Virtue is not in turning your faces ... such are the God-fearing.
From the beginning of the Surah till this point, the address was primarily directed at the antagonists, and the Muslims were addressed only indirectly. For example, the topics discussed in series are (1) faith, (2) the categories of human beings with reference to their beliefs, (3) the invitation to the mankind to worship Allah-SWT , (4) the authenticity of the Quran and of the Holy Prophet-SW, (5) the positive proofs of Unity, (6) the answers to the objections raised by the non-believers and in the same context the favours bestowed upon Prophet Ibrahim-AS and his-AS descendants, (7) the issue of the fixation of Qiblah, (8) the rewards of worship and finally (9) the principles of polytheism and its negation. These topics cover the first half of the Surah. From here onwards to the end, which is roughly the remaining half, the addressees are primarily Muslims, although the non-believers too are indirectly included. The discussion commences with the question; what virtue is and what it is not? Since the non-believers were adamant that their customs be accepted as virtue this portion begins with the word Birr (virtue) and elaborates each virtue in every aspect of life; e.g. in the laws of Qisas, legacy, fasting, Jihad, pilgrimage, spending in Allah-SWT’s Cause, the laws of dowry, marriage, divorce and other matters pertaining to marital life, and also matters of trading. Finally the Surah concludes with a promise of forgiveness and mercy by Allah-SWT . Maulana Ashraf ‘Ali Thanvi-RUA has named the above grouping of Ayat as Abwab al-Birr (The Chapters of Virtue).
Faith And Worship
Allah-SWT declares that virtue does not end with the fixation of Qiblah. It is absurd to argue that the one facing in a certain direction is better than the one facing in another. On the contrary the real excellence is to have faith in Allah-SWT and to believe in Him-SWT as He-SWT really is, and in all His-SWT Attributes. In every religion there has always been a concept of the existence of a Supreme Being, more powerful than the rest and with Whom rests the ultimate authority. Yet all the religions have fixed the attributes of this Most Powerful Being according to their own understanding. However, faith requires that He-SWT should be believed in the way He-SWT actually is, which can only be determined by the Prophets-AS, who are blessed by Allah-SWT with knowledge and cognition of His-SWT Being and His-SWT Attributes. In order to believe, it is obligatory to believe in Allah-SWT the way Prophet Muhammad-SW tells us to believe, i.e. to have a complete trust in Allah-SWT’s Omnipotence and His-SWT Knowledge and to accept Him-SWT as the Creator, the Owner and the Provider.
The foundation of beliefs is faith in Allah-SWT . If this is missing and a person ascribes partners with Allah-SWT , whether in Being or in Attributes, then what difference does it make whether he turns his face to the West or the East? A believer must believe from the core of his heart that one day he has to stand before the One-SWT , Who-SWT knows the invisible and the manifest, and has to present an account of his actions to Him-SWT . He-SWT is the One, Who has laid a criterion for right and wrong; and it is before Him-SWT that he is answerable for his conduct. Besides, he must also believe in the angels, in the authenticity of the Divine Books and must have a deep-rooted belief in the truth and veracity of the Prophets-AS.
In fact the human psyche is such that every individual, at his own level, wants to impose his ideals and views, over the rest of the world and expects these to be accepted by all. It is for the satisfaction of this psyche that the non-believers gave their own views the status of religion and worship. And this attitude is causing conflicts amongst today's Muslims. Everyone desires to impose his own theology over the other and so much importance is attached rituals, that those who object are declared as non-Muslims. The worshippers in one masjid declare those in the other, as non-believer, unmindful of the fact as to what a non-believer has to do with a masjid? If they are so fond of Jihad there are comparatively more non-believers than Muslims on this earth; they should try to propagate Islam to them and work for their reformation, rather than branding those engaged in Allah-SWT’s worship as non-believers.
In the Ayah under discussion, Allah-SWT has denied man the right to determine virtue and vice. It is the domain of Allah-SWT , whereas man’s duty is to adopt the path of virtue and avoid the path of evil. Allah-SWT , through the Angel, the Book and the Prophet-AS, will convey the criterion of right and wrong to mankind. Similarly, rituals have nothing to do with worship and only those actions would be taken as worship, which are determined by Allah-SWT as such. Secondly, man is very fond of wealth. Allah-SWT , instead of highlighting the ways of earning, has elaborated on the means of spending. This concept is only given by the economic system of Islam, whereby lines are drawn as to how far one can go in spending. Obviously, when a person is going to spend according to Allah-SWT’s will, why would he follow his own desires while earning?
