Sura 1. Al-Fatiha – The Opening (Mecca)
“In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful. Praise be to Allah, the Cherisher and Sustainer of the worlds; Most Gracious, Most Merciful; Master of the Day of Judgement. Thee do we worship, and Thine aid we seek. Show us the straight way, The way of those on whom Thou hast bestowed Thy grace, those whose (portion) is not wrath, and who go not astray.”
The Al-Fatiha may have been a favourite sura in the early Muslim community. It is sometimes referred to as Ummu’l-Quran, (the mother or the essence of the Quran) and Sab ‘al Mathani (the oft repeated seven – having seven verses). It is probably referred to in Al-Hijr 15:87 which was given on a later occasion: “And We have bestowed upon thee the seven oft-repeated and the grand Quran.”
Unusual features: 1) It is at the beginning while other short suras are at the end; 2) This sura is in the form of a prayer rather than a statement. For if the Quran is the word of Allah would he say: “Thee do we worship, and Thine aid we seek?” (v 5). Would he ask for help?: “Show us the straight way” (v 6). To whom is Allah lifting up his prayers? After reading this passage one realises that these and the words of the Quran are nothing but Muhammad’s words; 3) An Amen is usually said at the conclusion of this sura.
Recitation of Sura at-Fatiha in every rak’ah of prayer is essential (Muslim Book 4, Number 780) and “Whoever does not recite Al-Fatiha in his prayer, his prayer is invalid.” (Bukhari Volume 1, Book 12, Number 723) It is considered to be the most superior sura in the Quran (Bukhari Volume 6, Book 60, Number 226).
Islamic Teaching: This sura is held in high esteem by all Muslims and is regarded as the essence of the whole Quran. The first word in Arabic is Al-Hamd, in praise of Allah. It states the attributes of Allah and man’s relationship and obligation towards Him.
Prayer: It teaches the high esteem of prayer in Islam. It is both earnest and devout and occurs in the daily salat ritual prayers. It is repeated over the sick as a means of healing and recited as an intercession for souls departed. Official prayer does not consist of a free and flowing dialogue with God the Father, of requests and intercessions, of thanksgiving and worship. Rather, it is a prescribed and strictly ordered liturgy for the worship of the great, distant, unknowable Allah. Basically, the angel prayed a prayer and Muhammad simply copied his words. According to Ibn Hisham (d. 834) ‘Life of Muhammad’ Muhammad’s orders on how and what he should pray were given as follows: ‘Gabriel came to him on the heights of Mecca and dug a hole for him with his heel in the side of the valley from which a spring of water gushed forth. Gabriel performed a ritual ablution, and Muhammad watched how he purified himself for prayer; then he followed his example. After this Gabriel prayed, and Muhammad repeated the words after him. When Gabriel had gone, Muhammad went to Khadija and showed her how one was to purify himself before prayer. Then he prayed as Gabriel had done in his presence and she repeated the words.’
The Merciful God: “In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful” v 1) The only reason men can be saved is because God is merciful. If God does, not, in His mercy, pardon our sins, we cannot escape hell. But how can God who is here described as ‘Master of the Day of Judgement’ (v 4) show mercy to us sinners? Suppose a man has commited murder, however merciful the judge may be he is unable to show mercy to him. He must judge according to the law. Though he may love mercy himself, he must condemn the murderer. We are all sinners, we sin every day. Who can reckon the number of our sins? Then how can God, one of whose name is Al-Adil, ‘the Just’ the ‘Master of the day of Judgement,’ who at the last day will judge all men according to their works be also ar-Rahim, the Merciful? The solution is found in the Injil. It is written there that the Lord Jesus Christ gave his life for sinners; by his death he made an atonement for sin, and by virtue of that atonement God can be merciful to sinners. Christ suffered the punishment sinners deserved.
Rejection of Judaism and Christianity: Islamic commentators claim that those against whom Allah is ‘angry’ are the Jews and those who have ‘erred’ are the Christians (v 7). Tradition related (At-Tirmidhi and Musnad Abu Dawud) through Adi bin Hatim “ I asked about the statement of Allah “those whose (portion) is not wrath“ (those who earned your anger), he replied they are the Jews and “and who go not astray” (those who have gone astray) the Christians.”
Sura 2 Al-Baqarah (The Cow) Mecca/Medina
Introduction: This is the longest chapter in the Quran. It throws light upon the changing policy of Muhammad after he had entered Medina. The rift with the Jews and their rejection of the Quran caused him to change the direction of the Qibla and abandon the Jewish fast in favour of the newly instituted Ramadan. Muhammad also accuses the Jews of corrupting the scriptures. In respect of the Pagans, divine approval is obtained for the retention of certain ancient ceremonies. At this early stage of residency in Medina open war with his own countrymen seemed unavoidable as his plunder of mercantile caravans continued. The great bulk of legislative material, of which only a few examples are given from this chapter, was also a subject which engrossed Muhammad and his followers attention at this time. This early Medinan sura is said to have been revealed in the second year of the Hijra (although certain parts seem to refer to the Meccan period.
The Title: It is called ‘The Cow’ because it contains an account of the sacrifice of a cow by Moses (v 67-73). “And remember Moses said to his people: “Allah commands that ye sacrifice a heifer…………. “He says: The heifer should be neither too old nor too young, but of middling age……………. They said: “Beseech on our behalf Thy Lord to make plain to us her colour. He said: “He says: A fawn-coloured heifer, pure and rich in tone, the admiration of beholders! They said …….. To us are all heifers alike: We wish indeed for guidance, if Allah wills. ………. They said: “Now hast thou brought the truth. Then they offered her in sacrifice, but not with good-will. Remember ye slew a man and fell into a dispute among yourselves as to the crime: But Allah was to bring forth what ye did hide. So We said: “Strike the (body) with a piece of the (heifer). Thus Allah bringeth the dead to life and showeth you His signs……. ” (v 67-73) ———- The Muslim sacrifice of this cow is based on the following legend. A Jew was killed by a relation of his, who hid the body at some distance. The friends of the slain man brought a charge against certain persons, but there was no proof. God then told Moses to offer a cow with certain marks. The body of the murdered man, when struck with a part of the dead cow, revived, and standing up named the murderer, and then fell down again. The true account is found in Deuteronomy 21:1-9. A variant account of this story can be found in Al-Tabari’s commentary on these verses.
The mystical letters “Alif-Lam-Mim”: Alif, Lam, Mim and other mystical letters occur at the beginning of six suras – 2; 3; 29; 30; 31 and 32. Other chapters of the Quran begin with certain mystical letters sura 20 has Taha; Sura 36 Yasin; Sura 38 Sa’d and Sura 50 Qaf. Some Muslims claim to know the meaning of these letters; others say there is no meaning; while others say that Allah alone knows what they mean. Muhammad never explained their meaning, therefore they are disputed. One European explanation is that they denote the first letter of the names of certain persons from whom the chapters were obtained.
Ascribing excellency to the Quran: “This is the book; in it is guidance sure, without doubt, to those who fear Allah; Who believe in the unseen, are steadfast in prayer, and spend out of what We have provided for them; And who believe in the revelation sent to thee, and sent before thy time, and (in their hearts) have the assurance of the hereafter”. (v 1-4)
The challenge to produce a chapter like the Quran: “And if ye are in doubt as to what We have revealed from time to time to Our servant, then produce a sura like thereunto; and call your witnesses or helpers (If there are any) besides Allah, if your (doubts) are true. But if ye cannot, and of a surety ye cannot, then fear the fire whose fuel is men and stones, – which is prepared for those who reject faith.” (v 23-24) ———— Sell says ‘The fact is that the claim is overstated, for the challenge was not to produce something equal to the Quran in rhetoric or poetry, but with regard to the subject matter, the unity of God, future retribution and so on. Now, from the nature of the case, the Qurraish could not do this. They could not produce a book showing, as the Quran did, the unity of God, for as pagans, they did not believe such a dogma ……. as no one could reproduce the individuality of Muhammad stamped upon his book, he could safely challenge anyone to produce its like.’ —————- In respect of the principles of rhetoric, Noldeke, who was one of the finest Arabic scholars, said ‘On the whole many parts of the Quran undoubtedly have considerable rhetoric power, even over an unbelieving reader, when the book is considered aesthetically, however, it is by no means a first-class performance ………… Indispensable links, both in expression and in the sequence of events, are often omitted, so that to understand these histories is sometimes far easier for us than for those who heard them first, because we know most of them from better sources ………… The connection of ideas is extremely loose, and even the syntax betrays great awkwardness.’ The Quran, then, instead of being a proof of Muhammad’s mission from God, is found to be the reverse.’
