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And obey Allah and His Messenger; and fall into no disputes, lest ye lose heart and your power depart; and be patient and persevering: For Allah is with those who patiently persevere:

Hold to the Rope of Allah – Islamic Web Library

Quran 3:103:

And hold firmly to the rope of Allah all together and do not become divided. And remember the favor of Allah upon you – when you were enemies and He brought your hearts together and you became, by His favor, brothers. And you were on the edge of a pit of the Fire, and He saved you from it. Thus does Allah make clear to you His verses that you may be guided.

The following excerpt is from “Maariful Quran” Vol. 2 pg. 130-141:

Commentary

In the previous verses, Muslims were warned that the people of the
Book, and others, want them to go astray from the right path so
Muslims must remain vigilant of their moves and take steps to
counter their anti-Muslim activities.

In the two verses appearing here, two important principles have
been given which go to make the collective strength of Muslims
impregnable. These are:

1, Taqwa

  1. Unity

The first principle appears in the first of the two verses, The
gecond principle follows in the second verse. The first principle stated
in the said verse is that one must ‘fear Allah’, that is, one should orga-
nize and manage his life with a full sense of responsibility before
Allah, avoiding all.that is forbidden or undesirable, doing so in a
manner ‘which is His due’.

What Taqwa is?

In Arabic, the word, ‘Taqwa’ is used to denote avoidance and absti-
nence. It is translated as ‘fear’ in the sense that things one is asked to
abstain from are nothing but things that cause fear, or alert one to the
danger of Divine retribution.

‘Taqwa has its own degrees, the lowest is to avoid Kufr and Shirk,
that. is, disbelieving in Allah and His Message and attributing part-
ners to His. Divinity. In this sense, every Muslim can be counted as
Muttaqi (one who has the quality of Tagwa), even if he is involved in
sins. At several places in the Holy Qur’an, the words, ‘Muttaqin’
(plural of Muttaqi) and ‘Taqwa’ have been used in that sense as well.
What is really desirable falls under the second degree of Taqwa, that
is, to avoid that which is disliked by Allah and His Messenger. The
merits and blessings of Taqwa enumerated in the Qur’an and Hadith
have been promised on this degree of avoidance and abstinence.

As far as the third degree. of Taqwa is concerned, this is a high
station destined for prophets, wi 4Je , their devoted deputies and
men of Allah, for it is not within the grasp of everybody. To stand
guard over one’s heart against the onslaught of what does not relate to
Allah, and to keep it filled with the remembrance of Allah and the
desire to seek His pleasure, are great assignments.

The meaning of Taqwa ‘as due’

While giving a directive to attain ‘Tagwa’ the Holy Qur’an has qual
ified the word of Taqwa with ait (a fear which is His due) which mean:
that one should seek to attain a degree of Taqwa which it inherently
deserves.

This has been explained by the blessed Companions, ‘Abdullah ibn
Mas‘ud, Rabi‘, Qatadah and Hasan al-Basri (RA) in the following
words:

‘A fear which is His due’ means that one obeys, then does not
disobey; remembers then does not forget; and is grateful, then
does not beconie ungrateful.’ (Al-Bahr Al-Muhit)

The above explanation has also been reported with its chain of
authorities ascending to the Holy Prophet (S) himself.

Major commentators have explained the sense of the above report
differently. For instance, some say that the due fear of Allah means
that, in obedience to Allah, one should dismiss all derogatory criticism,
no matter where it comes from, always standing firm on what is just,
even if, by being just, he has to hurt his own self, or his children, or his
parents. Some say, that one can never hope to achieve ‘Taqwa as due’
unless he protects his tongue.

There is another verse in the Holy Qur’an where it is said:

Fear Allah as much as you can. (64:16)

According to the blessed Companions, Ibn ‘Abbas and Tawus, this
is really nothing but an explanation of at (a fear which is His due).
It means that should one be doing his best, using all his attention and
energy to guard against evil, the obligation of Taqwa shall stand
fulfilled. If one, who has already done everything he could, happens to
fall a victim to something impermissible, that would not be considered
being against ‘Taqwa as due’.

