Last year, Dr Neal Robinson of the University of Leeds (U K) approached Al-Maurid: he was doing a book on the Quran and was greatly interested in Islahi's work on Nazm (Coherence) in the Quran. He was already aware of the fact that Islahi categorises the chapters of the Quran in seven groups in relation to the central theme (which Islahi calls `amood) of each group. He wanted to find out the reason for the arrangement of the groups. For this purpose, he wrote Al-Maurid a letter. In what follows, we present Farahi Corner's reply to his letter.
Dear Dr Robinson,
I am in receipt of your letter of May, 1994. Owing to a number of problems, I was unable to reply earlier. I offer you my sincerest apologies for any inconvenience the delay might have caused.
It was generously kind of a scholar of such a high calibre as yours to appreciate the very humble contribution of a student as myself. Thank you. It was truly a pleasure and an honour to be of service to you.
I have communicated your suggestions regarding Mr Shehzad Saleem's work to him. He thanks you for them. Presently, he is preparing himself for an annotated commentary on the Quran based on the works of Farahi, Islahi and Ghamidi.
Your questions were quite interesting. Although I shall be able to answer them very briefly here, I hope my answers will suffice for your purposes. What I present here is only a rough depiction of the viewpoints of the Farahi school. If you require further detail on any point, I'll be glad to be of service.
1) Regarding your first question, I should like to say that the Farahi school has some definite answers to the question of the reason for the order of the groups. I should like to present a translation of a passage from "Tadabbur-i-Quran" here.
"Moreover, it is obvious from this order [of the groups] that the group concerning the law (Shariah) precedes other groups and that the group related to Inzaar (admonition)] is the last group. This order is indicative of the fact that the purpose of Inzaar is to dissuade people from moving in the wrong direction and to persuade them to move in the right direction -- and the right direction is the one that has been given by the Shariah (the Divine law). Therefore, that which is the goal and object should be visible first. The treasure that the Ummah has been granted is the treasure of the Shariah, which [is a privilege that] was taken away from the People of the Book and given to this Ummah. Therefore, in the first group, we find details of the Shariah as well as an account of such deeds and attitude of the People of the Book as resulted in their deposition. On deliberation, one finds that the relation between the first and the last group is the same as that between an edifice and its foundation. The foundation is laid first, but when the building is completed, it is the edifice which manifests itself; the foundation rests below it."1 (Vol 1, Pg 27)
The order of the a`midah (plural of `amood) is somewhat as has been depicted below:
I Shariah: Deposition of the People of the Book from the position of Shahaadat `alannaas (bearing witness to the truth of Divine guidance before the rest of the world) and the formulation of the new Shariah for the Muslim Ummah, which is now to be formed and given the responsibility of Shahaadat `alannaas.
II Risaalah:Its outcomes, especially in relation to its denial by the Mushrikeen (the Ismaelites) of Mecca.
III Risaalah: Glad tidings of the Prophet's domination.
IV Risaalah: Its proofs.
VI Inzaar: Admonition to the Quraish (the Prophet's people) against what the outcome in this world and in the Hereafter will be if they deny Risaalah and invitation to them to accept Aakhirah, Tauheed and Risaalah.
It is obvious from the passage translated from the "Tadabbur-i-Quran" that for someone who believes in Risaalah, it is most appropriate that the group related to the Shariah should appear first and the groups related to the foundation on which the Shariah rests thereafter. However, for someone who does not believe in the Prophet (sws), the reverse order is more appropriate, for without a solid foundation -- a firm belief in the Risaalah of Muhammad (sws) -- the Shariah will be useless to him as he will not have the commitment to follow it. Therefore, the `amood of the last group is Inzaar, as for someone who does not believe in the Risaalah of Muhammad (sws), that is to say the Quran, Izaar is the most appropriate topic. The Prophet's Da`wah (preaching) to the Quraish of Mecca began with Inzaar.
