Islam means total surrender to Allah (swt) and the Messenger, and that no one can become truly Muslim unless he gives up obedience to anyone or anything apart from Allah (swt). But why is so much stress laid on obedience to Allah (swt) and His Messenger? You may ask: Does Allah (swt) need our obedience so badly that He has to demand it so insistently that He has to insist His rule, cannot be sustained without subjugating us? Let us try to examine these questions.

A.Our well-being
Essentially, the demand for obedience to Allah (swt) is intended for the well-being and betterment of man himself. He is not like the rulers of the world. They subjugate people to benefit themselves, but Allah (swt) needs nothing from anybody. He is not in need of taxes from you, nor does He require to build mansions, but cars and amass luxury articles at your expense. He is not dependent on anyone for anything. Whatever is in the world belongs to Him alone and He alone is the Master of all treasures.

He demands obedience from you only because He does not want man – that creation of His Whom He has declared to be the noblest – to be the servant of another man like him, or of Satan or bow his head before unworthy things. He does not desire that His vicegerents on earth grope in the darkness of ignorance, and like animals, become slaves to their desires and thus degrade themselves to the level of the lowest of the low. Therefore, He urges: “You obey Me and walk by the light I have sent through My Messengers” you will find the straight path. By walking on it you will receive dignity in this world as well as in the Hereafter. Allah (swt) said: “No coercion is there in religion. Distinct has become the right way from (the way of) error. So whosoever rejects false gods and believes in God has indeed taken hold of the firmest handle which shall never break. God is All-Hearing, All-Knowing. God is the friend of those who have faith; He brings them out of darkness into the light. And the disbelievers – their friends are false gods that bring them out of the light into darkness; those are the inhabitants of the Fire, therein to abide forever.” (Al-Baqarah: 256-257)

B. Obeying others besides Allah (swt)
Why will a man plunge into darkness by obeying others besides Allah (swt) and why is it that only by obeying Allah (swt), can his life be illuminated? Let us look into this important question.

Our lives are made up of countless relations and transactions. Our first relationship is with our own bodies: these hands, these feet, these eyes, these ears, this tongue, this heart, the mind, this belly – all these have been entrusted to you by Allah (swt) to serve you. You have also been given freedom to decide to what end to employ them.

What to put in your bellies, and to avoid? What to make your hands to do and what to keep them away from? Where to let your feet walk and when to hold back? What to let your eyes see and ears hear, and to refrain from? What to allow your tongues to say, and when to fall silent? What kind of thoughts to make your hearts and minds reflect upon, and what to shun? These servants of yours, you can make to do good work or bad, as you choose. In return, they can make you ascend great heights or plunge you into abysmal depths.

Then you have relationship with the members of your family – with your fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, wives, children and other relatives with whom you have to deal continuously. You have to decide how to behave with these people, what rights you have over them, and what rights they have over you. Your comfort, your happiness and your success in this world as well as in the Hereafter depend very much on how correctly you behave with them. If you behave wrongly, you will make this world a Hell for yourselves. And in the Hereafter, too, you will have to answer to Allah (sw).

You have relationship with many other people. They are your neighbors, friends and enemies. There are also many who work for you in various ways. To some you have to give something and from others you have to receive something. Some entrust you with their works while you entrust your works to others. You are in command over some people and others are in command over you. In this world, your happiness, your honour and your good names – all depend entirely on your ability to maintain these relationships properly.

In the Hereafter, too, you can acquire places of honour near Allah (swt) only by scrupulously avoiding the abuse of the rights of others and doing them injustices. There, let no one charge you with having ruined his life or having illegally harmed his honour, life or property. You therefore have to maintain these relationships in a proper manner; actions which may spoil or disrupt these relations should be avoided.

Now consider: in order to maintain proper relationships with your own bodies, with the members of your families and with all other people, you need the light of knowledge at every step. You have to know what is right and what is wrong; what is true and what is false; what is just and what is unjust; what rights you have over others and what rights others have over you; in what there is real benefit and in what lies real harm.

(To be continued)

by Abul A’la Mawdudi