Verse 51 of Surah al-Maidah:
Being a commentary to Maulana Imran Hosein’s interpretation of the verse.
By: Hasbullah Shafi’iy
Sayyiduna Umar radiyallahu anhu, in his six-line description of the Quran that we are unable to discuss here except one particular word that is relevant to our subject, most aptly said that the Quran is Barakah. Now, this is not a simple word at all. This word may be registered amongst the most frequently used vocabulary of any Muslim from any part of the world, but only that the meaning of this word is simply untranslatable into any other language, at least not into English. The meaning of this word can only be understood and explained by analogy or events.
Sayyiduna Abu Hurayrah radiyallahu anhu, gripped by the pangs of hunger, was waiting in Masjid an-Nabawi for someone to come, one who could understand his state and feed him. Embarrassed to ask directly for food, he had asked both Sayyiduna Abu Bakr and Sayyiduna Umar (r.a.), “Iqri’nee,” which request could either mean “recite to me (from the Quran)” or, “take me as a guest.” Not realising his state, both of them had sat him down in the Masjid and had recited the entire Surah al-Baqarah and Surah Aali ‘Imran respectively one after the other. The poor companion of the Prophet (s) had to listen to the long recitations bearing the pains of his shrinking stomach. Now he was desperately hoping for someone else who could come and perceive instantly the other meaning of the word “Iqri’nee.”
There came the Messenger of Allah, sallallahu alayhi wa sallam, the noblest of all the Arabs in language. When Abu Hurayrah requested, “Iqri’nee” hesitantly, about to faint, fearing the same would happen again, the Prophet sallallahu alayhi wa sallam smiled and affirmed him that he would not recite the Quran to him like Abu Bakr and Umar but would rather take him as a guest. However, the Messenger of Allah (s) commanded Abu Hurayrah to go and fetch all the As-haabus Suffah, Companions of the Verandah, the poorest of the residents of Madinah, eighty of them, for the meal at his home. So it was done. But what was there at the house of the Messenger of Allah (s)? What could anyone expect in that house of light but Barakah? It was but one small container of milk. Abu Hurayrah was worried he would not get any of the milk. He therefore queued first in the line, but the Prophet (s) gave the container to the others first. This is a recorded miracle of the Prophet (s) witnessed and experienced by all eighty of them that the container passed around and all of them drank from it and when it finally ended up in the hands of Abu Hurayrah, he too drank from it once, then the Prophet (s) told him to drink more and he too drank a second time and as the Prophet (s) told him to drink more he drank from it a third time. Finally, he could not drink a fourth time because he was already full and his stomach could not take anymore. But there was more milk in it.
By Allah, if the entire Madinah was there that day at the Prophet’s house, all of them would have drunk from it and milk would still have remained in the container. This is Barakah. So is the Quran. The Quran remains one Book but does flow infinitely. In fact, every verse of the Quran remains one but meanings flow infinitely because it is from Allah who is the Infinite.
There is not a single exegete (mufassir) of the Quran who would have dared say that he had already exhausted the full commentaries, interpretations and meanings of the Quran and that therefore nothing else could be added to them. That would reflect the meanings of the Quran as finite. How in that case could 20,000 Tafaaseer have been published so far on the meanings of the Quran? No one of the 20,000 different authors ever claimed that no one could add on to the commentary he had himself given and then put a full stop to the science of Tafseer. New knowledge comes out from the Quran and what meanings flow out from the Spring of the Quran – the Spring of Allah’s Kalam – has no limit. It continues and will continue forever till the Last Day.
Having established that, we now turn to Maulana Imran Hosein’s commentary to the 51st verse of Surah al-Ma-idah. It does not befit Islamic scholarship for someone to say that Maulana Hosein cannot add on to the existing commentaries on this verse and Islamic scholarship further demands that everyone approach his commentary with the meaning of Barakah in mind when it comes to the interpretation of the Quran because the Quran is ever fresh.
Before discussing the problems in the various published translations of the verse, it is necessary to look first into the literal translation of the verse without added parentheses:
O you who have Iman! Do not take the Yahud and the Nasaaraa as Awliyaa
Some of them are Awliyaa of others
Whosoever turns to them from among you, would then become part of them
Certainly Allah does not guide wrongdoing people.
Our attention here is firstly directed to the word Awliyaa and the following phrase in the verse, “they are Awliyaa of each other,” and then secondly to the overall meaning of the verse.
Various translators of the Quran have translated this verse with only slight variations in the choice of words but not in the meaning. All of the translations that I have checked unanimously mention the same meaning of the verse prohibiting alliance and friendship with the Jews and the Christians because (by implication, as do most of the classical commentators have pointed out) they are friends, helpers, guardians, comrades, allies, confidants, and protectors (different choice of words for translating the word Awliyaa) of each other. It is important to note here that in all of the existing English translations of this verse, there is an implied “because” before the phrase ‘they are Awliyaa of each other’ for which reason it seems, from these translations, that Allah has prohibited alliance and friendship with them. Abdullah Yusuf Ali, Pickthall, Asad, Maududi, Daryabadi (whose commentary on the verse will be quoted later), Arberry, Muhsin Khan, Zafrullah Khan, Syed Abdul Latif, Maulana Muhammad Ali, the Bewleys, and a number of others, all have translated the verse in the same manner with only variations in the choice of words when translating the word ‘Awliyaa’. There seems to be no exception to this. The overall meaning of the verse implied in all of these translations is that the believers should not take the Jews and the Christians as Awliyaa because these two parties are Awliyaa of each other.
The Ahmadiy translation of Amatul Rahman Omar and Abdul Mannan Omar has a slight variation that deserves some attention:
O you who believe! Do not take these Jews and the Christians for allies. They are allies of one to another (when against you), and whoso from amongst you takes them for allies, is indeed one of them. Verily Allah does not guide the unjust people to attain their goal. [Emphasis mine]
Though the addition of the word ‘these’ may appear to signify that the translator has considered a definite group amongst the Jews and Christians – not generally all of them – and though she further puts such a prohibition conditional in parentheses (“when against you”) it does not still satisfactorily address the problem. Here the implication of the overall verse is: “Do not take these Jews and the Christians as your Awliyaa because when they turn against you they will become Awliyaa of each other…”
Some Tamil translations, including that of Maulana S.S. Abdul Qadir Sahib have, “… (Amongst them) some are Awliyaa of others (in coming together against you, i.e. Muslims)…” This therefore should mean some of them, not all, are enemies. But in translating the first phrase of the verse, there is no such distinction made. Instead, they too translate (in Tamil) as, “Do not take the Jews and the Christians as Awliyaa…” as if implying all Jews and Christians. However, in the next phrase, they indicate that some of them are Awliyaa of others, not all, as if implying that enmity from their quarters will come from one faction of them, those who ally with each other, not all. This could have been made clearer in the first phrase itself as it was done in the second. Nevertheless, this Tamil translation is better than all that we find in English.
If the prohibition is based on the condition of the Jews and Christians turning against the Muslims, then the translation should read: “You who have Iman, do not take (those) Jews and Christians (who turn against you) as Awliyaa, (because when they turn against you, they will become) Awliyaa of each other …” This however shuts the possibility of alliance with all Jews and Christians because we never know who may turn against the believers and who may not.