Inzaar is very closely related to belief in the Day of Judgement -- imaan bilaakhirah. It is one's belief in Aakhirah which serves as the underlying motivation to make sacrifices for the sake of one's ideals. The next group (in the reverse order), therefore, is related to Aakhirah. In this group, many arguments for Aakhirah have been given; for example in Surah Qaaf and Surah Zaariyaat, arguments based on such important attributes of God have been given as His Omniscience and Wisdom1 and His Benevolence and Justice.2
Similarly, in Surah Toor and Surah Najm, many of the accusations, criticisms, and questions that the Prophet (sws) faced have been answered. Again, in this group Itmaam-i-Hujjat (that is manifestation of the truth so clearly that no excuse whatsoever is left for the direct addressees of a Rasool3 to deny it) has been done. Examples of the fate of such peoples have been given as denied the Rusul (plural of Rasool) of God. From Surah Hadeed up to Surah Tahreem, the outcome of belief in Aakhirah has been explained. If one believes in Aakhirah, then the only course of action one can adopt is that one should continue making a sincere effort to obey the Almighty, that is an effort to live in accordance with the Shariah given by Him. But man has often refused to accept this obvious consequence by means of different kinds of subterfuge. For example, many sects of the Muslims in Pakistan believe that it is only the intercession of the selected few which can ensure man his salvation. Therefore, they spend a lot of time on rituals of various kinds at the shrines of the sufi saints in the hope of intercession.
It is obvious from the Quran that salvation is not possible without Tauheed. Tauheed means that one accept the fact that all privileges are from Allah, Who is the only God; therefore one is responsible for all one's deeds and for one's attitude to Him only. One important outcome of this belief is that if one commits a sin, one makes a sincere effort to correct one's attitude -- in the hope that one would be forgiven by the Ever Merciful. But there is no room for subterfuge. One does not evade one's responsibility by such subterfuge as intercession or atheism or agnosticism. One accepts one's mistake and weakness and makes a sincere effort to correct oneself. Any attitude other than that which ensues from Tauheed makes the belief in the Day of Judgement meaningless. This is why Shirk (polytheism) has been termed as zulmun `azeem (a great sin). There are two distinct levels of sin; one where the sinner accepts that he is doing wrong and sincerely tries to come out of that situation, and the other is a level where his sins overpower his conscience completely and he justifies his sin. Shirk is the ultimate justification for evasion of the responsibility that belief in one God entails. The sense of responsibility which belief in Aakhirah develops is lost if the concept of Tauheed is tampered with. Therefore, in the next group in the reverse order, Tauheed is the centrsl theme -- the `amood.
Surah Faatihah is a good example of what Tauheed is all about. alhamdu lillahi rabbil `aalameen are the words of a man whose intuition tells him that all privileges are from the Lord of the worlds -- and that these privileges are primarily a boon --; therefore, He is arrahmaanirraheem. The paradigm fa`laan is indicative of explosion of something. arrahmaan, therefore, is indicative of an explosion of mercy and arraheem (from the paradigm fa`eel) of its continuity -- He is not the first cause that merely created other causes but the Being that created everything and still sustains everything that there is. Therefore, if He is arrahmaannirraheem (the Most Gracious, the Ever Merciful), He must be Just also -- He must also be maaliki yaumiddeen (Master of the Day of Judgement). Therefore, it is only He who can be regarded as man's Master and it is only He Whom man should ask for such help as one asks of the Deity. iyyakana`budu wa iyyakanasta`een. And of those areas in which man needs such help, one of the most important is the knowledge of the way whereby he can become worthy of his Lord's eternal mercy and can save himself from His disobedience. ihdinassiraatalmustaqeem, therefore, is a request for such help -- a request for Shariah and Hikmah (philosophy). The Quran is the answer to this request. Therefore, trying sincerely to live in accordance with the Shariah (its structure and its spirit) is also part of Tauheed. This is very important. That is why Surah Faatihah culminates in further explanation of the right path: assiraatulmustaqeem, siraatalazeena an`amta `alaihim ghairilmagh Doobi `alaihim walaDDaalleen.
almaghDoob `alaihim is an allusion to such peoples as kept the structure of the law intact, but negated its spirit5. The Israelites have been presented in the Quran as an epitome of this attitude. addaalleen, on the other hand, refers to such people as, in their enthusiasm for the spirit of the law, ended up distorting most of its structure. The Quran refers to the Nasaaraa as an example of aDDaalleen.
assiraatulmustaqeem, therefore, is the attitude of sincerely trying to obey the law in letter and in spirit. The final form of assiraatulmustaqeem was given by the Prophet (sws). As already explained, a sincere effort to live in accordance with this Shariah is part and parcel of Tauheed: to deny the Prophet (sws) and his Shariah is to deny Tauheed. Therefore, the next group (group IV) deals with Risaalah.
After the fourth group, in which arguments for Risaalah have been given, the next group in the reverse order explains the divine law pertaining to Rusul (plural of Rasool). It explains that a Rasool always triumphs and that those people to whom the Rasool is assigned -- his direct addressees (for example, the direct addressees of Jesus (sws) were the Israelites and of Muhammad (sws) the Ismaelites) -- face divine punishment after a specific period of time if they refuse to accept his Da`wah. This divine law also gives glad tidings to the mo'mineen (the believers) and, in the Prophet's case, alludes to the formation of an independent state for his followers at that time.
