This page contains all verses of surah Al-Baqara in addition to Interpretation of all verses by Maarif-ul-Quran (Mufti Muhammad Shafi). In the first part you can read surah البقرة ordered in pages exactly as it is present in the Quran. To read an interpretation of a verse click on its number.
The Surah begins with the Arabic letters Alif, Lam and Mim (equivalents of A, L and M). Several Surahs begin with a similar combination of letters, for example, Ha, Mim, or Alif, Lam, Mim, Sad. Each of these letters is pronounced separately without the addition of a vowel sound after it. So, the technical term for them is مقطعات (Mugatta` at: isolated letters).
According to certain commentators, the isolated letters are the names of the Surahs at the beginning of which they occur. According to others, they are the symbols of the Divine Names. But the majority of the blessed Companions ؓ and the generation next to them, the تابعین Tabi’ in, and also the later authoritative scholars have preferred the view that the isolated letters are symbols or mysteries, the meaning of which is known to Allah alone or may have been entrusted as a special secret to the Holy Prophet ﷺ not to be communicated to anyone else. That is why no commentary or explanation of these letters has at all been reported from him. The great commentator Al-Qurtubi has adopted this view of the matter, which is summarized below:
"According to ` Amir Al-Sha'bi, Sufyan Al-Thawri and many masters of the science of Hadith, every revealed book contains certain secret signs and symbols and mysteries of Allah; the isolated letters too are the secrets of Allah in the Holy Qur'an, and hence they are among the مشتبہات (Mutashabihat: of hidden meaning), the meaning of which is known to Allah alone, and it is not permissible for us even to enter into any discussion with regard to them. The isolated letters are not, however, without some benefit to us. Firstly, to believe in them and to recite them is in itself a great merit. Secondly, in reciting them we receive spiritual blessings from the unseen world, even if we are not aware of the fact. AI-Qurtubi (رح) adds: "The Blessed Caliphs Abu Bakr, ` Umar, ` Uthman and ` Ali ؓ and most of the Companions like ` Abdullah ibn Mas'ud ؓ firmly held the view that these letters are the secrets of Allah, that we should believe in them as having descended from Allah and recite them exactly in the form in which they have descended, but should not be inquisitive about their meanings, which would be improper". Citing Al-Qurtubi and others, Ibn Kathir too prefers this view. On the other hand, interpretations of the isolated letters have been reported from great and authentic scholars. Their purpose, however, was only to provide symbolical interpretation, or to awaken the minds of the readers to the indefinite possibilities of meanings that lie hidden in the Holy Qur'an, or just to simplify things; they never wished to claim that these were the meanings intended by Allah Himself. Therefore, it would not be justifiable to challenge such efforts at interpretation since it would go against the considered judgment of veritable scholars.
The sentence "That Book has no doubt in it" raises a grammatical and exegetical problem, for the first phrase in the Arabic text reads as ذَٰلِكَ الْكِتَابُ :Dhcilikal kitab. Now, the word dhalika ذَٰلِكَ (that) is used to point out a distant thing, while the word kitab (book) obviously refers to the Holy Qur'an itself, which is present before us. So, this particular demonstrative pronoun does not seem to be appropriate to the situation. There is, however, subtle indication. The pronoun refers back to the prayer for the straight path made in the Surah Al-Fatihah, implying that the prayer has been granted and the Holy Qur'an is the answer to the request, which gives a detailed account of the straight path to those who seek guidance and are willing to follow it.
Having indicated this, the Holy Qur'an makes a claim about itself: "There is no doubt in it". There are two ways in which doubt or suspicion may arise with regard to the validity or authenticity of statement. Either the statement itself is erroneous, and thus becomes subject to doubt; or, the listener makes a mistake in understanding it. In the latter case, the statement does not really become subject to doubt, even if someone comes to suspect it out of a defective or distorted understanding - as the Holy Qur'an itself reminds us later in the same Surah: , وَاِنْ كُنْتُمْ فِىْ رَيْبٍ If you are in doubt..." (2:23). So, in spite of the doubts and objections of a thousand men of small or perverse understanding, it would still be true to say that there is no doubt in this book - either with regard to it having been revealed by Allah, or with regard to its contents.
