Monday, February 4, 2013

ARQ Project: al-Anfaal & Baraah

I'm behind and these are short, note wise, so I'm going to combine two surah's into one post. :)

First, surah 8 al-Anfaal or Spoils of War:

41. And know that whatever ye take as spoils of war, lo! a fifth thereof is for Allah, and for the messenger and for the kinsman (who hath need) and orphans and the needy and the wayfarer, if ye believe in Allah and that which We revealed unto Our slave on the Day of Discrimination, the day when the two armies met. And Allah is Able to do all things.

I don't know why I find this verse interesting, I just do. Whatever a warrior captures in battle, he's to give a fifth of it up to God, the messenger, and people in need.  And it doesn't seem, to me, that a fifth of an individuals' booty is an exorbitant amount. I know some people have this vision of Mohammed as a greedy, power hungry man and I just don't see it. If he was really all about the money, there was an opportunity here to demand a much larger portion of the booty for 'god' and the orphans, which of course Mohammed would be the executor of. It happens in modern times, in different 'Christian' missions or programs.

43. When Allah showed them unto thee (O Muhammad) in thy dream as few in number, and if He had shown them to thee as many, ye (Muslims) would have faltered and would have quarrelled over the affair. But Allah saved (you). Lo! He knoweth what is in the breasts (of men).

Okay, so this verse is laid out as though God lied to Mohammed in order to get him into this battle. He showed Mohammed, in a dream, the army arrayed against him so that Mohammed would pass this information on to the Muslims following him. But God showed him a much smaller force than was actually there. This falls into the same category as the assertion that God tricked everyone at the Crucifixion into believing that they had crucified Jesus by putting Jesus' face on another man. It does not sit well with me that God lies. People can make their own choices, fine, and they can choose rightly or wrongly but for God to deliberately mislead people just...doesn't work with my concept of God as an ultimate Good.

53. That is because Allah never changeth the grace He hath bestowed on any people until they first change that which is in their hearts, and (that is) because Allah is Hearer, Knower.

I read this as something like a 'God helps those who help themselves' saying. I know so many people who sit around and do nothing in the face of all the tragedy around them, all of the shortages and deaths that could be prevented (and I know plenty who do something about these things too), saying that God will take care of it. That this suffering is God's will and that there's a purpose to it. Which is just bullshit. I don't believe that God's got his fingers in everything that happens. The earth is kind of like a preserve, or an ant colony. God set things up, got the ball rolling, and then stepped back to watch for the most part. Because if God was intervening in every little thing then we wouldn't really have 'free' will, would we?

And now surah 9, Baraah or Repentance.

30. And the Jews say: Ezra is the son of Allah, and the Christians say: The Messiah is the son of Allah. That is their saying with their mouths. They imitate the saying of those who disbelieved of old. Allah (Himself) fighteth against them. How perverse are they!

And again, this is a misunderstanding of what is meant by the use of the term 'son of'. It's not used in a biological sense. Christian's don't believe that God came down like Zeus or any of the old gods and physically impregnated anyone, and neither did the Jews. There are actually two different meanings being used here and neither of them is the one that the Qur'an seems to think is being used. 

31. They have taken as lords beside Allah their rabbis and their monks and the Messiah son of Mary, when they were bidden to worship only One Allah. There is no Allah save Him. Be He Glorified from all that they ascribe as partner (unto Him)!

*sigh* No. No one worships monks or priests or Mary or anyone else. There is a distinct difference between the worship directed at God and the honor given to Saints. 

34. O ye who believe! Lo! many of the (Jewish) rabbis and the (Christian) monks devour the wealth of mankind wantonly and debar (men) from the way of Allah. They who hoard up gold and silver and spend it not in the way of Allah, unto them give tidings (O Muhammad) of a painful doom,

People suck. Even people who have supposedly given their lives to God can suck. We have free will, we can make these choices. That doesn't mean that you should discredit an entire group based on the fact that some of them aren't trustworthy. It just means that you should be careful who you trust. Don't follow blindly, don't just hand over your money for some project you know nothing about.

