Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Understanding Islam


by Rev. David Feddes

Muhammad was respected as an upright man by those who knew him. According to Muslim accounts, Muhammad began hearing voices and seeing visions when he was 40 years old (A.D. 610). At first Muhammad feared that he might be possessed by an evil spirit. But his wife Khadijah—15 years his elder—assured him that this could not be, for he was a good man.
Over the years, it is said, many revelations came as the angel Gabriel dictated God’s exact words in Arabic to Muhammad. The prophet, who never learned to write, memorized the words perfectly and taught them to others. Eventually
the revelations were put into final written form as the Quran. Muslims honor Muhammad as the greatest of prophets, and most Muslims view the Quran as an error-free copy of an eternal, uncreated original in heaven.
Vast numbers of people are Muslims and strive to follow this prophet and this book. Some of them affect world affairs. Some live nearby. All are fellow humans created in God’s image and designed to flourish only in fellowship with God. So Christians urgently need to understand Islam. Let’s look at four areas: how Islam has taken shape, how Christianity and Islam are similar, how they differ, and how to relate to Muslims we meet.
How Islam Has Taken Shape
During Muhammad’s lifetime, he overcame the hostility of Arabia’s idol worshipers and instituted worship of one God. Combining religious leadership with military and political skill, he personally took part in 70 battles or skirmishes. By the time of Muhammad’s death in 632, Arabia’s bickering tribes were united and powerful. Within a century, Muslim power had spread across the Middle East, much of Asia, North Africa, and Spain.
Early disagreement over the proper line of leadership to succeed Muhammad led to a split between Sunnis and Shiites. Shiites insisted Muhammad’s own descendants should lead Islam. After two key figures, Ali and Husain, were killed by enemies, Shiites hailed them as martyrs and viewed Sunni leaders as usurpers. Shiites today believe that Ali’s descendants are divinely enlightened imams who are sinless, infallible interpreters of Quranic wisdom for today. Shiites also believe that one of these imams will return as a messianic leader known as the Mahdi.
Sunnis, in contrast, insist that Muhammad is the final prophet to receive divine light. Sunni imams are to be simply teachers of the Quran, not sinless or infallible channels of divine light like Shiite imams. Today the vast majority of Muslims worldwide are Sunni; roughly 10 percent are Shiite. However, in some countries, such as Iran and Iraq, Shiites are the majority. (When the U. S.-led coalition toppled Iraq’s government headed by Saddam Hussein, a Sunni, the resulting power vacuum prompted a bloody contest for supremacy between minority Sunnis and majority Shiites—with neither side fond of foreign interlopers.)
North America is home to at least 6 million Muslims, mostly Sunni, and the number is growing. The majority of growth comes from immigrants and their offspring. However, about 35 percent of the growth has come through conversion. Most of these converts are African American. The most fertile ground for Muslim recruitment is America’s prison system. Many look to Islam as a source of dignity, discipline, and personal betterment—an alternative to a society and religious system that has failed them.
There are two main categories of African American Muslims: black supremacists and mainstream Sunnis. Most black supremacists are influenced by Elijah Muhammad. From the 1930s until his death in 1975, Elijah taught that blacks are God’s chosen people, that whites are devils, that a man named Wallace Fard came to Detroit as Allah incarnate, and that Elijah Muhammad was Allah’s prophet. This contradicted the Quran, but it appealed to many downtrodden African Americans and attracted such figures as Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, and Louis Farrakhan. In recent decades many black supremacist Muslims have moved toward mainstream Sunni Islam, no longer seeing Fard as God or whites as devils. In fact, only about 10 percent of African American Muslims now belong to black supremacist groups. The other 90 percent are Sunni. Yet both black supremacists and Sunnis are active in prison outreach.
Almost all Muslims, whatever their differences, hold to the Five Pillars of Islam: (1) Declare that there is no God but Allah, whose prophet is Muhammad. (2) Pray five times each day. (3) Give to the poor. (4) Fast each year during the month of Ramadan. (5) At least once in a lifetime, go on a pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca.
Muslim Similarities to Christianity
Islam and Christianity hold some important things in common. Both faiths are monotheistic, believing in one God. Both faiths reject polytheistic belief in various gods and goddesses. Both faiths reject pantheistic belief that all things are God or part of God. Both faiths reject atheistic belief that no God exists. Both faiths agree that the Creator, not random evolution, made and rules all things. Both agree that angels and evil spirits are real and active. Both agree that people live on after death, either in happiness or horror.
Islam is not just a private feeling or personal belief, but a worldview and a way of life. Biblical Christianity is similarly all-embracing, calling us to honor God’s claim over all of life. Islam and Christianity agree on many moral principles. Both teach that idolatry, murder, adultery, stealing, lying, and abortion are wrong. Both agree that family ties, generosity to the poor, hard work, and honest business are good. Many commands in the Quran agree with similar commands in the Bible. In fact, Islam teaches that the books of Moses, the Psalms, and the gospel of Jesus are from God.
The Quran says some striking things about Jesus: Jesus was born of a virgin and was sinless. Jesus’ coming was “good news.” Jesus gave sight to the blind, healed lepers, and raised the dead. The Quran calls Jesus “Messiah,” “Spirit from God,” “Word of God,” and “Word of Truth,” titles applied to no one else, not even Muhammad. Muslim tradition says Jesus will return someday, reign over the earth, and usher in the end times. “Muslims have great respect and love for Jesus (Isa) the Messiah,” says a Muslim scholar. “He is one of the greatest prophets of Allah. To deny the prophethood of Jesus is to deny Islam.”
Some Christians might be surprised at these similarities, but certain Muslim moral principles and beliefs about Jesus are closer to the Bible than the beliefs of some who call themselves Christians. Even some pastors and scholars rewrite morality and do not accept that Jesus was born of a virgin or that he worked mighty miracles by divine power. People of Christian background who slide from biblical revelation into moral relativism, secularism, or religious pluralism could learn from Islam’s clarity of conviction, its emphasis on humble obedience, and its awe of God’s majesty, justice, and miraculous power.
Crucial Differences
It’s important to recognize common ground between Christians and Muslims, but the two faiths also differ in matters of utmost importance. Christians worship the one God as Trinity, an eternal union of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Bible says “God is love.” That’s not just because God is loving toward us but also because God’s inner being is characterized by the eternal love that unites Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Quran almost never speaks of God’s love for humanity and flatly denies God’s loving essence as Trinity. The Quran (5:72-75) threatens hell for those who say Jesus is God come to earth and who believe in the Trinity. Although Muslims believe in Jesus’ virgin birth, they do not believe that in this birth God the Son took on a human nature. They see Jesus as only a man, though a great prophet. A Muslim writer says, “The doctrine of Trinity, equality with Allah, and sonship, are repudiated as blasphemies.”
Christianity teaches that we are born sinners, unable to save ourselves. Only through faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection can we become right with God and receive eternal life. Islam, by contrast, says all people are born good but forgetful; they just need to be reminded of what God wants. “Man is not a fallen being,” declares a Muslim scholar. “The Christian belief in the redemptive, sacrificial death of Christ does not fit the Islamic view that man has always been fundamentally good.”
Galatians 2:21 says, “If righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing.” Islam teaches that righteousness can be gained through law. However, rather than say Christ died for nothing, Islam says Jesus did not die at all. The Quran says Jesus’ enemies thought they killed him but were fooled by appearances. Someone else, probably Judas, was made to look like Jesus and was nailed to the cross. Jesus went to heaven without dying. “God, who is just, would not permit the righteous Messiah to suffer in that manner,” insists a Muslim author. Besides, humans are not so sinful that we need Jesus to die for us.
In Islam salvation must be earned. In Christianity salvation is an unearned gift from “God, who justifies the wicked” (Rom. 4:4). A Muslim says, “In Islam, God’s mercy is supremely expressed through the revelation of a perfect law.” A Christian says, “In Christianity, God’s mercy is supremely expressed through God’s sacrifice of his beloved Son for our salvation.” Islam counts on a Master’s law. Christianity counts on the Father’s love.
Relating to Muslims
Here are four areas for action in Christian relations with Muslims:
Love your neighbor. Muslims are people valued by God. Treat them that way. Most are no more eager to harm you than you are to harm them. Many Muslims in North America, whether Arab or Pakistani or African American, face racial discrimination. Christians must show kindness and respect. Many Muslims prize hospitality. Have a Muslim friend or family for dinner. In preparing a menu, be considerate of observant Muslims, who avoid pork and may have other dietary restrictions.
Be strong in the Lord. Islam aspires to win hearts and shape nations. Islam leads people away from salvation in Jesus crucified and risen, away from the Trinity of love. Don’t underestimate the challenge. This is no time to be softheaded or fainthearted. Hold fast to biblical faith, stand up for it, and strive to win others.
Seek to communicate. Listen attentively to each Muslim person you meet. Speak gently but clearly from your heart. Above all, communicate with the Lord: pray for Muslim people, whether in your neighborhood or in other nations.
Join the team. Get involved with other Christians who are already reaching out to Muslims. Support missionaries and broadcasters who focus on Muslims. Get personally involved in campus outreach or prison ministry, the two most strategic areas for Christian-Muslim encounters in North America. Sharpen your witness by studying more about Islam. The more you understand it, the better able you will be to speak to Muslim people seeking fellowship with God.
For Discussion
What did you know about Islam before reading this article? Where did you receive your knowledge?
What new information did you gain through reading this article? How did it influence your original perceptions?
What do you find most helpful for understanding the Muslims in Iraq? For understanding Muslims in America?
Discuss Feddes’s suggestions of how to relate to Muslims. What do you find most helpful or enlightening?
What is the most important thing you take away from this discussion?
Rev. David FeddesRev. David Feddes is director of the Center for Advanced Studies at Crossroad Bible Institute, a distance education ministry with more than 40,000 students in prison. Formerly he was broadcast minister for The Back to God Hour.

