The age-old dream of the human caravan is not to send astronauts in their orbit in outer space.. it is to send its individuals - every single individual in his orbit of self-realization. It is high time that this dream be thus reinterpreted. It is also the sacred duty of every man and woman to help intelligently reorientate human endeavour towards the culmination of this pilgrimage.

Mahmoud Muhammad Taha - Answers to the questions of Mr. John Voll - 17.7.1963

Simplifying the New Islamic Call - Episode III

Part 1

In the name of God, the Beneficent the Merciful:

“Indeed We have the Revelation on the Night of Glory. What will convey to you what the Night of Glory is! The Night of Glory is the grace of a thousand months. On that Night the angels and the Spirit descend by permission of their Lord in every affair. Peace it is, till the break of dawn” [Quran, Chapter 97]. God Almighty is truthful.

Herein we continue the third episode of the series of these talks. It is a continuation of our talk about the issue of pairing. In the second episode, we established that all the meanings of the Quran are in pairs. For, our call to revive Islam, the new understanding has a secret seat in the recognition of that pairing.

We have, in our call for the revival of Islam, said that the Quran is sufficient. The Quran does not leave anything out. There is no new thing that needs to be added or renewed in the nation’s history, work, or religion, except perhaps a new understanding of the Quran. The key and access to this new understanding is the path of Muhammad (the life of the Prophet). Our new understanding can be found in the distinction of nuances. The thing that we think has a single meaning, such as Islam, in fact also has another meaning—there are two kinds of Islam.

We talked earlier about the two kinds of Islam, and we made mention of the two kinds of nations. The two kinds of nations are the nation of believers and the nation of Moslems. We said that the Moslems’ nation has not yet entered history; we have only seen its forerunners—such a nation in human history does not yet exist. But, in fact, this nation is the original intent of religion—the purpose of Islam is the Moslems’ nation. In the course of phases from Adam to Muhammad, Islam was progressing toward its end goal, which is the nation of Moslems. The latest phase of Islam, at the time of our Prophet, was the phase of the nation of believers.

At present we are called “Moslems” from the perspective of the initial Islam, but properly speaking, this is not so from the perspective of the final Islam. The initial stage of Islam involves superficial submission. With this superficial submission, we become Moslems. That’s when one believes in the Prophet in the first place and those who know him consider him worthy of their faith. He was known for his honesty and called the honest in the pre-Islamic epoch. When the Prophet came forth with his call, the people who knew him believed in him. The Koreishites also knew him and deemed him and his calling worthy to be believed, except those whose envy prevented them. Abu Bakr took the initiative and became a believer because he was familiar with and associated with the Prophet. He believed in the Prophet at the beginning of his call.

The nation, at the time of the first arising, was a nation of believers. Its Quran, in particular, was the Quran of Medina. As a matter of course, the revelation of the Quran began in Mecca with the Meccan Chapters. That revelation continued for thirteen years, yet people did not believe in Islam. People not only repudiated the Islamic call that was introduced to them, but they also disapproved, resisted, rejected, offended, and finally, plotted to assassinate the Prophet. At the time of the divine permission to emigrate, a plot to assassinate the Prophet had besieged his house.

Immediately after the Emigration, the Meccan Quran was replaced with a lower level Quran, which we called the subsidiary Quran. We will also discuss the subsidiary Quran. But what should be said here is that the subsidiary Quran is inferior to the original Quran—the Quran of Medina is inferior to the Quran of Mecca. The difference between the two kinds of Quran is not a difference in the time or place of the revelation, even though the time and place of revelation are different. Rather, the primary difference is that the trait of the subsidiary Quran is guardianship, while the trait of the original Quran is accountability. For example, it was revealed in Mecca: “Call to the way of your Lord with wisdom and fair exhortation, and reason with them (the nonbelievers) in the best manner. Your Lord is best aware of those who stray from His way, and He is best aware of those who go aright” (16:125). And also revealed: “Say: (It is) the truth from the Lord of you (all). Then whoever wills let him believe, and whoever wills let him disbelieve” (18:29). Immediately after the Emigration, the gradual downgrading from the level of the verses of accountability to the level of the verses of guardianship began.

After Moslems were prevented from fighting and were obliged to bear the abuse patiently for the sake of the call, the gradual downgrading began with the Quranic verse: “Sanction is given to those upon whom war is made because they have been wronged; and God is able to give them victory” (22:39). Then the matter gradually progressed, till it was revealed: “Fight in the cause of God those who fight you, but do not transgress” (2:190). Then it was further revealed: “Fight with them until there is no sedition, for religion should be for God; but if they desist, then there should be no hostility except against wrongdoers” (2:193). And the matter moved forward to settle upon: “So when the sacred months have passed, then slay the polytheists wherever you find them, and capture them and besiege them and prepare for them every ambush; then if they repent and keep up the prayers and pay the alms, leave their way free” (9:5). This became known as the verse of the sword. The verse of the sword is regarded as an abrogation to all of the verses of tolerance.

