130. 'Muslim' signifies he who bows in obedience to God, who acknowledges God alone as his Sovereign, Lord and Master, and the only object of worship, devotion and service, who unreservedly surrenders himself to God and undertakes to live his life in accordance with the guidance that has come down from Him. Islam is the appellation which characterizes the above -mentioned belief and outlook which constitutes the core and kernel of the religion of all the Prophets who have appeared from time to time among different peoples and in different countries since the very beginning of human life.
131. Jacob is especially mentioned since the Children of Israel were his direct descendants.
132. Din is a Qur'anic technical term, signifying the way of life, the system of conduct, and the code on which man bases his entire mode of thought and action. (For the author's views on din see his Four Basic Qur'anic Terms, tr. Abu Asad, Lahore, 1979, pp. 93-103 - Ed.)
133. In the Bible the events connected with the death of Jacob (peace be
on him) are narrated in detail. It is amazing that this narrative makes no reference
to his testament. However, the contents of the detailed testament embodied in
the Talmud greatly resemble the Qur'anic version. The Talmudic version reads
'Serve the Lord your God, and He will deliver ye from all trouble, even as He delivered your fathers.'
' . . . Teach your children to love God, and observe His commandments, in order that their days may be prolonged, for God will guard those who do justly and walk in righteousness through all His ways.'
And the sons of Jacob responded, 'All that you have commanded us, our father, we will do. May God be with us!'
And Jacob answered: 'The Lord will be with you if ye depart not from His ways to the right hand or to the left.'
(The Talmud Selections by H. Polano, London, Frederick Warne & Co., , pp. 113-14.)
134. What is being said here is that even though they might be their offspring
in terms of blood - relationship they had, in fact, no true relationship with
them. What right did they have to pretend to belong to them when they had departed
far from their way? For God would not ask people what their forefathers did;
it was rather about their own conduct and action that they would be questioned.
' Theirs is what they have earned ' is a characteristically Qur'anic expression. What we ordinarily characterize as either 'action' or 'doing' is termed by the Qur'an as 'earning'. The reason is that each and every human action has its ultimate effect, whether or not it is good, and will have its manifestation in God's approval or disapproval. It is this ultimate effect which is a man's earning. Since the Qur'an considers this to be of paramount importance, it characterizes man's actions as his 'earning'.
135. In order to grasp the subtlety, of this remark two things should be
borne in mind. First, that in comparison to Islam, the primordial religion,
both Judaism and Christianity are later products. The name Judaism, as well
as the characteristic features and elaborate body of laws and regulations associated
with it. emerged during the third or fourth century, B.C. As for Christianity.
in the sense of the body of dogmas and theological doctrines which characterize
it, it came into existence long after Jesus (peace be on him). The question
that naturally arises is that, if man's guidance depends on following Judaism
or Christianity, how can Abraham and other Prophets and righteous people who
are accepted as having been rightly-guided even by the Jews and Christians be
considered so when they were born several centuries before the birth of Judaism
and Christianity? If they were rightly-guided from whom did they receive their
guidance? Obviously their source of guidance and inspiration was neither Judaism
nor Christianity since, in their times, these did not exist. So man's rectitude
does not depend on those characteristics which led to the rise of Jewish and
Christian particularisms; it rather depends on adopting that universal way to
Truth which has guided and inspired men throughout the ages.
Second. the Scriptures of the Jews and Christians attest that Abraham believed that worship, adoration, service and obedience were due to God alone, and that it was his mission to have none associated with God in His attributes and rights. Since polytheistic elements had made inroads into Judaism and Christianity it was obvious that both had strayed from the way of Abraham.
136. To make no distinction between the Prophets means not to hold some of them to he right and the others to be wrong, not to recognize some to have been the recipients of Divine revelation and the others not. All the Prophets sent by God invited men to the same Truth and to the same way. Hence for anyone who is really a lover of Truth it is necessary that he should recognize all of them to be its bearers. Those who believe in one particular Prophet and disbelieve in others do not in fact believe even in that particular Prophet in whom they, claim to believe, for they have not grasped the nature of that universal 'Straight Way' (al-sirat al-mustaqim) which was enunciated by Moses, Jesus and the other Prophets. When such people claim to follow a Prophet they, really mean that they do so out of deference to their forefathers. Their religion in fact consists of bigoted ancestor-worship and blind imitation of inherited customs rather than sincere adherence to the directives of any Prophet of God.
137. This verse can be translated in two ways. One of these is: 'We have taken on Allah's colour.' The other is: 'Take on Allah's colour.' On the eve of the advent of Christianity the Jews followed the practice of bathing everyone who embraced their religion. This ritual bath signified that all his previous sins had been washed away and that he had adopted a different colour for his life. This practice was subsequently taken over by the Christians and is termed 'baptism'. Not only converts but even new-born babies were baptized. The Qur'anic remarks here refer to this institution. The Qur'an says in effect: 'Of what use is this formal baptism? What really is worth doing is to adopt the colour of God, and it is not water that gives one this colour but actual service and devotion to God.'
138. The one principle that the Prophet and his followers unreservedly stood
for was that God alone should be served. Does that call for dispute and quarrel?
If anyone, it is the Muslims who are entitled to quarrel with the Jews and Christians,
for it is they rather than the Muslims who insist that others beside God should
also be made objects of service and adoration.
An alternative translation of this portion could be: 'Would you then dispute with us for the sake of Allah?' In this case the meaning of the verse would be that if their dispute was sincere, it was easy to put an end to it by, agreeing to serve none but God.
139. They are told that everyone is responsible for his own conduct. If they have earmarked a part of their service and devotion to others than God, let them do so and see for themselves what it leads to. The Muslims did not want to keep them from error by force. As for themselves, they had consecrated their service, obedience and worship to God alone. If the Jews and Christians could bring themselves to recognize the right of the Muslims to do so, the dispute could automatically be brought to an end,
140. This remark is addressed to the ignorant mass of Jews and Christians who sincerely believed that all the Prophets belonged to their religious denomination.
141. This remark is addressed to the Jewish and Christian theologians who were not unaware that Judaism and Christianity, with their existing characteristics, had emerged at a relatively late period in history. They nevertheless considered Truth to he confined to their own religious sects. They also perpetuated the misunderstanding that man's ultimate happiness and success lay in following the beliefs, institutions and legal codes which had been developed by their jurists, theologians and mystics long after the Prophet of God had passed away. When these theologians were asked to which among their religious communities Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and other Prophets belonged, they evaded a reply. This was because they could not state categorically that they belonged to their own sect. On the other hand, they could not reply explicitly in the negative, for such an admission would have undermined the very basis of their claim that Truth was confined to their fold.