Witness Unto Mankind

  • bookcover

  • Witness Unto Mankind

  • And With What Consequences!

    Our Punishment

    In view of our conduct, we are guilty of giving false witness, of perjury and concealing the Truth. As a consequence, we are facing precisely the same punishment that has been prescribed in the Law of God for such grave and heinous crimes.

    What is this law? When a people reject and turn away from God's guidance, when they are guilty of perjury and disloyalty to their Creator, and when they turn traitors to Him, then God punishes them severely in this world as well as in the world-to-come. [7] This law was applied to the Children of Israel. [8] Now it is we, the Muslim Ummah, who stand in the dock. God had no personal vendetta against the Jews that He should have punished only them. Nor does He have any kinship or special relationship with Muslims that He should set us free even though we are now committing the same crime as they did then. [9]


    In This World

    The punishment meted out to Muslims for their crimes in this world is there for all to see. Indeed, the extent and pace of our decline has been in true proportion to the extent and pace of our negligence and failure to do our duty to witness to the Truth and our 'progress' in witnessing to falsehood. During the last one hundred years, from Morocco to Indonesia, country after country has been lost by us to alien subjugation; one Muslim people after another have fallen under the yoke of colonial rule and domination. No longer does the word 'Muslim' stand for dignity, no longer does it command respect; rather it has become a mark of degradation, humiliation, gross backwardness, and utter powerlessness.

    How powerless have we become? We have lost all honour and respect in the eyes of the world. In some places, our blood has flowed like water and we have been subjected to large-scale massacres; in other places, we have been driven out of our homes; in others, we have been tortured and persecuted; in still others, we have been reduced to living as serfs. If in some places Muslim states have survived, they have suffered defeat after defeat until they have been reduced to positions of fear and impotency in the face of foreign powers. If only they had witnessed to Islam by their words and deeds, the secular powers would have stood in awe of them.

    Why go so far afield? Just look at your situation in India. + Because you evaded your duty of bearing witness to the truth of Islam, indeed because you went further and gave false witness against it both by your words and deeds, the entire country was wrested from your control. First, you were vanquished by the Marathas and Sikhs, and later, servitude to the British rule became your fate. And now still greater calamities stare you in the face.

    Today your minority status has become your greatest anxiety; you live in fear of the Hindu majority lest it subjugates you and you meet the same fate as did the untouchables. But, for God's sake, tell me: Could a majority have threatened you if you had only been true witnesses of Islam? Will not this problem of majority and minority vanish within a few years if today your words and actions bear true witnesses to Islam?

    In Arabia, an extremely hostile and oppressive majority set out to exterminate an insignificant minority of about one in one hundred thousand. With what result? Within ten years, this minority, by its truthful and trustworthy witness in favour of Islam, turned into a one hundred per cent majority. Later, when these witnesses of Islam emerged from Arabia, within twenty-five years, from Turkistan to Morocco, people after people trusted the probity of their witness and joined them in their faith. Where no one but Zoroastrians, Christians and pagans once lived, now only Muslims live. No intransigence, no chauvinism, no religious bigotry, proved strong enough to resist the living, true witness of the Divine guidance that Muslims gave.

    If you are being trampled upon today, if you fear greater catastrophes tomorrow, is this not but the punishment for your false witness and concealment of the Truth?


    Punishment in the World-to-Come

    This is the punishment you are receiving in this world; but a more severe punishment is likely to be meted out to you in the world-to-come. How can you be absolved of the blame for every evil and every wrong to which man has been subjected only because you failed to do your duty as witnesses of the Truth? Unless you do your duty, whatever oppression and corruption is perpetrated in the world and whatever immorality and wickedness prevails, there is no reason why you should not be held accountable for it. You may not be responsible for originating them yourselves, but you are certainly responsible, because of your false witness, for maintaining and perpetuating them, for their origination by others, and for allowing them to spread.





