106. In this verse that aspect of the Islamic faith which determines the nature of the relationship between Allah and His servants has been called a transaction. This means that faith is not merely a metaphysical conception but is, in fact, a contract by which the servant sells his life and possessions to Allah and in return for this accepts His promise that He would give him the Garden in the life after death. In order to comprehend the full implications of this transaction, let us first understand its nature.
We should note it well at the outset that, in reality, this transaction is not in regard to the actual selling of the life and possessions of the servant to Allah in the literal sense, for Allah is in fact the real Owner of man’s life and possessions. Allah alone has the right of ownership because He is the Creator of man and of everything he possesses and uses. Therefore there is no question at all of selling and buying in the worldly sense; for man possesses nothing of his own to sell, and Allah has no need to buy anything because everything already belongs to Him. However, there is one thing which has entirely been entrusted to man by Allah, that is, the freedom of will and the freedom of choice, and the transaction concerns that thing.
Of course, it is true that this freedom does not make any change in the real position of man with regard to the right of ownership to his own life and his possessions. They belong to Allah Who has delegated to him only the authority to use or abuse these things as he wills, without any coercion or compulsion from Him. This means that man has been given the freedom to acknowledge or not to acknowledge that Allah is the owner of his life and property. The transaction mentioned in Ayat 111 is concerning the voluntary surrender of this freedom to Allah’s will. In other words, Allah wills to test man whether he acknowledges the ownership of Allah over his life and property, in spite of that freedom, and considers himself to be their trustee only, or behaves as if he were their owner and so could do whatever he liked with them.
Thus, the terms of this transaction from Allah’s side are these: “If you voluntarily, and not by compulsion or coercion, agree to acknowledge that your life, your property and everything in this world, which in fact belong to me, are mine: And if you consider yourself only as their trustees; And if you voluntarily surrender the freedom I have given you to behave; And if you, in a dishonest way do not intend to become their master and owner; Then, I will give you in return, Gardens in the eternal life of the next world”. The one who makes this bargain with Allah is a believer, for faith is in fact the other name for making this bargain. On the other hand, the one who refuses to make this bargain, or after making it adopts the attitude of the one who has not made the bargain, is a kafir. For, technically, kufr is the term applied to the refusal to make this bargain.
The following are the implications of making this transaction:
(1) Allah has put man to two very hard tests in this matter. The first is whether he acknowledges the real Owner as owner, in spite of the freedom of choice given to him. Or he refuses this and becomes ungrateful, treacherous and rebellious. The second test is whether he puts his trust in his God or not. And he surrenders his freedom and sacrifices his desires and wishes in this present world in return for His promise of the Gardens and eternal bliss in the next world. Even though the world were to proclaim, “A bird in hand is worth two in the bush”.
(2) This matter helps to draw a clear line of demarcation between the legal conception of the Islamic faith and the higher and spiritual one according to which Allah will judge one in the Hereafter.
According to its legal conception, the mere verbal profession of the articles of the faith is a sufficient proof that one is legally a Muslim and after this no jurist is authorized to declare such a one to be a disbeliever or to expel one from the fold of the Islamic community, unless there is a definite and clear proof that the one made a false profession of the faith. But this is not so with Allah. Allah considers the faith of only that person to be true, who makes this bargain with Him and sells his freedom of thought and action to Him and gives up his entire claim to ownership in His favor. That is why a man might profess the articles of the faith and observe the prescribed obligatory duties, but if he considered himself alone to be the master and owner of his body and soul, his heart and brain and his other faculties, his property and his resources and other things in his possession, and reserved to himself the right of expending them as he willed, he shall be regarded a disbeliever in the sight of Allah, even though he should be regarded a believer in the sight of the world. This is because such a man has not made that bargain with God which is the essence of the faith according to the Quran. The very fact that a man does not expend his life and property in the way Allah approves of, or expends these in the way He disapproves, shows that the one who claimed to profess the faith either did not sell these to Allah, or after having made the transaction still regarded himself to be their master and owner.
