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Table of Contents 

 

I. Introduction: Basic Information  

 

1. Islam: A Brief Introduction   

 

2. Three Levels of Faith: Islam, Iman, and Ihsan   

 

3. The Scientific Evidence That God Exists and the Holy Qur'an Is His Message to Humanity   

 

4. Creation and Evolution in the Holy Qur'an  

 

5. Humans, As God's Caliphs on Earth  

 

6. Adam's Contest With the Angels, and Getting Out of Paradise

 

7. Worshippers By Choice Or Forced Slaves?   

 

8. The Relationship Between the Spiritual and the Physical Aspects of Islamic Teachings   

 

9. Mind, Self, Soul, Spirit, and Happiness from an Islamic Perspective   

 

10. Heart-Mind Relationship in the Holy Qur'an   

 

II. Islam: The Five Pillars of the Faith Structure 

 

1. Proclamation of Faith 

 

2. Performing Islamic Prayers

 

3. Giving Zakah (Charity) 

 

4. Fasting the Month of Ramadhan 

 

5. Making the Haj (Pilgrimage) Journey 

 

III. Iman: Allah, His Angels, Messengers, Messages, Latter Day, and Qadar 

 

1. Allah, As He Described Himself in the Holy Quran   

 

2. Angels

 

3. Noo'h, Noah, in the Holy Quran    

 

4. Ibrahim, Abraham, in the Holy Quran

 

5. Moussa, Moses, in the Holy Quran 

 

6. 'Eissa, Jesus Christ, in the Holy Quran   

 

7. Muhammed in the Holy Quran  

 

8. Prophet Muhammed's Night Journey and Ascent to Heavens, Al-Issra Wal Mi'raj

 

9. Latter Day (Day of Resurrection) 

 

10. Qada and Qadar: God's Foreknowledge and His Decree 

 

IV. I'hsan: Watching Allah in What We Say and What We Do 

 

1. Introduction to Islamic Law, Shari'a, Part I, Prohibition, Don't Do, and Do Commands in the Holy Quran

 

2. The La (No) Commands 

 

3. The Imperative Commands   

 

***

 

Articles with Islamic Perspective:

 

Health Care Crisis in the US: An Islamic Perspective

"Terrorism" & "Islamo-Fascism" Propaganda Campaigns: An Interactive Lecture

Six Questions About Islam, Muslims and Jews

 

Five Islamic Issues: Predestination and choice, position toward other religions, angels, and the End of Days

Food Islamic Rules and Teachings  

Are Muslim women second-class citizens

The French Ban on Islamic Headscarf, an Interview with  

 

Da'awa, Call to Islam 

 

Links to Islamic Topics 2007-2010

 

Links to Islamic Topics 2007

 

Links to Islamic topics 2006

 

Links to Islamic topics 2005

 

Links to Islamic topics 2004

 

Links to Islamic topics, 2003

2002

 

 

Islam:

God's Message of Guidance to Humanity

 

I.7

  

Worshippers By Choice Or Forced Slaves?

 

By Hassan Ali El-Najjar

 

12th of Sha'aban, 1431 H, 24th of July, 2010

 

 

 

 

1431   2010

 

 

 

 

Introduction

 

There are many translations of the Holy Quran from Arabic to various languages. In one website alone (www.tanzil.info), there are thirteen English translations, in addition to translations to other languages. However, most of them may lack accuracy.

 

One example is the translation of the root verb 'abada (to worship) and its various derivatives. The verb is clear in its meaning, so are its derivatives, such as 'ibad (worshippers).

 

Most translators translated the singular adjective 'abd (), "worshipper," into "slave," "bondman," or "servant," which is incorrect, as argued throughout this article. Only two of the thirteen translators translated it correctly as "worshiper" and "votary."

 

Four other translators understood the word, 'ibadatihi correctly as "His worship," in Verse 4: 172, which is the Quran guidance in explaining the adjective 'abd as "worshiper."  However, they failed to apply it to this adjective after that (See End Note # 5 and Table 11.1 for more detailed statistics and observations).

 

The same applies to the plural form of the same adjective, 'ibad  ( ), which should be translated as "worshippers," according to Verse 4: 172, as also argued throughout this article. However, it was translated in nine different translations, mainly as "servants" as well as "bondmen" and "slaves." Some translators also used the words "creatures, votaries, devotees, men, and beings" in their translations. Only one of the thirteen translators, Qaribullah, translated correctly, as "worshipers" (See End Note # 5 and Table 11.2 for more detailed statistics and observations).

 

This inaccurate translation may mislead readers, particularly those who do not know Arabic, to think that  the Holy Quran refers to Muslims and believers as "slaves," which is not true. This inaccuracy in translation may also mislead people reading translations of the Holy Quran to adopt the wrong and extreme views of Al-Qadariya and Al-Jabriya. These groups argue that humans are "forced slaves," and consequently should not be held responsible for their actions.

