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Introduction to Surah 5 Al-Ma'idah and Tafseer Verses 51 - 58
Towards Understanding The Qur’an
Vol. II, Surahs 4 – 6
English version of Tafhim al-Qur’an
Sayyid Abul A’la Mawdudi
Surah 5 – Al-Ma’idah (Madinan Period)
The title of this surah is derived from verse 112 in which the word ‘repast’ occurs: ‘Jesus, son of Mary, has your Lord the power to send down us a repast (ma’idah) form the heaven?’ Like the titles of other surahs it does not indicate the subject matter discussed but serves to distinguish this surah from the others.
Period of Revelation
The surah has considerable internal evidence to show that it was revealed either about the end of 6 A.H. of in the early part of 7 A.H., after the conclusion of the Treaty of Hudaybiyah. This view is also corroborated by traditions.
In the month of Dhu al-Qa’dah 6 A.H., the Prophet (peace be on him), together with about 1,400 Muslims, set out for Makka with the intention of performing ‘Umrah (Minor Pilgrimage). In the spirit of petty revenge, the pagans of the Quraysh barred them from performing this rite despite the fact that this was on of the most time-honoured religious customs of Arabia. After considerable negotiation the Quraysh agreed to permit the Muslims to go to Makka the following year to visit the Ka‘bah. It seemed necessary at this stage, therefore, to teach the Muslims the rules and regulations of the Pilgrimage so that they could perform it in a truly Islamic manner. It was also felt necessary to direct the Muslims not to commit excesses against the hostile pagans of Makka in retaliation for wrongfully preventing them from performing the ‘Umrah; the Muslims could easily have prevented many pagan tribes from visiting Makka. This was possible since the Domain of Islam (Dar al-Islam) lay along their routes to that city. The Muslims are being directed, however, not to do so.
This is the context of the opening discourse. The same question is taken up later (see verses 56 ff.), illustrating that a single theme runs throughout the first fourteen sections of the surah (i.e. verse 1- 108). The other subjects discussed also seem to have been revealed during the same period.
The unbroken continuity of the narration suggests that the entire surah is one single discourse, revealed at the same time and in an integrated form. This cannot be altogether ruled out. It is also possible, however, that certain verses were revealed at another period, and were then knitted into the narrative so well that there is no indication that the surah comprises two or three distinct discourses.
A great many changes had occurred during the period separating the present revelation from that of Surahs 3 and 4. A few years earlier, after the Muslims had suffered a setback at the Battle of Uhud, the tribes living around Madina had assumed a menacing posture. Islam, by this time, however, had become an apparently indestructible force and the Islamic state had come to occupy large tracts of land: up to Najd, as far as the borders of Syria and the coasts of the Red Sea, and the environs of Makka. The wounds inflicted upon the Muslims during the Battle of Uhud, far from demoralizing them, had in fact proved a spur. Within three years the entire situation had changed. Thanks to the continuous struggle and bravery of the Muslims the strength of the hostile tribes within a radius of about 150 to 200 miles of Madina was broken. The Jewish menace, which had always loomed large over Madina, had been ended once and for all. The Quraysh had made their last desperate effort to crush Islam at the Battle of the Ditch (5 A.H.), and this had ended in a fiasco. As a result there was no doubt in the minds of the people of Arabia that the Islamic movement had become too strong to be crushed. Islam was no longer just a creed and a way of life which ruled over the hearts and minds of people: it had come to possess a State and this State governed the lives of the people living in its domain. The Muslims now had the power to live according to their convictions without hindrance and without it being possible for extraneous creeds, norms and laws to encroach upon their lives.
Moreover, during these few years the Muslims had developed their own particular cultural entity so that their morality, their family life and their social order distinguished them from others. In all parts of the Islamic state mosques were erected, people began to pray regularly in congregation, and leaders of congregational Prayers were appointed for different tribes and regions. The Islamic civil and criminal laws were expounded in considerable detail and were enforced by Muslim judges. Many old forms of business transactions were prohibited and new, reformed ones introduced. A new code of inheritance was promulgated. Marriage and divorce laws, regulations prescribing modesty of dress and appearance and forbidding promiscuity, and other rules relating to decency, for example, the necessity of obtaining permission to enter another person’s house, and laws laying down punishments for extra-marital sexual intercourse, and for accusing innocent women of unchastity, were enforced. As a result the entire lifestyle of the Muslims – their food and dress, the manner of their speech and conversation, the way they met and dispersed – had become distinct. Once the non-Muslims of the time observed this distinctive way of life they became despondent of the fact that the Muslims might lose their identity and be re-assimilated into the former body-politic. Before the conclusion of the Treaty of Hudaybiyah, however, a major obstacle barred the spreading of Islam – the continuous conflict between the Muslims and the Quraysh. This obstacle was removed by the Treaty of Hudaybiyah which, on the face of it, implied the Muslim’s acknowledgement of their inferior status.
In point of fact, this treaty amounted to a significant victory for the Muslims because it not only secured them against aggression within the borders of their own state, but enabled them to freely carry the message of Islam to the neighbouring areas. This phase was inaugurated by the Prophet (peace be upon him) who despatched letters to the rulers of Persia, Rome and Egypt, and to the tribal chiefs of the Arabs, and who sent missionaries in all directions to summon people to God’s true religion.
It is in this historical context that the surah addressed the following three major themes:
1. The first theme comprises additional injunctions and directives relating to the religious, social and political life of the Muslims. In this connection the rules of Pilgimage (Hajj) are elucidated and the Muslims are directed not to desecrate the symbols of (devotion to) Allah (sha‘a’ir Allah); orders are given not to molest Pilgrims to the Ka‘bah; in matters of eating and drinking the true distinction between the lawful and the unlawful is laid down and the superstitions and man-made restrictions of pre-Islamic times are swept aside; permission is granted to eat the food of the People of the Book and to marry their women; regulations concerning wudu (ablution) and tayammum (a symbolic ablution attained by wiping parts of the body with earth) are promulgated; the penalties for rebellion, public mischief and theft are fixed; games of chance and the drinking of intoxications are categorically prohibited; the expiation for breach of vows is enunciated and a few more provisions are added to the law of evidence.
2. The second theme is an admonition to the Muslims. The Muslims had by now achieved political power, and this often intoxicates people and thereby misleads them. Although their period of subjection to injustice was almost over they, nevertheless, were to be put to a more severe test. The Muslims are repeatedly urged, therefore, to remain committed to justice; to avoid the pitfalls of their predecessors, the People of the Book; to observe their commitment to obey God and follow His commandments, and thus avoid the catastrophic end which overtook the Jews and Christians who had thrown overboard their covenant with God. They are required to remain scrupulously bound by the ordinances of the Book of God and to shun hypocrisy in all their affairs.
3. The third theme of the surah is an admonition to the Jews and Christians. The strength of the Jews was by now shattered and all the Jewish settlements of Northern Arabia had come under the hegemony of the Muslims. Here they are once again warned about their evil conduct and asked to follow the Right Way. Moreover, since the Treaty of Hudaybiyah made it possible to propagate Islam in Arabia and in the neighbouring countries, the opportunity to address the Christians in detail and to bring home to them the falsity of their beliefs and to ask them to believe in the Prophet (peace be upon him), is also seized. However, although those neighbouring nations that followed either idolatrous or Magian cults are not addressed directly there is enough for their guidance in what was said to their fellow travellers, the idolatrous people of Arabia, in the surahs revealed during the Prophet’s stay in Makka.
Al-Ma’idah Surah 5, Verses 51-58
The Meaning of the Holy Qur’an (‘Abdullah Yusuf ‘Ali)
[5:51]O ye who believe! take not the Jews and the Christians for your friends and protectors: 764 They are but friends and protectors to each other. And he amongst you that turns to them (for friendship) is of them. Verily Allah guideth not a people unjust.
[5:52] Those in whose hearts 765 is a disease – thou seest how eagerly they run about amongst them, saying: “We do fear lest a change of fortune bring us disaster.” Ah! Perhaps Allah will give (thee) victory, or a decision according to His will. Then will they repent of the thoughts which they secretly harboured in their hearts.
[5:53] And those who believe will say: “Are these the men who swore their strongest oath by Allah, that they were with you? 766 All that they do will be in vain, and they will fall into (nothing but) ruin.”
[5:54] O ye who believe! If any from among you turn back from this Faith, soon will Allah produce a people whom He will love as they will love Him, - lowly with the Believers, mighty against the Rejecters, fighting in the Way of Allah, and never afraid of the reproaches of such as find fault. 767 That is the Grace of Allah, which He will bestow on whom He pleaseth. And Allah encompasses all, and He knoweth all things.
[5:55] Your (real) friends are (no less than) Allah, His Messenger, and the Believers – those who establish regular prayers and pay charity, and they bow down humbly (in worship).
[5:56] As to those who turn (for friendship) to Allah, His Messenger, and the Believers – it is the party of Allah that must certainly triumph.
[5:57] O ye who believe! Take not for friends and protectors those who take your religion for a mockery or sport 768 – whether among those who received the Scripture before you, or among those who reject Faith: but fear ye Allah, if ye have Faith (indeed).
[5:58] When ye proclaim your call to prayer, they take it (but) as mockery and sport; that is because they are people without understanding.
764. That is, look not to them for help and comfort. They are more likely to combine against you than to help you. And this happened more than once in the lifetime of the Prophet, and in after-ages again and again. He who associates with them and shares their counsels must be accounted as of them. The trimmer loses whichever way the wheel of fortune turns.
765. Cf. 2:10
766. The Hypocrites, while matters were doubtful, pretended to be with Muslims, but were in league with their enemies. When matters came to a decision and Allah granted victory to Islam, their position was awkward. They were not only disowned by the Muslims, but the Muslims could well say in reproach to their enemies: “Are these the men who swore friendship for you? Where are they now?”
767. As “most men are rebellious” (5:49), it is inevitable that there should be apostates even from such a religion of reason and common-sense as Islam. But, here is a warning to the Muslim body that they should not repeat the history of the Jews, and become so self-satisfied or arrogant as to depart from the spirit of Allah’s humanity. He can always raise up people who will follow the true spirit of Islam. That spirit is defined in two ways: first in general terms; they will love Allah and Allah will love them; and secondly, by specific signs; amongst the Brethren, their attitude will be that of humility, but to wrong-doers they will offer no mealy-mouthed compromises; they will always strive and fight for the truth and right; they will know no fear, either physical, or that more insidious form, which says: “What will people say if we act thus?” They are too great in mind to be haunted by any such thought. For, as the next verse says, their friends are Allah, His Prophet and His people, the people who judge rightly, without fear or favour.
768. It is not right that we should be in intimate association with those whom religion is either a subject of mockery or at best is nothing but a plaything. They may be amused, or they may have other motives for encouraging you. But your association with them will sap the earnestness of your faith, and make you cynical and insincere.
Al-Ma’idah Surah 5, Verses 51-58
The Message of THE QUR’AN (Muhammad Asad)
[5:51]O YOU who have attained faith! Do not take the Jews and the Christians for your allies: they are but allies of one another 72 - and whoever of you allies himself with them becomes, one of them; behold, God does not guide such evildoers. 73
[5:52] And yet thou canst see how those in whose hearts there is disease vie with one another for their good will, 74 saying [to themselves], “We fear lest fortune turn against us.” But God may well bring about good fortune [for the believers] or any [other] event of His own devising, 75 whereupon those [waverers] will be smitten with remorse for the thoughts which they had secretly harboured within themselves -
[5:53] while those who have attainted to faith will say [to one another], “Are these the self-same people who swore by God with their most solemn oaths that they were indeed with you? In vain are all of their works, for now they are lost!”
[5:54] O you who have attainted to faith! If you ever abandon your faith, 76 God will in time bring forth [in your stead] people whom He loves and who love Him – humble towards the believers, proud towards all who deny the truth: [people] who strive hard in God’s cause, and do not fear to be censured by anyone who might censure them: such is God’s favour, which He grants unto whom He wills. And God is infinite, all-knowing.
[5:55] Behold, your only helper shall be God, and His Apostle, and those who have attained to faith – those that are constant in prayer and render the purifying dues, and bow down [before God]:
[5:56] for, all who ally themselves with God and His Apostle and those who have attained to faith – behold, it is they the partisans of God, who shall be victorious!
[5:57] O you who have attained to faith! Do not take for your friends such as mock at your faith and make a jest of it – be they from among those who have been vouchsafed revelation before your time, or [from among] those who deny the truth [of revelation as such] - but remain conscious of God, if you are [truly] believers:
[5:58] for, when you call to prayer, they mock at it and make a jest of it – simply because they are people who do not use their reason.
72. According to most of the commentators (e.g. Tabari), this means that each of these two communities extends genuine friendship only to its own adherents - i.e., the Jews to the Jews, and the Christians to the Christians - and cannot, therefore, be expected to be really friendly towards the followers of the Qur'an. See also 8:73 and the corresponding note.
73. Lit., "the evildoing folk": i.e., those who deliberately sin in this respect. As regards the meaning of "alliance" referred to here, see 3:28, and more particularly 4:139 and the corresponding note, which explains the reference to a believer's loss of his moral identity if he imitates the way of life of, or - in Qur'anic terminology - "allies himself" with, non-Muslims. However, as has been made abundantly clear in 60:7-9 (and implied in verse 57 of this surah), this prohibition of a "moral alliance" with non-Muslims does not constitute an injunction against normal, friendly relations with such of them as are well-disposed towards Muslims. It should be borne in mind that the term wali has several shades of meaning: "ally", "friend", "helper", "protector", etc. The choice of the particular term - and sometimes a combination of two terms - is always dependent on the context.
74. Lit., “vie with one another concerning them” – the pronoun referring to the hostile Jews and Christians, for whose good-will the hypocrites within the Muslim community vie with one another by trying to imitate their way of life.
75. Lit., “from Himself”. Some of the commentators assume that the word fath (lit. “victory” or “triumph”) occurring in this sentence is a prophetic reference to the conquest of Mecca by the Muslims. This assumption, however, cannot be correct since Mecca was already in the hands of the Muslims at the time of revelation of this surah. Hence, the term fath has obviously been used herein its primary significance of “opening” – namely, the opening of good fortune. (Cf. the idiomatic expression futiha ‘ala fulan, “so-and-so became fortunate” or “possessed of good fortune”, mentioned in Zamakshari’s Asas and in the Taj al-‘Arus.) The “other event of God’s own devising” may conceivably refer to a divine punishment of the hypocrites apart from the good fortune that might be in store for the true believers.
76. Lit., “whosoever from among you abandons his faith” – i.e., in result of having placed his reliance on non-Muslims who are hostile to Islam, and having taken them for his “allies” and spiritual mentors.
