Ummatan Wasatan – Part 2: Commentary of the Quran (Chapter 2:143) By: Mohammad Sobhanie

Commentary of the Quran (Chapter 2:143)

By: Mohammad Sobhanie

 

Ummatan Wasatan – Part 2

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: Ummatan Wasatan [(أُمَّةً وَسَطًا)] is interpreted as a moderate and just nation which is free from extremism. The trait of moderation in itself is noble and praiseworthy. Many verses of the Quran, for instance Al-Furqan 25:67 and Al-Baqara 2:201, echo the importance of exercising moderation in life.

A just and moderate nation is an exemplary role model for mankind to follow. Its characteristics are criteria to recognize the truth and discern right from wrong. Within this context, a just and moderate nation serves as a witness over mankind as the Prophet is witness over them [Tafseer-e-Namonah, Vol. 1, Page 488]. Hence, Ummatan Wasatan [(أُمَّةً وَسَطًا)] means a just and moderate nation and Shaheed [(شَهِيد)] is inferred to mean an exemplary role model.

The late Allamah Tabatabai, the author of Al-Mizan, may Allah (SWT) be pleased with him, offered a different perspective. A summary of his interpretation will be listed first and an explanation will follow. He stated:

Shaheed [(شَهِيد)], means to be an (eye) witness over peoples’ deeds and conducts [Al-Mizan, Vol. 1, Page 483, Line 6]. This is a privilege that Allah (SWT) has reserved for his chosen servants, such as divine prophets and Imams. In contrast, the preceding interpretation holds witness to mean someone who is an exemplary role model.

Ummatan Wasatan [(أُمَّةً وَسَطًا)] refers to a group of people who serve as a link, connection and conduit between the Prophet (SAWA) and mankind [Al-Mizan, Vol.1, P. 487, L.9]. In contrast, in the preceding interpretation, Ummatan Wasatan refers to a nation whose conduct is just and moderate instead of extreme.

In this essay, the concept of being a witness over people will be presented and the rest of discussion will be presented Insha-Allah in part III.

Al-Mizan states that Shaheed [(شَهِيد)] in the aforementioned verse means someone who is an (eye) witness over people in the matter of their deeds.

The Quran professes to the existence of eyewitnesses in this world who observe the truth of people’s divine obedience, and on the Day of Judgment they will call to testify for or against those whom they witnessed. This is a privilege that Allah (SWT) grants to some of his chosen servants such as divine prophets. Some of the related verses to the subject matter is cited in Appendix-1.

For instance, the verse 5:117 [Al-Ma’ida] and 4:159 [An-Nisa] state that Prophet Isa (AS) will testify on the Day of Judgment that he had invited the People of the Book to worship Allah (SWT). He will state his observations of how his nation treated the divine message while he was with them.

Another example is verse 4:41 [An-Nisa], which asserts that Allah (SWT) will call a witness to testify for or against every nation, and that the Prophet (SAWA) will be a witness over them:

فَكَيْفَ إِذَا جِئْنَا مِن كُلِّ أُمَّةٍ بِشَهِيدٍ وَجِئْنَا بِكَ عَلَى هَـؤُلَاءِ شَهِيدًا ﴿٤١

4:41 How will the sinners fare on Judgment Day when We bring from each nation a witness and We bring you (O Prophet) as a witness against them.

 

Some commentators such as Shaykh Tabarsi, the author of Majma‘ al-Bayan, holds the opinion that the pronoun “them” [(هَـؤُلَاءِ)] in the verse refers to people in the era of the Prophet. Others state that it refers to witnesses of nations in general [(مِن كُلِّ أُمَّةٍ بِشَهِيدٍ)]. In the latter interpretation, the Prophet (SAWA) is the master of all the witnesses – the witness to all witnesses [Tafseer-e-Namona, Vol.3, Page 434].

 

The verse 9:105 [At-Tawba] echoes that the Prophet (SAWA), and even some selected believers, are aware of the details of our daily conducts and activities, just as Allah (SWT) is:

وَقُلِ اعْمَلُوا فَسَيَرَى اللَّـهُ عَمَلَكُمْ وَرَسُولُهُ وَالْمُؤْمِنُونَ وَسَتُرَدُّونَ إِلَى عَالِمِ الْغَيْبِ وَالشَّهَادَةِ فَيُنَبِّئُكُم بِمَا كُنتُمْ تَعْمَلُونَ ﴿١٠٥

9:105 And say “Do deeds! Allah will see your deeds, and (so will) His Messenger and the (selected) believers. And you will be brought back to the All-Knower of the unseen and the seen. Then He will inform you of what you used to do.”

 

In summary, the aforementioned verses introduce an elite group within the Islamic Ummah who are called Ummatan Wasatan [(أُمَّةً وَسَطًا)]. They are witnesses over peoples’ conducts and deeds. In turn, the Prophet is a witness over them. Of course, very few can claim such sublimity. The discussion will continue in Part-III, insha’Allah.

