|Kitab-ul-Taqdeer (Book of Destiny)|
YOU EXALT AND DEGRADE WHOEVER YOU WISH
A verse from Sura Aal-Imran is traditionally translated thus:
“Say you, ‘O Allah!, O Master of the Realm, You give territory to whoever You wish and take away territory from whoever You wish; and you exalt or degrade whoever you want; in Your hand lies all good; Verily, You have control over all things’” . (3/25)
(Maulana Mahmood al Hasan)
The common man is not usually concerned with reign and empire. Social status, however, is important to most people. In most societies of today’s world, material wealth has come to be the yardstick for one’s social standing. Examples of ‘rags to riches’ (regardless of the means), and vice versa, are increasingly seen as marks of high and low social status, respectively, and as evidence of Allah’s direct control over an individual’s fortune.
Before attempting to interpret this particular verse, and others like it, in the
Meanings of Ezza and Zilla
Quranic spirit, let me make a few introductory
points. Primarily, ezza in Arabic means power, intensity & dominance while zilla is subjugation, weakness & breaking down. (The meaning in which these two words are used in Urdu are represented in the Quran by takreem & tawheen, respectively). Secondarily, the material concept of life hold sway over the world today according to which possession of material wealth, and not personal character, guarantees one a high social standing. Also, the traditional interpretation of this verse (that Allah exalts or degrades one at His own sweet will and whim is refuted by the verse itself through (بيدك الخير). (In Your hand lies all good), i.e., degradation, does not stem from Allah.
Let us now discuss the topic proper. Independence, sovereignty etc. have already been discussed in detail in chapter (6) (Destiny of Nations). Here, we
Conditions for achieving sovereign status
should look at the conditions
laid down by the Quran for achieving sovereign status. These conditions (rules) are called ‘Will of Allah’. Sura Anbiaa says: “And We had written in the Zaboor (and, for that matter, in every divine book) – after having given the necessary instructions – that ( as fundamental law) the Earth shall be inherited by Our capable people. This fundamental law embodies a universal message (and truth) for all people who follow Our laws”. (21/105-106).
Thus, the law of inheritance of the Earth very clearly states that only the ‘saleheen’ (the capable) shall rule the Earth. It is a pity, that the term ‘saleheen’ --- and subsequently, terms like ‘saleh’ deeds --- have been misinterpreted by traditional religionists to mean something very close to the English terms pious, piety, etc. But, in the Quranic sense, ‘saleheen’ are people who have the ability and capability to perform a particular task; ‘saleh’ deeds are acts which develop one’s capabilities. Therefore, ‘saleheen’ inheriting the control of the Earth refers to people who have the double-edged ability of establishing a sovereign state, and maintaining it to establish the Quranic paradisal society (a heaven on earth) for mankind. When a group of people have the physical qualities required, they can establish sovereign states --- but minus the Quran, they can be only ruthless despotic anagrams like those of the Pharaohs of ancient Egypt, Gengis Khan of the Mongols, or even the present-day materialistic empires of the world.
