The unbelievers are the enemy

December 16, 2009 at 2:16 pm (Islam, moral issues, society, why I didn't convert to Islam)

I don’t know what I think about fighting to establish justice or eradicate oppression. I think that it could be OK to overthrow an evil dictator, but maybe only if it’s what the people of the country want. If they don’t want it, then I feel uncomfortable about the whole concept of establishing anything good through force.

I think the early Muslims did some good in uniting tribal Arabia under tawheed, and in later spreading what was at that time probably the most equitable, just civilisation that had existed, across a third of the world. But I think that in doing that, at some point they must have voided the Quranic injunction not to commit aggression. Perhaps the instructions can legitimately change over time and with circumstances; as I have said before, the Quran does not have to be viewed as a universal life manual. Maybe at some point it became appropriate to conquer. What do you think?

I think the reason I feel uncomfortable boils down to the stark categorisation of people into believers and unbelievers. I think professed belief is an inadequate and overly simplistic way of judging and defining people. It is just one more way of dividing humans and breeding prejudice and de-humanisation of the “other”. I find it hard to imagine that God views us that way.

I was actually quite impressed that Muhammad signed the treaty of Hudaybiyya and didn’t charge into Mecca, and then eventually conquered it without much bloodshed, along with mass conversion to Islam and amnesty granted. I thought this demonstrated wisdom, as per Tariq Ramadan “The Messenger”. They had held back from fighting the unbelievers, and in doing so, turned many of them into believers – which is better.

But then I read the Quran verses about the Hudaybiyya incident and I changed my mind. God apparently said that if it weren’t for the presence of believers in Mecca, He would have had the Muslims fight their way in. It sounds like it was God’s concern for the plight of believers that caused the restraint, rather than God’s desire to cause more hearts to believe and His foreknowledge that this would happen. If there hadn’t been believers in Mecca He would have had the Meccans killed at the hands of the Muslims rather than give them that chance to come to faith. This upset me quite a lot.

48:25 [It was not for your enemies sake that He stayed your hands from them: for] it was they who were bent on denying the truth, and who debarred you from the Inviolable House of Worship and prevented your offering from reaching its destina­tion. And had it not been for the believing men and believing women [in Mecca], whom you might have unwittingly trampled underfoot, and on whose account you might have become guilty, without knowing it, of a grievous wrong: [had it not been for this, you would have been allowed to fight your way into the city: but you were forbidden to fight] so that [in time] God might admit to His grace whomever He wills. Had they [who deserve Our mercy and they whom We have condemned] been clearly discernible [to you], We would indeed have imposed grievous suffering [at your hands] on such of them as were bent on denying the truth.

Maybe it’s my Christian background, but I like to think God sees the potential in every person and isn’t quick to write them off.

When I see people posting scholarly articles banning Muslims from congratulating the kuffar on their festivals, and other things like that that are extremely separatist and have an undercurrent of hatred, I get upset and tie myself in knots trying to convince myself this attitude is not authentically Islamic. And maybe it isn’t. This is a weird period of time that we’re in. However, as much as I’ve tried, I can’t find much support for being loving and merciful towards unbelievers in the Quran. Polite, yes, and respectful; but all your most loving qualities seem to be for the believers only. Perhaps I am missing something here?

48:29 MUHAMMAD is God’s Apostle; and those who are [truly] with him are firm and unyielding towards all deniers of the truth, [yet] full of mercy towards one another...

5:54 …God will in time bring forth [in your stead] people whom He loves and who love Him – humble towards the believers, proud towards all who deny the truth…

58:14 ART THOU NOT aware of those who would be friends with people whom God has condemned? They are neither of you [O believers] nor of those [who utterly reject the truth]: and so they swear to a falsehood the while they know [it to be false]. God has readied for them suffering severe [in the life to come]…

58:22 Thou canst not find people who [truly] believe in God and the Last Day and [at the same time] love anyone who contends against God and His Apostle – even though they be their fathers, or their sons, or their brothers, or [others of] their kindred…

A related question is why belief is so important in the first place. I’ve always understood the Quran to be saying that wrong beliefs are the basis of all badness. In other words, the pagans were wicked and unjust precisely because they didn’t have correct beliefs about God.  But there are many people who have wrong beliefs according to the Quran and yet are very good people.

Any thoughts?

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78 Comments

  1. susanne430 said,

    Wow, good stuff. I’ll think more about it while I’m Christmas shopping and see if I have some thoughts to share later. Thanks for posting this. Lots to consider…hmmm.

  2. LK said,

    I always thought unbelievers were those who rejected the belief in one God. The Qur’an makes it really clear that it does not just mean those who follow the religion of Islam. But yes it often does seem like it is condeming the pagans. Then again, we may think that only because the pagans are the only people we think of since we are thinking of this belief in terms of monotheism and polytheism. Someone easily could be under the label of Christian or Muslim or Jew but be an unbeliever. Same with atheists who completely reject the concept of one God.

    As you can see in the Torah as well, God seemed kinda vengeful in the beginning. Still haven’t figured out the flood and the Ark or destroying an entire town (I think that was Lut but I can’t remember) simply because they refused to believe. Same with the 7 plagues. Then Jesus shows up and suddenly all these crazy events attributed to God stop. Maybe they all just were natural disasters and we just stopped attributing events such as these directly to God’s will….not sure. But I find it hard to believe that God was punishing all these unbelievers and now no longer does so.

    • Wrestling With Religion said,

      LK – yes, belief is more complicated than just a label. Maybe we can say the believers are the ones who work for goodness and justice. Maybe we can say they would naturally have sided with the Muslims. But some of the people who didn’t side with the Muslims might just have been too entrenched in their culture and family context to do so. It’s a process, a long process for some people. I would expect God to realise that.

      Interesting you mention natural disasters being attributed to God. I have had trouble with that one!

      • LK said,

        Me too Sarah. But I don’t think the majority of natural disasters have anything to do with God…I think they are part of the randomness that exists in nature. But thats just me and Harold Kushner LOL

  3. aynur said,

    I also thought that unbelievers are the ones that don’t believe in one God. And I also thought that aggression is only allowed when you’re being attacked/prevented from worshiping.

    Look at this specifically in 48:25: “and who debarred you from the Inviolable House of Worship and prevented your offering from reaching its destina­tion. ”

    “I can’t find much support for being loving and merciful towards unbelievers in the Quran.”

    Now keep in mind the unbelievers ARE NOT Christians and Jews or those who believe in God/Judgement Day/do good works. I just googled a bit and read some of Harun Yahya’s page (not that I agree with all of his stuff, but anyway…), and he says:

    “Thus, it is an act of worship to love and respect other Muslims and be uncompromising with unbelievers and hypocrites who harbor grudges against the religion of Allah and employ all means to oppose it, covertly or openly. A show of love and respect to these would indicate support and approval of their negative attitude.

    However, it is also important not to misunderstand the concept of opposition, since in this context it does not entail harshness in the physical sense. What is actually meant is to thwart the expectations of the hypocrites and unbelievers through resoluteness and strong commitment to religion.

    “Forcefulness” means forestalling the success of strategies against Muslims by disclosing them, assuming a clear stance towards their reprehensible attitude, and not being their intimate friends.

    Believers are the people whom hypocrites fear most. In the Qur’an, Allah states that hypocrites fear them as they fear Allah (Surat al-Hashr; 13). For this reason, it is important for a Muslim to have the taqwa (fear for Allah) that puts fear into the hearts of His enemies and to those hostile to Muslims.

    At the same time, getting along well with non-Muslims who do not engage in efforts against Islam and attempting to bring the hearts of people recently introduced to Islam nearer to the faith are practices encouraged by Allah in the Qur’an.”

    • Wrestling With Religion said,

      Aynur, it seems to me that although the Christians and Jews believed in one God, they may eventually have been regarded as unbelievers because they opposed Islam. (It is obvious that they would be threatened by a new religion that they didn’t believe in, so would probably oppose it.) There are certainly verses accusing them of kufr. Maybe the concept was that believers are the ones who work for goodness and justice, and this is what Islam stood for, so anyone opposing it would be classed as an unbeliever.

      I actually like that classification of belief, because it opens the way for universalism beyond the Abrahamic faiths, and it says that one’s actions and values are really what matters – something I can agree with. The only problem is that there are other reasons a person might be in opposition to Islam, besides having wrong values. They might have the right values but just be born in a Jewish tribe that opposed Islam.

