In the face of verses that the skeptic cited to negate the dominance and authority of the Messenger of God and the lack of necessity of obeying him are verses that are contradictory with the first group of verses on account of the skeptic’s wrong understanding of it. Let us cite some of these verses: “And it becometh not a believing man or a believing woman, when Allah and His messenger have decided and affair (for them), that they should (after that) claim any say in their affair.” Surah al-Ahzab 33:36.
The above verse categorically points out the need to obey and submit to God and His Messenger, giving a reminder that the believers have no right to refuse obeying and following the Messenger of God.
“Your friend can be only Allah; and His messenger and those who believe, who establish worship and pay the poor due, and bow down (in prayer).” Surah al-Ma’idah 5:55.
“The Prophet is closer to the believers than their selves.” Surah al-Ahzab 33:6
Which of the verses cited we should take as preeminent in the sense of having guardianship [wilayah]? And which is to be taken to mean more deserving? In both cases the verses substantiate the fact that the Prophet’s right of decision-making for the people prevails over their right of decision-making for themselves.
All exegetes of the Qur’an [mufassirin] acknowledge this point, and on this basis, the people should prefer the decision of the Prophet over their own decision, having no right to oppose his decision and view.
Of course, the verse only expresses the principle of guardianship of the Messenger of God (S). It does not express the limit of the guardianship—whether the limit of guardianship and the preeminence of the Prophet’s decision over that of others are social affairs, or apart from being social they are personal affairs as well.
Undoubtedly, it is not expected from the skeptics who have cited the first group of Qur’anic verses to negate the guardianship of the Messenger of God and his successors (‘a) to give answer to the apparent contradiction between the two groups of Qur’anic verses. So many of them are either unaware of the existence of the second group of verses or do not accept the substance of these verses.
Yet, since we do not believe in the existence of contradiction and inconsistency among the verses of the Qur’an, we should try to remove the apparent contradiction of the verses. For this important endeavor we shall scrutinize the context of both groups of verses by taking into consideration the preceding and succeeding verses as well as the purport of the verses and their addressees so that we could comprehend the real contents of the verses as a whole.
The Reason behind the Difference between the Two Approaches in the Qur’an
Once we scrutinize the verses in both the first and second groups, we will realize that the purport and expression of the verses are different from one another. The first set of verses is pertaining to those who have not yet embraced Islam. As such, God wants to enlighten them on the truths of Islam, describing in detail the benefits to be accrued from submitting to Him.
Since God knows that the Prophet, who is the embodiment of divine mercy and compassion, is worrying for the people lest they refused accepting Islam in the way of truth and submitting to God and as a result they would be thrown to the hellfire, He is consoling him—“Why are you putting in danger your life for the grief and sorrow you have for the people’s refusal to embrace the faith? We revealed Islam so that the people accept it out of their own decision and freewill. Otherwise, if We wanted so, We have the power to guide all the people”: “And if thy Lord willed, all who are in the earth would have believed together. Wouldst thou (Muhammad) compel men until they are believers?” Surah Yunus 10:99.
The aim of God in sending the messengers (‘a) is to guide the people in recognizing the truth and the path of their felicity. Then, it is for them to accept the religion of truth out of their freewill. It is not that God would forcibly and compulsorily ask the people to embrace the faith.
The faith that emanates from compulsion and imposition has no value and it is not harmonious with human training [tarbiyyat-e insani]. Human training aims that out of cognition and awareness, man would understand and accept the truth, and not that he would be forced to submit to it. As such, God says: “It may be that thou tormentest thyself (O Muhammad) because they believe not. If We will, We can send down on them from the sky a portent so that their necks would remain bowed before it.” Surah ash-Shu‘ara’ 26:3-4.
Thus, the pillar of Islam and faith lies on this belief in the heart and such a belief stems from cognition and awareness, sound and solid proofs, and freewill, and it is not acquiescent to coercion.
On this basis, God says to His Prophet: “You have performed your duty. Your duty is to convey the message and the divine signs to the people. Do not worry anymore about the polytheists not embracing the faith. You are not supposed to imagine that you have not done your mission. It is not part of your mission to compel the people to become Muslims because We have made you dominant over the unbelievers that you would compel them to become Muslims”.
In opposite of the first group of Qur’anic verses, the second group of verses is addressed to those who have accepted Islam out of their own cognition, awareness and freewill. They are reminded to perform the precepts of Islam, to obey the Prophet whom they believe is inspired by God and his decrees and orders as all coming from God, to submit to his submission, and that they do not have the right to choose and select with respect to his orders.
Prior to embracing the faith, man has the right to choose, but after embracing the faith, he must obey all the ordinances. Anyone who believes in only a part of the divine decrees has hardly earned the pleasure of God: “Lo! those who disbelieve in Allah and His messengers, and seek to make distinction between Allah and His messengers, and say: We believe in some and disbelieve in others, and seek to choose a way in between. Such are disbelievers in truth.” Surah an-Nisa’ 4:150-151.
Acceptance of some decrees and denial of the others, acceptance of some laws and rejection of the others in reality means lack of acceptance of the essence of religion because if the criterion of the acceptance of religion is the dictum of God, one must observe the core of the divine order, and the divine order is directed toward the acceptance of all decrees and laws, even if the criterion of accepting the religion is the interests and evils that God informed them of and has noted in His orders. Undoubtedly, God is cognizant of what is good and what is bad; so, why do they accept only some decrees?