Therefore, for a Muslim the love of wealth and possessions is secondary as compared to his love for Allah-SWT . He spends his wealth for Him-SWT on relatives, orphans, and wayfarers, the deserving and on freeing slaves from bondage. And this spending has been mentioned before Zakat to highlight that Zakat alone does not absolve one of his financial obligations. Generally, these are given less importance whereas necessity renders these payments obligatory. For instance, if someone has paid his Zakat, but a relative is in dire need then helping him becomes obligatory. Or if a needy is dying of hunger, it is not a valid excuse that one has already paid his Zakat, rather, it is obligatory to save his life. Besides, the construction of masaajid, schools etc., all fall in the category of ones obligations. All these miscellaneous expenditures are made obligatory only when there is a need, whereas Zakat remains obligatory under all circumstances. However, Muslims must pay Zakat and establish their Salat diligently.
Next to worships are the mutual dealings, wherein fulfilment of promises is a highly meritorious act. And the foremost is the promise made to Allah-SWT and His-SWT Prophet-SW. The Shahadah is nothing but a sacred oath. So after taking this oath, it is unbecoming of a Muslim to invent or give importance to rituals against the sayings of the Holy Prophet-SW. That is why wise people always advice that before taking a friend, do determine whether he is loyal to Allah-SWT and His-SWT Prophet-SW. If not, such a person is not worthy of trust. A believer who serves righteousness in mutual dealings at all levels.
Then are the good morals. The believers remain patient in hardship and poverty. Patience is a quality, which assists in all the aforementioned matters, as it is based on trust in Allah-SWT and His-SWT Prophet-SW. As they believe that Allah-SWT is aware of their conditions even more than they themselves are and He-SWT is a greater well-wisher of theirs; thus even if they are in distress they feel certainly that it is better for them. They stay steadfast even on the battlefield when heads are falling, as they firmly believe that, only that which is destined by Allah-SWT , will prevail, as He-SWT shall only wish what is in their interest. When Hajjaj bin Yusuf was on the throes of death, his mother sat by him and wept. He said, “Mother why do you cry? Millions of people died before my eyes, after all one day I had to go too, and that day has finally come.” She replied, “I do not cry because of this but for the treatment you will receive after death.” Hajjaj said, “Mother! If Allah-SWT assigns you the task for my reckoning would you forgive me?” She answered, “Certainly!” He said, “According to the Holy Prophet-SW, Allah-SWT is kinder towards His-SWT creations than a mother is to her children.” When this conversation was reported to Khawajah Hassan Basri-RUA he observed: “What Hajjaj said may become the cause of his salvation” as patience is also based on trust in Allah-SWT , and the entire obedience is based on patience.
Those people who have the above-mentioned beliefs, worships, mutual dealings and morals, are indeed truthful, sincere and God-fearing. In other words they have developed a special link with Allah-SWT called Taqwa. Where this is missing, it makes no difference whether the face is turned to the East or to the West.
O you who believe! Qisas is prescribed for you ... you may adopt Taqwa.
In a society, generally when a person does not like the other person for any reason, he wants him eliminated forever. Given the chance, he kills him. This is usually caused due to jealousy or greed etc. Whatever the motive, it is an established fact that through times, man has been killing his fellow beings. Especially at the advent of the Holy Prophet-SW, human life had no value. Every influential person deemed it as his right to kill the weaker. And if by chance the member of a powerful tribe got killed at the hands of any one of the weaker sides, strange demands were raised. For example, to avenge the death of a woman, man from the weaker tribe must be killed. Or if a freeman was killed from the weaker tribe, the stronger would offer a slave in his place. There were two tribes at war before the advent of Islam whose men; women and slaves had been killed. When they embraced Islam and negotiations began for establishing mutual friendship, one of the tribes actually demanded that, in place of their slaves and women, freemen and women from the other tribe must be killed in order to make peace possible. In other words they considered themselves superior to the other tribe.
While discussing virtue, Allah-SWT dealt with this matter first as it directly pertained to human life. He-SWT tells the believers that Qisas is enjoined on them. Qisas literally means similarity. In terms of Shari’ah it means avenging an intentional murder with a murder, or an injury for an equal injury. This authority to avenge the murder is not given to everyone. Rather it is the duty of the ruler to punish the murderer or the assailant. If he fails to do so, he himself will be an accomplice to the crime before Allah-SWT .
Now, justice demands that only the murderer must get punished for his act, and not that an innocent freeman is killed in place of a slave, or the punishment of a female murderer is awarded to her husband. Allah-SWT enjoins that a freeman be killed for murdering a freeman, a slave for a slave, and a woman for a woman. That is, whether the killer is a slave or a freeman, a woman or a man, he or she will be killed as a punishment of his or her crime.