The preservation of the Quran


While reading the Holy Quran, we repeatedly come across the mention of the protection of this word of God. For instance, Allah says:
Surely upon Us rests its collection and recital. (Al Qiyamah verse 18)
Among the names that have been given to this Quran, are (الكتاب) ‘Alkitab’ meaning the Book and (القرآن) ‘the Quran’ meaning the most read of the books. Both these names clearly suggested that the book was going to be well preserved both verbally and as a manuscript. These names hold within them the prophecy regarding the protection and preservation of the Holy Quran.
Allah says:
Wherein are lasting commandments (Al Bayyanah verse 4)
Then He said;
“In a well guarded tablet (Al- Buruj verse 23).
Besides this, God Himself took the responsibility for its protection and commanded the Holy Prophet not to worry and depress himself by thinking excessively about its protection and preservation.
The Holy Quran has been sent down as an unbroken series of revelations and is categorical; even the dots and letters of it are truly revealed by God. And God has revealed it under intense protection and rigorous watching of the angels. Then the Holy Prophet dispensed not with any means to vigilantly arrange for every sort of care regarding its preservation. He took it as a permanent practice to dictate immediately to the scribes each and every verse of the revelations before his very eyes until he had collected the whole of the Quran and also arranged the verses. And he did that, conscientiously, all by himself.
It was his permanent practice that he would recite its verses during the prayers and also on occasions other than that. He continued this practice of his till his death when he left this world to be with the ever best friend of his and reached his Beloved, the Lord of the worlds.
Then after him Allah made Hadrat Abu Bakr the first successor to the Holy Prophet. He further consolidated the sequence of the chapters according to the sequence that he had learnt from the Holy Prophet. Then after Hadrat Abu Bakr Allah helped Hadrat Uthman (may Allah be pleased with him), the third successor of the Holy Prophet. He put it together according to a single recension i.e., of the Quraish [as there were a number of dialects of Arabic in use at the time of the Holy Prophet] and arranged for its copies in all countries.
Beside these arrangements another care that was taken in this regard was that all the sahabas [companions of the Holy Prophet] recited the Holy Quran having memorized it by heart and a large portion of he Quran was safe and secured in the bosoms of the believers and they used to recite that in and out of the prayers. Moreover, some of them had memorized the whole of the Quran and used to recite that at different times during day and night very regularly.
In a nutshell, about the arrangements that God made for the protection and preservation of the Quran, it is clear that the Holy Prophet would immediately get the revealed verses written down by calling on the companions who could scribe and all this used to materialize before the very eyes of the Prophet [peace and blessings of Allah be upon him] and he was very scrupulous in this regard. He would also listen to the revealed portion after it had been written down. He would not only dictate that in person but would also order the sequence of the verses as per divine understanding. A detailed account of this is found in some authentic books of Ahadith in which he has spoken of those special blessings of Allah, rewards and excellences of those who memorize the Quran.

"Hadrat Ibne Abbas who was a son of an uncle of the Hoy Prophet relates that Hadrat Uthman, the third successor of the Holy Prophet (who had been a scribe of the Holy Quran during the life of the Holy Prophet) used to say that when a few verses were revealed to the Holy Prophet collectively, he would call one of his companions to scribe and would tell him to insert those verses in a specific chapter at a specific point. And if only one verse was revealed, even then, he would dictate that in the same way by calling some scribe companion telling him of the particular point where it was supposed to be added.” (Tirmadhi kitabul tafseer Hadith no. 399)
The blessed names and life history of those companions who diligently discharged their duty for the accomplishment of this greatly important and sacred duty are given in the books of history. The great method which was deployed by God for the preservation of the Quran was that Muslims started memorizing it right after it started to reveal. On one hand, God inspired the hearts of hundreds of thousands of Muslims to memorize this book, and on the other the phraseology of the book had been made so beautifully organized, simple, lying somewhere between poetry and prose that it became very easy to memorize. Every Muslim felt duty bound to memorize a portion of the Quran to recite in prayers. Because it was obligatory to recite a few verses of the Quran after reciting Surah Fatiha [Al- Fatiha] in every 'rakat'. It was for this reason that so many people became 'huffaz" (those who memorize the Holy Quran in full) during the life time of the Holy Prophet considering it a virtuous deed. The companions of the prophet and other Muslims always recited it in and out of the obligatory prayers. Among the things which would urge one to memorize the Quran are also a few sayings of the Holy Prophet in which he has spoken of the rewards and excellences of those who take up to do so.
Then another thing was that the Prophet, in the very life time of his, appointed teachers whose job was to help those who memorized with the correct memorization and recitation. He would also supervise the outcome of these teachers' efforts. Due to all these efforts, the number of those who memorized the Quran swelled over to thousands. A simple estimate regarding their number can be made from those who were martyred in the incident of Bair Maoona [the well of Maoona]. They were seventy in total. And then right after the demise of the Hoy Prophet, in the time of the caliphate of Abu Bakr was fought a battle against 'Muselma' under the command of Khalid Bin Valeed (may Allah be pleased with him). Among those who fought were three thousand companions of the Holy Prophet who had memorized the Quran by heart. Out of them five hundred were bestowed by God with the blessed rank of martyrdom. And from then on, with the passage of time there were born hundreds of thousands of those who kept memorizing it. The period over which the Holy Quran was revealed extends to twenty- three years; according to which the total number of the days of the prophethood of the Holy Prophet were more or less 7, 970 and the number of the verses of the Quran is 6, 236 and the words of the Quran are 77.934 and the number of the letters of the Holy Quran according to the statement of Hadrat Ibne Abbas quoted by Allama Syooti in 'Al- Itqaan fi Uloomil Quran' is 3, 23 671. If number of verses is counted in contrast to the number of days over which the Holy Quran was revealed, it gets down to only nine words per day. At times were revealed lengthy chapters and at times there were some intervals in revelations. The number of the revealed verses was small in the beginning of the prophethood and in the last days chapters were revealed one after the other. Anyway, the crux of our argument is that it was not very taxing to memorize such a small portion of the revelation right after it was revealed especially when the incidents being referred to those verses were concomitant and were being observed simultaneously by the people.
And then thousands of commentaries of the Holy Quran spread throughout the Islamic world along with the teachers to help people with the correct recitation. Another notable thing is the loud recitation of it during the prayers in the mosques throughout the Islamic world. The recitation of the Quran in and out of the prayers, especially, at 'fajr' time is a constant practice with Muslims and the Holy Quran, itself, has urged Muslims to do that and a great reward has been promised to those who do so.
In what a great way Muslims have fully taken into their hands the holy and perfect book in which we believe. Generally, all Muslims have a handsome portion of the Holy Quran memorized which they recite in the mosques during five times prayers. A child gets no older than five that the Holy Quran is placed before him. You will find hundreds of thousands of such people who have memorized the whole of the Holy Quran. Ask about a letter only and they will read to you all the previous and coming verses from that point. This was not the case with men alone! Thousands of women also have memorized the whole of Quran. It can be observed in the mosques and seminaries of some city where hundreds of boys and girls are found having the Holy Quran placed before them are reading the translation or are memorizing it.
The number of the copies of the Quran which spread throughout the world is certainly in millions. The most read book in the world, too, is the Quran. Today, in the time of the modern press, millions of its copies are being printed and in printing them is taken every minute care to avoid every kind of mistake and flaw by spending large sums of money and sweating of brows and there are full- fledged departments in the Muslim countries which painstakingly discharge their duty in this regard. Moreover, we can also imagine as to how much attention Muslims used to pay to it by just looking at those hand written manuscripts which adorn the libraries today around the world and it was so common among Muslims to write it that not only the grass roots but also the kings used to write the manuscripts with great love and diligence.
One more thing which stands witness to the excellent protection and preservation of the Quran is its message which, in a very short time, spread to a large area of the world outside the Arabian Peninsula. Other opposing nations also got acquainted with its teachings. Those to whom reached its teachings were millions in number and exercised influence over a large area.
The veracity of the Quran could not be challenged in any way. It is a notable fact that the publication of the Quran had caused its teachings to reach the infidels. Jews, Christians and fire worshippers alike. And their beliefs had been thoroughly discussed in it. They would have bred great uproar had anything been mentioned against fact. For example, the objections of the infidels of Mecca and their confession have both been recorded in the Quran.
It has been clearly stated in the Holy Quran that the moon split into two and when infidels saw this sign, they said that it was magic as God says:
The hour has drawn nigh, and the moon is rent asunder. And if they see a Sign, they turn away and say, ‘An oft- repeated sorcery.’
[Al- Qamar verse 2, 3]
Had the infidels believed the Quranic statement to be false, they must have gone to the Holy Prophet’s house and asked the Holy Prophet as to when and at what time he split the moon into two and when ever did they see it. But the way the opponents remained silent after this verse had been published and got well-known and none were able to provoke an outcry, it is clear that they had surely seen the moon splitting. And then no one was able to protest. It is quite evident then that they had surely seen the moon splitting into two. It was for this reason that they had no room for any grumble or dispute. Hence, this argument is quite clear and is greatly gainful for a truthful researcher that the Holy Prophet could never have written of any false miracle with reference to his opponents. And had he done so, how could his contemporary opponents and people of the town at that time have let it go unbridled? Besides this, this should also be given due consideration that the Muslims to whom this verse was read out and it was certainly used to be read out, were thousands in number. And every one quite firmly knows at heart that if there comes to be known an incident of fabrication and sheer falsehood by some spiritual guide or mentor, all credence of the belief is readily lost. And the person starts looking bad to the eyes of every one. In such a situation, it is clearly evident that if this miracle had not come to pass and was only a glaring fabrication, it was then imperative for the thousands of Muslims who had believed the Holy Prophet to have turned apostates instantly after having seen this blatant falsehood.
Moreover, this Quranic statement was lying before the kith and kin of the prophet, too. Only thirty years after the death of the Holy Prophet, two different schools of thought got formed in Islam who were greatly opposing and contending each other. Now if any of them had added something to the Quran, the other without any delay, could have driven a rain of objections on the former. But we don’t find even a single incident of this kind in such a long period of history.
It is well known among the scholars that from the manner adopted and the great care with which the Holy Quran has got published, and the intensity with which the opponents and those who favored have kept and eye on each and every verse of its and the speed and swiftness with which the propagation of every article of its has reached millions of people and the very brief period of time which is less than thirty years after the life time of the prophet it has become famous in the most parts of the world, is such a way and secured method which does not brook any false miracle or false foretelling to be added to the Holy Quran by way of fabrication or imputation or something of which Christians , Jews, Arabs or fire worshipper would not have come to know.
The Arabic language also is a great sign in regard to the protection of the Holy Quran. Allah has protected the language of the Holy Quran too. God has not only kept preserved its language but helped it prosper and progress instead and expanded the area and number of people who spoke it. Another thing worth mentioning is that the process of change in the literary Arabic language halted after the Holy Quran had been fully revealed. In English, to understand Chaucer and Shakespeare one needs a lot of annotation and explanation even three or four hundred years of passing away of their writers but to comprehend the language of the Quran one does not need the books of old diction and lexicon. Instead, one who reads literary Arabic today can easily grasp the language employed by the Holy Quran.
The sincere perusal of just one part of the promise, the arrangements which God has made for the physical protection of the Holy Quran brings one at his wits’ end. Neither the Arabic language had been coded nor the grammar had been compiled, nor was there any dictionary nor was the idiom brought in some precinct before the Quran was revealed. But after the Quran had been revealed, Allah caused different people to compile and code all these fields of knowledge by way of inspiring them. And it was only for the sake of the protection of the Holy Quran that the knowledge of accidence and syntax, simile and rhetoric, knowledge of metaphor, rules of recitation of the Holy Quran, the knowledge of lexicography, the knowledge of idiom, history and the knowledge of syntax and the knowledge of jurisprudence were all founded. And these fields of knowledge made as much progress as was required for the service of the Holy Quran. So, apparently, the knowledge of the syntax and grammar and diction has got most to do with the protection and preservation of the Holy Quran. These fields of knowledge have made so great a progress that the people of Europe, till today, consider the grammar of Arabic to have been compiled in the best possible way.
Mr. Devonport has acclaimed and praised the Holy Quran in the following laudatory words. The original wording of his is given below which is:
‘Muslims revere the Holy Quran ……………. The Holy Quran contains not only the religious commandments and instruction in manners but also as Mr. Gibbon says from the Atlantic to the Ganges the Quran is considered to be the law code. Found in the Quran are civil and criminal laws and also the laws of civility. And it comprehends all problems related to the salvation of soul, fundamental human rights, rights of the individual and laws regarding the beneficent treatment of one’s fellow beings. Besides all the excellences and virtues of the Quran in which the followers of Islam rightly take pride is its beautiful style of narration which contains the mention of God, the most High and by hearing of which a kind of effect is felt on heart and one feels bowed to its majesty. Secondly, the Quran is free from all such notions which could be thought to be uncivilizing. And all its principles are such that none of which defy wisdom…………. Islam is a religion that all concur to its principles. And there is nothing which is foisted upon one and which is irrational’.
Mr. Carlyle has also written something to the same effect in volume six of his book at page number 214.
He writes:
"It is clearly evident from the study of the Quran that it is the word of a truthful and is full of truth. Now see that such great scholars of Europe in whose house has taken birth the physical sciences and the knowledge of astronomy and who possess greater knowledge and understanding about the nature of the sun and the moon. How much they acknowledge and eulogize the rational teaching of the Quran and how because of their good nature they openly admit that the teaching of the Quran is not against the scientific knowledge and there is not in it any article of faith which is foisted upon someone. Hence, when those who are thought to be greatly skilled in philosophy openly testify to the sagacious modus operandi of the Quran, what harm can be inflicted on the Quran if you dear Master sahib, or some other brother of yours whose eyes have to some extent opened due to the very people mentioned above and these very people are your teachers, and pedagogues keep denying the excellences of the Quran? And the truth is that there could have been incurred no damage at all even if all the opponents of Asia and Europe had denied the Quranic excellences. The sun is the sun whether someone admits to its light or not. But the learned and the knowledgeable people of Europe are so appreciable and praiseworthy that by compiling hundreds of books they have given the true testimony in the favor of the Quran. And save those priests who have but a smattering knowledge and are paid for having enmity against Islam the love of Islam is growing day by day in the hearts of all the rest who happen to be truly wise and shrewd philosophers. But what shall we say about you people and what shall we write and what shall we bring into writing that you only criticize unjustly giving room to enmity and miserliness."
Sir William Muir writes in his book Life of Muhammad:
“………since what we now have, though possibly corrected and modified by himself, is still his own.”
Then he writes:
“We may upon the strongest presumption affirm that every verse in the Coran is genuine and unaltered composition of Mahomet himself.”
[Life of Mohamet page 562]
And then he writes:
“…and conclude with at least a close approximation to the verdict of Von Hammer: That we hold the Coran to be as surely Mahomet’s words, as the Mohametans hold it to be the word of God.”
[Page 562- 563]
Again he says:
“…….and that there is otherwise every security internal and external, that we possess a text the same as that Mahomet himself gave forth and use.”
[Page 561]
Then he goes on to say:
“Slight clerical errors there may have been, but the Quran of Othman contains none but genuine elements, though sometime in very strong order. Efforts of European scholars to prove the existence of later interpolation in the Quran have failed.”
[Encyclopedia Britannica volume 15]
And then he says:
“To compare (as the Moslems are fond of doing) their pure text with the various readings of our Scriptures, is to compare things between which there is no analogy.”
[William Muir page 558]
So all these quotations clearly prove that the Quran is preserved in its original form and this happens to be a common denominator among the orientalists. (By Mr. T. Hayat)

