BOOK REVIEW: FOUR KEY CONCEPTS FROM THE QURAN
Introduction to an author:
Maulana Syed Abu ‘Ala Maududi was one of the most prominent scholars of the twentieth century
(Mawdudi& Jan 2006). He was a prolific writer. Both Western and South Asian scholars regard him
as one of the most powerful Islamic ideologue of the twentieth century whose ideas and writings
influenced a large number of Islamic Movements in the Muslim World (Paracha, 2015). He was the
founder of Jamaat-e-Islami, the largest religiopolitical Islamic organization in South Asia. Tarik Jan,
the translator, and editor of the book being discussed writes: “Until his death on 22nd September,
1979, he wrote over 140 books and tracts on Islam, covering almost every aspect of its thought and
message” (Mawdudi & Jan 2006, pp. viii-ix). Considering the current situation the Muslim Ummah is
going through, Jan opines that “The need for translating Maududi’s works in English was never as
pressing as it is today” (Mawdudi & Jan 2006, p. ix).
Introduction to the book:
“The Four Terminologies of the Qur’an” was originally written in Urdu under the title of “Qur’an ki
Chaar Bunyadi Istilahein” (ی˨لظسایدای̱براچکنǫارق). It originally appeared as a series of articles in the
magazine “Tarjuman-ul-Qur’an”. Later on, this series of articles was compiled into the book form
(Mawdudi, 2000). The book consists of 4 chapters along with a preface. In the English edition of the
book, the introduction (Debacha) of Tafheem ul Quran has also been added to the book (Mawdudi &
Jan, 2006, pp. 1-30).
In this book, Maulana Maududi has tried to remove some of the misunderstandings that have
accumulated over the time in relation to the basic principles of Islam and the message of Quran. He has tried to bring out the true connotation of four basic Qur’anic terms i.e. Illah, Rabb, Deen and Ibadah by direct reference to the Arabic lexicon and the Qur’an. In explaining the meanings and the implications of these concepts, he has presented numerous examples from the previous nations as well as the pre-Islamic Arabia. Each of the terms is explained with reference to numerous verses from the Quran (Mawdudi, 2000, pp. 7-9).
Maulana Maududi’s motives behind writing this book:
Maulana Maududi, in the introduction of the book, has quoted a number of verses from Qurán to
acquaint the readers that the entire content of the Qur’an revolves around these four key terms. He
explains that a person who is oblivious and unaware of the true meaning of terms Illah , Rabb,
Ibadah and Deen, will not be able to grasp the real meaning of the Quran (Mawdudi, 2000, p. 9).
Maulana He opines that there is a wide-spread misunderstanding among the Ummah regarding the
meaning of these four terms. While explaining the reasons behind these misapprehensions, he
points out that early Muslims were aware of the real meaning of these four terms, but gradually the
meaning of these terms became limited (Mawdudi, 2000, p. 11). The gradual decline of interest and
proficiency in the Arabic language is another reason behind these misapprehensions as per Maulana
Maududi. The repercussion of these misunderstandings, according to Maulana Maududi, is that
three-fourth of the teachings of the Qur’an has become obscured for a vast population from the
ummah (Mawdudi, 2000, p. 14). It is accordingly inevitable to explain them in a proper and
Thus, the main motive of Maulana Maududi behind writing this book is to remove the commonly prevalent vague conceptions of these terms and the misunderstandings in the minds of people concerning these terms, so that the real spirit of the Qur’an becomes clear to the Ummah.
Overview of the contents:
Maulana Maududi starts his discussion by explaining the term Illah. After explaining at length the
literary meaning, it is implied by the author that the word Illah includes capacities (in their highest
form) to help others, to provide them protection, to provide them peace mysteriously; The Word
Illah also implies dominance, and power and authority to do all these things. Then, the author discusses
the view of pre-Islamic Arabia and the Qur’anic concept of Illah, and concludes that godhood and
authority are interconnected and both signify the same thing in its meaning as well as in its spirit. It
is emphasized that godhood includes monarchy and rulership and it is a necessary part of Tawheed
that it must be believed that no one other than Almighty Allah possesses the ultimate authority and
no one should be believed to have any share with Almighty Allah in this respect.
While explaining the literary meaning of Rabb, the author implies that this word connotes five
meanings i.e., one who fosters, one who supervises, one who occupies a central position, one who is
obeyed along with acknowledging his supremacy and master. Then, Maulana Maududi examines the
false notions which existed among the misguided tribes and people about Rabubiyah during pre-
Islamic times. After mentioning a number of Quranic verses, Maulana Maududi concludes that
Rabubiyah is exactly synonymous with sovereignty of Allah and He is the source of law and man can
only enforce His law on land being his vicegerent and man himself can’t frame any law or
constitution. Allah is the supreme authority and to Him belongs all power. He is the Absolute King of all the Universe and ruler of all the creations. It is by virtue of this attribute of Allah that He alone is worthy of worship and it is a necessary part of Tawheed that it must be believed that no one other than Almighty Allah is the sovereign power and supreme authority and no one should be believed to have any share with Almighty Allah in this respect.