      I see what you’re saying about prevention of worship being the reason for the aggression against the Meccans. I am a bit iffy about fighting for freedom of worship though. What if some new religion started and decided ITS pilgrimage site was in Mecca? Would it be OK for them to try to conquer it so that they could have freedom of worship?

      Thanks for posting that from Harun Yahya. The only bit I will comment on is:
      “A show of love and respect to these would indicate support and approval of their negative attitude.”
      That could be the case, but on the other hand, love and respect can win people over. I feel there’s a fine balance somewhere between being “uncompromising with unbelievers and hypocrites” and “turning the other cheek”. We can’t let people walk all over us, but it isn’t always wise to flatten the opposition either.

      Thanks for commenting!

  4. aynur said,

    ^^add on to my post above: I meant to say unbelievers ARE NOT NECESSARILY Jews/Christians. Depending on their beliefs – someone can call themselves anything they want but it doesn’t change what’s in their heart.

  5. Achelois said,

    Very, very interesting post.

    Will have to think more about it.

    I find raids very difficult to accept as the ‘norm’ as well. Of course that was the norm but wasn’t that exactly why prophets were needed to disturb the evil status quo and abolish unjust norms?!

    And if Jews were also believers – if they also believed in one God (but not Muhammad) then why were they not given the same protection? Or why were they even persecuted? For political reasons? But shouldn`’t religion have won over politics. I don’t understand mixing politics with religion.

    • Wrestling With Religion said,

      Achelois: I always bristled at the idea of raids too.

      As I said to others above, I’m wondering if the Jews were considered unbelievers once they showed opposition to the Muslims. Because if they really believed in the first place, they would have been able to see that the Quran was truth. Of course I think it is more complicated than that and opposition to Islam does not necessarily constitute unbelief.

      • Sarah said,

        (Because if they really believed in the first place, they would have been able to see that the Quran was truth).

        Ah, but you’re assuming that the Jews of that time cared about the truth more than they cared about their pride!…

        Unfourtantly, even today, people might reject a certain truth if it hurts their ego.

  6. Sarah said,

    I can’t help but to applaud you for your amazingly polite way of addressing these issues. I really admire your sensitivity towards the muslims reading your blog, that only forced me to think even higher of you.

    Let me first address the title of your post; according to the Quran the “unbelievers” are not the enemy.

    Satan is.

    “Oh Mankind! Vertily, te promise of God is true. So let not this present life deceive you, and let not the chief deceive (Satan) deceive you about God. Surely, Satan is an enemy to you, so treat him as an enemy”.

    Notice that this verse addresses all of Mankind (including the unbelievers) to be united together against their commen enemy.

    I will fully adress the other points that you expressed, but my mom is nagging me right now to help her in the kitchen. =(

    Will be back in an hour or so!

    • Wrestling With Religion said,

      Sarah, I like what you said about Satan being the enemy, very much. Looking forward to any more you have to share!

  7. Candice said,

    I think any one can be a believer, as long as they hold the belief in one God. And God is so much more than we can even imagine that I think a lot of people who might not even thinking they are believing in God are. And I don’t think they are “unbelievers” for this reason. Think of all the attributes of God… A person who believes in these things, to me, is believing in God. For example, I believe that people who don’t give any thought to the word “God” but believe in justice, compassion, etc. are “believers”. Unless of course they have a counter belief that can nullify this… But I also think that anyone who really believes in these things cannot hold an opposite belief at the same time…

    • Wrestling With Religion said,

      Candice – yes, I think I totally agree with you. I can’t believe that only those people who are very into religion are actually close to God. Some of those who are very into religion, seem not to be!
      The problem I’m having is that Muslims historically seemed to label people in a more black and white way, equating belief with belonging to – or supporting – the Muslim community, and this comes through in the Quran.

    • Sarah said,

      (But I also think that anyone who really believes in these things cannot hold an opposite belief at the same time…)

      Hmmm, interesting point. But keep in mind that many atheists who very much believes in these things…

      In my personal opoinon, I think it all boils down to:

      If you still:

      a) believed in one God and worshiped him,
      b) believed the Last day,
      c) did good deeds,

      then, and only then, you might very much be a believer in the eyes of God.

  8. Ayan said,

    I agree with Aynur’s and Sarah’s (comment #6). I always understood the term unbeliever to mean those who deny the oneness of God. I believe this is so, because of the importance of tawhid. But, I truly believe that are common denominator is God though our numerator can be different. Both those who believe in the oneness of God and those who don’t are still created by God, and will be judge by God alone. So don’

    “A related question is why belief is so important in the first place.”

    Belief (in my case, the oneness of God) is so important to me because it’s my way of being grateful to my Creator and Provider. Also, it is my way to humble myself to God and to acknowledge His existence … by abiding by the 5 pillars of Islam and everthing else that entails of being a Muslim.

    • Ayan said,

      * that our common

      * and everything else

      lol I make too many typos when I type to fast 😦

    • Wrestling With Religion said,

      Ayan, I agree that belief in God is important, and that it can make for a more satisfying life and a better psychological state. I guess though, I define belief in God quite loosely, like what Candice described. Thanks for commenting!

      • LK said,

        Sarah – I think maybe you are trying to say that you don’t necessarily need to be a part of an organized religion to have a strong belief in God? I can certainly agree with that!

  9. Sarah said,

    Sorry for being super late!

    now onto buissness.. =)

    First off, I just got to adress THIS verse:

    “48:25 [It was not for your enemies sake that He stayed your hands from them: for] it was they who were bent on denying the truth, and who debarred you from the Inviolable House of Worship and prevented your offering from reaching its destina­tion. And had it not been for the believing men and believing women [in Mecca], whom you might have unwittingly trampled underfoot, and on whose account you might have become guilty, without knowing it, of a grievous wrong: [had it not been for this, you would have been allowed to fight your way into the city: but you were forbidden to fight] so that [in time] God might admit to His grace whomever He wills. Had they [who deserve Our mercy and they whom We have condemned] been clearly discernible [to you], We would indeed have imposed grievous suffering [at your hands] on such of them as were bent on denying the truth”.

    … seriously, what the HELL?!

    What a BAD transilation!

    Here is a much more accurate transilation, which didn’t implay that meesed up interpetation:-

    48:25: (God defeated them because) they are the ones who have disbelieved and who barred you from (visiting) the Sacred Mosque and (prevented) the offerings from reaching their destination. And had there not been (in Makkah) believing men and believing women whom you did not know and, therefore, might have trodden down, and thus something undesired might have afflicted you on their account (for what you did) unknowingly, (God would not have restrained your hands from fighting. But He restrained your hands) so that He might admit to His mercy whom He wills (by sparing the believers in Makkah, and enabling many among the Makkans to embrace Islam in time).

    • Wrestling With Religion said,

      Sarah,

      I always try to bear in mind that whatever is in brackets, is not in the original. Some stuff needs to be interpolated for it to make grammatical sense in English. But a lot of translators also slip their own interpretations in through the brackets. I try to read it without brackets as well, even though it will not make total sense in English, it gives the overall sense of the verse without interpretation.

      So we have for Muhammad Asad:

      It was they who were bent on denying the truth, and who debarred you from the Inviolable House of Worship and prevented your offering from reaching its destina­tion. And had it not been for the believing men and believing women, whom you might have unwittingly trampled underfoot, and on whose account you might have become guilty, without knowing it, of a grievous wrong: so that God might admit to His grace whomever He wills. Had they been clearly discernible, We would indeed have imposed grievous suffering on such of them as were bent on denying the truth.

      And for your translation:

      They are the ones who have disbelieved and who barred you from the Sacred Mosque and the offerings from reaching their destination. And had there not been believing men and believing women whom you did not know and, therefore, might have trodden down, and thus something undesired might have afflicted you on their account unknowingly – so that He might admit to His mercy whom He wills. (I THINK THE LAST SENTENCE IS MISSING HERE.)

      They are basically saying exactly the same thing. I think the only part that lends itself to believing that God wanted to allow more people to believe, is the phrase “so that He might admit to His mercy whom He wills”. We are not told directly whether God is anticipating further conversions, or whether He is referring to the existing believers. It is vague. The rest of the verse meanwhile takes a fairly assertive stance towards unbelievers.

      • Sarah said,

        (We are not told directly whether God is anticipating further conversions, or whether He is referring to the existing believers. It is vague).

        It means both, actually. My transilation was literarly like this:

        “so that He might admit to His mercy whom He wills (by sparing the believers in Makkah, and enabling many among the Makkans to embrace Islam in time)”.

        How do I (and the majority of arab scholors) know that this interpetation is the correct one?

