Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times
Satan or Iblis is mentioned no less than 60 times in the holy Quran. Is Satan a real physical entity or only a metaphorical construct?
The understanding of Satan by 1.6 billion Muslims is bogged down by the commentaries of these verses by numerous scholars in the last 1400 years.
I have found Jāvēd Ahmad Ghāmidī to be one of more progressive scholars in recent times and I have learnt from him on several issues, yet his description of Satan, even though modern in some ways is still elusive in other ways and self-contradictory, for his obsession with Jinn as beings created from energy, among his other ideological limitations. He is a PakistaniMuslim theologian, Quran scholar, Islamic modernist, exegete and educationist. He is also the founding President of Al-Mawrid Institute of Islamic Sciences and its sister organisation Danish Sara.He became a member of the Council of Islamic Ideology (responsible for giving legal advice on Islamic issues to the Pakistani Government and the country’s Parliament) on 28 January 2006, where he remained for a couple of years. He also taught Islamic studies at the Civil Services Academy for more than a decade from 1979 to 1991. He was also a student of the famous Islamic scholar and exegete, Amin Ahsan Islahi. He is running an intellectual movement similar to Wastiyya in Egypt on the popular electronic media of Pakistan.
Here are his videos about Satan in Urdu:
Before dwelling further on this subject that many will find controversial, let me say, read on and in the words of Sir Francis Bacon, “Read not to contradict … but to weigh and consider.”
I believe the best understanding of Satan and the best commentary of these verses is provided in light of modern psychology and biology and a short description here will clarify centuries of debate and also give us a paradigm for a progressive understanding of the holy Quran and Islam.
Study of human mind in the last two centuries in the field of psychology has not shown any evidence of thought insertion by external beings in normal and healthy human functioning. As a physician and a student of psychology, I know, I own all my thoughts and am responsible for them. All Knowing God can reveal Himself to the prophets and saints, He is Omnipresent and Omniscient, attributes that our conscience refuses to attribute to Satan, or we will be believing in almost two Gods, one of virtue and the other of evil, akin to a belief in Zoroastrianism.
Please find all the sixty two mentions of Satan or Iblis in the Quran, in the references below. In each instance it is easy to attribute the sin or misconduct to human failings rather than an external invisible being. I will examine just one instance here today, “And he who turns away from the remembrance of the Gracious God, We appoint for him a Satan, who becomes his companion.” (Al Quran 43:36) As someone gradually grows away from the concept of All Knowing God, who is All-Aware of our inner most thoughts and all our deeds, he becomes more and more vulnerable to sins and crime, as human psychology and daily experience suggests and we need not invoke an external Satan. Suggested reading and viewing of a National Geographic documentary: All Knowing, All Seeing God Keeps Us Away from Crime and Sin: See the Evidence.
The holy Quran describes a meeting of God, angles, Satan, Adam and Eve on several occasions. Such a meeting never happened in a physical sense and is only a metaphor. A metaphor that was very necessary for the first addressees of the holy Quran, the seventh century Arab desert dwellers, unless Allah was going to teach them all about human biology and evolution, with proofs and details. A discussion which would have been very likely to transform the struggle for spiritual life into modern day debates among the creationists and evolutionists.
Homo-sapiens have evolved from chimpanzee like animals in the last 200,000 years or so. Molecular biology has become fool proof evidence for the common ancestry of all life on the planet earth. The debate is over as far as this aspect of evolution is concerned. Now only the ill informed or stubborn debate this issue.
Watch the logical presentation of molecular biology in the short video below and think, would you rather agree with this or with the convoluted description of Jāvēd Ahmad Ghāmidī above?
If our understanding of the 62 verses talking about Satan and Iblis is guided by human psychology and biology, rather than an insistence on literalism, then stage is set for reading the holy Quran with an open mind, rather than in a fixed framework of our ideology and instead of using the scripture for legalistic debates we begin to read it in the privacy of our minds for a better understanding of religion for individual spirituality, rather than making it into a dueling sport or the basis of our politics or governance.