(3) The above conception of the Islamic faith draws a clear line of demarcation between the attitude of a Muslim and that of a disbeliever towards life. The Muslim, who sincerely believes in Allah, surrenders himself completely to Allah’s will, and does nothing whatsoever which may show that he is independent in his attitude, except when he temporarily forgets the terms of the bargain he has made with Him. Likewise no community of the Muslims can collectively adopt an independent attitude in political, cultural, economic, social and international matters and still remain Muslim. And if sometimes it temporarily forgets its subordinate position and its voluntary surrender of its freedom, it will give up the attitude of independence and readopt the attitude of surrender, as soon as it becomes aware of its error. In contrast to this, if one adopts the attitude of independence towards Allah and makes decisions about all the affairs of life in accordance with ones own wishes, whims and caprices, one shall be regarded to have adopted the attitude of disbelief, even though one was a Muslim or a non-Muslim.
(4) It should also be noted well that the will of God to which a man is required to surrender himself is that which is specified by Allah himself and not the one which the man himself declares to be the will of God. For in the latter case one does not follow God’s will but one’s own will, which is utterly against the terms of the transaction. Only that person (or community) who adopts the attitude that conforms to the teachings of His Book and His Messenger, shall be deemed to have fulfilled the terms of the transaction.
From the above implications of this transaction, it also becomes clear why the fulfillment of the terms by Allah has been deferred to the next world after the termination of the life of this world. It is obvious that the Garden is not the return for the mere profession that the buyer has sold his life and property to Allah but it is the actual surrender of these things in the worldly life and their disposal by him as a trustee of Allah according to His will. Thus, this transaction will be completed only when the life of the buyer comes to an end in this world and it is proved that after making the bargain, he went on fulfilling the terms of the agreement up to his last breath. For then and there alone, he will be entitled to the recompense in accordance with the terms of the transaction.
It will also be worthwhile to understand the context in which this matter has been placed here. In the preceding passage, there was the mention of those people who failed in the test of their faith and did not make the sacrifice of their time, money, life and interests for the sake of Allah and His Way, in spite of their professions, because of their negligence or lack of sincerity or absolute hypocrisy. Therefore after criticizing the attitudes of different persons and sections, they have been told in clear words the implications of the faith they had accepted: “This is not the mere verbal profession that there is God and He is One, but the acceptance of the fact that He is the Owner and the Master of your lives and possessions. Therefore, if you are not ready and willing to sacrifice these in obedience to the command of Allah, but expend these and your energies and resources against the will of Allah, it is a clear proof that you were false in your profession of the faith. For, the true believers are those who have truly sold their persons and possessions to Allah, and consider Him to be their Owner and Master, and expend their energies and possessions without any reservations, where He commands them to expend, and do not expend the least of these where He forbids them to expend.
107. Some critics say that the statement of promise in the Torah and the Gospel is not confirmed by these Books. Their objection in regard to the Gospel is obviously wrong for even in the existing Gospels there are sayings of Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him) that confirm this verse. For instance:
“Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (MAT. 5: 10).
“He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.” (MAT. 10: 39).
“And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold and shall inherit everlasting life.” (MAT. 19: 29).
It is, however, true that the matter of this transaction is not confirmed in its entirety by the existing Torah. For instance, there is a mention of the first part of the bargain at several places in one forth or the other: “Is not He thy father that hath bought thee? hath He not made thee, and established thee?" (DEUT. 32: 6).
"Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might." (DEUT. 6: 4-5).
But as regards the other part of the bargain, that is, the promise of the Gardens, they applied it to the land of Palestine:
“Hear therefore, O Israel, and observe to do it; that it may be well with thee, and that ye may increase mightily, as the Lord God of thy fathers hath promised thee, in the land that floweth with milk and honey.” (DEUT. 6: 3).
This is because the Torah does not give any conception of the life-after-death, the Day of Judgment, rewards and punishments in the Hereafter, though this creed has always been an inseparable part of the right way. This does not, however, mean that the Torah did not originally contain this creed. The fact is that the Jews had become so materialistic during the period of their degeneration that they had no other idea of a reward from God than the wellbeing and prosperity in this world. Therefore they perverted all the promises made by God in return for man’s service and obedience to Him and applied those to the land of Palestine.
