Tawheed or Shirk?
Allah is one. Unless blinded by bias and ignorance, understanding the concept of and belief in one deity should pose little difficulty. A famous Arabic aphorism is ‘the nature of an object is appreciated by looking at its opposite.’ Whether it is about demystifying the abstract qualities of human nature or exploring the concrete and material objects around us, looking at the opposites helps tremendously. Without having experienced grief and gloom, perceiving joy and pleasure is difficult. Likewise day cannot be appreciated without night; light without darkness and the sweetness of honesty and truth cannot be cherished without knowing the rancour of deceit and falsehood. Similarly the true perception of tawheed requires understanding shirk first. Allah has clearly explained the concept of tawheed and shirk and yet it is surprising to see (even amongst Muslims) the lack of understanding of this pivotal tenet of Islam.
The Definition of Tawheed.
The meaning of tawheed is that Allah is one and unique in His being (zaat) and attributes (sifaat). This simply means that we do not consider anyone else to be equal or similar to Allah in any way. Believing in Allah and in another deity at the same time constitutes shirk and is termed as shirk-fiz-zaat while believing in possession of Allah’s attributes e.g. knowledge, vision and hearing by someone else is also shirk and is known as shirk-fis-sifaat.
The Difference Between Tawheed and Shirk.
The above definition of tawheed poses a simple question. Is accepting an attribute of Allah, for example knowledge, for someone else committing shirk? Samee (all hearing) and baseer (all seeing) are two attributes of Allah. If we believe that someone else has these qualities are we guilty of shirk? And to ask another question, life is an attribute of Allah – can holding the belief in someone else being alive be equated with shirk?
The Difference Between Allah’s and Humans’ lives.
No one denies that Allah is alive and those who He has given life to are all bearers of this attribute. Thus we believe in the attribute of life for Allah and ourselves at the same time. However we make a fundamental distinction in the nature of Allah’s life and ours. This stems from the fact that Allah’s life is none-bestowed. He was always there and no one gave Him life. He is infinite and everlasting. On the other hand our life has been given us by Him and is transient and limited. Establishing that Allah’s life is not temporary, finite or limited in any way while ours is roots out shirk. Once we get to grips with this concept understanding the rest of discussion becomes simple.
Divine Power and Human Ability and Capability.
Let us address this issue by asking a simple question. Has Allah endowed man with strength and capability? Obviously He has, or there will be no difference between humans and a lifeless object (for instance a stone). Now, on the one hand we believe in the strength and capability of Allah (He is omnipotent and omni-competent) and on the other, in the strength and capability of man. Are we committing shirk by believing in these attributes for Allah and humans at the same time? No, we are not. The reason being that Allah does not depend on anyone for possessing these qualities, whereas we have been granted these by Allah.
Divine Knowledge and Human Knowledge.
Possession of knowledge takes humanity to its zenith; at the same time knowledge is an attribute of Allah. Does the belief of possession of knowledge both by humans and Allah mean shirk? No, it does not. Allah’s knowledge is vastly different from ours, being immeasurable and absolute while ours is limited and granted by Him. Similarly Allah who is samee (all hearing) and baseer (all seeing) has endowed humans with these qualities. His complete attributes are independent of others while ours depend on Him. Moreover He has full control of our attributes and selves.
From this the meanings of shirk becomes clear. All attributes of Allah are personal and not granted by anyone. Holding the same belief for anyone else is shirk. However, believing that someone else’s attributes (whatever they may be) are granted by Allah does not amount to shirk. Obviously if Allah had not blessed humans with different qualities He Himself possesses there would be no one capable of hearing, seeing or learning and above all there will be no one alive.
To conclude, Allah’s attributes are different from humans, being absolute, eternal and everlasting while humans’ are finite, limited and bestowed by Allah.
Ascribing possession of one’s attributes to having been granted by Allah is actually negating shirk. At this point an interesting objection arises.
Mushrilkeen (polytheists) used to worship idols. When asked as to who created those they said ‘Allah.’ They too believed that Allah granted the powers possessed by the idols. If the credence in Allah, as being the Creator and His attributes being personal and exclusive, coupled with the belief in everyone being His creation and in possession of qualities granted by Him was instrumental and decisive in the distinction between shirk and tawheed, on the basis of their beliefs the idolaters should have been effectively exempted from the blame of committing shirk. However why did they continue to be classified as mushrikeen?
