The Qur’an for Youthful Minds
Summary of Interpretations
Surah 2, Al-Baqarah Verses 6‑7
These two verses describe the unbelievers and the process of disbelief. Those who disbelieve in the guidance, sent down in plain words, have nothing but their own obstinacy to explain their state of disbelief.
As against animals, they have been endowed with the power of sight, hearing and intellect that help them – apart from physical uses – to discern between right and wrong. But they do not put these powers to proper use. Their deliberately cultivated habit is such that once they have rejected guidance – for whatever reasons, some of which the Qur’an will explain in time – they remain obstinately and persistently rejecting it; never reconsidering their negative attitude. They would rather hang by whatever they are on now – however unreasonable it might be – than reconsider their position.
It is useless to this kind of people – although a few are not like them – whether you warn them of the consequences of such attitude or you do not. They are not going to listen and change their ways. (Verse 6)
As a result, Allah (swt) disables them from putting those very faculties to proper use which distinguish them from animals: senses of sound and sight. Using these faculties they could have reached God. Instead, they earn Allah’s wrath and face severe chastisement. (Verse 7)
These two verses describe those who have decided to disbelieve and who pronounce their decision. They are the hard core unbelievers. Since their case is clear, and they are not afraid of their stance, they are not further discussed here. They will be further described in later part of this Revelation.
However, there are some who also disbelieve, but put up appearance of faith. They want to remain hiding within Muslims, though secretly strengthening non-Muslim ranks. The following verses (8-16) speak of them.
(To be continued)
The Tree and Gold Coin
There was a pious man among the Bani- Israel who always remained busy in the worship of Allah (swt). A group of people came to him and told him that a tribe living nearby worshipped a tree. The news upset him, and with an axe on his shoulder he went to cut down that tree. On the way, Satan met him in the form of an old man and asked him where he was going. He said he was going to cut a particular tree.
Satan said, “You have nothing to be concerned with this tree, you better mind your worship and do not give it up for the sake of something that does not concern you.”
“This is also worship,” retorted the worshipper.
Then Satan tried to prevent him from cutting the tree, and there followed a fight between the two, in which the worshipper overpowered the Satan.
Finding himself completely helpless, Satan begged to be excused, and when the worshipper released him, he again said, “Allah has not made the cutting of this tree obligatory on you. You do not lose anything if you do not cut it. If its cutting were necessary, Allah could have got it done through one of his many Prophets.”
The worshipper insisted on cutting the tree. There was again a fight between the two and again the worshipper overpowered the Satan.
“Well listen,” said Satan, “I propose a settlement that will be to your advantage.”
The worshipper agreed, and Satan said, “You are a poor man, a mere burden on this earth. If you stay away from this act, I will pay you three gold coins every day. You will daily find them lying under your pillow. By this money you can fulfil your own needs, can oblige your relative, help the needy, and do so many other virtuous things. Cutting the tree will be only one virtue, which will ultimately be of no use because the people will grow another tree.”
This proposal appealed to the worshipper, and he accepted it. He found the money on two successive days, but on the third day there was nothing. He got enraged, picked up his axe and went to cut the tree. Satan as an old man again met him on the way and asked him where he was going.
“To cut the tree,” shouted the worshipper.
“I will not let you do it,” said Satan.
A fight took place between the two again but this time Satan had the upper hand and overpowered the worshipper. The latter was surprised at his own defeat, and asked the former the cause of his success.
Satan replied, “At first, your anger was purely for earning the pleasure of Allah (swt), and therefore Almighty Allah (swt) helped you to overpower me, but now it has been partly for the sake of the gold coins and therefore you lost.”
[Source: From the book “Ihyaa-ul Uloom Ud Deen” by Imam Ghazzali (ra)]
Did You Know That…?
- A 1,200-pound horse eats about seven times its own weight each year.
- A bird requires more food in proportion to its size than a baby or a cat.
- A capon is a castrated rooster.
- A chameleon can move its eyes in two directions at the same time.
- A chameleon’s tongue is twice the length of its body.
- A chimpanzee can learn to recognize itself in a mirror, but monkeys can’t.
- A Cornish game hen is really a young chicken, usually 5-6 weeks of age, that weighs no more than two pounds.
- A cow gives nearly 200,000 glasses of milk in her lifetime.
