The Quran Alone
"..when you mention your Lord in the Quran alone, they run away in aversion." Sura 1:7.46
We have been taught to accept without question the Qur'an and other sources for our faith. There is no dispute over accepting the Qur'an. As for the other sources, we have been instructed to just accept them as authority - to challenge that authority means that we run the risk of being called a non-Muslim, to put it mildly.
For these other sources, how sure are we that they contain the truth and no errors. Can we be 100% sure? Only if it is from God we can be 100% certain - hence the Qur'an. If it is from man, our certainty is definitely less than 100% and God says so in the Qur'an:
Do they not consider the Qur'an (with care)? Had it been from other than God they would surely have found therein much discrepancy.
In other words, if there is a book about God, religious laws and practices, and that book was written by man, you "would surely have found therein much discrepancy". Note that it is not only "will" contain "much" inconsistencies, God also used the word "surely". Is there any doubt then, that there are errors in these other sources, which are from men?
Yet we have been told to accept
these sources as truth without any need to question them. When
asked for reasons why they should not be challenged, the
following are given:
a) The characters of the people who studied and wrote these books were impeccable. Their piety, honesty, integrity, intention etc., were beyond reproach.
b) These people were scholars -knowledgeable experts in their respective subjects and their expertise cannot be matched.
c) They dedicated and spent their whole lives in this work of theirs for Islam.
d) That these sources do not contradict the Qur'an.
We can neither match their impeccable character or their knowledge, they explain.
Moreover they say, there is no necessity for each and everyone of us to duplicate the work of these scholars - it's just not practical and sensible.
Are these reasons acceptable? They sound more like excuses given to conveniently absolve us of our responsibility to ascertain the truth. Remember the second paragraph above: that if it is not from God, there will be mistakes. So by accepting without thinking and questioning, we will be accepting their mistakes and all.
God gave us intelligence and the faculty of reasoning which puts Man above the other creations of God.
Quran verse: 6:78
It is He Who brought you forth from the wombs of your mothers when ye knew nothing; and He gave you hearing and sight and intelligence* and affection: that ye may give thanks (to God).
*Intelligence: Literally hearts, which are considered the centres of the affections, and in Arabic idiom, of intelligence also.
Quran verse: 12:108 [M Asad's
Say (O Prophet): "This is my way: Resting upon conscious insight accessible to reason, I am calling (you all) unto God - I and they who follow me. "
In Quran verse 67:10
A sinner in Hell-fire will say: "Had we but listened or used our intelligence (or "reason" according to M.Asad's translation), we should not (now) be among the Companions of the Blazing Fire!"
The Qur'an approaches all questions with expressions like "so that you might use your reason", or "will you not, then, use your reason?", or "so that you might think". The message is clear that the Qur'an invites us to use our head - to think and apply reason.
In fact it is
forbidden to go against reason: Quran verse 7:33:
"The things that my Lord hath indeed forbidden are: shameful deeds, whether open or secret; sins and trespasses against truth or reason:.. "
Quran 16:90 [Asad]
Behold, God enjoins justice, and the doing of good and generosity towards (one's) fellow-men, and He forbids all that is shameful and all that runs counter to reason, as well as envy; (and) He exhorts you (repeatedly) so that you might bear (all this) in mind.
These gifts, intelligence and ability to reason were given to each of us for our use; to help us distinguish truth from error. Because the experts have "higher intelligence" it does not mean we should relinquish our right to challenge some of their conclusions when we sense an inconsistency or possible error. But how are we able to sense or perceive that there is an inconsistency in the first place?
Because the scholars took a whole lifetime to complete their work, we erroneously jump to the conclusions that with our limited resources (mental as well as material) there is no way we could find the time to do what they did. We are assuming that we have to walk down the same beaten track. No, we don't have to! We only need to verify those doubtful statements that we come across or are thrown at us; especially those sayings that directly affect our belief and conduct. Isn't this important? This wouldn't take long if we have the resources to check them out easily. What do we need? Obviously, all the necessary information made reliable and readily available in a single book. Is there such a reference BOOK?
Yes! What other book do we need other than AI-Qur'an! This is the Book against which all else is judged for truth or falsehood, right or wrong.
Read what the Qur'an says on this
matter verse 25:1:
Blessed is He Who sent down the Criterion (al-Furqan) to His servant, that it may be an admonition to all creatures.
a principle or standard by which something is judged by] M.Asad's
translation of the same verse:
Hallowed is He who from on high, step by step, has bestowed upon His servant the standard by which to discern the true from the false, so that to all the world it might be a warning.
Without basic knowledge of the Our'an, how can anyone make a fair judgement of any statement let alone whether in the first instance, he could identify or perceive that there is a need to assess the validity of a statement.
