Faith and Beliefs
The dealings of God with His servants and the manner in which He deals with them are called sunnatullah by the Qur'an. The Almighty says that these practices are permamnent and unalterable. Consequently, for a true comprehension of God, just as knowledge of His attributes is essential, knowledge of His dealings with His creation is also essential. We shall now present the details of these dealings; however, before we do this, it is essential that certain premises remain clear in our mind at the very outset.
Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi writes:
1. The Almighty has created each person with a noble nature and has blessed him with the ability to discriminate good from evil and has given him the freedom to choose whichever of them he wants to. After that, his becoming a good or a bad person is dependent on his attitude and on the Almighty's grace. If he tries to adhere to virtue, the Almighty's grace impels him to virtue and if he adopts evil, the Almighty, if He wants to, leaves him to tread the path of evil.
2. Issues on which the Almighty will hold a person accountable are those in which he has the freedom to choose and exercise his free will. People who do not have this freedom will not be held accountable by Him. This freedom to exercise one's will has been granted by the Almighty and not something which a person possesses. Thus a person exercises his will while remaining subservient to the will of God. The Almighty, on the basis of His own will and wisdom, may not allow man to achieve what he intends; however, because of some reason which only His wisdom can encompass, if He does not allow a virtuous intention of a person to materialize, He does not deprive him of its reward; similarly, if He allows evil intent to materialize, then this does not mean that He will necessarily acquit a person in the Hereafter.
3. Wherever the will of God has been mentioned in the Qur'an, it only means that except for God Himself no one has the power to stop Him from materializing it or to alter it in any way. It does not mean that His will is not subservient to justice and wisdom. The Almighty is wise and just and nothing that He does is devoid of justice and wisdom. Hence wherever His will is stated in the Qur'an, it must be considered to be subservient to the wisdom and justice according to which He is running the affairs of this world. It would not be correct to assume that He would act contrarily to whatever practice He has initiated for Himself and to the justice and wisdom He has chosen for Himself. For example, the Qur'an says that God guides whomsoever He wills and leads astray whomsoever He wills. This statement does not mean that He does not adhere to any principle of justice and wisdom in giving guidance to someone or leading him astray; it only means that giving guidance to someone or leading him astray materializes in accordance with the practice He has set for it and no one has the power to change or break it.
4. In the Qur'an, we find certain acts being attributed to God; however, the real objective in this regard, as referred to earlier, is not the attribution of these acts, it is their attribution to certain laws and principles on the basis of which these acts materialize. Because these laws and principles have been set by the Almighty, He has attributed the acts which emanate on the basis of these laws and principles to Himself at certain places in the Qur'an. For example,فَلَمَّا زَاغُوا أَزَاغَ اللَّهُ قُلُوبَهُمْ (5:61)(And when they deviated [from the truth], God led away their hearts [from the truth], (61:5)) and وَنُقَلِّبُ أَفْئِدَتَهُمْ وَأَبْصَارَهُمْ (110:6)(We will turn away their hearts and eyes [from the truth], (6:110)). On such instances, the Qur'an also refers to the principle on the basis of which a certain act emanates. For example, words such as: "God only leads astray the defiant." These insinuations are meant to direct the attention of the reader on the factual reality so that the apparent meaning of the words does not create any misconception in his mind.
5. The eternal and all embracing knowledge of the Almighty does not negate any of the practices and laws set by Him. Undoubtedly, He knows from the very beginning whether a person will adopt the right path or go astray; however, besides this, He also knows that a person will adopt or reject the right path in accordance with the law of guidance prescribed by Him.
Two further things should remain clear as well:
Firstly, certain things are attributed to God also because He is the first cause and nothing can originate or materialize without His will and certain things are attributed to us because at times we become worthy of them. The Qur'an thus says:
وَإِن تُصِبْهُمْ حَسَنَةٌ يَقُولُواْ هَـذِهِ مِنْ عِندِ اللّهِ وَإِن تُصِبْهُمْ سَيِّئَةٌ يَقُولُواْ هَـذِهِ مِنْ عِندِكَ قُلْ كُلًّ مِّنْ عِندِ اللّهِ فَمَا لِهَـؤُلاء الْقَوْمِ لاَ يَكَادُونَ يَفْقَهُونَ حَدِيثًا مَّا أَصَابَكَ مِنْ حَسَنَةٍ فَمِنَ اللّهِ وَمَا أَصَابَكَ مِن سَيِّئَةٍ فَمِن نَّفْسِكَ وَأَرْسَلْنَاكَ لِلنَّاسِ رَسُولاً وَكَفَى بِاللّهِ شَهِيدًا (4: 78-79)
And if they receive any benefit, they say: "This is from God." But when evil befalls them, they say: "This was because of you." Tell them: "Everything is from God!" What has come over these men that they are not prepared to understand a word? Whatever good befalls you is from God and whatever affliction comes your way is because of your own selves and O Prophet! We have sent you forth as a Messenger and sufficient is God's testimony [on this]. (4:78-79)
While explaining these verses, Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi writes:
… first those people are addressed who were attributing their successes to God and failures to the Prophet (sws). They are told that the actual reality is that both good and evil manifest with the will of God; without His consent nothing can come into being. The difference, however, is that good comes into being as a requisite of God's mercy and evil comes into being because of man's deeds. Viewed thus, evil is related to one's own self.
