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July 13th, 2014

Case Study 1: Fidel or Infidel, Who determines – Man or God?

Case Study 1: Fidel or Infidel, Who determines – Man or God?

Before we discuss the loggerhead question of Fidel[1] vs. Infidel[2], it necessitates first to determine the very definition of a Fidel in Quran . The core definition for a Fidel is that which the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) applied to himself:

39:11. Say, `Verily, I have orders to worship Allâh, being truly sincere to Him alone in obedience.
39:12. `And I have orders to be the foremost among those who surrender themselves (to His will).'
39:13. Say, `If I disobey my Lord I have to fear the torment of a dreadful day.'
39:14. Say, `It is Allâh I worship, being purely sincere to Him in my obedience.[3]

The above delineation of belief is further expanded into its progressive stages in Quran 49:15[4] for the believers, by their declaration – The believers are those only who believe in Allah and His Messenger, by their immersed belief – then they do not doubt, and then by their actions – and struggle hard with their wealth and their lives in the way of Allah. Such are the truthful ones.

The above core of belief is supplemented to include co-beliefs which only strengthen the core itself:

4:136. O you who believe! maintain faith in Allâh and in His Messenger and in this perfect Book which He has revealed to His perfect Messenger and in the Scripture He revealed before. And whoso denies Allâh and His angels and His Books and His Messengers and the Last Day, he has indeed strayed far away (from the truth).[5]

The nature of man-God connection thus established in above-mentioned verses is a personal and private one in which there are neither intermediaries nor any human approver:

39:3. Beware! Sincere and true obedience is due to Allâh alone. Those who choose others as a patron beside Him (say), `We serve them only that they may bring us near to Allâh in station.' (It is absolutely wrong.)…[6]
39:44. Say, `All intercession belongs to Allâh entirely. To Him belongs the sovereignty of the heavens and the earth, then towards Him you shall (all) be brought back.'[7]

Additionally, Quran delineates the truly faithful from others:

57:19. And for those who believe in Allâh and His Messengers they alone are the truthful people and faithful witnesses in the sight of their Lord, they will have their full reward and their light. But those who disbelieve and cry lies to Our commandments are the very inmates of Hell.[8]

The faithful who believe in Allâh and His Messengers in turn have to fulfill the purpose of their faith by action and various virtuous means, because both the theory and practice of faith have to be synchronous and mutually complementing. For example:

2:277. Verily, those who believe and do deeds of righteousness and regularly observe the Prayer and go on presenting the Zakât shall have their reward from their Lord; they shall have no cause of fear, nor shall they ever grieve.[9]

In summary, the principal ingredient for a Fidel is faith in Allah and everything that flows from Him, the Messengers – both human and angels, Book/Scriptures, and awareness of accountability, be it on the Last Day or every day. The core expectations from a Fidel are the deeds of righteousness complemented with payers for conscious awareness of God, self and mankind while presenting Zakat.

With the definition of a Fidel out of the way, the next question needing answer is who determines if someone is infidel or unfaithful in his or her belief? Is it the burden of man or God?

In Quran, to be a Fidel is an undertaking by one’s free will and not by a decree of God:

42:8. And if Allâh had wanted (to enforce His will) He would have made all these people one nation (of believers)…

If contract to be Fidel is solely between the individual and God, so then is its negation by that individual as well. Any oath between man and God is based upon what is in the mind, and not in what is uttered vainly:

2:225. Allâh will not call you to account for what is vain (and unintentional) in your oaths, but He calls you to account for what your minds resolve and accomplish (by intentional swearing). And Allâh is Great Protector (against faults), Highly Forbearing.[10]

The above verse sets in stone that for God, what matters is in the hearts. Can a human peek into the heart of another to determine what resides therein? Never!

Frequently, one comes across fatwas (–religious opinions or judgments), the declarations from pulpit calling a fellow citizen, usually a professing Muslim, an infidel. Not infrequently, the cleric(s) of one sect declare other sect(s) outside the pale of Islam. One wonders how a human can be a judge of a fellow human in the issues of faith and belief which are the sole matters of one's heart. Even worse, how do the people accept such declarations from the pulpits as words and intention of God? Strange are utters of such words and even stranger are the minds which give credence to such a nonsense.
In Quran, we find that it is only and only God, Who, by His closeness to the individual knows what's in someone's heart:

50:16. We created a human being and We know what (dark) suggestions his mind makes to him. We are nearer to him than even (his) jugular vein.[11]

