A comprehensive commentary on the Holy Qur’an
By Maulana Mufti Muhammad Shafi
Surah Al-Ma’idah : 5:51 – 58
[5:51] O those who believe, do not take the Jews and the Christians for intimate friends. They are friends to each other. And whoever takes intimate friends from them, he is one of them. Surely, Allah does not take the unjust people to the right path.
[5:52] Now, you see those who have disease in their hearts race towards them saying, “We apprehend that some misfortune may overtake us.” So, it is likely that Allah may bring victory or a command from His own side, whereupon they become regretful over what they concealed in their hearts.
[5:53] And those who believe will say, “Are these the ones who swore by Allah on emphatic oaths that they were with you?” Their deeds have gone waste; hence they became losers.
[5:54] O those who believe, whoever of you turns back from his Faith, then, Allah shall bring a people whom He loves and who love Him, soft on the believers, hard on the disbelievers, who fight in the way of Allah and are not afraid of the reproach of any critic. That is a grace of Allah. He confers it on whom he wills. And Allah is All-Embracing, All-Knowing.
[5:55] Your only friend is Allah, and His Messenger, and those who believe – those who establish Salah and pay Zakat and bow before Allah.
[5:56] And whoever takes to friendship with Allah and His Messenger and those who believe, then, the people of Allah are the ones to prevail.
[5:57] O those who believe, do not take as friends those who have taken your Faith in jest and fun, those who have been given the Book prior to you, and the disbelievers. And fear Allah, if your are believers.
[5:58] And then when you call for Salah, they take it in jest and fun. That is because they are people who do not understand.
Explanation in Brief
The verses cited above take up three important subjects which are the basic principles of unity among Muslims as a collectively organized community.
1. Muslims can deal with non-Muslims in the spirit of tolerance, sympathy, goodwill, equity, justice, favour and kindness, almost everything within that line of conduct. In fact, they should do that for they have been taught to do that. But, what is not permitted is the kind of fast friendship and indiscriminating intimacy which may garble the distinctive hallmarks of Islam. This is the issue known as the ‘Tark al-Muwalat’ to refrain from deep (friendship) in Islamic Terminology.
2. The second principle stressed upon is that should the Muslims of any time and place shift away from the first principle stated above and develop an intimacy of this nature with non-Muslims, then, let them not be under the impression that their conduct could harm Islam in any manner whatsoever – because Allah Almighty has Himself taken the responsibility of seeing that Islam remains duly protected. It cannot be eliminated by anyone. However, if a set of people still go out of their minds, break the limits of Islamic modality of doing things and, let us presume, decide to leave the very pale of Islam, then, Allah Ta’ala will bring in another set of people who will uphold and establish the principles and laws of Islam.
3. Once we know the positive and negative aspects in perspective, it becomes evident that the real friendship of a Muslim – deep, intense, profound and reliance-worthy – can only be with Allah, the Highest of the high, His Messenger, and with those who believe in them.
After this brief introduction of the subject, we can now move to the detailed explanation of the verses.
In the first verse (51), Muslims have been commanded not to enter into “Muwalat” (deep friendship) with Jews and Christians as is the customary practice of non-Muslims in general and, of Jews and Christians in particular, who reserve deep friendship for their own people only. They do not deal with Muslims at the same wave length.
After this clear instruction, should a Muslim do otherwise and enter into an intimate friendship with a Jew or Christian, then, in the sight of Islam, he is fit to be counted as one of them – and not as a Muslim.