The Eden from which Adam and Eve were expelled was not somewhere in heavens or paradise, but on this very planet earth!
He is Allah, the Creator, the Maker, the Fashioner. His are the most beautiful names. All that is in the heavens and the earth glorifies Him, and He is the Mighty, the Wise. (Al Quran 59:24/25)
Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times
Albert Einstein, the man of the century for the 20th century, according to the Time magazine has the following quote attributed to him.
There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle. Albert Einstein
I will let any true atheist explain the first half of the quote, while I will explain the second half of the quote, which I live by and which I believe, ‘everything is a miracle,’ is not only a quote of Einstein, but a central tenant of the holy Quran and which is repeated often in the scripture, alluding to different things or phenomena with different emphasis on each occasion.
In the epigraph of this article we read, “All that is in the heavens and the earth glorifies Allah;” in other words every thing is a miracle. Stated another way in the holy Quran: “Indeed, in the heavens and the earth are Signs for those who believe.” (Al Quran 45:3)
In Surah Rome we read:
So celebrate God’s glory in the evening, in the morning–praise is due to Him in the heavens and the earth– in the late afternoon, and at midday. He brings the living out of the dead and the dead out of the living. He gives life to the earth after death, and you will be brought out in the same way. One of His Signs is that He created you from dust and– lo and behold! – you became human and scattered far and wide. Another of His Signs is that He created spouses from among yourselves for you to live with in tranquility: He ordained love and kindness between you. There truly are Signs in this for those who reflect. Another of His Signs is the creation of the heavens and earth, and the diversity of your languages and colors. There truly are Signs in this for those who know. Among His Signs are your sleep, by night and by day, and your seeking His bounty. There truly are Signs in this for those who can hear. Among His Signs, too, are that He shows you the lightning that terrifies and inspires hope; that He sends water down from the sky to restore the earth to life after death. There truly are Signs in this for those who use their reason. Among His Signs, too, is the fact that the heavens and the earth stand firm by His command. (Al Quran 30:17-25)
The very creation of the universe, what the scientists describe as the Big Bang, was a miracle, which in turn set up a chain of events of further miracles and the holy Quran alludes to this in the following verses:
Do not the disbelievers see that the heavens and the earth were a closed-up mass, then We opened them out? And We made from water every living thing. Will they not then believe? And We put firm mountains on the earth, lest it should sway under them, and set broad paths on it, so that they might follow the right direction, and We made the sky a well-secured canopy– yet from its wonders or miracles they turn away. It is He who created night and day, the sun and the moon, each floating in its orbit. (Al Quran 21:30-33)
Having outlined the miracles or Signs mentioned in the Quran, Today I want to share only one miracle in our world, from a scientific perspective, what has been dubbed as Quantum entanglement, as described by a NOVA documentary:
If we start our spiritual journey from the study of the nature, as is suggested by the holy Quran dozen of times, all the Monotheists, be they Jews, Christians or Muslims of whatever sect, will be drawn together in glorifying and worshiping the Creator, the Maker, the Fashioner; rather than being cleaved apart by details where they differ, in different revelations to the different prophets including the person of Jesus, may peace be on him.
As I write this article in April of 2016, two very dramatic events have occurred in the domain of freedom of speech or shall we say lack thereof, within the last month.
In Bangladesh, Nazimuddin Samad, 28, who had been on a hit list of 84 bloggers drawn up by Islamists in Bangladesh, was hacked to death and then shot. Last year, suspected militants hacked to death at least four atheist bloggers and a secular publisher in one of a series of targeted killings.i
In Glasgow, UK, the man accused of murdering Glasgow shopkeeper Asad Shah has issued a statement, saying he carried out the killing because he believed Mr. Shah had “disrespected” Islam. Tanveer Ahmed, 32, from Bradford, is accused of killing Mr. Shah outside his shop in Glasgow.
In the statement he denied the incident had anything to do with Christianity.
