Explanation of the First Verse in Surah al-Hujuraat
Dr. Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips
|O Believers, do not be hasty and forward in Allah and His Messenger’s ﷺ presence but instead fear Allah; for verily, Allah is Hearer and Knower. [Surah al-Hujurat (49):1]
This Surah opens with Allah’s command to the Believers not to interrupt the Prophet’s ﷺ conversations or obstinately contradict him. Instead, they are advised to fear Allah by being patient and to obey the Prophet ﷺ by following him in all their affairs. Respect for the Prophet ﷺ and what he had to say is portrayed as an expression of the fear of Allah because the Prophet ﷺ did not speak of his own accord. He was guided by Allah, the Most High; therefore, his statements and actions should be looked at as divine guidance from Allah. The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ was the means by which Allah chose to convey His last message to mankind. This vital point was emphasized and immortalized by Allah in the following verse,
|“And, he (the Prophet ﷺ) does not speak from his desires; verily, what he says is revelation from (God)” [Surah an-Najm (53):3]
We are required to revere the Qur’aan and quietly listen to its message based on Allah’s statement
|“When the Quraan is being recited, listen to it attentively and be quiet.” [Surah al-A’raaf (7):204]
We are also required to revere the Prophet ﷺ and listen attentively to his pronouncements. Ibn ‘Abbaas, the greatest Qur’anic commentator among the Sahaba, added another dimension to the meaning of this verse and similar verses by interpreting it to mean that
|The Believers should not say anything which goes against the Qur’aan and Sunnah [Quoted by lbn Katheer in Tafseer al-Qur’aan, al-‘AdHeem, vol. 4, p. 315].
Figuratively speaking, one is in Allah’s presence when he or she reads the Qur’aan, and likewise when the Hadeeths which describe the Prophet’s ﷺ Sunnah [the sayings and actions of the Prophet ﷺ intended as law for all Muslims] are studied, one also enters into the presence of the Prophet ﷺ. Hence “Allah and His Prophet’s presence” can be said to refer today to the Quraan and Sunnah. Forwardness and haste in Allah’s and His Prophet’s ﷺ presence could then be interpreted to mean the making of snap judgements based on superficial reading or making unauthorized and unfounded interpretations of the Qur’aan and the Sunnah. Giving ones personal opinions or cultural habits precedence over the divine commands of the Qur’aan and Sunnah also represents another aspect of forwardness in Allah’s and His Prophet’s presence ﷺ. Great care has to be taken when explaining the principles of Islaam in order that no statements contrary to those of Allah and His Apostle are inadvertently made which may consequently lead people astray. If at any time ideas in opposition to the Qur’aan and the Sunnah are held and clear proofs of their inaccuracy are later presented, a true Believer is required to immediately give up his or her mistaken concepts and submit to the authentic commands of Allah and His Messenger ﷺ. If one does otherwise, claiming his ideas and practices were that of his forefathers, he would be, in fact, no better than the pagans of Makkah who replied to the Prophet’s ﷺ call to one God by saying “Verily, we found our forefathers on this path and we Intend to follow their steps.” [Surah az-Zukhruf (13):22]
He would also be guilty of the crime of “believing in a part of the Book and disbelieving in a part’ [Surah al-Baqarah (2):85] a crime for which Allah cursed the Jews. Instead, one should “Obey Allah and obey the Messenger” [Surah Aal-‘Imraan (3):32] without the least hesitation otherwise one’s lslaam, which itself means submission to Allah and His Apostle, would be in question.
Allah then closes the verse with a reminder to fear Him at all times, for it is only the consciousness of Allah, a longing for His pleasure and a fear of His displeasure, which can create a real and lasting improvement of human habits. The verse is then sealed with two of Allah’s qualities both of which produce a state of real God consciousness in all who comprehend their implications. Allah is the Hearer of all statements, plans or plots and He is the Knower of the secret intentions behind all deeds. His knowledge knows no bounds of time and space. Hence, any disrespect to Allah and his Prophet ﷺ, His Qur’aan, and the Sunnah is known to Allah; and those who dare to commit such acts will be held to account for them.
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