Welcome Friends: Ahlan wa sahlan!
1. “O People of the Compilation!” (Verse 3:71) ‘Ya ahlal-Kitaab!’ although this title is given to both Jews and Christians, many of these verses seem to be addressed to the former, as we shall see.
Here, this is the third time (3:65; 3:70) that God calls upon them directly; He asks them why they ‘are cloaking truth with falsehood..’
According to most commentators, Verses 72 reveals the ‘plot’ of certain Jews who lived in Medina at the time, which was to pretend belief in the Message for a while, and then announce denial/rejection/disbelief. This would create doubt and move others to do the same (we have to remember that all Prophet Muhammad’s companions were only recent Believers). Muhammad Asad (see his note 54) reads this differently, not as a plot, but as noting their reluctant acceptance of some parts and the rejection of others, even as they rejected what was in their own books.
At any rate, Qur’anic lessons are for all time.
2. In Verse 73 some amongst people of the Compilation announce that they would only believe in those following their Faith, but God responds (73-74) that He sends His Bounty to whomever He wills (see explanatory notes of Muhammad Asad -note 55- and Yusuf Ali-note 408).
3. Verse 75 shows us two kinds of people who treat their Trusts differently; one upholds it and the other doesn’t. Yusuf Ali’s note 411 is worth reading, in that ‘every race imbued with race-arrogance resorts to this kind of moral or religious subterfuge..”
4. This brings to mind one question we should always ask ourselves:
What is the reason for such verses taking up so much of the Qur’an?
Some say that it is to tell us of what happened earlier. Others say it is to warn Believers at any point in history of such kinds of people. Yet others propose that it is because we often ARE such kinds of people ourselves, even those amongst us who call themselves ‘Believers.’
I think that it is all three combined. And we must admit: many of us often ARE guilty of race-arrogance, self-arrogance, and faith-arrogance. Don’t many of us believe that God’s Grace shines on our group alone, and that our ‘brand’ of Faith is true while all else is false? What’s the difference between that and those who call themselves ‘God’s chosen people’?
Judgment Day will hold many surprises, especially for the Arrogant. Arrogance is a Fatal Flaw indeed (see Posting Jan 8th).
On the other hand, it would be in our best interest, whenever we find the Qur’an faulting anyone, to apply it to ourselves and see if we might not be doing the very thing at fault. Only in maintaining that Awareness, while self-correcting our direction at every turn… would we be ‘hunafaa’ (plural of ‘haneef’; see Posting Jan. 12th).
5. Verses 76-77 are self-explanatory. Verse 78 is very important (I disagree with Asad’s translation here of ‘kitaab’ into ‘Bible.’ It should be ‘Compilation.’)
Some of us today are doing –to a certain degree- with our ‘kitaab’ Compilation what was reported here with regard to the earlier revealed Compilation.
How is that?
First of all, mostly in communities that do not speak Arabic, translations take the place of the actual Qur’an, and various authorities speak ‘in the name of God’ or in the name of His Messenger. Even in Arabic-speaking communities, we often hear the Qur’an being misquoted or partially quoted to give an intended meaning, even as the rest of that same Qur’anic verse… is silenced!*
Thankfully however, there is one crucial difference between us and followers of earlier Compilation: our Compilation, the Qur’an, is intact.
We shall be discussing that important issue later when we discuss the Qur’an and the Arabic Language: How each preserved the other.
6. Verses 79-80 discuss our worship of The Divine. No human is Divine. Angels and prophets would never ask people to worship them instead of God, or to be taken as Lord.
It is not at all possible that someone who has received the Compilation, Wisdom and Prophethood, would command you to Deny (God), after you already are Pure in your Reverence (to Him)بعد إذ أنتم مسلمون (for definition of ‘Muslim,’ see Posting Jan.29th).*
7. Verses 81-83 continue the theme:
And God took the Prophets’ Pledge/Covenant (ميثاق النبيين): “By reason of what I have delivered unto you of Compilation and Wisdom, and thereafter, there came TO YOU a Messenger corroborating what is with you, you shall indeed believe in him and support him.” He said, “Do you concede and take upon that My Bond(إصري) ?" They said: "We concede." He said: "Then bear witness [thereto], and I am, with you, of the witnesses. (81) Whereas any who turn away after that shall indeed be ‘the iniquitous/the transgressors’ هم الفاسقون (M. Asad, Y. Ali). (82) Do they then seek a faith/a standard of accountability other than God’s, while unto Him purely surrender all who are in heaven and on earth- willingly and unwillingly- and unto Him shall they return? (83)
These verses indicate that there was an agreement, a covenant, called here ميثاق النبيين ‘the Prophets’ Pledge,’ to which God obtained acceptance from every Prophet/all the Prophets: that each should support any Messenger who appears during his life-time (‘..there came to you a Messenger..’). This support is an obligation upon each of them to undertake AFTER making sure that the Message itself is indeed an extension of his own Compilation and Wisdom. Any Prophet who does NOT support such a Messenger is a Pledge-Breaker, an apostate/a betrayer/فاسق. What this shows is that theirs is indeed ONE mission: One God, one Standard of Accountability, one Compilation, one Mission for all Prophets and Messengers*.
As for the distinction between a Prophet and a Messenger… we’ll try to do that next time, God-willing.
Tomorrow’s reading is from HQ 3:84-100.
*As in the partial quotes, made out to be full quotes thus: “And slay them wherever you may come upon them!” HQ2:190-194. See Posting Jan. 17th. “Marry any women you please, two or three or four!” HQ4:3. Perfect examples of what we are discussing: True Meaning lost- thanks to mistranslation and partial quoting! Readers will note that, in order to avoid deception, we should always quote in full. In writing, it is also best to quote in full however, we may leave dots (…) where appropriate, keep the meaning in context, and make sure we add the verse number. It should be very clear that this is only a partial quote.
Yusuf Ali: …after you have bowed your will (to God in Islam).
Muhammad Asad: .. after you have surrendered yourselves unto God.
* I realize that there are other translations of this verse. Mine might be more accurate, as per the original. To make sure we understand Qur’an correctly we should never add or detract, and we must always try to stick to the correct verb tenses.
In this verse, for example:
· God says that he has given them (in the past tense), not that He will give them.
· And then, he says very clearly that the Messenger will come TO YOU (plural), which can only be during each of their lifetimes. Omitting the words ‘to you’ will change the meaning altogether.
· Also, when God says ( (مصدق لما معكمthis means ‘confirming what YOU have’ and does not mean ‘to confirm ‘all existing scripture.’
We all make mistakes, and Readers must judge for themselves. I sincerely appreciate corrections and will modify accordingly. Nothing should stand in the way of understanding God’s words according to HIS intent!