Maulana Maududi concludes that Ibadah is used in three senses i.e., worship, bondage, and submission. Thus, Ibadah doesn’t consist merely of performing acts of prayer and worship, it includes acceptance of Allah as the supreme object of loyalty and commitment to obey and follow His command and to do His will. Essentially, Allah alone has the right to give a command, and to demand exclusive service and obedience from man. Thus, submission to man-made laws is blasphemy and Qur’an demands that Ibadah in whatever form it takes should be reserved for Allah and obedience to taghoot should be completely abandoned.
While explaining the Qur’anic usage of term Deen, Maulana Maududi concludes that Deen is a comprehensive term which consists of composite parts as retribution meted out by authority, an establishment of thought and action by the authority, obedience and sovereignty. He believes that Islam covers all aspects of life. Man is required to submit to Almighty Allah not only in places of worship but at all places and at all times. Thus, Deen should be exclusively for Allah with no share of it for any constitution or for man-made laws.
Maulana Maududi puts forth a fact that the terms Illah, Rabb, Ibadah and Deen categorically assert that all the power and authority vests exclusively in the hands of Almighty Allah. Everything that exists is subservient and submissive to him and nor does anyone have even the least share in His Sovereignty and Authority.
Maulana Maududi impresses upon us to accept that Allah is the Rabb, and the Ilah; No-one else
possesses the qualities and attributes implied by these terms; therefore, men should give their
‘ibadah to Him and Him alone; and one’s deen should be exclusively for Him with no share of it for
Criticism of the book:
This book has been criticized by Maulana Abul Hasan Ali Nadvi in his work ”Asr-e-Hazir mein Deen ki
Tafheem aur Tashreeh” (Nadvi, 1979). He criticized Maulana Maududi for his interpretation of these
four terms. He, while criticising, says that Maulana Maududi in his book ”The Four Terminologies of
the Qur’an” tries to claim that he himself is the only person who has understood the Qur’an in real
sense, in general, and these four terms, in particular; and the rest of the Ummah is ignorant about
the real meaning of the Qur’an.He says that there is no misunderstanding among the Ummah regarding the meaning of these terms He, while criticising,says that it is in contradiction to the reason that the meaning of these basic terms on which the basis of understanding and teaching of the fundamental concepts of the Qur’an relies are not properly comprehended by the whole Ummah including Scholars and Philosophers of Islam . He accuses Maulana Maududi of changing the meaning of these terms.
Also, Maulana Wahidudin Khan has criticized this book in his work ”T’aebeer ki Ghalti” (Khan, 1995).
In this book, Maulana Wahidudin Khan writes that Maulana Maududi is highly influenced by political
philosophy and all his literature revolves around his political thought. He criticized Maulana Maududi
for his book “The Four Terminologies of the Qur’an” on the ground that Maulana Maududi, while
explaining, these terms have his political thought in his mind and he has tried to interpret these terms
with that perspective. This book has been also criticized by Maulana Manzoor Naumani and Maulana Yousuf Ludhianvi.
There have also been counter arguments in the favor of this book. For example, Syed Hamid Ali’s
book “Qur’ani Istilahaat aur Ulma-e- Salf-o-Khalf” (published by MMI Publishers, New Delhi) explains
the key terminologies of the Qur’an, along with these four main terms, in the light of Arabic lexicon,
the Qur’an and the Hadith. Besides, he also discusses the interpretation of these terms as provided
by the Salf-e-Saliheen. Also, the act of vindicating this book was done by Dr. Ubaidullah Fahad Falahi
in his book “Ahay-e-Deen aur Hindustani Ullama” (ءملعناتسودنہروانیدےئایحا). He refutes the criticism of
Maulana Manzoor Naumani, Abul Hassan Ali Nadvi and Maulana Wahidudin Khan.Futher, the acts of vindicating this book have been done by Urooj Qadri in a book” Asr e Hazir mei Deen ki Tafheem o Tashreeh par ek Nazr” in which the author has refuted the criticism of Maulana Abul Hasan Nadvi .
I personally agree with the interpretation and understanding of Maulana Maududi as this is based entirely on the Qur’an and the Sunnah and the classical Arabic language. Besides, this interpretation is in conformity with the interpretation of Salf-e-Saliheen, as explained by various scholars. I would recommend this book to the serious readers and would suggest them to read the refutations and counter-refutations of the book with an open heart and mind.
*Juneefa has done M.A. Islamic Studies at Islamic University of Science and Technology,Awantipora, Jammu and Kashmir and can be mailed at email@example.com
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