In this connection, it should also be noted that the abovementioned changes became possible because the original Torah had been tampered with in several ways. Some portions were taken away from it and others were added to it. Thus, the Torah in the existing form is not purely the word of God but also contains the comments, etc. of the Jewish scholars mixed up with it. So much so that at some places it becomes difficult to distinguish the word of God from the Jewish traditions, their racial prejudices, their superstitions, their ambitions and, wishes, their legal interpretations, etc. all of which have gotten mixed with the word of God. (See E.N. 2 of Aal-Imran).
108. The Arabic word atta-i-bun literally means “those who repent”. But in the context it occurs it implies “those who possess repentance as their permanent characteristic”, that is, they repent over and over again. Moreover, the literal meaning of taubah is “to turn to” or “to turn back”. Therefore its explanatory translation will be “those who turn back to Allah over and over again”. This is the first and foremost characteristic of a true believer because even a true believer is liable to forget the bargain he makes with Allah by which he sells his life and property to Him. As this matter does not concern his sense organs but pertains to his mind and heart, he is liable to forget that these things are not really his property but they belong to Allah. Therefore, even the true believer occasionally forgets the bargain, and behaves in a way as if he were their owner. But as soon as he becomes conscious of this transitory lapse and realizes that he had violated the terms of his agreement, he feels sorry and ashamed of his conduct and turns to his God, begs His pardon and renews the terms of the bargain with Him, and pledges his allegiance to Him after every slip of its violation. This kind of repentance alone is the guarantee that one will always come back to one’s faith: otherwise it is not possible for man because of the inherent human weaknesses, to observe strictly and deliberately the terms of the bargain without ever falling a prey to negligence and error. That is why Allah says in praise of the true believer that “he turns back to Allah over and over again” and not that “he never slips into error after making the bargain of obedience and service to Him”. And this is the greatest excellence that man can accomplish. Let us now consider the wisdom of placing this characteristics first in the list of the characteristics of the true believers. It is to admonish those who had been guilty of crimes after the profession of their faith. They have been told in Ayat 3 that the true believers are those who sell their lives and property to Allah. After this they are being told that if they sincerely intend to become true believers they should first of all create in themselves this characteristic and at once turn to Allah without showing any obduracy so that they should not deviate further into error.
109. Some commentators are of the opinion that here Assa-i-hun means “those who observe fast”. As this is not the lexical meaning of the word but only its figurative sense, which has been based on an unauthentic tradition attributed to the Prophet (peace be upon him). We are of the opinion that there is no need to depart from its lexical meanings, that is, “move about in the land (for His sake)”. For here the Arabic word does not mean merely to “move about in the land” but “move about in the land for the sake of noble and high aims, e.g. to propagate Islam, to do Jihad, to emigrate from those places where the unbelievers are in power, and to reform the people, to seek true knowledge, to earn a lawful livelihood and the like”. This characteristic of the believers has been especially mentioned here to reprove those who had not gone forth to Jihad, in spite of their claim that they were believers. They have been admonished that a true believer is the one who goes forth into the land to raise high His word, and exerts his utmost to fulfill the implications of his faith, and not the one who stays behind when he is called upon to move about in the land.
110. That is those who “strictly observe the limits prescribed by Allah” in regard to the articles of the faith, worship-morality, social behavior, culture, economics, politics, judiciary, peace and war, and in all the aspects of their individual and collective lives. They neither transgress these limits in order to follow their lusts nor invent laws, nor replace the divine law by other laws. They establish these limits and prevent their violations. Hence, the true believers are those who not only strictly observe the limits prescribed by Allah, but also do their very best to establish them and safeguard them so as to prevent their violation to the best of their powers and capabilities.