Faith is a matter of the heart, an unseen matter to everyone else. As to how pure is the faith of anyone, its judge is not even the Prophets, but only Allah:

5:109. (Imagine) the day when Allâh will gather together all the Messengers and asks, `What response did you receive?' They will say, `We have no real knowledge (about the minds of the people), surely it is You alone Who have true and perfect knowledge of all things unseen.'[12]

On the flip, no pulpit, no matter how zealot it maybe can speak on behalf of Allah as no man can perceive what is in His ‘mind’:

5:116. And when Allâh said, `O Jesus, son of Mary! did you say to the people, "Take me and my mother for two gods beside Allâh?"' He (-Jesus) replied, `Glory to You! it was not possible and proper for me to say thing to which I had no right. If I had said, You would indeed have known it, (for) You know all that is in my mind but I do not know what is in Yours. It is You alone Who truly know all things unseen.[13]

Even the angels cannot peek into someone's thoughts; rather they merely are a witness to the obvious actions and uttered words of the individual:

50:17-18. Behold, the two recording (angels) sitting one on (his) right and one on (his) left go on preparing the record (of his deeds). He utters not a word but (it is noted down by) a guardian (angel of his who) stands ready by his side (to record his words).[14]

Thus, if someone professes or for that matter rejects the faith, angels can only record the spoken words or related actions. They have no say in the matters of the 'truthfulness' of the heart of that person. It would be a separate subject matter of what Quran means by angels, which for sure are not the winged creatures depicted in religious art.

In the above verses, a human is totally factored out of the capacity to peep into someone else's mind and dig out the faith or lack thereof. This prerogative is only with the Creator of mankind, which is further explained:

5:7. …Verily, Allâh knows well what is in the inmost depths of the minds.[15]

The following verse acts as a preamble for the verses to follow, which brings to light the befuddled matter of belief in which the loudest claims to faith from the pulpit are commonly considered honourable, whereas Quran states the opposite, that – Surely the most honourable of you in the sight of Allâh is he who guards against evil the most, and not by one who carries the noisiest trumpet and wields the so called religious authority:

49:13. O mankind! We have created you out of a male and a female, and We have made you tribes and sub-tribes that you may recognise (and do good to) one another. Surely the most honourable of you in the sight of Allâh is he who guards against evil the most. Verily, Allâh is All- knowing, All-Aware.[16]

Anyone can say anything, even profess faith (read fatwa issuer), but in the eyes of God, has no bearing till the words match the underlying mind:

49:14. The Arabs of the desert say, `We believe.' Say, `You have not yet truly believed, (you should) rather say, "We obey and have submitted," for true faith has not yet entered your hearts. But if you obey Allâh and His Messenger He will not diminish aught of your deeds.' Surely, Allâh is Great Protector, Ever Merciful.[17]

The ‘We believe’ in above verse elucidates the entry point into Islam for each individual. The threshold for being a Muslim is to submit. Only thereafter the faith and its corresponding righteous deeds sinks in with varying degrees of personal effort, commonly known as iman[18]. Traditionally, the entrance into Islam is the declaration – La ilaha ill-Allah, Muhammad-ur rasul-ullah i.e. "There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah."

The next verse further clarifies the previous one about one's faith, in which actions have to speak louder than the words uttered:

49:15. The believers are only those who (truly) believe in Allâh and His Messenger, and then doubt not, and who strive hard with their possessions and their lives in the cause of Allâh. It is they who are the true to their words (and Muslims of a high standard).'[19]

It is a common experience that rarely does one ever come across fatwa issuer(s) who will strive hard with their possessions and their lives in the cause of Allâh (49:15) and hardly guards against evil (49:13).

Interestingly, the following verse mocks the public confessions to win approval of the audience, the modus operandi of the fatwa issuers. The confessions at times can be forced, coerced, voluntary or strategic:

49:16. Say, `Would you make known your faith to Allâh, while Allâh knows whatsoever is in the heavens and whatsoever is in the earth? And Allâh knows all things full well.'[20]

Thus, the above verse lays it out in black and white that God is the sole validator of one’s declared faith, because He alone is the judge of what a person confesses by tongue and what the corresponding belief in the heart is.

