Interpretation of Sura an-Nur - Verse 55
Adopted from the book: "The Light of the Holy Qur'an - Interpretation of Sura an-Nur" by: "Sayyid Kamal Faghih Imani & a Group of Muslim Scholars"
55. "Allah has promised those of you who believe and do righteous deeds, that He will certainly appoint them successors in the earth as He appointed successors those before them; and that He will certainly establish for them their religion which He has chosen for them; and that certainly He will, after their fear, give them security in exchange. They will do worship Me (alone) and not associate aught with Me; and whoever disbelieves after this, then these are they that are evil-doers."
Occasion of Revelation
Many commentators, including Suyuti in Asbab-ul-nuzul, Tabarsi in Majma'-ul-Bayan, Sayyid Qutb in Fi-Zilal, and QurtAbi in his commentary, upon the occasion of revelation of this verse have said: When the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) and Muslims migrated to Medina and were warmly welcomed by Ansar (Helpers), all Arabs became their enemy and it was such that they were to carry a weapon when they went to bed and to be on the alert all the time.
The continuation of this state became difficult for the Muslims. Some of them declared their feeling explicitly: "To what day would this state continue? Would a time come that we could rest calmly in the night and peace and tranquility rule over us and we fear no one but Allahu" The above verse was sent down and gave them this good tiding that of course such a day would come.
Islam is a universal religion. In future victory belongs to the believers and pagans are doomed to be defeated. The key of achieving the Truth and authority of the world is 'Faith' and 'good deeds'. Those who believe and do good deeds glad tidings of victory are given to, not to those who are barely believers.
Religion is not separated from politics, but politics and government are for saving religion.
Since the previous holy verses talked about obeying the commandments of Allah (s.w.t.) and the Prophet (p.b.u.h), the concerned verse continues this matter and mentions the result of this obedience which is the worldly government, and the Qur'an emphatically announces:
"Allah has promised those of you who believe and do righteous deeds, that He will certainly appoint them successors in the earth as He appointed successors those before them; and that He will certainly establish for them their religion which He has chosen for them; and that certainly He will, after their fear, give them security in exchange. They will do worship Me (alone) and not associate aught with Me;..."
It is certain that after the dominion of the government of Monotheism and settlement of the Divine religion when any kind of anxiety, insecurity and infidelity disappear, those who resist to be disbelievers are wrong-doers. The verse continues saying:
"... and whoever disbelieves after this, then these are they that are evil-doers."
However, the totality of the verse denotes that three things are promised by Allah to be bestowed on those Muslims who have faith and do good deeds:
1. Succession and authority over the earth.
2. Establishing the factual religion of Truth everywhere fundamentally, firmly, and deeply, (which is understood form the Qur'anic word 'Tamkin').
3. Abolishing all the factors that cause fear and insecurity.
The result of these abovementioned affairs will be worshipping Allah absolutely with utmost freedom, and obeying His commandments. There will be no partner for Him among people and pure monotheism will rule everywhere. Of course, we will explain that at what time this Divine promise has been fulfilled, or when it will be fulfilled.
1. The commentary of the Qur'anic sentence: "... as He appointed successors those before them ...":
Commentators have different opinions about the matter that to whom this sentence refers that they had got authority on the earth before Muslims.
Some say that it refers to Adam, David and Solomon, because in verse 30 of Sura Al-Baqarah we read about Adam: "... 'Verily I am appointing on the earth a deputy' ...". And it is said about David in Sura Sad, No. 38, verse 26: "(And it was said unto him): O' David! Verily We have set you a viceroy in the earth ..."
And since Solomon was the heir of David's authority, he became caliphate on the earth; "And Solomon was David's heir..." (Sura An-Naml, No. 27, verse 16)
But some others, such as the great commentator 'Allamah TAbitba'i said in Al-Mizan that this concept is improbable, because he does not consider the sentence /'allaoina min qablihim/ (to those before them') to be proper for prophets. For this sentence has not been used for prophets in the Qur'an, therefore it refers to nations that were faithful and did good deeds and became the rulers on the earth.
However, some others believe that this verse refers to the Children of Israel who achieved authority on the earth when Moses (a.s.) appeared and Pharaoh was defeated, as it is mentioned in Sura Al-'A'raf, No. 7, verse 137: "And We made the people, who were abased, the inheritors to the east (parts) of the land and the west (parts) of it which We had blessed therein, ..."
It is also said about them (the believers of the Children of Israel): "And to grant them power in the earth ..." (Al-Qasas, No. 28, verse 6)
It is true that there were some wicked and insincere persons among the Children of Israel and even they might be pagan, but government was in the hand of the righteous believers, (therefore the fault that some commentators find with this commentary is rejected,) and, thus, the third commentary seems more correct.
2. To Whom Does Allah Promise?
In this verse we read that Allah has promised the authority of the earth, establishment of the chosen religion and complete security to those who are believers and do righteous deeds, but commentators are of different opinions about the extension of these persons:
Some of them say that it refers to the Companions of the Prophet (p.b.u.h.), who ruled the earth after Islam and defeated pagans at the time of the Prophet (p.b.u.h.). (Of course, the purpose of the word 'Ard' (the earth) is not all of the earth or all countries, but it is a concept that is true about a part and the whole both.) Some say it refers to the first four caliphates' authority. And some consider its meaning so wide-ranging that it includes all Muslims who have such an attribute.