        From Suraht An- Nasr!

        “When the victory of God has come and the conquest, And you see the people entering into the religion of Allah in multitudes, Then exalt [Him] with praise of your Lord and ask forgiveness of Him. Indeed, He is ever Accepting of repentance”.

        This Sura was reveled shortly after the conquest of Mecca, when the pagan Arabs from all corners of the land came to the Prophet willingly in large droves (after they had been entering one by one).

        This is the peacful victroy that made the Prophet cry tears of joy, and made him always glorify and praise God everytime he recite this Sura.

        • Wrestling With Religion said,

          “This Sura was reveled shortly after the conquest of Mecca”

          So this makes it slightly less credible to me, because it’s easy to talk of mass conversions once it has already started happening.

          • Sarah said,

            Actually, that’s why almost every muslim scholor on the planet will emphasis over and over again about the extrem important of authintic sunnah and hadith. Without it, that verse will still be vague, and Surah An-Nusr might not make any sense. The main purposs of the authintic sunnah and hadith is to help explain the Quran (and yep, this story is authintic).

            The prophet intended to conqer Mecca without booldshed. He was expecting to help the muslims who were hiding their faith to “come out”, so to speak. But he was not expecting to witness the hunderes and hundreds of men and women who came from inside and outside Mecca who to embrace Islam, that’s why it was such a pleasent supraise to him.

            If I remember the story correctly, his companins were also shocked too, and asked him: ” is this the victory the Surah was talking about?”, and he said yes.

  10. Hamza21 said,

    I think many of your questions come a lack of understanding on basic level a) how the universe works b) how humanity functions within the universe and c)trying understand Quran without tafsir.

    Perhaps the instructions can legitimately change over time and with circumstances; as I have said before, the Quran does not have to be viewed as a universal life manual. Maybe at some point it became appropriate to conquer. What do you think?

    Well the Quran is a “Universal Life Manual” it says so in 2:02 but you fail to see it because it not arranged to your likely. One of the Qur’ans extraordinary features is that it has no beginning. It can be read backwards to forwards or randomly and yet still express the same meaning.

    Also the Quran was revealed to humanity generally but specifically to the Prophet’s community. You have to understand the context to fully comprehend the text. Reading the text itself you can get the distinct feature certain things are already presumed to be known by reader. Which they were in Prophet’s time. Such as in the Quran where it mentions the four sacred months but doesn’t mentioned them by name. so you can’t read the Quran blindly you have have a tafsir to fully understand the context of verse to extract principles ans concepts form them.

    The Quran commands believers to bring justice and mercy to society everywhere because anywhere those two concepts are not present oppression (zulm), fisq (wrongful acts),shameful acts(fasha),jahl (ignorance) and evil (sharr) exists. The Quran also details what constitutes Justice and Mercy.

    If there hadn’t been believers in Mecca He would have had the Meccans killed at the hands of the Muslims rather than give them that chance to come to faith. This upset me quite a lot.

    You misunderstand the situation. The believers were few then and had few allies. If the Muslims would have went a full scale war with the Makkans they would have been destroyed. As well as most Makkans didn’t see Islam as authentic Arab religion at the time. A MAJOR importance at the time. The purpose of the prophet was to teach people morality and cultivation of character how exactly is this done when majority see you as someone following something outside their tradition and won’t listen to you? How exactly would society be put a right when the people will fight you at every turn?

    The understanding of ayah is that there were people in Makkah who were inclined towards Islam but because of social pressure and couldn’t openly identify with it. Since the Prophet didn’t know who and how many people would fully embrace Islam he could have unknowingly killed people who believed in Allah and His messenger. You have to understand the social context of Arabian society to fully appreciate this. It’s vast to go into here but once one understands 6th century Arab culture it makes perfect sense.

    Maybe it’s my Christian background, but I like to think God sees the potential in every person and isn’t quick to write them off.

    Well Allah KNOWS the potential of every human being but he dos NOT have foreknowledge. This presumes Allah is within time and has a future. As well as you can’t have time without a place. Allah do not “exist” within time nor dwell in a place. Both these things are His creation he is not a part of it. For instance a computer is a creation of human being but does the human being exist within confines of a computer? Forced to function with the use of a electricity like a computer?No

    Moreover read the Bible has not God destroyed all those enemies of Prophets? you misunderstand how the world functions.

    Allah created human beings with power to act. People can use this power for ill or good. It’s the responsibility of those who good to prevent people who do ill from harming society as whole and themselves specifically.

    Someone who rejects Allah’s messenger is in a state of severe delusion and very likely will not forsake this delusion for reality such as the case of the prophet’s uncle AbuTalib. He rather died knowing his fellow Makkans weren’t saying bad things about then die accepting Islam.

    Allah sends messenger with “clear signs’ of proof that they’re Allah’s messenger but yet many deny this reality. Allah has commanded these people to be destroyed because due to their delusional state they will only cause harm to themselves and society.They’re like a cancer. The longer it is allowed to grow the more harm it cause. this why Allah commanded the people of Moses to kill those who worshiped the golden calf. After all that they seen and yet still clung to idol worship all hope was lost for them. They were a danger to believers.

    The concept we draw from that and applied today is that people must be given every opportunity to see the reality for itself but once they start engaging in acts they can harm to society and themselves believer must step in to prevent oppression and evil from spreading into society The Prophet clearly explains this concept:

    Narrated An-Nu’man bin Bashir: The Prophet said,

    “The example of the person abiding by Allah’s orders and limits (or the one who abides by the limits and regulations prescribed by Allah) in comparison to the one who do wrong and violate Allah’s limits and orders is like the example of people drawing lots for seats in a boat. Some of them got seats in the upper part while the others in the lower part ; those in the, lower part have to pass by those in the upper one to get water, and that troubled the latter. One of them (i.e. the people in the lower part) took an axe and started making a hole in the bottom of the boat. The people of the upper part came and asked him, (saying), ‘What is wrong with you?’ He replied, “You have been troubled much by my (coming up to you), and I have to get water.’ Now if they prevent him from doing that they will save him and themselves, but if they leave him (to do what he wants), they will destroy him and themselves.”

    Sahih Bukhari 851

    We are not commandd to kill people who are non-muslims unless they perform the acts of Makkan unbelievers. Acts that endanger the lives of believers and make peaceful existence impossible. Such as the Christians of Andalusia for example.

    When I see people posting scholarly articles banning Muslims from congratulating the kuffar on their festivals, and other things like that that are extremely separatist and have an undercurrent of hatred, I get upset and tie myself in knots trying to convince myself this attitude is not authentically Islamic.

    Most of those articles are written by Salafis not traditional scholars. Also you must understand the nature of scholarship of Muslim world due to colonialism so you’re going to get people who have biases. But this is nothing new many of ulama of past had bias and prejudices. People are given responsibility over their actions. Morality is a individual responsibility not an collective one. Collectively believesr are commanded to build a society where morality can be enjoined and flourish but ultimately it’s individual act.

    You must to see this video fully understand the nature of Islamic scholarship:

    However, as much as I’ve tried, I can’t find much support for being loving and merciful towards unbelievers in the Quran. Polite, yes, and respectful; but all your most loving qualities seem to be for the believers only. I am not saying this is wrong, but just that it feels bad to me. Perhaps I am missing something here?

    .

    No you undertand it……almost. We should be merciful to non-muslims becuae every human being has dignity and deserves respect but not love . Love is reserved for believers only. Why because only a believer will safe guard your rights. This is a deep discussion to get into so I will have leave what little I wrote stand on subject. The concept of rights is VERY important for the orderly function of society.

    Also you contextually misinterpreted these verses.

    In order understand Quran you must learn the context first and then how the Prophet and his companions understood and applied the verses. Not do what Christians ordinary do where they don't understand the language of book nor know it's context but truly think they can just pick up a Bible and read an english translation and think they know the what book says.

    PLEASE,PLEASE don't this to the Quran this is pure ignorance. Quite acceptable within Christianity but NOT in Islam. Islam is about transmitted knowledge not mere opinions of every joe and jane.

    A related question is why belief is so important in the first place.

    I think The Buddha explained it the best ;

    The thought manifests as the word.
    The word manifests as the deed.
    The deed develops into habit.
    And the habit hardens into character.

    so the only reason people don’t believe is because they are bent on denying the truth; they have it in them to see the truth but they choose not to because it doesn’t suit them. Maybe this is true on a general level… but not on the specific level of believing in the Quran as a divine book. I am living proof of that – I wanted to believe, it would have suited me very much to believe, and yet I haven’t been able to.