    Notes by Khurram Murad


    7. Consequences of failure and neglect:

    The mission to witness the Truth and invite mankind to surrender to its Creator has the status of a covenant with God. Those who give up this mission, or fail to fulfil it or neglect it, are guilty of breaching their covenant. Hence they are cursed by God, and deprived of His blessings. They are cursed by angels, too, because the light brought by them has been extinguished by such people while mankind gropes in darkness; and by mankind as well, for its sufferings and miseries are due mainly to the conduct of those who were entrusted with that light.

    Those who conceal the clear messages and the guidance that We have sent down, after We have made them clear, for mankind, in the Book they shall be cursed by God and the cursers; but such as repent and put themselves right, and make [the Book] known towards them I shall turn, I am the Accepter of repentance, the Mercy-giving. But those who remain [in the state of] denial and die denying upon them shall be the curse of God, and the angels, and of all mankind . . . (al-Baqarah 2: 159-61).

    And, humiliation and powerlessness afflicted them, and they earned God's anger; all this, because they persisted in denying God's messages and in slaying the Prophets against all right; all this, because they rebelled [against God], and persisted in transgressing [the bounds of God] (al-Baqarah 2: 61).

    The duty, obviously, is neglected or given up for the sake of worldly gains. These gains the Qur'an describes as a trifle, which earn God's anger for the defaulters. The punishment for this crime which the Qur'an mentions, is indeed the only one of its kind, for such punishment is not mentioned for any other crime.

    Indeed, those who conceal what God has sent down in the Book, and barter it away for a trifle price they eat nothing but fire in their bellies. And God shall not speak unto them on the Day of Resurrection, nor purify them; and for them is painful punishment. It is they who have bought error at the price of guidance, and punishment at the price of forgiveness. How patiently have they accepted the Fire! All that, because God has sent down the Book with the Truth, those who differ in the matter of the Book are most deeply in the wrong (al-Baqarah 2: 174-6; also 3: 77-8).


    8. The Jewish example:

    The history of the people of Israel is narrated by the Qursan in considerable detail. It provides the most instructive example of a people who were guided by some of the greatest Messengers of God. They made a covenant with God that they will be only His servants and obey only Him and be His witnesses. They rose to great heights and contributed much to the good of mankind by fulfilling their covenant. But, finally, they broke their covenant, suffered grievously, and thus became an object lesson in how people chosen by God to be witnesses to His guidance may go astray and how they may earn God's anger.

    The purpose of narrating their history is neither to create hatred against any particular religion and people nor to take pleasure and comfort in their suffering and humiliation. This becomes evident from the fact that, despite very severe strictures against the people of Israel by the Qur'an, the most peaceful and glorious days of Jewish history, in the last two thousand years, have been lived under Islamic rule. In fact their history is meant to act like a mirror which the Qur'an holds to the Muslims so that they may recognize themselves when they go astray and may remain aware of the painful consequences of such conduct. Another purpose, of course, was to awaken the Jews at the time of the Prophet, blessings and peace be on him, and to invite them to believe in the Last Prophet and support him, as their own mission demanded. The Quranic account is similar to the Biblical account; if anything, much milder in tone and language.

    Firstly, the Qur'an shows that great blessings were conferred by God on the people of Israel, the greatest of them being the Book and guidance from Him, and that they were chosen to be His special servants.

    Children of Israel, remember My blessing with which I blessed you, and how I favoured you above all other people (al-Baqarah 2: 47).

    And when Moses said unto his people: O my people, remember God's blessing upon you, when He appointed among you Prophets, and made you kings, and gave you such as He had not given to any beings (al-Ma'idah 5: 20).

    And when We made a covenant with the Children of Israel: You shall serve and worship none but God; and to be good to parents, and the near kinsman, and to the orphan, and to the needy; and speak good to man, and perform the prayer, and give the alms (al-Baqarah 2: 83).

    And when We made covenant with you [O Children of Israel], and raised above you the Mount: hold fast with [all your] strength unto what We have given you, and remember what is in it, so that you might remain conscious of God. Then you turned away after that . . . (al-Baqarah 2: 63-4). Surely We sent down the Torah, wherein was guidance and light; thereby the Prophets, who had surrendered themselves [to God], gave judgement for those who were Jews; and so did the men of God and the rabbis, following such portion of God's Book as they were given to keep; and they bore witness to its truth (al-Ma'idah 5: 44).

