principles we profess to believe in.
Put simply: let our lives speak the truth, and let the world hear it not merely from our lips but also from our deeds; let mankind witness all the blessings that the Divine guidance brings to human life. Let the world taste in our conduct, individual and collective, that sweetness and flavour which only the faith in One God can impart to character and morality. Let the world see what fine examples of humanity are fashioned by Islam, what a just society is established, what a sound social order emerges, what a clean and noble civilization arises, how science, literature, and art flourish and develop on sound lines, what a just economy - compas- sionate and free from conflict - is brought about. Indeed, how every aspect of life is set right, developed and enriched.
We shall not be doing our duty to this task unless our lives, individual and collective, become a living embodiment of Islam: unless our personal characters are a living proof of its truth, our homes are fragrant with its teachings, our businesses and factories are illuminated by its rules and laws, our schools and institutions are shaped by its ideas and norms, and our literature and media reflect its principles. Indeed until our entire national policy and public life make its truth manifest and self-evident.
In short, wherever and whenever any individual or people come in contact with us it is our duty to convince them, by our example, that the principles and teachings which Islam proclaims to be true are indeed true, and that they do improve the quality of human life and raise it to better and higher levels.
The Islamic State
Finally, I should state one more important thing. This witness of ours would not be complete unless we establish a state based on the principles and teachings of Islam. By translating its ideals and practices, its norms and values, its rules and laws, into public policies and programmes, such a state would demonstrate how the Divine guidance leads to equity and justice, reform and upliftment, caring and efficient administration, social welfare, peace and order, high stan- dards of morality in public servants, virtue and righteousness in internal policies, honesty in foreign policies, civilized conduct in war, integrity and loyalty in peace. Such public conduct would be a living testimony for all mankind that Islam is indeed the true guarantor of human well-being, that only following its tenets can ensure the good of mankind.
Only when the Truth is witnessed in this manner, by both words and actions, will the crucial responsibility laid upon the Muslim Ummah be fully discharged. Only then will no ground remain for mankind to deny or turn away from the Divine guidance. Only then, in the Hereafter, will the Muslim Ummah be in a position to take the witness-stand after the Prophet, blessings and peace be on him, and declare that: Whatever truth and guidance we were given by this Prophet, that we conveyed to mankind; those who did not follow it are themselves to blame for going astray, not us.
This is the real meaning and scope of the witness that we as Muslims ought to have been giving to the world, both by our words and our deeds. But now let us turn to the actual state of affairs and examine the witness that we in fact are giving in favour of the Divine guidance.
Where Do we Stand?
First, look at the testimony that is being given by our word-witness. There are few people amongst us who are using their tongues and pens to witness to the truth of Islam. Still fewer in number are those who are doing so in an appropriate and adequate manner. Otherwise, in almost every respect Muslims, on the whole, are giving their witness against Islam and not in its favour as they should.
What is the witness of our landlords? That the Islamic law of inheritance is wrong and that the customs which came down from the pre-Islamic days are correct. What is the witness of our lawyers and judges? That all the laws of Islam are bad laws, and that their very basis - the sovereignty of God - is unacceptable. They tell us that only the man-made laws, which have come to us through the British, are good laws.
What is the witness of our teachers and educational institutions? That in philosophy and science, history and sociology, economics and politics, law and ethics, the only true and valid knowledge and thought is that derived from the Western secular world-view. That in all these disciplines the Islamic approach is not even worthy of consideration. What is the witness of our writers? That their literature has the same message to impart as that of the godless writers of the secular West. They demonstrate that as Muslims they have no distinctive literary approach of their own. What is the witness of our press and media? That the only issues and debates that they consider important and which preoccupy them, and the only methods and standards of communication that they consider fit to employ, are those which bear the hallmark of the non-Muslim media.
What is the witness of our businessmen and industrialists? That the rules laid down by Islam for economic transactions are impracticable, that business can be conducted only by the methods devised by Kafirs.* What is the witness of our leaders and rulers? That they have the same slogans of nationalism and motherland to mobilize people, the same goals to pursue on national levels, the same methods of solving national problems, the same principles of politics and constitution-makingv as are practised by Kafirs. They declare that Islam has no guidance to offer in this respect.
And what is the witness of our masses? They testify that they have nothing to speak about except worldly matters, that they have no such Din which desires to be propagated or which demands that they spend part of their time for this purpose. This, then, is the state of witness being given by our whole Ummah by means of its words. This is the case not only in this country but throughout the whole world.
Now let us turn to our act-witness and look at the witness being given by our actions and deeds. Here our conduct is even more scandalous than that in respect of our witness by words. No doubt there are a few good Muslims whose lives are a true example of Islam. But consider how the over- whelming majority of the Ummah, the society at large, is conducting itself.
What is the witness being given by the life of a typical, ordinary Muslim? That the persons shaped and moulded by Islam are in no way better than, or different from, those prepared by Kufr. If anything, the former are worse than the latter: for instance, it is more likely that a Muslim would speak a lie, that he would betray and breach a trust placed in him, that he would oppress people and do wrong to them, that he would abandon his promise, that he would steal and rob, that he would engage himself in disorderly and violent conduct, that he would indulge in all sorts of indecent acts. Indeed, in respect of all these immoral actions the level of Muslim 'performance' is no less than that of any Kafir people.
What is the witness of our social life? Look at our life-styles, our customs and ceremonies, our festivities, our fairs and religious gatherings, our meetings and processions: in no aspect do we truly represent Islam. Indeed, on the contrary, our social life is a pathetic testimony that the followers of Islam consider the un-Islamic ways to be better and preferable than the Islamic.
Similar is the testimony of our other social institutions and collective pursuits. When we set up educational institutions, we import everything from Kafirs - our knowledge, our educational system, our philosophy, our spirit and objective. When we form parties and associations, we model everything on the patterns set by Kafirs - our ideals and goals, our structures and constitutions, our policies and methods. When we, as a people, launch a struggle, our cause, our slogans and demands, our issues and debates, our programmes and procedures, our resolutions, statements, and speeches, are all true replicas of the practices of Kafir communities and nations.