    I think you may be self unaware. Using reason one can easily see how the arabic of Quran of can not duplicated by anyone or else it would have done so by there. there’s one proof uses reason to prove the Quran divine authorship. You can’t deny this but yet this proof it not enough for you. So you’re clearly and purposely with reason denying and “covering the truth” i.e Kufr.

    What it comes down to is you’re not ready to submit. You have ideas and concepts that you project onto the world but fail to see your ideas and concepts are meaningless. Really why should the world function is the way you think it should? Who gave this authority to determine how the world should works? How a Creator must interact with His creation? What concepts are of importance and what concepts are not? Who placed this power upon you shoulders?

    In Islam we would call this Kibr..pride and haughtness. The idea that one has all knowledge,wisdom and experience and the foresight,insight and hindsight to decipher anything within the universe. Do you really think you’re such a person?

    Sorry for the bluntness but sometime shock language must used to call people back their senses.

    The reality ,as I state often, is the world works in certain way you deny it and you will suffer the consequences of and for actions. How is this not apparent?

    • Sarah said,

      Hah, well I dissagree with a lot of what Hamza is saying. (I’ll explain why later).

      and Hamza; I can’t help but to feel a bit of a condisinding tone from you.. which is not cool.

      You seem to be somehow pissed at her “for not getting it”, while failing to realize that she doesn’t own it to you to understand things the way you do.

      Yes, as muslims we should try our best to clear any misconceptions about our Deen, but NOT in the manner you’re using right now.

      If her posts bother you that much, then I suggest you stop reading them.

      • Wrestling With Religion said,

        Hamza was fairly blunt but actually I didn’t take offense. Perhaps he has valid points. I will reply when I have time!

    • Wrestling With Religion said,

      Hamza,

      Regarding tafsir and understanding the Quran in context… the translation I have been reading is Muhammad Asad’s. It includes extensive commentary based on the works of classical exegetes such as Tabari, Zamakhshari, Razi etc. It is over 1000 pages long (hence why it’s taken me months to read) and it took him 17 years to write. So I don’t think I am plucking verses out of context. I probably haven’t fully understood the whole picture, but I am doing my best to understand and I am open to correction.

      I understand you to be saying the wicked enemies of God must be destroyed because they are like a cancer to society. I will think about that.

      “Love is reserved for believers only. Why because only a believer will safe guard your rights.”

      I am not sure about this. Wasn’t the prophet’s unbelieving uncle his personal protector for some time? He trusted him, and possibly loved him, I would guess. Plus I am not sure that love should only ever be given to those that deserve it or have earned it. Love can win people over to your side. Isn’t that what God does to us? God is always willing to accept a person’s repentance and forgive them, according to the Quran, which is described as mercy but is perhaps the same things as love, in practice. The door to friendship is always open with God. Maybe the door to friendship should always be open with Muslims too.

      Regarding your comments about my preconceived ideas and how I need to open my mind up to the truth, I take your point. I am trying to be as open-minded as possible. But how does a person come to believe in the truth? Not by accepting scripture blindly, but by applying reasoning to it and determining it to be true rationally. If we are going to just open our minds and accept things uncritically, we make ourselves vulnerable to being brainwashed by falsehood. The truth must make sense and I am trying to make sense of it.

      • Sarah said,

        (Wasn’t the prophet’s unbelieving uncle his personal protector for some time? He trusted him, and possibly loved him, I would guess).

        He adored his uncle.

        Hamza, Love is NOT reserved for the believers only. Allegiance? maybe.
        But love is universal. Just as God’s love is universal.

        http://www.beautifulislam.net/tellmemore/god_and_love.htm

  11. Sarah said,

    (However, as much as I’ve tried, I can’t find much support for being loving and merciful towards unbelievers in the Quran. Polite, yes, and respectful; but all your most loving qualities seem to be for the believers only. I am not saying this is wrong, but just that it feels bad to me. Perhaps I am missing something here?)

    If you ask any muslim (sunni, shii, sufi, libral, ect) what is the number one verse that specifically make up the basic rule in defining the kind of relationship that SHOULD take place between Muslims and non-Muslims. They will all quoate this one:

    “God does not forbid you respecting those who have not made war against you on account of your religion, and have not driven you forth from your homes, that you show them birr (kindness) and deal with them justly; surely God loves the doers of justice”.

    Notice that the word birr (translated as kindness) that God used in this context is the same word that is used for the type of kindness that a Muslim should show to his or her parents! This is not just mere tolarance and respect, but also deep friendship and sincer compation.

    Consider al so the verse that allows Muslim men to marry Christian and Jewish women. The Qur’an says what means:

    *{… virtuous women of the believers and the virtuous women of those who received the Scripture before you are lawful for you…}* (Al-Ma’idah 5:5)

    Again, this is not just friendship. This is the closest and strongest possible human relationship: a husband and his wife, who is his lover, friend, and mother of his children. You might not find this permitted in many other religions.

    Another verse is:

    “O mankind! We created you from a single soul, male and female, and
    made you into nations and tribes, so that you may come to know one
    another. Truly, the most honored of you in God’s sight is the greatest
    of you in piety. God is All-Knowing, All-Aware”. (Quran, 49:13).

    Which reminds us that we are all (muslims and non-muslims) came from the same single soul, which makes us brothers and sisters in humanity. And also inform us that since we are all the creation of God, we should come to know, respect and love one another.

    The overall wisdom behind these kind of verses is the following:

    Islam is a religion that calls for peaceful and loving coexisting with people from other religions and creating social ties to the furthest possible extent.

    Yet, it takes for an enemy whoever transgresses against Muslims and conspires to kill them. It does not give them the other cheek to slap, but rather defends itself.

    “God only forbids you respecting those who made war upon you on account of (your) religion, and drove you forth from your homes and backed up (others) in your expulsion, that you make friends (and ally) with them, and whoever makes friends with them, these are wrong-doers”.

    By the way, I know you didn’t mention it, but I wanted to adress other misunderstood verse:

    *{O you who believe! do not take the Jews and the Christians for friends}*

    Another case of bad transilation!

    In the original Arabic text the verse directs the Muslims not to take the Jews and the Christians as awliyaa’ which in this context means “leaders”, but non–native-Arabic translators of the Qur’an translated it as “do not take the Jews and Christians for your friends and protectors” (Yousuf Ali). This is only one among many mistakes in the translation of the Qur’an.

    In fact, the Arabic word awliyaa’ has nothing to do with friendship. Thus, the original meaning becomes a political advice to the Muslims not to take non- Muslims as leaders, guides, or decision makers, which is wise and logical enough. No nation, Muslim or non-Muslim, ever offers its leadership to strangers. Have you ever seen a Muslim, a Hindu, or a Buddhist be king, president, or prime minister of the United States or of a European country? Definitely not!

    Gah! I want to write more but I’m feeling sleepy. =(

    I’ll continue tommorow, Insha’allah.

    • Wrestling With Religion said,

      Sarah,

      Thank you for these verses showing that Muslims are expected to be kind to unbelievers, marry non-Muslims, and that we are all one humanity.

      I understand too that Islam defends itself against attacks. And in 7th century Arabia it would be completely normal to be fierce and uncompromising with enemies. I understand that Muslims see the idea of loving one’s enemies to turn them into friends as being unrealistic. And maybe it was unrealistic – maybe the Muslims would have been wiped out if they tried to do that. I need to think about it some more!

      Thank you for your input and I hope your exams are going well.

      • Achelois said,

        “maybe the Muslims would have been wiped out if they tried to do that.”

        I always thought that. A Sufi friend then explained that if God wills it nothing can wipe out His beloved nation. After all, the Moghul kings killed one Sikh guru after another. It only made them stronger. Never wiped out. Still very much there. Romans killed Jesus; it only set up Christianity and is the most followed religion in the world. But my friend explained that all what happened did wipe out the heathens, at least from Arabia and that was God’s plan.

    • LK said,

      You’re awesome, I thought you should know that LOL

  12. susanne430 said,

    Interesting discussion. I’m glad that “my” Muslim loved me although I’m a nonMuslim.

    🙂

  13. Achelois said,

    Sarah, If I were to find one reason why I find Islam so beautiful I would recite Surah Baqara verse 62. It was my previous blog’s tagline. I just love that verse:

    Verily, those who believe and those who are Jews and Christians, and Sabians, whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day and does righteous deeds shall have their reward with their Lord, on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve (Al-Baqarah:62).

