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A BREAKTHROUGH project which helps understand the Qur'an AS REVEALED -not just 'as explained.'


Monday, May 10, 2010

Day 105; Qur’an 9: 123-129; 10: 1-6, page 207 + 208

Welcome Friends:  Ahlan wa sahlan!
You’ll soon find out why there was a delay in posting this Reading!
Sometimes the topic takes me places I really do NOT wish to go… but must… IF I am to do a thorough job!
Yusuf Ali’s Translation of our new Chapter.
Muhammad Asad’s Translation of our new Chapter.
Their commentaries can only be read in verse by verse view.

PAGE 207 Arabic Qur’an.
1.  We begin today with a verse often taken out of context by extremists on both sides, some to justify their acts ‘in the name of Islam’ - AND others to justify their acts against it.  But before we discuss what commentators have pointed out regarding specific verse context, let’s look at evidence from general Qur’anic context, precise translation, and gist (the essential idea of an argument):

 In Yusuf Ali's translation: 
“O ye who believe! fight the unbelievers who gird you about, and let them find firmness in you: and know that God is with those who fear Him.”

·   General context:  These Deniers can only be aggressors because the Qur’an in many instances, including HQ 2: 190, forbids fighting against non-aggressors.  The Qur’an actually tells us to deal with kindness and justice with non-aggressors HQ 60:8!
·   Precise translation:  The beginning of Verse 123 calls upon Believers to fight (only) those among the Deniers who are closing in on them.  Among all our translators, Yusuf Ali is the only one who got it (lawyer)!
·   Gist:  Since this verse tells the Believers to let such Deniers (subject) find firmness in them (object), this indicates that ‘firmness’ is what the Deniers should find when they do something to the Believers, which indicates that the Deniers are the perpetrators (had the Believers been the perpetrators, the verse would have told them to show firmness, not to let it be found).
·   Specific verse context:  Some commentators have pointed out that the four verses (124- 125- 126- 127) show quite clearly that the injunction in verse 123 is related specifically to the time of Revelation because each of these verses refers to ‘while the Qur’an is being revealed.’  Therefore, it is important to note that Verses 123-127 are connected and should be read and understood together.
Interestingly, this is also a valid argument, because the pronouns in each verse after the first, refers to a noun in the preceding verse.  For example, the pronoun in verse 124 ‘some of them’  منهم(click ‘translations’ on right to see all ten) refers to ‘the unbelievers who gird about you الذين يلونكم من الكفار mentioned in verse 123, so according to Ali's translation of 124:
“Whenever there cometh down a sura, some of them say…”
Notice that, unfortunately, Muhammad Asad’s translation -among all ten- is the only one that has extra words- his own:
‘Yet whenever a sūrah [of this divine writ] is bestowed from on high, some of the deniers of the truth are prone to ask…’
Asad should have said: ‘…some of THEM are prone to ask…’! Why is that important?   Because it shows that these verses are grammatically connected and relate specifically to the time when a ‘sura’ was being revealed… meaning to the TIME of revelation, and that this specific case can never be repeated after the Prophet’s death, peace upon him.
2.  Actually, the Prophet, peace upon him, implemented standards for warfare that were unknown at the time, and are still far higher than the best standards actually practiced today. 
Well known are the instructions his successor, Abu-Bakr, gave the leader of his campaign against the Byzantines ‘Usama Ibn Zaid.’  
Historic background: The Byzantines were killing their subjects who embraced Islam; one such person they killed was their ruler over Ma’an, in present-day Jordan, ‘Farwa Ibn Amr al Juthami.’  Usama Ibn Zaid’s campaign against them was for that reason, just as much as the earlier campaign of ‘Mu’ta مؤتة had taken place in retaliation for their killing the Prophet’s emissary to them- a flagrant breach of world-recognized protocol.  That campaign, was led by Usama’s father, Zaid, who was killed. 
So it was fitting for young Usama to lead the army.  He was reminded by Abu Bakr, as follows:
·  Do not kill a woman, a child, or an old man.  
·  Do not cut fruit- trees or palms, and do not burn them.
·  Do not demolish anything built.
·  Do not slaughter a sheep, a cow or a camel except for sustenance.
·  Do not betray.
·  Do not be vindictive.