On the other hand, a capable group (having the physical qualities as well the guidance of permanent divine values) shall take control of society to carry out divine responsibilities on behalf of Allah --- “It is Our promise (firm law) that those of you who become convinced of Allah’s laws, and do ‘saleh’ deeds, shall inherit the control of the Earth …. “ (24/55). Such a state shall establish Allah’s law on earth and it shall be free of fear of depression. It shall be ruled by Allah NOT by Man (24/55). Such people are reminded by the Quran of the
Importance of Physical Qualities
Importance of maintaining their physical
abilities and qualities (8/60). The Quran has illustrated this natural law with an elaborate account of ‘Beni Israel’ ( Children of Israel ). Having narrated
The Story of Israelites
the story at several places in the Quran, it said in
Sura Qasas: “and We decided it was time for us to bestow leadership on a nation which had been weakened by being shackled in slavery --- “ (28/ 5,6). The expression used for ‘We decided’ (نريد) has two aspects. One is in the realm of ‘amr’ (36/2) where manifestation of His intention follows instantaneously. The other is in the realm of khalq where it undergoes a series of stages and is done by Man. That is why, to manifest this divine program in case of Israelites, Moses was given a comprehensive plan based upon educating and training the enslaved children of Israel. Despite hard work, Moses could not get them to shed their inconsistent and mercurial temperament. Repeatedly, he told them: “Surely, Allah has promised you inheritance of the Earth. But, it doesn’t come easy. It happens according to His law which requires you to develop the required qualities by being steadfast in this mission and being convinced that you shall triumph eventually” – (7/128). The Israelites, however, did not conform, which resulted in: “the promised land was banned for them for forty years …. “ (5/26). Moses was instructed to let them wander in the desert of Sinai while he concentrated on raising the next generation in the right way. Ultimately, when the slavery-minded older generation had been replaced by the new young one, they rapidly took control of the land and thus: “Your Allah’s good word to the Children of Israel came true --- because of their steadfastness!” (7/137). “That is how We gave Beni Israel the inheritance of it” (26/59).
The meaning of –من يشاء - (whoever He wants / whoever wants) is so brilliantly illustrated in the story of Saul (Taloot in Arabic). The Israelites told their
The Story of Saul
Messenger they were ready to go to war as soon as a
commander was appointed. Their Messenger informed them that Allah had appointed Saul. The Israelites objected to it on grounds of Saul’s low economic status. The Messenger said: “Allah has chosen him over all of you because he has superior qualities of mind and body. Surely, Allah grants realm to whoever He wants; and Allah’s knowledge is vast” (2/247). Saul then set out with his army to confront Goliath (Jaloot in Arabic) verbalising his desire thus: “O our Preserver! Abound us with steadfastness!” (2/250). It was in this encounter that David slew Goliath and thus: “Allah granted him realm …” (2/251). Next, the Quran explains why such armed excursions become necessary: “If Allah does not make men defend other men, oppression will be rife on Earth; but Allah (doesn’t want oppression of His creatures because He) is kind with His bounty to all” (2/251).
It is quite clear that the oppressed are defended by men – not by Allah Himself.
Allah’s is Done by Man
This group of men who shield oppressed men from
the atrocities of fellow men, bear both the physical and human qualities needed for such a task. This is explained in Sura Hajj (22/39-41) where the Convinced are permitted to take up arms. After they had acquired political sovereignty, they were clearly told that Allah will be keeping an eye on their performance (10/14). If they resorted to oppressing tactics, or lost their material prowess, they would be replaced by other better people (“and they will not be like you!” 47/38).
Let us now examine the second half of the verse in question (3/25). The
Laws for Exaltation & Degradation
Quranic meaning of the term ‘ezza’
(عزة) is power, dominance, superiority, etc., and that of ‘zilla’ (ذلة) is weakness, subjugation, inferiority, etc. Sura Faatir contains a basic rule in this regard: “Whoever wished to achieve ‘ezza’ (should know that) only Allah has (the laws for real) ‘ezza’. It is the correct and good concept of life which can rise high by apt deeds. Contrarily, people who indulge in bad activities (going against the value-system given by Allah) have a severe punishment in store for them when all their ill-directed efforts are wasted” (35/10).
Sura Younis talks about such people who help Allah in carrying out His program for human society (the Quran terms them ‘awlia Allah’ – Allah’s colleagues) and thus are free of all fear and depression. They act upon the divine system after having been convinced of it. They are set to enjoy the niceties of both worlds. This divine law is unchangeable. Since this is an exalted achievement, they would not be depressed by the discouraging attitude of the opposition because (real) ezza is only with Allah (s’ Laws)” --- 10/62-65). Sura Nisaa mentions the Hypocrites who liaise with the opposition of the divine program and asks: “Are they looking for ‘ezza’ ? (Real) Ezza is only with Allah!” (4/139).