The Background of Revelation
Reporting from ‘Ikrimah, Ibn Jarir has said that this verse was revealed in the background of a particular event. After the Holy Prophet had settled in Madinah, he had entered into a treaty with Jews and Christians living nearby which required that they would neither fight against Muslims nor help any other tribe at war with them, rather, they would join Muslims to fight against them. Similarly, Muslims will not fight them nor help anyone against them, rather, would defend them against the aggressors. For some time, both parties kept adhering to the treaty. But, the Jews could not observe the terms of the treaty any longer because of their conspiratorial nature and anti-Islam temperament. They made a secret deal with the pagans of Makkah against Muslims and wrote them a letter inviting them to their fortress. When the Holy Prophet came to know about this conspiracy, he despatched a posse of Mujahidin to confront them. These Jews from Banu Qurayzah were, on the other hand, conspiring with the disbelievers of Makkah, while on the other, having infiltrated among Muslims, they had succeeded in making pacts with many of them. This was their front of spying for the disbelievers of Makkah against Muslims. Revealed thereupon was this verse which stopped Muslims from indulging in deep friendship with the Jews and Christians, so that they could be deprived of having access to sensitive information about Muslims. At that time, some noble Companions, including Sayyidna ‘Ubadah ibn Samit, openly announced the cancellation of their treaty obligations as well as their support for abandonment of any close friendship in the future. As for the hypocrites who had their pragmatic relationship with Muslims, or people whose hearts had yet to taste the sweetness of genuine faith, they apprehended dangers in breaking relationships with Jews and Christians lest the conspiracy hatched by the disbelievers and the Jews succeeded and Muslims were overpowered in which cast it would be necessary that they keep their relationships balanced bothways to avoid any problems for them later on. It was on this basis that ‘Abdullah ibn Ubaiyy ibn Salul had said that he saw danger in cutting off relationship with these people and, therefore, he cannot do that. Revealed thereupon was the second verse (52):
Now, you see those who have disease in their hearts race towards them saying, “We apprehend that some misfortune may overtake us.”
It means that after hearing the religiously binding injunction of the abandonment of close friendships, people who have the disease of hypocrisy in their hearts started racing towards their disbelieving friends saying that cutting off relationships with these people is dangerous for them.
Answering them, Almighty Allah said:
So, it is likely that Allah may bring victory or a command from His own side, whereupon they become regretful over what they concealed in their hearts.
It means that these people are under the impression that the disbelievers and the Jews will overcome Muslims. But, Allah has decided that it will not happen. Rather, close is the conquest of Makkah. Or, even before the conquest of Makkah, Allah may, by exposing the hypocricy of the hypocrites, put them to disgrace. Then, at that time, these people will regret thoughts they had concealed.
This has been clarified further in the third verse (53) where it was said that once the hypocricy of the hypocrites has been exposed and the reality behind their claims and oaths of friendship comes out in the open, Muslims would wonder if those were the people who used to assure them with sworn claims of their friendship and there they were all ruined as everything they did just to pretend had gone to waste. That Allah Jalla Sha’nuhu has mentioned the conquest of Makkah and the disgrace of the hypocrites in these verses was something which everyone saw only after a few days with their own eyes.
The fourth verse (54) tells us that the prohibition of intimate friendship and inter-mingling with non-Muslims is for the good of Muslims themselves. Otherwise, Islam is the particular religion the responsibility to protect which has been taken by Almighty Allah Himself. The crookedness or disobedience of any individual or group is self-destruct in its place. However, should some individual or group from among Muslims were to really abandon Islam itself, turn into an apostate (Murtadd) totally and become a part of non-Muslims, even that too could bring no harm to Islam because Allah who is Absolutely Powerful is responsible for its protection and He will immediately bring in some other nation into action which will carry out the duties of protecting and spreading the Din of Allah. Things He must do depend neither on an individual nor on the largest of the large party or institution. When He so wishes, He can make straws work for beams and logs, otherwise beams and logs sit in forests turning into compost anyway. As referred to elsewhere in this Commentary, how well this was put in an Arabic couplet:
When Divine decree helps – it can make the meak overtake the mighty.
When it was said in this verse that should Muslims become apostates, it does not matter, for Allah will make another set of people rise to take their place, then, right there, some virtues of this set of people have also been enumerated saying clearly that they can be marked out by such and such distinguishable qualities. Those engaged in the service of their religion should keep these qualities foremost in their minds because these verses tell us that people who have such quality and character are welcome and dear in the sight of Almighty Allah.