Unity of God as stated by The Old Testament:


1. Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord and you shall love the Lord with all your soul and with all your heart. (Deuteronomy 6:4)
2. To you it was shown, that you might know that the Lord is God, there is no other besides him. (Deuteronomy 4:35)
3. Know therefore this day, and lay it to your heart, that the Lord is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath, there is no other. (Deuteronomy 4:39)
4. And Ezra said, “Thou art the Lord ,thou alone, thou hast made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them; and thou preservest all of them; and the host of heaven worship thee.”(Nehemiah 9:6)
5. those who chose another God multiply their sorrows;
Their libations of blood I will not pour out;
Or take their names upon my lips.
6. You are my witnesses, says the Lord, “and my servants whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understood that I am He. Before me no god was formed, nor shall be any after me, I am the lord and besides me there is no savior. (Isaiah 43:10-11)
7. Thus says the Lord the King of Israel and his redeemer, the Lord of hosts, “I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no God (Isaiah 44:6)
8. I am the Lord and there is no other, besides me there is no God. (Isaiah 45:5)
9. Declare and present your case; let them take counsel together! Who told this long ago? Who declare it was old? Was it not I, the Lord? And there is no other God besides me, a righteous God and a savior; there is no besides me. Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God and there is no other. (Isaiah 45:21-22)
10. Remember the former thing of old, for I am God and there is no other; I am God and there is none like me. (Isaiah 46:9)

