Migration to Allaah
by Ibnul Qayyim Al-Jawziyyah
The caravan departs, and the traveller enters into a foreign land. He becomes separated from the habits and customs associated with his homeland. This allows him to ponder carefully over his situation. He seeks the most important thing that helps in his journey to Allah, and that deserves his life's pursuance.
The One in whose Hand is the guidance guides him to this most important thing that he seeks: "Migration to Allah and His Messenger". This migration is a fard (mandatory Islamic duty) on everyone at all times - it is the thing that Allah ta'ala requires from His 'ibaad (slaves).
Migration is of two types:
The first is the migration of the body from one land to another. The legislation regarding this type of migration is well known, and it is not our intention to discuss them here.
The second type is the migration of the heart to Allah ta'ala and His Messenger sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam. This is the only true hijrah; it must precede the bodily hijrah, which is its natural outcome.
Fleeing unto Allah
This hijrah requires an origin and a goal. A person migrates with his heart:
· From loving other than Allah > loving Him;
· From fearing and hoping and relying on other than Him > fearing and hoping and relying on Him;
· From calling upon, asking, surrendering to, and humbling oneself before other than Him > calling upon, asking, surrendering to, and humbling oneself before Him.
This is precisely the meaning of "fleeing unto Allah", as He ta'ala says:
"...Flee unto Allah..." [Surah Ath-Thaariyaat 51:50]
And indeed, the tawhid 1 required from a person is to flee from Allah unto Him! Under this heading of "from" and "to" falls a great reality of tawhid.
Fleeing unto Allah ta'ala includes turning to Him only for asking or worship or anything which proceeds from that. Thus, it includes the tawhid of Ilahiyyah which was the common point in the messages of all the messengers, may Allah bestows His praise and peace upon all of them.
On the other hand, fleeing from Allah (unto Him) includes the tawh id of Rububiyyah and the belief in the Qadar (Allah's Divine Measure & Decree). It is the belief that whatever one hates or fears or flees from in the universe takes place by the Will of Allah alone. What He ta'ala wills will surely happen, and what He does not will never be and is impossible to happen.
Thus when a person flees unto Allah, he would be fleeing unto him from a thing that occurred by His Will. In other words, he would be fleeing from Him unto Him!
One who understands this well can then understand the meaning of the Messenger's sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam words:
"...I seek refuge from You in You..." 2
"...There is no shelter or escape from You except in You..." 3
There is nothing in the universe that one would flee or seek protection from but is created and originated by Allah ta'ala. Hence, one would flee from that which emanates from Allah's decree, will, and creation, to that which emanates from His mercy, goodness, kindness, and bounty. One is, therefore, fleeing from Allah unto Him, and seeking refuge in Him from Him!
Understanding these two matters causes one's heart to stop being attached to other than Allah in fear, hope or love. He would then know that all that he flees from exists by the Allah's will, power and creation. This would not leave in his heart any fear of other than his Creator and Maker. This in turn causes him to turn to Allah alone in fear, love and hope.
Had it been that what one flees from were not under Allah's Will and Power, one would then be excused to fear that thing instead of Allah. This would be like running away from a creature to a more powerful one, without being totally confident that the second creature is powerful enough to protect him from the first one.
This is quite different from the case of a person who knows that the One to whom he is running is the same as the One who decreed, willed, and created that from which he is fleeing. In the latter case, no interest in seeking other protectors should remain in the heart.
So, understand well this important meaning in the Prophet's sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam words above. People have explained them in many different ways, yet very few have realized this meaning which is their core and moral. This facilitation [in understanding] is indeed from Allah.
Thus the whole matter resolves to fleeing from Allah unto Him. This is the meaning of the hijrah to Allah ta'ala. This further explains why the Messenger sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam said:
"A true migrator is one who abandons what Allah has prohibited." 4
This is also why Allah ta'ala mentions Imaan and hijrah together in several places [eg. al-Anfal 8:72,74,75 & at-Tauba 9:20] - the two being closely linked, and each of them requiring the other.
The Importance of Migrating to Allah
In conclusion, the hijrah to Allah includes abandoning what He hates and doing what He loves and accepts. The hijrah originates from feelings of love and hatred. The migrator from one place to another must have more love for the place to which he migrated than that from which he migrated, and these feelings are what led him to prefer one of the two places.