 

This article attempts to clarify the issue, educating Muslims and non-Muslims about it, using verses of the Holy Quran as the only reference for the discussion. It starts with a comparison between the words 'ibad (worshippers) and 'abeed (slaves or bondmen), then there is a general discussion of the topic of "Choice and Predestination, as the larger context of this issue.

 

Thus, the article is lightly addressing the deep question of whether Allah, praise to Him, has willed that we are His worshippers by choice or we are forced slaves who carry out His predestined will. This author is using the middle-ground approach, Al-Wasatiya, of Shaikh Yousuf Al-Qaradawi, in the discussion of this issue. 

 

This article is also related to the topic of Caliphate and Choice, discussed by this author in another article titled,  "Humans, As God's Caliphs on Earth."

 

 

Verses mentioning 'ibad, "worshippers"  ( ) and  'abeed, "slaves" ( ):

 

 
About 243 of the verses of the Holy Quran mention the root verb of worship ('abada) and its derivatives. In about 96 of these verses, people are referred to as "worshippers" ('ibad), or other forms of the adjective.

There are twenty verses mentioning the word "the worshippers" (al-'ibad), four verses mentioning the word "worshippers" ('ibad) as a subject, two verses mentioning the word "worshippers" as a predicate ('ibadan), seven verses mentioning the word "your worshippers" ('ibadak), twelve verses mentioning the word "Our worshippers" ('ibadana), 34 verses mentioning the word "His worshippers" ('ibadahu), and 17 verses mentioning the word "My worshippers" ('ibadi).  {1}

However, there are only five verses in the Holy Quran, which refer to people as "slaves" ('abeed), in plural form, all of which in reference to people who oppress others as well as themselves by rejecting God's messages to humanity. {2}

More specifically, the word "slaves" ('abeed) in Verse 3: 182 is a reference to a Jewish rabbi called Fin'has, who made fun of God saying that He, praise to Him, is poor. Verse 8: 50 is a reference to the disbelievers who fought Muslims in the Battle of Badr. Verse 22: 10 is a reference to one of the leaders of non-believers, Al-Nadhr Bin Al-Harith. Verse 41: 46 is a reference to Jews who gave Moussa, peace and blessings be upon him, a hard time. Verse 50: 29 is a reference to the misguided in this life who follow their desires away from the path of Allah and try to blame it on the devil, according to the interpretations of the three renown early Islamic scholars. {3}.

Thus, when people are mentioned as "slaves" ('abeed) in the Holy Quran, it is a reference to non-believers who reject the path of Allah. They are slaves to their arrogance, ignorance, pride, stubbornness, and misguidance.
However, believers are only mentioned as "worshippers" of God ('ibad), not "slaves" ('abeed).

The word 'abd (slave) in its singular form appears in Verse 93, Chapter 19 (Surat Maryam), in reference to people on the Day of Judgment, when they come before their Creator for reckoning, as helpless and powerless. On that Day, they will be deprived of the freedom of choice, which has been given to them during their life on Earth, as the Verse describes.

ٰ  ( 19: 93).

"Everyone in the heavens and Earth is going to come to the Beneficent (God) as a slave" (Maryam, 19: 93).



The five verses which describe the self-oppressors as slaves ( 'abeed):


   ( 3: 181 ).

 

   ( 3: 182 ).


1. "Allah has heard the saying of those who said: "Allah is poor and we are rich!"  We shall write (record) what they said and (We shall write) their killing of the prophets unjustly, and We say (to them): "Taste the torment of the burning (Fire) " (Al-'Imran, 3: 181).

 

"This is because of what your hands committed before, and Allah is not unjust to the slaves" (Al-'Imran, 3: 182)

 

The word "slaves" in Verse 3: 182 refers to a category of people who were mentioned in the preceding Verse (3: 181), which addresses a falsehood by a Jewish rabbi called Fin'has, who claimed that God is poor and the Jews are rich, and that He, praise to Him, needs their money when He asks the rich to spend on the poor, while they as rich don't need Him.

 

The three early Islamic scholars (Al-Tabari, Al-Qurtubi, and Ibn Katheer) mentioned that Verse 3: 182 is God's reply to Finhas, promising to punish him, and those like him, in the hereafter for the money their hands earned but did not spend on the poor. Ibn Katheer added that they were described as slaves as an expression of disdain and humiliation for them. {3}

***

  ٰ  ۙ ( 8: 50).

 

 ( 8: 51).

 
2. "If you could see how the angels complete records (take souls) of those who disbelieve, smiting their  faces and their backs and (saying to them): Taste the torment of the burning (Fire)" (Al-Anfal, 8: 50).