Let me illustrate
with an example. At an Islamic Conference (late 1980s) by ISOMER,
Professor Badawi was quoted as saying that when Prophet's uncle
(a pagan) died, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) prayed
for his forgiveness. Suppose Professor Badawi did not follow up
this statement with verses from the Qur'an to either support it
or refute it (he did in actual fact). Without knowledge of the
Qur'an, I would reasonably make the following conclusions:
a) This is a learned and knowledgeable man who said that the Prophet prayed for his uncle. He must have done his homework and quoted from a reliable source. Hence, it must be true - the Prophet prayed for his pagan uncle.
b) According to established system of values, it is not bad, in fact I would think it is a good deed to pray for others and therefore all the more reason for believing the statement.
c) A good Muslim should also try to emulate the ways of our Prophet Muhammad so I should not hesitate to pray for forgiveness for a pagan.
Now let us see
what the Qur'an says about this subject:
Prophet Abraham's father was a pagan and Abraham (peace be upon him) prayed for him in verse 26:86 "Forgive my father for that he is among those astray".
And God says in
Quran verse 60:4:
There is for you an excellent example (to follow) in Abraham and those with him..., but not when Abraham said to his father: 'I will pray for forgiveness for thee... "
And Abraham prayed for his father's forgiveness only because of a promise he had made to him...
So we learned that from Abraham's example, we cannot pray for forgiveness for a pagan.
The Our'an has an
even clearer injunction in verse 9:113:
IT IS NOT FITTING, FOR THE PROPHET AND THOSE WHO BELIEVE THAT THEV SHOULD PRAY FOR FORGIVENESS FOR PAGANS, EVEN THOUGH THEV BE OF KIN, AFTER IT IS CLEAR TO THEM THAT THEY ARE COMPANIONS OF THE FIRE.
So if a Muslim does not know his Qur'an, he could have been misled quite easily by the quote. With basic knowledge of the Qur'an, he would be able to detect some points of doubt or possible disagreement which needed verification. This act of verifying is what we must do to determine right from wrong, true from false; and more so since anything, which is not from God may never be free from error. And isn't it for this purpose that the Qur'an had been sent down as a 'Furqan' or Criterion? Read verse 25:1.
Referring to the Quran we find that by using the Index, it does not take more than a few minutes to find these verses for verification. Admittedly some subjects will take considerably longer but certainly it is not beyond our means to at least try.
To verify right conduct for Believers (as in this case) is as far as we need to go. But for those who wish to delve deeper, they may like to ask the next question: "Did the Prophet Muhammad really pray for his pagan uncle and transgressed God's words?".
At first glance, the answer to that may depend on when these verses were revealed. If the Revelations were before his uncle's death, then the Prophet Muhammad would have definitely gone against God.
His uncle, Abu Talib died in Mecca about 3 years before the Hegira - (From Maududi's translation of the Quran - Introduction to 6th Surah (Chapter)]. All the verses quoted (26:86, 60:4, 9:113-114) were revealed in Medina not earlier than 8 years after Hegira. So we may conclude that the Prophet Muhammad did not openly violate God's commandment by praying for his pagan uncle but this is one practice or "Sunnah" Muslims must not copy. In that case, he is not the perfect example for mankind unless that statement is not true.
Let us check the validity of that statement by using the Qur'an as the "furqan" or criterion. God's practices and ways of dealing with things are consistent. They do not change with time.
Quran verse 33:62: (Such was) the practice (approved) of God among those who lived aforetime: No change wilt thou find in the practice (approved) of God.
The Prophet Muhammad was rightly guided by God. If we believe this, then we cannot believe that he did pray for his pagan uncle; because if he did, then he was in that instance not rightly guided. Although the prohibitive verses were not revealed yet, Muhammad would have been guided not to violate any of God's yet to be revealed injunctions. And God's laws do not change especially when we know that, at least from the time of Prophet Abraham, praying for pagans was not approved.
If the Prophet Muhammad prayed for his pagan uncle, he would have displeased God and wouldn't there be a revelation to correct him? We know that just for frowning at a blind man, he received this Revelation:
Quran verse 80:1 - 11 He (Muhammad) frowned and turned away, because there came to him the blind man (interrupting). But what could tell thee but that perchance he might grow (in spiritual understanding)? Or that he might receive admonition, and the teaching might profit him? As to one who regards himself as self-sufficient, to him dost thou attend; though it is no blame on thee if he grow not (in spiritual understanding). But as to him who came to thee striving earnestly, and with fear (in his heart), of him wast thou unmindful. By no means (should it be so)! For it is indeed a Message of instruction.
Hence, if the Prophet had prayed for his pagan uncle, surely there would be a Revelation to correct him. Praying for a Pagan is a forbidden act whereas frowning is not, thus isn't there a stronger reason to expect a Revelation? Moreover, God's ways do not change. He sent a Revelation for frowning, so wouldn't He send a revelation for breaking His Law? A corrective revelation not only for the Prophet, but for the Muslims of that time instructing them not to follow the example of the Prophet if he really did this.
Note that verse 9:113 [It is not fitting for the Prophet and those who believe, that they should pray for forgiveness for pagans...l was revealed about 11 years after Abu Talib's death. Prayers for the dead are usually held soon after the tragedy and not after a long period of 11 years. And revelation to correct wrong behaviour should then be sent soon after the event to check and arrest wrong conduct: not 11 years after the incident.
