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Law, Religion and the Prophetic Method of Social Change

  • Jawdat Said

Extract

We live in a world in which four fifths of its population live in frustration while the other fifth lives in fear. The United Nations, our world's “figleaf,” does not hide the shame of humanity but rather scandalizes humanity's malaise. It is troubling that the League of Nations and the United Nations were born after two world wars. Humanity's unity should come as a natural birth and not as the result of a caesarian section, i.e., through violent global wars. This is reminiscent of the ages of epidemics. Then, because of ignorance about the causes behind these illnesses, plagues swept through communities, leaving millions of dead behind. Yet, after technology made it possible for us to see smaller forms of life and medicine brought us a better understanding of germs, communities became better equipped to halt disease and heal the sufferers. If a country now is devastated by an epidemic, we blame it on the lack of sufficient hygiene. So too, the wars that erupt here and there are caused by ignorance of the intellectual organisms that infect communities with hate and influence people to commit atrocities. In today's world, relying on science, we concern ourselves with preventing germ warfare while sheltering the intellectual viruses that destroy us: our intellectual foods are still polluted. We cannot afford to continue to be confused or ignorant about these invasive germs.

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References

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1. “Primitive people, Levi-Strauss tells us, have a passion for naming, classifying and establishing relations between things.” Caws, Peter, What is Structuralism?, in Claude Levi-Strauss: The Anthropoligist as Hero 196 (Hayes, E. Nelson & Hayes, Tina, eds., Cambridge, Mass: The M.I.T. Press 1970). For an example of the extent of naming and its importance, see generally Levi-Strauss, Claude, The Savage Mind 1–9, 39–43, 172216 (Chicago: U. of Chi. Press 1966).

2. See Copleston, Frederick S.J., 1 A History of Philosophy 8186 (Mahwah, N.J.: Paulist Press 1946); 7 Ency. of Phil. Sophists 494 (N.Y.: The MacMillan Co. & the Free Press 1967).

3. For Biblical references, The Revised English Bible (Oxford: Oxford U. Press 1989) was used. In addition, The Holy Bible, The Authorized King James Version (Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan Pub. House 1962) was also consulted for specific terms and verses.

4. For Qur'anic references, The Holy Qur'an (‘Ali, Abdullah Usuf trans., Brentwood, Md: Amana Corp. 1989) was used. While this version was used as the source for Qur'anic verses, some changes were made to maintain the accuracy and integrity of the original Arabic text of the Qur'an.

5. In the same Surah we read: “Such were the towns whose story We (thus) relate unto you: There came indeed to them their messengers with clear signs. But they would not believe what they had rejected before ….” Surah 7 Al A'raf: 101. “Then after them We sent Moses with our signs To Pharaoh and his chiefs. But they wrongfully rejected them: So see what was the end of those who made mischief.” Id. at 103.

In the Qur'an there is an entire chapter, (Surah) called the Surah of the Prophets (Al Anbiya’) relating to the chain of prophecy. In that chapter we read: “In the past We granted to Moses and Aaron the Criterion (for judgement), and a Light and a Message for those who are pious.” Surah 21 Al Anbiya’: 48. “This is a blessed message which We have sent down: will you then reject it? We bestowed aforetime on Abraham his rectitude of conduct (guidance), and well were We acquainted with Him.” Id. at 50-51. “And We bestowed on him Isaac And, as an additional gift, (A grandson), Jacob, and We Made righteous of every one of them. And We made them leaders, guiding by our command, and We revealed to them to do good deeds, to establish regular prayers; And to practise regular charity; and they were our worshippers.” Id. at 72-73. “And Noah, when he cried aforetime; We responded to him (listened to his prayer) and delivered him and his family from great distress.” Id. at 76. “And David and Solomon, when they give judgement …. To their judgement We were witness.” Id. at 78. “And Job, when he cried to his Lord, ‘Truly distress has seized me. But Thou are the Most Merciful of those that are Merciful.’” Id. at 83. “And Islmai'il, Idris, and Dhu al Kifl, all were of constancy and patience.” Id. at 85. “And Dhu al Nun [Jonah], when he departed in wrath; he imagined that We had no power over him. But he cried through the depths of darkness, ‘There is no god but You: Glory to You: I was indeed one of those who are unjust.’” Id. at 87. “And Zakariya, when he cried to his Lord; ‘O my Lord! Leave me not without offspring, though You are the best of inheritors.’ So We responded (to his prayer) And We granted him Yahya [John]: We cured his wife for him. These (three) were quick in emulation, in good works; they used to call on us with longing (love) and reverence, and humble themselves before Us.” Id. at 89-90. “And her (Mary) who guarded her chastity; We breathed into her of our Spirit, and We made her and her son a sign for all worlds (people). Verily, this nation of yours is a single nation, and I am your Lord: therefore worship me. But (later generations) tore off their affairs (of unity) one from another; (yet) will they all return to Us.” Id. at 91-93.

These Qur'anic texts indicate that the world of prophets was one, and that they came with one call. “We sent Moses with our signs (and the command): ‘Bring out your people from the depths of darkness into light, and remind them of the days of God. Verily in this there are signs for such as are firmly patient and constant-grateful and appreciative.’” Surah 14 Ibrahim: 5.

There is also in the same Surah: Has not the story reached you, of those who (went) before you? Of the people of Noah, and 'Ad, and Thamud? And those who (came) after them? None knows them but God. To them came Messengers with clear signs; but they put their hands up to their mouths, and said; ‘We do deny (the mission) on which you have been sent, and we are really in suspicious doubt as to that to which you invite us.’ Id. at 9.