Things have come to such a pass that even our independent states, where they exist, have borrowed their constitutions, their codes of law, and their guiding policies and principles from Kafirs. In some states, the Islamic law has been reduced to a mere personal law; in some others even this personal law has been altered. An English writer tauntingly remarks:
In view of the many charges levelled by Indians at the British administration, it is important to realize that the British were extraordinarily slow to introduce any innovations in the law . . . [Indeed] as far as Islam is concerned the result of the British connexion with India has been to establish on a firmer basis the Muslim personal and religious law . . . while all the rest of the shari'a has been abolished . . .
On the other hand Albania and Turkey have both become secular states [adopting European penal and civil codes, even altering Muslim penal law] . . . [Thus, it can be said, as Lindsay says, that] 'The Muslim doctrine that legislation is not within the competence of an earthly sovereign was never, indeed, anything more than a pious fiction . . .'
This, then, is the witness being given by the actions of almost all Muslims. This witness, too, goes against Islam. It is not in its favour. Whatever lip-service we might pay to Islam, our public conduct proves that there is no aspect of Islam that we approve of, that we do not consider its laws to be good and conducive to our well-being.
And With What Consequences!
In view of our conduct, we are guilty of giving false witness, of perjury and concealing the Truth. As a consequence, we are facing precisely the same punishment that has been prescribed in the Law of God for such grave and heinous crimes.
What is this law? When a people reject and turn away from God's guidance, when they are guilty of perjury and disloy- alty to their Creator, and when they turn traitors to Him, then God punishes them severely in this world as well as in the world-to-come.  This law was applied to the Children of Israel.  Now it is we, the Muslim Ummah, who stand in the dock. God had no personal vendetta against the Jews that He should have punished only them. Nor does He have any kinship or special relationship with Muslims that He should set us free even though we are now committing the same crime as they did then. 
In This World
The punishment meted out to Muslims for their crimes in this world is there for all to see. Indeed, the extent and pace of our decline has been in true proportion to the extent and pace of our negligence and failure to do our duty to witness to the Truth and our 'progress' in witnessing to falsehood. During the last one hundred years, from Morocco to Indonesia, country after country has been lost by us to alien subjugation; one Muslim people after another have fallen under the yoke of colonial rule and domination. No longer does the word 'Muslim' stand for dignity, no longer does it command respect; rather it has become a mark of degrada- tion, humiliation, gross backwardness, and utter powerless- ness.
How powerless have we become? We have lost all honour and respect in the eyes of the world. In some places, our blood has flowed like water and we have been subjected to large-scale massacres; in other places, we have been driven out of our homes; in others, we have been tortured and persecuted; in still others, we have been reduced to living as serfs. If in some places Muslim states have survived, they have suffered defeat after defeat until they have been reduced to positions of fear and impotency in the face of foreign powers. If only they had witnessed to Islam by their words and deeds, the secular powers would have stood in awe of them.
Why go so far afield? Just look at your situation in India. + Because you evaded your duty of bearing witness to the truth of Islam, indeed because you went further and gave false witness against it both by your words and deeds, the entire country was wrested from your control. First, you were vanquished by the Marathas and Sikhs, and later, servitude to the British rule became your fate. And now still greater calamities stare you in the face.
Today your minority status has become your greatest anxiety; you live in fear of the Hindu majority lest it subjugates you and you meet the same fate as did the untouchables. But, for God's sake, tell me: Could a majority have threatened you if you had only been true witnesses of Islam? Will not this problem of majority and minority vanish within a few years if today your words and actions bear true witnesses to Islam?
In Arabia, an extremely hostile and oppressive majority set out to exterminate an insignificant minority of about one in one hundred thousand. With what result? Within ten years, this minority, by its truthful and trustworthy witness in favour of Islam, turned into a one hundred per cent majority. Later, when these witnesses of Islam emerged from Arabia, within twenty-five years, from Turkistan to Morocco, people after people trusted the probity of their witness and joined them in their faith. Where no one but Zoroastrians, Christians and pagans once lived, now only Muslims live. No intransigence, no chauvinism, no religious bigotry, proved strong enough to resist the living, true witness of the Divine guidance that Muslims gave.
If you are being trampled upon today, if you fear greater catastrophes tomorrow, is this not but the punishment for your false witness and concealment of the Truth?
Punishment in the World-to-Come
This is the punishment you are receiving in this world; but a more severe punishment is likely to be meted out to you in the world-to-come. How can you be absolved of the blame for every evil and every wrong to which man has been subjected only because you failed to do your duty as witnesses of the Truth? Unless you do your duty, whatever oppression and corruption is perpetrated in the world and whatever immorality and wickedness prevails, there is no reason why you should not be held accountable for it. You may not be responsible for originating them yourselves, but you are certainly responsible, because of your false witness, for maintaining and perpetuating them, for their origination by others, and for allowing them to spread.
What is Our Real Problem?
By now, brothers, you must have understood how we, as Muslims, ought to have been living and behaving, and how we in fact are living and behaving. You must also have realized what grave consequences we are suffering because of our conduct. You should, therefore, have no difficulty in seeing that the problems which Muslims consider crucial for their societies and which they are doing their utmost to solve by various devices - some of them invented by them, but mostly copied from others - are not their real problem. The time, energy and resources that they spend on solving these problems are simply being wasted.
For example, we look upon ourselves as a minority engulfed by an overwhelming alien majority, or as a majority deprived of its sovereignty within its own territory, or as a nation subjugated and exploited by a foreign power, or as a people suffering from backwardness and poverty. Then we devote all our efforts to achieving objectives which emanate from these conceptions and images of ourselves. For instance, to objectives such as safeguarding and securing our status in a country as a minority, or to achieving sovereignty within our territorial boundaries, or to winning freedom from foreign domination, or to achieving the same levels of economic progress and development as those of the advanced nations.
These and other similar issues may be the foremost concerns of those who are not Muslims, who do not accept God as their Lord and Guide, and may form the central objects of their endeavours. But for us Muslims they are not the primary problems; we face them only because we have been, and still are, neglecting to do our duty. Had we been true witnesses of Islam, we would not have found ourselves lost in such a dense jungle of complex and inextricable problems. If we now direct all our attention and endeavours to doing our duty instead of dissipating our energies on clearing the woods, they will clear in no time, and not only for ourselves but for all mankind. For, keeping the world clean and improving it is our responsibility; as we have forsaken our appointed duty, the world has become infested with thorny woods. And no wonder that the most thorny part has fallen to our lot.
