Quran Journey Series: Reflections on Quranic verses – IV

Jul 21st, 2013 | By | Category: Quran Journey Series, Religion

BlindfollowingIn the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful

“And they will say: “Our Lord! Verily, we obeyed our chiefs and our great ones, and they misled us from the (Right) Way. Our Lord! give them double torment and curse them with a mighty curse!” (33:66-67)

The verse illustrates the perils of blindly and unquestioningly following others because of the power and influence they wield. Islam emphatically and unequivocally rejects the notion of blind following. Even obedience to Allah and the Prophet (SAW) is based upon conscious and wilful acceptance of the faith through reason, among other things.

One of the primary functions of Islamic Tawhid is the liberation of man from bondage and slavery to other men who exploit, misuse, mislead and oppress to accentuate their own sense of power and superiority to gratify the ego.

That one bowing-down that you consider so hard

Liberates you from a thousand ignoble surrenders (Iqbal)

The Islamic position is that every human being has been endowed with consciousness and an innate moral criterion, a soul that can discern goodness and evil and the intellect (aql) that makes knowledge possible.

“And by the soul, and Him Who perfected it in proportion; Then He showed him what is wrong for him and what is right for him; Indeed he succeeds who purifies his ownself. And indeed he fails who corrupts his ownself.” (91:7-10)

Most vitally, man has been given volition and the ability to make choices on the basis of his knowledge. He is therefore made responsible for his moral choices in life. If, however, man chooses to surrender all these remarkable God-given abilities to the blind obedience of other human beings, he commits a sin against his own self, which incurs the wrath of the One who bestowed these invaluable gifts on him. Such ignoble surrender expresses ingratitude by subjugating and debasing the God-given human essence to the unworthy. It is selling oneself short. As Ali (R.A) warned,

‘The price of your Ruh (spirit) is Paradise. Do not sell it for what is lesser.’

Unconditional obedience and surrender is the exclusive right of God alone, because He deserves it. Surrendering ourselves to powerful human beings and obeying them unconditionally is therefore a violation of the fundamental belief that Allah alone deserves our devotion, adoration and obedience. It is hence a form of rank ‘shirk’ to accord the exclusive privilege of God to the lesser and unworthier.

Obeying the powerful is a sign of weakness as one allows fear of consequences, external pressures or the incentive of short-term material benefits to take over, shutting off one’s rationality and strangling one’s free will, so that one spiritually degenerates into a mind-controlled sleepwalking zombie ready to take orders to mechanically and unquestioningly carry them out.

Such human beings harm not only themselves but become instruments of grave harm to society. They become the means for the powerful to carry out their exploitative and oppressive practices. Through their obedience they lend strength to the arrogant oppressor. They become cogs in the machine sustaining the unjust system consciously or unconsciously. These are the ‘careerists’- the numberless anonymous obedient and efficient clerks who execute the commands of the tyrants on high and work hard to keep in place the system that supports the oppressive status quo. Chris Hedges describes them as:

‘…armies of bureaucrats serving a corporate system that will quite literally kill us. They are as cold and disconnected… They carry out minute tasks. They are docile. Compliant. They obey. They find their self-worth in the prestige and power of the corporation, in the status of their positions and in their career promotions. It is moral schizophrenia. They erect walls to create an isolated consciousness. They destroy the ecosystem, the economy and the body politic… They feel nothing. And the system rolls forward. The polar ice caps melt. The droughts rage over cropland. The drones deliver death from the sky. The state moves inexorably forward to place us in chains. The sick die. The poor starve. The prisons fill. And the careerist, plodding forward, does his or her job.’

Over the history of Islam, it was the trend of blind following of rigid juristic schools (taqlid) in exclusion to all others that created fixity and stasis, and hence stunted the progress of Muslim society through the ongoing process of ijtihad sanctioned by Allah, to be made in the light of His revelations and the use of the aql bestowed by Him.

The warning is loud and clear: we cannot ward off responsibility of our actions by blindly following powerful clerics, rulers, chiefs, monarchs, dictators, tyrants and cult-figures. Our freedom to choose on the basis of the rules inspired and established by God is one of the greatest gifts we have been given. And when we exercise this freedom to make the right choices, we earn the love of Allah, and find our way back to Him. Allowing others to rob us off this freedom for petty short-term benefits is to sell away one’s soul in an unholy pact with the devil. It is our freedom as moral agents that makes us ‘the best of all creation’ (Ahsan i taqweem), and it is our rejection of the gift in order to mindlessly hero-worship anyone who owns power that debases us into ‘the lowest of the low’ (Asfalasaafileen).

As Muslims we must remember that we are all individually and directly accountable to Allah alone; answerable for every single choice we make- and in His court, the power of all others comes to naught as sham. It is not our association with a person of power and influence that can salvage us, but our own individual conduct based on our conscious moral choices. The delusions of worldly grandeur are transient and misleading. In the Glory, Greatness and Majesty of the Divine, all else fades away into nothingness:

‘And all that remains is the Grace and Majesty of your Lord’ (Surah Rahman) 


`Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies; whose frown
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear —
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.’
 (Shelley: ‘Ozymandias’)


Maryam Sakeenah

About the author

Maryam Sakeenah teaches Sociology, Literature and Islamic Studies in Lahore, Pakistan. She authored a book documenting Islamic and Oriental responses to the Clash of Civilizations thesis. Maryam is also a social worker running an organization providing free virtual primary education for the poor.

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  1. very well written mashallah, we really shouldnt sell ourselves for anything less than the paradise. just wanted to point out that although the author has quite righlyt put tha
    t” Even obedience to Allah and the Prophet (SAW) is based upon conscious and wilful acceptance of the faith through reason, among other things.”
    Agreeing with this i think its quite important to keep in mind at the same time that although obeidience to Allah (swt) and the Prophet(saw) is based upon conscious and wilful acceptance of faith but the faith itself is not always accepted through reason or logic. Faith in the unseen is something that can never be accepted through reason or atleast what common folk accept as logic. To put it simply the logic of faith can only be understood after one has faith not before..:)….another thing i feel like adding is that when we learn that following b

  2. blindly is wrong than a heavy responsibilty of learning our deen and the Quran falls on us and we cannot just blame others if dont know enough to get us through this test.

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