One's nafs (self, soul), his whims and his devil keep calling him to that which is against what he loves and is satisfied with. One continues to be tested by these three things, calling him to avenues that displease his Lord.
At the same time, the call of Imaan will continue to direct him to what pleases his Lord. Thus one should keep migrating to Allah at all times, and should not abandon this hijrah until death.
This hijrah becomes strong or weak [in the heart] depending on the state of the Imaan. The stronger and more complete that the Imaan is, the more perfect the hijrah. And if the Imaan weakens, the hijrah weakens too, until one becomes unable to detect its presence or have the readiness to be moved by it.
What is surprising is that you might find a man talking at great length and going into very fine details regarding the [physical] hijrah from the land of disbelief (Dar-ul-Kufr) to the land of Islam (Dar-ul-Islam), and regarding the hijrah which ended with conquering Makkah, even though this type of hijrah is incidental, and he may never have to do a thing with it in his whole life.5
But as for the hijrah of the heart, which continues to be required from him as long as he breathes, you find that he does not seek any knowledge regarding it, nor does he develop any intention to undertake it! Thus he turns away from that for which he has been created, and which - alone - can save him, and involves himself in that which, of itself, cannot save him. This is the situation of those whose vision has been blinded, and whose knowledge is weak regarding the priorities of knowledge and action.
Indeed, Allah is the One from Whom we seek help, and He alone does facilitate our matters. There is no god except Him and no Lord other than Him.
Description of a Migrator to the Messenger
Migration to the Messenger sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam is a knowledge that has been [mostly] lost [from among people]; only its name continues to exist. It is a practice that has been abandoned; only its outline remains. It is a road whose milestones have been obliterated by wild animals, and whose water sources have been dried up by the enemies.
Thus the person who takes this road is a stranger among people, unique in his surroundings, distant [from others] despite his physical closeness, lonely despite numerous neighbours. He is unhappy with what pleases [the common] people, and [often] satisfied with what depresses them. He resides when they travel, and travels when they reside. He is alone in the Way that he chose for seeking his goal, feeling no satisfaction until he achieves it. He is with the people in his body, but away from them by virtue of his goal. Their eyes sleep indifferently, neglecting to seek the Guidance; but he spends his nights awake. They are too lazy for migration to the Prophet sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam, while he is totally engrossed in its pursuit. They scorn his indifference to their ideas; and they blame him for criticizing their ignorance and inconsistencies. They cast their doubts on him, and they keep close watch over him.
They wait hopefully for death to rid them of him. He responds to them with what Allah says:
"Say [Muhammad]: "Do you await for us anything except one of the two best things (martyrdom or victory), while we await for you that Allah will afflict you with a punishment from Himself or at our hands. So wait, we too are waiting with you." [at-Tawba 9:52]
"He (Muhammad) said: "My Lord! Judge You in truth! Our Lord is ar-Rahman (the Most Merciful), whose help is to be sought against that which you attribute unto Him [of falsehoods]." [al-Anbiya 21:112]
He further reminds them [with what an Arab poet once said]:
"Both we and you will die, And the true loser at the time of reckoning is he who will then feel sorry."
Definition of Migration to the Messenger
Migration to the Prophet sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam is a most important matter. It is a long and difficult way for those who are not prepared for it, as a poet once said:
"It is far for him who is lazy or who tires easily, But as for the one who has the longing, it is smooth and easy for him."
By Allah's Life, this migration is but a shining light to illuminate your darkness. It is a full moon lighting the earth from east to west and capable of lighting your gloom. It is a clear sweet stream of water capable of washing away the stains of your heart. It is the beginning of a great bounty of which you could be unaware.
Listen now to the importance of this migration and to the evidence pointing to it. Be a judge of yourself before Allah: Are you among those who run away from it or among those who run toward it?
