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Lesson 45

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Lesson - 45


"There is no compulsion in religion — the right way is indeed clearly distinct from error. So whoever disbelieves in the devil and believes in Allah, he indeed lays hold on the firmest handle which shall never break. And Allah is Hearing, Knowing. Allah is the Friend of those who believe — He brings them out of darkness into light. And those who disbelieve, their friends are the devils who take them out of light into darkness. They are the companions of the Fire; therein they abide." Ch. 2:256,257

Truth clearly distinguished from error

In the previous lesson I had explained that the prime reason for the golden principle, "There is no compulsion in religion," is given in the words of the Holy Quran which immediately follow this statement i.e.,

"the right way is indeed clearly distinct from error."
We are thus informed that Allah, the Most High is the one Who has always given this guidance by sending His prophets, and scriptures to the people of every age, and He also clearly defined for them the wrong path that they were following previously because of their ignorance. This was done by means of arguments that were appealing to human nature and intelligence. Unfortunately these nations lost their revealed scriptures, or interpolated them in such a manner that true guidance became adulterated with falsehood. The true example of these prophets also met a similar fate. Allah, therefore completed His guidance in the Holy Quran, and guaranteed its protection. The example of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) in whom the institution of prophet hood has reached its finality and completion, is also preserved in the form of traditions (sunnat), to a degree unmatched by any other prophet. If any doubt arises about any action, or tradition of the Holy Prophet, a simple solution is offered, which is to judge it in the light of the Holy Quran. No action of the Holy Prophet was contrary to the Quranic teachings. In fact, they were in complete accord with the Quranic injunctions. I have discussed this in detail in my previous lesson.

Disbelief in the Devil

As guidance towards the right path is clearly defined and separated from the wrong way, man's intelligence naturally encourages him to follow the right course, and avoid the wrong one. However, the worst enemy of mankind, the devil (shaitan) constantly instigates his desires and emotions to run out of control by clouding his intellectual faculties, and natural inclination towards the truth. He thus makes him blind to the consequences of his actions, and leads him astray from the right path. One marvels at the wisdom of the Holy Quran, for in the very next verse it states:

"So whoever disbelieves in the devil, and believes in Allah, he indeed lays hold on the firmest handle which shall never break."

Disbelief in the devil here does not mean the denial of the existence of the devil, because the Holy Quran itself gives us knowledge of his existence. Disbelief in the devil therefore, means not acting upon his suggestions. This has been repeatedly stated by the Holy Quran. It would greatly lengthen this brief lesson if we discuss all those verses. Therefore, I will only quote from one chapter:

"Did I not charge you, O children of Adam, that you serve not (la tabodoo, noun: ibadat) the devil? Surely he is your open enemy. And that you serve Me. This is the right way. And certainly he led astray numerous people from among you. Could you not then understand? This is the hell which you were promised. Enter it this day because you disbelieved" (36:60-64).

There are numerous verses on this subject in the Holy Quran. I have selected this particular verse because it also explains further the verse under discussion in this lesson. Before commenting on the above quoted verse, I would like to draw your attention to the fact that most people translate the Arabic word ibadat as offering prayer, though, in fact, its literal meaning is 'showing obedience to,' or 'serving someone.' The Holy Quran uses the word salaat for prayer. If some revered persons take the meaning of ibadat as reciting the prayer, it is only to show that prayer is an expression of service, or obedience to the Creator. Nobody prays to the devil with hands folded in the traditional manner of saying one's obligatory prayers. Thus, in the above quoted verse, the first statement means that on the Day of Judgment Allah will ask the children of Adam that had He not commanded them not to serve the devil? This command was first given through Prophet Adam (therefore the term children of Adam is used), and has subsequently been conveyed through all prophets, and their revealed scriptures. It is clearly and repeatedly described in the Holy Quran, as for example, in the verses of the present lesson, and also in the verses(36:60-64) quoted above. The command, "not to serve the devil," is supported by the argument given that, "Surely he is your open enemy." The devil has been called the open enemy because all his instigation is openly hostile to one's intelligence and nature. That is why human intellect considers them wrong, and his nature abhors them. Even those whose intellect and nature is corrupted by following the devil hate it when somebody does a wrong to them. They may verbally abuse someone, but if someone else metes out the same treatment to them, they dislike it intensely and are willing to commit mayhem.