6. The Qur'an recites:

Their messengers said: ‘Is there a doubt about God, the Creator of the heavens and the earth? It is He who invites you, in order that He may forgive you your sins and give you respite for a term appointed.’ They said: ‘Ah! You are no more than human, like ourselves! You wish to turn us away from what our fathers worshiped: then bring us some clear authority (reference).’ Their messengers said to them; ‘True, we are human like yourselves, but God does grant His grace to such of His servants as He wills. It is not for us to bring you an authority except as God permits. And on God let all believers put their trust. No reason have we why we should not put our trust on God. Indeed He has guided us to the ways we (follow). We shall certainly bear with patience all the hurt you cause us. For those who put their trust should put their trust on God.’ Id. at 10-12.

7. After the story of Noah, it says: “Then, We raised after them another generation. And We sent to them (each) a messenger from among themselves, (saying), ‘Worship God! You have no other god but Him. Will you not fear.’” Surah 23 Al Mu'minun: 31-32.

8. In Sura Al ‘An’am, it is said: “Lo! Abraham said to his father Azar: ‘Do you take idols for gods? For I see you and your people in manifest error.’ So did We show Abraham the kingdom of the heavens and the earth, that he might have certitude.” Surah 6 Al An'am: 74-75.

The Qur'an follows the dialogue between Ibrahim and his nation. It, then, says: That was our reasoning (proof) about Us, which We gave to Abraham (to use) against his people. We raise whom We will, degree after degree, for your Lord is full of Wisdom and knowledge. We gave him Isaac and Jacob: all (three) We guided. And before him, We guided Noah and among his progeny, David, Solomon, Job, Joseph, Moses, and Aaron. Thus do We reward those who are compassionate. And Zakariyya and John, and Jesus and Elias, all in the ranks of the Righteous. And Isma'il and Elisha, and Jonah, and Lot. And all We favored above the nations. And to their fathers, and progeny and brethren, We chose them, and We guided them to a straight way. This is the Guidance of God. He gives that guidance to whom He wills of his worshippers. If they were to join other gods with Him, all that they did would be vain for them. These were to whom We gave the Book, and authority and prophethood. If these (their descendants) reject them, behold! We shall entrust their charge to a new people who will not belie them. Those were (the prophets) who received God's guidance. Copy the guidance they received. Say: ‘No reward for this do I ask of you. This is no less than a message for the worlds (people).’ Id. at 83-90.

The Qur'an stresses this prophetic unity and its message by saying: “Generations before you were destroyed whey they became unjust. Their messengers came to them with clear signs, but they would not believe! Thus do We requite criminal nations. Then We made you heirs in the earth (the land) after them, to see how you would behave.” Surah 10 Yunus: 13-14.

Then it starts with Noah:

Relate to them the story of Noah. Behold! he said to his people: ‘O my people, if it be hard on you that I should stay (with you) and remind you of God's signs, then to God I commend my trust. Get you then an agreement about your plan and among your partners, so your plan be not to you dark and dubious. Then pass your sentence on me and give me no respite.’ Id. at 71.

We see here how Noah subjects himself to rule of law of his society. Then after him, We sent (many) messengers to their peoples: they brought them clear signs, but they would not believe what they had already rejected beforehand. Thus do We seal the hearts of the transgressors. Then after them sent We Moses and Aaron to Pharaoh and his chiefs with our signs. But they we were arrogant. They were a people in crime. Id. at 74-75.

In Surah Houd, the Qur'an tells the story of Noah with detail, similar to what we have seen above. Then it mentions, in the same fashion as we saw in Surah Al A'raf, the story of the prophets and how they asked of their people to worship God because they have no god but Him. We also read more about Moses and Pharaoh here.

9. The Qur'an recites,

Say you: ‘We believe in God, and the revelation given to us, and to Abraham, Isma'il, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and that given to Moses and Jesus, and that given to (all) Prophets from their Lord. We make no difference between one and another of them. And to Him we are submitters (Muslims).’ So if they believe as you believe, they are indeed guided, and if they turn back, it is they who are in schism; but God will suffice thee as against them, and He is the all-hearing, the all knowing. Surah 2 Al Baqarah: 136-137.

There is also:

Say: ‘We believe in God, and in what has been revealed to us and was revealed to Abraham, Isma'il; Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and in (the Books) given to Moses, Jesus, and the Prophets, from their Lord. We make no distinction between one and another among them and to Him we are submitters (Muslims).’ Surah 3 Ali ‘Imran: 84.

10. The Qur'an creates this space by stating that it has not related to us the stories of all prophets: “We have sent thee revelation, as We sent it to Noah and the messengers after him: We sent revelation to Abraham, Isma'il, Isaac, Jacob and the Tribes, to Jesus, Job, Jonah, Aaron, and Solomon, and to David We gave the Psalms. Of some messengers We have already told thee the story; of others We have not—and to Moses God spoke direct;—Messengers who gave good news as well as warning, that human, after (the coming) of the messengers, should have no plea against God: for God is exalted in power, Wise.” Surah 4 Al Nisa: 163-165.

These verses also deal with the inclusiveness of prophecy:

11. See Surah 40 Ghafir: 78. We also see in the Qur'an the passages: “To every people (we sent) a messenger: when messenger comes (before them), the matter will be judged between them with justice, and they will not wronged (done injustice to).” Surah 10 Yunus: 47. “Verily We sent you in truth, as a bearer of glad tidings, and as a warner: and there never was a people, without a warner having lived among them (in the past).” Surah 35 Fatir: 24.

12. The Qur'an recites: “Until, when the messengers give up hope (of their people) and (come to) think that they were treated as liars, there reaches them our help, and those whom We will are delivered into safety. But never will be warded off our punishment from criminal nations.” Surah 12 Yusuf: 110.