Unfortunately, our religious and political leaders do not try to understand this simple but crucial reality. Everywhere they continue to convince the Muslims that their problems are the problems of a minority as against a majority, of material progress, of national security, of winning freedom and independence as a nation state. Furthermore, even the solutions that they recommend have been borrowed from non-Muslims. But just as I believe in God, so I believe that you are being misled, and that by following such paths you will never achieve your well-being and destiny.
Our Real Problem
What, then, is our real problem? If I do not tell you that clearly, without any reservation, I shall be doing you a great disservice. To my mind, your destiny, now and ever, depends on one issue only: How do you conduct yourselves in respect of God's guidance that has come to you through His Messenger, blessings and peace be on him?
Because of this guidance you are Muslims. Because of this guidance, whether you like it or not, you have agreed to become ambassadors of Islam to the entire world. Therefore, only if you follow Islam totally and devotedly, if your words and actions bear true witness to its teachings, if your social and public conduct faithfully represents every aspect of Islam, will you rise from glory to glory in this world, and receive highest honours in the world-to-come. Then, in no time, the dark clouds of fear and anxiety, of disgrace and humiliation, of subjugation and slavery will disperse. Then, the truth of your message and the virtue of your character will capture mind after mind and heart after heart. Then, your prestige and reputation, your influence and authority, will hold sway over the world. Hopes of securing justice will be pinned on you, trust will be placed in your integrity and honesty, prospects of virtue will be confided in you, and authority will be accorded to your world.
In contrast, the leaders of secularism will lose all credibility and authority. Their philosophy and world-view, their economic and political ideologies, will prove fake and spurious when confronted by your truth and right conduct. The forces that today belong to the secular camp will, one by one, break away and join the camp of Islam. A time will, then, come when communism will live in fear of its very survival in Moscow itself, when capitalist democracy will shudder at the thought of defending itself even in Washington and New York, when materialist secularism will be unable to find a place even in the universities of London and Paris, when racialism and nationalism will not win even one devotee even among the Brahmans and Germans.
The present era of abject humiliation will, then, become consigned to the pages of history. It will only serve to remind us of the days when the followers of a faith as universal and powerful as Islam were reduced to such stupidity that they trembled in the face of sticks and ropes while they held the staff of Moses under their arm.
This future is yours! But only if you follow Islam sincerely and exclusively and serve as its faithful witnesses. Your present conduct, however, is entirely contrary. You have been blessed with the Divine guidance, but, like a snake guarding treasure, you neither benefit from it yourselves nor allow others to benefit from it. By calling yourselves Muslims, you have assumed for yourselves the position of Islam's representatives, but the combined witness of your words and deeds is being given mostly in favour of Ignorance (Jahillyah), idolatry, materialism, and immorality. You have the Book of God with you, but you have put it on the shelf and, to seek guidance, you turn to all sorts of persons who lead to Kufr, and to sources which lead you astray. You claim to be the servants of the One God, but in fact you are serving every false god, every Satan, and every power in rebellion against God. You have friends and enemies, but it is always your personal, selfish interests that determine your friendship and enmity. In both cases you use Islam as a party to your cause.
Thus, your conduct has, on the one hand, deprived your lives of the blessings that Islam has to offer you, and, on the other, you are alienating mankind rather than attracting it to Islam. If you continue to behave in this manner, you can attain no good, either in this world or in the world-to-come. Its outcome, according to the Law of God, is that miserable situation in which you find yourselves. What the future holds for you may be much worse.
To be truthful, perhaps, if you remove the label of Islam from yourselves and follow Kufr openly and sincerely, then you might at least make as much worldly progress as America, Russia and Britain have made. But, claiming to be Muslims and yet behaving as non-Muslims, closing the door of Divine guidance to mankind by representing Islam falsely before it, is such a heinous crime that it will never allow you to prosper in this world. There is no way you can avert the punishment prescribed by the Qur'an for this crime. Jewish history provides a living proof of this reality. You may turn to secular nationalism as a lesser evil, you may get yourself accepted as a separate nation and achieve whatever Muslim nationalism seeks to achieve. But none of this will help you. There is only one way to ward off the punishment of God. Turn back from your sin, and repent.
by Khurram Murad
1. Law of God for Judgement: The Qur'an has explained in considerable detail the law under which man's accountability on the Day of Judgement depends upon the witness to the Truth rendered by its bearers before him. It is important to understand what the Qur'an says in this regard.
Firstly, why has man been placed on earth? So that he may use his full and enormous potential to conduct himself in that right manner which will fulfil the meaning in his life.
And He it is who has created the heavens and the earth in six days, and His throne was upon the waters, so that He might test you which of you is best in conduct (Hud 11: 7).
He who has created death and life, so that He might test you, which of you is best in conduct (al-Mulk 67: 2).
We have made all that is on earth an adornment for it, and so that we might test which of them is best in conduct (al-Kahf 18: 7).
Secondly, what is the meaning and purpose of man's life? That he lives as his Creator desires him to live: in surrender and worship to Him alone. Not because God in any way needs his worship, but because man needs to worship only his Creator and none else so that his own nature is not perverted and corrupted, and so that he does not live in opposition to its intrinsic character. Also, only by so living, will his earthly life be set on- the right path and will prosper, bringing him peace and happiness (all of which the Qur'an calls falah).
And I have not created Jinn and mankind except to serve and worship Me. I desire of them no provision, neither do I desire that they should feed Me (al-Dhariyat 51: 5S7).
Thirdly, and consequently, man's earthly life must be judged. He must give an account of his conduct, and he must face the consequences of how he lives his life. Obviously, to be judged fairly, this judgement must be made only after his earthly life has come to an end, and only by the One who gave this life, who knows everything, and who is All-powerful and Alljust. Only then can he be judged fairly, and duly rewarded and punished, for everything - from the most hidden innermost thoughts to the consequences of his conduct that extend far and wide, and beyond life for generations to come. The judge, in other words, must be the King and Master of the Day of Judgement.
