Provident God of the Abrahamic Faiths: Plain Water will Tell you the Story


Do not the disbelievers see that the heavens and the earth were a closed-up mass, then We opened them out? And We made from water every living thing. Will they not then believe? (Al Quran 21:31)


By Thomas David Parks: Ex Research Chemist, Ph.D., University of Illinois. Formerly Chairman Department of Chemistry, Stanford Research Institute; and Director of Research, Clorox Chemical Company. Specialist in microchemistry, electrolytic phenomena, X-ray diffraction and synthetic resins.

Whittaker Chambers in his book Witness tells of a simple incident which was probably the turning point of his life (and perhaps of the affairs of mankind). He was watching his little daughter and unconsciously became aware of the shape of her ears. He thought to himself how impossible that such delicate convolutions could have come about by chance. They could have been created only by premeditated design. But he pushed this thought out of his agnostic mind because he realized that the next step in logical sequence would have to be: design presupposes God — a thesis he was not yet ready to accept.

I have known many scientists among my professors and fellow research workers who have had similar thoughts about observed facts in chemistry and physics, even though they have not spoken from the depths of despair that Whittaker Chambers found himself in.

I see order and design all about me in the inorganic world. I cannot believe that they are there by the haphazard, fortunate coming together of atoms. For me this design demands an intelligence, and this intelligence I call God.

Probably to a chemist the periodic arrangement of the elements is the most arresting. One of the first things a freshman chemistry student learns is the periodicity or order found in the elements. This order has been variously described and classified but we usually credit Mendeleev, the Russian chemist of the last century, with our periodic table. Not only did this arrangement provide a means of studying the known elements and their compounds but it also gave impetus to the search for those elements which had not yet been discovered.  Their very existence was postulated by vacant spaces in the orderly arrangement of the table.

Chemists today still use the periodic table to aid them in their study of reactions and to predict properties of unknown or new compounds. That they have been successful is sound testimony to the fact that beautiful order exists in the inorganic world.

But the order we see around us is not a relentless omnipotence. It is tempered with beneficence — a testimony to the fact that good and pleasure are as much a concern of Divine Intelligence as the immutable laws of Nature. Look around you at the exceptions and deviations that do, in fact, defy the laws of cold rationality.

Plitvice Waterfalls

Take, for example, water. From its formula weight –18 — one would predict it would be a gas at ordinary temperatures and pressures. Ammonia — with a formula weight of –17– is a gas at temperatures as low as minus 33° C. at atmospheric pressure. Hydrogen sulfide, closely related to water by position in the periodic table and with a formula weight of 34, is a gas at temperatures down to minus 59° C. The fact that water exists as a liquid at all, at ordinary temperatures, is something to make one stop and think.

Read furtherPlain Water will Tell you the Story – PDF File

(This article is reproduced from a book the Evidence of God in an Expanding Universe edited by John Clover Monsma, published in 1958. This book is a collection of short articles by different scientists about their views about God.  The pictures and the Periodic Table diagram have been added by the Muslim Times)

The Muslim Times’ Chief Editor’s comments:

Christian apologists want to make a case for Christianity based on laws of nature and science, by showing that there ought to be a Transcendent Creator of our universe.  They make this case, in one breath, and in the very next, deny all of science, by insisting on Eucharist, man-God of Jesus, who is not Transcendent, resurrection and miracles that violate laws of nature.

Atheists are right in exposing the irrationality of the Christian dogma. However, the Christians are right in as far as their claim that there needs to be a Creator of this universe, Who employed natural means to do His work. However, both parties in their self-conceit are not listening to how Islam resolves their conflict; Islam as understood by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community and presented in the Muslim Times.

In a trilateral discussion between atheists, Christians and Muslims, I believe we can appreciate reality better and come up with better theology, especially if the discussion not only involves the Creator and purpose of the universe, but, also His complete Transcendence, Original Sin and evolution of life on our planet, Trinity, Mother Mary and Eucharist.

Surah Qaf: The First Creation as the Foremost Proof for Afterlife


The Surah very precisely and concisely highlights a very common theme in the Quran of a Creator God, Who has created humans and this universe for a purpose and will hold them accountable.

The first few verses of this Surah highlight the creativity of God Almighty as a proof for the Afterlife or the second creation:

Do they not see the sky above them, how We have built and adorned it, without any flaw, and how We spread out the earth and put firm mountains on it, and caused every kind of beautiful plants in pairs to grow in it, as a lesson and reminder for every servant who turns to God; and how We send blessed water down from the sky and grow with it gardens and the harvest grains, and the towering palm trees laden with clusters of dates, as a provision for everyone; how with water We give new life to a land that is dead? This is how the dead will emerge. (Verses 6-11)

The punch line is delivered a little bit later: “So were We incapable of the first creation? No indeed! Yet they doubt a second creation.” (Verse 15)

Such line of reasoning is pursued at least in a dozen other places in the holy Quran, therefore it is of fundamental importance for the believers to see the universe as a beautiful creation of God, rather than as an accident as the staunch atheists will have us believe. Here is an article to express gratitude to the Al Rahman God, the Lord of Mercy, for His creativity: Ten Raised to Five Hundred Reasons for Our Gracious God.

We believe the two fundamental beliefs in Islam, which it shares with Judaism and Christianity are belief in the Transcendent God and accountability in the life after death. (87:16-19) The former is discussed at some length in the commentary of Surah Al Fatihah and the latter in the commentary of Surah Al Waqi’ah.

In verse 38 of this surah, Allah stresses again: “We created the heavens, the earth, and everything in between, in six Days without tiring.” The surah closes with a verse, highlighting the role of the prophet Muhammad, may peace be on him, as a teacher of the Quran: “But, You, (Muhammad) have not been appointed as a guardian. So remind, with this Qur’an, those who fear My warning.”

According to Muhammad Abdel Haleem, as he writes a brief introduction to this surah:

A Meccan sura which deals predominantly with the Resurrection and the Day of Judgement. Reference is made to previous generations of disbelievers (verses 12-14), both to warn the disbelievers in Mecca and to reassure the Prophet. Creation is cited as an indication of God’s ability to bring the dead to life again (verses 3-11), and emphasis is placed on the powerlessness of man on the Day of Resurrection (verses 20-30). The sura both opens and closes with mention of the Qur’an.

بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ

In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.

50:1. Qaaf;  We cite the testimony of the glorious Quran!

 ق ۚ وَالْقُرْآنِ الْمَجِيدِ

50:2. But the disbelievers marvel that a warner has come from among them and they say, ‘How strange!’

 بَلْ عَجِبُوا أَن جَاءَهُم مُّنذِرٌ مِّنْهُمْ فَقَالَ الْكَافِرُونَ هَـٰذَا شَيْءٌ عَجِيبٌ

50:3. ‘To come back to life after we have died and become dust? That is very far-fetched.’