The Value of the Qur'an


The religion of Islam is superior to any other in that it guarantees happiness in man's life. For Muslims, Islam is a belief system with moral and practical laws that have their source in the Qur'an.
God, may He be exalted, says, "Indeed this Qur'an guides to the path which is clearer and straighter than any other" [XVII:9]. He also says, "We have revealed to you the book which clarifies every matter" [XVI:89].
These references exemplify the numerous Qur'anic verses (ayat) which mention the principles of religious belief, moral virtues and a general legal system governing all aspects of human behaviour.
A consideration of the following topics will enable one to understand that the Qur'an provides a comprehensive programme of activity for man's life.
Man has no other aim in life but the pursuit of happiness and pleasure, which manifests itself in much the same way as love of ease or wealth. Although some individuals seem to reject this happiness, for example, by ending their lives in suicide, or by turning away from a life of leisure, they too, in their own way, confirm this principle of happiness; for, in seeking an end to their life or of material pleasure, they are still asserting their own personal choice of what happiness means to them. Human actions, therefore, are directed largely by the prospects of happiness and prosperity offered by a certain idea, whether that idea be true or false.
Man's activity in life is guided by a specific plan or programme. This fact is self-evident, even though it is sometimes concealed by its very apparentness. Man acts according to his will and desires; he also weighs the necessity of a task before undertaking it.
In this he is promoted by an inherent scientific law, which is to say that he performs a task for "himself" in fulfilling needs which he perceives are necessary. There is, therefore, a direct link between the objective of a task and its execution.
Any action undertaken by man, whether it be eating, sleeping or walking, occupies its own specific place and demands its own particular efforts. Yet an action is implemented according to an inherent law, the general concept of which is stored in man's perception and is recalled by motions associated with that action. This notion holds true whether or not one is obliged to undertake the action or whether or not the circumstances are favourable.
Every man, in respect of his own actions, is as the state in relation to its individual citizens, whose activity is controlled by specific laws, customs and behaviour. Just as the active forces in a state are obliged to adapt their actions according to certain laws, so is the social activity of a community composed of the actions of each individual. If this were not the case, the different components of society would fall apart and be destroyed in anarchy in the shortest time imaginable.
If a society is religious, its government will reflect that religion; if it is secular, it will be regulated by a corresponding code of law. If a society is uncivilized and barbaric, a code of behaviour imposed by a tyrant will appear; otherwise, the conflict of various belief-systems within such a society will produce lawlessness.
Thus man, as an individual element of society, has no option but to possess and pursue a goal. He is guided in the pursuit of his goal by the path which corresponds to it and by the rules which must necessarily accompany his programme of activity. The Qur'an affirms this idea when it says that "every man has a goal to which he is turning, so compete with each other in good action" [II:148]. In the usage of the Qur'an, the word din is basically applied to a way, a pattern of living, and neither the believer nor the non-believer is without a path, be it prophetic or man-made.
God, may He be exalted, describes the enemies of the divine din (religion) as those "who prevent others from the path of God and would have it crooked" [VII:45].
This verse shows that the term Sabil Allah- the path of God - used in the verse refers to the din of fitrah - the inherent pattern of life intended by God for man. It also indicates that even those who do not believe in God implement His din, albeit in a deviated form; this deviation, which becomes their din, is also encompassed in God's programme
The best and firmest path in life for man is the one which is dictated by his innate being and not by the sentiments of any individual or society. A close examination of any part of creation reveals that, from its very inception, it is guided by an innate purpose towards fulfilling its nature along the most appropriate and shortest path; every aspect of each part of creation is equipped to do so, acting as a blueprint for defining the nature of its existence. Indeed all of creation, be it animate or inanimate, is made up in this manner.
As an example, we may say that a green-tipped shoot, emerging from a single grain in the earth, is "aware" of its future existence as a plant which will yield an ear of wheat. By means of its inherent characteristics, the shoot acquires various mineral elements for its growth from the soil and changes, day by day, in form and strength until it becomes a fully-matured grain-bearing plant - and so comes to the end of its natural cycle.
Similarly, if we investigate the life-cycle of the walnut tree, we observe that it too is "aware", from the very beginning, of its own specific purpose in life, namely, to grow into a big walnut tree. It reaches this goal by developing according to its own distinct inherent characteristics; it does not, for example, follow the path of the wheat-plant in fulfilling its goal just as the wheat-plant does not follow the life pattern of the walnut tree.
Since every created object which makes up the visible world is subject to this same general law, there is no reason to doubt that man, as a species of creation, is not. Indeed his physical capabilities are the best proof of this rule; like the rest of creation, they allow him to realize his purpose, and ultimate happiness, in life.
Thus, we observe that man, in fact, guides himself to happiness and well-being merely by applying the fundamental laws inherent in his own nature.
This law is confirmed by God in the Qur'an, through His Prophet Moses, when he says, "Our Lord is He who gave everything its nature, then guided it" [XX:50]. It is further explained in LXXXVII:2-3 as "He who created and fashioned in balanced proportion and He who measures and guides"
As to the creation and the nature of man, the Qur'an says, By the soul and Him who fashioned it and then inspired it with wrong action and fear of God; he is truly successful who causes it to grow and purifies it and he is a failure who corrupts and destroys it. [XCI:7-1O].
God enjoins upon man the duty to "strive towards a sincere application of the din," (that is, the fitrah of God, or the natural code of behaviour upon which He has created mankind ), since "there is no changing the laws of the creation of God" [XXX:30].
He also says that "In truth, the only deen recognized by God is Islam" [III:19]. Here, Islam means submission, the method of submission to these very laws. The Qur'an further warns that "the actions of the man who chooses a din other than Islam will not be accepted" [III:85].
The gist of the above verses, and other references on the same subject, is that God has guided every creature - be it man, beast or vegetable - to a state of well-being and self-fulfillment appropriate to its individual make-up.
Thus the appropriate path for man lies in the adoption of personal and social laws particular to his own fitrah (or innate nature), and in avoiding people who have become "de naturalized" by following their own notions or passions. It is clearly underlined that fitrah, far from denying man's feelings and passions, accords each its proper due and allows man's conflicting spiritual and material needs to be fulfilled in a harmonious fashion.
Thus, we may conclude that the intellect 'aql should rule man in matters pertaining to individual or personal decisions, rather than his feelings. Similarly, truth and justice should govern society and not the whim of a tyrant or even the will of a majority, if that be contrary to a society's true benefit.
From this we may conclude that only God is empowered to make laws, since the only laws useful to man are those which are made according to his inherent nature.
It also follows that man's needs, arising from his outward circumstance and his inner reality, are fulfilled only by obeying God's instructions (or laws). These needs may arise through events beyond man's control or as a result of the natural demands of his body.
Both are encompassed in the plan of life that God has designated for man. For, as the Qur'an says, the "decision rests with God only," [XII:40,67] which is to say that there is no governance (of man or society, of the inner or the outer) except that of God.
Without a specific creational plan, based on the innate disposition of man, life would be fruitless and without meaning. We may understand this only through belief in God and a knowledge of his Unity, as explained in the Qur'an.
From here we may proceed to an understanding of the Day of Judgement, when man is rewarded or punished according to his deeds. Thereafter, we may arrive at a knowledge of the prophets and of prophetic teachings, since man cannot be judged without being first instructed in the matter of obedience and disobedience. These three fundamental teachings are considered to be the roots of the Islamic way Of life.
To these we may add the fundamentals of good character and morals which a true believer must possess, and which are a necessary extension of the three basic beliefs mentioned above. The laws governing daily activity not only guarantee man's happiness and moral character but, more importantly, increase his understanding of these beliefs and of the fundamentals of Islam.
It is clear that a thief, a traitor, a squanderer or a libertine do not possess the quality of innocence; nor can a miser, who hoards money, be called a generous person. Similarly, some- one who never prays or remembers God cannot be called a believer in God and the Last Day, nor be described as His servant.
From this we may conclude that good character flourishes when joined to a pattern of correct actions; morals are to be found in the man whose beliefs are in harmony with these fundamentals. A proud man cannot be expected to believe in God nor be humble in respect to the Divine; nor can the man, who has never understood the meaning of humanity, justice, mercy or compassion, believe in the Day of Rising and the Judgement.
Chapter XXXV:I0 speaks of the relationship between a sincere system of belief and a fitting character: Pure speech rises up to Him and He raises up good deeds still further.
In chapter XXX: 10 we learn again of this relationship between belief and action: Then evil was the consequence of those who do wrong action because they denied the signs of Allah and they made a mock of them.
To summarize, the Qur'an is composed of the following Islamic fundamentals which together form an interlocking whole: a primary system of belief in the Unity of God, Prophethood and the Day of Reckoning, accompanied by a second group of beliefs, namely, belief in the Tablet, the Pen (which delineates the sequence of cosmic events), the rule of destiny and the decree (without implying pre-determination), the angels, the throne of the Creator, and, finally, in the creation of the sky, the earth and everything between them.
Thereafter, we observe that man's well-being lies in his character being in harmony with these principles.
The shari'ah, namely the laws and code of behaviour explained in the Qur'an and commented upon in every detail by the model of the Prophet's life, is the means whereby a man may practise these principles. At this point we should add that the Prophet's family are his chosen heirs and are entrusted with the task of exemplifying and explaining further the prophetic message and the shari'ah after the Prophet's death. The Prophet himself has shown that the tradition, hadith, known as the hadith al-thaqalayn which all sects of Islam accept, refers specifically to this matter of succession.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Qur'an: The Word of God


By Adil Salahi, Arab News Monday, 7, June, 2004 (18, Rabi` al-Thani, 1425)

