By Naseer Ahmed, New Age Islam
28 April, 2015
Many similar questions are asked and the impression among people is that the Quran uses strong words for non-Muslims whether they are Jews, Christians or Polytheists but not for the Muslims. The Quran uses strong language even for those who are evil among the Muslims except that it does not get noticed because they are called the Munafiqin or the hypocrites. The Quran does not use strong language against people of any faith but only against those who were guilty of specific acts or misdeeds. Let us examine one such verse which is one of the oft quoted ones.
(98:6) Those Kafaru among the People of the Book and among the Polytheists, will be in Hell-Fire, to dwell therein (for aye). They are the worst of creatures.
This verse is misunderstood to mean that the Quran has called all Jews, Christians and Polytheists, the worst of creatures who will be in hell in the hereafter! The verse is clearly not calling all the People of the Book or all the Polytheists the worst of creatures who will dwell in hell in the hereafter but only the Kafaru among them. Who are these Kafaru and for what Kufr of theirs are they so condemned?
Let us look at the entire Surah 98 in which the verse appears:
(1) Those Kafaru among the People of the Book and among the Polytheists, were not going to depart (from their ways) until there should come to them Clear Evidence,-
(2) A messenger from Allah, rehearsing scriptures kept pure and holy:
(3) Wherein are laws (or decrees) right and straight.
(4) Nor did the People of the Book make schisms, until after there came to them Clear Evidence.
(5) And they have been commanded no more than this: To worship Allah, offering Him sincere devotion, being true (in faith); to establish regular prayer; and to practise regular charity; and that is the Religion Right and Straight.
(6) Those Kafaru among the People of the Book and among the Polytheists will be in Hell-Fire, to dwell therein (for aye). They are the worst of creatures.
(7) Those who have faith and do righteous deeds,- they are the best of creatures.
(8) Their reward is with Allah: Gardens of Eternity, beneath which rivers flow; they will dwell therein for ever; Allah well pleased with them, and they with Him: all this for such as fear their Lord and Cherisher.
The Kafaru among the Polytheists who are referred to can be identified from the following verses of Surah 37:
(159) Glory to Allah! (He is free) from the things they (the polytheists) ascribe (to Him)
(167) And there were those who said,
(168) "If only we had had before us a Message from those of old,
(169) "We should certainly have been Servants of Allah, sincere (and devoted)!"
(170) But (now that the Qur´an has come), they reject it: But soon will they know!
“And there were those who said” clearly implies not all but some among the polytheists. The Kafaru among the People of the Scriptures were those who were awaiting the coming of a Prophet from amongst the Arabs based on predictions in their own Scriptures.
The much awaited and eagerly expected Prophet came rehearsing scriptures containing laws right and straight. The People of the Scriptures however made schisms only after the clear evidence had come to them and although they were commanded no more than this: To worship Allah, offering Him sincere devotion, being true (in faith); to establish regular prayer; and to practise regular charity; and that is the Religion Right and Straight.
These are the people who are the worst of creatures because when the Messenger for whom they had awaited eagerly came with clear evidence, they rejected him. And these people will be in hell fire forever. Please notice the wordings. This is not a warning to these people about their fate in the hereafter but the sentence has been pronounced which means that these people will die as disbelievers. This confirms that it covers only a specific set of people and not all Polytheists, Jews and Christians because most of the Polytheists believed after this and many of the Jews and Christians as well. The Surah is an early Medinian Surah revealed before the permission to fight was given. After the first battle of Badr, the fortunes appeared to be changing for the better for the Muslims which then attracted the opportunist freeloaders called the Munafiqin or the hypocrites. Until such time, the Muslims were only among those Meccans who had sacrificed everything for Islam and even left their homes and migrated to Medina and the Ansars or the Medinians who had provided support and shelter. They are therefore called the best of creatures and the contrast is perfect. The best of people never had any expectations of a Prophet coming but when he did come, they believed and suffered torture and persecution in Mecca for 13 years and were finally compelled to migrate leaving behind their homes and businesses. The Medinians made huge sacrifices and provided support and shelter to the immigrants. These were true believers and supporters of the Prophet and Allah and clearly selfless, sincere and devoted and beyond doubt among the best of creatures.
In contrast, there were the knowledgeable ones who had eagerly awaited for the coming of the Prophet thinking that he would confer some great worldly benefit on them but when they saw that there were sacrifices to be made and no prospect of any gains in the immediate future, and from all indications’ very uncertain and bleak future, they rejected him. They were self-seekers who were only interested in what was in it for them and had no real love for either God or the “Truth” or for any noble cause. The contrast is perfect and they are called the worst creatures.
It should now be clear that both “the best of creatures” and “the worst of creatures” refers to specific people of the Prophet’s times and not to people of this age. The believers or Muslims have no basis to consider themselves as the best of creatures or to consider others as the worst by citing this verse which only speaks of a specific group of people of the Prophet’s times who displayed the behaviour discussed.
Naseer Ahmed is an Engineering graduate from IIT Kanpur and is an independent IT consultant after having served in both the Public and Private sector in responsible positions for over three decades. He is a frequent contributor to NewAgeIslam.com.