"This is because of what your hands committed before, and Allah is not unjust to the slaves"  (Al-Anfal, 8: 51).

 

The word "slaves" in Verse 8: 51 refers to a category of people who were mentioned in the preceding  Verse (8: 50), which addresses the disbelievers who fought against Muslims in the Battle of Badr but it also addresses the disbelievers in general, as related by Ibn Katheer and Al-Tabari. However, Al-Qurtubi did not mention the disbelievers of Badr in particular, saying it is about the disbelievers generally.

 

***

  ( 22: 8).

 

   ۖ  ۖ ( 22: 9).

 

  ( 22: 10).

 

3. "There is among people someone who argues about Allah, without Knowledge, without Guidance, and without a Book of Enlightenment" (Al-Haj, 22: 8).

 

"(Arrogantly) bending his neck (away from the truth), in order to lead (people) away from the Path of Allah. For him, there is disgrace in this life, and on the Day of Resurrection We shall make him taste the torment of the burning (Fire)" (Al-Haj, 22: 9).

 

"This is because of what your hands committed before, and Allah is not unjust to the slaves" (Al-Haj, 22: 10).

 

The three early Islamic scholars related that the first ten verses of Surat Al-Haj (Chapter 22) applied to one of the leaders of the non-believers, Al-Nadhr Bin Al-Hareth, who argued about issues he was ignorant about, without any support from a book or guidance. He denied the Day of Resurrection, the Mission of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), and the Holy Quran as the word of God. He also claimed that the angels are God's daughters.

 

Moreover, whenever he was invited to the truth, he would arrogantly bend his neck away, so he did not want to hear it. He would insist on trying to lead people away from the path of Allah, and that is why he would be punished in the Hell Fire, in the Day of Judgment. 

 

Thus, the word "slaves" in Verse 22: 10 is used to describe Al-Nadhr Bin Al-Harith and people like him, as a derogatory expression of disdain and humiliation to them, as disbelievers.

  

***

 

   ۗ  ۚ ( 41: 45).

 

   ( 41: 46).


4. "And We gave Moussa (Moses) the Book but it was differed about. If a Word from your Lord had not preceded it, the matter would have been judged between them. They are still suspiciously in doubt about it" (Fussilat, 41: 45).

"Whoever does a righteous deed, it is (counted) for his soul; and whoever does an unrighteous deed, it is (counted) against it; and your Lord is not unjust to the slaves" (Fussilat, 41: 46).

 

The word "slaves" in Verse 41: 46 describes those who disputed what was revealed to Moussa (Moses), peace and blessings of God be upon him, without being sure of what they disputed. They deserve this derogatory description, "slaves," for their disbelief and for harming the Messenger of God, as they are slaves to their arrogance. Their punishment was delayed to the hereafter as a result of a precedent Word from God. Otherwise they would have been punished for that during their life on Earth.


***

  ٰ  ( 50: 27).

 

  ( 50: 28).

 

   ( 50: 29).

 

"His (devil) companion will say (in the Day of Judgment), "Our Lord, I did not make him transgress, but he  was in far astray" (Qaf, 50: 27).

 

"(Allah) will say, "Do not dispute before Me (because) I had already proffered (presented) you the warning" (Qaf, 50: 28).

 

"The word does not change before Me, and I am not unjust to the slaves" (Qaf, 50: 29).

 

The word "slaves" in Verse 50: 29 describes those who are misguided, following their desires away from the path of God, and who are also encouraged to transgress against themselves by listening to their devil companions. When, in the Day of Judgment, they accuse the devils of being responsible for their misguidance in this life, the devils will dispute it saying that they were already far away from the path of Allah. Then, both of them will be punished in the Hell Fire by Allah, who is never unjust to those who are "slaves" to their desires away from the path of God.

 

Choice or Predestination?

 

A fundamental question that many people have asked is whether we are predestined to do what we have been doing or we have the freedom to choose? The unequivocal answer from the mainstream Islamic perspective is that we are free to choose. Consequently, we are responsible for the choices we make. However, Muslims accept God's predestination (Qadaa and Qadar), which refers to God's foreknowledge and His intervention to help those who ask for His assistance.

 

Throughout the Holy Quran, God says that life on earth is a test for human beings. They will be rewarded by living an everlasting life in Paradise if they pass it, or they will be punished in the Hell Fire if they fail it. This means that human beings have a choice to do right or wrong. If they have no choice, then they may not be held accountable for their actions by God, the Just, the Merciful, and the Compassionate.

 

Predestination does not contradict with the above statement. It refers to God's foreknowledge of what choices are going to be made. In a famous Hadith, Prophet Muhammed (Peace and Blessing of Allah be upon him) said that when a person is in the womb, an angel will write his/her earnings, lifespan, deeds, and whether he/she will be happy or unhappy. This represents God's foreknowledge, not His intervention, as the fetus is still in the womb.

