You may be an atheist or an agnostic or you may belong to any of the religious denominations that exist in the world today. You may have been a Communist or a believer in democracy and freedom. No matter what you are, and no matter what your religious and political beliefs, personal and social habits happen to be— YOU STILL MUST KNOW THIS MAN!
He was by far the most remarkable man that ever set foot on this earth. He preached a religion, founded a state, built a nation, laid down a moral code, initiated numberless social and political reforms, established a dynamic and powerful society to practice and represent his teachings, and he revolutionized the worlds of human thought and human action for all time. His name was Muhammad (peace and blessings of Almighty Creator be upon him)—and he accomplished all these wonders in the unbelievably short span of twenty-three years.
إِنَّهُ لاَ يُفْلِحُ الْمُجْرِمُونَ
The Qur'anic term falah (prosperity, success) used in the above verse (last part of verse 10:17) has been understood by some to signify such things as longevity, worldly prosperity and other worldly attainments. Under this false impression, they tend to believe that if a claimant to prophethood attains material prosperity and longevity or if his message is spread around, then he ought to be considered a genuine Prophet because he has indeed attained 'prosperity'. Had he been an impostor, it is argued, he would soon have been assassinated, or would have starved to death, and, in any case, his message would not have spread around. Such an absurd line of argument can only be pursued by those who are altogether ignorant of the concept of falah (prosperity) as envisaged in the Qur'an, who are unaware of God's law of respite regarding evil-doers, and who are altogether unappreciative of the special meaning in which the term has been employed in the present context.
In order to fully understand what is meant by saying that 'the guilty shall not prosper', a number of things ought to be borne in mind. In the first place, the Qur'anic statement that "the guilty shall not prosper' is not made with a view to providing a yardstick that might be applied by people so as to determine the truth or falsity of the claimants of prophethood. The verse does not seek to stress that all those who 'prosper' after claiming to be a Prophet are truly Prophets, and that those who do not prosper after making such a claim are not so. The point of emphasis here is altogether different. Here the Prophet (peace be on him) is being made to say that since he knows fully that those guilty of inventing lies against Allah could not prosper, he would not dare make any claim to prophethood if such a claim was false.
On the other hand, the Prophet (peace be on him) also knew that the unbelievers were guilty of rejecting the true signs of God and of declaring a true Prophet of God to be an impostor. In view of that monstrous guilt, it was quite apparent to the Prophet (peace be on him) that they would not prosper.
Moreover, the Qur'anic term falah (prosperity, success) has not been used in the limited sense of worldly success. Rather, it denotes that enduring success which admits of no failure regardless of whether one is able to achieve success in the present phase of one's existence or not. it is quite possible that someone who calls people to falsehood might enjoy life and nourish in a worldly sense, and he might even be able to attain a substantial following for his message. But this is not true prosperity or success; rather it constitutes total loss and failure. Contrarily, it is also possible that someone who calls people to the truth might be exposed to much persecution and be overwhelmed by pain and suffering. It is possible that even before he is able to create any significant following, he is continually subjected to persecution and torture. In the Qur'anic view, such an apparently tragic end constitutes the very zenith of such a person's success rather than his failure.
Moreover, it should be remembered that it has been amply elucidated in the Qur'an that God does not punish evil-doers instantly: that He rather grants them a fair opportunity to mend their ways. Not only that, if the evil-doers misuse the respite granted by God to perpetrate further wrongs, they are sometimes granted an even further respite. In fact, at times a variety of worldly favours are bestowed upon such evil-doers in order that the potential for wickedness inherent in them might be fully exposed by their actions, proving that they do indeed deserve a very severe punishment. Hence, if an impostor continues to enjoy periods of respite and if worldly favours are lavished upon him this should not in any way give rise to the notion that he is on the right path.