What, did you think that We created you in mere idle play, and that you would not be returned to Us? But, high exalted is God, the King, the True! There is no god but He, the Lord of the Noble Throne (al-Mu'minun 23: 115-16).
And We have not created the heavens and the earth and all that is between them in mere idle play; We have not created them but with truth [meaning and purpose], but most of them understand it not (al-Dukhan 44: 38-9).
Or, do those who commit evil deeds think that We shall place them on an equal footing with those who believe and do righteous deeds, both in their life and their death? How bad is their judgement! God has created the heavens and the earth with truth [meaning and purpose], so that every human being shall be recompensed for what he has earned, and they shall not be wronged (al-Jathiyah 45: 21-2).
Every human being shall taste death; and you shall surely be paid in full your wages on the Day of Resurrection; whosoever [then] is saved from the Fire and admitted to Paradise, he indeed wins the triumph; worldly life is nothing but enjoyment of delusion (Al 'Imran 3: 185).
And We shall set up just balance-scales on Resurrectlon Day, and no human being shall be wronged anything; even if it be the weight of a mustard-seed, We shall bring it forth, and sufficient are We as reckoners (al-Anbiya' 21: 47).
He knows the [most] stealthy glance, and what the hearts conceal (Ghafir 40: 19).
Fourthly, therefore, man's ultimate destiny lies in the life to come, in the Akhirah. Equally important is the fact that the account of the Akhirah as given in the Qur'an clearly demonstrates, and repeatedly emphasizes, that one will be judged there by due process of justice, fairly and equitably, mercifully and kindly. Also, no one will be wronged or dealt with unjustly even by an atom's weight.
And vie with one another, hastening to forgiveness from your Lord, and to Paradise as vast as the heavens and the earth, which has been prepared for the God-conscious (Al 'Imran 3: 133).
O my people, surely this worldly life is but a brief enjoyment; surely the world to come is the home abiding. [There] whosoever does an evil deed shall be recompensed only with the like of it, but whosoever does righteous deeds - be it man or woman, and is a believer - those shall enter Paradise, therein provided [with blessings] beyond all reckoning (Ghafir 40: 39-40).
Surely God shall not wrong so much as an atoms weight (al-Nisa' 4: 40).
Fifthly, in all fairness, therefore, man must be made aware of how he should live his earthly life. In other words, he should know of his Creator and Lord, of what He desires of him, of how He wants him to worship Him and surrender to Him. Unless man knows all this, he cannot be held fully responsible and accountable if he pursues a wrong way of life. Such knowledge has been given to him in his own nature, in the universe around him, and in the revelations sent through God's Messengers.
And when your Lord brought forth from the Children of Adam, from their loins, their descendants, and made them bear witness about themselves: Am I not your Lord? They said: Yes, we bear witness - lest you say on the Day of Resurrection: We were unaware of this. Or lest you say: Our fathers ascribed partners [to God] aforetime, and we were but their descendants after them. What, wilt Thou then destroy us for the deeds of the vain-doers? (al-A'raf 7: 172-3) .
How many a sign there is in the heavens and on earth which they pass by [unthinkingly], and on which they turn their backs! And most of them do not believe in God, but they ascribe partners [to Him] (Yusuf 12: 105-6).
[And God will say:] O community of jinn and men, did not Messengers come unto you from among you, who conveyed unto you My revelations and warned you of the meeting of this your day? . . . That is because your Lord would not destroy communities unjustly, while their people are ignorant (al-An'am 6: 130-1).
Sixthly, for a number of reasons, all of which it is not possible to discuss here, only God, and no one else, can provide man with the knowledge of the right guidance. Firstly and primarily, because only He can tell how man should relate to Him. Secondly, because only the Creator can tell him how he should relate to himself, to other human beings, and to all other things in the universe. And, finally, because only God can give man a guidance which will be applicable universally, and for all times.
Say: Is there any of those you associate [with God] who guides to the Truth? Say: Only God guides to the Truth. Thus, then, He who guides to the Truth deserves more to be followed or He who cannot guide unless he be guided? What ails you? How judge you? And most of them follow nothing but conjecture, and conjecture can never take the place of truth (Yunus 10: 35-6).
Say: Shall we call, apart from God, on that which neither benefits us nor harms us, and shall we be turned back on our heels after God has guided us aright? - Like one lured to bewilderment on the earth by Satans, and he has friends who call him to guidance: Come to us! Say: God's guidance is the only [true] guidance; and so we have been commanded to surrender to the Lord of all the worlds (al-An'am 6: 71).
This, then, is the Divine law for the judgement of man. Central to this law is that the Truth be witnessed before mankind fully, faithfully, and by all possible means. For without guidance from God, man's earthly life, both individual and collective, will result in misery and suffering. But, more importantly, without that guidance man will never be in a position to make his ultimate destiny glorious.*
2. God's promise to guide: Adam, according to the Qur'an, is neither a mythical figure nor merely a symbol of the human race. He is mentioned, as a Messenger, along with Noah and Abraham.
God chose Adam, and Noah, and the House of Abraham and the House of Imran above all mankind, offspring of one another (Al 'Imran 3: 33).
He was given knowledge and guidance (2: 31-5); when he erred and his weaknesses became known to him, God turned towards him in mercy, exhalted him, guided him and promised him and his progeny continuing guidance (20: 115-27, 2: 3S9).
Adam disobeyed his Lord, and so he erred. Thereafter his Lord chose him, and so He turned towards him, and He guided him. He said: Get you down, both of you, from here, each of you an enemy to each. Nonetheless, there shall most certainly come unto you guidance from Me; and he who follows My guidance shall not go astray, neither shall he be unprosperous. But whosoever turns away from My remem- brance, his shall be a life of narrow scope; and on the Resurrection Day, We shall raise him blind. He shall say: O my Lord, why has Thou raised me blind, whereas I was given sight? God shall say: Thus it is. Our revelations came unto you and you did forget them; and so today you are forgotten (Ta Ha 20: 121-6).
3. Messengers and their mission: It was in fulfilment of this promise to mankind that, firstly, God sent His Messengers with His guidance, with the Truth, to every people - some of them the Qur'an has named, some it has not.
We have sent you [O Prophet] with the Truth, as a bearer of glad tidings and a warner; not a community there is, but there has passed away in it a warner (al-Fatir 35: 24).