Angels, excepting Iblis, bow down to Adam: “And He taught Adam the names of all things; then He placed them before the angels, and said: “Tell me the names of these if ye are right.” They said: “Glory to Thee, of knowledge we have none, save what Thou Hast taught us: In truth it is Thou Who art perfect in knowledge and wisdom. He said: “O Adam! Tell them their names. When he had told them, Allah said: “Did I not tell you that I know the secrets of heaven and earth, and I know what ye reveal and what ye conceal? And behold, We said to the angels: “Bow down to Adam and they bowed down. Not so Iblis: he refused and was haughty: He was of those who reject faith” (v 31-34). ———- Islamic theologians found the subject of Allah’s command for the angels to worship Adam almost incomprehensible for they acknowledged, along with the Bible, that God alone is worthy of worship (Exodus 34:14). They therefore resort to saying that this kind of worship was a test for the angels to see to what extent their obedience would go or it was merely an act of respect rather than worship. This is just one of the Islamic legends which refer to Adam and can be found in Bukhari Volume 4, Book 55, Number 543 and Muslim Book 4, Number 1857.
Adam lived with his wife in Paradise: “We said: “O Adam! dwell thou and thy wife in the garden; and eat of the bountiful things therein as (where and when) ye will; but approach not this tree, or ye run into harm and transgression. Then did Satan make them slip from the (garden), and get them out of the state (of felicity) in which they had been. We said: “Get ye down, all (ye people), with enmity between yourselves. On earth will be your dwelling-place and your means of livelihood for a time. Then learnt Adam from his Lord words of inspiration, and his Lord turned towards him; for He is Oft-Returning, Most Merciful” (v 35-37). ——- Islam considers Adam to be the first prophet to whom was given ten portions of scripture. Tradition says that Adam and Eve were cast out of Paradise (the seventh heaven). Eve arrived at Arafat, Adam at Ceylon (Sarandib). Seeking his wife he travelled many years until he came to the Mountain of Mercy and when he arrived there he recognised and met his wife.
Jews accused of covering the truth with falsehood: “O Children of Israel! call to mind the favour which I bestowed upon you, and fulfil your covenant with Me as I fulfil My Covenant with you, and fear none but Me. And believe in what I reveal, confirming the revelation which is with you, and be not the first to reject faith therein, nor sell My signs for a small price; and fear Me, and Me alone. And cover not truth with falsehood, nor conceal the truth when ye know (what it is).” (v 40-42)
No atonement; no Saviour: “Then guard yourselves against a day when one soul shall not avail another nor shall intercession be accepted for her, nor shall compensation be taken from her, nor shall anyone be helped ” (v 48 c/f v 123) ————– Despite this verse, which denies any intercession is possible on the day of judgement, many Muslims think Muhammad will in the end intercede for them. The Quran suggests, and the Traditions confirm that Muhammad was a sinner and the Quran clearly states that one sinner cannot intercede for another. Jesus or Muhammad, on whom will you rely? Muhammad confessed himself a sinner and according to historians he was in twenty-seven battles and by his command his followers made thirty eight expeditions, chiefly for plunder. He caused the assassination of several persons; he ordered the execution in cold blood of seven hundred Jewish prisoners of the Quraiza tribe. Of what use would be the intercession of Muhammad? Jesus Christ came down from heaven not to destroy men’s lives but to save them. When one of his disciples wished to defend him from being seized by wicked men he said, ‘Put up thy sword into the sheath’. When dying on the cross he prayed for his murderers, ‘Father, forgive them; they know not what they do’. We need a holy, sinless intercessor and who is that intercessor? It is Jesus Christ.
The Law given to Moses as a guide – the Criterion: “And remember We gave Moses the Scripture and the Criterion (between right and wrong): There was a chance for you to be guided aright.” (v 53)
Israelites desire to see Allah plainly: “And remember ye said: “O Moses! We shall never believe in thee until we see Allah manifestly,” but ye were dazed with thunder and lighting even as ye looked on. Then We raised you up after your death” (v 53-57).——– The Bible tells us that the Israelites never asked to see God plainly; on the contrary, they asked Moses to speak to God and to allow them to stand at a distance, lest they die (Exodus 20:18-21). None of the Israelites were struck down by Allah and therefore needed to be resurrected.
Moses strikes rock: “And remember Moses prayed for water for his people; We said: “Strike the rock with thy staff.” Then gushed forth there from twelve springs. Each group knew its own place for water…………” (v 60 c/f Al-Araf 7:160) ——— Muhammad confused the twelve natural springs in Elim (Exodus 15:27) with the rock in Horeb. The biblical account of the striking of the rock at Horeb is considerably different and is supported by details of the places the Children of Israel journeyed to.
Eternity for Christians and Jews who follow their religion holds no fear: “Those who believe (in the Quran), and those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Christians and the Sabians, any who believe in Allah and the Last Day, and work righteousness, shall have their reward with their Lord; on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.” (v 62) ——————- During the Meccan period Muhammad looked on Christianity and Judaism as co-ordinate religions, the followers of which would find salvation and here, at this stage of his career in Medina, he still held to this view. Some hold that this passage has been abrogated by Al-Imran 3:85 ‘If anyone desires a religion other than Islam, never will it be accepted of him.’ The general opinion of the commentators is that the Sabians were a tribe whose religion was a mixture of Judaism and Christianity; they worshipped one God, (though some deny this), read the Psalms, prayed towards Mecca and worshipped angels.
Jews turned into apes: “And well ye knew those amongst you who transgressed in the matter of the Sabbath: We said to them: “Be ye apes, despised and rejected.” So We made it an example to their own time and to their posterity, and a lesson to those who fear Allah” (v 65, 66) ————– Islamic commentators claim that in David’s time the fish entered the Red Sea in great numbers on the night of the Sabbath, to tempt them. Some fell and David cursed the Sabbath-breakers and God transformed them into apes. They remained in this state for three days until they were destroyed by a wind which swept them all into the sea (Abul Fi’da 1273-1331 (Damascus scholar who became heavily involved in the Crusades) and Al-Qurtabi‘s commentary on this verse).
Hypocrisy of the Jews who had become Muslims: “Behold! when they meet the men of faith, they say: “We believe”: But when they meet each other in private, they say: “Shall you tell them what Allah hath revealed to you, that they may engage you in argument about it before your Lord?”………………… And there are among them illiterates, who know not the Book, but (see therein their own) desires, and they do nothing but conjecture. Then woe to those who write the Book with their own hands, and then say: “This is from Allah, to traffic with it for miserable price! Woe to them for what their hands do write, and for the gain they make thereby” (v 76-79). ————– One party of the Jews is represented as upbraiding the other for making known passages taken from the scriptures which Muhammad might use against them. Then the accusation is made that the Jews were concealing passages which were supposed to refer to Muhammad. No such corruption of the text occurred and no passages referring to Muhammad have ever been found. The Jewish and Christian scriptures were in the hands of millions, other than Jews throughout the Roman and Persian empires the accusation of tampering with the scriptures could not apply to them. Nowhere in the Quran are Christians accused of corrupting the scriptures – only the Jews.
Jews exhorted to believe their scriptures in their entirety: “Then is it only a part of the book that ye believe in, and do ye reject the rest?” (v 85b) ——– There were said to be quarrels between the two leading Jewish tribes, each claiming some scriptural authority for their actions. Muhammad rebukes them and exhorts them to obey the whole of their scriptures. This would include of course the references that he believed were written concerning him. This is a striking instance of the Quranic testimony to the authority of the Old Testament, whole and entire, as it then existed.
The divine mission of Moses and Jesus is acknowledged: “We gave Moses the Book and followed him up with a succession of messengers; We gave Jesus the son of Mary clear (signs) and strengthened him with the holy spirit.” (v 87) ——- In Islam, Gabriel is the Holy Spirit. Muhammad either knowingly rejected the divinity of the Holy Spirit, or confused Gabriel who announced the conception of Jesus with the Holy Spirit that overshadowed Mary. It is probable that Muhammad’s ideas of the Spirit were at first indefinite, but that the two expressions, Gabriel and the Holy Spirit, became ultimately synonymous.
Muhammad’s professed revelation from Gabriel: “Say: Whoever is an enemy to Gabriel for he brings down the (revelation) to thy heart by Allah’s will, a confirmation of what went before, and guidance and glad tidings for those who believe” (v 97) ———- Tradition is unanimous that Gabriel was the agent of revelation to Muhammad. Yet Gabriel is only mentioned two times in the Quran and both during the Medinan period. The association of Gabriel with the early revelations seems to be a later development of Muhammad’s interpretations.