Here one must keep this in consideration that God is an embodiment of good. He has created this world as a manifestation of His mercy. Hence to ascribe any evil to Him is against His noble attributes. Evil comes into being because of person's ill-use of his free-will. The Almighty has granted a person a certain sphere in which he has the freedom to exercise his will. This freedom is a great favour of the Almighty. It is on its basis that man occupies pre-eminence among other creations. It is on its basis that in the Hereafter, he will be held accountable and rewarded or punished accordingly. In the absence of this freedom, there would have been no difference between a human being and an animal. However, one thing that needs to be kept in consideration regarding this freedom is that it is not unlimited and unrestricted; as referred to before, this freedom is restricted to a certain sphere; and then, within this sphere too, it is subservient to the will and wisdom of the Almighty. Without His will and permission, a person cannot fulfill any of his will and intentions. Good intentions also materialize because of His grace and bad intentions also materialize because of the respite He grants. If the Almighty allows a certain evil intent to materialize, then this is attributed to God because it materialized because of His will and consent; however, from another angle it is an act of a human being because it was a product of his will.
What must further be understood is that whenever the Almighty allows the evil of a person or a group of persons to become rampant in a society then this is because, at a collective level, some benefit or well-being of His creation is intended. At certain instances, giving such opportunity to evil to make hey is to test the righteous so that their weaknesses are done away with and their qualities are polished. At certain other instances, the reason is to leave the wicked with no excuse to deny the truth and to bring to an end their period of respite. At still other instances, the Almighty creates circumstances so that what is hidden in the nature of people is revealed. Thus not only righteous deeds emanate from them as a result but evil deeds also emanate from people who have them hidden in themselves.
Secondly, the basis of the directive of good and evil, and right and wrong is that what is in accordance with the attributes of God and what is against them. We praise justice because justice is an attribute of God and for this reason its likeness has been ordained in our nature. No doubt, this directive is relative as such but is also eternal because the attributes of God are eternal. Furthermore, there is no clash or conflict between these attributes so that the Almighty on one occasion wills something which is in accordance with His attributes and at another wills something else which is in conflict with them. In all circumstances, He fully adheres to justice:
شَهِدَ اللّهُ أَنَّهُ لاَ إِلَـهَ إِلاَّ هُوَ وَالْمَلاَئِكَةُ وَأُوْلُواْ الْعِلْمِ قَآئِمَاً بِالْقِسْطِ لاَ إِلَـهَ إِلاَّ هُوَ الْعَزِيزُ الْحَكِيمُ (18:3)
God bears witness that there is no god but He, and so do the angels and people [who have true knowledge]. He is fully adherent to justice, there is no other God, [He is] the Mighty, the Wise. (3:18)
Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi writes:
The reference that God is adherent to justice is a very important constituent of faith and so close it is to the essence of Islam that one can say that it is in fact Islam. The importance it occupies requires that some points delineated by my mentor Imam Hamid al-Din Farahi in this regard be stated here so that people who intend to deliberate on the philosophy and wisdom of religion are able to benefit from them:
1. The word iman originates from the verbal noun aman. This, in other words, means that believing in something and adhering to it is ingrained in the very nature of iman. As an obvious consequence of this it is essential that a person must have a deep conviction on the existence of God. However, this conviction can only be achieved if a person believes that intellect is primarily meant to guide him and not to misguide him. It should be accepted, in other words, that intellect by its nature is a barometer of justice within a person. This premise necessarily leads to another conclusion: human nature is created by the Almighty on the principles of justice and equity. The reason for this is that the Almighty being an embodiment of justice and equity holds justice and equity very dear and is also One who wants to establish justice and equity everywhere. All these conclusions are a logical consequence and are in fact self-evident. It is evident from this discussion that one cannot verify the veracity of something unless the Creator is regarded to be an embodiment of truth and justice. From this fact, all the actions and deeds which emanate from God are regarded to be just and the way this fact is validated through intellect, it is also validated through universal truths. An explanation of this compact premise is that the Almighty has ingrained piety in human nature and made hearts inclined to relish and accept it. In such a situation, how is it possible for us that we like piety and not regard God as someone who likes piety. How can we regard our liking for the truth to be true if we are not satisfied with the liking for the truth of our Creator. We want to please him by doing a good deed because we are satisfied that He is pleased by a good deed. We ascribe good attributes to Him because in liking these attributes we are fully convinced of the veracity of our nature.