Al-Ma’idah Surah 5, Verses 51-58
Tafsir-ul Qur’an (Maulana Abdul Majid Daryabadi)
[5:51] [Arabic script] O who you believe! Do not take the Jews and the Nazarenes for your friends; 437 friends they are to each other. 438 and if any of you befriends them, verily then he is one of them. 439 Surely Allah does not guide a transgressing people. 440
[5:52] [Arabic script] So thou seest those in whose hearts is a disease 441 hasten towards them saying: 442 we fear lest some misfortune may befall us. 443 But maybe Allah will bring a victory 444 or some other affair from Himself, 445 then 446 they shall find themselves regretful for what they have been keeping secret in their minds. 447
[5:53] [Arabic script] And those who believe will say: 448 are they the same who affirmed by solemn oath of Allah that they were with you? 449 Their works came to naught and they found themselves losers. 450
[5:54] [Arabic script] O ye who believe! 451 whoever of you apostates from his religion, then Allah shall soon bring a people 452 whom He shall love and who shall love Him, 453 gentle towards the believers, stern towards the infidels, striving hard in the way of Allah, and unheeding the reproof of any reprover. 454 This 455 is the Grace of Allah; He bestows it on whomso He will. And Allah is Bountiful, 456 Knowing. 457
[5:55] [Arabic script]Your friend 458 is but Allah and His messenger and those who have believed – those who establish the prayer 459 and pay the poor-rate, 460 while they bow down. 461
[5:56] [Arabic script] And whoever befriends Allah and His messenger and those who have believed, then the party of Allah! – it is they who will be triumphant. 462
[5:57] [Arabic script] O you who believe! Do not take as friends those who make a mockery or fun of your religion from among those who have been given the Book before you and other infidels. 463 And fear Allah, 464 if you are believers.
[5:58] [Arabic script]And when you call for the prayer 465 they 466 make a mockery and fun of it. 467 This, 468 because they are people who have no understanding. 469
437. (Nor look up to them for help and advice). Of course there can be no very great community of interests between believers and non-believers.
438. i.e., the Jews and Christians have much in common, and can, and do, readily form a combination against Islam. As the most recent instance of their animosity against Islam, witness the Christian Britain’s zealous sponsoring of ‘Zionism’ and ‘Jewish home in Palestine.’
439. i.e. he must have some points of identity with them.
440.(to the comprehension of this very plain truth). Wrong-doing here consisted in the mixing with the infidels.
441. (of hypocrisy and half-heartedness, O reader!)
442. (excusing themselves)
443. (as a reprisal for the victory at Badr). Their excuse is: we are not really inclined towards the pagans in our hearts, but it is not wise or prudent to lose old friends, - who knows the next move of the wheel of fortune? – so to be on the safe side we have to keep appearances.’ [Arabic script] literally is ‘a turn of fortune’.
444. (to Muslims over infidels). The allusion here is to the banishment and extirpation of the Jews. [Arabic script] is literally ‘may-be’, ‘may-hap’, ‘perhaps’ or ‘belike’ but when used in reference to an act of God it signifies surety of the happening.
445. Such as detection and exposure of the hypocrites; so called because it was purely an act of Divine intervention, independent of any exertion on the parts of the Muslims.
446. i.e., on the accomplishment of the two events here promised.
447. i.e., their hypocrisy; their friendship with the enemies of Islam.
448. (among themselves when each and every hypocrite is known and stands self-condemned).
449. An expression of astonishment on the part of the believers at audacity of the hypocrites.
450. i.e., to no profit came their friendship with the Jews; and distrusted by the Jews and the Muslims alike, the hypocrites stood discredited altogether.
451. The address is to them who were Muslims at the time this passage was revealed.
452. (to replace Him).
453. Love of God is, in Islam, the standing motive of all moral and religious life.
454. (in the matter of faith, unlike the hypocrites who were always afraid of the pagans).
455. (strength of conviction and sincerity of purpose).
456. i.e., able to endow everyone with excellent attributes.
457. i.e., who bestows His grace only on those who are, in His knowledge, fitted to receive it.
458. i.e., one to whom you should look up for help, comfort and guidance.
459. Symbolic of all bodily devotions.
460. Symbolic of all monetary obligations.
461. (and are meek in spirit). This sums up the chief characteristics of a Muslim. He holds right and sincere belief; he is steadfast in his prayers and other devotions; he is regular in the payment of the poor-rate and other obligations; and he is meek in spirit.
462. i.e., they shall triumph in the end.
463. The rejection of the true Faith is the common ground between the scoffing people of the Book and the pagans.
464. i.e., be on your guard against mixing freely with the rejecters of the faith after this prohibition.
465. The formula of the public call to prayers [Arabic script] runs thus: -
God is Most Great. (repeated four times).
I testify that there is no god but God, (repeated twice)
I testify that Muhammad is the apostle of God, (repeated twice)
Come to the prayer. (repeated twice)
Come to the bliss (repeated twice)
Prayer is better than sleep. (repeated twice but added only in the morning prayer).
God is Most Great. (repeated twice),
There is no god but God.
This call (or azan) the crier (muezzin) repeats five times a day at appointed hours standing on some platform or tower in a mosque with his face toward Ka‘ba. The crier (muezzin) must not be one unclean or drunk and the recital must be listened to with respect.
466. i.e., the scoffers, whether they be from the pagans or from the people of the Book.
467. Now, is there anything in the formula quoted above to laugh at or to make fun of? Here is what an English writer has to say, “The beauty of the Mohammadan Call to prayer”, writes Hadland Davis in the Blue Peter “is unforgettable. Five times, within twenty-four hours, wherever Islam holds sway that sacred summons is sounded with sonorous far-reaching voice. It comes, not from the gateway of a mosque, nor from a house-top, nor from the market-place, but from a lovely minaret that looks like a white, long-stemmed flower rising clear, strong and comely above the traffic of men. Whether it is heard at dawn or sunset, or when the purple bright sky is ablaze with stars, that call moves the infidel as well as the devotee… Someone has happily said that “Moslem Call is eternally beginning and never terminating,” a prayer “that may indeed be suspended yet never finished….. an adoration that may pause but never end”.
468. (misplaced and blasphemous hilarity).
469. (a thing so simple and so evident). Thus describes an English Muslim lady the effects of this wonderful call to prayer: - ‘As the beautiful cadences are elaborated to rise and fall as the Muezzin moves round the minaret to call the four corners of the world beneath, I wonder, how anyone can listen to that call unmoved. Surely does the Koranic Arabic hold a spell – even as the reading of the Sacred Book thrills its hearers.’ (Lady Cobbold, op. cit., p. 9).
Tafsir Ibn Kathir, Surah 5. Al-Ma’idah (51-58) (Part 6))
(51. O you who believe! Do not take friends from the Jews and the Christians, as they are but friends of each other. And if any among you befriends them, then surely, he is one of them. Verily, Allah guides not those people who are the wrongdoers.)
(52. And you see those in whose hearts there is a disease, they hurry to their friendship, saying: “We fear lest some misfortune of a disaster may befall us.” Perhaps Allah, may bring a victory or a decision according to His will. Then they will become regretful for what they have been keeping as a secret in themselves.)
(53. And those who believe will say: “Are these the men who swore their strongest oaths by Allah that they were with you?” All that they did has been in vain, and they have become the losers.)
(54. O who you believe! Whoever from among you turns back from his religion (Islam), Allah will bring a people whom He will love and they will love Him; humble towards the believers, stern towards the disbelievers, fighting in the way of Allah, and never fearing the blame of the blamers. That is the grace of Allah which He bestows on whom He wills. And Allah is All-Sufficient for His creatures’ needs, All-Knower.)
(55. Verily, your Protector is Allah, His Messenger, and the believers, those who perform Salah, and give Zakah, and they bow down.)
(56. And whosoever takes Allah, His Messenger, and those who have believed, as protectors, then the party of Allah will be victorious.)
(57. O who you believe! Do not take as friends those who take your religion for a mockery and fun from those who received the Scriptures before you, and (nor) the disbelievers; and have Taqwa of Allah if you indeed are true believers.)
(58. And when you proclaim the call for Salah, they take it (but) as a mockery and fun; that is because they are a people who understand not.)
The Prohibition of Taking the Jews, Christians and Enemies of Islam as Friends
Allah forbids His believing servants from having Jews and Christians as friends, because they are the enemies of Islam and its people, may Allah curse them. Allah then states that they are friends of each other and He gives them a warning threat to those who do this,
(And if any among you befriends them, then surely he is one of them.)
Ibn Abi Hatim recorded that ‘Umar ordered Abu Musa Al-Ash’ari to send him on one sheet of balance the count of what he took in and what he spent. Abu Musa then had a Christian scribe, and he was able to comply with ‘Umar’s demand. ‘Umar liked what he saw and exclaimed, “This scribe is proficient. Would you read in the Masjid a letter that came to us from Ash-Sham?” Abu Musa said, “He cannot.” ‘Umar said, “Is he not pure?” Abu Musa said, “No, but he is a Christian.” Abu Musa said, “So ‘Umar admonished me and poked my thigh (with his finger), saying, ‘Drive him out (from Al-Madinah).’ He then recited,
(O you who believe! Take not the Jews and Christians as friends,)” 
Ad-Durr Al-Manthur 3:100
Then he reported that ‘Abdullah bin ‘Utbah said, “Let one of you beware that he might be a Jew or a Christian, while unaware.” The narrator of this statement said, “We thought that he was referring to the Ayah,
(O you who believe! Take not the Jews and Christians as friends,)” Allah said,
 Ibn Abi Hatim 4:1156.
(And you see those in whose hearts there is a disease…)
A disease of doubt, hesitation and hypocrisy.
(they hurry up to their friendship,) meaning, they rush to offer them their friendship and allegiances in secret and in public,
(saying: “We fear lest some misfortune of a disaster may befall us”)
They thus offer this excuse for their friendship and allegiances to the disbelievers, saying that they fear that the disbelievers might defeat the Muslims, so they want to be in favor with the Jews and Christians, to use this favor for their benefit in that eventuality! Allah replied,
(Perhaps Allah may bring a victory…) referring to the conquering of Makkah, according to As-Suddi. [²]
[²] At-Tabari 10:405
(or a decision according to His will) requiring the Jews and Christians to pay the Jizyah, as As-Suddi stated,
(Then they will become) meaning, the hypocrites who gave their friendship to the Jews and Christians, will become,
(for what they have been keeping as a secret in themselves) of allegiances, (regretful,) for their friendship with the Jews and Christians which did not benefit them or protect them from any harm. Rather, it was nothing but harm, as Allah exposed their true reality to His faithful servants in this life, although they tried to conceal it. When the signs that exposed their hypocrisy were compiled against them, their matter became clear to Allah’s faithful servants. So the believers were amazed at these hypocrites who pretended to be believers, swearing to their faithfulness, yet their claims were all lies and deceit. This is why Allah said,
(And those who believe will say, “Are these the men who swore their strongest oaths by Allah that they were with you?” All that they did has been in vain, and they have become the losers.)
Threatening to Replace the Believers With Another People if They Revert from Islam
Allah emphasizes His mighty ability and states that whoever reverts from supporting His religion and establishing His Law, then Allah will replace them with whomever is better, mightier and more righteous in Allah’s religion and Law. Allah said in other Ayat,
(And if you turn away, He will exchange you for some other people and they will not be your likes.) and,
(Do you not see that Allah has created the heavens and the earth with truth? If He will, He can remove you and bring (in your place) a new creation! And for Allah that is not hard or difficult.) [14:19-20].
Verily this is not difficult or hard on Allah. Allah said here,
(O who you believe! Whoever among you turns your back from his religion…)
and turns back from the truth to falsehood, from now until the commencement of the Last Hour. Allah said next,
(humble towards the believers, stern towards the disbelievers.)
These are the qualities of perfect believers, as they are humble with their believing brothers and allies, stern with their enemies and adversaries. In another Ayah, Allah said,
(Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah. And those who are with him are severe against the disbelievers, and merciful among themselves.)
The Prophet [Arabic script] is described as the smiling fighter, smiling to his allies and fighting his enemies. Allah’s statement,
(Fighting in the way of Allah, and never fearing the blame of the blamers.)
Nothing prevents them from obeying Allah, establishing His Law, fighting His enemies, enjoining righteousness and forbidding evil. Certainly, nothing prevents them from taking this path, neither someone who seeks to hinder them, nor one who blames or chastises them.
Imam Ahmad recorded that Abu Dharr said, “My Khalil (intimate friend, the Messenger) has commanded me to love the poor and to be close to them. He commanded me to look at those who are less than me and not those who are above me. He commanded me to keep the relations of the womb, even if they cut it. He commanded me not to ask anyone for anything, to say the truth even if it was bitter, and not to fear the blame of anyone for the sake of Allah. He commanded me to often repeat, ‘La hawla wa la quwwata illa billah (There is no strength or power except from Allah)’, for these words are from a treasure under the Throne (of Allah).”  It is confirmed in the Sahih;
 Ahmad 5:405, Tuhfat Al-Ahwadhi 6:531, and Ibn Majah 2:1332
((The believer is not required to humiliate himself.))
He [Arabic script] was asked; “How does one humiliate himself, O Messenger of Allah?” So he [Arabic script] replied;
((He takes on tests that he cannot bear.)) 
 Ahmad 5:159
(That is the grace of Allah which He bestows on whom He wills.)
meaning, those who have these qualities, acquired it by Allah’s bounty and favor because He granted them these qualities.
(And Allah is All-Sufficient for His creatures’ needs, All-Knower,)
His favor is ever extending, and He has perfect knowledge of those who deserve or do not deserve His favor and bounty.
(Verily, your Protector is Allah, His Messenger, and the believers…)
means, the Jews are not your friends. Rather, your allegiance is to Allah, His Messenger and the faithful believers.
(those who perform the Salah, and give the Zakah…)
referring to the believers who have these qualities and establish the prayer, which is one of the most important pillars of Islam, for it includes worshipping Allah alone without partners. They pay Zakah, which is the right of the creation and type of help extended to the needy poor. As for Allah’s statement,
(and they bow down,) some people thought that they give the Zakah while bowing down. If this were the case, then paying the Zakah while bowing down would be the best form of giving Zakah. No scholar from whom religious rulings are taken says this, as much as we know. Therfore,
(and they bow down,) means, they attend the prayer in congregation in Allah’s Masjids and spend by way of charity on the various needs of Muslims. Allah said;
(And whosoever takes Allah, His Messenger, and those who have believed, as protectors, then the party of Allah will be the victorious.)
similarly Allah said;
(Allah has decreed: “Verily, it is I and My Messengers who shall be the victorious.” Verily, Allah is All-Powerful, Almighty. You will not find any people who believe in Allah and the Last Day, making friendship with those who oppose Allah and His Messenger, even thought they were their fathers or their sons or their brothers or their kindred (people). For such He has written faith in their hearts, and strengthened them with a Ruh (proof) from Himself. And He will admit them to Gardens (Paradise) under which rivers flow to dwell therein (forever). Allah is pleased with them, and they with Him. They are the party of Allah. Verily, it is the party of Allah that will be successful.)
Therefore, those who accept the allegiance of Allah – His Messenger and the faithful believers – will gain success in this life and the Hereafter. Hence Allah’s statement here,
(And whosoever takes Allah, His Messenger, and those who have believed, as protectors, then the party of Allah will be victorious.)
The Prohibition of Being Loyal Friends with Disbelievers
This Ayah discourages and forbids taking the enemies of Islam and its people, such as the People of the Book and the polytheists, as friends. These disbelievers mock the most important acts that any person could ever perform, the honorable pure acts of Islam which include all types of good for this life and the Hereafter. They mock such acts and make them subject of jest and play, because this is what these acts represent in their misguided minds and cold hearts.
(from those who received the Scriptures before you and (nor) the disbelievers...)