The definition of this migration is: the soul's journey, in all matters of belief, in all desires of the heart, and in all legislative matters, to the origin of Guidance and the source of Light. This Guidance and Light came from the mouth of the truthful and trustworthy, Muhammad sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam, whom Allah ta'ala describes as:
"Your companion (Muhammad) is neither astray nor being misled. Nor does he speak of (his own) desire. It is only the Revelation with which he is inspired." [an-Najm 53:2-4]
A matter is acceptable only if the light of his Message shone over it; otherwise, it deserves to be thrown into the seas of darkness. A witness is acceptable only if he is recommended by this praised one sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam; otherwise, you can consider him among the doubtful and accused.
How then could a man who is enslaved by his base instincts and worldly habits undertake this migration? A man who does not want to part with the place where he was born and raised? A man who says: "We only follow our fathers' ways, hold to their traditions, and trace their footsteps." How could he undertake it when his ancestors were incapable of doing so, and yet he relies totally on them to determine his way for success and salvation, claiming that their opinions should be better and sounder than his?
If you investigate the reason for saying this you find it a combination of laziness and indifference.
The Obligation of Migrating to the Messenger
This migration [to the Messenger sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam] is required from every Muslim. It follows directly from the [second part of the] Shahaadah (the testimony proclaimed by every Muslim):
"Muhammad sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam is Allah's Messenger,"
just as the first type of migration [to Allah] follows from the [first part of the same] Shahaadah, that:
"There is no true god except Allah."
Every human being will be asked about these two manners of migration, both in the barzakh 8 and on the Day of Resurrection. Qataadah [one of the Taabi'in 9] said:
"The earlier and the later people will be asked two questions [on the Day of Judgement]: What did you worship, and what was your response to the messengers." 10
These two matters are the content of the two parts of the Shahadah.
A Great Oath
Allah ta'ala said:
"But no, by your Lord, they can have no Imaanuntil they set you (Muhammad) judge in any disputes that arise among them, and then find in their souls no resistance against your decisions but accept them with the fullest submission." [an-Nisaa' 4:65]
Here Allah the Exalted makes the greatest oath - by His own Self, Glory be to Him, that the Imaan is not confirmed for a person, and he is not one of its People, until he accepts the Messenger sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam as the judge in all matters of dispute and in all aspects of the Deen.
Using the term "any disputes" in this aayah absolutely negates the presence of Imaan unless the Messenger sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam is made the judge in ail disputes. In addition, Allah ta'ala has required satisfaction of the heart with the Messenger's judgment so that one would find no resistance in his soul. One should accept his judgment with satisfaction and submission. Taking the judgment with dissatisfaction, or following it in spite of oneself is contrary to the meaning of Imaan. So, the Messenger's judgment should be accepted with satisfaction and pleasure of the heart.
Once a person knows this, he should always examine himself and look into his heart [to see how true is his submission to the Messenger's judgements]. He should do this whenever a judgment comes from the Messenger sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam, in a major or a minor matter, conflicting with his desire or differing from the way of his ancestors. Allah ta'ala says:
"Nay, man will be evidence against himself, even though he were to put up excuses." [al-Qiyaamah 75:14-15]
Glory be to Allah! In how many instances have people hated quotations [from the Messenger sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam] and wished that they were never said! What hatred in their hearts and what dryness in their throats did some of the texts leave! Their secret thoughts will be revealed to them, causing them pain and humiliation on that Day:
"The Day when all the secrets [of hearts and intentions] will be uncovered and tested." [at-Taariq 86:9]
Furthermore, Allah ta'ala concludes the above ayah by requiring the fullest submission to [the judgements and commands of] the Messenger sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam.
Loving the Messenger and Submitting to Him
This submission is not that of a defeated fighter who is forced to surrender to his enemy.
Rather, it is the submission of an obedient subordinate to his master who is dearer to him than any other creature, when he realizes that only through this submission will he achieve happiness and success.
It is the submission of one who realizes that, compared to his own self, this master has more concern and compassion for him, and is a better counsellor who is more knowledgeable about what benefits him, and therefore more capable of saving him.
When a person realizes these meanings 11 with respect to the Messenger sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam, he will surely submit himself to him sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam, and surrender every desire in his heart in obedience to him. He will then comprehend that he cannot attain happiness except through this submission and obedience.
This matter is not easy to express in words. The heart needs to open up for it to allow it to sink down to its depths. It cannot be attained by mere claims or wishes. A poet once said:
"Everyone claims to be the lover of Layla, But Layla does not commit to any of them."
