And obey Allah and the Messenger; that ye may obtain mercy.
The obedience of Allah and His Messenger
The first verse, in a brief statement, presents a cardinal command
of Faith in the following words: (and obey Allah and the Messenger so that you may be blessed). Here, in order that
one becomes deserving of Divine mercy, the obedience to Allah
Almighty has been declared necessary and binding, and along with it,
the obedience of the Messenger (S) has been made equally
necessary and binding. This is something not limited to this verse
alone. It has been repeatedly stressed throughout the Holy Qur’an.
The pattern of combining the command to obey Allah Almighty, immediately followed by the command to obey the Messenger, appears in the Qur’an again and again. These continued and constant statements
of the Holy Qur’an are there to remind human beings that these are
the basic principles of Islam and ‘Iman. The first part of the Faith is to
affirm and declare the existence of God, His Oneness, and that man is
there to worship and obey Him. The second part is the confirmation of
His Messenger, and of obedience to him.
Also worth noting are the statements of the Holy Quran which
prove that, whatever the noble Messenger (S) says is by
Divine permission and not on his own.
The Holy Qur’an says:
And he (the messenger) does not speak out of his own desire.
It is not but a revelation revealed (to him) (53:3)
From this, we arrive at the conclusion that the obedience to the
Messenger is the very same as the obedience to Allah. It is nothing
separate from it. In Surah Al-Nisa’ (4:80), the Holy Qur’an has made it
more clear in the following words:
And whoever obeys the Messenger, he surely obeys Allah.
With this in view, the question is: Why have the two ‘obediences’
been stated separately? What purpose does it serve? Specially so,
when this appears as a consistent feature in the Holy Qur’an where we
see both ‘obediences’ being commanded side by side.
To unfold the secret, we can say that Allah Almighty sent a Book
to guide man in this world, and a Messenger. The Messenger was
charged with the following duties:
(1) That he convey to people the verses of the Holy Qur’an precisely
and exactly in the form they were spoken when revealed.
(2) That he should cleanse people of outward and inward impurities.
(3) That he should teach the community, not only the contents of the
Book, but also its purpose.
(4) That he should teach people wisdom along with the Book.
This subject appears at several places in the Holy Qur’an almost
identically in the form of
… who recites to them His verses and makes them pure and
teaches them the Book and the wisdom …
This tells us that the obligatory functions of the Messenger are not
simply limited to conveying the Qur’an to the people. There is more to
it in that the Messenger is also responsible for teaching the Book, and
clarifying its message. Also obvious is the fact that the addressees of
the Holy Prophet (S) were the eloquent people of Arabia who
had command over the finer points of the Arabic language. Teaching of
the Holy Qur’an to them could never mean that they were to be taught
the literal meaning of the Qur’anic words, for they themselves understood all that perfectly well. Instead, the purpose of this teaching and clarification was, and could be nothing else, that an injunction of the
Qur’an stated briefly or in a summary form should be clarified and
elaborated upon by the Holy Prophet (S) and communicated
to people with the help of a revelation which did not form a part of the
Qur’an (wahy ghayr al-matluww’: the unrecited revelation). On the
other hand, this was inspired into his blessed heart. The verse of the
Holy Qur’an (It is not but a revelation revealed) cited a
little earlier, points in this direction.
Let us understand this through some instances. There are a good
many occasions in the Holy Qur’an where the text does not go beyond
saying: (establish the sala and pay the zakah). Even if units of prayer come to be mentioned, such as qiyam, ruku and
sajdah, they remain totally undefined. The modality, outward and
inward, is just not there. It was angel Jibra’il who came as commanded by Allah and taught all the details through demonstration before the Holy Prophet (S). This was how the Holy Prophet (S)
conveyed the word and the deed to the people of his Ummah.
There are details about the payment of zakah: What are thresholds? How much has to be paid on each threshold? What part of a person’s possessions is zakatable? What part is non-zakatable? How
much from threshold resources goes zaka-free?: All such details were
given by the Messenger of Allah (S) . He even had these
committed to writing as executive orders and passed on to several
Take yet another example. They Holy Qur’an says: (and do not eat up each other’s property by false means – 2:188).
Now there are deals and transactions of all sorts, such as buying
and selling, rentals, tenancy, wages and many more. What forms are
unjust, inequitable or harmful to public interest, and therefore, batil or
false? All these details were given to the community by the Holy
Prophet (S) by the leave of Allah. Similarly, this is true about
all legal rulings of Islamic Law.
Since all such details were conveyed to the community by the Holy
Prophet (S) in fulfillment of his prophetic mission and under
the guidance of Divine revelation, and since these details do not
appear in the Holy Qur’an, there was the likelihood that the uninitiated may be deceived into believing that these detailed rulings were not given by Allah Almighty and, therefore, they do not have to be
carried out necessarily as part of one’s obedience to Allah. It is for this
reason that Allah Almighty has made the obedience of the messenger
binding along with the obedience to Him, at various places in the
Qur’an, repeatedly. As such, the obedience of the Messenger is really
nothing but the obedience of Allah Almighty, but, given its external
appearance and detailed description, it is somewhat different from
that. In view of this, it has been emphasized time and again that
orders given by the Holy Prophet (S) should be obeyed as if
they were the very orders of Allah the obedience of which was mandatory. These may be there in the Qur’an, open and clear, or may just not be there. They were still equally-binding on the community.
This was a matter of crucial importance, not limited to someone
falling in doubt. In fact, there were chances that the enemies of Islam
would find an excuse to inject chaos in a basic Islamic principle, and
thereby make an effort to lead Muslims away from the right path.
Therefore, the Holy Qur’an has dealt with this subject in a variety of
ways, in addition to its literal stress on the obedience to the
Messenger. It has informed the blessed community of Muhammad (S)
that his duties include not only the teaching of the Book but also the
added teaching of wisdom, pointing out to the fact that there are
elements other than the words of the Book, which are also included in
his teachings. That part too, identified as wisdom, has to be followed
by Muslims as a matter of obligation.
As said earlier, the Holy Qur’an used a variety of ways to focus on the same subject. For instance, it was said: which
means that the purpose behind sending the Messenger is that he
should explain for people the meanings and objectives of the verses
revealed to him. (16:44) Then, there is the oft-quoted verse:
Whatever the Messenger gives you, take it, and whatever he
forbids you, refrain from it (59:7).
All these ramifications have been placed there lest there comes a
person saying: ‘We have been obligated to follow only that which
appears in the Qur’an; what we do not find in the Qur’an, to that we
are not obligated.’ Perhaps, the Holy Prophet (S) had foreseen the problems which were to arise later when some people, in order to get rid of the teachings and explanations of the Messenger of
Allah, would say ‘For us, the Book of Allah is sufficient.’ The Holy
Prophet (S) has described this possibility in a hadith, very clearly. The
hadith has been reported by al-Tirmidhi, Abu Dawud, Ibn Majah, al Baihaqi and Imam AHmad in the following words:
Lest I find one of you, reclining on his coach making
comments on an order from my orders in which I bid something or forbid something, saying, ‘This we do not know. We only follow what we find in the Book of Allah’.
Shafi, Muhammad (2008). Maariful Quran. (Vol .2 surah 3 verse 132). English-MaarifulQuran-MuftiShafiUsmaniRA-Vol-2.pdf (islamicweblibrary.com)