Thus, one who has believed in God is he who also believes in His Prophet, obeys his decision, decree and directive, is pleased with God and the Prophet, and does not nurse ill-feeling against them: “But nay, by thy Lord, they will not believe (in truth) until they make thee judge of what is in dispute between them and find within themselves no dislike of that which thou decidest, and submit with full submission.” Surah an-Nisa’ 4:65.
It shows that the true believer is pleased in his heart with respect to the order and decision of the Messenger of God (S), having no worry at all for the reason that he believes that he (the Prophet) is sent by God and his decree is the decree of God; he does not ill speak of him either: “Lo! We reveal unto thee the Scripture with the truth, that thou mayst judge between mankind by that which Allah showeth thee.” Surah an-Nisa’ 4:105.
A person who, after accepting Islam and believing in it, would say, “I am free in obeying the laws of Islam; if I want, I will do, and if I do not want I will not,” is similar to this one: In a country where a democratic and liberal system is governing, the people would voluntarily participate in the referendum, and through their votes they select their own representatives and officials of the social system. But once the legitimate government came to power, they would evade from doing it!
Once that government obliged the people to pay their taxes, they would say, “We will not pay taxes; we were free in accepting the principle of government and in voting for it; now we are also autonomous in obeying its orders or to defy its orders.” Certainly, no rational person will ever accept such a behavior and conduct.
Yes, in the beginning no one is forced to accept Islam because basically, the pillar of Islam lies on faith and conviction of the heart. Through force, one cannot believe in Islam, God and the hereafter. But once he accepted Islam and he is asked to perform his prayers, if he would say that he will not pray; or when he is asked to pay zakat[Zakat: the tax levied on various categories of wealth and spent on the purposes specified in Qur’an, 9:60. [Trans.] he would refuse to pay, no rational being will ever believe that he really accepted Islam. Is it possible for a person to have accepted a religion, yet he would not submit to its laws and act according to his own desire?
Whoever accepts Islam should obey its laws in the same manner that a government will not accept that a person would vote for it, but in practice he would refuse accepting its laws and regulations. Commitment to pledges and responsibilities is the quintessence of social life. If there were no word of honor, commitment to pledge, promise and covenant, and performance of duty, social life would never take form.
Therefore, there is no point for a person to say that he does accept Islam and believe in the Prophet as the Messenger of God, but does not obey his orders and does not accept his (the Prophet’s) guardianship and sovereignty over himself. Indisputably, there is a vivid contradiction in accepting Islam and the Messenger of God, on one hand, and lack of fellowship to the Prophet, on the other.
It is clear that if we honestly took a look at the verses of the Qur’an, scrutinizing the connotation, context and purport of the two groups of verses cited above, contradiction in the Qur’an would never be found. The doubt on the incompatibility of obedience and submission to others with the principle of man’s freedom—which the Qur’an also has sanctioned—would be uprooted.
But ailing hearts do not approach the Qur’an in sincerity, truthfulness and fairness. Even if they happened to consult the Qur’an, it is only to look for pretext for their flimsy and deviant idea. And as such, in studying the verses of the Qur’an, they engage in selectively picking up verses or part of verses without taking into account their purport and connotation.
According to the injunction of the Qur’an, they ignore the clear revelations [muhkamat] of the Qur’an and engage in following the allegorical ones [mutashabihat]: “But those in whose hearts is doubt pursue, forsooth, that which is allegorical seeking (to cause) dissension by seeking to explain it. None knoweth its explanation save Allah and those who are of sound instruction.” Surah Al ‘Imran 3:7. The whole verse is as follows: “He it is Who hath revealed unto thee (Muhammad) the Scripture wherein are clear revelations [muhkamat]. They are the substance of the Book and others (which are) allegorical [mutashabihat]. But those in whose hearts is doubt pursue, forsooth, that which is allegorical seeking (to cause) dissension by seeking to explain it. None knoweth its explanation save Allah and those who are of sound instruction who say: ‘We believe therein; the whole is from our Lord; but only men of understanding really heed’.”
Beyond following the allegorical ones, some people dissect and mutilate the verses and select a statement while taking out the proceeding and succeeding portions. Then, they imagine that the verses of the Qur’an are contradicting one another!
As it has been discussed, without taking into account the purport and discourse of the Qur’anic verses, they conformed their doubt on the inconsistency of the guardianship and dominance of the Prophet and the divine authorities with the principle of man’s freedom to some verses. We have stated earlier that the verses whose purport is the lack of dominance of the Messenger of God over the people are addressed to the unbelievers prior to the acceptance of Islam as the Messenger of God does not have dominance over them and cannot invite them to Islam by force.
In reality, based on the verses, freedom of action and freewill in accepting the divine orders is prior to the jurisdiction of Islam. Otherwise, after the jurisdiction of Islam, every Muslim must accept the guardianship and dominance of the Prophet and the divine authorities; he is duty-bound to observe the Islamic values.
Although the Islamic government does not interfere in the personal and private life of individuals and in issues that take place in secret, in relation to the social life and in interacting with one another everybody is obliged and duty-bound to observe the divine limit. He should sternly resist against transgression upon the sanctuary of divine values, insult to the religious sanctities, and engagement in debauchery and indecencies.
This in fact is a showcase of the guardianship of the Islamic authorities over the individuals constituting the society who persuade them so as to be equipped with the amenities of faith and Islam—Islam which they have voluntarily chosen.
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