This is to clarify the particular category (of disbelievers). As Allah said,
(So shun the evil of the idols…) [22:30]
So some recited it “Kuffari”, making it an object of the preposition, and others recited it “Kuffara”, making it a predicate noun;
(Take not as friends those who take your religion for a mockery and fun from those who received the Scriptures before you…)
with the meaning of “nor”,
(nor the disbelievers as friends)
That is, do not take these people nor those people as friends.
The meaning here of “Kuffar” [disbelievers] is idolators.
Similarly, Ibn Jarir recorded that in the recitation of Ibn Mas‘ud [in place of “Kuffar” he recited it: “and those who commit Shirk. 
 At-Tabari 10:430
(And have Taqwa of Allah if you indeed are true believers.)
means, fear Allah and do not take the enemies of you and your religion as friends, if you believe in Allah’s Law and religion that these people mocked and jested about. Allah said in another Ayah,
(Let not the believers take the disbelievers as friends instead of the believers, and whosoever does that, will never be helped by Allah in any way, except if you indeed fear a danger from them. And Allah warns you against Himself, and to Allah is the final return.)
The Disbelievers Mock the Prayer and the Adhan
(And when you proclaim the call for the Salah, they take it (but) as a mockery and fun
When you proclaim the Adhan for the prayer, which is the best action there is, for those who have sound minds and good comprehension,
(they take it…) also,
(as a mockery and fun; that is because they are a people who understand not.)
the acts of worship and Allah’s Law. These are the characteristics of the followers of Shaytan who,
((When the call for prayer is made, Shaytan takes to his heels passing wind so that he may not hear the Adhan. When the call is finished he comes back, and when the Iqamah is pronounced, Shaytan again takes to his heels. When the Iqamah is finished he comes back again and tries to interfere with the person and his thoughts and to say, ‘Remember this and that,’ which he has not thought of before the prayer, until the praying person forgets how much he has prayed. If anyone of you does not remember, then he should perform two prostrations before pronouncing the Salam.)) 
 Al-Bukhari nos. 608, 1222, 1231 and Muslim 1:291, 398.
This Hadith is agreed upon. Az-Zuhri said, “Allah mentioned the Adhan in His Book,
(And when you proclaim the call for the Salah, they take it (but) as a mockery and fun; that is because they are a people who understand not.)”
Ibn Hatim recorded this statement. 
 Ibn Abi Hatim 4:1164.
THE NOBLE QUR’AN
Tafseer-e-Usmani Vol. I
By Allama Shabbir Ahmad Usmani
Part – 6 Surah – 5 (Maedah)
SECTION 8 (Verses 51-56)
SECTION 9 (Verses 57-66) Here Verses 57-59
[5:51] O Believers! Do not make the Jews and Christians your friends. 84 They are friends of one another. 85 And whoso makes them his friends, he is verily one of them. 86 Allah does not guide the wrong-doers. 87
[5:52] And now thou wilt see those in whose hearts there is disease, they race to join them saying: “We fear lest a misfortune of Time should smite us.” It is likely that God may soon bring victory or some order from Him, then they will get remorseful for that thing which is hidden in their hearts.
[5:53] And the Muslims say: “Are these those people who swore by God most earnest oaths that they were with you. Spoiled are their works and they fell into loss. 88
[5:54] O Believers! Whosoever of you turns from his Deen (Religion) God will assuredly bring a people that He loves them and they love Him. Soft-hearted for the Believers and mighty against the Unbelievers, fight in the way of God and fear not the reproach of any reproacher. That is the grace of God. He will give whom He will. And God is All-Embracing, All-Knowing. 89
[5:55] Your friend (companion) is but God and as such His Messenger and those having Eman, who are steadfast in Salat and punctual in paying Zakat, and humbling they are. 90
[5:56] And whoso takes God his friend, and His Messenger and the Momins – then the party of God is all-dominating. 91
[5:57] O Believers! Take not your friends those who take your Religion as a mockery and sport, of those who were given the Book and nor other Kafirs; and fear God if you are Momins. 92
[5:58] And when you call for Salat they take it as mockery and sport for that these people are unwise. 93
[5:59] Say thou: “O People of the Book! Do you malign us for that we have believed in God and what has been sent down to us and what was sent down before, and that most of you are disobedient”. 94
84. ‘The Muslims all over the world have detracted from the Divine Laws on account of contract with the Jews and Christians of the world. They have changed their system of education and established their national institutions on the Western pattern. They have replaced Islamic Terminology by the modern standards. They have copied the political administration of the Western people, they have adopted the political systems and constitutions of the Western people. They have adopted the Laws of the West in detail and given up the Laws of Islam somewhere in toto. Why? The answer is quite simple and given by the present verse. They have made intimate relations with the Jews and Christians and other Kuffar, the enemies of God. One who makes intimate relations with the enemies of the Prophet will definitely go away from the Holy Quran and the Laws of the Quran. The Holy Quran does not consist of timely lessons, interim injuctions, expedient orders and transitory statutes. It consists of permanent Laws, everlasting instructions, unchangeable principles, ultimate Truth and ultramundane mysteries. They cannot be changed by any scientific research. So the Muslims should not be overawed by their imperfect researches and knowledge but stick to the Quran comprising absolute truth and perfect knowledge. The affection and reverance for the Jews and Christians and other unbelievers as Communists etc have made the Muslims stranger to Islam and the Holy Quran. They have begun to appreciate British and American Constitutions and have forgotten the value and importance of the Quranic Constitution. Some Muslims are gone away even further – they have begun to appreciate atheistic systems. This is nothing but the result of intimacy with Unbelievers – the enemies of Islam on earth. This is why fourteen hundred years back the Holy Quran had prohibited the Muslims from making intimate relations with the Jews and Christians. (Tr) [Arabic script]
At this occasion it must be noted that intimate relations, tolerance and good behaviour, compromise, justice and fairplay are different things in their nature. The Muslims can make peace and enter into contract with the Non-Muslims if they deem it necessary and expedient according to the Quranic Law.
The order of justice is for all men whether Muslim or Kafir as it is known from the previous verses. But good behaviour and tolerance for those Unbelievers who do not show enmity and malignance against the Muslim Community as it is given in Surah Mumtahinah. As for the intimate relations and friendly confidence and brotherly co-operation – it is not lawful for any Muslim to maintain and uphold them with any Unbeliever (Kafir). Of course the formal relations under [Arabic script] and general co-operation not detrimental to Islam and the position of the Muslims are permissible. The sever attitude of some Khulufae Rashidden in this connection can be construed to the precautionary measures (so that Islamic Society might not be affected in the least by the habits of the Unbelievers).
85. They can become the friends of one another, though they have mighty differences among them, against Islam and Muslims. Their common enemy is Islam and the Prophet of Islam, and the Prophet of Islam, as the common enemy of Musalmans is Satan and his friends. The Holy Prophet has said: “[Arabic script]” – (The Unbelievers are One Nation) which means the Jews, the Christians, the Hindoos and all other Kafirs of the world can unite against the Muslims. The events of the running century provide enough proof for the testimony of this fact.
86. After these express instructions and directions if a Muslim (or a Muslim nation of a certain Muslim Country) makes the Non-Muslims as his intimate friends, then he is also one of them, because the unity of hearts prevails over the unity of bodies. The Holy Prophet has said: – “[Arabic script]” – A man is with him whom he loves. Abdullah bin Ubai, the Chief of the Hypocrites in the days of the Prophet, loved the Jews and had intimate relations with them. He thought if the Muslims were destroyed, their friendship would be advantageous to the Hypocrites. Some of these types had also said at the timely defeat of in Uhud that they would change their religion if general calamity befell. As for those Muslims who have no such hypocritical designs but have close contracts with the Unbelievers, they will also be considered amongst them, because it is very possible that their ideas may change or their hatred for Kufr and the Signs of Kufr [(Arabic script)] or the Custom of Kufr may change into love of these things tending to gradual conversion. In short, the maintenance and promotion of intimate relations with the Unbelievers is forbidden due to its dangerous and destructive consequences.
87. Those people, who are doing wrong to themselves, to the Muslim Nation and the World of Islam by entering into intimacy with the Enemies of Islam, are the real tyrants and wrong-doers. If the Enemies of Islam overcome the Muslims, they do not hesitate to devastate the Muslims and tyrannize them. In this way the Hypocrites equally join with the Enemies of Islam in tyranny and devastation. Such Hypocrites have an unholy heart and cannot be expected to receive any guidance from God or the Holy Quran. They are disloyal to the Muslim Community, they are faithless and treacherous, they are inimical to the Prophet of Islam, they are perfidious – God does not bestow such a great bounty as Guidance on such evil souls.
88. Disease means the disease of hypocricy. The Hypocrites are the sick men of Muslim Society. They are neither satisfied with Islam, nor satisfied with Kufr. They do not believe in the truth of God’s promises, nor believe in the righteousness of the Muslims. This is why they run hither and thither among the Unbelievers showing intimacy with them to seek shelter if they overcome the Muslims in their fancy. They thought that one day the Muslims would doom to disaster and at that time they would require the help and support of the Unbelievers to save them from the miseries of Time. When they said these words: [Arabic script] to the Muslims or before the Prophet they meant to say outwardly that they kept good relations with the Jews, etc., so that in famine etc. they might get grains etc. from them. But when they said these words to the Believers they actually meant that some heavenly disaster would certainly befall the Muslims because the Muslims had committed the folly of battling with the powerful men like them (Jews etc.). So God beforehand informs them that the cherished hopes and apprehensions of the Hypocrites will be shattered altogether. God will go on conferring victories upon the Muslims in near future. The Jews will not overcome but the Muslims will come into their possession. God will also show them some signs from Him which will shatter all fancies of the Hypocrites and they will experience within no time the disastrous results of developing intimate relations with the Enemies of Islam in the form of worldly humiliation and disgrace, and just after death they will see the otherworldly effects of their treacherous and perfidious activities. At that time nothing but painful remorse will be their fortune. This is what actually took place. The general domination and the victory of Mecca etc. broke down the unholy ambitions of the Enemies of Islam. Many Jews were killed, many exiled and the feign hopes of the Hypocrites shattered and were exposed before the Muslims – their maxims were falsified and the efforts of befriending the Jews were set at naught, and were finally driven to worldly loss and everlasting destruction. The next verse deals with this subject in a different way. The Quranic prediction about the victories of Muslims, the defeat of the Unbelievers and the frustration of the Hypocrites is a great proof of Divine Origin of the Quran – it is the Word of God and not the Word of Muhammad as some Orientalists and Heretics have said in the West as well as in the East.
89. This verse contains a mighty prediction for the immortal existence and protection of Islam. Previously the Muslims were forbidden to establish intimate relations with the Unbelievers. It was possible that some souls might turn away gradually from Islam on account of intimate associations with the Unbelievers as hinted in: [Arabic script] so God has forcefully and clearly informed through the Quran that such people who turn away from Islam will not do any harm to Islam but will harm themselves. God will bring a people against the apostates, or instead of apostates, who will love God and God will love them. They will be very kind to the Muslims and very hard against the Unbelievers and the Enemies of Islam. This prediction did prove correct in every period of Islamic History. The Fitna of Apostacy ([Arabic script]) first of all spread just after the Holy Prophet in the period of Hazrat Abu Bakr Siddiq ([Arabic script]). Many types of the Apostates stood against Islam. But the dauntless courage and the statesmanship of Hazrat Siddiq and the valiant devotion of the sincere Muslims extinguished this Fire of Fitna (Dissension and Subversion) and united the whole Arabia again on the path of guidance and Islam. We also see today that when some ignorant and greedy souls leave Islam and become apostates, Islam in turn captivates by its natural force of gravitation a number of Non-Muslims better educated and devoted than the renegades. God raises such pious souls and sturdy devotees to crush down the apostates, who do not fear the reproaches and censures of any critic or traducer in the way of God and the service of Islam. These people are really chosen by God for His grace. They are fortunate because the greatest grace of God and the highest fortune of man is that in times of dissension and subversion he may stick to the straight path himself and save others from subversion and dissension. God gives a good portion of this mighty grace and great bounty whomsoever He will. His grace is unlimited and He knows better who is more entitled to this reward. Hazrat Siddiq was the first man in this Ummat who was a prodigy of perseverance and wisdom and who was especially graced by God to put down the turbulent dissension and save the Caliphate of Islam from annihilation, which was the real aim of the apostates and Roman Empire. His glorious statesmanship is recognized by the worst traducers of Islam.
90. Previously the Muslims were prohibited from maintaining intimacy and friendship with the Jews and Christians. The question naturally arises then with whom friendship and intimate relations should be maintained? In this verse it is told that the real friend of the Muslims is God and His Messenger and the sincere Muslims and no one else.
91. Seeing the meagre number of the Muslims and the teeming odds of the Unbelievers it was possible that a Believer (Musalman) of weak heart and superficial observation would think that far from becoming victorious and dominant it was even difficult to protect the life and existence from the onslaught and aggression of the Unbelievers; for such people a consolatory declaration is made by the Holy Quran that they should not look to the meagre number of the Musalmans and their scanty resources because the side of the Divine Al-mighty, His Holy Messenger and the sincere Muslims shall always be dominant.
Note: These verses were sent down in praise of Hazrat Ibada bin Samit’ who had severed all relations with the Jews when he came to know that they were Hypocrites and the real enemies of Islam; the modern Muslims should follow his footsteps.
92. The Muslims are again forbidden to keep intimate relations with the enemies of Islam under another effective head. Nothing can be more venerable and respectable to a Momin than his Religion. The Jews and Christians, Atheists and Polytheists have no respect for the Divine Religion of Islam. Theses Unbelievers or Opponents laugh and clap when Azan for Prayer is given. They actually laugh at God and the Divine Signs. It means they have internal hatred for God. The silent spectators who do not forbid them to do so are also with them. They rejoice in their heart at their foolish actions of mockery. These infidels are inimical to Islam in heart, in words and in deeds. So how an honest soul with a light of Eman and Islam in his heart can be friend of the Enemies of God, Enemies of Muhammad, Enemies of Divine Signs, Enemies of Musalmans and in brief Enemies of virtue and goodness. The sooner the denunciation, the better!
93. When the Call for prayers (Azan) is given, the Jews, the Christians, the Atheists, the Polytheists burn with anger and make mockery of Azan which is a proof of their superlative foolishness and stupidity. In the words of Azan the absolute greatness and glory of God is declared. Tauheed is announced again and again. The Prophethood of Mohammad ([Arabic script]), who is the Confirmer of all past Prophets and Heavenly Books, is ascertained in Azan. It is an invitation to Salat, which is a practical demonstration of man’s uttermost devotion and worship to God, it is an excellent manner of attraction towards material and spiritual prosperity and towards the sublime glory of man. Mockery of Azan is a derision of these noble virtues and magnificent standards. Only a fool can scoff at these purities, who has no capacity to differentiate between good and bad, vice and virtue, God and satan.
It is said in some Traditions that there was a Nasrani in Madina who was envious of Islam. When the words of ([Arabic script]) were said in Azan that Nasrani uttered ([Arabic script]) – the liar burnt or may burn. By these words he meant that one who confirmed the Prophethood of Muhammad was a liar. But whatever he meant, these words recoiled on him. He was himself a liar and burnt in the fire of envy at the glory of Islam. One night a girl came to his house with fire in some pot. By chance a cinder fell down and set the whole house on fire. The sleeping mates including that Nasrani were burnt to ashes. Thus God showed how the liars burn in the fire of this world before the Fire of Hell.