1. Their first quality identified by the Holy Qur’an is that Allah will love them and they will love Allah. There are two parts to this quality. The first one is the love of these people for Almighty Allah. This could be taken, in one or the other degree, within one’s control since one can, even if one does not love someone emotionally or naturally, at least make his intention and determination to work for him in loving intellectually. And even emotional or natural love is thought not in one’s control, yet its causes are, for instance, the meditation of the greatness and majesty of Almighty Allah, the conception of His most perfect power and the recapitulative survey of His authorities and blessings over human beings. This would definitely generate even natural love for Almighty Allah in the heart of a man or woman.
But, as far as the other part is concerned, that is, the love of Allah will be with these people, it obviously seems to indicate that this is a matter where human choice and action play no role. So, what is beyond our control and choice hardly warrants a description and is obviously fruitless – one may be tempted to wonder.
But, by pondering over some other verses of the Holy Qur’an, one will discover that the causes of this part of love too are within human control. If someone uses these means, the love of Allah will necessarily be with him or her. Those means of achieving this end have been mentioned in the verses of the Qur’an which appears in Surah ‘Al-‘Imran: [Arabic script] (Say [O Prophet], “If you do love Allah, follow me; Allah shall love you” …3:31).
This verse tells us that one who wishes to have Allah love him or her should make the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet [Arabic script] the very pivot of life and develop a committed habit of following Sunnah in whatever one does in each and every department of one’s life. If so, the promise of Allah is there – He will love that person. And this very verse also tells us that the only group of people which can stand up and meet the challenge of Disbelief and Apostacy (Kufr and Irtidad) shall be the group of people which follows the Sunnah conscientiously and habitually – neither falling short in obedience to the injunctions of the Shari’ah, nor initiating and introducing on their own, deeds contrary to the Sunnah.
2. The second quality of this group has been identified as: [Arabic script] (…soft on the believers, hard on the disbelievers…). Here the word: ‘adhillah’ could be, as explained in Qamus, the plural of both dhalil or dhalul. Dhalil means low or despicable while dhalul means soft and tractable, that is, easily controlled, docile. According to the majority of commentators, this is the meaning of ‘adhillah’ at this place, that is, these people will be soft with Muslims. Even in matters of dispute, they can be controlled and mollified easily. They would set the dispute aside, even if they are right in it – as said by the Holy Prophet [Arabic script] in an authentic hadith: [Arabic script] that is, ‘I am the guarantor of a home in the middle of Paradise for one who abandons dispute despite being in the right.’ Thus, the essential meaning of this word comes to be that these people will have no dispute with Muslims in matters relating to their rights and dealings.
The second word is ‘a’izzah’ in: [Arabic script] (hard on the disbelievers). Here too, ‘a’izzah’ is the plural of ‘Aziz which means dominant, strong and hard. So, the sense is that these people are hard and strong against the enemies of Allah and His Din who would be unable to control or manipulate them. Now, by combining both sentences we can arrive at the essence of this statement – that this will be a set of people whose love and hate, friendship and enmity will be, not for their person or their rights and dealings, but only for Allah, His Messenger and His Din. Therefore, when it comes to fight, it will not be against the obedient servants of Allah and His Messenger, instead of that, it would be against those who are hostile and disobedient to Allah and His Messenger. The same subject appears in a verse of Surah Al-Fath where the words are: [Arabic script] (severe against disbelievers, merciful between themselves – 48:29).
3. The essence of the first quality was the most perfect fulfilment of the rights of Allah, and the essence of the second quality was moderation in the fulfilments of rights of the servants of Allah by remaining accommodating in dealings. Now, the third quality of these people mentioned here is: [Arabic script] that is, they shall keep carrying out Jihad to spread and establish the True Faith. In essence, it means that fighting against forces of disbelief and apostacy is no easy task. In this confrontation, traditionally known devotion to worship in seclusion or a simple softness or hardness of attitude is not enough. Also necessary here is a feeling and fervour for the mission of establishing Din.
