“Do you command the people to do good and forget to do so yourselves…?” [al-Baqarah; 44]
“And while this Qur’anic text was meant to face the emergence of a reality that afflicted the Children of Israel, its essence is directed at the human race, in general, and to the men of religion, specifically. It is everlasting and comprehensive; not directed at one group of people in exclusion to another, or one generation in exclusion to another.
Verily, the grave blunders of the men of religion – when the religion becomes merely a trade or a product, without a stimulating belief behind it – is that they say with their tongues what is not in their hearts; they command the good and do not carry it out, and they call people to righteousness while ignoring it themselves, and they distort words from their intended meanings, and they interpret the clear-cut texts in order to serve their own whims and desires, and they produce a fatwa and an explanation that appears to go along with the apparent meaning of the text, yet it differs in its reality with the reality of the religion – all of this in order to satisfy the desires of those who possess wealth and authority, just as the Jewish rabbis used to do!
The call to piety and righteousness that is in contradiction to what is witnessed in the character and behavior of the caller is the deadly blunder that pours doubt into the souls – doubt not only in the caller himself, but in that to which he is calling to! It is what puts the hearts and thoughts of the people in a state of unease because they hear the most beautiful of words, yet see the ugliest of actions. As a result, they are gripped with confusion between the word and the action that they have just witnessed, and dropped from their souls is the torch that is lit by the correct belief, and blown out is the lamp in their hearts that is lit by faith, and they never return to putting their trust in religion after what they witnessed from the men of religion.
Verily, a word comes across as dead and lifeless no matter how reverberating and enthusiastic it may be if it does not come forth from a heart that believes in it. A person will not believe the truth that one speaks to him unless this speaker transforms himself into a living expression and personification of what he is saying. Once this takes place, the people will believe, and will put forth their trust, even if the words they hear do not contain glitter and glamor. This is because at this point, the words themselves draw their power from their being implemented and not from their eloquence; they draw their beauty from their truthfulness and not from their glitter.
At this point, it becomes a spurt of life, as it has gushed forth from something truly living.”
[‘Fi Dhilal al-Qur’an’; 1/68]