111. “That they ask for the forgiveness for the idolaters.” implies two things. First, we love them and sympathize with them. Secondly, we consider their crime to be pardonable. There is no harm to cherish these things for the one who is loyal, though a sinner, but it is absolutely wrong in principle to love and sympathize with a person who is an open rebel and to consider his case as pardonable as it renders our own loyalty doubtful. Besides, it adds to the intensity of the crime, if we pray for the forgiveness of a mushrik, who is our near relative. For it means that we consider our relationships to be more valuable than the fulfillment of the implications of our loyalty to Allah and that our love with Allah. And His Way is not wholly unalloyed and that we desire that Allah should also be influenced by the love we have with His rebels and pardon our criminal kinsmen, even though He should throw the other criminals into the fire of Hell. Obviously, all such things are wrong and are against loyalty and sincerity and the faith demands that our love with Allah and His Way should be absolutely unalloyed and that His friend should be our friend and His enemy our enemy. That is why Allah has not said, “Do not pray for the forgiveness of the mushriks.” But has instead warned, “It is not for the Prophet (peace be upon him), and those who believe, that they ask for the forgiveness for the idolaters”, which implies this: “The right thing for you is that you yourselves should regard it as improper to show sympathy with our rebels and consider their crime as pardonable: nay, you should not wait for any command from Us about this.”
In this connection, it should also be noted well that it is forbidden to show sympathy with the mushriks only in matters of faith. As regards the human relationships that demand the observance of the rights of one’s own relatives, of showing love, sympathy and kindness, and cherishing fellow-feelings with them is not forbidden at all but it is considered to be a virtue. We must fulfill the worldly rights of a relative whether he be a believer or a disbeliever: we should help him in affliction and give support to the needy ones and the orphans and show all possible sympathy with a sick or wounded person, irrespective of whether he is a Muslim or a non-Muslim.
112. The reference is to what Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him) said when he broke off all connections with his father:
(1) “Peace be upon you. I will pray to my Lord to forgive you: for He is very kind to me”. (Surah Maryam, Ayat 47).
(2) “And forgive my father: indeed he is of those who have gone astray. And disgrace me not on the Day, when mankind shall be brought back to life; when neither riches nor children shall avail anyone, and none shall obtain salvation except the one who comes before his Lord with a sound and pure heart”. (Ash-Shuara Ayats 86-89).
(3) “I will pray for your forgiveness, but I have no power to rescue you from Allah”. (Al-Mumtahina Ayat 4).
In the first place it should be noted that even the wording and the tone of the prayer for his father were very guarded, but when Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him) realized that the person for whom he was praying was an open rebel against Allah and a bitter enemy of His Way, he refrained himself from saying even such a guarded prayer for him and declared in clear words that he would have nothing to do with him in future, even though the rebel was his father who had brought him up with love and care.
113. The words awwah and haleem which the Quran uses for Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him) are very comprehensive in meaning. Awwah is the one who is lamenting, humble, weeping, grief-stricken and God fearing. And haleem is the one who can keep control over himself under all circumstances, and is neither beside himself in anger and enmity nor transgresses the proper limits in his affections, friendships, and relationships. Here both the words have been used in their comprehensive senses. Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him) prayed for his father because he was tender-hearted and lamented for him that he would become the fuel for the fire of Hell. As he had full control over himself, and was very forbearing, he prayed even for that father who had persecuted him cruelly in order to hinder him from the way of Islam. Lastly, he was God fearing and did not want to go beyond the limits in his love for his father; so he broke off all his relations with his father when he realized that he was an enemy of Allah.
114. “He has made clear to them” beforehand that they should avoid such and such thoughts, deeds, and ways. But if they take no heed, and persist in wrong thinking and wrongdoing, Allah withholds His guidance from them and lets them follow the wrong way they themselves choose to follow.
This is the general formula that helps understand those passages of the Quran in which Allah ascribes to Himself the guidance and the deviation of the people. Allah’s guidance is that He makes plain to them the right way through His Prophets and Books. Then He enables those who have the intention, to follow the right way. On the other hand, He does not force and compel them to follow the right way, if they themselves intend to persist in the wrong ways in spite of the fact that the right way has been made quite clear to them; He rather enables them to follow the way they themselves intend to follow. As regards the context in which this occurs here, it is plain that it is meant to warn those people who have been mentioned in the preceding passage, and to introduce those who are going to be mentioned in the succeeding passage.
