71. That is, “As far as conveying of the admonition is concerned, we have done full justice to it in the Quran in the best way. But guidance is attained only by him who gives up stubbornness and frees his heart from prejudices and is inclined to accept the truth willingly and sincerely.”
72. This does not mean that all the people of the Book (the Jews and the Christians) affirm faith in it. This, in fact, contains an allusion to the event that occurred during the period when this Surah was revealed, and was meant to put to shame the people of Makkah, as if to say, “You are denying and rejecting a blessing that has been sent in your own city, whereas the people from far off places, when they hear of it, come to recognize its worth and benefit from it.”
This event has been related by lbn Hisham, Baihaqi and others on the authority of Ibn Ishaq, thus: “After the migration to Habash when the news about the Prophet's (peace be upon him) advent and message spread in that land, a deputation of about twenty Christians came to Makkah to find out the truth, and they met the Prophet (peace be upon him) in the Masjid-al-Haram A crowd of the Quraish also gathered around them to watch what happened. The members of the deputation asked the Prophet (peace be upon him) some questions, which he answered. Then he invited them to accept Islam and recited some verses of the Quran before them. When they heard the Quran, tears came down from their eyes and they confirmed its being Allah’s Word and believed in the Prophet (peace be upon him). When the meeting was over and the people left, Abu Jahl and some of his men overtook them on the way, and rebuked them severely, saying, “Never has a more stupid company come here before: O foolish men you were sent here by your people with a view to inquiring about this man, but no sooner did you meet him, you gave up your own faith!” Those gentle people answered, “Peace be to you! We have no wish to enter an argument with you: you are responsible for your faith and we are for ours: we cannot afford to deprive ourselves knowingly of goodness.” See (E.N. 123: Surah Ash-Shuara).
73. That is, “Even before this we were believers in the Prophets and the divine Books. Therefore, we had no other faith than Islam and we have believed in that Book too, which this Prophet has brought from Allah. Thus, no change has occurred in our religion: we were Muslims before even as we are Muslims now.”
This saying clearly indicates that Islam is not the name of the faith brought by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and the term Muslim is not only applicable to his followers, but Islam has been the faith of all the prophets since the very beginning and their followers were Muslims in every age. These Muslims became disbelievers only when they refused to acknowledge a true prophet who came afterwards. But no interruption occurred in the Islam of those people who believed in the former prophet and also affirmed faith in the prophet who succeeded him. They continued to be Muslims as they had been Muslims before.
It is strange that even some learned men also have failed to comprehend this fact, and this clear verse also could not satisfy them. Allama Suyuti wrote a treatise on the subject that the term Muslim was only reserved for the followers of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Then, as he further says, when this verse came before him, he was stunned: he prayed to God to guide him in the matter. At last, instead of revising his opinion he stuck to it even more firmly and gave several interpretations of the verse, each to which is more meaningless than the other. For example, one of his interpretations is: “We were Muslims even before this” means: We intended to become Muslims even before the revelation of the Quran, because we had been foretold by our Scriptures that it would come, and we had the intention that when it came we would accept Islam.” Another interpretation is: “In this sentence, the word bi-hi after muslimin is omitted, implying: We believed in the Quran beforehand, because we expected it would come, and had believed in it in anticipation. Therefore, we were Muslims, not because we believed in the Torah and the Gospels, but because we had believed in the Quran as Allah”s Word even before its revelation.” The third interpretation is: “It had been divinely destined for us that we would accept Islam on the advent of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and the revelation of the Quran; therefore, we were Muslims even before this.” None of these interpretations bears any impress that divine help had become available for the right understanding of this verse.
The fact is that the Quran has expressed this fundamental principle not only here, but also at scores of other places that the real way of life is only Islam (submission to Allah), and in God’s universe there can be no other way of life than this for His creatures. Since the beginning of the creation every Prophet who came for the guidance of mankind brought this very way of life: the Prophets themselves have always been Muslims, and they impressed upon their followers also to live as Muslims, and all their followers who submitted to the divine command brought by the Prophets, were also Muslims in every age. Consider the following few verses for instance:
(1) Indeed, Islam is the only right way of life in the sight of Allah. (Surah Aal-Imran: Ayat 19).
(2) Whoever adopts any other than this way of submission (Islam), it will not be accepted from him. (Surah Aal- Imran: Ayat 85).
(3) My reward is with Allah, and I have been commanded to believe like a Muslim. (Surah Yunus: Ayat 72). About Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him) and his descendants it has been said:
(4) When his Lord said to him, “Surrender”, he promptly responded, “I have surrendered to the Lord of the universe (and become a Muslim)”. He also enjoined on his children to follow the same way. Jacob (peace be upon him) also did the same and his last will to his sons was: “O my children, Allah has chosen the same way of life for you. Hence, remain Muslims up to your last breath.” Were you present at the time when Jacob (peace be upon him) was on the point of death? He asked his children, “Whom will you worship after me?” They all answered, “We will worship the same One Allah Whom you, your forefathers Abraham, Ishmael and Isaac (peace be upon them) acknowledged as their Allah and to Him we all surrender as Muslims.” (Surah Al-Baqarah: Ayat 133).