Other instructions were already well-known, such as not to extend battle beyond the battle-ground (which means to only fight actual combatants), nor to refuse the opponent’s desire for surrender.  The Prophet’s sayings, peace upon him, had also highlighted:

· Do not mutilate.
·  Do not mistreat captives (actually, history tells us that Muslims tended to feed their captives better food than they were eating themselves).
· You will come across people who devote themselves to their places of worship:  Leave them alone to their devotion.
VERY advanced standards indeed.
3.  Although we may be straying from our verses today, we have to counter arguments with both Qur’anic and historic fact.  It does not matter on which side the extremists happen to be.  All extremists harm us equally!
Arabic-readers can take a look at a study from the Department of Law of the Mansoora University, Egypt: التطور التاريخي لقواعد تنظيم الحرب  which shows us how the world was when these ‘Islamic principles' appeared, and how the rules of engagement evolved until the present day.  What is also interesting in this report is their mentioning of the predicament faced by the Roman Empire after it embraced Christianity in 313 AD:  How could it reconcile the peaceful Faith it had embraced with its warfare?  Here ‘Saint Augustine’ came to the rescue, showing that: “Joining in a war under the leadership of a legitimate Leader with the goal of doing good deeds and avoiding Satan is not a Sin.” (end quote.)
Actually, Saint Augustine’s input constituted what came to be called, the ‘Just War Doctrine,’  taken by some to be an ‘abrogation’ of what Jesus had preached of Peacefulness,  bringing Christianity back to Old Testament teachings.  We need not go into how this doctrine was implemented by the Spaniards and Portuguese, leading to their annihilation of entire nations and cultures living oceans away.  Anyone with some education would know that the world's worst massacres were NOT committed by Muslims.  Yet, surfing the net we can see that people today can say whatever they want, and there is material everywhere (on Judaism, Christianity, Islam) to be nit-picked by those who wish to do that.  Certain Qur'anic verses (such as today's verse 9:123) have been taken out of context and highlighted, as well as verses from the Old Testament, such as from ‘Numbers 31:17-18,’ and ‘Deuteronomy 20:12-16.  Even in issues related to slavery, sex, concubines, polygyny, hell, damnation … by putting relevant words into search engines at any 'holy scripture' website, people intent on finding fault will find as much, if not more, material to contest with in the Bible than the Qur’an.   
But what a sorry way to spend one’s time.  A seeker of Peace would find no pleasure in such a fruitless campaign. 
It is actually becoming more and more apparent, that those who spend their time and energy finding fault with other people as a way to promote their own beliefs, do not seek any resolution to today’s problems!  
This reminds me of what the Austrian psychologist Alfred Adler once said, “It is easier to fight for one’s principles than to live up to them!”
Which brings us to our conclusion:
It is paramount for educated, unbiased persons (or simply anyone who truly desires peace) to RECOGNIZE THE BEST OF EACH OTHER; it is also advisable that we neither generalize nor stereotype when a bad example comes our way.  Such acts only serve to widen our divide, since extremists -having failed to live up to their principles-  will use them for their own ends.    
It is only by challenging extremist views (those amongst ourselves before others) and accosting perpetrators of violence (similarly) –without stigmatizing and making enemies of those who share that ethnicity or religious background- that Justice can be served and Peace achieved.
4.  Now, as we look back to our verses:
We notice how Verse 125 describes the effect each Revelation had: to increase the Faithful in faith, adding to the turmoil of those who were afflicted in their hearts/minds, with the result that they finally died as Deniers.

We look at Verse 128 and find that it was understood by some commentators to be a call to the Arabs of the time, while others said it was to everyone, showing the Prophet’s relationship to them and to his companions, and his great qualities, peace upon him.
Then, Verse 129 brings this Chapter to a conclusion, with a beautiful prayer of reliance upon God Who suffices His Messenger, and upon Whom His Messenger relies.