The next group deals with some important outcomes of the Risaalah of the Prophet (sws). In case a Rasool and his companions are able to form an independent state (as in the Prophet's case), divine punishment for such direct addressees of his as reject his Da`wah manifests itself through the swords of the companions of the Rasool6. Surah An`aam and Surah A`raaf are Surahs of Da'wah whereas Taubah is the Surah of this divine punishment (that is why it does not begin with bismillahirrahmannirraheem).
After the formation of an Islamic state, the most important question is that of the law for the state, and in this group, Surah Baqarah and Surah Aali Imraan form a pair. With reference to almaghDoob `alaihim, such attitude has been depicted in the first half of Surah Baqarah as resulted in the deposition of the Israelites from the position of (and from the ensuing responsibility of) shahaadat `alannaas.
Shahaadat `alannaas means that it becomes incumbent on such people as God chooses that they bear witness to the truth of His Shariah before the rest of the world just as the Rasool had borne witness to its truth before them7. For two thousand years it was the Israelites who were given this responsibility, but they lost this position owing to their wrong attitude. Towards the middle of Surah Baqarah, the 143rd verse points out the fact that the Israelites have been deposed and now shahaadat `alannas is the responsibility of the Muslim Ummah. It is their responsibility to become an ummat-i-wasat (a justly balanced people) by living out the true meaning of their creed and to bear witness to the truth of their religion. The Surah ends with a prayer for the Ummah: `rabanaa laa tu'aakiznaa .... `alalqaumilkaafireen.
Regarding the Shariah, especially noteworthy are the words wala tahmil `alainaa iSran kama hamaltahu `alallazeena min qablinaa (our Lord! lay not on us a burden like that which You did lay on those before us) in this prayer. These words allude to the strict laws for the Israelites. Owing to their attitude of finding subterfuges to negate the spirit of the law, the laws for them became stricter, and the verdicts of their scholars (fuqahaa) added to this severity8. The Prophet (sws) lifted all such unnecessary burdens.9
This prayer can be understood in the light of what has been said above.
The first half of Surah Aaali Imraan deals with the attitude of the Nasaaraa. Again, at about the middle of the Surah, the Muslims have been reminded of their responsibility of shahaadat `alannaas. The remaining part of the Surah gives them some further directives concerning their collective affairs. In Surah Nisaa, we find issues pertaining to social matters and in Maa'idah issues pertaining to legal matters as punishments for crimes and further details of the Shariah.
(2) As already explained, group III alludes to the formation of an independent state for the Muslims. How should they live in that state has also been explained. The discussion moves towards their attitude to moral values that must remain in their society (for example `iffah). Fornication and adultery must not be allowed. The etiquette pertaining to dress and apparel must be such that decency and modesty prevail.
The discussion which begins from the incident of Al'ifk is about slander (which again is something detrimental to moral values). However, in the next group, that is group IV, which deals with Risaalah, we find some directives related to social etiquette again (e.g. 33:59). Actually, these directives are related to the position of the Prophet (sws) as the leader of the Muslims. What should be the demeanour of such a leader's wives would obviously be part of the discussion (e.g. 33:33). Some directives related to the Prophet's (sws) wives which are applicable to other Muslim women as well have also been given here.
In such groups as deal with Tauheed, Risaalah and Aakhirah, we find that towards the end some of the outcomes which emanate from the foundation built earlier in the group have been discussed, implying that if one believes in the basic philosophy, then one's deeds, especially those related to the areas specified, should testify to that commitment. For example, if one believes in Aakhirah, then that belief should be the basis for love and hate. That is the basis on which a Muslim's relationship with others rests. Even when he severs such a relationships, for example in case of divorce, he does not cross the limits set by God. And in his love for someone, he does not prohibit what God has allowed. Allusion in group VI to matters as divorce and to the incident of the Prophet's oath that he would not consume honey may be understood in the light of what has been said above.
Writes Islaahi on the `amood of Suurah Tahreem:
"In our discussion on the previous Surah, we saw that Talaaq and Tahreem deal with hate and love respectively, and tell us that in both these situations, we should try to deal with our problems within the hudoodullah (limits set by Allah). Therefore, the previous Surah tells us how to safeguard ourselves from crossing the limits of Allah in hate. Now, this Surah tells us how to do that in love.