13. As the Qur'an says: “[A]nd never give up hope of God's soothing mercy: truly no one despairs of God's soothing mercy, except those who have no faith.” Id. at 87.

14. This term is to be found in Surah 33, which reads: “Those who communicate (preach) the messages of God, and fear Him and fear none but God. And God is enough to call (people) to account.” Surah 33 Al-Ahzab: 39.

15. Historical or natural laws are referred to in the Qur'an with the word (sunnah). One of the verses that deals with the immutability of the laws of the universe reads: “[A]re they but looking for the law (sunnah) the ancients were dealt with? But no change will you find in God's law (sunnah); no shifting will you find in God's law (sunnah).” Surah 35 Fatir: 43.

16. In the Bible we read:

Beware of false prophets, who come to you dressed up as sheep [in sheep's clothing], but underneath they are savage wolves. You will recognize them by their fruit. Can grapes be picked from briars, or figs from thistles? A good tree always yields sound fruit, and a poor [corrupt] tree bad [evil] fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, or a poor tree sound fruit. A tree that does not yield sound fruit is cut down and thrown on the fire.

That is why I say you will recognize them by their fruit. Matt 7:15-20.

The content of this message, if we could specify it, could be the basis to resolving many problems of humanity. Thus, exposing these texts with historical inputs could clarify them more.

17. This indicates that evidence from the natural world and historical events validate the message of prophets. The Qur'an reads:

Behold! In the creation of the heavens and the earth; in the alteration of the night and day; in the sailing of the ships through the sea for the profit of humankind; in the rain which God sends down from the skies, and the life which he gives therewith to an earth that is dead; in the beasts of all kinds that He scatters through the earth; in the change of the winds, and the clouds which trail between the sky and the earth—are indeed signs for a people that reason. Surah 2 Al Baqarah: 164.

Behold! In the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the alteration of night and day—There are indeed signs for those of hearts. Surah 3 Ali ‘Imran: 190.

And in Surah 26 Al Shu’ara’, eight historical events are presented with the following comment after each case: “Verily in this is a Sign. But most of them do not believe.” This statement is repeated 8 times following these verses: Surah 26 Al Shu’ara’: 8-68, 103-121, 139158, 174-190. These same historical events are presented in detail in Surah 7 Al A'raf, and briefly in Surah 26 or only in names in Surah 50. “Before them denied the people of Noah, the companions of the Russ, Thamud. The Ad, Pharaoh, the brethren of Lut, The companions of the Wood, and Tubba’. Each one of them rejected the messengers, and our warning was duly fulfilled.” Surah 50 Qaf: 12-14.

18. It is said, at other places, this cry for miracles is also rebuked:

Say those without knowledge: ‘Why does not God speak unto us? Or why does not come unto us a sign? So said the people before them words of similar import. Their hearts are alike. We have indeed made clear the signs unto any people who hold firmly their belief.’ Surah 2 Al Baqarah: 118.

‘Nay,’ they say, ‘(these are) medleys of dreams!’ ‘Nay, he forged it!’ ‘Nay, he is (but) a poet! Let him then bring a Sign like the ones that were to (prophets) of old!’ Surah 21 Al Anbiya’: 5.

They said: ‘We shall not believe in you, until you cause a spring to gush forth for us from the earth. Or (until) you have a garden of date trees and vines, and cause rivers to gush forth in their midst, carrying abundant water. Or you cause the sky to fall in pieces, as you claimed, against us, or you bring God and the angels before (us) face to face. Or you have a house adorned with gold, or you mount a ladder right into the skies. No, we shall not even believe in your mounting until you send down to us a book that we can read.’ Say: ‘Glory to my Lord! Am I aught but a human messenger?’ Surah 17 Al Isra’: 90-93.

Now are they but looking for the way the ancients were dealt with? But no change will you find in God's pattern (law). No turning off will you find in God's pattern (law): Surah 35 Fatir: 43.

19. By using this style of deduction, the evidence and reference point are based on history. In this style, the Qur'an's reference is historical results:

Do you not see how your Lord dealt with ‘Ad. Of the (city of) Iram, with lofty pillars, The like of which were not produced in (all) the land. And with Thamud, who cut out rocks in the valley. And with Pharaoh, Lord of stakes. (All) these transgressed beyond bounds in the lands. And heaped therein mischief (on mischief). Therefore did your Lord pour on them a scourge of diverse chastisements: For your Lord is (as a guardian) on a watchtower. Surah 89 Al Fajr. 6-14.

Such were the villages (populations) we destroyed when they committed iniquities; but We fixed an appointed time for their destruction. Surah 18 Al Kahf: 59.

And We sent Moses, with our (clear) signs and authority manifest, Unto Pharaoh and his chiefs: but they followed the command of Pharaoh was no right guide. He will go before his people on the Day of Judgement, and lead them into the fire but woeful indeed will be the place to which they are led! And they are followed by a curse in this (life) and on the Day of Judgement: and woeful is the gift which shall be given (unto them)! These are some of the stories of communities which We relate unto you: of them some are standing, and some have been mown down (by the sickle of time). It was not We that wronged (were unjust to) them: they wronged themselves. The deities, other than God, whom they invoked, profited them no wit when there issued the decree of your Lord: nor did they add aught (to their lot) but perdition! Such is the chastisement of thy Lord when He takes communities in the midst of their injustice: grievous indeed, and severe is his chastisement. In that is a sign for those who fear the penalty of the hereafter: that is a day for which mankind will be gathered together: that will be a Day of Testimony. (Surah 11 Hud: 96-103).