The statement which follows immediately: (and let
not yourself die save as Muslims) tells us that Taqwa is, in reality, the
whole of Islam since the total obedience to Allah and His Messenger,
and the total avoidance of disobedience both to Allah and His
Messenger is what Taqwa is all about; and this is what Islam is.

The command in the verse, ‘and let not yourself die save as
Muslims’ raises a possible doubt as man does not control death, it may
come anytime, anywhere. This doubt is removed when we consider the
hadith:
‘As you live, so shall you die; and as you die, so shall you be
raised.’

Therefore, anyone who is determined to live his entire life by the
tenets of Islam, and to the best of his determination and ability, acts
accordingly, his death will definitely come, God willing, on a state of
Yslam. Now, about some hadith narrations where it is said that there
will be people who may have spent a life-time of good deeds, yet the
entire roster of such deeds shall go waste because of something awful
they did later. Such fate can befall those people only who did not act
with sincerity and steadfastness from the very beginning. And Allah
knows best.

UNITY: The second principle of collective Muslim strength:

In the second verse, 103: (And hold-on to the cord
of Allah, all of you), the golden principle of unity has been presented
with great eloquence and wisdom, for the principle, being the only
effective binding factor, has been identified before the command to
unite was given, following which, came the prohibition of disunity and
chaos,

Elaborating this a little, it can be said that unity is something good
and desirable, a premise generally approved by all human beings, no
matter what. place, time, religion or life style they adhere to. A person
who considers fights and disputes as something useful, and good in
themselves, would be hard to find anywhere. This is why all groups
and parties around the world invariably ask people to unite; but expe-
rience shows that all is not well in world affairs. No doubt, everybody
agrees that unity is useful, and necessary, yet humanity is divided
apart in sects, groups and parties. Then, there is a whole chain of sects
within sects and parties within parties, reaching the limits of absur-
dity. where even the unity of two people, in the real sense, has become
a myth..A few people get together, agree on something under the
driving force of temporary objectives; then, no sooner do interests get
served, or remain unrealized, unity evaporates in thin air, and
instead, there remains the fall-out of mutual bickering and hostility.

With a little deliberation, it will become clear that every group,
every sect, almost every person would like to unite people on some
self-made programme, while the position is that other people have
their own self-made programmes. So, rather than agree with them,
they invite others to line up under their programme. Therefore, all calls for unity end up in break-ups and chaos among parties and –
persons. Thus, stuck in this quagmire of differences, humanity at large
is the loser.

Therefore, the Holy Qur’an has not stopped at giving sermons on
unity and order, instead, it has also come forward with a just principle
which would help achieve and sustain the desired state of affairs in
the world, something in which no group should find a ground for
differences. The truth of the matter is that imposing a system or
programme conceived by one or some members of the human race on
other human beings, and hoping that all of them will accept it unani-
mously, is simply against commonsense, and justice, and is nothing
but cheeky self-deception. However, the system and the programme
given by the Creator-Sustainer of all the worlds, the Rabb al-‘Alamin,
is something all human beings should naturally agree upon. No
rational human being can deny it on principle. Now, the only possible
inroad to difference here can show up in the actual identification of the
system given by the Sovereign of Sovereigns, the Rabb, the Lord.
Which is it? The Jews say it is the system of the Torah, the Christians
say it is the system of the Evangile; both say it was sent by God and it
is necessary to act upon it. The approach goes as far as even the poly-
theists, who have groups among them attributing their respective
religious rites to none but god.