Here is Maulana Imran Hosein’s explanatory translation that is clearer and which differs quite largely in meaning from the rest:
Oh you who have faith, do not take (such) Jews and (such) Christians as your Awliah (friends and allies) who (themselves) are Awliyah (friends and allies) of each other. And whoever amongst you turn to them for friendship and alliance, would belong to them (and therefore not to us). Surely Allah does not provide guidance to a people who commit Dhulm.
The first point to note here is that this translation does not nullify all other previous translations of the verse. It adds on to the meanings of the verse; it has in fact opened a new dimension in understanding the verse according to our times; it sheds new guiding light for a political and communal response to the modern world situation that Muslim communities around the world find themselves in.
The differences in meaning between Maulana Hosein’s translation and others are:
- The prohibition of taking the Jews and the Christians as Awliyaa, does not apply to all Jews and Christians.
- Not all Jews and Christians are Awliyaa of each other as history testifies. There has been strong enmity between these two religious communities in the world. In fact Jews and Christians have never been Awliyaa of each other except only until a certain period in history from which moment onwards this new strange alliance has persisted till today, and daily grows stronger. In the last 100 years this alliance/friendship (Wilaayah) has intensified with certain clear objectives within the ranks of this particular alliance. Not only that, even within the Christian world, there persists till today a violent enmity, particularly between Western (Catholic and Protestant) and Eastern (Orthodox) Christendom.
- The prohibition only applies to those Jews and Christians who have formed an alliance amongst themselves. It is this particular community that Allah has prohibited us from taking as our Awliyaa, i.e. those who ally between themselves against the Muslims.
- Since this Wilaayah between the Jews and the Christians did not occur in the time of the Prophet sallallahu alayhi wa sallam, and since it did not occur for some centuries after the Prophet sallallahu alayhi wa sallam, this verse in fact was a foretelling at the time of revelation that there will come a time in the future (which we now have the records of history to testify) when this would happen and at that time when this would be fulfilled, we should bring this verse of the Quran to attention and refrain from taking that particular group as our Awliyaa no matter what the circumstances demand.
- Due to the daily unfolding signs of the Last Day or Islamic Eschatology pertaining to the end of history, or ‘Ilmu Akhiruzzaman – knowledge of the end times – and due to what events have unfolded in the last few centuries that alarmingly indicate the appearance of Dajjal the false messiah in our spatio-temporal dimension, and the sequence of events that would lead to the culmination of Nabi Isa alayhissalam ruling the world from the throne of Nabi Dawud alayhissalam as, in the words of the Messenger of Allah sallallahu alayhi wa sallam, Hakimun ‘Aadil – a Just Ruler – this particular verse shines as a warning for believers to pay particular attention to those amongst the Jews and Christians who would be Dajjal’s foot soldiers and who would facilitate Dajjal’s mission on earth. These Jews and Christians, who have joined hands putting aside their own political, social and theological differences to prepare the grounds for the world order of Dajjal, have themselves betrayed their own people and religion. It is this very verse of Surah al-Ma-idah that has always indicated the appearance of such a group of people from among the Jews and Christians who would be allies of each other in especially assisting Dajjal, who would come to deceive both Jews and Christians to believe in him as the true messiah they have been all the while waiting for. He would deceive them into believing in the truth of his mission on earth and demonstrate to their eyes that the golden age of the Prophets Dawud and Sulaiman alayhimassalam has returned. It is ‘Ilmu Akhiruzzaman that throws new light on the verse and demands a new explanation to the verse. To be straightforward, this verse is the only verse in the Quran, which has foretold of the essentially European, Zionist Judeo-Christian alliance.
None of the above is reflected in any of the translations that have been published so far. None of the above have been dealt with in any Tafseer that has been published so far except a few that have very briefly touched on some of the above points, though not clearly, but at least in passing. The clear reasons, for such a translation that Maulana Hosein has rendered, are the following:
- The Jews and Christians have never been allies, friends, protectors of each other ever since the advent of Nabi Isa alayhissalam and the consequent attempt of the Jews to crucify him. The Christians have never forgiven the Jews for this. The Jews have never lived under the Christians in peace. This is the testimony of history. If we translate what Allah has mentioned in this verse as “they are Awliyaa of each other” it would be a contradiction to what has occurred in history for some two thousand years. The truth is, they have never been Awliyaa of each other. We cannot afford to allow this contradiction with history due to our interpretation of the Quran. Furthermore, even within the ranks of Christendom, there has been great enmity. We cannot afford to overlook the impossibility of alliance between Eastern and Western Christianity.
- The translation would contradict other verses of the Quran. For example, the 113th verse of Surah al-Baqarah:
The Jews say, “The Christians have nothing (true) to stand on,” and the Christians say, “The Jews have nothing to stand on,” although they both recite the Scripture. Thus those who have no knowledge (the Arab polytheists and others) speak the same as their words. But Allah will judge between them on the Day of Resurrection concerning that over which they used to differ.
This verse clearly establishes the conflict between the Jews and the Christians. How then could they be Awliyaa of each other? The only exception to this is that during times of war against a common enemy, two parties may politically postpone their own conflicts in order to first defeat a more important enemy they share. Has this occurred between the Jews and the Christians against the Muslims? No, not until a certain time in history and that too, not all of Jewry and Christendom allied and came together against the Muslims. Only a certain faction did so, and while they did so, there were other Jews and Christians who opposed the formation of such an alliance. Eastern Orthodox Christendom is an example of such opposition within the Christian world against this alliance.
If we do not accept Maulana Hosein’s translation of the verse and then read further down the same Surah, we will come across two more contradicting verses:
- Verse 57: O you who believe! Choose not for Awliyaa such of those who received the Scripture before you (Jews and Christians in particular but may also refer to others who received revelation too), and of the disbelievers, as make a jest and sport of your religion. But keep your duty to Allah if you are true believers. (Parentheses mine)
- Verse 69: Lo! Those who believe, and those who are Jews, and Sabaeans, and Christians – Whosoever believes in Allah and the Last Day and does right – there shall no fear come upon them neither shall they grieve.
How would Allah, Most High, first prohibit believers to take the Jews and Christians as Awliyaa and then immediately thereafter within a matter of twenty verses down the same Surah go on to prohibit believers from taking as their Awliyaa only those amongst the People of the Scripture (which is a term in the Quran that jointly refers to both the Jews and the Christians) and the disbelievers who make a mockery and play of Deen al-Islam? Does this mean that believers are allowed to take as Awliyaa others among the Jews and the Christians who do not make of Islam a mockery and play? How would Allah, Most High, soon thereafter mention with honour that there are also amongst the Jews, Sabaeans, and Christians believers in Allah and the Last Day who will have no fear in the Dunya or grieve on the Day of Judgment? Are we believers, then allowed to take these believers among their ranks as our Awliyaa?
Similarly, Allah, Most High, declares later on in the 82nd verse of the same Surah al-Ma-idah:
You will find the most vehement of mankind in hostility to those who believe (to be) the Jews and the idolaters. And you will find the nearest of them in affection to those who believe (to be) those who say: Lo! We are Christians. That is because there are among them priests and monks, and because they are not proud.