The Belief of Mushrikeen (polytheists).
Let us see what belief the mushrikeen of Makkah held about their idols. Interestingly enough they believed that their idols were actually a creation of Allah. However, they believed that they had been made ‘godly’ by Allah and thus by virtue of their status of god were independent in exercising their powers to perform whatever deeds they wished. In other words Allah had empowered those gods to ‘create and perform independently’. They were autonomous and no longer under Allah’s will. The mushrikeen failed to appreciate that just as a ‘creation’ is dependent on a ‘creator’ for its being it also depends on the creator for its death.
Divinity Cannot be Granted.
To think of Allah creating another god will be nonsensical. This is because to be ‘god’ demands to be eternal and infinite and therefore demands ‘permanence’ as a parameter. To be a ‘creation’ and ‘god’ at the same time are mutually exclusive. ‘Godliness’ is an attribute, which cannot be imparted to anyone else. The mushrikeen believed that because of the piety of Laat and Manaat, Allah had venerated them to the status of god. The momineen on the other hand believe that whatever the degree of piety and sanctity, one cannot be upgraded to become a god. Obviously the Holy Prophet is unequalled in these attributes but even he, in embodiment of sanctity and as an icon of holiness does not posses the divine attribute of being god.
Every Act Performed with the Permission of Allah is Tawheed
To believe in one’s capability of fulfilling someone’s demands without Allah’s permission is shirk while the belief in having this ability through Allah’s blessing nullifies shirk. In fact precisely this point is exemplified in the Quran when Hazrat Isa claims to ‘heal the blind and the leper and raise the dead by Allah’s leave’. While curing and resurrecting are Allah’s acts Hazrat Isa claimed to perform these acts with Allah’s permission and annihilated the possibility of shirk. Thus if someone claims to have been given the capability by Allah, of restoring the vision of the congenitally blind, they are not committing shirk. Interestingly, even if the claim is false it still is not shirk. This is because the claim is about the ability given by Allah and this invalidates shirk. However if the claim is untrue the claimant becomes a liar and a kafir but still not a mushrik.
Thus the belief about awliya (Allah’s friends) having been blessed by Allah with the ability and power to fulfil the needs of others does not constitute shirk. Nevertheless, one could question the validity of this claim i.e. has Allah really given them such powers?
The Purpose of Creation of Mankind
Allah has created everything for a specific purpose. From celestial bodies like sun to downright earthly objects like water, wind and plants everything has a specific role to play. Therefore the creation of man must have a purpose and the verse “I created the jinn and humankind only that they might worship Me” addresses this issue. However, worship is conditioned with recognition of and knowledge of the deity one is bowing before. It simply follows that Allah created man for His recognition. At this point we should be clear about the purpose of recognition of Allah and His attributes – which is in simple terms the road to getting close to Allah. The closer you wish to be to Allah, the more profound recognition of Him and His attributes you need. From this discussion it logically follows that the purpose of human life is recognition of Allah, which results in closeness to Him. To phrase it in yet another way closeness to Allah is culmination of humanity and apotheosis of man.
Let us have a look at this in some more detail and try to discover the meanings of Allah’s closeness in terms of sharia.
It is narrated on the authority of Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him), who said that the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said, “Allah (Mighty and Sublime) said: Whosoever has malice against someone devoted to Me, I shall be at war with him. My servant draws not near to Me with anything more cherished by Me than the religious duties I have enjoined upon him (Farz), and My servant continues to draw near to Me with supererogatory (Nafil) acts until I make him My loved one and then I become his ears with which he hears, his eyes with which he sees, his hands with which he holds and his feet with which he walks. If he asks Me for anything I surely grant him that and if he seeks My refuge I grant him that.”
Some people have distorted the interpretation of this hadith. They say that once a person has drawn near to Allah and become one of His loved ones they begin to eschew hearing, seeing or doing anything outside the constraints of sharia. This is putting the cart before the horse. According to this interpretation one strives for Allah’s closeness first and only after having achieved that begins to abstain from sinful acts. Very simply the fact of the matter is first you have to abstain from committing sins and only then will you be able to find a place amongst Allah’s loved ones. Clearly the ability of achieving Allah’s love despite indulgence in vice will only render the concept of piety and morality meaningless – ingredients which are a pre-requisite for securing a place among people who are truly Allah’s cherished ones.