But, if man could rise a little above his group prejudice and the
blind following of forefathers, using his own God-given reason, he
would stand face to face with the reality without any frills; the reality
that the Last of the Prophets, piu,Je di Js, has come with the last
message of Allah Almighty in the form of the Holy Qur’an and that, at
this point of time, there is no other system or living pattern acceptable
in the sight of Allah Almighty. Leaving this wider focus aside, we can
turn to the first and present addressees of the Qur’an, the Muslims
who believe that in the world as we have found it, the Holy Qur’an is
the only way of life revealed by Allah Almighty without any shadow of
doubt in it, and since Allah Almighty has Himself taken the responsi-
‘pility of protecting it, there is just no possibility of interpolation or
change in it right through to the Day of Judgement. With this position
in view, I leave the part of the subject dealing with non-Muslim
groups for some other occasion and say to Muslims alone who, being
pelievers in the Qur’an, have no other alternative line of action except
this. If different parties among Muslims were to unite on the system of
the Holy Qur’an, thousands of their differences based on group, race
and country would be resolved instantly, which block the road to
human progress. Whatever difference may remain among Muslims,
would possibly be in the understanding and the interpretation of the
Qur’an. If such difference stays within limits, it is neither blame-
worthy nor harmful to collective human living. In fact, the existence of
such difference of opinion among the learned is natural. Therefore,
“exercising restraint and observing limits should not be so difficult to
manage. Contrary to this, if our parties, were to go on fighting in
complete disregard to the Qur’an then, they would not be left with any
possibility of correction. It is this chronic dissension and disorder
which the Holy Qur’an has sternly forbidden, and it is because of this
abandonment of a great Qur’anic principle that our community at
large is wasting its potential by succumbing to chaos and factionalism.
The Holy Qur’an, in the present verse, shows us the way as to how we
can eliminate this tendency to become divided when it says:

And hold on to the cord of Allah, all of you.

Here, (the cord of Allah) means the Holy Qur’an. The blessed
Companion, ‘Abdullah ibn Mas‘ud is the narrator of the hadith in which
the Holy Prophet (S)has been reported to have said:

The Book of Allah is the cord of Allah, extended from the
heavens to the earth.

In another narration of the hadith by the noble Companion, Zayd
ibn Argam, the words are: The cord of Allah is the Qur’an

  • (Ibn Kathir).

In Arabic usage, the word, ‘haél’ also means ‘covenant’ and, in an
absolute sense, it covers everything that can be used as a connecting
link. The metaphor of ‘cord’ has been used for the Qur’an or the Faith
to suggest that this is the connecting link which, on one side, estab-
lishes the lines of communion between those who believe and their
Lord, while, on the other side, it brings all those who believe close
together, forming one group.

In short, this one statement of the Qur’an is full of wise rules of
conduct. To begin with, it can be said that man must firmly act in
accordance with the way of life revealed by Allah Almighty, that is,
the Holy Qur’an. Then comes the unity of action, that is, all Muslims
should join hands to act in accordance with it. The result will be that
Muslims will become united and organized as if they were a group
holding on to the same cord firmly, turning the whole group into a
powerful single body. The Holy Qur’an has explained this mystique of
Muslim unity more clearly in another verse where it was said:

Surely, those who believe and do good deeds, among them the
All-Merciful Allah shall create (mutual) affection. (19:96)

Also present here is‘a subtle analogy focused on Muslims holding
fast to the Book of Allah. Their effort resembles the effort of those who
would grip a strong rope while climbing and thus remain protected
against a fall. So, the hint is: If Muslims keep holding on to the Book
of Allah with their total strength, all in unison, no satan will ever
succeed in dividing them. As a result, like their individual life, the
collective strength of the Muslim community as well shall become
stable and impregnable. Keeping a firm grip on the Qur’an is some-
thing which helps in uniting scattered forces through which a dead
nation gets new life. God forbid, if Muslims break away from it, it is
certain that their national and collective life will be ruined, and when
this happens, their individual life is not likely to fare any better.