After streamlining this ignorant and cruel tradition, another fine aspect of reformation is enjoined. A life, in any case, has already been lost. But if the heirs of the slain agree to forgive the killer for the sake of Allah-SWT , this kind gesture may well pave the way for the reformation of the criminal. Else, if they wish, they can demand blood money from the killer. This money will be a reprimand for the killer and a financial aid for the heirs of the slain. According to Shari’ah, the blood money is one hundred camels or one thousand Dinars, estimated by the author of Mu’arif al-Quran as 33 kilo, 906.65 grams of silver today. The value of silver can be determined or if a certain amount is mutually agreed upon, it shall become the blood wit. Details may be seen in books on Fiqh. Even if a single person from the bereaved family forgives the killer, he will not be killed in Qisas. It does not matter if the killer or the slain is white or black, free or slave, man or woman; because the rule pertains only to the murderer and the murdered, as every member of humanity has an equal status.
Only Islam provides this level of justice. Otherwise, all the ungodly religions or the so-called modern civilizations carry the same stigma; that the mighty crushes the weak and does not even let him cry. In Hinduism if a Shoodar (untouchable) spits on a Brahmin (the high caste Hindu), his tongue is chopped off; whereas if a Brahmin kills a Shoodar it is not taken as a crime. Similarly, the democratic laws of the Western world, which are also imposed on us, have ushered in, their own miseries. The heirs of a slain have to forget the tragedy, and worry about the lawsuit, the witnesses, and the fee of the lawyer and allied problems. The proceedings of the case drag on in the courts for years, which the heirs have to frequently attend and finally the killer is acquitted, as over the period the witnesses have either died, or have become disabled or the judge has accepted bribe. This system generates so much disgust among the effected party, that they, implicate innocent people along with the actual murderer to disgrace the guilty faction and teach them a lesson. Ironically the lawmakers speak sarcastically of the Islamic Law of Qisas, which means absolute peace while the man-made laws are totally mischievous.
A living example is provided today by a comparison of the Western society and the Kingdom of Sa’udi Arabia. Observe the value of human life in the USA and what all goes on in England. The same treacherous English rulers of this sub-continent who would order indiscriminate shooting over trivial matters, killing masses in large scale, are still wondering how to punish the killers of thousands of Asians in their own country. Whether even to fire a rubber bullet on them or not? And the BBC, which instantly broadcasts the slightest news around the world, is mum over these killings. In Sa'udi Arabia, where only Islamic Penal Laws are in force arid Qisas is implemented, even the most impoverished does not fear the richest, as he has his own rights. If exemplary peace is to be seen anywhere in the whole world, it is in this country. Although they do not follow the Deen ideally, yet the blessings of Islamic laws can be openly observed. The wise, of course, understand that Qisas is vital for the survival of a society. History bears witness to the fact that a society which does not stop a tyrant from oppression, begins to collapse.
And Qisas is a blessing for this as well as for the eternal life. It is a source of attaining Allah-SWT’s nearness and of fostering Taqwa. It leads to reformation of the society and salvation in the Akhirah.
It is prescribed for you that... Allah-SWT is Forgiving, Merciful.
Wealth and property left behind by those who die a natural death also sometimes becomes a source of dispute. Therefore, O believers! It is obligatory for you to make a will, with justice, in favour of parents and kindred according to their rights. Do not assign anyone more or less than his right. In this Ayah, wealth has been termed as Khair (virtue). Since a believer earns his wealth lawfully and spends it according to the Shari’ah, thus what he leaves behind is virtue. Islam does not prohibit building a fortune, but is against employing unfair means for doing so, and at the same time forbids illegitimate spending. Working for a lawful livelihood is by itself an act of worship; spending it properly and leaving behind for survivors, is a virtue.
Until the laws of inheritance were revealed, it was obligatory for the dying to make a will. But when Allah-SWT fixed the rights of the heirs, this command was superseded, as it is entirely up to Him-SWT to retain or quash a law. However, a will can still be made with the permission of the heirs. Also, according to a consensus of the Ummah, a person has the right to make a will in one third of his property. This law stands for a person who has no outstanding dues or obligations towards anyone, nor had been entrusted with the possessions of others. In that case, making a will becomes incumbent. Besides, the will made for third of the possessions can be rightfully changed by the owner anytime in his life. How temporary is this world, that the owner can only make a will after seeking the permission of the heirs! In other words the heirs are the true owners and once they acquire the possession they too will become owners of the wealth, which actually will belong to their heirs. Now if a person disobeys Allah-SWT’s injunctions for the ephemeral wealth, which he has to leave behind, it is indeed very foolish.
The duty of those who witness the will is that they must not alter it, as Allah-SWT is all Hearing and Knowing. They must bear in mind that one day they have to stand before Him-SWT for reckoning. But if the testator has made a mistake or partiality and unfair distribution is feared, then an amendment that would abridge the differences between the heirs may be made in all fairness. To achieve this, if the will becomes altered there is no blame on the witness as Allah-SWT is Merciful and Forgiving.
Indeed the reformation of one’s conduct is based on his belief in the Akhirah and a firm belief of appearing in the Court of Allah-SWT.All actions must, therefore, be taken keeping in view the results these will bear in the Akhirah.