Love too, just as hate, can make a person biased, if it goes beyond limits, and such a person becomes quite indifferent to hudoodullah vis-a-vis his relationship with those he loves ... The reason for this [attitude] is that people fail to realise that true love does not mean that you should allow the one you love to fall prey to the wrath of the Almighty; it means that you should try your best to save him [or her] from that fate, even if you have to bear the risk of annoying him [or her]. He who remains indifferent to the transgression of his wife and children and friends and relatives does not love them, but, in fact, ruthlessly lets them move towards the wrath of the Almighty, though he remains unaware of the consequences of his attitude." ("Tadabbur-i-Quran", Vol 8, Pg 451)
(3) Ghamidi acknowledges that in most cases a change in rhyme and rhythm marks the beginning of a new section in a Surah. However, he asserts that the basic criterion (used by the Faraahi school) for dividing the Surahs into sections is changes in the subject-matter.
(4) According to Ghamidi, the Faraahi school is not yet aware of any significant relationship between alhamdu lillah at the beginning of groups I, II, and V and inter-group coherence. The reason for alhamdu lillah at the beginning of the concerned Surah can be understood with reference to the context of the Surah itself and the context of its specific group.
I am glad you found time to glance through some other articles in Renaissance. I am grateful for your comments on `No `ology like Etymology'. This article was a satire on Pervaiz Sahib's methodology for interpreting the Quran and Islam. It was not really an academic piece of writing in the sense that the purpose was satire, not scientific criticism as such. But I'd really welcome your criticisms on the article.
I also wish to thank you for your invitation, though my visit to England in the near future is a rather remote possibility. However, if you happen to visit Pakistan again, it will be an honour for all of us at Al-Maurid if you stay with us.
With great respect and admiration,
1. The argument is that if you accept that God is All-Knowing and Wise, then how can you believe that this world is just a meaningless game.
2.a. If this world were not a trial, then God would be neither Benevolent nor Just. One child is born rich and another poor. If this world were not a trial, it would be injustice. For a poor man this world may be a trial of his perseverance; for a rich man that of his compassion for others. It is because the Hereafter exists as the reward (or punishment) for our deeds and attitude that sacrifice for nobler ideals has never been regarded as stupidity by man's intuition, and greed and selfishness have always been regarded by it as evil despite the obvious material benefit they afford. Belief in Aakhirah, therefore, is an obvious corollary to belief in God's Benevolence and Justice. If God is not Just, then he cannot be Benevolent, for if He does not punish someone who ruthlessly murdered my son, and does not reward me for the sacrifices I made to save the sons of many others, then He is neither Benevolent nor Just to me.
b. The question of `the incompatible triad' -- if God is Benevolent and Omnipotent, then evil [misfortunes] should not exist --, which is being raised a lot these days by atheists and agnostics, does not arise if one appreciates the fact that this world is a trial not a reward (or punishment). Man's intuition, which impels him to accept the existence of God (that is Benevolent and Just), impels him to accept Aakhirah also.
c. It is quite obvious that misfortune and evil are not synonymous terms. Misfortune refers to the problems we face in life; evil refers to the misuse of the authority God has given man, that is the misuse of his will. (It is obvious that man is responsible for his ill to the extent he can exercise it).
d. It will not be inappropriate to mention here that the Faraahi school believes that it is obvious from the Quran that the fate of nations and peoples is decided in the world by the Almighty; however, the fate of individuals shall be decided in the Hereafter. The Quran often refers to the fact that the fate of nations is decided in this world as an argument for the Hereafter in which individuals shall be held accountable for their deeds and attitude in this world.
3. Arrasool and Annabi are not synonymous terms. (Ghamidi has explained the difference in detail in his book "Meezaan" -- Urdu). It is not necessary that the direct addressees of a Nabi face divine punishment on their refusal to accept his Da`wah. In fact, many Ambiyaa' (plural of Nabi) were even killed (especially by the Israelites) and yet their peoples faced no divine chastisement as such (for example, see 2 chronicles 24:21, Jeremiah 38:6, Mark 6:17-29). However, in case of a Rasool, the direct addressees are destroyed after itmaamulhujjah (manifestation of the truth so clearly that no excuse is left for the direct addressees of the Rasool to deny it), which is done within a specific period of time. A Rasool always triumphs over his enemies among his direct addressees (see 58:20-21 and 48:22 & 23). Exceptions to this general rule are also governed by some definite principles; for example, in case a Rasool and his companions are able to form an independent state, this punishment is administered through the swords of the companions (as in the case of the Prophet (sws) ) -- Surah Taubah deals with this divine chastisement, which manifested itself through the swords of the Prophet's companions. Similarly, if the death of a Rasool substitutes for his migration (as in the case of Jesus (sws)), then his followers triumph over their adversaries (see 3:55)1 . Again, in Jesus' case, the divine punishment manifested itself differently. His direct addressees face an eternal punishment2 . The followers of Jesus (sws) shall always dominate the Israelites, and secondly, the Israelites shall always remain condemned and persecuted unless they are given protection by some other nation.