    Perhaps this one verse also very clearly explains that while Jews and Christians, and Sabians may believe in Allah (that is God), they are not ‘believers.’ There is the use of the connector ‘wa’ (and) between believers and the rest, Jews and Christians, and Sabians which sets them apart.

    I guess then believers are those who believe in Allah and Muhammad. There were Trinitarian Christians at that time and Unitarian as well. Muslims felt closer to the Unitarians (whom they sometimes also called ‘hanif’) than the Trinitarians. There were also small groups of Jews who paid homage to Arabic idols and they were much disliked by the Muslims. In short, those people who believed in one God but did not believe in Muhammad as a prophet were tolerated and preferred over those who rejected one God and in the process rejected Muhammad as well.

    The promise in 2:62 is to Muslims (who believe in Allah and Muhammad), and the rest who believe in one God (but not necessarily accept Muhammad). I think that is a very open-minded promise – something like saying, OK so you don’t accept Muhammad, well then the first category of preferred people will be those who believe in him, but other monotheists would also be rewarded if they are good.

    In any case, Mecca had very few Jews and Christians, so the believers were the Muslims that lived there and after the treaty of Hudaibiya there were quite a few converts that were not allowed to migrate to Medina on the basis of the signed treaty and war would have meant their persecution first. There were several who had realized how Islam had grown in Medina and how Muslims were the new progressed and affluent people – affluence mattered a lot to the Meccans which is why many wanted to join the Hashim clan initially through marriage bonds in pre-Islamic Mecca). That was the time Muslims were looking for mass conversion from Meccans and there were several small groups that were converting to Islam. In my opinion. those were the *believers* and certainly their conversion meant greater benefit to Islam than waging a quick bloody war against the Quraish.

    • Wrestling With Religion said,

      Achelois – thanks for your comment. I agree, it seems to me that the believers were the Muslims. That is the understanding I’m coming to. Yes, I like the fact that other monotheists can be rewarded too. This was probably quite progressive at the time. But I would like to go even further, personally, and not limit it to monotheists, because it seems not everyone has the same opportunity to arrive at monotheism. So limiting the reward to monotheists seems unfair. I don’t know.

      From your last paragraph, I am understanding that the wisdom in signing the treaty was indeed the protection of unknown believers in Mecca. And that maybe this realisation that there were potentially believers there, *was* an anticipation of mass conversion. I suppose that could be the case.

  14. Jasmine said,

    In all fairness, whilst there was war – the unbelievers were the enemy.

    Its a bit like: in world war two – the nazis were the enemy

    or

    (from American perspective) in the vietnamese war – the vietnamese were the enemy.

    So, I can’t see where the problem is – because the unbelievers actually were the enemy, and the war happened and people were spared. So….

    I can’t see the issue that you are seeing. Like yeah, if it said: “every Muslim from today and until the end of time – every one who is not a Muslim must be killed! RRRAAARRR!” – sure, it’s not so great yes.

    But…in this case – I dont think its the same.

    • Sarah said,

      I totally agree with you Jasmine here.

      I think a lot of the misconcumptions concorning these verses that Sarah had was mostly due to bad translations, or perhaps because of not enough careful reading of the Quran’s themes and meanings as a whole.

      The unbelievers that the Quran describes are not the non-muslims in general (every muslim scholor will tell you that). They rather became the enemy because they choose to be so. They simpley didn’t tolerate peace with the muslims.

      The Prophet was always desperate to make peace with them for 13 years in Mecca. He saw his companins and close friends get tortured and killed in front of his eyes, until the suffering became too unbearable (which lead to the Hijrah to the Madina). And when he came back to Mecca to simpely just forgave them! He even speared the life of Hend (the woman who ordered the brutel murder of his beloved uncle in the battle of Uhud and who had cut open Hamzah’s chest and ate his levir, as a sing of mockery against the prophet’s feelings!).

      His Outstanding mercy was a responce to these following verses of the Qur’an:

      “Good and evil are not alike. Repel evil with what is better. Then he, between whom and you there was hatred, will become as though he was a bosom friend.” (Fussilat: 34).

      and “Keep to forgiveness (O Muhammad), and enjoin kindness, and turn away from the ignorant.” (Al-A`raf: 199).

      I still have a lot to point out, but I just woke up and I need some time to organized my thoughts.

    • Wrestling With Religion said,

      Jasmine – hmmm…. I think the mixing of religion and politics is making this quite confusing. Yes, if they were just a political enemy then none of these war tactics are necessarily questionable. But I imagined that God’s plan was to turn unbelievers into believers, which is different from any normal war situation – the Americans didn’t want to turn the Vietnamese into Americans.

      I feel that war happened for two reasons:
      – to defend the community against the threat posed by the hostile tribes
      – to establish and extend Muslim rule.

      The second of these reasons would ensure their safety, bring about justice in a previously corrupt and wicked land, and more than likely trigger conversions. So I don’t think I have too much of a problem with it. I think that God could indeed want to spread goodness through the world that way, especially in a place where fighting was the norm. I’m not sure, but I am open to it anyway.

      However I’d expect conversion of the unbelievers to be the number one mission, rather than punishment of these unbelievers. That’s not what I’m seeing.

      • Sarah said,

        (However I’d expect conversion of the unbelievers to be the number one mission, rather than punishment of these unbelievers. That’s not what I’m seeing).

        See my replay to you above! =)

      • Achelois said,

        It was confusing to me too when I was reading the Quran with a teacher.
        He always explained everything by saying “it was a political matter” or that “it was the political situation/norm.” It really confused me because I thought “hmm, then you are not setting up worship of God, you are setting up a political hold.” I must say I still don’t understand it because religion is mixed with politics a lot when you read about Islam – I am talking about reading the biographies of the Prophet and especially the book ‘No God but God’ by Reza Aslan. Every second issue he explains, he explains it as a political move. I think that is dangerous. Surely there is a religion out there. It can’t all be for political reasons! I liked the book, but the politics excuse got a bit unbearable.

        • Sarah said,

          I can so relate to that.

          But if Islam was really a way of life and not just a religion, then politics would be dealt with.

          The problem is that muslims nowadys suck about both religion and politics!

        • Sarah said,

          Also, the way I see it, religion is defined in two aspects: legalistic and spiritual. The problem is that most people who favor control and power would try and emphasize the legalistic side for the real reason of gaining power even though they would rationalize it on ‘religious grounds’, and most people who value liberty would try and emphasize the spiritual aspect for the real reason that they do not like some or all of the religious requirements because perhaps they do not go well with their personal inclinations.

          The irony is that the ‘true’ believers are probably those who seek to balance out the two simply because they try and fuse their rational side with some aspects of seemingly irrational religious demands (like fasting for example). They fuse the two thanks to their ‘faith’. So in the end, the Qur’an is right when it puts all responsibility on individuals and on the Heart of the believer- because ultimately, it is simply a question of sitting down with oneself and figuring out how to stick to the middle path, this requires constant struggle.

          In all the religious people I have had the chance to meet and know, those who have always impressed me are those who exhibit the right balance of firmness and humility. The most difficult ones to live with or talk to are the legalistic enthusiasts and the most entertaining.

  15. Jasmine said,

    But Wrestling…God DID turn the disbelievers into believers . ..What is Mecca if not a safe haven for believers and worship(?)

    • Wrestling With Religion said,

      Jasmine – sure, it happened, but I’m not convinced it was anticipated in advance. Like I said to Sarah above, it’s easy to talk of mass conversions once they have started happening. My whole problem with 48:25 was that it does not *clearly* seem to anticipate the conversions (which did ultimately happen), but seems rather to emphasise punishment of the unbelievers more.

      I could be misunderstanding it, but this is what occurred to me as I read it, that’s all.

      • Jasmine said,

        Is it emphasising the punishment of unbelievers? To me, its emphasising why punishment was not used – i.e. so they don’t accidently sin by killing believers.

        • Wrestling With Religion said,

          Just as well there were believers in Mecca then, or those unbelievers would have had it coming to them.

          • Jasmine said,

            Well, in light of the fact that the unbelievers were trying to execute the Prophet – yeah, it is lucky for them. I dont know of many other leaders in history that have pardoned the people who built armies against them, tried to kill them, [plotted against them and tried to bring their moral system down and prevent them from worshipping.

            So yes, the unbelievers were lucky.
            Most *men* seeking a revolution would have executed the lot regardless.

            • Wrestling With Religion said,

              You are right, Jasmine, this did happen – they were forgiven in the end. And you’re right, that is very impressive.