 أَإِذَا مِتْنَا وَكُنَّا تُرَابًا ۖ ذَٰلِكَ رَجْعٌ بَعِيدٌ

50:4 We know very well what the earth takes away from them; We keep a comprehensive record.

  قَدْ عَلِمْنَا مَا تَنقُصُ الْأَرْضُ مِنْهُمْ ۖ وَعِندَنَا كِتَابٌ حَفِيظٌ

50:5. But the disbelievers deny the truth when it comes to them; so they end up in a confused state.

 بَلْ كَذَّبُوا بِالْحَقِّ لَمَّا جَاءَهُمْ فَهُمْ فِي أَمْرٍ مَّرِيجٍ

50:6. Do they not see the sky above them, how We have built and adorned it, without any flaw.

 أَفَلَمْ يَنظُرُوا إِلَى السَّمَاءِ فَوْقَهُمْ كَيْفَ بَنَيْنَاهَا وَزَيَّنَّاهَا وَمَا لَهَا مِن فُرُوجٍ

50:7. And how We spread out the earth and put firm mountains on it, and caused every kind of beautiful plants in pairs to grow in it,

 وَالْأَرْضَ مَدَدْنَاهَا وَأَلْقَيْنَا فِيهَا رَوَاسِيَ وَأَنبَتْنَا فِيهَا مِن كُلِّ زَوْجٍ بَهِيجٍ

50:8. As a lesson and reminder for every servant who turns to God;

 تَبْصِرَةً وَذِكْرَىٰ لِكُلِّ عَبْدٍ مُّنِيبٍ

50:9. And how We send blessed water down from the sky and grow with it gardens and harvest grains.

 وَنَزَّلْنَا مِنَ السَّمَاءِ مَاءً مُّبَارَكًا فَأَنبَتْنَا بِهِ جَنَّاتٍ وَحَبَّ الْحَصِيدِ

50:10. And the towering palm trees laden with clusters of dates,

 وَالنَّخْلَ بَاسِقَاتٍ لَّهَا طَلْعٌ نَّضِيدٌ

50:11. As a provision for everyone; how with water We give new life to a land that is dead? This is how the dead will emerge.

 رِّزْقًا لِّلْعِبَادِ ۖ وَأَحْيَيْنَا بِهِ بَلْدَةً مَّيْتًا ۚ كَذَٰلِكَ الْخُرُوجُ

50:12. The people of Noah disbelieved long before these disbelievers, as did the people of Rass, Thamud,

 كَذَّبَتْ قَبْلَهُمْ قَوْمُ نُوحٍ وَأَصْحَابُ الرَّسِّ وَثَمُودُ

50:13. ‘Ad, Pharaoh and the people of Lot,

 وَعَادٌ وَفِرْعَوْنُ وَإِخْوَانُ لُوطٍ

50:14. The Forest-Dwellers, Tubba’: all of these people disbelieved their messengers, and so My warning was realized.

 وَأَصْحَابُ الْأَيْكَةِ وَقَوْمُ تُبَّعٍ ۚ كُلٌّ كَذَّبَ الرُّسُلَ فَحَقَّ وَعِيدِ

50:15. So were We incapable of the first creation? No indeed! Yet they doubt a second creation.

 أَفَعَيِينَا بِالْخَلْقِ الْأَوَّلِ ۚ

 بَلْ هُمْ فِي لَبْسٍ مِّنْ خَلْقٍ جَدِيدٍ

50:16. We did indeed create man, We know what his soul whispers to him: We are closer to him than his jugular vein

 وَلَقَدْ خَلَقْنَا الْإِنسَانَ وَنَعْلَمُ مَا تُوَسْوِسُ بِهِ نَفْسُهُ ۖ وَنَحْنُ أَقْرَبُ إِلَيْهِ مِنْ حَبْلِ الْوَرِيدِ

50:17.  With two monitors set to record, one on his right side and one on his left.

 إِذْ يَتَلَقَّى الْمُتَلَقِّيَانِ عَنِ الْيَمِينِ وَعَنِ الشِّمَالِ قَعِيدٌ

50:18. He does not utter anything without a ready watcher beside him.

 مَّا يَلْفِظُ مِن قَوْلٍ إِلَّا لَدَيْهِ رَقِيبٌ عَتِيدٌ

50:19. The stupor of imminent death will bring the Truth with it: ‘This is what you tried to escape.’

 وَجَاءَتْ سَكْرَةُ الْمَوْتِ بِالْحَقِّ ۖ ذَٰلِكَ مَا كُنتَ مِنْهُ تَحِيدُ

50:20. The Trumpet will be sounded: ‘This is the Day you were warned of.’

 وَنُفِخَ فِي ال ذَٰلِكَ يَوْمُ الْوَعِيدِصُّورِ ۚ

50:21. Each person will arrive attended by an angel to drive him on and another to bear witness:

  وَجَاءَتْ كُلُّ نَفْسٍ مَّعَهَا سَائِقٌ وَشَهِيدٌ

50:22. You paid no attention to this Day; but today We have removed your veil of denial and your sight is sharp.

 لَّقَدْ كُنتَ فِي غَفْلَةٍ مِّنْ هَـٰذَا فَكَشَفْنَا عَنكَ غِطَاءَكَ فَبَصَرُكَ الْيَوْمَ حَدِيدٌ

50:23. The person’s attendant will say, ‘Here is what I have prepared.’

 وَقَالَ قَرِينُهُ هَـٰذَا مَا لَدَيَّ عَتِيدٌ

50:24. Cast every obstinate disbeliever into Hell.

 أَلْقِيَا فِي جَهَنَّمَ كُلَّ كَفَّارٍ عَنِيدٍ

50:25. Everyone who hindered good, was aggressive, caused others to doubt,

 مَّنَّاعٍ لِّلْخَيْرِ مُعْتَدٍ مُّرِيبٍ

50:26. And set up other gods beside God. Cast him into severe punishment!

  الَّذِي جَعَلَ مَعَ اللَّـهِ إِلَـٰهًا آخَرَ فَأَلْقِيَاهُ فِي الْعَذَابِ الشَّدِيدِ

50:27. And his evil companion will say, ‘Lord, I did not make him transgress; he had already gone far astray on his own.’

 قَالَ قَرِينُهُ رَبَّنَا مَا أَطْغَيْتُهُ وَلَـٰكِن كَانَ فِي ضَلَالٍ بَعِيدٍ

50:28. God will say, ‘Do not argue in My presence. I sent you a warning.’

 قَالَ لَا تَخْتَصِمُوا لَدَيَّ وَقَدْ قَدَّمْتُ إِلَيْكُم بِالْوَعِيدِ

50:29. And My word cannot be changed: I am not unjust to the slightest to any of my servants.