Mr. Ahmed claimed Asad Shah had “disrespected” Islam. The shopkeeper, an Ahmadi Muslim, who had moved from Pakistan to Glasgow almost 20 years ago, was found with serious injuries outside his shop on Minard Road in Shawlands on the 24th of March. He was pronounced dead in hospital. Mr. Shah was killed just hours after he posted an Easter message on Facebook, wishing his Christian customers a happy Easter.ii
Such violence in the name of Islam is complete antithesis of what Islam truly stands for.
Those of us, who have seen the Message movie, about the life of the Prophet Muhammad, may peace be on him, would recall a scene, when the companions of the Prophet are saying the creed of Islam or Kalimah in Kaaba.
The non-Muslim Meccans start throwing stones at them and start beating them.
The character of Hamza, who is not a Muslim yet, being played by Anthony Quinn, enters the courtyard of Kaaba and says tauntingly to Abu Jahal, one of the main leaders of the Meccans, “He is the bravest man in the desert, when he meets unarmed men!”
Abu Jahal retorts, “Muhammad is a liar.”
Hamza responds, “Where is the lie and where is the truth, when it has not been spoken yet. You do not let him speak?”
Early Muslims were for free speech and their opponents, the Meccans for coercion and taking away the freedom of speech of the early Muslims.
Free speech is certainly a tool of the believers and it is mentioned as such several times in the Holy Quran. For example, “And let there be among you a body of men who should invite to goodness, and enjoin equity and forbid evil. And it is they who shall prosper.”iii And, “And the believers, men and women, are friends one of another. They enjoin good and forbid evil and observe Prayer and pay the Zakat.”iv
The Holy Quran issues a challenge to the non-believers to produce its equivalent, if they do not esteem it to be word of All Knowing God: “And if you are in doubt as to what We (Allah) have sent down to Our servant (Muhammad), then produce a Chapter like it, and call upon your helpers besides Allah, if you are truthful.”v
The Quranic challenge is indeed freedom of speech for the non-believers.
The Holy Quran repeats this challenge with slight variation several times:
Do they say, ‘He has forged it?’ Say, ‘Bring then a Surah (chapter) like unto it, and call for help on all you can besides Allah, if you are truthful.’vi
Do they say, ‘He has forged it?’ Say, ‘Then bring ten chapters like it, forged, and call on whom you can besides Allah, if you are truthful.’vii
Say, ‘If mankind and the Jinn gathered together to produce the like of this Quran, they could not produce the like thereof, even though they should help one another.’viii
The Holy Quran is inviting non-believers to bring their proofs and argue against every Quranic proposition. If this is not freedom of speech, I do not know what is?
The Quranic freedom is not only for the likeminded or the yes men, but for the contrarians or those who beg to differ. For example the Quran says: “And the Jews and the Christians say, ‘None shall ever enter Heaven unless he be a Jew or a Christian.’ These are their vain desires. Say, ‘Produce your proof, if you are truthful.’”ix
Many a non-Muslim philosophers have expressed similar sentiments, for example, Noam Chomsky says, “If we do not believe in the freedom of expression for the people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all.”x French philosopher François-Marie Arouet (1694 – 1778), known by his pseudonym Voltaire is attributed the following quote, “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I ‘ll defend to the death your right to say it.”xi
And the heaven We built with our own powers and indeed We go on expanding it. . (Al Quran 51:47)
By Dr. Zia H Shah and Dr. Lutf ur Rehman
Published in the Muslim Sunrise (The Oldest Muslim Publication of North America)
The Holy Qur’an invites mankind to ponder on the universe that He has created. The Qur’an urges us to reflect on the Laws of Nature — with examples drawn from cosmology, physics, biology and medicine — as signs for all men. For example the Glorious Qur’an says, “Do they not then look at the camel, how it is created? And at the heaven, how it is raised high?’ (Al Quran: chapter Ghashiayah)
Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih IV, wrote in his book Revelation, Rationality, Knowledge and Truth:
At the time the Holy Qur’an was revealed, the human understanding of the nature of the cosmos and the movement or the stillness of the heavenly bodies was extremely primitive and obscure. This is no longer the case, as our knowledge of the universe has considerably advanced and expanded by the present age. Some of the theories relating to the creation of the universe have been verified as facts, whereas some others are still being explored. The concept of the expanding universe belongs to the former category, and has been universally accepted by the scientific community as ‘fact’. This discovery was first made by Edwin Hubble in the 1920s. Yet some thirteen centuries before this, it was clearly mentioned in the Qur’an in Sura Dhariyat: And the heaven We built with Our own powers (aydin) and indeed We go on expanding it (musi’un). It should be remembered that the concept of the continuous expansion of the universe is exclusive to the Qur’an. No other Divine scriptures even remotely hint at it.