              I think knowing about Jesus has “spoiled” me – anything short of loving your enemies just seems less impressive than it truly is.

              Arguably they did love their enemies, but only once they had surrendered.

              • caraboska said,

                IMHO this is the best kind of spoiling 🙂

  16. susanne430 said,

    The mixing of religion and politics especially advancing religion by the sword always seems to be a bad idea. We can look at history and see how groups have attempted this, and in my opinion, it has nothing to do with advancing God’s work.

    I like to look at Jesus’ example. Here was someone who lived in a time when the Roman Empire ruled Palestine and much of the known world. Initially some thought he was the promised Messiah who would free the Israelites from oppression. This is why some Jews were disappointed in him. Surely their Messiah wouldn’t teach them to love their enemies and bless those who curse them! *gasp* Was he crazy?? The Messiah should defeat our enemies and set us free. (I like to think of them wishing for a Jewish Saladin to free them from their oppressors.)

    Jesus told them to go into all the world and preach the gospel and to make disciples. He didn’t tell them to fight and conquer nations and spread the gospel by sword or bullet. Jesus came to bring us peace with God – a peace this world simply cannot give.

    So you can look at history and the Crusades and current events where groups fight “holy wars” and see how anti-God these things are. When people try to advance their agendas and sanction them with “we are doing this for God,” it’s awfully frightening.

    Why not attract people to God by the love and peace and kindness and service you show? ANY one can fight and fuss and argue and curse others, but it takes a true man or woman of faith, one walking in God’s power and help, to overcome evil with good. But Jesus taught us how.

    • Wrestling With Religion said,

      Susanne – I know what you are saying. Jesus’ teachings are really hard to dismiss! They are so idealistic. I am gathering lately that Islam is less idealistic and more realistic. I’m not sure where I am on that scale right now.

      • susanne430 said,

        I’ve had Muslims tell me that Jesus’ teachings are nice, but not realistic. Therefore, they dismiss them!

        WHY not give them a try? God knows, we’ve tried the other way (e.g. spreading religion by sword). Why not TRY Jesus’ way of overcoming evil with good and loving our enemies and see if he is not smarter than we all think we are?

        Why do we have to think God is realistic therefore we can dismiss Jesus’ teachings because they are too idealistic? Sure it takes God’s help to love our enemies, but this is *exactly* why it’s great. It makes us rely on HIM and not ourselves.

        I would love to see us all run to God to help us treat each other the way Jesus taught. Instead it seems our hearts are bent on getting back at our enemies and declaring “holy wars.” I like the saying about the best way to defeat your enemy is by turning him into a friend. We know bombing a nation *isn’t* going to endear us to the natives. But feeding them, giving them water, showing kindness — why NOT try those things?

        I think God is idealistic in many ways. We’ve done a great disservice to ourselves and others by thinking we cannot follow Jesus’ example simply because it seems too hard. Trust God and rely on HIS help. We call on Him for help during our holy wars so why not ask Him to help us see the good in others and treat them with kindness? We can defeat our enemies the best way – by making them into friends!

        I like that. 😀

        (Sorry if it seems I am yelling. I am only speaking with passion and conviction…heheheh.)

        • Wrestling With Religion said,

          Susanne, thanks for having the courage to say this on here. I’ll be interested to see if anyone responds.

          I used to be every bit as idealistic as this, but I lost a lot of it along with my faith when bad stuff happened to me. I feel that perhaps Jesus’ teachings, when taken to a literal extreme, become as nonsensical as any other extreme. For example turning the other cheek can result in being a doormat. So I view his teachings as non-literal ideals which can’t be encapsulated in laws or codes of conduct or rules, but that inform our actions in ways that mere rules cannot.

          • susanne430 said,

            I’m sorry for the bad stuff that happened to you that made you lose those things. Truly. 😦

            I have an older (60+) Arab Christian male friend (born in Syria, grew up in Lebanon and lived later in Egypt before coming to Colorado) who explained the turn the other cheek thing nicely — from a more culturally-appropriate background. I’ll have to find it later and share perhaps. He made this teaching make better sense. Indeed it doesn’t mean to be a doormat. I’ll have to find what Nabeel said later, but now I have to run. Take care.

            • Wrestling With Religion said,

              Susanne – please, do share! I’d be so interested to hear it.

              • Jasmine said,

                Suzanne you are totally right when you say we should turn to God more – but if every believing human on the face of the planet refused to fight when people started war on them – there wouldn’t be any left would there?

                • caraboska said,

                  I think the point is to focus on turning them all into believers. If everyone is a believer who is intent on not doing violence to others, then it’s going to be a very different world…

          • caraboska said,

            Sarah,

            I’m not going to reply in detail to what Susanne said because I agree with it 🙂 There is indeed in the end only one way to find out whether Jesus’ teachings work, how they work, etc., and that’s by living them.

            But to return to your reported loss of idealism, let’s see. I know someone who lost their family through divorce not once, but twice before the age of 7. They spent their teenage years reckoning with the possibility of being physically attacked every time they sat down at the dinner table. As an adult, the person spent two years on unemployment, and eventually also had to deal with a life-threatening illness.

            And they also know what it is to know and love God. They now sit down in friendship with those they once had to regard as enemies at the dinner table. They now regard bill-paying as a puzzle to be solved. And they sleep peacefully, knowing their relationships, their finances, their health and everything else are in Good Hands.

            I would say more, but I don’t know enough to speak to your situation. You may or may not wish to talk about details, or if you do decide to, you may or may not wish to identify them with yourself. At any rate, I will be watching this space.

            • Wrestling With Religion said,

              Caraboska,

              “There is indeed in the end only one way to find out whether Jesus’ teachings work, how they work, etc., and that’s by living them.”

              This is what I was trying to do when the bad stuff happened. I reckon it happened because I misunderstood the teachings.

              I don’t know if random bad things happening would have the same effect. I am currently in a bit of an insecure situation in life but I don’t feel it’s any reason not to surrender to God. In fact, holding onto God is helping me not freak out too much.

              I don’t expect a perfect life, but I do expect God’s guidance to be perfect and to lead to the best results for everybody. That is what I am trying to determine.

              I think idealism vs realism would make a relatively non-inflammatory post, so stay tuned for that. 😉

        • LK said,

          They are actually not suppose to be dismissed since the general rule is “If the Qur’an doesn’t point it out and disprove it, then it should be taken into consideration”. The Qur’an says to pay attention to the Gospel and the Qur’an. I know I would still use the parables as guidance because they have value in their own right, whether they were actually said by Jesus or not is irrelevant.

      • Cornelius said,

        Sarah,

        When making the comparison between the two teachings, I feel one should see further into the background. One prophet is being idealistic; the other is being realistic. But the way I see it, it doesn’t really matter idealistic or realistic or whatever.

        I think the more important question to ask is which one of these two teachings is more reflective of a divine being? No one is saying that we can all be perfect. I know I am not perfect, and I don’t think I can really love my enemies, and even if I could, not all the time! But even if I can’t do it, I still think no violence is the correct teaching. I still think the teaching which allows aggression is wrong and not reflective of the wishes of a divine being.

        If these people wanted to claim that they are spreading the words of God, then those words must be reflective of a loving, almighty, divine being. Love and divinity etc may not be realistic, but those are what’s supposed to be taught. Any teaching which allows fighting and killing should be viewed with suspicion and doubts. At least that’s how I see it.

        • Wrestling With Religion said,

          Cornelius,

          “I think the more important question to ask is which one of these two teachings is more reflective of a divine being?”

          Yes… I think that is what I want to know as well.

          I have been having a discussion elsewhere about temporary marriage in Islam and how this was a concession to make life easier for caravan traders. I am wondering whether God would make such a concession.

          I suppose if God is perfect, we can reasonably expect Him to speak of ideals.

          Thanks for sharing your views.

  17. Achelois said,

    I can understand what Susanne and Cornelius are saying. I always tell my children that the ‘other cheek’ is like “reach for the stars and you might just hit the ceiling” kind of teaching.

    Idealistic? Perhaps. Ambitious? Might be. Divinely merciful? Definitely.

  18. susanne430 said,

    WwR (Sarah), it’s a bit long and there is more I *could* add from what he wrote, but it pertains to the Israelis and Palestinian issue at the end. Here is what he said. You can read it and see if it makes any sense or maybe it will only add to your confusion. Hope not. 🙂

    ——————————————————

    The majority of Palestinians are Muslims. We cannot expect them to “turn the

    other cheek” to the Israelis, for this would be completely unacceptable to them.