4. To ensure that this feeling and fervour achieves its desired perfection, the fourth quality of these people has been identified as: [Arabic script] that is, they will not care for any blame, censure or derogatory criticism directed against them while they are engaged in their efforts to upraise the true word of Allah and establish His Din. A little reflection will show that the leader of a movement usually faces two types of impediments in his efforts which are the power of the adversary and the vilification of his own people. Experience bears out that people who lead a movement resolutely would stand firm against any adversary, even go through arrests, jail sentences, beatings and tortures, yet, when it comes to facing blames and vilifications from their own people, even the most determined leaders tend to falter. Perhaps, it is to stress the importance of this trying situation at this place, that Allah Almighty has considered it sufficient to say that these people go on with their Jihad without taking notice of any blames directed against them.
Finally, towards the end of the verse (54), it was added that these good qualities of character are nothing but rewards from Almighty Allah. It is He who gives them to whom He wills. A human being cannot acquire these by dint of his own effort and deed without Divine grace.
The Fitnah of Apostacy
Through the explanation of the words of these verse, it has already been clarified that the incidence of some from among Muslims turning into apostates will not harm Islam as a religion because Allah will raise a set of people with high morals and superior deeds who would defend and support it. However, the majority of commentators have dwelt further on the Fitnah (trial) of Apostacy (Irtidad). According to them, this verse is actually a prophecy of this Trial and at the same time a good news for the group of people who will fight against it and eliminate it successfully. This coming Fitnah of Apostacy was a serious problem the germs of which had already started spreading towards the lattermost period of Prophethood. But, after the departure of the Holy Prophet [Arabic script] from this mortal world, this became an epidemic spreading all over the Arabian Peninsula. The group blessed with the good news was that of the noble Companions who confronted this onslaught of Apostacy under the command of the first Khalifah of Islam, Sayyidna Abu Bakr Al-Siddiq [Arabic script].
Chronologically, Musaylimah al-Kadhdhab (the Liar) was the first to claim prophethood alongwith the Holy Prophet [Arabic script] and was so audacious that he returned his emissaries back with the threat that he would have killed them had it not been for the protocol which prohibited killing of envoys and emissaries. Musaylimah was a liar in his claim. The Holy Prophet [Arabic script]did not get the time to wage Jihad against him and he left this mortal world.
Similarly, Aswad al-‘Ansi, the chief of the tribe of Mudhhaj in Yaman announced his prophethood. The Holy Prophet [Arabic script] ordered the Governor of Yaman appointed by him to fight against him. But, the very next day after the night he was killed, the Holy Prophet [Arabic script] departed from this mortal world. The news about his being killed reached the noble Companions at the end of Rabi’ al-Awwal. Another event like this was reported concerning the tribe of Banu Asad whose chief, Tulayhah ibn Khuwaylid laid a claim to his own prophethood.
Groups from these tribes had turned Apostates during the last sickness of the Holy Prophet [Arabic script]. The news of his passing away took lid out of this storm of Apostacy. Seven tribes of Arabia from different places turned against Islam and its legal authority. They refused to pay Zakah as required by Islamic law to the Khalifah of the time, Sayyidna Abu Bakr Al-Siddiq [Arabic script].
After the passing away of the Holy Prophet [Arabic script], the responsibility of the country and the community fell on the shoulders of Sayyidna Abu Bakr Al-Siddiq [Arabic script]. There was the great shock on the one hand, and the flood of trials and rebellions on the other. Sayyidah ‘A’ishah [Arabic script], says that the shock faced by her father, of Sayyidna Abu Bakr, after the passing away of the Holy Prophet [Arabic script], was so great that had it fallen on high mountains they would have been reduced to powder. But, Almighty Allah had blessed him with the high station of patience and fortitude by virtue of which he fought against all odds with full determination and courage, and did succeed finally.