If we are prohibited from taking all Jews and Christians as our Awliyaa then we have before us yet another contradiction with the above verse. How could it be that Allah declares those who say, “Lo! We are Christians”, and declares especially the priests and monks among them who are not arrogant, to be the closest in affection to the Muslims? How could it be that while Allah clarifies that those who are closest in affection to the believers will be the Christians, He also prohibits alliance and friendship with them, political or otherwise?
Though there are other examples, the above mentioned are sufficient to clarify that the 51st verse of Surah al-Ma-idah under discussion here has been translated in a way that contradicts with some important verses of the Quran, at least three of which are in the very same Surah.
- Other verses of the Quran state plainly and clearly that Muslim men are allowed to contract marriage with Jewish and Christian women; that the food of the Jews and Christians has been permitted to Muslims. If this verse prohibits Muslims from friendship and alliance with all Jews and all Christians, then it would be yet another contradiction with the permission to contract matrimony with their women and consuming their food. How could Muslims not take them as friends and allies and yet marry their women and break bread with them? It is not logically coherent, unless the word Awliyaa does not mean friendship in this context but rather a political alliance and protectorate as a community of people beyond social interactions, to support which meaning we would need further proof from the Quran and hadith. The reason for the revelation of this verse (sabab an-nuzul, which we will come to shortly) does not support this view. Even so, such an alliance as a community, directly affects social interactions at the individual level. How could an individual belonging to a community that prohibits friendship and alliance with another community of people go to the latter and break bread with them and propose marriage to a woman from them? How would they look at him? In that case, we may have to answer another question: Would a Muslim individual who is in a situation of seeking political protection from the Jews and Christians, but submitting to the command of this verse who consequently refrains from doing so, still be able to maintain social friendship with them that would allow him to propose marriage to one of their women or break bread with them?
- “Do not take the Jews and the Christians as your Awliyaa” only implies all Jews and Christians unless indicated otherwise which none of the translations have done. Why cannot we engage in such an alliance? Because as the next phrase indicates, they (the Jews and Christians) are Awliyaa of each other, and therefore will, by direct implication, turn against us or betray us. If we take this meaning, which is what all translations offer us, it will similarly contradict the eighth and ninth verses of Surah al-Mumtahinah, where Allah, Most High, clarifies:
Allah does not forbid you from those who do not fight you because of religion and do not expel you from your homes – from being righteous toward them and acting justly toward them. Indeed Allah loves those who act justly. Allah only forbids you from those who fight you because of religion and expel you from your homes and aid in your expulsion – (forbids) that you make allies of them. And whoever makes allies of them, then it is those who are the wrongdoers.
Hence according to this verse of the Quran, it is clear that this Wilaayah – alliance, friendship, and dependence on their protection – is only forbidden with some of them, not all. It cannot be that this verse is not referring to the Jews and the Christians, because how is it that Allah, the Most Just, prohibits Wilaayah with the Jews and the Christians, and then when it concerns others who are not Jews and Christians, He only prohibits Wilaayah with those who are hostile and ready to fight while allowing it with others who are not hostile? It is not befitting Allah’s Justice; it would be a grave error on our part to say so. If this is not shown in the translation of the main verse in discussion here, then there would be a clear contradiction because while one verse prohibits Wilaayah generally with the Jews and the Christians, another verse clarifies who we can actually maintain good ties, friendship and alliance with.
Maulana Hosein’s translation in fact clarifies all the apparent contradictions with other verses of the Quran, which otherwise we will not be able to explain. It also clarifies the seeming contradictions with history.
Now we turn to the tafaaseer (commentaries) of this verse that both classical as well as modern scholars have offered us so far. We shall begin with the reasons for the revelation of this verse, because it is necessary to understand the context of its revelation, and then move on to the discussion on the meaning of the verse.
As far as the reasons for the revelation of this verse are concerned, we find three narrations in the classical tafaaseer. From Tabari and Ibn ‘Atiyya, we summarise the following three instances to be the reasons for revelation. In the Tafsir of Ibn Katheer, we find a fourth incident, which is very similar to the three in Tabari and Ibn ‘Atiyya and hence may be omitted from our discussion.
It must first be borne in mind that according to Sayyidah Aishah radiyallahu anha, Surah al-Ma-idah was the last Surah to be revealed and that what is in this Surah holds the last say in terms of the lawful and the prohibited. Consequently, when we look at all the verses of the Quran, which prohibit Wilaayah with those who are outside the fold of Islam – and these verses are numerous – we would quite easily understand that the verses in Surah al-Ma-idah repeating the prohibition should be taken as the final seal on the matter in case of any doubt in the prohibition, or, as throwing new light on the prohibition. Let us look at one verse in Surah al-Taubah to elaborate the matter. Though this ayah was revealed much later than the 51st verse of Surah al-Ma-idah, it is necessary to discuss this here before we look at the sabab an-nuzul:
O you who believe! Choose not your fathers nor your brothers for Awliyaa if they take pleasure in disbelief (kufr) rather than faith iman). Whoever of you takes them for Awliyaa, such are wrongdoers. [Verse 23]
Now, the essential question to ask is: While Allah, Subhaanahu wa Ta’aala, had already made it abundantly clear that a believer is prohibited from taking even his own brothers and fathers as his Awliyaa if they take pleasure in kufr rather than iman, that is, under a condition of enmity, why is there a need for yet another verse to repeat the prohibition vis-à-vis Jews and Christians who are anyway more distant than one’s own brothers and fathers? Is it not understood that if one’s very own brothers and fathers cannot be taken as Awliyaa when they prefer kufr to iman, what more the Jews and the Christians? On the other hand, it is also necessary to ask: If the Jews and Christians are closer in faith to a Muslim than his own brothers and fathers can these Jews and Christians then be taken as Awliyaa? The verse in discussion here, therefore must have been revealed to clarify something else more profound which is what Maulana Hosein’s explanatory translation has brought to light.
We may deduce from this that while Allah, Most High, had already made it abundantly clear who believers are allowed to take as their Awliyaa and who not, this verse of Surah al-Ma-idah was revealed to indicate of a new Judeo-Christian alliance to come in the future that would draw clear lines to differentiate who among the Jews and Christians could be allies, friends and confidants of the believers and who categorically cannot be. If this verse were not revealed, we would not know of this unprecedented and strange alliance within the ranks of the People of the Scripture that believers as a polity would have to be especially wary of not to engage with especially politically and economically towards the end of history.
Secondly it must be taken into serious consideration that Madinah had from the People of the Book, a Jewish community alone. As for the Christian community, though there were individuals present, they were as a community or polity, all mostly found in Bilad ash-Shaam, or Greater Syria.
Now returning to the reasons for the revelation of the verse, we find the following:
- It is reported from Az-Zuhri that after the victory of Badr, the Prophet sallallahu alayhi wa sallam wanted to kill the captives from the Jews of Banu Qaynuqa’. ‘Ubadah ibn as-Samit radiyallahu anhu came to the Prophet sallallahu alayhi wa sallam and said that he has many allies and protectors (Awliyaa) from among the Jews. He then carried on to say that he now has turned away from them towards Allah and His Messenger sallallahu alayhi wa sallam and has made himself free from depending on them for protection and help (Wilaayah). At that point, Abdullah ibn Ubayy ibn Salool, the munafiq (hypocrite), came similarly to the Messenger of Allah sallallahu alayhi wa sallam and said that as for him, he fears that a change of fortune would befall him and therefore he cannot afford to give up his Wilaayah with the Jews, implying that in case the Jews gain the upper hand in their battle for power against the Muslims, his retaining them as his protectors and allies would only continue to benefit him. The Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, then said: ‘O Abu’l-Hubab, that which you reserve to yourself of the guardianship of the Jews apart from ‘Ubadah ibn al-Samit is all yours and none of it is his’. In another narration, it is reported that the Prophet sallallahu alayhi wa sallam said, “I have given them to you.” Abdullah ibn Ubayy replied: ‘I accept’. It was at this point that the verse was revealed from “O you who believe!” to “It is the party of Allah who will be victorious”. Most of the classical tafaaseer have recorded this as the reason for the revelation of the verse.