 

The evidence from the Holy Qur'an for choice is tremendous, as documented in the following examples.

 

First, throughout the Holy Qur'an, God commands and invites people to work and take initiatives in the pursuit of their benefits, which is an encouragement to make choices. He also invites them to call on Him, asking for changes in their life for better. He has promised to answer their sincere calls. So, there is a choice for people to call on Him or not, then there is a willingness and a promise on His own side to change their life for better. (Chapter 40, Verse 60; Chapter 7, Verse 55; Chapter 2, Verse 186; Chapter 27, Verse 62; Chapter 47, Verse 19; Chapter 14, Verse 41).

 

Second, in the Day of Judgment, people will be judged by their deeds, even as small as a dust particle, good or bad (Chapter 99, Verses 6-8; Chapter 95, Verse 6).

 

Third, the human soul is equipped with the ability to differentiate between good and evil. That is why life is a test for people to see whether they will do good or bad in this life. (Chapter 91, Verses 7-10; Chapter 90, Verse 10).

 

Fourth, people's deeds are written in two different numbered records: Sijin for wrong doers, and Eliyeen for good doers (Chapter 83, Verses 7-9, 18-20). Thus, people's deeds are recorded and will be the bases for judgment.

 

Examples of the Human Freedom of Choice

 

1. Gods trust in His human creation to be His caliphs, representing Him on Earth, was based on His knowledge of them as being capable to choose between right and wrong. Unlike angels, who are obedient to their Creator by creation (Al-Ta'hreem, 66: 6), humans have the characteristic of choice between obedience and disobedience, making their own decisions.

 

   ( 66: 6).

 

"They (the angels) do not disobey Allah in what He commands them, and do what they are commanded"  (Al-Tahreem, 66: 6).

 

Allah, praise to Him, wanted to enjoy seeing his human creation obey Him and observe His commands by choice. When He told His angels that He would make humans His caliphs on Earth, they were surprised because of their knowledge of human corruption and blood-shedding (violence). But Allah, praise to Him, answered them saying He knew what they did not know, as stated in Verse 2:30.

 

He knew that as some humans may choose to corrupt and shed blood, others will choose to obey His commands and do good to themselves, to others, and to their Planet.

 

Humans are born with this characteristic of being able to identify whats right and whats wrong. They are also born with the ability to choose which of the two paths they are going to follow. This freedom of choice is inherent, not learned. It is part of the original DNA software inscribed by the Creator and blown into the fetus in its mothers womb, as the verses tell us, as well as we are told by the above-mentioned, well-known, and strong Hadith by Prophet Muhammed, peace and blessings of God be upon him.

 

2. Verse 3: 76 states that the human being is guided to the path of choice, which will show if he or she will be grateful to the Creator who guided him or her, or a disbeliever who wont recognize this great blessing.

 

 

  ( 76: 3). 

 

"We guided him (the human being) to the path (of choice, to see if he chooses to be) either grateful or disbelieving"  (Al-Insan, 76: 3).

 

3. Verse 89: 10 is bluntly direct in stating that Allah has guided the human being to identify the two paths of right and wrong or good and evil. Then, He left it up to him or her to choose with free will which path to follow.

 

 

 

   (  89: 8-10). 

 

"Have We not made for him two eyes? 
And a tongue, and two lips? 
And guided him to the two paths (to choose from)?"  (Al-Balad, 89: 8-10).

4. Verse 91: 8 states that Allah, praise to Him, has inspired the human self to know the paths of disobedience and piety. He praised those who keep the self pure and warn those who corrupt it.

 

 

 

 

     ( 91: 7-10).

 

"By the (human) self, and how He fashioned it,

 by inspiring it to (to know the paths of) disobedience and piety.

 Truly, whoever keeps it pure will succeed,

 And whoever corrupts it will fail" (Al-Shams, 91: 7-10).

 
5. Verse 67: 2 states that life is a test.
 

    ( 67: 2).

 

"He Who created Death and Life to test you, (seeing) who amongst you is best in deed, and He is the Exalted, the Forgiving" (Al-Mulk, 67: 2).

 
Verses 17: 15 and 4: 165 state that accountability is conditioned on knowledge preached by the Messengers of God.
 

    ( 17: 15).

 

6. "We are not punishing (a group of people) until We send a Messenger (to warn them)" (Al-Issra, 17: 15).

 

   ( 4: 165).

7. "Messengers who gave good news as well as warning, in order for people not to have an argument on Allah after the Messengers, and Allah is Exalted, Wise"  (Al-Nissa, 4:165).

 

ٰ  ۚ  ۘ ( 17: 8).