With the revelation of subsidiary verses, Islamic advocacy made a new shift in keeping up with the standard of that time. In practice, the incapability of people to bear or take responsibility became evident. So, it became necessary to appoint a guardian over them because they were immature. The mature guardian was commanded to compel them toward their wellbeing. In conformity with this Divine command came the hadith: “I have been ordered to fight against the people until they testify that there is no deity but God and that Muhammad is the Messenger of God, keep up the prayers, pay the alms, fast Ramadan and go on pilgrimage to the House. And if they do that, then they will gain protection from me for their lives and property; unless they violate the exoteric code, then their reckoning will be with God.” The Quran, which is based on guardianship, has abrogated the Quran that is based on accountability. As for the ordinary practitioners, the Quran of Mecca, which is based on accountability, was suspended—with respect to the exoteric code of the ordinary practitioners it was suspended. It was only applicable to the Prophet, but abrogated for the ordinary practitioners.

It has been stated in the Quran on the issue of abrogation: “We do not abrogate or postpone a verse except when we bring forth (one) better than it or similar to it” (2:106). This issue, also, needs clarification. The phrase “better than it” has made people think that what is stated in the subsidiary Quran is better than what is stated in the original Quran—people think that the Quran of Medina is better than the Quran of Mecca, which is not right. At least not in the sense that it is loftier or superior; rather, it keeps up with the standard of the time. It was good for people because it felt convenient. And the phrase “similar to it” means the same verse will be brought back once again.

So, we understand from the verse: “better than it (in keeping up with the standard of the time) or similar to it (the same verse will be brought back once again).” In fact, this is what our current advocacy is resting on. We are currently advocating the revival of the verses that were abrogated in the seventh century to be the true guidance for our time, following the meaning of the phrase “or similar to it.” So, from the verse “We bring forth (one) better than it or similar to it,” the phrase “better than it” means it keeps up with the standard of the time. That is because, in practice, it became evident that the high-level verses were beyond the capability of the people. Better than them are the verses that keep up with the capability of the people. So, the Medina Quran has descended to that level. The phrase “or similar to it” means the same verse will be brought back once again. It will return when the new standard, which is unlike the standard of the earlier time, arrives.

The standard of the earlier time was that people were incapable and had just come out of an extreme state of ignorance. People were accustomed to lay in wait for others, sever the bonds of kinship, bury alive a newborn female in fear of dishonor or hunger, and worship massive rocks. When the worshippers were told to worship the One God, the Creator and the Provider, they turned their faces and rejected the call, even while they were benefiting from His subsistence and living in prosperity. The Quran descended during this state of ignorance and therefore was appropriate for that state. This shows the meaning of “We bring forth (one) better than it”—one that keeps up with the standard of the time.

Yet, we now live in the second age of ignorance, which cannot be compared to the age of ignorance of the seventh century, for it is immeasurably milder. As the standard has changed, we are now worthy of the original verses that were abrogated in the seventh century. So, these very verses can be applied once again. This is the substance of our call.

We advocate the abrogation of the Quran that was prescribed in the seventh century and we revive that which was abrogated in the seventh century. We do that within the domain of the Quran—we do not go outside the Quran and, as I said, we do not need to go outside of it. The original Quran was sent in the seventh century and was above the capability of the society at the time. In practice, it became evident that it was intolerable to people, so it was abrogated and subsided into a Quran that they could tolerate, which was, in this sense, better than the original Quran. This is the meaning of “We bring forth (one) better than it or similar to it” in keeping up with the standard of the time. So, the abrogated Quran was abrogated because it was beyond the capability of the people. It was kept dormant until a time in which the society was prepared, God willing and thanks to God, to tolerate the application of the original verses—the verses of accountability, the verses of tolerance, and the verses of peace—to come back once again, in a sense of “or similar to it” as in the verse: We bring forth (one) better than it or similar to it.

We believe that society is now ready for the verses of the original Quran, thanks to God. We must also give thanks to the elevated status of thought and human achievement; the increase of population; prosperity; scientific progress; and the advancement of tools and means of transportation. All these have made this planet small, inhabited by a more connected humanity whose needs are intertwined and interests are considerable. But humanity needs to reconcile its divisions along the lines of religion. It has, however, no blueprint to work from regarding religion except the verses of the original Quran, which were abrogated in the seventh century. We advocate the revival of these verses, because their time has come as they can now guide and help solve people’s problems. With this revival, the ideological unity of the planet would take place along with the existing geographical unity.