Why there are Few Atheist Muslim Scientists
With a little interest, I viewed a video of a somewhat celebrated atheist discussing his visit to a Muslim school in the UK. During his trip, he claims to have noticed students quoting verses from the Qur’an which, he says, were scientifically inaccurate.
The verses which spoke of two bodies of water that don’t mix were clearly misunderstood, and thus misinterpreted. Therefore, they were obviously ‘scientifically incorrect’ to the atheist, since he didn’t understand them properly in the first place.
Be that as the case may be, it is important to understand that the Muslim does not use science to qualify the Qur’an. Rather it is the Qur’an that is held as the gold standard and is used to qualify the world around him: astronomy, biology, chemistry, even finance and economics.
Using science to qualify scripture is by origin a European-American practice where, as the New World was discovered, great effort was made to separate religion from state.
Emigrants from the Old World had seen it all: women being burnt alive accused of witchcraft and blasphemy, the Church imposing their Earth-centric view of the universe on everyone, and the persecution of people like Galileo for daring to prove a different solar system.
It was no secret that science and Christianity were at odds. But that was Europe.
In the Muslim world, there was no conflict between science and religion. Neither the books of Islam nor the teachings of its scholars contradicted invention and technology. As more and more discoveries in science came to light, Qur’anic evidence seemed to support and strengthen them.
The Muslim experience with science was one of perfect harmony, and diametrically opposed to that of Christendom’s. This congruence, which – unlike Europe – could find no divide between science and religion, is one reason why there are substantially fewer atheists among educated intellectuals in the Muslim world than there are in Christian nations.
*[Yusuf Khan resides in the Washington DC area and writes for the Examiner. He speaks frequently at various Islamic centers]
The Prophet’s (saws) Guarantee to Egyptian Christians
As the sun set [recently] here in the US, a car pulls up to the entrance St. Mark & St. Peter’s Church in Alexandria, Egypt, and explodes. Shards of glass skip across the charred pavement. The air hangs heavy, thickened by smoke and the unmistakable smell of burning flesh. Nearby, a man collapses against a wall, car alarms ringing in his ears. Too stunned to make sense of what has happened, he fumbles about himself, feeling for wounds, making sure organs are intact.
Before long, the place is teeming with activity as cars and ambulances dart in and out, a crowd gathers and police struggle to keep order. In the chaos that ensues, communal rioting breaks out after a group of Christians tries to burn down a mosque.
“We will protect the cross!”, shouts an impassioned group of Copts. “Allahu Akbar!” (“God is the Greatest!”) answers a band of Muslims. Twenty-one people have died.
As this news reaches me, I can only react with sadness and disbelief. Is this really happening?
Making it all the more surreal is the fact that less than 400 miles from Alexandria stands one of the most enduring testaments to Muslim-Christian harmony on earth: St. Catherine’s Monastery. Nestled at the foot of Mt. Sinai, St. Catherine’s holds an unparalleled collection of early Christian art and a treasure trove of ancient manuscripts. Its relics have survived unmolested for centuries, a unique distinction among Christian monuments.
The monastery is known around the world for its rare assortment of Christian icons, but perhaps its most interesting artifact is a copy of a charter, written in Arabic and dating from the 7th century C.E. This charter, now displayed behind glass for all visitors to see, was dictated by the Prophet Muhammad after he was visited in 628 by a delegation from St. Catherine’s seeking protection.
In no uncertain terms, the Prophet vowed that Muslims would protect not only the Christians of Sinai, but all followers of Christ both ‘near and far’ – and their places of worship – until the end of time. Any Muslim who failed to uphold this agreement, according to Muhammad, would ‘spoil God’s covenant and disobey His Prophet.’ The full text of the charter reads:
“This is a message from Muhammad ibn Abdulah, as a covenant to those who adopt Christianity, near and far, we are with them.
“Verily I, the servants, the helpers, and my followers defend them, because Christians are my citizens; and by Allah! I hold out against anything that displeases them.
“No compulsion is to be on them.
“Neither are their judges to be removed from their jobs nor their monks from their monasteries.
“No one is to destroy a house of their religion, to damage it, or to carry anything from it to the Muslims’ houses.
“Should anyone take any of these, he would spoil God’s covenant and disobey His Prophet.