The Quran has at various places reiterated this principle.
And the recompense of an injury is a penalty the like thereof; but whoso forgives and his act brings about reformation, his reward is with God. Surely, He loves not the wrongdoers.(XLII. 41)
This verse lays down the principle that the penalty in respect of a wrong or injury should be in proportion thereto, but that where forgiveness would lead to reformation, the injury should be forgiven or the penalty may be reduced. A Contravention of either of these principles would amount to wrong doing. A penalty severer than that demanded by the wrong or injury done, or, forgiveness or lenience in a case where the circumstances do not indicate that forgiveness might result in improvement or reformation would both be wrong.
Surely, God wrongs not anyone even by the weight of an atom. And if there be a good deed, He multiplies it and gives from Himself a great reward. (IV. 41)
The same principle is repeated in various contexts. For instance:
For those who do good deeds, there shall be the best reward and yet more blessings. And neither darkness nor ignominy shall cover their faces. (X. 27)
And as for those who do. evil deeds, the punishment of an evil shall be the like thereof, and ignominy shall cover them. (X. 28)
It may be pointed out that the safeguarding against darkness and ignominy in one case and being subjected to ignominy in the other is, in the strict sense, not a part of the reward or the penalty, but is a consequence which flows from the nature of the act in each case. It is a quality of good and evil respectively.
Whoso does a good deed shall have ten times as much; but he who does an evil deed, shall have only a like reward; and they shall not be wronged. (VI. 161)
Whoso does evil will be requited only with the like of it; but whoso does good, whether male or female, and is a believer-these will enter the Garden; they will be provided therein without measure. (XL. 41)
The author has counted the very first verse of each surah, Bismillah, which is common to all surahs except for one. So please adjust the count by one depending on your volume of the Quran.
About the author of the book from Encyclopedia Britannica:
“Sir Muhammad Zafrulla Khan was a Pakistani politician, diplomat, and international jurist, known particularly for his representation of Pakistan at the United Nations (UN).
The son of the leading attorney of his native city, Zafrulla Khan studied at Government College in Lahore and received his LL.B. from King’s College, London University, in 1914. He practiced law in Sialkot and Lahore, became a member of the Punjab Legislative Council in 1926, and was a delegate in 1930, 1931, and 1932 to the Round Table Conferences on Indian reforms in London. In 1931–32 he was president of the All-India Muslim League (later the Muslim League), and he sat on the British viceroy’s executive council as its Muslim member from 1935 to 1941. He led the Indian delegation to the League of Nations in 1939, and from 1941 to 1947 he served as a judge of the Federal Court of India.
Prior to the partition of India in 1947, Zafrulla Khan presented the Muslim League’s view of the future boundaries of Pakistan to Sir Cyril Radcliffe, the man designated to decide the boundaries between India and Pakistan. Upon the independence of Pakistan, Zafrulla Khan became the new country’s minister of foreign affairs and served concurrently as leader of Pakistan’s delegation to the UN (1947–54). From 1954 to 1961 he served as a member of the International Court of Justice at The Hague. He again represented Pakistan at the UN in 1961–64 and served as president of the UN General Assembly in 1962–63. Returning to the International Court of Justice in 1964, he served as the court’s president from 1970 to 1973.
