Commentary of the Quran (Chapter 2:143)
By: Mohammad Sobhanie
Al-Mizan’s View about Ummatan Wasatan – Part 3
بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ
وَكَذَلِكَ جَعَلْنَاكُمْ أُمَّةً وَسَطًا لِّتَكُونُوا شُهَدَاءَ عَلَى النَّاسِ وَيَكُونَ الرَّسُولُ عَلَيْكُمْ شَهِيدًا …. ﴿١٤٣﴾
2:143 Thus We have made you Ummatan Wasatan, that you be witnesses over mankind and the Messenger be a witness over you. ……
Commentary: There is a common theme between Ummatan Wasatan [(أُمَّةً وَسَطًا)] and “the submissive nation” [(أُمَّةً مُّسْلِمَةً)] mentioned in the verses 2:128-129 [Al-Baqara]. What is this theme? How can this theme enlighten the interpretation of Ummatan Wasatan [(أُمَّةً وَسَطًا)]?
As Prophet Ibrahim (AS) and Prophet Ismail (AS) were raising the walls of the Kaaba, they invoked their Lord to make from their offspring a submissive nation and to raise among them a messenger. This messenger would recite to them the divine signs, teach them the divine Book, the divine wisdom and purify them. Note that the pronoun “them” refers to the submissive offspring of Prophet Ibrahim (AS) and Ismail (AS) [(أُمَّةً مُّسْلِمَةً)]:
رَبَّنَا وَاجْعَلْنَا مُسْلِمَيْنِ لَكَ وَمِن ذُرِّيَّتِنَا أُمَّةً مُّسْلِمَةً لَّكَ …..﴿١٢٨﴾ رَبَّنَا وَابْعَثْ فِيهِمْ رَسُولًا مِّنْهُمْ يَتْلُو عَلَيْهِمْ آيَاتِكَ وَيُعَلِّمُهُمُ الْكِتَابَ وَالْحِكْمَةَ وَيُزَكِّيهِمْ ۚ إِنَّكَ أَنتَ الْعَزِيزُ الْحَكِيمُ ﴿١٢٩﴾
2:128 “Our Lord, make us submissive to You, and [raise] from our progeny a nation submissive to You….”
2:129 “Our Lord, raise amongst them an apostle from among them, who will recite to them Your signs and teach them the Book and wisdom and purify them. Indeed, You are the All-mighty, the All-wise.”
Prophet Ibrahim’s invocation was answered 3,500 years later with the coming of Prophet Mohammad (SAWA) Allah’s last and final messenger. Without any doubt, the Ahlul-Bayt of the Prophet [(أَهْلَ الْبَيْتِ)] serve as the outstanding example of a submissive nation to God from the progeny of Prophet Ibrahim and Ismail (AS). The verse 2:129 [Al-Baqara] asserts that the Prophet (SAWA) recites to “the submissive nation” the divine signs and teaches them the Quran and holy wisdom and purifies them.
The Qur’an speaks cryptically about “the submissive nation” from the progeny of Ibrahim in the verses 22:77-78 [Al-Hajj], which Al-Mizan further decodes. In particular, the verse identifies a group of chosen believers [(يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا …… هُوَ اجْتَبَاكُمْ)] who follow the religion of their father Ibrahim without facing difficulties and hardship [(وَمَا جَعَلَ عَلَيْكُمْ فِي الدِّينِ مِنْ حَرَجٍ مِّلَّةَ أَبِيكُمْ إِبْرَاهِيمَ)]. Allah (SWT) named this group as Muslims in the preceding divine books as well as in the Quran [(هُوَ سَمَّاكُمُ الْمُسْلِمِينَ مِن قَبْلُ وَفِي هَـذَا)].
Let’s pause and ask ourselves a question; who that group possibly be? A group of chosen believers who follow the religion of their father Ibrahim, and Allah named this group as Muslims in the preceding divine books as well as in the Quran.
The said group of chosen believers whose father is Ibrahim and are submissive to God are none but “the submissive nation” in the prayer of Prophet Ibrahim and Ismail (AS). One should note that when Allah (SWT) names someone as a Muslim, this affirms that he is submissive to God [(أُمَّةً مُّسْلِمَةً)].
Towards the end, the verses 22:77-78 [Al-Hajj] states that this elite, chosen group of truly submissive Muslims from the progeny of Ibrahim have the privilege to serve as witnesses over people as the Prophet is a witness over them [(لِيَكُونَ الرَّسُولُ شَهِيدًا عَلَيْكُمْ وَتَكُونُوا شُهَدَاءَ عَلَى النَّاسِ)].
In conclusion, the two nations of Ummatan Wasatan [(أُمَّةً وَسَطًا)] and Ummatan Muslimatans [(أُمَّةً مُّسْلِمَةً)] from the progeny of Prophet Ibrahim and Ismail have the special privilege to be witnesses over mankind while the Prophet is a witness over them. In fact, they are the same nation with two different names, and each name describes distinct attributes and characteristics of this nation.
Ummatan Wasatan [(أُمَّةً وَسَطًا)] means a nation which is a link, connection and conduit between the Prophet and mankind [Al-Mizan, Vol. 1, Page 486, Line 19]. That is, the Prophet (SAWA) transmits the knowledge of the Book and wisdom to the heart of Ummatan Wasatan, cleanses them from impurities and frees their hearts from submitting to anything except Allah (SWT), as explained in the verse 2:129. Consequently, they submit solely to God and worship him with pleasure. In return, Ummatan Wasatan disseminate divine grace to mankind, the grace which they had received through the Prophet (SAWA).
Al-Mizan’s interpretation reminds me of the narration from the Prophet (SAWA), who said:
أنا مدینة العلم و علی بابها فمن اراد العلم فلیأت الباب
“I am the city of knowledge and Imam Ali (AS) is its gate; therefore, whoever want the city should enter through the gate.” Indeed, through this gate, mankind can benefit from the knowledge and words of wisdom of the Prophet (SAWA).
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا ارْكَعُوا وَاسْجُدُوا وَاعْبُدُوا رَبَّكُمْ وَافْعَلُوا الْخَيْرَ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُفْلِحُونَ ﴿٧٧﴾ وَجَاهِدُوا فِي اللَّـهِ حَقَّ جِهَادِهِ هُوَ اجْتَبَاكُمْ وَمَا جَعَلَ عَلَيْكُمْ فِي الدِّينِ مِنْ حَرَجٍ مِّلَّةَ أَبِيكُمْ إِبْرَاهِيمَ هُوَ سَمَّاكُمُ الْمُسْلِمِينَ مِن قَبْلُ وَفِي هَـذَا لِيَكُونَ الرَّسُولُ شَهِيدًا عَلَيْكُمْ وَتَكُونُوا شُهَدَاءَ عَلَى النَّاسِ فَأَقِيمُوا الصَّلَاةَ وَآتُوا الزَّكَاةَ وَاعْتَصِمُوا بِاللَّـهِ هُوَ مَوْلَاكُمْ فَنِعْمَ الْمَوْلَى وَنِعْمَ النَّصِيرُ ﴿٧٨﴾
2:77 O you who believe! Bow down, and prostrate yourselves, and worship your Lord and do good that you may be successful.
2:78 Strive in the cause of Allah in a manner worthy of that striving. He has chosen you (for His task), and He has not laid upon you any hardship in religion. Keep to the faith of your father Abraham. Allah named you Muslims earlier and even in this (Book), that the Messenger may be a witness over you, and that you may be witnesses over all mankind. So establish Prayer, and pay Zakah, and hold fast to Allah. He is your Protector. What an excellent Protector; what an excellent Helper!