Rebellion, as obvious, can be quashed by use of force only. But, conditions had reached a point of danger and Sayyidna Abu Bakr went into consultation with the noble Companions. None of them approved of a hardline against rebellions. The danger was: If the Companions were to be committed to internal warfare, foreign powers would run over their new Islamic country. But, Allah Almighty made the heart of His ‘True one’ strong and settled for Jihad. He gave an eloquent Khutbah before the Companions of the Holy Prophet [Arabic script] which opened up their hearts too in favour of Jihad. The power and perfection of his determination and fortitude is reflected though his words:
“People who, after they have become Muslims, turn back and reject the injunctions given by the Holy Prophet [Arabic script], and the Law of Islam, then, it is my duty that I should wage a Jihad against them. If, against me, they decide to bring alone the combined force of all Jinns and human beings, and all trees and rocks of the world, all together, and I have no comrade in arms to support me, even then, I would, all by myself, put my neck on the stake and carry out this Jihad.”
After having said this, he mounted his horse and started moving ahead. Then, the noble Companions, may Allah be pleased with them all, came forward and made Sayyidna Siddiq al-Akbar sit at his place. In no time, a battle plan was drawn with fronts assigned to different people and the time of their departure set for action.
Therefore, Sayyidna ‘Ali [Arabic script], Hassan al-Basri, Dahhak, Qatadah and other Imams of Tafsir have said that this verse has been revealed about Sayyidna Abu Bakr Al-Siddiq [Arabic script]. He was the first one of the promised people about whom it was said in this verse that they will appear to defend Islam at the command of Allah.
But not contrary to this, is the possibility that some other group could also be included in the sense of this verse. Therefore, respected elders who have pointed out to Sayyidna Abu Musa al-Ash’ari [Arabic script] or other noble Companions as being included in the sense of this verse cannot be really taken as contrary to this suggestion. In fact, the most sound and safe position is to believe that all these blessed people, rather every single Muslim due to come right upto the Last Day of Qiyamah, who will keep confronting disbelief and apostacy in accordance with the commands of the Qur’an – they all shall be considered as included under the purview of this verse.
Let us now resume to our description of how the moving exhortation of Sayyidna Siddiq al-Akbar made a group of Sahabah rise to the occasion and meet the challenge of this trial of Apostacy under the leadership of the first Khalifah of Islam. Assigning an army of fighting men, he sent Sayyidna Khalid ibn Walid to Yamamah to fight against Musaylimah the Liar who had become very powerful in his area. The encounters were tough, but Musaylimah the Liar was ultimately killed at the hands of Sayyidna Wahshi, may Allah be pleased with him. His group repented and returned to the fold of Islam. Again, it was Sayyidna Khalid who went to fight against Tulayhah ibn Khuwaylid. He escaped and went out to some other area. Then, Allah gave him the ability to repent and return to Islam once again. He came back as a Muslim.
The news that Aswad al-‘Ansi had been killed and his group had surrendered had reached Madinah toward the end of the month of Rabi’ al-Awwal, the first month of the Siddiqi Caliphate. This was the very first news of victory which reached Sayyidna Siddiq al-Akbar under such trying circumstances. So, from this point onwards, the noble Companions of the Prophet were also blessed with more clear victories on every front against other tribes which had refused to pay Zakah.
Thus, the practical demonstration of the truth of the word of Allah mentioned towards the end of the fifth verse (56): [Arabic script] (then, the people of Allah are the ones to prevail) was seen by the whole world. Speaking historically and objectively, it is a proven fact that the problem of Apostacy did affect some tribes of the Arabian Peninsula after the passing away of the Holy Prophet [Arabic script]. Then, the group that Allah made to rise and fight against the challenge was that of Sayyidna Siddiq al-Akbar and his colleagues among the Sahabah. So, it also stands proved from this very verse that the qualities of the promised set of people given in the Qur’an were all present in Sayyidna Siddiq al-Akbar and the Sahabah with him. To restate these, we can say:
1. Allah loves them.
2. They love Allah.
3. They are soft with Muslims and hard against disbelievers.
4. Their Jihad was in the way of Allah in which they were not afraid of any blame.
Pointing out to the reality of realities, it was clearly stressed that all these high qualities of character, their timely use and the ultimate success in the Islamic expedition though them were things which are not achieved by simple reliance on planning or power or numbers. This is nothing but the grace of Allah. It is He who bestows this blessing upon whom He wills.
