In the Shade of the Quran (part 30)
Surah 109 The Disbelievers - al Kafiroon
In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful!
Say: "Disbelievers! I do not worship what you worship nor do you worship what I worship. I shall never worship what you worship You have your own religion and I have mine."
Although the Arabs before Islam were not disavowing Allah, they did not know Him by the true identity He accorded Himself as the One and the Eternal. They did not only depreciate Him and ineptly worship Him but they also ascribed to Him, as partners, idols that were supposed to represent their great and pious ancestors or, in some cases, the angels whom they claimed to be the daughters of Allah. Moreover, they alleged a kinship between Him and the jinn. They often ignored all these qualifications, however, and worshipped those idols themselves. But in all cases, as the Qur'an quotes them as saying, they only "worship them (the various gods) so that they may bring us near to Allah." (Al-Qur'an 39:3)
The Qur'an also states:
If you ask them who it is that has created the heavens and the earth, and subjected the sun and the moon (to fixed laws) they will say: Allah (Al-Qur'an 29:61) And again: If you ask them who it is that sends down water from the sky, and thereby revives the earth after it has died, they will say: ' Allah. (Al-Qur'an 29:63)
Moreover, Allah superseded their gods in their oaths and supplications.
But in spite of their belief in Allah, the polytheism they entertained fouled their conceptions as well as their traditions and rites to the extent that they assigned to their alleged gods a portion of their earnings and possessions, and even their offspring; in fact, they had often been obliged to sacrifice their children. Concerning this, the Qur'an has the following to say:
They set aside forAllah a share of what He has produced in abundance of crops and cattle, saying: This is for Allah, so they pretend, and this for the partner-gods we associate with Him. But nothing of the share of their partner-gods may ever go toAllah while the share of Allah may go to their partner-gods. How ill they judge! Thus those partner-gods of theirs have induced many polytheists to kill their children so that they may ruin them and confuse them in their faith. Had Allah willed, they would not have done so; so leave them to their false inventions. They say: "Such cattle and crops are forbidden; no one may eat of them save those whom we permit", so they assert. Further, there are cattle which they prohibit men from riding, and others over which they do not pronounce the name of Allah .All these are lies they assert against Allah. He will surely punish them for their invented lies. They also say: "What is in the wombs of these animals is reserved to our males, forbidden to our females." But if it is still born, then they all partake of it. Allah will surely punish them for what they impute to Him. He is surely wise and He knows all." Lost are they who, in their ignorance, wantonly slay their children, and make unlawful what Allah has provided for them, inventing lies against Allah. They have indeed gone astray and heeded no guidance.(Al-Qur'an 6:137-41)
The Arabs were also convinced that they were the followers of the religion of Abraham and that they were better guided than the People of the Scriptures (i.e. Jews and Christians) inhabiting the Arabian peninsula at the time: the Jews and the Christians preached respectively that Ezra and Jesus were the sons of Allah whereas they, the Arabs, worshipped angels and jinn - the true offspring of Allah according to them. Their belief, they maintained, was more logical and more conceivable than that of the Christians and the Jews. Nonetheless, all was polytheism.
When Muhammad (peace be on him) declared his religion to be that of Abraham, they argued that there was no reason for them to forsake their beliefs and follow Muhammad's instead, since they too were of the same religion. In the meantime, they sought a sort of compromise with him proposing that he should prostrate himself before their gods in return for their prostration to his God, and that he should cease denouncing their gods and their manner of worship in reciprocation for whatever he demanded of them! This confusion in their concepts, vividly illustrated by their worship of various gods while acknowledging Allah, was perhaps what led them to believe that the gulf between them and Muhammad was not unbridgeable. They thought an agreement was somehow possible by allowing the two camps to co-exist in the region and by granting him some personal concessions!
To clear up this muddle, to cut all arguments short and firmly distinguish between one form of worship and the other, between one doctrine and concept and the other this surah was revealed in such a decisive, assertive tone. It was revealed in this manner to demarcate monotheism (tawheed) from polytheism (shirk), and to establish a true criterion, allowing no further wrangling or vain arguments.