The devils, Harut and Marut who taught men sorcery: “They followed what the evil ones gave out (falsely) against the power of Solomon: the blasphemers were, not Solomon, but the evil ones, teaching men magic, and such things as came down at Babylon to the angels Harut and Marut” (v 102). ———– The Muslim belief is that Allah selected Harut and Marut, two righteous angels to come to earth and judge the world justly. The most beautiful woman in Persia came to them for judgement and they fell in love with her. Because of their infatuation with her they worshipped her idols and when they desired to return back to heaven they were unable because their wings did not assist them. So, they went to Idris, the prophet and asked him to intercede on their behalf. He told them they could choose between the torture of the world or the torture of the Last Day. They chose the torture of the world and were condemned to hang in chains in a pit at Babylon, where they teach men magic. (Al-Qurtubi’s commentary on this verse).
The doctrine of abrogation: “None of Our revelations do We abrogate or cause to be forgotten, but We substitute something better or similar …….. ?” (v 106) ————– Both pagan Meccans and the Jews pointed out that some of Muhammad’s sayings were contradictory to former ones and so Muhammad responded with a new revelation indicating that because Allah is Almighty He can change or abolish His laws at His own discretion. —————— Jallalud-din says that the number of abrogated verses has been variously estimated from five to five hundred. He gives a list of twenty, which most commentators acknowledge to be abrogated. The abrogated verses refer only to the teaching of Muhammad himself, some Muslims try to make out that the Quran also abrogates the former scriptures. This is not the view of the great Imams and the commentators Baidawi, Jalalain, Jalalu’Din, Hussain and others.
Jews and Christians disagree yet they read the same scriptures: “The Jews say: “The Christians have naught (to stand) upon; and the Christians say: “The Jews have naught (to stand) upon.” Yet they (profess to) study the (same) Book…………..” (v 113) ———- When the Christians of Najran came to meet Muhammad, they were met by Jewish rabbis. The rabbis raised their voices and said “You follow nothing true” and in this way they disbelieved in Jesus and the Gospel. The Christians responded “You follow nothing true” and in this way they disbelieved Moses and the Torah (Ibn Kathir’s commentary on this verse). ———— We have not heard such a thing, that Christians disbelieve Moses, for John 5:46,47 tells us that Jesus fulfils what was written in the Torah.
The place of worship where Abraham stood: “Remember We made the house a place of assembly for men and a place of safety; and take ye the station of Abraham as a place of prayer; and We covenanted with Abraham and Isma’il, that they should sanctify My house for those who compass it round, or use it as a retreat, or bow, or prostrate themselves (therein in prayer).” (v 125) ——————- Shortly before this verse was ‘revealed’ Umar is said to have passed by Abraham’s shrine and said “O Apostle of Allah should we not stand in the place where Abraham worshipped?” Here the divine inspiration is not seen as the word of God coming from the eternal tablet but rather it is derived from the context of a question from one of his supporters…………………… Muslims claim that the place where Muslim leaders stand to pray is the place where Abraham stood when re-building the Ka’aba. They allege that Allah sent the wind Al-Sakina to clear the area surrounding the Ka’aba so that the original foundations could be uncovered (Ibn Kathir‘s commentary on these verses)…………………………………. The Bible teaches that Abraham moved neither to the Ka’aba nor even to Arabia. He left Ur of the Chaldees with his father, and they both lived in Haran and then he moved by stages via Shechem and Bethel into Canaan before going south-ward and down to Egypt. The places he visited on his return from Egypt can be discovered in Genesis 20-25, but no mention of the Arabian peninsula can be found.
Abraham an Imam to the nations: “And remember that Abraham was tried by his Lord with certain commands, which he fulfilled: He said: “I will make thee an Imam to the nations. He pleaded: “And also (Imams) from my offspring! He answered: “But My promise is not within the reach of evil-doers.” (v 124) ——————– The promise in Genesis 17 that Abraham was going to be the ‘father of many nations’ has been changed by Islam into ‘an Imam (leader) to the nations.’ The command to ‘walk before me and be perfect’ has been changed in the opinion of some Muslims to the practice of fitrah. This ancient practice of the prophets, before the time of Muhammad, was said to include circumcision, shaving the pubic hair, cutting the moustaches short, clipping the nails and removing the hair from under the armpits.
The Ka’aba said to be built by Abraham and Ishmael: “And remember Abraham and Isma’il raised the foundations of the House (with this prayer): “Our Lord! Accept (this service) from us: For Thou art the All-Hearing, the All-knowing” (v 127). —————— The Ka’aba is honoured by calling it the House. It is claimed that in the Ka’aba enclosure there is a footprint of Abraham on a stone. According to Bukhari Volume 2, Book 26, Number 671, pictures of Abraham and Ishmael were found inside the Ka’aba when Muhammad entered Mecca.
No distinction between the Quran and the Old and New Testaments: “Say ye: “We believe in Allah, and the revelation given to us, and to Abraham, Isma’il, Isaac, Jacob, and the tribes, and that given to Moses and Jesus, and that given to (all) prophets from their Lord: We make no difference between one and another of them ….. ” (v 136).
The Baptism of Allah: “(Our religion is) the Baptism of Allah: And who can baptize better than Allah?” (v 138) ——————- Muslims believe that those who enter Islam experience true regeneration. The commentators differ in their interpretations of the meaning of this verse. Some say the phrase ‘Baptism of Allah’ means the ‘religion of God,’ others say it means ‘circumcision’. Muslims claim that Christians have substituted baptism for the rite of circumcision while Muslims have retained that rite, claiming that it purifies the recipient. Muslims claim that Christians have no superior rites to those found in Islam.
The momentous change of the direction of the Qibla: “We see the turning of thy face (for guidance to the heavens): now shall We turn thee to a Qibla that shall please thee. Turn then thy face in the direction of the sacred mosque: Wherever ye are, turn your faces in that direction…………… ” (v 144). ———– While Muhammad retained his admiration for the genuineness and authenticity of the scriptures he had no further use for the Jews in Medina. He had failed to win them over, in the second year of the Hijrah, and animosity was increasing amongst them so he sought to please the Arabs and decided that the Ka’ba should be the place towards which prayer should be offered. He therefore removed the Jewish custom of turning towards Jerusalem as shown in the hadith Bukhari Volume 9, Book 91, Number 358.
Going round Safa and Marwa: “Behold! Safa and Marwa are among the symbols of Allah. So if those who visit the House in the season or at other times should compass them round, it is no sin in them.” (v 158). —————- Safa and Marwa were two mountains near Mecca, where in ancient times two idols (Asaf and Naila) were worshipped by the Arabs. When Islam came the idols were broken but Muslims refrained from visiting the mountains until Muhammad permitted it. This passage was intended to take away the scruples of going round these mountains, as the idolaters did. The custom of running between these two hills is still observed. The relevant hadith can be found in Bukhari Volume 2, Book 26, Number 710.
The Ramadan fast ordained: “Ramadhan is the (month) in which was sent down the Quran, as a guide to mankind, also clear (signs) for guidance and judgement (between right and wrong). So every one of you who is present (at his home) during that month should spend it in fasting, but if any one is ill, or on a journey, the prescribed period (should be made up) by days later……………………….. ” (v 185). ———————- Soon after his arrival at Medina, Muhammad observed the Jewish fast; but later he proclaimed the Ramadhan to be the ninth month of the Muslim year. In the later part of the month comes the Night of Power in which the Quran was said to have been brought down to the lowest heaven. The rewards of sins forgiven during the month of Ramadhan are shown various hadith such as Bukhari Volume 3, Book 31, Number 125 and Book 32, Number 227).
When the fast should begin and end: “……. eat and drink until the white thread becometh distinct to you from the black thread of the dawn. Then strictly observe the fast till nightfall” (v 187). ———————- Muhammad was an Arab, who had never travelled far beyond his native country, and was unaquainted with geography. While the Arabs might be able to fulfill the pilgrimage it was impractical when required of a world religion. Muhammad lived in a country where the days and nights are nearly equal all year round. During Ramadan Muslims are required to fast from the early dawn, when they can distinguish a white thread from a black one, till the same test in the evening. In countries to the far north, the sun does not set for some weeks, but seems to make only circles through the sky. It would be death to observe the Ramadan. The true religion should be able to be observed in every part of the world.
War for Islam: “Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you, but do not transgress limits; for Allah loveth not transgressors. And slay them wherever ye catch them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out; for tumult and oppression are worse than slaughter; but fight them not at the sacred mosque, unless they (first) fight you there; but if they fight you, slay them. Such is the reward of those who suppress faith” (v 190, 191). ——————– This is perhaps the first command to establish his religion by the sword. The following hadith shows how jihad is considered a good deed in Islam: “I asked Allah’s Apostle, “O Allah’s Apostle! What is the best deed? He replied, “To offer the prayers at their early stated fixed times. I asked, “What is next in goodness? He replied, “To be good and dutiful to your parents. I further asked, what is next in goodness? He replied, “To participate in Jihad in Allah’s Cause. I did not ask Allah’s Apostle any more and if I had asked him more, he would have told me more (Bukhari Volume 4, Book 52, Number 41).