The verse “If ye do love Allah, follow me: Allah will love you and forgive you your sins: For Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful” clearly tells us that achieving a place amongst Allah’s loved ones is only possible through following the footsteps of the Holy Prophet and treading the road of piety. The steps on this course are giving up profane acts and asking for Allah’s forgiveness and persevering with fulfilling obligatory (Farz) and voluntary (Nafil) acts until this culminates in achievement of a place amongst those who are cherished by Allah. At this point Allah becomes his ears he hears with, his eyes he sees with, his hands he holds with, and his feet he walks with! However this acclaim demands complete abstinence from sins first as one cannot rise to this rank first (while still committing sins) and then begin to abstain from sins. When one attains closeness with Allah this results in the expression of Allah’s attributes in them and Allah’s hearing, vision and power begin to be mirrored in their corresponding attributes until they become a reflection of divine attributes. It is not incarnation of Allah neither is it divine metamorphosis of man. It is simply the glorification of man to the pinnacle of humanity; an act man was created for. In fact a closer look at the aforementioned verse confirms essentially the same message.
The word ‘Ibadat’ (worship) means self- depreciation and self-disparagement. An ‘Abd-e-muqaddas’ (intimate slave) jettisons his self-esteem and ego by way of prostration, which results in reflection of divine attributes in him to the extent that he begins to dazzle with Allah’s glory. When we have the Quran witnessing a tree saying “Verily, I am Allah: There is no god but I: ---- ” why is it not possible for Allah’s hearing and vision to reflect in His cherished slaves.
Allama Fakhruddin Razi while commenting on this hadith says:
Perseverance in performing good deeds leads one to a state where Allah’s ‘noor’ becomes their hearing enabling them to hear distant sounds and His ‘noor’ becomes their sight giving them distant vision and His ‘noor’ becomes their hands empowering them with control over things near and far.
Imam Razi’s comments obviously relate to humans, which is a clear testimony that holding belief about possession of such qualities by a human being does not in any way conflict with the concept of being a human and a slave. On the contrary this is the acme of humanity where man becomes a reflection of divine attributes. Don’t forget that man remains a reflection of the ‘reality’, which is Allah, thus reaching the zenith where Allah echoes in his words and deeds – a point which is the essence of tawheed.
The reflection of divine attributes in man empowers one to solve problems and difficulties. Nonetheless, remember that the possession of such powers is not a personal attribute but a blessing from Allah. Thus awliya by way of possession of these attributes (e.g. knowledge, vision, hearing) can exercise control over things near and far and can help others in resolving their problems. Unlike the belief of mushrikeen of Makkah about their idols having been given power by Allah (a belief which was completely false and thus constituted shirk) our belief about the possession of powers by prophets and awliya through Allah’s blessing and permission not only absolutely eliminates shirk but also is a hard nail in the coffin of ‘kufr’. Alhumdulillah our beliefs exonerate of both shirk and kufr.
Unfortunately there are people who mislead ordinary Muslims by quoting Quranic verses (basically revealed for idols) in favour of believers. It is narrated in Bukhari Sharif that Hazrat Abdullah bin Omar considered khwarij the worst of all people. This was because they practised labelling Muslims with verses revealed for kafirs and mushrikeen.
Before proceeding further I will like to answer a question someone has raised.
Question. In the light of Quran and Hadith perfection of humanity is the point where man becomes a reflection of divine attributes. It is possible to envisage this occurrence in someone’s life but how far is it justified to hold this belief after one’s death. Obviously after death, having been rendered incapable of doing anything one ceases to see, hear or have any power or control and should not be regarded of being a reflection of divine attributes.
Answer. The premise of this argument rests on the concept of equating flesh and bone with humanity. This is not right. Remember that this description completely bypasses the essence of humanity, which remains alive and continues after physical death. While body and soul constitute man, soul is the essence and reality because the body decomposes and perishes after death.