Every now and then, Islamic scholarship provides us with an illuminating work that highlights some superb area of our scholarly heritage, reminding us that we were the world leaders in learning, research, accurate transmission of knowledge, and objectivity. As Muslims today are in a weak position on the world stage, and as Islam is their basic, though latent, source of strength, efforts are often undertaken to keep Muslims away from their true faith. These efforts take different forms in different fields of play. One of the most important fields is the one where Orientalists are not only the players, but they also set the rules and define the standards.
There is no doubt that some Orientalists have shown much respect to Islam and Muslims, but the majority do not demonstrate any inclination to be free of bias. Moreover, in their discourse about Islam and Muslims, many Orientalist adopt a holier-than-thou attitude. But such prejudice has not been without advantage for the cause of Islam. Ever since the time of the Crusades, this attitude has been the trigger for some fine Islamic scholarship, by a line of Muslim scholars, in areas which might not have attracted their attention without Orientalist prejudice. It is when an Orientalist throws a challenge, or makes an outlandish claim, that a Muslim scholar rises to take up the challenge or refute the claim. Such is the case that led to the writing of the scholarly work we are reviewing today.
To a Muslim, that the Qur’an is God’s word is a fact that requires no proof, in the same way that we do not need to prove that the sun gives light and warmth, or the night is dark, or water quenches thirst. You only have to read a passage of the Qur’an to recognize its source. The more you read, the greater is your conviction that it is God’s revelation. Hence, when a call is made requiring solid proof of the source of the Qur’an, a Muslim instinctively suspects the motives behind it.
But it is not only instinctive reaction that casts Orientalists in an unfavorable light. It is often the case that the claims they make are insupportable by the very principles, or research methodology, that they advocate. Most Orientalists insist that the Qur’an was transmitted purely orally in the early period of Islam. They reject all reports of its commitment to writing during the lifetime of the Prophet (peace be upon him). Yet numerous are the Qur’anic references to God’s revelations to Muhammad (peace be upon him) as “The Book”, which could only mean “a written text”. This does not mean that at the time of revelation it was handed to Muhammad written on some sort of a scroll, but the Prophet dictated it to his scribes and it was written shortly after. Orientalists try to leave the door always open to raising doubts about the authenticity of the main sources of Islamic beliefs and laws, namely the Qur’an and the Sunnah. Were they to accept that the Qur’an was transmitted both orally and in written form, right from the time of its revelation to Muhammad (peace be upon him), raising such doubts would become much more difficult. Besides, in their attempts to question the authority of the Qur’an, they always try to preserve for themselves the high ground of “scientific” methods and values.
It was from such a standpoint that Toby Lester made a sweeping judgment on Islamic scholarship and its approach to the Qur’an. Writing in The Atlantic Monthly (January 1999), Lester suggests that Muslims are thoroughly incapable of defending, in any scholarly fashion, their belief that the Qur’an is the unadulterated book of God. Little confidence does Lester seem to have in Muslim scholarship. Yet his words were the direct cause of the authorship of a priceless scholarly study that traces the recording and transmission of the divine text from the days of its revelation.
Professor Muhammad Mustafa Al-Azami is a highly respected scholar of Hadith, (the Prophet’s traditions), a discipline of Islamic study that attaches paramount importance to the reliability, accuracy and authenticity of whatever is attributed to the Prophet. Hence, he is well placed to examine the methods of transmission of the Qur’an in the light of the very stringent procedures established by Hadith scholars over the centuries. Professor Azami felt, as he tells us, that Toby Lester’s article made a challenge, and he decided to take it up. It simply stimulated his long felt desire to author a book on the collection and preservation of the Qur’an. And for certain, the result is superb.
Professor Azami devotes two thirds of his book to documenting the history of the Qur’anic text, from revelation to compilation, relying only on authentic Hadiths and reports. Very early in the book, we learn that the method of verification of textual authenticity employed by Zaid ibn Thabit, was of the most reliable type that would be readily accepted today at the best research centers in our world. It is well known that Zaid ibn Thabit, who embraced Islam at the age of 11, before the Prophet’s arrival in Madinah, was assigned by Abu Bakr, the first caliph, the task of compiling a complete copy of the Qur’an, so that it would serve as the reference copy against which all written Qur’anic text could be checked for accuracy. Zaid was most suited for the task as he was endowed with superb intelligence, sharp memory, good education, experience in recording Qur’anic revelations as they were given to the Prophet, and also he was “one of the fortunate few who attended the Archangel Jibril’s recitation with the Prophet during Ramadan.” Zaid carried out Abu Bakr’s instructions of accepting only written text to which two witnesses testify to its being written as dictated by the Prophet in their presence. Professor Azami compares the 20th century methodology in verifying the authenticity and reliability of historical manuscripts with that which Zaid ibn Thabit established over 1,400 years ago, and finds that Zaid applied the same stringent criteria required by the best academic institutions.
Although the book takes up the Orientalists’ challenge, providing a highly scholarly proof of the reliability and accuracy of the Qur’anic text, as revealed by God to His messenger, Prophet Muhammad, it makes a thoroughly interesting and absorbing reading for Muslims who have never entertained any doubt on this issue. Professor Azami gives us clear answers to certain questions that might have arisen in our minds about the twice undertaken commission of Zaid ibn Thabit, with a gap of 15 years between them. It is well known that Zaid completed the task assigned to him by Abu Bakr and handed the first caliph a complete and accurate copy of the Qur’an. Abu Bakr died less than two years after the Prophet’s death. Barely 15 years later, Uthman, the third caliph, wanted to send reference copies of the Qur’an to the main population centers of the Muslim state. He assigned the task to Zaid ibn Thabit. Zaid did not simply make copies of his first effort, as would be the most likely course of anyone charged with a similar project. He repeated the entire procedure of his first effort, starting from scratch, but this time produced eight standard copies. Working under the guidance of Uthman, who was long recognized as a top authority on the Qur’an, Zaid and his committee of four thoroughly knowledgeable companions of the Prophet produced a newly collated master copy, and made the required number of copies of it. It was at this point that Uthman recalled the original first copy, held in custody by Hafsah bint Umar, the Prophet’s widow, so that a thorough comparative check is undertaken. This was yet another exercise aiming to ensure immaculate accuracy.
Thus we realize that Uthman did not opt for the easy task of copying the first master work. Instead, he undertook a thorough task of verification, authentication and validation unequalled in the history of any nation or religion. Hence, he thoroughly deserves the historical honor of being associated with the most important effort of preserving the Qur’an intact, in its original form.
The task had the additional benefit of checking the accuracy of copies of surahs and passages of the Qur’an held by individuals who were keen to learn the Qur’an. It certainly raised the already high standards of accuracy and reliability.
Professor Azami also takes us through the reasons and benefits of having several variants of reciting the Qur’an, which are known as the qira’at, as well as the Muslim educational methodology and the certification of students’ achievement, including the certification of reading. These confirm the thorough accuracy of preserving the Qur’an both as a written text and as a verbal recitation. Throughout this very scholarly study, Azami provides one piece of evidence after another, but he chooses his evidence from what is particularly authentic. This is not surprising, since he has devoted his entire lifetime to the study of Hadith.
The last third of the book is divided into two parts: one is devoted to the history of Biblical Scriptures, both Jewish and Christian, and the other discusses Orientalism and its motives. Professor Azami undertakes the first part entirely on the basis of Jewish and Christian sources. Thus, he follows the long established tradition of Islamic scholarship of judging others by their own words. He says that he has included this history of Jewish and Christian Scriptures for the sake of comparative study. Needless to say, such comparison is bound to yield only one result: No scriptures of any type could aspire to any degree of reliability or authenticity like the one the Qur’an enjoys. This comes out very clearly in the book and the fact that the author relies on sources of the two faiths in question makes this result particularly significant.
The final part of the book, composed of two chapters, is devoted to a brief discussion of Orientalism and its motives. In his meticulous approach, Professor Azami provides many examples of Orientalist prejudice against Islam. Much of what Orientalists call for is inadmissible by Western academic standards. Can we imagine any reputable academic in the West condoning an alteration of a Shakespearean play, a poem by T.S. Eliot, or even a novel, let alone the text of a legal document? Yet, many are the Orientalists that call on Muslims to ‘revise’ the Qur’an and introduce amendments into it. As recently as the late 1980s, Hans Kung, a Roman Catholic theologian, advised Muslims to admit to the element of human authorship in their Holy Book. Earlier in the 20th century, Richard Bell tried to rearrange the Qur’anic text, totally disregarding the unity of each surah and advocating that verses from different surahs should be brought together while others should be split apart. Bishop Kenneth Cragg urged Muslims to consider the abrogation of the Madani parts of the Qur’an, concentrating only on the Makkan parts with their emphasis on the basic issue of monotheistic faith.
Such suggestions are not only devoid of any scholarly sense; they are an insult to every Muslim and to the Islamic faith. Hence, we ask with Professor Azami, why should such people be credited with a high standard of academic neutrality when they discard their own rules in order to snipe at Islam and Islamic scholarship? “Why should non-Muslims be deemed authorities to the exclusion of practicing Muslims? Why should men of the Church — Mingana, Guillaume, Watt, Anderson, Lammanse, and a horde of others who wish nothing more heartily than to see their religion eclipse Islam — be regarded as the standard in ‘unbiased’ Islamic research? Why should Muir be considered an authority on the Prophet’s life, when he writes that the Qur’an is among ‘the most stubborn enemies of Civilization, Liberty, and the Truth which the World has yet known?”
The best answer is given by Ibn Sirin (d. 110 H/ 728 CE) who says: “This knowledge constitutes your religion, so be careful when choosing whom to learn your religion from.”
With its thorough scholarship and meticulous research, Professor Azami’s book constitutes a major contribution to Qur’anic studies in English. It makes absorbing reading and benefits both scholars and lay readers.
The History of The Qur’anic Text From Revelation to Compilation, by Muhammad Mustafa Al-Azami, UK Islamic Academy; Leicester, 2003, 376 pages

Quran recommends study of Nature


Islam is the first and the last religion that laid the foundation of practical and empirical science.

By: Mohammed Shihabuddin Nadvi

The Greek philosophers used to talk eloquently and sagaciously, but they never felt the need of experimentation to prove their theories. Actually they did not view experimental observations as necessary. Contrary to this, the holy Quran not only recommends experimentation and observation, but insists on a deep study of each and every object and phenomenon of the nature. Some of the verses indicate this very clearly i) It demands the human beings to ponder on all that there is in the heavens and on the earth. (Surah Yunus:101) ii) It emphasises the study of the constellations in the heaven. (Surah Hajr:16) iii) It seeks to reflect upon the bearing of fruits in trees and plants and the ripening of the crops and fruits. ( Surah Anam:99) iv)It invites man to study the elevation of the skies, the fixation of the mountains, the extension of the earth and the peculiar built of the camel. (Surah Ghashia:17-20) v) It forcefully proclaims that there are signs for the thoughtful in the creation of the heavens and the earth, the alternation of the day and the night, the sailing of the ships through the oceans, the water which is sent down from the sky, the various plant specimens sprouting out of the earth, the animal kingdom spread all over the surface of the earth and the vast atmosphere covering the world. (Surah Baqara:164)
So it can be concluded that the physical laws and rules that govern the functioning of all these things constitute Science, which is the result of contemplating and reflecting on processes, as the holy Quran calls upon. It must be clear that the systematic study of material objects alone is the definition of Science .
Influenced by the assertion of reflecting, the Muslims reflected upon every material object and every phenomenon of nature and made new discoveries and formulated new concepts thereby giving rise to modern science which was entirely different from the previous one. In fact, it had its own virtue as not being comparable to even later eras when science developed in the West. Actually, the West had to sacrifice hundreds of thousands of human lives because of the conflict between the Church and Science. Islam does not envisage any such conflict .
Many historians are also impressed by the incomparable progress Muslims made in this field. For example, Prof. Phillip K. Hitti has attributed this unique attachment to science, and progress therein to the keen sense of intellectual curiosity, voracious appetite for learning and many latent faculties possessed by the Arabs of the desert. (History of the Arabs, London, 1977, P. 306.) .
But the question is from where did the Arabs imbibe these characteristics and who awakened these latent faculties? And moreover, how could these qualities suddenly arise in the minds of a nation that was devoid of any culture and civilisation? Is there any motivation other than the holy Quran which, with its innumerable forceful and effective verses, awoke the sleepy nation to conquer nature. From this point of view, the holy Quran occupies a unique status in the realm of world literature. It was due to the Quran that the Bedouins of Arabia who were engaged in rearing camels and goats could control the whole civilised world in such a short time and become the heirs to the Roman, Persian, Syriac, Indian and Greek knowledge. According to Hitti, the Arab scholars assimilated only in a few decades, what had taken the Greeks, centuries to develop .
In fact, the Muslims borrowed the raw material from various nations, thought about them in the light of Quranic guidance and applying it, developed these concepts through continuous reflection, experimentations and observations and laid the basis of modern science .
Conclusively, it can be said that Islam is the first and the last religion that stressed the need to reflect upon the world phenomena and laid the foundation of practical and empirical science. It was this positive and revolutionary invitation to experimental sciences that helped them to make their own, as a matter of right, that which had been initiated earlier to them. The new techniques and theories that constitute the content of sciences like chemistry, physics, astronomy, geology, medicine, botany and mathematics are nothing, but the contribution of the Arab researchers alone. Volumes are required to describe the achievements even in a single field .
Islam, thus, is an eternal and universal religion which by being a complete philosophy of life has potential strength and energy to initiate the study of nature and natural phenomena. It is not merely a collection of few worshipping rites. In fact, the essence of vicegerency of earth demands progress in science and technology. And any nation which lacks in this field is victimised and becomes subservient to the whims of the more powerful nations. While all this pioneering work was done in the early period of the Caliphate, suddenly an impasse took over the Muslim world. This period has extended for quite long. Now the renaissance of Islam can take place only if the Muslims return to the progressive practices of their forefathers. The glorious Quran is a living and revolutionary scripture. It could stir up great revolutions in the lives provided it is treated as a Living Book and followed with utmost faith and belief .
The author is Chairman of Bangalore based Furqania Academy.Top