The declaratory effort of fatwa mongers to ascribe infidelity to someone else usually has a hidden secondary gain, the nature of which maybe material and/or political, but in doing so they at least imply to include themselves within Islam, while excluding others. Quran ridicules any such a drama: 

49:17. They lay you under obligation because they have embraced Islam. Say, `Lay me not under any obligation on account of your (embracing) Islam. On the contrary Allâh has bestowed a favour on you, because He has guided you to the true Faith, if you are truthful.'
49:18. Verily, Allâh knows the hidden realities of the heavens and the earth. And Allâh sees all your deeds.[21]

The above verses, if read from the perspective of the victim of a fatwa of being declared an infidel, factually put the fatwa issuer in the witness stand instead, who in turn has to equally defend his own faith, by the same standards that he applied on his victim.

How irrelevant in Quran is the issue of ascribing someone as infidel can be judged by the next verse. Even in a state of war, when a Muslim community might be threatened by enemy spies faking as Muslims or the hypocrites within their midst, a professor of faith has to be accepted into the fold of Islam on even a simple gesture of greetings by the latter:

4:94. O you who believe! when you set forth in the cause of Allâh, then make proper investigations (before you dub anyone as a disbeliever), and do not say to him who offers you `Salâm', (- peace, the Muslim salutation to show himself thereby a Muslim,) `You are not a believer.' You seek the transitory goods of this life, but Allâh has good things in plenty with Him. You were such (disbelievers) before that (you accepted Islam), but Allâh has conferred His special favour on you, hence do make proper investigations. Surely, Allâh is Well-Aware of what you do.[22]

Of note in the above verse is the phrase make proper investigations, which can only be conducted from the observable actions and not by guessing at the thoughts hidden in someone's mind. Quran reminds those who call themselves Muslims, yet others as non-Muslims, or doubt sincerity of others, not to forget that they themselves were such (disbelievers) before that (you accepted Islam) and what they currently claim.

When the pronouncers of heresy are confronted with this explicit injunction of the Qur'an, they argue as to whether they should consider a Jew or a Christian as a Muslim simply because he greets them with the Islamic salutation. They never seriously think that this verse is a part of the Qur'an and to despise it in this manner is nothing less than despising the Word of Allah. There can be no other meaning to this verse except this: that the person greeting Muslims with the Islamic salutation in no case is to be considered an unbeliever. There is no doubt that "thou art not a believer” can only be applied to a person who does not declare his belief in Islam. Thus the Qur'an has indicated a clear notion that when a person greets you with the Islamic salutation to show that he is a Muslim he should not be called an unbeliever. In the presence of this express teaching of the Qur'ãn, insistence on declaring a Muslim an unbeliever is a clear deviation from the Word of Allah. This verse does not, in any way, suggest that if a Jew or Christian or Hindu greets you with the Islamic salutation he is to be taken as a Muslim. Here, it is about a person who discloses his identity of being a Muslim by offering the Islamic salutation and such a person should by no means be considered an unbeliever.[23]

It may be noted that Quran places a high importance to the salutation 'Salam' i.e. 'Peace' because any humble utterer and believer in these words is termed as a servant of God:

25:63. And the servants of the Beneficent are they who walk on the earth in humility, and when the ignorant address them, they say, Peace![24]

In light of the above verses 3:94 and 25:63, it baffles one's mind that there are certain pulpits amongst Muslims which thrive on labeling the proffers of 'Salam' and 'Peace' as Infidels, while the Quran calls the same as servants of the Beneficent.

As to the blind followers of fatwa mongers who declare others infidels, Quran has express revulsion towards them and their fate:

2:165. (Inspite of all these evidences in support of the unity of God) there are some people who take to themselves compeers as opposed to Allâh. They love them as they should love Allâh. But those who believe are stauncher in (their) love for Allâh. And if only those who committed this wrong could but see (the time) when they shall see the punishment, (they would realize) that the complete power only belongs to Allâh and that Allâh is Severe at inflicting the punishment.
2:166. (At that time) when those who were followed (- the leaders) shall disown and sever themselves from their followers and they shall see the punishment (with their own eyes) and all their ties and means shall be cut asunder
2:167. And (at that time) the followers shall say, `If we could only return (to the life of the world) we would disown them and sever ourselves from them as they disowned and severed themselves from us.' Thus Allâh will make them regret their deeds and they shall never (of themselves) get out of the Fire.[25]

The fatwa mongers tend to be unaware of their haughty and condescending attitude that Quran admonishes against:

31:18. `And do not turn your face away from people in scorn and pride, nor walk about on the earth haughtily. Surely, Allâh does not love any self-conceited boaster.
31:19. `Rather walk with modest pace and talk in soft gentle tone. Surely, the most repugnant of voices is the braying of the donkey.'[26]

Little do such boasters of faith with their haughty attitude know that by the standards of Quran those who dare to declare the Kalima reciters as infidels, their repugnant proclamations are equated with braying of the donkey in Quran or to put it bluntly, they make as ass of themselves by their such attitude and behaviors.