 

اللَّهُمَّ أَحْسِنْ عَاقِبَتَنَا فِي الْأُمُورِ كُلِّهَا وَأَجِرْنَا مِنْ خِزْيِ الدُّنْيَا وَعَذَابِ الْآخِرَة

 

Appendix_1

مَا قُلْتُ لَهُمْ إِلَّا مَا أَمَرْتَنِي بِهِ أَنِ اعْبُدُوا اللَّـهَ رَبِّي وَرَبَّكُمْ وَكُنتُ عَلَيْهِمْ شَهِيدًا مَّا دُمْتُ فِيهِمْ فَلَمَّا تَوَفَّيْتَنِي كُنتَ أَنتَ الرَّقِيبَ عَلَيْهِمْ وَأَنتَ عَلَى كُلِّ شَيْءٍ شَهِيدٌ ﴿١١٧

5:117 I (Isa) said to them nothing except what You (Allah) commanded me, that is: ‘Worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord.’ I was witness over them as long as I remained among them; and when You did recall me, then You Yourself became the Watcher over them. Indeed, You are Witness over everything.

بَل رَّفَعَهُ اللَّـهُ إِلَيْهِ وَكَانَ اللَّـهُ عَزِيزًا حَكِيمًا ﴿١٥٨﴾ وَإِن مِّنْ أَهْلِ الْكِتَابِ إِلَّا لَيُؤْمِنَنَّ بِهِ قَبْلَ مَوْتِهِ وَيَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ يَكُونُ عَلَيْهِمْ شَهِيدًا ﴿١٥٩

4:158-159 but Allah raised him to Himself. Allah is All-Mighty, All-Wise. There are none among the People of the Book but will believe in him before his death, and he will be a witness against them on the Day of Resurrection.

إِنَّا لَنَنصُرُ رُسُلَنَا وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا فِي الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا وَيَوْمَ يَقُومُ الْأَشْهَادُ ﴿٥١

40:51 Surely, We shall help Our Messengers and the believers in the life of this world and on the Day when witnesses will rise to testify,

وَأَشْرَقَتِ الْأَرْضُ بِنُورِ رَبِّهَا وَوُضِعَ الْكِتَابُ وَجِيءَ بِالنَّبِيِّينَ وَالشُّهَدَاءِ وَقُضِيَ بَيْنَهُم بِالْحَقِّ وَهُمْ لَا يُظْلَمُونَ ﴿٦٩

39:69 And the earth will shine with the light of its Lord, and the Book will be presented, and the Prophets and the witnesses will be brought forward, and it will be judged between them with truth, and they will not be wronged.

وَيَوْمَ نَبْعَثُ مِن كُلِّ أُمَّةٍ شَهِيدًا ثُمَّ لَا يُؤْذَنُ لِلَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا وَلَا هُمْ يُسْتَعْتَبُونَ ﴿٨٤

16:84 And on the Day when We resurrect a witness from each nation, then those who disbelieve will neither be allowed to plead nor will they be asked to repent and seek pardon.

فَلَنَسْأَلَنَّ الَّذِينَ أُرْسِلَ إِلَيْهِمْ وَلَنَسْأَلَنَّ الْمُرْسَلِينَ ﴿٦

7:6 Then surely, We shall question those (people) to whom it was sent and verily, We shall question the Messengers.

وَنَزَعْنَا مِن كُلِّ أُمَّةٍ شَهِيدًا فَقُلْنَا هَاتُوا بُرْهَانَكُمْ فَعَلِمُوا أَنَّ الْحَقَّ لِلَّـهِ وَضَلَّ عَنْهُم مَّا كَانُوا يَفْتَرُونَ ﴿٧٥

28:75 And We will draw out from every community a witness, and say, “Produce your evidence.” Then they will realize that the truth is God’s, and those they used to invent have forsaken them.

وَمَنْ أَظْلَمُ مِمَّنِ افْتَرَىٰ عَلَى اللَّـهِ كَذِبًا ۚ أُولَـٰئِكَ يُعْرَضُونَ عَلَىٰ رَبِّهِمْ وَيَقُولُ الْأَشْهَادُ هَـٰؤُلَاءِ الَّذِينَ كَذَبُوا عَلَىٰ رَبِّهِمْ ۚ أَلَا لَعْنَةُ اللَّـهِ عَلَى الظَّالِمِينَ ﴿١٨

11:18 Who does greater wrong than he who fabricates lies about God? These will be presented before their Lord, and the witnesses will say, “These are they who lied about their Lord.” Indeed, the curse of God is upon the wrongdoers.

وَجَاءَتْ كُلُّ نَفْسٍ مَّعَهَا سَائِقٌ وَشَهِيدٌ ﴿٢١

50:21 And every soul will come forward, accompanied by a driver and a witness.

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