He was knighted in 1935. He is the author of Islam: Its Meaning for Modern Man (1962) and wrote a translation of the Qur’an (1970).” [Encylopaedia Britannica]
But whoso does good works, whether male or female, and is a believer, such shall enter Heaven, and shall not be wronged even as much as the little groove in a date-stone. (Al Quran 4:124)
Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times
I did my high school and early college from Cadet College Hasanabdal, 1973-1978. Our religious studies teacher was Chaudhary Muhammad Hussain. Before he did masters and became a teacher, he used to be a police inspector.
He told us an interesting story during one of his classes, while talking about theft. He shared with us the most successful method to get a confession from a Muslim accused of theft, from his police service years. He said it was common that those accused of theft will give false testimony even after swearing on the Quran. But, there was one thing that scared them to death. He said that the police investigators would get three stones and ask the accused to place his hand on them and say that if he lies, let there be three divorces to his wife. With the hand on the stones they will not give false testimony, lest their wives are divorced and next time they are intimate with them they will be committing adultery and possibly fathering bastards. This put the fear of God in them.
Most theologians today will say that such a divorce is not valid but nevertheless it scared the accused to a degree that nothing else did. The accused were not afraid of stealing or swearing false testimony on the Quran, but were scared to death of the three divorces that would not have been valid. An ill placed fear because of the personal, social and religious conditioning of the persons involved.
We may not have committed a theft but many of our religious leaders hold us in the palm of their hands and keep scaring us into contradictory ideas.
They quote numerous verses of the Quran to tell us that God of Islam is the Most Gracious and the Most Merciful and yet based on literal reading of some other verses of the Quran scare everyone that non-believers will go to an eternal hell. An infinite punishment for a finite crime and the Most Gracious and the Most Merciful God, please give me a break!
They tell us that the prophet Muhammad, may peace be on him, is mercy for all the people in the world and in the same breath teach extreme prejudice against the people of other sects and scare us enough to believe in those ideas.
They teach us that there is freedom of religion in Islam but, ‘we will kill the apostates,’ scared to death, we accept the ideas of the so called scholars, no matter how nonsensical those are.
The so called scholars tell us that the non-believers mocked at the prophet Muhammad, may peace be on him, during his lifetime, and had the freedom of speech, as so says the Quran in Surah Munafiqoon, but they will kill the blasphemer and we readily yield.
Some of them teach us interfaith tolerance with the Christians and the Jews but discrimination against many a Muslim, we oblige.
They teach us that they love Islam and would do anything to help promote it, but do not collaborate to the slightest degree if it is not their sect or their myopic view and many won’t move an inch unless they are the lead dog and we don’t mind.
But, here is my proclamation of emancipation for all the Muslims.
We are not obliged to honor contradictory life style or to follow contradictory instructions or hold contradictory views. The Quran says in Surah Nisa:
Will they not, then, meditate upon the Qur’an? Had it been from anyone other than All-Knowing Allah, they would surely have found therein many contradictions. (Al Quran 4:82)
The All Knowing God and His religion and His literal word, the holy Quran, cannot be contradictory. But, humans are always vulnerable to be contradictory!
Conflict or contradictory ideas lead to anxiety, depression and inaction.
The mental conflict below the level of conscious awareness is called unconscious conflict. The conflicts in conscious level, when repressed, shifts to unconscious. Here the desires which cannot be satisfied at conscious level are repressed to unconscious level as a mechanism of escaping. Many of our wants raised by Id may not be socially acceptable. Such wants are objected by the Ego and the Super ego. Hence these are repressed to unconscious.
The repressed desires or wishes remain active in the unconscious part of our mind. They slowly gather strength by making alliance with other similar experiences and become stronger. This group of repressed wants which is working for the satisfaction try to come back to the conscious. This process is called complex. As soon as complexes are formed they give rise to conflicts in the unconscious.