If the Qur'an mentions the ends of nations that were unjust, then the ends of many other nations after the era of the Qur'an provide many historical lessons equally. The message of the historical tales in the Qur'an is clear: if the following lessons were not enough, wait for the coming ones. The law of God does not change in the rise and fall of nations who mistreat people and are unjust to them:

Such were the populations We destroyed when they committed iniquities; but We fixed an appointed time for their destruction. (Surah 18 Al Kahf: 59).

And how many populations We destroyed, which exulted in their life (of prosperity)! Now those habitations of theirs, after them, are destroyed-all but a few. And We are their heirs. Surah 28 Al Qasas: 58.

Nor was thy Lord the one to destroy the towns (a population) until He had sent to its center a messenger, reciting to them our signs: nor are We going to destroy town (a population) except when its members are unjust. Id. at 59.

20. The Qur'an attests to the hostile reception faced by those who prophesy: “Do they seek for other than the religion of God?” “while all creatures in the heavens and on earth have, willing or unwilling, bowed to his will, and to Him shall they all be brought back.” Surah 3 Ali ’Imran: 81-83. The Qur'an further states:

And remember, Jesus, the son of Mary, said: ‘Oh, children of Israel! I am the messenger of God (sent) to you, confirming the Law (which came) before me, and giving glad tidings of a Messenger to come after me, Whose name shall be Ahmad, (another name for Muhammed).’ But when he came to them with clear signs, they said, ‘This is evident sorcery!’ Surah 61 Al Saff: 6.

21. Similarly, the Qur'an joined the testimony of God and angels to that of the learned ones who call for justice: “There is no god but He: that is the witness of God, his angels, and those endued with knowledge, standing firm on justice. There is no god but He the exalted in power, the wise.” Surah 3 Ali ‘Imran: 18.

22. The prophet (PBUH) wrote these leaders letters in which he called on them for what had been revealed to him. In his letters, he included this term, which is captured in the quoted verse.

23. The Bible tells us:

And the Lord God … said, ‘The man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil; what if he now reaches out and takes fruit from the tree of life also, and eats it and lives for ever’: When he drove him out, God settled him to the East of the garden of Eden, and he stationed the cherubim and a sword whirling and flashing to guard the way to the tree of life. Gen 3:22, 24. The flaming sword at the gate of Eden is the narrow gate in Matthew which only few will find.

24. For instance, the Surahs read: “[A]nd for this let the competitors compete.” Surah 83 Al Mutaffifin: 26.

25. Surah 3 Ali ‘Imran: 64.

26. As just some examples of this word of equity, we might look at the Bible:

How can you say to your brother, ‘let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own? You hypocrite! First take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's. Matt 7:4-5.

The Qur'an also enunciates this word more specifically:

Woe to those that deal in fraud. Those who, when they have to receive by measure from people, exact full measure, But when they have to give by measure or weight to others, give less than due. Do they not think that they will be called to account? On a Mighty Day, A Day when all humankind will stand before the Lord of the Worlds. Surah 83 Al Mutaffifin: 1-6.

To call forth the demand for judgment in equity in parallel ways:

Do not judge, and you will not be judged. For as you judge others, so you will yourselves be judged, and whatever measure you deal out of others will be dealt to you. Matt 7:2.

Do you enjoin right conduct on the people, and forget (to practise it) yourselves. And yet you study the Scripture? Will you not reason. Surah 2 Al Baqarah: 44.

Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You pay tithe of mint and dill and cummin; but you have overlooked the weightier demands of the law—justice, mercy, and good faith. It these you should have practised, without neglecting the others. Matt 23:23. Perhaps through these comparisons, our level will rise beyond mint and cummin. We, then, will take the law unlike those who ‘strain off a midge, yet gulp down a camel.’ Id. at 23:24.

Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You are like tombs covered with whitewash; they look fine on the outside, but inside they are full of dead men's bones and of corruption. So it is with you: outwardly you look like honest men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness [iniquity]. Id. at 24:27-28.

and lawlessness spreads [because iniquity shall abound], the love of many will grow cold. But whoever endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the earth as a testimony to all nations; and then the end will come. Id. at 24:12-14.

In the Qur'an, it is also said:

Say: ‘Not equal are things that are vile and things that are seemly, even though the abundance of vileness may dazzle you; so fear God, O you that of hearts (understand); that you may prosper.’ Surah 5 Al Ma'idah: 103.

And no one will be granted such goodness except those who exercise patience and self-restraint, none but persons of greatest good fortune. Surah 41 Fussilat: 35.

It is those who are endowed with hearts (understanding) that remember. Those who fulfill the covenant of God and fail not in their plighted word; Those who join together those which God had commanded to be joined, hold their Lord in awe, and fear the terrible reckoning; Those who patiently persevere, seeking the countenance of their Lord; establish regular prayers; spend, out of what We have bestowed for their sustenance, secretly and openly; and repel off evil with good (compassion): for such there is the attainment of the (eternal) home. Surah 13 Al Ra'd: 19-22.

27. And all prophets were sent with the commands to worship God and avoid tyranny (taghut) (domination) and that the word of polytheism is in opposition to the word of equity. We see this clearly stated in these words: “It has already been revealed to you as it was those before you. ‘If you were to commit polytheism, truly obsolete will be your work, and you will surely be in the ranks of those who lose.’” Surah 39 Al Zummar: 65. It is important to understand that obedience is voluntary; in Surah 2 we read: “There is no coercion in religion ….” Surah 2 Al-Baqarah 256.