- The second instance – narrated from as-Sadiy – to have occurred just after the battle of Uhud. The situation had become severe for a group of Muslims who had security reasons to fear that the non-believers who were hostile towards them may overpower them and put their survival at risk. Therefore two men came out and declared something similar to what Abdullah ibn Ubayy had done in the above instance. One of them said that he had chosen to maintain his Wilaayah with the Yahud (in Madinah) and another said that he had chosen to maintain his Wilaayah with the Christians in Shaam. The names of these two men are not mentioned in the narrations. At this point the verse descended prohibiting both of them from doing so. In this case the verse would mean that one should not take the Jews (in Madinah) as their Awliyaa or the Christians (in Shaam) as their Awliyaa, because they are Awliyaa of each other, meaning, the Jews (in Madinah) were Awliyaa of each other and the Christians (in Shaam) were Awliyaa of each other. This further means that at the event of a Jewish or Christian conflict with the Muslims, even though those Muslims who were under the protection of the Jews in Madinah or Christians in Shaam had received a contractual promise of protection from the respective Jews and Christians, they would not be spared or reserved, but would suffer the same enmity from their (Jewish or Christian) quarters as would the rest of the Muslims.
- The third reason is reported from ‘Ikrimah to have occurred just after the battle of Khandaq (trench). The Jews of Banu Qurayzah had breached their contract with the Muslims by not only conspiring with the Quraysh against the Muslims but also by fighting alongside the Quraysh against the Muslims. At the end of the battle, they were defeated and found themselves under siege by the Muslims. The siege lasted for fifteen to twenty days at the end of which period they surrendered. While the Muslims were deciding in a Shura (council) how to now deal with them – Banu Qurayzah – Abu Lubabah was consulted who gave the clear statement that they should be slaughtered. When Banu Qurayzah attempted to negotiate by requesting Sa’d ibn Mu’adh, who was their Haleef in Madinah on the side of the Muslims (a Haleef is someone under the protection of a tribe but not associated with them through kinship), to give the ruling with the hope that perhaps he would be lenient with them since they had once promised him protection and security, Sa’d gave the same ruling as Abu Lubabah that they should be slaughtered. It was at this moment that the verse descended prohibiting any alliance with them. Rasulullah sallallahu alayhi wa sallam then passed the verdict and they were killed. In this case as it was in the first instance, the verse was a command against the Jews in Madinah who had breached their contract with the Muslims. It is noteworthy that neither in the first instance nor in this third instance were there any Christians involved in the implication of the verse.
Which was the exact reason for revelation we do not know and it is not our immediate concern here to decide on this because on all three cases the Divine injunction was clearly prohibiting Wilaayah with both the Jews and the Christians (either jointly or separately). However, we may take the first instance to be the most quoted amongst all the four. Further, the verse that follows (i.e. verse 52) confirms that the first instance was the most likely reason for the revelation of the verse. Verse 52 reads:
“You will see those, in whose hearts is a disease (the hypocrites), race to be with them (the disbelievers, Yahud and Nasara) saying: We fear that a turn in fortune may overtake us…” This verse in fact refers to Abdullah ibn Ubayy who is quoted to have used the same words mentioned in the verse. The two verses were in fact revealed together.
Now we are able to turn to the classical commentaries on the verse proper since we have understood the context of its revelation.
Classical tafaaseer on the verse
- Prohibition is on taking them as one’s Awliyaa. Most of the discussion in the commentaries is on what it means to take them as Awliyaa, what constitutes this and what is not included in taking them as Awliyaa. What is not mentioned in the classical commentaries is whether are we allowed at all to take any from their ranks as Awliyaa if this does not refer to all Jews and Christians, especially in case they are not hostile or rather friendly and trustable. All implications of most classical commentaries point to the prohibition of taking all of them, regardless of whether they are hostile or not, as Awliyaa. An-Nasafi, for example, states that this is due to the reason that Kufr (disbelieve) is one millah, pointing to the hadith that bears these words. Prohibition therefore is general, referring to all Jews and Christians, for all times and unconditional because when it suits them they may easily conspire and turn against the Muslims even though they are against each other with clear hatred within their own ranks.
- Verse is generally referring to the Muslims but beneath the general command it is in reality addressing the hypocrites (munafiqun) who are hidden amongst the Muslims. This can be seen in the context of the verse, which we will come to later. Imam al-Qurtubi, ash-Shawkani, and as-Sawi amongst others have mentioned this.
- Only English translations and commentaries show that the prohibition is conditional – most probably based on some classical tafaaseer which I am unable to locate – and therefore applies only in war or if the Jews and Christians are hostile to the Muslims. If they are not hostile, neutral or even friendly, no commentary has pointed out whether there is a possibility of alliance with them. Refer below to Dr. Asad whose commentaries succinctly summarise most of the classical tafaaseer.
- Ibn ‘Atiyyah states that Ubayy ibn Ka’b and Abdullah ibn ‘Abbas (radiyallahu anhuma) read the verse in a different harf (there were seven ahruf that the Prophet sallallahu alayhi wa sallam said the Quran was revealed in, all of which were destroyed during Sayyiduna Uthman’s (r.a.) time except for one which has reached us now). In this reading, the two sahabah mentioned above read “Arbaaban” instead of “Awliyaa”. Arbaaban means lords and gods, or even masters that a slave submits to. We may therefore say that Awliyaa in this verse takes on a stronger meaning than protectors and friends. However, we do not have this reading anymore.
- Prohibition does not apply to trade, marriage or such social dealings according to a clear statement of Abdullah ibn Abbas (r.a.), who said: “Eat from what they slaughter and marry from their women for Allah, Most High, has said in His Book, ‘O you who believe, do not take the Jews and the Christians as Awliyaa…’ and one does not become part of them except through Wilaayah, (only) then would one become part of them.” This statement means such social dealings as eating from their meat and marrying their women do not constitute taking them as Awliyaa. (at-Tabari)
- Most of the tafaaseer state that the justification (‘illah) of such a prohibition is the following phrase “ba’duhum Awliyaa-u ba’d” – meaning the prohibition is because they are Awliyaa of each other. This opens the room for discussion or raises the question that in case they (those the verse prohibits Muslims from entering into friendship and alliance) are not Awliyaa of each other, would the prohibition then be nullified? This in fact confirms with Maulana Hosein’s interpretation of the verse. This is because if the ‘illah is that they are Awliyaa of each other, then when such an ‘illah is absent, the prohibition should not be binding anymore. In that case, there is room for alliance with those who are not hostile to the Muslims and who are not Awliyaa of each other. However, the classical commentaries do not mention what is the ruling in case the ‘illah is absent.