2. The foundation of faith is love for God. We profess faith in a being whom we love, who we want to please and from whom we have high hopes and expectations. This is not possible unless we are certain that it is absolutely impossible that He be unjust and oppressive. He will grant His favours to those who will obey Him and punish only those who are worthy of punishment. It is against human nature to love an unjust and oppressive master.
3. If one deliberates on the favours and blessings of the Almighty, the foundation of the requirement of professing faith in the Almighty which emerges in human nature is gratitude. This gratitude becomes mandatory when one accepts that it is the right of the Creator Who has bestowed these favours on us and a requisite of these favours. It is this very reality on the basis of which the Qur'an has called shirk (polytheism) as zulm (injustice) and iman as gratitude. Owing to this very reason, the basis of a person demanding his rights is necessity of justice. This is a self-evident reality of shari'ah and law. On these very grounds, the basis of every shari'ah is justice and fairness.
4. The consequence of faith is obedience to God and the consequence of obedience to God is the pleasure of God. In every deed and act which is committed, there is a similar relationship of causation which the Almighty has established through His commands and directives and has guided us in various ways towards it and since we have full conviction on these results of deeds hence while relying on His promises we obey Him. If we do not have faith on the fact that God honours His promises all basis of deeds will be razed to ground and all reliance will remain on either of the following two things: like the Christians on the false notion of intercession, which totally depends on Christ, who they worship as a deity and love more than God Himself or like the Jews on their deviation from the truth and short-sightedness: they abandoned their ship to the winds and because of their arrogance and pride did not remain content with the judgement of God as if to them there is no principle before God to discriminate good from evil. To protect oneself from going astray in this manner, it is essential that one has full conviction that God adheres to justice and every directive and promise of His is true, as specified by the Qur'an: وَتَمَّتْ كَلِمَتُ رَبِّكَ صِدْقًا وَعَدْلاً (115:6) (Fulfilled was the word of your Lord in truth and in justice, (6:115)).
Following are the sunan (practices and dealings) of God:
1. Tests and Trials
God has created this world for trial and test. Every single person on this earth faces these trials and as such His practice of putting mankind through trials is a universal phenomenon. Whatever is ingrained in human nature comes to surface because of these trials; the secrets of the inner personality of a person are revealed through these very trials and the levels attained by a person in his ideologies and in his deeds are ascertained through these very trials. The Qur'an says that life and death have been created for the very purpose of judging that who among mankind adopts a rebellious attitude towards his Creator and who leads a life according to the liking of his Creator. No doubt, the Almighty has knowledge of everything; however, He has set the practice for Himself that He does not merely reward and punish people on the basis of His knowledge; on the contrary, He does so on the basis of their deeds. For this very purpose, He has implemented the system of trial on this earth:
الَّذِيْ خَلَقَ المْـَوْتَ وَالْحَيَاةَ لِيَبْلُوَكُمْ أَيـُّكُمْ أَحْسَنُ عَمَلاً، وَهُوَ الْعَزِيْزُ الْغَفُوْرُ (67: 2)
[He] Who created death and life that He might test you as to which of you is best regarding deeds. And He is also Mighty and Forgiving. (67:2)
The circumstances of sorrow and happiness, poverty and affluence, grief and joy which befall a person in this world are governed by this very practice of God. Through such circumstances, the Almighty tests His servants and differentiates the good among them from the evil. When He blesses someone with affluence and status, He tests whether such people will remain grateful to Him or not and when He afflicts someone with poverty and hardships, He tests whether such people will remain patient or not:
وَنَبْلُوكُم بِالشَّرِّ وَالْخَيْرِ فِتْنَةً وَإِلَيْنَا تُرْجَعُونَ (35:21)
We are inflicting you with sorrow and happiness to test To Us shall you return. (21:35)
Writes Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi:
… He gives wealth and status to some people to see if they become grateful, humble and obedient on this favour or end up proud and arrogant, pompous and conceited and ill-treat the poor and do not spend on others from what God has blessed them with. Similarly, He deprives some people of wealth to see if they remain patient in such circumstances, are thankful for what they have, are satisfied with their fate and remain honourable in their hardships or in frustration and disappointment end up in despair and dejection, show discontent on their fate, become angry with God and live a life of misery as a result.