A Cycle of Fortune and Misfortune


By: Muhammad Siraaj

Do not be faint of heart, and do not grieve; for you shell gain the upper hand if you are truly believers. If misfortune befalls you, a similar misfortune has befallen other people as well. Such days [of fortune and misfortune], We deal out in turn among men. God wants to mark out those who truly believe and choose from among you such as [with their lives] bear witness to the truth. God does not love the wrongdoers. (Quran 3: 139-40)Believers must not lose heart, nor should they allow grief to overtake them because of what may happen. Eventually if they remain steadfast they will gain the upper hand, because they have faith. Believers submit themselves only to God, while others are worshiping false deities and worldly desires.These verses makes it plain to the believers that they are indeed on the path of truth. It tells them, they follow a way of life established by God while the methods followed by other groups have been devised by His creatures. Moreover, their role is noble, because they have been selected for a position of trust, to convey God's guidance to all mankind. Other people are unaware of this guidance, and have gone astray. Their place on earth is righteous, and it is the righteous that will inherit the earth. Therefore, believers have to demonstrate the strength of their faith by not losing heart and not grieving. The rules determined by God make it possible that they may score a victory or suffer a defeat, but in due course, after enduring the test and striving for God's cause, will be in their favor."If misfortune befalls you, a similar misfortune has befallen other people as well" The misfortune which is said to have befallen the Muslims and the fact that a similar one befell those who reject the truth may be a reference to the Battle of Badr, in which the idolaters suffered a heavy defeat. On the other hand, it may be a reference to the Battle of Uhud, in which the Muslims were initially close to victory, but were then defeated. What the Muslims suffered was fair reward for their disagreement and disobedience. Moreover, it represents an aspect of how the rules of nature established by God never fail. The disagreement among the rearguard of the Muslim army was the result of their greed. In any campaign of struggle, God grants victory to those who strive for His cause, without regard of the petty gains of this world. Another rule of nature which is seen in full operation is the dealing out of fortune and misfortune among people according to their actions and intentions. In this way, true believers are distinguished from hypocrites. Mistakes are identified and the way ahead becomes very clear."If misfortune befalls you, a similar misfortune has befallen other people as well. Such days [of fortune and misfortune] We deal out in turn among men. God wants to mark out those who truly believe." (Verse 140) When hardship is followed by prosperity and the latter is followed by another hardship, people's true characters emerge. They reveal how clear their vision is , how much they panic and how patient in adversity they can be, as well as how great their trust in God is and how submissive to His will they are. Thus true believers are distinguished from those who are hypocrites. Their true intentions are apparent to all. The believers who submit them selves to God are strengthened by the fact that those who do not truly submit to God are identified and excluded.God knows all secrets and He is aware of those who are true believers and those who are not. But the alternation of days of fortune and misfortune does not merely reveal secrets; it also translates faith into action and compels hypocrisy to express itself in practical measures. Hence, it is action that merits reward.God does not hold people to account for what He knows of their position, but He counts their actions for or against them. The cycle of hardship and prosperity is an accurate criterion. Prosperity is as good a test as hardship. Some people may withstand hardship but become complacent when they are tested with ease and prosperity. A true believer is one who remains steadfast in adversity and is not lured away by prosperity. He knows that whatever befalls him of good or evil happens only with God's permission.In the process of molding the Muslim community and preparing it for the role of leadership of humankind, God tests it with hardship after prosperity and with a bitter defeat after a spectacular victory. Both happen according to the laws of nature which never fail. That is because God wants the true believers to learn what brings them victory and what causes defeat. Thus, they become more obedient to God and reliant on Him. Through the cycle of fortune and misfortune they become aware of the true nature of the Islamic way of life and what is required to implement it.

1. In the Shade of The Quran by Sayyid Qutb
2. The Holy Quran - Text, Translation and Commentary by Abdullah Yusuf Ali

Monday, October 29, 2007

The Quran on God’s Love.


Quran, Chapter 3, Verses 31 and 32:
“Say: if you love God, then follow me, God will love you and forgive you your faults, and God is forgiving, merciful”“Say: obey God and the messenger; but if they turn back, then surely God does not love the unbelievers”Islam in one sense is different from some other major religions of the world. The picture of God that has been depicted in Quran, as we Muslims all believe, is a combination of love toward good people and aversion toward bad people. This has been repeated in at least 40 verses of holly Quran with a clear definition for good people and bad people. This article aims to distinguish between these two groups based on Quranic verses and clarify the image of people whom God loves.

As mentioned in above two verses, the first step is to follow the path that has been shown to us by god’s messenger. This is the most beautiful picture that one can demonstrate as a mutual love. If you do love your God, you are therefore prompted to follow the path that has been shown to you and prepare yourself to receive his love. But it is also stated that the people who do not follow the right path are not to be loved by God.

This may need a little bit more clarification on the definition of right path and people who are to be loved by God. Perhaps the most distinguished characteristic for these people which has been mentioned in 5 verses of Quran (2:195, 3:134, 3:148, 5:13 and 5:93) is to do good to others. Doing good could be helping poor people, supporting orphans or even respecting one’s parents which have been also mentioned in various verses of Quran.

Others, based on Quran, are people who:
guard themselves against sin (3:76, 9:4, 9:7)

judge fairly (5:42, 49:9, 60:8)

fight in God’s way (61:4)

purify themselves (2:222, 9:108)

turn much to God (2:222)

trust in God (3:159)

and are patient (3:146).

On the other hand, God does not love the person who is:
an unbeliever (3:32, 30:45)

arrogant (16:23, 4:36, 31:18, 57:23)

cruel (3:57, 3:140, 42:40)

unfaithful and ungrateful (2:276, 22:38)

exceeding the limits (2:190, 5:87, 7:55)

extravagant (6:141, 7:31)

mischief-maker (2:205, 5:64, 28:77)

treacherous (8:58, 4:107)

and exulting in riches (28:76)

Respect and Kindness to Parents in Quran.


Quran in several verse has advised people to treat their parents with respect and kindness. Here are the list of verses in which Quran has explained how to treat parents:
1- Chapter: 46 , Verse: 15
and we have enjoined on man doing of good to his parents; with trouble did his mother bear him and with trouble did she bring him forth; and the bearing of him and the weaning of him was thirty months; until when he attains his maturity and reaches forty years, he says: my lord! grant me that i may give thanks for thy favor which thou hast bestowed on me and on my parents, and that i may do good which pleases thee and do good to me in respect of my offspring; surely i turn to thee, and surely i am of those who submit
2- Chapter: 31 , Verse: 14
and we have enjoined man in respect of his parents-- his mother bears him with faintings upon faintings and his weaning takes two years-- saying: be grateful to me and to both your parents; to me is the eventual coming
3- Chapter: 29 , Verse: 8
and we have enjoined on man goodness to his parents, and if they contend with you that you should associate (others) with me, of which you have no knowledge, do not obey them, to me is your return, so i will inform you of what you did
4- Chapter: 4 , Verse: 36
and serve allah and do not associate any thing with him and be good to the parents and to the near of kin and the orphans and the needy and the neighbor of (your) kin and the alien neighbor, and the companion in a journey and the wayfarer and those whom your right hands possess; surely allah does not love him who is proud, boastful;
5- Chapter: 17 , Verse: 23
and your lord has commanded that you shall not serve (any) but him, and goodness to your parents. if either or both of them reach old age with you, say not to them (so much as) "ugh" nor chide them, and speak to them a generous word
6- Chapter: 2 , Verse: 83
and when we made a covenant with the children of israel: you shall not serve any but allah and (you shall do) good to (your) parents, and to the near of kin and to the orphans and the needy, and you shall speak to men good words and keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate. then you turned back except a few of you and (now too) you turn aside
7- Chapter: 6 , Verse: 151
say: come i will recite what your lord has forbidden to you-- (remember) that you do not associate anything with him and show kindness to your parents, and do not slay your children for (fear of) poverty-- we provide for you and for them-- and do not draw nigh to indecencies, those of them which are apparent and those which are concealed, and do not kill the soul which allah has forbidden except for the requirements of justice; this he has enjoined you with that you may understand