We have revealed to you [O Prophet] as We revealed to Noah and the Prophets after him, as We revealed to Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and their descendants, including Jesus and Job and Jonah and Aaron and Solomon, and as We gave to David Psalms; and Messengers We have mentioned to you before, and Messengers We have not mentioned to you; and as God spoke His word unto Moses. Messengers [We sent] as heralds of glad tidings and as warners, so that mankind might have no excuse before God after [the coming of] the Messengers; and God is All-mighty, All-wise (al-Nisa' 4: 163-5).
Secondly, He charged all of them with this mission and duty: to communicate the Truth, to invite people to worship the One God alone and surrender to Him as their only Lord - by word and example. In other words, to witness to the Truth before men and women to whom they were sent, so that they could have no plea to make before God, so that they could be questioned as to how they lived their lives, so that those who lived by the Truth could be rewarded, and those who did not could be punished.
And We never sent, before you, any Messenger except that We revealed to him: There is no god but I; so serve and worship only Me (al-Anbiya' 21: 25).
And this was Our argument, which We gave to Abraham as against his people. We raise up in degrees whom We will; surely your Lord is All-wise, All-knowing. And We gave Isaac and Jacob, and both of them We guided - and Noah We guided before- and [We guided] of his descendants: David, and Solomon, and Job, and Joseph, and Moses, and Aaron - and thes do We reward the doers of good - Zachariah and John, and Jesus, and Elijah, each was of the righteous; and Ishmael, and Elisha, and Jonah, and Lut. And every one of them did We favour above other people. And [likewise We guided] some of their forefathers and their descendants and their brethren. And We elected them, and guided them onto the straight path. That is God's guidance; He guides by it whomsoever He wills of His servants. And had they ascribed partners [to God], in vain would have been all that they ever did. Those are they to whom We gave the Book, and the Judgement, and the Prophethood. So if these deny this [Our guidance], We have entrusted it to people who do not disbelieve in it. Those [Messengers] are they whom God has guided; follow, then, their guidance. Say: I ask of you no reward for it; it is but a reminder unto all mankind (al-An'am 6: 83-90).
Indeed We sent forth Our Messengers with clear revelations and We sent down with them the Book and the Balance, so that mankind may establish justice (al-Hadld 57: 25). The Prophet Muhammad was the last of them. He did not bring any new Truth, message or guidance; he came with the same Truth, and was entrusted with the same mission and duty as were all the Messengers preceding him. This duty and mission has been expressed in a number of ways: warning (indhar), bringing glad tidings (tabshir), inviting and calling (da'wah), communicating (tabligh), reminding (dhikr), teaching (ta'lim), conveying and propagating (tilawah), enjoining and promoting what is good and right and forbidding and eradicating what is wrong and bad (amr bi 'l-ma'ruf wa nahl 'ani 'l-munkar), establishing Din (iqamah), establishing justice (qist), making the Divine guidance and Din prevail (izhar), or witnessing (shahadah). All these expressions pertain to the same mission, though from different perspectives and with different emphases.
O Prophet, We have sent you as a witness [to the Truth], and as a herald of glad tidings and a warner, and as one who calls to God, by His leave, and as a light-giving lamp (al-Ahzab 33: 45-6).
O Messenger, deliver that which has been sent down to you from your Lord; for if you do not, you will not have delivered His message (al-Ma'idah 5: 67).
Even so We have sent among you, of yourselves, a Messenger,
to convey unto you Our revelations, and to purify you, and
to teach you the Book and wisdom, and to teach you that
which you knew not (al-Baqarah 2: 151).
It is He who has sent forth His Messenger with the guidance
and the way of the Truth, so that he makes it prevail over
all other ways of life; and God suffices as a witness (al-Fath
48: 28; also 9: 33, 61: 9).
. . . and those [among the followers of Moses] who follow
the Messenger, the unlettered Prophet, whom they find
written down with them in the Torah and the Gospel, who
will enjoin upon them the right and forbid them the wrong,
and make lawful to them the good things and make unlawful
for them the bad things, and lift from them their burdens
and the shackles that were upon them. Those who believe in
him and succour him and help him, and follow the light that
has been sent down with him - it is they who are the
prosperous (al-A'raf 7: 157).
4. Man's accountability and the witness: The witness given by
the Messengers, and by all those who are charged with the same
duty, is the basis for man's accountability in the Akhirah, and his
consequent reward and punishment. The Truth is witnessed before
them so that they are left with no argument against God; they will
be charged because they received it: this position has been stated
in the Qur'an in many places and from many different perspectives,
as we have seen before.
Whoever follows the right path, follows it for his own good,
and whoever goes astray, goes astray to his own loss; and no
bearer of burdens shall bear the burden of another. We never
chastise, until we have sent forth a Messenger (al-Isra' 17:15)
So, [on Judgement Day,] We shall most certainly call to
account all those unto whom [Our] message was sent, and
We shall most certainly call to account the Message-bearers
and thereupon We shall most certainly relate unto them [their
account] with knowledge, for We were never absent (al-A'raf
And when We took a pledge from all the Prophets - from
you [O Prophet], and from Noah, and Abraham, and Moses,
and Jesus, the son of Mary - We took from them a solemn
pledge, so that He might question the truthful concerning
their truthfulness, and He has prepared for those who deny
the truth a painful punishment (al-Ahzab 33: 7-8).
The day when God shall assemble all the Messengers, and
say: What answer were you given? They shall say: We have
no knowledge; Thou art the Knower of the things unseen
(al-Ma'idah 5: 109).
[And God will say:] O community of jinn and men, did not
Messengers come unto you from among you, who conveyed
unto you My revelations and warned you of the meeting of
this your day? They shall say: We bear witness against
ourselves. They were deluded by the life of this world, and
they bear witness against themselves that they had been
disbelievers (al-An'am 6: 130).
Then the disbelievers shall be driven in companies into
Jahannam till, when they reach it, its gates will be opened,
and its keepers will say to them: Did not Messengers come
to you, from among yourselves, who conveyed unto you your
Lord's revelations, and warn you against the meeting of this
your Day? They shall say: Yes, indeed! But the word of
punishment will have fallen due upon the disbelievers; and
it shall be said to them: Enter the gates of Jahannam, to
dwell therein forever. How evil is the abode of those who
are arrogant! (al-Zumar 39: 71-2).