All these facilities and provisions with which this earth is endowed with are meant to test man. These provisions, in other words, are not provided to him for his indulgence and pleasure; they are a means to try him. By providing them to man, the Almighty is judging whether a person seeks the comprehension of His Creator and in this way attains success in the Hereafter or loses his way by indulging in them:
إِنَّا جَعَلْنَا مَا عَلَى الْأَرْضِ زِينَةً لَّهَا لِنَبْلُوَهُمْ أَيُّهُمْ أَحْسَنُ عَمَلًا (7:18)
We have decked the earth with whatever is in it so We can test them that who is the best regarding his deeds. (18:7)
Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi writes:
This world is a place of trial and test. In it, God is testing that who while using his intellect and brains seeks the Hereafter and who while following his desires ends up seeking this world. For the purpose of test, God has adorned the face of this earth with make-up that is deceptively pleasing to the eye. There is great lure and attraction in wealth and children, in orchards and gardens, in fields and crops, in cars and houses, in buildings and castles, in positions of high social and political status of this world. All its pleasures are at hand and easy to attain while its pangs are hidden. On the other hand, all the successes of the Hereafter are as yet concealed from the eyes and those who seek them are immediately faced with a lot of hardships in this world. Indeed this is a severe trial. Not every slave to his passions can come through it. Only those will sail through it who are perspicacious enough not to be mislead from these worldly lures which may attempt to deceive them in one guise or another and are never prepared to lose the favours of the Hereafter by getting caught in the lures and attractions of this world.
These are the details of the law of trial and test that is generally faced by human beings. A specific form of this law comes into play in the times of the rusul (Messengers) of God. At the behest of the Almighty, their propagation culminates in the worldly Judgement of their addressees and those who claim to profess faith in these messengers are, during the course of this propagation, put through certain trials and tests which are generally not faced by others. Consequently, the Qur'an says:
أَحَسِبَ النَّاسُ أَن يُتْرَكُوا أَن يَقُولُوا آمَنَّا وَهُمْ لَا يُفْتَنُونَ وَلَقَدْ فَتَنَّا الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِهِمْ فَلَيَعْلَمَنَّ اللَّهُ الَّذِينَ صَدَقُوا وَلَيَعْلَمَنَّ الْكَاذِبِينَ(29: 2-3)
Do people think that once they say: "We believe [in the rasul]", they will be left alone and not be tried even though We [similarly] tried those who lived before them. So God will surely set apart the truthful, and He will also surely set apart the liars. (29:2-3)
Once the Messengers of God communicate the truth to their addressees to the extent that they are left with no excuse to deny it, this test manifests itself to isolate and discriminate the believers and the disbelievers before the latter are punished. The words of the above quoted verses: فَلَيَعْلَمَنَّ اللَّهُ الَّذِينَ صَدَقُوا وَلَيَعْلَمَنَّ الْكَاذِبِينَ (29: 3) (So God will surely set apart the truthful, and He will also surely set apart the liars) refer to this very reality. The implication is that before the judgement is delivered it is clearly known where each person stands. At certain other places in the Qur'an too, this law and practice of God is mentioned with similar emphasis:
وَلَنَبْلُوَنَّكُمْبِشَيْءٍ مِّنَ الْخَوفِ وَالْجُوعِ وَنَقْصٍ مِّنَ الأَمَوَالِ وَالأنفُسِ وَالثَّمَرَاتِ وَبَشِّرِ الصَّابِرِينَ الَّذِينَ إِذَا أَصَابَتْهُم مُّصِيبَةٌ قَالُواْ إِنَّا لِلّهِ وَإِنَّـا إِلَيْهِ رَاجِعونَ (2: 155-156)
Weshall test you with some fear and some famine and some loss of property and life and some loss in produce [from the fields]. And [O Prophet!] give glad tidings [of success in this world and in that to come] to those who persevere [in this cause]. [Those] who when afflicted with some calamity say: "We belong to God, and to Him [one day] we shall return." (2:155-156)
2. Guidance and Error
In this trial, man has been asked to guard himself from going astray and consciously adopt the guided path. The Qur'an has informed us that this guidance is found in the very nature of a person. Moreover, once a person attains the age of intellectual maturity, the signs of the heavens and the earth around him direct his attention to this guidance. If a person values and treasures this guidance and benefits from it and is grateful to his Lord for it, it is the practice and law of God that He increases the glow of this guidance and creates in a person a further desire for this guidance and as a result of this induces in him the urge to benefit from the guidance brought by the prophets of God:
نُّورٌ عَلَى نُورٍ يَهْدِي اللَّهُ لِنُورِهِ مَن يَشَاء وَيَضْرِبُ اللَّهُ الْأَمْثَالَ لِلنَّاسِ وَاللَّهُ بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ عَلِيمٌ(35:24)
Light upon light. God guides to His light whom He wills and God cites parables to mankind and God has knowledge of all things. (24:35)
وَالَّذِينَ اهْتَدَوْا زَادَهُمْ هُدًى وَآتَاهُمْ تَقْواهُمْ (17:47)
And those who are guided, He will increase their guidance and also grant them their share of piety. (47:17)