The Holy Prophet said “grave is either a garden from heavens or a pit from hell.” For whom is grave a garden or a pit? Indeed it is for the soul. Body parts whether together or dismembered are linked to the soul just like sun is linked to other objects. Whether penetrating the dust or falling on sand dunes or mountainous ranges, the rays remain linked to the sun. Using this analogy, the body is irradiated by rays from the soul. Even after death this link remains established although the nature of the relationship between the two changes. The body decays and decomposes after death. Clearly all body systems and attributes lack permanence. However strong one may be physically, no flicker of movement is possible after death. Because soul remains alive its attributes remain as such. It continues to influence the body. A happy soul will cause pleasant effects and an unhappy soul will cause unpleasant effects on the body. Speaking of effects of soul on the body, after death every grave should either be an inferno or a Shangri-la. However no grave emanates heat or gives signs to suggest that it is harbouring a garden. This apparent discrepancy is because whatever effects the soul casts are experienced by the body in Alam-e-Barzakh which is obscure to our perception. Determining the presence or absence of headache, or gauging its severity, cannot be carried out by using any instrument. It is only experienced by the patient and may not have any external signs at all. Just like this the dead body or its remains in the grave will incur the effects (pleasant or unpleasant) of whatever the soul is going through. Nonetheless there will be no external manifestation of this. To give another example, the torment and pain experienced by in a dream where they are trapped in an inferno cannot be experienced by someone inches away. Similarly the agony experienced by a kafir or mushrik in Alam-e-Barzakh is not apparent outwardly in the grave.
The Squeezing (Compression) of the grave
It has been described in hadith that after burial, regardless of their beliefs, the grave tightens round the dead and squeezes them. The origin of man is earth and the relationship between the two is akin to mother and child. Interestingly the word for origin in Arabic is ‘umm’ which is also the word for mother. Therefore returning to earth is like finding solace in the bosom of one’s mother. It is understandable that the treatment a child will get from the mother on returning home will depend on the behaviour and acts of that particular child. The way a mother will welcome back a benevolent child who has nobility of character, kindness and humbleness will not be quite the same when she will receive an ignoble and malicious child. While the maternal love in either case is undisputable, the first child will have a warm hug while the second may well be reprimanded. Just like a mother, the grave is waiting for us all. On burial a momin will get an affectionate squeeze reminiscent of a warm maternal hug, which only invokes a sense of pleasure despite its slight discomfort.
If we considered the soul mortal there can be no reward or punishment in the grave as these are experienced by the soul and not by the body. Thus believing the soul to be mortal crumbles the edifice of our religion.
In summary, Allah has blessed man with two things, body and soul. While body along with all its attributes is mortal, the soul and its attributes continue to exist after bodily death and can, therefore, mirror divine attributes. The above discussion is evidence of the permanence of soul and thus concludes that soul is actually the essence of humanity (haqeeqat-ul-insaniyat).
Soul feeds on acts of virtue like namaz, roza (fasting), hajj and zakat, amongst others. It will be nonsensical to say that while the soul will last after death, acts of virtue, which it thrives on, will perish. It will be even more ludicrous to believe in the continual existence of soul and acts of virtue of an ordinary person while imaging that the spirituality and deeds of virtue of Allah’s friends will cease to exist. The corollary of this discussion is to have faith in on-going spirituality of Allah’s walis in their graves.
It is narrated in Tirmizi Sharif on the authority of Hazrat Abdullah bin Abbas that a copmpanion (sihabi) of the Holy Prophet inadvertently pitched a tent on a Muslim’s grave. A short while later he realized this and heard someone reciting Surah Al-Mulk. When he related this incident to the blessed Prophet he said, “Surah Mulk is a guardian and rids its reciter of the torments of grave.” If after death nothing remained in the grave the Holy Prophet may have attributed it to a figment of the sihabi’s imagination, or said that it might have been an angel or jinn reciting the Quran, but he did not contradict his companion.
Let us have a look at an incident from the period of the Prophet’s companions.
During the reign of Hazrat Amir Muawiya a canal was dug between Makkah and Madinah. It traversed through the area where the cemetery of Uhud was located. Unfortunately a labourer happened to strike an obscure grave of a martyr. The spade hit the big toe of the buried body, which instantaneously began to bleed. This is a proof of the bodily life in the grave. How ludicrous will it be to deny the life of soul (which is permanent)?
And now an incident from the period of tabieen.