Surely We shall help Our Messengers and those who have
believed, in this world's life and on the Day when all the
witnesses shall stand up - the day when their excuses shall
not profit the evil-doers, and theirs shall be the curse, and
theirs the evil abode (Ghafir 40: S1-2).
5. Sense of responsibility: The Qur'an gives a very moving
account of how God's Messengers devoted themselves in all
earnestness to their mission, how they laboured hard to fulfil their
duty, how they suffered heavily in their cause. Their history is
ample testimony of this. But here two examples should suffice:
firstly, that of the Prophet Noah and secondly, that of the Prophet
Muhammad, blessings and peace be on them.
Indeed, We sent Noah unto his people, and he dwelt among
them a thousand years, all but fifty . . . (al-'Ankabut 29: 14) .
He [Noah] said: My Lord, I have been calling my people
night and day, but my call has only caused them to flee farther
away. And whenever I called them, that Thou mightest
forgive them, they put their fingers in their ears, and wrapped
themselves in their garments, and persisted, and became
arrogant in their pride. Then indeed I called them openly,
then indeed I spoke publicly unto them, and I spoke unto
them in private (Nuh. 71: 5-9).
Would you [O Prophet], perhaps, torment yourself to death
because they refuse to believe? (al-Shuiara' 26: 3).
6. Types of witness: The witness by word may be taken to be
broadly subsumed under the Quranic terminology of warning
(indhar), bringing glad tidings (tabshir), inviting and calling
(da'wah), communicating (tabligh), teaching and instructing
(ta'lim), conveying and propagating (tilawah). The terminology
for the witness by actions includes establishing Islam (iqamatu
'd-din), making God's guidance and way of life prevail over all
others (izhar), establishing justice (qist), enjoining right and
forbidding wrong, and Jihad.
7. Consequences of failure and neglect: The mission to witness
the Truth and invite mankind to surrender to its Creator has the
status of a covenant with God. Those who give up this mission,
or fail to fulfil it or neglect it, are guilty of breaching their covenant.
Hence they are cursed by God, and deprived of His blessings.
They are cursed by angels, too, because the light brought by them
has been extinguished by such people while mankind gropes in
darkness; and by mankind as well, for its sufferings and miseries
are due mainly to the conduct of those who were entrusted with
Those who conceal the clear messages and the guidance that
We have sent down, after We have made them clear, for
mankind, in the Book - they shall be cursed by God and the
cursers; but such as repent and put themselves right, and
make [the Book] known - towards them I shall turn, I am
the Accepter of repentance, the Mercy-giving. But those who
remain [in the state of] denial and die denying - upon them
shall be the curse of God, and the angels, and of all mankind
. . . (al-Baqarah 2: 159-61).
And, humiliation and powerlessness afflicted them, and they
earned God's anger; all this, because they persisted in
denying God's messages and in slaying the Prophets against
all right; all this, because they rebelled [against God], and
persisted in transgressing [the bounds of God] (al-Baqarah
The duty, obviously, is neglected or given up for the sake of
worldly gains. These gains the Qur'an describes as a trifle, which
earn God's anger for the defaulters. The punishment for this crime
which the Qur'an mentions, is indeed the only one of its kind, for
such punishment is not mentioned for any other crime.
Indeed, those who conceal what God has sent down in the
Book, and barter it away for a trifle price - they eat nothing
but fire in their bellies. And God shall not speak unto them
on the Day of Resurrection, nor purify them; and for them
is painful punishment. It is they who have bought error at
the price of guidance, and punishment at the price of
forgiveness. How patiently have they accepted the Fire! All
that, because God has sent down the Book with the Truth,
those who differ in the matter of the Book are most deeply
in the wrong (al-Baqarah 2: 174-6; also 3: 77-8).
8. The Jewish example: The history of the people of Israel is
narrated by the Qursan in considerable detail. It provides the most
instructive example of a people who were guided by some of the
greatest Messengers of God. They made a covenant with God that
they will be only His servants and obey only Him and be His
witnesses. They rose to great heights and contributed much to the
good of mankind by fulfilling their covenant. But, finally, they
broke their covenant, suffered grievously, and thus became an
object lesson in how people chosen by God to be witnesses to His
guidance may go astray and how they may earn God's anger.
The purpose of narrating their history is neither to create hatred
against any particular religion and people nor to take pleasure and
comfort in their suffering and humiliation. This becomes evident
from the fact that, despite very severe strictures against the people
of Israel by the Qur'an, the most peaceful and glorious days of
Jewish history, in the last two thousand years, have been lived
under Islamic rule. In fact their history is meant to act like a mirror
which the Qur'an holds to the Muslims so that they may recognize
themselves when they go astray and may remain aware of the
painful consequences of such conduct. Another purpose, of course,
was to awaken the Jews at the time of the Prophet, blessings and
peace be on him, and to invite them to believe in the Last Prophet
and support him, as their own mission demanded. The Quranic
account is similar to the Biblical account; if anything, much milder
in tone and language.
Firstly, the Qur'an shows that great blessings were conferred by
God on the people of Israel, the greatest of them being the Book
and guidance from Him, and that they were chosen to be His
Children of Israel, remember My blessing with which I
blessed you, and how I favoured you above all other people
(al-Baqarah 2: 47).
And when Moses said unto his people: O my people,
remember God's blessing upon you, when He appointed
among you Prophets, and made you kings, and gave you such
as He had not given to any beings (al-Ma'idah 5: 20).
And when We made a covenant with the Children of Israel:
You shall serve and worship none but God; and to be good
to parents, and the near kinsman, and to the orphan, and to
the needy; and speak good to man, and perform the prayer,
and give the alms (al-Baqarah 2: 83).
And when We made covenant with you [O Children of
Israel], and raised above you the Mount: hold fast with [all
your] strength unto what We have given you, and remember
what is in it, so that you might remain conscious of God.
Then you turned away after that . . . (al-Baqarah 2: 63-4).
Surely We sent down the Torah, wherein was guidance and
light; thereby the Prophets, who had surrendered themselves
[to God], gave judgement for those who were Jews; and so
did the men of God and the rabbis, following such portion
of God's Book as they were given to keep; and they bore
witness to its truth (al-Ma'idah 5: 44).