There is a great difference between knowing the meaning of love and being truly in love. People frequently confuse between knowledge and experience.
Similar to this is the example of a sick man who is under the influence of a disease; he knows the meaning of health and well-being; however, his knowledge does not make him experience what a healthy man enjoys of good health, even if the latter cannot describe his healthy status in an expressive way.
Another example is that of two persons, one of them knowing the meaning of fear, and the- other is subjected to it and is really experiencing it.
Methods of Emphasis in This Ayah
In the above ayah (an-Nisaa' 65), notice how Allah ta'ala emphasizes the obligation of obeying the Messenger sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam in several ways:
1. STARTING WITH A NEGATION
First, He precedes the oath with the negation, "But no, by your Lord.."
This style of starting a sentence with a negation when making an oath concerning a negated matter (in this case, their Imaan is what is being negated) common in the language of the Arabs. For instance as-Siddiq [Abu Bakr (R)] said:
"No, by Allah! He shall not turn around to one of Allah's lions, who fought for Allah and His Messenger, and give you his booty." 12
Examples of this style are very numerous in the Arabic poetry as in the following two example:
"No, by your father 13, O daughter of the one from the tribe of 'Amir, People cannot claim that I ever run away (in the battlefield)."
"No, by Allah! One cannot find for what ails me, Or what ails them - ever- a cure."
If you examine the sentences in the Qur'an which include oaths, and which start with negation articles, you will find in most of them that the thing about which the oath is made is itself negated as well. This general rule is not revoked by Allah's saying:
"But no! I swear by the setting of the stars - and verily, that is indeed a great oath, if you but know - that this is indeed a most honourable Qur'an, in a Book well guarded (with Allah)." [al-Waaqi'ah: 57 75-78]
The intention in these ayaat is to first negate the fallacies of the disbelievers regarding the Qur'an: that it is poetry, magic, or fables of the past. Then they confirm the opposite. Thus they tell them, "But no! It is not what you claim, but is rather an honourable Qur'an". In other places, Allah ta'ala explicitly mentions both the negation (underlined) and the affirmation (italics). For example, He ta'ala says:
"But no! I swear by the planets that disappear during the day, running in their courses in secret, and the night as it departs, and the dawn as it brightens. Verily this (the Qur'an) the words (brought) by a honourable messenger (Jibreel), endowed with power and with rank before the Lord of the Throne (Allah), obeyed (by the Angels), trustworthy therein (in the heavens). People! Your companion (Muhammad) is not a madman; indeed he saw him (Jibreel) in the clear horizon; and he does not withhold (from you) a knowledge of the ghayb 16 and it (the Qur'an) is not the word of an outcast devil." [at-Takweer 81:15-25]
"But no! I do swear by the Day of Resurrection, and I swear by the self-reproaching soul (of a believer). Does the human being think that We shall not assemble his bones? Yes, We are Able to put together in perfect order the tips of his fingers." [al-Qiyaamah 75:1-4]
Therefore, opening the oath with articles of negation emphasizes the matter being discussed, and confirms the absence of false claims or erroneous beliefs regarding it.
2. USING AN OATH
The second method of emphasis is that Allah ta'ala used an oath [to negate Imaan from those who do not fulfill the conditions of submitting to the Prophet's judgment as set forth in the rest of the ayah]
3. SWEARING BY HIMSELF
The third method is that Allah ta'ala chose to swear by Himself and not by any of His creatures, which He does on some occasions. 17
4. REQUIRING THE ABSENCE OF ANY RESISTANCE
The fourth method of emphasis is that Allah ta'ala requires submission to the Messenger's judgment, such that no resistance to it remains in the souls.
5. COMPLETE SUBMISSION
And the fifth method of emphasis is in repeating the verb "submit" in the abstract form. Literally, this would be stated as: "... And submit a submission." In Arabic, this reflects the meaning: "... And submit completely or fully".
The Prophet's Claim on the Believers
The eloquent methods of emphasis applied here, and the great care taken to confirm this in the souls of the worshipers, are because of the great need of this important matter. Allah ta'ala said:
"The Prophet has a higher claim 18 on the believers than [they have on] their own selves." [al-Ahzaab 33:6]
Some people think that the Messenger sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam cannot have more claim on them than their own selves. This ayah indicates that anyone who thinks like this is not one of the believers.