ھُدًى لِّلْمُتَّقِيْنَ :"A guidance for the God-fearing": The Arabic word for the God-fearing is Muttaqin, derived from Taqwa which literally means "to fear, to refrain from", and in Islamic terminology it signifies fearing Allah and refraining from the transgression of His commandments. As for the Holy Qur'an being a guidance to the God-fearing, it actually means that although the Holy Qur'an provides guidance not only to mankind but to all existents in the universe, yet the special guidance which is the means of salvation in the other world is reserved for the God-fearing alone. We have already explained in the commentary on the Surah "Al-Fatihah" that there are three degrees of divine guidance - the first degree being common to the whole of mankind and even to animals etc., the second being particular to men and jinns, and the third being special to those who are close to Allah and have found His favour, the different levels of this last degree being limitless. It is the last two degrees of guidance which are intended in the verse under discussion. With regard to the second degree, the implication is that those who accept the guidance will have the hope of being elevated to the rank of the God-fearing. With reference to the third degree, the suggestion is that those who are already God-fearing may receive further and limitless guidance through the Holy Qur'an. This explanation should be sufficient to remove the objection that guidance is needed much more by those who are not God-fearing, for now we know that the specification of the God-fearing does not entail a denial of guidance to those who not possess this qualification.
The next two verses delineate the characteristic qualities of the God-fearing, suggesting that these are the people who have received guidance, whose path is the straight path, and that he who seeks the straight path should join their company, adopt their beliefs and their way of life. It is perhaps in order to enforce this suggestion that the Holy Qur'an, immediately after pointing out the attributes peculiar to the God-fearing, proceeds to say:
أُولَـٰئِكَ عَلَىٰ هُدًى مِّن رَّبِّهِمْ ۖ وَأُولَـٰئِكَ هُمُ الْمُفْلِحُونَ
It is these who are on guidance given by their Lord, and it is just these who are successful.
The delineation of the qualities of the God-fearing in these two verses also contains, in essence, a definition of Faith ('Iman ایمان) and an account of its basic tenets and of the fundamental principles of righteous conduct:
الَّذِيْنَ يُؤْمِنُوْنَ بِالْغَيْبِ وَ يُـقِيْمُوْنَ الصَّلٰوةَ وَ مِمَّا رَزَقْنٰھُمْ يُنْفِقُوْنَ
Who believe in the unseen, and are steadfast in Salah and spend out of what We have provided them.
Thus, the first of the two verses, mentions three qualities of the God-fearing - belief in the unseen, being steadfast in Salah, and spending in the way of Allah. Many important considerations arise out of this verse, the most significant being the meaning and definition of 'Iman ایمان (Faith).
Who are the God-fearing?
The Definition of 'Iman
The Holy Qur'an has provided a comprehensive definition of 'Iman ایمان in only two words " يُؤْمِنُونَ بِالْغَيْبِ "Believe in the unseen". If one has fully understood the meaning of the words 'Iman ایمان and Ghayb غیب ، one will have also understood the essential reality of 'Iman ایمان .
Lexically, the Arabic word 'Iman ایمان signifies accepting with complete certitude the statement made by someone out of one's total confidence and trust in him. Endorsing someone's statement with regard to sensible or observable facts is, therefore, not 'Iman ایمان . For example, if one man describes a piece of cloth as black, and another man endorses the statement, it may be called Tasdiq تصدیق (confirmation) but not 'Iman ایمان ، for such an endorsement is based on personal observation, and does, in no way, involve any confidence or trust in the man who has made the statement. In the terminology of the Shari` ah, 'Iman ایمان signifies accepting with complete certitude the statement made by a prophet out of one's total confidence and trust in him and without the need of personal observation.1
1. It would be helpful to note that in the everday idiom of the West, and even in modern social sciences, "faith" has come to mean no more than an intense emotional state or "a fixe emotion". As against this, the Islamic conception of Iman ایمان is essentially intellectual, in the original signification of "Intellect" which the modern West has altogether forgotten.