The Bible gives a similar account:
Do this because you belong to the Lord your God. From all
the peoples on earth, He chose you to be His own special
people. The Lord did not love you and choose you because
you outnumbered other peoples; you were the smallest nation
on earth (Deut. 7: 6-7).
At Mount Sinai the Lord our God made a covenant, not only
with our fathers, but with all of us who are living today.
There on the mountain the Lord spoke to you face-to-face
from the Fire . . . The Lord said, 'I am the Lord your God,
who rescued you from Egypt, where you were slaves.
Worship no god but Me' (Deut. 5: 2-7).
Israel, remember this! The Lord - and the Lord alone - is
our God. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with
all your soul, and with all your strength. Never forget these
commands that I am giving you today. Teach them to your
children. Repeat them when you are at home and when you
are away, when you are resting and when you are working.
Tie them on your arms and wear them on your foreheads as
a reminder. Write them on the door-posts of your houses
and on your gates (Deut. 6: 4-9). [This is a very good exegesis
of the Quranic words 'and remember'.]
Never forget the Lord your God or turn to other gods to
worship and serve them. If you do, then I warn you today
that you will certainly be destroyed (Deut. 8: 19).
People of Israel, you are My witnesses; I chose you to be
My servant, so that you would know Me and believe in Me
and understand that I am the only God. Beside Me there is
no other god; there never was and never will be (Isa. 43: 10) .
Secondly, the Qur'an exhorts and invites the people of Israel,
as does the Bible, to fulfil their covenant with God, to believe in
His last message, and to bear witness to its truth, reminding them
of the promise and threat that were made to them.
Children of Israel, remember My blessing with which I
blessed you, and fulfil My covenant [with you], and I shall
fulfil your covenant [with Me]; and of Me alone stand in awe!
(al-Baqarah 2: 40).
Remember that the Lord your God is the only God and that
He is faithful. He will keep His covenant and show His
constant love to a thousand generations of those who love
Him and obey His commands, but He will not hesitate to
punish those who hate Him (Deut. 7: 9-10).
If you obey the Lord your God and do everything He
commands, He will make you His own people, as He has
promised . . . The Lord your God will make you the leader
among the nations and not a follower; you will always prosper
and never fail . . . But if you disobey the Lord your God and
do not faithfully keep all His commandments and laws that
I am giving you today, all these evil things will happen to
you . . . the Lord will curse everything you do . . . (Deut.
I will be your God, and you will be My people (Lev. 26: 12) .
Thirdly, the Qur'an indicts the people of Israel for breaking
their covenant and neglecting their duty to worship and obey only
God and to be His witnesses. Not only did they themselves turn
away from the message of their Lord, they also prevented others
from accepting and following it.
People of the Book, why do you disbelieve God's revelations
while you yourselves witness [their truth]? People of the
Book, why do you cloak the truth with falsehood and conceal
the truth, and that knowingly (Al 'Imran 3: 70-1).
Say: People of the book, why do you bar from the path of
God those who believe, trying to make it appear crooked,
you yourselves being witnesses to its truth? (Al 'Imran 3: 99) .
Indeed, God made covenant with the Children of Israel,
when We raised from among them twelve of their leaders,
and God said: I am with you. Surely, if you perform the
prayer, and pay the alms, and believe in My Messengers, and
succour them and lend to God a good loan, I will surely
efface your evil deeds and I will admit you to gardens through
which running waters flow. But whosoever of you thereafter
disbelieves, surely he has gone astray from the right way.
Then, for their breaking their covenant We cursed them and
made their hearts hard . . . (al-Ma'idah 5: 12-13).
Indeed, We made covenant with the Children of Israel, and
We sent Messengers to them; whenever there came to them
a Messenger with what they did not like [they rebelled], to
some they gave the lie, while others they slayed (al-Ma'idah
The People of the Book will ask you to bring down upon
them a Book from heaven; and they asked Moses for greater
than that, for they said: Make us see God face to face -
whereupon the thunderbolt overtook them for their evil
doing. Then, they took to [worshipping] the calf - and this
after the clear Truth had come to them; yet We pardoned
them that, and We bestowed upon Moses a clear authority
[for the Truth]. And We raised above them the Mount
making covenant with them; and We said to them: Enter the
gate, prostrating; and We said to them: Transgress not the
Sabbath; and We made a solemn covenant with them. So
[We cursed them] for their breaking the covenant, and their
denying the revelations of God, and their slaying the Prophets
without right, and for their saying, 'Our hearts are closed [to
false guidance]' - nay, but God sealed them for their disbelief
so they believe not, except a few - and for their disbelief
and their uttering against Mary an awesome calumny, and
for their saying, 'We killed the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary,
the Messenger of God' (al-Nisa' 4: 153-7).
Cursed were the disbelievers among the Children of Israel
by the tongue of David, and Jesus, the son of Mary; this,
because they rebelled [against God] and persisted in trans-
gression. They did not prevent one another from the wrongs
they committed. Surely evil were the things they did (al-
Ma'idah 5: 78-9).
The Bible speaks in the same vein. Its indictment is no different
from that which the Qur'an says, although it is said more harshly
and with severer strictures.
In addition, the leaders of Judah, the priests, and the people
followed the sinful example of the nations round them in
worshipping idols, and so they defiled the Temple, which the
Lord Himself had made holy. The Lord, the God of their
ancestors, had continued to send prophets to warn His
people, because He wanted to spare them and the Temple.
But they ridiculed God's Messengers, ignoring His words and
laughing at His prophets, until at last the Lord's anger against
His people was so great that there was no escape (2 Chr. 36:
God told me to write down in a Book what the people are
like, so that there would be a permanent record of how evil
they are. They are always rebelling against God, always Iying,
always refusing to listen to the Lord's teachings. They tell
the prophets to keep quiet. They say: 'Don't talk to us about
what's right. Tell us what we want to hear. Let us keep our
illusions. Get out of our way and stop blocking our path. We
don't want to hear about your holy God of Israel' (Isa. 30:
But Your people rebelled and disobeyed You; they turned
their backs on Your law. They killed the prophets who
warned them, who told them to turn back to You. They
insulted You time after time, so You let their enemies
conquer and rule them (Neh. 9: 26-7).