Another story of mockery at Azan is related in the Traditions. The Holy Prophet was returning from Hunain on the day of Meccan Victory. In the way Hazat Belal called the Azan. Some young boys including Hazrat Abu Mahzoora imitated the Muazzin Belal and mocked at the Azan. The Holy Prophet got them caught. After a brief instruction Abu Mahzoora embraced Islam. God felt mercy on him and cast Eman in his heart. Grace after grace, the Holy Prophet appointed him Muazzin of Mecca – thus imitation changed into reality by the grace of God.
94. Any work is mocked at due to two reasons, either the work itself is ridiculous or the worker is a joker. Previously it is told that Azan is not a thing of joke, and only an idiot can laugh at such serious and noble thing as Azan. In this verse the condition of the callers of Azan is described in an interrogative manner. The mockers, who are unfortunately claimant to Divine Religion & Divine Books, should tell with justice why they are so malignant against the Muslims and what evil they see in them which is liable to mockery, except that the Muslims believe in One God and in all the Books sent down by God and in all the Messengers sent down by God with faithfulness and sincerity of heart; whereas the Mockers neither truly believe in the ONENESS of God, nor confirm all the Prophets and Messengers of God. It would be a miscarriage of justice on the part of the so-called civilized people to mock at those people who are the true holders of Truth and Virtue and who bow down in obedience whenever they are ordered.
Sayyid Qutb: IN THE SHADE OF THE QUR’AN – Fi Zilal al-Qur’an
Volume IV - Surah 5 (Al-Ma’idah), Ayat 51-66 (Here: Verses 51-54)
Delineation of an Essential Relationship
[5:51] Believers, do not take the Jews and the Christians for your allies. They are allies of one another. Whoever of you allies himself with them is indeed one of them. God does not bestow His guidance on the wrongdoers.
[5:52] Yet you see those who are sick at heart rush to their defence, saying, “We fear lest a change of fortune should befall us.” God may well bring about victory (for believers) or some other event of His own making, and those (waverers) will terribly regret the thought they had secretly harboured within themselves.
[5:53] The believers will say: “Are these the self-same people who swore by God their most solemn oaths that they were with you?” All their works are in vain and they will loose all.
[5:54] Believers, if you renounce your faith, God will bring forth (in your stead) people whom He loves and who love Him, humble towards the believers, proud towards the unbelievers. They will strive hard for God’s cause and will not fear to be censured by any critic. Such is God’s favour which He grants to whom He wills. God encompasses all and knows all.
[5:55] Your patron is only God, and His Messenger and those who believe – those who attend to their prayers, pay their zakat (i.e. purifying alms) and bow down in worship.
This passage confirms that not all the verses of this surah were revealed after Surah 48, The Conquest, or al-Fath, which was revealed after the peace agreement signed at al-Hudaibiyah between the Muslims and the unbelievers of the Quraysh in the sixth year of the Islamic calendar. Indeed, several passages in this surah were, most probably revealed well before that, perhaps before the evacuation from Madinah of the Jewish tribe of Qurayzah in the fourth year, if not even earlier, i.e. before the evacuation of the al-Nadir and Qaynuqa’ Jews. A number of verses in this surah refer to events and situations that took place within the Muslim community in Madinah as also the circumstances and attitudes adopted by the Jews and hypocrites. These should not have taken place after the power of the Jews was finally broken with the evacuation of the Qurayzah.
We have, for example, a clear warning against taking the Jews and the Christians as allies. The warning states that whoever establishes an alliance with them actually belongs to them. There is another reference to the fact that those who were sick at heart maintained an alliance with them protesting that they feared a change of fortune. The Muslims are warned against maintaining an alliance with those who mock their faith. There is a clear reference to the fact that the Madinah Jews did mock the Muslim’s prayer, making a jest of it. None of this could have happened unless the Jews enjoyed a degree of power and influence in Madinah. Otherwise, there would have been no call for such a clear warning and threat. Nor would there be any need for exposing the true nature of the Jews, condemning them and denouncing their scheming in such a manner which uses a variety of styles and expressions.
Some reports suggest that certain verses in this passage directly relate to specific events. Some referring to the confrontation with the Jewish Qaynuqa’ tribe which followed the Battle of Badr. At that time ‘Abdullah ibn Ubayy was keen to demonstrate his special relationship with the Jews, and declared, “I am a man who fears a change of fortune, and, therefore, I will not disown my alliances.” Even without these reports, an objective study of these statements in relation to the events that took place in Madinah at the time of the Prophet is sufficient to support our view concerning its time of relevation.
Verses in this passage provide a few glimpses of the Qur’anic method in educating the Muslim community and preparing it to assume the role God assigned to it. They also explain some of the constituent elements in this method as well as a few principles Islam likes to see established in the minds of individual Muslims as well as in the Muslim community. These principles and elements are constant and apply to all generations, since they influence the very making of the Muslim individual and the Muslim community.
The cornerstone of the Qur’anic method of moulding a true Muslim is to instil in him that his allegiance must be given, pure and total, to his Lord, God’s Messenger, his faith, and the Islamic community. This is coupled with the need to instil in one’s consciousness the complete distinction between the Islamic camp and any camp that does not raise God’s banner, follow God’s messenger or belong to God’s party. The Muslim is also to be made to feel that he is chosen by God to be a means of accomplishing His will in human life and history. Such a choice, with all its attending duties, is a demonstration of God’s limitless bounty which He bestows on whom He wills. To be in alliance with a community other than of the Muslims is to turn away from God’s faith and reject His choice and bounty. This message is clearly given in several places in the forthcoming passage, such as verses 51 and 54-6.
The Qur’an also cultivates a Muslim’s understanding of the true nature of his enemies and the war they wage against him. It is a battle of faith since faith is the permanent issue between a Muslim and all his enemies. They take a hostile attitude towards him primarily on account of his faith and because they have deviated from Divine faith. Hence, they hate everyone who follows it with diligence and a clear conscience: “Say: People of earlier revelations! Do you find fault with us for any reason other than that we believe in God [alone], and in that which has been revealed to us as well as that which has been revealed previously, while most of you are transgressors?” (Verse 59) This is, indeed, the crux of the matter.
This method and its essential directives are of great importance. To be totally dedicated to God and His Messenger, to faith and the Muslim community and to know the true nature of the battle and the enemies are conditions of vital importance in the fulfilment of the conditions of true faith. They are also a prerequesite in the moulding of a true Muslim and the organisation of the Muslim community. Those who claim to be advocates of this faith do not truly believe in it and are not able to accomplish anything of value on earth unless they come to feel that they are a community apart. They are different from all other communities and camps except for those who raise the same Islamic banner, dedicate their total allegiance to God and His Messenger and have a leadership who shares their belief in God and His Messenger. They will also have to know the true nature of their enemies and their motives, and the nature of the battle they have to fight against them. They also need to know that all their enemies are in actual alliance against them and that they patronise one another in fighting the Muslim community and the Islamic faith.
In this passage we are not only told the true motives of the Muslim community’s enemies. Instead, the very nature of those enemies and the extent of their transgression are also exposed so that every Muslim is aware of whom he fights and is reassured as to the justice and the inevitability of this fight. Verses 51, 57, 58, 61 and 64 describe these enemies very clearly, highlighting their main characteristics. Those who take such an attitude towards the Muslim community, mock at its faith and prayer and make a jest of them, must be repelled by every Muslim.
This passage also defines the outcome of this battle and points out the value of faith in the destiny of communities in this life as well as in the life to come: “Those who ally themselves with God and His Messenger and the believers (will find that) the party of God will be victorious.” (Verse 56) “If only the people of earlier revelations would believe and be God-fearing, We should indeed efface their [past] bad deeds, and bring them into gardens of bliss. If the observe the Torah and the Gospel and all that has been revealed to them by their Lord, they would indeed be given abundance from above and from beneath.” (Verses 65-6)
The passage also tells us of the qualities that must be present in a Muslim whom God chooses to be an advocate of His faith, bestowing on him by such choice a favour that is great indeed: “Believers, if you renounce your faith, God will bring forth (in your stead) people whom He loves and who love Him, humble towards the believers, proud towards the unbelievers. They will strive hard for God’s cause and will not fear to be censured by any critic. Such is God’s favour which He grants to whom He wills. God encompasses all and knows all.” (Verse 54)
All these statements represent aspects of the Qur’anic method of moulding the Muslim individual and the Muslim community. It is a method that lays down the best of foundations.
Alliances That Cannot Survive
Believers, do not take the Jews and the Christians for your allies. They are allies of one another. Whoever of you allies himself with them is indeed one of them. God does not bestow His guidance on the wrongdoers. Yet you see those who are sick at heart rush to their defence, saying, “We fear lest a change of fortune should befall us.” God may well bring about victory (for the believers) or some other event of His own making, and those (waverers) will terribly regret the thought they had secretly harboured within themselves. The believers will say: “Are these the self-same people who swore by God their most solemn oaths that they were with you?” All their works are in vain and they will lose all. (Verses 51-3)
It is most important to begin by defining the meaning of the alliance the believers are forbidden by God to maintain with the Jews and Christians. It is to establish a relationship of mutual support so as to forge one block with them. It has nothing to do with following their faith. it is extremely unlikely that we find among Muslims anyone who may be inclined to follow the Jewish or Christian faith. It is rather the type of alliance involving mutual help that was unclear to some Muslims who initially thought it permissible. It was a fact of life that there were mutual ties and interests between the Arabs in Madinah and groups of Jews. These developed into alliances between the two prior to Islam and continued in the early days after most Arabs in Madinah adopted Islam. Later, God ordered the Muslims not to enter into such alliances with the Jews of Madinah.
The term “alliance”, or its Arabic equivalent wala’, is well known and has a precise meaning in Islamic terminology. It occurs in the context of relationship that the Muslims in Madinah were required to have with Muslims who did not migrate to the land of Islam. God says in the Qur’an: “You have no alliance with them until they have emigrated.” (8:72) It is obvious that what meant here is not support in faith, because every Muslim is a supporter in faith to every other Muslim in all situations. The reference here is to the sort of alliance and patronage that requires mutual cooperation and military assistance. This latter relationship does not exist between Muslims in the land of Islam and those who do not join them in their land. It is this very sort of relationship which these verses block between believers and Jews and Christians in any situation, although it used to exist between them and the Jews in the early days of Islam in Madinah.
Islam insists that its followers maintain an attitude of maximum tolerance towards the people of earlier revelations. To take them as allies and patrons, however, is a different matter altogether. The two may be confused by those who have not formulated a clear concept of the essence of the Islamic faith and its role as a practical and methodical movement aiming to establish a particular order in life according to the unique Islamic concept. As such, Islam clashes with other concepts and situations as it conflicts with people’s desires, and hence their deviation and transgression. Thus, it inevitably finds itself engaged in a necessary struggle to establish the new situation.
Those who are thus confused lack a clear vision of the true nature of this faith and a proper understanding of the nature of the battle and the attitude adopted by the people of other religions concerning it. They overlook the clear Qur’anic directives relating to it. In their minds, the emphasis Islam places on extending a tolerant attitude towards the people of earlier revelations and the need to treat them with kindness in the Muslim community in which they live, enjoying all their rights, is, thus, confused with the alliance that is owed by every Muslim to God, His Messenger and the Muslim community. They forget what the Qur’an asserts of the people of earlier revelations, of their being allied alone one with another in fighting the Muslim community. This is their constant attitude. They are hostile to the Muslims because of their faith. They will not be happy with a Muslim unless he abandons his religion and follows theirs. Hence, they persist with their fight with Islam and the Muslim community. Hostility may be clear in what they may say, but what their hearts conceal is much worse.
A Muslim is required to show tolerance in dealing with the people of earlier revelations, but he is forbidden to have a relationship of alliance or patronage with them. His path to establish his religion and implement his unique system cannot join with theirs. No matter how kind he is to them, they will never be happy to implement his faith and establish his system. Nor will it stop them from entering other alliances to scheme against and fight the Muslims. It is too naïve to think that we and they can ever join forces to support religion in general against unbelievers and atheists. For whenever the fight is against Muslims, they join forces with the unbelievers and atheists.
The naïve among us tend to overlook this truth when we think that we can establish an alliance with the people of earlier revelations, i.e. the Christians and Jews, in order to check the advance of materialism and atheism, since we are all people of faith. We forget the teachings of the Qur’an and the lessons of history. Those very people of earlier revelations used to say to the pagan Arabs that they were “better guided than the believers”. (4:51) it is they who stirred the unbelievers and mobilised them into launching a determined attack against the Muslim community in Madinah. Those people of earlier revelations were the ones who launched the Crusades against the land of Islam, which extended over a period of 200 years. It is they who organised the Spanish inquisition. In recent history, they turned the Muslim Arabs of Palestine out of their land in order to give it to the Jews. In doing so, they were in alliance with atheism and materialism. The same people of earlier revelations persecuted the Muslims in Abyssinia, Somalia, Eritrea, and Algeria. They further collaborated with atheism, materialism and polytheism in the persecution of Muslims in Yugoslavia, China, Turkistan, India and in many other places.
Nevertheless, totally obvious to such definitive Qur’anic statements, some of us may entertain thoughts that we can establish a relationship of alliance or patronage with these people of earlier revelations in order to repel the attacks of atheist materialism on religion. Such people do not read the Qur’an. If they do, they confuse Islam’s attitude of tolerance with the forging of an alliance with such people. It is against this that Islam warns the Muslims. Such people do not actually live Islam as the only faith acceptable to God or as an active movement seeking to establish a new order on earth. This new order will inevitably stand up to the hostility of today’s people of earlier revelations, just as it repelled in the past. This positive attitude cannot change since it is the only natural one. We, therefore, leave such people in their confusion to reflect on this clear Qur’anic directive: “Believers, do not take the Jews and the Christians for your allies. They are allies of one another. Whoever of you allies himself with them is indeed one of them. God does not bestow His guidance on the wrongdoers.” (Verse 51)
Distinctive Values of the Muslim Community
In the first instance, this verse is an address to the Muslim community in Madinah. It is at the same time directed to every Muslim community which comes into existence in any part of the world at any point in time. Its message is meant for every group that may be described as “believers”. The particular occasion which necessitated this address was the need for the Muslims in Madinah to have a clearer view of the ties of allegiance which would mould them into a distinct community, totally separate from the people of earlier revelations, especially the Jews. There were ties of alliance, financial dealings, neighbourliness, friendship, etc. All this was natural in the light of the historical, economical, and social conditions which prevailed in Madinah prior to the advent of Islam. This situation, however, allowed the Jews to engage in their scheming against Islam and its followers, as exposed in many Qur’anic statements, some of which we discussed in the three earlier volumes of this work. The present passage though provides an opportunity to discuss other aspects of this scenario.