 

8. "Your Lord may have mercy on you, but if you return (to your sins), We shall return (to Our punishments). And we have made Hell a container (prison) for the nonbelievers" (Al-Issra, 17: 8).

 


The Decisive Evidence


The Arabic word 'abd was mentioned in the Holy Quran five times as an independent word, meaning worshipper of Allah. It was mentioned in Surat Al-Nissa (4: 172), describing Eissa (Jesus), peace be upon him, in Al-Issra (17: 3), describing Nooh (Noah), peace be upon him, in Al-Kahf (18: 65), describing Al-Khidr, peace be upon him, in Maryam (19: 93), describing all creation on the Day of Judgment, and in Al-'Alaq (96: 10), describing a praying worshipper.

In one verse only, in Surat Al-Na'hl (16: 75), the word /'abd/ was used as a noun with the qualifying adjective /mamlook/, which means an "owned slave." Thus, whenever the word /'abd/ was mentioned in the Holy Quran, it meant a worshipper of Allah. When a reference to a "slave" is intended, then a qualifying word is used to ensure the meaning.

Verse 4: 172, is decisive in explaining the word " 'abd, " in 'abdullah, which means "Worshipper" of Allah, NOT "slave" of Allah, as the verse explains his actions as 'ibadah (worship). It should be enough in answering the question, about whether we are God's worshippers or slaves, once and forever.

 

   ( 4: 172).

 

"The Messiah does not disdain to be a worshipper of Allah, nor do the closest angels (to Allah). Whoever disdains His worship and is too arrogant (to worship Allah), He will gather all of them to Him"  (Al-Nissa, 4: 172).


Middle Ground in Choice and Predestination

The most renown Islamic scholar of our time, Shaikh Yousuf Al-Qaradawi, explains the relationship between choice and predestination using a middle-ground approach, Al-Wasatiya. His basic argument is the same used by this author. {4}

The relationship between choice and predestination has been a topic of discussion and research since the early years of Islam. The most commonly agreed upon view is that humans have freedom of choice over their actions during their life. However, Muslims accept God's predestination (Qadaa and Qadar), which refers to God's foreknowledge and His intervention to help those who ask for His assistance and punnish those who reject faith in Him. Humans neither know God's master plan nor His predestination, that is why they are commanded to do their best during their life, following His commands in order to pass the test and enjoy the reward of happiness in this life and in the hereafter.

Some groups, such as Al-Qadariya and Al-Jabriya, went astray from the Sunni majority in arguing for a total choice without God's influence or a total Divine influence, without choice for humans. Both arguments are extremes and have been rejected by the majority of Muslim scholars ever since they emerged, more than one thousand years ago.

Some proponents of Al-Qadariya wrongly argued that God, praise to Him, predestined and willed (qaddara wa Qadha) the good and the bad for humans, such as their sins, like infidelity and disobedience to Him.

Others went to the other extreme wrongly arguing that humans are capable of everything, and they are totally independent from God. Therefore, humans control their own destiny (qadar).

Al-Jabriya went extremely further than the first group of Al-Qadariya arguing wrongly that a human being is "forced" (majboor) to carry out God's predestined script, without any will of his/her own.

Both arguments represented views of the "self-Isolated" (Mu'atazila) groups, whose ultimate conclusion was that humans are not responsible for their actions. This contradicts with the essence of Islamic teachings, as expressed in the Holy Quran, which emphasize human choice and responsibility in this life, and consequently reward or punishment in the hereafter.

The Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him, addressed the issue, opting for choice and human initiative, which does not contradict with God's predestination (Qadar). One of his Companions asked him once: What do you think of medicine, dieting, and other means to deal with health and sickness? Are these going to change what God predestined?

In other words, the Companion, may Allah be pleased with him, was asking whether we should accept whatever happens to us, like sickness, and not try to do anything to treat it because it is God's predestination after all.

The Prophet's answer was: "These (means of dealing with sickness) are also God's predestination (Qadar)."

In a very well-known Hadith, the Prophet (pbbuh) urged believers to take initiatives and be strong in pursuing what benefits them in this life, while asking for God's assistance, which does not contradict with God's eternal knowledge and Qadar. He said:

"The strong believer is better and more beloved by Allah than the weak believer, with goodness in both. Be vigilant in pursuing what benefits you, ask for God's assistance, and do not be helpless (doing nothing). Do not (justify your helplessness by saying): If I do this, then something else may happen. This will open the door for the Shaitan (who would love for you to do nothing)." The Prophet, pbbuh, told the truth.

Another Companion, Abu Ubaida Bin Al-Jarrah, asked Caliph Omar, may Allah be pleased with both of them, about the issue of predestination and the answer was the same as given by the Prophet, pbbuh. The Caliph intended to travel to Bilad Al-Sham (now Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, and Jordan) with a group of the Companions. After they had actually left the Capital of the Islamic State, Medina, they received news that there was an epidemic spreading there.