28. The Arabic term “rushd” has a variety of interrelated meanings which include “(physical) maturity and adulthood.” The root word for “rushd” in Arabic means “guidance or reason.” The Qur'anic concept of “rushd,” however, is richer in meaning than the corresponding Arabic word. It refers to other less literal and more conceptually sophisticated meanings, such as: moral and spiritual maturity, or political legitimacy. In the Qur'an “rushd” is used to distinguish a certain path or even a model of behavior. For example, the Qur'an describes the Pharoah as someone who was not “rashid.” Surah 11 Hud: 97. In other places, the Qur'an states that God will turn away from the “path of rushd” those who are arrogant, and unjustly defiant. Surah 7 Al-A'raf: 146. The word “rushd” is used repeatedly in the Qur'an to embody meanings of reason, guidance and political or social legitimacy in a community. Because of the richness of this Qur'anic term, the editors have opted not to translate it, but to use the word “rushd” instead throughout the text. This approach preserves the richness of its meaning and maintains the integrity of this Qur'anic concept.

29. “Serve God, and eschew tyranny ….” Surah 16 Al Nahl: 36. Taghut and tughyan comes from the Arabic verb tagha which means to dominate and control; to pass the limits in oppression. The Qur'an uses this verb in relation to the Pharaoh in many instances as we saw in the earlier quotes. This verb was also used in relation to the tribes A'ad and Thamoud in addition to Pharaoh. The longest dialogue in the Qur'an between a prophet and his people is the dialogue between Moses and Pharaoh. The Pharaoh was mentioned in the Qur'an more than 70 times and Moses over 100 times. The struggle of the prophet Moses was with one of the greatest and most domineering civilizations, which has left us the pyramids, a symbols of the power they possessed. Pharaoh, in the Qur'an, is more of an archetype. He was the king, the god whom the Qur'an quoted in phrases that indicate subjugation and conquest, and the division of his people into classes. The Qur'an quotes different utterances by Pharaoh. “He (Pharaoh) said: ‘I am your Lord, Most High.’” Surah 79 Al Nazi'at: 24. “Pharaoh said: ‘O chiefs! No god do I know for you but myself ….’” Surah 28 Al Qasas: 38. “Pharaoh said: ‘If thou dost put forward any god other than me, I will certainly make thee imprisoned.’” Surah 26 Al Shu‘ara’: 29. And of him: “Truly Pharoah elevated himself in the land and splintered up its people into factions, taking advantage of a weak group among them: their sons he slew, and he kept the women alive, for he was indeed a maker of mishief.” Surah 28A1 Qasas: 4.

30. This verse is from the King James version. This translation is more in accord with the Arabic version. And the verses are more consistent with each other in this translation, since, in this version, God is presented as Father and Master. In the King James, “even Christ” is added to emphasize that no one is called master, even Christ.

31. “When your Lord drew forth from the children of Adam, from their loins—their descendants, and made them testify concerning themselves, (saying): ‘Am I not your Lord?’ They said: ‘We do testify’ (This), lest you should say on the Day of Judgement: ‘Of this we were never mindful.’” Surah 7 Al A'raf: 172.

32. For instance, the Qur'an says: “Behold! In the creation of the heavens and the earth, And the alternation of Night and Day … there are indeed signs for those of hearts (understanding).” Surah 2 Al Baqarah: 164.

33. For example, the Qur'an mentions the reason behind forbidding wine by using the standard of weighing harms and benefits: “They ask thee concerning wine and gambling. Say: ‘In them is great sin, and some profit for people; but the sin is greater than the profit…,’” Id. at 219.

34. Surah 3 Ali ‘Imran: 64.

35. The Qur'an quotes Pharaoh's superiority and assumed divinity as we saw above in verses: 79 An-Nazi'at: 24; 28 Al-Qasas: 38; 26 Ash-Shu'araa: 290. Pharaoh even threatened those who believed in Moses.

(Pharaoh) said: ‘Believe you in him before I give you permission? Surely this must be your leader who has taught you magic! I will certainly cut off your hands and feet on opposite sides, and I will have crucified on trunks of palm trees: so shall you know for certain which of us can give (he more severe and the more lasting punishment!’ Surah 20 Ta Ha: 71.

And we see the same in the dialogue of Abraham with the pharaoh of his age. “Abraham said: ‘My Lord is He who gives life and death.’ He said: ‘I give life and death …’” Surah 2 Al Baqarah: 258.

36. Christ described the difficulty of the path that leads to life: “[N]arrow is the gate and constricted the road that leads to life, and those who find them are few.” Matt 7:14.

37. From the abridgement of Sahih Muslim by Hafiz Mundhiri, edited by Mustafa Al Bugha. From the Book of Zulm, section 1 under the number 1828. The Qur'an also says: “Whatever good, happens to thee, is from God; but whatever evil happens to thee, is from thy (own) self. And We have sent thee as a messenger to humankind and enough is God for a witness.” Surah 4 Al Nisa’:79.

38. “The scribes and Pharisees occupy Moses' seat; so be careful to do whatever they tell you. But do not follow their practice; for they say one thing and do another. They make up heavy loads and pile them on the shoulders of others, but will not themselves lift a finger to ease the burden. Whatever they do is done for show ….” Matt 23:2-5.

39. Wells, H.G., The Outline of History (N.Y.: Macmillan Co. 1920) (Illustrated).

40. Lemert, Charles C. & Garth, Gillan, Michel Foucault: Beyond Structuralism and Hermeneutics 11 (Drefus, Hubert L. & Rabinow, Paul, eds., Chicago: U. of Chi. Press 1982).

41. Id.

42. As the Gospel of Matthew says, “[A]nd whosoever wants to be first [chief] must be the slave of all.” Matt 20:27.

43. Surah 40 Ghafir: 29. Pharaoh also tells his (followers) about Moses and his call: “Said Pharaoh: Leave me to slay Moses; and let him call on his Lord! What I fear is lest he should change your religion, or lest he should cause mischief to appear in the land!’” Id. at 26.

