An-Nisa · Juz 5 · Qur'an Tafseer

Investigate Before Taking a Decision

The first sentence of the ayah 94 carries a general rule which must be followed by all Muslims. Let no Muslim do anything summarily as based on guess alone. The words of the ayah are “when you go forth in the way of Allah, investigate.” Acting on conjecture is likely to land one in trouble. The restriction of travel in the ayah is there because these events came to pass during the state of travel. Or, it may be because doubts crop up during travel to previously unvisited places as compared with the city of residence where things and people are generally families. Otherwise, the basic rule, in travel or while resident is general, that is reacting to any situation without proper investigation is not permissible. In a hadeeth, the Prophet sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallam has said,

“To act sensibly is from Allah and to rush through is from Shaytan.” [al-Bahr al-Muhit]

The second sentence “seeking the transitory gains of the worldly life” in ayah 94 is a prescription for weakness which caused this false step. The weakness was their desire to acquire worldly wealth through collecting spoils. But, immediately after, it was pointed out that Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala has set aside many more spoils destined for them. Why, then, should they bother about material gains? By way of further admonition, they were asked to recollect that there were so many among them who would not have dared to come out openly with their faith in Islam. It was only when Allah favored them that they were delivered from the encirclement of disbelievers and were able to profess Islam openly. Keeping this situation in mind, would it not be possible that the person who is saying la illaha il-lAllah at the sight of the Muslim army, might really be an adherent of Islam from the early days but was unable to profess it freely fearing reprisals from the disbelievers. When he saw the Muslim army, he lost no time in doing so. If they looked into their own situation, they would realize that there was the time when they recited the kalimah and had called themselves Muslims, the Shari’ah of Islam had never asked them to first prove their being Muslims. There was no such condition. They were never asked to let their hearts be examined. They were not ordered to produce a proof of their Islam before they could be declared as confirmed Muslims. Quite contrary to all this, the simple recital of the kalimah was considered good enough to recognize them as Muslims. Keeping this in mind, it was their duty that they should now take anyone who recites the kalimah before them as a Muslim.

The Meaning of Not Taking a Muslim to be a Kafir

From this ayah comes the important ruling that anyone who professes Islam and declares that he is a Muslim – by reciting the kalimah or by associating himself with some marked feature of Islam such as the Adhan and the Salah – should be treated as a Muslim. All Muslims must deal with him as they would do with any other Muslim. They are not supposed to wait and worry about finding out whether such a person has embraced Islam with all his heart or it has been done out of expediency.

In addition to that, this is a case in which even his doings will not serve as the criterion. Suppose, someone skips salah, does not fast and is involved with all sorts of sins – still, no one has the right to say that he has gone outside the pale of Islam or to treat him as one would treat a disbeliever. Therefore, Imam Abu Hanifah said,

“We do not call the people of the Qiblah kafirs, no matter how sinful and evil-doing they may be.”

At this point, there is something everyone should understand and remember, clearly and particularly the Qur’an and Sunnah from which it is proved that calling or taking someone who calls himself a Muslim to be a kafir is not permissible. It clearly means that until such time he says or does something which provides the positive proof of kufr, his profession of faith in Islam shall be deemed as sound and he will continue to be taken as a Muslim and for all practical purpose, he will be dealt with as one would deal with Muslims. No one will have the right to debate what goes on in his heart or how sincere or hypocritical he may or may not be. But, there may be a person who professes Islam, attests to faith, yet disgraces himself by uttering words of disbelief or prostrates before an idol or denies an injunction of Islam which is absolute and obvious, or takes to a religious way or mark of disbelievers – such a person will certainly be declared as kafir because of his deeds which prove his infidelity. It will be noticed that, the word  فَتَبَيَّنُواْ  “be careful or investigate” in the ayah provides a hint to this effect, otherwise, the Jews and the Christians all claimed to be believers. Then, there was Musaylimah, the liar. He was declared to be a kafir with the consensus of Companions and killed. As for him, he was not only a professor of the Islamic creed but a practicing adherent of Adhan and Salah as well. In his Adhan, he had the Muezzin say, “I testify that there is no god but Allah” which was duly followed by “I testify that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.” But, while he did this, he also claimed to be a prophet and a messenger who received revelations. This was an open denial of the binding injunctions of the Qur’an and Sunnah. It was on this basis that he was declared to be an apostate and a jihad force was sent against him with the consensus of the Companions.

In short, the correct course of action when faced with this problem is, take everyone who recites the kalimah and adheres to Islam to be a Muslim. Peeking into his heart is not our business. Let Allah be the judge. But, when you see one professing faith yet doing things to the contrary that such deeds be, absolutely and certainly, contrary to the dictates of Faith and that it admits of no other probability or interpretation.

Finally, we can now see that the recitation of the kalimah are technical terms applied solely to one who, after his professing Islam, does nothing by his word and deed which can be classed as infidelity.

[SOURCE: Maaruf-ul-Qur’an by Mufti Muhammad Shafi Usmani]

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