The 51st Call: Banning the Polytheists from approaching al-Masjid al-Haram
“O you who have believed, indeed the polytheists are unclean, so let them not approach al-Masjid al-Haram after this, their [final] year. And if you fear privation, Allah will enrich you from His bounty if He wills. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Wise.” (At-Tawbah: 28)
Almighty Allah commands His believing servants to ban the polytheists from approaching al-Masjid al-Haram and circumambulating the Kaaba after the revelation of this verse (It was revealed in the ninth year after Hijrah) because polytheists are filthy and impure. This is why the Messenger of Allah (Peace Be upon Him) was commanded not to let any polytheist perform Hajj after this year or let a naked person circumambulate the Kaaba.
Almighty Allah says to the believers: If you are afraid of privation and lack of sustenance because the polytheists will cease to come to Makkah, Allah will enrich you from his bounty and He will compensate you with better things from his bounty and generosity if He wills. Almighty Allah is Knowing of what contains the goodness and benefit and Wise in what He decrees and commands.
The surah emphasizes the abstract impurity of the idolaters to make it their essential quality. This shows them to be totally and completely impure. This statement gives the feeling that we should seek to purify ourselves when we have anything to do with them, although their impurity is abstract. Their bodies are not really impure. In its unique style, the Qur’an often resorts to magnification, giving abstract matters a physical shape and entity. “O you who have believed, indeed the polytheists are unclean, so let them not approach al-Masjid al-Haram after this, their [final] year.” (Verse 28)
They have the strictest injunction prohibiting their presence in the Haram area. The order implies that they must not even come near it, because they are impure while the Haram is a source of purity. The whole commercial season which the people of Makkah await every year, and their business which provides livelihood for most people and the two business trips in summer and winter which are so essential for the continued prosperity of the people of Makkah will all be jeopardized as a result of banning the idolaters from pilgrimage and declaring jihad against them all. This may be true, but when it comes to faith, Allah wants people’s hearts to be totally dedicated to their faith.
When they do this, they will not worry about their livelihood, because Allah ensures that everyone gets his or her share in the normal way and through recognized means: “And if you fear privation, Allah will enrich you from His bounty if He wills. Indeed.” (Verse 28) When Allah wills, He may replace certain causes with others, and He may close certain doors in order to open others. “Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Wise.” (Verse 28) He manages all matters and conducts all affairs in accordance with His knowledge and wisdom.
In this surah the Qur’an is addressing the Muslim community as it was composed immediately after the conquest of Makkah, when standards of faith were not at the same level. We can see from reading the surah carefully that there were gaps in that community, and we can also see how the Qur’an has set about filling these gaps and the great effort made to educate the Muslim community.
The method of the Qur’an was to guide the footsteps of the Muslim community to bring it up to the high summit of total dedication to Allah and to the divine faith. Faith becomes the standard by which any relationship or source of pleasure in life is accepted or rejected. All this was accomplished through educating people in the real difference between Allah’s method which makes all people serve Allah alone and the methods of jahiliyyah which enable some people to enslave others. The two are essentially different and they cannot be reconciled.
Without this proper understanding of the nature of this religion and its method, and also the nature of jahiliyyah, or the state of ignorance that Islam always comes up against, we cannot recognize the true value of Islamic rules and regulations that govern dealings and transactions between the Muslim community and other communities.