This is a section from Sayyid Qutb’s commentary In the Shade of the Qur’ an. Specifically, this quote is from Volume 8 covering At Tawbah 9 which is the last or second to last Surah in the Qur’ an. This Surah is Medinan and is extraordinarily important because it provides what Qutb calls final rulings concerning how the Islamic state is to interact with non-Islamic nations.
Provisional rulings refer to the Qur’ an’s Meccan texts. Final rulings refer to the Qur’ an’s Medinan texts. In this commentary Qutb contrasts the provisional and final rulings, how they work and why provisional rulings are not really abrogated when abrogated. For Qutb this is one aspect of jihad which is to be used to remove all obstacles which stand in the way of the people freely hearing da’ wah or the call to Islam.
In America today, Imams and Muslims bombard anyone in American society who will listen with the peaceful ayats located in the Qur’ an. What so Americans do not know or understand is that Islam in America presently is in its Meccan phase so naturally, Muslims will speak Meccan publicly. Often, our attempts to explain the dangers of Islam (the only radical Muslim is the one who does not follow the Qur’ an) are rebutted with (1) the claim that Islam is peaceful and can coexist with other religions and (2) Meccan ayats as evidence.
Of course, we the knowledgeable realize this is taqiyya, nevertheless, one of the greatest obstacles we must overcome is the unfathomable deep of ignorance of this subject in America. Many believe that Islamic apologists are telling the truth. Seriously, why would a religion lie? That is another story. Nevertheless, Qutb does an outstanding job explaining how Islam is to use these provisional ayats when the historical environment demands.
The Final and Provisional Rulings
In the light of this excellent exposition we can understand the reasoning behind the final rulings outlined in this sūrah. These include the termination of treaties with idolaters, except for the ones with treaties specifying a term of expiry, provided that they had not violated their treaties or collaborated with others against Islam. Others who had open-ended treaties, or with no treaties, or who had violated the terms of their treaties are given a period of four months grace, during which they are safe.
Al-Tawbah (The Repentance) | PROLOGUE 20
When this grace period was over, they were to be taken and killed wherever they happened to be found. They could not move in safety. We can also understand the rulings about fighting the people of earlier revelations who had deviated from the true divine religion until they are humbled and agreed to pay the submission tax. We understand the final rulings concerning jihād against the hypocrites, together with the unbelievers, and being harsh to them, unwilling to pray for their dead or stand over their graves. All these rulings amend earlier, provisional ones given before the revelation of the present sūrah. We believe that this amendment is now clear. We cannot speak here in detail about these final rulings, or even about the provisional ones, or about other topics addressed in this sūrah. All this will come in for detailed discussion as we comment on the Qur’ānic text. However, we need to clarify that those provisional rulings have not been abrogated in the sense that they can no longer be implemented in any situation the Muslim community finds itself in. The fact is that the practical situation faced by the Muslim community in different circumstances, places and times may determine, through absolute scholarly effort and discretion, which ruling is most suited to a particular situation, time and place. However, sight must not be lost of the final rulings to which the community should revert whenever it is able to implement them, as was the case at the time when this sūrah was revealed. These rulings were subsequently implemented during the Islamic conquests, in the treatment of both unbelievers and the people of earlier revelations. Some defeatist elements are overwhelmed by the pressures resulting from the desperate situation of present-day Muslims, who have nothing of Islam other than its
name, and from the wicked attack by the Orientalists on the concept of jihād. Hence they try to find excuses by relying on provisional rulings and ignoring the true basis of the Islamic approach that moves forward to liberate mankind from servitude to other human beings, so that they can worship God alone. Its aim is to destroy tyrannical forces and regimes which force people to submit to a rule different from that of God, and apply a law other than His own. Such defeatists quote verses like: “If they incline to peace, then incline you to it as well, and place your trust in God.” (8: 61) “As for such [of the unbelievers] who do not fight against you on account of your faith, and neither drive you forth from your homelands, God does not forbid you to show them kindness and to behave towards them with full equity.” (60:8) “Fight for the cause of God those who wage war against you, but do not commit aggression. Indeed, God does not love aggressors.” (2: 190) “Say: ‘People of earlier revelations! Let us come to an agreement which is equitable between you and us: that we shall worship none but God, that we shall associate no partners with Him, and that we shall not take one another for lords beside God.’ And if they turn away, then say: ‘Bear witness that we have surrendered ourselves to God.’” (3: 64)
Al-Tawbah (The Repentance) | PROLOGUE 21
They go on to say that Islam, then, does not fight anyone other than those who fight against the people in the land of Islam, within its area, or those who threaten it from outside. They further cite the fact that the Prophet signed the peace treaty with the idolaters at al- Ĥudaybiyah, and prior to that he had a treaty with the Jews and idolaters in Madinah. This defeatist logic means that Islam has nothing to do with the rest of mankind. It does not, or should not, care what deities they worship, or if one group of people are made lords over others, as long as it is safe within its own territory. This smacks of disrespect for Islam and God Almighty, resulting from a
feeling of utter defeat. What is worse, when these people feel unable to change the miserable conditions of today’s Muslims, or face up to international forces hostile to Islam, they do not see that their weakness is the result of their moving away from Islam. On the contrary, they persistently try to attribute their own weakness and defeat to Islam, the noble faith God has laid down for mankind.
The texts to which they resort are provisional ones, addressing a particular situation. The state of affairs they addressed may happen again. In such conditions, the provisional rulings may be applied because the Muslim community lives a similar situation to the one they addressed the first time. But this does not mean that these are the ultimate rulings, and the approach they follow is the final one Islam provides. What it means is that the Muslim community needs to persist in trying to improve its situation, removing any impediments standing in its way, until it can apply the final rulings given in this last sūrah. Needless to say, these addressed a situation entirely different from that addressed by the provisional ones. . .”
In the Shade of Qur’ an, Vol. 8, Sayyid Qutb, pages 24-27
If you are interested in reading Volume 8 it is posted here: https://thejihadproject.wordpress.com/2011/06/24/in-the-shade-of-the-qur-an/