Some say that it refers to government of Mahdi (may Allah hasten his appearance!), which includes western and eastern parts of the world and the religion of Truth will widespread. Fear and war will be abolished on the earth, and sincere worship will be materialized for all people of the world.
Undoubtedly this holy verse includes the first Muslims and certainly the full extension of this verse is the government of Mahdi (may Allah hasten his appearance!), which according to the opinion of all Muslims, whether Shi'ite or Sunni, will make the earth peaceful and full of justice after oppression and tyranny rule the world. However, it is not against the generality and extensiveness of the concept of the verse.
So, whenever Muslims are verily faithful and do righteous deeds whole-heartedly, they will consequently achieve a strong and influential authority.
Some say that the word /'ard/ is absolute and general which includes all of the earth, but this is only limited to the government of Mahdi (may we get sacrificed for him!) and it is not consistent with the Qur'anic sentence /kamastaxlafa/ (as He granted it), because the predecessors' government and authority did not certainly include all of the earth.
Moreover, the occasion of revelation of the verse indicates that at least an example of such government was achieved for Muslims at the time of the Prophet (p.b.u.h.), although it was at the end of his life.
But we repeat again that the product of all prophets' struggles and attempts, their continual propagation and pursuit and complete example of monotheism sovereignty, complete security, and sincere worship with no polytheism will be materialized when Mahda (may Allah hasten his appearance!), the offspring of the prophets and the progeny of the Prophet of Islam (p.b.u.h.), will reappear.
The same person about whom all Muslims have narrated this tradition from the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) who said: "If only one day of the world's lifetime is remained, Allah will make that day so long that a man from my progeny, whose name is like my name, will rule the earth and fill the earth with justice as it has been filled with oppression and tyranny." 101
It is interesting that the Lale Tabarsi says about this verse that it is narrated from the household of the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) (Ahl-ul-Bayt (a.s.)) that: "This verse is about Mahdi, who is from the family of the Prophet (p.b.u.h.)." 102
In Ruh-ul-Ma'ani and many other Shi'ite commentaries, upon the commentary of this verse, there has been narrated from Imam Sajjad (a.s.) who said: "By Allah, they are our Shi'ites (followers) (Ahl-ul-Bayt). Allah does this for them by the hand of a man who is from us and he is Mahdi (the guide) of the Ummah. He will fill the earth with justice and fairness as it has been filled with oppression and tyranny. He is the man about whom the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) said: 'If one day of the world's lifetime has remained ..."
As we said, these commentaries do not mean to limit the meaning of the verse, however, they are for stating its full extension, but because some commentators, such as 'alusi who has not pay attention to this matter in Ruh-ul-Ma'ani, have negated these traditions.
QurtAbi, the famous Sunni commentator, narrated from Miqdad-Ibn-'Aswad who heard from the Prophet (p.b.u.h.), who said: "No clay or stone house will remain unless Allah causes Islam enters that house (and faith and monotheism get widespread on the earth.)" 103
For more explanation about the government of Mahdi (a.s.) and its vast and proven documents in Sunni and Shi'ite books, you may refer to the book Muntakhab-ul-'athar, PP. 247 on where they are taken especially from Sunni sources.
3. The final aim is sincere worship:
The Qur'anic sentence /ya'budunani la yusrikuna bi say'a/ (They will do worship Me(alone) and not associate aught with Me) from the point of literature, whether its tense is present, or it is ultimate, its concept is that the final aim is establishing the government of Truth, embedding the religion of Truth, and spreading security and peace, which is the very fortifying the foundations of worshipping and monotheism, hi another verse of the Qur'an it is mentioned as the aim of creation, where it says: "And I have not created the jinn and the humankind except that they should worship Me." 104
A kind of worship which is the high education center of men that edifies their spirit and soul. The worship that Allah does not need but servants need it desperately for paving the path of perfection and development.
Therefore, Islamic insight, contrary to worldly approaches whose final aim is the extreme welfare of worldly life,does not follow such a thing as an aim, even the worldly life is valuable when it is used as a means for achieving that spiritual aim.
But we must pay attention to this matter that worshipping that lacks polytheism, and negates both none-divine laws and authority of low desires, is possible only by establishing a government of justice.
It is possible that you invite some persons to Truth by teaching, edification, and propagation, but for generalizing this matter in the society we must establish government of the righteous who are faithful. That was why the great prophets attempted to do this, especially the Prophet of Islam (p.b.u.h.), at the first possible opportunity, established such a government after migrating to Medina.
So it can also be concluded that all the attempts and struggles carried out for war and peace, and even educational, cultural, economic, military programs are planned in such a government are for the sake of worshipping Allah which is free from any polytheism.
It is also necessary to mention that the meaning of the righteous' government, obedience from the True religion and sincere worship is not a society that has no wrongdoer and sinner in it, but it means that the government is in the hand of the righteous believers and no public polytheism is seen in the society, otherwise, when man is free to choose his way and has got the freedom of will, it is possible to have deviated individuals in the man's best divine societies.
101. In the book Muntakhab-ul-'Athar, 123 hadiths are mentioned about this matter and they are narrated from different Islamic references, especially from Sunni ones. Refer to this books from page 247 on.
102. Majma'-ul-Bayan, following the verse
103. The Commentary by QurtAbi, following the verse
104. Sura Ath-Thariyat, No. 51, verse 56
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