This Prophet's claim on the believers involves the following two important matters:
1. DEARER THAN ONE'S SELF
The Messenger sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam should be more beloved than one's own self. This is so because the Prophet's claim on a believer is based on love; and a person usually loves himself more than others; yet the Messenger sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam should have more claim on him, and be dearer to him than himself. A person who fulfils this acquires the quality of Imaan.
Once a person submits to the Prophet's claim on him and loves him more than any other creature, then there follows full compliance, obedience, and all the other consequences of love, such as satisfaction with his judgment, submission to his orders, and favouring him over anyone else.
2. THE RULER OVER ONE'S SELF
A person should not have an independent rule over himself; this authority is the right of the Messenger sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam. His rule is superior to a master's rule over his slave or a father's over his son. Thus, a person has no right of disposal over himself except in accordance with what the Messenger sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam disposes, for he sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam has more claim on him than himself.
Deviation from true love
How then could such a closeness (to the Messenger) ever be attained by a person who isolates the Messenger's message from the position of authority [over himself and his life], who is more satisfied and pleased with someone else's judgment, who claims that the guidance is not acquired from him sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam but from the dictates of the minds, and who claims that the Messenger's message does not offer full certainty? These and other similar views reflect a deviation from him sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam and from his Message, and that indeed is the worst misguidance.
There is no way to establish the closeness to the Messenger sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam except by isolating oneself from all but him sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam, following him in everything, and checking what anyone else says against that with which he sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam came. So, if the Messenger's testimony supports it, it is accepted, and if it invalidates it, it is rejected; and if it were unclear whether his testimony is for or against it then it is treated as the talk of the People of the Scripture, and no decision is made concerning it until he is sure which of the two judgments is closer to it.
The one who follows this method will have his journey of hijrah straightforward, his knowledge and deeds will be upright, and the people will aspire to him from every direction.
One of the greatest forms of mutual help in righteousness and piety is to help one another in the journey of migration to Allah and His Messenger sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam. This help should be done by hands, tongues and hearts - through teaching, advising, educating, guiding, and caring.
If a person has this attitude toward Allah's creatures, prosperity will rush to him from all directions, Allah will move His creatures' hearts toward him, will open the gates of knowledge for his heart, and will facilitate the path of bliss for him.
Conversely, one with an opposite attitude will receive opposite consequences.
One might then ask, "You have described a very great journey and a very important matter; but what provisions should be taken along? Which way to follow? And what are the means to use for transportation?" The answer to this is provided in the following sections.
The Trip's Provisions
The provisions for this journey are the knowledge inherited from the Seal of Prophets sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam - there are no other provisions.
Let anyone not prepared with these provisions stay in his home and sit with those who lag behind. He would then find multitudes of other laggers to accompany. Let him follow their example; but let him know that this company will not avail him anything on the Day of Distress. Allah ta'ala said:
"On that Day, it will avail you nothing that, since you have done wrong [together], you shall be partners in punishment [as well]" [az-Zukhruf 43:39]
Thus Allah ta'ala assures that the wrongdoers' association in punishment will not profit them. In this life, people find comfort in sharing disasters, as Al-Khansa (an Arab poetess) said:
"If it were not for the abundance of people wailing around me, Because of the loss of their brethren, I would have killed myself. And even though none of them wails the like of my brother, yet, I comfort myself in that we all share similar disasters."
However, this kind of consolation will not exist among those sharing the punishment on the Day of Resurrection.
The way to accomplish this journey is through exerting at full capacity and striving to the extreme. It can neither be accomplished by wishes, nor attained through loitering. It is only as a poet once said:
"Dive into the darkness of death, and rise to eminence, Thus will you earn a distinguished and lasting honour. No good is in a soul that fears death, Nor in a willpower that worries about the reproachers' criticism."
It is not possible for a person to take this way unless one satisfies two matters:
First, as long as one is following the right way, one should never be concerned about the reproaches of those who like to find faults. Some types of reproach can hit even a strong knight so hard as to cause him to drop from his horse to the ground dead.