- “They are Awliyaa of each other” does not mean Jews and Christians are Awliyaa of each other because they have never been in such friendship and alliance. It rather means the Jews are Awliyaa of each to other Jews and the Christians are Awliyaa of each to other Christians. Therefore the verse refers to each of the two parties separately. Imam as-Sawi said this clearly in his commentary: “Jumlatun Musta’nifah (a grammatical term of the Arabic language); and the meaning (is that) some within each party are Awliyaa of others in that party, because between the Jews and the Christians is a mighty enmity.” This too adds strength to Maulana Hosein’s commentary to the verse because here the historical enmity between the Jews and the Christians is taken into account. However, those commentaries that are of this opinion stop there and continue to say that we are still prohibited from taking all Jews and all Christians as Awliyaa.
- If you do so, you become one of them, means you have left the fold of Islam – that is, Murtad, or joined their Deen. Ibn Abbas said, “If you join them in their Deen, you have entered their Kufr, if you join them in treaty, you have entered Mukhalafat al-Amr.
- No classical commentary, any one amongst all those which I have referred to, has mentioned in any slight manner if this verse is in any way a foretelling of a future, mysterious alliance that would unfold between Jews and Christians – who are by nature of their beliefs, practices and historical relations – two conflicting polities.
- Professor Hamka’s Tafsir al-Azhar, a commentary to the Quran in Malay.
- Dr. Asad’s English commentary to the Quran.
- Maulana Abdul Majid Daryabadi’s English commentary to the Quran.
- Professor Hamka’s commentary paraphrased in my own words:
- Maulana Abdul Majid Daryabadi:
- Dr. Asad:
- Not all Jews and Christians are enemies of the Muslims.
- The Quran came to affirm the Torah and the Gospel and to complete Divine revelation for mankind through Prophet Muhammad sallallahu alayhi wa sallam.
- There are amongst the Jews and the Christians those who are believers and therefore could be taken as Awliyaa.
- For the individual Muslim as well as the Muslim polity there remains the door of alliance and integrated living with the Jews and Christians always open.
- There are intermittent warnings issued to the hypocrites who are outwardly Muslim but who hide their denial of truth, and thereby always incline to the disbelievers in Nabi Muhammad sallallahu alayhi wa sallam and the Quran which includes Jews and Christians.
- Nabi Isa alayhissalam forms an important part of the subject since the Surah not only speaks of him in the middle but returns to his subject at the end. Though there appear in these passages divine warnings directed to the Christians, we should take into account that there are similarly praises of them too, to the extent that Allah, Most High, in His divine wisdom, confirms that there are some amongst them whom believers will find to be closest in affection. It is not difficult to understand that Muslims can therefore take such Christians as their Awliyaa. The Surah is even named after an event in the life of Nabi Isa alayhissalam. This is also important to consider because Dajjal whose role it is to impersonate the Messiah will rule the world from Jerusalem declaring himself to be the Messiah while a Judeo-Christian alliance is what will unite under him believing in him as the true Messiah and facilitating his coming to and establishment of power.
- As much as Allah, Most High, has spoken of Nabi Isa alayhissalam in this Surah, so much has He also spoken of Nabi Musa alayhissalam. As Nabi Isa is for the Christians, so is Nabi Musa for the Jews (alayhimassalam). They did not fight with Nabi Musa to conquer the Holy Land by which they openly rebelled against Allah and His Messenger, but there would come a time when they would go and fight under the sway of the false Messiah (Dajjal) with a Christian backing and the Christians too would go and fight under Dajjal’s sway with a Jewish backing (as it was the case during the Crusades) to take control of the Holy Land. This alliance revolving around controlling the Holy Land and the Levant is directly founded on this 51st verse of the Surah.
But Allah says in the Quran that He sent down the Quran for a people who think, who reflect, who ponder. He, Most High, said in Surah an-Nahl, verse 44: “…We have revealed unto you the Remembrance (Quran) that you may explain to mankind that which has been revealed for them, and that they may reflect.” Fikr is not only thinking, but thinking things through. In this case, we are forced due to our world situation and the political state of the Muslims vis-à-vis the Jews and the Christians, to think things through and not entirely rely on the classical tafaaseer alone in seeking an explanation from the Quran to explain the world today. While thinking things through, we get fresh knowledge and instruction from the Quran. Maulana Hosein has done exactly this. In fact, Maulana Hosein’s interpretation of the verse does not in any way contradict any of the classical tafaaseer that the scholars of Islam today, who are trapped in religious conservatism, hold on tightly to as if saying that what the scholars of the past have explained is enough and that there is no need to interpret the Quran anew. While doing that, they firstly restrict the knowledge of the Quran to the past, and secondly, fail to explain the modern world according to the Quran. How could they find what was expressed in the past explaining what is happening today?
Well, what exactly is it regarding the modern world situation that they fail to explain using the Quran?
Before we answer that question, let us firstly turn to three important modern commentaries of the Quran – written within the last hundred years – that have thrown new light on the verse, all of them adding more strength to Maulana Hosein’s interpretation:
Modern Tafaaseer – Prof. Hamka, Dr. Asad and Maulana Daryabadi
In 1964, Pope Paulus VI, declared an official Christian (Catholic in particular) forgiveness for the Jews; that they are free of their sins, one of it being their attempt to crucify Nabi Isa alayhissalam. This is none other than political forgiveness. It is the strength of the Jews, who have a lot of wealth, to work together with the Christians in fighting what they consider the threat of Islam. Immediately after that, in 1967, Arab countries were attacked by the Jews (Israel) for four days (referring to the Six Day War) and Bait al-Maqdis was seized from the hands of the Muslims even though they – the Muslims – had control over Bait al-Maqdis before this for fourteen centuries. Perhaps during the time of Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) this was not yet seen because in Madinah a large group of Jews were congregated as a community but the Christians were in Shaam. But due to the miracles of the Quran, we see today what has happened in the passage of time and we see with crystal clarity how the Christians and the Jews collaborate in turning against the Muslims and Islam. The verse in fact says that the two religious communities that were enemies of each other will one day come together in facing their enemy, that is Islam, until the state of Israel will dominate the lands of Islam with the help of the Christian communities who are actually supposed to be more inclined to help the Muslims. This is because the Jews oppose the Christians not only by rejecting Isa alayhissalam as a Prophet and Messiah, but also that he was an illegitimate child while Muslims affirm Isa alayhissalam. This makes Muslims closer to Christians and therefore make Christians more inclined to help Muslims. However, what has occurred is the opposite.
“The Jews and Christians have much in common, and can, and do, readily form a combination against Islam. As the most recent instance of their animosity against Islam, witness the Christian Britain’s zealous sponsoring of ‘Zionism’ and ‘Jewish home in Palestine.’”
In his note to verse 28 of Surah Aali ‘Imran: “Let not the believers take those who deny the truth (Kafirun) for their allies (Awliyaa) in preference to the believers…” he says: “I.e., in cases where the interests of those “deniers of truth” clash with the interests of the believers (Manar III, 278).”