 مَا يُبَدَّلُ الْقَوْلُ لَدَيَّ وَمَا أَنَا بِظَلَّامٍ لِّلْعَبِي

50:30. We shall ask Hell on that day, ‘Are you full?’And it will reply, ‘Are there no more?’

 يَوْمَ نَقُولُ لِجَهَنَّمَ هَلِ امْتَلَأْتِ وَتَقُولُ هَلْ مِن مَّزِيدٍ

50:31. But Paradise will be brought close to the reverent and will no longer be distant.

 وَأُزْلِفَتِ الْجَنَّةُ لِلْمُتَّقِينَ غَيْرَ بَعِيدٍ

50:32. This is what you were promised —this is for everyone who turned often to God and kept Him in mind.

 هَـٰذَا مَا تُوعَدُونَ لِكُلِّ أَوَّابٍ حَفِيظٍ

50:33. Who held the Most Gracious in awe, though He is unseen, who comes before Him with a heart turned to Him in devotion.

  مَّنْ خَشِيَ الرَّحْمَـٰنَ بِالْغَيْبِ وَجَاءَ بِقَلْبٍ مُّنِيبٍ

50:34. So enter it in peace. This is the Day of everlasting Life.

 ادْخُلُوهَا بِسَلَامٍ ۖ ذَٰلِكَ يَوْمُ الْخُلُودِ

50:35. They will have all that they wish for there, and We have more for them that they cannot conceive.

  لَهُم مَّا يَشَاءُونَ فِيهَا وَلَدَيْنَا مَزِيدٌ

50:36. We have destroyed even mightier generations before these disbelievers. Then they searched around in the lands, but there was no refuge.

وَكَمْ أَهْلَكْنَا قَبْلَهُم مِّن قَرْنٍ هُمْ أَشَدُّ مِنْهُم بَطْشًا فَنَقَّبُوا فِي الْبِلَادِ هَلْ مِن مَّحِيصٍ

50:37. There truly is a reminder in this for whoever has a heart, whoever listens attentively.

 إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَذِكْرَىٰ لِمَن كَانَ لَهُ قَلْبٌ أَوْ أَلْقَى السَّمْعَ وَهُوَ شَهِيدٌ

50:38. We created the heavens, the earth, and everything in between, in six Days without tiring.

وَلَقَدْ خَلَقْنَا السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ وَمَا بَيْنَهُمَا فِي سِتَّةِ أَيَّامٍ وَمَا مَسَّنَا مِن لُّغُوبٍ

50:39. Oh Prophet, bear everything they say with patience; celebrate the praise of your Lord before the rising and setting of the sun;

 فَاصْبِرْ عَلَىٰ مَا يَقُولُونَ وَسَبِّحْ بِحَمْدِ رَبِّكَ قَبْلَ طُلُوعِ الشَّمْسِ وَقَبْلَ الْغُرُوبِ

50:40. Proclaim His praise in the night and at the end of every formal prayer.

 وَمِنَ اللَّيْلِ فَسَبِّحْهُ وَأَدْبَارَ السُّجُودِ

50:41. Listen out for the Day when the caller will call from a nearby place.

 وَاسْتَمِعْ يَوْمَ يُنَادِ الْمُنَادِ مِن مَّكَانٍ قَرِيبٍ

50:42. The Day they will hear the mighty inevitable blast, that is the Day when they will come forth.

  يَوْمَ يَسْمَعُونَ الصَّيْحَةَ بِالْحَقِّ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ يَوْمُ الْخُرُوجِ

50:43. It is We who give life and cause death;  and to Us is the final return.

 إِنَّا نَحْنُ نُحْيِي وَنُمِيتُ وَإِلَيْنَا الْمَصِيرُ

50:44. On the Day when the earth will be split asunder, letting them rush out and that gathering will be easy for Us.

 يَوْمَ تَشَقَّقُ الْأَرْضُ عَنْهُمْ سِرَاعًا ۚ ذَٰلِكَ حَشْرٌ عَلَيْنَا يَسِيرٌ

50:45. We know best what the disbelievers say.  But, You, Muhammad have not been appointed as a guardian. So remind, with this Quran, those who fear My warning.

 نَّحْنُ أَعْلَمُ بِمَا يَقُولُونَ ۖ وَمَا أَنتَ عَلَيْهِم بِجَبَّارٍ ۖ فَذَكِّرْ بِالْقُرْآنِ مَن يَخَافُ وَعِيدِ



The first few verses of this Surah highlight the creativity of God Almighty as a proof for the Afterlife or the second creation:

Do they not see the sky above them, how We have built and adorned it, without any flaw, and how We spread out the earth and put firm mountains on it, and caused every kind of beautiful plants in pairs to grow in it, as a lesson and reminder for every servant who turns to God; and how We send blessed water down from the sky and grow with it gardens and the harvest grains,and the towering palm trees laden with clusters of dates, as a provision for everyone; how with water We give new life to a land that is dead? This is how the dead will emerge. (Verses 6-11)

The punch line is delivered a little bit later: “So were We incapable of the first creation? No indeed! Yet they doubt a second creation.” (Verse 15)

Such line of reasoning is pursued at least in a dozen other places in the holy Quran, therefore it is of fundamental importance for the believers to see the universe as a beautiful creation of God, rather than as an accident as the staunch atheists will have us believe. Here is an article to express gratitude to the Al Rahman God, the Lord of Mercy, for His creativity: Ten Raised to Five Hundred Reasons for Our Gracious God.

According to Seyyed Hossein Nasr and colleagues in their recent commentary:

This is one of several passages to call human beings to reflect upon the beauty, proportionality, and bounty of the natural world as evidence of God’s Mercy and wisdom and of the Resurrection; see 16:79-81; 24:43-50; 26:7-8; 33:27; 35:27-28; 36:71-73; 45:1-5.

We believe the two fundamental beliefs in Islam, which it shares with Judaism and Christianity are belief in the Transcendent God and accountability in the life after death. (87:16-19) The former is discussed at some length in the commentary of Surah Al Fatihah and the latter in the commentary of Surah Al Waqi’ah.


“The people of Noah disbelieved long before these disbelievers, as did the people of Rass, Thamud, ‘Ad, Pharaoh and the people of Lot, the Forest-Dwellers, Tubba’: all of these people disbelieved their messengers, and so My warning was realized.”

The Quran is not bringing a new message about the Creator God or accountability. The same message was delivered to the prior people, as mentioned in these verses.