Revelation allowing Muhammad to make war in the sacred months: “They ask thee concerning fighting in the prohibited month. Say: “Fighting therein is a grave (offence); but graver is it in the sight of Allah to prevent access to the path of Allah, to deny Him, to prevent access to the Sacred Mosque, and drive out its members.” (v 217) ——————– Muhammad had been personally engaged in booty-gaining expeditions but they made little impact on the Quarraish and failed to bring in much booty. The Arabs recognised the month of Rabu’l-Arab as one of the sacred months where from time immemorial peace amongst the warring tribes prevailed. In this month the Muslims attacked and plundered a caravan at Nakhla and took prisoners. The Quarraish objected to Muhammad saying he had desecrated the holy month by shedding blood, seizing goods and making captives in it. At first Muhammad denied that he had given any order to attack but as anxiety still remained in the hearts of his people he received this revelation condoning his actions. The violation of the sacred months however lost him no followers as their anxieties were quenched when they received four-fifths of the plunder.
Warfare encouraged by reference to the wars of Saul (Talut) and David: “Hast thou not turned thy vision to the chiefs of the Children of Israel after (the time of) Moses? they said to a prophet (that was) among them: “Appoint for us a king, that we may fight in the cause of Allah.” He said: “Is it not possible, if ye were commanded to fight, that ye will not fight?” They said: “How could we refuse to fight in the cause of Allah, seeing that we were turned out of our homes and our families? ……… When Talut set forth with the armies, he said: “Allah will test you at the stream: if any drinks of its water, He goes not with my army: Only those who taste not of it go with me: A mere sip out of the hand is excused, but they all drank of it, except a few. When they crossed the river, He and the faithful ones with him, they said: “This day We cannot cope with Goliath and his forces” but those who were convinced that they must meet Allah, said: “How oft, by Allah’s will, hath a small force vanquished a big one?…………….. By Allah’s will they routed them; and David slew Goliath.” (v 249-251) ———————— The time to prepare hearts and minds for war with their own countrymen was now unavoidable. To stimulate their zeal and courage examples were given from Jewish history. Muhammad’s lack of knowledge of the history is seen in his confusing Saul and Gideon together. However, Muhammad’s point was that Gideon overcame the Midianites with small numbers, likewise Muslims shall overcome the Quarraish.
Directions concerning the pilgrimage: “And complete the Hajj or ‘umra in the service of Allah. But if ye are prevented (from completing it), send an offering for sacrifice, such as ye may find, and do not shave your heads until the offering reaches the place of sacrifice. And if any of you is ill, or has an ailment in his scalp, (necessitating shaving), (he should) in compensation either fast, or feed the poor, or offer sacrifice; and when ye are in peaceful conditions (again), if any one wishes to continue the ‘umra on to the hajj, He must make an offering, such as he can afford, but if he cannot afford it, he should fast three days during the hajj and seven days on his return, Making ten days in all…………… ” (196-197) ———————— The pilgrimage to Mecca is obligatory to every Muslim once in his life if he is an adult, free, sane, healthy and has sufficient money to provide for his journey and support his family while he is away. The Hajj takes place in the month of Dhu’l Hajja the twelfth month of the Muslim calendar. A person who has completed the pilgrimage takes the title Hajji. The dyeing of the hair, beard or both with the reddish brown dye, henna, is a sign that a person has been on the Hajj. —————– From now on there was to be no more angry conversation on the pilgrimage for in the jahiliyya some used to stand on Mt. Arafat, while others on Mt. Muzdalifa. Some performed the hajj during the month of Dsu al-Qa’da, and others during the month of Dsu al-Hijja. Muhammad settled their disputes and advised particularly the people of Yemen to provide provision for themselves. A natural and logical response hardly a requirement here for divine revelation (see al-Qurtubi’s comments on this section).
Entrance into Islam must be whole-hearted with no compromises: “O ye who believe! Enter into Islam whole-heartedly; and follow not the footsteps of the evil one; for he is to you an avowed enemy……………….. But if any one, after Allah’s favour has come to him, substitutes (something else), Allah is strict in punishment.” (v 208-211) ————– Some of the converts from Judaism still desired to observe portions of the Jewish Law. Hussain says that Ibn Salam and his friends were converts to Islam but they wished to keep the laws of the Pentateuch. The above is a warning and a rebuke to them (Rev Canon Sell).
The use of wine and lots forbidden: “They ask thee concerning wine and gambling. Say: “In them is great sin, and some profit, for men; but the sin is greater than the profit” (v 219). ………………….. Under the heading ‘wine’ all sorts of strong drink should be included. Again this subject has been influenced by the doctrine of abrogation. In the early Meccan period along with water, milk and honey, wine, was regarded as a sign of God’s provision for Muslims (An-Nahl 16:67). Later there was a warning against wine but not an absolute ban (An-Nisa’ 4:43). The complete ban came in 10A.H.and is found in sura Al-Maidah 5:93, 94.
Laws about divorce: “Divorce must be pronounced twice and then (a woman) must be retained in honour or released in kindness. And it is not lawful for you that ye take from women aught of that which ye have given them; except (in the case) when both fear that they may not be able to keep within the limits (imposed by) Allah. And if ye fear that they may not be able to keep the limits of Allah, in that case it is no sin for either of them if the woman ransom herself………………. And if he hath divorced her (the third time), then she is not lawful unto him thereafter until she hath wedded another husband. Then if he (the other husband) divorces her it is no sin for both of them that they come together again if they consider that they are able to observe the limits of Allah………… When ye have divorced women, and they have reached their term, then retain them in kindness or release them in kindness. Retain them not to their hurt so that ye transgress (the limits). He who doeth that hath wronged his soul.” (v 229-231). ——————–
A Muslim may have four wives at a time. Sir William Muir says that “A Muslim wife is liable to be cast adrift without the assignment of a single reason or the notice of a single hour. While the husband possesses the power of divorce, absolute, immediate, unquestioned; no privilege of a corresponding nature has been reserved for the wife.” A man may divorce his wife twice and take her back at any time; but if he divorces her a third time he cannot take her back until she has become the wife of another man, and has been divorced by him. This is a grievous blot on Islamic law that is so dishonouring to women.
The Throne Verse – Ayat al-Kursi: “Allah! There is no god but He, the Living, the Self-subsisting, Eternal. No slumber can seize Him nor sleep. His are all things in the heavens and on earth. Who is there can intercede in His presence except as He permitteth? He knoweth what (appeareth to His creatures as) before or after or behind them. Nor shall they compass aught of His knowledge except as He willeth. His Throne doth extend over the heavens and the earth, and He feeleth no fatigue in guarding and preserving them for He is the Most High, the Supreme (in glory).” (v 255) ————– This verse is greatly admired by Muslims, some of whom wear it on their person or engrave it on a precious stone. If a person repeats it at night it is supposed that he will be kept in perfect safety as seen in Bukhari Volume 6, Book 61, Number 530.
Let there be no compulsion in religion: “Let there be no compulsion in religion” (v 256). —————– When Muhammad came to Medina he made an attempt to conciliate the Jews by teaching toleration. This verse is however more liberal in appearance than in fact, for it applied only to Jews, Christians and Parsees, and Sabians, on the understanding that they accepted the position of dhimmi status and paid the jaziyah or poll-tax. As regards to the pagan Arab tribes the verse is abrogated by Sura Al-Baqarrah 2:190. This verse does not teach religious liberty or establish freedom of thought; all that is gained from it is that certain classes may escape death by payment of a poll-tax and by abject submission to the terms of the established religion of the country.
Ezra’s Miracle: “Or (take) the similitude of one who passed by a hamlet, all in ruins to its roofs. He said: “Oh! how shall Allah bring it (ever) to life, after (this) its death?” but Allah caused him to die for a hundred years, then raised him up (again). He said: “How long didst thou tarry (thus)?” He said: (Perhaps) a day or part of a day.” He said: “Nay, thou hast tarried thus a hundred years; but look at thy food and thy drink; they show no signs of age; and look at thy donkey: And that We may make of thee a sign unto the people, Look further at the bones, how We bring them together and clothe them with flesh.” When this was shown clearly to him, he said: “I know that Allah hath power over all things.” (v 259) —————— The commentators say this refers to Ezra, who is said to have passed by the ruins of Jerusalem and to have doubted whether it could ever be rebuilt. God then performed this miracle causing him to die and remain in that condition for one hundred years. When God restored him to life he found a basket of figs and a cruse of wine uncorrupted but his ass was dead and only its bones remained. God raised the animal to life and it immediately began to bray.