Islam is the only source of the Muslim Unity
Unity and agreement need a centre of attraction or a common idea.
This idea of a centre has been different with different peoples of the
world. Somewhere it was race and tribal affinity. For instance, among
the tribal complex of Arabia, Quraysh was one nation and Banu
Tamim another. There were other places where colour was the
criterion, with black people taken as one nation, and the white people
as another. There were still other places where the geographical or
lingual factor was the centre of unity making Indian one nation and
the Arab, another. Then there were areas where. people rallied around
ancestral customs drawing a line between those who follow these
customs and those who do not, for instance, the Arya Samajists in India.

The Holy Qur’an, bypassing all these, made the Book of Allah basis
of unity, that is, the system revealed by Allah Almighty. In a single
stroke, it declared that Muslims are a nation attached to ‘Hablillah’,
the cord of Allah, and those who disbelieve are another nation, not
attached to this strong ‘cord! or ‘rope’. The statement: (It is He who created you. So, some of you are. infidels and some of
you are believers) means just this. So, the. unifying factors of geog-
raphy, race, tribe or language do not deserve to be the centre of
affinity for man generally has no control over them. One cannot have
them by personal effort or choice. Black cannot become white, a
Qurayshi cannot become a Tamimi, an Indian cannot become an Arab.
Such unities can exist in a very limited frame; they can never claim to
have assembled the whole humanity under their umbrella hoping to
have the entire world gathered on a united platform. This is why the
Holy Qur’an has made the Divinely revealed way of life as the centre
of unity, something one can elect to have for himself. Everyone from
the East or the West, black or white, speaking Arabic or English or
any other language, coming from any family, any tribe, any human
group, can freely make this centre of unity his own as the most
rational and correct choice available. Then, humankind can come close
together around this centre and become brothers and-sisters to one
ancther.

What is needed is a little impartial thinking, a slight rising above
custom, prejudice and habit, as a result of which, the seeker shall be
striking the best bargain of his life. Hopefully, he will discover for
himself the way of life revealed by Allah Almighty, understand it, and
follow it holding fast on to this strong medium of communion with
Allah. As a result of this, the whole humanity will become beneficially
concentric, having the centre of God-given guidance in common.
Consequently, every individual member of this great brotherhood will
be able to tune his deeds, material and spiritual, to the jointly
accepted way of life from Allah.

Here is the principle, wise and correct, of which Muslims can be
proud, and confident when inviting others to join in. Unfortunately,
conspiracies hatched by the Europeans, for centuries to crush the
Muslim unity have succeeded in dividing the ranks of those who claim
to be Muslims.

Now they have themselves accepted the differences of race,
language and nationalities as the dividing forces, and the link of
Muslim unity stands severed by the concept of Arabs and Non-Arabs,
Indians and non-Indians etc. The Holy Qur’an proclaims a universal
reality, loudly and openly, time and again, that these distinctions are
ill-founded and divisive and any unity based on them shall remain
irrational and false. Acentericity is not the solution for Muslims who
have no choice but to ‘hold on to the cord of Allah’, all of them, as a
way of life. This has given them a place of honour earlier, and if there
is yet another success destined for them, this is how it would come
again.

Before we move on to the second part of the verse, let us remember
the two distinct instructions given to. Muslims in this verse, that is,
they should first live by the system prescribed for them by Allah
Almighty, then, they should hold fast to ‘the cord of Allah’ all together.
This is how the Muslim ummah gained ascendance in the past and
there is no reason why, it will not rise again.

This far the discussion revolved around the positive aspect of unity
among Muslims. The text now takes up the negative aspect when it
says: 133% Js (And be not divided). This is another example of the pecu-
liarly wise style of the Holy Qur’an when it would highlight the posi-
tive aspect first, then identify the negative, and forbid the later. In another verse it was said:

Surely, this is the straight path, so, follow it. And do not

follow (other) ways which will cause you to become separated

from His way. (6:153)

Since disunity is the first and the last reason behind the destruction of
a nation, therefore, the Holy Qur’an has repeatedly forbidden it in
yarious ways. It has been said in another verse:

Those who have made divisions in their religion and become
sects, you have nothing to do with them. (6:159)

Also narrated in the Holy Qur’an are events concerning communi-
ties led by their prophet’s (as), communities which fell into
temporal and eternal disgrace because of their mutual disputes and
disunity which turned them away from the honest pursuit of their
central purpose of life.

