Understanding the Qur’an: A Fundamental Premise 
Shehzad Saleem
    The religious history of mankind can be divided into two distinct periods. In the first period, which occupies the major portion of this history, the Almighty directly interacted with the inhabitants of this earth by selecting certain personalities as his representatives. To them, He revealed His guidance for the benefit of mankind. They were deputed by Him to fully explain and elucidate the basic truths. Although these truths are inherently known by a heedful person through the testimony of his conscience and intuition, the Merciful Allah supplemented this arrangement by appointing His representatives from among mankind to remind them of these truths. Over a period, which extends to several thousand years, numerous personalities were chosen for this purpose. In religious parlance, they are called Anbiya (Prophets). The last of these personalities was Muhammad (sws). With his demise in 632 AD, the institution of Nabuwwat (Prophethood) was terminated and this first period of history was brought to an end.
    Today we are living in the second period of history, which is to continue until the end of this world. In this period, divine interaction through appointed representatives no longer takes place. It seems that once the Prophets of Allah were able to establish the intellectual superiority of monotheism over polytheism, the Almighty brought to an end this mighty institution since its implications regarding the trial and test of its immediate addressees were far reaching.
    The first period of history has a certain feature that is wholly and solely specific to it. The Qur’an, a Book which belongs to this first period, mentions this feature. As per this feature1, the judgement which is going to take place in the Hereafter is visually substantiated in this period during the lifetime of certain Anbiya2 (Prophets) elevated to the higher cadre of Rusul3 (Messengers).
    Owing to this feature, certain directives of the Qur’an are specific to this first period and cannot be extended to the next period. This of course does not mean that they lose their relevance to the second period. It only means that while they cannot be applied in this second period, their application in the first period has already afforded mankind with certain testimonies which have a profound bearing on his attitude towards life in this second period. It is imperative that the basis of the directives of the Qur’an be understood in order to appreciate which of them is confined to the first period and which is applicable to both. It is by not differentiating between these directives that many misconceptions have arisen in understanding the Qur’an.
    This article shall attempt to first outline this all-important feature of the first period. Next the details of its application in the period of the last Prophet and Messenger, Muhammad (sws), shall be outlined. In the third section, various directives that belong specifically to the first period and that have been erroneously related to the second period shall be delineated. The article shall end on a summary of the fundamental premise and on some conclusions drawn from the overall discussion.
    Precisely put, the topics to be discussed in this article are:

    A. The Judgement: A Basic Feature of the Age of Rusul
    B. Details of ‘The Judgement’ in Muhammad’s Period
    C. Directives Specific to the Age of the Last Rasul
    D. Concluding Remarks

    Here is a list of what is presented under these topics

A. The Judgement: A Basic Feature of the Age of Rusul
    In this opening section, it is established that the basic feature of the age of Rusul is that their addressees are rewarded or punished in the this very world so that this judgement can become a visual testimony to the reward and punishment which is to take place in the Hereafter.

B. Details of ‘The Judgement’ in Muhammad’s Period
    The details of the Judgement that took place in the era of the last Rasul are outlined.

C. Directives Specific to the Age of the Last Rasul
    It is shown on the basis of the above mentioned feature that the following directives of Islam are specific to the age of the last Rasul and his companions and cannot be related to later Muslims:

    1. Apostasy
    2. Waging War against Non-Muslims
    3. Daru’l-Harb / Daru’l-Islam Classification
    4. Dhimmi Status of Non-Muslim Minorities
    5. Enmity with Non-Muslims
    6. Greeting non-Muslims in an Inferior Way
    7. Certain Doom for non-Muslims in the Hereafter
    8. Prohibition of Inheritance from non-Muslim Parents
    9. The Superiority of Muslim Blood
    10. Prohibition of Non-Muslims from entering the Batullah
    11. Assassination of Non-Muslims
    12. The Political Supremacy of Islam
    13. Status of Muslims as the Best Community

D. Concluding Remarks
    The attitude which Muslims and non-Muslims must adopt towards each other on the basis of the fundamental premise is discussed.
    We now turn to the details.

A. The Judgement: A Basic Feature of the Age of Rusul

B. Details of ‘The Judgement’ in Muhammad’s(sws) Period

C. Directives Specific to the Age of the last Rasul

D. Concluding Remarks


1: The Preaching Mission of Noah (sws)

2: The Fate of some Nations who denied their Rusul

3: The Prophecies of the Arrival of Muhammad (sws)



1. The first person to highlight this feature specific to the age of Rusul was Hamidu’l-Din Farahi (d:1930), a Qur’anic scholar from the subcontinent. However, it was his pupil, Amin Ahsan Islahi (d:1997) who refined and perfected this premise in his celebrated Qur’anic Commentary. Subsequently, Javed Ahmad Ghamidi (b:1951) a student of Islahi lent further precision to it in his work on hermeneutics. It is beyond the scope of this article to trace the development of this feature in the works of these scholars. Those who want to be aware of this historical development are advised to look up the following works of these authors.(i) Farahi, Majmu‘ah Tafasir, 1st ed., (Lahore: Faran Foundation, 1991), pp. 465-477, (ii) Islahi, Tadabbur-i-Qur’an, 3rd ed., vol 8, (Lahore: Faran Foundation, 1985), p. 273  (iii) Ghamidi, Usul-u-Mabadi, 1st ed. (Lahore: Danish Sara, 2000) pp. 55-8
2. singular: Nabi
3. singular: Rasul