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4:94-96 Signs of Islam are sufficient to identify a Muslim

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O ye who believe! When ye go abroad in the cause of Allah, investigate carefully, and say not to any one who offers you a salutation: “Thou art none of a believer!” Coveting the perishable goods of this life: with Allah are profits and spoils abundant. Even thus were ye yourselves before, till Allah conferred on you His favours: Therefore carefully investigate. For Allah is well aware of all that ye do.

Not equal are those believers who sit (at home) and receive no hurt, and those who strive and fight in the cause of Allah with their goods and their persons. Allah hath granted a grade higher to those who strive and fight with their goods and persons than to those who sit (at home). Unto all (in Faith) Hath Allah promised good: But those who strive and fight Hath He distinguished above those who sit (at home) by a special reward,-

Ranks specially bestowed by Him, and Forgiveness and Mercy. For Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.

Signs of Islam are sufficient to identify a Muslim


In the first of the three verses cited above, the guidance given is
that in the case of one who professes to be a Muslim, no Muslim is
allowed to interpret his declaration of Islam as hypocrisy, without
certain knowledge and proof. This verse (94) was revealed in the background of certain episodes relating to some Companions where they had not taken the correct line of action.

So, it has been reported from Sayyidna ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abbas in
Tirmidhi and the Musnad of Ahmad that a man from the tribe of Banu
Sulaym met a group of the noble Companions who were going on a
Jihad mission. This man was grazing his goats. He offered salam
greetings to the group which was a practical demonstration of his
being a Muslim. The Companions thought that this man was just
pretending in view of the situation before him. Thus, taking his profession of Islam as a ruse to save his life and property whereby he could get away from them by tricking them with greeting in the Muslim style, they killed him and appropriated the herd of his goats as war spoils which they took to the Holy Prophet (S). Thereupon,
this verse was revealed. It laid down the rule: Do not take anyone who
greets you by offering salam in the Islamic manner as a pretender and
never assume, without valid proof, that his profession of Islam was a
trick and never take possession of his property as spoils. (Ibn Kathir)

There is another narration from Sayyidna ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abbas
which has been reported by al-Bukhari briefly and by al-Bazzar, in
details. According to this narration, the Holy Prophet (S) sent out a
group of mujahidin which included Sayyidna Miqdad ibn al-Aswad.
When they reached the designated spot, everyone present there ran
away. The only man left there had a lot of valuable things with him.
Facing the Companions, the man recited the kalimah: (I testify that there is no god but Allah). But, Sayyidna Miqdad (RA) , assuming that the man’s heart was not behind his verbal declaration
of faith and that he was doing it simply to save his life and property,
killed him. One Companion from among the group present admonished him for what he had done: He had killed a person who had testified that there is no god but Allah. He declared that he will make it a
point to relate this incident before the Holy Prophet (S) when and if he
would have the honour of returning to him. Finally, the group
returned to Madinah and reported the incident to the Holy Prophet (S)
who called for Sayyidna Miqdad and gave him a stern warning. He
said: ‘What would you say on the Day of Doom when the kalimah will stand as a plaintiff against you?’ The verse (do not say to the one who offers you salam, “You are not a
believer”) was revealed on this occasion.

Other incidents, apart from the two mentioned here, have been
reported with reference to this verse, but respected scholars of Tafsir
do not admit of any contradiction in these narrations, for these events
as a whole could have been the cause of the revelation.

The words of the verse are (offer you salam). If the
word, salam in the text is taken to mean ‘salam’ in the technical sense
(Muslim greeting or salutation), it applies to the first event more suitably. However, if ‘salam’ is taken to mean submission or surrender to the will of Allah in the literal sense, then, this meaning applies to both
events equally. Therefore, salam in the present textual setting has also been translated in the sense of submission and obedience to Allah.

It is impermissible to take a decision without investigating
into related facts of an event

The first sentence of the verse (94) carries a general rule which
must be followed by all Muslims: Let no Muslim do anything
summarily as based on guess alone. The words of the verse are: (when you go out in the way of Allah, be careful). Acting on conjecture is likely to land one in trouble. The restriction of travel
in the verse is there because these events came to pass during the
state of travel. Or, it may be because doubts crop up during travel to
previously unvisited places as compared with the city of residence
where things and people are generally familiar. Otherwise, the basic
rule, in travel or while resident, is general, that is reacting to any situation without proper investigation is not permissible. In a hadith, the Holy Prophet (S) has said: “To act sensibly is from Allah and
to rush through is from Shaytan” (al-Bahr al-Muhit)