In the same way as God grants respite to other evil-doers. He also grants respite to impostors. There are no grounds whatsoever for believing that the respite granted to other evil-doers would not be granted to those impostors who lay false claim to prophethood. We may well call to mind that Satan himself has been granted a respite until Doomsday, It has never been indicated that although Satan is granted a free hand to misguide human beings, as soon as he throws up an impostor claiming prophethood such a venture is instantly nipped in the bud.
In order to refute the view expressed above it is possible that someone may refer to the following verse of the Qur'an: Now if he [i.e. Muhammad] would have made up, ascribed some sayings to Us, We would indeed have seized him by the right hand, and then indeed would have cut his life-vein (al-Haqqah 69: 44-6).
Even a little reflection makes it obvious that the verse in question does not contradict the view we have expressed above. For, what the present verse says relates to a principle which God follows in dealing with true Prophets. Were any such Prophet to falsely claim something to be a revelation from God, he would instantly be seized by God's wrath. To argue to the contrary that all those who are not seized by God's wrath are necessarily genuine Prophets is simply a logical fallacy devoid of any justification. For the threat of instant Divine wrath embodied in this verse is applicable only to true Prophets, and not to impostors who, like other evil-doers, are granted a respite.
This can be well understood if we bear in mind the disciplinary rules laid down by different governments for their officials. It is obvious that those rules are not enforced in respect of ordinary citizens. Were the latter to lay any false claim to being a government official, he would be subjected to the normal rules of the criminal code relating to the conviction of those who are guilty of fraud rather than to the disciplinary rules meant for government officials. Under this analogy, an impostor who claims to be a Prophet, would be dealt with by God along with other evil-doers who commit evil, and who, as we know, are not necessarily punished immediately.
In any case, as we have pointed out earlier, the verses quoted above were not revealed so as to provide the criterion to judge the truth of anyone who lays claim to prophethood. This verse should not be considered to mean that if a celestial hand stretches forth to cut off the life-vein of a claimant to prophethood, such a person is an impostor; and if that does not happen, he is a genuine Prophet. Such a weird criterion would have been needed only if no other means were available to judge the genuineness of a claimant to prophethood. But as things stand, a Prophet is known by his character, by his work, and by the contents of his message. (Tafheemul Quran)
Allah T'ala says in Surah Al-Araaf, verses 11-23:
وَلَقَدْ خَلَقْنَاكُمْ ثُمَّ صَوَّرْنَاكُمْ ثُمَّ قُلْنَا لِلْمَلآئِكَةِ اسْجُدُواْ لآدَمَ فَسَجَدُواْ إِلاَّ إِبْلِيسَ لَمْ يَكُن مِّنَ السَّاجِدِينَ﴿7:11﴾ قَالَ مَا مَنَعَكَ أَلاَّ تَسْجُدَ إِذْ أَمَرْتُكَ قَالَ أَنَاْ خَيْرٌ مِّنْهُ خَلَقْتَنِي مِن نَّارٍ وَخَلَقْتَهُ مِن طِينٍ﴿7:12﴾ قَالَ فَاهْبِطْ مِنْهَا فَمَا يَكُونُ لَكَ أَن تَتَكَبَّرَ فِيهَا فَاخْرُجْ إِنَّكَ مِنَ الصَّاغِرِينَ﴿7:13﴾ قَالَ فَأَنظِرْنِي إِلَى يَوْمِ يُبْعَثُونَ﴿7:14﴾ قَالَ إِنَّكَ مِنَ المُنظَرِينَ﴿7:15﴾ قَالَ فَبِمَا أَغْوَيْتَنِي لأَقْعُدَنَّ لَهُمْ صِرَاطَكَ الْمُسْتَقِيمَ﴿7:16﴾ ثُمَّ لآتِيَنَّهُم مِّن بَيْنِ أَيْدِيهِمْ وَمِنْ خَلْفِهِمْ وَعَنْ أَيْمَانِهِمْ وَعَن شَمَآئِلِهِمْ وَلاَ تَجِدُ أَكْثَرَهُمْ شَاكِرِينَ﴿7:17﴾ قَالَ اخْرُجْ مِنْهَا مَذْؤُومًا مَّدْحُورًا لَّمَن تَبِعَكَ مِنْهُمْ لأَمْلأنَّ جَهَنَّمَ مِنكُمْ أَجْمَعِينَ﴿7:18﴾ وَيَا آدَمُ اسْكُنْ أَنتَ وَزَوْجُكَ الْجَنَّةَ فَكُلاَ مِنْ حَيْثُ شِئْتُمَا وَلاَ تَقْرَبَا هَـذِهِ الشَّجَرَةَ فَتَكُونَا مِنَ الظَّالِمِينَ﴿7:19﴾ فَوَسْوَسَ لَهُمَا الشَّيْطَانُ لِيُبْدِيَ لَهُمَا مَا وُورِيَ عَنْهُمَا مِن سَوْءَاتِهِمَا وَقَالَ مَا نَهَاكُمَا رَبُّكُمَا عَنْ هَـذِهِ الشَّجَرَةِ إِلاَّ أَن تَكُونَا مَلَكَيْنِ أَوْ تَكُونَا مِنَ الْخَالِدِينَ﴿7:20﴾ وَقَاسَمَهُمَا إِنِّي لَكُمَا لَمِنَ النَّاصِحِينَ﴿7:21﴾ فَدَلاَّهُمَا بِغُرُورٍ فَلَمَّا ذَاقَا الشَّجَرَةَ بَدَتْ لَهُمَا سَوْءَاتُهُمَا وَطَفِقَا يَخْصِفَانِ عَلَيْهِمَا مِن وَرَقِ الْجَنَّةِ وَنَادَاهُمَا رَبُّهُمَا أَلَمْ أَنْهَكُمَا عَن تِلْكُمَا الشَّجَرَةِ وَأَقُل لَّكُمَا إِنَّ الشَّيْطَآنَ لَكُمَا عَدُوٌّ مُّبِينٌ﴿7:22﴾ قَالاَ رَبَّنَا ظَلَمْنَا أَنفُسَنَا وَإِن لَّمْ تَغْفِرْ لَنَا وَتَرْحَمْنَا لَنَكُونَنَّ مِنَ الْخَاسِرِينَ﴿7:23﴾
(7:11) We initiated your creation, then We gave you each a shape, and then We said to the angels: 'Prostrate before Adam.') They all prostrated except Iblis: he was not one of those who fell Prostrate.
The narrative sheds light on the following significant points:
(i) Modesty and bashfulness are inherent in human nature. The primary manifestation of this instinct is seen in the sense of shame that one feels when one is required to expose the private parts of one's body in the presence of others. According to the Qur'an, this bashfulness is not artificial, nor an outcome of advancement in human culture and civilization. Nor is it something acquired as some misguided thinkers contend. On the contrary, modesty has been an integral part of human nature from the very beginning.
(ii) The very first stratagem adopted by Satan in his bid to lead man astray from the Right Path consisted of undermining man's sense of modesty, to direct him towards lewdness and make him sexually deviant. In other words, the sexual instincts of man were taken by Satan as the most vulnerable aspect of human nature. Accordingly, he sought to weaken man's natural instincts of modesty and bashfulness. This devilish stratagem is still followed by the disciples of Satan in our time. For them, progress is inconceivable without exposing woman to the gaze of all and making her strip before others in one form or another.
(iii) Such is human nature that man scarcely responds to an unambiguous invitation to evil. Those who seek to propagate evil are, therefore, forced to present themselves as sincere well-wishers of humanity.
(iv) Man is naturally, drawn towards lofty ideals such as the attainment of superhuman positions and the securing of immortality. Satan achieved his first victory in his bid to mislead man by appealing to the latter's inherent desire to attain immortality. Satan's most effective weapon is to promise man a more elevated position than his present one, and then set him on a course that leads instead to his degradation.