As for the word Ghaib غیب ، lexically it denotes things which are not known to man in an evident manner, or which are not apprehensible through the five senses. The Holy Qur'an uses this word to indicate all the things which we cannot know through the five senses or through reason, but which have been reported to us by the Holy Prophet ﷺ . These include the essence and the attributes of Allah, matters pertaining to destiny, heaven and hell and what they contain, the Day of Judgment and the things which happen on that Day, divine books, all the prophets who have preceded the Holy Prophet ﷺ . in short, all the things mentioned in the last two verses of the Surah Al-Baqarah. Thus, the third verse of the Surah states the basic creed of the Islamic faith in its essence, while the last two verses provide the details.
So, belief in the unseen ultimately comes to mean having firm faith in everything that the Holy Prophet ﷺ has taught us - subject to the necessary condition that the teaching in question must have come down to us through authentic and undeniable sources. This is how the overwhelming majority of Muslim scholars generally define 'Iman ایمان (See al-'Aqidah al-Tahawiyyah, 'Aqa'id al-Nasafi etc.).
According to this definition, Iman ایمان signifies faith and certitude, and not mere knowledge. For, a mental knowledge of the truth is possessed by Satan شیطان himself, and even by many disbelievers - for example, they knew very well that the Holy Prophet ﷺ was truthful and that his teachings were true, but they did not have faith in him nor did they accept his teachings with their heart, and hence they are not Muslims.
The Meaning of ` Establishing' Salah
The second quality of the God-fearing is that they are "steadfast in the prayer." The verb employed by the Holy Qur'an here is Yuqimuna يُقِيمُنَا (generally rendered in English translations as "they establish", which comes from the word Iqamaha اقامہ signifying "to straighten out" ). So, the verb implies not merely saying one's prayers, but performing the prayers correctly in all possible ways and observing all the prescribed conditions, whether obligatory (Fard فرض) or necessary (Wajib واجب) or commendable (Mustahabb مستحب). The concept includes regularity and perpetuity in the performance of Salah as also an inward concentration, humility and awe. At this point, it may be noted that the term does not mean a particular Salah, instead, it includes all fard, wajib and nafl نفل prayers.
Now to sum up - the God-fearing are those who offer their prayers regularly and steadfastly in accordance with the regulations of the Shari'ah, and also observe the spiritual etiquette outwardly and inwardly.
Spending in the way of Allah: Categories
The third quality of the God-fearing is that they spend in the way of Allah. The correct position in this respect, which has been adopted by the majority of commentators, is that it includes all the forms of spending in the way of Allah, whether it be the fard (obligatory) Zakah or the Wajib (necessary) alms-giving or just voluntary and nafl نفل (supererogatory) acts of charity: For, the Holy Qur'an usually employs the word Infaq انفاق with reference to nafl نفل (supererogatory) alms-giving or in a general sense, but reserves the word Zakah for the obligatory alms-giving. The simple phrase: مِمَّا رَزَقْنَاكُم : "Spend out of what We have provided them" inspires us to spend in the way of Allah by drawing our attention to the fact that anything and everything we possess is a gift from Allah and His trust in our hands, and that even if we spend all our possessions in the way of Allah, it would be proper and just and no favour to Him. But Allah in His mercy asks us to spend in His way "out of' what (مِمَّا) he has provided - that is, only a part and not the whole.
Among the three qualities of the God-fearing, faith is, of course, the most important, for it is the basic principle of all other principles, and no good deed can find acceptance or validity without faith. The other two qualities pertain to good deeds_ Now, good deeds are many; one could make a long list of even those which are either obligatory or necessary. So, the question arises as to why the Holy Qur'an should be content to choose for mention only two - namely, performing Salah and spending in the way of Allah. In answering this question, one could say. that all the good deeds which are obligatory or necessary for man pertain either to his person and his body or to his possessions. Among the personal and bodily forms of ` Ibadat عبادت (acts of worship), the most important is the Salah. Hence the Holy Qur'an mentions only this form in the present passage. As for the different forms of ` Ibadat عبادت pertaining to possessions, the word Infaq انفاق (spending) covers all of them. Thus, in mentioning only two good deeds, ` the Holy Qur'an has by implication included all the forms of worship and all good deeds. The whole verse, then, comes to mean that the God-fearing are those who are perfect in their faith and in their deeds both, and that Islam is the sum of faith and practice. In other words, while providing a complete definition of Iman ایمان (Faith), the verse indicates the meaning of Islam as well. So, let us find out how Iman ایمان and Islam are distinct from each other.
