As we have seen, the Surah Al-Baqarah opens with the declaration that the Holy Qur'an is beyond all doubt. The first twenty verses of the Surah delineate the features of those who believe in the Holy Qur'an and of those who do not -- the first five dealing with the former, under the title of Al-Muttaqun المتقون (the God-fearing); the next two with those disbelievers who were quite open and violent in their hostility -- that is, Al-Kafirun الکافرون (the disbelievers or the infidels), and the following thirteen with those crafty disbelievers who claimed to be Muslims but, in reality, were not so. This second variety of the disbelievers has received from the Holy Qur'an the name of Al-Munafiqun المنافقون (the hypocrities).

Of these thirteen verses, the first two define the characteristic behaviour of the hypocrites thus:

وَمِنَ النَّاسِ مَن يَقُولُ آمَنَّا بِاللَّـهِ وَبِالْيَوْمِ الْآخِرِ‌

And among men there are some who say, 'We believe in Allah and in the Last Day',

Yet they are no believers. They try to deceive Allah and those who believe, when they are deceiving none but their own selves, and they are not aware. These verses expose their claim to be Muslims as false and deceitful, and show that they are only trying to be clever. Obviously, no one can deceive Allah - probably they themselves could not have had such a delusion. But the Holy Qur'an equates, in a way, their attempt to deceive the Holy Prophet ﷺ and the Muslims with the desire to deceive Allah Himself (See Qurtubi)

Such a desire, the Holy Qur'an points out, can have only one consequence - they end up by deceiving no one but themselves, for Allah Himself cannot possibly be deceived, and Divine Revelation protects the Holy Prophet ﷺ from all trickery and deceit, so that the hypocrites themselves will have to bear, in the other world as well as in this, the punishment for their presumptuousness.

As for Allah making them grow in their malady, it means that they are jealous of the growing strength of the Muslims, but it is Allah's will to make the position of the Muslims even stronger, as they can see for themselves, which feeds their bile and keeps the disease of their hearts growing.

These two verses, thus, describe the state of their insensitivity and ignorance - they regard their defects as merits. The sixth verse shows the other aspect of this depravity - the merit of others (that is, the unalloyed faith of the Muslims) changes into a defect, and even becomes contemptible in their eyes.5

5. As for the hypocrites declaring openly that they were not prepared to believe as others did believe, and as for their dubbing the Muslims as fools, it is obvious that they could have been so outspoken only before the poor among the Muslims, otherwise they used to be very careful about keeping their disbelief concealed.)

(2) A little reflection on these verses would reveal the true nature of Islam and Iman ایمان (faith) and also that of kufr کفر (disbelief), for the Holy Qur'an reports the claim of the hypocrites to be Muslims: اٰمَنَّا بِاللّٰهِ :"we believe in Allah", (2:8), forthwith refutes this claim: مَا ھُمْ بِمُؤْمِنِيْنَ :"yet they are no believers". In order to understand fully the implications of these verses, one should bear in one's mind the fact that the hypocrites in question were actually Jews. Now, belief in Allah and in Hereafter is, no doubt, an essential part of their creed as well; what was not included in their creed, as defined by their religious scholars, was the belief in the prophethood of Muhammad ﷺ . In declaring their faith in Islam, the Jews very cleverly used to leave out the belief in the Holy Prophet ﷺ and mention only two elements: belief in Allah and belief in the Hereafter. So far as such a declaration goes, they cannot be called liars, and yet the Holy Qur'an refutes their claim to be Muslims, and regards them as liars. Why?

The fact is that, for one to be a Muslim, it is not sufficient merely to declare one's faith in Allah and the Hereafter in any form or manner which suits one's individual or collective fancy. As for that, associators of all kinds do, in one way or another, believe in Allah and consider Him to be Omnipotent' but the Holy Qur'an does not allow any of these things to pass for Iman ایمان (faith). Iman ایمان or faith in Allah must, in order to be valid and worthy of the name, conform to what the Holy Qur'an specifically lays down with regards to the divine names and attributes; similarly, belief in the Hereafter can be valid only when it is true to the specifications of the Holy Qur'an and the Hadith.7

6. Even peoples described by the Westerners as "savages" or "primitives - though "degenerates" would be far closer to the mark - have at least a vague notion of a Supreme Deity, and ususally very vivid ideas about the other world.