80. Ask forgiveness for them (O Muhammad), or ask not forgiveness for them; though thou ask forgiveness for them seventy times Allah will not forgive them. That is because they disbelieved in Allah and His messenger, and Allah guideth not wrongdoing folk.

I can't help but think of these verses from Matthew:  21 Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.“For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. 24 When he had begun to settle them, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. 25 But since he did not have the means to repay, his lord commanded him to be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had, and repayment to be made. 26 So the slave fell to the ground and prostrated himself before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you everything.’ 27 And the lord of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and he seized him and began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay back what you owe.’ 29 So his fellow slave fell to the ground and began to plead with him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you.’ 30 But he was unwilling and went and threw him in prison until he should pay back what was owed. 31 So when his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were deeply grieved and came and reported to their lord all that had happened. 32 Then summoning him, his lord *said to him, ‘You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?’ 34 And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him. 35 My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.”

In the ayah from the Qur'an it feels like God is saying, 'It doesn't matter. I'm done with you.' and turning away because these people have made mistakes. I realize that it is saying that *Mohammed's* prayers for forgiveness for other people will make no difference to their fate and I assume that the implication carries through that if these people who have sinned repent and pray for their own forgiveness that they will be granted it if they are sincere. But it just feels less hopeful to me somehow than the passage from Matthew.  I think it's clear, Biblically, that there is no *earning* of salvation or forgiveness. God forgives because God loves. It seems, to me, to be less clear in the Qur'an. 

Is that how it seems to the rest of you? 

Especially in light of these ayah further down:

102. And (there are) others who have acknowledged their faults. They mixed a righteous action with another that was bad. It may be that Allah will relent toward them. Lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. 103. Take alms of their wealth, wherewith thou mayst purify them and mayst make them grow, and pray for them. Lo! thy prayer is an assuagement for them. Allah is Hearer, Knower.

It reads as if the people are having to pay for Mohammed to perform some sort of purification on them (even though we are told above that Mohammed's prayers for people to be forgiven make no difference). I know that, in the past, such things have happened in other traditions. They were wrong in those traditions and wrong in general.


  1. 102 sounds like the people acknowledged their wrong so they were forgiven unlike the people in verse 80. What bothers me is that Allah doesn't guide wrongdoing folks. It's almost like you have to be naturally good in order to be guided to the right path. That may sound fair enough, but if we think of the relationship with parents and children, parents see the bigger picture, they see the right path and the wrong path and when their children are headed towards trouble, they love them enough to redirect them. I tend to believe the Bible is more this way. God sees us *while we are still sinners* and lifts us up out of the miry clay and sets our feet on the rock and establishes our ways. But then some may prefer the Quranic version because it seems we have the insight to see if we are doing right and wrong and change our paths on our own. Maybe that is more freewill. Yet I read so much predestination in the Quran when I read it. But maybe I was reading *into* it what wasn't there??

    I enjoy reading your thoughts on this. Thanks for sharing!

    1. You're not alone in seeing predestination all over the Qur'an. I'm just not sure if it's really there or if I'm taking the language in a way it wasn't meant. I'm wondering if it isn't similar to what is meant when the Bible says, 'and God hardened x's heart'. That can be taken to be predestination as well, but we know that that's not what is actually meant. Rather it's that the person chooses to turn away from God and God simply reinforces their choice.

      I don't think that the Bible or Christianity negates or rejects the idea that we can change our paths on our own. Yes, salvation is an act of God's will, grace and mercy given freely out of love. But God doesn't forcibly save those who don't choose to be saved. God has made the first gesture, as it were, and it's up to us to respond. That act of response is us changing our path. Certainly we need God's help to stay on that path but the choice is ours.

    2. The Quran, and Islam, is much more into predestination than Christianity or any other monotheistic religion. You really can't do anything in Islam without God having a hand in it first. All good, all bad is from Allah. I would ask my girlfriends about free will and they would basically just shrug and say "All is from Allah".