Almsgiving and charity: “O ye who believe! Give of the good things which ye have earned, and of the fruits of the earth which We have produced for you ………..” (v 267); “Those who (in charity) spend of their goods by night and by day, in secret and in public, have their reward with their Lord ………….. ” (v 274); “Those who believe, and do deeds of righteousness, and establish regular prayers and regular charity, will have their reward with their Lord ………. ” (v 277). —————– Islam attaches great importance to almsgiving. The Khalifah ‘Umar is said to have said ‘prayer carries us half-way to God; fasting brings us to the door; and alms procures our admission.’ Compulsory charity, zakat (literally’ that which purifies’), is an annual levy of about 2 ½% of a persons disposable income. Payment of zakat is considered an expression of worship and is frequently mentioned along with prayer. It is allowed for alms to be given publicly although it is better if they are concealed. It may be said that by public giving others may be induced to give, but it can promote pride. Indiscriminate Muslim charity can have injurious effects encouraging the able-bodied to live a life of laziness by begging.
Sura 3. Al-‘Imran – The Family of Imran (Medina)
The Title: The title takes its name from the family of ‘Imran (who Muslims say was the father of Moses) and which includes all the prophets descended from ‘Imram such as Moses, Aaron, Zecharias, John and Jesus. The chapter takes its title from the following verse: “Behold! A woman of ‘Imran said: my Lord! I do dedicate unto Thee what is in my womb for Thy special service ” (v 35).
Allah is one: “Allah! There is no god but He, the Living, the Self-Subsisting, Eternal” ( v 2). ————– These words express half the Muslim’s creed.
Plain and obscure verses of the Quran: “He it is who has sent down to thee the Book: In it are verses basic or fundamental; they are the foundation of the Book: others are allegorical. But those in whose hearts is perversity follow the part thereof that is allegorical, seeking discord, and searching for its hidden meanings, but no one knows its hidden meanings except Allah…………… ” (v 7). ——————– The meaning of some verses in the Quran is evident; others are said to be hidden, figurative, ambiguous or intricate. The Arabic terms Muhkam and Mutashabih are very important as a ‘different reading’ led to a great theological dispute between the Mu’tazilas and the orthodox Muslims on the nature of the Quran.
The victory at Badr: “There has already been for you a sign in the two armies that met (in combat): One was fighting in the cause of Allah, the other resisting Allah; these saw with their own eyes twice their number…………………… ” (v 13) —— The ‘sign’ was the defeat of 1,000 Meccans by Muhammad with 319 men, in the valley of Badr. The battle is memorable as the occasion on which Muhammad first drew his sword in assertion of his claim as the commissioned apostle of the Most High God. The victory was alleged to be a sign of its truth; and Muhammad was received in triumph on his return to Medina.
Islam’s claim to be the true religion: “The religion before Allah is Islam: Nor did the People of the Book dissent there from except through envy of each other, after knowledge had come to them.” (v 19) ————- Muhammad here declares that neither Christianity nor Judaism are the true religion for they did not reject Islam until the Quran came and then they rejected it out of envy or for the desire to retain their own superiority.
Love to God: “Say: “If ye do love Allah, follow me: Allah will love you and forgive you your sins: For Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (v 31) ———- This is one of the few passages in the Quran in which love to God is expressed; usually fear is the chief feeling expressed. The chief theme in the Bible is God’s love. It shines forth from Genesis to Revelation and is said to have existed from all eternity e.g. ‘I have loved thee with an everlasting love: Therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn thee.’ (Jeremiah 31:3) The human heart craves a God who loves, a personal God who has close relationships with humanity. The passionate devotion to God expressed in Sufi poetry has often been seen as outright heresy.
The birth of Mary: “Behold! A woman of ‘Imran said: “O my Lord! I do dedicate unto Thee what is in my womb for Thy special service: So accept this of me: For Thou hearest and knowest all things.” When she was delivered, she said: “O my Lord! Behold! I am delivered of a female child!” and Allah knew best what she brought forth ” And no wise is the male like the female. I have named her Mary, and I commend her and her offspring to Thy protection from the Evil One, the rejected.” Right graciously did her Lord accept her: He made her grow in purity and beauty: To the care of Zakariya was she assigned. Every time that he entered (her) chamber to see her, He found her supplied with sustenance. He said: “O Mary! Whence (comes) this to you?” She said: “From Allah: for Allah provides sustenance to whom He pleases without measure.” (v 35-37) ——– The Quran relates that the child Maryam grew up in a chamber in the temple under the care of Zakariya. Muslim tradition relates that Maryam’s father had died and so her uncle Zakariya claimed authority over her. The temple leaders did not recognise this claim and so the matter was settled by throwing pens or arrows into a river; the only one that floated was that of Zakariya’s. Sura 3:44 refers to this: “Thou wast not with them when they cast lots with arrows, as to which of them should be charged with the care of Mary: Nor wast thou with them when they disputed (the point)”. Every time Zakariya entered Maryam’s compartment he found food provided for her in a miraculous way. The Protev, Jacobi chapter 8 Syrian text page 7 relates this Christian tradition.
The birth of Christ: “Behold! the angels said: “O Mary! Allah giveth thee glad tidings of a Word from Him: his name will be Christ Jesus, the son of Mary, held in honour in this world and the hereafter and of those nearest to Allah; “He shall speak to the people in childhood and in maturity. And he shall be of the righteous. “She said: “O my Lord! How shall I have a son when no man hath touched me?” He said: “Even so: Allah created what He willeth: When He hath decreed a plan, He but saith to it, ‘Be,’ and it is! “And Allah will teach him the Book and Wisdom, the Law and the Gospel, “And (appoint him) a messenger to the Children of Israel, (with this message): “‘I have come to you, with a sign from your Lord, in that I make for you out of clay, as it were, the figure of a bird, and breathe into it, and it becomes a bird by Allah’s leave: And I heal those born blind, and the lepers, and I quicken the dead, by Allah’s leave; and I declare to you what ye eat, and what ye store in your houses. Surely therein is a sign for you if ye did believe” (45-49). ——- Here are mentioned two incredible traditions (Christ speaking from the cradle and forming live birds out of clay) obtained from the eastern Christians which Muhammad accepted as true. An account of these legends were derived from the Apocryphal Gospels.
The stratagem of Allah – taking Jesus into heaven: “And (the unbelievers) plotted and planned, and Allah too planned, and the best of planners is Allah Behold! Allah said: “O Jesus! I will take thee and raise thee to Myself and clear thee (of the falsehoods) of those who blaspheme; I will make those who follow thee superior to those who reject faith, to the Day of Resurrection: Then shall ye all return unto me, and I will judge between you of the matters wherein ye dispute.” (Al-Imran 3:54, 55) ——– The taking of Jesus to heaven without death is consistent with the spurious gospel of Barnabas. Al Beidawi however, is of the opinion that Jesus died but was restored to life after some hours and then taken to heaven. Certainly, at times the Quran postulates the death of Jesus while at other times it denies it.
The Similarity of Adam and Jesus: “The similitude of Jesus before Allah is as that of Adam; He created him from dust, then said to him: “Be”……….. If any one disputes in this matter with thee, now after (full) knowledge Hath come to thee, say: “Come! let us gather together, our sons and your sons, our women and your women, ourselves and yourselves: Then let us earnestly pray, and invoke the curse of Allah on those who lie!” (v 59-61) ————————Following the submission of the majority of the Arab pagan tribes Muhammad turned his attention to various Christian tribes. John, the Christian Prince of Ailah, made a treaty with the prophet and agreed to pay an annual tribute. These verses relate to the embassy of the Christians of Najran, under the leadership of Abu Haritha. They refused to accept Muhammad’s understanding of Christ not being divine and his further proposal of imprecation ‘Come let us curse each other and lay the curse of Allah on those that lie.’ They did however, agree to pay the jizya tax which was imposed on all none Muslims. The Bible is clear, the difference between Adam and Jesus is immense, Adam was made out of dust, so he is of the earth, Christ is the eternal word of God and came from heaven.
Desire nothing but Islam: “If anyone desires a religion other than Islam never will it be accepted of him; and in the hereafter he will be in the ranks of those who have lost” (v 85). ———————– The universally accepted Muslim commentator Baidawi says that this verse ‘abrogates all past religions and all which may arise in the future’ (Tafsir volume 1, page 164). In this way conservative Muslims excuse themselves from paying attention to the previous scriptures which the Quran magnifies.
The Ka’ba founded and the duty of pilgrimage: “The first House (of worship) appointed for men was that at Bakka: full of blessing and of guidance for all kinds of beings: In it are signs manifest; (for example), the Station of Abraham; whoever enters it attains security; Pilgrimage thereto is a duty men owe to Allah, those who can afford the journey ……… ” (96-97). ——————- Bakka according to Muslims means ‘place of crowding’ i.e. Mecca. This verse along with others are woven into the Kiswah or covering of the Ka’aba, which is renewed annually. Those who have enough money to go to Mecca, but cannot go themselves, should hire others to go in their place.