In response to that news, Omar decided to go back to Medina. When he announced his decision, Abu Ubaida asked him: "O Prince of Believers! Are you running away from God's predestination (Qadarullah)?" Then Omar answered him promptly: "Yes, we run from God's predestination to God's predestination."

The famous Sufi Abdul Qader Al-Jilani had a very succinct treatment of the issue, which was related by Ibn Taymiya and Ibn Al-Qayyem in a book titled "Fetouh Al-Ghayb" (Openings of the Unseen), may Allah reward all of them. Al-Jilani said: "The real man does not surrender to the predestination. Rather, he struggles with the predestination by the predestination." {4}


Verses About Choice and God's Influence

The following verses of the Holy Quran show the relationship between the human freedom of choice and God's influence. A main theme here is that those who show willingness to be good, do good, ask for God's guidance, and seek for His assistance, will be guided, assisted, and rewarded by Him. However, those who show willingness to be bad, do wrong, believe that they are completely independent from God, and neither seek for His guidance nor for His assistance, will be misguided in this life and punished in the hereafter.   

   ( 11: 15).

 

1. "Whoever wants the lower life (this world) and its glitter, We shall allow them to complete their deeds in it without diminution" (Hood, 11: 15).

  

  ( 81: 28).

 

  ( 81: 29).

 

2. "To whoever among you who wills to go straight"  (Al-Takweer, 81: 28).

 

"And you do not will except what Allah wills, the Lord of the Worlds"  (Al-Takweer, 81: 29).

 

  ٰ ٰ ٰ ٰ ٰ ٰ ٰ

( 92: 5-10).

 

3. "As for whoever gives out (of his wealth for the sake of Allah) with piety, and believes in the goodness (promised in Paradise), We shall facilitate for him the way to ease (here and in the hereafter).

 
As for whoever is a miser and behaves with aversion (to Allah), and disbelieves in the goodness (promised in Paradise), We shall facilitate for him the way to hardship (here and in the hereafter)"  (Al-Lail, 92: 5-10).

 

  ﴿ 74: 55﴾.

 

   ۚ ٰ  ﴿ 74: 56﴾.

 

 
4. "Whoever wills, may heed (in remembrance)" (Al-Muddathir, 74: 55).

"But they will not heed except as Allah wills. He is the Lord of Piety and the Lord of Forgiveness" (Al-Muddathir, 74: 56).
 

  ( 4: 78).

 

5. "If some good befalls them, they say, "This is from Allah"; but if evil befalls them, they say, "This is from you" (O Prophet). Say (to them): "All (things are) from Allah." Why do these people barely understand a talk (an issue like this)?" (Al-Nisa, 4: 78).

 

 

   ۗ  ۖ ( 7: 28).

 

 

6. "When they commit lewdness (a big sin), they say: "We found our fathers doing so"; and "Allah commanded us to do it": Say: "Allah does not command committing lewdness. Do you say of Allah what you do not know?" (Al-A'araf, 7: 28).

 

 

Allah, Almighty, has told the truth.

 

***

Conclusion

Allah, praise to Him, has willed for humans to be free in making their choices, in their relationship with their physical and social environments, and in their relationship with Him. That is why He, praise to Him, has accepted the request of Iblis (Shaitan, devil) to give him a chance to prove that humans do not deserve God's trust in them to be His good caliphs on Earth. However, He promised to punish both the Shaitan and those humans who choose to follow him. 

God's acceptance of the Iblis request was on the basis of His knowledge that some humans are going to worship Him out of love, obedience, and choice. That is why He refers to them in the Holy Quran as His "worshippers," who are going to be rewarded by leading an everlasting life in Paradise. He also warned those who choose to disobey Him with punishment in the Hell Fire.

If Allah, praise to Him, has willed for humans to be forced "slaves," without freedom or choice, they would have been so. If this was His will, then these "slaves" would not be capable of disobedience or wrong doing, and consequently there would be no need for a Latter Day for reckoning and accountability.

 

Because Allah, the Creator, praise to Him, has willed that humans should have freedom of choice, then slavery is a form of great disobedience to His will. It is the highest form of abomination, as it deprives humans the freedom of choice that the Creator gave to them.

The Holy Quran refers to people generally, and to believers in particular, as "worshippers" ('ibad), or other forms of the adjective. Only five verses of the Holy Quran refer to people as "slaves" ('abeed), in plural form. However, all of them refer to those people who oppress themselves by rejecting God's messages to humanity. These are slaves to their arrogance, ignorance, pride, stubbornness, and misguidance.

