Quranic Reflection No. 511. Āyat 17:73 – The Danger of Fabrication
Wa-in kādū layaftinūnaka ‘anil-ladhī awahaynā ilayka liyaftariya ‘alayna ghayrahu wa-idhan lattakhadhūka khalīlā
They were about to beguile you from what Allah has revealed to you so that you may fabricate something other than that against Us, whereat they would have befriended you.
(Sūrat al-Isrā, No 17, Āyat 73)
This verse talks about the efforts of the polytheists to get the Prophet sallal-lāhu ‘alayhi wa-ālihi wasallam to incline towards them and accept some of their views. They wanted him to act on that for which there was no revelation. It would then be attributed to Allah ‘azza wajall as the Prophet (s) had said that all he did was based on revelation from Allah. Such fabrication was the goal of these opposers of Islam. If the Prophet (s) did what they asked of him, they would be pleased and would support him. There is psychological manipulation being attempted here; we will be your friend and support you if you follow some of our ideas.
The cause of revelation for this verse according to Tafsīr al-Mīzān is that the polytheists came to Prophet Muhammad sallal-lāhu ‘alayhi wa-ālihi wasallam and requested that he would not say anything against their idols. They also demanded that the slaves who had accepted Islam should be kept away from the Prophet (s) as they could not tolerate listening to the Prophet (s) while in the same group as their former slaves. Such differentiation of status would then be considered as coming from God and would just justify their racist attitude. They would then be on the Prophet’s side.
This verse does not state that the Prophet (s) was affected by their words or that he inclined towards them. This is what they tried to do. Such attempts would normally influence human nature. But the verse after this clearly shows that the Prophet (s) was protected by Allah subhānahu wata‘ālā from such effects: And had We not fortified you, certainly you might have inclined toward them a bit (Q17:74). This is very similar to the way Allah (swt) describes how He protected Prophet Yusuf (a): And certainly, she desired him, and he would have desired her, were it not that he had seen the manifest evidence of his Lord (Q12:24). These verses are proof that the Prophets did not do wrong. There was the possibility of it, but they were protected from it.
People who strive to hold on to the right principles and spread them to others can become vulnerable to opposition tactics. This is especially true when the oppositions put on a friendly facade and coaxes the other side to compromise and accept some of their views. It becomes a fabrication, a ‘fake’ religion that is a mix of true principles with false ideas. It is easy to incline towards the ideas of the opponents, especially when there is a potential that the truth – albeit tainted – will spread widely and bring in more followers. Or that it will deter opposition and, in some cases, prevent casualties. What must be borne in mind is that the truth must remain pure and unadulterated. There is no point in having a large following of a truth that has been sullied by a lot of untruths.
The secular world attempts to practice a terribly similar type of psychological manipulation on those who have faith. Attempts are made to include secular and non-Islamic views in religious practices, under the guise of becoming appealing to many. When believers succumb to these subtle demands, the opponents become ‘friends’ with them. They praise them and show support. Such dilution of faith is a heavy price to pay, one that has no place in the life of a true servant of Allah (swt) who submits to His orders as revealed by Him.
Let this verse remind you of the danger of inclining towards those who do not have faith and wish to make you dilute yours. They may make friendly overtures and show promise of support and friendship, but with religion there can never be any compromise. There is no place for fabrication in faith.
Sources: Shaykh Tabarsi, Tafsīr Majma’ul Bayān; Allāmah Muhammad Husayn Tabātabā’ī, Tafsīr al-Mīzān; Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (Ed.), Tafsīr-e Namūneh