44. God tells Moses and his brother after preparation and training:

Go, you and you brother. With my signs, and slacken not, either of you, in keeping Me in remembrance. Go, both of you, to Pharaoh, for he has indeed dominated (transgressed all bounds); But speak to him mildly; perchance he may remember or fear. They (Moses and Aaron) said: ‘Our Lord! We fear lest he hasten with insolence against us, or lest he tyrannizes.’ He said: ‘Fear not: for I am with you: I hear and see (everything). So go you both to him, and say, ‘Verily we are messengers sent by your Lord: send forth, therefore, the Children of Israel with us, and afflict them not: with a sign, indeed, have we come from your Lord! And peace to all who follow guidance!” Surah 20 Ta Ha: 4247.

45. (Pharaoh) said:

‘What then is the condition of previous generations?’ He replied: ‘The knowledge of that is with my Lord, duly recorded: my Lord never errs, nor forgets.’ Then Pharaoh replies: He said: ‘Have you not come to drive us out of our land with your magic O Moses.’ ‘But we can surely produce magic to match yours! So make a tryst between us and you, which we shall not fail to keep—neither we nor you—in a place where both shall have even chances.’ Then Pharaoh consults with his chiefs about Moses: So, they disputed, one with another, over their affair, but they kept their talk secret. They said: ‘These two are certainly (expert) magicians: their object is to drive you out from your land with their magic, and to do away with most cherished institution.’ Surah 20 Ta Ha: 51-52, 57-58, 60, 62-63.

46. It is said: “And behold, We said to the angels: ‘Bow down to Adam:’ and they bowed down: not so Iblis (Satan): he refused and was haughty; he was of infidels.” Surah 2 Al Baqarah: 34.

47. “We said: ‘O Adam! Dwell you and your wife in the garden; and eat of the bountiful things therein as (where and when) you will; but approach not this tree, or you be among the unjust (transgressors).’” Id. at 35.

48. The passage continues: “And he swore to them both, that he was their sincere adviser. So by deceit he brought about their fall: when they tasted of the tree, their shame became manifest to them, and they began to sew together the leaves of the garden over themselves. … And their Lord called unto them: “Did I not forbid you that tree, And tell you that Satan was an avowed enemy unto you?” Surah 7 Al-A'raf: 21-22.

49. Although the Qur'an states that Satan had a big role in tempting them to eat from the tree by arguing that it would give them immortality and eternal authority, Adam and Eve confessed that it was they who wronged themselves. Satan presented himself as a sincere counsel. But Adam and Eve did not mention Satan's temptation and misleading. Rather, they took the burden of responsibility without trying to place blame somewhere else. They perhaps even felt that blaming Satan would condemn them twice whereas admitting the truth could redeem their wrong.

50. We hear:

Then We bade the angels bow down to Adam, and they bowed down; not so Iblis; He refused to be of those who bowed down. (God) said: ‘Get thee down from this: it is not for thee to be arrogant here: get out, for thou art of the meanest.’ He said: ‘Give me respite till the day they are raised up.’ (God) said: ‘Be thou amongst those who have respite.’ He said: ‘Because Thou hast thrown me out of the way (misled me), lo! I will lie in wait for them on thy straight way.’ Surah 7 Al A'raf: 12-16.

It is important to note that Satan had two reasons to excuse his disobedience. First, he used his material origin, arguing that he was created of a matter better than Adam's. Second, he used his worldview to explain his disobedience, arguing that God made him sin.

51. For instance, there are passages that read: “Whatever good, happens to you, is from God; but whatever evil happens to you is from your own self.” Surah 4 Al-Nisaa: 79. “God was not unjust to them: nay, they were unjust to themselves.” Surah 16 Al Nahl: 33. So, any judgement about others is a judgement about one's self be it good or bad. Moreover, the Surah says: “Whoever works righteousness benefits his own self; whoever misbehaves, it is against his own self; nor is your Lord ever unjust (in the least) to his servants.” Surah 41 Fussilat: 46.

52. The Qur'an also says:

Nor your desires, nor those of the People of the Book (Can prevail): whoever works evil, will be requited accordingly. Nor will he find, besides God, any protector or helper. Surah 4 Al Nisa’: 123.

(Both) the Jews and the Christians said: ‘We are the sons of God, and his beloved.’ Say: ‘Why then does He punish you for your mistakes (sins). Nay, you are but humans of those He has created. …’ Surah 5 Al Ma'idah: 18.

This passage implies the equality of all human beings: God does not have sons above the law, and no group of people have special privileges, not even the peoples of the Book:

The Jews say: ‘The Christians have naught (to stand) upon,’ And the Christians say: ‘The Jews have naught (to stand) upon.’ Yet they study the same Book. Like unto their word is what those say who know not; but God will judge between them in their quarrel on the Day of Judgement. Surah 2 Al Baqarah: 113.

This is the message of all prophets, as the Biblical story of John the Baptist shows: When he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism he said to them: ‘Vipers’ brood! Who warned to escape from the wrath that is to come? Prove your repentance by the fruit you bear; and do not imagine you can say, ‘We have Abraham for our father.’ I tell you that God can make children for Abraham out of these stones. The axe lies ready at the roots of the trees; every tree that fails to produce good fruit is cut down and thrown on the fire. Matt 3:7-10.

We read these words elsewhere in the Bible as well:

Many, I tell you, will come from the east and west to sit with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob at the banquet in the kingdom of Heaven. But those who were born to the kingdom will be thrown out into the dark, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth. Matt 8:11-12.

Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because my teaching is beyond your grasp. Your father is the devil and you choose to carry out your father's desires. John 8: 43-44.