As the geographical bodies adjoined—the bodies of people have become more connected—their homes have become closer to each other. Those who are at the farthest end of the Earth and those who are at the other end of the Earth can now feel the needs of each other; they can feel the misery of each other, and feel the distress that befalls each other and they sympathize. Such closeness requires that there should be an ideological closeness; it necessitates that there be an ideological unity as there already is a geographical unity. Through ideological unity, Islam will be the religion of all people. Thus, the promise of our Lord will be realized that, “The (true) religion in the sight of God is Islam” (3:19). The menace of our Lord would also be realized: “He who desires other than Islam as religion, that (religion) shall not be accepted, and in the hereafter he shall be among the losers” (3:85). Moreover, the completion of the grace of our Lord, which was revealed to us in the revelation, would be realized: “This day I have perfected for you your religion and completed My favor upon you and chosen for you Islam as your religion” (5:3). We may come to talk about this verse because many people are confused about it. They think that all things concerning religion have been completed and there is nothing waiting for resumption. There is no error that is greater than this error and no ignorance that is greater than this ignorance.

It is clear that there are two nations, a nation of believers and a nation of Moslems. The nation of believers, with its duty and obligations, and in many aspects of its exoteric code, is founded on the subsidiaries of the Quran. The Moslems’ nation has yet to come. Its Quran, however, is the original Quran. The Prophet alone is its pioneer—the Prophet was the forerunner of the Moslems’ nation while he was living with the nation of believers. This understanding that we are presenting here has been alluded to in the famous hadith of the brotherhood, where the Prophet said: “How I long for my brothers who have not come yet! It was asked: Are we not your brothers, O Messenger of God? He replied: No, you are my companions! Then he said again: How I long for my brothers who have not come yet! Then they asked: Are we not your brothers, O Messenger of God? He replied: No, you are my Companions! Then he said for the third time: How I long for my brothers who have not come yet! They asked: Who are your brothers? He replied: A people who will come at the end of time, of whom each practitioner shall have seventy times as much reward as you have. They asked for clarification: As we have or they have? He replied: As you have. They asked: Why?! He replied: Because you find help in performance of good deeds, and they find no help.”

Here there is an intricacy. There is one of the secret implications of steering the discourse toward answering the “Why?” The Prophet’s answer: “Because you find help in performance of good deeds, and they find no help.” This hadith agrees with the words of God: “All that is in the heavens and all that is in the Earth glorify God, the King, the Holy, the Mighty, the Wise. It is He who has sent among the illiterate a messenger from themselves to recite unto them His revelations, purify them, and teach them the Scripture and wisdom, though they were before in clear error; along with others of them who have not yet joined them. He is the Mighty, the Wise. That is the bounty of God; which He bestows on whom He wills. God is of Infinite Bounty” (62:1-4). From the Quran stemmed this hadith—from the verse “along with others of them who have not yet joined them,” stemmed the claim, “my brothers who have not come yet!” The Prophet proclaimed: “How I long for my brothers who have not come yet!” In accordance with the answer of the question received in the Quran, we understand “That is the bounty of God; which He bestows on whom He wills. God is of Infinite Bounty.” The Prophet said, “Because you find help in performance of good deeds, and they find no help.” In between these two answers, the answer from the hadith and the answer from the Quran, lays the secret of speaking to the people according to the extent of their intelligence. The Quran has responded with, “That is the bounty of God; which He bestows on whom He wills. God is of Infinite Bounty,” while the hadith has responded with, “Because you find help in performance of good deeds, and they find no help.”

There are many hadiths along the same line of the brotherhood hadith, including: “On the authority of Omar, the Prophet said: There are people among the servants of God who are neither Prophets nor martyrs; the Prophets and martyrs will envy them on the Judgment Day for their standing before God Almighty. People asked: Tell us, Messenger of God, who are they? He replied: They are people who love each other for the sake of God and not for the sake of kinship or monetary interests. By God, their faces are light, and they are on light. They don’t scare when people scare, and they don’t sadden when people sadden. Saints don’t scare or sadden.” Along with the hadith: “On the authority of Amr bin Absah, the Messenger of God said: On the Right Hand of the Beneficent, and both His Hands is Right, people who are not Prophets or martyrs, yet the light of their faces dazzles the sight of the viewers. Even Prophets and martyrs will envy them for their seating and nearness to God Almighty. They are a selection from different tribes who meet to remember God and select the best words as the date-eater selects the best dates.” In another narration: “On the authority of Abumalik al-Ash’arie, the Messenger of God said: O people! Listen and understand. God has servants who are neither Prophets nor martyrs. Even Prophets and martyrs will envy them for their standings and nearness to God. They are from trustworthy people and various tribes who have no kinships between them. They sincerely love one another only for the sake of God. On the Judgment Day, God will present them luminous stages to sit on; so their faces and their clothes will illuminate. The people will be fearful on the Judgment Day, but they will not fear. They are Saints. They don’t scare or sadden.”