They try to come back to conscious, but prevented by censor or preconscious. So they try to enter the conscious level when censor is at rest or sleep. They may appear in the form of dreams, slip of tongue, slip of pen, motivated forgetting, etc. Sometimes they may appear in the form of peculiar behavior and mannerisms.
I refuse to accept contradictory ideas, no matter what the station of the religious authority or how many of them, to keep my sanity and peace of mind.
It is best to have courage and resolve the conflict and not let the conflict of your parents, your leaders or your loved ones become your conflict. This can be avoided by exploration, learning and placing the blame where it belongs rather than trying to displace it.
The preachers of many of the sects of Islam, keep scaring us, day in day out, in trying to stress whatever is their agenda of the day and not too infrequently it is stressing the sectarian differences.
We need to have better appreciation of the Most Gracious and the Most Merciful and our accountability.
There is a Hadith in Sahih Bukhari: There was a man who had heartlessly murdered ninety-nine people. Then, he felt remorse.
He went to a learned man and told him about his past, explaining that he wished to repent, reform, and become a better person. “I wonder if Allah will pardon me?” he asked.
For all his learning, the scholar was a man who had not been able to digest what he had learned. “You will not be pardoned;’ he said. “Then I may as well kill you, too,” said the other. And kill him he did.
He then found another worthy individual and told him that he had killed a hundred people. “I wonder,” he said, “whether Allah will pardon me if I repent?” Being a truly wise man, he replied, “Of course you will be pardoned; repent at once. I have just one piece of advice for you: avoid the company of wicked people and mix with good people, for bad company leads one into sin:”
The man expressed repentance and regret, weeping as he sincerely implored his Lord to pardon him. Then, turning his back on bad company, he set off to find a neighborhood where righteous people lived.
On the way, his appointed hour arrived, and he died. The angels of punishment and of mercy both came to take away his soul. The angels of punishment said that as a sinful person he rightfully belonged to them, but the angels of mercy also claimed him, saying, “He repented and had resolved to become a good man. He was on his way to a place where righteous people live, but his appointed hour had come.” A great debate ensued, and Gabriel was sent as an arbitrator to settle this affair.
After hearing both sides he gave this verdict: “Measure the ground. If the spot where he died is closer to the good people, then he belongs to the angels of mercy, but if it is nearer to the wicked people, he will be given to the angels of punishment.”
They measured the ground. Because the man had just set out, he was still closer to the wicked. But because he was sincere in his repentance, the Lord moved the spot where he lay and brought it to just outside the city of the good people.
That penitent servant was handed over to the angels of mercy.
The most encouraging verse in regards to Divine forgiveness to me seems to be: “Surely, Allah will not forgive that any partner be associated with Him; but He will forgive whatever is short of that to whomsoever He pleases. And whoso associates partners with Allah has indeed devised a very great sin.” (Al Quran 4:48)
However, I do believe that all the verses on a given subject should be read in unison to come to a more balanced understanding. So, I am going to list several verses below, which I believe have a clear bearing on the issue of ultimate forgiveness and salvation on the Day of Judgment. First a few verses about the accounting and scaling the good deeds versus the evil ones:
The Crashing Blow! What is the Crashing Blow? What will explain to you what the Crashing Blow is? On a Day when people will be like scattered moths and the mountains like tufts of wool, the one whose good deeds are heavy on the scales will have a pleasant life, but the one whose good deeds are light will have the Bottomless Pit for his home a – what will explain to you what that is? — a blazing fire. (Al Quran 101:1-11)
On that Day when the Trumpet is blown, the ties between them will be as nothing and they will not ask about each other: those whose good deeds weigh heavy will be successful, but those whose balance is light will have lost their souls and will be in Hell. (Al Quran 23:101-103)
On that Day, people will come forward in separate groups to be shown their deeds: whoever has done an atom’s-weight of good will see it, but whoever has done an atom’s-weight of evil will see that. (Al Quran 99:6-8)
And Luqman continued, ‘My son, if even the weight of a mustard seed were hidden in a rock or anywhere in the heavens or earth, God would bring it to light, for He is all subtle and all aware. (Al Quran 31:16)
There is a Hadith that once there was a prostitute, who saw a thirsty dog yearning for water near a water well. She was so moved that she descended in the well and brought water in her shoe for the dog. The Merciful God was so moved by the mercy of the woman that He forgave all her past sins and granted her paradise.