7. There is no end to the making of books, and no end to the making of gods and to the naming of gods - above all, in our own day. Reason, Nature, Man, Life, all having served their turn and grown rusty, are being replaced by more fancy names - "the ground of being" of the so-called Christian Existentialism, the ultimate "archetype of the Collective Unconscious" of Jungian psychology, and what not. They have lately invented a goldless theology too.

In the light of this explanation one can see that the Jews who pretended to be Muslims believed neither in Allah nor in the Hereafter according to these definite requirements. For, on the one hand, they regarded the Prophet ` Uzair or Ezra (علیہ السلام) as the son of God, and, on the other, cherished the fond belief that the progeny of the prophets, no matter how it acted, would always remain 'the chosen of God', and would not be called to account on the Day of Judgment, or at the worst receive only a token punishment. These being their beliefs, the Holy Qur'an rightly rejects their claims to faith in Allah and the Hereafter.

(3) As we have already said, verse 13 defines what Iman ایمان (faith) really is: اٰمِنُوْا كَمَآ اٰمَنَ النَّاسُ :"Believe as other men have believed". In other words, the criterion for judging one's claim to 'lman ایمان is the ' lman ایمان of the blessed Companions of the Holy Prophet ﷺ ، and any claim to Iman ایمان which does not conform to it is not acceptable to Allah and to the Holy Prophet ﷺ . If a man has the presumption8 to interpret an Islamic doctrine or verse of the Holy Qur'an in a way which departs from the explicit and clear explanation provided by the Holy Qur'an itself or by the Holy Prophet ﷺ ، his individual opinion and belief, no matter how much it titillates the palate of his contemporaries or feeds their fancy, will have no value or validity in the eyes of the Shari'ah. For example, the Qadianis قادیانی 9 claim that like Muslims they too believe in the doctrine of the Finality of the Prophethood of Muhammad ﷺ ، but in this respect they deviate from what the Holy Prophet ﷺ has himself stated, and what the Companions believed in, and distort the doctrine so.as so as to make room for the prophethood of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian; so, according to the indication of the Holy Qur'an, they come

under this indictment: مَا ھُمْ بِمُؤْمِنِيْنَ :"They are no believers."

8. As is all too common these days.

9. Who style themselves as Ahmadis.

In short, if a man interprets an Islamic doctrine in a way which is repugnant to the Iman ایمان of the blessed Companions, and yet claims to be a Muslim on the basis of his adherence to this doctrine and also performs his religious duties exactly like Muslims, he will not be considered a Mu'min مومنین (true Muslim) until and unless he agrees to conform to the criterion of Iman ایمان laid down by the Holy Qur'an.

Removal of a doubt

We may also dispel a misunderstanding which often arises - and is more often made to arise with an ulterior motive - with regard to the famous dictum in the Hadith and Fiqh (Islamic Jurisprudence) that the 'people of the Ka'bah' کعبہ (Ahl al-Qiblah), that is, those who turn towards the Ka'bah کعبہ in offering prescribed Salah نماز cannot be branded as infidels. The verse under discussion clearly defines the meaning of the phrase, Ahl al-Qiblah. The term pertains only to those who do not deny any of the basic essential doctrines and commandments of Islam which are called the Daruriat ضروریات (essentials). For that matter even the hypocrites mentioned in the Holy Qur'an used to offer their prayers exactly as the Muslims did; but turning towards Ka'bah کعبہ while praying was not taken to be sufficient to make them acceptable as true Muslims, simply because they did not have faith in all the essentials of Islam as the blessed Companions did.