The Holy Prophet (S) has said that there are three things
Allah Almighty has liked for you while there are three others He has
disliked. The ones He has liked are as follows:

  1. That your worship should be for Allah alone and that you
    should not attribute partners to His divinity.
  2. That you should hold on to the Book of Allah firmly and avoid
    disunity.
  3. That you should have goodwill for those in authority from
    among you.

The three things which cause Allah’s displeasure are:

  1. Unnecessary argumentation.
  2. Needless asking.
  3. Wastage of resources.
    (Ibn Kathir from Abi Hurairah)

Differences and their Limits
A question that remains unanswered is: Is every difference to be
despised or is there a sort of difference which can be called unblame-
worthy? The answer is: Every difference is not blameworthy or despi-
cable. A blameworthy difference is one in which individuals and
groups stay away from the Qur’an and think in terms of their whims
and wishes. But, should it be that everyone stays united in and around
the Qur’an and at the same time, continues to accept the explanation
and detail coming from the Holy Prophet (S), and then, on
the basis of God-given natural ability and intellectual quality,
expresses differences in opinion about subsidiaries of religion, in
which case, this difference will be natural and Islam does not forbid it.
The difference among the blessed Companions and their Successors,
and among leading juristic authorities was of this nature. It was
nothing but this difference that was called a ‘mercy’ for the commu-
nity. However, if these very subsidiary debates were to be invested
with the status of the mainstream of religion, and differences arising
out of them were to become a cause of controversy, confrontation,
insult and vilification, then, this too will be considered blameworthy.

The Blessing of Brotherhood

The text, after making the two aspects of unity clear, points out to
the conditions prevailing among pre-Islam Arabs. Because of tribal
rivalries, incessant warfare and long-drawn blood feuds, the entire
nation was on the brink of total ruin. What saved them from the fire of
hatred was nothing but this blessings of Islam. So, it was said:

And remember the blessing of Allah upon you: When you were
enemies to each other, and He brought your hearts together,
then you, with His grace, became brothers. And you were at
the brink of a pit of the Fire, then, He saved you from it. (103)

In other words, by erasing out deep-seated enmities going back to
centuries, Allah Almighty made them brothers to each other through
the benediction of Islam and the noble Prophet pies ole all le . This
made their life worth living, materially and spiritually, establishing
between them such exemplary friendship that even their enemies
found it awesome. Where in the whole wide world would they have
“found this brotherly unity, this enormous blessing of Allah, even if
they were to spend the combined treasures of the world?

If we recollect what was said in the opening remarks under these
“verses, We can see very clearly that the present verse helps eliminate
the mischief engineered by the wicked when they tried to disunite the
tribes of Aws and Khazraj by reminding them of their past feuds. The
lesson is: Once in Islam, division is unthinkable.

Unity among Muslims depends on obedience to Allah:

The above statement of the Holy Qur’an unravels yet another
mystery. We now know that, in reality, Allah Almighty is the Master
of hearts. Activating mutual love and consideration in the hearts of a
people is purely a Divine blessing. Obvious alongwith it is the fact that
one can become deserving of the blessings of Allah only through obedi-
ence to Him. With disobedience and sin, one cannot hope to have this
reward.

It also follows from here that for Muslims, if they desire to have a
stable organization among them, and unity, the only alternative open
“is that they should make obedience to Allah their life style. This point
has been hinted at towards the end of the verse where it was said:

This is how Allah makes His signs clear to you, so that you
may take the right path. (103)

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