    Palestinians want to be treated with dignity and honor rather than to surrender as

    a precondition to any serious negotiations. As we look at the Israel-Palestine issue,

    what biblical principle should we consider? Should the Israelis turn the other

    cheek to suicide bombers? Should the Palestinians turn the other cheek to the

    Israelis who are occupying their land? Or what if both parties followed a lower

    biblical standard, “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”? Under that principle,

    many innocent people would become “blind” and “toothless.”

    When my family lived in Egypt and our younger son was still in primary school, I

    remember having a discussion with him on the meaning of “do not resist an evil

    person.” I recall advising him that if one of his classmates was bullying him and

    started a fight, he should forgive him when there is power behind the forgiveness.

    “If the other boy is on top,” I told my son, “then keep on fighting until you are on

    top, and then forgive him.” It just did not make sense for my son to say “I forgive

    you” when the other boy was on top of him. At that time, I wondered if I had

    overstretched the meaning of “turning the other cheek.” More recently, I have

    come to a better understanding of what it means.

    Many Muslims and Christians assume that Christ taught subservience— becoming

    like a doormat—when he taught his disciples to “turn the other cheek.” What Jesus

    actually said was: “Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right

    cheek, turn to him the other also” (Matthew 5:39).

    What does that mean? Here is a helpful interpretation based on the historical

    context at the time.

    “To hit someone on the right cheek assumes that the aggressor has

    hit the person with the back of his right hand. In the ancient customs

    of the land, this was considered a deep insult. This was how the

    powerful struck the powerless, the way a master struck his slave, or a

    Roman struck a Jew. But a blow administered with an open hand on the

    left side of the face was a blow struck at an equal. The difference

    between the two types of blows was actually codified in Jerusalem’s

    local law at the time according to some historians. A backhanded slap

    to the right cheek of a man’s peer was grounds to sue for punitive

    damages. The fine for a backhanded blow to a peer was 100 times the

    fine for a blow with the forehand. If a backhand was delivered to an

    underling, however, there was no fine. So when Jesus said to offer

    the left cheek, by this historical interpretation he wasn’t prescribing

    a blind, masochistic pacifism. He was telling his followers, effectively,

    ‘Confront the person offending you, forcing him to face you as an

    equal, but do not respond with violence in return.’ That, in the context

    of Jesus’ time and the social and legal codes that existed then, was a

    radical act of defiance. It turned the tables, forcing the stricken to

    accept the humanity and the equality of the one he was striking, even

    if he was not legally, or militarily, or politically, or economically

    recognized as an equal.”

    • Wrestling With Religion said,

      Susanne – I loved this. Wow, that makes it so much more clever, in my opinion. If that is really what he meant by “turn the other cheek”. The problem with responding with violence is: if everyone did that, where would it end?
      Amazing that Achelois posted some of the same idea yesterday! Maybe someone’s trying to tell me something 😛

      • LK said,

        YES! I remember this totally. People asked about it in our New Testament course and the Sister who taught it spent an entire class explaining this one verse. Fascinating

    • Sarah said,

      Fascinating, indeed! =)

    • caraboska said,

      Wow, this is fantastic and amazing for a nice Quaker girl like me 😀

  19. Sarah said,

    I know you must be sick of me already for popping out everywhere! xD

    but I just love these kinds of conversations. They’re so thought-provajetive (in a good way), and force me to ponder deeper into things (something I often was lazy with, recently).

    I’m only commiting here because I already promised you that I’ll address the points you made in this post. I wont address everything because I’m afraid I’ll seem “too pushy”.

    Please don’t take this as debat! consider it as just another friendly conversation. =)

    (I think the reason I feel uncomfortable boils down to the stark categorisation of people into believers and unbelievers. I think professed belief is an inadequate and overly simplistic way of judging and defining people).

    I can totally understand your feelings on this. But here’s the thing: you say it’s a “overly simplistic way of defining people”, but according to whom? To God?

    If God is One doesn’t that mean we call have only two relationships with Him: either we beilive in Him or reject Him?

    (or you can say there is only 3 types of realtion, if you counted: being ignorant of Him).

    I’m terribale at giving examples to explin my point, but see if this makes sense to you:

    Everyone have only one boilogical mother, right? therefore evryone can only either deine their mothers or accept them as their mothers. You can’t really defin the relationp with your mom as :”I’m her daughter, but I’m not her daughter ” at the same time! you either confirm that she’s your mother or deny it.

    Some relationships are just like that.

    Our relationship with God is the same.

    He is our God. We are His creation. But not everyone of us are His servents.

    Of course this is how God is going to define people. Because this is the only relationship we have with Him.

    God may not love those who knowinly reject Him after the truth was made crystal clear to them, but there are still He’s creation. And God’s mercy to all of His creation is the norm, but His punishment is the excepction.

    (A related question is why belief is so important in the first place?).

    Why it isn’t???

    I often hear many people ask your question, as if it doesn’t or shouldn’t make any big deal.

    A Sufis once say: “The more you truely know God, the more you realize how terribale it is to reject him”.

    ‘Worship none but God, and do what is beautiful towards parents’ (2:83).

    God DESPISES ungratfulness. If ungratfulness towards one parents is consederd the second worse sin of all, then how do think about being ungratful to Him??

    To be ungratful to God is not just a rejection His Omnipotence over the whole cosmos, It’s a rejection that we are in the shadow of His compassion and Mercy. A rejection that everything we find beautiful in us, around us, is from the souce of all Being: Him. It’s to deny that God is:

    1. Lord and Creator and Master of creation.

    2. The Nurturer and Sustainer of that creation.

    3. Ruler and Sovereign of all that exists.

    4. Central Object of Reliance. As the sole Creator and Sustainer of the Universe, God is the only One on whom we can rely.

    5. Protector and Supervisor. God protects and supervises His creation. That is, He is actively involved in its direction and guidance, and thus cares for its welfare.

    These derived meanings hint at a deeper meaning: a relationship. The single most important relationship in our lives.

    The world’s creation and maintenance show forth God’s concern and Love. It also shows God reaching out to us: “Are many lords (arbab) differing among themselves better, or Allah, the One Supreme and Irresistible?” (Surah Yusuf 12:39).

    In Surah Quraish, we see the Meccan tribe (and all of Humanity) called:
    ‘Let them worship the Rabb (Lord) of this House (the Kabaa), Who provides them with food against hunger, and with security against fear (of danger)’ (106:3-4).

    The word rabb has a meaning much wider than ‘Lord’. The word Rabb, combines mastery and power with a strong sense of nurturing and caring. A Rabb is one who guards, sustains and guides a thing, as well as one who totally stands over it. In other words, God is our Guardian, our Sustainer and our Provider.

    He called us into existence and provides for us for a purpose.

    This cardinal idea is enshrined in another verse:

    ‘I have not created the jinn and mankind except that they should worship Me’ (51:56).

    Here, we see that worship of God is the core of our very creation, woven into the very fabric of our being.

    To modern ears, words like servant and slave often carry a vaguely negative value. However, within the religious system of the Islamic tradition, service (`ibadah) has an entirely positive connotation and spiritual significance. `Abd Allah, said to be the name most beloved of God, literally means ‘Servant/Slave of God’. In its account of the infancy of Jesus (alayhi al-salam), the Quran quotes his first words as ‘Indeed, I am the Servant God’ (19:30).

    Servanthood thus represents the highest and most noble level of human existence. Or, to put it another way, servanthood represents the doing of goodness/beauty in every condition and every state.

    Worship is the way to connect with the Source, the Centre. When we reject this relationship we only reject the best gift that God has bestow upon us. The gift of “serventhood”. When we deny ourselves this gift thus we also deny the gift of Paradies.

    That’s why God always refers to the rejecters as “those who made aggresion against themselves”, because to reject the essence of our nature is actually the greatest form of aggresion one can do to himself.

    (I’ve always understood the Quran to be saying that wrong beliefs are the basis of all badness. In other words, the pagans were wicked and unjust precisely because they didn’t have correct beliefs about God).

    Not true. God didn’t say that all non-muslims are bad.

    The basis of all badness is not wrong beliefs…

    it’s pride.

    It’s that false notion of self-pride that made Satan refuse to prostrate to Adam because he beilived he was superior to Adam. And what did God say to Satan in the Quran?

    “get down from this (Paradise), it is not for you to be arrogant here”. (al-Araf : 13).

    Heaven is not the place for the arragant. Nothing evil can enter it’s gates, and arragont is the root of all evil to God.