In his note to verse 139 of Surah an-Nisaa: “As for those who take the deniers of the truth for their allies in preference to the believers – do they hope to be honoured by them when, behold, all honour belongs to God [alone]”, he says: “However, the term “allies” (awliyaa sing. waliy) does not indicate, in this context, merely political alliances. More than anything else, it obviously alludes to a “moral alliance” with the deniers of the truth: that is to say, to an adoption of their way of life in preference to the way of life of the believers, in the hope of being “honoured”, or accepted as equals, by the former. Since the imitation of the way of life of confirmed unbelievers must obviously conflict with the moral principles demanded by true faith, it unavoidably leads to a gradual abandonment of those principles.”
In his note to verse 51 of Surah al-Ma-idah, the verse of our subject, he says: “According to most of the commentators (e.g., Tabari), this means that each of the two communities extends genuine friendship only to its own adherents – i.e., the Jews to the Jews, and the Christians to the Christians – and cannot, therefore, be expected to be really friendly towards the followers of the Quran… However, as has been made abundantly clear in 60:7-9 (and implied in verse 57 of this surah), this prohibition of a “moral alliance” with non-Muslims does not constitute an injunction against normal, friendly relations with such of them as are well-disposed towards Muslims. It should be borne in mind that the term waliy has several shades of meaning: “ally”, “friend”, “helper”, “protector”, etc. The choice of the particular term – and sometimes a combination of two terms – is always dependent on the context.
While Maulana Daryabadi’s commentary points out that this verse refers to the Zionist attempt in establishing the State of Israel, in the context of his time, more relevant to our time too, and while Dr. Asad’s commentary succinctly summarises one part of the classical commentaries to the verse in the light of a “moral alliance” – namely the commentaries to that part where Allah says: “those from you who turn to them for alliance is part of them…” – it is in fact Prof. Hamka’s commentary which strongly supports Maulana Hosein’s commentary to the verse. It is Prof. Hamka’s tafsir that comes closest to Maulana Hosein’s commentary.
Now, in thinking things through, let us look at the context of the verse in Surah al-Ma-idah. It is important to read the verse together with what precedes it and what follows it.
The passages throughout the Surah linked to our study here are verses 5-19, 32, 41-88, 110-120. In these passages, Allah, Most High, addresses the Jews, the Christians, the Muslims and the hypocrites. It is clear that in the attempt to explain Maulana Hosein’s commentary on the verse, the whole Surah should be read first. It should be clear in one reading that:
From the context of the verse therefore, we should be able to understand that the Euro-Zionist, Judeo-Christian alliance in their attempt to rule the Holy Land and dominate the Levant cannot include all Christians and all Jews. Those who initially constituted its ranks were small in number in comparison to the whole of the Judeo-Christian world and did not appear in history except about five hundred years after the Quran was revealed. That community of people gradually grew stronger and became superpowers of the world in the last hundred years. More importantly, the people of this alliance took control of the Holy Land, established the State of Israel and have now successfully raised it to the level of a nuclear superpower capable of defying any other power in the world. They have done all of this while a large number of Christians and a significant number of Jews not only loathed at them and refused to join them, but were even so much as victimised by them. The verses of Surah al-Ma-idah read in context will prove beyond doubt that Muslims are not prohibited from allying with such vicitimised Jews and Christians who recognise injustice and who are courageously willing to defy the Judeo-Christian Zionist alliance. All of this becomes clear only in context. For that the whole Surah must be read.
The verses of the Quran are interconnected. In Surah al-An’am, verse 114, Allah, Most Wise, describes the Quran as Mufassalan – joint together and fully explained, meaning all the verses are well connected and explain each other. They are neither isolated nor does each stand alone. In order to think things through it is not correct to look at this verse alone. It is a requisite to connect it with other verses of the Quran.
It is more enlightening as is always the case with the verses of the Quran if it is read as a finely arranged part of the entire Surah of al-Ma-idah.
Does the Quran explain the world today?
Let us now return to answer the question: What exactly is it regarding the modern world situation that Muslim scholars trapped in religious conservatism fail to explain using the Quran?
In attempting to understand the modern world using the Book of Allah, Most Wise, one must have a grasp over the trails of history that has built up to the present world situation. If one has no idea of the modern world and where it is leading, one cannot turn to the Quran to take fresh knowledge from it. The opposite is also true. If one does not turn to the Quran to understand the modern world and take heed and warning on what is unfolding today and what is to come tomorrow, one will remain in the dark concerning them. All of this is to understand the modern world accurately and respond to it appropriately.
With that light, let us first remember that we are now looking at the Judeo-Christian world. There is a faction of this group of people who are waging war on Islam and there is another faction amongst them who have defied them and have refused to join them in their hegemonic rule, which latter faction have consequently been subjected to economic and political victimisation. In the words of German legalist, Carl Schmitt, there is no justis hostis in the world today. In other words, for those who rule the world today there is no tolerable enemy; the enemy has no right to exist; he must be demonised and depoliticised; he must be eliminated. Amongst those who are subjected to such victimisation, are Christians and Jews too. Not all Christians and all Jews are hell-bent on a hegemonic control over the world. Here is where we have to question: If Allah, Most Wise, has prohibited believers from taking as their Awliyaa all Jews and all Christians, and even if this prohibition is conditional on the count that this refers only to those who are hostile to Islam and the Muslims, then how do we deal with those Jews and Christians who not only defy the perpetrators of this political and economic bullying, but who are similarly victimised together with the Muslims and who have willingly opened their doors to Islam and the Muslims?
The perfect example of this happened in the very blessed lifetime of Rasulullah sallallahu alayhi wa sallam in the case of the Christian King, Najashi, of Abyssinia. He was not part of the Qurayshi and Jewish hostility against Islam and the Muslims; he further offered his territory as a place of asylum that the Muslims could seek refuge in, and he finally defied the serpentine negotiations from the part of the Quraysh to hand over the Muslims to them. He continued to protect them until he died, long after the 51st verse of Surah al-Ma-idah was revealed. The Messenger of Allah, sallallahu alayhi wa sallam, went to the extent of accepting him as a believer and offered the Salat al-Janazah for him from Madinah when he passed away in Abyssinia. The most important point to note here is that when this verse of the Quran was revealed, the Prophet sallallahu alayhi wa sallam did not demand the Muslims to give up the asylum they had sought in Abyssinia, which means to give up the Wilaayah with Christian Abyssinia they were under, and return to Madinah. If what was meant in this verse is referring to all Jews and all Christians, the Prophet sallallahu alayhi wa sallam would have called the Muslims to give up their homes in Abyssinia and return to Madinah. But Sayyiduna Ja’far radiyallahu anhu, one of the most beloved companions of the Prophet sallallahu alayhi wa sallam remained in Abyssinia until the war of Mu’tah, which occurred more than five years after this verse was revealed.
Who are these people who have imposed their hegemony over the rest of the world? They are surely Christians and Jews who were themselves never allies of each other. They are Christians and Jews whose alliance in the trails of history commenced with their joint political and martial objective to liberate the Holy Land from Muslim rule.