    The Bible gives a similar account:

    Do this because you belong to the Lord your God. From all the peoples on earth, He chose you to be His own special people. The Lord did not love you and choose you because you outnumbered other peoples; you were the smallest nation on earth (Deut. 7: 6-7).

    At Mount Sinai the Lord our God made a covenant, not only with our fathers, but with all of us who are living today. There on the mountain the Lord spoke to you face-to-face from the Fire . . . The Lord said, 'I am the Lord your God, who rescued you from Egypt, where you were slaves. Worship no god but Me' (Deut. 5: 2-7).

    Israel, remember this! The Lord and the Lord alone is our God. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. Never forget these commands that I am giving you today. Teach them to your children. Repeat them when you are at home and when you are away, when you are resting and when you are working. Tie them on your arms and wear them on your foreheads as a reminder. Write them on the door-posts of your houses and on your gates (Deut. 6: 4-9). [This is a very good exegesis of the Quranic words 'and remember'.]

    Never forget the Lord your God or turn to other gods to worship and serve them. If you do, then I warn you today that you will certainly be destroyed (Deut. 8: 19).

    People of Israel, you are My witnesses; I chose you to be My servant, so that you would know Me and believe in Me and understand that I am the only God. Beside Me there is no other god; there never was and never will be (Isa. 43: 10) .

    Secondly, the Qur'an exhorts and invites the people of Israel, as does the Bible, to fulfil their covenant with God, to believe in His last message, and to bear witness to its truth, reminding them of the promise and threat that were made to them. Children of Israel, remember My blessing with which I blessed you, and fulfil My covenant [with you], and I shall fulfil your covenant [with Me]; and of Me alone stand in awe! (al-Baqarah 2: 40).

    Remember that the Lord your God is the only God and that He is faithful. He will keep His covenant and show His constant love to a thousand generations of those who love Him and obey His commands, but He will not hesitate to punish those who hate Him (Deut. 7: 9-10).

    If you obey the Lord your God and do everything He commands, He will make you His own people, as He has promised . . . The Lord your God will make you the leader among the nations and not a follower; you will always prosper and never fail . . . But if you disobey the Lord your God and do not faithfully keep all His commandments and laws that I am giving you today, all these evil things will happen to you . . . the Lord will curse everything you do . . . (Deut. 28: 9-19).

    I will be your God, and you will be My people (Lev. 26: 12) .

    Thirdly, the Qur'an indicts the people of Israel for breaking their covenant and neglecting their duty to worship and obey only God and to be His witnesses. Not only did they themselves turn away from the message of their Lord, they also prevented others from accepting and following it.

    People of the Book, why do you disbelieve God's revelations while you yourselves witness [their truth]? People of the Book, why do you cloak the truth with falsehood and conceal the truth, and that knowingly (Al 'Imran 3: 70-1).

    Say: People of the book, why do you bar from the path of God those who believe, trying to make it appear crooked, you yourselves being witnesses to its truth? (Al 'Imran 3: 99) .

    Indeed, God made covenant with the Children of Israel, when We raised from among them twelve of their leaders, and God said: I am with you. Surely, if you perform the prayer, and pay the alms, and believe in My Messengers, and succour them and lend to God a good loan, I will surely efface your evil deeds and I will admit you to gardens through which running waters flow. But whosoever of you thereafter disbelieves, surely he has gone astray from the right way. Then, for their breaking their covenant We cursed them and made their hearts hard . . . (al-Ma'idah 5: 12-13).

    Indeed, We made covenant with the Children of Israel, and We sent Messengers to them; whenever there came to them a Messenger with what they did not like [they rebelled], to some they gave the lie, while others they slayed (al-Ma'idah 5: 70).