The distinction between Iman ایمان and Islam اسلام
Lexically, '.Iman ایمان signifies the acceptance and confirmation of something with one's heart, while Islam signifies obedience and submission. Iman ایمان pertains to the heart; so does Islam, but it is related to all the other parts of the human body as well. From the point of view of the Shari'ah, however, Iman ایمان is not valid without Islam, nor Islam without Iman ایمان . In other words, it is not enough to have faith in Allah and the Holy Prophet ﷺ in one's heart unless the tongue expresses the faith and also affirms one's allegiance and submission. Similarly, an oral declaration of faith and allegiance is not valid unless one has faith in one's heart.
In short, Iman ایمان ، and Islam have different connotations from the lexical point of view. It is on the basis of this lexical distinction that the Holy Qur'an and Hadith refer to a difference between the two. From the point of view of the Shari` ah, however, the two are inextricably linked together, and one cannot be valid without the other - as is borne out by the Holy Qur'an itself.
When Islam, or an external declaration of allegiance, is not accompanied by Iman ایمان or internal faith, the Holy Qur'an terms it as Nifaq نفاق (hypocrisy), and condemns it as a greater crime than an open rejection of Islam:
اِنَّ الْمُنٰفِقِيْنَ فِي الدَّرْكِ الْاَسْفَلِ مِنَ النَّارِ
Surely the hypocrites will be in the lowest depths of Hell. (4:145)
In explanation of this verse let us add that so far as the physical world goes, we can only be sure of the external state of a man, and cannot know his internal state with any degree of certainty. So in the case of men who orally declare themselves to be Muslims without having faith in their heart, the Shari'ah requires us to deal with them as we would deal with a Muslim in worldly affairs; but in the other world their fate would be worse than that of the ordinary disbelievers. Similarly, if Iman ایمان or acknowledgment in the heart is not accompanied by external affirmation and allegiance, the Holy Qur'an regards this too as kufr کفر or rejection and denial of the Truth - speaking of the infidels, it says:
يَعْرِفُوْنَهٗ كَمَا يَعْرِفُوْنَ اَبْنَاۗءَھُمْ
They know him (that is, the Holy Prophet ﷺ) as they know their own sons (2:146);
or in another place:
وَجَحَدُوْا بِهَا وَاسْتَيْقَنَتْهَآ اَنْفُسُهُمْ ظُلْمًا وَّعُلُوًّا
Their souls knew them (the signs sent by Allah) to be true, yet they denied them in their wickedness and their pride. (27:14)
My respected teacher, ` Allamah Sayyid Muhammad Anwar Shah used to explain it thus - the expanse which Iman ایمان and Islam اسلام have to cover in the spiritual journey is the same, and the difference lies only in the beginning and the end; that is to say, Iman ایمان starts from the heart and attains perfection in external deeds, while Islam starts from external deeds and can be regarded as perfect when it reaches the heart.
To sum up, Iman ایمان is not valid, if acknowledgment in the heart does not attain to external affirmation and allegiance; similarly, Islam اسلام is not valid, if external affirmation and allegiance does not attain to confirmation by the heart. Imam Ghazzali and Imam Subki رحمۃ اللہ علیہما both have arrived at the same conclusion, and in Musamarah, Imam Ibn al-Humam (رح) reports the agreement of all the authentic scholars in this respect.2 ...who believe in what has been revealed to you and in what has been revealed before you, and do have faith in the Hereafter.