Hearts joined in love: “and remember with gratitude Allah’s favour on you; for ye were enemies and He joined your hearts in love, so that by His grace, ye became brethren; and ye were on the brink of the pit of Fire, and He saved you from it………. ” (Al-Imran 3:98-103) ———– Muslims believe that one of the miracles of Islam is the uniting of the hearts of the Arabs. The Aus and Khazraj were 120 years before descendents of two brothers but became enemies. Muhammad was able to reconcile the two tribes together despite a faction of Jews who were trying to rekindle the old hatred. ———————– The depth of the joining of the Arab ‘hearts in love’ may be questioned as one reads Islamic history. During the early period of Islam there was no bringing together of hearts, for an environment was created which was rife with wars, deception, and treachery, where enmity and old grudges remained.
Muslims not to make friends with unbelievers: “O ye who believe! Take not into your intimacy those outside your ranks: They will not fail to corrupt you. They only desire your ruin: rank hatred has already appeared from their mouths: What their hearts conceal is far worse” (v 118).
The battle of Uhud: “Remember that morning Thou didst leave Thy household to post the faithful at their stations for battle ………. Remember two of your parties meditated cowardice; but Allah was their protector ………. Allah had helped you at Badr, when ye were a contemptible little force; then fear Allah; thus may ye show your gratitude Remember thou saidst to the faithful: “Is it not enough for you that Allah should help you with three thousand angels sent down? “Yea, if ye remain firm, and act aright, even if the enemy should rush here on you in hot haste, your Lord would help you with five thousand angels making a terrific onslaught” (121-125 c/f v 144,145). ———— At the battle of Uhud, Muhammad was defeated, and lost two teeth by a shot from an arrow, and seventy of his men were killed. Muhammad comforts his followers with the hope that Allah would assist them with 5,000 angels. ———————— Baidawi says that during the battle of Uhud, Mus’ab ibn ‘Umair, the Prophet’s standard-bearer, was killed by Ibn Qami’a. Thinking that he had killed Muhammad “If he died or were slain, will ye then turn back on your heels?, (v 144,) Qami’a shouted out, ‘I have slain Muhammad.’ When Muhammad fell to the ground wounded the believers cried out ‘What if Muhammad is dead! The Lord dieth not and verily His apostle hath finished his work. Fight on for your faith.’ The response of the Hypocrites (the Munafiqun) was to go back to their homes.’ On the actual occasion of Muhammad’s death many believers could not believe it and it is said that Abu Bakr quoted these verses in order to convince ’Umar and the others that the Prophet was really dead.`
The battle of Uhud – Contemplation after the defeat: “Allah did indeed fulfil His promise to you when ye with His permission were about to annihilate your enemy, until ye flinched and fell to disputing about the order, and disobeyed it after He brought you in sight (of the booty) which ye covet……………….. Behold! ye were climbing up the high ground, without even casting a side glance at any one, and the Messenger in your rear was calling you back. There did Allah give you one distress after another by way of requital, to teach you not to grieve for (the booty) that had escaped you and for (the ill) that had befallen you.” (v 152, 153)
——– The victory at Badr had been the occasion of assurance that the divine favour was with the Muslims but what now of this defeat? The Jews derided Muhammad saying that no true prophet would loose his dignity in defeat on the battle-field while his own followers looked to Muhammad for assurances. Muhammad skilfully produced a revelation removing these objections. The defeat at Uhud was partly due to internal dissensions and partly due to disobedience to orders as well as their desire for booty and personal safety.
The battle of Uhud – the martyrs: “Think not of those who are slain in Allah’s way as dead. Nay, they live, finding their sustenance in the presence of their Lord; They rejoice in the bounty provided by Allah: And with regard to those left behind, who have not yet joined them, the (martyrs) glory in the fact that on them is no fear, nor have they (cause to) grieve” (169-170). ———————- The Prophet is reported to have said ‘When believers were martyrs at Uhud the Most High put their souls into the bodies of green birds which eat and drink of the fruits and rivers of Paradise.’ (Tirmidhi) Baidawi (volume 1 p.184) says that ‘Some refer to those slain at Badr, others to those killed at Uhud.
Jews demand a prophetic sign: “They (also) said: “Allah took our promise not to believe in an messenger unless He showed us a sacrifice consumed by fire (from heaven).” Say: “There came to you messengers before me, with clear signs and even with what ye ask for: why then did ye slay them, if ye speak the truth?” Then if they reject thee, so were rejected messengers before thee, who came with clear signs, books of dark prophecies, and the book of enlightenment.” (v 183, 184) ——————— Not only were the Jews offensive to Muhammad because they refused to accept his ‘divine mission’ but also because they refused to provide money to the Muslim community. Baidawi says verse 181 “God is poor and we are rich” arose because Abu Bakr asked a Jew for a loan, saying ‘Who will lend God a good loan?’ The Jew replied ’if God wants a loan, then He must be poor.’ Abu Bakr then hit the Jew and went off to complain to the Prophet. Then these words were given in response along with the reward of their ultimate destination. ———————– It was not only the pagans who asked Muhammad to perform a sign but the Jews also. The Jews in Muhammad’s time believed that the fire that descended on the altar of the Tabernacle (Leviticus 9:24) and that later descended on the altar at the dedication of Solomon’s Temple (2 Chronicles 7:1) was constantly kept alive until the Babylonians destroyed the Temple. They seemed to expect a true prophet would rekindle the fire.
People of the Book who believe in Allah: “And there are, certainly, among the People of the Book, those who believe in Allah, in the revelation to you, and in the revelation to them, bowing in humility to Allah: They will not sell the signs of Allah for a miserable gain! For them is a reward with their Lord, and Allah is swift in account.” (v 199) ————————- Jabir b. Abdullah, Anas, Ibn Abbas and Qatada said that this verse was inspired when Gabriel announced the death of the Negus, the Abysinnian leader who had provided sanctuary for Muslim refugees to Muhammad. He told his followers to get up and pray for a brother who has died in another land then Muhammad prayed “Allahu Akbar four times and asked forgiveness for the Negus. Startled that he was praying for a Christian Abyssinian infidel his followers questioned their prophet who replied: “And there are, certainly, among the People of the Book, those who believe in Allah.” (see also Al-Qurtubi’s commentary on this verse).
4. Sura An-Nisa’ – Women (Medina)
The Title: An-Nisa’ ‘Women’ is on account of the many laws relating to them. These instructions were given to the Muslims after the defeat of Uhud. Questions arose about inheritance, the treatment of widows and orphans, marriage and other matters. The sura is said to have been given at Medina three or four years after the Hijrah.
Duty to orphans: “To orphans restore their property (when they reach their age), nor substitute worthless things for good ones; and devour not their substance with your own. For this is indeed a great sin” (v 2). The context for this verse is found in Bukhari Volume 6, Book 60, Number 97.
Four wives allowed: “If ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly with the orphans, marry women of your choice, two or three or four; but if ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly, then only one, or (a captive) that your right hands possess, that will be more suitable, to prevent you from doing injustice. And give the women their dower as a free gift; but if they, of their own good pleasure, remit any part of it to you, take it and enjoy it with right good cheer.” (v 3, 4).
—————————– Some have argued that since it is impossible to maintain equality amongst one’s wives then, marrying more than one wife is not permissible. The Quran also recognises this: “Ye are never able to be fair and just as between women, even if it is your ardent desire” (v 129). The majority of commentators believe that the number should be limited to four because of the reported hadith At-Tafsir al-Kabir, which commented on this verse saying that a man had ten wives but when he became a Muslim Muhammad said to him: ‘Keep four, and leave the rest.’ Ghazalli, the great Muslim scholar, says: ‘Some men have such a compelling sexual desire that one woman is not sufficient to protect them (from adultery). Such men therefore preferably marry more than one woman and may have up to four wives. (Ihy’a ‘Uloum)
——————— Islam puts great emphasis on the marriage state “ Ibn ‘Abbas asked me, Are you married? I replied, No. He said, Marry, for the best person of this (Muslim) nation (i.e., Muhammad) of all other Muslims, had the largest number of wives. (Bukhari Volume 7, Book 62, Number 7).
Rules about inheritance: “Allah directs you as regards your children’s (inheritance): to the male, a portion equal to that of two females: if only daughters, two or more, their share is two-thirds of the inheritance; if only one, her share is a half. For parents, a sixth share of the inheritance to each, if the deceased left children; if no children, and the parents are the (only) heirs, the mother has a third; if the deceased left brothers (or sisters) the mother has a sixth” (v 11). ———————– The context of this verse is found in Bukhari Volume 6, Book 60, Number 101 and another relevant hadith on this subject is Bukhari Volume 6, Book 60, Number 102. ———————- A female inherits only half of a male’s portion. The same concept is applied to the brothers and sisters of a deceased person in a later verse: “if there are brothers and sisters, the male having twice the share of the female” (v 176). There is no room in Islam for the idea that a woman’s portion of an inheritance be equivalent to the man’s portion; the prohibitory reason is one of decisive Islamic law”.