According to Seyyed Hossein Nasr and colleagues in their recent commentary:

Before them means before the idolaters who  oppose the Prophet (T). For the Quranic account of Noah and the flood, see 11:25-48; 23:23-30; 26:105-21; Surah 71. The inhabitants of al-Rass (cf. 25:38) is an enigmatic reference that some understand to mean one of the towns of the tribe of Thamud (T). Others understand al-Rass to mean “the well’’ and interpret it as a reference to the well in which the people spoken of in 36:13-27 threw the prophet whom God had sent to them (I). The ‘Ad and the Thamud were pre-Islamic Arabian tribes who rejected the prophets sent to them. For the account of the ‘Ad see 7:65-72; 11:50-60; 41:15-16; 54:18-21. For that of the Thamud, see 7:73-79; 11:61-68; 26:141-58; 54:24-31. The story of Lot and his people is discussed most extensively in 11:77-83; see also 7:80-84; 15:57-77; 21:74-75; 26:160-73;  27:54-58; 29:28-35; 37:133-38. The thicket translates al- aykah, which according to some is a proper name. The inhabitants of the thicket are either the people of Midian, who are said to have rejected the prophet Shu‘ayb (see 7:85-93; 11:84-95; 26:176-89; 29:36-37), or a second community to which Shu‘ayb was sent (Mw). For Tubba‘ , most likely a reference to a line of kings in southern Arabia, see 44:37c.

How does the history of prophets of the past plays out in the contemporary life? For this we link a recent article from the Muslim Sunrise, the oldest Muslim publication of North America, written and collected by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times: God’s Existence and Natural Disasters.


“So were We incapable of the first creation? No indeed! Yet they doubt a second creation.”

According to Seyyed Hossein Nasr and colleagues in their recent commentary:

This verse is a rebuke to what the idolaters say in v.  3. They are questioned as to how it is that they could doubt God’s ability to resurrect when they have the evidence of God’s ability to create everything that is around them (T). The rhetorical question is answered in 46:33: Have they not considered that God, Who created the heavens and the earth and did not weary in their creation, is able to give life to the dead? Yea! He is Powerful over all things. In the present verse, the first creation means the creation of this world. When confronted with the Quranic teaching regarding bodily resurrection, the reaction of the disbelievers is that they say, What! When we are bones and dust, shall we indeed be resurrected as a new creation? (17:49, 98). In this interpretation new creation refers to the Resurrection; see also 13:5; 14:19; 34:7; 35:16-17c. New creation can also be understood as a reference to the perpetual creation of the world, in which God’s creative act is renewed at every instant (K). That most human beings are in doubt regarding a new creation indicates that they are unable to see because their sight is not yet piercing (see v. 22).


“Everyone who hindered good, was aggressive, caused others to doubt.”

So, the purpose of belief in the Creator God, Who holds us accountable is not to merely promote a random idea, but to inspire humans to do good, to be kind, compassionate and just towards fellow humans. Suggested reading on this theme, Two Hundred Verses about Compassionate Living in the Quran

and Surah Al Ma’un – The Common Kindness.


“So enter it in peace. This is the Day of everlasting Life.”

According to Seyyed Hossein Nasr and colleagues in their recent commentary:

Enter it in peace. This is the day of abiding.”  34 Peace translates salam, which also denotes  “greeting” and “safety.” Enter it in peace is thus interpreted to mean, “Enter secure from every fear,” or “Enter with the greeting of peace” (JJ), as in 56:25-26: They hear no idle talk therein, nor incitement to sin, save that “Peace! Peace!” is uttered (cf. 7:46; 10:10; 13:23-24; 14:23; 16:32; 19:62; 25:75; 33:44; 36:58). Thus the Garden is also known as the Abode of Peace (61127; 10:25). That this is the day of abiding indicates that it is the day on which everlasting life in the Garden will begin (JJ, T).


“We know best what the disbelievers say.  But, You, Muhammad have not been appointed as a guardian. So remind, with this Quran, those who fear My warning.”

The freedom of religion is clearly highlighted in the last verse of the Surah.

According to Seyyed Hossein Nasr and colleagues in their recent commentary:

Given the general principle in Islam that there is no coercion in religion (2:256), the Prophet is not to compel disbelievers. His function is only to remind human beings through revelation (see 88:21-22), as prophets are only responsible for proclaiming the message (see, e.g. 3:20; 5:92, 99; 13:40; 16:35. 82; 24:54; 29:18; 36:17; 42:48). Those who fear My Threat (see also 87:9-10) is understood by some to mean the believers (JJ), but can be taken more generally to mean all but the most obstinate disbelievers, since every human being is believed to bear the primordial covenant, and thus the remembrance of God, within the depths of his or her soul (see 7:172c; 30:30c).

Additional suggested reading

Surah Al Waqi’ah (The Event or the Resurrection)

Surah Al Balad: The City of Makkah


This is an early Makkan surah when the Muslims were being severely persecuted there, yet it has a grand prophecy that Islam will prevail in the very same city and the holy prophet Muhammad, may peace be on him, will be hailed as a great national and international hero.

This surah once again stresses, in very powerful metaphors that the very purpose of religion is to guide us into compassionate living, a message often repeated in the Quran. Please see the commentary of Surah Al Ma’un – The Common Kindness and an article: Two Hundred Verses about Compassionate Living in the Quran.

بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ

In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.

1. I call this city as a witness.

لَا أُقْسِمُ بِهَـٰذَا الْبَلَدِ 

2. And you [Muhammad] are an inhabitant of this city.

 وَأَنتَ حِلٌّ بِهَـٰذَا الْبَلَدِ 

3. And I cite the father Abraham and the son Ishmael as a witness.

 وَوَالِدٍ وَمَا وَلَدَ 

4. That We have created man for toil and trial.

 لَقَدْ خَلَقْنَا الْإِنسَانَ فِي كَبَدٍ 

5. Does he think that no one will have power over him?

 أَيَحْسَبُ أَن لَّن يَقْدِرَ عَلَيْهِ أَحَدٌ

6. He boasts about his wealth.

 يَقُولُ أَهْلَكْتُ مَالًا لُّبَدًا 

7. Does he think no one observes him?

 أَيَحْسَبُ أَن لَّمْ يَرَهُ أَحَدٌ 

8. Did We not give him two eyes?

 أَلَمْ نَجْعَل لَّهُ عَيْنَيْنِ 

9. And a tongue and two lips?

 وَلِسَانًا وَشَفَتَيْنِ 

10. And point out to him the two clear ways [of good and evil]?

 وَلِسَانًا وَشَفَتَيْنِ 

11. Yet he has not attempted the steep path.

 فَلَا اقْتَحَمَ الْعَقَبَةَ 

12. What will explain to you what the steep path is?

 وَمَا أَدْرَاكَ مَا الْعَقَبَةُ 

13. It is to free a slave.

 فَكُّ رَقَبَةٍ 

14. It is to feed at a time of hunger.

 أَوْ إِطْعَامٌ فِي يَوْمٍ ذِي مَسْغَبَةٍ 

15. An orphaned relative.

 يَتِيمًا ذَا مَقْرَبَةٍ

16. Or a poor person in distress.

 أَوْ مِسْكِينًا ذَا مَتْرَبَةٍ 

17. Then he is of those who believe and exhort one another to patience, and exhort one another to mercy.

ثُمَّ كَانَ مِنَ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَتَوَاصَوْا بِالصَّبْرِ وَتَوَاصَوْا بِالْمَرْحَمَةِ

18. These are the people of the right hand.

 أُولَـٰئِكَ أَصْحَابُ الْمَيْمَنَةِ

19. And those who disbelieve in Our messages, they are the people of the left hand.

وَالَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا بِآيَاتِنَا هُمْ أَصْحَابُ الْمَشْأَمَةِ

20. And the Fire will close in on them.

عَلَيْهِمْ نَارٌ مُّؤْصَدَةٌ



This is a Makkan surah, while the prophet Muhammad, may peace be on him, was engaged in a struggle of survival against large odds in the city of Makkah in the early part of his ministry. Given his triumph in the city later on and the earlier triumph of Abraham and Ishmael in settling the city of Makkah in wilderness some 2400 years ago and how the spring of Zam Zam came to be, described else where in the holy Quran, the city becomes a witness to the truth of Islam, the Quran and the prophet Muhammad.