    Symbolically, the key moment of worship (within the context of the ritual prayer) is the act prostration itself (sajdah). There are arguably few more palpable demonstrations (on an imaginal level) of service than placing your forehead on the ground. This is a symbol of utter humility and self-abasement, which is presumably why prostration to anything other than God is strictly forbidden within the Islamic tradition. It also underlines the significance of humanity itself, to judge by the Quranic story of Adam (alayhi al-salam).

    According to this story, God created Adam (alayhi al-salam) and taught him the ‘names’ of things. God then ordered the angels to prostrate to Adam:
    ’And [mention] when We said to the Angels, ‘Prostrate before Adam’; so they prostrated, except for Iblis. He refused and was arrogant and became of the disbelievers’ (al-Baqarah 2:34).

    Given the importance of the act of prostration within the Islamic tradition, this is a powerful statement of humanity’s (potential) significance.

    Humanity are created with “fitrah” (natural beilif in God and natural desire to know and serve Him), so the only reason that makes a person reject the truth, after it was made crystal clear to them, is the same reason that made Satan reject God’s truth: arragance. Because to say “it doesn’t suit me to serve God the way he wanted me to” is akin to saying “God is not worth THAT much trouble!”.

    I can’t remmember the exact wording, but in one of the Hadiths it describes how God will ask a rejecter in the Day of Judment: “What would you say if I asked: would you sacrifs all your family and all people to be saved from Hell?” and when the rejecter says: “Oh, my Lord! Yes! I shall acsept!”, God will answer: “I asked far less of you when you were on Earth!”.

    (Note: I used “rejecter” instead of “unbeiliver”, because there is a big different between the two terms).

    • Wrestling With Religion said,

      Sarah,

      I feel there are many ways we can relate to God. We can’t fully understand or comprehend God, so one person’s view of God might be different from another, but still both might be right to some extent. Also I don’t think we are just either “close to God” or “far away from God”, I think there are a lot of stages in-between.

      Of course maybe I am wrong, maybe believing in God as an actual being makes all the difference in the world. Maybe worshipping God and developing a relationship with Him as an actual being is totally necessary.

      But there are many religious people who believe in God and yet do not seem close to God because they are people lacking in love and compassion and goodness. So I don’t see it as simple as: believing in God and practicing worship of some sort makes you a better person.

      Interesting what you said about pride. I think it makes sense. To me the prostration symbolises surrender of control, or rather, surrender of the illusion of control. As well, I think it is about letting go of selfishness and ego, and putting God’s will first. I think also it’s about adoration of God through gratitude. And I guess I don’t see why a person can’t have all these things in ANY religious tradition or none. Because it’s these attitudes that make someone develop good character, I think that is what matters and I think if it was only available to people who are lucky enough to learn the right religion, then that would be unfair.

      • Sarah said,

        (But there are many religious people who believe in God and yet do not seem close to God because they are people lacking in love and compassion and goodness. So I don’t see it as simple as: believing in God and practicing worship of some sort makes you a better person).

        I think because for muslims (or any religious person) it is easy to forget, when dealing in the abstract or philosophizing about esoteric concepts buried under layers of meaning in the text of the Quran, that the entire purpose of our exercise, that our whole reason for delving into the Quran and trying to understand it more deeply, ultimately relates to how we can translate whatever knowledge, awareness or understanding we may gain from that exercise into becoming better people.

        The Quran is the ultimate manual for our (muslims) life, and educating ourselves on the Quran is worth very little if we limit the education to textual analysis. The goal of studying the Quran is not, ultimately, learning a lot of religious facts or how to explain complex questions about our existence or about Islamic creed. It is really about learning something that will help us, or, better yet, feeling something that will inspire us, to relate better to the world around us and to enrich the lives of others.

        Worship is about our everyday lives. It’s not about annual religious conventions, or university student associations, or weekly Quran study groups, or other religious gatherings, or any other of the myriad cocoons in which Muslims in the West wrap themselves. It’s about staying conscious of our surroundings and our goals and our interactions with people, Muslims and non-Muslims alike. It’s about our actions– not just our physical prostrations and prayers and contemplations, but also (and mostly) through the worship that comes from a heightened level of consciousness, from knowing and being aware that the way in which we interact with the people we encounter in life is worship.

        Muslims should study the Quran, learn hadith, read other books. That’s all great and desirable and fantastic. But we should not become slaves to the pursuit of intellectual status. That should not, as I see it, be our goal. The prophet Muhammad was not sent to us, and by extension this book, the Quran, was not revealed to him, except for the purpose of perfecting our manners and our character, our interactions with other people, our perspectives on our lives.

        “I [the Prophet Muhammad] have not been sent [to the people] except to perfect good manners.”

        It is easy in the humming din of routine to let slip from our consciousness our commitments forged in the hours of our staunchest faith to be better people, to have more compassion for other members of society, to worship more devoutly; all of which we silently swear so fervently.

        We can protest loudly our claims that we worship God alone and forsake all others, that we are committed to loving for our neighbor what we love for ourselves, that we want to be forgiving and compassionate and empathetic to others, but it is what we do on a day-by-day, hour-by-hour, minute-by-minute basis that truly testifies to the object of our worship and the true content of our character.

        It is easy to let our unconscious minds guide us during most of the days, hours and minutes of our lives, causing our actions to testify to our worship not of the omnipotent One God of our oral testimonials (our “shahada,” for the initiated Muslims out there) but rather to the worship of money, power, influence, respect or self; to the possession of character not at all forgiving, loving or empathetic but vindictive, bitter and selfish.

        It is easy to let our hard-wired, subconscious, “default,” self-obsessed, solipsistic, ambitious outlook on things color our actions. To combat that, however, to struggle mightily against that hazy stupor of subconscious thought and action, that this is the life and these are the situations to which we want to apply our ideals—THAT is worship. That is religion.

        (I think also it’s about adoration of God through gratitude. And I guess I don’t see why a person can’t have all these things in ANY religious tradition or none. Because it’s these attitudes that make someone develop good character, I think that is what matters and I think if it was only available to people who are lucky enough to learn the right religion, then that would be unfair).

        Hmmm, very interesting food of thought.

        I once read this verse and its commentary some time ago in a blog somewhere (can you tell my memory is wonderful? xD) and thought I’d share it.

        For me, this one verse discusses life and its dilemmas in a most powerful way. It packs in our relationship to God, our relationship to each other, our differences, pluralism, diversity and the need for tolerance, the point that each one of us can be a receptacle to faith and wisdom and the effect of the socio-cultural baggage each of us brings to the spiritual quest..

        an indication of why people respond differently to revelation, the concept of truth and falsehood, fortune versus adversity, divine Justice and Mercy etc.

        I have included the very enlightening commentary because as a parable, the verse is dense and extremely metaphor rich.

        “He sends down water from the skies, and the channels flow, each according to its measure: and the flood bears away the scum that mounts up to the surface. (likewise) From that (ore) which they smelt in the fire, desiring ornaments or ware; there is a scum likewise. Thus, doth God (by parables) points out truth and falsehood. As for the scum, it passes away as dross, while that which is for the good of mankind, remains on the earth. Thus, doth God set forth parables.” (13.17).

        Commentary (from the Royal Bayt Institute’s ” The Holy Qur’an: English translation of the meaning and Commentary”) :

        (It is God who sends rain and sends it to all. See how it flows in different channels according to their capacities. Some are sluggish, some have a swift current. Some form great rivers and irrigate wide tracts of country; some are crystal clear streams, perhaps in hilly tracts, with beds of clean pebbles, which you can see through the water. Some produce delicious fish, and some are infested by crocodiles or injurious monsters. And there are degrees and degrees among brooks, lakes, rivers, and seas. Likewise, with the rain of God’s mercy and the knowledge and wisdom and guidance which He sends, all can receive it. Each of us will respond according to his/her capacity.

        In the physical world, water is pure and beneficial. But froth and scum will gather according to their local conditions. As the floods will carry off the scum and purify the water, so will the flood of God’s spiritual mercy carry away our spiritual scum and purify us. The froth may make a greater show on the surface, but it will not last. So will there be frothy knowledge, which will disappear, but God’s Truth will endure.

        The ore is full of baser admixture, but the fire will separate the gold from the dross for ornaments or some metal of household utility, with which we make everyday utensils. As the fire separates away from the admixtures that which we do not want, so does the fire of God’s test, either by adversity or by affluence, search out the true metal in us and reject the dross. It will show us what is valuable or what is useful. It will show us all sorts of scum and vanity, which we collect and miscall knowledge).

      • Achelois said,

        Excellent points!

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