This can be called culmination of guidance and the Qur'an has stated with full clarity that without the will of God even a desire for obtaining it is not produced in a person. This will of God is also related to this law of guidance of His. God is aware of everything and is also wise: He gives this favour to only those who accept the guidance ingrained in their nature:
إِنَّ هَذِهِ تَذْكِرَةٌ فَمَنْ شَاءَ اتَّخَذَ إِلَى رَبِّهِ سَبِيلًاوَمَا تَشَاءُونَ إِلَّا أَنْ يَشَاءَ اللَّهُ إِنَّ اللَّهَ كَانَ عَلِيمًا حَكِيمًايُدْخِلُ مَنْ يَشَاءُ فِي رَحْمَتِهِ وَالظَّالِمِينَ أَعَدَّ لَهُمْ عَذَابًا أَلِيمًا(76: 27-31)
This [Qur'an] is only a reminder. So whoever wishes he should take the path leading to Allah and you do not wish [O People!] until Allah so wishes [according to His law]. Indeed, Allah is all-knowing, wise. He admits into His mercy whomever He wishes [on the basis of this knowledge and wisdom]. And for the wrongdoers, He has prepared a grievous punishment. (76:27-31)
If a person decides upon evading this ingrained guidance, refuses to use his intellect, and deliberately deviates from the truth, then in the words of the Qur'an this is zulm (wronging the soul) and fisq (defiance) and the Almighty never guides a person who continues to wrong his soul and persists in defiance and He leaves him to wander in the darkness of error and misguidance:
وَمَا كَانَ لِنَفْسٍ أَن تُؤْمِنَ إِلاَّ بِإِذْنِ اللّهِ وَيَجْعَلُ الرِّجْسَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ لاَ يَعْقِلُونَ (100:10)
It is not possible for anyone to profess faith [in the Prophet] except by God's permission. [This permission is only granted to those who use their intellect] and those who do not use their intellect He puts on them the dirt of [error and misguidance]. (10:100)
The consequence of such behaviour is that the obduracy, stubbornness and selfishness of such wrong-doers increase and they are deprived of the ability to think and understand in the right way. A state reaches when the Almighty seals their hearts in retribution of this wrong behavior:
إِنَّ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا سَوَاءٌ عَلَيْهِمْ أَأَنذَرْتَهُمْ أَمْ لَمْ تُنذِرْهُمْ لَا يُؤْمِنُونَ خَتَمَ اللَّهُ عَلَى قُلُوبِهِمْ وَعَلَى سَمْعِهِمْ وَعَلَى أَبْصَارِهِمْ غِشَاوَةٌ وَلَهُمْ عَذَابٌ عَظِيمٌ (2: 6-7)
Those who have decided to reject [this Book], it is the same to them whether you warn them or not; they will not believe. Allah has [now] set a seal on their hearts and on their ears [in accordance with His law], and on their eyes is a veil and great is the penalty that awaits them on the Day of Judgment. (2:6-7)
At another place, the words are:
وَأَقْسَمُواْ بِاللّهِ جَهْدَ أَيْمَانِهِمْ لَئِن جَاءتْهُمْ آيَةٌ لَّيُؤْمِنُنَّ بِهَا قُلْ إِنَّمَا الآيَاتُ عِندَ اللّهِ وَمَا يُشْعِرُكُمْ أَنَّهَا إِذَا جَاءتْ لاَ يُؤْمِنُونَ وَنُقَلِّبُ أَفْئِدَتَهُمْ وَأَبْصَارَهُمْ كَمَا لَمْ يُؤْمِنُواْ بِهِ أَوَّلَ مَرَّةٍ وَنَذَرُهُمْ فِي طُغْيَانِهِمْ يَعْمَهُونَ(6: 109-110)
These people keep solemnly swearing by God that if a sign comes, they will definitely believe in it. Tell them: "Signs are with God" and how will you know that even if signs come they will not believe and [in retribution of their sins] We will turn away their hearts and eyes [from the truth] since they refused to express belief at first and We will let them wander about in their wrongdoing. (6:109-110)
Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi writes:
This is a mention of the practice of God according to which some are blessed with faith and some deprived of it … people who deliberate on the innumerable signs which are found in this world and in the world within their ownselves and with their heart and soul adhere to the obvious consequences of this deliberation are blessed with faith. On the other hand, people who in spite of witnessing all these signs turn deaf and blind to them and take to narcissism and remain caught up in their desires, and do not open their eyes even after persistent reminders by the Qur'an and the Prophet (sws), their hearts and eyes are turned away from the truth by the Almighty as a result of which they are deprived of correct vision and understanding. After this, the greatest of signs and miracles have no effect on them. The practice of God is that the hearts and thoughts of people who instead of looking straight and walking in the right direction look crookedly and walk in the wrong direction are rendered warped and crooked. The Qur'anic verse: فَلَمَّا زَاغُوا أَزَاغَ اللَّهُ قُلُوبَهُمْ (5:61) (And when they deviated [from the truth], God led away their hearts [from the truth], (61:5)) points to this very practice of the Almighty. Here, in the verse under discussion, while referring to this practice of God, Muslims are prodded that how do they believe that if such people according to their demand are shown a miracle they will become believers. If so, many signs which exist in the world around man and in that within him and towards which the Qur'an has pointed and explained their implications have failed to convince their hearts and set right their vision? How can another sign change and convince them? How can the veil which stretches across their vision today be lifted tomorrow and how can the blindness in them which today stops them from seeing such signs go away when a new sign is shown to them? The way they have been belying all signs throughout their lives will only make them belie another sign and the metamorphosis which you see today in their hearts and eyes will play its role tomorrow also when they witness the sign.