As I explained in the incident of Adam and Eve, the paradise from which they were removed was not the paradise of the Hereafter. The devil does not have any access to that paradise. Further, the Holy Quran states about the paradise of the Hereafter:

"Nor shall they be ever ejected from it" (15:48).
Thus, the paradise from which Adam and Eve were ejected after succumbing to the instigation of the devil, was of the contentment of heart and the peace of mind with which man is created in this world. This same tradition continues and anybody from amongst their children who obeys the devil's prompting will also lose their inner peace. For example, contentment of mind is lost, the moment one accepts a bribe, and leads to additional grief if one is caught. That is why it has been mentioned repeatedly in the Holy Quran about the believing men and women, "They shall have no fear nor shall they grieve," this is the paradise of the heart which always accompanies them in this world.

Service of Allah, the right way

In the above quoted verses of chapter 36:

"Did I not charge you, O children of Adam, that you serve not (la tabodoo, noun: ibadat) the devil? Surely he is your open enemy"
these Divine words follow:

"And that you serve Me. This is the right way."
With the commandment to serve Allah, the reasoning is given that He will guide you on the right path. The One Who has created man knows best the purpose for which He has created him, and the position He wants him to attain. It is then stated:

"And certainly he ( the devil) led astray numerous people from among you. Could you not then understand?"
For example, human intelligence considers stealing as wrong; even a person who has no qualms about committing robbery stands ready to fight for his share of the loot with his accomplices, if he feels that they are not being fair to him. Thus, Allah has not only clearly defined the right path, but also given man the understanding to distinguish it from the wrong course. If, then a man chooses to tread the wrong path, it is clearly a failing on his part to use his intellect.

One reason for establishing the golden principle of "There is no compulsion in religion" is that if compliance of a religious principle is enforced, then intelligent thinking is turned off, and is no longer used. The objective (based on wisdom) of Allah, Who is the Creator of the human race, in giving man the most precious and unique gift of intelligence is to enable him to select the right path and to reject the wrong path, not through duress, but through understanding and free choice. It is only through the exercise of such freedom that man can evolve to higher stages of moral and spiritual development. A deed which is enforced, or done under duress cannot be qualified as good or evil. An incarcerated person who does not commit a robbery cannot claim to be a righteous person nor can it be said with assurance that he will not steal again on being released from confinement. Such is the wisdom of the Holy Quran. When I perceive its explanation of the secrets of Divine knowledge, my heart is overwhelmed and I bow down with humility before my Lord, spontaneously uttering the words, "Glory to my Lord, the Most High." My heart wishes that I should keep on repeating this, every moment of my life, "Glory be to Allah, and with His Praise, Glory be to Allah the Possessor of All Greatness."

Low desires and the Devil

The devil has been created from fire. Man's body also requires heat for keeping it alive (that is why the body of a dead person turns cold), and the nature of his emotions and desires is also related to this warmth. Heat, when under control, forms the basis of all movement and action. The devil, however, fuels and ignites this fire to the extent that man's emotions and desires run out of control. One manifestation of this is the fire of greed in a man's heart which never leaves him satisfied and he is always yearning for, "Is there more?" This fire becomes the palpable conflagration of hell, in the life Hereafter. This is clearly described in chapter hundred and four of the Holy Quran, and in the last verse of chapter 36 quoted earlier in this lesson as:

"This is the hell which you were promised. Enter it this day because you disbelieved."
Allah, the Most High teaches man to control his emotions and desires, to utilize them for the motive power in the struggle of life and to achieve moral and spiritual progress with it. Those who submit to the devil, instead of submission to Allah, ignite this inner fire of discontent in their hearts, and will feel its heat as the external hell-fire in the life Hereafter. This treatment is a remedial measure for their reformation. The more prolonged and deep rooted the spiritual illness, the longer will be the treatment.

I have quoted, and explained this verse of chapter thirty six because it explains the verses being discussed in this lesson. After stating in the first verse, that true guidance has been clearly distinguished from falsehood, it warns man to be on guard against the devil who attempts to lead him astray. The next verse enjoins man to enter into a state of peace through belief in Allah (for Iman, the Arabic word for belief also stands for peace). The Holy Quran repeatedly gives arguments on the existence of One God in order to inculcate such a belief. I have described these arguments in my previous lesson based on the verse, Aayat-ul-Kursi.