(v) Here the Qur'an refutes the fairly popular view that Satan first misled Eve and later used her as an instrument to mislead Adam. (See Ibn Kathir's comments on verses 22-3 - Ed.) The Qur'anic version of the story is that Satan attempted to mislead both Adam and Eve, and in fact both fell prey to his guile. At first sight, this might seem of trivial significance. However, all those who are acquainted with the impact of this version of Adam's fall on the moral, legal and social degradation of women will appreciate the significance of this Qur'anic statement.
(vi) There is hardly any basis to assume that the forbidden tree had certain inherent qualities which could result in the exposure of Adam and Eve's private parts as soon as they had tasted its fruit. Instead of the forbidden tree possessing any extraordinary qualities, it was rather man's disobedience to God which led to his fall from his original state. Initially, Adam and Eve's private parts had remained hidden on account of special arrangements made by God. Once they disobeyed, they were deprived of that special Divine arrangement, and were left to themselves to cover their nakedness if they so wished.
(vii) This was a way, of conveying to mankind for all time that whenever he disobeys God, he will sooner or later be exposed; that man will enjoy God's support and protection only so long as he remains obedient to Him. Once man transgresses the bounds of his obedience, he will be deprived of God's care and protection and left to his own self. This idea is also embodied in many traditions from the Prophet (peace be on him). According to a tradition, the Prophet (peace be on him) prayed:
'O God! I seek Your Mercy. Do not leave me to my own care even for the wink of an eye!' (Ahmad b. Hanbal, Musnad, vol. 5, P. 421 - Ed.)
(viiI) Satan wanted to prove that man did not deserve, not even for a moment, the superior status which had been granted to him by God. However, Satan failed in the very first round of his efforts to discredit man. Granted, man did not fully succeed in obeying God's command; rather, he fell prey to the machinations of his arch-enemy, Satan, and deviated from the path of obedience. Nevertheless, it is evident even in the course of this first encounter that man is a morally superior being. This is clear from many a thing. First, whereas Satan laid claim to superiority, man made no such claim rather a superior status was bestowed upon him by God. Second, Satan disobeyed God out of sheer pride and arrogance. But far from openly revolting against God out of his own prompting, man was disobedient under Satan's evil influence. Third, when man disobeyed God, he did so unwittingly, not realizing that he was committing a sin. 'Man was beguiled into disobedience by Satan ,who appeared in the garb of man's well-wisher. It was Satan who persuaded him to believe that in the fruit of the forbidden tree lay his good, that his action would lead him to the heights of goodness, not to the depths of evil. Fourth, when Satan was warned, rather than confessing his mistake and repenting, he clung even more adamantly to disobedience. But when man was told that he had sinned, he did not resort to continued transgression as Satan did. As soon as man realized his mistake, he confessed his fault, returned to the course of obedience and sought refuge in God's mercy.
This story draws a clear line between the way of Satan and the way that befits man. Satan's way is characterized by rebellion against God, by arrogantly persisting in that rebellion even after having been warned, and by trying to mislead the righteously disposed towards sin and disobedience. As opposed to this, the way that befits man is to resist the evil promptings of Satan and to be constantly vigilant against Satanic machinations. But, if in spite of all these precautions, a man does swerve from the course of obedience, he should turn, as soon as he realizes his fault, to God in penitence and remorse and make amends.
This is the lesson that God conveys to man through this anecdote. The Qur'an seeks to impress upon the opponents of the Prophet (peace be on him) that the way, they are following is the way of Satan. To become indifferent to God's Guidance, to take satans among men and jinn as their protectors and to persist in disobedience despite repeated warnings, amounts to adopting a Satanic attitude. It demonstrates that they have fallen prey to the snares of the arch-enemy and have been totally overpowered by him. This attitude will lead to their total undoing just as it led to Satan's undoing. Anyone who has even an iota of understanding should heed and emulate the example of his foreparents - Adam and Eve - who repented and made amends after their disobedience. (Tafheemul Quran)