3. Beyond-Capacity Directives
The Almighty never gives a directive to human beings in the shari'ah revealed by Him which is beyond their capacity. In all that emanates from God for human beings, it is always made sure that they are not burdened beyond what they can bear and whatever directive be given is given keeping in view human capacity and capability. Consequently, a person will not be held liable for sins done out of forgetfulness or misunderstanding or done inadvertently, and God's only requirement of man is that he should follow His directives in both form and spirit with full veracity and honesty. Verses such as لاَ يُكَلِّفُ اللّهُ نَفْسًا إِلاَّ وُسْعَهَا (2: 286) (God does not burden a person beyond his capacity(2:286)) and other similar ones mention this very practice of God. However, this does not mean that if people adopt a rebellious behaviour, then too the Almighty does not burden them beyond their capacity. It is evident from the Qur'an that for reprimand and training or for punishment or to show them the consequences of their evil deeds or to make them aware of their helplessness against the power of God people are certainly burdened beyond their means.
4. Rise and Fall of Nations
Under the law of trial which has been mentioned earlier just as God selects people to make them undergo a trial of patience or of gratitude, in a similar manner He also selects nations for this purpose. As a result of this selection, when a nation once rises among the comity of nations the practice of God with it is that He keeps it on this position until it itself plunges into lowliness with regard to morality and knowledge. This is an unchangeable practice of God and when, after repeated warnings, He decides to humiliate and depose a nation no one can stop Him and no power of this world can help that nation against the Almighty. The whole history of mankind bears witness to this practice of God:
إِنَّ اللّهَ لاَ يُغَيِّرُ مَا بِقَوْمٍ حَتَّى يُغَيِّرُواْ مَا بِأَنْفُسِهِمْ وَإِذَا أَرَادَ اللّهُ بِقَوْمٍ سُوءًا فَلاَ مَرَدَّ لَهُ وَمَا لَهُم مِّن دُونِهِ مِن وَالٍ (11:13)
God does not change His dealing with a people unless they themselves change their characteristics and when God decides to afflict them with a misfortune, none can ward it off. And for such people there is none who can help them against God. (13:11)
5. Divine Help
When the Almighty entrusts a person or a group with any of His missions and asks them to achieve it, then He also provides His help to them. This mission can relate to propagation of His message and it can also relate to jihad and warfare. Many verses such asكَانَ حَقّاً عَلَيْنَا نَصْرَ الْمُؤمِنِيْن (30:47) (Helping the believers is incumbent upon Us, (30:47)) clearly say that the Almighty has held it mandatory on Himself to help the believers who have taken up such a mission:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِن تَنصُرُوا اللَّهَ يَنصُرْكُمْ وَيُثَبِّتْ أَقْدَامَكُمْ (7:47)
Believers! if you help God, God will help you and strengthen you. (47:7)
This help does not come randomly. It is based on a rule and it comes in accordance with it. Its details are given in a separate chapter of this book The Islamic Shari'ah of Jihad. However, here this much should remain clear that what makes a person worthy of help is perseverance and piety. The Qur'an says that when in the battle of Uhud the Prophet (sws) in order to raise the morale of his people told them that the Almighty will help them with three thousand angels, the Almighty endorsed his proposal and out of His grace even increased this number by two thousand; however, at this instance, the Almighty clearly said that the promise of this help is dependent on the condition that Muslims should show perseverance and abstain from showing disobedience to God and His Prophet (sws):
بَلَى إِن تَصْبِرُواْ وَتَتَّقُواْ وَيَأْتُوكُم مِّن فَوْرِهِمْ هَـذَا يُمْدِدْكُمْ رَبُّكُم بِخَمْسَةِ آلافٍ مِّنَ الْمَلآئِكَةِ مُسَوِّمِينَ (125:3)
Yes! If you persevere and are fearful of God, and your enemies launch an attack on you at that very time God will help you with five thousand angels who will be marked with specific signs. (3:125)
6. Remorse and Repentance