[1] From the Late Latin name Fidelis which meant "faithful"
[2] An unbeliever with respect to a particular religion – Merriam Webster
[3] Al-Zumar – The Multitudes: Nooruddin
[4] Al-Hujurat – The Apartments: Muhammad Ali – Zahid Aziz
[5] Al-Nisa – The Women: Nooruddin
[6] Al-Zumar – The Multitudes: Nooruddin
[7] Al-Zumar – The Multitudes: Nooruddin
[8] Al-Hadid – The Iron: Nooruddin
[9] Al-Baqarah – The Cow: Nooruddin
[10] Al-Baqarah – The Cow: Nooruddin
[11] Qâf – Allah is Mighty: Nooruddin
[12] Al-Maidah – The Table Spread with Food: Nooruddin
[13] Maidah – The Table Spread with Food: Nooruddin
[14] Qâf – Allah is Mighty: Nooruddin
[15] Maidah – The Table Spread with Food: Nooruddin
[16] Al-Hujurât – The Chambers: Nooruddin
[17] Al-Hujurât – The Chambers: Nooruddin
[18] The word iman, generally translated as faith or belief, is derived from amana (ordinarily rendered as he believed) which means, when used intransitively, he came into peace or security; and, when used transitively, he granted (him) peace or security. Hence the believer is called al–mu'min, meaning one who has come into peace or security because he has accepted the principles which bring about peace of mind or security from fear; and God is called al-Mu'min meaning the Granter of security (59:23).
Use of the word Iman in the Qur'an: The word iman, generally translated as faith or belief, is used in two different senses in the Qur'an. According to Raghib, the famous lexicologist of the Qur'an, iman is sometimes nothing more than a confession with the tongue that one believes in Muhammad, as for example in these verses: "Those who believe (amanu) and those who are Jews, and the Christians, and the Sabians, whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day and does good, they have their reward with their Lord…" (2:62); "O you who believe (amanu)! Believe in Allah and His Messenger and the Book which He has revealed to His Messenger" (4:136). But, as Raghib has further explained, iman also implies the condition in which a confession with the tongue is accompanied by an assent of the heart (Tasdiq-un bi-l-qalb) and the carrying into practice of what is believed (Amal-un bi-l-jawarih), as in this verse: "And for those who believe in Allah and His Messengers, they are the truthful and the faithful ones with their Lord" (57:19).
The word iman is, however, also used in either of the two latter senses, meaning simply the assent of the heart or the doing of good deeds. Examples of this are: "The dwellers of the desert say: We believe (amanna). Say: You believe not, but say, We submit; and faith has not yet entered into your hearts" (49:14). Here belief clearly stands for the assent of the heart as explained in the verse itself. Or, "What reason have you that you believe not in Allah, and the Messenger invites you that you may believe in your Lord and He has indeed made a covenant with you if you are believers" (57:8), where "believe in Allah" means make sacrifices in the cause of truth, as the context shows. Thus the word iman, as used in the Qur'an, signifies either simply a confession of the truth with the tongue, or simply an assent of the heart and a firm conviction of the truth brought by the Prophet, or the doing of good deeds and carrying into practice of the principle accepted, or it may signify a combination of the three. Generally, however, it is employed to indicate an assent of the heart, combined, of course, with a confession with the tongue, to what the prophets bring from God, as distinguished from the doing of good deeds, and hence it is that the righteous, as already remarked, are spoken of as those who believe and do good. – “Religion of Islam” by Maulana Muhammad Ali, p. 91-92, Sixth Edition, printed: 1990.
[19] Al-Hujurât – The Chambers: Nooruddin
[20] Al-Hujurât – The Chambers: Nooruddin
[21] Al-Hujurât – The Chambers: Nooruddin
[22] Al-Hujurât – The Chambers: Nooruddin
[23] “Heresy in Islam or Refutation of Declaring a Muslim an Unbeliever” by Maulana Muhammad Ali, Translated and edited by Sheikh Muhammad Tufail, M.A., p. 24, English edition 1995.
[24] Al-Furqan – The Criterion: Muhammad Ali – Zahid Aziz
[25] Al-Baqarah – The Cow: Nooruddin
[26] Luqman – Luqman: Nooruddin

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