Punishment for an adulteress: “If any of your women are guilty of lewdness, Take the evidence of four witnesses from amongst you against them; and if they testify, confine them to houses until death do claim them, or Allah ordain for them some (other) way” (v 15). ——————- The Islamic law is almost identical to the law of the Jews (Deuteronomy 23:22, Leviticus 19:22) but the Mosaic penalty applied to betrothed women as well as to married women.
Forbidden degrees in marriage: “Prohibited to you (for marriage) are: your mothers, daughters, sisters; father’s sisters, mother’s sisters; brother’s daughters, sister’s daughters; foster-mothers (who gave you suck), foster-sisters; your wives’ mothers; your step-daughters under your guardianship, born of your wives to whom ye have gone in, no prohibition if ye have not gone in; (those who have been) wives of your sons proceeding from your loins; and two sisters in wedlock at one and the same time, except for what is past; for Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful; Also (prohibited are) women already married, except those whom your right hands possess ………….. ” (v 23, 24). ————————— These prohibitions were adapted from the Jewish laws. Muhammad did not consider himself bound by a part of these verses.
Consequences of disloyal or disobedient wives: “Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has given the one more than the other, and because they support them from their means. Therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient, and guard in (the husband’s) absence what Allah would have them guard. As to those women on whose part ye fear disloyalty and ill-conduct, admonish them, refuse to share their beds, beat them; but if they return to obedience, seek not against them means ….. ” (v 34).
———————— Disobedient wives may be a) rebuked, b) removed to different apartments, c) beaten. Some translators like Yusuf Ali state that the beating was to be light while others like Pickthal and Rodwell translate the word ‘edrebouhon’ as ‘scourge them.’ Muhammad limited the number of strokes with which it was lawful to punish a slave, but seems to have left the punishment of a wife to the husband’s discretion c/f Bukhari Volume 7, Book 62, Number 132, which seems to have been given to restrain the excesses of some Muslim men.
Reconciliation of man and wife: “If ye fear a breach between them twain, appoint (two) arbiters, one from his family and the other from hers; if they wish for peace, Allah will cause their reconciliation …………….. ” (v 35). —————————– This arrangement was intended to prevent divorce. If the action in the above verse proved unsuccessful, arbitration might be tried.
Terms of peace between a husband and his wife: “If a wife fears cruelty or desertion on her husband’s part, there is no blame on them if they arrange an amicable settlement between themselves; and such settlement is best; even though men’s souls are swayed by greed………. ” (v 128). ——————— The man has the right to desert his wife if he fears rebellion in her but the wife has no such right. This verse however, encourages diplomacy. This verse was said to be revealed when Muhammad wanted to divorce his wife Sauda because she had grown old (Muslim Talaq 35,45; Abu Daud Talaq 39; al-Muwatta Talaq 57); here was an amicable arrangement. For other appropriate hadiths c/f Bukhari Volume 3, Book 49, Number 859, Volume 7, Book 62, Number 134 and Volume 6, Book 60, Number 125.
No friendship with unbelievers: “Yea, to those who take for friends’ unbelievers rather than believers: is it honour they seek among them? Nay, all honour is with Allah” (v 139); “O ye who believe! Take not for friends’ unbelievers rather than believers” (v 144)
Requirement to receive the whole message: “Those who deny Allah and His messengers, and wish to separate Allah from His messengers, saying: We believe in some but reject others: And wish to take a course midway, They are in truth unbelievers; and we have prepared for unbelievers a humiliating punishment ………………. ” (v 150-152). ———————– The Quran, once again supporting a high view of the former scriptures, condemns those who only partially accept the scriptures.
Jesus not crucified: “That they said, We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the messenger of Allah; but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not: Nay, Allah raised him up unto Himself; and Allah is exalted in power, wise” (v 157-158).
————————— The phrase ‘We killed Christ Jesus’, sounds strange – the Jews would not have killed Christ – the Messiah! The Muslim belief is that Jesus did not actually die, but that God took Him away and another resembling Him was crucified. The Jewish prophets like Isaiah and Daniel foretold the death of Christ and he himself often said that he would die. Jewish, secular and Christian histories attest to the fact of his death, yet over 600 years later the Quran denied it.
The Psalms (Zabur) given to David: “ ………. and to David We gave the Psalms” (v 163). ———————The accounts of David in the Quran are very meagre. Twice it is mentioned that ‘he was given the Zabur’ – here and in Al-Isra 17:55 but the title ‘zabur’ is found elsewhere.
Christians reproved for their beliefs: “O People of the Book! Commit no excesses in your religion: nor say of Allah aught but the truth. Christ Jesus the son of Mary was a messenger of Allah, and His Word, which He bestowed on Mary, and a spirit proceeding from Him: so believe in Allah and His messengers. Say not Trinity: desist: it will be better for you: for Allah is one Allah: Glory be to Him: (far exalted is He) above having a son…………” (v 171). ———————– Some supposed the ‘three gods’ to be God, Jesus and Mary rather than the Trinity consisting of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Whenever the Quran refers to Christianity, it is generally to inveigh against the idea that God has a son.
Sura 5 Al-Maidah – (The Table spread with Food) (Medina)
The Title: The chapter takes its title from a strange story found in verse 112, where the disciples of Jesus asked their master to send them down food from heaven on a table. Their request was granted. “Behold! the disciples, said: “O Jesus the son of Mary! can thy Lord send down to us a table set from heaven?” Said Jesus: “Fear Allah, if ye have faith” They said: “We only wish to eat thereof and satisfy our hearts, and to know that thou hast indeed told us the truth; and that we ourselves may be witnesses to the miracle.” Said Jesus the son of Mary: “O Allah our Lord! Send us from heaven a table set, that there may be for us for the first and the last of us a solemn festival and a sign from thee; and provide for our sustenance, for thou art the best sustainer.” Allah said: “I will send it down unto you ……………………………….” (v 112-115)
——————- These verses seem to have arisen out of an imperfect understanding of Christ’s last supper with his disciples and the institution of the Eucharist. Some Muslim writers believe the whole incident was meant to be parabolic.
The Perfected Religion: “This day have I perfected your religion for you, completed My favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion” (v 3) ——————— Muhammad in the tenth month of the Hijra performed the ‘Greater Pilgrimage’ on one of those days he went to the top of Mount ‘Arafat and spoke these words. ‘I have explained to you the laws regarding things lawful and unlawful, and the positive and negative precepts.’ While this context truly refers to the completion of Muhammad’s legal requirements for Muslims, modern commentators suggest the text means that Islam is the most perfect religion. It is admitted that when Islam came to a pagan race it did some good, for example, it put away infanticide, cannibalism, human sacrifice and fetish worship but the perfections of Islam are often over-rated.
Forbidden and lawful food: “Forbidden to you are: dead meat, blood, the flesh of swine, and that on which hath been invoked the name of other than Allah; that which hath been killed by strangling, or by a violent blow, or by a headlong fall, or by being gored to death; that which hath been (partly) eaten by a wild animal; unless ye are able to slaughter it (in due form) ……………………….. but pronounce the name of Allah over it: and fear Allah; for Allah is swift in taking account” (v 3, 4) ——————- The Quran permits most foods, including fish and game caught by hunting dogs. It forbids only carrion, blood, pork and animals which have been beaten or strangled or which have been slaughtered in the name of any but Allah c/f Bukhari Volume 9, Book 93, Number 495.
The food of Jews and Christians might be eaten: “This day are (all) things good and pure made lawful unto you. The food of the People of the Book is lawful unto you and yours is lawful unto them” (v 5). ———————— According to this verse Muslims are permitted to eat the food and meat prepared by Christians however, in this same sura below we find that only halal food can be eaten: “Eat not of (meats) on which Allah’s name hath not been pronounced: That would be impiety” (v 121)
Permission to marry women of the People of the Book: “(Lawful unto you in marriage) are (not only) chaste women who are believers, but chaste women among the People of the Book, revealed before your time, when ye give them their due dowers, and desire chastity, not lewdness, nor secret intrigues ………………….. ” (v 5).
Laws of purifications for prayer: “O ye who believe! when ye prepare for prayer, wash your faces, and your hands (and arms) to the elbows; Rub your heads (with water); and (wash) your feet to the ankles. If ye are in a state of ceremonial impurity, bathe your whole body. But if ye are ill, or on a journey, or one of you cometh from offices of nature, or ye have been in contact with women, and ye find no water, then take for yourselves clean sand or earth, and rub therewith your faces and hands …………” (v 6). ——————————- The great emphasis on outward purity that is found in Islam is based on the practise of Muhammad as can be seen by reading Bukhari Volume 1, Book 4, Number 142. According to Bukhari Volume 1, Book 4, Number 138 ablutions performed in this world will be identified in the next.