Adopting the divine system is not individual-based. One must join a
It is a collective effort
society being established for this purpose –“ ‘ezza’
is for Allah. His Messengers and the Convinced” (63/8). Contrarily, “Those who oppose (fight) Allah and His Messenger, are degraded because Allah has ordained triumph for Himself and His messengers; He is mighty and dominant (that is why His shall be done)” – (58/20, 21).
Sura Younis says: “Those who do good deeds beget good – and more.
‘Ezza’ from good deed
Their faces will not be darkened with ‘zilla’.
Contrarily, those who do bad deeds beget badness accordingly and zilla will degrade them (10/26, 27). The mighty Children of Israel fell to a life of degradation and misery (‘zilla’ and ‘maskana’) because they rejected the divine law!” (2/61; 3/113).
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‘Ezza’ meaning social esteem and respect (as current among Urdu-speakers) is represented In the Quran by ‘takreem’ while the term for
‘Ezza’ as Respect
humiliation and disrespect is ‘tawheen’.
Basically, the Quranic principle in this regard is that respect may only be earned by one’s character and behavior (49/13). “Allah’s sincere men who deserve Paradise because of their deeds are worthy of respect” (37/42). Sura Yaseen talks about the convinced one who raised the voice of Truth in the face of strong opposition saying, “If only my people knew that Allah has blessed me with bounties and has made me one of the respected” (36/27).
Contrarily, the Quran terms the consequence of wrong deed as – عذاب الهون – or عذاب مهين – the humiliating punishment! Sura Hajj contains the mechanics of such punishment: “And those who reject and refute Our laws are the ones who have a humiliating punishment” (22/57). Elsewhere , people making fun of Allah’s laws are said to get a humiliating punishment (45/9). In principle, it says in Sura Ha’Meem that humiliating punishment is brought upon men by their own deeds (41/17).
The commonly accepted standards of respect and esteem in human
Misplaced Standard of Respect
societies (political or economic power
attained through tyrannical and oppressive means) are totally misplaced. Such respect is destined to end up in humiliating punishment. This law has been illustrated by the Quran with a figurative example of a person, brought into Hell, who will be served extremely humiliating food with a reminder: “Taste (it now, this humiliating punishment). You considered yourself to be very powerful and respectable!” (44/49).
Before the Hereafter, such misplaced respect and power in Here has
been termed as عزة الاثم(2/206) – the weakening power! The
‘ezza’ in such cases gives an illusionary sense of respect and power. Really, it leads one to – اثم – (weakness) and results in a humiliating punishment (46/20). In a fair (Quranic) society, ‘ezza’ (power) and takreem (respect) are achieved on the basis of one’s personal attributes, character and good deeds
Status according to Deeds
done (46/19); “Every respectable person is
Respected” (11/3); “Every knowledgeable person attains status accordingly as Allah knows about their deeds (57/11); “And He, because of their work, becomes their colleague (6/128).
We are hopefully ready now to ponder over the topic verse in question (3/25) and look at its Quranic interpretation in the light of all the above:
“Say: ‘O Allah! You possess the (real) power. You give sovereign power to those who follow Your laws and strip of it those who go against them; power and degradation come according to Your rules only. It could not have been haphazard (lawless) because You are the source of Good alone. You have set standards to everything.
Indeed! You are worthy of being Allah!’”
x – x – x – x – x – x – x -
Divine Support and Help
We have already seen the verse (6/128) which says that Allah becomes a colleague of men in their deeds. He is the senior partner (1) in this arrangement. His partnership is known by His support and help (taeed’ and ‘nusra’).