Imam Abu Na’eem narrates in Hilyatul Awliya from Hazrat Saeed ibn Jubair who says, “By Allah Subhanahu, who has no partner, Hazrat Hameed Al-Jamaal and I lowered the body of Hazrat Sabit Banani in the grave after his death. As we were about to finish arranging the unbaked bricks, one brick fell out. I saw that Hazrat Sabit Banani was offering salah in his grave. During life he used to pray to Allah, “ O Allah if You have permitted anyone to offer salah in the grave, render me to do so too.” Merciful Allah could not bear to refuse him.”
Imam Bahaqi in Shoab-al-Iman narrates from Qazi Ibrahim of Naishapur the incident of a pious women. When she passed away, a thief attended her funeral with the intention of finding out the location of her grave so that he could steal her shroud later on. At night having dug the grave when he tried to pull the shroud off, the deceased body suddenly spoke out, “Subhan-Allah, a jannati (someone destined to go to the heaven) is stealing the shroud of another jannati. Allah has forgiven me and all those who attended my funeral, and you were amongst them.” Having heard this the thief covered the grave and sincerely asked for Allah’s forgiveness. This portrays the powers of awliya Allah (Allah’s friends) – step in as a thief and get transformed into a wali! After death the soul remains as such and it will be outrageous to say that having died Allah’s walis do not posses any spiritual powers.
According to hadith-e-qudsi Allah proclaims, “ when someone becomes my cherished slave My speech and attributes mirror in his speech and attributes. I will bless him with what he asks of Me and will give him protection if he so implores.” The hadith does not specify any time constraints which means that Allah will fulfil His cherished slaves’ wishes whenever they so wish, whether it is in this material world, in the confines of the grave or in the world hereafter.
We visit the shrines of awliya because Allah has pledged fulfilment of what they beseech of Him. Thus visiting a shrine and asking the wali to entreat Allah for solution of one’s problems cannot be objectionable. On the other hand a belief to the contrary will be akin to blaming Allah of making false pledges! However if a wish (requested in a shrine) does not come true reviling the wali cannot be justified. Allah says in the Quran, “And your Lord says: "Call on Me; I will answer your (Prayer)—”.
Will you be disrespectful to Allah if for instance, a prayer for granting long life to a person sentenced to be hanged did not come true? (Fulfilment of prayers is a major topic and does not come in the purviews of our discussion. Briefly taqdeer-e-mubram is set in stone and irreversible.)
As I have repeatedly stressed death occurs only on the body. Soul with all its attributes of power, strength and other characteristics remains alive. Therefore it would seem irrational to regard the act of asking Allah’s loved ones for prayers in their life appropriate while querying the legitimacy of the same act after the death of the devout spiritual persons.
So far we have limited this discussion to this world and the spiritual realms of alam-e-barzakh. Let us see what role will Allah’s walis have in the life hereafter?
The Holy Prophet said that on the day of judgement the scholars, huffaz and martyrs of his ummah will mediate forgiveness for others. Even a child of Muslim parents will intercede in their favour. If asking awliya and prophets is shirk in this world it will continue to be as such in the life hereafter. Shirk always remains shirk. It is not possible for an act to be shirk in this world and become tawheed in the life hereafter.
On the day of judgement when there will be sheer pandemonium people will be looking for someone able to intercede on their behalf. They will approach Hazrat Adam, the father of mankind for this who, however, will direct them elsewhere saying “izhabu ila ghairi” (go to someone other than me). He will not say, “you are committing shirk. Go to Allah instead.” If asking someone other than Allah is shirk could people approaching Hazrat Adam be condemned as mushrikeen? If fact by virtue of the same argument Hazrat Adam too becomes guilty of shirk as instead of sending people to Allah he would direct them to someone else. This does not stop here because from Hazrat Adam people will go to Hazrat Nuh, Hazrat Ibrahim, and Hazrat Moosa all of whom will repeat the same quote. Finally they will go to Hazrat Isa who will direct them to the Holy Prophet and people will implore him for mediation. The Holy Prophet (PBUH) will not reject them as hardcore mushrikeen who instead of Allah, have been asking earthborn mortals for help. Rather he will say, “Adam, Nuh, Ibrahim, Moosa and Isa all said ‘nafsi nafsi’ (I am worried about myself) to send you to me as Allah has honoured me for this intercession.”