The Qur'an of Miraculous Exposition


By Said Nursi

A man searching for his Lord said to himself : "Let's look at the book called the Qur'an of miraculous exposition, which is said to be the Word of the One I have been searching for and challenges its opponents. Let's see what it says about the Lord. Is it really a Divine Book, the Book of the Creator, as is claimed?" Since he lives in this age, first he inquired of the Risale‑i Nur about the Creator. Seeing that its 130 treatises comprise the explanations and substantial interpretations of certain Qur'anic truths, he understood from its content and forceful diffusing and defending of the Qur'anic truths in this age of unbelief that the Qur'an is a revealed book. Especially after reading the Eighteenth Sign of The Nineteenth Letter and The Twenty‑fifth Word, which convincingly argue that the Qur'an is a miracle in 40 respects, he almost was convinced of its Divine authorship and noticed a few more points showing its excellence:
First point: With all the aspects of its miraculousness and the truths it contains, which prove its truth, the Qur'an is a miracle of Muhammad. In the same way the Prophet, with all his miracles and his Prophethood's proofs, as well as his perfect knowledge and integrated personality, is a miracle of the Qur'an and a decisive proof of its Divine authorship.
Second point: The Qur'an brought about a substantial, happy, and enlightening change in the social life of a considerable portion of humanity. In addition, it continues to bring about such a revolution in people's souls, hearts, and intellects, as well as in their personal, social, and political lives. Its more than 6,600 verses, which have been recited in utmost respect by countless people for centuries, continue to educate people spiritually and intellectually, purify souls, refine intellects, uplift and expand spirits, guide to truth and sound thinking, and make people happy. Such a book must be miraculous, genuine, extraordinary, and unequaled.
Third point: From the first day, the Qur'an's eloquence has captivated literary people. For example, it dimmed the Seven Poems.[19] While removing her father's poem from the wall, Labid's daughter remarked: "After the revelation of the Qur'an, this has no value." On hearing: Proclaim openly and insistently what you are commanded·(15:94), a Bedouin prostrated. When asked if he had become a Muslim, he said: "No. I prostrated before this verse's eloquence." Many geniuses of literature and the science of eloquence, like 'Abd al‑Qahir al‑Jurjani, al‑Sakkaki, and al‑Zamakhshari, have concluded that the Qur'an's eloquence is unequaled.
Moreover, it has challenged all geniuses of literature and eloquence to dispute with it: "Either produce a single sura like mine, or suffer humiliation and ruin in both worlds by denying me." The unbelieving literary people of the Prophet's time could not meet this challenge, and so took up arms against him. This proves that any dispute with the Qur'an is futile.
Countless books in Arabic have been written by friends of the Qur'an who seek to imitate it and by its enemies who criticize it. Anyone, even the simplest person, who hears the Qur'an will conclude that it is superior to all human works. No other book even comes close to resembling it. This leaves us with two options: either it is inferior or superior to all other books. As no one can honestly claim that it is inferior, it must be superior.
Once someone recited: All that is in the heavens and Earth glorifies God·(57: 1), and remarked: "I cannot find in this verse such extraordinary eloquence as the Qur'an is claimed to have." He was told: "Go to pre‑Islamic Arabia [or another place where the darkness of atheism or materialism prevails] and listen to this verse." The man imagined that he was living in pre‑Islamic Arabia [or the world of, say, existentialist philosophers]. He saw that all creatures were leading purposeless, wretched, and meaningless lives. In this dark, unstable, and transient world they were travelling aimlessly in a dark, boundless space devoid of meaning.
Suddenly he heard this verse from the tongue of the Qur'an. He saw that it removed the dark veil from the world's face, illuminating it so much that the eternal sermon and everlasting decree was teaching all conscious beings, lined up in the rows of centuries. It was showing them that the universe is like a huge mosque in which all creatures, including the heavens and Earth, continually glorify, praise, and invoke Him in rapture and utmost happiness. Then, tasting this verse's eloquence and comparing it with others, he understood one of the infinite reasons why the Qur'an's resonating and reverberating eloquence has conquered one‑fifth of humanity and has maintained its majestic dominion for 14 centuries.
Fourth point:·The Qur'an has a sweetness that, despite repeated recitation, never bores people; rather, it gives increasing pleasure. It maintains its freshness and originality as if newly revealed, despite its easy availability, widespread memorization, and its 14 centuries of age. Every age feels as if the Qur'an is addressing it directly. Although all scholars have had frequent recourse to it in every age and have always benefited from it, and although they usually have followed its styles of expression, it still preserves its authentic styles and forms of explanation.
Fifth point: The Qur'an is rooted deeply in the unchanging truths on which all previous Prophets agree. It confirms them, and they affirm it by agreeing on its truths. All of its fruits (e.g., the Islamic sciences and spiritual disciplines of sainthood), which originated from it and demonstrated that each is a blessed, living tree yielding fruits of enlightening truths, testify that the Qur'an is truth itself and a collection of truths unequaled in comprehensiveness.
Sixth point:·All six sides or aspects of the Qur'an are luminous and demonstrate its truth. From below, it is supported upon the pillars of proof and evidence [e.g., rational, scientific, historical, those pertaining to conscience and sound judgment]; above it are gleams of the seal of miraculousness, before it lies happiness in both worlds as its aim; and behind it is another point of support: the truths of Divine Revelation. To its right is the unanimous confirmation of guided reason based on proofs, and to its left are the intellectual and spiritual contentment of those with sound hearts and conscience, and their sincere attachment and submission to it.
Taken as a whole, all of these bear witness that the Qur'an is a formidable, extraordinary, and unconquerable stronghold established by the hand of heaven on Earth. They set their seal of admission that it is a faultless, true Word of God. The Administrator of the universe, Who always manifests unity, protects virtuousness and goodness, and extirpates falsehood and slander, has given the Qur'an the most acceptable, high, and dominant rank of respect and success. Given this, God Himself has confirmed its truth.
Also Prophet Muhammad, the Qur'an's interpreter, believed in it and respected it more than anything and anybody else. He went into a different state when its verses were being revealed, and confirmed and preached all its decrees and commandments with utmost conviction, without showing any deception and error to those waiting to catch him, and without anything to shake him. Despite being unlettered, the Qur'an enabled him to relate instantly what was revealed about the past and future, the facts of creation and the universe's operation. Other sayings of his do not resemble the Qur'an and are inferior to it in certain respects. All of this proves that the Qur'an is the true heavenly and blessed Word of that person's Merciful Creator.
One‑fifth of humanity, or even the majority of people in certain cases, always have had an ecstatic and religious devotion to the Qur'an. They listened to it lovingly and in adoration of truth, and as testified to by numerous observations, signs, and events. Just as moths fly round a light, angels, believing jinn, and other spirit beings gather around the Qur'an during its recitation. This also confirms that the Qur'an is accepted by almost all beings in the universe and that it is of the highest rank.
All types of people derive their share from its teachings. The greatest scholars in Islamic sciences (e.g., jurisprudence, theology, and religious methodology) have found in it answers to their questions and so have based their conclusions upon it. This is another evidence that the Qur'an is the source of truths, the mine of all true knowledge. Furthermore, no unbelieving Arab literary genius ever has produced anything like it. Other geniuses of learning and eloquence who sought to produce something as eloquent as the Qur'an have been compelled to refrain from doing so. This clearly shows that the Qur'an is a miracle.
To judge a word's value, sublimity, and eloquence, we must ask who spoke it, to whom was it spoken, and why was it spoken. When considered in this way, the Qur'an has no equal, for it is the Word of the Lord of all beings, the Speech of the Creator of the universe. Nothing in it suggests that it has been fabricated by someone and then falsely attributed to God. God revealed the Qur'an to His chosen representative of all creatures, one who is His most famous and renowned addressee, whose belief embraced the comprehensive religion of Islam and caused its owner to rise to the rank of the distance of two bows' length. After being honored with direct conversation with the Eternally‑Besought‑of‑All, he returned to convey the principles of happiness in both worlds.
The Qur'an explains these principles, as well as the results of and the Divine purpose in creating the universe. It expounds upon the Prophet's most comprehensive belief, which sustains all the truths of Islam. It shows and describes the universe as a map, a clock, or a house, and teaches about the Artist Who made it. It cannot be matched or equaled in any respect.
In addition, numerous Qur'anic interpretations written by meticulous scholars of the highest intelligence and learning present proofs for countless virtues, subtleties, and mysteries of the Qur'an, and disclose and affirm its numerous predictions. Among them, the Risale‑i Nur's 130 treatises explain each Qur'anic virtue and subtlety, as can be seen throughout The Words. All of this sets a seal on the fact that the Qur'an is a miracle, has no equal, and is the Word of the Knower of the Unseen, which is the tongue of the World of the Unseen in this material world.
Due to its virtues, the Qur'an's magnificent spiritual dominion and majestic sacred rule continue to illuminate Earth and the ages, as well as time and space, and more people have been embracing it with perfect respect. Due to these same virtues, each letter yields at least 10 merits, 10 rewards, and 10 fruits pertaining to the eternal world, and the letters of certain verses and suras each give hundreds or even thousands of merits. When recited on certain blessed occasions, the light and merits of each letter multiply by tens or hundreds.
The world‑traveler came to understand this and said to himself or herself: "Based on the consensus of its lights and mysteries, and the concord of its fruits and results, this Qur'an, miraculous in every respect, proves and testifies to the Existence, Unity, Attributes, and Names of a single Necessarily Existent One in such a manner that the testimonies of innumerable believers have their sources in that testimony."
In a brief reference to the instruction the traveler received from the Qur'an about belief and God's Unity, we say: "There is no god but God—the Necessarily Existent One, the One, the Single—the necessity of Whose existence in His Oneness is proved decisively by the Qur'an of miraculous exposition." This is accepted and sought for by angels, people, and jinn. All of its verses are recited every minute and with perfect respect by countless people. Its sacred rule has prevailed in various regions of the Earth, realms of space, and on the faces of all ages and time. Its enlightened spiritual dominion has prevailed with perfect splendor over one‑fifth of humanity for 1,400 years. Likewise, with the consensus of its heavenly and sacred suras, the agreement of its luminous Divine verses, the correspondence of its mysteries and lights, the concord of its truths, and its results, it manifestly attests to and is a clear proof of this same truth.
[19] Known as the Seven Suspended Poems because they were written in gold and hung up on the Ka'ba's wall prior to the Qur'an's revelation.

