True Believersand Impostors
Say: "To whom belong the earth and all beings therein? Tell me, if you know!" They will say, "To Allah!" Say: "Yet will you not receive admonition?" Say: "Who is the Lord of the seven heavens, and the Lord of the Throne (of Glory) Supreme?" They will reply, "They belong to Allah." Say: "Will you not then be filled with awe?" Say: "Who is it in whose hands is the governance of all things, – who protects all, but is not protected by anyone? Tell me, if you know." They will say, Allah." Say: "Then how are you deluded?" We have sent them the Truth: but they indeed practise falsehood! (Surat Al-Muminun: 84-90)
Let's turn back to our example given in the beginning. We had mentioned a group of people in the city, who were very different from the others in every way, and towards whom all other city dwellers had a hostile attitude. We had explained, moreover, that, this group of people had a book which had been conveyed to them by the Owner of that city and everything else, as a guide. These people are called Muslim in the Qur'an.
"Strive for Allah with the striving due to Him. He has selected you and not placed any constraint upon you in the religion – the religion of your forefather Abraham. He named you Muslims before and also in this, so that the Messenger could be witness against you and you could be witnesses against all mankind. So perform prayer and pay the alms and hold fast to Allah. He is your Protector – the Best Protector, the Best Helper." (Surat Al-Hajj: 78)
"Who could say anything better than someone who summons to Allah and acts rightly and says, 'I am one of the Muslims'?" (Surah Fussilat, 33)
There is a particular matter that needs to be drawn attention to here : that is the fact that muslims are not well-liked by others. We We had mentioned that the society of this city in the example was a 'society of ignorance'. But, it does not mean that this society is irreligious. On the contrary, people of the society of ignorance described in the Qur'an consider themselves supposedly "very religious" people. However, the religion they are associated with is not the true religion. Theirs is a perverted conception of religion left over from their forefathers, based on various superstitious beliefs and myths, which they persist in most determinedly and imagine to be true. This feature of the society of ignorance is alluded to in the Qur'an as follows;
"When they are told to follow the Revelation that Allah has sent down, they say: 'No, we shall follow the ways that we found our fathers following'. What! Even if it is satan beckoning them to the Penalty of the Blazing Fire?" (Surah Luqman: 21)
One of the most important characteristics of a society of ignorance is that its members defend this superstitious system in the name of Allah. As a matter of fact, this is an insincere defense for they are actually not devoted to Him. While some members of this society–especially the leaders and the leading groups of the town–portray themselves as devout . So much that they swear by Allah, even while killing a prophet which is the worst possible offense in the Sight of Allah:
"There were in the city nine men of a family, who made mischief in the land, and would not reform. They said: 'Swear a mutual oath by Allah that we shall make a secret night attack on him and his people, and that we shall then say to his heir when he seeks vengeance: We were not present at the slaughter of his people, and we are positively telling the truth." (Surat An-Naml: 48-49)
There is also such a group in the society of ignorance who know the Qur'an and promise to follow its religion, but still prefer the "vanities of this world" and turn away from religion. In spite of all this hypocrisy, they represent themselves as "examplary Muslims".
"After them succeeded an evil generation. They inherited the Book, but they chose for themselves the vanities of this world: saying Everything will be forgiven us.' And if similar vanities came their way, they would again indulge in them. Was not the covenant of the Book taken from them, that they would not ascribe to Allah anything but the truth? And they have studied what is in the Book. But best for the righteous is the home in the hereafter. Will you not understand?" (Surat Al-A'raf: 169)
In such as case, it takes more careful observation to understand if an individual or a group of people is truly Muslim or not. Because, as is clearly stated in the above verse, speaking Islamic and religious words does not necessarily show that the speaker is a real Muslim believer. One might think that such people hardly exist that they are very few in number. However, they are legion and in many verses of the Qur'an, their existence is openly mentioned.
"Of the people there are some who say: 'We believe in Allah and the Last Day? But they do not really believe.
Other verses, warn us that when these "counterfeit religious people" are asked certain questions, they answer thus:
"Say: 'Who is it that sustains you in life from the sky and from the earth? Who is it that has power over hearing and sight? And who is it that brings out the living from the dead and the dead from the living? Who is it that rules and regulates all affairs?' They will soon reply, 'Allah.' Say, 'Will you not then show piety to Him? Such is Allah, your real Cherisher and Sustainer: apart from truth, what remains but error? How then are you turned away?'" (Surah Yunus: 31-32)
"If you ask them who created them, they will certainly say, 'Allah? How then are they diverted away from the Truth?" (Surat Az-Zukhruf: 87)
The above verses show us that the criterion for being a real believer is different from that "supposedly religious" criterion of a society of ignorance. Allah has described the attributes of true believers in great detail in the Qur'an. It will be very useful now to examine these features.