Such Hadiths may suggest to the novice a degree of randomness in God’s Judgment. But, to get a balanced view of Divine matrix in Afterlife, one should read the above quoted verses once again and then flavor them with the following verses that highlight that even though there is accounting and no randomness, yet the forgiveness and mercy of God will be the over-riding theme on the Day of Judgment:
But if you avoid the great sins you have been forbidden, We shall wipe out your minor misdeeds and let you in through the entrance of honor. (Al Quran 4:31)
Everything in the heavens and earth belongs to God. He will repay those who do evil according to their deeds, and reward, with what is the best, those who do good. As for those who avoid grave sins and foul acts, though they may commit small sins, your Lord is ample in forgiveness. (Al Quran 53:31-32)
Whoever has done a good deed will have it ten times to his credit, but whoever has done a bad deed will be repaid only with its equivalent – they will not be wronged. (Al Quran 6:160)
Whoever comes before God with a good deed will receive a better reward; whoever comes with an evil deed will be punished only for what he has done. (Al Quran 28:84)
So, unlike those accused of theft, in the opening of this article, we do not have to run scared of the Most Gracious and the Most Merciful and carry a balanced understanding of our accountability, so we do not get scared and entangled into contradictory ideas and beliefs.
Source: The Muslim Times, an International Blog to Foster Universal Brotherhood and Sisterhood
Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times
If my articles are boring to you, it may be that you need to read more of them, as was suggested by John Cage, an American composer, “If something is boring after two minutes, try it for four. If still boring, then eight. Then sixteen. Then thirty-two. Eventually one discovers that it is not boring at all.”
“We created you, We gave you shape, and then We said to the angels, ‘Bow down before Adam,’ and they did. But not Iblis: he was not one of those who bowed down.” So says the Quran in the seventh chapter, describing Adam and his wife and their encounter with Iblis or the Satan, “God said, ‘What prevented you from bowing down as I commanded you?’ and he said, ‘I am better than him: You created me from ﬁre and him from clay.’ God said, ‘Get down from here! This is no place for your arrogance. Get out! You are contemptible!’ but Iblis said,‘Give me respite until the Day people are raised from the dead,’ and God replied, ‘You have respite.’ And then Iblis said, ‘Because You have put me in the wrong, I will lie in wait for them all on Your straight path: I will come at them–– from their front and their back, from their right and their left–– and You will ﬁnd that most of them are ungrateful.’ God said, ‘Get out! You are disgraced and banished! I swear I shall ﬁll Hell with you and all who follow you! But you and your wife, Adam, live in the Garden. Both of you eat whatever you like, but do not go near this tree or you will become wrongdoers.’ Satan whispered to them so as to expose their nakedness, which had been hidden from them: he said, ‘Your Lord only forbade you this tree to prevent you becoming angels or immortals,’ and he swore to them, ‘I am giving you sincere advice’– – he lured them with lies. Their nakedness became exposed to them when they had eaten from the tree: they began to put together leaves from the Garden to cover themselves. Their Lord called to them, ‘Did I not forbid you to approach that tree? Did I not warn you that Satan was your sworn enemy?’ They replied, ‘Our Lord, we have wronged our souls: if You do not forgive us and have mercy, we shall be lost.’ He said,‘All of you get out! You are each other’s enemies. On earth you will have a place to stay and livelihood–– for a time.’ He said, ‘There you will live; there you will die; from there you will be brought out.’” (Al Quran 7:11-25; translation by M Abdel Haleem)
For thirteen centuries these verses were written in stone and all the Muslim commentators read a creation story of Adam in these verses, in literal terms. For some well read Muslims in the last few decades, who understand Darwin’s theory of evolution and its proofs that have piled up in the twentieth century, these verses are now written on paper and they read them metaphorically. But, even today for a large number of Muslims, including conservative scholars and commentators, shall we say with dogmatic thinking, these verses are still inscribed on stone and they refuse to learn or appreciate the mounting evidence to show that all life forms on the planet earth are related to each other and came from common ancestors.
