153. Since the ummah has been invested with world leadership, a set of necessary directives is now provided for its guidance. Before laying down these directives it seemed necessary to caution the Muslims that the office which had been conferred on them was indeed no bed of roses. On the contrary, it was a great and perilous responsibility. Once they undertook it, they would be subjected to all kinds of afflictions, put to all kinds of trials and tribulations and made to bear all kinds of deprivation. If, however, the Muslims persisted along the path of God despite the perils they would be rewarded with God's favour in full measure.
154. To acquire the strength that is needed to bear this heavy burden of
responsibility the believers should do two things: they should develop patience
and they should strengthen themselves by devoting themselves to Prayer.
Later we shall encounter elaborations which will show that 'patience' is a word embracing a whole set of moral virtues of the utmost importance. 'Patience' is indeed an indispensable key to success. Likewise, we shall later have occasion to note in some detail how Prayer prepares the Muslims, both as individuals and as a collective body, to carry out their mission.
155. The word 'death' as well as its general concept has a depressing effect. People have therefore been instructed not to refer to martyrs who laid down their lives for God as 'dead', since this might lead to the dissipation of the spirit which enables people to struggle and make sacrifices in God's cause. Instead, people have been instructed to bear in mind that anyone who lays down his life for God has in fact attained immortality. As well as being a statement of fact this also helps to arouse and sustain courage.
156. 'Saying' does not signify the mere making of a statement. It means a
statement which is accompanied by a deep conviction in one's heart: 'To Allah
do we belong.' This being so, a man is bound to think that whatever has been
sacrificed for God has in fact attained its legitimate end, for it has been
spent in the way of the One to whom all things truly belong.
'And it is to Him that we are destined to return' refers to the fact that man will not stay forever in this world and will return, sooner or later, to God. And if man is indeed destined to return to God why should he not return to Him having spent his all, having staked his life for His sake? This alternative is preferable to the pursuit of self-aggrandizement and then meeting death either by sickness or accident.
157. The pilgrimage to the Ka'bah along with a set of other rites on certain fixed dates of Dhu al-Hijjah is known as hajj. Pilgrimage at other times is known as 'Umrah.
158. Safa and Marwah are the names of two hillocks near the Holy Mosque in
Makka. To run between these two hillocks was among the rites which God had taught
Abraham in connection with hajj. Later, when Pagan Ignorance prevailed in Makka
and the neighbouring regions, altars were built for Isaf at Safa and for Nai'lah
at Marwah, and people began to circumambulate them. After the advent of the
Prophet, when the light of Islam had spread to the people of Arabia, Muslims
came to doubt whether running between Safa and Marwah was one of the original
rites of Pilgrimage or was merely an invidious religious innovation of the Age
of Ignorance. If it was in fact such, they feared they might be committing an
act of polytheism.
Moreover, we learn from a Tradition transmitted from 'A'ishah that even in pre-Islamic times the people of Madina were not favourably disposed to this practice. Although they believed in al-Manat they did not believe in Isaf and Nai'lah. For these reasons, it was necessary, at the time of the change of the qiblah, to dispel popular misconceptions about this rite. It seemed necessary to tell people that running between these two hillocks was part of the original rites of Pilgrimage and that the sanctity, of Safa and Marwah, far from being an invidious innovation of the people of the Age of Ignorance, stemmed from the revealed Law of God.
159. It is best that one should perform this ritual obligation with wholehearted devotion. But if devotion is lacking one is not thereby exempt from fulfilling one's obligation. One must perform this ritual if only out of a sense of duty.
160. The biggest failure of the Jews was that they kept the teachings contained
in the Book of God confined to a limited class of people, the rabbis and professional
theologians, instead of spreading them. They did not allow this knowledge to
filter through even to the Jewish masses let alone the non-Jewish peoples of
the world. Later, when errors and corruptions spread among them owing to widespread
ignorance the Jewish theologians made no serious effort to root them out. Moreover,
in order to maintain their hold on the Jewish masses they lent their tacit approval
to every corrupting deviation from the true faith that gained currency.
The Muslims are being admonished to refrain from this kind of behaviour. The nation which has been charged with the guidance of the entire world is duty-bound to do its utmost to radiate true guidance, rather than keep it under lock and key as a miser hoards his money.
161. The original meaning of kufr is to conceal. This lent the word a nuance
of denial and it began to be used as an antonym of iman . Iman means to believe,
to accept, and to recognize. Kufr, on the contrary, denotes refusal to believe,
to deny, to reject. According to the Qur'an there are several possible forms
of disbelief. One is to refuse either to believe in the existence of God, to
acknowledge His sovereignty, to recognize Him as the only Lord of the Universe
and of mankind or to recognize Him as the only Lord and the only object of worship
and adoration. The second form of disbelief is when a man recognizes the existence
of God but still refuses to accept His ordinances and directives as the only
source of true guidance, and as the true law for his life. The third form of
disbelief is when even though a man recognizes in principle that he ought to
follow the guidance of God he refuses to believe in the Prophets who were the
means of communicating God's guidance to man. The fourth form of disbelief is
to differentiate between one Prophet and another and, out of parochialism and
bigotry, to accept some Prophets and reject others. The fifth form of disbelief
is the refusal to recognize, either totally or partially, the teachings communicated
by the Prophets, on God's behalf, concerning the beliefs, the principles of
morality, and the laws for fashioning human life. The sixth form of disbelief
is where a person theoretically accepts all that he should accept but wilfully
disobeys God's ordinances and persists in this disobedience, and considers disobedience
rather than obedience to God to be the true principle of life.
All these modes of thought and action are forms of rebellion towards God and the Qur'an characterizes each of them as kufr. In addition, the term kufr is used at several places in the Qur'an in the sense of ingratitude and in this usage it signifies the exact opposite of shukr (gratitude). Gratefulness consists in feeling thankful to one's benefactor, in duly recognizing the value of his benevolence, in making use of it in a manner pleasing to its bestower, and in being utterly loyal to him. Ingratitude denotes, on the contrary, that the man concerned has either failed to recognize the bounty of his benefactor, or considers it to be either the outcome of his own power and ability or else that of some other person's favour or intercession. Another form of ingratitude consists in failing to recognize fully the worth of the bounty received and in either allowing it to be wasted or to be used in contravention of the will of the benefactor; this ingratitude includes infidelity and treachery towards the benefactor in disregard of his benevolence and kindness. This kind of kufr is known in ordinary language as ungratefulness.