In fact the story could begin as early as the first Crusades in which an Euro-Christian world was funded by Jews to gather enough military strength to conquer the Holy Land – Jerusalem – and establish a Jewish national home there. They did not succeed but briefly until Sultan Salahuddin Ayyubi courageously and brilliantly wrested control of Jerusalem again. It is significant to register into our study the fact that while Europe in her Judeo-Christian effort fought wars with the Muslim world to conquer Jerusalem, they similarly perpetrated such abominable crimes on Eastern Orthodox Christians, who were part of the kingdom of Constantinople, that it would be utterly unjust on our part to include the victims of that crime in the same Judeo-Christian alliance that commenced a hostile religious struggle against the Muslims and Muslim lands. In fact the story could even begin with the Khazars – also known today as the thirteenth tribe of the Jews – who embraced Judaism overnight when they clinically surveyed the world for a religion to embrace. Or, we could come down in history to a later time when colonialism and mercantilism ravaged Muslim lands by a forceful storm as it were and replaced their rule, when they left the lands in the hands of the people, with what we today call the secular nation-state. These colonial powers were made up of the same Judeo-Christian alliance that started the Crusades.
However, such a historical narration would require another separate book to be written. What would suffice here is to look merely at what happened to Jerusalem – the blessed land where the three Abrahamic faiths had existed under Muslim rule for thirteen centuries – within the last hundred years.
When Fir’aun’s body was discovered, the Zionist movement was established very soon thereafter. Within two decades came the Balfour declaration – 1917 – which promised the Jews a national home in Palestine. Those who did so were part of the same Christian world that had commenced the Crusades with the same objective. It was Britain, Christian Britain. America and Europe hopped onto the wagon and constituted a joint alliance with their Jewish funders who were primarily European Jews. By this time, the hatred the Christians had for the Jews had already been done away with. The Ottoman Empire was dismantled; the backbone of Christian Russia – or the Third Rome – was similarly broken and replaced with Communism.
It was this very same alliance that mysteriously shook hands with Joseph Stalin, the Jew, just before the commencement of the Cold War (in fact, even Lenin and Trotsky, who were as Jew as Stalin, themselves originated from the same ranks). At that moment, just when the Cold War commenced, the Jewish state of Israel was established and their independence declared as a follow up and success of the Balfour Declaration. That Cold War was a sham because those who were leading it were only two factions within the same ranks of Gog and Magog who liberated the Holy Land from Muslim rule, who shook hands when they wanted to and had no qualms about fighting each other like waves crashing onto each other when they deemed it fit.
During the Cold War, the secular nation-state of Israel rose to power in the region and being armed to the teeth, ready for a display of her military strength was further supported by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which was already established by that time as a response to the Cold War sham. Then Pope Paulus VI declared a religio-political forgiveness for the Jews from the part of the Catholic world, as Prof. Hamka pointed out in his tafsir to the Quranic verse in discussion, thereby cementing the alliance further. The Protestants had no objection to it. They shook hands again. It was at this time that the Six-Day War commenced as a demonstration of the power that Israel – not baby Israel anymore – possessed.
The persecuted Orthodox Christians and the persecuted Orthodox Jews never joined this American-Euro-Israeli alliance. They were victimised as much as they were during the Crusades, and the victimisation of them continued until recently when they were challenged by the nuclear, economic, political and military power that energy-rich Russia and her allies possess.
Here it is necessary to point out that a spilt occurred in the Christian world that drew a line between Western Christianity and Eastern Christianity, and it requires experts in the history of Christian polity, beyond the scope of this essay, to explain why geography had a part to play in this, so much so that Catholicism and Protestantism belonged to the geographical West and Orthodox Christianity belonged to the geographical East. African Christianity that always maintained friendly ties with the Muslim world was hijacked by this Western Christianity in the last hundred years, so much so that today we find brutal wars between Christians and Muslims in Africa utterly unbefitting African history. These wars are funded and presided over by NATO in maintaining their strategic hegemony over the natural resources and lands of Africa, and that is population control too by implication. These forces are the same that belong to the ranks of the American-Euro-Israeli alliance.
For a complete study of the split that occurred in the Christian world, please refer to Graham E. Fuller’s splendid book, A World Without Islam, which explains the subject in the most detailed manner. Russia and the world of Orthodox Christianity are not on the side of that Judeo-Christian alliance, which gave to Israel her secular nation-state. Greece too is not. A new Cold War commenced with the Iraq War in the year 2003. Russia and her allies have ever since been treated like an untrustworthy and unwanted power in the United Nations who is the only other power capable of challenging the American-Euro-Israeli hegemony. The American-Euro-Israeli alliance has not been able to deal with Russia and her allies the way they would have wanted to. Furthermore, Russia and her allies today, after the commencement of the Iraq War in 2003, have proven to be an ally that Muslims can turn to in these times. Today twelve years have passed after the Iraq War commenced. Twelve years is enough time to test the waters for an effective political ally in challenging the political crimes that have been visited on the Muslims for a hundred years now.
That means, we cannot anymore hold on to the view that the 51st verse of Surah al-Ma-idah is referring to all Jews and all Christians. Those who say such a thing will have to remain politically and historically uneducated for as long as they continue to say so. They cannot then say that Allah, Most High, said so and put the blame on the Quran for prohibiting them from doing so, let alone putting the blame on Allah, Subhaanahu Wa Ta’ala. This ignorance of history, and particularly the political history of the world, even the political history of the first community of Madinah al-Munawwarah, must be attributed to their own incompetency, at least academic incompetency if not incompetency in the capacity to think. Muslim scholarship in our days has failed in this regard and has no solution to the political problems of the Muslim world today. However, this meaning that Maulana Hosein has given to the verse is not merely due to giving a solution to the political problems of the world today. It is in fact the only way to be coherent in our approach to the Quran as a whole, to history and to the modern world situation.
As for now, what we see in the world today is that America and her pool of allies dominate political and economic control over the world. America remains the ruling state in the world, and that means she has the capacity to defy any other political challenger. Israel on the other hand, has risen to a nuclear power capable of waging war against any other state; she defies her very protectors – the United Nations Security Council, Britain and America and many other states in Europe. She is poised to become the ruling state in the world.
It is this verse in Surah al-Ma-idah that explains the powers that dominate the world today. It is precisely this political alliance that comprises of a mysterious Western Judeo-Christian pool of hell-bent perpetrators of fasad in the lands and in particular the Holy Land, including the Muslim world, that Allah, Most Wise, has referred to here. These are those who have allied amongst themselves, while having been enemies in all of history before, to facilitate for something more ominous to yet unfold in the Holy Land not long from now. If we understand this verse to mean all Jews and all Christians, then we will never be able to explain the contradictions it will create with the rest of the Quran; the political turmoil that the unsuspecting populations of the world is being churned in today; we will never understand the new Cold War that is unfolding before our very eyes; we will never understand and be able to explain history; we will never understand what is happening in the Holy Land after two thousand years. Most importantly we will never be able to understand this mysterious Judeo-Christian alliance that controls the world today. This alliance will then remain forever a mystery to us. This verse in Surah al-Ma-idah is the most important verse that explains all of this.
This verse in Surah al-Maidah is the most important verse that explains what Allah, Most High, has mentioned in the opening verses of Surah al-Rum (31). He said that Rome will be victorious and “on that day, the believers will rejoice.” Why would a Roman victory against her enemies be a reason for Muslims to rejoice? Why would Muslims rejoice over a Christian victory if Allah has forbidden Muslims to enter into any kind of alliance with all Jews and all Christians? It is this verse in Surah al-Ma-idah that explains which part of the Judeo-Christian world we are allowed to enter into an alliance with and which part of that same Judeo-Christian world we are prohibited from allying with. This verse does describe to us in parallel which part of the Christian world will be closest in faith to the Muslims mentioned in verse 82 of the same Surah al-Ma-idah.