As Muslims engage in a fight to establish their new system as a living reality, the Qur’an provides them with the necessary concept to create, in their subconscious, a sense of distinction between them and all those who do not belong to their community. The distinction does not preclude tolerance and kind treatment; for these come naturally to a Muslim. It only precludes a relationship of alliance, of the sort a Muslim owes only to God, His Messenger and the community of believers. All Muslims, in all generations, have this awareness and feel this distinction: “Believers, do not take the Jews and the Christians for your allies. They are allies of one another.” (Verse 51)
The fact that they are allies of one another has nothing to do with any particular period of time because it is rooted in the nature of things. They have never been allies with the Muslim community in any land or any period of history. One generation succeeded another, confirming the truth of this accurate statement. Ever since their collaboration in fighting the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and the Muslim community in Madinah, they have maintained their own alliance in all parts of the world at all times. Never was there any exception to this rule. Never did this planet witness anything other than that stated in the Qur’an as universal fact. In the original Arabic text the mode of expression selected is the one which is normally used to state permanent facts.
As this is a permanent fact, its consequences are clearly stated. Since the Jews and the Christians are allies of one another, they can only be patronised by someone of their own kind. If someone from the Islamic camp establishes an alliance with them, he actually removes himself from the Muslim camp, abandons the basic quality of Islam and joins the other camp. For this is the natural and practical result: “Whoever of you allies himself with them is indeed one of them.” (Verse 51) He, thus, wrongs himself and wrongs the Divine faith of the Muslim community. Because of his wrongdoing, God puts him in the same group with the Jews and Christians to whom he has pledged his support and made himself an ally. God neither guides him to the truth nor returns to him to the Muslim ranks: “God does not bestow His guidance on the wrongdoers.” (Verse 51)
This statement represents a very stern warning to the Muslim community in Madinah. Stern it certainly is, but not exaggerated. It simply describes the reality as it is. It is not possible for a Muslim to ally himself with the Jews and Christians and still retain his faith as someone who truly submits himself to God. He simply cannot keep his membership of the Muslim community which acknowledges alliances only with God and His Messenger, and with those who believe.
It is not possible for a Muslim to adopt a “wet” attitude towards the concept of complete distinction between himself and the Muslim community on the one side, and those who follow a system or raise a banner other than that of Islam on the other. If a Muslim does so then he is no longer able to make any contribution or be of any value to the overall Islamic movement, whose first and most essential goal is the establishment of a unique system based on a truly unique concept.
A Muslim believes, with an absolute certainty which admits to hesitation or wavering, that since the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) has conveyed his message to mankind, his faith is the only one acceptable to God. He believes that the system God required him to adopt as the basis of life is a unique system and cannot be replaced or substituted by another. It is the only one that can realise the full potential of human life. The only way for a Muslim to earn God’s forgiveness and acceptance is to exert his maximum effort in establishing both the ideology and social aspects of this system, changing no part of it, however small, and mixing it with no other system, be it religious, social or legal. The only exception is made in the case of what God has chosen to retain of earlier legislation and revelation, incorporating them as He did into the Islamic system.
When a Muslim believes in all this with absolute certainty, he actually has the right motivation to work for the establishment of the system God has chosen for human life, knowing what that involves of hard struggle and pain that often goes beyond what man can normally bear. He also knows that he ahs to encounter difficult impediments, determined resistance and unending plots. Otherwise, what need is there to go to such trouble if ignorant systems, whether polytheistic, atheistic or based on deviant doctrines, can be made suitable substitutes? Why do we need to trouble ourselves in establishing the Islamic system if the differences between it and the systems of the people of earlier revelations or other people are minor, cosmetic or easily ironed out?
Those who try to advocate a less decisive distinction in the name of tolerance and establishing a meeting ground between the followers of Divine faiths are actually mistaken in their concept of faith and their concept of tolerance. The true faith acceptable to God is the final version of His message to mankind. Tolerance remains in the field of personal relations and has nothing to do with ideological concepts or with the social system. These people try to weaken a Muslim’s conviction that God does not accept any faith other than that of Islam, which is based on total submission to God alone. They also try to weaken his belief that it is his responsibility to establish the Divine system of Islam and to accept not substitute or amendment to it, however minor. Such a firm conviction is established in a Muslim’s mind by Qur’anic statements such as these: “The only true faith acceptable to God is [man’s] self-surrender to Him.” (3:19) “He who seeks a religion other than self-surrender to God, it will not be accepted from him.” (3:85) “Beware of them lest they tempt you away from any part of what God has revealed to you.” (Verse 49) “Believers, do not take the Jews and the Christians for your allies. They are allies of one another. Whoever of you allies himself with them is indeed one of them.” (Verse 51) It is the Qur’an which has the final say. A Muslim should pay no heed to the attempts of those who try to weaken his resolve or water down his firm beliefs.
The Best Insurance for the Future
The Qur’an describes the conditions which prevailed in Madinah, and against which it warns the Muslims: “Yet you see those who are sick at heart rush to their defence, saying, We fear lest a change of fortune should befall us.” (Verse 52)
A report by ‘Atiyah ibn Sa’d mentions that ‘Ubadah ibn al-Samit, a leading figure of the Ansar from the tribe of the Khazraj, came to the Prophet and said: “Messenger of God. I have a large number of Jewish allies and I disown all alliances with the Jews seeking only the patronage of God and His Messenger.” ‘Abdullah ibn Ubayy (the chief hypocrite in Madinah) said: “I am a man who fears changes of fortune. I do not disown my alliances.” God’s Messenger [peace be upon him] said to ‘Abdullah ibn Ubayy: “Abu al-Hudab, the alliance with the Jews which you seem to value more highly than ‘Ubadah ibn al-Samit is left up to you, but not up to him.” He said, “I accept.” In this respect, then, God revealed the Qur’anic verse: “Believers, do not take the Jews and the Christians for your allies.” (Verse 51)
Another report by al-Zuhri mentions that after the Battle of Badr in which the Muslims achieved a resounding victory, the Muslims said to their Jewish allies: “You had better embrace Islam before God punishes you with a defeat like the one that befell the idolaters of Badr.” A Jew called Malik ibn al-Saif said: “Do not be deluded by the fact that you could defeat a group of the Quraysh who have no knowledge of warfare. If we resolve to collaborate against you, you will have no power to stand up to us.” ‘Ubadah ibn al-Samit said: “Messenger of God, my Jewish allies have been numerous, well-armed, and very mighty. Nevertheless, I disown all alliances with the Jews to pledge allegiance only to God and His Messenger.” ‘Abdullah ibn Ubayy said: “But I do not disown my alliances with the Jews. I am a man who needs them.” God’s Messenger, [peace be upon him] said to him: “Abu al-Hudab, your Jewish alliance which you value much more highly than ‘Ubadah ibn al-Samit is given to you as a privilege, but not to him.” He said: “I accept.”
Muhammad ibn Ishaq reports: The first Jewish tribe to violate their treaty with God’s Messenger were the Banu Qaynuqa’. It is reported that God’s Messenger lay siege to them until they submitted themselves to his rule. ‘Abdullah ibn Ubayy went to him then and said: “Muhammad, be kind to my allies.” The Prophet did not answer him immediately, so he said again: “Muhammad, be kind to my allies.” The Prophet turned away from him, and so he put his hand inside the Prophet’s body armour, but the Prophet told him to let go. The Prophet was angry and it appeared in his face. He said to ‘Abdullah: “What are you doing? Let me go!” ‘Abullah ibn Ubayy said: “By God I will not let you go until you are kind to my allies.” They are four hundred unarmoured and three hundred with armour, and they have protected me from all people and your want to get them all in one morning? I am a man who fears changes of fortunes.” The Prophet said to him: “They are yours.”
Muhammad ibn Ishaq also reports: When the Jewish tribe of Qaynuqa’ fought against God’s Messenger, ‘Abdullah ibn Ubayy took their case and defended them. On the other hand, ‘Ubadah ibn al-Samit, who had the same alliance with them as that of ‘Abdullah ibn Ubayy, went to the Prophet and disowned them. He said: “Messenger of God, I release myself from their alliance and pledge alliance only to God, His Messenger and the believers. I have no need for an alliance with unbelievers.” It is concerning him and ‘Abdullah ibn Ubayy that verses 51-6 of Surah 5, The Repast, were revealed.
Imam Ahmad reports on the authority of Usamah ibn Zaid, a young Companion of the Prophet: “I went with God’s Messenger [peace be upon him] to visit ‘Abdullah ibn Ubayy, who was ill. The Prophet said to him (during the conversation): “I used to counsel you against loving the Jews:” ‘Abdullah said: “As’ad ibn Zurarah [one of the earliest people from Madinah to embrace Islam] used to hate them and he died.”
Taken together, these reports give us clear idea of the situation in the Muslim community of Madinah, the relations inherited from pre-Islamic days and the concepts that were totally clarified about the sort of ties which may and may not exist between the Muslim community and the Jews. It is noteworthy that all these reports speak of the Jews and none of them mention the Christians. Nevertheless, the Qur’anic verse speaks of both Jews and Christians because it seeks to establish a permanent concept about the ties and situations which could prevail between the Muslim community and other communities, whether they followed earlier revelations or were non-believers, as will be mentioned later in this passage.
The Qur’an also refers later in this surah to the differences between the attitudes of the Jews and the Christians towards the Muslim community at the time of the Prophet: “You will find that of all people, the most hostile to the believers are the Jews and those who associate partners with God, and the closest friends are those who say: We are Christians.” (Verse 82) Nevertheless, despite the differentiation, the Qur’an equates the Jews and the Christians at this point and equates both groups with the non-believers in a later verse with regard to the question of alliance and patronage. This is due to the fact that this question relates to a permanent principle which states that a Muslim may not have an alliance except with another Muslim. The only patrons for the Muslim are God, His Messenger and the Muslim community. Beyond these, all sects and groups are the same, although they may adopt different attitudes towards the Muslims in different situations.
When God laid down this uncompromising and decisive principle for the Muslim community, He confirmed it on the basis of His own knowledge which encompassed all time, not only that particular period during the lifetime of His Messenger and its special circumstances. Later events of history have revealed that the hostility of the Christians to this religion and to the Muslim community in most parts of the world has not been less than the hostility of the Jews. If we single out the attitude of the Arab Christians and the Christians of Egypt in extending a warm welcome to Islam, we find that, ever since it came into contact with Islam, the wider Christian area in the West has always harboured grudges and hatred and waged a determined war against it. These cannot be described as different from what the Jews harbour against Islam and the war they have waged against it throughout history. Even Abyssinia, whose ruler had received well the Muslims who emigrated to his land at the time of the Prophet, is now as hostile to Islam and Muslims as the Jews.
Since God knew all of this in advance, He laid down this general principle, regardless of the particular circumstances pertaining at the time of the Qur’anic revelations or any other particular circumstances which may exist at any time in history.
Islam and those who claim to be its followers, highly questionable as their claim may be, continue to be at the receiving end of an unabating war launched against them and their faith by Jews and Christians all over the globe. This is the practical confirmation of what God says: “They are allies of one another.” (Verse 51) Any Muslim who respects his intelligence, should pay heed to His Lord’s advice, or indeed His clear command, implementing His final decision to establish a complete distinction between those who are in alliance with God and His Messenger and those who raise a different banner.
Islam requires every Muslim to establish his ties with all people on the basis of faith. To a Muslim, alliance or hostility can only be in relation to faith. Hence, alliance and patronage cannot exist between a Muslim and a non-Muslim, since they cannot be allies in faith. Not even against atheism can such an alliance be forged, as imagined by some of us who either do not read the Qur’an or who are to naïve in outlook. How can a Muslim and a non-Muslim be allies when there is no common ground between them?
When Hypocrisy is Laid Bare
Some of those who do not read the Qur’an properly and do not know the true nature of Islam, and some who are deceived may think that all religions are the same while all denial of faith is the same. They imagine that all those who “respect religion” can stand together in one camp against atheism because atheism opposes all religions and stands against the very idea of being religious. This is, however, unacceptable to Islamic thinking. Nor does it sound right to a person who appreciates Islam as it should be appreciated: as an ideology giving rise to a movement seeking to implement the Islamic system
In Islamic thinking and to a true Muslim’s understanding, matters are clear and simple. Submission to God is the essence of faith. Islam, which means submission, does not recognise any religion which is not based on submission to God, because God says this in the Qur’an: “The only true faith acceptable to God is [man’s] self-surrender to Him.” (3:19) He also says: “He who seeks a religion other than self-surrender to God, will not be accepted from Him.” (3:85) After the Prophet’s message was delivered there is no longer any religion acceptable to God except this religion of Islam in the form preached by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). What used to be accepted from Christians before the Prophet Muhammad’s mission is no longer acceptable, in the same way as what used to be accepted from the Jews before Jesus was no longer acceptable after he was given his message.
The fact that there have lived, after the mission of the Prophet Muhammad, Jewish and Christian people does not mean that God will accept from them what they do or recognise what they follow as a Divine religion. That was the case before God’s last Messenger was sent. Now that he has conveyed his message, there is no longer any acceptable faith other than Islam. The Qur’an makes a statement of this fact which admits no other interpretation.
Islam does not force anyone to abandon his faith in order to embrace Islam because the Islamic principle is clear: “There shall be no compulsion in religion.” (2:256) This, however, does not mean that Islam acknowledges that they have a faith of their own, in the Islamic sense of the word. Hence, there can be no “religious front”, as it were, which Islam may join in opposition to atheism. From the Islamic point of view, there is a religious faith, which is Islam, and a non-religion which includes everything other than Islam. “Non-religion” may take many forms including a faith of Divine origin, if distortion has crept into it, or a pagan faith, or an absolute denial of faith altogether. These doctrines may have their disagreements, but they are all in conflict with Islam and there can be no alliance between them and Islam.
As has already been explained, every Muslim is required to deal fairly and kindly with the people of earlier revelations, unless they persecute him on account of his religion. He is permitted to marry from among their chaste women although scholars have different views on whether a Muslim is permitted to marry a Christian who believes in the divinity of Jesus Christ, or claims that he was son of God, or one who believes in the Trinity. Even when we accept the permissibility of marrying a Christian woman, fair treatment and inter-marriages do not mean that a relationship of alliance and patronage may be forged. Such concessions cannot be construed as acknowledgement that, after the message of the Prophet Muhammad, the religions of the people of earlier revelations remain acceptable to God. They are not. Nor can Islam be lined up in one front with other religions in opposition to atheism.
Islam was revealed in order to correct the beliefs of the people of earlier revelations in the same way as it corrects the beliefs of pagans and idolaters. It calls on them all to accept Islam because it is alone the faith of self-surrender which is acceptable to God. When the Jews claimed that they were not called upon to accept Islam, and felt that it was beneath them to be so called, the Qur’an confronted them with a clear statement to the effect that if they turned away from Islam, they would be considered unbelievers.
Every Muslim is required to call on the people of earlier revelations, atheists and pagans to submit themselves to God. He is not allowed to compel any of them to accept Islam, because faith cannot be accepted through compulsion. Compulsion is not only forbidden; it is futile. Such a requirement is only logical. If a Muslim were to acknowledge that the beliefs of the people of the Scriptures remained acceptable to God after the mission of the Prophet Muhammad, he would only be contradicting himself if he were to call on them to believe in Islam. Such a call can have only one basis, namely, that he does not recognise their faith as acceptable to God. Therefore, he calls them to the proper faith. Once this premise is accepted, it follows that a Muslim cannot be consistent if he joins those who do not submit themselves to God in an alliance which aims to establish the faith based on the principle of self-submission.