In this surah, Allah describes the ‘steep path’ to excellence starting in verse number 11.  In verse 4 of the surah it was mentioned that human psyche is given to toil towards some goal, so it is better that he or she works towards the steep path of excellence in humanitarian works and to free slaves and captives and feed the hungry and take care of the orphans and weak, rather than pursuing some frivolous goal.

Humanitarian service should be done in a fashion that we set the orphans or the vulnerable free to achieve their best potentials rather than embroiling them into strings to use them for our purposes, like any selfish god-father figure would do, to serve his own needs. Else where the Quran says: “And they feed, for love of Allah, the poor, the orphan, and the prisoner, saying, ‘We feed you for Allah’s pleasure only. We desire no payback nor thanks from you.'” (Al Quran 76:8-9)

This surah very powerfully demonstrates that the purpose of religion or of Islam is to instill compassion and love of humanity and not an obsession with the religious dogma. For example else where we read:

Goodness does not consist in turning your face towards East or West. The truly good are those who believe in God and the Last Day, in the angels, the Scripture, and the prophets; who give away some of their wealth, however much they cherish it, to their relatives, to orphans, the needy, travelers and beggars and to liberate those in debt and bondage; those who keep up the prayers and pay the prescribed alms; who keep pledges whenever they make them; who are steadfast in misfortune, adversity and times of danger. These are the ones who are true, and it is they who are aware of God.  (Al Quran 2:177)

This verse talks about a set of beliefs and then a set of good deeds, the intricate relationship between the two escapes many if not most. Many take a set of beliefs as dogma or a magical wand that if believed in will lead to certain success here and in the hereafter. But, see if we believe that Jesus died for our sins or for that matter Moses or Joseph died for our sins or Muhammad, may peace be on him, went to heaven in his physical body, such ideas or deeply held beliefs are no different from knowing or believing that the table I am looking at in the center of my room right now is made of wood. This belief has no trans-formative value on my character. But, a belief gathered through life long experience, in All-Knowing, All-Powerful, Merciful and Gracious God, who loves us and has revealed Himself through prophets and scriptures and taught us accountability on the Day of Judgment, has the ability to jolt our psyche and make our character compassionate, truthful and honest.  Such a deeply held and experienced belief and not any set of dogmas is implied in this verse of Surah Baqarah. In short, religion is about leading an honest life of compassion demonstrating kindness and not about obsession over dogma or ritual or who has the religious authority.

According to Muhammad Ali in commentary of the verses under discussion:

Note the tone of these earliest revelations. The service of humanity (along with the service of God) is the one topic. The doing of good to the oppressed, the poor, and the orphans is called an uphill road or a high mountain because of the difficulty of doing it. The constant reference to the helping of the poor and the orphans and the setting free of slaves brings to light the real character of the Prophet, who is described by one knowing him most intimately as one who earned for those who had no means themselves (B. 1:1). No religion has laid so much stress on the uplift of the poor and the distressed as Islam, and it is the only religion which enjoins the duty of granting freedom to slaves, and the Holy Prophet Muhammad is the only founder of a religion who showed the noble example of freeing all slaves that he ever had and helping in the freedom of others. Yet prejudiced writers blame Islam for not taking any steps to uproot slavery. There is even a suggestion that such precepts regarding the nobility of liberating slaves as exist in the Makkan chapters were abrogated by later revelation (see Wherry), a preposterous statement in view of the plain directions given in 9:60 (the latest revelation) to the State itself to spend a part of the public funds in purchasing freedom for slaves.

For a more detailed discussion of love, compassion and emphasis on humanitarian work in the holy Quran, please read: Two Hundred Verses about Compassionate Living in the Quran.

Suggested reading
Abou Ben Adhem, A Compassionate Man
A Message of Compassion and Love from the Holy Bible
True Fasting: A Message of Compassion and Love from the Old Testament
Forty Hadiths or Sayings of the Prophet Muhammad about Compassionate Living
‘Love Hormone’ Oxytocin May Enhance Feelings Of Spirituality
We Will be Judged by Our Compassion and Deeds and Not Our Dogma

Surah Al Ma’un – The Common Kindness


A Makkan surah describing the characteristics of a person who denies the faith or its real purpose.

بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ

In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.

107:1. Have you considered the person who denies the faith or its real purpose?

أَرَأَيْتَ الَّذِي يُكَذِّبُ بِالدِّينِ

107:2. It is he who pushes aside the orphan,

 فَذَٰلِكَ الَّذِي يَدُعُّ الْيَتِيمَ 

107:3. And does not urge others to feed the needy.

 وَلَا يَحُضُّ عَلَىٰ طَعَامِ الْمِسْكِينِ

107:4. So woe to those who pray,

 فَوَيْلٌ لِّلْمُصَلِّينَ 

107:5. But are heedless of their prayers.

 الَّذِينَ هُمْ عَن صَلَاتِهِمْ سَاهُونَ

107:6. Those who are all show,

 الَّذِينَ هُمْ يُرَاءُونَ 

107:7. And forbid the common kindness.

 وَيَمْنَعُونَ الْمَاعُونَ 


Throughout the teachings of the Holy Quran, service to mankind is a running theme. At many different places God specifically mentions the help of the disadvantaged elements in the society. In fact it will not be a stretch to say that Islam promotes a welfare society. All members of the society are responsible for taking care of each other in time of their need. This aspect of the Faith is so dominant that God rejects the worship of those who are negligent of this duty.

God draws our attention towards the person who is openly rejecting Faith. This rejection is not in terms of his professing the Faith as this person is busy in salat (prayer) openly and all can see him. He is a believer and a Muslim if you ask him. Yet God is declaring him a non-believer. The reason for this denouncement by God is the actions of this person. He is identified as the one who does not help the orphan. He in fact shows his contempt by driving them away from himself.

