By Syed Akbar Hassan
The Qur’ān (33:1-4) says: “Prophet! Have fear of Allah and do not yield to the unbelievers and the hypocrites. Allah is certainly All-Knowing, Wise. Follow what is revealed to you by your Lord; for Allah is well aware of all that you do. Place your trust in Allah; for Allah alone is worthy of all trust. Never has Allah put two hearts in one man’s body….”
The beginning ayah tells us something about the nature of the Islamic system and its underlying principles. Islam is not merely a set of directives and admonitions, or manners and moral values, or a collection of laws and regulations, or traditions and practices. All these are included in Islam, but they do not make up Islam in its totality.
Islam means submission to Allah’s will, a willingness to obey its orders, observe its prohibitions, looking up to no other system and adopting no other way. It is essentially an acceptance that mankind is subject to the overall divine code that governs their life and the earth they live on, as well as other planets and stars, and indeed governs the whole universe including the realms we know nothing about. It is also a certainty that as humans the only choice we should make is to do what Allah, the Exalted, orders, refrain from what He forbids, take what He makes available and await the results He brings about.
This is the basic rule on which are these established laws, regulations, traditions, manners and moral values. All these represent the practical manifestation of faith and submission to Allah. Islam is a faith that lays down a code which puts in place a specific social order. In their close interaction, these three make up Islam.
It is in this light that we should understand that the first directive in this surah, is addressed to Allah’s Messenger ﷺ, requiring him to remain God-fearing. To stand in awe of Allah, the Exalted, and remember that He watches over us, makes us alert, urging us to abide by every rule and implement every directive: “Prophet! Have fear of Allah.”
The second directive prohibits yielding to the unbelievers and hypocrites, following their suggestions or adopting their views and methods: “and do not yield to the unbelievers and the hypocrites.”
This directive is given before the order to follow Allah’s revelation, which suggests that the pressures brought to bear by the hypocrites and the unbelievers in Madinah and its surrounding area were very strong. Nevertheless, this directive remains applicable in all situations, warning the believers against following the hypocrites and the unbelievers, particularly in questions of faith, law and social order. This guarantees for the Muslim community that its system remains pure, unadulterated by directives other than Allah’s.
No one should be deceived by the wealth of knowledge and experience the unbelievers and hypocrites appear to possess, as were some Muslims in periods of weakness and deviation from the Islamic system. It is Allah, who has perfect knowledge and infinite wisdom. The Islamic system is His own choice, established by His knowledge and wisdom: “Allah is certainly All-Knowing, Wise.” However rich human knowledge and experience, they are only scanty.
The third direct order given is: “Follow what is revealed to you by your Lord.” This defines the authority that issues directives that must be followed. The phrasing of this directive is particularly inspiring: the revelation is made ‘to you’ specifically, and its source is ‘your Lord’, both of which add a specially personal element to the need to follow these orders even though they must be obeyed because they are issued by the One commanding obedience: “for Allah is well aware of all that you do.” His revelation is based on full awareness of you, your deeds and motives.
The last order states: “Place your trust in Allah; for Allah alone is worthy of all trust.” There is no need to worry about others or their scheming against you. You should place all your concerns in Allah’s hands and He will look after them in accordance with His knowledge and wisdom. Trusting to Allah alone is ultimately what gives us complete reassurance. It helps us know our limitations and leave what lies beyond our ability to the One who controls and conducts everything. Hence, the only proper attitude for anyone is to submit to Allah, obey His orders, and honour the vows given to Him in all situations of comfort and hardship. It is far better to place oneself in Allah’s hand, placing one’s trust completely in Him. He will, in any case do what He pleases.
Thus, along with the instruction to disobey the unbelievers and the hypocrites we have three directives: to always remain God-fearing, to follow His revelation and to place our trust in Him alone. It is these three elements that provide the advocates of Islam with all the resources they need. Furthermore, it clearly defines the system of Islamic advocacy: from Allah, for Allah’s sake, and relying on Allah: “for Allah alone is worthy of all trust.”
These directives end on a strong note that refers to practical situations: “Never has Allah put two hearts in one man’s body.” Since we have only one heart, it needs one system providing one complete and full concept of life. It requires one standard to give consistent values and judge events and actions. Otherwise, it will be pulled apart and will have different motives and considerations. It could easily fall into the trap of hypocrisy.
We cannot have one source for our manners and morality, another for our laws and legislation, a third for our social and economic values, and a fourth for our art and philosophy. Such a mixture does not produce a man with a sound heart: it only produces a confused medley that lacks solid form or basis. A person with faith cannot truly hold to his faith and abandon its values and requirements in any situation in life, serious or not. We cannot say a word, take an action, formulate a concept, make a decision unless we remain within the limits established by the faith, which must always be a reality in our lives. This is because Allah has not given us more than one heart, one law and one standard of values.
A believer cannot say of anything he does: ‘I am doing this in my personal capacity and I am doing that in my Islamic capacity’, as we frequently hear politicians, businessmen, academics and others say. Since we are one person with one heart, we have one faith and one standard that govern all that we do and say in any and every situation. With this one heart we live as an individual, a family man, a member of the community, a citizen of the state and the world; we live in public and private, employer or employee, ruler or ruled, in situations of comfort or distress; having the same values and standards at all times.
In short, we have a single system outlined by the same revelations and submitting to the One Allah.