2. Today one finds a very wide-spread confusion, sometimes amounting to a total incomprehension, with regard to the distinction between Islam and Iman ایمان ، essentially under the influence of Western modes of thought and behaviour and, to be more specific, that of the ever-proliferating Protestant sects and schools of theology. Since the middle of the 19th century there have sprouted in almost every Muslim country a host of self-styled Reformists, Revivalists, Modernists et al, each pretending to have understood the "real" Islam for the first time, and each adopting an extremist, though untenable, posture with regard to Islam and Iman ایمان . On the one hand, we have people claiming that Islam is only a matter of the "heart" (a word which has during the last four hundred years been used in the West as an equivalent of "emotion" or, worse still, of "emotional agitation" ) or of "religious experience" (a very modish term brought into currency by William James). As a corollary, they stubbornly refuse to see the need for a fixed ritual or an ethical code, all of which they gladly leave to social exigency or individual preference. They base their claims on the unquestioned axiom that religion is "personal" relationship between the individual and "his" God. It is all too obvious that this genre of Modernist "Islam" is the progeny of Martin Luther with cross-pollination from Rousseau. On the other hand, we have fervent and sometimes violent champions of Islam insisting on a merely external performance of rituals - more often on a mere conformity to moral regulations, and even these, of their liking. They would readily exclude, and are anyhow indifferent to, the internal dimension of Islam. A recent modification of this stance (in the wake of a certain Protestant pioneering, it goes without saying) has been to replace divinely ordained rituals by acts of social service or welfare, giving them the status and value of acts of worship. Counseling on divorce, abortion, premarital sex and the rest of the baggage having already become a regular part of the functions of a Protestant clergyman, it would not be too fond to expect, even on the part of our Modernists, the speedy inclusion of acts of entertainment as well. There is still another variety of deviationists, more visible and vociferous than the rest, and perhaps more pervasive and pernicious in their influence, finding easy credence among a certain section of Muslims with a sloppy western-style education. While dispensing with the subtle distinctions between Islam and Iman ایمان ، they reduce Islam itself to a mere system of social organization, or even to state-craft. According to their way of looking at things, if Muslims fail to set up a social and political' organization of a specified shape, they would cease to be Muslims. Applied to the history of Islam, this fanciful notion would lead to the grotesque conclusion that no Muslim had ever existed. These are only a few examples of the intellectual distortions produced by refusing to define Islam and Iman ایمان clearly and ignoring the distinction between the two. Contrary to all such modernizing deviations, Islam in fact means establishing a particular relationship of obedience and servitude with Allah. This relationship arises neither out of vague "religious experiences" nor out of social regimentation; in order to attain it, one has to accept all the doctrines and to act upon all the commandments specified in the Holy Qur'an, the Hadith and the Shari'ah. These doctrines and commandments cover all the spheres of human life, individual or collective, right up from acts of worship down to social, political and economic relations among men, and codes of ethics and behaviour, morals and manners, and their essential purpose is to produce in man a genuine attitude of obedience to Allah. If one acts according to the Shari'ah one, no doubt, gains many worldly benefits, individual as well as collective. These benefits may be described as the raison d'etre of the commandments, but are in no way their essential object, nor should a servant of Allah seek them for themselves in obeying Him, nor does the success or failure of a Muslim as a Muslim depend on attaining them. When a man has fully submitted himself to the commandments of Allah in everything he does, he has already succeeded as a Muslim, whether he receives the related worldly benefits or not.