 

The freedom of choice that God has given to humans during their life on Earth is taken away from them on the Day of Judgment. On that Day, a person will appear before his/her Creator as a helpless and powerless "slave," as stated in Verse 93, Chapter 19 (Surat Maryam):

 

ٰ  ( 19: 93).

"Everyone in the heavens and the Earth is going to come to the Beneficent (God) as a slave" (Maryam, 19: 93).

 

The Prophet, pbbuh, his Companions, and the overwhelming majority of Islamic scholars urged people to work and take initiatives in pursuing what benefits them in this life. They taught us that the human freedom of choice  and action does not contradict with God's foreknowledge and His intervention.

 

Finally, each one of the thirteen English translators of the Holy Quran did his best to convey the message of God to humanity, may Allah reward them for their efforts. However, it is clear that almost all of them, except Qaribullah, are far from being accurate in their translations of just one word.

 

The solution is a better and an institutionalized way to translate the Holy Quran from Arabic to English and other languages. This should be conducted by a Committee of Muslim Scholars, consisting of scholars of the Quran, Sunnah, as well as natural scientists, and social scientists. It's time to provide billions of people on Earth with the word of God, translated by experts from various sciences to replace the individual efforts of current translators, may Allah reward all of them.

 

This author is willing to coordinate the efforts towards the establishment of such a Committee and he welcomes correspondence on that matter.

  

Notes

 

{1}. A full list of the verses of the Holy Quran, which mention the verb of the worship ( 'abada ) and its derivatives can be found on pages 441-445 of the Holy Quran Index in Arabic by Muhammed Fuad Abdul Baqi. Cairo: Dar Al-Fikr. 1406 (1986). The Arabic Title of the index is: Al-Muajam Al-Mufahras Li Alfadh Al-Quran Al-Kareem.

 

{2}. The Holy Quran describes a category of non-believers as "oppressors" of themselves as well as others. Verses 7:44-45 explain this term as referring to those who block people from the path of Allah, twist the truth, and deny the Hereafter.

 

  ( 7: 44).

  ( 7: 45).

 

"The curse of Allah is on the oppressors" (Al-A'araf, 7: 44).

"Those who would block (people) from the path of Allah, and twist it (the truth), and deny the Hereafter" (Al-A'araf, 7: 45).

 

{3}. The three early prominent Islamic scholars, known for their interpretations of the Holy Quran, are Al-Tabari (Died in 310 Hijria about 922 Gregorian), Al-Qurtubi (Died in 671 Hijria, about 1272 Gregorian), and Bin Katheer (Died in 774 Hijria, about 1372 Gregorian). They employ their knowledge of Arabic as well as their comprehensive knowledge of the Holy Quran, using verses in one context to explain other verses in other contexts. Their most important contribution, though, is including explanations from the Hadith of the Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him, and from his companions, may Allah be pleased with them.

 

{4}. Shaikh Yousuf Al-Qaradawi addressed the topic of Qada and Qadar, which addresses choice and predestination in his weekly program, "Islamic Law and Life" (Al-Shari'a Wal Hayah), in Aljazeera TV. The entire Arabic program can be accessed at:

 

Al-Qadha Wal Qadar By Shaikh Yousuf Al-Qaradawi

 

and at:

 

 http://www.qaradawi.net/site/topics/article.asp?cu_no=2&item_no=32&version=1&template_id=105&%20parent_id=16


 {5} How the Quran description of the Messengers of God was translated by 13 translators, whose translations are published at www.tanzil.info.

  

The Arabic text of the Holy Quran describes each of the Messengers of God, in his relationship with God, as 'abd (), which should be translated into "worshipper," as Verse 4: 172 explains. However, the twelve translators gave different translations, ranging from worshipper to servant, to even slave, as shown in the following table. 

 

This applies to 'Issa Bin Maryam (Jesus, the Son of Mary) in Verse 4: 172,  Muhammed in 17:1, Nooh in 17: 3, Zakariya in 19: 2, Dawood (David) in 38: 17, Ayoob in 38: 41, peace and blessings of God be upon all of them.

 

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Table 11.1

Translation of the Word, 'abd (),  Describing Messengers of God

By 13 Translators of  www.tanzil.info *

 

Translators

 

'Issa (Jesus)

Verse 4: 172

Muhammed

Verse 17: 1

Nooh (Noah)

Verse 17: 3

Zakariya

Verse 19: 2

Dawood (David)

Verse 38: 17

Ayoob (Job)