The recurring theme of the Qur'an is Belief in One God AND to do good deeds. Belief without good deeds or vice versa is useless.
Quran verse 5:9 To those who believe and do deeds of righteousness hath God promised forgiveness and a great reward.
Quran verse 5:10 Those who reject faith and deny Our Signs will be Companions of Hell-fire.
Quran verse 6:88 This is Allah's Guidance by which He guides anyone of His servants He pleases: but if any of His people had ever practised 'shirk' (associating partners with God), all the good deeds they had done would have been rendered vain. [Maududi Translation]
The moral lessons of the Qur'anic stories of the earlier Prophets all emphasizes the teaching that a painful punishment awaits those who deny God. And for those who believe and lead a righteous life is the promise of the Garden. This is the basic Law of God and we learn from the Qur'an that no one was exempted: not Abraham's father, not Lot's wife, not Noah's son nor the mighty Pharaoh. When his uncle was alive, the Prophet must have tried hard and long to covert him but without success. Abu Talib was therefore, clearly one of those who died in unbelief and therefore, according to God, was destined for Hell.
Quran verse 39:25-26 Those before them (also) rejected (revelation), and so the Punishment came to them from directions they did not perceive. So God gave them a taste of humiliation in the present life, but greater is the Punishment of the Hereafter, if they only knew!
Quran verse 39:71
The Unbelievers will be led to Hell in crowd: until, when they arrive there, its gates will be opened. And its Keepers will say, 'Did not messengers come to you from among yourselves, rehearsing to you the Signs of your Lord and warning you of the Meeting of this Day of yours?" The answer will be: "True: but the Decree of Punishment has been proved true against the Unbelievers!" (To them) will be said: ' Enter the gates of Hell to dwell therein: and evil is (this) abode of the arrogant!"
Chapter 39 is a mid-Meccan surah; therefore these verses were revealed before Abu Talib's death. Hence, the Prophet Muhammad who knew the Qur'an better than any other man; who knew that rejecters of God are doomed for hell; who knew that God's ways of dealing with rejecters do not change; who knew that no exemption would be given to anyone; would he dare then to ask God to forgive his uncle?
These arguments leave some doubts as to the truthfulness of that statement - that Muhammad prayed for forgiveness for his pagan uncle. If he did, then he is not the perfect example for us to emulate. If he did NOT, then that statement is false. So the question is: "Did Muhammad do wrong or the person who wrote that was in error?" Either way, we find that a basic knowledge of the Qur'an is essential in order for us to determine right conduct. This basic knowledge will help us to perceive or sense that something may not be right and we need to check it out.
Didn't the early
rightful Caliphs say to their people: "If you see me do
right, help me; if you see me do wrong, correct me". How
could the people make a judgement of right or wrong, true or
false, unless they had a common standard or "furqan" to
judge by AND MORE IMPORTANTLY, they had some knowledge of that
standard. Isn't that Standard the Qur'an! That's all they had at
To summarize the main points:
a) God says that all sources other than from God WILL contain discrepancies or errors.
b) God created us with intelligence and the ability to reason which made us stand above His other creations.
c) God invites us to use our intelligence and reasoning to distinguish truth from error.
d) God gave us the Qur'an to be used as a Standard (Furqan) by which to judge truth from error and right from wrong.
e) With a basic knowledge of the Qur'an, we are well-armed to be on our guard against wrong conduct, belief or teaching.
When God told us to seek knowledge, didn't He also mean knowledge of His Qur'an?
Finally, on this subject of forgiveness for pagans, read the following verses of the Qur'an where God uses strong words of warning.
Quran verse 8:55:
For the worst of beasts in the sight of God are those who reject Him: they will not believe.
Quran verse 4:48:
God forgiveth not that partners should be set up with Him; but He forgiveth anything else to whom He pleaseth; to set up partners with God is to devise a sin most heinous indeed.
God forgiveth not (the sin of) joining other gods with Him; but He forgiveth whom He pleaseth other sins than this: one who joins other gods with God, hath strayed far, far away (from the Right).
Those who reject God, and hinder (men) from the Path of God then die rejecting God '- God will not forgive them.
Quran verse 9:84:
And never (O Muhammad) pray for one of them who dies, nor stand by his grave. Lo! They disbelieved in Allah and His messenger, and they died while they were evil-doers. [Pickthall] [Context: reference to those who refused to fight for God in the Tabuk expedition]
Quran verse 9:80:
Whether thou ask for their forgiveness, or not, (their sin is unforgivable): IF THOU ASK SEVENTY TIMES FOR THEIR FORGIVENESS, GOD WILL NOT FORGIVE THEM: BECAUSE THEY HAVE REJECTED GOD AND HIS APOSTLE: and God guideth not those who are perversely rebellious.
God's message is very clear: those who do not believe in Him and reject Him have committed the greatest sin indeed! And this is unforgivable.
REFERENCE: All Qur'anic quotes are from Abdullah Yusuf Ali's translation of The Holy Qur'an except where otherwise stated.