Belief in Allah, the firmest handle

Let us now resume discussion on the verses in this lesson. It is stated that by believing in Allah one will hold on to the firmest handle which shall never break. In this worldly existence the waves of wrong ideas and beliefs come like the waves in a stormy sea. Man gets entangled in the whirlpools, and like a swimmer in the sea, is tossed and turned by the waves. When he is about to drown, he may find something secure to hold on to. Most of the time, however, such supports falter under the pressure of the waves, or the flow of the current, and the swimmer drowns. In the modern age of materialism, making associates with God, worship of wealth and worldly life, atheism, communism, and all sorts of new movements and wrong concepts are like these waves which can carry a person away with their flow. Cultural customs and fashion trends are like floods that sweep away people who get involved in such fads. The trials and tribulations of life, like poverty, sickness, deaths and disappointments, that human beings have to face, can also cause some of them to lose their balance, go astray or sometimes even commit suicide.

Belief in Allah, while facing these stormy waves and undercurrents, provides a firm handle which never breaks. Throughout history one finds that those who showed steadfastness during the trials of life were those who had firm belief in Allah. Belief gives them the consolation that whatever difficulties they face are manifestations of Divine Will, and are intended for the moral and spiritual development of mankind. They should therefore, be borne with patience and prayer.

Allah listens and responds to the cries of the Believer

What a lovely book is the Holy Quran! The Divine words that follow are, "And Allah is Hearing, Knowing." Man spontaneously calls upon Allah during the tribulations of life. This verse tells us to definitely do so, for Allah hears our supplications. Sometimes a disaster may overtake a person so suddenly that he does not have the time to supplicate. However, Allah is still Aware of his condition, and will come to the aid of His servant. It is may personal observation that Allah saves His servants from dangers that they do not even perceive till after the danger has passed away.

The next verse is:

"Allah is the Friend of those who believe — He brings them out of darkness into light (Noor)."

What a great honor this is for the true believer! Allah becomes his Friend and Helper. A true believer thus becomes a friend of Allah. The result of Allah's help is that he receives guidance from darkness into light. It is quite true that worldly distractions, and hedonistic doctrines create spiritual darkness in which man loses his spiritual sight, and does not know which way to turn. But, there is an even greater darkness which prevails in the deep recesses in which man conceals his inner self or real personality. This inner self of man guides him through life. Every action that man takes in this life affects his soul, and shapes his personality. Acts of goodness result in a healthy soul while evil acts make it sick. One marvels at the choice of words of the Holy Quran. It uses the Arabic word noor for the light that it provides to the true believer to guide him through the external darkness (of wrongful beliefs and perverse movements), and also the spiritual darkness of his inner self. The difference between noor, and ordinary light is that the ordinary light only illuminates external surfaces on which it falls, but reveals nothing of what may be hidden inside. In contrast to this noor is that light which illuminates both the outside and the inside. Thus, a man finds light to guide him through the exogenous darkness of false doctrines and the endogenous darkness of his inner self. The difference between a true believer and an ordinary person is that the latter either gropes in darkness, and keeps falling, or at the most sees only the exterior of things. The true believer can perceive both his inner self, and the outside with the light of perception given to him by Allah. He is thus saved from falling down and going astray. "All praise be to Allah for this."

The words of the last verse are:

"And those who disbelieve (kafaroo, noun: kufr), their friends are the devils (taaghoot), who take them out of light into darkness. They are the companions of the Fire; therein they abide."
Kufr means both disbelief and ungratefulness. Those who reject the guidance, and light that Allah has revealed in the Holy Quran do so either by verbal rejection, or by being ungrateful in the manner that they verbally acknowledge belief, but do not derive benefit from it by putting it into practice. What do such people follow? They follow their own desires and emotions which are fueled by the devil. The word used for the devil in this verse is taghoot which means the one who exceeds the limits. The Quran, however, does not allow unbridled freedom of emotions and desires, and puts reasonable constraints on them. Without such constraints two consequences follow. Firstly, emotions begin to override the light of intellect which Allah has bestowed upon mankind. We observe this in the actions of evil persons and criminals. Thus man is deprived of his inner light, falters, and goes astray in the darkness. About this it is said, "who take them out of light into darkness." Secondly emotions and desires have the nature of heat which ignite the desire for progressively more gratification in man. This creates an inner hell for the person in this world which will assume an external manifestation in the Hereafter. How beautifully and clearly does the Holy Quran manifest the matters of the inner self, or soul of man. This is the purpose of guidance and light as I have discussed earlier.

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