115. Allah forgave the Prophet (peace be upon him) and his companions for those inadvertent lapses that had been made in connection with the Tabuk expedition, in view of their excellent services. The inadvertent lapse made by the Prophet (peace be upon him) was that he had given leave to stay behind to those people who were able to take part in the Jihad. (Ayat 43).
116. This refers to those sincere companions who were at first somewhat unwilling to go to war on that critical occasion, but at last overcame their weakness, for they had true faith in their hearts and loved the right way.
117. That is, Allah will not take them to account for their wrong inclinations for He does not punish a man for that weakness which he himself has overcome and corrected.
118. These three were among those who came to the Prophet (peace be upon him) to present their excuses for staying behind. More than eighty of them were hypocrites, who put forward lame excuses and the Prophet (peace be upon him) accepted these and let them go. Then came the turn of these three, who were true believers, and they confessed their fault plainly. Therefore the Prophet (peace be upon him) postponed the decision of their case and ordered the Muslims not to have any social relations with them till the decision of their case came from Allah. This verse was sent down to decide their case.
In this connection it should be kept in mind that the case of these three was different from the case of the seven mentioned in E.N. 99. They had inflicted the punishment on themselves before they were called to account for their fault.
119. The three whose condition has been described in this verse, were Kaab bin Malik, Hilal bin Umayyah and Murarah bin Rubai. They were sincere believers, as has been stated above, and had made many sacrifices and given proofs of their sincerity before this. The last two had taken part in the battle of Badr also, and therefore their faith was above every kind of suspicion. Though Kaab had not taken part in the battle of Badr, he had accompanied the Prophet (peace be upon him) in every other expedition. But in spite of all these services, they were severely punished for the negligence they had shown on the critical occasion of the Tabuk expedition, when all the able-bodied Muslims were commanded to go forth to Jihad.
When the Prophet (peace be upon him) came back from Tabuk, he ordered the Muslims to break away completely from them; so much so that they should not even respond to their greetings. After forty days of this boycott their wives also were ordered to have nothing to do with them. In short, they were reduced at Al-Madinah to the same sad plight which has been described in this verse. At last, after a boycott of fifty days, this verse was sent down to announce their forgiveness.
The story of the above-mentioned boycott has been described in detail by Kaab bin Malik, who was one of the three. When he became old and blind, he himself told his story to his son, Abdullah, who used to accompany him everywhere. As this story is an excellent lesson for all, it is given below in Kaab’s own words:
“When the Prophet (peace be upon him) urged upon the people to get ready for Jihad, I made up my mind to make preparations for this. But when I went home, I became negligent, saying to myself, “There is no hurry. When the time comes I will readily make preparations and start forthwith”. In this way I went on putting off my preparations till the time came when the army was going to start on the expedition. As I had made no preparations for the journey, I said to myself, “It does not matter. I will be able to join the army in a couple of days during the journey”. But again the same negligence prevented me from putting my intention into practice. At last no occasion was left for me to join the army. To add to my misery my conscience pricked me over and over again that the people with whom I had stayed behind in Al-Madinah were either the hypocrites or those Muslims who were old or otherwise unfit for Jihad.
When the Prophet (peace be upon him) came back from Tabuk, he, as usual, said two rakats of prayer in the mosque. Then he sat there to meet the people. At first, the hypocrites, whose number was a little more than eighty, came to him and offered lame excuses on solemn oaths. The Prophet (peace be upon him) listened to the false story of each of them and accepted their apparent excuses and left the decision about their hearts to Allah, saying, “May Allah forgive you”. Then it was my turn to put forward my excuse. I went forward and uttered my salutations. He smiled and said, “Well, what kept you behind?” I hesitated for a moment. By God, I would have invented one excuse or the other to satisfy any man of the world, for I am well versed in the art of conversation. But here was the Prophet (peace be upon him) who was demanding an explanation from me. I believed that even if I succeeded in satisfying him by making a false excuse, Allah will inform him of the truth of the case and I shall again incur his displeasure. On the other hand, if I told the truth, I expected that Allah would forgive me, even though I were to incur his displeasure for the time being. So I replied, “I have no excuse for staying behind. I was in every way able to go forth (to Tabuk)”. At this the Prophet (peace be upon him) remarked, “This is the man who has told the truth”. Then turning to me, he said, “Go and wait till Allah decides your case”.
