The third purpose or theme of the surah has a gateway taking up verses 163-177.
It is like a corridor stretching from the door of a house to its main building, and it is covered in only three steps:
1) emphasising the oneness of the Creator who deserves to be worshipped;
2) emphasising the oneness of the Commander who must be obeyed; and
3) an index of the commandments and acts of obedience to be fulfilled.
The first step, which asserts the Oneness of God the Creator, is absolutely necessary at this juncture so as to separate what has already been tackled in the surah and what is yet to come.
The points just discussed speak about the great importance of the Kaᶜbah, Maqām Ibrāhīm, al-Safa and al-Marwah.
All this could have given any newcomer to Islam an impression akin to that of paganism and the sanctity it gives to stones and articles,
particularly in the vicinity of such places replete with idols and statues. It is necessary, therefore, that the veneration of such places should not be left without proper definition and restriction.
The impression to which we have just alluded must also be dispelled.
It is especially important to make clear that when worshippers stand at Maqām Ibrāhīm, and when they turn their faces to the Kaᶜbah,
and when the pilgrims walk between al-Safa and al-Marwah that they do not address their worship to these stones or seek their help, mercy or intercession.
They address their worship to God alone, believing that He is the true Lord of all worlds.
They carry out His orders and worship Him at the places in which He bestows His grace and blessings in abundance, as He bestowed these on His good servants in the past.
Another purpose is to remind the Muslims of those good servants of God to strengthen the feeling of love in their hearts towards those early believers and to follow in their footsteps.
This is certain to link the past history of the nation of believers to its present, so that it is seen as a single nation following the same direction.
It turns its face towards the most sublime of goals:
“Your God is the One God: there is no deity save Him.”(2: 163.)
Do you know Him?
He is neither the Kaᶜbah, nor al-Safa and al-Marwah, nor Abraham and Maqām Ibrāhīm. He is “the One God: there is no deity save Him, the Merciful, the Beneficent.”
He is the One who embraces all things within His grace and compassion: : “In the creation of the heavens and the earth; in the alternation of night and day; in the ships which sail in the sea with what is useful to man; ; in the water which God sends down from the sky with which He gives life to the earth after it has been dead, causing all manner of beasts to multiply over it; in the movement of the winds, and in the clouds which run their appointed courses between sky and earth: in all this there are surely signs for people who use their reason.”(2: 164.)
He is the One who commands all power, and on the Day of Judgement no one will punish as He punishes.
“If the wrongdoers could but see, as see they will when they receive their punishment, that all power belongs to God and that God’s punishment is severe.”(2: 165.)
All this relates to the purpose that the surah has finished with.
As for the purpose the surah is about to tackle, this first step is a necessary prelude before beginning to outline practical legislation.
It directs our attentions to the source from where we should receive such legislation.
When we realise that we have only one Master, and when we submit to Him, we must follow nothing but His orders and acknowledge no legislation but His.
A person who acknowledges different deities will be torn apart between those deities with each one of them demanding his share of obedience.
He will have too many sources of orders that must be obeyed, such as parents, traditions, social norms, masters and desires.
Hence, this first step leads naturally to the second.
The second step emphasises the oneness of the Commander to be obeyed. This is a cornerstone of the Islamic concept of God’s oneness.
We know that when one believes in God as the only deity,
it follows that one must not address any part of one’s worship to anyone but the Merciful who creates, provides sustenance, and causes harm and benefit.
Similarly, such a belief requires that we assign no share of authority over our actions and behaviour to anyone else.
Indeed we must believe that all sovereignty belongs to Him, and that He is the only one who may legislate.
Permissible is only what He permits; and forbidden is only what He prohibits.
Unbeliever he is who claims that something God has permitted is forbidden, or something He has forbidden is permissible.
Just as it is ludicrous that He is acknowledged as the Creator and Sustainer but worship and gratitude are addressed to someone else...
it is also ludicrous to acknowledge Him as the Law-giver and turn in obedience to someone else.
“Mankind, eat of what is lawful and wholesome on the earth, and do not follow Satan’s footsteps.”(2: 168.)
In emphasising this single authority to legislate the surah takes a similar approach to that in emphasising God’s oneness.
It begins by making clear to mankind God’s abounding grace and unlimited compassion as He has given them an easy code of law that suits their nature.
Of the great variety of food available to them, He makes forbidden to them only four types which are foul and evil.
He has permitted them to make use of everything else on earth. At times of necessity, all forbidden things become permissible:
“He who is driven to it by necessity, not intending to transgress nor exceeding his need, incurs no sin. God is Much-Forgiving, Merciful.”(2: 173.)
Such an approach softens hearts and makes people willing to submit to the orders of their Lord who is very kind to His servants.
Who deserves to be obeyed, then: the Lord who makes permissible only the wholesome things and forbids only what is foul, or Satan who
“bids you only to commit evil and indecency and to attribute to God something of which you have no knowledge.”(2: 169.)
Who is to be followed: the One who guides to the truth, or those who
“are devoid of all understanding and follow no guidance.”(2: 170.)
This second step emphasising the single authority of legislation makes clear to mankind the extent of God’s anger with anyone who conceals His commandments or who changes what He has ordered and what He has forbidden in order to make a paltry gain:
“Those who suppress anything of the Book which God has revealed and barter it away for a small gain shall eat nothing but the fire in their bellies.
God will not speak to them on the Day of Judgement, nor will He purify them. A grievous suffering awaits them.”(2: 176.)
When we contemplate the choice of food and earnings to highlight here, rather than any other aspect of permissibility and prohibition...
we realise that it represents the firm bond providing complete coherence between what has gone and what is to come of the surah.
From a practical point of view, the subject will soon be discussed in detail. Its mention at this point alerts us to the fact that the new purpose or theme of the surah is soon to begin.
With regard to faith, the subject is historically and closely linked to the belief in God’s oneness.
In the dark ages of ignorance, when pagan people and followers of past revelations began to follow Satan’s footsteps and turned away...
as a result, from believing in God’s oneness, they adopted certain beings whom they claimed to be equal to God and loved them as they would love God.
Shortly thereafter, Satan opened the way to them to take partners to God in His legislation after they had adopted partners to God in their worship.
They began to forbid what God had made lawful of crops and cattle, and to make lawful what God had forbidden.
They even went further than this and invoked at the time of slaughter the names of their false deities.
Thus, they combined all three evils: disobedience of God, innovation and polytheism.
It seems that the first aspect of legislation in conflict with God’s law was in the field of food and earnings.
Hence, the Qur’an makes it a priority after establishing the oneness of God, the Creator and the Sovereign.
Hence, you always find it following the establishment of the main principle of faith in God as the only deity in the universe, even in those surahs revealed in Makkah,
such as surahs 6, 7, 10 and 16, entitled Cattle, the Heights, Jonah and the Bee, respectively.
An Index of Legislation
The mention made here of people’s inventions in respect of permissible and forbidden food and earnings is most fitting...GO TO Page VI