In the military and political scene of the seventh century Arabia, God ordained for the prophet Muhammad, may peace be on him: “Fight those of the People of the Book who do not [truly] believe in God and the Last Day, who do not forbid what God and His Messenger have forbidden, who do not obey the rule of justice, until they pay the Jizya, a tax, and agree to submit.” (Al Quran 9:29) Now, every sensible Muslim realizes that the socio-political scene and military strengths have changed in very dramatic ways in the last 14 centuries and I don’t know of any Muslim individual, group or sect, at least not personally, who is trying to put this verse into practice, in a reading like it was read in the seventh century Arabia. Muslims are able to feel and see the changing times and none of them are keen to impose Jizya on Europe, Australia, USA, Canada or Israel. But, when it comes to human rights and women rights many refuse to acknowledge any difference between seventh century Arabia and the 21st century global village.
Read on and in the words of Sir Francis Bacon, “Read not to contradict … but to weigh and consider.”
Each student, scholar and sect of Islam fossilizes different verses of the Quran, while understanding others in a more progressive reading. This helps them to shift the blame of the sectarian differences to God, rather than taking responsibility of their own myopia and shortsightedness. This attitude of dogmatic thinking not only divides the Muslims but also sets them up against their non-Muslim neighbors. It allowed Indonesia to send a popular Christian Governor of Jakarta, Ahok to jail for two years, for trumped up blasphemy charges. Suggested reading: The Quran Only Means What Our Wisdom and Intentions Dictate: A Progressive Understanding.
Every Muslim scholar worth anything, today recognizes that the Quranic verses about slavery and concubines don’t have any present day application due to lack of relevant circumstances. We do know, however, that this enlightenment has not reached ISIS. Suggested reading: A Sexual Offender from ISIS: Is the Quran to Blame?
But, when it comes to rape victims, many of these same scholars of Islam, insist on four eye witnesses and discard DNA evidence. They fail to see that times have changed. They fail to see that as far as the verses applicable to rape are concerned, the Quran is written on paper and not on stone.
Addressing the seventh century Arabs, the Quran inspired to study biology and said: “Do they not look at the Camels, how they are made?” (Al Quran 88:17) If the verse is written on paper, today we can read it as: Do they not look at the kangaroos, how they are made? Do they not look at the viruses under the microscope, how they are made? or Do they not look at the bissons, how they are made? In so doing we will be fulfilling a repeated injunction of God to study nature and find the Creator God, a study that will lead us to not only a belief in Personal God of the Abrahamic faiths, but also Afterlife: “Allah is He Who raised up the heavens without any pillars that you can see. Then He settled Himself on the Throne. And He pressed the sun and the moon into service: each pursues its course until an appointed term. He regulates it all. He clearly explains the Signs, that you may have a firm belief in the meeting with your Lord.” (Al Quran 13:2)
I believe the only verses that are written in stone are about Monotheism, Afterlife and compassionate living and the constant reminder in the Quran to create a just and loving society. With this liberated understanding it is so much easier for me to see through the differences between different sects and struggle of each Muslim country with human and women rights and the blasphemy laws. It allows me to see all Muslims as fellow brothers and sisters and minimize the sectarian differences and try to stick to the prophet Muhammad’s injunction: “The similitude of believers in regard to mutual love, affection, fellow-feeling is that of one body; when any limb of it aches, the whole body aches, because of sleeplessness and fever.” [Muslim]