Welcome Friends: Ahlan wa sahlan!
1. Our Reading today starts with a call to worship God Alone, without association-Shirk.
Interestingly, ‘shirk’ is an English word first used in 1633, which arrived (they say) “perhaps from the German word schurke” (notice how in English it is pronounced identical to Arabic) and means ‘to practice fraud… in the sense of ‘evade one's work or duty’ (the meaning is also similar and yet no mention of the word being of Arabic origin! See the words 'lenient' لنت discussed on Feb 10, and 'street' سراط on sidebar). http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=shirk
We will notice in this verse the exalted status of parents which the Qur’an upholds. They are not simply ‘first’ on the list here, but IN the ‘headline,’ which is not clear in translation. God says ‘wa bil waalideyni ihsaanan’ meaning ‘and in parents (do) goodness,’ the conjunction ‘and’ joining parents to the preceding words and giving them emphasis and priority (it does not say ‘do good unto parents’ as both Yusuf Ali and Muhammad Asad say).
‘And worship God and do not associate with Him anything/in any way, and in parents do Goodness, and in the near of kin and the orphans and the needy….”
This is indeed a consistent theme in the Divine Compilation (as in HQ2:83), and we notice here that our Goodness is enjoined to two kinds of neighbors, friends, travelers, and those in our tenure, and that God does not love someone who is a boastful Arrogant.
Y. Ali’s note 554 says that a superior condescension is not what kind service is all about; he calls it the ‘White Man’s Burden.’
Muhammad Asad tells us in note 48 that the reference to ‘saahib bil janb,’ or ‘the companion by your side’ is one’s spouse. Also that in the past, when ‘those in your tenure’ referred to slaves, this verse was a call to free them, since that is the best deed of ‘Goodness’ one can perform towards them!
Note: Before we leave this verse thinking blissfully that ‘Shirk’ does not apply to us, let us stop for a moment and do a reality check. Do we truly worship God Alone without ANY association?
2. Verse 37 discusses miserliness and suppressing or concealing God’s Bounty, whether in talents, capabilities or wealth! There shall be suffering for the Deniers.
Then, in verse 38 we are given description of people who do spend, but only to be seen and praised by others, without any faith in their hearts. Muhammad Asad reminds us in note 49 that the allusion to Satan here is related to HQ2:268.
In verse 39 there seems to be an informal, conversational-style invitation unto Faith. We get the sense of: What is stopping them? Why don’t they just go ahead and believe in God and spend of what He has provided? But at the end we realize it is by no means casual conversation, as it concludes on a solemn note of warning: God has full Knowledge of them!
3. Verse 40 is a statement of Fact by which we understand that we should do good and not worry because:
God does not wrong by even an atom’s weight,
and multiplies the reward of good deeds manifold.
This reminds us of HQ99:7-8:
Therefore he who does an atom's weight of good, shall behold it (7) and he who does an atom's weight of evil, shall behold it. (8)
4. Verses 41-42 discuss Judgment Day.
Yusuf Ali’s note 560 “Each Prophet and leader is a witness for his people and his contemporaries- for those who accept God and against those who reject Him.
5. Verse 43 is the verse of ‘tayammum’ or ‘symbolic ablution’ which Believers resort to, in the absence of water. It has several important points to discuss.
First, the initial part of the verse which says that approaching prayer must always be done with a clear head so that we KNOW what we are saying. Although it is understood that this is one of the Qur’anic verses that led up to the command to ‘steer clear’ of the effects of intoxicants 'khamr' (discussed Jan 20,21), its wisdom is for all time (see Asad’s note 54). We may feel groggy in everyday situations not related to intoxicants, such as being sleepy, tired, on medication.. etc.
Secondly, Believers must not approach prayer after a marital (sexual) encounter until they have bathed- unless travelling and unable to do so (Asad) in which case they would follow the ritual ablution to be mentioned. If Worshippers happen to be ill, travelling, or returning from the toilet, or had a sexual encounter and no water can be found, they can resort to pure dust, passing some of it lightly over their faces and hands, for God overlooks our failings and is Much-Forgiving.
Needless to say, this verse is a Blessing! It made Prayer so much more accessible as water is not always available, and is contra-indicated in certain cases (when patients should not wash). This also goes to show us that although cleanliness is one goal in ritual Ablution وضوء (& ritual Bathing غسل) it is not the only goal. Another goal is 'mental and spiritual' preparedness for Prayer, which is an encounter with Divinity that cannot be attained unless we have already risen above the mundane!
6. Verses 44-47 are about the People of Earlier Compilations and are self-explanatory (Assad’s notes 58-62).
7. Verse 48 (and a similar verse in 4:116) are oft-quoted, and are the most important verses on Shirk/Associating with God in the Qur’an. This verse warns us that God does NOT forgive associating with Him, and forgives what is lesser than that to whomever He wills. He also tells us that anyone who associates with God has devised/contrived (Ali/Asad) a great Hindrance. Research shows that ‘ithm’ from the verb ‘athama’ means delay, or hindrance. This is very important, because associating with God hinders a person from grasping his message, and failing to grasp the Message hinders that person from all it benefit! (Remember our many discussions on ‘ithm?’ Write ‘ithm’ in ‘Search this site’ on sidebar, and read all about it in our past postings.)
Did you do the ‘Reality Check’ we talked about earlier? I did, and discovered that we, as a People, do commit Shirk. Sometimes in subtle ways, and sometimes in obvious ones. We sometimes give the words of others the same weight as the Words of God. We often let preconception cloud our judgment. If any Reader does not agree, I must ask them ONE question which in itself will indicate all:
Are we as Muslims advanced, or indeed hindered?
Have a Blessed Weekend!
Our next Reading is from HQ4:49-65.