Secret Schemes, Exaggerated Status, Indisputable Reliability

Issue 986 » February 16, 2018 - Jumada al-Awwal 30, 1439

Living The Quran

Secret Schemes
Al-e-Imran (The House of Imran) Sura 3: Verse 54

"And (the unbelievers) plotted and planned (makr), and Allah too planned, and the best of planners is Allah.'

The word makr means a secret scheme to cause harm to someone. It has come to connote a negative sense as resorting to secret scheming against someone and betrays the weakness of the schemers. As it is usually the weak who fall back upon makr or secret schemes, its negative sense became more pronounced, and the term was taken to convey essentially a negative aspect. Wherever it is used, the assumption is that it must be in a negative sense. This is far from being true. At times, one has to resort to secret scheming to counter the schemers or to punish them. Any open action against the perpetrators of secret scheming can easily be depicted as unjust and an act of aggression. Most people who are unaware of the real facts may also be led to believe that the perpetrators were justified in their actions.

Similarly, secret scheming is necessary at times to forewarn a conspiring enemy that others are not unaware of his machinations and that these will be severely resisted. This not only shames such conspirators but also acts as a strong deterrent against any future trouble on their part. The secret planning referred to in this verse with regard to Allah is precisely of this nature and is aimed at countering the hostile conspiracies rendering them ineffective and harmless. Such countermeasures often take the enemies unawares, leaving them stunned, while at the same time relieving others of trouble and harm. This is referred to in the verse by the words "and the best of planners is Allah".

Compiled From:
"Pondering Over The Qur'an: Surah Ali Imran" - Amin Ahsan Islahi

Understanding The Prophet's Life

Exaggerated Status

Humility was an obvious characteristic of the Prophet (peace be upon him). Perhaps nothing shows his humility better than the choice he was given by God at an early stage of his prophethood. Abu Hurayrah reports that:

The Prophet was sitting with the angel Gabriel when he looked up into the sky and saw another angel descending. Gabriel said to the Prophet: "This is the first time this angel has ever come down since he was created." The angel said: "Muhammad, your Lord has sent me to give you a choice: shall He make you a king and a Prophet, or a servant of His and a Messenger?" Gabriel signalled him to be humble before his Lord. The Prophet said: "I prefer to be a servant of God and His Messenger." (Related by Ahmad.)

That signal by the angel Gabriel gave the Prophet more than a hint about his position with God. It gave him an indication that God loves those who are self-effacing. Therefore, it was a characteristic of the Prophet for the rest of his life. Umar ibn al-Khattab reports: "I heard the Prophet when he said to us: 'Do not exaggerate my position like the Christians did with Jesus, son of Mary. I am only God's servant. Say of me: God’s servant and Messenger.'" (Related by al-Bukhari.)

A similar hadith, reported by Anas ibn Malik, mentions that a man addressed the Prophet saying:

"Muhammad, you are our master and son of our master. You are the best among us and the son of the our best." The Prophet spoke to the people present saying: "Maintain the fear of God and do not give way to Satan. I am Muhammad, son of Abdullah. I am God's servant and Messenger. By God, I do not like that you elevate me above the status God has given me." (Related by Ahmad and Abu Dawud.)

Human nature enjoys receiving praise. The Prophet, however, was keenly aware that exaggerated praise would elevate him above his status and, in consequence, ruin the role he was meant to play in human life. This role was not limited to his own generation: it applied to all generations, as he was to provide the role model for all Muslims. Those who exaggerated his status would ultimately stop following his lead, as they would think themselves too inferior to be able to do so. Thus, the purpose for which his life had been so meticulously documented will be lost. He was fully aware of this, and therefore he was keen to instil in his Companions the fact that he was an ordinary human being, except for the Divine message he received and delivered. He was also required to provide an example, both in his private life and in public.

Compiled From:
"Muhammad: His Character and Conduct" - Adil Salahi


Indisputable Reliability

God has set the Quran apart through its distinct arrangement, style and structural unity, as well as through its contents, the ease with which it can be memorized, its impact, and the inability of its contemporaries, or anyone else for that matter, to meet the challenge to produce something comparable to it. He has declared the Quran above doubt and suspicion, free of contradiction and, hence, of indisputable reliability, its verses clear and unambiguous. The Quran's authenticity does not depend, nor should it depend, on any narrative, however well-attested it might happen to be. Its definitive certainty is founded on the fact that it is the speech of God to which no falsehood can gain access in any way whatsoever. The Prophet received it through Gabriel, and as he began reciting it to others at God's command, he inspired in them the desire to memorize and recite it, to teach it and circulate it both orally and in writing. Yet it was God who undertook to gather it together in the Prophet's mind, causing him to recite it properly, making its meanings clear, and preserving it.

The Book of God needs no validation via narratives passed down from one generation to the next. It is likewise independent of all the recitations, be they canonical or otherwise, which have been associated with it. Nor is the Quran subject to self-abrogation.

The Quran and everything relating thereto is a divine concern alone. If the Quran were dependent for its certainty on human narratives, as are hadiths and other historical reports, it would not have been possible for God to challenge both human beings and the jinn to produce something comparable to it. The Quran stands above all mere narrative. As such, it stands above all human methods of preserving texts, and it should not be subjected to the critical methods to which we would subject some other discourse. Consequently, it is shameful for some to say, as some, in fact, have said, that next to the Quran, Sahih al-Bukhari is the most well-authenticated book of the Islamic heritage. It would be perfectly valid for us to compare Sahid al-Bukhari to some other book of the same type. One might say, for example, that Sahih al-Bukhari is better authenticated than Sahih al-Muslim, Musnad Ahmad, or Imam Malik's Al-Muwatta. But to compare it to the Quran itself evinces an audacity and a lack of reverence for the Quran. For the Book of God is without equal, and it would be unthinkable to view it as comparable, parallel, or subject to being measured against any other entity whatsoever. It is nothing but truth and unquestionable, unchanging certainty.

Compiled From:
"Reviving The Balance: The Authority of the Qur'an and the Status of the Sunnah" - Taha Jabir Alalwani, pp. 109 - 111