The Conditional Promise
That Muslim social and political well-being is the result of sure faith and obedience to God, and not visa-versa, is borne out by the Qur’an in many a verse. Whilst analysing the verse, God will surely help those who help Him, [22:40] Shaykh Muhammad al-Amin al-Shanqiti (d.1393H/1972CE), the highly acclaimed Mauritanian scholar of Islamic legal theory (usul al-fiqh) and Quranic exegesis (tafsir), wrote:
‘God said, when expounding on those to whom He swore He would help – for He is the One to give aid and victory: Those who, if We give them power in the earth, establish the prayer and pay the zakat, and enjoin good and forbid evil. [22:41] What this noble verse proves (that whoever helps God, God will help him) is also confirmed at other places too, like in His saying: O you who believe; if you help God, He shall help you and plant your feet firmly. As for the rejectors, for them is ruination; He will send their deeds astray. [47:7-8] Also His saying: And Our word was given of old to Our servants that We sent: That they will indeed be helped, and that Our host, they will be the victors. [37:171-3] And: God has decreed: ‘I will surely triumph, Myself and My Messengers.’ [58:21] Also: God has promised those of you who believe and do good works that He shall permit them to inherit [sovereignty in] the land. [24:55] As well as other similar verses.
In God’s words, Those who, if We grant them power in the earth, is evidence that there is no promise of help from God except by establishing prayer and paying the zakat, and enjoining good and forbidding evil. It is those to whom God shall grant power in the earth and through whom He will establish His word.
But those who do not establish prayer or pay the zakat, nor enjoin good or forbid evil, have no such promise of help from Him. For they are neither of His party, and nor of His allies who have the promise of His help. Rather, they are the party of Satan and his allies. So if they were to expect God’s help and the fulfillment of His promise to them, their example would be like that of a hired worker who refuses to do the job which he was hired for, yet still expects to get paid! Whoever deems such an affair reasonable, is surely devoid of intelligence.’1
Some points to consider from the above:
1. In order to attract divine help, a conscious change must be made from committing sins and acts of disobedience to God, to one of obedience to Him: God never changes the condition of a people unless they change what is in themselves. [13:28] Could it get any more explicit!
2. The rule by which God runs the affairs of the cosmos – the sunan al-kawniyyah – is: disobedience begets calamity and humiliation: And whatever calamity befalls you is for what your own hands have earned. But He pardons much. [42:30] The Qur’an declares in another verse: Corruption has appeared on land and in the sea for what men’s hands have earned. [30:41] Elsewhere: When a disaster befell you, although you inflicted a loss twice as heavy, you exclaimed: ‘Whose fault was that?’ Say: ‘It is from your ownselves.’ [3:165]
3. That God’s promise of aid to the ummah is made conditional on obedience to Him: without satisfying this condition, we will continue to wallow in a state of humiliation and ignominy. Consider the following hadith: ‘When you deal in ‘inah,2 hold on to the tails of cows, content yourself with farming and abandon striving [in the path of God], God will cover you all with humiliation and will not lift it from you, until you return to your religion.’ [Abu Dawud, no.3462]
4. This, in turn, demands an active struggle: a struggle against our nafs; with society’s moral ills; and against those who desire that the divine light be extinguished. Priority must be given to those matters that the Sacred Law deems to be a personal obligation (fard al-‘ayn) and then a communal obligation (fard al-kifayah), over issues that are not obligations.
5. That numbers isn’t the key, but quality of hearts is: And on the day of Hunayn, when you basked in your great numbers, but it availed you nothing. [9:25] Huge numbers will be of little use, if this multitude of hearts are riddled with sins, devoid of sincerity, lack the courage of their convictions, will not make sacrifices for their faith, and are filled with an inordinate love of worldliness and consumerism. The Prophet, peace be upon him, warned: ‘Nations will soon summon each other to attack you, like [hungry] diners invite one another to eat from a platter of food.’ A person asked: Is it because we will be few in number that day, O Messenger of God? He replied: ‘Rather, you will be plenty in number, but you shall be [as insignificant] as the foam on the ocean. And God will remove from the hearts of your enemies fear of you, and shall cast into your hearts weakness.’ People asked: What is the weakness, O Messenger of God? He said: ‘Love of this world and hatred of death.’ [Abu Dawud, no.4297]
Thus God never changes the condition of a people unless they change what is in themselves enjoins on us, not some external moral reform that is fixated on a few manifestations of outward piety and morality, but instead an inward transformation – a realignment of the soul – which reflects a genuine purity of the heart. Some mistakenly see in this a call to quietism, while in reality it is a position of empowerment. For as we work on our inner world, keeping an eye on the obligations and responsibilities we have in the outer world, we will see the promise of God come to fruition in the human saga.
1. Adwa’ al-Bayan (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah, 1996), 5:481-2.
2. ‘Inah transaction: To sell a commodity for a price to be paid at a later date, and then buy it back immediately for a lower price to be paid on the spot. The net result of this is to circumvent the shari‘ah so as to loan money on interest (riba). Cf. Ibn ‘Uthaymin, Sharh al-Mumti‘ (Saudi Arabia: Dar Ibn al-Jawzi, 2004), 8:210-11.
*Above Photo: A Moment In And Out of Time, at http://www.petersanders.com