If a person commits a sin, there exists a chance for him to repent. The Almighty has asserted (The Qur'an, 6:54) that He has made mercy incumbent upon Himself and therefore He never punishes people who after sinning repent and mend their ways. In this regard, the rule is that if people repent immediately after they commit a sin the Almighty definitely forgives them; however, He does not forgive people who deeply indulge in sin all their lives and when they see death approaching start to repent and seek forgiveness from the Almighty. Similarly, He also does not forgive people who deliberately deny the truth if they continue on this denial till death. This practice of God regarding repentance has been mentioned in the Qur'an in the following words:
إِنَّمَا التَّوْبَةُ عَلَى اللّهِ لِلَّذِينَ يَعْمَلُونَ السُّوَءَ بِجَهَالَةٍ ثُمَّ يَتُوبُونَ مِن قَرِيبٍ فَأُوْلَـئِكَ يَتُوبُ اللّهُ عَلَيْهِمْ وَكَانَ اللّهُ عَلِيماً حَكِيماً وَلَيْسَتِ التَّوْبَةُ لِلَّذِينَ يَعْمَلُونَ السَّيِّئَاتِ حَتَّى إِذَا حَضَرَ أَحَدَهُمُ الْمَوْتُ قَالَ إِنِّي تُبْتُ الآنَ وَلاَ الَّذِينَ يَمُوتُونَ وَهُمْ كُفَّارٌ أُوْلَـئِكَ أَعْتَدْنَا لَهُمْ عَذَابًا أَلِيمًا (4: 17-18)
It is incumbent upon God to forgive those who commit a sin while being overwhelmed with emotions and then quickly repent. It is they who are forgiven by God. God is all-knowing and wise. But He will not forgive those who sin all their lives and, when death comes to them, say: "Now I repent!" nor those who die as disbelievers. It is for these for whom We have prepared a grievous punishment. (4:17-18)
7. Reward and Punishment
In the Hereafter, reward and punishment is a certain reality; however, it is evident from the Qur'an that at times this reward and punishment also takes place in this world. This lesser day of judgement is a prelude to the greater day of judgement which will take place in the Hereafter. The various forms of this reward and punishment which the Almighty has spelled out in the Qur'an are:
Firstly, people who are only after this world, live and die for it and are absolutely indifferent to the Hereafter are given whatever worldly benefits the Almighty wants to give them and then their account is settled by Him in this very world and they are rewarded or punished on the basis of their deeds right in this world:
مَن كَانَ يُرِيدُ الْحَيَاةَ الدُّنْيَا وَزِينَتَهَا نُوَفِّ إِلَيْهِمْ أَعْمَالَهُمْ فِيهَا وَهُمْ فِيهَا لاَ يُبْخَسُونَ (15:11)
We recompense in this world the deeds of those who desire the life of this world with all its finery and they are not given less in it in any way. (11:15)
Secondly, those who reject their respective rasul (messenger) even after being communicated the truth to the extent that they are left with no excuse to deny it are punished in this very world and those who profess faith in him, blessings of God embrace them from all sides:
وَلِكُلِّ أُمَّةٍ رَّسُولٌ فَإِذَا جَاء رَسُولُهُمْ قُضِيَ بَيْنَهُم بِالْقِسْطِ وَهُمْ لاَ يُظْلَمُونَ (47:10)
For each nation, there is a rasul. So when a rasul comes to a nation, their matter is decided with justice and his people are not wronged. (10:47)
This is an unchangeable practice of God. The accounts of the people of Noah (sws), Lot (sws), Shu'ayb (sws), Hud (sws) and Salih (sws) besides those of other prophets which have been narrated in the Qur'an are a tale of this worldly judgement. In human history, this worldly judgement was passed for the last time for the people of the prophet Muhammad (sws):
وَمَا أَرْسَلْنَا فِي قَرْيَةٍ مِّن نَّبِيٍّ إِلاَّ أَخَذْنَا أَهْلَهَا بِالْبَأْسَاء وَالضَّرَّاء لَعَلَّهُمْ يَضَّرَّعُونَ ثُمَّ بَدَّلْنَا مَكَانَ السَّيِّئَةِ الْحَسَنَةَ حَتَّى عَفَواْ وَّقَالُواْ قَدْ مَسَّ آبَاءنَا الضَّرَّاء وَالسَّرَّاء فَأَخَذْنَاهُم بَغْتَةً وَهُمْ لاَ يَشْعُرُونَ وَلَوْ أَنَّ أَهْلَ الْقُرَى آمَنُواْ وَاتَّقَواْ لَفَتَحْنَا عَلَيْهِم بَرَكَاتٍ مِّنَ السَّمَاء وَالأَرْضِ وَلَـكِن كَذَّبُواْ فَأَخَذْنَاهُم بِمَا كَانُواْ يَكْسِبُونَ (7: 94-96)
And whenever We sent a prophet as a messenger to any city We tested its people with hardships which were financial and which afflicted their persons so that they adopt humility in their supplications. Then We changed their adversity to good fortune so that when they had prospered a lot they said: "Good and bad days also befell our fore-fathers." At last we seized them suddenly and they were caught unaware. And had the people of these cities professed faith and remained God-fearing, We would have showered upon them blessings from the heavens and the earth. But they rejected, and We seized them in retribution of their misdeeds. (7:94-96)