The divinity of Christ denied: “In blasphemy indeed are those that say that Allah is Christ the son of Mary. Say: ‘Who then hath the least power against Allah, if His will were to destroy Christ the son of Mary, his mother, and all every one that is on the earth?’” (v 17).
Punishment for theft: “As to the thief, male or female, cut off his or her hands: a punishment by way of example, from Allah, for their crime: and Allah is exalted in power. But if the thief repents after his crime, and amends his conduct, Allah turneth to him in forgiveness … ” (v 38, 39). ————— While Muhammad was expanding his power and authority by raids on different Bedouin tribes some sick families from the ’Urain and Ukka tribes accepted Islam and were given permission to stay on the pasture lands and drink the milk of the she-camels. They were however, ungrateful, and, after killing the keeper of the camels, stole fifteen of them and ran away. They were caught and the punishment found in this ‘revelation’ was inflicted upon them. ——————- This Word of Allah is absolute in demanding the cutting off of hands for theft. This is alarming! The Roman law of Justinian forbade a thief to be maimed which seems more reasonable. Muhammad knew nothing of the government, policy or law of Rome, to which all the civilised world has paid its tribute of respect. Stealing was often the effect of being poor, to cut off that limb would be to deprive him of the means of getting his livelihood in an honest manner. —————– According to Bukhari Volume 8, Book 81, Number 792 Muhammad is said to have punished a woman who had been guilty of theft when he was on route to Mecca before its capture. It seems as though her repentance was too late to stop the mutilation. Further examples of this type of mutilation can be seen in the ahadiths Bukhari Volume 8, Book 81, Number 783, 787 and 791.
The Law of retaliation: “We ordained therein for them: ‘Life for life, eye for eye, nose for nose, ear for ear, tooth for tooth, and wounds equal for equal.’ But if any one remits the retaliation by way of charity, it is an act of atonement for himself ………… ” (v 45). ——————- This verse seems to inform us that if the injured person forgave the transgressors, no punishment was to be inflicted but in practice other considerations need to be considered – see Bukhari Volume 9, Book 83, Number 17. The Mosaic law is found in Exodus 21: 23-27.
The Scripture of Moses is the book of God: “It was We who revealed the law (to Moses): therein was guidance and light. By its standard have been judged the Jews, by the prophets who bowed to Allah’s will, by the rabbis and the doctors of law: for to them was entrusted the protection of Allah’s book, and they were witnesses thereto: therefore fear not men, but fear me, and sell not my signs for a miserable price.” (v 44).
Jesus taught the gospel which was given by God: “And in their footsteps We sent Jesus the son of Mary, confirming the Law that had come before him: We sent him the Gospel: therein was guidance and light, and confirmation of the Law that had come before him: guidance and an admonition to those who fear Allah. Let the people of the Gospel judge by what Allah hath revealed therein…………………. ” (v 46-47). ————————– Muhammad believed he was doing very similar work to the prophets and Jesus Christ, they were like a brotherhood which ran through out the ages c/f Bukhari Volume 4, Book 55, Number 651.
The Quran confirms the veracity of the scriptures: “To thee We sent the Scripture in truth, confirming the scripture that came before it, and guarding it in safety ………….. To each among you have we prescribed a law and an open way. If Allah had so willed, He would have made you a single people, but (His plan is) to test you in what He hath given you” (v 48) ———————- This is generally interpreted to mean that God has given to each prophet various laws and such laws were abrogated with successive prophets. Jews and Christians can no longer follow their distinctive laws because they have been abrogated and Islam is now the law of the present age.
Jews or Christians not to be taken as friends: “O ye who believe! take not for friends and protectors those who take your religion for a mockery or sport, whether among those who received the Scripture before you, or among those who reject faith” (v 57). ————– Muhammad now is an open opponent of Jews and Christians. They refuse to accept that his Quran abrogates their scriptures (verse 48) and so this leads to open conflict.
Jews changed into apes and swine: “Say: …………… those of whom some He transformed into apes and swine, those who worshipped evil; these are worse in rank, and far more astray from the even path!” (v 60). —————— The legend concerns some Jews who lived in the days of David at Elath, on the Red Sea. On the night of the Sabbath it is said that the fish came in great numbers to the shore to tempt them. Some of the inhabitants broke the command to keep the Sabbath, so David cursed them, and God changed them into apes and swine c/f Al Baqarrah 2:265.
The testimony of the Quran to the Taurat and Injil: “Say: O People of the Book! ye have no ground to stand upon unless ye stand fast by the Law, the Gospel, and all the revelation that has come to you from your Lord Those who believe (in the Quran), those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Sabians and the Christians, any who believe in Allah and the last day, and work righteousness, on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.” (v 68-69) ————– The Jews were to retain a faith in the Taurat; the Christian in the Injil; but both Jews and Christians were expected to receive the Quran as a complement of both. —————— The high praise that Muhammad showers upon the scriptures is once again recorded. Sir William Muir noted that there are one hundred and thirty one quotations referring to the scriptures. He goes on to say “The sincere and honest Muslim is earnestly invited to examine the subject, and to satisfy himself, as he may easily do, that the Bible of the present day is the Bible of the days of Muhammad. What fearful audacity is displayed by some modern Muslims who ignorantly and blasphemously speak against ‘the Book which is sent down’ the Holy ‘Furqan‘, ‘the Word of God’. As for ourselves, the People of the Book, it is only in conformity with the express inculcation of the Prophet of Islam, that we observe and hold by, both the Law and the Gospel; and that in accordance with his challenge, we examine those scriptures to which he appealed. Let them search the scriptures diligently, and they will find the whole tenor of those sacred books to be ‘that God is in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself; that Jesus is ‘the Way, the Truth and the Life’: This is eternal life, that they might know Thee, the true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent.”
The divinity of Christ and the Trinity denied: “They do blaspheme who say: “Allah is Christ the son of Mary.” But said Christ: “O Children of Israel! worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord.” …………. They do blaspheme who say: Allah is one of three in a Trinity: for there is no god except one Allah. If they desist not from their word, verily a grievous penalty will befall the blasphemers among them” (v 72, 73).
The closeness of Christians and Muslims: “Strongest among men in enmity to the believers wilt thou find the Jews and Pagans; and nearest among them in love to the believers wilt thou find those who say, “We are Christians”: because amongst these are men devoted to learning and men who have renounced the world, and they are not arrogant. And when they listen to the revelation received by the Messenger, thou wilt see their eyes overflowing with tears, for they recognise the truth: they pray: “Our Lord! we believe; write us down among the witnesses” (v 82, 83). —————- Some consider that because this is a composite sura this verse records, in grateful recollection, the kindnesses shown to the Muslim exiles in Abyssinia, some joined the Christian Church in Abyssinia. Others believe that this praise of Christians was due to the fact that some were ready to embrace Islam.
The Miracles of Jesus: “Then will Allah say: “O Jesus the son of Mary! Recount My favour to thee and to thy mother. Behold! I strengthened thee with the holy spirit, so that thou didst speak to the people in childhood and in maturity. Behold! I taught thee the Book and wisdom, the Law and the Gospel and behold! thou makest out of clay, as it were, the figure of a bird, by My leave, and thou breathest into it and it becometh a bird by My leave, and thou healest those born blind, and the lepers, by My leave. And behold! thou bringest forth the dead by My leave. And behold! I did restrain the Children of Israel from thee when thou didst show them the clear signs and the unbelievers among them said: ‘This is nothing but evident magic.’” (v 110). ————– Speaking from the cradle has been noticed in Al-Imran 3:45. Another legend that is added here is that Jesus made a clay bird live. These tales of our Saviour’s childhood have nothing to do with the Gospel but have been taken from imaginary and incredulous Christian writings, such as those taken from a Greek storybook called, ‘The Gospel of Thomas the Israelite’, and the Arabic, ‘Gospel of the Infancy’.
Jesus denies he requested worship for himself and his mother: “And behold! Allah will say: “O Jesus the son of Mary! Didst thou say unto men, worship me and my mother as gods in derogation of Allah’?” He will say: “Glory to Thee! never could I say what I had no right (to say). Had I said such a thing, thou wouldst indeed have known it. Thou knowest what is in my heart, Thou I know not what is in Thine. For Thou knowest in full all that is hidden” (v 116). —————- Muhammad’s understanding of Christianity was poor. The Christian Trinity did not consist of the Father, Mother and Son. Jesus is made to say ‘I know not what is in thee’ while this contradicts his saying in John 10:15 ‘As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.’
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