This verse speaks of some other attributes of the God-fearing, giving certain details about faith in the unseen with a special mention of faith in hereafter. Commenting on this verse, the blessed Companions ` Abdullah ibn Masud and ` Abdullah ibn ` Abbs ؓ have said that in the days of the Holy Prophet ﷺ God-fearing Muslims were of two kinds, - those who used to be associators and disbelievers but accepted Islam, and those who used to be among the people of the Book (that is, Jews and Christians) but embraced Islam later on; the preceding verse refers to the first group, and this verse to the second. Hence this verse specifically mentions belief in the earlier Divine Books along with belief in the Holy Qur'an, for, according to the Hadith, people in the second group deserve a double recompense, firstly, for believing in and following the earlier Books before the Holy Qur'an came to replace them, and secondly, for believing in and following the Holy Qur'an when it came as the final Book of Allah. Even today it is obligatory for every Muslim to believe in the earlier Divine Books except that now the belief has to take this form: everything that Allah has revealed in the earlier Books is true (excepting the changes and distortions introduced by selfish people), and that it was incumbent upon the people for whom those Books had been sent to act according to them, but now that all the earlier Books and Shari'ahs have been abrogated, one must act according to the Holy Qur'an alone.3
3. Exactly as predicted by a Hadith, today we see all around us a proliferation of "knowledge" and of "writing". One of the dangerous forms the process has taken is the indiscriminate translation at least into European languages and the popularization of the sacred books of all possible religious and metaphysical traditions - not only the Hindu, the Chinese or the Japanese, but also the Shamanic or the Red Indian. The lust for reading sacred books has virtually grown into a mania, especially among the modern young people with their deep sense of being uprooted and disinherited, and all considerations of aptitude have been contemptuously set aside. In these circumstances, Muslims with a Western orientation are naturally impelled to ask themselves as to what they can or should make of such books which sometimes seem to offer similarities and parallels to the Holy Qur'an itself, and more often to the Sufi doctrines. The problem has already attained noticeable proportions, for in 1974 the government of Turkey found it necessary to ban the entry of certain Hindu sacred books like the Bhagavadgita and Upanishads. The correct doctrinal position in this respect is that it is obligatory for every Muslim, as an essential part of the Islamic creed, to believe in all the prophets and messengers of Allah and in the Divine Books (not in their distorted forms, but as they were originally revealed) that have specifically been mentioned by their names in the Holy Qur'an, and also to believe that Allah has sent His messengers and His books for the guidance of all the peoples and all the ages, and that Muhammad ﷺ is the last prophet and the Holy Qur'an the final Book of Allah which has come down to replace the earlier Books and Shari'ahs. As to the question of the authenticity and divine origin of a particular book held in reverence by an earlier religion or metaphysical tradition, a Muslim is not allowed to affirm such a claim unequivocally, nor should he unnecessarily reject such a possibility. In so far as contents of the book concerned agree with what the Holy Qur'an has to say on the subject, we may accept the statement as true, otherwise spiritual etiquette requires an average Muslim to keep quiet and not meddle with things which he is not likely to understand. As for reading the sacred books of other traditions, it should be clearly borne in mind that a comparative study of this nature requires a very special aptitude which is extremely rare, and hence demands great caution. A cursory reading of sacred books, motivated by an idle curiosity or by a craze for mere information, may very well lead to an intellectual disintegration or to something still worse, instead of helping in the "discovery of the truth" and the acquisition of "peace" which a comparative study is widely supposed to promise. Even when the aptitude and the knowledge necessary for the task is present, such a study can be carried out only under the supervision of an authentic spiritual master. In any case, we cannot insist too much on the perils of the enterprise.
An argument to the Finality of Prophethood
The mode of expression helps us to infer from this verse the fundamental principle that the Holy Prophet Muhammad ﷺ is the last of all the prophets, and the Book revealed to him is the final revelation and the last Book of Allah. For, had Allah intended to reveal another Book or to continue. The mode of revelation even after the Holy Qur'an, this verse, while prescribing belief in the earlier Books as necessary for Muslims, must also have referred to belief in the Book or Books to be revealed in the future. In fact, such a statement was all the more needed, for people were already familiar with the necessity of believing in the Torah, the Evangile and the earlier Books, and such a belief was in regular practice too, but if prophethood and revelation were to continue even after the Holy Prophet ﷺ ، it was essential that the coming of another prophet and another book should be clearly indicated so that people were not left in doubt about this possibility. So, in defining Iman ایمان ، the Holy Qur'an mentions the earlier prophets and the earlier Books, but does not make the slightest reference to a prophet or Book to come after the last Prophet ﷺ . The matter does not end with this verse. The Holy Qur'an touches upon the subject again and again in no less than forty or fifty verses, and in all such places it mentions the prophets, the Books and the revelation preceding the Holy Prophet ﷺ but nowhere is there even so much as a hint with regard to the coming of a prophet or of a revelation in the future, belief in whom or which should be necessary. We cite some verses to demonstrate the point:
وَمَآ اَرْسَلْنَا مِنْ قَبْلِكَ
And what We have sent down before you. (16:43)
وَلَقَدْ اَرْسَلْنَا رُسُلًا مِّنْ قَبْلِكَ
And We have certainly sent messengers before you. (40:78)
وَلَقَدْ اَرْسَلْنَا مِنْ قَبْلِكَ رُسُلًا
And certainly before you We have sent messengers. (20:47)
وَمَآ اُنْزِلَ مِنْ قَبْلِكَ
And what was revealed before you. (4:60)
وَلَقَدْ اُوْحِيَ اِلَيْكَ وَاِلَى الَّذِيْنَ مِنْ قَبْلِك
And it has certainly been revealed to you and to those who have gone before you... (39:65)
كَذٰلِكَ يُوْحِيْٓ اِلَيْكَ وَاِلَى الَّذِيْنَ مِنْ قَبْلِكَ
Thus He reveals to you and He revealed to those who have gone before you. (42:3)
كَمَا كُتِبَ عَلَي الَّذِيْنَ مِنْ قَبْلِكُمْ
Fasting is decreed (literally, written) for you as it was decreed for those before you. (2:183)
سُنَّةَ مَنْ قَدْ اَرْسَلْنَا قَبْلَكَ مِنْ رُّسُلِنَا
Such was Our way with the messengers whom We sent before you. (17:77)
In these and similar verses, whenever the Holy Qur'an speaks of the sending down of a Book or a revelation or a prophet or a messenger, it always attaches the conditional phrase, Min qabl مِنْ قَبْلِ (before) or Min Qablik مِنْ قَبْلِك (before you), and nowhere does it employ or suggest an expression like min ba` d مِنْ بَعد (after you). Even if other verses of the Holy Qur'an had not been explicit about the finality of the prophethood of Muhammad ﷺ and about the cessation of revelation, the mode of expression adopted by the Holy Qur'an in the present verse would in itself have been sufficient to prove these points.
The God-fearing have Faith in the Hereafter
The other essential quality of the God-fearing mentioned in this verse is that they have faith in Al-Akhirah الآخرت (the Hereafter). Lexically the Akhirah signifies 'that which comes after something'; in the present context, it indicates a relationship of contrast with the physical world, and thus signifies the other world which is beyond physical reality as we know it and also beyond the sensuous or rational perception of man. The Holy Qur'an gives to the Hereafter other names too - for example, Dar al-Qarar دار القرار (the Ever-lasting Abode), Dar al-Hayawan دار الحیوان (the Abode of Eternal Life) and Al-` Ugba العقبہ (the Consequent). The Holy Qur'an is full of vivid descriptions of the Hereafter, of the joys of heaven and of the horrors of hell. Although faith in the Hereafter is included in faith in the unseen which has already been mentioned, yet the Holy Qur'an refers to it specifically because it may, in a sense, be regarded as the most important among the constitutive elements of faith in so far as it inspires man to translate faith into practice, and motivates him to act in accordance with the requirements of his faith. Along with the two doctrines of the Oneness of God and of prophethood, this is the third doctrine which is common to all the prophets and upon which all the Shari'ahs are agreed.4
4. There is a deplorable misconception with regard to the Hereafter, quite wide-spread among those who are not, or do not want to be, familiar with the Holy Qur'an and who have at the same time been touched by the rationalism, materialism and libertarianism of the Western society, which makes them cherish certain mental and emotional reservations at least about the horrors of hell, if not about the joys of heaven. Some of them have gone to the preposterous length of supposing that these are the inventions of the ` Ulama' whom they describe as 'obscurantist' of course, in the jargon of the Western Reformation and of the so-called Enlightenment. They ignore the obvious fact that faith in the Holy Qur'an necessitates faith in every word of the Holy Qur'an, and that it is not possible to affirm one of the Book while denying another and yet remain a Muslim ۭاَفَتُؤْمِنُوْنَ بِبَعْضِ الْكِتٰبِ وَتَكْفُرُوْنَ بِبَعْضٍ "What, do you believe in one part of the Book and deny another?" (2:85) Moreover, these enlightened Muslims have never made a serious attempt to take into account the complex historical factors that led to- the rise of the Enlightenment in Europe, nor the meaning of the subsequent development in ethical ideas. We may, therefore, give a few and very brief indications. There has been no dearth, even in the hey-day of the Enlightenment, of thinkers who have had no scruples in dispensing with ethics altogether which they look upon as superstition or tyranny and hence a blight for the human personality. But even those thinkers who have recognised the indispensable need for regulations and rules, if not principles, for human conduct in order to preserve social order or to make social life possible, have in general had no qualms about discarding the very idea of divine sanction - despite the intimation of Voltaire, the arch-priest of relationalism, that man would have to invent God, even if He did not exist. As to the nature and origin of the ethical regulations and the sanction behind them, Western thinkers have fiom time to time tried to promote various agencies - the sovereign state, social will or convention or custom, the supposedly pure and innocent nature of man himself with its capacity for self-regulation, and finally biological laws. The second half of the twentieth century has witnessed the withering away of all these ethical authorities which has left the modern man without even a dim prospect of constructing a new illusion. It is only in this perspective that one can properly consider the significance of the belief in the hereafter for human society.