From the Islamic point of view, this is a question of faith and one of strategy. Perhaps the faith aspect is clear by now and it can be made clearer by reference to Qur’anic statements which leave us in no doubt that it is not possible to establish an alliance between Muslims and people of the Scriptures. The strategy aspect is also clear. Every effort made by a believer must have as its aim the establishment of the Islamic way of life as outlined in the message of Islam preached by the Prophet Muhammad. This is a complete system that encompasses all human activities. How, then, can a Muslim cooperate in such an effort with one who does not believe in Islam as a faith, a way of life and a legal system? Such a person directs his efforts towards objectives which are, to say the least, inconsistent with those of Islam, if they are not directly opposed to them. Islam does not recognise any objective or effort which is not based on faith, although it may appear to serve a good purpose: “As for unbelievers, their works are like burned ashes which the wind blows about fiercely on a stormy day.” (14:18)
Islam requires a Muslim to dedicate all his efforts to the cause of Islam. Only a person who does not understand the nature of Islam and its method can imagine that any human activity, however secondary, may be separated from Islam or that there are aspects of life which lie outside the Islamic way of life. Such ignorance of the nature of Islam may cause people to imagine that a true Muslim may cooperate with those who are hostile to Islam or those who will not accept anything from a Muslim unless he abandons his faith, as God states of the Jews and Christians in His revealed Book. Such cooperation is impossible from both a faith and strategy point of view.
‘Abdullah ibn Ubayy, who was one of those described in the Qur’an as having “disease in their hearts”, justified his support of the Jews and his determination to maintain his alliance with them by saying that the feared changes of fortune. His argument was indicative of his lack of faith. It is God’s patronage and support that should be sought. To seek the support of others is both futile and erroneous. ‘Abdullah ibn Ubayy’s argument is the same as that of everyone like him; hypocrite, sick at heart, ignorant to the true nature of faith. At the other end we find ‘Ubadah ibn al-Samit who disclaimed all alliance with the Jews once he realised their true feelings. The two positions are at variance, since they only rely on diametrically opposed concepts and feelings. The same difference exists at all times between a faithful heart and one which is devoid of faith.
The Qur’an threatens those who seek the support of the enemies of their religion, the hypocrites, by bringing about victory for the believers or by revealing the truth about the hypocrites: “God may well bring about victory (for believers) or some other event of His own making, and those (waverers) will terribly regret the thought they had secretly harboured within themselves.” (Verse 52) At this point of victory, whether it is here a reference to the conquest of Makkah, or to passing judgement over unclear issues, or to the accomplishment of God’s will, those who have disease in their hearts will experience terrible regret over their past attitudes. The believers will wonder at the state of affairs which befalls the hypocrites: “The believers will say: ‘Are these the self-same people who swore by God their most solemn oath that they were with you?’ All their works are in vain and they will lose all.” (Verse 53)
God brought about victory in the past, and true intentions were laid bare, efforts came to nothing and certain groups of people turned out to be the losers. We have here the same promise from God that victory will be brought about every time we hold fast to our ties with God and we dedicate ourselves to Him alone. To do this, we have to understand the Divine way of life and make it the basis of our life. We have to fight our battle in accordance with God’s guidance and seek alliance with no one but God, His Messenger and other believers.
The Qualities of God’s Beloved People
This passage now completes its first address to the believers, requiring them not to seek an alliance with the Jews and Christians and warning them against such relationships because they may lead them to an unintentional renunciation of the faith of Islam. The second address made in this passage goes on to add a new warning to anyone who renounces his faith, either through making such an alliance or otherwise. Such a person has no position with God, even though he cannot get away from God, and he cannot cause harm to His faith. This faith has its own supporters who are well known to God. If the present group turn away from God’s faith, He will bring forth others who will take their place. The surah describes the main features of this selected group of supporters in pleasant and reassuring terms. It points out the only way to which a Muslim directs his allegiance and it concludes with stating the inevitable outcome of the battle between God’s party and other parties.
Believers, if you renounce your faith, God will bring forth (in your stead) people whom He loves and who love Him, humble towards the believers, proud towards the unbelievers. They will strive hard for God’s cause and will not fear to be censured by any critic. Such is God’s favour which He grants to whom He wills. God encompasses all and knows all. Your patron is only God, and His Messenger and those who believe – those who attend to their prayers, pay their zakat (i.e. purifying alms) and bow down in worship. Those who ally themselves with God and His Messenger and the believers (will find that) the party of God will be victorious. (Verses 54-6)
This warning, coming in this fashion at this particular point to those who turn away from faith, is taken to refer, in the first instance, to an equation which places on one side the maintenance of an alliance with the Jews and Christians, and, on the other, turning away from Islam altogether. This is highlighted by what has been said earlier of classifying anyone who seeks to be in alliance with them as one of them, having broken away from the Muslim community: “Whoever of you allies himself with them is indeed one of them.” (Verse 51) In this light, this second address serves to emphasise the first one. This is further supported by another address which follows later in this surah. This third address forbids alliances with the people of earlier revelations and unbelievers, classifying them all in one group. This means that seeking an alliance with the Christians and Jews is the same as seeking it with unbelievers. Where Islam provides for extending different treatment to the people of earlier revelations from that extended to unbelievers does not relate to having an alliance with them. Rather, it concerns different matters altogether.
Believers, if you renounce your faith, God will bring forth (in your stead) people whom He loves and who love Him, humble towards the believers, proud towards the unbelievers. They will strive hard for God’s cause and will not fear to be censured by any critic. Such is God’s favour which He grants to whom He wills. God encompasses all and knows all. (Verse 54)
God has chosen the community of believers to be the tool of His will to establish the Divine faith on earth, enforce His rule in human life, and to implement His law in people’s affairs and disputes. Thus, they will mould human life on the basis of propriety, goodness and progress. The fact that He has chosen the Muslim community for this purpose is a manifestation of His grace. Whoever rejects this grace and deprives himself of this blessing does so at his own peril. God is in no need of him or anyone else. God chooses from among His servants those whom He know to deserve this limitless grace.
The chosen people are here given a clear profile, described amidst a bright, evocative picture: “God will bring forth people whom He loves and who love Him.” (Verse 54) Mutual love is the relationship between them and their Lord. It is a love that gives an air of compassion, which is pleasant, gentle, bright and friendly. It provides the basis of their relationship with their compassionate Lord.
No one can appreciate the value of God’s love to any of his servants except a person who knows God with all His attributes as He has described Himself and one who feels the effect of these attributes within himself. No one can appreciate the value of this bounty except one who truly knows God, the Giver who has created this vast universe and created man. Man, small creature as he is, sums up the creation of the whole universe. To appreciate the value of God’s love requires that one recognises God’s greatness, ability and oneness as the only Lord of the universe. How great is the difference between God and man to whom He grants His love. It is He – limitless is He in His glory – who has made man, while He remains Majestic, Eternal, the First and the Last, the Lord of the Universe.
For a servant of God to love his Lord is also a great bounty bestowed on that servant himself. This is something that can be appreciated by those who have experienced it. If God’s love to any of His servants is something great and a clear manifestation of endless grace, then, for God to guide one of His servants to love Him and appreciate that unparalleled kind of love is also something great and a clear manifestation of His endless grace.
God’s love to any of His servants remains beyond description. At the same time, a human being’s love of His Lord is something that is very rarely described adequately except, perhaps, in the occasional touch of excellence manifested in a true lover’s description. In this respect, a very small number from among a great multitude of Sufis have demonstrated their truthfulness and have been able to excel in describing their love of God. A few lines of poetry by Rabi’ah al-’Adawiyah give us a sense of her appreciation of this unique type of love. Addressing her Lord, she says:
How tenderly I wish to feel that You are sweet when life is bitter!
How dearly I wish to feel that You are pleased when everyone else is angry.
When the relationship between You and me is sound. I do not care if my relationship with all the worlds is left in ruin.
If you truly give me Your love, everything else is of no consequence. All of those who are on earth are nothing but dust.
God’s love, Majestic as He is in His glory, for one of His servants and the love of God, who bestows all grace, by one of His servants spread in this wide universe puts its mark on every living creature and on every object. It imparts an air of love to the whole universe and to human existence. This does not refer to something that occurs once only or to a passing moment. It speaks of an essential truth and a basic Islamic concept: “God will certainly bestow love on those who believe and do righteous deeds.” (19:96) “My Lord is Merciful, Loving.” (11:90) “He is the Forgiving, the Loving.” (85:14) “When My servants ask you about Me, well, I am near; I answer the prayer of the supplicant when he calls to Me.” (2:186) “True believers love God more than all else.” (2:165) “Say: If you love God, follow me; God will love you and forgive your sins.” (3:31) Many other verses speak in the same vein.
It is a great wonder that people may read all this and claim that Islamic philosophy is stringent and violent. They claim that it visualises the relationship between God and man as one of compulsion, punishment, suffering and neglect. They compare it with the philosophy of Jesus Christ a son of God and a manifestation of Him. Thus, they establish and arbitrary link of duality between God and human beings.
The clarity of Islamic philosophy, as it separates between the nature of Godhead and that of servitude, detracts in no way from the pleasant relationship that exists between God and His servants. This is a relationship based on compassion, justice, love and purity. It is a complete concept which includes all the needs of human existence in man’s relationship with the Lord of all the worlds.
To Love God and Be Loved by Him
The description of the chosen community of believers is remarkable “Whom He loves and who love Him.” (Verse 54) This mutual love is indeed remarkable, generating as it does a feeling of strength the believer needs to fulfil his difficult task. He feels that it is a great honour to have been chosen for this task through which he earns his position of favour, close to God, the Beneficent, the Almighty.
The surah gives further details of this community which is dedicated to the service of God’s cause: “Humble towards the believers.” (Verse 54) This humility means that they are affable, gentle, and tolerant. When they deal with other believers, they do not adopt a difficult attitude or show any stubbornness. They are approachable, responsive, friendly. To adopt such an attitude towards believers does not mean any self-humiliation. Indeed, it is an aspect of brotherhood which removes barriers and formalities. One does not feel that one has anything to withhold from one’s fellow brothers. It is self-consciousness that makes someone difficult and unamenable. On the other hand, when he feels himself belonging to the group of believers, he has nothing to withhold or begrudge. What can he retain for himself when they have all been united by faith, loving God and being loved by Him, and feeling this sublime love spreading over them?
“Proud towards the unbelievers.” (Verse 54) When they have to deal with unbelievers, they show their dignity and high status. This is the attitude to adopt in such a situation. There is no trace of arrogance or conceit. It is being proud of the faith they have chosen and being honoured to fight unbelievers under the banner of faith. it is their unshakable trust in what they have, which is goodness itself, and their knowledge that their role is to make others submit to this goodness. It is not a personal submission by one group of people to another. It is rather a matter of complete trust that the Divine faith, God’s party, will eventually triumph over all creeds based on personal prejudice and also over ignorance. It is they who will eventually triumph though they may be defeated in certain battles along the way.
“They will strive hard for God’s cause and will not fear to be censured by any critic.” (Verse 54) To strive hard in order to establish the Divine system and implement it in human life so as to achieve all that is good for mankind is a distinctive characteristic of the community of believers chosen by God to accomplish His will on earth. They strive hard for God’s cause not to serve their own interests, nor the interests of their people, country or race, but rather to establish God’s authority through the implementation of His law and to achieve all that is good for mankind. Personally, they gain nothing for themselves from such hard striving. It is all for God’s sake.
They strive in this way, fearing no criticism. Why should they worry about being blamed by people when they have been guaranteed that the Lord of all people loves them? Why should they bother about people’s values and traditions when they follow God’s own method and call on people to adopt the Divine way of life? It is the person who derives his values and judgement from others’ views and who seeks their support that fears to be blamed by them. The one who defers to God’s values and inclinations, and who derives his power from God’s power, cares for nothing for what people may say or do, regardless of their position, importance or standard of advancement and civilisation.
We pay so much attention to what people may say, do, or accept, and to their values and standards, because we overlook the standard to which we should refer in evaluating manners. That standard is God’s law and system. It is only God’s law that is right and everything that is contrary to it is wrong, even though it may be accepted by millions and millions of people and endorsed by successive generations and centuries. The merit of any situation, tradition, or value does not derive from the fact that it exists or that millions of people believe in it or implement it in their lives. Such reasoning is unacceptable to Islam. No situation, custom or tradition has any value unless it is sanctioned by the system revealed by God.
It is for these reasons that the community of believers strives hard for God’s cause without fearing to be criticised or censured by anyone. This is the mark of the chosen believers. Moreover, that those believers are chosen by God, that there is mutual love between Him and them, that they have their own distinctive characteristic and the reassurance they have to conduct their affairs on the basis of Divine guidance are all favours bestowed on them by God: “Such is God’s favour which He grants to whom He wills. God encompasses all and knows all.” (Verse 54) He gives in abundance and He chooses the ones to whom He grants His favours on the basis of perfect knowledge. His grace is abundant, limitless.
God defines for the believers the only group with whom they may have a relationship of patronage and the ones to patronise: “Your patron is only God and His Messenger and those who believe – those who attend to their prayers, pay their zakat (i.e. purifying alms), and bow down in worship” (Verse 55) The definition is made here in a way which leaves no way for liberal interpretation or confusion. Matters have to be so clearly defined because the central issue here is that of faith and its implementation through a movement. Hence, submission to God must be complete, trust in Him must be absolute, and self-surrender is the only religion. The question is, then, one of a complete distinction between the Muslim camp and all other camps which do not adopt submission to God as a faith and Islamic law as a way of life. The Islamic movement must be serious in its organisation so that it admits no allegiance except to its own leadership. Thus, loyalty and support can exist only between members of the community of believers, because such loyalty and support are based on faith.
A comprehensive commentary on the Holy Qur’an
By Maulana Mufti Muhammad Shafi
Surah Al-Ma’idah : 5:51 – 58
[5:51] O those who believe, do not take the Jews and the Christians for intimate friends. They are friends to each other. And whoever takes intimate friends from them, he is one of them. Surely, Allah does not take the unjust people to the right path.
[5:52] Now, you see those who have disease in their hearts race towards them saying, “We apprehend that some misfortune may overtake us.” So, it is likely that Allah may bring victory or a command from His own side, whereupon they become regretful over what they concealed in their hearts.
[5:53] And those who believe will say, “Are these the ones who swore by Allah on emphatic oaths that they were with you?” Their deeds have gone waste; hence they became losers.
[5:54] O those who believe, whoever of you turns back from his Faith, then, Allah shall bring a people whom He loves and who love Him, soft on the believers, hard on the disbelievers, who fight in the way of Allah and are not afraid of the reproach of any critic. That is a grace of Allah. He confers it on whom he wills. And Allah is All-Embracing, All-Knowing.
[5:55] Your only friend is Allah, and His Messenger, and those who believe – those who establish Salah and pay Zakat and bow before Allah.
[5:56] And whoever takes to friendship with Allah and His Messenger and those who believe, then, the people of Allah are the ones to prevail.
[5:57] O those who believe, do not take as friends those who have taken your Faith in jest and fun, those who have been given the Book prior to you, and the disbelievers. And fear Allah, if your are believers.
[5:58] And then when you call for Salah, they take it in jest and fun. That is because they are people who do not understand.
Explanation in Brief
The verses cited above take up three important subjects which are the basic principles of unity among Muslims as a collectively organized community.