53. “Have We not made for him a pair of eyes? And a tongue, and a pair of lips? And show him the two ways (paths).” Surah 90 Al Balad: 8-10.

54. This verse is from the King James version.

55. Initially, I began by noting that the evolution of the nervous system and the possibility of transmitting knowledge and experience through symbols created God's vicegerent on earth enables humanity to interfere in deciding its future, as the Book of Genesis tells us in the story about Adam's creation. He has eaten from the tree of knowledge. (He also wanted to eat from the tree of life. Perhaps he will do that too and live forever.) This shift is signified in the Bible in many instances: “I am wisdom, I bestow shrewdness and show the way to knowledge and discretion.” Prov 8: 12. “[Y]ou will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8: 32.

56. This the vicegerency we read about in: “Behold, thy Lord said to the angels: ‘I will create a vicegerent on earth ….'” Surah 2 Al Baqarah: 30.

57. See, for example, the passage: “And He has utilized (subjected) to you, as from Him all that is in the heavens and on earth: behold, in that are signs indeed for those who reflect.” Surah 45 Al Jathiyah: 13.

58. “The leaders, the arrogant party among his people, said: ‘O Shu'ayb! We shall certainly drive you out of our city—and those who believe with you; or else you shall have to return to our sect (religion).’ He said: ‘What! Even though we do detest it.’” Surah 7 Al-A'raf: 88.

59. The passage continues. This is reiterated again in the Qur'an:

Has not the story reached you, of those who (went) before you?—of the People of Noah, and ‘Ad, and Thamud—And of those who (came) after them. None knows them but God. To them came messengers with clear signs; but they put their hands up to their mouths, and said: ‘We do deny (reject) on which you have been sent, and we are really in suspicious doubt as to that to which you invite us.’ Their messengers said: ‘Is there a doubt about God, the creator of the heavens and the earth’ …. ‘No reason have we why we should not put our trust on God. Indeed He has guided us to our paths. We shall certainly bear with patience the harm you may cause us. For those who put their trust should put their trust on God.’ Surah 14 Ibrahim: 9-12.

60. This is also what is expressed in the Bible in: “The man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil.” Gen 3:22.

61. In the preceding passage, God calls Cain to account. See what the Lord God said, in the Old Testament, to Adam's son, the killer: “The LORD asked Cain, ‘Where is your brother Abel?’ ‘I do not know,’ Cain answered. ‘Am I my brother's keeper?’” Gen 4:9.

62. See the verses. Jesus says:

“You have heard that they were told, ‘An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.’ But what I tell you is this: Do not resist those who wrong you. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn and offer him the other also. You have heard that they were told, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’” Matt. 5:44(King James Version). “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; only so can you be children of your heavenly Father, who causes the sun to rise on good and bad alike, and sends the rain on the innocent and the wicked [on the just and on the unjust.]” Matt 5:38-45.

63. “Ah! You are those who love them, but they love you not—though you believe in the whole of the Book …” Surah 3 Ali ‘Imran: 119.

64. “In the course of time John the Baptist appeared in the Judaean wilderness, proclaiming this message: ‘Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is upon you!’” Matt 3:1-2.

65. “Then Peter came to him and asked, ‘Lord, how often am I to forgive my brother if he goes on wronging me? As many as seven times?’ Jesus replied, ‘I do not say seven times but seventy times seven.’” Matt 18:21.

66. Jesus describes the “intellectuals” of his age in many ways:

They make up heavy loads and pile them on the shoulders of others, but will not themselves lift a finger to ease the burden. Whatever they do is done for show …; they love to have the place of honour at feasts and the chief seats in the synagogues, to be greeted respectfully in the street, and to be addressed as “rabbi” …. ‘Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of Heaven in people's faces; you do not enter yourselves, and when others try to enter you stop them. Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You travel over sea and land to win one convert; and when you have succeeded you make him twice as fit for hell as you are yourselves.’ Matt 23:2-15.

67. The Qur'an brings examples on how our own mental perceptions take precedence over reality. The Qur'an discusses how humans could be more lost than animals because they are not programmed with instincts the way animals are. Since humans have choice and the knowledge of good and evil, their deviation is worse than animalistic behavior, which is regulated and programmed by instinct. The Qur'an uses the sun as an example of how our own perceptions could be misleading.

68. “[T]he foam (scum) dries out like forth cast out; while that which benefits humankind remains on the earth.” Surah 13 Al Ra'd: 17. And in the Bible, we read: “You will recognize them by their fruit. Can grapes be picked from briars, or figs from thistles? A good tree always yields sound fruit, and a poor [corrupt] tree bad [evil] fruit.” Matt 7:16-17.

69. The rule of law that has such a high place in the United States is only an internal phenomenon. It does not represent the commitment of the U.S. in the United Nations charter or in its actions throughout the world.

70. As the text says:

Then he brought out (of the fire) before them (the people) a calf statue: it seemed to low: so they said: ‘This is your god, and the god of Moses ….’ (Moses) said: ‘What then is thy case O Samiri.’ He replied: ‘I saw what they saw not, so I took a handful (of dust) from the footprint of the messenger, and threw it (into the calf): thus did my self suggest to me.’ Surah 20 Ta Ha: 88.

71. As Jesus said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for hiding these things from the learned and wise, and revealing them to the simple [unto babes].” Matt 11:25.

72. He said: “I am your Lord, Most High.” Surah 79 Al Nazi'at: 24. He adds: “If you turn to another God, I shall surely imprison you.” Surah 26 Al-Shu'ara': 29.