The wisdom behind this sequence of events is that in any hierarchal organization jobs are allocated according to status. Having approached all the prophets the people will realize that, for as crucial a job as that, only the prophet with the highest esteem ever would be able to help them. At this point the Holy Prophet will bow his head to Allah and will be granted acceptance of his intercession. Thereafter this will be extended to other prophets, walis and momineen. If seeking help from prophets and walis is shirk this will continue till the very end. He who has the ultimate power and authority is Allah. Awliya are neither His partners not associates. They are under His will and abide by His orders. Allah, in their honour blesses them with miraculous powers. In fact Allah has declared, “Whosoever bears grudge with someone devoted to Me, I am at war with him.” Without Allah’s permission even a straw cannot be moved but with His permission one can bring the dead back to life!
For people with deeper understanding of the subject one point needs further elucidation. The group of people which conceptually disagrees with us in the belief of possession of power by Allah’s cherished ones after their death, and regard this being against tawheed, try to use a Quranic verse in support of their argument.
The verse says “Or (take) the similitude of one who passed by a hamlet, all in ruins to its roofs. He said: "Oh! how shall Allah bring it (ever) to life, after (this) its death?" but Allah caused him to die for a hundred years, then raised him up (again). He said: "How long didst thou tarry (thus)?" He said: (Perhaps) a day or part of a day." He said: "Nay, thou hast tarried thus a hundred years”-----.”
Allah has described an example here. When Hazrat Uzair asked Allah how He would resurrect the dead, Allah executed a state of death on him. After a hundred years Allah revived him and asked him how long he thought he had stayed there. Hazrat Uzair replied, “A day of a part of a day.” From this the conclusion is drawn that after having been made lifeless Hazrat Uzair had lost all awareness of time and space or else he would have given the right answer. The argument has seemingly been put in simplistic way and I will try and maintain the same simplicity in my answer.
First of all it is important to realize that the Holy Quran does not mention Hazrat Uzair by name. Instead the word “Allazi” has been used and different scholars have ascribed different meanings to it. Although according to most commentators it does denote Hazrat Uzair this is by no means absolute. For instance according to Bazawi sharif this denotes a kafir. Because of lack of consensus it will be inappropriate to say with certainty that this term definitely means Hazrat Uzair. Therefore disagreeing with this does not have the connotations of disagreeing with the Quran.
My second answer is based on the assumption that “Allazi” refers to Hazrat Uzair. If we conclude that Hazrat Uzair had no knowledge of the events subsequent to his transient death a fundamental question arises here; how appropriate is it to ask someone about something they can possibly have no knowledge of? Rocks, minerals and soil are lifeless and posses no knowledge. Will it be appropriate to ask these about events surrounding them? If awliya disintegrate to dust and ashes the same will be applicable to them.
You may argue that this is like objecting on Allah’s deeds, an act which is objectionable in itself. I will say that your argument is flawed; enquiring someone about something beyond the realms of one’s knowledge and experience is against conventional wisdom and logic and attributing such an act to Allah is outrageous. As Allah is all wise and all knowing, His enquiry is proof in itself that the enquired (Hazrat Uzair) was informed and knowledgeable. If Hazrat Uzair had no knowledge of the events he should have kept quiet or admitted to having been transformed into a lifeless object and thus being ignorant. However he said, “I stayed for a day or a part of a day.” This is testimony that he is describing the events according to his knowledge. The criticism here will be that why did his statement not agree with the actual facts. He claimed to have stayed only for a short while whereas the facts were contrary to this and he had stayed for a hundred years. Does this not tell us that he did not know?
So far the conclusion leads to two conclusions: firstly, Allah had enquired Hazrat Uzair having known of his capability of knowledge – and secondly Hazrat Uzair’s reply showed his awareness and knowledge. Keeping these two points in mind let us further our discussion.
It can be argued that Hazrat Uzair’s answer lacked the exactitude of time scale. Instead of specifying the precise duration of time he had said, “—a day or a part of a day” and the word ‘or’ (‘au’) in this statement expresses doubt about the duration of time. In the lexicon of Arabic language the word ‘au’ does not always denote doubt and this is evident from the first part the verse which is a statement of Allah (as opposed to the second part under discussion being a statement of Hazrat Uzair). If the word ‘au’ is considered to convey a shade of uncertainty here, it will seem as if Allah was uncertain about the validity of His statement. Therefore ‘au’ denotes ‘delay’ here and is not an expression of uncertainty at all. This is an expression used to describe ‘a short duration’ but gives the readers the freedom to determine the time limit themselves. Let us continue with the remainder of the verse, which highlights another question requiring us to navigate the semantics of Arabic.