    The People of the Book will ask you to bring down upon them a Book from heaven; and they asked Moses for greater than that, for they said: Make us see God face to face whereupon the thunderbolt overtook them for their evil doing. Then, they took to [worshipping] the calf and this after the clear Truth had come to them; yet We pardoned them that, and We bestowed upon Moses a clear authority [for the Truth]. And We raised above them the Mount making covenant with them; and We said to them: Enter the gate, prostrating; and We said to them: Transgress not the Sabbath; and We made a solemn covenant with them. So [We cursed them] for their breaking the covenant, and their denying the revelations of God, and their slaying the Prophets without right, and for their saying, 'Our hearts are closed [to false guidance]' nay, but God sealed them for their disbelief so they believe not, except a few and for their disbelief and their uttering against Mary an awesome calumny, and for their saying, 'We killed the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, the Messenger of God' (al-Nisa' 4: 153-7).

    Cursed were the disbelievers among the Children of Israel by the tongue of David, and Jesus, the son of Mary; this, because they rebelled [against God] and persisted in transgression. They did not prevent one another from the wrongs they committed. Surely evil were the things they did (al-Ma'idah 5: 78-9).

    The Bible speaks in the same vein. Its indictment is no different from that which the Qur'an says, although it is said more harshly and with severer strictures.

    In addition, the leaders of Judah, the priests, and the people followed the sinful example of the nations round them in worshipping idols, and so they defiled the Temple, which the Lord Himself had made holy. The Lord, the God of their ancestors, had continued to send prophets to warn His people, because He wanted to spare them and the Temple. But they ridiculed God's Messengers, ignoring His words and laughing at His prophets, until at last the Lord's anger against His people was so great that there was no escape (2 Chr. 36: 14-16).

    God told me to write down in a Book what the people are like, so that there would be a permanent record of how evil they are. They are always rebelling against God, always Iying, always refusing to listen to the Lord's teachings. They tell the prophets to keep quiet. They say: 'Don't talk to us about what's right. Tell us what we want to hear. Let us keep our illusions. Get out of our way and stop blocking our path. We don't want to hear about your holy God of Israel' (Isa. 30: 8-11).

    But Your people rebelled and disobeyed You; they turned their backs on Your law. They killed the prophets who warned them, who told them to turn back to You. They insulted You time after time, so You let their enemies conquer and rule them (Neh. 9: 26-7).

    The Children I brought up have rebelled against Me. Cattle know who owns them, and donkeys know where their master feeds them. But that is more than my people Israel know. They don't understand at all . . . The city that once was faithful is behaving like a whore! At one time it was filled with righteous men, but now only murderers remain. Jerusalem, you were once like silver, but now you are worthless; . . . Your leaders are rebels and friends of thieves; they are always accepting gifts and bribes. They never defend orphans in court or listen when widows present their case (Isa. 1: 2-23).

    And this is how Jesus censures the people of Israel.

    Jerusalem, Jerusalem! You kill the prophets and stone the Messengers God has sent you! . . . And so your temple will be abandoned and empty (Mt. 23: 37-8).

    They tie on to people's backs loads that are heavy and are hard to carry, yet they aren't willing even to lift a finger to help them carry those loads. They do everything so that people will see them. Look at the straps with Scripture verses on them which they wear on their foreheads and arms, and notice how large they are! Notice also how long are the tassels on their cloaks! They love the best places at feasts and the reserved seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted with respect in the market places and to be called 'Teacher' . . . You hypocrites! You lock the door to the Kingdom of heaven in people's faces, and you yourselves don't go in, nor do you allow in those who are trying to enter! . . . You clean the outside of your cup and plate, while the inside is full of what you have obtained by violence and selfishness . . . You are like whitewashed tombs, which look fine on the outside but are full of bones and decaying corpses on the inside . . . So you actually admit that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets! Go on, then, and finish what your ancestors started! You snakes and sons of snakes! How do you expect to escape from being condemned to hell? And so I tell you that I will send you prophets and wise men and teachers; you will kill some of them, crucify others, and whip others in the synagogues and chase them from town to town (Mt. 23: 4-34).