1. Muslims can deal with non-Muslims in the spirit of tolerance, sympathy, goodwill, equity, justice, favour and kindness, almost everything within that line of conduct. In fact, they should do that for they have been taught to do that. But, what is not permitted is the kind of fast friendship and indiscriminating intimacy which may garble the distinctive hallmarks of Islam. This is the issue known as the ‘Tark al-Muwalat’ to refrain from deep (friendship) in Islamic Terminology.
2. The second principle stressed upon is that should the Muslims of any time and place shift away from the first principle stated above and develop an intimacy of this nature with non-Muslims, then, let them not be under the impression that their conduct could harm Islam in any manner whatsoever – because Allah Almighty has Himself taken the responsibility of seeing that Islam remains duly protected. It cannot be eliminated by anyone. However, if a set of people still go out of their minds, break the limits of Islamic modality of doing things and, let us presume, decide to leave the very pale of Islam, then, Allah Ta’ala will bring in another set of people who will uphold and establish the principles and laws of Islam.
3. Once we know the positive and negative aspects in perspective, it becomes evident that the real friendship of a Muslim – deep, intense, profound and reliance-worthy – can only be with Allah, the Highest of the high, His Messenger, and with those who believe in them.
After this brief introduction of the subject, we can now move to the detailed explanation of the verses.
In the first verse (51), Muslims have been commanded not to enter into “Muwalat” (deep friendship) with Jews and Christians as is the customary practice of non-Muslims in general and, of Jews and Christians in particular, who reserve deep friendship for their own people only. They do not deal with Muslims at the same wave length.
After this clear instruction, should a Muslim do otherwise and enter into an intimate friendship with a Jew or Christian, then, in the sight of Islam, he is fit to be counted as one of them – and not as a Muslim.
The Background of Revelation
Reporting from ‘Ikrimah, Ibn Jarir has said that this verse was revealed in the background of a particular event. After the Holy Prophet had settled in Madinah, he had entered into a treaty with Jews and Christians living nearby which required that they would neither fight against Muslims nor help any other tribe at war with them, rather, they would join Muslims to fight against them. Similarly, Muslims will not fight them nor help anyone against them, rather, would defend them against the aggressors. For some time, both parties kept adhering to the treaty. But, the Jews could not observe the terms of the treaty any longer because of their conspiratorial nature and anti-Islam temperament. They made a secret deal with the pagans of Makkah against Muslims and wrote them a letter inviting them to their fortress. When the Holy Prophet came to know about this conspiracy, he despatched a posse of Mujahidin to confront them. These Jews from Banu Qurayzah were, on the other hand, conspiring with the disbelievers of Makkah, while on the other, having infiltrated among Muslims, they had succeeded in making pacts with many of them. This was their front of spying for the disbelievers of Makkah against Muslims. Revealed thereupon was this verse which stopped Muslims from indulging in deep friendship with the Jews and Christians, so that they could be deprived of having access to sensitive information about Muslims. At that time, some noble Companions, including Sayyidna ‘Ubadah ibn Samit, openly announced the cancellation of their treaty obligations as well as their support for abandonment of any close friendship in the future. As for the hypocrites who had their pragmatic relationship with Muslims, or people whose hearts had yet to taste the sweetness of genuine faith, they apprehended dangers in breaking relationships with Jews and Christians lest the conspiracy hatched by the disbelievers and the Jews succeeded and Muslims were overpowered in which cast it would be necessary that they keep their relationships balanced bothways to avoid any problems for them later on. It was on this basis that ‘Abdullah ibn Ubaiyy ibn Salul had said that he saw danger in cutting off relationship with these people and, therefore, he cannot do that. Revealed thereupon was the second verse (52):
Now, you see those who have disease in their hearts race towards them saying, “We apprehend that some misfortune may overtake us.”
It means that after hearing the religiously binding injunction of the abandonment of close friendships, people who have the disease of hypocrisy in their hearts started racing towards their disbelieving friends saying that cutting off relationships with these people is dangerous for them.
Answering them, Almighty Allah said:
So, it is likely that Allah may bring victory or a command from His own side, whereupon they become regretful over what they concealed in their hearts.
It means that these people are under the impression that the disbelievers and the Jews will overcome Muslims. But, Allah has decided that it will not happen. Rather, close is the conquest of Makkah. Or, even before the conquest of Makkah, Allah may, by exposing the hypocricy of the hypocrites, put them to disgrace. Then, at that time, these people will regret thoughts they had concealed.
This has been clarified further in the third verse (53) where it was said that once the hypocricy of the hypocrites has been exposed and the reality behind their claims and oaths of friendship comes out in the open, Muslims would wonder if those were the people who used to assure them with sworn claims of their friendship and there they were all ruined as everything they did just to pretend had gone to waste. That Allah Jalla Sha’nuhu has mentioned the conquest of Makkah and the disgrace of the hypocrites in these verses was something which everyone saw only after a few days with their own eyes.
The fourth verse (54) tells us that the prohibition of intimate friendship and inter-mingling with non-Muslims is for the good of Muslims themselves. Otherwise, Islam is the particular religion the responsibility to protect which has been taken by Almighty Allah Himself. The crookedness or disobedience of any individual or group is self-destruct in its place. However, should some individual or group from among Muslims were to really abandon Islam itself, turn into an apostate (Murtadd) totally and become a part of non-Muslims, even that too could bring no harm to Islam because Allah who is Absolutely Powerful is responsible for its protection and He will immediately bring in some other nation into action which will carry out the duties of protecting and spreading the Din of Allah. Things He must do depend neither on an individual nor on the largest of the large party or institution. When He so wishes, He can make straws work for beams and logs, otherwise beams and logs sit in forests turning into compost anyway. As referred to elsewhere in this Commentary, how well this was put in an Arabic couplet:
When Divine decree helps – it can make the meak overtake the mighty.
When it was said in this verse that should Muslims become apostates, it does not matter, for Allah will make another set of people rise to take their place, then, right there, some virtues of this set of people have also been enumerated saying clearly that they can be marked out by such and such distinguishable qualities. Those engaged in the service of their religion should keep these qualities foremost in their minds because these verses tell us that people who have such quality and character are welcome and dear in the sight of Almighty Allah.
1. Their first quality identified by the Holy Qur’an is that Allah will love them and they will love Allah. There are two parts to this quality. The first one is the love of these people for Almighty Allah. This could be taken, in one or the other degree, within one’s control since one can, even if one does not love someone emotionally or naturally, at least make his intention and determination to work for him in loving intellectually. And even emotional or natural love is thought not in one’s control, yet its causes are, for instance, the meditation of the greatness and majesty of Almighty Allah, the conception of His most perfect power and the recapitulative survey of His authorities and blessings over human beings. This would definitely generate even natural love for Almighty Allah in the heart of a man or woman.
But, as far as the other part is concerned, that is, the love of Allah will be with these people, it obviously seems to indicate that this is a matter where human choice and action play no role. So, what is beyond our control and choice hardly warrants a description and is obviously fruitless – one may be tempted to wonder.
But, by pondering over some other verses of the Holy Qur’an, one will discover that the causes of this part of love too are within human control. If someone uses these means, the love of Allah will necessarily be with him or her. Those means of achieving this end have been mentioned in the verses of the Qur’an which appears in Surah ‘Al-‘Imran: [Arabic script] (Say [O Prophet], “If you do love Allah, follow me; Allah shall love you” …3:31).
This verse tells us that one who wishes to have Allah love him or her should make the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet [Arabic script] the very pivot of life and develop a committed habit of following Sunnah in whatever one does in each and every department of one’s life. If so, the promise of Allah is there – He will love that person. And this very verse also tells us that the only group of people which can stand up and meet the challenge of Disbelief and Apostacy (Kufr and Irtidad) shall be the group of people which follows the Sunnah conscientiously and habitually – neither falling short in obedience to the injunctions of the Shari’ah, nor initiating and introducing on their own, deeds contrary to the Sunnah.
2. The second quality of this group has been identified as: [Arabic script] (…soft on the believers, hard on the disbelievers…). Here the word: ‘adhillah’ could be, as explained in Qamus, the plural of both dhalil or dhalul. Dhalil means low or despicable while dhalul means soft and tractable, that is, easily controlled, docile. According to the majority of commentators, this is the meaning of ‘adhillah’ at this place, that is, these people will be soft with Muslims. Even in matters of dispute, they can be controlled and mollified easily. They would set the dispute aside, even if they are right in it – as said by the Holy Prophet [Arabic script] in an authentic hadith: [Arabic script] that is, ‘I am the guarantor of a home in the middle of Paradise for one who abandons dispute despite being in the right.’ Thus, the essential meaning of this word comes to be that these people will have no dispute with Muslims in matters relating to their rights and dealings.
The second word is ‘a’izzah’ in: [Arabic script] (hard on the disbelievers). Here too, ‘a’izzah’ is the plural of ‘Aziz which means dominant, strong and hard. So, the sense is that these people are hard and strong against the enemies of Allah and His Din who would be unable to control or manipulate them. Now, by combining both sentences we can arrive at the essence of this statement – that this will be a set of people whose love and hate, friendship and enmity will be, not for their person or their rights and dealings, but only for Allah, His Messenger and His Din. Therefore, when it comes to fight, it will not be against the obedient servants of Allah and His Messenger, instead of that, it would be against those who are hostile and disobedient to Allah and His Messenger. The same subject appears in a verse of Surah Al-Fath where the words are: [Arabic script] (severe against disbelievers, merciful between themselves – 48:29).
3. The essence of the first quality was the most perfect fulfilment of the rights of Allah, and the essence of the second quality was moderation in the fulfilments of rights of the servants of Allah by remaining accommodating in dealings. Now, the third quality of these people mentioned here is: [Arabic script] that is, they shall keep carrying out Jihad to spread and establish the True Faith. In essence, it means that fighting against forces of disbelief and apostacy is no easy task. In this confrontation, traditionally known devotion to worship in seclusion or a simple softness or hardness of attitude is not enough. Also necessary here is a feeling and fervour for the mission of establishing Din.
4. To ensure that this feeling and fervour achieves its desired perfection, the fourth quality of these people has been identified as: [Arabic script] that is, they will not care for any blame, censure or derogatory criticism directed against them while they are engaged in their efforts to upraise the true word of Allah and establish His Din. A little reflection will show that the leader of a movement usually faces two types of impediments in his efforts which are the power of the adversary and the vilification of his own people. Experience bears out that people who lead a movement resolutely would stand firm against any adversary, even go through arrests, jail sentences, beatings and tortures, yet, when it comes to facing blames and vilifications from their own people, even the most determined leaders tend to falter. Perhaps, it is to stress the importance of this trying situation at this place, that Allah Almighty has considered it sufficient to say that these people go on with their Jihad without taking notice of any blames directed against them.
Finally, towards the end of the verse (54), it was added that these good qualities of character are nothing but rewards from Almighty Allah. It is He who gives them to whom He wills. A human being cannot acquire these by dint of his own effort and deed without Divine grace.
The Fitnah of Apostacy
Through the explanation of the words of these verse, it has already been clarified that the incidence of some from among Muslims turning into apostates will not harm Islam as a religion because Allah will raise a set of people with high morals and superior deeds who would defend and support it. However, the majority of commentators have dwelt further on the Fitnah (trial) of Apostacy (Irtidad). According to them, this verse is actually a prophecy of this Trial and at the same time a good news for the group of people who will fight against it and eliminate it successfully. This coming Fitnah of Apostacy was a serious problem the germs of which had already started spreading towards the lattermost period of Prophethood. But, after the departure of the Holy Prophet [Arabic script] from this mortal world, this became an epidemic spreading all over the Arabian Peninsula. The group blessed with the good news was that of the noble Companions who confronted this onslaught of Apostacy under the command of the first Khalifah of Islam, Sayyidna Abu Bakr Al-Siddiq [Arabic script].
Chronologically, Musaylimah al-Kadhdhab (the Liar) was the first to claim prophethood alongwith the Holy Prophet [Arabic script] and was so audacious that he returned his emissaries back with the threat that he would have killed them had it not been for the protocol which prohibited killing of envoys and emissaries. Musaylimah was a liar in his claim. The Holy Prophet [Arabic script]did not get the time to wage Jihad against him and he left this mortal world.
Similarly, Aswad al-‘Ansi, the chief of the tribe of Mudhhaj in Yaman announced his prophethood. The Holy Prophet [Arabic script] ordered the Governor of Yaman appointed by him to fight against him. But, the very next day after the night he was killed, the Holy Prophet [Arabic script] departed from this mortal world. The news about his being killed reached the noble Companions at the end of Rabi’ al-Awwal. Another event like this was reported concerning the tribe of Banu Asad whose chief, Tulayhah ibn Khuwaylid laid a claim to his own prophethood.
Groups from these tribes had turned Apostates during the last sickness of the Holy Prophet [Arabic script]. The news of his passing away took lid out of this storm of Apostacy. Seven tribes of Arabia from different places turned against Islam and its legal authority. They refused to pay Zakah as required by Islamic law to the Khalifah of the time, Sayyidna Abu Bakr Al-Siddiq [Arabic script].
After the passing away of the Holy Prophet [Arabic script], the responsibility of the country and the community fell on the shoulders of Sayyidna Abu Bakr Al-Siddiq [Arabic script]. There was the great shock on the one hand, and the flood of trials and rebellions on the other. Sayyidah ‘A’ishah [Arabic script], says that the shock faced by her father, of Sayyidna Abu Bakr, after the passing away of the Holy Prophet [Arabic script], was so great that had it fallen on high mountains they would have been reduced to powder. But, Almighty Allah had blessed him with the high station of patience and fortitude by virtue of which he fought against all odds with full determination and courage, and did succeed finally.
Rebellion, as obvious, can be quashed by use of force only. But, conditions had reached a point of danger and Sayyidna Abu Bakr went into consultation with the noble Companions. None of them approved of a hardline against rebellions. The danger was: If the Companions were to be committed to internal warfare, foreign powers would run over their new Islamic country. But, Allah Almighty made the heart of His ‘True one’ strong and settled for Jihad. He gave an eloquent Khutbah before the Companions of the Holy Prophet [Arabic script] which opened up their hearts too in favour of Jihad. The power and perfection of his determination and fortitude is reflected though his words:
“People who, after they have become Muslims, turn back and reject the injunctions given by the Holy Prophet [Arabic script], and the Law of Islam, then, it is my duty that I should wage a Jihad against them. If, against me, they decide to bring alone the combined force of all Jinns and human beings, and all trees and rocks of the world, all together, and I have no comrade in arms to support me, even then, I would, all by myself, put my neck on the stake and carry out this Jihad.”
After having said this, he mounted his horse and started moving ahead. Then, the noble Companions, may Allah be pleased with them all, came forward and made Sayyidna Siddiq al-Akbar sit at his place. In no time, a battle plan was drawn with fronts assigned to different people and the time of their departure set for action.
Therefore, Sayyidna ‘Ali [Arabic script], Hassan al-Basri, Dahhak, Qatadah and other Imams of Tafsir have said that this verse has been revealed about Sayyidna Abu Bakr Al-Siddiq [Arabic script]. He was the first one of the promised people about whom it was said in this verse that they will appear to defend Islam at the command of Allah.
But not contrary to this, is the possibility that some other group could also be included in the sense of this verse. Therefore, respected elders who have pointed out to Sayyidna Abu Musa al-Ash’ari [Arabic script] or other noble Companions as being included in the sense of this verse cannot be really taken as contrary to this suggestion. In fact, the most sound and safe position is to believe that all these blessed people, rather every single Muslim due to come right upto the Last Day of Qiyamah, who will keep confronting disbelief and apostacy in accordance with the commands of the Qur’an – they all shall be considered as included under the purview of this verse.