While addressing Hazrat Uzair Allah said "Nay, thou hast tarried thus a hundred years-----”. The word ‘bal’ (Nay) is used to negate or contradict someone. Therefore it would seem that by adopting this expression Allah has annulled Hazrat Uazir’s statement. From this it would follow that the short span of a day or part of it, has been negated by Allah and the full stretch of a century is the correct duration. Seemingly, logic will dictate what Hazrat Uzair said was not according to the fact and was therefore false. However, as a matter of fact we know that a prophet, intentionally or unintentionally, does not say things, which are false. Are we any closer to resolving the conundrum where Allah’s and Hazrat Uzair’s statements seem to be contradictory? Yes we are, because what all this discussion means is that we are misinterpreting the verse of the Quran – we are assigning the wrong meanings to it. The fact of the matter is that Allah has such an imperium that a factual event can take place in two different ways as the same time. Neither Allah’s nor Hazrat Uzair’s statement are false. Allah has simply caused an event to occur in two different ways at the same time. The actual duration was a century which speeded away quickly like ‘a day or a part of a day’ for Hazrat Uzair. Thus his knowledge was according to how time had passed by on him while Allah’s statement was according to the actual duration of time that elapsed on him. Therefore both statements are true. In proof of this is the way different groups of people will experience the duration the ‘Day of Judgement’. The actual duration of the day will be fifty thousand years. However, for people with Iman, piety and sanctity, and martyrs it will be even shorter than the time taken to perform one prayer (namaz). When asked, the ahle-Iman will speak of their experience while infidels will describe theirs. Just like Allah can shorten fifty thousand years into the duration of a namaz He can shorten a hundred years into “a day or a part of a day”.
I will give another example. Allah says in the Quran, “Glory to (Allah) Who did take His servant for a Journey by night from the Sacred Mosque to the farthest Mosque, whose precincts We did bless, - in order that We might show him some of Our Signs: for He is the One Who heareth and seeth (all things)”.
Just try to imagine the brevity of the Holy Prophet’s journey. We know that he travelled from Masjid-e-Haram to Masjid-e-Aqsa where he met all the prophets and led them in prayer (namaz), ascended to the heavens passing through its various levels, met some of the prophets up there, saw Bait-al-Mamoor, parted with Hazrat Gibraeel at sidratul-muntaha, ensconced himself at Rafraf, immersed in Darya-e-Nur, witnessed mysteries of Allah’s greatness, sat on the Ursh-e-Azeem and went beyond it, beheld Allah’s glory, and then having been presented with fifty prayers (namaz) went to and fro between Hazrat Moosa and Allah for a cut back in their number. For the Holy Prophet it was an eighteen-year journey but for the rest of the material world it was so brief that on returning back home he found his bed warm, the latch of the door rocking and the water of wudu still running! This is conclusive proof that Allah is able to extend or condense the same stretch of time for different people.
Further along in the verse Allah says, “---but look at thy food and thy drink; they show no signs of age; and look at thy donkey”.
A century had had no effect on Hazrat Uzair’s food (grapes) and drink (fig juice) while the body of the donkey had decomposed with the skeleton lying around disintegrated. One would have envisaged such a period to have affected the food and donkey in much the same way. But this period had had very different effects on them. Paradoxically the food and drink, which tend to rot quickly, were fresh while the donkey despite the robust nature of its body lay dismembered. For Hazrat Uzair Allah had made a hundred years pass like a day or so and provided evidence to this effect by preserving his food and drink. On the other hand the century passed on the donkey as such, decomposing its body as evidence of Allah’s claim of a hundred years having gone by.
Bit by bit I have explained the difference between tawheed and shirk. I will finish this by emphasising that unravelling the mysteries of Quran demands bondage with and servitude to Sahib-e-Quran.
By Allam Sayyid Ahmad Saeed Shah Kazmi (RA)
Translated by Hafiz Mahboob Hussain Al-Azhari,
Edited by Sayyid Rashid Saeed Kazmi Shah