Dajjal and the destiny of Jerusalem
Let us now return to Israel and the Balfour Declaration before we conclude. It would not be justified to conclude this essay without including Dajjal and his role towards the end of history. This verse of Surah al-Ma-idah is certainly linked strongly to Dajjal’s role in impersonating the Messiah when he comes into our dimension of existence, primary because of what we have witnessed of events unfolding in the last hundred years.
In order for Dajjal to successfully deceive the world into believing in him as the Messiah who would, according to scriptural basis, rule the world from the throne of Nabi Dawud alayhissalam in Jerusalem, he would have to do a number of things:
- Liberate the Holy Land from Muslim rule.
- Establish the state and consequently the kingdom of Israel.
- Raise that power to the ruling state in the world.
- Then appear and sit on the throne and declare that he is the prophesied Messiah and that the throne of David has returned.
Now, it is impossible for anyone to deny that it was precisely this Judeo-Christian alliance that we have discussed so far, which has successfully fulfilled numbers one and two above. If Dajjal is to come and declare himself the Messiah, that cannot happen unless number three too comes to pass. It therefore only remains for us to witness Israel taking over from the United States of America as the ruling state in the world. Whether India and China becomes the ruling state in the world as it has been of much debate, cannot be the concern of those who study the modern world using the Quran. It is Israel that we would have to pay particular attention to.
More than two thousand years after Allah, Most Majestic is He, expelled the Jews from the Holy Land for the crime they committed against His Messenger, Nabi Isa, alayhissalam, they returned to the Holy Land gradually over a matter of about three decades to reclaim it as their own. This occurred between the Balfour Declaration in 1917 and the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. The reference to this has been mentioned in the Quran in the 91st and 92nd verses of Surah al-Anbiya, where Allah laid down clearly that it would be the function of Gog and Magog to cause the Jews to return to the Holy Land. From the testimony of history, what we witnessed in the world from 1917-48, it is clear that those who facilitated the return of the Jews to the Holy Land were precisely those very same Jews and Christians who allied amongst themselves in the very beginning effort of the First Crusades. Though they were not successful then, they eventually became successful in 1948. It should therefore be established from the clear and distinct link between the two verses (91 and 92) of Surah al-Anbiya and the 51st verse of Surah al-Ma-idah that Gog Magog is located in the very Judeo-Christian alliance that would cause the return of the Jews to the Holy Land and who would, as we witness clearly unfolding now before our very eyes – for those who have eyes to read the modern world using the Quran – raise that state of Israel to become the ruling state in the world for Dajjal to finally appear in our dimension of existence and declare himself the King of the Jews, the Promised Messiah.
If we fail to grasp the meaning behind the 51st verse of Surah al-Ma-idah to be the very description of Gog and Magog, then we will remain blind to Allah’s warning in the Quran not to take them, this particular Judeo-Christian alliance, or in other words Gog and Magog as our Awliyaa. We will never understand who Gog and Magog are and we will never understand that after all that have already unfolded in the political world today, what remains is only Israel’s rise to become the ruling state in the world. We will never understand that it is this Judeo-Christian alliance, in which ranks will be Dajjal’s foot soldiers.
The problem with modern scholarship is that anything new that comes out from a credible scholar is rejected on the grounds that the scholars of the past did not hold such opinions. This is what may be called religious conservatism. Secondly, anything new that comes out from a credible scholar is rejected on the grounds that it contradicts the scholars of the past, while it actually may not. Why should it not be taken as something that adds on new knowledge to the scholarship of the past?
The essential question now is: Are we going to understand and attempt to explain the modern world using the Quran or remain in the dark about what has happened in history and what is to unfold tomorrow because of our holding on obdurately to what the noble scholars of Islam had written down in the past, without allowing ourselves any room to think things through? Consequently, we should also ask: Does the Quran prohibit us from doing that?
We cannot afford to reserve knowledge of Allah’s Book, Most Wise is He, to the noble scholars of the past. They could not have seen what would unfold in the years between 1917-48, for example, simply because it did not happen in their time. Prof. Hamka saw what happened in his time and gave new meaning to the verse of Surah al-Ma-idah according to what he saw. He did not put a full stop to the meanings of the verse there. Similarly Maulana Hosein has explained the same verse in a better light now about four decades after Prof. Hamka, quite simply because he was able to read all the world events that occurred thereafter using the Quran.
Let us now read Maulana Hosein’s translation of the verse again after having gone through all of the analysis above that has led us to where we are now:
Oh you who have faith, do not take (such) Jews and (such) Christians as your Awliah (friends and allies) who (themselves) are Awliyah (friends and allies) of each other. And whoever amongst you turn to them for friendship and alliance, would belong to them (and therefore not to us). Surely Allah does not provide guidance to a people who commit Dhulm.
This therefore is a modern attempt to translate the verse in as coherent as possible a manner to all the other verses mentioned above in our analysis that it would otherwise clearly contradict. This translation explains our times; it explains Akhiruzzaman. It is further an attempt to be as coherent as possible to the trails of history. It is also a credible attempt of a scholar of integrity who found it necessary to add on to the meanings of the verse that the noble scholars of the past had explained and interpreted. Lastly it must be noted that the Maulana’s intention, as some would wrongly have it so, is not to contradict the scholarship of the past. This does not contradict previous explanations provided by the noble scholars of the past; it does not nullify all other explanations of the verse that have been given before. It has rather added on to them.
For example, when Dr. Asad succinctly summarised the classical explanations of credible scholars in the past, he stopped quite shortly at a prohibition of what he called “a moral alliance”, meaning an alliance with the Jews and the Christians in their Deen. This then would not only refer to all Jews and all Christians, but also happens to summarise only the commentaries provided by the classical commentators on that part of the verse where Allah, Most High, mentioned, “…And whoever amongst you turn to them for friendship and alliance, would belong to them (and therefore not to us)…” This does not explain the earlier part of the verse where the divine prohibition was laid down.
Now then, when we actually look at the classical commentaries to the verse as a divine prohibition on taking all Jews and Christians as our Awliyaa in treating them as our confidants by morally inclining towards their Deen, then Maulana Hosein’s commentary to the verse does not contradict any of the previous classical commentaries. That is clearly prohibited in other parts of the Quran as well. In that case, even if this verse were not revealed that would have been clearly understood. However, when we bring to mind the meaning of Barakah in the Quran, that the Quran explains all times and that the Quran offers new and fresh knowledge in every age, we would not look at Maulana Hosein’s explanation of the verse as something which contradicts the previous classical commentaries to the Quran. We would only look at it with gratitude that a Muslim scholar, ripe of age, knowledge and experience, has added on fresh knowledge to the meanings of Allah’s kalam.
Lastly, it would suffice to conclude that modern global events that occurred in the last hundred years have demanded this interpretation to come out from the Quran and it had to be Maulana Hosein whom Allah, Most High, had chosen to bring this forward to those who would now turn to the Quran to understand the ominous events unfolding in our world before our eyes, especially in the Holy Land. This has only given a new direction and meaning in the application of this verse in these times, especially in Akhiruzzaman.