Orphan is the direct translation of the word “yateem.” An orphan is a person whose parents have passed away. When this happens to a minor or a child, his social support is lost. Until there is some support system for him, he is not going to do well in life. The holy Prophet Muhammad (may peace be upon him) was an orphan himself. His family was able to provide support for him until he grew up. But he had a special affinity for orphans. Throughout the holy Quran and in the narrations of the Prophet, care of the orphans has been stressed over and over again.

In a larger sense anyone who does not have a leader or guide in life can also be considered an orphan. Many young children go astray because their parents are unable to provide them guidance and training due to their own circumstances or inabilities. In such cases it is the responsibility of the society to provide for the needs of these children who are orphans in a metaphorical sense.

Caring for the poor and the hungry is important for any society. The importance of this is highlighted by pointing out this in the 3rd verse. The above two values are so important to God that he denounces those who are negligent in this duty, even when they are busy in salat.

Salat is considered to be a central tenant of the religion of Islam. Generally speaking the rituals of worship carry the greatest importance in any religion. In this chapter of the Holy Quran, God has set this priority right. Salat and other rituals worship is of no importance to God unless the believer is also engaged in the service of God’s creation.  In fact God expresses his displeasure for those who only focus on the worship and forget helping those in need.

According to God, the salat of such people is only a show. It has no significance. These people have not understood the real significance of salat. God did not need for us to bow before him five times a day. It does not benefit him in any way. He is above all this. So what is the purpose of salat? According to God the real purpose of salat is to develop an understanding of the purpose of creation and religion. It is a tool for training of the believers. The real purpose is serving the creation of God. Balance between worship and service has to be maintained. (Islam is a religion of moderation and middle way, “Ummatun wasatan”)

If salat is not accompanied by good works then it is only a show.

The last verse once again addresses the miserly behavior of these people. They refuse to participate in the common kindness and are averse to helping  even by lending trivial items of daily use.

Surah Al Takathur – Competing for More


According to Seyyed Hossein Nasr and colleagues in the introduction to this surah:

The first two verses speak of the delusion of accumulating worldly goods, which is referenced throughout the Quran (e.g., 3:14; 9:24), while the remaining Verses (vv. 3-8) promise that those who persist in such behavior will know Hellfire with certainty.

بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ

In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.

102:1. The desire of increase in worldly possessions beguiles you.

 أَلْهَاكُمُ التَّكَاثُرُ

102:2. Till you reach the graves.

 حَتَّىٰ زُرْتُمُ الْمَقَابِرَ

102:3. Surely, you will soon come to know the vanity of your pursuits.

 كَلَّا سَوْفَ تَعْلَمُونَ

102:4. Again, you surely will soon come to know how mistaken you are.

 ثُمَّ كَلَّا سَوْفَ تَعْلَمُونَ

102:5. Only if you knew for certain!

 كَلَّا لَوْ تَعْلَمُونَ عِلْمَ الْيَقِينِ

102:6. You would surely see hell in this very life.

 لَتَرَوُنَّ الْجَحِيمَ

102:7. But, you will see it with the certainty of sight in the life to come.

 ثُمَّ لَتَرَوُنَّهَا عَيْنَ الْيَقِينِ

102:8. Then you shall be called to account, on that day, in respect of the worldly favors conferred on you.

 ثُمَّ لَتُسْأَلُنَّ يَوْمَئِذٍ عَنِ النَّعِيمِ

A common fallacy of the human condition is described in the verses: “You love that which is transitory; and you neglect that which is lasting.” (75:20-21) The Quran repeatedly teaches us to put our temporary worldly life in the perspective of eternal Afterlife. The common mistake is that most of us do not give the due importance to Afterlife, but, there  is also the possibility of error in the other direction, which is the error of asceticism, in giving up the worldly life, in not realizing that ultimately the results of our eternal life are based on our actions in this very ephemeral life.

According to Seyyed Hossein Nasr and colleagues in the commentary of the first verse of this surah:

Vying for increase in worldly gains distracts people  from obedience to God and remembering the Hereafter (Q, Ts). ‘Distraction’ (lahw) indicates an amusement, something that keeps people from achieving their real goals (Al, Is). In this vein, the Quran advises, Let not the life of this world delude you (31:33; 35:5; see also 45:35). Vying for increase translates takathur, which implies both competing and boasting. It can pertain to anything that people seek for the gratification of their egos rather than for God’s sake. According to a saying attributed to the Prophet, it means gathering wealth without right, withholding it from those to whom it rightfully belongs, and hoarding it (Q).

Islam does not prohibit the use or seeking of the good things of this world; but it certainly condemns those who are wholly engrossed in them and make them the very object and purpose of their lives. In fact the Quran has taught us a prayer to seek good both in this world and the hereafter: “And of them there are some who say: ‘Our Lord, grant us good in this world as well as good in the world to come, and protect us from the torment of the Fire.’” (2:201)

However, the Quran puts the worldly life and the eternal life, constantly into perspective, like in this surah, “The desire of increase in worldly possessions beguiles you till you reach the graves. You will soon realize the vanity of your pursuits; again, you will soon realize how mistaken you are. If you only knew with the certainty of knowledge.” (102:1-5)

We will collect all the instances in the Quran, which highlight this human dilemma of striking the balance between the worldly life and the Afterlife. For starters, please see: 3:14-15; 3:185; 9:37; 10:24; 10:70; 13:26; 18:45-46; 29:64; 35:5; 57:20 and 87:16-19. Let us conclude this paragraph by quoting the verses from Surah Kahf: “Expound to them the case of the life of this world. It is like water that we send down from the sky, and the vegetation of the earth grows and mingles with it and all becomes stubble which is scattered about by the winds. Allah has full power over everything.  Wealth and children are an ornament of the life  of this world: then of these that which is converted into a source of permanent beneficence is best in the sight of your Lord, both in respect of immediate reward and in respect of expected benefits.” (18:45-46)

This dilemma arising out of finite versus the infinite has also been described in secular literature as Pascal wager.

The desire to progress in one way or another is embedded to a lesser or greater extent in human nature.  Some are more ambitious than the others but every one is pursuing some goal or object.  It is a distinctive characteristic in man which differentiates him from all lower forms of creation. The urge to progress is a healthy one, provided it does not clash with one’s moral development.  However, today it seems that the acquisition of wealth is the main avenue of progress along which men seek to advance.  But, as mentioned before, one who devotes one’s whole attention to increasing ones wealth and neglects one’s moral development is growing away from peace and acquiring miseries for oneself.

While advancement in worldly affairs is encouraged and commended by Islam, nevertheless, greater stress is laid on the development of the soul and progress along the path of righteousness; for God says in the Holy Quran that the most honored in His sight are those who are the most righteous.  Excessive materialism arises in those men who do not look beyond the grave and fail to appreciate the scheme of things in their totality. They give attention only to their material progress as they do not know of any other progress.  On the other hand, the men of God, do not neglect their moral and spiritual progress.  A believer knows that his love for God should excel his love for the things of this world. He yearns to develop within himself the attributes of God; and while he does not ignore the responsibilities of life he is ever watchful in avoiding all temptations liable to hinder his moral and spiritual advancement.