Verse 38: 41

Ahmed Ali

votary

votary

votary

votary

votary

votary

Ahmed Khan

bondman

bondman

bondman

bondman

bondman

bondman

Arberry

servant

servant

servant

servant

servant

servant

Asad

servant

servant

servant

servant

servant

servant

Daryabadi

bondman

bondman

bondman

bondman

bondman

bondman

Hilali & Khan

slave

slave

slave

slave

slave

slave

Maududi

servant

servant

servant

servant

servant

servant

Picktall

slave

servant

servant

servant

bondman

bondman

Qaribullah

worshiper

worshiper

worshiper

worshiper

worshiper

worshiper

Sahih Inte'l

servant

servant

servant

servant

servant

servant

Sarwar

worshiper

servant

servant

servant

servant

servant

Shakir

servant

servant

servant

servant

servant

servant

Yusuf Ali

to serve

 & worship

servant

devotee

servant

servant

servant

 

 * In translating the word, 'ibadatihi (His worship) in Verse 4: 172, which is the Quran guidance in explaining the adjective 'abd as "worshiper," six of the translators understood the meaning and translated it correctly as "worship." These are Ahmed Khan, Hilali and Khan, Qaribullah, Sahih International, Sarwar, and Yusuf Ali. However, only two of them applied it to the singular adjective 'abd. Qaribullah translated it as "worshipper" in all of the six verses. Ahmed Ali also correctly translated it to the archaic word "votary," means "devout worshiper."

 

The other four translators who understood the word, 'ibadatihi and translated it correctly as "His worship" did not apply it to the singular adjective 'abd, thus lacking consistency. Ahmed Khan translated 'abd as "bondman," Hilali and Khan translated it as "slave," Sahih International translated it as "servant," so did Sarwar and Yusuf Ali.

 

Translators Arberry, Asad, and Maududi translated the word 'abd as "servant."  

 

While translators Ahmed Khan and Daryabadi translated the word 'abd as "bondman," Hilali and Khan's translation was "slave." 

 

 Picktall was inconsistent in his translations, as he used three different translations "slave, servant, and bondman" for the same word, 'abd. So was Yusuf Ali, who also used three different translations: "to worship, servant, and devotee."

 

 

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Table 11.2

Translation of the Word, 'ibad ( )

By 13 Translators of  www.tanzil.info *

 

Translators

 

Verse 2: 207

Verse 21: 26

Verse 25: 63

Verse 37: 40

Verse 43: 19

Verse 50: 11

Ahmed Ali

creatures

votaries

devotees

creatures

creatures

men

Ahmed Khan

bondmen

bondmen

bondmen

bondmen

bondmen

bondmen

Arberry

servants

servants

servants

servants

servants

servants

Asad

servants

servants

servants

servants

beings

men

Daryabadi

bondmen

bondmen

bondmen

bondmen

bondmen

bondmen

Hilali & Khan

slaves

slaves

slaves

slaves

slaves

slaves

Maududi

servants

servants

servants

servants

servants

servants

Picktall

bondmen

slaves

slaves

slaves

slaves

men

Qaribullah

worshipers

worshipers

worshipers

worshipers

worshipers

worshipers

Sahih Inte'l

servants

servants

servants

servants

servants

servants

Sarwar

worshipers

servants

servants

servants

servants

servants

Shakir

servants

servants

servants

servants

servants

servants

Yusuf Ali

devotees

servants

servants

servants

serve

servants

 

* In translating the word 'ibad ( ), in Table 11.2, the translators were generally consistent with their translations of the word 'abd (), in Table 11.1. They still mainly used the words "servants, bondmen, and slaves."

Ahmed Ali stands the most inconsistent among them, as he used four different translations for the same word, "creatures, votaries, devotees, and men." He was followed by Asad, using three different translations, "servants, beings, and men." Then, Picktall, who also used three different translations, "bondmen, slaves, and men."

 

Only Qaribullah was consistent in translating the word correctly as "worshipers," while Ahmed Ali and Yusuf Ali used the correct close translations, "votaries and devotees" but inconsistently. Sarwar used the correct translation "worshippers" only once.

 

The most remarkable observation is regarding Verse 43: 19, which describes the angels as 'ibadul Rahman, which should be translated as "worshipers of the Compassionate." The angels referred to in this Verse are translated as "creatures, bondmen, servants, beings, slaves, and once as worshipers."

 

 The strangest translation is "bondmen," which is used by Ahmed Khan and Daryabadi. How can angels be described as "men"? Hilali and Khan as well as Picktall translated it as "slaves," which is a derogatory and disdainful adjective (as mentioned by Bin Katheer). Angels are "honorable worshipers," as Allah praise to Him describes them in Verse 21: 26 of the Holy Quran.

 

====================================

 

* Dr. Hassan Ali El-Najjar has a Ph.D. in Sociology and a Masters degree in Cultural Anthropology from the University of Georgia, USA. He is also a native speaker of Arabic. He was born in Gaza, Palestine, in 1369 Hijriya, 1950 AD.

 

Opinions expressed in various sections are the sole responsibility of their authors and they may not represent Al-Jazeerah's.

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