‘Nusra’ in Arabic is used for irrigation of land through rain and long,
Meaning of ‘nusra’
winding streams of a valley. Obviously, rain benefits
only those farmers who work according to natural agricultural principles. Therefore, (an individual as well as) a group of people who resolves to carryout the Divine Program, and works accordingly, sees plentiful fruit borne by their efforts: “O Convinced! If you help Allah, He will help you!” (47/7). Man must initiate a joint-venture by Allah and Man. Consequently, Allah rewards Man
Allah helps those who help Him!
aplenty and with steadfastness (47/7). The
verse goes on to say: “And those who reject have failure and disappointment coming as their efforts do not bear fruit and are wasted” (47/7). “That is so because they dislike the (message) given by Allah and that is why their efforts
(1) The Messenger of Allah (Mohammed) is reported to have said during his last moments: ‘But He is the Senior Partner.’ That is to say that Allah and Man are senior and junior, respectively, partners in this working arrangement.
remain fruitless” (49/7). The Muslims, who had emigrated to Medina in the Divine Cause, are referred to thus: “They help Allah and His messenger and
hence are true (to their cause and) in their claim of being convinced” (59/8). Elsewhere, such Muslims were referred to thus: “Certainly, Allah helps those who help Him: (22/40). In another instance, this point has been elaborated upon in the following manner:
“Allah is the one who sent His messenger with His guidance, i.e., the really true code of life, so that it triumphs over all false systems no matter how annoying it is to those who want to follow and obey more gods than (the) One.
O the Convinced! Let Us tell you a basic principle. Normally, every person in the world desires to benefit from every transaction they make. But, it is not always so. Wouldn’t you, therefore, like to know of a loss-free business? Let Us tell you of such a business which never fails and thus saves you from severe torture.
It is this: Be convinced of the credibility and permanence of Allah’s Program being established by His messenger. Give your utmost to it – using your wealth – even your lives, if you have to. If you ponder carefully, you will see all the potential profit in this venture.
This value-system will equip you to avert all possible disasters. It will bless you with an ever-lasting paradisical life (allegorically, comfortable abode in ever-green gardens) both Here and in the Hereafter.
That is really a monumental achievement for whoever gets it; furthermore, you will get so much else you like.
Allah’s support and your victories are nigh! O Messenger, give the Convinced these glad tidings!
As we have seen earlier, success in an operation requires 1) a firm conviction and 2) carrying the operation out with the right tools and in the correct
Swood needed for ‘nusra’
manner. Sura AlHadeed elaborates this point
so eloquently: “We sent our messengers with clear laws – divine books – so that men can have a fair and just society. And we sent down iron (and steel to make swords with, symbolizing law-enforcement power), which is hard and firm and can be very beneficial to mankind if used under divine guidance. This has been done as that Allah can see who among you helps Him and His messenger, convinced of the (hitherto) unseen” (57/25). The Arabic term for ‘unseen’ is (بالغيب ) and here means the expected results, hitherto unrealized and therefore unseen, of efforts to establish the divine program. This very conviction of the future has been put down as the fundamental requirement for success (2/3).
Also, men expect Allah’s help ‘from the unseen’ while He expects the same from men! Aptly, He asks the Convinced to become Allah’s helpers (61/14). Christ said the same to his followers who readily complied. (1)
The first ever practical example of this mutual (Allah and Man) operation was the Battle of Bedr which was fought between the Convinced trying to
Battle of Bedr
establish the Divine Order (Fighting in the way of Allah) - and
their opponents (Fighting for Transgression). The Quran said, “And Allah thus helps whoever so wishes: (13/12). (It may also be interpreted as: Allah thus helps according to His laws). This help comes rationally not accidentally: “It contains lessons for those who ponder” (3/12). This divine help was to be the source of happiness for the Convinced (30/5). The help by angels in such
(1) I have dealt in detail with this particular story in my work Shola-e-Mastoor
Help through Angels?
battles has been explained by the Quran as
psychological (8/9-10) so that they remain steadfast (8/12). This steadfastness brings divine support with the condition that the Convinced display perseverance and obedience of Allah’s laws (3/ 122 – 125). “Your one hundred shall triumph over two hundred of the opponents because ‘Allah is with the steadfast (8/66). The way to ensure divine help is to obey Allah and His messengers, not to quarrel among yourselves because if you squabble, you will be swept away. So, be steadfast; Allah is with the steadfast (8/46). Remember, Allah helps those who remain steadfast; they then become invincible. But, if He abandons you, who is there to help you? (3/159). If you are convinced, in the real sense, you will triumph over all!” (3/138).