The 50th Call: The Prohibition of Taking Fathers or others as Allies if they Prefer Disbelief over Belief
Almighty Allah says (what can be translated as): “O you who have believed, do not take your fathers or your brothers as allies if they have preferred disbelief over belief. And whoever does so among you - then it is those who are the wrongdoers. Say, [O Muhammad], ‘If your fathers, your sons, your brothers, your wives, your relatives, wealth which you have obtained, commerce wherein you fear decline, and dwellings with which you are pleased are more beloved to you than Allah and His Messenger and jihad in His cause, then wait until Allah executes His command. And Allah does not guide the defiantly disobedient people.’” (At-Tawbah: 23-24)
After the declaration of disassociation, from Allah and His Messenger to the polytheists, He commanded the believers and the Messenger (Peace Be upon Him) to end their treaties with polytheists as Allah Almighty clarifies that they cannot be trusted. This was difficult for some Muslims; some of those who still had weak faith became annoyed. The reason for this weakness was supporting the link of blood relations and tribalism. Almighty Allah says that the bounty of faith, immigration to Medina and jihad will not be completely fulfilled unless they abandon the alliance with the disbelievers and prefer the love of Allah, His Messenger and Jihad in the cause of Allah to the love for the son, father, brother, family and tribe. Almighty Allah forbids the believers from taking those who prefer disbelief over belief as their allies. He warned the believers who take them as allies against a severe torment in this verse and other verses too. He warned those who take the disbelievers as allies and support them, even if they were their fathers or brothers since they are among the oppressors.
Almighty Allah has compared disbelief to oppression several times and He linked the two of them. Then, Almighty Allah commands His Messenger Muhammad (Peace Be upon Him) to tell those who prefer the love to blood relations, tribe, family, trade, wealth and dwellings over the love to Allah, His Messenger and jihad in His cause that they should wait for the ruling of Allah concerning them, i.e. they should be waiting for His punishment and penalty against them. Almighty Allah does not guide the disobedient people who do not abide by His straight path.
The Islamic faith does not accept any partners in its followers’ hearts and minds. A person can be either totally dedicated to it or can leave it altogether. There is no requirement here to cut off all ties with one’s children, family, clan or neighborhood, or to reject wealth or different types of pleasure and enjoyment. That is not the point meant here. What is required is total dedication and wholehearted love. This means in practical terms that the faith becomes the prime mover and the paramount motivation. When this is the case, people may have their pleasures and enjoyment because they will be able to sacrifice all these whenever such sacrifice is required by their faith.
The determining factor is whether faith has the overall control over man’s attitudes and actions or not. Would the final decision in any situation be based on considerations of faith or on some other interests or worldly matters? When a Muslim is certain that he has given all his heart to his faith then he may enjoy his family life and have all the happiness of having a wife and children. He may maintain and strengthen his social ties as he wishes and he may have his business and fine dwelling. He may enjoy all the pleasures of this world, without being too extravagant or adopting an arrogant attitude. Indeed to enjoy these pleasures is encouraged as a means of showing gratitude to Allah for His bounty. “O you who have believed, do not take your fathers or your brothers as allies if they have preferred disbelief over belief.” (Verse 23)
All ties of blood and family relations are severed if the tie of belief does not take its place in people’s hearts. Family loyalty is nullified when loyalty based on faith is nonexistent. The first bond is that which exists between man and Allah. It is the bond which unites all humanity. When this is severed, no relationships, ties or bonds may exist. “And whoever does so among you - then it is those who are the wrongdoers.” (Verse 23) The term `wrongdoers’ here means the idolaters, because to maintain ties of loyalty and alliance with family and community when they prefer disbelief to faith is a form of idolatry which believers may not entertain.
The surah does not merely state the principle. It goes on to list all types of ties, ambitions and pleasures, grouping them all together and putting them in the scale against faith and its requirements. Thus we have in the first group fathers, children, brothers, spouses and clan (i.e. ties of blood and family), property and business (i.e. the natural desire to have money), and comfortable houses and dwellings (i.e. the pleasures of affluence). Against all this is placed love of Allah and His Messenger and striving for Allah’s cause. It is important to realize that striving here implies a great deal of hardship and sacrifice. It may mean suffering oppression, going to war and sacrificing one’s life altogether. Moreover, all this striving must be purged of any desire to be known or to be publicly appreciated or recognized. Once this striving aims at such recognition, it earns no reward from Allah.
“Say, [O Muhammad], ‘If your fathers, your sons, your brothers, your wives, your relatives, wealth which you have obtained, commerce wherein you fear decline, and dwellings with which you are pleased are more beloved to you than Allah and His Messenger and jihad in His cause, then wait until Allah executes His command.’” (Verse 24)
What is required here is certainly hard, and it is certainly of great importance. But thus are Allah’s requirements. Otherwise, “then wait until Allah executes His command.’’ (Verse 24) The only alternative is to have the same fate as those who perpetrate evil: “And Allah does not guide the defiantly disobedient people.” (Verse 24) This requirement is not obligatory merely on individuals. The whole Muslim community and indeed the Muslim state are also required to make the same choice. There is no consideration or bond which may have priority over those of faith and the struggle for Allah’s cause.
Allah does not impose this obligation on the Muslim community unless He knows that its nature can cope with it. It is indeed an aspect of Allah’s grace that He has given human nature this strong ability to cope with great demands when motivated by dedication to a noble ideal. Indeed He has given it the ability to feel a more sublime pleasure which is far superior to all the pleasures of this world. This is the pleasure or the ecstasy of having a tie with Allah Himself and the hope of winning His pleasure. It is also the pleasure of rising above human weaknesses, family and social pressures while looking forward to a bright horizon. If human weakness sometimes pulls us down, the bright horizon that looms large will give us a renewed desire to break loose of all worldly pressures to give faith its due importance.