Marks of True Muslims
In the previous four verses discussed so far, Muslims have been forbidden to maintain intimate friendship with disbelievers. A positive approach has been taken in the fifth verse (55) where those with whom Muslims can have intimate friendship and special camaraderie have been identified. Mentioned first is Allah and then, His blessed Prophet, for Allah is – and He alone can be – the real friend, guardian and guide of a true Muslim, all the time and under all conditions. Other than the relationship with Him, every relationship and every friendship is perishable. As for the bond of fidelity to the Holy Prophet [Arabic script] is concerned, that too is, in reality, connected with Allah – and not separated. In the last sentence of the verse, the sinceremost friends and fellows of Muslims have been identified as those who are true Muslims – not simply Muslims in name. They have three qualities which mark them out. These are:
Those who establish Salah and pay Zakah and bow before Allah.It means that they: (1) Fulfill their obligation of Salah punctually observing all etiquettes (‘Adab) and conditions (Shara’it) which must be observed in it; (2) pay Zakah out of their wealth; and (3) they are humble and modest and never become proud and arrogant over their good deeds.
The word, Ruku’ in the concluding statement of this verse (55): [Arabic script] translated as ‘those who bow before Allah’ could be taken in more than one sense. Therefore, some of the leading commentators have said that Ruku’ refers to the functional Ruku’ (bowing position) at this place – which is a basic element (Rukn : pillar) of Salah. And the sentence: [Arabic script] (and those who bow before Allah) has been placed after: [Arabic script] (those who wish to establish Salah) because the purpose is to distinguish the Salah of Muslims from the prayer offered by others. As for the essential prayer which Muslims call Salah is something the Jews and Christians also do, but it has no Ruku’ in it. Ruku’ is a distinctive element of the Islamic prayer known as Salah. (Mazhari)
But the majority of commentators say that Ruku’ at this place does not mean the technical Ruku’ of Salah. Rather, it means to bow, to be modest and humble in the lexical sense. Abu Hayyan in Tafsir al-Bahr al-Muhit and Al-Zamakhshari in Tafsir al-Kashshaf have gone by this meaning. The same view has been adopted in Tafsir Mazhari and Tafsir Bayan al-Qur’an. Thus, the meaning of this sentence comes to be that these people do not feel proud of their good deeds; their natural disposition is, rather, modesty and humility.
It appears in some narrations that this sentence has been revealed about Sayyidna ‘Ali [Arabic script], in the background of a particular event. It is said that Sayyidna ‘Ali [Arabic script] was busy making Salah on a certain day. When he bowed in Ruku’, someone needy turned up and asked for something. He, within that state of Ruku’, took out a ring from one of his fingers and tossed it towards him. He could have taken care of the need of this person after having finished his Salah, but he did not wish to make even that much of a delay in removing the need of a poor faqir. This act of ‘racing towards good deeds’ was pleasing in the sight of Almighty Allah and it was through this sentence that it was appreciated.
The Sanad or authority of this narration is a debated issue among Ulama and Muhaddithin, but, should this narration be taken as correct or sound, it would essentially mean that deserving of the close friendship of Muslims are common Muslims who fulfil the obligations of Salah and Zakah particularly and regularly – and amongst them, Sayyidna ‘Ali is specially more deserving of this friendship – as has been said by the Holy Prophet [Arabic script] in another authentic Hadith: [Arabic script] (To whomever I am a friend, then, ‘Ali too is a friend of his) (narrated by Ahmad, as in Mazhari). In yet another hadith, the Holy Prophet [Arabic script] has been reported to have said: [Arabic script] (O Allah, befriend whoever befriends him and take as enemy whoever shows enmity to him).
Perhaps, Sayyidna ‘Ali [Arabic script] has been blessed with this honour because the Fitnah to appear in the future was unveiled before him and he knew that there will be people who will nurse enmity with him and will not hesitate in even rising in rebellion against him – as it did happen during the uprising of the Khawarij.