    Perhaps the most moving account of the fate of Israel is in the lamentations of the Prophet Isaiah, peace be upon him. Describing Israel as a vineyard planted by God, he first describes how He blessed it with every bounty, then goes on to describe how it produced sour fruits, and how God punished it something very similar to what Sayyid Mawdudi has said about the Muslims.

    My friend had a vineyard on a very fertile hill. He dug the soil and cleared it of stones; he planted the finest vines. He built a tower to guard them, dug a pit for treading the grapes. He waited for the grapes to ripen, but every grape was sour.

    So now my friend says: 'You people who live in Jerusalem and Judah, judge, between my vineyard and me. Is there anything I failed to do for it? Then why did it produce sour grapes and not the good grapes I expected?

    This is what I am going to do to my vineyard; I will take away the hedge round it, break down the wall that protects it, and let wild animals eat it and trample it down. I will let it be overgrown with weeds. I will not prune the vines or hoe the ground; instead I will let briers and thorns cover it. I will even forbid the clouds to let rain fall upon it (Isa. 5: 14).

    Finally, the Qur'an also makes it clear that, after Israel, it is the Muslims who have been appointed to fulfil the same mission as was granted to Israel.

    Indeed, We gave the Children of Israel the Book, the Judgement, and the Prophethood; and We provided them with good things, and We favoured them above all other people. And We gave them clear revelations pertaining to the affair [of their Din]; so they did not take to different ways after the knowledge had come to themexcept for the sake of mutual transgression . . . then We set you [O Muhammad] on the Way [Shari'ah] pertaining to the affair [of your Din]; therefore follow it, and follow not the likes ahd dislikes of those who do not know (al-Jathiyah 45: 1S18) .


    9. Illusions and excuses:

    When a faith as total, pervasive, deep and dynamic as Islam living in surrender to the One God which is a calling and a commitrnent, becomes transformed into a religion, hereditary and sectarian, its followers invent certain popular beliefs to calm and quieten their conscience. On the basis of such illusions and excuses, they are able to live peacefully while failing in their total commitment to God. They neglect the mission that He has entrusted to them, as well as refuse to accept any summons to renew their faith and take up their duty. The Qur'an mentions some such popular notions which had become part of the Jewish faith, and categorically rejects them. Again, the objective is neither to condemn a certain faith and people for all times to come nor to nurture hatred against them, but to induce them to correct their wrong beliefs, and more importantly, to warn the Muslims to beware of such notions. It is ironic that one would find all such popular beliefs to be part of the Muslims' faith as well today; for example, that our Ummah is the beloved of God, that Muslims, whatever the state of their belief and conduct, have a monopoly over Paradise, that God's mercies and rewards are reserved exclusively for them, that, even if they are punished, their punishment will last only a few days

    And the Jews and Christians say: We are God's children, and His beloved ones. Say: Why then does He punish you for your sins? Nay, you are but human beings of His creating. He forgives whom He wills, and He punishes whom He wills (al-Ma'idah 5: 18).

    And that they say: None shall enter Paradise unless he be a Jew or a Christian. Such are their wishful beliefs! Say: Produce your proof, if what you say is true! Nay, whosoever surrenders his whole being unto God, attaining to excellence, his reward shall be with his Lord, and no fear shall be on them, neither shall they sorrow (al-Baqarah 2: 111-12).

    And they say: The Fire shall not touch us save a number of days. Say: Have you made with God a covenant then God will not fail in His covenant or you attribute to God some thing of which you know nothing? Not so; whoso earns evil, and is engulfed by his transgressions those are the inhabitants of the Fire . . . (al-Baqarah 2: 81).

    And when they are told: Believe in what God has sent down, they say: We believe in what was sent down on us; and they disbelieve what is beyond that, yet it is the truth confirming what is with them. Say: Why then did you kill God's Prophets in former times, if you were believers? (al-Baqarah 2: 91).

    Say: If the abode in the life-to-come is to be for you alone, to the exclusion of all other people, then long for that if what you say is true! But never will they long for it, because of what their hands have sent ahead; God knows the evil-doers; . . . (al-Baqarah 2: 95).


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