The Children I brought up have rebelled against Me. Cattle
know who owns them, and donkeys know where their master
feeds them. But that is more than my people Israel know.
They don't understand at all . . . The city that once was
faithful is behaving like a whore! At one time it was filled
with righteous men, but now only murderers remain.
Jerusalem, you were once like silver, but now you are
worthless; . . . Your leaders are rebels and friends of thieves;
they are always accepting gifts and bribes. They never defend
orphans in court or listen when widows present their case
(Isa. 1: 2-23).
And this is how Jesus censures the people of Israel.
Jerusalem, Jerusalem! You kill the prophets and stone the
Messengers God has sent you! . . . And so your temple will
be abandoned and empty (Mt. 23: 37-8).
They tie on to people's backs loads that are heavy and are
hard to carry, yet they aren't willing even to lift a finger to
help them carry those loads. They do everything so that
people will see them. Look at the straps with Scripture verses
on them which they wear on their foreheads and arms, and
notice how large they are! Notice also how long are the tassels
on their cloaks! They love the best places at feasts and the
reserved seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted with
respect in the market places and to be called 'Teacher' . . .
You hypocrites! You lock the door to the Kingdom of heaven
in people's faces, and you yourselves don't go in, nor do you
allow in those who are trying to enter! . . . You clean the
outside of your cup and plate, while the inside is full of what
you have obtained by violence and selfishness . . . You are
like whitewashed tombs, which look fine on the outside but
are full of bones and decaying corpses on the inside . . . So
you actually admit that you are the descendants of those who
murdered the prophets! Go on, then, and finish what your
ancestors started! You snakes and sons of snakes! How do
you expect to escape from being condemned to hell? And so
I tell you that I will send you prophets and wise men and
teachers; you will kill some of them, crucify others, and whip
others in the synagogues and chase them from town to town
(Mt. 23: 4-34).
Perhaps the most moving account of the fate of Israel is in the
lamentations of the Prophet Isaiah, peace be upon him. Describing
Israel as a vineyard planted by God, he first describes how He
blessed it with every bounty, then goes on to describe how it
produced sour fruits, and how God punished it - something very
similar to what Sayyid Mawdudi has said about the Muslims.
My friend had a vineyard
on a very fertile hill.
He dug the soil and cleared it of stones;
he planted the finest vines.
He built a tower to guard them,
dug a pit for treading the grapes.
He waited for the grapes to ripen,
but every grape was sour.
So now my friend says: 'You people who live in Jerusalem
and Judah, judge, between my vineyard and me. Is there
anything I failed to do for it? Then why did it produce sour
grapes and not the good grapes I expected?
This is what I am going to do to my vineyard; I will take
away the hedge round it, break down the wall that protects
it, and let wild animals eat it and trample it down. I will let
it be overgrown with weeds. I will not prune the vines or hoe
the ground; instead I will let briers and thorns cover it. I will
even forbid the clouds to let rain fall upon it (Isa. 5: 14).
Finally, the Qur'an also makes it clear that, after Israel, it is the
Muslims who have been appointed to fulfil the same mission as
was granted to Israel.
Indeed, We gave the Children of Israel the Book, the
Judgement, and the Prophethood; and We provided them
with good things, and We favoured them above all other
people. And We gave them clear revelations pertaining to
the affair [of their Din]; so they did not take to different
ways - after the knowledge had come to them- except for
the sake of mutual transgression . . . then We set you [O
Muhammad] on the Way [Shari'ah] pertaining to the affair
[of your Din]; therefore follow it, and follow not the likes
ahd dislikes of those who do not know (al-Jathiyah 45: 1S18) .
9. Illusions and excuses: When a faith as total, pervasive, deep
and dynamic as Islam - living in surrender to the One God - which
is a calling and a commitrnent, becomes transformed into a religion,
hereditary and sectarian, its followers invent certain popular beliefs
to calm and quieten their conscience. On the basis of such illusions
and excuses, they are able to live peacefully while failing in their
total commitment to God. They neglect the mission that He has
entrusted to them, as well as refuse to accept any summons to
renew their faith and take up their duty. The Qur'an mentions
some such popular notions which had become part of the Jewish
faith, and categorically rejects them. Again, the objective is neither
to condemn a certain faith and people for all times to come nor
to nurture hatred against them, but to induce them to correct their
wrong beliefs, and more importantly, to warn the Muslims to
beware of such notions. It is ironic that one would find all such
popular beliefs to be part of the Muslims' faith as well today; for
example, that our Ummah is the beloved of God, that Muslims,
whatever the state of their belief and conduct, have a monopoly
over Paradise, that God's mercies and rewards are reserved
exclusively for them, that, even if they are punished, their
punishment will last only a few days
And the Jews and Christians say: We are God's children,
and His beloved ones. Say: Why then does He punish you
for your sins? Nay, you are but human beings of His creating.
He forgives whom He wills, and He punishes whom He wills
(al-Ma'idah 5: 18).
And that they say: None shall enter Paradise unless he be a
Jew or a Christian. Such are their wishful beliefs! Say:
Produce your proof, if what you say is true! Nay, whosoever
surrenders his whole being unto God, attaining to excellence,
his reward shall be with his Lord, and no fear shall be on
them, neither shall they sorrow (al-Baqarah 2: 111-12).
And they say: The Fire shall not touch us save a number of
days. Say: Have you made with God a covenant - then God
will not fail in His covenant - or you attribute to God some
thing of which you know nothing? Not so; whoso earns evil,
and is engulfed by his transgressions - those are the inhabit-
ants of the Fire . . . (al-Baqarah 2: 8(}1).
And when they are told: Believe in what God has sent down,
they say: We believe in what was sent down on us; and they
disbelieve what is beyond that, yet it is the truth confirming
what is with them. Say: Why then did you kill God's Prophets
in former times, if you were believers? (al-Baqarah 2: 91).
Say: If the abode in the life-to-come is to be for you alone,
to the exclusion of all other people, then long for that - if
what you say is true! But never will they long for it, because
of what their hands have sent ahead; God knows the
evil-doers; . . . (al-Baqarah 2: 95).