Faith in the Hereafter: A revolutionary belief
The belief in the Hereafter, among Islamic doctrines, is the one whose role in history has been what is nowadays described as revolutionary, for it began with transmuting the morals and manners of the followers of the Holy Qur'an, and gradually gave them a place of distinction and eminence even in the political history of mankind. The reason. is obvious. Consider the case of those who believe that life in the physical world is the only life, its joys the only joys and its pains the only pains, whose only goal is to seek the pleasures of the senses and the fulfillment of physical or emotional needs, and who stubbornly refuse to believe in the life of the Hereafter, in the Day of Judgment and the assessment of everyone's deeds, and in the requital of the deeds in the other world. When such people find the distinction between truth and falsehood, between the permissible and the forbidden, interfering with the hunt for the gratification of their desires, such differentiations naturally become intolerable to them.
Now, who or what can effectively prevent them from committing crimes? The penal laws made by the state or by any other human authority can never serve either as real deterrent to crime or as agents of moral reform. Habitual criminals soon grow used to the penalties. A man, milder or gentler of temperament or just timid, may agree to forego the satisfaction of his desires for fear of punishment, but he would do so only to the extent that he is in danger of being caught. But in his privacy where the laws of the state cannot encroach upon his freedom of action, who can force him to renounce his pleasures and accept the yoke of restraints? It is the belief in the Hereafter and the fear of Allah, and that alone, which can bring man's private behaviour in line with his public behaviour, and establish a harmony between the inner state and the outer. For the God-fearing man knows for certain that even in the secrecy of a well-guarded and sealed room and in the darkness of night somebody is watching him, and somebody is writing down the smallest thing he does. Herein lies the secret of the clean and pure society which arose in the early days of Islam when the mere sight of a Muslim, of his manners and morals, was enough to make non-believers literally fall in love with Islam. For true Faith in the Hereafter, certitude must follow Oral Affirmation.
Before we proceed, we may point out that in speaking of faith in the hereafter as one of the qualities of the God-fearing, the Holy Qur'an does not use the word yu'minuna یومنینا (believe) but the word yuqinuna (have complete certitude), for the opposite of belief is denial, and that of certitude is doubt and hesitation. Thus, we find a subtle suggestion here that in order to attain the perfection of Iman ایمان it is not enough to affirm the hereafter orally, but one must have a complete certitude which leaves no room for doubt - the kind of certitude which comes when one has seen a thing with one's own eyes. It is an essential quality of the God-fearing that they always have present before their eyes the whole picture of how people will have to present themselves for judgment before Allah in the hereafter, how their deeds will be assessed and how they will receive reward or punishment according to what they have been doing in this world. A man who amasses wealth by usurping what rightfully belongs to others, or who gains petty material ends by adopting unlawful means forbidden by Allah, may declare his faith in the hereafter a thousand times and the Shari'ah may accept him as a Muslim in the context of worldly concerns, but he does not possess the certitude which the Holy Qur'an demands of him. And it is this certitude alone which transforms human life, and which brings in its wake as a reward the guidance and triumph promised in verse 5 of this Surah:
أُولَـٰئِكَ عَلَىٰ هُدًى مِّن رَّبِّهِمْ ۖ وَأُولَـٰئِكَ هُمُ الْمُفْلِحُونَ ﴿5﴾
It is these who are on guidance given by their Lord; and it is just these who are successful.