(5) Abraham (peace be upon him) was neither a Jew, nor a Christian, but he was a Muslim, sound in the Faith.” (Surah Aal-Imran: Ayat 67). Prophets Abraham and Ishmael (peace be upon them) prayed:
(6) Lord, make us Thy Muslims and raise from our offspring a community which should also be Muslim (submissive to Thy will). (Surah Al-Baqarah: Ayat 128). In connection with the story of the Prophet Lot (peace be upon him) it has been said:
(7) “We did not find in it any house of the Muslims except one.” (Surah Adh-Dhariyat: Ayat 36). The Prophet Joseph (peace be upon him) prayed to Allah:
(8) Let me die as a Muslim, and join me with the righteous in the end. (Surah Yusuf: Ayat 101). Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) said to his people:
(9) O my people, if you sincerely believe in Allah, put your trust in Him, if you are Muslims. (Surah Yunus: Ayat 84). The real religion of the Israelites was not Judaism but Islam as was known to their friends and foes alike. That is why the last words that Pharaoh said while drowning were:
(10) I have believed that there is no god but the real God in Whom the children of Israel have believed, and I am of the Muslims.” (Surah Yunus: Ayat 90). Islam was the Way of life of all the Israelite prophets:
(11) Indeed, We sent down the Torah wherein was uigdance and light: thereby all the prophets, who were Muslims, judged the cases of those who had become Jews.” (Surah Al-Maidah: Ayat 44). The same was the Prophet Solomon’s (peace be upon him) way of life. So when the queen of Sheba believed in him, she said.
(12) I submit myself (as a Muslim) with Solomon (peace be upon him) to Allah, Lord of the worlds.” (Surah An-Naml: Ayat 44). And the same was the religion of the disciples of the Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him):
(13) And when I inspired the disciples to believe in Me and My Messenger, they said: We believe and bear witness that we are Muslims.” (Sura Al-Maidah: Ayat 111).
In this connection, if somebody expresses the doubt that the Arabic words “lslam” and “Muslims” could not have been used in different languages and countries, it would not obviously be a justified objection. For the real thing is not the Arabic words but the meaning in which they are used in Arabic. In fact, what has been stressed in the above cited verses is that the real way of life sent by God was neither Christianity, nor Mosaicism, nor Muhammadanism, but to surrender to the divine commands taught by the prophets and the scriptures, and whoever adopted this way anywhere and at any time in the world, is the follower of the same universal, eternal and everlasting true way of life. For those who have adopted this way consciously and sincerely, it is no change of the faith to believe in Jesus after Moses and in Muhammad after Jesus(peace be upon them), but a natural and logical demand following the same real way of life (Islam). Contrary to this, those people who got into the Prophets’ communities without due understanding or were born in them, and for whom nationalistic and racial and tribal prejudices were the religion, became mere Jews or Christians, and on the advent of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) their ignorance was exposed. For by refusing to believe in the last Prophet of Allah, they not only refused to remain Muslims in the future but also proved that they were not “Muslims” even before: they had been charmed by the personality of a Prophet or Prophets, or had taken blind conformity to their forefathers for religion.
74. That is, one reward for affirming faith in the Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him) and the second for affirming faith in Muhammad (peace be upon him). The same thing has been expressed in the Hadith which Bukhari and Muslim have related on the authority of Abu Musa Ashari. He says that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “One of the three persons who will get a double reward is he who belonged to the people of the Book, had full faith in his Prophet and then affirmed faith in Muhammad (peace be upon him).”
75. That is, “They will get a double reward for the reason that they avoided nationalistic, racial and tribal prejudices and remained steadfast on the way of true faith. When, on the advent of the new prophet, they were confronted by a hard test, they proved by their conduct that they were not Christ worshipers but God worshipers: they were not charmed by Christ's personality but were followers of “Islam”. That is why when the new Prophet after Christ brought the same Islam that Christ had brought, they adopted the way of Islam under his leadership; without any hesitation, and gave up the way of those who remained stuck to Christianity.”
76. That is, “They answer evil and falsehood with what is good and right: they repel injustice and mischief with what is just and noble; and they do not pay the other man back in the same coin.”
77. That is, “They also make monetary sacrifices in the way of the truth. There might also be in it an allusion to this that those people had traveled from Habash to Makkah in search of the truth: they had no material gain in view when they undertook a toilsome journey involving a lot of expenses. When they heard that a man in Makkah had made a claim to be a Prophet, they thought it necessary to go and find out the truth, so that if a prophet had really been sent by God, they should not be deprived of affirming faith in him and being guided aright.”