Second, one's soul should be so worthless to him, for Allah's sake, that he would rush forward, fearless of any perils. The moment the soul becomes frightened, it retreats and turns away from facing dangers, preferring the lowliness of the earth.
These two matters cannot be further fulfilled without patience. One who exercises patience for just a short while will find dangers turn into a smooth breeze which can carry him where he wishes. Thus the danger that he feared suddenly changes to become his best helper and assistant. This is a matter that cannot be comprehended well except by those who have tried it.
The Means of Transportation
The means of transportation in this journey [of migration] is to take refuge in Allah ta'ala, and to turn to Him with one's whole being. It is to exhibit, by all means, full reliance on Him and true confidence in Him. It is to lie down before Him like a subdued and defeated person who possesses nothing - a person who looks up to his Master for dignity and security and for attaining some of His bounty, hoping that He would shelter him.
Such is the one whom, it is hoped, Allah will guide and show what has been concealed from others concerning the way of this hijrah and its ranks.
Contemplating Allah's Ayaat
The pinnacle of the whole affair [of performing a successful journey] and its central pillar is the continued contemplation on Allah's ayaat - to such an extent that these ayaat would overpower the person's thoughts and fascinate his heart.
Once the meanings of the Qur'an replace the passing thoughts of the heart - once the Qur'an masters the person and controls his heart until he becomes its sole obeyed leader, then his journey goes smooth, and his course becomes manifest; and even when it appears to people that he is standing still, he would, in fact, be moving ahead so fast as to race with wind. [As Allah ta'ala said:]
"You see the mountains and think them firmly fixed. But they pass away as the clouds pass away. [Such is] the mastery of Allah who disposes of all things in perfect order. Indeed, He is well acquainted with all that you do" [an-Naml 27:88]
One might ask, "You have pointed to a great aspiration. Would you disclose the door which opens into it; and would you raise the curtain that conceals it? Would you reveal how to understand thoroughly the meanings of the Qura'n, and how to reflect upon its extraordinary delights and treasures? We have in our hands the books of tafsir 1 of various Imams; are there any additional interpretations to be offered beyond what they have already done?"
I shall then present (in the next chapter) some examples that may be followed and taken as guide in this endeavour.
It is surprising to find someone claiming closeness to the Messenger sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam and complete love for him while he strives to follow and establish someone else's opinions. He bases his anger, love, and satisfaction on such opinions; he referees them; and he compares the Messenger's statements to them - if they agree with those opinions then he accepts them, otherwise he applies all sorts of tricks and takes all measures to reject them and to turn away from them.
Allah ta'ala said:
"Believers! Stand out firmly for fair dealings, as witnesses to Allah, even though it be against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin; be he rich or poor, Allah can best protect both. So follow not the lusts [of your hearts] lest you may avoid justice. If you distort your testimony or refuse to provide it, verily, Allah is ever Well-Acquainted with what you do" [an-Nisaa' 4:135]
This ayah carries great meanings that should be emphasized because of people's dire need for them.
Allah ta'ala commands the believers to establish equity and justice. It should be rendered toward everyone, whether enemy or friend.
It is even more important to establish justice in matters of ideas, opinions, and beliefs, because they relate to Allah's commands and teachings. Allowing whims and disobedience to influence one's opinions and beliefs conflicts with Allah's commands and with His Messenger's Message.
Establishing justice in ideas, opinions and beliefs is the mission of the successors to the Messenger sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam in his Ummah (nation) - those who are worthy of carrying the trust among his followers. No one deserves such description of honesty except those who establish absolute justice in this, as an advice for Allah, His Book, His Messenger, and His worshipers. These are indeed the true inheritors [of the glorious Message].
Thus a person is not worthy of this description if he takes his company, ways, and opinions as measures and indicators of the truth - loathing or befriending people because of them.
How far is such a person from establishing the justice that Allah mandated on everyone, especially in these matters of belief where the obligation is higher!
The above ayah has,"... as witnesses to Allah ...". A witness is a reporter. If he reports truthfully then he is acceptable and just; if he reports falsehoods then he is a false witness.