I rose from there and took my seat among the people of my own clan. They at once began to tease and reprove me because I had made no excuse. At this, I was tempted to go and make some false excuse. But when I came to know that there were also two good people (Murarah bin Rubai and Hilal bin Umayyah), who had told the same thing that I had, I felt satisfied and stuck to the truth.
After this the Prophet (peace be upon him) issued a general order that no one should have any kind of talk with us. The other two confined themselves to their houses but I used to go out of my house and say my prayers in congregation and walk through the bazaars. As nobody spoke to me, it appeared to me that I was a foreigner in some strange city where I had no acquaintances. When I attended the mosque, I would utter the usual salutations and wait in vain for a response from the Prophet (peace be upon him). I would turn stealthy looks at him to read his thoughts in regard to me, but he would turn his eyes away from me, though he had been looking at me while I was engaged in prayer. As this condition became intolerable for me, one day I went to see Abu Qatadah who was a cousin of mine and a friend from childhood. I climbed over the wall of his garden and uttered my salutations, but even he did not make any response to it. Then I said, “O Abu Qatadah! I ask you to tell me on oath whether I love or do not love Allah and His Messenger”. But he remained silent. Again I repeated the question but he kept silent. I asked him on oath to answer my question. Then he merely replied, “Allah and His Messenger know best”. At this my eyes were filled with tears, and I came back.
Another incident happened during those days. Once I was passing through the bazaar, when a Syrian came to me and gave me a letter wrapped in silk. This was from the king of Ghassan and read like this: We have come to know that your leader is persecuting you these days. As you are not an ignoble person, we will not leave you to rot there. Therefore come to us and we will honor you (as you deserve). I said to myself, “Here is another hard trial for me”. Then I threw the letter into the burning oven.
The boycott continued for forty days, when a man brought this message from the Prophet (peace be upon him) that I should separate from my wife. I asked whether I should divorce her but was told that I should only separate from her. Accordingly I said to my wife, “Go to your parental home and wait till a decision comes from Allah.”
On the fiftieth day, when after the morning prayers, I was sitting in a state of utter despair on the top of my house, all of a sudden someone cried aloud, “O Kaab bin Malik! please accept my congratulations.” Hearing this, I fell prostrate to the ground before Allah, for I understood that the command of my forgiveness had come. After this, people began to pour in, each trying to forestall the other in congratulating me on the acceptance of my repentance. I rose and went directly to the Mosque. I noticed that the face of the Prophet (peace be upon him) was glowing with happiness and in response to my salutations, he said, “I congratulate you on this: it is the best day of your life.” I said, “Is this forgiveness from you or from Allah?” He replied, “It is from Allah.” Then he recited these verses (117-118). I asked, “O Messenger of Allah! Does my repentance require that I should give the whole of my property in charity?” He replied, “Keep a part of it, for it will be better for you.” Accordingly, I kept my property at Khaibar for myself and gave all the rest in charity. Then I solemnly pledged that I would stick to the truth throughout rest of my life, for Allah had forgiven me in return for the truth I had told. That is why I have never uttered a word against reality intentionally up to this time and hope and expect that Allah will protect me from lies in future as well.
This story contains many lessons, and every believer should impress these on his mind and heart.
The first and foremost lesson we learn from this story is that the matter of the conflict between Islam and kufr is so important and delicate that we should take the greatest possible care to be on our guard in regard to this. Not to mention the case of one who takes active part on the side of kufr, if a Muslim shows the least negligence even inadvertently in taking part on the side of Islam once in his life; and that, too, not with any evil intention, he is liable to lose all the lifelong services and devotions rendered by him in the cause of Islam. That was why such a severe action was taken even against those worthy people who had done great deeds of valor in the battles of Badr, Uhd, Ahzab and Hunain, and whose sincerity and faith were absolutely above suspicion.