If on one extreme, of love for worldly things, is materialism then on the other extreme is asceticism.  Asceticism is so to speak an escape from our role in this present life.  Both extremes are detrimental to the moral and spiritual progress of man.  Sometimes one opts for asceticism and a kind of resignation in life in order to escape failure and the psychological pain associated with such failure.  This, then becomes  an escape mechanism and religion should not be blamed for such faulty resignation.  Islam just wants to put all things in true perspective and set the priorities right.  If we study the life history of the prophet Muhammad there is no element of escapism in his life.  His monumental accomplishments in a short life span of 63 years will always remain unparalleled.

Materialism leads to such love for these material things that it becomes more and more difficult for one to make moral choices when material stakes are high.  Islam teaches us a balance between the two forces, so that on one hand material progress is not halted and on the other hand moral and spiritual progress is not compromised.  We do not want to lay down proofs of the life after death here for we have pursued that in the commentary of Surah Al Waqi’ah (The Event or the Resurrection).  Whereas, materialism and exclusive focus on this world is short sightedness, as it ignores the life after death, asceticism is ignoring the purpose of life.

When we think about the part of our life, that has passed, it seems like a flash, a wink or twinkling of the eye.  It only leaves a feeling of nostalgia behind, and its existence appears rather unreal.  In short it has a fleeting existence and seems like a dream that is passed.  For those who have passed all their lives and have died, according to the Holy Quran when they look back, it seems to them that they lived only for a moment on this earth (23:112-113).

Bible quotes a moving testimony from King Solomon regarding the futility of taking worldly success as the final goal of one’s life:

I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and Planted vineyards.  I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of  fruit trees in them.  I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees. I bought male and female slaves and had other slaves who were born in my house.  I also owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before me.  I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces.  I acquired men and women singers, and harem as well — the delights of the heart of men. I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. In all this my wisdom stayed with me.

I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure.

My heart took delight in all my work, and this was the reward for all my labor.

Yet when I surveyed all that my hand had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun (Bible, Ecclesiastes 2:4-11).

The message in these quotes is not one of asceticism but one of contentment and of simplicity.  These verses mean to put our present life in perspective of our eternal life in the hereafter.  These verses do not deny the useful role of some of the material things in our lives.  As the holy Quran, after naming some worldly goods says, “All these are the provisions of this life.”  It is excessive love and greed for material things that leads to evil and destruction of peace of mind in several ways.  If one recalls and analyzes the events of years ago, very often, one realizes that many of the issues that appeared to be vitally important yesterday, appear trivial and meaningless today.  Among other reasons, it is this perspective, that puts our present life in true colors against the life after death.

It is also very important that what is being criticized here is the act to seek material gains as ends in themselves.  A devout believer will also seek these same material gains, but with an intention to be able to serve God and His creatures with those resources.  The same pursuit becomes a mirage for the worldly inclined (24:39), and a source of spiritual progress for the devout believer.  It is the underlying intention that determines the quality of actions and in many instances the end result.

The story of Korah (Qarun), who was a contemporary of Moses puts our pursuit for worldly wealth into perspective.  His wealth made him very arrogant and exultant. The Holy Quran describes it in some detail.

Indeed, Korah was of the people of Moses, but he behaved tyrannically towards them. And We had given him treasures of hoarded wealth so much that the keys thereof would have weighed down a party of strong men. When his people said to him, ‘Exult not, surely Allah loves not those who exult;  And seek … the Home of the Hereafter (by spending in the way of Allah); and neglect not your people in this world; and do good to others as Allah has done good to you; And seek not to create mischief in the land. Indeed, Allah loves not those who create mischief;’  He said, ‘All this has been given to me because of the knowledge I possess. (Where does Allah come in the picture?)’.  …  So he went forth before his people in all his pomp. Those who were desirous of the life of this world said, ‘Would that we had the like of what Korah has been given!  Truly, he is the master of great fortune.’  But those who had been given true knowledge said, `Woe unto you (on what you long for), Allah’s (lasting) reward (in the hereafter) is best for those who believe and do good works; and it shall be granted to no one except those who are steadfast.’  (Because of arrogant attitude of Korah and his persecution of Moses and his followers).  Then Allah (caused an earth quake) and made the earth to swallow him up and his dwelling; And he had no party to help him against Allah, nor was he of those who can defend themselves.   And those who had coveted his position the day before began to say, ‘… it is indeed Allah Who enlarges the provisions for such of His servants as He pleases and straitens it for whom He pleases. Had not Allah been gracious to us, He would have caused it to swallow us up also. Ah!  the ungrateful never prosper.’  The home of the Hereafter. We give to those who seek not self-exaltation in the earth, …And the good end is for the righteous. (28:76-83)

Accumulation of wealth and power for personal aggrandizement is hell fire, but the same desire to make money to raise one’s family and to serve humanity becomes a great boon for the believer. Indeed actions are judged by their motives.

In conclusion: “This present life is merely an amusement and a diversion; the true life is in the Hereafter, if only they knew.” (29:64)

Our Collection of Essays or Articles about the Glorious Quran

Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times

I have collected the best articles out there explaining the Quran in general and also some specific verses.

The Quran says: Say, ‘If the ocean became ink for the words of my Lord, surely, the ocean would be exhausted before the words of my Lord came to an end, even though We brought the like thereof as further help.’ (18:109)  This talks of expansive and vast knowledge, incorporated layer upon layer, in the brief approximately 6300 verses of the text of the scripture of Islam.

I do believe that the Quran like any other scripture can be misinterpreted to suit the writer’s agenda. Therefore, I clearly understand that the glorious Quran should not be changed into a political philosophy or ideology, a totalitarian agenda or to take away freedom of conscience, freedom of religion, human rights or women rights, which will be clearly against the Quranic emphasis on compassion and justice.


Here is our initial collection; over time we foresee hundreds of articles to be collected like a beautiful bouquet of flowers, in this collection, God willing:

Sir Zafrullah Khan Introducing the Holy Quran to the World

Why Secularism Is Compatible with the Quran and Sunnah — And an ‘Islamic State’ Is Not

God Is Living, So Why Does Religion Treat God As Dead?

Inheritance in Islam

Gender Equality in the Holy Qur’an – In the Beginning Man and Woman Were Equal

Surrendering the Sword of the ‘Sword-Verse’

Defensive War: Why Fighting Was Allowed?

The Scope, Style and Effect of the Holy Quran

Sources or Criteria for Interpretation of the Holy Quran

Explaining Misinterpretations of the Holy Text to a Christian Audience

Sources or Criteria for Interpretation of the Holy Quran

Reading the Quran: Do They Still Cook You on the Stake, For Knowing the Scripture?