      Christians use to do this but not as much anymore as Jesus advocates for choice. But I suppose the "everything happens for a reason, God has a plan" people would fall into the predestination category. Interestingly enough, a lot of churches don't teach this concept in quite the same way anymore. Yes God is there for you, but you need to make some effort to get what you want nowadays.

    3. Well that's not good. I don't believe in predestination at all. I don't believe that it's compatible with the concept of free will. :-/

      Ah, well.

      I think there are some Christians who believe in predestination. The...Calvinists? I think? I know there's some branch that believes that a certain portion of people are born to go to hell.

    4. Totally not compatible with Free Will. Free Will really isn't part of Islam. Its pretty much accepted that God dictates everything. All good, all bad is from Allah. My friends on facebook will often remind each other when something is good it is a gift from Allah, and when something is bad it is also a gift from Allah and only Allah knows. Its kind of odd to me. But then again I get urked when I do something awesome like get a graduate interview and someone chocks all my hard work up to "God's will".

      Calvinists LOVE predestination. Catholicism was big into it too. My mom is HUGE into "Everything Happens for a Reason/ God Has a Plan". Actually most Christians I do run into who are big on that are either Baptist or Catholic. But I've noticed its not really taught in the same way anymore and you have to take responsibility for your actions.

    5. -_-

      Mmm...nope. Anything that denies the existence of free will is not compatible with me.

      You know, I don't get the impression that Catholicism is heavy into predestination. *shrug* But you know how it is. I didn't grow up Catholic so I'm getting the 'modern' theology as opposed to the theology that's been adjusted through generations.

      I've always taken the 'everything happens for a reason/God has a plan' thing as meant to be comforting but not necessarily espousing a theological point of view. That people are trying to tell those who are down or suffering that something good will come out of it because of course God is good and wants only good things for people. So if you're suffering now then it must mean that God has good things in store for you, assuming that you choose to follow God.

    6. Honestly predestination depends entirely on the church you grew up with and how old school your pastor is. Its not a huge thing in Catholicism now though. You are expected to work for God's assistance. "God only helps those that help themselves" concept. You aren't getting an A on that test because you prayed and didn't study sort of thing. You need to study, but can ask God to support you on your test. However, I grew up with "if you pray hard enough you'll get what you want. Bad things happen to punish you. And everything happens because God has a plan". So you can see why my opinion may seem skewed.

      I understand that people think its comforting I just don't is all. I don't get mad at people when they do the "everything happens for a reason" thing to me anymore but inside I get a little miffed. When done in conjunction with a major life achievement (like getting a job or grad school) it feels to someone who doesn't believe in that concept like you are dismissing their hard work. Your work didn't matter because in the end God had already chosen what would happen. I just can't get behind that. Nor do I like it in conjunction with major things like disease or surgery. I understand that it brings comfort to some, that they will continue to hope that their good day is coming. I'd rather accept my suffering and choose to work with it then rely on God to make something good happen to compensate for the bad. Suffering is part of life, not a punishment.

    7. Yeah, I don't find it comforting either, personally. It always sounds, to me, like people just have nothing to say and they're not comfortable with just letting you cry or scream or be upset so they try this and maybe sometimes they even believe it but I don't think it makes anyone feel better.

      Good and bad are both just a part of life and if people can accept that and accept that they shouldn't be waiting around for someone else (even God) to make things better but be working for it themselves then the world would be a better place.

  2. Amen sister :) I completely agree.

  3. About 31, taking rabbis and priests and monks as lord, I think this is more about Islam ideally not having actual "priests". I know you have sheiks and mullahs and what not, but what I was taught is that ideally we are all able to read the Qur'an and interpret it for ourselves, and we shouldn't blindly follow religious leaders (although that's pretty much opposite of what we actually see today.)

    1. I took it as being more about 'worshiping' scholars, etc. because of the way it's phrased. The whole 'taken as lords beside Allah'...'told one to worship one Allah' bit strikes me as saying that the author believed that Christians had elevated their religious to the same level as God. Which isn't true, of course.

      I get what you're saying though, the mentality of elevating the rulings/thoughts/writings of religious scholars to the level of scripture. That makes a lot of sense too, and it is definitely something that you can see across all religions.


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