The second sentence: (seeking goods of the worldly
life) in verse 94 is a prescription for weakness which caused this false
step. The weakness was their desire to acquire worldly wealth through
collecting spoils. But, immediately after, it was pointed out that
Almighty Allah has set aside many more spoils destined for them.
Why, then, should they bother about material gains? By way of further
admonition, they were asked to recollect that there were so many
among them who would not have dared to come out openly with their
faith in Islam. It was only when Allah favoured them that they were
delivered from the encirclement of disbelievers and were able to
profess Islam openly. Keeping this situation in mind, would it not be
possible that the person who is saying at the sight of the
Muslim army, might really be an adherent of Islam from the early
days but was unable to it freely’ fearing reprisals from the
disbelievers. When he saw the Muslim army, he lost no time in doing
so. If they looked into their own situation, they would realize that
there was the time when they had recited the Kalimah and had called
them Muslims, the Shari’ah of Islam had never asked them to first
prove their being Muslims. There was no such condition. They were
never asked to let their hearts be examined. They were not ordered to produce a proof of their Islam before they could be declared as confirmed Muslims. Quite contrary to all this, the simple recital of the
Kalimah of Islam was considered good enough to
recognize them as Muslims. Keeping this in mind, it was their duty
that they should now take anyone who recites the Kalimah before
them as a Muslim.

The meaning of not taking a Muslim to be a Kafir


From this verse comes the important ruling that anyone who
professes Islam and declares that he is a Muslim – by reciting the
Kalimah or by associating himself with some marked feature of Islam
such as the Adhan and the Salah – should be treated as a Muslim. All
Muslims must deal with him as they would do with any other Muslim.
They are not supposed to wait and worry about finding out whether
such a person has embraced ‘Islam with all his heart or it has been
done out of expediency.

In addition to that, this is a case in which even his doings will not
serve as the criterion. Suppose, someone skips Salah, does not fast and
is involved with all sorts of sins – still, no one has the right to say that
he has gone outside the pale of Islam or to treat him as one would
treat a disbeliever. Therefore, the great Imam Abu Hanifah said: (We do not call ‘the people of the Qiblah’ Kafirs because of some sin). Similar statements appear in hadith narrations also, such
as, ‘Do not say that ‘the people of Qiblah’ are Kafirs, no matter how
sinful and evil-doing they may be.’

At this point, there is something everyone should understand and
remember, clearly and particularly. This relates to the authority of
the Qur’an and Sunnah from which it is proved that calling or taking
someone who calls himself a Muslim to be a Kafir is not permissible. It
clearly means that until such time he says or does something which
provides the positive proof of Kufr (disbelief), his profession of faith in
Islam shall be deemed as sound and he will continue to be taken as a
Muslim and, for all practical purposes, he will be dealt with as one
would deal with Muslims. No one will have the right to debate what
goes on in his heart or how sincere or hypocritical he may or may not
be.

But, there- may be a person who professes Islam, attests to faith, yet disgraces himself by uttering words of disbelief or prostrates before an idol or denies an injunction of Islam which is absolute and obvious,
or takes to a religious way or mark of disbelievers – such a person will certainly be declared a Kafir because of his deeds which prove his infidelity. It will be noticed that, the word (be careful or investigate)
in the present verse provides a hint to this effect, otherwise, the Jews
and the Christians all claimed to be believers. Then, there was Muslimah, the Liar. He was declared to be a Kafir with the consensus of Companions, and killed. As for him, he was not only a professor of the
Islamic creed but a practicing adherent of Adhan and Salah as well. In
his Adhan, he had the Muezzin say: (I testify that there is no god but Allah) which was duly followed by (I
testify that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah). But, while he did
this, he also claimed to be a prophet and a messenger who received
revelations. This was an open denial of the binding injunctions of the
Qur’an and Sunnah. It was on this basis that he was declared to be an
apostate and a Jihad force was sent against him with the consensus of
the Companions.

In short, the correct course of action when faced with this problem
is: Take everyone who recites the Kalimah and adheres to Islam (ahl
al-Qiblah: the people of Qiblah) to be a Muslim. Peeking into his heart
is not our business. Let Allah be the judge. But, when you see one
professing faith yet doing things to the contrary, take him to have
become an apostate subject to the condition that such deeds be, absolutely and certainly, contrary to the dictates of Faith and that it admits of no other probability or interpretation.

Finally, we can now see that ‘the reciter of the Kalimah’ (Kalimah go) or Ahl al-Qiblah (the people of Qiblah, meaning Muslims who universally turn to the direction of Holy Ka’bah when praying) are
technical terms applied solely to one who, after his professing Islam,
does nothing by his word and deed which can be classed as infidelity.

References:

Shafi, Muhammad (2008). Maariful Quran. (Vol .2 surah 4 verse 88-91). English-MaarifulQuran-MuftiShafiUsmaniRA-Vol-2.pdf (islamicweblibrary.com)

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