Using all the mentioned means, the surah goes on to emphasize a negation in one sentence and an affirmation in another. "Say", this denotes a clear-cut Divine order which conveys the fact that the whole affair of the religion belongs exclusively to Allah, nothing of it belongs to Muhammad himself, and that Allah is the only One to order and decide. Address them, Muhammad, by their actual and true identity: "Say: 'Disbelievers!" They follow no prescribed religion, nor do they believe in you. No meeting-point exists between you and them anywhere. Thus the beginning of the surah brings to mind the reality of a difference which cannot be ignored or settled.
"I do nor worship what you worship" is a statement affirmed by shall never worship what you worship". "Nor do you worship what I worship" is also repeated for more emphasis and in order to eliminate all chances of doubt or misinterpretation. Finally, the whole argument is summed up in the last verse, "You have your own religion, and I have mine", meaning that you (disbelievers) and I (Muhammad) are very far apart, without any bridge to connect us - a complete distinction and a precise, intelligible demarcation. Such an attitude was essential then in order to expose the fundamental discrepancies in the essence of the two beliefs and doctrines, in the source of the two concepts and in the nature of the two paths of monotheism and polytheism, faith and disbelief. Faith on the one hand, is the way of life which directs man and the whole world towards Allah alone and determines for him the source of his religious concept, laws, values, criteria, ethics and morals. That source is Allah and nobody else. Thus life proceeds for him accordingly, devoid of any form of polytheism which, on the other hand, represents another way of life entirely dissimilar to that of faith. The two never meet.
On the whole, the distinction we are dealing with here is indispensable both for those who invite people to Islam and the people themselves, because Ignorant concepts are likely to be mixed with those of Islam especially in those societies which previously followed the Islamic method, but have later deviated from it. They are, to be sure, the most rigid and the most hostile to the idea of regaining faith in its healthy, clear and straight forward form, certainly more so than those who have not known Islam originally. They take it for granted that they are righteous while they grow more and more complicatedly perverse!
The existence of noble and base beliefs and thoughts in those societies may tempt the advocate of the Islamic system to-hope for their quick return, thinking he may be able to strengthen the good aspects of their life and rightly correct undesirable features! This temptation is dangerously misleading. For Ignorance is nothing but Ignorance and Islam is altogether different from it. The only way to bridge the gulf between the two is for Ignorance to liquidate itself completely and substitute for all its laws, values, standards and concepts their Islamic counterparts.
The first step that should be taken in this field by the person calling on people to embrace Islam is to segregate himself from Ignorance. He must be separated to the extent that any agreement or intercourse between him and Ignorance is absolutely impossible unless and until the people of Ignorance em brace Islam completely: no intermingling, no half measures or conciliation is permissible, however clever Ignorance may be in usurping the role of Islam or reflecting it. The chief basis of the personality of the person inviting others to Islam is the clear manifestation of this fact within himself and his solemn conviction of being radically different from them. They have their own religion, and he has his. His task is to orientate them so that they may follow his path without any fraud or pretence. Failing this, he must withdraw completely, detach himself from their life and openly declare to them: "You have your own religion, and I have mine."
This is a sine qua non for the contemporary advocates of Islam. They badly need to realize that they are calling for Islam today in entirely Ignorant surroundings amongst ex-Muslim peoples whose hearts have grown harder and whose beliefs have now deteriorated considerably. They need to understand that there is no room for short-term or half solutions, compromises, or partial redemption or adjustment, and that their call is for uniquely distinguished Islam, in contrast to what these people conceive of as Islam. They must face these people bravely and explicitly put it to them: "You have your own religion, and I have mine." Our religion is based on absolute monotheism whose concepts, values, beliefs and laws cover all aspects of human life and are all received from Allah and none else. With out this basic separation confusion, double-dealing, doubt and distortion will certainly persist. And let it be clear in our minds here that the movement advocating Islam can never be constructed on any ambiguous or feeble foundations, but has to be built upon firmness, explicitness, frankness and fortitude as embodied in Allah's instruction to us to declare: "You have your own religion, and I have mine". Such was the way adopted by the Islamic call in its early days.