73. The European Union is perhaps the first historical indication of the possibility for the expansion of democracy and, in essence, the notion of law. For the first time in history, a few nation states are uniting on the basis of equality under the law. This union, in addition, is based on popular consent rather than on the will of some despotic emperor. The European unity represents a large society governed by equity under law, the lack of which explains why Europe never united at the hands of Bonaparte or Hitler. The absence of the exclusive veto right in the European Union confirms its democratic nature. Consequently, the European Union in principle has the potential of developing into a model of global unity, unlike the United Nations in its present form.

74. This verse is from the King James version as the verse number 44 in Matthew 21 is missing from the Revised English Bible.

75. The Qur'an rejects double standards, and states that abiding by one standard for one's self and by another standard for the others is an odious wrong. “O you who believe! Why say you that which you do not. Grievously odious is it in the sight of God that you say that which you do not.” Surah 61 Al Saff: 2-3.

The same standard is expressed in: “[S]o be careful to do whatever they tell you. But do not follow their practice; for they say one thing and do another.” Matt 23:3.

76. The passage continues: “then although there came to them our messengers with clear signs, yet, even after that, many of them continued to commit excesses in the land.” Surah 5 Al Ma'idah: 35.

77. The Qur'an says: “Those who believe fight in the cause of God, and those who disbelieve fight in the cause of tyranny: so fight against the allies of Satan: feeble indeed is the cunning of Satan.” Surah 4 Al Nisa: 76.

78. As just some of the best examples of this body of Hadith, read the following: taken from the abridgement of Abi Dawood by the al-Hafiz al-Mundhiri, edition of (Publishers of Sunna Mohammadia 1949), at page 142 section 6 under the numbers 4090, 4093, and 4095 (placed here in the same order).

The Prophet said, ‘There will be disorder where that who is lying down is better than who is sitting, that who is sitting is better than that who is standing and that who is standing is better than who is walking. The one walking is better than one running.’ They said: ‘What do you demand of us in such a time?’ The prophet said: “Those who have camels should attend them, and those who have sheep should go after their sheep, and those who have land should take care of it.’ They said: ‘If one does not have any of such.’ He said: “Then he should take his sword, hit its edge on a rock and save himself to the best of his ability.’ (produced by Bukhari and Muslim).

They said, ‘Prophet of God, what if he entered my house and stretched his hand to kill me!’ He said: ‘Be like the son of Adam’, and he read the verses from the Qur'an, ‘If you stretch your hand to kill me, I will not kill thee, for I fear God. …’ Surah 5 Al Ma'idah: 31.

The Prophet said: “I see fintnas (states of disorder) coming like the pieces of a dark night where a man wakes up a believer and goes into the evening an infidel and goes into the evening a believer and wakes up an infidel. The sitting ones are better than the standing. And the walking ones are better than the running. So, break your bows and cut your strings and hit your swords on rocks. If you are attacked, be like the better son of Adam.

79. The entire passage reads:

“Thus (was their end)! And We gave their inheritance to other people. And neither heaven nor earth shed a tear over them: nor were they given respite (again).’ Surah 44 Al Dukhan: 29. ‘Then sent We our messengers in succession: every time there came to a people their messenger, they accused him of falsehood: so We made them follow each other (in punishment): We made them as a tale (that is told): so way with a people that will not believe.’ Surah 23 Al Mu'minun: 44.

80. Note: this Hadith is from Masnad Ibn Ahmad, and was corrected in the “Tafseer” of Ibn Katheer in Surat 5 Ma'idah: 59: 66.

81. The Qur'an also provides a definition of the illiterate person, who espouses this attitude towards text: b“And there are among them illiterates, who know not the Book, but (see therein their own) desires, and they do nothing conjecture.” Surah 2 Al Baqarah: 78.

82. For example, the Bible says:

What hypocrites! How right Isaiah was when he prophesied about you: This people pays me lip-service, but their heart is far from me. Matt 15:7-8.

HEAR how wisdom calls and understanding lifts her voice ….’ ‘For wisdom is better than red coral and no jewel can match her.’ ‘I am wisdom, I bestow shrewdness and show the way to knowledge and discretion.’ ‘My harvest is better than even than fine gold, and my revenue better than choice silver.’ ‘I follow the course of justice and keep to the path of equity.’ Prov 8:1, 11-12, 19-20.

83. By wisdom the LORD laid the earth's foundations and by understanding he set the heavens in place; by his knowledge the springs of the deep burst forth and the clouds dropped dew. My son, safeguard sound judgement and discretion; do not let them out of your sight. They will be a charm hung about your neck, and ornament to grace your throat. Then you will go on your way without a care, and your foot will not stumble. When you sit, you need have no fear; when you lie down, your sleep will be pleasant. Prov 19-24.

84. Kuhn, Thomas, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (Chicago: U. of Chi. Press 1962).

85. “(Moses) said, ‘Nay, throw you first! Then behold their ropes and their rods—so it seemed to him on account of their magic—began to be in lively motion!’” Surah 20 Ta Ha: 66.

86. In the World Health Organization, for example, there are detailed reports that criticize and expose military expenditures at the expense of other humane fields. This is a subtle move towards studying systematically the consequences of militancy.

87. As the Bible says: “Pride goes before disaster [destruction], and arrogance before a fall. Better live humbly with those in need than divide the spoil with the proud … but happy is he who puts his trust in the LORD.” Prov 16:18-20.

The Qur'an also says, “The Day whereon neither wealth nor children will avail. But only that (will prosper) that brings to God a sound (pure) heart.” Surah 26 Al Shu'ara': 88-89.

88 From the King James version.

B.A., Arabic Studies and Literature, and Diploma in Education, Al-Azhar Institute, Cairo. Author of ten books and several articles on the Qur'an, columnist for al-Majallah, worldwide lecturer and philosopher.

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