PAGE 208 Arabic Qur’an.
سورة يونس
5.  This is the ‘Chapter of Jonah,’ of the late Meccan period and considered to be closely connected to the five that follow.  According to Asad:
“The central theme of Yunus is revelation - in particular, the revelation of the Qur'an to Muhammad, and the impossibility of its having been "composed" by the latter and fraudulently attributed by him to God, as the deniers of the truth assert (verses 15-17, 37-38 and 94). Woven around this theme are references to earlier prophets - all of whom were given the lie by the majority of their people - as well as a many-sided exposition of the fundamental tenets of Islam: the oneness, uniqueness and omnipotence of God, the continuity of His revelation to man, the certainty, of resurrection and of God's final judgment - culminating in the reminder (in verse 108) that "whoever chooses to follow the right path, follows it but for his own good: and whoever chooses to go astray, goes but astray to his own hurt."
6.  -Verse 1 begins with the ‘disjointed letters (A-L-R) which introduce us to this Chapter of the Qur’an.  We already discussed such beginnings on April 6th.  As our regular Readers know, such letters usually introduce the ‘Compilation,’ as you can see if you copy + paste "تلك آيات الكتاب" (with quotes) in Tanzil.
-Verse 2 is beautiful, in that it announces that the information (wahi- (وحي  is sent to ‘warn’ people even as it ‘gives glad tidings to Believers’ telling them of the advantage they have with their Lord, and that this advantage is ‘Sincerity!’
-Verse 3 is somewhat similar to HQ 7: 54, encountered in our Posting of April 9th .  Bravo to our Muhammad Asad for the correct translation of ‘ayyam- أيام’ as  aeons!
-In Verse 4 we notice the term ‘qist- قسط’translated by Ali as ‘justice’ and by Asad as ‘equity.’  Actually, most translators failed to differentiate between the two Arabic words [i] ‘qist’ and ‘adl.’  Asad made the distinction, calling the first one ‘equity’ and the second ‘justice.’
7. Verse 5 contains a ‘scientific marvel,’ while verse 6 shows us that in the alternation of night and day and all that God has created in the heavens and earth are signs for those who are aware!
Way more-than-enough said!
Our next Reading is from HQ 10: 7-20.

Peace unto all!

·         [i]‘Qist- قسط’ is related to an upright approach to justice, and how a Provider of justice metes out to a Recipient what is rightfully owed.  Qist is therefore between the Provider and the Recipient only.
·         ‘Adl- عدل’ is related to the even-handedness with which the Provider of justice treats one Recipient in comparison to other Recipient(s) also being dealt with at the same time.
The best verse to illustrate the difference between these two words is HQ 4: 135, as translated by Asad.
الفرق بين القسط والعدل: إننا نقسط إلى غيرنا نعامله بالقسط، بينما نعدل بين جهتين ( 5:8)
عدل: أصلان صحيحان، لكنَّهما متقابلان كالمتضادَّين: أحدُهما يدلُّ على استواء، والآخر يدلُّ على اعوجاج.
فالأول العَدْل من النَّاس: المرضيّ المستوِي الطّريقة. يقال: هذا عَدْلٌ، وهما عَدْلٌ.
والعَدْل: الحكم بالاستواء. ويقال للشَّيء يساوي الشيء: هو عِدْلُه. وعَدلْتُ بفلانٍ فلاناً، وهو يُعادِله. والعَدْل: نقيض الجَوْر، تقول: عَدَل في رعيته. ويومٌ معتدل، إذا تساوَى حالا حرِّه وبَرْدِه، وكذلك في الشيء المأكول. ويقال: عدَلْتُه حتى اعتدل، أي أقمته *حتى استقامَ واستوَى.

القِسْط: النَّصيب، وتَقَسَّطْنا الشَّيءَ بيننا. والقِسْطَاس: المِيزان. قال الله سبحانه: {وَزِنُوا بالقِسْطاسِ المُستَقِيم} [الإسراء 35، الشعراء 182].

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