Let us now resume to our description of how the moving exhortation of Sayyidna Siddiq al-Akbar made a group of Sahabah rise to the occasion and meet the challenge of this trial of Apostacy under the leadership of the first Khalifah of Islam. Assigning an army of fighting men, he sent Sayyidna Khalid ibn Walid to Yamamah to fight against Musaylimah the Liar who had become very powerful in his area. The encounters were tough, but Musaylimah the Liar was ultimately killed at the hands of Sayyidna Wahshi, may Allah be pleased with him. His group repented and returned to the fold of Islam. Again, it was Sayyidna Khalid who went to fight against Tulayhah ibn Khuwaylid. He escaped and went out to some other area. Then, Allah gave him the ability to repent and return to Islam once again. He came back as a Muslim.
The news that Aswad al-‘Ansi had been killed and his group had surrendered had reached Madinah toward the end of the month of Rabi’ al-Awwal, the first month of the Siddiqi Caliphate. This was the very first news of victory which reached Sayyidna Siddiq al-Akbar under such trying circumstances. So, from this point onwards, the noble Companions of the Prophet were also blessed with more clear victories on every front against other tribes which had refused to pay Zakah.
Thus, the practical demonstration of the truth of the word of Allah mentioned towards the end of the fifth verse (56): [Arabic script] (then, the people of Allah are the ones to prevail) was seen by the whole world. Speaking historically and objectively, it is a proven fact that the problem of Apostacy did affect some tribes of the Arabian Peninsula after the passing away of the Holy Prophet [Arabic script]. Then, the group that Allah made to rise and fight against the challenge was that of Sayyidna Siddiq al-Akbar and his colleagues among the Sahabah. So, it also stands proved from this very verse that the qualities of the promised set of people given in the Qur’an were all present in Sayyidna Siddiq al-Akbar and the Sahabah with him. To restate these, we can say:
1. Allah loves them.
2. They love Allah.
3. They are soft with Muslims and hard against disbelievers.
4. Their Jihad was in the way of Allah in which they were not afraid of any blame.
Pointing out to the reality of realities, it was clearly stressed that all these high qualities of character, their timely use and the ultimate success in the Islamic expedition though them were things which are not achieved by simple reliance on planning or power or numbers. This is nothing but the grace of Allah. It is He who bestows this blessing upon whom He wills.
Marks of True Muslims
In the previous four verses discussed so far, Muslims have been forbidden to maintain intimate friendship with disbelievers. A positive approach has been taken in the fifth verse (55) where those with whom Muslims can have intimate friendship and special camaraderie have been identified. Mentioned first is Allah and then, His blessed Prophet, for Allah is – and He alone can be – the real friend, guardian and guide of a true Muslim, all the time and under all conditions. Other than the relationship with Him, every relationship and every friendship is perishable. As for the bond of fidelity to the Holy Prophet [Arabic script] is concerned, that too is, in reality, connected with Allah – and not separated. In the last sentence of the verse, the sinceremost friends and fellows of Muslims have been identified as those who are true Muslims – not simply Muslims in name. They have three qualities which mark them out. These are:
Those who establish Salah and pay Zakah and bow before Allah.It means that they: (1) Fulfill their obligation of Salah punctually observing all etiquettes (‘Adab) and conditions (Shara’it) which must be observed in it; (2) pay Zakah out of their wealth; and (3) they are humble and modest and never become proud and arrogant over their good deeds.
The word, Ruku’ in the concluding statement of this verse (55): [Arabic script] translated as ‘those who bow before Allah’ could be taken in more than one sense. Therefore, some of the leading commentators have said that Ruku’ refers to the functional Ruku’ (bowing position) at this place – which is a basic element (Rukn : pillar) of Salah. And the sentence: [Arabic script] (and those who bow before Allah) has been placed after: [Arabic script] (those who wish to establish Salah) because the purpose is to distinguish the Salah of Muslims from the prayer offered by others. As for the essential prayer which Muslims call Salah is something the Jews and Christians also do, but it has no Ruku’ in it. Ruku’ is a distinctive element of the Islamic prayer known as Salah. (Mazhari)
But the majority of commentators say that Ruku’ at this place does not mean the technical Ruku’ of Salah. Rather, it means to bow, to be modest and humble in the lexical sense. Abu Hayyan in Tafsir al-Bahr al-Muhit and Al-Zamakhshari in Tafsir al-Kashshaf have gone by this meaning. The same view has been adopted in Tafsir Mazhari and Tafsir Bayan al-Qur’an. Thus, the meaning of this sentence comes to be that these people do not feel proud of their good deeds; their natural disposition is, rather, modesty and humility.
It appears in some narrations that this sentence has been revealed about Sayyidna ‘Ali [Arabic script], in the background of a particular event. It is said that Sayyidna ‘Ali [Arabic script] was busy making Salah on a certain day. When he bowed in Ruku’, someone needy turned up and asked for something. He, within that state of Ruku’, took out a ring from one of his fingers and tossed it towards him. He could have taken care of the need of this person after having finished his Salah, but he did not wish to make even that much of a delay in removing the need of a poor faqir. This act of ‘racing towards good deeds’ was pleasing in the sight of Almighty Allah and it was through this sentence that it was appreciated.
The Sanad or authority of this narration is a debated issue among Ulama and Muhaddithin, but, should this narration be taken as correct or sound, it would essentially mean that deserving of the close friendship of Muslims are common Muslims who fulfil the obligations of Salah and Zakah particularly and regularly – and amongst them, Sayyidna ‘Ali is specially more deserving of this friendship – as has been said by the Holy Prophet [Arabic script] in another authentic Hadith: [Arabic script] (To whomever I am a friend, then, ‘Ali too is a friend of his) (narrated by Ahmad, as in Mazhari). In yet another hadith, the Holy Prophet [Arabic script] has been reported to have said: [Arabic script] (O Allah, befriend whoever befriends him and take as enemy whoever shows enmity to him).
Perhaps, Sayyidna ‘Ali [Arabic script] has been blessed with this honour because the Fitnah to appear in the future was unveiled before him and he knew that there will be people who will nurse enmity with him and will not hesitate in even rising in rebellion against him – as it did happen during the uprising of the Khawarij.
Anyway, the revelation of the present verse – even if it is related to this event – is worded in a general sense which includes all Companions of the Prophet, and all Muslims. This is not particular to any one individual under a specific command. Therefore, when someone asked Sayyidna Imam Baqar: “Do the words: [Arabic script] (those who believe) in this verse mean Sayyidna ‘Ali [Arabic script]?” He said: “He too, as included under ‘believers’, is within the purview of this verse.”
People of Allah shall prevail ultimately
The next verse (56) gives the good news that such people will overcome the world as come forward in obedience to the Qur’anic injunctions given in this verse and stay away from forging close friendship with others by limiting themselves to taking Allah, His Messenger and those who have faith in them as their genuine friends. The words of the verse are:
And whoever takes Allah and His Messenger and those who believe as friends, then, the People of Allah, are the ones to prevail.In other words, it is said here that those who obey the commands of Allah are the People of Allah. Given to them is the good news that they will be the ones to finally overcome. The events which unfolded later on confirmed the veracity of this statement when everyone saw that the noble Companions, may Allah be pleased with them all, overcame all powers which threatened them. When internal rebellions challenged Sayyidna Abu Bakr, Allah Almighty helped him prevail over all of them. When the towering powers of Ceaser and Cyrus marshalled their menacing might against Sayyidna Umar al-Faruq, Allah Almighty effaced them from the face of the earth. Then, as long as these injunctions were dutifully observed by the Khulafa’ and Muslims at large who came after them – by abstaining from establishing close bonds of friendship with non-Muslims – they had always remained winners in the struggle of life.
The Prohibition of Friendship with those who make fun of Islam
In the sixth verse (57), Allah Almighty has again stressed upon the injunction mentioned in verse 51 at the beginning of the Section, the sense of which is that the Muslims should not seek close friendship with people who make fun of their religion. They can be divided in two groups: The People of the Book, that is, the Jews and Christians; and the disbelievers and non-Muslims in general. In al-Bahr al-Muhit, Imam Abu Hayyan says that the People of the Book were already included under the word, Kuffar or disbelievers, still, the People of the Book have been mentioned here particularly perhaps, because the People of the Book were, though, closer to Islam as compared with other disbelievers, yet, experience bears that very few from among them embraced Islam. This is the reason why a look into the statistics of those who embraced Islam after the age of prophethood and during the period later to it, will reveal that the majority of them were from among the common disbelievers. The number of those who became Muslims from among the People of the Book will be much lower.
Why would that be so? The reason is simple. The People of the Book take pride in being adherents to Divine Faith and Divine Scripture. This proud partisanship made them opt for not accepting the Truth. The attitude of mockery against Muslims was something that they displayed most. When mockery becomes wickedness, things much lower can happen, as would be illustrated by an episode mentioned in the eighth (58) verse in the following words: [Arabic script] (And when you call for Salah, they take it in jest and fun). Tafsir Mazhari, with reference to Ibn Abi Hatim, reports the event itself by saying that there was a Christian in Madinah al-tayyibah. When he heard the words: [Arabic script] (I testify that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah) in the Adhan (call for prayer), he used to say: [Arabic script] (May Allah burn the liar). At last, this very remark made by him became the cause of his entire family burn to ashes. How this happened was commonplace. When he was sleeping, his servant entered the house with a little fire for some purpose. A speck from it flew out and fell down on some piece of cloth. When everybody was fast asleep, the speck had turned into a blaze and everybody was burnt to death.
The Tragedy of People who do not Understand
At the end of the verse (58), it was said: [Arabic script] (That is because they are people who do not understand). It means that the reason for their jest and fun being directed against what is True Faith could be no other but that they do not understand.
Qadi Thanaullah of Pani Pat has said in Tafsir Mazhari that Allah Almighty calls them devoid of understanding although their reason and intelligence in wordly matters is well known. From here we learn that it is possible that one could be very smart and quick-witted in certain kinds of jobs, but when it comes to doing some other things, he either does not use his mind or does not work in that direction. Therefore, he turns out to be dumb in it, like one who does not understand. The Holy Qur’an has referred to this subject in another verse as follows:
These people do not know outward matters of the present life while they are heedless to the Hereafter. (30:7)
Towards Understanding The Qur’an
Vol. II, Surahs 4 – 6
English version of Tafhim al-Qur’an
Sayyid Abul A’la Mawdudi
Surah 5 – Al-Ma’idah (Madinan Period) (Here verses 51-59)
[5:51] Believers! Do not take the Jews and Christians for your allies. They are the allies of each other. And among you he who takes them for allies, shall be regarded as one of them. Allah does not guide the wrong-doers.
[5:52] Indeed you see those afflicted with the disease of hypocrisy race towards them, saying: ‘We fear lest some misfortune overtakes us.’ 84 And it may happen that Allah will either bring you a decisive victory or bring about something else from Himself 85 and then they will feel remorseful at their hypocrisy which they have kept concealed in their breasts -
[5:53] while those who believe will exclaim: ‘Are these the self-same people who solemnly swore by Allah that they were with you?’ All their acts have gone to waste and now they are the losers. 86
[5:54] Believers! If any of you should ever turn away from your faith, remember that Allah will raise up a people whom He loves, and who love Him; a people humble towards the unbelievers; 87 who will strive hard in the way of Allah and will not fear the reproach of the reproacher. 88 This is the favour of Allah which He grants to whom He wills. Allah is vast in resources, All-Knowing.
[5:55] Only Allah, His Messenger, and those who believe and who establish Prayer, pay Zakah, and bow (before Allah) are your allies.
[5:56] All those who take Allah and His Messenger and those who believe as their allies, should remember that the party of Allah will be triumphant.
[5:57] Believers! Do not take for your allies those who make a mockery and sport of your faith, be they those given the Book before you or other unbelievers. Fear Allah if you indeed believe.
[5:58] And when you call for Prayer, they take it for a mockery and sport. 89 That is because they are a people who do not understand. 90
[5:59] Say to them: ‘People of the Book! Do you hate us for anything else except that we believe in Allah, and in the teaching which has been revealed to us and in the teaching which was revealed before you? Indeed most of you are transgressors.’
84. The outcome of the conflict in Arabia between Islam and unbelief (kufr) had not crystallized. Although Islam had become a formidable force owing to the daring, courage and sacrifices of its followers, the forces opposed to it were also tremendously powerful. To an objective observer it must have seemed that either party had an equal chance of success, and so the hypocrites, apparently an integral part of the Muslim body politic, sought to maintain good relations with the Jews and Christians as well. They expected refuge and protection from the Jews in the case Islam was defeated. Moreover, the Jews and Christians held the greatest economic power in Arabia insofar as the banking system and the greenest and most fertile regions of Arabia were in their possession. For these reasons the hypocrites were keen to maintain good relations with them: they thought that to regard the conflict between Islam and unbelief as crucially important, and to sever their relations with all those currently in conflict with Islam, would be too great a risk both politically and economically.
85. They were looking for a conclusive victory, or at least something not far short of it, to inspire confidence that the conflict would end in favour of Islam.
86. However much they might profess to follow Islam –by performing Prayers, observing Fasts, by paying Zakah, by taking part in wars in the cause of God – all was reduced to naught because they had not devoted themselves to the service of the One True God. In pursuit of their worldly ambitions they had split their souls into two, distributing half to God and half to those in rebellion against Him.
87. To be ‘humble towards the believers’ signifies that a person should never use his strength against the believers. His native intelligence, shrewdness, ability, influence, wealth, physical prowess should not be used for the purpose of either suppressing, persecuting or causing harm to the Muslims. Among themselves, the Muslims should always find him gentle, merciful, sympathetic and mild tempered.
To be ‘firm towards unbelievers’, on the contrary, means that by virtue of the intensity of his faith, the sincerity of his conviction, his strict adherence to his principles, his strength of character and his insight and perspicacity born of faith, a man should be firm as a rock in his dealings with the opponents of Islam, so that they find it impossible to dislodge him. There should be no doubt in their minds that the believer would rather lay down his life than compromise his position by yielding to external pressures.
88. In following the religion of God, the implementing His injunctions, in judging things to be either right or wrong according to the criteria of the faith, the believer will be afraid of nothing. He will be impervious to opposition, reproach, denunciation, name-calling and scorn. Even when public opinion happens to be hostile, and his efforts to follow Islam single him out for the scorn of the whole world, the man of true faith will still follow the way which he recognizes in his heart to be true.
89. When they hear the call to Prayer the unbelievers make fun of it by mimicry, pervert its words to ridicule it, and utter disparaging and taunting remarks about it.
90. These are merely acts of stupidity on the part of unbelievers. Had they not been ignorant and foolish they would not have stooped to such base tactics, despite their significant differences with the Muslims on religious questions. After all, can any reasonable person be happy to see the people who call to the worship of God be ridiculed and mocked?
MashaAllah. This was fantastic.
May Allah swt reward your efforts Akhi.
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Re: Introduction to Surah 5 Al-Ma'idah and Tafseer Verses 51 - 58
maybe the title should be changed so people know what to look for?
good thread abdul hakeem
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