One of the Best English Translations of the Quran Now Available Online

A Sexual Offender from ISIS: Is the Quran to Blame?

A Quranic Prophecy against High Odds: The Roman victory against the Persians

Aztec beliefs in the Afterlife: Stephen Hawking and me

The holy Quran speaks more often to men than women

Video of Berkley Center: Islam, Human Rights, and the Secular

Scope, Style and Preservation of the Quran

Now we will list the titles of the essays that are available in the commentary of Syed Hossein Nasr and his associates:

How to Read the Quran by Ingrid Mattson

The Quran in Translation by Joseph Lumbard

The Islamic View of the Quran by Muhammad Mustafa al-Azami

Quranic Arabic: Its Characteristics and Impact on Arabic Language and Literature and the Languages and Literatures of Other Islamic Peoples by Muhammad Abdel Haleem

Quranic Commentaries by Walid Saleh

Traditions of Esoteric and Sapiential Quranic Commentary by Toby Mayer

Scientific Commentary on the Quran by Muzaffar Iqbal

The Quran as Source of Islamic Law by Ahmad Muhammad al-tayyib

The Quran and Schools of Islamic Theology and Philosophy by Mustafd Muhaqqiq Damad

The Quran and Sufism by William C. Chittick

The Quran and Islamic Art by ]ean—Louis Michon

The Quranic View of Sacred History and Other Religions by Joseph Lumbard

Quranic Ethics, Human Rights, and Society by Maria Massi Dakake

Conquest and Conversion, War and Peace in the Quran by Caner K. Dagli

Death, Dying, and the Afterlife in the Quran by Hamza Yusuf

Defensive War: Why Fighting Was Allowed?

Why Fighting Was Allowed?

Source: Introduction of the Quran Translation and Commentary by Muhammad Ali

The Muslims were allowed to fight indeed, but what was the object? Not to compel the unbelievers to accept Islam, for it was against all the broad principles in which they had hitherto been brought up. No, it was to establish religious freedom, to stop all religious persecution, to protect the houses of worship of all religions, mosques among them. Here are a few quotations:

“And if Allah did not repel some people by others, cloisters and churches and synagogues and mosques in which Allah’s name is much remembered, would have been pulled down” (22:40).

“And fight them until there is no persecution, and religion is only for Allah” (2:193).

“And fight them until there is no more persecution, and all religions are for Allah” (8:39).

Under what conditions was the permission to fight given to the Muslims? Every student of Islamic history knows that the Holy Prophet and his companions were subjected to the severest persecution, as Islam began to gain ground at Makkah; over a hundred of them fled to Abyssinia, but persecution grew still more relentless. Ultimately, the Muslims had to take refuge in Madinah, but they were not left alone even there, and the sword was taken up by the enemy to annihilate Islam and the Muslims. The Qur’an bears express testimony to this:

“Permission (to fight) is given to those on whom war is made, because they are oppressed. And Allah is able to assist them — those who are driven from their homes without a just cause except that they say: Our Lord is Allah” (22:39, 40 .

Later, the express condition was laid down:

“And fight in the way of Allah against those who fight against you, but be not aggressive. Surely Allah loves not the aggressors” (2:190).

The Qur’an, therefore, allowed fighting only to save a persecuted community from powerful oppressors, and hence the condition was laid down that fighting was to be stopped as soon as persecution ceased:

“But if they desist, then surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. And fight them until there is no persecution” (2:192, 193).

If the enemy offered peace, peace was to be accepted, though the enemy’s intention might be only to deceive the Muslims:

“And if they incline to peace, incline thou also to it, and trust in Allah. Surely He is the Hearer, the Knower. And if they intend to deceive thee, then surely Allah is sufficient for thee” (8:61, 62).

The Holy Prophet made treaties of peace with his enemies; one such treaty brought about the famous truce of Hudaibiyah, the terms of which were not only disadvantageous, but also humiliating to the Muslims. According to the terms of this treaty “if an unbeliever, being converted to Islam, went over to the Muslims, he was to be returned, but if a Muslim went over to the unbelievers, he was not to be given back to the Muslims”. This clause of the treaty cuts at the root of all allegations of the use of force by the Holy Prophet. It also shows the strong conviction of the Holy Prophet that neither would Muslims go back to unbelief, nor would the new converts to Islam be deterred from embracing Islam because the Prophet gave them no shelter. And these expectations proved true, for while not a single Muslim deserted Islam, a large number came over to Islam, and, being refused shelter at Madinah, formed a colony of their own in neutral territory.

It is a mistake to suppose that the conditions related above were abrogated at any time. The condition to fight “against those who fight against you” remained in force to the last. The last expedition led by the Holy Prophet was the famous Tabuk expedition, and every historian of Islam knows that, though the Prophet had marched a very long distance to Tabuk at the head of an army of thirty thousand, yet, when he found that the enemy did not fulfil the condition laid down above, he returned, and did not allow his troops to attack the enemy territory. Nor is there a single direction in the latest revelation on this subject, in ch. 9, The Immunity, that goes against this condition. The opening verse of that chapter speaks expressly of “idolaters with whom you made an agreement”, and then, v. 4., excepts from its purview “those of the idolaters with whom you made an agreement, then they have not failed you in anything and have not backed up anyone against you”, thus showing clearly that the “immunity” related only to such idolatrous tribes as had first made agreements with the Muslims and then, violating them, killed and persecuted the Muslims wherever they found them, as v. 10 says expressly: “They respect neither ties of relationship nor covenant in the case of a believer”. Such people are also spoken of in an earlier revelation: “Those with whom thou makest an agreement, then they break their agreement every time, and they keep not their duty” (8:56). Further on, in ch. 9, the condition of the enemy attacking the Muslims first is plainly repeated: “Will you not fight a people who broke their oaths and aimed at the expulsion of the Messenger, and they attacked you first?” (9:13). So from first to last, the Holy Qur’an allowed fighting only against those who fought the Muslims first; it allowed expressly only fighting in defence without which the Muslims could not live and it clearly forbade aggressive war. The waging of war on unbelievers to compel them to accept Islam is a myth pure and simple, a thing unknown to the Holy Qur’an. It was the enemy that waged war on the Muslims to turn them away from their religion, as the Holy Book so clearly asserts: “And they will not cease fighting you until they turn you back from your religion, if they can” (2:217).

Additional information from other sources

Among the key Quranic verses pertainging to defensive war are 2:190-194; 2:216-217; 3:116-156; 4:75; 5:13; 8:5; 8:38-39; 8:61; 9:1-15; 9:1-15; 9:29; 9:111; 10:109; 22:39-40; 22:52; 42:40; 47:4; 60:8-9, though there are others.

Also read 42:48; 2:256; 13:40; 5:48; 5:92 and 88:21-23.