Thirdly, the Almighty has promised the progeny of Abraham that if they adhere to the truth, they will lead all nations of the world and if they deviate from it, they will be deposed from this position and will have to face the punishment of humiliation and subjugation. The words (2: 40) أَوْفُوا بِعَهْدِي أُوفِ بِعَهْدِكُمْ (Keep my covenant, and I will keepyours, (2:40)) refer to this very covenant of the Almighty with the Israelites. The warning sounded in the words ِإِنْ عُدْتُمْ عُدْنَا (17: 8) (If you do it again, We would also do it again, (17:8)) also refers to this. All the books of the Bible mention the details of this covenant.
وَإِذِ ابْتَلَى إِبْرَاهِيمَ رَبُّهُ بِكَلِمَاتٍ فَأَتَمَّهُنَّ قَالَ إِنِّي جَاعِلُكَ لِلنَّاسِ إِمَامًا قَالَ وَمِنذُرِّيَّتِي قَالَ لاَ يَنَالُ عَهْدِي الظَّالِمِينَ (2: 124)
And recall when Abraham was put to trial by His Lord in a few things and he fulfilled them. He said: "I have decided to appoint you the leader of mankind". "And what of my descendants?" asked Abraham. "My covenant," said He "does not apply to the evil-doers". (2:124)
It is this very promise of the Almighty which is specifically mentioned for the Israelites in the following verse:
وَلَوْ أَنَّهُمْ أَقَامُواْ التَّوْرَاةَ وَالإِنجِيلَ وَمَا أُنزِلَ إِلَيهِم مِّن رَّبِّهِمْ لأكَلُواْ مِن فَوْقِهِمْ وَمِن تَحْتِ أَرْجُلِهِم مِّنْهُمْ أُمَّةٌ مُّقْتَصِدَةٌ وَكَثِيرٌ مِّنْهُمْ سَاء مَا يَعْمَلُونَ (66:5)
If they adhered to the Torah and the Gospel and that what has been revealed to them from their Lord, they would have received the sustenance [of their Lord] from above them and from beneath their feet. [No doubt], there is one group among them who are righteous but those whose deeds are evil abound. (5:66)
It is recorded in Deuteronomy:
So Isaac called for Jacob and blessed him and commanded him: "Do not marry a Canaanite woman. Go at once to Paddan Aram, to the house of your mother's father Bethuel. Take a wife for yourself there, from among the daughters of Laban, your mother's brother. May God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and increase your numbers until you become a community of peoples. May he give you and your descendants the blessing given to Abraham, so that you may take possession of the land where you now live as an alien, the land God gave to Abraham." Then Isaac sent Jacob on his way, and he went to Paddan Aram, to Laban son of Bethuel the Aramean, the brother of Rebekah, who was the mother of Jacob and Esau. Now Esau learned that Isaac had blessed Jacob and had sent him to Paddan Aram to take a wife from there, and that when he blessed him he commanded him, "Do not marry a Canaanite woman," and that Jacob had obeyed his father and mother and had gone to Paddan Aram. Esau then realized how displeasing the Canaanite women were to his father Isaac; so he went to Ishmael and married Mahalath, the sister of Nebaioth and daughter of Ishmael son of Abraham, in addition to the wives he already had. Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Haran. When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep. He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. There above it stood the LORD, and he said: "I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you." When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, "Surely the LORD is in this place, and I was not aware of it." He was afraid and said, "How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven." Early the next morning Jacob took the stone he had placed under his head and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on top of it. He called that place Bethel, though the city used to be called Luz. Then Jacob made a vow, saying, "If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father's house, then the LORD will be my God and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God's house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth." (Genesis 28:1-25)
(Translated from Ghamidi's Mizan by Shehzad Saleem)