King David Victory in Quran.


Quranic verse 2:251 makes reference to an important event in Jewish history - the Israelites' victory over the Philistines during the period of the Prophet Samuel. In this battle, the young Dāwūd (David) distinguished himself by killing the formidable Philistine warrior, Jālūt (Goliath), and his heroism had important consequences for later Israelite history. But 2:251 does not simply relate an event in Biblical history; it touches on a number of issues of religious significance, so that it can justifiably be cited as an instance of Qur'ānic i'jāz (terseness). A translation of the verse is followed by commentary.
And so they [Israelites] defeated them [Philistines] by Allah's will, and David killed Goliath and Allah gave him kingdom and wisdom, and taught him of that which He wishes. And were Allah not to repulse one people by means of another, the earth would be filled with corruption. Allah, however, is full of compassion for the world. (2:251)
The verse begins with the particle 'fa' ('And so'), which represents an omission. The preceding verse reports the prayer of the troops of Tālūt (Bible: Saul): 'Our Lord, pour out steadfastness upon us, make us stand our ground, and give us victory over the disbelieving people.' The particle 'fa' in verse 251 alludes to the suppressed detail: Allah accepted their prayer, and so they became victorious (see Tabarī, 2:396).

The Israelites' victory over the Philistines was a watershed in their history, and yet a single - and simple - Arabic word is used to describe it: fa-hazamūhum. The word brings into sharp focus the ease and speed with which the Israelites defeated the Philistines. The Israelites were afraid to take on the Philistines (see the Qur'ān 2:249; 1 Samuel 17:11, 24), and the odds were stacked against them. And yet the battle proved to be a walk-over for them; for when Dāwūd killed Jālūt, the Philistines fled. The one-word Qur'ānic description thus suggests that the Israelites made short work of the Philistines, so that no more than a brief reference to the event was called for.

The Arabic for 'by Allah's will' is bi-idhni llāhi. The word idhn represents the twin notions of command and facilitation. That is, Allah commanded that this happen, and He made it easy for the Israelites to achieve victory (see Daryābādī, 101). The victory, in other words, was the result not of any superior military ability or force on their part, but of Allah's favour. Tabarī explains the phrase fa-hazamūhum bi-idhni llāhi as follows: fa-qatalūhum bi-qadā'i llāhi wa-qadarihi (2:396).

The verse identifies the most important incident of the battle: Dāwūd's slaying of Jālūt. It was this incident which caused the Philistines to lose heart and filled the Israelites with courage and optimism.

In reading a text like the Qur'ān, proper intonation can be important. The phrase wa-qatala dāwūdu jālūta is a case in point. Read this phrase, placing the stress on Dāwūd and putting a mental exclamation mark at the end of the phrase. The translation now would be: 'And Dāwūd killed Jālūt!' Imagine, the verse would be saying, a young boy killing a gigantic warrior! Isn't that surprising? Not so surprising, the verse itself would seem to suggest, because that is how Allah willed it (bi-idhn illāh would be relevant here, too). And the verse would become suggestive in other ways too. Sayyid Qutb writes: 'He [Allah] decided that this oppressive tyrant should fall at the hands of this youth so that people may realise that tyrants who terrorise them can be overpowered by youngsters when He wishes to kill them', (1:271).

The verse alludes to the significance of the incident in later Israelite history: Dāwūd's heroism was one of the factors that ultimately led to his election as king of the Israelites.

Dāwūd, the verse says, was given al-Mulk wa al-Hikmah. Al-Mulk stands for kingdom - or the kingdom, if the definite article in the word is taken to mean the kingdom of Tālūt, who preceded Dāwūd - while al-Hikmah stands for prophethood (Tabarī, 2:403; Zamakhsharī, 1:151), though it may be argued that it (al-Hikmah) represents wisdom in general, whose highest form, a gift from God, is prophethood (see Daryābādī, 100). The next phrase, 'And He taught him of that what He wishes' refers to the arts and crafts Dāwūd was known to be an expert at, such as making fine coats of mail (Tabarī, 2:403; see the Qur'ān 34:11, 21:80).

In saying that God gave Dāwūd both kingdom and wisdom, the verse is saying that kingship and prophethood, represented, before Dāwūd, in two different individuals - Samuel was the prophet, Tālūt was the king - were combined in Dāwūd. This double honour, then, was a special distinction of Dāwūd's. By implication the verse is saying that Dāwūd was not only a great king out also a wise man, so that his rule was a blessing for the Israelites. It is, of course, also implied that power uninformed by wisdom can be a curse.

According to the verse, Allah taught Dāwūd what He wishes, not what He wished. The use of the Mudāri ('imperfect') instead of the expect Mādī ('perfect') imparts universal value to the statement: not only Dāwūd but all people like him receive their gift of wisdom, understanding, and knowledge from Allah (Islāhī, 1:537).

The verse underscores the fact that Dāwūd's kingdom and wisdom were both gifts from Allah, just as the Israelites' victory over the Philistines was due to Allah's will. In other words, Dāwūd as an individual, like the Israelites as a nation, owed gratitude to Allah.

It lays down the principle in accordance with which Allah governs the course of history: Allah does not allow evil to become dominant forever but keeps purging it, for otherwise endless misery for mankind would be the result. The implication is that a nation that becomes dominant - in this case the Israelites - must not suffer from the delusion that it has now risen above the said law. But there is another implication also: Jihād is an important means of eliminating evil, and the Israelites' fight against the Philistines was but one instance in the series of Jihād - struggles that have been made in the past or will be made in the future to combat evil (see Islāhī, 1:538).

An important question arises here: If God purges the evil perpetrated by one people by means of another, are we to suppose that this latter people is necessarily good? This is what Tabarī seems to think. Allah, he says, removes the evil and the wicked by means of the good and the pious, the disbelievers by means of the believers (2:403 [cf. Sayyid Qutb, 1:269, who also seems to accept this view]). But while this is certainly possible - and in the present case, that of the Israelites and the Philistines, certainly true - it may not be true in each and every case. For sometimes, the people that is used as the instrument of purging may be evil, but not as evil as the people whose evil is purged. Nebuchadnezzar, who enslaved the Israelites, was not a particularly righteous person, and yet he and his people are called in 17:5 'Our servants, of great might', simply because the Israelites had, in comparison, sunk to a very low level of religious and moral existence, their punishment at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar having been foretold in such verses in the Bible as Jeremiah 25:98-10. Note especially that in Jeremiah 25:9 Nebuchadnezzar is called 'my [God's] servant.' (see Islāhī, 3:724-26).

The verse has some importance for understanding the Islamic view of history, which, according to the verse, is essentially optimistic. The caravan of history, whenever it loses its way, is reoriented by Allah. The overall direction of history, therefore, is positive, and the message of history is one of hope, not one of despair.

The last part of the verse establishes a relationship between the said law and Divine mercy, saying that Allah has put that law in force because He is merciful: it is possible to generalise this statement: all Divine laws are expressions of Divine mercy.

This part of the verse also furnishes a valuable philosophical insight. It does not say that in establishing such a law Allah shows mercy to mankind, but that the law is a mercy for the whole universe. There is, in other words, a relationship between the natural and moral worlds. Ultimately, the moral world is but part of the larger scheme of the universe. In the interest of maintaining balance and order in the universe at large, the verse is suggesting, it is necessary that balance and order be maintained in the moral world. It is with this aim in view, therefore, that Allah has established the moral law of history the verse speaks of.

The passage of Sūrah Baqarah of which the verse is a part (verses 249-251) was revealed before the battle of Badr. In fact the Qur'ānic description, in this passage, of the battle between the Israelites and the Philistines prefigures the battle of Badr. At Badr, too, a small number of Muslims would face a much larger army and defeat it. The passage thus prepares the Muslims for the battle, at the same time encouraging them. When the Battle of Badr took place, the People of the Book in Arabia could not have failed to notice the resemblance between this battle and the battle between the Israelites and the Philistines (see Islāhī, 1:533).

The verse in question is a good illustration of the Qur'ānic method of drawing a general rule from a particular incident. The incident is related in the first half of the verse, it may be added, has pedagogical value in that it teaches us to look for general rules in many other verses where only particular incidents are mentioned, the context leaving it to the reader to draw general rules.

1. Daryābādī, `Abdul Majīd, Al-Qur'ān al-Hakīm Ma'a Tarjumah-o-Tafsīr, Lahore and Karachi, prob. 1373 H.
2. Islāhī, Amīn Ahsān, Tadabbur-i-Qur'ān, 9 vols., Lahore, 1973-80.
3. Qutb, Sayyid, Fi Zilāl al-Qur'ān, 6 vols. Beirut, 1393-94/1973-74.
4. Tabarī, Abū Ja`far, Jāmi` al-Bayān, 30 vols. in 12, Beirut, 1406/1986-1407/1987 (reprint of Bulaq edition, 1323 H.).
5. Zamakhsharī, Abu'l-Qāsim Mahmūd, Al-Kashshāf, 4 vols. Egypt, 1385/1966.
Mustansir Mir
Renaissance, 2000, Volume 10, No. 1.