Anyway, the revelation of the present verse – even if it is related to this event – is worded in a general sense which includes all Companions of the Prophet, and all Muslims. This is not particular to any one individual under a specific command. Therefore, when someone asked Sayyidna Imam Baqar: “Do the words: [Arabic script] (those who believe) in this verse mean Sayyidna ‘Ali [Arabic script]?” He said: “He too, as included under ‘believers’, is within the purview of this verse.”
People of Allah shall prevail ultimately
The next verse (56) gives the good news that such people will overcome the world as come forward in obedience to the Qur’anic injunctions given in this verse and stay away from forging close friendship with others by limiting themselves to taking Allah, His Messenger and those who have faith in them as their genuine friends. The words of the verse are:
And whoever takes Allah and His Messenger and those who believe as friends, then, the People of Allah, are the ones to prevail.In other words, it is said here that those who obey the commands of Allah are the People of Allah. Given to them is the good news that they will be the ones to finally overcome. The events which unfolded later on confirmed the veracity of this statement when everyone saw that the noble Companions, may Allah be pleased with them all, overcame all powers which threatened them. When internal rebellions challenged Sayyidna Abu Bakr, Allah Almighty helped him prevail over all of them. When the towering powers of Ceaser and Cyrus marshalled their menacing might against Sayyidna Umar al-Faruq, Allah Almighty effaced them from the face of the earth. Then, as long as these injunctions were dutifully observed by the Khulafa’ and Muslims at large who came after them – by abstaining from establishing close bonds of friendship with non-Muslims – they had always remained winners in the struggle of life.
The Prohibition of Friendship with those who make fun of Islam
In the sixth verse (57), Allah Almighty has again stressed upon the injunction mentioned in verse 51 at the beginning of the Section, the sense of which is that the Muslims should not seek close friendship with people who make fun of their religion. They can be divided in two groups: The People of the Book, that is, the Jews and Christians; and the disbelievers and non-Muslims in general. In al-Bahr al-Muhit, Imam Abu Hayyan says that the People of the Book were already included under the word, Kuffar or disbelievers, still, the People of the Book have been mentioned here particularly perhaps, because the People of the Book were, though, closer to Islam as compared with other disbelievers, yet, experience bears that very few from among them embraced Islam. This is the reason why a look into the statistics of those who embraced Islam after the age of prophethood and during the period later to it, will reveal that the majority of them were from among the common disbelievers. The number of those who became Muslims from among the People of the Book will be much lower.
Why would that be so? The reason is simple. The People of the Book take pride in being adherents to Divine Faith and Divine Scripture. This proud partisanship made them opt for not accepting the Truth. The attitude of mockery against Muslims was something that they displayed most. When mockery becomes wickedness, things much lower can happen, as would be illustrated by an episode mentioned in the eighth (58) verse in the following words: [Arabic script] (And when you call for Salah, they take it in jest and fun). Tafsir Mazhari, with reference to Ibn Abi Hatim, reports the event itself by saying that there was a Christian in Madinah al-tayyibah. When he heard the words: [Arabic script] (I testify that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah) in the Adhan (call for prayer), he used to say: [Arabic script] (May Allah burn the liar). At last, this very remark made by him became the cause of his entire family burn to ashes. How this happened was commonplace. When he was sleeping, his servant entered the house with a little fire for some purpose. A speck from it flew out and fell down on some piece of cloth. When everybody was fast asleep, the speck had turned into a blaze and everybody was burnt to death.
The Tragedy of People who do not Understand
At the end of the verse (58), it was said: [Arabic script] (That is because they are people who do not understand). It means that the reason for their jest and fun being directed against what is True Faith could be no other but that they do not understand.
Qadi Thanaullah of Pani Pat has said in Tafsir Mazhari that Allah Almighty calls them devoid of understanding although their reason and intelligence in wordly matters is well known. From here we learn that it is possible that one could be very smart and quick-witted in certain kinds of jobs, but when it comes to doing some other things, he either does not use his mind or does not work in that direction. Therefore, he turns out to be dumb in it, like one who does not understand. The Holy Qur’an has referred to this subject in another verse as follows:
These people do not know outward matters of the present life while they are heedless to the Hereafter. (30:7)