“Verily, they are my allies and have my secure charter against all that they hate.
“No one is to force them to travel or to oblige them to fight.
“The Muslims are to fight for them.
“If a female Christian is married to a Muslim, it is not to take place without her approval. She is not to be prevented from visiting her church to pray.
“Their churches are to be respected. They are neither to be prevented from repairing them nor the sacredness of their covenants.
“No one of the nation (Muslims) is to disobey the covenant till the Last Day (end of the world).”
Muhammad’s charter was no anomaly. The Qur’an, while acknowledging significant theological differences between Islam and Christianity, describes a special relationship between Muslims and Christians:
“Thou wilt surely find that, of all people, they who say, ‘Behold, we are Christians,’ come closest to feeling affection for those who believe [in this divine writ]: this is so because there are priests and monks among them, and because these are not given to arrogance.” (5: 82)
Experience bore witness to this affection. In 615, when the Muslim community was still a weak and persecuted minority, a small group of believers set out for Abyssinia, where the Prophet told them they would find just treatment and a respite from the cruelty of Mecca. Soon after they reached Abyssinia, ambassadors from Mecca’s pagan elite arrived, demanding their return.
For the Qur’aish – Mecca’s strongest tribe and Islam’s fiercest enemies at the time – having Meccan citizens seek asylum in another land was an embarrassing foreign relations blunder. Lavish gifts were offered to the Abyssinian king in exchange for his Muslim guests, but he resolved to hear them out before deciding their fate.
Questioned about what Muhammad said of Christ, the Prophet’s cousin, Ja’far bin Abu Talib, recited a passage from the Qur’an describing the miraculous birth of Jesus. Upon hearing those sacred words, the king was so moved that he returned all the gifts to the Qur’aish, vowing not to hand over the Muslims, even for ‘a mountain of gold.’
Just as Muslims were shown mercy and respect as guests in a Christian land, they are expected to do the same for minorities in their own society. Ten years after Muhammad and his followers had emigrated to Medina, they hosted a group of Christian scholars from Najran (southern Arabia). These men had come to Medina to settle a theological dispute with Muhammad over the divinity of Jesus. An extended debate took place over several days, with neither side giving in to the other. Even in these tense circumstances, the Prophet allowed the Christians to perform their prayers […] in his own mosque.
Like mosques, churches are highly respected and seen as sanctuaries in Islam. The Qur’an issues a stern warning about interfering with their affairs:
“Hence, who could be more wicked than those who bar the mention of God’s name from [any of] His houses of worship and strive for their ruin, [although] they have no right to enter them save in fear [of God]? For them, in this world, there is ignominy in store; and for them, in the life to come, awesome suffering.” (2:114)
The protection of churches is so important that the Qur’an actually uses it as a model for just warfare:
“Permission [to fight] is given to those against whom war is being wrongfully waged […] For, if God had not enabled people to defend themselves against one another, [all] monasteries and churches and synagogues and mosques – in [all of] which Gods name is abundantly extolled – would surely have been destroyed.” (22: 39-40)
It boggles the mind how any Muslim – any person who kneels in prayer each day and solemnly bears witness that ‘there is no god but God, and Muhammad is His messenger’ – could so spectacularly betray his religion while uttering ‘God is the Greatest.’ It is also deplorable that so many governments in the so-called ‘Muslim’ world place barriers between Christians and their faith in the form of blasphemy laws and restrictions on church construction.
According to Joseph Malak of the World Organization for Human Rights, the deeper problem behind Alexandria’s troubled Muslim-Christian relations is the ‘cultural illiteracy’ that pervades Egypt.
Malak is right. Alexandria’s Muslims could certainly benefit from improving literacy of their own tradition. Its Christians, for their part, would do well to keep in mind that ‘turn the other cheek’ never meant ‘burn the other mosque.’
While news like this shocks and saddens me, I take comfort in knowing that better alternatives exist, both hypothetically and historically. Despite all the problems in Egypt and around the world, St. Catherine’s Monastery remains a powerful symbol of what is possible when religious communities live up to their own ideals, and a reminder that for Muslims and Christians, the past may hold the key to a brighter future.
[Source: Muslimerican – Peter Gray]
* The author, Mr. Gray, is a college student from the Midwest who studies in the Northeast, specializing in the Far East.