4. For example, a tribe of the Jews negated the spirit of the Sabbath (see 2:65; 4:47 & 154 and 7:163). In present times, a good example of this attitude is those people among the Muslims who believe that Arribaa (see 2:278) refers to all kinds of interest, and yet resort to such subterfuges as mark-up etc to carry on what they call `Islamic' banking, which was very appropriately termed as `the Islamic Fudge' by the Economist.
5. For example, some sects of sufis strongly believe in intercession, to secure which they strive hard; they can easily justify the evasion of their responsibility to follow the Shariah, as a strong belief in intercession usually gives such people as believe in it a false sense of security that they will be saved at any rate.
6. a. This principle is also consistent with the Islamic law for Jihaad (Holy War). Jihaad is not permissible before the Muslims form an independent state. Until they do that, they can only preach. And the law for the preacher is `to turn the other cheek' (see 41:34 & 35 and, of course, Matt 5:39), for the purpose of a preacher is to rule the hearts of people; for that one does not slay, but is slain. The object, and indeed the duty, of an administrator is absolutely different. When a state is formed, a judge in the court will not `turn the other cheek' while dealing with a serial killer. `An eye for an eye' will be the law then3. Similarly, if an enemy state attacks the Islamic state, the law will be jihaad for self defence, not `turning the other check'. (For further details, see Nadir Aqueel Ansaari, Jihad -- A Misunderstood Doctrine, Renaissance).
b. It must be mentioned here that this law of divine punishment was applicable to only those people to whom a Rasool was directly assigned. Therefore, the law of death penalty for apostasy (that is apostasy after embracing Islam) is applied to them only. Now a Muslim cannot be punished on the basis of apostasy (for further details see Shehzad Saleem, The Punishment for Apostasy, Renaissance).
7. A Rasool fulfils this obligation in his personal capacity as an individual; no person apart from a Rasool can do that as an individual; therefore, shahaadat `alannaas is the responsibility of the the Ummah now.
8.` The scribes and the Pharisees .... for the say, and do not. For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders, but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do for to be seen of men'. (Matt. 23:2-5)
9. The Quran 7:157. With regard to the words `...the unlettered Nabi, the Rasool whom they find written with them in the Torah and the Gospel ....', see, for example, the following:
i) Deuteronomy 18:15-19
a. Writes Islaahi:
" ... because in this context there can be no other meaning of the words "from among your brethren" except that he shall be from among the Ismaelites."
b. About the words `like unto me' (Deut 18:15), Islahi says that they refer to the many similarities between the Prophet (sws) and Moses; for example, both of them were Rasool to their respective nations, both of them became the political leaders of their people etc.
c. `... my words which he shall speak in my name; each Surah of the Quran begins with bismillahirrahmannirraheem (In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Ever Merciful).
ii) Deuteronomy 33:2
a. Waraqah Bin Nawfal, (a cousin of the Prophet's wife, Khadiijah, and a Christian scholar), had come to Mecca (the area around Mt Paran -- faraan) to await the arrival of the promised one.
b. At the conquest of Mecca, the Prophet (sws) and his Companions -- thousands of them -- came from the Mt Paran and the whole mountain appeared as if it were white.
iii) Isaiah 42:1-4.
(see also 9:32 & 33) refers to the religions in the Arabia of the Prophet's time).
iv) Matthew 21:42-44
(Note the words `the Kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation ...' and `And whosoever shall fall on this stone ... grind him to pieces'.).
See also explanatory note 4 and the discussion pertaining to shahaadat `alannaas.
v) John 14:16 (`..... shall give another Comforter...')
vi) John 14:30 (`Hereafter.... for the prince of this world cometh....')
vii) Revelation 19:11-21 & 20:1-15.
(Note the words: `and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True' -- in Arabic Al-ameen and As-saadiq: the two titles by which the Prophet (sws) was called).
viii) For further details see Javed Ahmad Ghamidi, Nabuwwat-u-Risaaslat, Ishraaq (Urdu); July 1994; 66 Ahmad Block Garden Town, Lahore 54600, Pakistan.