In addition to establishing justice, Allah requires one to be a witness for Him alone. Thus the testimony should be: with justice and for Allah alone. In another ayah Allah ta'ala said:
"Believers! Stand out firmly for Allih as witnesses to fair dealing" [al-Maaidah 5:8]
Together, these two ayaat require four things: establishing justice, doing it for Allah, maintaining truthful testimonies, and doing this for Allah as well.
The ayah in surah an-Nisaa' emphasizes fairness and maintaining the testimonies for Allah, while that of surah al-Maaidah emphasizes standing out firmly for Allah and maintaining fair testimonies. This difference (between the two ayaat) has an important reason that cannot be dealt with here.
THE TEST OF FAIRNESS
The above ayah (an-Nisaa' 135) then says, "...even if it be against your own selves, your parents or your kin...".
Allah ta'ala commands to establish justice and to maintain fair testimony against everyone, including the most beloved ones. One is required to be fair against himself, his parents who are his roots, and his relatives who are usually closer and better supporters for him than other people.
A person's love for himself, his parents, and his kin, tends to prevent him from establishing the right and justice against them, especially when the right is for someone whom he hates and loathes. Thus, it is obvious that no one will establish this justice except he to whom Allah ta'ala and His Messenger sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam are more beloved than anything else.
One can use this to test the strength of Imaan in his heart, and his status of Imaan.
On the other end, one should be just toward his enemies and those whom he dislikes. His hatred should not cause him to be unjust to them, just as his love for himself and his kin should not prevent him from establishing justice against them. This hatred should not make him do wrong, just as that love should not stop him from doing right. One of the salaf 2 said:
"A just person is one whose anger does not cause him to do wrong, and whose pleasure does not prevent him from doing right."
Thus these two ayaat (of an-Nisaa' and al-Maaidah) together require two things: establishing justice, and maintaining fair testimony with friends and enemies.
The above aayah (an-Nisaa' 135) then says, "... be he rich or poor, Allah is closer to both of them ...".
[The meaning of this is that,] "Allah is the Lord and Master of both the rich and the poor; they are His 'abid (subjects), just as you are his 'abd. So, do not be prejudiced toward a rich man because of his wealth, nor toward a poor man because of his poverty; Allah ta'ala is closer than you to both of them."
A possibly better interpretation of this is the following: "People may be reluctant to establish justice and to testify against the rich or the poor; as for the rich, they fear to cause him a loss in wealth; and as for the poor, they tend to take the matter lightly with him because of his poverty and that he possesses nothing. So they are told, 'Allah is closer than you to both the rich and the poor; He is more knowledgeable of, and more merciful toward both; thus do not stop establishing truthful testimony against either of them.'"
Two Motivations for Hiding the Truth
The next portion of the above ayah (an-Nisa' 135) says, "...So do not follow the lusts, lest you may be reluctant to establish justice..."
Another possible (but not as strong) interpretation of this ayah says, "...lest you may be unjust..."
This ayah (an-Nisa' 135) continues, "...if you distort your testimony, or refuse to provide it, verily, Allah is ever Well-Acquainted with what you do."
Allah ta'ala mentions here the two incentives for hiding the truth, warning against committing either of them. These are: distorting the testimony and refusing to provide it.
When the truth becomes clear and evident, a person who likes to hide it does so in one of two ways: he either turns away from it and abstains from mentioning it, acting by this as a mute devil, or he changes and distorts it.
The distortion of truth is either in words or in meaning. Distorting the words is done by adding, dropping, or replacing them with other words. It can also be done by uttering other words in such a way as to make the listener think that he heard something different from what was actually meant. This is similar to what the Jews did in greeting the Messenger sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam or on some other occasions 3.
Distorting the meaning is done by interpreting the words differently from what the speaker intended, introducing that which he did not mean, dropping some of what he meant, and so on.
Thus Allah ta'ala warns against all kinds of distortion in the testimony. A witness is required to provide a precise testimony, without hiding or distorting it.
Just contemplate then on the great amount of wisdom and knowledge contained in this ayah.
In summary, Imaan is not complete, or not even present in a person, unless he submits the Texts [of the Qur'an and Sunnah] with acceptance and pleasure, proclaims them, and invites people to them. He should never respond to them with rejection or distortion.