The 46th Call: The Obligation of Responding to Allah and the Messenger
Almighty Allah says (what can be translated as): “O you who have believed, respond to Allah and to the Messenger when he calls you to that which gives you life. And know that Allah intervenes between a man and his heart and that to Him you will be gathered. And fear a trial which will not strike those who have wronged among you exclusively, and know that Allah is severe in penalty.” (Al-Anfal: 24-25)
Almighty Allah commands the believers to respond to His call and the call of His Messenger (Peace Be upon Him) whom Allah obligates to deliver the call of Islam to people. This call elevates and purifies their souls and revives them with faith. This call uplifts their souls to the status of perfection to gain the satisfaction of Allah. Then, Almighty Allah teaches the believers that He the Controller of the hearts of His servants and He directs them wherever He wishes. Almighty Allah intervenes between a man and his heart and if he gives in to sin and disbelief, Allah perishes the feelings, sentiments and realization in his heart so the willpower gets crippled and the human loses control over his deeds and follows his heart and desires. Advices and lessons cease to affect it and only Almighty Allah is Capable of saving the heart from the hollow it fell in if the human directs himself to the right path.
Later on, Allah resurrects His servants on the Day of Judgment to hold them accountable for their deeds. He recompenses them with what they deserve. Almighty Allah warns the believers from falling into disputes and feuds among themselves and that happens when they do not fulfill their role towards their religion and their community by applying Jihad, enjoining goodness and forbidding evil, punishing corrupts, giving advices for the sake of Allah and His Messenger (PBUH) and the Muslims and obeying the rulers and people in charge. Almighty Allah warns them that the punishment He sends down on the heedless nations which neglect their duties will not befall the wrongdoers in specific, it strikes the sinners and other people as well. Allah informs them that He is severe in penalty of the nations which do not abide by His teachings and the guidance of His religion. He punishes the nations which do not end feuds and do not cooperate in eliminating and driving them away. (Ibn Abbas said in explaining this verse: Allah commands the believers not to endorse evil among themselves otherwise Allah will punish them all of them).
Allah’s Messenger (Peace Be upon Him) calls on them to follow what would certainly give them life. It is a call to life in its fullness, with all its connotations. He calls on them to believe in a faith that keeps hearts and minds alive, free from the restrictions of jahiliyyah, ignorance and superstition, the pressures of legends, misconceptions and submission to superficial causes and inevitabilities. It is a faith that frees them from submission to anyone other than Allah and from being humiliated or subjugated by human beings or desires.
Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) also calls on them to implement a divine law that proclaims man’s freedom. In itself, this imparts a great honor to man because he will then believe in something that comes from Allah directly, and before which all human beings are equal. There is no room for the tyranny of a single person over a whole community, or a race or nation over another. All human beings are made free, enjoying equal status before the law that has been formulated and laid down by Allah, for the benefit of mankind. Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) also calls on them to adopt a code of living and a set of thoughts and beliefs that set them free from any bondage other than checks of nature established by Allah. It is He who created man and knows what He has created. These checks are meant to preserve the constructive potential of man and make the best use of it, without wasting any part of it or deviating from its constructive operation.
He also calls on them to have power and to feel exalted through their faith and constitution, having full confidence in their religion and their reward. This will enable them to fulfill their duty, to take appropriate initiative aiming at the liberation of the human race as a whole, breaking the chains of submission to creatures in order to acknowledge submission to Allah alone. Thus the honored position of man which tyrants have taken away will be retrieved and reestablished.
Allah’s Messenger (Peace Be Upon Him) further calls on them to strive for Allah’s cause so that the position of Allah as the Supreme Lord in this world and in human life will be reestablished. All claims to divinity would thus be refuted. Usurpers of Allah’s authority, sovereignty and power would be chased away, until they have submitted to Allah’s sovereignty. When this takes place all submission is acknowledged to Allah alone. If believers die when they strive in this way, they achieve martyrdom. A new life is thus imparted to them.
This is in a nutshell what Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) calls on them to do. This is indeed a call to life in the full sense of the word. This religion is a complete way of living, not a mere concept of belief. It is a practical method that allows life to flourish and prosper. Hence, it is a call to life in all its connotations, forms and aspects. The Qur’an sums up all this in a few inspiring words: “O you who have believed, respond to Allah and to the Messenger when he calls you to that which gives you life.” (Verse 24) Make this response willingly, with obedience. After all, Allah is able to force you to follow His guidance if He so desires.
“And know that Allah intervenes between a man and his heart.” (Verse 24) This is an awesome picture of Allah’s power and its subtle operation. He thus forces a split between a human being and his heart and mind, making that heart His property, so that He directs it wherever He wishes. The person himself will be totally unable to influence the heart that beats within him.
This is certainly an awe-inspiring image that our hearts can contemplate as we listen to it in the Qur’an. Human expression, however, cannot describe its effects on our hearts and how we respond to it. But the ultimate message of this statement should always keep us on the alert, so that we watch our feelings and guard against any tendency that may lead us to slip, or any fleeting thought that may push us along the way to disobedience of Allah. We must always be on guard so that we maintain the path that earns Allah’s pleasure and not deviate from it during any moment of self-indulgence or negligence.
Allah’s Messenger (Peace Be upon Him) who was immune to sin often used to say in his supplication: “My Lord. You are the One who changes people’s hearts. Make my heart constant in following Your faith.” Compared to this, what should the attitude of ordinary people be when they are neither given a message, nor granted immunity to sinful temptation?
A believer is bound to feel his heart shiver as he contemplates this image, looking at his own heart placed in Allah’s own hand, while he himself has no power to influence it in any way, although it remains inside him beating all the time. This image is presented to the believers as they are called upon to respond to Allah and His Messenger when He calls on them to accept what will give them life. He is thus telling them that Allah can make them give the response He wants and force them to follow His guidance. But Allah honors them by giving them the choice and calling on them to respond willingly, so that they can earn a reward from Him, and exercise their own will which enhances their position and brings them up to the level worthy of Allah’s trust. This is the trust of following Allah’s guidance and exercising the role He has assigned to them on earth, as He placed them in charge of it. When people do this, they exercise their freedom of choice on the basis of clear knowledge and well-defined objectives.
“To Him you will be gathered.” (Verse 24) You cannot escape Him, either in this world or in the Hereafter, because your hearts are in His hands and to Him you shall all be gathered. Nevertheless, He calls on you to respond to Him by your free choice to earn His reward. A forced response is not worthy of man.
They are then warned against adopting a negative attitude to jihad, or making a negative response to the call to life, or refraining from the fulfillment of their duty to change what is wrong, whatever form it may take: “And fear a trial which will not strike those who have wronged among you exclusively, and know that Allah is severe in penalty.” (Verse 25)
A community that allows a section of its members to be unjust will be guilty of injustice or wrongdoing. When a community does not stand up to wrongdoers, when it does not take any positive steps to punish transgressors, it deserves to share in the punishment of those wrongdoers and transgressors. It should be said that the worst type of wrongdoing is to abandon Allah’s law which He has laid down to be implemented in human life. As a system, Islam has a serious outlook based on mutual help and solidarity within the community. Islam does not allow its followers to sit idle when injustice, corruption and wrongdoing continue on the rampage, let alone sees Allah’s faith abandoned and His Divinity denied in order to be substituted by false claims. Such people cannot hope to be spared trial and temptation simply because they are good within themselv