The second thing, which is as important as the first, is that one should never consider lightly any negligence in the performance of a duty, for this often misleads one to commit an offense that is counted among heinous sins. The fact that one did not commit the offense with any evil intention cannot save one from punishment.
Lastly, this story presents the true spirit of the society that had been evolved out under the leadership of the Prophet (peace be upon him). On the one side, there were the hypocrites whose treacherous deeds were quite well known to all. They offered lame excuses which were accepted without demur for nothing better could be expected from them. On the other side, let us take the case of Kaab bin Malik, who was a tried believer, and whose sacrifices were above every kind of suspicion. He did not invent any false story to justify himself but confessed his fault quite plainly and clearly. But in contrast to the hypocrites, a severe chastisement was inflicted on him, not because there was any suspicion about his faith but because a sincere believer like him had behaved in a way in which only a hypocrite could behave. Thus the chastisement was meant to remind them: “You are the salt of the earth. But if you, too, become tasteless, from where will then salt be obtained?”
There is another noteworthy side of the matter. The part played by the leader and the follower and the Muslim society in this incident is unique. The leader inflicts the most severe punishment but with the feelings of affection and without any tinge of anger or hatred in it. It is like the punishment which a father gives to his son. It is always understood that the punishment is given for the good of the son, who knows that as soon as he mends his ways, he will regain the fatherly love. And the follower sets an excellent example of obedience under very trying circumstances. He suffers hard from the severity of the chastisement but never thinks of rebelling against the leader because of any false personal or clannish pride; nay, he does not cherish in his heart any complaint against his beloved leader, but begins to love him even more than before. During this saddest period of his life the only thing he yearns for is a look of affection from his leader. For he is like a famine-stricken farmer whose only hope is the piece of cloud which he sees floating in the sky.
Now let us have a glimpse of the Muslim society, which displayed the greatest discipline and the highest moral spirit that had ever been shown by any society. No sooner does the leader order the boycott than the whole community becomes a stranger to the follower not only in public but also in private. So much so that his nearest relatives and closest friends do not even speak to him; nay, his own wife leaves him alone. He implores them on oath to tell him if they suspected his sincerity, but even his lifelong companions make a point-blank refusal, saying that he should ask Allah and His Messenger for that testimony. But in spite of the show of this strict discipline, the moral spirit of the community is so high and so pure that not a single person tries to take advantage of the position of the fallen brother by adding insult to his injury; nay, everyone feels sorry for his brother in disgrace, and is important to embrace him as soon as he is forgiven. That is why the people run in haste to tell him the good news.
The above is the model of the righteous community that the Quran aims.
This background makes it plain why Allah not only forgave them but also manifested His kindness; gentleness and compassion in His forgiveness to these people. It was because of their sincerity which they proved during the fifty days of their chastisement. Had they shown arrogance after the commission of their offense and retaliated by taking angry and hostile actions as does every selfworshiper whose pride is wounded: had they behaved during their boycott in a manner as if they would break away from the community but never bow down before it: had they passed this period in spreading dissatisfaction in the community and gathering around them all the disgruntled people in order to organize a strong opposition against the leader, then they would have most certainly been expelled from the community, as if to say, “Go you now and worship the idol of yourself, for henceforth you will never be given any opportunity for exerting to raise the word of Allah”. But these three did not adopt this way though it was open to them. On the contrary, they took a different way, as has been seen, and proved that Godworship had destroyed every idol that might have remained hidden in their hearts: that they had dedicated themselves entirely to the exertion in the Way of Allah: that while joining the Islamic community they had burnt their boats to make it impossible for themselves to go back anywhere: that they would put up with every kind of treatment but would remain in the community and die as a member of it and would scornfully reject any offer of an honorable place outside it; and would rather bear disgrace in it. That was why they were again taken in the community with the same honor as before. This is the explanation of the kind words of forgiveness: “Then He turned to them, that they might repent.” In these concise words, the Quran has depicted the true picture of the matter. The Master had at first turned away His attention from His three servants but when He saw that they had not left His door but had remained there with broken hearts, He again turned to them in appreciation of their fidelity so as to bring them back into the fold.